Private Members' Business. - Services to Western Counties: Motion (Resumed).

The following motion was moved by Deputy Kenny on Tuesday, 16 October 2001:
That Dáil Éireann condemns the Government for its failure to provide co-ordination of ministerial responsibility to improve services to western counties and notes that the section of the N5 from Ballaghderreen, County Roscommon/Strokestown, County Roscommon, the main commercial artery to the west, is not included in the national development plan and noting that the National Roads Authority does not propose to develop this section of the road until 2015, hereby resolves that the Minister for the Environment and Local Government uses his powers under section 41 of the Roads Act, 1993, to direct the Authority in writing to include this section of the N5 for immediate design and development and calls on the Government to clarify its proposals to provide for natural gas expansion in the region and for the provision of broadband technology throughout the western counties and resolves that a Cabinet sub-committee chaired by a Cabinet Minister from the west be set up, with specific responsibility for the delivery of services to the western counties.
Debate resumed on amendment No. 1:
To delete all words after "Dáil Éireann" and substitute the following:
commends the Government's proactive approach to upgrading the country's infrastructure including in the western counties and welcomes:
–the progressive implementation of the National Development Plan 2000-2006, which is designed to enable economic and social development and balanced regional development through:
developing the potential of all regions to contribute to the maximum extent to continuing prosperity, and
reducing the disparities between and within the Border, Midland and Western Region and the Southern and Eastern Region;
–the increased investment in economic and social infrastructure since this Government took office, including the projected investment of some 26 billion (current prices) over the period 2000-2006 in roads, public transport, environmental infrastructure, energy, housing and health, as well as investment in higher and further education facilities;
–the demonstrable progress being made in implementing the national roads development programme set out in the National Development Plan 2000-2006 which provides for major improvements to the N5 and other national routes serving the western counties;
–the natural gas infrastructure developments in the West and North West, specifically the Bord Gáis proposals to construct pipelines between Dublin, Galway and Limerick and between Mayo and Galway, and the Government's recent decision on extending the network to Ballina and Sligo from the Mayo-Galway pipeline and to Letterkenny by a cross-Border pipeline from the proposed Belfast-Derry pipeline;
–the effective contribution being made by the Cabinet Committees on Infrastructure and Public Private Partnerships and on Social Inclusion to the economic and social development of the west through better co-ordination of Government policy and integration at the point of delivery of a range of targeted programmes and services;
–the on-going work of the Cabinet Committee on Infrastructure and Public Private Partnerships in ensuring that all steps are taken to ensure the efficient and timely delivery of infrastructural projects throughout the country;
–the CLÁR programme which will see rural areas of disadvantage, many of which are in the western counties, benefiting from prioritised investment, including under the National Development Plan 2000-2006;
–the Government's commitment to finalise by end 2001, following a full process of public consultation, a national spatial strategy that will address the promotion of balanced regional development on a broader basis, with due regard to sustaining economic development, improving the quality of life, and maintaining and enhancing our national and cultural heritage; and
–the retention of Objective One status for the Border, Midlands and Western Region and the resultant higher levels of Structural Fund assistance and better State aids available for this region over the period to 2006.
–(Minister of State at the Department of the Environment and Local Government, Deputy Molloy).

Deputy McGrath was in possession and had ten minutes remaining. I call Deputy M. Higgins.

I welcome the opportunity to speak on this motion and understand the spirit behind it. It raises a number of interesting and appalling contradictions regarding the Government's proposals for the western counties.

The motion calls for a co-ordination of ministerial responsibilities in order that services can be delivered. There has been a significant increase in the level of disadvantage facing these counties. In the 1970s I wrote a policy paper for the Labour Party on western development in which I pointed out the kind of issues to which this motion refers, namely, access, infrastructure, communications and energy.

The agriculture sector in the west has always differed from the regional characteristics in other areas such as the south. For example. agriculture in the west faced physical difficulties due to drainage, the nature of holdings, soil quality and so on. These issues have been addressed by reports going back to that produced by Dr. Scully. Holdings in the west were fragmented and small. Up to 70% of them were under 50 acres and 50% were under 30 acres, making it impossible to achieve economies of scale in response to price driven policies in agriculture. Agriculture in the west has always suffered from the priority given to the guarantee side concerning different European programmes, rather than the guidance side which would have given greater priority to farm families.

As regards the issues raised in the motion, it is extraordinary that an access route such as the section of the N5 from Ballaghdereen to Strokestown would be neglected. Deputy Kenny correctly drew attention to this fact when moving the motion. This illustrates some appalling contradictions, some of which I will list.

To anyone interested in regional development and regional and national spatial planning it seemed an extraordinary decision to publish the national development plan with explicit allocations for massive road building preojects and then invite submissions to the national spatial plan. That plan came after the massive capital allocations announced in the national develop ment plan. Put simply, this was a clear case of putting the cart before the horse.

However, more was involved. There was an absence of consultation regarding the planned, co-ordinated approach in delivering and responding to the needs of the west. We have been through much of this before when we were involved in the farce which was called the preparation of a regional submission to the European Union. This process did not comply with any known principles of regional planning.

In a recent paper, the Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and Rural Development, Deputy Ó Cuív, made the same analysis which I made in the 1970s by taking age cohorts, comparing them in inter-census periods and identifying the movement of people from DEDs in rural areas. It is true that cities have drained populations from towns, and towns have drained them from villages. However, there is no indication that the Government is interested in setting up proper consultation procedures on the ground.

Deputy Ó Cuív's colleague, the Minister for the Marine and Natural Resources, Deputy Fahey, was referred to in Deputy Kenny's speech on this motion as suggesting that the NRA is an independent body. Deputy Kenny pointed out that, when he put a question to the Minister for the Environment and Local Government, he received the following answer:

The Roads Act, 1993, assigns overall responsibility to the National Roads Authority (NRA) for the planning and supervision of works for the construction and maintenance of national roads. Section 41 of the Roads Act, 1993, confers power on the Minister for the Environment and Local Government to give a direction in writing to the NRA in relation to any of the functions assigned to it. The NRA must comply with any such direction. To date, no directions have issued to the NRA under this provision.

The widest possible confusion has been deliberately sown by representatives of the Government and its parties going to public meetings and washing their hands of any responsibility. They are suggesting that the NRA is an independent body and that Ministers have no responsibility in these areas. At the same time they cart in individuals affected by the NRA's proposals and arrange individual consultations with them.

Deputy Kenny also referred to the Taoiseach's speech at the Fianna Fáil Ard Fheis in which he suggested that he intends that we will have roads similar in status to those in Germany. Who decided that constructing an autobahn heading for Connemara was the most appropriate way to deal with the transport needs of the people of Connemara, Galway or Galway city? The people of Galway did not so decide. Not only was an allocation made in the national development plan ahead of any serious spatial planning, but the spatial planning consultation process began after the large sums were allocated. There was no consultation regarding the appropriate transport needs. This led to the neglect of the corridors which people needed through, for example, Roscommon.

In addition, this approach gave no opportunity to those who wished to have their transport needs defined. The Government did not listen to the different options which might be available to resolve the difficulties. This is true of almost every aspect of life in the west. There is no commitment to a clear policy or any semblance of co-ordination.

There have been other weasel statements. For example, Senator Cox suggested publicly that people in rural Ireland need not fear the closure of rural post offices, even though they are being lost at the rate of two or three per week. The decision was that they would not be deliberately closed, but would be allowed to wither on the vine while the services allocated to upgrade them and make them viable are not provided. At the same time other PostPoint facilities have been developed in supermarkets. This is scandalous and an example of all the bluster we are getting.

The Minister of State, Deputy Ó Cuív, who criticised the Labour Party's spatial policy, has been suggesting that the building of houses in rural areas is, more or less, a free for all.

I never said that.

How does this fit with any concept of planning?

