Amendment No. 35 is out of order because it involves a potential charge on the Revenue.
Harbours Bill, 1995: Committee Stage (Resumed).
I am amazed, Sir; my colleagues are shocked and horrified. I took the best advice I could get in the House when drafting this amendment.
The Senator must have got it from the Leas-Chathaoirleach.
I understand the Cathaoirleach has notified you as to the reasons this amendment is out of order.
I got a Christmas card from him.
However, the Senator will be allowed to speak on the section.
I am well aware of the Minister's former position as a member of Dublin County Council and I know he has met at least one delegation from my area in regard to this matter. I do not believe the delegation the Minister met was acting in the best interests of our area. The Minister asked why certain people were not present on the day and I respect that, but I am not sure the individual who sought and secured that meeting did the best job on behalf of the area; at least that is what has been said in the area.
I have no problem with the fact that Balbriggan and Skerries harbours will come back under the responsibility of Fingal County Council. However, at last Monday night's meeting of the council, a motion was carried by all parties. Deputy Ryan was to call the leader of the Labour group, Senator O'Sullivan, Sheila Terry would telephone the PD's and Ann Devlin would telephone the various members of Fine Gael to ensure they understood the importance of this amendment.
Since 1972 not one shilling has been passed to the Balbriggan and Skerries fishing ports. In the last week the Minister's Department, perhaps because of my tabling this amendment, decided to give £60,000 to them and ask the Dublin Port and Docks Board to add to that amount. This total, amounting to £120,000, was called a sop by all parties in Fingal County Council. These two areas have been robbed of any chance of development over the last 20 years.
The two areas in question have suffered because of the policy of ensuring that Howth was the primary fishing port in the area, and I have no problem with that. However, if this is the policy, everywhere else should not fall by the wayside. I know the role Skerries and Balbriggan harbours play in our fishing industry. We do not expect to be given millions of pounds but some recognition of the fact that Skerries plays a major part in the east coast shellfish and white fish industries.
Apart from a political decision by a Fianna Fáil Government to allocate some money to the ports, not one penny has been given to either of them since 1972. Both ports are falling into the sea. Now the Minister and his colleagues are asking me, as a representative of that area, to accept that under this section both ports will come under the financial constraints of Fingal County Council. Our council currently has problems with surviving at the moment — I will not refer to the question of local authority funding. The Minister is asking us to take both Skerries and Balbriggan ports on board with only a £60,000 allocation from the Department, £60,000 from the Dublin Port and Docks Board and £20,000 to clear two wrecks from Skerries harbour when the basic facilities for any harbour, or fishing port are not there.
Senator Daly had the foresight to appoint me to Bord Iascaigh Mhara; some may say otherwise. In my ten years on that board, Skerries became an important port to the east coast fishing fleet. However, apart from one political decision made by a Fianna Fáil Government to give some money, it was totally neglected. Words like "robbed" and "an absolute sop" were used last Monday by all party councillors from the region.
However, many of those who spoke at the council meeting last Monday never opened their mouths in the Dáil. Yet when the motion was agreed by an all party group, I was asked to represent that view and to ask the Minister, as a member of the former Dublin County Council, to recognise that he is asking the impossible from us. The Minister is asking us to take over two important fishing ports on the basis of £120,000. While I welcome this amount, we should take it from there.
I do not suggest the Minister has never been to Skerries. However, if he has, he should have recognised that the basic facilities for a port are missing. There are no lights, electrical points or safety measures in the port itself. Basic facilities needed for any fishing port are not available.
Our county manager, when sending this £120,000 letter back to the Minister, said that he would not take that amount. He also made it clear to both the Department and the Dublin Port and Docks Board that this was only a start. I ask the Minister, if he was in my position, how will we finance those ports. How can fishing families that have been part and parcel of Balbriggan and Skerries for the last 100 years survive when Fingal County Council itself is finding it hard to survive? It is only doing so because of a charge that was introduced in the last two years. How then can we put the capital investment necessary into Balbriggan and Skerries?
The chairman of the council has written to the Minister asking him to meet an all party group from the area so that he could understand what he is asking us to agree to in this section is not on. He is being unfair to the two areas in question.
