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Seanad Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 31 May 1989

Vol. 122 No. 20

Shannon Free Airport Development Company Limited (Amendment) Bill, 1988: Second Stage.

Question proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time".

The purpose of this Bill is to give statutory effect to the Government decision to extend the Shannon Free Airport Development Company's industrial development responsibilities to include north Kerry.

The Government decision to bring forward this legislation follows on from an earlier decision — taken in July last — to divide the country into seven sub-regions for the purpose of preparing operational programmes for the national development plan to be submitted in relation to the expanded EC Structural Funds. Boundaries were drawn up with a view to grouping together counties, or parts of counties, having regard to, among other things, geography, population, common concerns and economic structures.

I am having difficulty keeping up with the fast reading of the Minister.

The Senator has a copy of my script.

We have not got the script at present. Knowing how quickly the Minister moves——

The Senator has the script now.

For this purpose, the mid-west area was deemed to include north Kerry as well as Counties Clare, Limerick, Tipperary North Riding and west and south-west Offaly. In these circumstances, the Government considered it logical to extend the company's operational remit to include that part of north Kerry which is incorporated in the mid-west region for Structural Fund purposes.

Another reason for extending the company's remit in the area is that the Shannon Estuary as a whole is increasingly being recognised as a distinct area and one, moreover, with significant development potential. The estuary has long been acknowledged as an important natural asset to the region. It also has a number of inbuilt and infrastructural advantages from the industrial and tourism development points of view and the Government feel that a concentrated effort should now be made to develop and exploit them to the full.

Up to now, the Clare and Limerick portions of the estuary were, for industrial development purposes, in the mid-west region and were the responsibility of Shannon Development, while north Kerry was in the south-west region and was handled by IDA. This division obviously did not help in the development of a fully integrated strategy for the estuary. The new unified region will allow a more comprehensive approach to be taken towards the planning, promotion and development of the estuary. The estuary will now be promoted and marketed as one unit; economic investigations and other studies will be carried out in relation to it in its entirely and it can be developed in terms of its totality, without the disadvantages of internal demarcation.

In fact, the Government have already taken the first step in this respect by requesting SFADCo to carry out a comprehensive strategic study of the estuary. This study will take account of previous surveys and reports already produced on the area and will examine, in particular; (i) the natural and economic advantages of the estuary and its existing facilities; (ii) the potential for integrated development of the estuary, with careful regard to the protection and enhancement of the natural environment, for industry, energy and services, transport and distribution, including port, shipping, air transport and transshipment facilities, tourism and recreational facilities, and development of the natural resources of the region; (iii) the role of the existing installations in the estuary in such an integrated development; (iv) a draft outline plan for the optimum development of the estuary; and (v) an estimate of the development costs involved and possible sources of funding. We envisage that this study, when completed, will provide a sound and logical basis on which to plan for the development of the estuary in the years to come.

As the House is aware, the Government assigned from 1 January 1988, responsibility for tourism and industrial development, including medium and large scale industry, in the mid-west region to SFADCo. Prior to that, SFADCo were responsible only for the promotion and development of small industry in the region; the IDA had responsibility for medium and large industry. That decision resulted in a rationalisation of the agencies operating within the mid-west region and the creation, in SFADCo, of a single integrated regional development body. From the beginning, however, the company recognised that they were only one of many players on the development field within the region. For that reason they set out to create working partnerships with a number of other key groups, including other State agencies, local authorities and private sector interests. The company have been very pleased with the co-operation that has been forthcoming and I see, in this, the best guarantee and safeguard of the region's future progress.

The year 1988 was a particularly successful year for SFADCo, most notably in the difficult area of job creation. At the beginning of the year, the company agreed with my Department an ambitious job creation target of 2,000 new jobs in the mid-west region as their contribution to the national target of 20,000 new industrial jobs per year under the Programme for National Recovery. I am glad to say that that target was comfortably exceeded and that the actual outturn for the year was 2,817 new jobs. Perhaps of even greater significance is that a detailed survey of firms in the region showed a net gain in industrial employment of close to 1,000 last year.

