- Waterways & past uses
- Saving the nation
- Midlands turf waterways
- The Bog of Allen from the Grand Canal in 1835
- John’s Canal, Castleconnell
- The Canal at the World’s End
- The Finnery River navigation
- The Lough Boora Feeder
- The Little Brosna
- The Lullymore canal as wasn’t
- The Roscrea canals
- The Rockville Navigation page 1
- The Rockville Navigation page 2
- The Rockville Navigation page 3
- The lower Shannon
- The piers, quays and harbours of the Shannon Estuary
- Nimmo’s non-existent harbour
- The Doonbeg Ship Canal
- Kilrush and its sector lock
- The Killimer to Tarbert ferry
- The Colleen Bawn at Killimer
- Knock knock. Who’s there?
- Cahircon: not at all boring
- The hidden quay of Latoon
- The Maigue
- Sitting on the dock of the Beagh
- Saleen Pier
- The Lord Lieutenant’s Visit to Limerick — trip down the Shannon 
- The Fergus
- The Limerick Navigation
- The locks on the Limerick Navigation
- The bridge at O’Briensbridge
- The Limerick Navigation (upper end) in flood November 2009
- The Limerick Navigation (lower end) in flood November 2009
- The Limerick Navigation (tidal section) in flood November 2009
- Limerick to Athlone
- The piers, quays and harbours of the Shannon Estuary
- The middle and upper Shannon
- The Grand Canal
- The Royal Canal
- Water supply to the Royal Canal: the feeders
- The Lough Owel feeder
- The proposed Lough Ennell water supply to the Royal Canal
- Kinnegad and the Royal Canal
- Steamers on the Royal Canal
- Leech of Killucan: horse-drawn boats on the Royal
- Horses on board
- Royal eggs
- Prothero on the Royal
- The whore who held the mortgage on the Royal Canal
- Waterways in Dublin
- Visit Dublin. Walk canals. Drink beer.
- The Broadstone Line of the Royal Canal
- Between the waters
- The abandoned Main Line of the Grand Canal 1
- The abandoned Main Line of the Grand Canal 2
- The abandoned Main Line of the Grand Canal 3
- The abandoned Main Line of the Grand Canal 4
- Waterways of the south-east
- The top of the Suir
- The upper Suir: Carrick to Clonmel
- The middle Suir, from Carrick-on-Suir to Waterford
- Draining the Barrow
- The tidal Barrow
- The Nore in 1897
- The Slaney
- Johnstown, Co Kilkenny
- Waterways of Cork and Kerry
- Waterways of the west
- Waterways of Ulster and thereabouts
- Construction of the Junction Navigation at Aghoo
- The Ulster Canal rip-off
- Lock gear on the Junction Navigation [SEW]
- Lough Foyle and the Strabane Canal
- Prothero on the Erne in the 1890s
- Prothero on the Armagh Blackwater and the Ulster Canal in the 1890s
- Drum Bridge on the Lagan Navigation
- Ballyskeagh High Bridge
- Upper Fathom: Victoria Lock on the Newry Ship Canal
- The Willsborough canals
- The Broharris Canal
- Systems & artefacts
- Irish waterways furniture
- Irish waterways operations
- Miscellaneous articles
- Irish inland waterways vessels
- Cots -v- barges: defining Irish waterways
- Waterways Ireland workboats
- Wooden boats on Irish inland waterways
- Traditional boats and replicas
- Non-WI workboats
- Older Irish working boats
- The barge at Plassey
- Waterford to New Ross by steam
- Liffey barges 1832
- Steam on the Grand Canal
- Steam on the Newry Canal
- Guinness Liffey barges 1902
- Up and under: PS Garryowen in 1840
- Watson’s Double Canal Boat
- The Cammoge ferry-boat
- The ’98 barge
- A sunken boat in the Shannon
- Sailing boats on Irish inland waterways
- Some boats that are … different
- 4B mooring
- Irish waterways scenery
- Engineering and construction
- Irish navigation authorities
- The folly of restoration
- The Ulster Canal
- The Ulster Canal 00: overview
- The Ulster Canal 01: background
- The Ulster Canal 02: the southern strategic priority
- The Ulster Canal 03: implementation
- The Ulster Canal 04: Ulster says no
- The Ulster Canal 05: studies and appraisals
- The Ulster Canal 06: the costs
- The Ulster Canal 07: the supposed benefits
- The Ulster Canal 08: the funding
- The Ulster Canal 09: affordability
- The Ulster Canal 10: kill it now
- The Ulster Canal 11: some information from Waterways Ireland (and the budget)
- The Ulster Canal 12: departmental bullshit
- The Ulster Canal 13: an investment opportunity?