Skerries won a national award last year from the Department of the Environment as being the tidiest town in Ireland. However, the one area that cannot even be walked on is the harbour. The Minister is making impossible the opportunity to bring a marina to Skerries by asking us to take the two ports on board on the basis of a provision of £20,000 to remove two wrecks. There is a need for dredging, the fishermen can only get in an out of the ports at certain times because of the tidal situation and the issue of the prawning industry, which is based in Skerries, needs to be addressed.
I do not argue against the proposition that Howth should be the main port, but this should not be at the expense of every other port along the coast. The Minister's philosophy on this issue is flawed in this respect. The two ports have been dumped onto Fingal County Council by the Dublin Port and Docks Board. I am informed that not one penny has been allocated to these two ports since 1972 by the authority looking after them. However, to ensure that we accept section 88, the Minister's Department has decided to give £60,000, with the port giving another £60,000.
It would be impossible for Fingal County Council to accept this situation, given that it is starved of resources and given that no capital expenditure is possible within the budget it has at present. The Minister would have a similar problem in Dún Laoghaire. No capital investment can take place on these ports within our present budgets. We have introduced a charge as a matter of survival to ensure that we can drive up and down the roads and cut grass.
If the Minister has the records from BIM he will realise that at one stage, as former Minister, Senator Daly will be aware, Skerries and Balbriggan would be a black mark with regard to investment and repayments to BIM. However, this has long since changed. They are among the best ports on the coast in respect of repayments to BIM. The people involved realise they must get themselves organised and that if investment is to take place in the area they must play their part, which they are doing by repaying the loans for their boats.
While the amendment may be out of order, the all party motion, passed unanimously, makes clear that unless a proper investment structure is in place, there is no way in which the two harbours of Skerries and Balbriggan can return to County Fingal. They will not return in the context of what the Minister seeks to do under section 88. Rather, it is in the interests of the two ports to do so once the Minister gives us a chance by providing a reasonable amount of capital to bring the harbours up to the kind of condition that we, as a council with limited resources, could maintain on an annual basis.
At present the two ports are falling into the sea. Safety measures in the area need to be addressed in case anything were to happen. There is no way that those who represent the area, including members of Fine Gael, Labour, my own party, independents and the individual whom the Minister met recently — which meeting, I understand, did more damage than good — can accept the present situation. The Minister must give some kind of commitment. It cannot be accepted that the two ports can be handed over in their current state and that the Minister can walk away with a payment of £60,000.
I will ask my colleagues to oppose section 88, even though I do not object to the section in principle. If the two ports were given proper capital investment they would benefit from the attention of the local authority to which I and others belong. I ask the Minister to respond in a positive way.
Given the difficulties I have with Foynes and Limerick, it is with some trepidation that I enter into the business of Skerries and Balbriggan. I have had some discussions with my party colleagues on Fingal County Council and they are genuinely concerned with the financial obligations facing Fingal County Council regarding the transfer of two harbours. Senator Wright has outlined the difficulties very well. Will the Minister look again at the situation and reassess the amount of money that is under consideration with regard to this transfer in view of the difficulties that Fingal County Council envisage? I understand there have been some discussions with officials and with others in this regard.
Section 11 set out the objectives of the Bill, including what is anticipated to be the activities of the new companies. In this section we are left with the remains of what has not been done and what needs to be done. A kind of limbo situation exists as a result of the section. Some harbours have been transferred to local authorities, others have not. The whole section must be looked at closely by the Minister in the spirit in which he has addressed the other sections this afternoon.
I am sure the Minister is no more satisfied than we are with what he described yesterday as the options facing some of the smaller harbours. I strongly support the views expressed by Senator Wright. As Minister for the Marine, I had occasions to visit Skerries and Balbriggan and was appalled with what I saw. The harbours were in a derelict state. Indeed, we had to make urgent representations to the ports authority that had jurisdiction to do something to take the dereliction away from what are two of the most attractive towns on the east coast. It was beyond comprehension that the areas had been allowed fall into the state of neglect in which they were in. It arose to some extent because of anticipation over the years of legislation that would be introduced but that never materialised.
