I welcome the Minister to the House.
Structural Funds: Statements (Resumed).
I also welcome the Minister. On the last occassion, I was quite critical of the consultative process that took place when the programmes for the period 1984 to 1987 were compiled. I want to reiterate that this morning. The consultative process is quite imperfect and, to a large degree, ill-informed. The consultative approach was not carried out in depth in that many people who should have been included in that process were not included. There were development associations and chambers of commerce all over Ireland whose views should have been sought. I ask the Minister to ensure that local authorities put structures in place to enable proper consultation. It is a shame that the ESRI report, which we received yesterday, was not available a year ago.
It was only commissioned in October.
Having read it superficially, I believe that its contents could have been produced a year ago. There was no need to delay it until now. Had it been available, we would have had at least some empirical information to aid decision-making. We would have had sets of data and information to inform our thinking. There was an entirely inadequate discussion on the last tranche of funding, the £3 billion which was spent in the last set of programmes. Why do we have this insistence on secrecy? Why do we not have more open discussion?
We have pages of history which we should have had the opportunity to read over the past 12 months. If there had been good open discussion and debate about the last set of programmes and the spending of the £3 billion, everybody would be better informed and people would know what to expect from this second, relatively huge, tranche of spending. Transparency is important and we will pay a price for not having it.
There is a grave danger that people will see the £8 billion as a bonanza which will solve all our difficulties. The last tranche of spending will contribute about 1 per cent to GNP, which will make a minor impact on our huge unemployment problem. We are aware that the programme did a lot of good but it will not answer all our problems.
This new tranche of funding will do a lot of good for the economy, particularly if it is wisely spent. It is projected that it may make a contribution of 2 per cent to GNP, but we know that will not solve our problems. It will assist in the solution but we will still be left with huge unemployment. The public should be aware of that and they should not regard this as a bonanza — I continue to use that word because it is in the public mind. The Government has been claiming this as a great victory, suggesting that the money is there and it will solve the problems. Of course it will not. We must keep that firmly in our minds.
The benefits of this set of programmes will not become evident until the next century and therefore we have to wait for returns. What criteria should we use for investment? Many of us would be motivated by conditions in our local areas, but having listened to the Minister of State, I agree that we must get value for money. We must also get maximum return to GNP, given the terrible difficulties of our economy.
We must ensure that there is an input to improving international competitiveness. We must improve our transport infrastructure and examine the sectors which are likely to give the maximum return. We are informed that tourism will grow by about 9 per cent per year into the next century. Prudent investment in tourism is likely to give a good return on investment, provided that it is supported by strong marketing.
I also want to see an element of national cohesion in this programme. The provinces must be properly looked after; population retention and quality of life in the provinces must be one of the aims of the set of programmes. The regions must be given an opportunity to play to their strengths. I was disappointed by the type of consultation which occurred because regions were not given an opportunity to assess those strengths.
On a parochial level, my constituency of Monaghan-Cavan is an example to the rest of the country and I can assure the Minister of State that any investment there will pay rich reward. The best way of trying to project what will happen in the future is to read recent history. The Minister of State is aware that Monaghan and Cavan have done an enormous amount to retain population and create natural growth and wealth on the basis of local enterprise. Any investment which the Minister's Department will make in Monaghan and Cavan will be guaranteed to give rich reward.
I will be looking for proper transport infrastructure. We were told at a county council meeting recently that the council is out of money. Next winter we will have dreadful problems with potholes. This does not augur well for the future. I am disappointed that I do not have more time because I wanted to say much more. We should have a wide ranging discussion on this and time limits should not apply. I am happy to have had the opportunity to say a few words.
Before calling Senator Finneran, may I be allowed a little latitude to welcome the boys from the Dean Kelly Memorial National School with their teachers, Mr. Larry Fagan, and Mr. Pat Byrne. It is my old national school and I would like to welcome the boys and their teachers and I hope they have an enjoyable day.
Has he not done very well? I wish to welcome the Minister of State to the House. I heard her on the radio yesterday and I was very impressed by her practical and balanced approach to the whole area of Structural Funds. Today I will concentrate on tourism vis-a-vis the Structural Funds. It is impossible in a debate such as this to cover all aspects of developments which we hope will take place. I will discuss the operational programmes which we have had and indicate what I would like to see for the future.
Although the tourism industry experienced some externally imposed brakes on its rate of growth in the latter half of 1992, any objective review of its performance over the life of the now concluding inaugural tourism operation programme, 1989-93, must endorse the confidence in the industry by the Government. This House will be aware that the community support framework agreed between the Irish Government and the European Commission imposed a leading role on tourism in the creation of employment and the generation of income in the contribution towards the balance of payments. This role was assigned to tourism against the background of a well documented international trend which showed that tourism worldwide would be the number one industry by the turn of the millennium. Taken into account was the relatively untapped potential of Irish tourism. Both of these factors were seen as capable of combining to produce major growth.
It is correctly realised that the simple application of market forces will not on its own produce the desired results. Those concerned with the drafting of the tourism operational programme looked honestly at Irish tourism and correctly identified that there were significant deficiencies in the range of traditional products. New visitor facilities and services would have to be provided if the sector was to progress with the speed and depth of penetration that would be required. The core product, Ireland, has many potential advantages over competitors given the emergence of a better educated and more discerning international tourist. This discerning tourist is no longer content to sit on a beach at a sunny resort but prefers to visit a location with a relatively unspoiled environment, scenic attraction and a range of complementary visitor facilities.
The House will be aware that under the current tourism operational programme Ireland, in partnership with the EC, has targeted a range of strategic investment projects involving both the public and private sector. Investment, rightly in my view, has been channelled to the non-accommodation sectors of tourism with a heavy concentration on visitor attractions and facilities. It is only right that while the State takes responsibility for developing that which is in the public ownership of responsibility the private sector should show its own commitment by supporting investments in its own area of remit. I hope that the controversy over the Office of Public Works' interpretative centres can be resolved in a way that respects appropriate procedures, takes environmental issues into account yet does not prejudice the undoubted tourism attraction of such centres.
The tourism capital investment programme in visitor facilities and attractions has been a success in that the targets of doubling tourism income and the creation of 25,000 new jobs over the term of the programme will be met by the end of the current year. This performance is unmatched by any other sector and the job creation figures can only be welcomed against the background of stagnating and even reducing employment in other sectors of the economy. The industry and all involved in targeting the investment and marketing the product are to be congratulated on their efforts, as are the Government and the European Commission.
There is a wide but distorted impression, in regard to the quality of jobs in tourism, that the sector offers little security and is heavily dependent on part-time and temporary staff. Seasonal employment is certainly a feature of tourism and that will continue to be the case. Within certain limits, this need not be an issue as temporary arrangements can be convenient to both the employer and the employee. In reality, temporary work is the exception rather than the rule in the industry.
The findings of CERT's current management survey show that hotel, catering and tourism industries have a high level of permanent employment. Unlike many other industries, growth in the tourism industry tends to result in a broadly comparable percentage growth in jobs. In addition, tourism provides employment in an increasingly diverse range of sectors and skills areas as well as in rural or otherwise disadvantaged areas of the country. Furthermore, because of the relatively small scale of its business establishments, it provides significant entry opportunities for entrepreneurs.
A greater number of our tourists now come from Europe. While deregulation and improved access have no doubt contributed to this growth in the European market, it is clear that a significant improvement in visitor facilities and attractions has contributed to attracting the increased numbers. In addition, it is obvious that our increased integration into Europe has raised awareness of the Irish tourism product there. Although the American market has a tradition of greater volatility, I am concerned lest our increased concentration on the European market distracts us from the potential longer haul markets, such as the United States and many other non-traditional markets.
