Other Questions. - Inland Waterways.

Pat Breen


98 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he will make a statement on the Waterways Ireland budget for 2003; the projects proposed but omitted for 2003; the impact of proposed cutbacks as outlined in a document (details supplied), in particular the impact on promotion and marketing programmes, the construction of a regional office at Scarriff, and the works proposed at Carrick-on-Shannon and new headquarters for Waterways Ireland. [3665/03]

Waterways Ireland's budget for 2003 is €35.89 million. As a North-South implementation body under the Good Friday Agreement, it is jointly funded by my Department and the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure in the North. My Department's contribution for 2003 is €30.494 million. This is made up of €19.415 million current, 85% of the total current budget, and €11.079 million for capital, which is funded on a jurisdictional basis. The Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure is contributing €3.426 million current, 15%, and €1.97 million capital, bringing its total to €5.396 million.

When the document referred to by the Deputy was prepared in early September 2002, the final allocation for Waterways Ireland for 2003 had not been made and my Department was concerned to ensure that an adequate amount would be secured to facilitate the work of Waterways Ireland. In the event, the agreed southern figure of €30.494 million was deemed to be a reasonable outcome.

At this stage Waterways Ireland is preparing a detailed business plan outlining its full programme of works for 2003 North and South. The body is satisfied that the allocation is adequate to fund a full programme.

In relation to its promotion and marketing programmes, Waterways Ireland recently underwent a consultation process with various interested parties to facilitate finalisation of its plans. The results of this process will feed into its work on the finalisation of a marketing and promotions strategy. This strategy will form the basis for its marketing and promotions remit over the next three years. Waterways Ireland anticipates that it will become much more active in this area when the strategy is in place.

The capital allocated for 2003 includes provision for a regional office in Scarriff and a contribution towards a new headquarters building in Enniskillen. Funding for the Carrick-on-Shannon project was not sought for 2003 as this project is at an early stage. A preliminary site survey has been completed and assuming confirmation of the site, design work will be carried out this year with a view to going to tender in 2004.

I thank the Minister for his reply. I have only one question for him. I welcome the commitments he has given. This is one of the most important cross-Border projects, with responsibility for over 1,000 km of waterway. The document to which we referred states that there is no funding for all the things the Minister says will happen. Where did the money come from?

The document to which I referred in my question says that the Department of Finance allocation does not take account of the promotion and marketing programme, the development of the waterways signage and fleet programme, initiatives within the context of developing its remit, the construction of a regional office at Scarriff and the preliminary works on the Carrick-on-Shannon office in 2003. The document says money is not available for those projects. The totality of the budget is exactly what is stated in this document. I welcome the fact that these works are to be done but from where did the money for them come?

Many things will become much clearer when the Revised Estimate is published. This is not because there will be a change in the figures for this year but because the outturn for last year will become apparent. When people put forward Estimates for a future year they look for the maximum amount. Sometimes projects move forward more slowly than anticipated and this has nothing to do with the availability of money. We have put money aside for the Scarriff building and money has been put aside for the building in Enniskillen. There is enough money to meet any likely requirements relating to marketing.

Some projects take longer to get up and running than expected. For example, there was an underspend last year. It is last year's figures which will look different and not this year's. The underspend occurred because certain things did not happen. Recruitment of personnel was much slower than anticipated, for example. In this context I am happy that I have enough resources to fulfil a comprehensive programme. Some details remain to be worked out by Waterways Ireland but the money is available for the major projects.