Thursday, 2 March 2017
Heritage Bill 2016: Committee Stage (Resumed)
To clarify something in regard to the cross-Border body and the agreement on which it was set up, we cannot extend the remit of Waterways Ireland. We can legislate within the remit for the South, which is for the Grand Canal, the Royal Canal, the Barrow and the Shannon, but not the Erne part of it. We can do that within the remit of what we have but we cannot extend the remit of Waterways Ireland. We cannot legislate here for anything that extends the remit of Waterways Ireland because it is a cross-Border body, agreed between the North and the South.
I will answer some of the questions raised. A fixed payment notice is already in the Maritime Safety Act 2005. That is nothing new. There was talk about houseboats. If somebody wants to live on a houseboat, he or she will be able to apply for a long-term permit for mooring. That is an annual permit.
On the concerns expressed about giving authorised officers the right to stop and search boaters, walkers and cyclists on Waterways Ireland property, such as canals, towpaths, greenways and the blueways, it is a misconception. It is incorrect to state that authorised officers have the right to stop and search boaters, walkers and cyclists. Let me assure Senators there are no provisions in this Bill giving authorised officers the right to stop and search any person on canals or canal property. In addition, the authorised officers do not have powers of detention or arrest. The authorised officers' role is clearly set out in the Bill in the new section 7B. In regard to search warrants, they always have to be issued by the court. The word "stop" appears only once and only in the context of stopping a boat that is under way on the canal for the purposes of boarding it and inspecting it. The Senators will accept that is sensible in the case of moving a boat.
The penalty for non-compliance and breaches of the canal by-laws is a maximum fine of €1,000, that is, class D on summary conviction. A person may also be served with a fixed payment notice of an amount up to €150, which must be paid within 21 days from the date of the notice to avoid prosecution thereafter in the District Court. Somebody mentioned an appeals system. The way that would work is one would appeal it through the courts if one was not happy with what one had been levied with.
There was talk about the size of boats. Canals restrict the size of boats that can travel on them because they are obviously based on the size of the canal. Parts of a canal can be narrow enough.
The cost of the permit is in the by-laws, and that will go out for consultation. The word "licence" is not mentioned; it is actually refers to a permit. We want to stop people from mooring boats on a long-term basis that cause an obstruction for others who want to use the canal. There are facilities for those who want to live on houseboats, which is fine. Where people are mooring boats, it is like parking a car in a town for three or four weeks and just leaving it there. We do not want this to happen. We want to be able to control that so that people move their boats on and that the canal can be used and enjoyed by everybody. That is what we want to do here.
A number of amendments were mentioned. Amendment No. 1h relates to the insertion of "subject to agreed criteria for safety standards aboard a vessel and adjudicated upon by a suitably qualified person". Safety standards on the vessels are a matter for the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport. What we are doing here is regulating the use of the canal, not the boats on it.