Harbours (Shannon Estuary Development Corporation) Bill, 1988: Second Stage (Resumed).

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

Before Question Time I was commenting on the fact that this Bill, for some extraordinary reason, seems to not include a large number of piers and one small harbour within the Shannon estuary. I was accused by the Minister, in one of his interruptions, of having changed my mind on the desirability of a single estuarial authority. I most certainly have not changed my mind. For the last 20 years I have striven for that. There were two earlier Bills which certainly had defects and of which I was not enamoured, but I would have preferred either of the two to this one which is very seriously defective.

The big row in the past was whether or not Foynes should be included in this estuarial authority. Foynes is included now but for some incredible reason various other places are not. I drew the Minister's attention to the fact that there is an application at the moment before Limerick County Council for planning permission for the development of deep water port facilities and associated industrial development and extractive facilities at Caheragh and Killacolla on the Shannon estuary about one and a half miles east of Glin. I wish that project well. If the promoter thinks he can make a success of it, by all means, but will that be included? Will the dues that will be generated by that go to a private operator or to this development corporation? The obvious thing is that we should have a single estuarial authority and every shipping activity that takes place in the estuary and in its immediate tributaries should come under the jurisdiction of the estuarial authority. Instead of that we do not have a harbour authority as such, but an industrial development and recreational and tourist authority which has as one of its subsidiary functions, the running of a harbour, and that only in respect of some parts of the estuary.

We are entitled to ask why these nine or ten piers which I named earlier have been excluded when they were included in the earlier Bills. Everyone who has compared this Bill with the earlier Bills feels that there is something sinister in this and equally about the exclusion of Clarecastle. There was a debate in the Seanad in 1986 on the estuary and its development and great things are promised for Clarecastle within a short period but they have not occurred. What has happened in regard to Clarecastle and to at least one pier called Cahiracon somewhere in the Kildysart area is that it has been leased to a private operator and the latest European Regional Development Fund report of applications for funds from this country shows that an application has been made for £500,000 from the Regional Fund to develop Clarecastle and what are called other small piers. This requires some explanation. At the very time when we are supposed to have a single authority, which in itself is a cause of controversy, are a whole lot of places in that estuary to be excluded including the proposed development near Glin and whatever is supposed to happen at Clarecastle?

Clarecastle, I understand, has not operated as a port for nearly 20 years but it has been established under an Act, the Clarecastle Harbour Trustees Act of, I think, 1933. The previous Bills brought in here proposed to repeal that Act, which, of course, makes sense. This Bill does not propose to repeal it and I wonder why. I understand that an application was made to the High Court within the past couple of years to appoint new trustees of that port and that that application was acceded to by the High Court. This would seem to suggest that it is the intention to retain it as a port independently of this corporation. We are entitled to ask why.

It seems that the manner in which it is sought to placate interests in Foynes is pretty hamfisted, to say the least. From what one hears, the reference in section 8 (3) (d) to two officials in Foynes was not in the Bill as drafted by the draftsman or prepared by the Department but was put in at the last minute as a result of a local political decision in order to try to placate opposition that might be expected and similarly with section 6 in regard to the principal office of the corporation, which was inserted in that way. It makes no sense that any Bill should contain a provision making it mandatory on a body to establish their head office in any particular place. It is a matter for the body concerned, if and when established, to decide where their principal office should be.

The staff of the Limerick Harbour Commissioners, who are competent and dedicated people in my experience over the past 20 to 25 years, certainly feel extremely sore, to say the least, about the provisions of this Bill and I do not blame them in any way. They are quite entitled to feel very aggrieved about it. They are senior and highly qualified people who are now going to be made subsidiary to people much less qualified than they in the formation of this corporation. There is not the slightest acknowledgment of their achievements over the past quarter of a century, in particular. Indeed, the thought struck me when the Taoiseach was making much of his meeting in Shannon a few weeks ago with Mr. Gorbachev, that Mr. Gorbachev would not be there, nor would there be a Russian plane landing in Shannon on any occcasion, were it not for the actions of the Limerick Harbour Commissioners in building a jetty for Russian fuel at Shannon and doing it entirely out of their own resources and providing storage there for that purpose. What they have done has been hugely to the benefit of the whole area, but they get very little thanks for it.

