Implications of Brexit for Irish Ports: Motion (Resumed) [Private Members]
The following motion was moved by Deputy Robert Troy on Wednesday, 11 July 2018:
“That Dáil Éireann:
— there are huge gaps in Ireland’s transport infrastructure, particularly in the west and north west, which are actively harming Ireland’s economic growth and development, as well as reducing citizens’ quality of life;
— economic growth is not spread equally across the country, and sound transport infrastructure is particularly important to economic growth in regional areas;
— maintaining strong, modern, and competitive transport links with the rest of the European Union (EU) is vital to securing Ireland’s economic future and ensuring that Ireland’s strong social and political links with our European counterparts are maintained;
— the decision of the United Kingdom (UK) to leave the EU will impede Ireland’s ability to use the UK land bridge to access continental Europe, thus closing off a route that two thirds of Irish exporters use to reach continental Europe and creating a need for alternative export and import facilities in Ireland;
— this Government and the last have failed to invest in Ireland’s ports, such that it is difficult for them to take advantage of new opportunities;
— the Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T) provides considerable funding opportunities for countries to improve their connectivity with the rest of Europe;
— the previous Fine Gael-led Government chose to exclude key infrastructural projects in their submission to the TEN-T Network, thus preventing these projects from receiving TEN-T funding and harming their chances of accessing alternative private financing too; and
— the majority of the projects removed by the previous Fine Gael-led Government are located in the west of the country, an area which is in considerable need of economic and infrastructural development;
— while the next review of the TEN-T Network is due to take place in 2023, European Commissioner for Mobility and Transport, Ms. Violeta Bulc, has stated at a meeting with the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Transport, Tourism and Sport that ‘extraordinary circumstances call for extraordinary actions’;
— the European Commission reiterated in 2015 that member states retained ‘substantial sovereign rights’ to decide on projects; and
— there is a commitment in the Programme for Government that ‘in the first three months the new Government will apply to the European Union for the revision of the TEN-T Core Network, including applying for the reinstatement of the cross-border Western Arc’; and
calls on the Government to:
— instigate a full review of the TEN-T programme at European level well in advance of 2023, in recognition of the challenging circumstances facing Ireland and the weaknesses in our existent TEN-T programme;
— conduct a detailed and comprehensive review of potential projects to be included in the revised TEN-T programme, taking into account the regional imbalances that currently exist within the programme and the varied objectives that Ireland will need its transport infrastructure to meet;
— ensure the timely delivery of Ireland’s existent capital plan, Project Ireland 2040; and
— present a report to Dáil Éireann within the next 6 months outlining the actions that the Government has taken to bring about a review at European level, detailing the projects that they will be putting forth for consideration, and allow for a full debate on these issues.”
Debate resumed on amendment No. 2:
To delete all words after “Dáil Éireann” and substitute the following:
— the Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T) Core Network consists of those parts of the comprehensive network which are of the highest strategic importance for
achieving the objectives of the TEN-T policy, and shall reflect evolving traffic demand and the need for multimodal transport;
— by seeking to include projects on the TEN-T Core Network, European Union (EU) Member States were committing to completing those projects by 2030;
— inclusion of a project on the TEN-T Core Network does not give rise to any automatic entitlement to funding, rather that funding decisions are on a competitive basis against projects from all across the EU; and
— the maximum level of funding possible under TEN-T for works on a domestic road or rail project on the Core Network is 30 per cent;
— in 2011 when the TEN-T negotiations were at their height, the State recorded a deficit of €21 billion and it would not have been realistic to commit to major new
investments in road and rail networks; and
— the biggest transport project in this State since 2011 was the Gort-Tuam motorway which opened last year, and this project was prioritised and delivered at the height of the economic crisis; and
— that Project Ireland 2040 acknowledged that transport links between the north-west and other parts of the country have been comparatively neglected until recently and therefore prioritises transport links to and from the area, including projects such as the N4 Collooney to Castlebaldwin, the N5 Westport to Turlough, the N5 Ballaghaderren to Scramogue, the A5 road development and the Galway City Ring Road among others;
— the progress being made across the whole of Government in preparing for Brexit and the potential impacts on the United Kingdom (UK) land bridge;
— that the Irish Maritime Development Office (IMDO) is undertaking a study into the use of the UK land bridge by Irish importers and exporters including the likely
consequences that Brexit will have on land bridge usage and the various alternative options that may be viable, and that this report is due to be completed shortly;
— the intention of the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport to make a submission to the European Commissioner for Mobility and Transport seeking a review of the
TEN-T Network, taking account of the impact of Brexit and the investments being made under Project Ireland 2040, particularly those in the north-west, in line with the
Programme for Government commitment;
— that the Irish port companies are commercial entities, and that it is long-established Government policy that they are not subvented by the State; and
— that the supportive policy framework in place at a national and European level is facilitating historically high levels of capital investment being made in our ports’
infrastructure, with more than €300 million of infrastructure capacity development currently taking place.”
