Dáil Éireann - Volume 496 - 12 November, 1998
Tourist Traffic Bill, 1998: Second Stage (Resumed).
Question again proposed: “That the Bill be now read a Second Time.”
Mr. M. Brady Mr. M. Brady
Mr. M. Brady: I welcome the Bill. Its purpose is to increase the amount of grant-in-aid made payable to Bord Fáilte from £22 million to £50 million to support tourism capital development works. Tourism is now our second biggest industry. It supports approximately 120,000 jobs, which represents one in 12 of the workforce. When domestic tourism is taken into account the industry generates almost £3 billion annually.
Tourism has become a vital force in the economy. The industry is performing at a level of success unprecedented in its history. Statistics indicate that for the first half of this year, the number of visitors to Ireland is well ahead of target by 11  per cent while revenue is up by 13 per cent, which is better than international and European averages.
The British-Irish Agreement has opened up dramatic new horizons and has presented new opportunities to market the island as a whole. The prospect of a lasting and just peace offers exciting and new opportunities to attract a new wave of international tourists who, to date, would not have considered visiting Ireland.
The number of overseas visitors to Ireland has doubled over the past decade, from 2.4 million to 5.2 million. Foreign earnings revenue has trebled from £800 million to £2.1 billion and employment in the industry has doubled from 60,000 to 120,000. The continued promotion of a good regional spread and extension of the tourism season are vital elements in our tourism policy. I congratulate Bord Fáilte — I wish its new chief executive every success — for the professional and efficient way in which it markets and advertises the country overseas.
Local and regional marketing is of vital importance, especially in parts of the Dublin region. In many cases there is a lack of information, which has been pointed out by Bord Fáilte, including inadequate sign posting. In my constituency of Dublin North-East there are many places of historical interest and some of the best leisure facilities in the country. For example, the peninsula of Howth and Bull Island are surrounded by natural beauty. Howth has an old village atmosphere and breathtaking views. It does not have the place on the map it deserves. We should look at these issues and be more focused on local tourism amenities of this kind. Many voluntary organisations are to be congratulated for the work they have done in villages throughout Ireland, in rural and urban areas, to promote their own locality as tourism attractions.
It is vital we have a wide range of good quality transport accessible at a good price throughout the year. The considerable expansion in access has been one of the most important drivers of tourism growth in recent years. Tourism provides Ireland with a total revenue of £2.8 billion of which £2.1 billion is accounted for by out of State tourists. This significant increase has been accompanied by a welcome increase in the quality and range of access transport options available. There are now direct routes throughout the year to many of our overseas markets. However, given the rapid increase in traffic, it is difficult to fulfil the demand for facilities at some of the points of entry.
Although the bulk of tourists use cars as their main form of transport, public transport plays a vital role. Scheduled air capacity to and from Dublin, Shannon and Cork Airports increased by 70 per cent in the period 1993-7 while Irish sea routes increased by between 15 and 20 per cent with car capacity increasing at a faster rate. However, capacity on sea routes from mainland Europe has declined despite the increase in  capacity in the lower fare routes, which have resulted from increased competition. It is very important, therefore, that our agents selling the country overseas are made aware that the impression that Ireland may be expensive and a difficult destination to reach is not true, although there are still improvements to be made with regard to access from certain countries, such as Spain and Canada.
The country has much going for it, with top class hotels, guesthouses, restaurants, leisure facilities, fresh water angling, sea angling and so on. We must be able to reassure potential visitors that a good quality reliable public transport system exists throughout the county, which will enable them to travel with ease from their point of entry to their destination, whether it be one of the major towns or cities or a more remote rural area. Overseas agents need to be able to provide clients with correct timetables, reservations and a knowledge of how the public transport system operates in Ireland. On a seasonal basis good year round access transport will help increase tourism performance in the off-peak seasons and encourage other sectors such as conference incentive traffic, which is lacking, particularly in the Dublin region.
Direct access to regional airports is also important to achieve our goal of improving tourism performance in all regions. I acknowledge the excellent services provided by both Irish and foreign air and sea carriers which have a very beneficial impact.
Scheduled bus transport is the most frequently used form of public transport by almost a quarter of overseas tourists. One million overseas tourists use scheduled bus services annually, with half a million using rail. Mainland Europeans are the most likely of all our overseas tourists to use public transport while in Ireland, with one-third of them using bus services, a vital component that we must get right. We must not become complacent because tourism is at an all time high. We have new customers, and we must make them old customers. That is the name of the game in business. The public transport system is a vital component. I am delighted that the Minister for Public Enterprise, Deputy O'Rourke, has given a commitment to make the necessary funding available to improve the public transport system.