On the position of the staff of the Limerick Harbour Commissioners, in particular, they are very concerned indeed about the provisions of sections 15 and 16. At the moment the ordinary staff of the harbour commissioners are entitled to pensions which are unfunded, unfortunately, because the Department concerned never allowed a funded pension scheme to be established for Limerick harbour. They are not too worried about its being unfunded because Limerick Harbour Commissioners are in a very strong financial position and have a very substantial income; they are very much in the black. They are now going into a corporation which will have to take over other bodies if this Bill is passed, one of which has very substantial liabilities. To have to do that from an unfunded pension position is extremely unfair to those people. A man of, let us say, 60 years of age who has worked for perhaps 40 years with the commissioners and given excellent service should not now be faced with the possibility that, if he retires within the next couple of years, his pension may not be paid, or that it may not be paid in full.

Another aspect which this Bill does not deal with at all is the whole question of pilotage. The Pilotage Acts, I notice, are not referred to in the list of Acts at the start of this Bill. At the moment, pilotage is a function of the Limerick Harbour Commissioners. They carry out that function for all the authorities within the estuary, including Foynes, Cappagh and Clarecastle. Presumably, by implication, pilotage will now become a function of the new corporation and the pilots involved are certainly very concerned about what their position will be. Needless to say, there has been no consultation whatever with them and they do not know where they stand in this regard. They feel that a great many attempts may be made to let many of them go and that they have no continuity of employment.

There are numerous other matters of detail in this Bill which I, among many other people, find extremely objectionable. I shall deal with those matters on Committee Stage — if there is a Committee Stage which, presumably, now there may well be. This Bill is ill-conceived. It has, remarkably, obtained almost universal opposition from all the interests concerned and I cannot stress that strongly enough, particularly as several of the interests concerned see themselves as being in conflict with others involved. They are all unanimous that this Bill is totally unacceptable.

I find it extremely regrettable that at a time when at long last I had hoped that we would see legislation passed into law to unify this estuary and its control, we find it is not a unified port authority at all. It is an industrial development, a tourist development, an amenity and recreational development corporation with subsidiary powers of managing the harbour. That is not satisfactory. In addition, it is not the entire authority as we had all expected. It includes Foynes, but excludes a great many other places. Quite frankly, I do not see the point of an arrangement like that.

I cannot blame the people of Limerick, Clare and elsewhere if they think there is something sinister, in this. The evidence would seem to suggest, in the absence of some truthful and plausible explanation, that there is something sinister and that it is being done for a sinister and improper reason related to some private interest. Otherwise, why should this whole area be excluded? It is, therefore, a great disappointment that the third of these Bills is actually the least satisfactory by far of all three that we have seen in this House. The other two Bills were not passed and, if there were reasons for not passing the other two, certainly the reasons are infinitely more compelling for not passing this Bill which is extremely detrimental and disappointing.

The Deputy ran away when he had an opportunity for years to do something about it. He was afraid to do anything about it.

Old friends are best.

The greatest weakness here is the way in which development of that whole area and the marvellous natural resource of the estuary are dissipated between various agencies. Arguably we already have too many organisations. They are already overlapping——

The Deputy would leave it that way for the next 25 years.

——to too great an extent. Here we have another one, overlapping still further, to make what is already a bad job considerably worse.

We would wait for the next 25 years for some response from the Progressive Democrats. It is our responsibility.

Is it not a pity, sir, that the Minister for the Marine carries on in this fashion in the House and will not allow people to make speeches? The ignorant arrogance of the man astounds me.

They are delaying it further.

It reinforces my belief that this Bill, in the ridiculous form in which it is, is the result, not of any intelligent thinking by anybody but of all sorts of local, parochial, political compromises to try to facilitate particular people. I understand that in order to get some of it in they had to wait until the celebrated Minister for Defence, who had taken himself somewhere outside the jurisdiction, came back and he discovered various bits and pieces had been put into it without his knowledge. The dealings and strokes that went on behind the scenes were pretty sickening and deplorable.

Everybody could see clearly why there was such widespread and fundamental opposition to this. Not even the efforts to buy off people in Foynes, for example, have succeeded. Even the two officials mentioned in this legislation, and given pride of place in it, easily see through what the Minister is up to and they are not one bit impressed to find themselves mentioned in this legislation by name, being given a special and privileged position on the corporation. They know it is only for improper reasons that that is being done at all.

