National Tourism Development Authority Bill, 2002 [ Seanad ] : Second Stage (Resumed).

Question again proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

The final point I wish to raise is the effect of insurance on tourism. From the time a person or family arrive in Ireland to the time they leave, the increase in insurance costs will have a major effect on the cost of the visit. I have raised this issue time and again in the House with the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment but there does not appear to be any progress on it. I hope the Government will address this problem because it is a major problem for all aspects of Irish life. There is no doubt it has a major effect on the tourism industry. The cost of a visit to Ireland is increased due to increased insurance costs at all levels. When a person gets off the boat or the aeroplane they either hire a taxi or rent a car, the insurance costs for each have gone through the roof. They proceed to their hotel or BB where public liability insurance costs have increased dramatically. If they proceed to a show or entertainment facility, a price increase is built into the cost there because of the increased insurance costs. In replies to me in the House, the Tánaiste stated that 11 September and the collapse of the independent insurance company in England were major factors. I am beginning to get suspicious and there is a need to look again to see what are the main reasons for such a dramatic increase in insurance costs.

Articles in the Sunday newspapers over the past two weekends stated that theatre groups have to cut back on their productions due to the increased cost of insurance. This will be reflected in the reasons a person should come to Ireland – live theatre and so on has always been part and parcel of the tourist trade here. Due to the cost of insurance, theatre productions are being cut and as such the theatre attractiveness element of Ireland is diminished. We must look at this issue, otherwise the competitiveness of Irish tourism will have to bear the brunt.

This is the main issue confronting the tourist industry. Time and again I have raised it here and have put questions to the Tánaiste and yet there has been no response from the Government. We do not appear able to apprehend what is going on or able to do anything about the problems associated with this aspect of Irish life. It is a major problem in this area.

I said previously that I congratulated the Minister in moving this Bill forward. In moving it forward he must see what the Government can do. I have been told continually that because of EU legislation nothing can be done in this area. If necessary, the Government should go back to the EU to see what can be done because something must be done, otherwise it will have major effects on the tourism industry right across the spectrum from hiring cars to taxis, to hotels and to entertainment. As we saw in the newspapers in recent days, many St. Patrick's Day parades – which are a focal point for people coming home from abroad – will be diminished or wiped out completely. Because public liability insurance has become so expensive, many local groups will not be able to hold parades or pageants which have been held for many years. That is a tragedy because they gave local communities a chance to develop and to show their wares. They gave everyone a chance to make sure their area, town, industry, association or sport, was represented. It all comes down to insurance which will be a crippling factor for many public events in the coming years, but particularly this year when local groups will not be able to run events in their areas.

We all see the merits of this Bill and speakers so far have fully supported the Minister in this regard but he must address the one crucial issue which will allow the tourism industry to develop. Something will have to be done about insurance in the short-term rather than in the long-term.

I look forward to Committee Stage when we will raise many points with the Minister on particular sections. I welcome the Bill which will be of major significance and benefit to the tourism industry because it will be effective in encouraging national as well as international tourism. We have been negligent in regard to local tourism over the years thinking that people would automatically be attracted to different areas, functions, etc. Given the competition which has been generated by low cost holidays around the world, we must fight to keep the domestic market strong and vibrant and ensure we have an attractive array of holidays in the off-peak season as we see on Aertel or on whatever medium people use. I hope this Bill will support the relevant organisation.

I wish to share my time with Deputies Finian McGrath, Gogarty and Crowe.

I am broadly in favour of this Bill which establishes the new tourism agency, Fáilte Ireland, as a cohesive entity to develop strategies for promoting Irish tourism at this early juncture in the new century and the new millennium. At the same time Bord Fáilte Éireann and CERT Limited are to be dissolved and their functions will be subsumed by the new authority. Both organisations had an honourable record in the business of tourism over the past half century and their tourism marketing and promotional activities will be performed by the new single body in the future. Bord Fáilte and CERT did excellent work in the tourism sector for many decades and they complemented each other in their roles to the greatest effect and with very considerable benefits accruing to the tourism industry.

I presume the existing CERT catering and hotel management colleges currently operating under the VEC administration will continue under a new designation but fulfilling basically the same role, that is, the promotion of marketing skills, human resources and training which it has carried out so successfully over the past four decades.

The other tourism body, Tourism Ireland, set up under the Good Friday Agreement to promote the island of Ireland abroad as a tourism destination has been an unqualified success and the perfect example of cross-Border co-operation which can be mutually beneficial in a changed political atmosphere. It is vital that this concept of friendliness, welcomes, céad míle fáilte and Irish culture and heritage continue to be promoted and stressed by the new body as major attractions and incentives for potential visitors to Ireland.

In the aftermath of the 11 September tragedy in the United States and the foot and mouth disease outbreak, there was a natural and understandable fall off in the US market for visitors to Ireland. However, the new body will be ideally placed to capitalise and to build on the anticipated swing back in the very buoyant ethnic market in the US. Nevertheless the British market continues to grow from year to year and it has offset to a considerable extent, the fall off in the US and European markets.

Since the late 1960s there has been a phenomenal growth in the level of facilities, such as visitor and interpretative centres and tourist trails, which assist in adding meaning and interest to the countryside, forest parks and lakes. My constituency of Cavan-Monaghan, Ireland's lake district, contains such treasures as the Shannon-Erne waterway, the equestrian centre in Cavan, Castle Leslie in Glaslough, the Sliabh Beagh tourism centre and the Lough Muckno leisure park, to mention but a few of the unparalleled fishing, sailing and cruising activities in the constituency. The tourism potential of these attractions has not been fully realised because of signposting. We need to up-date and modernise our signposting and we need to look at our infrastructure and roads system.

One of the first issues to which Fáilte Ireland will be required to direct its collective attention will be the competitiveness of tourism. Since the transition to the euro at the beginning of 2002, the first time a common currency largely existed in Europe since the Roman Empire, our distinct lack of competitiveness became painfully apparent when compared with the experiences of Irish people in other euro zone countries. The assurance of value for money and top quality service in holiday terms will go a long way towards enticing Irish people to holiday at home. Rocketing insurance costs have also contributed in no small way to undermining the tourism industry's competitiveness. I suggest that adjustments in the VAT rate would go a long way towards bringing Ireland into line with its counterparts in the euro zone and making it more attractive as a tourism destination.

One of the major factors responsible for the continued buoyancy in the UK market has been the deregulation of the airline industry which has led to the rise of low cost carriers, such as Go, Buzz and Easyjet, resulting in enhanced competition.

It is of paramount importance that the new tourism authority has the greatest degree of autonomy possible in the performance of its functions. Section 11 provides for the delegation of functions by Fáilte Ireland, at the Minister's direction or with his consent, to another body. This appears to be at variance with the level of autonomy and independence appropriate for the authority in the interests of transparency and accountability.

I thank you, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle, for the opportunity to address this important legislation. This debate has come at the right time as we now seem to be at the cross-roads in our tourism industry. We need new, radical and creative ideas to develop this industry. We must look at training, human resources and at our marketing skills, our jobs and the use of public finances. We need a thorough examination and debate. We cannot hide our heads in the sand in this rapidly changing global society and rapidly changing economy. Strategic planning and creative ideas will save and develop the tourism industry. The primary purpose of the Bill is to provide the statutory basis for the new authority. On its establishment, Bord Fáilte Éireann and CERT will be dissolved and the functions carried out by them will be transferred to the new body, Fáilte Ireland.

Under section 8, the primary functions of the authority will be to encourage, promote and support the development of tourism traffic within and to the State. This section is an important part of the overall plan to develop our tourism industry. It is crucial to look at our strengths compared to other European Union countries or foreign markets. Over the past eight or nine years we have seen the down side of the Celtic tiger, where many pubs, restaurants and hotels have lost the personal touch they had 20 years ago. We must save and retain the traditional good manners, personal touch and common courtesy we had. We seem to have lost all that, and if we continue to go down that road we will lose millions of euros and, in the end, we will lose jobs.

Under section 13, the Minister has the power to give policy directions to the authority. It is up to him to show leadership. He must listen to the people and to the industry. Above all, he must give creative and decisive leadership. We should market the country with emphasis on the way we are. We should use our culture, language, games and all the creative arts and music as the engine room for the tourism industry. Our climate is often criticised and laughed at as a weakness in the tourism industry and the reality is that thousands of Irish families travel abroad each year to get the sun. However, let us turn this around and target very hot countries whose people like to visit a country with plenty of rain and green countryside. People want change. They want variety. I have met people from extremely hot countries who said they really enjoyed their break in Ireland, so let us target these markets and develop the industry.

An important part of that market must be the Middle East, parts of Africa and the southern region of Europe. This is why it is very important to retain our position as an international peacebroker, with an independent foreign policy, and not allow ourselves to be bullied by major powers. If we are recognised as international peacebrokers our tourism industry will flourish and jobs will roll into the economy. We should also sell, use and develop our expertise to assist poorer countries and the developing world.

We could focus on disabled people because there are ten million people in Europe with a disability. Why not use that as a market, give Ireland as an example of good practice and get people to visit the country? It is a great opportunity to do so, this being the Year of the Disabled and the fact that we will host the Special Olympic Games. Some ten million people with disabilities throughout Europe would love to visit this country. Let us open it up and develop this industry.

I welcome sections 27 and 28 relating to audited accounts, the annual returns to the Minister and the fact that they must be laid before each House of the Oireachtas. It is essential to use our finances and resources widely and carefully. Many of us have been critical of the way money was spent in the past. I now call for proper use of this taxpayers' money.

Part 3 deals with the dissolution of Bord Fáilte and CERT Limited. I hope that sections 41 and 42 will not leave open the possibility of job losses. Under sections 40, 41 and 42, we see the standard provisions for the transfer to the authority of the rights and liabilities of the dissolved bodies, including the liabilities for losses occurring before establishment day. It is essential that the new authority starts off fresh, without any baggage or financial problems. This industry cannot be left on the fringes of economic development and job creation. For too long we have ignored the massive labour intensive side of the industry and the great potential to get people out of poverty and up the ladder in society. We have often ignored the creative genius of our poorer sections. For too long the tourism industry and the arts industry have been under the control of the very well off. Talents and new ideas, no matter where they come from, should always be nurtured and developed. The tourism industry needs people who in the long-term, will improve the industry and create more jobs.

The last part of the Bill deals with financial implications. It is felt there will be no significant budgetary or financial implications in the legislation. I hope this is not penny-pinching. In order to have a quality national tourism development authority, the last thing we need is to curtail finances, investment and development because we now have the potential and ability to make progress in the tourism industry, which will benefit the whole of society.

I have been listening with interest to the debate on the monitor in my office, in the Public Gallery and here. I hope the Minister is listening in his office and will take into consideration our views, just as we have taken his views into consideration. Most of what he said in his speech was a rehash of what he said in the Seanad, so we were able to flag what he would say in advance. I have studied the Bill in some detail, which the Green Party broadly supports. We find nothing wrong with it per se. However, we will not vote for it because there is a much deeper malaise in the implementation of tourism policy. We do not feel the Government has earned enough kudos for the Green Party to give its unqualified support to such Bills. There are many reasons for this.

The main problem facing the tourism industry is post-Celtic tiger developments. There was talk about the foot and mouth disease crisis and the atrocities of 11 September. However, as we move on post-Celtic tiger, when the economy is getting tighter, we are faced with a challenge whereby if we are to encourage more people to come to our shores, or more quality in terms of what people spend to come to our shores, we must offer a much more competitive product. I hate saying the word "product" because, while tourism is a product in one sense, it is also selling our people and our sense of place. What is rapidly disappearing is our sense of place and our sense of people. I recently attended a wedding in Crawfordsburn, County Down, and something that immediately impinged on me was the warmth and friendliness of the staff. I noticed also that the workers, from cleaners to restaurant staff, to reception staff to management, all lived and worked in the locality.

That is very difficult to find in post-Celtic tiger Ireland. Many friendly and warm people, some of the most friendly and warm people who work in the tourism and hospitality industry in Ireland, are foreign. They include people from New Zealand, Australia, America, Algeria, the Middle East and China. They are all very hospitable, have a natural courtesy and they all do their employers a great service. However, one thing seems to be missing, which is the traditional Irish welcome. One will still get it in certain parts of the country but it is diminishing. At a time when there is more competition from other markets and when global stability is under threat, there is a need to be as competitive as possible, not just in regard to pricing but in regard to people. People come to this country to meet welcoming Irish people. They may work with foreigners, but we need more Irish trained people. If CERT is integrated into the new authority, I hope there will be an incentive to ensure more Irish people to work in the tourism and catering hospitality sectors. It is part of what we are. That is what encourages people to come to Ireland. We seem to be losing out in that area.

