Deputy Hegarty was in possession.
Harbours (Shannon Estuary Development Corporation) Bill, 1988: Second Stage (Resumed).
I want to sum up what I said on the previous occasion. Considering the importance of our ports in the context of trading as an island nation, one realises that good legislation is vital in this high priority area. I fully endorse the Minister's point about the need to get our ports into shape to cope with the growth in trading in the nineties as a result of the expansion in food processing. We must have an efficient service to ensure that our goods are distributed in double quick time arriving in good condition on the supermarket shelves. This is the primary function of a port authority. Our shipping costs are well out of line and we cannot continue that way. Food products are bulky and perishable and transport costs are a large factor in the success or failure of our export drive. European competition is very keen and only the fittest will survive. There is a growing demand for fresh food. This presupposes a 24 hour a day delivery service in order to develop food exports.
I do not agree with this Bill as a pattern for other ports but the Minister must be congratulated on bringing forward the Bill if for no other reason than to emphasise the importance of our harbours in the battle for survival from 1992 on. Our harbour costs and our ability to cope with all types of traffic must be in line if our goods are to be competitive. Our exporters will not receive a carriage subsidy to the market. We are on the periphery of Europe, and as somebody else said we could be described as being the Aran Islands of Europe. We will not be helped into the marketplace. We need not only to be competitive but to be better than our competitors to get into the European market. The European market share is there for us only if we can supply top class goods at the right price. We have a major handicap because of our location on the periphery of Europe. We must overcome this handicap. A good efficient port authority is a prerequisite for success. We must work on a proper model for this Authority, whether it be in Cork Waterford, Shannon or whatever.
For this Authority we need a small team of businessmen and women who are involved and interested in harbour affairs. We need people who know what is needed and how to go about getting it. We need people who will not be put off by telephone calls from higher places, people who are prepared to devote their time generously on behalf of the country. These people are available if we look for them.
A natural evolution in other ports such as Cork, Waterford and Galway would be the establishment of a SFADCo type organisation to develop the ports. Cork harbour needs an organisation to get the dockyard going again to ensure the future of our refinery and to canvas industry for the port area. The power station at Aghada is daily discharging millions of gallons of boiling water into the harbour. This could be used in a major horticultural project or for a leisure centre. This is the sort of thing a SFADCo like organisation could and should get involved with.
A port authority should also cater for the safe mooring of our fishing fleet. This facility has been sadly neglected over the years by successive Governments. Not many fishermen can rest easy when a force eight storm blows up. Most of them spend the night out with their boats trying to make sure that the craft, valued at up to £1 million, will be safe. Compared to what is being done in other countries, we have a long way to go in providing safe moorings for our fishing fleet.
This Bill has given us a timely opportunity to discuss all aspects of harbour development. I am not over-concerned to allow this port authority to get into too many areas. Mariculture, for instance, is well looked after by the Department of the Marine. They have the technology and are doing a good job farming shellfish and so on. We should leave them with that job. Fishermen might crib from time to time about too much attention from the Naval Service, but basically the fishermen are dealt with very well by the Department of the Marine. What is not provided is safe mooring facilities when the fishermen take their boats back to base.
I live near the small port of Ballycotton and I know from experience that every time a storm blows up we are in fear and trembling. Fishermen have to go out to work early in the morning and it is not fair that they should have to spend their night going up and down to the boats, even though they cannot do a whole lot about it. I am sure that we would have no difficulty getting agreement from all sides of the House to spend money providing proper mooring facilities for the valuable sophisticated vessels being used by the fishermen. In the North of Ireland, for instance, a lot of money has been spent providing proper mooring facilities. When I was on the Council of Europe I saw places where there were hydraulic doors in harbours and if gales blew up, the doors could be closed. That is the sort of thing that should be provided in proper harbour development. In proper harbour development we should have on-shore facilities, such as ice plants and proper hygienic handling of fish, the ability to deal with articulated vehicles and so on.
Pollution is a major problem which has to be tackled. We need a total change of attitude by the Government. There is no point blaming county councils or county managers when raw sewage is pumped into our harbours. We are to blame because we will not set aside the necessary funding for treatment plants in our major harbours. We cannot achieve control overnight but we should look seriously at pollution controls. I would prefer to see this type of authority in charge of it rather than the local authorities who, through no fault of their own, are often the greatest polluters.
I compliment the Minister on bringing this legislation before the House although I do not totally agree with it. I am unhappy with this being a model for other harbours. I would have preferred more time to tease out the sort of things I would like to see in this Bill. I do not know if this Bill can be amended to include what I would like it to include. There is a lot to be commended in the Bill but there is an awful lot more that I would like to see in it.
I welcome this Bill. Its gestation has taken a long time. As far as I can recall, talks about the need for a coherent development of the Shannon Estuary have been going on since the end of the Second World War, or the early fifties. The introduction of this Bill is very timely, taken in the context of developments in the European Community, and more so in the context of transport developments within the Community. On 1 January 1993 the internal free market of 320 million people will come into being. The implications of this major development are of fundamental importance to Ireland. With the opening of the channel tunnel in 1993 Ireland will be the only offshore island in the European Community, that is we will be without direct road or rail links with the rest of the Community. In consequence Ireland will be totally dependent on port facilities in stark contrast with the rest of our Community partners.
To put this development in its real context, Ireland's dependency on trade is exceeded in the Community only by the Benelux countries and those countries share land frontiers with other states in the Community. Ireland is an exporting nation selling two-thirds of its national output abroad. Seventy-five per cent of these exports go to states within the Community. The value of these exports grew from £3.9 billion in 1980 to £10.4 billion in 1987, almost a three fold increase resulting in the achievement of a trade surplus of £1.5 billion in 1987.
The nation's trade depends on sea transport with the exception of a limited volume, less than 0.5 per cent, of high value commodities which travel by air. Therefore efficient and cost effective links with the rest of the Community are essential for the economic development of the nation and for the prospects of increased employment for our people.
The Minister has said that this Bill is only the first in a series of Bills designed to put port development on a sound commercial and cost effective footing. I ask the Minister, before he proceeds down this road, to consider setting up a national ports authority to exercise control and co-ordinate the activities of major airports and seaports in an effort to get the major facilities working for the greater national good. Being an island nation we have got to develop for our own survival a coherent overseas transport policy. Without an adequate transport infrastructure we will find it harder and harder to maintain a standard of living for our people.
Ireland is only about half the size of New York and New Jersey taken together. These two states, whose gross national product either taken singly or together more than outstrips Ireland's, have one unified ports authority which not alone looks after the major seaports but also the airports. They have evolved a coherent transport policy which takes all modes of transport into account. We have a multiplicity of port authorities and there is a lack of co-ordination. Aer Rianta look after the airports and the different harbour authorities, such as the Shannon Harbour Authority, the Cork Port Authority, Dublin Port and Docks Board, all look after their own small parochial interests with no regard for the greater national good. Under this Bill we are setting up a Shannon port authority. On one side of the Shannon there is a major international airport which will act independently of and without reference to the running of the Shannon estuary port itself.
In considering the future of our ports industry, and a major industry it is, another factor to be considered is that much of Irish industry, in fact much of industry worldwide, is now geared to a stock control concept of "just in time", in short JIT. This means that products only arrive at the factory on the one hand and in the market place on the other as required, thereby saving immense costs in storage and warehousing. What happens is that the unit of transport becomes the manufacturer's store and the freight operator must provide the service which fits the customers' timing requirements. In this way money is not tied up in holding large inventories on the manufacturer's or customer's premises. These developments in the JIT concept both in Ireland and in Europe call for new legislation based on the commercial concept which enables the ports industry to give a cost effective and efficient service to the nation. I regard this Harbours Bill as a step in this direction. However it is only a first step.
