I thank the Minister for attending today. I want to speak about an urgent, developing situation at Keelbeg Pier in Union Hall in my constituency. Union Hall is a picturesque, beautiful village between Skibbereen and Clonakilty. Keelbeg Pier is the local pier in Union Hall. It would help if I described the pier because I do not expect that the Minister would have been there before, but hopefully he may visit in the future.
On the issue with the pier, Cork County Council is the foremost authority there and is, essentially, shoehorning the installation of a barrier that gives access onto the pier. This barrier will prove disastrous for residents and for most of the pier users in Union Hall.
I shall describe the pier. It is a fantastic facility. It mainly facilitates the fishing community in Union Hall and it is a very important aspect of the activity happening in Union Hall. There is a very vibrant fishing community there. The pier also facilitates many leisure users. The local rowing club uses the slipway, which is also used by the RNLI and other users. There is a beach too. The pier is a fantastic facility. To the west end of the pier is the slipway and to the east end of the pier is the access to the beach used by local residents and by holidaymakers to Union Hall. It is a very popular holiday destination. I hope this gives an outline of how the pier works and the very important facility and amenity it is.
Here is the problem, however. With the installation of the barrier, the people most impacted will be the residents. Adjacent to the pier is a public road. Fronting on to that public road is a row of residential houses. The big issue is that the front doors of these residential houses come straight onto the road. There is not even a footpath between the front doors of the houses and the road. Essentially, these people must cross a road to use a footpath. By installing the barrier on Union Hall pier the local authority will be creating a funnel effect whereby traffic that wishes to access the local beach, which is very popular, will be funnelled one way. Currently the beach users or pier users can use both accesses, which is a one-way system. They can also use parking on the pier and this is a very important issue to remember. If installed, this barrier will create an absolute logjam. This is a cul-de-sac where people will be making efforts to turn. It will create mayhem.
There is huge political opposition to the installation of this barrier. The residents are very concerned. Cork County Council, the local authority, says the barrier installation is required from a health and safety point of view. Council staff did visit the pier and they have come up with an alternative solution that suits all, including residents, leisure users and so on. I ask the Minister to trust me that if this barrier is installed it will create an even bigger health and safety nightmare. I am asking for the Minister to reach out to the local authority. I am aware that it is the local authority's remit but the funding for this barrier is under the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, the Minister's Department. I ask that the Minister would reach out to the local authority to ask them at least to pause the installation of the barrier until residents and all stakeholders have been liaised with.