We need a more co-ordinated approach to tourism. If the Minister is watching the monitor or listening or reading the "blacks", I say to him that our long-term future as a premium tourist destination is being irreparably damaged because of a lack of co-ordination between Departments. I will give some examples. I recently raised the issue of access to land throughout the country. In certain parts of Connacht, the Dingle peninsula, the Gap of Dunloe and other parts of Ireland, locals and tourists are being told to "feck off" by farmers or land owners. I apologise for using that word. I do not know if it is allowed under Standing Orders.

I would prefer if the Deputy did not use words he knows are not allowed.

To "f. . . . off". I apologise.

I ask the Deputy not to use such derogatory words.

Certainly. I was just quoting directly from a person in County Kerry who told me what a farmer said to him.

There is a deeper malaise in the farming community, which feels that the Department of Agriculture and Food is not giving it enough concessions to compensate for the fact that agriculture prices have dropped. Farmers wonder why they should allow tourists to come on to their land without some form of payback. I suggest that the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism should provide an incentive for farmers to give the public access to their lands, rather than paying them directly.

When I tabled a priority question on the matter earlier this month, however, it was transferred to the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs. When I asked whether guesthouses should be renamed "family hotels", given that many foreign people do not understand the term "guesthouse", the Minister, Deputy O'Donoghue, said that the matter was not in his remit. If such matters cannot be discussed with the relevant Minister in the Dáil, where can they be discussed? Is the Minister unwilling to take responsibility for all issues related to tourism? Co-ordination is very important.

The tourism industry faces many problems. Ireland is turning into a filthy country, many people are racist or unfriendly, prices are too high and our distinctive landscapes and seascapes are being destroyed by illegal dumping and bad planning. Signposting is often illogical and our public transport system is inadequate. When people want to visit the countryside, they find too often that access is blocked by landowners, as I have said. Ireland's litter problems are increasing, as is the phenomenon of alcohol related violence. The traditional Irish welcome seems to be rare.

The guide to Dublin published by the Lonely Planet organisation mentions some of the capital's problems, including early pub closing times. It says that the recent extension of opening hours barely addresses the problem. It refers to the crass commercialisation of Temple Bar and says that late night Dublin is full of rowdy drunks, vomit and dirt. It suggests that public transport schedules tend to be a loose guide rather than a rule and that tourists should use trains as the buses are slow. Dublin's rip-off culture, according to Lonely Planet, extends from bad museums to lousy restaurants. The guide says that racism is a problem, particularly against Africans but also against eastern Europeans. It complains that road works are prevalent. I have given a selection of palatable remarks that are suitable for the Official Report.

Traffic congestion is a problem in Clifden, a town on the west coast of Connemara that is particularly close to my heart as I have relatives from that area. Some years ago the Government closed the railway line that served Clifden. Although the Green Party and others are promoting the re-opening of the western rail corridor, the Government dismisses the idea. It is another example of a lack of co-ordination. If the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism had any guts he would threaten to resign immediately in response to the fact that other Departments are not helping him to do his job. How can one say "Welcome to Ireland" when this country is turning into a banana republic? How can one say "Come visit us" when it is difficult to get anywhere unless one has a car? It is difficult for tourists to know where they are going in the absence of proper signposts.

The number of visitors to post-Celtic tiger Ireland in the third quarter of 2002 decreased by 2.2% in comparison with the same period of 2001. The fact that the average length of stay decreased by 20% has even more far-reaching con sequences. We need to examine why people coming here for holidays are not staying for as long as they used to. The figures I have mentioned do not relate specifically to visitors from the United States and cannot, therefore, be linked with the post-11 September malaise. The problems associated with price increases have been flagged left, right and centre. If businesses are ripping people off, it is our job to highlight it and to explain to them that they are cutting one hand off with the other. For every €1 earned by a hotel, between 35c and 45c is taken up by wage costs. Some tour operators have seen their premia increase by 200% in the past year. Business costs would be reduced if there were set fees for injuries and personal injury claims.

One-off housing is destroying the landscapes and seascapes that attract people to Ireland. Those who like such things are interested in the fact that one can see the sea from our mountains – this is not possible in Germany as one has to choose to travel to the North Sea coast or to the Alps. People from countries like Germany, France, Italy, England and the United States want to walk around Ireland, but access to the land is closed off. The Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism is on a hiding to nothing if he does not work with his counterparts in the Departments of the Environment and Local Government, Transport and Agriculture and Food.

There seems to be a concentration on marketing Ireland as a premium destination. Marketing is great, but one can only do a certain amount of it, as political parties have found out to their dismay. There must be something of substance to accompany the marketing. I fear that the substance we had to offer in the past is being diminished. Our unique selling point to tourists as Irish people is being diminished. I strongly urge the Minister to work with the Departments I have mentioned for the sake of the long-term sustainable development of the tourism sector.

Most speakers have broadly welcomed this Bill, but I have reservations about some aspects of it. During the Seanad debate on the Bill, Senators Quinn and Henry highlighted issues of concern relating to equal status legislation and argued that funding should be withheld from any business found to be in breach of the Equal Status Act 2000. This issue was raised by Sinn Féin some months ago when it was announced that the Irish Open Golf tournament is to be held at a club that does not allow women to become members. My party called on Bord Fáilte to withhold financial support for the event, as the national tourism agency should not be seen to support any section of the industry that contravenes equality legislation.

It is madness that the State, through Bord Fáilte or any new authority, should support any form of discrimination. Organisations looking for funding must adhere to certain basic principles. Equality of access for all is a principle I hold very dearly, whether in terms of access to education, health or golfing facilities. The days of people being denied access because of their class, creed or sexuality should be numbered.

While the Irish Hotels Federation has made a number of statements regarding inflation and rising costs within the tourism industry, it is clear that cost increases are not being caused by exorbitant wage increases. Sinn Féin, and many trade unions, have pointed this out in the past. The NTDA should have a function with regard to policing wage levels in the industry. I know from my experience that many people employed in the tourism sector earn low wages and work long hours. This has been an issue for unions in the industry for many years. Workers are being exploited by the wealthy property owners who dominate the tourism industry.

It could be said that we have two tourism industries and that we need two tourism authorities to deal with them. The first industry is that of the property owners, developers and speculators who have grown rich through the efforts of workers in the tourism sector. They have benefited from tax schemes such as the seaside resorts scheme, which enabled them to build scores of holiday homes around the country at a time when the number of people on housing lists continued to grow. We seem better able to build beautiful houses for visitors from overseas than to provide for our own people.

The second tourism industry is a different environment and is rarely seen in Bord Fáilte advertisements. Many workers are paid with cash in hand, are employed without the vital protection of a trade union and are exploited daily. Many such workers come from overseas and do not benefit from the protection of citizenship, a dubious benefit as it has failed to protect many workers in the past. The immigrant workers to whom I refer are at risk because they are in a strange country where they might not know anyone and where they may encounter language difficulties.

It should be unacceptable for any business to receive funding or other official support from the national tourist development authority if found guilty of the gross exploitation of workers. Such businesses should be blacklisted and boycotted by the State. A clear message needs to be sent to the exploiters of labour to the effect that we will not and cannot allow them to escape unpunished or with a mere slap on the wrists.

I must express disappointment about the lack of an all-Ireland dimension in the new authority. It is crucial that we start to plan on an all-Ireland basis so we can make the most of the strength that exists on both sides of the Border. Partition has retarded the economic development of this country. We should make the most of the current opportunities to push forward strategies that integrate the development of tourism throughout the country and market the entire island as a single entity.

The setting up of Tourism Ireland, the all-Ireland agency established under the Good Fri day Agreement to market Ireland overseas, is the kind of thinking and positive movement of which we need from this Government. Sinn Féin welcomes the setting up of Tourism Ireland as it welcomes every move, however slow, made by the Government to implement the pledges made under the Good Friday Agreement. We look forward to seeing more of these initiatives and there is clearly room under the Agreement for initiatives of this kind. Tourism Ireland is an example of the way the Government should be moving across every Department and I regret that this is lacking in the legislation before us.

It is to be hoped that those who are appointed to oversee a strategy for the tourism industry are both representative of all the interests involved and have a clear vision of the future for the sector. We need to cater for domestic holidaymakers as well as those who come from abroad and to ensure that high standards are applied, not only to facilities made available to visitors and guests, but also to those working in the industry, whose skills and hard work are the real assets which underlie the success of Irish tourism.

I wish to share my time with Deputy Blaney.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

I am sure the Minister of State at the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Deputy Michael Ahern, will welcome the Green Party's support for the Bill. I am not sure if that party's speaker was speaking for the full party on this or whether he can bring the Bantry section and the rural section in general along with him. There seems to be a bit of a split in the camp according to the letters to a newspaper on Monday last.

Absolutely not.

It is important that urban dwellers would have some kind of feel for rural areas.

That is why my proposals were welcomed by the organisation.

Deputy Dennehy without interruption, please.

The Green Party seems to have lost out in that context judging from the letter in which one of its members objected to the fencing off of every stream in the country and so on. A touch of reality is needed when dealing with tourism as with everything else, and the Green Party needs to understand that. Nonetheless, I welcome its support.

The establishment of the NTDA is welcome particularly in the context of the challenging period the tourism sector is going through, although I am glad it was pointed out that there is still an increase in percentage terms in that area. The importance of tourism to the economy cannot be underestimated as many other speakers have said. In the most recent year for which figures are available, 2001, tourism income accounted for 5.4% of the national income and one in every 12 jobs in the economy is supported by it. It is critically important to recognise that and to try to improve those figures further.

Tourism can be a highly volatile sector and we have seen how external factors such as foot and mouth disease in the UK and acts of terrorism can have a rapid and dramatic downward effect on visitor numbers. While we cannot entirely insulate the tourism sector against political or economic difficulties, we can do a number of things to ensure that the industry is well placed for the challenges that lie ahead. At its simplest, the job of the new NTDA must be to ensure the job of the tourism sector is to have a quality product, a quality service and effective marketing. That is the base it should start from.

Areas such as the physical design of hotels, visitor centres and amenities have improved greatly in recent years and the number of hotel beds in three, four and five star hotels in our major cities can now compare very favourably with other destinations with which we compete directly. Most hotels now offer excellent leisure facilities and many of their owners availed of the business expansion scheme to develop these, although that may not have been the exact intention of the Minister at the time he introduced that concession.

However, the two extremes outlined today shows how difficult is the line that the Government and Ministers must tread. Deputy Deenihan was concerned that some of the concessions were being taken away while Deputy Crowe was worried that concessions given in the past meant that funding was not put into building houses for the homeless.

I am glad the Deputy took notice of my comments and I wish the Government would.

The Government is getting it fairly right most of the time. I am glad Deputy Deenihan came back because, despite the pessimistic outlook this morning, in my own little city by the River Lee there are three current applications for new hotels of major size. Some people have an optimistic view of the future and I take that as a positive sign.

Excellence in physical design is not sufficient to ensure that tourists leave the country happy with their experience here. I agree with the previous speaker in many respects with regard to that and welcome the establishment of the NTDA, especially the integrated approach it will provide towards training for those working in tourism. Ireland is rightly famous for services delivered in a way that is both friendly and courteous and only by combining our traditional welcome with modern professionalism will the suc cess of recent years be maintained. That will be the NTDA's biggest challenge and the Act is welcome largely because it makes this the NTDA's sole responsibility.

In saying that, I pay tribute to the work of CERT and recognise its importance with regard to tourism. Anyone who has visited a big or small establishment where food was served in a professional way has seen the results of CERT training. The staff who have had professional training can be recognised; that is something we are proud of and it is important that standard is maintained. The southern regional headquarters for CERT is located at the Cork Institute of Technology and there is a major new facility planned for there which has advanced past the drawing board stage. I hope that massive project will be built quickly as it is important for the tourism industry in the south-west region.

I cannot discuss the record of CERT without mentioning the head of the organisation in the south, Mr. Jarlath Killilea. Mr. Killilea is a legend in the tourism business and wherever the hotel and food and drink sectors are concerned. He has driven the industry in the south and has had a massive influence on it. I do not know of any other public servant who has contributed more in any area of responsibility and I take this opportunity to compliment and congratulate Mr. Killilea on his work to date, and long may that continue.

Like other speakers, I believe tourism will become an even more important element in the future. Our prosperity is linked directly to the tourism industry and we will need to continue to develop it by working together. Deputies Deenihan and Crowe mentioned that tourism impinges on many Departments, including those with responsibility for fisheries, finance, the environment and agriculture in addition to the Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism. Departments can do very positive things but they can also do things which have a negative impact, although that would not be intended at the outset. It is important there is more co-ordination and co-operation as well as an inter-departmental view on tourism.

