Harbours Bill, 1986 [ Seanad ]: Second Stage (Resumed).

Question again proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time".

I will be very brief.


Before the adjournment of the debate for Question Time I was making the point that there would be very hostile resistance on the part of interests in the coal distribution industry to the involvement of the ESB in this whole area. I quoted from a document which was a legal opinion from a Mr. Scott Crosby, solicitor of the EC office of Kemmler Rapp Böhlke and Crosby from their law office in Brussels in March of this year. They said it would be illegal andultra vires the Constitution of the EC Treaty, for the ESB to become involved in coal distribution. They also made the point that any act of Irish public administration or of the Oireachtas to enable this plant to be built there would be illegal. I appeal to the ESB to engage in the widest possible range of consultations before they consider going into coal distribution. I have received advice from our members of the Irish Transport and General Workers Union in the Shannon Estuary in the Limerick-Foynes-Kilrush area, that if the ESB persist in this without proper consultation it could well happen that the entire estuary will be closed down because the unions will see to it that the pilots whom they control are taken off the Shannon Estuary. That effectively will put a manacle on the Shannon Estuary and on all business on either side of the banks of the river Shannon. I thank the Minister, above all other Ministers, because he had the mettle to grasp this problem and put it before the nation and the House. I commend him for that and I hope that this Bill is enacted as soon as possible for the benefit not just of the Shannon region but of the rest of the country.

I welcome the Bill because eventually we will have a unified harbour authority to control the Shannon Estuary. The ports of Limerick and Kilrush will be amalgamated in one unit to be known as the Shannon Ports Authority. This is very welcome from the point of view of County Kerry because, in the past, we got very little recognition in relation to the Shannon Estuary.

However, I am very disappointed that there is no allocation of finance from the Government to set up this ports Authority or for the development of the area within the Shannon Estuary when it becomes a port authority. Efforts have been made over the years to set up this Authority and it is now being set up without Foynes participating. The fact that Foynes is not included is very disappointing and this is probably what stopped the port Authority being set up in the past. Foynes should be included because it is important to remember that 700 people work in the Foynes area.

I said that no finance was available from the Government to the port Authority for its development. Not long ago there was an investment of £4.5 million in Cork harbour but there is nothing available for the Shannon Estuary. Linked with the setting up of a ports authority, there should be a commitment from the Government to have finance made available in that area also. In the past, the Shannon Estuary attracted heavy industry to the area. There are two generating stations in the estuary, an oil generating station in Tarbert and a coal generating station at Moneypoint. Tarbert generating station is half mothballed at present and, strange as it may seem, it can produce electricity much cheaper than Moneypoint. That was not always the case as oil was dearer. I often tried to raise this matter in the House and I brought it to notice of the chief executive of the ESB.

I was surprised today to hear Deputy Prendergast say that he was disappointed that Moneypoint would deal with coal distribution in the future. This will generate jobs in the south west region. Deputy Prendergast said that this would affect Dublin and Limerick. I can understand how he would be perturbed if Limerick were to be affected but we welcome the bringing of jobs to the south west and to the Shannon Estuary. I am delighted that the ESB intend going into the coal distribution business. I mentioned the fact that heavy industry had been attracted to the Shannon Estuary in the past. There is the Alumina plant at Aughinish and the oil jetties at Shannon and Foynes. Limerick Harbour Commissioners have been getting away with murder in the Shannon Estuary due to the fact that the dues taken by the harbour board for the last year were something in the region of £1,392,000. A sum of £286,000 was taken in dues from Moneypoint and Tarbert but there was no investment in the area. A sum of £275,000 in dues was received from Aughinish and £152,000 from the oil jetty at Shannon Airport. That was a considerable amount of money collected every year especially when one realises that there was no investment in the estuary area.

County Kerry has a great interest in the Shannon Estuary especially in view of the fact that the IDA have purchased 602 acres in the Ballylongford-Tarbert area. There are 302 acres owned privately on the Kerry side also. We are hoping for great developments in that area of the estuary adjacent to Kerry.