I propose to share my time with Deputy Roche, if that is in order. I thank the Minister of State, Deputy Mary Wallace, who has made a valuable input into the tourism industry in an indirect way.
In Dublin particularly, litter was a major problem. If one drove through Dublin's north side one would see litter all over the place, a very bad image from the point of view of a tourist. The Minister of State has made a substantial amount of finance available to all the local authorities to set up programmes to create an awareness of litter, and that is to be welcomed. I thank the local authorities, Dublin Corporation and Fingal County Council, for the amenities they provide, the parks department in particular. I also thank  Dublin's City Manager, Mr. John Fitzgerald, who has played a major role in making Dublin a better place for all. One of the biggest projects ever to be undertaken in Europe, the Dublin Bay Project, is due to commence very shortly.
Mr. Roche Mr. Roche
Mr. Roche: I thank the previous speaker for his generosity in sharing time with me.
I very much welcome this Bill and the idea of increasing the capital development fund which is available to Bord Fáilte. We accept, on all sides of this House, that Bord Fáilte has done trojan work over the years in the promotion and development of tourism.
Tourism is a rapidly growing industry. It is an industry which is ideally suited in many ways to Ireland. For a long time in the 1960s and 1970s tourism was principally sun-worshipping tourism, and we do not get much sun here. However, times have changed. Tourists are more sophisticated. They are looking for different types of products. To be fair to Bord Fáilte and to SFADCo, both organisations have been extraordinarily adept at developing new products and at selling Ireland as a tourist destination.
I have only one small problem with the Bill, and that is the wisdom of placing a ceiling on the capital available to the board. It has always struck me as a particularly inflexible mechanism, and at regular intervals Ministers and various State boards find themselves in difficulties. If it is right and proper to entrust whole areas of administration to autonomous or quasi-autonomous boards, the best we can do is give them a mission and the capital to fulfil that mission, and let them get on with the task. The approach we are adopting here — which is no fault of this Minister — has been adopted since 1926 when the first tourism boards were set up but is nonetheless an inflexible mechanism. Now that we have developed very sophisticated systems of accounting and management control, we could consider moving away from that approach. Having said that, I give the Bill an absolute welcome. The general direction the Minister is taking in this Bill is very welcome.
The Minister will forgive me if I become a little parochial at this stage. Since the Bill itself is slight, one needs to pick on a couple of topics on which to dwell. There are a couple of topics on which I wish to dwell.
Wicklow, the constituency that I have the great honour of serving in this House, is undoubtedly one of the most extraordinary places in Ireland. It has a quite remarkable array of scenery and a quite remarkable history. For some reason which is very difficult to discover, Wicklow has never really managed to capitalise fully on its extraordinarily unique location, on its unique people and on its unique history. One of the problems has been its proximity to Dublin. There is a need to invest very heavily in certain kinds of capital infrastructure in tourism in County Wicklow if the full potential of the county is to be realised.
The Minister for Finance is aware that over the past number of years, going back to when I was  spokesman on Finance in Seanad Éireann, I have been pressing all Ministers for Finance for an urgent review of the decision to exclude the town of Bray from the seaside resort scheme. The seaside resort scheme is effectively terminated but there is a review under way. I believe a new scheme of some form will come forward in its place in the fullness of time. It strikes me that the unique character of a town such as Bray, and particularly its seafront area, deserves to be recognised. The seafront in Bray has been allowed to go into decline over the past 20 or 30 years. It is shabby and in need of a capital injection. I know from talking to business people who operate along that seafront that they would be quite willing to change the businesses that they are in. They would be more than anxious to bring in new, quality businesses to operate. Certainly the whole seafront area could do with a major capital injection, and that should come in the form of high quality hotel and tourist accommodation. However, that product needs to be supported because we suffer in Bray from our close proximity to Dublin. Currently the major development of hotels in Dublin is inimical to the development of similar projects in Bray. A few years ago, when Deputy Ruairí Quinn was Minister for Finance, we discussed this at length. He shared many of my views on Bray. He took the view, and it was in his departmental brief, that economic pressure would effectively drive hotel development out and towards north Wicklow. That has not happened yet, and it will not happen unless we get some sort of capital for it.
