Private Members' Business. - Investment in Tourism: Motion.

I move:

That Dáil Éireann is concerned that State and EU funding of tourism should be applied in the most costeffective manner and so as to maximise tourist growth, having particular regard to the permanent cessation of violence in Northern Ireland, the Government's proposals to reorganise State investment in the industry and the need to increase investment in this growth sector.

The Minister for Tourism and Trade took over from Deputy McCreevy a few months ago. The previous Minister was imaginative and energetic where tourism is concerned. There is little evidence to date that his successor is following that precedent.

Does the Deputy intend to share time?

Yes. I will give the information to the Chair. In my few months as Fianna Fáil spokesperson on tourism and trade I have had an opportunity to meet many people who depend on tourism for a living. They own part of the product — the accommodation and leisure facilities. By virtue of a serious effort on the part of Bord Fáilte to market Ireland as a premier tourist destination throughout the world, they have been able to improve, upgrade and expand tourism infrastructure. They know that the key to healthy tourism is anticipating demand and providing accordingly.

Money for investment is always a problem. The Government of which I had the honour to be a member was sensitive to the potential of the industry. It was conscious of the role which Government must play in securing a bright future for tourism and made great strides to increase direct State funding of the industry and secure EU funding to supplement it. It is a shame to see genuine effort cast aside and replaced by a form of bureaucratic inertia and inability or unwillingness on the part of the Minister to appreciate the golden opportunity he has been given to make a real and lasting impact.

The Minister inherited his portfolio at a promising time. Not only has he access to billions of pounds in EU funding but he is perfectly situated to channel to where it can do most good, the worldwide funding which will come on stream as a consequence of the permanent cessation of violence in Northern Ireland. Given that tourism is set to replace agriculture as the most important source of indigenous national income, a forceful and determined Minister for Tourism and Trade could open up an avenue to prosperity for those working in the tourism industry and provide an opportunity for the development of strategy for tourism. Obviously this would be of benefit to those directly involved and it would have the added effect of fostering the essential relationships of trust and mutual respect between Irish people North and South.

Fianna Fáil's commitment to the reconciliation of the differences which separate our island stands on its own. The previous Government and I worked long and hard to create the present opportunities, they did not simply fall off the trees. They were individually pursued and the effort never flagged. Even though the 25 years of murder, fear, mayhem and hatred have now ended, the future is by no means certain. However, the Government is not moving with the urgency necessary to bring along with it those whose belief in the peace process is not total. I have no wish to raise unnecessarily the level of concern being expressed about where the process is headed. The Government has a duty to every person on the island to push at every door and to open doors so as to involve our neighbours in Northern Ireland in running the island. That is the only way forward and the Minister has a vital role to play in this area.

The Minister stated that he met various politicians and officials in Northern Ireland to discuss North-South co-operation in tourism. Is that all he has done? Last week he attended the conference in Washington organised by President Clinton, on whom much thanks and credit has been poured by people on this side of the Atlantic for what he has done. The Minister is engaged in a nationwide tour to explain to people in those seaside resorts fortunate enough to be included in it the benefits of the incentive scheme announced in the budget. The only flaw with this familiarisation process is that he has very little time to do sufficient work.

A lengthy familiarisation process may be a luxury which the nation cannot afford. It is time for action and, in so far as tourism is concerned, today is the time for action as tomorrow may be too late. I look forward to hearing the Minister outline what he is doing to further the peace process. We should not have to surgically extract that information from him. Perhaps he has no information, has nothing to report or he is not doing anything that is worthy of being put to the test of popular reaction.

Fianna Fáil deplores the throw-away attitude of the Government to tourism. Events taking place elsewhere are having, and will have, a damaging effect on our tourism industry. In the past few months I have been made aware of the deep concern about the direction of the Government's tourism policy. It appears to be ignoring the damaging effect the state of the punt will have on Ireland as a destination for foreign tourists. The strength of the punt means that foreign tourists will find Ireland a more expensive holiday destination and may well decide to go elsewhere. Other factors such as the punitive rates of taxation on restaurants, hotels and services generally and the appalling condition of our roads — these problems did not arise yesterday or today and we accept part of the responsibility for the condition of the roads in some counties — work together against the promotion and marketing of Ireland abroad by Bord Fáilte.

People are also seriously concerned about the complete lack of effort by the Minister and the Government to take measures to combat the escalating level of crime against tourists. During the previous debate the Minister for Justice, Deputy Owen, directed snide remarks at me. She is a good Minister for Justice but she should be very careful about the remarks she makes about Deputies on this side of the House. She has a good deal on her plate and she should set about reducing the level of crime.

We are going through what I hope is only a bad patch in terms of increased crime levels in cities and, in particular, my city of Dublin. Between 2,000-3,000 gardaí are stationed along the Border to deal with subversive crime and to patrol Border areas. Is it not time the resources of the State for combating crime were reallocated to where the crime is occurring, now that we have what everyone hopes is a permanent cessation of violence by the para-militaries? If there are good reasons for keeping these gardaí on the Border — the cost of relocation is not a good reason — then the Government should recruit more gardaí. It is cheaper to prevent crime by effective measures and methods of policing than to meet the costs of crime after it is committed.

We need a strong Garda presence on the streets and not just in patrol cars, which are also very necessary. The men and women who join the Garda are of the highest calibre and many young people are anxious to join this respected and reputable force. The Minister should consider a new recruitment campaign with a view to dealing with crimes against tourists. There are parts of every city and town which are virtually no-go areas for gardaí. Drugs and drug related crimes seem to be out of control, yet vital resources are not available to tackle this major social and economic evil.

