I regret that the Minister is not here. I want to talk about the policy of the Fisheries Branch. I wish Deputy de Valera would be a little more orderly. He is the cause of the House being counted and now he comes in and starts to carry on a conversation in a loud voice.
I heard a statement this morning in relation to work on piers and installations in places which justified it because of the size of the catches. For many years, the policy of the Department has never taken account of the size of the catches in any port when any kind of installation was being erected in any of these ports. They have been consistent in keeping away from the port that catches the most fish. I heard my colleague, Deputy Flanagan, speaking here to-day about the time when he was in charge of the Department. I am not afraid to take him to task about that. He told us about meeting the late Father Daly in West Cork. It was a pity he died because if he had been employed with the Department, he could have sold anything, seeing that he sold the port to Deputy Flanagan so well that an iceplant was put up there. There it remains. Nothing has been done in this iceplant.
A Parliamentary Question was asked here some time ago regarding this iceplant and if something could be done to have it used. It is a terrible situation that large sums of public money are just poured into places where no fish are caught. We have a great example of Fianna Fáil's faith and the manner in which they can break it and their word. We have an instance of this stupid policy of the Fisheries Branch in a Budget statement made by a Minister. When the 1957 Budget was introduced by the Minister for Finance, he said that over £50,000 was being allotted to build an ice plant and fish factory at Dunmore East. That is on the record and it was trumpeted over Radio Éireann that night and headlined in the Irish Press the following day. Only about five weeks afterwards, I asked the Minister in charge of Fisheries how much was to be spent on Dunmore East and he told me that the amount mentioned in the Budget Statement was a misprint but that they would build an iceplant in Dunmore. The Fisheries Branch built an iceplant in Dunmore East. It was inadequate the day it was planned and inadequate the day it was built. In the Minister's statement today, he says that he is going to have a further installation made to the iceplant. That proves that it was inadequate the day it was put up.
I have been bringing this before the House constantly but not much notice has been taken of it. I hope the new Parliamentary Secretary will take some notice of the stupid policy of the Department. We find here in the outlay on fishing ports for the year before last that Killybegs got £102,000; Galway, £67,000; Schull, £36,000; Dingle, £21,000; Baltimore, £21,000; Dunmore East, £19,000 and Castletownbere, £13,000. It is interesting to read the catches as against the outlay. The place that got the £19,000 caught just 300,000 boxes of fish— more fish than the rest of the ports put together. The port into which money is poured without reserve, Killybegs, caught 101,000 boxes of fish; Schull caught 14,000 boxes, Baltimore, 19,000 and Galway, 36,000. I will have something to say about that. Castletownbere caught 2,000 boxes and Greencastle, which in last year's Estimate for the Office of Public Works was to have £50,000 spent on it and the same amount the previous year, caught 2,000 boxes of fish.
This is a stupid and ridiculous policy. Severe damage was caused to the pier at Dunmore East during the winter gales but no repair work has been carried out. Now we find that the Department decided to bring over Carl J. Bjuke, harbour consultant, and having received his report are evidently not going to act on it. Their idea was to have a great fishing port at Passage East. The report says that Passage East should be made a major port. That is down the river from Dunmore East, a very safe anchorage and a very fine place. There was great activity there. There was great disappointment in Dunmore East. They have been digging holes there for some time and recently we were told that the currents are creating difficulty and that it is a very difficult place in which to construct a pier and a breakwater and there is talk that they may go back to Dunmore. I hope note will be taken of what I am saying and that it will be brought to the notice of the Parliamentary Secretary. I would ask him to state where it is to be. Is it to be at Passage or at Dunmore?
Frequently Deputies appeal for the construction of a pier in their constituency. In my view, piers should be erected where fish are caught. It is not just because a man might have a boat that the State should go to the expense of constructing a pier. Take the case of Schull, where there is an iceplant installation. We were told there were about 20 fishermen there. They had to spend £36,000 on it. I think the fishermen would be glad to settle for £1,000 each and go somewhere else. It is stated in the report that there are nine boats of over ten tons owned by Dunmore people. From information I have from the Minister's Department, of the 117 boats allocated by Bord Iascaigh Mhara over ten years, one boat was allocated to Dunmore—the port where most of the fish is caught. If Dunmore were to get its fair share of boats according to the volume of fish caught, it should have got 80 boats.
It may be said that the Dunmore men do not apply for boats. The Dunmore men got so tired of applying for boats and so frustrated by broken promises that most of them are fishing in other people's boats, what we call foreign boats, or sailing the seven seas. It was another instance of the consistency of the Fisheries Division in connection with the main fishing port over the past 30 years that in allocating 117 boats, Dunmore East got one and one was given to Helvick. I know all about that boat.
Even though it is not in my constituency, I can mention again Kilmore Quay—a great fishing port. One need only be there to recognise that it is the greatest fishery in the country, as has been proved. Kilmore Quay got one boat. That again is a measure of the interest of the Board in Kilmore.