At the same time, every resident in the country has a role to play in furthering the benefits of tourism. It has been indicated in surveys that 50% of those surveyed indicated the friendliness of Irish people as a primary reason for deciding to come to Ireland and long may that continue. However, society is changing rapidly and there is a need to ensure that visitors as well as Irish people feel safe and friendly.

An earlier speaker suggested that the NDTA should consider an orientation course for foreign nationals working in the hospitality tourism sector to ensure the country's reputation for extending a céad míle fáilte is maintained. It is also important for the workers that they be fully trained and given a fair opportunity. Tourists like to find out about the local history and geography of the areas they visit, which they usually get from chatting to locals and staff working in the industry. In view of this, a greater effort at the training of foreign nationals would help. Regrettably, a minority of those working in the industry, more usually Irish nationals, most often disappoint tourists and any assistance that the new agency can provide in this area would be very welcome. A small percentage of any workforce will always be disgruntled in their work and in the tourism industry they can do great damage. Hotel and bar owners can assist by focusing on motivating their staff.

Jobs in the tourism sector should not be considered seasonal or casual, although there will always be a need for an element of seasonal employment. Employers should strive to provide proper career paths and good remuneration to their employees. This will guarantee their loyalty and dedication to their work. Deputy Crowe rightly said there have been difficulties in the past with the rates of pay on offer and the hours to be worked, although much has been done to address this over the past couple of years, particularly with the introduction of the national minimum wage and improvements in working conditions for part-time workers. As a former Minister for Labour, the Taoiseach was responsible for the bulk of our good employment legislation which has been further improved over the past couple of years.

The NDTA should encourage employers to look beyond a single tourism season and design a three to five year plan to develop their product with the staff to deliver it. The major hotel chains and others will do that automatically as part of their business plans, but many of the smaller business tend to operate on an annual basis and hope for the best.

The establishment of Tourism Ireland in January 2002 as part one of the cross-Border implementation bodies represented a significant step towards the implementation of the terms of the Good Friday Agreement. This will provide the wider context in which the NDTA must operate. Those of us where were members of the British-Irish Interparliamentary Body in 1989-90 considered possible areas for co-operation and recognised tourism an obvious one. It is regrettable that the Executive which was to oversee the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement in the North has been prevented from functioning for a variety of factors, but it is essential for the success and viability of the Agreement that the implementation bodies continue to operate. I hope the successes of the nine bodies that have been established will help to persuade some detractors that the Agreement will create a more prosperous and caring society. The areas of co-operation covered by the bodies are largely non-contentious and do not impact on the constitutional future of the North. They should not be prevented from functioning by the malcontents who never wanted the Agreement to succeed.

The spectre of paramilitary violence blighted the country for so long that it did incalculable damage to its image abroad. I understand Deputy Crowe said partition prevented co-operation between North and South. I suggest it was the activities of terrorists and I have no doubt that the separate development of tourism on the island over the years resulted in the loss of significant numbers of potential visitors. Given that society is, I hope, becoming free of subversive activity, it is appropriate that the island of Ireland is finally being marketed abroad by a single agency.

I have enjoyed many visits to the North, especially as a public representative. In the past I would have been reluctant to consider it as a location for a holiday or a weekend break, but thank God that negative approach is more or less behind us, although it will take many years to change attitudes. Nevertheless, I hope over time many people from the South will consider the County Antrim coast, the Giant's Causeway or Portrush as suitable tourism locations. I welcome our friends from the North who visit County Cork, County Kerry or the southern region. While many have visited Dublin as the capital city, they will be guaranteed a warm welcome in the south of the country. As a pilot project my local authority tried to move the world famous foot bridge from the Giant's Causeway and place it over the River Lee, but unfortunately insurance demands put an end to the initiative.

I welcome the establishment of the PIAB, the purpose of which is to implement the findings of the MIAB, which contained approximately 67 recommendations. It took three years to secure the co-operation of the insurance companies and I hope there will be speedy implementation. The advent of low cost travel has been most welcome. While there are mixed views on the publicity stunts engaged in by Mr. O'Leary – I am sure he will not mind the mention of his name in the House – Ryanair and the low-cost travel concept has helped enormously to bring more visitors to the country.

Cork will be the European city of culture in 2005 when all visitors will be welcomed to the city. Many more facilities for entering the country are required, both by air and sea. I encourage the NDTA to be an advocate of further expansion in the range and frequency of travel outlets for tourists. I was one of those who struggled for a number of years to secure the return of the Cork to Swansea ferry. It is a huge success, although we do not wish to repeat the trauma of its history.

I welcome the Bill and look forward to its enactment. I wish every success to those involved in its implementation. A good start is half the battle and I hope it will be successful.

I thank Deputy Dennehy for sharing his time. The Bill is the first attempt to bring together the different tourism bodies and regulate them in a proper manner. I intend to be parochial in my views, especially in advocating the case for County Donegal. A peninsula-hopping project has been ongoing in the county involving two car ferries, one from Derry to Inishowen and the other from Inishowen to Rathmullen Port. There is also a proposal for a bridge to cross Mulroy Bay, construction of which will, I hope, commence in 2004. Thanks to the Government, one of the ferries is operational and the second ferry will be operative for this season. This is a major development for the county. Traditionally there was little or no tourism in County Donegal because it was too close to the ongoing troubles in Northern Ireland. Many tourists considered Donegal to be part of the Six Counties and it lost out as a result, but today we are more positive in our approach.

County Donegal is an employment blackspot and has the highest rate of unemployment in the country. Tourism gives the county the potential to overcome this. The ability of people in the county has not been realised. We have more to sell than any other part of the country, such as the Inishowen 100 drive, the Fanad sea drive and the Atlantic drive. In a survey carried out in 1996, Ballymastocker Bay in Portsalon, north Donegal, was voted the second most beautiful beach in the world, but this has hardly been recognised, nor has the fact that the highest cliffs in Europe are in west Donegal.

Donegal and the Antrim coast have more to sell than any other part of the country and all I want is a bit of help to do so. I would like to see a change of approach although I welcome the Bill. The Bord Fáilte chairman is of the same opinion as myself and feels there should be a cross-Border approach so Donegal can be considered in the same category as Kerry or Clifden. We need incentives for the tourism industry to provide beds.

I would like the Minister or any Member of the House to come to Donegal and I will show them scenery that they have never seen before in Ireland. That invitation is open to everybody. We have scenery that is untapped and undeveloped and which people outside Donegal would die for. I appeal to the Minster to adopt a cross-Border approach because, traditionally, tourists who come here enter the country through Dublin, usually head south and by the time they get anywhere near Donegal, their time is spent. The cross-Border approach would involve liaising with the Northern Ireland authorities to take tours in from Northern Ireland and Britain. Whether they are from Northern Ireland, England, Scotland or Wales does not matter. An all-Ireland approach is necessary and I appeal to the Minister to consider it.

I wish to share my time with Deputy Timmins.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

I welcome the opportunity to speak on this Bill. I make no apology for saying that tourism is extremely important. Agriculture is still the number one industry, but it is difficult to know how long that will last because of the way things are going. I understand tourism is the number two industry.

I wish to add to the comments made by my colleague from Donegal on the issue of cross-Border involvement. When my party leader, Deputy Kenny, was Minister for Tourism and Trade, he set up a structure which operated on a more or less voluntary basis whereby we advertised and promoted the island of Ireland as a whole. I am glad that the structure has become more permanent under the Good Friday Agreement.

The issue of promoting tourism on an all-Ireland basis must be followed through by the new authority because we will not get sufficient support in the Border areas without it. In the past, some tourists came to Ireland and travelled from Dublin to Galway and Connemara, and some to Donegal, but the main flow was to the south. If the authority is to be meaningful for the whole country, including the Border region, it must adopt a cross-Border policy.

I welcome the initiative of bringing tourism and training bodies together and the placing of major emphasis on training. If we do not have properly trained and, I hope, Irish staff, it will give the industry a bad image. In a cross-Border context, most of the youth setting out in their careers go to Northern Ireland for their education, which is welcome.

North West Tourism has evoked much anger and criticism in my constituency, especially in Monaghan. Some of the people involved with it have pulled out altogether because they do not see its benefits. Deputy Blaney emphasised the quality of the scenery in Donegal. In the context of initiatives concerning Donegal, Sligo and Leitrim, it is obvious that more money, expertise and interest is devoted to the areas where the organisations think they will get the best result. That leaves the likes of Cavan and Monaghan behind and this has generated much anger. I hope the new authority will place more emphasis on such areas to make sure there is an even spread.

Some very important tourism related enterprises have arisen in my constituency, a few of which I will name. The Shannon-Erne waterway has been a huge success. Lough Muckno has tremendous potential and I am glad to see its local golf club will develop an 18 hole golf course in the not too distant future. Castle Leslie received enormous publicity because of a famous wedding recently, which demonstrates the potential that exists there. It is great to see free publicity being given to an area that gets so little.

The Sliabh Beagh centre is a community-built, tourism related centre which encourages cross-Border involvement. Such projects must be encouraged. We have some great hotels, such as the Slieve Russell, the Kilmore, the Nuremore, Glencarn, the Four Seasons, the Hillgrove and Cabra Castle. There is a new hotel where Cavan Crystal was situated in Cavan town. There are also smaller family-run hotels. It is often very difficult for them to survive and get funding. Overall, they have good accommodation available, but in areas such as Cavan-Monaghan, where tourism has not been a huge issue in the past, they still need help. Leader and such programmes are helping to fund them but there is a need for greater luck. Areas on the bottom have the potential but do not have sufficient numbers of tourists at present to justify their receiving grant aid.

We have other enterprises, such as the museum in Monaghan town, which has a proud record, and there is a newer one in Ballyjamesduff. Other enterprises could be funded and if we do not have development there is little point in promoting them. The Castlesaunderson project will cross many departments. It is for Scouting Ireland and other scouting bodies. It could provide a lot of accommodation and it straddles the Border. If ever there was a truly cross-Border project, it is one. While I welcome the small sum of €90,000 provided by one Ministry in recent times, major funding will be required from the EU and other sources in the coming years up to 2006 if it is to get off the ground. If this is not done, the chance that it will achieve its potential is small.

The Ulster Canal is another issue. It stretches from the Erne Waterway to Lough Neagh up to the northern coast. It would link all the waterways in Ireland and it is another truly cross-Border project. These are two of the projects which can be justified and undertaken on the basis of probable success. They will encourage people from all political parties North and South to get involved. There is a swimming pool project in Monaghan, but the local authority, of which I am a member, has stated that we need a full indoor leisure complex instead. That could then be used by tourists in wet weather of which we have plenty. The plans are already with Government for both the swimming pool and the more extensive tourist project which could be enjoyed by people for recreation as well as for keeping fit. I encourage the Minister to ensure that grant aid is made available. I understand there is a technicality involved, but I do not want it to be used against us.

It is said that unless one has 100,000 potential visitors one cannot have a facility of this type. How does one build up visitor numbers? One has to get off the ground somehow and a Border region such as Cavan-Monaghan can liaise with our counterparts in Fermanagh, Tyrone and Armagh. We do not have the facilities they have and we need to put structures in place. I beg the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism to look not simply at the swimming pool project, but at the other project as well. Only 2% of Monaghan's economic activity is in tourism and its income from this source is one of, if not, the lowest in the country. We need development, which is why I emphasise the Ulster Canal, the sports centre and scenic areas like Lough Muckno, because adver tising on its own will not get us the tourists we deserve.

We have benefited from the availability of low cost flights and direct links with places to which we lost our sons and daughters in the last century. It is great that they can come home at a reasonable and cheap price. When I first went to Birmingham to see my brother the price of the airfare was about £300, whereas we can now fly there for a few euros. While that is beneficial, it will not be meaningful unless we get the infrastructure from airports to the Border region. There has been some progress in the Leas-Cheann Comhairle's home town of Carrickmacross, but we need the road to go all the way to Donegal. If the Minister wishes to develop tourism he must be part of a Government that creates an infrastructure of roads, railroads and broadband.

As I listened to Deputy Crawford taking us on a tour of the drumlins of Monaghan it struck me that while many areas have things in common, each place has its own requirements. Monaghan and Cavan would not strike one at first glance as being tourist areas, but there are many fine features there which, if marketed properly would prove an advantage. In his speech the Minister said that tourism provides €4 million in foreign earnings and €1.2 million in domestic earning. It is a very important industry to us and one in every 12 jobs is tourism related. He listed competitiveness and quality and service as being vital to the industry.

