Shannon Free Airport Development Company Limited (Amendment) Bill, 1988: Committee Stage (Resumed) and Final Stages.

Question again proposed: "That section 2 stand part of the Bill."

This section provides for the amendment of section 2 of the Shannon Free Airport Development Company Limited (Amendment) Act, 1970, as amended by the Shannon Free Airport Development Company Limited (Amendment) Act, 1983, to add north Kerry to the statutorily defined mid-west region. At present the Minister for Industry and Commerce, with the consent of the Minister for Finance, may provide moneys to the Shannon Free Airport Development Company to meet their running expenses in respect of their industrial development functions in the counties of Limerick, Clare, Tipperary (North Riding) and South West Offaly, defined in the legislation by reference to district electoral divisions. The Bill provides for the addition of north Kerry, also defined by reference to district electoral divisions, to these areas.

When this section was last discussed in the House I appealed to the Minister to include south west Offaly and parts of County Laois. I expressed my disappointment that section 2 did not include the Slieve Bloom area. I now appeal to the Minister to very strongly consider adding the following list of townlands and include them in sections 2 and 3 of the Bill.

The Slieve Bloom mountain range straddles Counties Laois and Offaly. The excellent Slieve Bloom Association have been developing the region as a whole. They have worked as a very positive team with great cohesion, unanimity and vision. People of all political persuasions have united to make the Slieve Bloom Association a pioneer in the development of tourism in the region. During the Minister's recent visit to Birr this matter was discussed and people in both counties are most anxious that the area will be included in this Bill. I am sure the Minister has maps of the area, but I will provide a complete list of the townlands. The villages and towns affected are: Clonaslee, Camross, Coolraine, Rosenallis, Mountrath, Borris-in-Ossory and Mountmellick. I am particularly interested that the following list of townlands will be included: Stooagh, Garranabun, Glenconra, Carrowreagh, Rossnacreena, Rossnadough, Derrinduff, Derrycarrow, Garranbaun, Island, Gortnaglogh, Aghduff, Glenkill, Glenall, Srahanbo, Upperwoods, Glenamoon, Glendine, Cummer, Monelly, Johnsborough——

It must be all the electoral areas the Deputy is interested in.

I would like to know the voters he is interested in.

I am in earnest, a Cheann Comhairle, because the Bill lists the townlands and I feel I have a duty to list out the townlands that I want included. Report Stage will be taken and then the Bill will go before the Seanad. At that stage I hope the Minister will consult with the advisers attached to SFADCo and the people involved in tourism in Laois County Council.

I advise the Deputy that we are taking all Stages tonight.

I know that, a Cheann Comhairle, and that is why I am anxious to complete my list: Cardtown, Monasop, Glennaglass, Drimhill or Quarryfarm, Whitefield, Killinure, Drimmo, Rossalee, Paddock, Drim, Deerpark, Shanavur, Briscula, Cavansheath, Knocks, Sconce Upper, Derrycon, Mountainfarm, Gorteennameale, Castleconnor, Moher East, Moher West, Inchanisky, Bokagh, Brisha, Ballyfin Upper, Ballyfin Demesne, Deepark, Rossmore, Ballyhuppahane, Capard, Glenbarrow, Tinnahinch, Corbally, Lackan, Gorteen, Birchwood, Drummabehy, Ballynahown, Killinaparson, Garryhedder, Coolagh, Baunreagh, Bordowin, Monicknew, Cones, Glendineoregan, Barradoos, Glengeen Upper, Gorragh Upper, Ballynalug, Scarroon, Ross, Castlecuff Upper, Glenkeen, Ballymacrory, Clarahill, Kyle, Bunastick, Ballyfarrell, Brittas, Srahduff, Glebe, Ballykenneen Lower, Ballykenneen Upper and Rosenallis. I will furnish a list to the Minister. The above townlands are part of the Slieve Bloom park. As the Minister is aware, the Offaly end is included but the Laois end is not.

I will quote from a leading article inThe Midland Tribune of 18 March last, headed “Slieve Bloom Strategy”. It states:

The importance of the Slieve Bloom wilderness in the context of tourism development, and the creation of an easily accessible national park in the centre of the country, would sometimes seem to be overlooked by "the powers that be".

I am concerned that this Bill will divide communities in the sense that different organisations will be responsible for tourism in this area. Under the present arrangement, the Shannon Free Airport Development Company will be responsible for tourism in south-west Offaly, including the mountains as far as the Laois boundary, and Lakeland Tourism will be responsible for that part of the mountains located in County Laois. It is a pity that two separate organisations will have responsibility for the mountain range. It will mean a partitioning of the Slieve Bloom mountains.

