Dáil Éireann - Volume 343 - 22 June, 1983
Private Members' Business. - Development of Border Region: Motion (Resumed).
The following motion was moved by Deputy Leonard on Tuesday, 21 June 1983:
That Dáil Éireann calls on the Government to recognise the need for the development of the Border region and requests that available EEC funds be used more extensively for this purpose.
Debate resumed on amendment No. 1:
To delete all words after “Dáil Éireann” and substitute:—
“recognises the need for the development of the Border region and urges the local authorities and other agencies concerned to ensure that full use is made of the opportunities offered by the Special Border Areas Programme for the  improvement of the economic and social situation of those areas.”
—(Minister for Finance.)
Mr. Conaghan Mr. Conaghan
Mr. Conaghan: I have already outlined the chronic unemployment situation in the north-west. This is contributed to by virtue of the fact that the area has been underdeveloped. The natural resources in the area are farming and fishing. Above all, we have our youth there who are able and willing to develop the area if the necessary aids are provided.
We all know the great potential of tourism in the Border region and particularly in the Donegal area. It is our contention that the region has not got the necessary aids to develop and give the people a reasonable standard of living. There are two natural resources in the north-west and it seems strange that there has been no move by any Government to develop them. They are Lough Swilly and Lough Foyle, two of the greatest natural waterways in Europe. We could set up a duty-free port in these areas or there could be trans-shipment of the traffic passing to Canada and the United States from Europe. We all know there is the difficulty of congestion in the waterways and therefore in getting freight to and from the European countries.
To develop industry in the Border region there is an argument for the setting up of a duty-free industrial zone. If the necessary effort is put into it, a move could be made on the industrial front to generate work for the unemployed in the Border region. How could this work? The entire Border region should be tackled as a separate unit and given special treatment to ensure faster development and to give employment to the thousands of unemployed and their families. The development should be orderly and it should be generated as quickly as possible. A lower VAT rate should apply to industries located in the area. Workers should be rewarded with lower PAYE rates. There could be a transfer of capital and advanced technology, and skilled  labour to the weaker regions could be encouraged by suitable fiscal measures. Regionalised fiscal policy is another aspect that should be looked at. It is possible, through suitable adjustments, to have indirect taxation. For instance, capital investment could be attracted by the introduction of a graduated relief from income tax payments. Skilled labour should be encouraged to remain or settle in a weak region by partially exempting the workers concerned from taxation on salaries.
VAT could be regionalised by introducing different rates to assist products exported by the weaker regions. This, if adopted, would restore the balance between the richer parts of Europe and the disadvantaged areas, such as the Border region. Was this not the concept of the regional fund when it was set up? It is a matter for the Government and their representatives in Brussels to raise this issue at Commission level and see if they could be induced to adopt a regional planning policy in relation to the disadvantaged areas, rather than the regional fund approach which operates at present, While the regional fund has given assistance and aid to the area in relation to infrastructure, progress is too slow and we in the Border region are not in a position to take our place for any upturn in the economy in relation to attracting industries to that region.
There would be practical difficulties involved but, as there is at present a chain of customs posts from Donegal to Louth on both sides of the Border, I do not think there should be any difficulty in relation to operating any tax changes that would arise in relation to giving tax incentives to the industrialists and the workers who would be attracted there if an industrial zone was set up with low tax rates. There is an argument for putting this case forward in Brussels and for keeping the pressure on to get recognition for it.
We see from today's newspapers the results of the efforts of the European representatives in Northern Ireland and we have won considerable recognition from Brussels in relation to the £72 million  package for the development of Belfast. That strengthens our argument and I am convinced that if it is pursued vigorously there will be recognition given to what everyone must accept is a disadvantaged area, a region which is not keeping pace with the rest of the country and is far behind those of the European Community.
I wish to express my concern in relation to the EEC Regional Planning Committee which has been visiting this area during the last few days. I should like to know why their itinerary was changed from the original plan. They were to have visited the Derry-Strabane-Donegal areas. They were also to have visited Inishowen to look at a project there which is under review for some time, the development of the Greencastle fishery port. That port is badly in need of development and is due for aid from EEC funds. As fishing is a very attractive business in the Donegal area, I am disappointed that this delegation was not taken to an area where there has been development in relation to aid that was given to the Derry bridge across the Foyle and the development of a national primary route there. At least they could have familiarised themselves with the limited development that has taken place through aid from Brussels and it could have been impressed upon them how badly development was needed.
Our main objective must be to develop infrastructure in the region because, if not, we will not be in a position to compete for industry there. We are far behind many other parts of the country in this respect and also behind European countries. The first priority must be for a massive injection of capital to boost the development of roads, communications, transport and so on, especially in the Donegal area. I ask the Minister to seriously consider the question of a regional plan for the Border area.