It may be suggested that Deputies in making a case for their constituency make exaggerated claims but I have here a statement of the Minister for Lands on 26th October 1960. In reply to a Supplementary Question by Deputy O'Donnell as to where the Cú Feasa was cruising the Minister said:
If the Deputy has misunderstood me, by protection I mean the conservancy of Dunmore East fishery which is the most important one on our coasts.
That led me to hope that that fact had penetrated into the Minister's head.
I have seen 7,000 cran of herring landed at Dunmore on a Monday morning, 7,000 landed on the next day and 7,000 landed on the next day. The men had to stop fishing on the Thursday, not because the fish could not be sold but because there was no ice. The ice factories were in Galway, Castletownbere and elsewhere where they were not wanted. I shall read out a litany of them: Killybegs, Cloghan, Donegal, Castletownbere, Ballycotton, Murrisk, Galway, Cahirciveen and Schull. The smallest ice factory was built to meet the great catches in Dunmore.
Apart from the great catches being landed at Dunmore, fish can be sold there. I do not have to come here and ask the Minister to arrange for fishmeal factories so that the fish landed at Dunmore can be converted into fishmeal. Buyers come from Germany, Holland, France, England, Scotland and bid for the fish against Irish buyers. That is the way it should be. Not only is Dunmore a great fishing ground but it is a great fish market. The fish trade know where to come for fish. It is impossible to get that message across to the Fisheries Division.
I do not know how it can be arranged, managed or fixed but £100,000 was spent in Greencastle in the past year and there were 2,000 boxes of fish brought into it.
I have here another blister for the Department. I quote from The Kerryman of Saturday, February 4th, 1961: “The Killybegs Fish Surplus that Never Was”, was the headline. “Cost of three months employment of 30 people to process it was £2,333 a head”— a scandalous waste of public money.
I do not expect money to be pumped into Dunmore just for the sake of Dunmore fishermen or others fishing there but would it not be a splendid thing if there were a great installation in Dunmore instead of in places where it is useless? When fishermen come from Killybegs, Louth, Howth and West Cork, to Dunmore and land great catches and get good prices, there is the sorry story of the pier there on which not one pound has been spent for 20 years.
We had the continuation of that policy in the purchase of the three famous trawlers. I have been constantly asking who surveyed these trawlers before they were bought. Who passed them as seaworthy? Who said they were boats which could go out to fish? Were officials of the Department of Lands responsible, or did they employ a firm of ship surveyors to do it? If they did, I suggest they never again employ such surveyors. These boats were bought in 1952 in Germany. I suppose we could not have bought them elsewhere. We could not have bought them from the French or from the Dutch, but, above all, we could not have bought them from Britain, although we are very glad to get the British to buy our fish from us.
The boats were got to Killybegs, and I emphasise that they were "got" there because it was a great feat of seamanship to get these three rusty buckets into Killybegs, where they were tied up for years. In an Adjournment Debate in the House on July 20th, 1960, I raised this issue and discovered that the Minister for Lands was very annoyed at what he alleged were Deputy Dillon's efforts to sabotage the boats in seeking to sell them for £90,000. He said Deputy Dillon should have had the boats fitted with new engines instead of keeping them tied up. He knew why the boats were tied up. He knew very well it was because they were not seaworthy. Eventually, they were fitted with new engines and put to sea, and the Minister for Lands was delighted to tell us that the boats landed £250 worth of fish. What he did not tell us was that it cost £280,000 to land that fish—a very expensive consignment. Yet he blamed Deputy Dillon for trying to sell the boats for £90,000. Eventually, seaworthy as the Minister said the boats were, he sold them for £33,000, after deduction of shipbroker's fees.
I just want the Parliamentary Secretary to know the type of policy that has been followed by the Fisheries Section for years. I should like him to know that I am not making these criticisms from a Party point of view. I had as much to say against his predecessor earlier for allowing the erection of installations and the improvement of piers in areas where no fish are landed. I hope he will stop that. I do not want to see any more Board of Works Estimates coming in here for anything from £50,000 to £100,000 for the provision of installations and piers at little places on the coast where no fish are caught. I would ask him to concentrate more on Dunmore East and Passage East. I shall not make any distinction between them as regards suitability because it is in the Waterford estuary the fishing grounds are. Not only have we got the fishing grounds but we have also got the best fish market. People from all over the country employ lorries to send their fish to be sold at Dunmore East.
Yet we have all this nonsense of people coming in here starry-eyed, talking about some little cove where some man or some supporter has a boat and who wants to get a big fishing pier built for that boat, although he has no hope whatever of catching any fish. There is also the question of the iceplants which have been built around the country. No matter how substantial, I suggest they be taken down and reassembled at ports where they catch fish.
On the question of the training of young men either to fish or to navigate boats, I have been told by many young fishermen in my constituency and elsewhere that they would not go to the training school in Galway because they prefer to train on their own fishing grounds where they intend to earn their livelihood. That is reasonable. Bord Iascaigh Mhara have taken back 22 boats which they had given out but which were not paid for. I should like to know what will become of those boats. Will they be offered to people after they have been reconditioned and made seaworthy. I consider that a fishing port of the importance of Dunmore East should have a drydock for the overhauling of the boats. The geography of the port is such that it could be constructed with very little expense.