- (Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport).
I have been listening to some of the various contributions in my office and some of them were quite negative. The first point concerns the gaps in transport infrastructure. We can acknowledge that gaps have to be addressed. However, I will be parochial in my contribution because I want to make a few points about Dublin Port and the way it is facing the challenge of Brexit. I represent Dublin Central and I live in a docklands community, so I am very aware of the work at Dublin Port, the plans and the way in which the port has expanded. I am also aware of the employment opportunities that are offered there, the consistent growth and the development of the cruise ship potential. Last year's review of the Dublin Port Masterplan 2040 included engagement with the public. There were many presentations made on behalf of the Docklands communities. A new capital project, MP2, has been proposed, and that is a progressive way of confronting the challenge of Brexit. It would lead to greater efficiency in roll-on/roll-off, ro-ro, lift-on/lift-off, lo-lo, and passenger traffic.
There is also a community gain aspect to the MP2 project, which is similar to all of the projects being organised by Dublin Port.
There is huge potential for Dublin Port and other Irish ports as the UK land bridge to access Europe is likely to be problematic. The potential is in engaging with ports in other European cities, for example Holland and Belgium. This work is in progress because they are viable alternate options, as the Minister noted in his amendment. It is hard to believe suggestions were made to move Dublin Port to somewhere up in north Dublin. That would be extremely costly, it would take a very long time and it would completely undermine the investment to date.
I want to highlight the close relationship with the local communities, north and south of the Liffey, through Dublin Port's support for education. It has scholarship programmes, it supports schools, there is the early learning initiative at National College of Ireland, various community events for youth and senior citizens and sports. In the past few years, that support has also been for the arts, not to mention the way in which Dublin Port has been a venue for other events such as the tall ships.
I want to mention the UNCTAD port management programme, which is a training of trainers for managers from ports in Africa and Asia. I know the port companies are commercial entities, but I want to highlight the positive work in Dublin port, which is not without difficulties and problems but overall is progressive and positive. It can be replicated in other ports and I heard what Deputy Howlin said.
There is one particular omission in the motion and amendments, which is the potential for our canals, predominantly for tourism and leisure. We need easier access for both along the two canals and greater co-operation between the authorities involved. With the big picture we are looking at the major roads, but there is a time to look at the smaller roads and the neglect away from those main roads. I make a particular plea for island communities due to the damage done through various storms and with regard to access to and from the islands to ensure sustainability of the population.
I welcome this opportunity to speak and I thank Deputy O'Sullivan. Brexit or no Brexit, this infrastructure should be have been in place down through the years. The Minister may recall that during negotiations on the programme for Government one of the first things to be discussed was putting the west of Ireland into the TEN-T funding. Alas, as per usual, the people who do not realise where the west of Ireland is did not even bother their - I will not say what - even looking to Europe to include it. Currently we have Shannon Foynes Port, Shannon Airport, the Port of Cork, Cork Airport, Dublin Port and Dublin Airport. Going right through the midlands and heading for the west of Ireland the Port of Galway was downgraded, Killala was not even put on the map and Killybegs has not been done. This area does not have the infrastructure in place, especially if Brexit happens. Do people from Mullingar to Castlebar to Westport not deserve a motorway in the same way as people do in Cork? I welcome the Cork to Mallow road being done because it needs to be done. I have heard about the M18. When I came in here in 2014 it was announced in the budget and, lo and behold, last year it was announced again, even though the machine drivers were looking for jobs elsewhere.
The problem is the infrastructure deficit. The Government talks about balanced regional development. Rosslare Europort needs the whole shebang of customs infrastructure and the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine in the event we cannot go through England. Last week I spoke to people in business, the great people in small and medium-sized enterprises, when they brought in their foods. A small and medium-sized enterprise that needs a certificate from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine waits eight or nine days, but a Larry Goodman-type tycoon can work away and it will be there on site. If we are to help in situations like this we have to put the infrastructure in place. It is in the programme for Government but it is not being done. I would love to say a motion would do it but, to be honest about it, we will vote on a motion which will probably be won, but it is a feel-good factor because, by God, if the Government does not do it when it is in its programme for Government it will hardly do it for a motion.
