The Minister is being a bit disingenuous. He is trying to give the impression that I am trying to bring gas to every crossroads in Ireland. A Gaslink report has carried out an economic evaluation of these towns. Carrick-on-Shannon was €1.15 million short of making the viability threshold while Longford was €1.5 million short of making the threshold. That is the sort of money we are talking about. What I am looking for is a small amount of seed capital to get these towns over the threshold. I am not talking about bringing gas to a crossroads where there are no users and where it will not be financially viable in the long term.
It is far cheaper to have someone pay a couple of cent more for their gas than having to pay social welfare for them to remain on the dole. The difficulty is that as long as this economic viability test remains in place and because businesses are closing every day because they are uncompetitive with businesses in other parts of the country or the locations to which they are exporting, it will be increasingly economically unviable every day, week and month. It will make it far more difficult to meet the economic criteria.
When the Minister was on this side of the House, he often lectured the Government about the need to pick up the phone to have a word with the regulator to tell them to pull up their socks. Now he has made it quite clear that he is not prepared to do that. In light of the fact that he is not prepared to that, I am asking him to give home owners in the north west a break of €485 a year, give schools in that region that are struggling to heat themselves a break in respect of energy costs and give businesses a break by ensuring businesses in the likes of Ballaghaderreen would save €2.5 million per year and businesses in Carrick-on-Shannon would save €7 million per year by setting a small amount of seed capital - a small element of this fund - aside for that purpose, not just for the towns in the north west but for towns throughout the country that meet or come close to meeting the criteria. The Minister should put the seed capital aside to allow that to happen.