Barge dwellers defy eviction

Barge dwellers, who have lived on the Grand Canal at Lowtown for up to 15 years, continue to defy Waterways Ireland’s attempts to evict them.

Barge dwellers, who have lived on the Grand Canal at Lowtown for up to 15 years, continue to defy Waterways Ireland’s attempts to evict them.

Waterways Ireland says it wants to carry out works to make the area safe but boat dwellers say this is their home and they won’t move because they are not being provided with serviced moorings nearby while the works are being carried out.

Up to 40 people live at the marina, which is being run by a private company, which leases the property from Waterways Ireland.

Gerard Lacey has been here since 2002. He pays for his bins, his mooring, a parking space, water and electricity.

“We were approached by Waterways Ireland a couple of weeks ago and told we would have to move and we could go to the opposite bank. We asked if they were they going to put services in for us and we were told no,” he explained.

“They say they have to come in and repair the bank but that collapsed two years ago,” he added.

“We were promised development here and we fully endorsed it and it was to be included in a new marina. There was to be a boat centre, arts centre and recreational facilities. We were looking forward to it. We were never against it,” he said.

“It’s so disappointing. We’ve got people who have been living here for up to 15 years. Some people are unemployed and they could have got work with the new development and now we are just been thrown to the wolves.”

“They are offering us places in Shannon. I would have to get rid of my dog and get water insurance. I am unemployed. I would lose my postal address, my benefits come here and I attend a doctor in Clane for a blood pressure problem. Some people don’t understand what is involved in such a move.”

He pointed out his boat engine doesn’t even work so he would have to be towed to Shannon.

“We have been living here for years and this is our home. The people of Robertown have always been friendly and we have never had a problem. It’s just a little community. My heart felt thanks goes out to the public. “

In response to queries, a spokesperson for Waterways Ireland said; “Waterways Ireland has been working with the owner and leasee of the boat yard for over two years. Essential works are required to prevent the collapse of the canal bank. Waterways Ireland is working with the boat owners to provide moorings in the immediate area or full serviced moorings in Shannon Harbour.”

It said the ultimate aim would be to develop the site as a tourist amenity depending on the resources available.

The leasee of the boat yard did not respond to a query from the Leinster Leader before the print deadline.

Given the current economic climate, finances for such work may be a long time coming. Even if the boat dwellers did move and the area made safe, there would be no guarantee they would ever return to Lowtown.