Other Questions

Departmental Agencies Funding

Hildegarde Naughton

Ceist:

24. Deputy Hildegarde Naughton asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the amount of funding allocated annually by Fáilte Ireland to St. Patrick's Day parades; the parades to which it is allocated; the basis on which that allocation is made; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14009/17]

I thank the Minister for attending the House. I wish to ask about the amount of funding which is allocated annually by Fáilte Ireland to St. Patrick's Day parades and festivals. We all know the value of our national day to tourism, so I would like to know what St. Patrick's Day parades and festivals are funded by Fáilte Ireland and the basis on which that allocation is made.

At the outset, I apologise for being late. When I was entering the Chamber a question was being answered by the Minister, Deputy Ross. I understood the question to be about whether I attended a meeting with him. I did not but a meeting was requested of my office in regard to the promoters of a scheme at Dublin Airport, which I facilitated in the context of tourism. I do that all the time. However, I want to apologise again for being late.

My Department's primary role in regard to tourism lies in the area of national tourism policy.  It is not directly involved in the management or development of individual tourism projects, which are operational matters for the board and management of Fáilte Ireland. The provision of funding for festivals, including St Patrick's Day parades, falls to be met from the resources available to Fáilte Ireland from its national and regional festivals and participative events programmes. I am informed that in recent years the only application received by Fáilte Ireland in regard to St Patrick's Day has been made by Féilte Dhuibh Linne Teoranta which organises the St. Patrick's Festival in Dublin.

This year, St Patrick's Festival took place between Thursday, 16 March and Sunday, 19 March and featured events including street theatre, walking tours, literary, historical, music and sporting  events. To this end, a festival grant of approximately €1 million was allocated by Fáilte Ireland towards the cost of the festival in 2017.  This allocation is based on an assessment of an application which Féilte Dhuibh Linne Teoranta submitted under the national festivals and participative events programme and is subject to key performance indicators and a review of the benefits delivered by the festival.

It is open to any festival organiser to apply for funding under the national or regional festivals programmes, which open for applications on an annual basis.  It is expected that these programmes will reopen for applications in August and December 2017, respectively.

Both the Minister, Deputy Ross, and myself have met with representatives of the St. Patrick's Day Festival committee in Dublin. It is my view that the St. Patrick's Day festivities should be celebrated across the country, but they also need to be supported. If the Deputy wishes to ask a supplementary question, I can provide further details.

I thank the Minister of State for his response which confirmed that Dublin is the only St. Patrick's Day festival funded by Fáilte Ireland. We are all aware of the benefits that the capital city gains from this funding. Earlier this week, I noted an article in The Irish Times by the chairman of the Grow Dublin Tourism Advisory Board, which indicated that the Dublin festival is worth €50 million in revenue. He also said that it attracts 100,000 tourists to the capital, as well as enhancing the city's reputation as a place to visit. I have no difficulty with that because it provides a good return on a solid investment. However, I would welcome the Minister of State's supplementary response concerning the funding of other festivals around the country. Every region should have an opportunity to apply for funding and get the benefits of the festival.

Last December I asked Fáilte Ireland to re-examine funding for St. Patrick's Day festivities across the country because I was not happy with a situation whereby only one location is funded. That is not appropriate particularly in the context of commitments in the programme for Government to balanced regional development. Whether St. Patrick's Day festivals are being organised in Athlone, Cork, Limerick or the Leas-Cheann Comhairle's own constituency of Donegal, Fáilte Ireland has a role to support them. I have therefore asked Fáilte Ireland to review funding in that regard.

There are perhaps greater opportunities to raise commercial revenue to support a festival of this order in Dublin than elsewhere, but there has to be an economic return for the State's investment through Fáilte Ireland. I believe that we can do a lot more around the country, so I am waiting to see what Fáilte Ireland proposes. I hope there will be changes for 2018 at the earliest.

I thank the Minister of State for his welcome comments on opening up funding for other areas of the country. I take his point that an economic return for funding these festivals is important. With so many tourists travelling around the country, however, it is also important to showcase all of our regions. I look forward to getting the results of that review.

In accordance with Standing Orders, I will allow a brief supplementary question from Deputy Troy.