I welcome this Bill in that it seeks to streamline tourism bodies. Trying to establish who is responsible for promoting tourism is very difficult and in Wicklow the former county manager established a county tourism board which has been very effective. However, one has to ask why that was necessary. The traditional céad míle fáilte has been questioned of late and it has been said that it is not as prevalent as it has been in the past. Our increased wealth may, regrettably, have contributed to the rise of a certain arrogance while front-of-house service is provided by non-nationals – with whom I have no difficulty – leading to language difficulties which can create the impression of poor service. It is vitally important that Tourism Ireland is still operating since a small territory like ours needs an integrated island policy. The new board mooted in the Bill will be tasked with dealing with the tourists after they get here.

Tourists arriving at Dublin Airport have serious problems getting out of it. I have collected people from the airport several times as I do not live too far away and I have found it very difficult to ascertain how to get on to the M50. A constituent of mine recently travelled half way to Swords before realising they were going the wrong way. It is not that we are short of intellect, it is that the signs cannot be followed. The local authority in Dublin attempted to bring in new signs, but I did not get to see any of them because the Minister for Transport intervened. He was right to do so given what I saw of them in the newspapers. We need to have a standard system of signposting. It is very simple to do.

I do not want to be overly prescriptive, but while I am on the subject I must ask why we put signs on round poles? We should put them on square or rectangular poles because everywhere in the country signs are being turned around by kids or adults who see no harm in a bit of skulduggery. However, that activity can cause problems, particularly for tourists. We should replace round poles, introduce standard signs, decide if we are using kilometres or miles and correct the information that it is out there. There is nothing more depressing than to see a sign directing one to a town which is ten miles distant and then to drive two miles along only to be told that it is now 14 miles away. We are all familiar with places where that happens.

I alluded earlier to the céad míle fáilte in terms of which we have regressed. The warmth of the welcome that was there in the past is no longer there to the same extent. Perhaps this is a result of increasing tourism, particularly with home tourists since people have more money to spend on going out. In difficult times the places which provide a warm welcome will be the first to suffer. No matter where one goes, if one gets a nice welcome and experiences politeness and courtesy, one will return.

I have just come from a meeting of the Committee on Agriculture and Food where Dr. Wall is discussing food safety. I relayed the story of my journey back from the Galway races last year during which I stopped to have tea with my kids. I would feel sorry for any member of the public who entered the premises involved, which I will not name here. To pay money for what was served up was nothing short of disgraceful. One was almost ill when leaving. There are many fine restaurants and public houses, but the proliferation of food outlets and the increase in disposable income being spent on eating out has led to the establishment of facilities which leave much to be desired. We have in the region of 300 health officers to cover 38,000 food outlets ranging from the top restaurant to the garage forecourt and it is very difficult to police them. We can only overcome this difficulty if Irish people begin to complain. I include myself in the category of people who talk about their failure to get value for money when they have left the premises. The time to complain is on the premises when it happens because, in fairness to the people providing the service, if they are not told they might not realise they are doing anything wrong.

I now wish to turn to my own county of Wicklow and I am glad the Minister of State, Deputy Roche, is in the Chamber. While I wish the Minister, Deputy O'Donoghue, all the best with his portfolio, one of the difficulties is that as he comes from a very tourism-based region with many facilities for tourists, he might be inclined to put much of the available largesse within the Kerry county boundary. I would ask him, therefore, to tread carefully and I will be keeping an eye on that.

County Wicklow is very underdeveloped in respect of tourism. Perhaps for historical reasons, people along the west coast have been much quicker to get into the tourism business than those on the east coast. Wicklow has approximately 5,000 Bord Fáilte registered bed-nights, whereas in Kerry the total is in the region of 17,000, with 12,000 in Killarney alone. Wicklow is on Dublin's doorstep as the first stop-off point for tourists, yet we have less bed-night capacity than Mayo, Donegal or Galway. That is something we will have to develop as a county. I would ask the Minister to dispense with the pre-conceived notion that people in the mid-east region are wealthy and are doing very well. That is not the case because many locations in the mid-east are suffering, relatively speaking. That has been identified in the national spatial strategy which mentioned areas such as north Meath and south west Wicklow.

Wicklow is currently lumped in with an area which is called midlands-east by Bord Fáilte. I wrote to 20 providers of tourist accommodation as part of a survey, and posed the question, "When tourists finish their breakfast and ask ‘where will I go today?', what do you say"? None of them said "Go to Lanesboro" but that is in the same midlands-east area. Wexford, Dublin, Kilkenny – a very beautiful city – and Carlow are not in that area. Wicklow is tied in with Longford, Westmeath, north Offaly and Kildare. When it comes to trying to sell Longford and Wicklow as tourist destinations, they are two completely different products. Wicklow should be together with Dublin or, preferably, the south-east.

Local authorities can have a big input into the provision of tourism facilities. Until quite recently, one could travel from Bray to Carlow – a 60-mile journey over the Wicklow Gap – and one would not pass a hotel. Deputy Crawford outlined a number of hotels in County Monaghan but we are very short of them in Wicklow, although one has opened up in Laragh recently.

There are two.

The Minister of State has reminded me, quite rightly, that there are two hotels there, but one is off the main road while the other is on it. Local authorities must become proactive in providing tourism facilities, given the current shortage. One can have all the beautiful scenery, including the Burren and the Wicklow mountains, but unless visitors have somewhere to sit down for a cup of coffee we will not attract them.

I wish to share time with Deputy Kelly.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle

Is that agreed? Agreed.

I welcome the rationalisation of structures at national level provided for under the National Tourism Development Authority Bill 2002. Many speakers have referred to the major departure in December 2000 when Tourism Ireland Limited was established by Bord Fáilte and the Northern Ireland Tourism Board. The new body's remit was the marketing of the island of Ireland as a tourism destination, which was an enormous task. It proved to be very difficult as subsequent events were to demonstrate. It is one of the areas of co-operation which arose from the Good Friday Agreement. Interestingly, while tourism is under the aegis of the Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism here, in the North it comes within the remit of the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment. There are some differences, therefore, between the lead Departments in both jurisdictions.

Tourism Ireland is charged with responsibility for international marketing functions and is also in charge of the Tourism Ireland brand which generated a high level of debate and some disagreement in the early stages. It also deals with marketing outside the island of Ireland, as well as supervising the overseas office network. Strong campaigns have been undertaken in the main markets, particularly in the UK, Germany, France and the United States. Initially, the authority had difficult times due to the foot and mouth scare which, unfortunately, attracted unfavourable publicity all over the world, quite a lot of which was unjustified and unrealistic. Subsequently, the authority's difficulties were exacerbated by the problems suffered by the aviation sector following the events of 11 September 2001. It was a potentially disastrous time for tourism and it is to the new body's credit that it has performed so well in such difficult circumstances.

The Minister has made it clear that the Bill is not about setting new parameters for tourism policy. He pointed out that a comprehensive review of tourism policy is being undertaken and that the body charged with doing so met at the end of last month. The Minister has asked that body to assess the performance and potential of the tourism industry, as well as setting out strategies both for Government-led and industry-led initiatives which will advance tourism. I understand from what the Minister said that an interim report is expected in a couple of months and a final report by the summer. I await that with considerable interest because there is a host of issues that arise peripherally in the context of this Bill, yet are central to the general consideration of tourism policy.

One must acknowledge the progress that has been made since the mid-1980s in the Irish tourism industry. The industry accounts for €4 billion of foreign investment and €1.2 billion in domestic investment. In addition, it accounts for 5% of GNP annually and I was surprised to hear the Minister say that it also accounts for one in 12 jobs in the economy.

The Bill provides for a new body which will merge Bord Fáilte and CERT. Bord Fáilte has been synonymous with tourism for decades and it has had responsibility for product development, domestic marketing, research, strategic planning and specialist niche products – an area where Bord Fáilte has been very much to the fore in making tremendous progress. Bord Fáilte has also been responsible for regional marketing in addition to the registration and grading of accommodation, where substantial advances were made some years ago. It also had the job of co-ordinating the regional tourism authority organisations, as well as covering environmental aspects of tourism.

Following the review in 1994, as part of a policy departure Bord Fáilte concentrated much of its resources and personnel on overseas marketing. Naturally, because of that there was much less emphasis on areas such as product development and the environment. The product development area has received some fillips, particularly from taxation measures, some of which have been very successful. One might argue that it was not as targeted as it might have been for the tourism industry but, nevertheless, it was done with considerable success.

One of the areas that needs to be addressed urgently by the new body is product development. As previous speakers have pointed out, some areas lack sufficient accommodation and work remains to be done in improving food, drink and entertainment facilities. New visitor facilities are also required, which is a crucial consideration for every region. Counties and smaller geographical areas need to look to their laurels to improve their tourism products by making them user-friendly and attractive.

The training agency, CERT, was established in 1963 and was charged with providing education, recruitment and training services for the tourism industry. Ten or 15 years ago, CERT was very successful in attracting people into training for the tourism sector. More recently, however, there has been enormous pressure on the labour supply and it has become much more difficult to attract school leavers and retain them in the hospitality industry. Neither has the industry been able to attract the substantial number of adults who are available for work. The task of developing the skills of those currently employed in the tourism industry has been done successfully. There was a concerted attempt to enhance the productivity and performance of those involved and to meet best international practice.

The competitiveness of the tourism product was a responsibility within the remit of CERT. There is a necessity to face the fact that we have discerning customers and we depend on being able to persuade them to make return visits. This will become a responsibility of the new body.

General questions to do with yield and regional distribution have featured in some of the contributions to this debate today. The issue of seasonal distribution bedevils the industry and still poses major difficulties. The question of access is central to progress and development in the sector. It is difficult for Irish tourism to maintain a competitive edge. It is also difficult to focus as clearly as we need to on what the customer wants and, equally important, what the customer was led to expect when he or she decided to book a holiday in Ireland. We must examine the quality of the infrastructure which impinges on visiting tourists and the standards which they encounter. Some of what Deputy Timmins mentioned in his contribution would unfortunately be a common experience for people travelling around the country.

The new authority will streamline the service at national level and it needs to be effective in developing the tourism product and the whole tourism experience. I am interested in sections 8 and 12 of the Bill which deal with the registration and grading of premises. Section 12 provides that the body may continue to contract out these services. This is an area where considerable progress has been made and there has been an improvement in standards as a result. There is also some room for the contractors in this instance to make available to people who need it the kind of service for standards improvement which was previously available from CERT.

Section 25 provides for financial aid to be made available to tourism operators. In the past this aid mostly came from EU schemes and they are now likely to be a lot less generous than they were in the past. State input in the form of grants or taxation measures would be a tremendous advantage. Sections 35 and 36 deal with the transfer of staff and staff superannuation. Not all staff have in the past enjoyed the best of deals when it came to superannuation and I am pleased with the manner in which it is provided for in the Bill.

I wish to mention the resort scheme which was referred to in an earlier contribution. Two areas in my county were included in that scheme. One of the towns, Kilkee, came in for a huge level of criticism. It was interesting to note that at peak periods and even at the new year, it was almost impossible to get either self-catering or hotel accommodation in Kilkee. The creation of the accommodation infrastructure has been a great advantage.

The Government has approved the creation of the National Tourism Development Authority to promote tourism both from within and outside the State and the development of tourism facilities and services, including the promotion of training, human resource and marketing skills development in the tourism sector. The primary purpose of the Bill is to provide the statutory basis for this new authority. On its establishment, Bord Fáilte Éireann and CERT will be dissolved and the functions currently carried out by them will be transferred to the new body. Certain provisions of the Tourist Traffic Acts are also repealed to take account of the provisions of this Bill. This fast-track legislation will allow for the establishment of a new super authority for the tourist industry to replace Bord Fáilte and CERT. This move comes on the back of a poor tourist year, with the industry facing major setbacks from the foot and mouth disease outbreak, 11 September and the poor weather last year.

While the number of overseas visitors increased by 10.3% in the first quarter of 2002, the second quarter figures showed a fall-off in demand. The tourism industry faces a challenge and I feel strongly it is time to reassess and reform to avail of the potential of the changing marketplace. The job of the new chief executive will be to form a strategy to realise the full potential of tourism within the Irish economy. He will also have to develop and maintain effective relationships with a wide range of stakeholders in the industry, both at home and abroad.

Bord Fáilte was established in 1955 to promote tourism in Ireland. CERT was set up in 1963 to co-ordinate the education, recruitment and training of personnel for the tourism and catering industry. We have some big events coming up such as the Special Olympics and the Ryder Cup golf tournament. It is vital there is one body marketing the State as a venue for special-interest tourism, and attracting major sporting events. That is why I am so pleased with the decision to have one authority co-ordinating policy.