I cannot understand why the likes of the Port of Galway, looking out at the Atlantic and next stop the United States, has been downgraded to a category two port instead of bringing it up and making it a proper port. One day I saw three cruise liners in Dublin Port, which held 13,000 people. It was great. The city was buzzing. Would it not be great to do this in Killybegs, Killala, Galway, Cork or Rosslare? It can be done in Foynes. This is about what we call balanced regional development. What is happening is all talk about what we will do but it is not done.
The western arc has been talked about. Once we jump off the M18 below Tuam we are back to an ordinary road so, in actual fact, the likes of Ireland West Airport Knock will struggle because, unfortunately, it does not have the road infrastructure in place. From there we go to Letterkenny and on to Derry. The UK has decided it will build a proper road from Derry to Aughnacloy and we could put a spur out to the M1. People in Cavan and Monaghan are left out. We have drawn a line from Limerick to the east to Cork with TEN-T infrastructure. The way it has been done comes up along to Dublin and on to Newry and the rest of the country does not matter. We do matter. Someone might wake up sometime. I heard a story a few weeks ago when the Taoiseach stated the money was not there at the time. He was right that the money might not have been there at the time, but the Government was able to put a line from Navan to Dublin when, economically, there was no better business case for doing it than doing work in the west of Ireland. The reason was we have people in the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport who, once they go outside the M50, have no satnav with them.
I welcome the opportunity to speak on this motion. We need to ensure that not only is Ireland's economic growth increasing but that it is spread equally across the country to areas such as west Cork. Our ports, including the ports in Cork, are vital to our economic growth. We need to maintain strong competitive transport links with the rest of the EU to secure Ireland's economic future. Two thirds of Irish exporters use the UK land bridge to access Europe. Brexit will have a huge effect on Ireland's ability to use this route for export. We need to look at creating alternative export and import facilities in Ireland. We have spoken about Brexit for quite a long time in the Dáil and, to be honest, we are no further ahead today then we were more than 12 months ago when it was almost sorted and resolved, but every hour it changes.
Up to now, the Government has failed to invest in Ireland's ports. Without investment in our ports we will not be able to take advantage of the new economic opportunities that would increase our economic growth. We look at the 2040 plan and we talk about what Brexit will do to it. What the Government has envisaged in its 2040 plan for west Cork is scandalous. There is absolutely nothing in it for the people of west Cork. We have been overdependent on Dublin Port as an nation. We need to look at other ports. We need to improve funding for the roads to get to these other ports. Poor funding to date has left some roads in a shocking condition.
The , TEN-T, provides considerable funding opportunities for countries to improve their connectivity with the rest of Europe. The previous Government chose to exclude key infrastructural projects in its submission to the TEN-T network, thus preventing these projects from receiving TEN-T funding. The majority of these projects were located in the west of Ireland.
Coming from west Cork I know only too well how important ports are to us. In my constituency we have ports such as Bantry Bay, Castletownbere and Kinsale. These ports need investment and their futures need to be secured by the injection of economic and infrastructural development. The cruise liners coming into Bantry have been a major success over the past 12 months in particular and maybe a little longer. I plead with the Government not to make the same mistakes as the previous Government. It is vital these ports are supported through the uncertain times that lie ahead with Brexit on the horizon. Very seldom do I hear about the effects that Brexit may have on Irish fishers and fishing in general. Are European trawlers going to be chased out of UK waters if Brexit goes ahead?
If they are, we know well where they will come. It will be into Irish waters, which successive Governments have handed over too easily for the past number of decades.
I am also happy to speak to this important motion regarding the impact of Brexit on Irish ports. Brexit has an effect on so many matters. As an island and a maritime nation, we know that serious focus must be given to our ports and, in particular, our ability to trade internationally. Even in 2013, it was clear from the Government's report on competition within the Irish ports sector that inter-port competition appeared limited. The report also found that ensuring competition between ports was especially important but we were lethargic about it. These issues would remain of vital relevance, even if Brexit, which is now upon us, were not a reality. According to the Irish Maritime Development Office, the sector is a key driver of economic growth. It notes that, in 2016, Ireland's marine economy had a turnover of €5.7 billion, 37% of which is attributable to the shipping and maritime service sector. It is huge.
