Dáil debates

Wednesday, 11 July 2018

Implications of Brexit for Irish Ports: Motion [Private Members]

 

3:05 pm

Photo of Robert TroyRobert Troy (Longford-Westmeath, Fianna Fail)
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I move:

“That Dáil Éireann:

recognises that:— there are huge gaps in Ireland’s transport infrastructure, particularly in the west and north west, which are actively harming Ireland’s economic growth and development, as well as reducing citizens’ quality of life;

— economic growth is not spread equally across the country, and sound transport infrastructure is particularly important to economic growth in regional areas;

— maintaining strong, modern, and competitive transport links with the rest of the European Union (EU) is vital to securing Ireland’s economic future and ensuring that Ireland’s strong social and political links with our European counterparts are maintained;

— the decision of the United Kingdom (UK) to leave the EU will impede Ireland’s ability to use the UK land bridge to access continental Europe, thus closing off a route that two thirds of Irish exporters use to reach continental Europe and creating a need for alternative export and import facilities in Ireland;

— this Government and the last have failed to invest in Ireland’s ports, such that it is difficult for them to take advantage of new opportunities;

— the Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T) provides considerable funding opportunities for countries to improve their connectivity with the rest of Europe;

— the previous Fine Gael-led Government chose to exclude key infrastructural projects in their submission to the TEN-T Network, thus preventing these projects from receiving TEN-T funding and harming their chances of accessing alternative private financing too; and

— the majority of the projects removed by the previous Fine Gael-led Government are located in the west of the country, an area which is in considerable need of economic and infrastructural development;notes that:— while the next review of the TEN-T Network is due to take place in 2023, European Commissioner for Mobility and Transport, Ms. Violeta Bulc, has stated at a meeting with the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Transport, Tourism and Sport that ‘extraordinary circumstances call for extraordinary actions’;

— the European Commission reiterated in 2015 that member states retained ‘substantial sovereign rights’ to decide on projects; and

— there is a commitment in the Programme for Government that ‘in the first three months the new Government will apply to the European Union for the revision of the TEN-T Core Network, including applying for the reinstatement of the cross-border Western Arc’; and

calls on the Government to:

— instigate a full review of the TEN-T programme at European level well in advance of 2023, in recognition of the challenging circumstances facing Ireland and the weaknesses in our existent TEN-T programme;

— conduct a detailed and comprehensive review of potential projects to be included in the revised TEN-T programme, taking into account the regional imbalances that currently exist within the programme and the varied objectives that Ireland will need its transport infrastructure to meet;

— ensure the timely delivery of Ireland’s existent capital plan, Project Ireland 2040; and

— present a report to Dáil Éireann within the next 6 months outlining the actions that the Government has taken to bring about a review at European level, detailing the projects that they will be putting forth for consideration, and allow for a full debate on these issues.”

I am sharing time with Deputies Lisa Chambers, Niall Collins, Eugene Murphy and Casey.

The motion relates to the TEN-T network and Ireland's transport infrastructure. The concept behind the TEN-T network was to improve transport corridors, enabling economic growth and cohesion and connectivity within Europe. It covers all modes of transport - road, rail, sea and air. Maintaining and improving strong, modern and competitive links with the rest of the EU is vital to securing Ireland's economic future and ensuring that Ireland's strong social and political links with our European counterparts are maintained. Given the level of engagement the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport has had with his counterparts over the last two years, I question if he subscribes to this.

In order to have this connectivity we must improve Ireland's transport infrastructure, which has huge gaps due to lack of investment over the past decade, in order to deal with the growth in Ireland's population and economy. The short-sightedness of this and the previous Government has not only restricted economic growth and prevented regions from reaching their full potential, but it is also having severe negative consequences on the quality of people's lives. The length of time people are spending commuting has increased significantly in recent years. We have significant overcrowding on public transport. These matters need to be addressed now.

TEN-T has two layers: a core network and a comprehensive network. Under the last review covering the period from 2014 to 2020 the TEN-T network comprised upgrades to the Cork to Dublin and Dublin to Belfast rail network, and investment in Cork and Dublin ports. When submitting Ireland's proposals to the EU the then Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, who is now Taoiseach, severely lacked ambition. He did not include much of what he could have included and also removed key projects in the west of Ireland. I will leave my colleagues to deal with that.

The benefit from inclusion in TEN-T designation is the eligibility for funding from the Connecting Europe Facility. As well as eligibility for funding, it makes it much easier to access loans from the European Investment Bank and it is more attractive for public private partnerships.

The review of the TEN-T network is not due to take place until 2023. We believe given the significance of Brexit on the movement of goods and people for Ireland, we must make a compelling case now. In reply to a parliamentary question earlier this week, the Minister stated: "My Department is also committed to making a more detailed submission to the European Commission in respect of the TEN-T network, taking account of the implications of Brexit..." I do not see a sense of urgency coming from the Minister or the rest of Government on this. The European Commissioner for Mobility and Transport, Ms. Violeta Bulc, recently stated that extraordinary circumstances call for extraordinary actions.

Two thirds of Irish exports use the British land bridge to reach continental Europe. It is vital that Ireland seeks out alternatives which much include significant investment in our ports. If we look at the ports' designation, Ireland is totally out of sync with the rest of Europe. Ireland with a coastline of 2,795 km and a population of 4.7 million has five ports designated in the TEN-T network. Malta with a coastline of 135 km and a population of 436,000 has four ports designated in the TEN-T network. Scotland has 11 ports designated and Denmark has 22 ports designated. I use that as a comparator to show how out of sync we are and how urgently we need to review our TEN-T network. I remind the Minister that when he signed up to A Programme for a Partnership Government, he was going to complete a review within the first three months of Government. In responding to the motion the Minister might enlighten the House as to how that review is going and when we can expect an outcome from it.

Photo of Lisa ChambersLisa Chambers (Mayo, Fianna Fail)
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Brexit will mean big changes for our exporters and will have a major impact on Ireland's connectivity with Europe, which is central to our economy and society. It is estimated that up to 80% of Irish exports travel through Britain to get to mainland Europe using Britain as a land bridge, because it offers the quickest route to mainland Europe and other markets beyond. Swift routes are particularly important to the agrifood sector and others exporting perishable goods for obvious reasons.

