Priority Questions.

Job Losses.

Phil Hogan


1 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the action he intends to take to stem the tide of job losses in the manufacturing sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6428/05]

World trade, global investment flows and consumer decisions influence the pattern of economic growth, company development and job prospects here. In recent years I recognise that Irish manufacturing firms, particularly in the more traditional sectors, have operated against a backdrop of significant downward price pressure and an increasingly competitive international environment. I have to recognise that some firms, which are unable to generate sustainable returns from the modern Irish economy, will inevitably be attracted by lower cost environments abroad.

In the same period we have become a more sophisticated and developed economy, where technology and intellectual endeavour are becoming more important than simple cost competitiveness as the foundation for future enterprise and growth. A process of structural evolution is inevitable as our economy maintains a dynamism to grow and expand employment across different sectors. This inevitably brings some plant transfers and other adjustments. Because of the importance of manufacturing, we cannot afford to be complacent about any consistent erosion in employment in such an important economic sector, nor about the impact on employees affected. Manufacturing remains at the heart of overseas investment and is likely to do so for a considerable time.

While there is no denying that manufacturing employment has declined we must view these losses against employment expansion in the broader economy. The latest quarterly national household survey, quarter 3, 2004, shows that the total at work rose by 57,400 to more than 1.893 million in the year. Total employment has increased in each of the past five years. Some 227,800 more people or an extra 13.7% were at work in the June to August quarter last year, than in the corresponding period in 1999. This is a remarkable achievement at a time when there is considerable debate and comment about the impact of competition from lower wage economies on employment levels in developed economies.

The focus of enterprise policy must concentrate on developing sophisticated activities that will justify continued levels of high income and productivity. These will allow us to maintain current levels of economic growth and living standards. Key to this is greater and more intensive investment in skill levels and a concentration on activities that are innovation based rather than production led. It is up to entrepreneurs to make these decisions, but it is the role of Government to design the framework conditions that will help them succeed and maintain an economy in which it is attractive to do profitable business in and from Ireland.

Additional information not given on the floor of the House.

For manufacturing and the services sector, sustainable employment will be based on competitiveness, higher productivity and the application of technology and skill in both existing and new enterprises. The challenge for my Department's agencies is to assist companies move into higher value added activities and help up-skill employees that will provide more sustainable employment. The enterprise development agencies have been clearly mandated to align their operations around this policy objective.

The enterprise strategy group recognised the potential for high value added manufacturing to be a key driver of employment and growth in the future as part of a new strategic direction for the economy. Earlier today, I announced the main findings of the Government concerning implementation of the ESG recommendations in which advanced manufacturing will play an important part. As part of this process I will make regular reports to Government on progress in implementing the ESG's prescriptions, which are imperative to providing the enterprise economy with the momentum for continued prosperity and profitability.

I asked the Minister what action he intends to take to stem some of the recent job losses in the manufacturing sector. We are all aware of the progress made in recent years and the level of job creation. However, during the past three months there have been a number of job losses as follows: 220 at Circum Solutions in Clondalkin, 70 at Smurfit Papermills in Clonskeagh, 55 at Parian China in Ballyshannon, 250 at Greencore in Carlow, 350 at Allergan in Westport, 200 at APW Enclosures in Tallaght and an announcement that 150 jobs will be lost at Castlemahon Foods in Limerick. That is a total of 1,094 job losses in the past three months and a worrying trend in the manufacturing sector. We have been warning for many years of the cost base required for Ireland to enable it compete against lower cost-based countries in the Far East, eastern Europe and China. The Minister will be aware from his recent trips, particularly the one to China, of the huge challenge for the manufacturing sector. I ask the Minister to co-ordinate a series of policies to keep costs down, not the 27 stealth taxes and charges introduced in recent years which need to be put aside. Waste management and energy are serious cost issues and there is not enough competition in the telecommunictions area. Will the Minister outline his proposals for policy changes to ensure Ireland is competitive in the manufacturing sector?

Earlier today I announced the Government's consideration of the enterprise strategy group's report and the endorsement of the broad thrust of its recommendations. That will involve a fundamental and significant restructuring of Enterprise Ireland's structures, so far as they pertain to overseas marketing and the supports it can give to Irish small and medium-size companies in terms of internationalisation. The internationalisation agenda will be key to the growth and competitiveness of Irish-based companies in the future. They will have to go out and get a presence in markets such as China, which they are doing, thereby guaranteeing core activities at home and at corporate headquarters.