The direct economic value of Ireland's marine economy was €1.8 billion in 2016, representing an increase of 20% on 2014, which is to be welcomed. According to the Irish Maritime Transport Economist report in 2017, a 2% increase in total port traffic in 2016 led to the highest level of throughput achieved since 2007. Statistics for 2017 indicate continued growth, with shipping and port activity in the Republic of Ireland rising by 7% in the first quarter of 2017 when compared with the corresponding period in 2016.
The ports sector is one of those parts of our economy that often play a very muted and undervalued role in the national public conversation. It does not have the slick appeal of technology giants or other multinational sectors but we know that without a ports sector and strong and resilient port infrastructure, the loss to our trading capacity would be catastrophic. That is why it is imperative that serious and sustained consideration be given to protecting it from any adverse impact from an increasingly disconnected Brexit strategy.
The Rosslare Europort is dear to me but we will not now see a road developer from Limerick to the east. Connectivity between Rosslare and the rest of the country is very important. I am sad to say that the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Ross, was here but before any of us rose to speak, he fled like snow off a ditch in case we might ask him a hard question about his policy on roads. He knows nothing about roads or ports and could care less, unless he fell into one somewhere.
I welcome the opportunity to speak on this very important matter. We do not know what will happen with Brexit and neither does the Minister of State. We need to be ready and ensure that our ports, including Rosslare, are up to scratch. The customs process must also be ready in order that we can still trade with the UK if it still wishes to trade with us. Likewise, the roads infrastructure leading to our ports needs to be upgraded. I know one road where articulated lorries pass me daily on the way to Castletownbere. The road going from Kenmare to Lauragh is in a desperate state. Going back a number of years, my father got funding for a part of it but the Cork side back to Castletownbere is only fit for two donkeys and cars to pass each other. That is the truth. It is not fair on the lorry drivers trying to negotiate the roads with loads of fish.
I thank the Minister of State at the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Boxer Moran, who visited us in Kerry this time last year. There is a slip on the road to Fenit and following his visit, the Minister of State allocated €176,116 just to deal with the slip and ensure the road stays open. We thank him very much for that. Liebherr uses the port at Fenit around the clock and if that company is to continue trading with Britain, that port must be improved. All of Kerry depends on Liebherr for employment and if anything happened so it could not export through the port or a delay was caused, it could mean many people would be out of work. The entire economy of Kerry would fall asunder if Liebherr did not have the facility available in order to trade with the UK if it goes outside the European market. It is a consideration that must be taken into account.
The roads leading to our ports, such as the road to Fenit, must be upgraded for the massive volumes of traffic using it every day and night. It is how people operate. We welcome the money we got from the slip but the roads must be further upgraded to facilitate the vehicles of today. There is much work to be done and I hope the Minister of State is listening to us. It is serious for the bit of employment we have in Kerry. We are trying to hold on to the employment we have because we do not seem to be able to attract new employment to the county.
I wish to share time with Deputies O'Keeffe and Donnelly.
A study prepared for the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation for the Government by Copenhagen Economics in February 2018 indicated that Ireland is uniquely exposed to Brexit due to very high trade intensity with the UK. We all know two thirds of Irish exporters use the UK land bridge to reach continental Europe and in certain sectors the UK is an especially important market, not least for the agrifood sector, where over 40% of our exports are destined.
Given that trade costs will increase in all scenarios post-Brexit, it is really important that we look at alternatives and also look to invest significantly in our ports infrastructure. It is not just about the upgrading of our ports and we have been told by the Irish Road Haulage Association that up to €180 million is the estimate in losses arising from delays; every truck movement in a post-Brexit scenario will cost in excess of €40 per hour per truck. I have had communications from the chief executive of Drogheda Port, who has told me it competes with ports in Northern Ireland, where they are certainly getting Brexit-ready, while our ports are not. He told me the port needs massive State investment to provide the necessary infrastructure. It is happening on the Northern side of the Border but it is not happening here. We need to help ports like that in Drogheda, which is a very important public asset, with the necessary infrastructural development.
The Minister of State is familiar with my constituency and the road haulage sector is a major industry there. On the Cooley Peninsula alone, there are over 300 trucks serving the North-South corridor. Those people need reassurance and assistance. I would go as far as to say there is a need not just to invest in ports but to look at creating a third section of road on the M1 corridor in order to get people into the various ports along the east coast. Irish ports must receive the needed investment to accommodate modern, larger ships and offer swifter and more efficient services to continental Europe.
