Dáil Éireann - Volume 526 - 22 November, 2000
Written Answers. - Regional Development.
Cecilia Keaveney Cecilia Keaveney
115. Cecilia Keaveney asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if her attention has been drawn to access difficulties that are being cited as reasons for a lack of businesses locating in the north west region; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26584/00]
Ms Harney Ms Harney
Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment (Ms Harney): My Department and its agencies are acutely aware that the continued development of the enterprise sector will require adequate provision of appropriate infrastructure. Proper and planned investment can help to minimise regional imbalances and create opportunities for all regions to share in our continuing economic growth.
The common infrastructure priorities of the regions have been identified by the agencies as roads, air services, telecommunications and the electricity network. Assessments of regional investment needs have been incorporated into the national development plan, and specifically address the access needs of the Border, midlands and west region.
In relation to roads, the national development plan includes proposals for major improvements in the north west, including the N2 – Dublin-Monaghan-Omagh-Derry; the N4 – Kinnegad-Sligo; N13-N15 – Sligo-Donegal-Lifford-Letterkenny-Derry; N16 – Sligo-Blacklion-Enniskillen-Dungannon-Larne, and the N3 – Dublin-Belturbet-Enniskillen-Derry. The need for other  new routes will also be evaluated over the period of the plan and where a need is established funding will be provided for the advance planning and design of the route in the plan period, with a view to bringing the project to construction within an appropriate time frame.
Regarding regional air services, my colleague, the Minister for Public Enterprise is currently engaged in renewing the four existing public service obligation air services for a further three-year period. These include air services from Donegal and Sligo to Dublin. Furthermore, I understand that the Minister has secured EU Commission approval to introduce two new PSO routes servicing Derry-Dublin and Knock-Dublin. It is planned to have these new services operational early in 2001 and an EU public tender process is under way to secure carriers for each of these routes. This expansion should boost tourism and business in the north west.
A world-class electricity network is also critical to facilitate continued inward investment and to underpin delivery of the targets set out in the national development plan. The ESB is upgrading the low voltage network and a series of major additions to the high voltage network are planned. These include a 110 kilometre line from Letterkenny to Binbane which is currently under appeal to An Bord Pleanála, and 63 kilometres of line from Flagford to east Sligo for which a planning application is expected to be lodged shortly.
The ongoing provision of a state-of-the-art telecommunications network will support Ireland's growth as a knowledge-based economy, and ensure the attraction of high quality jobs. Ireland's connectivity with the US and Europe has been enhanced and our national backbone network is now over 98% optic fibre. Links are increasingly being made to cities and towns throughout the country, the recent completion of the north west digital corridor enabling a Dublin-Sligo fibre network to be built being a case in point. The national plan includes a £150 million provision to support investment in advanced telecommunications in areas around the country.
I have asked Forfás to develop a database of physical and social infrastructure facilities at regional level for enterprise promotion purposes. This database will assist in determining the investment priorities of the regions and will feed into the national spatial strategy currently being formulated by the Department of the Environment and Local Government.
Cecilia Keaveney Cecilia Keaveney
116. Cecilia Keaveney asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the current position in relation to follow-up action in respect of the Donegal Task Force Initiative recommendations; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26585/00]
Ms Harney Ms Harney
Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment (Ms Harney): The report of the Donegal employment initiative envisaged that the setting of realistic job creation targets for foreign  direct investment and the growth of the indigenous sector would be addressed by the development agencies in the light of the strategies outlined in the report. It also envisaged that the implementation of these strategies would be kept under review by the new Donegal County Development Board.
The county development board was established in March of this year as a partnership comprising the local authority, State agencies, local development interests and the social partners. It is engaged in drawing up an integrated economic, social and cultural development strategy for the county in line with Government policy. The report of the Donegal employment initiative has already supplied the essential foundations for this new strategy. The county development board has agreed to progress the recommendations of the task force report through the various sectoral working groups it has established on inward investment, indigenous enterprise, infrastructure, lifelong learning and tourism.
I am satisfied that the Donegal County Development Board, working through the sectoral working groups on which all relevant bodies are represented, will be able to identify and fast-track relevant development initiatives for the county in line with the objectives set out in the task force report.
Question No. 117 taken with Question No. 92.
Question No. 118 taken with Question No. 96.
Dáil Éireann 526 Written Answers. Regional Development.