I welcome the commitment by the Minister of State. I acknowledge that Westmeath County Council provides good funding for community groups in the various parades that are held there. Has the Minister, Deputy Ross, delegated some powers and functions to the Minister of State? It has been a matter of curiosity and concern both for the Minister and other Members of the House. Can he confirm whether or not those functions have been delegated to date?

That is a matter for the Minister to answer if he so wishes.

I am delighted to update Deputy Troy. The portfolio established by the Minister of State, Deputy Ring, has been reassigned by the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport to myself.

Deputies Naughton and Troy are right concerning funding by local authorities. This was why I asked for a review of funding for the St. Patrick's Day festival in Dublin. There is a greater opportunity in Dublin to raise such commercial revenues while, in addition, Dublin local authorities benefit through commercial rates. The load needs to be widened, particularly in Dublin where there is a greater opportunity for people to put more effort into raising revenue from the commercial sector.

Other parts of the country, such as Cork, Limerick, Galway and elsewhere, should have an opportunity to apply for State funding via Fáile Ireland, and I would encourage them to do so.

Coast Guard Services

Imelda Munster

Ceist:

25. Deputy Imelda Munster asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will enact legislation in order that the Irish Coast Guard can become a stand alone primary response agency; if he has met with representatives from the Coast Guard to discuss these matters; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14222/17]

I wish to ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will enact legislation in order that the Irish Coast Guard can become a stand alone primary response agency; if he has met with representatives from the Coast Guard to discuss these matters; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

On my own behalf and that of my Department, I would like again to express our deepest condolences and sincere sympathies to all those affected by the recent tragedy, particularly to the family members of the crew of Rescue 116 and also to thank all those individuals and organisations who have been so generous in giving their time and resources to support the search effort. The full resources of the State remain committed to ensure that every effort is being made to locate the wreckage of Rescue 116 and the three missing crew.

My Department and I have the utmost respect for the volunteers and helicopter crew who provide a search and rescue service on behalf of the Irish Coast Guard, a division of my Department.

Their bravery, dedication and commitment is nothing short of remarkable.

As regards the question, it is true that the Irish Coast Guard is not a separately established legal entity. It is a division of my Department. It was established as such under a Government decision in 1990, initially as the Irish Marine Emergency Service. The name was later changed to the Irish Coast Guard in 2000, and the division was subsequently transferred from the Department of the Marine to the Department of Transport in 2006. Notwithstanding its functional location as a division of my Department it is in all operational respects a stand-alone primary response agency. The Coast Guard has a number of functions, which include among other things, search and rescue and maritime pollution prevention and response. I am satisfied that the Coast Guard has sufficient powers as a division of my Department to carry out its functions. These powers are augmented by the various merchant shipping and sea pollution legislative provisions.

I am of the view, in light of the context set out above, that there is no need to place the Coast Guard on any additional statutory footing. It is difficult to identify any specific need for legislation, or to establish what the purpose of any legislation would be. Legislating for a voluntary group would give rise to very complex matters and in all probability the volunteer sector would not be covered in any such legislation, as is evidenced by the Civil Defence Act which does not contain any provisions in respect of its large volunteer force. The same applies to matters such as training standards, which are dynamic and constantly evolving, and which are not therefore an appropriate subject for legislation.

In these circumstances, and I am sure the Deputy will understand, I see no need to bring forward legislative proposals at this time. I see no underlying reasons why it would be necessary. Subject to being persuaded by the Deputy's remarks in the next two or three minutes, I have no intention of doing so.

Now, more than ever, we are aware of the important, often dangerous and admirable work of the Coast Guard. No one can deny the fantastic and important work which it carries out. In 2016 the service co-ordinated 2,500 incidents throughout its three marine rescue co-ordination centres and 405 people who were rescued were categorised as lives saved. The Coast Guard also assisted with the recovery of 45 bodies from our waters. It provides services to the HSE and investigates suspected pollution investigation missions. In recent times however, members of the Coast Guard have expressed frustration at the lack of funding available to them and there have been requests seeking to put the Coast Guard on a legislative footing. Senior members of the Coast Guard have been quoted in the media as being frustrated at the lack of support and resources from the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport. They made fresh appeals last week to ensure the Coast Guard is equipped with access to its own fixed-wing aircraft to provide top cover in the wake of the Rescue 116 tragedy.