The survey done by An Foras Forbartha a number of years ago stated that the best and most suitable part of the Shannon Estuary for a port is at Ardmore Point in Ballylongford, County Kerry. There is very deep water there — deeper than the Shannon Estuary- and if heavy industry is attracted to the area it will have to be located around the Ardmore-Ballylongford area. The IDA have 1,000 acres of land to facilitate any industrialist who might think of setting up an industry there. The An Foras Forbartha survey made suggestions on the type of industries which would be suitable for the Shannon Estuary. It named six industries. The first of these was an oil-related industry. Kerry County Council have granted planning permission to a company for an oil refinery in the Ballylongford area of County Kerry. They could also grant planning permission to other companies who may be interested in that particular area. The survey also suggested a heavy steel manufacturing industry, a pharmaceutical industry, a heavy chemical industry, a lead smelting industry and a steel platform production industry. These industries were suggested by An Foras Forbartha after they had carried out an extensive survey of the Shannon Estuary a number of years ago. When the Minister is replying, some time next week presumably, he should mention this survey, speak about it and say what are the views of his Department.

In view of the fact that there is 60 feet of water at Ardmore, near Ballylongford, An Foras Forbartha came up with the conclusion that the Kerry section is the best location for heavy industry. The Shannon Estuary is without doubt the finest waterway in Europe. It is also the deepest waterway in Europe. It is rather strange that it has not been utilised much more over the past four or five years. There has been no commitment from the Government to have heavy industry established along the Shannon Estuary, especially in the Kerry area. That area is crying out for employment. The percentage of people unemployed in the north Kerry area is 21 per cent as against the national average of 18 per cent. County Kerry has the third highest rate of unemployment in the country. Heavy industry along the Kerry area in the Shannon Estuary would be very welcome. I am disappointed that over the past four or five years the IDA or the Government did not make an effort to provide industries for us.

I spoke about the advantages of the Shannon Estuary and the deep water it contains. At the mouth of the Shannon there is 150 feet of water. As you enter the mouth of the Shannon there is a sandbar. The depth of water around the sandbar is 80 feet. Inside the sandbar the water is 120 feet deep. The Minister of State in his speech referred to the type and size of boats in the Shannon Estuary and said that if the estuary was excavated it would be able to take much bigger boats. In the past I had a survey carried out on the sandbar in the mouth of the Shannon. The sandbar is solid and if it were removed it would not silt up again. About five or six years ago the estimate I received for removing the sandbar was in the region of £2 million. Possibly, it would be double that figure today. We should be prepared to remove the sandbar as when removed there would be 120 feet of water all along the Shannon Estuary.

The estuary is very suitable for heavy industry. There are two generating stations and there would be no difficulty in providing power for any heavy industry which may set up there. Tarbert generating station could be put into full capacity and power could also be taken from Moneypoint. Kerry County Council have provided a very adequate water supply to the Ballylongford/Tarbert area. This area would also be very suitable for heavy industry. Kerry County Council would be prepared any time to provide any facilities which may be required by an industrialist setting up on the Kerry side of the Shannon Estuary.

The Shannon Estuary can take vessels of 200,000 tonnes. As I said, if the sandbar was removed the estuary could take vessels of up to 400,000 tonnes. Vessels of any size can shelter inside the estuary. The area near Ballylongford is a very sheltered area, and is very suitable for big boats. In the event of a storm boats would have great protection in this area. As I said, 21 per cent of the population in County Kerry are unemployed. At present, we need development in the Shannon Estuary. We can supply the skilled workers from north Kerry. They have had plenty of experience in the past. It was workers from north Kerry and west Limerick who built the Aughinish plant and the Tarbert generating station. Many of those workers also gained work at Moneypoint. Therefore, there are workers available in both County Kerry and west Limerick who are very experienced in the building of factories and oil refineries, etc.

