Harbours Bill 2015: Report and Final Stages

Amendments Nos. 1, 5 to 13 inclusive, 15 to 19 inclusive, and 27 are related and will be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 1:

In page 6, between lines 15 and 16, to insert the following:

“ “Stakeholder and Community Group” means a group comprising elected representatives of all harbour user groups as well as resident and community groups across the local authority area;”.

We discussed this at length on Committee Stage but I wish to take another opportunity in a more public Chamber, before the Bill passes, to summarise the concerns of the people of Dún Laoghaire, stakeholders in Dún Laoghaire Harbour and users of the harbour about its future and how this Bill will impact on it. I urge the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport to respond to the concerns and aspirations of the wide variety of harbour users and stakeholders. There is a widespread public consensus about what should happen to Dún Laoghaire Harbour which, sadly, has not been shared by the people who make decisions. We have an odd situation whereby the dogs on the street and virtually everyone else shares a similar vision for what should happen in Dún Laoghaire but the plans for the development and day-to-day operations of the harbour are completely at odds with that. This group of amendments is seeking to reconcile that contradiction so that the development, management and maintenance of the harbour is genuinely reflective of the users and stakeholders of the harbour. The aim is to ensure that it is the public and its representatives as well as users and stakeholders who will determine the future of Dún Laoghaire Harbour.

The Minister will be aware that there is a controversial proposal by Dún Laoghaire Harbour Company to develop a giant cruise berth which will effectively cut Dún Laoghaire Harbour in half. The development would involve a very significant incursion into the harbour in order to bring in giant cruise ships. The proposal has generated significant controversy but I would emphasise that the issue is not just with the cruise berth but with what comes with it. The cruise berth and cruise ships will have a significant impact on existing harbour users, including local boat clubs and sailing clubs. It will also have an impact on the harbour as a visual amenity and affect over 1 million people who walk the pier every year. The proposal could have a very significant environmental impact in terms of the dredging of the harbour, despite the fact that Dublin Bay has been designated a biosphere reserve by the UN. There are numerous potential implications, some of which are not explicitly stated in the plan itself.

The cost of this very significant plan to fundamentally change the character of the harbour is estimated by the proposers to be €18 million but I believe that this is a gross underestimate. The HSS terminal, for example, which was built over 20 years ago, cost €22 million. The idea that this giant cruise berth could cost less than that, 20 years on, stretches credibility to breaking point. The money for this proposal will be borrowed using the assets of the harbour as collateral, a very dangerous gamble with public assets which will put the future of the harbour at risk.

We also know that in order to try to finance this big gamble, the Dún Laoghaire Harbour master plan has a number of other elements, most notably plans for hundreds of private apartments and a hotel at Dún Laoghaire Harbour. This is not included in the current planning application but it is clearly stated in the Dún Laoghaire master plan that the giant cruise berth is contingent on the other elements of the master plan, in particular plans for hundreds of private apartments and a hotel on St. Michael's Pier.

That is a very dramatic intervention in regard to the harbour. I feel strongly about it, as I have no doubt the vast majority of people do, judging from the huge numbers turning out at public meetings and the huge number of submissions that have been consistently made around this application and previous applications to put high-rise apartment blocks on Carlisle Pier. At every single opportunity where members of the public have expressed their views, they have made it known they do not want large-scale private residential development at Dún Laoghaire Harbour. This is because they recognise it will fundamentally alter the character of the harbour as a public amenity and will make those parts of that harbour where the development takes place exclusive and not available to the public. It is just a simple fact. People do not want that and yet the plan being put forward by the harbour company for the cruise berth is contingent on that development.

As I mentioned to the Minister on Committee Stage, it has been confirmed by Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council that these two things come together and that we do not get one without the other. The report produced in May last year by Dún Laoghaire Harbour Company states:

The proposed urban regeneration of St. Michael's Pier is set out in the harbour master plan. The harbour company contend that it will be essential to the economic viability of the harbour company into the future and it will be the financial driver of other projects identified in the master plan.

In other words, the council is telling us it was informed by the harbour company that in order to deliver the cruise berth, it has to have the apartments, the hotel and so on at St. Michael's Pier and that one is the financial driver of the other. However, this is not wanted by the people.

Although the Bill relates to more general matters, this is an example of why we need to develop plans for this harbour and every other harbour which are not dreamed up by a small cabal of unaccountable people but are developed by all of the genuine stakeholders - the people with knowledge of the harbour and the users of the harbour, who own the harbour, because it is a publicly owned harbour. I want to underline that we welcome the move to have the harbour integrated into the council and, indeed, see it as a victory for the people in the area who campaigned over many years. However, what this series of amendments is saying is that while welcoming the move, we want to make sure it is not just bringing the harbour under council control in name only. We want it to represent a shift to real public control of the harbour so that the plans that are developed for the harbour genuinely reflect the views, aspirations, wishes and needs of the public and harbour users.

As against how the Bill construes the matter, what we want is that it should not be the CEO of the county council in conjunction or in collusion - whatever way one wants to put it - with the CEO of the harbour, which is a sort of quango or corporate subsidiary, who make the decisions, as has hitherto been the case. We want elected representatives who are accountable to the people to make the key decisions about the harbour and we want them to do it in conjunction with all of the harbour users, of whom there are many, such as fishermen, boat clubs, rowing clubs, walkers, people who are concerned about the seafront as an environmental amenity and asset and those interested in the heritage and history of the harbour. For example, one of the biggest societies in Dún Laoghaire is the history society, which has hundreds of people at its meetings because there is a very rich history, much of which centres on the harbour, which has an extraordinarily rich cultural heritage. That is by no means an exhaustive list. There are all sorts of people who have a real stake, real knowledge and real expertise in regard to the harbour. We want those people to have a say in all decisions about the harbour.

I want to make it clear to the Minister, given there was some confusion during the Committee Stage debate, that in the end, it is the elected representatives who have to make the decisions because they are elected and accountable. What we are asking is that they should do so in conjunction with a stakeholders group, not just with the CEO, who is not elected. Much of this Bill gives much of the power to the CEO rather than to the elected representatives and the stakeholders group we are proposing.

I want to draw a contrast between the approach we are proposing and the approach that has been followed hitherto, which has led to the sort of plans that are so controversial and generally opposed by people in Dún Laoghaire. For example, prior to the plan I have just referred to, there was a plan to put a ten-storey apartment block on Carlisle Pier and to put a floating barge from the canals of Berlin off the East Pier. This was crazy stuff. They wanted to put a barge with a swimming pool, taken from a canal in Berlin, inside a seawater harbour. This is the sort of thing they came up, which nobody asked for. In so far as members of the public would have any opinion about it, they have expressed opposition to this sort of plan.

The amendments propose to have a real stakeholders group but in fact, there was already a stakeholders group that came up with these plans. Where did it come from? From what I can see, it was appointed by the harbour company and by the executive of the council. I thank the Minister for sending me the correspondence between his Department and the harbour company, which I just received yesterday and which I appreciate. One of the letters is from the CEO, Gerry Dunne, explaining the setting up of the stakeholder group in 2010. He simply says that "we have just set up a stakeholder group". By "we", he means that he has. This is presumably in conjunction with the county manager and included on that group is a representative of the chamber of commerce and the business improvement district. Is that representative? These are the people who have been driving the plans.

A lot of money has been spent on these plans. Hundreds of thousands of euro, and possibly up to €1 million, have been spent without any real reference to the diversity and vast array of genuine stakeholders I have mentioned, who have not had any input and who, by and large, oppose the plans that have been developed. That is not a real stakeholder group.

What I call for through these amendments is for the Minister to legislate to ensure we have a genuine stakeholders' group so that the process is open and above board. I want it to be transparent. We know who the stakeholders, the harbour users and the community groups are and I want all of them included, not just a select few dictated from the top. All of the groups should be included and all of their voices heard and they should try to reach a consensus with the elected representatives on the plans for the development, management and protection of the harbour. This is an eminently reasonable proposal that would go a long way to healing the alienation that is so widespread between the public and political, council and semi-State authorities.

This sense of alienation is quite widespread. The people feel that they are always the last to know about plans, decisions and proposals, but they should be the first to know. The people should be first to be asked and consulted. They should be included at the ground floor in developing proposals. That is what my amendments propose and I appeal to the Minister to accept what is an eminently reasonable, fair and progressive proposal for how we manage our harbour. I believe this also applies to other harbours.

I chaired the select committee that discussed Committee Stage of this Bill and wish to raise an issue concerning Galway Harbour. I am not quite sure it is relevant to this section of the debate, but I raise it so we can deal with it now.

A major plan for the development of Galway Port has already been submitted to the planning authorities, but this Bill has implications for that plan in the context of the criteria for the categorisation of ports and these could affect the decision made by the planning authorities. Of all the major ports, Galway is to be categorised as a tier 3 port under the local authority, a categorisation based on tonnage and percentage of traffic. However, the reason the port was not eligible for categorisation in a higher tier was its lack of development. It is the only port in the country that one can walk from to the city centre in ten minutes, which offers huge potential.

I am calling for the categorisation of ports that is included in this Bill to be put in abeyance until development applications already in the process are made, so that if planning permission is granted, those ports do not then find out they are excluded from certain streams of funding, such as TEN-T funding. I urge the Minister to consider these points and to address them in his response.

By and large, I welcome the transfer of port companies to local authorities as it is important we provide a sound footing for many of these harbours. Deputy Boyd Barrett has tabled a number of amendments in this regard and I wish to address some of the issues concerning Dún Laoghaire Harbour. I welcome the transfer of Dún Laoghaire Port to the local authority and see the positives in that. The proximity of Dún Laoghaire to Dublin Port is important and offers huge potential. Dún Laoghaire Port also holds a unique, strategic position when it comes to maritime leisure and water sport assets.

It is a pity that Dún Laoghaire Port no longer has significant commercial shipping revenue, unlike the other ports included in the Bill which have regular cargo shipping. However, there is huge potential to consider this for Dún Laoghaire and hopefully the local authority will do that. Dún Laoghaire has been a major venue for prestigious international yachting and caters for all ages. Many international fetes have taken place there over the years. The harbour is also in an exceptional position in the context of some of its long-established stakeholders, some of which are world renowned and have been operating there since the early 19th century.

Special economic circumstances pertain in regard to Dún Laoghaire town and harbour. I have visited the area many times and am aware how unique it is. The harbour is a unique tourist asset for the greater Dublin area and has millions of visitors each year. A variety of local communities use the harbour for offshore and onshore fishing, rowing, Irish language activity centres and sailing schools. The area has a unique architectural heritage also, for example the 19th century internationally renowned harbour. Dún Laoghaire is also of renown among the diaspora, given that more people emigrated from Ireland through the harbour than from any other place in the country from 1859 onwards. These are significant pluses for Dún Laoghaire.

There are huge concerns also in regard to the harbour. The loss of shipping and of the ferry have had a commercial impact. There is a fractious relationship between the various stakeholders, an issue that has been raised by Deputy Boyd Barrett. Hopefully, the council will be better placed to tackle this issue. There is also uncertainty in regard to the transfer process, with people concerned about job losses and whether the transfer will be an enhancement. The commercial viability of the current harbour company is an issue that is also on the agenda. Fears have been raised by commercial ratepayers and local property tax payers and there are fears of creeping privatisation. Deputy Boyd Barrett mentioned some of the schemes that are planned for the harbour and I hope the council and councillors will consider these carefully. There are fears that the area will be overdeveloped to such an extent that Dún Laoghaire will no longer be unique. There are also fears that there will be reduced public accessibility to the harbour area. I hope that does not happen and feel confident that councillors will ensure it does not. Dún Laoghaire Harbour has potential for the berthing of super cruise liners, and what this could provide for the area should be explored.

