Private Members' Business. - EU Funding for Border Counties: Motion.

I move:

That Dáil Éireann condemns the Government's lack of commitment towards the economic development of the Border counties; stresses the absolute necessity to draw down the maximum amount of EU funding available to this area; and calls on the Government to utilise all available peace initiative funds towards industrial infrastructural development in the Border areas.

I add the name of Deputy Keaveney, who has joined us since this motion was tabled, to those in whose names it has been tabled. I thank my colleagues in the Fianna Fáil Parliamentary Party and those on the Front Bench for granting us the liberty to table this motion which many might regard as a parochial matter, but Deputies representing Border counties are extremely grateful for this opportunity and the recognition by our parliamentary party and Front Bench of the difficulties under which a Border Deputy must work.

Last week we had a full day's debate on Northern Ireland on the effects of the aftermath of the horrific bombs in Lisburn which has been rightly condemned by Members on all sides of the House. Because of my absence from that debate due to another commitment I wish to record my condemnation of that vile act perpetrated by the Provisional IRA and, in particular, its apparent intention to maim and kill the injured by placing a second bomb strategically near the medical attention area. My party leader used the only possible words to describe it, "an act of cowardice". I ask those who ordered that atrocity to go to the GPO to read the Proclamation of the Irish Republic which states that no one should dishonour the Republic by acts of cowardice and inhumanity. This was surely an act of cowardice and a betrayal of all those who have worked on behalf of the Nationalist people of Ireland.

This motion was originally tabled with the intention of being debated early in the year. I want to make it clear to the Minister that in proposing this motion Deputies representing Border counties are motivated by a genuine and sincere desire to contribute to the economic wellbeing of those counties. This motion was not brought forward by my party at that time because, in response to several parliamentary questions, the Taoiseach asked the Minister of State, Deputy Carey, to chair a task force on funding arrangements for the Border regions. We suspected that this was a typical delaying tactical device but, nevertheless, Fianna Fáil decided to have patience in the hope that the funds would begin to flow before the year was out.

I received a copy of the long awaited report in the past few weeks, but I am extremely disappointed with what I have read. When one hears of a task force being called upon, the image that presents itself is that of a dynamic group of experts who sit down to tackle a problem with due urgency. I do not know even one member of that task force. The problem in this case is outlined in the first paragraph of the introduction to the so-called report. It is described as follows:

Economic development in the region has been hindered by the fact that because this is a Border region it is cut off from its natural hinterland. The violence that has taken place in Northern Ireland over the past 25 years has also had a negative impact. There has been a decline in employment, income and population in the region. The region also has a higher than average number of workers engaged in agriculture and a relatively weak urban structure.

I assure the House that no one in my part of the country needed a task force to come up with that description of the disadvantages that surround us. However, when I read those opening remarks I was immediately impressed because I thought this was a document that fully recognised the problem. I turned over the pages with a modest degree of enthusiasm, but my joy was short lived. What followed were 46 pages of statistics and general information which would have been available on request to any Deputy in the House through parliamentary questions. It is merely an outline of how funding is supposed to be available from at least six different sources in the European Union with reference to the fact that Forbairt and the IDA also have regional offices in the area.

I should have mentioned at the outset that I wish to share my time with my party leader and Deputy Dermot Ahern.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

The second page of the report lists the objectives of the Government's socioeconomic activity. They turn out to be a list of what probably every Government in the history of the State has included in its priorities and they apply to the country. It does not state that the six counties immediately south of the Border must be treated as an area for special and urgent action for the very reasons outlined in the opening paragraph I quoted. We did not ask to be placed alongside a totally unnatural border which carved up our hinterland. I remind the House that Donegal is surrounded by the Atlantic on one side and the Border on the other and during the worst episodes of the troubles many Donegal people felt that they had only one safe access to and from the county by way of the bridge at Ballyshannon. It was rather like a drawbridge across the moat of an ancient castle. That is a fair representation of the sense of isolation from Dublin that is often felt in that part of this State. It is an unfortunate fact that there was always a "beyond the pale" attitude among many civil servants and politicians when they became ensconced in the corridors of power. People in the six Border counties that are the subject of this debate consider that they often suffer from that attitude and I am sure people in the other five counties, with the possible exception of Leitrim, will forgive me if I stress the unique position of Donegal in this regard. For example, if a petrol station across the Border in Strabane had been blown up during the troubles it would have built up twice the level of business it had previously in a period when there was twice the level of unemployment because of the pride of the British Government, but a petrol station across the Border in Donegal would have closed down. My colleagues representing Border areas will agree that many towns along the Border became ghost towns as a result of the troubles.

My colleagues from the other Border constituencies will undoubtedly inform the House about specific problems that relate to their areas. I will refer to some of the shortcomings as they affect Donegal, but I would also like to mention one or two matters which involve the region. Less than a week ago we became aware of quite an extraordinary episode in the European Parliament when its budget committee voted by 18 votes to five, with nine abstentions, to slash this year's allocation of the peace and reconciliation fund from a proposed £125 million to £47 million. I was glad that the three voting members of the group to which Fianna Fáil belongs voted against the amendment tabled by the socialist group. What was even more extraordinary was the remark by the president of the budget committee, Mr. Samland, that the Irish Presidency had not pressed the issue against the amendment. I find that hard to credit and I ask the Minister to clarify this position. I would also like justification from the Tánaiste and the Labour MEP for the remarks made on RTE radio that it was acceptable that funding be diverted from the peace process if it was not being utilised. If funding is not being rapidly availed of, I am almost certain that is because of the red tape and confusion involved in the manner in which the scheme is administered. I respectfully suggest that the Minister requests the Government to advise its Members to stay silent on the North if they do not know what they are talking about. I compliment my colleague, Pat the Cope Gallagher, MEP, for being so vigilant in bringing this matter to our attention and he should not be accused, as he has been by some Fine Gael politicians today, of seeking mischievous political gain. I sincerely hope that the deliberations of the task force will bring about a simplification of the whole process as promised so that the funding can be drawn down and allocated to where it is needed.

I became aware only recently of a rather bizarre event concerning the funding for the transmission of Kinsale Gas which took place some time ago. A meeting was called by Bord Gáis of all local authorities from the Border counties. The meeting apparently took place in Monaghan where representatives of the board outlined its plans for extending the pipeline from Drogheda through Cavan and Monaghan to Sligo and on to Letterkenny. A map was displayed showing the route to be followed. Naturally the various authorities gave the plan their full support and Bord Gáis went to Brussels where a fund of £1.2 billion was made available. My information is that the portion of funds intended for the extension went instead to the link-up with Scotland. Since I am always open to correction, I would welcome a statement from the Minister on whether I have been misinformed. At least one major industrialist in Donegal has cancelled a huge expansion plan because of the comparatively high cost of energy and another equally major industry in the county has decided to build a new plant close to Dublin where gas is readily available.