The geographical location of the Shannon Estuary could not be bettered. We should all make a tremendous effort to promote that estuary in view of the fact that there will be an amalgamation of all the ports. With the goodwill of the IDA, the Government and everybody involved, it is possible to attract industry into this area, especially heavy industry. Near the Ballylongford area, from Beal Point in County Kerry, the estuary is protected from the ocean swell. There is great shelter and deep-water anchorage which can accommodate very large vessels.

I should like now to deal with the setting up of the board. I notice my county council will get two members. Limerick County Council will have two representatives as will Clare, Limerick Corporation, the Chamber of Commerce of Ireland and the Confederation of Irish Industry. There will be two people representing the labour force. This gives a majority on the board to Limerick. It would be much better to have one person selected from the Chamber of Commerce in Tralee or Listowel and one from County Limerick. County Clare can put in their own claim, but at least we should get better representation on the board as the most advantageous parts of the estuary are in County Kerry.

It is a good thing we will eventually have a unified port authority. I am extremely disappointed that Foynes were not encouraged to come in. That is a very important port where there are 700 people unemployed. It would be a great asset and advantage to have Foynes included under the Shannon Estuary authority.

I notice the Minister will have five nominees on that board. May I suggest to him that these should be from the counties that are involved, that is, Clare, Kerry and Limerick? I mentioned previously the Moneypoint project and importation of coal by the ESB. I believe there has been some agreement with some coalmines in the United States to import coal and have Moneypoint as a distribution centre for the whole country. I welcome that because it will mean jobs for the southwest and jobs are very badly needed there. As we are going to have a unified port authority in Shannon, we should have free port facilities made available to us. I notice that my colleague, Deputy Lyons is here today.

I am glad the Deputy opened the door for me.

The free port facility was made available to Cork recently.

No, it was not.

We are not taking from Cork's position or disputing that they should have got that facility. I am delighted they got it.

I shall explain the position later to Deputy Taylor-Quinn.

The same facilities should be made available to the Shannon estuary. It would suit the Leas-Cheann Comhairle's own county as well, because his county infringes on the Shannon and part of his constituency touches on the Shannon Estuary. His constituency would benefit from this facility.

The Shannon Estuary, as we know, stretches from Loop Head to Limerick, Ballybunion, Ballylongford, Tarbert, Glin, Foynes and Askeaton. It takes in a very large area that is crying out at the moment for development. There is great unemployment in the counties of Clare, Kerry and West Limerick.

We have to make a case for the other counties as well. We cannot be too parochial when talking about an estuarial authority which involves three counties. I have pointed out the development should be in County Kerry in view of the facilities such as the deep water on our side of the estuary. If Deputy Taylor-Quinn thinks she can attract industry to County Clare, I can assure her the Kerry people will not stand in the way of the west Limerick people.

That is decent of the Deputy. We like the Kerrymen.

We are a generous people and like to see everybody succeeding. I hope each county will get a fair crack of the whip. I welcome the fact that the ports authority is being set up but I am disappointed that no finance has been made available by the Government in this respect.

The Government would not give money for a set of crayons.

The development angle will be very important. We will have to see a great investment in that area if we are going to have any development at all. I assure the Minister he will get every facility from my own county and the council of which I am a member, Kerry County Council, if anything is needed for Shannon estuary by way of development. We provided most of the facilities earlier in Kerry by way of land, an adequate water supply and anything else required. We even approved planning permission for an oil refinery. In the future when the authority have been set up I can assure the Minister that my county and my council will be active participants in this estuarial authority. I hope we will be successful in attracting heavy industry to that area which will be the source of much employment in the years to come.

I am delighted to have an opportunity to contribute to this debate. Before I deal specifically with the Bill I should like to refer to a number of points made by previous speakers, particularly Deputies Wilson and Daly who seem to be confused about which Governments were in power and who was the source of inspiration for development in the region. That is something we could deal with in an election campaign.

