Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Derry/Donegal Cross-Border Study.

13.

asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if a request has been made to him that he receive a deputation representing the Strabane District Council, Derry City Council and Donegal County Council to discuss the Derry/ Donegal cross-Border study; and if so, when he is prepared to meet such a deputation.

The Minister has received a request for a meeting with a deputation from the three councils to discuss the implementation of the cross-Border communications study. The necessary arrangements have now been made and the Minister looks forward to meeting the deputation on Friday, 23 February.

Would the Minister tell me when he received the application?

The application was received a number of months ago. The Minister, as the Deputy will appreciate, had a very full schedule and in all the circumstances it seems reasonable that the meeting is now taking place.

Could I have the precise date? A few months ago could mean anything.

I understand that in September 1978 the Secretary of Donegal County Council wrote to the Minister in the matter. The facts are that a number of the items in the cross-Border study have not yet been completed or are in the course of completion and it was felt that because of this and the Minister's own heavy programme there would not be much point at that time in meeting sooner. There is no acrimony between the three local authorities concerned, that is, Derry City Council, Strabane District Council and Donegal County Council and I do not know why Deputy Harte is making an issue of the matter. It is very important that this programme be seen to be a unified approach. The Deputy should see it in that spirit.

After that very long-winded reply, all the information I am seeking is the date when the letter was received from the Donegal County Council and the date of the Minister's reply.

The letter from Donegal County Council was received in September 1978. The reply, in the ordinary way, went out about three weeks later.

Could we have the date of the reply? These general terms are not what I am seeking.

The simple truth of the matter is that the county secretary for Donegal wrote to the Department on 28 August 1978 and there was a reply on 19 September that the Minister greatly appreciated the contribution the three councils I have mentioned have made to cross-Border co-operation and that he would be delighted to receive the deputation on a propitious date. The propitious date now is 23 February 1979 and, to be absolutely frank, the Deputy is causing a lot of unnecessary——

When was the letter confirming the meeting sent?

Order, please. I am calling the next question.

When I get the information I am seeking.

A question has been asked about when the deputation is being received. We are not now going to have an inquest.

I want to expose the inactivity of the Minister and his Deputy in relation to cross-Border co-operation. This is a disgraceful example.

That is a slanderous allegation and the Deputy made the same allegation against me when representing the Irish Government in the Derry Guild hall. It shows a total lack of all party approach——

Order, please. I am calling Question No. 14. Will the Minister please answer Question No. 14?

I want to state clearly that it is a despicable thing that the Secretary of the Donegal County Council is making contact with two councils across the Border to involve them in these studies and he could not get the support of the Minister of State or the Minister in the Department of Foreign Affairs. That is the interest they have in cross-Border studies. The Minister of State cannot defend that. It is inexcusable and it is an example of the lack of interest they have in cross-Border co-operation.

The only interest Deputy Harte has in cross-Border co-operation—and this outburst is consistent with it—is in making petty political capital out of it.

I am exposing the Minister and his party——

Order, please.

(Interruptions.)

If Deputy Harte does not obey the Chair, I will have to ask him to leave the House.

I would sooner leave the House——

I will have to compel him to leave the House if he does not behave.

I will leave the House, but before leaving the House I will not allow the Chair to protect the inactivity and the lack of interest on the part of the Minister. I would have thought the Chair, being a Donegal man, would be as sensitive on this issue as I am.

The Deputy should not address his remarks to the Chair in that manner.

In what manner?

He should not invite the Chair in the matter of his question. The Chair will not permit it. The Chair is not concerned with the Deputy's question. The Chair is only concerned with keeping order.

I thought the Chair was interested in getting answers.

The Chair is interested in keeping order during Question Time and the Chair has got just about enough of being ignored.

If I had got the information I am seeking I would not persist.

I am calling the next question.

I would ask the Minister whether in any of these cross-Border get-togethers the elected representatives, apart from local councils, might be considered as worthy of being replied to here?

That is a fair point. I will take it into consideration.

Question No. 14 is the good news section which would not appeal to Deputy Harte in the circumstances of his outburst.

14.

asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will give an up-to-date progress report on the Derry/ Donegal EEC cross-Border scheme.

