Committee on Finance. - Vote 41—Transport and Power.

Friday, 12 December 1969

Dáil Eireann Debate
Vol. 243 No. 8

First Page Previous Page Page of 12 Next Page Last Page

Minister for Health (Mr. Childers) (for the Minister for Transport and Power): Information on Erskine Hamilton Childers  Zoom on Erskine Hamilton Childers  I move:

That a supplementary sum not exceeding £10 be granted to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1970, for the salaries and expenses of the Office of the Minister for Transport and Power, including certain services administered by that Office, and for payment of sundry grants-in-aid.

Deputies will recall that the Vote for Transport and Power was passed without a debate on 20th November, 1969, and that a Supplementary Estimate for tourism was passed on 5th December, 1969. The purpose of this token Supplementary Estimate is to enable the Dáil to discuss the main Estimate.

The principal increases in 1969-70 are in the provisions for grants for [1337] harbours, £148,000 (subhead E); grants-in-aid under the Tourist Traffic Acts, £850,00 (subheads F1 and F3 including the Supplementary Estimate already passed); acquisition of land, buildings, etc, at airports £71,000 (subhead G1); constructional works at airports £750,000 (subhead G2); radio equipment £84,250 (subhead I); rural electrification £121,500 (subhead N); investment grants for ships £2,024,000 (subhead S). Small increases in other subheads amount to £28,260 bringing the total increases to £4,077,010.

The decreases in 1969-70 are in the provisions for Post Office services £16,000 (subhead B2); equipment stores and maintenance £54,650 (subhead C); Córas Iompair Éireann redundancy compensation £8,000 (subhead D2); transport of staff £9,000 (subhead H); small decreases in other subheads amount to £7,590. Owing to the transfer of the management of Shannon and Cork Airports to Aer Rianta Teoranta with effect from 1st April, 1969, there are no provisions in the current year's Estimate for maintenance works at airports or for fuel, water, light and cleaning at airports. This gives decreases of £152,200 and £91,500 respectively, bringing the total decreases to £338,940. To this amount must be added the increase of £172,070 in appropriations-in-aid which is equivalent to a decrease in the net grant and brings the total decrease to £511,010.

The increase in appropriations-in-aid is due mainly to increased estimated receipts from Eurocontrol organisation, £71,000, and from the sales and catering service, Shannon Airport, £67,000.

On the basis of actual increases and decreases as stated above, namely £4,077,010 increase and £511,010 decrease, the net increase compared with the 1968-69 provision is £3,566,000.

As the House will be aware, the Department of Transport and Power has overall responsibility for air, sea, road and rail transport, for harbour development, for fuel and power and for tourist development. Many of the activities in these fields are, under statute, the responsibility of State-sponsored organisations and the role [1338] of the Minister and the Department in relation to these bodies is analogous to that of a holding company. There is also an extensive range of functions discharged directly by the Department including activities designed to ensure safety of operations in the field of transport.

Although there are a large number of bodies that can be described as State-sponsored, those operating in the sphere of transport, tourism and power are of great significance. They comprise Aer Rianta and the two air companies, the two shipping lines, B & I and Irish Shipping Ltd., CIE and its hotels subsidiary Óstlanna Iompair Éireann Teo., the ESB and Bord na Móna, Bord Fáilte Éireann and Shannon Free Airport Development Company Ltd., which is answerable to the Minister for Transport and Power in respect of its aviation and tourism activities. The various scheduled harbour authorities must be added to this list.

It will be clear that these bodies constitute an important force in our economic development. In terms of direct employment, the four major bodies—CIE, the ESB, the air companies and Bord na Móna—provide jobs for 40,000 people, or approximately two-thirds of the total employment in the State-sponsored area. Moreover, the activities of these bodies provide a stimulus in many other areas and, when account is taken of this factor and the multiplier effect of tourists' spending, the significance of the State-sponsored bodies will be clearly evident. A further measure of the importance of the transport and power sector is the fact that in the current year capital investment arising in the sector accounts for one-third of the total public capital programme.

I do not propose to take up the time of the House with a detailed review of the current activities of each of the State-sponsored bodies. The annual reports of these bodies have all been presented to the Oireachtas and Deputies have received copies of them. In addition, I have circulated to Deputies some notes which include summaries of the recent results recorded by each body. These documents between them contain a great deal of information [1339] on the affairs of the State-sponsored bodies and, in the circumstances, I consider that the most appropriate course for me in addressing the House would be to comment generally on the financial results, on important developments and trends and on future prospects One exception is in relation to the affairs of CIE. I have introduced legislative proposals to provide additional finances for CIE and this has provided Deputies with an opportunity for a comprehensive debate on the affairs of that body. Neither should it be necessary to deal with tourism in any detail in view of the recent debate on the Supplementary Estimate for Bord Fáilte.

I propose to deal first with the fuel and power sector. Deputies will have seen from their copies of the Annual Report of the Electricity Supply Board for 1968-69 that our national consumption of electricity continues to increase at a very high rate. The high rate of growth in demand, which is among the highest rates in Europe, gives us cause for considerable satisfaction as it is a good indicator of increasing economic activity and improving living standards.

Nevertheless, in the present situation when capital is expensive and relatively scarce, the sustained and continuing growth in demand raises considerable problems of finance for new generating and distribution capacity. Over the next seven years or so demand for electricity is expected to double and the Electricity Supply Board must commission as much new generating plant in this period as has been constructed since the Shannon scheme began, over 40 years ago. The electricity industry is, of course, an industry absolutely basic to national growth and it cannot be restricted in its essential capital development, high though its capital requirements may be. Over the last decade, the capital requirements of the ESB have amounted each year to about one-eighth of the total State capital budget. The board's capital expenditure is now running at about £20 million a year. Formerly the board could obtain their capital requirements from the Irish market and by the reinvestment [1340] of their depreciation reserves. This is no longer possible. Their requirements now exceed what is available from these sources and recourse must be had to foreign borrowing. Loans, generally, are not now available for the long terms—20 or 25 years— for which the board were in the habit of borrowing to allow of amortisation over the full life of the assets. The shorter term loans available, often repayable by annual instalments, will create quite a problem for the board in finding from revenue the repayment instalments as well as the normal contribution to the year's new capital finance.

Despite these additional financial burdens, the ESB have so far managed to keep electricity prices down to a level which compares very favourably with electricity tariffs abroad. The board are, of course, required by statute to balance revenue and outgoings, taking one year with another. In 1968-69 they had a deficit of £343,000 which is quite small in relation to their total turnover of £38 million. Their costs continue to rise, however, and an increase in charges has therefore been necessary. The increases, which have already been announced, will come into effect on 1st January, 1970.

Deputies will be interested to know that the average price per unit sold in 1968-69 was less than the corresponding price in the year 1958-59, despite the depreciation in the value of money in the interval. The figures are 2.06 pence per unit in 1968-69 as against 2.14 pence per unit 10 years ago. The board's revised tariffs, after the increase which comes into effect in January, will still compare favourably with most west European tariffs, especially for domestic consumers. Admittedly, there is cheaper power for big industrial users in Norway, Sweden and Switzerland, but in these countries hydropower is prominent or predominates. British, French and Dutch tariffs for big industries give about the same order of costs to the user as those of the ESB. It is a major challenge to the ESB to maintain electricity prices here at attractive levels. More densely populated and industrialised countries have much more favourable conditions [1341] for minimising distribution costs and getting the cost advantages of very large generating plant, including nuclear plants, which require a very high load factor.

During 1968-69 the board made 8,725 new connections in rural areas. Work under the rural electrification post-development scheme continues. The reductions in high special service charges—which some consumers were required to pay because of the high cost of connecting their premises— arranged by the Government in June, 1968, have proved very popular. Far more people than had been expected now find it possible to accept the board's terms for supply, according as their areas are reached under the post-development scheme.

These increased acceptances, coupled with the increased demand from existing consumers and the need to provide supply to priority cases such as new rural industries, schools, hospitals, etc. have inevitably affected the progress of the post-development scheme. Thus, while the board are working to the full limits of their capital resources and the number of rural connections remains high, the progress of the scheme, in terms of areas completed, is not as fast as was expected. This year about £2.6 million will be spent on the scheme. The amount provided for in the estimates this year to amortise the State capital already made available for rural electrification is almost £1 million. The total capital cost of the scheme to the end of March last was nearly £44 million, of which almost £14 million was provided by State subsidy.

Because many rural consumers do not give an economic return on the capital involved in giving them supply, despite the State subsidy, substantial deficits are incurred by the ESB on rural sales of electricity. In 1968-69, the revenue deficit on rural account was over £2 million. This deficit, which has to be borne by the board's nonrural consumers, is likely to increase in years to come according as additional uneconomic extensions of supply are given. Nevertheless, it remains Government policy that as many rural houses as possible be connected to the [1342] electricity supply on reasonable terms.

The total of the actual capital expenditure of the ESB plus their commitments is at present nearing the limit of the capital expenditure which the board are authorised to incur for general purposes, viz. £225 million and the Electricity (Supply) (Amendment) Bill, 1969, which I have recently introduced, proposes to increase the limit to £290 million. General purposes, in this context, means all purposes except the electrification of rural areas, which is separately provided for in legislation. The extra £65 million will enable the board, in due course, to enter into contracts for additional generating plant—probably two 200/240 megawatt oil-fired units—and the ancillary transmission and distribution equipment.

Nuclear generating plant is not yet competitive with conventional fossil fuel plant in the sizes which the ESB could use economically. It is to be expected that with the technological development of nuclear generating plant and the growth in unit size of ESB plant the board must be prepared to plan for nuclear capacity in due course. Another reason for considering nuclear capacity is our growing dependence on oil. For these reasons, the ESB are training engineers in nuclear technology so that the technical competence for the design and construction of a nuclear power station will be available when it is required.

I hope to introduce a Bill shortly which will empower me to set up a board which will advise on the implications for this country of developments generally in the nuclear field.

Bord na Móna had the benefit of above-average weather conditions in the 1968 production season and this was reflected in record production. The 1969 season was also very successful with all production targets met and those for miled peat considerably exceeded.

In 1968-69 the board had an operating surplus of £1,267,000. Interest on Exchequer advances, had it been paid, would have reduced this surplus to £14,000. However, as a result of the difficult financial position of the board in recent years, caused by a succession [1343] of poor harvesting seasons, the Turf Development Act, 1968, was enacted to give the board temporary relief from their obligations to pay interest on capital advanced from the Exchequer. Interest totalling £3,086,000 due in respect of the period of 2½ years ended on 1st April, 1969 has been waived and a further £570,000 due on 1st October, 1969 has also been waived, bringing the total amount of interest waived so far to about £3.66 million.

Repayments of Exchequer advances were also deferred under the Act. By 1st October, 1969, the total of the capital repayments outstanding was £1.46 million. The board have made a payment of £466,000 in reduction of this amount and they hope to pay the balance by 31st March next.

The financial breathing space for Bord na Móna which was provided by the 1968 Act has another year to run and, notwithstanding the improvement in the board's financial position, resulting from the interest waivers and two good production seasons, it seems likely that further waivers of interest will be necessary during the remaining year if the board's deficit is to be eliminated. At 31st March, 1969 the accumulated deficit had been reduced to £1.7 million from £4.8 million at 31st March, 1968.

On the passage of the 1968 Act, consultants were appointed to take a new and searching look at the overall operations of the board. They were to examine the affairs of Bord na Móna, both from the engineering and financial standpoints, and to assess future prospects. The consultants are nearing completion of their investigation and I expect to have their final report before the end of the current financial year.

