Shannon Free Airport Development Company Limited (Amendment) Bill, 1983: Second Stage.

Wednesday, 18 May 1983

Dáil Eireann Debate
Vol. 342 No. 8

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Minister of State at the Department of Industry and Energy (Mr. E. Collins): Information on Edward Collins  Zoom on Edward Collins  I move: “That the Bill be now read a Second Time”.

[1503] The purpose of the Bill is to provide for the further financing of the Shannon Free Airport Development Company Ltd. by increasing the limits in existing legislation and also to give statutory authority for SFADCo's small industries promotional activities in west and south-west Offaly. Specifically, the Bill provides for:—

(i) an increase from £80 million to £120 million in the aggregate of the amounts which the Minister for Finance may subscribe in taking up shares in the company;

(ii) an increase from £40 million to £60 million in the aggregate amount of grants which may be made to the company;

(iii) an increase from £22 million to £25 million in the aggregate amount of advances which may be made by the Minister for Finance to the company; and

(iv) statutory authority for SFADCo's role in the promotion of small indigenous industry in west and south-west Offaly by the amendment of sections 2 (1) and 4 (1) of the 1970 SFADCo Act.

Share capital is used by the company for capital expenditure on the industrial estate at Shannon, in other locations throughout the mid-west region and west and south-west Offaly. The main headings of expenditure are land acquisition, factory construction and main infrastructure works in Shannon town. A small proportion of share capital is also expended on aviation-related tourism projects of a capital nature.

Grant-in-aid moneys are used to meet the company's running expenses and to provide financial aid to industries on the Shannon Industrial Estate. Part of the company's running expenses relates to the development of traffic through the airport. Expenditure for this purpose is met by a special Grant-in-Aid for which the Minister for Trade, Commerce and Tourism is accountable but which comes [1504] within the overall limit being amended by this Bill.

Repayable advances are used to finance expenditure on the provision of houses and related services for Shannon town. The main headings of expenditure are land acquisition, construction of houses, community buildings and the provision of house loans under the company's tenant purchase scheme. Repayable advances together with interest charged are repaid at six monthly intervals to the Exchequer by way of annuity. Expenditure by the company under the heading of share capital, Grant-in-Aid and Repayable Advances to 30 April 1983 are as follows: Share Capital, £77.3 million; Grant-in-Aid, £38.5 million; Repayable Advances, £19.1 million. The existing limits for share capital and grants will be reached during this month. It is, therefore, necessary that these statutory limits be now increased to enable the company to continue its operations. The limit of repayable advances will be reached during 1984. On the basis of estimates of expenditure available, the proposed new limits will be sufficient until 1987.

When SFADCo's financial limits were last amended in 1980 their responsibility for the promotion of small indigenous industry in the mid-west was extended into west and south-west Offaly. The extension of SFADCo's mandate into Offaly was effected by way of an administrative arrangement whereby SFADCo operated as consultants to the IDA in the area. This arrangement has to date worked very satisfactorily. However, I consider that, consistent with the procedure of accountability to the Oireachtas and given the temporary nature of the Offaly assignment, the amendment of SFADCo's financial limits should be availed of to put SFADCo's role in Offaly on a proper statutory footing. The work already begun by SFADCo, particularly in the development of client and local community relations, requires a number of years before it can produce lasting and worthwhile results. Therefore I would envisage SFADCo continuing to have statutory responsibility for small industry in this area in the foreseeable future.

[1505] In the case of the mid-west region, SFADCo act under statutory delegated authority from the IDA. Delegated authority will now also apply in respect of west and south-west Offaly. I regard the intensive promotion of small indigenous industry, a task given to the company in 1978, together with the development of air traffic and the industrial estate at Shannon, as SFADCo's primary challenges. SFADCo's role in small industry is not solely concerned with the mid-west region and west and south-west Offaly; they have the far broader and more vital national task of:

developing and testing concepts and systems which will lead to dramatic growth of small indigenous industry in these areas and to do so in a manner which will pioneer future national programmes.