In regard to the perception that exists on the issue of governance and the accountability of local authorities to public representatives and local communities, this has been a huge issue. Deputy Boyd Barrett refers in his amendments to the power of the CEO and I agree that we need an input into decisions from a number of stakeholders, including local and community representatives, residents and businesses. People must be allowed to have a good input and decisions should not be left to the CEO. The power of the CEO is one of the major issues in regard to the harbour. We have often seen problems in Dublin City Council and other local authorities when managers used their executive powers to make decisions. I and other Deputies have challenged such decisions in the past because we felt managers had too much power and could override the other councillors.

There are a lot of fears in regard to this Bill, but there is also hope that it will bring improvements to Dún Laoghaire Harbour and other harbours around the country. It is important that local authorities have a significant input. I support the amendments.

As I understand it, the Bill allows for the transfer of shareholdings in certain port companies to local authorities, and for the transfer of certain port companies to local authority control. I support the premise. The amendment refers to stakeholders and community groups and is about proper utilisation of ports.

We dealt with fishing ports on the Committee of Public Accounts and I have experience with Waterford Port Company. The control of State ports has in recent history been divested to entities of the State that may not have been the most suitable to manage them. Sticking to fishing ports from Killybegs to Ros a Mhíl, Dingle, Castletownbere, Dunmore East, Kilmore Quay and up to Howth, for example, the Committee of Public Accounts went to Howth and took a look. We had received correspondence from users in the port. We found a lot of vacant buildings, yet people were trying to conduct business from the backs of vans. The responsible Department at first was the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, and now it is the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, which has made some strides. It was awful; it was a desperate experience to have to deal with the old Department.

Deputy Boyd Barrett talked about the harbour user meetings. They are a box ticking exercise which occurs every year and they are completely unproductive. They became an exercise in which the officials went in, listened to the individuals who use the ports, then left and did not really do anything afterwards. That is a fact. That is what we found. It was the case not just in one isolated port but in a number of fishing ports. The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine has made really big strides. When it came to the fishing ports, rents had not been collected for two years by the specific Department. Agriculture has cleaned it up. The Comptroller and Auditor General has been dealing with this for years. It proves the point.

Are we taking the ports and their potential seriously? Frankly, we have not done so over the past ten or 15 years. In the past five or six years there has been a recession, but we need to start looking at the ports as key infrastructure as far as development is concerned. If that is the essence of getting the locals involved and using the ports properly, that has to be supported. It is a valuable point which relates not just to Dún Laoghaire but also to ports like that in Waterford and all the fishing ports. That has been found to be the case. It is not a matter of conjecture.

It is a function of government which could be an awful lot better, although it is improving. Dunmore East is a fishing port which has been in a dreadful situation. The buildings that were used for fishing factories are now, in many cases, completely shut. They provided an awful lot of employment but have been vacant for a very long time. There are legacy issues as far as arrears are concerned.

A point not specifically an issue for the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, but for the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine in dealing with the fishing ports, is that the right State actors have not been involved in the ports. For example, Enterprise Ireland, which I met about this, should have an input into these fish factories. It should be able to tell people who are manufacturing fish products what the markets are in Europe and around the world and what can be achieved within the port buildings that are lying idle. I met the head of Enterprise Ireland and have talked to the head of the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and that process has started, although I do not know how indepth their discussions have been. I know they have met a couple of times. That really needs to be accelerated. It is a practical point which would make the ports more productive for the economy.

Our experience in Waterford has been dreadful. The State port there was run into the ground by the management. Ten years ago when Fianna Fáil was in government, I asked for a management review and was completely ignored. It has taken this Government to take it seriously and completely change senior management within the port - the CEO, the chairman of the board and most of the board itself. That has been necessary. It has taken too long but at least we have done it. In the 1980s, our port in Waterford was one of the largest in Europe. Tonnage-wise it was enormous but it was driven into the ground. The warnings given to the last Administration fell on deaf ears. Already we are seeing results from the new CEO. Infrastructure is being developed across the board in Waterford Port and Dunmore East with the dredging there.

The sense and premise of these amendments is something we have found to be correct in the Committee of Public Accounts with regard to the fishing ports. It is not just my experience but was a lengthy process in which the Comptroller and Auditor General has been involved as well as the committee. I support the sentiment of what is entailed in the amendments.

I thank all the Deputies for their contributions and want to respond to some of their points in respect of individual ports, and to parts of the Bill which Deputy Boyd Barrett has highlighted with his amendment. I will deal with some specific points before addressing the overall policy thrust which Deputy Boyd Barrett has proposed.

As Deputy Deasy has acknowledged, this legislation deals with the ports that are under the remit of my Department. I agree with him on the need to take ports very seriously and to acknowledge the contribution they make to our economic development. I have been at pains to do this as Minister. I have visited many of them myself, including Waterford Port in Deputy Deasy's constituency. The maintenance of our ports - dredging, access, railway links and so on - is fundamental to our ability to trade as an open, small economy. If we are unable to sell and export what we make or, more crucially, to deal with the products we take into our country and to which we can add value, our ability to grow in the future will be impaired.

That is why I am putting forward this Bill for the support of the House. It looks to build on the progress that was made earlier in this Government's tenure in developing a national port policy in which we have a clear strategy on the role of different ports, underpinned through primary law. Regarding some of Deputy Deasy's comments on Waterford Port and its potential, it is one of our few ports, if not the only one, with a direct rail link to the port itself. I saw the potential for goods to be taken directly off vessels and put onto the freight line, which already does a lot of business with the Coca Cola plant in Ballina in County Mayo. The port is also located beside Belview Industrial Park and, furthermore, I am aware of the kind of investment Glanbia has made in the region. I saw all of this myself on my visit.

A new CEO and a new chairman are now in place. I recently met the chairman. There are great opportunities for this port to move forward. In the past week or so, we have engaged with it in respect of how it might access TEN-T funding in the future. We have been successful in accessing European funding for many different parts of infrastructure in the country and I would like to see our ports accessing that funding as well. I have had engagement with European bodies about it. We want to work with the board and management team in Waterford Port to look at how it can grasp those kind of opportunities. This links to a point I will make to Deputy O'Mahony. We must work with the port to look at how we can develop it from a policy perspective. If I look at its trading performance over the past 12 to 18 months, based on my engagement with the port, I can say that it does appear that in respect of some of the difficulties referred to by the Deputy in the past, it is trading more successfully than it had done previously. Again, I know from dealing directly with it that it is looking at a number of business opportunities to see how it can move forward in an even more successful manner. I look at the infrastructure it has from a rail link perspective and some of the investment that has clustered there recently. That is the kind of potential that we need to support through a policy like this and the work I want to do with the port, which I have tried to do recently.

In respect of Deputy O'Mahony's point about Galway Port, this again is a matter that we have debated in recent weeks in the committee of which he is a member as well as in this House. I again emphasise that we have ports that are part of local authority structures all over Europe that are successful in drawing down and accessing TEN-T funding. Rotterdam is the best example of this. It is part of a local authority structure but because the criteria for accessing TEN-T funding are independent of this Bill and are in many ways independent of the policy we are setting here, it is still able to access that funding and is able to access it as part of a local authority structure. I visited the port referred to by the Deputy. I am well aware of its adjacency. I understand the plans it has but I will not comment on them in the same way I will not comment on the plans referred to by Deputy Boyd Barrett because they are part of the latter stages of the planning process. I can confirm that I am aware that there are a number of matters relating to that port that need to be resolved and moved forward, for example, due diligence. I am certain that this port and ports of its scale are more successfully managed within the communities and regions in which they are located. That is why I believe that embedding the port within a local authority structure is the best way in which it can be run, both in terms of the success of that from a trading perspective and in terms of its ability to be integrated into the development plans of the city and county.

I can confirm that neither I, nor, I believe, a future Minister will sign a Commencement Order to carry through with this Bill until the different processes to which I have referred are complete. It is my expectation that it will take 18 months to work out the matters to which we have referred. At the end of that period, the Commencement Order for that port will be signed.

If I take a step back to look at the broad points referred to by Deputies Ellis and Boyd Barrett, I note that Deputy Boyd Barrett has acknowledged in recent weeks and again this evening that I agree with much of what he says. I am clear in emphasising, and I have tried to do so again in response to Deputy O'Mahony, that I believe that ports of a certain scale and with certain uses are better managed within the local authority area in which they are located. I believe one will see a focus, an energy and a sense of ownership in these ports that can be good for their development. In that, which is the broad thrust of what this Bill is about, I think Deputy Boyd Barrett has acknowledged that we agree. I believe that Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council and its members and executive offer the best framework within which the plans for the port can be achieved. I look forward to seeing that happen.

I am not accepting the amendment put forward by the Deputy, which is the same amendment I spoke about on Committee Stage, for two reasons. The first reason goes back to the matter I mentioned to the Deputy on Committee Stage. It concerns how one defines a bona fide harbour group and a resident and community group and how it is done in primary legislation. If, once we have enabled local authorities in the way I am proposing in this Bill, they want to go ahead with those processes and put those groups in place, that is their business. As the units of Government that are closest in many cases to these matters, they can put in place structures like that. I am making it very clear that within legislation, the primary area of the governance of those ports will be embedded within local authorities. The reason why I do not believe it should be brought forward in primary legislation is because I believe that local authorities should be able to determine that themselves.

With regard to what the Deputy is seeking to do in terms of striking a balance of power between the executive and the elected members, arguments with which I am very familiar, those areas are outside the remit of a Bill that is principally dealing with ports and harbours. They are broader matters for consideration by the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government and his Department rather than myself.

That being said, I again draw the Deputy's attention to other sections of the Bill that include the provision for the chairperson and the CEO of the port and harbour to come before the local authority members. I refer to the fact that the audited accounts of the port and harbour must be laid before the local authority and discussed there. I also refer to the provision that any proposed chairperson must come before the local elected members. In many ways, this Bill gives the same scope to members of the local authority that is available to Members of the Oireachtas and the relevant Oireachtas committee in respect of their ability to engage with the officers of the port and harbour if it is retained as a discrete unit within the local authority. All those provisions will be there.

I will conclude on a point that will be relevant to a debate we will have later. I will bring forward an amendment relating to section 21 of this Bill that has been prompted by the discussion we had on Committee Stage, in which I participated, as the Deputy knows, to bring in a mandatory review of a transferred company three years after its transfer. If such a port is brought in and kept as such a unit, I will introduce an amendment that mandates a review of the accounts of that company and its performance three years after it has been brought into the local authority.

That is to further address the points the Deputy made about how to strengthen the relationship between the local authority and the port and harbour brought under it. Deputy Ellis supported some of Deputy Boyd Barrett's points. I am also aware, as is the Ceann Comhairle, of the great importance and historic significance of the port we are referring to and I completely appreciate its current value to the community in which it is located and to everybody who uses it. However, I am genuine in my contention that this Bill, and its provisions, offer the best platform on which matters relevant to ports of that scale can be successfully dealt with.