The second issue I want to deal with is the general issue of the capital allowances for hotel investment. Given the deficiency in County Wicklow in this area, I felt very strongly last year that Wicklow should not have been excluded from the capital allowances arrangements which were introduced in the budget. I can understand well why the Border counties and the less developed counties in the west were favourably looked on in this, and I do not suggest that it should have been otherwise. However, if one compares the amount of four-star hotel accommodation in County Donegal with the amount in Wicklow, Wicklow comes off a very poor second, yet we are not included in any of the schemes. What I am suggesting to the Minister, and through the Minister to the Minister for Finance, is that in the fullness of time a little equity should be visited on places like Wicklow which suffer from peripherality to Dublin.
The third issue, an interest which I share with the Minister, is the issue of swimming. It seems that swimming as a sport and recreational activity is in a limbo here. It seems quite extraordinary that the Minister for Tourism, Sport and Recreation has to scramble for funding for a basic sport, a sport which should be developed. For example, there are two swimming pool projects in County Wicklow at present, one in Arklow and the other in Wicklow town. It has taken an interminable amount of time to bring these on  stream. Local collections were held but because of the passage of time, additional resources will be sought from hard pressed local communities. This piece of public business is being done in an entirely wrong way. The manner in which swimming has been dealt with under the sports and recreational portfolios is wrong headed. There is a need for clarity on this issue and to speed up procedural arrangements to ensure there are not, as in Arklow and Wicklow, interminable delays and undoubted escalations of cost.
Regarding the development of new tourism products, Ireland will never be a sun location. This is probably for the best given the damage sun holidays have done to people over the years.
It constantly occurs to me as I travel around County Wicklow that there is an abundance of interesting old buildings. For example, in Rathdrum, an extraordinary stone building is lying idle. There are also buildings in a similar condition in Glendalough and Laragh. We should be able to bring these into play and develop new tourism products in them.
Given the condition of the buildings and because some of them are listed, it is difficult to do anything with them. There is a need for a creative taxation device which would encourage the development of old heritage buildings. They do not have to be large buildings. Across south Wicklow, there are some fabulous stone buildings, such as outhouses and farmhouses, which are not in full use or which are being used as dumping grounds. If there was ever an asset crying out for development, it is these old heritage buildings. They could be upgraded and brought into use. They could become a valuable asset for local communities and a valuable tourism product if a programme similar to the Gites scheme which operates in France was introduced. We could fund and assist such a scheme through taxation revenue.
Physical buildings are only one aspect of heritage. Counties such as Wicklow are rich in heritage. The old jail in Wicklow town has recently been renovated under the auspices of the county council. Due to the foresight of our county manager, Mr. Treacy, the jail has been brought into use as a tourism amenity. More interestingly, a new heritage centre has been created in the jail to try to make connections with some of the Irish diaspora, particularly the people who went to Australia after 1798.
Another interesting old building is the fortified barracks which was built at the end of Military Road at Aghavannagh. It is for sale but An Óige does not have the resources to develop it. As we celebrate the 200th anniversary of the rebellion, it is a pity that a fund is not available to public authorities, such as Bord Fáilte and local authorities, to restore heritage buildings and put them to their best use.
A debate is ongoing about another heritage item, the Asgard. This sailing vessel served the nation extremely well. I hope it will be treated as  a very valuable national historical artefact. A good case could be made for making a replica of the Asgard, but not from it. I call on the various Ministers involved to examine this issue and to sympathetically consider relocating this fine piece of historical heritage to Wicklow jail. There is an adequate amount of space available for it. There is also a marvellous connection with the patriot Erskine Childers because he spent the first night of his imprisonment before his execution in Wicklow jail. He was also reared in County Wicklow.
There is huge potential in tourism in Ireland. One does not have to strain one's imagination to come up with new tourism products. I commend the Bill and I compliment the Minister on his fine work to date.
Mr. Gormley Mr. Gormley
Mr. Gormley: I wish to share my time with Deputy Allen.
It has been repeatedly stated during the debate that we are killing the golden goose. Tourism has the potential to be self-destructive. One only needs to consider the Acropolis in Greece, Pompeii or Venice where there are huge numbers of tourists. This is off-putting and appalling, but it is not only the volume of tourists that is causing destruction. People are taking pieces of the Acropolis and Pompeii away with them and there is a danger that something similar will happen in Ireland. For example, one cannot move around Slea Head on a good summer's day.