There is a complete lack of legislation on the Coast Guard. It is the only one of the blue light services not on a proper legislative footing. The Minister has stated before that the volunteer element of the Coast Guard is seeking legislation but I think it goes further than that. There are many issues with the Coast Guard. I think a review of the service and its needs is in order. Is the Minister agreeable to that?

I am a bit at a loss. What the Deputy has said leaves me unconvinced about legislating for a voluntary group. The tributes which we have all paid to the Coast Guard in the last few days have all been deserved and indicate the great respect in which it is held but the fact is the Coast Guard is working. The vast majority of the Coast Guard comprises volunteers, to whom we should all be immensely grateful. Its operation is working in a very disciplined and very effective manner. The accidents are tragedies, which I suspect remind us of the extraordinary and very effective work that the Coast Guard does. The number of rescues that the Deputy has just mentioned in her speech is phenomenal and spectacular and they are something for which we have to be grateful. I have not experienced, as Minister, the expressions of frustration to which the Deputy has referred in any meaningful way and I would need some convincing to feel that she reflects the view of the majority of people in the Coast Guard.

If the Coast Guard itself and the volunteers are requesting and putting to the Minister the need to be put on a legislative footing, and if they are also raising issues about the lack of resources and support that they feel they are getting from the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, that should be enough to warrant the Minister agreeing to a review. We trust these volunteers and staff members with our lives every single day of the year. We should listen to them when they draw attention to problems in the Coast Guard. They are doing so because they feel there is a real need for them to be addressed. There is an onus on the Minister to address those needs, or at least to agree to carry out a review and take it from there. Will the Minister agree to do that?

This is something that I raised a number of weeks ago with the Minister. Perhaps there might be merit in meeting with the representative body of the Coast Guard, to listen to its concerns and proposals and perhaps not to knock it down so forcefully as the Minister has done today, and indeed did a number of weeks ago. Perhaps if the proposal that we put a number of weeks ago, or that of Deputy Munster, cannot meet with his approval he would meet with the representatives of the Coast Guard and listen to their concerns and see if they could be alleviated by himself and the officials in his Department.

In response to what Deputies Troy and Munster have said, I am certainly not going to refuse to meet anybody. It is not in my nature. I think both of the Deputies will know that from being in this House. I will be delighted to meet anybody who requests a meeting on reasonable grounds. Certainly if there are representatives of the Coast Guard who are unhappy with their situation I would be very happy to meet them. I will be delighted to hear what they have to say. I do not want there to be any controversy around the Coast Guard in the present circumstances. All I am saying is that my inclination at the moment is not to legislate in the terms the Deputy has spelt out because I think the Coast Guard is doing such a fantastic job. I do not believe it is necessary at this time, but I am very happy to meet representatives and to hear what they have to say if a credible and sensible request comes to me. In response to what the Deputies have said I will certainly meet them.

Questions 26 and 27 are in the name of Deputy Alan Farrell who is unavoidably absent and sends his apologies. We move to Question 28.

Questions No. 26 and 27 replied to with Written Answers.

Fáilte Ireland

Clare Daly

Ceist:

28. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his views on the decision of Fáilte Ireland to close its Dublin Airport information desk in view of the fact that this is a facility which is widely used and is of important benefit to tourists and the tourism industry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14255/17]

This again relates to a decision by Fáilte Ireland, in this instance to shut its office at Dublin Airport a mere two years after it shut down its office in Terminal 2, meaning that we will have no tourist office in the country's biggest airport. It is becoming a bit of a trend when one considers that it also shut down its office in Newgrange and moved the staff to the city centre. Airport staff are now being told they have to move to the city centre making it a very Dublin-centred organisation. I wonder how Fáilte Ireland is achieving its objective of developing Ireland as a destination if it does not even have a location in our main airport. What are the Minister of State's thoughts in that regard?

