Dáil debates

Wednesday, 24 November 2021

Merchant Shipping (Investigation of Marine Casualties) (Amendment) Bill 2021: Second Stage


2:47 pm

Photo of Martin KennyMartin Kenny (Sligo-Leitrim, Sinn Fein)

As has been said, this legislation, along with the movement towards rectifying the difficulties due to the judgment, is welcome and needs to be progressed as quickly as possible. However, there are other serious issues that we all need to consider. When we think of Ireland as an island nation, the large territorial waters we have around our island and our maritime tradition, and the fact the investigation board that is in place is part-time, poorly funded, with an ad hocstructure and without the same level of commitment from Government that other agencies have, it is a poor reflection on how past Governments and the present Government have invested in the safety of people who are at sea and, as was mentioned, on the inland waterways as well. I am conscious that when we look at other agencies, such as the aviation units and units dealing with rail, or when we look internationally at the maritime investigation units in other countries which are practically landlocked and perhaps have a small coastline, but have multiples of the investment which we put in, it is a poor reflection given where we need to go.

Mention was made of the fact we have had a large number of tragedies over the decades, where, unfortunately, many people in our fishing community have been lost at sea and in other incidents as well. Our hearts always go out to those people because even those of us who may not go on the waterways or out to sea very often recognise the huge risk that people take when they go to sea and the danger they face in all of that. Yet, they continue to do it to make a livelihood, to try to survive and to feed their families, and to contribute to often dwindling coastal communities, which are under extreme pressure in many cases. The fact the State is seen to take it in such a derisory way, given the amount of money that is put in place and the level of commitment for this unit, is reflected in what has happened up to now.

What we need to see is not just this legislation being expedited as quickly as possible, and we recognise the urgency of this, but, clearly, a whole new framework needs to be put in place. I hope the Clinch report will deliver the template for that to happen. That report needs to be published as quickly as possible and, then, we can get to the real work of delivering its recommendations. I encourage the Minister and the Government to do that as quickly as possible.


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