Our Government must be strong in demanding more investment through the TEN-T programme, as was mentioned already today. Brexit gives us the reason and the impetus to demand investment now rather than wait for the next review. The European Commissioner for Transport has stated, with reference to Brexit, that extraordinary circumstances call for extraordinary actions.
Finally, Greenore Port in my constituency, a privately-owned port, is strategically placed close to Warrenpoint Port in the North. I have suggested previously that we should look at a special economic zone for that area. Given that one port will be in the British jurisdiction and the other in the Irish jurisdiction we should have some form of strategic hub with bulk bonded storage in the lough.
I must give way to my colleagues. We need to consider the ports in use in my county, the rat runs being used and the need to ensure the trucks stay on the major routes.
Regardless of the result of Brexit, Ireland's economy is going to be damaged. We have to respond. The outline of the UK Government white paper does not suggest a particularly soft Brexit. Under the proposals, the UK would still leave the customs union. There would still be different tariffs on goods for the UK and Ireland. There could be different regulation for many of those goods. The UK would not be part of the Single Market for services or the free movement of people. As such, it is not at all clear that Ireland will in future retain full and free access to all the UK's transport networks and the critical land bridge.
The result of all this ambiguity and complexity is increased risk for Irish jobs and trade. In that context, it is imperative that new high quality transport routes between Ireland and mainland Europe are developed. The trans-European transport network, TEN-T, programme is exactly the type of funding Ireland should be leveraging to develop these routes. Violeta Bulc, the EU Transport Commissioner, has stated clearly that there is an opportunity for Ireland and the Government to push for, and succeed in, instigating a review long before 2023 with a view to drawing down some serious funding for investment. One relevant route is the rail link between Dublin, Rosslare and through Rosslare Europort. The route goes through my constituency of Wicklow. Right now, the rail link is creaking at the seams in terms of transport and commuter services. Every week constituents contact my office about it. The carriages are full. The frequency is not what it needs to be. Irish Rail has said it will be years before it can get the new carriages to put on that line as well as increase frequency and capacity. Moreover, significant new work is required on coastal protection for some of the required upgrades. TEN-T funding could help upgrade the rail link, strengthening the land bridge with mainland Europe, supporting Irish jobs, supporting Irish trade and providing the commuter services required.
The Brexit clock is ticking. We are rapidly running out of time. I hope the Government will move quickly to instigate a new review for this funding.
The Minister of State's colleague, the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Ross, is not here. Anyway, the big message is that the Minister needs to get more proactive in the Department with regard to infrastructure development. This morning, we learned of the requirement for a second runway at Dublin Airport to be fast-tracked and the delays pending in that regard. If Brexit comes about, obviously we will have fewer people flying into London and maybe more into Dublin. Are we ready for that? I do not think we are.
I will stick to the South in my deliberations.
The applications made to Europe under the TEN-T programme were deficient. Let us consider some of the applications. Major emphasis was put on the upgrade of Rosslare, which is a project badly needed. We know what will happen if the land bridge through Britain is closed down to us or made too restrictive for hauliers and the movement of goods.
As recently as 12 months ago, the Government acknowledged that no report was in hand with regard to exactly what goods were going via the land bridge through Britain. Even the Taoiseach acknowledged that the Government had no statistics in place. The Government has put them in place since then, in fairness, but that was one year after Brexit was passed by the British people. Whether Brexit comes or otherwise we do not know, but we should have contingency plans in place. We do not know what the Government has in place. This is causing fear in people currently. One person gave me an example only last week. During the warm weather there were upwards of 35 tankers parked outside Bulmers in Clonmel. The question was whether those 35 tankers would be held up at the port if Brexit comes about. There are implications for customs tariffs and so on down the road.
We need infrastructure to be upgraded. I remember when I first joined my local authority, Cork County Council, in 1997 or 1998. I remember the Southern Regional Assembly. One of the major priorities was the trans-European transport network, which involved a motorway from Cork, via Waterford, to Rosslare and up the east coast through Dublin into Belfast.
I have referred to the N25. There are no major proposals in the Government development plan for the N25 to be upgraded. This is concerning because considerable emphasis will be put on the adjoining ports for the delivery of goods. What is the shortest direction to mainland Europe? Will we have to get bigger ferries? We hear nothing about this.