We welcome the broad thrust of this Bill. It reflects a long-standing desire of all sorts of groups, stakeholders and users of the harbour to have more involvement in its development, protection and improvement. I stated that on Committee Stage and the Minister acknowledged it. I do not want it to be just a nominal move in that direction but to be a tangible change. This centres on whether it remains in reality at a remove from any real public control by elected representatives, even if it comes under the council’s remit, which it has been. There was a bizarre situation at council meetings when the elected councillors who were on the harbour board walked out of council meetings when the harbour was being discussed because there was a conflict of interest when the board was a corporate entity. We did not have oversight. If we retain the corporate, separate, subsidiary model, then even though nominally the harbour comes under council control and is integrated with the town, which we all want, it is still a separate entity, that remains unaccountable, notwithstanding the reviews the Minister has talked about and the fact that it could come before the council, both of which I welcome. Let us make sure, in so far as there are always people giving advice and having an input into these matters, that we have a standing arrangement whereby there is a genuine stakeholders group that the elected councillors and chief executive officers, CEOs, should consult. I agree the selection of that group and who decides what is bona fide will be done at local level. I am asking that the legislation state that at national level - Deputy Deasy echoed this point - it should be a requirement that the local authority have such a users and stakeholders group informing the discussion about the future, protection and development of the harbours.

We all agree with the Minister about the transfer to the local authorities. I still do not fully understand how this transfer takes place when it comes to the company. Will the CEO, even if he or she becomes an assistant manager, remain independent within the local authority? I assume that is what we are talking about but I have not got a good grasp of how that will work with the input of the councillors, whom, I assume will ask community groups, residents and businesses to give their input. The council will have its own staff, apart from the councillors. I do hope it is for the better.

I am also conscious that there could be pending court actions. How will that impact on this transfer? Does that leave the council in any way liable?

Deputy Boyd Barrett has spoken about the principle of setting up a consultation or stakeholder group but that does not cover all of his amendment. His amendment also provides that the other amendments in this group replace references to the local authority chief executive with a reference to the elected council in consultation with the stakeholder and community group. While the Deputy has understandably focused on the set-up of that group, he wants to give that group, along with the local authority, a set of powers which is wielded either by the CEO of the local authority or by the local authority members or both together. In effect, he wants to change the way decisions on matters such as this are made within local authority units. I cannot agree to a decision like that being made because I believe the CEO of the local authority will have a pivotal role in that and the CEO’s relationship with the local authority members will be crucial. If the local authority members want to put in place a group such as the Deputy refers to it is their business to do so. We rarely hear the word "subsidiarity" in respect of port and harbour policy but I believe the local authority is the best level of governance for making decisions like that, instead of my saying it needs to do it.

Deputy Ellis made a very good point about legal matters. There is a due diligence process that needs to take place before the integration takes place that would deal with such issues. As to how the ports and harbours will be integrated into the local authority, I and the Department must decide whether they are incorporated as single corporate entities or amalgamated in their entirety. Through making that decision the matters the Deputy has raised will be dealt with.

We have debated this issue extensively. The decision to give precedence to the elected representatives in key areas of decision making around harbours, in this case, Dún Laoghaire Harbour, can only be made in this House. It is fair to say that kind of decision might have to be taken in conjunction with the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government but we have well flagged this and every Government and every party is well aware that there is a desire and appetite for more power to be in the hands of elected representatives and maybe less in the hands of CEOs and county managers. I am of that view. In so far as this Bill concerns how we structure the relationship between local authorities and harbours, we want the pre-eminent say in that matter to be in the hands of elected representatives, who are accountable to the public. Those elected representatives should be required simply to consult with a stakeholders’ group. They will make the decision but will also have to consult. There are two aspects to this, as against the provisions in the Bill that many of those powers and the final decision making will rest in the hands of the CEO who, with no disrespect to CEOs, is not accountable to the public. This is a more thoroughgoing, democratic reform of a relationship between local authorities and, in this case, harbours.

The chief executive officer is accountable to the local authority members. Let me give the Deputy a practical example of how that power should be wielded. Let us say I make the decision that a particular port be integrated in its entirety into the local authority structure. Financial decisions regarding that port will then form part of the budget that is put to the local authority members and on which they will vote. I cannot give a more tangible example of how I seek to empower both local authorities and local authority members than this. If a decision that has a financial impact on the local authority becomes part of the local authority budget, which it will, the local authority members will then be obliged to vote on it. I listened to the points made by Deputy Boyd Barrett on accountability. Local authority members will be able to bring before them the chief executive officer of the port or harbour and will be able to question that officer like the Deputy can do to me. This is precisely because what I seek to do is to recognise the role of local authorities as being best placed to deal with ports of a particular size, and within this Bill, I make specific reference to the role of the members.

I will put the question.

To clarify, must Members now make a decision about the entire grouping?

No, we will deal with amendment No. 1 now.

Amendment put and declared lost.

Amendments Nos. 2, 28 and 29 are related and will be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 2:

In page 8, between lines 17 and 18, to insert the following:

“(3) This section shall not apply to Dun Laoghaire Harbour.”.

I intend to call a few votes. There are many amendments before the House. An amendment on definitions did not seem to be the appropriate one on which to call a vote but I intend to call one on the issue of the stakeholders group to make the point that I believe Members should go that step further. This series of amendments is more specific to Dún Laoghaire. I am cognisant this Bill is not simply about Dún Laoghaire and while comments have been made about other ports, those areas must speak for themselves and I do not presume knowledge of those harbours and ports. As for these three amendments I tabled with specific reference to Dún Laoghaire, I note the Minister has included other sections in the Bill that have provisions which are specific to particular ports. Consequently, it is not unreasonable that there would be specific provisions regarding Dún Laoghaire.

I believe it enhances the Bill to have specific provisions that recognise the particularities and the uniqueness of particular ports because although this Bill groups together a number of ports within a particular tier, when one considers the ports under discussion and when one hears some of the contributions made on the ports affected by this Bill, it still is the case that there is considerable diversity in that group of ports. There are different histories, strengths and weaknesses, as well as all sorts of factors to do with location, etc., including the current balance of activities, commercial, recreational and so on, in each port. These specific amendments to do with Dún Laoghaire are being tabled with reference to the specific character of Dún Laoghaire and what I am reasonably confident in stating is the majority-held view about the way forward for Dún Laoghaire. I genuinely do not say this in a presumptuous way because although I did not attend the An Bord Pleanála hearing every day - I also was obliged to be in and out of the Dáil - I spent three or four weeks at that hearing. It was a highly informative gathering at which more than 130 submissions were made by individuals, groups and stakeholders, that is, by everybody really. It was a significant number and the fact the hearing went on for four weeks tells its own story. Originally, the An Bord Pleanála hearing on the application was due to take place over a couple of weeks but it went on for four weeks, such was the level of engagement by a wide variety of groups. There also was a major engagement with the county development plan. Incidentally, it is worth noting the spirit of these amendments is echoed to some extent by the decisions the elected members made recently in the context of putting together the draft development plan. For example, councillors have voted that cruise ships longer than 250 m should not go into Dún Laoghaire. This is what the majority of councillors have voted on and that reflects what I consider to be the majority opinion in the wider Dún Laoghaire area. Indeed, that decision by the elected councillors is an example of democracy working because members of the public expressed their views at public meetings and in lobbying and in engaging with their local representatives and so on. The local representatives of all parties and none listened to that and made a decision that I believe reflects what people do and do not want for the harbour. This is how democracy should work and what these opinions have indicated clearly is that people are not happy with the corporate subsidiary structure, which previously was under the aegis of the Minister's Department but which will move to Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council. One option that is set out in this Bill essentially will leave that company corporate entity structure in place, albeit now with a new owner, namely, the council. This, to put it simply, is not what people want. They want that structure to be dissolved in order that the harbour comes fully under council control.

I believe the Minister stated that were my view on this issue to prevail, he would look forward to how those with that view would be able to work out how to finance the maintenance and development of the harbour. I would put the shoe on the other foot, as I believe a lot of money is being wasted because of the existing structure. I estimate that if one looks at the accounts, there probably is approximately half a million euro per year going on executive salaries which it would not be necessary to spend were the harbour a fully integrated part of the council itself. The front-line employees, such as the harbour police and the maintenance workers, simply would be transferred into the council and would become council employees, which I believe is what they want, and would retain their existing conditions and so on, as allowed for by the Bill and that is fine. However, the harbour board and harbour executive structure represent a cost one cannot stand over or justify. I have had many engagements with the Minister and his predecessor about bonuses, salaries and so on.

I am sorry to interrupt you, Deputy, but your amendment states: "This section shall not apply to Dún Laoghaire Harbour".

That pertains to the transfer of shareholding.

So you are saying the shareholding should not transfer to Dún Laoghaire. You do not give an alternative.

Sorry, a Cheann Comhairle, but I will just explain it. The Bill is rather complex in that two options are set out in it, one of which is it would transfer as a corporate subsidiary and the other the existing harbour company would be dissolved and would be transferred to Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council. If the Ceann Comhairle looks at-----

Sorry for interrupting you but we must talk to the amendment that is here.

The amendment is that this section on the transfer of shareholding shall not apply to Dún Laoghaire Harbour.

This is a group of amendments and if the Ceann Comhairle reads amendment No. 29-----

Amendments Nos. 28 and 29 are related to amendment No. 2.

Amendment No. 2 is the primary-----

We are discussing amendments Nos. 2, 28 and 29.

So, may I talk to amendment No. 28?

You may, of course.

Amendments Nos. 28 and 29.

Amendment No. 29 proposes to insert:

“(2) In respect of Dun Laoghaire Harbour, the Minister shall with the consent of the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform and the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, by order provide for—

(a) the dissolution without winding up of the company, and

(b) the transfer of the company’s harbour to Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council,

This proposes to dissolve the existing harbour company structure and put it in as a fully integrated part of Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council, effectively as a department of the council. That option may not be appropriate for other harbours. That is the point on the technical matter. I do not want to say that option should be ruled out for other harbours, but we are trying to rule out the option of retaining the harbour company as a corporate subsidiary for Dún Laoghaire. That is the purpose of it. I hope I am making myself clear on that.

One of the things that was discussed at the An Bord Pleanála meeting but also more generally was a way to connect the harbour to the town. Everybody accepts that the town needs to be revitalised. Everybody also understands that Dún Laoghaire Harbour is the jewel in the crown of the assets of Dún Laoghaire. We somehow need to marry these things better so that they enhance each other and help revitalise a town that needs to be revitalised.

If that is what everybody wants and people from all sides express a desire to do it in any discussion on it, the logical follow-on from that is not to have two separate entities and rather have one entity. If we retain the existing company structure, notionally the two bodies are under one umbrella, but in reality they are separate bodies. The Minister might say there would still be a little more oversight - I accept that - of the council, the budgets and so on, but there will still be two separate bodies.

Cherrywood, as an example of this, will come into the frame fairly soon. Cherrywood is run by a corporate subsidiary of Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council. So it is like option (a) as set out in amendment No. 29.

The Deputy is straying from the port now.

I am talking about examples of corporate subsidiaries.

I know, but this is Report Stage of a Bill.

