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Waterways Ireland  is set to move boats on from moorings, writes Brian Goggin

Shannon Harbour, where the Grand Canal meets the Shannon, is usually full of boats: a fascinating variety of them, including barges, narrowboats, wooden cruisers, fibreglass cruisers and projects in various stages of repair. Some of the boats are wrecks; some are lived on; some are owned by people who are either unable to find Shannon marina berths or are unwilling to pay Shannon prices. And some, no doubt, just like the place.

It can be difficult for a visiting boat to find a berth: boats can be parked three deep on one side and two deep on the other. But, in conjunction with the harbour improvement works currently underway, Waterways Ireland is beginning to use its powers under the existing canal bye-laws to tidy up Shannon Harbour. Bye-law 25 reads: "No person shall moor a boat at the same place on the canals, or within 500 metres of the same place, for more than five days without the appropriate permit from the Commissioners."

Until now, the "appropriate permit" has not existed: some time ago I asked WI whether the normal permit (the Combined Annual Mooring Permit) was an "appropriate permit" under Bye-law 25. I was told that it wasn't. But WI has now introduced an "appropriate permit": The "appropriate permit" is the Combined Annual Mooring Permit accompanied by a specific application from a vessel owner requesting permission to remain moored at a specific place for more than five days which the Waterways Ireland Inspectorate has stamped and approved.

The conditions on which the Inspectorate will approve applications are not stated; I was told that "Each application for extended stay will be examined by the Inspector and factors such as location, length of stay and time of year will inform the Inspector's decision... each case of a long-term live-aboard will be treated on its own merits."

Of necessity, most boats based on the canals are in breach of Bye-law 25 most of the time, because there are no marinas on the Grand (except for a short stretch of quay at Lowtown), so boats have to tie to the banks. This new move rather cleverly brings the boats on the canals within WI's control, regularising the situation of those who make contact with WI while allowing it to take action against non-compliant boat-owners. WI told me that: "It is fair to say that with the present injection of capital into Shannon Harbour, we are treating it as the lead location towards having all the canals' recognised hard-edged moorings available to the visiting boating community rather than having them as boat parks and we are committed to spreading this throughout the canal."

It is Waterways Ireland's intention over time to seek to free up use of hard-edged moorings from boats permanently left there or occupying such prime mooring for long periods of time to allow use of these for craft wishing to tour along the canals to encourage this use of the navigation.

WI is currently asking owners of boats to move them out of Shannon Harbour if the boats have been unused for a considerable time, if they are "long-term non-permitted" or if they are blocking berths, jetties or lock approaches. It has recently moved several boats that were obstructing bridges, jetties, locks or sluices. Perhaps Graiguenamanagh might be next on the list.

New rules for dry docks
Waterways Ireland has dry docks at Shannon Harbour, Athy, Tullamore, Roosky and Richmond Harbour. Those at Shannon Harbour (one covered, one open) are by far the most popular, as all of the others have one or more disadvantages (lack of security, restricted access, high cost or non-availability).
New railings were placed around the open dock at Shannon Harbour last year. They improve security and safety, although their design makes it impossible to throw a bow-rope on to a bollard.
Now new rules for the use of the dry docks have been introduced, again under existing bye-laws:
Any commercial operation on Canal Property requires a licence in order to operate. Persons wishing to carry out (set up) commercial operations on WI property should apply to Waterways Ireland (Property & Legal) for a licence. They will then be advised as to the requirements.
The requirements include proof of insurance and indemnification of WI against all claims, losses, damages or injuries. Boat-owners too must show that they have adequate insurance for the works proposed. Information about these new rules will be on the WI website shortly.

Kayak campaign remembers Dan
Dan Gleeson was a well-known figure on the inland waterways, especially at Dromineer, where he had a house on the waterfront, and in Shannon Harbour, where he kept a boat. Last year, he noticed members of the Nenagh Canoe Club launching their craft from the beach beside his house. The club was a new one, desperately short of equipment and money. It had no premises, and training was conducted in Nenagh swimming-pool in winter and in Dromineer in summer. Yet it had managed to train over 30 young people to Levels 1 and 2, despite having no kayaks: it relied on those lent by its trainer. Later on, some of the older members bought kayaks and shared them with the younger members, but the amount of equipment was still clearly inadequate.

Dan conceived the idea of asking the inland waterways community to help these new recruits to the waterways. He felt that existing boat-owners, and their voluntary associations, would be willing to contribute, either in cash or in kind, and as a first step he intended to ask the Heritage Boat Association, at its AGM last November, to get involved.

Tragically, Dan was drowned at Shannon Harbour in the week before the AGM, and his funeral took place on the morning of the meeting. But he was very much on the minds of those present. The meeting began with a minute's silence in his memory and, later, it was unanimously agreed that Dan's campaign to help the Nenagh Canoe Club should be continued: the HBA itself would contribute money and would cooperate with IWAI branches and with any individuals who wanted to contribute.

The Lough Derg and Carrick-on-Shannon branches of IWAI joined with the HBA and managed to provide two second-hand kayaks and four brand-new kayaks, as well as paddles, helmets and PFDs. The equipment was handed over in Dromineer, alongside HBA Chairman Gerry Burke's barge 68M, and some weeks later the Canoe Club hosted the donors, and other organisations, at a formal launch ceremony, to which members of Dan's family were invited.

Waterways round-up
A quick round-up of some of the work that has been going on over the winter and some that is in prospect.

Several Shannon locks were closed briefly for repair and maintenance work recently. They included the ESB's Ardnacrusha locks (due to reopen in mid-April) and WI's Victoria (Meelick), Albert (Jamestown) and Athlone locks. There was a more substantial renovation of Battlebridge Lock on the Lough Allen Canal, where WI spent €195,000 on cleaning the cut-stone walls, repointing joints and strengthening behind the walls. The lock, built in the early nineteenth century, had been leaking; the renovation will stop the leaks and strengthen the structure.

On the Lower Bann, WI has spent £194,000 at Camus, constructing a rock armour retaining wall and 20m of floating jetties. In total it spent about £330,000 on the Lower Bann in 2008–9, principally at Camus and Portglenone Wood.

