PAC Meeting | March 26, 2015
Chairman (Deputy John McGuinness): No. 3B.9 is correspondence, dated Wednesday, 11 March 2015, from Mr. Aidan O’Driscoll, Secretary General, Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, concerning vacant properties at fishery harbour centres.
We are now in a position to report on the fishery harbour centres... With regard to the individuals in business whom we met at Howth there are significant questions regarding a number of matters that we need to deal with in the context of our report.
While that may be the response of the Department it certainly falls way short of what is required with regard to the response that the business people in that locality are asking for.
From looking at the different sites there the response falls far short of what a commercial operator might do in terms of the development of Howth.
There are lots of issues still to be dealt with and we can deal with these issues in the context of the report and raise the fact that there are many other issues at ports around the country of which we are aware... The State has a lot to learn from the commercial world which it seems to continue to ignore.
Members will have input in the report as a result of our visit that day. I ask that we would pay particular attention to it because it is probably the best example I have seen to date of poor practice and poor commercial insights or poor commercial knowledge on the part of the State.
Deputy John Deasy: I agree with the Chairman in so far as Howth is concerned and it is hard not to agree. The situation might not be as bad with regard to the other State ports.
I did some checking with regard to Dunmore East where there are some vacant buildings and they are looking for leaseholds. There is a difference of opinion among people who actually use the port as to the utilisation of certain buildings within the port but certainly it would not be as bad as Howth.
I am not familiar with the situation in the other four State ports but I spoke to the Minister about this after we had visited Howth. I think it is fair to say that he has an open mind with regard to what the committee might report on.
My question is as to where we are going with this report. Are we going to suggest that another State agency be involved in these properties to assist the Department when it comes to the utilisation of the vacant buildings?
Sometimes if one takes an adversarial attitude with the Department, one will not get anywhere, but there is probably an opportunity to get something done here. That is the attitude that was registered. What direction does the committee plan to take with regard to the buildings?
Deputy Joe Costello: ...Five properties in Howth not currently in use are subject to legal, operational or planning considerations. I suggest that we request a breakdown of the category of consideration, whether legal, operational or planning and the nature of the difficulty. Such further material would be very useful before we make recommendations as to how to move forward.
Chairman: In reply to Deputy Deasy's question, we visited Howth and we have had a hearing with the Department. We will set out what we found and we will make recommendations arising from the input of members. As with other reports we will set out our findings followed by our recommendations. We will have a draft report in a couple of weeks with some recommendations. The members can then decide on the tone and extent of the report.
Deputy John Deasy: From my cursory conversations with the Minister, Deputy Coveney, I think there is probably a willingness to deal with it. There is probably an agreement that, in many cases, some of these buildings are vacant for too long and the processes involved are too lengthy. If we were to collaborate with the Department I think some progress would be made.
Chairman: The same applies to Killybegs. If there was a collaborative effort and a willingness to co-operate, there might not be the conflicts between the Department and individuals.
Perhaps the Minister should reconsider the action being taken by the Department in relation to that particular case. We should make that suggestion to the Minister, in view of his willingness, as mentioned by Deputy Deasy. I think we should test his willingness.