And these are amendments-----

The Deputy must stick to-----

A Cheann Comhairle-----

This is not Second Stage.

These are specific amendments.

They are amendments about whether we have a corporate subsidiary model for Dún Laoghaire Harbour or whether we have it as a fully integrated part of the council.

We will have no travel up to Cherrywood at this time.

Cherrywood is a corporate subsidiary. It is an example of that model and so it is directly relevant. The problem is that on a day-to-day basis, when it comes to an existing example of a corporate subsidiary under Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council, the councillors and the public really do not have much say. Once or twice a year they get a chance to talk about it and review it, but in reality they do not have much say or input. Many people, including public representatives, do not know what is going on there.

This has been the problem with Dún Laoghaire Harbour Company; we do not really know what is going on. Plans have been hatched for years in the case of a cruise berth and master plans have been developed where we have not had real input from the elected representatives, the public, the stakeholders and the users. That is what we are trying to rectify with these amendments. The best way to achieve that is to dissolve the harbour company, forget about the corporate subsidiary model when it comes to the harbour and make it a fully integrated part of the council.

I urge the Minister to accept this because it genuinely reflects the majority view in Dún Laoghaire among the public and stakeholders about what to do with Dún Laoghaire Harbour.

I wish to speak to amendments Nos. 2, 28 and 29. I am specifically speaking to the Harbours Bill and not the An Bord Pleanála planning application, as I strongly believe that An Bord Pleanála is an independent planning entity which, thankfully, will make its determination independent of elected representatives, especially given planning corruption in the past. Whatever decision An Bord Pleanála makes, it will be important for elected representatives to make their views knows regarding the borrowing of money from the European Investment Bank to finance any projects if planning permission is given and also regarding the safety of the harbour, for which the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport has overarching responsibility. I also have concerns about developments in the harbour. I will be following up on these if planning permission is granted.

I understand that elected councillors in Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council are concerned over which option is regarded for our lovely harbour. Is it correct that due diligence is being undertaken in respect of Dún Laoghaire Harbour Company? What is the Minister's view on what should happen after due diligence? Who will decide which option is chosen? Will it be the local authority members or the chief executive of Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council? When will these decisions be made locally?

Am I correct in my understanding that if the option to dissolve the harbour company is chosen, all liabilities, pensions and salaries of the harbour company employees will be transferred into the local authority? If the revenue stream from Dún Laoghaire Harbour is not sustainable, will it need to be resourced directly from Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council? If Dún Laoghaire Harbour Company is losing money, does the Minister envisage the local property tax would be used to fund the harbour's commercial liabilities, especially if the income into the harbour does not cover costs, pensions and salaries?

What new specific oversight functions will the Bill allow for? Can we be assured there will be financial accountability under the mandatory review after three years that the Minister mentioned earlier? I understand that under the current regime audited accounts are furnished annually to the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport. What will be different as a result of the Bill? Will elected local authority members be provided with these accounts annually? Will the Oireachtas joint committee be able to call any future chairperson or CEO before the committee? Am I correct in stating that this Harbours Bill will actually strengthen the oversight of accounts and annual returns?

As a Deputy for Dún Laoghaire, I am deeply aware that the port is one of our greatest assets and therefore I want the very best for our port and our county. I have received a number of representations and have raised many of the issues here today.

What are the benefits of giving the two options the Minister has given in the Bill, rather than, at this stage, choosing the option of Dún Laoghaire Harbour Company coming under the direct management of the elected councillors?

As a member of the Select Sub-Committee on Transport, Tourism and Sport, I want to speak about the Report Stage amendment that Deputy Boyd Barrett has tabled. The amendment cuts to the core of future development policy of the port infrastructure network throughout the country.

During the tenure of the Minister, Deputy Paschal Donohoe, and that of his predecessor, we spent much time over a number of months in pre-legislative hearings engaging with stakeholders, port companies, port users and those who work in the ports. The amendment before the House is related to the Schedule to the Bill, which is symbolic of the entire ports policy. No two ports in the country are the same. For the first time, the Government, through the interaction with the Joint Committee on Transport and Communications, has decided that the ports around the coastline should be categorised on the basis of the amount of commercial work and activity undertaken in them. Rather than have the current legal situation where every port is essentially regarded as the same, some degree of rationalisation and categorisation is required in terms of the strategic, local and regional importance of the ports. We spent much time in the committee sifting through the options.

There was a bit of argy-bargy between representatives of the mid-west and of parts of the west who believed that the Shannon Foynes Port Company and the Galway Port Company, which is also mentioned in the Schedule to which Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett’s amendment refers, are the same. However, that is not the case because the Galway Port Company accounts for 1% of the total national tonnage and the Shannon Foynes Port Company accounts for 20% of the total national tonnage or about 10 million tonnes of bulk cargo per year. The latter port is able to berth ships of more than 200 m with a draught of 10.5 m, in other words, huge ships. Up to now we had a situation whereby ports with a totally different business case were treated the same.

I raised in the committee the fact that a substantial part of the revenue in Galway Port was derived from the car park and another substantial part was derived from rental income. That is fine. I have no difficulty with that, but it is at total variance with the business model in the Shannon Foynes Port. I am sure it is also at variance with the business model in Dún Laoghaire Harbour. After much deliberation with the Minister and his predecessor, it is on that basis the decision was made by the committee that some type of categorisation was required. If a port has a local impact then who better than the local authority and its members, with local knowledge, to develop the port in the future? On the flip side, if one has a port of strategic national importance in terms of tonnage such as Dublin Port, Cork Port and Shannon Foynes Port, it is very clear that their role is critical to the overall economic development of not only the local area or region but of the State as a whole. I do not know whether it is intentional or otherwise, but if Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett’s amendment were accepted it would unravel the entire ports policy. That is the kernel of the matter.

I understand the concern that has been expressed about the changes in governance in some of the local ports. Deputy Mary Mitchell O’Connor has enunciated this very well. However, we have discussed a similar approach in terms of other elements of the public service as well. It has been a difficult issue, for example, in terms of the health service where promises were made that services would be available at every crossroads, to the detriment of people in that their health was put at risk. No more than one cannot have a cancer service at every crossroads, one cannot have a national port in every harbour. That is just not possible. We do not have the resources or the tonnage, let alone the infrastructure. We must ensure that when we invest in the infrastructure in terms of connecting ports such as Dún Laoghaire Harbour, Drogheda Port, Sligo Port and the other ports to which reference is made in the Schedule, that we do so in a strategic way that is of benefit to the economy.

This morning on Leaders’ Questions a swipe was taken at my port by the leader of the day of Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett’s group, namely, Deputy Michael Fitzmaurice, who said it was an absolute scandal that trans-European transport network, TEN-T, funding was being allocated to the Shannon Foynes Port Company to infill a jetty and carry out works in the port, which conveys in excess of 10 million tonnes of bulk cargo in and out of the State on a yearly basis. I do not know what planet Deputy Michael Fitzmaurice inhabits, but I object in principle to anything that would in any way inflict damage on the potential to invest in a port on the west coast. Shannon Foynes Port is not on the Irish Sea. It is not in Cork or Waterford; it is very much part of the west coast. Shannon Foynes Port is in the Shannon Estuary and it bounds counties Clare, Limerick and Kerry. One cannot get much more westerly than that. Any commentary from the Opposition benches through amendments to the Bill or ill-informed, politically charged, ignorant commentary, such as I heard this morning on Leaders’ Questions, does nothing to advance the case of smaller ports such as Galway Port, Dún Laoghaire Harbour, Sligo Port, Drogheda Port or anywhere else. One is comparing apples with oranges.

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett’s amendment flies in the face of everything we heard from stakeholders, business groups, those who bring in the ships, unload the ships, or use the port network. All of those people told us about the constraints that exist currently, the associated difficulties, and the need to have a much more streamlined ports infrastructure. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett is correct. To be honest, when one sees some of the costs incurred in certain smaller ports, one must ask oneself how in the name of God one could have a situation where a port, for instance, conveying less than 1% of the national tonnage could pay people salaries in excess of the chief executive officers of the local authority in the area. That is bizarre. I hope that following the introduction of the Bill there will be rationalisation in terms of such positions and an examination through the Committee of Public Accounts or this House of the inflated costs we see in some of the companies that up to now were stand-alone entities. People were essentially running their own little fiefdoms and now they will be answerable to local authority members. That is a good thing, in the same way as the Shannon Foynes Port Company and all of the other ports listed in the Schedule will have to answer to the Minister, as the shareholder, and his or her Accounting Officer, the Secretary General, in turn will have to answer to the Committee of Public Accounts. What is wrong with a small port carrying small tonnage and small volumes of people being answerable to the local people who might know the port better than those who are in charge at the moment?

That is the kernel of the policy and it is the policy that drove the design of the Bill. The Bill did not come out of the back drawer of a cabinet in the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport; a great deal of work went into it from people who have a genuine interest in the issue. In my part of the country we have the deepest port in the country. It is probably one of the most important pieces of national infrastructure which has been long since strangled by the N69. I am delighted that road has been included on the Government’s capital programme to allow exactly what is specified in the Bill, namely, joined-up infrastructure between the ports and the road and rail networks. That is what we need, namely, a small number of critical pieces of infrastructure in key locations that will be able to deliver key economic drivers to the State as a whole.

I ask Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett, through the Chair, to ask Deputy Michael Fitzmaurice to reflect on the attack he made today on the Shannon Foynes Port Company and the investment that has been secured by it through the European Union. It has not gone down well in the mid-west region-----

Let us stick to the Bill.

-----that an attack of that nature would be made in the House. The reason I cannot agree with Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett’s amendment is that it undermines the entire thrust of the ports policy.

Does the Minister wish to respond?

I do, a Cheann Comhairle.

I thank Deputies for the various comments and points they have made. I will begin with what Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett said about his amendment, to which I will speak directly. I am not in a position to accept the amendment. I will respond to the comments of Deputy Mary Mitchell O’Connor. The reason for that is a due diligence process is under way and it is only after the process is complete that the Minister of the day will then make a decision regarding the appropriate model. It is not effective or appropriate before the process is complete to remove the power of the Minister to make a choice.

Regarding Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett's contention that if kept as an entity within the local authority structure, it should be separate. The single shareholder will be the local authority. I cannot understand how the Deputy can level the claim that they will be separate entities if the single shareholder will be the local authority. We come back to this issue time and again. I contend that the method of integration of the harbour into the local authority structure is as comprehensive as is possible. It will be the single shareholder when the Bill is passed and the relevant provisions for that harbour are enacted.

I refer to the points made by Deputy Mary Mitchell O'Connor on the status of Dún Laoghaire Harbour and acknowledge her long-standing interest in its future. She has consistently raised matters with me privately and on the floor of the Dáil by way of the Topical Issue debate regarding developments. She asked whether a due diligence process was being undertaken. It is under way. What will happen once that process is complete feeds into the next question she asked, about who will decide what the method of integration will be. When the process is complete, that report is shared with the Minister and other relevant parties. Following that, the Minister of the day will then make a decision regarding the method of integration. That leads on to the Deputy's next question, about where the liabilities, pensions and salaries of the harbour company will sit. The answer to that question is that they will sit with the local authority.