I am very strongly opposed to this Bill which is such a huge disappointment. My party will be voting against it. I hope all Opposition Parties will vote against it and reject it. In that way they will be doing a great service to that region and the country as a whole. The port users and port authorities of all other ports are equally vehemently opposed to this. The Minister has announced that if and when this Bill is passed, similar provisions will be applied to all other port areas — Dublin, Cork and Waterford in particular. If so, that will be an absolute disaster. It is totally unsuitable, particularly when we need to develop our ports as efficiently and economically as possible to meet the challenges of 1992. It is deplorable that the management of ports should be given a subsidiary in this Bill and that port users will be called on to fund all kinds of non-commercial activities in which this Bill will give the corporation power to engage.

I hope very fervently that this Bill will be defeated or if not defeated on Second Stage, amended drastically to ensure we at least have a Bill that makes sense, that covers the entire estuary and concentrates on the management of ports rather than on creating yet another bureaucratic overlap which is in direct conflict with the action of the Taoiseach's Department in the last month or two in looking for a report from Shannon Development on the development of this estuary.

I am greateful to get an opportunity to speak on this Bill. I admire the Minister's tenacity in bringing it in. He has shown an interest in the development of the Shannon estuary and has campaigned a long time for it.

However, the nature of the Bill is giving rise to a great deal of controversy. I believe there is an element of expediency in the Bill itself. It reminds me of another Bill that was before the House some time ago, Coillte Teoranta Bill, and before that the Bord Telecom Éireann Bill. The draftsmen seem to have a stereotype Bill which they conveniently draw out when they have to bring in legislation quickly. I regret very much the terms in which this Bill is drawn up.

What upsets a number of people is that the Bill would promote substantial overlapping of development agencies at a time when some of us are at least not too happy with even the development agency who are there. To overlap in this regard is going to complicate matters further. There must be unification of all these people who are promoting industries and services and trying to create employment. The competition, or lack of it, and the spreading of resources that will be involved even if this Bill is passed will mean less money will be available to promote the mid-west region. We are all trying to see that employment is increased in the Shannon estuary and the Shannon estuary basin.

The Shannon estuary is an extensive area. Other speakers have mentioned that it is a natural resource — the deep water, the beauty, the marine culture potential. All these assets and aspects have been paraded and there is reason to believe they will be availed of in future. It is an achievement for the Minister to get Clare, Limerick and Kerry agreeing on anything. No more ethnic, parochial group exists than we find in those counties and, as Deputy O'Malley pointed out very vehemently, in Limerick city. In places of work in Shannon in particular where different counties are represented, you find them going in different directions. The Minister in getting the groups together and banging their heads, so to speak, has made a real achievement.

I agree with the number of members proposed by the Minister for the board of directors. Any higher would be too big. If you speak to people from those localities you will find they each want a big slice for their own area. Clare County Council feel they are under-represented, or unrepresented sometimes. Limerick Deputies here today spoke about non-representation of the Limerick Harbour Commissioners, Limerick Corporation and Limerick County Council in the Bill. Even in the previous Bills the big problem was representation. The public must be cynical of this exercise——

Hear, hear.

——of talking about political power and the misuse of that power. I would like to see coming from this House constructive legislation that will lead to real development on the lower estuary up to Limerick. A problem is that we cannot utilise the very deep water there. Substantial, continual dredging must be done at the mouth of the river. For that reason I have always supported some authority who would have the power to raise the funds necessary to provide a continuous service to the waterway of the River Shannon.

In this Bill certain powers are being taken. I consider a port authority preferable to a development corporation. In current circumstances with the possibility of getting Structural Funds from the EC, maybe a development corporation would be the better proposition, and this lays greater emphasis on the promotion of the activities listed in section 4. The Bill provides that the functions of the corporation shall be:

(a) to promote, co-ordinate and develop, in conjunction with Bord Fáilte Éireann, the Industrial Development Authority, the Shannon Free Airport Development Company Limited, and the appropriate local authority, investment in marine-related industrial, tourist, recreational and amenity facilities ....

That work is already being done by other groups within the counties and semi-State organisations such as Shannon Development. The main emphasis should be on providing maintaining and improving harbour services. That should be the sole purpose of this Bill.

