Harbours (Shannon Estuary Development Corporation) Bill, 1988: Second Stage (Resumed).

Thursday, 27 April 1989

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 389 No. 3

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Question again proposed: “That the Bill be now read a Second Time.”

Mrs. Taylor-Quinn: Information on Madeleine Taylor-Quinn  Zoom on Madeleine Taylor-Quinn  On the last occasion this Bill was brought before the House I was about to conclude and was outlining the reasons the Bill could not be supported by Fine Gael. Basically it [594] imposes another layer of bureaucracy in the mid-west area which already has quite enough bureaucratic organisations. There is a duplication of purpose in that the Bill seeks to give the proposed corporation authority to deal with industrial development, marine development, recreational development and various amenity developments in the region. These matters are already being monitored and developed by SFADCo who have responsibility for industrial and tourism development.

The Irish Ports Authority have very clearly outlined their concern about the content of this Bill, particularly because it is believed it is to be used as a formula for other ports authorities around the country. This is totally unsatisfactory, especially in the light of developments in the EC, the creation of the single market in 1992 and the essential requirement of quick and efficient transportation from an island country such as ours. Sea transport and port facilities are of vital significance to our economic future. This Bill does not have the necessary clout nor does it have the single purpose of port development. It is essential to have a single structure to develop the ports and ensure long-term economic development.

All the present harbour authorities in the area are totally dissatisfied and reject the proposed legislation. I refer to the Limerick Harbour Commissioners, the Foynes Harbour Commissioners and the Kilrush Harbour Commissioners. It is unfortunate that the Minister, who comes from the region, has not seen fit to recognise the concerns expressed by those organisations and at least to make some attempt in the Bill to deal with the problems they have outlined. I have already dealt with the objections of the respective authorities. In 1986 the Minister, then Fianna Fáil spokesperson for the Marine, spoke about his home territory in Kilrush and said it was very disappointing for members of the Kilrush Harbour Authority to find that after all their years of work a new authority was being established on which they would not have any direct representation. It is curious, now [595] that he has responsibility for this area, that he has not seen fit to give this authority representation. Neither have the Limerick Harbour Commissioners been given representation. I have already dealt with the situation in relation to Foynes.

There is no mention of the pilots on the Shannon and the traditional skills they have developed over the years. Their future and that of their families is not adequately dealt with. Neither is the overall situation of the employees of the respective authorities, be they temporary or permanent. The Bill may attempt to provide in some way for the permanent employees, but the Minister has not outlined how the temporary employees of Foynes in particular will be provided for.

The Bill is full of loopholes and is totally unco-ordinated. It is unfortunate that the Government have seen fit to bring it forward at this time, particularly in the light of the fact that the Department of Industry and Commerce recently asked SFADCo to do a study of the entire Shannon Estuary. That report is to be presented to the Government by June. They would have been extremely wise to consider its contents before proceeding.

The Bill is badly flawed and leaves a lot to be desired. It is not in the interests of port development and is a flawed formula for the setting up of future ports' authorities. It does not seek to provide a structure for the most efficient and capable type of transport to the mainland of Europe. The Bill does not in any way strive to do that. For that reason we oppose it.

Mr. McCoy: Information on John S. McCoy  Zoom on John S. McCoy  The purpose of this Bill as laid out in the Explanatory and Financial Memorandum is to establish a new body to be known as the Shannon Estuary Development Corporation. This new corporation is to have a mandate to promote, co-ordinate and develop investment in marine-related industrial, tourist, recreational and amenity facilities and to encourage activities likely to contribute to the realisation of the marine potential of the Shannon Estuary. The [596] promotion of industrial, tourist, recreational and amenity faciities seems to be the main purpose of the Bill.

These facilities, particularly the tourism and recreational facilities, have already been vested by the present Government in the Shannon Free Airport Development Company, as well as the remit for developing heavy industry in the immediate area. This has recently been consolidated by the inclusion of the constituency of Kerry North into the mid-west region. SFADCo now have an enlarged territory within their responsibility, embracing both sides of the Shannon Estuary, for which they continue to exercise their original function of the promotion of small industries. In addition SFADCo now take over from the IDA the responsibility for the promotion of heavy industry in the mid-west and they take over from Bord Fáilte responsibility for the promotion of tourism in the same area. It is difficult, therefore, to understand why a Bill should now be brought before the House by the Government which has as its main thrust the establishment of a company to carry out specific functions in a specific area, which they have only recently vested in SFADCo.

In the light of these recent Government decisions, and the introduction of this Bill by the Minister for the Marine, which was circulated in April of last year, it is difficult to comprehend the Government's decision to permit the IDA to dispose of the best deep water development site at Ballylongford in north Kerry, especially when the Ballylongford site now falls within the jurisdiction of SFADCo, and the proposed Shannon Estuary Development Corporation, and notwithstanding the fact that this site was acquired under a most expensive procedure.

As I have already outlined, the main stated thrust of this Bill is to promote and co-ordinate and develop investment in marine-related industrial, tourist, recreational and amenity facilities. This Bill has as a secondary provision, almost as an afterthought, the taking over, management and operation of the existing [597] harbours of Limerick, Foynes and Kilrush, giving the new corporation jurisdiction over the waters of the Shannon Estuary from Sarsfield Bridge in Limerick to the sea at Kerry Head-Loop Head.

This is ambiguous as the question of jurisdiction over the Shannon Estuary has been very contentious. Limerick Harbour maintain that they have jurisdiction over the Shannon Estuary except for Foynes and Cappagh Harbours and the other small piers on both the South and the North Banks. It is felt that in the proposed legislation provision should be made to take over the small piers such as Kilteely, Glin, Tarbert and Saleen on the South Bank, and Kilbaha, Querrin, Carrigaholt, Knock, Labasheeda and Kildysart on the North Bank. All of these existing small piers were constructed on the waters of the Shannon Estuary. Some are presently under the control of the county council and the balance are under the control of the Commissioners of Public Works. Therefore, by taking over these piers now we may avoid future legal complications as some of these piers have been used in the past by commercial traffic and commercial interests. It is the opinion that, if this is not done now, it may cause jurisdictional problems in the future. Some of these piers could also be developed successfully for recreational and amenity services. It is worth nothing that Clarecastle had its own harbour authority until recent years and under the previous proposed legislation it was the intention to include Clarecastle in a single ports authority.

I would now like to ask the Minister if any agreements, leases or exclusivities have been given to any private interests over the past number of years in relation to the piers at Clarecastle and Kildysart, because these were public piers and would now appear to be used solely for private purposes. The only worthwhile assets which seem to have eluded this new corporation are the coal handling operation and power station at Money-point and the oil operated power station at Tarbert.

When one considers the wide sweeping [598] commercial and controlling powers that are proposed in the Harbours (Shannon Estuary Development Corporation) Bill now before the House, it is apparent that if this Bill goes through the Government will have to look again at the ESB Bill which came before the House last year and gave to the ESB the power to import and distribute coal commercially as distinct from their requirements for power generation. Or is this to be a Bill which will control the movement and shipping of all commodities except coal and then only when the ESB are the importers?

We will then have a position where ports such as Foynes will be under the jurisdiction of bureaucratic structures where existing coal importers will be exposed to operating conditions and charges in the estuary, where State competitors in the same estuary with the same products have a free autonomous hand. If anybody in this House doubts this assertion, one has only to look at the explanatory memorandum to the Bill which states that no additional Exchequer costs will be incurred as a result of this Bill. If no additional Exchequer costs are to be incurred for the proposed developments in marine related industries, tourism and amenity facilities, it must be assumed that these development activites can only be funded from the existing commerical enterprise which the new corporation will take over.

This view has been echoed by the Irish Ports Authority Association who said, and I quote from the minutes of their meeting of 5 May 1988:

The content of the Bill, especially in regard to functions and membership, was far removed from any recognised concept of commercial port operation. The danger inherent in the Bill that revenues from commercial port users could be allocated to a diversity of noncommercial activites unrelated to port operations was stressed.

This statement comes from the people with the commercial experience of operating Irish ports who see that their commercial base is now under real threat.

It is felt that the proposed functions of [599] the new corporation are inconsistent with the functions of harbours under the Harbours Acts, 1946 to 1947 and conflict with the statutory functions of Bord Fáilte and the Shannon Free Airport Development Company. The main function of the new authority will be to promote, co-ordinate and develop, in conjunction with other statutory authorities, marine-related industrial, tourist, recreational and amenity facilities. Surely this will be a costly duplication of services and will not lead to the better deployment of financial resources. The functions of the harbours at present are mainly to attract port related industries and to develop, maintain and operate the harbours efficiently. Industries such as Aughinish Alumina Limited and the ESB power station at Moneypoint proceeded without a single harbour or authority.

Many industries were attracted to Foynes over the past 15 years mainly because it was efficient and there was a body in operation there which could make fast decisions. When this proposed legislation was circulated in April 1988 there were strong rumours that the IDA were about to sell their land bank west of Tarbert. One of the main criteria for port industrial development is the availablity of land adjacent to deep water. We would like to know now what is the latest policy in relation to the acquisition of land in the vicinity of ports and deep water.

The more worrying aspect of this Bill is the statement that it is to serve as a prototype or model for future legislation affecting other major port areas such as Dublin, Cork and Waterford. The proposed legislation can only weaken the operation and running costs of Irish ports and clearly does not recognise the vital role of the ports in the Irish economy. The dependence of Ireland on external trade was never more pronounced and with the provision of the Channel tunnel Ireland will be the only country within the EC entirely dependent on ports for trade purposes. For this reason, therefore, ports should be allowed to develop and expand in order to give a cost efficient [600] service in the loading, unloading, warehousing and servicing facts of exporting and importing.

Two major ports in the Shannon Estuary whose takeover is proposed in this Bill, namely, Limerick and Foynes harbours, have unrivalled records in the development of trade and port facilities. To downgrade their position and importance as this Bill sets out to do makes a mockery of the Government's stated commitment to regional autonomy and local initiative and involvement. Surely it is the Government's responsibility to help ports that need investment and development so that they can be profitable, self-sustaining, and offer a service of international quality.

What does the Minister propose? His proposal is to back Foynes, Limerick and Kilrush into a corporation which was hastily conceived in an effort to suit individuals rather than the common good. If the development of ports and harbours is the aim of this Bill it is unusual, to say the least, that the ports least in need of development are included, but those ports which are most in need and could benefit from a development corporation are specifically excluded.

The proposed Bill provides for the dissolution of the Foynes Harbour Trustees, Limerick Harbour Commissioners and Kilrush. However, the Bill makes no provision for the dissolution of the Clarecastle Harbour Trustees, nor does it make any provision for the inclusion and control of the following piers; Kilbaha, Querrin, Carrigaholt, Knock, Labasheeda and Kildysart on the North Bank, and Killteerly, Glin, Tarbert and Saleen on the South Bank. Many of the above mentioned piers which are either under the control of local authorities or the Commissioners of Public Works would be ideal vehicles for the tourist, amenity and recreational facilities which are mooted in this Bill. However, their exclusion only serves to highlight this Bill for the inadequate piece of legislation that it is.

The Harbours (Shannon Estuary Development Corporation) Bill would have some credibility if the excluded piers [601] were included and assigned roles in the development of tourism and recreational amenities. However, in controlling the entire Estuary from Sarsfield Bridge to Kerry Head and Loop Head in Clare, the Minister for the Marine has made two kinds of exceptions in the Bill. One relates to the semi-State companies which are under the control of a Government Minister and where the Minister for the Marine has had to keep his hands off. The second exception relates to the smaller piers and jetties which have development potential but would cost money to develop and, since there is no financial provision in the Bill, the Minister does not want to include them.

This left the Minister with the plums of the estuary, the ports with developed infrastructures, business and profits. This was where he could source the cash for his grand plan which lacked funding. These ports are now to pay the price for local initiative, business acumen and sound management.

It is a sad state of affairs when individual representation has been denied to the harbour boards by the Department of the Marine in the preparation of the regional integrated plans. It calls into question the whole basis of these plans and shows little regard for the commercial development of the Shannon area. It now appears that the regional plans — when I wrote this script this was a fear I had but it is now a reality — will be welded together by the Department of Finance. However, there is no guarantee that the basis on which the moneys were applied for in Europe will be the basis for redistribution.

The port of Foynes in particular has constantly sought exclusion from the Shannon Ports Authority Bill taking the view that it had succeeded under the direction of Foynes Harbour Trustees admirably in the past 25 years by sound management and flexibility in its services to shipping and all its ancillary activities. Foynes has developed more rapidly than any other public harbour in this country in the past 25 years, with a current asset valuation in excess of £25 million which [602] contains a Government grant element of less than £0.5 million or only 2 per cent of its asset value.

The Minister, in his speech, gave the impression that he had prolonged and detailed discussions with the various interests in the region. He also led people to understand that there was a consensus among the interested parties in favour of a single harbour authority but of course this is not true. Since the Minister was appointed in 1987 he had only two discussions with Foynes Harbour Trustees, the first of which took place in May 1987 when he stated that it was his intention to proceed with legislation for a single port authority which would include Foynes. It was indicated to the Minister on that occasion that Foynes was opposed to its inclusion in the single harbour authority. The decision of the trustees was consistent with decisions made by previous boards of Foynes Harbour. They had no objection to the Minister proceeding with the Shannon Ports Authority, which would exclude Foynes. The Minister has proposed to continue with the legislation and exclude other piers specifically.

On the second occasion the trustees met the Minister, 4 May 1988, a detailed written submission was made to him on the Harbours Bill, 1988, and the Minister indicated that he would consult further with Foynes prior to the legislation being brought forward. Nothing further has been heard since that date from the Minister's office on the proposed legislation or the submissions which the trustees made. The Minister would not want to give the impression to the other Members of this House that the existing harbour authorities, namely, Limerick and Foynes, are in favour of this legislation as both harbours are strongly opposed to it. It would appear that this position would want to be rectified publicly.

The Foynes Harbour Trustees in their press release have unanimously expressed very strong opposition to the proposals contained in the Bill for many reasons. However, the most important reason is that the free market which has existed heretofore enabled Foynes to be [603] competitive and flexible. There is no recognition in the Bill for the major investment by port users and no provision for the continuity of competitive harbour dues, charges and services. There are no hidden tonnages in the Foynes record and tonnage handled has increased in 20 years from 40,000 tonnes to 800,000 tonnes, employing 320 people in a full time capacity plus 200 casuals on a seasonal basis. This is a record of progress and development with little State help and is unparalleled anywhere else in the country. This growth has been achieved by reinvestment of surplus generated by the harbour authority, private investment and excellent labour relations.

Since the Bill was published, of all the interested parties including statutory bodies, local authorities, port users, unions and commercial organisations, not one of them has been able to support this proposed legislation. Indeed, when the previous Government proposed a similar Bill, Fianna Fáil opposed it tooth and nail for exactly the same reasons as I am opposing it now. For what reason they have seen fit to introduce it now is best known only to themselves and in seeking to get local support some hastily thought-out provisions have been inserted which really seek to highlight the ill-conceived tenor of this SEDCO Bill.

Ireland's dependency on trade is exceeded within the EC only by the Benelux countries, which share land boundaries with other member states. European Community transport policies regarding intra-community trade, take little or no account of sea transport as an island country's only lifeline. The opening of the channel tunnel in 1993 will have a major impact on Ireland which will then be the only member state without direct road or rail links to the rest of the Community. It is obvious, therefore, that Ireland will be totally dependent on port facilities in stark contrast to its Community partners.

What we need therefore is a ports development policy unencumbered with marinas, amenities or tourism. Ninety-nine per cent of Ireland's trade is by [604] sea and the British National Union of Seamen's strike in 1988, which caused havoc even in this country, should be a salutory warning for those who would seek for unknown reasons to downgrade the importance of port operation and management. Successive Governments have been slow to grasp the essential of port facility development which has been much more recognised and advanced in member states.