Immediately following publication of the report on cross-Border communications in the Derry/ Donegal area the Government initiated an intensive examination of the consultants' finding by all the relevant Departments and official agencies concerned. The first stage of this examination was completed in June 1978 and at that time the Government reached agreement in principle on a programme of implementation covering the main areas of the consultants' recommendations. This programme envisages:

(a) Full implementation of the consultants' recommendations for the road programme for North Donegal up to 1985;

(b) Joint action with the appropriate authorities in Northern Ireland to effect improvements in the cross-Border passenger bus service in the area;

(c) Consultations with the appropriate authorities in Britain and in Northern Ireland with a view to reaching agreement on establishing an air-link between Eglinton Airport and Dublin;

(d) Consultation with appropriate authorities in Northern Ireland to pursue certain joint measures for the development of tourism and the coordination of tourism promotion on the lines recommended by the consultants;

(e) Conversion of Letterkenny telephone exchanges to automatic working;

(f) Laying of a cross-Border cable between Derry and Bridgend to facilitate direct dialling between Donegal, Derry and the Belfast area.

In line with the commitments to full implementation of the road programme work is already proceeding on a number of roads singled out by the consultants for priority action in their road programme for north Donegal up to 1985. Early implementation of many of the other recommended road improvement schemes for which planning is at an advanced stage can be expected.

The conversion to automatic working of Letterkenny Exchange and the laying of the cross-Border cable should be completed this year. The design for a £1.12 million scheme for Greencastle has been approved and work is to begin this year.

The consultants in their report emphasised the need for cross-Border co-operation in relation to the area as a whole and many of the recommendations require joint action by the two Governments for their implementation. At the meeting which the Minister had with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland on 5 May last it was agreed that a joint committee of officials from North and South should be set up to ensure a co-ordinated approach and monitor implementation of the study. From the work of that committee the Minister is aware of a number of measures which the various Northern Ireland departments are taking to implement recommendations of the report, in particular in relation to the new Foyle bridge, improvements at Derry port and improvements in roads and telecommunications.

The Minister has also asked for an early joint examination of the possibility of securing assistance for the area under the terms of the revised regional fund which is at present under discussion in Brussels.

The Minister will of course be reviewing the rate of progress in all of these areas of joint endeavour in the course of his meeting today with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.

What better news than that can I give the Deputy? That is progress.

It sounds like something from Hans Christian Andersen. Can the Minister tell me where I might see evidence of this physical progress?

The Deputy is damaging the progress of the programme.

By asking questions?

By his general behaviour.

I suppose I am making the situation unpleasant for the Minister, but can he indicate where I might direct my constituents who may wish to find evidence of this progress? The fact is that not a penny has been spent in this area.

I could make a few suggestions as to where the Deputy might go.

The Government are being accused of delaying tactics. Both the British Government and Brussels are anxious to put up the money but our Government are not prepared to pay their share.

I am calling Question No. 15.

The amount has been reduced from £50 million to £40 million.

This is nonsense.

If it took nine months to answer a letter to Donegal County Council we could expect anything.

That is not true.

(Interruptions.)

In the middle of all his good tidings, can the Minister say whether there is included any mention of Carrickarory Pier on the Donegal side of Lough Foyle, a pier that is falling into disuse, and whether apart from the Eglinton venture of linking it with other ports in the country there has been any suggestion or any study regarding the provision of a scheduled airport in Donegal to serve Derry, Tyrone and Donegal?

I have no specific information regarding Carrickarory Pier but I will correspond with the Deputy on that matter. Neither do I have available here information regarding the possibility of an air link in Donegal, but I shall be delighted to ascertain the information for the Deputy.

Regarding the Greencastle harbour development is it not the position that far from being related to anything in this EEC report it is a continuation of that which was promised initially and which has been on the cards for the past ten years?

This is irrelevant. It has nothing to do with the present situation.

I note that there has not been any reference in the Minister's progress report to roads in north and north-west Donegal. These roads are very important, too, in terms of the tourist industry.

The roads meeting of Donegal County Council will be held next week.

It is imperative that we get EEC grants in respect of roadworks in north-west Donegal.

I have called the next question.

There have been improvements to both secondary and primary roads in Donegal and also in Derry.

Can the Minister let us know the amount of money involved in real terms of the value of money? Is it £50 million in 1976 terms?

Question No. 15 has been called.

Why is the Minister running away from this question?

The Deputy is being disorderly but I shall not oblige him by sending him from the House.

It is not my wish to be sent from the House. I came here to elicit information but I am not getting that information. What is the value of the money in real terms?

The Deputy has been disorderly since he asked his first question.

I am being ignored by the Minister. I am asking in an orderly fashion how much money is to be spent on the project in question.

The question is not being allowed.

Why is the Chair protecting the Minister?

I am protecting the Chair.

I am leaving the House in protest at the manner in which you are conducting the proceedings. The Minister has nothing to say to me.

I would ask the Deputy to leave quietly.