Ger O’Donoghue, candidate councilor for Renua in Enniscorthy Wexford, revealed during his launch speech at the Riverside Hotel, the extent to which the Irish government has neglected Rosslare Europort Harbour, which is Ireland’s best direct connection to mainland Europe, bypassing the UK “land bridge” to Europe. This land bridge presents a major problem to the UK and Irish governments with the upcoming BRexit, especially in the event of a no deal BRexit. The imposition of customs at the port of Dover will create miles of backlog for trucks from Ireland heading to Europe.
The Irish government under the pro EU leadership of Fine Gail’s Leo Varadkar, have been constantly accused of being an EU planted caretaker in the EU plantation, are fully supported by Fianna Fail in a coalition, have taken a firm anti BRexit stance and fully supported all the EU positions, even if it means risking the implementation of a border between NI and the Republic of Ireland (Free State). Varadkar controversially stated “I am The European Union” just prior to a meeting with UK’s PM Theresa May. Yet for all their anti UK rhetoric and BRexit mitigation loans to Irish business to prepare for BRexit, the Irish government has not done anything to prepare Rosslare as an alternative route for goods direct to and from the EU.
It was also revealed today, according to the Independent, that Irish sources have dismissed claims the Government leaned on Wicklow-based Arklow Shipping to pull out of a controversial deal to provide extra ferries to the British government in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
UK Transport Secretary Chris Grayling is under pressure to resign after admitting the deal – which had been presented as a centre-piece of the UK’s emergency Brexit planning – had unravelled. Mr Grayling said on Saturday a contract awarded by his department in December to UK company Seaborne Freight had been cancelled, citing a decision by Irish firm Arklow Shipping to “step back from the deal”.
Whilst it seems incredulous that the Irish government has neglected investing in and developing Rosslare harbour which would be the prime departure point for ferries direct to mainland Europe, it appears the reason is, quite ironically, that UK owns Rosslare Harbour!
The Fishguard & Rosslare Railways & Harbours Company was a joint venture of the Great Western Railway (England) and the Great Southern & Western Railway (Ireland), and comprised the harbors at Fishguard in Wales and Rosslare in Ireland, together with the ferry service between them, at 54 nautical miles the shortest sea-route from Britain to the Irish Republic. The company was established by the Fishguard and Rosslare Railways and Harbours Acts of 1898 by Britain and although it has only been in existence for a over 120 years, as time has passed, the history of the The Fishguard & Rosslare Railways & Harbours Company has become complicated, especially with Irish Independence in 1920.
The company also owned the 38-mile Waterford to Rosslare railway line, and the last mile of track from Fishguard into Fishguard Harbour in Wales. At the height of its existence, the Company owned a total of 104 miles of track in Ireland as well as just short of a mile of line at Fishguard Harbour. The Company is now jointly owned by Irish Rail and Stena and board meetings are still held once a year, attended by representatives of both organisations.
Subsequent to Ger O’Donoghue’s revelations, Fianna Fáil Deputy James Browne TD confirmed this in his own research, blaming these complications surrounding the ownership of Rosslare Europort as being the major main factor in the lack of investment in Rosslare harbour.
Deputy Browne has raised the matter on several occasions in the Dáil with Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney.
“Under this act of 1898, the British government delegated control of Rosslare to Iarnróid Eireann and Fishguard came under the control of Stena Line. Essentially it’s an arrangement like the ESB – it’s state owned, but the government have very little hand or part in its running.”
Seeming to ignore the BRexit fallout, Browne continued, “The future of Rosslare Europort is in the hands of the UK government. They could opt to dissolve the company if they wished to. Now I’m sure Iarnróid Eireann would fight that every step of the way, but hypothetically, it’s possible. I don’t think Britain has any particular economic or political interest in the port, it’s just not on their agenda, until the Irish government puts it on their agenda.”
“Maybe in the wake of Brexit, the UK government will be happy to keep a port in the EU,” TD Browne added.
Deputy Browne has urged the government to reach out to the Departments of transport and foreign affairs in the UK in a bid to sort out the ownership once and for all. He says a piece of legislation needs to be passed in both the UK and Ireland. However it seems his own party Fianna Fail, and Fine Gaal, who make up the Irish government, have no interest or intention in negotiating with the UK government. In fact Leo Varadkar explicitly stated prior to a meeting with Theresa May, that they are not there to negotiate but merely to discuss.
“If we want to get the port back into Irish hands, we need to go to the UK government and say it,” Browne said. “Nobody really knows who has the final say on the future of Rosslare and I think that’s been a problem. Iarnróid Eireann were quite happy to have the government take over the port and to walk away, but they were given control by UK statute. I think that’s been a reason for a failure to invest in Rosslare.”
It seems in only a few short month’s we will discover, to Ireland’s and Wexford’s detriment, how short sighted and incompetent this attitude has been.