Raft of planned canal bank levies takes heavy toll on boat owners
CANAL banks may typically be associated with tranquillity and sonnets by Paddy Kavanagh about Parnassus.
However, this peace has now been shattered by a gathering unholy row over proposals to impose a raft of charges and tolls on boat users on inland waterways.
These include an annual canal mooring permit of between €160 and €2,500 and annual houseboat mooring permits of between €1,250 and €3,500.
These fees are paid for boats that "are not constantly cruising or navigating".
The charges are outlined in the Waterways Ireland Draft Corporate plan for 2014 to 2016.
Canal boat owners will also have to pay tolls of €25 for passage through a series of locks in Dublin.
The proposals also include proposed District Court fines of up to €5,000 for breaches of any of these by-laws.
The proposals have sparked a gathering rural revolt against the set of levies.
John Dolan, chairman of the Offaly Branch of the Irish Waterways Association of Ireland, warned the charges were so severe they could "close down leisure boating on Ireland's Royal and Grand Canals". He said the scale of tolls in Dublin alone would cost boat-owners more than €75 to cross from one side of the city to the other.
"An initial meeting on the issue in Offaly had been packed out with community leaders, volunteers, politicians and business groups," he said.
Protest meetings are being planned for next week in Sallins, Co Kildare, and Dublin, but concern is growing about the shortness of a consultation period, which will close on February 3.
Yesterday enthuisiasts in Sallins protested against the new by-law at the boom barrier placed across the canal by Waterways Ireland.
A meeting in Tullamore, Co Offaly, last week heard serious concerns about a new five- day rule, where, if a boat is kept in one location for more than five days, owners face a fine of €150. The meeting was also warned that there has already been a drop of 50 per cent in boats on the canal in the Tullamore area by the partial ad-hoc implementation of draft by-laws over the last year.
Concerns were also expressed that the new system of fines "will see the canals fall into a similar state of dereliction to the 1960s, when entire sections of the waterways were filled in''.
Responding to the concerns in the Seanad last week, Arts Minister Jimmy Deenihan said he would extend the consultation timetable to ensure all views were heard, if possible.