Seanad Éireann - Volume 135 - 29 April, 1993

International Fund for Ireland: Statements.

An Cathaoirleach: I welcome the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs to the House for statements of the International Fund for Ireland.

Mr. Fitzgerald: Two good Kerry men.

An Cathaoirleach: South Kerry and north Kerry.

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Spring): I am glad to be back in this Chamber for the second day in succession. I trust we will not be making a habit of this.

It is a cause of particular satisfaction to have the opportunity of making a personal [1805] statement on the work of the International Fund for Ireland.

The International Fund for Ireland is a unique, all-Ireland organisation established jointly by the Irish and British Governments as a result of the Anglo-Irish Agreement of 1985. Article 10 (a) of the agreement states:

The two Governments shall co-operate to promote the economic and social development of those areas of both parts of Ireland which have suffered most severely from the consequences of the instability of recent years, and shall consider the possibility of securing international support for this work.

We are all keenly aware of how Northern Ireland has suffered from the Troubles of the past two decades. We are aware, too, that particular areas have suffered more than others in terms of deprivation, destruction, violence and communal strife. The Irish and British Governments were convinced that the establishment of an independent fund on a cross-Border and cross-community basis would make a significant contribution to the economic and social regeneration of those areas. Such a fund would also be an important expression of international support for the common commitment of the two Governments to peace, stability, dialogue and reconciliation in Ireland. It would also symbolise their common opposition to the exploitation of instability for political ends.

Under the agreement establishing the International Fund for Ireland, the two Governments recognised that serious under-employment and multiple deprivation created an environment in which instability could flourish. They saw that instability and conflict in turn created conditions which were inimical to social and economic progress. They also recognised the damage caused to both parts of Ireland by that instability.

They, therefore, agreed in September 1986 to establish the International Fund for Ireland to contribute to the work envisaged in Article 10 (a) of the Anglo-Irish [1806] Agreement. The fund has two objectives: to promote economic and social advantage and to encourage contact, dialogue and reconciliation between Nationalists and Unionists throughout Ireland.

The fund is financed by international contributions. On the signing of the Anglo-Irish Agreement in November 1985, former US President, Ronald Reagan stated:

The United States strongly supports this initiative and I will be working closely with Congress in a bipartisan effort to find tangible ways for the United States to lend practical support to this important agreement.

The result of this commitment has been a United States contribution totalling to date $210 million, including a contribution of $20 million for 1993, making the United States the fund's largest and most significant donor to date.

Other donors have also been very generous. The European Community has made contributions since 1989 totalling £60 million and has committed a further £12 million for next year. Canada has also committed CAN$10 million and New Zealand has contributed NZ$600,000 to date. I would like to take this opportunity to express the gratitude of the Government, and my own personal gratitude, to the donors for their remarkable generosity.

The agreement setting up the International Fund states that, in pursuance of its objectives, the fund shall stimulate private investment and enterprise, supplement public programmes and encourage voluntary effort, including self-help schemes. In the voluntary sphere, special emphasis is placed on supporting economic and social projects sponsored by men and women of good will throughout Ireland who are engaged in the task of communal reconciliation.

The agreement stipulates that the need to maximise the economic and social benefits of the fund in Ireland shall be an overriding consideration in making disbursements from its resources and these disbursements shall be consistent with [1807] the economic and social policies and priorities of the respective Governments. The agreement also stipulates that, because of the special problems in Northern Ireland associated with the instability of recent years, approximately three-quarters of the resources of the fund shall be spent there.

The fund is administered by an independent board which consists of a chairman and six other members, who are appointed jointly by the two Governments. The chairman of the board is Mr. William T. McCarter: each of the donors sends observers to attend and participate in all board meetings. Subject to the terms of the agreement, the members of the board act independently and shall not receive instructions from Governments as to the exercise of their powers. The board of the fund has a secretariat composed of officials seconded by both Governments.

The accommodation and secretarial services necessary for the functioning of the fund, together with its general administrative and organisational expenses, are provided jointly by the two Governments. In sum, the International Fund is a genuinely all-Ireland organisation, operating on a cross-Border, cross-community basis. The agreement also provides that the board be assisted by an advisory committee composed of senior representatives of the two Governments, particularly as regards applications for assistance made to the fund.

The overriding priority of the fund is to assist the areas of greatest need in Northern Ireland. These areas have been designated “disadvantaged areas” and are defined on the basis of objective criteria. In the North, the six Border counties have been designated as the areas which have suffered most severely from the consequences of the instability of recent years. The fund has so far allocated in excess of 70 per cent of its resources to the most disadvantaged areas and works strenuously to offer its resources in a balanced way to both communities. Since September 1988 the fund has operated a special disadvantaged [1808] areas initiative designed specifically to focus resources on the most needy areas.

In the South, the fund operates a Border towns and villages scheme to assist those towns and villages most severely affected by their proximity to the Border. In addition, the fund has put in place a team of locally based development consultants, North and South, who assist local communities to identify and develop suitable projects from disadvantaged areas for consideration by the board. This has proved a very efficient and effective way of ensuring what the resources and benefits of the fund are made available to the direct benefit of the entire community in the most disadvantaged areas.

In the six years since it was founded, the fund has assisted 2,800 projects, of which over 500 were assisted in 1992. These projects have acted as a catalyst, often bringing new economic and commercial activity to areas where there had previously been none. The much needed jobs provided have brought new hope to those parts of Ireland which have suffered most severely from the communal strife of the past 20 years.

The fund lays special stress on cross-community and cross-Border projects which make sense at grassroots level. By creating jobs and helping people to work together in this way, the International Fund is making a major impact on the economic and social landscape and can make a lasting contribution to the historic process of reconciliation on the island of Ireland.

It is noteworthy that the fund is rigorous in ensuring that it does not discriminate in its disbursement decisions in terms of the political or religious affiliation of applicants. All recipients of fund support are made aware of the fund's principles of equality of opportunity and non-discrimination. Each offer of assistance from the fund stipulates that “acceptance of a grant or loan under this scheme will be deemed to signify the applicant's acceptance of the principle of equality of opportunity and non-discrimination in employment without regard to religious affiliation and the [1809] applicant will be expected to use the money in accordance with this principle”. Should this condition not be met, the fund “will require the immediate repayment of the grant or loan in full”.

Clearly, the establishment of the International Fund by the two Governments represented an innovative response to the deep seated and long term problem involved. It marked a fresh stage in the evolution of the relationship between the two Governments, as we co-operated in establishing the fund under our joint sponsorship and in seeking contributions from our friends overseas who wished to support our joint initiative.

The fund has the unique authority to distribute moneys in both jurisdictions, North and South. The fund's emphasis on cross-Border co-operation has also led Government Departments and agencies, North and South, to work closely together for the first time within formal structures for the benefit of the entire island. In addition, the fund's emphasis on cross-Border involvement has led to both communities in Northern Ireland being encouraged and facilitated in developing their own initiatives and responses to the problems which face them; often on a co-operative North-South basis. In so doing, communities which have been divided by political and religious barriers are recognising that they share the same problems and can benefit from working together to find solutions.

The Fund's current operations are organised into a number of broad programmes, delivered jointed by Government Departments and public agencies, North and South, acting as agents of the fund. It may be helpful to refer briefly in turn to each of these.

The disadvantaged areas initiative provides a central focus and structure for all International Fund activities by enabling the fund's resources to be targeted on areas of most disadvantage. As already stated, in excess of 70 per cent of all fund commitments to date have been devoted to these areas. In the North, the focus of the initative has been the introduction of a number of innovative community-based [1810] regeneration schemes, which seek to act as a catalyst to encourage economic regeneration in areas of particular disadvantage. These initiatives are complemented by a special Border towns and villages scheme in the South.

