Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Markpress Agency Effectiveness.

8.

asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs how he assesses the present effectiveness and future potential of the Markpress agency as an instrument of improving Ireland's image abroad.

As the Taoiseach indicated in the Dáil on 14th December last, an assessment was made of the ability and capacity of the Markpress agency and it was decided that they were well qualified to carry out the task entrusted to them. It is too early a stage for me to attempt an interim assessment of the agency's effectiveness or potential.

Under what Government Department does this agency operate?

The Taoiseach's Department.

To what extent is there liaison between the Government Information Bureau and this international agency?

I understand there is full liaison set up by the Taoiseach and the Taoiseach will have instructed all agencies of the Government to co-operate.

Why then is this question being answered by the Minister?

That is a good question. In cases like this it is sometimes suggested when the question comes in that it be transferred to somebody else but in this case, since the function taken on by Markpress seems to overlap to a certain extent functions normally carried out by my Department, I thought I should answer so that I would be able to take up any supplementary questions arising out of that aspect of the work but no such supplementary questions have been put.

I want to know if any consideration has been given by the Government to what was proposed by the Opposition? Now that we are having a proliferation of agencies I am not quite sure whose image they are promoting; I gather that Markpress are busy promoting the Minister for Finance's image and that the Minister for Foreign Affairs does not particularly like it. Would the Minister not agree we would be far better off if we had a semi-self-supporting national newsagency, an information agency of our own in this country to disseminate our own news, views and information? Would that not be much more effective? Surely the proposals made on the Opposition side to that effect could be considered? Have the Cabinet given any serious consideration to these proposals?

The Taoiseach dealt with that about a fortnight ago.

(Interruptions.)

I said I was not contemplating such an agency now. If the Deputy wishes to put down another question next week, he may do so.

The Taoiseach said he would consider the setting up of this agency.

I said that in the event of my setting up such an agency I would take counsel from what I described as the technicians of the profession. I meant members of the profession, editors and such like. If the Deputy reads the record he will find that is exactly what I said.

Arising from the Minister's reply to a supplementary, am I correct in understanding him to have indicated to the House that, although he answered this question, Markpress are not working for him?

They were appointed by the Taoiseach and he has instructed the various agencies of the Government to co-operate.

I have called the Minister for Transport and Power.

For how long will this contract last?

The Taoiseach made a statement on that.

Initially, for six months. Obviously, the Deputy does not read his stuff.

I believe in double checking anything said by the Taoiseach.

And the Deputy gets the same answer each time and finds it is the correct one.