Adjournment Debate.

Mental Health Services.

This debate refers to the position of 230 people with intellectual disabilities who are accommodated in St. Ita's Hospital, Portrane, which was built in 1900. I am sick and tired of the neglect of St. Ita's and the ongoing broken promises of the Government to the needs of people who have minimal political influence. Over the past 25 years the health board, with the approval of the Department of Health and Children, has embarked on a programme to run down St. Ita's with a promise of alternative accommodation. As a result, there has been little or no maintenance and the residents and staff are living with the consequences on a dally basis. This is not good enough.

The Declaration on the Rights of Mentally Retarded Persons, adopted by the United Nations, states that people with a mental handicap have the same basic rights as any other citizens. The residents of St. Ita's have been short-changed. The Department of Health and Children is aware of the situation. The Taoiseach, Deputy Bertie Ahern, visited the hospital as far back as 1996. The Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children, Deputy Tim O'Malley, has visited the hospital several times and while he is proactive in providing services, we await them still. Annual reports of the Inspector of Mental Hospitals are available to the Department which is well aware that many of the recommendations have not been implemented. There have been "Prime Time" specials on RTE, and Vincent Browne has continually highlighted these problems on his radio show. I compliment him on maintaining the pressure over the years. Anne Ryan brought a case to Europe and trade unions have consistently highlighted the inadequacies of the hospital.

On 9 November 1998, the then Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Cowen, announced with great fanfare a major development project for St. Ita's Hospital which had already been approved by the Northern Area Health Board and which awaits finance. This project provided for 60 places at a bungalow-type facility to be built on the campus at St. Ita's. The day and other therapy services were to be relocated on campus and upgraded. Some of the existing units were also to be refurbished to provide appropriate accommodation for the remaining elderly residents. We await a significant response to this. I have a copy of a diary of assurances received by St. Joseph's Associates for the Mentally Handicapped in respect of the new campus complex which the management of various health boards made to them. More than six years later, a spade has yet to turn a sod. Will that ever happen?

The Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children, Deputy Tim O'Malley, in a written reply on 8 July 2004 stated that his Department was considering the project in the context of determining capital priorities in line with overall funding resources. On the basis of this reply, I would not hold my breath. Hopefully, the Minister may be in a position to reassure me tonight. As far back as 1998 it was envisaged that the projects would be part-funded by revenue from the sale of hospital lands. The sale money must be used for this purpose and I ask the Minister for State at the Department of Health and Children, Deputy Tim O'Malley to ensure it is used in St. Ita's Hospital, notwithstanding what his senior Minister, Deputy Harney, may have said on other aspects of the health board. I am deeply concerned by the contents of a section of a report, St. Ita's Hospital site development and disposal strategy, for the Northern Area Health Board which came out last year. The report states realisation of the planning permission for the St. Joseph's residential development, about which we are speaking, may constrain the development opportunities of the site.

I have grave concerns about the net effect of this statement. It is time for the Government to deliver on its promises to people with intellectual disabilities. Nothing less is acceptable. We have the opportunity to secure the finance and I ask the Minister of State to pursue that vigorously in Government and to be out there within the next six months or so to turn the sod on this complex.

On behalf of my colleague, the Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Harney, I thank Deputy Seán Ryan for raising the matter and giving me the opportunity to outline the position concerning this issue. My Department has since 1997 allocated significant levels of funding to the disability sector which has resulted in significant and unprecedented developments in the quality and quantity of the health related services provided to people with disabilities. Additional revenue and capital funding of €388 million has been provided for intellectual disability and autism services since 1997. This has provided a broad range of new service developments and in particular has enabled the health boards to make significant progress in the provision of alternative accommodation and enhanced levels of support for persons with intellectual disability and those with autism resident in psychiatric hospitals and other inappropriate settings.

Between 1999 and 2003 additional revenue funding of €10.4 million and €28.4 million capital was allocated to provide more appropriate care settings for persons with an intellectual disability, those with autism accommodated in psychiatric hospitals, those accommodated in de-designated units which were formerly designated as psychiatric services, and others who moved some years ago from psychiatric hospitals to alternative accommodation which is now unsuitable for their needs.

The new accommodation includes community-based homes and a number of residential and day complexes. The data from the 2003 annual report of the national intellectual database indicate that there were 494 individuals resident in psychiatric hospitals. This is down from 571 in 2001 and from 970 in 1996. The report also indicates that of this group, 330 individuals with intellectual disability accommodated in psychiatric hospitals have service requirements in the period 2004-08, with 307 of these having an appropriate alternative residential facility identified for them. The Northern Area Health Board has been working for many years to provide alternative appropriate care settings for people with intellectual disability in the St. Joseph's intellectual disability service.

