Thursday, 1 April 1937
Dáil Éireann Debate
Go ndeontar suim ná raghaidh thar £6,417 chun slánuithe na suime is gá chun íoctha an Mhuirir a thiocfaidh chun bheith iníoctha i rith na bliana dar críoch an 31adh lá de Mhárta,  1938, chun Costaisí i dtaobh Longlainne Inis Sionnach.
That a sum not exceeding £6,417 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, 1938, for Expenses in connection with Haulbowline Dockyard.
Mr. Flinn: There is an increase from £4,725 to £9,617. The increase is caused by additional maintenance due to termination of tenancy of Haulbowline Industries, Limited, £1,185; renewal of submarine water main, £3,400; fuel, light and water. Formerly the receipts under this sub-head were deducted from the cost in framing the Estimate. This year the full cost is provided and receipts will be treated as extra Exchequer receipts—an accounting technicality responsible for £240 increase. The remaining £67 increase is partly casual, but £50 of it is due to cessation of payment for water by Haulbowline Industries, Ltd.
Mr. Corry: I should like to ask the Parliamentary Secretary in regard to the proposals sent to him by the Cork Harbour Commissioners whether he has come to any decision in regard to the dockyard at Haulbowline?
Mr. Corry: I find that no provision has been made for putting the dock at Haulbowline back at least into the condition it was originally. Its present condition is due to the neglect of the Board of Works. This dockyard was handed over in perfect condition to the Board of Works. We have had in this House each year a Vote for a pretty large sum for the maintenance of Haulbowline dockyard. Portion of the dockyard was leased to a firm of shipbrokers who were supposed, at any rate, to be responsible for the proper maintenance of the property leased to them. After having been leased for a number of years, this portion of the dockyard, which contains the dock itself, has now been handed back to the Board of Works. Some time ago the Cork Harbour Commissioners had occasion to investigate the matter.  Tenders were invited for putting the dock back into the same condition in which it was when these people took it over. I was rather amazed to find that a tender came in from the people to whom it had been leased by the Board of Works, and who were responsible for its proper maintenance while it was leased to them. The estimate for putting the dock back into the same condition as it was in when they took it was £12,000. In plain language, Government property which was leased by the Board of Works to a certain firm was damaged to the extent of £12,000 while, at the same time, we were paying from £2,000 to £5,000 yearly to people to mind it. The Parliamentary Secretary has been generous to the Phoenix Park as, apparently, it was considered worth while spending £4,000 on gates there.
Mr. Corry: There was no use objecting. I could not find anyone to object with me. Apparently the House agreed that £4,000 should be spent on gates in the Phoenix Park. I should like to bring to the recollection of the Parliamentary Secretary a certain statement he made in the past as to what should be done with Haulbowline. I will quote from a speech he made on June 26th, 1929, Vol. 20, Parliamentary Debates, page 1821.
“Now the first thing that we have got clear to-day is that the Government do intend, and I congratulate them, to say that that piece of property which may have potential value but which has no immediate value shall be maintained in the condition in which its potentialities can be realised, when the time comes, with the smallest possible cost to the State. That is the problem which  they have had to face, and I take it that that is the problem which they intend to face in this matter.”
The Parliamentary Secretary at that time congratulated the former Government on taking that step. Since then damage to the extent of £12,000 has been done during a period when this dock was leased. We are faced in Cobh with this position, that when a ship came there recently for repairs she had to be pulled to the site of the derelict dockyard and a few bags of cement had to be mixed and put into a hole in her side until she was taken away to England to be repaired. During the past four months four oil tankers that were lying there have been removed to England, and insurance amounting to £2,000 per ship had to be paid to cover their removal to England. The repairs could have been done in Cobh had this dockyard been in proper condition to dry-dock vessels. After all, a Government Department has a certain responsibility in this matter, and if this dockyard had a potential value in 1929, it has a potential value to-day. All I ask is that the dock should be put back into the condition in which it was when leased, seeing that the Board of Works is responsible for its maintenance. Steps should also be taken to see that those responsible for the damage should put the dockyard into the condition it was in when leased. We are entitled to have that done. I consider it to be an extraordinary thing that damage to the extent of £12,000 could be done to a dockyard while the responsible Government Department was paying people from £2,000 to £5,000 to mind it. As a representative of the people of Cobh, I claim that this Government Department was responsible for seeing that the dockyard was kept in repair, yet the Department allowed the damage to be done. I raised this question on February 17th, and I asked if compensation had been received from those who did the damage. I maintain that whatever amount of compensation was received should go towards putting the dockyard into a proper condition. I do not think that was asking anything  unreasonable. I do not know the Board of Works expert who estimated the amount of damage that had been done but taking damage that was done by the gentlemen responsible, they had the neck—I cannot call it anything else—to estimate for Cork Harbour Commissioners that it would cost £12,500 to put the dockyard back into the position in which it was previously. If that is the position, surely a Government Department is responsible. If we are to provide £3,435 as well as the wages of the staff, amounting to £2,825, and as similar amounts had to be paid previously, I contend that Government property should be looked after, and we should not be faced with the position at present existing in Cobh. Employment worth at least £100,000 has gone away from that harbour during the past 12 months for want of a dry-dock. I believe there is a dockyard in Dublin building “duck” boats.
