Grand Canal trees cut down after falling branch almost hit mother and baby

Waterways Ireland received complaints after specimen trees removed at Charlemont Mall

People enoying sunny weather along the Grand Canal in Dublin in May 2016. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

People enoying sunny weather along the Grand Canal in Dublin in May 2016. Photograph: Cyril Byrne


Several mature trees were cut down along the Grand Canal in Dublin city following a “very near miss” where a mother and her baby were almost hit by a falling branch.

Waterways Ireland said a sizeable branch suddenly broke away from a specimen tree along the canal at Charlemont Mall, narrowly missing the pedestrian and her child.

“Following an assessment of this tree plus other large trees in the vicinity it was necessary to remove a number of them in their entirety,” the agency said in documents drafted in late 2017 and released under the Freedom of Information Act.

Many large poplar and willow trees line the Grand Canal as it flows west to east through Dublin’s south inner city.

After several of the trees were cut down, a number of Dublin councillors received complaints from members of the public.

Green Party councillor Claire Byrne raised the issue numerous times at council meetings.

The comments from Waterways Ireland were in response to a member of the public who wrote to them saying she “cannot understand their logic or their excuse for chopping these incredibly healthy trees down… There are no visible signs of them prising up the towpath or of them falling. If that’s their reason then no trees are safe and trees are how us humans breathe.”

‘Integral part’

Waterways Ireland said it did not take the decision to remove the trees lightly as “these trees are an integral part of the canal landscape and important for local biodiversity. However, in this instance, the potential health and safety risk associated with the trees took precedence over their biodiversity value.”

In subsequent correspondence, the woman who made the complaint asked whether the trees would be replaced. Waterways Ireland said they would not.

“As the trees were quite substantial in nature it means that the root system was equally impressive! Therefore in situations such as this we try to level the trunk as close to the ground as possible and leave in situ. To try to remove the underground root system could result in multiple leaks from the canal. Unfortunately this also means that there is insufficient space for a new tree to take hold and thrive.

“However, the tree stumps do provide excellent perches for birds, couches (a resting point for otters) as well as myriad insects and bugs who occupy the space around the roots and above ground elements of the tree stump.”