It is estimated that 20 per cent of the utilised trade of the Republic of Ireland was induced to move through Northern Ireland because of lower cost. Positive action is required to enable port authorities in the Republic of Ireland to compete on equal terms with Northern Ireland ports and thereby service the nation's trade. Any proposed ports legislation should not contain elements which would detract from a port's ability or responsibility to meet its primary duties and its future national obligations post 1992.

Mr. O'Dea: Information on Willie O'Dea  Zoom on Willie O'Dea  I want to congratulate the Minister, Deputy Daly, on his appointment and his record in the Department of the Marine. I am very glad to have the opportunity within the lifetime of this Dáil to do so. His record has been a proud one. He has been involved in some controversy which, in my opinion, was not of his own making but his achievements have been recognised and supported by the vast majority of the people and that will continue to be the case.

I have listened to Deputy McCoy and I read the earlier contribution of Deputy Taylor-Quinn, both of whom referred to the economic facts such as that Ireland is a small open economy and that the size of the internal market is limited, as if those facts were not known to the Government. We on this side of the House are as aware as the people on that side of the economic background to this legislation. Reference has been made to the challenges with which this country will be faced after 1992 when the trade barriers throughout the European Community come down. There will also be [605] tremendous opportunities, and that is what this Bill is all about.

The Government, and all of us on this side of the House, recognise that in order to fully avail of the opportunities which 1992 will present, the ports of this country will have to be managed, equipped and operated in such a way as to ensure the most efficient and effective transport of goods. We are aware of that and we are also aware that it will be of even greater significance after 1993 when the opening of the Channel tunnel will mean that Ireland will be the only truly island nation in the Community. I am happy, however, that this legislation does recognise the importance of ports to the economy and the central role that ports will play in the economy of the future. Contrary to the fears being expressed by Foynes Harbour Commissioners, Limerick Harbour Commissioners and Opposition Deputies I am satisfied that there will be no downgrading of port management functions and that this Bill does not involve any such downgrading. The objective of the Bill is to create a new estuarial authority which would have additional functions and which would, I hope, complement the port management functions.

Before I deal with the main provisions of the Bill I want to advert to the fact that the predecessor to this legislation was interrupted by the last general election. That Bill which was introduced by the Coalition was debated in the Seanad in 1986. During that debate reference was made to the record and activities of Limerick Harbour Commissioners. In that debate Senator Howard said and I quote from the Official Report, Volume 113, column 900:

I referred to certain frustrations that private enterprise in the northern bank has encountered from the Limerick Harbour Authority. They have experienced a dog in the manager type attitude. CW Shipping at Fountain Cross, Ennis, County Clare, are an Irish company. They recently purchased tugs for use on the Shannon in anticipation of the movement of coal from the Money-point station. They employed fully [606] qualified staff. In fact, their vessel captain has the highest qualifications of any similar officer operating in the Shannon Estuary. They applied to the Limerick Harbour Authority for permission to operate on the River Shannon. They were led on a merry-go-round which brought them nowhere. The Limerick Harbour Authority claim to have the authority to issue an exclusive licence for tuggage or towage on the Shannon Estuary. That is given to a company called Shannon Marine. When one tries to establish what Shannon Marine is, one is led into a maze of associate companies — Marine Transport Services in Cork, Clyde Shipping, Irish Marine Holding. It is almost impossible to discern which company is which, with overlapping shareholding interests and so on.

I am not here today to represent Limerick Harbour Commissioners in any way but in making a statement like that one is abusing the privilege of the Upper House and abusing the privilege of the Oireachtas. The record of Limerick Harbour Commissioners——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  There is a convention in this House that we do not comment on or criticise the actions of Members of the other House.

Mr. O'Dea: Information on Willie O'Dea  Zoom on Willie O'Dea  I just wanted to refer to that statement and my views on it are now a matter of record. I will not elaborate on them. I would like to refer to the record of Limerick Harbour Commissioners as it is relevant to do so in the context of this Bill. During the last 25 years Limerick Harbour Commissioners have succeeded in increasing the volume of trade through the port of Limerick and the Shannon Estuary by 1,400 per cent, from 400,000 tonnes to 5.6 million tonnes in imports and exports. No other Irish port and indeed no European port has rivalled this achievement over an equivalent period. During the last 25 years ship sizes coming into the Shannon Estuary have increased from 10,000 tonnes to 150,000 tonnes, a 15-fold increase. The volume of goods [607] loaded and discharged has increased from a level of 400,000 tonnes to 5.6 million tonnes, a 14-fold increase. Investment in maritime related industrial plants adjacent to the waters controlled by Limerick Harbour Commissioners has achieved a level of almost £2 billion. That is a tremendous achievement.

Limerick Harbour Commissioners are to be congratulated also on their initiative in developing the deep water navigation channel and for providing vastly improved services which have been widely acknowledged and appreciated not only in the region itself but throughout the European Community. The development of the deep-water navigational channel entailed intensive hydrographic surveying, up-dating of navigation charts, the installing of modern and sophisticated navigational lighting and other aids as well as extending the existing port control and radio communication system. The type of vessel now coming into the estuary is so valuable that it demands a very high level of expert assistance in coming in and out. Limerick Harbour Commissioners are now the largest navigational lighting authority in the State with the exception of the Commissioners for Irish Lights who have responsibility for the entire coast.

Tremendous improvements to port services have also been made by Limerick Harbour Commissioners on their own initiative. These services include the training and equipping of pilots, oil pollution controls, fire fighting and other emergency services. In addition to all of this, Limerick Harbour Commissioners constructed the oil jetty at Shannon in 1973 which had the initial effect of attracting Aeroflot to Shannon and it generated a massive spin-off in revenue throughout the mid-western region. Limerick Harbour Commissioners have also been responsible for carrying out extensive hydrological studies which have proved that the estuary could be adapted at minimal cost to cater for vessels over 400,000 tonnes. They have introduced a dock labour rationalisation system which [608] has brought efficiency and peace to the Limerick docks. In current money terms, the cost of these services to the country today would be somewhere in the region of £4 million if all were to be undertaken together.

Limerick Harbour Commissioners carried out these functions and provided these services and improvements largely from their own funds. This record of achievement in service to the area illustrates how ill-informed, negative and unfair the criticism of Limerick Harbour Commissioners has been. Their record of achievement stands on its own and would stand up to scrutiny. In saying this I am in no way denigrating the achievements of Foynes Harbour Commissioners but they have not been subjected to this unfair, negative and irresponsible criticism.

I will now turn to the main provisions of the Bill. The main objection to the Bill seems to be that functions other than port management functions are given priority. Deputy Taylor-Quinn referred to that matter. For the information of Deputies participating in this debate a document issued by Limerick Harbour Commissioners also referred to it as did a document issued by the Irish Port Authorities Association. The document issued by Limerick Harbour Commissioners stated in referring to the economic background against which this legislation was introduced that the downgrading of the most important port management functions in section 4 of the Bill in favour of marine related, industrial, tourism, recreational and amenity facilities is a matter of great concern for port authorities generally, particularly as these areas of activity would appear to be adequately catered for by other agencies. A similar statement is made in the document issued by the Irish Port Authorities Association and this morning, too, the same kind of statement was made by Deputy McCoy. Deputy Taylor-Quinn likewise made a similar statement.

When one looks for the evidence on which these assertions are based it is not putting it too lightly to say that it is extremely hard to find. A number of [609] arguments have been advanced by the Irish Port Authorities Association, Limerick Harbour Commissioners and by Deputies on the other side.

We have been told that the short title of the Bill indicates that port management must now take a secondary place to the other activities, such as recreational facilities. The short title of the Bill is the Harbours (Shannon Estuary Development Corporation) Bill, 1988, and there is nothing there which indicates the priority of the various functions with which the new estuarial authority are to be charged. We are also told we must look at the long title of the Bill which states that it is an Act to provide for the establishment of a body to be known as the Shannon Estuary Development Corporation, to define its functions, to provide for the dissolution of certain harbour authorities, for those purposes to amend and extend the Harbours Acts, 1946 to 1976, and to provide for other connected matters. There is nothing about priority or that indicates that any one function of the new estuarial authority will have priority over any other function. The fact that this sort of meaningless argument is resorted to makes me suspicious that some people, particularly bodies outside this House, are so anxious that this legislation will not pass they are prepared to say anything to confuse and hinder its passage.

The next argument advanced in favour of some sort of priority being given to non-port management functions referred to the order in which the various functions of the new estuarial authority are laid out in section 4 (1) (a) which provides that the function of the corporation shall be to promote, co-ordinate and develop investment in marine related industrial, tourist, recreational and amenity facilities. In relation to the functions of the corporation, paragraph (b) states that they should promote, assist and develop the use of their functional area by commercial and trading enterprises for such activities as are likely to increase the use of that area for activities of a marine related nature. Paragraphs [610] (c) and (d) relate specifically to port management and development functions of the corporation. Paragraph (c) gives the new authority the power to manage, maintain, operate and develop the existing harbours. Paragraph (d) provides that the new estuarial authority will have power to provide, maintain, operate and improve such harbour services and facilities as the corporation consider necessary or desirable in its functional area.

Are the Irish Port Authorities Association, the Limerick Harbour Commissioners and Opposition Deputies seriously advancing the argument that if paragraphs (a) and (b) in section 4 appeared in paragraphs (c) and (d) and that if paragraphs (c) and (d) appeared at (a) and (b) the whole ethos and modus operandi would change?

Mr. McCartan: Information on Patrick McCartan  Zoom on Patrick McCartan  A lot of change all round is needed.

Mr. O'Dea: Information on Willie O'Dea  Zoom on Willie O'Dea  If that is their argument they should read the section and think again because it is taken illogically to its ultimate conclusion. The Minister indicated he is prepared to change the order of priority within the section, but I do not think it will make any difference in practice.

On the Second Stage debate in this House on 28 February 1989, referring to the various divisions in the section, Deputy Taylor-Quinn stated that the effect of putting paragraphs (a) and (b) into the Bill in the first place would be to divert the attention of the management of the new estuarial authority from the port management function. It is not too difficult to discover where that argument came from because there is a similar statement on page 3 of the document circulated by the Limerick Harbour Commissioners and on page 10 of the document circulated by the Irish Port Authorities' Association.

The answer to that argument lies in the wording of section 4 (4) which makes it very clear that far from having some sort of secondary or ancillary role, the port management is the primary function of the new estuarial authority and that the [611] other activities referred to in paragraphs (a) and (b) are merely, ancillary or complementary functions of port management. If that is not correct, why does section 4 (4) specifically provide that the corporation cannot, when carrying out the functions in paragraphs (a) and (b) spend any money — not even their own — without getting the prior consent of the Department of the Marine? If they have to borrow, they cannot borrow more than £200,000, which is a partly sum nowadays, without getting the prior consent not only of the Department of the Marine but also of the Department of Finance, which are not noted for their wild economic liberalism or their spendthrift nature.

There is no such restriction on the powers and functions of the new estuarial authority in relation to paragraphs (c) and (d) which refer to the port management functions. Yet we are asked to accept an argument by Deputy Taylor-Quinn, Deputy McCoy and the two outside bodies who are interested in the Bill now being passed, that the functions which the two authorities can carry out, untrammelled by any necessity to get permission from the Department of the Marine, the Department of Finance or anybody else, are secondary to the functions which are so carefully restricted and limited by the specific terms of this legislation. I do not know the logic of the argument but I cannot accept it. The Minister does not accept it and anybody thinking straight and reading the section as it stands could not accept it either.

Deputy Taylor-Quinn in her contribution on 28 February also adverted to a related matter in the section. She quoted section 4 (4) which states:

The corporation shall not, when carrying out any of its functions referred to in subsection (1) (a) or (1) (b) of this section, incur expenditure (including borrowing) without having—

(i) satisfied itself that any proposed investment is capable of achieving a commercially acceptable [612] rate of return on capital employed, taking account of all possible costs and potential risks.

She continued:

One would have to question how this will operate because we are talking about appointing a board and it is not clear that there will be members on that board capable of making the decisions that this subsection requires...

The board consists of members of local authorities — Limerick County Council, Clare County Council, Limerick Corporation, Kerry County Council and a representative from SFADCo. There is also a representative from the ports' users and four other people are to be appointed by the Minister. In relation to these appointments, section 8 (5) specifically provides that a person, other than a person nominated under subsection (3) (a) of this section, shall not be appointed a member of the corporation unless he is, in the opinion of the Minister, a person with wide experience of, or capacity in, finance, commerce, shipping, law or management. Is Deputy Taylor-Quinn seriously asking us to accept that a board consisting of all those people will not have the capacity to make the decision that expenditure in which they are involved offers a commercial rate of return?

It is insulting to the membership of the board, and members of local authorities represented on it, to advance that argument. It is an unfair argument to put forward. Deputy Taylor-Quinn is as aware as I am that many people who do not have paper qualifications are capable of making that type of decision. Even if her fears, wild though they may be, turned out to be well founded we must remember that there is a double control in the sense that the Department of the Marine must be satisfied that expenditure being embarked upon by the new authority will offer a suitable rate of return.

The Department will have to be satisfied that the risk involved is minimal. If borrowing in excess of £200,000 is [613] involved the Department of Finance will have to be satisfied and that is a most onerous requirement. If any criticism can be made of section 4 it is that it is too restrictive. It confines the non-port management powers of the new estuarial authority within too narrow a limit.

Section 6 provides that the corporation shall maintain their principal office at Foynes in the county of Limerick. Arguments could be advanced in favour of establishing the headquarters in Limerick rather than at Foynes. I have advanced that argument here and outside the House and I would prefer if the headquarters were to be in Limerick rather than at Foynes.

Mr. McCartan: Information on Patrick McCartan  Zoom on Patrick McCartan  The section should not be in the Bill at all.

Mr. O'Dea: Information on Willie O'Dea  Zoom on Willie O'Dea  I will deal with that later. I do not need the Deputy's assistance; I am well able to deal with the issue. I am sure Deputy Kemmy will advance arguments in favour of Limerick and that other Members will advance similar arguments.

Mr. Deenihan: Information on Jimmy Deenihan  Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan  What about Kerry or Kilrush?

Mr. O'Dea: Information on Willie O'Dea  Zoom on Willie O'Dea  I have no doubt that Deputy Foley will advance arguments in favour of Kerry and I am sure that the Minister could advance arguments in favour of Kilrush. Ultimately, the siting of the headquarters is a political decision for the Minister. The Minister has advanced arguments in favour of Foynes but I would not come to the same conclusion. However, like the position in regard to section 76 of the Finance Bill, I cannot say that the Minister reached his conclusion unreasonably. I can understand why the Minister concluded that Foynes would be the appropriate place for the headquarters.

Another argument can be advanced in regard to this. The board of the new authority will be running the show and they should be allowed decide where their headquarters will be. There is an [614] unhealthy tendency in western democracies to push difficult political decisions that have to be made by members of Government on to boards and authorities. The location of the headquarters of the new authority is a political decision and the Minister has not hidden behind any board or delegated that awkward political decision to anybody else. He has made the decision and named the site of the new headquarters in the Bill. He is to be complimented on not relying on any board to decide the location of the headquarters, although I do not agree with the conclusion.

The Minister cannot be accused of political cowardice. He has been open in making his decision. Without suggesting that the Minister would do anything underhand, I must point out that the legislation states that the appointment of the board is a matter for the Minister. If he decided, before the appointment of the board, that the headquarters was to be located in one place rather than another, I am sure he could take the appropriate steps to see to it that that was done. I congratulate him on not hiding behind the board and making a political decision.