In all a total of 25 new projects were approved for the region during 1988. These projects involve a capital investment of £10.7 million and the promoters envisage that 705 new jobs will be created over the next three to five years. In addition a total of 17 industrial expansions were approved and publicly announced during 1988. These expansions are expected to create 510 new jobs over the next three to five years and involve capital investment of £14 million.

Just two weeks ago I visited Shannon again to announce a number of significant new projects establishing in the free zone and I am quite happy that the good results of 1988 will be repeated again this year. The financial services sector, in particular, continues to be very buoyant and I am aware that a number of further projects in this sector have been approved and are now being processed through the licensing system.

In many respects, of course, SFADCo have always been to the forefront in developing initiatives in the industrial and tourism areas. Their promotion, for example, of small industry in the region in the past has been both effective and imaginative. Similarly their efforts on the tourism promotion front have proved highly successful. Their development of the "castle banquet" concept at Bunratty, Knappogue and Dunguaire and the folk park at Bunratty has done much to create a distinctive and readily-identifiable image for the Shannonside region both at home and abroad.

I have no doubt that the recent meeting between the Taoiseach and the Soviet President, Mr. Gorbachev, at Shannon and the visit by Madame Gorbachova to the folk park will do much to raise the profile of the area world-wide and will help to further our tourism promotion efforts both regionally and nationally.

Another concept which was pioneered in the region and has now been adopted elsewhere is the development of links between industry and the third level education, most notably in the National Institute for Higher Education in Limerick which, of course, the Government have now decided to upgrade to university status.

The Bill giving effect to this decision has now been passed by the Dáil and will shortly come before this House.

In addition, I had the pleasure myself last Christmas of laying the foundation stone for a new International Science Centre in Plassey Technological Park representing another step in the furthering of this two-way flow of information, training and interaction between education and industry. The building of the centre, which will provide facilities for firms to research process testing or the manufacture of prototypes and which will have direct access to the NIHE facilities, is an extremely important initiative.

The inclusion of north Kerry in Shannon Development's enlarged area of responsibility involves the addition of more than 100 companies employing almost 3,500 people to the region's existing established industry base. Shannon Development will focus considerable attention on the development of this base in north Kerry. This will involve the implementation in the country of the strategy successfully implemented in the mid-west region during 1988 and will entail intensive and pro-active efforts in dealing with existing companies.

Bringing north Kerry into the mid-west region also exploits the link between Limerick and Tralee, and enables this link to be used as a "lever" for development. The Limerick-Tralee route is a heavy tourist route and bringing it into one region allows the tourist potential along the route to be maximised. Tralee's Regional Technical College has a strong tradition of programmes and courses that assist economic development in the area. This is a tradition similar to that of the education-industry interfaces established by the university-designate in Limerick. The presence of both colleges in the one region will encourage interaction between the colleges and further develop this type of linkage. The food industry is well established in north Kerry, through companies such as the Kerry Co-op group. The existing mid-west region also has a strong food sector, particularly in Limerick and Tipperary and linking the two regions will, it is felt, encourage an integrated approach to the food sector.

Shannon Development will also continue to promote the enlarged Shannon region as a location for new indigenous and overseas manufacturing and international services investment.

Shannon Development's principal aim in north Kerry over the next three years will be to maximise employment in manufacturing and international services in the area. As in 1988 the company will, through their policy of integrated development, strive to ensure that there is a balanced spread of employment growth throughout the enlarged Shannon region.

I think it is fair to say that when this Bill came before the Dáil it received a broad measure of support across party lines as a logical and worthwhile measure. I would hope that it would also receive a welcome in this House. I am anxious that it be enacted as quickly as possible in order to put an end to any uncertainty or unease which may have arisen in north Kerry in the past few months as a result of the perceived delay in putting new arrangements in place for tourism promotion and industrial development.