The Slieve Bloom Association have long since been pursuing a policy of development right across the Slieve Bloom range. I visit this area regularly and I know the mountain range. The people in that area have taken great pride in the development work that has taken place there. Roads have been built through certain parts of the mountains, facilities have been provided for picnics and maps of the mountain have been provided for Irish and overseas visitors. There is a growing interest in the Slieve Bloom Mountains. This is not a vast mountain range such as those in Kerry or elsewhere, and there is not the same type of beauty as in the Kerry Mountains or in Wicklow, but it has its own unique features which the Slieve Bloom Association have been developing. By dividing this area the Minister is making a great mistake. I will quote a further paragraph from this leading article inThe Midland Tribune.

It appears to the Chair that your contribution is more in accordance with a Second Stage contribution. The Deputy knows that on Committee Stage we are confined to reference to what is in the actual section. Understandably, a certain leeway is given, but what the Deputy is referring to is not in the section, nor is there any amendment suggesting that it should be.

With the greatest respect, some of the areas to which I am referring are in the section.

I thought the Deputy was making a case that certain areas that are not included should be.

What I am saying is that we should maintain the unity of the Slieve Bloom region. Part of the Slieve Bloom range in south Offaly will come under the responsibility of the Shannon Free Airport Development Company. They will be responsible for infrastructure and industry——

The Chair appreciates that but the Deputy is not referring to what is in the section before the House.

I will quote from another part of the same article and perhaps that will make the position clear to the Leas-Cheann Comhairle:

The local people themselves almost twenty years ago came up with the idea of structuring Slieve Bloom Development on the basis of the five Slieve Bloom Villages — Kinnitty, Cadamstown, Clonaslee, Rosenallis and Camross — and their own Slieve Bloom Association has been acknowledged nationally as the pioneering group whose solution to the problem of intercounty development in the area is the correct approach.

What I am saying is that Kinnitty and Cadamstown will come under one area of responsibility and the other villages mentioned — Clonaslee, Rosenallis and Camross — will come under another. I put this case fairly comprehensively to the Minister on the last occasion when I mentioned these areas that I would like to see included, and I am doing to again tonight. It would be a pity if the Slieve Bloom was divided into different regions. The unity of the whole area should be maintained. SFADCo will have responsibility for that part of Offaly and I hope they will be given authority for the whole area. I put that to the Minister in the most forcible manner possible and hope he will appreciate my feelings and those of the people in the Slieve Bloom area.

This Bill has been before the House on Committee Stage previously and matters have dragged on a little. Since then the House has passed the Second Stage of the Harbours (Shannon Estuary Development Corporation) Bill, under which the Minister has power to promote industry along the Shannon in areas designated in section 2 of this Bill. I would like the Minister, in his reply, to say how the Shannon Free Airport Development Company will differ from the proposed corporation in their responsibilities for industrial and tourism promotion along the Shannon Estuary.

Deputy Enright has queried SFADCo's tourism brief in the west and south-west Offaly area. He has expressed concern about the division of Offaly between two agencies, namely, SFADCo and Bord Fáilte. He inquired whether Bord Fáilte or SFADCo would be responsible for overseas promotion. He mentioned the Slieve Bloom area in particular, which falls within the remit of both agencies, and he was anxious to see the strategic approach towards tourism development in the area.

Deputy Enright might be under the slight misapprehension that the Bill before the House provides for the extension of SFADCo's operational remit to the west and south-west Offaly area. In fact, SFADCo assumed the tourism remit in this area on 1 January 1988 when the transfer from the Midland Regional Tourism Organisation to SFADCo took place. Responsibility for tourism matters in the remainder of County Offaly, which would include Clonmacnoise, remains with the Midland Regional Tourism Organisation who, like all other regional tourist organisations, operate in accordance with the policies and under the direction of Bord Fáilte. I assure Deputy Enright particularly that there is very close contact between SFADCo and the Midland Regional Tourism Organisation to ensure a co-ordinated, strategic approach to tourism development and promotion in the County Offaly area generally and the Slieve Bloom mountains which he is most concerned about.

He has also been anxious that there would be an extension of SFADCo's remit to include further areas of County Offaly. Indeed, he went into considerable detail in informing us of the townlands he felt would particularly benefit by further extension. I must say I got the impression he probably wished most of County Offaly would be included in the region. I have to advise him that the Government do not consider it appropriate at present to extend that, not least because it would involve a departure from the boundaries laid down for the seven sub-regions for the purpose of preparing operational programmes in relation to the expanded EC Structural Funds. One of the principal reasons for the legislation before the House, which brings north Kerry into the mid-west region, is to align it with the planning region for Structural Funds purposes, so I am afraid I must at this time disappoint Deputy Enright.

