The Boats

Mayfly and Eco Showboat


The Eco Showboat is an art project aimed at raising awareness of the environment and climate change, supported by the Arts Council, SFI Discover, Creative Ireland, LAWPRO and Waterways Ireland. Artists Anne Cleary & Denis Connolly have been navigating  Ireland’s inland waterways meeting local artists, scientists and communities to spark climate action. In 2022 they travelled from Limerick to Enniskillen aboard a solar powered electric boat. In 2023 they undertook a zero carbon journey to the east - along the Shannon, Grand Canal and Barrow - from Askeaton on the Shannon’s Atlantic estuary to Howth Harbour on the Irish Sea.


An SFI Discover Award, along with support from LAWPRO officers and local authorities across the country, has allowed the Eco Showboat to work with marine biologist Rachel O’Malley and to host a series of scientific workshops and talks documenting biodiversity and explaining some of the problems and solutions associated with the local and the global environment

Mayfly, Limerick, April 2022 (photo: Dermot Lynch)

There is a growing awareness that the arts community is uniquely placed to develop conversations around climate change and to generate positive creative action. More than twenty artists from across the country are already engaging with the Eco Showboat to collaborate on climate action, with the help of Creative Ireland and the Arts Council

The Eco Showboat toured on the Mayfly, a small converted yacht fitted out with an inboard electric motor powered by a battery bank charged by a solar array


Paris based artists, Anne Cleary & Denis Connolly have shown in the Pompidou Centre, the Barbican and the Tate Modern. Their work involves collaborations with scientists, artists and the public, taking many forms but focusing always on the act of looking, a conversation with the eye of the beholder. Since 2017 they have been practicing under the name “The School of Looking” to reflect this overarching programme of their work.

The fresh water crisis is one of the many ecological crises that lie, almost invisible, just ahead of us, and it is one of the most startling.

Fresh water only makes up around 2% of the water on the planet. Of that 2%, only 0.5% - so, one ten-thousandth of all the water on the planet - is surface water in the form of reservoirs, lakes, wetlands, rivers and canals. As the atmosphere warms up, more of this water will evaporate into the air. More moisture in the air may mean more precipitation, but this is likely to be violent, torrential rainfall. Water from heavy rainfall floods the land, eroding soil, damaging crops and infrastructure, paralysing activity, before finding its way rapidly to the sea - where it ceases to be fresh.

The crucial battle will be to slow down the air/land/sea water-cycle that distils fresh water from the salt sea, distributes it over the land and lets it percolate slowly back to the coast. But instead we see this cycle accelerating. The quicker the water gets back to the sea, the more damage it does to the land. The longer the water can be kept inland - in liquid form and on the surface preferably - the more good it does for the land, for us and for the planet. This is partly about global temperature: since 1940 the land surface air temperature has risen at twice the rate of the global average temperature. Air temperatures above wetlands are significantly lower than air temperatures above dry land.

But more crucial will be the preservation of fresh water as a resource. Our society needs more and more fresh water and, in the coming years, there will inevitably be more and more droughts. On a global scale, we will not be able to stop the volume of fresh water from falling: most of it will flow directly into the sea from melting ice caps. The inevitable decline of groundwater is something that we can’t do much about either. But we can manage and develop surface water and in particular our inland waterways - reservoirs, lakes, canals and rivers - which will play a crucial role in making the greatest use of the fresh water that remains.

Denis Connolly, 2021