Mr. McCartin Mr. McCartin
Mr. McCartin: Unfortunately, I did not hear the debate yesterday evening but I understand that it covered the whole question of regional development in the Border areas, free trade, the effect of the  Border on economic conditions and activities, how the Regional Fund is spent and the special allocation from the non-quota section of the Regional Fund which, as has been stated recently, has not been fully taken up. I agree with the Minister that that appears to be so in certain respects but I understand why it has not been taken up in some instances. It is said in relation to the purchase of goods in Northern Ireland, where they have a price advantage in certain areas, that we cannot do this or that because the European Economic Community says so. We should remember that, long before we joined the EEC, we had a free trade agreement with Great Britain. That was a progressive step at the time and it was a change in our attitude and outlook which heralded the approach of an era when we could become industrially competitive, modernise our structure and services and raise our standard of lving. We should not blame the European Economic Community for preventing us from reverting to restrictive practices which I do not think would serve the needs of consumers on either side of the Border.
While I welcome the free trade they have, it can only go along with fair trade. At present we have a certain freedom of trade in the Border areas but we do not have fair trade. The people on the northern side of the Border have many advantages which we do not have. I do not want to talk about the retail sector and people shopping in northern towns for some goods but we should take note of the fact that Northern Ireland has the best package of regional aids and incentives within the EEC and perhaps in any part of the world. Their economic difficulties, high unemployment and so on, cannot be blamed on the United Kingdom Government. They have given them aids and incentives which should ensure a healthy economy. Of course there are other problems there but, in that respect, the British Government have not failed Northern Ireland. That creates problems for certain industrialists and manufacturers on the southern side of the Border.
It is quite obvious if one drives from Dundalk, down through Monaghan,  Cavan, Leitrim and up into Donegal, that we have failed in the whole area of gravel, stones and readymix concrete and concrete blocks. The Northern industrialists have an immense advantage over our producers in this area and they have a very big share of the market in the South while no producer in the South that I know has succeeded in selling any significant amount of goods in Northern Ireland. I do not believe that is due to a lack of effort on the part of the industrialists or the work force on the Southern side. I believe it arises from unfair advantages which the producers in Northern Ireland have and I would request the Minister to do a study on this. We cannot have free trade unless that trade is fair. The Minister should do a study not just on this industry but perhaps the provender milling industry as well.
In the agricultural sector we have the penetration of the Southern market by poultry producers from Northern Ireland. While I absolutely defend their right to sell their produce down here, just as we have the right to sell up there, we certainly cannot continue to tolerate a situation in which we on the Southern side are forced to concede our markets to people who have every advantage. The difference in the price of commercial vehicles is startling. There is a huge difference in transport costs arising out of that. The roads of the Border areas are thick with lorries. In some instances I think by some means or other they have been subsidised. Not only do they pay a low rate of tax on those vehicles but they also have, to the best of my knowledge, a cheaper means of financing their transport than is possible in the Twenty-Six Counties. It is an area at which we should look carefully. Otherwise aids and incentives being given by us and the development of structures in the Border regions will be wasted.
It is recognised that all over Europe borders are areas of less-intense economic activity. The very existence of borders and customs barriers tends to reduce commercial and economic activity and so living standards and incomes in border regions will always be slightly lower. It is a little bit worse along our Border  because we have other disadvantages as well. Most of the problems we have in the Border areas do not require any special treatment apart from what I have already said about fair trade, the customs barriers and the difficulty of access to some areas. Beyond that, the Border areas are no different, in their disadvantages, from the areas away from the Border. We have a combination of a Border problem and natural disadvantages. I would not accept the idea that we need a special authority to look after this region. I think we have enough authorities to do all the development that we have plans or money to do. We can make those authorities more efficient but I do not think we need any new structures either here or in Brussels. We do not want any more administrative costs.
On the border between County Leitrim and County Fermanagh there is no access route. It is noticeable that the British authorities would not concede an official crossing beside Kiltyclogher in County Leitrim. They may have had problems of security in that area but it is noticeable that in that case the village is in County Leitrim and people from Northern Ireland would be shopping in Kiltyclogher. There is no economic disadvantage to the British side in keeping that border closed. While I am sure they have the same security problems in Ballyconnell, our Government — I think it was a Fianna Fáil Government — agreed to and co-operated in the setting up of a customs post there. I thought that was fair enough at the time and I supported the idea of putting a customs post there. In that case we were giving the advantage to the Northern side from a commercial point of view because at that customs post they take across all the gravel, stones, readymix concrete and blocks which create employment in County Fermanagh. The British were quite willing to provide the security necessary to man a customs post there where they had an economic advantage but they were not willing to do it in Kiltyclogher. Every effort we have made in this regard has been a failure. In County Cavan there is the bridge at Aughalane which was blown up some years ago and it should have  been restored and normal communication resumed. The security situation in Northern Ireland has nothing to suffer from the opening of these routes. I believe our Government would give whatever assistance was necessary to ensure that those crossings were not used by terrorists or anybody seeking to subvert the system on either side of the Border. Renewed efforts should be made by our Government to open up these because every bridge that has been knocked down is an obstacle to economic development.
