Wednesday, 13 November 1985
Dáil Eireann Debate
That Dáil Éireann calls on the Government to publish a detailed plan for the development of the Port of Dublin, to attract back lost business and to revitalise the undeveloped dockland area for industrial, commercial, housing and leisure activities.
“Dáil Éireann notes the measures already taken to restore viability to Dublin Port; the decisions on the Custom House Dock Site announced by the Taoiseach on Wednesday, 23rd October and the intention to introduce early legislation to enable the restructuring of Dublin Port and Docks Board”.
Mr. V. Brady: The Deputy has said his  piece and he should be off home now. My colleague, Deputy Wilson, also dwelt on this matter last night and we laid out in detail the massive financial losses that have been incurred in Dublin port over the years by these continuous blunders.
We are dealing here tonight with the motion submitted by Fianna Fáil on the redevelopment of the port. Whatever form the proposed development of the port takes it must be seen to be beneficial and acceptable to all those people living adjacent to the port who would most likely be affected directly or indirectly by the port's activities.
In this respect I would like to refer to what the Minister said last night regarding our party leader and myself for opposing what he termed certain industrial development proposals for political expediency. The Minister failed to say that he was referring to the highly controversial proposal to build underground caverns for the storage of LPG in Dublin Bay. This storage would be less than one mile from high density residential areas. Indeed, at the time there was absolute terror amongst the residents, particularly in Clontarf, Dollymount and Raheny, at the thought of the potential time bomb that it was being suggested should be located right on their doorstep. It is grossly irresponsible of the Minister to make this statement which proves how bereft he is of ideas for proper port development. When he launched an attack on the Fianna Fáil representatives for Dublin North-Central for taking the stand they took last year he was grossly and totally irresponsible. We make no apologies for opposition to that proposal and if it ever should be resurrected we will mount the same opposition to what was and would be a grossly irresponsible and stupid proposal.
It is not to the credit of the promoters of Dublin port or Dublin Corporation that they pursued with great ferocity and enthusiasm this proposal strictly for financial reasons. However, massive protests and objections by the communities living in the area eventually won the day because An Bord Pleanála rejected the  application on the grounds that the caverns posed a massive risk of serious explosions to the people who live in that area and placed many lives at risk. The decision was made in the aftermath of a very serious LPG storage tank explosion in Mexico which caused the deaths of over 3,000 people. Since then similar tragedies have occurred in other countries where LPG was stored in residential areas. Very recently I heard a whisper that Dublin port in conjunction with a promoter are endeavouring to resurrect this proposal in the name of development. If this proposal is the only one that Dublin port can come up with for the development of the port it is not surprising that the port finds itself in its present serious situation. As we all know, it is on the verge of bankruptcy and closure. The Minister also knows well that this development would have given very marginal employment to a very small number of semi-skilled or skilled personnel. To talk in terms of this development creating employment in the area is totally dishonest.
I have asked the Minister in the House on numerous occasions to give an assurance that he will not grant any further harbour works orders in the bay. There is a huge demand, which commercially makes sense, for proper planning of amenities to be provided in the Dublin Bay area. It is not reasonable that the Dublin Port and Docks Board continue to seek additional reclamation for industrial activity when they have acres of open spaces lying totally unused in the dock area. Many acres of this open space are being used merely for the storage of empty 40 foot containers which have been lying there month after month. This is a further abuse of the privilege of having valuable space and a further indictment of the Dublin Port and Docks Board. I repeat my request to the Minister to reject that application for the harbour works order.
When the Minister talks of political expediency I would like to remind him of an official letter from Fine Gael headquarters prior to the last election, signed by Seán O'Leary, director of elections,  to the people of Clontarf, promising that further development would not take place in the bay. The Minister came in here last night and slated the leader of Fianna Fáil and me for making what he called similar promises for political expediency. I have here the Fine Gael pamphlet handed out in Dublin North-Central before the last election. One of its points is, “We are totally opposed to the storage of LPG in Dublin Bay”. That is the industrial development the Minister talked about last night when he criticised Fianna Fáil. I tell the Minister of State, Deputy O'Brien, that here is the letter. The Minister for Communications, Deputy Mitchell, is not in the House tonight and the Minister of State might inform him of the points I have just made. I will quote from the last paragraph of the letter: “With respect to harbour works order, I wish to confirm that Fine Gael policy is firmly against granting any orders in this case.” That is quite clear. Is that political expediency on the part of Fine Gael?
Fianna Fáil at least have been and remain totally consistent in this matter. The issue is so serious from the point of view of many thousands of people living nearby that the Minister should do the right thing and reject without further delay that application which is on his desk at present.
I hope that answers the question posed by the Minister last night. In return let me ask the Minister if his two colleagues in the constituency, Deputy George Birmingham and Deputy Richard Bruton, have withdrawn their support for rejection of the application. I hope that the Minister of State, Deputy O'Brien, when he speaks shortly will reply to that simple question. All I am seeking is a simple yes or no.
Mr. V. Brady: ——offers an unique opportunity to change the other inner city area radically for the benefit of the communities living there. The Government talked about a low density area and seemed to suggest that the site would be developed mainly commercially for hotels, a conference centre, a leisure centre, some shopping and some housing. Most people who know the port area well will be very hesitant to accept all these proposals as being potentially successful. When the Taoiseach made this announcement it was obvious that no homework had been done, and last night the Minister shed no light on that subject either. We have not yet received any details of what is planned for that area. I hope the Minister of State will give some indication of what the Government may have in mind, but I urge that Dublin Corporation, the local authority responsible for the area, be invited to participate in the fullest possible way in the drawing up of plans for the development of that area. These plans should contain a very large segment of housing. During the past few years all political parties have talked about the necessity of bringing life back to the inner city. This development provides an ideal opportunity for the Government to do just that and to give an injection of new life to an area that has been denuded and allowed to become derelict mainly for commercial reasons and not in the interests of the port.
