Other Questions. - Task Forces.

Seán Barrett

Question:

12 Mr. Barrett asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if she has received reports from the various task forces which were set up after the loss of jobs in some counties; if so, the recommendations contained in the reports; the action, if any, taken as a result; the number of jobs announced and commenced following the establishment of these task forces; the number of these groups which continue in existence; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21876/99]

Nora Owen

Question:

81 Mrs. Owen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if she has received reports from the various task forces which were set up after the loss of jobs in some counties; if so, the recommendations contained in the reports; the action, if any, taken as a result of these task forces; the number of jobs announced and commenced following the establishment of these task forces; the number of these groups which continue in existence; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22047/99]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 12 and 81 together.

The following task forces, which were set up under my aegis as a result of major company job losses, have completed their work and reported over the past 18 months: the Tullamore Inter-Agency Group after the closure of Atlantic Mills, the Tralee Inter-Agency Group after Klopman, the Clonmel Task Force after Seagate, the Lei trim Enterprise Project Group after Ballinamore Textiles and the Donegal Employment Initiative after the Fruit of the Loom closures.

In addition to these task forces, the North Mayo Enterprise Initiative, in response to Asahi closure, has submitted an interim report. The AWG South East Task Force, in response to job losses in Dungarvan following the amalgamation of the Avonmore and Waterford Groups, was formed by the Avonmore Waterford Group and included State agencies and other interests. It has also submitted a report on its work. There are also a number of other task forces in operation for areas such as Longford, Mullingar and Laois.

The task forces addressed a wide range of issues and focused in particular on measures for the attraction of replacement industry, the expansion of existing industry and the provision of re-training for redundant workers and the provision of infrastructure. Follow-up action on the task force reports has been, and is being, pursued by the relevant Government Departments, development agencies, local authorities, the private sector and others.

Are task forces as effective as they were when they were originally set up some years ago, given that there are so many of them? How beneficial are they in creating jobs? Ballinamore Textiles is in my constituency and I am anxious to see if that task force is responsible for any major benefits to the area which is a major employment black spot. The Tánaiste was at the launch of Western Development Commission in Ballaghaderreen, but can any immediate benefits be seen in any of these reports? There is huge publicity at the launch of these task forces, but each of them should work according to a timescale and produce a report.

The first task force was the one established by Deputy Rabbitte in Tallaght when Packard closed. That is the first one I can remember and it was very successful. A task force gives reassurance to those losing their jobs as it means there will be a concentrated effort to address their needs. Task forces vary in what they do, but generally they seek to provide alternative training, employment opportunities for workers being made redundant and they look at barriers to industrial development in their areas. They put together the various agencies, local authorities and workers' representatives to come up with proposals. It varies and it is easier to get industry into some areas rather than others. There are some areas where this is still very difficult and that is why we have gone for regionalisation. The new regional aid guidelines agreed with the commission last week will allow us to focus grant aid in particular on areas that have not done well. Leitrim has not done well and it is not easy to get industry interested in investing in Leitrim. Much investment in the regions is foreign investment and Irish industry seems to follow the same pattern. Another county that has not done well is Laois. Wexford has the lowest level of participation in third level education in the country, for some reason, so I put together a group at the recommendation of local Deputies to look at the barriers to job creation and industrial development in Wexford.

Obviously we do not want a plethora of these things. When they have completed their tasks we usually stand them down, as the IDA in particular is a very small agency. Most of these groups are very small, but seeking to service a myriad bodies like task forces is not a good idea for State employees. In any event they fuel false expectations. In the main the task forces that have reported have made very realistic suggestions and I hope many of them can be implemented.

I compliment the Minister on yesterday's announcement of community initiative funding for Sligo. However, I was disappointed that the south Sligo application for £150,000 in community initiative funding to create a 10,000 square feet workspace was unsuccessful. There is a huge opportunity here to create jobs. Will the Minister reconsider the Ballymote application for community initiative funding, which could create up to 50 jobs in a major black spot in south Sligo? There is no task force in place.

That initiative was introduced in last year's budget because of the success of enterprise centres such as that in Brookfield, west Tallaght, after the Packard closure. South Dublin County Council proposed replicating what they had done there in both Clondalkin and Tallaght. They put the idea to me and we got funding. Enterprise Ireland screened the applications. I was not involved in the screening of applications or in making recommendations.

Will the Minister look at the application?

There will be further funds in this year's budget for a scheme for next year. Clearly, I was asked to consider the best applications and applications from areas of high unemployment without alternative opportunities.

Will the Minister look at the application?

All the money has been allocated so there is no point. It is not a matter for me anyway. I do not want to get involved in making choices like that. It is more appropriate that that be done independently.

We have exceeded the time limit on this question.

I am pleased my presence in the Chamber reminded the Minister of the existence of County Laois.

We must proceed to the next question. The time limit has expired. We must proceed to Question No. 13.

It is my question.

The time limit has been exceeded. We were dealing with Questions Nos. 12 and 81 in the names of Deputies Seán Barrett and Owen. We are way over the time.