The principal issues raised by Deputies in the debate on the Bill related to (i) the financing of SFADCo in the context of the transfer of responsibility for north Kerry and (ii) the working arrangements which would subsequently apply between SFADCo and the IDA.

In so far as financing is concerned assistance to industrial undertakings in the north Kerry area will be met out of moneys transferred from IDA to SFADCo under delegated authority and drawn down by SFADCo on a monthly basis as required. This is the arrangement which operates at present in respect of the existing mid-west region and section 3 of the present Bill provides for its extension to north Kerry. The only additional expenses therefore which SFADCo will incur in the area will be in relation to their promotion abroad and in this respect the company will have the benefit of extra revenue accruing from transfer of IDA property to them by way of factory rents, grazing fees etc.

In relation to working arrangements between the IDA and SFADCo I would like to say that detailed arrangements have already been drawn up for dealing with agency contact with overseas companies, multi-plant indigenous companies, other indigenous companies and financial services projects. Guidelines have also issued to IDA overseas offices in relation to site visits by potential promoters, the treatment of existing foreign-owned companies and the accommodation of SFADCo representatives in IDA offices abroad—four in the US and one in Germany at present. The objectives of the guidelines are to avoid duplication or unhealthy competition between the two agencies and to promote Ireland to the customer as a single industrial location.

SFADCo exercise their powers to assist industry in the mid-west region, exclusive of the Shannon free zone, under delegated authority from the IDA in line with national industrial development policy.

Specifically the new Bill provides for: (a) the amendment of section 2 of the 1970 Act in order to add north Kerry to the mid-west region to enable moneys to be expended by SFADCo to meet their running expenses in relation to industrial development there; and (b) the amendment of section 4 of the 1970 Act in order to add north Kerry to the mid-west region in respect of which the Industrial Development Authority may, at present, delegate their grant-giving powers to SFADCo.

I am advised that no legislative changes are required to extend the company's tourism remit to north Kerry. This will be done on an administrative basis.

I commend this Bill to the House.

On a point of order, a Chathaoirligh, I compliment the Minister on getting through a ten page speech in less than ten minutes. It is a record.

That does not arise. I now call Senator Kelleher.

Of course it arises. I was trying to check the speech against delivery. I feel that the attitude is that a day out of Dublin North is a day wasted at this stage.

I welcome the extension of the SFADCo region to include north Kerry, which I believe will be of tremendous benefit to the area. Up until now north Kerry was covered by the IDA office in Cork which was too far away from the area. Geographically, north Kerry would be associated with the Limerick region, the Shannon estuary and Shannon Airport and it is only proper that in the development of industry and tourism in the area, the region should come under the auspices of SFADCo. Any extension of SFADCo's powers is to be welcomed in that it will strengthen this unique organisation. SFADCo are not as constrained as the other State-sponsored bodies. They have wider powers and can behave like a commercial company. Limitations are not imposed by specific statute and their articles and memorandum of association allow them a high degree of flexibility.

I come from a Gaeltacht area and I am often very envious of the success of SFADCo regions compared with the areas covered by Údarás na Gaeltachta. SFADCo, because of their geographical location, can attract the most important companies worldwide. The region has the advantage of being close to the ports, to deep harbour facilities, and to Shannon Airport which has excellent direct contact with the USSR, North and South America and continental Europe.

Údarás na Gaeltachta, which I regard as a sister organisation to SFADCo, work under a totally different environment. This State-sponsored body are responsible for the economic, social and cultural development of the Gaeltacht regions. In 1987 a total of 991 new jobs was created by Údarás na Gaeltachta and at the end of the year 4,954 people were employed full time by Údarás na Gaeltachta assisted industries. As I see it the IDA, Údarás na Gaeltachta and SFADCo are competing with each other for industrial development in their regions. This being the case, Údarás na Gaeltachta will lose out because of their fragmented regions and obscure locations. The costs involved in transporting goods and services from north Donegal or Connemara as distinct from the SFADCo region are huge. I believe that more funding should be made available to Údarás na Gaeltachta. They have proved themselves to be highly efficient in the development of jobs and now they are being starved of funds.