- The Ulster Canal 14: my search for truth
- The Ulster Canal 15: spinning in the grave
- The Ulster Canal 16: looking for a stake
- The Ulster Canal 17: the official position in November 2011
- The Ulster Canal 18: Sinn Féin’s canal?
- The Ulster Canal 19: update to February 2012
- The Ulster Canal 20: update to April 2013
- The Barrow
- A bonfire at Collins Barracks
- Living on the canals
- Waterways tourism
- The Park Canal: why it should not be restored
- The Park Canal 01: it says in the papers
- The Park Canal 02: local government
- The Park Canal 03: sinking the waterbus
- The Park Canal 04: the Limerick weir
- The Park Canal 05: cruisers from the Royal Canal
- The Park Canal 06: What is to be done? (V I Lenin)
- The Park Canal 07: another, er, exciting proposal
- Accounting for risk
- Tax-dodging boat-owners
- Waterways & past uses
Category Archives: Non-waterway
I’ve just noticed a 3½-minute video of the original Lartigue on the British Pathé website. Here is my page about the modern recreation, which is well worth a visit. The other monorail by the Shannon River is covered here.
Nibbling yesterday on a morsel of cured salmon, with fennel and apple salad, lemon crème fraiche and lavender jelly, at the excellent La Serre restaurant at the Village at Lyons, I looked forward to walking outside afterwards, on to the canal bank, to view the many boats that would undoubtedly be moored there, above the thirteenth lock, as their owners lunched at La Serre’s sister institution, the Canal Café.
Judge of my surprise, then, when I found not a single boat outside. I realised, though, that boaters probably walked from nearby Hazelhatch and even from Sallins. For we know, do we not, that boaters are vital to tourism? Even Joe Higgins of the Socialist Party tells us so, which means that they must be out and about along the canals, spending money (and where better to spend it than at the Canal Café?).
But a difficulty has struck me. Mr Higgins’s position is that boaters have money available for discretionary expenditure, but Senator John Kelly tells us that most boaters are “retired couples from England who are receiving small English pensions”. So one politician tells us that boaters have disposable incomes and that they should not pay money to Waterways Ireland because they spend money in pubs and restaurants along the canals; another politician tells us that boaters should not pay money to Waterways Ireland because they have none to spare.
I find it difficult to reconcile these two positions.
There was a proposal in the 1830s for a ship canal along the coast, outside the railway embankment, from Dublin to the asylum harbour at Kingstown. A preliminary report was provided by William Cubitt after the House of Commons Select Committee on the Dublin and Kingstown Ship Canal had reported in July 1833.
Henry E Flynn was opposed to the idea and, in his A Glance at the Question of a Ship Canal connecting the asylum harbour at Kingstown with the river Anne Liffey at Dublin &c &c &c [George Folds, Dublin 1834], dedicated to Daniel O’Connell, he wrote eloquently of the drawbacks of the proposal, which included this:
Be it remembered, that the whole coast from Ringsend to Merrion is the bathing ground for the less affluent classes of the Citizens; and hundreds get their bread by attending on and bathing the females who frequent it.
