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Dáil Éireann debate -
Tuesday, 27 Apr 2004

Vol. 584 No. 2

Adjournment Debate.

EU Enlargement.

On Saturday next, 1 May, ten new countries will become full members of the European Union. It is a day that promises to be a wonderful occasion. Unfortunately the wishes of almost 450 million people will not be granted as only nine and a half countries will be joining. Some 313,704 people, or 75% of the voters in the southern part of Cyprus, balloted last weekend to exclude northern Cyprus from becoming a full member of the European Union. The United Nations Secretary General and his team have worked tirelessly over a long period of time in search of a solution to the Cyprus problem. Their efforts produced the Annan plan, which the Greek and Turkish Cypriots voted on last Saturday.

The plan presented a wonderful opportunity to unite the island and allow both communities entry to the European Union. I have had the pleasure on a number of occasions of visiting northern Cyprus. While it was obvious to me that their public relations was not as it should be, there is no need for any spin on last weekend's result. Greek Cypriots have deprived Turkish Cypriots of becoming members of the European Union. As a rule, countries seeking membership and who hold a referendum, give their people the opportunity to express their view. They are asked a simple question: "Would you like to become a member of the European Union or would you prefer not to?" Last weekend's referenda were so different. This time Greek Cypriots were asked to vote and regardless of the outcome they were guaranteed membership of the European Union. Not alone were they deciding on their own future, but also that of Turkish Cypriots. While Turkish Cypriots voted in large numbers to accept the Annan plan and become members of the European Union, Greek Cypriots voted three to one to keep them out. This was a despicable result and goes totally against the spirit of the European Union.

At yesterday's meeting of EU Foreign Ministers, disapproval of the Greek Cypriot action was clearly expressed. An agreement was made to provide aid to northern Cyprus, despite the fact that the Annan plan to reunite the island had failed. Reports from yesterday's meeting would indicate that €259 million of European moneys will be made available immediately. While this is welcome and gives some indication of the frustration many EU member states feel about last weekend's poll, it is simply not enough and much more needs to be done.

While it was reassuring to hear Commissioner Patten speak about the introduction of measures to prevent the economic isolation of the Turkish community, urgent action is now required. Last Saturday's result means that next weekend the European Union will admit as a new member a party which has voted against unification of the island. At the same time we will be leaving the Turkish Cypriots out in the cold, despite their vote and efforts to find a solution to the island's problem.

The embargo and restrictions which have prevented normal economic activity must be lifted. Turkish Cypriots expressed their view last weekend. They have clearly demonstrated a desire to participate as full members of the European family. As a result of the selfishness of more than 300,000 people, that wish has been prevented from becoming reality. We cannot continue to punish the people of northern Cyprus. The international community must respond now. The airports and ports must be opened up. We must allow the residents of northern Cyprus to export their produce to the rest of Europe. They must be allowed to import goods, as happens in all other democratic countries. Northern Cyprus has been forced to survive in an economic straitjacket. Those restrictions must now be removed. Turkish Cypriots must be given the same opportunities afforded their neighbours. All they now seek from the European Union is justice. I hope we will not be found wanting in that regard.

While I want to welcome the new members into the European family on 1 May, I hope last weekend's result and the tragedy it brought about may be rectified at the earliest opportunity.

I am taking this Adjournment debate on behalf of the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Cowen, who is abroad on EU Presidency business.

I am grateful to Deputy Seán Power for raising the important issue of the outcome of the referenda in Cyprus. As the House will be aware, the people of Cyprus voted in separate simultaneous referenda on 24 April on the settlement plan which was presented to the parties following negotiations, by the Secretary General of the United Nations. In the event, 75.8% of the electorate in the Greek Cypriot community voted against the plan, while 65% of Turkish Cypriots voted in favour.

The referenda were the culmination of a long and detailed negotiating process led by the United Nations. I would like to express the deep appreciation of the Government for the patient and determined efforts of Secretary General, Kofi Annan, and his team in the search for a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem. The EU supported the Secretary General fully and the Irish Presidency remained in touch with him throughout the difficult negotiations in recent months. The Taoiseach and the Minister for Foreign Affairs also maintained contact with the parties and with the Governments of Greece and Turkey, which each made a positive contribution to the process. In the end, however, the decision on the settlement properly rested with the people of Cyprus exercising their democratic rights.