I have been clear on the planning issue.

The Minister of State says whatever suits. What of his attitude to the Department for which I had responsibility regarding the environment, conservation and planning? If he wanted to save the west and have a consultation process as regards people's needs in a planned and co-ordinated way, he would not be forcing them to choose between environmental and development concerns. He would have been able to say, for example, that work would be carried out on facilities which could have been upgraded and made safe in an environmentally responsible manner.

However, this is no more than the other bogus nonsense which has been passed around about special areas of conservation and directives on habitats and birds, some of which I signed in 1997, all of which were negotiated in 1992. The Government of the day, which is the same as the current Government, had an opportunity to change anything it wished to in those directives, but did not do so. It then did the cowardly thing and went through the back door trying to whip up resentment against that which it made possible and for which it was responsible for negotiating in Brussels.

What we have seen is a shambles of deceit and an absence of consultation. It is no wonder that people in cities, towns, villages and rural areas highlight the fact that their problems are known through one report after another, but ask the reason they did not get a chance to outline what they wanted and the reason they were excluded in a grand scheme driven by the investment of money, much of it sourced abroad, to build autobahns when what they wanted were upgraded roads which would facilitate development in the ways they wished to discuss. This is the kind of arrogant, authoritarian approach we have had.

That is why this motion is an example of the sham the Government has visited on the west. We will get long and convoluted theological speeches about this, that and the other. The answer is simple. What county has announced all its spending in advance of a plan and then invited its people to take part in a spatial planning strategy? All the money has been allocated. What kind of nonsense is that?

Ba mhaith liom mo chuid ama a roinnt leis na Teachtaí Cooper-Flynn, Ellis agus Moffatt.

Tá áthas orm deis a bheith agam labhairt anseo anocht maidir le forbairt an iarthair agus maidir le forbairt na gceantar sin sa tír, bíodh siad san iarthar nó nach mbíodh, a chaill daonra le leathchéad bliain anuas. Níl aon amhras ach go bhfuil dul chun cinn mhór déanta sa tír le 75 bhliain agus tá fás tagtha ar chuid mhaith cheantar. Tá, áfach, ceantair áirithe go dtáinig meath orthu agus tá sé in am anois díriú isteach ar na ceantair seo agus déanamh cinnte go bhfaigheann siadsan roinnt chothrom den fhorbairt náisiúnta.

Tá go leor rudaí déanta go ginearálta ag an Rialtas maidir le hinfrastruchtúr a chur ar fáil. Níl aon mhaith don Fhreasúra a bheith ag rá a mhalairt mar níl siad ach ag déanamh amadáin díofa féin. Ar na rudaí atá déanta tá an stádas faoi leith atá bainte amach do na ceantair BMW agus an plean forbartha is mó ariamh, forbairt atá léirithe ag mo chomhghleacaithe agus atá scaipthe ar fud na tíre, curtha ar bun.

Thuig an Rialtas, fiú leis an ollphlean seo agus an mborradh iontach atá tagtha ar an eacnamaíocht, go mbeadh ceantair áirithe, idir ceantair sna cathracha agus faoin dtuath, go dteastódh cúnamh speisialta uathu agus sin an fáth gur tosaíodh an RAPID initiative agus an leagan tuaithe de sin, CLÁR.

I refute what Deputy Michael D. Higgins said about planning. My record on what I believe is proper, coherent planning is well known. Above all members of Galway County Council, I was active when the previous county development plan was written. I have stood by its general provisions. I have always believed there have to be planning controls, but to say that people cannot build within one kilometre of the sea is a total nonsense.

Certain kinds of development such as dirty industry and holiday villages.

The Deputy's plan does not refer to holiday villages.

Yes, it does.

Another part of the Deputy's plan excludes all planning within one kilometre of the sea.

It does not, it lists the inappropriate developments.

Éamon Ó Cuív

The Deputy should check his plan.

Carlow-Kilkenny): Níl ach beagán ama fágtha do gach éinne. Ní cheart a bheith ag cur isteach ar an Aire Stáit.

Major developments on a scale not experienced before are taking place throughout the country under the national development plan. However, the Government has the integrity and the honesty to recognise, that not withstanding the unprecedented amount of investment, there are certain areas in the country both urban and rural that require special attention and priority under the plan. It was for this reason it was agreed with the social partners to initiate the RAPID programme. This is already up and running in the urban areas and provincial towns are being selected at present by the Department of the Environment and Local Government. It was also agreed with the social partners that there would be a rural version of RAPID. As somebody who has worked and lived in a rural area for a long time, I made the case very strongly that rural areas required rural solutions to rural problems and not urban solutions to rural problems. Therefore, both the criteria for selecting the rural areas and the methodology for the programme should and does differ radically.

There has been a great deal of talk in recent years about rural development and now is the time for action. In seeking to deal with this problem the Government is using a number of instruments. The first is the use of rural proofing. Draft rural proofing guidelines have recently been noted by Government and the process is continuing to put these into operation. The second method is to select depopulated areas under the Clár initiative – rural RAPID – and to ensure that these areas get priority in the expenditure under the national development plan. One of the big mistakes when rural problems are talked about is that we lump all of the west together. The problems of Galway city are more like the problems of any major growing urban area. They are very different to the problems of Leitrim, which Deputy Reynolds represents, or parts of Mayo that Deputy Ring represents or parts of Connemara that I represent. In this initiative we have picked all parts of the country, irrespective of geographical location, that are similar in terms of depopulation. This is a much better way of doing business.

No specific sum has been put on this re-prioritisation of development under the NDP. This cannot be done until the shortfall in social community and economic structure in the areas are identified and costings are put on the amount of money required to ensure that these areas fully benefit from the plan in the years 2002-2006. The £20 million – which some Deputies foolishly think is the sum total of the initiative – is a small additional element of the Clár initiative. This has been put there for the specific purpose of ensuring that matters of grave and urgent importance in these areas can be addressed even if they fall outside the direct remit of the NDP. In this way and through the structures that have been put in place – including the use of the County Development Boards, the interdepartmental committee and the Cabinet subcommittee – there is a comprehensive plan to ensure that this initiative will make a real difference.

I also point out to the Deputies that the areas were selected on objective criteria and that the analysis of the data and the preparation of the maps were carried out by the geography department of NUI Maynooth. I thank it for its assistance in doing that.

It would be wrong for me to conclude without directly referring to the outrageous statements made by Deputy Ulick Burke last night. I must presume that Deputy Burke, in the excitement of the moment had a rush of blood to his head when he was speaking. On that basis I forgive him. However, in view of the very serious statements he made, I have to set the record straight. Deputy Burke referred to the use of "slush funds with the Department of Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands, as his [Éamon Ó Cuív's] own personal slush fund in order to improve his own constituency". There has been a budget heading under Gaeltacht improvement schemes available to the Department of Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands, for as long as I can remember. This very admirable scheme has been used by all Ministers to ensure the serious deficiencies in social, community and physical infrastructure in the Gaeltacht was addressed. I continued this work, albeit with much greater funding, due to the recognition by the Government and the Minister for Finance of the huge deficiencies in Gaeltacht infrastructure. In relation to the funding I had for the islands, it was Deputy Burke's colleague, Deputy Donal Carey, who initially persuaded his Taoiseach to give a small dedicated fund for island development. I have many times complimented him on this achievement. I developed this programme dramatically and managed to increase the funding five-fold during my tenure of office in that Department.

There is a criticism by Deputy Burke, that I used this money as a personal slush fund in my constituency. Nothing could be further from the truth. I will stand on my record as having spent the money available to me in a fair manner between all Gaeltachtaí and islands. I draw Deputy Burke's attention to a statement made by Deputy McGinley at an Estimates meeting when he complimented me on the fair way I had distributed funds during my tenure of office in that Department. I have no doubt that the other Deputies who represent Gaeltacht and island areas from Deputy Burke's party will testify to the fair manner in which I dealt with each area.

