A CLARE TD has proposed that the local authority should consider naming Doolin Pier in honour of the late Fianna Fáil Finance Minister, Brian Lenihan.
The new €6 million pier at Doolin will be officially opened this Friday by Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Brendan Howlin.
Deputy Timmy Dooley claimed it would be a fitting tribute to the former Fianna Fáil deputy leader, in view of Mr Lenihan’s family connections to North Clare and that “he allocated €6m for the development of the pier”.
Labour TD Michael McNamara said he is “open to naming the pier after anyone” but added that “promises are one thing and delivery is another”.
“There was a lot of promises made by previous governments but no money. There was a promise for a new primary school in Ennis and that only came about under a Labour minister for education, there was promises made for a new school in Tulla and that is only happening now. Promises are easy but putting the money aside to back up the promise is the hard bit,” he stated.
Deputy McNamara labelled the call by the Clare Fianna Fáil deputy as “opportunistic”.
“Ultimately, the new pier is down to the people of Doolin and the campaign they have led over such a long time. The history of this goes back to the building of the existing pier.
“After I was elected in 2011, I became aware that there was no funding put aside for this infrastructure. It had been promised under the previous Government but when Clare County Council went to the department, they found there was no money in the coffers for it,” he added.
Deputy McNamara stated that former mayor of Clare Joe Arkins, chief executive of Clare County Council, Tom Coughlan and fellow TD Fine Gael’s Joe Carey met with Minister Howlin who “said he would look into it and an economic case was made, pointing out that it is an important piece of infrastructure necessary to connect Clare to the Aran Islands. We were able to persuade him of the economic merit of the project.”
The Labour TD said he lobbied hard with Minister Howlin and the secretary general of the department.
“Maybe Brian Lenihan has a particular connection with Doolin, other than promising a pier that he didn’t put money aside for. I think it could be named after Joe Arkins as easily and I’m not proposing that it be named after anyone.
“We are all elected representatives and do the best we can but promises are one thing and the funding for this was delivered by a Labour minister at a time of unprecedented tightening of the belt and I’m quite proud of that and the small part I played in it,” he said.
The existing pier has, over many years, been the site of traffic congestion and inadequate parking space, something that has occasionally caused access problems for the local unit of the Irish Coast Guard.
The size of the pier meant only one passenger ferry could dock at a time and even this was dictated by tides. Because of this, smaller boats regularly had to be used to bring passengers from the pier to the awaiting ferries in deeper water.
Deputy Dooley claimed that about 15 years ago, concerns were raised about this transhipment using currachs. He recalled ferry owners making representations to him and Senator Brendan Daly concerning the need to provide proper pier facilities to put an end to this.
The Fianna Fáil deputy claimed that having examined the long-term options, the Department of Marine presented a report with options costing between €15 and €20 million, which didn’t meet value-for-money criteria. He said local ferry boat operator, Eugene Garrihy estimated a new pier in Doolin could be built for between €6m and €7m. Deputy Dooley claimed that Mr Garrihy lived in Castleknock at the time and knew Brian Lenihan, to whom he made representations about the benefits for North Clare of building a new pier.
Deputy Dooley said he was contacted by Mr Garrihy in 2009 to try and progress the pier project and he in turn asked Clare County Council’s Tom Coughlan for the support of the local authority in view of the work it had completed on the Cliffs of Moher Visitor Centre.
During a meeting in Dublin between the finance minister, Deputy Dooley and Mr Coughlan, Deputy Dooley recalled Mr Lenihan asked Mr Coughlan if the council could build the pier for €6m.
Deputy Dooley said Mr Coughlan confirmed the council would build it for this sum and this funding was subsequently allocated by the finance minister in 2010, before the project was transferred from the Department of the Marine to the Department of the Environment.
Mr Garrihy of Doolin2Aran Ferries said his personal opinion is that the new pier would not have been build without the late Minister for Finance.
“I know that without him, it probably wouldn’t have happened at this time. I am acutely aware that he had a significant role to play in the ring-fencing of €6m for the pier and I would be intimately aware of that. If it is to be named, I don’t know of any other names to be put forward.
“Also, the fact he is now departed, I think it would be a nice gesture and I don’t think anyone has any major hang-ups about it,” Mr Garrihy commented.
This money, according to Deputy Dooley’s East Clare parliamentary colleague, had not been ring-fenced and funds had to be found by the Fine Gael-Labour Government.
“The naming of the pier will ultimately be a decision for Clare County Council,” Deputy McNamara concluded.
By Dan Danaher and Nicola Corless