Encouraging Irish people to holiday at home should be a priority of the new board. The plan should focus on the growing domestic market, both North and South. People who take short breaks are important, as domestic breaks are no longer than one week.

Longford is the hidden jewel of the midlands. As a former chairperson of Longford County Council, I am only too aware of the hard work and dedication of those who have focused on promoting tourism in Longford. I congratulate the work that has gone into the development of Dublin Street in Longford and we are now fortunate in having a great choice of restaurants there. No one can underestimate the demands placed on our free time in today's busy environment. Every corner of the country needs to focus on developing a tangible tourism strategy that will attract not only European and foreign visitors but also those from the bigger cities of Ireland. Longford needs to brand itself as the jewel of the midlands, the place where you can go for a weekend break to relax or just to get away from it all. Longford has something for everyone. Longford golf course is an attractive parkland course overlooking the town of Longford and is a good golfing test for players of all abilities. We are very proud of this development.

The county offers angling, hunting and shooting, and is of interest to lovers of literature because of its associations with Oliver Goldsmith, Maria Edgeworth, John Casey and Padraic Colum. Angling is one of the most important visi tor attractions in the county and each year thousands come from abroad to sample our attractions. There are many fishing locations and angling centres to choose from. The Shannon, Lough Ree, the Inny, the Ran River and the Royal Canal are in the south and west of the county and the extensive Lough Gowna network of lakes is in the north. The "hot water stretch" in Lanesboro is famous for its specimen fish, coarse fish and top class pike. I thank Deputy Timmins who will send all the people in Brittas Bay over to Lanesboro in the very near future. We look forward to seeing them there. The Deputy will be very welcome. I hope to be out fishing that day when he arrives. With the restoration of the Royal Canal, Longford will be the ideal spot to sit back and relax. I am very hopeful that this new body will sell Longford as the perfect place for short breaks.

This debate is a great opportunity for everybody to have a word on an industry important to our country. There is huge potential in the tourism industry which has gone through good and bad patches and which has had many plans drawn up for it over the years. We have a lot of questions that need answering in the debate on this Bill. We need to ask where and what investment was made in tourism in the past. Coming from an inland constituency I ask if it was wise to invest in the areas it did.

Deputy Gogarty spoke earlier about how tourists do not find Dublin attractive. A lot of people would agree with him. I question the wisdom of Bord Fáilte's marketing of Dublin. We should have marketed the strong areas of the country, particularly the inland counties. Deputy Kelly spoke about Longford while I could speak about Tipperary. Other Deputies could speak about Offaly, Kilkenny and other areas that have been underdeveloped in regard to tourism. There is huge potential in the areas of fishing, walking and rural sports. Horse racing, dog racing and festivals are part and parcel of our rural way of life. We have an endless list of sights to visit such as the Rock of Cashel, Blarney, Cahir Castle and Kilkenny Castle. These have not been exploited fully and enough investment has not been put into marketing our inland counties.

The agricultural way of life we have become accustomed to in rural areas is about to change drastically and tourism has a role to play in regard to that change. The Fischler proposals coming before us mean that the people currently employed in rural areas will have to find alternative employment. Tourism could be a huge earner for them if properly supported. Our negotiations in Brussels should go hand in hand with seeking help for tourism for the counties whose agriculture will be hit. There is extraordinary potential for tourism in those inland counties. If this country is to continue to develop the rural communities need back-up and there must be marketing of the inland counties. Our coastal counties have benefited from tourism development. I agree that, no doubt, more needs to be done but the inland counties have been totally neglected.

Deputy Gogarty made a remark earlier in regard to landowners and farmers. As a landowner I resent the attitude that people are warned off from engaging in certain activities on the land. That is not the normal case throughout the country. There may be an odd row but a dispute can occur in any section of the community. It is wrong for someone to come in here and blacken farmers and landowners. We know that in the heart of rural Ireland people are made welcome. Neither I nor my neighbours have ever turned anybody off the land. It is time for people to stand up for the good, traditional landowners of the country. People I know who own land along the banks of the Suir, the Multeen and other rivers have never turned people away but have made them welcome. In this debate on the Bill I emphasise that I have only ever seen a welcome for tourists in rural areas.

I am delighted to take part in this debate. I come from a county that depends a lot on tourism. I was born and reared in Westport which has a great mix in regard to tourism and industry. Thousands of people in the town have educated their children through the tourism industry. I remember a time Westport could not get Bord Fáilte, Ireland West Tourism or anybody to promote the town. At the time Bord Fáilte and Ireland West Tourism said that if Westport raised money they would match it pound for pound. The town raised about £30,000 within a few weeks and they had to match it. From that beginning Westport promoted itself.

Bord Fáilte should look at providing funding for communities to go and sell their own product. For example, in north Mayo, which is one of the most beautiful places one could go, there is a place called Geesala. It is underdeveloped infrastructurally but has beautiful scenery and beaches. A local man, Gerry Coyle, runs a week long festival there every year with events such as horse racing on the beach, horse jumping and athletics. People who come to the festival are asked how they heard about it. There are two ways most of them heard about it – either through the local papers or through word of mouth. I do not exaggerate when I say that thousands of people attend that festival, which is a wonderful day out. The only disadvantage is that the horse racing depends on the tides. The festival got no support from Ireland West or Bord Fáilte but people come from America and England year after year to attend it. People book their holidays for that particular week in the middle of August. It is the only week that Erris makes anything from tourism and it is because the festival is promoted locally. My point is that if areas do not do it for themselves it will not be done.

Bord Fáilte cannot get everything right. It cannot promote every part of Ireland all over the world. However, it should look at giving areas such as Erris, Westport, parts of Kerry etc. their own money to promote and sell their product abroad. Parts of the market in England and America are untouched. We have only a small percentage of those markets. We should make a major drive in Britain and give information to the Irish groups there to promote tourism. We should also use the regional airports for promotion purposes.

Why are the Government and local authorities so against proper signage in the country? The lack of signage is the biggest single complaint of tourists, particularly in Dublin city. Recently I had to go to a funeral on the outskirts of Dublin. I had some idea of how to get there but from the time I left the city centre until I got to my destination I never came across one direction sign. There are no signs apart from those for the airport and the national roads. If one goes to Great Britain or America there are big signs to identify where one is. What do we have against telling people where they are?

The other daft thing on which it is time for Bord Fáilte and the Government to take a stand is the existence of signs that are only in the Irish language. I do not have anything against the language but the signs should be bilingual. It is hard enough for some foreign tourists to understand English but they have little chance of finding somewhere in a Gaeltacht area. It is difficult enough for non-Irish speaking natives.

How are the figures for incoming tourists calculated? Bord Fáilte or whoever is responsible for the figures should be in the Department of Finance. I would promote those responsible straight away because they are the best I have ever seen for getting figures. The Minister, Deputy O'Donoghue, in his last ministry spent his time trying to keep people out of this country – asylum seekers and refugees. Now that he is the Minister with responsibility for tourism he is delighted to add them into the figures when the statistics for tourism are being calculated. It is wonderful how he does it. He was the Minister for zero tolerance but it is amazing how useful such people are in terms of boosting tourism figures. I compliment the Government and the Department on that. If one goes to England to visit a relative or goes to a funeral abroad, is one regarded as a tourist on one's return? It is great when they justify their jobs but I do not know how they do it.

Tourism has gone through a difficult time in recent years. I do not blame Bord Fáilte for that, I blame the industry itself. The standards are not as high as they should be and the prices charged are outrageous. The time has come to do something about it. This year was the first time that I went abroad on holidays in 17 years. I loved to go to Kerry and went there every second year for the past 20 years. I like Kerry and I like Irish food and I am not one for the sun. However, since the introduction of the euro it has become apparent that we are not competitive. Other Europeans can see at a glance what meals, drinks and taxis cost in Ireland. We simply are not competitive in regard to accommodation, food or drink.

What one looks for on holidays are nice accommodation, good food and drink at a reasonable price. In Europe one can buy a bottle of wine for €5 or €6. People should ask what they are being charged for a bottle of wine here rather than get a shock when they see their bill. A recent development in restaurants here is to have a separate charge for vegetables on top of the main course. The fun is over now because the euro has made it plain how uncompetitive we are in comparison with the rest of Europe. While it had its disadvantages in respect to the price increases, it is now useful in regard to comparing the cost of goods and services across Europe. It is not easy to compare value when one goes to Great Britain but when one compares the prices euro for euro one has to ask questions. The time has come for the tourism sector to start giving value for money. Irish people should be complaining if the product is not right. We are inclined to only complain to each other rather than to those to whom we should be complaining – the hotel or restaurant manager and so on. If we did so we would improve the standards here.

The lack of public transport in rural Ireland is also a problem for tourism. While there has been some improvement in regard to the train service we need to develop it further in addition to buses and other forms of transport. We also need to simplify the information available to people who are travelling. The prices of all goods and services should be clearly displayed. I am glad that the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment is taking this matter in hand. There is nothing wrong with seeing a list of prices. I was astounded one night having had a meal in a tax-designated area in Dublin to see an additional tax at the bottom of the bill. That is outrageous. People do not mind paying for what they get, but it is not good enough to see extra costs.

The Bill is timely in that something had to be done about the marketing of our tourism industry. The days of putting offices in New York and London are gone. We have to get out there and market our product. We need to market golf and horseracing, football and also places of pilgrimage such as Knock. We should be selling Knock in the same way that Lourdes is promoted. We need to bring local communities with us. I do not expect Bord Fáilte to do everything but it does need to integrate local communities into the scheme of things. It should not be a case of them and us. The best people to sell the product are those involved in the industry.

I hope the Government and the Minister do something about signage once and for all. I feel strongly about it and have had many complaints about it over the years. The Minister for Transport is probably the best Minister I have ever seen for press releases and statements. The Government is very keen to bring in rules and regulations about everything. It would be far better if members of the Government travelled with Aer Lingus and Ryanair, in the same way that Tony Blair does, rather than using the Government jet. They would know then what the ordinary punter has to deal with. I challenge the Ministers for the Environment and Local Government and Transport to drive their own cars out of Dublin Airport in whatever direction they choose. The car parks are now miles away from the airport and people are left in no man's land.

Tourists coming to the west of Ireland complain that it takes them a day to get out of Dublin. It does not take a day to see Dublin but a day to get out of the city. I do not know why we cannot improve signage. The time has come to do something about it.

My town of Westport has promoted itself and is an example to the rest of the country.

For many years tourism in Ireland was kept alive by people who returned from England and America to visit their relatives. There are fewer and fewer elderly relatives left in Ireland and the people who used visit us now go abroad on holidays. We must begin to compete and to market. We must present a product at a reasonable price and give people value for money. Some of the prices charged in this country are outrageous.

With the agreement of the House I would like to share my time with Deputy Michael Finneran.

I welcome the opportunity to speak on the Bill. I welcome the Bill, which provides for the amalgamation of Bord Fáilte and CERT into the new body. This amalgamation will ensure a new impetus in tourism.

The tourism industry is a strong one. One in 12 people working in the Irish economy are now working in the industry. It is a huge industry throughout the country although it has particularly flourished for a number of years in some spots, such as Mayo or Kerry.

However, I draw the attention of the House to inland areas, particularly to my area of Duhallow, in north west Cork. It has no major tradition of tourism although there are many sites which are attractive and should be made known to tourists who want to see the hidden Ireland. The local Leader groups, IRD Duhallow and other organisations have done much work to ensure the development of a vibrant tourism industry. Over the years we have developed the Millstreet Country Park, which is a fine facility in Millstreet, and fantastic work has been done on the Glen River and other rivers around the Kilcorney and Banteer area. Much remains to be done to ensure that we can attract people who are coming to this country to such settings.

One of the major difficulties in attracting tourists to such inland areas is the small number of visitor beds available. Accommodation is available in the high density tourism areas but we must encourage people to provide accommodation if we are serious about attracting them to inland areas. If we are to encourage people to provide hostel or similar low-cost accommodation we must provide a tax break or some similar incentive. Many small towns and villages hold traditional weekend festivals. Such a festival flourishes in my home village of Kishkeam, where we started the Maurice O'Keeffe weekend last Easter. The weekend was a resounding success but we had to find accommodation for visitors 25 miles away from the village and bring them by bus to the events in Kishkeam.