Service is an integral part of the tourism product and must match the highest international standards if the industry is to maintain and build upon the growth already achieved. Outside factors will continue to affect tourism but the industry's ability to control its own destiny will largely depend on the quality of people in the industry. Today, international tourism has to be developed, marketed and delivered against the yardstick of consumer preference. Tourism businesses are learning to accept that excellence of product and service is not only desirable but is a market expectation within all sectors and across all price ranges.
Management, supervisors and operatives in tourism must perform to the highest international standards and training by CERT is a critical element in achieving these objectives. The training agency's approach to training programme development and its partnership with the Department of Education, the regional technical colleges and the tourism industry are vitally important. CERT's training programmes provided multiple opportunities for access to training for young school leavers and the unemployed as well as for managers and operatives already working in the industry. Furthermore, its business advisory service works closely with the industry establishments in their ongoing quest to raise and maintain standards.
Funding by the Exchequer, the EC and from CERT's own activities have allowed CERT to increase training numbers, on a phased basis, to almost 11,000 in the current year. The industry must view the State training apparatus as a partner in training. Training must be a career long process if we are to keep abreast and hopefully ahead of our competitors. I was glad to learn that, with the benefit of CERT's training for trainers programmes, a growing number of medium to large establishments in the industry are supporting CERT's efforts by carrying out their own in-house CERT model training. This is a most welcome development although the small size of the average tourism business limits, to some extent, an expansion of this approach The Government and the EC are investing heavily in training through on-going training expenditure and the provision of training infrastructure, the most recent being CERT House, the new headquarters for training at Amiens Street in Dublin.
The contribution of Irish tourism during the present national plan — when it has outperformed almost every other destination in world tourism — offers encouragement for the success of the next national plan. The Programme for a Partnership Government's target of 35,000 new tourism jobs by 1999 is broadly equal to that which will be achieved under the present plan. An infrastructural framework has been put in place which has been largely instrumental in tourism achievements in the present national plan. However, the years to 2000 are likely to be far more competitive than in the current plan. Many commentators feel that the competitive advantages which recently worked in Ireland's favour — for example, deregulation and improved access — will begin to taper off. Against this background there is little time to rest on our laurels and admire our achievements to date. To use a sporting phrase, we are only as good as our next game. All concerned with tourism will have to work as hard if we are to maintain existing tourism levels, and to work harder still if we are to reach the targets set by the Programme for a Partnership Government.
The programme of capital investment by Government, the EC and the tourism industry began in the current national. plan, and it must continue in a cohesive manner targeting the gaps in the current tourism product. We have achieved dramatic increases in the number of vistors and this rate of growth can be repeated. There is potential for growth in the shoulder areas of the year and this should be given prominence in our investment and marketing campaigns in the up and coming national plan. Although our tourism amenities have not had as negative an impact on our environment as the tourist industry has had in more sunny destinations, State agencies, local government and the industry must work together to ensure that this remains the case.
I would like to see a return to the issue of the skills of the tourism management and workforce. During the present plan, new tourism facilities and attractions which created new types of jobs were introduced for which new skills were required, although the traditional sectors and jobs continue to provide approximately 85 per cent of employment in the industry. I am aware that CERT has responded to these new needs by providing updated training programmes. The new national plan will create new jobs in the new skills areas that have emerged in the present plan but also by capital investment in new product areas in the years ahead. Everybody will need funding but tourism, and the training respect of tourism provided by CERT, will need the funding and other resources necessary to provide training for a larger and more diverse range of skills.
I understand the discussions about the carve up of the indicative funding under the next round of the EC Structural Funds have reached an advanced stage. Although it is hardly necessary, I remind the Minister of the importance of ensuring that adequate allocations are made for capital and human resource investment in tourism. The arguments are more than compelling, given the sector's response to investment stimulus to date and taking into account the remaining potential for further growth. No other sector can match the growth potential of tourism over the next national plan.
Go raibh maith agat, a Chathaoirligh. Like Senator Cotter, I regret we did not have the chance of looking at the ESRI document earlier. The calibre of contributors to the report means that it deserves closer attention than we have been able to give it here. It is a very comprehensive document.
I stress, as the authors themselves have done, that any possible approach reflects the reality that considerable uncertainty exists, concerning the quantification of rates of return. The document also acknowledges that there are a multiplicity of objectives underlying the Community Support Framework. However scientific the projections made appear to be, we are engaged in a highly uncertain activity which is subject to a wide range of variables and unforeseeable developments. The question of judgment will, therefore, be absolutely central, and on the question of judgment I have no reason to believe that the judgment of a politician is in any way inferior to the judgment of an expert or anyone else. Much depends on the quality of politicians' judgment and I will simply try to contribute to the judgments which will eventually be made.
I agree with the contributors to the report on the importance of human resources. Within human resources they identify the problem of early school leavers, of responding to fundamental problems of social and economic development in this country. The term "early school leavers" is simply a way of referring in large measure to the problems of poverty, unemployment rooted in families, and generational unemployment, because early school leaving is a symptom of a much deeper malaise in the social and economic structure. There are problems of poverty everywhere throughout the country but they are heavily concentrated in a number of areas. A fundamental problem confronting the decision makers in this area is to get the balance right between investment in sectors and investment in areas.
Government and Government Departments are organised in sectoral terms. There is some suspicion that some consultants' reports — not this one — have consisted in getting Departments to find lists of desirable investment projects, dust them down and add them up to the totals they wished to submit. This is an unacceptable way to approach investment possibilities under the Structural Funds. I do not decry sectoral investment in principle. We have just had a very effective exposition of the importance of tourism where the returns may be so clearly worthwhile that they justify thinking in sectoral terms. Nobody lives in a sector. We all live in areas and how to strike the proper balance between sector and area is the main conceptual and political problem confronting the decision makers. Therefore, the early school leaver problem, the home liaison project problem, must be tackled in the areas where there is a massive concentration of these problems, whether in or outside Dublin.
I deplore the distinction that is frequently drawn between Dublin and the rest of the country in terms of Structural Funds or other kinds of investment. There are problems which are common to Dublin and the rest of the country, and each region has its own individual problems, but there is massive poverty in areas of Dublin which simply must be confronted, partly through Strucural Funds. The same type of problem confronts areas in Cork and Limerick, and doubtless other areas with which I am not as familiar. This type of investment in areas must be thought through. It is a continuing challenge because, as far as I know, we do not have the mechanisms in this country to take decisions of that kind.
Integrated planning is a fashionable term but a difficult concept to apply in practice. It is a learning process and we have only recently begun to learn how it works. I hope the Structural Funds will enables us to devote time to that learning process which will continue during the expenditure of the funds and afterwards. I hope that after the expenditure of money we will have improved our decision-making capacity, whether for Structural Funds or for national funds; we should build that in as part of our objective in the use of Structural Funds. We do not know how to apply integrated planning, partly because we are not educated along those lines, partly because our structures are wholly inimical to it. We do not know how to apply it in central Government, or how to apply it between central Government and local government. We must identify these problems if we are going to apply this concept effectively.
Part of the problem with Structural Funds is that things are done too quickly. There is a rush and decisions have to be taken before one is remotely in a position to know whether they are right or not. I am not criticising that, it is part of the reality of life, but one ought to try to learn from this process and see how one can build in more effective decision-making.
