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A houseboat at Grand Canal Dock

Waterways Ireland accused of 'gentrifying' Grand Canal Dock, as fees for houseboats set to soar

Waterways Ireland is looking to increase the fees from €578 to €4,000 annually, and rising to €7,500 over a six-year period.

HOUSEBOAT DWELLERS IN Dublin’s docklands are facing steep annual fee increases, and have accused Waterways Ireland of attempting to gentrify the canal and ‘displace’ those who’ve made it their home.

Management and development body Waterways Ireland (WI) is looking to implement a hike from €578 to €4,000 annually, and rising to €7,500 over a six-year period.

David Blacoe, who lives in a houseboat on Grand Canal Dock, told The Journal that residents have “no objection at all” to an increase in fees, as they recognise more investment is needed in the waterways.

However, such a sharp increase is “not affordable or realistic” and could force a lot of houseboat dwellers to move away.

“It’s the threat of displacement and gentrification of the communities by the severe level of increase being promoted by WI,” he said.

Blacoe also accused WI of poor engagement with the residents, and a lack of communication about how exactly the fees would be used. 

Waterways Ireland defended the decision to revise the bye-laws, saying they are “no longer fit for purpose”, given the environmental and health developments since their establishment in the 1980s.

A public consultation ran from 19 June to 27 October and a report was published on the meetings and feedback.

While Waterways Ireland said the annual charge “appears to be a large increase”, the canal is in high demand as the facilities are “superior” to other docks.

“The existing bye-laws do not provide for the regulation and charging for houseboat berths and as such, dwellers have availed of this facility for a considerable period of time for an unrealistic fee,” it said.

It added that it “does not believe” the proposed changes will lead to homelessness.

“A houseboat berth at their current location will be offered to those boaters who are currently regulated by means of an Extended Mooring Permit (EMP).

“Should they not wish to take up the offer of a berth on the outlined terms, they will be facilitated at an alternative location subject to acceptance of the terms for that location.”

These moorings would be unserviced, Blacoe says, and therefore not a sufficient alternative to a home at Grand Canal Dock.

WI said the extra money will be “ringfenced and used to improve services for houseboat dwellers”. It also plans to increase the number of moorings available for houseboats, but it has not yet been granted planning permission for these.


Grand Canal Dock has been open to houseboat dwellers since 2010.

Around 30 houseboats are moored at Grand Canal Dock marina.

Blacoe says a move is undesirable, as many people “have roots in the area”, with children going to local schools, and families having long-held connections with local businesses and services.

There are also elderly people with limited mobility living on the dock, says Blacoe, who would struggle without the community.

The current state of the housing and rental markets mean moving is not a viable option for most. 

The WI proposal will come before the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Housing on Tuesday.

With reporting by Christina Finn

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