The same situation applies to some of the smaller harbours in the Shannon Estuary. Senator Dan Kiely was anxious to put forward an amendment that would have Tarbert, surrounding jetties and installations, and adjacent areas such as Ballylongford, which have been excluded from the authority of Foynes under the Bill, to be vested in Kerry County Council.
Before any areas would be transferred to local authorities there is a responsibility on the Minister and the Department to put them in a decent state of repair, because most of the authorities do not have the finances to deal with them. If a situation arises, as illustrated by Senator Wright with regard to Skerries and Balbriggan, where an amount of remedial work needs to be done, it should be undertaken before the ports are handed over to another authority. This would be similar to situations where local authorities dispose of council house to tenants. Under the tenant purchase schemes local authorities put the houses in a decent state of repair before handing them over to tenants. Similarly, with regard to this situation, the Minister should clearly indicate how investment can be made to deal effectively with the difficulties facing local authorities which will not have budgeted for them, will not have the financial resources to deal with the problems and will not be in a position vis-á-vis planning or other arrangements to deal effectively with the difficulties these will create for the authorities when they are handed over. If they are not handed over they will decay further and the problem will have to be faced at some stage.
These are unique areas which have their own special attractions and features. They all have possibilities for development to create more employment in tourism and related industries. They should not be forgotten. We are passing new legislation to set up new port companies and we are offering much goodwill and support to those companies to get the job done. At the same time we are leaving a very important sector in no-man's-land where they do not know what their future prospects are.
The Minister should rewrite section 88 before Report Stage in a way that would ensure a future for smaller harbours and ports which are outside the jurisdiction of the larger ports. The Minister has clarified that fact very precisely rather than repeat the options theory he put forward yesterday afternoon. I wish to draw the attention of the new ports authorities on the estuary in both Foynes and Limerick to the huge potential that still remains untapped in areas which will be outside their jurisdiction. I am referring to places such as Kilrush port and Cappagh pier which was utilised by the ESB during the construction of Moneypoint. It was found to be a suitable place for doing business and there has been a constructive approach on the part of the harbour authority, Kilrush UDC. Carrigaholt has been genuinely concerned that in the event of new authorities being set up in Foynes and Limerick the focus of attention will be on those areas and, to some extent, Kilrush and the lower Shannon areas as far as Carrigaholt and Kilbaha will remain neglected.
We should send a message to the new Foynes and Limerick ports authorities that we never again expect to see a situation where, due to lack of investment or lack of action, places such as Kilbaha and Carrigaholt are allowed to decay to such as extent that their piers have almost fallen into the sea. This is not acceptable and the new authorities with their new powers must keep in mind that there are areas outside the furthest extremes of their jurisdictions to which they also have a responsibility.
The people living along estuaries suffer from the by-products of pollution. There has not been major oil pollution in the Shannon Estuary but there has been much pollution by refuse from boats and ships. The west coast of Clare along the Shannon Estuary had many problems not so long ago as a result of the dumping of waste oil from ships leaving the estuary. Clare and Kerry County Councils had to take urgent remedial action to clear the waste oil before the start of the tourist season.
People living in the most attractive and scenic areas of these estuaries suffer as a result of development that takes place upstream. The new authorities will have a responsibility in that regard and we will call on them to fulfil their responsibilities so that these areas, which are most attractive and where there is very little economic activity and prosperity, would not be neglected to such an extent that their piers have almost fallen into the sea.
I will first explain why section 88 has been included in the Bill. Four small harbours — Skerries, Balbriggan, Bulloch and Sandycove — have been under the jurisdiction of the Dublin Port and Docks Board. In 1990 Dublin County Council, as it was then called, requested that Skerries and Balbriggan be transferred to the county council, a view which has been upheld by Fingal County Council which succeeded Dublin County Council. A similar request was made by the former Dún Laoghaire Corporation which is now Dún Laoghaire/Rathdown County Council in respect of Bulloch and Sandycove. Section 88 of the Bill enables those harbours to be transferred from the Dublin Port and Docks Board to the respective county councils. This was requested by the county councils. The section was not dreamed up by me; it was a response to a written request by the two county councils to transfer those harbours to them.