A feeling of being safe is a major factor for tourists when choosing their holiday destination. We must protect our good reputation in this respect and ensure that the message does not go abroad that Ireland is an unsafe place to visit. Unfortunately, that is the direction in which we are going and the time to stop it is now. The Government has a fundamental role to play in this area. Crimes against non-nationals in a foreign country are always very well publicised in the media in that person's country. These incidents not only prevent unfortunate victims from considering Ireland as a future holiday venue but they also have an immeasurably negative influence on others who might have put Ireland high on their list of holiday destinations. We need to ensure that tourists return to their own countries singing the praises of Ireland and encouraging all their friends to visit here "before everybody finds out about it". I say that in a positive sense.

Most sensible people would venture the opinion that the Government should be gearing for growth and expansion in the industry. They would, therefore, be very surprised to learn that far from injecting State funding into the industry to speed up the pace the Government is engaged in a cost cutting exercise. The Minister's Department, the Office of Public Works and the Department of Transport, Energy and Communications share the dubious distinction of having had their annual budgets reduced. It is bad enough that the entire tourism budget is only £77 million — tourism produces more than £3 billion and supports 90,000 jobs — but what is worse is the manner in which this funding is to be allocated by the Government.

I want to give an example of the value to the State of this investment. This level of annual spending by the Exchequer in 1995 is the equivalent to a State input of just £258 per job. Is there any sector in the economy where jobs are produced so inexpensively? If the Minister is aware of one let him identify it. When he cannot find one let him rethink how many extra jobs might be created if the Government was doing what it should be doing and not fiddling with numbers in order to convince themselves that everything will be all right on the day.

Administration costs in the State tourism sector are to increase by 10 per cent in 1995. This increase exceeds the level of inflation forecast for this period by more than 300 per cent. What does this grossly disproportionate figure mean to the tourist industry? It does not mean a single additional job or service and actual cutbacks in existing services. Yet within this increase is a reduction of £60,000 in travelling costs — surely a blow to our foreign promotion and marketing strategy — and a reduction of £103,000 in the allocation of the funding of external advisory services, so essential in the highly competitive and sophisticated international tourist marketplace. How can the Government stand over these irrefutable facts?

The Minister should be aware of what exactly is happening and should have no difficulty in answering specific questions concerning his area of responsibility. I raise this issue having endured the tedium of three days of the Minister answering parliamentary questions concerning his ministry. The almost universal approach of the Minister has been to give as little information as possible or to avoid answering questions altogether. It is not good enough to disclaim responsibility. If he is not aware of the stated objective of his Government — openness, transparency and responsibility, three words which grate on me, — it is almost as bad as the expression "political correctness" and is nauseating in its application, particularly by the Taoiseach, then the last couple of weeks ought to have rectified this.

If questions are legitimately tabled to a Minister, which related to that Minister's area of responsibility, it is surely the duty of the Minister to answer the question, having consulted with other Departments or bodies, or to transfer the question to another Minister who will provide the information requested.

For the Minister to deal with parliamentary questions in the manner so far demonstrated is a serious breach of the principles on which the Minister's Government has constructed its platform for this wretched period of moral rectitude which the House is going through and is an insult to the legitimate interests of parliamentary democracy.

The Minister may well be surprised at what I said. He may well believe that it is not for him to decide how parliamentary questions are to be answered and that it is enough for him to take the advice offered to him in his Department as gospel. This is manifestly not so. Advisers are there to advise; it is for the Minister to decide.

I know the Minister well and he will appreciate that the criticism levelled at him concerns — not him in a personal sense — only the manner of his presentation and the discharge of his duties. He is new at his job. Yet he knows that his Government has pledged to the people that it will be open, transparent and accountable. I am sorry for again falling into the trap of those clichés which have come to mean much to some and nothing to others. The Minister's Government already seems to have encountered serious and damaging obstacles on its chosen path.

I note the Minister has not lost sight of the first rule of politics — get reelected — and that he is making his presence felt in his home county of Mayo. If he continues to obfuscate when he is asked to answer straightforward questions in this House, he will not be doing his job. While the people of Mayo may well have taken him to their hearts, the public is notoriously fickle and, if it proves that the public is not being well serviced by the policy which he promotes, his party and their partners in Government may be in for an unpleasant surprise at the next general election, which may not be as far away as some Government Members hope.

He may decide for himself which policies will mean something to the people in the tourism industry or with the potential to become part of that industry. He does not have to accept every proposal presented to him. It is his job to select what is good and to reject what is not. What should he do? He should not dismantle Bord Fáilte without ensuring that what is put in its place will be more effective and less costly.

In this regard my understanding is that the Minister proposes to reallocate responsibility for dealing with proposals for State, European Union and all other funding for individual tourism projects from Bord Fáilte to the regional tourism organisations. We do not know how much this will cost nor how it will operate. If he does not tell the House, Members will be reinforced in their concerns. Let him also tell us how much extra he is prepared to allocate to regional tourism organisations, if the new system is to have any effect. It should at least be as good as the service provided by Bord Fáilte at present, and if it is to be an improvement on that service, who will provide the funding? Will it be financed from external funding thus depriving the tourism industry of badly needed support?

I also understand that in the future the system of registration of guest accommodation and monitoring of standards is to be removed from Bord Fáilte and reallocated to an unidentified body. Will the Minister tell the House how this new body is to be financed, staffed and operated and to whom it will be responsible?

It occurs to me that the staff who will be made redundant from Bord Fáilte as a result of these policy changes are likely to be the best qualified for the jobs in the regional tourism organisations and in the new Registration and Standards Body. Are we likely to witness Bord Fáilte staff being made redundant tomorrow, at an estimated cost of £2.2 million to the State, and the following day the same staff being re-employed either directly or indirectly by the State at similar or higher salaries? Is that good business?

Did not Deputy McCreevy bring that in?

No. I am just querying its operation. He did not bring it in.

He proposed it.

He did not get the opportunity. If the Deputy examines the AD Little report he will find exactly what Deputy McCreevy intended to do.