Deputies will be aware that the clear preference of the European Union was for the accession to the EU of a united Cyprus. By agreement with the parties, and with the endorsement of the UN Security Council, this outcome could only be achieved through the approval of the settlement plan by both the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities. The Government regrets that in line with the outcome of the referenda, the accession of a united Cyprus will not now be possible on 1 May.

Cyprus will join the EU with the nine other new member states, but the application of the acquis communautaire will be suspended for the northern part of the island. This was the decision taken by the Copenhagen European Council in December 2002 in the event that a comprehensive settlement could not be reached by the date of formal accession.

I would like to assure the House that the European Union remains determined to ensure that the people of Cyprus will achieve their shared destiny as citizens of a united Cyprus in the European Union. We sincerely hope this day will not be long delayed.

The Turkish Cypriot community has expressed its clear desire for a future within the EU. There is a strong view across Europe that it should not now suffer as a result of the absence of the settlement it supported. The General Affairs and External Relations Council, which met in Luxembourg yesterday under the chairmanship of the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Cowen, expressed the determination of the EU to end the isolation of the Turkish Cypriot community and to facilitate the reunification of Cyprus by encouraging its economic development. We look forward to receiving comprehensive proposals from the Commission which focus on the economic integration of the island and on improving contact between the two communities and with the EU. The Council also decided yesterday that the €259 million which had been set aside for the northern part of Cyprus in the event of a settlement should now be used for this purpose.

There is a strong sympathy in this House and throughout the country for the people of Cyprus, of both communities. Ireland is proud to have played its part, in the interests of both communities, in the UN force in Cyprus, which was established in 1964 and is one of the longest running UN peacekeeping operations. Without drawing parallels between different political situations, we understand the challenge of working to overcome a history of bitter intercommunal division. We also understand the benefits and the potential for positive change offered by EU membership.

The Government fully respects the outcome of the referenda last weekend. We regret that the celebrations in Ireland this weekend to mark the historic enlargement of the European Union will not also involve the celebration of a united Cyprus in the Union. However, it should be clear, not least from the conclusions agreed by Ministers in Luxembourg yesterday, that the European Union is strongly committed to providing assurance to the Turkish Cypriot community that its future will be in a united Cyprus within the European Union.

Special Educational Needs.

I am grateful to have the opportunity to raise the important issue of the Department of Education and Science's inability to decide to accommodate in St. Dymphna's school in Ballina a child with moderate Down's syndrome. The Minister of State at the Department of Education and Science, Deputy de Valera, promised me in the Adjournment debate on 31 March 2004 that the matter would be given immediate attention with a view to finding an early resolution. Everybody agrees that this child should be in St. Dymphna's school — her parents, support worker, in-house adviser, the Western Care Association, the Down's Syndrome Association, the principal of St. Dymphna's school, the psychologist and the principal of Behy national school. They cannot all be wrong. The Department of Education and Science cannot make a decision on this. It is generally agreed also that St. Dymphna's is the best school for this child and that she should not go to St. Nicholas's school or mainstream national school, which is the choice given the parents. They believe the child will not do well at either of these schools. Her mother says the child is inclined to copy others and if she goes to a school for those with a moderate to severely-disabled learning difficulty she will regress from the advances she has made at the playschool she attended for two years.

St. Dymphna's school is for children with a mild learning disability but there are Down's syndrome children there too. The child's mother was anxious that the child would have some time in St. Dymphna's school before going to mainstream school but now she is in limbo. The child has been assessed as on the mild side of moderate and this raises the question of the assessment process. The Minister of State should examine whether one psychological assessment gives a true picture of where a child should be because it has such serious implications for the child and will determine her future. One psychological assessment is not sufficient. This is the view of the child's mother and of others to whom I have spoken. It must be considered.

The child's mother feels cheated by the decision to exclude her child from St. Dymphna's. Both parents believe they made an informed choice but that the choice has been taken from them. All concerned are happy to take the child into St. Dymphna's since she met the principal who, with the psychologist and others, is campaigning actively to have the child accepted in the school. This is the first time the school has had to refuse a child and people believe this is in some way due to cutbacks because the consensus is that this would be a good school for the child. To discover that the child could not go to St. Dymphna's was a serious blow, even a slap in the face, to her parents. Her mother feels she was undermined in making her decision. She says that if she brought her elder daughter, who is not learning disabled, to the local convent school and if she was accepted by the principal there it would be unfair for the Department of Education and Science to refuse entry to the child. If it is not right for the able-bodied child why is it right and fair for the disabled child?