If a good is perishable, it becomes less valuable as time passes and it remains in transit. This leads to an increase in the cost of exporting from Ireland and makes our goods more expensive and less competitive. When the UK becomes a third country and is outside of the EU, we could be looking at serious delays at Dover Port, where many trucks may have to queue for extended periods before making the crossing to Calais in France. This is a big concern for exporters and alternative options for transport must be explored across the country, not just in Dublin. We need the facility to bypass the UK and go straight to mainland Europe but this requires larger and faster ships and greater investment in our ports. We cannot wait until 2040 for this. It needs to happen now or we will be in trouble next March. We need to ensure proper transit security for our exporters and reduce our reliance on the UK land bridge which leaves us in a precarious position.

Even if Brexit were not happening, we should be making these investments in order to ensure security for our exporters and also to ensure that we are not overly reliant on the UK. We do not know what will be the final outcome of Brexit. We do not know what the future relationship between the UK and the EU will look like. We do not even know when that will be finalised. What we do know is we need to make preparations and we need to make them now.

A key part of our national response to Brexit should be to urgently review Ireland’s core network under the TEN-T funding programme. The goalposts have moved. Things have changed. These are exceptional circumstances. The review needs to happen now, not in 2023. I have spoken about this issue previously. It was utter madness to remove, in their entirety, the west and north west from the core network of the TEN-T funding programme. The TEN-T network is made up of two layers. The first is the comprehensive network which leads to the core network. One must be on the comprehensive network to make it onto the core network. The last Fine Gael-led Government, under the leadership of Deputy Leo Varadkar, as Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport at the time, removed the western rail corridor from the comprehensive network, thereby precluding the entire western region from being on the core map. That has massively disadvantaged the entire region and flies in the face of all balanced regional development. In order to qualify for core funding an area has to be on the core map. That is true for rail and road. The removal of the western rail corridor disqualified the western arc from Cork to Derry, Galway Port, Ireland West Airport in Knock and all other major infrastructure in the West from receiving core funding.

Article 1.2 of Decision No. 1692/96/EC of the European Parliament and the Council of 23 July 1996 on community guidelines, which set up the European transport network and the TEN-T funding, does not mandate the State to have funding in place in order to leave projects on the application. There was no justification for removing the projects to which I refer. The State was not mandated to do so. Funding did not have to have been in place. They could have been left on. The then European Commissioner for Transport, in a letter to Brian Crowley, MEP, of Fianna Fáil, confirmed that the Commission’s role is to specify targets and criteria but that member states retained substantial sovereign rights to decide on the projects. Member states decide what projects go on the network. The previous Fine Gael-led Government removed the west and the north west from that project. The comprehensive network, on which we have been allowed remain, only accounts for 5% of available funding. The remaining 95% goes to the core network. We are precluded from applying for any of that funding.

I am asking the Minister to review the network. The core TEN-T funding available covers the period up to 2030. There is a review coming up but it is not fast enough. It is far too long to wait until 2023 particularly in light of Brexit and the fact we have to develop all of our ports and all of our transport infrastructure to deal with the incoming impact of it. It is incumbent on the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, as Minister with responsibility for those issues, to ensure the review happens immediately, that we do not wait and that we do everything to ensure the west and north west get back on to the core network and that we get the infrastructure and investment we need in our ports, road and rail networks.

3:15 pm

Photo of Niall CollinsNiall Collins (Limerick County, Fianna Fail)
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I will speak in favour of the motion that has been tabled by my colleague, Deputy Troy, as our transport spokesperson, outlining the glaring gaps in the infrastructure in our capital and the rest of our country. Naturally, I am concerned about my region, the mid-west and Limerick in particular. There is no doubt our transport infrastructure system is creaking at the seams and is not fit for purpose. We have had almost a decade of underinvestment. It has been accentuated by population growth and by the economy growing. The Government, on the Minister's watch, has failed to produce any real plan to deal with this comprehensively. The gaps are harming Ireland's economic growth, the economic growth of my constituency and of the region I represent. It is harming people's quality of life. It is also preventing our rural towns and rural areas from achieving their fullest potential. We need to have a plan as soon as possible and a plan that will be delivered in a real and meaningful way with funding. On top of all of this, we have Brexit.

In the time available, I will refer to the Shannon Foynes Port Company which is headquartered in my constituency in the town of Foynes but which also operates out of Limerick city. It is charged with the handling of cargo and freight up and down the Shannon Estuary. The Minister should know it has plans to develop new business and new shipping routes by using unitised and container traffic and developing new routes directly to the UK. I ask the Minister to take every opportunity to support it. The justification for trying to develop it is Brexit but also the fact that Dublin - including its port - is completely gridlocked with congestion on many levels. At the Shannon Foynes Port Company headquarters in Foynes, there is ample opportunity to expand to meet the plan it is projecting and also to accommodate the logistical and customs issues. To achieve that plan, we have to be able to link to the motorway network. The proposed Limerick to Foynes motorway is slipping down the timescale for delivery. I ask the Minister to take a keen interest in delivering that motorway proposal. It is about to go to planning. All the boxes seem to have been ticked by the road design office people.

The Minister will also be aware the proposed liquefied natural gas, LNG, facility at Ballylongford in Kerry is coming back on the radar again. It will provide many opportunities for energy security, business and commerce, and economic investment in the region. Will the Minister come forward with a realistic plan to deal with transport infrastructure in Limerick, the mid west and across the country?

Photo of Eugene MurphyEugene Murphy (Roscommon-Galway, Fianna Fail)
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This is one of the most important motions that has come before the House in the two and a half years I have been here. I loudly applaud Deputy Troy for the work and research he has done on this. I support Deputies Lisa Chambers and Niall Collins and other members of the Fianna Fáil Parliamentary Party.