Dublin port is a very important link in the transport cycle and the foundation of industrial development and thus job creation. Seen as such, Dublin port should not be left in isolation. A busy port means more trade. More trade means more jobs and more jobs are, obviously, the ultimate which we must all be seen to pursue. I hope whatever development plan the Government have in mind for the port will do that, because the area has suffered greatly over recent years from very high and serious unemployment.
We are being provided with an ideal opportunity to do something about that  development but, unless the Government have the will, the courage and, above all, the initiative, I am afraid Dublin port will not succeed. The Government must look at the whole set up of the Dublin Port and Docks Board because it has proved disastrous in recent years. Unless there is a solution in that area I am afraid the Government may be wasting their time irrespective of the actions they propose to take.
Minister of State at the Department of the Environment (Mr. F. O'Brien): Last night the Minister for Communications gave details of measures already taken to restore viability to Dublin port and informed this House of his intention to introduce early legislation to enable the restructuring of the Dublin Port and Docks Board. I intend tonight to concentrate on decisions already taken by the Government to revitalise the dock area generally and the Custom House docks site in particular.
The Taoiseach in his statement to Dáil Éireann on 23 October 1985 has already given a clear indication of the measures which the Government propose to take to secure the redevelopment of the Custom House docks site and certain designated inner city areas in Dublin, Cork and Limerick. The Custom House docks site is a 27-acre site and represents the largest single piece of dockland property which requires redevelopment. It is also the closest area to the city centre which has been radically affected by the development and modernisation of port facilities and their transfer further eastwards. The Government recognise the importance of the site in civic and national terms in its own right and also recognise the contribution, direct and indirect, which the redevelopment of the site could have for the area immediately surrounding the site and the north inner city area of Dublin generally.
The Government decided on 20 June 1984 to establish a special working party to consider how the Custom House site could best be developed to realise its value and at the same time achieve a satisfactory economic and social development.  The working party, of which I was chairman, considered all possible options for encouraging the redevelopment of this site. To those who said we did not give it much thought and that it was hastily conceived I must point out that the working party was established on 20 June 1984 and not on 20 October 1985. A lot of thought went into this matter.
The need to obtain the maximum benefit for the Port and Docks Board from the development, and the desirability of achieving the optimum development from the point of view of inner city renewal and revitalisation, given the location and importance of the site.
The likelihood of selling the site on the basis of market conditions and the existing outline planning permission; the value of the site; the likelihood of attracting private capital and the means by which this might be achieved; whether a scheme of tax or other incentives might be likely to help in the development of the site and an analysis of the type of incentives and whether any special administrative, statutory or other arrangements should apply in relation to the overall development of the site or planning procedures.
The consultant produced an up to date valuation of the site and an assessment of its potential in the light of the depressed property market and other factors and based on the outline planning permission which had been granted to the Dublin Port and Docks Board on 28 September 1982.
The outline permission appeared to be based on maximising density for development purposes. The office and shopping content was particularly large, given the location of the property and the size of the Dublin market for such development. At a rough estimate, the total investment value of a development on the lines of  the outline permission would be in the range of £125 million to £150 million at current values.
The consultant estimated that on the basis of the outline permission, and taking account of market circumstances, it would not be possible to sell the site other than at a figure representing a fraction of its potential realisable value. In addition, he advised that in today's property market the site is indigestible and unbankable and would be attractive to potential customers only if it could be shown to provide an immediate return by way of undertakings that space would be occupied on completion. A less intensive, more socially oriented development would offer the best chance of bringing the site forward for development in the foreseeable future and of realising its value.
The working party generally accepted these conclusions. We agreed, however, that because of the national and civic importance of the site and despite the present economic climate and difficulties in the property market, it could not be left undeveloped without considerable repercussions for the surrounding area. Accordingly, we drew up a set of principles for a possible development brief for the site, taking account of the factors indentified by the consultant as necessary if there was to be any possibility of the site being brought forward for development in the foreseeable future. In addition we considered possible tax incentives which might encourage a mix of development on the lines contained in our development brief.
We considered it essential to recommend tax incentives which would encourage a mix of developers and users on to the site and ensure its eventual development along the lines mentioned in the development brief. In particular, we found it necessary to recommend tax incentives, at least on a par with those already available for industrial property, to builders and owner occupiers of commercial, retail and other non-industrial property on the site. We also considered  it important to give incentives to encourage the building of residential accommodation on the site and we considered that incentives would be needed to generate initial demand for retail and other commercial space on the site and to encourage a wide range of uses in accordance with the development brief.
We also discussed the possible development of the site with financial institutions and developers. There was general agreement among these institutions and developers that the site, by virtue of size and location, was one of immense national, civic and social importance but if left solely to market forces no development would take place on the site for the next ten years at least. The view also was that unless the site was given some particular status, with significant tax advantages for investors/developers, it would remain in its present state for many years to come.
They also considered that an advantageous taxation package would be a significant factor in attracting developers to the site and hence overcoming the perceived reluctance of builders at present to become involved in projects unless there is a pre-building commitment to occupation of premises. They also stated that the commonly held view was that the sheer size of the site would act as a deterrent to development. It was thought that this would need to be counteracted not only by tax incentives, but by the appointment of some type of statutory body which would have the specific task of overseeing development of the site.
The working party decided therefore to recommend in their report that tax incentives should form the basis of a flexible basket of incentives to achieve the desired type of development on the site. The working party also considered the possibility that tax incentives would merely divert investment from other areas on to the site. To the extent that this might be true, the working party feel that diversion is justified by the particular circumstances surrounding the site and the perceived disadvantage of the  location. However, on the basis of their discussions with investors, we were confident that a substantial proportion of development on the site could be in the form of new investment, either through the attraction of new money from abroad or through encouraging Irish investors to invest new money in the site.
