Seanad debates

Thursday, 27 September 2018

Commencement Matters

Harbour Authorities

10:30 am

Photo of David StantonDavid Stanton (Cork East, Fine Gael) | Oireachtas source

I thank Senator Boyhan for raising this issue and am glad to have the opportunity to provide him with an update on behalf of the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, Deputy Eoghan Murphy, and his Minister of State, Deputy John Paul Phelan. The Minister is answering questions in the Dáil at this time and sincerely regrets that he cannot be here.

The national ports policy 2013 provides for the transfer of certain ports to relevant local authorities and sets out the arrangements for giving effect to this aim. In that context, the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport has sought the agreement of the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government to the proposed dissolution of Dún Laoghaire Harbour Company and the transfer of the company's harbour to Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council. The Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government has an important prudential role with regard to the financial integrity of all local authorities to ensure their finances remain, as far as is practicable, on a sustainable footing. This is a role that the Department must discharge in the context of significant issues affecting the local government system or individual local authorities. The transfer of a harbour company of significance to a local authority, as in the case of Dún Laoghaire, is a substantial issue, as the Senator has said, and its implications must be fully understood. In particular, it is vital that the relevant local authority is not unduly encumbered or exposed to risk by the effective transfer of a commercial body to its control. This principle has been well established in respect of previous port transfers. The Department must, of course, give effect to the Government's policy on ports of regional significance and bring the matter of the transfer of ports more generally to a conclusion. In doing so, however, it must ensure that there is a clear understanding of all of the issues involved.

Government policy regarding local government is very clear that responsibility at central government level in respect of any matters of policy, legislation, resources and accountability relating to functions discharged at local authority level rest with the relevant Department. For example, central government responsibility in relation to the roads functions discharged at local level by local authorities rests with the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport. Similarly, responsibility at national level for the transfer of certain ports to relevant local authorities continues to rest with that Department. That applies to the Dún Laoghaire Harbour Company transfer and any other transfer taking place in the future, either as a result of a transfer of shareholding or by dissolution of an existing company, as well as to all regional harbours already transferred to local authorities.

Regarding the Dún Laoghaire harbour transfer specifically, I advise the House that the Minister has now consented to the signing of the necessary statutory instrument. This follows on from a previous consent provided by the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform. It is now a matter for the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport to complete the process using his powers under section 28 of the Harbours Act 2015 to dissolve the company and transfer the harbour to Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council.


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