Dáil Éireann - Volume 327 - 25 February, 1981

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Border Region Development.

5. Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick (Cavan-Monaghan) asked the Minister for Finance if it is proposed to allocate some of the funds provided under the special programme for the development of border regions to an area outside these regions; if this would be in breach of the relevant EEC regulation; and if he will take steps to fund the project in question from national funds so that the special programme may be devoted entirely to border regions.

Mr. Calleary: It is my intention that the implementation of the special programme for the development of border counties will be directed to measures which will achieve the objective of the programme which is the improvement of the economic and social situation in the border counties. Part of the difficulty in developing these counties arises from difficulties of access.

I propose, therefore, to use the special programme to assist in the development of an airport in Sligo with the objective of providing easier access to the border counties of Leitrim and Cavan.

I do not accept that this proposal is in breach of the EEC regulation.

I am very pleased that the European Community has directed its attention to our border area in drawing up its first batch of measures for the use of the non-quota section of the European Regional Development Fund and I am anxious to ensure that the funds available are used to the maximum lasting benefit of the counties concerned.

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick (Cavan-Monaghan): The vast majority of people in Cavan use Dublin Airport. Particularly having regard to the state of the roads [214] between Cavan and Sligo they would find it impossible——

An Ceann Comhairle: A question, please.

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick (Cavan-Monaghan): Is the Minister aware that the total fund involved is £20 million, half of which is put up by the EEC? That covers a period of five years, leaving about £4 million a year to cover five counties which leaves very little money to go over each county. If County Sligo is introduced into it and a large sum of money taken out for an airport there, which could be funded out of other sources, it is an erosion of the EEC fund for cross-border counties. In view of that, would the Minister reconsider and fund Sligo airport out of national funds and leave the border fund for border counties?

Mr. Calleary: I understand the Minister has already written to the Deputy in relation to this subject. The areas which will benefit under the fund have not yet been decided by the commission and are not likely to be decided for some months. The Minister is availing of the measure to ask the commission to support the development in Sligo. I do not think the amount of money to be provided from the fund will do much damage to it. I am sure that 99 per cent of the total programme will be geographically located in the five counties.

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick (Cavan-Monaghan): Arising out of that, I note that the areas have not yet been decided upon. Is the Minister aware that this fund was hawked through the Donegal by-election and that there were allocations there for a national park, an airport and a museum? Is he also aware that this same amount of money is very prominently projected in the national investment plan, which is the equivalent of the capital programme for the budget? It is extraordinary, therefore, if it has not yet been approved by the EEC that it is being worked so hard at home.

[215] An Ceann Comhairle: A final supplementary on this question.

Dr. FitzGerald: According to the Minister's statement, if I understand it correctly, 99 per cent of this £20 million fund will be spent in the five border counties and, therefore, the amount for Sligo airport will be £20,000 or less.

Mr. Calleary: Specific projects aimed at the improvement of the tourist potential in the border counties by increasing the availability of accommodation, development of tourism and related amenities, road improvements, the encouragement of the development of craft industries and the improvement of the marketing potential of small industries which represent 99 per cent of the total programme, will be geographically located in the five counties. At present there is nothing allocated for Sligo airport because there has been no——

An Ceann Comhairle: Ceist 6.

Mr. Calleary: Because there has not been——

An Ceann Comhairle: Will the Minister please obey the Chair. We have had five questions answered in 25 minutes.

Mr. Calleary: It is hard to know who to obey.

An Ceann Comhairle: The Chair is to be obeyed.

Dr. FitzGerald: We have not had any questions answered.