Adjournment Debate.

Job Creation.

In the past four or five weeks, on a number of occasions on the Order of Business and elsewhere, I have raised the issue of the large number of empty factories and facilities in Coolock and the north side generally, specifically in Clonshaugh Industrial Estate. I asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Deputy Harney, if she was concerned that the new EU rules for inward investment which she agreed to in Brussels last year are now discriminating against unemployment black spots in the Dublin region, specifically against the formerly high-tech IDA Ireland industrial estate in Clonshaugh, Dublin 17.

As the Minister of State knows, these rules are called the multi-sectoral framework on regional aid for large investment projects and they seem to be already discriminating against large inward investment projects worth more than €50 million to the Dublin region since they came into operation on 1 January last. On a recent visit to Clonshaugh Industrial Estate, I was struck by the number of empty factories which have large "For Sale" signs outside their front gates. One group of workers I met described the IDA Ireland part of Clonshaugh Industrial Estate as a complete ghost town. One of the most spectacular empty factories is the 31,000 sq. m. famous Gateway 2000 building, whose computers we were all using only a few years ago.

This building, which is on the banks of the River Santry near the Acting Chairman's constituency, has been vacant for more than three years. It once housed 3,000 workers making Gateway computers. The Minister informed me some weeks ago that she is trying to market this facility but that it has been difficult to bring inward investment to it. This is because of the operation of the new multisectoral rules.

Two large industrial premises formerly occupied by Selectron are also vacant. The Adaptec facility is for sale. There is a sale agreed sign at the former Saronix plant, another famous manufacturer of high technology medical components in the Clonshaugh area. Its former workforce of young technicians are now walking the streets of my constituency. There is also a for sale or let sign outside the 10,000 sq. m. former Data Products facility which, for almost three decades, made most of the printers used in our economy. The premises of the company which brought the main Internet connection to Ireland, 360 Networks, and which subsequently went into liquidation is also empty.

I could go on with a litany of job disasters on the north side of the city. Last week I made representations regarding the GE Superbrasives industrial diamonds company which has been sold to another company in Connecticut. This company once employed 600 workers and now employs only 150. Although I have been assured that the company's future is secure, workers are striking on several days per week because of their concerns about the future of their jobs.

The Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment agreed the multisectoral framework on regional aid. I became aware of the framework not through information given to me by the Minister, although I was my party's spokesperson on enterprise, trade and employment, but through a journalist fromThe Sunday Business Post who wrote an editorial in January condemning what the Minister had agreed to. The framework puts Ireland, especially the large urban centres, at a severe disadvantage because of the restrictions it places on inward investment greater than €50 million. The Minister says this creates a level playing pitch. However, its effect is that our IDA executives must inform everyone in the EU, including the new member states, when they are trying to bring jobs to Ireland.

This was afaux pas, and not the first one, by the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment. I urge her to go back to Europe, re-examine this measure and not hamstring IDA Ireland. The agency discriminates against the Dublin area, despite the fact that the 2002 census shows dozens of district electoral divisions in the north and west of Dublin where unemployment is greater than 25%. In those circumstances, the new framework and policy of IDA Ireland is crazy. This is especially so when combined with the Government’s phoney decentralisation policy. Although fewer than 40% of the 276,000 workers in the Civil Service are based in Dublin, it is proposed to transfer 10,000 workers with spending power of €4 billion per annum out of the Dublin region.

I appeal to the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment to visit Clonshaugh and meet the public representatives in the area. She might also visit similarly affected areas in her own constituency. She must take this problem seriously. We are beginning to see again endemic unemployment among the young people on the west side and north side of Dublin. I urge the Minister to take action.

IDA Ireland is the agency with statutory responsibility for the attraction of foreign direct investment to the State and its regions. The management of IDA Ireland's industrial property portfolio is a day-to-day operational matter for the agency and not one in which the Tánaiste or her Department has a direct function.

The Clonshaugh industrial estate is a key development in the Dublin area for IDA Ireland, especially given its location close to the M50 and the international airport. This location is home to a number of important multinational companies, including American Power Conversions, a company which manufactures insulated wire and cables, Forrest Laboratories, a company manufacturing pharmaceutical preparations, and Modus Media, which is involved in paper print, packaging and plastics.

