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Save Dun Laoghaire Harbour Campaign Is A Fight Against The Clock

8th September 2015
Dun Laoghaire Harbour
Dun Laoghaire Harbour as it is today. A proposed 435 m Cruise Liner berthing pier at mid-harbour would effectively cut the traditional in-harbour sailing area in two. It is also suggested by critics that the investment required for the new berth would eventually need to be paid for by extensive new waterside residential and commercial apartment blocks on St Michael’s Pier. Plan courtesy ICC

A well-attended and widely-representative Public Meeting in the Kingston Hotel in Dun Laoghaire last night heard that those who wished to save Dun Laoghaire Harbour from a disproportionately large new Cruise Liner Berth – and a hidden agenda of excessive waterfront apartment and commercial development – would have to make their case within a very tight timeline of proposed legislation at both government and local authority levels within the next few days and weeks writes W M Nixon.

Local TD Richard Boyd Barrett made the point that the preparatory proposed legislation for a bill to transfer control of the Harbour Company to Dun Laoghaire/Rathdown County Council was introduced on the very last day of the Dail term before the 2015 Summer Recess. This means that as soon as the Dail resumes sittings in the near future, if the Government is determined to push the legislation through in its present unacceptable form, it will require diligent attention and determined opposition by concerned TDs to introduce the essential amendments which will meet the hopes of those who wish to preserve Dun Laoghaire Harbour largely as it is.

Thus it is essential that all local TDs and a majority of Councillors become persuaded of the need to maintain Dun Laoghaire Harbour as intact as possible, both as a priceless part of our national heritage, as a major asset for maritime sport and recreation, and as a port of call for smaller specialist cruise vessels.

The meeting was chaired by Cllr Melissa Halpin of Dun Laogaire/Rathdown CC, who emphasized the need to determinedly lobby all local representatives, a viewpoint which was enthusiastically reflected from the floor when the meeting was thrown open for public discussion, as was the need for increased use of social media in support of the campaign.

Before that, an informed panel of speakers set out the scenario whereby a unique Victorian harbour on an unrivalled scale could be changed out of all recognition for the worse by imbalanced development aimed mainly at short-term commercial gain, but in the long term resulting in the very destruction of those features of the harbour which currently make it such an attractive target for developers of all kinds, whether in property or liner berthing.

Cllr Melissa Halpin was Chair of a crowded public meeting on Dun Laoghaire harbour in the Kingston Hotel last night.

Dun Laoghaire resident author and curator Alison Hackett provided an overall vision of the harbour as an essential and unique space which has become central to the very special attractions of Dublin Bay. Then Fergal McLoughlin of An Taisce outlined the harbour’s exceptional position, both as a local and national recreational asset, as a facility which can continue as a working harbour provided that the ships using it are kept within proportion and respect its overall size, and as a very important and unusual part of our built heritage.

du3Alison Hackett

du4Fergal McLoughlin of An Taisce

Renowned sailing enthusiast Liam Shanahan Senr of the National Yacht Club followed, outlining his own ideas of how best the harbour’s future might be shaped, based on the notion that it should be given its own special Public Park status. He strongly made the point that those who wish to preserve the best features of the overall harbour would have to bring a businesslike approach to their proposals, and that the people of Ireland would have to see a clear national benefit if Dun Laoghaire was to become the focus of a resurgent maritime recreational growth.

He proposed that a public Sailing School be established, not in opposition to established sailing schools already operating in Dun Laoghaire, but drawing on their experience to encourage an even wider sector of the public to give sailing and boating in all its form a completely free first try. He concluded, however, by emphasizing again the need for a businesslike approach, making the point that they cannot expect the public funds to become available unless the required figures are outlined in a clear and positive terms, and that it is made clear why sport, recreational and cultural activity are the best use of this special national asset.

Richard Boyd Barrett then concluded the formal side of the meeting by emphasizing again the urgent need for rapid political action. His great concern was that though the control of the Harbour Company might in effect be transferred to the County Council, the CEO of the Council could end up making commercial decisions about the future of the harbour with being restrained by any final democratic control from the council.

Richard Boyd Barrett TD

This is a worry which was later reflected from the floor, when several speakers voiced the concern that, as the County Council had somehow permitted the building of the controversial Dun Laoghaire Lexicon library building when in theory they should have been in control, equally the major decisions regarding the Harbour Company’s future might be made regardless of the real wishes of the Council.

Richard Boyd Barrett has a clear policy on this, as he wishes to see the formal establishment of a statutory Harbour Users Forum whose members would be made up of stakeholders in every aspect of the harbour’s use, and whose decision would carry real rather than merely advisory power. He was particularly clear in his wish to have such a body established, but was in no doubt about the political challenge involved in setting it up and giving it real teeth.

The discussion from the floor indicated the huge range of interests and concerns which the various harbour proposals have aroused. The Harbour Company’s Cruise Liner Berth Plan is now before An Bord Pleanala, and despite a short time scale, 180 written submissions were received, making an Oral Hearing more likely.