He proposed what the Deputy is outlining.

The Deputy should not interrupt me in that fashion. The Deputy should know what he is talking about before he interrupts.

I am very much aware of what I am talking about.

I also understand that the real allocation of State funding for overseas promotion of Irish tourism is to decrease by over £700,000. How can this be so? Is the Minister determined to stifle any attempts to widen the net for our tourism industry? To cut spending on Ireland's promising area of economic development and to respond to the industry's thirst for encouragement and free thinking by such a penny pinching policy is not how it should be done.

The Minister may well have the report of the consultants retained by the previous Government and say, as we have come to expect, that this has nothing to do with him, that it has all been visited on him by the previous Government, by his Department, by the Department of Finance or by anyone else he may care to mention. I challenge the Minister to point out to the House where the consultants advised him to reduce spending on foreign promotion of the Irish tourism industry. Did the AD Little report advise the Minister to limit support for the small business sector to £5 million? Did they advise him to cut SFADCo funding by some 37 per cent? The last cut is the most bizarre of all for an area which has suffered and continues to suffer. The Shannon region needs a special effort if it is to regain its market share in tourism and to move forward.

The Minister has inherited a brief which offers the prospect of good news only. With the peace process in place and progressing, he is presiding over what is the most significant area of the Irish economy at a time when the growth of tourism in Ireland is huge. Ireland has the opportunity to become one of the premier tourist destinations of the world, if properly managed, and the potential of the country has, to date, only been scratched on the surface.

This is not a time for conservative thinking in this area and the Minister must do whatever is necessary to get proper advice, persuade his Government colleagues of the need for radical action and keep pushing until he gets his way. If he succeeds he can claim the spoils of victory and the people of Ireland will thank him. If, on the other hand, he continues on his present path of no change at any cost, then he must expect to lose the respect of the people who elected him and his Government.

I welcome the opportunity to speak on this motion which is timely and extremely important from political and economic points of view. In 1987, Fianna Fáil in Government identified tourism as a potential growth area and that Government's decision to invest considerable resources in the tourism industry has been fully vindicated with the very successful growth in tourism revenue and in employment in the tourism industry between 1987 and 1994.

During the past few years considerable cross-Border co-operation has taken place. We must build on this view of the cessation of violence since last autumn. All communities, both North and South, recognise the strength of the Thirty-two Counties as a tourism product. It is absolutely essential that we are in a position to sell the island of Ireland as an attractive holiday destination.

One of the very positive decisions made by Fianna Fáil in Government was to restore the Ballyconnell-Ballinamore canal which winds its way through my constituency. That decision was a progressive one from which the economies of Fermanagh, Cavan and Leitrim will reap the benefits for many years. The economic impact of the canal restoration is evident in that area. The canal links the Shannon and the Erne, the major waterways here, and the system now provides an unrivalled facility for people wishing to avail of cruiser holidays. In years to come the direct and indirect economic impact of that decision taken by a Fianna Fáil Government will be easily recognised by substantial improvement in the local economy. This Government inherited office at a particularly promising time and it is essential that it provides the funding for major cross-Border projects. If tourism in the Border area is to significantly expand in the future and advantage taken of the new climate created by the peace process, there is an urgent need to develop a strong and improved product which is attractive to the more general visitor and supported by a broad range of attractions.

A number of key development requirements must be addressed if the area is to successfully exploit a wider tourism market. These include the creation of a well defined tourism image and indentity for the area in the general tourism market and the provision of a number of quality attractions and facilities supported by an improved tourism infrastructure. In particular, a limited number of high profile flagship attractions would play an important role in creating an image and identity for the area in the marketplace, as well as attracting visitors in their own right. Such projects have been specifically identified in the new county tourism plans. Another important requirement would be the establishment of a co-ordinated and integrated approach to promotion and marketing.

A firm commitment by the Government in terms of funding to a selected small number of the high profile flagship attractions would be of tremendous benefit to the future development of tourism. The Government should commission a tourism action plan for the Border area to be published and adopted not later than the end of this year in recognition of the peace initiative and the prospects for growth and investment it brings with it, and of the well known and special problems of that area. In its approach to the preparation of the action plan the Government should recognise that a plan of firm action is required, not another study.

The problems of the area have been well diagnosed in numerous studies and reports over the past 20 years and it is now time to apply tangible cures through a series of public investment programmes and other related initiatives. In preparing the action plan the Government should allocate the task to a small group of suitably qualified individuals to include a number of people from the local area. The plan should be unambiguous, clear and specific in terms of the initiative and investment programmes which are to be implemented, the timescales involved and their sources of funding.

I want to refer briefly to two projects of major importance in the context of the development of cross-Border tourism. In the past few years preliminary work has been carried out on the proposed extension of the Erne Navigation from Belturbet to Lough Oughter to Killeshandra and Killykeen Forest Park. Fianna Fáil in Government were anxious to advance this project in the context of INTERREG II, but the replies to parliamentary questions by the Minister for Finance and Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht indicate in no uncertain terms that this project has been relegated in the priority list. The project would be complementary to the successful Ballyconnell-Ballinamore Canal and would open up a further interest in waterways or boat users. The Erne, flowing through Cavan, Fermanagh and Donegal, is a project that needs all the criteria for cross-Border development, and I appeal to the Ministers concerned to give it the priority it deserves.

The former Minister for Tourism and Trade, Deputy McCreevy, sanctioned grant assistance towards the cost of conducting a planning and implementation study on the development of a mountain park around the upland areas of south west Fermanagh, west Cavan and north Leitrim. The full implementation of this project would enable the very strong tourist attractions of that area to be identified and marketed more aggressively with a consequent increase in tourist numbers. The specific funding designated for the development of Border regions would be ideally suited to the Erne Navigation project and the Breffni Mountain Park proposal in that they meet all the criteria, such as the economic value of the project and its cross-Border nature, and are visible testimony to the peace dividend.

