My colleague the Minister for the Environment and Local Government, Deputy Dempsey, made the directive referred to in June, 1998. The draft retail plan ning guidelines were prepared by consultants and issued in April, 1999 by Deputy Dempsey, who has primary responsibility in this area. Deputy Dempsey invited all interested parties to make submissions to his Department for consideration before finalisation of the guidelines. Submissions were made to the consultants and to Deputy Dempsey, a number of which were also copied to my Department for information. A submission, by the company referred to was copied to my Department in 1999. I did not respond to this submission.
On 3 June 1998 I received, from the company referred to, a copy of a letter dated 2 June 1998 and addressed to the Taoiseach, which related to the directive. I did not respond to that communication.
Accompanied by my officials, I have met the company referred to on 25 May 1998, 19 March 1999 and 29 June 2000 to review progress made by the company in relation to the undertakings given by the company to the Irish Government in 1997. These discussions, while wide-ranging, have focused on commitments relating to purchases of product by the company from Irish suppliers, as verified by annual surveys carried out by the ESRI, on the company's commitment to development of Irish suppliers, and on its commitment to grow the business in Ireland.
I have agreed with Deputy Dempsey that further analysis would be carried out on the likely impact of the guidelines in relation to competition, prices, consumer choice and the supplier base. To this end, the Department of the Environment and Local Government, and my Department have jointly commissioned a study to examine these issues. The results of this study together with the submissions made by interested parties following publication of the draft guidelines will help inform the final policy position on retail development to be pursued by the Government via the planning system. Where planning issues arose in discussions with the company referred to, they were apprised of this position.