Support ought to go to those areas which have made an attempt to construct a local decision-making structure for themselves and have shown a capacity to pull together diverse local interests. I am thinking of the north side of Cork where such attempts have been under way for some time under the aegis of Bishop Murphy, who has devoted himself to fostering local initiative. Through his inspiration and the commitment of dedicated priests, employers, trade unionists and social workers, something is happening there which deserves support. It does not deserve support because the area is poor, although that is a general principle in moral terms, but because of the effectiveness of return on investment. One has to see not only what poverty there is but also what the realities are of a likely return from the degree of energy already being mobilised and the commitment to co-operation those communities are showing. That ought to be a criterion in distributing funding of this type. Good intentions by themselves are simply not enough. Where that type of initiative has not yet been demonstrated one would hope that Government, at both local and national levels, would contribute towards developing it.
In terms of returns over the term of the Structural Funds, one looks at what is already under way and at what stage and at what degree of initiative is already there so there can be some confidence that the people involved will be able to deliver something of the promise of the Structural Funds. I would ask the Minister to consider the claims of the commitment, initiative and enterprise already shown in that area, to my own specific knowledge.
I hope that, as this is a partnership Government, the capacity of partnership nationally and locally will be one of the objectives of the expenditure of Structural Funds. All sorts of difficulties arise in these matters but the capacity for cooperation at all levels ought to be taken on board as a principle, and should be one of the criteria for supporting claims of the various departmental or community interests.
Turning to the section of the report entitled "Human Resources", I am taking the issues of early school-leavers and the long term unemployed together, and I note the report says that measures to tackle the enduring problem of the long term unemployed warrant a significant increase in resources. I agree entirely with that and what I have been saying has been consonant with trying to tackle that problem. To a disproportionate extent it is a geographical problem. The question of integrated area developments arises also. I am not underestimating the challenge involved because we do not know effectively how to face it and there is a learning process involved.
The Department of Finance has been regularly criticised, and I am not going to begin changing the habit of a lifetime by defending the Department too enthusiastically at this stage, but there is enormous ability there and it would be encouraging for the rest of the country if it felt that the Department of Finance was sometimes on its side as distinct from being against virtually everybody. That is an unfortunate impression, and no doubt an undeserved one, which the public relations skills of the Department of Finance have not yet fully succeeded in overcoming.
I would stress the point that, even though it is completely contrary to the ethos of the Department of Finance, its attitude actually fosters a dependency syndrome because it conveys the impression that the country is incapable of taking decisions without somehow having the Department's controlling hand saving itself from itself. While I accept that there have to be controls on central Government as well as local government, it is unfortunate that the Department managed to convey last time — and I agree here with the complaints that have been made about inadequate discussion — a lack of discussion in terms of time and style. Some of the Department's valuable time might well be devoted to thinking about how it can improve its own communication skills to foster independence of attitude and overcome the dependency mentality which it so regularly deplores in other respects.
I am intrigued by what the section on human resources has to say about education. There is an interesting and instructive paragraph on higher education which correctly states:
We are concerned with the proposal in the Green Paper on Education to expand enrolments at third level from its current level of 70,000 to 100,000 students by the end of the decade. In recent years, while enrolment has increased, neither infrastructural capacity nor teaching staff have kept pace and the system is already overcrowded.
I am not making a special plea for third level education. It may well be that there are higher priorities elsewhere in the economy and society, and that there are higher priorities within education itself. I would be strongly attracted by the argument that a disproportionate amount of investment in education ought to go on the very early years, even starting with pre-school. This is because by that stage much of the poverty, deprivation and many of the handicaps, which it is hoped the education system may compensate for, are already too deeply buried and are part and parcel of the personality and capacities of the pupils so that they do not have a chance later on, whatever resources are pumped in further along the scale.
I take the point made in the report that the whole higher education sector and its implications for both economic growth and social development are grossly under-researched. It is extraordinary how little research had been carried out on virtually every aspect of higher education, which is one of the most rapidly growing sectors in both expenditure and employment in the sense that it keeps students off the streets for another three or four years once they get in there.
The report also says: "We believe that any expansion of higher education should be linked to projected skill needs..." There has to be a relationship between investment in higher education and needs, but I would stress that needs are not something objective. Needs are defined subjectively, at least in part. To take a simple example like the pupil/ teacher ratio or staff/student ratio; the number of teachers one needs five, ten or 15 yers down the line is not an objective issue, it is a question of policy. Needs are not objective things which we identify and then see if we will satisfy. They are what we decide needs ought to be, so decision-making is involved.
I will not speak about sea ports, airports, roads, sewerage or water works, schools or even potholes. I will make a few suggestions which might go a long way towards slowing down the number of small farmers who have to leave the land each year, which is approximately 7,500.
Farming organiations rightly place much emphasis on headage payments. I believe, however, that the system has many drawbacks and is definitely unfair to smaller farmers. The ERSI report states the obvious when it points out that farmers outside the disadvantaged areas do not qualify for headage payments, although their holdings in many cases are of very poor quality and of limited size and they have many of the disadvantages that farmers have in disadvantaged areas. Because of the way the headage system works, farmers in disadvantaged areas with larger amounts of land get more resources. The smaller farmer is restricted because the size of his holding is limited and often he has trouble raising finance of purchase animals. The Minister should examine the problem. Individual farmers not from disadvantaged areas should be eligible for headage payments. I would also support a system in the disadvantage areas to enable small farmers with limited resources to get higher payments up to a certain figure.
Yesterday we had a debate on job creation. The first 7,500 jobs to be created will imediately be cancelled out by the number of small farmers who will have to leave their holdings. They would like to stay but they cannot. They do not want to go on the dole or take other jobs. They want to stay on their holdings but their lack of income prevents them.
Notwithstanding Common Agricultural Policy and headage payments, since we joined the EC it is conservatively estimated 7,500 farmers have been forced to leave the land each year. Rural Ireland is being depopulated. The farmers are leaving because of insufficient income. Continuing the policy of the past 20 years will not be good enough in the future. A different approach must be devised. All political parties and farming organisations say their aim is to keep the maximum number of family farmers on the land. We have failed in that aim. We are not reaching a large number of farmers.
Headage payments must continue and their real value must be increased. We must establish a system to reach beyond that to help smaller farmers in disadvantaged areas and disadvantaged farmers outside those areas. This can only happen through a positive direct income system for smaller farmers. It should be based on size of holding and family numbers. One could say it would be a payment for children instead of animals.
With good will, a scheme could be devised whereby farmers who opt to stay on their holdings would be assumed to be earning a notional income on an adjusted acreage basis and would also receive money depending on their family circumstances. The people to run this scheme would be Teagasc officials because it has offices in every county and more than one office in several.
For example, one could have a 50-acre holding adjusted to 30 acres. If the notional income for the holding is £100 per acre the family would have an income of £3,000, almost £60 per week. If that farmer was in the PAYE sector he could receive family income supplement. The reference figure for the FIS would be £195 per week for a married man with two children. He would get 60 per cent of the difference between that and his income. In this example, the farmer should receive a payment of £81 per week. That would help keep him on his holding and give him the encouragement needed. It would also be cost effective because if the farmer went on the dole he would get more. The scheme should not penalise farmers for working hard to earn extra money. The notional income of £100 would remain.
The purpose of such a scheme would be to encourage farmers to stay on their holdings. The encouragement for many years has been to leave the land. They have been persuaded to seek jobs that were not there. To encourage people to remain on the land, they should be exempt from tax on such income. They should also be eligible for medical cards and grants for third level education. They should pay PRSI on their £50 income.
