Dáil Éireann - Volume 464 - 24 April, 1996
Adjournment Debate. - Border Counties Funding.
Mr. Kirk Mr. Kirk
Mr. Kirk: Is Minister of State, Deputy Rabbitte, taking this matter?
An Ceann Comhairle Seán Treacy
 An Ceann Comhairle: Yes.
Mr. Kirk Mr. Kirk
Mr. Kirk: Is his briefing material from the Department of Finance or the Department of Enterprise and Employment?
Mr. Rabbitte Mr. Rabbitte
Mr. Rabbitte: The Department of Enterprise and Employment.
An Ceann Comhairle Seán Treacy
An Ceann Comhairle: It seems to be a subject matter for the Department of Enterprise and Employment.
Mr. Kirk Mr. Kirk
Mr. Kirk: I do not wish to make an issue of it, but it is unfortunate that the Department of Enterprise and Employment is taking this matter because this issue is primarily, although not exclusively, a matter for the Department of Finance. A special unit in that Department is handling Border funding generally. This is a matter which I have been pursuing relentlessly for months with the Department of Finance with a view to getting a certain portion of the money from the Border peace fund allocated specifically for industrial site development in all southern Border counties.
I represent the constituency of Louth, but I will take the risk of representing the interests of other Border counties. There is an immediate and serious need to have resources made available for industrial site acquisition and development and promotion of the area. When we have the opportunity to reflect in five years' time, will there be tangible evidence that peace money was spent in the southern Border counties in 1996? I will be pleased if we can look back and say that money was invested wisely.
I am concerned about the proposed expenditure areas for the money in the programme as set out. It states that the money will be spent by ADM, the area management agency and Combat Poverty. Both are worthy bodies but Border counties need industrial infrastructure as a matter of priority. In places like Ardee, Drogheda and Dundalk there is  a serious deficiency in that regard. From inquiries I have made, resources are not available within the IDA's budget to make any progress in the locations I mentioned.
I appeal to the Minister — this is not political — to ask his Department to liaise with the special unit in the Department of Finance, which has responsibility for the expenditure of this peace money, to get a percentage of the money earmarked for industrial development in the southern Border counties. It is estimated that approximately £9 million is needed for the job and the sooner the money is earmarked the better. I appeal to the Minister to give this serious and immediate consideration.
Minister of State at the Department of Enterprise and Employment (Mr. Rabbitte) Minister of State at the Department of Enterprise and Employment (Mr. Rabbitte)
Minister of State at the Department of Enterprise and Employment (Mr. Rabbitte): I acknowledge the seriousness of the matter raised by Deputy Kirk. I would have been happy if the Department of Finance had dealt with it. I will look at the character of Deputy Kirk's remarks, which seem to be focused more on my Department, which is probably the reason it was sent to the Department of Enterprise and Employment. The matter relates to infrastructure in terms of the provision of industrial units on the southern side of the Border.
The Special EU Programme for Peace and Reconciliation in Northern Ireland and the Border counties contains a range of measures designed to reinforce progress towards a peaceful and stable society and promote reconciliation by increasing economic development and employment, promoting urban and rural regeneration, developing cross-Border co-operation, and extending social inclusion.
Overall responsibility for management of the programme in the Irish Border counties resides with the Department of Finance. However, funding under the various measures was made on the basis of weightings made by an EU Commission Task Force which consulted widely in the target area to  ensure that the programme addressed the real needs of the people and communities in those areas most affected by the conflict in the North. Particular emphasis was, therefore, given to measures which promote social inclusion. This theme extends across all the measures and there is also a specific social inclusion sub-programme which accounts for 30 per cent of total available funds.
There are, however, a number of measures in the programme which contribute more directly to economic development, particularly sub-programme 5 which aims to assist productive investment. Measures under this sub-programme include: investment promotion, which involves an interest rate subsidy; new industrial development services; and trade development.
The first is administered by the commercial banks and there may be some scope under this measure for interest rate subsidies for developers of industrial properties as well as for promoters of industrial projects. The second measure is geared towards more direct financial support for small and medium sized firms. The allocation under the measure is £2 million, so the scope is obviously limited. Any decision on a refocusing or reallocation of funding to increase the amount available under this measure can only be made with the approval of the programme's joint monitoring committee, which includes EU representatives as well as representatives of relevant Government Departments and implementing agencies.
In normal circumstances, such reallocation of funding would only occur as a consequence of the failure of particular measures to use up their allocation. Account would probably also have to be taken of the extent to which the objectives of a particular measure are already supported under other EU financed programmes. In terms of industrial development, the EU, through the Structural Funds, also supports a number of major programmes which apply throughout the Border region, including  the Operational Programme for Industrial Development 1994-99 and the Local, Urban and Rural Development Programme, 1994-99 under which county enterprise partnership boards are supported. The EU also supports the Ireland-Northern Ireland INTERREG programme.
It should also be noted that considerable investment has taken place in infra-structural services in the Border region under INTERREG. Out of a total of £96 million available to the Irish Border counties, £36 million has been specifically earmarked to support the Department of the Environment in the areas of roads, water and sewerage works. The improvement of such basic infrastructure is a pre-requisite to the expansion of industrial development in the Border counties, as industrialists are most likely to choose to locate in areas where good infrastructural facilities exist.
I understand, however, that discussions have been taking place between interested parties, including IDA Ireland, Forbairt, the Departments of Finance and Enterprise and Employment, and Oireachtas Members from the Border counties, on the possibility of accessing additional funds under the EU Programme for Peace and Reconciliation for the provision of suitable industrial infrastructure which would include the provision of industrial sites and advance factory buildings. I also understood that the IDA met the Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach, Deputy Carey, in the context of his overall responsibility for the overseeing and co-ordination of all funding for the Border counties, and that the matter is currently under active consideration.
Dáil Éireann 464 Adjournment Debate. Border Counties Funding.