This national role must not be lost sight of. This intensive experimental role requires resources and expertise over and above that needed in solely direct promotional work. It also entails the devising, testing and assessment of new approaches and programmes for the intensive development of Irish indigenous industry in such way as will influence the content and directions of national policy in this sector and lead to the application throughout the country of the approaches and programmes found to be successful. For example, two such programmes which are proving to be particularly successful in this regard are the innovation centre and the microelectronics application centre. The innovation centre, which is a division of SFADCo and is located on the Plassey Technological Park, is currently assisting over 80 projects in places as far apart as Donegal, Waterford, Dublin and in the mid-west region. This availability nationwide of the services of the innovation centre is made possible because SFADCo, rather than duplicating innovation centres all over the country, use the existing network of agencies and institutions which are available locally. The National Microelectronics Application Centre, which was established in 1980 by SFADCo in consultation with [1506] industrial firms in the mid-west region as an independent commercially oriented private company, is also assisting firms throughout the country in the very important work of redesigning existing processes and developing new ones related to the technology of the eighties and micro-chip.

In addition to the experimental and pioneering-type activities, initiatives undertaken todate include the provision of a range of advisory services for small industry in the areas of finance, marketing, industrial relations, production and materials management as well as the provision of training courses specially designed and developed for those establishing, managing and working in small firms.

When first given its small industry role in 1978, the total number of small firms operating in the mid-west was 300; the company had increased this number to 650 at December 1982. The number of persons employed in small industry increased from 3,480 to 4,800 and the company expect that by the end of 1987, 7,000 people will be in full-time employment in small firms in the region.

The actual number of sustainable jobs created is the true test of SFADCo's endeavours. Therefore it is satisfactory to report that nearly 2,000 new jobs have actually been created and sustained.

On the Shannon Industrial Estate total employment at 31 December 1982 was at 4,300, which was slightly down, 6 per cent, on the 1981 level. While the lack of growth in employment on the industrial estate in 1982 is a matter of concern it is worth noting that this was the only year since 1975 in which a nett growth of jobs has not been achieved. SFADCo are confident that a return to job growth will be achieved in the current year and are reallocating their resources to meet this challenge head on. Despite the lack of growth SFADCo in 1982 approved facilities for expansions in 16 existing industries at Shannon which will generate 430 new jobs at full production. 1982 was also the first year in which the 10 per cent rate of tax for new service companies locating on the estate was promoted and, while [1507] competition from abroad to attract these international service industry projects is intense, SFADCo are confident that the marketing efforts in the US and Europe, which were intensively carried in 1982, will result in the programme making a significant contribution to the industrial estate job numbers in 1983.

Value of exports from the estate continued to rise in 1982 with an 8 per cent increase to £165 million and the nett favourable trade balance increased by 3 per cent to over £93 million.

Shannon Development plan in the current year to assist in the establishment of projects for both manufacturing and service industries which will generate 1,500 new jobs. In addition, to ensure that every opportunity is taken to increase job creation from existing firms and, where possible, to avoid job losses the company are in very close contact with all firms on the industrial estate.

A study to chart the future of the industrial estate over the next 20 years is being undertaken by the company. The findings of this study will determine the kind of industry that Shannon will endeavour to attract over this period and the promotional strategies that the company will need to use. Factors to be examined in the course of this study include technological developments, the micro and macro environment, demographic trends and educational developments all of which will have a bearing on the future development of the industrial estate.

An integral part of the whole SFADCo operation is, of course, Shannon town itself. The population of the town continues to grow steadily and at present over 8,500 people are living in Shannon.

In March 1982, the first elections for town commissioners were held. Shannon town is the first town for over 30 years to have been granted such status. Major developments are taking place in the town centre area which represents an investment of nearly £2 million — new offices and showrooms for the Electricity Supply Board, a new public library, a new post office and a new telephone exchange. Shannon town continues to have one of the highest home ownership [1508] rates in the country with almost 58 per cent of the housing stock now in private ownership.

Air traffic through Shannon airport showed a substantial growth in 1982 over 1981 with an overall increase of 11 per cent and a throughput of over 1 million passengers. This significant growth was due principally to an increase of 25 per cent in transit passengers. Terminal traffic on the North Atlantic route, which accounts for half of all terminal traffic — 590,000 passengers in 1982 — increased by 10 per cent last year. Despite the lack of employment growth, the firms on the industrial estate, in particular, together with industrial concerns within the hinterland of the airport, contributed to a 10 per cent growth in terminal air freight in 1982. The 1982 total level of 20,000 tonnes of air freight, most of it industrial, represents an increase of 10 per cent over 1981, and a cumulative increase of 80 per cent over the ten years to 1982. The company are continuing their work on the development and implementation of new tourism projects which will assist in generating traffic through the airport and consolidate Shannon as the country's North Atlantic gateway.