The provision of the residential and day services complex for 60 persons resident in the St. Joseph's services is one of the key capital priorities for my Department. This development is ready to go to tender. However, one issue which has to be resolved before it can proceed further is the sourcing of the additional revenue funding associated with this development. My Department is continuing to work with the Eastern Regional Health Authority to progress this project in the context of the multi-annual revenue and capital investment programme for disability specific support services recently announced as part of the national disability strategy. I am well aware of the Deputy's interest in this matter and I agree with many of the sentiments expressed. I will do everything I can to bring the points raised to fruition.

Job Losses.

I would like to share my time with Deputy Carty.

I am delighted to see the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment here tonight. Last Monday was a terrible day for the town of Westport. There were 240 permanent and 85 temporary job losses, totalling 325. In a town with a population of just over 5,000, this is a devastating blow. It is a tragedy for the workers who will lose their jobs. It is also a big blow to the local economy, not alone to the people affected directly, but also those who will be affected indirectly. There are many other company suppliers and hauliers who will be affected by this. I call on the Minister to come and meet the management and staff of that company. He must talk to the company so that it can give him reassurances and that he can give the staff reassurances that the existing 650 jobs are secure. Mayo County Council and IDA Ireland have bought some land and I call on the Minister to put the funding in place immediately to get that development park up and running.

I compliment the staff of Allergan. Allergan has been a good employer in Westport and has been there for over 27 years. However, the town of Westport and the workforce have also been very good to Allergan. I saw a headline in the Irish Independent today which claimed that Allergan Ireland was heading for a €25 million profit this year due to an increase in Botox sales. Therefore, the Irish people, the community of Westport and the workforce have all been good for Allergan. It is important that it stays and that the existing jobs are secure.

Over the years, Allergan has put major investment into the town and it has got the return from the workforce. I compliment the manager, Colm O'Neill, who is committed to Allergan, the staff and the town. I spoke to him on Monday and he did not like delivering this bad news because he has been there on days when a lot of good news has been delivered regarding jobs.

Allergan is a big employer in my town and 350 job losses in a town like Westport is a massive blow. I ask the Minister to make Westport a priority with IDA Ireland. IDA Ireland should come and promote Westport and Mayo because over the past few years it has failed the town and the county. The Government has a policy on discrimination towards the west, particularly our region. It does not seem to have happened with jobs. As it is an area with Objective One status, I ask the Minister to make every effort to get replacement jobs for the town. The first step is to allocate the money needed for the development park. The Minister should also talk to the State agencies in Mayo. Many companies are coming under pressure from stealth taxes. A lot of pressure is being applied to small businesses. The Minister and his Department have a very important job to do. They have to look at what is happening in this country. Allergan is taking some of its manufacturing work out of Ireland and sending it abroad to China, India and Spain. In the past, we saw these companies coming into our country, but this is the first time we have seen a company like Allergan take workers out of the country. It is important that we protect what we have, such as the 650 jobs in Westport. It is important the Minister and his Department look at the cost factor involved.

I thank Deputy Ring for giving me time to speak on this issue and I welcome the Minister to this debate. It shows he realises the seriousness of the situation in Mayo, especially in Westport. What happened on Monday was a terrible blow. I offer my sympathy to the staff of Allergan who will be made redundant. It is terrible for them and especially for a company like Allergan, which has given such good employment to people in and around Westport and the county. It will have serious repercussions for several service companies. I ask the Minister to come to Westport in the near future to appraise the situation for himself. I welcome the fact that a technology park will be developed there. I hope the Minister has some definite views on that. He should emphasise to IDA Ireland that industry should be located in Westport.

I wish the Minister well on his appointment and thank him for coming into the House tonight. To have the senior Minister here for what is a serious blow to Westport and Mayo reflects the seriousness of the situation. This announcement of jobs is different from what we have experienced in Ireland. Many of the job losses we have experienced to date have been in the textile business, where it is cheaper to locate such businesses in the Far East due to labour costs. This is the first time such an announcement was made in the pharmaceutical business, which is the type of job we have tried to attract into Ireland because it is high-skilled. With the health care industry, it is an area in which we have been very competitive in the past few years.