I thank Deputy Daly for the question. I am aware that Fáilte Ireland plans to close its tourist information office in Terminal 2 in Dublin Airport and I understand from Fáilte Ireland that this decision follows a review of the engagement levels there and nature of the queries. The management of the tourist information office network is an operational matter for the board and management of Fáilte Ireland, in line with its functions as set out in legislation, and is not something in which I have any role.  I have asked Fáilte Ireland to prepare a reply for me which I will forward directly to the Deputy.  In the meantime I am meeting the newly-appointed CEO of Fáilte Ireland next week for a scheduled meeting. This is an issue in regard to tourist information offices in general which I want to discuss with him. It is an issue close to my own heart. In my constituency a tourist information office was closed.

It reinvented itself and was redeveloped. There is a precedent for how we do things differently in regard to tourism information officers. Following my meeting with the CEO next week, I will revert to Deputy Daly directly and give her an up-to-date statement as to the rationale behind the decision and what it will mean for the employees and tourist information in Dublin Airport.

The referred reply under Standing Order 42A was forwarded to the Deputy.

I thank the Minister of State. This is important. Some two weeks ago, 13 members of staff were summoned to a meeting in an airport hotel and told the office would be closed and all of the staff moved in June, which is the start of the summer season in an airport which, as we know from our previous discussion, needs an extra runway to accommodate the volume of passengers passing through its doors. It seems bizarre that no tourist office is to be located there.

It feeds in to a question from Deputy Naughton to which the Minister of State responded. A Dublin-centric organisation is being developed around Fáilte Ireland, which is inherently dangerous. I ask the Minister of State to put it to Fáilte Ireland that its facilities at Dublin Airport were given to it for free by the DAA. It was such a vital linchpin in smoothing the passage of passengers through the airport and made their welcome in Ireland very much céad míle fáilte that the DAA did not charge it for the facilities. It is something well worth retaining and I stress that the Minister of State needs to raise those points in the context of the holistic development of tourism on the entire island of Ireland, not just Dublin.

I wish to set Deputy Daly's mind at ease. The development of tourism in Ireland is far from Dublin-centric. Some 10 million people visited the island of Ireland last year. As the Deputy knows, Ireland's Ancient East and the Wild Atlantic Way have been phenomenal successes. Fáilte Ireland has 28 tourist information offices across the country and there is also a network of over 40 offices that operate on a volunteer basis and have a different management structure and relationship. I would contest that the system is Dublin-centric. Tourist information offices have a role to play.

I want to understand the rationale of Fáilte Ireland in terms of its proposals regarding staff and what that will mean for tourists coming in through Dublin Airport. I can categorically tell the House that there is no shortage of such people; anybody who is trying to get a room in Dublin will know that, which is excellent. I am anxious to understand the approach of Fáilte Ireland, which is why I am meeting the CEO. I also want to know how it will supplement its services in terms of technologies, such as apps that can be downloaded, in the absence of a tourism information point at Dublin Airport. I want to understand the effectiveness of the tourism information point in the first place, including the footfall and number of people who availed of the service. Once I have that information I will be able to revert to the Deputy with greater detail.

I thank the Minister of State. It is something to which we will return. It is a devastating blow for the staff involved that they have to move from north county Dublin or routes on the M50 to Dublin city centre, and it is very inconvenient.

More important is the loss of skilled workers who have a great knowledge of airport facilities, local transport networks and countrywide tourism and were located at the first point of arrival for millions of passengers every year. They should be the first port of call. They have played an exceptional role in the tourism sector. Their offices could be decorated with the thank you letters they receive. The closure will leave a huge gap at the first point of entry for tourists.

It will be interesting to hear what Fáilte Ireland says to the Minister of State. I have no doubt it involves rationalisation or restructuring. It might be worth the while of the Minister of State to meet delegations representing the workforce or DAA. I reiterate that this is a facility provided at the first point of entry for free. It does not cost Fáilte Ireland anything; it pays no rent for the facility. To lose it and relocate staff to Dublin city centre would be ludicrous. A better solution could be developed. I look forward to the Minister of State's reply.

Since I have been appointed I have engaged with many airports across the country and have discussed the points of entry for tourists entering Ireland in terms of what they are looking for. There has been a change in the behaviour of tourists in terms of how they want to access information. In many cases, that involves tourist offices. We have to reflect on the number of people actually availing of the services.