The last great flood of Northern Ireland tourists coming over the Border to Sligo, Leitrim, Roscommon and the western counties was in 1968. It is with delight that we may now have the opportunity of introducing to the southern counties a generation of people who have never been here. It was the emphasis on the peace process by the last Government, and the former Taoiseach, Deputy Albert Reynolds, in particular, that brought about an environment in which people can enjoy the unusual and extraordinary tourism product in this part of the island without suspicion, fear or the worry associated with a period that I hope has gone for ever.

Fianna Fáil Governments and Ministers have always emphasised the importance of development, of supporting the individual who develops a good project and is prepared to give his talent, energy and finances to that end. We put particular emphasis on tourism but that seems to have disappeared. We now have a battery of inspectors and all types of conditions, controls and regulations in circumstances where products are not even developed. On returning to the west having travelled to the southern counties one witnesses a continual decline in the quality of the tourism product to the point where, when one reaches home, it is non-existent. Once again, the western and north eastern Border counties are being ignored.

It is a safe bet for the Government and Bord Fáilte to promote tourism in places that are already marketed as tourist destinations. However, there is a different type of tourism, well recognised in every townland, which must be marketed and promoted, and it takes money to do that. It is amazing to think that under the new Leader programme the flexibility clause is to be deleted with the result that the locally based boards will have no autonomy and local people will not be able to use their own knowledge and experience to justify the financing of product development in the future because of the elimination of the flexibility clause. Matters will be governed by the Department and ultimately by the Minister, and finances will dictate the level of tourism and where it will be located. In some areas the growth of tourism has been slow but despite that it has supplemented the incomes of people who might not have survived the recent years or recession without that little injection of cash for a few months each year.

In north Roscommon, Keadue won the Tidy Towns competition in 1994 and there is not one approved guesthouse there. The policy which states that you cannot provide green field accommodation is not a good or sensible one. You can, it appears, in certain situations obtain funding for carrying out improvements to existing buildings and dwellings as seems to be the case with the enterprise boards, Leader I and Leader II. Where people are in a position to put up their own money, and take on the challenge of the very demanding job of providing services for the public, particularly the visiting public, they should be supported. One of the real difficulties in the area in which I live is that the economic base is not all that strong. Consequently what might be fine in some parts of the country, 25 or 30 per cent, to help to get product development going is far from being enough in our area. More is needed.

The Minister is a west of Ireland man and I join our spokesman, Deputy Andrews, in wishing him well and congratulating him. I have personal regard for the Minister and I would like to think he identifies with some of the matters to which I referred. If we are to achieve some of the things I have mentioned we should look at the idea of cheaper money so that people might take the opportunity to develop. It is often much better than the grant-aid concept. Real tourism is best served by men and women in small guesthouses and small hotels. In recent years there seems to be an idea that big is beautiful but when you go into to some of the big hotels you could be in any part of Europe. When visitors come here they want to discover Ireland, they want to meet Irish men and Irish women.

There is an emphasis on the development of amenities. If there is not accommodation in an area one cannot expect people to stay overnight. If there is accommodation, there is some prospect of a meaningful contribution to the local economy. However, that does not seem to be the idea today. I was recently told at a committee of this House that priority would be given to the development of amenities. Unfortunately even that is not happening in the area in which I live.

On the Shannon, for instance, there is no berthing place between Carrick-on-Shannon and Lough Key except what was provided by the land owners of another period. It is extraordinary that villages and towns like Knockvicar, Cootehall, Tarmonbarry, Lanesborough and Rooskey itself have as many as 25,000, 35,000 or 40,000 people, according to Office of Public Works figures, going through the lock gates and they do not have the facility to berth in these little villages to enjoy and experience life there and meet the people. It is not possible to do that if there are no berthing facilities. I have continually asked both Bord Fáilte and the Office of Public Works to recognise that you cannot have people staying in a particular location if you do not have accommodation or berthing facilities.

Something else would eliminate serious loss of time and indeed embarrassment. It is never a bad thing to know where you are when you arrive in a country. Signposting is a fairly basic method of discovering where you are and where you are likely to get to if you take a particular route but in Ireland it seems almost to be frowned upon. Signposting is very well done in other European countries but in Ireland there seems to be a plan to conceal knowledge of where you are or where you are likely to arrive. If people decide to come it is better that they can go away in a position to say they were in a certain place and that they knew they were because the sign told them so. That is not always the case and I would ask the Minister to pay attention to that. He will gain recognition for it.

I would like to share my time with Deputy Seán Ryan.

is that agreed? Agreed.

Mr. O'Sullivan

I apologise to the co-sponsors of the motion. Deputies Andrews and Killeen, for the unavoidable absence of the Minister this evening. He will be here to respond tomorrow evening.

The events of the past number of months have been a source of satisfaction to us all, principally because those who sought to use the bomb and the bullet to achieve political ends have decided to place their trust in democratic politics. A cloud of fear, division and suspicion among the peoples on our island is gradually being lifted, and we are attempting to create a more normal climate of trust and confidence in building in peace, our future together.

We have seen some very dark days over the last 25 years and it is the wish of everyone in this House that they do not return. Indeed, it is important to record that all parties have contributed to the peace, and it is natural, therefore, that we should all want to ensure that peace improves the economic and social conditions in our community.

Peace has transformed international perceptions of Ireland, and it is certain that the tourism industry on the whole island stands to gain in the short term. More money than ever before is supporting our tourism effort abroad, and peace has enabled us to work more closely with our Northern Ireland counterparts in marketing the tourism attractions of the island of Ireland. It is only since becoming Minister of State that I have come to realise how close our relationship has become. Participation at tourism trade fairs abroad is often undertaken on a joint basis, and this is not often realised in Ireland. Perhaps the most visible example to reach a home audience was the recent Eurovision Song Contest, when attractions on both sides of the Border received coverage as part of the promotional exercise in selling tourism on the island as a whole.

