Adjounment Matter. - Kerry Storm Damage.

I have notice from Senator Kiely that on the motion for the Adjournment of the House he wishes to deal with the need for the Minister for the Marine to make funds available for the repairs to the coastline in County Kerry, damaged in the recent storms.

At the outset, I want to say that I will be sharing my time with my colleague Senator Foley. I welcome the Tánaiste and Minister for the Marine to the House and I want to thank him sincerely for taking this important matter on the Adjournment.

For too many years I have seen the result of storm damage all over the country, particularly in the west, in my own county, Kerry. Over the last number of years there has been some extraordinary storm damage. One exceptional storm occurred on 5 January this year when gusts reached 100 mph. At that time I called for a special meeting of Kerry County Council to assess the storm damage so that we could make a submission to the Department of the Environment. I was a little taken a back when I found out at that meeting that the Department of the Environment just covered storm damage to local authority properties, such as harbours and piers, road infrastructures and water installations, things that were under the jurisdiction of the local authorities. However, they did not deal with damage to boats or gear, coastal erosion and so on.

Living on the periphery of the country and, particularly, as the most south westerly county in Ireland, we in Kerry and indeed, all those along the west coast, are subjected to severe storm damage from time to time. We have become accustomed to storms over the years and we do not whinge about them, but the last one was horrific. However, when there is damage to the eastern side of the country, like the flooding we saw a few years ago, when the Dodder river burst its banks, there was a public outcry. A fund of some kind should be set up, something along the lines of the fund in place in the Department of the Environment for coastal erosion to private property, in particular, semi-public type property — such as golf clubs, sporting facilities, community efforts and so on.

Much work has already been done by local authorities in counties such as Donegal, Mayo, Galway and Kerry. In fact, Kerry have got a lot of money; the Ballybunion golf club in particular have got assistance to construct some gabions. During the last storm, in the region of £300,000 worth of damage was done to the coast line around the golf course. The gabions that were installed were completely undermined. The sand shifted and the gabions were swept out to the sea. The Minister knows well that the Ballybunion golf club is rated in the top six or seven golf courses in the world and people like Tom Watson and other international stars have played there. Indeed, Ministers from various Governments have frequently used that golf course. During the last storm the 18th, 17th and 11th holes were severely damaged by coastal erosion and unless immediate actions is taken this very valuable asset, not alone to Kerry and to the country, but to a seaside town like Ballybunion, will completely disappear.

There is a logical solution to the problem in Ballybunion and Ballybunion golf course. A permanent structure on the lines of a promenade of reinforced concrete could be constructed and this, in turn, could be used as a tourist amenity for people visiting the seaside resort for facilities other than golf. This could be an effort headed by the Minister in the Department of the Marine, the Department of the Environment, Kerry County Council, the Shannon Development Authority, the Ballybunion golf club and the Ballybunion Development Association——

And the Department of Tourism, Transport and Communications.

And the Department of Tourism, Transport and Communications. The Shannon Development Company are responsible for tourism in that region. If something like a permanent promenade was constructed over a period of four to five years — it could not all be done in one year because the money would not be available — it would alleviate this problem. Apart from Ballybunion there was damage to the coastline from Tarbert down through Ballylongford into Beale, Ballybunion, Kerry Head, back into Fenit, Tralee Harbour, Castlegregory, all the way down into the peninsula and into Dingle. Dingle did not suffer as badly as other areas because of the large rock formations there. They do not suffer from coastal erosion, just from other damage. In mentioning Dingle I must mention the wreck, the Ratanga that was washed up there some years ago and which is still there. It is an eyesore on Slea Head and nobody seems to be taking responsibility for it. The local authority say it is not their responsibility and the Department of the Environment say it is not theirs. At the same time, the local authority seem to be responsible for oil spillage on the beach and so forth. There was a similar type accident off Bantry Bay with the Kowloon Bridge. That was washed up on one of the best herring beds off the west coast and caused a huge oil spillage. There was also other damage along the coastline. A fund will have to be set up in the very near future.

I was a member of the RDO for a number of years but they have now been abolished. While I was on that committee I visited a number of PMR conferences abroad. A peripheral coastal erosion fund was set up through that organisation and I would like to know if the Minister's Department can get any money from either the Structural Funds or through the CPMR for coastal erosion. It has been brought to my attention that the Scottish Islands got a very substantial amount of EC funding towards remedying coastal erosion. I was there the time the proposal went through the CPMR. I would like to thank the Minister for the Environment and the Department of the Environment for their swift action in the response to the recent storms and in particular the local authorities for keeping the networks in operation during the recent snowfalls. The funding they have put in place over the last number of years seems to be operating successfully and that is why I put down this motion. I again thank the Minister for being here and I ask him to see if some type of fund could be put in place to protect our very important coastline.

At the outset, I want to thank Senator Kiely for allocating me some of his time to speak on this very important Adjournment matter. I also endorse his words of welcome to the Minister for coming to the House tonight. I hope in the few minutes to support my colleague, Senator Kiely, in the excellent presentation he made of the severe damage done to the coastline in the Ballybunion-Ballyheigue area in County Kerry.