The most recent information available from IDA Ireland indicates that there are four vacant factories on the estate, ranging from 28,000 sq. ft. to 300,000 sq. ft. All these are privately owned and IDA Ireland is assisting in the marketing of these facilities to potential overseas investors through its property division and network of overseas offices.

Selectron, an electronics assembly and supply chain management services company, had operated from three of the vacant buildings on the estate. I understand from IDA Ireland that negotiations are taking place with potential purchasers in respect of all three facilities. The only remaining vacant building is the former Gateway premises which totals 330,000 sq. ft. To date, a number of companies have also expressed an interest in this facility but no formal offer has yet been made. This facility will continue to be actively marketed by IDA Ireland. It should be noted that it is difficult to market a facility of this size in the present climate due to the global downturn in the information and communications technology, ICT, sector.

Despite the difficulties in global markets, IDA Ireland has had some notable successes in attracting investment into Dublin. During 2003, there were significant project announcements of 2,700 associated jobs for Dublin with many of these projects having considerable property requirements.

Enterprise Ireland is also acutely aware of the closures that have occurred on the Clonshaugh industrial estate and in the surrounding areas and is working closely with IDA Ireland, the Dublin City Enterprise Board and the Northside Partnership to address the unemployment problem in the area.

An Enterprise Ireland client, the Irish Chocolate Company, has recently made a major investment in the estate. At the beginning of 2003, the company purchased a 76,000 sq. ft. factory on the Clonshaugh industrial estate. The business is to consolidate at this new location. The Irish Chocolate Company is, at present, the largest company in the hand-made chocolate industry in Ireland, with brands such as Butlers Irish, Bewleys, Katie Macs and Alannah. The new facility represents an incremental investment of €3.5 million. The 76,000 sq. ft. state-of-the-art facility is a significant investment in the future growth of the business. It consolidates activities from three former sites and provides a platform for the company to grow into new products and new export markets. The new facility will lead to increases in employment opportunities for the Clonshaugh area.

Enterprise Ireland approved two community enterprise centres in the area under the urban community enterprise scheme 1990-2000 with a view to fostering the development of micro-enterprises there. These centres are the Coolock enterprise centre and the Darndale enterprise centre. The Coolock centre is 85% occupied and a major marketing drive is under way to promote facilities in the Darndale centre, which is 50% occupied.

Enterprise Ireland works in close co-operation with Dublin City University to foster growth of indigenous and knowledge-based companies in the area. The innovation centre at the college, Invent, is now complete and received funding of more than €1.6 million in funding from Enterprise Ireland.

The agency also supports third level and industry partnerships in the area to encourage the greater uptake of technology by indigenous companies as well as supporting eligible graduates to attend a specially designed programme for those wishing to start their own business, the M50 enterprise platform programme. The Institute of Technology in Tallaght, the Blanchardstown Institute of Technology and Dublin City University are all partners in this programme.

The Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment is confident that the strategies and policies being pursued by development agencies, together with the ongoing commitment of Government to enterprise development, will bear fruit in terms of additional investment and jobs for the people of the area.

Mayo Landslide.

I am grateful to the Ceann Comhairle for allowing me to raise this important matter on the Adjournment. Will the Minister of State explain why only approximately €100,000 has been made available by Department of Agriculture and Food to compensate farmers for the extensive damage resulting from the landslides at Inver and Pullathomas, County Mayo, which happened on 19 September 2003? This amount, together with the Red Cross pay-out of €300,000 for humanitarian aid, gives a total of only €400,000, which is much less than expected to cover the damage done. Between €600,000 and €700,000 was expected.

If €100,000 is divided between 80 farmers — and perhaps the Minister of State will confirm how many applied for aid on the IFA forms — it leaves very little for each farmer. A number of them were severely affected and it is imperative that they be adequately compensated. One farmer lost 2.5 acres of land when it slid into another man's field and was left with 2.5 acres of gravel. There is little a farmer can do with 2.5 acres of gravel. He needs help. People also lost sheds. Will the Minister of State clarify whether or not compensation for loss of sheds is included in the €100,000? If so, very little compensation will be available to each individual.