In preparation for the reopening of the Royal Canal, WI will be installing floating jetties and a weir boom on the Camlin River, just outside Richmond Harbour, where the Royal meets the Shannon.

Lecarrow Harbour is at the head of a short canal off Lough Ree. WI will be working there until August, improving the shore-based amenities in cooperation with Roscommon County Council. WI is building and paying for a new access road, a slipway and an associated car park. The County Council is paying for a new playground and for upgrading the existing public car park. The two bodies are sharing the cost of a new service block and pump-out. WI's contribution to the total will be over €500,000.

WI is applying for planning permission for 250m of fully serviced floating jetties, a walkway and a pedestrian access bridge at Killaloe. The project will include underpinning and widening 500m of the canal wall, to improve the existing moorings, and a remotely operated "lock gate type structure... to prevent ongoing and future undermining and scouring of the canal walls and banks".

The Water Framework Directive
The Water Framework Directive (WFD), adopted by the European Union in 2000, requires the governments of EU member states to manage the quality of their water bodies. That includes both groundwater (which actually means underground water) and surface waters, whether natural or artificial, including rivers, lakes, canals, estuaries, wetlands, reservoirs and coastal waters.

These waters are to reach good status by 2015 and are to be protected against deterioration. The term good status is defined in scientific terms: it's not just a matter of casual impressions of what a body of water looks like. There are some special provisions: even higher standards apply to some waters, eg those used for bathing, for rearing shellfish or for supplying drinking water. On the other hand, artificial waters (eg canals) and those that have been heavily modified (eg reservoirs, ports or flood defences) provide essential benefits and are subject to less stringent standards.

Public authorities have undertaken a massive amount of work to identify the current status of all waters, find the pressures on their status and examine the relevant legislation.

There are several types of pressures on the Shannon; they include the effects of wash (in sensitive areas) and of the use of sea-toilets.

Their work will culminate in the production of a River Basin Management Plan for each of eight areas on the island. The drafts of those plans are now available; consultation meetings have been scheduled around the country up to mid-May and the authorities are seeking people's views by 22 June 2009. See and

Waterways Ireland has published four new Lakelands and Inland Waterways leaflets: Lough Erne, Lough Allen and Lough Key, Lough Ree and Mid Shannon and Lough Derg. Featuring large maps of the waterways and surrounding areas, they list restaurants, hotels, entertainment venues, activities and heritage and other attractions along the waterways and in the surrounding areas. The Lakelands and Inland Waterways initiative reflects Waterways Ireland's strategic decision to form closer links with tourism authorities.

WI has also published a new guide to the Lower Bann, in cooperation with Coleraine Harbour Commissioners, who control the river from the sea upstream to Coleraine Town Bridge. The guide is printed on a water-resistant A4 paper, spiral bound to open flat, and each map spans two pages. This large format allows for a lot of detail, and there are keys to the symbols on fold-out flaps at front and rear: in general, the symbols you need while moving are on the front flap and those you need while moored are on the rear. I think some minor improvements could be made, but this new format is very much to be welcomed and should be really useful when applied to the Shannon and Erne charts.

Published in Afloat April//May 2009

Published in Brian Goggin

In January, Waterways Ireland (WI) opened its magnificent new headquarters building in Enniskillen and confirmed its mastery of the waterways, reports Brian J. Goggin

Also in January, the Inland Waterways Association of Ireland (IWAI) declared a mid-life crisis, shot itself in the foot and contemplated casting off its old allegiances and buying a speedboat, an open-necked shirt and a gold medallion.

Inventing the waterways
During the 1950s and the 1960s, IWAI set the inland waterways agenda, successfully resisting closures and navigation restrictions while promoting new uses and working on restorations. Ruth Delany's books delineated the Irish waterways; IWAI guidebooks defined the waterways experience, including history and heritage and the natural environment as well as boating.
The waterways were saved from closure and given to a public body dedicated to maintaining them. But thereafter IWAI lost its public profile: 210 mentions in The Irish Times in the 1960s but only 39 in this decade.

IWAI neglected contemporary ways of influencing public policy through branding and lobbying. Successful branding would have meant that, when people thought of any waterway, they would think of IWAI. Lobbying means exerting influence with the authorities by building a reputation for making well-researched, cohesive, thoughtful submissions on important issues.

Strategic thinking
In November 2000, the then-President of IWAI began a participative review of the Association's strategic direction. The outcomes included a new vision: IWAI as the respected voice of the inland waterways enthusiast, representing all those who use, enjoy and value the waterways.

IWAI's scope was defined to include all the inland waterways, all leisure activities associated with them (including shore-based activities), the restoration and conservation of the built heritage, development of new facilities and amenities and the protection and conservation of the natural heritage. A mission statement reflecting that scope was adopted and a new management structure, with a larger Executive Committee, was introduced.

Drastic times
The President's Message in IWAI's Inland Waterways News Winter 2008 told us that, in drastic times, the association had not secured external funding for its part-time project officer (its only employee), that its membership was declining and that it was unable to retain new members. He had made radical suggestions, some unpalatable, to the IWAI Council in November. And he said that the Association was 'member-driven'.

There was no report on the November Council meeting, but the report on the September meeting said that the part-time project officer had been put on protective notice. IWAI had imposed a temporary levy on its branches to pay for the post, but that reduced branches' income; any rise in membership fee was likely to be resisted.

The membership figures do not suggest a crisis. Numbers increased by 2.6% between 2006 and 2007 and declined by 3.2% in 2008: very small changes. The renewal rate rose from 83.5% in 2006 to 91% in 2008 (hats off to the membership officer), although increasing numbers of members do not pay their subs.

It was reported that a sub-committee had been considering the IWAI's legal structure, the uniform fee charged by all branches, funding and costs, membership levels, links with other bodies and IWAI's inability to get recognition as a national body. This sub-committee hoped to have a discussion paper ready by mid-October. The President said that the Association was facing some of the biggest issues it had ever confronted.

