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Dáil Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 23 Apr 1969

Vol. 239 No. 13

Adjournment Debate: Buchanan Report.

This is the first time in my seven-and-a-half years in this House that I have raised anything on the Adjournment. I regret the occasion has arisen, but I do so now in order to maintain the rights of a Deputy and to indicate the courtesy that should be extended to any Deputy by any Minister. At all times I had friendly associations with all Ministers and I seldom asked even a supplementary question because I framed my questions so carefully that any Minister could see what I wanted. Generally I got a satisfactory answer and left it at that. This afternoon I was naturally very surprised at the attitude adopted in replying to Question No. 22 on the Order Paper. There appeared to be uneasiness or a small bit of jitters on the matter. I do not know if the Minister was aware of it but he appeared to have thrown his files over the microphone and neither I nor anybody near me heard a single word he said.

That was due to Deputy L'Estrange's interruption of the Minister's reply.

The Minister is well able to answer for himself. Actually, it was the second time today that for some unknown reason I failed to get in a question——

Would the Deputy come to Question No. 22 on the Order Paper? The Deputy has nearly 20 minutes left in which to make his case.

I am coming to that now but I am trying to get the reason for this happening. The uneasiness may reflect the shadows of the coming general election.

I asked a simple question which read as follows:

To ask the Minister for Local Government the reason for the long hold-up in the circulation of the recommendations contained in the Buchanan Report.

If the Minister says he did reply I will accept that straight away. I believe he also will accept from me that I did not hear a word he said. This is where I think there was a lack of courtesy. I mentioned the fact to him that I did not hear it; I mentioned it to the Chair, or at least I tried to. Nevertheless, it was passed over. This has happened in the past with other Ministers and, perhaps, with the Minister himself and always the reply was read a second time.

There is nothing that the Chair can do if answers are not heard due to disorder in the House.

I never mentioned the word "disorder", with due respect. I asked that question and it was not for the first time. I asked it several times over a number of years because I knew that Colin Buchanan and Partners in consultation with Economic Consultants Limited were commissioned by the Government to carry out regional studies. I also knew that the report would embrace recommendations for growth centres. For about five years I have been bringing before this House the absolute necessity for the establishment of a major industrial estate in Sligo. I have put before the House—and I am the only Deputy to do so—the fact that Sligo measured up to all criteria for such an estate: that it had an adequate water supply from Lough Gill regional scheme; telephonic communications with a coaxial cable from Dublin to Sligo; excellent road communications, north, south, east and west. We have a very good port where we have many dockers idle.

The Deputy is getting away from the question on today's Order Paper which deals with the recommendations contained in the Buchanan Report. We may not discuss Sligo or any other place.

Does the Chair appreciate that I intended to ask supplementary questions on this question in order to elicit information which I am now trying to get by making a statement on the matter?

That would not permit the Deputy to make a statement on this matter so far as Sligo is concerned, or any other area. The question deals with the holdup in the circulation of the recommendations contained in the Buchanan Report.

But if I am not allowed to go on those lines I wonder what I can go on. With all respect, I intended to ask supplementary questions. I did not get an opportunity of doing so and I am now trying to get over that by raising the matter on the Adjournment.

I agree with the Deputy that there was a good deal of disorder at the time and it would have been very difficult for the Chair or the Minister to hear what the Deputy wanted to ask but that does not permit him to have a discussion on this matter now.

I wanted to point out that the NIEC Report a couple of years ago said that centres in depressed areas were suitable for growth centres and, of course, Sligo is in the centre of a depressed area. That was not the fault of the Sligo people but of the Fianna Fáil Government which allowed 44,000 people to emigrate from the province of Connaught in the last ten years. I shall quote the reason why my question was a valid one. I shall quote from volume 236, column 1903 of the Official Report and it relates to one of the many occasions when I asked the Minister when the Buchanan Report on development centres was completed and when he would be in a position to issue its findings. This is the answer I got and it has great bearing on the matter:

The report on regional studies which was commissioned by the United Nations through An Foras Forbartha and was carried out by Colin Buchanan and Partners in association with Economic Consultants Limited was submitted at the end of September, except for certain survey and technical material which is still outstanding. The report is being examined. As indicated in a statement of July last by the Government Information Bureau, the Government intend to announce by the end of this year, the location of the major and intermediate development centres.

