Cautious welcome for single maritime body

 

MARINE GROUP RESPONSE:OIL AND gas, fishing industry and coastal leisure interests have given a qualified welcome to the new government’s commitment to merge marine responsibilities in one department.

However, the Irish Marine Federation (IMF) and the Federation of Irish Fishermen (FIF) have called on new taoiseach Enda Kenny to ensure marine policy is assigned to a senior ministry.

The joint programme published by Fine Gael and Labour has accepted the Fine Gael election commitment to merge marine responsibilities in one department “for better co-ordination in policy delivery”. The IMF, which represents the marine leisure sector, says a “single maritime authority is essential for an island people”.

This means ensuring the sector has a “full ministerial brief”, IMF chairman David O’Brien said yesterday. The call has been echoed by FIF chairman Seán O’Donoghue and by the Irish Offshore Operators’ Association (IOOA), representing oil and gas interests. Mr O’Donoghue said he welcomed the merging of marine responsibilities, but not if the merger was part of a larger department.

IOOA chairman Fergus Cahill said the dilution of the old Department of Marine nine years ago was a “disaster”. Former taoiseach Bertie Ahern dismantled that department in 2002, merging marine with communications and energy and subsequently with agriculture.

Mr Cahill has also welcomed the programme’s promise to “incentivise and promote offshore drilling” and “streamline the planning and regulatory process for bringing ashore these reserves”.

He said a royalty regime would “not work”. “It would be a tax on the volume of production, rather than on profits, so as soon as a field stops breaking even, it will stop production – even if the reserves are there,” he said.