Accusations of ‘shag all’ being done about 100 unauthorised developments on the Shannon


Business Costs

Some developments operating along the River Shannon pay no fees and are in direct competition with other businesses.

OVER 100 LARGE developments on the River Shannon are unauthorised, have no licence to operate, and pay no fees to Waterways Ireland. 

Some full-blown commercial developments, such as moorings, jetties or other hard structures put there by businesses operating along the Shannon lack proper planning permission, and are in direct competition with other businesses, who have followed the rules. 

An Oireachtas committee heard this week that local and national authorities have been slow to take action despite being warned of issues. 

CEO of Waterways Ireland John McDonagh was questioned about the unauthorised developments along the Shannon at the Oireachtas Public Accounts Committee (PAC) where he revealed that there are 430 “encroachments” and confirmed that 101 are deemed “major” large-scale unauthorised developments. 

The committee heard that fees are collected from developments that have planning permission and a licence to operate, but Waterways Ireland does not collect any money from those set up without permission. 

In addition, it was revealed that local authorities and Waterways Ireland have taken no legal action, the some councils have issued unauthorised development notices. 

Instead, McDonagh said the agency is working to “regularise” the situation by carrying out research. 

Committee chair Sinn Féin TD Brian Stanley indicated he was flabbergasted by the responses, and questioned how much work Waterways Ireland has done with local authorities on these unauthorised hard structures and developments.

McDonagh replied: “We have not done an awful lot of work with the local authorities on the planning aspect.”

“Have you done any?” asked Stanley. 

“No. The work we are doing is research on how many exist, where they exist, what the arrangements are,” said the Waterways Ireland boss. 

Stanley questioned why inspections would take so long, stating that an audit could be carried out in a relatively short space of time. However, McDonagh said it was not as “simplistic” as that. 

The PAC chair also questioned why there was not more urgency, particularly when the agency is running at a deficit and in light of proposals that houseboat dwellers will face a fee increases of 700% in some marinas. 

The chair said he had a number of complaints about developments, stating he was concerned “shag all” has been done about them.

Why has the same urgency not been given to large-scale operations without licence, permit, fees or planning permission? Zero. Nothing. It is a remarkable situation.

Operations Manager Éanna Rowe said Waterways Ireland has been in contact with all ten local authorities along the Shannon, but clarified that no legal action had been taken for breach of or lack of planning permission.

Questions were also asked about Waterways Ireland’s intention if it were entering into various agreements with some of the large-scale developments and whether there would be non-disclosure agreements. 

Linda Megahey of Waterways Ireland said from a legal perspective, when the agency goes into some of these agreements with large-scale developments, there would be an onus that the documents are public.

“Other agreements with the smaller ones would be private. We have standard contracts and there is specificity around location, size and different things, but none of them are non-disclosure agreements. We do not enter confidentiality agreements,” she said.

Fianna Fáil TD Paul McAuliffe said Waterways Ireland has an obligation to the people they are charging fees from “because they may have a competitor operating at a lower cost base because of Waterways Ireland’s inaction”.

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