Waterways of interest – Ireland

Waterways Ireland


Who we are

Waterways Ireland is a cross-border body, the largest of six North / South Implementation Bodies established under the British Irish Agreement of 10th April 1998. The Agreement was given domestic effect by means of the North / South Co-operation (Implementation Bodies) (Northern Ireland) Order 1999, and the British-Irish Agreement Act, 1999 respectively.

What we do

We are the navigation authority responsible for approximately 1,000 km of navigable waterways, comprising:-

  • The Barrow Navigation
  • The Lower Bann Navigation
  • The Royal Canal
  • The Erne System
  • The Shannon-Erne Waterway
  • The Grand Canal
  • The Shannon Navigation

Our statutory function is to manage, maintain, develop and restore specified inland navigable waterways, principally for recreational purposes. In July 2007, our remit was extended by the North South Ministerial Council (NSMC) to include responsibility for the reconstruction of the Ulster Canal from Upper Lough Erne to Clones, and following restoration, for its management, maintenance and development, principally for recreational purposes.

Enniskillen, Co. Fermanagh
Enniskillen, Co. Fermanagh

How we operate

As a cross-border Body, we operate under the policy direction of the NSMC and the two Governments, and are accountable to the Northern Ireland Assembly and the House of the Oireachtas. At an administrative level, we report to our Sponsor Departments, the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure (DCAL) in Northern Ireland and the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht (DAHG) in Ireland.

Funding is provided by grants from money voted by the Northern Ireland Assembly and the Houses of the Oireachtas. 15% of recurrent or maintenance funding is provided by the Assembly in Northern Ireland, and 85% by the Irish Government, this reflecting the current distribution of waterways in each jurisdiction. Capital development programmes are funded separately by the jurisdiction where the works are carried out.


 Manage, maintain, develop and restore the navigations under our remit, principally for recreational purposes.

  • Responsible for navigation channels, embankments, towpaths, adjoining lands, harbours, jetties, fishing stands, bridges, locks, weirs, sluices, lock houses, along with buildings and archives.
  • Provide a safe and high quality recreational environment for our customers.
  • Preserve the industrial and environmental heritage of the waterways for future generations.
  • Inspire increased recreational activity across all our waterways.
  • Provide sponsorship and / or practical and technical assistance to community events along the waterways.
  • Support the development of new businesses along the waterway corridors.


Easton Barrow Clashaganna
Easton Barrow Clashaganna

European Projects

Waterways Forward:

Waterways Ireland was one of 17 country partners that delivered the successful Waterways Forward project from 2010 and 2012. Funded by the Interreg IVC programme, the project provided knowledge and skill exchanges among 17 country partners in relation to the management of inland waterways, and facilitated the development of future collaborative working / partnerships throughout Europe, Norway and Serbia. Among the many delivery outputs derived from the project, the following were particularly successful:-

  • The sharing of good practices, ideas, and contacts between country representatives have enabled Waterways Ireland to look at imaginative and alternative ways of managing, developing and restoring the inland waterways. For example:- a presentation by Frans Uelman, from the internationally renowned dredging company Boskalis in The Hague, provided expert insight into how innovative sustainable dredging offers the opportunity to do things differently which can result in the creation of a purposeful by-product, whilst fundamentally ensuring compliance with environmental regulations.   Various case studies were presented, including the creation of a nature reserve within a waterway located in the Netherlands – an example of building with nature.
  • The publication of the ‘Good Practices Demo Toolbox’ provided a comprehensive yet compact directory of good practices presented by the 17 country representatives. It is a timeless publication which will provide ideas, learning and opportunities for any inland waterway manager, entrepreneur or indeed academic, both now and in the future.
  • An examination of the potential of inland waterways for regional economic development and their underated potential for job creation.
  • The sharing of different country approaches to the transposition of EU regulations.
  • The IT platforms used to disseminate Waterways Forward information, including a detailed website and a number of social media sites, which attracted the Director General of the EU Commission amongst other followers, provided an engaging opportunity to tap into the thinking of 17 countries in one virtual space.
  • Creation of a large network of inland waterway professionals which continues to be used extensively to share information and solve problems.


