Dún Laoghaire Harbour Bill, 1994: Second Stage.

Thursday, 30 June 1994

Seanad Éireann Debate
Vol. 140 No. 18

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

Minister for the Marine (Mr. Andrews): Information on David Andrews  Zoom on David Andrews  The main purpose of the Bill is to raise finance on a commercial basis for the development of Dún Laoghaire harbour. The provisions of this Bill do not and are not intended to interfere with the planning process. It has been reported that this Bill interferes with the planning process and, as a Minister who has practised transparency and openness, I take a serious view of such an unsustainable charge. Notwithstanding that it was unnecessary to do so, I voluntarily submitted the project for planning permission in line with my policy of subjecting all such developments to the full [1890] rigour of the planning process. This is in accordance with my philosophy of providing the maximum amount of transparency in respect of all matters within my responsibility in the Department of the Marine and the Department of Defence.

The ferry terminal project was granted planning permission by Dún Laoghaire Rathdown County Council last February. The decision was appealed to An Bord Pleanála and the board is at present examining the appeal. I assure the House I will respect fully whatever decision An Bord Pleanála may make. What is being sought here is a financial facility to allow the project to proceed in the event that the board gives it approval. The enactment of the Bill is strictly without prejudice to that decision.

This development is part of a comprehensive integrated strategy for the development of ferry services on the central corridor. This complex strategy has become necessary in recent times because of modern technology and the state of the art ferries being brought into service. It involves the parallel and complementary development of ferry terminals at Dublin port and Dún Laoghaire and also the additional development of Holyhead.

The central corridor investment involves a number of elements, of which I will list the most important. The first is the introduction by B&I of a new large vessel which is being built at present at a cost of £45 million. This new passenger and freight ferry vessel will substantially increase the existing freight capacity on the Dublin-Holyhead route and will also increase the tourist car capacity. I thank B&I for the manner in which it will introduce the vessel. It is an expensive item but it is important for the future and the complementary development of the ports.

Stena Sealink plan to introduce the first large fast ferry of its kind in the world on the Dún Laoghaire-Holyhead route in May 1995. This is subject to planning permission, as is anything I say which relates to the future. I will accept the Planning Appeals Board decision without [1891] reservation, and that cannot be second guessed or gainsaid.

The introduction of this vessel, which is currently being built at a cost of £65 million sterling, will transform maritime transport on the central corridor, reducing the crossing time from three and a half hours to one and three quarter hours. This will provide major benefits for tourism and trade. These new state of the art vessels will put the central corridor at the forefront of modern ferry technology and services.

The main elements of the Dún Laoghaire ferry requirements include a dedicated berth to be provided for the HSS vessel and improved passenger facilities, which means infilling an area of 1.5 hectares to provide additional operational area. Due to the new technology and the new HSS vessel this area is two hectares smaller than that envisaged earlier. Previously, a far greater infill was intended and we should be grateful that the area necessary has been reduced. It is more efficient, more realistic and environmentally more acceptable to the confirmation of Dún Laoghaire harbour.

The HSS has been compared to a stadium to frighten people and to give an idea of what appears to be its excessive size. It is important to remember the new vessel is approximately five meters shorter in length than a conventional ferry such as the Hibernia. Where it does differ is that it has a broader stern, 40 metres as opposed to 21 metres. That is 20 paces in layman's terms and in my terms, because I am also a layman in this instance.

Concern has been expressed that up to 150,000 trucks a year would come through Dún Laoghaire. Present traffic is about 33,000 units per annum and this is projected to increase to about 45,000 over a ten year period. Total RO/RO traffic on the central corridor at present amounts to about 150,000 units, but the vast bulk of this goes through Dublin port. This position will not change, especially because of the proposed introduction of the new B&I super ferry.

[1892] Section 2 of the Bill relates to planning issues and has caused rustling in the dovecotes. I find it difficult to understand the way people have read this section, perhaps not deliberately, to condemn the Minister's retrospective rights. Nothing could be further from the truth. I understand and appreciate the concerns expressed, especially those regarding possible retrospective powers.

As someone who lives in Dún Laoghaire and has a love of the harbour, I too would have reservations should this provision have the effect of legitimising acts in the past which were outside the powers of the Minister and which were clearly objectionable from the public viewpoint. I am fully satisfied after extensive legal advice that this is not the case. I strongly advise any organisations concerned about this matter to seek legal advice, which I think will conform with the advice available to me.