The business enterprise programme aims to create the conditions within which local business initiative can be harnessed to develop enterprise, self-employment and job opportunities, in conjunction with Government industrial promotion agencies and local community groups, and provides revolving loan funds and support for workspace accommodation.

The urban development programme promotes the rehabilitation, revitalisation and development of towns in the North outside Belfast and Derry, and of selected towns in the Border counties in the South, which have suffered from the troubles of the past two decades.

The tourism programme aims to stimulate increased economic prosperity by encouraging private sector investment in the provision of new tourist amenities, improved marketing and the upgrading of accommodation, with the purpose of increasing the number of tourists visiting both parts of Ireland. The fund also assists the marketing of Ireland on an all-island basis as a holiday destination. Fund activities under this programme recognise that tourism development plays a central role in promoting economic activity and creating sustainable jobs in both parts of Ireland.

The wider horizons programme encourages contact and reconciliation between nationalists and unionists throughout Ireland by helping young people to travel overseas to obtain further training and work experience not available at home, and by helping managers and young entrepreneurs from both parts of Ireland to participate in development programmes with an international dimension. The projects are selected to give a mix of participants drawn from North and South and representing the two communities in the North.

The science and technology programme aims to nurture innovation and [1811] technological change, with a special emphasis on transfer of technology, cross-Border technological partnerships and on support for local technologically based economic development.

The rural development programme enabled the fund to give greater emphasis to the regeneration of the most disadvantaged rural areas, North and South, by assisting viable community driven projects with a capacity for real economic and social improvement on the ground.

The entire work programme of the fund has the underlying objective of helping to bring about reconciliation by means of economic and social regeneration. In addition, and to give further emphasis to this objective, the community relations programme supports initiatives and projects, which will improve relations between the communities in the North and also between North and South.

The agreement also provides that the fund should establish two investment companies, one in each part of Ireland. The function of the companies is to furnish venture capital for the private sector. The board of the fund also acts as the boards of these investment companies.

The fund also supports a number of flagship projects which will provide particular economic benefit to the areas in which they are located and are also of immense symbolic importance. The fund has to date assisted three such projects: the £30 million restoration of the Ballinamore-Ballyconnell Canal, to which the fund has contributed some £6 million. This project, which is scheduled to be completed in the summer of this year, is the largest single project approved by the fund so far. It will link the Erne and Shannon waterways and so create one of the largest inland waterway systems in Europe, bringing economic life and activity to the counties of Cavan, Leitrim and Fermanagh and to the towns and villages along the canal; the construction of a visitors' centre and archaeological park at Navan Fort/Eamhain Macha in Armagh — the capital of the ancient Kings of Ulster; and the economic regeneration [1812] of the towns of Strabane and Lifford. These towns and their hinterland have suffered considerably from their location on either side of the Border. As part of this project, the Strabane/Lifford Development Commission has been established with the fund's help to promote cross-border economic co-operation and activity.

In order to promote reconciliation on a practical basis, the fund lays special stress on cross-Community projects and cross-Border co-operation, including projects of an All-Ireland nature. It has initiated and financed a significant number of cross-Border co-operation initiatives. Among those are the Acumen cross-Border business development programme, which aims at stimulating economic development on both sides of the Border by fostering stronger ties between business and economic interests North and South, and a joint IBEC/CBI project to promote North-South job creation through the removal of obstacles to increased trade between North and South.

In the field of marketing, substantial assistance has been given to Bord Fáilte and the Northern Ireland Tourist Board to co-operate internationally in promoting the whole of Ireland as a tourist destination. Examples of other joint North-South initiatives supported by the fund are joint marketing of goods, such as wool and linen, and the Derry/ Galway/Boston Ventures, which have staged a trade mission and fair in Boston for the past four years.

It is relatively easy to quantify the fund's achievements in economic terms, by reference to the number of projects assisted or jobs created. While these are, of course, in themselves vitally important and impressive, they do not convey the equally important but less easily quantifiable human benefits of the fund's work — the extent to which people's lives have improved, their outlooks changed, their hearts raised by the prospect of jobs and by the chance to help themselves and their own neighbourhoods and communities.

[1813] One of the most interesting features of the 1992 annual report is the inclusion of a range of letters from groups with which the fund has been working, giving details of the difference which the fund has made in their lives. The letters come mainly from community groups in areas such as Derry, Coalisland, Armagh, Fermanagh, Louth, South Armagh, Belfast and Donegal. They make heartening reading. They show how communities which, only a few years ago, were economically and socially depressed and prey to the civil disorder which disadvantage and hopelessness breed, are finding new hope for the future and new pride in themselves. One letter states how, in one town which is experiencing these changes, incidents which would have caused riots several years ago no longer do so, as the young people value the improvements to their town and look to the future with pride. It is details like that which give meaning and context to the bare statistics set out in the report's appendices. For every project listed there, people's lives have been changed — and for the better.

I would like to take this opportunity to emphasise the great importance the Government attaches to the financial support and encouragement provided by the donor countries. Their generous contributions are a practical expression of their interest in, and concern for, the efforts of the two Governments in bringing about peace in Northern Ireland. In particular, I would like to mention the support and commitment given by the United States to the work of the fund. During a recent visit there, the Taoiseach took the opportunity of expressing the appreciation of the Government and people for the contribution made by the United States to the fund since its establishment, and of the very generous and significant announcement by President Clinton himself that the Administration will propose an appropriation of $20 million for the fund in its 1994 budget. In previous years such appropriations have been added to budgets proposed by the Administration through the powerful personal support of Speaker Foley and other friends of Ireland in Congress, [1814] whose support we greatly value and appreciate.

As is now widely recognised, the fund's fulfilment of the task set out for it by the Irish and British Governments at the time of its establishment is significant; in the number and quality of the projects which have been approved, in the permanent jobs which have been created and in the cost effectiveness of that job creation. The emphasis which the fund has placed on community involvement, on promoting co-operation between a range of governmental and other organisations — often on a cross-Border basis — and on acting as a catalyst for private investment offers important lessons for other bodies and agencies seeking to stimulate enterprise development and co-operation throughout the island. We must also take account of the fund's achievement in helping to restore the confidence and self-esteem of some of the most deprived areas of Northern Ireland, in focusing the great energies of local communities and giving them a renewed sense of pride and purpose.

I will finish by congratulating and paying special tribute to the chairman and board members, past and present, of the International Fund for Ireland — as well as the donor countries' observers — for their dedication and commitment, and for the difference that their outstanding personal contribution is making to the lives of so many people, North and South. In so many ways, they — and all those who are working with them — are a model for what we so earnestly seek in our persistent pursuit of peace and reconciliation on the island of Ireland.

On behalf of the Government, I assure the Seanad that we shall continue to give every support and encouragement to the important work of the International Fund and to build on its very impressive achievements to date.

Mr. Cotter: I welcome the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs here today. It is appropriate that he should be here in so far as he was directly involved at the time this fund was set up. He spoke with great pride today about the fund's [1815] achievements. I am also very happy that Mr. Hamill from the Dublin office and some of his colleagues are here today.

The International Fund has been a powerful force in rebuilding communities in the Border counties and in Northern Ireland. The ongoing war since 1969 has devastated the social and economic life of Northern Ireland and, to a lesser extent, of the Southern Border counties. Many in this House are familiar with the physical devastation that has been visited on many main streets in Northern towns, from Strabane and Derry in the west to Newry and Belfast in the east. Boarded up business premises and fine buildings that have been reduced to rubble are commonplace sights in these towns.

Many people have forgotten the bombings which took place in Dublin, Monaghan and Castleblayney in the early 1970s. The human carnage that has resulted from the war is now almost an accepted part of life on the island. We have occasional outbursts of horror and indignation, as happened after Warrington recently but generally speaking, funerals take place with regular monotony and are accompanied by condemnation which goes unheeded.