I referred to the Minister of State's colleagues who shafted him out of that Department.

The Deputy did not. He said I was using this as a slush fund. Check the record. I now call on Deputy Burke to withdraw this serious remark.

Deputy Burke also accuses me of manipulating Clár to have a "special emphasis on his own constituency area in the Gaeltacht of Connemara".

The Minister of State had no function in his new Department, that was his first statement.

I ask the Deputy to re-examine the maps that have been issued publicly and a copy of which, he no doubt has seen. Most of the Gaeltacht area of Connemara is not included in the Clár initiative.

By the time the election comes it will.

It will not. The population decline in this area did not warrant their inclusion. The area included stretches across from Turloch, Rosmuc, northwest to the county border with Mayo and west to the sea, taking in the mainly non-Gaeltacht section of west Connemara, an area of decline and very poor infrastructure. This in total comprises 27 DEDs. In the Deputy's constituency of east Galway, the programme also includes 19 DEDs in the north of the county and 11 in the south of the county total ling 29 DEDs. Is the Deputy telling me that both of these areas in his own constituency are not in urgent need of special attention in view of the dramatic decline in population, and could he not have had the good grace to acknowledge that the special needs of these neglected areas have now been recognised?

Deputy Burke has labelled me "rebellious". If being outspoken, committed and hardworking in the interests of rural Ireland and my brief is being rebellious, I take it as a compliment.

I was being restrained when I called the Minister of State rebellious.

I hope the Deputy is half as rebellious on behalf of the west if his party gets into power—

—because when the Fine Gael Party gets in, its members are like lambs to the slaughter.

(Interruptions.)

I compliment Deputy Carey. He is a magnificent man. It is a pity his colleague referred to Gaeltacht improvement schemes as "a slush fund".

I did not call it a slush fund. The Minister of State will abuse it as a slush fund.

Time will tell.

The Deputy should ask the people of the gaeltacht and islands if I used it well. Deputies Ring and Kenny will confirm I used it well.

The Minister of State should ask his colleague, Deputy Fahey, if he used it well.

The Deputy could also ask Deputies McGinley and Sheehan if I used it well. These are all colleagues of Deputy Ulick Burke.

They love the Minister of State down there.

As Deputy Ring knows – he was present during a visit I paid to Mayo – all the councillors in Mayo County Council gave me a standing ovation because they knew my record.

We had those visits too.

I did not get an ovation when I gave them a museum.

(Interruptions.)

Everything I do is fully in line with Government policy and has the full support of the Taoiseach and the Government. Previously, as Minister for Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands, I was happy that the judgment of the people I was serving was generally positive towards my efforts. I am equally confident that when this imaginative programme, which is being driven forward in a similarly positive and aggressive way, is up and running—

I look forward to the day the Minister of State and Dana get together.

—the people living in these areas, who missed out on development up until now, will also affirm this approach as being the one most likely to give them tangible results both in the short-term and the long-term. As always, I will stand on my record and the judgment of the people.

As well the Minister of State can.

Acting Chairman

I understand Deputies are excited but before calling on Deputy Cooper-Flynn, I request they stop interrupting.

I thank Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and Rural Development, Deputy Ó Cuív, for sharing his time with me. I am delighted to be able to speak on this motion. On entering the chamber, I heard Deputy Michael Higgins refer to Government policy on the west as "a sham", which is difficult to believe considering his party opposed regionalisation aimed at developing the west to bring it into line with the rest of the country.

We are for genuine regionalisation.

I call that a sham. This Government is extremely proud of its record on the west.

The Deputy is coming back on board.

The Minister of State mentioned a visit to Mayo County Council. At most council meetings, he will be happy to know, Deputy Ring is usually on his feet welcoming some project that the Minister of State funded while Minister for Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands. Deputy Ring, I am sure, will be the first to agree with that.

I will answer the Deputy when I rise to speak.

I am delighted to be able to speak on this motion because the Government's attitude to the west has been a very logical one, which has been about developing policies to address the imbalance that has existed there for many years. Initially, the approach has been to bring about Objective One status. The Labour Party, as I already mentioned, opposed that for the west—

We are in favour of genuine regionalisation.

—while Fine Gael was completely undecided.

We were not.

The Deputy should withdraw that remark.

The western Deputies knew—

(Interruptions.)

—that their own heads were on the block—

The Deputy should withdraw that remark.

We went out and got regionalisation.

—but sadly they were not in a position to convince their party members on the east coast of that. We had people on the west running around like headless chickens pretending to be in favour of it while those on the east allowed them do whatever they wanted. We then brought about the national development plan which spends £40 billion over a six year period, £13.5 billion of it in the west. We also produced a consultation paper on spatial policy which concerns bringing about balanced regional development. That is a logical, sensible attitude to the west and rural Ireland.

I thought Fianna Fáil was the party which closed the post offices.

This opposition motion is interesting. Its focus is the N5, which is the issue to which I want to devote most of my time. The opposition seems to be very much in favour of everything else the Government is doing, for example, in relation to gas and broadband. It asks the Government to clarify its position. The only area of contention, it seems, is on the N5. It is very easy to sit back—

It is because of the confusion on the—

I know Deputy Kenny's name is on the motion, but we will hear what he has to say later.

That is not part of the Deputy's plan.

Listening to the public, particularly comments made by the opposition, one would think the N5 first got on to the agenda in the past 12 months, probably because certain groups were set up in County Mayo, but the N5 has been on the political agenda of Fianna Fáil for many years. All the developments on the N5 have been brought about by Fianna Fáil.

What developments?

Deputies Kenny and Ring should look at the developments this Government has brought about in their own county of Mayo, including the Knock by-pass at a cost of £25 million, the Claremorris by-pass at a cost of £22 million. The Deputy is complaining—

I am not complaining. We accepted those graciously.

—about money from Luas being spent on the west. This Government committed £47 million to the Claremorris to Knock by-pass to get the Deputy's colleague out of trouble. We saved his political neck by delivering on that. Fine Gael may have talked about it, but it did not put its money where its mouth was.

Has the Deputy sent in her application?

I have something for which to thank Fine Gael. Of the £47 million, Fine Gael gave just £160,000 for a railway bridge on the Knock Claremorris by-pass. I did not think I would have to listen to a colleague complaining that money for Luas was diverted to the west.

That is a scurrilous remark and it is untrue.

I will welcome any further money the Government wishes to divert to the west.

As an independent.

The Deputy just said it and the record will show it.

I welcome the money and any other moneys. My point is it was not included originally and the Deputy is being deliberately mischievous. If the Deputy wants a row, she will get one.

I fully understand if the Deputy wishes to withdraw his objection. If I was him, I would do likewise. The facts are indisputable. The money is being spent in my own county, Mayo. Before that a previous Fianna Fáil Government spent money on the Castlebar Swinford road. There was also the Castlebar ring road and plans are in place for the Castlebar to Westport road. All these developments—

Why will the Deputy not talk about the Ballaghaderreen to Strokestown road?

I delivered that.

Unfortunately, we have the same old story. Fine Gael has much to talk about, but when it comes to doing something practical and logical for the west, all we hear is talk. They have never put money in place.

The Deputy would know all about money.

I am talking about money which is being spent by this Administration on infrastructure in the west. For that reason it is very difficult to deal with a politically opportunistic motion such as this one. I could list all plans for the N5 between 2000 and 2006 but my colleague did that already last night. I can sense excitement on the Fine Gael benches. They are aware the Cabinet sub-committee is examining the area of infrastructure with particular emphasis on the N5 and held a meeting with the NRA on the subject in July. Fine Gael is afraid it will be left behind when more money is invested in the road. This Government will finally get the credit for what it is doing. I could continue for much longer. Regrettably, I do not have much time, but judging by the noise on the opposition benches, I am obviously hitting a raw nerve.