Because of the reasons outlined in the task force report, it goes without saying that the Border region deserves positive discrimination regarding job creation. That should include a mechanism whereby some compensatory allowance is made to counteract such disadvantages as distance and lack of access to the natural gas grid. Such positive discrimination should also include EU funding to the region at a proportionately higher level than other more developed areas.

I make no apology for repeating,ad nauseam if necessary, my demand that Donegal more than most counties deserves special attention. It is potentially one of our richest tourist areas, yet Bord Fáilte down the years has rarely promoted its attractions abroad. Last June on a Private Member's motion on tourism I said that invariably Bord Fáilte files in plane loads of travel agents from the United States for customary trips to Dublin, Galway and Killarney while the region north of a line from Dublin to Galway is seldom included. I also said that this year's Bord Fáilte European Workshop was organised for Killarney, having previously been held in Galway and Cork, and that the board's brochure on “Walking Tours in Ireland”, includes a paid advertisement from Donegal, but there was not a single mention of the county in the editorial. I mention these matters in the hope that even if the Government ignores them my colleagues in the incoming Fianna Fáil Government will pay attention. I will continue to remind them.

Towards the end of the task force report, under the heading Recommendations for the Future, the suggestions put forward comprise advice on how to complete an application form and a list of the various offices involved. Other than stating that there is an urgent need for publicity and information, there are no proposals for positive action. It is surely a case of the monkey going into labour and producing a mouse.

InThe Sunday Business Post of 28 July 1996 Aileen Hickie in a report headed “Are you looking for a job?” provided a guide for the job seeker giving details on who is recruiting, where and what types of jobs are on offer. There is nothing to offer the job seeker in the Border region. A total of 2,374 were listed, with the names of the companies involved, but not one of them relates to the region from Deputy McGahon's constituency to my area in County Donegal. On 19 July a shirt manufacturer in Newtowncunningham, County Donegal, was refused a grant by the Peace and Reconciliation Fund. The letter that issued states:

...we regret to inform you that your project has been unsuccessful on this occasion. In this case we are unable to offer you assistance but would encourage you to reconsider your application in the light of those guidelines which ADM/CPA have produced.

At the same time across the Border in Strabane £800,000 was made available to a similar factory. On 31 March 1995 IDB approved £26 million for another factory in Artigarvan. A sum of £13.5 million was made available by the Department of the Environment in Northern Ireland to upgrade the Strabane water service. Castlederg, a small town along the Border in County Tyrone, received a huge cash injection from the British Government. In a short time £47.5 million was made available for projects across the Border.

In 1987 a letter from the then Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Barry, stated:

This lack of financial additionality is the major drawback from the Government's point of view in so far as integrated operations are concerned. It could in practice lead to a situation where the existing receipts from Structural Funds would be over concentrated in certain areas at the expense of broader national development priorities.

That statement was made by the Fine Gael-Labour Government 11 years ago. Has anything changed in the current climate? Has action been taken in terms of the proposal for cross-Border development? Has the task force even mentioned that report which was launched in October 1985? That was a lead-up to the cross-Border study launched by Charles J. Haughey and Peter Brooke in 1990. Where is that report?

What has the Deputy's party done since 1985?

Deputy McGahon should request the Government to follow up on these studies, for which the task force has no need.

I wish to refer to what is probably the most serious development in terms of the Border region and its well being, that is the current crisis north of the Border where once again the threat of murder and mayhem hangs over the entire area, including the region referred to in this motion. I did not have an opportunity to contribute to last week's debate on this issue because I was in Northern Ireland on another matter, but I mention it here because it is highly relevant to the motion before the House. During the 18 months or so of the ceasefire the atmosphere on both sides of the Border was transformed and jobs were created, even without Government or EU funding. Thousands of tourists moved in both directions. I have already described what happened in the "getting to know you" process. This could only lead to increased economic and political development.

For the present at least peace has been shattered by the bombs in Canary Wharf and Manchester, the murder of Garda Jerry McCabe and more recently the Lisburn bombing. The murder and maiming by the Provo hard men has been seen by the loyalist hard men as an invitation and a justification to resume the horrible titfortat slaughter of the type seen in Greysteel and the Shankill Road. Whoever was responsible for the Lisburn bombing should say whether there is a single benefit to any cause from what they did. We can all blame various people for lack of political progress during the ceasefire, but there is no justification whatsoever for placing deadly bombs where human beings, including school children, can so easily be blown to pieces.

I join with my colleagues who have appealed to the Provisional IRA to make an historic decision to put a stop to this mayhem. By so doing they would be contributing more to the Border region than a million times any EU fund. Whoever is in Government in 1999 must realise that the west and the Southern Border counties are not ready to lose their objective one status despite wonderful economic progress in Europe. I, therefore, request my colleagues in Fine Gael and the Labour Party to join with us in supporting the motion to ensure that the west and the Southern Border counties are given an opportunity to build infrastructure on a par with the rest of the country.

I thank my colleague for giving me the opportunity to speak to the motion which was tabled some time ago following a meeting between an allparty committee, made up of Deputies who represent three of the Border counties and IDA personnel, the aim of which was to exert pressure on the powers that be to ensure that some of the peace and reconciliation programme moneys would be used to fund industrial infrastructural development in Border areas because of the acute problem in enticing industry to the region. The position in a number of counties is particularly bad. The view was expressed that some of the moneys under the Delors package should be used to assist the IDA. As my colleague said, thankfully we have since been joined by Deputy Keaveney who also put her name to the motion.

The motion calls on the Government "to utilise all available peace initiative funds towards industrial infrastructural development in the Border areas". I ask Deputies on the far side of the House to look carefully at the amendment tabled by the Minister for Finance to the motion, particularly the last paragraph which reads:

Dáil Éireann...also recognises that the weight to be given to the various strands of the Peace Programme, including the question of aid towards infrastructural development in the Border region, was based on this local consultative process.

As I indicated at the recent meeting of the British-Irish Interparliamentary Body in Bath, nobody asked me or any other Oireachtas Member who represents a Border county for our views on the disbursement of these moneys. The decision was made without reference to the Deputies who represent Border counties who found it necessary to meet the IDA and Ministers to insist that some of the moneys be earmarked for industrial infrastructural development. Deputies on the far side of the House should be conscious of this fact when they troop through the lobbies.