Under the terms of this Bill, it appears that SFADCo will take over responsibility for the north Kerry region from the IDA and will now deal with all matters formerly dealt with by the IDA. They will also deal with tourism which was formerly dealt with by Bord Fáilte. There is huge potential in north Kerry for the growth of tourism and job creation and I have no doubt that SFADCo will play their part in tapping this resource. North Kerry has already got a good mix of tourist attractions ranging from the Festival of Kerry to racing in Listowel and Killarney and championship golf clubs in Tralee and Ballybunion. SFADCo are promoting, through the recent establishment of South-West Golf Limited, the various golf courses in the region. With proper marketing, I am sure north Kerry can attract an increasing number of golfing tourists, because of the increased availability of facilities. Last year approximately 15,000 people used Ballybunion golf course and I have no doubt this figure can be increased significantly.

The mid-west region, with the inclusion of north Kerry, will now become a major tourist region with its vast scenic appeal and with the further development of tourist amenities along the estuary. There is a variety of beautiful beaches such as Ballybunion and Ballyheigue. By maximising the returns from these attractions and working on new tourist products, SFADCo can build up north Kerry tourism assets to the highest standards. We are only scratching the surface of tourism in the mid-west region and in the country generally. We could expand our tourist industry tenfold if we adopted a more positive and enlightened approach. We have seen the benefits in the Shannon region from tourist amenities like Bunratty Castle and Bunratty Folk Park.

There is no reason the work carried out in that region cannot be spread to north Kerry and the adjoining areas.

Another area we could get involved in is the refurbishment of old buildings. Old buildings in the region should be restored and developed. One of the great successes of this kind was in Limerick city with the restoration of the Granary building which now incorporates a wide variety of offices, libraries and other amenities. The north Kerry area is rich in heritage and culture and there are a number of monasteries, abbeys and other historical sites which can now be restored by SFADCo.

Manufacturing employment was maintained in the Shannon region in the period 1981-87 whereas it declined by 35,000 in Ireland as a whole. New development initiatives have been undertaken in the Shannon region such as the National Food Centre, the Innovation Centre and the Plassey Technological Park. The extended Shannon region has a population of 420,000 people, 50 per cent of whom live in urban areas. The region's labour force is about 28,000. About 22 per cent of those are employed in agriculture while about 18 per cent are unemployed. The first half of this decade recorded that over 7,000 people emigrated from the region. This is very significant as it follows the period of net immigration that was recorded during the seventies. One would have to express serious concern about the huge increase in recent years in the level of emigration from the mid-west region.

However, the region also has some very special strengths. For example, the number of people employed in manufacturing industry in the region is about 25,000, 20 per cent of the total labour force, representing a growth of 15 per cent between 1978 and 1986. This level of growth in industrial employment in the region over those eight years was relatively exceptional, both in national and European Community terms. The industrial structure of the region is relatively strong. The top ten companies last year exported over £1.5 billion in goods and services. The growth rate in the recent past has been well ahead of national and European averages. The region has other strengths also. At Limerick city lies the National Institute of Higher Education, Ireland's first technological university. It is based in Plassey Technological Park. The park itself provides a business environment attractive to advanced technology enterprises and represents a delibarate attempt to stimulate the fusion of research, education and enterprise on the one site.

The Shannon estuary, with its sheltered, deep water is considered to be a prime natural resource of the mid-west region of Ireland in terms of planning. There is considerable potential for the siting of manufacturing industries requiring a maritime location. However, like many locations on the periphery of Europe favourable for industrial development, the Shannon estuary has considerable ecological, scenic and tourism value. It is important, therefore, to ensure that any development strategy in such areas is based on a compatible relationship between the operational characteristics of industry and the social and ecological environment. That spells out the importance of developing the Shannon estuary, both as an industrial location and as a potential area for tourism activities.