(Interruptions.)

I wish to share my time with Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children, Deputy Moffatt.

I do not want to get involved in the Mayo banter, but it is obvious that raw nerves are being hit across the board in this debate. I am slightly annoyed about the failure to differentiate between areas of the west when motions of this nature are tabled, namely, concerning the development of the west.

Western counties.

The Deputy is from one of them.

If Deputy Burke could restrain himself for a couple of minutes, I want to seek clarification—

Never mind counties.

I ask Deputy Burke to keep quiet for a second because I want to clarify something. When we talk about the west we normally talk about counties Galway, Mayo, Roscommon, Leitrim and Sligo. What puzzles me is that counties Sligo and Leitrim are never mentioned. I suppose there is a very good reason for this. Perhaps County Mayo did not receive its share of the cake in recent times. As far as counties Sligo and Leitrim are concerned, we have been reasonably successful with regard to infrastructural projects under the Government.

The Dublin to Sligo railway line is now within three miles of completion with an all-welded line. That is progress as far as the Government is concerned. I remember during the lifetime of the last Government the then Minister, Deputy Yates, told us that the future for the Dublin-Sligo line was extremely bleak, that it was unlikely that any money would be spent on it. I am delighted that money has been spent on it because it gives people the opportunity to avail of a rail service and that there will be further upgrading of carriages and rolling stock.

It was much needed.

I can outline a few other projects—

We have got three or four carriages to Galway.

I hope the Deputy uses them often.

Three wheels on my wagon.

A number of other projects were completed. Fibre optic cable has been put in place in the north west, in counties Sligo and Leitrim. I can outline projects that were stopped or stalled under the last Government.

What were they?

The north Leitrim regional water scheme was stopped by the then Minister for the Environment and Local Government on the basis that it was not cost effective. I am delighted that last week the current Minister for the Environment and Local Government, Deputy Dempsey, went down to officially launch the scheme and have no doubt that Deputy Reynolds will agree with me that it needed to be done for quite some time.

He did not even drive down the N5; he stopped off at Longford. The Taoiseach flew over it twice.

I have to use the N4 to get home and I might speak about it in a moment.

(Interruptions.)

What is happening is that people are not accepting that the Government has given commitments and put money into the north west.

Where is the Minister, Deputy Dempsey, tonight to answer questions?

We are not interested in him; I am interested in explaining what the Government has done for the area of the west that I represent. It is important that it should have a voice and that voice should be allowed to be heard here without being interrupted.

The gas pipeline will be of major benefit and I hope the people objecting to this and other developments right across the west, who have little or no interest in it, take a long, hard look and decide that the west is entitled to be developed and not turned into a nature park or reserve, as some would like to see happen. The objections to planning or development projects in the west are not coming from the people of the west, but from blow-ins or people not living there or not directly involved.

My colleagues, Deputies Ring and Gerry Reynolds, will also agree that people are now interfering to prevent the development of the west, something which must be tackled. We must ensure infrastructural projects are not interfered with and not held up. We need that infrastructure; we need the gas pipeline—

It is not even in the plan.

Never mind the plan. Submissions in respect of the national spatial strategy report have to be received by 31 October. I have no doubt that, as a Member of the House, the Deputy will make a submission to ensure County Mayo is included in the strategy. I know the N4 will be included. I have no problems with this.

It is the Minister, Deputy

Dempsey's disappearing trick.

Acting Chairman

The Deputy must conclude. He must give way to his colleague, the Minister of State, Deputy Moffatt.

(Interruptions.)

I thank Deputies Kenny and Reynolds for tabling the motion as it gives me the opportunity to inform the nation and Members of the House of the progress which has been made in the west and western counties. They have scored an own goal on this occasion. The motion deals with infrastructure in regard to roads, rail, sewage, water, harbours and piers, gas, housing and health and telecommunications. Great emphasis has been placed on the N5 which we all agree must be upgraded. As Deputy Cooper-Flynn pointed out, we have been talking about it for a long time. I know that the Deputies will say that it is not included in the national development plan, but the NRA has alluded to it—

Twenty years.

A sum of £120 million has been earmarked for it. Bypasses will be constructed at Charlestown, Ballaghaderreen, Strokestown, Longford and also on the section of road at Ramoge. I acknowledge that there is an extra 25 miles that must be done urgently.

Twenty years, he says.

No, I do not agree with that. The NRA has met the Cabinet sub-committee on infrastructure. The matter has been highlighted. I see no reason it cannot be prioritised and completed at the end of this national development plan or soon after. It can be done. Roscommon County Council has been asked to expedite the planning in regard to it.

(Interruptions.)

I did not think Deputy Kenny was that innocent, that he believes everything he reads. He is a Member of the House for a long time and should have more cop on than that. I accept that there is a political agenda tonight.

(Interruptions.)

I wish to talk about infrastructure and will allude to County Mayo alone. There are water schemes in Achill; sewerage schemes in Westport and Ballina; a water scheme in Ballyhaunis; sewerage schemes in Crossmolina and Erris; water schemes on the Mullet Peninsula, Lough Mask and Ballyhaunis; a sludge treatment scheme in Lough Mask—

I delivered that.

Fair play to the Deputy. He has never been slow to accept such matters. History will show what he did in that regard.

(Interruptions.)

He was against the outfall of sewage. I mentioned the sewerage schemes at Achill; there is also the Ballina main drainage scheme, Killalla sewerage scheme – another first, and the sewerage schemes in Knock. Kiltimagh sewerage scheme will be completed.

We are blinded by brilliance.

The following schemes have been approved under the serviced land initiative: Ballina, Ballinrobe, Mulrany, Newport, Louisburgh sewerage scheme, Ballindine, Ballycastle, Killala, Foxford, Westport, Mulrany, Balla, Kilkelly, Cong and Charlestown. Never before in the history of this State has so much been done in regard to infrastructure in the west.

So much sewage.

So much verbal sewage.

Acting Chairman

The Minister of State has less than one minute left. Will Deputies, please, allow him finish?

For the first time health has been included in the national development plan. A sum of £2 billion has been allocated, £1 billion for infrastructure and £1billion for community care. We also have £200 million for care of the elderly infrastructure. The evidence is there of what has been done in the past four years. There are none so blind as those who will not see. Deputies travelling from the west of Ireland to Dublin cannot fail to see the work in progress on road improvements and infrastructural development. They will just have to open their eyes and look around.

(Interruptions.)

I wish to share my time with Deputies Belton, Boylan, Carey, Connaughton, Boylan and McGinley. I thought the Minister of State, Deputy Moffatt, was about to sing "The Boys from the County Mayo"–"Don't show the white feather in all kinds of weather."

(Interruptions.)

I am glad to see Deputy Cooper-Flynn. I am not sure whether she is on the Fianna Fáil benches or with the Independents. She is moving back. She was not allowed in on Saturday night but she has been allowed in tonight.

(Interruptions.)

I have to put up with this all the time at county council meetings.

(Interruptions.)

The Taoiseach arrived in Mayo about a month ago—

In his helicopter.

He flew in to Knock Airport and flew out from Knock Airport, because we were waiting for him at Ballaghaderreen, where we knew he would be held up by the condition of the roads.

(Interruptions.)

We are discussing a very serious motion tonight.

(Interruptions.)

A Chathaoirligh, I ask for the protection of the Chair against handbagging.

(Interruptions.)

I object to the use of the term "handbagging".

Acting Chairman

The Deputy has already spoken. If she does not wish to listen, she has the option of leaving.

I was heckled and interrupted during my speech and yet I am the only Member to whom the Chair is taking the lash.

(Interruptions.)

Acting Chairman

Please, Deputies. The time is limited.