The working party also accepted the view that a statutory body to direct and control development of the site would be essential to ensure that development is brought forward and regulated in accordance with the development brief. In addition a statutory body would devote their expertise and efforts to ensuring that suitable developments are brought forward in the shortest time possible. The working party also recommended that the new statutory body should be required to prepare an overall planning scheme, for the site, based on the set of principles drawn up by us and having regard to the provisions of the development plan of Dublin Corporation. We also recommended that the Corporation should be consulted in the preparation of the planning scheme.
We also considered the planning scheme should be flexible. Joint ventures with State or semi-State participation should not be ruled out as long as the overall objectives are met within the predetermined time scale. Flexibility, inventiveness and variety should be paramount. Given an overall design brief no user should be seen as excluding others — offices, civic buildings, recreation facilities, housing and high-tech buildings should be able to exist side by side and create new employment opportunities.
Mr. G. Brady: A Cheann Comhairle, I think that the Minister should be asked to withdraw the remark of a “Cavan Deputy”. It is casting a slight on the  Opposition spokesman, calling him a Cavan Deputy with no knowledge of the inner city.
Mr. F. O'Brien: Virtually all new housing accommodation provided to date in the Dublin 1 postal district is local authority housing. The working party considered that the development of the Custom House docks site offers an opportunity to set about rectifying the imbalance in the provision of residential accommodation by attracting private residential investment to the site. The tax incentives recommended by the working party include specific incentives to encourage housing and the working party was confident that implementation of a positive policy of encouraging a residential social mix would facilitate the regeneration of the north inner city and other deprived areas along the docks and quays.
Mr. F. O'Brien: Dublin, of course, is no different from many other major cities in being faced with problems arising from the need to regenerate dockland areas. Representatives of the working party visited London to study the action taken to promote the regeneration of its docklands. The work of the Greater London Council in relation to St. Katherine's Docks — 37 acres — and of the London Docks Development Corporation was examined. Though resources to deal with the problems are obviously available on a much larger scale in Britain, the scale of the problems is also much greater. Measures taken in both the dockland areas visited are broadly similar to those proposed by the working party in relation to the Custom House Docks site, including special taxation measures, exemptions from rates and modified planning controls in accordance with special development schemes. While problems of the nature and scale being addressed in London do not exist in Dublin the rapid progress which has been made in a relatively short time in developing the hitherto derelict areas of London also indicate the benefits of a single purpose authority established to tackle a problem for which the normal operation of the market or normal public policy measures are either inadequate or unsuitable.
Mr. F. O'Brien: It is also intended that a Bill providing for the establishment of the statutory authority will be presented as soon as possible to ensure that the redevelopment of the site can be promoted and got under way as quickly as possible.
The Government have also recognised that the principles underlying the approach to the Custom House Docks site are also relevant in relation to a number of depressed inner city areas. Experience has shown that the normal operation of the property market has been painfully slow in bringing about the redevelopment of run-down inner city areas and all the evidence is that the situation would get worse unless a positive effort is made to redress the situation. Obviously, this is a situation which could not be allowed to continue undisturbed. The inner areas of the major urban centres represent a very valuable resource in terms of infrastructure and urban amenities, public buildings and social, business and commercial centres.
Although local authority housing and other amenities of a very high standard are being provided in the inner urban areas, especially in Dublin, efforts to encourage private housing in development in such areas has had little or no effect. Accordingly the Government decided that intervention was required and, as a first step, that a certain number of areas should be designated in the inner areas of the cities of Dublin, Cork and Limerick in which redevelopment would be promoted by means of special incentives. The specific areas to be designated have yet to be precisely defined but an announcement in this regard will be made in the very near future following consultations  which are already taking place with the relevant local authorities. It is envisaged that one area will be designated in each of the cities of Cork and Limerick and two areas in Dublin city. In Dublin we will be designating an area along the north and south quays and an area in the north inner city around Mountjoy Square.
The following range of incentives will be made available in respect of these designated areas: section 23-type allowances for residential property, double rent allowance offset against tax, rates relief and — reverting to what I have been saying in an endeavour to regenerate and achieve a better social mix within our inner cities, particularly within the inner city of Dublin — a new 5 per cent allowance on the purchase price of private dwellings which will apply every year for ten years. Therefore, on a £40,000 house a purchaser can set off £20,000 a year against tax on top of all the other new house grants, mortgage subsidies and reliefs. That is a clear indication of the concern of this Government. We are not merely paying lip service to this; we are serious about getting on with the development.
Mr. F. O'Brien: Having talked to investment units, to developers and to the CIF on these proposals I am told they will be successsful because we are prepared to do something. Deputy Wilson questioned the colour of our money. The Government are giving tax concessions; we are not talking about putting up money. We are talking about giving aid to the developers. That is how we can get our economy moving, not by borrowing money in a rather horrendous fashion but encouraging ——
Mr. F. O'Brien: ——developers to invest their money. We believe we will achieve that goal by giving them these incentives. Unlike the deal cobbled  together in 1982, while the midnight oil was burning, at the behest of one individual ——
Mr. Wilson: The Minister's Taoiseach botched it. He went to him and it was so ridiculous he ran him out of his office. He had not a clue. He did not know where the quays were. He would walk into the river if he were not led.
Mr. F. O'Brien: ——they were prepared to hand over this site indiscriminately, have it developed in an indiscriminate way, something I believe to be a gem within our city which, if handled properly — and it will be — will act as a catalyst for the proper development particularly of our north inner city and the city in general.
