Complications surrounding the ownership of Rosslare Europort are likely to have been a major factor in the lack of investment seen there in recent years, according to Fianna Fáil Deputy James Browne.
After doing some digging, Deputy Browne believes he's gotten to the bottom of the ownership issue and has raised the matter on several occasions in the Dáil with Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney.
'Basically, I've done a bit of digging on this, and Rosslare Europort was established under the Rosslare Fishguard Harbours Company 1898 by UK statutory instrument. That covers the two ports and a bit of the railway at either side. Under this act, the British government delegated control of Rosslare to Iarnróid Eireann and Fishguard comes 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.'
'Effectively,' he 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,' Deputy Browne added. 'I'm not suggesting that we'll start to see British navy ships down in Rosslare or anything, but it's something that needs to be resolved.'
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.
'If we want to get the port back into Irish hands, we need to go to the UK government and say it,' he 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.'