When this report is available, we will have a better idea of the board's prospects and be in a position to decide what measures are necessary to put the board in a sound financial position for the future. In this way, Bord na Móna's substantial contribution to the national fuel requirements, both for direct consumption and for electricity generation, as well as the preservation of the jobs of over 6,000 employees, can be assured.

I may mention that the full expansion [1344] of the turf for the electricity programme will be reached with the construction of an additional 40 megawatt generating unit at Shannonbridge, County Offaly. This unit, which I hope will be commissioned by 1973-74, will be fuelled from the Garryduff group of milled peat bogs, centred in County Galway, which are being developed by Bord na Móna. It is expected that the development of the bog and the extension of the station will provide about 215 permanent and 40 seasonal jobs for men.

Moving on now to transport affairs, I shall deal firstly with developments in civil aviation. Traffic at Shannon Airport continues to increase. Total passengers in 1968 were up by 29 per cent to 719,000, an increase of 12 per cent in terminal passengers to 463,000 and an increase of almost 80 per cent in transits to 256,000. Terminal traffic continues to build up satisfactorily and it was heartening after a long downward trend to see transits increase for the second year in succession. The upward swing has continued for the first nine months of 1969 when total passenger traffic was up 30 per cent to 759,000. As to the future, air traffic is forecast to increase at about 13 per cent a year and this underlines the great potential of Shannon which is well placed to participate in and benefit from the expansion.

Shannon continues to attract training programmes of major airlines and has been chosen by BOAC for their Jumbo jet training. Aer Lingus, BEA and KLM also use Shannon for training.

Air traffic at Dublin Airport has now a strong competitor in the surface car ferries. This and other considerations caused a decline in 1967. As time goes on, however, air traffic will be able to contain this competition and resume its normal expansion. There was a recovery at Dublin in 1968, when passenger traffic increased 3 per cent to 1,572,000 and freight was up 12 per cent to 34,000 metric tons. There was a further improvement in the first nine months of 1969 with an increase of 8 per cent in passengers and 13 per cent in freight.

Cork Airport was also affected by the increased competition from the surface car ferries. Passenger traffic was [1345] down 3 per cent to 163,000 and freight also down 3 per cent to 740 metric tons. Here again, there was a recovery in the first nine months of 1969 with an increase of 5 per cent in passengers and 19 per cent in freight. Aer Rianta have now taken over the direct management of Cork Airport and are co-operating with local interests to develop traffic.

Success will depend largely on the extent of the co-operation which will be forthcoming from local interests. This is particularly so in the case of freight and tourist traffic. Tourism, by way of package tours and charter flights, is one of the most promising areas of growth. It was obvious, too, that Cork Airport should help in the industrial development of the area. Both these fields point to greater use of the airport by the local community.

Expenditure for the year on the operation of the three State Airports at Shannon, Dublin and Cork, including the cost of airport management and of the associated air traffic control, radio and meteorological services, amounted to £2,961,000, but this was more than covered by the revenue from landing fees, concession fees, catering surplus, and other sources, to give a cash surplus of £423,000. However, after depreciation and interest on capital expenditure at airports was charged, there was a net deficit of £847,000 on the three airports compared with a net deficit of £780,000 in the previous year. The overall deficit of £847,000 was made up of, Shannon £212,000, Dublin £362,000, and Cork £273,000. A feature of the Shannon operations was the continued expansion of the sales and catering service, which made a record profit of £278,000 for the 14 months to the 31st March, 1969.

With a view to increasing airport revenue and making the operation of the airports a more viable proposition, landing fees were increased with effect from 1st April, 1969, by 20 per cent at Dublin and Shannon airports. The additional revenue expected in 1969-70 from the increase is in the order of £300,000.

The growth in traffic and the advent of Boeing 747 aircraft requires substantial expenditure on the provision of [1346] additional passenger and other terminal facilities at Dublin and Shannon Airports. Work is in progress at both airports on the construction of new terminal buildings, additional apron space and other facilities. The various projects have proceeded more rapidly than was anticipated due to expeditious placing of the contracts involved, efficient management and exceptionally favourable weather. As a result, it is expected that expenditure on airport construction works during the current year will exceed the estimate. Adequate facilities will be available in time to cater for the Boeing 747 aircraft when they are introduced into service at Shannon and Dublin Airports. The new terminals at both airports have been designed to meet requirements for a considerable number of years.

A new runway system is proposed for Dublin Airport. A new east-west runway will be provided within the next few years and a parallel runway will be provided at a later stage when traffic growth requires it. The extention of the main runway and the strengthening of a subsidiary runway at Shannon are also planned.

Before leaving the airports, I would like to advise the House of the position in relation to the changes being made in the arrangements for airport management. Deputies will recall the announcement made early last year to the effect that, as a preliminary to the setting-up of an airports authority, Aer Rianta would assume responsibility for the management of Shannon and Cork Airports on the same basis as the company managed Dublin Airport as my agent. The transfer in management has, in fact, taken place since 1st April, 1969, as planned, and the new arrangement is operating satisfactorily. In the meantime, preparatory work on legislation to constitute the proposed airports authority with responsibility for the three airports is in hands.

As a result of the introduction of larger, faster and technologically more advanced aircraft, of the sharp growth of transatlantic traffic, which is expected to continue, and of intensified international competition, the air companies have been obliged, in order to maintain their competitive position, to embark on a large-scale re-equipment [1347] programme, which is estimated to cost a total of £71.5 million over the five years up to 1972-73. While it would have been possible for the companies to finance all of this very heavy expenditure from internal resources and from borrowing, to do so would have imposed on them an undue burden of debt servicing, and would have brought about a disproportion between loan capital and share capital, which would have militated against their further progress in the future. Consequently, the Government agreed to assume part of the burden of financing the re-equipment programme and, with this end in view, legislation—the Air Companies (Amendment) Bill, 1969—was enacted by the Oireachtas last summer whereby the Minister for Finance would provide the companies with a further £15 million, consisting of £10 million additional share capital and £5 million non-repayable interest-bearing advances.

The companies in 1968-69 earned a surplus of £1,752,804, as compared with £1,195,661 in the preceding year. Passengers totalled 1,361,277 as against 1,317,724, and cargo and mail 43,745 metric tons as against 34,629.

Aer Lingus passenger traffic, which accounts for over five-sixths of the total numbers carried by the two companies, showed only a small increase over the previous year. As I have already mentioned, the main reason for this was the competition from car ferries on cross-Channel and continental routes.

Aerlínte continued to operate successfully. Nevertheless, the growth rate of Aerlínte traffic in 1968-69, while higher than the average of its competitors, was the lowest recorded by the company since it commenced operations in 1958. Traffic on the route was affected by President Johnson's appeal to Americans at the beginning of 1968 to restrict travel to Europe and by the unsettled state of Europe and the Middle East, while competition from charter companies limited the airlines' share of the total. To help offset charter competition and to help fill the large capacity aircraft, the company has introduced new promotional-type fares on the North Atlantic.

[1348] Aer Lingus's operations are less profitable than those of Aerlínte. This is in line with the universal experience that short- and medium-length airline services are relatively more expensive to operate, and are more vulnerable to competition from other forms of transport. Nevertheless, it must be recognised that the role which the Aer Lingus services play in the national economy is a vital one, since apart from acting as a feeder for the more profitable transatlantic routes, they make major contributions to tourism and to Irish business.

To cater for growing freight traffic, Aer Lingus opened a new cargo terminal at London while a new cargo terminal with automated cargo equipment is nearing completion at Dublin. Another major technical development has been the detailed preparation for introducing jet engine overhaul facilities at Dublin. This work was hitherto contracted out to firms abroad. In April of this year the company introduced a computerised reservation and data processing system of an advanced type, which enables instant reservations to be made for any service in the company's network. The system will also be extensively used within the company for such matters as pay-roll, flight planning and control of stores.

The air companies' combined fleet consists of 13 viscounts, 4 BAC one-eleven jets, 3 Boeing 737 jets, 6 Boeing 320's and 2 Boeing 720's. Five more Boeing 737's are on order and, when these have been received, it is intended to phase out the viscounts and dispose of them as opportunity offers. Two Boeing 747's, or jumbo jets, are on order, and these are due to come into service on the transatlantic route in summer, 1971.

The prospects before the airline industry are of further intensified competition. The Irish air companies have not so far provided a direct return to the Exchequer on the State moneys invested in them but their record of efficiency and enterprise gives reasonable ground for belief that they will in due course provide a direct return, after the difficulties involved in financing the new generation of aircraft have been overcome. The companies are [1349] meantime planning to undertake in 1970-71 a review in depth of their capital programmes and commercial prospects and will engage specialised consultants, as necessary, to assist them in doing so. I am satisfied that the Irish carriers will meet successfully the challenge of new intensified competition and continue to show profitability in a very difficult business.

Another aspect of the air companies' activities which should be borne in mind is their indirect value to the national economy. The companies recently commissioned a firm of consultants to examine this question. The consultants reported that, while the total indirect and social benefits could not precisely be measured, they represented not less than 11 per cent, and possibly as much as 26 per cent, on the total capital investment. They also pointed out that the airlines earned 70 per cent of their revenue outside of Ireland, but incurred only 45 per cent of their expenditure abroad, thus producing a substantial favourable balance. The study also calculated that, without our national airlines, we would have expended another £1.6 million annually in payments to foreign airlines. The net contribution of the Irish air companies to our foreign earnings was of the order of £6.4 million per annum.

I now turn to shipping, an area which has seen considerable change and development in recent years. Taking the B and I Company first, this company was acquired by the State in 1965, at a time when dramatic changes in the whole concept of sea transport were taking place and shipping companies generally were faced with the problem of replacing the old conventional methods of sea transport by new and revolutionary techniques.

At that time the B and I Company were operating with equipment and methods which were inadequate to keep the company in a competitive position against rivals who were recasting their services and modernising their fleets in order to derive the full economic benefits involved in the shipping revolution. The B and I Company had to follow suit if they were to compete successfully on an economic basis. [1350] The company had been given a mandate to operate on a strictly commercial basis without any State financial assistance for their operations.

The most significant feature of the new concept of sea transport operations is, perhaps, the trend towards specialised vessels. Instead of the old multipurpose passenger cum-cargo-cum livestock vessels, the trend is towards purpose-built vessels to cater for special trades. The B and I Company as a first priority reorganised their passenger and car carrying services and introduced three new passenger-cum-car ferry vessels on the Dublin-Liverpool and Cork-Swansea routes.

The next step was to tackle the freight sector of their business with the aim of providing a comprehensive freight service on the most modern lines which would be competitive and at the same time economic for the user.

This aim is being realised in the company's freight plan which is based on the complete unitisation of all cargo and the mass movement of cargo in specialised container ships and liner trains and as roll on/roll off units by the passenger-car ferries.

The company have also had to recast their livestock services. In recent years they have sustained heavy financial losses on their livestock carrying and, indeed, a further heavy loss is predicted for this year. The rates being charged by the company are not sufficient even with greater utilisation of the service to obviate substantial losses. The company have undertaken to provide facilities for the shipment of 6,000 head of cattle a week but these facilities are being decreasingly used by shippers.

The fall off in the numbers of cattle carried has followed the decision by British Rail to concentrate their declining fleet of cattle wagons at Holyhead and to withdraw their guarantee of supply of wagons at Birkenhead. This has meant that the cattle trade through Birkenhead is now dependent on road transport for onward movement of cattle from that port. As a result the B and I service via Birkenhead is less attractive to shippers than the Dublin-Holyhead service. The B and I Company have [1351] been exploring with British Rail for some time past the possibility of rationalisation of the cross-Channel cattle shipping business. The necessary investment in ships, wagons and other facilities required by the cattle trade can, in the long term, be guaranteed only if the trade is put on a sound and rational basis from the point of view of the transport interests concerned.

