Dáil debates

Thursday, 5 November 2020

Ceisteanna Eile - Other Questions

Harbours and Piers

11:10 am

Mairead Farrell (Galway West, Sinn Fein)
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6. To ask the Minister for Rural and Community Development her plans to progress phase 3 of the development of Caladh Mór pier on Inis Meáin. [34022/20]

Mairead Farrell (Galway West, Sinn Fein)
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Cuireadh céim 1 agus céim 2 de chéibh an Chalaidh Mhóir ar Inis Meáin i gcrích in 2008. Tá muintir Inis Meáin ag fanacht ar fhorbairt céim 3 ó shin. An féidir leis an Aire insint dúinn cad é stádas céim 3 den fhorbairt seo? Phases 1 and 2 of the development of Caladh Mór pier on Inis Meáin were undertaken 12 years ago. What are the plans to progress phase 3?

Photo of Heather HumphreysHeather Humphreys (Cavan-Monaghan, Fine Gael)
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Go raibh maith ag an Deputy for raising this issue. As she will be aware, the pier on Inis Meáin is listed among the capital development projects referenced in the national development plan. To date, approximately €14 million has been spent on the project's first two phases. Users of the pier, including a number of State-subsidised ferry operators, have highlighted issues with capacity at the harbour as well as with currents around the harbour mouth. I understand that the next step is for Galway County Council to review the draft business case, setting out the options for further development, including options to address the issues regarding access to the harbour.

In June 2020, my Department provided funding to Galway County Council to commission the preparation of a simulation model of the harbour by the National Maritime College of Ireland, NMCI. This modelling will examine a range of designs to address the problems and provide guidance for vessels accessing the harbour. Covid-19 restrictions have meant that access to the NMCI facility has not been possible in recent months. However, Galway County Council is making arrangements with the NMCI to progress the work, having regard to public health guidelines and travel restrictions. Once the NMCI has completed its work and Galway County Council has incorporated the findings into its draft business case, the Department will evaluate the options in line with the public spending code and available funding. At that stage, the finalised plan for the pier will be prepared.

It should be noted that all requisite permissions and assessments will need to be undertaken once the final plan has been scoped out and agreed.

Mairead Farrell (Galway West, Sinn Fein)
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Mothaíonn muintir Inis Meáin go bhfuil forbairt na céibhe tar éis titim idir dhá stól. Ní raibh an céibh críochnaithe amach riamh, mar atá luaite ag an Aire. Tuigim go bhfuil taighde á dhéanamh i gCorcaigh ar ábaltacht na céibhe stoirmeacha a sheasamh, rud atá fíorthábhachtach don oileán. Tá staidéar á dhéanamh ar thomhais na céibhe freisin, le fánán. Níl aon cheo déanta air seo ó 2008. Teastaíonn freagraí ar an bhforbairt thábhachtach seo. Bhí an taighde ceaptha a bheith críochnaithe anuraidh.

I understand it is intended to progress phase 3, which will address issues such as pier capacity and the provision of an enhanced slipway, but the final phase has been delayed while the study on the project has been under way in Cork. That study was due for completion last year and has been delayed further by the pandemic. This project has been ongoing for 12 years. Is there a timeline for its completion?

Photo of Heather HumphreysHeather Humphreys (Cavan-Monaghan, Fine Gael)
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My Department has given funding to Galway County Council with advice on preparing a draft business case. The Department has also provided funding of €39,360 to Galway County Council for the preparation of the modelling simulations.

The project will take some time, but progress has been made. The key aspect is that there is co-operation between the county council and the NMCI. There are problems with the harbour, for example relating to boat capacity and access issues due to currents. The council must develop a business case and the Department will have to evaluate the final plan. Other elements will also have to be considered when developing the plan, for example, environmental impact assessments. It is a complex project, but it is good that the council is working with the NMCI. That will allow the council to model a simulation and find out exactly where the problems are and how to address them.

Mairead Farrell (Galway West, Sinn Fein)
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Is léir go dteastaíonn cumarsáid níos fearr le muintir Inis Meáin. Níl a fhios acu cá bhfuil an fhorbairt seo fágtha, cé go n-iarrann siad ar an scéal is deireanaí go rímhinic. Mothaíonn siad nach bhfuil aon cheo déanta ó 2008. Is infreastruchtúr fíorthábhachtach é an céibh i gcomhair an oiléain agus níl ach céim amháin fágtha. Ba chóir don Roinn tús áite a thabhairt dó.

It is clear that there needs to be enhanced communication with the community on Inis Meáin. People feel that there have been no developments, that the pier has been forgotten and that there is procrastination. A pier is key infrastructure for an island community. We need to prioritise communication and set out a timeline so that the community knows when the project will be finished.

Photo of Heather HumphreysHeather Humphreys (Cavan-Monaghan, Fine Gael)
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I imagine that Galway County Council has been engaging with the community on Inis Meáin. Some of the Deputy's colleagues have raised the matter with me numerous times. I am sure they have been in contact with the community as well.

Deputy Ó Cuív has had a long-standing interest in ensuring this project is brought to fruition. I wish to reassure the Deputy the national development plan is up for review. We want to ensure this project is in it - it is absolutely essential. We are talking about what will probably be a five-year project. I am happy that my officials can engage with the island community. There is some work to be done to get the right solution. There is no point building something that will not work. I have seen where other new piers have come up but they have created more problems when they have not been investigated fully.

11:20 am

Photo of Éamon Ó CuívÉamon Ó Cuív (Galway West, Fianna Fail)
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When the pier went in, it was a revolution on the island. If the Minister knows Inis Meáin or visits the island she will understand. It was built at the only place on the island where it was possible to create a harbour. It was known from the beginning that phase 1 would not do the full job. However, it has made it possible for the passenger ferry to go in, even though there are some issues at the mouth - we understand that. Yet, the cargo boat does not go in. I have raised with the Minister previously the critical importance of the cargo boat not only for bringing goods into the island but because of the significant manufacturing facility, Cniotáil Inis Meáin, based on the island. The company needs constant supplies in and out. It is doing well business-wise but it is totally dependent on getting the raw material in and the finished material out.

This project has been progressing, or so we are told, for a long time but it seems at times to be going nowhere. I know about the National Maritime College of Ireland. Will the Minister organise to give us all the steps that will have to be taken between now and the completion of this project, as well as the project on Inis Oírr? They are both equally important. Will the Minister give us an estimated timeline for each step? We need to see the timescales and we need to be able to measure progress. The county council and the Department tend to tell us all the time that the other group has the ball.

Photo of Heather HumphreysHeather Humphreys (Cavan-Monaghan, Fine Gael)
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I agree with the Deputy that this has been going on for a considerable period. I am personally committed to trying to do all I can to assist in progressing the matter. I understand the difficulties with the cargo ship - that it cannot get in and out - and that it is badly needed.

My officials are keeping in contact with the island committee. My officials will be happy to meet them again to discuss progress on the project. I am happy to provide the Deputy with an outline of where this project is and where it needs to get to. We want to ensure that it gets into the national development plan and I imagine Deputy Ó Cuív will help me in this. It is needed and I will be making a strong case for it. I hope the Deputy will support me in that.