We had to fight for every issue in the west of Ireland for many years past. I will give just a few examples. We had to fight for the medical services in Mayo General Hospital. We had to fight for the hospital, the rail service and everything else from central Government. Why, I ask the Ministers on the other side of the House, is there such a set on the west of Ireland? What is so wrong with us that the Government will not give us anything?

I take exception to Deputy Ring's comments. We did not have to fight for the motorway to Galway, which I understood to be in the west.

We had to fight for the rail service. We had to fight for the roads

The autobahn to Connemara.

(Interruptions.)

Acting Chairman

Deputy Ring, you have used up your time.

I need a few minutes more, A Chathaoirligh. The Heritage Council voted by 11 votes to 2 not to have Turlough House in Castlebar. That is the sort of thing we have had to fight – the Dublin 4 brigade objected to Turlough House. I compliment the former Ministers, Deputies Michael D. Higgins and Enda Kenny, for overruling their officials and the Heritage Council on that issue. I was delighted to be there last Sunday week when the Fianna Fáil brigade hijacked the occasion and neither Deputy Kenny nor I were invited to the platform. We delivered and we took them on.

I remind my western colleagues of the song "We're on the one road". Tonight, we are on the N5 – the road which links Dublin to Westport. If the Ministers of State, Deputies Moffatt and Ó Cuív, are with us, they will go to the right in tonight's vote and if they are against us, they will go to the left. Deputy Cooper-Flynn, who describes herself as an Independent, will have the opportunity to show her independence by voting with her western colleagues rather than Fianna Fáil. She cannot have it both ways – adopting one position in the constituency and another in the Dáil.

The Minister of State, Deputy Ó Cuív, announced a £20 million scheme a few days ago.

I announced a great deal more than that.

If the Minister of State deducted the £10 million for administration and divided the rest—

(Interruptions.)

Acting Chairman

Deputy Ring has 30 seconds to conclude.

This Government has set up a new industry. It has 75 PR people and spends £150 million on consultants. There are consultants for the west, the east and the south. Tonight, we hear of more plans and there will be more consultants and more PR people. All west of Ireland Deputies have an opportunity tonight to send a message to the National Roads Authority, the Taoiseach and the Minister for the Environment and Local Government who, like bin Laden, is missing. He should be here to defend his policy. We want a proper road and the Minister should direct the NRA to make that a priority. There are now 1.2 million cars on the road and it is expected there will be 2.1 million by 2016 but we will still have inadequate roads for the west of Ireland unless the right political decision is taken by the Minister.

I join in supporting the motion. The N5, from Longford to Mayo, is an important traffic artery. Major developments on the N5 were originally scheduled for 2015. Consultants were recently appointed to examine the prospect of a Longford bypass, which is a vital necessity to alleviate the pressure of heavy traffic in Longford town. No county town should be subjected to that situation. Following the appointment of the consultants, a public meeting was held and there was much speculation about the route of the bypass. It now appears that it was all pie in the sky – that there was no substance to it. I want to hear from the Minister, in this House, as to whether the Longford bypass is a figment of imagination or a fact. That is what the people of Longford want to know. Knowing the reputation of this Government for shadow rather than substance, I hope the Longford bypass is not one of the shadows. As Deputy Ring said, £150 million of taxpayers' money has been spent on public relations companies to spin the shadow that this is a great Government. That is what we hear morning, noon and night. On top of that, 75 spin doctors are employed morning, noon and night to say that this is a great Government, that there is no Opposition and that the people must elect this Government again. I am afraid the flip side of the coin is now showing the real truth. The Government is in crisis. It does not know whether it is coming or going – it is all over the shop.

The Deputy will have to be more inventive than that.

(Interruptions.)

Deputy Cooper-Flynn, if you had any sense, a grá, you would keep quiet and not interrupt.

I object to being called a grá.

Deputy Cooper-Flynn does not know what party she is in. She is trying to be Independent and she is trying to be Fianna Fáil.

On a point of order, I assure the Deputy I have no crisis of identity whatsoever. I am 100% certain of what I am.

Acting Chairman

That is not a point of order.

Nobody knows what party the Deputy is in.

Acting Chairman

Deputy Belton, do not have a conversation with Deputy Cooper-Flynn.

I have not come into the House tonight to be heckled by Deputy Cooper-Flynn. I would advise the Deputy to keep silent. I am talking about a very important issue, the N5 bypassing Longford. That is what people want, including those in the Deputy's constituency. When I am speaking, all I am hearing are interruptions from Deputy Cooper-Flynn. I hope the people of Mayo, when they are coming through Longford—

I apologise to Deputy Belton.

I am not surprised. I accept the Deputy's apology. When the people of Mayo pass through Longford and it takes them 15 minutes to a half an hour, they should know that one of their Deputy's interrupted and heckled somebody calling for a by-pass of Longford.

I support my colleagues and this motion, particularly because I spent some time going along this road during my three years as Minister with responsibility for the west. The problem I had with this road was that it was very dangerous. It is so dangerous that it is one hazard after another. No matter what money has been spent in any other part of Ireland, including Mayo, I do not know that it is good enough for any member of the Government party to say that road is up to acceptable standards. It is a dangerous thoroughfare. As Deputy Belton said, drivers also experience unnecessary delays and this causes frustration.

All of that is because of a lack of planning by the National Roads Authority. The lack of planning is biased against the west. It is biased because of the guidelines it receives with money from the Department of the Environment and Local Government and EU funds. In my constituency, two major works are proceeding and both stretches of road are of equal distance. Works on one stretch have been going on for three or four years while the other works started recently yet the same amount of work has been completed on both.

I live at the top of the road in Clarecastle and we are swamped with cars. Drivers experience a three mile tailback at Newmarket-on-Fergus but now it appears that problem is being transferred to my village. No contingency plans have been prepared and no effort has been made to develop the side roads. All the minor roads belonging to Clare County Council will sink without a trace.

The National Roads Authority will wash its hands of all these difficulties. Alternative routes are being chosen by people and, by and large, the county roads are suffering terribly. The big problem is that the Department of the Environment and Local Government has no interest in what the National Roads Authority is doing. It is adopting a hands-off approach. Like Pontius Pilate, the Minister, Deputy Dempsey, has washed his hands of this matter.

It is a denial of responsibility.

He wanted responsibility when he started out. He wanted to get rid of Mr. Haughey – he was one of the golden boys. Since he got this ministry, a flaw or two has been exposed. He is not so well accepted even by his own backbenchers. Judging by his attitude to county councillors, they are not too happy with him either.

I would like the Minister to visit my constituency and my village of Clarecastle and explain to the people whose businesses have been wiped out what will happen when these two stretches of primary road from Ballycasey to Latoon Cross are complete. The National Roads Authority will say the priority is the eastern corridor and that it has to develop this dual carriageway from Belfast to Rosslare. No matter what one does or says about the

west, it is ignored because it does not have the population and everybody is running to Dublin. I do not know how many other negatives there are in regard to us. What I find most appalling is that western Deputies accept this negativity. Those voting against this motion are saying they are happy with a Fianna Fáil Minister who will not give priority to a dangerous road. Death and danger stalks the N5 and the Government is doing nothing about it.

I am delighted with the opportunity to speak on this most important matter – the development of the west. Fianna Fáil is good at one thing – whether in or out of Government, it will always give the impression that nobody can handle western development like it can. That has happened down through the years. I would like to nail that lie. No matter what I say it will be seen as political point scoring because we are in a political Chamber. The Government will ask, "what else would the Opposition say?"

I would like to refer to the State of the West report released by the Western Development Commission on 24 July last – not three months ago. The report shows that despite some growth, most of the western region still lags behind the rest of the country and that the gap is widening, and that is even with the national development plan. The report stated that unless Government acts now to address the infrastructural divide, a technical and communications gap will develop which will be impossible to bridge. It stated that this situation is sufficiently serious to warrant radical and dramatic action. The report reveals that apart from Galway city and a few areas in County Clare, the west is attracting a tiny share of inward investment while most of its industrial base is weak and vulnerable. So much for western development.

