Wednesday, 26 February 2014
Inland Waterways: Statements
I wish to share four minutes of my time with Senator Jim Walsh.
I welcome the Minister, Deputy Jimmy Deenihan. I am surprised that he is here because I heard on Radio Kerry this morning that he was making a return to the Kerry colours in the light of the depletion in numbers this year, with two of the big stars not turning out. He is probably training in the evenings and we wish him well. I am glad to have the opportunity to discuss this issue with him.
Our waterways, from the point of view of tourism, heritage and culture, are very important because anyone can avail of this magnificent resource. Much work has been done to progress them in the past 20 years, including the establishment of Waterways Ireland, one of the six North-South implementation bodies established under the Good Friday Agreement of 1999, which was a very welcome development. Some 85% of the funding comes from the Irish Government, with the remaining 15% coming from the Stormont Executive. Waterways Ireland has responsibility for managing, developing, restoring and navigating the waterways.
Other speakers, including Senator David Norris, have referred to concerns being expressed by boat owners about the new draft by-laws which are due to go for the Minister's consideration. The issues being raised with us regarding the revised by-laws are that if they were to be implemented, they could, according to the Inland Waterways Association of Ireland, IWAI, result in a serious decline in boat traffic on the Grand Canal and the Royal Canal and the Barrow navigation. A spokesperson for the IWAI recently stated that if the proposals were to be approved by the Minister, more than 200 years of boating activity on the canal system could be killed off. I am not entirely sure that would be the case, but that is a concern being expressed. I am unsure as to what discussions have taken place between the IWAI and the Minister's office on its concerns. Perhaps it is early days yet and the discussions are ongoing. I suggest that, if one has not happened, a meeting with the IWAI take place to discuss some of its concerns before the Minister signs the draft by-laws.
Senator David Norris referred to the five-day moving period. The fine would be €150 if stationary within a 3 km distance within five days. The reason someone would hire a boat or bring his or her own boat onto a canal is for tourism purposes, for a holiday, but it is also therapeutic because one is moving very slowly down a river. I am not sure there are benefits to be gained in confining this. On the one hand, I can see the rationale behind charging because one needs some income, but, on the other, perhaps it requires further consideration by the Minister in consultation with the IWAI.