This Bill proposes to extend the responsibilities of the Shannon Free Airport Development Company to include the north Kerry area. I welcome the inclusion of this area in the mid-west region, as it forms a natural part of that region. There also have been close links between the counties of Kerry, Clare and Limerick in the agricultural sector for many years. Since the establishment of the Tarbert-Killimer ferry there have been close links between the Counties of Kerry and Clare. Therefore, I welcome the inclusion of the north Kerry area into the mid-west region. Having said that I am concerned that no provision has been made in the Bill for the making available of additional finance to SFADCo so as to enable them to fulfil their responsibilities in respect of this area. It appears that SFADCo would be expected to carry out these additional duties on the same budget despite the fact that they would have responsibility for an area which has a considerable industrial, agricultural and tourism capacity. I hope the Minister responding to this debate will indicate how he expects SFADCo to extend their budget, to work a miracle and provide a service to an area for which no additional moneys are being delivered.
I am somewhat puzzled by the overall Government strategy on the mid-west region. As previous speakers have said, the mid-west region is a very natural geographic unit. All the counties surrounding the Shannon Estuary — Clare, Limerick, North Tipperary and Kerry — focus on the estuary. At this stage it would do this House good to examine what is going on in that area and around the estuary and which development agencies have responsibility for the development of the mid-west region.
Many people in mid-west are extremely perplexed by the bureaucracy that is being laid on layer by layer. Deputy O'Malley said in his address to the House that we are talking about another Bill coming before the House this evening — the Harbours (Shannon Estuary Development Corporation) Bill concerning another development corporation. It is not clear exactly what they are supposed to be doing. There is an overlapping of responsibilities and areas of jurisdiction and control.
At the beginning of 1988 the present Government thought fit to give responsibility to SFADCo for tourism and for large industry. That process in effect eliminated the IDA and Bord Fáilte from the mid-west region, but let us examine the situation closely. From various discussions I have had with representatives of these various agencies, it seems that SFADCo's responsibility for tourism in the mid-west region is primarily for the product within the region and the promotion of the product within that region, but the responsibility for the overseas promotion for that region lies with Bord Fáilte. If you speak to Bord Fáilte you will get a contrary view — they say they have no responsibility for tourism promotion in the mid-west.
As a result, the tourist industry in the mid-west are extremely concerned that one of the most effective regional tourism boards in the country, Shannonside, were disbanded and scrapped and semi-incorporated into the structure of SFADCo. SFADCo have done a good job promoting their own tourist product in years gone by — the various castles they developed as banquet centres and the folk park in Bunratty — and they operated a very effective tourist attraction in the region. They are now expected to involve themselves in the broader promotion of tourism. A year on, there is still total confusion in the mid-west and within Board Fáilte and SFADCo as to what the respective bodies are about and what their various responsibilities are.
My concern and the concern of the people involved in tourism in the mid-west region is that we will be the losers in the long run, particularly in overseas tourism promotion. I hope the Minister will be able to clear that aspect of SFADCo's responsibility once and for all before this debate is completed. As everybody knows, tourism is a major employer and one of the biggest industries in the mid-west region. We are talking about an extremely attractive tourist region in County Clare, Limerick, North Tipperary and parts of south Offaly. Again there is confusion. I am not clear from the Minister's speech or from the Bill whether this Bill is giving SFADCo responsibility for tourism in north Kerry. As I read it, it does not and the Minister's speech does not suggest SFADCo are getting responsibility for tourism development in north Kerry either. Maybe we could have clarification on that point.
The Government introduced regionalisation in their announcement of seven regions. Because by its very nature the mid-west region is very much a natural region and has been bureaucratically administered for quite a number of years under the auspices of SFADCo. In one sense we are very fortunate to have a structure in place in SFADCo, but we need clarification on many of the issues that arise.
This Bill proposes that responsibility be given for industrial development in north Kerry to SFADCo. Last year the Government gave responsibility for all industries in the mid-west region to SFADCo, thus excluding the IDA from the mid-west region. A great deal of concern was expressed about that at the time, and people are still quite concerned, but not because SFADCo as a body would not be able to do the job. SFADCo have done a very good job in the mid-west and they should be congratulated for the way they developed the Shannon Industrial estate. They have been particularly successful there and they were particularly successful in the development of small industries surrounding the industrial estate and providing ancillary services in the smaller industrial areas to the larger centres in Shannon.
