Docks slipway blocked in wake of Buncrana tragedy

The slipway at Galway Docks.

The slipway at the Docks – which provides access to Galway Bay for recreational boat users – has been closed by the Harbour Company in the wake of the Buncrana tragedy.

Sailing clubs which use the slipway were told by the Harbour Company last Thursday morning, that they no longer have open access – just as the water sport season is set to begin.

The slipway has been locked, and can only be used with the permission of the Harbour Company between 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday, or on Saturdays by appointment, to avoid any “risk to life”.

The decision has been branded “ridiculous” by one club member who uses the slipway.

“What happened in Buncrana was a terrible tragedy, but there should have been a more measured response and consultation with the clubs. We all have insurance in place, and people are trained in how to launch and recover boats.

“We’re coming into the prime water sport season. It’s ridiculous, nobody ever thought about the impact this would have on the clubs.

“We don’t want to lose momentum at the start of the season – last year was rotten and you couldn’t go out on the water,” one club member told the Galway City Tribune.

Clubs including Galway Sub Aqua Club, Galway City Sailing Club, Galway Sea Scouts, Bádóirí an Cladaig, Galway Kayak Club and NUIG Sailing Club regularly use the slipway, as well as other pleasure craft users.

Eamon Bradshaw, CEO of the Harbour Company, said the morning after the Buncrana tragedy, he instructed the Harbour Master to close the slipway.

“The issue I have is one of life and death. It’s pretty steep, it’s remote and it goes down into deep water. I just could not take that risk of anybody being in danger. The repercussions would be too severe.

“We are acutely aware that Galway should have a slipway and the facility should be made available and we’re trying to find a solution. If anyone wants to come to me with a solution, I’d be delighted to hear it.

“For the first week after we closed it, we gave the code to specific people – within a matter of hours, everybody had the combination, and other people didn’t bother closing it after them.

“Until such time as we can formulate a solution where the danger is taken out, or regulated, or we can involve the local authority, it will be closed. I’m not prepared to risk human life.

“If anybody wants to use it, they can come to the Harbour Company from 9 to 5 or make arrangements with a member of staff for a Saturday,” said Mr Bradshaw.