IWAI Canal Legislation Campaigns

A summary of Proposed changes to legislation governing the Grand Canal, Royal Canal & Barrow Navigation.

For the past 6 years the IWAI has consulted with its members seeking their view on a series of proposals brought by Waterways Ireland to address changes in the legislative framework governing the Grand Canal, Royal Canal & Barrow Navigation. These proposals include An all Island proposal for Navigation ByeLaws (2010), Amendments to the 1988 Canal ByeLaws (ROI only), Section 2 of the Heritage Bill 2016 (ROI only) & proposed changes to the Canal Permitting System (ROI only). What follows is a brief summary of each of these proposals along with the IWAI response.

For more detail on the IWAI Canal Byelaws Campaign click here
For more detail on the IWAI Heritage Bill campaign Click Here
For more details on the IWAI Canal Bill Pledge click here

2010: Waterways Ireland (WI) propose All Island Bye-laws

  • IWAI and other stakeholders make submissions
  • proposal abandoned due to legislative complexities implementing one set of Bye-laws pertaining to the two jurisdictions of the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland

January 6th 2014: WI propose amendments to the Canals Act 1986 affecting the Grand & Royal Canals and the Barrow Navigation

  • Public Consultation of just 21 days, compared to 90 days for WI corporate plan
  • IWAI national campaign resulted in over 2300 submissions including submissions from canal communities, user groups and international canal & boating organisations
  • the common theme of the submissions was that the proposed amendments did not put user requirements, tourism and local communities at the centre of the regulations
  • 25 March 2014. IWAI and WI invited to appear before the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Environment, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. Cross party concerns expressed included:
  • a request 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • The five-day rule (forcing boats to move every 5 days or face €150 fine per day) is completely unworkable
  • Motions passed on proposed Byelaws by a number of Local Authorities rejecting the Waterways Ireland proposed Canal Bye-laws
  • WI report issued on the consultation process, with many omissions including the appearance before the Oireachtas Committee

WI later indicated to IWAI that the concerns had been taken on board and the proposed amendments to Bye-laws had been revised substantially. WI refused to provide specific detail as to the scale of these revisions. The proposed bye-law amendments were not implemented subsequently.

January 2016: Heritage Bill 2016 (incl amendments to the Canals Act 1986) introduced in Seanad

  • again no prior notification or pre consultation with the public, IWAI or local authorities.
  • the amendments in this Bill provide for changes to the primary legislation (Canals Act 1986) that give WI enabling powers to make Bye-laws, the bill is combined with other areas non canal related areas, the majority of bill deals with wildlife
  • Waterways Ireland announced on their website that the 2014 proposed byelaws if passed would
  • not have had any validity “the Office of the Attorney General advised 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”
  • IWAI contacted Senators in advance of further debate on the Bill. Strong opposition expressed by a number of Senators, the Bill at stage 2 fell with the dissolution of the 31st Dáil


What is proposed?

Provision to create Bye-laws with no pre consultation that will be law within 21 days of publishing including

  • Fines & regulations that are overly penal and will not encourage use of the canals and which are not in place on the other Irish waterways
  • stop and search rights for their Officers
  • the closing of canals to navigation
  • five day move on rule (forcing boats to move every 5 days or face €150 fine per day)
  • legislation to apply other penalties with no independent appeal mechanism
  • no adequate provision for elected Local Authorities representatives to be consulted on any proposed bye-laws
  • provision to apply other penalties with no warning or independent appeal mechanism


What is needed?

  • proper pre consultation and engagement with the canal communities, users and elected public representatives in Westmeath & Longford
  • bye-laws that will both maintain existing community canal based users and encourage new visitors, not just force existing users off the canal
  • legislate to solve the problems in the areas where it is needed which is approx 1 % of the canal area and not penalises the 99% of waterways communities to address the problematic 1% (e.g. unlicensed boats, harbour hogging)
  • byelaws that don’t discriminate against the canals
  • actively promote tourism on the canals, support the IWAI Green and Silver circle trip through Dublin via both canals, by ensuring boats can get through Dublin more than a handful of times each year due to irregular bridge lifts
  • in the absence of private marinas provide accessible long term moorings in safe areas not isolated known problematic area reform of the canal byelaws led by our political leaders and representatives in support of the canal communities and canal users


IWAI believes that these objectives can be achieved through the introduction of a stand alone Canals Bill.