In regard to the special non-quota section of the Regional Fund, it is easy to look back now and identify what has gone wrong. When that fund was proposed we did not have any consultations whatever. I can understand the frustration that people feel about European funds. They are told that there is approximately £500 million of an advantage to Ireland annually from being a member of the EEC and that is true. They were told before we joined the Community that there would be economic advantages but they do not see very clearly how the money is being spent or how we are getting it and so in some areas they believe they are not getting their fair share. We oversold that idea in the first place because we gave our people to believe that the only reason we were joining the EEC was to get money from our friends and neighbours in Europe. That was one of the reasons but it was not the only reason. When the money comes Ministers and Governments tend to announce the allocation of funds without sufficient reference to the fact that so much of this money is provided from the European Regional Fund or the Social Fund and people do not recognise where it is coming from. The vast improvement in training facilities through AnCO that we have got from the Social Fund is not recognised even by the people working there. In places where the Regional Fund money is being spent it is not being recognised. Occasionally there are posters along the roads to say that money is being spent in this way and that has helped, but in many instances where money has been devoted  to food processing and to industrial projects company directors and others have not sufficiently recognised the importance of the contribution from Europe and so we have so many people demanding to know where is the money going that is coming from Europe.
The Border areas are not getting their fair share of agricultural spending because agricultural production is not sufficiently high in those areas to give them the benefit of the Common Agricultural Policy. The Regional Fund money is being spent at the will of the Government all over the country and again the Border areas are getting less than their share. As far as the spending of the non-quota section is concerned the situation is not as bad as it appears on paper. In the area of the grants that were made available for tourist development we had to get applications, the people had to get planning permission, they had to get contractors, raise the finance and carry out the development and so the money could not yet have gone to the recipients because they have not yet completed their projects and the money cannot be paid. I understand there are sufficient projects there to take up all the money that Bord Fáilte have provided.
The local authority is a harder one to understand. I cannot understand how the local authorities did not spend it. This money was thrown out in so many directions and what went to the local authorities was just used to substitute the sort of money our own Government had to give a few years ago to maintain county roads. I know roads in which I as a member of a local authority was involved in the provision of money for their upkeep. Those roads were black topped but because the financing of local authorities has run down so much the roads have now fallen into disrepair. Now we are submitting applications to Europe for tourist amenity roads. In other words, we are just maintaining roads that county councils have failed to maintain over the years. That is not the right way to spend money of this sort and is not working in the right way within the framework of the development plan for the Border regions.
Regarding both the Regional Fund and  the non-quota section I hope this £20 million over five years is not the last allocation of money we will get. It will not strain the capacity of local authorities to spend all the money. I have no doubt about that. Local authorities will take their share and so will Bord Fáilte. There are more than sufficient applications and I know very worthwhile applications which have been refused because the projected cost would be in excess of what the fund could finance. A lesser level of financing would have given us a greater number of projects and better value. The grant given for the self-catering section was quite generous and we could perhaps have succeeded in encouraging the development of 25 per cent more accommodations with the same amount of money. This House, the local authorities and the various other interests involved should have had some input. They should have been asked for their opinions and, had they been asked, the schemes would have been more carefully designed instead of the Government doing all the negotiating and then announcing a package. I think there is some sort of political objective in this. For the future we should hear far more about the planning of these various projects.
The same situation obtained with the western development fund. None of us who was involved, concerned and interested could get any information about how the fund was being allocated until the Government made an announcement. This should not happen. I would prefer to see these funds channelled into a smaller number of schemes for the development of some specific region, preferably the west and north-west, where there would be less administrative cost for four or five years and, when the project was completed, moving on to another area. Throwing the money into the Naas bypass, the Alcan project and hundreds of other schemes is purely the substitution of national money and if the fund were withdrawn in the morning one would not have the Government reducing the budget by the equivalent amount. They would budget for the same amount less the allocation Europe would make. Additionality is there all right but the  reality is different. This Government should start by being more honest and open in their administration of this particular fund.