With regard to TEN-T projects, the west, mid-west and north west were thrown to the wolves. We were given nothing. I do not blame the Minister, Deputy Ross. It was our current Taoiseach who had scant regard for the western coastline and the midlands. It is the one part of Ireland that can be developed. Look at what the Government has done. In 2011, it withdrew the grants from the airports in Galway and Sligo. The Minister and others may say that they were not important but there were businessmen from London and France flying into Galway Airport looking at projects to create jobs and they do not come any more. They will not fly into Shannon Airport and take an hour to get up to Galway city because they cannot afford the time. As the Minister and others know, if one is in business time is of the essence and things move fast. These people no longer come here. It was a huge mistake to take away the grants from places like Galway and Sligo.

Ireland West Airport in Knock should be turned into a national airport. That is what we need to develop the west of Ireland. Then we can develop the industrial zones. The way we were treated when these projects were put in before was absolutely outrageous. That is why we need this review as quickly as possible. I am constantly coming in here pleading with the Minister about the N4 and the N5 and how difficult it is to get them developed. While the Minister and his colleagues in government tell us they are in process, not much is happening. They will not be developed for the next five or six or maybe eight years. I hope I am wrong. I hope the Minister can confirm to the House that the projects will move forward as quickly as possible.

The regional roads in the west and the midlands are in a mess. Much of the traffic coming from a northerly direction and heading south takes the regional roads that run through the area from Carrick-on-Shannon to Athlone and right on through County Roscommon.

No money is being spent on regional roads and they are not fit for such heavy traffic.

I fully support my colleagues and plead with the Minister to move forward with this review as quickly as possible. As Deputy Chambers said, we cannot wait until 2023. If he wants to develop Ireland and make the place great again, the Minister should look to the west for opportunities, get the review done and invest money in it.

3:25 pm

Photo of Pat CaseyPat Casey (Wicklow, Fianna Fail)
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I welcome this motion on the crucial infrastructure improvements that are essential to our tier 1 and tier 2 ports. In particular, Rosslare Europort, as a tier 2 port, is a key player in the commercial trade of the south east and in the tourism industry nationally. In Wicklow, much commercial trade is progressed through Rosslare and the strategic decisions to locate many industries in Wicklow are dependent on the capacities of Dublin and Rosslare to accommodate their transport needs. The much-hyped national planning framework makes vague references to upgrading tier 2 ports between now and 2040. The national development plan, which is the investment plan for the next ten years, does not mention any tier 2 port projects, including Rosslare. The implications to the national and regional economy from a failure to fully invest in upgrades to Rosslare Europort would be careless in normal economic cycles but the changes to our trade as a result of Brexit make this lack of attention a dereliction of duty by Government.

The implications of Brexit to the land bridge transport system in the UK, used by 80% of Irish traded goods, are potentially catastrophic. The potential for Rosslare Europort's growth and capacity for growth is, therefore, urgent. Apart from the urgent need for trade, industrial and commercial development for south Wicklow, the tourism industry for the entire garden county will require investment in the infrastructure to allow coach tours and self-drive tourists to access Rosslare in a post-Brexit world.

This Government must prioritise a full review of the EU TEN-T programme to leverage funding for Rosslare Europort. The reality of Brexit and the increased need for trade and tourism development make this project of urgent national interest at EU level. It is a practical yet strategic method for our EU partners to support Ireland during the Brexit transition.

Photo of Shane RossShane Ross (Dublin Rathdown, Independent)
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I move amendment No. 2:

To delete all words after “Dáil Éireann” and substitute the following:

“notes that:— the Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T) Core Network consists of those parts of the comprehensive network which are of the highest strategic importance for

achieving the objectives of the TEN-T policy, and shall reflect evolving traffic demand and the need for multimodal transport;

— by seeking to include projects on the TEN-T Core Network, European Union (EU) Member States were committing to completing those projects by 2030;

— inclusion of a project on the TEN-T Core Network does not give rise to any automatic entitlement to funding, rather that funding decisions are on a competitive basis against projects from all across the EU; and

— the maximum level of funding possible under TEN-T for works on a domestic road or rail project on the Core Network is 30 per cent;recalls that:— in 2011 when the TEN-T negotiations were at their height, the State recorded a deficit of €21 billion and it would not have been realistic to commit to major new

investments in road and rail networks; and

— the biggest transport project in this State since 2011 was the Gort-Tuam motorway which opened last year, and this project was prioritised and delivered at the height of the economic crisis; andrecognises:— that Project Ireland 2040 acknowledged that transport links between the north-west and other parts of the country have been comparatively neglected until recently and therefore prioritises transport links to and from the area, including projects such as the N4 Collooney to Castlebaldwin, the N5 Westport to Turlough, the N5 Ballaghaderren to Scramogue, the A5 road development and the Galway City Ring Road among others;

— the progress being made across the whole of Government in preparing for Brexit and the potential impacts on the United Kingdom (UK) land bridge;

— that the Irish Maritime Development Office (IMDO) is undertaking a study into the use of the UK land bridge by Irish importers and exporters including the likely

consequences that Brexit will have on land bridge usage and the various alternative options that may be viable, and that this report is due to be completed shortly;

— the intention of the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport to make a submission to the European Commissioner for Mobility and Transport seeking a review of the

TEN-T Network, taking account of the impact of Brexit and the investments being made under Project Ireland 2040, particularly those in the north-west, in line with the

Programme for Government commitment;

— that the Irish port companies are commercial entities, and that it is long-established Government policy that they are not subvented by the State; and

— that the supportive policy framework in place at a national and European level is facilitating historically high levels of capital investment being made in our ports’

infrastructure, with more than €300 million of infrastructure capacity development currently taking place.”

I welcome the opportunity to address the House on Ireland’s transport network, including the trans-European transport network, and our connectivity with the rest of Europe. This is particularly appropriate and timely in the context of the UK’s impending departure from the EU. I reject the contention that in some way this is an opportunity to criticise the Taoiseach for his stewardship at that time. The infrastructure in the west is not as neglected as the Members opposite maintain. They will be familiar with the motorway to Tuam, which I opened not very long ago and whose fathers were the Minister for Finance, Deputy Paschal Donohoe, and the Taoiseach.