The purpose of section 2 of the Bill and the definition of “development” in section 1 is to confirm and put beyond any doubt that the Minister for the Marine may carry out development works at Dún Laoghaire harbour. In particular it will put beyond doubt that the Minister may undertake works under the sea bed. The legal advice available to me is that the Minister for the Marine already has these powers in full. Nevertheless, it is felt prudent to ensure that any risks in this regard should be removed. This will mean the Minister, subject again to planning permission, may proceed with the business of developing the harbour.

There is nothing sinister in this and it is not intended to subvert the planning process or to anticipate the decision of the Planning Appeals Board. It is simply in order to proceed with the business of developing the harbour. This is especially so in view of the major project now envisaged and the financial and economic risks involved for the harbour, the State and the economy generally.

I see this as a national project. Some political soothsayers have suggested that Deputy Andrews has been a representative for Dún Laoghaire and Rathdown for 30 years and wishes to leave a [1893] legacy to his vanity as a “last hurrah” in his long representation of this constituency. Naturally, I want to see a development in the constituency; for too many years projects have fallen because of lack of support or because of opposition, which in my view was ill-founded in a number of instances. Here, however, we have a marvellous opportunity to put into place a facility which must be seen in a national context. I am a Dáil Deputy for the constituency and for the time being I am Minister for the Marine. That is coincidental to the coming on stream of this development, but I am proud to be associated with it, both as a Dún Laoghaire Deputy and as Minister, because I believe it is a first class facility in a first class harbour which happens to be in the constituency of Dún Laoghaire.

However, one is never found wanting for begrudgers, so this development is related to the fact that I happen to be the constituency representative. It is said, therefore, that it is solely for that reason that I pursue this terminal project. This is a misrepresentation because that is not my style. I am not that dishonest.

The provisions in sections 1 and 2 in this regard relate solely to Dún Laoghaire harbour and not to other ports or foreshore generally. The reference to foreshore in section 1 is merely a convenient means of defining the seabed area as distinct from the land in Dún Laoghaire harbour.

It has been suggested that the phrase in section 2 (1), “and be deemed always to have had”, be deleted. The effect, however, of excluding these words would be to raise a possible doubt about the development activities in the past. As I said earlier, the advice I have is that the Minister already had full powers to undertake all development which has been carried out. However, there is a slim legal doubt which could invite challenge about development on the seabed. I am not aware that any development undertaken in the recent past has been objected to in a serious fashion. This section does not in my view trespass on the public interest in any practical or material way. I appreciate that some people may have [1894] serious concerns on the grounds of principle, but that is not a compelling reason for putting forward that point of view in this case. People may put forward their views if they want to because that is democracy.

Concern has also been expressed that for a harbour such as Dún Laoghaire, with its unique mix of commercial and leisure users, there may be exempting provisions in the planning regulations which would allow it to bypass the public consultative process. I would not countenance such a situation. I assure this House that in view of the special sensitivities involved, I will examine this matter in the context of introducing amending harbour legislation in the next session.

I assure the House that all future development in Dún Laoghaire harbour, whether by the Minister for the Marine or by a harbour company to be set up under the proposed revision of the Harbours Act, 1946, will be subject to the full planning process. I want to acknowledge the support of all the political parties in Dún Laoghaire constituency and those representing the former Dún Laoghaire Corporation, which is now the Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown Council. They may have issued a caveat, but nevertheless there has been strong support from the Fine Gael Party, Democratic Left and the Labour Party, which I appreciate. They see it in a community context, in that what is good for the country is good for Dún Laoghaire. As a member of the Fianna Fáil Party, I want to show my appreciation for this unanimous political support for this project from the representatives of the constituency. They know what is happening on the ground and they know that the business people in the constituency want this development.

The car ferry has been in Dún Laoghaire since the middle of the last century, and there is nothing new about this. Is there any reason Dún Laoghaire and Ireland should not have a state of the art harbour to accept a state of the art vessel and to ensure it progresses to the next century? For too long, the facilities in Dún Laoghaire harbour have been a [1895] shame to the local community. The first sights of Ireland were the wretched piers. We are now transporting Dún Laoghaire from the 19th century to the 21st century without pausing for the 20th century.

It is important to repeat my assurance to the House that all future development in Dún Laoghaire harbour, whether by the Minister for the Marine or by a harbour company to be set up under the proposed revision of the Harbours Act, 1946, will be subject to planning permission. In particular, I assure the House that any proposals for marina development will be subjected to the full rigours of the planning process and I will ensure full and open public consultation as a prerequisite to any such project going ahead.

