It is good to be here this morning and to participate in what I know is going to be a fruitful and positive occasion. I want to thank Ciaran Cuffe for inviting me and for the huge effort he has made in broadening
the debate on the future of the Bay.
Given that we are here in Dun Laoghaire I want to pay tribute to my own Party colleague, Eamon Gilmore, who, as Chairperson of Labour’s Policy Committee, has been working hard at developing our own response to this issue. I also acknowledge the near “legendary” work of Jane Dillon Byrne in this regard during her more than thirty years as a member of the Council.
It is particularly significant that we meet here in the week of the death of the late great John de Courcy Ireland. John was an indefatigable campaigner for appreciation of the sea and the marine generally. He has left a huge legacy. Along with so many others I extend my sympathy to his family and very many friends.
It is interesting to note, in so far as I am aware, that at least four of the major Political Parties are preparing their own plans for the future of the Bay to be included in their election manifestos. In that context I hope that this Conference and the one hosted last week by the “Save our Seafront” group, will have a significant impact on any proposals finally put forward.
In many ways the debate about “reclaiming the Bay” is part of a much wider need to reclaim Dublin itself.
Dublin has been badly let down in recent years. Part of this is because it has been taken for granted and partly because our present system of Local Government denies real power and resources where they are most
required. Dublin is simply seen as the Capital and not as a place with its own distinct needs and agenda. That is not the case with the rest of the Country.
The recent Junior Ministerial reshuffle, in which a Minister of State was chosen, not because of any perceived ability or inability on the part of the contenders, but solely on the basis of the alleged need for a Minister in Meath East, demonstrates that clearly.
Such parochialism does the political system and Ireland no justice and clearly, given our experience, does not apply anyway to Dublin.
All I hope is that the new Minister for Meath East delivers more to that Constituency, than the Taoiseach, who regularly proclaims his “ordinary Dub” image, has delivered for Dublin in nearly ten years in that office.
Dublin can no longer be run under the present cumbersome and powerless system of Local Government. Local Government in Dublin is constantly undermined by a central Government that interferes, but does not
support, the county.
The present system facilitates inappropriate development, obstructs meaningful participation, endangers sustainable development of our towns, villages and the City itself, and in no way protects Dublin Bay.
It has long been my view that the Dublin area needs a directly elected Mayor, an elected Regional Authority which will have real powers to tackle the real problems, faced by real people. This together with genuinely local councils based on real areas in which people live could provide the framework for a democratic and inclusive Dublin. We also need a single empowered Dublin Bay Authority.
The present state and future of Dublin Bay is a product of the confusion as to who is in charge. Three County Councils, as well as the Port Companies of Dun Laoghaire and Dublin City, the Dublin Docklands Development Authority and numerous Government Departments all have responsibility, in one way or another, for the Bay.
That is a recipe for chaos; it has resulted in an unplanned Bay, with an uncertain future. The only proposals we have seen from Government, are the series of Manhattan style photomontages of the Poolbeg Peninsula
produced by the PDs.
Now, while I don’t share the PDs philosophy or agree fully with their proposals for the Bay, they have at least shown a willingness to think anew on this issue. There is in my opinion scope for an additional complementary Port to the North of Dublin that would remove some of the pressures on the existing City Port that would then allow a more balanced and sustainable approach to the South Bank area.
Of course from the larger Government Party we have seen absolutely nothing.
Instead of it being seen as a Public amenity for the people of Dublin, the Bay is too often seen as a golden location for every developers dream high-rise apartment. Occasionally we have some class of an amenity
thrown in to keep the locals happy. Clearly that is not good enough and we are not going to accept it.
Your attendance today, the attendance last week and the enormous Public support for campaigns from Portrane to Ringsend and from Dublin Bird Watch to Dublin Bay Watch all signify a growing appreciation of the Bay and the need once again to take it back for the people of Ireland and in particular the people of Dublin.
It was in order to try and bring some order to this, that the Dublin Regional Authority, last November, took its decision to initiate a debate on the Bay. I readily acknowledge the role that RTÉ and the makers of the programme “The Bay” had in encouraging us in that direction.
The first stage of that work was to convene a series of meetings to identify if a common view could be agreed towards a future Management Structure for the Bay.
The meetings which were publicly advertised – though I accept more should have been done – and open to all, took place during the month of March and a report on the proceedings and outcome was endorsed by the
Regional Authority at our last meeting.
In general the Authority identified two main objectives:
Firstly, the need to establish a broadly based Dublin Bay Association. The Association would be open to statutory and non statutory bodies alike. Its operations would be open, transparent and democratic.
It is envisaged that, at an early stage anyway, “the DBA would co-ordinate and facilitate, but not implement, the activities of the public bodies and private entities which operate within the Dublin Bay Area”.
We see membership as being open to:
County and City Councils,
sports and water based recreational users and so on.
We see it very much as an evolving body perhaps somewhat modelled on the inclusive nature of the Dublin Docklands Development Council, Above all at this stage it should be stressed that we are very open to ideas on this aspect.
In particular as we develop a structure for the Association I would like to see how we can develop appropriate links with the Alliance that emerged from last weekend’s conference.
The second proposal endorsed by the Regional Authority was the need to develop a Master plan or Framework Plan for the entire Bay area.
In that respect the Regional Authority has included a request that such an objective be included in the National Development Plan in our submission to the Minister for Finance.
Overseeing the preparation of the Framework Plan would be one of the core responsibilities of the Dublin Bay Association in conjunction with the elected Regional Authority.
From my own experience I would like eventually to see something along the lines of the Dublin Docklands Development Council emerge. There the statutory sector, community groups and elected representatives
collectively developed the Master Plan and monitored and guided its implementation. However once again I stress that the Regional Authority is open to new ideas and any fresh approach that emerges from this
process of consultation and engagement that is now taking place will be most welcome.
The incredible line up of expert Speakers and campaigners listed in the programme for today’s Conference will ensure a lively and productive Conference. I have no doubt this will be made even better through a
lively interaction with yourselves.
Dublin Bay is potentially an incredible jewel in the crown of a rejuvenated Dublin. It deserves our attention, our support and our commitment. That we have such amenity within two/three miles of the main streets of our capital City is something that would be the envy of many other Cities.
It is our job collectively to polish that jewel and to make sure it is accessible to all.
Over the last few months work has commenced on creating a new future for the Bay. Working together we can make a difference. This is a cause that we will win, because we must, win.