The reorganisation of their operations has involved the B and I in heavy capital investment. New vessels had to be bought, portal facilities had to be re-equipped and specialised cargo handling gear had to be provided. Since the takeover, the total capital commitment of the company is about £14 million and the financing of this huge investment will impose a continuing burden on the company's revenue.

The company had a total loss after all charges of £54,231 in the year ended 31st December, 1968, as compared with a loss of £398,403 in 1967. The main causes of the adverse result were a loss of £215,000 on cattle services, a cartage strike at Liverpool and the foot and mouth epidemic in Britain. A heavy charge for long-term loan interest, £86,000, is also reflected in the result.

The company's reorganisation programme has been fully justified. The car ferry services, in particular, have been a success and very high utilisation has been achieved. Freight targets have also been exceeded and many new customers have been gained because of improved facilities and service. The company are confident that when the new assets are fully operational an acceptable level of profitability will be achieved.

While the B and I company are involved on the cross-Channel routes, Irish Shipping Ltd. operate in the deep sea trade. When this company were set up, their essential role was to provide and operate a fleet large enough to meet the country's basic strategic needs. With the delivery in the near future of two further vessels, the company's fleet will be well above the basic requirement. The policy now is to add to this fleet only if long-term profitable [1352] employment for the new vessels can be secured.

Two bulk carriers of 29,000 tons each are at present on order, one with the Verolme Cork Dockyard and the other with Cammell Laird, and will be delivered shortly. In the case of each of these ships, a long-term charter on a profitable basis has been negotiated successfully by Irish Shipping Ltd. in this highly competitive market. The Irish Elm, the largest of the company's other vessels, also operates very profitably on a long-term charter.

I should mention that the activities of Irish Shipping Ltd. abroad earn valuable foreign currency and the company can, therefore, be regarded as equivalent to an export industry. The company's foreign currency earnings are quite significant amounting to some £3 million a year.

The continental car ferry service between Rosslare and Le Havre which was opened in 1968 was so successful that it was extended for the 1969 tourist season. This service, catering as it does for freight as well as passengers, is operated by Irish Shipping Ltd. in partnership with British and French interests.

The company's net profit, after depreciation, increased from £20,000 for the year ended 31st March, 1968, to £315,000 for the year ended 31st March, 1969. The improvement was achieved in the face of falling freight rates and, it must be added, in the face of world competition. There are no protective tariff barriers in shipping. Intensive planning, greater operating efficiency, tighter cost control, elimination of uneconomic vessels and success in the search for profitable employment for ships are all reflected in this improved situation. I am confident that the company's expectations of continuing profitability in the current year will be realised.

During the year the Shipping Investment Grants Act, 1969 became law and the grants scheme was brought into operation on 20th June last. Some time ago Irish shipowners had requested that grants be made available to them for the purchase of ships, on the lines of a scheme of investment grants which [1353] has been in operation in Britain since 1966. Irish shipowners are in direct competition with British shipowners both on the cross-Channel and deep-sea trades and consequently the existence of the British scheme without a corresponding scheme in this country would have severely affected the competitiveness of the Irish shipping industry.

The rate of grant under the scheme is 25 per cent of approved capital expenditure and the grant provision for the current year is £2.464 million. While it is not a statutory requirement that the payment of grant be confined to cases where the vessel is built or the work carried out in this country, I am most anxious that the scheme should benefit the shipbuilding industry here. Accordingly, before a grant is approved in the case of a ship built abroad, I will require to be satisfied that there are good and sufficient reasons why the work cannot be done here.

The 23 harbours scheduled in the Harbours Act, 1946, come under my general supervision. The authorities for these harbours are autonomous bodies elected every five years. The various port users, the local authorities and labour interests are represented on the harbour boards, some of whose members are also nominated by me.

My functions in relation to harbour authorities are, in many ways, akin to those of the Minister for Local Government in relation to local authorities, though less far-reaching. My functions include a measure of control in matters of finance, the appointment and qualification of certain officers, the fixing of maximum rates and charges, the acquisition or disposal of property and the preparation of superannuation schemes.

Harbour authorities are responsible for the management, control and operation of their harbours. They have a statutory obligation to provide reasonable facilities at their ports for vessels, goods and passengers. They must take all proper steps for the maintenance and operation of all works, structures, bridges, equipment and facilities under their control. Evidence that harbour authorities are fully alive to their responsibilities is [1354] proved by the many improvements at present under way at various ports to enable them to cater for the needs of new traffic such as container traffic, roll-on/roll-off services and car-ferries.

State policy with regard to harbours is that they should operate as commercial undertakings and be self-supporting. The Government recognise, however, that in special circumstances some financial assistance to harbours may be justified, for instance to meet the requirements of new trade or industrial development and, in the current year, I am providing £360,000 for grants for harbour improvement works.

The Shannon Free Airport Development Company falls within the responsibility of the Minister for Transport and Power in so far as its activities relate to the promotion of tourism and the development of traffic generally at Shannon Airport.

This company has been distinguished by its imaginative approach to tourist promotion, as exemplified in its “castle” entertainments and folkpark attractions. An interesting new development in the tourism field is the rent-an-Irish-cottage scheme which has been promoted by the company. This venture is a further example of the resourceful and imaginative approach of the company, and I hope that it will serve as an example to be followed elsewhere in the country. The scheme is being operated by a separate company in which the majority of the shares are held by local authorities and other local interests. The scheme, which enjoys the support of the Shannonside Regional Tourism Organisation and the county development teams in the region, has the merit of bringing the benefits of tourism to small communities off the main tourist routes. The development of these attractions has been one of the factors leading to the growth in terminal traffic at the airport.

I have been dealing so far with matters which are in the main the responsibility of State-sponsored bodies but, as I mentioned earlier, there is also a wide range of activities which are the direct responsibility of the Department. Many of these are related to the [1355] technical and safety aspects of transport. It is a measure of the significance of these functions that out of a total Departmental staff of approximately 1,150, professional and technical personnel account for about 930.

The question of air safety is of course of particular importance. This covers the airworthiness of Irish registered aircraft and the provision of the technical services and facilities necessary for the safety of operations at our airports and in Irish airspace in accordance with the requirements of the International Civil Aviation Organisation. The aeronautical service certifies the airworthiness of aircraft and is also responsible for the approval of maintenance and operational procedures and for the licensing of flight personnel and ground engineers.

The aviation meteorological service provides weather information for operators and for air crews before and during flight. There are meteorological offices at each of the three State airports. The offices at Dublin and Shannon are equipped with weather surveillance radars which “see” weather within a radius of 100-150 miles; it is hoped to have this facility provided at Cork also in the future. Pictures from over-passing weather satellites are intercepted several times a day at Shannon and disseminated to other meteorological offices by facsimile. Ireland is participating in the international plan (known as World Weather Watch) to improve meteorological service to all users by making greater use of new observing devices such as satellites, new processing methods such as computers, more efficient transmission and increased research output.

The air traffic control service clears flight plans and maintains watch and control to ensure adequate separation and safety of aircraft in flight. The radio service provides communications with aircraft and between the various ground centres concerned and is responsible for the provision of ground-based radio navigational facilities for both en-route navigation and terminal area approach and landing purposes. A secondary surveillance radar facility [1356] provided by Eurocontrol at Shannon will come into full operational use during 1970. It will help the smooth flow of traffic under air traffic control supervision and will ease the problems of aircraft identification and segregation thus enhancing safety along air routes.

Increases in the size and speed of aircraft, the development of jet power and the growing complexity of airborne electronic and other equipment place new responsibilities on the aeronautical services. The increasing number of aircraft movements demanding the optimum use of the available airspace, the growing speed of aircraft including the introduction of supersonic aircraft in the 'seventies, the extension of jet flight to the upper altitudes and the problems created by the ascent and descent of aircraft to and from airports are reflected in the growing variety and sophistication of navigational aids and of the equipment which must be provided to enable the air traffic control service to perform its functions.

The increased speed of aircraft outmodes air traffic control systems based on natural boundaries and necessitates the introduction of means of communication involving the minimum delay and the rapid processing and presentation of information in a way which will leave the controller free to concentrate on his primary function. The Eurocontrol organisation, which comprises Ireland, the Federal Republic of Germany, Belgium, France, Great Britain, Luxembourg and Holland, is already studying the introduction of an automatic data processing system to ensure the speediest and most suitable means for the dissemination of information for air traffic control purposes. The organisation is at present responsible for air traffic in the upper airspace, that is to say, above 25,000 ft., of the seven member-States but the convention provides for the extension of the organisation's responsibility to the lower airspace. There are no plans for such an extension at present but such a development might arise later on.

The Department is keeping abreast of all these developments to ensure [1357] that Irish airports and the Irish aviation services continue to measure up to international requirements.

Under the Merchant Shipping Acts, the Department administers many regulations designed to ensure the safety of shipping operations, both passenger and cargo. The duties include supervising the standards of ship construction, certifying the load-line to ensure that a vessel is not overloaded, certifying the adequacy of life-saving, fire-fighting and radio equipment. These functions are carried out by the officers of the marine survey office who have the additional duty of investigating the causes of shipping casualties which, happily, are rare occurrences for Irish ships. These officers also conduct oral, written and practical examinations for sea-going personnel, on the basis of which my Department issues the appropriate certificates of competency which ships' officers are required by law to hold.

The Department also operate the coast-life saving service, a mainly volunteer organisation which provides a weather-watching and life-saving service based on stations located at strategic points around our coasts. The mercantile marine offices at the principal ports are also the responsibility of the Department. These offices supervise the engagement and discharge of seamen and deal with matters affecting discipline on board ship and health and accommodation of seamen.

I have mentioned earlier the operation of the new Investment Grants Scheme and the administration of the Harbours and Pilotage Acts. The Department is also responsible under the Foreshore Act, 1933, for the management and control of State-owned foreshore so as to ensure that developments do not take place which are contrary to the public interest.

I think it is worth making particular reference to the question of the pollution of the sea by oil. An existing international convention, to which Ireland is a party, is enforced in this country by the Oil Pollution of the Sea Acts. Legal proceedings under these acts have been taken by my Department and by harbour authorities as appropriate. Two further conventions [1358] have been recently drawn up under the auspices of the InterGovernmental Maritime Consultative Organisation (IMCO). Ireland has taken an active part in the preparation of these conventions, which are designed to deal with instances of major oil pollution following shipping casualties.

As well as international and legislative measures, we have also been considering the steps which should be taken to deal with the possibility of our coast-line becoming seriously polluted following a major shipping casualty. An inter-departmental working group was set up to study the experience gained as a result of the Torrey Canyon casualty and to indicate what measures would be necessary here to deal with a similar spillage. The group have completed their work and their report is now being carefully examined in my Department with a view to formulating policy.

Under the Road Transport Acts, the Department regulates the carriage of merchandise and passengers for reward and this involves the operation of a licensing system for hauliers, coach operators, etc. Deputies will be aware that the general question of liberalisation of road haulage has been under consideration. As it becomes clear that new or special measures are desirable it is my intention to take the necessary steps to give effect to them. On the basis of conclusions reached after full consideration and consultation, I informed the House a short while ago that I had decided to introduce a Bill removing cattle, sheep and pigs from the scope of the Road Transport Acts so as to allow their carriage for reward without a merchandise licence.

