I have commented from time to time on the reluctance of some Irish folk to move beyond the technologies of the eighteenth century. Thus we find Shinners wanting canals all over the place and folk in Leitrim determined that, if Ireland has oil and gas, they must never be used. [That’s the Leitrim that had both a coal and an iron industry, by the way, as well as hydroelectricity, railways, a brickworks and a dockyard, to name but a few industries that come to mind.]
The latest target of the ire of the Luddites is that newfangled invention, the bicycle. Waterways Ireland might like to provide for folk to cycle along the trackway on the Barrow Navigation; some folk want to keep the dreaded bicycle, and presumably its Lycra-clad users, away from the trackway along which they like to walk.
Happily, some sane folk have written letters to the blatts and IndustrialHeritageIreland has a sensible comment.
I presume that the Luddites insist that the grass be cut using scythes, thus creating much local employment.
Whatever about the merits or otherwise of changes to the trackway, I have to pose a question: is anyone actually using our waterways? I have been in the UK recently and have travelled from Stansted to London by rail, London to York by rail and walked along the Regent’s Canal from St. Pancras to Little Venice and took a boat trip from Tate Modern to Tate Britain. The rail journey from Stansted crossed numerous canals which were teeming with barges and activity. Regent’s Canal walk? Even more so. The Thames? A motorway. At York many barges, tourist traffic mainly, plied the might Ouse.
In Ireland meanwhile the Liffey is deserted, I have seen no traffic on the Shannon at Tarmonbarry even at the height of Summer ( I know there is traffic, but even a casual trip should demonstrate some evidence of activity); I have seen no traffic on the Grand or Royal – the Royal that has been refurbished and restored in the recent past. I crossed the majestic Shannon at Limerick on Saturday en route to the Gaelic Grounds (don’t ask), but ne’er a thing on it commercial or leisure.
This is an unscientific survey but it surely illustrates something. We are, as usual in Ireland, debating around the issue and avoiding the real issue. Why are our waterways not being used, for commercial, industrial or leisure activities?
You are, in general, right. I have just got the Shannon traffic figures for July but haven’t had time to analyse them yet. However, up to June, the figures showed that private boat traffic had pretty well returned to its 2003 level — having been above that level during the Celtic Tiger era. Hire-boat traffic, however, had continued its long-term decline to 40% of its 2003 level. The improvements in the navigation in Limerick have been a failure. And there is very little traffic on the canals. bjg
The Luddites you refer to are people like me who are more than anxious to develop and promote the use of our inland waterways. The barrow towpath is a beautiful way to enjoy nature. It is used by walkers, hikers and cyclists as well as boat people like myself. There is no opposition to cyclists, you meet them all the time enjoying the pathway as it is. The only opposition is to turning a greenway into a roadway. If they decided to pave the Wicklow Way would it be Luddite to cry halt?
Probably: I understand that unpaved walkways deteriorate faster, so a good layer of tarmac on a firm bed would probably be a good thing in Wicklow. Not that I know much about it, as I gather there is nothing much to look at, no interpretive centre and terrain challenging even for a 4WD, so I haven’t been there.
Tarmac the Wicklow way. Great. Here is an even more progressive idea. Why not drain the high maintenance and under used canals and turn them into tarmaced cycle ways.
I’m glad we agree. See here. bjg