A Killarney boat owner and his skipper, summonsed for passenger overloading at the peak of the season in 2014, said there was a climate of “intimidation” on the lakes between rival operators.
The Killarney boats were licensed to carry 12 passengers. However, on July 8, 2014, one of the five boats belonging to Tadhg O’Connor, of High St, Killarney, was found by a conservation ranger to have 15 on board when it arrived at Reen Pier at Ross Castle at about 3.30pm, Killarney District Court heard on Tuesday.
The prosecution for over-loading was taken by the Department of Transport, under the Merchant Shipping and Maritime Safety Acts, but a second authority, the National Parks and Wildlife Service, were a second permit authority on the lakes and policed the boats, the court was told. There was a lot of legal wrangling over licences on the Killarney lakes, the court was told also as licensing was being opened up to tender.
Killarney boats were unique, bigger than most boats of their class , prosecution witness Captain Neil Forde, a nautical surveyor employed by the Department of Transport, told barrister Tom Rice, prosecuting.
However, the outer maximum limit of passengers was 12 so that the list of 7 degrees would not be exceeded, Captain Forde said.
This was only the second prosecution to be taken for overloading in around ten years, the court also told.
The court also heard of “disharmony” among boat operators and intense competition for passengers.
Eddie McSweeney, skipper, aged 57, who was also prosecuted, said he felt it was safe to take the extra clients on the day as he had life jackets, but it was a wrong decision. He had had 11 passengers on board but after disembarking at Dinis and setting out on the Middle Lake , one extra passenger had “jumped” into the boat.
A rival operator had told him had to take three extra passengers as they were his, he also claimed. However, he accepted he made a mistake.
Mr McSweeney, a lorry driver, also told the court his job as a boat man had been the hardest place he had ever worked and there was constant intimidation on the lake.
Asked by Judge James O’Connor to describe the tension with the past three and a half years Mr Mc Sweeney said: “There is intimidation all the time.”
He told of an instance where his boat was shaken as his passengers who did not speak English got onto the bank. Tadgh O’Connor, boat owner, said while the environment on the lakes of Killarney was lovely, there was intimidation against him. He said the issue was over licences.
Judge James O’Connor said he was not going to rush matters. He adjourned his decision to October.
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