Adjournment Debate: - Clew Bay Harbour Development.

Thursday, 2 May 1974

Dáil Eireann Debate
Vol. 272 No. 5

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An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  Deputy Molloy gave me notice of his intention to raise the subject matter contained in Question No. 10 which appeared on today's Order Paper. Deputy Molloy.

Mr. Gallagher: Information on Denis Gallagher  Zoom on Denis Gallagher  Deputy Molloy raised this matter on my behalf and, [821] with your permission, I should like to proceed, if I am in order.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  I am afraid the Chair granted permission to Deputy Molloy to raise this matter on the Adjournment. If the Deputy concerned is not present we cannot proceed. The rule is that the Member raising the matter must give notice. Deputy Molloy gave me notice and got permission from me. I have received no information from Deputy Molloy that he did not wish to proceed with the matter here and now.

Mr. MacSharry: Information on Raymond MacSharry  Zoom on Raymond MacSharry  The question on the Order Paper is in the name of Deputy Gallagher——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  I appreciate that, but Deputy Gallagher did not raise the matter with me. It was Deputy Molloy.

Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries (Mr. M.P. Murphy): Information on Michael Pat Murphy  Zoom on Michael Pat Murphy  We have gone to a tremendous amount of trouble since we got notification that this matter was to be raised on the Adjournment. We had to get officials to come here from the other end of the city and we had to get together this rather bulky memoranda. Now we find that the Deputy has not the courtesy to be here.

Mr. MacSharry: Information on Raymond MacSharry  Zoom on Raymond MacSharry  Deputy Gallagher is here to raise it.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  Deputy Molloy got the permission to raise this matter. He could decide to proceed with this matter on another occasion. This would leave the Chair in a dilemma. In any event, it would be creating a precedent to permit another Deputy to raise the matter in these circumstances.

Mr. MacSharry: Information on Raymond MacSharry  Zoom on Raymond MacSharry  Is the Ceann Comhairle saying that this never happened before?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  I do not know——

Mr. MacSharry: Information on Raymond MacSharry  Zoom on Raymond MacSharry  Why, then, do you speak about precedents?

[822]An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  ——but I am ruling now that the Deputy who raises a matter on the Adjournment with the Chair must be present to proceed. It is a discourtesy to this House that he is not present.

Mr. MacSharry: Information on Raymond MacSharry  Zoom on Raymond MacSharry  The Deputy whose name is on the question on the Order Paper is present and is prepared to proceed.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  I am not aware of any rule for substitution.

Mr. MacSharry: Information on Raymond MacSharry  Zoom on Raymond MacSharry  He is prepared to go ahead with the complaint.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  Deputy Gallagher gave me no notice of his intention to raise this matter and I am not aware of any rule for substitution.

Mr. Gallagher: Information on Denis Gallagher  Zoom on Denis Gallagher  I accept your ruling on this matter and I apologise for any inconvenience to you or to the Parliamentary Secretary. I was not aware of the formality which requires that the Deputy who raised the matter should be present.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  I see Deputy Molloy is now in the House. Is he prepared to proceed with the matter?

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  I was at a meeting. I am sorry for any inconvenience I have caused to the House. There were two questions. Which one is the Chair allowing?

Mr. Gallagher: Information on Denis Gallagher  Zoom on Denis Gallagher  No. 10 on the Order Paper.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  My reason for asking your permission to raise the subject matter of No. 10 on the Adjournment is that neither I nor Deputy Gallagher was satisfied with the Parliamentary Secretary's reply to the question on the Order Paper or to the supplementary questions subsequently. I want to join with Deputy Gallagher in appealing to the Parliamentary Secretary to reconsider his attitude as displayed in reply to the questions in relation to the proposal to establish a major fishery harbour at Clew Bay in County Mayo. The surveys which the Parliamentary Secretary referred to in the course of his reply were [823] undertaken some time ago. He referred to a 1967 survey and I should like to point out that such surveys are now out of date, that there have been major changes affecting the fishing industry in Ireland, particularly in the west, since the 1967 survey. Also there have been major changes, because of the entry of this country into the EEC, in the facilities for marketing of our fishery products.

This has opened up a whole new range of possibilities for fishery development. As well there have been major changes in the fishing patterns along the west coast in the period from 1967 to date. These have come to particular notice in recent years. Whether large stocks of herring were always available off the west coast is a matter on which one can hear various arguments, but the facts are that in the past two to three years fishermen, with the aid of our research vessels, the Cú Feasa and the other one, have been greatly facilitated in discovering where the fish are: they have been advised to fish in new grounds. There has been an explosion in the total catches of herrings off the Galway and Mayo coasts in the past few years. This has brought about a total revolution in fishing in these areas, and there is no harbour off Mayo suitable for the handling of a large fishing fleet. The facilities at Galway Harbour, which are not under discussion here, are totally inadequate, as the Parliamentary Secretary is well aware, to meet the needs of the huge fishing fleet which operates from there during the herring season.