TheNational Development Plan envisages the development of the central and southern corridors to the UK and onwards by land bridge to Europe and direct services to the continent. When we look at the Shannon we should be courageous and far seeing in our thinking. I hope the Government would look upon the whole island of Ireland as an entreport where goods can travel through from Europe to the United States or vice versa free of all taxes and with the minimum of bureaucratic hindrance. I would regard the Shannon estuary as the axis on which this whole concept would turn. It is ideally placed to play a major role in this concept. It is for instance a day's steaming nearer America than Rotterdam and I would see Shannon being developed as a key distribution centre for both England and Ireland for container traffic. With the minimum of infrastructural development or dredging the Shannon could take 130,000 tonne container ships. The Moneypoint jetty which at present is probably used less than 100 days a year is capable of unloading coal at the rate of 130,000 tonnes every four days or 2,500 tonnes per hour. It can be safely taken that the capital investment in this jetty alone must have been in the region of between £10 million and £20 million. It is a shame that this capital intensive infrastructure should be lying idle for approximately 200 days a year.
The development of adequate road and rail facilities onto Moneypoint pier and an adequate connection to Dublin and Rosslare now means that huge container ships could be unloaded quickly and the containers transferred expeditiously through these ports to south, central and northern England, I know this would require a degree of organisation and co-operation between management and unions but this is well within the scope of the stevedoring and port authority industry in the Limerick area. If Ireland is to survive and give its population a high standard of living it has got to move into areas where we can perform as well as, if not better, than other people in the same line of business. This is one area in which we can perform exceedingly well.
We have to build on our national resources, the first and most important of which is the intelligence and adaptability of our people and their ability to work hard and efficiently. The second is the Shannon, an estuary which could accommodate at one stage the British Atlantic fleet. These two must be harnessed for the benefit not only of the people in the Shannon area but also for the rest of the people. As I said previously, I think the answer to the development of our ports is a national ports authority who would take cognisance of our major ports around our coastline as well as our airports both east and west and north and south. It is in this context that I would like to say a few words about the east coast, specifically the Dublin area.
If the Shannon is the axis on which our Atlantic container traffic would turn Dublin would be the axis on which the east coast traffic to central and northern England and further on into northern Europe would turn. Provision of adequate facilities on both ends of the corridor between Shannon and Dublin is essential. In the present circumstances of financial rectitude and in looking for a pound's worth of value for every pound spent the provision of two terminals on the east coast within seven to eight miles of each other is ludicrous. Roll-on-roll off ferries must carry freight to be financially viable and the imposition of juggernauts on the beautiful and high amenity harbour and town of Dún Laoghaire is a backward step. Dún Laoghaire is a harbour crying out for a marina. With proper and careful development it can become the centre for seaport development on the east coast. It does not need a ferry terminal that is going to get more and more choked with heavy through traffic. The sensible thing to do is to have a roll-on-roll off ferry centralised in Dublin port where there are adequate road and rail connections with the rest of the State.
The sea crossing from Dublin to Holyhead takes almost the exact time as the crossing from Dún Laoghaire to Holyhead takes almost the exact time of the onwards to the channel tunnel are adequate. The road facilities are being upgraded at a cost of approximately £500 million and should in the next two years be able to carry all the road traffic in comfort from Holyhead onwards. Liver-pool is already well served with rail and road facilities and can accommodate any onward traffic from Ireland.
In conclusion, I would like to reiterate both themes. First, I welcome this Bill in the context of it being the first in a series of Bills aimed at the development of our port facilities and, secondly, I ask the Minister before he proceeds further to consider setting up a national ports authority to exercise control over airports and major shipping ports, to co-ordinate their activities and get them working for the greater national good.
I should like to make a few brief remarks in relation to this legislation. I do so with a sense of frustration because this matter should have been resolved in the sixties, or at least in the seventies. It is a sad indictment that we are dealing with it in the late eighties. This has been a potential resource in the Shannon estuarial area linking the counties of Kerry, Clare and Limerick, and perhaps some day a student will try to analyse the reasons for the failure to develop this area into a properly coordinated and structured estuarial authority.
The reasons for the failure are many; perhaps it is because of the multiplicity of local authorities involved or because of the narrow vested interests of the harbour authorities in question. At any rate it is a sad indictment on us all — and those who have gone before us — that we have failed to organise this area into what is potentially one of the best harbours in Western Europe. The facility is there and we, as a nation, have failed to exploit it. It is a sad reflection on the public representatives of the areas in question down through the years and of those in management of the various harbour authorities.
I cannot claim to go back as far as the Second World War like my colleague, Deputy Fitzpatrick, but from reading about the subject it is clear that many efforts have been made over the years to set the ball in motion to bring about some co-ordination. In the sixties, there were various reports and attempts by the Shannon and regional development organisations to do something but nothing happened. Our failure in this area has cost the nation dearly. In recent years some development has taken place but, unfortunately, it has been in a totally unco-ordinated manner. While we welcome individual projects I am greatly concerned at the lack of overall direction in relation to the requirements for the development of the area and that we have allowed developments to take place on anad hoc basis.
Something like this Bill has had many airings over the years and there is not a great deal of difference between the parties in the House in relation to this matter. Needless to say, the people of Kilrush have a different view from that of the people of Limerick and perhaps the people of Kerry have a different view from that of people in Foynes or other smaller harbours on the northern side of the estuary. As long as we keep fighting development will not take place. It is time for everybody to take a responsible attitude to this Bill, to come together and to hammer out an agreement on the legislation. The fact that legislation is necessary seems to be accepted by everybody although people have different views, perhaps because of their location in the House. At any rate, that was the case in 1982 when a similar Bill was discussed and in 1986 and 1987.
Looking through the contributions, very few points of substance seem to separate the various contributors to the debate and all at some stage of their political career seemed to accept that there is a need for some co-ordination development and structures to be put in place in relation to the development of the Shannon estuarial area. The estuary is not the preserve of any one group, body or individual. It should be shared, exploited and developed for commercial reasons for the benefit of the country as a whole and, more specifically, for the benefit of the surrounding counties and cities.
Towns will be included in counties. I do not know if this Bill is better or worse than previous legislation brought before this House. The political exploitation of the area is second to none. Even in my time in Government, Ministers were trotted down to look at the Shannon and the waters there must have seen more Ministers gazing at it than any other strip of water in the country. I often wondered what Ministers were saying to themselves as they looked across the Shannon Estuary. They could hardly have said much more than "I see Clare yonder" or — from the other side —"I see Kerry is still on the other side". Various Ministers and parties have at numerous times attempted to use the Shannon estuarial area for political purposes. My interest is somewhat peripheral. Kerry north has an interest in the Shannon Estuary and in its development, particularly in relation to the Ballylongford and Tarbet lands zoned for industrial development.
We are very disappointed that nothing has happened in the last ten to 15 years although there has been talk of oil refineries and smelters. However, nothing has happened and I often wonder whether the reason for the failure is linked to the fact that we have not had a single estuarial authority in a position to market this area generally. Questions have also been asked in relation to the location of the various projects in the area. I often wonder why we built a coal burning energy station on the west coast. Obviously, the depth of the water was an attraction but, as the wind blew the fumes across the rest of the country, was it a political decision or did the ESB have clear authority in relation to siting the Moneypoint station?
When the Deputy was Minister, he opened it.
The Deputy was quite glad that I opened it, if I remember correctly.
I was delighted.
Let me address specific concerns I have in relation to this legislation which I hope the Minister will examine on Committee Stage. I will be tabling a number of amendments which I hope the Minister will consider. Concerns have been voiced, particularly in the Limerick area, in regard to the matter. I am puzzled regarding the attitude of Foynes because if they are asked to come in they seem to want to stay out, and if they are asked to stay out, they seem to want to come in.
I would have thought that the question of the location of the Authority is a matter for the Authority themselves. They might be located in Limerick or Foynes, I could suggest that they should be located in Tarbert and I am sure Deputies from Clare would suggest a location in that county. Does it really matter at the end of the day? We must get these people working and functioning on behalf of the estuary and I should like to feel that when they apply themselves to their function, they will sell the estuary as a whole and that their decisions will not be based on petty considerations. As we have seen from the coal burning stations in Moneypoint and Aughinish, the benefits spread to the whole estuarial authority region.