I would now like to say a few words about the principal provisions of the Bill. The main purpose of the Bill is to establish a funding mechanism for the development works at Dún Laoghaire harbour. The Bill provides for the establishment of the Dún Laoghaire Harbour (Finance) Board. The Schedule to the Bill contains provisions in relation to the board. The Schedule is well drafted and is understandable. It is not like other legislation which contains gobbledegook and leads, in terms of knowledge, to an inconclusive cul-de-sac. In this instance, the Schedule is well drafted and sets out clearly what must be done. The board shall consist of not fewer than three and not more than five members who shall be appointed by the Minister for the Marine. The board, under the direction of the Minister, has the power to secure the necessary money to defray the expenses incurred by the Minister for the Marine in carrying out the development at Dún Laoghaire harbour.

I would like to refer to the history of Dún Laoghaire harbour. There has been a car ferry terminal in Dún Laoghaire since the middle of the last century. An Act to amend several Acts relating to Kingstown harbour was passed on 20 August 1936. This Act constituted Kingstown harbour and provided that it be governed by the Kingstown Harbour [1896] Commissioners. The name was changed to Dún Laoghaire and the functions transferred to the Commissioners of Public Works under the State Harbours Act, 1924. The Dún Laoghaire Harbour Act, 1990, transferred responsibility for Dún Laoghaire harbour to the Department of the Marine.

Legislation is at present being drafted to bring about a major reorganisation of the commercial ports. The new harbours Bill, preparation of which is well advanced, will set up commercial State companies to manage a number of harbours, including Dún Laoghaire. It is hoped to publish the Bill at the earliest opportunity. The harbours Bill is designed to facilitate commercialisation and a more customer responsive service. The main thrust of the legislation will be to relax ministerial control while increasing accountability for operational and financial performance. This might allay the fears of those people who feel the Minister has draconian powers in terms of retrospection. The proposed new Bill, which will subsume this legal mechanism, will lessen the influence of the Minister for the Marine in the harbour while increasing accountability for operational and financial performance.

As I said, the Dún Laoghaire Harbour (Finance) Board will consist of not fewer than three and not more than five members who will be appointed by the Minister for the Marine. The board, under the direction of the Minister, has the power to secure the necessary moneys to defray the expenses incurred by the Minister for the Marine in carrying out harbour development works in Dún Laoghaire. For that purpose, the board may, with the consent of the Minister for the Marine, given with the concurrence of the Minister for Finance, borrow moneys from commercial sources up to a limit of £20 million. The Minister for Finance may make loans to the board in certain circumstances.

The other interesting aspect of this Bill is that it will not cost the taxpayer a red cent. The Minister may by order appropriate to the Dún Laoghaire harbour [1897] Development Fund a proportion of the revenues payable from the harbour operations at Dún Laoghaire and with the consent of the Minister for Finance make non-repayable grants to the board. The board is required to keep accounts, such accounts to be audited on an annual basis by the Comptroller and Auditor General. The audited accounts together with the Comptroller and Auditor General's report shall be laid by the Minister before each House of the Oireachtas.

Borrowings by the board may be guaranteed by the Minister for Finance. An annual report must be submitted to the Minister not later than three months after the end of each financial year in relation to the operation of the fund. Copies of the annual report shall be laid by the Minister before each House of the Oireachtas.

This proposed development of Dún Laoghaire harbour is an integral part of the Government's general strategy for the development of the maritime transport sector generally and more particularly ferry services on the central corridor. The Bill facilitates this development. However I must reiterate that the commencement of the project is contingent on the outcome of the planning process.

There has been some suggestion that this development in some way lessens the impact of Dublin Port in relation to its future. I would like to assure those people who are concerned about Dublin Port and its future that I am equally concerned about it. There is a role for Dublin Port, there is a role for Dún Laoghaire and there is a role for Holyhead in the context of the central corridor strategy which the Government is putting in place.

Members may voice concern that the proposed investment in Dún Laoghaire will be to the detriment of Dublin Port but that is not the case. Already significant investment has taken place in Dublin Port. Under the European Union assisted Operational Programme on Peripherality, 1989 to 1993, investment in facilities in Dublin Port amounted to £22 million of which approximately £10 million [1898] was European Union aid. This investment covered the lo-lo ro-ro freight and bulk and the acquisition of a tug. Further significant investment is planned under the 1994-1999 National Development Plan. There are other facts and figures that I can give the House arising out of whatever contribution Members may make and any queries they may wish to put me.

Mr. Belton: Information on Louis J. Belton  Zoom on Louis J. Belton  Each night we see action replays on the television from the world cup. In this case the Minister gave us action replay in advance. He has said many things here today that were said to me in the last week by people from the Dún Laoghaire area. He has already heard the concern of people in Dún Laoghaire. Some people objected strongly to this development. The Minister explained today why this Bill had to be enacted while the matter is with An Bord Pleanála. I think I am right in saying that the matter is with An Bord Pleanála at the moment.