And are the patriotic Would-be’s who support a Ship Canal equally reckless of the health, the morality, and the existence of those persons? Would they have no objection to expose their mothers, wives, sisters and daughters to the immediate wanton gaze, the scoffs, the jeers, the immodest jest, the filthy exposure and indecent exhibitions which the most abandoned race of men [ie sailors] could find in their dissolute minds to perpetrate in their view, and within their hearing? And yet, all this must be the consequence of a Ship Canal in the immediate vicinity of the female baths and bathing ground along the line.
Happily, the canal was never built.
I am happy to report that Maureen O’Sullivan TD [Ind, Dublin Central] asked some sensible written questions in the Dáil on 15 January 2014.
Under the rather odd heading “Waterways Ireland Remit“, she asked Jimmy Deenihan [FG, Kerry North/West Limerick; Minister for the City of Culture]
[...] if he will include work on land maps to determine what land abutting the canals is owned privately, by Waterways Ireland, the Railway Procurement Agency, Iarnrod Éireann, Dublin City Council, Office of Public Works or other; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
The minister replied:
I am informed that Waterways Ireland already has an ongoing programme to modernise historic canal ownership maps and register navigation property in its ownership.
She put another question to Jimmy Deenihan under the same heading; you can see the link between the two questions:
[...] having regard to the prospective re-opening of the Royal Canal towpath at Portland Place in Summer 2014 further to the refurbishment of the collapsed wall at Portland Place and having regard also to the Spencer Dock Greenway Project and the re-lining works to be carried out at the sixth level, if he will direct Waterways Ireland to commission a strategic environment assessment for a new canal-side walkway along the south side of the sixth level of the Royal Canal at Phibsborough from Shandon Gardens to the railway bridge at the seventh lock with a new pedestrian crossing (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter.
The only problem with this is that even getting an environmental assessment done is likely to strain WI’s budget at the moment, so it’s not a good time to be suggesting new expenditure. However, it didn’t matter in this case, as Jimmy Deenihan explained:
I am informed by Waterways Ireland that it does not own the lands on the southside of the Royal Canal between Shandon Gardens and the 7th lock, at Liffey Junction and therefore will not be commissioning a Strategic Environment Assessment for a new canalside walkway.
[...] noting that it is the intention of the National Transport Authority to pursue a cycling and walking greenway along the Royal Canal in Dublin city, if he will ask Iarnród Eireann, the Railway Procurement Agency and Dublin City Council to assess the viability of opening a new walkway along the Royal Canal, 6th level, from Shandon Gardens to the 7th lock with a new footbridge at the 7th lock railway crossing linking to the existing Greenway route; if, in particular, this option will be explored alongside any re-lining work that might be undertaken by Waterways Ireland along that level.
The development of walking and cycling facilities within the Greater Dublin Area is a matter for the National Transport Authority (NTA) in conjunction with the relevant local authority, which is Dublin City Council in this case.
The NTA provides funding to local authorities for a range of schemes to benefit pedestrians, including new walkways, under the Sustainable Transport Management Grants Programme. Accordingly, I have sent your request to the NTA and have asked them to reply to you directly in relation to the above matter.
I’m all in favour of getting money from other people to pay for waterways.
Finally, under the heading of Inland Waterways Development, she had another question for Jimmy Deenihan:
[...] if he will explore all possible options within current fiscal constraints to advance and develop the potential of the Royal and Grand canal lines that pass through Dublin city; if he will establish an inter-agency group on the Dublin City reaches of the Royal and Grand canals; if he will explore ways to advance their development, examining funding options, including existing funding streams and the leveraging of funding from other sources and the possibility of EU funding which may be available.
I might say at this stage that I don’t see why TDs are asking ministers about stuff that they could find out themselves by asking WI directly. It’s not as though they’re going to get a lot of favourable publicity by doing so: this isn’t the PAC grilling a hospital or charity board and the meeja aren’t really interested.
Anyway, Jimmy Deenihan replied:
As the Deputy may be aware, the Dublin City Canals Study [PDF] was launched on 20th July 2010. This was prepared by consultants on behalf of Waterways Ireland, Fáilte Ireland, Dublin Docklands Development Authority and Dublin City Council. The study examined the existing activities on the Royal and Grand Canals and identified an overall vision for the development of the City Canals within the M50. I am advised that following on from the study an Operations Liaison Group plus two sub-groups (one for the Royal Canal and one for the Grand Canal) were established and continue to meet to deliver the recommendations identified, within the current fiscal constraints.
