Thursday, 3 June 2021
Maritime Jurisdiction Bill 2021 [Seanad]: Second Stage
Seán Canney (Galway East, Independent)
I am delighted to speak on this Bill. Our seas have been the poor relation and have been treated as a second-class asset. For generations we looked at the sea as something out there, a place where people went out to fish and that was it. The real potential of our seas has not been realised. We are so lucky that we are an island nation, surrounded by the seas. However, like the timing of this debate during the last shift on a Thursday evening, we have put the seas to the end of the agenda. My colleague Deputy Verona Murphy's eloquent appraisal of our fishing industry shows that we have treated our fishing resource and the employment associated with it with disrespect for generations. It is time we reappraised all that we are doing with regard to fisheries. I am not from a constituency where it is a major issue but as an Irishman, I believe it is important to respect all of our industries and natural resources.
The Minister of State alluded to the fact that the Government recognises that we must treat our seas with respect. This legislation is a tidy-up job in advance of the preparation of our planning framework for the seas. If we are to realise our potential as a nation, as a green economy and as a place with pristine natural resources, we must have a proper framework for the sea. My experience with our planning framework on the land is that it is fraught with every kind of obstacle to proper and productive development. We need a planning framework for our seas that will stand us in good stead for what we need to do. There has been much talk about climate action legislation and about how we are going to create a green economy and transform our energy production but we must remember that the sea gave us the gas that comes in to Corrib. If we had not had that gas over the last ten to 12 years, where would we be? The gas and oil that came into Ringaskiddy in Cork came from the seas and was very much welcomed at the time. We should not treat these industries with disdain either because they have served the economy well.
We must make sure that we realise the full potential of the seas. The green energy potential of the sea through offshore operations must be realised. We must also make sure that we have the correct onshore infrastructure too. The development of ports like Galway, Foynes, Waterford, Rossaveel, Killybegs, Cork and Dublin must be done in a way that ensures we can exploit the full potential of the sea. We must resource the Marine Institute, which is based in Galway, but not just in the sense of ticking a box. It must be used as a tool to discover all that we can develop within the seas. We must do that as a matter of urgency. The Government must look at this as the start of the realisation of the greatest potential this island will ever see. It is the start of the industrial revolution of the seas. Working together we can reach the full potential for fishermen, offshore energy, tourism and all that goes with that. If we continue on the path of complications and do not deal with people head-up, with everybody getting a front load of what is expected of them, we will run into trouble. At every point we must make sure that what we are doing will enable us to realise our full potential.
I am delighted to have spoken on this Bill. I am sure a lot more legislation related to planning will be brought before the House. Let us work together on it to make sure it is workable and that everybody understands how to deal with it.