It took the Minister six months or more to acknowledge the need for the M20 for economic development from Cork, Limerick, Galway and all the way up as far as Derry via Donegal. I wish to focus on the section from Cork to Limerick. I approached the Department 12 months or more before the Department acknowledged that the route had to be direct from Cork to Limerick with no roundabout route. There was talk about going through Clare and joining the proposed motorway from Limerick to Waterford. That made no economic sense and would have affected the people of the west considerably, including those in Kerry and west Limerick.
We acknowledge infrastructure has costs. However, the development of infrastructure has economic benefits in the long run. The Minister of State will know from her area in Meath that there must be development in order to see an economic return, whether on a local or national scale.
The concern is that not enough is being done in fast-tracking developments for infrastructure in this country. We seem to be far behind. I will offer one example. I attended an international transport conference recently. One issue that came up related to road safety and the reduction of road fatalities. The aim was to reduce road fatalities by 30%, although the figure may vary. Anyway, I asked whether it was fair to have Ireland in the same category as Sweden and Germany. Those countries have better infrastructure and road networks while we are lagging behind. The speakers acknowledged that it was difficult for us to catch up and meet the target of zero fatalities as quickly as the other countries.
On behalf of the Government I thank the Deputies for their contributions on Ireland's transport network and the importance of maintaining and enhancing our connectivity with the rest of Europe, especially in the context of the UK departure from the European Union and Brexit.
While I share the Sinn Féin concern about Brexit implicit in its countermotion, the Government will not on this occasion be supporting that motion.
As mentioned by the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Ross, in his opening statement, the Government is addressing the challenges posed by Brexit and will continue to do so. This includes addressing the implications on the connectivity of our ports and airports and access to them. This approach and the mitigating actions required will obviously evolve as the negotiations between the EU and UK progress.
In the meantime, the Government has laid out an ambitious infrastructure investment programme in Project Ireland 2040, spending billions to tackle the infrastructure deficits throughout the regions and mitigate the potential challenges posed by Brexit. This includes the commitment to the A5 and other aspects mentioned in the Sinn Féin countermotion.
The Government has tabled a countermotion. I wish to reiterate that the EU trans-European transport network is a Europe-wide network of roads, railway lines, inland waterways, inland and maritime ports, airports and railroad terminals. The network is made up of the comprehensive network and a subset, which is referred to as the core network. The core network is the most strategic part of the transport network. In Ireland's case, it runs from Belfast to Dublin to Cork and includes the core ports of Dublin, Cork and Shannon Foynes.
The inclusion of an element or section of a country's transport network or county transport network on the TEN-T core network does not result in automatic qualification for EU funding for transport infrastructure projects located on this network. It means that such projects may apply for funding under competitive EU-wide calls. These calls remain considerably over-subscribed. Where such projects are successful they may obtain 20% or perhaps 30% of EU co-funding with the remainder of the required funding coming from either the Exchequer or private sources, depending on the nature of the project in question.
As the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Ross, pointed out in his opening statement, there is an obligation on EU member states to complete their respective elements of the pre-defined TEN-T core network by 2030. When the TEN-T regulations were being negotiated in 2011 it was not possible to include all elements of our island's transport network on the TEN-T core network. This was because of our financial and economic circumstances and taking into account the EU planning methodology, which specifies the requirements and thresholds that must be met for areas to qualify for core network status.
That is not to say that many of our transport projects have not benefitted from this source of funding and there are a number of excellent examples where this has been and continues to be of crucial importance in the successful delivery of our transport infrastructure.
Thus far, 19 successful Irish projects have obtained co-funding of a total of €58 million for projects located on the core TEN-T network that either have or will improve our connectivity with the rest of Europe. This includes funding for our core ports.
Most recently, the port of Shannon Foynes was successful in obtaining funding of 20% of projects costs, or €4.4 million, from the EU, which will assist the port in further improving its capacity, thereby removing a bottleneck of shipping and goods in transit at the port.
This Government has committed to further developing our regional transport infrastructure and Project Ireland 2040 will enhance regional connectivity and accessibility. The national planning framework and the national development plan both recognise the importance of the Atlantic economic corridor. The Government is working to ensure that Ireland is not negatively affected by the UK’s decision to leave the EU, including our continued use of the UK landbridge. New shipping routes connecting Ireland to continental Europe may also emerge as markets respond to Brexit. We are already starting to see that happen in my own county where businesses, including agrifood, are looking to explore new markets. Only this morning, Enterprise Ireland and An Bord Bia informed us that many businesses with which they engage are starting to explore new markets. We expect that new shipping routes would open up in response to this.