Mr. Andrews: Information on David Andrews  Zoom on David Andrews  The appeal is before An Bord Pleanála, to be decided on 23 July next.

Mr. Belton: Information on Louis J. Belton  Zoom on Louis J. Belton  There are four or five different objections as far as I know.

Mr. Andrews: Information on David Andrews  Zoom on David Andrews  I will not interrupt again, but some of the objections, in particular those by the yacht clubs, have been withdrawn.

Mr. Belton: Information on Louis J. Belton  Zoom on Louis J. Belton  The people of Dún Laoghaire are concerned about this development. Other objections were to the increased traffic through Dún Laoghaire as a result of the development. Efforts are being made to revitalise the town, to bring it back to former glory, and extra traffic through the town will not help that. It was also pointed out that Dublin Port could be used for this operation. The overall development in increasing facilities for heavy traffic into Dublin is welcome and one can see the need for this. One can see how, with the Channel Tunnel, we could link up and [1899] bring our country closer to Europe in terms of transport. That is extremely welcome. The objections and concerns have already been already voiced, and I know the Minister is aware of them. They are with An Bord Pleanála and that matter has to be dealt with.

Mr. Daly: Information on Brendan Daly  Zoom on Brendan Daly  I welcome this innovative legislation and compliment the Minister on his imagination and foresight in bringing it forward. I do not wish to be patronising with the Minister because he does not believe in that kind of nonsense.

Very soon after my appointment as Minister for the Marine he took me on a visit to Dún Laoghaire harbour and pointed out his genuinely held beliefs about the necessity to undertake a balanced development of Dún Laoghaire. At that time we had a project for the development of the whole harbour, including amenities which would enhance leisure and recreational facilities. We had what I considered at the time to be some spurious objections which led to the demise of that project and, in my view, held back the development of leisure and amenity facilities in Dún Laoghaire for many years. The Minister, Deputy Andrews, was totally committed to ensuring that the correct thing was done in Dún Laoghaire, recognising that Dún Laoghaire has had a proud tradition in maritime affairs dating back to 1860.

I come from a western county. I live near Kilrush and we have been endeavouring to develop maritime facilities there. We have had some of the same type of objections there, spurious objections from people who felt that in some way modern developments would damage traditional culture. The result of the objections to the proposed development in Dingle has been seen.

Maritime developments bring out objectors we see very rarely and who vanish once they succeed in doing the maximum amount of damage. It would be a pity if this very laudable, worthwhile development were to be hampered by that type of spurious objection. Dún Laoghaire is an important for access harbour. [1900] This is not a local issue; it is a national issue. Access through Dún Laoghaire has relevance to our tourism industry in the west. We are heading into the start of the tourism season and the importance of access, especially this modern access, can be seen.

This will be the first ferry of its type in the world, opening up the new generation of fast ferries. High speed sea service is the coming concept in the development of traffic into Ireland and difficulty of access has been one of the greatest handicaps to the development of tourism nationally. This must be dealt with effectively and the first step has been taken in this legislation.

I am not familiar with the details of planning appeals but it would be a tragedy if this opportunity to develop the harbour in Dún Laoghaire with its consequent impact on tourism nationally — right over to the west — was to be delayed or frustrated for spurious reasons. The harbour and its environs will be enhanced and the development of the facility will not only provide employment opportunities in Dún Laoghaire and the surrounding areas but will enhance the economy of the area and have a major impact on the development of tourism generally.

In 1993 two-thirds of passenger ferry traffic came in through Dún Laoghaire. That gives an indication of the cross-channel traffic in particular. It is important that we enhance this and put in the best recreational amenities to cater for that coming trend in international maritime affairs. The Minister is to be congratulated and supported in the work he is doing in that regard.

I note from contributions in the other House that this proposal has the support of the interim harbour board which was set up three or four years ago in response to public demand that there be some local input to help shape and plan the future development of Dún Laoghaire. The responsibility for the operation of the board was taken over from the Office of Public Works when I was Minister for State and the Department of the Marine took responsibility at that stage. I compliment [1901] the personnel in the Department. They have used a number of innovative ways to develop business in harbours; I have seen it in Drogheda and Youghal, for example.