I met a number of these farmers and one could not find a more reasonable group of people anywhere. The landslides were devastating for them. I spoke to another man who had about 11 acres of grassland covered in mud and the fences were gone. If €100,000 is distributed among 80 farmers it will do very little for him. There were 15 farmers who were very severely affected and they should be adequately compensated. Teagasc helped farmers to fill out the IFA claim forms and its estimate was that the damage and losses are much higher than the €100,000 that the Minister is providing. The minimum should be €200,000 to €300,000 as well as the money provided by the Red Cross. The land damage was so extensive that people expected much more. The people affected are getting estimates of the damage costing €10,000, which is a lot of money. The farmers need this money so they can retrieve the green land from which they can cut bale silage for use in winter time. The farmers also need adequate funds for fencing as many of them had fences destroyed. Fencing is very expensive and labour intensive, particularly on the side of a mountain.

Land, fencing and stock have suffered most damage. Assistance is also needed to hire the machinery that is used to carry out repairs. I am aware that the land damage assessment was done by officials from the Department of Agriculture and Food. Why was this assessment not done a long time ago? The money could then have been handed out with the €300,000 from the Red Cross, which would have gone a lot further. Even if €200,000 was handed out, it would still only total €500,000 which is not a huge amount considering the damage done and the hardship caused.

These are very appreciative people, they are the salt of the earth. The Minister can do better than the €100,000 his Department is prepared to give. It is not acceptable to sell them short. They have been discommoded since these disastrous landslides. According to the last census, they are living in the most deprived area in Ireland.

Towards the end of last year this Government provided a sum of €300,000 to the Irish Red Cross Society as humanitarian aid to alleviate general hardship in the area, following the landslide at Pullathomas. In addition, Mayo County Council and the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government undertook major repair works to roads and bridges in the area. The Department of Agriculture and Food had no involvement in these initiatives.

The Department of Agriculture and Food only became involved when a request was received from the landslide committee for a meeting with officials from our Department. We agreed that such a meeting should take place to discuss the implications, if any, arising from the landslide for the direct payment schemes and the rural environment protection scheme operated by the Department.

A meeting took place between representatives of the landslide committee and officials from the Department on 23 January. It was made clear to the committee representatives that there were no implications for the direct payment schemes arising from the landslide as the event took place outside the retention period for the 2003 schemes and before commencement of the application period for the 2004 schemes. In so far as the REPS was concerned, the committee representatives were informed that our Department would obviously take into consideration the unavoidable hardship caused to farmers as a result of the landslide.

During the meeting, the committee representatives raised a number of non-humanitarian problems faced by farmers in the area, including the need to replace damaged or removed boundary fences, the cleaning of debris from land and damaged farm buildings and fodder loss. The committee sought a targeted compensation package that should only be made available to those farmers who could demonstrate they suffered loss or damage to their farming enterprise.

Following the meeting on 23 January, we asked that a detailed survey of the affected farms be carried out with a view to assessing the overall damage and the likely cost of any compensation package. The survey team looked at damage to land, fencing and farm buildings. The team recommended action on land damage, that is, that the removal of debris should be confined to green land only, that action on restoration of damaged fencing was required in all areas linked to the identified holdings, and that assistance should be offered for the replacement of farm buildings damaged on one holding. The total number of farmers directly affected was less than 50 people.

We have now secured agreement to provide funding of up to €100,000 to assist those farmers whose holdings have been most affected by the landslide. We are satisfied that, in the overall context, and given that our Department was not responsible for the humanitarian aspect, this represents a very reasonable contribution to the difficulties which the affected farmers continue to face. We have asked our officials to finalise the formal scheme terms and conditions as a matter of urgency.

What about the stock that was lost?

The stock was not raised at the meeting. The issues raised were the need to replace damaged and removed boundary fences, the cleaning of debris and damaged farm buildings and fodder loss.