Another argument put forward is that there should be a different type of board. However, those who put forward that argument have not told us the type of board we should have. The Limerick Harbour Commissioners, in their submission, stated that there was a need for a broadly based board with fair representation from local authority, industrial, commercial and trade union interests in the mid-west region and Kerry. Section 8 provides that the board will include representatives from the county councils of Clare, Kerry, Limerick and Limerick Corporation. The board will also include one representative from SFADCo, two to represent port users, two members of Foynes Harbour Trustees and four others qualified in finance, management, shipping law and so on. In my view that will make for a broadly based board. I do not know what other interests or representation the Limerick Harbour Commissioners had in [615] mind, apart from their point about trade union representation. I agree with their point in regard to the latter and I hope the Minister will consider allowing trade union representation on the board.

The section specifically states that there should be two members of Foynes Harbour Trustees on the board. I presume that the argument being advanced by the Limerick Harbour Commissioners is that they should have equal representation. I am inclined to agree with that view. Certainly, in view of the known record of Limerick Harbour Commissioners, the Minister should consider appointing representatives of the commissioners on the board. I do not think it will be necessary to amend the legislation to do so. The Minister has discretion to appoint four representatives on the board and when he is making his appointments to the new authority he should bear in mind the achievements of the Limerick Harbour Commissioners.

Representations have been made to me, and other Members, about the position of pilots under the Bill. It is my understanding that there is not any definite arrangement or contract between the various bodies which are being amalgamated under the Bill and the pilots who operate in the Shannon Estuary. Deputy Taylor-Quinn said there was a loose arrangment in existence but there is nothing in the legislation to indicate that the arrangment that is in operation will change. I should like to ask the Minister to confirm that when replying to the debate. If the function and role of pilots changes it will be because of economic and industrial circumstances. That will change it in due course. We cannot write into legislation that provides for the amalgamation of a number of harbour authorites that will ensure that the present arrangements pilots have with those authorities will continue for all time. It would be facile to suggest that.

Representations have been made to me, and others, about the status of the staff of the various authorities which will [616] be taken over. Limerick Harbour Commissioners, in the course of their submission on the Bill stated that there was no recognition in the Bill in the form of special representations for the commissioners, their officials and staff, despite their outstanding achievements. They went on to refer to the insecurity of employment of the officers and servants of the commissioners who will now become the officers and servants of the new estuarial authority. This matter is dealt with in section 14, a provision that appears clear to me. It may be that Deputy McCartan, and others, will see something in that section that is not obvious to me. That section provides that every person who, immediately before the day on which the new authority comes into being, is in the service of the Limerick Harbour Commissioners, the Foynes Harbour Trustees or the council of the urban district of Kilrush, shall not receive less remuneration than the remuneration to which he was entitled immediately before he became such officer or servant, and shall not be subject to conditions of service less beneficial than those to which he was subject immediately before he became such officer or servant. In other words, the people now employed by the various harbour authorities and who will be taken on by the new estuarial authority will have the same conditions of service and the same remuneration as they had on the day before the new authority came into operation. I do not see how anybody can find fault with that provision.

I notice that in regard to remuneration section 14 specifically states “....receive less remuneration than the remuneration to which he was entitled....”. I do not know the significance of the use of the word “entitled” in that section. I would prefer if the words “receiving” or “in receipt of” were used than the word “entitled”. I presume the staff are entitled to what they are receiving at the moment by way of remuneration. I find the use of the word “entitled” rather than the words “in receipt of” somewhat curious but there may be some statutory reason for including it in this section.

[617] The staff who will come into the service of the new authority will be subject to conditions of service which are not less beneficial than the conditions of service they have at present. I want to advert to the fact that many of the staff of the Limerick Harbour Commissioners are at present residing in Limerick and working to a headquarters in Pery Square in Limerick City. If these staff have to travel to Foynes, I wonder if some court could come to the conclusion that that is a less beneficial condition of employment than the conditions they operate under at present. I do not think that it would be less beneficial and even if a court or the legal adviser to the Department came to that conclusion, the matter could be sorted out by way of monetary compensation. I do not think that, just because the staff have to travel from Limerick City out to Foynes, this will make their conditions of employment less beneficial. The place where a person lives is where he or she chooses to live.

It is quite clear to me that there is provision for the continuation of employment and section 15 is drafted in such a way as to ensure continuation of employment. This means that the legislation on the Statute Book for the protection of employees, such as the unfair dismissals legislation, redundancy legislation and minimum notice and terms of employment legislation, will apply to the new employees.

Representations have also been made in relation to the status of the pension rights of the employees who will be taken over by the new authority. Sections 15 and 16 have been included in the Bill specifically to protect those pension rights. Section 15 (2) states that a member shall not be subject to less favourable conditions in relation to the grant of superannuation benefits than the conditions which applied to him immediately before the date of appointment. In other words, the ratio of what a person has to pay into the pension scheme to what he gets out of the pension scheme will not change. The officers and staff who are taken over by the new authority will continue to pay their superannuation [618] contributions in the same way as they are paying them at present and they will be entitled to the same benefits as if they were to go on pension at present.

Section 15 provides for this until a separate superannuation scheme is set up and section 16 obliges the new estuarial authority to set up a separate superannuation scheme. I presume — and I should like the Minister to confirm this for me — that the new superannuation scheme this section 16 envisages being set up will be subject to the provisions of section 15; in other words, when the new scheme comes into operation, the terms will not be less favourable than the terms which operate at present.

Section 16 states that “The Corporation shall, as soon as may be after the establishment day...” from experience I thought the general wording should be “as soon as possible” or “as soon as practicable”. I do not know the significance of the words “may be.” On balance I do not think it makes a great deal of difference but I should like the Minister to confirm that the new scheme to be established under section 16 will be subject to the conditions in section 15. From my interpretation of the section I think it will be, but I should like the Minister to confirm this for the peace of mind of the staff involved.

At present the people working in Foynes have their own pension scheme which is operated by Irish Pensions Trust. The staff of the Limerick Harbour Commissioners do not have a similar facility. I understand that they tried on a number of occasions to establish a similar facility but that the departmental approval needed for doing this, was not forthcoming. I understand that the staff of the Limerick Harbour Commissioners have a pension arrangement similar to that operated by local authorities where pensions are paid out of general revenue rather than a separate scheme. I should like the Minister to tell us what sort of system he envisages being operated when section 16 comes into force. Will there be provision for a separate fund along the lines of the one operated by Irish Pensions Trust or will the situation which [619] obtains at present in relation to the Limerick Harbour Commissioners apply?

I believe that some of the people from the Opposition benches who have spoken on this Bill genuinely believe what they said. The kernel of this debate is whether the function of the port management, which will be central to the future of the Irish economy, should properly be carried on in conjunction with the other recreational facilities and developmental functions which the estuarial authority will be given or whether it is right and proper for those functions to be carried out by some other authority. The functions laid out in section 4, and the examples given by the Minister of what is meant by those functions, make it clear that the functions are all marine related and will be carried out in or near a marine setting. I believe — and I am not an expert nor do I claim any expertise in this area — that the functions outlined by the Minister in his opening speech would be more properly conducted by the authority who are managing the harbour. Far from there being a conflict in giving one authority two functions, I believe one will complement the other.

Fears have been expressed — and I have no doubt that the people who expressed those fears did so genuinely — that the new authority will spend money wildly on developing marinas, water skiing facilities, etc., and that in order to get the money to do this they will increase port charges. This would be a disastrous development given our dependence on the external market. I do not think this Government or any Government in their right mind would intend that development to come about and that is why section 4 (4) specifically provides that this cannot and will not happen. We could argue all day about the proper type of authority to carry out the new recreational job creation functions which the Minister is talking about. I believe the Minister is right that the harbour authority are the proper authority to carry out those functions. There will be no conflict between those and the main [620] port management functions; in fact, one will complement the other.

If we look at the United Kingdom at present and in particular over the past five years we see that there are estuarial authorities in existence. For example, the Clyde Estuarial Authority carries on traditional port management functions but the legislation establishing it was passed in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War when the potential for these new recreational facilities was not recognised. In fact, the recognition of that potential is of very recent origin. There are ports in the United Kingdom, such as Felixstowe, which are managed as ports because there is no potential for other type activities as there is in the Shannon Estuary.

However, if we look at what entrepreneurs such as Peter de Savary is doing in Cornwall, what the Brent Walker Group are doing, what Shorewater — a company which was set up in 1986 — are doing in places such as Southampton and if we look at the Royal Albert Docks in Liverpool, we see that the direction in which they are moving is precisely the direction in which the Minister for the Marine is moving in this legislation. I think it will complement the port management functions. It will add to employment in my region. It will give a great stimulus to the economic life of the mid west and to the economic life of all the area adjacent to the Shannon Estuary. I compliment the Minister on getting the legislation this far. I hope that in the lifetime of this Dáil we will see this legislation on the Statute Book.

Mr. McCartan: Information on Patrick McCartan  Zoom on Patrick McCartan  On behalf of The Workers' Party I should like to make some brief comments on the proposed legislation. The Minister, and many of the Deputies who have spoken since indicated very globally the importance of port development to the Irish economy and its future development. The point has been made time and again that we are the second most dependent country in the European Community after the Benelux countries on external trade. Once the Chunnel is opened we will be [621] the last major island nation within the European Community and consequently the development of port traffic to a modern standard is essential.

It is true that the Limerick-Shannon Estuary is a unique geo-physical phenomenon, probably unequalled anywhere else in the European Community and certainly not in the western isles. The question is whether the legislation, as drafted by the Minister, recognises these facts. It represents the formula whereby the uniqueness of the estuary can be exploited and developed to its fullest potential to contribute as strongly as possible to the development of the Irish economy on an export-import basis.

The Workers' Party, having considered the legislation carefully and having listened to many of the debates and arguments put forward here, have come to the conclusion that the Bill is, unfortunately, flawed in fundamental respects. In referring to section 4, Deputy O'Dea suggested there is no significance to be attached to the order in which the functions and powers of the new proposed corporation are laid down. He maintains that one can juggle them about and that it does not make a great deal of difference. In fact, in his closing remarks extolling the achievements — if one could call them that — of the Brent Walker Group and the like — many of whom are now on their financial knees — he exposed himself to one of the first and most fundamental problems with this legislation.

The essence of a port is job creation and it is one that must be linked to industrialisation. There is no other way in which a port can give meaningful employment. Certainly as a means of bringing goods in and taking goods out, it has an essential function. If it is to develop in this day and age as an employment base, it must have, close to or within its own land authority on the sea water, manufacturing industries based, in many instances, on raw materials, if necessary imported, processed and re-exported or, indeed, moved into the economy as a basis of trade. It is essential, therefore, that we should have some commitment [622] from the Government, in practice and on paper, to that concept of the use of a port or harbour area as a major area of employment. Dublin Port is an instance and I understand that the position in Limerick is very much the same. Certainly, from superficial observation on visiting the area, the degree of dereliction that exists in the port area and the related unemployment figures which are available for the city of Limerick, where the major concentration of population exists and, indeed, for the city of Dublin tell a story in themselves.

Successive Governments have failed to appreciate the essential importance of a port as a job creation area and facility. One looked to this legislation to see if it contained a clear statement recognising this fact. What do we find? Section 4 states that the function of the authorities will be to develop investment in marine-related industrial, tourist, recreational and amenity facilities.

I accept that the order in which these matters are listed is not important. Statutorily they have effect. There is a political significance to be attached to the fact that the concept of “tourist, recreational amenity and facilities” is put ahead of the development of activities of a marine-related nature and commercial and trading enterprises as contained in paragraph (b). One has to put the legislation against the record of this Government in regard to marine development and their initiative in this area since they took office in February 1987.

Within my own constituency, Howth Harbour represents a classical illustration of the point one tries to make about massive investment in that development primarily, if not exclusively, on the recreational marine-related and tourist side. It is estimated in the Howth area, for example, that one and possibly two jobs have been created as a result of investment in the order of £12 million in the port development. I understand that the Minister may in time take charge of the harbour. One hopes that in time he will consider the establishment of an Authority there but certainly an Authority based on the priorities laid down in this [623] Bill would not be an acceptable development. Howth, like many other harbours — I instance it only because it is particular to my own area — requires a complete redirection and utilisation of the resources there to create jobs onshore, closely related, processing and other types of industries to create jobs and get people to work.

Dublin Port is a classical instance being the largest port in the country. I am glad the Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach has joined us in the Chamber because it is remarkable that in Dublin the port Authority boast of a chairman who is a Member of this House. One would imagine that, as chairman, he would be a promoter of the five year development plan for the harbour and the port of Dublin. Given their way the Authority may well begin to do something they have failed abysmally to do over the decades and provide intensive job creation oportunities within their area. The Minister of State, as a member of the local authority, has been singularly involved in trying to do down the objectives of the port development plan by seeking to block the redevelopment and reclaiming of a small area on the north side of the port which was intended to assist in providing the essential facility of increased roll-on roll-off space for the port Authority. An essential important factor in that five year development plan has been thwarted.

In Dún Laoghaire, another major port facility, the emphasis is on the building of a marina, filling in port space, the recreational development of the breakwater type concept that Deputy O'Dea was extolling earlier on. That was the entire commitment to the idea of developing port space in the Dún Laoghaire area. There was no plan for job creation, for creating industrial jobs related to the uniqueness of that facility.

In relation to the Limerick/Shannon Estuary area, the worry is about the new corporation envisaged, given this political statement contained in section 4 where the emphasis again will be on this type [624] of recreational concept. It is not good enough to say that everything is there in section 4. It has to be taken with the realities of what is happening throughout the country at the moment, and the failure of the Government to recognise the essential importance of port areas in the creation of industrial jobs.

That failure is significant but there is an even greater significance when one looks at the Shannon Estuary. Limerick Harbour is the oldest harbour in the estuary region. Limerick city developed around the harbour because of its important geographical location in terms of trading. The harbour is essential to the city. Every other major harbour in this country is essential to the city that has developed around it. Unless there is a strong commitment to the development of the harbour, Limerick city will suffer badly. The major concentration of population in the region is in the city and consequently the major thrust of development must be there also. Foynes is no more than a village catering for a population of hundreds. It does not make sense for the Government to shift the emphasis on Authority and on the concentration of power and investment away from Limerick to Foynes.

Mr. Daly: Information on Brendan Daly  Zoom on Brendan Daly  Is it the Deputy's policy to wipe out the region? That is a new philosophy from The Workers' Party. It is a revolutionary policy.

Mr. McCartan: Information on Patrick McCartan  Zoom on Patrick McCartan  What the Minister is suggesting illustrates a huge bias against urban investment in Fianna Fáil. That has been a feature of economic policy that has come from Fianna Fáil over the years. I represent a city area in Dublin where there is the greatest concentration of population and the greatest concentration of unemployment. This area of massive need has over the years suffered by the extent to which Government are prepared through Europe or their own endeavours to put money into rural investment and rural employment.

Acting Chairman (Mr. M. Barrett): Information on Michael Barrett  Zoom on Michael Barrett  I would remind the Deputy that he has [625] strayed completely from the Bill. I would like him to talk about the Shannon Estuary.

Mr. McCartan: Information on Patrick McCartan  Zoom on Patrick McCartan  That point can apply to the Shannon Estuary. I am merely taking up an interruption from the Minister. In applying that point to the Shannon Estuary I have no hesitation in saying that the emphasis and direction of investment must be in the direction of the city of Limerick where the greatest population exists.

Mr. Daly: Information on Brendan Daly  Zoom on Brendan Daly  It must be in the region.

Mr. McCartan: Information on Patrick McCartan  Zoom on Patrick McCartan  This legislation does not do that at all. Section 4 must clearly reflect the policy in the Department and in Government and it does not give any solace or appease our concern.

Mr. Daly: Information on Brendan Daly  Zoom on Brendan Daly  Leave things as they are, is that it?