The need to table the motion became even more acute in light of the efforts by the socialist group in the European Parliament, made up of Labour types, to slash the peace and reconciliation programme funds by £78 million. MEP Bernie Malone was eloquent in trying to justify this decision on radio recently. The term "national sabotage" is often used. That is what the efforts of Ms Malone and others, to deny Border areas much needed funds for industrial infrastructural development or any of the other matters specified in the Programme for Peace and Reconciliation, amount to.

Commissioner Wulf-Mathies subsequently issued a statement to the effect that the decision to reduce the funding for 1997 shows a lack of solidarity and that a reduction in funding would jeopardise projects that contribute to peace and reconciliation. I understand that the people who support this move in the EU are now saying it was a bookkeeping exercise to force the budgetary committee to take a different direction in other areas.

When I raised the matter with the Taoiseach last week he was quite dismissive and informed me that I should pursue it with the members of the committee concerned. In other words, he was washing his hands of the matter. The following day I was glad when the Tánaiste said he hoped the decision would be reversed.

The excuse has been given that this was a bookkeeping exercise. This is indicative of the way in which the funds have been handled from the beginning. That brings me back to my original point, that the views of public representatives were not taken into account, although meetings were held in the Nuremore Hotel and other places.

The reason the uptake of funds was slow is that the wrong structures were put in place by the Government. People in the Border areas did not know what was happening and they were not properly advised as to how they should apply for funds. When the Minister was asked how many allocations were made out of the initial tranche he declined to give the information to the Dáil. Eleven days later he announced the allocations in the Border region even though the decisions had been made well in advance of our tabling questions in the House.

This is an urgent matter. On 24 October the European Parliament will be asked to vote on the issue. I exhort the Taoiseach and particularly the Tánaiste to intercede with Ms Malone and her Socialist colleagues in Europe to have the peace and reconciliation programme moneys restored. Last week Deputies on the far side of the House, particularly Labour Party Members, berated us and accused us of scaremongering. They claimed it was not a book-keeping exercise. Senator Gallagher who represents a Border county said, however, that the decision "was flying in the face of many people in the community groups on both sides of the Border who were set to benefit from the peace and reconciliation funds. The approach they have taken is a matter of profound regret".

When my party's chairman, Deputy O'Hanlon, and I raised the issue on the Adjournment last week the Minister for Finance said that the intermediary bodies were set up following consultation with local groups who stated that the matter should be taken out of the hands of central Government. In August 1995 the Government decided to involve the Combat Poverty Agency and ADM in the disbursement of these moneys. Nobody, however, took the views of Deputies and Senators into account.

They never do.

Deputy McGahon has been a member of a local authority. On the proper disbursement of moneys to the benefit of local communities, there are no better intermediaries in Border areas than the local authorities. The decision of not alone the Government but the permanent government to include ADM and the Combat Poverty Agency and not take into account the views of the local authorities beggars belief. I ask the Minister of State, Deputy Carey, to ensure that cognisance is taken of the fact that the local authorities in Border areas are second to none when it comes to development issues. They should have been allowed to make an input.

One of the committees of the British-Irish Interparliamentary Body published a report on the EU fund for peace and reconciliation in which it referred to the funding split of 20:80. I refused to accept its view that the funding split was equitable and reasonable. I do not know how it arrived at that conclusion and I speak for most Border Deputies, although few of them supported me on that occasion. The fund was divided on the basis of population, but it did not take into account the fact that the population in the Six Counties had the backing of the British Exchequer while the smaller population on the southern side of the Border did not have the backing of a strong Exchequer over the past 25 years. Although the Border counties also experienced difficult times during those years, they did not benefit from EU funding as much as they should have. That is why the split of 20:80 is wrong and should never have been agreed by whatever Government was in power.

This report acknowledges there is a potential problem which must be kept under review. I ask the Minister to take into account the views of the British-Irish Interparliamentary Body. I also speak for people like Mr. Seamus Mallon who agreed with me after the meeting in Bath that the lack of consultation between Oireachtas Members and MPs on the other side of the Border in relation to the disbursement of the EU fund for peace and reconciliation was deplorable.

The Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach, Deputy Carey, was an afterthought in that he was appointed a Minister of State after the first 15 were chosen. It was also an afterthought when he was given responsibility for Border areas. There are Deputies on his side of the House who know the Border areas a lot better than he does, so I pity him in his task. He produced the Report of the Task Force on Funding Arrangements in the Border Areas, but it only contains what we have known about the various Border funds for the past couple of years. The only recommendation he can make is that there should be a better application form and more information leaflets so that people are better informed.

This motion was tabled a long time ago so the Minister had an opportunity to take into account what all Deputies, particularly those on this side of the House, said. However, he did not take our views on board. That is indicative of the way the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste and the Minister for Social Welfare have treated the Border areas. Not one Border Deputy from the three Government parties was nominated as a Minister or a Minister of State. I say shame on the Government. What happened at the European Parliament budgetary committee is indicative of this Government's lack of priority which we saw from day one when it did not appoint anyone from the Border areas as a Minister. The Minister comes from a county well divorced from the Border areas. There is no one with knowledge about the Border areas at Cabinet or junior Minister level.

I support this motion. My main contribution to underpinning the peace process as Minister for Finance was in the autumn of 1994 when I negotiated the substantial and impressive EU aid package worth £240 million. It was the last thing I completed at the European Council before I was removed from office. It reflected other member states' strong commitment and support for the peace process in Northern Ireland. President Jacques Delors took a particular interest in the matter.

It is a scandal that under the Irish Presidency a European Parliament budgetary committee has decided to cut £78 million from next year's funding. A letter in today's edition ofThe Irish Times by a British socialist MEP, a colleague of Ms Bernie Malone, explains why the Border areas are not a high priority for the Parliament. I have no doubt the Minister will castigate those people later on. Deputy Pat Gallagher vigorously opposed the committee's decision and Mr. Joe McCartan abstained from the vote. I am sure he explained his reasons to the Minister. Luckily, the EU Regional Affairs Commissioner, Monika WulfMathies, attacked the Parliament's decision in strong terms. She said she deeply regretted it and she accused MEPs of a lack of solidarity with those who suffered most during the Northern Ireland violence over the years. She said that “reducing the funding would jeopardise projects that contribute to peace and reconciliation”. The reallocation has left dozens of schemes and cross-Border projects at risk, including many road maintenance works in Border counties. The EU Commissioner has confirmed that the EU's peace packages were overwhelmingly well received and that expenditure on projects was gathering pace. She also said there was no doubt there were enough projects to fully absorb the amounts in 1997 which the Commissioner requested and the Council confirmed. Fianna Fáil and its UFE colleagues voted in support of the Commission and against the budgetary committee's decision.

