Wednesday, 6 July 1927
Dáil Éireann Debate
Go ndeontar suim ná raghaidh thar £11,300 chun slánuithe na suime is gá chun íoctha an Mhuirir a thiocfidh chun bheith iníoctha i rith na bliana dar críoch an 31adh lá de Mhárta, 1928, chun Costaisíi dtaobh Longlainne Inis Sionnach.
That a sum not exceeding £11,300 be granted to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1928, for expenses in connection with Haulbowline Dockyard.
Mr. BURKE (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance): This dockyard was taken over from the British Admiralty on the 1st April, 1923. Owing to the great depression in the ship-building industry it has not been found possible either to dispose of it or to make any extensive use of it. This Estimate provides for the maintenance of the dockyard as economically as is consistent with keeping the buildings, plant and machinery in good condition. The charge of maintaining this particular yard appears in the Estimate rather high. That is accounted for by the fact that it is a pretty extensive yard and also by the fact that it is constructed on sandhills. There is great difficulty in keeping it free from water, and it needs continual drainage.
Up to the present Haulbowline has contained the only military hospital  in the South of Ireland. The hospital at Collins Barracks, Cork, has now, however, been rebuilt by the Board of Works, and it is expected that the staff and patients at Haulbowline hospital will be moved to Collins Barracks by the end of June. It is hoped that it will then be possible to reduce appreciably the expenditure on Haulbowline, and the question of its ultimate disposal will be taken up.
The net amount of the Estimate is £16,900 as compared with £15,000 last year, an increase of £1,700. Of this increase £1,220 on sub-head A is due to the loss of the Army contribution towards overhead expenditure arising out of the vacation of the Hospital by the military above referred to, and £480 under sub-head C is due to the higher cost of coal. The Estimate includes provision for a staff of 88, consisting of tradesmen, labourers, etc., in addition to four supervising foremen.
The dockyard is occasionally asked in an emergency to undertake a ship-repairing job for an outside firm, or for a Government Department. Such work is charged for at cost, plus a percentage for overhead expenses. It is impossible to say with any exactness what amount of such work may be undertaken in any year. A token figure of £100 has therefore been included (sub-head B) as the cost of such work and a similar token figure included in sub-head D (Appropriations-in-Aid) for the receipts from such work.
Owing to the fact that this dockyard was designed mainly for the construction of battleships it has not been found economic for the repair of merchant ships in many cases. For that reason the dockyard is not as popular with sea-going craft as might be expected. Ninety men are engaged at Haulbowline under the charge of two supervising officers, and this has been found to be the minimum number with which the services and maintenance work proper could be carried out. The staff consists of:—
(a) A number of skilled mechanies of various trades, fully occupied on running repairs to ferry boats and working machinery, including the Electric Station supplying light to the Military  Hospital on the Island, the residents' houses, and light and power to the shops and yard.
In addition to the Island there are certain wharves and piers on the mainland for which Haulbowline is responsible, and one of these works, Admiralty Pier, Cobh, was practically rebuilt by the Haulbowline staff in 1925.
The staff also, from time to time, undertakes work on Government ships. The S.S. “Tartar” was overhauled at Haulbowline in 1925 at a cost of £603, and the steam tug “Dainty” is being reconditioned, work being done on her as circumstances permit.
There is no doubt, however, that the cost of maintaining this particular dockyard is very considerable, and it is no easy matter to find the best solution for the problem. Under more favourable conditions the yard might be a valuable asset to the State, but at present, to some extent, it may be regarded as a white elephant.
Mr. JOHNSON: Would the Parliamentary Secretary give us some little more information about the ship repaired and the finances connected with it? I have not been able to see any reference to a credit in respect to that. Am I to understand that those repairs were really undertaken by the normal staff and that the greater part of the cost was saved to the State? Does the cost of that repair appear in any other account? I referred back to the Appropriation Accounts circulated some little time ago, and I can see no reference to receipts to the Exchequer in respect to repairs of the vessel at Haulbowline.
Mr. BURKE: There are other dockyards  adjacent to this particular dockyard. They carried out considerable repairs and have occasionally used this yard for repairing shops. I am not sure whether they were responsible for carrying out this work to these Government vessels or not. Perhaps I might be able to get that information for the Deputy at a later date, but they avail of the workmen on the premises to some extent. The staff has been cut down to a skeleton staff sufficient to keep the works maintained at present.
Mr. ANTHONY: I did not quite catch everything the Parliamentary Secretary has said, but I would like to draw the attention of the House to the question of the future of Haulbowline itself. It is a matter of very grave concern to the people of that district. Since the industrial stagnation has set in in Haulbowline after the British evacuation districts such as Passage, Monkstown, Cobh, and even Cork City have suffered very seriously. Very definite promises were made during the election period by certain Government candidates as to the future of Haulbowline as a centre of industrial activity. So far as I am concerned, and the Labour Party are concerned, we are prepared to help any efforts in the direction of establishing any industry in Haulbowline if a ship-building industry cannot be established there.
Now it has been stated during that campaign that the Government had intentions, and it was stated very definitely what the intentions of the Government were, namely, that it was the intention to establish an industry for the manufacture of wireless apparatus and accessories. Again it was stated that there would be an industry established for the purpose of the manufacture of electrical fittings.