I am particularly disappointed for the town of Westport because of the social and economic implications that this decision will have in the town. To put it in context, Allergan is an employer of 1,000 people in a town with a population of 5,000. It is like losing 2,000 to 3,000 jobs in Dublin. It is a huge blow because this company has been a decent employer that paid well for 27 years. In many cases, there are husbands and wives both working in the plant. One can only imagine the implications that that will have for individual families. I welcome the fact that the Minister has stated that he will focus the attention of Government agencies on Westport in County Mayo. It is Government policy that 50% of all new jobs created in the country are located in the BMW region. The Minister should look at the performances of Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland in County Mayo for the years 2002 and 2003. We have had net job losses for both those years of 366 and 87 jobs, respectively. This is where we are supposed to be benefiting from positive discrimination.

Jobs are being lost in Allergan now as a result of a decision taken in 2002. We have known since then of the company's difficulties, but we did not think that the issue would come to a head until April or May 2005. What have IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland been doing in the interim to ensure that the jobs can be replaced? The Government's decentralisation programme benefits County Mayo, thankfully, but why does it not benefit the town of Westport? Westport Town Council and Mayo County Council submitted a proposal for the decentralisation of jobs to Westport to the Government for its consideration.

Allergan is reliant on the condition of our road infrastructure, especially the N5. Approximately 63% or 64% of the money allocated to the Border, midland and west region for roads has been spent, which is much less than that recommended under the national development plan. County Mayo is starved of the infrastructure it needs. IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland have stated that they are having difficulties locating jobs in County Mayo because of its inadequate infrastructure and energy resources, which I hope will be alleviated by the supply from the Corrib gas field in the years and months ahead.

I welcome Allergan's commitment to investing in its Westport facility in recent years. Its Westport plant is its largest centre of employment outside its home base in the United States. I do not doubt that the company is extremely committed to Westport.

I agree with Deputies Ring and Carty that a visit from the Minister would be welcome. It would be useful if he could arrange a meeting with representatives of the company in the immediate future, even if it were not held in Westport. It is important that Allergan officials should know that the company is supported by the Government and State agencies. We need to do all we can to ensure that this devastating blow for Westport is minimised.

I sympathise with the factory's employees who will be faced with voluntary redundancies. While it is a sad day for Allergan, I acknowledge that it has given 27 years of commitment to Westport. It will continue to have a presence in the town, as 630 Allergan jobs will remain there.

Will the Minister focus on the role of the Government agencies? We need a serious commitment, rather than a hollow gesture.

I thank the Ceann Comhairle for allowing me to discuss this important matter on the Adjournment. I wish the Minister well in his new job. The commitment of Allergan to Westport is clear, as it has invested in the town for 27 years. Like my colleagues, my heart goes out to Allergan's workers and their families, who are the subject of our immediate concern. The loss of so many Allergan jobs is a devastating blow to the area because people from many places in west Mayo other than Westport, such as Louisburgh, Mulranny and Achill, are employed at the plant. It is incumbent on Allergan to deal fairly and generously with its loyal employees who have been a central part of its success, as the company's officials will readily admit. I trust that Allergan will look after its workers because its managing director, Mr. Colm O'Neill, is a very honourable man who has been a good employer in the area.

New jobs are urgently needed to replace those which have been lost and the Minister should consider what he can do to that end. I hope he will act more quickly than his Government and previous Governments have done in similar circumstances in the past. There has been no sign of the investment that is needed in the west. That the section of the N5 between Castlebar and Westport will not be completed until 2018 is a typical example not only of the problems faced by the region but also of the Government's priorities. Although Allergan has been damaging its goods for years while transporting them along the N5, it has stuck with the western region, unlike the Government.

There is a need for a root and branch review of the policies of IDA Ireland. There have been many job losses in all areas between Donegal and Cork. Why do such lay-offs always seem to take place in the west? It is a great difficulty.

I cannot understand why there has not been a commitment to bringing the gas which will enter this country at the Mayo coast to major towns such as Ballina, Castlebar, Westport and Claremorris which had gas 80 years ago, but not now. I wish the Government would address the infrastructural deficit in the west. The mid-term review of the national development plan found that there has been an under-spend of €1.8 billion in the BMW region.

We need to be competitive if we are to attract sustainable jobs. While it is wonderful that Allergan is based in Westport, we want the jobs which are being created in every other region. We do not want to be given the jobs which are not wanted anywhere else, but they seem to be coming our way. I am amazed that Westport, which made a strong application for inclusion in the decentralisation programme, was not even considered. That regrettable decision should be re-examined.

I can cite many figures to defend my argument. If one examines this country's economic growth in recent years, one will see that while net industrial output increased by 14.6% per annum between 1991 and 1998, the equivalent figure for the western region was just 4.5%. It is an amazing difference. The west suffered 25% of national job losses in State-assisted companies between 2001 and 2002. The clear answer to these problems has been clearly outlined by the Western Development Commission. The Government needs to invest to address the western region's infrastructure deficit. It should support the regional enterprise strategy which fosters research and knowledge-based activities. It must assist the construction and expansion of the high-tech services sector and support traditional manufacturing sectors.