Deputy Mary Mitchell O'Connor asked what would happen if the revenue stream from Dún Laoghaire Harbour Company was not sustainable and whether it would have to be resourced directly from Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council. I am not in a position to answer that question specifically but I can give the Deputy the general answer which is that the revenue stream of that harbour company would be part of the revenue stream of the local authority into which it is integrated. That feeds back to a point I made earlier that this would then be part of the vote of local authority members. Would that, therefore, impact on funding and tax-raising choices that a local authority would make? The answer to that question is "Yes" but they will be subject to the normal legal provisions regarding the way funding is discharged to entities that may be involved in commercial practices. There is clear law regarding that with which I have dealt. The revenue stream for the port and harbour would be part of the revenue stream of the local authority unit.

Deputy Mary Mitchell O'Connor asked what the new specific oversight functions with respect to the Bill will be and whether I can be assured there will be financial accountability. She also asked about the status of audited accounts. There are a number of parts to the answer to those questions. The point I made earlier regarding the financial consequences and accounts of that harbour will be part of everything the local authority will need to consider. What new oversight functions will it put in place? If a new chairperson is being appointed, he or she will have to appear before the members of the local authority. The chairperson and chief executive will be subject to invitation and questioning from members of the local authority, as would be the case with many other corporate offices within a local authority structure, with which the Deputy is familiar. The Deputy also asked me about the accounts. The accounts will have to be laid before the local authority which would then open up opportunities for questions or matters to be raised.

These are new oversight functions with respect to the Bill. My Department will still be involved in matters relating to that. The Bill continues to give the Minister of the day powers to issue directions, but these directions are targeted at a number of particular areas, particularly with regard to the implementation of national port policy as well as any matters regarding maritime or navigational safety. If I have missed any of the questions the Deputy put to me, I am sure she will come back to them.

As Deputy Patrick O'Donovan so eloquently put it in regard to the thrust of this Bill, it did not fall out of a cabinet drawer in my Department. That is exactly the case. This Bill is a consequence of set policy. It fits directly into policy choices the Government and I have made. Specifically, regarding ports of regional significance, it looks to underpin the governance model for those ports within the law of the Oireachtas. It is congruent with the national ports policy the Government has championed. As the Deputy said, it looks to recognise that each port and harbour has a role to play but due to size, location and previous performance, those roles can be different. That is what this Bill is all about.

I thank Deputy Patrick O'Donovan for recognising the national capital plan. I have been very clear in regard to the principles I have articulated regarding how we should spend scarce future capital funding. I strongly believe it should be used to link up existing pieces of economic infrastructure with our national road network, which is the reason I recognised that in regard to the N69. It is also the reason I played a role in allowing Shannon Foynes Port Company to access funding to consider how a rail link in terms of freight could be developed at some point in the future and to put in place the funding for a feasibility study in regard to that kind of work. We need to explore all the options to see how our ports can be better linked up with the national road network. That also informs the recognition I have given in regard to future access into the Ringaskiddy area-----

I have to bring the Minister back to the Bill. We are dealing with an amendment.

I am doing my best to respond to the points that have been put to me, a Cheann Comhairle.

This is not Second Stage and the Minister will understand I have a job to do.

I do. I have done my best to respond to the points Deputies put to me.

These amendments specifically relate to Dún Laoghaire Harbour. While the Harbours Bill is an appropriate place to discuss Foynes Port and all the rest of it, the amendments deal with Dún Laoghaire Harbour, not Foynes Port or anywhere else. I agree with the point made about the cost of inflated executive salaries and so on.

Let us not talk about them.

Let us talk about Dún Laoghaire Harbour.

I am. In Dún Laoghaire the chief executive receives €136,000 a year, plus approximately €20,000 on top for various extras. The recommended salary for other-----

I am sorry, Deputy, but we are talking about an amendment, not about salaries. Will the Deputy, please, not stray? This is Report Stage. Second and Committee Stages have been completed. We are talking about Report Stage amendments.

A Cheann Comhairle, I have to say-----

I am obliged to advise the Deputy of that fact. That is my job.

I am the only one whom the Ceann Comhairle has reminded of it.

No, I reminded the Minister a minute ago-----

The Ceann Comhairle reminded me also.

I am reminding Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett. He should not feel hard done by.

I am speaking to the amendments. I do not know why the Ceann Comhairle cuts across me when I am speaking specifically to the amendments.

Will the Deputy, please, speak to the amendments?

I am speaking specifically to them.

The Deputy had two minutes, but he has only 34 seconds remaining.

That is because the Ceann Comhairle spent a minute of that time cutting across me.

The Deputy really gets my back up at times. After four years, he knows as well as I do-----

-----what he can and cannot do on Report Stage. Will he, please, speak to the amendments?

I was speaking to them.

I was not going off them. The Minister implied in his response that there was no difference between the two options. He said he would not accept my amendments because he had them covered in the Bill, but that implies there are not two options. The reason he has two options is they are different. Perhaps we might discuss the differences.

The Deputy's time is up.

In one a corporate subsidiary is retained, while in the other there is not a separate corporate entity. The Minister said there was not a separate corporate entity, but, if not, what is the difference? The difference is there is a separate entity. The existing separate, commercial corporate entity is retained under the umbrella of the council. I do not know anything about Foynes port in this regard-----

-----but in the specific case of Dún Laoghaire, we propose that this option be taken off the table. We want full integration of the harbour company as a department of the council.

I asked the Minister about local property tax and he responded by referring to revenue streams. I am asking about revenue losses. He stated local property tax and the revenue stream-----

The Deputy cannot talk about property tax.

I know it is important, but the Deputy can speak only to the Report Stage amendments. She cannot discuss the general principle. The Minister was wrong to mention local property tax.

I want to know who is going to pay for this.

That has nothing to do with the amendment.

If the amendment is accepted, who will pay for it? Will it be householders who pay local property tax and commercial rate payers in the county? If so, this is serious. County councillors in our area are able to reduce local property tax by 15%. If, for example, the local authority takes on the liabilities of Dún Laoghaire Harbour Company and has to pay salaries, pensions and so on, the residents of Dún Laoghaire will not want it. The Ceann Comhairle knows as well as I do that people own small three-bedroom semi-detached houses in Dún Laoghaire and pay between €600 and €700 in local property tax. They will not thank us if they have to pay the liabilities of the harbour company. I would like the Minister to clarify the position.

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett contended that if the port was to be converted to a corporate entity, it would be separate from the local authority. That will not be the case. It will come within the local authority's remit and the best evidence I can offer is the fact that the single shareholder of such a port, were it to be brought inside a local authority unit, would be the local authority. There is, of course, a difference between the two options outlined in the Bill, otherwise there would be no need to describe them. There is a clear difference and I have always outlined it. The Minister of the day will make a decision on what the integration method should be when the due diligence process relating to the ports is complete.

With regard to Deputy Mary Mitchell O'Connor's question on local property tax and rates, I will not answer about the position in Dún Laoghaire specifically, but I will give a general response. The general answer to the question is "Yes". I have been dealing for a significant period with local authorities and representatives saying they want to run the ports themselves, that they want them inside their local authority areas. If they have plans for what they want to do when bringing them inside their areas, they will have to be paid for. That is why I asked Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett if he or his party had plans to develop Dún Laoghaire Harbour and who would pay for its development? What is his party's view on how the local authority would pay for it? The last time I checked, the Deputy wanted to abolish local property tax; I am not sure if that remains his view. Clearly, such a decision would have a radical effect on the ability of a local authority to develop any asset in which it was the shareholder.

Deputy Mary Mitchell O'Connor's question should be directed at the Minister because he has set out two options in his Bill. They are not described in our amendments. The passage of the Bill will mean that it will be in the Minister's gift to make a decision on which of the options will apply to Dún Laoghaire Harbour. The first option is that Dún Laoghaire Harbour Company will continue to exist within the remit of Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council, while the second is that the harbour company will cease to exist and be fully integrated into the local authority.

Who would pay for it?

Under both models, the council will pay. That is what the Minister proposes and the Deputy should ask him who will pay for it, not me. In either case because of what is proposed in the legislation, whatever happens in Dún Laoghaire Harbour will be paid for by the public. It is a disingenuous red herring to suggest that if People Before Profit or Save our Seafront or whichever group gets its way, the public will be on the hook for increased local property tax rates because either way, that will be the case.

The big issue is which vision for the harbour is more likely to cost the people of Dún Laoghaire or which more accurately reflects what they want. That is what we need to discuss. The plans that have been hatched for the harbour to date pose a much greater financial risk to the public than those for which the public have asked. They have asked for a diaspora museum and baths; they have not asked to have a floating barge, or for apartments and hotels or a cruise berth for giant cruise ships. The councillors have also not asked for a giant cruise berth. One of the reasons they do not want it is they believe these plans pose a significant financial risk to the public. It is estimated that €18 million is required to build the berth, which we think is an under-estimate because it is more likely to cost between €30 million and €40 million. The council and the public will cover the cost of the cruise berth under either proposal if it cannot wash its face financially. This is a serious risk and it is not one that the people want to be taken because Dublin Port, 5 km up the road, is building a cruise berth to capture the same business. Two publicly owned ports within a few kilometres of each other will compete for the same business and Dún Laoghaire is more likely to lose. The tab for the crazy gamble on this cruise berth will be picked up by the public under either model.

Our alternative is not to financially gamble or speculate with the assets of the harbour. It is too risky and very likely to backfire on us in a big way, which will cost us.

The better, more sensible and sustainable alternative is not to spend large amounts of money on madcap gambles but to give the people the things for which they ask which would cost less and pose less of a financial risk. A diaspora museum is a win-win proposal. People have asked for it and wanted one for years and it fits in with the maritime history and heritage of Dún Laoghaire. It would result in real and tangible extra footfall in people coming to a maritime museum in the area instead of people getting on buses and travelling to Glendalough. Schoolchildren and others would visit it on a regular basis and it could be a national tourist attraction that would actually bring people to Dún Laoghaire. Could we afford to have it or a national maritime and sailing school? We already have proof that Dún Laoghaire is capable of hosting international sailing events with a huge footfall and which bring huge economic benefits to the town. That has been proved. Developing and enhancing that situation would be a win-win. There would be far less risk, if any, involved with these proposals than with proposals that involve borrowing possibly tens of millions to gamble in a competition with Dublin Port for an international business that could go bang any day. The cruise berth business is on the way up, but it could go bang very easily. It is a big risk which is not worth taking and which nobody really wants to take. That is our point. Either way, it is the public who will finance and fund this. Should we gamble and speculate with the assets of a public harbour? Our answer is no.

The local authority has to make decisions about capital projects all the time. It has money for capital projects and the people of Dún Laoghaire and their elected representatives will debate what should be prioritised. There would be a lot of support for the capital projects for which the public have asked such as the baths, the diaspora museum and the national sailing centre instead of apartments, hotels and cruise berths. Where did apartments and hotels leave the economy five or six years ago? That is gambling. What we propose would not be gambling; it is about protecting, maintaining and enhancing the harbour in a sustainable way. That is actually what the people have asked for.

Amendment put:
The Dáil divided: Tá, 35; Níl, 74.

