Wednesday, 19 November 2014
Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht
193. To ask the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the progress of proposed by-laws in respect of canals; if she has engaged with the Inland Waterways Association of Ireland regarding the proposed by-laws; if her attention has been drawn to its concerns on this matter, particularly in relation to providing an incentive to use canals and develop tourism potential of the canals, mooring provisions, dry dock tolls and charges; the steps taken to address these concerns; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [44545/14]
Waterways Ireland proposes to make new bye-laws which are intended to enhance its ability to manage the canals for the benefit of all canal users. There are over 14,000 registered boat owners on the seven waterways managed by Waterways Ireland. These waterways make a vital contribution to tourism, attracting visitors from Ireland and abroad.
The proposed new bye-laws are intended to enhance the ability of Waterways Ireland to manage the Royal and Grand Canals and the Barrow Navigation for the benefit of all canal users. Investment by Waterways Ireland in these waterways has made them more attractive for boat owners and is helping to develop them as a vibrant recreational and tourist amenity. Against that background, it is now necessary to update the bye-laws to ensure that the rules governing the use of the waterways are fit for purpose and can best meet the needs of all waterway users.
I am aware that concerns have been raised regarding aspects of the proposed bye-laws. Waterways Ireland undertook a public consultation process in relation to the proposed bye-laws earlier this year. I am advised that the main stakeholders, including the Inland Waterways Association of Ireland, the Heritage Boat Association, the Royal Canal Amenity Group and the Irish Boat Rental Association, were contacted individually and invited to meet with the Chief Executive and the senior management team of Waterways Ireland prior to submitting their views. The current permit holders on the three waterways concerned, including traditional canal users and canal dwellers, received individual written notices and were given the opportunity to make their views and requirements known.
I understand that over 2,000 submissions were made in the course of the public consultation process. I have been advised that analysis of this process has been completed by Waterways Ireland and is available on the Waterways Ireland website at , together with the submissions received. Waterways Ireland has submitted a revised set of draft bye-laws to my Department, which is currently being reviewed. When that process has been concluded, the matter will be referred to me, as Minister, with recommendations for consideration and final decision. In line with a commitment given during a debate in Seanad Éireann on 26 February 2014, I will provide interested Deputies and Senators with an opportunity to discuss the proposals with me prior to making a final decision on the draft bye-laws.