Despite the fact that Alcan is 30 or 40 miles from Limerick, Limerick city has benefited enormously. Likewise, despite the fact that Moneypoint is across the estuary from north Kerry and west Limerick, the facility of the ferry at Tarbert linked to Kilimer makes it possible for people to live on one side and work on the other. There are concerns in relation to the structuring of the boards of this company and the Minister may have to look at that question. I do not have any objection to the appointment of small boards but the Minister will have to consider establishing sub-board structures to cater for industrial relations and local interests. He will have to find some way to enable them to make a contribution to the development of the estuary.
I do not think that the decision to give the Authority responsibility for the entire estuary has been well thought out particularly when one considers the need for amenity facilities, mariculture development and so on. The Minister should elaborate on that decision. The estuary holds out considerable prospects for development as an amenity area and for mariculture and I do not see any reason why all projects cannot be developed in tandem. There is no reason we cannot have major industrial projects in operation alongside smaller projects such as sailing, the development of marinas and so on. Such developments have taken place in other parts of the world. I do not think that the increase in shipping in the estuary will endanger other projects.
I am sure the Minister is aware of the grave concern that has been expressed by staff of the Limerick Harbour Authority about their future position. Those people have given many years' service to the Limerick Harbour Commissioners. The Minister will have to listen to their views and cater for their pension and salary entitlements. I do not accept the argument that has been put forward that those matters cannot be dealt with. They can be dealt with satisfactorily by the new Authority. I say that as a person who represents workers and is concerned about the protection and preservation of status in jobs and the pensions of workers. It should not be beyond the ability of the Department to ensure that workers who may have to transfer to a new location will not be any worse off than they are at present. The Minister, if he established a sub-board structure, would be able to ensure that all technical matters are dealt with methodically. I have no doubt that if that is done it will receive general agreement.
I should like to refer to the chain of authority of the new harbour authority. The harbourmasters have authority within their areas but if there is to be a harbourmaster for the entire estuary, I do not see any point in having three or four people with the same status. Some person will have to accept overall responsibility at the end of the day. That is another technical matter which the Minister should be in a position to sort out during the course of the Committee Stage debate. It is surprising that it has not been possible to get agreement in regard to the estuary in the last 20 years. We do not know if the Bill will pass all stages although it looks possible, unlike other ill-fated measures.
However, in the interests of the region it is about time we forgot about political posturing and got together in a committee of the House to deal with the provisions of the Bill. Such committees worked very successfully in the last few years. I can recall a divergence of opinion energing during the course of the Second Stage debate of a Bill and that at a Special Committee, the Minister for Justice, and the Fine Gael spokesman reached agreement in regard to its provisions. It should be possible to do something similar in regard to this Bill.
It is fundamentally important that we use our knowledge and political skills to launch an estuarial authority that will receive general agreement. We cannot hope for 100 per cent agreement but we should try to get consensus. It appears that the Government, and the one time main Opposition party, are heading for a collision on the Bill and that is regrettable. We have been sent here to represent our constituencies and to try to do something for the development of our areas.
The Minister should consider sending the Bill to a Committee of the House so that we will not have political bickering at local and national level that has taken place in the last 20 years. It was because of that bickering that legislation like this has been on the merry-go-round, over fences and back again. We have hadad hoc and mish-mash development in the Shannon estuary as a result. The resource is too valuable for us to continue in this way.
It is my intention to table amendments on Committee Stage in an effort to get clarification from the Minister on a number of issues. I should like to ask the Minister to consider sending the Bill to a Special Committee and discuss the matter with the Whips. At the end of the day we are charged with rectifying the mistakes made in the last 20 years. We have an opportunity to do that now and we should produce a Bill that will augur well for the development of the Shannon estuary.
I welcome the opportunity to discuss harbour development throughout the country. In the course of his introduction the Minister made it clear that he was anxious that there should be a general debate on developments of ports and harbours. A number of Members availed of the opportunity to deal with the position throughout the country rather than concentrating on the Shannon estuary. I was interested to note from Deputy Carey's contribution that there is a harbour at Clarecastle in the Minister's constituency but I am surprised it has not been included in the Bill. That was a serious omission. Deputy Carey has informed us that he was the harbourmaster. He has the right credentials for such a position in a nautical sense being like a person who is well fed on rum and all things nice that come from the sea. The Minister should have included the harbour in his constituency that is under the control of a Member of the House. According to statistics 35 members are teachers, 25 are farmers, 13 are publicans and six are undertakers, but this is the first time I have heard of a Member being a harbourmaster.
The Deputy has slightly misconstrued his position; he is a trustee.
Another Member has a rather unusual occupation; he is a bailiff. I understand that the Minister was a bailiff. He has an insight into the anti-rod campaign from the other side of the river.
The Deputy has his details mixed up.
It is important to have a general debate on harbour development but it is a pity it is not being taken in conjunction with the amending of the Harbours Act, 1946, which is very discriminatory. It selects 12 locations in the State for preferential treatment as far as State aid is concerned and excludes dozens of other locations from any type of assistance other than what they can obtain from local authorities. That is unhealthy bearing in mind that local authorities have been drained of finance. Our harbours are not simply involved in commercial activity. Many of them would be self-sustaining commercially if they were brought up to a proper standard. They also have massive potential from a tourism point of view and I believe the Minister for the Marine, in conjunction with the Minister for Tourism and Transport, should consider this aspect.
We have many legacies from the time of the British occupation of this country, some of which are not very nice. Some of them are divisive or ugly, and those are the ruins we tend to remember, but one of the better legacies we inherited from that occupation was a splendid network of harbours. In conjunction with Britannia ruling the waves, the British also built fantastic harbours but during our 67 years of self-rule we have been busy overseeing the collapse of most of these harbours into the sea rather than maintaining and using them beneficially. Most of the harbours have been totally neglected. This is a disgrace. Anybody who does a tour of part of the coast will see within the space of 100 miles dozens of brilliantly constructed harbours made of solid stone. Even taking all the important factors into account, for example, weather, location and shelter, it is a pity that we have neglected these harbours. I regret that this Bill is not much more extensive and ambitious. We need an ambitious, innovative type of mind to oversee the maintenance and reconstruction of these harbours not just from a commercial point of view but from a tourism point of view also.
Nowadays it is a bit of a cliche to hear the chairman of Bord Fáilte and the Minister talking about the need for special interest sports and leisure activities. Water sports and allied activities have great potential from a tourism point of view but if we want to utilise the water resource around this island we have got to have access to it and provide facilities where boats can be moored and kept in safety during storms. However, instead of doing that we have gone in the other direction. I should like the Minister, to use a nautical expression, to take on board the points I have made here today. He should broaden the coverage of the 1946 Act so that people in towns like Dungarvan, Youghal and Kinsale, to name some of the larger ones on the south coast, will have an opportunity of getting involved in commercial activities, as well as tourism activities, on a very large scale. Boat sailing, yachting and motor cruising have become tremendously popular in recent years. Twenty-five years ago one would not have seen a decent yacht in most harbours in this country, perhaps there would have been a few boats without outboard engines, but even though that whole scene has been transformed we are not in a position to capitalise on it.
I know the Minister is concerned about the construction of marinas, and he is to be congratulated on this. This is a very positive step in the type of development which is necessary. I understand there are plans for the construction of seven marinas around the coast. That is the type of activity we should be promoting. I cannot think of anything which would be more conducive to the development of the tourism industry. It is real development, not just pie in the sky, which will be productive. I should like to see an increase in that type of activity. I get annoyed at times when I hear all the squabbling about the location of marinas for Dún Laoghaire and other places. This squabbling is churlish and childish. What we should be doing is getting on with such development. I am often blamed for being a bit rough in what I say but I believe we are a nation of begrudgers. The biggest problem in regard to development in this country is that if somebody thinks you are going to make money and get on they will put a spoke in your wheel, as they say. It is a bloody minded attitude and a curse of our society. It is a pity that these developments cannot go ahead. If planning permission has been given and the development is of a regular nature, it should go ahead. We seem to object to everything, whether it is a factory or a marina. This attitude of mind can be frightening at times.