A few years ago when a dredging operation was taking place in Youghal the pier fell into the sea. Had it not been for the imagination and initiative of the technicians and officials in the Department of the Marine it would still be in the sea. Local people who use Youghal harbour were prepared to make an investment in co-operation with the Department and the Office of Public Works to put in an excellent facility which has been a tremendous success and has ensured that traffic, business and employment continued in Youghal. The same approach has been taken in Drogheda and other areas where there were investment problems and the Government did not have the money to do the work needed.

It is significant — and the Minister has underlined this — that this investment is not costing the taxpayer a penny. The benefit to the economy and to tourism which will be apparent in employment opportunities is the underlying reason for this development. I welcome the Minister's commitment to update the legislation governing the operation and management of harbours which dates back to 1946. I notice that this legislation will not delay the work which is under way at present.

It is necessary to modernise the harbours legislation to cover harbours such as the Shannon Estuary which has three harbour authorities, none of which has any clear line of demarcation. It is urgent that a new estuarial authority be put in place which will develop the full potential of one of the best estuaries in Europe. The updating of the harbours legislation will be welcome and, I am sure, will be supported.

In the development of the commercial potential of Dún Laoghaire there is no conflict with the development of leisure and amenity facilities. There is space and opportunity enough in Dún Laoghaire for both. It has been proven in other [1902] places where such developments have taken place that one can manage the relationship between commercial development in business and traffic, which generates employment and revenue for the economy, and the leisure and amenity development which is also important. That can be done very satisfactorily in Dún Laoghaire and there is no need for people in boat clubs or yacht clubs to fear that such development might hamper their enjoyment of the amenities of Dún Laoghaire harbour.

When I was Minister for the Marine an international expert on maritime and marina developments told me that the problem with most of the areas where one tries to develop marinas is that there is too much water. The way to get the best value from amenity, recreational and commercial potential of an estuary or harbour, such as the Shannon or Dún Laoghaire, is by utilising it to the best advantage. I hope this legislation will provide one of the most dynamic developments we have ever seen.

I welcome this legislation and congratulate the Minister on his innovation and his foresight in bringing it forward. I hope it will be successful and will bring about the desired results.

Dr. Henry: Information on Mary E.F. Henry  Zoom on Mary E.F. Henry  I welcome the Minister to the House but I am not so sure that I welcome the development that is to take place in Dún Laoghaire harbour. While the harbour board may have been behind the development, many of the residents are opposed to it, mainly on environmental grounds. While an environmental impact study was submitted to the planning authority with the application, it was not very enthusiastic either.

We are all glad to see the modernisation of Irish sea crossings. It has, at one time or another, been a difficult crossing for most of us. I am glad the crossing time is being cut dramatically but the catamaran is a new ship which has not yet had sea trials, which, I presume will take place in the Baltic Sea. In inclement weather the catamaran which is sailing between Dublin and Holyhead cannot put to sea. I have often had to [1903] transfer to the ordinary boat as the catamaran was unable to sail in what did not appear to be very high winds — force five or six which we often get on the Irish Sea. We are putting great faith and enthusiasm into something which has not been tried on the Irish Sea and we know that there are grave problems with the catamaran operating there at present.

The main reason most of those who object to the arrival of this catamaran is that so little thought has been put into dealing with the problem of increased traffic on the access roads to Dún Laoghaire. Crofton Road and Longford Terrace have an enormous volume of traffic as things stand, and in the summer it increases. The traffic management study carried out by the borough found that the traffic increase in the two years from 1992 to 1994 was about 124 per cent, and this only took cars into account, not lorries.

When one considers that the plans for Dún Laoghaire proposed the pedestrianisation of George's Street and Marine Road and it is hoped that there will be a major development on the Pavilion site to bring more people into the area, one can understand why many of the residents on the other roads are extremely alarmed. Not only is there chaos and confusion on the roads, but the increased traffic will bring extra noise, vibration and pollution.

The present roads, as anyone coming in from Dún Laoghaire will know, are having grave difficulty in coping with present traffic levels. This ferry is being put in place before anything has been done to ease that congestion. This will become more serious if there are not only extra cars coming off this ferry but increased freight traffic as well. From a commercial point of view this will have to happen, especially in winter, if the ferry service is to survive. The Minister seems to have great faith in thinking that Ro-Ro traffic will not come into Dún Laoghaire and keep going to Dublin port. However, time is money in that business. They are always looking for the shortest sea crossing. Crossing the sea takes up [1904] most of their transport time. Not only will they want to seek the shortest crossing but also the one that in time will cost them the least money. Therefore, because of those factors and the fact that the ferry owners would want to get as much freight traffic as possible, especially in winter, I can see a great increase in this kind of traffic.

