Fianna Fáil Senator Denis O’Donovan has expressed his deep concern with the possibility that Bantry Port will be amalgamated with Cork Port.
Speaking in the Seanad today, Senator O’Donovan raised the issue with Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Leo Varadkar, and outlined his concerns about the possible merger.
Senator O’Donovan commented: “Former and current members of Cork Port inform me that they do not want the proposal to take place. Apart from Whiddy Island, there are many intricacies in Bantry. It is designated as a tourist hub, there is inshore fishing and fish farming in the bay.
“Bantry Harbour is self-financing and should stand alone on its merits. The views of the people in the area, by a large majority, and the near-unanimous view of the harbour board members over the past 20 years is that the least acceptable option is to succumb to Cork Port taking over the board.
“The notion of being taken over by Cork Port is the least acceptable option and one that will be strongly resisted, even by Deputies and councillors of the Government parties. People’s livelihoods may be at stake and without local knowledge, local fishermen may not get the supports they require.”
Minister Varadkar told Senator O’Donovan that Baltimore and Kinsale harbours transferred to local authorities this year and Bantry Bay Harbour is now the only remaining harbour operating under the Harbours Act 1946.
Senator O’Donovan said work commenced earlier this year to examine the requirements to transfer the harbour to the Port of Cork.
“A recent report suggested Bantry might be better served in a standalone situation. When the gun is put to the Minister’s head on the point of amalgamation, I hope he will take into consideration the diverse local concerns. Someone from the Port of Cork authority, whose name I will not reveal, told me not so long ago that the takeover would also involve fish farming and its problems in the bay, tourism, Whiddy Island, liners and other issues.
“It is a complex area and the Port of Cork will walk away from a takeover unless it is forced to act because the takeover would cause more problems than the Port of Cork would like. It is not as simple as taking over the Whiddy Ireland project and the ConocoPhillips project, which is important to Bantry, the south of Ireland and the State. I implore the Minister to reconsider this for the sake of the people of Bantry.”