When the Government was formed and the Taoiseach shafted western development—

And the Minister, Deputy Dempsey, too.

—and handed it over to the Department of Agriculture, Food and Rural Development, I knew we were doomed.

From my experience of how Departments work, including the Departments of the Environment and Local Government, Tourism and Trade, Finance, Social, Community and Family Affairs and so on, they could not give a hoot about the west of Ireland. It was shafted to the Department of Agriculture, Food and Rural Development which has little clout nowadays. While I have all the time in the world for the Minister of State, Deputy Dan Wallace, who is present this evening—

A gentleman.

—a senior Minister should be in the Chamber. That is what is wrong with the development of the west. The Minister is not to be found.

A paper Minister.

We spent weeks in this House giving legal effect to the Western Commission. We spent weeks in this House giving legal effect to the Western Commission because we knew it would be good for the west. Now what is important is that this report is given by an independent body set up by Government but not fettered by it. In other words it is an honest broker. If the Western Development Commission says we are not doing well in the west, we are not doing well. It is on the record for everybody to see. It is nothing short of a disaster that the N5 is not included in the development planning at this stage.

One need go no further than Ballinasloe to see that the plan is not working for the west, despite all the talk from the Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and rural Development, Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív, and the Minister for the Marine and Natural Recourses, Deputy Fahey. Ballinasloe is a good solid town, close enough to Dublin. It did not get a single job in the past four or five years and lost the A. T. Cross factory in the meantime. What will the people of Ballinasloe think after five of the best years this economy has ever seen? They did not get anything. What will they get in the next five years?

They will rise against the Government.

I want the Fianna Fáil Deputies, when they go through the lobbies tonight, to remember that there are many people in the west waiting in the long grass to get them at the next election. I have no doubt that there will be fewer of them after the election because they are treating the people of the west in a dreadful manner and our motion will highlight that in every town development organisation in the west.

I welcome the opportunity to support my colleagues from the west and on this side of the House. They have touched a raw nerve on the Government side, judging by the response, and they have uncovered a major flaw in the Western Development Plan.

The basis of my credibility, if I have to establish it here – and it appears from the Government side of the House that one must establish the basis of one's credibility if one wishes to speak on this issue – is that my county is a member of the BMW authority. That is not a motor car. It is the Border, Midland and Western Region authority. I am the sole Oireachtas Member on that authority representing my county of which I am very proud, and the Minister who bears responsibility for the amazing shortfall in the plan in the context of raising the N5, is the Minister who would try to ban me from exercising a dual mandate which enables me to put on record in this House the fears of the BMW authority about this plan for the west.

Because I travel to regular monthly meetings of the BMW authority, which are held in Roscommon, I am fully aware of the condition of the N5. It is simply appalling. From the Longford-Cavan border to Roscommon it is a dangerous road. It concerns me because much of the traffic to the west from the Cavan-Monaghan region and from Louth travels the N5 and it is certainly a nightmare. It would be extremely costly upgrade it and that may be the reason it was omitted. There seems to be money available for every other region in the country, but because the terrain that takes this section of the N5 is of a boggy nature it was simply omitted. Why not just build a wall across it and close it off altogether?

Another serious omission has not been mentioned yet. That is the east-west corridor. The Sligo-Leitrim, Cavan-Monaghan, Louth roadway which was mentioned in the development plan five years ago has been omitted and taken off the map. No such road is mentioned, again because of the cost factor. The west will be isolated from the east and interaction between the two parts of the country will be prevented because of the actions of this Government. I am appalled that the Minister for the Environment and Local Government did not see fit to come into the Chamber. I would like to know why he did not. If the N3 from Dunshaughlin to Meath were closed off, not only would the Minister be here but he would raise hell with the NRA and demand that that section of the road be developed so that he could get home in comfort. It appears that the west does not matter to the Minister. The south and the midlands seem to be the important networks. That is not good enough and it is not acceptable.

The Minister of State, Deputy Ó Cuív, spoke about the great development that has been achieved and he gave some statistics. I will put one on the record. It is the most recent unemployment statistic which shows that the BMW region has the highest unemployment in the country. I defy anyone to contradict it. How can we attract industry, create job opportunities and develop tourism if we do not have the infrastructure? The role of Government is to put that in place. We have people in those regions who have the will and the capability to deliver. They are as good as anywhere else in the country, but they must have services, the provision of which is the State's responsibility. The Minister has neglected his responsibilities. He is obviously begging from higher forces in his own party if he cannot deliver on this issue. The Minister from the west and the junior Minister must take responsibility. I congratulate my colleagues on raising the issue. In doing so they have done a good day's work for the people of the west.

I welcome the opportunity to support my colleagues from the west and north-west. We all know the importance of access for industrial and other development. The Government claims it has created over 300,000 jobs here in the past five years. However, it is significant that most of these jobs have been created outside of the west and north-west, which covers Donegal, Sligo and Leitrim. A record has been created there in that in every year since 1996-97 there has been a net decrease in the number of IDA-sponsored jobs in the north-west and that it is primarily owing to lack of adequate access.

I agree with everything that was said about the N5 and the N3. However, I wish to mention the N2. The national development plan provides that the roads from Dublin to Belfast, from Dublin to Cork, from Dublin to Limerick, and from Dublin to Galway, will be raised to the status of a dual carriageway or a motorway during that plan. However, the N5, the N3 and the N2, with which I am very familiar, will just be improved here and there. When I leave Dublin to travel north along the N2 there is usually a tailback from Ashbourne into Dublin. Once one gets on to the straight after Ashbourne the next obstacle is in Slane. There is a beautiful bridge there, one of the finest and most picturesque in the country, but it is unbelievable that the main thoroughfare to the north-west allows only for one-way traffic so that one often has to sit for five, ten or 12 minutes before one can cross that important bridge and make one's way to the Border. The N2 and the A5, which is a continuation of the N2 in Northern Ireland, is a primary road and there should be a joint approach between the Northern Ireland authorities and our own authorities to raise the standard of that road.

Donegal is one of the most peripheral counties in Ireland and it has a regional airport. From Kerry Regional Airport to Dublin there are four return flights a day. From Galway there are five. From Sligo there are two or three. From Donegal International Airport, the furthest away from Dublin, there is not a single return flight a day. A person travelling to Dublin can return home only the next day. That is useless to the business community and to businessmen who want to create jobs in Donegal and the north-west.

In regard to the Corrib gas field, current Government policy seems to be to find the quickest way of taking the gas out of the west. I understand there is a proposal to bring it as far as Sligo. Then there is a quick right turn into Northern Ireland. As far as Donegal is concerned it will get nothing from natural gas. There might be a spur into Letterkenny but otherwise the county will be without that vital source of energy. I understand the Minister of State, Deputy Ó Cuív, mentioned his Clár programme and quoted me earlier. The programme he announced involves £2 million for 55 centres in Donegal over a two year period. This means every centre will get £18,000 per year for two years. That is not enough to build half a mile of the bóthar áise which the Minister was so busy doing when he was in his last Department.

The west and north west, particularly Donegal, do not figure in the Government's policies. There are six Deputies from Donegal, five of whom support the Government. They will support the Government tonight in spite of how the county has been ignored, leaving it with the highest unemployment rate in the country at almost 20%.

Since it took office, the Government has prioritised the upgrading of our infrastructure and the achievement of more balanced regional development. It has pursued these objectives through: massively increased investment in infrastructure – investment in national roads, for example, has increased from £260 million in 1997 to £620 million in 2001, an increase of 138%; a comprehensive national development plan which provides the strategic framework and the funding for continuing sustainable national economic and employment growth throughout the country; the development of a national spatial strategy to provide an overall development agenda and a national and regional context for future decision making on investment in infrastructure.

