Dáil debates

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Topical Issue Debate

Marina Developments

1:15 pm

Photo of Timmy DooleyTimmy Dooley (Clare, Fianna Fail)
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I welcome the opportunity to address the House on this important matter. Kilrush Creek Marina has been an integral part of the economic life of the town of Kilrush for some time. Unfortunately, however, its potential has been untapped in terms of the extent to which it could provide significant employment and increased economic activity in the region.

Much of its unrealised potential results from the poor state of the infrastructure. It is owned and controlled by Shannon Development but, over the last number of years, it has not had the necessary type of investment in the basic infrastructure. First, the access channel is well below what it should be. It is too shallow to accommodate certain types of pleasure craft. There is a requirement to spend money on dredging the channel. It is known within the boating fraternity that the channel is silted up with sediment and is not as safe to access as it should be based on the mapping charts of the area. Considerable work is required there.

The marina gates, which are used to control the water levels in the marina versus the ebb and flow of the tide, are in very poor condition. From a safety point of view they require considerable investment. The marina pontoons are also in poor condition. I inspected them quite recently and it is clear they are not up to even a basic standard from a health and safety point of view. Considerable investment is also needed in that regard.

A boatyard is part of the facility.

There is some interest in reactivating boat building at some level in the yard, which would provide much-needed employment in the region, but no investment has been forthcoming. All of this revolves around the destruction of Shannon Development by the Government. Unfortunately, the Government has dispensed with the duties of Shannon Development and there is nothing left but a shell. The expectation is that Shannon Development will be amalgamated in the very near future. The Government has yet to publish legislation on amalgamating the assets of Shannon Development with those of the Shannon Airport Authority.

It is clear that there is a considerable gulf between owning a marina and operating an airport. For this reason, I appeal to the Government to expedite the disposal, if possible, of the marina. I know there has been interest among third parties and an effort has been made to dispose of the marina. In advance of its disposal to a private consortium, or whoever else, there should be an allocation of capital to ensure the basic infrastructure is upgraded in order that whatever future ownership model is put in place the facility will be fit for purpose and have the capacity once again to drive economic and tourism activity and fulfil the mandate provided by the initial decision to invest in the region. It is heartbreaking to see such fine infrastructure left to deteriorate on the verge of the Atlantic where it provides access to the boating community, tourist and an array of economic activities, including boat repairs and boat building, which would provide much-needed employment in a region of the county which needs this level of investment and access to employment and which certainly needs to be the focus of Government's attention.

1:25 pm

Photo of John PerryJohn Perry (Sligo-North Leitrim, Fine Gael)
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I thank the Deputy for raising this issue. I share his concerns about the damage caused to Kilrush marina by the recent storms.

Kilrush Creek Marina Limited was established in 1992 and is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Shannon Development. Shannon Development is a self-financing semi-State agency which is in transition to become part of the Shannon Group. Kilrush Creek Marina Limited receives an operating subvention from Shannon Development to cover a small operating loss. Capital works are also funded by the parent company, but in recent years capital investment has been at a lower level owing to budgetary constraints and the impending sale of the marina.

It is worth highlighting the provision of the marina by the State represented a significant investment in the growing area of leisure boating. It is significant infrastructure for the tourism sector and the long-term aim of the project is to ensure Kilrush has an amenity to attract boating visitors who will then contribute to the economy of the town and, I hope, be a catalyst for the development of future tourism facilities.

Shannon Development is very keen that the facility be further developed and, therefore, looked in detail at future ownership issues. The Shannon Development board formed the view that private ownership of the marina was the best option for its future development. In 2009 Shannon Development sought expressions of interest for the sale, development and operation of the marina, excluding adjoining development lands which will be retained in State ownership for the new Shannon Group. On 26 February 2010 the board of Shannon Development approved entering into negotiations with a preferred developer, L&M Keating Limited, subject to planning approval being obtained to enhance and develop the marina. Following lengthy negotiations with the preferred developer, a development agreement for the sale and upgrade of Kilrush marina was signed on 21 August 2012 with L&M Keating Limited. The sale agreement is contingent on securing planning permission to undertake upgrading works to the marina. The agreement will facilitate the development of the marina by enabling it to benefit from significant upgrading and redevelopment works, thus enhancing the marina operation. A planning application was submitted in 2013 by the new prospective owner, but it was deemed to be incomplete. Environmental reports are being prepared in support of resubmitting the planning application for the redevelopment of the marina.

The recent storms in the past month have had a devastating effect on the coastline of County Clare. The storms severely impacted on the marina, causing substantial damage to the pontoons and other marina infrastructure. As the sale of the marina will not be finalised until planning permission for the enhancement works is secured, Shannon Development is managing the remedial works, in conjunction with its insurers. An engineer has assessed the works and it is anticipated that Shannon Development will appoint a contractor to carry out remedial works once the insurance assessment is completed and the scope of work agreed to. As far as we are aware, the remedial works have not been included in Clare County Council's recent submission for funding to cover storm damage repairs along the coastline, where extensive damage was caused to publicly accessible amenities and infrastructure which must be prioritised.

Photo of Timmy DooleyTimmy Dooley (Clare, Fianna Fail)
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I can confirm that the necessary work has not been included in Clare County Council's submission, nor should it have been. The request from the Government was related to uninsurable public infrastructure in the ownership of the State, either through local authorities or the Office of Public Works. While I accept that the storms caused damage, I hope the risk was insured and that some funding will come through to repair the most recent damage.

There has been significant wear and tear of the entire marina because of the lack of investment in recent years. It would be appropriate, under whatever ownership structure is put in place as a result of the amalgamation of Shannon Development's assets with those of the airport, to include a proviso in the legislation to ensure the asset is protected in the sense that it is provided with a source of funding to upgrade the facility to an acceptable and appropriate level. I support the decision of Shannon Development and supported in principle the sale of the entity to the private company mentioned, which is a very fine Clare company with a fine reputation. If it is ultimately successful in the transfer, it has the capacity to make a real go of the facility. Notwithstanding this, the State has a duty to provide an investment in advance of the sale taking place to ensure the facility is upgraded to the standard to which it should have been maintained while in State ownership.

Photo of John PerryJohn Perry (Sligo-North Leitrim, Fine Gael)
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The marina is a considerable asset for the town of Kilrush. It is one of Ireland's finest marinas, offering 120 fully serviced pontoon berths, accessible at all stages of the tide, as well as a range of amenities. The board of Shannon Development holds the view that private ownership of the marina is the best option for its future development and upgrading. I have been informed by Shannon Development that it is working to ensure the marina will be fully operational for the summer season and that any storm damage will be repaired as quickly as possible.