As the Deputy is aware, the Grand and Royal Canals and the Barrow system make a vital contribution to tourism, attracting visitors from around Ireland and from abroad, and are a vital resource to their local communities. The proposed new bye-laws are intended to support the investment already made by Waterways Ireland in new infrastructure and facilities along these waterways. That investment has made the waterways more attractive for boat owners and is helping to develop them as a vibrant recreational and tourist amenity. Against that background, it is now considered timely to update the bye-laws to ensure that the rules governing use of the waterways are fit for purpose and best meet the needs of all waterway users. As the Deputy will be further aware, Waterways Ireland undertook a public consultation process in relation to the proposed bye-laws earlier this year. I am informed by Waterways Ireland that key stakeholders, including the Inland Waterway Association of Ireland, the Heritage Boat Association, the Royal Canal Amenity Group and the Irish Boat Rental Association, were contacted individually and invited to meet with the Chief Executive and the senior management team of Waterways Ireland prior to submitting their views. I am also advised that all current permit holders on the three waterways, including traditional canal users and canal dwellers, received individual written notice and were given the opportunity to make their views and requirements known.
I understand that over 2,000 submissions were made in the course of the public consultation process. Waterways Ireland has now concluded its analysis of the public consultation. A summary of the process and of the submissions received is available on the Waterways Ireland website at www.waterwaysireland.org and work is continuing on finalising the proposed bye-laws. To that end, Waterways Ireland will prepare a report setting out its proposed approach, including any revisions to its original proposals, which will be submitted to my Department and referred to me, with recommendations for consideration and final decision.
I am satisfied with the extensive consultation that Waterways Ireland undertook and that the proposed bye-laws, when finalised, should enhance the ability of Waterways Ireland to manage these waterways for the benefit of all their users. The intention is that the proposed bye-laws will introduce a new framework to regulate the use of moorings that will provide all visitors, including tourists and recreational users to the canals, the opportunity to use public moorings at key locations close to amenities, visitor attractions and places of interest.
As I indicated during a debate in Seanad Éireann on Wednesday 26 February 2014, I will afford interested Deputies and Senators an opportunity to discuss the matters with me, prior to making a final decision on the proposed new bye-laws.