Her mother says this is discrimination against disabled people and that the system has failed her daughter. She referred to the Special Olympics which filled everyone with joy and when people wanted to be associated with disabled people and help them. The Government was also associated with the games but less than a year later we hear of an action which appears to be a cutback. Parents continue to be frustrated in trying to get their children assessed. They wait a long time and are obliged to go to court to gain basic education rights for them. This cannot be right. The disability Bill will supposedly be rights-based and solve all of these problems but it has been delayed.

I am very grateful for the opportunity to raise this matter and urge the Minister of State to address this serious problem.

I thank Deputy Cowley for raising this matter and I can understand the frustration of the parents of Breege Molloy and sympathise with their problems in finding a suitable placement for her. Nobody here would prevent parents from seeking the best for their child. It is only right that parents should do so. It would be wrong of anyone here or outside the House to send out the message that this has anything to do with a cutback, quite the opposite. The Department of Education and Science has figures on what has been done for people with special needs. The Minister has done a great job in providing special needs assistants, remedial teachers and other supports.

Is there a limit on the number of assessments?

The Minister would be the first to say that while he has done a lot he would like to do much more.

A lot done, more to do.

His intention is to deliver a great deal more. It is important for anyone reading this debate and communicating with the child's parents to realise this is nothing to do with a cutback.

Is there a limit on the number of assessments?

The adjudication was based on an assessment. Deputy Cowley rightly referred to the Minister of State, Deputy de Valera, who, on behalf of the Department of Education and Science, outlined the position that Breege has been assessed by a psychologist as coming within the moderate range of general learning disability. In such cases, parents have the option of seeking a placement for their child in either a special or mainstream national school. Where a special school placement is the preferred choice, the usual option would be a special school dedicated to providing for children such as Breege with a moderate general learning disability.

In Ballina, the school designated for children with a moderate general disability is St. Nicholas's special school. Breege's parents, however, have sought to have her enrolled in St. Dymphna's special school, which is designated as a school for children with mild general learning disability. I can understand the parents' wishes in this regard.

The good news for the Deputy is that since he last raised the matter, a report and supporting documentation on the case have been received from the local district inspector and these are under active consideration. This will be completed very soon and officials from the Department of Education and Science will then be in contact with the school authorities. The Department will advise the Deputy of the outcome. I am optimistic that the Deputy and Breege's parents will be happy with the placement recommended. Let us not pre-empt the decision except to ensure that Breege is placed in the most appropriate and suitable school and that the decision is made as quickly as possible. I hope this clarifies the position for the Deputy and I thank him once again for raising the case in the House.

Health Board Services.

I wish to highlight the serious scarcity of dentists and the fact that many parents are being asked to go either to private dentists or to the North and pay between €3,000 and €5,000 for orthodontic treatment and lesser amounts for other treatments.

I received two queries on one day from opposite ends of my constituency. The first case related to a family living on the Border with south Armagh in which the youngest child needed orthodontic treatment. Other children in that family had been treated in previous years. The other case came from the opposite end of Cavan, in the difficult terrain of the mountains. Again, an older child in the family had previously received treatment to which the younger child had no access.

This problem is an indication of what has happened to our health service in recent years. We were able to give the necessary treatment to families at a time when resources were scarce. The economy is now bursting with funds. The Minister of State, Deputy Noel Ahern, who is present, can tell us all about dormant accounts and all the rest of it. However, people in relatively poor areas cannot get dental treatment for their children. A family across the Border in County Fermanagh, in the same situation as the family in Bawnboy, would receive treatment. The same is true of the family in Mullyash, County Monaghan; if they lived across the Border, their children would get treatment.

We are talking about creating a good society. I urge the Minister of State to ensure this situation is seriously examined. Small rural schools, in particular, are being badly hit. My secretary provided me with a long list from a variety of rural schools of children who cannot get attention. Bus services have been removed and now dental services are being removed. In the case of one 13 year old child, older members of the family were treated in less well-off times. Another child who is attending a denominational secondary school in Monaghan town which is quite a long distance from home cannot avail of free dental treatment. However, siblings of neighbouring children who are attending a school in Castleblaney can get free treatment.