In addition, the key for Ireland will be research and development and innovation and in terms of attracting foreign direct investment we are endeavouring to bring a greater amount of research and development investment into both existing multinational companies in Ireland and in any new companies we can attract into Ireland.

The Deputy read a list of company closures. We have had company closures for many years. However, every year we have also had significant job creation. Already in the first two months of the year we have had announcements of seven major overseas companies wishing to locate in Ireland. The sectors will change where jobs will be created. As the economy changes and as we move up the value chain the job profile will change and in particular sectors there will be stronger growth than in others. A classic illustration is financial and international services which grew 68%, from 39,800 jobs to 67,100 jobs between 1999 and 2003. That is a dramatic increase in a short period in the financial and international services sector. We will concentrate on high end manufacturing and the innovation agenda is key to that.

May I ask a brief question?

Deputy, we have gone over seven minutes on the question. Perhaps the Chair will make a suggestion. The purpose of Question Time is to elicit information from the Minister. If Deputies submitting questions would confine themselves——

Is there injury time for this?

——to a brief question, hopefully, we would be able to fit in more supplementary questions for each Member.

What happens if we do not get the information?

If the Deputy confines himself when submitting a question to just the question we will have time for a second supplementary.

The clock starts now.

Job Protection.

Brendan Howlin


2 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if his attention has been drawn to concerns expressed by a number of trade unions regarding alleged abuse of immigrant construction workers; the steps he is taking to ensure that all such workers receive their full entitlements and are covered by all appropriate worker protection laws; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6381/05]

I am aware of concerns expressed by a number of trade unions regarding alleged abuse of immigrant construction workers, and where such cases were brought to my attention I have asked the labour inspectorate to pursue the matter.

The labour inspectorate of my Department is responsible for monitoring certain employment conditions for all categories of workers in Ireland, including immigrant workers. The inspectorate operates without any differentiation with regard to worker nationality as statutory employment rights and protections apply to immigrant workers in exactly the same manner as they do to native Irish workers. Inspectors pursue allegations of worker mistreatment and when evidence of non-compliance with the relevant employment rights legislation is found, the inspectorate seeks redress for the individuals concerned and, if appropriate, a prosecution is initiated. Employers are required to maintain records in respect of such employees and these records, together with other substantiating evidence, for example, a statement from an employee, provide the essentials of a basis for legal proceedings. Failure on behalf of the employer to maintain adequate records is an offence. I urge anyone who has specific evidence of the mistreatment of workers to furnish all the relevant details and any related materials to the inspectorate with a view to pursuing the matter.

The wages and employment conditions of workers employed in the construction industry are governed by the Registered Employment Agreement (Construction Industry Wages and Conditions of Employment) Variation Order, which is enforced by the labour inspectorate of my Department. In this regard the rate of pay which can be enforced in respect of construction operatives under the terms of the registered employment agreement is €7.36 per hour.

Enforcement of the provisions of a registered employment agreement may also be effected under the Industrial Relations Acts. A trade union, an association of employers or an individual employer may complain to the Labour Court that a particular employer is not complying with a registered employment agreement. If, after investigating a complaint, the court is satisfied the employer is in breach of a registered employment agreement it may by order direct compliance with the agreement. Failure to comply with such an order is an offence punishable by a fine.

Where employers seek work permits to employ non-EEA nationals, the Department requires a statement of the main functions of the job: salary or wages, deductions other than statutory, other benefits and hours to be worked per week. Both the proposed employer and the proposed employee must sign this statement. Work permits are not granted unless there is evidence of intention to comply with minimum wage legislation. Applications for work permit renewals require confirmation that the stated wages have been paid. Form P60 and other sources are used for this.

The most recent and shocking abuse highlighted this week concerned EU nationals who do not require work permits. These are Polish workers who were exploited and paid half the going rate and whose case was highlighted so well and so forcefully in theIrish Examiner this week. Despite receiving threats of legal action for exposing this abuse, why did it require the Irish Examiner and SIPTU to address and resolve this issue instead of the Minister of State’s Department or its inspectorate? How can he justify that the labour inspectorate, the body that audits compliance with labour law, carried out 30% fewer inspections last year compared with the previous year? In 2004, 5,160 inspections were carried out and 7,168 in 2003. At a time when a substantial number of additional workers are coming into the economy, fewer inspections and monitoring of conditions are being carried out. Is the Minister of State aware that the Polish Embassy has stated it is inundated with cases of exploitation from Polish workers who are EU citizens? Is he aware that the case for non-EU citizens is even more scandalous, as highlighted in the report of the Migrant Rights Centre, the details of which I know the Minister of State has in front of him.

