Dáil Éireann - Volume 331 - 10 December, 1981

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Constitution of Tourist Bodies.

13. Mr. Meaney asked the Minister for Trade, Commerce and Tourism if he has any plans to change the constitution of Bord Fáilte and the regional tourist boards; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Mr. Boland: The constitution of Bord Fáilte Éireann is set out in the Tourist Traffic Acts, 1939 to 1979. I have no plans at present to seek changes in Bord Fáilte's constitution.

I presume that the Deputy in referring to regional tourist boards has in mind the eight regional tourism organisations. These organisations are public companies limited by guarantee and run by boards of directors who are appointed in the main by local interests. The question of their constitutions is not a matter for me.

In December 1980 the NESC, in its Report No. 52, expressed certain reservations about the effectiveness of these bodies and, at the same time, my predecessor announced that the Government had decided to review their activities. That review has not yet been concluded, but additional resources to enable the work to be carried out more expeditiously have recently been provided.

Mr. Meaney: I regret the Minister is not here because this is the only chance we have of asking a question in this session. On 30 November the Minister said in Sligo that the Exchequer would be withdrawing its present contribution to the regional tourist board. I wonder what he has in mind. Why is that money being withdrawn?

Mr. Boland: In December 1980 the then Minister announced that the Government [1692] of the day had decided to carry out a review of the RTOs and established a Departmental committee for that purpose. That committee had not really got off the ground and the new Government decided on an overall review of tourism which would naturally include a review of the financing and future structure of the RTOs. I would assume it was in reference to that the Minister for Trade and Tourism was speaking in Sligo. I would like to take this opportunity to apologise to the House for the absence of the Minister through illness.

Mr. Meaney: I am sorry to hear he is ill. The Minister has already announced the Exchequer will not be contributing to the RTOs through Bord Fáilte in the speech he made on 30 November in Sligo.

Mr. Boland: It should be noted that the original intention was that the regional tourism organisations should become financially self-sufficient over a period. That in fact never occurred and as time went on the input from Bord Fáilte formed an increasing part of the overall expenditure of RTOs. If a review on tourism policy generally was being carried out an integral part of that would be the future financing of RTOs and I assume it was in that context the Minister was speaking.

Mr. Wilson: Is the Minister aware that reports, such as the NESC report and others, seem to be creating an anti-regional climate and that is really why these questions have been tabled? Members are worried that the Government are in the throes of an anti-regional philosophy.

Mr. Boland: I should mention that on 2 April last in reply to questions from Deputy O'Keeffe and Deputy Begley the Minister of State at the time pointed out that his Government had announced last December that they were going to carry out a review of the regional tourism organisations and had established an inter-departmental committee for that purpose. The question of reviewing the [1693] organisation of RTOs is not one that was arrived at last summer.

Mr. Wilson: If the Minister can assure me there is no such anti-regional philosophy developing in the Government, which would affect the regional board in the same way as other projects have been affected, I shall be satisfied.

Mr. Boland: The Deputy can rest assured the Government have equal responsibility for all parts of the country and any suggestion of favouritism between one part as against another, which might perhaps be suggested about the past, would be quite untrue and fallacious. The Government intend to administer the affairs of the country on an equitable basis.