I received all kinds of excuses in response to a letter I wrote to the health board. How does one tell somebody that children on one side of the hedge are not entitled to dental care because they go to a school of their own choice, yet children attending a different school can get treatment for the same needs. Another case I heard of relates to two children attending a single teacher school who are awaiting assessment. The siblings of another 11 year old child did receive treatment. A four-teacher school in a rural area was told in no uncertain terms that pupils would only be seen twice in the course of their primary school education; in first and sixth class.

Twelve children per month are seen in the clinic in Castleblaney; that is 144 per year. This is a crisis for many lower middle income families. I have sympathy with dental surgeons. The problem is not of their making. In response to a letter on this matter, the health board informed me:

Our normal operational policy is to screen and treat 3 classes in primary schools where resources permit. The target classes are 1st, 3rd or 4th and 6th classes. Children outside the target classes can obtain emergency dental care. The shortfall of dentists in particular has meant having to prioritise what target classes can be screened and treated.

Some of these schools do not get any inspection because they are single-teacher schools. This is a crisis. When money was scarce, we made sure our children were looked after. It is all right for those in wealthy families, but it is a crisis for those on low and middle incomes who have to go to credit unions to borrow money to get orthodontic and other treatments for their children. This should not be the reality in modern times when plenty of money appears to be available for everything else.

Deputy Crawford raised a number of questions. I am pleased to indicate that I have some positive responses to some of his questions. The provision of orthodontic treatment to eligible persons in the North Eastern Health Board area is the statutory responsibility of that board.

I note that, based on the waiting list data returned to my Department by the North Eastern Health Board, the situation in the board continues to improve. For example, between March 2002 and March 2004, the treatment waiting list in the board's area has been reduced by 40%, while there continues to be no waiting time for orthodontic assessment.

My Department and the North Eastern Health Board have worked hard to get more children orthodontic dental treatment. Our efforts have been rewarded. In March 2002, the chief executive officer of the North Eastern Health Board informed my Department that there were 2,365 children receiving treatment from the board and at the end of March 2004, the chief executive officer informed my Department that the number receiving treatment had increased to 2,808. This means an extra 443 children are receiving treatment under the board's orthodontic dental service.

The Minister is talking about the health board area but not about Cavan-Monaghan.

The question refers to the North Eastern Health Board. If the Deputy wants me to focus specifically on Cavan-Monaghan, I will be happy to do so, but I am responding to the question raised. If the Deputy wishes, I will ask the Department to try to obtain information based on the regions, or if he sends me a note on this matter, I would be happy to try to obtain the information sought for him.

In addition, the North Eastern Health Board anticipates that its community dental service will perform approximately 25,000 dental examinations this year, an increase of approximately 1,500 on the number provided in 2003.

I have taken a range of measures to improve the orthodontic services nationally and in the North Eastern Health Board. The grade of specialist in orthodontics has been created in the health board orthodontic dental service. The creation of this new grade will attract orthodontists to work in the health service on a long-term basis; ultimately, it will address the issues of recruitment and retention of staff in the health board orthodontic service.

In 2003, my Department and the health boards funded 13 dentists from various health boards for specialist in orthodontics qualifications at training programmes in Ireland and at three separate universities in the United Kingdom. These 13 trainees for the public orthodontic service are additional to the six dentists who commenced their training in 2001. Thus, there is an aggregate of 19 dentists, three of whom are being sponsored by the North Eastern Health Board, in specialist training for orthodontics. In addition, one specialist orthodontist successfully completed her training last year and is working in the board.

Furthermore, the commitment of my Department to training developments is manifested in the funding provided for the training of specialist clinical staff and the recruitment of a professor of orthodontics for Cork Dental School. This appointment at the school will facilitate the development of an approved training programme leading to specialist qualification in orthodontics. The chief executive officer of the Southern Health Board has reported that the professor commenced duty on 1 December 2003.

In recognition of the importance of this post at Cork Dental School, my Department has given approval in principle to a proposal from the school to further substantially improve the training facilities there for orthodontics. This project should see the construction of a large orthodontic dental unit and support facilities. It will ultimately support an enhanced teaching and treatment service to the wider region under the leadership of the professor of orthodontics.

In June 2002, my Department provided additional funding of €5 million from the treatment purchase fund to health boards specifically for the purchase of orthodontic treatment. This funding is enabling boards to provide additional sessions for existing staff and purchase treatment from private orthodontic practitioners. The North Eastern Health Board was allocated an additional €421,000 from this fund for the treatment of cases in this way. My Department has also funded the development of modern regional orthodontic units at Dundalk and Navan.