The Bill will also permit each holder of an “existing carrier” licence to carry all classes of merchandise throughout the State with the number of vehicles he had plated under his licence on a retrospective date, probably 1st January, 1969, to be established in the enactment. I mention this date because it has been erroneously suggested that hauliers might gain some advantage by increasing the number of lorries they have in operation between now and the enactment of the legislation. There [1359] will be no limitation on the weight of individual vehicles, which will continue to be subject to road traffic legislation. These relaxations will not apply to “non-existing carrier” licences which were granted for limited or specific purposes.

The work on the preparation of the Bill is proceeding and I hope to introduce it at an early stage.

In all these spheres, the Department has responsibility for international relations, for adherence to and implementation of international conventions and recommendations and for activities arising from membership of the various international organisations such as the International Civil Aviation Organisation, the European Civil Aviation Conference, the Intergovernmental Maritime Consulative Organisation, the European Conference of Ministers of Transport, OECD, the International Atomic Energy Agency (of which we are now becoming a member) and various other lesser known bodies dealing at international level with problems arising in the spheres of transport and energy.

I have now completed my review of the main developments in the areas covered by the Estimate including the ten State-sponsored bodies. It will be seen that there is a wide area of responsibility involved and that the various activities in transport, tourism and power have a significant impact on the pace of our economic development. As I said at the outset, I have tried to confine my comments to matters of importance rather than burden the House with details that are already available to Deputies. However, if there are aspects which Deputies feel have received inadequate coverage in my speech or if there are particular matters on which they would like to have further information, I shall do my best to deal with them when replying to the debate.

Mr. T. O'Donnell: Information on Thomas G. O'Donnell  Zoom on Thomas G. O'Donnell  I move:

That the Estimate be referred back for reconsideration.

In moving to refer back the Estimate, I am doing so to enable us to discuss [1360] this important Estimate at the length which it deserves to be discussed. My first comment is that this is the third important debate within a week on activities which are the responsibility of the Minister for Transport and Power. Last Friday we had a debate on a Supplementary Estimate for holiday accommodation. We had the Transport Bill a few days ago and now we have the annual Estimate debate. I regret the fact that Deputy B. Lenihan, the present Minister, is still indisposed. I regret also that he is absent from this annual consideration of the Estimate for his Department. I hope he will be back next week to reply to the various points made during the debate. I might also say that Deputy Childers, the Minister for Health, is having a rough time of it in having the Health Bill and then having to stand in again.

As the Minister said in his brief, the purpose of this token Estimate is to enable the Dáil to discuss the main Estimate. The Minister stated that, in relation to the affairs of CIE, the fact that a debate took place a few days ago on the new Transport Bill means it is hardly necessary to have a detailed debate on CIE now. I agree wholly with that, but I differ from the Minister when he says that it “should not be necessary to deal with tourism in any detail in view of the recent debate on the Supplementary Estimate for Bord Fáilte”. When we were discussing the recent Supplementary Estimate on tourism it merely related to holiday accommodation. I recall Deputy Frank Cluskey last Friday attempting to go into detail in regard to the tourist industry. The Minister objected, on a point of order, and pointed out that the annual Estimate would be the occasion to discuss the tourist industry. Since the purpose of this Supplementary Estimate is to enable the Dáil to discuss the main Estimate, I propose to deal at length with the tourist industry.

The tourist industry is perhaps the most important section of the Minister's work in his Department. It is an important and fast-growing industry. It provides considerable employment and makes a substantial contribution to the balance of payments. Many [1361] sections of our community are involved in it and consequently I feel it vitally important that this House should have an opportunity of discussing it. I see no reason why it cannot be discussed on the occasion of the debate on this Estimate.

Mr. Childers: Information on Erskine Hamilton Childers  Zoom on Erskine Hamilton Childers  The Deputy is right. The debate was too restricted. But we gave eight pages in the notes for Deputies from which the Deputy could gather the general trend of policy.

Mr. T. O'Donnell: Information on Thomas G. O'Donnell  Zoom on Thomas G. O'Donnell  On page 3 of his speech the Minister refers to the functions of the Minister in relation to the Department of Transport and Power and to the various State bodies under his jurisdiction. He points out that “in terms of direct employment the four major bodies—CIE, the ESB, the air companies and Bord na Móna—provide jobs for 40,000 people or approximately two-thirds of the total employment in the State-sponsored area”. This is an indication of the importance of this annual debate on the Estimate for the Department of Transport and Power. It also focuses attention on another problem which confronts Deputies during debates on the activities of State and semi-State bodies. The question of public accountability is one which is very much in the news of late. In discussing the Supplementary Estimate on tourism last week and again on the occasion of the discussion on the Transport Bill a few days ago, other Deputies and I referred to this fact. Deputy M. P. Murphy was eloquent yesterday morning on the question of public accountability in relation to CIE.

The Minister said he did not feel it necessary to comment in any great detail on the individual affairs of each company because annual reports are published which are available to Deputies and by studying these anybody should be well informed of the activities and the progress of each company. Some of the annual reports published by these companies are excellent documents. They are very informative and are models of presentation. Others are not quite so satisfactory. The fact that the annual reports of State-sponsored bodies under the aegis of the Department [1362] of Transport and Power deal largely with résumés of the activities, the day to day affairs of the bodies, creates a problem. They are progress reports only. Very rarely do annual reports of these companies contain any information in relation to current thinking and future policy. In view of the importance of these State-sponsored bodies to the national economy and in view of the large employment content and so forth, I think that, in order to enable the Dáil and the Seanad to express considered opinions of the performances of these companies and on their future policies, a new approach will have to be adopted to the publication of their annual reports with a view to the furnishing of necessary information.

In this context I wish to make one thing perfectly clear. Already I have referred to some points made yesterday by Deputy Murphy in the course of another debate. He dealt with public accountability and he seemed to be seeking the right for the Dáil and the Seanad to pry into the day-to-day affairs of State-sponsored bodies. I wish to make it clear that we in Fine Gael do not seek that right. From the practical point of view, if we had the right to pry into the day-to-day activities of State-sponsored bodies, I can imagine that the daily number of questions in the Dáil would increase several hundred fold.

Nevertheless, I believe it is right to say that the Dáil and the Seanad, as well as the Minister, have a responsibility to the taxpayers to see that in matters of policy and performance these companies are carrying out their duties and the obligations which have been placed on them. For that reason, the absence of Parliamentary Committees is a serious defect.

In reply to a recent question in the House, the Taoiseach indicated that the Government were examining the possibility of establishing such committees. Although I realise that in the course of debates on Estimates it is not in order to advocate new legislation, one can resort to the subterfuge of speaking in a negative rather than a positive way. There is great interest among the public in this matter of [1363] public accountability and I am sorry, therefore, that the Minister, at the outset of his speech when he touched on this matter, did not deal with it in greater depth, thus affording us the opportunity to consider the whole problem as specifically and as seriously as it deserves.

I sincerely hope that the bodies under the aegis of the Department of Transport and Power, between now and the date of publication of their next annual reports, will consider adopting a new approach and that in addition to the progress reports on the various activities of the companies and the useful statistical information they have been furnishing heretofore, they will contain details in regard to policy, particularly in regard to future development. Already their reports touch on these but they are not sufficiently detailed.

Speaking last week in a debate dealing with hotel accommodation and the Bord Fáilte annual report, I said it is impossible for Members of the House to give a considered opinion on the manner in which money voted towards the provision of hotel accommodation is allocated. The Minister for Health, replying for the Minister for Transport and Power, very kindly dealt in some detail with the point I had made. He said that, because a substantial amount of the grants paid to hoteliers were given to people who ran small family hotels, there were certain obvious reasons why the names should not be published. I had advocated publication of details somewhat on the lines of those published by An Foras Tionscal. The Minister for Health overlooked the fact that in my speech I had admitted there might be certain difficulties but I saw reason why a breakdown in the figures should not be given.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Denis Francis Jones  Zoom on Denis Francis Jones  The Deputy will appreciate that that is the subject which was discussed last week.

Mr. T. O'Donnell: Information on Thomas G. O'Donnell  Zoom on Thomas G. O'Donnell  I will just touch on it. The Minister said that it was not necessary for him to deal at any great length with each State-sponsored body in view of the fact that they published [1364] annual reports which were available to Deputies. The point I wish to make is that there is no reason why Bord Fáilte, in their annual report, could not give a breakdown of the annual estimate for hotel accommodation which would show the proportion of the total amount going to luxury hotels, middle-grade hotels, guesthouses and so forth.

I hope, therefore, that the day is not far distant when we shall have committees in this House, not for the purpose of prying into the day-to-day affairs of the companies or interfering with their management but to enable the House to examine the progress of the companies and to contribute to the formulation and the implementation of policy.

The most important State-sponsored body coming under this Estimate is Bord Fáilte. Looking at the Bord Fáilte annual report for the year 1968-69, the year being discussed in this Estimate—might I say that the fact that we are discussing the annual report for 1968 at the end of 1969 makes this discussion rather unrealistic —I notice that total revenue from tourism was £93 million and that State subventions to the tourist industry amounted to £4.6 million. Therefore, we have a situation in which an investment of £4.6 million produced revenue of £93 million, a very satisfactory performance.

Going through the annual report of Bord Fáilte, one cannot help being impressed by the tremendous progress made in 1968 despite certain obstacles which arose which were outside our control. Considerable progress has been made in all aspects of tourist development.

As I have already said, the total earnings were £93 million compared with £83 million in 1967, which is an increase of £10 million or 12.2 per cent. Looking at the breakdown in the figures for tourist revenue and for traffic in relation to the different areas, we find that cross-channel traffic was up by £2.9 million, that overseas traffic was up by £2 million, that traffic via the North of Ireland was up by £1.9 million and that United States traffic was up by £2.2 million.

[1365] These figures are significant in that they indicate that despite the criticism that has been levelled at Bord Fáilte, very often from this side of the House and from the other side also, they do not seem to be confining themselves to the North American market. Although it has often been said that Bord Fáilte do not pay sufficient attention to the British market, these figures indicate that there was a substantial increase in the value of tourist earnings from Great Britain in 1968 as compared with 1967.

The performance for 1968-69 was all the more remarkable when considered in the light of certain difficulties in that particular year. There were the residual effects of the proposed United States travel restrictions and there were the foot and mouth regulations in early 1968 and towards the summer of that year there were the disturbances in France, but despite all of these the board have made this progress and they are to be complimented on so doing.

It is only right that the success achieved by Bord Fáilte be recognised. I should like to pay tribute to all concerned with the board from the chairman and the managing director down to the employees in the various countries where they are promoting tourist traffic to this country. We are very fortunate in having a tourist board that has been able to attract to their staff people who are remarkable for their dedication. I have had considerable contact with the officers of Bord Fáilte not only here but in Great Britain and I have always found them to be most helpful and most courteous without exception. I have found that not only are they prepared to work from nine to five but they are prepared to work around the clock in the interests of promoting the tourist industry. The same can be said about the management and personnel of the regional tourist company and the officers of the tourist division of the Shannon Free Airport Development Company. All of these people are doing a very good job.

Getting away from detail to the consideration of general policy in relation to the tourist industry, perhaps the [1366] most significant development during the 1968-69 season was the decision of Bord Fáilte to examine the possibilities of developing year-round tourism. This, undoubtedly, is the most important development in recent times for the future of the tourist industry of this country. I am sure the Minister will agree with that. Hitherto tourist traffic has been mainly confined to the summer season and this has created certain difficulties. It was for that reason that Bord Fáilte decided to aim at promoting off-season traffic. If we can succeed in attracting tourist traffic to this country from the October to April period, the tourist industry will be playing a still more vital part in the future development of the country.