Crisis? What crisis?
The relationships between these topics were not clear. The President did not identify the 'biggest issues' and there was no information about the unpalatable and radical solutions, about the mid-October discussion paper or about what the proposed 20/20 Vision plan might contain. So the problems were ill-defined and the possible solutions were not discussed in the President's Message.

The vision and mission statements, and other outcomes of the 2000 process, were not mentioned. Were those outcomes considered and evaluated but then rejected? If so, why?

The Association's PRO declined to provide any more information. No briefing documents were sent to members, the report of the November 2008 Council meeting is not on the IWAI website, a pre-Christmas email to members contained no details and the coverage in Inland Waterways News was inadequate and out of date.

Participants in IWAI's electronic discussion group were more successful in extracting answers. Reading the discussion at (see IWNs IWAI funding ...), I learned that, while the President seemed to link the short-term financing problems to the issues raised by the sub-committee, another officer saw no link between the two and said that the sub-committee's work would take over 12 months.

IWAI's real problem
On the basis of the limited information provided, I suggest that IWAI does have a significant problem, but that it is one of performance, of implementation, rather than of strategy.

IWAI has failed to project its vision and its brand to waterways users and to the general public. I cannot recall ever receiving a press release from IWAI. According to its website, it has issued six since 2006: four welcoming announcements (by other people) about the Ulster Canal, one welcoming two new branches and one welcoming a new corporate member. No reports or critiques or surveys of its own; nothing to suggest that it is setting the agenda on the waterways or that it is the respected voice of the inland waterways enthusiast.

There seems to be no central appreciation of the strategic importance of getting IWAI's name before the public and keeping it there. WI uses its sponsorship programme strategically, funding events that attract new users and meet other corporate goals. In 2008 WI sponsored rowing, angling, sailing, swimming, wakeboarding, triathlons and arts, heritage, environmental, Royal Canal and local events. The organising bodies and the venues are now WI's allies. IWAI seems to have run no events that received sponsorship.

Since appointing its part-time project officer, the Association has improved its lobbying, making well-reasoned submissions on issues including Shannon water abstraction, vessel registration and green diesel. It therefore seems extraordinary that IWAI should now decide to reduce its capability by removing the project officer. Joined-up strategic thinking should be for the long term; by this action IWAI has shot itself in the foot.

Waterways Ireland's new headquarters building in Enniskillen has been officially opened. The three-storey-plus-belvedere building is on the Sligo Road, across the river from the Watergate. However, the Lakeland Canoe Centre on the island screens the WI building from the castle side, and it is only from around the Forum that the full splendour appears.

The building includes offices, meeting rooms, an exhibition space and an archive and library, which will be very welcome to people like me, who are researching aspects of waterways history. The environmentally friendly building has achieved the highest Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment (BREAM) score of any building in Northern Ireland.

The official opening on Friday 16 January 2009 was performed by Gregory Campbell, MLA, Minister for Culture, Arts and Leisure and Éamon Ó Cuív, TD, Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs. The ceremony included the planting of an Irish Pitcher apple tree.

The need for a Waterways Association...
There is no official forum for the voices of waterways users. Waterways Ireland has no board of external directors. There is no equivalent of Britain's Inland Waterways Advisory Council or of the advisory committee covering Lough Neagh and the Lower Bann. There is no equivalent of the UK's Parliamentary Waterways Group and the Oireachtas largely ignores waterways.

Yet the waterways are nowadays subject to more regulation, acted upon by more public bodies and affected more by economic and political events than they have ever been. I have the greatest of respect for Waterways Ireland's competence — and its ability to thrive in a very challenging political environment — but every public-sector organisation needs external oversight. In the absence of an official mechanism, we need a strong, sophisticated, well-run voluntary body, with professional staff, that can comment authoritatively on WI's strategy and operations and that can help to set the waterways agenda.

... not just a boat club
IWAI should be driven, not by its members, but by what is set down in its Memorandum of Association, where 'represent[ing] the interests of boat owners' is clearly subsidiary to the main objects, which are about promoting the 'use, maintenance and development' of the waterways themselves.

Some proponents of change suggest that IWAI's main problem is that it has too few members, and that it should sell itself to inland boat-owners as their representative body, without any distracting heritage or environmental considerations.

But members are not purely self-interested: many share a dedication to waterways, not just to boat-owning. If IWAI focuses solely on boat-owners, it excludes many inland waterways users and is likely have less influence on Waterways Ireland. Besides, the market for representing boat-owners is dominated by the Irish Sailing Association, with over 12 staff and an active Motorboat Development Officer. IWAI could survive in that market only by some form of market-sharing or by amalgamation with the ISA.

As a boat-owners' group, IWAI's continued existence would be pointless — and unlikely. Yes, IWAI does need to improve its branch structure; yes, it needs to become much better at delivery — but at delivery on waterways strategy, not just boating. And above all it needs to become far better at communicating with members, with the public and with other waterways interests.

Published in Afloat January//February 2009

Published in Brian Goggin

Brian J Goggin looks forward to the reopening of the Royal Canal

As I write, various IWAI branches are preparing for end-of-season cruises. Some intrepid inland boaters (equipped with wheelhouses and heaters) keep going all year round: one group of Heritage Boat Association enthusiasts holds an end-of-season rally on Lough Derg after Christmas, with a start-of-season rally the next day.

Warning on water
Maybe the weather will be better over Christmas than it has been so far this year. Wet weather doesn't just depress boaters' spirits: it also depresses boating activity, certainly for that year and perhaps in subsequent years, amongst both owners and hirers. The traffic figures for the Shannon and the Shannon-Erne Waterway, kindly supplied by Waterways Ireland, do suggest that activity has been down this year.

Strong flows on the Shannon, as a result of the rainfall, were another problem. There were many reports of boats being pinned across bridges by the flow of the current. I do not know of any central source of information on the number and severity of these incidents, but perhaps it's time there was one. I don't mean to suggest that we need a full investigation of every incident by the Marine Casualty Investigation Board, but it would be useful to be able to measure the extent of the problem — and perhaps even to do something about it.