CERT and Bord Fáilte will become the National Tourism Development Authority. For many years Bord Fáilte has been seen as the major drive for tourism and for encouraging people to visit Ireland. If any national schoolchild is doing a project on tourism it is to Bord Fáilte he will go for information. CERT has also played a major part in training people for the catering industry. Because of the many non-nationals who have come to Ireland to work in this industry some Irish people feel the catering industry is no longer for them. Through agencies such as CERT we must encourage more people to enter the catering industry.

The introduction of the euro makes it very clear if we are pricing ourselves out of the market. Many northern Europeans have been saying recently that Ireland has become a very expensive holiday destination. Some of our own people who have gone on foreign holidays say it is cheaper for them to spend two weeks abroad than to spend the same two weeks in Ireland.

If tourism is to flourish we must develop the recreation side of the industry. We must provide the best available sporting facilities for visitors. These would include facilities for golf, rugby, soccer and tennis as well as the facilities provided by the GAA. Whether one speaks of the All-Ireland final, the Duhallow final or any other, it is always a pleasure for people to come home to see matches. We must provide facilities such as gymnasiums so that when people come on holiday they find these facilities on hand.

The Special Olympics will be a major attraction this summer. This will be our first time to host this event. I hope every sector of the tourism industry, whether in the host towns or at the national events, will give céad míle fáilte to those who travel to Ireland for the games so that they go home saying Ireland is a wonderful place to visit and that they received an outstanding welcome. This would send a great signal. It is a great honour for us to host the Special Olympics but we must ensure that our visitors take away wonderful memories of Ireland because this will benefit us.

Irish tourism has improved in the past ten or 12 years. We have created an industry which generates more than €4 billion in foreign earnings and about €1.2 billion from the domestic market. This accounts for 5% of our gross national product.

Cross-Border co-operation has become even more important since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement. Cross-Border bodies have gelled together in selling Ireland as a whole. I hope the new tourism authority will continue that good work.

A Cheann Comhairle, I thank you for the opportunity to speak on the Bill. I congratulate the Minister for bringing the Bill before us and I commend it to the House. I hope the new authority will continue to generate a successful tourism industry for the country.

I welcome the Bill and compliment the Minister, Deputy O'Donoghue, on bringing it forward. It proposes to merge two bodies, Bord Fáilte and CERT Limited under the one authority. This will allow for promotion and training under the one authority. There are other areas under the Tourist Traffic Acts that have been taken into consideration also.

The whole area of tourism is a vitally important part of the economy. It has a greater emphasis in some areas than others but it impinges on practically every area in one way or another.

I will make a number of points regarding the tourism industry and how it should be addressed in some areas. If we look at the areas of least activity we have to focus on the midlands area. Some of the coastal areas are quite developed and are the areas to which people are attracted. The midlands region has not been advertised or promoted to the extent that it should have been and, perhaps, it has not been developed.

I was pleased to see in the Finance Bill a provision for the return of capital allowances for the provision of hotels. That may not be an important matter for the east coast or for some areas of the west coast but certainly it is important for the midlands region and the BMW region where there is still a deficit as regards the provision of hotel, leisure and conference facilities. To remove that capital allowance carrot would have killed off any opportunity for further facilities. Bord Fáilte should address the issue of beds generally. That part is being dealt with under the finance legislation. Under its own criteria, Bord Fáilte is reluctant to support or grant-aid the provision of beds in bed and breakfasts or guest houses. It should revisit this area. Speaking from the midlands area, there is a real shortage of beds. For people who come to holiday on the river Shannon and on the river Suck, both of which border my constituency, the absence of an adequate number of beds is a disadvantage to us. This matter has been brought to my attention by several people who promote a tourism outlet in equestrian or fishing competitions.

A matter which is outside the Minister's brief but is a tourism matter is the provision of pump-out facilities on the river Shannon or river Suck. At present such provision is limited. Natural amenities and natural watercourses are being destroyed due to our failure to put in place the necessary small sewerage schemes along the river and to have put in place pump out facilities alongside them. Hundreds of boats travel the rivers, many of which do not have holding tanks not to mention the use of pump out facilities. It is a cry ing shame that is allowed to continue. While this matter is not the responsibility of the Minister it is a matter that needs to be dealt with under a tourism heading. Perhaps other Departments would take note and follow up on it.

We should be more careful as regards the use of the main channel, say the Shannon, as an outfall for all industry and particularly the main industry, Bord na Móna, which over the years has drained more than 50,000 or 60,000 acres of bog into the river Shannon without any maintenance being carried out on the river. This is our great natural amenity and one of the finest rivers in Europe. I am extremely annoyed at the lack of maintenance and the opportunity presented to Bord na Móna. While it is a fine employer it has no right to destroy this fine amenity. Controls should be put in place and it should have to answer a cause and put in the necessary silt ponds.

As regards tourism in the county, there are several projects in my constituency awaiting funding. There is very little tourism facility in County Roscommon and in that region. Certainly the development of Lough Key Forest Park and the proposals for the aquatic centre for Lough Ree are not exclusive to my constituency or to Roscommon. They are proposals for the midlands which would have far-reaching opportunities for visitors.

Fishing is the main outlet in the tributaries of the river Shannon. I was disappointed to learn in recent weeks that Shannon fisheries board decided to impose permits on three tributaries of the river Shannon. If one wishes to coarse fish on the rivers Suck, Inny or the Brosna one has to pay €35. I come from a farming background and all my life our lands and those of my neighbours have been used by tourists and locals to walk to and fish at the river. If I or one of my family wishes to go there we must have a permit costing €35. If found not to have such a permit we can be fined €50. It is extraordinary that the main channel of the river and rivers all over Ireland do not require a permit for coarse fishing while for these few rivers in the west, which would take the few tourists we get, there is a permit imposition. This will kill off angling tourism in the area. They do no harm, they put all the fish back into the river, they cause no damage to fences or land and people are pleased to have them. They come and stay in the bed and breakfasts and hotels and spend money locally.

The question of prices is becoming an issue particularly in the food and drink areas. Many people say they consider Ireland a "pricey" place, that it is expensive to dine out, that the price of drink has gone over the top. In particular they point out that once it comes to 11 p.m. one can put whatever one wishes on the price of a pint of beer. This is a disadvantage to tourism. While there are no controls some people are killing the goose that laid the golden egg in this matter.

It has been brought to my attention that many of our hotels serve foreign beef only. This is a disgrace. We are supposed to have the finest beef in the world. Our stock are fed on green pasture. I am told we are importing cuts from South America which are being sold on the tables of our finest hotels, restaurants and guest houses. That is a crying shame. There is little patriotism among those involved. When people visit this country, they expect to get wholesome Irish meat about which we talk so much.

Road signs were mentioned earlier. Most people who come to Ireland depend on maps rather than signs. I travelled from Roscommon to Galway, although not on the main thoroughfare, and found on two occasions that the sign for the town to which I was travelling was pointing in the opposite direction. Obviously, I knew the way but it would appear that local authorities are investing little in the provision of road signs. That is unfortunate. Road signs should be part and parcel of our facilities.

I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak on this fine legislation. I compliment the Minister and wish him well in his new ministry. I have no doubt he will do a good job as he comes from an area of the country steeped in tourism and which holds the gold card as regards tourism. Although we promote tourism throughout the world, we should home in on our nearest neighbour with a population of more than 50 million. Support for tourism promotion in this market is limited and it is one on which we should concentrate.

I wish to share my time with Deputy Perry.

I broadly welcome the terms of this Bill and understand the reasoning behind it. The tourism industry is vital to our economy and we need to do everything we can to develop and sustain it. The Minister and my party colleague, Deputy Deenihan, outlined the facts and figures highlighting the importance of the industry to this country.

We must accept the tourism industry is on the point of major change. The tourism product internationally is changing. We now face increased competition and we are subject to greater external forces. In some instances, access to competitor markets is cheaper than it is to this country. There is also a lack of tourism operational programmes in Ireland. Deputy Finneran alluded to the fact that we seem to have lost our competitiveness and, to some extent, we have lost our edge in tourism. The Minister has spoken about prices and the cost of the tourism product in Ireland. We, as politicians, and the tourism industry must face up to that. If we want the industry to improve and grow, we must get that competitive edge back, especially in terms of pricing.

Another difficulty for our tourism product is that we have remained quite traditional in what we offer. We have not been as innovative as regards our tourism product as we could be and as other countries have been. The tourism image has not changed all that much. The promotion of tourism in some ways through Bord Fáilte campaigns has been innovative, but much more could be offered as regards the product.

I read a paper on this industry by Frank Roche of UCD which he delivered at a CERT conference last year. The main point he made was that if we want to survive, grow, be sustainable and be profitable, thereby enabling the industry to eventually stand alone, we must reposition ourselves. That is an important point. There are opportunities available but to reposition ourselves and to make the best of it, we must make changes. One of the changes he proposed, with which I agree, is that businesses in local areas must link their products.

In my constituency, we have a fantastic tourism product in Clonmacnoise, a Dúchas heritage site. When one looks at visitor numbers to Clonmacnoise, one could say they are tourists arriving in County Offaly but they are only going to Clonmacnoise and that is part of the problem we face. County Offaly is in the midlands and half way between Dublin and Galway or Dublin and Shannon. The difficulty being experienced by our county is that people are being bussed in and bussed out and the tourists are not remaining in the county. Tourists get off the aeroplane at Shannon, drive to Clonmacnoise and proceed to Galway, Dublin or elsewhere. There are other fantastic tourism products in the area – for example, Birr Castle – to which we should be able to attract visitors. There is a huge amount of marketing of those tourism products to try to attract people to visit other sites in the area but it is not always that successful.

I am familiar with Roscrea Castle, which is also a Dúchas heritage site, and I worked in Portumna Castle in the past but the visitor figures for those sites are far less than those for Clonmacnoise and yet all sites are within a small radius of each other. It comes down to how we offer our product. It could be argued that someone visiting one castle would be interested in seeing another one but we are not creating enough links with businesses locally suggesting routes which visitors could take. That is what we need to do.

We must integrate our products. That will require a change in thinking and in infrastructure. Some of these heritage sites only accept literature from other heritage sites within the same organisation, as is the case with Dúchas. That is a mistake. Obviously, sites have to make money to stay in business but we must ensure they promote other tourism products in the same region. People should not adopt a selfish attitude and think only about their business, disregarding what is happening elsewhere as irrelevant. We must try to link sites to a greater extent than is being done at present.

The industry faces many problems. In Laoighis-Offaly, there are two tourism organisations, Shannon Development and the Midland Regional Authority. Clonmacnoise falls within the remit of one while Birr Castle falls into that of the other. Those two separate organisations are trying to promote two areas which are really one and it is causing many problems. That is something we need to address if we want to maximise our potential.

I have some concerns about the Bill. Section 8 states that the primary function of the authority will be to encourage, promote and support the development of tourist traffic within and to the State. Being familiar with the workings of CERT, I am concerned that the education portfolio of CERT will not be diminished by the merging of CERT and Bord Fáilte. Some of the courses offered in schools and to train people to return to the jobs markets are important and it is vital to the development of the industry that those courses remain available. CERT has been quite innovative in what it has provided. It has provided courses at transition year level and two year courses as part of the leaving certificate applied programme. I am anxious that function is not lost or diminished in this merger since the potential may be there for that happen.

The Minister probably read the article in today's edition of The Irish Times on festival supports, the rising cost of insurance and the difficulties festivals are facing. Irish festivals are a unique tourism product. Nearly every town and village has a festival in some shape or form. Figures given in respect of the Ballinasloe Fair show that 12% to 15% of the cost of that fair is spent on insurance. I was involved in Birr Vintage Week and we spent a similar percentage on insurance. That money is raised through small contributions of €75 or maybe €100 or €200. These festivals are finding it difficult to survive. If these festivals and fairs are cancelled due to insurance problems, we will lose an extra activity in the marketplace. This is very likely to happen if we do not try to do something about the matter.

Westport House and Birr Castle had great difficulty last autumn getting insurance. When they managed to get an offer of insurance, the cost had risen considerably, which makes it very difficult for private operators to survive or make a profit. Despite the public perception, these businesses are not making profits, they are just ticking over and in many instances have quite large overdrafts. This is something which needs to be addressed.

I agree with the points raised by other colleagues, including Deputy Ring, in regard to signage. If we do not make areas more accessible, we will leave ourselves open to a loss of industry.

I would like to refer to the development of our canals and inland waterways, even though it does not come under the Minister's remit. There is great potential in this area in my constituency if properly developed. If we do not develop further the fishing industry which already exists in Shannonbridge, by providing marinas and banks from where people can fish, we will lose that potential in the marketplace. There are three swimming pools in County Offaly, and these form part of what people want when they go on holidays to a town. Funding for the area has been cut this year. If we do not provide support to people in the private sector who operate these facilities, we will be offering less to potential tourists. I would like some of these points to be taken on board.