The International Fund for Ireland has done wonderful work in restoring and improving the physical environment but it cannot reverse the 3,000 deaths. It is clear today that the battle lines are now more visible and exist with greater clarity than has been the case at any time since 1969. This is a sad reality.

Illegal opposing forces are highly organised and armed to the teeth. They have the capacity to greatly expand their activities both in terms of scale and geography. I wonder if this House is aware that on Thursday last, in broad daylight, a unit of an illegal army took control of the village of Culloville, outside Castleblayney in South Armagh. A dozen men, armed with heavy artillery, maintained a check point for an hour and a half within range of the unmanned lookout towers in the area. They were armed with M16s, M60s, AK47s and they had in their possession an RPG7 and a Barrat [1816] 0.5. I understand they also had a lethal DHSK 12.7 in addition to many small arms. It was a deadly array of weaponry that was put on display in broad daylight in that village. I am reliably informed that there was no cross-Border involvement in this episode and I wonder how this illegal checkpoint went unnoticed for so long. They simply finished their business, packed up and went away. That is what happened.

It is clear that private armies have the ability to take over any of our towns whenever they choose, but worse than that they have displayed their ability to wreak carnage of huge proportions. It is also clear that there is a hardening of attitudes in the North at this time. Senator Gordon Wilson and others will testify to that.

Many people are asking when the war will spill over into the South again. Informed opinion suggests that that is imminent and many people are surprised that it has not happened already. I hope the Minister for Justice and the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs, are carrying out a constant review of the situation. In these circumstances, is it wise to run down the size of the Garda? Statistics bear out that the number of gardaí has dropped by about 1,000 since 1985 and I wonder if this is good policy. It sends out all sorts of signals as to our attitude, our approach and our insights. Is it in the interest of national security? I am concerned that there is a dangerous complacency at Government level towards the question of national security at this time. I urge the Minister to review the situation in the light of falling Garda numbers and the amount of powerful armaments in the hands of paramilitaries. This is a backdrop to the International Fund for Ireland.

As the Tánaiste said the Fund was set up in 1986 following the Anglo-Irish Agreement and it has done an enormous amount of work to promote economic and social advance in the Border counties, both South and North. It has also had some success — although I judge it to be limited — in encouraging contact, dialogue and reconciliation between [1817] Nationalists and Unionists. The administration of the fund has obviously changed since 1986 as the board and the people who operate it developed a greater understanding of the dynamics of community action, and particularly how that operates in the North given its problems. This fund, more than any other investment programme, I am aware of, has regenerated that spirit within communities in its area of competence. In South Armagh, a neighbouring area, a group called ROSA has done outstanding work in community regeneration for more than two years. This group is totally supported by the fund and it has had enormous success in both the social and economic fields. Other communities are following their example.

I mention in passing that the Government might at this stage examine how the fund is operated, how money is delivered to projects and the emphasis in the various programmes. This would be timely as the Government is considering setting up the county enterprise partnership boards. The emphasis they have is wrong and the experience the International Fund and those of us who work closely with it have gained would suggest that that is the case.

Setting up another layer of Government and bureaucracy is the wrong thing to do at this stage. My experience, and the experience of people working with the fund at local level, suggests that communities are now very definitely coming round to the idea that they must act for themselves and this is something of which the International Fund can be proud. Communities, through their activities with the International Fund have come to that conclusion. For a number of years communities in my own county and right across the North have been trying to find ways of regenerating social and economic activities in their area. That should be the basis for the programme the Government is now preparing on job creation.

The Government should insist on a partnership between local authorities and local communities which is currently lacking. The legislation governing the operation of local authorities gives scope [1818] for that partnership. Local authorities can establish partnerships with local community groups on a statutory basis. This is not happening as much as I would like. The Government should endeavour to foster this kind of activity as it offers the best prospect for development at local level. It would substitute for the lack of proper local government in Ireland. This arises from the lack of input by the public because the local authority structures do not satisfy any of the criteria that are fundamental to local government.

People are showing that they have ideas and the ability to raise matching funds, or part matching funds in local areas. They need support and encouragement from Government agencies — which does not seem to be forthcoming by the provision of professional help in the form of full-time workers. However it is forthcoming from the International Fund because its community development programmes are based in the community. In view of the fact that community groups are responding, and in view of this the Government should reconsider its approach to the job creation. It should abandon the establishment of the county enterprise board, go direct to communities and ask local authorities to become partners in that effort.

Scanning through the 1991 annual report of the International Fund is an interesting exercise. The Tánaiste has removed the 1992 report from the Library for his own deliberations.

Mr. Mooney: I removed the copy.

Mr. Magner: The Senator should withdraw the allegation of theft against the Tánaiste.

Mr. Cotter: The Tánaiste is a good friend and I have no intention of accusing him of theft; it would be inappropriate. However, I hope he does steal some of the ideas on these pages.

In 1991 more than £4 million was expended on the community regenerating improvement programmes compared with just over £1 million in the [1819] previous year. Obviously the International Fund has decided to allocate funds in a different way as it learned from its activities over the previous four years. Community regeneration and improvement across the North of Ireland has received enormous amounts of funding as anybody driving through the North of Ireland can see. The signs there, noticeably in the towns. The main streets are beginning to look better. Many of the old buildings that were bombed and in a decrepit state are being replaced by fine facades. The business people are responding by renovating their premises. The atmosphere in the North has changed as a result of the application of this fund.

Appendix 4 which deals with the business enterprise fund, shows that the International Fund is providing venture capital at low interest rates. One of the difficulties we encounter is that individuals and community groups have ideas but they cannot get the finance to implement them. This is an ongoing problem that cannot be solved without venture capital at low interest rates.

That is the position under the International Fund. People are willing to borrow from that source through the county enterprise boards rather than the banks. I have no experience of the North but the county enterprise boards in the South lend money at low interest rates. One of the deciding factors for people borrowing this money is the lower interest rates.

Many people are wary of the banking system, particularly if they have not had any dealings with the bank and when they are unsure about the future as is the case for many people living in the Border areas.

Funds are being disbursed, and people who up to now would not have been able to set up enterprises are succeeding because of the support from the business enterprise section of the International Fund. Under the work space programme a person can avail of funding to acquire a business premises.

[1820] Appendix 5 deals with investment in tourism. The programme covers projects in the North and South. I have been critical of this programme from time to time, particularly the tourism base in my constituency of Cavan-Monaghan. It is a weak base with the lowest revenue from tourism in the Republic. I have suggested that the International Fund should have a special programme to develop tourism in Cavan-Monaghan. Bord Fáilte operates the programme in the South. The board decided that only registered tourist operators, whether they be hotels or guesthouses, can avail of money from the fund. It is a substantial amount for the hotels and guesthouses in Monaghan and Cavan and they benefit significantly. However, people who have been working with me to develop projects, such as taking old buildings and renewing them while at the same time providing accommodation, could not get this support. They could not register until their accommodation reached the required standard and as they did not have the money to do this, they did not proceed.

We need more accommodation and amenities in Counties Monaghan and Cavan and the fund did not respond to local difficulties in these counties. I say that in the hope that Mr. Hamill and his colleagues will hear me and perhaps we can review and change the way the fund is operating. There are difficulties in that if work is done for one area then every other area hankers after the same thing. However the local needs in Counties Monaghan and Cavan are not evident to those living in County Donegal or elsewhere. Huge investment has gone into County Donegal from the IFI and from other funds because it is a good area to invest in. I am not satisfied that we in Counties Monaghan and Cavan are getting enough investment from any fund for developments in tourism etc. and I will continue to say that.