A 1982 report on the dredging of a navigational channel conclude that current depth available as far as the Fergus estuary can cater for vessels of 170,000 to 200,000 tonnes dead weight at mean high water. Dredging to cater for vessels of 250,000 tonnes dead weight at high water only would cost £3 million and for vessels of 400,000 tonnes dead weight it would cost £5 million. No other port in Europe, apart from Rotterdam, has this natural advantage. For the very small sum of £3 million some of the biggest vessels in the world at present could navigate into the Shannon estuary. There must be considerable potential for transshipment alone. The study also identified major sites on the estuary. Ardmore Point and Ballylongford were identified jointly as the most suitable sites for all industrial types that were examined, including oil-related heavy industry, ship building and so on. I ask the Minister, and indeed SFADCo to promote vigorously the Shannon estuary as an industrial location.

I want to take this opportunity to congratulate the Minister and the Government on bringing forward this Bill and on including north Kerry in the Shannon Free Airport development zone. I had no difficulty with what the Minister said earlier. I was well able to keep up with his line of thought. As a person who comes from the mid-west region, I welcome this development, particularly in view of the fact that the north Kerry area will be a great asset to the mid-west region as a whole. There is enormous potential in that area for the creation of jobs. I compliment and congratulate the Shannon Free Airport Development Company for the work they have done to date. Their brief initially was in relation to the small industry programme — they have proved very successful over the years in promoting small industry — and later was extended to include larger industries and tourism. The potential for tourism in the region is enormous. The Shannon Free Airport Development Company have been taking major steps in recent times to develop the whole potential in relation to Shannon, Lough Derg and the estuary itself.

As the previous speaker has said, we are the envy of many areas of the country in that there is a company with specific responsibility for that area and that has proved to be an enormous success. The addition of north Kerry will be an enormous advantage to the region. The Minister mentioned various areas but I will not dwell on them. I concur with him in everything he has said in regard to the development of the folk parks, Bunratty Castle and other areas, which we identify with the mid-west region and which have proved to be so successful, particularly in the context of tourism. I take this opportunity to compliment Tom Dunne, the Chief Executive of the Shannon Free Airport Development Company, and his staff for their excellent work.

Recently I received a brochure in relation to tourism in the area. The previous speaker mentioned golfing. There is a whole series of tourist attractions in relation to all the clubs. It is a good thing that not only one or two individual golf courses have been singled out for potential development but that all the courses in the area will have the opportunity for development. That is very significant. The company are not targeting just one specific area around Shannon but are reaching out to the periphery of the whole region and encouraging people to develop in relation to tourism and industry. The kernel of their success lies in the fact that individual officers are placed in strategic locations throughout the region and they can identify with potential industrialists, whether they are indigenous industrialists or people interested in coming from abroad. No stone is left unturned in encouraging people to come into the region. Every facility is put at their disposal. The Minister said jobs were targeted at 2,000, and now they have exceeded 2,800. That is a magnificent achievement by any standard. That development will go from strength to strength, particularly with the inclusion of north Kerry and the Shannon Estuary, and the potential in the north Kerry region and the estuary will filter throughout the whole mid-west region and north Offaly.

Again I congratulate the Minister and the Government most sincerely on their initiative for this major development. I wish them every success, and I wish the Minister personally every success in the election.

I do not wish to sound the only note of dissent, but a number of things need to be said about this Bill and particularly the philosophical base from which it comes. Early in his speech the Minister said this legislation follows an earlier decision, taken in July last, to divide the country into seven sub-regions for the purpose of preparing operational programmes for the National Development Plan.

I would like to put on the record what a very eminent retired public servant, the former Director of the Institute of Public Administration, a man whose record in the area of public administration is second to none, said. He described the seven regions the Government produced out of their hat to divide up the country as "absurd doodles on the map of Ireland", and he reckoned and identified that drawing of lines on a map as a way of creating regions as a classic symptom of the extraordinary centralising instincts of most of our bureaucracy and a large part of our political process.

