Dáil Éireann - Volume 592 - 17 November, 2004

Written Answers. - Harbours and Piers.

  243. Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources when he will grant funding to the Bantry Harbour Board for much needed development of the pier and harbour; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29165/04]

  Mr. Gallagher: I refer the Deputy to the reply to Question No. 137 on 13 October 2004 and the reply to Question No. 95 on 21 October 2004 giving the up-to-date position in relation to the pier development proposed by Bantry Bay Harbour Commissioners, which I will now outline again.

On 6 September 2004 a meeting took place between the commissioners and the former Minister of State at the Department, Deputy Browne. Following the meeting, the Minister of State wrote to the commissioners setting out his understanding of the outcome of the meeting and of how to ensure that the dialogue between the Department and the commissioners can be progressed in the future on a positive basis. The letter reiterated that the interruption in the dialogue between the Department and the commissioners and the referral of the matter to the Attorney General was a direct consequence of the unilateral decision by the commissioners to sign a contract in March 2002 for the construction of the pier. This occurred while discussions with the Department on the viability of the project were ongoing.

The Department has received advice from the Attorney General in regard to the proposed pier [1130] development. However, no decisions have been taken by the Department on foot of this advice in relation to the contract entered into by the commissioners. The former Minister of State’s letter further indicated that from the discussions which had taken place, it appeared that the commissioners believed that the business environment for the project had shifted from that originally envisaged. The projected costs had escalated since the consideration of Exchequer support of €1.9 million by the former Minister, Deputy Fahey. Furthermore, no progress appeared to have been made on the conditions contained in the former Minister’s letter of 15 May 2002 which expressly instructed the commissioners not to enter into any contractual commitments pending a report on progress in relation to two stipulated conditions. These conditions relate to negotiations with the terminal operator.

The former Minister of State proposed in his letter to the commissioners that the project be reviewed in terms of its viability, the financial implications for the commissioners of increased borrowings for the project due to its escalated cost and the risks to the project posed by the dominant position of the terminal operator. To this end, the Department has invited the commissioners to submit for consideration a fully detailed updated proposal for the project, including a business plan with financial tables. I believe that the proposed course set out is a sound basis for progressing the matter and I look forward to the Department receiving for consideration the updated proposal from the commissioners in due course.