Much has been said about this new terminal increasing local employment. Most of the material I have read discussing local employment admits there will be little increase. Certainly, there will be an increase in employment when the building work is taking place, but that will not last forever. The environmental impact study on the matter says: “While it is difficult to project accurately the future employment and revenue associated with the improved and extended ferry terminal development, it is likely that some increase will take place, or at least the existing economic benefits will be maintained.” This suggests that we will only maintain existing employment levels.

Dún Laoghaire is an important tourist attraction. Many people go there for day trips or for holidays. It has been suggested that we may get many people from Holyhead coming over to the town, but it only has a small population. Even if they all came once a month, I doubt whether it would make much difference to the economic status of those with shops, guest houses and so forth in Dún Laoghaire. One may also find that those people currently coming to Dún Laoghaire to enjoy this nice place may be driven away by this increased traffic.

The residents have made petitions regarding the situation. The Dún Laoghaire Residents Harbour Action Group says that the existing ferry is there and that activity will continue, even if the new ferry does not come in. The level of ferry activity appears to be adequate and the ferry docks in a fine residential area. The level of activity proposed in this plan is 40 per cent greater than the maximum envisaged in the 1992 harbour development plan. No one has ever proposed an increase in the number of heavy lorries [1905] on the roads between Dún Laoghaire, Monkstown and Blackrock, but it says this will almost certainly happen. It also says that traffic flow has already greatly increased.

The group points out that pedestrianisation of the centre of Dún Laoghaire will put more cars and lorries on the sea roads. It does not expect to have much ferry-related employment. After all, these big ferries employ fewer people. Naturally, one wants to keep them as economic as possible, but this will not help the people of Dún Laoghaire. If due to the increased traffic Dún Laoghaire becomes less attractive for its residents to shop in, a large number will go elsewhere. There are plenty of other places, such as Stillorgan, Blackrock and Bray, for them to shop. It has serious reservations as to how economically satisfactory this new terminal will be for them.

I do not want to say that the Dublin docks seem nearly moribund, but they are not exactly a hive of activity at the moment. I am not sure what the situation will be regarding the ferry there if this superferry comes to Dún Laoghaire. How much traffic will go through there? Concern has been expressed to the Minister by the Docks, Marine and Transport branch of SIPTU, who are also worried about the effect this ferry will have on employment in Dublin docks. Indeed, that employment has shrunk dramatically in the last few years. No matter how desirable this new ferry or terminal may be, we are not sure whether it will be able to cross the Irish Sea. There is also a lot of resistance from residents within the area.

Mr. Andrews: Information on David Andrews  Zoom on David Andrews  That is not true, Senator. There is a minority of people who feel this way, but a large majority definitely want it.

Dr. Henry: Information on Mary E.F. Henry  Zoom on Mary E.F. Henry  I cannot conduct a survey like the Minister, but——

Mr. Andrews: Information on David Andrews  Zoom on David Andrews  I am aware of it. I have been getting my votes from the region for the last 30 years. I am well in touch with the local community.

[1906]Dr. Henry: Information on Mary E.F. Henry  Zoom on Mary E.F. Henry  I suppose we can all look into our hearts and see what the people are doing in various areas, but——

Mr. Andrews: Information on David Andrews  Zoom on David Andrews  Senator Henry should look into her heart if she has one.

Dr. Henry: Information on Mary E.F. Henry  Zoom on Mary E.F. Henry  ——people from the area have told me they have grave doubts about the increased pollution, noise and traffic density. This is definitely putting the cart before the horse. I am sure my words will make no difference to what will happen, but I feel that this lovely part of the city will be seriously damaged by this proposal.

Mr. Cosgrave: Information on Liam T. Cosgrave  Zoom on Liam T. Cosgrave  I support the thrust of this Bill. I have not served this area as long as the Minister, but I support the developments in the harbour. It is great that the Minister is in this Department, otherwise we would still be discussing these matters. While everything in the garden is not rosy, at least matters are moving in the right direction.

Dún Laoghaire harbour must move with the times if it is not to be left behind. These proposed developments are welcome and I hope they come on stream soon. The planning process is currently taking shape. There has been too much negative thinking in Dún Laoghaire recently. There was a recent proposal in Dún Laoghaire on the Dominican site and this may well go back to An Bord Pleanála. Any proposal where people are investing money in shop units, residential homes and new cinemas can only bring about renewed prosperity to the town. If Dún Laoghaire does not get a financial injection, it will die. I am not being disrespectful to other areas, but I would like to see the town prospering. It should be a gateway for holidaymakers. Once they come there, they will stay in the town for the first part of their holiday and they will not leave as soon as possible.