However, the fund has done an enormous amount of good. Anybody visiting the hotels of Counties Monaghan and Cavan now and who remembers their condition and facilities six years ago can appreciate the amount of work the fund [1821] has made possible. I congratulate the people involved. All hotels and many guesthouses now offer a better standard of accommodation. They have broadened their spheres of activity enormously thanks to the International Fund for Ireland. They could not have done so otherwise. We have to congratulate all of those who carried out the investment and the International Fund for Ireland who supported it.

There is evidence all over Counties Monaghan and Cavan of the success of the Amenities Development Scheme. Although I would like to see more achieved the International Fund for Ireland supported every suitable project put forward. If there is a shortage of investment in that area — my own constituency — it is not the fault of International Fund for Ireland. The problem is that there are not enough suitable projects being put forward for funding.

The fund has done an enormous amount to assist farmers who want to chance the type of enterprise they are engaged in and to generate new income from new sources. Deer farms and stud farms have been set up with assistance from the fund. The fund was the catalyst for that kind of development.

When one drives through the towns of Counties Monaghan and Cavan one can see that they look extremely well, particularly the main streets and squares, thanks to a joint programme operated between the International Fund for Ireland and the local authorities. I have one problem in relation to this. Some years ago a programme for urban development was announced with a fund of £3 million available to local entrepreneurs and business people. However the funding never surfaced. I would like to find out why from Mr. Hamill. Perhaps development plans were not put forward or there was a change of mind. When the fund was announced I received a press release which I may still have proving that the fund was actually announced. However no funding was drawn down.

I would like to mention towns in the Border counties like Clones, Castleblayney and Monaghan and talk about [1822] Clones which has suffered enormously due to Border security measures and Border trading problems related to Government policy. The Government in the South has never acknowledged the town's problems. About two thirds of the Clones hinterland is in the North of Ireland and people find it difficult to get from that area to the town as most of the roads are closed. The security operation which the British Government feels it must carry out is killing Clones. I have talked about this matter ad nauseum in the other House and I want to continue talking about it here. The security measures in operation should be changed or, if that cannot be done, resources must be committed in order to make up the loss to the town.

The International Fund for Ireland is aware of what is happening in Clones and has examined the matter. I am sure the Minister of State, Deputy Dempsey who is from County Meath has attended Ulster GAA finals in Clones — epic occasions to which many people travel. On Ulster final day it is difficult to see anything but the football match but I am sure he would have seen the deterioration in the physical face of Clones over the years. He should inform the Government that Clones is a special case. Government has not responded to the special needs of that town.

Community groups in Clones have been trying to put their town back together. At this stage some moneys will begin to flow from the various funds into Clones as a number of projects are now ready. Moneys from the International Fund for Ireland, Interreg Funding and structural funding will be available but may not be enough. It will be impossible to get the business life of the town back into shape while the access roads remain closed. I do not wish to discuss the philosophy behind that but while the security operation which is in place at present continues Clones will continue to die. The two Governments could easily decide to change that security operation. The roads could be opened to save the life of Clones town. That would mean a commitment of extra funding by the [1823] British and Irish Governments in order to maintain the present level of security but by different means. That must be done.

It is time we recognised the effect of official policy on Clones and, to a lesser extent on Monaghan town and Castleblayney, which are just three or four miles from the Border. It is time the Government fulfilled its duty. On many occasions Ministers visited Clones, saw Border roads closed, became aware of the problems and promised to make further representations to the British Government and authorities about reopening some of the roads. The people of Clones were delighted until they found these promises were hollow gestures and nothing happened. I ask the Minister to inform the Tánaiste that we want action in Clones, not more hollow words and promises. Promises are no longer sufficient. The roads must be reopened to save the life of the town of Clones. The British and Irish Governments should give a commitment that additional funding will be provided to put in place security operations which will have the same effect as existing ones but which will use different methods. The people of Clones deserve that. Once it is recognised that a town is being killed, remedial action should be taken. I want this House and those responsible for policy making to recognise this fact and to act upon it.

The success of the Urban Development Programme is visible all over the place. When one looks at Appendix 6 of the 1992 annual report of the International Fund for Ireland, it is incredible to see the number of projects that have been funded throughout Northern Ireland. It is essential that this funding and investment is continued. The Urban Development Programme in the South is on a smaller scale. I hope the fund will be able to extend its operations beyond the local authority aspect to the private sector. To refer again to the three towns I mentioned, particularly Castleblayney and Clones, the private sector there is hardly able to provide the paint at present to paint the front of a shop, never mind [1824] to take down the plastic signs and modernise and beautify the street scape. I hope the programme that was announced a few years ago is still in place and that we can draw down funds from it.

There is a programme for agriculture and fisheries. The agricultural element of the programme in particular, has been very beneficial to the southern counties. In the North, there is a huge number of projects under that heading in Appendix 7. There are also details in this appendix of science and technology and other innovative projects. The Wider Horizons Programme which tries to give young people an overview of the way things operate in other parts of the world, is extensively funded and is doing much to help young people.

I commend the board of the International Fund for Ireland and all the people who operate that fund down to local level. Without them the attitudes of people in communities in the North of Ireland would be very different today. The physical environment would be much worse if the IFI did not exist. I conclude in the hope that some of the things I have said today may change peoples' thinking and change State policy a little to further improve the life of communities on both sides of the Border.

Mr. Mooney: I welcome the Tánaiste, who was with us for the earlier part of this debate and who is succeeded by the Government Chief Whip, the Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach, Deputy Dempsey. It is somewhat fortuitous that Deputy Dempsey has taken his place in the Chamber as I rise to speak as there are a number of issues which he and I have already discussed in the context of the IFI and development in the Border counties, which I hope to develop a little.

I am a little disappointed that Senator Cotter has stolen some of my thunder. I intended to stand up and start banging the table about the dearth of money being spent in County Leitrim. I had to quickly revise my contribution when I glanced through the most recent report to which Senator Cotter referred and perhaps has [1825] not had a chance to go through, which shows that not one pound has been spent in Clones under any heading, most of which are community oriented. Upwards of £500,000 has been spent on development in County Leitrim. Well over half of that has been on community oriented or community generated businesses. Maybe Senator Cotter could go back to Clones and act as a catalyst to encourage Mr. Hamill to whom he seems to have given a great number of lists. I am afraid to talk to Mr. Hamill after all the lists Senator Cotter has given him. I take Senator Cotter's point. Both he and I and others from the Border counties would agree that the Southern perception of the fund's operation is that we are losing out in the economics sphere.

However, it would be churlish not to welcome the significant contribution made by the IFI since its inception. It would also be inaccurate not to state that controversy has also followed the fund's disbursement. One thinks of the infamous Strabane bank episode. However, the Tánaiste stated, the operation of the fund has been, in the main, even-handed between communities in the North and, thankfully, no such criteria are necessary in the south. I am aware that the originators of the fund were anxious from the start to regenerate the Northern towns and villages ravaged by the economic war strategy of the IRA.

Yet, despite the worthy nature of such aspirations, there is a perception, as I said earlier, that the fund has benefitted areas of Northern Ireland, which, prior to the commencement of the troubles and subsequent to them, operated at an economic advantage to their Southern neighbours. This is particularly true, I would suggest, of Counties Leitrim and Cavan, parts of south Donegal and, interestingly enough, that corridor of north Monaghan of which Clones is part and to which Senator Cotter so passionately referred in his contribution. This area of Monaghan has been, without question, devastated by partition, which cut it off from its natural hinterland by the closure of the railway link to Belfast and by the constant and continuing economic [1826] decline. Indeed Clones, areas of Leitrim and others I have mentioned are but a microcosm of what has happened right across the entire frontier between North and South on the southern side.

