By Brian J Goggin and John Thompson
There is no explicit provision for liveaboards on the Irish inland waterways. If you have a place in a marina or private harbour, your arrangements are a matter for you and the landowner or marina owner.
However, except for a small stretch of the waterfront at Lowtown that is controlled by Lowtown Marine, there are no marinas or private harbours along the inland waterways near Dublin. Those waterways, i.e. the Grand and Royal Canals, are controlled by Waterways Ireland, Floor 2, Block C, Ashtown Gate, Navan Road, Dublin 15, tel 01-8680148. A boat using the canals is required to have a permit costing €126 or to pay €12.70 per month for mooring plus 60c per lock.
There are some people living on boats at Hazelhatch and Sallins (both near railway stations) and Lowtown on the Grand Canal. Waterways Ireland’s bye-laws do not allow boats to stay in the same place for more than five days, but these bye-laws have not been enforced on the canals (except in the Grand Canal Basin in Dublin), although they are enforced at Waterways Ireland harbours on the Shannon during the summer months. The number of liveaboards in Ireland is considerably small in relation to the number of boats – approximately 60 liveaboards compared with approximately 10,000 boats. Many choose to live on a boat because they see it as a cheap form of living; well cheap is a word that that has many meanings. Some boats are cheap but do remember that you will have to live on a boat that could be 30ft long and 6ft wide. You wont have the usual luxuries of a house such as central heating and a bath. Many liveaboards do not move their boats. This is a sin and shows that these people do not have any respect for our waterways.
However, Waterways Ireland does not want people living on boats and it supplies no services to liveaboards. There are no public toilets, showers, pump-out stations or facilities for emptying chemical toilets. There is no security, save that provided by the presence of other boats. You will have to make your own arrangements for rubbish disposal. There are few taps and refilling with water may be time-consuming. You will not be able to get electricity: Waterways Ireland (WI) has asked the ESB not to connect any boats to its supply without WI’s permission, which will not be forthcoming. You will have neither a postal address nor a land-line telephone. Access to your boat will be along a canal bank that may be dark and muddy in winter: The main areas are crowded with boats but the best mooring places have been taken by long-standing live-aboards. There are few wide-beam boats available for sale and it is difficult to get bank loans to buy boats for living on, although second-hand narrowboats are available, especially from Britain.
Over the coming months Waterways Ireland will be holding public consultation meetings before they implement regulations regarding liveaboards. There could be dramatic changes, they might even ban liveaboards, to ensure that any liveaboards have a voice or even a chance it would be wise to join the IWAI as we have the experience to negotiate and propose any changes to the Bye Laws.
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