Wednesday, 26 February 2014
Inland Waterways: Statements
Gabhaim buíochas leis an Seanadóir Brian Ó Domhnaill as ucht ceithre nóiméad a thabhairt dom chun an t-ábhar seo a phlé. Cuirim fáilte roimh an Aire freisin go dtí an Teach.
Waterways Ireland is based close to the Erne and the Shannon. Our waterways are a major resource and amenity for the people and tourism. I am afraid the Government, like its predecessors, does not place much of the focus on the south east. We have very navigable and beautiful rivers within our jurisdiction. The Nore and the Barrow are very popular and scenic waterways. People involved in the boating business in the area have expressed some concerns to me. Waterways Ireland has committed to developing the canal system as a vibrant recreational waterway and enhancing our ability to manage the navigation in a more proactive way. However, I do not see much evidence of this on the Barrow. It has been mentioned that no changes have been made to the regime for 24 years and that is reflected in many of our waterways. I understand why the Government would consider applying charges of between €600 and €3,500 per year and charging for a mooring permit. However, it is important that the charges be pitched at levels conducive to encouraging people to use the waterways and to attract tourists. Not much of this has been happening.
For most of my career I worked in the port in New Ross. Invariably, German and Dutch seafarers, in particular, would remark on the great amenity the river was and how under-utilised it was, pointing out that in continental countries rivers were regarded and utilised as tremendous amenities. They said if the river were in their locations, it would be full of boats. It has also been brought to my attention that there is now a five-day mooring limitation being brought in. This fails to recognise the failure to provide mooring facilities along the river. There is a beautiful and popular five-mile walk from St. Mullins to Graiguenamanagh which is also a nice, navigable, scenic boating area. However, there are very few berths in St. Mullins and Graiguenamanagh and one has to go to Vicarstown above Athy to find the next safe mooring area. These issues must be tackled because imposing impositions such as this is a little bureaucratic. We need to be proactive in dealing with the practical issues connected with boating.
Waterways Ireland has failed, for example, to tackle the issue of unpaid fees. It has also failed to deal with the issue of abandoned craft along the river. These are issues which, presumably, have invited some of the measures about which I am talking.