I understand the decision by Irish Ferries, a privately owned company, to discontinue the use of Cork port was taken on purely commercial considerations and as such I have no function in the matter. The company has, however, announced an improved and upgraded continental cruiseferry service for the 1998 season between Rosslare, Cherbourg and Roscoff. This service will increase capacity for tourist traffic, vehicles and freight busines and I welcome the company's continued commitment to the continental route. I understand that the service will begin next April and will operate according to a new schedule which allows for consistent departure and arrival times with early morning arrival times in France and Ireland to better facilitate passengers driving onwards to their holiday destinations.
I have not spoken directly to Irish Ferries about its decision to discontinue the use of Cork port, but my colleague, the Minister for the Marine and Natural Resources, replied to Deputies in the House on the Adjournment on 19 November in relation to this matter. It is too early to assess what impact, if any, the decision to discontinue the use of Cork port will have on flows of continental tourists to and within Ireland. The new vessels being chartered by Irish Ferries will provide for increased capacity for tourist traffic and vehicles and will offer higher standards of on-board facilities which should prove attractive to potential visitors. While the distribution of visitor flows within Ireland is primarily a matter for the regional tourism authorities and the tourism industry itself, I am concerned about improving regional spread generally, as we all know that recent growth in tourism has not been benefiting all regions to the same extent.