Adjournment Debate. - Cavan-Monaghan Unemployment.

Thank you, a Cheann Comhairle, for allowing me to raise the serious unemployment problem that has arisen in the Cavan-Monaghan constituency. In the past 18 months there has been a 12 per cent increase in the number of people registered as unemployed in County Monaghan and there has been a 5 per cent increase in County Cavan in that period.

From November 1994 to November 1995 the numbers unemployed in Monaghan increased by 231, from 3,073 to 3,304. There was a corresponding increase in the six months from November 1995 to April 1996 of 121, which brought the figure to 3,425. That resulted in a total increase over an 18 month period of 352.

The numbers unemployed in Cavan in 1994 increased by 173, from 2,654 to 2,827. That figure was partly offset between November 1995 and April 1996 when the numbers unemployed reduced by 33, making a total increase of 140 for that 18 month period.

The increase in the numbers unemployed is alarming when so much emphasis was placed on the benefit of the peace initiative and when the Government is talking in terms of tens of thousands of extra jobs being created. During the period to which I referred, there have not been any major factory closures or labour unrest. There has never been so much funding available through the county enterprise boards, the Leader programme, the IFI, INTERREG, the peace initiative and the operational programme.

There is a great need for factory space in the Cavan-Monaghan area but Forbairt does not have a budget to cover that. Six months ago I was told Forbairt did not have a specific remit for the Border region. It does not have any funding for capital projects or the provision of industrial premises despite the fact that official sources have told me that the administrators of a similar fund in Northern Ireland have allocated £800,000 for an advance factory in Strabane. The Cavan-Monaghan area has a similar entitlement to factory space.

At a recent seminar in Ballyconnell the chairman of the IFI and the regional director of Forbairt spoke about the success of the partnership programme, an issue akin to the matter to which the Minister replied a short time ago. That programme was established in 1995 to form strategic alliances between companies in the Border region and companies located in North America. A total of 15 companies participated in the programme and the claim that it created 200 jobs has been questioned by some people.

When the IFI chairman and the regional director of Forbairt were asked about the location of those companies they said they were located in the two Border counties of Louth and Donegal with only one or two located in the other four Border counties.

There is little opportunity for companies in the Border regions to participate in the partnership programme or avail of the benefits of the much vaunted Washington conference, the Matchmaker programme or the forthcoming Philadelphia conference. I ask the Minister to monitor funding under these initiatives so that Border regions benefit and funding can be transferred from one programme to another if necessary. Some monitoring system should be devised to ascertain how this funding can best be used and transferred from one programme to another.

Despite the amount of funding available for advance factories, there is a similar funding provision for the development of tourism, for the improvement of bed and breakfast and self-catering accommodation in that area where there is an enormous demand and huge efforts are being made to develop tourism potential.

The International Fund for Ireland does not allocate grants for bed and breakfast accommodation but for small hotels. Some funds were allocated for this purpose under the Leader programme but I understand its funding has already expired for the current year. The local County Enterprise Board, of which I am a member, is not in a position to allocate any worthwhile funding for tourism purposes.

While there is great need for funding of tourism developments in Border areas with enormous potential, none is available. This leads me to the conclusion that there will have to be greater discretion allowed in transferring available funding.

The Taoiseach informed the House he would appoint the Minister of State at his Department, Deputy Carey, to deal with the various tourism agencies in an effort to co-ordinate their activities. It is time the Minister of State produced a report on that position and Members had an opportunity of discussing it and to ensure that in a number of years, some benefits will be reaped from the moneys available and our unemployment figures will not continue to rise.

As the Minister for Enterprise and Employment is away on official business this week, at his request, I agreed to take this Adjournment Debate on his behalf.