We have to recognise the experience of the Limerick Harbour Commissioners, who say that the functions specified for this new corporation are too wide. I have had substantial correspondence from the Irish Ports Authorities Association and various other groups who all make this point. One harbour which is to be included is that at Foynes where they already have a development programme which was published following their employment of the consulting engineers, Delap and Waller. The harbour commissioners want drainage and dredging, removal of a jetty, road services, cargo handling facilities, warehousing, fire fighting equipment, a weighbridge, land reclamation and additional berthage. That is a long list of items which would keep any corporation fully engaged. When we take the other ports into consideration, it is obvious that the corporation would be fully employed in the various development programmes which have already been drawn up in preparation for the implementation of the legislation. At Foynes they were looking for £5.5 million for these small developments. At Cappagh in Kilrush they also need a programme costing in the region of £5.5 million. The Kerry people want Ardmore Point developed. Many of them were disappointed that Toyota decided to bail out for the UK and abandon the land on which they had an option at Ardmore Point. I do not believe it was lack of development of the estuary which prevented their establishment but a proper infrastructure would have made it more attractive for Toyota to locate there.

With a unified port authority in place the Government would be able to upgrade the roads on both sides of the river. The road from Ennis to Kilrush along the river badly needs to be upgraded. Some years ago when the Department of the Environment were giving substantial funds for road development I proposed that the road from Ennis to Kildysart and onwards should become the main Ennis to Kilrush road. People thought it was a farcical proposal then but things have changes since with the establishment of Moneypoint and the possibility of other developments along the river. At Cahercon we have a Mr. Whelan who is very busy repairing ships and providing a service which we have not had before on our side of the river. We need road development on the Clare side. Deputy Deenihan also pointed out that it is necessary to upgrade the Limerick to Ballylongford road and make it a national primary route.

There are a lot of inhibitions to substantial development but a unified port authority would be in a position to provide the means which would promote the potential of the existing facilities even as they stand. They would also produce a new development programme. I do not understand why other people are being brought into the matter.

There is quite a lot of marine-related activity on the northern bank. The West Clare Co-operative in conjunction with SFADCo are engaging in marine culture. They have joint ventures in progress at Carrigaholt, where the Minister opened a facility some time ago. There is substantial potential in the marine-related area and the people in the Carrigaholt-Kilbaha area are taking advantage of it. I congratulate them on the work they have done in expanding their fleet and taking advantage of some species like hake and other fish which had not been landed in Clare for some time. We have a certain sense of initiative in County Clare. At one time we had a meeting with the co-op people which did not end in the friendliest way since they sought to take over the entire northern bank of the River Shannon. Since they started to look out to sea they have made substantial progress and they will go from strength to strength. The marina development at Kilrush, so ably championed by the Minister, is welcome.

Why do we need this entire corporation? Why can we not have a unified port authority with the people in place taking the necessary steps to exploit the amenities there already? At Moneypoint there is a substantial berth which is underutilised. The ESB had a proposal to discharge coal there and send it all over the country, making it cheaper for industrial users even if domestic users would not take advantage of it. I regret that the Dublin lobby and the Cork lobby became active in the promotion of the Moneypoint jetty. People will look back and see an opportunity missed. It would have brought down costs for the domestic and the industrial user and provided competition for the Dublin people. Competition is supposed to be the spice of life, the way to make progress. I do not understand why people want development to take place only in the Pale, in the greener than green parts of Ireland in Dublin and along the east coast.

The ESB are a Dublin-based body and I suppose we are in luck that the chairman is a Kerryman. They had a reasonable proposal which, if it was not going to be good for Dublin, would be good for the west; and they objected. Now the whole thing has stalled. I hope in the future the ESB will seek joint ventures with other people and get involved in trans-shipment so that this major jetty can be fully utilised.

I am with the Minister when he says he wants to see the corporation up and going. If they just gave priority to the deep water ports, I would be happy with that. I do not want to see any of the other frills. It must be the people in his Department who are telling the Minister that all these other antics are necessary because we are all reminded on a daily basis in county Clare that we should have an understanding of what is needed for the Shannon estuary. In that regard I would ask the Minister to consider what has been said by the speakers who are concerned about overlapping and to take out section 4 (a). Perhaps (b), (c) and (d) could stay there, but I certainly cannot support this other idea about Bord Fáilte and Shannon Development.