I met representatives of the Migrant Rights Centre and I am aware of the findings of its reports. I am also aware of the allegations by the Polish workers. To the best of my knowledge, only one complaint has been received in the Department from the Polish Embassy. This was in respect of a company in Wexford. The case was successfully prosecuted in the courts and is under appeal.

The Department encourages workers, by whatever means and which quite often might be by way of embassies, to contact the Department or the labour inspectorate to bring abuses of this nature to the attention of the Department. It is only in circumstances where legislation is broken that the Department is in a position to pursue these cases further. There are difficulties to do with the rates of pay which have not been resolved because a related matter is before the courts. The rate has not been updated since 1998 which is a very considerable time.

The Deputy raised the matter of inspections. During last year there were three factors which militated against the number of inspections. A number of the labour inspectors were promoted and moved elsewhere, some were involved in the Irish Presidency and a number were also involved in a very detailed re-examination of the role and functions of the inspectorate which took some man hours. The number of inspectors has been increased from 17 to 21 recently. I anticipate the number of inspections to be carried out this year will be considerably in excess of last year's and probably in excess of the year before.

The core of the issue is that the Minister of State seems to believe it is everybody else's responsibility to find breaches of the legislation rather than his Department's responsibility to be proactive, to have sufficient inspections carried out and to have sufficient inspectors. Does he accept that is his responsibility and he should not leave it to investigative journalists or to the trade union movement to do his job?

I would expect the Deputy to be aware that the increased number of labour inspectors was agreed in the previous partnership agreement.

It is wholly inadequate.

Nevertheless it is an agreement and I do not wish to be the one who kicks out a partnership agreement——

I am telling the Minister of State it is wholly inadequate.

Allow the Minister of State speak without interruption.

As I have stated, where embassies or others have complaints to make, they should bring them to the attention of the Department or the labour inspectorate. The inspectorate goes to great lengths to pursue cases but it needs to have the evidence to put before the courts to effect successful prosecutions. This requires the co-operation of a large number of people, including the specific employees where necessary, and possibly their representatives.

Newspaper Industry.

Arthur Morgan


3 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the reason the Government has failed to ensure the enforcement of the Competition Authority’s ruling that a company (details supplied) must divest itself of its 24.9% shareholding in another company. [6433/05]

In October 1994 the then Minister for Enterprise and Employment requested the Competition Authority to undertake a study into competition in the Irish newspaper industry. On 30 March 1995, the Competition Authority reported its findings to the then Minister. One of the conclusions and recommendations of the Competition Authority was to the effect that the acquisition by Independent Newspapers plc of a 24.9% interest in Irish Press Newspapers Limited and Irish Press Publishing Limited and the provision by Independent Newspapers plc of loans totalling IR£2 million to Irish Press represented an abuse of a dominant position by Independent Newspapers plc contrary to section 5 of the Competition Act 1991 and also an anti-competitive agreement under section 4 of the Act. However, it is important from the point of view of legal precision to point out that a study of this type does not lead to a ruling of the sort mentioned in the question. The Irish Press newspapers ceased publishing in May 1995, two months after publication of the report, and no action was taken on foot of the authority's recommendation. Legal proceedings have been initiated against the Minister arising out of a statement made by my predecessor in 1996 concerning the Irish Press titles. Those proceedings remain extant and in these circumstances I consider it inappropriate to comment in more detail in regard to this matter.

I understand the Irish Press group cannot go back into business even if it desired to do so because of the ownership situation. Does the Minister agree that in no other area of Irish business is there a situation to match that of the tax exile, Tony O'Reilly, and his almost complete domination of the newspaper market? For example, Independent News and Media plc owns 67% of Irish daily newspapers and almost 87% of Irish Sunday newspapers. Is there a commitment from the Government to deal with abuses of market power in the newspaper industry? Does the Minister agree that the media monopoly operated by Independent News and Media plc involves an abuse of its dominant position and in which it can influence the political process? This was alluded to in the Moriarty tribunal.