The Deputy is correct; we also have to reflect on the skill set available within the staff of Fáilte Ireland who do a very good job across the country. It has developed a large range of products, including the Wild Atlantic Way and Dublin: A Breath of Fresh Air, in terms of marketing. My first priority is to understand the rationale for the decision. As Deputy Collins knows, a tourist office in was closed in Adare, which is in our constituency. The tourist information point was changed, and there are other examples across the country.

There may be opportunities for the DAA, which I am due to meet in the context of the development of tourism. I will raise the matter with its CEO when I meet him. At the earliest opportunity, I will give Deputy Daly a full reply on the progress I have made.

Bus Éireann

Dara Calleary

Ceist:

29. Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if proposals will be forthcoming from his Department in regard to the financial difficulties in Bus Éireann; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10848/17]

Can the Minister bring clarity to the exact financial position of Bus Éireann? There are conflicting reports about losses for 2016 and the first two months of 2017. I hope he will be able to provide the House with some information on the exact position regarding the losses. How much of the 2016 figure refers to operational rather than accounting losses? What is the position for the first two months of 2017, in particular the performance of the Expressway network?

In recent months I have taken action on a number of fronts in order to address issues raised by stakeholders in Bus Éireann. I have increased the amount of public service obligation, PSO, funding so that in 2017 almost €263 million will be provided to the NTA to allocate to public transport operators. That figure represents an 11% increase on 2016, and I have publicly committed to further increasing the level of PSO funding in the coming years as financial resources permit.

I have assured rural Ireland that the NTA will continue to use its statutory powers to ensure public transport connectivity is maintained for rural communities affected by changes to routes in the commercial bus market. I have written to my colleague, the Minister for Social Protection, Deputy Leo Varadkar, regarding concerns about the level of funding associated with the free travel scheme and we have mandated our Departments to work together to review this matter.

On the company's industrial relations issues, I am clear that I cannot and will not involve myself in discussions relating to the way in which the company organises itself. I have consistently urged Bus Éireann management and trade unions to constructively engage on those internal matters which require attention within the company.

Last week's comments by management and unions reinforce my stated position that there are issues internal to the company which require attention if we are to resolve this situation. I do not believe that any member of this House can ignore the existence of such issues when a company's management and trade unions are highlighting inefficiencies which require attention, as both did last week.

The company needs to develop a business plan for the years ahead. In developing such a plan there must be realistic engagement between the company and its trade unions in order to ensure the company can deliver its services in an efficient and financially sustainable manner.

I ask the Minister to outline the exact loss for Bus Éireann for 2016. Was it €9.4 million? If it was, can he confirm how much of that was operational and how much involved accounting issues? I ask the Minister to outline the losses for Bus Éireann for January and February 2017, specifically the losses on the Expressway service.

Of the €263 million in the PSO that the NTA receives, how much will go to Bus Éireann, Dublin Bus and Irish Rail in 2017? In terms of the money going to Bus Eireann, how much of an increase is it compared to the 2016 figure?

The figures for 2017 will be decided at a later date. In respect of the figures for 2016, the total is €9.4 million. We have not seen the accounts because they will not be published until such time as they are ready. The Deputy can be certain that the figures are very high, and completely and utterly unacceptable. As Deputy Troy said, the figures are verging on reckless trading.

Management is very conscious of the fact we must ensure we are not running into a situation in 2017 where it is trading in a reckless manner, which is to trade while insolvent. That is vitally important and something my Department and I are watching closely. I cannot tell the Deputies what the accounts will say because they have not yet been published. However, they will be published and the figures will be dramatically unacceptable and bad.

The Minister is the principal shareholder and cannot tell us this information, yet management is writing to various people stating that losses were 41% higher for the first two months of this year than the same period a year ago. Surely the Minister, when he saw it in yesterday's newspapers, would have got his people to state what exactly is the figure. Surely we, as parliamentarians, have a right to know the figure. Further, is the figure for 2016 €9.4 million? The board of Bus Éireann is due to sign off on those figures. How has the Minister engaged with his representatives on the board or on that final report? What is the point of having a Dáil if we can go onto rte.ie and see the figures that the Minister - the principal shareholder - is refusing to give here. We might as well not be here. It is time for the Minister to take his head out of the sand in terms of what is going on in Bus Éireann. I have just come from a presentation by Transport Infrastructure Ireland about the roads programme, which is another disaster. We all agree that there is a serious issue with Bus Éireann and we want to help and be constructive. However, by denying information to Members of this Parliament, the Minister is not being helpful.