Mr. McCartan: Information on Patrick McCartan  Zoom on Patrick McCartan  This is simply another feature of misdirected Government policy in recognising the important essential value of the port as an area of massive employment and potential development.

Mr. Daly: Information on Brendan Daly  Zoom on Brendan Daly  Leave the people unemployed.

Mr. McCartan: Information on Patrick McCartan  Zoom on Patrick McCartan  The region needs a single Authority. I appreciate that the Minister is dealing with a complex and difficult area. From the extent to which there has been simply local political comment, with the exception of my comments, I understand that there are competing interests, many of them narrow, at play in the estuary. I hope a single Authority which will have the power and the political will to put to work the vast resources that exist in the region will be established in the lifetime of this Dáil.

This legislation gives clear indications that the Minister is not addressing the key points that have to be addressed in this debate but that he is seeking to appease the huge antagonisms that exist locally. If the local authorities and the [626] local political interests along the estuary are incapable of coming up with a reasoned solution, could the Minister not have considered SFADCo as an Authority that could well be brought into play in developing a single Authority for the harbour and estuary? We recently legislated to extend SFADCo's geographical influences right around the estuary; if what is happening along the banks of the estuary cannot be resolved, is there not an argument for bringing in a well established Authority at least in the short-term to take on the work?

I am concerned about aspects of the legislation. I have considered the submission from Limerick Harbour Authority and from the Irish Ports Authority as did Deputy O'Dea and others. They make good arguments for their case. It is curious that it is only the Limerick Harbour Authority who have been mobilised into lobbying and making their views known, at least in a general way to Deputies here. That in itself tells a story. Foynes is certainly being well looked after in this legislation. I will not get into the pros or cons of that beyond saying that a clear message comes from this legislation that the city of Limerick and its harbour will not fare well under the new corporation.

I find it remarkable that we seek to legislate under section 6 to tell a newly appointed authority where they should locate their headquarters. I do not accept that this is matter of ministerial decision. I would have thought that to be a matter eminently suitable for and appropriate to the authority once established. I understand fully — or think I do, having listened to some of the debates here — why the Minister must appease Foynes Authority. Limerick is at the head of the harbour estuary. It is pivoted right in the centre of the infrastructures of the region. All roads going north and south move through Limerick; the rail lines do so; all the administrative and regional headquarters are located there. There is no conceivable basis on which to sustain the suggestion made by the Minister that he is locating the authority at Foynes [627]“because I consider Foynes an ideal central location.” It is central to nowhere, with the greatest of respect.

Mr. Daly: Information on Brendan Daly  Zoom on Brendan Daly  Central to the activities of the estuary. The Deputy should know that.

Mr. McCartan: Information on Patrick McCartan  Zoom on Patrick McCartan  It is a ridiculous argument but one ably defended by Deputy O'Dea.

Mr. Daly: Information on Brendan Daly  Zoom on Brendan Daly  Look at the movement of traffic in the estuary.

Mr. McCartan: Information on Patrick McCartan  Zoom on Patrick McCartan  I also make the point that the membership of the proposed authority is not fairly established. It is quite clear again that Foynes must be appeased. The suggestion of appointing specifically in name two members of the Foynes Authority to the exclusion of those specific officers from Limerick Harbour Commissioner defies logic. It is noted that Limerick Corporation will have a representative on the board but no representative as of right from the Limerick Harbour Commissioners. That is insulting and an outrage, given the very good record illustrated in the documentation forwarded to us and quoted and adopted by Deputy O'Dea — a Deputy of the area and of the Minister's own party, who I take it to be endorsing the figures and facts outlined.

Interestingly, the one matter that the Deputy did not refer to — and I appreciate his aversion to matters relating to labour and the like — was the very fine harbour employment rationalisation scheme that the authority in Limerick succeeded in introducing which they claim has resulted from work on the dock rationalisation scheme of 1973. This succeeded in bringing the level of employment from 350 down to 30 and has secured industrial peace in the harbour for the last 15 years. I wonder how Deputy O'Dea manage not to mention that.

Mr. Daly: Information on Brendan Daly  Zoom on Brendan Daly  We are trying to create employment.

[628]Mr. McCartan: Information on Patrick McCartan  Zoom on Patrick McCartan  Two specifically named members from Foynes Authority automatically, as of right, will sit on this board, but not one member of the harbour commissioners will sit of right. Deputy O'Dea says that these can be brought in at the Minister's discretion. They should be there of right and their appointment not left to the discretion or foible of the day.

The fact that no member of the unions representing the workforce in any of the harbour authorities to be brought in is included as of right on the board is another serious matter. They should be there as of right and not, again, courtesy of the goodwill or discretion of the Minister of the day. I ask that the Minister look into these matters. Many of the other provisions dealing with staff conditions, work and other concerns are well covered.

In summation, the Minister in replying must answer many very fundamental questions that arise from the debates' here. Why is he going in that direction of trying to play down the central role of Limerick harbour, both in the failure to give recognition to the work of its commissioners in terms of representation on the new corporation and in the movement of the headquarters away from the obvious geographical political capital of the region at Limerick. More importantly — and this is a fundamental matter — there is the question of the extent to which one can interpret a political statement on port development as contained in section 4, coupled with the record of Governments to date. This legislation represents much of the haphazard approach to harbour and port development which has been the record of successive Governments to date. That it has been introduced by the Minister in this debate and elsewhere as the prototype for further harbour development and harbour authorities is a matter of grave concern.

Unless these questions are seriously addressed and answered at the conclusion of the debate, The Workers' Party are left with no option but to exercise their vote against the further development of the legislation. We shall be calling on the [629] Minister to take the matter back, not just to his draftsmen but to his political colleagues, to seek to redefine, re-establish and restate a policy on port and harbour development that recognises the essential contribution to job creation, and particularly jobs in areas of high population and equally high unemployment.

Mr. Foley: Information on Denis Foley  Zoom on Denis Foley  I am very pleased to have the opportunity to contribute to this Bill for the setting up of a single development Authority for the Shannon Estuary, which is of special interest to me. I see it as a progressive step forward which will lead to massive development in the estuary, thus leading to the creation of much needed jobs.

The purpose of the Bill is to establish a new body to be known as the Shannon Estuary Development Corporation and to define their functions, powers and jurisdiction. The new body will have a mandate to promote, co-ordinate and develop investment in marine-related industrial, tourist, recreational and amenity facilities and to encourage activities likely to contribute to the realisation of the marine potential of the Shannon Estuary. If will also take over, manage and operate the existing harbours at Limerick, Foynes and Kilrush and will have jurisdiction over the entire waters of the Shannon Estuary.

I welcome section 6 of the Bill which provides for the location of the Shannon Estuary Development Corporation headquarters at Foynes. Foynes Authority have made tremendous progress over the years, with the co-operation of their excellent workforce.

Section 8 sets out the membership of the corporation and the method of appointment of members and provides that members other than local authority members must have expertise in finance, commerce, shipping, law or management.

The present staff of Limerick, Foynes and Kilrush are catered for under sections 14 and 15 which provide for the transfer of staff from the present Authorities to the new body and for the preservation of [630] their terms and conditions of service and pension rights, and rightly so.

For over 20 years we have heard much talk about an estuarial Bill and here I congratulate the Minister for the Marine, Deputy Daly, on his initiative. This is not the first occasion on which proposals for the setting up of a single Authority for the Shannon Estuary have been put before this House. The concept of a single estuarial Authority has been under discussion for a long time and has received the support of almost all Ministers who have been responsible for commercial harbours during that time. Various Ministers have had extensive negotiations with the various interests involved over many years. Bills providing for a single harbour Authority for the estuary go back as far as 1977 but lapsed on the dissolution of the Dáil. Again we had a similar situation in 1986. It is hoped that we will see this Bill through.

I consider the establishment of a single estuarial Authority as vital to the development of the unique potential of the estuary. The estuary is a large natural resource and it should be managed and marketed as such. It has not to date developed to its full potential. What it now needs is a co-ordinated approach with an overall plan for the estuary. Experts have confirmed the vast potential of the estuary for industry and services requiring deep water facilities.

We have seen very successful projects developed to date, such as the ESB coal burning station at Moneypoint, the Alumina project at Aughinish, the oil jetty near Shannon Airport, etc. and all have resulted in the total tonnage of goods through the Shannon estuary increasing from 1.467 million in 1982 to 5.5 million in 1988. With further planning and development under this Bill we can anticipate much needed employment being created, as the opportunities that exist in the estuary are stated to be without equal in Europe.

The estuary's unique maritime capacity provides tremendous opportunities. It has the capacity with minimal dredging to handle bulk cargo vessels of [631] 400,000 tonnes. Only three sheltered harbours in Europe can accommodate vessels of this size. Many of the major traditional ports of north-west Europe have problems of congestion, shallow approaches and shortage of land and labour. This will not be the position with the estuary.

The north Kerry side, in which Deputy Deenihan has the same interest as I, has many acres lying idle and with this Bill we see the possibility of future development there. A recent study by the RDO sponsored by the EC assessed heavy industrial sites throughout the area in question and special mention was made of Tarbert, Ballylongford and Astee in the north Kerry area. These are also places of very high unemployment and it is imperative that these three townlands be noted as prime areas for positive development. Tarbert and Screen piers can now accommodate coastal vessels.

The Minister has stated that the principle of this Bill is to bring all harbour vessels along the estuary, whether commercial, fishery or recreational under the one administration and planning unit and it is intended that the new body would co-operate in and complement the work of other development agencies in the area. I was surprised this morning to hear Deputy Taylor-Quinn opposing this Bill. She is in the same situation as the other Deputies from the region. Her colleague, Deputy Doyle, has been pushing for this measure for a long time.

In addition to Shannon International Airport excellent road and rail networks link the main estuary development areas with the national road and mainline rail systems. The Minister has confirmed that he had prolonged and detailed discussions with the various interests in the region. Special efforts have been made by him to get a concensus among the parties in favour of a single Authority. Time will prove that being part of a single Authority having access to a larger pool of resources, including financial resources, to aid further development will provide all regions on the estuary with more opportunities than handicaps.

[632] I agree that to work efficiently the board need a smaller membership than existing major harbour authorities who have a membership of up to 27. For this reason the total membership of the board is to be 13, which I consider the most efficient consistent with adequate provison for a wide variety of interests along the estuary. In order to ensure that the right calibre of person is appointed, a provision is included that members will be required to have wide experience of, or capacity in, finance, commerce, shipping, law or management. Provision is made for one member each from Kerry, Clare and Limerick County Councils and from Limerick Corporation, SFADCo will have one member, port users two members and Foynes interests two members in recognition of that harbour's importance, for the successful operation of the corporation. The Minister will appoint all members of the board. He will have a personal “family” of four. I appeal to him to include union representation on the new board.

The development powers being conferred on the new estuary corporation are to apply only to the area within their jurisdiction where this development would be considered a normal function. Marine related facilities cover a wide area such as ship building, yacht or boat chartering, operation of marinas, aquaculture, fishing and water sports, not all of which would affect trade through ports of the estuary. Marketing and promotion of the estuary will be most important. If these efforts succeed in attracting a prospective developer, the relevant State agency would then become involved. That is why I welcome the presence on the board of a member of SFADCo and I welcome the measure providing that port users' money is not used for activities other than commercial harbour activities. The Bill includes a provision that any investment in other marine related facilities will require the Minister's consent. I welcome that.

Only good can come from this Bill. It will mean a great deal to the estuary and in particular to the Kerry region. For years we have been looking for something [633] like this. I congratulate the Minister on bringing in this Bill and I hope he will see it through.

Mr. Deenihan: Information on Jimmy Deenihan  Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan  Although the Minister knows my view on this Bill, I would like to express my appreciation of his courage in bringing it forward. I do not have to remind him that it is not universally acceptable to the people using the Shannon estuary, especially the main users, Foynes Harbour Trustees and Limerick Harbour Commissioners. However, I congratulate him on behalf of people who are interested in the Shannon estuary and its development, and, even if I am critical of the Bill, I shall do my best today to put forward proposals which will make the legislation acceptable to everyone concerned.

The Minister and I share the view that Clare and Kerry have lost out considerably in the past because of lack of representation, lack of any policy and because of monopolies by the main port users. Over many years there has been a broad consensus in favour of a single ports authority for the Shannon estuary which would lead to a more cohesive approach to future planning and development and promotion of this most valuable natural amenity. It is universally recognised that the estuary has great potential for heavy industry and could be the shipment gateway for the rest of Europe with its variety of geographical locations, natural sheltered deep water which could cater for vessels up to 400,000 tonnes etc.

I would like to refer to the Lievense report which stated it would be possible to provide a channel in the estuary to allow for vessels up to 400,000 tonnes. In the same report Mr. Lievense said the Shannon estuary was like a sleeping beauty waiting to be kissed awake. All of us on this side would share that sentiment.

I agree that a single port Authority would avoid duplication and lead to better overall deployment of scarce financial resources.

I appreciate the Minister's efforts in bringing forward this Bill but in its present form it is not the best solution to the problem. It is rather ironic that both [634] Limerick Harbour Commissioners and Foynes Harbour Trustees are both totally opposed to this Bill. In the past there has been no great co-operation between them but they are united in their opposition to this measure.

The Bill proposed by Deputy Jim Mitchell and later by Deputy Avril Doyle was far more acceptable to all interested parties. Deputy Mitchell consulted with every development association on both sides of the estuary, with the county councils and all the local authorities. In fact he over-consulted and as a result time ran out as regards getting the Bill through before the fall of the last Dáil. His proposal would have been better than that contained in this Bill. If we can get a compromise between the Minister's proposal and that put forward by Deputy Mitchell and Deputy Doyle, we will come up with something acceptable to everybody concerned.

Deputy Foley said that we in north Kerry have great hopes for the future development of the Shannon Estuary where we have the problem of unemployment and emigration at an unacceptable level. North Kerry, especially the area along the Shannon bank, was totally ignored and neglected in the past. The deepest water is at Ardmore Point at Tarbert. This was borne out by the Foras Forbartha report in 1983 which identified Ardmore Point as the optimum location in the estuary for various types of industry. We have a land bank on the estuary with over 1,000 acres, 600 acres of which are in public ownership. It is a national scandal that having bought this land at a very high price it has been left idle since 1979, when the first part was bought, and the early eighties, when the last of the land bank was purchased. I have seen no effort by anybody to do anything about development there. This is not surprising when one considers that it is totally unattractive to industrialists. There is no road network leading to the land bank. The road from Limerick to Tarbert via Foynes is a disgrace. I travel along it twice a week and it would definitely discourage any executive or industrialist hoping to live in Limerick and commute to the Shannon bank or Foynes. [635] It is a disaster. The national plan contains proposals to provide better access to our ports. The Government should earmark sufficient finance for the Limerick-Foynes-Tarbert road. Unless we have a proper road network to Tarbert I cannot see anything happening.

There is not an adequate fresh water supply to the land bank. There is just enough water to satisfy the needs of the local farmers. There is a proposal with the Department of the Environment, which I hope is submitted in the south-west regional plan, to build major waterworks on the Smearla river in north Kerry. This would ensure an adequate supply to that region and especially the land bank. The Minister should emphasise to his Government colleagues, especially the Minister for the Environment, that this is necessary if there are to be any future developments in north Kerry as a whole or in the land bank.

There is a case to be made for the extension of the national gas grid to include this area. In view of reports of substantial finds off Kinsale there should be a sufficient amount of gas available to extend the grid to other parts of the country, including the estuary. This would make the estuary far more attractive for intending industrialists. In the past no effort was made to carry out an integrated study of the Tarbert land bank, to look at its viability for the construction of a deep water port. I would accuse Limerick Harbour Commissioners as much as anybody else in view of their resources. It is the most attractive location but it was not studied with a view to providing a proper jetty or any other infrastructural development. My own party stand indicted as well as the Government. There was no interest in the Shannon bank in the Tarbert-Ballylongford area. I hope that the passage of this Bill and the creation of a dynamic port Authority will bring about change for both Kerry and Clare.