Is it possible to look at the situation regarding stock loss?

If the Department receives a submission it will consider it. A survey has been carried out and while 80 farmers were supposedly affected only 50 applied. A sum of €100,000 has been made available for those 50 farmers which is not a bad response.

Will the Minister of State agree to look into the hardship cases as well?

We will consider anything within reason but it has to be within a legitimate criteria of European and Irish law.

Schools Building Projects.

This issue is a bone of contention in my constituency for some time. The question at the time was to ask the Minister for Education and Science when he expected to be in a position to provide the extra facilities required at Maynooth post-primary school which was built to cater for 650 students but now caters for 811, taking into consideration that planning permission was obtained by Kildare VEC on 18 December 2001 from Kildare County Council to build a ten room extension and full size gymnasium to cater for 850 students. The Minister was also asked if toilets and other facilities were adequate to meet staff and pupil requirements.

The reply stated that a large-scale building project for the school was listed in section 9 of the school building programme 2004, which was published on the Department's website. It went on to state that the project was at early stages of architectural planning. It is at this point that I want to raise a question on the information previously given to the House by the Minister. Planning permission and architectural planning concluded three years ago. We are not allowed to accuse anyone of telling lies in this House. There is no methodology available to me to ask the Minister if he was telling the truth when he gave out that information on 2 March, or if he was saying something else. The fact is that a reply to a Dáil question is sacrosanct. If it contains information which is incorrect then the Minister owes an apology to the House. He needs to come into the House himself, which is no reflection on Mr. Treacy who is sitting opposite me. It is not his responsibility and I am glad he is here. I also appreciate that other Ministers are very busy running the world.

We run half the world.

They run half the world and are conquering the other half. There are no circumstances in which an inaccurate reply can be accepted in the House. The Minister goes on to state that it has been assigned a band 3 rating by his Department in accordance with the published criteria for prioritising large-scale projects. The Minister thinks this is a big deal. In order to assign it a band 3 rating it was necessary to state that it was at the early stages of architectural planning. What is the Minister talking about? Does he understand what is going on in his Department? Does he realise how serious it is to give inaccurate information to the House?

Having considered this matter, I decided it was time to call a halt to this nonsense. I will not ask the Minister of State, Deputy Treacy, to come up with a reply which goes through the same rubbish again. I know he would consider that an insult to his intelligence. Will the Minister draft a reply which accurately reflects the current situation relating to the school in question? Will he put in place his plans or proposals to deal with the urgent and increasingly important situation of overcrowding and the lack of facilities which need urgent attention now? He should not allow the ridiculous situation to continue where he makes excuses by saying the project is in the early stages of architectural planning and that the Deputy asking the question does not know what he is talking about. The situation is as I have outlined. Will the Minister deal with the question raised or come into the House and apologise for giving inaccurate information? Failing that, he might respond to the request to provide the necessary resources to ensure that the accommodation repeatedly requested is put in place without further delay.

I thank the Deputy for giving me the opportunity to outline to the House the position of the Department of Education and Science regarding proposals for providing funding for an extension at Maynooth post-primary school in County Kildare.

The 2004 capital programme was published in December 2003 and full details about individual projects are available on the Department's website atwww.education.ie. It is obvious from the contribution made by the Deputy that he has read the website in great detail.

I am sure the Deputy and the House will agree that the website is an open file on the affairs and position of the Department in relation to school projects and schemes. That is a new departure in terms of openness and the delivery of services not only for the parliamentary representation in this House, but also for the people of the nation.

That is an excuse.

The Department of Education and Science has already accepted that there is a need to provide additional accommodation for students of Maynooth post-primary school.

The information is incorrect again.

A full design team has been appointed and architectural design of the project has commenced. An extension for the school is listed in section 9 of the Department's 2004 school building programme, as confirmed by the Deputy.

Will the Minister of State give way?

I will give way.

The third paragraph states that a "full design team has been appointed and architectural design of the project has commenced". That has long since passed. We are getting a history lesson. This is three years out of date.

I have not read the architectural brief and I have not seen the response to it, so I cannot comment.