This is a very important debate. CERT has served this country very well since its formation in 1963. The staff trained by CERT have done outstanding work. The formation of the National Tourism Development Authority to promote and develop tourism facilities and services is very important. The promotion of tourism and the success of CERT in providing a céad míle fáilte has done a lot for tourism in the past.

The great difficulty for the tourism industry in the future will be the retention of staff. Recently a huge number of work permits have been granted. If one were to study the number of work permits issued in the past two years, one would find that a high proportion of them were issued to chefs and other specialised staff. I know from speaking with people in the trade that there is a huge problem trying to retain staff. There is also a problem in regard to high expectations and salaries. The stacked up costs involved in running tourism outlets such as restaurants or hotels are huge. A high value added tax is incorporated into the prices and staff must work unsociable hours, including weekends. The high cost of employing chefs is a huge difficulty for a number of people in the trade.

We are all aware of what has been happening in the Minister's constituency in the past year. However, what is needed for the promotion of tourism is that regional tourism offices should create new attractions and new hubs. Most tourists visit six or eight destinations. We must develop the island of Ireland as a tourism destination, which would result in repeat business. If people come to a small economy based country, travel around the Ring of Kerry, visit Clonmacnoise and kiss the Blarney Stone, the tendency is not to go back. It is important to develop repeat business, which is the most profitable business of all.

We have failed in creating new destinations. Deputy Enright referred to promoting festivals during the summer. This is a generic tourism market which is very easy to grow. We must tap into community resources by involving the Leader partnership, local county councils and the critical mass of people to promote the county tourism plan. Sometimes a lot of money is spent in formulating plans but very little happens. As someone who comes from a Border county, I believe a great deal of work can be done in relation to the promotion of cross-Border tourism. I was very disappointed recently that the money voted for in the Estimate for INTERREG and cross-Border funding did not get approval from Europe. I was very surprised because a huge amount of money drawn down under the Department of Finance Estimate was not spent. The all-Ireland tourism body promotes Ireland as a tourism destination to people who come to Dublin, Belfast or the Border counties. We should promote Northern Ireland tourism to people from southern Ireland who have not gone on holiday to Northern Ireland.

We are talking about promoting Ireland in North America but our biggest tourism market is the European market, particularly the UK market. The low cost airlines are very important, therefore we should focus on the UK market. I am very disappointed that Ryanair will not set up a hub in Shannon or the west to bring people to the west coast. There is a possibility of a second terminal in Dublin. There are huge facilities at Shannon Airport or Knock Airport which could easily accommodate a low fare airline like Ryanair. I am disappointed in regard to the development of regional airports which is crucial to bringing people into the regions.

The new body will help to market Ireland. It will provide competent staff to deal with people coming to Ireland. We have lost much of the céad míle fáilte element. The perception of parents of the trade is very different nowadays. The tourism industry is seen as just a summer job. CERT should market the industry in the schools through career guidance teachers. Parents think it is fine for their sons or daughters to work in a pub or restaurant at weekends but, unfortunately, they do not see the industry as a very worthwhile career. People do not want to work in the hotel industry, including medium-sized hotels or small restaurants, while they will work in five star hotel chains. There are good examples of people in this country who have been very successful. They have chains of hotels in the United States and the UK. These people have been Ireland's greatest ambassadors and have done outstanding work.

I compliment all those hoteliers who have taken huge risks. Running a business today needs a great level of investment on which there is not always a good return. As Deputy Enright said, high insurance costs are a big problem. The cost of public liability is huge. People see the possibility of making an insurance claim as the closest thing to winning the lotto. They feel they are guaranteed money if they have a simple slip or fall. Some people have had to install CCTV systems to verify the truth of claims. Tourism is now Ireland's greatest industry. We need to continue to promote holidays on this island and the islands off its coast. Many people spend a great deal of money to leave this country to go on holidays each year. The fact that the Irish market is quiet is borne out by newspaper advertisements for three midweek nights in a hotel for €100. There is great pressure to fill accommodation.

I am delighted that the purpose of this Bill is to amalgamate Bord Fáilte and CERT. It is important that the role of CERT, which will be modified as a result of this Bill, is supported, perhaps by acknowledging that qualifications acquired through CERT are as worthy of recognition as those acquired through institutes of technology. Those who are trained within the industry, perhaps to be a bartender or a head waitress, should be able to communicate with customers. Ireland's greatest asset is the friendliness of its people, but I have heard from a number of sources that people in the service industries often seem tired and do not seem to have a high level of dedication. This is not always the case, especially among those who are pursuing their jobs as a long-term career.

The Minister has a tranche of funds to spend creating new destinations in the BMW region, which includes County Sligo. We have to ensure that there are new and attractive destinations, such as the Border region, for tourists coming to this country. I appreciate that we may be reinventing the wheel to an extent, but we have to market new destinations so that people returning to Ireland will be able to go to new places. An example of such a destination in the north-west is the Carrowkeel megalithic tomb in County Sligo, which is comparable to Newgrange. It has not been marketed, unfortunately. There is an onus on the Minister and Bord Fáilte, not only to come up with new marketing strategies for this country, but to come up with new destinations as part of the plan.

I would like to share time with Deputy O'Connor, with the agreement of the House.

I am glad to speak about this Bill. I welcome the fact that, probably for the first time, it combines central elements of our tourism industry by linking training with the industry to ensure we can maintain high standards. I had the privilege of spending six years as the chairperson of the Dublin College of Catering on Cathal Brugha Street, which is now part of Dublin Institute of Technology. The college trained people at different levels for the service and catering industries and for hotel management. The students of the college were given the required skills in the various areas so they could work to a high standard. Similarly, this Bill is directly linking CERT, as the training authority, with Bord Fáilte, as the tourism authority. The production of this Bill is a far-seeing development. I am glad to speak on this Bill as someone who grew up in a town that never saw a tourist and who now represents a constituency that needs to see more tourists. The promotion of tourism should be central not only to Government policy but to the economy.

I am worried when I see the results of surveys of visitors, such as one produced last autumn, indicating that tourists find that prices, such as taxi fares, are too expensive. Some people said that prices were too dear to an unacceptable extent. Deputy Perry was right to speak about return visitors and we can be sure that people who feel that prices are too high will not return. It is not enough to get people to come once only. Visitors from the US, who returned because of family traditions, will not continue to return when the link is broken. We need to ensure that we promote Ireland as a value for money centre. We can do nothing about other matters, however – 25% of people said that the weather was a disadvantage. It is likely that 100% of Irish people think that the weather here is a disadvantage, but it does not stop us from living here. We have to overcome the issues we have mentioned through high standards, good marketing and integrated services. Visitors should be able to arrange transport and accommodation easily.

It is important that we promote Ireland as a holiday destination in the home market. According to a report in today's Irish Examiner,“the number of passports being issued has almost trebled in the last 10 years, from 203,000 in 1992 to 530,000 last year”. It is obvious that those applying for passports are doing so with the intention of leaving the country. While I welcome the fact that we can go abroad, people are probably spending more of their holiday time abroad than they are in Ireland. It is often said that the price of a week in an hotel in Ireland during the summer is about the same as that for a fortnight at a foreign resort. We have to compete against such problems. Our review of the tourism industry should include a review of the weekend break market and facilities for families and senior citizens. I know that huge developments have been made in the senior citizens market, particularly at off-peak times when there are great opportunities. As long as the cost of a domestic holiday remains prohibitive, people will take the opportunity to go abroad.

I recently bought a return ticket to Paris with Aer Lingus for €70 – I have not gone yet but it will be wonderful. It cost me €120 return to fly to Kerry Airport some time ago and I had a wonderful time there too. It is obvious which choice one would make, however, if one were faced with such a choice on a regular basis. It is a good example of the competition in the tourism sector. The expansion of Bord Fáilte's website, which is quite a good website with links to consumer sites etc., is a good example of the type of development that needs to be used much more radically to attract tourists. The new tourism authority will facilitate such development and promotion.

I commend the initiative of organisations in the tourism industry such as the Irish Hotel and Catering Institute and the Irish Hotels Federation. Such groups ensure that there is constant training and upgrading among their members. When I attended an IHCI function recently, during which presentations were made for the previous year, I noted that the focus of the institute's training during the previous 12 months, despite all the great advances that have been made in technology and marketing, was in basic areas such as hygiene standards. I commend the institute for its efforts, as it is important that the industry does not lose sight of its priorities.

Despite the international situation, Ministers and Ministers of State will travel abroad for St. Patrick's Day in about a month's time. We are often criticised for such trips, as people believe they are no more than junkets, but they represent one of the State's key opportunities to promote Ireland as a tourist destination. Attempts to attract investment and tourism will be central to our brief wherever we go in the world. Such events should be seen in a positive light as they can have beneficial effects on the tourism industry.

As I said at the outset, I have the privilege and pleasure of representing the beautiful constituency of Dún Laoghaire, an area that has a lot to offer both the Irish and the foreign tourist. It is the main leisure boating centre in Dublin; the magnificent new marina can take 450 yachts, all watersports are catered for and it is a beautiful area. There is a new ferry terminal and when passengers drive off the ferry the first thing they see is a large sign that tells them to go right for Dublin and left for Wicklow. There is nothing to advise people to stay in the beautiful environs in which they have just arrived.

That is the type of thing that makes me question the type of promotion undertaken for areas outside the mainstream, though perhaps in a different way to Deputies Enright and Perry. Of course, Dublin as our capital city is a wonderful place to visit as is Wicklow, the garden county; but so too is Dún Laoghaire. The absence of real marketing with regard to Dún Laoghaire forced it to set up its own tourism marketing company. While some might say that is a good idea, these things should be closely linked to Bord Fáilte, and now the National Tourism Development Authority, so that there can be an integrated approach and people are welcomed and invited to spend more time wherever they land and wherever they want to be.

Dún Laoghaire is an area with top class hotels and restaurants; it is a completely renovated and rejuvenated town and area, yet the only tourist presence is an office in the ferry terminal which only opens when the boat comes in and will barely get people a bed and breakfast. This is a real problem for an area such as Dún Laoghaire and that is why businesses have come together. It is good that they have come together and that they have linked to promote the town, which has made strong links with our neighbours in Holyhead. The challenge of that is welcomed but there needs to be greater co-operation between the various bodies in promoting all areas.

One of the things I question is the losing of the name "Bord Fáilte", which is recognised around the world. We are over the argument about losing the shamrock as an emblem but it is a pity to see this name lost, not only for itself but also because it is as Gaeilge. Is trua go bhfuilimid ag cailliúnt ainm cosúil le "Bord Fáilte". Tuigeann gach duine ar fud an domhain an focal "fáilte" agus muna dtuigeann mínítear dóibh é agus tuigeann siad ansin. Ba bhreá liom dá mbeadh ainm Gaelach le feiceáil in úsáid thart ar an tír.

Our language and culture should always remain elements that can attract other people. If visitors can be offered good value and good ser vice in an Ireland that is attractive to them, and that we sell them, they will return. That is a challenge for us, particularly at an unsettled time internationally. However, with the new development authority and the links established between the different bodies, we can move forward in a spirit of co-operation while, at the same time, the Minister is reviewing the area and increasing investment.

I thank the Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach for affording me the opportunity to speak in this debate. With my local authority background, I can tell her that a junket is a trip that one did not get because that is what people tend to pick on.

I was very impressed by what the Minister said about Dún Laoghaire. I was reluctant to talk about Tallaght because I was interested in the point made by Deputy Perry about the need to look at new markets. I live in Tallaght, an area which does not roll off the tongues of tourists although it sees thousands of visitors every day. In some cases, they are visiting The Square but Tallaght is now the third largest population centre in the State and needs new jobs all the time. Those of us who represent the area and constituency, and have an interest in the south county area, have made the point for some time that there is huge potential in places like Tallaght and that this could be duplicated around the country.

Thousands of people are attracted to my town. The Square, which opened on 23 October 1990, has since then attracted millions of people, including from Dún Laoghaire and all over the country. It is a competitive market but the people continue to come. If one looks around my area, there are several places where visitors come to including the National Basketball Centre which is situated in Tallaght. I do not want to talk about Tallaght Hospital as a tourist attraction as that would not be totally accurate but many people from the country come to it and access other services and facilities. Many people come to Tallaght and pass through to Blessington.

Deputy Perry's point is good and worth stressing. At a time when the market is under pressure, there is a need to be innovative and to look at ways of attracting new visitors. There are lots of ways to do that and there is huge potential in that regard in my town of Tallaght. I hope we can do that and that all our energies would go into it.