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Wexford, Labour)
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There were one or two others as well.

Photo of Shane RossShane Ross (Dublin Rathdown, Independent)
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It is one of the biggest pieces of infrastructure built in this country in recent times. Credit should be given where credit is due.

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Wexford, Labour)
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Indeed it should. I speak as the person who drew up the national plan.

Photo of Shane RossShane Ross (Dublin Rathdown, Independent)
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The credit goes to the Taoiseach and the Minister for Finance. If Deputy Howlin was in office at the time, he can claim credit for anything he likes. Good for him for supporting it; I applaud him for doing so.

Since taking office I have become familiar with the concept of the TEN-T. While I was not in situat the time of its agreement, I am familiar with the background and rationale behind its development. TEN-T is focused on addressing bottlenecks and missing links in cross-border European transport infrastructure.

The regulations establishing TEN-T were not designed to cover the full transport network of each member state. In fact, I understand the previous regulations were deemed to be ineffective as the network was too large and spread too widely. The European Commission proposed, instead, the concept of a comprehensive network with a subset called the core network. Many elements of the transport network in the west and north west are on the comprehensive TEN-T network. This comprehensive network includes, on the western seaboard, rail links between Limerick and Galway, Dublin and Westport, Dublin and Sligo and Dublin and Galway. In the case of roads, it includes a number of major roads across the west and north west, including cross-Border roads, and other transport facilities such as the airports at Knock, Donegal, Sligo and Shannon as well as the port of Derry.

Within the comprehensive network, the core network links the main nodes or centres of the European transport system. On the island of Ireland, the core network includes the transport links from Belfast to Dublin to Cork with an offshoot to Shannon-Foynes. This characteristic of a wider comprehensive network, with a more limited core transport network, is similar to other member states. For example, across the Irish Sea, Scotland has no core network north of the Glasgow-Edinburgh line. Likewise large swathes of France and Sweden do not are without a core network. This is replicated in many member states.

Inclusion on the comprehensive and core networks places legal obligations on member states. Generally, this means that core network infrastructure should be in place to the specified technical standards by 2030 and the comprehensive network infrastructure by 2050. The inclusion of a project on the TEN-T network does not give rise to any automatic entitlement to funding. Instead, funding decisions are on a competitive basis against projects from all across the European Union. Typically, these competitive processes - or calls - are significantly oversubscribed.

Matching co-funding is a prerequisite for projects put forward under calls for proposals. All TEN-T projects put forward must, among other things, have co-financing in place. The regulations provide for co-financing for works at up to 20 %, with up to 30% available to alleviate bottlenecks. In limited circumstances, co-financing of up to 40% can be provided for cross-border rail projects on the core network. With a co-funding rate of, for example, 20% for Exchequer-funded projects, the member state is still required to fund the remaining 80%.

Against the backdrop of a difficult economic climate in 2011, Ireland was required to consider the specific implications of the proposed network for its transport infrastructure, as well as its financial capacity to complete the technical specifications of its portion of the network within the timeframes proposed. This was against a backdrop of challenging management of State revenue and expenditure. In 2011 alone, the State recorded a deficit of €21 billion. The capital budget of the Department was reduced drastically during this period. It was cut from €2.1 billion in 2010 to €950 million in 2013. This was the economic reality at that time.

It was in this context that Ireland, as with other member states, liaised with the European Commission regarding its views on the appropriateness of the draft network in line with the proposed methodology and the affordability of the completion of the network at that time. This resulted in sections of the proposed network not ultimately being included in the final TEN-T maps agreed in 2013. However, my Department plans to make a comprehensive submission to the European Commission, in line with the commitment contained in A Programme for Partnership Government, for the Government to apply to the EU for the revision of the TEN-T core network, including in respect of the cross-border western arc. This submission will take account of the implications of the ongoing uncertainty surrounding the UK’S departure from the EU and the impact this will have on our future transport connectivity. It will also take account of the Government’s plans under Project Ireland 2040 and the implications of the implementation of the national planning framework.

These issues and the intention to make a submission have been raised by my Department with the European Commission. The submission will call for an early review of Ireland’s TEN-T network. This would tie in with what the European Commissioner for Mobility and Transport, Ms Violeta BuIc, said during her visit to Ireland last October, to the effect that the extraordinary circumstances of Brexit call for extraordinary actions or solutions.

Notwithstanding the budgetary position of the State at that time, the Government proceeded with the largest transport project in this State since 2011. This was the Gort-Tuam motorway which opened last year and which was prioritised and delivered at the height of the economic crisis at a total cost to the Exchequer and PPP contractors of €1.149 billion. Since then the Government has agreed a hugely ambitious roll-out of infrastructure projects across the State under Project Ireland 2040. Within this plan, the Government recognises the importance of transport links in the regions, and particularly between the north west and other parts of the country. The plan prioritises transport projects such as the N4 Collooney to Castlebaldwin, the N5 Westport to Turlough, the N5 Ballaghaderreen to Scramogue, the A5 road development and the Galway city ring road. These improved links, and others contained in Project Ireland 2040, when constructed, will address shortfalls in connectivity between the regions and enhance connectivity to our international gateway ports and airports.

This in turn will assist in overcoming some of the potential fallout from Brexit. Speaking of connectivity, I fully appreciate that the decision of the UK to leave the European Union could negatively affect Ireland’s connectivity to the wider world, particularly for trade. One immediate implication identified was our ability to continue to use the UK landbridge as an efficient and timely route for our goods to make their way to European markets. While the EU-UK Brexit negotiations are ongoing and the future EU-UK relationship remains uncertain at present, the Government is working to ensure that Ireland’s use of the UK landbridge can and will continue in as seamless a manner as is possible. It is clear that Brexit may result in new or increased direct shipping routes from Ireland to continental Europe, and this is already happening and is welcome.