The Minister is no doubt aware of the study on the estuary initiated by the then Minister for Industry and Commerce, Deputy Reynolds, to be carried out by [636] SFADCo. A case could be made for awaiting the publication of this report before deciding what we want. The report will show the way for future development in the Shannon Estuary and emphasise the priority areas. Perhaps we should shape the suggested port Authority along the lines proposed in the study, which is to be published as soon as possible.

I now want to consider the title of the Bill and the basic arguments put forward by Foynes Harbour Trustees and Limerick Harbour Commissioners. The 1977 Bill promoted by Deputy Tom Fitzpatrick and the 1986 Bill promoted by Deputy Jim Mitchell referred appropriately to a Shannon Ports Authority. The most important thing for any Authority to do is to look after the ports. Deputy O'Dea said it would be very easy to treat management of the ports as being more important. Under section 4 management of the ports is being reduced in importance and the emphasis is on the development of marine-related activities, tourist, recreational and amenity facilities. I would not like to see that happen because the greatest asset of the Shannon Estuary is the ports and the possibility of access by large ships. The more quickly ships can come in and out of the Shannon Estuary the more attractive it will be for ship owners. The development of marine-related activities, mariculture and so on is all very fine but they only involve a very limited number of jobs. I agree with the Minister that there are possibilities for developing these within the estuary, but the main function of this ports Authority must be to make the Shannon Estuary more attractive for port users. One of the jobs to be undertaken should be the dredging of Foynes harbour and the dredging of a channel right up to Limerick harbour to bring in bigger ships; at the moment they can bring in ships of up to 4,000 tonnes. This is where the emphasis must be put. I would hate to think that this new corporation would feel that their function was to bring in industry as such. That can be easily done by SFADCo. A separate section could [637] be set up in SFADCo to promote industry in the Shannon Estuary.

What is happening now will lead to a duplication of functions and to confusion. SFADCo see the Shannon estuary as their main focus for future development in the region. Having another Authority in there vying with them will not create the right impression outside the country. We will have two Authorities competing with each other and, no doubt, with the IDA who will be trying to get as much port business and related industry for places like Ringaskiddy in Cork which has far more advantages and far better infrastructure and which in the past received far greater investment — over £100 million — for infrastructure.

Again, the title “Shannon Estuary Development Corporation” is designed to impress people in north Kerry, west Limerick and the Minister's own constituency. The corporation will have the capability to initiate substantial developments like marinas, mariculture, fisheries, etc. in that area. SEDCo will be confused with SFADCo. In addition SEDCo happens to be the name of a well known oil drilling company which has operated off the Irish coast on several occasions. I would point out also that at the moment there is a development Authority in south Kerry called SWADCO which some of the Minister's colleagues here often confuse with SFADCo. The difference is that SWADCO in south Kerry is the South West Kerry Development Company whereas the other is Shannon Free Airport Development Company. There is confusion between all the titles. The grandiose title of the Bill is obviously intended to emphasise that the new Authority will give priority to such activities as marine-related industries, tourist, recreational and amenity facilities. These functions, especially industrial development and tourism are already catered for by SFADCo with whom the port Authorities in the Shannon Estuary have a close and effective relationship.

The recent initiative by Foynes Harbour Trustees in co-operation with SFADCo to bring cruisers into Foynes [638] harbour is a welcome one and should be encouraged because the Shannon estuary has considerable potential for this type of tourism. Such cruisers could visit places like Bunratty Castle and Knappogue. I would like to compliment Foynes Harbour Trustees and SFADCo on taking this initiative. It indicates a co-operation that already exists between them.

Furthermore the local authorities in the Shannon estuary region, some of whom own piers and jetties, are quite competent to undertake the promotion of marinas and tourist-related activities. If we had the resources in County Kerry we could do a very good job in promoting marinas and tourist-related activities on the Shannon estuary. Our county development team have the capacity to do that type of work if we are granted the resources.

Mr. Daly: Information on Brendan Daly  Zoom on Brendan Daly  Why have you not done Fenit?

Mr. Deenihan: Information on Jimmy Deenihan  Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan  Simply because we had not got the resources. We have been crying out for investment in Fenit and other parts of north Kerry. We have all the plans in the world. The Shannon estuary has been surveyed more than any other estuary in the country. Now there is another plan from the Minister, Deputy Reynolds. What we want now is action and I am sure that is what the Minister wants as well.

On the commercial side, it is difficult to see how SFADCo could finance marine-related industries, recreational and amenity facilities having regard to the fact that there will be no additional Exchequer costs as a result of the Bill. There is no State equity in the corporation and an existing debt of between £4 million and £5 million on the port of Foynes. How can this corporation be viable when they will inherit this huge financial burden when they take Foynes over? Hopefully activity within the estuary will generate the necessary finance but if there is competition in the shipping world, as there appears to be, if there is an increase in costs, I cannot see these [639] resources becoming too readily available to the corporation in the future.

Certainly without initial financing I cannot see how this corporation will be able to do the things the Minister envisages they will do. As I have said, a commercially viable project has a good chance of getting off the ground in the present circumstances. If, for example, an industrialist wanted to set up a business in the estuary, outside of the land bank and the Tarbert area, it would have as good a chance of succeeding under the existing arrangements as it would under the Minister's proposal.

The Bill is perceived by port users in the Shannon area as a vehicle for diverting port revenues to non-remunerative projects of a political nature. I would point out to the Minister that one of his colleagues had photographs taken — one of which appeared in The Kerryman— with the local people in Saleen in Tarbert where he pointed out that when the development corporation was set up a marina would be established in Ballylongford.

Mr. Daly: Information on Brendan Daly  Zoom on Brendan Daly  That has been planned already as part of the Kilrush marina project.

Mr. Deenihan: Information on Jimmy Deenihan  Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan  That is fine but there is no funding for it.

Mr. Daly: Information on Brendan Daly  Zoom on Brendan Daly  The funding is available. We have received £2 million from the Regional Fund and that scheme is already up and running.

Mr. Deenihan: Information on Jimmy Deenihan  Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan  When will the marina be established there?

Mr. Daly: Information on Brendan Daly  Zoom on Brendan Daly  Work has started in Kilrush and Saleen is part of that project.

Mr. Deenihan: Information on Jimmy Deenihan  Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan  Can the Minister give a commitment that there will be a marina in Saleen?

Mr. Daly: Information on Brendan Daly  Zoom on Brendan Daly  Yes.

[640]Mr. Deenihan: Information on Jimmy Deenihan  Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan  What investment is proposed for this?

Acting Chairman (Mr. Byrne): Information on Hugh Byrne  Zoom on Hugh Byrne  This is not Question Time.

Mr. Deenihan: Information on Jimmy Deenihan  Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan  I know Saleen very well and there will have to be a lot of expenditure on it if it is to become a good marina.

Mr. Daly: Information on Brendan Daly  Zoom on Brendan Daly  Saleen is the most beautiful location——

Mr. Deenihan: Information on Jimmy Deenihan  Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan  It is a beautiful location for very small yachts but it needs a lot of dredging. I know that area very well because I have sailed out of Saleen.

Mr. Daly: Information on Brendan Daly  Zoom on Brendan Daly  I also sailed there recently.

Acting Chairman:  Let us hear the Deputy now. We can discuss the merits of sailing later.

Mr. Deenihan: Information on Jimmy Deenihan  Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan  The Minister stated in his speech:

The Estuary is a large natural resource and it should be managed and marketed as such. It has not been developed to its full potential to date; such development as has taken place has been as a piecemeal operation in different places and by different organisations with no overall co-ordinated approach.

I find this statement extraordinary. It shows no recognition for what has taken place in the estuary in the past 20 years or so. How can we guarantee that there will be development in the estuary in the near future? Where is the evidence for this sweeping statement? In the Minister's Second Stage speech on the previous Bill which was introduced by Deputy Mitchell who was then Minister, he mentioned piecemeal development by different organisations. Does the Minister think, for example, that Moneypoint, Tarbert power station, Aughinish Aluminium and Dernish Island were built in the wrong place? What was piecemeal about those developments? They were all [641] built for a purpose. If it were not for Dernish Island, Aeroflot would not now be in Shannon and Mr. Gorbachev probably would not have flown into Shannon a few weeks ago. In all fairness to the Limerick Harbour Commissioners, if they did not set up Dernish Island and put resources into it Aeroflot would not now be in Shannon.

The achievements of the Limerick Harbour Commissioners — and I criticised them here this morning — over the last 25 years are on record and indeed must be appreciated. Deputy McCartan, who is not from Limerick, and Deputy O'Dea, the Minister's colleague, pointed that out also. The Limerick people must be very disappointed with the Bill and they have reason to be aggrieved. Deputy O'Dea has mentioned the development that has taken place already and I will not go into it now. The Limerick Harbour Commissioners have outlined in a communique the various improvements they have been responsible for in the last 25 years and they merit some recognition. I will quote from that communique which was sent to all Deputies last February. It states:

Since 1823 the Limerick Harbour Commissioners have controlled and developed almost the entire Estuary from Limerick City to the mouth of the Shannon. Over the past 25 years ship sizes entering the Estuary have increased from 10,000 tonnes to 150,000 tonnes — a fifteen-fold increase. The volume of goods loaded and discharged has increased from a level of 400,000 tonnes to 5.6 million tonnes — a fourteen-fold increase. Investment in maritime-related industrial plants, adjacent to the waters controlled by the Limerick Harbour Commissioners, has achieved a level of almost £2 billion.

No other Irish port has rivalled these achievements over the equivalent period. This spectacular level of development in the Shannon Estuary could not have been attained unless the Limerick Harbour Commissioners had——

[642] I would acknowledge this

——developed a deepwater navigation channel and provided vastly improved services. The development of the deepwater navigation channel entailed intensive hydrographic surveying, updating of navigation charts, locating wrecks, installing modern and sophisticated navigational lighting and other aids, as well as extending the existing port control radio communication system. The larger vessels now using the Estuary are valued at between £20 million and £30 million each and consequently demand a high level of expert assistance on entering and leaving the harbour.

The commissioners made the point that the large vessels, worth £20 million to £30 million, require the best port facilities possible. That is why the prime objective of this Authority should be to improve port facilities in the Shannon Estuary. It should not be relegated to the fourth or fifth function in order of priority of the new Authority, as stated in this Bill.

I have pointed out the achievements of Limerick Harbour Commissioners. For many years, in co-operation with SFADCo and the IDA, the Limerick Harbour Commissioners have marketed the great natural advantages of the estuary on a worldwide basis, in the UK, Europe, the USA and the Far East. Presentations have been made by officers of the Limerick Harbour Commissioners to potential industrialists in all these locations. The closest co-operation exists between the Limerick Harbour Commissioners and not only the IDA and SFADCo but also the local authorities, chambers of commerce, the Confederation of Irish Industry and labour interests in the region. Having consulted people in all these organisations, the Limerick Harbour Commissioners would be the first to say that there was co-operation and that they were doing their best. This has not been acknowledged and that is not right. I am not here to speak for Limerick city but when we are speaking on this Bill we should at least give the harbour commissioners fair play.

[643] The Minister is aware of the number of publications by the Limerick Harbour Commissioners. One could describe them as glossy. Because they did not prove to be successful one could say that they were ineffective but at least they made an effort. I will repeat once again that it is significant that the Minister in his Second Stage speech gave no credit whatsoever to Limerick Harbour Commissioners for the efforts they have made during the years and for bringing the estuary to its present level of development. It is now the second largest port area outside of Dublin and handled over 6.5 million tonnes of cargo in 1988.

It is questionable as to whether we should bring commercial fisheries and recreational activities together under the one planning umbrella. As I said, port activities are highly professional operations requiring staffs of the highest skill, calibre and experience. Lumping their work with mariculture, leisure or recreational activities would be a most retrograde step and could have serious consequences for the primary responsibility of the harbour authority. I have emphasised this over and over again and I will continue to emphasise it. It is important before this Bill passes through the House that we would have inserted into it its prime role, that is, the management of the various ports.

The Minister sees the new Authority, in the constitutional and functional senses, providing for the establishment of similar authorities in other port areas. He listed the main advantages which can be expected to flow from the establishment of the development corporation. In its present form, this Bill, because of the multiplicity of agencies, is more likely to bring chaos than cohesion to the future development and promotion of the estuary. It is idle to talk about pooling capital resources unless and until such resources exist and proper structures are in place to control, manage and develop the estuary and its ports. There is no mention of such structures in the Bill.

It would be impossible to avoid costly [644] duplication of services with a downgrading of port management functions and the highlighting of tourism and industrial development which are already adequately catered for by SFADCo. The case for EC and Exchequer grants is more likely to be weakened than enhanced with the overlap of responsibility between SEDCo and SFADCo. That is why I say that the survey carried out by SFADCo on behalf of the Minister for Industry and Commerce is of importance. At least Deputy Mitchell consulted with everybody in the place. In fact he over-consulted. He consulted with every development association along both banks of the Shannon, with the local authorities and with Deputies. As a result the introduction of that Bill was delayed. With whom did the Minister consult in relation to this Bill? I have to say that we discussed the Bill on many occasions. I appreciated this but what about the county councils? This Bill was never discussed by Kerry County Council whereas the last Bill was.

Mr. Carey: Information on Donal Carey  Zoom on Donal Carey  Councillor P.J. Kelly has discussed it in County Clare.

Mr. Daly: Information on Brendan Daly  Zoom on Brendan Daly  On numerous occasions.

Mr. Deenihan: Information on Jimmy Deenihan  Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan  Has the Minister had prolonged discussions with SFADCo on the industrial, tourism and recreational aspects of this Bill?

Mr. Daly: Information on Brendan Daly  Zoom on Brendan Daly  They have been recommending this for years.

Mr. Deenihan: Information on Jimmy Deenihan  Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan  They have recommended the introduction of a Ports Bill, but not this Bill. This shocked them. Straightaway they saw their primary role being reduced. SFADCo have many reservations about this Bill. I understand that the Minister met with Foynes Harbour Commissioners on two or three occasions——

Mr. Daly: Information on Brendan Daly  Zoom on Brendan Daly  I had dinner with them.

Mr. Deenihan: Information on Jimmy Deenihan  Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan  ——with the express purpose of trying to persuade them to [645] agree to join the new authority. The Minister will have to admit that he failed to do this.

Mr. Daly: Information on Brendan Daly  Zoom on Brendan Daly  What they say in public and in private are two different things.

Mr. Deenihan: Information on Jimmy Deenihan  Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan  In public they state that they are totally opposed to this Bill, as are some of the Minister's own people down in Foynes. I believe that on one occasion the Minister met a delegation from Limerick Harbour Commissioners.

Mr. Daly: Information on Brendan Daly  Zoom on Brendan Daly  I had dinner with them also.

Mr. Deenihan: Information on Jimmy Deenihan  Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan  None of the Minister's officials were present and they did not like this.

Mr. Daly: Information on Brendan Daly  Zoom on Brendan Daly  They certainly were.

Mr. Deenihan: Information on Jimmy Deenihan  Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan  Since the publication of the Bill the Minister has not met Limerick Harbour Commissioners. Am I correct in saying that?

Mr. Daly: Information on Brendan Daly  Zoom on Brendan Daly  I had dinner with them and so had my officials.

Acting Chairman:  The Deputy should be allowed continue without interruption.

Mr. Carey: Information on Donal Carey  Zoom on Donal Carey  Rosslare is next.

Mr. Deenihan: Information on Jimmy Deenihan  Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan  As I mentioned, the Minister has decided that the headquarters of the new corporation would be located at Foynes in recognition of the achievements of Foynes Harbour Commissioners to date. He considers Foynes as an ideal central location on the estuary. Deputy McCartan referred to this matter in detail as did Deputy O'Dea. We could all make claims about locating it in County Kerry or County Clare, or Foynes.