I mentioned that 2,808 patients were receiving treatment in the board at the end of March 2004. Orthodontics is unique in that the treatment period for a child is an average of two years. Each year thousands of children, with varying degrees of need, are placed on the board's assessment waiting list. This presents challenges for service delivery and will continue to do so. However, the number of children receiving treatment in the North Eastern Health Board's orthodontic service represents a good performance. It demonstrates the board's determination to reduce the waiting time for treatment and to ensure more children receive treatment. I am also pleased to note that there is only a waiting time of six to eight weeks for children with the most serious orthodontic conditions. I note Deputy Crawford is shaking his head. If the facts and figures I have are incorrect, I would welcome it if he would communicate that to me. I look forward to receiving such a communication.

Community Development.

I welcome the opportunity to raise the unique situation that prevails in the town of Rathkeale, County Limerick, one I have raised over a number of years but to which I have found little positive response from the powers that be at national level. I thank the Minister of State for taking this matter.

Rathkeale is a unique town in the Irish context. It has specific problems which are not found elsewhere. These problems arise from the presence of two distinct communities in the town. Some 45% of the population of Rathkeale are members of the Traveller community and 55% are members of the settled community. Both communities live together with a high level of understanding of each other, friendship and a level of tolerance as there are two cultures in the area. In Rathkeale there are nothing like the difficulties that are experienced in other places where there are sizeable Traveller communities. One does not hear of flashpoints, riots or anything like those problems. Rathkeale is a peaceful town and the crime rate is low.

There are difficulties because of the two communities in the town but there are not the type of difficulties one might expect, such as those that have been experienced in other communities which would not have anywhere near the level of mixture of the two communities found in Rathkeale. Given the mixture of the two communities, economic and social difficulties have arisen which need to be addressed and should have been addressed long ago.

The needs of Rathkeale have been ignored. People at national level do not want to hear about the difficulties there. The local county council has made some efforts to examine the situation but they have not amounted to anything worthwhile. When I was elected to Limerick County Council almost 18 years ago, I remember representatives of a group of Departments, including the Departments of Health, Education and the Environment, and representatives of Limerick County Council and the Mid-Western Health Board had a meeting on how to handle Rathkeale. Everybody concerned abandoned the project except Limerick County Council, which eventually came up with one of the many reports on the situation in Rathkeale. At national level, representatives with the highest level of expertise from the Minister of State's Department and other Departments, including the Departments of Education and Science, Health and Children and the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, should meet to examine the situation and to ascertain how assistance can be given to the town to help it develop commercially and socially.

I want to kill the myth of the possible integration of the Traveller community and the settled community. That is not a runner and never will be. Anyone who understands the Traveller community like I do will understand that it is not a runner. Members of the Traveller community do not want that and I can understand why they do not want it.

Some 12% of the population of Rathkeale reside in caravans or mobile homes compared to 1% of the population of County Limerick. I want to outline some statistics on the problems in the town. According to a survey of Traveller families, 159 families live in caravans parked in Rathkeale. The population of the town has declined from 1,879 in 1981 to 1,546 in 1996. There is a declining population in the town at a time when the population of the surrounding area has increased by 50%. A major feature of the town is the size of the Traveller population. There is a high level of unemployment in the town with one in four being unemployed, most of whom are young and range in age up to 25 years and they are not members of the Traveller community.

The town has a high proportion of semi-skilled and unskilled workers, who number 36% compared to 25% in other areas of County Limerick and other countries. Rathkeale suffers from high rates of long-term and youth unemployment. One in five over the age of 15 are unemployed or seeking work for the first time. This is three times the national average. The rate of unemployment among Travellers is not particularly high, as they are employed in trading and similar activities. Some 12% of the population reside in caravans. A quarter of the houses in Rathkeale were built prior to 1999. There has been a decline in the school going population. In Rathkeale a higher proportion of young people, 43%, finish formal education at primary level, as opposed to 22% in County Limerick. There is a need to examine the difficulties there.

There is a further problem in that there are very poor Travellers. There are Travellers who reside in Rathkeale whom people in the town call "our own Travellers" and there are Travellers who come to the town with wads of money to buy properties and then close them. That has created difficulties in the town.

The people of the town need incentives to improve housing and investment in retail and commercial development. A sociological study is also needed to examine how both communities can be best managed. I do not have the answers to the difficulties but officials from the Minister of State's Department with a high level expertise need to visit the town in the near future to examine the situation and to recommend the introduction of necessary incentives.