The domestic audience may also have recently seen a joint North-South consumer advertising campaign on British television. Similar campaigns are being run in the US, France and Germany this year as part of a £6.3 million programme known as the overseas tourism marketing initiative. This is funded by the Exchequer, the EU, the International Fund for Ireland and the private sectors, North and South. It is being led by both industries with the advice and co-operation of Bord Fáilte and the Northern Ireland Tourist Board.

These are indicative of the substantial efforts made by the Government to exploit the potential which arises for tourism from the peace process. Exchequer and EU resources from the Government's allocation of Structural Funds are being made available to improve prospects for tourism growth on the whole island. These arrangements have also served to enhance North-South co-operation in the tourism area and to build a firm base for undertaking more extensive work together in the future.

It is appropriate at this point that I should pay tribute to all the donor countries who, in their desire to support the peace process in Ireland, are generously and selflessly devoting time, energy and financial resources to sustaining the peace. The US Government, at its most senior levels, has lent its considerable support, as evidenced by last week's trade and investment conference in Washington. Having helped to create the peace, it is now working to cement the foundations for future economic prosperity in Northern Ireland and the Border counties. I take the point made by Deputy Smith in this regard.

The European Union has been a major source of investment funding for tourism development in Ireland, both North and South, since 1989, and Deputies throughout the country will be aware of the impact this funding has had for development in their own areas. The EU has been prepared to provide, on top of normal Structural Fund allocations, a further 300 million ECU to support peace and reconciliation in the region. The EU has also been a longstanding contributor to the International Fund for Ireland.

In addition, Canada, New Zealand and, more recently, Australia have all financially supported economic and social advance through the international fund. All of these financial contributions have helped to generate the new wealth and employment which tourism has created on the island over the last few years. Since 1988, tourism has created an extra 25,000 full time jobs in the State and the industry now accounts for about 7.5 per cent of total employment. Over a similar timescale, tourism's contribution to GNP has risen from 5.8 per cent to over 7 per cent and this increase has occurred against an economic background where real GNP was rising rapidly.

These figures suggest that we have prudently used the substantial funds which have been invested in tourism development in recent years and it is the Government's firm intention that the new resources now available will similarly be used to good effect. There is a heavy burden of responsibility on us to ensure that the expectations, which underlie the generous commitments of funding support from many foreign Governments, continue to be realised.

It is difficult to say what the long term impact of the peace process will be for our tourism industry. While an annual revenue increase of between £100 million and £450 million has been suggested for the whole island in the long term, I have no intention of committing myself to this higher figure. I do, however, support the view that any level of increase will not happen as a matter of course. It will require considerable effort on the part of us all.

This Government has committed itself to that work by, providing additional marketing resources to sell Ireland and its weather-independent attractions overseas; investing in tourism plant to increase our capacity to cater at a high standard for larger numbers of visitors; improving the overall environment into which we invite our visitors; enhancing the customer care standards which we offer to our guests from overseas; and creating the structures to deliver these objectives on a cost-effective basis.

The main funding vehicle for achieving these objectives is the operational programme for tourism which is forecast to deliver over £650 million in tourism investment by the turn of the century. This programme has been successfully launched and some 1,000 firm proposals for development have been received to date. This denotes substantial confidence on the part of investors and the community at large in the future prospects of the industry.

The new EU-funded INTERREG programme for Ireland and Northern Ireland has recently been launched and tourism in the six southern Border counties will benefit from some £10 million in EU funds over the next five years. This should allay whatever fears Deputy Smith may have. It is intended that some of these funds will support cross-Border regional marketing initiatives in order to help create new tourism business for the whole area.

The forthcoming special support programme for peace and reconciliation will provide about £240 million in EU funds to support the peace process in Northern Ireland and the six southern Border counties. It is intended that tourism development, both North and South, will be supported given its high propensity to create employment in the affected areas. It is planned to secure Commission agreement to the programme by the end of July.

Further funding from the International Fund for Ireland, the INTERREG programme and the special peace programme will all help to support tourism development in Northern Ireland and the six southern Border counties in the future. Each of these funds has its own strategic priorities which have to be respected, but it is my conviction that tourism will offer the most visible and immediate evidence of hope for future economic and social development in the area. My Department will be making every effort to ensure that the measures undertaken by these programmes will complement and support the overall tourism effort.

Appropriate complementary measures, such as the new pilot scheme for traditional seaside resorts, will be introduced from time to time by the Government to assist the industry exploit its potential to the full at national level. In short, every appropriate opportunity will be taken by the Government to develop tourism and to highlight to the wider international audience the tourism attractions of Ireland as a holiday destination.

Peace in Northern Ireland has opened up opportunities for greater North-South tourism co-operation. A number of initiatives, such as joint all-Ireland and regional marketing, have already been taken in the short period that has passed since the ceasefires. The Government expects that it will prove possible in the years ahead to develop our relationships further to our mutual benefit. We are committed to exploiting to the full the new circumstances which have been created and to maximising the benefit to be achieved from the resources available to both authorities in the coming years.

