I welcome the Minister of State at the Department of Finance, Deputy Coveney, to the House. This gives me an opportunity to speak on this important issue.
I have been involved in cross-Border work for 19 years and I am aware of the different fundings which are available and of the statements made by the President of the United States and the delegations from America who are trying to help the North and the southern Border counties. I know that the International Fund for Ireland is divided on a 25:75 basis and that the Delors package is divided on a 80:20 basis.
The southern Border counties are in danger of losing out because the national development plan, which was drawn up before the ceasefire in the North, includes little funding for them on the grounds that they receive INTERREG funding. The INTERREG programme has been widened to include harbours, but it is of little value to the Border counties. The Government is using INTERREG funding as a substitute for other funding and that is unacceptable to members of local authorities in Donegal and the other Border counties.
I was at a meeting in Donegal on 27 October last when the Taoiseach said there would be no additional funding because it was important that Exchequer funds meet the Maastricht criteria. Since then the Minister for Finance made a different statement in Monaghan. He realised that the Taoiseach's statement of the 27 October in Letterkenny had been seen by the Commissioner for Regional Development and had not gone down too well because the funding from Europe and elsewhere has been allocated purely on the basis of additionality.
I sought this matter on the Adjournment in order to clarify this question because the people of the Border counties of every political persuasion are aware of the current situation and the chickens will come home to roost pretty quickly. For example, County Donegal was allocated £2 million for roads in 1995, but it lost £2 million because the normal allocation for roads was reduced by that amount. The Government cannot continue to do this in the hope that it will not have serious consequences for the Border counties.
We have now reached the stage where setting up a business in any of the southern Border counties is a totally unattractive proposition. It hurts me to say this because I may help to spread the bad news. Throughout the 25 years of hostilities in the North, the British Government paid compensation on the spot for all the deprivation which had taken place. Belfast is now the focus of the International Fund for Ireland, the Delors package and the peace and reconciliation fund and related announcements are made in Belfast.
Even at the Washington Conference, which was attended by huge numbers of northern local authority members, Baroness Denton, representing the British Government, said that she appreciated the work and contribution of the American people, the US Government and President and called on the gathering to give a round of applause. About 90 per cent of the people present were from the North and they stood and applauded in appreciation for the funding which was coming to the North. We had a Minister there too but he did not stand and say that we in the southern Border counties also appreciate what the American people and the President have done for the southern Border counties. This is consistent with the lack of awareness of the needs and deprivation in the southern Border counties over the last 25 years.
Look at the record of American companies and of those setting up businesses. The six Border counties account for about 11 per cent of start-ups. At present, it is much more attractive to set up in Northern Ireland. If a derelict site is classified as a bombed site there, one can get a start-up grant of £50,000. There are no such benefits or schemes here and we have nothing on the ground that works. I am involved in a county enterprise board which must submit to the Department of Finance even a small grant of £1,500 along with a tax-clearance certificate. How long would it take to get £1,500 on the dole? A few weeks, and one would not need a tax-clearance certificate, etc.
The situation is serious. I do not understand why the Government does not recognise that there is no point expecting funding from the Delors package, the fund for peace and reconciliation or anywhere else if matching funding is not put in place. The Minister for Finance said in Monaghan there would be additionality. Can the Minister present say that there will be additionality and that there will not be substitution, because that is what this is all about?
I met the Commissioner for Regional Development, Ms Wulf-Mathies, on three occasions and she said that my problem was not with her but with the Minister for Finance and the Government. She said that the Government would have to re-examine the national development plan and reallocate funds for the southern Border counties. She was quite open about it. She even said that there was a lot of "ring-fencing" going on. This is a new word which she had learned from Irish politicians. Will the Minister recognise that there is a serious problem?
According to a letter from the then Taoiseach, Mr. Charles Haughey, it was agreed at a meeting of the Anglo-Irish Intergovernmental Conference on 21 October 1987:
Both Governments have decided to press ahead with this [cross-Border] study because they recognise that the problems of the area are enormous and cannot be effectively tackled by either Government acting in isolation.
In another letter in response to my request for funding on behalf of the cross-Border group on 20 August 1985, the then Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Peter Barry, stated:
This lack of financial additionality is a major drawback from the Government's point of view in so far as an integrated operation is concerned. It could in practice lead to a situation where the existing receipts from Structural Funds would be over concentrated on certain areas at the expense of broader national development priorities.