An open canal bank in Ballyconnell, running adjacent to the local playground, “is a drowning tragedy waiting to happen”, according to a group of concerned parents who frequently use the facility.
They are calling for a fence to be erected on the canal bank to stop children using the playground facilities venturing into the water.
The parents staged a ‘yellow vest’ type demonstration in the town last Friday to highlight the issue and also brought it to the attention of Fianna Fáil Deputy Brendan Smith who was in the west Cavan town campaigning for the European elections.
Paula Donohoe is one of the concerned parents and also runs Clever Clogs Childcare Services. She explained that they are not protesting but appealing for a fence to be erected “before a drowning tragedy occurs”.
The group of parents, together with their children, gathered on the canal bank adjacent to the playground to make their appeal. They were met by Deputy Smith, Senator Diarmuid Wilson, Cllr John Paul Feeley and Cllr Sean Smith.
Ms Donohoe told them: “We are not here to play games on this issue. There are no negotiations around this – this is all about children’s lives – there is no price on children’s lives.”
It was also pointed out by the parents that it just takes one person to go in the water and someone goes in after them, and there could be a double tragedy.
Deputy Smith advised them: “Waterways Ireland has jurisdiction to the land curtilege along the canal – the County Council does not have jurisdiction.”
Ms Donohoe pointed out: “We as parents don’t want to be caught in any turf war. We are calling on people who know a lot more than us and have the powers and influence to have a fence erected. We are highlighting a very dangerous issue, which we know the Council is aware of.”
She warned: “We want a fence erected before a tragedy occurs – not after a tragedy happens. As we know a fence was erected on the other side of the canal after tragedies.”
Deputy Smith assured the parents: “We will work with you to achieve the desired outcome – we all have a common purpose.”
Cllr Smith pointed out that the fence erected on the far side of the canal was put up by Kingspan – not Waterways Ireland or Cavan County Council.
He too committed to working with public representatives to have a fence erected.
“I would not like to have a grandchild running around here unsupervised – my God – a dreadful situation,” said Cllr Smith.
Deputy Smith said he will speak to the chief executive of Waterways Ireland in relation to the issue. “I will see if they will meet four parent’s representatives on site here and see how the proposal can be advanced. All we can do as public representatives is to convey the very strong and genuine and well understood concerns of parents and grandparents in regard to safety,” he said.
Ms Donohoe further pointed out: “We incentivise our farmers to fence off canals and rivers to keep animals out of them and to protect the environment and we can’t find funding to protect our children.”
She also highlighted the need for life-saving equipment along the stretch of the canal down from the playground are. “There needs to be life buoys every 20 metres or so – in the event of somebody going into the canal.”