The Limerick Harbour Commissioners have done a good job over the years. They themselves were very parochial in some of the things they did. While they gave Clare County Council an opportunity to take part in their meetings when they existed as Limerick Harbour Commissioners they never appointed a Clare county councillor as a member of the harbour commissioners, and I regret that very much; they were insular in their attitude to Clare people. It would have been better if they had been more open.

Glasnost.

Yes. Limerick Harbour Commissioners were set up in 1815, so they have been in existence for a long time and many work practices have grown up which stifled the port and port users. They got to grips with their difficulties and I believe this is the reason Foynes started to flourish. Nevertheless the commissioners have to be commended for the substantial work they have done. They promoted the Shannon estuary. I have here a copy of the handout which the Limerick Harbour Commissioners use when advertising abroad. The outside of the brochure refers to Ireland's super port, Limerick and the Shannon estuary. It gives a full description of the existing facilities, the Moneypoint jetty, Aughinish, Foynes, Limerick city docks etc. It is a good commercial document, well put together, and is worthy of support. The map beside it shows the major site locations and the deep water channel. Limerick Harbour Commissioners have, as a promotion agency, promoted the Shannon estuary abroad. It is well known among shipping interests that we have substantial services and berthing facilities available. The services include port terminal operators, shipping agents, towage and the facilities of other companies like Shannon Free Airport Development Company and Shannon International Airport which other Deputies mentioned.

I regret therefore that the Minister has not given a special place to the harbour commissioners in this Bill. I would forfeit a lot of support in order to see them included because I believe this corporation will not succeed without enormous goodwill on the part of the Limerick Harbour Commissioners for the operation of this proposal.

When the harbour commissioners made representations to the various Deputies whose constituencies border on the estuary they expressed substantial fears. While it might be premature for the Minister to negotiate in advance regarding any of the things they expressed fears about, private assurances could have been given to the staff of the Limerick Harbour Commissioners who were in grave doubt about their future. The same could be said about the Foynes Harbour Commissioners who said at the time that no one in the Department of the Marine had spoken to them and that they felt very bleak about facing the future. Many of them had given enormous service to the Limerick Harbour Commissioners. Limerick Harbour Commissioners have made a substantial contribution and will continue to do so. I appeal to the Minister to give them a role in this development corporation he is proposing.

Irrespective of the tribal difficulties that exist in Clare, Limerick and Kerry, my anxiety is to see something in place to ensure that the waterways are utilised to their maximum potential, to see that if oil refineries are on the way we will get an oil refinery etc. I know a lot of land was purchased there some time ago for an oil refinery. While there has not been a find of any substance in the Porcupine Basin I believe it is west of the Shannon that a substantial oil find will be made. There were indications by visiting geologists that there are substantial deposits of oil off the Porcupine Basin and for that reason the Shannon estuary is well placed. I hope there will be unity between all the sections. If competition does take place I would not like to see a situation where Galway would win out and the Shannon estuary would be ignored. We have a substantial facility to manage. I wish the Minister every success. I regret that there seems to be an element of dealing. That, as far as I can see, is most important to the Government press secretary, Mr. P.J. Mara, who loves to talk about deals. Maybe there was a deal by the Government in this case. I am sure such a deal was made. Otherwise the Minister could not have got agreement on this matter. Other Ministers tried it and failed but at least this Minister has had that much success.

The question of the principal office is a real bone of contention. While the Minister conceded all the power to Foynes harbour he should not have agreed to locate the office there. Why should they get everything? That will be a distinct advantage to the people in that area. If people in Cappa, Kilbaha or Carrigaholt want access to the head office they will have to make the long journey by road to Foynes.

They could cross by boat.

That would be all right in daylight but they could not do so at night. The Minister should reconsider the location of the principal office. Section 6 states: "The Corporation shall maintain its principal office at Foynes in the County of Limerick". That section should be deleted. The Minister should be a good Clareman and locate the office at Shannon Airport where it should be. There was a ferry in operation to Aughinish when the industrial development was taking place there and that was an easy method of transport. Shannon Airport would provide an immediate facility and Shannon Free Airport Development Company are also situated there. There are many reasons for industrial promotion at Shannon Airport. I wish to refer to Clarecastle harbour.

Is there a harbour in Clarecastle?

I am glad the little village in which I reside has been mentioned so often in Dáil Éireann. It is a great help to me in that I will be able to call to my parishioners and tell them we were mentioned all day in the Dáil for one good reason or other. This was a great day for Clarecastle because every speaker who contributed asked why Clarecastle was left out. I am the harbour commissioner and I did not ask the Minister to leave out Clarecastle but neither did I ask him to include it. It is acceptable to me whether the Minister includes Clarecastle or not.