This question refers specifically to one company.

It relates to a monopoly or a dominant position within the market.

I do not accept the broad thrust of the Deputy's argument. If anything has happened since 1995 it has been that a broad proliferation of new companies has emerged on the Irish media scene in both broadcasting and the print media and more publications are now produced.

The company has a dominant position of 67% and 87% ownership.

I can understand the Deputy may have concerns from his point of view in light of the current trends and perhaps the particular newspaper's coverage of the Deputy's party's activities.

I can take that; it is not a problem.

The Competition Authority advises on issues pertaining to competition law. In terms of the media the legislation provides for my role as Minister. Any comments or recommendations by the Competition Authority are considered as it is best placed to examine and research these matters.

What are the Minister's proposals? Will he bring forward any proposals to tackle this monopoly and the problem of media cross-ownership and dominant position given the unique influence capable of being exerted by those in a position of dominance, particularly relating to the political process? I refer to the broad political process and what came out of the Moriarty tribunal, not in respect of my party, where a particular newspaper threatened the then rainbow Government——

This does not arise out of this question and we are running out of time.

——if it did not behave itself. On the day of the election that newspaper subsequently published on its front page a request to its readers not to vote for that Government. That is what I mean by distortion of the political process.

The Deputy's concern for the rainbow Government is touching and is noted.

The Department has no plans on the matter. I remind the Deputy that we are faced with a variety of media from national and international sources. There are potential difficulties down the line in terms of regulation of the domestic media, almost to the exclusion or independent of what is happening globally. The world has changed dramatically.

I referred to newspapers.

In regard to newspapers the market is increasingly competitive and difficult in light of the growth and advance of——

New newspapers are being launched.

As Deputy Howlin reminded me, there has been a new entry to the market recently——

It isDaily Ireland, and long may it last.

——whose editorial content may be of assistance to other parties in the House from time to time.

It will not threaten the Minister's party.

We do not know that yet.

Industrial Development.

Pat Breen


4 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his plans for the future of Shannon Development. [6383/05]

As I indicated in response to similar questions previously, a number of developments will impact on the future role of Shannon Development. The most significant of these are the proposed relocation of the headquarters of Enterprise Ireland to Shannon as part of the decentralisation programme, the enterprise strategy group recommendation that Shannon Development disengage from industrial development functions and the establishment of an independent Shannon Airport Authority.

The new airport authority was incorporated in October. As I previously indicated, Shannon Development fully supports the decision to establish an independent airport authority and agrees it is vital to the economic development of the region. The company has further agreed on the need to refocus its activities on the airport with a view to generating business for the airport and to the use of its assets to support the airport authority, particularly in its early vulnerable years.

A number of options were identified by the working group established last July to examine the specific issue of how Shannon Development could best contribute to the development of the new airport and these remain under consideration. Shannon Development and the new airport authority have engaged in direct discussions on the matter and work under way on developing the business plan for the new airport authority will help inform the optimum relationship between the two agencies.

In light of these developments, the Shannon Development board has been asked to devise a new strategy for the company. I understand this exercise is at an advanced stage and the strategy will be submitted to me in the near future, following which I plan to have discussions with the board.

The Minister indicated he recommended that Shannon Development disengage from industrial development in the region. Has he identified who will replace its industrial development activities? While he stated that Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland would do so, as he is aware, the activities of the latter focus mainly on attracting foreign investment, while the former does not have a property base in the region. Shannon Development has good projects, including the e-towns programme, knowledge networks and Shannon Broadband.

The Minister stated that Shannon Development's assets should be used to support the airport authority in developing Shannon Airport. Shannon Development's rental income from its property in the Shannon free zone is approximately €8 million per annum. I understand that it requires €30 million to upgrade its properties in the zone. How will this affect the activities of Shannon Development? Does the Minister envisage a role for the company?

The recommendation that Shannon Development disengage from industrial development functions in the region was made by the enterprise strategy group rather than by me. The Shannon Airport Authority and Shannon Development entered into direct discussions on this matter in late 2004 and these are ongoing. It also employed a consultant to determine with greater precision costing elements and funding issues vis-à-vis the airport and Shannon Development and the likely revenue stream available.