I thank Deputy Leonard for raising this issue in the House. I, like the Minister for Enterprise and Employment, am very concerned about unemployment and the Minister, on behalf of the Government, is vigorously pursuing a multi-faceted range of policies to address the problem of unemployment. That Department's mission is to promote and foster employment, and it is tackling this urgent task by encouraging enterprise, ensuring competitiveness, securing an educated and skilled work-force, tackling exclusion from the labour market, promoting a fair and efficient employment regulatory environment and implementing an effective business regulatory system. On Thursday, 18 April 1996, the Minister launched a Labour Market strategy paper entitled "Growing and Sharing our Employment". This has two clear objectives: (a) to set a policy framework to increase employment and the employment intensity of growth; and (b) to bring back into the mainstream of the labour market those who are currently excluded.

The Minister intends to publish another three papers on the labour market this year. The three forthcoming ones are on enterprise, services and human resources development. Together they will form a comprehensive employment policy.

I am conscious of the level of unemployment in the Monaghan-Cavan constituency. Despite the unprecedented job creation performance, with more than 60,000 new jobs created since this Government came into office, the number of people on the live register in the Monaghan-Cavan constituency was 6,217 at the end of April this year. While this is not an acceptable statistic, it is only an increase of 9 on the figure in September 1995 and is 369 less than the figure for September 1993. Therefore, I cannot agree with the Deputy's comment that there has been an alarming increase in the rate of unemployment in the constituency.

Employment in overseas-grant-assisted industries in Monaghan and Cavan has increased in the past ten years, up from 1,251 jobs in 1985 to 1,636 jobs in 1995. In 1995, for example, 41 new jobs were created by overseas companies in County Monaghan, while 79 jobs were created in County Cavan for the same period. In relation to Forbairt-assisted companies, there has been a net increase in employment of 286 persons in the years 1994-95.

I would refer the Deputy to the work of the County Enterprise Boards which were established to fill a gap identified in the range of support services for local enterprise. Their function is to develop indigenous small and micro-enterprise potential and to stimulate economic activity at local level, primarily through the provision of supports such as grants. The boards, which complement the work of State agencies such as IDA-Ireland, Forbairt and FÁS, have an unequivocal focus on the creation of sustainable businesses and viable jobs.

From their establishment in late 1993 to the end of 1995, Cavan and Monaghan County Enterprise Boards approved 176 projects worth almost £2 million in grants of which £0.776 million was drawn down by the end of last year. These projects are expected to lead to the creation of more than 330 full-time and 90 part-time jobs of which more than 200 full-time and more than 80 part-time jobs had been created by the end of 1995, according to figures supplied by the boards. To date in 1996, the two boards have approved 17 projects worth more than £150,000 in grants.

I can assure the Deputy that the industrial development agencies, under the aegis of Department of Enterprise and Employment, are active in promoting indigenous and foreign direct investment in the Monaghan-Cavan constituency. I am aware of a number of companies in Monaghan which are giving good employment such as Bose — 160 employees; CPV — 155 employees — which has performed well since the take-over by Powerscreen and Gernard Ltd. — 93 employees — which has been in operation since 1970. In Cavan such companies as Wellman — 485 employees — Boxmore — 173 employees — and Jobman — 40 plus employees — provide positive indicators for the future. I am confident of future improvement in manufacturing employment in the constituency. I can assure the House that the agencies under the aegis of the Department of Enterprise and Employment will continue to strenuously promote the Monaghan-Cavan constituency for future industrial development. Also FÁS, our national training and employment authority, will continue to work with the employment promotion agencies in placing into employment, unemployed persons in the area. The ongoing work of FÁS in the area of training is also relevant and important in this regard.

I am also aware of the implications of the growth of tourism in this area. Wearing my responsibility for tourism hat, Deputy Leonard will be aware of the varous funds and allocations available for the stimulation of economic investment funds and allocations available for the stimulation of economic investment in tourism by INTERREG, the International Fund for Ireland, Peace and Reconciliation and the European Regional Development Fund. Indeed confidence in the tourism industry also adds to the potential for employment in the Monaghan-Cavan constituency. As Deputy Leonard knows, I will be happy to talk to him about that at any time.

The point I was making was that, since the peace initiative was undertaken, we have not made strides commensurate with the amount of funding available.

The Dáil adjourned at 9.45 p.m. until 10.30 a.m. Thursday, 20 June 1996.