I discovered today that broadband connection will not be introduced to Rathkeale even though it will introduced to Newcastlewest and Abbeyfeale. This is another case of Rathkeale being ignored again. I thank the Leas-Cheann Comhairle for his tolerance.

I accept what Deputy Neville said about Rathkeale. I am replying to this matter from an urban renewal perspective. Rathkeale is unique and there is probably no single solution to the difficulties there.

Limerick County Council had proposed Rathkeale for designation under the 1999 urban renewal scheme. However, in common with several other smaller towns, the proposal for Rathkeale did not obtain a recommendation approval from the expert panel established to assess the plans submitted. Guidelines for the urban renewal scheme made it clear that in selecting areas, local authorities were expected to give priority to areas in cities and towns with strong urban characteristics and that towns with a population of less than 6,000 would find it difficult to qualify. Rathkeale's population at the time was just over 1,500. However, the expert panel recognised that the design of the urban renewal scheme did not address the needs of smaller towns such as Rathkeale and recommended that a future scheme designed for such towns be considered. It was this recommendation that provided the impetus for the town renewal scheme introduced in 2000.

The town renewal scheme was, therefore, aimed at towns with populations of between 500 and 6,000. The goals of the scheme are to: promote sustainable development patterns; counteract population movement from towns to the surrounding countryside; combat dereliction; and revitalise designated towns as commercial and social centres through the implementation of town renewal plans by the relevant local authority.

Rathkeale was one of five towns in County Limerick proposed by the county council for participation in the scheme and, in accordance with the guidelines issued by my Department, the council prepared a town renewal plan in which it identified key strategic sites for tax relief designation to act as a catalyst for its successful implementation. The expert panel, in this case, recommended that 29 sites in Rathkeale be designated for a range of refurbishment or new-build incentives in respect of commercial and residential development. Rathkeale has had the benefit of these tax incentives for the past four years.

In order to enhance the scheme further, residential investor relief, commonly referred to as section 23 relief, was extended in 2001 to all sites that had previously been designated for owner-occupier relief. In Rathkeale, 15 sites, which already had the benefit of owner-occupier incentives, could now also avail of section 23 relief for expenditure incurred on residential new build or refurbishment projects.

The qualifying period for the scheme was also extended on two occasions, most recently from 31 December 2004 to 31 July 2006 in the budget. There is a requirement that projects which wish to avail of the extension must submit a full planning application to the relevant planning authority on or before 31 December 2004 and, in the case of exempted development, 5% of project expenditure incurred and contracts signed before that date. I accept that the scheme has not been hugely successful in Rathkeale.

The designation included the Garda barracks.

I understand that perhaps only one site is under consideration for development.

The original proposal was butchered and made useless.

Rathkeale has also benefited in recent years under the EU co-financed operational programme for local, urban and rural development, operated under the aegis of my Department, receiving direct funding from the council of almost €65,000 for urban enhancement and local amenity projects in recent years. It should also be borne in mind that, in addition to the tax relief and grant schemes operated by my Department, there are a number of support schemes in operation by a number of other Departments.

I accept what the Deputy said but some local group, be it the council or whatever, tried to——

There is an excellent community council there.

No, I am referring to the county council. I have given the Deputy details of what we have been doing but, for whatever reason, it is not working.

The Deputy is aware that support is available under the Leader community initiative and the CLÁR programme. He stated that the population in Rathkeale is in decline. CLÁR is specifically meant for areas like Rathkeale.

No area in west Limerick received CLÁR funding.

Leader and CLÁR provide funding support for village enhancement schemes and local authority housing estate enhancement schemes as part of the overall objective of improving the rural environment and quality of life. There are also other ways in which support can be provided.

I accept what the Deputy said but I do not know if the solution to the problem lies solely within the remit of a single Department.He stated that the county council was trying to suck in support from other Departments and agencies. I will make further inquiries but a strong body is required at the centre to suck in support from outside, I do not believe that any Department will——

It has to come from a Department.

We would work through the council but the latter must work as the sponsoring group.

That was tried but it did not work.

I will discuss the matter with my officials. However, I believe the matter will have to be dealt with locally and attempts will also have to be made to draw support from Departments. I do not believe it will start at departmental level.

The Dáil adjourned at 9.15 p.m. until 10.30 a.m. on Wednesday, 28 April 2004.