Eamon Ryan expresses scathing criticism of Dublin Port plans in unprecedented intervention

Minister says project excludes rail freight and calls for blocks of land to be used for housing

Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan has written to Dublin Port to express scathing and wide-ranging criticism of its redevelopment plan for the South Docks which intends to double its capacity by 2040.

In an unprecedented intervention, Mr Ryan wrote to the port company chairman, Jerry Grant, on Thursday expressing “significant concerns” about the 3FM project in the South Docks, the final part of a master plan to increase the capacity of the State’s largest port to 77 million tonnes per year within the next two decades.

This project envisages the construction of Ireland’s largest container terminal with a capacity to handle more than 350,000 containers each year – twice the combined total of all other parts in the country.

The plan has provided for a new bridge over the river Liffey – adjacent to the West-Link Toll Bridge – to carry freight traffic as well as a 2km-long road built over the sea on the south banks of the port. The plan is open to public consultation at present.


Mr Ryan has taken particular issue with the plan’s reliance on road freight to the exclusion of rail freight. He has also poured cold water on its ambitious growth assumptions. Some of the lands earmarked for dock development should be used for housing, he has said, and also to expand the adjacent Poolbeg nature reserve.

In the letter, Mr Ryan questioned if such substantial growth projections are realistic. He said less imports will be required at the port as the State moves to a more circular economy, which will rely less on imports and on imported fossil fuels.

Mr Ryan said the plan has completely ignored the use of rail. “The 3FM project does not provide for the expansion of rail freight at Dublin Port. In fact, it appears to effectively consolidate the type of roll-on, roll-off and load-on, load-off trade which is completely reliant on road access. In my view, this is not a sustainable approach.”

He has suggested the expansion should focus instead on transporting goods to and from the port by rail.

Mr Ryan also told the board in the letter that it should have regard for the Housing for All initiative. He said he was aware that the board was engaging with the Land Development Agency but he was “frustrated at the slow progress to date”. He identified three blocks of land to the west of the northern part of the port (located between East Wall and the entrance to the Port Tunnel) which he said should be developed for up to 1,200 housing units.

Another big component of the plan is to use a large brownfield site on the Poolbeg peninsula as a centre for storing haulage containers. In the letter, the Minister said it is not the best use of a sensitive site as it would “block the expansion of the Poolbeg nature reserve in the same area”. He said those lands should be designated as a nature reserve, where biodiversity was encouraged.

“I do not see how this 3FM project, which is predicated on continued reliance on road-based haulage, will contribute to the decarbonisation objectives being set at a national level for transport,” he said.

“In fact, they would appear to run counter to these by encouraging more road haulage traffic and congestion.”

Harry McGee

Harry McGee

Harry McGee is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times