As set out in the EU’s TEN-T regulation, the core TEN-T network shall reflect evolving traffic demand and the need for multimodal transport. The implementation of the core network is to be evaluated by the European Commission by the end of 2023 and the Commission will then evaluate whether the core network should be modified to take into account developments in transport flows, as well as national investment planning.
The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport will, in line with the commitment contained in the programme for partnership Government, coupled with the UK’s decision to leave the EU and as a consequence the EU’s TEN-T network, make a submission to the European Commissioner for Mobility and Transport seeking an early review of the TEN-T network. This submission will take into account the impact of Brexit and the investments that will be made under Project Ireland 2040, particularly those located in the north west of Ireland.
I welcome this opportunity to address the status of our railway lines and ports and the need to apply for EU funding for our railway lines by applying for special designation for the railways. This special designation is known as TEN-T status. TEN-T is an EU-supported transport programme that provides funding for designated transport networks including railways. I will focus on the Belfast to Rosslare railway line and Rosslare Europort. The railway runs parallel to the roadway, designated European route E01, which runs from Belfast to Rosslare Europort. It is a critical access way for goods and passengers to gain direct access to the Continent, to which I note Rosslare Europort is the closest port. Currently, the Belfast to Dublin section has TEN-T status, but critically that does not continue to Rosslare Europort.
As Members are aware, 80% of the volume of goods leaving Ireland for the Continent use the UK landbridge. In almost all scenarios of Brexit, this landbridge will be lost or significantly restricted or will become financially unviable. Tariffs, quotas, customs checks and tolls will all significantly hinder the route via the UK landbridge. Our freight and road hauliers will need alternative access to the Continent especially for agrifood, perishable goods and pharmaceuticals. These should not only be for the goods that are currently supporting our jobs but also to help gain access to new markets.
There must also be an alternative to Dublin Port. Not a day goes by when this Chamber does not hear of the traffic chaos in Dublin and on the M50 but the only plan in the event of a hard Brexit seems to be to load everything through Dublin city into Dublin Port. We see no plans to develop Rosslare as an alternative. Rosslare Europort, which makes a profit of €2.5 million profit per annum, is owned by Iarnród Éireann, which sees it as little more than a cash cow to be milked dry. Instead of reinvesting the profits into the port, they are withdrawn to subsidise other parts of Iarnród Éireann. Rosslare Europort needs to be designated with tier 1 status. It must be taken from Iarnród Éireann and put into ownership of a stand-alone company. The railway line south of Dublin should be designated with TEN-T status to ensure the port and the railway lines are viable. We need to do this in the interest of the entire country to soften the impact of Brexit, protect jobs and open new markets. The opportunity and potential are there but where is the will of the Government to make it happen? Only recently, the Secretary General of the EU Commission, Martin Selmayr, told MEPs that he was developing funding for an alternative shipping route to the Continent in order that Ireland can have access to the northern ports. That must be investigated and introduced. However, in terms of roll on-roll off, RoRo, ferries and haulage to the Continent, Rosslare is the only game in town.
I thank Deputy Troy for co-ordinating this debate on the impact of the TEN-T decisions taken some years ago by the Taoiseach, Deputy Varadkar. It represented a ministerial smash and grab on the economic future of the west of Ireland in particular. We are now two years into the Brexit process and not only does the UK Government not have a plan but neither does the Minister or the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, particularly to address the fact that two thirds of Irish exporters use the UK as a landbridge to reach continental Europe. We know there will be uncertainty and a blockage but we do not know what the Department is doing about it.
The remarks made this evening by the Minister, Deputy Ross, did not reflect any ambition or thinking outside the box on how to deal with this, which is what we need to see. We need to see the Atlantic economic corridor, referred to by the Minister of State here, fleshed out in practice. Ireland West Airport Knock needs to play a comprehensive and driving role. The Government needs to engage with the strategic development zone planned around it to ensure there are proper facilities and industrial bases to drive that. The western rail corridor offers a unique opportunity to bring rail connectivity to the Atlantic economic corridor. The ambition and perseverance of those promoting the western rail corridor is in direct contradiction to the lack of interest shown in the project by the Minister, Deputy Ross. That economic and the rail corridor in particular have the capacity to deal with our climate change challenges by taking traffic off our roads, away from towns and villages and putting it on rail, as most European countries do. A proper, ambitious application under TEN-T would give us the chance to do that.