I know that the balance of funding in favour of the North has been operated on a ratio of roughly three to one. This was the way in which the donor countries wished it to operate. Consequently Southern administrators have had to operate under a handicap. I believe the time has come to give serious consideration to re-orienting the funds to those communities south of the Border which have the idealism and creative energy to which Senator Cotter referred but which lack the venture capital, the actual money required to be able to put these qualities to advantage. One area which has been a source of great angst and annoyance to me as a Southerner living in a Border county is the operation of the Urban Development Programme which is operated almost exclusively in the Northern communities on the basis that the North has been ravaged by the economic war carried out by the IRA. May I point out one example and put it in context?

The town and district of Enniskillen would not only be one of the nearest neighbours to Leitrim but is one of its main trading competitors in the context of Cavan town, Sligo to the west and Longford to the south. Enniskillen is a strong economic entity. It has in the main on the economic side — I emphasise economic — escaped the bombing and annihilation visited on other towns and villages in the North. I am fully conscious of the horrific murders carried out at the war monument there, and to which we bear evidence in this House with the membership of Senator Wilson.

The town of Enniskillen received in excess of several hundred thousand pounds for urban renewal. I believe that this widened the gap between Fermanagh and Leitrim as Fermanagh would be perceived in the economic lexicon of the United Kingdom as being in one of the [1827] most disadvantaged areas in the United Kingdom. I have singled Leitrim, Cavan and Monaghan out because they suffered most from 1922 onwards.

When one compares the economic realities of life in the Fermanagh-South Armagh area with the Leitrim, Cavan-Monaghan area, it is very easy to see who is winning. That is why there is a real need to reorient the fund even if it means going to the donor countries and suggesting to them that if there is to be an eventual economic parity between these two peripheral regions then the counties south of the Border need a greater share of aid.

Under the urban renewal scheme £15.5 million is currently being offered by the IFI to 400 projects. Additional private sector investment is expected to generate another £41 million which will result in a projected 3,000 new jobs. The sum of £14 million goes to the most disadvantaged towns and villages. I am speaking about villages such as Garrison and Beleek in Fermanagh and this will generate £38 million in private investment creating 2,600 jobs.

To illustrate the difference between the aspirations contained in those figures and the reality to date, the IFI in its report states that 300 projects under the urban renewal scheme totalling £8 million of IFI money have so far generated £23 million of private sector investment, resulting in 1,900 jobs. I am sure Senator Cotter and my friend and colleague, Senator Reynolds, know that if even a quarter of those jobs were created in County Leitrim or in parts of west Cavan the resulting economic uplift would be a real cause for celebration. I do not begrudge this investment in the North, I am merely attempting to establish a case for the reorientation of IFI criteria as they have operated since the inception of the fund in 1986.

I welcome many innovations in the fund especially those initiated in recent years. I also welcome the disadvantaged areas initiative. The chairman points out that through this disadvantaged area initiative the IFI has approved a [1828] further 13 community based development schemes covering many of the disadvantaged areas in Northern Ireland.

In the southern Border counties IFI introduced a regeneration initiative to devote special fund assistance to the towns and villages most significantly affected by the instability of recent years and related factors. I am bemused by the terminology used by the chairman in referring to the instability of recent years. Senator Cotter has given the background to what we are discussing here. The economic decline of the Border counties is not a recent phenomenon. It started with partition in 1922 and continued through the difficult economic period in the 1930s and 1940s.

Senator Cotter is right — successive administrations in this country literally wrote off many of the Border counties. One has only to look at the hoary old chestnut — the roads system to realise this, that is if it is possible to take a road between the North and South.

It is not posible to drive directly from County Leitrim to County Fermanagh because the roads are not open. We are constantly told, despite the best efforts of the Tánaiste and his predecessors at the Anglo Irish Conference, that, due to “security considerations”, the people of those two counties must drive outside the county before they can travel between the North and South. That certainly belies the pious and noble aspirations of the IFI and of its donors. The Tánaiste referred to those aspirations as follows: “That the objectives of the fund are to encourage contact, dialogue and reconciliation between Nationalists and Unionists throughout Ireland.

Those living in Counties Leitrim or Fermanagh will not see much cross-Border co-operation.

I welcome the Border towns and villages scheme. It is one of the initiatives introduced by the IFI in the last couple of years. The Taoiseach launched the first of these pilot schemes in Carlingford, County Louth, and a number of the Border counties are now benefiting from it. In County Leitrim the Kiltyclogher community council received £97,250 last [1829] year and the North Leitrim Glens Development Company in Manorhamilton received £6,000. Other counties, including Cavan, Donegal, Louth and Monaghan also benefited to some degree from the scheme and it should be expanded.

I fully agree with Senator Cotter that villages along the Border, especially in Leitrim, Cavan and Monaghan are dying through lack of economic regeneration. Despite the best efforts of politicians on all sides of the House we have been unable to persuade either the current or previous administrations to extend the urban renewal scheme to some of our larger towns.

The IFI failed to respond positively to an idea which would have had positive, beneficial effects on some of our towns and villages. I am not suggesting it for all our towns. Senator Reynolds will agree that Carrick-on-Shannon should have been included in the urban renewal scheme, although I acknowledge and recognise that substantial sums of IFI funding have gone into urban enhancement in that area. The Border towns and villages scheme is the way forward as far as the southern side of the Border — to which I refer exclusively — is concerned.

The northern beneficiaries in another area is a source of some concern. Some 70 per cent of the funds allocated to the CRISP scheme, which is for the regeneration of towns and villages in the North, goes to suitable areas north of the Border. The special projects funding is confined to the Lifford/Strabane area in the South. I welcome the recent opening of an office which has been co-funded and co-sponsored by the IFI and Lifford, Strabane and Coleraine local authorities. This was alluded to earlier — there is a role for local authorities along the Border to come together and to use their expertise to achieve more funding.

I urge closer co-operation between southern and northern local authorities but this is not as simple as it seems, particularly in the run-up to local elections in the North where no self-respecting Unionist would be seen talking to any self-respecting Nationalist until after 19 [1830] May. My impression, having been a member of Leitrim County Council since 1991, and having listened to my more experienced colleagues, is that while there seems to be a willingness on the part of the elected representatives on Fermanagh District Council to develop closer links with their southern counterparts, there is a suggestion that the permanent Government and the civil servants operating the local authority might not be as enthusiastic.

Perhaps the Tánaiste, as Joint Chairman of the Anglo-Irish Secretariat in meetings with his counterpart Mr. Mayhew, might bring up this question of closer co-operation between northern and southern local authorities. A nudge in the right direction from the Northern Secretary to the local authorities under his control, especially in the Border counties, might open up a whole new area of development and co-operation which would benefit both sides of the Border. After all we are talking about people's lives and their material well-being. This has nothing to do with ideology; in the South we sometimes stand back in amazement at how Northern politicians of a particular hue seem to inject ideology into every aspect of cross-Border co-operation. Perhaps it sounds good in an election manifesto but the reality is that even their people are suffering as a result of this lack of co-operation, perhaps their people should be told this more often.

The Border towns and villages scheme should be extended. While I welcome the injection of funding for Kiltyclogher, there are smaller villages and communities such as Rossinver and Kinlough coming up through the middle of the county into Drumkeerin, Dromahair and Drumshanbo, which are not included despite being within ten or 15 miles of the Border. The scheme should be extended because if similar towns and communities were within ten or 15 miles of the Border on the northern side they would have no difficulty in receiving IFI funding.

I am sorry that the Minister of State, Deputy Dempsey left the House because he has responsibility for the Office of Public Works. I welcome his colleague [1831] the Minister of State, Deputy Browne, to the Chamber.