Regarding overall major industry in the rest of the region, let me be parochial and talk about County Clare. One has to question the effectiveness of SFADCo in the peripheral areas of the mid-west region. In the peripheral areas of County Clare, areas outside the Ennis-Shannon-Limerick axis, there is a great deal left to be desired. In the entire periphery of County Clare — Kilrush to Lahinch to Ballyvaughan over to Tulla, Scarriff and down to Killaloe — very little in the line of new jobs has been created in recent times. The Minister and his predecessor have on many occasions gone public with fantastic figures in relation to the jobs sanctioned, but on closer examination one will find that the number of jobs on the ground and the number of jobs sanctioned vary enormously. The number of jobs cleared by SFADCo and the number of jobs eventually created leave much to be desired. We are told that jobs will be phased in over three, four or five years, but at the end of that time nothing like the number of jobs projected have been created and in some cases there is a stalemate.
Recently I decided to do a spot check. An announcement was made that 65 new jobs were created in a certain factory. These figures were part of an overall figure presented by the Minister of jobs created in the region. In real terms, on the floor of that factory ten jobs were created, but the official figure was 65 jobs. That is just one instance of the propaganda that is emanating from this Government. Recently officials from SFADCo and Clare County Council were unable to announce where the jobs they created were. I do not blame them personally, although they must take some responsibility for it. They were unable to say where on the periphery of County Clare any additional jobs had been created. That is unfortunate. It is more unfortunate that those with responsibility to the House saw fit to go public and produce bogus figures in an effort to con the people into believing that jobs were being created when, in effect, they were not. If one compares the number of jobs supposedly created with the number of redundancies one will see how difficult the argument becomes.
We have been told that last year 73,000 people emigrated. I have no doubt that a substantial number of that figure left the midwest region, and County Clare in particular. In one week alone in a parish not too far away from my home 22 people between the ages of 18 and 23 emigrated. Such occurrences are quite common in rural Ireland. I do not think the Government are facing up to the problem of emigration. The legislation before us will not co-ordinate the work in that region. The Government have divided the country into seven regions for the purpose of gaining from the EC Structural Funds. The Shannon region is an ideal model for the rest of the country but the Government have not given any thought to it. Fianna Fáil Ministers, when in Opposition, complained about layers of bureaucracy being created but they appear to be very anxious now to add further layers of bureaucracy to the system.
There is no doubt that where different State agencies are competing in a region the attitude of divide and conquer will prevail thus weakening existing structures. That is unfortunate and it is happening in our region. Deputy O'Malley drew our attention to advertisements in industrial magazines circulating in North America which were inserted by the IDA and show a map of Ireland with two areas blanked out, Northern Ireland, for which we do not have any industrial responsibility, and the midwest region. Magazines containing those damaging advertisements have been circulating in North America in the last two years. It is time that the Government insisted on them being withdrawn.
It appears that the IDA and SFADCo are competing for industries abroad. While there is that type of competition we do not have much hope of attracting industries here. Other countries with more resources at their disposal and more political clout are competing with us on the world market for industries while we have two agencies fighting against each other. There is a duty on the Government to clear this up. There is no doubt that in the long term competition between the IDA and SFADCo will be to the detriment of the midwest region. I wonder if north Kerry will benefit from the decision to incorporate it in the SFADCo region.
I should like to compliment SFADCo on the tremendous preparatory work they carried out in an effort to establish a financial services centre at Shannon. That work was carried out at the request of the last Government and many commitments were received from interested clients to set up business in such a centre. However, when Fianna Fáil took office there was an announcement that a financial services centre would be established in Dublin and that it would receive full Government backing. The Government have betrayed Shannon and SFADCo. Their action was despicable particularly when one considers the location of Shannon. Some of our finest education institutions are located between Galway and Limerick. It is unfortunate that the Government denied Shannon the opportunity to establish such a centre.
A more serious problem has arisen in recent times and I hope the Minister is in a position to give us details in regard to it when replying. What is the position in regard to the promotion of traffic through Shannon Airport? Originally SFADCo was established to promote greater use of Shannon Airport but it appears that the Government have agreed to permit trans-Atlantic flights to Knock Airport direct. Are they doing a con job on Shannon by saying that such flights going through Iceland is an inter-European affair and not trans-Atlantic? The Government should come clean on this. I do not see much hope for Shannon in the future if the Government continue along that course. I am concerned about the future status of Shannon Airport as the sole trans-Atlantic airport in Irealnd. If that status is taken from Shannon it will be the beginning of the demise of the region. It is not sufficient to say that Iceland is a signatory of the European Aviation Convention. The people of Clare and the midwest want a positive answer from the Government on that question.