Mr. F. O'Brien: It is ideally situated within the heart of the city. With these types of incentives, a statutory body to deal with it, despite the gloom that seems to be prevailing on the far side of the House because of what we are doing, indeed ever since 23 October when we brought forward our package I never experienced such a veil of silence falling across any Opposition ——
Mr. F. O'Brien: However, I can understand his frustrations. This work is progressing,  the redevelopment of our city, not just on that site but on the quays, to deal with the dereliction of our quays, also very important, and the dereliction in areas of Limerick and Cork. That is a very positive and forthright proposal. I am happy to say it will go ahead because we are giving the necessary types of incentives.
The Government's commitment to the regeneration of the quays and dock area, and I stress this, cannot be questioned because the proposals are there and are positive ones. The Bill will come before the House shortly. The measures announced for the Custom House docks site, for the designation of the areas along the quays, are further evidence of the Government's commitment to Dublin inner city and its docklands, a firm commitment laid before the House. The Government are fully aware that the Custom House docks site is of key importance to the regeneration of the docks and of the north inner city and Dublin generally. I am confident that the package of proposals announced by the Taoiseach will render the site and Dublin inner city area a very attractive place for private investors to invest their money.
I am confident also that this will mean that a real start can be made, a positive start — the end of the political gimmickry that has obtained about this site for too long — towards the regeneration of the docklands, the north inner city and other deprived areas. It will not be at the behest of one individual who was going around peddling his vote. When developed, the north inner city and other deprived areas in the docklands will add tremendous prestige to our capital city. We in this House have an obligation to ensure that it is revitalised and regenerated. Along with that — I might throw this in although it may not be directly relevant but by way of passing reference — there will be the grants for home improvements, particulary for pre-1940 houses which is another example ——
Mr. F. O'Brien: That is another example of our desire to regenerate our inner city. A number of its older houses have been in a state of decay. I believe that what we are doing goes hand in hand with this overall policy, one which will bring active results quickly. The Opposition know that only too well.
Mr. F. O'Brien: Houses in the inner city, or pre-1940 houses will be inspected urgently. We do not intend that these will be delayed in any way, whether pre-1940 or post 1940; we intend that the structural grant system will move ahead as will the redevelopment of our inner cities and the major urban areas.
What I have said here this evening demonstrates the clear commitment of this Government to doing something positive for a site that has laid dormant for too long and has acted like a dead hand on that part of our city. I know the Opposition have an interest in this site as well, particularly Deputies from the area. I hope that we can work hand in hand on this project because the city is not the prerogative of one side of the House only. Our capital city is the prerogative of all Members and I am prepared to listen to any constructive suggestions as to how things should be done. We claim the credit for this project because, although it took time to talk to the various bodies to ensure that we got an agreement, it is a package which is saleable and attractive.
Mr. G. Brady: Even in the context of the speech the Minister made now they should welcome the motion, but they are not doing so which is contradictory in any logical terms. How can they accept what the Minister said and yet go against the motion? I welcome the initiative taken by Deputy Wilson and the interest shown in our capital city. I regret having had to listen to the snide remark made by the Minister of State regarding Deputy Wilson's genealogy. Perhaps I have Cavan blood in me also and I make no apology for that, nor would the Ceann Comhairle.
Mr. G. Brady: The urban areas development Bill was introduced on 2 June 1982. I commend the Minister to read the explanatory memorandum in case he finds the Bill heavy going. The Bill was introduced to provide for the establishment of urban development commissions to secure the regeneration of designated urban areas, to designate the Custom House Docks site in Dublin and the area covered by the mediaeval city walls as urban development areas. There is no way that the Minister can try to hoodwink the House by taking personal credit for this——
Mr. G. Brady: If I were to designate any school to do a research project in public perception of political cynicism, this would be a poignant example. The Minister should take the trouble to read the Official Report. I could quote comments made by his colleague, Deputy Quinn, now Minister for Labour and Deputy George Birmingham condemning the Bill. I was Minister of State at the time and every line of the Bill was condemned by members of the present Government.
Mr. G. Brady: Now, three years on, something is put before the House. If the Minister is serious about being receptive to positive suggestions or ideas, I suggest that, in order to save the State the enormous expenditure needed to even draft legislation, he should have the courage of his convictions and bring forward the urban areas development Bill.
Mr. G. Brady: I do not mind the Minister interrupting me but I ask him to keep his voice down. The urban areas Bill was quite clear in its efforts to revitalise areas of our capital city and also other areas throughout the country. At that time the Taoiseach designated a section within the Department of the Environment specifically for urban renewal. The opportunity is now available to the Government, three years on, to regenerate that imaginative legislation so that our capital city and Cork and Limerick which I had under study at the time could have particular areas renewed.
Mr. G. Brady: There were two areas, the first pilot projects, designated within the urban areas Bill. One was the 27 acre site at the Custom House and it is appalling to hear the Minister of State saying that he had this area under study——
Mr. G. Brady: In 1979 an interdepartmental committee made recommendations which led to the establishment of the inner city working group. Let us at least establish accurately on the record who set this project in train. If the Minister cannot find it in his power to do anything about the matter, I call on the Taoiseach to reactivate the Bill dealing with the development of urban areas.
Mr. G. Brady: The second site that would have been tackled by the former Government was the medieval area of Dublin which is in an absolute state of dereliction. The area I am talking about is around the ancient city walls and it could have made a tremendous difference  to inner city renewal at the time. All of this was set out in legislation. All the work had been done and it is on file in the Department. I could even name the official who was dealing with it at the time.
