I welcome the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Ross, to the Seanad. I know that he is no stranger to Dún Laoghaire Harbour. He was there recently when the Irish Olympian Annalise Murphy returned to Dún Laoghaire, which was a great and joyous celebration for the town and the nation.
I am concerned about the future corporate governance of Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council because it has been debated for a hell of a long time and there seems to be very little progress and there may be a very good reason why that is the case but I want to hear why from the Minister. There is 250 acres of water in Dún Laoghaire Harbour making it an amazing international maritime resource. It is a massive piece of real estate operated and run on behalf of the State by Dún Laoghaire Harbour Company, of which I was a director for two terms, or ten years. There was a suggestion as a result of the national ports policy that Dún Laoghaire among other ports that have regional significance would be transferred to the local authority, Dún Laoghaire Rathdown County Council. There is huge uncertainty about the future of Dún Laoghaire Harbour, its direction, long-term plans and governance. That is why it is important to hear from the Minister what are the plan and vision. A due diligence report was commissioned and co-funded by the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport. I do not know where that is today. Who owns that due diligence report? When will it be published? When will it be put into the public domain? When will it be given to the county council, the elected representatives of the people in Dún Laoghaire?
I cannot comment on the uncertainties although I understand this week An Bord Pleanála is due to decide on a cruise terminal, a very controversial piece of infrastructure before the board. We must await the outcome of that. That is another important facet in the complexity of Dún Laoghaire Harbour's future. There has been an acting harbour master for several years. The legislation clearly sets down the requirements of a harbour master. That needs to be considered. There are huge issues regarding the pensions fund, which I will not go into except to say that the Minister needs to be aware of them. I am sure he already is. There are also human resource, legal and real estate issues. There are several vacancies on the board for which the Minister is responsible and has the power to fill. Does he intend to do this in advance of or after the transfer? Would the Minister consider advertising and seeking expressions of interest from stakeholders and the public to be considered? It is important to have people of calibre but also with skills in maritime, leisure, finance and legal matters to bring an extra layer of support to the harbour company, whatever its governance and whatever plans the Minister has for it.
On another occasion, I would like to meet the Minister, who comes from a business background, to discuss the dividend. Dún Laoghaire Harbour Company, like all State companies, was supposed to issue a dividend. It is my understanding that this company has never issued a dividend to the State. Is that acceptable for a company that is supposed to be successful, commercial and viable? What is the situation and status of that dividend? I would like to see a copy of any dividends issued by this company. All is not plain sailing at Dún Laoghaire Harbour and I think the Minister knows that. We need answers. It would be great to get clarification from the Minister about how he plans to transfer the corporate governance of this harbour company from his Department to the council, or not and if there remains an impasse and a dispute as to the views of the harbour company versus the views of the local authority, how will he address that and how will he make that decision?