I would like that some indication should come from the Department concerned that these promises would be fulfilled, even partially fulfilled. I have no doubt at all of the sincerity of the gentlemen who made these statements. As I have already said, every help that I can give and every help that can be given from these benches, will be given in that direction. I hope that we in Cork, at any rate, and particularly in the districts immediately affected, will  get some indication that some effort will be made to have these promises fulfilled. I listened to the Minister for Industry and Commerce the other day giving the figures from the live register of employment, but I want to inform the House that I know personally numbers of people in that district who have not got any work for the last four or five years. Poverty is rampant in that district. I am not drawing on my imagination. I do not want to paint any lurid picture of the poverty that exists there, but I can produce evidence of starvation practically in some districts in the area. I know at least of one Minister who visited that district and made these promises, and I hope that something will be done to carry out these promises. For my part, I promise that I will assist in every way.
Mr. HORGAN: Are we to understand from the statement of the Parliamentary Secretary that the Government has no definite policy for the future development of Haulbowline, or plans for its use for any purpose?
Mr. BURKE: When Deputy Anthony referred to the manufacture of wireless apparatus, I am afraid he was treading on ground beyond the sphere of my influence. The same confusion in regard to the ambit of different Ministries occurred before, and we are getting on to that ground again. It is the intention of the Board of Works to do everything possible to dispose of this yard with advantage, not to the Government but to the people who are seeking work in that particular neighbourhood. As I have said, it is mainly owing to the fact that there was considerable depression in the shipbuilding industry that we have not been successful in our efforts up to the present. Several firms were negotiating with us about this matter before, but owing to the prevailing condition, the negotiations have not been successful. One of the reasons we are maintaining these yards, at the present time, is to keep the present staff of over 90 workmen employed. We cannot lay down any definite scheme for the future development of this yard. We are open to receive suggestions, if anyone can bring  forward helpful suggestions in connection with this matter. Several Deputies have been in touch with the Department for a considerable time trying to find if a solution is possible, but there is no good in making promises here that cannot be carried out.
Mr. BURKE: The position is that the shipbuilding industry is suffering from depression, which is not confined to Ireland. It is world-wide, and until matters look up in that respect there is very little hope of any dramatic developments in this particular dockyard.
Mr. DALY: I, too, was near Haulbowline in the season for making wild promises. I was asked if anything could be done in the near future to assist in creating some industry there that would replace the great industry that existed there when the British troops were in this country. Ships were repaired there, and men earned from £5 to £7 per week. Many of these men are now on the verge of starvation. I met some of them myself. It is an excellent place for any industry. A few days ago the President stated that a loan would shortly be raised to enable waterworks to be carried out in various places by sanitary authorities. Could a national foundry not be established there for making water-pipes for these schemes? The yard is just at the mouth of the harbour. It would also be a good place for developing the fish-curing industry. There are plenty of fish there at our doors.
I desire to support Deputy Anthony's statement that there is no part of Ireland that has suffered more than Haulbowline, Cobh, Passage, and the surrounding districts owing to the departure of the British Navy from Cork Harbour. I would like to impress upon the President—I know he was serious the other day when he was speaking, as he always is—that an industry might be established in Haulbowline, in connection with the water schemes which are to be started in various parts of the country. One of the chief objections to schemes of this kind is that most of the money is sent across to  England for the purchase of pipes. I would ask that Haulbowline be selected as a site for a factory to manufacture these pipes. Then there will be no objection to any of these schemes, no matter where they are started.
Mr. O'GORMAN: Deputy Anthony's speech reminded me of a fact which I think it my duty to lay before the Government. The Commissioner who was administering the Poor Law in South Cork last year exceeded his estimate by £14,000, which will have to be found by the people of the county. That was to provide for distress almost entirely in the neighbourhood of Passage, the place to which Deputy Anthony alluded. I really think, even if some temporary loss were incurred, it would be justified in the attempt to create an industry of some kind in this particular place.
Mr. BAXTER: The Cork Deputies are unanimous that something should be done in regard to this particular place. They are unanimous that more money should be spent, and they are unanimous that it should be other people's money. Deputy Doyle reminds me that this Vote has appeared in the Estimates since he came here. Since then, it has been a loss to the Exchequer. Deputy Anthony on one side, has stated that Cork labour is very anxious to do everything possible to get an industry going there. I do not know who will speak for the capitalists of Cork in order to show how keen they are about the starting of an industry. I am tempted to ask whether it would not be possible for the Government to lease the place free——
Mr. BAXTER: Since we have those expressions of interest from Labour, and since patriots in Cork tell us how  eager they are to put money into Irish industries, could we not have an example of this patriotism by the two parties coming together and by the Government saying that they will give the place free for five or ten years?
Mr. BAXTER: Would not that be the practical thing for Deputies to suggest in this House? As it is, the State has to face this loss annually, and so long as this place is a white elephant on its hands it will have to continue to face it.
Mr. JOHNSON: I should like to follow up the suggestion of Deputy Baxter. The Deputy may be able to speak for the third party to any such proposition. Will he give us an assurance that the farmers, for whom he speaks, will purchase the articles which will be made at this place at prices which will not represent an excessive wage or excessive interest on the capital invested, but will cover the bare expenses. If we can get an assurance from the third party for whom Deputy Baxter speaks that they will purchase the articles produced, I think there might be something done.
Mr. BAXTER: Deputy Johnson is not going to get any guarantees that are not reasonable. If his people are prepared to go in and work as hard as other people work in other places, and if the people managing the business are as successful as business people elsewhere in their management, we will get the articles at such competitive prices that we will be able to buy them.
Mr. J. WOLFE: Haulbowline is not in my constituency, but it immediately adjoins the constituency of West Cork. There is throughout my constituency a deep and widespread fear that when Ministerial commitments for expenditure on Haulbowline, Monkstown and Passage are met, there will be nothing left for the rest of Co. Cork. I should like the Minister to give an assurance that even when these millions are expended on those three places—we do not grudge them the amount—they will  not be expended to the detriment of West Cork.
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