In the early seventies we had legislation relating to harbours which was useful and allowed for the development of four major fishing ports, at Killybegs, Castletownbere, Dunmore East and Howth. Those four developments have been completed for some years — I think Howth was the last development to be completed — and have been of tremendous advantage to the fishing industry. For instance, Killybegs could hardly have been developed to its present state without such an ambitious programme. I might say that Castletownbere never really realised its full potential but it is getting there even if only in fits and starts. Dunmore East has a problem because of seasonality. When the development was mooted in Dunmore East the herring catches there were enormous but by the time the development was finished the herring catches were quite small and restricted due to quotas. The development at Howth is most exciting because not alone is a massive area devoted to fishing boats — they are not boats any longer but ships — but there is also the type of development I referred to earlier, a marina. This must be of colossal advantage to the people of Howth and surrounding areas. It is a magnificient venture and illustrates what can be done within the boundaries of the type of harbours I referred to which were originally built by the British but which we have allowed to fall into the sea in most cases.
I should like the Minister to look at that overall aspect in regard to harbours, whether it is a harbour 20 yards long, 200 yards long or 500 yards in a semi-circle. As I have said, 90 per cent of our harbours are not even maintained to a decent standard but if we had a national policy in this area there is an awful lot we could do. Even if we oppose the Bill at the end of the day one of the good points of this debate is that it allows us to exchange views on matters like this.
I would advocate that, like the strategy for the four fishing harbours in the late sixties or early seventies, we should have a national ports strategy for the larger industrialised commercial harbours, one of which should be Shannon. If we look at a map of Ireland it is easy to see where the opportunities and potential for major harbour developments lie. As some Members of the House know, a series of proposals have been submitted to the European Community for the development of some of our major harbours, principally at Dublin, Cork, Waterford and Limerick. If we had a national ports strategy which governed the development of those four harbours alone we would be going a long way towards achieving an admirable objective.
I am not saying we should omit smaller harbours, I would be contradicting myself if I so advocated because of the fact that I said we should repeal the 1946 Act. At least we should have a two-tiered, if not a three-tiered system under which we develop four major industrialised harbours — those I have mentioned — and at a lower level develop perhaps 50 or 60 harbours, giving assistance to a third category of very small harbours or inlets, whether it be Clarecastle or wherever. Let us not just take a shot in the dark and say we will do a bit here this year, stop Drogheda from falling into the sea next year, or whatever. I know Drogheda was threatened in that fashion about four years ago.
Very recently we prevented that.
Another simple activity that might be undertaken with regard to harbours under the aegis of the Department of the Marine is that of dredging. The dozens, or hundreds, of harbours along the coast I have mentioned are useless because what should be berthage or mooring space is just a big bank of mud or silt. One now has to depend on local authorities to get anything done and they do not have the necessary finance. A much more ordered system would be to have the Department of the Marine not just responsible for harbours, all harbours, but also to have the machinery with which they could actually operate those harbours.
For instance, why do the Department of the Marine not have two or three dredgers around the coast at strategic points and systematically dredge each of these bays or harbours where there are the fortification, stonework and mooring facilities? It would be a "do it yourself" system because, at present, the whole operation is hit-and-miss with some harbour being dredged perhaps once every 25 or 30 years. Some harbour may be dredged and then allowed to silt up again for the next 25 or 30 years.
The whole operation is considerably disorganised. The Department of the Marine should operate the overall system from A to Z and not shift part of their responsibility to local authorities or, worse still, to the Office of Public Works which is a guarantee that nothing will ever be done. Had the local authorities the money they would take a stab at undertaking the work but, if one leaves it to the Office of Public Works, that merely constitutes an excuse to have the operation postponed forever. The Minister might consider that type of co-ordinated approach. Let us have a national strategy on all harbours large, medium and small.
I want now to refer to an undesirable activity which has been raised in the House by way of question and also in the Seanad by way of the Adjournment Matter. The Minister is well aware of the considerable power being wielded by an independent group of shipping companies. Power of that kind can destroy commercial activity in any or several harbours. I refer specifically to the North Atlantic Shipping Conference, a group of major shipping companies who dictate where they will collect and deliver cargo. It is incredible that an association of private companies can have power which supersedes that of a national Government or indeed the European Economic Community. I would not have believed it possible had it not been brought to my notice so starkly.
How can any group of private individuals decide what should be national or Community policy? It is frightening that such powers should lie in the hands of a couple of companies or individuals, such as the P & O Line, which I believe is one of the major components of that North Atlantic Shipping Conference. In recent times they have had the audacity to advocate that Waterford port be omitted from their list of base ports, in other words, a port from which they collect or deliver cargo. This should not be allowed happen. Our last Commissioner in Europe, Mr. Peter Sutherland, was Commissioner for Competition and did an excellent job when it came to any form of malpractice where competition was concerned. As a result of his efforts and ingenuity, for instance, air fares to and from this country have been reduced by at least half. Surely the present Commissioner for Competition — I do not know who he is — should see to it that any activity that jeopardises the commercial viability of a port or interferes with the sovereign right of a State is prohibited; he should ensure that such people are brought into line. There should not be any question of private companies dictating policy to countries or the Community in its entirety.
In Waterford we have put forward a plan to the Community which entails the spending of £27 million on the development of a new facility about three or four miles downstream from the present harbour, which would enable that harbour to take in huge ships, obviously because of the deeper water and better berthing facilities there. The whole concept of this plan is being undermined by the fact that cargo will not be collected or delivered by this shipping cartel. I do know that the Minister is concerned about the matter. I did raise the point the last day at Question Time. Of course, time is restricted at Question Time and I did not receive a very clear answer.
An Leas-Ceann Comhairle
Perhaps, Deputy, the debate could be restricted too since, unfortunately, there is no reference to Waterford in the proposed Bill.
I do not know if you were here, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle, for the Minister's introductory remarks but he invited us all to speak on ports policy generally nationwide because it is so seldom we are afforded that opportunity. After all, we have been fish farming in Donegal.
On Second Stage we allow a certain latitude but usually comments refer to what is in the Bill or what it might contain. We do not have rambles in Erin or elsewhere.
Surely I am entitled to talk about national ports strategy. I was making the point that a massive development, which is most desirable and which fits into what should be our national strategy, is being jeopardised by undesirable and unsavoury activities on the part of a monopoly on the North Atlantic shipping routes. All one has to do is look at the map of Europe or the North Atlantic and one will see what should be the obvious ports of call here; basically they are the Shannon Estuary, Cork, Waterford and Dublin. Anything else would be totally unfair. I want to see that system retained, with those ports receiving the type of moneys we are seeking from the EC and I want to see that nobody undermines that type of investment by intemperate decisions.
For instance, the type of development in Waterford would well fit into any future plans for oil and gas exploration in the Celtic Sea. Again, if one looks at a map of the southern coast one will see that at present Cork has the monopoly when it comes to servicing oil or gas rigs in the Celtic Sea. It is undesirable to have one centre for any such activity in case of industrial disputes, a catastrophe or otherwise. It would be far better had we at least two such centres. Foynes and Galway do admirably for the west coast. However, in view of recent statements on the part of companies like Aran Energy who intend drilling for oil, in particular — which was the essence of their statement last week — I am advocating off the Waterford and Wexford coast a major deep water facility. The obvious choice is Waterford Harbour. The development being sought there, with the aid of Structural Funds from Europe, would be ideally suited to that type of activity.