There was one contribution which infuriated me. It was that made by my esteemed colleague and a Deputy for whom I have the highest regard, Deputy Prendergast. He came into the House and strongly criticised the ESB proposal for Moneypoint and their distribution proposal. It is audacious of him to refer to a matter in another constituency in the manner in which he did. The ESB proposal has the full support of County Clare. His attitude was astounding. He said that the ESB should not engage in ancillary activities or be afforded the right to go ahead with a State monopoly. These statements ill-become a man of his experience. He said that if this development went ahead the unions in Limerick — he is secretary for the area — would close the estuary and towing and tuggage would cease.

He has no mandate to make such a statement on behalf of the workers in Kilrush and west Clare. The ESB proposals have the full support of the workers in Moneypoint. I hope at some future date he will see fit to reconsider and withdraw his remarks. It is very serious that man from the region should comment on a proposed development in an under-developed area. While jobs may be lost in other areas other jobs would be created at Moneypoint and in the Kilrush area. As a Deputy for the area I see it as my responsibility to outline this to the House and to state that the proposals have the full support of the people in Clare, the Clare County Council, Kilrush Urban Council and the workers. I hope Deputy Prendergast will take that into consideration if he has any further remarks to make in relation to this proposal.

I welcome the Bill and compliment the Minister for bringing it before the House. It has been a subject for discussion over 23 years. It was discussed within the Government for some time. Everyone recognises that the Shannon Estuary is one of our finest natural assets. It is also regarded as a European asset. We are fortunate to have this facility. The people of Clare are very fortunate to live along the banks of the Shannon. The potential of the estuary has not been fully realised.

We welcome the idea of a unified authority but we have strong reservations about the nature of the Bill and the make-up of the board of management. So concerned were Clare County Council about the Bill that a special committee on the estuary was set up. I am a member of that committee. We made a submission to the Minister and he met a deputation. He has also heard from Kilrush Urban District Council. Clare County Council are extremely concerned about the fact that they are the local authority which border the entire northern bank of the river. We are talking about 93 miles in all. That is 20 miles more than the combined southern bank which includes Kerry County Council, Limerick County Council and Limerick Corporation. There is one authority on the northern bank and three on the southern bank.

In any future development on the northern bank of the estuary Clare County Council will be responsible for the infrastructural development. They are the roads authority, the sanitary services, the planning authority and housing authority. The responsibility laid on the shoulders of Clare County Council is not reflected by the fact that only two members of the council will be nominated to the estuarial authority. I am gravely concerned about that as are the council. Some may refer to this concern as parochial or local patriotism. The people in Clare are not renowned for their selfishness or parochialism but for being fairminded, progressive people. We are concerned that this authority be successful and grow from strength to strength. Hopefully it will be a vehicle through which major development will take place.

I am sure the Minister and his officials listened carefully to what was said in the Seanad and in this House in relation to the structure of the authority. It is imperative that the local authority which have a major contribution to make in infrastructural development on the bank be adequately represented; otherwise the authority cannot work properly. It is suggested in the proposal that only two representatives out of a total of 21 come from County Clare. Kilrush Urban District Council is not mentioned at all. Despite numerous meetings with the Minister there is nothing in the Bill which refers specifically to Kilrush. I appreciate that I have received many assurances from the Minister that someone from Kilrush will be nominated to the authority when he makes his nominations. I appreciate his goodwill and have every confidence that he will do so. However, in 20 years' time this Minister may not hold the same portfolio and a different Minister might not have the same commitment to County Clare, so that the proposed position might not obtain. I urge the Minister to put down an amendment to provide for representation of Kilrush Urban District Council on the estuarial authority. It is imperative that this be done. I am not satisfied with an assurance. It must be written into the legislation and be binding on any future Legislature.

Much has been said about Limerick Harbour Commissioners. I do not wish to be added to the list of knockers of that authority but one must examine their record. It will be seen that it is not good. The record of Foynes compared to Limerick is quite interesting. The development that has taken place in Foynes at the expense of Limerick raises many questions. The tonnage that went into Limerick in 1985 was 485,000 tonnes.

Debate adjourned.