The £80 per week should not be paid to farmers for doing nothing. A return should be sought. They should be asked to carry out environmental works on their farms which would tidy up the countryside and aid tourism. This would be done in conjunction with Teagasc advisers. Farmers with land bordering on roads could be asked to tidy ditches and open drains and to make other small improvements. It has been traditional on small family farms to help neighbours with haymaking and threshing. The scheme could also provide that farmers clean up a local graveyard or other amenity.
Such a scheme would prevent the depopulation of rural Ireland which is causing terrible problems in most of our towns and cities. The environment would be improved because people would be protecting it. The scheme would aid tourism because the countryside would be tidied. Someone may ask how it would be financed. If as little as 1 to 3 per cent of the £8 billion Ireland is to receive from the EC was used for this scheme it would be financed for at least ten years.
As a small farmer and a member of the IFA I am glad to see members of the association in the public gallery, although they may not agree with all I have had to say. At least they are showing interest in the subject under discussion.
I welcome the opportunity to make my contribution on Structural Funds. If one left one's home in rural Longford 25 years ago one could arrive at Longford station without going through potholes and the springs in one's car would most likely be intact. Having boarded the train for Dublin, the chances were one would arrive on time. Now, 25 years later, if one leaves one's house in rural Longford, by the time one arrives in Longford town the car springs will probably be damaged because of the failure of various Administrations to provide funding for the county road system. When one boards the train to Dublin one may arrive two hours late or, as happened recently, not arrive until the next day.
I cite these as examples of how far this country has declined. We must bear in mind £15 billion has come into Ireland since we joined the EC. I am not overwhelmed by the £8 billion that is to come. Much appears to depend on what is being said at any given time in Irish politics. The manner in which previous funds have been spent must be examined. It appears to me that the Department of Finance used all the moneys in day-to-day expenditure on schemes that the State had to provide for in any event.
If a certain proportion of the next round of Structural Funds is not invested in the county roads system, the Government will fail to provide the fundamental infrastructure. The county roads system has now become a joke, with featues on the "Gay Byrne Show" and the "Pat Kenny Show". The situation is serious and more is required than long-winded speeches by Ministers about the rural community and infrastructures. Money must be invested in the county roads system.
The present system cannot withstand the heavier traffic arising from the use of modern machinery in agriculture and from increased traffic generally. The development of forestry is advocated, yet the increase in haulage arising from forestry is placing an unsustainable burden on the county roads. Another example is tourism. While Ireland has always been a tourist destination, there are not the necessary access routes to sustain the much talked of growth in tourism. In my part of the country, there are areas along Lough Ree where there are no access roads. The local authorities cannot undertake improvement schemes due to lack of funding. Whilst I accept that the Minister may not have an appreciation of rural life, she must accept that the necessary infrastructural basis in the regions is the county roads network, which has been allowed to degenerate.
The same is true of the railway system. The Dublin to Sligo railway line is a joke. This not the fault of Iarnród Éireann or its staff. There can be delays of up to two hours on this train journey, with complete breakdowns not uncommon. Friday, 11 June 1993, the train broke down completely at Edgeworthstown. Schoolchildren from Donegal did not get home until the following day.
Money must be provided from the next round of Structural Funds to develop, update and improve the Dublin to Sligo railway line, regardless of reports which suggest that there should be no diverting of the funds into the railways. This line covers seven or eight counties and if there is to be an increase in tourism and investment in these areas the railways must be updated and operated to schedule. Twenty-five years ago one could travel on the county road system without damaging the car and one could get on a train and arrive on time. That is not possible today and we are led to believe that this is progress.
Funding must be provided for waste disposal which is a major problem for all local authorities, not least in my own county of Longford. If a local authority endeavours to locate a land fill site there is uproar. People do not want dumps near their homes. Such dumps were not adequately maintained in the past. It is only with proper funding for waste disposal that this problem will be rectified.
The headage payment system should be maintained. There has been talk recently from the Taoiseach and the farm leaders about changes required to the GATT proposals. When these proposals were negotiated by the former EC Commissioner, Mr. MacSharry, there was much praise. This inconsistent approach to the GATT proposals is not acceptable. When we negotiate on the international stage, be it on EC Structural Funds or GATT proposals, there can be no indulgence in the game of politics. I regret that there has been such indulgence in the past.
I welcome the Minister to the House. This is an appropriate and opportune moment to discuss the EC Regional and Structural Funds. I have a particular interest as I am chairperson of Donegal County Council and I am involved in the sub-regional review which is underway. The Minister of State at the Department of Finance, Deputy Fitzgerald, visited Sligo recently and met the people involved in the sub-regional review. We exchanged many useful opinions. I listened to the debate and depending on our regional and political motives, she was blamed for her actions. It is wrong to be negative. I would prefer to be positive and put the case for my region to the Minister in a way she can understand. I believe she intends to adopt a fair approach to this difficult problem.
The Minister is working hard to assess the thousands of proposals and submissions which have been sent to her office. Everyone is concerned about the £8 billion we are to receive from Europe. People believe they will score a political point by saying we will not get all this money but they are doing the country a disservice. I will give an example. If a person talks about attracting an industry to a specific area, jealous people might try to entice the industrialist to their area. In this case, some people want to get more than their share of the £8 billion and they will do all in their power to get it.
It is difficult for those involved in the EC negotiations to ensure that the £8 billion is allocated. I would ask people not to challenge our negotiators. They should be allowed to negotiate because they are as interested in getting this money for Ireland as we are. No one person can claim to be the sole custodian of concern for the country. These people must be trusted, even if they have different political views.
We have a very serious problem in the north-west. Admittedly there are many people unemployed in Dublin and elsewhere and it could be said that people in the country have an advantage over people living in the cities because they can fish or cut sticks to light a fire. That is a very simplistic view. For 20 years I have been involved in at least five major surveys, ranging from north-west regional studies, cross-Border development programmes to the conference, Developing the West Together, organised by the western bishops, etc. Over £1 million has been given to different companies to produce study plans. However, these plans are gathering dust. Many studies have been undertaken, and I do not want to delay the Minister by giving details of reports which are out of date. Everyone in the west cannot be wrong about the need for development. A solution must be found. People who are serious about developing the west are pinning their hopes on the Structural Funds.
It is easy to discuss the farming community and the problems the small family farmer is experiencing. The IFA use the small farmer and the problems he is experiencing as an example to obtain funding for the large farmer. Yesterday Mr. Alan Gillis said that farming should be funded to the point where farmers would be able to sustain themselves. As a farmer, I say to Mr. Alan Gillis that every farm in Ireland needs assistance not because we are competing with each other, but because the people who are receiving EC funding are no longer interested in grass, tillage or production farming. Farming as we know it is no longer profitable. My farm in Donegal is under tillage and each year I lose money. My neighbours are in the same situation.
The IFA challenged the MacSharry plan. Mr. MacSharry recognised that the IFA wanted to allocate 80 per cent of EC funding to 20 per cent of large factory farms and co-operatives which were receiving subsidies for their butter and milk powders. At the same time they were producing spreads in Ireland to compete with foreign products because it was economically viable.
We have a few major co-operatives which challenge each other on the Stock Exchange and buy each other out. It is not right to support them while continuing to use the small family farms in the west in discussions and arguments. Crocodile tears are being shed about emigration by members of these farming families. This will not cut any ice with us because we have listened to this type of argument for too long.
The McSharry proposals were right. A more even distribution of European funding is needed. The IFA cannot continue to bluff the small family farmers in the west. I am one of them and I represent them. It is time the IFA decided whether it represents the small or the large farmer because there are major differences between the two.