I wonder about the many grants which are allocated to Dublin-based interests. Why does the Minister not make it more attractive for industry to come to the west? Many graduates from the west of Ireland live in Dublin because they cannot get employment in their local areas. Of the total, 62% must work in counties Dublin, Kildare and Wicklow whereas just 9.8% of them stay in counties Galway, Mayo and Roscommon. The Government seems to have forgotten that there is a need for balanced regional development. I appreciate that the Minister, Deputy Martin, is new to this portfolio, but there are figures to prove that the proportion of net industrial output in the west is abysmal at just 7% compared with 26.7% in each of the Dublin and south-east areas. It is time for this matter to be addressed. If one examines the gross value added, or GVA, of goods produced in the region, one will see that the average output per person in the west is -23.8%, which is significantly below the national average.

The national development plan was supposed to lead to the delivery of investment and infrastructure through the economic and social infrastructure operational programme, but that has not happened. It has been a total and utter failure. Similarly, no serious attempts have been made to increase the availability of broadband in the region. We want action instead of words because there have been too many words over the years. Our graduates still have to leave; that is the difficulty.

The Indecon mid-term review of the national development plan proves that the west is under-developed. We know exactly what is needed. We need the support which we have not been getting. We want to be competitive so that we can keep our people. The Minister knows what is needed, so I urge him to get on with it. He should not forget about the Allergan employees. He must come to Westport to meet them and assure those who have jobs that they will retain them. I ask him to ensure that Westport's industry will not depend totally on multinationals. All of our eggs should not be in the multinational basket. Will the Minister consider what he can do about traditional industry?

I thank Deputies Ring, Carty, Cooper-Flynn and Cowley for raising this matter on the Adjournment. The announcement on Monday of the proposed job losses at Allergan Pharmaceuticals in Westport is a major blow to the company's workers and their families. I express my sympathy to the workers who will lose their jobs and to their families. I am conscious of the adverse effects, as outlined by the Deputies, of the lay-offs on the surrounding area. I understand that the job losses follow the company's loss of a manufacturing contract for contact lens solution products. The company stated that it is confident that it will be able to ensure the future success of the Westport facility, despite the job losses, with the introduction of further products to be manufactured in the plant. I welcome that commitment.

Allergan has a strong record over the past 27 years, as the Deputies have articulated. It has demonstrated its commitment to its workforce and the Westport area. I want to work with the company and I will meet its local management to that end. I do not yet have a date for that meeting because a range of meetings are being lined up over the next six weeks. I want to meet the company's officials and to visit the local area in due course. The Deputies can rest assured of my commitment to work with the company as part of its future development.

I assure the House that every effort will be made by FÁS and the State development agencies to find alternative employment for those who have been made redundant. FÁS has contacted the company to inform it that its full range of support services is available to those who will lose their jobs. Those include top-level agreement with the company on responsibilities and actions; intensive interviews, individually or in groups, with affected workers, which would outline the range of supports and services available; preparation of a skills analysis report by FÁS, based on identified workers' needs and local opportunities. In addition, FÁS will refer workers to training courses or other options. The agency will establish special or customised training courses where necessary and will provide ongoing support and action to keep redundant workers in touch with the labour market.

IDA Ireland continues actively to promote the Westport region to potential investors from a variety of sectors, including manufacturing and international services, through its network of overseas offices and project divisions, with every effort being made to secure new investment for the area. In addition to targeting potential new projects, IDA Ireland continues to work with the existing base of companies in the region with a view to supporting such companies with potential expansion and diversification of activities. To continue to improve its attractiveness as a location for inward investment — a key point — IDA Ireland has acquired 37 acres from Mayo County Council in Westport and plans to develop the site into a business and technology park. Phase one of the site development will involve an IDA investment of approximately €3 million, and a contractor has been appointed to go on site early this month. I see it as a key element of having an attractive package to offer a prospective investor or company, and it demonstrates the IDA's commitment to Westport that it has embarked on this initiative.

The agency has also completed development of a new business and technology park on a 16-acre site in Castlebar and has secured advance planning permission for the construction of three 19,500 sq. ft. privately financed technology buildings in the park. At Ballina, the IDA is in negotiation with Mayo County Council for the purchase of 27 acres on the Sligo Road for the development of a business and technology park which will be a key addition to the infrastructure of north Mayo.