One difficulty is that the Shannon is badly designed for its current uses and level of traffic: bridges (where current speeds up) close to locks (where boats must slow down), quays and pontoons close to bridges and locks so that there are always boat movements across the traffic streams, single navigation arches with restricted visibility, and pontoons above bridges forcing boats to make awkward approaches. If we are going to have strong flows every summer, some re-engineering may be required; Waterways Ireland's new booms at weirs and at Killaloe Bridge are welcome improvements, but we may need extra navigation arches and fewer pontoons close to bridges.

In the short term, though, perhaps more could be done to provide information and warnings to boaters, and especially to hirers and others with relatively little experience. On the Thames, large yellow warning boards are shown at locks to warn boaters that the flow is increasing or to alert them when it is decreasing; unpowered boats are advised to moor and powered boats are advised to seek safe moorings. The next stage is large red boards saying 'Caution: Strong Stream', which means all boats are advised not to navigate. There is also a telephone floodline giving recorded information.

Waterways Ireland (WI) does issue warnings, but the question is whether the warnings are reaching (or getting through to) those who need them most. The Shannon has many fewer locks than the Thames, so there are fewer places where warnings could be placed; WI may need to think of new ways of getting the information out.

It would also be useful if they could provide more precise information: for example, it would be nice to know the speed of the current at places like Shannon Grove and under the navigation arches of bridges.

Offaly hits the right note

Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann is a traditional music event organised by Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann, and for the past two years it has been held in Tullamore. The Offaly Branch of IWAI has taken advantage of this to encourage more boats to use the Grand Canal: it has organised Float to the Fleadh, a convoy from Shannon Harbour to Tullamore. This year, it even persuaded three of the Shannon cruiser hire firms, Silverline, Emerald Star and CarrickCraft, to allow Fleadh-goers to hire boats and take them along the canal to Tullamore.

The event was a magnificent success, with over 80 boats in Tullamore for the Fleadh. The very presence of the boats increased awareness of the canal, and Offaly Branch enhanced the effect by arranging events and ensuring media coverage.

If the Fleadh returns to Tullamore in 2009, another Float event will be arranged. But Offaly's initiative provides a guideline for other IWAI branches, showing the advantage of linking in with major non-waterway events. Thus next year, for example, IWAI's North Barrow Branch, based in Athy, may be able to link in with the National Ploughing Championships, which will be held on a site between the Athy/Stradbally road and the Barrow Line of the Grand Canal.

The trip to the Fleadh wasn't altogether uneventful, for many boats were travelling on the weekend before the Fleadh began, when we had one of the heaviest downpours on record. The 30km Long Level above Ballycommon (east of Tullamore) received very large amounts of water, only some of which could be released via the usual overflows. Accordingly, it had to be drained westward, down the canal, over 40km to the Shannon.

Waterways Ireland staff worked throughout the weekend, including both Saturday and Sunday nights, with four racks open on all gates from Ballycommon to the Shannon: an unprecedented operation that prevented flooding over large areas. The resulting flow on the canal was such that navigation had to be stopped; the boats heading for the Fleadh were directed to Pollagh, where they moored safely until the flow subsided.

Reopening the Royal
For Waterways Ireland, the big event for 2009, all going well, will be the reopening of the Royal Canal. It runs from Spencer Dock through Maynooth, Kilcock, Enfield, Kinnegad, Mullingar, Ballynacargy and Abbeyshrule to join the Shannon at Richmond Harbour, near Tarmonbarry. Completed in 1817, it was not very successful commercially, and in 1845 it was bought by the Midland Great Western Railway which wanted the wayleaves for its track: the railway line follows the canal closely as far as Mullingar.

Although the MGWR did not particularly want the canal itself, it wasn't allowed to close it. But traffic gradually declined, except during the Emergency (World War 2), when turf was carried to Dublin to replace the coal that the UK refused to supply. When L.T.C. Rolt travelled on the canal just after WW2, there were only two traders left, and the last of them, James Leech of Killucan, stopped carrying in 1951. The canal was officially closed to navigation in 1961, and since then the Royal Canal Amenity Group has been fighting for its restoration.

The canal probably has more pubs along it than the Grand. It has fine stonework, an aqueduct 100 feet in the air, nice harbours and other attractions, including (now) an automatic lifting bridge at Begnagh, which scans the canal seeking boats and lifts when it sees one coming. The locks out of Dublin, up from Spencer Dock to Cabra, are hard work, but then there is the attractive stretch past Ashtown and Dunsink followed by the dramatic crossing of the M50 at Blanchardstown.

New sector gates are being installed at Spencer Dock to control access from the Liffey and to counter flooding. In Co Longford, where the local authority installed low culverted road-crossings in many places, the last of the culverts, at Lyneen, will be replaced by a fixed bridge. Richmond Harbour will be closed this winter for maintenance and some other minor works are underway; it is even possible that an improved water supply, from Lough Ennell, will be made available.

At first, WI will have to control traffic and monitor the banks closely to ensure that they are standing up to the traffic: most of the Royal boats, in the old days, were horse-drawn. But WI suggested, at a meeting in April 2008, that there will be a series of events next summer, from Dublin to the western end, after which traffic will once again be admitted from the Shannon. Unfortunately WI was unable to provide us with any details of decisions made since April, so we cannot say exactly what will be happening on what dates.

Northern exposure for WI
The best way of getting information about what Waterways Ireland is doing is to look on the website of the Northern Ireland Assembly. Some information about WI's doings, north and south of the border, is available on the House of Lords website, generally as a result of a question from John Dunn Laird, Baron Laird of Artigarvan, but he has been rather quiet since April 2007. Waterways Ireland is occasionally mentioned in the Oireachtas, but its doings are largely ignored in the southern legislature.

In Northern Ireland, however, the Committee for Culture, Arts and Leisure holds regular hearings, received reports from the relevant minister and publishes full information on its website In September, Gregory Campbell, the NI Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure, reported to the Committee on July's meeting of the North/South Ministerial Council (Inland Waterways Sectoral Format). The NI representatives were the Minister for Regional Development, Conor Murphy, and Mr Campbell; Éamon Ó Cuív, Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, represented the Irish government. The meeting received a report from WI's Chief Executive, John Martin.