Farmers in the west have fallen between two stools. Although we have been involved in five major studies, I do not know if they have benefited us. At a meeting on 21 October 1987 the Anglo-Irish Intergovernmental Conference initiated a study the north-west — County Donegal and the areas covered by the district councils of Derry and Strabane. We waited 15 years for this study, we worked together and expressed our hopes and aspirations. We enjoyed our deliberations and took them seriously. Finally, the British and the Irish Governments recognised that the Border caused serious problems for the people in the area and that there was no simple solution. They realised that a regeneration programme was needed for that area.
This happened in 1987. Six years later, the Taoiseach, with Lord Arran, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department of Agriculture, opened a new cross-Border office at 16 The Diamond, Derry. We hope this office will cater for development in the areas of Donegal, Strabane and Derry. There are roughly 0.5 million people crossing the Border. Most of the industries that were there have now disappeared. The shirt-making and garment industry in Buncrana and Lifford have disappeared. The jobs of the hundreds who worked in the factories are no longer there. That is a serious problem.
I recognise the work done by the International Fund for Ireland. However, political pressure and the case made by public figures in the North convinced the sponsors to spend two-thirds of those funds in Northern Ireland and one third in the South. The one-third spent in the South might be spent anywhere — on a joint UCD/UCG project or around the country. The one-third being spent in the South has not made a major impact, although I am grateful for the funding provided for so many projects and the advantages gained from it.
In the North, if a derelict site has been classified as a bomb site — for example in Strabane one developer has seven of them — £50,000 funding is available from the International Fund for Ireland. However, across the Border in a small village called Carrigans, seven miles from Strabane, a property in the main street of the village was sold for £3,000. I do not have to spell out more clearly that if a bomb site or a derelict site in the North benefits to the extent of £50,000 and seven miles across the Border a building on the main street of a village between Lifford and Derry is sold for £3,000 at a public auction, that is a fair barometer of the devastation that has taken place in the Border region. I suggest that the equivalent cannot happen anywhere else in Ireland, not even in the underprivileged and high unemployment areas of Dublin.
We on the southern side of the Border which can be classed as the north-west, do not want to fall between two stools. That could easily happen because there is a high price to pay. I do not want to see the Garda and the Army guarding van loads of money going to the north-west every week to destroy the morale of the people living there. Those people can either stay and see nothing but destitution or leave to seek a better living in Europe. I want a better living for the people in the north-west.
I want to see our fishing industry, our tourist industry and our timber industry developed. At present we are only growing timber for producers and manufacturers in the North of Ireland who come in with their harvesters, cut the timber and take it away; there is not £1 of added value for the South. I have a lot of respect for the late Mr. Éamon de Valera who believed that if we developed our wasteland with timber it would help our economy, but I do not see that happening.
As I see it, there is only one major opportunity open to us and that is the Structural Fund, and it must be seen to be evenly divided. My part of the country must get its fair and honest share.
I am disappointed that the excellent document published by the Economic and Social Research Institute yesterday only became available today. It is an interesting document which looks at the way the Structural Funds have been spent in the past and sets out guidelines how they should be spent in the future.
The authors of this document suggest that the £3.4 billion Structural Funds spent between 1989 and 1993 was broadly successful. It is estimated that 1 per cent will be added to GNP by the year 2000 which represents an investment of around 7 or 8 per cent. Nearly one-third of the 1989-93 funds were spent on human resources, such as training programmes and social employment schemes, about one-third was spent on physical infrastructure, such as roads, while industry received 23 per cent and agriculture about 18 per cent. The consultants say that in the next programme human resources, transport infrastructure and environmental programmes, such as sewage and water treatment, should get a major share of the Structural Funds. If this is done, it would contribute to adding about another 2 per cent to GNP, which would be a fair return on investment.
I fully agree with the recommendation that water and sewage programmes should get a major share of the Structural Funds. Dublin city and county will have to provide secondary and, if the Minister can accommodate it, tertiary treatment. I am sure other towns and cities will also have to do this so to comply with the EC directive that sewage can no longer be dumped at sea.
The investment in our major road programmes is a top priority. We must adopt measures to reduce the adverse impact of Ireland's peripheral location on economic activity by reducing the cost of internal transport. I have to make a case for roads in areas outside the Dublin area. Anyone who has travelled around the country on a Seanad campaign realises the bad condition of roads in rural Ireland. This does not help economic activity there; there are areas where industries have failed because transporters were unable to use the roads due to their condition.
Traffic poses a major problem in cities. We got around this in many cases by bypassing major towns but that cannot be done with cities like Dublin. Traffic congestion results in the loss of many man hours and causes serious environmental problems. Something must be done to relieve, this problem, especially in Dublin. I note from the ESRI report that they are anxious the DTI studies on Dublin in relation to light rail be furthered, but I agree with that although I am not a great advocate of light rail because I see it causing problems. The construction of a light rail system in a major city like Dublin would close certain roads for a certain period and cause further traffic congestion. I agree with the study which recommended that other methods have to be examined as well. There is a great lobby abroad for light rail, not a week goes by that I do not get correspondence from some group abroad promoting light rail.
The principal objective of the 1989-93 programme was the creation of employment. The ESRI in is findings say that we set ourselves a target of 20,000 jobs each year over five years and 90,000 jobs were achieved. It was a reasonable target and a good result.
In relation to Dublin's high unemployment rate — and I said this to the Minister at a social function recently — for a time it was considered that Dublin could look after itself and the rest of the country required attention. Successive Governments located employment and major factories in rural areas but, unfortunately, Dublin was unable to look after itself. It has fallen on very hard times in recent years. Many of the traditional industries associated with the capital city have failed. For example in the south inner city, which is an area I know well because I went to school there and represented it for some time, over the past ten years the docks ceased to be a major employer and two hospitals and two bakeries closed. Dublin Glass, a major employer, and a meat processing factory also closed. Not one factory was established in place of all these industries, which closed and caused tremendous unemployment. I know families who have not worked for many years and they have no future employment prospects. I ask the Minister to spend the Structural Funds in a productive way to create employment, especially in a major urban area such as Dublin.
I fully agree with the commitment to spend on education. I understand that between 1989 and 1993 £2 billion was spent on education and on improving the skills of the Irish workforce and on retraining. This commitment must be continued, expecially training for the long term unemployed. Primary education should receive greater funding. I was interested in what Senator Lee said this morning in relation to that point. While he made a case for third level education, nevertheless he was generous in pointing out that pre-school and primary education are also major factors. Education at that point of one's life is very important.
I ask that when industry is being planned for an area the workforce there should be trained for that particular industry. There is no point bringing an industry to a part of the city or county where the workforce is not trained because people from outside the area will get the employment. This has happened time and time again. There should be a long term programme for industrial investment and local people should be trained for particular industries.
Ireland's share of EC funds is expected to be approximately £8 billion but this should not be taken for granted. It will be like the last occasion when the Commission made the decisions. I understand that on this occasion the Commission and the Council of Foreign Ministers will make the decisions. Ireland faces serious competition from othe peripheral states such as Greece and Portugal. We must fully convince the Commission and the Council of Foreign Ministers that we spent Structural Funds well over the past five years and that our programme for the next five years will show that we will spend future Structural Funds well. If we do that we can make a good case for £8 billion.
I welcome the Minister to the House. It is the first time I have had the honour of doing so. As we reach the end of the 1990s we must realise that she has one of the most difficult undertakings of any Minister in this Government or previous Governments.