Any Leitrim-based public representatives would be in dereliction of their duty if they did not welcome the £30 million which is currently being expended on the development of the Ballinamore-Ballyconnell Canal. As the Tánaiste pointed out, £6 million of the £30 million has been contributed by the International Fund for Ireland. We can bandy figures around the House but £30 million is monopoly money in any language. It is the single biggest investment in the south Leitrim-west Cavan area since the foundation of the State. The creative energy released as a result of this innovation can be seen in the small communities close to the canal. In my own area on the Leitrim side, in places such as Keshcarrigan and Leitrim town itself, there is a whole new spirit of optimism. Local community groups have come together and are spending a great deal of time and financial resources to identify tourism projects for development. Old buildings which had been derelict, or in some cases closed down, have been bought, refurbished and reopened. In the Keshcarrigan area I noticed recently that a planning application had been made for an extension to a public house which was taken over a short time ago by a couple moving into the area. All these developments are welcome and are regenerating areas which were in serious economic decline and whose population was falling.

It should be put on record that all this happened as a result of the innovation and the individual concept developed by the former Taoiseach, Mr. Haughey. He saw it not only as something that would help to regenerate that part of the country but as a flagship project that would cement the relationship between North and South. It was to the credit of the British Administration that they too saw it in a similar light. I hope at the official opening of the Ballinamore-Ballyconnell Canal which, as the Tánaiste said, will be within the next 12 to 18 months, pride of place will be given to Mr. Haughey.

[1832] Minister of State at the Department of the Environment (Mr. Browne, Wexford): Hear, hear.

Mr. Reynolds: The Minister did not say that 12 months ago.

Mr. Mooney: I was waiting for the burst of applause but, unfortunately, I did not get it.

Mr. Reynolds: I said nothing until I heard “hear, hear”.

Mr. Mooney: I hope the Minister will be told that there is serious concern in my area of Drumshanbo and the catchment area served by the Lough Allen basin in regard to the parallel development of the Lough Allen Canal. While the reopening of the canal is going ahead at full speed, and the Office of Public Works is to be thanked for its efficiency, people are concerned that the necessary ancillary facilities will not be developed. These facilities include access roads, walkways, toilet facilities, marinas and the sort of onshore facilities that boating enthusiasts take for granted on more developed areas of the Shannon. I am sure the Leas-Chathaoirleach will be familiar with these amenities as he comes from South Roscommon. People except these facilities to assist them in enjoying their holiday. There is a real concern that lack of funding may inhibit the Lough Allen Canal from being developed to its full potential.

For Members who may not be familiar with the geography of the area, I am talking about a situation where Leitrim town will act as a junction and the first point on the Leitrim side of the Ballinamore-Ballyconnell Canal before you enter into the Shannon waterway. Reaching Leitrim town the boating enthusiast has two choices, either turning left down the Shannon to Killaloe or turning right to the reopened Lough Allen Canal which leads to Lough Allen, the first lake on the Shannon, which is seven miles long and three miles wide. Communities along the Lough Allen basin are already anticipating an increase in tourist numbers through cruiser traffic. However, all the good work now in the preparatory stage will come to nought unless basic [1833] facilities are developed. I am hopeful that the International Fund for Ireland will do for the Louth Allen Canal what it did for the Ballinamore-Ballyconnell Canal, albeit on a small scale. I have discussed this matter with the Ministry of State with responsibility for the Office of Public Works, Deputy Dempsey. The Office of Public Works, which is currently receiving its funding under the INTERREG initiative for the reopening of the Lough Allen Canal, and the Government should approach the IFI for funding for the development of the Lough Allen Canal.

I compliment the operators of the IFI Fund. It must be a difficult and perhaps a thankless job in some circumstances, to figure out exactly how a limited amount of money will be spent. It is instructive that the letters of appreciation, referred to by the Tánaiste, which are included in the annual report, are almost exclusively from north of the Border. There is only one letter from the South and, coincidentally, it comes from a community group in Carrick-on-Shannon who wrote to the IFI welcoming the development of the Ballinamore-Ballyconnell Canal. All the other letters of commendation in the context of enterprise centres, job creation projects, community initiatives, small Border and small villages initiatives, come from the North.

I hope that this initiative will continue. I am delighted that President Clinton has agreed to provide an extra £20 million and I hope other donor countries will follow his lead. I also hope that local communities in Border counties will take matters into their own hands in the way some of the communities in the North and South have done. A more broadly based application of the scheme is needed in the South. I do not blame the IFI for not allocating more money to the southern Border counties. There is a responsible role to be played by community groups.

We all agree that Clones is a special case. I am sure it has community groups, yet not one penny of IFI funding has appeared for Clones in this report, maybe it received it in previous years. It is probable that there is a vacuum there which could be filled by community groups [1834] coming together.

Perhaps the IFI could be used as a catalyst for closer co-operation between community groups in the North and the South. There may be an obstacle to closer co-operation between local authorities but I do not believe there would be similar inhibitions between communities in the North and South. We are always twinning with interesting and exotic towns and cities across Europe, yet very few of the Border counties have considered twinning with their counterparts in the North. This might be a way forward and the noble aspirations of the IFI and its innovators when they talked about encouraging contact, dialogue and reconciliation between Nationalists and Unionists might be realised. Perhaps the IFI board might go beyond funding as a response to local initiatives and act as a catalyst.

Other bodies are working for North-South dialogue and co-operation but they are mainly bodies which rely on organisations like the IFI for funding. The IFI has a substantive funding base and enormous credibility, even among the most extreme Unionists in the North who looked on it with the greatest suspicion and resentment when it started but who are now, I understand, in the main using the fund for what it was intended, without any ideological baggage. Perhaps the IFI in the reorientation of the implementation of some aspects of its funding will also look at its ideological base. It could see its role in the future as bringing together the communities which it helped to get off the ground and to regenerate. It could ask the communities, North and South, which it has funded, to exchange views. People would get to know each other, which might ultimately lead to peace with justice.

Professor Lee: I cannot hope to emulate the sovereign command of local detail of previous speakers, so my remarks will be general and brief. I brought an unformed mind to bear on the question of the role of the International Fund for Ireland when I began doing homework for my speech. It acquired a somewhat unfortunate public image in its [1835] early years and I took particular pains, therefore, to inquire from the organisations in Cork and more widely with those who had contact with it, about their impressions.

In the case of Cork the two main recipients of its support belong to very different areas. The Micro-Electronics Research Centre, which is internationally renowned, is engaged in silicon wafer research with Queen's University, Belfast with a view to developing production in west Belfast. The organisation does excellent work bringing families on both sides of the community in the North to Cork on a regular basis. The people involved in those activities have a definite independence of mind although from time to time they have had strained relations with the IFI. I am glad that they are unstinting in their praise of the contribution the fund is making, not least Mr. Hanlon's personal contribution. It is nice to be able to give praise where praise is patently due. I join Senators Cotter and Mooney in welcoming the role of the fund which is obviously doing good work now.

I have one or two queries arising from the Tánaiste's contribution. He said: “The funds emphasis on cross-Border co-operation has also led Government Departments and agencies, North and South, to work closely together for the first time within formal structures for the benefit of the entire island.” My immediate reaction was that any scheme which succeeded in getting Departments, even in a single jurisdiction, to work co-operatively was making a significant contribution to the quality of our decision making. I am glad that it does so because in many respects such pioneering activities can be emulated in other areas. Tánaiste said that the experience of the IFI offers important lessons for other bodies and agencies seeking to stimulate enterprise development and co-operation throughout Ireland. Are mechanisms currently in place to enable the value of those lessons to be diffused among the other organisations and schemes which are engaged in potentially [1836] parallel work? I do not mean work with specific reference to North-South relations. The area orientation of the IFI is an important pioneering approach in the context of the work of our public agencies. The last tranche of Structural Funds was expended far too much on a sectoral basis and far too little on an area basis. I hope that will not be repeated this time but it is extremely difficult to devise and implement effective area schemes, conceptually and administratively.

