Waterford Fine Gael TD John Deasy says the “resilient” fishing community of Dunmore East has endured “a legacy of bitter disappointment” due to Government “inaction”.
He made his criticisms after hearing confirmation at today's Public Accounts Committee meeting that a €4 million dredging contract for the inner harbour has been delayed until next year.
The Fine Gael deputy quoted “a litany” of consultants reports and studies into the proposed redevelopment of the State fishery port dating back almost a decade and a half — including a shelved €50-60m upgrade.
“There comes a point when you can’t answer reasonable questions from a fisherman or a business person in Dunmore any longer. I’ve become hesitant about giving affirmation to any Government announcement as it affects Dunmore East...”
Addressing officials from the Dept of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, he went back over the myriad findings, recommendations, “and frankly the lack of activity that has occurred” — starting with the 2000 KPMG technical and socio-economic review of infrastructural requirements in Dunmore East.
This, he said, was followed in 2003 by the Department-commissioned Kirk McClure and Morton Report. Involving preliminary designs and environmental impact assessment, it found the existing harbour was too small, and that the set-up didn’t permit proper development — “effectively a reiteration of the previous report.”
A public consultation process commenced in 2004, and planning permission for the development of the fishery harbour centre was granted the following year. In 2006 €300,000 was provided for design and a similar sum for site investigations.
Mr Deasy then referred to a 2007 cost-benefit analysis by Poseidon Aquatic Resource Management Ltd for the Dept of the Marine into a large-scale State investment highlighted the old age of the harbour, the lack of dredging since the early nineties, and the absence of safe access to the shore for yachts.
The first phase was scheduled to start in 2008 — “and then the economy collapsed.”
However, hopes were raised in March when funding of €4m was announced for the first dredging operation in Dunmore in 22 years. The build-up of sediment has seriously hampered the port’s activities, with larger fishing vessels unable to dock and having to steam to Cork or Howth instead.
The amount allocated under the capital programme is just to dredge the inner basin — “the idea of overall harbour redevelopment is not being spoken of,” Deputy Deasy said. The tender process was to be have been completed by July, but “now we learn that there’s a delay in that.”
Department General Secretary Tom Moran confirmed “we had intended to spend money this year ... [but] we ran into a difficulty with the tender”.
Cecil Beamish, Assistant General Secretary in the Marine Division, explained that the contract has to be re-tendered because the bids received “were deemed, after assessment, not to be value for money for the State and involve potential cost exposures for the State for claims.”
Before seeking new, “more precise” tenders “there is further sampling and analysis being done in greater detail on all the sediments because one of the issues is the level of contamination [by heavy metals] in some of the sediment areas,” he said. Alternative ways of dealing with the material are also being looked at.
Asking when this ongoing pre-tender analysis would be finished, Mr Deasy said: “I need to actually give some certainty to the people in Dunmore East now. I think that’s very important at this point”.
Mr Beamish said “there are a number of steps to go through” but the objective is to get a new specification ready “as early as possible... Clearly the earlier in the year that that can be done the easier it will be for a contractor to carry out the works in reasonable weather conditions, and also taking account of the other [harbour] users.”
Tom Moran added that “there’s an absolute intention to conclude, or begin that, as soon as possible in the new year under next year’s capital programme. So it’s a top priority.”
But Mr Deasy said “When it comes to Dunmore East there’s a legacy of bitter disappointment as to what Government has promised and what Government has actually delivered. Or not delivered.
“There comes a point,” he said, “when you can’t answer reasonable questions from a fisherman or a business person in Dunmore any longer. I’ve become hesitant about giving affirmation to any Government announcement as it affects Dunmore East... it’s got to that point.”
While acknowledging that capital funding had been granted in the past eight years — including €450,000 in 2013 for the widening and extension of the west wharf slipway (after a lot of lobbying) — he surmised that an equivalent amount had gone into the other State harbours over the same period.
Deputy Deasy said the local community, despite countless setbacks, had proved itself “very resilient”, noting that another meeting had been held the previous evening to examine ideas in conjunction with Waterford IT, who have received funding under the Fisheries Local Area Development Scheme for a local economic stimulus feasibility study.
“They’re trying very hard to keep this village vibrant: they had a meeting last night, again, about all of these issues. Some focus and concentration needs to be given by the Department when it comes to Dunmore East and the infrastructural issues that have been identified — ad nauseam — over the last 20 years but have not been acted upon.”
Ultimately, he said, “It’s a neglected port. It has been for a long time. I mean, the litany of reports and non-action as a result is incredible, I have to say. It’s absolutely incredible. I’m going to press you on this. I’m going to chase you with regard to this particular project, for as long as it takes to get the dredging done.
“We were talking, not so long ago, about investing €60m in the harbour there. And those studies were done... There is a case to be answered... The deficit has been on the Government side here,” he said.
Considering the country’s lofty status in the world of golf, Deputy John Deasy has posed the question as to whether more money should be invested in Ireland’s up-and-coming talent.
Irish Sports Council chief executive John Treacy answered various questions about funding when he appeared before the Dáil Public Accounts Committee last Thursday.
Noting that Ireland leads EU per capita figures for registered golfers — albeit club memberships have been declining globally since the recession hit — the Waterford TD felt the Sports Council allocations for the GUI High Performance programme (€375,000) and Team Ireland Golf Trust (€139,000 “for 15 young pros”) “doesn’t seem like a lot of cash”; particularly when the latter had helped bring through the likes of Peter Lawrie, Shane Lowry and Michael Hoey since it started in 1999.