Mr. Daly: Information on Brendan Daly  Zoom on Brendan Daly  Does the Deputy agree with Foynes?

Mr. Deenihan: Information on Jimmy Deenihan  Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan  I do not agree with any place and I will say why in a few [646] moments. In his Second Stage speech the Minister could not say a good word about Limerick Harbour Commissioners and about their work on the estuary to date. By recognising that Foynes should get the centre for the great work they have done and by ignoring Limerick the insinuation was that Limerick Harbour Commissioners did not have a good record in the past. As I said I dispute this. Is it now intended that the Foynes staff would manage the whole estuary from their home base? That is another issue. All credit is due to Foynes Harbour Trustees for operating an efficient and busy port which has been developed greatly in recent years but they would be the first to admit that they have neither the experience nor the organisation to take on the huge responsibility of looking after the whole estuary. They have admitted this in discussions I have had with them. They have admitted that they would not be able to manage the whole estuary as they do not have the necessary background and experience to do so. They have done a good job in managing their own port but they feel that is as much as they can do. Managing the whole estuary would be another matter altogether.

The Minister went on to say that he would appoint two members to the board to represent Foynes' interests in recognition of the harbour's importance for the successful operation of the corporation. There was no mention of appointing representatives of Limerick Harbour Commissioners to the board in recognition of the outstanding work they have done. Deputy McCartan also referred to this issue. No one believes the Minister's stated reasons for the favourable treatment of Foynes. This is obviously a sop to the Minister for Justice, Deputy Collins, who in the past was totally opposed to a single authority. He resisted all efforts in the past to the setting up of an authority. There is no doubt that this Bill would not be before us today were it not for the fact that the headquarters is to be located in Foynes. I say that with all due respect to the Minister. Only for this sop being handed out to Foynes I am convinced we would not be discussing this Bill here [647] today. Perhaps we would be discussing Deputy Doyle's proposal.

Mr. Daly: Information on Brendan Daly  Zoom on Brendan Daly  Leaving Foynes out.

Mr. Deenihan: Information on Jimmy Deenihan  Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan  It is to the credit of the Foynes Trustees that they refused to swallow Deputy Collins's bait. I have before me copies of various press releases issued by Deputy Collins during the years and also newspaper reports. For example, let me quote from a report which appeared in The Limerick Leader of 17 May 1986 under the heading “Collins blasts harbour measure”:

The Bill circulated this week to establish an authority for the Shannon Estuary has been blasted by Mr. Gerard Collins T.D., a strong supporter of Foynes Harbour autonomy. Mr. Collins said that the new Bill was a political smoke screen to satisfy demands by supporters of the Government within Limerick Harbour Commissioners. The Bill is just adding more bureaucracy to the top heavy bureaucracy that already exists. This Harbours Bill will be in dry dock before long. It has no financial element contained within it and it will further complicate the promotion of the Shannon Estuary.

That is exactly what I have said here today. He emphasised the whole aspect of resources——

Mr. Carey: Information on Donal Carey  Zoom on Donal Carey  Times have changed.

Mr. Deenihan: Information on Jimmy Deenihan  Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan  A headline in the Limerick Leader in November 1986 said “Estuarial Authority could swallow Port”: “Foynes harbour, which has declared its independence of the proposed new estuarial authority, could still be swallowed up by Ministerial order, warned Deputy Gerry Collins during the Second Reading of the new Ports Bill in the Dáil. He expressed his total opposition of having Foynes included in any new ports Bill”.

Mr. Daly: Information on Brendan Daly  Zoom on Brendan Daly  Under that type of arrangement.

[648]Mr. Deenihan: Information on Jimmy Deenihan  Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan  In the Irish Independent on 21 November 1986 the headline was “Hands off Foynes, warns Collins”. It went on to say that Deputy Gerry Collins warned the Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach, Deputy Nealon, that if he interfered with the livelihood of the people working at Foynes there would be trouble. In the debate to which I referred the Fianna Fáil spokesman on Transport and Communications, Deputy Wilson, said that the Harbours Bill was surreptitious. That is a fine big word. Deputy Wilson compared it to the parable of Jonah and the whale, that any dissenters were just swallowed up. You could say exactly the same about this Bill.

Mr. Daly: Information on Brendan Daly  Zoom on Brendan Daly  That was in relation to Deputy Mitchell's Bill.

Mr. Deenihan: Information on Jimmy Deenihan  Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan  Minister Mitchell's Bill intended to leave out Foynes but this Bill includes it. I have a press release from the Foynes harbour trustees in response to the proposed Bill.

Acting Chairman:  The Deputy is over-quoting.

Mr. Deenihan: Information on Jimmy Deenihan  Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan  I do not think one can over-quote when it is relevant to the argument.

Mr. Noonan: Information on Michael Noonan  Zoom on Michael Noonan  (Limerick East): On a point of order, will you quote the Standing Order which says that one can make a quotation of a certain length?

Acting Chairman:  To quote at length is not in order. I have given great leniency to the Deputy and I am just reminding him of that fact.

Mr. Deenihan: Information on Jimmy Deenihan  Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan  The quotations are relevant to my arguments. The trustees unanimously expressed very strong opposition to proposals contained in this Bill because they consistently opposed their own dissolution and they said that the proposed Bill provides for the dissolution of Foynes harbour trustees. They said that the functions of the corporation as [649] outlined in the proposed Bill were inconsistent with the functions of the harbour Authority up to now and conflicted with the statutory functions of Bord Fáilte, the Shannon Free Airport Development Company, etc. They said that there were no Exchequer costs or staffing implications in regard to the Department of State, State bodies and local authorities as a result of this Bill. They said that no investment would mean no jobs. They are basically their main objections to the Bill.

The proposed Bill provides for the dissolution of Foynes harbour trustees, Limerick Harbour Commissioners and Cappagh and makes no provision for the dissolution of the authorities that control Clarecastle, Kilbaha, Querrin, Kildysart, Carrigaholt, Knock and Labasheeda on the north bank and Kilteely, Glin, Tarbert and Saleen on the south bank. Will the Minister allow these piers to remain in operation? What is the legal position, for example, of Clarecastle? I understand that Clarecastle have their own commissioners. Why were they not dissolved in the Bill? What is to prevent Clarecastle from becoming a mini-Foynes?

The Limerick Harbour Commissioners have always expressed the view that the principal office should be a matter for the new Authority, not the plaything of local politicians. Deputy McCartan and Deputy O'Dea said that a new Authority should decide where they would locate.

It is difficult to accept the Minister's explanation for the exclusion of Clarecastle as a statutory port in the proposed Authority on the grounds that it has no importance. Clarecastle and other piers were included in previous Bills. Why are they now excluded? I have extracts from speeches in the Seanad — I will not quote — and the Minister's colleague, Senator Honan, said that she did not understand how a Minister could come into the House with legislation to abolish the Clarecastle trustees because of a High Court decision in November 1982. The trustees appointed a fully qualified harbour master, developments have gone ahead and barges are now coming up to Clarecastle. The new body bought adjoining [650] land and buildings costing between £80,000 and £100,000. Senator Honan said she did not understand how a Minister could repeal the Act and do away with this new body.

I can see major problems ahead if the Minister allows all these little piers to operate separately without explaining why the new body will have total control over them. I can see great annoyance being caused if nothing is done to curb the powers of Clarecastle and to include them in this authority. Perhaps the Minister will refer to this when replying. As I mentioned, CW Shipping Limited have leased Clarecastle and Kildysart piers from the Clarecastle harbour trustees and Clare County Council respectively. The company have developed proposals in respect of these two piers and have applied for EC Structural Funds for Clarecastle pier, for example. Indeed, I was looking through a submission by SFADCo to the working group for the south-west region for the national plan in relation to small ports' Structural Funds to the value of £500,000 for improvements proposed for harbour facilities at Clarecastle to encourage import and export of mineral products. The Bill will have to be amended to ensure that Clarecastle is included.

The Minister referred to membership. Deputy Doyle's proposal was that there would be a 21 member Authority with overall responsibility for policy, planning and development of the estuary. It was envisaged that the members would elect a seven member board of management which would have responsibility for the day-to-day administration of the estuary. This proposal had greater potential for all sides of the estuary.

The Minister's proposal to restrict the membership of the board to 13 is too narrow and would not permit representation of all the interests involved. I do not agree with the method of appointment to the board. If the board consists of members who have an interest in tourism, fishing or the provision of recreational facilities, they will direct their policies towards such developments. If the members of the board do [651] not have expertise in port development, that role will be diminished within the proposed Authority.

There are many things I could say about the Bill based on the studies that have been carried out on the estuary. I should like to tell the Minister that, despite my criticisms of the measures, I appreciate the fact that he has introduced the Bill. I hope all sides of the House will work together to produce a Bill that will be acceptable to everybody. We want to ensure the future of the estuary. I am not trying to be negative or trying to block the Bill because I realise that anything is better than nothing for Kerry and to date we have not received anything.

We welcome any new developments and I will be in favour of any Bill that offers hope for Kerry. However, I can see problems arising if the Bill is adopted in its present form. There is a need to amend some of its provisions and I hope the Minister will accept suggestions from this side of the House. I look forward to legislation being in place by the summer to ensure the maximum development of the Shannon estuary. I should like to compliment the Minister on introducing the Bill. It was not an easy task. I do not think the Minister, if he has his way, would have located the headquarters in Foynes but he has had to try to please everybody. If the Minister succeeds in getting the Bill through the House, he will deserve great credit.

Mr. Kemmy: Information on Jim Kemmy  Zoom on Jim Kemmy  It goes without saying that as an island nation good trade and good transport are essential to us. It also goes without saying that we need efficient and well-run ports. Our waterways are very much a part of a good transport system. Unfortunately, when one looks at the history of the Shannon estuary and the difficulties experienced in trying to establish one estuarial Authority, which I favour, one will see that we have a very sad background in regard to the development of our waterways.

Difficulties arose when efforts were [652] made to introduce the necessary legislation in the House. Some of those difficulties arose because successive Ministers, and Governments, were afraid to grasp the nettle. They were influenced by narrow, petty party political and parochial attitudes. The Minister may claim that he is good at knocking heads together elsewhere, and I am not against knocking heads together if that is for a good purpose and in the interests of a progressive policy for the nation, but the Bill contains many narrow, party political and parochial attitudes. If it contained the opposite I would say so in the House because I am not a parrot here. I have almost 100 submissions on this topic. I do not come into the House to parrot the words of somebody else or to steal or plagiarise documents. I say my own piece and express my feelings about various topics. I have not come to the House as a Limerick city chauvinist but as a socialist from a broad perspective in relation to Ireland and in the European context.

In my view the Bill is flawed throughout. It is ill-conceived and ill-advised. Unfortunately, in spite of what the Minister said on Second Stage, he has lost a good opportunity to do some pioneering, to do something real and solid. He has lost an opportunity of setting a good example of what can be done in regard to other Bills that will be presented to the House. I am referring to legislation for the ports of Cork, Dublin and elsewhere.

Two months ago the House considered the Shannon Free Airport Development Company (Amendment) Bill which extended the writ of that company along the banks of the estuary to north Kerry. That represented a good and logical development because the estuary is in the middle of the mid-west. It is natural that the banks of the estuary should be under the jurisdiction of SFADCo which is located in the middle of the region.

Given the Government's decision to extend the brief of SFADCo to north Kerry, it would be a natural follow on for the Minister for the Marine to establish a central and democratic Authority in the estuary. That is not being done and we [653] do not have one central body controlling the estuary. Such a move should take place in a democratic, open and honest way. Instead we have this botched, cobbled together legislation which seeks to eliminate the Limerick Harbour Commissioners. I am not a spokesman for that body, and I am not a member of it, but it is important to point out that the commissioners have been in control of the Shannon estuary since 1815. The Minister has turned his back on that body and its record of public service over the years. The Bill ignores the contribution of the staff of the commissioners to the efficient operation of the business of running the estuary in that time. In short, the Bill ignores the competence, professionalism and contribution of the Limerick Harbour Commissioners.

I am not a Limerick city chauvinist and I will be the first to admit that the Limerick Harbour Commissioners is not and was not a suitable title for a body with control of the Shannon estuary. It should be said, however, that the title dates back to 1815 but it is now outdated and outmoded. It has no use in the present context. However, I have some difficulty with the name the Minister has given to the new Authority. I do not think the word “corporation” is a suitable description for a harbour Authority. I have difficulty with the context of a Bill which downgrades Limerick city and its citizens by its proposal to move the headquarters of the new body to Foynes. That is a most unusual and provocative proposal. It is without precedent and I have great difficulty in understanding why the Minister should include a provision to do that in the Bill unless, of course, one can understand the political implications behind the Bill.

There is no valid reason to move the headquarters to Foynes. Indeed, it defies logic and common sense. Limerick city straddles the River Shannon. It links the banks of the estuary and links County Clare with County Limerick. It is the ideal location for the headquarters of any body charged with the control of the estuary. The city of Limerick is the capital of the region and it has been a port for [654] more than 1,000 years. It has been the traditional headquarters of the estuary. Indeed, the name of Limerick is synonymous with the River Shannon and the estuary. Therefore, it is the natural centre.

A proposal to locate the new headquarters of the estuarial body in Foynes is tantamount to proposing that the headquarters of the Dublin Port Authority should be moved from Dublin city to Howth or Skerries or to proposing that the headquarters of the Cork Port Authority should move from Cork city to Ringaskiddy. I hope Members do not consider my views on this issue to be narrow. I am speaking as a democrat and not merely as a representative of Limerick East. I do not have anything against Foynes. We live in a changing world and we must look around us at all times. However, the decision in regard to the headquarters of the new body cannot be justified or defended on any grounds except that of parochialism and petty party considerations.

Limerick city, particularly the area around the harbour and the docks, has suffered badly from unemployment and emigration in recent years. It needs all the support it can get from the Government. The city needs many groups, public and private, to locate their headquarters there. It also needs as much prestige and status as it can muster, particularly now that the city has been designated a university city. We should always try to enhance and upgrade our regional capitals, particularly one like Limerick which is close to Shannon Airport.

In the area around Limerick port, there has been a great deal of dereliction in the last decade or so, particularly since the departure of Ranks and other factories. That area should be upgraded considerably but there are no provisions in the Bill for tackling the problems I have referred to. Instead the Bill proposes to move the headquarters of the harbour Authority out to Foynes and this will leave Limerick as a kind of vacuum. I do not think this is a good enough proposal from a Minister who [655] lives in close proximity to the city of Limerick. The Minister for Justice, Deputy Collins, and the Minister for Defence, Deputy Noonan, both live in West Limerick and they too should have a more sensitive approach in this respect. As the Minister is well aware, a new bridge was built across the River Shannon last year, the Shannon Bridge, and this has opened up great potential and possibilities for Limerick. However, these possibilities are not explored in this Bill; they are totally ignored. I regret very much this lost opportunity to explore the possibilities for that area.

As I have said, I have nothing whatsoever against Foynes but it cannot be denied that this Bill is weighted heavily in favour of that town, not only with regard to the headquarters of the proposed new body but in other aspects also. For example, the proposal to appoint two representatives of the Foynes harbour trustees to the new board is a most undemocratic and unfair decision and further loads the dice in favour of Foynes. This is clear preferential treatment for Foynes. Not only does the Bill propose to abolish the Limerick Harbour Commissioners, the largest navigational lighting authority in the State with the exception of Irish Lights, as other people have said, but it also proposes to downgrade the port's managerial functions at a time when sea transportation is essential to our survival as a nation.