As well as the four main ports which I have mentioned from an industrial and commercial point of view, we have two other ports which in the old days used to be called terminals for packet steamers — which is an expression which is gone out of vogue for about 100 years. They are Dún Laoghaire on the east coast and Rosslare Harbour on the south-east coast. They are entitled to a certain form of development also. We have the four major fishing ports, the four major commercial ports, the two major passenger terminals, and there is another exceptional type of port in Foynes which is within the ambit of the Bill and is in the Shannon estuary. Foynes has a particularly advantageous deep water facility. It is highly suitable for bulk cargo and it has considerable potential. It is unique. It has that qualification to be listed as something special.
The whole idea of port development in this country regarding the four major ports is becoming even more important with the advent of 1992 because at the same time we will have the opening of the Channel Tunnel which will link up the south-east of England with the north coast of France. That means that we will be the only country in the EC which has not got direct road or rail access to other parts of the community. Our industrialists and our exporters will be at a considerable disadvantage if they have to use — which they do — shipping facilities when importing or exporting goods unless they have first-class port facilities. We should be close to our competitors in Europe and the least we can do is to have good port facilities.
It is pie in the sky at this stage to be talking about a tunnel between Larne and Stranraer or between Rosslare and Fishguard or between Dún Laoghaire and Holyhead. That is not a practical proposition in the 20th century — perhaps it will be in the 21st century. Naturally we will be at a considerable disadvantage with our competitors in the EC. The Greeks might point out that they have many islands and that much of Greece is made up of islands. Greece is reckoned to have 365 islands, one for every day of the year, as in the case of the number of cheeses in France. Most of those islands are not operating on a commercial basis, their viability depends on the tourist trade. Their problems are not comparable with ours. We will have real problems with the advent of the Channel Tunnel because we will be left out on a limb. Perhaps the Minister would take up some of the points I have stressed and consider a national strategy for all harbours in Ireland, great and small — in the words of the famous television programme — and not just those in his own constituency or the very large ones.
At the outset, as Deputy Deasy said, I would like to congratulate the Minister on his plans for the marinas. I can see those as a tremendous boost to our holiday and tourist trade and especially in the Shannon, a waterway that is not exploited to the full. The Shannon is the most open waterway in western Europe that is not fully exploited. I sincerely compliment the Minister in what he has done to put a marina or two on that waterway because everybody from the mount of the Shannon to Limerick city will benefit by that great incentive.
For some reason the Bill before us today is called the Harbours (Shannon Estuary Development Corporation) Bill, 1988. With such a title one would imagine that the Bill aims to deal with the harbours and other developments in the Shannon estuary area but this is not the case. The Shannon estuary area is one of the most important areas in the whole country. Unfortunately, like so many other areas, it has never been properly developed or planned although the authorities and agencies have done a considerable amount of excellent work. There is a real need for some authority to be set up to properly manage and develop the whole area but this Bill is not the way to do it.
There are some problems, in particular, which I would wish to look at. The Bill does not really deal with the management and development of the Shannon estuary. The most important assets of the estuary are the harbours, Limerick, Foynes and Kilrush, but these are the last areas which the Bill mentions. The Explanatory Memorandum shows the Government's priorities very clearly. It lists everything it hopes the corporation will do, and the last thing referred to is managing and developing the existing harbours.
By its own definition the corporation aims must be to promote and look after investment in industrial, tourist and recreational amenity facilities and activities which will contribute to the realisation of the marine potential of the Shannon estuary. Why do we need another authority to deal with these issues? What are the IDA, SFADCo, Bord Fáilte and all the other local authorities who are now looking after these areas going to do? Why is there a need for another body to do the same thing? The only thing this Bill can be assured of doing is adding to the bureaucratic mess which is already all over the mid-west and further complicate the entire issue. Even while this Bill is being debated we have seen some of the confusion that will arise with all these agencies and all this bureaucracy.
There were advertisements in the newspapers a few weeks ago which announced that SFADCo are carrying out a survey for a report on the development of the estuary. This Bill will deal with one of the most important aspects of any development, so what is the point in SFADCo carrying out a survey? Why are we having the Bill now before that survey is finished?
Governments of this country seem to think that the answer to every problem is to set up an agency to look after the area or a committee to examine the situation. Large committees were set up by various Ministers in various Governments, and it now appears that there will be 21 agencies to look after Government policies in the mid-west region. This is wasteful and inefficient. What is needed is careful planning to decide which body should look after which area and which function. Instead of doing that the Bill shoves an extra agency into the area. There are some other peculiar things as well: for example, what is going to happen to the piers which have been left out of the provisions of this Bill? This Bill pretends to unify the whole area but it leaves out areas which have always been included in previous attempts to do this. The Bill instructs the corporation on where to set up their head office. Surely, the corporation should be able to decide where would be the best place for their headquarters. What will happen to the workers who will be affected by these changes? The people who work for the Limerick Harbour Commissioners and the pilots on the estuary do not seem to have been consulted about these changes and no special provisions seem to have been made for them. The Government have had this Bill on their shelves for about a year and they have done nothing with it until now. I thought the reason was that there were so many objections to it. It is a rare occasion when groups who do not agree with each other on most issues agree that something is wrong, as has happened with this Bill. Almost everybody objects to it for one reason or another.
There is a need for the establishment of one estuarial authority to make the most out of the Shannon estuary. That is the only way to get the full benefit from the marvellous facilities which are available in this waterway. It would be wrong to pretend to be satisfied with a Bill which just is not good enough. It is not the answer. It does not properly address the real issue, which is the issue of what is the best way to organise the estuary, paying particular attention to unifying the managements in control of the harbours. This legislation will add only extra confusion and more inefficiency. The Government should be sitting down and working out a proper strategy for the mid-west region and for all the agencies there, instead of just rushing in and adding another authority.
Certainly, today's debate has lifted the kind of depression present in the statements we have had here on the last occasion with reference to this subject. I take this opportunity, first, to thank the Deputies for their interesting and useful contributions. Especially, I thank the Deputies who spoke today and seem far more constructive in their approach than some of the speakers, especially the spokesperson for the Fine Gael benches on the last occasion.
I want in a general way to refer to some of the issues raised and specifically to deal with some of the points mentioned in the course of the contributions since the Bill came before the House. As I said, when presenting the Bill to the House, I am convinced that the establishment of the Shannon Estuary Development Corporation is the best way to manage the commercial harbours of the estuary and promote, co-ordinate and develop investment in the estuary. While there has been much comment about aspects of the legislation in particular sections of the Bill, I do not believe that anybody here has made any constructive comment in opposition to the overall objective of an estuarial authority as such.
All during last year Deputy Taylor-Quinn's predecessor as spokesperson for marine affairs questioned us here almost every day as to when a Bill of this nature would come before the House and subsequently put her own Bill on the Order Paper for the setting up of an estuarial authority. For some peculiar reasons——
It is the difference between an estuarial authority and a development corporation. I am talking about a development corporation.
——in the last few months there has been a change from something which the main Opposition party had advocated and had campaigned for. They had brought in their own legislation to deal with the situation and made numerous contributions both inside and outside the House about the necessity to establish an estuarial development corporation to get on with the development of the estuary. We now find that, for their own peculiar reasons which I know quite well and will go into if the Deputy pushes me too far, they have taken a totally negative view. I am surprised, to say the least, that the Deputy is behaving in that fashion.
The estuary is an area of vast potential and the existence of the corporation will play a key role in attracting investment to realise the potential. As I emphasised in my opening speech on Second Stage, it is one of the finest natural deep water harbours in Europe, with great potential for heavy industry. Many of the Opposition Deputies place enormous emphasis on the priority, as they saw it, to be given to the functions of the corporation. Let me clearly state here that the principal function of the corporation will be to manage, maintain, operate and develop the harbours under their control and to get away from the parochialism we have seen, which has hampered development. The object is to think, not in terms of Kilrush, Limerick or Foynes, but of the estuary as a unit.
The Minister should check the position since 1987. He should look back on the record and see his previous contributions.
Everything I said in 1987 — and the record is here — coincides totally and exactly with my comments here today and with my comments on other previous occasions. They are totally consistent. Regrettably, I cannot say that for Deputy Taylor-Quinn.