The Border region is a problem. No solution will be found in the expenditure of this comparatively small sum. I think we could have gone further with the money to resolve the problem. For instance, the Ballymore-Ballyconnell canal, which covers three counties — Leitrim, Cavan and Fermanagh — has fallen into disuse and disrepair. If it were repaired we could then plan tourism and land reclamation. A worthwhile job could be done over a five year period. I alerted the Minister and the county development team when the scheme was first proposed but because of failure of consultation the money did not go in that direction. There were no environmental hazards and it could have become a very important amenity area. There was also the question of an interpretive centre in Ballyshannon. The local authority there are very concerned because while this had been planned — it was an ideal project which could have been included rather than the maintenance of county roads — nothing was done.
Mr. Wilson Mr. Wilson
Mr. Wilson: First of all, I want to call the attention of the House to the motion:
That Dáil Éireann calls on the Government to recognise the need for the development of the Border region and requests that available EEC funds be used more extensively for this purpose.
There are two parts to the motion, a recognition of the need for the development of the region and a request that available EEC funds be used more extensively. I would suggest that too much time is spent on the non-quota fund, on the £20 million over five years, and not enough time has been spent dealing with the other regional fund in general as well as the Social Fund and so on. Last night the Minister in response to the proposer of the motion spent nearly all his time dealing with the non-quota section, the £20 million. I would agree with Deputy McCartin that the Aghalane and Kiltyclogher  approaches should be repaired. I would not agree with him that Ballyconnell, which is the traditional town of that section of County Fermanagh to the north of it, has suffered in any way —
Mr. McCartin Mr. McCartin
Mr. McCartin: I did not say that.
Mr. Wilson Mr. Wilson
Mr. Wilson: What the Deputy said was that it was to the advantage of the people of the six counties rather than the people in Ballyconnell. That I also dispute.
Mr. McCartin Mr. McCartin
Mr. McCartin: I said it was to the disadvantage of the sand and gravel and quarry people in the south.
Mr. Wilson Mr. Wilson
Mr. Wilson: The Deputy first made a general statement and then went on to make a more particular statement. I have only 20 minutes and I did not interrupt the Deputy and I shall not allow the Deputy to interrupt me.
An Leas-Cheann Comhiarle An Leas-Cheann Comhiarle
An Leas-Cheann Comhiarle: I shall not allow him either.
Mr. Wilson Mr. Wilson
Mr. Wilson: I want also to endorse his remarks as far as the canal is concerned. There have been movements to get it linked up. There is a marvellous complex, one of great scenic beauty and great amenity value coming down from Ballyshannon, to Enniskillen to the two Lough Ernes and right on to Carrick-on-Shannon. Quite recently I had a discussion with the President of the Chamber of Commerce in Athlone who has ideas of a linkage between Athlone and Enniskillen and in that context the canal referred to should play a linking role and the expenditure of money on it would be desirable. Deputy Conaghan suggested to me that I should not be parochial and to remember Donegal. I do not intend to be parochial but I had to make those comments on what Deputy McCartin said, and Deputy Conaghan repeated last night, that the realities of the effect on the Border regions on both sides — that is to the north and south, if you can call Donegal the south; anyway the six county part and the twenty-six county part — have never been studied carefully. We  have the New Ireland Forum in which we may be studying the economic situation, but I have always claimed that any studies made were made on a Republic basis — that is to say the whole of the Republic — and on a six-county basis — the whole of the six counties — but were not specific in relation to the areas on the Border where the scene can be quite different from the overall economic situation. If the New Ireland Forum does anything worthwhile it should draw attention to the problems of the specific Border areas, and to Hades with the cynics who say that it cannot be successful. They are plentiful, they grow everywhere on the basis that a cynic is one who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing. Out of the Forum for a new Ireland could come some productive thinking with regard to the Border areas. It is important that the realities of the situation of the areas adjacent to the Border on both sides should be highlighted and the studies may do that.
We had the European Parliamentarians on a visit to the area during the last week and that is indicative of what we should be talking about, which is the line that the people who met the European Parliamentarians took in explaining to them the Border regions. We had submissions on agriculture, environment, industry and tourism. I said at the outset that perhaps we spent too much time talking about the non-quota section of the European Regional Fund. The House will note that, apart from aid to marketing for small industries, most of what the Minister for Finance was talking about last night was connected with only one aspect that I have just mentioned, that is, tourism. The wording of the motion is broad enough to ask us to have a look at the scene right across the Border.
