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Outcry Over Proposed Ban on Watersports on Galway Beaches

4th November 2022
Galway pharmacist and windsurfer Dr Barra Nevin who questions the proposed bye-laws restricting watersports on 24 beaches
Galway pharmacist and windsurfer Dr Barra Nevin who questions the proposed bye-laws restricting watersports on 24 beaches

West coast windsurfers, sailors and other water users have expressed alarm over a proposal to ban all leisure activities other than swimming on Galway county beaches.

Under the draft legislation, sailing, kayaking, windsurfing, stand-up paddling and horse-riding would be banned at 24 beaches extending from the Aran islands to Connemara to Portumna with a risk of fines of up to €1900.

The by-laws propose that “no person shall wind surf on sail boards or kite-surf on kite boards or surf on a surf board or use a canoe, kayak, dinghy, stand-up paddle board or water bike in close proximity to bathers”.

The draft bye-laws also propose banning dog walking between 11 am and 7 pm and ensuring dogs are on a leash outside these hours during summer months.

Bans on the use of inflatable water devices on open water, and personal watercraft, power craft and fast power craft within 300m of the low water mark at the time of use, “except for the purpose of rescue”, are also proposed.

Under the draft legislation, sailing, kayaking, windsurfing, stand-up paddling and horse-riding would be banned at 24 beaches extending from the Aran islands to Connemara to Portumna with a risk of fines of up to €1900.Under the draft legislation, sailing, kayaking, windsurfing, stand-up paddling and horse-riding would be banned at 24 beaches extending from the Aran islands to Connemara to Portumna with a risk of fines of up to €1900.

Community pharmacist Dr Barra Nevin, a windsurfer and sailor, said the proposed bye-laws include a provision to allow zoning for other activities, but at a later stage, “which doesn’t make sense”.

He has questioned why there was no dialogue or advanced consultation with water users.

“This has national implications, as if these bye-laws are passed here it will be copied by other local authorities, which will effectively close access to the sea for many people ,”he said.

“As a community pharmacist in Roscam, Galway and former chairperson of the Irish Pharmacy Union Western Region, this proposal is contrary to HSE policy on outdoor pursuits and exercise,”Dr Nevin says in his submission to Galway County Council.

“To criminalise water sports enthusiasts is madness, considering the benefits of same on one's physical and mental health,” Dr Nevin says.

Dr Nevin, who stood on a community platform in the 2009 local elections, is windsurfing representative on the Renville Water Users group, which includes four county councillors.

He is an active member of Galway Bay Sailing Club and pointed out that water users work together in Renville.

“What is going to happen politically when local people who have no idea of these proposed bye-laws turn up to their beach with their kayak on the roof of their cars and first hear and see signage representative of these bye-laws?” he asks in his submission.

Galway swimmer Brian Coll said the draft bye-laws put swimmers in conflict with other water sports users.

“ A preferred approach is to implement beach management plans and zoning that enable as many people as possible to access the beach for their activities,” he said.

Coll notes that Galway is the only county on the Wild Atlantic Way which does not zone beaches to accommodate swimmers and other water-based activities, and he warned that the bye-laws could result in loss of Blue Flag status.

“By not having designated swim and water sports zones in place, this new law effectively results in a 'NOT WELCOME' sign to all visitors who wish to engage in watersports on County Galway beaches,” he says.

Galway sailor and yacht chandler Pierce Purcell said that lack of access was the single biggest obstacle to the development of water sport.

“The west coast is recognised as an incredible blue water cruising ground, and is so far behind in marina facilities apart from the very welcome addition of the growing facilities at Ros-a-Mhíl, Inis Mór and Inishbofin,” he says.

Given the tourism benefits and health and safety considerations, Galway County Council “should be putting their efforts into applying for funds to develop these incredible natural amenities,” Purcell says.

Galway County Council did not respond to a request for comment. The closing date for submissions on the draft bye-laws is November 11th.

Link to Draft Beach Bye Laws: https://www.galway.ie/en/media/Draft%20Beach%20Bye%20Laws%202022%20Eng.pdf

Link to Draft Beach Bye Law Maps: https://www.galway.ie/en/media/Draft%20Beach%20Bye%20Laws%20Maps%202022.pdf

Published in Galway Harbour
Lorna Siggins

About The Author

Lorna Siggins

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Lorna Siggins is a print and radio reporter, and a former Irish Times western correspondent. She is the author of Search and Rescue: True stories of Irish Air-Sea Rescues and the Loss of R116 (2022); Everest Callling (1994) on the first Irish Everest expedition; Mayday! Mayday! (2004); and Once Upon a Time in the West: the Corrib gas controversy (2010). She is also co-producer with Sarah Blake of the Doc on One "Miracle in Galway Bay" which recently won a Celtic Media Award

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Galway Port & Harbour

Galway Bay is a large bay on the west coast of Ireland, between County Galway in the province of Connacht to the north and the Burren in County Clare in the province of Munster to the south. Galway city and port is located on the northeast side of the bay. The bay is about 50 kilometres (31 miles) long and from 10 kilometres (6.2 miles) to 30 kilometres (19 miles) in breadth.

The Aran Islands are to the west across the entrance and there are numerous small islands within the bay.

Galway Port FAQs

Galway was founded in the 13th century by the de Burgo family, and became an important seaport with sailing ships bearing wine imports and exports of fish, hides and wool.

Not as old as previously thought. Galway bay was once a series of lagoons, known as Loch Lurgan, plied by people in log canoes. Ancient tree stumps exposed by storms in 2010 have been dated back about 7,500 years.

It is about 660,000 tonnes as it is a tidal port.

Capt Brian Sheridan, who succeeded his late father, Capt Frank Sheridan

The dock gates open approximately two hours before high water and close at high water subject to ship movements on each tide.

The typical ship sizes are in the region of 4,000 to 6,000 tonnes

Turbines for about 14 wind projects have been imported in recent years, but the tonnage of these cargoes is light. A European industry report calculates that each turbine generates €10 million in locally generated revenue during construction and logistics/transport.

Yes, Iceland has selected Galway as European landing location for international telecommunications cables. Farice, a company wholly owned by the Icelandic Government, currently owns and operates two submarine cables linking Iceland to Northern Europe.

It is "very much a live project", Harbourmaster Capt Sheridan says, and the Port of Galway board is "awaiting the outcome of a Bord Pleanála determination", he says.

90% of the scrap steel is exported to Spain with the balance being shipped to Portugal. Since the pandemic, scrap steel is shipped to the Liverpool where it is either transhipped to larger ships bound for China.

It might look like silage, but in fact, its bales domestic and municipal waste, exported to Denmark where the waste is incinerated, and the heat is used in district heating of homes and schools. It is called RDF or Refuse Derived Fuel and has been exported out of Galway since 2013.

The new ferry is arriving at Galway Bay onboard the cargo ship SVENJA. The vessel is currently on passage to Belem, Brazil before making her way across the Atlantic to Galway.

Two Volvo round world races have selected Galway for the prestigious yacht race route. Some 10,000 people welcomed the boats in during its first stopover in 2009, when a festival was marked by stunning weather. It was also selected for the race finish in 2012. The Volvo has changed its name and is now known as the "Ocean Race". Capt Sheridan says that once port expansion and the re-urbanisation of the docklands is complete, the port will welcome the "ocean race, Clipper race, Tall Ships race, Small Ships Regatta and maybe the America's Cup right into the city centre...".

The pandemic was the reason why Seafest did not go ahead in Cork in 2020. Galway will welcome Seafest back after it calls to Waterford and Limerick, thus having been to all the Port cities.

© Afloat 2020

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