The Minister is doing a full U-turn.
She says one thing to Clare County Council and something totally opposite in this House because of pressures that are on her. I know where these are coming down. They are not of her own making and they certainly did not come from Clare. I know precisely where the needling is coming from; it is creating enormous problems. The Deputy should put those pressures aside in the national interests and the interests of the development of the estuary and let us get on with the work we want to do down there.
The Bill is designed to enable the new corporation to exploit, in conjunction with Shannon Free Airport Development Company, and put to use the very real potentials for, among other things, heavy industry but also for tourism within this area and to exploit all the areas of potential without detracting in any way from their primary role as a harbour authority. Let me refer to the comments made a few moments ago by Deputy Deasy. He is arguing precisely what I am saying here. In the way harbours are developing, not only towards Europe but internationally, we cannot divorce the responsibilities of the harbour authorities from some very important commercial activities such as the development of marine and recreational facilities. I totally agree with what Deputy Deasy said in relation to the development of water sports. The legislation we have before the House would be seriously deficient if it did not cater for and provide for the future undertaking of maritime recreational leisure facilities development on a commercial basis.
There is a huge development taking place across the Continent now. I have had the opportunity, as a member of the Council of Ministers in the European Community to visit, with the Germans, Italians, Dutch and others, some of the major commercial marina and leisure facilities which are now developing rapidly. The Italians who for generations, centuries even, have been involved in the development of a commercial maritime business and traffic——
The gondolieri must have gone to the Minister's head.
——have already taken measures to streamline their own legislation which, as did ours, dated back to the eighteen hundreds. Very recently, the Italian Government introduced legislation to enable ports to be developed, not only for commercial benefit but also in a touristic sense. They have already identified a number of ports which will be totally developed for tourism purposes and which will be known as touristic ports. They also recognise that this is a very valuable commercial activity which is developing very rapidly. It would be a serious fault on our part, in introducing new legislation like this at this time, in view of those developments all around us, especially in the Community, if we were to leave the corporation seriously deficient in their powers and functions to deal with the developments taking place in the whole maritime leisure area.
The Opposition Deputies who spoke on the Bill are not aware that under existing harbours legislation any pier or slip-way constructed in the proposed corporation's jurisdiction area will be under the control of the corporation, subject to by-laws, rates, orders and other regulations administered by them. In this situation, it is imperative that the corporation work closely with the other agencies in the area, to ensure that any new investments proposed in the region, which impinge on the corporation's area and any other area of which they are aware, would be subject to these obligations.
The point was made by numerous Deputies that we were duplicating the responsibilities of two agencies. We have taken very special care to provide in the legislation that the other major development agency in the region, the Shannon Free Airport Development Company, will have direct representation on the board of the new corporation. I was surprised to hear the comments of Deputy O'Malley in particular who knows the area better than any other Deputy in this House and who attempted for ten or 15 years as a public representative in the mid-west region to establish an estuarial development corporation. He had numerous meetings and held numerous private consultations with politicians and harbour authorities in the region for nine or ten years with a consistent policy in his own area of establishing an overall estuarial authority. Now he is criticising here, for mean, petty purposes, the establishment of an estuarial authority. He campaigned vigorously for it. He called people in and bullied them into joining. He made every effort to get the Authority established for years and years, and he failed miserably. I can say exactly why. He ran away from the unpopular local decision-making required to establish this Authority. For nine or ten years he spoke about it, he called people in, he tried to bully them into doing something about it, but when he was in a position to do something about it he ran away from it.
He criticised the new Authority we are proposing here on the basis that there would be duplication between the Authority and SFADCo. What did he do when he was Minister for Industry and Commerce as regards SFADCo? He brought the IDA into the region by his own decision. He spoke here in this Dáil and moved legislation to establish the IDA alongside SFADCo and he justified it. We all know that at that time he probably had intended abolishing SFADCo but again, because of local political problems and other considerations, he ran away from that decision as well. My view is that while initially he had intended having the IDA established in the mid-west region and abolishing SFADCo, when the time came to face the hard political realities and to make decisions, he ran away from that as well.
He complains now that there will be some minor duplication in the overall marina leisure and recreational facilities between the new development corporation and SFADCo, while in his own time as Minister for Industry and Commerce he set up the IDA and put them right into that region with SFADCo, and we had to take them out again some time ago in an attempt to get some semblance of realism into the situation and not have the type of duplication we saw as a result of decisions Deputy O'Malley took when he was Minister for Industry and Commerce.
We decided last year to take the IDA out of the region and to give overall responsibility there to SFADCo for the development of large and small industry. We took out the Shannonside Tourism Development Organisation and Bord Fáilte and gave the whole responsibility to one agency, SFADCo, for the overall development of large industry, small industry, county development and tourism development, because of the difficulties that had arisen with duplication, overlapping and waste of human and financial resources there resulting directly from decisions Deputy O'Malley took when he was Minister for Industry and Commerce.
Now he has the audacity to come in here sniping about this new Authority and the fact that there may be some confusion between the names or something like that. I never heard such rubbish. I would have thought we could expect something more constructive from the Leader of the Progressive Democrats, the mould makers who were going to transform the whole political system as well as the economic system, and already we see them running away from important decisions like this because of local, petty, political problems. We saw it in the Barrington's Hospital issue and we see it in this issue now.
The unified estuarial Authority Deputy O'Malley campaigned for year after year when he was in Government and outside it and ran away from when he could do something about it, is now before the House and he keeps running away from it because he is afraid to face up to the little political problems in different areas. He is prepared to take more serious note of them than the overall development of the mid-west region through development of the estuary.
Every development agency in that region have advocated the establishment of an estuarial authority. Comments have been made here about the fact that there may be some overlapping between the Shannon Estuary Development Corporation and SFADCo. The chairman of SFADCo only a few weeks ago made a very strong statement about the necessity for putting in place a body like the one we are proposing in this legislation. The present general manager of SFADCo has spoken out on numerous of occasions about the necessity for an estuarial authority of the type we are speaking about here. The previous chairman and previous general manager of SFADCo, everyone in the company and every report that has ever been written about the necessity to develop the Shannon region, have come down firmly on the side of this as one of the major priorities. The previous chairman and managing director of SFADCo have spoken about the necessity of putting in place an overall development company which will plan the estuary as a unit and get away from the piecemeal approach which has hampered development and inhibited the prospect of attracting large industry.
In neglected areas like north Kerry that Deputy Spring spoke about and along the whole Clare coastline an overall Authority developing the estuary as a unit would have brought about a transformation. How long more are we going to delay doing that? How long more will we keep running away because of minor political problems in local areas and parochial differences nobody has the courage to tackle?
I said when I was appointed Minister for the Marine, and I make no apologies for saying it, that if, by knocking some heads together in the region, where after 25 or 30 years of dialogue, discussion and communication we have achieved nothing, we could get an overall estuarial authority in place to undertake the work that has been neglected, I was prepared to take such unpopular decisions. I support fully the views Deputy Spring expressed here this morning, that it must be within our capacity in the House on Committee Stage and later, keeping in mind the overall principle we all agree with, to hammer out a Bill which will meet what our requirements and get on with the objective we have set down in this legislation.
I agree with Deputy Spring that it should be possible to come up with a consensus which will give us the Bill we all desire. He said, rightly, we will never satisfy everybody and that sniping will come from some areas, but the overall objective we have set in this legislation is to put in place an estuarial authority to plan, manage, develop and exploit the potential of, an enormous natural resource which for 100 years has been relatively dormant.
Deputy Taylor-Quinn and Deputy McCoy expressed fears that commercial port users' money might be used in other areas and some way be wasted. The Bill clearly guards against this. I refer the Deputies to the section that provides that the corporation shall not incur expenditure, including borrowings in these areas, without satisfying themselves that the investment they are becoming involved in is capable of achieving an acceptable rate of return, and they must get the prior approval of both myself and the Minister for Finance where certain borrowings are involved.