I want to refer in particular to the championship golf course in Ballybunion. It is world renowned and is so claimed by top golfers throughout the world. I hope to put in clear and graphic form the horrific damage done to this beautiful golf course during the December storm. As a member of Kerry County Council I attended a meeting on the beach some three weeks ago. The county engineer was present and I was shocked at the overall condition of the beach which has affected the golf club. As Senator Kiely mentioned, it is quite possible they will lose at least three of the holes on the golf course.

Ballybunion Golf Club forms a vital part of tourism locally and of Kerry's tourism amenity and economy. An overall programme of conservation must be put in place now for the golf course if it is to be protected from further devastation and so maintain its position as one of the world's top championship golf courses. In the past number of years there has been massive erosion of Ballybunion beach. A major capital plan is required to deal with the problem and this must be implemented immediately. While it will be very expensive, it is necessary. Ballybunion Golf Club over the years have spent vast sums of money from their own resources in developing this wonderful club premises and also the beach.

Storm damage has also been caused to Cashen in Ballyduff. This has been ongoing over a number of years. Many families here depend on fishing for a livelihood and if immediate remedial work is not carried out, their livelihood will be lost as Cashen will be rendered useless for fishing. Here, again, a major capital scheme is needed for Cashen. I appeal to the Minister to give it the priority it deserves as the community have been very patient for years but they are now demanding action, and rightly so. I look forward to a favourable response from the Minister.

Kerry Head in Ballyheigue, where a number of families also depend on fishing for their income has been badly affected as the result of the recent storm damage. A submission has been made for urgent repairs to the Dromatoor Pier which services the area. Many families are also threatened at Carrigisland, Ballylong-ford, and a beautiful beach nearby has been almost washed away. We in Kerry are very proud of our coastline which is a natural asset and tourist amenity. This is why I am very concerned about the damage caused to this tremendous asset as a result of storm damage, not alone this year but over many years.

The general cost of the damage in Ballybunion, Cashen, Kerryhead and Carrigisland in terms of temporary work was originally estimated at approximately £300,000. That figure now has been updated to almost £500,000. The extent of the damage caused cannot be overstated. I ask the Minister to make funds available immediately to Kerry County Council. The county engineer has recently indicated that he would need approximately £7 million to carry out a proper coastal protection scheme in County Kerry.

Initially I should say that my Department have not, so far at any rate, received a submission from Kerry County Council in respect of damage to the Kerry coastline arising from storms in January of this year. Accordingly, I do not have the details of the extent of any repairs that may be required. I have on a number of occasions in the past adverted to the fact that primary responsibility in relation to repairs of coastal storm damage rests with coastal local authorities. For example, county councils are responsible for the maintenance of the vast majority of piers and sea walls. My Department's role is generally to help with development works, usually in the fishery interests, at harbours or with coastal protection schemes of a capital nature. However, in 1990 as an exceptional measure, the Government approved an £8 million special storm damage package of which £3 million was allocated to Roinn na Mara to assist local authorities with repairs to harbours, piers and other marine damage arising from the abnormally severe storms in the winter of 1989-90. Of this sum £158,750 was paid by my Department to Kerry County Council. I notice that Senator Kiely, when thanking the Department of the Marine, did not thank me for that £158,750.

As to the question of damage arising from the storms this year, I have to be straightforward and say that for 1991 no special storm damage package, equivalent to that of 1990, has been made available as yet. Accordingly, my Department have no funds with which they can assist local authorities with any repairs that may be necessary following the storms in early January. Storms are a recurring problem and in 1990 the position was so severe that the Government used the relatively favourable budgetary position to allocate additional funds to coastal local authorities. However, the Government are not in a position to provide such a package every time a storm hits the country. I fully recognise that storms may create greater difficulties for some counties than for others and my colleague, the Minister for the Environment, is aware of that.

The two Senators made strong cases for their own county. I take the point made by Senator Kiely that very often small damage on the eastern coast is highlighted, particularly in the media, while damage in the west or south-west very often does not hit the same headlines, possibly because they are further away and more difficult to examine and highlight.

I accept that Ballybunion Golf Club is something special. It is, as has been said by both Senators, world famous and is a great tourist amenity in the area. I was interested to hear Senator Kiely mention the CPMR and the Structural Funds. I tried very hard last year to get money from the Structural Funds for storm damage but there was absolutely no help whatsoever available from the Funds. I would be interested to hear exactly from the Senator what funds Scotland called upon.

We must make a distinction between storm damage and coastal erosion. As I said, the storm damage function is mainly one for the local authority and coastal erosion is dealt with by the Department of the Marine. I took over responsibility for that on 1 January 1990 and I had £150,000 in total in my Estimate to cover that particular subhead.

With the traditional love of the Kerryman for his native kingdom I appreciate what inspired the two Senators to raise this matter on the Adjournment. I have outlined the exact position with regard to my own Department. If funds are available to me, no doubt I will be in a position to be as generous to Kerry in 1991 and I was in 1990.

The Seanad adjourned at 10.20 p.m. until 10.30 a.m. on Thursday, 14 February 1991.