The advantages of this development are obvious. It would lead to greater security of employment and it would enable more people to be permanently employed all the year round in the industry. I sincerely hope that the board will succeed in their efforts in this direction. I am very conscious of the difficulties but I have taken the trouble to examine the possibilities and the prospects of extending the tourist season. It is very easy for one to speak here and to make statements to the effect that Bord Fáilte are not concentrating on certain countries, but exaggerated phraseology of this nature will not assist the industry. It is vitally important when expressing a viewpoint about the development of the industry that one should endeavour to deal with facts and not with fiction.

As far as I am personally concerned, I have considerable practical experience in the tourist industry. During the past five years, I have made four different study tours of Great Britain, three of them at my own expense when I was accompanied by one of the tourist officers of the Shannon Free Airport Development Company and, last February, when I had the honour of leading a six-man mission from Shannonside on a tour of the British Midlands when we were endeavouring to promote angling tourism in the Limerick-Clare region.

It is only when one goes out into the field, as it were, that one realises the difficulties which must be faced and [1367] it is only then that one realises more fully the tremendous job that Bord Fáilte officials are doing abroad. I believe from my experience, particularly in Britain, from discussions I had with travel agents from other countries and from reports I have studied that the best prospect for extending the tourist season lies in special interest holidays. Of those special interest holidays I would put fishing as number one. I have a particular interest in this and I have a certain amount of experience in developing angling centres in the Limerick and Clare region and also in trying to promote traffic into that region from Great Britain.

The potential of this market is very often not fully realised at all. In Great Britain, for example, there are two million registered members of angling associations and in 1968 32,000 of those came to this country on a fishing holiday. I am emphasising those figures, not for the purpose of alleging Bord Fáilte could bring more of those people in here, but to indicate the vast potential there is in one particular type of tourist industry. Of course there is no point in going out telling tourists to come to this country until we have the facilities they are looking for. This is paricularly true in the field of angling tourism. However, we are extremely fortunate in this country that we have facilities, particularly for coarse angling, which have almost unlimited possibilities for development.

I am particularly pleased to note the progress that is being made in the development of further angling centres. One of the tremendous advantages of the development of this particular type of tourist traffic is that those angling centres are situated in what might be termed the poorer and more remote areas of the country. I have seen the tremendous transformation which has taken place in places in the west, north-west, midlands and south of the country where angling centres have been developed. There is a great potential for the development of this tourist traffic because it can take place all the year round. It is an ideal off-season activity.

[1368] While I am on this point, in case I might be misunderstood and that anybody might think that Bord Fáilte were falling down on the job, it is well to note that until quite recently the promotion of angling tourism in Great Britain was in the hands of one individual, one officer of the board. Recently there has been an increase in the number of field staff promoting angling in Britain. The officer, who is the angling development officer of Bord Fáilte in Great Britain, has done a colossal job because in 1968 32,000 British anglers came in here to fish— mainly as a result of the tremendous work which has been done by that one officer of Bord Fáilte. I do not think there is any harm in naming him. He is Mr. Ben Barker. Bord Fáilte should consider the possibility of increasing the number of field officers in Great Britain, particularly the number of angling promotion officers because, as I have said, this particular line is one which should be receiving top priority.

We have the facilities here and the market in Great Britain. However, apart from Great Britain a start has also been made on the German market. In Germany it is estimated there are 500,000 registered anglers, that is people who are members of angling clubs, and half of those people are interested in coarse fishing. The German market has not been tackled as aggressively as it should be tackled. There is one interesting point to note in relation to the German market, and that is, whereas in Britain coarse angling in mainly confined to the lower-income and working-class groups, in Germany a substantial proportion of the 500,000 registered anglers come from the higher-income groups. Bord Fáilte should try to promote angling traffic from Germany.

In France also there is quite a good market. I am familiar with this because for the past two years we have had a very interesting development in the Limerick region. The Pernod company, which might be called the Guinness of France or the Power or Jameson of France, operate angling competitions for publicans in France. Every year the winners of the competitions in the various regions are brought [1369] on a fishing holiday to an outside country. In 1968 they came to Ireland for the first time and fished in the Limerick region. Their visit was so successful that they came back again this year and they have indicated to us their intention to return for the next four or five years. I mention this fact to indicate that not merely in Great Britain but in Germany, France and perhaps other Continnental countries there is tremendous scope for a more vigorous campaign to attract anglers to this country.

In my recent trips to Great Britain I was glad to note that there is a growing interest in Ireland as a golfing centre. Considerable success has been attained in bringing in week-end groups, particularly into Mullingar and Carlow, where local golf clubs and hoteliers make special arrangements to cater for those groups.

There are one or two other lines which can be developed during the winter season. During the off-season hunting and shooting can contribute in a very large way to the promotion of tourism. There are tremendous possibilities in special interest holidays such as this, and I hope Bord Fáilte will continue and even improve the progress they are making. The only reason more progress has not been made is because Bord Fáilte have neither adequate funds nor adequate manpower particularly in Great Britain and in continental countries where the market exists.

There is another type of tourist traffic which has come to be known as the ethnic tourist market and it is one with which I am very familiar in relation to Great Britain. I refer simply to the Irish men, women and children—both Irish-born and first and second generation—living in Great Britain and in the United States. I was very pleased to note that in 1968 Bord Fáilte began to pay special attention to this ethnic tourist market in Great Britain and, as proof of their interest, they appointed the former manager of the Manchester tourist office, Mr. Denis O'Connell, as ethnic tourist officer in Great Britain and since his appointment two years ago he [1370] has done a tremendous job of work. He has accompanied me on visits to a number of Irish societies in Manchester, Birmingham and London.

It is extraordinary to note that in Great Britain it is estimated there are 4,000,000 people of Irish origin and of these 1,000,000 are Irish-born. In the year 1968 only 350,000 people of Irish origin came from Britain to Ireland on holiday, which represents only 35 per cent of Irish-born people living there and something like 8 per cent of the total number of people of Irish origin. The 350,000 people who came in 1968 spent £9 million here. In recent years I have paid very frequent visits to Britain and, apart from studying tourism and being involved in promoting tourism to my own region, I have taken a keen interest in the problem of emigrant welfare. I found in discussions with officers of Irish organisations that a considerable number of people were unable to come home every year on holiday. I was intrigued by this situation but I never realised that the figures were so bad until I happened to get the figures I have just quoted; these have not been published by Bord Fáilte but I have obtained them through other channels. Here is a tremendous market and surely in our tourism policy there should be a special place for Irish-born people particularly those living in Great Britain and in the United States.

Apart from the potential market it is a very sad thing to find such a high proportion of Irish-born people unable to come home on holiday. They are unable to come because of the fact that many of them cannot afford the fares and the cost of spending a holiday at home is prohibitive to them. I speak now from practical experience. With the assistance of Mr. Denis O'Connell, the ethnic tourist officer in Britain, and following a study of this market I endeavoured to do something about it. For almost two years I have had discussions with Irish organisations, with Bord Fáilte officials and with various carriers, including Aer Lingus, and I attempted to get a charter series operating from Birmingham into Shannon. I had a twofold aim; first to operate a charter [1371] series and to have an inclusive package deal which we could sell to anglers in the British midlands who would come to the Limerick/Clare region, but I was also anxious that Irish people in Britain would be able to avail of these package tours.

I received tremendous support and co-operation from Bord Fáilte both in Britain and Dublin in my efforts to get this project off the ground, and I also had the co-operation and help of the ethnic tourist officer in Britain, of the Shannon Development Company, of Aer Lingus and Shannonside. We had top level conferences and the result was significant. I have a letter dated 6th November, 1969, from Mr. John McSweeney, acting sales manager of Bord Fáilte, who did trojan work in assisting me to get this project under way. In this letter he informs me that IATA regulations governing the operation of charter flights such as the one I had envisaged—and this information had been thoroughly checked both with the airlines and the major charter operators—would necessitate that it should be sold as a holiday, it should include accommodation, and the fare charged should not be less than the normal scheduled air fare applicable to the public.

The ethnic traveller would not normally be interested in holiday accommodation and here is the key to the whole problem. The net result was that the package tour which we drew up would be most attractive to the British angler or the British visitor coming for any other type of holiday. It included the fare, accommodation, surface transport on this side and so on. However, the vast majority of Irish workers in Birmingham, Coventry or the catchment area we envisaged would be coming home to stay with relatives in their own homes. Because of the IATA regulations they would have to pay for hotel accommodation which was included in the package deal. In other words, no allowance was made to the Irish-born person for the fact that he would be spending his holidays at home with relatives and not in an hotel and, as is pointed out in this Bord Fáilte report, the cost of the [1372] charter, allowing even for a load factor as high as 70 per cent, would still make the fare per passenger greater than the existing ITX fare in order that the agent would break even.

A few weeks ago I was at an Irish association function in London, a local association from my home parish of Bruff. I discussed this whole question not merely with the officers of that organisation but with other people too. The Minister can do something because the Spanish Government have done it. The Minister should see that Bord Fáilte do something or it may be a matter to be solved at Ministerial level but I believe some effort should be made to devise a formula which will make it possible for far greater numbers of our men and women, boys and girls, who are working in Britain to come home on their annual holiday. I see no reason why these IATA regulations cannot be changed. Recently I asked the Minister for Transport and Power a question in relation to the IATA regulations. I asked him what function he had and I was told that the Minister did have a function, in the sense that he had the right of approval. I see no reason why Irish people in Britain could not be facilitated. This one-third of the Irish-born people who came home in 1968 spent £9 million. If two-thirds of them came home our income from ethnic tourism would be £18 million.

I have strong views about this and I make no apology for having gone into detail about it. I have spent many days investigating it both in the field in Britain and in discussions here at home. The money spent by our people who come home on holidays is as good as the money spent by any other type of tourist. We should surely make some effort in this direction. We have a national airline, a national shipping company, a national transport organisation. We have a national tourist board. It should be possible to devise some scheme which would make it possible for our people to come home more frequently. I do not believe in propounding on the tourist industry without having had practical experience of it. I know there are problems here and one of the main problems is that the vast majority of Irish-born [1373] people in Britain get their holidays at the peak of the tourist season, in July and August. One way by which we could promote off-season tourist traffic would be to devise a special operation for special occasions in the off season—perhaps immediately after Christmas, when the rush is over, or at St. Patrick's Day or at Easter. A couple of years ago a very successful effort was undertaken by various organisations in Britain. They chartered a ship which came to be known as the “Homeland Special”. A train was chartered to take people to Holyhead and a boat chartered to take them across. People were able to come home for about £4. Many people who came on that trip had not been home to Ireland for ten or 15 years. I cannot do any more than appeal to the Minister about this. Bord Fáilte cannot do any more about it and the Irish organisations cannot do anything about it, but the Minister and the Government can and should do something about it.

In relation to ethnic tourist traffic, which is one of the key points in Bord Fáilte's programme for developing off-season tourist traffic, I have dealt with Britain. I have no practical experience of the United States except from having had discussions with Irish-born people living there who have come home on holidays. I have many friends —former classmates and contemporaries at school and college—who are priests in the United States. There are 350,000 Irish-born people in the United States and two million first and second generation Irish. We all know how first and second generation Irish people, and further removed, indentify themselves with St. Patrick's Day. St. Patrick's Day falls in the off-peak tourist season. It should be possible to devise an imaginative scheme aimed at attracting people to come here at the St. Patrick's Day period and at Easter, which has very strong historical connotations for us. I envisage the possibility of a vast expansion of business in the period from St. Patrick's Day to Easter, particularly from the ethnic tourist market in the United States. Talking about the marketing of tourism is not much use unless we have the proper facilities here at home.