The population of the area is now substantially larger than it was in 1951. At times the area was almost bled to death by emigration but the population has built up again and in the north-eastern development area, that is to say, Louth, Monaghan and Cavan, almost 50 per cent, 48 per cent at any rate of the population are under 25 years of age. The Government's attention to the area  should be directed towards those. It is very important that cognisance be taken of their existence. Development that will bring employment for them is very important because it is quite easy to see what might happen to those young people who have a better education than their parents had for the most part, and what they will turn to if they are frustrated. One contribution was made by the IDA officer who boasted and claimed as a plus factor that the work ethic was still strong in the area. You can cultivate a work ethic only if work is there to satisfy that, and if young people are for a long period without employment there is grave danger that that advantage will be corroded and die. In the Louth-Cavan-Monaghan area at the moment 11,000 are unemployed. Again I call the attention of the Minister for Finance and through him the attention of the Government of that fact. That adds another reason for asking the Government to recognise the need for the development of the Border region. As has been said, we have unemployment elsewhere, but I maintain that there are social hazards and risks in a large unemployed young grouping along the Border, dangers and risks that do not exist to the same extent elsewhere in the country.
Deputy McCartin mentioned roads. We had a discussion with the European grouping, including an Irish MEP and a Welsh MEP, about the roads in Monaghan. In the Louth-Monaghan-Cavan area 6,640 km of roads must be catered for. Again we must appeal to the Government to look coldly at this situation. Deputy Conaghan and Deputy Leonard made the point that we have no railway system in the area. We must look at this 6,640 km of roads that have to be maintained. Deputy McCartin referred to the concept of additionality, but we want substantial aid for roads for that area. Here I include Leitrim and Donegal also.
Reference was made to the water and sanitary services in our part of the Border region. Great development has taken place there particularly with the regional water schemes. Again we must say “thank you” to the EEC for aid from FEOGA for some of those group water  schemes. However, Drogheda and Dundalk were mentioned as two towns that needed full development in the water and sewerage area because the lack of an adequate water and sewerage system in those large towns is hindering development, and proof of that can be produced.
For the most part Louth, Monaghan, Cavan, Leitrim and most of Donegal, certainly east Donegal, depend to a great extent on agriculture. It is a strong area for pig, poultry and egg production and, of course, dairying. In this area the Government and the EEC agencies should concentrate not merely on the development of the traditional products but on the development of diverse products. To mention one interesting development, we have a very fine duck unit in Monaghan. We have also a new mushroom industry there. I am talking about new, highly concentrated industries that give employment and bring wealth to the area. Innovation, the striving to get new products developed should be inculcated in everybody connected with agricultural education in the area. A few years ago it was inconceivable that Bailey's Cream should be such an important export from this country. In County Cavan more than 30 million gallons of milk are used for the production of Bailey's Cream. Emmet's Cream has been launched by the Bailieboro Co-op and it is doing very well. We should introduce flexibility and innovation into our agricultural education because with so many young people coming on, agri-business is the only type of business that will be able to cater for the employment of young people in large numbers.
The quality of the land can benefit through aid from the EEC and the Central Fund. I regret that the western drainage scheme which was welcomed by everybody is now at a standstill because funds are not being provided for it. On the use of fertilisers in the area it is interesting to note that those who are making most money make the best use of fertilisers. Encouragement by way of subsidy and propaganda is important in that regard. Statistics about incomes in the area make sad reading.
 We have applied for an expansion of the severely handicapped areas scheme in those counties. The fact is that the people through hard work and a large input of sweat and money, in so far as they have the capital, have been placed high up in the productivity league and that tends to go against them in assessment for inclusion in the severely disadvantaged areas scheme.
The productivity figures mainly assessed in the four large co-operatives in Cavan and Monaghan are good and that tends to militate against the inclusion of areas that by any standards are severely disadvantaged.
The most immoral and obscene act of any Government — I thought out those words — was the decision to discontinue the farm modernisation scheme on 9 February. The word used in regard to that scheme is deferment but whatever it was, a 30 per cent gross increase in production resulted from the use of the funds allocated under that scheme. Small farmers had already committed themselves to expenditure which for them was large and when they discovered they would not be getting anything out of the farm modernisation scheme they were swamped, financially bankrupt, gone. That was as a result of direct Government action. I am not making a political point about that; I could not care less but there are instances throughout my constituency of people who had been following the advice of their instructors suddenly discovering that the money was being withdrawn from them.
I hope now that there has been a change with regard to the use of bulls that the subsidisation of the AI scheme will continue. Otherwise the quality of the cattle in the area will deteriorate.
Mr. Dukes Mr. Dukes
Mr. Dukes: It has been agreed in this year's package.
Mr. Wilson Mr. Wilson
Mr. Wilson: I am aware of that but, like Benjamin in Animal Farm, I have been a long time around and I know that one year will not solve the problem if there is a sudden decision to withdraw this. We would have King Scrub back among us.