On the sailing side, the four Dun Laoghaire Combined Clubs have come together with commendable speed to produce a very detailed set of written proposals which has the full support of the Irish Sailing Association, while additional ideas have come from other reacreational harbour users such as the venerable Water Wag Class which date from 1886.

As well, speakers from the floor referred to a wide range of possibilities, notably the use of smaller cruise liners with not more than a thousand passengers. These would be ships which could use the existing shoreside facilities, yet would also be more likely to bring the kind of discerning passenger who would better appreciate Dun Laoghaire’s special features, and be more likely to spend in the town’s struggling retail sector if it in turn could be better geared to meet their needs.

The next few days, weeks and months will see far-reaching decisions on Dun Laoghaire Harbour’s future. It is Ireland’s largest recreational boating centre. Thus the outcome of these intense debates, public forums, and decisions by statutory and governmental bodies will affect everyone who is interested in the maritime world at whatever level, as well as the many thousands of people who have a special interest in Dun Laoghaire simply because it is at present a charming place to be beside the sea.

Those who first proposed the building of this monumental structure more than two hundred years ago as a “Harbour of Refuge” for sailing ships transitting Dublin Bay can scarcely have imagined that almost exactly two centuries later, the future of this harbour is a subject of even more intense debate and passionate feeling. The fact that it is will in turn become part of its heritage. Team

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Dun Laoghaire Harbour Information

Dun Laoghaire Harbour is the second port for Dublin and is located on the south shore of Dublin Bay. Marine uses for this 200-year-old man-made harbour have changed over its lifetime. Originally built as a port of refuge for sailing ships entering the narrow channel at Dublin Port, the harbour has had a continuous ferry link with Wales, and this was the principal activity of the harbour until the service stopped in 2015. In all this time, however, one thing has remained constant, and that is the popularity of sailing and boating from the port, making it Ireland's marine leisure capital with a harbour fleet of between 1,200 -1,600 pleasure craft based at the country's largest marina (800 berths) and its four waterfront yacht clubs.

Dun Laoghaire Harbour Bye-Laws

Download the bye-laws on this link here


A live stream Dublin Bay webcam showing Dun Laoghaire Harbour entrance and East Pier is here

Dun Laoghaire is a Dublin suburb situated on the south side of Dublin Bay, approximately, 15km from Dublin city centre.

The east and west piers of the harbour are each of 1 kilometre (0.62 miles) long.

The harbour entrance is 232 metres (761 ft) across from East to West Pier.

  • Public Boatyard
  • Public slipway
  • Public Marina

23 clubs, 14 activity providers and eight state-related organisations operate from Dun Laoghaire Harbour that facilitates a full range of sports - Sailing, Rowing, Diving, Windsurfing, Angling, Canoeing, Swimming, Triathlon, Powerboating, Kayaking and Paddleboarding. Participants include members of the public, club members, tourists, disabled, disadvantaged, event competitors, schools, youth groups and college students.

  • Commissioners of Irish Lights
  • Dun Laoghaire Marina
  • MGM Boats & Boatyard
  • Coastguard
  • Naval Service Reserve
  • Royal National Lifeboat Institution
  • Marine Activity Centre
  • Rowing clubs
  • Yachting and Sailing Clubs
  • Sailing Schools
  • Irish Olympic Sailing Team
  • Chandlery & Boat Supply Stores

The east and west granite-built piers of Dun Laoghaire harbour are each of one kilometre (0.62 mi) long and enclose an area of 250 acres (1.0 km2) with the harbour entrance being 232 metres (761 ft) in width.

In 2018, the ownership of the great granite was transferred in its entirety to Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council who now operate and manage the harbour. Prior to that, the harbour was operated by The Dun Laoghaire Harbour Company, a state company, dissolved in 2018 under the Ports Act.