The harbour has a mixture of commercial and leisure users. There must be a balance struck between recognising those who are already there, such as yacht clubs and small boat owners, and the great contribution being made by [1907] Stena Sealink. However, Stena Sealink would move if it were more commercially profitable or if Dún Laoghaire did not respond in a positive way.

What time scale does the Minister envisage for the development if it proceeds? When will the Dún Laoghaire Harbour Finance Committee be established and what provisions will apply regarding appointments to the committee?

Regarding the development of the ferry services, shipping needs are changing. There has been a speeding up in the period of time spent at sea, and the proposed new vessel will contain considerable advances. Senator Henry expressed some reservations as to whether the vessel had been adequately tested, but I would be happy to participate in the first voyage. Hopefully it will not suffer the same fate as the Titanic. Doubtless the Minister, being an entrepreneur, will have the necessary courage to undertake that voyage.

Senator Henry's remarks on negative thinking require consideration, and some people in Dún Laoghaire wish to keep the situation as it operated 30, 40 or 50 years ago. However, unfortunately, times change and circumstance must change with them. If developments proceed as planned there will be a great injection into Dún Laoghaire. There will be a boost to the local economy, to local hoteliers, publicans, guest house owners and so on. The area will benefit from an increasing influx of people. It will not be detrimental to the local residents. Many of them are local business people. The Chamber of Commerce has backed the development, as have members of the former Dún Laoghaire Corporation before it became the expanded into Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council, which has also backed it.

More positive thinking is required on aspects of the Bill. In this respect the south eastern motorway has raised concerns regarding traffic. There are problems on this issue which must be addressed, and they are not going to be easily solved. However the issue covers [1908] a small area of mileage and perhaps a programme of pedestrianisation may be the solution. There is another problem with Georges Street, which is too narrow, as the Minister is well aware.

However, instead of moaning and groaning about problems, attempts must be made to address them. I ask the Minister to respond on the issue of the time scale for the development if it proceeds. Hopefully, matters will proceed relatively quickly and that he will continue to be Minister for Defence and the Marine when they do so. Hopefully, also the Minister will ensure that the rights of the commercial and leisure users are protected.

There is a planning and an appeals process to which the Minister and his Department are subject, no more or no less than anybody else. However, it is time to be more positive with regard to Dún Laoghaire. There has been too much negative talk for too long, and hopefully it will be possible to proceed with the development from now on.

Minister for the Marine (Mr. Andrews): Information on David Andrews  Zoom on David Andrews  I am grateful to those who contributed to this very important debate, which addresses the future of car ferries in this country, not only in Dún Laoghaire but in Dublin Port, Rosslare, Cork and so on.

Senator Cosgrave has a family tradition associated with Dún Laoghaire going back many years. His contribution reflects the support for this project in the greater Dún Laoghaire area. I appreciate his contribution all the more for that. He knows what he is talking about.

Regarding the matter of time scale, it is hoped that the project will be completed in May or June 1995, certainly not later than June 1995. However, this is subject to planning permission. Given that An Bord Pleanála will decide the issue one way or the other on 23 July 1994, and assuming that the board is positive, work will progress immediately.

Doubtless the people represented by Senator Henry will seek judicial review of the board's decision if it is positive, which will constitute another effort by [1909] them to stop the project. I make no complaint on that. Senator Henry is entitled to her view and is entitled to represent and be briefed by the Dún Laoghaire Harbour Action Group. That is part of our democratic process. I have responded in my address to the view she expressed on behalf of the group and I do not intend to waste any further time on them.

I am anxious to progress the project as a matter of some urgency, despite the many representations and misrepresentations made in the context of traffic and traffic usage. I have already set out in my address to the House, and it has been made clear to the Dáil, what is anticipated in terms of traffic, this year, next year and for the next ten years. Concern has been expressed that up to 150,000 trucks a year will come to Dún Laoghaire. Present traffic is approximately 33,000 units per annum, which is projected to increase to approximately 45,000 units a year over a ten year period. Total Ro-Ro traffic at present on the central corridor amounts to 155,000 units, but the vast bulk of this goes through Dublin Port. This position will not change, especially given the proposed introduction of the new £45 million B&I Line super ferry.

The essence of the matter is to have Dublin Port with its super ferry in competition with Dún Laoghaire and its super ferry. The end product of this is the paying customer who will get a good deal from two good operators, the B and I Line and Stena Sealink.

