In regard to Foynes there is a very good harbour commission there who work very effectively. One could safely say that outside of Dublin they have probably been the most successful harbour commisison in the country, turning over massive tonnage at present and that is on the increase. They compete with all other ports including Greenore in County Down and they are winning a lot of business. Any attempt to break up that dynamism in Foynes would not be welcome. As I have said, I will have another opportunity when the SFADCo Bill comes before the House to point out the flaws in relation to Foynes.
I would like briefly to mention the background to the setting up of the Shannon Free Airport Development Company. In 1958 Shannon Airport was about to lose its strategic relevance to world aviation. The new long haul jets no longer needed to stop over at Shannon for refuelling and the airport was in danger of losing its significance or indeed becoming insignificant. The Shannon Development Company was established in 1958-59 to ensure that the airport continued to be used. The main means of doing this was the development of industry near the airport and the development of tourism through the airport. From 1958 to 1968 the company's industrial development activities were limited to the development and promotion of the Shannon industrial free zone and indeed many more countries copied this model of Shannon.
In 1968 the Government requested the company to undertake the promotion of foreign industrial investment in the Shannon region which it did successfully until 1978. At that time the Minister for Industry and Commerce changed the regional industrial focus of the company from foreign medium to large industries to indigenous small industry. They asked the company to initiate and test various programmes for small industry promotion and development which, if successful, could be applied nationally. I am sure the Minister would agree that they carried out this function very effectively. Many of the programmes for small industry that they put into practice have proven very successful for the rest of the country and indeed are used as examples.
In 1987 the company were given the extended brief for the promotion and development of all industry and tourism in the Shannon region and I would like to compliment the Government for their foresight in doing this. It is in keeping with the recommendations of the Hume Report and certainly with the recent publication by Deputy John Bruton on how he sees regional structures developing. He pointed out the advantages of SFADCo in maximising our income from Europe. That certainly seems to be the right type of structure. The decision by the Government to extend the role of SFADCo in 1987 was a major development. For the first time in the history of the Republic it brought the major strands of economic activity, including industry and tourism, within the ambit of one development agency. As I have said, this is in keeping with both John Hume's and Deputy John Bruton's thinking on the matter.
The southern region now has an organisational framework for integrated regional development and as a result should benefit considerably from European funding. The region will also benefit from a more co-ordinated approach to development. It will certainly avoid much unnecessary overlapping and waste of very scarce resources. There has been rapid growth in the Shannon area in the past 20 years. The population of Limerick city has grown by almost 15,000 people in that period. However, there is a warning here for a peripheral area like Kerry. Places like north Tipperary, west Clare and, to a lesser extent, west Limerick did not benefit to the same extent as the area along the axis from Shannon to Limerick. This is something that we in north Kerry will have to be very wary of because we could suffer just as places like west Clare and north Tipperary did.
When I was trying to promote this idea in 1986 I carried out a survey for The Kerryman which I will not go into here. I came up with figures which showed that south Tipperary, with a population about one-third higher than north Tipperary, was in receipt of more than twice the State grant payments over a five year period as north Tipperary were receiving. As Deputies know, south Tipperary is in the IDA region, the south west region, and north Tipperary is in the SFADCo region. I will be telling the people in north Kerry to be wary and not to be over enthusiastic about this deveopment, to recognise the advantages for us but not to take everything at face value.
The same study revealed that west Clare and indeed west Limerick did not fare too well although considerable progress has been made in the last three or four years in places like Abbeyfeale and Newcastle West. The study also revealed that Kerry, in particular north Kerry, fared very well from 1982 to 1986 compared with places like Mayo. In Listowel, for example, the trend was totally different from the rest of the country. The number of people in manufacturing employment at that time increased by 100. I heard Deputy Foley criticising the IDA for their performance in north Kerry but they have also had their successes in that region. There are reasons north Kerry did not benefit to the same extent as other areas in the south west region, one of which is that it is a peripheral area.