Mr. G. Brady: The Minister of State knows the official who was dealing with it. He is an excellent official and he worked on the Custom House site also. The Minister is well aware of that. Work on those two areas would have taken the pressure off Dublin Corporation. An ad hoc commission would have been set up to get the work done expeditiously, to cut through the red tape and to encourage private enterprise into these areas. Tax incentives could have been given——
Mr. G. Brady: The only way open to the Government is to start work on a Bill dealing with the development of the urban areas. Regrettably, in many instances our local authorities have failed. I know it is customary to compliment local authorities and to say what wonderful work Dublin Corporation and other urban authorities are doing. I challenge the effectiveness of local authorities. They are stretched to the limit. Lamentably, there are many examples of where they have failed. I have put on record on a previous occasion my absolute distaste of what happened at Wood Quay. It was a poignant example yet again of the failure of the local authority to develop properly when so many other sites were available at the time. There are other examples in Cork and Limerick.
The Minister spoke about Mountjoy Square and the quays. There is no point in dealing with this matter in a piecemeal fashion. The only systematic way is to do the work through a development agency. When Deputy Wilson turned on the heat in an effort to have something done about a site it was jumped on by the Government. That is not the answer. Work must be done in an organised ongoing way,  where an area is designated and work is done and then work is started on the next site in the city.
I expect that the Minister will at least agree with the motion put forward by Deputy Wilson. He is a family man. I do not know if he is aware of the crushing effect emigration is having on our city. It is now impossible to get employment in the inner city. In the area I represent there is 55 per cent youth unemployment on the south side of the river.
Mr. L. Fitzgerald: I thought the chickens would come home to roost in this case but I did not think it would happen within 24 hours. In the Minister's speech last night there was a statement of intent. There was a reference to the Minister for Finance, about preparations for the next budget and the Finance Bill. I missed the speech of the Minister of State but I detect from the manner in which the exchanges are going on here that there will be no follow-through, as he indicated in one of his interruptions last night.
I want to commend Deputy Wilson, our party spokesman, for tabling a motion on such an important and indeed vitally urgent issue as the development of the port of Dublin as well as the dockland area and the inner city area adjacent to it. I would like to read again into the record of the House the text of that motion:
 That Dáil Éireann calls on the Government to publish a detailed plan for the development of the Port of Dublin, to attract back lost business and to revitalise the undeveloped dockland area for industrial, commercial, housing and leisure activities.
It should be said at the outset that it is sad that this motion should be necessary at all. Dublin is the capital city of the country and as such its port and immediate hinterland should have had over the decades, the kind of development to take on the demands of industry and of export and import which arose with the widening and expansion of trade from Ireland to Europe and many other parts of the world. To uphold authority with the ability, the capacity and the willingness to take on these challenges, together with appropriate and balanced developments on site, would have been a vital element in this evolution.
Another aspect would have involved the imaginative and ongoing rejuvenation of the dockland area itself for wide-ranging uses including houses and leisure, industrial and commercial purposes to have ensured that inner city Dublin would have remained alive and a vibrant place balanced in terms of its needs and capable of providing the kind of efficient service and economic and social environments by way of proper social mix which would have established Dublin port on a par with many other busy and attractive ports and docklands around the world.
Regrettably, what we have experienced in Dublin over recent decades has led to much dereliction, decay and abandonment of many of the services that in the past were available in this port area. There has been considerable unemployment, inefficiency and a serious loss of business to other ports around the country. Industrial unrest has cost huge losses to many firms and businesses who through loyalty to the port that had served them in the past continued to trade through it in very difficult times. This most unsatisfactory scenario simply cannot be tolerated any longer. To continue  to do so would be irresponsible and would permit the final dismantling of the entire port service within a relatively short period. Very serious and important decisions have to be taken. The nettle has to be grasped firmly and finally, and the disastrous situation which now obtains has to be reversed urgently.
This port is more than 100 years old. Over the decades it has had tremendous affinity for people of Dublin city, particularly northsiders. A brief look at the history of that period shows a sad transformation from the busy port with high employment occupying a very significant position in the commercial life of the country. Because of its geographical position, and given an adequate amount of good will, co-operation and imaginative initiatives it should have gone on to evolve and develop greater business and traffic as well as the promotion of other ancillary services around the city dependent on the port and its business. Many factors, however, some outside the scope of the Dublin Port and Docks Board, militated against that development. The board, perhaps through their composition as well as other factors, were unable to take on the challenges that were presented, and found themselves in recent years losing large sums of money on an annual basis.
The addition of Dublin Cargo Handling to the scene did not enhance the prospects. Various charges and allegations were made from time to time about vested interests wielding too much power, but certainly in hindsight it is easy to see that what the board and dockland area in general lacked was a firm, efficient, statutory board properly accountable and capable of taking on the various areas of dispute and weakness as well as putting forward imaginative, realistic and feasible proposals for a balanced programme of development in the area.
One of the saddest features in recent years in relation to problems in Dublin port have been industrial stoppages. I do not think it is over-stating it to say that this problem contributed very largely  towards the loss of trade, and I have heard on numerous occasions accounts from users of the port, both exporters and importers, of their most unsatisfactory experiences due to these stoppages. A number of companies on the north-eastern side of the city had to close down because of serious financial losses. Others had to trim down operations while some will still tell you that even today they are suffering the effects of a number of these disputes. Many were discouraged away from the port, which they had used for years, and found that despite the travelling involved up country or down country it was far more preferable and feasible to avail of the services at other ports with less difficultes and problems. It certainly seemed to make more sense to rely on ports where there was less unrest and more continuity of service, and therefore more reliability.
Another aspect of this is the rise in costs in Dublin port. Many traders felt it was simply not feasible to continue to operate the port at these costs. They sought cheaper alternatives and found that these alternatives were more satisfactory all round. These developments are reflected in the traffic trends through the port vis-à-vis other ports over the last four to five years. During that time Dublin port has been taking a very serious bashing in terms of the fall off in trade while Arklow, Rosslare, Drogheda, Cork and other places benefited very favourably and substantially during the same period. There is a very important lesson here and indeed it presents a sad indictment of the inability of the authorities of Dublin port to grapple with the various problems.