Because of their neglect by the Dublin Port and Docks Board.
Allow the Minister to reply.
I am giving the Senator the history. The county councils made that request, the provision is included in the Bill and the transfer can be carried out by way of a transfer order which will involve consultation with the Department of the Environment, the Port and Docks Board and the county council before being laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas. We are quite far away from the point where they will actually be transferred. The Bill enables the harbours to be transferred. That is the legislative aspect which I understood was the wish of both county councils. If Senator Wright is telling me that it is no longer the wish of Fingal County council that Skerries and Balbriggan be transferred to the county council, let him make that case. However, it would be news to me.
That is not what I said and the record will show that.
We must allow the Minister to complete his reply. Senator Wright will have an opportunity to speak.
The section is providing for the transfer of the harbours to the county councils, as was requested by those county councils.
I will now deal with question of the condition of the harbours. I do not dispute that Skerries and Balbriggan are in poor condition. Senator Wright has said that since 1972 the harbours have been neglected. I am not taking responsibility for what previous Governments failed to do about Skerries and Balbriggan. It is quite ironic that it is when a Government decides to do something about Skerries and Balbriggan that Senator Wright is in the Chamber to make great complaint about it.
He has described the £120,000 as a sop. Fishery harbours all over the country which have made applications for funding so that works could be carried out on their harbours would be very glad of the £120,000 being allocated to Skerries and Balbriggan and they would not regard it as a sop. It might not do all the work Senator Wright would like to have carried out on Skerries and Balbriggan, but it is being made available at a time when funding for harbours works is quite scarce. The moneys will do some work in Skerries and Balbriggan.
It is £120,000 more than the last Government invested in those harbours or the Government before that or any of the Governments since 1972 with which Senator Wright had much closer contact than I did. It is remarkable that it is only when funding is being provided that we are seeing all-party motions and the hyperbole to which Senator Wright treated us this afternoon. If the Senator does not want the £120,000 spent in Skerries and Balbriggan, he should say so. Is the Senator making the case that we should not spend the money on them? Where were the all-party motions since 1972? The Senator said, as a representative of the area, it is not acceptable.
What has the Senator been doing since 1972? The condition of Skerries and Balbriggan harbours did not deteriorate dramatically since this day 12 months ago when the present Government took office. We are responding in two ways, by providing in this Bill for the transfer of these harbours to the county councils which requested them in the first place and by providing resources, albeit limited, for making a start on work which is long overdue, and I do not intend to take responsibility for this neglect.
I have obviously hit a nerve.
The Senator said something unfair and I responded in kind.
Great credit is due to the Minister for the way he has handled the Bill. Even though the Bill has gone through the Dáil and a committee, he has had the foresight to listen to Senators and to accept some of their amendments. If I have hit a nerve with regard to money, we should argue about this. However, he personalised some of his comments, which I did not do. When he reads what I said, he will know that I did not mention him in any way.
The Minister said he is not responsible for the situation, but I did not say he is. However, I am well aware of the Department's policy that Howth should be the number one fishing port on the east coast. At no stage did I oppose section 88. I have no problem about the two harbours coming back under the control of Fingal County Council and I believe that this will be in the long-term interests of Skerries and Balbriggan. When the Minister reads what I said he will realise that what he said was not balanced.
Resources were poured into Howth and the other two harbours were totally neglected. Dublin Port and Docks Board were given charge of the harbours. Not one shilling has been invested in them and they have been robbed of every opportunity of developing as ports. The Minister for the Marine rightly speaks about how important it is for local ports to develop in terms of the local economy, employment, and fisheries. I have supported this philosophy from the time Senator Daly was Minister for the Marine. This does not mean that millions of pounds must be poured into an area.
The Minister said he has a letter from a county manager to the effect that these harbours should be returned to the county council. These ports should not be dumped, on the basis of this letter, back to a council which is starved of resources. When these ports fall into the sea we will know who is at fault. I have no problem with the ports being returned to Fingal County Council. However, the Minister is asking my colleagues and myself to support this without providing any resources for bringing them up to the level at which they should be. As a former member of Dublin County Council, he knows we would not be able to find £1 million for Balbriggan and Skerries; we can barely keep tar on the road. If the Minister was a Senator, would he accept this from a Fianna Fáil Minister on the basis of a letter from a county manager? He would not.