Substantial development has taken place at Clarecastle. An entrepreneur of great vision and courage, Mr. Whelan, has invested heavily in the area. He was the first Clareman to provide an oceangoing tug on the River Shannon. I admire his tenacity — I do not know whether he admires mine or not — and the way he has proceeded with the development of ports on the Shannon. He created a lot of employment for Clare people on our side of the river. In Clarecastle there is a small port that was utilised substantially by traders for a long number of years but it then fell into disuse because the river silted up and there were other impediments to shipping.

In the drawing up of the national plan the commissioners made a submission — I think at the encouragement of the Minister — in which they sought £500,000 for the further development of the Fergus estuary. I believe that would be money well spent. In the long term substantial savings would be made to the Exchequer if Clarecastle port was fully utilised. For instance, quite heavy loads could be taken off the west Clare roads and the goods could be shipped directly from Clarecastle down along the estuary to any of the major developments along the River Shannon. With the Moneypoint development there was the sad experience of the roads being wrecked by heavy loads. By using the national primary route to Clarecastle from whatever quarries exist in the area, heavy stone could be transported quite easily down the Fergus estuary. The proposal that was submitted to Brussels was badly needed and I hope it will be successful.

There is nothing sinister about it.

My main concern in regard to this Bill is that it gives substance to a lot of fears which people have about overlapping development agencies. If the Minister changed some of these aspects in the Bill it would be a better Bill and we could look to the future with a possibility of greater progress on the Shannon estuary.

Like my collegaue, Deputy Carey, I too have quite a lot of reservations about this matter, especially in view of the fact that this port has been taken as a model for other ports. Perhaps the mistake the Minister made was in starting at the most difficult one. If he had considered a more straightforward port such as the port of Cork he would not have had as many problems with awkward Deputies like Deputy Carey.

The concept of a port authority is absolutely right. My main concern is the constitution of the board. Maybe the Minister was advised on this matter and if there are reasons for his decision I would like to hear them. I am of the opinion more and more as I get older that the fewer appointments the Minister makes the better, for a number of reasons. For instance, the Government could consider some very experienced people when a vacancy becomes available — people who would probably be interpreted even by the general public as being the best possible people for the job. I am not saying we would appoint political hacks. Invariably — and this has been the pattern — these people settle down to do a good job but regrettably what happens, as happened very recently in the Sugar Company, is that when the time comes for reappointment these very good people are kicked out and the Minister appoints somebody of his choice. That has been the pattern and we are all to blame for it. I would like to see us getting out of that rut once and for all.

If a sugar company, a harbour or a port authority is to succeed, people who are prepared to take courageous, unpopular decisions are needed. Whether they offend one Minister or another is immaterial. In the long term we need to appoint people who will be there for a determined term of office and who, depending on their merits, would be reappointed. A different system of reappointment would have to be introduced at that stage. What a harbour ports authority needs more than anything else is continuity as the results of any decisions made will not be seen for a long time. As I said, a person is entitled to supervise decisions made and see them bear results. What has happened in the past is that no sooner has a person been appointed but he has been kicked off with the result that there is no continuity. People waver about wondering what the Minister may think about a certain matter but this should not be a consideration. Decisions should be taken based purely on commercial consideration.

The purpose of this legislation relating to Shannon is to promote business and to develop the harbour. With respect, these areas are fairly well looked after. In the first place we have SFADCo, whom I have worked with and who are doing excellent work, and, secondly, we have the IDA who are doing a good job in that region. Since taking an interest in this legislation I have begun to wonder whether the Minister is now setting up a third tier of bureaucracy to do the work that is already being done reasonably well by both the IDA and SFADCo. For instance, and this is a delicate question, what effect will the legislation have? Will it lead to confrontation and will there be local jealousies on the part of SFADCo, the IDA and now the new Authority? Surely there is already a super abundance of corporations and bodies in the Shannon region.

