Thursday, 1 April 2021
Project Ireland 2040: Motion [Private Members]
Richard Boyd Barrett (Dún Laoghaire, People Before Profit Alliance)
There are worrying signs that all the talk about just transition in terms of developing climate-related infrastructure ends up just being talk and that people who want to profit from the climate agenda and from the development of climate-related infrastructure do not give a hoot about the working people whom they disrupt and impact upon when developing that infrastructure.
I will cite an example on foot of conversations I have been having with fishermen who operate off the east coast, particularly Dublin Bay, for some time. They told me that companies which are snapping up the rights to build enormous wind farms on the Kish Bank and in this instance the Codling Bank require as part of the foreshore licence application when they are doing their surveys, which they are doing at the moment, to properly engage with the fishermen. In this case that involves the owners of 45 fishing vessels and their crews along with those in the processing plants and so on where they would land their catch. Although there is a requirement on the company, Codling Wind Park, to properly engage with them, it is not doing so. It is changing the goalposts having originally given a mapped area of the tract that it was going to survey with the fishermen required to say where their fishing gear was and all the rest of it. Critically, it is required to pay compensation to the fishermen for the impact of the survey on their ability to fish and make an income. This company is trying to ride roughshod over the fishermen, refusing most recently even to meet them because the fishermen insisted on having a legal representative to help them through the process. That sort of stuff just cannot stand. These companies must abide by the principle of the just transition and they must genuinely engage with these fishermen.
The Minister of State, Deputy Ossian Smyth, is a constituency colleague of mine. These are fishermen in his constituency. We need to tell this company to engage with these fishermen and stop trying to wheedle out of its requirement to properly consult with them, properly engage with them and compensate them properly and fully for the impact of their survey and subsequently the development of offshore wind array infrastructure. I hope I have done my duty by the fisherman and setting that issue out. I hope the Minister of State will pass that on to his colleague, the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, who deals with the issue of foreshore licences. It seems to me that that company is absolutely flouting its requirements under the foreshore licence to engage properly with the fisherman. I call on the Government to ensure that that happens.
Offshore wind infrastructure also raises a wider issue. I want to make it absolutely clear that I am in favour of offshore wind energy. However, I am not in favour of private companies just gobbling up our marine resources in order to make a profit for themselves when they are not even required to sell the electricity they may generate to this country and where there is no proper marine spatial planning. We have county development plans on land where democratically, one of the few powers local representatives have is to decide what goes where. They decide whether particular places are suitable for housing, agriculture and recreational amenities.
That is not what happens out in the sea. When it comes to parcelling up areas of the marine; the private companies decide where they want to put the infrastructure and the Government effectively dances to their tune. That cannot continue. We do not want to end up with a marine version of the wild west approach we had to housing. We do not want to have that approach, which led to the madness of the property boom and bust, in respect of offshore infrastructure. These profit-driven people, if not reined in, are more than capable of doing in the area of offshore climate-related infrastructure the same damage they did in terms of housing boom and bust and the desperate consequences that followed. I do not believe any part of the marine environment should be privatised but what is happening is, in effect, the privatisation of the marine environment with potentially devastating consequences from an environmental, biodiversity and marine biology point of view, as well as having an impact on groups such as fishermen and their livelihoods, industry and so on. We need proper regulation, best practice in terms of the development of these infrastructures and real engagement with people and communities who will be impacted by the development of these infrastructures. If we do not do that, we will discredit the climate agenda, which is such an urgent agenda to be delivered. It is critical that we develop the infrastructure to deal with the existential threat of climate change but that agenda will be damaged in a very serious way and its credibility undermined if it is not driven to a large extent by the needs, wishes and views of the communities and working people on whom this agenda is likely to impact.
I appeal to the Minister of State, Deputy Ossian Smyth, to pass on to his ministerial colleagues the need for this company to properly engage with the fishermen in regard to the Codling Bank.