There should be sustainable tourism. If tourism is not sustainable, the golden goose will be killed. Only public transport or bicycles should be used in sensitive areas with narrow roads. Deputy Roche mentioned potential. There is huge potential in Ireland for cycling holidays. We should consider this end of the market because we cannot compete on the mass market of sun holidays. We do not want to do so anyway, but we can compete in the quality end of the market and there are a number of areas in which our act can be improved.
I had the opportunity to work for a week as a tour guide and it was an eye opener. Deputy Roche mentioned old stone buildings. One of the aspects which struck me immediately was the number of buildings in Ireland which we cannot identify. I was not in a position to identify buildings about which tourists asked. We take these buildings for granted. To us, they are old ruins. We have not sufficiently tapped into the huge potential of archaeological tourism.
Reference was made to litter. We must invest heavily, as they do in other countries, to deal with this problem. It is not only the Tutonic consciousness of the Germans which enables them to have clean streets. They invest hugely in litter prevention. They have many more people cleaning the streets than we do in Dublin. A similar position exists in Paris. The litter problem could be improved by the introduction of a green tax on packaging. This tax should be hypothecated to litter prevention. A committee is considering green  taxation but this issue has not been addressed. It is sitting back and not dealing properly with it.
Tourists often comment on the issue of pollution. Ireland has a reputation as a clean, green island. Yet, we have serious problems with regard to water pollution. It is great if people are attracted for specialist holidays, such as angling. However, they soon discover that many areas, including the Killarney lakes, the River Shannon and Lough Derg, are suffering pollution from nutrients. We have not tackled the problem with nutrient management plans and taxes on phosphates which are causing so much damage. This issue is interlinked. We cannot separate tourism from the Department of Finance and the Department of the Environment and Local Government.
Overcharging was mentioned earlier. Ireland is the country of the welcomes, but it is also Ireland of the rip-offs. It is unfortunate that tourists constantly complain about overpricing. When I was in Killarney during the summer I wanted to buy a map of the area. The price in the supermarket was £3, but the price of the same map in a Bord Fáilte office was £4.50. If Bord Fáilte over-charges, it gives a signal that tourists are fair game. They are being bled dry with the result that many will not return. Deputy Deasy said there was a need for a special telephone line. The Minister should intervene as it is a growing problem.
In terms of scenery the Minister's county of Donegal has a better product than Deputy Allen's county of Cork but what they have managed to do in Cork is generate a food culture. It has fantastic restaurants in which one will not be served instant coffee. One is served good quality food and coffee every time. This draws continentals in particular towards Cork. There are only a few high quality restaurants in Donegal, including Kealy's in Greencastle. This is an area that will have to be looked at if we are to attract more tourists. We have good organic farms and can produce good quality food.
Deputy Roche was parochial in referring to Wicklow. I wish to refer to Dublin, particularly the part that I represent. More young people want to come to the city which is seen abroad as a vibrant place. It is also cheap to get here. Dublin is situated in a beautiful bay which, as a result of the provision of a state of the art tertiary treatment plant in Ringsend, will be clean and pristine. The people of Ringsend, however, have had enough. They are being offered nothing in return for accepting all of Dublin's sewage. Unlike Dollymount, the beach in Sandymount will not have a blue flag. There should be a cycle route around the bay while people should be able to swim at the beaches dotted around it — one can swim at the Forty Foot in Dún Laoghaire — to entice visitors to remain in the city for a few days for the scenery as well as the craic.
Traffic congestion in Dublin is a huge drawback, it is a problem on which visitors have commented. It is so bad that conference delegates now travel from the airport to locations such as Seán Moore Park in Irishtown by helicopter. It  takes up to one and a half hours to travel across the city. One can travel more quickly from Dublin to London. This makes the city less competitive and less attractive.
There is a need for huge investment in public transport. This brings us back to the question of taxation. A system of road pricing has been introduced in Edinburgh. The money raised is invested in public transport infrastructure. Some 71 per cent of people in Britain have said that they would opt for such a system. A good public transport system — the taxi issue is also being dealt with — would make Dublin a more attractive destination.
Our independent hostels are a wonderful success story. They provide good and cheap accommodation. I hope the young adults who use them will return and spend huge amounts of money.
It has been suggested that a room tax should be introduced in Dublin to maintain the city's tourism infrastructure. This is a controversial proposal but one which should be explored. It has also been suggested that a landing fee should be introduced at Kilronan pier on the Aran Islands. This should also be explored. Many people travel to the islands on day trips from Galway city which means that the islanders are getting the tourists but not the money. The same is true in Dublin. While Dublin Corporation is doing its best to provide infrastructure, it is not a net beneficiary.