I welcome the Minister of State at the Department of the Environment and Local Government, Deputy Gallagher, and thank him for the work he is doing. I congratulate the Minister on the legislation and take this opportunity to express my support for the National Tourism Development Authority Bill. I especially congratulate the Minister on the speed with which the legislation has reached this stage. He will have noted the positive support of the Members of this House and of the Seanad, who all wished the authority well.

As with other colleagues, I acknowledge the contribution of Bord Fáilte and CERT to tourism in this country. Both organisations can be proud that they have contributed in no small measure to the success of the tourism industry and to the prosperity and jobs that have resulted from their actions and support over the years. The need for the new authority is as a result of the changes which the industry needs to stabilise and develop. The merger of Bord Fáilte and CERT will provide a one-stop shop which will be marketing led and provide training to meet the market requirements. I urge the authority to be proactive and strategic in its thinking and, where traditional services do not meet the needs of today's customers, spell it out and offer a blueprint for the future.

In previous speeches in this House, I have mentioned the new buzz term, value for money. I hope that this authority can start off with that doctrine as one of its priority goals. The authority should be both lean and mean and it should be remembered it is taxpayers' money it is spending. When the new authority becomes operational, it will need to let the tourism industry know that its role is to support and develop the industry for the overall benefit of the industry and the nation as a whole. It will not be there to act as a substitute player which allows members of the industry to renege on their responsibilities to sell and market themselves. One has only to pick up a daily newspaper to see successful companies proactively marketing their hotels and I salute them.

I would like to quote from Senator Fergal Quinn's contribution in the Seanad while reminding us of his family's involvement in tourism, as it is relevant:

We did not make the mistake of thinking that the world owed us a living because we had got it right once. We did not look for subsidies or tax breaks to cushion an inevitable decline in business or for grants to transform one kind of holiday formula into another. We faced up to facts and we acted accordingly.

That statement spells out the basics of real success – change is necessary and our response should be to deal with it, not to wish that it will go away. As a country, all too often we turn first to Government to act as the solution when on many occasions it would better for the industry to take stock first. I do not intend to repeat the statistics associated with our tourism sector as many of my colleagues have done so as this Bill passed through the Houses, and I have been impressed by some of the fine contributions today. We know that the past two years have been difficult and that the future is uncertain. Perhaps now is the time for a call to all of our constituents to make a determined effort to take part of their holidays at home for the next two years. As a form of encouragement, the industry should respond with prices and facilities

With regard to the quality of the visitor's experience, I congratulate Dúchas on the great work it does in constituencies represented by many of my colleagues. I also applaud the work of the Office of Public Works on all our major buildings. Perhaps the list of the heritage sites still to be worked on should become part of a five year schedule, with local and regional tourism interests aware of their completion and with an agreed strategic tourism approach for the area in question involving accommodation, transport and marketing.

The success of the authority will have an important impact on my constituency. As I go about my business on a daily basis in Tallaght, Greenhills, Firhouse and Templogue I am increasingly aware of how my constituents' incomes are dependent on the tourism trade. As in other areas, large numbers of my constituents work directly in the hotel trade while others work in the hospitality sector. A large number are taxi and coach operators. Their future, and the improved standard of living we all have, will be greatly influenced by the work of this new authority, as will the creation of jobs for their children. For this reason alone we should support and encourage this development. I commend the Bill to the House and congratulate the Minister on its introduction.

I wish to share my time with Deputy Sargent.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

The area in Mayo from where I come is the most economically deprived in the country. In view of this we need whatever can be done to improve matters. On the face of it, tourism is a very important industry for the area but the terrible state of the roads makes travel a hazard. As a consequence, the season is very short. New tourism product is, therefore, required.

Although many activities are ongoing in my area, I am angered at what is happening. For example, one of the hotels in my village, once a wonderful Great Southern hotel which employed 100 people, is a wreck. The bats are flying through it. The village was eligible for the seaside resorts scheme and applications for planning permission were submitted to the relevant authorities. However, following an appeal by An Taisce to An Bord Pleanála, granting of permission was delayed with the result that when it was finally granted the scheme had been abolished. As a result, the hotel is lying vacant and there are no further schemes to facilitate its development, which is a sad state of affairs. A number of other hotels in my area will close.

Matters are exacerbated by rising insurance costs and many operators in the area may not be able to continue in business. I am involved in two local community festivals where insurance cover has increased by 50% this year. I cannot see how they can continue. The State must become involved in regulating the insurance industry to ensure adequate cover can be provided, not only in respect of tourism products but also for young people who face great difficulties over the cost of motor insurance. They must often pay €4,000 or €5,000 for first-time insurance, even where they have never had accidents. Young people should only be penalised after they have had an accident and not before.

Our main problem is a lack of tourism product and a short season. We need all-weather facilities. I was involved in reviving the use of the yawl, a traditional sailing boat indigenous to our area. It has undergone a complete revival. On behalf of our community I made an application for the construction of an all-weather centre. Deloitte & Touche reported that although tourists were visiting the area they were not staying. Weather conditions require us to have an all-weather facility and my application was one way to proceed. Although the operational tourism programme under the national development plan promised much in this regard, the application was doomed from the outset because applications were sought a year late and there was then a six to eight week rush to have them submitted. To date they have not even been considered. I wonder why there was such an indecent hurry. I do not wish to be cynical in pointing out that it happened just before the last general election. To date we still do not have the facilities we need in Achill Island and hotels continue to close.

I have been involved in feasibility studies of non-profit making activities, such as bed and breakfast operations, that would help local people attract and keep visitors in the area. The idea was to show visitors how the yawl was built and so on. It was a wonderful product but the resources were not available to see it through. How can people proceed in the absence of resources to develop communications, roads and a local airport?

The initiative on the yawl sailing boat was part of a cluster of other products in the county that would have interlinked. As a result many other localities are at a loss from the failure to proceed with the initiative. It is irrelevant that many others could not make applications, because they would not have been considered. I ask the Minister to look at this.

I am wary of so-called new structures that turn out to be the same constructs only with a new image. The Minister referred to the future, which is good because I am an optimist. Nevertheless, I am unsure what this legislation will do for the existing situation.

There are 40 hotels in County Mayo and 80 hotels in County Galway, yet as far as I am aware, only 74 applications from the west have been submitted for funding from the operational programme for tourism. Hotels and bed and breakfasts are closing down at a time when there is a lack of product, such as all-weather facilities. There is something wrong here. The programme appears to be a cynical exercise. I ask the Mini ster to provide a county by county breakdown of all applications submitted under it.

We will soon have to compete with the applicant countries from eastern Europe. Being an island we have access difficulties whereas it is possible to access the applicant countries by road. Many of them have big populations. Despite this, we have priced our tourism products out of the market. How do we propose to compete? Hotel chains will establish themselves where they can make the biggest profit.

The industry needs a proper, ring-fenced budget. Section 24 provides that the Minister may make advances to the authority out of moneys provided by the Oireachtas, up to an aggregate level of €65 million. Is this to be split between marketing and product development? Is it an annual or a once-off budget and if it is an annual budget, will it be index linked? Is it ring-fenced or will it be used for operational expense only? If it is a development budget will conditions be attached to provide extra incentives to the BMW region? What will happen when the accelerated capital allowance for holiday houses is abolished? Two major tax incentives were abolished. How will reinvestment occur? I do not know how it will happen in respect of our hotel in Mulranny because there are no capital allowances any more and we have a very short season. It seems the rural areas, such as that in which I live, will be doomed unless there is some magnificent change or action that has not occurred already.

Where is the incentive to invest in the tourism product? There is only a disincentive at the moment because, for every €100 spent, one has to wait for a disproportionate period before reaping the allowance. The Minister talks all the time about a quality product. I heard him today and he was very eloquent, but if one wants to develop a product one has to invest money. There is no incentive to develop a five-star hotel at the moment. This will lead to a proliferation of drinking houses, of which we have enough, and they will flourish. The big operators will invest where they can make money and therefore they will take their money abroad to the other EU countries. They will invest it where they can obtain the maximum having invested the minimum, such as in drinking establishments.

I agree with the Minister on his point about quality and the need to improve the product. However, why is he removing the incentives that serve as a way to improve it? By the time the hotel in Mulranny finished its dealings with An Taisce and re-applied, the incentive scheme was gone. It is not worth it if we are to see a total deceleration of the incentives that already exist. Are we all committed to the scrap heap without a future?

The problem is very serious in my area. I know of three major hotels that have closed on Achill recently and one is on the verge of closing. Bed and breakfasts have closed down, as have fine restaurants because their operators cannot make a living. The season is too short. There is no point having a budget unless there is also proper professional advice.

In regard to the new board, who will decide where the money goes? If it is to be the same as before, the money will go to the cities and not to the areas that need it. We need a young, dynamic board. I ask the Minister to ensure that the board will be non-political and non-representative of the current establishment, which has not delivered in the areas about which I am talking. Applications have been made under the national development plan or the operational programme for tourism. What has happened to them? We live in hope but, ultimately, it is nice to have something that provides one with a future. We need to change the whole approach.

Under section 35, does the Minister envisage a voluntary redundancy scheme? In combining two organisations there will be people lacking the necessary skills to be re-employed. What will happen? Will the Minister clarify if there will be another costly voluntary redundancy scheme? Maybe the people in CERT or Bord Fáilte Ireland are getting older or something. Will the Minister advise us regarding the age profile and how he feels about the board? It is important to have people who can do the job and deliver. It does not matter whether they are young or old as long as they are non-political, independent and have the right advice.

The issues of cost and insurance need to be sorted out and I know this Bill will not do it. The rising cost of the tourism product and the need for proper roads have to be addressed. The road into Mayo is an utter disgrace and it is worrying to think that there is no hope for the future. People who come from other areas deserve a certain standard, never mind the people who live in the area. How will we advance if we do not have balanced regional development? This applies to tourism as well.

Ba mhaith liom mo bhuíochas a ghabháil leis an Teachta Cowley as a chuid ama a roinnt liom ar an mBille tábhachtach seo. I listened to my colleague Deputy Gogarty and feel he was making an important point in stressing how we should value the differences that make Ireland an important destination for foreign and native tourists to enjoy holidays. I have many fond memories of holidaying in Deputy Cowley's area of Mayo. I could talk about it for a long time, but in the short time I am allowed I want to focus on some important points arising from the Bill.

Deputy Dennehy probably needs a couple of lessons in geography because, like Deputy Wright, he will appreciate that Fingal is very advantageous in terms of its farm hinterland and very pastoral setting, in which many people enjoy holidays as well as day-to-day life. It has many lessons to teach, as well as many to learn from other parts of the country in terms of tourism.

The success of any tourist location depends on a thriving and distinct cultural and physical setting. Many will be familiar with famous locations abroad, such as Venice, Amsterdam or London, which have particularly distinctive tourism product characteristics. In this country we overlook distinctive language backgrounds. I know the Minister will be aware of how important the language is to many people in the kingdom of Kerry. It is also valued by many tourists. I hope our tourism authority will recognise that it is a matter of some pride and curiosity for visitors and try to ensure proper multi-lingual signage and information for tourists, whether or not they speak Irish.

Selling tourism products as authentic and enduring is something we have not done sufficiently. There has been an overly subservient attitude and a certain inferiority complex leading us to believe that, in order to entertain people from abroad, we have to somehow ape their culture by having a Texas-style fast-food restaurant or some other McDonald's-type development. It happens to be familiar to the tourists, but it might not be what draws them here.

A Deputy mentioned an aspect of the tourism authority and the review of tourism that was promised for March, which I think has been delayed until April. It concerned the authority being mean and lean. The green aspect of the authority will have to be looked at far more closely because it does not have any environmental representative. If our tourism industry is to have a future, it needs to be ecologically sustainable and needs to be able to mitigate its negative effects and accentuate its benefits to local economies and their local environments and be able to withstand the environmental difficulties we will face in coming years. The tourism industries that depend on long-haul flights from London to Sydney, for example, and which emit the same amount of carbon dioxide in one flight as many industries emit in one year in Africa and Asia, will certainly dry up. There needs to be a more holistic look at our tourism industry based on thinking globally and holidaying as locally as possible. To that extent, the role of local authorities is vital in promoting tourism because there is a danger of centralisation with this new body. As Deputy Cowley said, the cities would then soak up the resources while areas like Fingal suffer.

I hope the authority is not overly political when it should be non-political. The situation with CERT is an example of how a political rumour can destroy the quality of a body's activity.

Acting Chairman

The Deputy will have one minute left when debate on this matter resumes.

Debate adjourned.