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.