The article below is from 3 years ago but still nicely outlines what the situation is to this day. I've even spoken to one of the people involved in drafting the legislation. An act such as this one would pay for itself. Clearly there isn't the political will to get this laws enacted.
Adventure industry gets regulation warning
Sunday, September 09, 2007
Still reading? Good stuff.The Sunday Business Post wrote: Irish tourism bosses are targeting adventure-seeking holidaymakers this year with a â‚¬4 million advertising campaign featuring surfing, mountain biking and hiking.
However, there are major questions about who regulates the growing adventure sports industry.
Despite the growth in the popularity of outdoor sports, there is still no legislation governing the burgeoning industry. While a bill governing standards at outdoor activity centres was passed by the Dail and signed into law by President Mary McAleese in 2001, the bill has never been implemented.
The act was passed after a campaign by Waterford man Michael Davies, whose 14-year-old son Ros died in a canoeing accident in Dunmore East in 1995. Davies successfully sued the Dunmore East activity centre when Ros and another member of his party died after being swept out to sea, but he eventually gave up his fight to have the bill implemented.
The bill was drawn up by the then Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, but with maritime affairs now under the auspices of the Department of Transport, there is confusion over which government department should take control of the issue.
Many industry representatives fear it will take another accident before legislation is enacted.
â€˜â€˜I put my campaign to bed after ten years of trying to get the government to do something,â€ said Davies.
â€˜â€˜I got as far as seeing a bill passed by the Dail but the then Minister for the Marine, Noel Dempsey, decided not to pursue it. FiannaFail did so many about-turns on it that I just couldnâ€™t deal with them anymore.â€
Davies said that his sonâ€™s death was tragic and preventable. â€˜â€˜The group was taken out despite the fact that a storm was coming in. Ros was a novice and they didnâ€™t have our permission to take him out. The equipment he was using wasnâ€™t suitable. By their nature, outdoor centres operate in unfriendly areas and there is always an element of risk.
â€˜â€˜But the industry is expanding and people would be flabbergasted to know itâ€™s not regulated. A lot of thought went into the 2001 bill, submissions were sought and the money was in place to enact it. The legislation wasnâ€™t all-encompassing, but it was a good, broad start.â€
Davies said the bill could become law â€˜â€˜in the morning, with the stroke of a penâ€™â€™, but the political will to do so was lacking. Roisin Finlay, editor of adventure sports magazine Outsider, said that the regulation of activity providers was long overdue, given rising interest in the sector.
â€˜â€˜Most outdoor providers are very responsible and have the correct training,â€ she said. â€˜â€˜But at the moment, itâ€™s possible for pretty much anyone to set up a surf school or kayaking operation and take people out. I would say the public is largely unaware of this.
â€˜â€˜The onus is on the client to check that the person they entrust their safety to has the right qualifications, whereas it should be the other way around. You shouldnâ€™t be allowed to operate unless you have the right skills and training.
â€˜â€˜Setting off across a calm bay in a sea kayak for an evening might seem harmless, but if something goes wrong, you want to know youâ€™re with someone with the right skills.â€
A review carried out by the Irish Sports Council, following the closure of the Tiglin National Outdoor Training Centre last year, called for the establishment of a standards authority and recommended that the 2001 legislation be enacted, but to no avail. â€˜â€˜It is extremely frustrating for us,â€ said Conor Ryan, a spokesman for the Irish Canoe Union.
â€˜â€˜Why has this legislation never been implemented? The plan was for a full-time inspectorate regulating the industry, but nothing has happened.
â€˜â€˜As a governing body, we can make safety recommendations and we have set up a very good awards scheme which encourages best practice. We maintain a good safety record, but there is an inherent danger in water sports.
â€˜â€˜Centres need to be regulated, particularly as more schools are now starting to include outdoor activities in the curriculum at transition year level. Weâ€™re not in a position to police outdoor centres. If a centre decides to employ unqualified staff, thereâ€™s nothing we can do legally.
â€˜â€˜As commercial operations, some centres break recommended instructor-trainee ratio guidelines in a bid to make more money. Unfortunately, weâ€™re waiting for a major accident to happen.â€
Ryan said lack of regulation also meant centres could pay young staff badly and there was little incentive for people to gain qualifications. With the huge increase in the number of people surfing in recent years, the Irish Surf Association has established a self-regulatory system, listing approved surf centres on its website.
â€˜â€˜We carry out inspections to some degree, but not to a level that would be considered proper,â€ said Michael Kelly, chairman of the ISA. â€˜â€˜Weâ€™re extremely frustrated. We donâ€™t have the financial resources or the legal right to police the industry.
â€˜â€˜Local authorities like Clare County Council insist that anyone teaching surfing has to have approval, but even that is very difficult to police. A centre can have approval one year, lose it the next year but still claim to have it. The average person who decides to take a surfing lesson doesnâ€™t know this is going on.â€ Mike Jones, operations manager at the University of Limerick activity centre, said that â€˜â€˜anyone can buy 20 kayaks and start offering lessons, without approval or insuranceâ€™â€™.
â€˜â€˜Itâ€™s a free-for-all. Some individual national governing bodies do a very good job but, as demand for adventure sports increases, youâ€™re still getting guys setting up on the beach with no qualifications. Legislation will be controversial, but it has to happen.
â€˜â€˜There are centres operating below the necessary standards, but because they bring visitors in and are important to tourism, theyâ€™re allowed to. If regulation comes in, costs will be pushed up as qualified instructors look for better wages. The bottom line is money.
â€˜â€˜Sadly, the only thing that will move it forward and see legislation being rubberstamped is the death of tourists in an accident.â€
According to Olive Stephens, a spokeswoman for the Department of Transport, representatives from the departments of Transport, Communications, and Arts, Sport and Tourism met to discuss regulating the industry on May 28. However, they have not even decided which department should be responsible.
â€˜â€˜There is an issue around the appropriate location for responsibility for regulation of adventure sports in Ireland,â€ said Stephens. â€˜â€˜However, it does look as if it will go to the Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism.
â€˜â€˜The last interdepartmental meeting identified a number of issues that need to be considered. The 2001 act needs to be reviewed to see if itâ€™s still appropriate and relevant, the role of an Adventure Activities Standards Authority (AASA) needs to be considered in relation to the appropriate department and other agencies, along with the appropriate locus of corporate governance of an AASA.
â€˜â€˜No final position has been reached, but the establishment of a new regulatory structure must be cost-effective, efficient and comprehensive.â€
Here is the Bill as proposed originally, it has a great explanation about how the body would work etc. at the back of the file : And here is the series of meetings/debates/amendments that the Bill went through:
http://www.oireachtas.ie/viewdoc.asp?fn ... efault.htm
And here is the final product the Act: So what now? How do we get things moving? Is it worth the effort?