Not alone have we a clear view of what we wish to do but we have put in place the policies and the funding to achieve it. The Cabinet committee on infrastructure, which is chaired by the Taoiseach, has overseen the implementation of a range of measures to address institutional, legal and administrative obstacles to, and capacity constraints on, the implementation of key infrastructural projects under the national development plan. There is a clear focus on timely and efficient delivery of infrastructure throughout the country, including in the western counties. The committee has considered, in particular, the infrastructural needs of the western counties not only in the area of roads but also in the energy and telecommunications sectors.

Data compiled for my Department by the various implementing agencies clearly indicate that many of the projects provided for in the NDP are already under way or even completed. In 2000, investment in national roads, public transport, water services, energy, social housing and health facilities in the BMW region amounted to just under 630 million, which was largely in line with the targeted expenditure for the year. I am confident that this strong progress will be continued into the future. Naturally, given the scale of the infrastructural programme under way, many of the projects are in various stages of the statutory planning and public consultation process that must be completed in all cases. It is simply unreasonable for the Fine Gael Deputies to expect that all of these projects should already be completed or under way.

The Ministers of State, Deputies Molloy and Jacob, outlined last night what has been done and what is in the pipeline in transport, energy and telecommunications. However, the message bears repeating. Regardless of whether the Opposition wishes to acknowledge it – and it clearly does not – the Government has invested heavily in the infrastructure of the western counties and is continuing to do so.

Not enough.

Look more closely at the position in relation to the roads network. It provides clear evidence of the Government's commitment to improving the infrastructure of the western counties. Investment in counties Clare, Galway, Donegal, Leitrim, Mayo, Sligo and Roscommon, for example, has increased over the period 1997 to 2001 by 151% on national roads from £43 million to £108 million in 2001 and by 58% on non-national roads from £52 million to £82 million.

Much has been achieved and is being achieved with this investment. The House will be aware of the many projects in the western counties that have been completed recently or are under way. They include the Donegal bypass, Clar/Barnesmore, Mountcharles bypass, Cavan bypass, Curlews bypass, Collooney/Sligo, Knock/Claremorris, Sligo inner relief road, Newmarket-on-Fergus bypass and so on.

Not completed.

Clear progress is being made in the implementation of the road network investment programme provided for in the NDP. Route by route, major improvements are being carried out or are in planning, reflecting the hugely increased investment in the roads network since the Government took office. The Government will continue to pursue vigorously the complete implementation of the ambitious road programme provided for in the NDP.

This commitment to substantially increase investment in the infrastructure of the western counties is also reflected in other infrastructure areas coming within the remit of my Department. Expenditure on water and sewerage services grew from £30 million in 1997 to £87 million in 2000, an increase of 190%, while the allocation for local authority housing has grown from £30 million in 1997 to £80 million in 2001, an increase of 165%.

It is clear from the foregoing and the contributions of the Ministers of State last night that investment in infrastructure in the western counties has increased in all sectors under this Government. The work of the Cabinet committee on infrastructure in prioritising and co-ordinating this investment will ensure that real benefits will be delivered to the region. The Government is determined to ensure that all areas of the country, including the western counties, have the infrastructure that will allow them to develop to their full potential and that the objective of achieving balanced economic and social development progress will be realised.

I wish to share my time with Deputy Kenny.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

It is a clear indication of the Government's commitment that no senior Minister came to the House to listen to the debate or to explain their position on this motion to Members of the Opposition. This is the proof of the Government's contempt for the development and the people of the west. The people of that region will realise that after this debate, although they were probably already aware of it.

Cardinal Cahal Daly, in his homily last Sunday on the re-interment of the ten volunteers, asked how the ten men who had given their lives for Irish freedom would view modern Ireland. He wondered if they would be happy to see the social exclusion that persists in our society and the decline of many rural areas, particularly in the west. His words are echoed by many people throughout the country. In my constituency of Sligo-Leitrim, for example, in the past three weeks there were job losses in Ballinamore, Dromod and Sligo town. More than 300 jobs were lost in ten days. What did the Government do? There was a squabble between two Departments over my attempt to raise the issue in the House last week. They could not agree on who had responsibility. That is what the Government is doing for the people of the west. It is also an example of rural decline. What does the Government propose to do? Nothing. No senior Minister has come to the House to take responsibility.

I listened to the contributions of the Fianna Fáil Members. One would think the party had only been in Government for three weeks. Fianna Fáil has been in Government for 12 of the last 14 years and the decline of the western region, indeed many other regions, has continued. It is time that party took responsibility. We were accused of political opportunism. We are politicians. We must come to the House and raise the issues. Do the Government Members wish us to lie down and die or enter into this cosy consensus that Fianna Fáil will lead us into the future? It is our job to raise these issues. It would be a poor reflection on us as Opposition Deputies if we did not raise them. I will take every opportunity to raise instances where the Government is unwilling to provide money for the development of any region and particularly the west.

I understand it is proposed to bypass Bundoran and Donegal. There has traditionally been a link with the main road from Bundoran to Donegal through the R280 which comes from Bundoran into County Leitrim. The NRA has stated that the proposed bypass will mean there will be no direct link to the R280. That traditional link between the R280 and the N15 is necessary for the future viability and development of County Leitrim. People there are amazed that the National Roads Authority proposed that motorists cannot come off a main road and travel along the main thoroughfare through County Leitrim. It shows a total lack of conviction and regard for development. We raised this issue with the NRA and under this motion the Minister has the power to raise it, but will he come into the House and answer the questions that were raised? No, he has no responsibility to the NRA. He is elected to this House and appointed to Government. While he is in Government he should be responsible for something and answerable to somebody, but he is not. He has given away all those responsibilities. If something similar was happening in some other part of the country and affecting Meath, he would give us answers and make sure that the NRA was not proposing these types of bypasses.

The State of the West report was produced by the Western Development Commission a few months ago. It has two key recommendations, one being reaching the western region. The report states the Western Development Commission recommends the establishment of a west ern region roads infrastructure consultative group chaired by a senior official in the National Roads Authority and comprising officials of the National Roads Authority, the Department of the Environment and Local Government, Forfás, local authorities and the Western Development Commission. The report recommended that this group should be set up by September 2001 and report its findings together with a cost of development schedule by February 2002 with an interim report for consultation in December 2001. The Government has not uttered one word to the Western Development Commission, a statutory body established to raise issues such as this one. It has been ignored.

The report's second key recommendation is powering and connecting the western region. The report states the Western Development Commission recommends the establishment of a high level strategic working group on power and telecommunications in the western region. It states the working group should be chaired by a senior official in the Department of Public Enterprise and should comprise relevant officials from the Department of the Marine and Natural Resources, the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment and the relevant statutory bodies. It recommends that the group should be set up by September 2001 and report its findings by February 2002. The Government has ignored that recommendation. It is ignoring the people of the west and the State of the West report. That is appalling. The people of the West are very aware of that.

Turning to my good friend, the Minister of State, Deputy Ó Cuív, on the issue of the Clár programme. He announced its introduction with great fanfare. I am disappointed he is not present to hear what I have to say and that all the other Fianna Fáil Deputies representing the west have left because it is too hot for them in here. Some £20 million has been allocated over two years broken down into the electoral areas and divisions. That will amount to £7,500 for each electoral division over the next two years.

There was a campaign in Alaska to save the whales three years ago and £100 million was allocated, but only £20 million will be allocated to save the west. If that is all the Minister of State, Deputy Ó Cuív can do to save the west, I hope he is left sitting in the west for a long time.