Likewise, the large area of dockland which is seriously under-utilised, areas of which have almost been laid waste in recent years, are other products of this problem. As recently as last Sunday when inspecting that area, although having been aware of the problem, I found it incredible that large areas of dockland are no longer in use or are seriously under-utilised.
Dublin and its hinterland need Dublin  port, a developed, modern, efficient port with a mix between industrial, commercial and housing projects as well as social amenities, so as to give vibrancy and regeneration to an inner city fraught with high unemployment, rising crime and acute disillusionment among its inhabitants, and even more important, to provide a major bulwark for industrial and commercial development into and out of the city.
Given this kind of background it is essential that this House takes serious steps to reverse the rising tide. The initiative must come from here so that all the powers necessary to an authority with the will and commitment to take on the enormous task will be afforded adequately. In 1979 an inter-departmental committee on Dublin inner city reported and made very strong recommendations in relation to the urgent need for provisions for this area. The Fianna Fáil Government of 1982 published two Bills in relation to the area. They were referred to by Deputy Wilson last night, namely, the Urban Development Areas Bill, 1982, and the Dublin Inner City Development Authority Bill, 1982. I might refer briefly to the Urban Development Areas Bill, 1982, and the explanatory memorandum of the time. The main purposes of the Bill were defined as:
4. To empower the Minister to designate other areas as urban development areas and to establish commissions in respect of such areas, if he is satisfied that there is  a special need for the regeneration of the areas. Considerable functions were been given within the context of this Bill to enable a serious, determined and comprehensive plan to be put in operation for the restoration and revitalisation of this part of our capital city.
No. 4 actually referred to the provision that it should be “The general duty of an urban development commission to secure the overall regeneration of it's functional area and specified the functions to be performed for that purpose. It went on to give powers to the commission that may acquire whole and managed land for development either by itself or by others, and to prepare and implement or secure the implementation of schemes for the redevelopment or renewal of land”.
It also stated that a balance should be maintained “as between housing, industrial, commercial, social amenity and other development”. Section 8 of that Bill enabled the Minister by auditor to transfer land situated within the Custom House/Docks area from the Dublin Port and Docks Board to the Custom House/Docks Development Commission. There were many other powers and its overall direction was wide-ranging.
It was followed by the Dublin Inner City Authority Bill of 1982 the object of which was, as per its explanatory memorandum at the time, to establish “a Dublin Inner City Development Authority to coordinate and supplement the work of the variety of agencies affecting the Dublin Inner City area and to provide assistance by way of grants, loans or otherwise for inner city projects”. Section 4 of that Bill provided among other things for “the coordination of investment in the area and of the programmes and other activities of statutory bodies. The Bill provided for the encouragement of “physical economics, social and cultural development in the area, the preservation and development of amenities and the improvement of the security of persons and property in the area”.
 Those two Bills were a very serious, genuine and comprehensive start by the then Fianna Fáil Government to address and come to grips with the very serious problem of the inner city and docks area as well as the port. However, regrettably at the time, they were greeted with cries from members of the major party now in Government as being a deal, as being spurious, as being nothing but an attempt to secure votes both here and outside the Dáil.
No serious, honest or realistic analysis was done on the proposals at the time. It was imputed that they reflected political expediency. My implication, therefore, is that the main Opposition party at the time did not see the need for such a programme, referred to then in disparaging terms as the “Gregory deal” among others, and indeed when the Minister was responding to this aspect last night his attempts to explain his party's position on this situation were feeble, to say the least, further confirming the view that the Opposition of the day had no serious policy in relation to Dublin port.
It is interesting that when, as Deputy Wilson explained, he put down the motion for Private Members' Business in relation to this area, the Taoiseach should hurriedly come before the Dáil to preempt a discussion or analysis of the plight or blight of Dublin's inner city. The 1979 report, the Urban Development Areas Bill of 1982 and the Dublin Inner City Development Authority Bill of 1982 were left on the shelf, ignored, forgotten about. There was simply no interest there nor was there any serious commitment.
We on this side of the House do not regret in the least the Government coming forward with proposals and utterances for huge multi-million pound packages for this area of Dublin city. On the contrary, if the Government are serious in their attempts to come to grips with this problem they can be assured of our full support. We are aware of the urgency of the situation, we are aware of under-utilisation of the port, of the serious fall off of its business, of the serious denuding of the residential area of the inner city, of  the rapid bulge created in Dublin through the construction of towns on its perimeter. This has given a very lopsided, unbalanced development over recent years.
I agree with Deputy Wilson that an institute or authority should be established for the development of the port which would have planning powers to cut through many of the delays that would inevitably arise in decision making and to enable the commencement of development to get under way without undue delay. Another essential ingredient which Deputy Wilson referred to, which has been part of Fianna Fáil policy, related to support by way of incentives for investment in construction and particularly the capital allowance for non-industrial buildings.
These, to me, are some of the vital ways in which this problem should be tackled. Nobody is suggesting that the situation can be transformed over-night, but with realistic and attractive measures much can be achieved to reverse a most unfavourable trend within a reasonably short period.
Mr. J. Doyle: I am surprised at the tone of some of the speakers in this debate. I was in the Public Gallery here after the general election in which Fianna Fáil were returned to power without a majority with the assistance of The Workers' Party and Deputy Gregory. I was here when Deputy Gregory put on the record the full details of his deal with the incoming Fianna Fáil Government. The Deputy outlined his proposals very clearly on that occasion. Someone in the House asked what about the rest of the country but that interjection was followed by laughter because the whole country was ignored with the exception of Dublin. Fianna Fáil were concentrating on Dublin because they had to comply with the terms laid down by Deputy Gregory in return for his support.
