Priority Questions. - Sale of Horgan's Quay, Cork, Property.

Batt O'Keeffe

Ceist:

10 Mr. B. O'Keeffe asked the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications the efforts, if any, which have been made by CIE to sell the property at Horgan's Quay, Cork. [7081/97]

Under the Transport Acts, the board of Córas Iompair Éireann may dispose, whether absolutely or by way of lease for a term of years or for any lesser period, of property which in its opinion is not required for the discharge of its duties. I have no function in relation to individual property disposals by the CIE board, whether at Horgan's Quay, Cork, or elsewhere.

I have been advised — in fact I know this to be the case — that the Horgan's Quay site is still in use by Iarnród Éireann on an operational basis. The site, which comprises approximately three acres with a possible option on a further two acres, is part of the CIE group's total property at Kent Station, Cork, amounting to about 30 acres. I understand that the question of its future is currently under review as part of a comprehensive examination by the CIE Group of its operational and other commercial requirements at Kent Station. In this context, representatives of CIE have had discussions with Cork Corporation as to how redevelopment of the larger station area may best contribute to meeting public transport needs in Cork city.

I have been advised that over the past year or so, a number of inquiries have been received by CIE in connection with the future development of the site. The parties in question have been advised that, on completion of the comprehensive review to which I already referred, CIE will be in a position to address the inquires on a substantive basis.

Is it not ironic that the Minister is saying he has no role in the disposal of the site at Horgan's Quay given the precedent set by his former colleague? How can the Minister say there is an ongoing review at present when the board of CIE decided to sell this property to create 800 jobs within the Cork area? That deal was scuppered by the Minister's predecessor as a result of allegations which were totally unfounded. Why would CIE conduct a review on a property which it had decided to sell and on which planning permission has been granted for the development of a high technology park?

I see no irony in explaining the present position to the Deputy. It is a matter for CIE to manage the property in its possession and to decide whether its property is required for operational purposes. It is examining this specific property to which the Deputy referred in the context of its operational needs. In fact, there are several scenarios in which CIE could use that property to better advantage than that for which it is being used currently for its operational needs. I will not go into those scenarios because it is not my decision; it is a matter entirely for the board of CIE.

I agree that the site could be utilised better, given that weeds now grow over a ten foot wall there. The Minister said that representatives of CIE were engaged in negotiations with Cork Corporation. I understand part of those negotiations pertains to the widening of the road. Will the Minister agree that is unusual, given that Cork Corporation in granting planning permission for this site indicated it was satisfied there would be a two way lane system, that the tunnel to come on stream would take the excess traffic, that the four way lane system proposed could not be sustained in the city and an agreement was reached to widen the road by reducing the size of the very large footpath? Given that a total of 37 real jobs were created in Cork last year, would it not make economic sense that this site, which was agreed should be sold on as an industrial entity in which 800 jobs could be created, should be sold? The Minister has an interest in this and he should tell the board to stick by its original decision and sell the land to ensure there will be real economic investment and real jobs in the heart of Cork city.

CIE has been discussing with Cork Corporation how this site, among other things, could contribute to the overall economic development in Cork.

They discussed that already.

The Deputy's descriptions of the possibilities for the site are fascinating. They are matters that fall entirely within the ambit of Cork Corporation as a planning authority and are for discussion between it and CIE. I am content to leave the matter there because I have no role in it and they would both handle it far better than I would.

Is the Minister saying he disagrees with his predecessor on the decision and the interference that arose by the sale of that site? Is he also saying that the legacy he will leave to Cork relative to this site is that the widening of the road there is more important than the creation of 800 jobs? I put him on notice that Members on this side of the House consider the provision of badly needed high tech jobs in Cork is far more important than the widening of the road, particularly when Cork Corporation and the previous board of CIE agreed that two lanes were sufficient in that area and that the site should be used for industrial purposes.

I am saying to the Deputy that life has moved on and he must accept that.

And the weeds have grown.

The site has not moved on.

It would be highly presumptuous of me and very previous to be thinking of leaving legacies of any kind to Cork Corporation or anybody else at this stage.

Gallons of weed killer will be needed to get rid of the weeds on the site.