The report said that, since October 2007, WI had installed 86m of moorings on the Royal Canal and on the Shannon, 283m on the Erne and 36m on the Lower Bann. WI's new HQ building, in Enniskillen, was on time and on budget. It intended to reopen the Royal in 2009, to improve other navigations and to complete "investigations and construction of extensions on the Shannon navigation". WI has been consulting landowners and other interests along the line of the Ulster Canal from the River Finn (Lough Erne) to Clones; it has "commenced procedures to have the preliminary design undertaken and [proposes] to take forward the land acquisition in advance of letting the contract". It intends to register all its property, first assessing what the process might need, and it has carried out some marketing.

WI's strategy has "five marketing objectives, which are: awareness creation; development of a corporate identity; promoting greater use of the waterways; working in partnership with other bodies; and building a platform for sustained development".

The Committee discussed the report of the meeting, with questions to the Minister on the timescale for reopening the Ulster Canal, the slight under-representation of Protestants amongst the 76 permanent WI employees in Northern Ireland, potential for development of the Lower Bann and Lough Neagh, the effect of currency fluctuations and of the "pressures on public-expenditure budgets in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland".

In that context, it should be noted that Brian Lenihan's budget in October 2008 involved cuts in provision for pensioners, in certain education and health services and in the estimates for agriculture, transport and arts, sport and tourism. However, the estimate for Waterways Ireland's capital and current expenditure is the same as it was last year. According to WI's current Corporate Plan, operating revenue — which includes what boaters pay — will amount to e440,000 in each of the years 2008, 2009 and 2010; current expenditure in those years is expected to be e38,550,000, e39,550,000 and e41,330,000 respectively.

Published in Afloat December 08/January 09 Annual

Published in Brian Goggin
I'm just back from a fortnight pottering around Lough Derg and, if our experience is anything to go by, the Celtic Water-Tiger is dead. Traffic (both private and hired) seemed to be way down on normal levels, although that comment is based on anecdotal evidence: I haven't seen the Waterways Ireland traffic figures yet.

Some people blamed the weather, but we didn't think it was too bad. We had some heavy rain, but for some reason none while we were navigating: I didn't have to don my serious waterproofs once. There was even some sunshine from time to time, which is always a bonus, and the only strong winds seemed to be at night.

Our fortnight spanned the August Bank Holiday weekend, which we spent in Portumna Castle Harbour, and admittedly that was crowded. There were boats moored on the approach walls every night and at one stage eight boats were rafted inside the harbour. And that's not to speak of the herd of camper vans...

Except for one night in Dromineer, we spent our other nights at quieter harbours without pubs (Kilgarvan, Dromaan, Rossmore) and maybe things were more crowded elsewhere, but I was surprised to find that, on one night in Dromaan, ours was the only occupied boat in the harbour. Even Dromineer was quiet on a Friday night; perhaps the closure of the hotel is making a difference.

We had a visit in Portumna from the Waterways Ireland warden, who was checking up on things and ensuring that best use was made of the space available. This sort of presence, whether by land or by water, is a very good thing, using low-key persuasiveness to make improvements. Mind you, I suspect that WI will have to use the heavy hand sometime soon: I have the impression that there has been an increase in harbour-hogging by owners who won't pay for moorings and who prefer to privatise sections of public harbours (at taxpayers' expense).

The Boyne
The Industrial Heritage Association of Ireland ( organised a tour of sites in Monaghan recently, and I went with some friends. The tour included mills, the startling remains of Great Northern Railway viaducts and several sites on the Ulster Canal: the summit feeder, a bridge and milestone, Templetate Lock (in the middle of a field) and Ireland's only canal tunnel.

On the way home, we called in at Oldbridge to see how IWAI Boyne Navigation Branch's restoration project ( was getting on. Tommy McLoughlin, the Project Manager, had kindly agreed to stay behind after a hard day's work on the sea lock to show us around. I must admit I was very impressed: this is a very professional operation on a lovely navigation.

Like the Barrow, the Boyne is a river navigation with several long cuts — which are not all on the same side of the river. The sea lock, providing entry to the lowest cut, is at Oldbridge Lower, very close to the Battle of the Boyne site, and there is a second lock (Oldbridge Upper) on the same cut. This second lock is a rare turf-sided lock with sloping sides; a horse-bridge crosses the upper end.

Restoring navigation on that stretch means replacing gates and removing dams (and no doubt some dredging); success would open the navigation from Drogheda almost as far as the Brú na Bóinne Visitor Centre, with only one other lock in the way. And that means that it would be possible to offer a water-bus service from Drogheda to the two visitor attractions, the Battle of the Boyne site and Brú na Bóinne.

So this is a restoration project with some point to it. A restored Boyne Navigation, cut off from the connected inland waterways system, may never attract large numbers of cruisers, but it could justify itself in other ways. A water-bus service would be an attraction in itself; it would also relieve the traffic congestion on the area's minor roads — and perhaps make the other attractions easier to find. Furthermore, the navigation itself is extremely attractive and some sections of towpath are well used by walkers and anglers; a day-boat service might complement those activities.

Unfortunately the Boyne Navigation Branch's trailer was stolen since our visit. It is a twin-axle 8' x 4' steel galvanised trailer with a mesh tail ramp. It is unusual in that it has high sides, of which the top 15" drop down to form a shelf hanging on chains. It has lights and black plastic mudguards. This trailer was custom built by T.R. Trailers and is used to transport equipment on to the site on workdays. If you see it, contact Tommy McLoughlin at 087 277 1591.

The Munster Blackwater
The Munster Blackwater (and its tributary, the Bride) are always included in lists of Irish inland waterways, but I had never seen them. They are not connected to the main system, so getting there requires a car journey, and I had never got around to it until a few months ago, when we drove over the Vee to Cappoquin and on to Youghal.