Much of the growth in the Limerick area has been attributable to the dynamism of Shannon with its industrial estate, airport, duty free shop and financial centre. Again, the IDA have made a major contribution to the city by developing industrial estates at Raheen and Plassey which are now home to such successful industries as Wang, How-medica, Verbatim and Analog. It was the IDA, in consultation and co-operation with SFADCo, who brought those industries to Limerick and that must be acknowledged. The NIHE have also had a profound influence on the local community. They have been the source of inspiration for the National Microelectronics Centre which is located on the campus and is a very fine innovation. This should lead to the development of the electronics industry in the region. In Kerry there is already a good base for electronics industries. There is one of the largest PCB producers in Listowel — Melchert Electronics Limited — and there are very positive developments in electronics in Tralee. NIHE works very closely with the industries on the nearby Plassey Technological Park and no doubt provides much of the expertise and the workforce for the industry. It has contributed in no small way to the success of Wang, Verbatim and Analog because most of their personnel came from NIHE. I welcome the announcement that NIHE will now become the University of Limerick. NIHE was originally proposed in the sixties. Much of the credit should go to the former Minister for Education, Deputy Hussey, who set up the commission to examine the feasibility of declaring NIHE both in Dublin and in Limerick as universities. A matter which has escaped the media is that it was Deputy Hussey who set up the Hardiman committee which recommended that this should happen.
The University of Limerick will now become the focal point for turning out the right type of person to encourage various industries into the region and will certainly provide the required expertise. The back-up services should be a major attraction for foreign industrialists coming into the region. Within the new region there are great possibilities for more definite lines of communication between the RTC in Tralee, which has considerable resources, and NIHE in Limerick. There should be some connection between the courses and much consultation for the benefit of both areas. Tralee is the second biggest centre in the region. Therefore many of the resources of SFADCo which I will mention later, will be concentrated in the Tralee area.
I would like to refer briefly to the development of small industries. Shannon Development have been very successful in promoting small indigenous industry and have set in train a number of very effective support systems. These include enterprise promotion, field officers and business centres which provide valuable work space units. We have lost out in north Kerry because of the absence of these facilities. Work space units provide a means for small enterprises to combine to share premises and services. A large range of support services is provided, such as secretarial assistance, maintenance, power, lighting and specialist business advice. These units are ideally suited to light manufacture, assembly, craft work design and locally related services. The innovation centre provides a comprehensive product development service for small firms and — as I mentioned previously — the National Microelectronic Centre promotes the use of micro electronics technology by all sectors of Irish industry.
Shannon Development took on board over two years ago the promotion of food processing. This has major implications in North Kerry. With one of the biggest food processors now located in Kerry this will extend the whole base of food processing in the area. In relation to food processing Shannon Development have devised and implemented a number of new initiatives some of which have already been adopted nationally. The most successful of these has been the Raheen Food Centre where food processing units are available to entrepreneurs. The centre has been built to stringent international standards designed to meet US food and drug administration and EC standards. Incubation units for small food processing firms are also available which provide facilities to develop and test new food products.
Another ongoing support programme for small food firms is the alternative farm enterprise scheme. The aim is to encourage producers of raw materials to establish small scale on-farm enterprises and process the materials into high value products. These developments and initiatives in the food sector have enormous relevance to north Kerry. Farming is our most important industry with recent problems surrounding milk quotas we will have to examine other ventures for processing our products. Recent developments in producing farm cheeses have been very successful. The Traditional Cheese Company has had outstanding success in developing and marketing premium Irish farmhouse cheeses. These cheeses are being sold into restaurants and supermarkets all over Europe. Two years ago the National Development Corporation took a 33 per cent investment in this company and is now looking at the whole export market potential for further expansion.
Farm activities will become more diverse in the future and will incorporate such ventures as organic gardening, fresh farm chickens, home produced pate, honey production, mushroom growing, tree harvesting and farm holidays. Shannon Development has had a direct involvement in tourist attractions, especially its medieval banquets at Bunratty and Knappogue.