As the 21st century approaches the structuring of EC funds is one of the most important items to be faced. There are challenges in many different areas, such as improving the country's infrastructure, productivity structures and, the most important of all as far as I am concerned, human resources. These must be dealt with on urban and rural bases. I am from a rural background and if rural Ireland is to be retained we must not let this chance pass. It is the one opportunity to ensure that there is life beyond Clondalkin, as the saying goes. Rural parts sustained this country for many years in the past. I ask the Minister in her deliberations to ensure that rural Ireland gets its substantial share of the funds.
Although there are problems with infrastructure relating to roads and rail, etc, the highest percentage of funds must go towards improving human resources and alleviating the problems that exist in Ireland at the present time. There are 300,000 people unemployed and we must ensure that young people are given a glimmer of hope. In bypassing areas we run the risk of forgetting that there are people on the inside.
If one examines rural development and agriculture, the population dependent on agriculture has diminished at a rapid rate in the past number of years. Rural Ireland has been decimated as a result of the loss of employment in agriculture. I appeal to the Minister to ensure that the agriculture and food sectors get their fair share of Structural Funds. I am sure the IFA, Macra na Feirme and all the people in that sector will put their case in a manner that will ensure there will be a future for the industry. It has been repeatedly said that the industry has a future but that will not happen if the agricultural community itself is decimated and there are only ranch farmers who control half a county instead of the existing farming community which supported everything that was good for the rural population in the past.
We must also ensure that there is coordination between urban and rural development. There must be a time frame and accountability attached to what is our last major chance to ensure growth so that we can approach the 21st century in a positive manner. All sides of the community badly need a glimmer of hope at the present time. The junior certificate and the leaving certificate examinations are ongoing and there are so many who have tried so hard, be it parents, pupils or teachers, to ensure that the future generation are of the right frame of mind. We must not let them down at this stage. We must ensure that proper structures are in place and that there is employment in the future. The Structural Funds are the EC's last major input and we must ensure that all our natural resources will be put to the most effective use to ensure employment.
In the past fortnight, I have visited local Bord na Móna offices and met the managing director and officers. They wish to develop the rural regions but also seek investment — not of major proportions — to ensure that research and development will help the company to grow. The new environmental products division, for example, could become a major factor in getting foreign markets for their products. After speaking to the head of that division, I feel the benefits will be twofold. Manual skills will be required. Bord na Móna was one of the founders of the apprenticeship scheme, which ensured a continual growth in the number of tradesmen. The technical skills of that department will bring together many of our third level graduates in the water treatment sector. The company has recently moved into the American market, which has unlimited potential to provide finance for the company.
Within the Bord na Móna structure, the horticultural sector currently exports 90 per cent of its products, which are worth approximately £30 million. That could be expanded further by EC funding for research, development and marketing, which could help us penetrate the Dutch market — the home of horticulture — to ensure the future growth of the firm. We must make sure the regions have a chance to develop to the same extent as other sectors. I ask the Minister of State not to forget this sector. Of the £28 billion made in claims to her Department, £8 billion may seem small but I am sure that, through her undoubted wisdom and ability, all parts of our community will benefit.
I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak to the House on Structural Funds, especially when the ESRI consulants' report has been published.
I agree with the comments of the Minister of State in this House on 27 May when she said that the next round of Structural Funds must ensure that the best long term return to the economy is achieved and we must try to integrate into the economic mainstream those individuals who are currently unemployed. I share the views of the Minister of State on this, as would most speakers. A targeted programme of local development for unemployment blackspots, as the Minister of State outlined in her speech, must be a key feature of the plan. When we look at the amount of money we are going to get from Structural Funds — most assume it will be approximately £8 billion — all of us would accept that this is a significant cash injection into our economy. However, if we look at the unemployment problem and the amount spent on unemployment benefit and assistance — for this year, it is almost £900,000,000 — and the period over which these Structural Funds will be spent, the same amount of money will be paid out in unemployment benefit and assistance. The unemployed are entitled to ask what EC moneys are doing for them and what rewards they are getting. We should look both at the Structural Funds and the money currently being paid out to the unemployed to see how we can marry the two and get the best possible benefits, especially for those trapped in those blackspots who feel increasingly marginalised. That is a great challenge to all of us and to the Minister of State. This is one of her main concerns and she will look at it closely when she decides what projects are to be funded. The reason we are getting Structural Funds is that we are seen to be at a disadvantage compared to the rest of Europe. We have an obligation to ensure that the most disadvantaged in our communities get a substantial share.
The report published yesterday looked at various areas for funding. I wish to concentrate on human and natural resources and local development. Few speakers have looked at the important area of womens' unemployment and their involvement in economic life. The report states that investment in this resource gives a good rate of return but some areas of investment up to now may not have been the best option. Funds that went into social employment schemes were designed to help alleviate the problem of the long term unemployed. While these schemes provided work, there was no training, which I understood was a condition of EC funding. We have to give the unemployed some prospect of coming back to the labour force and unless they get some sort of training or education through these schemes, it is a waste of time for them to become involved. Additional resources must be allocated for training within the social employment schemes.
The Minister of State at the Department of Social Welfare, Deputy Burton, said that the integration of our tax and social welfare systems must come about. We cannot have disincentives to becoming involved in the workforce. Our taxation system must be reviewed to ensure that the benefit obtained from EC funding is not negated by practice. We must also look at our budget. The Finance Act contains measures which are antiemployment. The Minister for Education, Deputy Bhreathnach, has the right idea in targeting funding at children who are leaving the school system without any qualifications. As I come from a rural region, I would also be interested in natural resources and local development.
There seems to be an impression that the ESRI consultants' report recommended an end to headage payments paid to farmers. On my reading of the report, they did not say this. They said that they did not consider these payments relevant to the objective of the Community support framework which is concerned with stimulating investment towards achieving sustainable employment and incomes. The report suggested that these payments are more appropriate to the guarantee section of the European Agricultural Guaranteeing Guidance Fund and if they are included in the next CSF funding they should be part of a sub-programme for related rural development. I agree with this. The report is not saying there should be an end to these payments. Headage payments enable small farmers stay on the land and get involved in other enterprises. We should encourage them to do so and, hopefully, these enterprises will provide an alternative source of income. We do not want small farmers to leave the land so that areas of rural Ireland will be denuded of population. That would not be in anybody's interest.
The report recognises the potential of natural resources. The problems of under-development and low incomes in rural areas must be tackled. These funds must be used to develop rural areas and establish alternative rural industries and services. The report identified the potential of the forestry industry and stated that investment in this industry would promote further employment and output. I welcome this. I hope the suggestion to end headage payments does not prevail.
Local economic development is essential, and this is an area in which women must be involved. Most of the employment growth areas are in the services sector. In the past, we concentrated on manufacturing industry which has always been assisted by State agencies. However, potential for growth lies in the services sector. In other countries women are successfully involved in this area and we must encourage this at home.
In recent years most service industries in the US have been set up by women. These enterprises have been successful because agencies, such as the women's business bureau, assist women setting up businesses. The Second Commission on the Status of Women recommended similar measures. I ask Ministers of State, Deputy E. Fitzgerald and Deputy Burton to consider this recommendation. A small investment could yield a high return. People believe that money can only be made in heavy industries, such as shipbuilding but women have potential and are becoming involved in business.
I welcome the New Opportunities for Women programme which encourages women to become involved. Pilot projects have been established throughout the country and I ask the Minister to allocate Structural Funds for this purpose.
There must be accountability for this funding. A project which will yield a high rate of return must be supported. I agree with the Minister when she said that we do not want displacement, that new schemes must not be set up at the expense of existing schemes. There is no point creating employment if others become unemployed as a result. Furthermore, we must avoid deadweight. Schemes which would have been set up regardless of the fund should not receive funding.