There is no reason why there should not be a marina in Skerries. It is a superb location but there is no chance of it having a marina or of its fishing fleet being developed because of what the Minister is doing. He is asking us to accept that a council which is starved of resources should take on board another liability. These harbours were robbed, not by the Minister, but by the Dublin Port and Docks Board, which has not given them a shilling since 1972.
I welcome what Senator O'Sullivan said. I know how strong feelings on the ground are about this issue. The Minister was not responsible for the situation for the last 20 years, but he is responsible for this Bill. These areas have been robbed of any chance of development because of neglect. We all see the influence of Democratic Left at the Cabinet table. The word is that if people want money they should go to the Minister for Social Welfare, Deputy De Rossa.
The Minister for the Marine recently stated that it is important that local ports be developed in the interests of their areas and of employment. I ask the Minister to consider this and not ask me to accept £120,000 for these ports. The Department must not be able to say that two ports are taken off the list. Previous Ministers would not bring forward this legislation, which has been on the Department's files for 20 years. The view of the Department is that little towns like Skerries and Balbriggan must be taken off its map and all resources must be invested in Howth. I support the development of Howth, but this must not be at the neglect of these two areas.
The Minister said he knows these areas and how much they are worth, but he went on to say they are lucky to be given £120,000. Should I say to the people of Skerries that the Minister says they are extremely lucky to get this amount and that if they do not want it they should not take it? I do not believe this is good legislation. I reiterate that in my initial comments I did not oppose this section and I did not mention the Minister. I am aware that the proposals in this Bill have been around for 20 years. The Minister is asking us to accept £120,000 and to consider that he and his civil servants have done a good job.
Fianna Fáil had difficulty participating in two party Governments and the concept of a three party Government is beyond the comprehension of Senator Wright and his party. This probably explains his bizarre view of the way in which decisions are made on public finances.
The Senator used two terms with which I take issue. He said that Skerries and Balbriggan are being dumped on Fingal County Council. That is not the case. The Bill will provide for the transfer of those harbours to Fingal County Council after a process of consultation between the Department, the Dublin Port and Docks Board, the county council and the Department of the Environment. The draft order will soon be before the Houses and Senator Wright will have an opportunity to speak on it if he is not happy with its content.
Senator Wright seemed to infer that I or the Department has formed a view that Skerries and Balbriggan are only worth £120,000 and that this is an inducement to get them under the administration of Fingal County Council. The £120,000 is a recognition of the problems. He asked me to recognise there was a problem in these two areas. It is easy to say I recognise there is a problem there, but I do. I recognise that these two harbours have been neglected. If I said that, Senator Wright would be entitled to ask me to put my money where my mouth is. We are making scarce resources available — Senator Wright has chosen to describe it as a sop — for works which need to be done in Skerries and Balbriggan. This must be the first occasion after a quarter of a century of neglect when some attempt is being made to address the problem by providing finance. This is being regarded as a sop and it is not being recognised as an attempt — I acknowledge it is a limited attempt — to address some of the problems in Skerries and Balbriggan.
I regret that Senator Wright has taken this approach. Discussions must take place between the Department, Dublin Port and Docks Board, the county council and the Department of the Environment before any transfer order is made. I have no doubt Senator Wright will express his views at that stage.
Unfortunately, there is no member of the Minister's party on Fingal County Council. These are not only my views, but those of the 24 councillors who represent those areas. Senator Manning's party led the motion and Senator O'Sullivan has made her views known through those who represent that area. I accept the money the Minister is spending in this regard. Will financial arrangements be part of the discussions which will take place before any regulations are passed? The only reason the £120,000 was mentioned is that the Minister is trying to push this legislation through the House.
That is not true.
Is the Minister saying this Bill has nothing to do with the fact that £120,000 was announced, particularly when we were given nothing for 20 years? If this section is passed through both Houses of the Oireachtas we will be left with two areas which are starved of resources and we will not have money in the future to do anything for them. I make no apology for fighting that cause.
