I thank you, a Cathaoirleach, for allowing me to raise this matter on the Adjournment.
The Minister for Tourism and Trade should grant aid a feasibility study for the establishment of a major multi-purpose world centre as an extension to the Centre for International Co-operation at Shannon. I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy Fitzgerald, who will respond to this matter and perhaps she will be able to get European funding for this proposal.
The Centre for International Co-operation is a non-governmental and non-profit making organisation, supported since its establishment by Aer Lingus, Aer Rianta, SFADCo and the Irish Peace Institute, as well as corporate and private donors. The patron of the centre is Dr. Patrick Hillery, former President of Ireland; the president is Dr. Brendan O'Regan, who is also president of the Irish Peace Institute and Co-operation North; and the chairman is Mr. Tom O'Donnell, former Government Minister and MEP. The mission of the centre is to promote contacts between Ireland and eastern Europe and develop these into managed programmes of co-operation in education, training, economic development, business, culture and youth activities.
To date the centre has established personal contacts through face to face meetings with high ranking decision makers in 415 international organisations. The network in the CIS and Baltic States is a valuable national asset for developing new markets for Ireland. The wide range of high level international contacts have already yielded spin-off benefits for tourism, industry, commerce and services. This global network of high level contacts adds a major new dimension to the international profile of Shannon and opens doors to existing and new opportunities for generating substantial additional tourism and business for the Shannon region.
The motion before the House requests grant aid for a feasibility study to establish a major multi-purpose world centre at Shannon. This will maximise the opportunities created by the Centre for International Co-operation. A site has been earmarked and preliminary steps taken to get the project under way.
The development envisaged is an international park with a number of pavilions, one of which will depict the economic development of modern Ireland over the past half century and highlight the growth and development of Shannon and the Shannon region. Other pavilions would illustrate the European Union, the Council of Europe and the United Nations; outstanding examples of international co-operation since World War II, to which Ireland has made a significant contribution. It is expected that each of these organisations would locate an information office or a subsidiary organisation in the park. The park would also include a world trade centre with exhibition and conference facilities, as well as an international training centre to provide training facilities for eastern European and Third World personnel.
In relation to this proposal, that great visionary, Brendan O'Regan, who opened up rural Ireland to industrial development and job creation, said:
What is needed now in Shannon is an imaginative and exciting new development which will have major economic and social impact locally, nationally and internationally; a development which will promote peace and co-operation while generating increased airport traffic and contributing to the expansion of trade, commerce, tourism and employment. Given the same commitment and dedication, and the co-operation of State, semi-State and private sectors, which have resulted in so many major developments in the Shannon region in the past, I am confident that such a project can be brought to fruition.
It is envisaged that all the activities in the proposed centre would have a major impact on the amount of traffic through Shannon Airport. The location of offices of international organisations such as the European Union and the United Nations would mean the numbers of people from abroad passing through the airport would increase dramatically. Furthermore, the proposed development would result in a major exploitation of the region's resources and the economic benefits of such a venture would be quite substantial.
I hope the Minister is happy that for once a mid-west politician has spoken positively, without any criticism, about a development in Shannon.