Providing greater transport options can only be of benefit to our exporters and imports. Nevertheless, the Government is conscious of the continuing critical importance of the landbridge to many sectors of our economy and will continue to work with the European Commission, Mr. Michel Barnier’s team and our EU partners to minimise any potential impact. The Irish Maritime Development Office, IMDO, in conjunction with my Department, is currently finalising a study into the use of the UK landbridge by Irish importers and exporters. This study will seek to establish the volume of Ireland’s traffic using the UK landbridge at present, the likely consequences Brexit may have on our use of the UK landbridge and the various alternative options that may be viable. The study is expected to be completed shortly and will be published.

I am also undertaking a national ports capacity study, which will take account of Brexit and the future capacity requirements of our ports. The study will be completed later this year. The UK’s exit from the EU in 2019 highlights the importance of high-quality international maritime connectivity and the importance of continuing investment to further improve the quality of port facilities. This is relevant to all our ports of national significance, both tier 1 and tier 2 ports, given their potential role in maintaining transportation linkages with crucial EU markets. The Government’s national ports policy provides a supportive policy framework at national level to enable competition and investment within the port sector. This policy is complimentary to and a good fit with wider European policy and facilitates historically high level of capital investment being made in our ports’ infrastructure. At present, the ports of Dublin, Cork and Shannon Foynes are all undertaking major capital infrastructure programmes with a combined investment of close to €350 million, part funded by the European Union under the TEN-T Connecting Europe Facility, and designed to enhance capacity.

In support of these investments, a Government priority under Project 2040 is to strengthen access routes to our ports through upgrading and enhancing the road transport network. Examples of such investments include the ongoing development of the M11 to improve connectivity to Rosslare in the south east, the planned N28 Cork to Ringaskiddy road to improve access to the Port of Cork and the N21-N69 Limerick to Adare to Foynes road to improve access to Shannon Foynes Port. The combination of these investments will strengthen the overall ability of our maritime infrastructure to cope with the demands that may arise from Brexit. Nevertheless, after the UK leaves the EU, we will no longer share a land border with another EU member state and Ireland’s missing link to the rest of the EU will become the sea. Does the Leas-Cheann Comhairle want me to finish now?

3:35 pm

Photo of Pat GallagherPat Gallagher (Donegal, Fianna Fail)
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I do not but the order of the House is for ten minutes and that will take another four minutes.

Photo of Shane RossShane Ross (Dublin Rathdown, Independent)
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That is fine.

Photo of Pat GallagherPat Gallagher (Donegal, Fianna Fail)
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Somebody would be deprived of time. What does the House want to do?

Photo of Shane RossShane Ross (Dublin Rathdown, Independent)
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Should I finish it?

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Wexford, Labour)
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We can read the rest of it ourselves.

Photo of Pat GallagherPat Gallagher (Donegal, Fianna Fail)
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Somebody would be deprived if the Minister continues.

Photo of Shane RossShane Ross (Dublin Rathdown, Independent)
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No, if the House wishes me to sit down, I will and I will circulate it.

Photo of Lisa ChambersLisa Chambers (Mayo, Fianna Fail)
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We have it already.

Photo of Robert TroyRobert Troy (Longford-Westmeath, Fianna Fail)
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We have it. The Minister is probably only reading it for the first time himself, so it is okay, we will read it.

Photo of Pat GallagherPat Gallagher (Donegal, Fianna Fail)
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I call Deputy David Cullinane, who is sharing time with Deputy Munster and Deputy Quinlivan.

Photo of David CullinaneDavid Cullinane (Waterford, Sinn Fein)
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I always like to hear the Minister speak but unfortunately rules are rules. It is always entertaining to watch Fianna Fáil pretend it is an Opposition party, despite two years of the confidence and supply agreement that has seen a worsening health and housing crisis and a lining of the pockets of property speculators and outside vulture funds. Throughout all of this, Fianna Fáil has supported an inexperienced and out-of-touch Taoiseach who has clearly been dazzled by the bright lights of Washington, New York and London and the soft words of Mrs. Theresa May.

Today we have a motion on the transport infrastructure gaps in this State, gaps that are worrying given that Brexit is now only months away. Fianna Fáil points out the problems facing this State and, in fairness, it has expertise given that it created most of them. That is probably why solutions or indeed suggestions, are thin on the ground. That was also why it was all the more interesting to hear Teachta Eugene Murphy describe this as one of the most important and best motions to be put before the House.

Photo of Eugene MurphyEugene Murphy (Roscommon-Galway, Fianna Fail)
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It is.

Photo of David CullinaneDavid Cullinane (Waterford, Sinn Fein)
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If he was serious, then I think that he has very serious problems.

Photo of Eugene MurphyEugene Murphy (Roscommon-Galway, Fianna Fail)
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We did something for the road network when we were there as well.

Photo of David CullinaneDavid Cullinane (Waterford, Sinn Fein)
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Sometimes it is necessary to sit and listen. We sat and listened to all of the Fianna Fáil contributions

Photo of Pat GallagherPat Gallagher (Donegal, Fianna Fail)
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Deputies will address their remarks through the Chair.

Photo of David CullinaneDavid Cullinane (Waterford, Sinn Fein)
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It is called political debate and it is-----

Photo of Eugene MurphyEugene Murphy (Roscommon-Galway, Fianna Fail)
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The Deputy could do with doing that himself at times.

Photo of Pat GallagherPat Gallagher (Donegal, Fianna Fail)
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Deputies will address any remarks through the Chair.

Photo of David CullinaneDavid Cullinane (Waterford, Sinn Fein)
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It is good manners to listen as well.

Photo of Lisa ChambersLisa Chambers (Mayo, Fianna Fail)
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Condescension does not suit Deputy Cullinane.

Photo of Pat GallagherPat Gallagher (Donegal, Fianna Fail)
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Order please, Deputies.

Photo of David CullinaneDavid Cullinane (Waterford, Sinn Fein)
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Fianna Fáil wants to address our infrastructure problems-----

Photo of Lisa ChambersLisa Chambers (Mayo, Fianna Fail)
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Does Sinn Féin not want to do that?

