Thursday, 18 May 1995
Dáil Éireann Debate
24. Mr. J. Walsh asked the Minister for the Marine the Minister who has responsibility for the development and provision of pier facilities around the coast and on the offshore islands; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6940/95]
26. Miss Harney asked the Minister for the Marine if the Interdepartmental Committee on Island Development has a report on the condition of Kilmurray Pier, Inishmore, Aran Islands, County Galway; if grant assistance will be made available for the necessary repairs and improvements to the pier; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9060/95]
42. Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for the Marine the plans, if any, he has for the provision of suitable ferry terminals for boats coming and going to offshore islands; and whether responsibility for the provision of this facility has been allocated to the Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach, Deputy Carey, who has responsibility for western development. [6217/95]
There are in excess of 900 harbours, piers and landing places along the Irish coast and on offshore islands. A small number of these are privately owned, six are owned by Department of the Marine, one by Iarnród Éireann, 24 by boards of harbour commissioners and the vast majority by local authorities. The primary responsibility for development and provision of facilities at these locations rests with the owners. The funding of such developments is a commercial matter for the owners in each case. Limited funding is provided by the Department of the Marine under specific aid schemes.
The Department's responsibilities in relation to the development and provision of pier facilities around the coast and on the offshore islands fall into the following categories: (a) grants-in-aid are provided to the boards of commissioners of harbour authorities set up under the Harbours Act, 1946, in respect of certain harbour infrastructural development works; (b) the Department directly controls and operates Dún Laoghaire harbour; (c) the Department directly controls and operates fishery harbour centres at Howth, Dunmore East, Castletownbere, Ros a' Mhíl and Killybegs under the Fishery Harbour Centre Acts of 1968 and 1980; (d) the Department directly operates and maintains a number of small piers under the  Harbours Act, 1902, for example, North Harbour on Oileán Cléire, Liscannor in County Clare and Cleggan in County Galway. The Department has maintenance responsibility for ex-congested district board piers such as Dooagh in County Mayo and Magheragallan in County Donegal and (e) grants-in-aid are provided to maritime local authorities for certain fishery harbour development works at their harbours.
In addition to providing the funding for works in category (e), the Department of the Marine provides a design and construction service by contract or by direct labour for some of the grant-aided works. Similar agency services are provided to the Department of Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht for harbour works on islands and on the mainland in Gaeltacht areas.
Responsibility for the maintenance of Kilmurvey Pier lies with Galway County Council and its development may be eligible for funding from the Department of Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht since it is located within the Gaeltacht. My Department has been asked to update the costs of doing certain development works to this pier and will report this to the Department of Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht.
I have no general function in relation to maintenance of harbours, quays or slipways. That is the responsibility of individual owners. Equally I have no function in relation to provision or maintenance of facilities for access to offshore islands whether those facilities are on the islands themselves or on the mainland. I have no direct function in relation to the workings of the Interdepartmental Committee on Island Development, although my Department is, of course, represented on the committee.
I am pleased that my colleague, Deputy Carey, has been appointed Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach, with special responsibility for co-ordinating the Government's commitment to western development and rural renewal and for development and improvement of living conditions on our offshore islands. In  that capacity Deputy Carey chairs the interdepartmental islands committee.
Mr. M. Smith: Will the Minister accept that as a maritime nation with fishing and tourism potential many of our piers and ports are in a dilapidated condition? Will he consider introducing a coherent national strategy to see to what extent we could, on a phased basis, develop these resources in conjunction with local authorities and with owners? Perhaps grant-aid could be given to priority cases. The country would benefit greatly as a result.
Mr. Coveney: If I had the resources, nothing would give me more pleasure than to do what the Deputy suggests. A large number of harbours, piers and landing places need to be developed. We provide grant-in-aid to maritime local authorities for certain fishery harbour development works and, from visiting some of our harbours, I am aware of the great potential that exists for what the Deputy suggested. I could not, however, commit myself to a national strategy for carrying out the development suggested by the Deputy within a reasonable timescale, and some areas need priority. I was impressed with the arguments put forward in Duncannon yesterday and I hope to develop other similar ports during my time as Minister. Relatively small amounts of money spent in such a manner would produce a good local response and assist local development and employment. I would do what the Deputy suggested if I could obtain the necessary resources.