I am informed that to complement the above study, Waterways Ireland engaged additional consultants to carry out a detailed study of Grand Canal Dock and Spencer Dock with the objective of producing a Master Plan, currently at draft stage, that realises their potential as a recreational amenity and a living, vibrant part of Dublin and its Docklands. Waterways Ireland will continue to work collaboratively to unlock the pivotal role of these two major docks and to attract funding to develop a maritime quarter within the city of Dublin.
I wasn’t very impressed by the Dublin City Canals Study, which didn’t seem to me to be rooted in actual conditions in Dublin. I will look forward to seeing the master plan for the two dock areas.
Anyway, that was a more sensible set of questions from Maureen O’Sullivan, and it kept her off the subject of Effin Bridge.
Let us suppose that you are an Irish civil service department, whose staff are employed on standard Irish civil service terms.
And let us suppose that your Secretary General’s 65th birthday was on 31 December 2013, by which time she had 40 years’ pensionable service. Her salary was €250,000 a year, so that’s the amount you (the department) paid to her in y/e 31 December 2013. Because of cutbacks, she is replaced, from 1 January 2014, by someone earning half that amount. So what is the cost of SecGens in 2014? Keep it simple: ignore employer’s PRSI and allowances and travel expenses and anything else.
Civil service pensions
In 2014, you will pay the new SecGen €125,000, half the old rate, but you will pay the retired SecGen €500,000, so your total expenditure on SecGens will rise from €250,000 to €625,000. [The timing may not be quite thus, but never mind.]
In 2015, the new SecGen will continue to get €125,000, but so will the old SecGen. So, even though your new SecGen gets half what the old one earned, the total cost to you remains the same.
And so on until the old SecGen dies. But if the new SecGen retires before that, you will have two retired SecGens drawing pensions and one even newer SecGen getting a salary ….
Under ordinary Irish civil service terms, someone who retires is entitled to a pension of one eightieth of final salary for every year of service, up to a maximum of forty years. So a SecGen who started, say, as a graduate entrant at the age of 25, stayed in the civil service and retired at age 65, would be entitled to a pension, for life, of half her final salary.
She would also be entitled to a lump sum of one and a half times her final salary. That’s why, on retiring, she gets an amount equal to twice her final salary: 1.5 times salary as a once-off lump sum plus 0.5 times as pension.
You could argue that that is an absurdly generous arrangement, but that’s not my point here: someone who started work 40 years ago under those conditions can’t be criticised for taking the money they’re entitled to, and it will be a long time before any revisions could take effect.
These pensions are defined benefit, non-contributory and unfunded: no money is put aside by either employees or the employer to meet pension payments in future years. It is assumed that the taxpayer will continue to meet the increasing costs.
Now, that’s all very well for the main-line civil service: it has been in existence for a long time; it’s very large, with a large pay bill; it has had SecGens retiring before and another retirement or two won’t greatly affect the overall cost.
But if you’re a relatively small organisation, dependent on the exchequer for most of your income but without any of getting extra money to pay for pensions, the retirement of one or two senior officials, or of larger numbers of lower-paid employees, could significantly increase your costs while doing nothing to improve your income or the amount of work you do.
That is happening to Waterways Ireland at the moment. I’ll give some details shortly, but first I want to get the pension scheme out of the way.
The woodchuck pension fund
Here is Wikipedia’s version of the tongue-twister about the woodchuck:
How much wood would a woodchuck chuck
if a woodchuck could chuck wood?
A woodchuck would chuck all the wood he could
if a woodchuck could chuck wood!
Coverage of the Waterways Ireland pension scheme in its annual reports reminds me of the woodchuck. I should say immediately that that is not a criticism of WI: it’s down to an accounting standard called FRS 17.