[1374]An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin  Zoom on Cormac Breslin  Would the Deputy not agree that we had a comprehensive discussion on the question of tourism on the Supplementary Estimate and it would not be in order to have a repetition on this Estimate?

Mr. T. O'Donnell: Information on Thomas G. O'Donnell  Zoom on Thomas G. O'Donnell  With all due respect, a Cheann Comhairle, when I was starting today I referred to the fact that in the Minister's speech he said: “The purpose of this token Supplementary Estimate is to enable the Dáil to discuss the main Estimate.” I disagreed entirely with the statement made by the Minister on page 4 in which he says that because we had a small Supplementary Estimate, making provision for the payment of grants to hotels, he did not think it necessary to deal with tourism in detail. The Supplementary Estimate last Friday did not enable us to go into any detail. When Deputy Cluskey attempted to do so, the Minister objected and pointed out that it was only a Supplementary Estimate for the specific purpose of providing grants for holiday accommodation and that it would be more appropriate to discuss it on the main Estimate. As I have already pointed out, the tourist industry is one of the most important industries in this State. Undoubtedly, it is the most important activity under the aegis of the Minister's Department. While I may have dealt over-long with it, I think I am entitled to do so.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin  Zoom on Cormac Breslin  The Chair feels the Deputy is not entitled to go into detail. I am not ruling out reference to it but, as the Minister pointed out in his brief this morning, in view of the fact that we had a Supplementary Estimate, which was fairly comprehensively debated, it would not be in order to deal with it under this Estimate.

Mr. P. Belton: Information on Patrick Belton  Zoom on Patrick Belton  Deputy Cluskey was stopped from discussing this in the Supplementary Estimate last week. He was told to refer to it on the main Estimate.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin  Zoom on Cormac Breslin  As far as I remember, Deputies were allowed to discuss tourism on the Supplementary Estimate.

[1375]Mr. T. O'Donnell: Information on Thomas G. O'Donnell  Zoom on Thomas G. O'Donnell  I have always had the greatest respect for the Chair, but I feel very badly about this. As I pointed out last Friday, it is two years since we had a full-scale debate on the Estimate for the Department of Transport and Power, which covers eight or nine State companies. The Minister rightly pointed out that four of these companies provided direct employment for 40,000 people, which is approximately two-thirds of the employment in State-sponsored organisations. I do not want to be cantankerous about this but I feel very strongly about it. On previous Estimate debates for the Department of Transport and Power Deputies have gone into detail about the tourist industry and the activities of the various companies involved. The companies under the aegis of the Department of Transport and Power can be divided into commercial and non-commercial firms. It is virtually impossible under the present set-up for Deputies to make any detailed pronouncements about these commercial undertakings. Surely, it should be possible for Deputies to speak on this particular aspect of the Minister's Department?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin  Zoom on Cormac Breslin  The points put forward by the Deputy were discussed in the Supplementary Estimate last Friday. The Deputy now wishes to open up all the discussion again and it is not in order for him to do so.

Mr. T. O'Donnell: Information on Thomas G. O'Donnell  Zoom on Thomas G. O'Donnell  With all due respect, a Cheann Comhairle, the matters I was dealing with were not discussed last week. Deputy Cluskey was called to order when he attempted to go into detail about the tourist industry. It was pointed out that the annual Estimate debate was a more appropriate time to do so.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin  Zoom on Cormac Breslin  I remember that Deputies were allowed to discuss this on the Supplementary Estimate.

Mr. P. Belton: Information on Patrick Belton  Zoom on Patrick Belton  Deputy Cluskey was told that he could discuss it on the main Estimate.

Mr. T. O'Donnell: Information on Thomas G. O'Donnell  Zoom on Thomas G. O'Donnell  On page 1, paragraph 2, of the Minister's speech it states that the purpose of this token [1376] Supplementary Estimate is to enable the Dáil to discuss the main Estimate. I would ask the Chair if that reference permits me to do so?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin  Zoom on Cormac Breslin  The Chair is only concerned with repetition, which is out of order. I feel if we discuss the tourist industry per se we shall be discussing what was discussed on the Supplementary Estimate.

Mr. T. O'Donnell: Information on Thomas G. O'Donnell  Zoom on Thomas G. O'Donnell  If I undertake not to deal with anything discussed last Friday will the Chair permit me to proceed?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin  Zoom on Cormac Breslin  The Chair will allow the Deputy to proceed with his speech and if he is not in order he will be told.

Mr. T. O'Donnell: Information on Thomas G. O'Donnell  Zoom on Thomas G. O'Donnell  I have always tried to abide by the Rules of Procedure of this House.

I refer now to the regional tourism organisations which were definitely not discussed last week. Some years ago it was decided to regionalise tourist development and regional tourism companies were established. I recall very clearly the first occasion on which we discussed the question of these tourist bodies. Certain Deputies expressed reservations about the wisdom of establishing these companies at that time. I think it can be said without fear of contradiction that the regional tourism organisations have certainly proved their worth and justified their existence in the time they have been established. I can only speak from practical experience of my contact with one of those organisations, but I have taken the trouble to read the reports of all the different regional tourism companies. I am most impressed with the tremendous strides which have been made in this concept of regionalisation as applied to the tourist industry and as is now being applied to industrial development. One of the tremendous advantages of regionalisation has been that it has involved local communities and local organisations in the tourist industry.

I believe in community involvement in the development of amenities, facilities and accommodation in tourist centres. Local knowledge, initiative and [1377] enterprise are absolutely vital prerequisites of the regional tourism organisations. In adapting resources and giving practical effect to tourist development these organisations have made tremendous strides. From my experience of our Shannonside organisation, which covers Limerick, Clare and North Tipperary, and from a study of the reports of the various regional organisations, I am quite satisfied that these are doing a good job. They have justified their existence.

I am not, however, satisfied with the present system of financing these organisations; it is not anything like adequate. The regional tourism companies draw their revenue from three main sources: (a) the contribution by local authorities; (b) the annual subvention from Bord Fáilte and (c) the investment by local individuals and local firms. The progress of the investments programme has been quite good but I believe, and I have good reason for saying this, that the efforts of some of these regional tourism companies are hampered by lack of funds. While every effort should be made to encourage community participation in tourist development and community investment as well as individual and commercial investment in these companies, these companies will have to be assisted much more generously by State subvention. The annual grants being paid by Bord Fáilte to regional tourism development will have to be increased substantially.

On this subject, I should be remiss if I did not pay special tribute to the management and staffs for their excellent work in the various regional organisations. The establishment of information offices throughout the country, a responsibility of the regional tourism organisation, has been a tremendous asset to visitors. There has been a vast increase in the number of mobile tourists and these offices can now supply these tourists with information as to accommodation and so on.

I want in particular to pay tribute to the manager and staff of the Shannonside regional tourism organisation for the work they have done in developing the amenities and facilities [1378] in their particular area. I have been in close contact with everybody in Shannonside, from the manager right down to the most junior member of the staff. I am glad to see Deputy O'Kennedy in the House; I know he has a very close personal interest in Shannonside, particularly in that part of it which embraces North Tipperary. He will, I am sure, endorse everything I have said about the staff and work in Shannonside. I want to see the regional tourism organisation progressing and I appeal to the Minister to ensure that these organisations will be given the funds necessary to carry out the essential work of developing the facilities and amenities of the various regions.

I was horrified to read last Friday evening in one of the evening papers a report of a meeting of Kilkee is in the Communissioners. Kilkee is in the Shannonside region. The letter was from Bord Fáilte and it informed the commissioners that development work which had been approved for Kilkee could not proceed because Bord Fáilte did not have the funds to pay the grant. I have not since seen that letter contradicted and I trust that, when the Minister comes to reply, he will give us some explanation as to why this essential development work in an important tourist resort is being held up and why Bord Fáilte have not got adequate funds to pay the grants. How many other projects and development works have been held up because of lack of funds on the part of Bord Fáilte?

I have said that the regional tourism organisations are doing a good job. They could do a far better job were they given the necessary finances to carry out essential works. Last week there was a Supplementary Estimate to pay a backlog in accommodation grants. Now we find that development in areas like Kilkee is held up because Bord Fáilte have no funds. According to the 1968 returns from Bord Fáilte a State subvention of £4.6 million produced a tourist revenue of £93 million. There is a strong case for much more generous State subventions to this most important industry. The 1957 [1379] Bord Fáilte report dealt with the question of the effect of tourism on the economy and at page 14 of the report it is stated:

A substantial State investment in the industry is easily justified. As a result of the multiplier effect of tourist spending it has been estimated that when its effects are spread throughout the economy this £10 million of tourist revenue is likely to create £18 million in additional wage and salary income, £5 million in additional tax revenue and £3 million in saving.

It is scandalous that when we have annual Budgets running into several hundred million pounds we still have an industry such as tourism the development of which is being hampered by lack of funds and adequate State subventions. Development work is being held up and so is the provision of accommodation because the State is not providing the necessary money. In all sincerity, I appeal to the Minister for Transport and Power to consider this whole matter and re-assess the question of tourism and its place in the national economy.

I am amazed when I study the balance sheet of Bord Fáilte and see the relatively small amounts of money under the various headings there, particularly in the income and expenditure account, and see at the same time the tremendous return, both economically and otherwise, being given this country by the tourist industry. While the tourist industry, within the context of the Minister's speech this morning, or within the context of the Department of Transport and Power, may seem relatively small—Bord Fáilte is only one of eight or nine State-sponsored bodies looked after by the Minister— the Minister should take a far more active interest in tourism. In future the Minister must play a far more positive role in the development of this vitally important industry. Several countries in Europe and elsewhere have special Ministers for tourism. Here, where tourism is fast becoming the most important industry in the State, it is only one of eight or nine State bodies [1380] for which the Minister assumes nothing more than a mere co-ordinating function.

Since I became a Deputy I have gone to Great Britain on tourist promotion trips and even though I was only a humble backbencher I felt that my presence in the various areas visited was, as a member of Parliament, helpful to the people I accompanied, the Shannonside Organisation in February and prior to that, the tourist officer of Shannon Free Airport Development Company. Tourism must be lifted out of the doldrums of these annual reports and the mumbo-jumbo of an annual Estimate debate, lumped in with many other State bodies in a speech by the Minister for Transport and Power covering 33 or 34 pages.

I do not agree with Ministers gallivanting ad lib but the Minister in charge of tourism could do valuable promotion work abroad. It would be no harm if the Minister, Deputy Lenihan, were to make a few trips abroad provided, of course, that he did not give interviews of the type he gave the Daily Telegraph in London 18 months or two years ago. Tourism must be put into proper perspective and must get proper financial assistance from the State. The Minister and the Government will have to see it in this light and the Minister must play a more positive role. One of the great things about tourism is that not only the Minister and the Government but every Deputy and public representative has a part to play. Through regional tourism organisations, by encouraging investment by local people in these organisations, and by going on promotional trips abroad one can help to swell the number of people coming to this country.

I am sure the Chair will be glad to hear that I am now coming to the end of my remarks on tourism. When I look to my right and see my former professor, Deputy Dr. O'Donovan, I am reminded of the good training I received from him at UCD many years ago.

Mr. Geoghegan: Information on John Geoghegan  Zoom on John Geoghegan  Signs on it, he came in to listen to the Deputy today.