  • 1817 - Construction of the East Pier to a design by John Rennie began in 1817 with Earl Whitworth Lord Lieutenant of Ireland laying the first stone.
  • 1820 - Rennie had concerns a single pier would be subject to silting, and by 1820 gained support for the construction of the West pier to begin shortly afterwards. When King George IV left Ireland from the harbour in 1820, Dunleary was renamed Kingstown, a name that was to remain in use for nearly 100 years. The harbour was named the Royal Harbour of George the Fourth which seems not to have remained for so long.
  • 1824 - saw over 3,000 boats shelter in the partially completed harbour, but it also saw the beginning of operations off the North Wall which alleviated many of the issues ships were having accessing Dublin Port.
  • 1826 - Kingstown harbour gained the important mail packet service which at the time was under the stewardship of the Admiralty with a wharf completed on the East Pier in the following year. The service was transferred from Howth whose harbour had suffered from silting and the need for frequent dredging.
  • 1831 - Royal Irish Yacht Club founded
  • 1837 - saw the creation of Victoria Wharf, since renamed St. Michael's Wharf with the D&KR extended and a new terminus created convenient to the wharf.[8] The extended line had cut a chord across the old harbour with the landward pool so created later filled in.
  • 1838 - Royal St George Yacht Club founded
  • 1842 - By this time the largest man-made harbour in Western Europe had been completed with the construction of the East Pier lighthouse.
  • 1855 - The harbour was further enhanced by the completion of Traders Wharf in 1855 and Carlisle Pier in 1856. The mid-1850s also saw the completion of the West Pier lighthouse. The railway was connected to Bray in 1856
  • 1871 - National Yacht Club founded
  • 1884 - Dublin Bay Sailing Club founded
  • 1918 - The Mailboat, “The RMS Leinster” sailed out of Dún Laoghaire with 685 people on board. 22 were post office workers sorting the mail; 70 were crew and the vast majority of the passengers were soldiers returning to the battlefields of World War I. The ship was torpedoed by a German U-boat near the Kish lighthouse killing many of those onboard.
  • 1920 - Kingstown reverted to the name Dún Laoghaire in 1920 and in 1924 the harbour was officially renamed "Dun Laoghaire Harbour"
  • 1944 - a diaphone fog signal was installed at the East Pier
  • 1965 - Dun Laoghaire Motor Yacht Club founded
  • 1968 - The East Pier lighthouse station switched from vapourised paraffin to electricity, and became unmanned. The new candle-power was 226,000
  • 1977- A flying boat landed in Dun Laoghaire Harbour, one of the most unusual visitors
  • 1978 - Irish National Sailing School founded
  • 1934 - saw the Dublin and Kingstown Railway begin operations from their terminus at Westland Row to a terminus at the West Pier which began at the old harbour
  • 2001 - Dun Laoghaire Marina opens with 500 berths
  • 2015 - Ferry services cease bringing to an end a 200-year continuous link with Wales.
  • 2017- Bicentenary celebrations and time capsule laid.
  • 2018 - Dun Laoghaire Harbour Company dissolved, the harbour is transferred into the hands of Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council

From East pier to West Pier the waterfront clubs are:

  • National Yacht Club. Read latest NYC news here
  • Royal St. George Yacht Club. Read latest RSTGYC news here
  • Royal Irish Yacht Club. Read latest RIYC news here
  • Dun Laoghaire Motor Yacht Club. Read latest DMYC news here


The umbrella organisation that organises weekly racing in summer and winter on Dublin Bay for all the yacht clubs is Dublin Bay Sailing Club. It has no clubhouse of its own but operates through the clubs with two x Committee vessels and a starters hut on the West Pier. Read the latest DBSC news here.

The sailing community is a key stakeholder in Dún Laoghaire. The clubs attract many visitors from home and abroad and attract major international sailing events to the harbour.


Dun Laoghaire Regatta

Dun Laoghaire's biennial town regatta was started in 2005 as a joint cooperation by the town's major yacht clubs. It was an immediate success and is now in its eighth edition and has become Ireland's biggest sailing event. The combined club's regatta is held in the first week of July.

  • Attracts 500 boats and more from overseas and around the country
  • Four-day championship involving 2,500 sailors with supporting family and friends
  • Economic study carried out by the Irish Marine Federation estimated the economic value of the 2009 Regatta at €2.5 million

The dates for the 2021 edition of Ireland's biggest sailing event on Dublin Bay is: 8-11 July 2021. More details here

Dun Laoghaire-Dingle Offshore Race

The biennial Dun Laoghaire to Dingle race is a 320-miles race down the East coast of Ireland, across the south coast and into Dingle harbour in County Kerry. The latest news on the Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race can be found by clicking on the link here. The race is organised by the National Yacht Club.

The 2021 Race will start from the National Yacht Club on Wednesday 9th, June 2021.

Round Ireland Yacht Race

This is a Wicklow Sailing Club race but in 2013 the Garden County Club made an arrangement that sees see entries berthed at the RIYC in Dun Laoghaire Harbour for scrutineering prior to the biennial 704–mile race start off Wicklow harbour. Larger boats have been unable to berth in the confines of Wicklow harbour, a factor WSC believes has restricted the growth of the Round Ireland fleet. 'It means we can now encourage larger boats that have shown an interest in competing but we have been unable to cater for in Wicklow' harbour, WSC Commodore Peter Shearer told here. The race also holds a pre-ace launch party at the Royal Irish Yacht Club.

Laser Masters World Championship 2018

  • 301 boats from 25 nations

Laser Radial World Championship 2016

  • 436 competitors from 48 nations

ISAF Youth Worlds 2012

  • The Youth Olympics of Sailing run on behalf of World Sailing in 2012.
  • Two-week event attracting 61 nations, 255 boats, 450 volunteers.
  • Generated 9,000 bed nights and valued at €9 million to the local economy.

The Harbour Police are authorised by the company to police the harbour and to enforce and implement bye-laws within the harbour, and all regulations made by the company in relation to the harbour.

There are four ship/ferry berths in Dun Laoghaire:

  • No 1 berth (East Pier)
  • No 2 berth (east side of Carlisle Pier)
  • No 3 berth (west side of Carlisle Pier)
  • No 4 berth  (St, Michaels Wharf)

Berthing facilities for smaller craft exist in the town's 800-berth marina and on swinging moorings.

© Afloat 2020