Mr. Dukes Mr. Dukes
 Mr. Dukes: Not with the level of productivity and effort the people the Deputy is talking about put into it.
Mr. Wilson Mr. Wilson
Mr. Wilson: That is true but most small farmers there would not be able to run to a scrub and would have to sell off their cattle.
Mr. Dukes Mr. Dukes
Mr. Dukes: They know better than that.
Mr. Wilson Mr. Wilson
Mr. Wilson: If the EEC have money to give we should send out a clarion call that it be made available for the development of agricultural education in the area from Dundalk to the north of Inishowen. No other investment would give a better return. Indeed, some small studies have indicated the type of return that would come from agricultural education but I do not have time to go into the details now. Thanks to the EEC ten new centres are being established by ACOT in my area. Let us encourage the EEC to think big as far as agricultural education is concerned.
The farm retirement scheme is a totally inadequate joke. There is a possibility that we would get better farm structures if we concentrated whatever money comes from any fund into a worthwhile farm retirement scheme. I have dealt with diversification, the poultry business and cream liquors. Butter oil did very well in our region but a reply I received from the Minister for Agriculture indicated that the bottom had fallen out of the market in recent years. I believe we were selling to some countries that have since gone bankrupt. Why do we not produce regional cheeses? De Gaulle complained that one could not rule a country that had 178 different brands of cheese but why could we not have a regional cheese, a Louth cheese, a Monaghan cheese, a Cavan cheese and a Donegal cheese and make a good effort at marketing? Under the funds we are discussing aid is available for marketing. We should have more small industries. Some years ago we were told that small was beautiful but we are inclined to look for big things in industrial development.
 We have a proposal that there should be an overall development agency in the area. I am thinking in terms of a SFADCo of the Border region. A total of £23,616,003 of direct Government funds has been given to SFADCo since 1973-74. We should be given that amount of money for development and we are entitled to it. Why is it that such money is not invested in the Border region? We need a SFADCo of the Border region; we will get a nice name for it later. Belfast, I was delighted to hear, got £70 million but that city is not necessarily the area we should be talking about. We should be considering the areas that run along the Border.
There has been a thesis for many years that the best lure as far as the Six Counties is concerned is to have economic development here. Why not have the display shop along the Border through development of that region? That would be the best service we could do for the country. The Border should not be there and many of our problems have come from the fact that it is there, an artificially created Border. Can we not make a special effort in the economic area to breakdown the dire results of having it there?
Mr. McGahon Mr. McGahon
Mr. McGahon: I realise I have only five minutes but I would not get very far down the road in that short space of time. In fact, I would not be able to cross the Border. I listened to the submissions of Deputies Leonard and Conaghan and I sympathise with the sentiments they expressed. There is no doubt that the Border regions are deprived and have been neglected by successive Governments in the last ten years. Many of the problems are peculiar to those regions only. Deputies so far have referred to deprivation in their own areas and I will not be an exception because my home town, Dundalk, the largest town in Ireland, suffers from industrial deprivation. No town has suffered as grievously as Dundalk has in the last 14 years as a result of the problems of the North of Ireland. The town has been virtually brought to its knees economically. There has not been any compensatory measure by any Government to  bolster trade in that ravaged area. The last major investment in Dundalk was in 1969 when an American shoe company named Weyenberg established a firm there. Investment during the past 14 years has been stagnant in Dundalk.
When I visit Newry I am filled with envy at the money and facilities available to that area. Money is available for environmental projects there. At the moment £1 million is being spent on a sports complex in the town of Newry. I cannot help feeling that projects on the northern side of the Border have freer access to EEC funds. Perhaps I am wrong but that feeling is shared by many people in my region. When we consider there is unexpended money it is tragic that money has not been taken up in an area which is crying out for help. I accept, only to a degree, the amendment of the Minister for Finance calling for increased involvement by local authorities and State agencies, because I feel that many of the agencies entrusted with spending that money have a question to answer. I believe only two agencies took up the full allocation. Bord Fáilte did not take up their full allocation.
In my area we have the hidden gem of Ireland. We have an area of natural beauty in Cooley Peninsula which we believe is on a par with any scenic spot in the country but it is undiscovered. It is part of the beautiful Carlingford Lough area. It is favoured in song and legend as the Cuchulainn and Fionn Mac Cool country. There is not one guest house in the area which is indicative of its hidden beauty. I exhort Bord Fáilte to look at the possibilities of that area. I exhort them to look at the wonderful virgin territory in the scenic sense of Cooley Peninsula. I hope it will be developed in the near future.