As far as I can make out, this standard requires WI to show in its accounts the entries that it would make for its pension fund, if it had a pension fund, even though it doesn’t have one. It does have a pension scheme, which I imagine sets out the rules about who is entitled to get what, but there is no pot of money put away, guarded by fierce trustees, to ensure that the pensioners of the future will get their money. Here is how I understand it; if I’m wrong (which wouldn’t be surprising), do please correct me in a Comment below.
WI’s balance sheet shows (for 2011) a liability of €66,432,000 and a balancing asset of the same amount; both of them are imaginary figures. Similarly, the income and expenditure account shows the amount that WI (in theory) should have paid in 2011 for the pension benefits that its staff accumulated in that year, along with an imaginary interest charge on its total liability. Those are then balanced by a figure called “Net deferred funding for pensions” which, at €4385000, is by far the largest component of WI’s “Other operating income”.
Obviously that lot would look better if it had corroborative detail to provide artistic verisimilitude, so the accountants or the pensions bods or someone did other calculations of currency translation charges and transfers in and out of the scheme and service costs and so on, all on a non-existent pension fund.
Now, as far as I can see, we can ignore all that. But there are two cash figures that are real and important:
- one is that WI staff paid (was it under the public service pension levy? or something else?) €230,000 in contributions in 2011, for which they will receive benefits of €2,744,000, ie twelve times what they put in
- the other is that in 2011 WI paid out €934,000 in actual pension
benefits to people who had retired by then. That presumably includes
any retirement lump sums.
Incidentally, WI’s 2011 accounts (the most recent available) make no mention of the North South Pension Scheme (see below), of which WI is a member. Perhaps the stuff in WI’s accounts is about its imaginary portion of a combined but equally imaginary fund under the North South Pension Scheme. The meetings of the NSPS CEO Pension Committee, which “exercises trustee-like functions” [seriously: see below], must be fun.
Not being an accountant (I feel I lack the necessary creativity), I am interested in the actual cost to WI of the benefits it pays out to folk who retire.
I asked WI how many people retired in 2012 and 2013 and how many were expeected to retire in the next three years.
Those who retired were:
- 2012: 3 lockkeepers, 1 boatperson, 1 director of marketing, 1 mechanical fitter, 1 general operative [GO] plant operator B, 1 preserved pensioner
- 2013: 1 chief executive, 1 clerical officer, 1 GO, 2 GO chargehands, 3 GO plant operator As, 1 GO plant operator B, 1 boatperson, 1 boatperson/skipper, 1 lockkeeper.
WI could not say what grades were expected to retire in 2014, 2015 and 2016. If they did, of course, I’d be able to guess which senior managers were about to retire; as it is, I have to rely on rumours. WI was able to predict the lump sum and pension payouts for 2014–2016, so I suspect it has a good idea who intends to retire.
The total number retiring in those five years is 81, which is about a quarter of the entire WI staff (currently 325). That’s a big proportion of the staff. No doubt it reflects the age profile of staff who transferred into the organisation but the figure may be boosted by the Hutton Push [see below].
Here is what WI expects to pay out in retirement lump sums in 2014, 2015 and 2016, and what it actually paid out in 2012 and 2013. Note the big increase in 2014. These sums are paid on retirement and are not recurring: in other words, they are made only to those who retire in the year in question.
If all lump sums are 1.5 times final salary [something of which I can't be certain], then we can work out the total of the final salaries of the retiring employees.
And, as we know the number of people expected to retire in each year, we can work out the average final salary for each year.
It looks as if some senior staff may be expected to retire in 2014.
Annual pension payments
The lump sum amounts are paid only to those retiring in the year in question, whereas the annual pension payments include those to people who started drawing pensions in 2011 and earlier years. But the lump sums are once-off, whereas the annual payments will continue to increase as more people retire.
The effect on WI’s finances
The totals of the lump sums and annual pension payments show how much WI has to pay out in each of the five years.
The figure shown in the 2011 accounts was €934000. By 2016, the total will be two and a half times that: €2377000.