The Minister of State, Deputy Ó Cuív also proposed extra funding. That is not extra funding, it will come under the national development plan. It has been taken from A and put into C. When he was appointed Minister of State with responsibility for rural development, he did not want the job, he did not want to take responsibility for the Western Development Commission. It is a sop that the Taoiseach has given him £20 million, told him to go and play with it and to stay quiet.

The Minister of State, Deputy Ó Cuív also said he would get rid of the plethora of organisations and agencies funding the western development area, but what did he do? He established another one. As my colleague, Deputy Ring said, half of that £20 million will be spent on administration and it will not end up in the regions.

The Government does not have any idea or policy on regional development. It has a very careless attitude to it, particularly to western development. It has not been able to implement a proper policy over the past four and a half years when there was more money in the State coffers than ever before. As my colleagues said, in the north west region, the western region and the BMW region as a whole there have been more job losses than jobs created. That is indicative of the way the Government has failed miserably to put in place any proper structure or any regional policy.

I am looking forward to the next election and to the period after next June. We have proposed that there should be a Minister for regional development and a Department for regional development and that the necessary money would be spent on infrastructural and other developments necessary to stop the chaos on the east coast. People cannot move in this city. It is choked up with traffic and people while the west is looking for people to move there, but the Government does not have the know-how, resources or the wherewithal to introduce policies to bring in proper regional development and structures.

I thank all the contributors to this motion. It was a lively debate and gave Members the opportunity to give their views.

The motion is simple and direct. It calls for the setting up of a Cabinet sub-committee chaired by a Cabinet Minister from the west to deliver and co-ordinate services into the west that are part of the existing programme. It also called for clarification on gas and broadband technology and specifically referred to a section of the N5 that is not contained in the national development plan, the section from Ballaghaderreen to Strokestown.

The National Roads Authority Review for 2000 to 2001 begins with the following statement, that the authority's programme caters for significant activity on the improvement of a great many other national primary roads throughout the country. It states the strategy involves eliminating bottlenecks to the construction of bypasses and substantial sections of improved road. The Minister, Deputy Dempsey, in an interview reported in The Irish Times on 13 October said the spatial strategy is designed to spread that development out over the whole country. He said the car has to be tackled and it has to be tackled in Dublin. I will show the Members opposite his picture because he is not here and he has not sent a message as to his whereabouts or why he did not come into the House to reply to this debate.

He is on official business.

That may be a good reason for his not being here and I accept that.

Our problem is one of frustration as much as anything else. We cannot ask a question about the NRA, we cannot find any information on it through the Freedom of Information Act and it will not respond to us. It produces glossy letters and reports. This motion is borne out of frustration.

The Minister of State, Deputy Molloy, referred to two elements of the N5 yesterday. He said rehabilitation works are being planned and carried out for sections of the N5 at the Mayo end and west of Strokestown that were damaged during last winter. Does he realise that £3.5 billion worth of freight is moved by truck through that section every year, that a major multinational from Westport has had to unload trucks on the Dublin quays to determine whether damage was inflicted on goods and it had to send representatives to Japan to explain why goods were damaged in transit? That is because of the ineffective leadership and the refusal to act on a remit given to a Minister in respect of that section of the N5. We are supposed to be content with a million pounds a year for bits and pieces of maintenance, filling of potholes and the gravelling up of sections of that road. That is appalling. It is a denial of responsibility and it is political cowardice of the worst type.

The Minister of State, Deputy Moffatt, said we should not believe all we read in these speeches. Is he saying that the Minister of State, Deputy Molloy, is a liar, that he is not telling the truth? Are we public representatives expected to take at face value what is on the public record of the Dáil on behalf of the Government?

The Minister of State, Deputy Ó Cuív, when launching the Clár programme, which is referred to in the Government's amendment to the motion, said, that he believes the very lack of population should be a priority reason for getting investment rather than a reason for not getting it. He said we are to turn the world on its head and say that a declining area that has suffered all the classical symptoms of rural decline will now come top of the list. He went on to say we can have balance, the best that a vibrant and culturally rich rural Ireland has to offer, combined with state-of-the-art 21st century facilities. He argued that with good transport facilities and high-tech telecommunications everybody in the country could be within a 45 minute drive of a wide variety of job choices. For too long, he continued, the problems of our rural communities have been put on the back burner and thought to be insoluble. He officially announced that the big fight back was beginning.

It sounded like a spin doctor.

It was announced on 5 October at 12 noon in Strokestown.

Strokestown House.

He was driven out the gate of Strokestown House—

In a helicopter.

—and entered onto the Congo Road and the Burma Road. Members' votes this evening will decide whether the people of the west will have to continue to suffer as they did when Oliver Cromwell said, "To hell or to Connacht." In this case, it is "through hell to Connacht."

The Deputy should conclude as his time is up.

We used to have the Saw Doctors, but now we have the spin doctors.

That is right.

I hope the result of this vote will become apparent to any public representative who stands on a public platform during the next six months to say they favour the development of the west. Those who vote against this motion should be ashamed of themselves.

Amendment put.

Ahern, Michael.Ahern, Noel.Brady, Johnny.Brady, Martin.Brennan, Matt.Brennan, Séamus.Briscoe, Ben.Byrne, Hugh.Callely, Ivor.Carey, Pat.Collins, Michael.Cooper-Flynn, Beverley.Coughlan, Mary.Cullen, Martin.Daly, Brendan.Davern, Noel.de Valera, Síle.Dennehy, John.Doherty, Seán.Ellis, John.Fleming, Seán.Foley, Denis.Fox, Mildred.Gildea, Thomas.Hanafin, Mary.Haughey, Seán.Healy-Rae, Jackie.Jacob, Joe.Kelleher, Billy.Kenneally, Brendan.Killeen, Tony.

Kirk, Séamus.Kitt, Tom.Lawlor, Liam.Lenihan, Brian.Lenihan, Conor.McCreevy, Charlie.McGuinness, John J.Martin, Micheál.Molloy, Robert.Moloney, John.Moynihan, Donal.Moynihan, Michael.Ó Cuív, Éamon.O'Dea, Willie.O'Donnell, Liz.O'Flynn, Noel.O'Hanlon, Rory.O'Keeffe, Batt.O'Keeffe, Ned.O'Kennedy, Michael.O'Malley, Desmond.Power, Seán.Roche, Dick.Ryan, Eoin.Smith, Brendan.Smith, Michael.Treacy, Noel.Wade, Eddie.Wallace, Dan.Walsh, Joe.Wright, G. V.

Níl

Allen, Bernard.Boylan, Andrew.Bradford, Paul.Broughan, Thomas P.Browne, John (Carlow-Kilkenny).Burke, Ulick.Carey, Donal.Clune, Deirdre.Connaughton, Paul.Coveney, Simon.Creed, Michael.D'Arcy, Michael.Deenihan, Jimmy.Dukes, Alan.Durkan, Bernard.Farrelly, John.

Flanagan, Charles.Gilmore, Éamon.Hayes, Brian.Healy, Seamus.Higgins, Jim.Higgins, Joe.Higgins, Michael.Hogan, Philip.Howlin, Brendan.Kenny, Enda.McCormack, Pádraic.McDowell, Derek.McGinley, Dinny.McGrath, Paul.McManus, Liz.Mitchell, Gay.

Mitchell, Olivia.Moynihan-Cronin, Breeda.Naughten, Denis.Neville, Dan.O'Keeffe, Jim.O'Shea, Brian.O'Sullivan, Jan.Penrose, William.Perry, John.Quinn, Ruairí.

Rabbitte, Pat.Reynolds, Gerard.Ring, Michael.Ryan, Seán.Shortall, Róisín.Stagg, Emmet.Stanton, David.Timmins, Billy.Upton, Mary.

Tellers: Tá, Deputies S. Brennan and Power; Níl, Deputies Bradford and Stagg.
Amendment declared carried.
Question, "That the motion, as amended, be agreed to", put and declared carried.