That was the reason why I was anxious to get a reply today. The Information Bureau stated that this report would be issued by the end of 1968. I asked again in February and I was told that it would be issued very soon. When I asked today, this is the reply that I got:

The Government are considering the question of regional planning and development in the light of the Report by the United Nations consultants on their regional studies. This is a complex matter and there has been no avoidable delay. The Report will be published as soon as the Government have completed their consideration of the consultants' recommendations.

Now, there is a complex matter in it which did not appear to be there last October. The point I am making is that we are going backwards. I wish to bring into the open that it appears the Buchanan Report has been put in cold storage in order to be dropped like a bombshell convenient to the election date to create a talking point and to throw dust in the eyes of the electorate of Sligo-Leitrim.

We demand an industrial estate in Sligo as a right. We do so because we have the essentials for the establishment of such an estate—an estate which will stop the flow of emigration and create employment opportunities. We know that the recommendations of the Buchanan Report must be in favour of an industrial estate in Sligo but we also know that the Government need not necessarily implement those recommendations. If the report contains, as I am sure it does contain, a recommendation for a major industrial estate at Sligo, either the Government do not intend to implement the recommendation or else they are holding it up for reasons of political expediency.

I accuse the Government of neglecting their duty in not having the recommendations issued. People are leaving the West at the rate of 4,000 a year and no effort is being made to provide them with employment opportunities. I am deeply concerned about this flow of emigration and particularly about the flow of emigration from my own county. I am also deeply concerned about those people who are trying to eke out an existence on social welfare benefits.

Surely the Deputy cannot discuss social welfare benefits on this report?

In conclusion, I ask the Minister to issue the findings of the Buchanan Report at an early date so that we, in my constituency, will know where we stand.

If Deputy Gilhawley was, as he alleges, denied his rights as a Deputy here today, it was not by me. If he was not able to hear the reply he must place the blame elsewhere because the blame, as Deputy Gilhawley knows, and the reason why he could not hear the reply lies with his colleagues in the Front Bench of Fine Gael. The reason why he could not hear the reply was because Deputies L'Estrange and Harte were engaged in their customary occupation of disrupting the proceedings of the House.

In so far as the question of courtesy by Ministers is concerned, I obeyed the Chair. I answered Deputy Gilhawley's question when the Chair called upon me to do so and I answered the next question when the Chair called upon me to do so. As I say, the reason why Deputy Gilhawley did not hear the reply was because of the disorder created by his own colleagues.

I thought the Minister might have re-read the reply when I said I did not hear him.

When Deputy Gilhawley made that request, as he says he did, I was already dealing with another question in accordance with the ruling of the Chair. The reply that was given here today is quite clear. It explains the position quite adequately. This report is one of considerable significance and, contrary to what some might believe from Deputy Gilhawley's remarks, it does not deal only with the Sligo-Leitrim area. This is a report on regional studies covering the whole country.

Sligo-Leitrim is included in it.

The recommendations are, as I said in the reply, complex ones. The report is complex and the question of the adoption or non-adoption or of the adoption with amendments of the recommendations is a question of very great importance. The Government do not intend to take any rushed decision on this matter, even if a decision might happen to suit some particular area of the country. The Government intend to study the report and to base their conclusions on that study. A great deal of consideration has already been given to the report by the Government, but we have not concluded our consideration of it. However, it is expected that it will be completed very soon. When that is done the report will be published, probably with a statement by the Government.

I do not think there is anything more for me to add. As I have said, this is a very important document and the decisions to be made by the Government will be vital and far-reaching ones.

The Dáil adjourned at 10.50 p.m. until 10.30 a.m. on Thursday, 24th April, 1969.