I have long believed that Fine Gael and Labour members of the European Parliament are feeble defenders of the national interest in these matters. I am sure Mr. McCartan will make his position clear.

When I tell him what the Deputy said, he will not be too feeble.

He might clarify why he abstained. The Tánaiste failed to exercise any influence over the socialist MEPs. What is the point in the Tánaiste hosting a meeting of socialist leaders in Dublin Castle with lavish hospitality when they vote against Ireland's interests in the peace process?

They should not have been fed.

Where does the socialist group's decision leave aspiring Labour candidates in Border areas? This is a deeply embarrassing saga for the Government which shows an abysmal lack of political co-ordination between the members of the European Parliament.

A couple of weeks ago the Minister for the Environment promised to get rid of potholes over a period of ten years. Some of the money, which was for the worst affected counties, has now been lost as a result of last week's action. The responsibility lies not only with the Government MEPs in the European Parliament but with the Government, which has given no priority to the Border counties. It has little interest in its welfare and this was emphasised when the Government did not appoint a Minister of State for the area. The Minister, Deputy Carey, looks after the west and the islands. He cannot be expected to look after everything.

The US Administration has organised special conferences in Washington and in Pittsburgh to attract investment not just to Northern Ireland but to the Border counties. However, some time ago an IDA official explained, without contradiction by the Government, that there would be no investments in thinly populated areas along the Border. Perhaps the Minister could give me a list of the industrial projects announced for or established in the Border counties since December 1994. What percentage is this of the total number of new industrial jobs announced since then?

Would the Deputy like a list for 1993?

I have the list for 1993. When did the peace process start? The latest statistics show that unemployment is higher in the Border region than in any other region over the last three months compared with a year ago. The Taoiseach has no interest in cross-Border co-operation. Despite the presence of the US President, the Vice-President, the Secretary of State and the Commerce Secretary at the Washington conference last year, the Taoiseach was conspicuous by his absence. He was also absent from the Pittsburgh conference last week. Regardless of what Mr. Major did the Taoiseach should have been at that conference.

His mention of Northern Ireland in his speech to Congress, though it ran to ten pages, was also imbued with a lack of interest. In saying we were not motivated by any interest of our own other than that of obtaining an agreement which is reasonable and fair to the aspirations of both communities in the North he was entirely ignoring what a number of Deputies would see as the legitimate economic interest of the Southern border counties in an intensification of cross-Border co-operation. He talked about reconciliation within Northern Ireland but not reconciliation across the border, which is important also. He referred to the International Fund for Ireland solely in a Northern Ireland context, ignoring US promotion of investment in the Southern Border counties. The Taoiseach is completely lacking in the economic vision of his predecessors reflected in the Framework Document, which he mentions so infrequently.

Mr. Séamus Mallon of the SDLP and even members of the British Labour Party, have expressed concern in public and in private in recent weeks about the internal settlement thinking emanating from the vicinity of certain Government parties. I have had complaints from Northern Ireland about this Government's lack of real commitment to cross-Border co-operation. There has been no adequate effort to increase Civil Service resources to process the big increase in applications following the increase in funding. We have neither openness nor an effort to move on this matter.

We on this side of the House are deeply committed to seeing that the Southern Border counties, which were the worst affected by partition and the troubles of the last quarter of a century, get their fair share of the resources available for economic construction. We brought major industry as well as Government offices and improvements in infrastructure to the Border counties.

For example, Saehan Media was established in Sligo.

That is not a Border county.

There was a huge expansion of Fruit of the Loom in Donegal, Masonite was established in Leitrim and a new hospital was built in Cavan, along with decentralised offices. We gave priority to upgrading road and rail links between Dublin and Belfast, which helped County Louth.

Deputy Ahern should not complain.

Cavan and Monaghan have received Government support as the principal home of the poultry, pig and mushroom industries. We have given full support to the development of the fishing industry, in which Deputy Harte was involved. The biggest flagship project using Structural Funds in the 1989 National Development Plan, was the restored Ballinamore-Ballyconnell canal, with which I was glad to be associated and which has transformed tourism in Deputy Nealon's constituency of Sligo-Leitrim. It has never been so good there. We forced the pace and obtained agreement from the British Government on reopening all Border crossings in the autumn of 1994. There is little that this Government can point to by way of any comparable commitment and it must not rest till the money is restored.

I wish to share my time with Deputy Nealon. I move amendment No. 1:

To delete all words after "That" and substitute the following:

"Dáil Éireann

—commends the Government's commitment towards the economic development of the Border counties and is confident that the maximum amount of EU funding available to the Border region will be drawn down in timely fashion over the lifetime of the EU Programmes relevant to the area;

—acknowledges that a full consultative process was undertaken in Northern Ireland and the Border counties by the European Commission task force;

—further notes that local opinion in regard to the implementation of the measures was overwhelmingly to the effect that implementation of the measures be devolved to local implementing mechanisms and away from central Government departments;

—and also recognises that the weight to be given to the various strands of the peace programme, including the question of aid towards infrastructural development in the Border region, was based on this local consultative process."

I attended yesterday's meeting of Cavan County Council, at which I heard contributions which contrasted with those expressed by the two Border Deputies, Deputy McDaid and Deputy Dermot Ahern, who moaned and groaned about the position in the Border areas.

Rightly so.

Cavan County Council told me that planning applications have increased by 30 per cent, prospects were great and as long as the peace initiative continued, that county was happy with this Government. I wonder what these Deputies are talking about.

The Minister should speak to one of his own Deputies. Deputy Crawford knows exactly what I am talking about.

I am right behind the Minister.

Let us hear the Minister without interruption.

In the autumn of 1994, shortly after the cessation of violence in Northern Ireland, the European Commission created a special task force to look into further ways of giving practical assistance to Northern Ireland and the Border counties in consultation with the national authorities. The creation of the task force was a practical expression of the European Union's commitment to the peace and reconciliation process, which had been underlined in the statement of the then Commission President Jacques Delors welcoming the cessation of violence.

In its deliberations, the task force considered the new opportunities and special needs arising from the cessation of violence and the developing peace process. It came to the conclusion that the European Union has a clear interest and vital role in maintaining the momentum for peace and reconciliation, not only for the benefit of the region most affected, but also for the wider benefit of the EU as a whole.