Mr. T. O'Donnell: Information on Thomas G. O'Donnell  Zoom on Thomas G. O'Donnell  I spent three years having to listen to him.

[1381]Mr. P.J. Burke: Information on Patrick J. Burke  Zoom on Patrick J. Burke  He is very pleased with the Deputy.

Mr. T. O'Donnell: Information on Thomas G. O'Donnell  Zoom on Thomas G. O'Donnell  I am getting my own back now and he has to sit and listen to me. My final remark on tourism is that there is vast scope for expansion of this industry provided the Government have a realistic tourist policy. I could do not better in concluding my remarks on tourism than by quoting from a speech by Mr. Brendan O'Regan, chairman of Bord Fáilte, at the official opening by the Taoiseach of the 21st General Assembly of the International Union of Official Travel Agents at the Intercontinental Hotel, Dublin, on October 28th last. Prior to that, Mr. O'Regan made the same point at Ennis during the Muintir na Tire rural week and it is well to note it. Having pointed out that our top priority in developing tourism must be to bring in more visitors and provide the extra accommodation necessary, he said we must not lose sight of the fact that with the increasing number of visitors that we expect now, particularly with better, bigger and faster transport, we must be careful that this vast influx will not have an upsetting effect on the basic characteristics of this country.

Mr. O'Regan pointed out that as a result of new trends in tourism and the growing volume of tourist traffic it was very desirable that national tourist organisations should give careful thought to the effect of tourism on tourist destinations. Ideally, it should have no effect other than to improve the economy and to widen the scope of the cultural horizons of the areas involved but he pointed out that the essential character of a country or region should not be significantly altered merely because of the fact that it attracts an increasing flow of visitors. Those concerned with this problem, he said, realise how delicate a task it is to improve facilities and standards without altering the very characteristics which one wishes to retain.

In the concluding part of his speech, with which I fully agree, he said we must seek to preserve traditional patterns of life which will create interest and respect, rather than abandon these [1382] inherent characteristics in favour of a meaningless uniformity. I could not conclude my remarks on tourism in any better way and I commend to the Minister the various points I have outlined as points that should be borne in mind in the formulation of future tourism policy.

The next State-sponsored body on which I want to comment is another non-commercial organisation and it is one with which I am, perhaps, most familiar. It is the Shannon Free Airport Development Company. The Minister refers to SFADCO, as it has now come to be known. Since the occasion of the last debate on the Estimate for this Department certain changes have taken place and certain re-assignments of functions have been made. Whereas hitherto the entire activities of SFADCO were under the aegis of the Minister for Transport and Power, now the Minister for Industry and Commerce is responsible for industrial operations at Shannon, particularly on the industrial estate. It is a logical step, and one which I have advocated for a long time, that all aspects of industrial development should be under the one Department. While its responsibilities have been narrowed somewhat, one of SFADCO's main functions will now be in the field of tourism development, with primary responsibility, of course, for promoting traffic into Shannon Airport.

I have spoken on every debate on the Estimate for this Department since I first entered this House eight years ago. At Question Time and otherwise I have availed of every opportunity to promote the welfare of Shannon. At Question Time some weeks ago, when I had some questions down in relation to airports, the Minister for Transport and Power, Deputy B. Lenihan, retorted, in reply to a supplementary question of mine, with the query: “Are you for or against Shannon?” I was horrified. In my eight years in this House, I have done everything possible to ventilate problems which have arisen in Shannon and to promote its welfare. I have given practical assistance on many occasions to SFADCO in various spheres of activity. I accompanied the tourist officer of SFADCO [1383] on three trips to Britain—and paid for them out of my own pocket. I have assisted the industrial section in a number of ways. I have the closest contact with affairs in Shannon. I trust the Minister for Transport and Power will have a speedy recovery: I send him my good wishes. I hope, however, we shall have no more of that type of guttersnipe politics. The Minister responsible for a very large proportion of our public sector, for our tourist industry and for various aspects of our national life, must recognise that there are Members of this House, of all parties, who are anxious to make their contribution to our national development and who have interests other than that of coming in here to sling mud across the floor of this House. If that retort to me is an indication of Deputy Brian Lenihan's interest in that part of our national affairs for which he and his Department have responsibility then the sooner he is removed from office the better. I stand for Shannon Airport——

Mr. Geoghegan: Information on John Geoghegan  Zoom on John Geoghegan  I am glad to hear it from the Deputy. It is not what his one-time Leader said. I am glad to see the change-about.

Mr. Taylor: Information on Francis Taylor  Zoom on Francis Taylor  They are still there.

Mr. T. O'Donnell: Information on Thomas G. O'Donnell  Zoom on Thomas G. O'Donnell  I belong to the group of younger Members of this House. I am looking to the future. I could point to the hydro-electric power station at Ardnacrusha which is not very far from Shannon. I could spend hours in the Library looking up what prominent Fianna Fáil spokesmen said about that. It was supposed to be a white elephant. I have never seen an elephant at Ardnacrusha and I hope I shall never see a rabbit in Shannon.

Mr. Geoghegan: Information on John Geoghegan  Zoom on John Geoghegan  The Deputy sitting behind you said there are rabbits there now.

Dr. O'Donovan: Information on John O'Donovan  Zoom on John O'Donovan  I have seen large numbers of hares in Dublin Airport.

Mr. Desmond: Information on Barry Desmond  Zoom on Barry Desmond  I have seen rabbits in Shannon.

Mr. T. O'Donnell: Information on Thomas G. O'Donnell  Zoom on Thomas G. O'Donnell  I want to see the Shannon region advance and prosper. [1384] I shall continue to assist and to promote in every possible way the Shannon region whether it be the airport, the industrial estate or any other part of that region. Deputy Geoghegan has reminded me about statements. Statements may have been made: people may have been quoted out of context. I shall not waste the time of the House in trying to score these types of petty points. I just want to make my position quite clear because the Minister for Transport and Power challenged me about Shannon some time ago. I, and the party to which I belong, Fine Gael, desire to see Shannon continue to advance and prosper.

Mr. Geoghegan: Information on John Geoghegan  Zoom on John Geoghegan  Naturally, it is bound to prosper under a Fianna Fáil Government. I am glad the Deputy admits that good government did it.

Mr. T. O'Donnell: Information on Thomas G. O'Donnell  Zoom on Thomas G. O'Donnell  The distinguished leader of my party, Deputy Cosgrave, has seen fit to appoint me as party spokesman in this House on Transport and Power. This can be taken as an indication of our interest in Shannon. Certainly there will be no further grounds for the type of propaganda we have been getting in the Shannon region from Fianna Fáil in the past in relation to Fine Gael's intentions about Shannon.

Mr. Geoghegan: Information on John Geoghegan  Zoom on John Geoghegan  Is it the Fine Gael intention to close it down?

Mr. T. O'Donnell: Information on Thomas G. O'Donnell  Zoom on Thomas G. O'Donnell  There are quite a few people from Galway employed down there too.

Mr. Geoghegan: Information on John Geoghegan  Zoom on John Geoghegan  Good honest workers.

Mr. T. O'Donnell: Information on Thomas G. O'Donnell  Zoom on Thomas G. O'Donnell  It is no laughing matter.

Mr. Geoghegan: Information on John Geoghegan  Zoom on John Geoghegan  Fine Gael want to close it down. The success of Shannon is the result of good Fianna Fáil government.

Mr. Taylor: Information on Francis Taylor  Zoom on Francis Taylor  And good Irish taxpayers.

Mr. T. O'Donnell: Information on Thomas G. O'Donnell  Zoom on Thomas G. O'Donnell  I am glad to see Deputy Taylor in the House. He represents Clare and I hope that he will speak in this debate later on and have [1385] far more to say about this. I recall speaking here in 1962. It was the first occasion on which I spoke on the Estimate for the Department of Transport and Power about Shannon Airport. I expressed the view that the future of Shannon Airport depended to a large extent on the development of the region. I said that I felt at that time the Shannon Development Company should pay more attention to the development of the tourist attractions of that region and this was the best means by which extra traffic could be generated into Shannon.

During the past five or six years the Shannon Free Airport Development Company have done a tremendous amount of pioneering work in tourist development. As the Minister pointed out, the castle tours and the folk park at Bunratty are proving to be outstanding tourist attractions. The mediaeval banquet at Bunratty has now become a top tourist attraction and, of course, the other castles as well. I understand that plans are in hand for the development of further castles. I certainly look forward to the development of King John's Castle at Limerick city. The idea of castle tours was an original one which has proved to be a tremendous success and great credit is due to the Shannon Development Company for the dynamic manner in which they have developed not merely this type of tourist attraction but also the manner in which they have promoted it abroad.

I have one practical suggestion to make to the Minister in relation to the promotion of this region. I said that the mediaeval banquet at Bunratty and the entertainment provided there and at the various castles have proved very attractive to tourists. Of course, I cannot talk about Shannon and the castle tours without paying tribute to the castle singers and entertainers. My practical suggestion is that the castle singers and harpists and the various other entertainers should be sent abroad more frequently on promotional missions. In recent years they have gone on rather limited tours of the United States and the castle singers were in Britain recently. During the off-season these entertainers could be utilised to a far greater degree in helping [1386] to generate extra tourist traffic coming into this country.

I have been informed, but I did not have an opportunity of checking whether the information is correct or not—perhaps when the Minister is replying he will be able to advise me— that the subvention to the Shannon Development Company for promotional purposes has been cut or else that they require more money and are not getting it. It is amazing how this question of finance enters into all aspects of tourist development. I have already pointed out while the Minister was out of the House that the work of hotel development, amenity development, resort development and other types of development is being held up because of a shortage of money. I am told that the Shannon Development Company could make efficient use of a greater subvention for promotional purposes. I am very pleased with the progress that is being made and I sincerely hope that the Shannon Free Airport Development Company will continue to generate more traffic into the airport and that it will continue to play an important part in the development of tourism in the region.

The logical follow-up to the question of the Shannon Development Company is the question of the airports. The Minister said that the intention now is to establish a new airport authority and, in fact, that it has been set up. The Minister said that he would like to advise the House of the position in relation to the changes being made in the arrangements for airport management. Aer Rianta have assumed responsibility for the management of the Shannon and Cork airports on the same basis as they manage Dublin Airport. I understood from a recent announcement by some spokesman for Aer Rianta that it was the intention to establish a new airport authority and that they were seeking a new and more suitable name.

I presume that with the development of aviation the setting up of a special airport authority is a logical development not merely in relation to the development of the management of the three major airports at Dublin, Cork and Shannon but also in relation to the development of smaller airports [1387] in various provincial centres such as the recent one at Farranfore, adjacent to Killarney, and at Castlebar. It is quite probable that other small airports will develop in the years immediately ahead. The decision to set up a special airport authority is a good decision.

The returns from the traffic at the airports at Dublin and Shannon are very satisfactory. There has been some publicity of late in relation to the future of Cork Airport. Some people have gone so far as to express doubts about the future viability of Cork Airport. My colleague, Deputy Peter Barry, raised this matter at Question Time and I understand from replies given to him, and from other information which I got, that special attention will be paid by Bord Fáilte and the airlines and the regional tourism companies to ensuring that progress will be made and that traffic will expand at Cork Airport.

I have been at Cork Airport on a number of occasions. A major factor in ensuring the viability of Cork Airport will be the development of the tremendous natural tourist potential of the hinterland of the airport, particularly west Cork. The generation of traffic in the Shannon area is nowadays to a large extent dependent on tourists. I have no doubt that with a realistic programme of development, with proper promotion and marketing and an intensive effort by all concerned, both at national and local level, Cork Airport can be made a viable proposition.