Remember that this is an unfunded pension scheme, so the increase comes out of WI’s ordinary allocation of money from its sponsor departments. And that allocation will not be increased: both governments want to cut WI’s income, although one government wants to cut more than the other does. If the RoI government has its way, by 2016 WI’s income will be just under 66% of the 2010 figure: a cut of one third in six years.
According to the last available accounts, WI’s main cost is staff: €21,903,000 in 2011. But that figure includes €5769000 in pension costs, €934000 of which was benefits paid out while the rest was special magical imaginary payments to the pension fund; the real staff cost (excluding agency staff and employer PRSI/NIC contributions) was €14411000.
Between 2011 and 2016, the increase in pension costs means that an extra €1443000 has to be found and, as staff costs form the main element of WI’s expenditure, it is likely that the staff budget will bear much of the burden.
The Hutton push
One factor that may be prompting some WI staff to retire as soon as they can, thus pushing up the lump sum payments in 2014, is the possibility that some changes, recommended by the UK’s Independent Public Services Pensions Commission [the Hutton Commission], might be applied to the North South Pension Scheme that covers Waterways Ireland. On 30 April 2013 Martin McGuinness [SF, Mid-Ulster, Deputy First Minister] reported to the Northern Ireland Assembly on the North/South Ministerial Council [NSMC] institutional meeting held on the previous day.
Jim Allister [Traditional Unionist Voice, Antrim North] asked him about the pension scheme:
The pension scheme for those bodies entails lavish employer contributions. In one case, over 31% of salary is contributed by the employer and a mere 1·5% is contributed by the employee. When will that lavish squander be addressed by bringing the scheme into line with what exists in the Civil Service scheme? Is it good enough for it simply to be pushed back for another six months? Why not address it now instead of looking at it further down the road?
The ever-patient Martin McGuinness responded:
At the NSMC meeting on 28 March 2013, we noted that the NSMC approved an amendment to the North/South pension scheme, which means that increases to the scheme for benefits paid in the northern currency will be in line with the consumer price index. Prior to that, they were increased in line with the retail price index. The amendment ensures that the North/South pension scheme follows public sector pension policy, as agreed by the Executive.
We also noted that the two Finance Departments are in discussion about how to further amend the scheme. These amendments will ensure that northern members are not immune from pension reform. The first amendment will increase employee contributions on average from 1·5% by 3·2 percentage points. That will align with the employee rates payable from April 2014 in the principal Civil Service pension scheme here in the North. The second amendment will introduce, by April 2015, the wider Hutton reforms, such as the introduction of a career average revalued earnings scheme and a linkage between the North/South pension scheme age and the state pension age.
The scheme was raised in the Dáil on 17 December 2013 in a written question to the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.
Dara Calleary [FF, Mayo] asked the minister:
[...] the discussions he has had in relation to the North/South pension scheme; if the proposed amendment rules as notified from officials in the Department of Finance and Personnel and his Department will apply to southern based employees of Waterways Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
The minister, Brendan Howlin [Labour, Wexford] replied:
Five of the six North/South Implementation Bodies, including Waterways Ireland, along with Tourism Ireland, operate the North/South Pension Scheme (NSPS). The Scheme is unique in covering public sector staff employed on both sides of the border; staff of the affiliated employers in this jurisdiction are automatically members of the Scheme. The Chief Executive Officers of the relevant NSPS bodies and Tourism Ireland meet as the NSPS CEO Pension Committee, which exercises trustee-like functions in relation to the Scheme.
As Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, I am jointly responsible, along with the Northern Ireland Minister for Finance and Personnel, currently Mr Simon Hamilton, for the rules of the North/South Pension Scheme, and in particular for approving amendments which may be proposed to those rules. In exercise of my responsibilities in relation to the Scheme, I and my officials have engaged in correspondence and discussion about reforms to the NSPS rules with my counterpart Northern Ireland Minister and his officials.