Photo of David CullinaneDavid Cullinane (Waterford, Sinn Fein)
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-----with more reports and a timely start to Ireland 2040. In other words, while talking about the problem, Fianna Fáil has put forward as a solution the outworking of the supply and confidence arrangement - the very agreement it is pretending does not exist today as it wants to be seen as an Opposition party. We are all know that Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael are two sides of the same coin. They did not see transport as a vital piece of the infrastructure of the State and consistently down through the years they have seen it as a outsourcing paradise and a path to privatisation. We have seen that repeatedly. The Minister would not have any difficulty with that given his own ideological disposition. Nonetheless, that has been the path that both Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have chosen.

In reality, none of them are prepared for Brexit. We had an extraordinary contribution on the national airwaves from the Fianna Fáil Brexit spokesperson, Deputy Lisa Chambers, who was more concerned about raising the white flag-----

Photo of Eugene MurphyEugene Murphy (Roscommon-Galway, Fianna Fail)
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God help Deputy Chambers.

Photo of David CullinaneDavid Cullinane (Waterford, Sinn Fein)
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-----and admitting defeat and preparing for a hard border rather than telling the British Prime Minister, and indeed holding the Irish Government to account-----

Photo of Lisa ChambersLisa Chambers (Mayo, Fianna Fail)
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Deputy Cullinane is just making things up now.

Photo of David CullinaneDavid Cullinane (Waterford, Sinn Fein)
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The Irish people will not tolerate any hardening of the Border-----

Photo of Lisa ChambersLisa Chambers (Mayo, Fianna Fail)
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Tell the truth Deputy.

Photo of David CullinaneDavid Cullinane (Waterford, Sinn Fein)
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-----and there will not be one because the Irish people will not accept it. Fianna Fáil might accept a hard border but Sinn Féin and the vast majority of people and parties-----

Photo of Eugene MurphyEugene Murphy (Roscommon-Galway, Fianna Fail)
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Fianna Fáil will not.

Photo of David CullinaneDavid Cullinane (Waterford, Sinn Fein)
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-----in this State will not. We need a clear vision of where we want to be in the next five years and we have to start building for that now. We need to see investment in homes, schools, hospitals, public transport, airports and ports. The Minister knows that Rosslare Europort provides real opportunities for this State in a post-Brexit world, as does the Port of Waterford, which has massive capacity that can be tapped into in many ways. I met the chief executive officer and the staff of the port a number of months ago and great progress has been made in Waterford in recent years, where activity is up. The port has the potential and capacity to double or treble activity. The Minister is aware there are challenges at Waterford Airport and they also have to be met.

We must, of course, invest but we cannot invest if both Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, state we should set up a rainy day fund and not spend the money we need today to sort out all of these problems while in the same breath they talk about tax cuts and giving them to higher earners in the State. All of that has been tried, tested and failed. Those are the politics of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael. In reality, neither party will deliver the investment necessary. They intend to save it up, as Fianna Fáil did in the past when we had the National Pensions Reserve Fund but when the time came for the money to be spent, it was not spent in the interests of the State. It was not spent on infrastructure, on roads, potholes and the need for investment that was talked about by Teachta Murphy-----

Photo of Eugene MurphyEugene Murphy (Roscommon-Galway, Fianna Fail)
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It is Ó Murchú, if the Deputy knows his Irish.

Photo of David CullinaneDavid Cullinane (Waterford, Sinn Fein)
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-----and all the other Fianna Fáil speakers. It was given to bankers and it was given to developers. All of the money was emptied and given to bankers. That it what was done with the National Pensions Reserve Fund. Almost every cent of it-----

Photo of Eugene MurphyEugene Murphy (Roscommon-Galway, Fianna Fail)
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Did Deputy mention bankers?

Photo of Pat GallagherPat Gallagher (Donegal, Fianna Fail)
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Order please Deputies, and one person speaking at a time.

Photo of David CullinaneDavid Cullinane (Waterford, Sinn Fein)
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-----and more. Not only was the National Pensions Reserve Fund emptied but billions of euro were also borrowed, which saddled future generations with debt, to pay bankers. Then Fianna Fáil came into the House and said we need more investment in ports and infrastructure to prepare ourselves for Brexit. If we do, and I agree we do, then Fianna Fáil should state with the same breath that we need a rainy day fund and tax cuts because it not possible to do everything and to be all things to all people. If that is tried, we end up with a broken economy as we got from Fianna Fáil in the past. I will not give it any credit for tabling a motion that is meaningless and is not going to achieve anything. It is getting a couple of minutes to speak about some of these issues but there is no real intent behind it.

Photo of Eugene MurphyEugene Murphy (Roscommon-Galway, Fianna Fail)
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What about the Deputy himself? He is good at that himself.

Photo of Robert TroyRobert Troy (Longford-Westmeath, Fianna Fail)
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That was five minutes of rubbish.

Photo of Pat GallagherPat Gallagher (Donegal, Fianna Fail)
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I call Deputy Munster, with no interruptions from any quarter.

3:45 pm

Photo of Imelda MunsterImelda Munster (Louth, Sinn Fein)
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This motion outlines the serious gaps in infrastructure in this State. Fianna Fáil will be well acquainted with the issue, as it was in government for decades and did not bother with long-term, sustainable planning and development. After it bankrupted the country, another decade passed without investment in infrastructure. This was a policy decision by Labour and Fine Gael to punish ordinary people for the financial disaster created by the State and the banks. Instead of investing to encourage economic growth to provide a decent quality of life for our people, the Government cut spending on services and on capital spend. We now find ourselves way behind other modern European countries. Our infrastructure is still lacking, and we are now at a stage where the State cannot even house families. We have 100,000 people on housing lists.

I mention all this because it is relevant to the motion. It is just a motion, not a Bill and, therefore, it will achieve nothing. It is all very well to call for investment in various areas, but Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil appear to be incapable of delivering anything, whether in government separately or together, as they are today. Project Ireland 2040 appears to be an aspirational PR initiative. It is likely that most of its commitments will go undelivered, like previous strategies with fine PR exercises lying on the shelf gathering dust.

