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Implications of Brexit for Irish Ports: Motion (Resumed) [Private Members] (Continued)

Wednesday, 11 July 2018

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 971 No. 6

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Helen McEntee: Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee] That is not to say that many of our transport projects have not benefitted from this source of funding and there are a number of excellent examples where this has been and continues to be of crucial importance in the successful delivery of our transport infrastructure.

Thus far, 19 successful Irish projects have obtained co-funding of a total of €58 million for projects located on the core TEN-T network that either have or will improve our connectivity with the rest of Europe. This includes funding for our core ports.

Most recently, the port of Shannon Foynes was successful in obtaining funding of 20% of projects costs, or €4.4 million, from the EU, which will assist the port in further improving its capacity, thereby removing a bottleneck of shipping and goods in transit at the port.

This Government has committed to further developing our regional transport infrastructure and Project Ireland 2040 will enhance regional connectivity and accessibility. The national planning framework and the national development plan both recognise the importance of the Atlantic economic corridor. The Government is working to ensure that Ireland is not negatively affected by the UK’s decision to leave the EU, including our continued use of the UK landbridge. New shipping routes connecting Ireland to continental Europe may also emerge as markets respond to Brexit. We are already starting to see that happen in my own county where businesses, including agrifood, are looking to explore new markets. Only this morning, Enterprise Ireland and An Bord Bia informed us that many businesses with which they engage are starting to explore new markets. We expect that new shipping routes would open up in response to this.

As set out in the EU’s TEN-T regulation, the core TEN-T network shall reflect evolving traffic demand and the need for multimodal transport. The implementation of the core network is to be evaluated by the European Commission by the end of 2023 and the Commission will then evaluate whether the core network should be modified to take into account developments in transport flows, as well as national investment planning.

The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport will, in line with the commitment contained in the programme for partnership Government, coupled with the UK’s decision to leave the EU and as a consequence the EU’s TEN-T network, make a submission to the European Commissioner for Mobility and Transport seeking an early review of the TEN-T network. This submission will take into account the impact of Brexit and the investments that will be made under Project Ireland 2040, particularly those located in the north west of Ireland.

Deputy James Browne: Information on James Browne Zoom on James Browne I welcome this opportunity to address the status of our railway lines and ports and the need to apply for EU funding for our railway lines by applying for special designation for the railways. This special designation is known as TEN-T status. TEN-T is an EU-supported transport programme that provides funding for designated transport networks including railways. I will focus on the Belfast to Rosslare railway line and Rosslare Europort. The railway runs parallel to the roadway, designated European route E01, which runs from Belfast to Rosslare Europort. It is a critical accessway for goods and passengers to gain direct access to the Continent, to which I note Rosslare Europort is the closest port. Currently, the Belfast to Dublin section has TEN-T status, but critically that does not continue to Rosslare Europort.

As Members are aware, 80% of the volume of goods leaving Ireland for the Continent use the UK landbridge. In almost all scenarios of Brexit, this landbridge will be lost or significantly restricted or will become financially unviable. Tariffs, quotas, customs checks and tolls will all significantly hinder the route via the UK landbridge. Our freight and road hauliers will need alternative access to the Continent especially for agrifood, perishable goods and pharmaceuticals. These should not only be for the goods that are currently supporting our jobs but also to help gain access to new markets.

There must also be an alternative to Dublin Port. Not a day goes by when this Chamber does not hear of the traffic chaos in Dublin and on the M50 but the only plan in the event of a hard Brexit seems to be to load everything through Dublin city into Dublin Port. We see no plans to develop Rosslare as an alternative. Rosslare Europort, which makes €2.5 million profit per annum, is owned by Iarnród Éireann, which sees it as little more than a cash cow to be milked dry. Instead of reinvesting the profits into the port, they are withdrawn to subsidise other parts of Iarnród Éireann. Rosslare Europort needs to be designated with tier 1 status. It must be taken from Iarnród Éireann and put into the ownership of a stand-alone company. The railway line south of Dublin should be designated with TEN-T status to ensure the port and the railway lines are viable. We need to do this in the interest of the entire country to soften the impact of Brexit, protect jobs and open new markets. The opportunity and potential are there but where is the will of the Government to make it happen? Only recently, the Secretary General of the EU Commission, Martin Selmayr, told MEPs that he was developing funding for an alternative shipping route to the Continent in order that Ireland can have access to the northern ports. That must be investigated and introduced. However, in terms of roll on-roll off, RoRo, ferries and haulage to the Continent, Rosslare is the only game in town.