On some of the points made by Deputy Andrews, it would not be appropriate for me to respond to the points made about the modus operandi of the Minister, Deputy Kenny, in terms of how he performs in his own constituency. That is a matter for the Minister. Given that the Deputy has tremendous experience in this House and is a lawyer by profession his references to crime against tourists left much to be desired. A number of initiatives have been taken including regular liaison between the Garda authorities, Bord Fáilte and other tourism interests in an effort to stamp out crime against tourists; the deployment of extra Garda patrols in areas of high tourist interest; the establishment of a Garda office in O'Connell Street which acts as a centre for advising tourists on safety measures; the distribution of safety leaflets in three languages and city maps produced by gardaí to tourists; increased level of foreign language training for gardaí: special provision in the Criminal Evidence Act, 1992 to enable tourist victims to make an immediate statement before a district justice which eliminates the necessity to attend the subsequent trial; action by gardaí against illegal traffic wardens; the setting up of a business watch scheme in Talbot Street which may be extended to Grafton Street and Mary Street in 1995. Further measures will be taken in 1995 by the Garda, Bord Fáilte and the tourism industry to propagate the stay safe message.

Having regard to these measures I am disappointed the Deputy launched an attack on the Government and claimed it was inactive in tackling crime against tourists.

The Deputy also referred to the efforts of Deputy McCreevy. As a former chairman of the Select Committee on Enterprise and Economic Strategy, I am well aware that Deputy McCreevy was a competent Minister and give him credit for this. While he was very much at home with all elements of his brief he agreed to a substantial reduction in the allocation in the Estimates for his Department and this calls for an explanation. As a result there is a cash shortage in the Department.

The Minister of State knows his record on public service spending.

Mr. O'Sullivan

One cannot call for the deployment of extra gardaí while criticising public expenditure. That is a contradiction. The Deputy cannot have the best of both worlds.

The Deputy also said the Government was not doing enough for the tourism industry. During the term of office of the previous Government of which my party was a member, a Minister of State was not assigned to the Department of Tourism and Trade. I have specific responsibility for domestic tourism. In this regard perhaps my performance could be the subject of some criticism.

I referred to cross-Border co-operation. For the first time in the history of this island tourism organisations, north and south of the Border, launched a campaign on mainland Europe. I was happy to be in Holland when we launched a video to sell the island of Ireland as a tourist destination.

In regard to tax on restaurants and the condition of roads, that did not happen overnight. Deputy Andrews also referred to the quality of answers, but that depends on the nature of the questioning. If relevant questions are not tabled one cannot respond in a positive way. Perhaps Deputies have not asked sufficient questions. I may be inviting trouble by saying that, but unless the questions are tabled we cannot respond to them.

Deputy Doherty made an excellent contribution. He is obviously very familiar with the tourism scene in his part of the country but he should not blame people for what he believes is the over-development of some areas such as the south-west region at the expense of other parts of the country. The people in the south-west region where I reside took the initiative in developing their area. Perhaps the product they have to offer is more attractive to tourists and there is greater accessibility by virtue of the fact that there are airports and ferry ports in the area, but it is not always easy to gain access to the west. With the opening of airports in Knock and Farranfore there is now greater access to the west and Donegal.

There has been a huge increase in the number of Northern and British registered cars coming here, which were not seen in great numbers in recent years. I have every confidence that together with our colleagues in the North we will market this island as the prime tourist destination in Europe. That is a difficult task but I have no doubt the determination is there to do so.

I thank my party colleague, the Minister of State, Deputy O'Sullivan, for sharing his time with me. I listened with great interest to the Minister's speech in which he outlined the actions the Government took to create a peace dividend in terms of tourism. Looking back at events of recent years I applaud the success of the present and previous Governments in contributing to the development of the peace process. I recall last year hearing an item on the Gay Byrne radio show where Gay's representative, Joe Duffy, travelled to Northern Ireland with people from this part of the island who had never visited the North. I took great heart from that programme as it illustated vividly that barriers are breaking down on all parts of this island. All parties in this House have helped in their own way to silence the guns and break down the barriers.

The Government has developed an agreed basis in the framework document for moving the peace process forward, based on the guiding principles of self-determination and consent, with Government by exclusively democratic and peaceful means and full respect and protection for the rights and traditions of the Unionist and Nationalist communities. As part of this process we have enlisted the active and vigorous support of the US Government and the European Union who generously contribute to secure a just and lasting peace on this island. There have been many momentous achievements in a very short time.

As a result of the peace process people living outside Ireland have reassesed their image of Ireland as a country to visit and in which to invest and do business. It is no coincidence that in the period October 1994 to March 1995 the number of overseas visitors increased by 12.5 per cent compared with the same period a year earlier. These figures are confirmed by personal experience. The number of people passing through Dublin airport, which is in my constituency, is increasing dramatically every year. Almost seven million passengers passed through the airport in 1994 compared with 5.3 million in 1991. The increase is so great that the capacity of the airport will have to be expanded in the coming years. In the first three months of this year there was a 22 per cent increase in the number of passengers using the airport.

It is recognised by everyone involved in the tourism industry that additional accommodation is necessary. Dublin Tourism in its plans identifies the need for an additional hotel in north Dublin. It is unacceptable that the Government to date has not sanctioned approval for a Great Southern Hotel at Dublin airport. Such a proposal was submitted by the board of Aer Rianta, and has for some time been under consideration in the Department of Transport, Energy and Communications. Acceptance of that proposal would not undermine the future of the company. As a TD for the area, I believe that this foot-dragging by the Government is totally unacceptable.

Implementation of this proposal would provide 150 permanent jobs and meet the needs of the tourism industry. I share the view that if the idea emanated from the private sector the hotel would have been built when the proposal was first made more than two years ago. I ask the Government to give the go ahead as a matter of urgency for this economically sound proposal. Hotels make a major contribution to wealth generation, and the north Dublin area needs wealth generation, particularly in view of the job losses.

Whether by great foresight or otherwise, the decision of Irish Ferries and Stena Sealink to extend their services to Holyhead this year constitutes excellent timing as significant extra business can be expected, particularly from the British market, in the wake of the ceasefire. The forthcoming EU funded Ireland-Wales INTERREG programme will have a tourist dimension which will help promote traffic growth on the Irish Sea.

