Within Waterways Ireland the safety of our customers and staff is always a top priority. The COVID-19 virus has presented significant challenges for us all, and we are all asked to play our part as individuals, organisations, communities and as a nation to slow down its reach and impact. These are unprecedented times and require unprecedented measures. We are aware that guidance from Government and health professionals is continually evolving and our actions to protect our staff, all our stakeholders and the wider community have reflected that changing environment.
Following the Taoiseach's direction that everybody must stay at home from midnight on 27th March until Easter Sunday, except in exceptional circumstances, and the new restrictions introduced by the Northern Ireland Executive on Saturday 28th March, it has been decided to revise our direction on navigational openings.
As of midnight on Monday 30th March Operational staff, Water Patrollers and Lock-Keepers will no longer be available to undertake lock operations on any of our navigable waterways. Such staff will continue to undertake essential management of water levels, and any emergency works that may arise, under strict social distancing protocols. Waterways Ireland will be encouraging all users of vessels on our navigations not to take part in any activity on the water in order to comply with Government direction. This will effectively close our waterways for navigational and recreational purposes.
Our towpaths remain open but we will be encouraging locals who live in their vicinity to use them in accordance with Government guidelines, for brief physical exercise, within 2km of their home, always observing social distancing protocols. Where towpaths are likely to be busy, our advice will be to restrict use, where possible, and only use those towpaths which are local, quiet and largely free of moored vessels.
We are aware of the potential impacts for the community of these decisions, and the difficulties this may present. At this time we would normally see the season kicking off and people de-winterising their craft and finishing off maintenance to be ready to get out on the water. These measures are being taken to support the national effort in keeping people safe, protecting our staff, colleagues, partners and everyone who visits, or lives on and around our canals and river navigations. We will continually review such measures in light of direction and advice from Government and health professionals and any decisions on service provision will be communicated via the issuance of Marine Notices.
Our shared heritage is something which can unite us in this time of uncertainty. Our Environment & Heritage Team are continuing to work on the Heritage Plan. They are welcoming new, collaborative and innovative approaches to waterways heritage or biodiversity projects. If you feel you have a project that could be progressed, whilst ensuring yours and the public's safety, please get in touch and we will do all we can to make it a reality. More information on our heritage plan can be accessed here.
Waterways Ireland's education team are also sharing activities and resources which can be accessed online through our Learning Zone - www.learning.waterwaysireland.org. These are fun activities which bring the great outdoors to life, help keep kids busy and teach them all about nature. They are also good for reducing our own stress levels too!
While our staff are working from home, they are available by phone during normal working hours. Should you need our assistance please do contact us by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone https://www.waterwaysireland.org/contact-us.