Written Answers. - Decentralisation Programme.

Brendan Smith

Question:

109 Mr. B. Smith asked the Minister for Finance if he will initiate a programme of decentralisation of Government offices and services to areas such as County Cavan in view of the report by the National Economic and Social Council, entitled "Population Distribution and Economic Development - Trends and Policy Implications" identifying areas, similar to County Cavan, as not benefiting adequately from recent economic development; his views on whether this employment would be of major economic and social benefit to these areas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8411/98]

The Deputy will recall that Cavan has already benefited from decentralisation, with the location in Cavan town of 174 staff of the Department of Agriculture and Food. The current programme of decentralisation has yet to be completed. Decentralisation raises a number of issues including its impact on the efficient delivery of Government services. I am at present considering these issues and it is my intention to discuss them with my colleagues in Government.

The NESC report entitled "Population Distribution and Economic Development — Trends and Policy Implications" provides a comprehensive description of the main characteristics and trends in regional settlement patterns in Ireland since the 1950s and also the wide range of economic and non-economic influences which have determined the evolution of these patterns over that period.

The key influence of urbanisation on population stability and growth emerges strongly from the report's analysis. However, it should be noted that the role of public policy in shaping settlement patterns at regional or sub-regional levels is limited by both economic and non-economic factors outside of the Government's control, for example, patterns of migration and private sector investment strategies.