Thursday, 6 May 1999
Dáil Éireann Debate
Mr. Deasy: People in Ardmore, County Waterford, were horrified to learn that the boatcove at Ardmore was not included in the small harbours programme announced by the Minister. More than £4 million was made available to improve the infrastructure of a variety of small harbours around the country.
Ardmore has a small pier and a good deal of work is being done on the boatcove section of it. A total of £45,000 was secured from the Department of the Marine and Natural Resources in 1995 and £38,000 was secured from the county council. That constituted a fair sum of money necessary to carry out a certain amount of work.
The boatcove and pier are not weather-proof. One cannot bring a boat in or out or moor it in the area during bad weather, and the weather need not even be stormy. In any period of bad weather the whole area is very exposed. A further injection of cash is badly needed.
This problem may arise because Waterford County Council may not have applied for a grant under this small harbours programme this year. If that is the case, it was extremely remiss because everybody knows work on the harbour must be completed.
A study carried out by University College Cork indicates that between £0.8 million and £1.5 million is needed to make the harbour safe in all weathers. That would be a considerable investment. Some of the projects listed for which money was granted involve as much as £400,000 for 1999.
I advocate that funding for Ardmore harbour be considered on a phased basis to make it a safe haven in all weathers. That is essential. It has tremendous potential. It could employ up to 50 or 60 people. When the driftnet salmon exercise was in full swing in the 1970s and early 1980s, approximately 40 people were employed full-time during the summer season. All that has finished now because of restrictions, but the pier could be  utilised by 50 or 60 fishermen who might fish for whitefish, lobster, crab or shrimp.
Ardmore harbour also has major potential for leisure activities. Allowances should be made for the needs of those engaged in the leisure sector and fishermen. I ask the Minister to give a commitment that Ardmore will be considered under future programmes and that he and some officials in his Department will study the work carried out by the experts from University College Cork and implement the programme they laid out to make the harbour weather-proof.
Minister for the Marine and Natural Resources (Dr. Woods): I thank the Deputy for the points he made about Ardmore harbour. I am pleased to have this opportunity to address the House on harbour development and, in particular, on the 1999 programme for the development of small harbours. This programme supports investment in a considerable number of small harbours and landing facilities around the coast to the benefit of fishing, aquaculture and marine tourism and leisure. It is a clear indication of the Government's commitment to the provision of safe, modern and efficient ports and landing places.
The small harbours programme I announced last month was an entirely new initiative which will facilitate and support improvement and development works at 41 locations in eight counties. It represents a total investment of almost £4 million and will be a major boost for fishermen, fish farmers and those involved in tourism and leisure projects as well as local coastal communities.
The investment will focus on providing new facilities, or upgrading existing ones, at locations where existing infrastructure is no longer adequate for current uses. There is a particular emphasis on facilities for the fast expanding aquaculture industry, but the works to be carried out under the programme will also help to underpin jobs in other key areas, such as inshore fisheries, sea angling and marine tourism. My Department will contribute 75 per cent of the cost of the works at each of the locations with the balance of the funding coming from local authorities.
The Deputy will appreciate that my Department has an extensive list of proposals on hands for harbour development and, notwithstanding the very substantially increased funding provided by the Government this year, the demand for financial assistance for works is considerably greater than the resources available. For example, numerous proposals were submitted to my Department over recent years by fishery harbour users, including fishermen, processors and the aquaculture industry as well as local authorities. In addition, my Department identified upgrading and development requirements at key centres of activity around the coast. It is necessary, therefore, to direct the available funding towards the  locations of greatest priority. This was the approach I adopted in drawing up the programme I announced last month.
Projects that cannot be included in a particular programme are kept on record in my Department and receive full and careful consideration in the context of any subsequent proposals for allocation of funding.
The harbour infrastructure at Ardmore is owned by Waterford County Council and, as with local authority harbour facilities generally, development or maintenance works are the responsibility of the county council in the first instance. As the Deputy stated, in 1995 my Department provided grant aid of £45,000 to the county council to support an overall investment of £75,000 in improvement works in Ardmore consisting of an extension of the existing slipway.
To date, Waterford County Council has not made any proposals to my Department for further development works at Ardmore, and the Deputy mentioned this might be the case. I assure him any proposals the local authority wishes to put forward will be considered carefully in the drawing up of further works programmes, taking account of available funding and overall investment priorities.
I would like to bring to the attention of the House that the 1999 small harbours programme is in addition to the £7.35 million which the Government made available this year for works at key strategic fishery harbours, including Killybegs, Dingle, Castletownbere, Burtonport, Greencastle and Kilmore Quay. I am pleased that the combined expenditure under the major fishery harbours programme and the small harbours programme represents an increase of almost 350 per cent over expenditure in 1998. I am confident this substantially increased expenditure will contribute significantly to developing Ireland's marine resources for the benefit of the country as a whole and for people in coastal communities in particular. I will also seek high levels of funding for harbour works in future years so that our shore infrastructure can effectively meet the requirements of the fishing fleet, the aquaculture industry and tourism and leisure needs through the provision of berthage and related facilities that are safe, up to date and efficient.
The Deputy said that, according to the UCC study, the estimated cost of carrying out the necessary work would be between £0.8 million to £1.5 million and he asked if funding that work could be considered on a phased basis. I will have that matter examined.
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