Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Blasket Islands (County Kerry).

1.

asked the Taoiseach if he will outline the developments in relation to the acquisition and use of the Blasket Islands as a national park.

2.

asked the Taoiseach when it is proposed to bring forward legislation to protect and safeguard heritage areas and national parks such as the Blasket Islands, County Kerry.

I propose to take Questions Nos. 1 and 2 together.

The Blasket Island Foundation, which was launched in 1986, has as its principal aim the creation of a national historic park on the Great Blasket Island. The foundation is actively supported by my Department and the Office of Public Works to attain this aim. I understand that significant progress has been made by the foundation towards achieving its fund-raising target.

As I indicated to the House on 24 April 1987, the preservation of this unique part of our cultural heritage and its great natural beauty is of prime national importance. In pursuance of Government policy to that end, the former homes of the authors Tomás Ó Criomthain, Peig Sayers and Muiris O Súilleabháin have been listed as historic monuments under the National Monuments Acts. In addition, the Office of Public Works have set aside a sum of money which will be used for restoration works on the island.

I am at present awaiting the views of the foundation on the question of promoting legislation to ensure the future protection of the Great Blasket Island.

In view of the fact that it will take some time to provide legislation for the protection of our national heritage and national parks, will the Taoiseach be prepared to accept a proposal put forward by the Blasket Island Foundation which was distributed to all Kerry TDs today which would enable the Blasket Island Foundation to acquire the Great Blasket and go ahead with developments on it?

I think we are talking about the same thing. In my reply I referred to the views of the foundation on the question of promoting legislation. I am reasonably satisfied that if Kerry County Council, the planning authority, are vigilant and enforce the planning regulations, we will have no problems in the short term, but I think the Deputy will agree with me that what we really want to do is provide a statutory basis for the future development of the Great Blasket.

I hope to work with the foundation in doing that, but I think it will need legislation in the long term.

If the legislation circulated today is acceptable to the Taoiseach and the OPW, would he be prepared to accept this legislation and provide the necessary safeguards for the Great Blasket Island?

Yes, that is the idea.

I understand there is a proposal to have the development of the Blasket Island included in the Board of Works submission for EC Structural Funds. I ask that the Taoiseach ensure that it is so included as this is the type of project that would attract great European interest, and I am sure that that is the type of project they are looking for in this country.

It is also extending the scope of the question.

Yes, that is a possibility, though I hope we will be able to provide whatever funds are necessary from our own resources. However, I certainly would not rule out the question of EC funding, but we can deal with these matters as we go along. The Deputy will be aware that we will probably receive a very sympathetic hearing in the EC in view of the fact that the French President M. Mitterrand visited the Blasket Islands last summer.

Deputy Michael Begley. A brief question, Deputy. I have dwelt at some length on these questions.

Would the Taoiseach consider the proposed legislation he got today as a matter of urgency in his Cabinet? I know it has to go through certain procedures in different Departments, the Attorney General's Office, etc., but I understand the document on the table is the basis for good legislation. Will the Taoiseach confirm he will treat it as a matter of urgency? I would like to inform him that the Blasket Island is treated by Kerry County Council as an area of special amenity with no development.

I hope with the co-operation and goodwill of all the Kerry Deputies that we can get the legislation through very quickly.