Nineteenth century travellers described the Blackwater as the Irish Rhine, which is a bit of an exaggeration, but it is certainly very scenic and full of historic interest. There are several 'big houses' along the route; people associated with the area include the Knights Templar, Walter Raleigh, the Duke of Devonshire, the von Thyssen family, Katharine Countess of Desmond (said to have died at the age of 140 after falling from a cherry tree), Claud Cockburn, Molly Keane and Richard Boyle (1st Earl of Cork and father of the man who gave us Boyle's Law).

Low bridges now restrict access by masted vessels, but well into the last century schooners came up the Blackwater with the tide as far as Cappoquin. Much of the trade was with Wales, carrying coal in and timber (for pit props) out. There are several quays along the river; schooners would discharge part of their cargoes in the lower reaches, reducing their draught for the upriver section. They could discharge the rest in Cappoquin and take on part of a load, completing it further downriver. The Bride, a tributary, was also navigable and schooners went up there too, and a short canal carried goods to Lismore, where the Dukes of Devonshire own the castle. Furthermore, steamers went as far as Cappoquin and excursions were popular.

Amongst the schooners that used the Blackwater were the De Wadden, a steel three-masted schooner built in 1917 and now in Merseyside Maritime Museum, the recently-restored wooden three-masted schooner Kathleen & May and the ketch-rigged flush-decked trow Jonadab, whose remains are in the Purton boat graveyard near Sharpness.

There are some boats on the river, but traffic was very light when we were there: a few fishing boats, a small sailing-boat going downriver with its mast lowered, the occasional jetski and power-boat, but not much else. Some of the old quays are used for swimming, but on the whole the river seemed to be under-used.

We went with the tide all the way from Youghal to the Kitchenhole just above Cappoquin, and also did some exploration of the Bride and the Lismore Canal by road. Tony Gallagher runs a trip-boat, the half-decker MV Maeve, from Youghal, although his scheduled trips don't go as far as Cappoquin. Tony (087 988 9076) is a mine of information about this wonderful river and he brings old photos and documents to show to his passengers: highly recommended.

For a photo tour of the Blackwater, see

Published in Afloat September//October 2008

Published in Brian Goggin
Waterways Ireland had applied for planning permission to extend the Shannon Navigation upriver from the head of Lough Allen to Annagh Upper, near the village of Dowra. The plan included dredging of the river and the construction of a 16-berth public harbour at Annagh Upper, with an amenity area, car park and road access. In the lower stretches of the river, dredging would have been mostly of silt, but near Annagh Upper some bedrock would have been removed and used to build a weir upstream of the moorings.

In July 2007 Leitrim County Council gave planning permission for the development, subject to some conditions; the decision was appealed to An Bord Pleanála, which in April 2008 refused planning permission on three grounds.

Every year Waterways Ireland (WI) provides an account of what it has been doing and what's next on its list of things to do. In 2007, it spent €15.5 million on new and improved facilities including refurbishment across the network, an extra 770m of jetties and the continued restoration of the Royal Canal

Before we get into the capital works, it's worth noting a joint marketing initiative between Waterways Ireland, Fáilte Ireland, Northern Ireland Tourist Board, Tourism Ireland, Fermanagh Lakeland Tourism and Shannon Development: the Lakelands Project, promoting the waterways between Belleek and Limerick. The project was launched in October 2007 at a ceremony on the banks of the Shannon in Clonmacnoise. The first phase included the development of a guide, website (www.discoverireland/ and a multi-lingual DVD.

And so to the engineering. WI's isolated navigation is the Lower Bann, on which it has installed 36m replacement jetties at Mountsandel and at Vow, and has applied for planning permission for new jetties at Camus and Portglenone Wood. In 2008 WI intends to carry out feasibility studies into new facilities and service blocks.

On the Erne, WI has replaced and upgraded 346m of moorings at Castle Caldwell, Muckross and Geaglum. In many cases older timber jetties are being replaced. At Crevinishaughy Island near Castle Archdale WI has installed a larger jetty with a reduced freeboard section for watersports. In Enniskillen, the Round O slipway has been improved and 240m of moorings will be installed in 2008.

On the Shannon–Erne Waterway, a new block is being built at Lock 16 (Leitrim) for the Patrollers, and the moorings at the far end, Lock 1 at Corraquill, will be replaced in 2008.

The Shannon has had an extra 250m of floating moorings: 50m at Portumna, 100m at Ballina (with safety booms at Killaloe Bridge) and 100m at Kilglass, replacing the wreck of a jetty that was owned by the County Council. Clarendon Lock is being automated, Tarmonbarry Lock House has been refurbished to give keepers a better view of the lock chamber, the Camlin has been dredged and Scarriff has a pump-out, which makes 21 pump-outs at 14 locations on the Shannon. In 2008, weir barriers will be installed at Athlone and Rooskey.

Down the Barrow, the 54m amenity jetty at Ardreigh has been finished, and there is an 84m floating jetty at Carlow Town Park and a new slipway at Bagenalstown. Major dredging work was undertaken in Carlow and Leighlinbridge; the quay wall and landing jetty at Rathvindon Lock, and the retaining wall at Graiguenamanagh Dry Dock were all repaired.

On the Grand, a 40m long culvert under the canal at Rahan has been replaced, with associated canal embankment works and realignment of culverts to both upstream and downstream channels. Another 3km of the Barrow Line was dredged, between Ballymanus bridge and Vicarstown. In Dublin, major repair works were carried out to stabilise the walls in Grand Canal Dock. The General MacMahon lifting bridge over the canal basin (between the Inner and Outer Docks) was replaced by a fixed structure and, in a separate project, the Grand Canal Square was extended into the dock as a platform extending over the water body. With Dublin City Council, about 700m of towpath surfacing was improved, with overhead lighting, near Davitt Road at the start of the Main Line. In Sallins, works commenced in association with Kildare County Council to improve the harbour area: rebuilding the footpath, putting services underground and adding overhead lighting. For 2008, the main item will be the long-awaited service block at Shannon Harbour.

The Ulster Canal is now on the list. In July 2007 the North South Ministerial Council (NSMC) asked WI to restore the section of the Ulster Canal between Clones and Upper Lough Erne. WI is establishing a project team for day-to-day management, reporting monthly to a Monitoring Committee chaired jointly by the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs (RoI) and the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure (NI). The project will take six years to complete.

