Downgrade may blow Galway Port plan out of the water

A move by Transport Minister Shane Ross to downgrade Galway Port by signing a ministerial order could signal the death knell for the multimillion euro harbour development – and the entire expansion of the city to the sea.

Galway City Councillors recently voted unanimously on a proposal calling on Minister Ross not to change Galway Port’s status from a national port to a port of regional significance.

Former government minister Éamon Ó Cuív is adamant that unless Galway remains a top tier port, it could join a long list of infrastructural projects that have been scuppered in the west due to planning difficulties.

The 2013 National Ports Policy stated that Galway Port should be downgraded from a national port to a port of regional significance.

It found that “declining throughput levels have led to increasing reliance on non-core port activities as revenue streams”. The company derives over half of its revenue from non-core port activities such as parking.

“Given the scale of the existing commercial freight traffic through the port (1% of national traffic), the fact that more than half of the company’s income comes from non-core port activity, and the extent to which its future plans are based on urban regeneration, marine leisure and tourism, it is proposed to transfer the shareholder function and corporate governance oversight of the Harbour Company from the Department to a more appropriate local or regional structure.”

That policy was to be signed into law in a 2016 Bill, but was bitterly opposed at committee stage by Deputy Ó Cuív in the run up to last year’s general election.

In order for it not to dominate the campaign, a last-minute compromise was reached – Galway Port’s status would not be changed unless a ministerial order was signed.

Minister Ross has so far not signed that order but it is the Department’s clear intention to do so judging by their answers to parliamentary questions, fears Deputy Ó Cuív.

“The only hope to stop this becoming law is to table a motion before the Dáil opposing it. Normally that would be a waste of time but in this case it wouldn’t because of the minority government,” explained the Fianna Fáil TD.

“However, he could wait until the end of July when the Dáil wouldn’t be sitting for 28 days and there would be no opportunity to object. I think it’s very significant that Galway City Council has basically said they don’t want the port under their control.”

He believes any downgrading of the port’s status will have a massive impact on its future development.
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