Dun Laoghaire Port - A Brexit opportunity? - Response from F. McLoughlin

Sir, - John Kennedy (Letters, January 8th) raises a number of serious issues about the future of Dun Laoghaire Harbour. The transfer of the harbour from government ownership to Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council has initiated a long-overdue debate about how best the harbour should be managed in the interests of those involved, not least the public whom the Council represents.

Mr. Kennedy states that the debt accruing to the Council from the transfer is €33m. This figure has yet to be independently assessed. It is generally accepted that it is significantly overstated and includes assumed costs for the future management of the harbour. While the economics of the situation are important, the actual cost needs to be accurately verified as a start point. He advocates a roll-on/roll-off business in response to Brexit, with funding from Europe. Jumping to the tune of Brexit may bring some short-term economic benefit but it ignores and is contrary to a number of key issues:

  • Dublin Port has been preparing assiduously for the fall-out from Brexit and would appear to be well prepared

  • There are unanswered questions about how transport across a post-Brexit Britain will be facilitated

  • There are other ports which are better suited to such business e.g, Rosslare and Waterford

  • Roll-on/roll-off would bring little if any benefit to Dun Laoghaire. The Harbour area would become a large lorry park with negative impact on the town.

The basic question is - what do people want for the harbour and for the town of Dun Laoghaire? 

There are other interests which need to be addressed in considering the long-term future of the harbour. It is uniquely placed as the key maritime, tourism and recreation facility on the East Coast of Ireland. The piers attract over a million people a year - locals and tourists - with the potential to develop further in the interests of the town and the people. Dun Laoghaire Baths are currently being restored to a high standard, adding considerably to the attractiveness of the area. The Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown Development Plan includes a badly needed National Watersports Centre on the lines of Abbotstown, bringing business and people to the town. The harbour is the setting for the highly profitable international Volvo Boat Race.

There are other considerations which are overlooked or ignored in the letter.  Lack of access to the harbour facilities is a concern for locals and tourists. Roll-on/roll-off would be contrary to this possibility being addressed. The unique heritage of the harbour is also overlooked - arguably the finest Victorian, man-made harbour in the world, with many invaluable heritage buildings and structures as listed by the Department of the Environment.

Mr.Kennedy's letter presumes that the Council is unable or unwilling to finance the required maintenance and development of the harbour - the Jewel in the Crown of Dun Laoghaire. Perhaps he should remember that the Council had little difficulty in raising the €36 million spent on building the new Lexicon Library on the seafront.

Fergal McLoughlin