Tuesday, 22 June 2021
Saincheisteanna Tráthúla - Topical Issue Debate
I thank the Minister of State for taking this debate this evening. I know this is an issue which is very close to Deputy Calleary's heart. He has argued the case for Mayo very well and very strongly at a number of forums. I was astounded to read an article in The Irish Timeswhich stated that freight services through Dublin Port were to be discontinued. I had assumed that we would be going in the other direction in every sense. In fact, when the new Government was formed last year, I spoke to the Minister for Transport, Deputy Eamon Ryan, and to the Minister of State, Deputy Naughton, about this and expressed my assumption and wish that freight would be increasingly directed onto rail, even aside from this particular issue, of which I was not aware at the time. I got into politics partly through the railways in a sense. I set up a group in my village of Sallins for commuters seeking to improve the rail service there. I passionately believe in the railways for the movement of people, freight and goods. It is more comfortable, environmentally friendly and efficient. There are so many benefits with regard to the movement of both people and goods that they hardly need repeating.
At a time when we have a great many opportunities, when Brexit is favouring Irish ports with increased traffic, when more and more goods are coming through Ireland as a gateway to Europe and when we are seeing opportunities in all of our ports and a spike in traffic, it is staggering to see Dublin Port suddenly deciding that the right thing to do is to close down one arm of its service. I am aware that customs posts need to be there and that various checks need to be done. I believe 5 ha is now devoted to this in Dublin Port. It is a necessary evil but the answer to an increase in business is not to contract an operation. Surely, it is to expand and to invest in it. I might regret it but I could understand it if we were all here wringing our hands and lamenting that a railway was being taken up because of a lack of business or a lack of interest but, to add insult to injury, this is a successful commercial operation. As Deputy Calleary stated, Ballina is serviced by five to seven trains a day. Coca-Cola helps with the operation and other firms may be involved. This is a successful enterprise which is being taken away and stopped at the very moment it is needed most for environmental and other reasons. We made the mistake of lifting up railways in this country before. Let us learn something from history and not go down that road again.