As I said in an earlier debate, this centralising tendency is evidenced in the belief that a national health authority will somehow work better than local health boards, a view I reject. There are other ways of making local authorities function than creating a national bureaucracy which somehow miraculously will work in a way the others failed to do. Those of us who live outside the capital city have good reason to be wary of all Dublin based institutions and Dublin based organisations. Whether it be our national broadcasting service or, indeed, a future independent broadcasting service, they have a focal point which is different from that of those of us who live in the regions.

I am not happy that you can create a regional identity which is any more than an independent agency by dividing up that part of this country, the county which probably has the most vigorous sense of its own identity, the county of Kerry, into two different administrative regions for one purpose or another. In the short term, given the great record of success in some areas for SFADCo, I am sure there are reasons to be attracted by it. There is no disputing the success of SFADCo in some ventures, and therefore it is very attractive for north Kerry to share in that success, but, in the longer term to create, as Tom Barrington said, absurd doodles on the national map and call them "regions" with some sort of regional identity is removing us further from any significant devolution of centralist power back to real regional government.

If anything, SFADCo have shown what a locally based body with integrated powers in the areas of tourism and industry — and we want to add to that the possibility of developing transport and of controlling education on a regional basis — can do with limited powers in some areas. It is not an accident that this area, where there is local, decentralised control, has done remarkably well. It is worth asking why there is only one such region — and we do not necessarily have them all as free ports.

The free airport is only a part of SFADCo's success. It has stretched far beyond the airport in Shannon into the surrounding areas and has done a great deal of imaginative and very positive developmental work. I know some parts of the region quite well, with sadly decreasing but nevertheless very significant family connections in the area. Why is there no similar regional body based in each region with the authority to do things, which does not need, as the health boards do, the approval of the Minister virtually to move from one office to another, or to appoint an employee or do anything, or as VECs need? Why have we this extraordinary belief that somehow in Dublin there are experts who know what is good for us? The regions were decided on the presumption that the experts up here know what is good for us down there. That view operates in both directions, because there is a considerable feeling in the regions that there are experts up here. There are no more experts up here than there are anywhere else, and one has reason to be very careful of the expertise of many of those experts because it is often entirely irrelevant to what a company are doing.

At the same time, one has to wonder about some of the implications of what was said here and what was said by the Minister. I am not entirely happy with SFADCo's concept of tourism. To create an artificial vision of what our country used to be like under the aegis of castle banquets and people dressing up in a style that, as far as I know, never existed, and pretend that this is an image of an earlier Ireland, may well attract tourism in the short term but does not create a longterm, vibrant sense of identity that makes an area, a region or a country a real, lasting tourist attraction. Not even SFADCo or the Minister is his wilder moments can promise us sunshine. The Minister is at times like this capable of the most extraordinary gestures, but I do not think even he will promise us perpetual sunshine.

I will not tell the Deputy the gesture that comes to mind.

The Minister would not do that, at least not on the record. He can tell me later. When I passed through Shannon Airport recently I was assaulted by the sight of a man in black tights and a skirt, dressed in what was masquerading as traditional Irish dress, playing a fiddle to entertain those passing through the duty free shop. I did not think there was much particularly Irish about it. I did not think there was much of anything except SFADCo about it. I am not aware of any era when our musicians used to wear velvet skirts and black tights.

If a regional body like that cannot plant themselves firmly in the traditions and values of the people they claim to help, in the long term they cannot be successful. They will produce an accretion to the local culture. There is a richness of a cultural heritage, a richness of music, tradition, values in the area of that region. If this becomes a kind of mid-Atlantic version of Ireland based on a dilution of our values into some sort of confused thing that is supposed to be attractive to Americans, we will end up not just not getting Americans but getting nobody else. It was very disturbing to read recently that German tourists when asked about Ireland categorised Ireland as bland and uninteresting. That is not true, but much is true about what we are doing to this country.

At the centre of the problems with this Bill is the fact that it is still a centralised, decision-making process. That is at the core of it. It is time we freed the people from centralised bureaucracy. It is time we believed that what we run here, which is a democracy, works at local level, when it is let work. It works when there is real authority, when people cannot be creating stunts and demanding millions and millions of pounds from the Minister because they know he is the person who has ultimate authority. It works when the real buck lands on the desks of people who are running local agencies.