Sinn Féin is in favour of investing in infrastructure. We need to invest to allow for sustainable economic growth to promote strong communities and balanced regional development, and for accessibility. We need to do it in a way that is economically beneficial to the State, sustainable, and in keeping with our emissions targets. As Britain prepares to leave the EU, we need to Brexit-proof this State. We need to ensure that we have adequate transport links with the European continent via sea and air to ensure our economic and social relationships are maintained. A good start would be to continue to invest in cross-Border and Border projects such as the A5 and Narrow Water Bridge. We also have to invest in our regional ports and airports to ensure optimum international transport links in a post-Brexit EU. This will boost the connectivity of the regions, which are not experiencing an economic recovery, to allow for economic growth as well as growth in tourism. To support our regional airports, we must prioritise rail and road links to realise their potential and to ensure balanced regional development. Sinn Féin is also in favour of the development of strategic development zones around key regional airports.

When it comes to Brexit, my own constituency of Louth is in a Border county, and I would urge specific investment in the Border region. We cannot be like the British Conservative Party and keep our heads in the sand. We have to invest and prepare for Brexit. Drogheda port needs significant investment and it is vital that we get the go-ahead for the port to access the northern cross route if the town is going to develop economically in the way that it should.

The west and north west have been utterly neglected by successive Governments. The exclusion by the previous Government of projects in the west and north west from the TEN-T submission was shameful. The Taoiseach ensured that the western rail corridor and the upgrade of Galway and Sligo airports were deleted from an EU-wide transport programme in 2011. The Government talks about regional development, but actively works against it. The motion calls for a review of the TEN-T network ahead of the 2023 due date. That is a reasonable ambition, and no one would argue otherwise. However, there is a commitment in the programme for partnership Government to apply to the EU for the revision of the TEN-T core network within three months of the formation of government. Fianna Fáil is now a part of this partnership Government. Why is it calling on its partners in government to implement agreed policy? This is ridiculous. It is appearing in the House with a motion as if it is not a part of the Government; it is playing at being the Opposition. The party knows that a motion has no legal standing and is not worth the paper it is written on. It should stop taking people for fools, because they can see through this. They see Fianna Fáil coming from a mile away.

Photo of Eugene MurphyEugene Murphy (Roscommon-Galway, Fianna Fail)
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At least Fianna Fáil is contributing. What about the North?

Photo of David CullinaneDavid Cullinane (Waterford, Sinn Fein)
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It is a lovely part of the country.

Photo of Lisa ChambersLisa Chambers (Mayo, Fianna Fail)
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Every party tables motions.

Photo of Imelda MunsterImelda Munster (Louth, Sinn Fein)
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Fianna Fáil is getting tetchy. That is understandable.

Photo of Pat GallagherPat Gallagher (Donegal, Fianna Fail)
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Deputy Munster should speak through the Chair rather than engaging in dialogue with other Members.

Photo of Imelda MunsterImelda Munster (Louth, Sinn Fein)
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The Fianna Fáil Deputies are tetchy. The Government has made an absolute mess of TEN-T core network funding. The western arc must be included. At the moment only Dublin to Cork, Dublin to Belfast and Dublin to Limerick are included. This means that 80% of TEN-T funding is automatically excluded from the west. Consultation with regional authorities in the west has been non-existent.

I also call on the Government to make better use of this funding stream. In 2017, the State made just one application for funding to extend the capacity of Shannon Foynes Port Company, which received 20% funding. Other countries are making much better use of this option. For example, Sweden made 21 applications and it does not face the challenges we have, including our infrastructural deficit, the fact that Ireland is an island and the massive implications Brexit will have for us compared to any other state. The importance of making those applications should be highlighted.

Photo of Maurice QuinlivanMaurice Quinlivan (Limerick City, Sinn Fein)
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Our amendment to the motion calls on the Government to commit to the completion of a number of important infrastructure projects across this island. The A5 Dublin to Derry road is a vital project that will help connect these two cities and provide good transport links for communities along this route, particularly in the Border counties. This project needs to be progressed. Our motion also calls for investment in our regional airports and ports across the island, which will become more important in a post-Brexit Europe. The reality is that €26 billion of Irish exports were destined for the 26 other countries in the EU, excluding Britain, last year. Getting these goods to the continent could become an issue if a hard Brexit occurs. It takes approximately ten hours for a truck to travel between Dublin and Calais currently, using Britain as a land bridge. If this route becomes unusable, whether due to restrictions, checks or massive queues at the Channel Tunnel, the alternative direct ferry route to Zeebrugge in Belgium will take 38 hours. Any additional time in transit will cost businesses money, and when transporting perishable goods, every hour counts.

I asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation about this yesterday, and inquired about the plans in place to deal with such a scenario. Unfortunately, not much information was provided by the Government in this area. The Irish Maritime Development Office is currently compiling a report into the use of land bridge and the alternatives that could be used. This is welcome and I hope it is published soon so we can examine its findings. Can the Minister provide a date of publication of that report?

In the context of Brexit, we should now examine whether IDA land could be used to set up large warehousing depots in Ireland to replace similar warehouses currently used by Irish companies in Britain, and the idea of using bonded warehouses in Britain. If we are not prepared for a hard Brexit, it will have a devastating effect on Irish businesses, exporters and farmers. Businesses need to know now what structures will be in place when Britain leaves the EU.

It is clear the Tories are so fractured they will be unable to come up with a solution by October or March, and this makes a hard Brexit much more likely. Should Britain crash out of the EU with no deal, air and shipping capacity in the short-term should be increased by the Government. The infrastructure needs across the island are huge, and I believe it is a mistake to be putting hundreds of millions into a rainy day fund when so many vital projects are needed now. We need to invest in these important projects now to help mitigate the problems that will arise for businesses and exporters due to Brexit.

I had not intended to speak about Fianna Fáil, but it seems to be very touchy when any issues are raised. It has come to the House with a motion, but it has no idea of how the proposals contained within it can be funded. Fianna Fáil wrecked the economy three times, including twice in my lifetime. For that reason most people I went to third level education with do not live in Ireland any more; they emigrated when Fianna Fáil collapsed the economy in the 1980s. My nephews and nieces left when it collapsed the economy in 2008. It is hard to listen to Fianna Fáil; it wants everything and wants to pay for nothing.