Sustainable tourism needs to be looked at. If we do not pursue the quality end of the market, we may destroy our tourism market.
Mr. Allen Mr. Allen
Mr. Allen: Many issues have been raised during the debate which has spanned a number of weeks, some of which can be fleshed out on Committee Stage. While tourism is experiencing unprecedented growth, there is an imbalance in the figures throughout the country. The industry generated revenue of £2.8 billion in 1997 when we attracted more than five million overseas visitors who accounted for £2.1 billion of foreign earnings. The industry sustains about 175,000 jobs. For each additional £1 million spent by foreign tourists 41 new jobs are created. The Government benefited to the tune of more than £1.1 billion or 45p for each pound spent by tourists.
Globally, tourism is expected to grow by between 3 and 4 per cent between the years 1998 and 2000 and by about 4.5 per cent between the years 2000 and 2005. A growth rate of between 9 per cent and 10 per cent is predicted here. The role tourism is playing in the economy is not fully realised. The industry has to develop in the context of the many changes taking place in society. While the Minister has announced fancy figures, the season in parts of Kerry and west Cork as well as the north-west has been described as poor to patchy.
The Government has failed to win further substantial European funding for the ongoing development of the tourism industry. I detect a defeatist attitude. We seem to be accepting the line that the country has developed to the point  where we cannot expect to attract the same level of funding. Tourism is an exception. Compared to other countries our infrastructure is not of the standard required by the modern day tourist. This accounts for the imbalance in tourism growth rates. It should be a key objective that one should be able to travel to any part of the country from an airport or seaport within two and a half hours. Air, ferry, rail and road links to the regions have to be improved.
All local agencies and trade bodies must be involved in developing a tourism policy and new tourism centres. Niche market developments and rural tourism must be looked at more than they have been to date in terms of golfing, fishing and international festivals. We must set up a number of new regional complexes to attract people into the regions and, of course, there is a need to enhance tourism in the Border area, which is close to the Minister's heart.
Sustainable development must also be addressed sooner rather than later, otherwise the industry will overheat as it has in Dublin, Killarney and Galway. However, there is poor and patchy growth outside those areas. In order to sustain development and achieve uniform growth throughout the country a number of issues must be tackled, and I will discuss them on Committee Stage.
I wish to deal with three issues. The Minister was unavoidably absent on Tuesday when I raised the issue of the national conference centre. The Minister of State at the Department of Tourism, Sport and Recreation, Deputy Flood, replied that tax break problems may be experienced in the development of the Dublin docklands. I did not get the answer I was looking for and I want the Minister to address this issue sooner rather than later. There are reports of a row between the company developing the conference centre and the State body charged with redeveloping Dublin docks and there are fears that the project may not go ahead if the dispute remains unresolved.
For example, the Sunday Business Post reported this week that the Spencer Dock Development Company may not proceed with the project unless the planning dispute with the Dublin Docklands Development Authority is resolved quickly. A spokesman for the SDC, Mr. Barrett, said the company would be submitting complaints to the Minister for Finance, the Comptroller and Auditor General and the Committee of Public Accounts about the DDDA's handling of the issue. The complaints were made and the spokesman also said that the future of the centre was in serious jeopardy because the authority had refused to confirm that it would not object to the planning permission for site preparation, which was granted by Dublin Corporation last month. He went on to describe the situation as “completely disastrous” and said that no one could do business with the authority, which was impeding development in the docklands when it was supposed to be facilitating it.
 A further allegation made by the company was that the authority had asked for a £50 million payment in return for a speedy approval of the planning permission for the conference centre. Mr. Barrett said that if the situation was not resolved and an objection was lodged, a further four months delay could elapse before a decision on the site works appeal is given. If the delay happens it will be disastrous because the £25 million funding available from the EU may be lost and that would sound the death knell for this project, given that the centre must be completed by December 2000 to qualify for funding.
The dispute between the development company and the authority is one issue but the threat from the European Commission to block tax concessions is another. There are also suggestions that senior civil servants in the Department of Finance are unconvinced that the project is viable. Will the Minister assure the House that he is taking a hands on approach to this important matter and that he will invite the different parties into his Department to ensure that no fatal delays will occur in the development of the project?