If the IFI is nearly as successful as its annual report suggests — and I do not think we expect any scheme to be as successful as the company's annual report suggests — then lessons can certainly be learned by those other organisations. I hope concrete steps are being taken, not only to learn from the IFI — which has gone through its own learning process — but also to diffuse the lessons of that experience. It is similar to technology transfer in the intellectual and planning rather than in the specific technology area and is much more difficult. Technology transfer is a relatively simple operation compared with the transfer of ideas, techniques, institutions and institutional types.

I hope we are looking on the IFI as a source of ideas and as a reservoir of thinking gleaned from hard experience of area programmes to vitalise the massively deprived areas within our own jurisdiction under other fund headings. I hope that we will take those lessons on board. Listening to the Tánaiste's speech and reading the annual report impresses on one that while deprivation in areas of the North is obviously greatly exacerbated by the sectarian conflict, there are areas in the South which, without sectarian conflict, have levels of deprivation rivalling all but the worst areas in the North. We have been singularly unsuccessful in coping with that degree of deprivation and distress. I ask the Tánaiste if the appropriate authorities here are explicitly drawing on the experience of the IFI for development over a much wider range of areas.

[1837] Ms Gallagher: I endorse the views expressed by Senators Cotter and Mooney. They said much of what I had intended to say. They are familiar with how the funds are applied, because they also live in counties near the Border. Senator Mooney referred to the village of Kinlough, County Leitrim, not often mentioned in the hallowed Houses, but where I was born and raised. All the children with whom I went to school have had to leave to get jobs. That shows the real importance of the IFI in keeping Border villages like Kinlough alive.

I live in Castleblayney, County Monaghan, very near troubled areas. Hotels have been bombed in Belleek and Fermanagh. All along the Border we suffer many disadvantages and indeed people may not be fully aware of the need for such a fund which is crucial to the survival of the Border counties, not only in terms of economics and trade but in terms of the social development of the area. It gives people an opportunity to remain in the villages in which they were born.

Senator Lee discussed the application and organisation of the fund. It is most comprehensive, it applies to all spheres of life on our island. It has operated effectively, efficiently and fairly.

The objectives of the fund are twofold, it is applied in the economic and social sphere and also promotes dialogue and reconciliation between North and South.

The total funding up to 1991, the latest figures I have, is £164 million sterling. That money is desperately needed in those areas. Senator Mooney referred earlier to the disparity in the division of money between North and South. That is because the Six Counties are classified as severely disadvantaged. I agree with that classification because those areas bore the brunt of the troubles in the North. I share his hope that more money will be disbursed to community groups and projects south of the Border where it is needed.

The fund has been applied to 2,800 projects. It has plenty of scope and is applied in many fields. My introduction to the fund was in relation to a hotel in Castleblayney which applied successfully [1838] for funds. The fund disburses money to projects which will create employment. It does not just help to provide a leisure centre for a hotel. The fund stipulates that a beneficiary must employ a certain number of people and keep them for a ten year period. It caters for the needs of an area in more ways than one.

From a practical point of view, the standard of hotels along the Border has increased dramatically as a direct result of the application of funds to those projects. Areas like Castleblayney can now attract tourists and offer them all the facilities they deserve in an area which would not otherwise offer many attractions.

The Fund has also been applied to the Wider Horizons programme. That involves the National Rehabilitation Board in the Republic forging links with equivalent organisations in the North. Young people from Protestant and Catholic communities who suffer a physcial or mental handicap are brought together, perhaps for the first time, and given the opportunity to travel abroad and see matters from a common vantage point. The work in that social sphere has been largely unrecognised. The Fund is normally seen as being applied purely to business but it is of crucial importance to voluntary groups. I spoke to a group last week that had returned from a visit to Denmark. They had shared many experiences which would not otherwise have been possible.

The community regeneration and improvement special scheme has given money to the town of Keady. That village was devastated by troubles but it has now been completely revitalised and revamped. It is developing its commerce and has new shop fronts. Its community centre offers advice and other services. The village of Beleek also received money for that purpose as has Blacklion, County Cavan, in my constituency.

Like other villages Blacklion has suffered not only from the troubles in the North but from the major problem of rural degeneration. The money should be used not only to focus on the larger business towns in a Border area but to redevelop those towns and villages which [1839] are suffering as a result of the recession and the troubles in the North. The fund should positively discriminate in that area and give more money to the small villages to enable them to create employment.

The tourism accommodation scheme is very important in providing employment. It helps a labour intensive industry and introduces the required standards to attract people to what might not normally be considered tourist areas along the Border. The Urban Development Programme was referred to earlier. I will not dwell on it but it is worthwhile.

In the area of agriculture, the Fund helped to foster the mushroom industry in Fermanagh in the North and in Monaghan in the South. That has allowed small farmers to diversify their interests and to keep afloat. That is another way to keep people in their community and I welcome the application of the Fund in that regard.

The rural action project has helped farmers to develop alternative enterprises such as deer farming. These enterprises are significant because they keep the population in areas which otherwise would become ghost towns unable to support their population. I would hate that to happen. Those areas suffer enough disadvantage due to their location.

The fund has been applied in the areas of science and technology. I know of an engineering works in Clontibret, County Monaghan, that has received direct funding from the IFI. As a result the factory is in a better position to expand and purchase new machinery to maintain its competitiveness in tough industry.

The improvement of community relations is the second objective of the fund. Co-operation North has been funded directly by the IFI, as has the Wider Horizon Programme. These programmes foster the integration of both communities which is not easily achieved in the North because of apartheid in housing and segregation in schools. Such programmes break down the barriers and fears that exist between communities who are separated from each other. I [1840] welcome the fund's application in those areas.

The Ballinamore-Ballyconnell Canal is one of the highlights of the fund's achievements. I do not agree with according Charles Haughey all the credit for the project; one would think that he had gone out with a spade and dug the canal himself. However, it is a welcome development. The spin-offs from such a project — it is not simply the installation of a canal — are remarkable. One need only look at how the development of the Shannon has benefited surrounding areas to realise the potential benefit to Ballyconnell and Ballinamore, County Leitrim which will be in a position to take advantage of those benefits when the canal is opened next year. The spin-off developments will be more than welcome.

Senator Cotter echoed my point with regard to the closure of Border roads, a problem I raised previously in this House and at our party conference. It has left Clones like a ghost town and I endorse what the Senator said in that regard. The fund is available to all applicants and local community groups should be assisted when drawing up their applications. There are many well-meaning people in Clones, for example, who are aware of the problems in their area but do not know how to seek funding to help solve them. Perhaps the fund could develop an information system that will make it easier for such people to apply for funding. The fund should be made more accessible in that regard.

I welcome other areas of investment by the fund. Patrick Kavanagh's birthplace at Inniskeen, County Monaghan, for example, received £1.2 million which was used to set up a heritage centre with a restaurant, tea-shop and the usual ancillary installations for such a centre. Inniskeen is a Border village that was badly hit by the effects of the Border security operation and by rural degeneration. The heritage centre has enabled the village to attract people from all over the world who have an interest in the works of Patrick Kavanagh. I welcome that development. It is such projects which, at [1841] little cost comparatively speaking, have enabled small villages and communities to stay alive. In that regard, I welcome the work of the International Fund for Ireland and wish it every success in the future.

Mr. Reynolds: Senator Gallagher spoke about Kinlough and I know the area well although not as well as she does. However, Kiltyclogher has been promised funding in County Leitrim and I suggest that Senator Gallagher have a word in the ear of the Tánaiste because Kinlough needs the funding as much as Kiltyclogher.

Ms Gallagher: The Senator represents the area.