It is envisaged that most of the investment in marine-related industrial tourism, recreational and amenity facilities, will be of a private nature possibly supplemented by funding from the EC and the Exchequer. Already there have been an enormous number of inquiries from companies, organisations, bodies and individuals who have expressed an interest in investing money in the overall development of the estuary and particularly tourism-related projects. I was surprised when an individual who was involved in a small commercial business in Kilrush said he would be in a position to put together a package of £1 million to invest in the marina leisure complex which is being planned by SFADCo in the Kilrush area. This gives an indication of the willingness of people in the commercial area, if we provide them with the necessary framework, to invest substantially in projects which will have an enormously beneficial impact on the economy of that area. The Kilrush marina project has been supported already by the European Community prior to structural funding and has received a Regional Fund allocation for the first stage amounting to £1.8 million. The Community will equally play their part in backing up financial investment by companies and individuals. The total investment of £9 million will be used not only to develop facilities in Kilrush, which will be the centre of maritime leisure and recreational facilities in the lower Shannon area, but will also link in places like Saleen and Ballylongford, Tarbert, Glin and other areas.
Kilimer and Kilbaha.
Since time immemorial absolutely nothing has been done to develop the leisure and recreational amenities in the lower Shannon area.
Will the Minister give capital grants for yachts?
The lower Shannon from Loop Head to Limerick city is probably one of the richest coarse fisheries from the point of view of angling tourism anywhere in the world. There is not a single commercial boat on the Clare side from Loop Head to Limerick city to exploit that opportunity for sea fishing; there may be one or two boats on the Limerick side. About 40,000 coarse anglers come to Ireland each year. We could quite easily accommodate and facilitate that number in the lower Shannon region alone. Somebody must provide the mechanism to trigger off this kind of development. It would totally transform the tourism industry and the economy of the area on a year-round basis. It would not be tied to seasonal considerations.
There is no authority or agency in the Shannon area with the jurisdictional authority to do this. One of the challenges facing the new body will be to reconcile the competing demands of the commercial sector on the one hand and the leisure and recreational interests on the other, as well as the aqua-culture and mari-cultural interests. In bringing in this legislation are we to deny the new Authority the opportunity to become involved in that type of activity on a commercial basis? If we allow this Bill to go through without this provision it will be seriously defective and will limit the prospect of further economic development, enhancement of the locality and exploitation of the resources there which have been dormant and under-exploited for over 100 years.
Many Deputies mentioned the need for a ports policy, especially in view of the Single European Act and the considerations that will arise with the completion of the Channel Tunnel. When one considers that over 80 per cent of our external trade goes through our ports, it is clear that the development of these ports is vital if we are to compete successfully in the Single European Market. Irish ports must make up for competitive disadvantages by investment in modern handling equipment. This will ensure that our ports provide an efficient, cost-effective service with the capacity to turn vessels around in a matter of hours.
Between now and 1992 the objective of the Government is to ensure that port facilities are upgraded on a regional and strategic basis with particular emphasis, as indicated in theNational Development Plan, on ports like Dublin, Waterford, Rosslare, Cork and the Shannon estuary. Bulk facilities must be provided. The estuary we are speaking about must be developed as one of Europe's finest natural deep water ports in a position to compete with the very best for heavy industry. The prospects for trans-shipment can be more fully expolited.
The deep water jetty at Moneypoint, built with taxpayers' money, cost in excess of £100 million. It is the finest deep water jetty in any European port but less than 20 per cent of its capacity is being utilised. This is an opportunity to utilise that facility fully. The estuarial Authority, working with the ESB and other agencies in the region, can transform that jetty into a hive of activity, involved in the trans-shipment of various commodities which can greatly enhance our economic performance and provide long-term sustainable jobs in the region. It could handle some of our coal requirements, animal feedstuffs and fertilisers and greatly reduce the price of these commodities to the consumer. The impact on the economy as a whole, and specifically on that region, would be enormously beneficial.
I was interested in some of the comments made by Deputy McCartan in relation to the Shannon area. He seemed to centre his main objection on the grounds that we are giving special recognition to Foynes. I would refer to comments made by the former Deputy Prendergast in 1986 when he said that Foynes should be the central location for the development of a deep water estuarial authority. Deputy Prendergast was not only a Member of this House representing Limerick but was also a member of the Limerick Port and Docks Board for many years. It is well known that he was a representative of the unions and the workers, and still is. He said the whole centre of gravity in the Shannon area was Foynes, not in Limerick city. The reason we are putting the headquarters of the new Authority in Foynes is our recognition that Foynes is the centre of deep water activity in the lower Shannon.
The economic prosperity of the region in the future will not be determined in Limerick city. Foynes is where the centre of gravity will be and where the main activity will be in the future.
Will the Minister put the headquarters in Kilrush?
Foynes needs this type of of injection to enable further economic development to take place around that area. Already Foynes Harbour Trustees have done a magnificent job within the limits of their jurisdiction, but within a couple of miles, there were huge developments like the Alcan plant outside the jurisdiction of Foynes. The fact that Foynes will now have special representation on the board of the new Authority is in recognition of the special position of Foynes and their success in developing their own facilities.
The Minister is selling Clare down the river.
Clare County Council supported the issue.
That is not correct.
One of the Deputy's colleagues on the county council told me recently to get on with this Bill because it was long overdue and not to mind what Deputy Madeline Taylor-Quinn was saying, that people of Clare want this authority set up because they recognise that during the previous term of office of the Limerick Harbour Commissioners, Kilrush Port Authority and Foynes Harbour Trustees, Clare did not get their fair share of development.
That is not correct.
Kilrush Urban District Council passed a unanimous vote——
——and congratulated me personally——
The Minister went into a meeting and misled them and when they realised what was really going on they changed their minds.
The Minister should lower his sense of chivalry and not reply to interruptions that are out of order.
Kilrush Urban District Court passed a unanimous vote of congratulations to me on introducing the estuarial Bill. They had the Bill before them.
They congratulated the Minister when they thought they were being given representation in the Bill.
Deputy Taylor-Quinn, please do not continue to interrupt. It is not becoming in a Deputy who normally exercises higher standards in the House.
One has to be honest in the House, and I would hate that the wrong impression would go on the record. Therefore, I consider that I have a responsibility to clarify the position.
The Deputy can be satisfied now that she has had the opportunity. If, when the Minister has concluded, anybody feels a special question might be directed to him, we will accept that, but in the meantime we ask that you allow the Minister to proceed with his concluding speech.
I would like to put on record what the factual position is in Kilrush. I attended a full meeting of the Kilrush Urban District Council with the Bill, which I had previously circulated to each member, including the county manager and the officials of the urban council. The Bill was gone through line by line and accepted unanimously. There was a vote of congratulations to me for bringing forward the legislation.
On a point of information, A Cheann Comhairle——
That is the position. The comments to which Deputy Madeline Taylor-Quinn is referring were made by the chairman of the county council, one of her own party members, before the meeting took place and before he saw the Bill. That was reported in the local paper before the meeting took place. The chairman of the council chaired the meeting at which I was present and was supportive of the Bill having gone through it in detail.
There was a subsequent meeting.
If the Deputy wishes to associate herself with those congratulations to the Minister she cannot do it now. The Minister will continue without interruption.
I would finally like to come to some of the points that were made. Deputies made the point that this was further bureaucracy. I would remind Deputy Taylor-Quinn in particular——
I do not suffer from amnesia.
The Deputy spoke about duplication. The Harbours Bill which the Deputy had before the House a few weeks ago provided for 21 members together with a management board of seven, another layer of bureaucracy. This Bill provides for 13 representatives for the whole area.
I did not have a Bill before the House a few weeks ago.
The Deputy was retaining the Foynes Harbour Trustees.
I never had a Bill before this House.
The Shannon Ports Authority Bill, Deputy Jim Mitchell's old Bill, was brought before this House.
