Plan proposed for houseboats at Pigeon House Harbour on the Liffey

IWAI scheme proposes new marina lying between new Poolbeg urban quarter and the river

A plan to provide berths for houseboats on the river Liffey and develop a residential marina at Pigeon House Harbour, has been presented to Minister of State at the Department of Housing, Malcolm Noonan.

The plan would see the reopening of the existing Pigeon House Harbour beside the decommissioned power station on the Poolbeg peninsula, to provide a marina for long-stay and visiting boats.

Proposed by the Dublin branch of the Inland Waterways Association of Ireland (IWAI), the plan also repeats a 2018 Dublin City Council recommendation for berths for residential, commercial and leisure use, at various locations along the river between Matt Talbot Bridge and the 3Arena.

Pigeon House Harbour was the original docking place for ships arriving into Dublin Port in the late 18th century. The Pigeon House Hotel was built at that time beside the harbour to provide overnight accommodation for visitors before they ventured into Dublin through Ringsend. In 1989 the hotel was restored by the Bolton Trust with funding from the ESB and Forbairt.


The harbour is also adjacent to the former Irish Glass Bottle site, which is being developed as an urban village, accessible by road as well as river.

In recent years Dublin City Council had sought expressions of interest from commercial or private partners in redeveloping the Pigeon House site, but it remains in a state of advanced dereliction.

The Dublin branch of the IWAI has told Mr Noonan it is convinced that, as a niche market sector, “additional provision of residential berths can provide an affordable and quick turnaround housing solution as well as a sustainable revenue stream for the owners and operators of such facilities”.

Reg McCabe, a former director of Ibec and member of the association’s Dublin branch, said the plan was in line with provision in the Dublin City Development Plan 2022 – 2028 to provide additional houseboat accommodation in Dublin.

Section QHSN46 of the City Development Plan commits the council “to work with Waterways Ireland to identify appropriate locations for additional houseboat serviced mooring locations and ancillary facilities”.

In addition, the city council’s Water Activation Strategy, published in 2018, envisages significant provision for residential, commercial and leisure boats, at various locations between Matt Talbot Bridge and the 3Arena. These proposals include berths for visiting ships, berths to be offered by licence and short-stay moorings, among others. At the eastern end of the stretch of river it was envisaged marinas would be provided at the 3Arena and opposite it, at the entrance to Grand Canal Dock.

“Based on experience in maritime cities in Europe and across the globe, we are convinced that Dublin’s inner harbour, combined with Grand Canal Dock and the city canals, have the capacity to provide a large number of berths which could be developed, either directly by Waterways Ireland and Dublin Port, or alternatively through award of a concession to a private operator,” the IWAI told Mr Noonan.

The plan submitted said “experience elsewhere has shown that provision of living spaces on the water can add a novel and attractive cultural and community dimension that is consistent with Dublin City Council Docklands SDZ ‘water activation’ objectives.

“As an additional support measure, it would be helpful if appropriate planning guidelines for residential marinas were drafted at Government level having regard to berth density and dimensions, services, facilities management, security, emergency access, etc.,” it added.

The Department of Housing confirmed receipt of the submission, which it said had been forwarded to Waterways Ireland for consideration. Waterways Ireland said it is revising its bye laws, which include regulations for houseboats, and has received more than 800 submissions on the subject. The authority said phase two of the public consultation is expected to start in January.

Any redevelopment of Pigeon House harbour would come at a time when Waterways Ireland is considering these new bylaws, which would introduce houseboat permits and associated houseboat standards for the first time.

It also wants to increase the cost of fees to berth holders on the Royal and Grand canals from €278 annually, in addition to a €300 service charge. The authority commissioned a new fee structure from consultants KPMG, who recommended new annual permanent mooring prices ranging from €7,865 for a serviced urban mooring to €3,575 for an unserviced rural mooring. Waterways Ireland has said its proposed fee structure is considerably lower than that recommended by KPMG, understood to be in the region of €1,500 per year.

Tim O'Brien

Tim O'Brien

Tim O'Brien is an Irish Times journalist