Mr. Reynolds: Yes, but in view of the Senators close proximity to the Tánaiste, I suggest that——

Mr. Magner: The Senator should rephrase that.

Mr. Reynolds: ——money should also be available to Kinlough. I fully support the Senator on that issue.

The International Fund for Ireland has been a worthwhile project. It has been, essentially, a fund to help the economic development of Border regions. When I was first involved in politics at a local level in 1985, my party in Leitrim County Council introduced a motion to congratulate the Government on the Anglo-Irish Agreement and, unfortunately, we were the only county in the country to vote against it. It is peculiar now to hear my Fianna Fáil colleagues from Leitrim who voted against the Anglo-Irish Agreement, suggest that the International Fund for Ireland does not spent enough money although without the Anglo-Irish Agreement, there would be no International Fund for Ireland.

What would the Border regions be like if the International Fund for Ireland did not exist? Then they were economically devastated; now they would be on their knees or dead. Senator Gallagher made the point that there is nobody of her age [1842] group living in Kinlough. It is the same story in many of the towns in the Border regions including my home town. Without the funding received from the International Fund for Ireland the towns in the region would have died from economic deprivation. It is ironic that we are now seeking more money.

The CRISP Programme which was initiated in Northern Ireland gives incentives to private and community enterprise aimed at developing small towns and villages. The small towns and villages scheme was introduced in the South in 1992 and I believe private enterprise can play a greater role in that scheme if it receives funding from the International Fund for Ireland. There is much development taking place in those regions and if they received extra funding additional employment could be created. For economic reasons a scheme similar to the successful CRISP Programme should be introduced in the South where I believe it could be successful.

The flagship of the IFI programme must be the Ballinamore-Ballyconnell Canal. I raised the issue of the canal's name in the Seanad yesterday and the Tánaiste informed me that it will be called the Shannon-Erne Link. That is unfortunate for the area of Ballinamore and Ballyconnell but I will not make a major issue of the name. Economic development in the area from Leitrim village to the Ballyconnell Canal has been tremendous.

My colleague, Senator Mooney, was lauding the former Taoiseach, Mr. Haughey, for his contribution to the development and restoration of the Ballinamore-Ballyconnell Canal and I have no doubt he made an excellent contribution. When I was a Member of the Lower House I publicly congratulated him on the initiative he had taken but, as Senator Gallagher said, one would think he brought a spade and bucket with him. His name is etched in the stone of the canal and it will be there for generations to come unless somebody tries to scrape it out, and I do not think anybody in Ballinamore would be that bad.

On a serious note, the catalyst for the [1843] development of the Ballinamore-Ballyconnell Canal was the International Fund for Ireland. It was a cross-Border project. It was a flagship for the Fund and they kept pushing until both Governments participated. We have to thank them for their initiative, without which the project would not have taken place. Senator Lee told us how the fund was established and how it overcame serious difficulties to establish developments in rural and urban areas throughout the Border regions. If we, as a Government, could learn from that it would be of major benefit to the whole country.

I thank the donors who have contributed so handsomely to the International Fund for Ireland. If it has not been established, the Border regions would be in economic chaos. I hope the International Fund for Ireland will last for a long time. We all would like to get more money and the Government would like to have more money. However, as long as the International Fund for Ireland stays in place it will do excellent work for the development of the Border regions.

Mr. Farrell: The International Fund has done a great deal of work. The Ballyconnell Canal project would never have begun without the former Taoiseach, Mr. Haughey, who promoted the development and restoration of the canal. The man who takes the initiative to begin a project, provides the work for the boys with the pick and shovel.

Mr. Reynolds: He is like everybody; once he is dead he is a hero.

Mr. Farrell: He was a hero before he retired.

Mr. Reynolds: Politically speaking I mean.

Mr. Farrell: He was a hero before he retired. Make no mistake about that.

One fault of the fund is that it is not fairly divided. The North receives 75 per cent and the South receives 25 per cent. I think it should be divided on a 50:50 [1844] basis because the troubles in the North have played greater havoc with areas South of the Border than North of the Border. North Sligo is a cul-de-sac because there is no bridge or roads to cross. One has to go to Blacklion or Belleek. That area is badly affected by the troubles in the North with the result that the environment and businesses there have deteriorated.

Kiltyclogher was mentioned earlier. When I worked in Kiltyclogher many years ago, people went back and forth to the North and most people shopped in Kiltyclogher, Kinlough and other villages. There was cross-Border movement all the time, particularly on fair days, but that is a thing of the past. The people in Sligo, particularly north Sligo, and in Leitrim are as badly hit by the Northern troubles as the people in Fermanagh, yet we only receive 25 per cent of the funding and the North receives 75 per cent. The annual report of the International Fund contains pages and pages relating to the North.

Mr. Reynolds: If the Senator had his way we would not have received any money.

Mr. Farrell: Leitrim County Council never stops playing politics. In Sligo we do not play politics, but work for the good of our county.

An Cathaoirleach: Senator Farrell is encouraging division.

Mr. Farrell: It is a pity to see councillors making a council chamber out of the Seanad Chamber.

(Interruptions.)

Mr. Reynolds: I am just giving you a history lesson.

Mr. Farrell: I am not going to get into county politics. I would like to keep this where it is.

Mr. Reynolds: Not county politics, national politics.

[1845] An Cathaoirleach: We are talking about the International Fund for Ireland.

Mr. Reynolds: Which was set up by the Anglo-Irish Agreement which Fianna Fáil opposed.

Mr. Farrell: That is not a bone of contention.

Mr. Reynolds: I am only making the point.

Mr. Farrell: This country is bedevilled by our obsession with history. It would be far better to forget about the past and think of the future.

Mr. Reynolds: Only for the Anglo-Irish Agreement the fund would not exist.

Mr. Farrell: The point is that the fund is there now; everything else is history, but the division of it is not made fairly. It is not fair that the North should get 75 per cent and the South 25 per cent. It should be 50:50 or at least 60:40.

The other problem is that local authorities have to provide 50 per cent of the funding which as we know local authorities are not in a position to do. I would like to know — and someone might be able to tell me when this debate ends — how is the local contribution funded by disrict councils in the North? They have fewer ways of raising revenue than authorities in the South. We have a full county in which to raise revenue while they are only district councils. There must be something of which I do not know because county councils here are finding it difficult to provide 50 per cent of the funding for large projects.

I said at a county council meeting recently that Sligo, Leitrim and Fermanagh should come together as a unit to work this fund more satisfactorily and effectively. There is not cross-Border initiative in our area. Fermanagh, Leitrim and Sligo is an ideal catchment area [1846] for promoting greater cross-Border co-operation, particularly in tourism. There is no reason why we could not have a circuit for tourists from Sligo through Belleek, Fermanagh, Leitrim and back to Sligo again, as well as to Donegal and back again. Tourists come as far as Belleek and go back again, there is no cross-Border tourist dimension there.

It is important that the west complete that circuit, which could be achieved under the direction of a committee comprising Fermanagh District Council, Sligo County Council and Leitrim County Council. I ask Leitrim County Council to discuss that at their council meeting. I have already discussed the issue in Sligo and we are pursuing it with a view to improving the cross-Border tourist dimension.

There is no question that much could be done, and has been done, for the environment but there are may environmental projects which are not currently receiving the funding they deserve from the International Fund. We should conduct further research into finding out how we could establish more environmental projects, because tourism must be the main plank of our business in the northwest.

Some industries are receiving money from the International Fund and some are not. Because the 25 per cent provision has to be divided among approximately the same number of firms in the South as the 75 per cent provision has to be divided among the firms in the North we cannot get from the fund as much money for small industry as we would like.

An Cathaoirleach: When is it proposed to sit again?

Mr. Mullooly: It is proposed to sit at 2.30 p.m. on Wednesday, 5 May.