I should like to thank the Chair for permitting me to raise this important matter on the Adjournment and to thank the Minister for Finance for attending the debate. My question related to the grant of £800,000 which Cavan County Council expected to receive this year from the ERDF Border Gas Pipeline Fund designated for the Border region. To date that grant has not been paid and there is great concern among the officials and members of Cavan County Council about the delay in doing that. Work commenced on the strength of the promise to pay that grant, which was indicated to us at our January estimates meeting. In the mid-eighties it was proposed to bring Kinsale gas to Belfast and our Government, the Northern Ireland authorities, the British Government and the EC got involved in the programme. A fund of £24.5 million was established; but, unfortunately, the proposal fell by the wayside when the British Government pulled out and the fund lay dormant.
In late 1987 it came to my attention that the fund could be used for road improvements or projects related to tourism in the Border region. I tabled a question to the Minister for Finance on 3 May 1988 and asked him the amount of money made available for tourism related projects from the EC fund originally designated for the gas pipeline from Dublin to Belfast, the projects which will be undertaken with this money and their location, and to include allocations for county roads as important tourist related projects. In a further question I asked the Minister for Finance the counties which will qualify. In the course of his reply the Minister said:
Approximately £8 million in ERDF aid is earmarked for tourism under the programme for the Border areas of Ireland. The counties concerned are: Donegal, Sligo, Leitrim, Cavan, Monaghan and Louth.
The submissions received from local authorities in connection with this programme greatly exceeded what could be funded with the amount available. The local authorities concerned were therefore invited to identify priority projects. The revised submissions which have been received are now being examined with a view to drawing together a coherent set of projects which enhances the tourism potential of the area as a whole. This will include both directly tourism-related amenities and county roads which provide access for tourists.
At our estimates meeting in January last year I was delighted to hear that the Minister, and the then Minister for Tourism and Transport, had notified the council that they would receive £750,000 from the fund. That money was more than welcome and was spent on a road from Killeshandra to Crossdoney taking in the Killykeen Forest Park, the focal point for the tourism related project. The forest park is an outstanding development that was undertaken by the former Deputy for my constituency, Mr. Tom Fitzpatrick, when he was Minister for Lands, but the roads to it were in such a disgraceful condition that the tourists were reluctant to use the facilities to the full. Indeed, local people were reluctant to use the roads. The project proved to be an excellent success and the council were highly commended.
At the time we were informed that the project would last between two and three years and that we could look forward to a further contribution in 1990. At our estimates meeting in January, a meeting that was long drawn out and at which we failed to strike a rate, it was indicated that a further £800,000 would be made available. That represented the second contribution under the gas pipeline fund. However, that money has not been paid, although on the strength of the commitment the council prepared a programme. In fact, it was hoped that the council would benefit to the tune of £1 million. In my view we are entitled to the additional money because of the six Border counties. I do not know how Sligo was classified as a Border county. Cavan and Monaghan have greater road problems than any other county in the country. That has been accepted by the Departments of Finance and the Environment.