Date of Issue: 14 February 2016
Election Candidates nationwide have been contacting the Inland Waterways Association of Ireland
(IWAI) to pledge their support for an IWAI call for provision to be made for new canal bye-laws via
a dedicated Canal Bill during the next Dáil.
This campaign allows Candidates an opportunity to publically demonstrate their support for the
Canals and their Communities and their efforts to encourage the use and growth of the canals with
legislation that is centred on the communities, users, and tourism.
The pledge to date is receiving good cross-party support. The IWAI web team will be updating local
and national media next week on candidates supporting the pledge.
“IWAI request election candidates to pledge their support for an IWAI call for provision to be
made for new canal bye-laws via a dedicated Canal Bill during the next Dáil when possible
rather than including any future legislation in a joint Bill such as the Heritage bill 2016.
Furthermore in developing The Canal (Amendment) Bill 2017 that recognition is given to
the canal users, canal communities and Local Authorities adjoining the canals by way of prelegislative
consultation and scrutiny. This approach would be in line with Government reform
and best practice.”
With no advance notice or consultation with the inland waterways stakeholders & canal
communities the Heritage Bill 2016 was published on 4 January 2016.
IWAI advised that while it would welcome and support proper regulations the proposed Bill
did not put user requirements, local communities or tourism at the centre of the regulations. Rather
the now lapsed bill is a heavy-handed approach that will result in lower boat traffic on the canals.
Prior to the 2016 Bill, in January 2014, Waterways Ireland brought forward proposals for
amendments to the Canal Byelaws 1988 under the Canals Act 1986 & Maritime Safety Act 2005.
IWAI campaigned vigorously during the minimal consultation period of 21 days. Public discussion
in 2014 on the matter included – the Canals and Barrow as a tourism resource; queries raised in the
Seanad and the Dail; County Councils input; public meetings; national and local press articles;
television and radio interviews; community websites; blogs and facebook pages. These all reflected
the reservations of users, communities and public representatives as to the significant impact of the
draconian suggestions in the proposed bye-laws.
The IWAI campaign resulted in an invite to appear before the Oireachtas Joint Committee on
Environment, Culture and the Gaeltacht.
Feedback from members of this cross-party Committee who met on 25 March 2014 included:
• “I am fearful that proposals will be implemented without further recommendations” – Senator Cait
Keane. Fine Gael Labour Panel.
• “I am of the view that Waterways Ireland must return to the beginning and reconsider this matter from a
very practical viewpoint. What is proposed is going to lead to the closure of the Canal” – Deputy James
Bannon. Fine Gael Longford – Westmeath
• “People should not feel pushed out of an activity they have grown up with, love and wish to pass on to
other generations and the community to help local economies with the tourism income it can provide” –
Deputy Barry Cowen. Fianna Fail Laois – Offaly
• “The Bye-laws will impact heavily on a small number of people” – Deputy Catherine Murphy.
Independent Kildare North
• “The huge increase in some fees is unacceptable and there is serious concern that the proposed fees will
damage tourism and drive people from the waterways” Deputy Sandra McLellan. Sinn Fein Cork East
• “The new bye-laws will make exacting demands on users of the Canal” – Deputy Seamus Kirk. Fianna
• “The five day rule, which I believe is completely unworkable” – Deputy Ann Phelan. Labour Carlow-
The 2014 proposed bylaws if passed would not have had any validity as noted this year on the
Waterways Ireland website “The Minister was subsequently advised by the Office of the Attorney
General that amendments to the primary legislation governing the bye-laws (the Canals Act 1986)
would be necessary to ensure that the new bye-laws would not be ultra vires.” The proposed invalid
bye-laws were published with no prior consultation and a short public consultation period of just 21
days, resulted in over 2300 submissions on the issue.
The current position
Two years later and it seems no lessons have been learned on how to communicate with the
customer and communities along the canals.
The powers proposed in the new Act will affect those on the waterways of Carlow, Dublin,
Kildare, Kilkenny, Laois, Longford, Meath, Offaly and Westmeath.
The bill had Stage 2 approval in the Seanad, but is now lapsed due to the dissolution of the Dáil this
Politically, this is now a very big issue. It is going to feature highly as candidates face into elections
this spring. The IWAI have gained the interest of local, regional and national politicians on this
matter to date, who on behalf of their constituents, want to develop, not constrict, canal use.
Who to contact for
Alan Kelly, IWAI,
Notes to Editor – the IWAI
The Inland Waterways Association of Ireland (IWAI) is a voluntary body representing over three
thousand five hundred enthusiasts, with 22 branches across the island of Ireland.
The Inland Waterways Association of Ireland (IWAI) is an energetic, fun, voluntary organisation with
members from all corners of the Island of Ireland, all sharing a keen and passionate enthusiasm for the
waterways of Ireland.
The IWAI advocates the navigation, use, maintenance, protection, restoration and improvement of the
inland waterways of Ireland. It was formed in 1954 to promote the development, use and maintenance of
Ireland’s navigable rivers and canals.
When the Shannon was almost totally undeveloped for pleasure boating, the IWAI campaigned against
the building of low bridges, thus ensuring the development of the river as a national asset. In the 1960s
IWAI successfully campaigned to stop plans to close the Circular Line of the Grand Canal in Dublin.
Later the Association campaigned for the re-opening of what is now the Shannon – Erne Waterway
(formerly the Ballinamore & Ballyconnell Canal) and the Naas Line of the Grand Canal.
IWAI played its part in the restoration campaign for the re-opening of the Royal Canal between Dublin
and the Shannon in recent years. IWAI assistance to the campaign to re-open the Ulster Canal has also
borne fruit with the announcement that work is to begin on re-opening the section from the Erne to
Clones. Currently, IWAI members are active in restoration projects on the Boyne, Newry, and Lagan
IWAI Branches hold approximately 200 events each year across inland navigations with the wider
communities in many locations. These events include Boat Rallies, Harbour Festivals, Walks, Social
Gatherings, Heritage Activities; Family activities and Youth focused events.