I wish to refer to the Minister's statement at the premiere of “Dancing at Lughnasa” earlier this week in New York. He announced a merger between the tourism authorities on this island in line with the British-Irish Agreement. Will the Minister outline his thoughts on that merger? Perhaps he will provide the House with more detail on the proposals. I hope that any proposed merger will take place with total co-operation with our neighbours in Northern Ireland and there will not be a repeat of the shamrock logo fiasco. Will legislation be required to bring about the merger? Where will the merged authority be located?
Deputy Gormley referred to the room tax and the tax proposed for the Aran Islands. These proposals have come about because of uncertainty about European funding and tourism development in the years ahead. These taxes will replace funding that is not forthcoming because of defects in the financing of local government. Those issues are matters for local government. The Minister should clarify that he is totally against these proposals, otherwise there will be access taxes to Sherkin Island and Cape Clear in my own county and the Ring of Kerry, for example. The marketing for next year's tourist season is ongoing and reports are appearing in the Irish Post and other newspapers which are seriously damaging our marketing initiatives abroad. The Minister should provide political leadership and say that he will totally oppose the principle of further taxes on tourism. The financing of local government is a matter for the Ministers for Finance and the Environment and Local Government and it is not a matter for us to load tourists with the cost of developing our infrastructure. I wish to share my time with Deputy Belton.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle Rory O'Hanlon
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Is that agreed? Agreed.
Mr. Belton Mr. Belton
 Mr. Belton: I wish the Minister well in his work, given the rapid development of the tourism industry, for which there are many reasons. However, only certain areas have benefited from the tourism boom. The midlands region has not benefited to the same extent as the east coast and other traditional tourist areas. That cannot be taken away but there is an opportunity to encourage and increase funding for areas such as the midlands and the Shannon region and highlight their attractiveness. There is no doubt that there are attractions in these areas. A number of weeks ago I referred to establishing county tourism committees, but the Minister said that he did not want to take on another tier of committees which he might have to fund. However, I ask him to consider them again for areas such as I have mentioned. The Minister makes a valid point that the private sector has funded tourism committees in certain counties. There is nothing wrong with this and it is to be admired. However, it is difficult for people to set up a committee and promote an area when the private sector has not been engaged in this business for a number of years.
The Minister can only use the funding made available to him. However, he should look again at the county committees. Recognition should be given to the many people directly involved in this business, and those involved on a voluntary basis who are prepared to promote their own areas and counties. There is not much point in having tourism committees if they do not have the necessary funding. Everyone wants funding and expects the Government to support their initiatives. However, the Minister should look seriously at this situation. Each county should be actively involved in its own promotion, in co-ordination with regional tourism boards. We must acknowledge the work of the regional boards in promoting Ireland. I wish the Minister well. This is a good time for tourism and I hope that climate continues. This is an opportune time to promote the whole of Ireland. The east coast, particularly Dublin, has taken a huge number of visitors. I thank the Minister.
Minister for Tourism, Sport and Recreation (Dr. McDaid) James McDaid
Minister for Tourism, Sport and Recreation (Dr. McDaid): I thank the 35 Deputies from 19 counties who contributed to this debate. This indicates the interest in tourism. It is evident from this debate that while we have had much success in tourism, people are concerned to ensure that this continues.
It would be impossible to address all the issues raised by Deputies. However, while I will discuss this issue on Committee Stage, there will also be statements in the Seanad on this issue which I will use to try to comment on all the issues raised.
I wish to clarify my comments in New York on the merger of the two tourism bodies. I want to offer every possible olive branch to our colleagues in the North. I met members of the Northern Ireland Tourist Board in New York and we discussed tourism and how it is benefiting the North and the South. Much consensus has been  reached at official level. We both agree that there is much sense in marketing the island as a whole. I assure the Northern Ireland Tourist Board that it will not find my Department wanting if there is any possibility of future developments on how both parts of the island can benefit. Perhaps the Northern Ireland Tourist Board sees a role for itself in specific matters. I have no objections to that and Bord Fáilte will also have its own specific role. However, we can all benefit from marketing.
Mr. Allen Mr. Allen
Mr. Allen: So there will not be a merger.
Dr. McDaid Dr. McDaid
Dr. McDaid: We have benefited from the OTMI board where the marketing has been of a consensual nature. I wish to clear up this matter. This is a sensitive area. My Department and I will not be found wanting when it comes to co-operation with our northern counterparts.
Dáil Éireann 496 Tourist Traffic Bill, 1998: Second Stage (Resumed).