When members of health boards know, for instance, that if the health board exceed their expenditure they are the ones personally liable for their debts, then we will have real local democracy. Democracy is not just about making speeches; it is about accepting the responsibility that goes with real power. One of the problems about SFADCo is that it is not necessarily entirely representative of local interests. They listen with greater sensitivity than many State agencies to local interests but they are not a body freely elected by the people of the region and they are not necessarily a body which represent the regional concepts of those people. SFADCo is a very good organisation which has done a lot of good work but in many areas it is an accretion which is not able to respond completely to the views and feelings of the people involved.

I have no objection in principle to the Bill but I regret that one of the natural regions, the county of Kerry, has been divided in two for reasons which escape me. I would like to know why we cannot have democratised bodies covering real regions in a way which gives them real power. Not long ago the Danish Government delegated 70 per cent of what used to be the powers of central Government to regional Government. The single biggest inhibition to development here is centralised control and centralised authority. There can be no real local enterprise or initiative when so much power is retained by central Government. That centralising of power is epitomised by the drawing of the regions on a map in Dublin to produce what T.J. Barrington, an expert on regional development, called absurd doodles on the map of Ireland.

I thank Senators for their contributions. The primary purpose of the legislation is to enable the mid-west region and more particularly the Shannon Estuary to be developed as a coherent and integrated whole. I totally reject the remark about absurd doodles on a map. This is an integrated region, the natural area of the Shannon Estuary. The river Shannon is a common bond between all the counties in the region. I am happy at the inclusion of the remainder of the southern bank in the company's remit to enable them to co-ordinate and strengthen the support for its development. I am confident that in giving the company a wide-ranging brief we can look forward to sustained and imaginative promotion of the area in the years ahead.

It is clear that the estuary is a prime natural resource with potential for the siting of major manufacturing industries requiring maritime locations. In particular, the area is capable of accommodating heavy industry such as oil refining, steel smelting and pharmaceuticals and I am quite happy that the estuary could meet the infrastructural and service requirements of such industries without any difficulty. There is also a skilled and able workforce in the vicinity, including the north Kerry hinterland, waiting to be tapped. In addition, there is a very positive attitude in the region generally towards industrial development and projects setting up there are assured of an unqualified welcome. This is a very big plus factor for foreign promoters who may be considering establishing in this country. Such development, if it is to occur, will receive added stimulus from the doubling of the EC Structural Fund which is due to occur over the next five years.

In the mid-west region where Shannon Development have already done much of the basic research and planning, the target focus will be on knowledge based enterprise, resource based enterprise and environmental supports necessary for development. A four-pronged approach drawing particularly on the inherent strengths of the region will be adopted. Strategies for industry will be to promote new investment, build stronger companies and create an appropriate climate for enterprise. Tourism strategies will aim at product development, improving the tourism environment and marketing.

I would disagree with Senator Ryan in relation to the job which SFADCo have been doing. Tourism promotion is one of our success stories. Rural development strategies will concentrate on developing agriculture through enhancing efficiency, improving quality and encouraging alternative farm enterprises, as well as exploiting resources such as fisheries and forestry. Environmental strategies will seek to enhance amenities, improve sanitary services, provide transport facilities and review the urban fabric.

In regard to north Kerry specifically, SFADCo's immediate plan is to establish a county development centre in Tralee staffed by three executives. The key role of the team will be to accelerate the flow of enterpreneurs into very small firms in manufacturing industry, to support the creation and maintenance of viable jobs in the domestically traded sector of small industry, to promote the establishment of a number of sharply focused, highly viable and visible new tourism products and to develop a number of these products in the natural resources area, based on local raw materials and skills. They will also improve the urban and rural environment through promoting and participating in specific renewal projects to develop a cohesive county development plan.

I am sure the House will join with me in wishing SFADCo well in the challenging and difficult tasks which lie ahead.

Question put and agreed to.