Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - EU Peace Initiative Funding.

Rory O'Hanlon

Ceist:

21 Dr. O'Hanlon asked the Minister for Tourism and Trade the total amount of money provided to his Department under the European Union peace initiative fund; the amount of funding allocated to date; the projects that have benefited from such funding; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11907/96]

The special EU support programme for peace and reconciliation envisages the provision of £48 million in EU funding for the first three years, 1995-97, of the initiative for the Border counties. Indications are that up to £5 million of that amount may be drawn down directly in respect of community-led tourism related projects. No funding is being channelled through my Department.

Details in relation to the measures and eligible activities can be found in the programme which I understand was circulated to all Oireachtas Members shortly after the programme was adopted in July 1995.

Does the Minister accept there is a great discrepancy in the tourism industry between the various counties in the Border region? What plans has he to ensure that counties that do not have a tradition of tourism but have the potential to develop the industry, are afforded an opportunity to do so? Will he review and refocus the various funds under the aegis of his Department to ensure they are given that opportunity?

Deputy O'Hanlon will be aware that one of my priorities under the European Regional Development Fund programme administered by my Department and the independent product board is to ensure, so far as is possible, that these moneys are spread across as much of the country as possible. Obviously, the board is entitled to deal with applications submitted from various regions. The troubles in Northern Ireland and the Border regions generally, resulted in a slow down, if not a standstill, in many facets of tourism development. Under the programme for peace and reconciliation, three measures identified in sub-programme 2 (c) — urban and rural regeneration, in particular, identify tourism projects and facilities among many initiatives which may be eligible for assistance. These three measures are: urban and village renewal and tourism, village renewal and tourism and community-led development, in respect of which the EU grant rate is up to a maximum of 75 per cent. At this stage it is not possible to forecast the final outcome. A midterm review of the Operational Programme for Tourism will be carried out in the near future to ascertain how funds are being dispersed under the various headings, where they are being allocated and what value is being had for European Union assistance here. In that sense I take note of the point the Deputy made, but my main objective and priority is to have such funds spread through as many areas as possible so that many regions and people derive an economic dividend from it.

That concludes questions for today.