I have held meetings with several Ministers with a direct interest in this question. We are examining the overall context for Shannon on the aviation and industrial sides and endeavouring to produce a solution which will have the support of all concerned. We are anxious to achieve consensus on the future of Shannon Development in co-operation with local interests. That is the current position. The process is still under way and involves the Ministers for Transport and Arts, Sport and Tourism and the Minister of State at my Department, Deputy Killeen, who, as a representative for the area, has a particular interest in this matter and particular insights to offer, as does the Minster for Defence, Deputy O'Dea.

Is it not the case that continuing uncertainty is having a negative impact on the Shannon region? Last week, Pan European Communications closed down with the loss of up to 100 jobs in the region. What role does the Minister envisage for Shannon Development? I believe the answer is "none".

The Minister referred to Enterprise Ireland, which will not move to Shannon in the near future as it does not feature in the first or second round of decentralisation. He may have commissioned many reports and held many discussions, but an air of gloom hangs over the region as regards the regional focus for Shannon Development. On what should the company focus?

No air of gloom should hang over the area given that the job market in the mid-west is improving. Shannon Development participated admirably in the recent trade mission to China. I attended a very successful function it hosted for the Chinese authorities and was impressed by its presentation.

The Chinese Government, not the Irish Government, invited Shannon Development to take part in the mission.

Shannon Development was part of the Irish trade mission. It gave a good presentation on the issue of regional development in which the Chinese have a historical interest. The ultimate objective is to get the best package to guarantee increased sustained employment in the mid-west region.

The change in the status of Shannon Airport and the establishment of an independent Shannon Airport Authority is a significant development for the area which was broadly welcomed by business and industrial interests in the region. The key issue is the necessity to underpin it in future because Shannon Airport is probably the most important infrastructure in the region. Issues must still be worked out and this is being done. I am allowing discussions to take place at local level and await responses from other Ministers, particularly the Minister for Transport, before finalising the issue.

Live Register.

Jerry Cowley


5 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the steps he is taking to address the notorious unemployment problem in County Mayo, particularly north Mayo; if his attention has been drawn to the hardship caused by the loss of jobs at companies (details supplied); the steps he has taken or intends to take to provide replacement jobs in the region; if, in view of this matter, he will consider setting up a task force to address this urgent situation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6446/05]

The recent job losses announced by companies in County Mayo are a major blow to the workers affected and their families. I am conscious of the adverse effects of such closures on the surrounding area. Every effort will be made by FÁS and the State development agencies to find and create alternative employment for people who have been or are due to be made redundant.

At 5,495, the live register figure for County Mayo for January 2005 shows a decrease of 11% compared to January 2004. While the live register is not a true record of the level of unemployment, it is nevertheless a useful indicator of the current employment trend. Furthermore, the most recent quarterly national household survey figures, third quarter 2004, shows an unemployment rate for the west of 3.8%. That is substantially down on the 4.8% figure for 2003 and is below the national average figure of 4.7%. These figures reflect the overall upward trend in the economy in recent months.

I assure the Deputy that IDA Ireland continues to actively promote County Mayo to potential investors from a variety of sectors, including manufacturing and international services, with every effort being made to secure new investments for the area. Since January 2004, there have been seven first-time site visits to the county by potential investors.

In addition to targeting potential new projects, IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland continue to work with the existing base of companies in the region with a view to supporting such companies with potential expansions and diversification of activities. The Mayo County Enterprise Board provides support for small businesses to develop indigenous enterprise potential and stimulate economic activity at local level.

IDA Ireland is investing significantly in the provision of planned and focused property solutions in the west region, specifically County Mayo. This is viewed as an essential marketing tool in the process of attracting potential new investors to the county. IDA Ireland is developing world class business and technology parks in Ballina, Westport, and Castlebar. The goal is to ensure that key locations have the appropriate property solutions, tailored to specific key sectoral targets, to attract inward investments. This means providing high quality business and technology parks and buildings in the main towns and undertaking long-term planning with the local authorities in order that the region is viewed by investors as having location solutions, such as property, infrastructure, business and lifestyle services, to support the growth and development of their operations. Given the representation of the State development agencies on the Mayo County Development Board, it is considered that, should further co-ordination be necessary, the county development board would be the most appropriate forum to fulfil this function. In the circumstances, I do not propose to establish a task force for the region.

Additional information not given on the floor of the House.