I insist that Deputy Troy's supplementary question be very short.

The sad fact of the matter is I do not think the Minister is withholding the information because I do not think the Minister knows it. That is the sad reality. During my priority question, I asked the Minister about his concern about the board and reckless trading. The board itself has stated that it will have to implement the plan to avoid reckless trading. Is the Minister in agreement that the plan would be implemented unilaterally and without the agreement of the unions to ensure there is no reckless trading? Does he feel that the implementation of the plan without agreement will prove to be positive or beneficial?

If the management puts figures of that sort into the public arena, I have to accept them and take them seriously. However, I will not announce profit or loss figures for a semi-State company before they are published. That would be absurd. The figures will be published in due course in the annual report. For me to pre-empt that would be absurd. Despite the fact the Opposition wants to make me so, I am not the operating entity. I am the shareholder.

I am a shareholder that allows Bus Éireann to get on with its job and to produce its figures. Do not ask me to pre-empt them before they are even audited. That would be utterly and totally irresponsible. I utterly accept what is being said at the moment as being an honest reflection of the figures that are anticipated for 2016 and 2017.

Reckless trading.

Road Projects

Brendan Smith

Ceist:

30. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will ensure that the road development needs of the Border region are given particular consideration in the review of the present capital plan given the many challenges that will arise for business and commerce in the Border region due to Brexit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14185/17]

Brendan Smith

Ceist:

82. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if his attention has been drawn to the concerns of businesses in the Border region due to the difficulties arising from Brexit and the need to improve infrastructure, particularly the road network, to assist businesses in remaining competitive; if the road development needs of this region will be prioritised for investment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14186/17]

The Minister and I had the opportunity to discuss the substance of this matter in the House before. Given the huge challenges emerging for business and commerce in the Border region due to Brexit and its adverse impacts on the Border economy, I put the need to upgrade the road infrastructure in the region to the Minister during Question Time, in a Topical Issue debate and privately at a meeting with him, for which I am grateful. We do not have a rail network in Ulster and we need a modern road network. There is an urgent need to prioritise a number of routes in the Border region to ensure that they are up to the standard which local business and commerce and residents deserve.

I propose to take Questions Nos. 30 and 82 together.

I have a rather long answer for the Deputy, but I will amalgamate the two questions. Forgive me if I take a few minutes to do it. As Minister for Transport, I have responsibility for overall policy and funding in regard to the national roads programme. The construction, improvement and maintenance of individual national roads is a matter for Transport Infrastructure Ireland under the Roads Acts 1993 to 2015 in conjunction with the local authorities concerned.

In accordance with the provisions of section 13 of the Roads Act 1993, the improvement and maintenance of regional and local roads is the statutory responsibility of the relevant local authority. Works on those roads are funded from the local authorities' own resources, supplemented by State road grants.  The initial selection and prioritisation of works to be funded is also a matter for the local authority.

The transport element of the capital plan sets out investment priorities to 2022 and was framed by the conclusions reached in my Department’s strategic investment framework for land transport. Based on the findings in that report it is envisaged that maintenance and renewal of the road network will continue to be the main priority over the next period and the bulk of the roads capital budget, approximately €4.4 billion, is earmarked for such essential work.  A further €600 million has been allocated for implementation of the PPP road programme which is already under way and the balance for the limited number of road improvement projects included in the plan.

The Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform has indicated that there is a total of €2.6 billion in additional funding available between 2018 and 2021 for allocation under the review of the capital plan.  While I am conscious of the many competing demands for extra resources, my Department has submitted a very strong case for additional funding consistent with the principles identified and a number of the proposed measures, if approved for funding, will be of benefit to the Border counties.  I understand that departmental submissions will be published by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.

