I am delighted to have an opportunity to support this motion.
As Minister for the Environment between 1992 and 1994 I had a brief opportunity to take a number of measures aimed at supporting the development, enhancement and improvement of the economic circumstances in Cork city and surrounding areas. It was the Fianna Fáil-led Government, in coalition with the Labour Party, that progressed funds for the Lee Tunnel. It was the Fianna Fáil-led Government that decided to make the necessary improvements at Blackpool. The congestion and problems in that part of the city were acute. However, that project has progressed very little since we left office. A flats complex in that area, in which drug addiction and crime is rampant, is causing enormous problems for the local community. When we were in office the local authorities, with the agreement of the Department of the Environment, were making arrangements to demolish those flats and rehouse the applicants throughout the northside of the city. It is regrettable that project has been shelved.
Even though environmental problems in Cork city had not escalated to the point of breaking EU legislation on smog levels, the then Government banned the use of bituminous coal in the city. Reports since then indicate that the people of Cork welcome the improvement in air quality in the city.
The main context of this motion is the development of the educational facilities, primarily the enhancement and due recognition of the regional technical college in Cork. It is regrettable that as we come close to a general election we see different treatment in different parts of the country depending on whether there is pressure on a particular seat. Decisions about educational facilities, the universities, technical institutes and regional technical colleges should always be based on strict national criteria and whoever jumps the fence or produces the goods receives the lolly. It should not be a question of political aggrandisement. Education and training can never be allowed to be developed in that piecemeal and political fashion.
As spokesman for the marine and defence I have visited the regional technical college in Cork and met people engaged in research into aspects of the Marine. We have turned our backs on the harvesting of the resources of the sea for long enough, but great work is being done there and initiatives have been taken, even with limited resources, to help any Government to understand better what must be done to harvest those resources, not only in regard to our fisheries and leisure pursuits but also seabed development and other aspects. It is a shame that students and teachers of that college should have to take to the streets of Cork city or Dublin to express their frustration at the Government's selective decisions which were not based on proper criteria.
I am proud to support this motion proposed by Deputy Martin, our spokesman on education. In the past few years he has worked tirelessly to progress Fianna Fáil educational policy. I compliment him, in particular, on the way he has tried to address the question of disadvantage. Whether we are talking about disability, the need for remedial teaching, psychological support services or resource teachers, we all know that for a long time a percentage of our population, whether at primary, secondary or third level, has missed out and in many ways has been alienated from society because the opportunities to develop their talents and their personalities to the fullest extent did not happen owing to the necessary resources not being made available.
In the context of what is contained in this motion, the primary aim is to deal with high unemployment and other problems of which Deputies who serve that part of the south are only too well aware. I hope there will be some positive response from the Government to this genuine motion put forward in the interests of trying to make sure the right thing is done in relation to the regional technical college in Cork.