Again I have to be parochial in asking why did Sligo receive £190,000 from this fund? When did it become a Border county? Eventually we will have Carlow looking for money from the Border Regional Fund. When money is made available from the regional fund it should be spent in the areas where it is supposed to be spent. While I understand the reticence of the Minister for Finance about  setting up another layer of bureaucracy in creating a new State agency I feel it would be a progressive and very meaningful step. It would be a hands across the Border gesture if some type of Irish-Ulster agency was set up. It need not be a very large one. It only requires a few people from both sides to identify EEC projects and to monitor their progress. I believe the money was unexpended because of lack of co-ordination. It was only at the end of the year that it was discovered the money was unexpended.
There should be a chief executive or a co-ordinator to monitor the progress of the various projects that are identified by the local authorities and the various State agencies in that area. I suggest the EEC can play a very meaningful role in easing tensions in the divided part of the country. The way to do so is by having a joint submission made by Ireland and Britain. I believe, because of the very special problems in that region, that a very definite case can be presented to the Commission in Brussels.
Mr. M. Brennan Mr. M. Brennan
Mr. M. Brennan: On a point of order, the Deputy asked why did Sligo receive £190,000. Sligo-Leitrim is a Border constituency.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle John J. Ryan
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: That is not a point of order.
Mr. Kirk Mr. Kirk
Mr. Kirk: I am glad of the opportunity to speak on this motion. As I come from, and represent, a Border constituency it is inevitable that the problems which exist in that area are very much on my mind. There are considerable areas of County Louth which are very underdeveloped because of the county's proximity to the Border. When we talk about the development of the Border regions it is inevitable that we think in terms of the infrastructural development and the assistance towards that which we can derive from the regional development programme. People hold the view that the indirect nature of the assistance coming from that fund is inadequate to deal with the existing problems. There is the problem with member states of the EEC having different regional policies. There is a lack of  proper co-ordinated effort among member states, particularly relating to the Border regions.
We must face the reality that the Regional Fund, as at present constituted, is insufficiently concentrated to make a real impact in the Border regions of County Louth. The watering down principle whereby funds are spread over a large area is self-defeating. The fund regulations do not recognise the specific problems of a country like Ireland and its Border regions. There has been a watering can policy in relation to the distribution of the regional fund in Ireland. The resources of the fund are spread over too large an area.
Some of the speakers yesterday said they would try to avoid being parochial about this matter. I do not believe it is possible not to be parochial about the matter. The various people who spoke on the motion represent Border constituencies. It is inevitable that they will see the problems there very much as they see them on the ground in their own constituencies.
Mine is a maritime county, the four principal rivers being the Boyne, the Glyde, the Dee and the Fane, all flowing into the Irish Sea. The problem is that there are no lakes on these rivers, no natural reservoir which could be used for the storage of water, which would also be of advantage for the development of water supply schemes in the county. That situation being what it is, it is inevitable that we would have to look to neighbouring counties to augment the supplies we have within the confines of the county. At present Louth County Council, in conjunction with Dundalk Urban Council are endeavouring to secure a water order on the Muckno/Lough Ross catchment in south Monaghan.
Mr. Wilson Mr. Wilson
Mr. Wilson: The least they might give.
Mr. Kirk Mr. Kirk
Mr. Kirk: While on the subject of water supply, one point I should make has to do with the problem of the organisation of group water schemes in rural Louth. Not being designated as a disadvantaged area in the past we could not avail of the assistance provided under  FEOGA grant schemes and available in the counties of Monaghan, Cavan, Donegal and the other Border counties. That has worked to the major disadvantage of County Louth. It is something that has been reflected in our performance with regard to the organisation of group water schemes on the ground. We appear at the tail end of the list in this respect. Louth is a county situated midway between Belfast and Dublin. It is a natural regional centre, one that should attract a greater amount of industry and commerce. One would imagine that such would gravitate towards us because of our geographic location. Unfortunately there are inhibiting factors that have militated against this development over the past number of years.
It might be of benefit to Deputies if I gave a run down of the population figures in Louth for the years 1971 and 1981, which would give an overall picture of what is the position there by way of labour force and so on. For example, in Dundalk in 1971 we had a population of 21,672; in 1981 we had 25,663. In Drogheda in 1971 we had 20,202 and, in 1981, 23,247. In Ardee in 1971, we had 3,076 and, in 1981, 3,199. It is significant that there was no real population growth in Ardee in that period. In the remainder of the county in 1971 we had 30,154 and, in 1981, 36,405. Over that period there was an increase of 13,410, or a 17.8 per cent increase in population.
