Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Repairs to Irish Vessels.

asked the Minister for Industry and Commerce if he will state in respect of each of the following vessels of Irish Shipping, Limited, s.s "Irish Rose", s.s. "Irish Cedar", s.s. "Irish Willow" and the s.s. "Irish Pine" (i) the number of days during which these vessels were withdrawn from service while undergoing repairs since being handed over by builders; (ii) the total cost of such repairs in respect of each vessel; and (iii) whether such expenditure was recouped by the builders under the terms of their guarantee.

This information is not available in my Department. I do not consider it desirable to ask the company to furnish information of a kind which is not normally disclosed in respect of other commercial undertakings.

This is not an ordinary commercial undertaking. It is a national shipping line run in the interests of the Irish nation. Many well-informed people are concerned at the standard of workmanship in these foreign-built vessels which is of such a character that each vessel had to be docked for repairs after the initial voyage. Inquiry from some of the guests who made the maiden trip would convince the Minister. Would he not think it a matter of public concern and direct concern to him as Minister?

I am prepared to make inquiries but I am not prepared, and I do not think I should be expected, to give in respect of this shipping company information which would not be available in respect of other shipping companies which are its competitors.

If information of a character that gives rise to concern, rumours and half-formed speculation is prevalent, would the Minister not think that, in the interests of the good name of Irish shipping, it should be investigated and, if found untrue, denied rather than have this atmosphere of suspicion created around this shipping company?

I am prepared to inquire about it but I could not undertake at the moment to say whether I would be in a position to make the information available or not.