 The International Navigational Association (PIANC):

Waterways Ireland is involved in two International Navigational Association (PIANC) working groups. The first working group was formed in 2010 and met in various European and North American locations over a 3-4 year period. The group produced a report called ‘Mechanical and Electrical Engineering Lessons Learnt from Navigation Structures‘ which is the culmination of lessons learnt from navigation lock operating systems. Details of the report can be found at the following web address http://www.pianc.org/edits/articleshop.php?id=2014138

Waterways Ireland hosted a meeting of the first working group in 2010 in Dublin and facilitated site visits to Spencer Dock, Samuel Beckett Swing Bridge, East Link Lift Bridge and Grand Canal Docks area and the Waterways Ireland Visitor Centre.

The second working group is in the process of producing a report on ‘Movable Bridges and Rolling Gates – Design, Maintenance and Control – Lessons Learnt from Experience’. The report is due to be completed in summer 2016.


National Projects

Lakeland and Inland Waterways Initiative

The initiative is co-chaired by Waterways Ireland and Fáilte Ireland with cross border membership from Fermanagh Lakelands Tourism, Tourism Northern Ireland and Tourism Ireland.

The purpose of the Lakelands & Inland Waterways marketing and product development Initiative is to make sure that Ireland’s rich tourism and recreation assets are presented to visitors. It is aimed at differentiating the Midlands from other parts of Ireland and establishing an identity and a brand for the area based on its unique selling proposition – the Lakelands and Inland Waterways. This marketing, product and destination development initiative provides a mechanism to achieve a targeted and coordinated approach by the tourism, recreation and hospitality industry to attracting people to enjoy and experience the area.

Ulster Canal

Waterways Ireland is Lead Partner in the development of an Interreg VA bid for funding to develop a 21 km Greenway between Northern Ireland and Ireland along the route of the disused Ulster Canal.   A stage 1 grant application under the Sustainable Transport Measure will be submitted by 29th January 2016, in association with Monaghan County Council, Ireland; Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council, Northern Ireland; and a number of community partners.   It is hoped the development of the Greenway will provide the catalyst for the full restoration of the Ulster Canal in the future, this currently subject to the provision of appropriate funding measures.

Blueways Ireland Initiative

Waterways Ireland developed Ireland’s first Blueway (a multi-activity trail running alongside water) located on the Shannon Navigation between Drumshanbo and Carrick-on-Shannon in Co. Leitrim in conjunction with the National Trails Office, Canoeing Ireland, Leitrim County Council and Leitrim Tourism. The Shannon Navigation Blueway includes a 16.5 km water trail and over 10 km of looped walking routes and supports a range of recreational activities such as canoeing, fishing, walking and cycling – all linked by the waterway to local towns and villages. This development represents a new opportunity to extend the benefits of our existing infrastructure and provides a low cost way to attract new visitors to underused sections of the navigations, whilst also providing excellent recreational amenities for the local community.

On the Barrow Navigation, preliminary environmental assessments and designs are in progress to develop a 100 km section of waterway to create a Barrow Blueway, subject to planning approval.

Waterways Heritage Plan

The Waterways Heritage Plan 2016-2020 is the first such Plan developed by Waterways Ireland, in conjunction with its stakeholders and the general public, for the inland waterways under its remit.

The draft Plan is informed by the strategic aims of the National Heritage Plan, National Biodiversity Plan, and also Waterways Ireland’s Corporate Plan 2014-2016. The aim of the Waterways Heritage Plan 2016-2020 is to ‘To identify and protect unique waterway heritage and promote its sustainable use for the enjoyment of this and future generations’.

The objectives of the Plan are to:-

Objective 1: Foster partnerships to continue building waterway heritage knowledge through storing information, undertaking research and developing best practice.

Objective 2: Promote awareness, appreciation and enjoyment of our waterway heritage with a focus on community engagement.

Objective 3: Promote the integrated management, conservation, protection and sustainable use of the inland navigable waterway assets.

Objective 4: Develop Waterways Ireland as a heritage organisation committed to achieving the aim of this Plan.



Caroline Mc Carroll

Waterways Ireland

2 Sligo Road


Co. Fermanagh

Northern Ireland

BT74 7JY


Telephone: +44 (0)2866 323004

Mobile: +44 (0)7984457104

Email: caroline.mccarroll@waterwaysireland.org

Website: www.waterwaysireland.org


Irish Network Members

Waterways Ireland

Contact: Caroline Mc Carroll


The Heritage Council of Ireland

Contact: Beatrice Kelly


South Tipperary County Council

Contact: Roisin O’Grady


Lagan Canal Trust

Contact: Brenda Turnbull

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