I am not sure what Senator Wright wants. I will not make a commitment as regards funding.
I know that is out of order. Will financial arrangements be part of the discussions which will take place?
I would be surprised if they are not part of the discussions. If the view the Senator has expressed is the view of Fingal County Council, I assume it will put it forward at the discussions. As I said a number of times, the arrangements dealing with the transfer, before any transfer order is made, will involve consultation between all the parties, including Fingal County Council. The moneys being made available now for works to be carried out on Skerries and Balbriggan arise from a request which was conveyed to me by officers of Fingal County Council at a meeting arranged by an Oireachtas colleague of Senator Wright.
I told the Minister about that meeting.
Senator Wright acknowledged that I expressed surprise at the time that other Oireachtas Members representing the area were not present at the meeting.
The Minister did.
The request was considered by me, by the Minister and by the Department and we responded positively. The response may not have been as good as everyone would have liked, but we made arrangements for some moneys to be spent in 1995. I am not suggesting that the limited moneys to be spent in 1995 will solve all the problems in Skerries and Balbriggan, but it is a tangible and practical response. There is no point in acknowledging the problem when money is required to fix it. We are spending some money in 1995 between moneys put up by the Department, for which there is considerable competition from ports and harbours throughout the country, and matching moneys from Dublin Port and Docks Board.
I am disappointed at the way Senator Wright and the members of Fingal County Council have interpreted our efforts to make a start on works at Skerries and Balbriggan. I expected that when such money was being made available there would have been a recognition of the problem, an acknowledgement that it can only be resolved by the provision of finance and some appreciation of the fact — I do not mean this in the sense that if one does not want it, one does not have to take it — that harbours all over the country are applying for funding for works to piers, landing places, etc.
We responded quite quickly to the request from Fingal County Council. Senator Wright seems to think this was because we wanted to allocate money before the Bill came before the House. We were conscious that, arising from the Bill, those harbours would be transferred to the respective county councils. However, the Bill has been before the Oireachtas since last July and there was no pressure or obligation to allocate money before it was before the Seanad.
I regret that the genuine attempt to resolve the problems of Skerries and Balbriggan, through legislation in the first instance and by putting money where our mouth is in the second instance — perhaps not in the quantity Senator Wright would wish but at least it is being done — is met with the type of language used by Senator Wright. He said they are being dumped on the county council, that it is a sop and that it is only being done because the legislation has been introduced. I regret his response.
I am pleased the Minister outlined that the £60,000 from the Department is a start. All the representatives from the area will be pleased the Minister stated the money is a start. However, it is extraordinary that the Minister is so sensitive. He is talking about £60,000 and he wants to make something special of that. We welcome the sum, but it was on the agenda from day one. Nevertheless, I am glad he said the £60,000 is a start.
I think the Minister for his response. I welcome the fact that there will be a process of consultation and that all relevant matters will be discussed.
Foreshore in the State is deemed to be State owned unless it can be proved otherwise. Dublin Port and Docks Board has already proved ownership of some foreshore within its area of jurisdiction. A strict interpretation of section 96 (2) could mean that after vesting day the foreshore at present in the ownership of Dublin Port and Docks Board would vest in the State. This was not the intention of the section and to avoid any doubt it was considered prudent to delete the reference to the Foreshore Act in the section. The State's interest in foreshore is protected by the 1933 Act.
Amendments Nos. 37 and 37a are alternatives to amendment No. 36 and they may be discussed together.
I move amendment No. 37:
In page 83, lines 23 to 27, to delete paragraph 7 and substitute the following:
"7. Limits consisting of the Harbour Works and the land vested in Foynes Port Company from time to time together with the waters of the sea and River Shannon bounded on the east by an imaginary straight line drawn from Durnish Point to Gammarel Point, and bounded on the west by a line drawn from Battery Point in a direction of 264º from true north for 4.0 Cables, and thence in a direction 225º from true north for 6.6 Cables, and thence to a Point 2.8 Cables due north of Mount Trenchard Point, and thence to a Point north of Loghill which point is 7.4 Cables south of the County Clare coast on the meridian 9º12' west of Greenwich, and thence due south through the mouth of the White River at Loghill."