The Government should give urgent consideration to the expiry of the tax concessions for the tax-free zone in Shannon in 1990. I have been urging the Government to clarify the position in the interests of industries in that area but they have failed to do so. Many companies are concerned about their future. It is important that companies are made aware of the tax conditions well in advance of the expiry date so that they can take them into account in their forward planning programmes. Industries must plan in advance if they are to survive. If the Government do not outline their proposals in regard to the tax free zone at Shannon shortly I am afraid that a number of industries will move from Shannon and, perhaps, leave the country. I should like to ask the Minister to press the Government for a decision on that.
SFADCo have done a good job in the Shannon industrial zone and have been reasonably successful in the small industries area. However, the people in the peripheral areas of the region are not happy with what is taking place there. North Kerry will now come within the remit of SFADCo, with a highly developed food industry, many tourist facilities and many companies located there, the extent of which the Minister outlined in the course of his remarks today. In recent years SFADCo have been attempting to become more involved in the development of the food processing industry. Despite their attempts on numerous occasions to attract people and companies into the food processing industry in the mid-west they have not been very successful to date. Are the Minister and the Department of Industry and Commerce prepared to give SFADCo any additional assistance in this respect? Despite the fact that the area is largely agricultural, it does afford room for development. It warrants more than attention from the region; perhaps an extra boost from the Department of Industry and Commerce is needed. The Department of Industry and Commerce should devote attention to marketing, research into the types of projects saleable abroad and the development of food processing. The region has potential but, for one reason or another, has not seemed to have grasped the opportunity.
The Minister mentioned that in 1988 SFADCo set themselves an ambitious job creation target of 2,000 new jobs in the mid-west region. He continued to say:
I am glad to say that that target was comfortably exceeded and that the actual outturn for the year was 2,817 new jobs.
The reality is that those are not real jobs on the ground in the mid-west. SFADCo may have sanctioned jobs but they are not available on the ground. I challenge the Minister to say exactly where such jobs are to be found, to state how many people are employed throughout the mid-west region in order to substantiate that figure. This game of engaging in figures concerns me. For example, again in the course of the Minister's remarks, there was reference to 25 new projects having been approved for the region during 1988 and 17 industrial expansions having been approved in the same year. One can justify one's existence by playing around with figures but what is needed are jobs on the ground. There is a tendency in bureaucratic institutions to justify one's existence by throwing around such figures, contending that is all that is required. However, to the public at large, the taxpayer, the unemployed person, the young student or person boarding a 'plane at Shannon such figures wear very thin, knowing there are no jobs to be found on the ground. It is unfortunate that people continue to use these bogus figures.
In turn this inevitably leads to another Minister coming into the House and giving the increased numbers of travellers through airports and seaports in justification of increased tourism facilities. When such figures are analysed one discovers that they represent additional people emigrating. Their relatives travel abroad to visit them because many of their sons, daughters, sisters and brothers are abroad illegally and cannot afford to return. These figures are being used in a most unfair, callous manner.
This Bill will mean that the north Kerry region will now be encompassed within the mid-west. I do not know how fortunate that will be for the north Kerry region. I can be quite emphatic that what is needed in the mid-west region is more jobs on the ground and fewer layers of bureaucracy. I would ask the Minister for Tourism and Transport and the Minister of State at the Department of Industry and Commerce — with responsibility for marketing — present, who expounds some very sound views at times — seriously to consider the various layers of bureaucracy obtaining in the mid-west. One must realise that the provisions of this Bill involve SFADCo, the IDA and Bord Fáilte being eliminated and henceforth, the IDA and Bord Fáilte being in competition abroad with SFADCo in attracting industrialists and tourists to the region. It must be realised that one is talking about another layer of bureaucracy being created under the provisions of the Harbours (Shannon Estuary Development Corporation) Bill, 1988 stipulating similar responsibilities to those contained in this Bill. This will mean there will be a range of competing agencies, which does not augur well for the future. I predict that this will lead to internal jealousies between the personnel of the various agencies involved, one endeavouring to out-manoeuvre the other. In addition, there will be competition between the various Government Departments, senior civil servants and their responsibilities for the region. I predict that the overall effect will be a loss of industrial development and tourism in the region. While these Bills provide a framework, they also carry an inherent danger which is something the Minister should address urgently.
We regularly appear to have some legislative provision with regard to SFADCo before the House. The Harbours (Shannon Estuary Development Corporation) Bill, 1988 will provide an opportunity to devolve responsibility on SFADCo for the overall development of the estuary. I would ask the Minister to discuss this prospect with his colleague, the Minister for the Marine to ascertain how the whole operation can be rationalised with one development agency being responsible for the entire region.
I hope the Minister, in replying, will address these questions which are being continually addressed by the people of the region. Indeed, people are expressing concern about the future of the region being dependent on the Government decision to be taken on this issue.