Anger as town ambassador loses out to automation

End of an era: Doc Coyne, lock keeper and Cllr Dermot Connolly at the lock in Ballinasloe. Photo: Gerry Stronge.

He has been described as one of the greatest ambassadors for Ballinasloe – but Doc Coyne’s tenure as lock keeper on the approach to the marina is now at an end.

The lock on the River Suck was provided back in 2003 to coincide with the opening of the marina in Ballinasloe and Doc has been the lock master since then.  But now Waterways Ireland want to provide an unmanned automatic lock on the approach to the marina and this is being resisted by local councillors and some business interests in the town.

Cllr Dermot Connolly has a major problem with this move. He said that the lock master provided a variety of roles and was not only a welcoming one but also provided assistance to those who had hired boats for the first time.

He said that it was a dedicated service and one that was necessary on the lock and particularly for those on their own or for elderly couples who had hired out boats.

“There is a safety issue here,” added Cllr Connolly. “If a person comes on their own it can be intimidating or if there are a number of boats waiting to come through the lock at the one time, who polices this?”

The Sinn Fein councillor said that at the moment there is someone there with local knowledge who can police the lock with a huge degree of efficiency and expertise. He also helped those on boats who were unfamiliar with how locks work.

“The lock-keeper does a fantastic job and my fear that if he is removed from this position, it could have a major impact on the future of the marina. This is a facility that we are continually trying to develop and encourage,” Cllr Connolly added.

He was supported by Cllr Michael Finnerty who informed Ballinasloe Municipal Council that almost 30,000 boats had passed through the lock since the marina was opened back in 2003. Cllr Finnerty said that on each boat there were between three and 10 people and this meant a lot for the economy in Ballinasloe town.

“Our lock keeper is the first person that people see when they arrive by boat to Ballinasloe. He is like an ambassador for the town and this is one asset that we could do with retaining.

“The only good thing about this is that he is not losing his job but his removal from the lock could have a serious negative impact on tourism as far as Ballinasloe is concerned,” Cllr Finnerty added.