The Dublin region benefits by more than £300 million in foreign exchange earnings every year. The peace process offers great opportunities to increase this figure and create additional employment to provide services for visitors.

Regarding the question of access, I am aware that Bord Fáilte and the Northern Ireland Tourist Board are encouraging more airlines to serve our airports on a regular basis. That was a common objective at last week's conference in Washington and I hope success will be reported in that vital area in the short term. Encouraging new carriers from our principal overseas markets will help to sustain the future growth of our tourism industry, will have beneficial effects for business, trade and tourism and will create many new jobs to serve additional visitors.

Tourism has made a major contribution in providing sustainable employment and increased foreign earnings for the Exchequer. The Operational Programme for Tourism 1994-99 aims to create a further 35,000 full-time jobs over the period of the programme, including 17,250 in direct tourism employment. Given our achievements in the past seven years, that objective is achievable provided we sell our special product, that we are competitive and provide value for money. We will not attract tourists for sunshine holidays, but we have a product which is becoming increasingly attractive to more foreign tourists. I refer particularly to activity-type and special interest holidays, such as golfing, fishing, cycling, walking and visits to parklands and historic houses. An added attraction here is peace, tranquility and a green environment. We must build on that. Bord Fáilte has identified further growth potential for such holidays.

Notwithstanding the excellent plans proposed and being implemented by Bórd Failte and various regional tourism organisations, there is a significant role for local community development in tourism. I refer particularly to local tourism committees established in towns and villages throughout the country. They are working effectively to develop local tourism. That potential should not be underestimated and should be actively encouraged. A widely held view particularly in my constituency, is that further assistance is required to promote tourism potential at local level. Surely assistance towards the production of brochures and marketing could be provided given that £650 million is available under the plan.

I ask Bord Fáilte and Dublin Tourism not to concentrate solely on Dublin city — although that area should be addressed — and forget about the three new county council areas in which there is a population of over 500,000 and which have the necessary attributes to promote tourism. They should give greater consideration to those areas. I ask the Government when it reviews the renewal programme for seaside resorts to consider including some areas in my constituency as none is included under the present one.

Coming from a constituency heavily dependent on Dublin Airport and the traffic which flows through it, I firmly support the Government in its continuing efforts to expand the tourism industry north and south of the Border. I have no doubt the Minister of State, Deputy O'Sullivan, will deliver in this important area.

Because of the short time available I will concentrate on what is now termed cultural tourism in my constituency of Clare. There is now a general recognition that tourism and environmental interests can be aligned. As the House will know, the State has acquired 3,200 acres in the Burren to form the Burren National Park. Valuable ecological and cultural assets is the basic prerequisite in assessing developmental opportunities. The Burren has a wealth of historic and prehistoric monuments. It has field monuments dating from the earliest inhabitants 5,000 or more years ago. There is a wealth of tombs, castles, houses and other monuments dating from the distant to the recent past. There are about 120 known dolmens and wedge tombs, 500 stone forts, numerous early Christian churches, wells and medieval castles.

Visitors to the Burren are often the more informed tourists. There is a good mix of general, specialist and academic tourists taking an in-depth interest in the region. That niche market should be developed along with conservation and preservation of our physical heritage. Along with the matchmaking festival in Lisdoonvarna, the music of Doolin, the holiday centres of Lahinch and Liscannor, the scenic beauty of the Cliffs of Moher and the heritage of Corofin, we must also develop tourism potential in the northern Burren along the coast which is internationally known for its rich repository of marine species.

Ballykinvarga could rival Newgrange if excavation work was carried out and the site properly marketed. Perhaps such an excavation as the one carried out in Mahawn Fort in Newmarket-on-Fergus under the discovery programme could be initiated. Kilfenora must be given funding to promote its ecclesiastical heritage and tradition. The presence of the cathedral and its famous high crosses could be promoted in such a way as to bring thousands of visitors to that village, thereby giving everyone an opportunity to appreciate our rich past and create much needed tourism for the Kilfenora area.

I noted with interest the reply given by the Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht to a question I tabled on 25 April last relating to the high crosses in Kilfenora. The Minister stated that a survey of monuments in the Burren will be carried out shortly, that the crosses will be included in that and that any conservation work which may be required in relation to those crosses will be carried out in the light of the survey.

The natural and man-made resource of the Burren is a tremendous cultural and economic one. We need a co-ordinated approach with each area in the Burren being funded to promote and develop its strengths. The whole area of folkore is sadly neglected in Ireland. Yet County Clare has a wealth of tradition not least in the Burren, waiting to be given proper recognition by funding from State agencies. I take this opportunity to pay tribute to the Irish folk tradition summer school which meets annually in Lahinch and which has already recognised that need. It is also necessary to promote folk music and I am aware there is a substantial move in the county to support a folk music centre in Ennis. I hope the Minister will consider that possibility.

I congratulate the organisers of the archaeological conference held annually in County Clare, of the Merriman summer school and of the Burren wild life symposium held each year in Fanore. Will the Minister convince his colleague, the Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht that he should fight for world heritage site status for the Burren? Our wealth of tradition, culture and heritage should not be just preserved, but put to the best possible use to create sustained employment in County Clare.

On 25 April 1995 I tabled a question to the Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht regarding Ennis Abbey and I am pleased that, under the operational programme for tourism, he committed £200,000 for a scheme of works for that abbey. I am also pleased it is proposed to commence the project with a preliminary survey this year and to have it completed by 1999. I hope the Minister can persuade the Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht to guarantee further progress on Quin Abbey and that the present delays will be dealt with expeditiously to facilitate further tourism in the country.

I propose to share my time with Deputies Ellis and McDaid.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

I welcome the opportunity to speak to this motion.