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Wexford, Labour)
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This is a most timely motion, as the clock is ticking down to March next year, when the UK leaves the EU. It is one thing to talk about the overall volume of goods and services traded between Ireland and the UK, and the possibility of Ireland finding new markets for some of its goods, but when we discuss the nature of the goods we export to Britain and the conditions of our ports and other infrastructure, we are faced with the stark reality that much more preparation work is required to ensure that our economy is cushioned against the inevitable negative impacts of Brexit. The Minister for Finance reported earlier that 40,000 jobs could be lost in the event of a hard Brexit.

The new trading relationship between the UK and Ireland post Brexit will be more difficult. Even if free trade with no tariffs or quotas is agreed, which is a tall expectation, there will still be paperwork created by the very fact that goods will be crossing in and out of the Union. Whatever European red tape the British may have abolished by exiting the EU, they will have replaced it several times over with red, white and blue tape. Analysis of the economic impact of Brexit carried out by Copenhagen Economics for the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation has projected lower economic output for Ireland by 2030 in every Brexit scenario. In the least worst scenario, in which the UK remains in both the customs union and the Single Market, a possibility which has been ruled out, the impact would still be 2.8% of gross domestic product, GDP. The worst-case scenario would rise to up to 7.7%. These are shocking prospective figures and impacts on us.

The same analysis also shows that wages would be lower for many workers by 2030, much worse than will be the case without Brexit. Wages for low skilled workers could be between 3.5% and 7.7% lower. Wages for highly skilled workers could be up to 6.5% lower. These are the figures in the aggregate, but the direct effect on many workers will be the loss of their jobs. Annually, Ireland exports €15.6 billion in goods to the UK and imports €18 billion. Focusing on Britain alone, rather than just Northern Ireland, the most valuable exports are food and live animals, accounting for €3.9 billion. Chemicals and related products account for another €3.9 billion. Machinery and transport equipment account for €2.6 billion, miscellaneous manufactured articles €1.1 billion, and a range of other items amount to a further €2.3 billion. Practically all of these goods pass to Britain through our ports, and they do so alongside another €100 billion in exports to other parts of the world, including €60 billion in chemicals. Alongside this, we import €70 billion worth of goods through our ports, €17 billion of that from Britain.

Our ports are clearly central to our ability to export and to import. If we are going to seriously open up new destinations for exports around the world, which is a strategic policy focus to combat Brexit, we need to be sure that our ports are ready to take up the volume and type of goods that would be involved. It is not as simple as saying that we have to find new markets for every item that we currently sell to Britain. It is more likely to be the case that significant restructuring will have to take place throughout the economy to shift the focus to export goods that are attractive elsewhere and will find alternative markets. Not only will our producers have to consider making these changes; so too will our distributors. We need to modify our distribution networks to be prepared for Brexit. This is also an opportunity. Britain accounts for only 14% of Irish goods exports, a remarkable fall from the day we joined the then Common Market. As Ireland strengthens its capacity to export directly to continental Europe, and to the wider world, it has an opportunity to strengthen regional economic development outside of the Dublin region. We are currently too dependent on Dublin Port as the main gateway into and out of Ireland. In turn, Dublin Port is massively reliant on the Dublin Port tunnel, without which the city of Dublin would be reduced to gridlock by lorries. The Dublin Port tunnel has a finite capacity to carry goods vehicles, which is another reason to plan for the development of ports outside Dublin. As an island, it is also desirable to have some degree of competition between our ports, to give choice to exporters and to ensure that our ports are efficiently run and that we do not put all our eggs in one basket.

Given the major challenges in the global trading environment, we simply cannot be complacent. Rosslare Europort is particularly well placed for this development. It is the nearest port to continental Europe and it is strategically important for this nation. The logic of that is simply that Dublin Port is hugely focused on shipping to Britain. If we want to shift even a fraction of this trade to continental Europe, then we should develop the port that is nearest to those continental European markets. It makes no sense for goods to be transported, for example, from across Munster all the way to Dublin only to be shipped south again, down the Irish Sea and past Rosslare Europort on their way to the continent. That makes no sense at all. It would lower carbon emissions if Rosslare Europort took this traffic. As such, we should envisage upgrading Rosslare Europort becoming a tier 1 port in the same category as Dublin, Cork or Shannon Foynes, as opposed to its current position as the largest tier 2 port, followed by the Port of Waterford Company.

Rosslare Europort is currently operated by Irish Rail as opposed to a separate port company, a unique historical arrangement that, bluntly, is not working right now. It remained profitable right throughout the downturn period, but it does not generate the return that would enable the major investment that is now required to upgrade it. The needs of the port include dredging to deal with the silting caused by winter storms and lateral drift, modernisation of facilities that need upgrading, and general maintenance. There is an argument for establishing a publicly-owned independent port authority for Rosslare to ensure a singular focus on maritime and shipping outlets. That would be in the national interest. Such an independent port authority could be formally linked to the local authority. There is also a need for a region-wide plan to ensure that Rosslare Europort is fully serviced by the infrastructure it needs to expand the volume of exports and imports that it handles. The Minister referenced the Enniscorthy bypass on the M11, which I was pleased to sign off on in my time in government, together with the New Ross bypass. However, when it is completed in a few months - and I look forward to the Minister coming down to open it - it is going to end in the tiny village of Oylegate. We need to complete the final phase of that as it was always envisaged, so that as was expected there is a motorway from Larne, right around the M50, all the way to Rosslare Europort and directly into the continent. I urge the Minister to look at the completion of the M11 in that regard. In the harbour itself, the access point down Delaps Hill is too narrow. It needs to be upgraded with a new road network into it.

In the past two years, I have attended a number of presentations about Ireland's preparations for Brexit. I am growing concerned that many of these preparations remain in the realm of conjecture and theory. What we need in the coming months is an understanding of the pressures on the exporting and importing community in this country, and to look at the true assets we have such as Rosslare Europort. We must give the port the infrastructure, management, selling and capital that it needs to ensure it can do the job for Ireland.

Debate adjourned.