The proposal to build a 435-metre berth for super-sized cruise ships that would practically cut the harbour in half has divided opinion in Dún Laoghaire. Recently Alison Hackett wrote in The Irish Times about how the cruise ship proposal would destroy the historic aspect of the harbour and would be a financial disaster for the town. Councillor Barry Saul replied, supporting the project and suggested that we must "embrace change and not try to oppose progress".
I want to start on a positive note with what we all agree upon. The harbour and the town is badly in need of regeneration. Save Our Seafront acknowledges that there are a number of positive proposals in the Harbour Company plan and the initiatives put forward by the business community in Dún Laoghaire. It is not all bad news from Dún Laoghaire and the town has made progress over the last two years. We can all agree to work together to make those positive proposals happen.
However, Save Our Seafront does not think that the destruction of the harbour with a super-sized cruise ship facility is the way forward. The berth is not the only issue under consideration. What is missing from this debate is any comment on the Harbour Company Master Plan proposals for a €200million development to build apartments, offices and retail outlets within the precincts of the harbour. This, in reality, is only a more expensive rehash of the 1989 development plan for bars, restaurants, and shops on the old Mail Boat pier that caused such an outrage that it was quickly abandoned.
The debate about the future of the harbour is being posed in terms of whether you are for or against cruise ships.
We are not against cruise ships using Dún Laoghaire Harbour. But we are against the Harbour Company’s plans to build a cruise ship berth that would destroy the unique aspect of the harbour. It also proposes to dredge a channel 120 metres wide into the middle of the bay, and dump the spoil at sea. Cruise ships have a part to play in sustaining Dún Laoghaire as a working harbour – but as a niche market that will attract the smaller ships that can use the existing facilities. A modest development of the pier at Dún Laoghaire would enable it to take cruise ships and ferries up to 200 metres in length without impacting on the historic aspect of the harbour.
Dublin Port is investing €230 million to redevelop the Alexandra Basin that will include a twin berth cruise ship facility beside the Point Depot. This will be capable of accommodating the next generation of cruise ships.
Dublin Port has the support of Fáilte Ireland and Dublin City Council for this project, and has been recommended for co-funding under the Connecting Europe Facility. Having two large and expensive cruise ship facilities within five miles of each other makes no sense and could lead to a financial disaster for both ports. Dublin Port is Ireland's most popular cruise ship destination. Cruise tourism is important to this country. We think the Department of Tourism should act to develop a coherent policy for cruise tourism that takes account of the benefits that both harbours can offer.
Some time in the next few months Dún Laoghaire harbour will come under the control of the Dún Laoghaire Rathdown Council. This is a unique opportunity for the town to build for the future. The most successful regeneration projects abroad were based on an integrated plan for both the harbour and the town. Save our Seafront believes that this is the way forward for Dún Laoghaire.
We will be launching our document, An Alternative Vision for Dún Laoghaire in the first week in September. We would like to see all the relevant interested parties and the people of Dún Laoghaire involved in the decisions over the future of the harbour.
Richard Boyd Barrett TD is chairperson of Save Our Seafront