As a Dubliner I have been saddened by what has been happening in our city for some years past. The measure before the House should be welcomed by all parties because the city has become very derelict. I welcome the Government's  proposals to develop the 27 acre dock site and also to undertake the refurbishing of designated areas of the inner city especially along the quays. We can say proudly that we in Dublin have one of the best housing records of any European city but, apart from that achievement, there is much to be desired. There are large tracts of land on either side of the canals which have been left unattended. Mainly they have been zoned for commercial and industrial use but unfortunately there has not been much demand for that kind of land. Unless the necessary incentives are available to encourage the private developer to avail of these sites, they will remain as they are.
However, the Government are redressing the situation and are giving these very generous incentives in respect of the development of the docks site and also of the development of the quays site. My only regret is that they have not given the same kind of incentive in relation to the development of the quays as they have given in respect of the Custom House dock site because without the proper incentives these sites will remain undeveloped. The ERDO report was published recently and has attracted a good deal of criticism but I regard it as a very good study. Politicians must recognise that, unless we take drastic steps to develop the inner city, the result will be as outlined in that report. When the officials who drew up the report spoke to us recently in Dublin Corporation they said that what is outlined in the report will happen unless the ground rules are changed. In this case the ground rules involve investment by the Government by way of tax incentives to developers to encourage them to develop the sites.
We can only hope that this will happen in the near future. Since I have come to this House I have heard the Opposition decry the lack of incentives for the building industry, but what better incentives could we provide for that industry than those being provided in this measure and by way of the house improvement grants announced recently? These steps will provide immediate employment in the industry.
 There will be an independent planning authority in respect of the docks site. This will eliminate the dependency on Dublin Corporation and the delays that result from third party appeals and so on which can hold up development for years.
Mr. B. Ahern: First I should like to refer to a reference to me in the House last evening when the Minister said that my interventions in the various debates on the port site were most unhelpful and did not contribute to an early conclusion of the port dispute. He prefaced his remarks by saying that, while he liked me, he had to refer to these continuous interventions on my part both in the House and in the media.
Mr. B. Ahern: That intervention from the Minister came during a very constructive debate on a motion tabled by Deputy Wilson. However, the Minister is right in so far as that throughout the year I continually questioned the handling by the Department of Communications of what was happening in regard to the port site and particularly the various discussions that were on-going with the Dublin Port and Docks Board in relation to Dublin Cargo Handling, Limited and other matters concerning the deep sea section of Dublin port. What the Minister had to say last night in regard to me was almost a direct quotation from his contribution to the Estimate debate.
I remind the Minister that Labour Court recommendation — No. 9804, Dublin Cargo Handling Limited and the Marine Port and General Workers Union — was to be presented to the workers at a meeting during the month of June. The recommendation was considered by the No. 2 branch who decided not to have a vote on it. As a result, Dublin Cargo Handling, Limited issued lay-off notices and stated that the port would close. It was to have closed from June 12 but the date was extended later.
By way of private notice questions on several dates during June when we were  approaching the summer recess both Deputy Wilson and I asked the Minister for Communications the steps he proposed to take as a matter of urgency to prevent the threatened indefinite closure of the deep sea section of Dublin port. Our interventions changed the Minister's decision and the port was not closed. Our last question in that regard was on 27 June and both it and the reply are to be found in the Official Report.
The argument I advanced continually related to the Minister asking that the marine port workers should reduce the staff of 120. We were grateful for the Minister's interjection last evening because it gave Deputy Wilson the opportunity to put right something the Minister had distorted. What the Minister was doing in seeking the reduction in the workforce was asking fathers to vote sons out of jobs and sons to vote fathers out of jobs as anyone with a knowledge of dockland and its traditions anywhere in the country will appreciate. I met the workers and talked to their shop stewards and I appealed to the Minister to consider the difficulty in which the workers found themselves and to try to find some means of renegotiation. The Minister said I was unhelpful and according to him last night I am still unhelpful.
As a member of the Labour Party I am sure you, Sir, will be pleased to note that two months later the Minister had to arrive at an agreement and that that agreement involved precisely what I had been seeking, that people who did not wish to lose their jobs would not have to lose them. Instead of the 120 workers the Minister had been talking about the figure is 160, and they work a roster system which involves working three days out of four. I am not claiming to have saved 40 jobs but I highlighted a real fear in Dublin port. I did not mind the Minister accusing me when he did not understand the position last June, but when he comes back into this House several months later saying that I am being unhelpful——
I welcome this motion. For a long time it has been the policy of Fianna Fáil, and it is now policy of the Coalition Government, to examine the port area of Dublin, and other areas. We consider the port of Dublin is a vitally important part of the commercial life of the city. It has great potential economically and the hinterland provides very important commercial services and is a source of business potential, wealth and employment for the capital.
The Dublin Inner City Interdepartmental Committee recommendations of 1979 spell out Fianna Fáil policy. It is important to point out that this was long before the 1982 election. That document set out what we considered should happen in Dublin, the special tax incentives which should be given to try to overcome the urban blight and to develop the inner city. There are about 70 recommendations in this report. It recommended that the inner city should be identified as a priority area by the various Government Departments in giving selective treatment in such matters as grants. The report went on to spell out the potential for jobs. The first page of the report stated that they favoured the maintenance of a residential community within the inner city, that the city's multi-functional role would be enhanced by the existence of a residential community within the city, that the inner city had a substantial economic base both commercial and industrial which was dependent on the residential community to a certain degree and they mentioned a great many other points.