The Minister is correct in stating that this matter came in on 1 January 1988. He will recollect the timing of the announcement as going back a while. If I recollect properly, the announcement was made some time after Christmas 1987, with very little consultation with the local interested parties in regard to bringing in the different townlands I mentioned here across south Offaly and so on. I believe that if there had been consultations at the time there would have been a very strong request — I would go so far as to say a definite demand — that the townlands that are included in the section would be put in, but that the townlands that are not included which I have mentioned would also be included.

Let me put it across to the Minister that there is a Slieve Bloom strategy in existence right across the whole mountain range and I am anxious that instead of having the range divided in two, with SFADCo responsible on one side of the range and Lakelands responsible on the other, it would be wiser and better to have all of them included.

It is no use putting this matter to a vote here tonight, and it is no use having this Bill amended in the Seanad. If it is amended in the Seanad with the scenario that appears to be developing across the country of late, and while the jury are out and we are waiting for them to return, it will be too late because the Dáil will have been dissolved. Therefore, I am anxious now to get the Minister's agreement and approval so that this matter can go to the Seanad. It is a pity the Minister is not accepting the proposals I put to him. I think that in the long-term the fact that the Slieve Bloom range is being separated will be looked at with regret. People plan for this area. There are plans afoot for a long number of years to have a forest park across there. The land is available. The whole area is ripe for development. Governments, present and past, have spent a considerable amount of funds signposting the areas. The goodwill of the people is there. I ask the Minister at this late stage, at the final hour, to accept the amendment I am putting to him. If he does so he will be seen to be a man who has taken his courage into his hands.

I regret it would contravene the Government's plan in relation to regional and structural development to extend the areas of Offaly referred to by Deputy Enright. I am afraid at this stage it would be inappropriate to consider extending it to that area. Deputy Carey was concerned about overlapping functions between the new corporation in the estuary Bill and SFADCo. I assure him that adequate provisions are made in the Bill to avoid any overlapping in this area.

Question put and agreed to.
SECTION 3.
Question proposed: "That section 3 stand part of the Bill."

I do not propose to delay the House. We have spent an inordinate amount of time on section 2. SFADCo in many ways could be a blueprint for the type of operation that should occur in future development. One of our problems in dealing with the Bill has been the question of overlapping. If SFADCo are taken as they stand we should perhaps have something along the lines of four or five more SFADCos in strategic locations, not least of which I would like to see one in the south-east, indeed in Waterford.

If the Minister wants to develop further from this Bill, to give more autonomy to SFADCo, to look at the role of the IDA and the other organisations, at the problems of authority, of who is in control, the problem of overlapping and so on, then the passing of this Bill tonight can be in some way a light on where we are going in future. I hope the Minister and this Government do not see this Bill as an end in itself but as part of an overall regional strategy as well as fundamentally changing the structure of the IDA in the future. If that occurs as a result of the passing of this Bill I will be happy to see it passed.

I have listed the townlands I have in mind. In regard to SFADCo's approach to industry, in the time I have dealt with them since I came into south Offaly I found them most efficient, and they produced many successful and satisfactory projects across our area. In regard to this section, I ask the Minister to have discussions with the Manager and the Secretary of Laois County Council and the tourism and industrial officers of County Laois with regard to including that part of Laois at some future date. If the Minister does not make an effort to unite the full Slieve Bloom area then the strategy they have been developing will be damaged irreparably.

I appreciate that a decision has been taken by the Government on this matter. Very likely it will arise again because I am certain the Minister will have continued representations to have the Slieve Bloom area treated as one region. I ask the Minister to examine this matter seriously with a view to future changes. If that is done, the disappointment which will be felt by many people will be diluted. The Minister will be going some of the way if he agrees to give this matter his attention.

Deputies Cullen and Enright have suggested that there might be further proposals to establish a number of regional development bodies and to extend the existing regions. I can understand their concern but that is a much more general issue than the subject matter of this Bill. I appreciate Deputy Cullen's concern about the south-east and Deputy Enright's concern in relation to Laois.

The south-east is the Minister's base, too.

We will have to consider any decision very carefully because of the very complex nature of the matter. It would also be necessary to ensure that there would be no overlapping.

Question put and agreed to.
Section 4 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment and passed.