Dáil debates

Tuesday, 6 December 2005

Regional Fisheries Boards (Postponement of Elections) Order 2005: Motion.


6:00 pm

Photo of Pat GallagherPat Gallagher (Minister of State, Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources; Donegal South West, Fianna Fail)

I will not have an opportunity to respond to all the questions that have been raised. I repeat the commitment which I gave in committee and affirmed by the Taoiseach today that we will have a full debate in the House in the next session in which I will have an opportunity to go into more detail on the questions asked.

The purpose of the motion is the postponement of the elections to the regional fisheries boards for a further 12 months. Given the imminence of significant changes to the sector, it is reasonable that I should request the Houses' approval to postpone the elections for 12 months. I do so in line with section 15 of the Fisheries Act 1980 to ensure continuity and a seamless changeover. I hope the legislation to provide for the new authority will be in place by the middle of next year. The regional advisory boards will still continue to play an important part in the development of inland fisheries.

In my initial contribution I referred to the fact that I did not accept all the proposals made by Farrell Grant Sparks. Two very important points came from the regional boards. The boards will still have responsibility for water quality. I will ask them to work closely in this matter with the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government and the Environmental Protection Agency. It was also suggested in the report that we would remove responsibility for tourism angling. Neither I nor the Government accepted this proposal and the boards will still have responsibility for this area. I will ask them to work closely with the Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism and Fáilte Ireland. We must take full advantage of the structures in place in that Department and in Fáilte Ireland. They will have to work very closely together. I will monitor developments there together with my colleague, the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism, Deputy O'Donoghue.

I received the report in February of last year. It is a long and detailed report and, given my other responsibilities, it took me some time to read it. The next step was to get the views of other Ministers, especially those who will deal with some aspects of it, namely, the Ministers for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Arts, Sport and Tourism and Finance. That took some time. Following the summer recess and on receipt of the observations of the other Departments I asked the Government to approve the recommendations I made, which it did. Shortly after that I launched the report following it being printed.

There are two phases to this process. Phase 2 will result in further unhurried consultation that will be completely transparent. All those with concerns will have an opportunity to make known their views. I wish to allay fears in so far as staff are concerned. I did that when I met the chief executives and chairpersons of each of the boards. This phase will have no implications for staff. I accept, as Deputy Perry pointed out, that there is uncertainty. I want to ensure this uncertainty will be removed. However, it may be decided to make some changes. For instance, the boards may in future be based on water districts and this may require changes, but there will be ample opportunity to discuss any such change.

I believe it is sensible to locate research in the Marine Institute. It provides expert scientific advice to us and the regional and central fisheries boards on salmon fisheries. We are about to commission a world class facility for the marine research institute in Galway. Through both institutes working together we can enhance the limited research capacity of the Central Fisheries Board. I look forward to a full debate some time next year when we will have greater opportunities to flesh out what is in the report.


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