  • Aylward, Bobby.
  • Boyd Barrett, Richard.
  • Broughan, Thomas P.
  • Calleary, Dara.
  • Collins, Joan.
  • Collins, Niall.
  • Colreavy, Michael.
  • Ellis, Dessie.
  • Ferris, Martin.
  • Fitzmaurice, Michael.
  • Fleming, Tom.
  • Grealish, Noel.
  • Halligan, John.
  • Healy, Seamus.
  • Healy-Rae, Michael.
  • Keaveney, Colm.
  • Kelleher, Billy.
  • Kirk, Seamus.
  • McConalogue, Charlie.
  • McGrath, Mattie.
  • McGrath, Michael.
  • McGuinness, John.
  • McLellan, Sandra.
  • Moynihan, Michael.
  • Murphy, Paul.
  • Ó Cuív, Éamon.
  • Ó Fearghaíl, Seán.
  • Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
  • O'Brien, Jonathan.
  • O'Sullivan, Maureen.
  • Pringle, Thomas.
  • Ross, Shane.
  • Smith, Brendan.
  • Stanley, Brian.
  • Tóibín, Peadar.

Níl

  • Bannon, James.
  • Barry, Tom.
  • Bruton, Richard.
  • Burton, Joan.
  • Butler, Ray.
  • Buttimer, Jerry.
  • Byrne, Catherine.
  • Cannon, Ciarán.
  • Carey, Joe.
  • Coffey, Paudie.
  • Conaghan, Michael.
  • Connaughton, Paul J.
  • Conway, Ciara.
  • Coonan, Noel.
  • Corcoran Kennedy, Marcella.
  • Costello, Joe.
  • Deasy, John.
  • Deenihan, Jimmy.
  • Deering, Pat.
  • Doherty, Regina.
  • Donohoe, Paschal.
  • Dowds, Robert.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • English, Damien.
  • Farrell, Alan.
  • Feighan, Frank.
  • Ferris, Anne.
  • Fitzpatrick, Peter.
  • Griffin, Brendan.
  • Hannigan, Dominic.
  • Harrington, Noel.
  • Harris, Simon.
  • Heydon, Martin.
  • Howlin, Brendan.
  • Keating, Derek.
  • Kehoe, Paul.
  • Kelly, Alan.
  • Kenny, Enda.
  • Kenny, Seán.
  • Kyne, Seán.
  • Lynch, Kathleen.
  • McCarthy, Michael.
  • McEntee, Helen.
  • McFadden, Gabrielle.
  • McGinley, Dinny.
  • McHugh, Joe.
  • McLoughlin, Tony.
  • McNamara, Michael.
  • Mitchell O'Connor, Mary.
  • Mulherin, Michelle.
  • Murphy, Dara.
  • Neville, Dan.
  • Nolan, Derek.
  • Ó Ríordáin, Aodhán.
  • O'Donovan, Patrick.
  • O'Dowd, Fergus.
  • O'Mahony, John.
  • O'Reilly, Joe.
  • O'Sullivan, Jan.
  • Perry, John.
  • Phelan, Ann.
  • Quinn, Ruairí.
  • Rabbitte, Pat.
  • Reilly, James.
  • Ring, Michael.
  • Ryan, Brendan.
  • Shatter, Alan.
  • Spring, Arthur.
  • Stagg, Emmet.
  • Stanton, David.
  • Timmins, Billy.
  • Varadkar, Leo.
  • Wall, Jack.
  • White, Alex.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Dessie Ellis and Richard Boyd Barrett; Níl, Deputies Emmet Stagg and Paul Kehoe.
Amendment declared lost.

Amendments Nos. 3 and 4 are related and will be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 3:

In page 8, lines 19 to 22, to delete all words from and including “Subject” in line 19 down to and including line 22 and substitute the following:

“Subject to paragraphs (b) and (c), a local authority chief executive may not sell, transfer, exchange, surrender or otherwise dispose of any shares vested in the local authority of which he or she is the chief executive by order made under section 8.”.

This is a straightforward amendment to remove the power and right of the chief executive officer of the local authority to sell shares in the newly transferred company. It is an anti-privatisation amendment.

It is an anti-privatisation amendment which arises from a concern that, if the corporate subsidiary model prevails, the borrowing of money by a semi-State entity, or off-balance sheet financing, as it is known, will lead to the divestment of shares and, ultimately, a process of creeping privatisation where, in order to finance anything, one will have to sell shares. We will be on a slippery slope.

At a local level there is evidence that the process is beginning to get under way. Certain sites and physical parts of the harbour are being put up for sale. I fear that if the harbour is pushed in this commercially focused and oriented direction, rather than being seen primarily as a public amenity, the pressure will be on to sell shares to finance projects within the harbour. This is the direction in which I think it will go, but, with this amendment, I am trying to preclude that possibility. These are vital pieces of infrastructure and amenities and we should not be considering their sale.

I am listening very carefully and, in case anyone thinks otherwise, I, too, am very supportive of the provision of a diaspora centre, about which I have spoken in this Chamber on a number of occasions.

We have two options in company law. Although we will not do it, if we were to vote in this House for a company structure to be dissolved and for county councillors to take over, am I right in saying the county council would immediately take on the liabilities of the company and that if the company structure stays in place, all of the assets and liabilities will stay within the company structure?

I agree broadly with the point made by Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett that no local authority chief executive alone should have the power to dispose of shares in a port or harbour. That is why I have two particular provisions in the Bill. The first provides that such a disposal could happen only with the consent of the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform and the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport. Consent would have to be sought from Departments before such a share disposal could happen.

The second condition is perhaps more fundamental. It provides that such a disposal could never exceed 49% of the available shares within the company. The assets of importance to the country, such as airports and ports, should remain in majority public ownership. That is the reason for the provision. I differ strongly from the Deputy when he implies that because something is a public asset or seeks to deliver an amenity value, it does not have to be aware of commercial challenges or deliver on commercial mandates. Any facility or asset run by the taxpayer or privately has to be aware of its ability to fund itself and meet needs for any company in public ownership. Such facilities have to be able to pay their way. They have to be able to raise money to cover their own costs and pay for investment they look to deliver.

That leads neatly to the specific question posed by Deputy Mary Mitchell O'Connor. The short answer to her question is "Yes." If a company transfers, the assets and liabilities remain within it. If it is completely integrated into the local authority, they will be integrated into the local authority.

On the company law point, that is true, but the bottom line is that it still falls back on the council either way. Even if, technically, the liabilities do not transfer directly to the council, ultimately, it will still pick up the tab if anything goes wrong. It will be the guarantor of everything. Have we not learned this at a macro level? When we give guarantees and so on, we end up picking up the tab. Even if the corporate subsidiary model prevails, the capacity of Dún Laoghaire Harbour Company to raise money will be substantially dependent and contingent on the fact that Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council is standing behind it. We will pick up the tab if anything goes wrong. I do not see the difference, except that in the corporate subsidiary model we take the risk, but we do not have as much say about the plans. In the model we are advocating the public would still be the ultimate financier, but they would have a more direct say on what we would invest in and the development plans and priorities for the harbour and the way it was run. It would be more transparent, accountable and democratic to do it in that way.

On the Minister's point about public ownership and other pieces of infrastructure, we could have a general ideological argument, but let us not go there now. In the case of Dún Laoghaire Harbour, although the Bill relates to other harbours also, where there is pressure to come up with development proposals and finance them, one way to do it would be to bring in private partners. I think that is what the Minister is leaving it open to doing. If private partners are brought in, they will begin to have a significant say about what goes at the harbour. Otherwise they would not put the money in.

Will the Deputy please conclude?

Their decision to put money in would be dictated by their ability to get a return. In the case of something like a harbour this would be a slippery slope towards the creeping privatisation of the harbour through the back door.

The explanation I gave earlier is quite important. This is based in company law and, for the life of me, I cannot understand why the Deputy would look to remove the ability of the Minister to make a decision before a due diligence process was complete. There is a key and fundamental difference within company law between transferring an entity into a local authority and allowing it to remain as a company versus integrating it completely. I am sorry I did not have an opportunity to make this point earlier because the amendment was put to a vote, but for the Deputy to say that, before the due diligence process is complete, he wants to remove the ability of the Minister to decide how integration would happen flies in the face of some of the earlier points he made to me about the need for financial sustainability and to understand what was going on in ports and harbours all over the country.

There is a fundamental difference between an entity which is a company and one which is not. The Deputy does not want to get into a broader ideological debate, but I am happy to do so if the Acting Chairman will allow it.

I am happy to do so. The Deputy is fundamentally against private investment playing any role in supporting development within the country. Under the Bill, 51% of the harbour will be owned, directly or indirectly, by the State. It will remain in public ownership. Of course, if the people running it, whether that be the directors of the company or the local authority, believe there is an opportunity to develop the facility to the benefit of people who use it and of the company, the Deputy is against the private sector having any role to play in that regard. That is a coherent point of view for the Deputy to hold and I respect it, as he well knows, but we must accept that private investment can and does play a role in moving forward harbours all over the country.

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett is against the private sector investing in the harbour, but I am against local property tax and commercial rate payers funding the harbour.

How do we get to the kernel of this issue? The Minister made reference to due diligence earlier and during the Committee Stage debate I pointed out that the due diligence process was obstructed. Local councillors were told recently that due diligence is unable to proceed because of commercial sensitivity. That is the kernel of the problem. The harbour is seen as a commercially focused, corporate entity which is why we cannot get full information about what is going on or about its assets and liabilities. This goes to the heart of the problem in Dún Laoghaire Harbour and explains why people are so angry about the plans the company has come up with and why they are so opposed to them. Nobody really knows what is going on. The company is unaccountable.

I cannot speak for the other harbours in the country. Perhaps this structure works there, but I have my doubts. Certainly, what Deputy John Deasy said about the situation in Waterford seems to echo what I have been saying about Dún Laoghaire Harbour. I will not comment on them because I do not know enough about it. However, in Dún Laoghaire Harbour, it has reached the point where the ability of the Bill to be effectively enacted is now being blocked because of so-called commercial sensitivity.

I thanked the Minister, quite genuinely, for sending me the departmental correspondence vis-à-vis the cruise berth. However, there was one aspect of that correspondence which I found very interesting and I ask the Minister to enlighten me on it, if he can. In the relatively recent correspondence between the Department and the harbour company, two of the three proposals the company made for the harbour are blacked out. The proposals are redacted. I do not know what they are but would argue that this is important information. I would like to know, as would those in the Visitors Gallery and those who attended hearings and public meetings, what the harbour company wants to do with the harbour. However, in correspondence I received from the Minister, he cannot tell me. Why? It is because of the corporate structure, and this is the price one pays when one sets up a semi-privatised entity.

The management of Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council has explained that the due diligence process has been prevented from continuing. I do not know how this issue will be resolved. The council has stated it is not sure how it will be resolved but that it is committed to resolving it. On the basis of some of the Minister's earlier comments, I gather that it will be some time before we get a decision because the due diligence cannot proceed at present and could take a very long time. In the interim, we do not know what the harbour company wants to do on some matters. What we do know, however, is that it wants to take a huge financial gamble. It has already spent €600,000 on a planning application to which there is huge public opposition. Things are happening, facts are being created on the ground and in the harbour which people do not want, yet we cannot get full information about the financial status of the harbour or the company's plans for it. That is not satisfactory or acceptable.

The Minister said all public assets must keep financial considerations in mind and must have the ability to wash their own face but Killiney Hill, for example, does not do that and neither does Howth Head.

They are not comparable.