Most of the objections from the Dún Laoghaire Harbour Action Group relate to traffic problems. Senator Henry is entitled to her viewpoint and I would not wish to dismiss it or be discourteous about it. However, she did not say one positive thing in favour of the development. It was all bad from beginning to end, which appears strange to me. I believed that she might have put the case for and the against, or might even have said one positive thing about the development. However, she did not see fit to do so, which is her entitlement as she is [1910] representing the Dún Laoghaire Harbour Action Group in the Seanad.

However, the residents of Dún Laoghaire are in favour of this project. This was shown in a recent radio programme when Mr. Joe Duffy visited Dún Laoghaire on behalf of Mr. Gay Byrne and there was a strong volume of support for the project across a broad spectrum, including the local hotel and bed and breakfast trade, Dún Laoghaire Chamber of Commerce, political parties and local people who want to see continuous employment in the community.

I have addressed the main elements of the points of view expressed in this debate. I want to thank Senator Brendan Daly who set out his support for the project in a very clear contribution supporting what is intended in this new car ferry terminal. However, the suggestion that an organisation like Stena Sealink, as mentioned by Senator Henry, would not send this ship for sea trials flies in the face of the facts. This new Stena high speed sea service ferry, which is still under construction, will have sea trials next Easter. I am not an expert in these matters, but I presume that when you build a vessel you put it into the sea to make sure it does not sink before putting passengers aboard. That would be my instinct, although I have no particular competence in the matter. It is a matter of fact that there will be sea trials for this £65 million state of the art car ferry — the first of its kind in the world — which is coming to our country.

The distinct advantage of employing such a vessel is that it accomodates the traffic throughput by providing frequent high-speed, moderate-capacity sailings. The HSS is capable of carrying 375 passenger car units while Stena Hibernia, the multi-purpose vessel operating through Dún Laoghaire Harbour at present, carries 323 PCUs. Employment of the HSS on the route, therefore, will result in the discharge of a maximum of only 15 per cent extra PCUs onto the road network per sailing. Future ferry schedules will be designed as at present to avoid the arrival of a vessel during the identified peak traffic hours for Dún Laoghaire, namely [1911] 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. The local authority applied a number of conditions to the grant of planning permission requiring the Minister to make a financial contribution towards the necessary improvements in the port access route to accommodate the extra traffic. These conditions will be complied with fully in the event that these conditions or similar ones are confirmed by An Bord Pleanála.

To respond to Senator Henry's representation on behalf of the Dún Laoghaire Harbour Action Group, the Stena HSS project represents a technological breakthrough in the field of large high-speed ferries. Conventional ferries typically operate at 20 knots while the High-Speed Sea Service or HSS ferry will operate at 40 knots. Small fast ferries such as the Sea Cat, currently in operation out of Dún Laoghaire, travel at 40 knots, but due to their small size they are sensitive to rough weather. Stena claims that the HSS will be able to operate in rough weather conditions. The HSS differs from conventional vessels in that it is of a twin-hull catamaran configuration and is powered by water jets rather than propellors.

The HSS can carry approximately the same load as a conventional ferry, namely, 1,500 passengers and 375 cars. The vessels are 124 metres long with a 40-metre beam. Stena has ordered two HSS craft at a cost of £65 million sterling each. The craft are currently being constructed at Finnyards in Ruama, Finland. In July 1993 Stena Sealink announced that it had identified Dún Laoghaire-Holyhead as the route on which it wished to introduce the first HSS car ferry. Sea trials are scheduled for Easter 1995.

Senator Belton raised the road issue which I have addressed, in addition to the question of the unified car ferry terminals for Dún Laoghaire. It is important to place on the record of the House the situation in that regard. A consultancy study of the ferry terminal disposition in Dublin Bay completed in 1993 concluded, on the basis of the information then available, that there was no compelling [1912] case for a unified ferry terminal in Dublin Port. Developments since the completion of that study, particularly in relation to fast ferries, have strengthened the position of Dún Laoghaire. The harbour has significant operational advantages, for example, in time savings which would permit five round trips per day for the HSS on the Dún Laoghaire-Holyhead route rather than four such trips per day from Dublin Port. Dún Laoghaire also has other significant operational advantages — for example, the ease of access and safety that originally gave rise to Dún Laoghaire as the gateway to Dublin and have maintained it in that position.

The closure of Dún Laoghaire Harbour would have a severe and significant impact on the local economy. Direct job losses and significant damage to the substantial business and tourist sector, including the hotel and B&B trade, across a broad spectrum would have a catastrophic effect on the Borough of Dún Laoghaire.

Those points respond to the various matters raised by Senators Belton, Cosgrave, Henry and my colleague Senator Brendan Daly.

Question put and agreed to.


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