This amendment is similar to Government amendment No. 37a which extends the jurisdiction of Foynes. This is welcome and we appreciate the Minister's amendment, which recognises the success of Foynes. The amendment is vital because Foynes needs this area of jurisdiction. We welcome the measure and I thank the Minister.
I wish to be associated with the remarks of my colleague, Senator Kiely, and I welcome that the Minister has adopted the principle of the amendment. It recognises the role and contribution of the Foynes authorities over the years, which is not confined to the immediate Foynes area. It extends to other parts of the region in which I live and represent. It is proper the development capacity consistently demonstrated by the authorities over the years has been recognised in the amendment. I express my appreciation to the authorities in the Foynes area and to the Minister for his positive approach.
As Senators are aware, my colleague, the Minister for the Marine, Deputy Barrett, appointed Mr. Patrick J. Murphy to act as independent mediator between Limerick Harbour Commissioners and Foynes Harbour Trustees in the matter of an application from Foynes for an extension of their area of jurisdiction. The mediation process commenced in October and the mediator's report and recommendation was received on 16 November 1995.
Subsequent to receipt of the mediator's report, issues were raised by Limerick Harbour Commissioners, River Shannon pilots and Senator Jan O'Sullivan. Notwithstanding the mediator's report, a serious view was taken of these concerns and I confirm the matters raised were thoroughly examined. Departmental officials, including a technical representative, met with the harbour masters from both Foynes and Limerick on Thursday, 7 December 1995.
Following this meeting a report on the matter was prepared by the chief marine surveyor who concluded that the mediator's recommendation is a reasonable compromise, that there is no compelling reason to alter any of the limits set out by the mediator and, that with goodwill, commonsense and professional co-operation between Limerick and Foynes, there is no basis for any concern from a safety perspective with the limits suggested by the mediator. In these circumstances I am happy to commend my amendment, which provides for a redefinition of the limits of Foynes harbour to the House. I ask Senator Kiely to withdraw his amendment in favour of the Government amendment.
I thank the Minister for examining the situation and for his courtesy in meeting with people from Foynes over the past four months. I thank him for taking on board the mediator's report. While the Foynes Harbour Trustees did not get what they originally sought, they committed themselves to accepting the mediator's advice.
Foynes Harbour is now happy with the opportunity to develop in the way it wants to. Foynes should not have been obliged to lobby for the extension in the way it did. It is in the spirit of the Bill that the commercial development of harbours should be accommodated. It is wrong that Foynes has had to fight every inch of the way to obtain an opportunity that responds to the future development of shipping.
The future will be in Panamax and Cape sized vessels. It is important that the pace of development which has taken place over the past 30 years in Foynes is maintained. It is also important that the momentum of job creation over that time from 60 to some 400 people should be maintained.
Is this for Limerick local radio or something?
It is also important that Foynes should have the opportunity to develop. Taking a logical look at the situation, Foynes should own from where it is down to the Shannon. It makes sense that Panamax type ships and 36,000 tonners should only come through Foynes waters. It is daft that a jetty in the parish of Foynes pays dues to Limerick Harbour 20 miles away.
In future the new board, which I will not be on, should look at the situation logically and talk to the Minister with a view to owning the water from where the port is or from the parish of Foynes to the estuary. That is a reasonable way of putting it. Finally, I thank the Minister for 4.5 of the 130 miles of estuary that Foynes now has.
I was going to be brief but Senator Neville has provoked me to speak for a bit longer. He is being disingenuous about Foynes' need to fight. We are talking about two ports both with an economic and safety interest in the Shannon Estuary and each port has every right to put its case. Foynes put its case with a strong lobby, which is their right. Limerick port also has rights. It is the port for the estuary, apart from the section that is controlled by Foynes. It has the interests of the estuary at heart.