He wondered should greater grant aid be allocated given “how much effort is being put into young golfers in clubs, and the success that they’re achieving, including in the area we’re both from” — citing European amateur bronze medallist Gary Hurley and his West Waterford clubmate Seamus Power, who is currently on the eGolf Professional Tour in the US.
“People hear about some of these young pros being on Tour, even the Challenge Tour, and they think they’re making a boat-load of cash, and that isn’t the case. Many of them are really struggling,” said Mr Deasy, who was a member of the Dungarvan Golf Club team (along with Austin Spratt, Derry Kiely and Kieran Hogan) that won the All-Ireland Junior Foursomes title in 1985 — the year he took up a partial sports scholarship in the US.
Looking at Paul McGinley’s achievement in the recent Ryder Cup, on top of those of Padraig Harrington, he said “the enormous success that Irish golf has had internationally, it’s amazing. Absolutely amazing. Across America, across the world. When you think of golf, you do think of Ireland.”
Mr Treacy, who is a member of both Dungarvan and West Waterford Golf Clubs, said the High Performance programme is about putting coaching in place for top amateur players (at Carton House) and “making sure they’re exposed to international competition at the appropriate age.
“It has been hugely successful because the Rory McIlroys and the Graeme McDowells of this world... are a product of the GUI and their coaching systems and the coaches on the ground, the club coaches.” The criteria in place around this funding is Sports Council-approved, with the maximum grant available to amateurs being €5,000.
The Villierstown man explained that when players decide they’re going to go pro, there’s a c.€200,000 Golf Trust established by the Council (with backing from Fáilte Ireland and the commercial sector) — but “those young aspiring golfers have to meet criteria before they’re funded. So it isn’t someone turning around when they’re 18 years of age and saying ‘Oh, I’m going to be a pro’.
“What we want to be careful of is we don’t want young golfers turning pro too early. So if they’re going at the appropriate age, then the Trust kicks in.”
Asked by Deputy Deasy whether any pros had “slipped through the net... who did not get the grant and actually did succeed,” Mr Treacy said he didn’t think so.
“We have supported people for a long period of time, because it’s not like the other sports where you can tell after three or four years whether they’re going to actually make it on the world stage or not. Sometimes it can be five, six, seven years with the golfers and we’ve actually stood by a lot of them.”
He said that without that “€20,000 when you’re turning pro — and I would have heard it myself from the likes of Peter Lawrie — they wouldn’t have been able to do it... to meet their expenses when they go on tour... It is a journey. And it is difficult. But that funding does go a long way.”
The Sports Council chief concluded: “So a lot done but, I think, more to do. I agree with you Deputy Deasy. This is a sport where we can excel on the world stage and we have excelled and we need to make sure that we continue it and that we have the systems in place that can support young aspiring golfers that have the talent to perform at the highest level and make sure nothing gets in their way.”
Deputy John Deasy has said the “paltry” funding given to the Camphire International Horse Trials event in west Waterford doesn’t tally with its international status and high-calibre competition.
Raising the issue with Irish Sports Council CEO John Treacy at a recent meeting of the Public Accounts Committee, Mr Deasy said Horse Sport Ireland provides a Home International hosting grant of €5,000 while some horse classes receive prizemoney from the HSI breeding committee — but that’s it.
This is despite the fact that the annual summer event in Cappoquin has “been built up over the last 14 years” to achieve “international status”. With “only two other 3-star courses in Ireland”, the lay-out on the banks of the Blackwater has a first-class reputation among top-level riders.
Looking at “where we have been relatively successful over the last few Olympics, the equestrian area really stands out... and for a very significant horse trialing event” — comprising cross country, showjumping and dressage — “€5,000 seems a very small number to me,” Deputy Deasy said.
“Considering the kind of success people who attend these horse trials have gone on to achieve internationally, not just in the Olympics but in world-class events”, he felt “a more significant amount of money should be contributed” — wondering whether the Sports Council should consider funding such events directly.
John Treacy replied that “without a shadow of a doubt” equestrian sports — which “fit with our natural environment” — have proven to be very successful for Ireland internationally.
“The unfortunate part is our funding has been reducing, with a knock-on effect to Horse Sport Ireland whose funding is probably down over €400,000 over the last number of years. They currently allocate €84,000 to [around eight] events around the country... and as part of that Camphire gets €5,000.”
“I suppose it’s never enough,” he accepted, “because they are huge events and very important for the local economy as well.” (Camphire, which will be held from July 22-26 next year, also includes a Trade Village and Country Fair sourcing local producers.) “But the reality is funding is down... and they [HSI] have a huge demand in regard to some of those shows.”
While acknowledging “I’ve no doubt that what you do must be very difficult — just the competitive aspect of different sports looking for their allocation,” Deputy Deasy said “€5,000 is a paltry figure to be honest.
“Maybe, given its success and given how the Irish equestrian area has grown, some consideration should be given as to how the Sports Council can help these events out a little bit more,” he added.
Mr Treacy said HSI “are undertaking a strategic review at the moment and that issue is definitely coming up in terms of international events... So there are plans afoot in terms of trying to support some of these... with some more funding.”
With Deputy Deasy asking “When is that going to be finalised; and do you have an input?”, the CEO said “we did give feedback to it.” Asked “was that to increase the amount?” the Sports Council chief said: “No it wasn’t that specific. We were [talking] more on a macro level. But I know it’s part of what they’re thinking around that strategy at the moment.
“Look, we’d like to be in a position to give more money to these shows because I agree with you Deputy Deasy, they’re very, very important and there are some fine shows right around the country, and nowhere closer to my own heart than west Waterford.
“We do know they put on world-class events and they bring in international riders and it’s obviously something we will encourage HSI to do, to invest more money in these shows,” Mr Treacy concluded.