May I ask for two minutes of any Member's time?
Senator Cashin and Senator Sherlock have indicated that they wish to speak. I ask Members to be as brief as possible.
If we had been aware of this earlier we could have asked our colleagues who spoke for 15 minutes to share their time.
It is my intention to give time to everyone.
I will be as accommodating as possible.
I welcome the opportunity to speak on this matter and welcome the Minister to the House, particularly, in view of the ESRI report. Regrettably, we have not had the opportunity to study this report as it was only made available this morning. To make a constructive and significant contribution to this debate, we would have needed more time to study it.
I have been involved in this area since 1981 when the Commission set up the Mandate for Economic Development and for Convergence Policies. In that mandate we proposed what one might call the forerunner to the Structural Funds. Unfortunately, Governments failed to adopt the policies introduced in 1982 — not until the last allocation of Structural Funds four years ago. A certain strong lady in Britain was not committed to the European Community or convergence and other Heads of Government failed to ensure that her narrow view would not determine European policy. However, certain developments followed.
Training as distinct from education received priority because there is no common education policy in the EC. We were seen as experts in drawing down the maximum funding for training under the Structural Funds and when the Greeks, Spanish and Portuguese joined the EC, they studied how we maximised the money we got from the training fund.
I have no reservations about training, but I have grave reservations about building up and strengthening the administration involved in this area. The Government must address this issue by casting a critical eye on EC funds already received to see how much has been allocated for the creation of knowledge and knowledge based activity. This will guarantee a base for employment in the future. If these funds are to be used effectively we must not have FÁS conducting interviews which could be conducted by the industries concerned.
The more money that is allocated to education the better. As I said, that area was not a priority because of the absence of a common education policy. If we are to create sustainable employment in the future, this must permeate our approach to agricultural and industrial development, and I do not distinguish between them because they both represent economic development.
I am not encouraged by what I have read in the ESRI report because the authors did not seem to be aware of what had been done. Senator Honan was correct when she said that the report did not recommend the abolition of the headage grants but the report recommended that the existing headage grants be reduced and discouraged. It states that the headage payments are irrelevant to simulating investment towards achieving sustainable employment and incomes. If they are irrelevant, there is no justification for them. As one who has been involved in this area for five years, I must say they are very relevant.
I agree with the ESRI's focus on the food industry — I like to think that I developed that industry — but how can you have one without the other? How can one have a modern pig meat industry without basic agriculture? We took great pains to raise our standards and they are now acceptable all around the world — up until 1987 we could not export even a crúibín to Japan — but this has been achieved on the basis of the interlink between modern and enlightened agricultural production and the food processing industry. One cannot be dealt with independently of the other. I am encouraged by the emphasis on the food sector.
Almost 75 per cent of the country benefits from headage payments and I claim some credit for that — before I was Minister only 58 per cent benefited. The high rate of grants for headage payments, up to 75 per cent from the EC is effectively full financing. Are we going to throw all that aside? Anyone who has made even a casual trip through rural Ireland has seen the difference between the quality of land in disadvantaged areas and sometimes areas beside them which are not disadvantaged. The irony is that this is the base for the food industry.
The rural development programme is not confined to farming, and I endorse what the ESRI have said in this regard. Rural development — which my party also introduced — extends to towns with populations as large as 20,000. Are we to ignore the fact that our country towns, not only in Ireland but also in the rest of Europe, are dependent on farming? My constituency, North Tipperary, is regarded as rural yet a litle more than 25 per cent of the population live on farms, the other 75 per cent reside in towns and villages and more than half of that 75 per cent are dependent directly on employment generated by farming.
In Roscrea there are 600 jobs in the pig curing, bacon processing and beef industries, and I helped to attract those industries to the town. In my hometown, Nenagh Co-operative employs more than 200 people. All the industries there, for example, Carey Glass, Castlebrand and Anglo-Irish Meats are dependent on farming. In Thurles beef and pig meat processing industries were established in recent years. Are we going to ignore the fact that these industries could not operate without a healthy and sustainable agricultural sector? I ask that a division not be introduced in this area.
The Government has a difficult decision to make. With reference to the Minister of State, I get the impression from the reports I have read that she is going to make this decision. When I was a Minister that would not have happened; the Ministers with economic responsibilities went to Europe together and then made recommendations to the Government. The Minister of State is probably collecting data and information to present to Government. This matter is of such importance — and I do not wish to denigrate the Minister of State — that it should not be in the hands of just one Minister or Minister of State. It is for the Minister to collect and collate the information and the Government to then fulfil its responsibility in this regard.
Private forestry has done well from FEOGA funding. We have seen coniferous forests all over the country, not broadleaf trees which were a feature of the Irish countryside. Private forestry groups are paying much more for land than farmers can afford. I thought we had been too generous to private forestry and I am now convinced of it. I suggest that the Minister remember that people are more important than conifers. I would be enthusiastic if they were developing Ireland's traditional broadleaf species, and I hope that balance will be corrected.
I welcome the Minister to the House. I have no doubt that if she has the task of dispersing the Structural Funds she is more than capable of doing it.
The unfortunate homeless sleeping on park seats and in doorways should be housed. If funding can be provided for hostels we should provide it, and I hope my plea has touched the heart and purse of the Minister of State.
Like my fellow Senators I believe the potential of the tourism industry has yet to be tapped. Although Ireland is a peripheral State, our people, good food and our land are the envy of many European countries. For the past four of five years I have been involved in bringing people from the continent. They have openly acknowledged the friendliness of our people, our way of life and the chance to experience the slower pace here.
To develop tourism we must look to our regional and minor roads which lead tourists to the hidden Ireland.
West of Kanturk, in the north-west of Cork a farmer cannot grow cereal crops. Seven miles from the town is Newmarket and beyond that there is a mountain land, bogland and afforestration as far as the Kerry border. The flight from the land must be stopped, yet, no significant effort has been made to do so despite a great deal of talk. Many seasonal workers and farmers and their families who are on the dole will leave because they have their pride and weant to avoid the stigma of being on the dole.
If the necessary infrastructure of roads was in place the farm guest house and fishing industries could be developed. Regrettably, the two rivers which flow into Kanturk are polluted, but they could be suitable for brown trout, salmon and pike which would attract tourists. There are pollution officers to deal with pollution in our major rivers but due to a lack of men on the ground they visit the scene two and three days after the crime and cannot trace the culprit. Recent, in my county the problem of drug smuggling has arisen and we need resources to tackle that problem also.
I thank the Minister for giving me this time. I understand that this allocation of Structural Funds may be the last of this type of EC funding. It must be used to create long term sustainable employment. It is not good enough for funds to be allocated simply on the basis of wheeling and dealing between Ministers without reference to local authorities or communities.
I wish to refer to spending on main arterial roads. In the last fortnight we have heard that £4 million is being spent on the road between Fermoy and Kilbehenny. It is outrageous to spend that kind of money while the N72 and other national secondary or primary roads are in such bad condition. There must be more expenditure in the development of our operational programme for water and sanitary services and other local developments of that nature which are labour-intensive and provide the necessary infrastructure. Some towns in north Cork do not have adequate water supplies to enable further development including industrial development.
I am glad to have the opportunity to make those points. I could speak at length but I thank the Minister for giving me this opportunity to contribute to the debate.
Thank you, Senator Sherlock, for your co-operation. I apologise to the Minister for running a little over schedule.
