I’m never quite sure how seriously I should treat the things that local councillors (or indeed other politicians) say. It is possible that the suggestions for a waterbus, canal-based water sports and a Viking project are based on properly costed feasibility studies and that commercial operators have lodged serious expressions of interest in running them. On the other hand, it is possible that these suggestions are merely top-of-the-head “wouldn’t-it-be-nice-if …” statements and that there has been no hard thinking about them.
The problem is that some more senior politician, in search of votes ideas for productive investments of money borrowed from the bond markets, may take up an ill-considered proposal and start pushing it more seriously. In a rational society, government proposals would be subject to searching analysis and discussion, but Irish politics doesn’t work that way. As the ludicrous Ulster Canal proposal shows, when some senior person wants something, discussion is limited to finding plausible-sounding justifications for spending public money.
My own analysis of the Ulster Canal proposal may be the only independent critique of the idea. The Park Canal proposals deserve the same. So, although I have not seen the report to which the mayor refers, here are my thoughts on the subject.
The councillor and the mayor both mention various links:
- link the Park Canal with the University of Limerick
- transport to and from the university and beyond
- “pave the way for establishing a Viking project on Grove Island”
- “a link-up between King John’s Castle and the canal, which is in the middle of the city and so close to its medieval heart.”
Restoration would do nothing to create a physical link between the canal and Grove Island, which lies outside the canal harbour, and there is no conceptual link between canals and Vikings: work on the canal began in the eighteenth century (and, by the way, it is an artificial rather than a natural amenity).
There are already physical links between the canal and King John’s Canal: it’s within easy walking distance by road. You could go by boat at suitable states of the tide, and with a knowledgeable boat operator, but it would be faster to walk. Again, there is no conceptual link.
There are also links between the canal harbour and the university. The towing-path can be walked or cycled, and there are road links too. A waterway could certainly be added (more on that below), but there will be no water transport beyond the university.
The river itself is not navigable; the Plassey–Errina Canal bypassed the Falls of Doonass.
But the canal itself is derelict.
It would have to be restored; the river navigation upstream from Errina through O’Briensbridge would have to be improved — and then the ESB would have to consent to the construction of a lock or locks to provide a way past Parteen Villa Weir (the “hydro dam”). I can’t see the German taxpayer funding that lot.
Let us confine ourselves therefore to consideration of a restored waterway linking the canal harbour to the University of Limerick, and to two of the suggested uses: a waterbus and waterborne visitors on motor-cruisers.
We start with The Park Canal 03: sinking the waterbus.