Finally, much has been happening on the Royal. A new lifting bridge at Begnagh has been finished and work has started to replace the bridge at Mosstown. A 600m section of bank reconstruction and lining was carried out between Ballydrum Bridge and the 44th Lock near Killashee. Investigative works were completed at Richmond Harbour Dry Dock, a major restoration of the 45th Lock was completed and Cloonsheerin Culvert was fully restored. Lighting and railings at Maynooth Harbour were upgraded and deep gate landing jetties were installed at the 41st and 42nd Locks. Negotiations continued with Westmeath County Council to provide an adequate water supply to the Royal Canal.

In Dublin, between Binns Bridge and Croke Park, 400m of towpath and wall were improved. Spencer Dock was widened from 12m to its original 30m width. Works included exposing and strengthening the original dock walls. Access was granted for a new LUAS bridge across the Dock. All of these works are part of large scale re-development of the area, in which the Royal Canal is an important central feature. Work began on the new Sea Lock, which has the dual purpose of facilitating navigation at all stages of the tide and providing flood protection to the area in the event of high water levels in the adjacent River Liffey. The project includes construction of new mitre gates and new sector gates, together with a control building for the operation of the Sea Lock.

In our next issue, we'll have information on plans for the reopening of the Royal Canal in 2009.

First, it was not satisfied that the Environmental Impact Statement and other documents had adequately assessed and addressed the likely effects of the development on the environment and, in particular, on the very rare fish, the Irish Pollan, which is unique to Ireland but whose status, according to the National Parks and Wildlife Service, is bad, with poor prospects.

Second, the board pointed out that the Leitrim County Development Plan 2003–2009 sought to encourage location of facilities in or near existing towns and villages, to maximise the economic and social gain for the local community. As Annagh Upper is "an unserviced rural area at a remove from the nearby village of Dowra", the development would be "contrary to the proper planning and sustainable development of the area."

Third, the board said that the local road serving the proposed site was very poor and that the proposed development would endanger traffic safety.

I'm not convinced that the rejection of this development is a disaster. Relatively few boats use Lough Allen, and they've had improvements to two existing moorings in recent years. Does the traffic justify a further development? Or would the money be better spent elsewhere? Perhaps an extension at the southern end of the navigation, through Parteen Villa Weir to O'Briensbridge, would be a better investment. Not that I'm biased.

Rush out now ...
... and buy a copy of Ruth Delany's history of the Shannon Navigation, just published by Lilliput Press (paperback €29.95, hardback €60). Ruth's reputation as a waterways historian is solidly established, but this book takes her work to a new level.

The structure of the book is broadly chronological, starting with works carried out before 1800 and then devoting two chapters to the achievements of the Directors General of Inland Navigation up to 1830. But most of the infrastructure we know on the Shannon today came after that, based on a survey by Thomas Rhodes for the Shannon Commission and a report to the government in 1833.

That led to the passing of the Shannon Navigation Act in 1834 and the appointment of five commissioners (including Rhodes) to carry out work on the Shannon. Between then and 1850, mill dams and eel weirs were removed and bridge arches were unblocked. In the lower Shannon, the Black Bridge was built at Plassey and weirs were built at Worlds End (Castleconnell) and Corbally. At Killaloe the bridge was improved, a large L-shaped weir was constructed across the river and the canal retaining wall was built. On Lough Derg the navigation was opened to Scarriff, Mountshannon harbour was built and the Ballyshrule and Woodford rivers were dredged.

Upriver, boulders removed in dredging out shallow places were used as bases for navigation markers. Portumna bridge was replaced and the new cut, weir and lock at Meelick were built. The old Banagher lock was bypassed by a new navigation channel in the river, with a swivel arch in the bridge; Shannonbridge too got a swivel arch. A new lock and weir were built in the river at Athlone, with a new bridge (again with a swivel section), and the old canal was abandoned.

On Lough Ree the marking system was improved. The old lock at Lanesborough was removed and locks and weirs were built at Tarmonbarry and Roosky (abandoning the old Roosky canal). The bridge and quay were built at Carnadoe and the shallows at Derrycarne Narrows were excavated. Jamestown canal was re-sited and new bridges were built across it, but Drumsna bridge was just strengthened. Carrick-on-Shannon bridge was replaced and some improvements were made in the river to Battlebridge and in the Lough Allen Canal, while on the Boyle Water bridges and a lock were built.

There were some small changes to the infrastructure in later years, and they are covered in this book; the most important was the building of Ardnacrusha and the abandonment of the old navigation between Limerick and Killaloe. But most of the Shannon as we know it today was defined during that twenty-year period in the middle of the nineteenth century, and Ruth Delany brings it to life: the surveys, the plans and the changes, the incidents during construction.

There are chapters on flooding, on the Shannon steamers and other trading vessels and on the changes reflecting new uses: recreational boating, fishing, hydroelectric works, the development of bogs, the hire industry and the need for water management. Even looking at the pictures of boats would provide hours of amusement.

Some people may shy away from the prospect of reading a 250-page history book, but there is no need to do so. The book is indeed full of information but it is also extremely well written: any technicalities are explained fully and indeed entertainingly.

But there is more: this book is extremely well illustrated and produced. Sponsorship from Waterways Ireland enabled the publishers to use full colour throughout, with an extraordinary number and range of illustrations ranging from maps and charts, through drawings of the tools used in construction, to early black and white photographs and to contemporary colour photographs. The result is a magnificent book, whose quality is a fitting tribute to the research Ruth Delany has put in to her subject over the years — and to the work she has done in campaigning successfully for Irish waterways.

The proposals for registration of vessels are covered elsewhere in this issue, but I have a few comments from an inland perspective. I should say that I am not opposed to registration in principle. I sold a boat once to a man who was surprised that there was no way for him to be sure that I had title to it; registration would have provided reassurance to him. If it enables the Revenue Commissioners to check on people's tax affairs, I have no objection to that either.

I have made some suggestions to the Department of Transport: that the old registers should be computerised and made available online for research and that Killaloe (where boats were sent to be gauged) should be the port of registry for inland vessels.

