Ceisteanna – Questions (Resumed). Priority Questions. - Departmental Strategy Statements.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

92 Mr. O'Shea asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs when he expects to publish the promised Statement of Strategy 2003-2005 for his Department, which he indicated would be published early in 2003; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3667/03]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Question No. 55 of 23 October last and confirm that a draft strategy statement for the years 2003-05 was presented to me last December in accordance with the provisions of the Public Service Management Act 1997. I am at an advanced stage in finalising my consideration of this important document, which will be the first strategy statement to be published by the newly-formed Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs. I expect to be in a position to present the strategy statement to Government at an early date and publication will follow shortly thereafter.

I draw the Minister's attention to the fact that he gave a similar reply on 3 December 2002, as well as the one he mentioned in October. The Minister describes his Department as being an enabling one. Will he not agree that it is important from the point of view of the House, Opposition spokespersons and the country at large that we should know exactly what is the strategy of the new Department? It is now over six months since the new Government took office and it is not good enough to have to wait this long to have the statement published.

The requirement is that the strategy statement should be presented to the Minister within six months. As the Deputy will appreciate, it has been a complex task because we are setting a totally new vision for a Department of many parts. It has been quite a task to pull this together, not just to produce the normal statement but to make sure also that it is a clear statement of strategy which includes the politically driven strategy of the Department. Ultimately, a Department without a politically driven strategy would not be much good – that is what democracy is all about. I want to make sure that the strategy fully reflects the clearly stated aims of the Government in terms of developing rural areas, the islands, social inclusion, areas of rapid expansion and so on. I hope to publish the statement as soon as possible and I will be bringing it to Cabinet in the near future.

I accept that the statement should be as visionary and comprehensive as possible but there is a time factor involved. It is not good enough that we are still waiting for the statement. Will the Minister give a categorical undertaking that we will not have to table a similar question when he next appears before the House?

I think I can clearly say that the Deputy will not have that pleasure again.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle

That concludes Priority Questions. We now come to Other Questions. I must remind the House about the one minute time limit on supplementary questions and the answers to them.