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by Brian and Andrew
Wednesday, Oct. 04, 2006 at 2:46 PM
The €1 billion euro Dublin Port Project, directed by Halliburton subsidiary KBR, has been plagued with construction problems, and from this viewpoint alone looks like becoming another financial black hole to the benefit of a military contractor. But there is more to the story: back in 1990, when there was a chance to move Dublin Port, thus providing room for much-needed expansion and removing Port traffic from the city streets, the State chose instead to leave the Port where is was and instead build the Port Tunnel. Earlier this year, the Progressive Democrats, partner in the Irish government, revived the plan to move the Port, when the tunnel was almost complete. This article examines why.
The Dublin Port Tunnel Scam
by Brian and Andrew McGrath
Picture taken by Sean McClean and is to be found at
This is a shortened version of an article previously published on
Indymedia and at Planetsave.com. The full text can be accessed
The Progressive Democrat Party recently announced a proposal1
to move Dublin port to a smaller terminal facility at Bremore
Port in Balbriggan. Bremore Port is a deep water facility (unlike
Dublin port), and is entirely suitable for development as a 21st
century port. However, the suggestion to move Dublin port from
its antiquated 18th quayside facilities to a Dublin coastal
deepwater site was first made in 1990 by the ESB. Why is this not
mentioned by the Progressive Democrats on their website? The
actual reasons tun out to be rather revealing.
In June 1990, a report was presented to the Government
outlining a series of studies undertaken by the ESB into
infrastructural deficits in Ireland in relation to transportation,
electricity and natural gas linkages to other EU countries. In
addition to these, a study2 was carried out into the existing port
infrastructure, in the light of what whereby then rather obvious
weaknesses in the port transportation network in Ireland.
Nothing came of the report. Instead, in 1991, Dublin Corporation
hired consultants to undertake a study into a relief road that
would connect Dublin port to the first phase of the M50 Ring
Motorway, then under construction.
The fact that the Dublin Port and Docklands Authority
ignored the ESB proposal and insisted that the money be spent
shoring up the existing facilities suggests that other
considerations were at work. The Dublin Port Tunnel, though
clearly intended as the major component of the Authority’s plan
to sustain the port’s viability, was identified by the ESB report,
years before its inception, as a waste of money, chiefly because it
would be thoroughly unreasonable to expect port traffic to take a
1 Village magazine, 2-8 February 2006, p. 29
2 Port Infrastructure in Ireland: Requirements and Proposals , ESB, June 1990.
lengthy roundabout route and pay the associated tolls. Thus it
could be expected to have little or no effect on the congestion
caused by port traffic in the city. And as commuters were not
intended to use it, because in the first place it was purposely
designed to be difficult to access from commuter routes, the
proposal amounted to no solution at all, a redundant road, all the
more so given that the projected cost of ESB’s own plan was
significantly lower than the projected cost of the Tunnel alone.
The ESB’s assessment of the proposal has been demonstrated,
beyond a shadow of doubt, to be true by subsequent events. So it
could be argued that the Tunnel should never have been built,
given that such serious criticisms went without answer.
However, it seems that, far from the Port Tunnel being part
of the port upgrade plan, there are reasons to believe that the
port plan was simply a pretext for building the Port Tunnel. In
other words, given that it was known before the road was begun
that it would not serve its stated purpose, it is a more plausible
explanation that the Dublin Port Tunnel was planned from the
beginning, and that the upgrades were proposed as an
afterthought, to provide a reason for building it in the first place.
This may seem, at face value, to be unlikely, but that is not the
If, instead of the conventional explanations along the lines
of bad planning and incompetence, it is suggested that that the
State sat on the ESB proposal for over 15 years, then aspects of the
PDs’ behaviour that previously seemed absurd start to make
sense. According to the Village magazine of 2nd February 2006,
the market value for land in the docklands area is a minimum of
€15 million per acre. On such an estimate, the sale of 660 acres
would raise €10 Billion for the State, were it to sell the land
However, it is unlikely that a sale is on the cards. Obviously,
the costs involved even for large-scale property corporations,
international or otherwise, would be considerable, whatever the
financial benefits to the taxpayer. It seems certain, therefore,
given the government’s record on such matters, that another
device will be found to assist Big Property with their difficulties.
A pretext has already been created for this, with the
Government’s decision to hand over State properties to private
developers, with the proviso that a certain percentage of social
housing is provided (or provided that a commitment is given to
The purpose of the Dublin Port Tunnel from its inception,
was to increase the value of the lands where Dublin port is
situated, so as to maximise the potential benefit to private
developers. The PD’s are the Government’s useful lunatic fringe;
public opinion has been conditioned to expect their style, and in
the public’s search for reassurance against their excesses, the
State and its PR-economists will produce the needed rationale for
the programme. That moving Dublin port ‘makes no sense’, now
that the Dublin Port Tunnel is an accomplished fact, is beside the
point: from the point of view of the private interests behind the
Government parties, it makes perfect sense to manipulate the
State’s planning procedures to implement, at vast cost to the
taxpayer, what amounts to a long-term land grab. That, in a
nutshell, has been the motivation of State policy over the past
‘Development’, that is, the expansion of suburbs into Co.
Meath and North Dublin, is being promoted as an inevitable
process, no other options being available if there is to be
‘progress’. Dublin City authorities decided to implement the
Dublin Port Tunnel, knowing full well that Dublin port was
unviable, and knowing that a proposal to relocate it would
certainly resurface in the future, thus removing any justification
for such a grotesquely expensive scheme. The involvement of
Brown and Root, Halliburton’s construction wing, as project
coordinator, is, and is intended to be, an announcement of the
political loyalties of those responsible for devising the plan.
The Drogheda Port Company, as if by coincidence, is now
proposing a deepwater port at Bremore3. Neither the Drogheda
Port Company web site itself nor the consultant’s report,
prepared for Drogheda Port Company by John Mangan and
Associates4, mentions the 1990 ESB report. What is at stake in the
disguise is the vast profit potential for private construction and
property companies that will accrue through the inflation of
land prices in the port region by the now entirely redundant Port
Tunnel: a sale of the Dublin port lands is not on the cards, but
rather a transfer to private ownership. This will be accompanied
by the expected propaganda about Public-Private Partnerships
and the Government’s commitment to providing much-needed
‘social housing’, but in fact, and this is a prediction based on the
consistent logic of the way the public planning process has been
perverted over the years, there will be no provision of low-cost
housing. Instead, what is intended, what has always been
intended, is to provide construction and property firms with one
of the biggest building bonanzas in European history.
© Brian McGrath and Andrew McGrath, The Tara Foundation,
- e-mail: email@example.com
- Homepage: http://www.tara-foundation.org
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