Does this proposal meet with local approval? We have heard Deputy Carey and others say that it does not. Is this another IDA for Limerick with separate funding? When we take a closer look we will see that no funding is provided. If we are to talk about a Harbours Bill we must in fairness consider all harbours. We should not consider one harbour in isolation and draw up a set of rules for that harbour. We should take a look at the entire scene — Dublin, Cork, Galway, Rosslare, Waterford and even Youghal. In this miniscule harbour recently we witnessed the most extraordinary decision in respect of a pier that was falling down. When we were in Government in 1975 a deputation came to Dublin to meet Deputy Peter Barry when we had to do something about it but what happened recently is that the Fianna Fáil controlled urban district council decided to lease the pier to someone for their exclusive use for a 35 year period. He overhauled it. This does not amount to good harbour development.

Only after it had fallen into the sea.

Exactly, it fell into the sea. It is the Minister's responsibility to replace it. It is not the responsibility of a local entrepreneur to do so.

It fell into the sea because of neglect.

It fell into the sea while the Minister's party were in power but in our time we had to put it right. Now it is being given over to private enterprise. That certainly is not the way to do business.

We need a common harbours policy, not sloppy legislation relating to one port. A pre-requisite for the development of marine and leisure facilities is a clean and unpolluted harbour. We talk about the need to erect treatment plants but the Water Pollution Bill which will come before the House shortly will only deal with pollution caused by farmers. That Bill should tackle the pollution being caused by urban and city municipal authorities who are the highest pollutors. Who in their sane senses would put these people in charge? I certainly would not but it is one job I would like to give to the Shannon Harbour Authority as it is they who would be best suited to looking after this problem. However, they are not being given that power.

I note from the Bill that the Minister proposes to give the new body the authority to take an interest in mariculture and fish farming. I would have my doubts about this, not that there would be anything wrong with it but I would rather see them concentrate on their main job, the getting of ships in and out quickly, both efficiently and cheaply. We have seen what has happened in Scotland and in Norway and it is now clear that a pre-requisite for marine development, already taking place around our coasts, is clean water. We do have safe and sheltered harbours but if the waters are not right fish will not survive, be they shellfish, salmon or trout.

During the years we have built up a respectable level of commerce. Our harbours are very busy. The shipment of meat, butter and milk powder is now a daily event. We can further expand our harbour business by promoting industry on the water front, given that most of what we process will be exported. We do not need an extra body or structure to do this. The harbour commissioners are more than capable of regulating harbour business. The IDA promote and develop our industry. If we have to have another type of harbour commissioner, so be it, but let him for goodness sake concentrate on what is to my mind the primary job of a port authority, controlling traffic and making sure that very expensive ships move quickly and safely in and out of our harbours.

We have a small open economy heavily dependent on overseas trade. Opportunities do exist and indeed we should not forget, as Deputy Carey pointed out, about our offshore developments as these will provide us with harbour business. These offshore service stations require specialised harbour development and harbour servicing. After the Channel Tunnel is open we will be the only truly island nation in the EC, hence our first priority must be the appointment of a top class commercial team to keep shipping moving, to provide weather information along with up to the minute information on docking availability. Time in this case means big money. We must have competitive harbour charges. How many times has it been said that the most expensive piece of water in the world is the strip between ourselves and the UK and Europe? Dredging operations must take account of bigger and bigger ships.

As we have heard, the people in the Limerick region are not happy. As an island nation we are totally dependent on sea transport both for our imports and exports. Ports are the focal point of international trade. It is vital that our ports be managed and equipped efficiently. The importance of efficient ports to the economy will be of greater significance as time goes on. If this Bill is the prototype for other ports it will be disastrous. How in heaven's name will the complicated business of harbour shipping be operated by a loosely knit board? It should be all about proper port management, yet this new body will dabble in mariculture, tourism and recreation which are already taken care of under diverse headings. Inefficiency adds up to higher port charges and less competitive ports. Giving a wide range of duties to management means dissipated and diminished levels of service. If this Bill is to be a model let it be a good one. We need a broadly based board with a fair representation of local authorities with a single mandate to run the ports efficiently. Navigational facilities and manned weather stations are also needed. I recently raised that issue in the House as we are falling into the same trap as Britain fell into ten years ago, of going for automated weather stations. We do not seem to realise that a manned weather station is the traffic lights of a port and only men — not machines — can tell when a fog is approaching, causing delay to shipping. Conversely they also know when the fog will lift and when it is safe to let the ships in. We should not go down the same road as Britain in this regard. One of our vital ports in Cork is getting rid of the weather station and putting in a machine. The same applies to other areas.