We were out of office shortly afterwards but we came back in 1982 and a deal was made, as everybody knows, but that policy was laid down in 1978-79. We were only ten months in power. I was Whip at the time and I remember two Bills created massive difficulties in 1982 — the Finance Bill and the Urban Development Bill. These Bills were linked to policies Fianna Fáil had already laid  down and we put them to Deputy Gregory during the election, as did the present Taoiseach, Deputy FitzGerald. We were ridiculed, criticised and attacked. We were told this was a disastrous thing to do.
There is no such assurance in the Bill. There are no such powers to allow of third party intervention — consultations certainly, that is a new phase in the eighties. You can consider and consult but at the end of the day the Minister, not An Bord Pleanála, will decide. These are retrospective, antidemocratic steps that push back gains which were made over the last ten years.
Mr. B. Ahern: We want to see the port developed and as spokesman for Labour I want to make a few points about the statement made by the Minister for State at his press conference, and I particularly want to tell the Minister something he can do quickly. As regards B & I restructuring, the Minister was talking about making progress but, when Deputy Wilson asked what he was going to do about the port or how he was going to develop it, he said he was going to abolish the Dublin Port and Docks Board. I do not know if that will prove helpful but the Minister seems convinced that he will secure the port, develop it and give employment by abolishing the board.
The B & I board, who are answerable to that Minister, are creating problems in the port. Instead of trying to answer this motion and help us to overcome these difficulties the Minister is creating problems. It is appreciated that the B & I proposals do not involve the transfer of passengers and cars to Dún Laoghaire, but a considerable number of commercial vehicles are at present carried on B & I car ferries and it is believed that more  vehicles will be diverted from the roll-on, roll-off freight vessels to car ferries. The transfer of the B & I's car ferry services to Dún Laoghaire will have a very serious effect on the port's finances — a loss of tonnage in goods, dues up to £1 million in costs at today's prices, a potential loss of £800,000 per annum with the future imposition of passenger charges, and perhaps also a reduction in the return on investments by the provision of additional facilities as a result of B & I's demand for improvements to car ferry terminals in the last 12 months. A sum of £120,000 was spent in the last 12 months by the board.
It is difficult to evaluate the impact of the transfer of the car services and the investment of £7 million which the board have made for the provision of a new roll-on roll-off riverside berth. This additional facility was demanded by the B & I some time ago and it is probable that some jobs will be lost as a result of the B & I pull out. In connection with the Sealink roll-on roll-off into the B & I Dublin Ferry Port, there is also concern. The press release says that agreement has been reached with Sealink which will ensure that their new roll-on roll-off vessels will operate in the B & I Dublin Ferry Port. Neither B & I nor Sealink have even yet discussed the proposals with the board's officials. It is believed that Sealink are planning their lift-on lift-off service into Dublin by a roll-on roll-off service. All these problems can mean a loss of tonnage into Dublin. Dublin would then be left without a cross channel lift-on lift-off service and it is more than probable that other ports would pick up the trade.
There is also the question of the suitability of Dún Laoghaire. A certain limit was set in 1977. Has the Minister for Communications considered all these matters? Does he care about them? Is he saying that the only solution is to change a few things here or there, privatising B & I, as he did with Irish Shipping, and so on. What protection is there for the workers? Last night the Minister said he would abolish the board and that he had additional legislative proposals to bring  before the House — he said it would not be a full Bill. He said he would disband the Port and Docks Board and bring in a Dublin Ports Authority under a harbour Bill. What protection is there for the staff? What guarantees have they as regards pension rights? When will we know about all these matters? Will these problems be resolved by the stroke of a pen, as happened with Irish Shipping? Nobody could be blamed for the suspicions we harbour about the Minister, Deputy Mitchell.
As regards the customs dock site, we welcome this because it is a direct cog from the Urban Development Bill. The Urban Development Bill, 1982, now becomes the special development Bill, 1985. That is the only difference. We welcome the incentives which we started in 1978 and the fact that there are ongoing discussions. Putting in office and commercial developments of 650,000 sq. ft. and other developments is totally against the proposals set out in 1978 which I have already quoted and which would put life into this city. The figures mentioned by the Minister follow the eastern regional development report which states that by the year 2011 Dublin city will be dead and that people will live in Meath, Kildare and everywhere else. If the Minister is going to go ahead with our policy at least he could follow the one good bit to make Dublin a living city, by giving residential amenities which would give a balance and he should not ignore and exclude the few good bits. The Urban Development Authority Bill was designed to revitalise the city and the Minister has now decided to implement that Bill, excluding the residential development. The Taoiseach said this morning on the Order of Business that it will be next year before there are proposals on this. Will the Minister spend the next six weeks ensuring that the Fianna Fáil policy which he has picked up and decided to implement, which was brought in on the first day of the Dáil to save their skins, will at least be brought in correctly? Will the Taoiseach also try to control the Minister for Communications and stop him doing further  damage to Dublin port? The Minister has wrecked it enough; he is a destructive individual as far as Dublin port is concerned.
Birmingham, George Martin.
Conlon, John F.
Cooney, Patrick Mark.
Cosgrave, Liam T.
Cosgrave, Michael Joe.
Deasy, Martin Austin.
Durkan, Bernard J.
Enright, Thomas W.
Farrelly, John V.
Harte, Patrick D.
Noonan, Michael. (Limerick East)
Sheehan, Patrick Joseph.
Coughlan, Cathal Seán. Kirk, Séamus.
Mac Giolla, Tomás.
Morley, P. J.
Nolan, M. J.
Noonan, Michael J. (Limerick West)
De Rossa, Proinsias.
Fitzgerald, Liam Joseph.
Gallagher, Pat Cope.
Hyland, Liam. O'Connell, John.
Wilson, John P.
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