Despite the criticism of and the publicity given to the financial returns from Cork Airport, the traffic into Cork Airport since its establishment has exceeded the forecasts at the time the airport was opened. In that situation there is no need for undue fears about the future of the airport.

Tremendous development work will be necessary to prepare both Shannon and Dublin Airports for the larger aircraft. From recent questions I have asked the Minister. I understand Shannon will be ready for the Jumbo aircraft when it is introduced on the [1388] transatlantic route. Aerlínte as well as other airlines will be going over to this larger aircraft, the advent of which will create serious problems for the airports not merely in this country but in every other country in western Europe. From seeing the colossal developments that have taken place recently at Manchester and London Airports in preparation for the larger jets. I realise the tremendous job that faces us here in gearing our airports to the standards necessary. The big problem will be the handling of passenger traffic, customs clearance and so on. It is difficult for us who are accustomed to the small type of aircraft discharging 100 or so passengers to envisage the tremendous difficulties in relation to aircraft discharging 400 passengers. I have inquired into the progress and the preparatory work of development at Shannon and Dublin Airports, and I am pleased that all will be ready when the 747s come into use.

On this question of airports, I raised a matter at Question Time some weeks ago, but because the problem was rather involved it was difficult to do so satisfactorily at Question Time. It was the serious problem that existed at Shannon Airport for quite a while past and which was the subject of a special memorandum presented to the Minister for Transport and Power on 14th August, 1969, concerning car rental concessions at Shannon.

The position regarding the car rental desk at Shannon could not be worse. Something like 14 car rental companies have been working at a counter 20 feet long, and the congestion there, particularly at peak periods in the early morning, had to be seen to be believed. When I raised this question here I did suggest to the Minister that, since tremendous expenditure was now being incurred in improving our airports at Dublin and Shannon, this was the time to provide the necessary facilities for the car-hire firms.

I am glad that, as a result of the representations that have been made to the Minister for Transport and Power, discussions have been taking place between the car rental companies and Aer Rianta. I understand there [1389] are still a number of difficulties to be ironed out, and I would urge on the Minister the importance of seeing to it that when development work at Shannon is completed there will be adequate and suitable facilities available for car-hire firms who operate from Shannon.

As an indication of the impossible situation which existed there, this memorandum submitted to the Minister on 14th August pointed out that in addition to the fact that 14 firms had to work at a 20 foot long counter, outside communication for the 14 companies was by means of two coin-operated boxes at either end of the car rental counter. Although steps have been taken now to improve the situation, I will be reminding the Minister of this and will continue to press him to ensure that these and other necessary facilities will be borne in mind by the people who are planning the development of the airports.

It is extraordinary that up to the time this memorandum was submitted no consultation had taken place between the Shannon development planners and the car-hire operators. If congestion has existed and if facilities for these people have been inadequate up to now, what will it be like in the future when aircraft come in carrying 350 to 400 people? Consultation should have taken place and if it is not too late it should take place in the future. Discussions have taken place of late between Aer Rianta and the car-hire people at Shannon.

On pages 15 and 16 of the Minister's speech he refers to the air companies. Last July, a special Bill was introduced by the Minister and passed by this House making provision for the financing of Irish airline companies in the future. From the returns here for 1968-69, which is the period under discussion in this Estimate, we find the companies earned a surplus of £1,752,804 as compared with £1,195,661 in the preceding year. This was a substantial improvement. The corresponding figures for passengers and for cargo carried show corresponding increases. The Minister stated that “Aer Lingus passenger traffic, which accounts for over five-sixths of the total numbers [1390] carried by the two companies, showed only a small increase over the previous year”. The reason for this is that Aer Lingus have to meet competition from car ferries on cross-Channel and continental routes. There are certain features in the operation of Aer Lingus which make it difficult for the company to be competitive. Many of the routes are shorthaul routes which are difficult to operate on a competitive basis. The fact that the air companies earned a surplus of £1,75 million in 1968 is an indication of the fact that Aer Lingus, in particular, is accepting the challenge of competition from the car ferries. The traffic on the route operated by Aerlínte on the North Atlantic was affected by President Johnson's appeal to Americans at the beginning of 1968 to restrict travel to Europe.

On page 17 the Minister refers to the new promotional-type fares introduced on the North Atlantic route to help offset charter competition. I have raised this matter in the House on a number of occasions. It is a bone of contention among tour operators, travel agents and hoteliers. These fares affect charter flights into this country, particularly from the United States. I asked the Minister for Transport and Power recently whether or not application for the operation of charter flights into this country was turned down by his Department in 1969 and the Minister informed me that 15 such applications had been turned down. I had many complaints from car-hire firms and hoteliers about this matter. Two American tour operators had also complained. One of these applications was in connection with a tour from Chicago to this country and the promoter's application to operate a charter flight into this country was turned down on the grounds that the scheduled air services were sufficient to handle the number of passengers whom he was proposing to bring in by charter. Car-hire firms and hoteliers complained that they had lost a substantial amount of business because these operators were refused permission to operate charter flights. One car-hire firm claimed they had lost £5,000 in 1969. These people entered into a contract with a tour operator to provide a fleet [1391] of cars for the people proposing to come in on charter flights. When the Minister is replying to the debate, he might give us some information on this point. Perhaps, he would tell us of the applications for permission to operate charter flights into this country from the United States. He might give us the percentage of people who had booked to travel on these charter flights and who subsequently travelled by scheduled air services.

Mr. P. O'Donnell: Information on Patrick O'Donnell  Zoom on Patrick O'Donnell  None.

Mr. T. O'Donnell: Information on Thomas G. O'Donnell  Zoom on Thomas G. O'Donnell  I do not know the numbers of such people. I can only say what people whose businesses have been affected have told me.

There is a fare war on the Atlantic route and there have been drastic reductions in the recently announced promotional-type fares. A situation has been reached in which it is possible to travel by scheduled services to the United States for a fare almost as low as that available hitherto on the charter flights. This is a good development. Many of the charter flights were operated in complete contravention of IATA regulations. Charter operators have sometimes found that the aircraft they were proposing to use were not complying with IATA regulations. Flights had to be cancelled. The regulations relating to charter aircraft groups are very stringent. The fact that fares on schedules to the US have now been slashed drastically will help to overcome this difficulty.

I understand the attitude of the Minister in refusing permission to these operators when our own national airlines have scheduled services coming from Chicago and various other parts of the US, but the difficulty is one of achieving a balance between loss of tourist business and increasing the business of the national airlines. There has been that conflict and I sincerely hope that the new greatly reduced fares will bring an end to it— to this problem that has confronted tour operators.

I have looked at the annual report of Aer Lingus and I have also studied an excellent paper read by Mr. Michael Dargan and published in Administration[1392] in the summer issue this year under the heading “Aer Lingus: A Prognosis”. I was greatly impressed, as anybody reading it must be, at the outlook, the attitude and the confidence of the management and staff of the company. Mr. Dargan pointed out, something which is very often not realised in this country, that Aer Lingus have never got a subsidy from the State. Will the Minister bear me out—will he say whether I am correct or not?

Mr. Childers: Information on Erskine Hamilton Childers  Zoom on Erskine Hamilton Childers  They have been relieved only of paying interest on loans.

Mr. T. O'Donnell: Information on Thomas G. O'Donnell  Zoom on Thomas G. O'Donnell  But they have never been State subsidised in the way we have to give £600,000 to CIE this year to balance their deficit?

Mr. Childers: Information on Erskine Hamilton Childers  Zoom on Erskine Hamilton Childers  The last figure I remember is that they should have paid £600,000 or £700,000 in interest on State capital, and instead of that they were allowed to re-invest it. The practice meant that if they had not been allowed to re-invest the development of the company would have been much slower.

Mr. T. O'Donnell: Information on Thomas G. O'Donnell  Zoom on Thomas G. O'Donnell  The Minister will agree this is a point it is no harm to have clarified.

Mr. Childers: Information on Erskine Hamilton Childers  Zoom on Erskine Hamilton Childers  It is in the script but it is not specific there. We have answered questions in the Dáil about it.

Mr. T. O'Donnell: Information on Thomas G. O'Donnell  Zoom on Thomas G. O'Donnell  I have read so many reports and volumes in relation to the various activities of our airlines that I am slightly confused. I was particularly impressed by Mr. Dargan's paper. The Minister for Health, then Minister for Transport and Power, presided at the conference at which Mr. Dargan read his paper.

Mr. Childers: Information on Erskine Hamilton Childers  Zoom on Erskine Hamilton Childers  I disagreed absolutely and totally with the views then expressed by Deputy Dillon, but when he demanded that there should be a better explanation of the operating surplus he was right in the sense that the public do not seem to understand what was meant by it. In the last four years, we have been making it [1393] absolutely clear. It does not mean that they have discharged all possible commitments of repaying interest and capital to the State.

Dr. O'Donovan: Information on John O'Donovan  Zoom on John O'Donovan  Is it not true that they have been calling it operating profit in recent years?

Mr. Childers: Information on Erskine Hamilton Childers  Zoom on Erskine Hamilton Childers  This is a conventional phrase used by all airlines throughout the world.

Mr. P. Belton: Information on Patrick Belton  Zoom on Patrick Belton  Trying to fool all the government all the time.

Dr. O'Donovan: Information on John O'Donovan  Zoom on John O'Donovan  I think it is an improper use of the word.

Mr. Childers: Information on Erskine Hamilton Childers  Zoom on Erskine Hamilton Childers  Other companies have a similar phrase meaning the same thing.

Dr. O'Donovan: Information on John O'Donovan  Zoom on John O'Donovan  I am talking about the meaning of the word. The phrase “operating surplus” has been changed to “operating profit”, which is completely wrong.

Mr. T. O'Donnell: Information on Thomas G. O'Donnell  Zoom on Thomas G. O'Donnell  Do I take it that Deputy O'Donovan is saying that it is improper for Aer Lingus——

Dr. O'Donovan: Information on John O'Donovan  Zoom on John O'Donovan  I am talking about the use of words. They use the words “operating surplus”. If you compare that with the ESB, a body who make a surplus, they simply refer to it as “a balance”, a much more correct way of doing the job.

[1394]Mr. T. O'Donnell: Information on Thomas G. O'Donnell  Zoom on Thomas G. O'Donnell  I was referring to our national airlines. I am glad I made the point which gave rise to this discussion because there are many aspects of the work of our State-sponsored bodies so diverse and complicated that it is vitally important the public should be as well informed as possible on their affairs. The point made by Deputy O'Donovan emphasises that argument. Frequently, one hears of Aer Lingus being subsidised, costing the taxpayers a fortune and all that. My attitude on the airlines, CIE and some of the other State bodies is that I am not too keen on a purely narrow, commercial analysis of their activities because I am all the time conscious of the social benefits that can accrue, particularly in the case of CIE and, to some extent, of Aer Lingus. Therefore, I am looking forward with great interest to the publication of the cost benefit analysis that has been undertaken by Mr. Martin O'Donoghue.

Mr. Childers: Information on Erskine Hamilton Childers  Zoom on Erskine Hamilton Childers  It has been very good for the morale of Aer Lingus that for the many years of their existence instead of paying a dividend they have re-invested. Otherwise they would have expanded more slowly. If the Deputy goes back through their accounts he will see that.

Progress reported; Committee to sit again.

The Dáil adjourned at 2 p.m. until 3 p.m. on Tuesday, 16th December, 1969.


Last Updated: 15/09/2010 07:33:32 First Page Previous Page Page of 12 Next Page Last Page