I propose to take Questions Nos. 22, 39, 42, 44, 51, 54, 68 and 77 together.
I understand the decision by Irish Ferries, a privately owned company, to discontinue the use of Cork port was taken on purely commercial considerations and, as such, I have no function in the matter. The company has, however, announced an improved and upgraded continental cruise ferry service for the 1998 season between Rosslare, Cherbourg and Roscoff. This service will increase capacity for tourist traffic, vehicles and freight business and I welcome the company's continued commitment to the continental route. I understand the service will begin next April and will operate according to a new schedule which allows for consistent departure and arrival times with early morning arrival times in France and Ireland to better facilitate passengers driving onwards to their holiday destinations.
I have not spoken directly to Irish Ferries about its decision to discontinue the use of Cork port, but my colleague, the Minister for the Marine and Natural Resources, replied to Deputies in the House on the Adjournment on 19 November in relation to this matter.
It is too early to assess what impact, if any, the decision to discontinue the use of Cork port will have on flows of continental tourists to and within Ireland. As I have already said, the new vessel being chartered by Irish Ferries will provide for increased capacity for tourist traffic and vehicles and will offer higher standards of on board facilities which should prove attractive to potential visitors.
While the distribution of visitor flows within Ireland is primarily a matter for the regional tourism authorities and the tourist industry, I am concerned about improving regional spread generally, as we all know that recent growth in tourism has not been benefiting all regions to the same extent.
Last month I announced an extra £5 million for Bord Fáilte by way of Supplementary Estimate this year, which will facilitate tourism promotion and marketing for the coming season. I have asked Bord Fáilte to design a series of new initiatives for the 1998 campaign, targeted not only at maintaining tourism growth but more particularly at addressing regional spread. Further details of this initiative will be announced after I move the Supplementary Estimate for my Department in the House on 11 December.