I thank the Senators. It has been a constructive debate and it is part of the consultation process in finalising the national plan. Some 17 Senators have contributed to the debate and tomorrow the other House will follow suit in debating the Structural Funds in an all-day session. It is important that there is a democratic input as part of the decision-making process in relation to the national plan.
As many of the Senators have acknowledged, this is our last chance to get increased funding on this scale and it is important to get it right. There has been a sense of realism in the contributions. We are not going to be able to meet the £28 billion in demands and we are going to have to whittle it down to what we are likely to get from Brussels. Inevitably, there will be some disappointments. Many Senators have referred to the need to get an adequate rate of return. The idea of getting the best long term value has influenced all the work that has been done on the national plan by myself and by the Government who will be involved in the final process. I can put Senator Kennedy's mind at rest on that issue.
We are trying to achieve a balance between direct investment in productive jobs, productive infrastructure and human resources. I also want to achieve a regional balance between urban and rural development. While I realise there is a presidential contest going on in the IFA and sometimes things are said, I want to put it on record that I am not opposed to the farming sector or to rural development; we want to achieve a proper regional balance. As many of the Senators have pointed out in their contributions what the ESRI report was saying in relation to headage payments was that they fit more appropriately into an income guarantee than into structural guidance type expenditure. Senators can rest assured that headage payments will continue to form an important element in the new national plan.
One of the significant points made by Senators today and by all the subregional review groups in their submissions has been the need to spend money on county roads and not just on the national primary roads. National primary routes take 25 per cent of national traffic so it is important that we continue to invest in those areas in order to reduce the length of time of journeys and reduce costs for businesses and services moving goods and people around the country.
Today we see the opening of the New-bridge by-pass which will be of benefit to anybody who travels to the south and to the south-west. It is also important that we have a balance. Balance will be achieved by significant investment in the county roads in the new national plan but in making that investment it is important that we do not just put money into filling potholes. We are talking about 94 per cent of the national road network and resources will not be available to fill in every pothole or to do everything that people might like to do in the county roads sector. It is important to identify the areas where we are exploiting the forests we have planted and developing our timber industry, to identify those roads which are serving our tourist industry and the local roads which are serving local jobs.
It is important when putting more investment into local roads in the next round of the Structural Funds that we do not just regard this as some kind of a local slush fund. The money should be used for those roads that are essential to the provision of jobs and that contribute, together with the investment in national primary roads, to improving our national infrastructure. There will be more investment in public transport in the next round of the Structural Funds. We will see a better balance between public and private transport investment.
The area of local economic development is very important. Local economic development operates at two different levels. We are building on an existing local economic infrastructure and we are tapping into local enterprise, the local knowledge which people have of their own areas and the sense of local patriotism in building up these areas. The new county enterprise partnership boards will be an important element of the new plan. They have a tripartite structure made up of local elected representatives, representatives of local business and economic trade union interests and representatives of local community interests. They will tap into the local economic potential in many areas. We also need an element in the plan which is targeted at unemployment black spots. If we do not intervene these areas will be left behind.
I welcome what Senator Lee had to say in relation to the need to invest in people who are likely to become tomorrow's long term unemployed unless we intervene at this stage. The immediate rate of return in terms of investing in unemployment black spots is not going to be as attractive as, for example, an investment in eliminating a major bottleneck on a road or investing in people who are already well educated. It is important, however, that we do not abandon any of our people and that we allocate resources to eliminate unemployment black spots and target both urban and rural areas.
While there are major unemployment black spots in Dublin in places which have been mentioned, there are also areas, as Senator Lee mentioned, such as north Cork, Moyross and South Hill in Limerick, areas in Galway and areas around the country that have problems. There are rural black spots that have experienced a high rate of emigration and a weakening of the economic fabric. In a local economic development programme we are not going to be able to do everything but we will try to target and build on the experience of the existing Programme for Economic and Social Progress area partnerships and to target interventions to begin to tackle that most serious problem. We will try to ensure that we put heart and life back into communities and build on the fight back that is already taking place in these communities. I would see that as being a very important element in our national plan.
I would like to take up a couple of the points which have been made by Senators in the debate; it will not be possible to deal with everything. I am glad the ESRI report has now been published. Senator Cotter would have liked us to have published it last year but it was only commissioned in October and it was published as soon as it was ready.
Senator Taylor-Quinn spoke about peripherality and the need for rural development, which we acknowledge. She also spoke about coastal erosion. We are not sure to what extent this will be regarded as eligible by Brussels but it is being examined. Senator Taylor-Quinn and other Senators mentioned forestry and wood processing. Our wood industry largely exports unprocessed wood which is the equivalent of exporting cattle on the hoof. We could produce items such as fence posts and pallets. We would see investment in wood processing as an important part of an industrial programme.
Building on the work of the expert group on the food industry, investment in that industry complements what we are doing on the agricultural side. We need to examine alternative farm enterprise and other forms of rural development to cope with the problems created by the Common Agricultural Policy ceilings on production. I think there is a major commitment to rural Ireland. The Border regions were raised by Senator McGowan and Senator Mooney. We hope to see a continuation of the Interreg programme involving the Border regions to try to build economic development there and cross-Border links.
Senator Finneran referred to the importance of tourism, to the need to invest in attractions that will bring people here and to let the private sector provide accommodation. I think that point is well made. Senator Lee referred to the question of investment early in the education process. At EC level they are anxious that we invest in education and training and I think Senator O'Kennedy made that point clear. We will try to ensure the maximum possible flexibility in order to get the best return although we are restricted by the regulations. In the framework of local economic development, we can intervene earlier on and we will try to do that.
Senator Townsend made an interesting contribution in relation to farm income support which I think deserves wider discussion and debate. Senator Cashin referred to hostels for the homeless. I sympathise with that point as I served for many years on the executive of the National Campaign for the Homeless. However, the EC will not pay for housing. What we submit to Brussels must reflect what the EC and the donor countries are prepared to pay for; the investments must lie within the regulations.
Senator Cotter referred to deficiencies, as he saw them, in the consultative process. Since I took office I have placed much emphasis on consultation. I have met each of the seven subregional review groups that were established. They will be incorporated into the new regional authorities which will be a slight shift of boundaries to make it more logical. I think being part of the regional authorities will strengthen the process. The business, trade union and farming sectors have made an important input, which will continue under the new regional authorities. I would also like to see that process strengthened by including the voluntary and community sector which, with the exception of the south-east, has been outside that process.
I have met all the groups which have made submissions; the major national organisations, the social partners, and organisations such as the Council for the Status of Women, the Combat Poverty Agency, the community workers' co-op and so on. I welcome the input of these organisations. The best plan is one which we make as a national endeavour, based on a process of listening to what everybody has to contribute to the debate. I hope to build on that process of consultation.
Next week, we are launching the National Economic and Social Forum which will incorporate the work of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Employment and will have Seanad membership. That is a tripartite structure involving the Oireachtas Members and the traditional social partners of the employers, unions and farmers. The third strand is comprised of the community and voluntary sector: the disadvantaged, women's groups, the unemployed, people who have been outside the mainstream consultative process up to now. They will examine the national plan and their input in areas such as the operational programmes and human resources will be greatly valued. These areas are not set down on tablets of stone.
I wish to thank the Senators for their contributions. I came here to listen and I have taken detailed notes of all the points which were made. I found it a valuable exercise and I hope that together, as a community, we can submit the best possible national plan to Brussels and receive the best national return from this significant investment which our European partners are making in our future.
Before I move suspension of the sitting, I would like to thank the Minister of State and her officials for their co-operation with the Whip's office in arranging this debate, both on the last day and today.