Special facilities will be needed to deal with the bigger vessels now operating. We cannot allow a disaster of the magnitude of Bantry Bay to happen again but it will if we do not have the proper facilities. Pollution control in our harbours is becoming increasingly important but this Bill as a pattern for our major ports does not meet our requirements. Opposition to the Bill has been voiced by all authorities in harbour areas. A good port is our industrial lifeline as we export three quarters of what we produce, almost £11 billion worth and we import goods to the value of £9 billion. As a nation on the periphery of Europe we must have cost effective links with the market place. This waterway to the UK and Europe is the most expensive in the world and we do not realise how vital our ports are until we are faced with disputes such as the 1988 strike by the British National Union of Seamen when many firms were completely cut off. One or two of my acquaintances nearly went to the wall. Port efficiency requires all the structures to be in place to ensure efficient handling of shipping.

Leave mariculture to the fish farmers and the Department of the Marine. This is a highly specialised area where a large volume of expertise is needed and is readily available. Fish farming in our estuaries is moving at a slow but disciplined pace. We have encountered many problems in this highly specialised area and the farmers concerned work very closely with their colleagues in the UK and Norway and the Department of the Marine. We would be very unwise to dabble in this area or to transfer this responsibility to somebody else. When we discuss other marine matters the same rules should apply. Shellfish farming is a very expensive venture involving virtual ownership of stretches of the estuary. It is best left to the people involved under the control of the Department of the Marine. However, especially in the case of the Shannon Estuary, pollution control to ensure the survival of marine life is vital and this should certainly be under the control of the new Authority. With the increased number of port industries and the increased levels of municipal effluent it is vitally important that the new Authority should be in a position to continuously monitor the problem and bring polluters before the courts.

I see no problem in the new Authority working towards more harbour related industries because such industries are the principal harbour users but it makes good sense to work with a properly constituted harbour authority. There is merit in this Authority working closely with harbour industries and if we had such an authority in Cork harbour more could be done to get shipyards like Verolme Dockyard once more repairing ships.

Investment in port industry is the key to greater economy and efficiency and it will be a vital factor in our survival after 1992. This country is very keen on boards and it is useful to have them to blame when things go wrong. We need national investment to ensure that we have more and more trade which will generate more prosperity. That, in turn, will bring more investment in harbour industry and infrastructure. Look at the North with whom we are now in competition for harbour business. They are heavily funded by the UK Government and by the European Regional Fund of which we do not seem to be aware. This enables them to offer much lower port charges than ours. The Central Statistics Office stated that in 1988, 25 per cent of our exports and imports came through the North and this means more job losses and less business for us. We need positive action on a national scale to recover that business. With the change in transport, mostly to container traffic, roll-on roll-off with a quick turnaround, any harbour authority must be on its toes and allowed to concentrate its attention without any other distraction. The main business of any port authority is to move goods quickly, cheaply, efficiently and safely. Ports should be handled by the commercial sector, outside the Civil Service environment, and we are now in a position to avail of the European Regional Development Fund.

We have voiced our concern about this Bill in the context of a national ports policy. The Minister stated his intention to model future legislation on this Bill. The object of the Bill is to promote activities other than the main one, the statutory duty of any harbour authority to provide an efficient, cost effective service to seagoing trade. This new body should be concerned with the full, effective use of the harbour in making a success of our export drive, no more and no less. After this you are left with duplication. Do not make this Bill a model for anything as different ports will require different solutions. We need laws to allow our harbours to compete commercially and all the "mod cons" facilities for trade activities supported by a port authority, tourism, mariculture etc., must not be allowed to take from the main business, a cost effective service to the nation.

All legislation must be co-ordinated and my main opposition to the Bill is that the board which the Minister is thinking about is not the one to do the job. I do not even agree with my colleague, Deputy Carey. We need a team of commercial people appointed by their chambers of commerce and who would not be shifted by successive Ministers. They would be appointed on the basis of their talent and proven ability. They would have a vested interest in the port. Why not? They are the people who would ensure that schemes would work. We should appoint people who would ensure that that very expensive strip of water is developed to its full potential. There is a lot of talk about 1992 but my concern is what will happen after that year. I would like to think that this little country of ours, the only island nation in Europe, will be able to compete in a difficult market place and will continue to attract industries.

Debate adjourned.