On the basis of this conclusion, the Commission adopted a proposal for a special support programme for peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland and the Border counties to be implemented in the form of a Community initiative under the Structural Funds. It was proposed that the initiative would run for five years from 1995 to 1999, equivalent to the remaining period of application of the current Structural Funds programme. Community funding amounting to 300 million ECUs or £24 million would be provided initially for a three year period from 1995 to 1997. Further financing for the last two years would be subject to review based on a Commission report. The principle of a special support programme and the allocation of financial resources for the period 1995 to 1997 were subsequently endorsed by the European Council of Heads of Government at Essen, in December 1994. Deputy Bertie Ahern was at that meeting.

Following the adoption by the European Commission of draft guidelines for the initiative on 14 February 1995, the two member states drew up an Operational Programme on a parallel timetable with the Commission's consultation on the guidelines with the other EU bodies. This was informed by an extensive consultation exercise in both eligible areas. I attended the consultation conference in the Border region, which was held in Ballyconnell, County Cavan on 20 April and was attended by more than 200 delegates, including participants from across the Border in Northern Ireland.

There was no need for it.

In addition to the two Government sponsored conferences, a further conference was organised on behalf of the European Parliament's Committee on Regional Policy in conjunction with the European Commission. The impetus for the conference came from a joint initiative of Northern Ireland's three MEPs, who had been closely associated with the work of the task force from the outset. The conference, which brought together a broad range of interests from both Northern Ireland and the border counties, was an important opportunity for the European institutions to express, at the highest level, their ongoing support for the developing peace process. It was addressed on behalf of the European Parliament, by Mr. Díaz, the vice president, and Mr. Speciale, the Chairman of the Committee on Regional Policy and for the European Commission by both President Santer and Mrs. Wulf-Mathies, the Commissioner for Regional Policies.

As I mentioned briefly earlier, the consultation process in the Border counties included a conference organised by the Department of Finance held in Ballyconnell, County Cavan on 20 April 1995. The conference was divided into workshops which dealt with each of the five themes set out in the guidelines.

All the Minister had to do was implement these points.

I will briefly summarise the findings. The social inclusion workshop considered that social inclusion should be the biggest priority within the initiative and that activities should concentrate on development of people. Social inclusion should be taken into account in all measures under the initiative. To assist in this process social inclusion should be taken into account in the output and performance indicators from the beginning. The workshop concluded that emphasis on social inclusion could lead to considerable progress towards reconciliation.

The urban/rural regeneration workshop stressed the need for a bottom up approach and that funding should be clearly seen as additional. Funding must reach the most disadvantaged and should build bridges not only between Border communities but also within communities. Social inclusion was considered to be the most important theme of the initiative and one which should be included, not only in this measure but in all measures.

The cross-Border development workshop saw the need for the initiative to be people oriented. Projects should be directed towards young people, community groups and the disabled. It was especially desirable to involve young people as the older age groups tended to be more entrenched in their views. Consequently, there was greater scope for reconciliation among young people. Large infrastructure projects would quickly use up all the limited resources available under the initiative and should be excluded. However, there should be room for small scale projects which would benefit local people. This is especially true in the case of improvements to county roads and would also include local north-south electricity interconnectors.

The productive investment workshop stressed that the priorities should be locally driven, especially where the potential for market expansion was identified, and not be entirely constrained by national policy perspectives. The employment workshop agreed that activities should be locally concentrated and controlled. Activity should be on a small scale, well publicised, transparently administered and the chosen agency should be accessible to all. The priority was to create longterm sustainable jobs, especially in the services sector.

The Border Regional Authority, which is made up of the local representatives of each of the political parties, and the EU Operational Committee were closely involved in the consultation process and in addition were asked to make a specific submission in response to the commission's guidelines. The submission by the authority emphasised the following points: first, the need to use the initiative to promote reconciliation, both cross-Border and cross-community, which must ultimately occur between people, that is, people meeting each other, doing business with each other, exchanging experience, addressing shared problems and visiting each other's regions; second, the need to focus the initiative on communities, areas, problems and opportunities associated with the peace process, and not merely on socio-economic development generally, however worthwhile this may be.

Who better to do that than the local representatives?

Third, the need to differentiate the initiative from the many EU-assisted national, regional and local development programmes operating in the region; fourth, the need to minimise further proliferation of new institutional structures in the already crowded landscape of development in the region. Specifically, account must be taken of the existing activities of national Government departments and agencies in the region, of local authorities and of new and local developments, such as Leader groups, county enterprise boards and the partnership companies, and of the programmes of the IFI. Fifth, regarding management of the initiative, the authority wants a genuinely bottom up approach whereby organisations and communities in the region can be involved in decisions about the programme over and above what occurs in mainstream operational programmes. This is what is happening in the region.

The views I have outlined are only a small sample of the many initiatives received by the Government. All recognise the particular emphasis the programme would need to place on measures to support peace and reconciliation. There was no support for the view that the programme should allocate significant sums to infrastructure. The overwhelming consensus of those consulted endorsed the view that the prospect of lasting peace requires particular efforts to overcome the effects of the destruction of normal economic and social relations. By addressing these challenges the programme aims to help secure a lasting peace.

In drawing together proposals for the special support programme for peace and reconciliation, the relevant authority in both member states took into account the overwhelming need to maintain the momentum for peace, the prevailing economic and social conditions in eligible areas, the priorities set for the initiative by the Commission, the results of the prior appraisal and the outcome of the consultation arrangements. All of these have combined to provide the rationale for the programme. In addition, in drawing up the programme full regard was had to ensuring the optimum of complementarity and integration with the Community Support Framework Operational Programmes and relevant Community initiatives, especially the Northern Ireland INTERREG programmes, in addition to the range of activities carried out under the IFI.

In the Border regions especially there was a clearly perceived need to build on the support available under the Community Support Framework and the INTERREG programme to fully address the negative perceptions that the region has had to face. There are specific tourism measures under the urban and rural regeneration sub-programme with set out to give the necessary boost to ongoing efforts in this area.

While there will be some scope for the statutory tourism agencies in this, the major emphasis is on bottom up development arising from community-based actions. If the present peace process proves successful, then the restoration of economic and other normality in Northern Ireland should result in considerably lessening the specific and unique problems faced by the Border regionvis à vis the rest of Ireland.