I raised concerns on Second Stage and I thank the Minister for his response and for obtaining technical advice on the safety interests that I was genuinely concerned about. It is not as if Foynes is some little harbour that is being put upon by some big bad harbour on the other side. Limerick harbour — or the Shannon Estuary Harbour as it will be when this legislation passes — has every right to put its case. It has economic and safety interests that need to be pursued. I raised those issues and I thank the Minister for taking them seriously. He obtained the relevant technical expertise that I had sought on Second Stage.
My concerns related particularly to the large Panamax vessels that are coming up through the channel. I have no problem with the extension of the east west boundary, but I was concerned about the northern boundary. With the extension of the Foynes boundaries in that regard I was concerned that these large vessels may transverse waters controlled by two different authorities. That concern was raised by me and the pilots who have to direct the boats, and I thank the Minister for having taken it seriously. Perhaps the Minister can respond in a little more detail to the issue of ships having to transverse boundaries controlled by two different authorities. I realise that the pilotage is the same for both authorities, but it is a matter of concern.
On a point of order, I do not want to obstruct what is obviously a matter of consensus in the House. However, you will be conscious of the fact, a Chathaoirligh, that according to the Order of Business, the Courts and Court Officers Bill would commence at 5 o'clock. I then understood that there had been some agreement to make it 5.30 p.m. If this debate is going to be extended beyond that, those of us who made arrangements on the basis of what we understood to be the Order of Business, will find it difficult to make our contributions. I have made arrangements to be elsewhere. I hope we can expedite the passage of this Bill as agreed on the Order of Business.
As the Senator knows, I do not organise the Order of Business.
Senator O'Kennedy has a very valid point.
The delay is not on this side of the House.
As we have had a very long debate and there is agreement on all sides, I urge all colleagues about to contribute to be as brief and as non-contentious as possible so that we can wrap this up as quickly as we can. I appeal for one sentence speeches from now on, and few of them.
My contributions are known for their brevity but I doubt if I will complete this contribution in one sentence. Senator Fitzgerald and myself will withdraw the amendment in favour of the Government amendment. We thank the Minister for taking the Foynes case on board and for accepting the mediator's recommendations. Foynes sought a larger jurisdiction but they are happy with what the mediator offered them. I am also pleased that we got the technical advice on safety, which Senator O'Sullivan is also happy with. I am sure that there will be goodwill between both authorities, or companies as they will now be known.
I thank the Minister for listening so intently to the concerns of Foynes and I thank Foynes for doing such an excellent job in promoting its own case. I congratulate what was Limerick Harbour Commissioners because they now have control of quite a large section of the Shannon on which they have never done any development.
Amendments Nos. 38 and 39 may be discussed together by agreement.
Is this the new bridge in Limerick?
A whistling bridge.
A singing bridge.
These two amendments are being tabled at the request of the Office of Public Works and of Limerick Harbour Commissioners. The ultimate effect of these amendments is to hand over a small amount of the city limits jurisdiction of Limerick Harbour Commissioners to the Office of Public Works. It has long been recognised that navigation between Killaloe and Limerick city is very problematic. Given the extent of the difficulties involved in this stretch of water, it is remarkable that some 100 boats make this passage annually.
Recently, investigation into the technical potential of improving the channel and increasing the tidal window in the area has proved positive and it is expected that the design of a scheme will commence in the immediate future. Before any works can commence it will be necessary to extend the statutory limit of Shannon Navigation. The Office of Public Works can do this by by-law under section 3 of the Shannon Navigation Act, 1990. The new proposals will impinge on the jurisdiction of the Limerick Harbour Commissioners and consequently it is proposed to have the limits of the jurisdiction shortened somewhat from Sarsfield Bridge to Mallow Street Bridge. The commissioners are more than willing to oblige in this matter. The works to be carried out by the Office of Public Works will mean that trouble free inland waterway travel will be possible from the North of Ireland down through the midlands and as far as the sea at the Shannon Estuary.
I thank the Minister for his sincerity in accepting amendments over the past couple of days. I hope he will not change his mind on Report Stage.
I appreciate that I am trespassing on injury time but I thank Members who contributed to this constructive and lively debate. I hope to be able to respond in kind on Report Stage. I express my appreciation to Members whose time has been eaten into in order to accommodate the completion of Committee Stage of this Bill.
When is it proposed to take Report Stage?