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Vol. 25 Issue 4.
Presidential PlatformLiam D'Arcy
In September I attended the World Canals Conference in Joliet, Illinois, USA, on the theme Historic Canal Preservation: our past teaching and our future. This is an approach which the Americans have fine-tuned to an art through various heritage commissions. The conference was a very worthwhile and enlightening experience. There is positive reaction to Irelandís conference in 2001.
As a member of Inland Waterways International, I spent some weeks visiting canals in New York, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Michigan. It was a shock for us Europeans to find canals preserved and developed for every reason except boating. And, where stretches were rewatered, only boats drawn by mules (and canoes) were permitted. The towpaths are used for fishing, walking, cycling, camping and, in winter, snow-mobiling. The canals are usually developed as State trails and form part of a national heritage corridor.
But not all canals in the USA are derelict - far from it. We travelled for six days on the Mohawk River, a beautiful navigation. Some navigations are working commercial waterways, such as the Illinois River, the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal. The locks are all automated, typical dimensions being 400 feet long and 40 feet wide; river barges have 4,000hp engines.
Most of the early canals were dug by Irish navvies. At Waterloo on the Morris Canal, a plaque to their memory was unveiled by Princess Grace of Monaco. We visited a graveyard at a church built by the navvies; there were more Irish names there than you would find in any graveyard in Ireland. But many of the labourers were buried where they died along the canals - and all for a dollar a day and a shot of whiskey.
Back home there is a veritable flurry of conferences on our waterways. The Ulster Waterways Group held their first annual conference in Belfast on The Benefits of Inland Waterway Restoration in Northern Ireland. This was followed by the Blackwater Catchment Schemeís Ulster Canal presentation in Armagh and the Heritage Councilís seminar on The Future of Irelandís Inland Waterways. They all raise awareness of our waterways - and raise our expectations. Then the Government in the republic published its estimates and we found that the allocation for waterways is to drop, so it is back to real life and the struggle continues!
Council report: October 1998Catherine Malone
The President welcomed Patrick Green as Royal Canal Action Group (RCAG) representative replacing Ian Bath. He expressed his regret at Ianís resignation and said his interesting and constructive contribution to Council meetings would be missed.
The Hon Treasurer reported on payments made since the last meeting. Two bad debts, amounting to £160, were written off.
Forms for the annual return of accounts have been sent out; the President urged all Branches to cooperate with the Treasurer by returning the forms, duly completed, on time.
Council discussed policies on speed limits, jet skis, power boats etc, as well as the Minister for the Marine's 11-point safety code. IWAI opposes mandatory licensing; a no wake zone would be preferred to speed limits; jet skis should be registered like all other power craft. IWAI opposes exclusion zones but designated areas could be provided for launching and use of jet skis and other high-speed craft. Education is essential. Enforcement of the existing bye-laws is a serious problem and IWAI strongly endorses the appointment of rangers to assist the Inspector of Navigation as soon as possible.
Colin Becker proposed a response to the Heritage Council consultative document The Future of Irelandís Inland Waterways. It was agreed that the document had correctly analysed the situation and identified the right issues about the future of inland waterways in general. However, IWAI could not support the exclusion of waterways outside the connected network.
The feasibility study into the reopening of the Ulster Canal was noted. It was agreed that the Association should write to Minister SRle de Valera strongly endorsing the report and asking her to take steps to preserve the line of the canal.
Paddy Greene of RCAG had bad news (the Canal at Croke Park is closed until the year 2000) and good news: Newcomen Bridge has been fully restored; the Mullingar bridge will reopen in January 1999; work is progressing satisfactorily at Ballinacargy and Ballymaglavy Bog; gates have been installed at 38th and 37th locks and the crew is working on the 36th.
Harry Nugent reported that Athlone Branch had agreed to accept Cynthia Rice's bequest of the property Dunrovin. A draft Declaration of Trust, ratified by Council, will be signed by the Trustees: the President of IWAI (ex officio) and two members of Athlone Branch. The Revenue Commissioners said that the bequest would be exempt from capital taxes and stamp duty.
IWAI representatives had met Chris Reynolds of the Marine Search and Rescue about extending the scheme to the inland waterways. It was agreed that the IWAI should put pressure on the Minister for the Marine to have the scheme in place as soon as possible.