Thursday, 31 March 2022
Ceisteanna Eile - Other Questions
Harbours and Piers
122. To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the progress made with the development of the deep-water pier at Ros an Mhíl since the announcement of this project earlier in 2022 and in view of the limited time that remains before the current planning permission expires; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16764/22]
Lá mór a bhí ann ar an 1 Feabhra, Lá Fhéile Bríde, tús an earraigh, nuair a tháinig an tAire go Ros an Mhíl agus nuair a d'fhógair sé go raibh sé i gceist aige cead a thabhairt dul ar aghaidh le forbairt na céibhe domhainmhara i Ros an Mhíl. Mar is eol dó, ritheann an cead pleanála amach an bhliain seo chugainn. Is í an cheist atá agam don Aire inniu ná cén dul chun cinn atá déanta ó shin?
The Minister made a big announcement about this on 1 February. The matter is now in the hands of departmental officials. What progress has been made by the Department to progress the project since the announcement was made?
I acknowledge the Deputy's advocacy on behalf of this project over the years, and in particular since I became Minister, to drive it on and have it delivered. The project goes back a long time, to the early 2000s. Frank Fahy was Minister for the Marine and Natural Resources when it was initiated. While there have been many twists and turns since then, the Deputy has been central to pushing it forward and ensuring we can deliver on it. Likewise, our Government colleagues, including Senators Kyne, Crowe and Joe O'Reilly, have been strong advocates for it.
As the Deputy will be aware, the project will deliver more than 70% greater depth to accommodate larger fishing vessels and provide more than 200 m of additional quayside. On 4 February, my Department published a tender notice for consultancy services to complete the detailed design, manage the tender process for construction works, supervise the construction works and, in due course, hand back the completed construction works to my Department. The tender competition closed on 10 March and my Department has been assessing the tenders submitted. On 24 March, the successful and unsuccessful tenderers were notified and the process is now in the standstill period required under public procurement policy. Securing this consultancy service is a necessary precursor in line with the public works contract. While I cannot yet specify when construction works will begin, my Department is working to ensure all planning conditions will be met.
Our fishery harbour centres are critical to the seafood industry. Ros an Mhíl is a clear example of how these facilities stimulate economic activity for the surrounding rural coastal communities. The potential for downstream development and jobs has been acknowledged by my Cabinet colleagues including the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media and the Minister of State with responsibility for the Gaeltacht and sport, Deputy Chambers. The project is further evidence of the Government’s commitment to addressing the impacts of Brexit.
That is great progress. I understand the processes that have to be gone through, so I am pleased that now, at the end of March, a successful tenderer has been chosen and, please God, the process will proceed smoothly. I understand there are two elements of this, namely, the dredging and the building of the harbour wall.
I understand there are no design issues for the dredging and that could go forward immediately whereas the construction of the pier will require detailed design, etc. Will it be let off in two tenders now: one for dredging, which could go ahead immediate, and one, when the design is developed, for design and construction of the pier? If even the dredging could be got off, because I understand it is part of the planning, it would put our minds to rest that we were within the planning period and, if necessary, an extension of time based on substantial works being carried out would be available.
I cannot answer that now for the Deputy but I certainly will consider the points he has made and come back to him directly. I would be happy to engage with him on any other ideas or views he has on how we approach the project.
It was a tremendous day to be there, to see the spirit in the local community, and to meet with all those who have driven this project and advocated for it for so long. It is a tremendous natural resource. The location of the pier has tremendous potential for the years ahead. The Government is committed to driving projects such as this forward and making them happen. Our absolute commitment is to make that happen. We understand the importance of doing that quickly to move it through the process. We will ensure that happens, working with the Deputy. He has been central to making this happen. With our party colleague, Senator Ollie Crowe, and Government colleagues, the Minister of State, Deputy Hildegarde Naughton, and Senators Kyne and Pauline O'Reilly, we as a Government intend to deliver this and make sure that it is a resource and an asset for the people of Galway and, in particular, Connemara, for decades to come.
The vision we all have of Ros an Mhíl is a multi-use port. The Minister saw for himself the fantastic space around it that is probably incomparable to any other port in the country. There is a lot of land in State ownership in a secluded area at the port. The vision we would have is: leisure, which is in the inner harbour; the ferry boats, which the Minister knows use it to great effect bringing cargo out to the islands - certain types of cargo go from there and the main cargo goes from Galway; the major issue of fishing, which is the primary purpose of the port; and, of course, the big new coming industry of renewable energy.
As the Minister will be aware, if we get our act together, the west coast could catch up with the east coast in wind generation, particularly off the coast of Galway at the Sceirde Rocks, and there will be no knowing how much berthage will be needed on the mainland. Presumably, in all the consideration of this, the development of that port in this holistic way in all its elements is very much to the fore with the Department, and not only the narrow fishing.
No doubt this funding announcement was very welcome. I met with the fishermen there on numerous occasions over the years, including in recent times, and they were completely disillusioned with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine. There was a sense that they were the poor relation between the major ports of Killybegs and Castletownbere and they had been left behind. It is important, as Deputy Ó Cuív said, that we focus on delivering this project.
One concern I have is that there is talk, of course, about offshore wind generation in the use of the port but we need to make sure now we are building this facility at long last that the fishermen have a future too. The Minister needs to be focused on making sure that it is delivered as soon as possible and that the fishermen can thrive in those communities.
I thank Deputies Mac Lochlainn and Ó Cuív.
There is potential here on a number of fronts. The central objective and rationale behind the port is fisheries and making sure that Ros an Mhíl can thrive and grow again from a fisheries perspective. That is the key rationale. We also have to examine how we can leverage that for existing industries and for the years ahead. Deputy Ó Cuív is correct regarding the State and the Government planning for the transformation that we will see in renewable energy in the years ahead and making sure that we as a country benefit from that and become a net energy exporter. Central to that is planning in putting the infrastructure in place. Ros an Mhíl has potential to make a significant contribution and for that industry to make a significant contribution to the port, County Galway and, indeed, the west coast in the years ahead as well.
I recognise the work that was done with Údarás na Gaeltachta under the stewardship of Mr. Michael Heaney and his team in the report they put together looking at the potential of that, and also the support of the Minister of State, Deputy Jack Chambers, for this project. Overall, the key objective is driving fisheries on but also then looking to see how we can maximise its impact for the economic and employment potential in Connemara, west Galway and the west coast in the years ahead.