Earlier, the Minister, Deputy Ross, told the House he did not believe the infrastructure in the west was as neglected as we say. I invite him again to join me on the N26 between Swinford and Ballina, a so-called national primary road, which has been forgotten about by Fine Gael. He could join me on the R312 between Belmullet and Castlebar and, in particular, join me in the back of an ambulance on that journey, which many people must undertake. It is incredibly stressful and difficult. It is damaging the economic potential of an area the size of County Louth. The Minister needs to get with the programme and to understand and share the ambition of groups along the west coast, such as Claremorris Chamber of Commerce, which has been highlighting the opportunity under TEN-T for many years. The Minister and the Government need to show us and the west of Ireland that it has an ambition for us and that its words about an Atlantic economic corridor and Project Ireland 2040 are more than words but that there is certainty behind them. An application under TEN-T would show that. Extraordinary circumstances call for extraordinary actions. That is the quote the House has heard all evening from the Commissioner, Violeta Bulc. It needs ambition at Government level and a belief in the west of Ireland that is appallingly lacking in the Government.
I thank all the Members who have contributed to this debate this evening. Some contributions have been more useful than others. In their contributions, the Sinn Féin Members seemed to think that Private Members' motions were a waste of time. I must assume that in the next session, they will not put forward any Private Members' motions themselves.
This motion calls on the Government to accelerate its review of the TEN-T designation for Ireland. I would also remind Sinn Féin that when it was blowing up roads, we were building them. We invested in our infrastructure, including the M1, M2, M3, M4, M6, M7 and M8. We invested in Ireland West Airport Knock and in a second terminal for Dublin Airport.
There is no point of order. Deputy Troy, without interruption.
Let me remind the Deputy that was the British who blew up the roads. I want to correct the record on this.
The Minister, Deputy Ross, seemed to seek praise for putting roads back on the capital plan that Fine Gael had removed. The M4, in my constituency, was in its planning stages before Fine Gael took it off.
Now we are being asked to praise Fine Gael for putting it back on the capital plan. It may be open in ten years. Representatives of Transport Infrastructure Ireland, TII, have come before the Joint Committee on Transport, Tourism and Sport on a number of occasions. They have regularly said they did not get sufficient funding over the past five or six years to enable them to propose roads to be put through the planning process. For this reason, they have been unable to have roads shovel-ready when additional funding has become available. The Minister seems content with Ireland's current designation under the core and comprehensive network. I remind him that under our current designation, just 5% of TEN-T is available. This would hardly build footpaths in some towns and villages in the regions.
Regardless of Brexit, our ports and airports are key to our connectivity as an island nation. Our exporters need greater security. The Government is failing abysmally in this regard. I mention as an example what the Minister is doing regarding Dublin Airport. He wasted 18 months making the Irish Aviation Authority the competent authority to deal with noise regulation. When he came before the Joint Committee on Transport, Tourism and Sport this morning, we learned - lo and behold - that the Department of the Taoiseach is now involved. I assume that Department has had to get involved because the Taoiseach does not believe or trust that the Minister can deliver Fingal County Council as the competent authority so that Dublin Airport can get a second runway before the current runway reaches full capacity.
I note that the Minister's Independent Alliance colleague, the Minister of State, Deputy Finian McGrath, has joined us in the Chamber. I remind the House that the programme for Government which the Independent Alliance helped to write, and to which the Minister and the Minister of State signed up, includes the following commitment: "In the first three months the new Government will apply to the European Union for the revision of the TEN-T CORE Network". Two years on, why has that not yet happened? I suggest that the Minister needs to forget about Stepaside Garda station and about the Judicial Appointments Commission Bill 2017. Instead, he should concentrate on his own brief.
The Deputy is a spokesman for the Law Library.
Last October, Commissioner Bulc clearly indicated her willingness to look favourably on a review of the TEN-T network. Nine months on, the Department has yet to make a comprehensive submission. This submission should not be delayed any further. It should have happened by now. We need greater investment in our transport network. We need more balanced regional development. Our exporters need security and need to be supported. The Government needs to secure a review of the TEN-T network so that the designation can be extended. That will help. The EU is willing to facilitate this. The only people who are unwilling to do so are the Minister and his Government colleagues.
In accordance with Standing Order 70(2), the division is postponed until the weekly division time on Thursday, 12 June 2018.