I recognise the need to provide high value employment opportunities in the key towns in Mayo that provide sustainable long-term jobs. IDA Ireland's strategies have proved successful to date despite the difficult and ever-changing global economy. The level of foreign direct investment in Ireland relative to the size of the economy is one of the highest in Europe. IDA Ireland is confident the strategies and policies being pursued in the county together with the ongoing commitment to regional development will bear fruit in terms of overseas investment and jobs.

I thank the Minister for his detailed reply. County Mayo is the most socio-economically deprived area in the country. The Minister quoted figures in regard to the west but the latest statistics indicate that the western and northern regions of Mayo are in terminal decline, having lost thousands of their population.

Deputy Cowley will talk the statistics to death.

Hundreds of jobs have recently been lost in Hennigans, Allergan and the Bellacorrick peat-burning station. If one considers the losses at Bellacorrick, approximately 1,000 jobs have been lost in the area in the past five years. By contrast, three new power stations are being developed in the midlands while the Bellacorrick facility is closing with the loss of more than 200 jobs. A recent study indicated that 8 million tonnes of peat are available at Bellacorrick. In this context, there can be no reason not to rebuild the peat-burning station there.

There is no doubt that Mayo is the national employment blackspot, with a relative poverty rate 40% above the national average. Will the Minister acknowledge the existence of this employment problem in Mayo, particularly in north Mayo and Ballina, and will he prioritise this area as a location for job creation? We have seen approaches made to industrialists providing jobs in this country to ask them to relocate in China. Will the Minister consider the employment supports available for the overpopulated pale and provide better employment prospects for the west? Will he support the rebuilding of Bellacorrick, which has adequate stores of peat? It is the Minister's job to act and if he does not do so, the well-being of the next generation in this area is under threat.

We must stop using such language as "deprived" and "most deprived" in this debate. It does not serve the interests of Mayo as we endeavour to market the county. IDA Ireland is not in the position described by the Deputy. The factual position is that unemployment is down 11% from 2003 to 2004.

My question relates to north County Mayo.

IDA Ireland is quite benign about the prospects for Mayo in coming years. As I outlined, it has taken decisions regarding the development of business parks, for which the total amount invested will be €11 million by the end of 2005. IDA Ireland is currently at an advanced stage in the acquisition of 27 acres of land on the Sligo Road in Ballina for the development of a high quality business and technology park. Planning permission has recently been approved for the site development and IDA Ireland is finalising the purchase of the site from Mayo County Council, at which point tenders will be invited from the private sector for site development works. It is expected this work will commence in 2005. This is an important infrastructure for Ballina, which will enable IDA Ireland to attract companies into a fully serviced and developed site of world-class quality.

Likewise, a 16-acre state-of-the-art business and technology park has been fully developed at Castlebar and is being actively promoted by IDA Ireland. In Westport, IDA Ireland has acquired 37 acres of land where it plans to develop a new business and technology park. Work is in progress on site development there and it is anticipated that the first phase will be completed by mid-2005.

These developments represent tangible evidence of the commitment of IDA Ireland and the Government — it is the Government which funds all this — to Mayo.

It is funded by the taxpayer.

We are committed to building on what is now a significant cluster of foreign direct investment activities in the county, particularly in the medical technology area, with companies such as Baxter Healthcare, Allergan, AMO Ireland, Hollister, Fort Wayne Metals and Charles River Laboratories. These have given a certain strength to the Mayo area. In addition, AMO Ireland announced the establishment of a shared services centre in Westport. The Castlebar campus of Galway Institute of Technology is another significant infrastructure, on which IDA Ireland has worked to provide an incubation facility for business start-ups. This is an important new development taking place in all the institute of technology campuses.

The loss of 1,000 jobs, including those at Bellacorrick, in five years is significant. Will the Minister give his support to the peat-burning station in Bellacorrick? The peat supplies available will provide more than 200 jobs for 15 years. This would be a wonderful development for the area, which will replace what has been taken away. The Minister's support in this regard is extremely important.

I do not interfere in the ESB's development programme and its reorganising and restructuring operations. Therefore, I am not in a position to give assistance to the Deputy in this regard, but I point out that the number of jobs in foreign direct investment companies in Mayo has increased in recent years.

The time for Priority Questions has expired. We must, therefore, take the remaining questions in ordinary time.