I will list a few of the roads in the Border region where the capital plan provides for significant investment in transport links impacting on the wider Border region. These include the N4 Collooney-Castlebaldwin section of the Dublin-Sligo route, the two rolling schemes from Dungloe to Glenties and Inver to Mountcharles on the N56 - strengthening regional links in Donegal - and the N2 Slane bypass, subject to planning, on the Dublin-Monaghan route. The capital plan also restates the Government's commitment to €75 million over three years to the development of the A5 in Northern Ireland.

I thank the Minister for his reply. Will he make a strong argument to Government on the need to provide additional funding in the mid-term capital review to address the infrastructural deficit in the Border region, particularly the road network? As I mentioned earlier, unfortunately we do not have a rail network and movement of persons and goods, including goods for export, has to be by road. Public representatives, the Minister as a member of Government, colleagues and civic society in general will spend a lot of time over the next two years discussing issues pertaining to Brexit as well as having many discussions with the British Government and at European Union level. Many of the issues are outside the competence of Government to decide. One thing within the competence of Government is to decide where national expenditure should go and to seek particular EU funding for infrastructural development. I previously asked the Minister to put forward a case through the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform on the need to seek cohesion funding post-2020 given the specific needs of the Border region and the adverse impacts Brexit will have on that region and economy.

I gave a commitment to Deputy Smith that I would do that and when I leave this evening I will find out the current position. The Deputy was seeking special EU cohesion funds for Border areas, which I consider a reasonable request. I do not know the current position. It was only a couple of weeks ago and I do not know if we have received a response at this stage. I will follow it up because I consider the request perfectly fair. As the Deputy knows, the whole Brexit situation is in a state of flux. It might be a little early to say that we are looking for some sort of special deal for roads in the Border regions because of the adverse effects of Brexit and a hard border on them, given that we do not know what the effect will be at the moment. However, I understand the difficulties for Border towns and Border trade and am sympathetic. If this requires additional infrastructure, I will certainly look at it as being a particular case. I do not want to give a complete and utter blanket commitment at this stage when we do not know specifically what the consequences will be for the Border areas or anywhere else.

I disagree with the Minister in one respect in that Brexit has already had adverse impacts on the Border region, particularly on some of the food sectors. It has also damaged business confidence. Those of us who represent the Border region are all aware that some enterprises have shelved plans to consolidate or expand and increase employment.

Another telling argument is that the Troubles and a lack of economic development in the Border region have meant employment in the region is predominately based in small and medium enterprises. The facts show that of all the regions, the Border region has the highest proportion of exports to the sterling area. It will, therefore, be impacted when we no longer share a trading area with Britain. The estimated costs of Brexit to business are readily identifiable they will impact most on the Border region. I emphasise that small and medium enterprises in the region are more dependent on the British market than those of any other part of the country.

The Minister stated that it is a little early to say what will be the impact on the Border region. Speaking for those living in counties Cavan and Monaghan, it is never too early to start shouting for Border counties. Brexit looms large in the hearts and minds of everyone in my constituency, particularly those involved in small and medium enterprises and agriculture. Lakeland areas in the heart of the constituency, including Killeshandra, Lough Egish and Baileborough, have significant industry, with thousands of gallons of milk from the North processed daily in the area.

Roads in Cavan-Monaghan are being hammered because the funding available to local authorities to spend on local roads has declined by 50% since 2008. No money has been spent on the local improvement scheme in the constituency. It is not too early to fly the flag for Border counties.

The issue is simply that the detail is not known. I take the Deputies' point, however, because I know the Border counties are feeling the pinch already, particularly on trade and by small and medium enterprises to which both Deputies referred. This will obviously have a knock-on effect on infrastructure and roads.

My Department has submitted its proposals for the current capital review. The final outcome will be decided by the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform and Government. However, a number of possible investments impacting on the Border region have been considered in the submission. In identifying projects, I considered a range of factors, including congestion, regional development and the wider development context. For example, if the A5 proceeds as planned, the N2 links to the A5 from Monaghan will need to be improved and this was factored into the submission. Similarly, current IDA Ireland plans for investment in Sligo require investment in regional and local roads. Projects which had cleared planning were also factored in, for example, the Ardee bypass on the N2 in County Louth and linking Monaghan to Dublin.

