At the annual meeting of the Limerick Chamber of Commerce, Mr A.W. Shaw read an interesting paper on the Canal system of Ireland. He stated that the total mileage of the 17 canals was 7524 miles, mostly built by public money or by grants from general and special taxes. The grants obtained from Parliament or other sources amounted to £1,261,208, which was all invested in canals or the canalization of rivers. However, some canals, such as the Ballyconnell and Ballinamore, have never been used due to the growth of the railway system.
Mr Shaw argued that the proper function of canals was the carriage of heavy bulky goods, which it would be impossible for railway companies to carry at freights that would pay them. He cited examples from Continental countries where canals contributed to prosperity, and suggested that Irish canals should be freed from tolls and maintained at the cost of the counties, like roads. He also believed that Irish canals should be under the control of the County Councils, similar to the roads.
Mr Power, who supported Mr Shaw’s statement, claimed that Ireland had not made proper or full use of its canal system, unlike the progressive countries of Germany, France, and Belgium, where they were extending their canal systems and spending considerable amounts of money on them. He argued that if goods could be carried by canal from Limerick to Dublin or to the midlands at 2s a ton, instead of the 9s currently paid, it would improve Ireland’s commercial condition.
As a result of the discussion, a resolution was adopted by the Chamber of Commerce to consider the development of trade and commerce in Ireland, which requires the abolition of canal tolls so that agricultural products and manufactured articles can be carried at reasonable freight rates. The Irish members of Parliament were requested to take this question into consideration. Furthermore, it was decided to have Mr Shaw’s paper printed and circulated to raise awareness on the potential of the Irish canal system for the country’s economy and development.
Limerick Echo – Tuesday 07 October 1902