Deputy Dara Calleary: Information on Dara Calleary Zoom on Dara Calleary I thank Deputy Troy for co-ordinating this debate on the impact of the TEN-T decisions taken some years ago by the Taoiseach, Deputy Varadkar. It represented a ministerial smash and grab on the economic future of the west of Ireland in particular. We are now two years into the Brexit process and not only does the UK Government not have a plan but neither does the Minister or the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, particularly to address the fact that two thirds of Irish exporters use the UK as a landbridge to reach continental Europe. We know there will be uncertainty and a blockage but we do not know what the Department is doing about it.

The remarks made this evening by the Minister, Deputy Ross, did not reflect any ambition or thinking outside the box on how to deal with this, which is what we need to see. We need to see the Atlantic economic corridor, referred to by the Minister of State here, fleshed out in practice. Ireland West Airport Knock needs to play a comprehensive and driving role. The Government needs to engage with the strategic development zone planned around it to ensure there are proper facilities and industrial bases to drive that. The western rail corridor offers a unique opportunity to bring rail connectivity to the Atlantic economic corridor. The ambition and perseverance of those promoting the western rail corridor is in direct contradiction to the lack of interest shown in the project by the Minister, Deputy Ross. That economic corridor and the rail corridor in particular have the capacity to deal with our climate change challenges by taking traffic off our roads, away from towns and villages and putting it on rail, as most European countries do. A proper, ambitious application under TEN-T would give us the chance to do that.

Earlier, the Minister, Deputy Ross, told the House he did not believe the infrastructure in the west was as neglected as we say. I invite him again to join me on the N26 between Swinford and Ballina, a so-called national primary road, which has been forgotten about by Fine Gael. He could join me on the R312 between Belmullet and Castlebar and, in particular, join me in the back of an ambulance on that journey, which many people must undertake. It is incredibly stressful and difficult. It is damaging the economic potential of an area the size of County Louth. The Minister needs to get with the programme and to understand and share the ambition of groups along the west coast, such as Claremorris Chamber of Commerce, which has been highlighting the opportunity under TEN-T for many years. The Minister and the Government need to show us and the west of Ireland that it has an ambition for us and that its words about an Atlantic economic corridor and Project Ireland 2040 are more than words but that there is certainty behind them. An application under TEN-T would show that. Extraordinary circumstances call for extraordinary actions. That is the quote the House has heard all evening from the Commissioner, Violeta Bulc. It needs ambition at Government level and a belief in the west of Ireland that is appallingly lacking in the Government.

Deputy Robert Troy: Information on Robert Troy Zoom on Robert Troy I thank all the Members who have contributed to this debate this evening. Some contributions have been more useful than others. In their contributions, the Sinn Féin Members seemed to think that Private Members' motions were a waste of time. I must assume that in the next session, they will not put forward any Private Members' motions themselves.

This motion calls on the Government to accelerate its review of the TEN-T designation for Ireland. I would also remind Sinn Féin that when it was blowing up roads, we were building them. We invested in our infrastructure, including the M1, M2, M3, M4, M6, M7 and M8. We invested in Ireland West Airport Knock and in a second terminal for Dublin Airport.

Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin On a point of order-----

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher There is no point of order. Deputy Troy, without interruption.

Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin Let me remind the Deputy it was the British who blew up the roads. I want to correct the record on this.

Deputy Finian McGrath: Information on Finian McGrath Zoom on Finian McGrath Hear, hear.

Deputy Robert Troy: Information on Robert Troy Zoom on Robert Troy The Minister, Deputy Ross, seemed to seek praise for putting roads back on the capital plan that Fine Gael had removed. The M4, in my constituency, was in its planning stages before Fine Gael took it off.

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