I presume that this question follows the Deputy's question to me on 22 October last about adequacy of access to tourist facilities for visitors with a disability.
In line with the commitment of both the Government and the European Commission to improve the position of the socially disadvantaged, the Operational Programme for Tourism 1994-99, which is the main vehicle for tourism development in Ireland up to the end of this decade, includes provision for funding, where appropriate, for support to help meet the additional costs of providing suitable access-friendly facilities for the disabled when submitted to Bord Fáilte or Shannon Development as part of EU grant approved developments. In interdepartmental discussions aimed at ensuring consistency and complementarity between the tourism and other operational programmes, my Department has stressed the importance of improved access for disabled tourists.
All new buildings must comply with building regulations — introduced in 1991 by the Department of the Environment and Local Government — which state that people with disabilities must be catered for. These regulations contain provisions for people with disabilities in relation to access to, and circulation within, all new buildings and old buildings which are being renovated.
The industry has been circulated widely with a handbook specially prepared by the European Commission for the tourism industry on "Making Europe accessible for tourists with disabilities." Ultimately, of course, it is the industry itself which must adapt its facilities and product if it is to appeal to this market and avail of the sales opportunities which it offers.