As to how the programme should be implemented, the European Commission task force, following its own widespread consultations in Northern Ireland and the Border counties of Ireland, strongly recommended that as much as possible of the implementation of the programme be devolved to local delivery mechanisms. Given the objectives of peace and reconciliation and the paramount importance of the need to combat social exclusion, it was considered that implementing mechanisms independent of Government and closer to the grassroots offered the best means of achieving these goals. The Commission, in adopting the report of the task force, required the respective administrations to draw up proposals putting these recommendations into effect.

To ensure the independence of the intermediary funding bodies the Commission required that they be funded through the medium of global grant agreements signed directly between them and the Commission. The bodies set up have full discretion within the parameters set by the programme in relation to the implementation of the measures for which they are responsible. Deputies have been critical of differences in emphasis in approach, north and south. They should bear in mind that the exercise of this discretion sometimes gives rise to differences in interpretation between intermediary funding bodies north and south dealing with similar actions and measures. The joint monitoring committee for the programme monitors the activities of all of the implementing mechanisms and is in a position to require coordination of actions where this is appropriate and necessary.

This devolution of responsibility for implementing measures under the programme required a number of innovative mechanisms north and south, and the difficulties experienced have been broadly similar. I am pleased to note that while the setting up of the partnership structure based on district councils in Northern Ireland was long and complex, the cooperation of all parties in the partnership has survived the ending of the IRA ceasefire and the community strife engendered in the aftermath of Drumcree.

The devolved delivery mechanisms for the Border counties were put in place following a series of extensive consultations between Government Departments and the Commission. ADM Limited, already charged with responsibility for local development, and the Combat Poverty Agency were the bodies charged with delivering a wide range of measures across the programme. These report to the Department of the Taoiseach and the Department of Social Welfare respectively. Cooperation North, in conjunction with IBEC and the CBI, implements the cross-Border business and culture measure. The Department of Foreign Affairs has responsibility for overseeing this.

ADM Limited has received funding totally £33 million but has only allocated £1.5 million.

Deputy McDaid will please desist. He had the opportunity to speak and will have it again.

The Minister has read through nine pages in 20 minutes. There are only ten minutes remaining——

Deputy McDaid will desist from interrupting further. The Deputy will not disregard the Chair.

I wish to hear from other Border Deputies.

Regardless of what you would like, it is not your prerogative. I will not ask the Deputy to desist again.

While the intermediary funding bodies were aware, from the middle of 1995, of the role required of them under the programme, their statutory responsibilities became effective on 8 December 1995 when, with Commissioner Wulf-Mathies on behalf of the Commission, they signed the global grant agreements. The bodies then had to set up offices and take on staff. This process will be substantially completed by the end of 1996, which is expeditious. Since that date the bodies have been actively involved in implementing the actions provided for under the measures.

Another innovative delivery mechanism involved county led task forces operating in each of the six Border counties. They are responsible for delivering a wide range of actions in the urban and rural regeneration areas. The task forces have a considerable degree of discretion in deciding how the allocation should be spent, but the programme requires that representatives and relevant local interests are consulted as appropriate. The Department of the Environment has responsibility for overseeing the activities of the task forces. The total EU funding disbursed under these devolved mechanisms totals £33.7 million or over 70 per cent of the amount allocated.

Is the new arrangement, whereby Deputies can make 30 second interventions to pose questions, in operation?

May I avail of it at this point?

The Deputy may avail of it if the Minister of State agrees.

The Deputy may ask any question he wishes.

In accordance with the new arrangements, the Deputy has 30 seconds to do so.

What provision has been made in the Border counties development programmes for industrial development?

I already answered that question. The Commission task force decided that large infrastructural development should not take place.

It decided infrastructural development should not take place in the Border areas? Should it take place only in Dublin?

It said the funds provided under this measure should not be used for large infrastructural developments. Deputy Bertie Ahern agreed to this at Essen, long before this Government took office. I am somewhat puzzled by these queries but I promised the Deputies that I will raise this matter during the mid term review and I will do so.

I wish to refer to the proposal of the budget committee of the European Parliament to cut 100 million ECU from the peace programme. As I stated earlier, the Essen European Council in December 1994 agreed the principle of a multi-annual programme and the allocation of additional funding of 300 million ECU which would provide support for urban and rural regeneration, employment, cross-Border development, social inclusion and investment promotion for Northern Ireland and the Border counties. Funding for this initiative has been provided through the annual EU budget. The first 200 million ECU was funded from Structural Funds resources while the additional 100 million ECU was drawn from the reserve for Community initiatives.

In the draft 1997 budget sent to the Parliament by the Council, provision was made for commitment appropriations of 159.9 million ECU for the special programme for regions in both parts of Ireland. The draft budget for 1997 is now being considered by the European Parliament as part of the budgetary procedure. However, the European Parliament's committee on budgets has reduced the commitment appropriation by 100 million ECU. Its justification for doing so is that the resources provided were not fully utilised in 1995 and that expenditure in 1996 is likely to be significantly below the amounts provided. The committee envisages that the unused appropriations from previous years should be carried forward.

The Parliament has taken the view that the savings which would accrue in 1997 should be used to provide additional funds for other programmes. Ireland totally rejects the position of the budget committee and calls on the European Parliament at its plenary session on 24 October to restore the amounts proposed by the Council.

I am confident that the budget council at its second reading of the budget in November will reject any amendment which would put at risk the funding of the programme in 1997. I hope the Parliament will take account of the Council's strong view on this matter. As the Deputies mentioned, the Commissioner for Regional Policy, Ms Wulf-Mathies, issued a statement which was strongly critical of the European Parliament budgets committee's action. Ireland supports her view and this matter was dealt with in the House last week on the Adjournment. The House is united in rejecting the committee's proposal.

The special EU programme for peace and reconciliation was originally conceived to support the peace process in the North of Ireland following the IRA ceasefire. It was not initially the Commission's intention that it should also apply to the Border counties. The Government argued strongly that the Border region should also be included in the emerging aid framework and following much discussion the Commission agreed to include Counties Cavan, Donegal, Leitrim, Louth and Monaghan. The Government continued to push for the inclusion of the entire Border region and the inclusion of County Sligo was eventually conceded by the Commission.

Deputies may recall that during the consultation period indicative proportions of a 75:25 per cent breakdown between north and south were discussed. However, Deputies of the party opposite signed a protest resolution which was highly critical of the Commission's thinking on the matter. Copies were sent to the EU President, Mr. Santer, and the regional Commissioner, Ms Wulf-Mathies, and soon afterwards the Commissioner informed both member states that the funding would be proportioned on an 80:20 basis. I will allow the House to draw its own conclusions and I ask Deputy McDaid to ensure that meetings of his party discuss this matter.