With increasing pressure being put on milk quotas the encouragement and development of alternative farm enterprises is most welcome. I look forward to working closely with Shannon Development in north Kerry towards encouraging as many farmers as possible to diversify into other alternative enterprises. With the new emphasis on fresh food, wholesome food, health foods and so forth there is obviously a major niche in the market for this type of activity. There has been a tradition in north Kerry of cheesemaking, bacon production and so on, but many of these old occupations are now extinct. It is time to rekindle an awareness within our community of the vast potential we have to develop activities along these lines.
I mentioned also the direct involvement in tourism activities of SFADCo, especially in relation to Bunratty and Knappogue. In 1986, over 150,000 people attended such banquets. The Bunratty Folk Park has also been an outstanding success. Other projects such as the restoration of the Granary in Limerick, the proposal to develop King John's Castle into a major tourist centre including an emigration centre, the development of Lough Gur and the reconstruction there of medieval houses and other artefacts from that time are welcome. I would like also to welcome the development of a tourist innovation centre similar to the small industry innovation centre. This centre should encourage people to look at various aspects of tourism and train people to become involved in tourism. It is a welcome development.
I would like to mention the development of a monastic park in Roscrea and the development of the Foynes aviation and maritime museum. SFADCo have been very successful in promoting this type of development. They have not rested on their laurels since their remit was extended to include promotion of tourism in the area. I was glad to hear my colleague from north Kerry mention the great potential in north Kerry for golf. SFADCo are promoting through the recent establishment of South West Golf Limited the various golf courses in the region. We expect to have a major spin off from this in north Kerry with one of the finest golf courses in the world located in Ballybunion. In time, the new golf course will probably become even more famous than the existing one. With a golf course in Lahinch, a new course in Tralee, and two courses in Ballybunion I expect that we will attract an increasing number of golfing tourists because of the increased availability of facilities and the aggressive marketing of these facilities abroad, especially in America. Last year approximately 15,000 people used Ballybunion golf course and this figure could probably be doubled and the season extended by proper marketing. Counties Kerry and Clare have the natural advantage that golf can be played all year around, whereas in many inland courses, especially in North America the season is curtailed by weather conditions. There is great potential in golf promotion and I look forward to seeing progress in this area.
Deputy Foley referred to Cork-Kerry Tourism. I agree that Cork-Kerry Tourism played a very prominent role in the development of tourism in the area. However, we in the north Kerry area did not benefit to the same extent as south Kerry, as I think Cork-Kerry Tourism were trying to promote a different type of tourism and were trying to attract a different market segment. South Kerry is probably one of the most scenic spots in the country if not in the world whereas north Kerry is mainly farmland. Nevertheless, there is a very rich cultural heritage in north Kerry. I would refer especially to areas like Lislaughlin Abbey, Carrigfoyle Castle, Ardfert Monastery and Cathedral, Blennerville Windmill and many other historical sites which will be developed now by SFADCo. Cork-Kerry Tourism did not promote cultural tourism and did not set out to attract the type of tourists who would be interested in heritage, culture and archaeology. North Kerry has a very rich cultural heritage and I hope we will be able to develop its potential to benefit the area.
I might add that tourism in north Kerry was not organised but I am now glad to say that a new north Kerry tourist federation has been set up and has drawn all the various villages and development associations together. When the federation is working in co-operation with SFADCo, this should lead to greater development of tourism. There will be a more vigorous promotion of the entertainment and activities available in the area. For example, Listowel Writers Week is probably one of the best kept secrets in the country but is recognised in some circles as being one of the best cultural events in Europe. The event is not promoted vigorously enough.
As I have mentioned previously, north Kerry did not fare too badly because of its involvement with the IDA. Before I leave this point, I would like to thank the IDA representatives, Mr. Michael Friel and his predecessor Mr. Brendan O'Sullivan for their efforts in promoting industry in the north Kerry region. I am sure that they were not at fault when we did not get the industries we had hoped for from the IDA.