That is going back three years.
If the Deputy wants to change her policy, that is fine, but let her be confident as regards her policy on this issue. The fact is the Deputy talks about duplication but the Deputy was supporting a Bill which provided for four or five authorities comprising 50 members; we are talking about 13.
That was strictly for port development.
If the Deputy wants a streamlined estuarial development authority it certainly will not be achieved by her proposal.
We have to put an end to this tête-a-tête, or maybe it is a "tease á tease". We are not going to have any more of it.
It just goes to show the conflicts we see over there. Other Deputies supported and welcomed the Bill and like Deputy Deasy, congratulated me on bringing in some of the things Deputy Taylor-Quinn is complaining about.
If the Minister wants to talk about conflict, what about Ministers Collins, Noonan and Daly? What about that triumvirate and the conflict that exists there?
Deputy Hegarty said——
Yes, I know it is a little embarrassing.
Deputy Hegarty welcomed the Bill and said it was a positive and constructive move, that we were facing up to problems that had been neglected for a long time. He was very constructive in his approach, totally different from the Deputy. The Deputy's attitude was contradictory and negative. The whole tenor of the Deputy's contribution was that if one thing was done it would be lovely and, on the other hand, she is opposing the Bill. Would she just make her mind up?
Get on with it, Minister.
I would like to avail of this opportunity to refer to some of the points made by other Deputies during the course of the debate. I think I have said enough about Deputy Taylor-Quinn's contribution.
Not enough to convince.
It is interesting to hear Deputy Taylor-Quinn's attitude to harbour development generally. I think her views would be a major disappointment to those people in the maritime area who would expect a more positive and constructive approach from the main Opposition Party.
Actually they are very pleased with it. They are disappointed with the Minister.
I would like to express my appreciation of the comments made by Deputy O'Dea. He spoke about the need to develop the recreational and tourist facilities of our ports and this is something with which I totally agree; it is the way ports are developing all over Europe. The challenge facing the Authority is to reconcile the promotion of commercial activities with the promotion of leisure and recreational facilities. Within an estuary like Shannon, it is possible to do that and develop the area to its full potential.
Deputy O'Dea was worried that the status of some of the employees would be diminished under this new legislation. I want to assure him that rather their status will be enormously enhanced because they will be working for a greater Authority with more responsibilities and opportunities to develop the economic prosperity of the region. The staff need have no fears about their status. That is guaranteed in the legislation. None will be worse off. A new superannuation scheme is being brought in so their rights will be protected. Above all, there will be a whole new dimension to the development of the estuary and the status of the employees, and opportunities for developing their own interests and activities will be greatly enhanced. There are far more challenges, opportunities and exciting prospects under the new Authority than there were under the old piecemeal arrangements.
Deputy McCarthy made the point that there was no political statement in the legislation. I am not certain that legislation is the place for political statements. We can make political statements in our contributions but the Bill must be a framework within which the various objectives for overall development of the Shannon can be implemented. The Bill is enabling legislation so that this area of activity can be undertaken.
My objective in relation to this estuarial development corporation is to transform an estuary which has been lying relatively dormant into one which is revitalised from the point of view of employment opportunity, job creation possibilities and so on. That is the function of this legislation. We must get away from the parochial and political differences in the region and look at the overall objective. We cannot be deflected from the overall objective which is the long term development of the economic prospects of a huge resource which has been relatively undeveloped, and which will remain undeveloped, unless we do something positive.
This development cannot take place under the piecemeal operations there at the moment with three, four or more authorities being involved. The Deputy must be of the same mind with me in that regard. We cannot allow local jealousies and political differences in the region to interfere. We must set down a framework which will enable us to open up the prospects for huge development.
Deputy Foley made the point about representation. We can never satisfy the demand for representation without having an Authority of about 45 members which would be totally unwieldly. Deputy Spring suggested looking at establishing subcommittees when the Authority is set up. That would largely be a matter for the board rather than for this legislation.
Deputy Carey was very constructive in his approach to the port authority although he was critical of some aspects.
A question was raised by Deputy Noonan about Clarecastle. Perhaps if the Deputy understood where Clarecastle is he would have a better understanding. There is no connection whatever between the developments that are taking place in Clarecastle and what is happening in Kildysart as Deputy Taylor-Quinn knows only too well. Perhaps the Deputy would brief Deputy Noonan a bit better so that he will know about it next time he is making a contribution.
We have a glorious opportunity in this legislation to do something worthwhile to develop a huge natural resource which has been neglected for far too long. Are we to allow this opportunity to slip by? Are we to allow another 25 years to slip by before we take these unpopular but overall desirable decisions to set up this new Authority? People should be aware that here we have an opportunity to revitalise the area, and to create long term sustainable employment and long term economic prosperity in this region by supporting this measure. We can work out the details on Committee Stage where I would welcome amendments which we can work out and discuss fully. If I can facilitate anyone by amending the Bill I will do so. The overall objective is what is being discussed here and everyone would agree with the necessity and desirability of getting on with this legislation.
- Abbott, Henry.
- Ahern, Bertie.
- Ahern, Dermot.
- Ahern, Michael.
- Barrett, Michael.
- Brady, Gerard.
- Brady, Vincent.
- Brennan, Matthew.
- Brennan, Séamus.
- Browne, John.
- Byrne, Hugh.
- Calleary, Seán.
- Conaghan, Hugh.
- Connolly, Ger.
- Coughlan, Mary T.
- Daly, Brendan.
- Davern, Noel.
- Dempsey, Noel.
- McCreevy, Charlie.
- Mooney, Mary.
- Morley, P.J.
- Moynihan, Donal.
- Nolan, M.J.
- Noonan, Michael J.
- (Limerick West).
- O'Dea, William Gerard.
- O'Donoghue, John.
- O'Hanlon, Rory.
- O'Keeffe, Batt.
- O'Keeffe, Ned.
- Dennehy, John.
- de Valera, Síle.
- Ellis, John.
- Fahey, Frank.
- Fitzgerald, Liam.
- Fitzpatrick, Dermott.
- Flood, Chris.
- Flynn, Pádraig.
- Foley, Denis.
- Gallagher, Denis.
- Hilliard, Colm Michael.
- Hyland, Liam.
- Jacob, Joe.
- Kitt, Michael P.
- Kitt, Tom.
- Lawlor, Liam.
- Leonard, Jimmy.
- Lyons, Denis.
- O'Leary, John.
- O'Rourke, Mary.
- Power, Paddy.
- Reynolds, Albert.
- Roche, Dick.
- Stafford, John.
- Swift, Brian.
- Tunney, Jim.
- Wallace, Dan.
- Walsh, Joe.
- Walsh, Seán.
- Woods, Michael.
- Wright, G. V.
- Barnes, Monica.
- Boylan, Andrew.
- Bruton, John.
- Bruton, Richard.
- Clohessy, Peadar.
- Colley, Anne.
- Connaughton, Paul.
- Cosgrave, Michael Joe.
- Creed, Donal.
- Crowley, Frank.
- Cullen, Martin.
- Deasy, Austin.
- Doyle, Avril.
- Durkan, Bernard.
- Enright, Thomas.
- Farrelly, John V.
- Flaherty, Mary.
- Flanagan, Charles.
- Gibbons, Martin.
- Gregory, Tony.
- Griffin, Brendan.
- Hegarty, Paddy.
- Higgins, Jim.
- Kemmy, Jim.
- Kennedy, Geraldine.
- Kenny, Enda.
- Lowry, Michael.
- McCartan, Pat.
- McCoy, John S.
- McDowell, Michael.
- McGahon, Brendan.
- McGinley, Dinny.
- Mitchell, Jim.
- O'Brien, Fergus.
- O'Malley, Desmond J.
- O'Malley, Pat.
- Quill, Máirín.
- Shatter, Alan.
- Sheehan, P.J.
- Taylor-Quinn, Madeline.
When is it proposed to take Committee Stage?
Is that agreed? Agreed.