Members should cast their minds back to 1987 when, after five years of inept Government, a minority Fianna Fáil Government came into office and faced serious difficulties with our national finances. We set about restoring confidence in our economy by setting parameters within which we could live. We identified tourism as an area of economic growth and from 1987 to 1994, while in Government, Fianna Fáil placed major emphasis on its development. Some of those involved in channelling resources into tourism marketing, management and promotion did not maximise their efforts for the benefit of the country. The political leadership of the past six or seven years which culminated in the cessation of violence in Northern Ireland in 1994, with private sector commitment, placed us in a unique position. No previous Government, Minister or State agency had been presented with such an opportunity to maximise economic development and growth for the benefit of our people. I am disappointed at the Government's decisions on investment in tourism infrastructure. I fail to understand why it does not recognise that we are an island nation, peripheral to many parts of the world, with inclement weather conditions and that we must provide tourism amenities and facilities.

While in Government Fianna Fáil used the Office of Public Works to develop our heritage, ecological and natural resources. For many years Germans have enjoyed the facility of the River Shannon. National parks in Killarney, Glenveagh, Connemara and elsewhere have been developed. It should not be possible for small groups of people, aided and abetted by international so-called environmentalists, to persuade a Government to deny parts of the country European Union resources for facilities crucial to tourism development. We all know the decisions in regard to the Wicklow and Burren national parks. We have been allocated £20 million under the national development plan and £650 million under the operational programme for tourism. Additional initiatives under INTERREG and the international fund for Ireland can ensure that badly needed tourism facilities are put in place.

I appeal to the Government to be positive, to consider the island in its totality and not deny our people facilities that can attract thousands of foreign tourists who could make a vital economic contribution to the well-being of the nation.

I welcome this opportunity to highlight some of the problems experienced by our tourism industry. From a tourism point of view this country could be one of the best in the world. We do not have environmental problems and we have many lakes, inland waterways, mountains and woods, but many of our amenities have not been developed. A number of developments, however, have come to fruition in recent years. The Shannon-Erne link has brought a new lease of life to County Leitrim which, as a tourism destination, was badly deprived for many years.

For the past 25 years tourism suffered badly in Border counties. I was not surprised to hear the Minister state that the south-west developed at a much faster rate than the northern area. Many people believed that terrorists operated in the north-west and other areas along the Border. The Government now has an opportunity to develop those areas of great scenic beauty and its emphasis on all Ireland rather than Border regions at the Washington Conference last week is regrettable. The north-west region provides many great tourism amenities. It is one of the best areas in the country for coarse and game fishing and the people of the area, with mainly their own resources, have developed marketable tourism products. However, if the area is to reach its full tourism potential further Government expenditure is necessary.

The tourism potential of our waterways is beyond doubt. Cruiser tourism, which abounds in the north-west, attracts high spending tourists, but I accept that those who hitch around the country are entitled to proper accommodation as well as those who can afford to pay £1,500 per week for a cruising holiday. Every spectrum of our tourism market should be developed. Those interested in hill walking will be aware that the Yorkshire Moors facilitates 15 million to 17 million people per annum, but people are now objecting to the damage being done to the paths in the area. We now have a major opportunity to grasp that market.

Very few of our much talked about archaeological sites have been developed to their full potential and it was a retrograde step by the Government to decide to abandon the Burren and Luggala projects. In tourism terms, that was an abdication of responsibility to provide facilities.

Lack of investment has hindered the tourism industry, particularly in the northern half of the country. Deputy Ryan talked about an additional hotel in north County Dublin but that area can well provide hotel accommodation without the need for major grant assistance as there are enough people in that area for it to develop.

In some of the more remote areas, there is a need for additional incentives with regard to the provision of tourist accommodation, hotels, self-catering facilities, bed and breakfast premises or hostels. It is now falling to some of the county enterprise boards to fund such developments because Bord Fáilte and other tourist organisations will not fund them. I attended a county enterprise board meeting yesterday which agreed to fund a hostel, which should have been funded by Bord Fáilte or another State agency.

Ireland has a niche in the tourism market, namely, our green image. It is our responsibility to provide the people wishing to holiday here with every facility but reductions in marketing budgets will not help to spread the word about our green image. The Government must provide sufficient funds to market the product being provided by our hoteliers, bed and breakfast owners and the owners of self-catering accommodation. They need Government assistance to ensure that their own personal investments result in full benefits for this country.

I am happy to contribute to this important debate. Every so often we see headlines in our newspapers about millions of pounds becoming available to the Border counties for tourism and other areas of development from the International Fund for Ireland, EU Structural Funds, etc. However, as my colleagues pointed out, there is invariably a sting in the tail which involves matching funds either from the Exchequer, local authorities or the private sector. Over the years, we have also seen lists of allocations from the national lottery for a variety of worthy projects throughout the country, but I wonder how many of those projects have got off the ground because they too are allocated funding on the understanding that the remaining necessary funds must be raised locally.

The same principle applies to many projects involving tourism. If we cannot come up with matching funds for various projects, there is a danger that much of the money from the IFI, Brussels, the United States and elsewhere will not be forthcoming. At the recent Washington Conference, the EC Commissioner made a valid point when she stated that unless something is done about the matching funds, the majority of the funding allocated will be unused.

My main concern is about my own county which I believe has been the Cinderella area of this State since its foundation. An accident of history placed Donegal virtually in no-man'sland, surrounded by the Atlantic on one side and, until recently, six Army garrisons and the Border on the other. For a long time many people in the South actually believed that Donegal was one of the Six Counties. There can be no doubt, however, that it is one of the most spectacularly beautiful places in Europe but, from a tourism point of view, it is also one of the least developed areas. This may be welcome to a handful of people who like to wander about in complete solitude but it does not provide for the type of employment the county so badly needs. There is little point in setting up regional tourism boards unless they are adequately funded.

As my colleagues said, there are wonderful amenities in Donegal. I also make the point that there are more anglers in the UK than football supporters.

Debate adjourned.