The Bill also proposes to reduce drastically the membership of the new board and to deny Tipperary County Council and local trade unions any representation on the new corporation. I believe that trade unions should be represented on the new body. They are represented at present on the board of the Limerick Harbour Commissioners and they should be represented on any new body which is appointed to control the estuary. The Minister should not appoint a trade union nominee who is also a member of the Fianna Fáil Party as one of his four nominees. People in trade unions are entitled to be members of the Fianna Fáil Party, [656] or any party, but this would be a wrong attitude to adopt. The trade union person appointed to the board should represent the interests of his members and not be appointed because of his loyalty to any party. I hope the Minister will take that point on board.

This Bill is a kick in the teeth to the staff of the Limerick Harbour Authority. These people have served the Authority and the Shannon Estuary well over the decades and they have good reason to be worried about the proposals in the Bill. They are worried about their jobs, their pensions and their futures and it is to be hoped that their jobs and pension rights will be guaranteed if they are transferred to this new body.

The role of the Minister for Justice, Deputy Gerry Collins, in matters such as this down through the years has been mentioned by other speakers and, in particular, by Deputy Deenihan. I have not come here to stigmatise the Minister or to vilify him. I would achieve nothing by doing that. I have not come into this House to be destructive or negative. I have come here to speak in a constructive and positive way and to give my honest opinion on the merits and demerits of the Bill. Down through the years the Minister was a very strenuous opponent of any attempt to establish a single united estuarial Authority. Deputy Deenihan quoted from press reports and, indeed, hardly a week went by when the Minister was not quoted on the pages, and sometimes the front pages, of the Limerick Leader castigating and vilifying any attempt to establish one estuarial Authority. I do not understand how he has managed to change his attitude so quickly.

I see the effort to upgrade Foynes, to make it the headquarters of the new body and to appoint two members of the Foynes Harbour Trustees to the new body as an effort to placate the Minister for Justice, Deputy Collins. This is not a good attitude. It is inconsistent, illogical and does not impress anybody. I will not say much more on this subject except that this Bill is merely a monument to parish pump politics. We are trying to make [657] one of the great natural amenities of this country a monument to gombeen politics, but we should get above that.

I will not delay the House much longer because, as I said, I am not here as a parrot to read other people's statements. I have come here to speak my mind. I should like to make a few points about the title to the Bill and the title of the proposed body. The title “Shannon Estuary Development Corporation” will not cover what the Minister has in mind. The old title, the Shannon Ports Authority, was much nearer the mark. The word “corporation” is identified mainly with big businesses and corporations such as Dublin Corporation, Cork Corporation and Limerick Corporation. As Deputy Deenihan has pointed out the title of the proposed new Shannon Estuary Development Corporation, SEDCo, is also confusing because of the existence already of the Shannon Free Airport Development Company, SFADCo. The similarity between the two titles will cause a good deal of confusion. If, as the Minister said earlier, SEDCo are to be a prototype for other Irish ports, will there be a Dublin port development corporation, a Cork port development corporation, etc.? Will the primary functions of port authorities be altered to include other activities? Perhaps the Minister will deal with this point when he is replying to the debate.

As the House knows, port activities by their very nature are a highly skilled operation and experienced staff are needed to carry them out. I do not think it is possible without proper planning and preparation to lump together the work of a port authority with mariculture, leisure and recreational activities unless the groundwork has been done first. I am not against the expansion of the traditional role of a port or estuarial authority. We live in a changing world and we must change also. Indeed, such an expansion will be inevitable in the years ahead for all ports in Ireland and could bring about a different enhanced role for Irish port authorities. However, it is easier to talk about this role than to achieve it and we must have our preparation done. In any [658] event the Bill is far too vague and bland about how this expansion can be brought about.

As I mentioned earlier, the reason Foynes has been chosen as the headquarters of the proposed new body has nothing whatsoever to do with estuarial considerations. It has more to do with the political considerations of the people involved. It will be wrong if the new body becomes a plaything for local politicians in that area who are carrying out public relations exercises and trying to enhance their reputations. We must get away from this if we are to develop that amenity.

It is against this background that, both as individuals and through their trade unions, the Limerick Harbour Authority workers have written to their local representatives and made strong representations that State or Exchequer guarantees should be provided to ensure their future pension entitlements. This is a very legitimate concern and it is of crucial importance to those people. They have every right to ask somebody like me to raise that matter in this House. The Minister may say that those provisions are included in the Bill, but we should emphasise that the workers who have served the Limerick Harbour Commissioners down through the years have rights which should be guaranteed in a very definite way.

As I have said, the inevitable and unfortunate consequences of this Bill will be the downgrading of Limerick port and with it the city and people of Limerick whose fortunes have been intertwined with those of the port for many generations. It is a sad reflection on the Minister and the Government that a great natural asset, the Shannon Estuary, should become the victim of parochialism and parish pump politics. What we need at present is vision and creativity with a view to developing that natural waterway, which is one of the finest we have, in a broadly based unified way, not only for the port but also for other industries in that area. This would not be in the interests of the mid-west region only. It would also be in the interests of the nation as a whole.

[659] This is a bad Bill. It should be withdrawn and taken back to the drawing board and the parliamentary draftsmen who botched this job at the behest of some politicians. A new Bill should be introduced. If the Minister persists with this Bill he is set on a collision course; he is already on another collision course elsewhere. He will find himself in some difficulty if he proceeds to pursue this Bill in its present form. It was said elsewhere that he is a good man at knocking heads together but he should be very careful not to put his own head on the chopping block in this respect. One must take account of people in this House who, like myself, have a definite viewpoint and take a democratic position, no matter how difficult it is, if we think it would benefit the region and the Irish people as a whole. This Bill is not a good one and it is brought about and motivated for other reasons.

The Shannon Estuary certainly needs further development, nobody denies that; I am as well aware of that as anybody else. A Bill like this should have been adopted by the House two or three decades ago but it did not happen. Now that it has come before the House it is a flawed Bill. It needs to be recast, changed and altered. This Bill will not result in a broad unified development of the Shannon Estuary. For that reason I am opposed to the Bill and will be voting against it.

Mr. Noonan: Information on Michael Noonan  Zoom on Michael Noonan  (Limerick East): I was first elected to politics in 1974 as a member of Limerick County Council. At that time there was a Shannon Harbours Bill and a Shannon Estuary Harbour Bill before this House. All during my 15 years of active life in politics there has been a Bill dealing with the problems of a unified authority in the Shannon Estuary at some form of gestation or at some level of debate in this House. “The Kennedys of Castleross” have gone off the air, “The Riordans” have come and gone, we are in the days of “Dallas” and “Dynasty” but we still have a Harbours Bill before us. The first question to be asked is: [660]“Why is there such a long delay in establishing what all sides of this House have said on several occasions is something which is desirable”? The answer is simple enough. The political mischieviousness of the Minister's party over the last 15 years has prevented a competent effective authority being established for the estuary. I do not think there is any other issue in my part of the country to which party politics was played quite callously to such an extent as on the issue of the Harbours Bill. On this occasion when Fianna Fáil in Government decided to address the question, rather than moving from considerations of confidence and efficiency, of control of shipping in the harbour or of the economic development of the region, again they have presented us with a bad political compromise which arises from conflict between members of the Cabinet who happen to be elected for constituencies in the catchment area of the estuary.

A Bill that is born in political controversy and is framed around a Cabinet table, with little reference to the parent Department, in an atmosphere of political compromise between competing Ministers, more conscious of their constituency interests than of the development of industry, has to be flawed. This Bill is certainly flawed.

I would like to comment first on the form the Bill is taking. The Taoiseach and the Minister for Finance in the context of their policy to control public expenditure have spoken on a number of occasions about the desirability of not having agencies overlapping. They have said that the private sector and the public sector should not overlap and that public sector agencies should not effectively be doing the same work as private sector agencies. Yet this Bill is cast in a mould which does not simply make the board a harbour authority for the estuary; it makes it a development agency for the estuary and in that respect is covering the same ground as the Shannon Free Airport Company for the development of certain types of industry on both banks of the estuary.

[661] The most ludicrous form of the overlapping of agencies is to be seen in County Kerry at present. I think it is worth commenting on in the context of this Bill. SFADCo are responsible for the industrial development of the north Kerry area. The IDA are responsible for the industrial development of south Kerry. Udarás na Gaeltachta are responsible for the Gaeltacht areas in the Dingle peninsula, in south Kerry and in the area of Caherciveen. On top of that there is a county development committee in Kerry. In the context of the drawing up of the national plan there is an advisory committee in north Kerry feeding in advice — and I presume being allowed to take on a permanent role as a monitor of the plan — in regard to the Mid-West region. There is a similar organisation in south Kerry with an advisory role and a monitoring role for the plan for the South-West region. On top of those separate six organisations — all responsible for the development of County Kerry — we now have the Minister coming into the House with the SEDCo Bill which, as well as establishing a new board to control and monitor the movement of ships in the Shannon estuary also has a development role for both banks of the estuary and will be responsible for marine and port related industries in north Kerry. As well as that SFADCo are responsible for the tourist industry in north Kerry and Bord Fáilte are responsible for the development of the tourist industry in south Kerry. We have eight agencies looking after one county. It really defies comment but it is the worst example of overlapping agencies that anyone can find anywhere in this country.

My first objection to this Bill is of a general nature — that the region does not need another development agency. This development agency will overlap seriously with the SFADCo function. It is curious that this should have occurred within 12 months of a Government decision, which was made more on a political basis than for reasons of efficiency or development, to give SFADCo the development role for the whole region.

Up to two years ago the IDA were [662] responsible for large industrial development in the region while SFADCo were responsible for small industrial development there. The cut off point was 50 jobs. Bord Fáilte was responsible for the development of tourism in the region but for reasons of efficiency, according to the Government statement, and to prevent the overlapping of the functions of agencies, the IDA and Bord Fáilte were moved out of the region and SFADCo were given the role. Why is that policy being reversed now and another agency being established which apart from its functions as an estuarial authority is also being given a role as the development agency for both banks of the estuary for marine-related industry and for port related industry and so on?

Mr. Daly: Information on Brendan Daly  Zoom on Brendan Daly  It is a creative agency.

Mr. Noonan: Information on Michael Noonan  Zoom on Michael Noonan  (Limerick East): That is the first problem I see with the Bill. The second problem I see is that it is a Bill which is derived from political considerations. The positions of Limerick city and the Limerick Harbour Commissioners have been ignored to the point of insult. Limerick Harbour Commissioners have been a very effective harbour board. Deputy Deenihan has outlined the developments of the estuary over the last number of years. Ship sizes entering the estuary have increased from 10,000 tonnes to 150,000 tonnes, the volume of goods loaded and discharged has increased from 400,000 tonnes to 5.6 million tonnes, a 14-fold increase, and investment in maritime industry adjacent to the waters controlled by Limerick Harbour Commissioners has achieved a level of almost £2 billion. I will not repeat what Deputy Deenihan said, but Limerick Harbour Commissioners have done a very good job in the estuary. To virtually ignore the work done by the Limerick Harbour Commissioners and the contribution they have made to the development of the estuary, by implication in the text of the Bill, is insulting to the workers and to those who on a voluntary basis as members of the Harbour Commission have worked there over the years.

[663] Limerick city is the capital of the region and also its infrastructural centre. It is the furthest down crossing point on the Shannon. There are three bridges in Limerick. It is a simple fact of life that once one goes beyond Limerick one cannot cross the river. All roads from surrounding counties which seek to cross the Shannon lead to Limerick. Limerick also holds the main railway station and the airport is nearby. It is a natural location for the headquarters of the estuarial Authority. Limerick Harbour Commissioners have had control of most of the estuary far away from the city, apart from segments controlled by Foynes. By implication in the Bill we are suggesting that Limerick's role is not important any more. Deputy Kemmy made the point that to move the headquarters from Limerick to Foynes is like moving Dublin Harbour Commissioners out to Howth or to Skerries or like moving the headquarters from Cork out to Ringaskiddy. It does not make sense.

If we look at the downgrading of the Limerick Harbour Commissioners and at the position of their staff, we see that in the representation of the board it will be mandatory under statute for two existing employees of Foynes Harbour Trustees to be members of the board. Will the Minister justify that? How can one take the employees from one of the harbours and put them on the board while at the same time ignoring the primary harbour commissioners in Limerick city? That would require an explanation to any outside observer but anybody who lives in the area does not require an explanation as it is obvious that this was Minister Collins's attempt to bring the Foynes Harbour Trustees on side with the recommendation of the Government. Will the Minister explain why he felt that no employee of the Limerick Harbour Commissioners, despite their excellent work done over the years, was considered good enough by the Minister to put on this board? Without mincing words, is it not simply a political stunt that two people from Foynes have been designated, two people whom we can identify from the [664] job designation which is in the Bill, to be put on the board? It is ironic that despite the best efforts of the Minister, Deputy Collins, these two people have also rejected this Bill as have the Foynes Harbour Trustees. Neither Limerick Harbour Commissioners nor Foynes Harbour Trustees want this Bill.

On the question of representation on the board, we should also look at the position of local authorities. Limerick Corporation which is central to the region will have one member on the board and there will be no other representation from the city of Limerick. That is not a fair representation from the primary port. The Minister has proceeded in this politically motivated way in circumstances where there was a perfectly adequate Bill available to him in his Department which was introduced by Deputy Jim Mitchell as Minister for Transport and which was accepted by the Limerick Harbour Commissioners and by the Foynes Harbour Trustees.

Mr. Daly: Information on Brendan Daly  Zoom on Brendan Daly  You ran away for four years.

Mr. Noonan: Information on Michael Noonan  Zoom on Michael Noonan  (Limerick East): There was no difficulty with that Bill on the Clare side of the river.

Mr. Daly: Information on Brendan Daly  Zoom on Brendan Daly  You ran away.

Mr. Noonan: Information on Michael Noonan  Zoom on Michael Noonan  (Limerick East): There was no running away from it, but you were at your usual mischievous tricks on the other side of the House. That was a perfectly good Bill, the Bill which Deputy Avril Doyle has tabled as a Private Members' Bill. That is the Bill that we should be putting before the House.

(Interruptions.)

Mr. Noonan: Information on Michael Noonan  Zoom on Michael Noonan  (Limerick East): The Minister will have plenty of opportunity to reply. The Limerick Ministers have put the Minister into a corner in that he has had to propose a Bill which he knows is flawed, which he knows is a political trick of the loop and which he knows does not answer the problems of the estuary. I am not surprised now that the Minister [665] is trying to turn the attention to this side of the House to hide his own embarrassment in having to bring this legislation in. It is a piece of political compromise which the Minister is attempting to pass off as a framework to establish a joint harbour authority for the estuary, which we all know is necessary.

The development of the ports will be vital in the Government's development plan. Quite a lot of attention and money are directed towards transport, in particular to the 1,500 miles of main road that has been singled out, where particular attention is drawn to the necessity for developing the infrastructure leading to our ports. We are a trading nation, we must export to live. Our standard of living depends on the volume and value of our exports. We will not be able to organise this country so that all our citizens can benefit from having work unless we produce more and having produced it we will not be able to sell it at home but must sell it abroad. It is quite clear that the ports have to be developed but in this Bill there is no attempt to integrate the development of the Shannon estuary. If we take simple things already referred to by Deputy Deenihan, we are talking about Foynes and Limerick being the two major ports, yet the Minister for the Environment has failed to up-grade the road between the two to the status of a national primary road.

There are other aspects of the Bill which are equally objectionable. There is the question of locating the principal office of the new Authority in Foynes. It is very difficult to justify this. Many people in Foynes do not believe that the HQ of the board will be in Foynes. They think there will be a brass plate arrangement which designates a particular office as the HQ and that perhaps board meetings will be held there once a month. There is no great enthusiasm among either the employees of Foynes Harbour Trustees or the local community for this headquarters because they simly do not trust the intention of the Bill to set it up there at all.