Mr. Corry: Deputy Tom Kelly apparently was missing from the House half an hour ago when I pointed out that out of £900,000 of the Estimate, £700,000 was being spent in Dublin and about £200,000 in the rest of the country.
Mr. Corry: Not a bit, so far as Deputy Tom Kelly is concerned. The harm falls on the poor devils down the country who have to find the money. Take this particular case of Haulbowline. That has been admitted to be one of the three largest dockyards in the British Isles. A very definite proposal was made, and a very decent and generous amount of assistance was offered by the Harbour Commissioners in Cork who were desirous of putting that dockyard into a proper state of  repair. The assistance offered was too generous considering that the Government themselves were responsible for having the dockyard in its present condition. Surely the whole of Cork County was not to blame for the damage done by others to that dockyard. It would seem from the way in which we are treated here, by every Government that comes along, as if Cork was regarded as the Cinderella of the country. We are entitled to fair play, and we are entitled, when we have a valuable asset such as that dockyard undoubtedly is, to say that it is the duty of the Government Department responsible to keep it in a proper state and in a proper condition. In the words of the Parliamentary Secretary, it may not be of use to-day, but there is a time coming when it will be of use. From time to time I have been down there, and I was shown where the man who had this dockyard walked in there with sledges and broke up valuable pieces of machinery so that he could buy it up as scrap. I spoke of that thing in this House in 1929 when I called the attention of the then Government to the fact that that had been done to the machinery.
Mr. Corry: I have called attention to this matter here from year to year. I know that this machine after being smashed up was sold as scrap and a machine similar to it which was in perfect condition was also sold.
Mr. Corry: We cannot blame Deputy McMenamin. He knows nothing about it. We would gladly spare him to the Six Counties. It would be a relief if they took him. What I now want to know is when is this work going to be done? When is the Board of Works going to put back that dockyard into the condition in which it was? I want to know why it was brought to its present condition. I may be told that there was no negligence. I maintain there was, and the present state of that dock proves negligence. We had that particular gentleman offering to put the docks back in the same condition as he got it, and that offer was handed over to the Parliamentary Secretary himself. On behalf of the people of Cobh I claim that we are entitled to have that dock put back into the same condition as it was.
The employment that has now been lost to the young people of Cobh could be found again if that dock were put back into its proper condition. That is a thing to which the people of Cobh are entitled. Is that going to be done and, if not, what is the reason? Does the Parliamentary Secretary consider that spending £12,000 in putting that dockyard back into the position in which it was, is at least as important as spending £4,000 or £5,000 in fixing an archway or gateway into the Phoenix Park? The money spent in Cobh would be as well spent, at least. I hope to hear from the Parliamentary Secretary a satisfactory answer on this point. If not, we cannot finish to-night.