Moving on to the industrial front I might refer the population figures to the town of Ardee where we now have 1,000 persons unemployed. When we cast our minds back to the population figures there for 1981 and look at the present unemployment figure it will be agreed that a very serious unemployment problem obtains in that town. There is need for urgent action in Ardee. There is need of measures to stimulate industrial development in the town. The Government should seriously consider including the town of Ardee in areas designated as disadvantaged so that we might receive the higher rates of grants in order to encourage industrialists to invest there. It is absolutely essential that local authorities acquire land for small industries in  rural parts of the county. It is particularly important to do so when there may be entrepreneurs who might have the ideas and some money but who simply cannot get a site readily available. This is an area in which local authorities have a vital role to play. In that regard the Minister for Finance should seriously consider removing the £1.75 per square metre planning charge imposed recently. Everybody agrees that it constituted a retrograde step and in time the foolishness of having imposed it will become apparent.
Over this period automation has played a significant role in reducing employment opportunity which, combined with the growth in population in our county, left us at the end of last year with 20 per cent of the county's work force unemployed. There have been new industries emerging, such as plastics, electronics and light engineering, but they have not been sufficient to absorb the increasing workforce of the county. Traditionally in Louth people from the Border areas of South Armagh and South Down have looked to us for employment. That has been the position for many years now. Employment opportunities were simply not provided in the Border regions of South Down and South Armagh.
Another very important area in regard to economic growth and activity in the county and Border regions is the Cooley Mountain area of Louth which, taken in conjunction with the Mourne region, is one of the most scenic and beautiful in the country. Recently the east Border region produced a booklet embracing that area entitled “From the Mournes to the Boyne”. There simply has not been an adequate follow-up in the promotion of the area to encourage tourists to come and see the beautiful scenery there. Places like Omeath and Carlingford have been very dependent on the tourist trade over the years. That trade has not been forthcoming in recent times in the volume that would maintain turnover so necessary for people to keep businesses going. The Cooley, north Louth and South Armagh/Mourne region is a natural area for projection as a tourist attraction. There is tremendous opportunity for cross-Border promotion there also.
 Moving on to farming, there are great similarities existing there between the terrain and soil type in north Louth and South Armagh. It is an area distinguished by its number of small holdings. The Minister should explore the possibility of giving sufficient grant aid to keep as many family units and farms as possible in these areas. When one looks at the cost of job creation in some industries it would be well worth exploring the possibilities, or certainly examining the economic prospects, of maintaining as many people as possible on these small holdings. An extension of the disadvantaged areas scheme to County Louth would go a long way towards making these family farms viable units.
We have in the area the Greenore and Warrenpoint ports. Greenore is a natural gateway for exports for the north-eastern region of the country. A roadway developed from Greenore to Sligo would open up the country and afford many possibilities for the development of the north east and midland regions. The Border towns of Dundalk, Newry, Crossmaglen and Castleblayney have been inhibited in their development by virtue of their very geographic location. The parish of Crossmaglen straddles the Border but there are simply no employment opportunities in that town. People from the area must look to the South for employment.
While on the Border regions I might refer briefly to the Customs station on the Newry road and the problem there with trucks stopping and starting at the front doors of residents of the Dowdells-hill area, creating an intolerable situation, one brought about by the existence of the Border a mere ten or 11 miles  down the road. For years there have been Border region committees in existence and they have done valuable work. I should like us to establish a development authority board to co-ordinate development in the Border regions.
Mr. Leonard Mr. Leonard
Mr. Leonard: I put it to the Minister, in view of speeches from both sides of the House and the need for some type of SFADCo structure, that he should give the suggestion some consideration. If he is prepared to do this we will not press the motion to a vote. The need for that type of structure has been stressed by both sides, and probably has been done more forcibly from the Minister's side of the House.
An Ceann Comhairle Thomas J. (Cavan) Fitzpatrick
An Ceann Comhairle: At this stage I think there is only time for a simple yes or no.
Mr. Dukes Mr. Dukes
Mr. Dukes: If the Chair limits me to that the answer may seem rather rude to the Deputy. I covered that point last night. I do not think a case has been made here that would justify the setting up of a new bureaucratic structure to handle matters that are already well covered by existing agencies. I agree entirely with the point made by Deputy Wilson that we need to make the structures work more efficiently. However, I could not change tack on the basis suggested by the Deputy.
Mr. Wilson Mr. Wilson
Mr. Wilson: That was in the context of the £20 million fund.
The Dáil divided: Tá, 72; Níl, 63.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Barrett (Dún Laoghaire) and Taylor; Níl, Deputies B. Ahern and V. Brady.
 Amendment declared carried.
Motion, as amended, agreed to.
Dáil Éireann 343 Private Members' Business. Development of Border Region: Motion (Resumed).