Over the years, Limerick Harbour [666] Commissioners have contributed in a very major way to the development of the city and the region. Likewise, Foynes harbour has been a very effective and efficient port contributing not only to employment in the region but to the development of the whole catchment area of that port. The Minister comes in now with a Bill which neither the professionals in Limerick nor those in Foynes want to see passed. I would ask the Minister to mend his hand in this respect and, if he cannot at this stage withdraw the Bill, at least amend it in a major way which makes it acceptable to the majority of people who have the interest of the estuary at heart.

Mr. Daly: Information on Brendan Daly  Zoom on Brendan Daly  That would take another 25 years.

Mr. Noonan: Information on Michael Noonan  Zoom on Michael Noonan  (Limerick East): When the Minister went down the road of massaging his Cabinet colleagues rather than establishing an estuarial authority, he was setting it up for another 25 years.

Mr. Daly: Information on Brendan Daly  Zoom on Brendan Daly  Nonsense.

Mr. Noonan: Information on Michael Noonan  Zoom on Michael Noonan  (Limerick East): Certainly this kind of rigmarole which is now passing as a serious Bill cannot be taken seriously in this House. I do not know the voting intentions of the other parties, but I can assure the Minister that we will oppose it on Second Stage. It is not a serious attempt at all——

Mr. Daly: Information on Brendan Daly  Zoom on Brendan Daly  The Deputy is contradicting himself again.

Mr. Noonan: Information on Michael Noonan  Zoom on Michael Noonan  (Limerick East):——to deal with the problems. I have said already that it insults Limerick Harbour Commissioners collectively, but sections 13, 14, 15 and 16 have been framed in a manner which has caused great concern for the staff. They are very concerned about the provisions in relation to transfer to the new Authority, about their pension payments and about the future status of the officers and staff of Limerick Harbour Commissioners. The staff are insistent that pension payments in any [667] new Authority be State guaranteed. I should like the Minister to take this on board, because there is great concern now among the employees of the harbour authority in Limerick. There is also concern among the employees in Foynes authority. The Minister is quite well aware of these concerns but, rather in the manner of the rod licence dispute, once he comes down from the mountain with the tablets of stone, he thinks it is a virtuous quality to stick to whatever bad decisions he has made and bulldoze them through.

Mr. Daly: Information on Brendan Daly  Zoom on Brendan Daly  The Minister's party have done some see-saws themselves.

Mr. Noonan: Information on Michael Noonan  Zoom on Michael Noonan  (Limerick East): Perhaps the Minister will succeed in bulldozing this legislation through the House, but if he does he will have done a bad job for the estuary, for Limerick city and county and for County Clare — a very, very bad job indeed. I would advise him to mend his hand.

There are so many things in this Bill which the Minister in logic cannot justify, and did not even attempt to justify in his introductory speech, that it is an extremely flawed Bill. We come to the position of Clarecastle. Why is it being left out? If the intention is not only to establish a joint estuarial authority for the whole estuary but also to make it a development agency for the estuary in certain respects, why are certain ports being left out? We can talk about Kilteely and Glin and Tarbert, they do not attract a particular level of shipping — perhaps that will develop in the future — but Clarecastle is up and running. There is one very effective businessman who is operating from Clarecastle. As Deputy Deenihan pointed out, there is a recommendation in the plan for the mid-west region for £0.5 million to be provided for the shipment of ore at Clarecastle.

If the Limerick Harbour Commissioners and the Foynes Harbour Trustees are being dissolved, why is Clarecastle being exempt? That is a reasonable question which should get a reasonable answer. While little places like [668] Kilteely pier would be left out on the grounds that they are not relevant anyway and are no longer used for shipping, Clarecastle is not in that category. The Minister should explain at the end of Second Stage debate why fish is being made of one and flesh of another. What is the intention?

Lastly, I have noticed SFADCo advertising recently for submissions on a study that they are undertaking into the development of the Shannon estuary. If I may refer again to the multiplicity of organisations now responsible for the development of Kerry, is it reasonable in this House to be proposing a SEDCo Bill, setting up a new agency to develop the estuary and at the same time have SFADCo employing consultants to do a further study into the development of the estuary? When I saw the new report initially that SFADCo were becoming involved in this study I thought that the Minister had come to his senses and was putting this Bill on the back burner until the report was to hand.

Any reasonable report by SFADCo on the development of the estuary would deal with the very questions with which we are now dealing. It would deal with the key questions of how best to develop shipping in the estuary, how best to develop the economic spin-off which arises from extra trade through the estuary and what would be the best way to organise and administer the estuary. If these are not the questions at which the SFADCo study is looking, I should like to know what those questions are. It is outrageous to be coming before the House with detailed proposals from one Minister of State while another Minister of State in the Department of Industry and Commerce is presiding over the expenditure of public funds by an agency to come up with answers to questions which the Minister for the Marine is suggesting he has answered in this Bill. Do Ministers in this Government talk to each other any more? Are these arrangements cobbled out in twos and threes in the offices of Leinster House rather than around the Cabinet table? I should like [669] the Minister to explain how the Department of Industry and Commerce are sanctioning this study by SFADCo when the Minister is arguing that he has the answers, that they are now before the House and that all we have to do is steam ahead?

It might be a very good idea if SFADCo were given a major role in developing the estuary. I cannot see any reason at all for the role of developing marine-related industries being taken away from SFADCo by the proposals in this Bill. If SFADCo were to remain the development agency for the region, for all development in the region, together with an estuarial authority which would deal simply with shipping in the estuary, that might be the best way to get the kind of Bill on the Statute Books for which there is support in this House and in the region.

I am opposed to this Bill; I am opposed to the form that it takes; I am opposed to the fact that it is a document more in the nature of a political compromise than a development strategy; I am opposed to the downgrading of Limerick city and Limerick harbour; I am opposed to the treatment of the staff and members of the Limerick Harbour Commissioners, by implication, in this Bill. I am opposed to the manner in which the representation is organised on the board by the designation of two people together with representatives of other interests on this board, and I am opposed to the “cart before the horse” arrangement where we are passing the Bill before we have the results of the study which has been sanctioned by the Minister for Industry and Commerce into the form and function of the body who could control the Shannon estuary and into the strategies which would develop the Shannon Estuary to its full potential under the agency of SFADCo.

I would like to return on Committee Stage, if this Bill gets to that stage, to sections which are causing concern. In particular I appeal to the Minister, if he gets his way, to deal with those sections [670] concerning the conditions governing pension, payment and security of employment of the staff in the harbour authorities affected, particularly those in the employ of the Limerick Harbour Commissioners.

Mr. D. O'Malley: Information on Desmond J. O'Malley  Zoom on Desmond J. O'Malley  I am glad to have the opportunity to speak on this Bill which was introduced just over a year ago and which we understood was shelved by the Government because it was not taken for such an extraordinary length of time. The information coming out about it was that the Government had changed their mind because they had done some form of deal with the Labour Party whereby their opposition to this Bill would be withdrawn and that they, for some reason that was not divulged, could be persuaded to abstain on this Bill. That story is perhaps vindicated by the absence of the Labour Party here today in this debate. I am the sixth, seventh or perhaps the eighth speaker on this Bill and the Labour Party have not yet offered. They have nobody in the House, nor have they had since the debate began. One wonders why. If the Labour Party are not here to give an explanation of the rather strange attitude they are taking to this Bill, perhaps the Minister would give it on their behalf.

Mr. Daly: Information on Brendan Daly  Zoom on Brendan Daly  I would like an explanation from the Deputy of his stand on this.

Mr. O'Malley:  The Minister's interruption confirms my suspicions in this regard.

Mr. Daly: Information on Brendan Daly  Zoom on Brendan Daly  The Labour Party can take care of themselves.

Mr. O'Malley:  It is a pity because when all parties and Independents in this House other than Fianna Fáil were expressing their opposition to this Bill and their intention to vote against it, the Bill was going to be defeated and there was no point in the Government trying to pursue it. They have got a new lease of life with regard to it now as a result [671] of the reported intention of the Labour Party not to oppose it.

A month or two ago the Labour Party Conference was held in Tralee and I understand that members of the Labour Party in both Limerick East and Limerick West before that conference expressed great concern and anxiety in regard to the reported attitude of the Labour Party on the Bill and that it was agreed then to withdraw the Bill from the Order Paper where it was due to be taken a week before that conference. Apparently the Labour Party approached the Minister at the time and asked him to withdraw it. That was done even though it had been ordered for that week at the Whip's meeting the previous Thursday. That was to encourage the delegates from Limerick East and Limerick West and perhaps from Clare to support what one would broadly call the establishment in the vital votes which took place at that conference, which they duly did. This, therefore, appears to explain the resurrection of this Bill when many of us thought happily that it was buried.

This is the third Bill of this kind that has been before this House. It is the third Bill that purports to achieve particular objectives in regard to the Shannon estuary that has been debated in this House. It is significant that neither of the two previous Bills was passed. I had reservations about some aspects of the previous Bills, but I would happily accept and agree to them now rather than have this Bill forced on us. Without question this Bill is not a serious effort to deal with the management and development of the Shannon estuary at all. This is simply a local, parochial effort to deal in a nakedly political fashion and for all the most local and parochial reasons with the management of one of the most important natural resources in this country. That is regrettable.

A feature of the Bill is that virtually everybody who has commented on it, of all the various interests, including the competing interests who are seen to be antagonistic to one another, are unanimous that this Bill is a disaster and should [672] not be proceeded with. It is unusual to get such extraordinary unanimity where there is a conflict between various interests. They are all united on that and I do not think they are wrong. It is not just local interests who are united on it. The Irish Ports Authorities Association, who held a special meeting to consider this Bill in early May last, a week or so after it was published, issued a statement in which they said the content of the Bill, especially in regard to functions and membership, was far removed from any recognised concept of commercial port operation, and the danger inherent in the Bill that revenues from commercial port users could be allocated to a diversity of non-commercial activities unrelated to port operations was stressed. Of course, they are perfectly right. Anyone who even reads the Bill, let alone knows anything about the background concerned, will see that is so. One of the main sections of this Bill, section 4, sets out the functions of the corporation and lists them in order. The normal thing in a Bill of this kind as in a memorandum of association of a company is to list the functions in order of priority or importance as the promoters of the company or corporation see it, and that is the way they are done here. What do we find? Down at the very bottom of a relatively lengthy list of objectives of this corporation is the following: “to provide, maintain, operate and improve such harbour services and facilities as the Corporation considers necessary or desirable in its functional area”, the last and least important, in the Minister's eyes, of all the functions. If one has any doubt about it one has only to read the explanatory memorandum provided by the Department of the Marine where they are also listed. I quote from that memorandum:

The Corporation will have a mandate to promote, co-ordinate and develop investment in marine-related industrial, tourist, recreational and amenity facilities and to encourage activities likely to contribute to the realisation of the marine potential of the Shannon Estuary. It will also take [673] over, manage and operate the existing harbours at Limerick, Foynes and Kilrush.

The fact that it will also manage the existing harbours is more or less an afterthought. It is a secondary function of this corporation. It is deplorable that this should be the case. It is made all the more deplorable in as much as this Bill, if passed, will purport to give these various functions set out at length in section 4 (1) of this corporation.

They overlap with a whole variety of State agencies — the IDA, SFADCo, Bord Fáilte and the various local authorities in the estuary region. The functions given to the corporation are precisely the functions which those bodies have. There is, as is well known, already a problem in that region of overlapping jurisdiction as between the IDA and Shannon Development, which is certainly not benefiting the region. There is a problem on the tourism side as between Bord Fáilte and Shannon Development which is the cause of a lot of problems. In order to try to avoid these problems Shannon Development have more or less voluntarily withdrawn from all aspects of tourism other than one, where they can carry on the local management without conflicting with Bord Fáilte's promotion of the region.

As I explained to the House during the debate a couple of months ago on the Shannon Free Airport Development Bill, we have the extraordinary situation where the IDA have been hunted out of the mid-west region and have produced a map of Ireland for distribution abroad showing two parts of this island blacked out, Northern Ireland and the mid-west region. Notwithstanding that, the function of this corporation according to section 4 (1) (a) is to promote, co-ordinate and develop in conjunction with the Industrial Development Authority activities in this region. The whole thing is crazy.

The sheer craziness of it is underlined by advertisements which appeared some weeks ago in the press announcing that SFADCo were carrying out a survey with [674] a view to producing a report on the development of the estuary from all points of view. Of course, the marine related aspects of the estuary must by definition be among the most important.

I understand from SFADCo that they are doing this as agents of the Taoiseach's office, not the Government, not the Minister for the Marine, not the Minister for Industry and Commerce, the Minister for Tourism and Transport or anyone else.

The incredible amount of overlap is further accentuated. The House should seriously ask what this Government are at in relation to the mid-west region. They are all operating independently of each other. If some major study of this kind is being carried out with a view to promoting the development of the estuary, obviously they should not be promoting legislation which will tie things down in a particular way while the study is going on, particularly as it is hoped that the study will be completed by the end of June. That is only two months away.

Nevertheless we have this Bill before us today in an effort to put into legislation a lot of detailed proposals regarding the development of the estuary which may totally conflict with whatever recommendations come from this report, in regard to which people are now making submissions. What is the point of making submissions if this legislation is to go through? This is what the law will be if the Bill is passed and the recommendations of SFADCo in relation to the development of the estuary, no matter how eminently sensible and suitable they might be, can be forgotten about. As far as this Minister is concerned this is to be the law. It is extremely regrettable and it underlines the absolute futility of the constant overlapping of jurisdiction among State bodies which is at its worst in this region. There are more of them there than anywhere else and this Bill is adding another.

There is very considerable and legitimate concern about the definition of what is called in the Bill the functional area of this corporation. It is very different from the definition in each of the two preceding Bills. I recall that in each of [675] those Bills the definition was from Sarsfield Bridge to the sea to a line drawn from Kerry Head to Loop Head, but it also listed every pier and harbour in between. For some extraordinary reason this is not done now in section 5. A long list of places which were included previously are not included here. The list would include the following piers: Kilbaha, Querrin, Carrigaholt, Knock, Labasheeda and Kildysart on the north bank and Kilteery, Glin, Tarbert and Saleen on the south bank. Of course, Clarecastle harbour on the north bank was specifically included in the previous Bills and we are entitled to ask why it is excluded now. There are plenty of people in the region who will say it is excluded because part of it is already leased privately as is one of the other piers I have listed. This is done by the Minister for his own purposes and he does not want these things included.

The definition in section 5 which is markedly different from the earlier definition makes no reference to the Fergus estuary or to tidal waters in any of the other tributaries of the Shannon west of Sarsfield Bridge. One is entitled to ask why. Are we to have some rival port authority set up in the Fergus estuary in opposition to this one? If not, why not include it in this Bill? The Minister grins at this and at so many other things, but we get no answers. Unfortunately it is not even drafted accurately. There is reference to Sarsfield Bridge in the county of Limerick as being the boundary of one end. I happen to have lived in Limerick for 50 years and I know that Sarsfield Bridge is in the city of Limerick. It has nothing to do with the county of Limerick, nor did it ever have. In any event, the appropriate line from which to draw the boundary at the eastern end would be the Shannon Bridge at Limerick. There can now be no navigation east of the Shannon Bridge. I do not know the point of referring to Sarsfield Bridge as being in the county of Limerick.

Section 5 needs complete redrafting to make it absolutely clear that all the piers concerned and the Fergus estuary, all the [676] tidal parts of the Fergus and any other rivers such as the Moy are included and that the new Authority would have jurisdiction over them if it comes into effect. To do otherwise would be absolutely ridiculous. It is worth bearing in mind that there is a planning application before Limerick County Council at present in respect of a proposed new jetty of a major kind, if it ever takes place, a couple of miles east of Glin. Will that be included?

Debate adjourned.


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