I also commented on the requirement that I display a flag. I don't really like flags (apart from our own) and I don't see the point when I'm inland. More seriously, there have been times when boats from Northern Ireland might have been reluctant, for fear of violence, to fly a red ensign in the republic and when southern boats might have preferred not to fly their ensign when north of the border. I hope those days may be behind us, but if the temperature should rise again I think boaters should be free to avoid calling attention to themselves.

I am not clear whether houseboats will have to be registered. And it would be nice to have a register of wrecks: I don't mean boats that have been wrecked while under way but rather those that have been abandoned and have sunk at their moorings in Killaloe, Shannon Harbour or Lowtown. And that brings up the point of how this registration will affect Waterways Ireland and its register: the proposals are silent on the matter.

Finally, the big threat in the scheme is in the sentence "Only vessels which meet the applicable standards under national, EU or international law in relation to safety, security and environmental protections in force at the time of application for registration will be allowed to register" and in the requirement for tonnage measurement. Owners might be hit with any number of demands under those provisions, and there are no details of what we might be in for. I don't like buying a pig in a poke: I want more details.

Getting tough
Waterways Ireland has issued Marine Notice 25 of 2008 saying that boats that have been parked in one harbour for more than five consecutive days, or for more than seven days in a month, may be removed from the navigation. This would be good, although I don't know how it's to be done. It probably won't be as drastic as the recent removal of sunken vessels from the Grand Canal Dock in Dublin.

Published in Afloat June//July 2008

Published in Brian Goggin

Killaloe Coast Guard Unit was tasked  to a 60' barge that was sinking at its mooring on Lough Derg on the inland waterways this afternoon. The Killaloe Coast Guard Unit dispatched two vehicles with crew and salvage pubs by road and the rescue boat "Dalton" was sent to place anti-pollution booms.

According to the Coastguard after many hours it was obvious that even with four pumps and a slurry tank the barge had sat on the bottom listing to starboard. A second slurry tank and the fire and rescue service from Nenagh also assisted.


Published in Inland Waterways

Waterways Ireland intends to remove sunken and abandoned vessels from the Grand Canal/Barrow Navigation on inland waterways. The notice indicates nine boats listed for removal. The biggest craft is a 10-metre long steel cruiser, the Celtic Mist, located on the North bank of the west 35th lock. The full list of boats is below.



No. 38 of 2011




Notice of Intent to Remove Craft under Canals Act, 1986 Bye-Laws, 1988

Waterways Ireland wishes to advise all masters and users that notice is now given of its intention to remove sunken and abandoned vessels from the Grand Canal/Barrow Navigation  in accordance with the Canals Act, 1986 (Bye-Laws), 1988.

 The vessels have been sunk for a considerable time and all efforts to locate owners have failed.

Waterways Ireland now intend to remove the craft and dispose of them as appropriate, unsound wooden craft will go to land fill and steel/fibre glass craft will be disposed of by public tender in the near future ( notices will be published).







HEYDAY (2711)

Small GRP Cruiser

South Bank East of Griffith Bridge



Small Barge/Cruiser

South Bank East of Griffith Bridge



Wooden Cabin Cruiser

South Bank East of Griffith Bridge


No Name

Wooden Cabin Cruiser (Green)

South Bank East of Griffith Bridge


PALOMA (2136)

Wooden yacht (White)

South Bank East of Griffith Bridge


MAXIR II (6050)

Cabin Cruiser

South Bank East of Griffith Bridge



Speed Boat

Area of Transit Shed – on hard


CELTIC MIST ([email protected])

Steel Hulled Cruiser

North Bank – West 35th Lock


NO NAME (7441)

Small day boat with cabin

North Bank – West 35th Lock


Published in Inland Waterways
An inland waterways hire cruiser that struck Killaloe bridge in Co. Clare at the weekend was beached by the local volunteer Coast Guard Unit. Six people and a dog were evacuated from the hire boat.

The Cruiser was holed and was taking on water.

Killaloe Coast Guard Mobile unit was tasked to Derg Marina with salvage pumps while the Coast Guard Rescue Boat also responded according to a Coast Guard blog report here.

It was decided that in order to save the vessel from sinking that the Coast Guard would run the cruiser aground in the shallow water at nearby Ballyvalley.

Published in Inland Waterways

Erne System, Lower Lough Erne, Kesh Marina Jetty

Waterways Ireland wishes to advise masters of inland waterways vessels that approximately 15m of this jetty in now available for use while the remainder is closed for repair. Access from the jetty to the car park is also available.

A further marine notice will issue when repairs have been completed.

Any inconvenience that this may cause our customers is regretted.

Charles Lawn
Lt Cdr (rtd)
Inspector of Navigation
12 Jan 2011
Tel: 00 353 (0) 90 6494232

Published in Inland Waterways

The Heritage Council of Ireland is to face a 47% cut in funding following the budget's announcement on Tuesday. The large-scale reduction in funding the statutory body will decimate the heritage sector and threatens the closure of many small enterprises that are dependent on it. The cut is on top of a 30% fall in funds introduced during this year.

The council is charged with identifying, protecting, preserving and enhancing Ireland's national heritage which also includes seascapes, wrecks and the inland waterways.

"We are extremely concerned about the disproportionate nature of the cuts to the heritage sector. While the heritage sector recognises that it must share the burden of the cuts required to tackle the country's economic crisis, the cuts announced last Tuesday are completely disproportionate in comparison to other Departmental cuts." said Michael Starrett, chief executive of the Heritage Council.

"As a result, the future of heritage initiatives nationwide which have created hundreds of jobs, empowered local communities and enhanced the value of heritage as a tourism resource, are severely threatened", he added.

According to the Heritage Council, such cuts will have a detrimental impact on the national heritage and the quality of tourism offered. In 2009, over three million overseas visitors engaged in cultural/historical and spent an estimated €1.9 billion.  Funding will now no longer be available to protect and manage the nations heritage.

For information on the Heritage Council's marine publications section click here and on inland waterways logon to


Published in Coastal Notes
Page 24 of 27

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