North Kerry is within the Shannon region and it is only right that I should refer to the great development prospects of the River Shannon. The Shannon Estuary is a major under-utilised resource for industrial development. It has the best deep water berthage in Europe. The surrounding terrain is accessible and will need very little adjustment work. Nevertheless, this resource has never been developed to the extent that it should have been. I will refer briefly to a major study carried out by An Foras Forbartha in 1983. While I have no intention of going through the study in detail, I will comment on some points in it. I will quote from The Shannon Estuary Industrial Location Study by An Foras Forbartha, 1983:
The Shannon Estuary, with its sheltered, deep water, is considered to be a prime natural resource of the Mid-West Planning Region of Ireland, with considerable potential for the siting of manufacturing industries requiring a maritime location. However, like many locations favourable for industrial development on the periphery of Europe, the Shannon Estuary has considerable ecological, scenic and tourism value. It is important, therefore, to ensure that any development strategy in such areas is based on a compatible relationship between the operational characteristics of industry and the social and ecological environment.
That spells out the importance of developing the Shannon estuary both as an industrial location and as a potential area for tourism activities, such as water sports, marinas, et cetera. The study also refers to sea access to the estuary. A 1982 report on the dredging of a navigational channel concludes that:
current depth available as far as the Fergus estuary can cater for vessels of 170,000-200,000 d.w.t. at mean high water. Dredging to cater for vessels of 250,000 d.w.t. at high water only, would cost IR£3 million, and for vessels of 400,000 d.w.t. would cost IR£5 million.
No other port in Europe, apart from Rotterdam, has this natural advantage. For the very small sum of £3 million some of the biggest vessels in the world at present could navigate the Shannon. There must be considerable potential for transhipment alone. The study also identified major sites on the estuary and Ardmore Point and Ballylongford sites were identified jointly as the most suitable for all industrial types that it examined, including oil related heavy industry, shipbuilding, et cetera. I ask the Minister and indeed SFADCo to promote vigorously the Shannon estuary as an industrial location. The Shannon estuary suffered because of competition with Ringaskiddy where there had been massive investment in infrastructure. Certainly the same type of investment was not put into the Shannon Bank area. An industrialist looking for a deep sea berth comparing Ringaskiddy with the Shannon estuary will see that Ringaskiddy has all the infrastructural advantages and the Shannon estuary has all the natural advantages. I appeal to the Government and to SFADCo to plough the necessary resources into the Shannon estuary at least to make the place suitable for the setting up of an industry. At the moment there are no access roads to the area, which is just a green field site. All it has is the availability of power for the development of industry and the natural advantage of the river. I look forward to much more activity in the Shannon estuary.
North Kerry has been devastated by emigration. It is sickening for our young emigrants to know that this vast resource which cost about £5 million of taxpayers' money is being under-utilised. In the past, people in the area were misled. I remember a Fianna Fáil Minister going to turn the sod in Ballylongford for a smelter. That was just two weeks before an election and that was all we heard about the smelter. Even now there is speculation about the development of a smelter on the estuary. This type of rumour should be scotched as it is most unfair to raise the hopes and aspirations of the people only to dash them again. A programme should be devised for the development of the area which could be promoted vigorously in Japan, America and Europe among people with resources to invest in the Shannon estuary. The Government and SFADCo should make the necessary investment to make this region attractive for intending developers.
Up to now the Clare and Limerick portions of the estuary were in the Shannon region and north Kerry was in the south west region. The new unified region will allow a comprehensive approach to be taken towards the planning, promotion and development of the estuary.
The estuary will be promoted and marketed as one unit. Economic investigations and other studies on the estuary will be done and the estuary will be developed as a whole. Within the framework of SFADCo and with the new regional structural funding, far more structured development can take place in the area and the area will benefit as a result.
The Minister referred to the Limerick/Tralee route. I hope the Minister has not forgotten Listowel. The Limerick/Tralee access must include Listowel. The national primary route leading from west Limerick to north Kerry by-passes the major part of north Kerry. It is important that north Kerry is not forgotten. The only stretch of national primary road in north Kerry is between Headley Bridge and Feale Bridge in Tralee via Castleisland. That is a very small stretch of road. I hope the Minister does not see that road as the main access to Kerry. The main access from Limerick to Kerry, indeed from Clare to the ferry, is through Tarbert, Listowel, Tralee. That area must be developed. I mentioned the possibilities for Tralee Regional College. Hopefully there will be strong links between it and NIHE.