The Parliamentary Secretary has said that we are to have a new exploratory boat. I should like to know if the Cú Feasa is a first-class boat? I should like to know if it is a fact that she has to run for shelter if there is a squall? I should like to know if she is a seaworthy boat? If it is a fact that she is not a first-class seaworthy boat, the Parliamentary Secretary should see that her design is altered.
As far as fishing limits are concerned, I consider that the Minister's predecessors did a very good job when they had the fishing limits measured from the base lines. That is a great thing and it has definitely increased our fishing area. Now we have Deputies looking for a 12-mile limit. If I live long enough and if the people of Waterford keep on sending me here, I will look for the 12-mile limit when we are able to go out and fish in that area. This matter may be outside the scope of the Parliamentary Secretary's functions, but he has some say in it. We have large corvettes engaged in the protection service and they do the best they can, but if they catch one of those enormous trawlers and take them into port, all the lads outside come in and scoop out the whole place. I think we should have large armed cutters supporting the corvettes. The corvette could catch the poachers and the cutters could bring them into port,
I have seen some of these enormous ships fishing off our coasts. They are not trawlers at all. These are not the small Spanish boats; they are big boats of up to 1,000 tons. They use nets with a very fine mesh which the fishermen say would let nothing escape but water. These are the people that could destroy a fishery. We must keep them at bay and see that they do not get inside the three-mile limit from the base lines. They must take very large catches of fish, judging from the fact that they are loaded to the water-line and that each boat can carry 500, 600 or 700 tons of fish.
There is great necessity for the strengthening of the fishery protection service. On a reasonably clear night from the heights at Annestown, I could look out to sea and it seemed as if there were a line of telegraph poles with lights on top of them stretched all along the coast from Helvick Head. It was a line of these great fishing vessels. They were not fishing inside the three-mile limit, but the Parliamentary Secretary can imagine that if the corvette were withdrawn, or had to go into port for any reason, or had made an arrest and had to bring the vessel into port, this armada could swoop in and clear up the whole place. They would not leave even bait in the area. I exhort the Parliamentary Secretary to see that the corvettes are reinforced. It has been mentioned that a helicopter would be a help and I am sure the Parliamentary Secretary will look into that matter.
In regard to the marketing of fish at home, we are all aware that even in the most outlying districts, small shopkeepers have a small container for icecream. I would ask the Parliamentary Secretary to investigate the possibility of supplying chilled fish to the country districts. There was a time in this country—it was not a time of great refrigeration—when all the districts around the coast had people with ponies and carts. They used to buy the fish when it was landed and go around the country calling the fish and selling it. I have seen them go inland for a distance of 20 miles and sell all the fish they had.
Recently I asked a young man in the retail business to send a vanload of fish to a place without notice. He sent the vanload to Thomastown and he sold the whole lot within an hour and a half. The people in the inland places like to get fresh fish. However, the people who used to take out the fish with their ponies and carts have all gone but I would suggest that we should try a system of supplying shopkeepers in the country districts with small ice cabinets in which the fish could be kept for sale. However, that matter should be investigated.
There is often criticism of the conditions which Bord Iascaigh Mhara impose in regard to the hire purchase of boats. There is only one boat on hire purchase in my constituency, so I cannot speak for that, but people from other constituencies have told me that Bord Iascaigh Mhara have been generous where people have been unable to meet their commitments, that it is only in desperate cases that boats are taken back and that every help and incentive is given to the men who get the boats. I happened to be in a port myself one day and I saw there 12 boats, nine of them Bord Iascaigh Mhara boats. They should have been out fishing, but I shall not say any more about that.
We are also told that there should be organised co-operatives to sell fish. That is all very well, but it is a good thing to have people who know their business and who have been in the fish trade for generations. I would not like the Parliamentary Secretary to turn his face only to the co-operatives and to turn his back on the well-established branch of the fish trade.
In my opening remarks, I said I would like to know whether Passage East or Dunmore East will be chosen for development. It is about time we were told. The Minister also stated that proposals for the improvement of various landing places around the coast are also being considered. I would exhort him to see to it that we do not spend a penny anywhere except where fish are being caught.
I am very glad the Parliamentary Secretary devoted four or five pages to the Inland Fisheries Trust. It is always nice to have the ranks of Tuscany cheer, but we never hear the ranks of Fianna Fáil cheer what their opponents have done. It is a matter of some pride to us that the Inland Fisheries was Deputy Dillon's idea.
Nearly everybody commented on how young the Parliamentary Secretary was. I know he is active. I want to draw his attention to the waste that has taken place in the Fisheries Division over the past eight or nine years. I want him to tell me when replying, who O.K'd these three trawlers. I do not want anybody to say I am being hard. We Deputies could not afford to make such a mistake. If we made a mistake about so much money or about anything so important, our constituents would chop our heads off.
In conclusion, I wish the Parliamentary Secretary the best of luck on his way through the jungle he is entering.