Review and reform of existing pension arrangements, including public sector pension arrangements, has been an ongoing feature of the pensions landscape in Ireland and the UK over recent times. In this context it is natural that reforms to the North/South Pension Scheme would arise for consideration, and proposals in this regard have been discussed with the NSPS CEO Pension Committee.
Pending further development of these proposed reforms, and mindful that there is ongoing discussion with trade union interests on the proposed changes, I do not intend to elaborate at this juncture on the possible final specific content of the rule amendments which may arise. I can however confirm to the Deputy my intention that the changes will, to the extent that is consistent with legal norms in each jurisdiction, apply to southern and northern NSPS members alike, including staff of Waterways Ireland in this jurisdiction. This uniformity of application would reflect the fundamental all-Ireland character of the Scheme, to which successive Governments have been committed.
That doesn’t tell us much about the likely effects on the take-home pay of WI staff, or the pensions and lump sums of retired staff, and I have no inside information about what is proposed or likely. But you can see why WI staff who are near retirement age might be tempted to get out before their conditions are worsened.
Où sont les neiges d’antan? [That's French for "Where is Anto's stash of heroin?"] Où est l’étoile d’émeraude?
I remarked in August, on sighting le grand bateau de Monsieur Thibault in Athlone, that it carried the Le Boat brand, not that of Emerald Star. Emerald Star is now one speck within Le Boat, which is one of the activities within the Marine Division of the Specialist & Activity Sector of TUI Travel, which employs 54000 people.
I wrote to Messrs TUI Travel’s “corporate communications” department at the time to ask whether the Emerald Star name was being phased out, but answer came there none: no doubt all 54000 employees were busy at the time. But I noticed today that a hapless seeker after truth, searching for “emerald star”, ended up here, so I had a look myself. There is no emeraldstar.ie website (and emeraldstar.com is unrelated) but the UK Le Boat site has a little badge on the top left of the page saying “Emerald Star from le Boat”. I wonder whether that appears if the site detects that you’re accessing it from outside Ireland. I could find no other mention of Emerald Star, so I suspect the brand is doing a Cheshire Cat.
I was glad to find that Messrs Le Boat have found Google Translate useful. At least, I assume that’s how they produced this paragraph under their “Useful info” tab:
Useful Info for the Ireland
The Irish coast rises tallish from the sea, and yet the terrain drops farther inland, creating a sort of cup where the water gathers. One fifth of the water drains inward to the Shannon River, Ireland’s largest at 360 kilometres (224 miles). The fall on the navigable middle section of the river is slight at only 9 metres (29 feet), which means the water moves slowly. A Shannon River map also reveals the large number of lakes in the Shannon system, a real plus for canal boat cruising!
No, I’ve checked: it’s not Ulster Scots.
Then there’s this:
Feel the irresistible lure of the Shannon-Erne
The Shannon River gives Ireland’s central reaches their character. It’s an obvious feature if you study a Shannon River map. At a glance, it’s clear that the waters influence the land. The fishing is superb and golf is extremely popular! The towpath is level, so you’re in cycling heaven! [...]
You learn something every day: I never knew that the Shannon had a towpath. I wonder where it is.
But that’s not the only puzzle. Messrs Le Boat list some suggested cruises, eg:
The Celtic Cruise Ireland
Oneway: Portumna to Carrick-on-Shannon
The golf course calls! The fishing itch must be scratched! Castles loom tall! Feel the warm embrace of Celtic charm!
Who writes this rubbish? But this is the puzzling one:
The Northern Shannon Cruise Ireland
Return Trip: Carrick-on-Shannon, via Belturbet
Travelling in the thousand lakes area takes you from the Lake Niegocin to the Lake Sztynorckie, with plenty to see on the way!
Well, I admit I don’t know the north Shannon as well as I do Lough Derg ["Lough Derg, an angler’s paradise, casts an Irish spell of contentment to keep you fishing and having too much fun!"], but I can’t find either of those lakes on any Shannon or Erne map. Où sont les mille lacs de M. Thibault? Où sont les Niegocins, Antoin? Ils sont dans le jardin avec la plume de ma tante.