Mr. Flinn: I think everybody in this House gets a sort of creepy feeling down the back when he is told he is going to be reminded of something he said in B.C. 59. Most of us look back upon our lives with thoughts and recollections that do produce feelings of heat and mental disturbance. I think it would be very unwise for any Deputy to look back seven or eight years in this House and say that in the whole records of the proceedings since, nobody could find anything in his legislative past which would be rather a horrible ghost to bring up before him. For that reason I did look forward to that sort of thrill we have at 12 o'clock at night when people are told the ghost walks. I did look with a sort of stimulation to the prospect of having the worst thing that Deputy Corry could imagine in relation to myself and in connection with Haulbowline, dragged into the light this evening. I have heard it and I say it is a very poor ghost. I have no objection to Deputy Corry repeating now what I said in 1929. What I did say was that Haulbowline may have potential possibilities, but that it had no immediate use. That is what I said then and that is what I say now——
Mr. Flinn: Wait a moment. As far as evidence has been put before me by any responsible person, that is the position. I am not now concerned with wild statements about £100,000 worth of work being turned away from Haulbowline. The only evidence produced in support of that statement is that a boat was towed into Haulbowline and was repaired by the use of a couple of sacks of cement. Deputy Corry has had full opportunity to bring forward any further evidence on that point, and he has not done so. I am speaking as one friendly to Haulbowline, as one who is anxious to see brought out any potential possibility which that dockyard has, and I see that Deputy Corry  has fallen down on the job of proving his case. He has put forward no evidence in proof of his statement that I have driven away £100,000 that could have been got for repairing ships in Cobh. The only ship brought in was one which was repaired without going into the dry dock, with a couple of bags of cement. Now, I am putting it in that form because I do want from somebody a case which I can put to the Minister for Finance when I go to him to ask for money.
Mr. Flinn: What we are worried about is whether Deputy Corry has made the case that we should now spend an indefinite sum of money, which would be considerably more than £12,000, in putting that dock in condition—for what? For the one hundred thousand mythical pounds that Deputy Corry has imagined, so that we may tow a ship alongside where we could now tow her to repair her, as she was repaired with a bag of cement in Cork Harbour. There is a responsible committee dealing with this matter, a committee of the lower harbour, which has at its disposal all the information and all the evidence it is possible to get. I am dealing with that committee. I am prepared to regard anything it puts forward as responsible. I am asking the members of that committee to say that there is £100,000 worth of work which could and would have been done. They have not said anything of the kind. What Deputy Corry wants to do is to go back to that committee and bring to it any evidence, any documents, any facts, which he can produce which will convince them to the extent to which they will put their signature  upon a statement. Then I will consider it as very responsible evidence.
At the present moment I am not satisfied, much as I would like to be satisfied, that if Haulbowline was there that any of that work would have been done. It is a dock 618 feet long. It is undoubtedly the biggest dock in the Free State. It is three times as big as any dock in Dublin, and it is three times as unsuitable for the purpose of doing any ordinary repair work. It is an expensive dock to work. Deputy Corry may want a man merely to state what suits him. I have to state what I have to state to the Minister for Finance when I ask that public money shall now be expended upon it. That dock was built as part of a huge institution, the British Government. It was never economic as far as they were concerned. It cost £20,000 or £30,000 a year, but that did not matter to them. They were building it up for another purpose, a purpose which I think it did serve during the Great War. It was an expensive piece of preparation as far as they were concerned. They could afford to have, as they have all over the world, extensive coaling stations and extensive dockyards and aerodromes waiting for the chance of using them in times of war emergency.
Now, you must not put on a parallel line the user of the same thing for a commercial affair. Imagine Gibraltar being used merely as a commercial harbour. Imagine trying to get agricultural crops out of the land that they keep as part of a fort. What I am asking the responsible people to do is to put forward a case on which I can go to the Minister for Finance. Up to the present, I want to say perfectly clearly, and I say it for the purpose of helping those whose business  it will be to produce that case, that no case has yet been produced, that no evidence has been put in my possession, which would enable me to ask the Minister for Finance to spend £20,000, not £12,000, on putting Haulbowline into a merely skeleton condition as a dock. No evidence has been produced to me that if we did do it there would be any user commensurate with that expenditure. As soon as ever I can get that evidence, and I am very anxious to get that evidence, I will use it with the effect with which I can use it if it is evidence over which I can stand.
Wild assertions of any kind are not going to affect the issue. Let Deputy Corry and those others who are interested take what I am saying into serious consideration. I may say I am a member of that committee myself, though I keep away from it because I happen to have the other capacity in relation to it. I am actually providing them with the information which will enable them, if they have the evidence in their possession, to provide me with a case.
Mr. Flinn: I have got their report and their report is not the same as the statement of Deputy Corry. There is no statement in that report of £100,000 worth of work being driven out of the port, no statement of the kind. I do not want to deal with that statement at the moment. I will just mention that the report does not bear out what Deputy Corry has said.
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