Written Answers. - Report of Interdepartmental Co-ordinating Committee.

Joe Walsh


91 Mr. J. Walsh asked the Taoiseach the progress, if any, which has been made by the committee in implementing the recommendations of the report of the Interdepartmental Co-ordination Committee on Island Development; and the future plans, if any, he has to ensure the full implementation of the recommendations. [16527/96]

The report of the Interdepartmental Co-ordinating Committee on Island Development clearly identifies and addresses the long-term issues affecting the communities on our offshore islands. As chairman of the Co-ordinating Committee, Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach, Deputy Carey, has responsibility for co-ordinating the Government's response to the recommendations of the report. The report provides a strategic framework within which the various Departments and agencies involved can reexamine policies relating to the economic and social development of island communities, clarify objectives in relation to the services being provided to these communities and formulate new policies accordingly.

Specific recommendations have been made in the report in relation to the essential services available on islands and the key sectors for island development. The essential services outlined in the report include access, infrastructure, education, health, energy supply and communications. The key sectors identified include agriculture, fishing-aqua-culture, information technology and tourism. The development of access services to offshore islands was identified in the report as the priority issue and the Government allocated an additional £1 million in 1996 specifically for this purpose. Prioritised programmes of work submitted by the local authorities have been assessed by the Interdepartmental Co-ordinating Committee on Island Development and recommendations regarding funding were subsequently made. Deputy Carey recently advised Galway, Donegal and Mayo County Councils of funding for projects submitted in their programmes of work.

Since the launch of the report earlier this year a number of specific recommendations have been implemented including: the accommodation of the interests of island communities in the proposed regional education boards structure, which is consistent with the aspirations of local empowerment outlined in the White Paper on EducationCharting our Education Future; changes in the means test limit for the Department of Education's Remote Area Boarding Grant. The limit has been substantially increased to a level in line with third level education grants; the continuing development of the provision of services to island communities through the use of information technology; the development of three to five year infrastructural programmes of work by the local authorities and reports by both the North-Western and the Western Health Boards regarding the development of island services. Other recommendations in the report are being examined by the relevant Departments in conjunction with the interdepartmental co-ordinating committee. Full co-operation and support has been sought from relevant Departments and State agencies with a view to progressing the recommendations.