I pointed out some time ago that, in the Dáil on 16 October 2013, Jimmy Deenihan said:
The [budgetary] provision will enable Waterways Ireland to deliver on its core activities and targets, which include keeping the waterways open for navigation during the main boating season and promoting increased use of the waterways resource for recreational purposes.
That was the first time I noticed the suggestion that, in effect, boating in winter might be de-emphasised, as it were; the idea is followed up in the current draft of the Waterways Ireland Corporate Plan 2014–6. The proposal receives some support from the figures for Shannon traffic in the first three months of 2014.
I realise that, as the numbers are small, they can be affected by the high water levels, bad weather or the date of Easter, but those for 2014 are remarkably low. The totals for the first three months [Jan–Mar] since 2003 are:
All the usual caveats apply, notably that the figures do not capture boating that is confined to the lakes. Still, the 2014 figure is less than half the next lowest, and it’s the first time since 2003 that the figure has been below 500, 400 or 300.