Department accused of 'negative' attitude to harbour business


A DONEGAL businessman has claimed he has spent five years trying to create a viable seafood business in Killybegs but has been thwarted at every turn by the attitude of the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.

John Shine is spearheading a new campaign which is supported by business interests in six fishery harbour centres, and which is seeking a more positive and less bureaucratic approach from department officials.

The Development of Business Plans for Fishery Harbour Centres report, commissioned by former minister for agriculture, fisheries and food Mary Coughlan, said there was a “lack of business focus” among relevant officials, who had “little marketing and commercial activity” involvement in their harbours.

The report said such harbours were “engineers of local economic activity and development” in rural areas, and played an important social role for communities. The report found there was an opportunity to increase fish landings, and to broaden the activity base to allow for marinas and other activities which would generate greater income.

The report cited An Daingean (Dingle), Co Kerry and Kilmore Quay, Co Wexford as two harbours where both fishing and marine leisure could work successfully in tandem. However, it said existing tenants of businesses had “frustrating” relationships with the department, particularly in relation to dealing with leases.

Mr Shine said he had spent five years trying to develop a shore business in Killybegs, having purchased a lease on a property in January 2006. Due to delays in the lease transfer, he said he was unable to pay rent without satisfactory documentation from the department. The matter was referred to the High Court last year.

He said some 40 per cent of property in Killybegs, which cost more than €50 million to develop, was lying idle and much of this was due to the department’s “negative” approach.

Mr Shine said he subsequently discovered that businesses in other fishery harbours were experiencing the same problems, and that the department was “using the courts” as a type of “customer care centre”.

His plan for a seafood delicatessen which would showcase Killybegs had been threatened by the State’s inaction, he claimed.

The department said it had been and “continues to be actively engaged” in implementation of business plans for the six fishery harbour centres in Killybegs, Co Donegal; Rossaveal, Co Galway; An Daingean (Dingle), Co Kerry;Castletownbere, Co Cork; Dunmore East, Co Waterford and Howth, Co Dublin.