I want to join with Deputy Gallagher in pointing out these facts, these changes, since those surveys were undertaken. I feel greatly disappointed at the attitude of the Parliamentary Secretary. One would have expected that a new person coming in would have some new dynamic approach and would show greater interest in the development of fishing and that he would be taking initiatives. Instead he trotted out some dry, arid remarks about reports which had been gathering dust in his Department for some time. Instead of the new dynamic approach which was expected from a [824] new man in the Department, anxious to improve things, he has disappointed an awful lot of people in this House and in the fishing industry generally.

My appeal to him is to have this whole question re-examined in relation to the coast of Mayo. He should get up-to-date facts, have a proper survey undertaken of the fish available there, of the change in the size of boats now operating along that coast and of the inadequacies of the facilities. I am certain that if a thorough, efficient and accurate survey is carried out, taking these factors and many others into consideration, he cannot but come to the conclusion that a proper major fishery harbour should be provided in that area to cater for the larger fleets now operating there.

Mr. Gallagher: Information on Denis Gallagher  Zoom on Denis Gallagher  I join with Deputy Molloy in this matter and would point out that I did not put down the question with the intention of scoring political points of any description. I believe the fishing industry, particularly on the west coast, is facing a new dimension and it is because of this great development I see coming in our fishing industry as a whole that I say there is an urgent necessity to have this whole matter examined. Take the previous activities in fishing along our coast. Take, for instance, white fishing. We know that the east coast areas are very limited and that they are being overfished. The prices being paid to fishermen in the Dublin market is as low as 5p or 6p per pound. With increased costs for diesel and other fishermen's overheads, it is necessary that they turn to some other type of fishing. This they are doing. Already on the west coast there are three or four trawlers which have put on harpoons and are fishing for basking shark. The same development has been started on the south-east coast. The reason for this is that fishermen realise that they have to get away from the fishing which they were accustomed to at this time of the year and try to do some other type of fishing in order to fill the gap when herrings are not available.

The east coast, as things stand, is over-fished and, for this reason, development [825] has to take place on the west coast. Fishermen are already investing in larger boats and two men, one from Aran Island and one from Achill Island, are very much to the forefront in purchasing two of the larger type boats. They have purchased boats for in excess of £200,000. They are doing this because they know we have a resource which has been neglected and not been used to the full. If they move to the west coast, the natural thing is that proper harbour facilities must be provided for them so that they can land their catches.

I am aware that the Parliamentary Secretary has taken the advice of his officials on this matter and that he is referring to surveys which were done in 1967 and about that time, but I believe that more forward thinking is necessary and that it is now necessary to review the whole position. With the rich harvest which is there to be reaped on the west coast proper landing facilities and harbours must be examined immediately. There is no major harbour between Killybegs and Galway. It can be said that Ballyglass, as was stated earlier, is about to be developed. This is so but it is very far from Slyne Head and from areas west of Mayo and Galway where fishermen are now getting their largest catches.

This industry is at present yielding something in the region of £14 million to the economy and it should be remembered that in the next nine to ten years this figure will be in excess of £50 million. This is going to come from the west coast. We hear a good deal about the mineral wealth of our nation going to foreigners but if we were to make an estimate of the wealth which foreigners collect off our shores in fish it would be far in excess of any figure which could be quoted in regard to mineral wealth.

At present we are heading for a great boom in the fishing industry. We have men and skippers who are prepared to purchase large boats. These men know what they are doing and they are keen to develop themselves and develop this great industry which has for so long been looming behind. I will not say neglect in this [826] regard because I realise that the State has a certain amount of resources to put into any development and I appreciate that we have been doing the best possible in this field. The Parliamentary Secretary, who comes from the coast himself and is familiar with fishing traditions, is the ideal man for the position. He realises what is involved. I am certain that he will take all steps necessary to see that the industry makes every possible progress.

It is for the reasons I have outlined that I put down this question. I see a necessity for a harbour in the Clew Bay area. Fishermen will lose valuable time steaming for seven or eight hours to Galway, Ballyglass, or to Killybegs. In his reply to my question the Parliamentary Secretary stated that there was no tradition for fishing in the area but one might say that there is no tradition in Dunmore East, in Howth, or in Killybegs, because many of the skippers and boat owners who fish from these places do not come from the area. Fishing is entirely different from what it used be and boats move along the coast according as the shoals of fish show up. Skippers go where they think they can gain the best advantage for themselves.

I disagree with that statement of the Parliamentary Secretary. In my view it is not necessary to have a tradition in an area in order to develop a port. This has been, for a long time, the policy of the Department. It may be true in the case of smaller harbours or piers. I agree that there is not much sense in putting money into the development of a harbour that will not be used. With the huge development I see taking place in this industry it is obvious that it will be necessary to have proper facilities in the region of Clew Bay. It is for that reason that I asked the Parliamentary Secretary to reexamine this whole position.

We think this development should take place now. By waiting and leaving the matter over we will not be making the necessary progress. As a result of our entry into the EEC, and the spending of regional funds which [827] may become available, there should be a great deal of increased finance available, something which would be very important for works of this kind.

In conclusion I should like to say honestly that I am not trying to score a political point in this. I see there is a necessity to have a look at this question. Because I am interested in the development of the fishing industry I ask the Parliamentary Secretary to investigate the matter. I hope that very soon he will bring forward a report on the possibility of going ahead with this development.

Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries (Mr. M.P. Murphy): Information on Michael Pat Murphy  Zoom on Michael Pat Murphy  I accept, without question, the good faith of Deputy Gallagher in raising this question. He is endeavouring to make a case for the development of Clew Bay and rightly so. It seems, from the files at my disposal, that this has been a continuing process over the years. Many representations have been made by various representatives from Mayo with a view to getting some money towards the development of this bay. My sympathies are with development work in places such as Clew Bay and Inish Lyre and if I thought for a moment that I could justify Government expenditure on such works I would be only too glad to do so.

The reports available to me, as I indicated at Question Time, are completely unfavourable. I have, in the short time at my disposal, obtained a great deal of material relating to this matter. There is a great deal of material in regard to the proposal to develop Clew Bay, and I must say that it is almost all unfavourable. The report which I read today was the report of the survey team of 1967. The survey team, as the Deputy knows, is comprised of the representatives of the Fishery Section of the Department, the Office of Public Works and the local county council. They excluded Clew Bay and Inish Lyre from development and they gave us six reasons for doing so, including the one just mentioned by Deputy Gallagher. They are as follows:

[828] (1) There is no tradition of fishing in the area.

(2) Because of very rough bottom there is only a minute part of the whole area suitable for trawling or seining.

(3) Boats of up to 80 feet could not be located at Inish Lyre because they would be too far away from suitable fishing grounds.

(4) Larger boats which could go further afield are much too costly for local investment, and in any event would be better located elsewhere, e.g. in a major fishery harbour.

(5) Smaller boats could operate long lines or gillnets over the area of rough bottom but these fishing techniques are not favoured by Irish fishermen.

(6) Harbour works on a modest scale would cost £100,000.

There is some startling evidence in this book in particular, and I had not much time to read it. I do not think that the people down there in County Mayo were dealt with fairly by the previous Administration. That is selfevident from some of the letters in this volume. As I said, many representations have been made. The late Archbishop of Tuam, Dr. Walshe, was here present in Dublin at a meeting with Mr. Childers, our President now, on the 14th January, 1965. At that meeting many senior officers of different Departments were present. The subject matter was the development of harbour facilities at Inish Lyre. Despite his Grace's representations and the case made by those who were with him, nothing happened because of the assertion that there is no use in spending money in some place where there is no potential. I am sure Deputy Gallagher would appreciate that I must get some firm case that all the statements made to me and to those who preceded me were groundless. I am rather doubtful if that could be the position. Time does not permit me to read extracts from the various reports here, but let me say this, that the fishery people keep up to date with the reports. I [829] did mention at Question Time that the geographical layout does not change, but the fishing potential might change, and we from time to time make a survey on that basis.

Another factor here was that the Swedish consultant, Mr. Bjuke, examined this in 1962 and made his report. A peculiarity of that fact is that that report was not made available even to senior representatives of the Deputy's own party in County Mayo. I do not want to be reading specifically from the correspondence here, mainly from one former Minister of the Government to another and so on, but it indicated that Mr. Bjuke's report was hidden. However, if it is any information to Deputy Gallagher, he can see it in my office at any time because I believe the Swedish consultant's report should not be hidden and that it should be available together with any other reports that are at my disposal, so that Deputy Gallagher and the interested parties can see the case they have to fight against.

The position then is that all the reports are generally unfavourable. The cost of development would be out of proportion to any benefits that would accrue. On that basis it has been recommended to me by those competent to give advice that this work should be put in abeyance, that there is no justification for recommending public funds of the kind that would be needed to carry out the work there.

Now that Deputy Molloy is back again, I just want to mention the many letters of representations that are here in this file. I am a number of years here in this House, but I thought we were not doing public business in this way. I believe the reports that are made should have been made available particularly to such [830] people as secretaries of Fianna Fáil cumainn who are interested in this development work and by virtue of the fact that their own Government was in power and they wanted up-to-date information. There is no one who regrets more than I that the reports are not more favourable as regards Inish Lyre, because as I said at the outset places like Inish Lyre are the places that should be developed, if at all possible. The only report that had an optimistic note in it was the Swedish consultant's report; that is the reason why it was hidden away back in 1962-63. The Deputy will appreciate I had time to give only a slight perusal to the reports concerned, but I shall be prepared to meet Deputy Gallagher at any time to discuss this matter further if there is a possibility of a smaller scheme that would be helpful to the district. That would have my support and sympathy and, I have no doubt, the support and sympathy of the Department's officials. I am particularly interested in developing places like the coastal area of south Mayo because it is similar to the coastal area of southwest Cork. I would like to give preferential treatment to such districts because they deserve it.

I am sorry that my reply cannot be more optimistic because of the advice available to me. At this stage I could not justify a recommendation to the Minister for Finance or to the Government for an expenditure of money to develop Inish Lyre. However, if we can get more up-to-date information, as Deputy Gallagher mentioned, that will change my attitude, I shall be only too glad to co-operate in any way possible.

The Dáil adjourned at 5.30 p.m. until 3 p.m. on Tuesday, 7th May, 1974.

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