I take the point made by the Deputies that we must bring all the agencies into play. Enterprise Ireland has already indicated the availability of its staff to visit the company for discussions regarding supporting entrepreneurship and potential start-ups and will work with IDA Ireland, the county enterprise board and FÁS in that regard. Enterprise Ireland will work with other agencies in the region to provide appropriate supports to assist those workers who have lost their jobs in finding alternative employment. The agency continues to work with its client companies in Westport and elsewhere in County Mayo to assist them to grow their sales and exports and improve innovation so that they can compete on world markets, and encourages companies to adopt new technologies to add value to their products and services.

Enterprise Ireland supports job creation through supporting entrepreneurs in setting up new high-potential start-up companies, the retention and creation of new jobs in existing companies and enhancing the innovation capability of Ireland at a national and regional level through support for research in companies and third level institutions. Since the beginning of 2003, Enterprise Ireland has approved funding of more than €2.5 million and made payments of more than €1 million for projects for client companies in County Mayo.

As part of encouraging high-potential start-up companies in the region, Enterprise Ireland has also supported a one-year incubation programme for entrepreneurs in third level colleges in the region. This business accelerator programme, known as the Enterprise platform programme, is designed to provide hands-on support and management development for entrepreneurs who wish to start their own business.

To ensure its effectiveness, Enterprise Ireland is represented on a broad range of committees in the county, including Mayo County Enterprise Board, Mayo County Enterprise Board evaluation committee, Mayo County Development Board, Mayo County Development Board job creation and economic development working group, the western regional authority and the BMW operations committee. In working with those committees, Enterprise Ireland consistently promotes the development needs of indigenous industry. I echo Deputy Cowley's point that it is the other side of the equation, although the two are linked. Many indigenous companies develop as a consequence of foreign direct investment coming to a specific region, and there can be a good, strong interrelationship between them. We need not throw one out for the sake of the other; they are not mutually exclusive.

The agency has been working with the local authorities in the west region to urge them to become involved in the development and provision of broadband infrastructure. That has been successful, with Ballina and Kiltimagh being approved for metropolitan rings, along with Galway and Roscommon. Those are now in place, and a company has been appointed to manage them. Anything that the Government can do on that directly it has done.

The existing 35 city and county enterprise boards provide a new source of support for small businesses with ten employees or fewer. The function of the boards is to develop indigenous enterprise potential and to stimulate economic activity at local level. The boards support individuals, firms and community groups, provided that the projects have the capacity to achieve commercial viability. The boards exist alongside a number of other nationally and locally delivered supports for micro-enterprises, including Enterprise Ireland and local LEADER groups, which support small enterprise outside the main cities.

Since the Mayo County Enterprise Board was established, it has assisted in the establishment of 495 new small businesses in the county through the provision of approximately €3.5 million in grant-aid. Cumulatively, those enterprises have created 1,030 new full-time jobs and 242 part-time jobs in the county. The board has also provided business advice and training programmes to more than 2,000 persons involved in the operation of micro-enterprises in County Mayo, involving an expenditure by the board of more than €1.3 million.

Under the current National Development Plan 2000-2006, Mayo County Enterprise Board has delivered business training programmes specifically in the Westport area to more than 150 people and has approved €187,000 to 26 projects in the region, with an associated potential of approximately 100 jobs. To respond to what Deputies Carty, Ring, Cooper-Flynn and Cowley raised about agencies working together, they are fully committed to ensuring an equal distribution of job creation opportunities and encouraging the establishment of industry in the regions, in particular the Border, midlands and west region, which includes Westport.

When one is attracting foreign direct investment into the country, the first task is to get firms interested in Ireland. There is great global competition from such countries as Singapore and Switzerland, and issues range from tax to skills. Once we have them attracted to Ireland, the next step is to interest people in the region. The development of infrastructural packages is important, particularly in the technology and industrial parks. The IDA has a clear strategy on that front. Enterprise Ireland is developing a forward strategy in line with the enterprise strategy group to strengthen indigenous performance, particularly regarding the internationalisation of skills and marketing, so that they can sell their goods abroad and secure a toehold in foreign markets, thereby strengthening the base of the company, as well as with research and development support, which is critical for indigenous enterprise.

As I said to Deputies, Carty, Ring, Cooper-Flynn and Cowley, I am committed to visiting Mayo, subject to my tight diary, which is the only issue. In the interim, I can assure them that the State development agencies have all been contacted and will continue to work together and with local interests in promoting Westport and County Mayo for job creation and additional investment for the region.

The Dáil adjourned at 9.30 p.m. until 10.30 a.m. on Thursday, 4 November 2004.