Road Projects

Brendan Griffin

Ceist:

31. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if his attention has been drawn to the socioeconomic benefits that would accrue from the construction of the new N22 Cork to Kerry road; if his attention has been further drawn to the rate of fatalities and serious injuries on the stretch of road in need of replacement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14095/17]

Brendan Griffin

Ceist:

70. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if the new N22 Cork to Kerry road will be prioritised for construction; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14094/17]

We have only three minutes remaining to take Deputy Griffin's question. The Deputy will have more time if we proceed directly to the response.

I have spoken umpteen times in the Chamber in the past six years about the N22 Cork to Kerry road project. Since 1990, there have been more than 40 fatalities on this section of road. It would be a great socioeconomic development for the entire south west region if the road project were to be accelerated in the capital plan. Clearance works are starting this year and a contract valued at €14 million to prepare the route has been signed. However, funding is needed to lay the tarmac and allow the works to begin in earnest.

I ask the Minister to tailor his response.

I propose to take Questions Nos. 31 and 70 together.

I will be as fast as I can. Deputy Griffin will be aware that I was meant to travel the road in question with him last week. Unfortunately, I had to postpone my visit, for which I apologise, as a result of events in County Mayo. I will visit the area in the next week or two or soon after Easter to see the route at first hand.

In cases where a road authority, namely, the local authority, has information that indicates that road safety improvement measures on a national route are warranted, the road authority should prepare a feasibility report and carry out an analysis of the collision history on the route.  If the number of collisions meet the criteria for a high collision location, the road authority can design a scheme to deal with the safety issues and cost and prioritise the scheme in relation to other works being proposed.  Transport Infrastructure Ireland, TII, has allocated €16.7 million for high collision location safety works on the national road network in 2017.  In addition, TII also provides a programme to address improvements to skid resistance.  A total of €415,000 has been allocated to Cork County Council and €260,000 to Kerry County Council in respect of this programme.

I am fully aware of the strategic importance of the N22 Ballyvourney to Macroom scheme and I understand from TII that it is intended that mainline construction will commence in 2020.  As regards an earlier construction start date, the extra funding for allocation across Government under the capital plan and the current review of the plan reflect the constraints associated with European Union fiscal rules.  The bulk of additional funding, both currently and under the review, will be available in 2020 and 2021, with significantly lower amounts in 2018 and 2019. This significantly constrains the scope to accelerate major investment projects.  Decisions under the review are ultimately matters for the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform and Government. However, I take very seriously the safety elements the Deputy has brought to my attention again.

In terms of the number of projects nationwide that are or will be shovel ready in 2018, the Ballyvourney to Macroom road merits serious consideration for many reasons. The project would open up the engine of Cork city and its jobs market to a new cohort of people who wish to continue to live in County Kerry, contribute to their local economy and spend in their local community. The project would be a significant leap forward for the county and would also enable us to attract investment, thus reducing the problem of geographical peripherality that we have suffered for many generations. This is a key project which should be accelerated. While I understand that constraints apply and the scope for accelerating projects is narrow, from a national perspective, this project stands out as one that could be accelerated in the review. I ask the Minister to give it every consideration.

People believe the N22 Macroom bypass project could proceed much quicker than is currently the case. The key issue is the tendering for construction, which, for a project of this scale, would take the best part of a year to complete. The tendering process could run in parallel with the land purchase and could have started at any time from 2013 onwards. It did not commence in 2014, 2015 or 2016. Will the Minister release the Macroom bypass project to tender for construction this year?

The other key point relates to the archaeological and sensing works proposed for later this year, which are being packaged as an advance project. These works formed part of the construction contract which was parked. They were plucked from that contract and repackaged as advance works. The substantive contract must be released to tender for construction. We do not need to wait for land purchase. The tender could have proceeded at any time since 2013 when the compulsory purchase order was confirmed. Will the Minister release the project for tender this year?

I thank Deputies Brendan Griffin and Aindrias Moynihan for raising this issue which has been addressed many times previously. I assure them I will give the matter due and serious consideration in the capital review.

Written Answers are published on the Oireachtas website.