Mr. M. Smith: I am well aware that resources are limited and the Opposition do not wish to present a picture that such development could be achieved at one time. From a cursory glance at the amount of available resources, it is obvious that some areas  must be given priority, local authorities may need to be encouraged to build up resources and involve local communities. If a community is not prepared to support a local initiative, it will not receive priority.
Mr. Coveney: In one case a local authority is prepared to allocate 25 per cent and the local harbour board another 25 per cent of the cost of developing the harbour in their area. It would be worth sending out a message that the Government is more inclined to support those who support themselves. That would also help establish which areas should be given priority.
Mr. Sargent: Has the Minister the desire or power to ensure that harbours are maintained in a safe and presentable condition? Does he agree that the Dublin Port authority has dragged its heels in terms of the harbours at Balbriggan and Skerries? Does he propose requiring an owner to hand over a harbour to a local authority in a safe, presentable and working condition? A hand-over is contemplated for Balbriggan and Skerries? “Safe” could mean simply boarding up the harbour and allowing it go out of use, but that would not mean the harbour would be in a presentable condition.
Mr. Coveney: The majority of ports are not in the ownership of the Department of the Marine or under the control of harbour boards. In the main, they are owned by local authorities. Earlier today the Minister of State and I announced an EU funded programme of £30 million, including £1.5 million for environmental improvement works, for the Dublin Port area.
Mr. Sargent: As a result of some  quirk of history the Dublin port authority operates the harbours at Balbriggan and Skerries but have chosen to ignore them. It has also forgotten to inform the Minister of that position. It is Dublin Port, not the local authority, who is responsible.
Mr. Coveney: In that event it could use some of the EU funding to which I referred to develop those harbours. I will take up the matter with the Dublin port authority and ask the Minister of State to do likewise.
Mr. Browne: (Wexford): Will the Minister hold discussions with the Departments of Agriculture, Food and Forestry, Enterprise and Employment and the Taoiseach regarding Leader, county enterprise board and partnership programmes? Those organisations are in the business of creating jobs, but they refused funding for harbour development and suggested that applicants contact the Departments of the Marine or the Environment. There is far too much bureaucratic nonsense attached to those organisations. If they were set up to help create jobs they should be in a position to make funds available for the development of small harbours.
Mr. Coveney: I would welcome funding for harbour development works from any State agency. The Department of the Marine will assist the development of small harbours if the local authority provides equal funding and the harbour is prioritised. As funds are limited only a few harbours can be developed each year. If the Deputy has a particular harbour in mind he should give me the details and I will consider  the application, but I cannot make any promise as to the likely outcome.
Mr. H. Byrne: As other Departments appear to have substantial funding for job creation projects, I am sure the Minister could convince them that onshore and offshore jobs could be created at low cost, perhaps lower than is the case in many industries. I am aware of the Minister's and the Minister of State's great love of the sea. The Minister might be able to draw down additional funds if he considered creating more onshore jobs. As he agreed to support the development of Duncannon port, he could use it as an example for drawing down additional funds for onshore jobs rather than for the sole development of ports.
Mr. Coveney: I referred to my visit to Duncannon port, a project with which I was very impressed. For fear of being accused of favouritism. I did not select a port in my constituency. As my predecessor, Deputy Andrews, was a heavy-weight I was genuinely surprised he was not able to convince the then Minister for Finance of the importance of the point raised by Deputy Byrne. I am also having difficulty in that regard. The Department of the Marine is not given the priority it deserves in terms of its potential to create jobs at relatively low cost and other local economic activity. I intend to ensure it is given priority. We have been given some additional resources this year but the Department is underfunded generally and I welcome the Deputy's support in that.
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