Inland Waterways Association of Ireland hold AGM
The Inland Waterways Association of Ireland’s Newry & Portadown branch held their AGM in the Scarva visitor centre on 1st December. All officers remain in place with Peter Maxwell and Paul McKeown as chair and vice chairman respectively. The reports from branch officers showed that 2011 was a busy year for the branch with 14 branch meetings and 15 work parties to date. This core business of the branch was complemented by outings and events of interest to waterways enthusiasts.
The branch’s overall aim is of course the restoration of the navigation from Carlingford Lough to Lough Neagh and Peter Maxwell reported on more than 20 meetings with MLAs, local politicians and council officials as well as numerous government agencies involved in managing and promoting the future of the canal. These meetings throughout the year have developed a good working relationship with those agencies and have brought the IWAI’s message to a wide range of government departments and Quangos.
Peter Maxwell said, “the branch’s political lobbying campaign to have the remit of Waterways Ireland changed to include the inland and the ship canal is gathering pace and the politicians we have met with have been impressed by our practical and reasoned approach. We know that the course we’ve chosen is a long one especially in the current financial freeze but what we are asking is not impossible and politicians realise this.”
After the business of the AGM was completed Diarmuid O’Loan from RPS Consulting made a presentation on the four councils’ proposal to restore the canal from Poyntzpass to the river Bann. RPS was commissioned by the canal joint development committee to do a preliminary scoping study on the section to see what had changed since the last major study in the 1990s. “New European legislation on habitat protection and environmental impact is now the major obstacle to restoration, while built heritage constraints might prove more flexible than before. This was no surprise to the IWAI as their proposed canoe trail last year had been overcome by the expense of compliance to these constraints. Any project involving waterways must begin with the environmental impact and all restoration plans will have to be prepared to comply.”
RPS has set out a timetable and rough budget for the further studies which will be necessary. The joint committee, while supportive of furthering the studies, aren’t optimistic about ratepayer’s money being made available to such a project. In thanking Diarmuid for his contribution Peter Maxwell said that the IWAI Newry & Portadown branch, now fully aware of the issues involved, will continue to elicit public support for a restoration programme and are already working with the joint committee on finding ways to fund the next stage.
The branch has begun working on its 2012 calendar of events. They will once again run the IWAI Newry Bath-tub race in June. The branch revived this traditional Newry event in 2010 and is committed to its future. The photograph (left) shows Newry & Portadown branch vice chairman Paul McKeown making a donation to Tom McCabe of Camlough Reed and Brass band. Paul said that the branch members wanted to show their appreciation for the superb entertainment and support given by the band at the 2011 event.
He continued: “The whole event was a great success and everyone enjoyed the chance to get afloat and use the canal in Newry. Preparations are well underway for the 2012 IWAI Bath-tub which we’re sure will be the best yet.” As well as the usual work parties and meetings in 2012 the branch will be involved in the Queens University hogweed eradication project all along the canal. In March the eminent documentary filmmaker Dick Warner will be giving a public lecture in Newry on his life on the waterways of Ireland.
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