I enthusistically welcome this Bill which I have been calling for since I came into politics. I would like the Minister and SFADCo to ensure that there will be a SFADCo presence in all of the north Kerry area. It is proposed that the main office should be in Tralee. That is appropriate as Tralee is the biggest centre of population outside of Limerick but there should be a presence in Listowel also. In order to get the people of north Kerry behind it, SFADCo must have a presence in Listowel, even on a once a week basis.
SFADCo have been upgrading tourist offices throughout Limerick and Clare. I would ask them to ensure that there will be tourist offices in Tralee, Listowel and Ballybunion. Apart from the success of the golf club, Ballybunion has died over the past ten years. I appeal to SFADCo to use the natural advantages in Ballybunion to reverse the downward trend of the resort which is due to the small amount of investment in Ballybunion. The resort has no proper sewage treatment facility, so that last year a survey carried out showed that Ballybunion has the dirtiest beach in the country. I appeal to the Government to give the go ahead to the scheme that has been ready for the past two years which would give Ballybunion a proper sewage treatment plant which would help to raise environmental standards.
When SFADCo come into north Kerry they should harness the goodwill and dynamism of the people who are very hard working people. If SFADCo can harness their enthusiasm we will see major improvements in the area.
The difference between the IDA and SFADCo is that SFADCo have people out on the ground whereas the IDA are office oriented because of lack of manpower. I hope SFADCo utilise their great advantage in north Kerry.
I have a few reservations about this Bill, one being that Kerry will be a divided county. There are enough divisions in the country. I hope Kerry will not suffer from the division. Development within the county should not become fragmented or unco-ordinated. The county development team or the county council should ensure balanced development of the county. Funds will come to the Limerick and Cork regions and, for example, there could be major road improvements in north Kerry and there may not be corresponding improvements in south Kerry so that a good road would run into a narrow, badly repaired road. It is very important that there is co-operation between the mid-west region and the south-west region and that Kerry County Council will have a pivotal role to play in the future development of that area. Otherwise there could be unbalanced development of the county and the people in Kerry who oppose this Bill, because the county is being divided, are afraid this will happen.
I should like to point out — and I have mentioned this already in the Estimates — that this year the allocation for SFADCo has been reduced. Can the Minister tell me how he expects the same number of staff or even fewer staff, to do more with less money? This does not make sense. The case has to be made for a supplementary estimate for SFADCo because of the extension of their remit. Perhaps the Estimates were prepared before the Government decided to extend the remit of SFADCo to north Kerry. I believe the physical and financial resources of SFADCo will be stretched too much and the company will be less effective if they are not given more resources. It seems a contradiction to decrease the funding for SFADCo on the one hand and increase their remit on the other. Something has to suffer, and I am afraid it will be the peripheral areas, such as west Clare, north Tipperary and north Kerry.
I referred earlier to the new SEDCo Bill. This will lead to much confusion. SEDCo will be the Shannon Estuary Development Corporation as opposed to SFADCo, the Shannon Free Airport Development Company. A proposed new authority will be set up in the SFADCo region but there is no need for this. There is a need for a ports authority for the Shannon Estuary but this new Bill as proposed by the Minister for the Marine, Deputy Brendan Daly, is irrelevant and is not practical. The Government should accept the Fine Gael Bill which was prepared after four years of background work by Deputy Jim Mitchell, then Minister for Communications, who consulted groups in Kilrush, Foynes, Kerry and Limerick and got universal approval for his Bill. Then, out of the blue, this Government brought forward their Bill, which I believe has very little local input and seems to be very shallow. This Bill will cause enormous problems for port users in Foynes and other ports and it will also do a great deal of damage to Foynes itself. What is needed in the estuary is a harbours Bill, not a development Bill.