Permission has been granted and that could only have happened on the basis of the full architectural brief. I do not want to make life difficult for the Minister of State, who is doing his best. However, he has been given rubbish to read.

The Deputy might allow the Minister of State to continue with his reply.

I will try to be of assistance to the Deputy. This project is at stage 3 of architectural planning, which involves a detailed sketch scheme detailing room layouts, etc. It has been assigned a band 3 rating by the Department in accordance with the published criteria for prioritising large-scale projects.

When publishing the 2004 school building programme, the Department of Education and Science outlined that its strategy going forward would be grounded in capital investment based on multiannual allocations.

That awful phrase.

That is a strong, positive macro commitment to the liquid resources necessary to create both the micro and macro projects which are critically important to the delivery of new public projects in the education area. Officials from the Department are reviewing all projects which were not authorised to proceed to construction as part of the 2004 school building programme, with a view to including them as part of a multiannual school building programme from 2005. The Department expects to be in a position to make further announcements on this matter during the year. The needs of Maynooth post-primary school will be considered in that regard. The Minister has asked me to say that they are a priority. I take this opportunity to once again thank the Deputy for raising this matter in the House. I am confident that positive progress will be reported as soon as possible.

Is the sentence in the third paragraph accurate or inaccurate? It states that the "full design team has been appointed". That happened three years ago.

It must not have concluded its work.

I do not want to discuss this issue forever, but if I accept this reply, I will insult myself, the Minister of State and the House.

We cannot have an argument at this time. The Deputy must find another way to raise the matter.

I accept that, but someone must call a halt. This is not true. The Minister cannot come back into the House and presume we will not challenge it.

Unfortunately, this is not the time to discuss that matter.

I do not have any difficulty with a challenge, provided it is done through the appropriate Minister.

Will the Minister of State relay this information to the Department of Education and Science with a request for an urgent and direct response?

I thank the Minister of State.

I thank the Ceann Comhairle for allowing me to raise this issue and I thank the Minister of State for taking it. I am disappointed that I must raise this issue again having previously raised it on 13 June last year. I am extremely disappointed that progress has not been made in the decision on the 2004 schools development programme.

This issue concerns the national school at Kilfinane in County Limerick, which I visited. I saw at first hand the conditions which pertain there. I want the Minister for Education and Science to provide the necessary funding to construct a new school which is urgently required and which was promised prior to the last election. We were told that progress would be made immediately after the election if the Government was returned to power. It was made clear in the report by the Irish National Teachers' Organisation that the facilities at this school have been totally unsatisfactory for many years.

The school is the base for a remedial teacher who is shared among five other schools. Her classroom, which is a cubicle partitioned off a room, is also used as a staff room, library and office. The resource teacher works in similar conditions. Disruptions are continuous and are not conducive to good learning experiences. They render the teacher's job difficult and place the children in a disadvantaged educational environment.

There are poor physical education facilities at the school. There is no general purpose room and no place for children to leave their outdoor games equipment. The staff enthusiastically encourage the use of computers, but it is extremely difficult because there is little space. The toilet facilities for staff are inadequate and the outdoor facilities for children are Dickensian. I doubt if the school building would pass examination by the Health and Safety Authority.

It is more than seven years since representations were first made about improving the school. The feasibility study carried out clearly showed that a new building was the only viable option. A site has been acquired locally for this purpose. The Department of Education and Science commissioned a feasibility study on the site and it found it was suitable. The staff of the school want what is best for the children of the parish. They also need practical working conditions to enable them to carry out their professional duties. They have been frustrated over the years. The school has six teachers, a shared remedial teacher, a full-time and part-time resource teacher and up to 150 pupils.

In January 1998 the board of management applied to the Department for a grant to carry out major structural works. In 1999 it received a reply offering a grant for toilets and a staff room, which was unacceptable. Everyone in the area and the Department of Education and Science accepts that a replacement school is required. Approval for a new school was granted in February 2001.