I wish to give some of my time to Deputy Nealon. I am committed to working with everybody in the region and I am disappointed that the Deputies are trying to create a smokescreen about EU funding and the peace initiative which are trying to lift the people in the North of Ireland, not to drag them down.

I have full confidence that the Government will draw down every penny available to it from EU funding. The Government may have some small faults but refusing money is not one of them. Since Ireland joined the EEC in 1973, every Government has drawn the maximum amounts available and our real difficulty will start when the funds begin to dry up in 1999.

However, the mechanism for processing and handling the funds available in the Border areas to which the motion applies needs urgent attention. There is a plethora of organisations, including Leader, which is answerable to the Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry. Partnership is run by the Department of the Taoiseach and county enterprise boards are under the Department of Enterprise and Employment. INTERREG is under the Department of Tourism and Trade, and the peace and reconciliation programme and the IFI are answerable to many Departments. There is undoubtedly great difficulty in that respect. The end result of all these hands on board is not greater efficiency but confusion, overlapping and passing the buck. The duplication and triplication of administration is costly and office expenses, etc., also eat a fair share of the cake. My impression is that one agency does not have a clue about what another agency is doing. How could it?

County Sligo has tried to alleviate this problem by housing as many agencies as possible in one location; it is a semionestopshop. I understand no other county has taken this action and this aspect needs urgent attention. The Minister of State, Deputy Carey, has a good track record in terms of trying to bring the agencies together under one roof to save on administration costs and he should apply himself to this point.

Regarding local input, another aspect the Minister of State could consider is giving more beef to the county strategy boards which represent many people. However, there is no point improving it on the bottom up level, unless improvements are also made at the top. There is a need for co-ordination and a bringing together at Government level because the position is chaotic in terms of the mechanism for delivery.

Regarding the slow takeup of what is on offer, I understand it is proving difficult to get good projects which meet the criteria. One area of particular difficulty is the cross-community aspect of the peace and reconciliation programme. It is not easy to get suitable projects which fulfil the criteria or to find a common cause between communities in Counties Sligo and Tyrone or Leitrim and Antrim. There is a problem and the criteria should be examined in that respect. However, the type of mechanism I mentioned earlier is of even more urgency.

Overall, the concept of special designation for the Border counties is good and the schemes are basically good. They meet the real needs which are created by the difficulties of the Border. They have produced some excellent results but they are not doing it to maximum efficiency. The most important thing, alluded to by Deputy McDaid, is peace along the Border and north of the Border. One of the great pleasures of my career was to see the movement of tourists from north to south resumed during the summer of 1995. That can be reinstated and I hope it will happen before too long.

With the permission of the House I would like to share my time with Deputy Kirk and Deputy Keaveney.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

Today's decision of the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry to exclude Monaghan from the Russian beef market was appalling. I know two other counties in the south were also involved. This was indicative of this Government's approach to so many aspects of our life, but particularly its approach to the Border area. The same Minister is going to Russia next week having agreed to that exclusion. I thought that at the very least the Taoiseach would go to Russia next week to undo the damage done by the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry.

This motion is about the neglect of the Border counties by the Government, but the Minister of State, Deputy Carey, spoke only of the programme for peace and reconciliation. I do not know why. There are many other good programmes in existence. Reference has already been made to the fact that the EU budget committee wants to reduce that programme by £78 million and that a Labour MEP voted for that decision. I can understand that because the Labour Party has never offered anything to the Border counties or to rural Ireland. The three Fianna Fáil members voted against the decision of the budget committee. My colleagues have referred to the remarks of the President of the budget committee that the Irish Presidency was not fighting hard enough. I compliment Deputy Gallagher for raising this issue. It is interesting to note that Mr. Bob McCartan referred to him as being mischievous. This is in keeping with what some of the Members on the Government side of the House had to say about him; he was anything but mischievous.

Another point worth recording is that the Tánaiste was supposed to make a major speech in Pittsburgh but he did not go there. There was no reason he should not have gone. It is not sufficient to say that because he had to go to the Middle East for a day he could not go to Pittsburgh. That too is an indication of the Government's indifference to the Border counties. We had great expectations after the Washington Conference but saw very little in terms of overseas investment. In my constituency, which covers two of the Ulster counties, 41 jobs were created in one county and 79 in the other out of a total of 11,500 overseas jobs created in this country in 1995. That is an indication of this Government's commitment to the Border area.

The population of Cavan has increased——

The population may have increased and when we discuss the population we will have something to say about it.


Deputy O'Hanlon without interruption.

The Minister should study the census. If he did he might do something to help the Border counties. The Minister's task force made two recommendations. One was that nothing should be done to integrate the bodies that have funding to distribute. This is in conflict with the speech the Minister made here tonight; the other is that we should have more information, a newsletter and more documents about European funding.

I ask the Taoiseach to take an interest in the Border areas and to interest himself in what is going on in Europe and make sure that, on the next occasion, the Labour MEP votes in favour of the decision that would suit the Irish people. He should, even at this late stage, reshuffle his Cabinet and appoint a Minister from the Border counties.

We want to see the money spent on worthwhile projects. We want to see better infrastructure, including a national primary road from Dundalk to Sligo and IDA advance factories. Reference has already been made to the fact that Strabane got 75 per cent of the cost of an advance factory. The Minister of State, Deputy Carey, has studied the maps and he can see where the national primary roads are. One glaring omission is a road east-west-north of the Dublin-Galway road. This is another indication that the Border counties are not getting the attention they deserve. Funding is available at the moment and the Minister should ensure the money is spent in that area.

A resolution is before the United States Congress to introduce tax free measures in the 12 Border counties, six north and six south. I ask the Government to look at that and co-operate with the members of Congress because I am told this would be the greatest single measure to attract overseas investment to the Border counties.

I wish to refer to cross-Border co-operation and to the fact that competitiveness on this side of the Border is not what it should bevis-à-vis the northern side of the Border. I appeal to the Government, and specifically the Minister for Finance, to address that difficulty in the budget particularly in regard to PRSI. There is a very serious problem in regard to the value of the Irish pound vis-à-vis sterling. The labour intensive industries along the Border, particularly the food sector, are feeling the pinch. I have already referred to the very serious damage done by the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry in his announcement today.