Of course, a harbour is not Killiney Hill, but there is a mix of imperatives involved and the balance of these imperatives depends on the particular harbour. Dún Laoghaire Harbour has traditionally been half and half, so to speak. It has been a public amenity for heritage, sport and recreation as well as a commercial port. There is a balance to be maintained and I accept that this makes the question of governance a bit more complicated. I am not being flippant or glib about this, but it is not acceptable that the heritage and amenity aspect of the harbour, the Killiney Hill aspect if one will, which is sacrosanct for so many, is under threat. If the Minister suggested building apartments on Killiney Hill or Howth Head, people would tear his head off, to put it bluntly. They would simply say, "That's not on." There is that same feeling about Dún Laoghaire Harbour. People accept and indeed support the idea that the harbour has a commercial life but they believe that the balance between its commercial life and its historic position as an amenity owned by the public must be maintained in a sustainable and tenable way. However, that is not happening and the governance structures that exist in what is effectively a semi-State quango mean that the balance is being threatened and undermined. The public is being excluded. Getting rid of this corporate subsidiary structure and fully integrating the harbour into the council is the way to resolve this issue in order that we can have joined-up, connected thinking and prevent any possibility of the harbour being privatised.

On a point of order, I asked earlier if due diligence was taking place and the Minister said it was.

That is not a point of order.

I ask the Minister to clarify whether due diligence is taking place.

I am sorry, but I am obliged to put the amendment to the House.

Amendment put:
The Dáil divided: Tá, 38; Níl, 65.

  • Adams, Gerry.
  • Aylward, Bobby.
  • Boyd Barrett, Richard.
  • Broughan, Thomas P.
  • Calleary, Dara.
  • Collins, Joan.
  • Collins, Niall.
  • Colreavy, Michael.
  • Coppinger, Ruth.
  • Crowe, Seán.
  • Dooley, Timmy.
  • Ferris, Martin.
  • Fitzmaurice, Michael.
  • Fleming, Sean.
  • Fleming, Tom.
  • Grealish, Noel.
  • Halligan, John.
  • Healy, Seamus.
  • Healy-Rae, Michael.
  • Keaveney, Colm.
  • Kirk, Seamus.
  • Kitt, Michael P.
  • McConalogue, Charlie.
  • McGrath, Mattie.
  • McGrath, Michael.
  • McGuinness, John.
  • McLellan, Sandra.
  • Murphy, Paul.
  • Ó Cuív, Éamon.
  • Ó Fearghaíl, Seán.
  • Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
  • O'Brien, Jonathan.
  • O'Sullivan, Maureen.
  • Pringle, Thomas.
  • Ross, Shane.
  • Smith, Brendan.
  • Stanley, Brian.
  • Tóibín, Peadar.

Níl

  • Bannon, James.
  • Barry, Tom.
  • Bruton, Richard.
  • Butler, Ray.
  • Buttimer, Jerry.
  • Byrne, Catherine.
  • Cannon, Ciarán.
  • Carey, Joe.
  • Coffey, Paudie.
  • Conaghan, Michael.
  • Connaughton, Paul J.
  • Conway, Ciara.
  • Coonan, Noel.
  • Corcoran Kennedy, Marcella.
  • Costello, Joe.
  • Creed, Michael.
  • Deasy, John.
  • Deenihan, Jimmy.
  • Deering, Pat.
  • Doherty, Regina.
  • Donohoe, Paschal.
  • Dowds, Robert.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • English, Damien.
  • Feighan, Frank.
  • Fitzpatrick, Peter.
  • Flanagan, Charles.
  • Griffin, Brendan.
  • Harrington, Noel.
  • Harris, Simon.
  • Heydon, Martin.
  • Keating, Derek.
  • Kehoe, Paul.
  • Kenny, Seán.
  • Kyne, Seán.
  • Lynch, Kathleen.
  • McCarthy, Michael.
  • McEntee, Helen.
  • McFadden, Gabrielle.
  • McGinley, Dinny.
  • McLoughlin, Tony.
  • McNamara, Michael.
  • Mitchell O'Connor, Mary.
  • Mulherin, Michelle.
  • Murphy, Dara.
  • Neville, Dan.
  • Nolan, Derek.
  • O'Donovan, Patrick.
  • O'Dowd, Fergus.
  • O'Mahony, John.
  • O'Reilly, Joe.
  • O'Sullivan, Jan.
  • Perry, John.
  • Phelan, Ann.
  • Phelan, John Paul.
  • Rabbitte, Pat.
  • Ring, Michael.
  • Ryan, Brendan.
  • Shatter, Alan.
  • Spring, Arthur.
  • Stagg, Emmet.
  • Stanton, David.
  • Timmins, Billy.
  • Varadkar, Leo.
  • Wall, Jack.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Aengus Ó Snodaigh and Richard Boyd Barrett; Níl, Deputies Emmet Stagg and Paul Kehoe.
Amendment declared lost.

I move amendment No. 4:

In page 8, to delete lines 23 to 38, and in page 9, to delete lines 1 to 30.

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 5:

In page 9, line 33, to delete “local authority chief executive” and substitute “Elected Council in consultation with Stakeholder and Community Group”.

Amendment put:
The Dáil divided: Tá, 37; Níl, 68.

  • Adams, Gerry.
  • Aylward, Bobby.
  • Boyd Barrett, Richard.
  • Broughan, Thomas P.
  • Calleary, Dara.
  • Collins, Joan.
  • Colreavy, Michael.
  • Coppinger, Ruth.
  • Crowe, Seán.
  • Dooley, Timmy.
  • Ferris, Martin.
  • Fitzmaurice, Michael.
  • Fleming, Sean.
  • Fleming, Tom.
  • Grealish, Noel.
  • Halligan, John.
  • Healy, Seamus.
  • Healy-Rae, Michael.
  • Keaveney, Colm.
  • Kirk, Seamus.
  • Kitt, Michael P.
  • Mac Lochlainn, Pádraig.
  • McConalogue, Charlie.
  • McGrath, Mattie.
  • McGrath, Michael.
  • McGuinness, John.
  • McLellan, Sandra.
  • Murphy, Paul.
  • Ó Cuív, Éamon.
  • Ó Fearghaíl, Seán.
  • Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
  • O'Brien, Jonathan.
  • O'Sullivan, Maureen.
  • Pringle, Thomas.
  • Smith, Brendan.
  • Stanley, Brian.
  • Tóibín, Peadar.

Níl

  • Bannon, James.
  • Barry, Tom.
  • Bruton, Richard.
  • Butler, Ray.
  • Buttimer, Jerry.
  • Byrne, Catherine.
  • Cannon, Ciarán.
  • Carey, Joe.
  • Coffey, Paudie.
  • Conaghan, Michael.
  • Connaughton, Paul J.
  • Conway, Ciara.
  • Coonan, Noel.
  • Corcoran Kennedy, Marcella.
  • Costello, Joe.
  • Creed, Michael.
  • Deasy, John.
  • Deenihan, Jimmy.
  • Deering, Pat.
  • Doherty, Regina.
  • Donohoe, Paschal.
  • Dowds, Robert.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • English, Damien.
  • Farrell, Alan.
  • Feighan, Frank.
  • Fitzpatrick, Peter.
  • Flanagan, Charles.
  • Griffin, Brendan.
  • Hannigan, Dominic.
  • Harrington, Noel.
  • Harris, Simon.
  • Heydon, Martin.
  • Howlin, Brendan.
  • Keating, Derek.
  • Kehoe, Paul.
  • Kenny, Seán.
  • Kyne, Seán.
  • Lynch, Kathleen.
  • McCarthy, Michael.
  • McEntee, Helen.
  • McFadden, Gabrielle.
  • McGinley, Dinny.
  • McLoughlin, Tony.
  • McNamara, Michael.
  • Mitchell O'Connor, Mary.
  • Mulherin, Michelle.
  • Murphy, Dara.
  • Neville, Dan.
  • Nolan, Derek.
  • O'Donovan, Patrick.
  • O'Dowd, Fergus.
  • O'Mahony, John.
  • O'Reilly, Joe.
  • O'Sullivan, Jan.
  • Perry, John.
  • Phelan, Ann.
  • Phelan, John Paul.
  • Rabbitte, Pat.
  • Ring, Michael.
  • Ryan, Brendan.
  • Shatter, Alan.
  • Spring, Arthur.
  • Stagg, Emmet.
  • Stanton, David.
  • Timmins, Billy.
  • Varadkar, Leo.
  • Wall, Jack.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Richard Boyd Barrett and Aengus Ó Snodaigh; Níl, Deputies Paul Kehoe and Emmet Stagg.
Amendment declared lost.

I move amendment No. 6:

In page 10, line 19, to delete “local authority chief executive” and substitute “Elected Council in consultation with Stakeholder and Community Group”.

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 7:

In page 10, line 30, to delete “local authority chief executive” and substitute “Elected Council in consultation with Stakeholder and Community Group”.

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 8:

In page 10, line 34, to delete “local authority chief executive” and substitute “Elected Council in consultation with Stakeholder and Community Group”.

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 9:

In page 11, line 17, to delete “local authority chief executive” and substitute “Elected Council in consultation with Stakeholder and Community Group”.

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 10:

In page 11, lines 25 and 26, to delete “local authority chief executive” and substitute “Elected Council in consultation with Stakeholder and Community Group”.

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 11:

In page 11, line 30, to delete “directors of the transferred company” and substitute “Elected Council in consultation with Stakeholder and Community Group”.

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 12:

In page 12, line 5, to delete “local authority chief executive” and substitute “Elected Council in consultation with Stakeholder and Community Group”.

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 13:

In page 12, line 37, to delete “local authority chief executive” and substitute “Elected Council in consultation with Stakeholder and Community Group”.

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 14:

In page 13, to delete lines 9 to 18.

As time is running out and the debate is to be guillotined, I will go through these amendments very quickly. This amendment is about the Minister being able to authorise borrowings by the harbour that exceed 50% of the value of the assets. The Minister has what he might call a safeguard to provide that one cannot borrow more than 50% of the value of the assets. Although that is a safeguard of some kind, I am worried about the borrowing already taking place and which may continue. We had a discussion about the shares and so on. This relates to my fear of a slippery slope whereby the assets of harbours would be put up for sale to finance risky and dangerous projects. I have talked at length about the fact that we think one such project is under way in Dún Laoghaire and could put the assets of the harbour seriously at risk. While I welcome some safeguard, it does not go as far as I would like. I do not think we should put public assets of this sort at risk.

Having included some safeguard, the Minister is leaving open the option to remove it. I do not think he should do this in the Bill. We should not put at risk the assets of harbours and ports and the Minister certainly should not have the power to put at risk more than 50% of the value of these assets on dangerous gambles. This provision is a safeguard against privatisation, whether it be as a result of a conscious decision or inadvertently as a consequence of a dangerous financial gamble. Such a consequence is equally a great threat when companies are allowed to borrow lots of money to fund speculative ventures. We simply should not give the Minister the power to go over the 50% ceiling.

I made the broad point to the Deputy that not all expenditure of private money was a gamble; not all investments are speculative. We have seen, to our cost, how the abuse of large sums of money caused great difficulty for the State. Nevertheless, not all investments that look to make a return are speculative.

