Written Answers. - Foot and Mouth Disease.

Gay Mitchell


589 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Tourism, Sport and Recreation if he will make a statement on the proposal made by coach tourism operators facing great difficulties due to the foot and mouth disease precautions. [8015/01]

I have already indicated my concern at the impact of foot and mouth disease precautions on the tourism industry and I am fully aware of the difficulties of restricted access to cultural and heritage attractions reflected in the proposal made by coach tourism operators.

The possibility of foot and mouth disease spreading to this country threatens our economic security and livelihoods, not just those of our farmers and the agriculture and food sector, but potentially of virtually every citizen. Agriculture and livestock are of such vital importance to the whole economy that we have to be thorough in our efforts to make sure that the disease does not spread with disastrous consequences.

I welcome the easing of foot and mouth disease controls announced on Friday, 16 March by my colleague the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Rural Development. I believe that the technical expert group guidelines will enable a significant number of low risk events and activities in the tourism and sports areas to recommence immediately and should facilitate the early re-opening of a number of our major tourist attractions and events. I am particularly pleased that Dublin Castle, Kilkenny Castle and the Rock of Cashel have already re-opened.

My Department and Bord Fáilte have been working closely with the tourism industry to monitor developments and to advise on the impact of the control measures to date. The objective is to ensure that all reasonable efforts are made to enable tourism within Ireland to continue to operate, while ensuring that the industry does not take unnecessary risks that would jeopardise our agriculture base. I would like to express my appreciation for the support of the tourism industry in recent weeks and look for ward to their continuing cooperation to overcome our current difficulties.
I am anxious that there is a clear message that Ireland remains open to tourism and that, subject to the taking of appropriate precautions, it remains a welcoming destination for international visitors. I encourage all those involved in the provision of tourism facilities, attractions and events to familiarise themselves with the technical expert group guidelines with a view to restoring as much of our key tourism infrastructure as possible. I am satisfied that the easing of disease control measures announced last Friday addresses in a substantive way many of the concerns of coach tourism operators as set out in their proposal.