I thank Deputy O'Hanlon for sharing his time. The debate on Border funding generally is long overdue. For the last year or two it has been a major bone of contention with the public representatives in the Border areas that lots of money seemed to be available under different headings, yet when I looked for tangible evidence of money being spent in our area, it was not there. My constituency has one of the highest unemployment levels in the country. It is a Border county and has been very seriously affected by the troubles of the last 26 years. I am sure there were public representatives from other constituencies who felt envious because there was a perception that money was available under different headings, but that money was not having a direct impact in the Border counties. County Louth might not be as badly affected as other counties which, because of their geographic location, would find it even more difficult to attract industrial development.

When the Taoiseach decided to give responsibility for Border county development to a Minister of State our hopes were raised. This decision was overdue and we all felt that appointment would prove to be a focal point for a coordinated approach to the development of the Border counties. Sadly, the results we had hoped for have not materialised. The funds are in place, we have different agencies and intermediary bodies who have resources available to them, yet they are not making the necessary impact.

The forces of economic development mean that there is a gravitational pull to the centre of population. The greater Dublin area holds a certain attraction to investors from outside the country, because the whole range of support requirements which would form part of their shopping list is available there. The attractiveness of industrial sites in the greater Dublin area means that industrial sites in Border counties, are considerably less attractive. The major priority in the Border counties is the industrial infrastructure which is very deficient. If the Minister of State does nothing other than redirect money which is available for a wide range of activities into industrial site development, he will have done a good day's work for the Border counties and they will be grateful to him if he succeeds. I do not see any indication in the report his Department produced recently that there is a move in that direction. The report merely outlined what representatives in the Border counties already know in regard to the responsible agencies, existing funding, etc. There is no indication in that report that the Department is taking the decision to expend money in areas where it is urgently needed.

Cross-Border development has been mentioned. The town of Crossmaglen has been in the cockpit of the troubles in Northern Ireland for the past 25 years. Successive British Governments did not invest one penny in that town. The families who grew up in South Armagh had to go to Dundalk and further afield to seek employment. A calculated decision was taken that there would not be any industrial development in the area.

Anyone familiar with the geography of the area will know that parts of Monaghan and of the Louth constituency are contiguous to Crossmaglen. The type of economic activity in the town is relevant to the townlands immediately south of the Border because if employment opportunities had been available there, it would have been the logical place for families to seek employment.

I am talking about a town that has been in a pivotal position with regard to the troubles in Northern Ireland for the past 25 years, yet the agencies in place are not doing anything to rectify its position. Industrial investment in this area would create employment and go a long way towards social inclusion with resulting tangible and positive economic development. I invite the Minister of State to visit the area. The public representatives would be happy to meet him to discuss its problems.

In the past two years various trade conferences have been held in different locations around the Border. High profile personalities were invited to speak at these conferences and give the impression that something was being done for the Border counties. These people stood up, made their speeches and left. Nothing else happened.

A group in the House of Representatives in the United States is currently trying to progress a Bill through the House that will establish a special trade arrangement for the 12 Northern counties, but the responsible Government Departments here do not want to know anything about it. A more positive move could not have been made than to establish a special bilateral trade arrangement between the 12 Northern counties and the United States. It would transform that whole area.

I appeal to the Minister of State to immediately contact the relevant Department, be it Foreign Affairs or Tourism and Trade, and request it to urgently examine and actively pursue the proposal on the table. Representatives visited this House last week and sought a meeting with the public representatives in the Border counties. Will the Minister of State examine that proposal with urgency? I wanted to make a number of other points but I wish to share my time with Deputy Keaveney.

I thank my colleagues for affording me an opportunity to contribute to the debate. As a Deputy who has lived close to the Border I support the motion. The number of people on the live register in County Donegal has increased by 476 in the past 12 months. That is significant. The hardest hit areas in regard to unemployment are Ballybofey, Letterkenny and Búncrana which, like the rest of Inishowen, is almost solely reliant on one industry and, in particular, one company. Is this a sign of the Government's commitment to economic development, particularly in the Border counties?

What incentives are given to people who set up in businesses that can match those which exist less than a mile across the Border? We should not compare one regime with another, but in terms of the economy in Border areas another regime impinges on everything we do. If a new industry wishing to set up has a choice of location, it will go across the Border as my colleague, Deputy McDaid, already outlined. This has been seen recently and repeatedly in Donegal due to the incentives given by the UK Government throughout the 25 years of violence in Northern Ireland. It attracts and supports economic investment and replaces what has been lost in terms of business due to the destruction that has occurred in the North. Such support is not given to the southern Border counties for their loss of business which is as significant as that in the North.

Our current industry has sister companies on the other side of the Border and the double taxation issue alone is forcing many employees to seek employment in the Northern branch. This in turn places great pressure on the employers. Beyond industry, the double taxation issue is driving young and old alike out of our Border counties. They are moving away to teach, nurse or follow other professions. With them goes their expertise and their spending power, and their leaving creates a hole in the fabric of many rural areas.

What steps have been taken to address this problem and redress the economic deficit? No steps have been taken, and that encourages many families to move across the Border, such as those referred to by my colleague in the Crossmaglen area. People will settle in areas where there is employment and avoid the difficulties currently being experienced.

On economic commitment, we look to our natural resources in Donegal, particularly the fishing industry. This industry is heavily relied upon for jobs and the economic benefit it creates. While it has great potential we have what has been termed a dilapidated fleet, not a term of which we can be proud. Pressure must be brought to bear to ensure Ireland is given the same opportunities as our European counterparts. Instead of policies geared towards repairing and expanding our harbours, renewing our boats and chasing an increase in quota, we are getting collapsed piers, the threat of a reduction in quota and an older fleet which is patched up every so often to stop it from being decommissioned entirely. Would a new parachute be put on a 50 year old plane?

Major fishing ports such as Greencastle, which has a substantial turnover, are not receiving serious attention. Without any national primary or secondary roads in Inishowen, large fishing lorries must negotiate narrow roads and the two biggest boats in the fleet are unable to berth in the harbour at Greencastle. Do we really appreciate the resources in our fishing industry? Will there be a commitment now when our fleet is under threat of a 40 per cent reduction that the Government will fight this issue to the end? If it does not, a particular Border area will be beyond help.

Through participating in the north west region cross-Border group, many aspects of our peripherality have been examined. Cross-Border groups have begun the search for help by looking to Europe. These are strong, well established groups with a great deal of expertise on where funding is needed. They and other local authorities should have been asked to help. The EU gave a practical commitment that needed the backing of political will. The commitment was given at the time in relation to the Jacques Delors package.

Debate adjourned.

On a point of order, and with due respect to the two senior Ministers present, I hope they will listen to the excellent contributions, especially from Deputy Keaveney.

I am proceeding now to matters to which a rigid time limit applies. The Deputy should resume his seat.