The Deputy has acknowledged that the Bill has a threshold in place such that borrowings cannot exceed 50% of the value of the transferred company's assets. The Bill provides for a change in one of two ways. It could either be in respect of a specific amount of money or up to the 50% threshold. However, this can happen only with the consent of the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government and such consent can be given only in circumstances in which there is a very good business case and plan for allowing the threshold to be changed. We have a threshold embedded in the legislation, which threshold can be only changed with the Minister's consent. The Minister would, of course, also be subject to questions about that decision. I, therefore, argue that we do have a structure in place to make sure future borrowings and investments will be made in a responsible manner, with the right levels of oversight.

Time is against us and I know that Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív wants to contribute. I will just say I disagree with the Minister as I think it leaves the door open to privatisation.

Is the Deputy withdrawing the amendment?

No, I am pressing it. I am trying to short-circuit the debate in order that we can move on to the next amendment.

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 15:

In page 13, lines 25 and 26, to delete “local authority chief executive” and substitute “Elected Council in consultation with Stakeholder and Community Group”.

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 16:

In page 13, line 28, to delete “local authority chief executive” and substitute “Elected Council in consultation with Stakeholder and Community Group”.

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 17:

In page 13, line 30, to delete “local authority chief executive” and substitute “Elected Council in consultation with Stakeholder and Community Group”.

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 18:

In page 13, line 31, to delete “local authority chief executive” and substitute “Elected Council in consultation with Stakeholder and Community Group”.

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 19:

In page 13, line 39, to delete "local authority chief executive" and substitute "Elected Council in consultation with Stakeholder and Community Group".

Amendment put and declared lost.

As amendment No. 21 is a physical alternative to amendment No. 20, they may be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 20:

In page 15, to delete lines 35 to 37, and in page 16, to delete lines 1 to 9 and substitute the following:

"21. (1) A local authority chief executive—

(a) shall at the end of the period of 3 years beginning on the company transfer day of a company to the local authority of which he or she is its chief executive, and

(b) may at the end of each subsequent period of 5 years beginning on the expiration of the last previous period, appoint a suitably qualified person to carry out an examination as to the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of the performance by the transferred company of its functions and to report in writing to the local authority chief executive of the results of the examination.

(2) Any examination and report referred to in subsection (1) shall be completed by the person appointed under that subsection within the period of 4 months from the date of his or her appointment.".

This amendment arises from a number of discussions we had on Committee Stage. The principle on which I want to follow up is that following a transfer and after a suitable period of time, a stock-take and an assessment should be carried out to look at the performance of the transferred company. I accept that this is a valid point and I am bringing forward my own amendment to deal with it. I am seeking to have the section amended to require a performance review of a transferred company three years after the date of transfer. Of course, a further review could take place after that, but that would be the decision of the local authority. I am saying the Bill should require a financial review of a transferred company to be carried out after a reasonable period of time has elapsed after the transfer of the company.

I am also seeking to have two other changes made. I am seeking to have extended the period between statutory reviews from three years to five and to have shortened the maximum time period to complete a review from six months to four because I believe the work should be carried out within that time period.

Both amendments seem sensible, given the size of the companies in question. I am responding to some of the points made by Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett, in particular, on Committee Stage.

Amendment agreed to.
Amendment No. 21 not moved.

Amendments Nos. 22 to 26, inclusive, and No. 30 are related and may be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 22:

In page 18, line 9, to delete "30" and substitute "10".

This amendment relates to the representation of workers on the board of any company. As the Minister knows, I hope the harbour company will be dissolved. If that does not happen and the Minister ultimately decides to keep its structure, the question will arise as to whether there should be an employee representative on the board. The Minister is saying the threshold to be reached to have an employee representative on the board is 30 employees. In the case of our harbour company and I suspect that of others that might well mean ordinary workers would not have a representative on the board because staff numbers have fallen because of an aggressive offensive by the executives of Dún Laoghaire Harbour Company to axe jobs at a time when their salaries stayed obscenely high. As I mentioned earlier, it involves the CEO of a company with about 20 employees being paid €136,000 per year, plus a car and so on, but staff being axed. With this threshold, there would be no worker director on the board. We need people from the shop floor - front-line staff who are saving lives in the case of our harbour - on the board. Many attempted suicides in Dún Laoghaire have been prevented by the harbour police, the numbers of which have been slashed, while the number of maintenance workers has been reduced. These are the people who physically maintain the harbour. If the Minister is to maintain the company structure which I hope he will not, there should be worker representatives on the board and the threshold should be brought down to ten to ensure this would be the case.

I wish to outline the two scenarios at play in respect of ports and the numbers of employees in them. An election is held in a company with more than 30 employees. Where a company has fewer than 30 employees, the shareholder, currently the Minister but in the future the local authority, is required to appoint a person to the board to represent the employees' interests. In such a situation, there would be an obligation to consult the unions, as I have done. If I look at the five ports of regional significance, just two - Dún Laoghaire and Galway - satisfy that threshold. With the provision in place, there is an obligation to appoint somebody to the board to represent the interests of the employees. In that case, there will have to be consultation with a union or unions.

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 23:

In page 18, line 30, to delete "30" and substitute "10".

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 24:

In page 18, line 36, to delete "A local authority chief executive" and substitute "The employees through an election".

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 25:

In page 18, line 38, to delete ", in the opinion of that chief executive,".

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 26:

In page 19, line 1, to delete "consider" and substitute "accept".

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 27:

In page 23, line 35, to delete "A local authority chief executive" and substitute "An Elected Council in consultation with Stakeholder and Community Group".

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 28:

In page 24, line 10, after "Schedule 1," where it firstly occurs to insert "subject to subsection (2),".

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 29:

In page 24, between lines 16 and 17, to insert the following:

"(2) In respect of Dun Laoghaire Harbour, the Minister shall with the consent of the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform and the Minister for the Environment,

Community and Local Government, by order provide for—

(a) the dissolution without winding up of the company, and

(b) the transfer of the company’s harbour to Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council, on such a day as the Minister appoints in the order in this Act referred to as a company transfer and dissolution day.".

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 30:

In page 34, line 30, to delete "30" and substitute "10".

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 31:

In page 47, to delete line 6.

I listened to the debate earlier when Deputy John O'Mahony raised an issue with the Minister about Galway Port. I congratulate the Deputy on securing a stay of 18 months on the decision of the Minister in the Bill to downgrade Galway Port. The Minister has said it is a great idea to have ports under the aegis of local authorities. However, if one follows the logic that it is great to be a tier 3 as opposed to a tier 2 or tier 1 port, why will Cork, Rosslare, Waterford, Foynes and Dublin ports continue to have port companies instead of being placed under the local authorities? Is it because the Minister believes the major national ports should be independent and have stand-alone companies rather than being under the aegis of the local authorities? What he is clearly telling us is that there is no need to have a major national port, either now or in the future, between Foynes and Derry on the longest stretch of coast in the country, but so be it; that is his decision.

It is welcome that the Minister has said he will put a stay of 18 months on this decision. It is particularly welcome that this will give the electorate in Galway an opportunity to indicate in their choice as to who should be in government whether it thinks this is a good policy and to vote to make sure at the end of the 18 months the Government will not be in power to see it through.

I know the public service. It is very determined when it has a policy in mind and good luck to it. I know that many of its members sincerely believe that along the west coast there should not be national ports, national airports, national roads and all the rest, which is fair enough. They measure everything by current traffic volumes rather than by what they might be in the future. A quote from George Bernard Shaw reads, "Some men see things as they are and say, why; I dream things that never were and say, why not?" In the case of Galway Port the answer is quite simple. It is a gated port into which one can only get in two hours with every tide. Therefore, it is important that we give the Minister's colleagues from the west an opportunity to stand in solidarity with the people of Galway.

Next spring the people will have an opportunity to stand up for themselves in a general election when they will be able to ensure they elect people who do not believe Galway should be left with a regional port but that it should have a national port, that the threatened downgrading the Minister is providing for in the Bill will make it much harder to raise the necessary finance to develop the port in the way we are to develop it.

As it is now 7.30 p.m., I am required to put the following question in accordance with the order of the Dáil of this day: “That Fourth Stage is hereby completed and that the Bill is hereby passed.”

Question put:
The Dáil divided: Tá, 77; Níl, 16.

  • Bannon, James.
  • Boyd Barrett, Richard.
  • Bruton, Richard.
  • Butler, Ray.
  • Buttimer, Jerry.
  • Byrne, Catherine.
  • Byrne, Eric.
  • Cannon, Ciarán.
  • Carey, Joe.
  • Coffey, Paudie.
  • Collins, Joan.
  • Conaghan, Michael.
  • Connaughton, Paul J.
  • Conway, Ciara.
  • Coonan, Noel.
  • Coppinger, Ruth.
  • Corcoran Kennedy, Marcella.
  • Creed, Michael.
  • Crowe, Seán.
  • Deenihan, Jimmy.
  • Deering, Pat.
  • Donohoe, Paschal.
  • Dowds, Robert.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • English, Damien.
  • Farrell, Alan.
  • Feighan, Frank.
  • Fitzmaurice, Michael.
  • Fitzpatrick, Peter.
  • Flanagan, Charles.
  • Fleming, Tom.
  • Griffin, Brendan.
  • Hannigan, Dominic.
  • Harrington, Noel.
  • Harris, Simon.
  • Heydon, Martin.
  • Howlin, Brendan.
  • Keating, Derek.
  • Keaveney, Colm.
  • Kehoe, Paul.
  • Kenny, Seán.
  • Kyne, Seán.
  • Lynch, Kathleen.
  • Mac Lochlainn, Pádraig.
  • McCarthy, Michael.
  • McEntee, Helen.
  • McFadden, Gabrielle.
  • McGinley, Dinny.
  • McLellan, Sandra.
  • McLoughlin, Tony.
  • McNamara, Michael.
  • Mitchell, Olivia.
  • Mitchell O'Connor, Mary.
  • Mulherin, Michelle.
  • Murphy, Dara.
  • Murphy, Paul.
  • Neville, Dan.
  • Ó Ríordáin, Aodhán.
  • O'Brien, Jonathan.
  • O'Donnell, Kieran.
  • O'Donovan, Patrick.
  • O'Dowd, Fergus.
  • O'Mahony, John.
  • O'Reilly, Joe.
  • O'Sullivan, Jan.
  • O'Sullivan, Maureen.
  • Phelan, Ann.
  • Pringle, Thomas.
  • Rabbitte, Pat.
  • Ryan, Brendan.
  • Shatter, Alan.
  • Spring, Arthur.
  • Stanley, Brian.
  • Stanton, David.
  • Timmins, Billy.
  • Twomey, Liam.
  • Varadkar, Leo.

Níl

  • Aylward, Bobby.
  • Broughan, Thomas P.
  • Calleary, Dara.
  • Collins, Niall.
  • Fleming, Sean.
  • Grealish, Noel.
  • Healy, Seamus.
  • Healy-Rae, Michael.
  • McConalogue, Charlie.
  • McGrath, Mattie.
  • McGrath, Michael.
  • McGuinness, John.
  • Mathews, Peter.
  • Ó Cuív, Éamon.
  • Ó Fearghaíl, Seán.
  • Smith, Brendan.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Paul Kehoe and Emmet Stagg; Níl, Deputies Éamon Ó Cuív and Seán Ó Fearghaíl.
Question declared carried.