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Irish Times: Labour urges Dail recall over Dublin Port and Shell issues

Irish Times: Labour urges Dail recall over Dublin Port and Shell issues

Saturday 23 July 2005

The Labour Party has called on the Taoiseach to recall the Dail next week to deal with critical problems which have emerged within the portfolio of the Minister for Marine and Natural Resources and his junior partner. Mark Hennessy, Political Correspondent, and Lorna Siggins , Marine Correspondent, report.

Labour’s marine and natural resources spokesman, Tommy Broughan, said a one-day session of the Dail was required over Dublin Port lands and the “continued incarceration” of the five north Mayo men in prison over their opposition to the Corrib gas pipeline.

Mr Broughan made his remarks as a day of protest was held at Shell and Statoil outlets by the Shell to Sea campaign over the imprisonment of Rossport residents Micheal O SeighIn, Brendan Philbin, Willie Corduff, Philip McGrath and Vincent McGrath.

The Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources has rejected charges that it should have acted to protect Dublin Port and Docks Board lands from property speculators after it had received legal advice from the semi-State company last February.

Calling for the recall of the Dail, Mr Broughan said: “The failure of Minister Noel Dempsey and Minister of State Pat ‘the Cope’ Gallagher to ensure that Dublin Port lands were included in the emergency legislation to amend the 1978 Landlord and Tenant Act is a grave error which may now cost the port and national Exchequer in excess of €300 million on the former Irish Glass Bottle factory lands,” Mr Broughan said.

“It is clear that the chief executive and board of Dublin Port warned the Minister last February of the general problem for the port of the consequences of the 1978 Act for landlords,” he said.

However, in its statement the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources said it was told on June 16th of South Wharf Plc’s attempt to buy the freehold to 25 acres of port land in Ringsend for a fraction of its €250 million value.

The legal advice submitted by Dublin Port and Docks Board in February had earlier been sought by the department, following its publication in January of a development plan for the country’s ports in the years ahead.

In its Ports’ Policy Statement, the department acknowledged “the view of port companies that the provisions of the Landlord and Tenant Acts impose restrictions on their ability to effectively facilitate the development within their ports of an efficient and competitive market for port services, including new entrants.

“As recommended by the High Level Review (of the State Commercial Ports, April 2003) the department intends to give consideration, in the context of future legislative changes, to the possible adaptation of the provisions of the Landlord and Tenant Acts to the particular circumstances of the ports.”

However, the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources said the “particular issue” involved in the attempt by South Wharf Plc to gain control of the old Irish Glass Bottle site “had not come to light at the time of the submission”.

In fact, the department said, the port company’s own legal advice had said that port companies in the State “enjoy exemption from being obliged to dispose of their superior interest in port lands as, in doing so, the covenants contained in such leases for the supervision of the port are lost”.

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