I have raised this matter on the Adjournment for four years. The existing building dates back to 1909. The school is housed in a converted church. It consists of six small classrooms, three of which are only 35 sq. m. There is a small ancillary room which is used as a library and a small office and cloakroom. There is also a small central hall which can be accessed from the classrooms. Some of this hall space had to be sacrificed to accommodate the secretary's office. There is no staff room and the toilets are located outside. The playing space outside is also limited and teachers are concerned about the safety of children.

Three of the classrooms are 7 m. by 5 m. and accommodate classes of between 25 and 40 pupils. The partitions between the classrooms are wafer thin as they consist of narrow timber boards or glass. They are not sound proof which causes difficulties for teaching and learning. The timber floors have begun to sag in many areas due to the design of the building. The ceilings are high and temperature extremes are common. The fact the school is situated on a steep slope also presents safety problems. There are many unavoidable drops and steps on the site which are hazardous and a cause of great concern to teachers and parents in terms of the safety of the pupils.

The Minister claimed that delay in acquiring the site is the cause of the problem. It took from February 2001 to November 2002 to acquire the site. However, the Department has been aware of the problems in this school since 1998 and had knowledge of them from the various feasibility studies. The primary school community in Kilfinane cannot be penalised for a delay over which it has no control.

There is evidence of dry rot and many of the windows cannot be opened leading to a lack of adequate ventilation. The playing space is inadequate. Sinks are provided in only three of the rooms and there is no staff room or proper library. The Minister of State, Deputy Noel Ahern, informed me last June that he would convey my strongly expressed views to the Minister. He said the project was at an early stage and that he needed to obtain approval for architectural planning if it was to start progressing quickly. I am disappointed that this is not being done in 2004.

I thank the Deputy for raising this matter as it gives me the opportunity to outline to the House the strategy of the Department of Education and Science for capital investment in education projects and also to outline the position regarding Kilfinane national school, Kilfinane, County Limerick.

Kilfinane national school is a co-educational primary school with a current enrolment of 134 pupils. Enrolments have decreased in recent years, from 163 pupils in the school year 1998-99 to 134 pupils in September 2003. The school has a current staffing of a principal, five mainstream teachers, one shared learning support teacher and one permanently based resource teacher. The original school, which was constructed in 1909, is subject to a preservation order.

The school authorities applied to the Department of Education and Science for capital grant aid to fund an extension and officials in the school planning section of the Department considered this application. The outcome of the deliberation was that the long-term accommodation needs of the school should be based on a teacher allocation of principal and five mainstream teachers plus a shared remedial teacher. A feasibility study was commissioned to examine the options for development at the school, that is, to establish if it would be preferable to upgrade and extend the present building or provide a new school on a greenfield site.

The feasibility study outlined a number of problems associated with remaining on the present site, for example, limited expansion possibilities and any planning application would have to reflect the listed status of the building. A possible new site was identified in the area and it was found to be generally suitable for the construction of a new school. The Office of Public Works, which acts on behalf of the Department in site acquisitions, was requested to commence negotiations for the purchase of the site. However, the diocese decided to purchase the site for the school and the Department understands that the diocese has now purchased the site. Once the site has been procured, the next step in the process is the commencement of architectural planning for a new school. Consideration will be given to this in the context of an overall review of projects which the Department referred to when publishing the 2004 school building programme.

At that time, the Department outlined that its strategy would be grounded in capital investment based on multi-annual allocations. Officials from the Department of Education and Science are reviewing all projects which were not authorised to proceed to construction as part of the 2004 school building programme with a view to including them as part of a multi-annual school building programme from 2005. The Department expects to be in a position to make further announcements on this matter in the course of the year. The 2004 school building programme at primary and post-primary level amounts to €387 million and outlines details of more than 200 large-scale projects proceeding to construction, 120 projects recently completed or under construction and more than 400 projects at different stages of the architectural planning process.

I thank the Deputy for giving me the opportunity to outline to the House the method used by the Department of Education and Science in determining in an open and transparent way how projects are included for funding in the school building programme. This school and all others will be treated in a fair and equitable manner.

The Dáil adjourned at 5.25 p.m. until 2.30 p.m. on Tuesday, 30 March 2004.