Newly appointed junior tourism minister, Patrick O’Donovan, has been urged to act on the decision by Waterways Ireland to close to navigation stretches of the River Shannon that pass through Limerick.
Limerick is marketed as the ‘Riverside City’ and the local tourism industry has warned that the closure to boats will hit visitor numbers.
Waterways Ireland issued a marine notice on April 25 that the river, from Limerick City to Parteen Weir, was closed to navigation, due to infrastructural deficiencies caused by winter storms and flooding. It does not have the money for the remedial work.
Waterways Ireland said the floating breakwater at the entrance to the Abbey River, in Limerick, is no longer in place to protect vessels from striking the fixed weir. Also, strong currents and eddies are making navigation dangerous.
A safety inspection of other, damaged floating pontoons, further upstream, is to be carried out when water levels and flows permit.
Users have been advised to stay clear, until a further marine notice is issued.
Remedial works have yet to take place and the waterway will remain closed to all marine traffic during the peak summer season.
Sailing clubs wishing to access the Shannon may miss completions and events around the west coast, as they cannot pass through the closed stretch.
A major plan to boost marine tourism on the Shannon, and in Limerick, was launched last year by then Education Minister, Jan O’Sullivan.
The plans, drafted by Limerick marine enthusiasts to benefit local tourism, heritage and education, were submitted to Waterways Ireland.
Boatman Pat Lysaght said: “Limerick is effectively landlocked and, until these issues are rectified, we will continue to lose out”.
Calling for Minister O’Donovan to immediately intervene, Cllr Emmett O’Brien said the closure of the waterway means that no boats can sail from Limerick City to Killaloe.
He said: “This may have a serious impact on local tourism and is contrary to all lip service being paid to Limerick being a riverside city.
“We need a clear and accurate response from Waterways Ireland, and Limerick City and County Council, as to why this has occurred, and our local minister for state for tourism must intervene to ensure this navigation route does not remain closed.”
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