The company's indirect involvement through small industry and tourism projects in urban renewal activities in Limerick city has done much to stimulate private sector redevelopment of the decaying areas of the city. The company, in co-operation with Limerick Corporation and other private interests, are to be congratulated on what has been achieved to-date with over 90,000 square feet developed and a further 20,000 square feet currently being developed by the private sector.

I commend this Bill to the House.

Mr. Reynolds: Information on Albert Reynolds  Zoom on Albert Reynolds  I should like to welcome this Bill. We are all delighted to welcome the success story of SFADCo, a development company that dates back to the late fifties. They are one of the few of which we can say that they have fulfilled their primary role. The success achieved down through the years is a shining [1509] example for other semi-State agencies. It is the sort of success story that we in this House welcome.

This is an enabling Bill to increase the limits in existing legislation and to give statutory authority for SFADCo's small industries promotional activities in west and south-west Offaly. The Bill, according to the Minister's speech, provides for:

(i) an increase from £80 million to £120 million in the aggregate of the amounts which the Minister for Finance may subscribe in taking up shares in the company;

(ii) an increase from £40 million to £60 million in the aggregate amount of grants which may be made to the company;

(iii) an increase from £22 million to £25 million in the aggregate amount of advances which may be made by the Minister for Finance to the company; and

(iv) statutory authority for SFADCo's role in the promotion of small indigenous industry in west and south-west Offaly by the amendment of sections 2 (1) and 4 (1) of the 1970 SFADCo Act.

Deputy Des O'Malley when he was Minister, extended the role of SFADCo into part of Offaly. Some would say he included half of Offaly but Deputies from Offaly will no doubt be able to tell us more about that than I could. This is the first opportunity the House has had to give statutory backing to that extension of the SFADCo role. Deputy O'Malley said that he would come back to the House at the earliest opportunity to do this. It is being done in this Bill.

For a long time SFADCo have fulfilled their statutory role in developing Shannon Airport and making it a worthwhile airport. They have put their full weight behind the development of Shannon. Even in difficult times in recent years when all international aviation has suffered, the generation of business at Shannon is a tribute to all concerned. Something over 600,000 passengers go through Shannon Airport each year. Not alone [1510] does that benefit the Limerick and mid-west regions but, as statistics show, the benefits fan out all along the west coast. It has, indeed, a good contribution to make to the economic wellbeing of the entire west coast. It is interesting to look back and see what has been achieved in the development of Shannon Airport itself in its primary role and in the development of small native industries. The philosophy underlying the strategy, the attainment of excellence and quality, deliveries on time and getting the job done, is certainly a philosophy that could be adopted by many other companies both small and large. Indeed, if I may say so, it is a philosophy that could be adopted with advantage by this House.

We are a small country dependent for our bread and butter and our day-to-day living on exports. We are all aware of the fierce competition that exists in world markets. It is fundamental wisdom to look at those markets to find out what ones are available to us. In order to succeed in those markets the job must be well done, the goods must be quality goods properly presented and delivered on time. That is where the strength of Irish exporters lies in the fiercely competitive markets of the outside world. That is a philosophy that has been constantly promoted by the chairman of SFADCo. He is, of course, a very successful businessman and I should like to take this opportunity — it is seldom we get the opportunity — of congratulating the chairman and his staff on the excellent job they have done and are doing.

Last year was a very difficult year. Yet, despite the difficult times, the track record was a good one by and large. I endorse everything that has been done in industrial development there and particularly in the development of Shannon Airport, and I urge them to keep up the good work. As well as having a primary role to play in developing small native industries they also have a secondary role. It is an important one. I refer to the development and testing of concepts and systems which will lead to a dramatic growth of small indigenous industries. Here is an organisation which adopts new concepts and pilot schemes and tests [1511] them out to see if projects are worth-while. All this is done with very small overheads. If the test is satisfactory they let some other agency such as the IDA take the project on board. This centre serves not alone the mid-west and the Limerick region but industry right throughout the country. The micro electronic centre is an example of such a pilot scheme. Here is a centre which provides a magnificent back-up service to the expanding electronic industry. It shows clearly what can be done in a pilot scheme by an organisation like SFADCo. When these centres were established it was made abundantly clear that we did not want another bureaucratic organisation. The staff have been kept to a minimum and that minimum staff have done the job they were set up to do. There are no huge overheads, no bureaucracy, and there is an important lesson to be learned from that type of approach.

I think, as I said, the secondary role is a most important one. It will be a very important role in the future. The concept of advance factories was born in the SFADCo organisation and later expanded throughout the country. It was adopted by the IDA. This is the type of forward thinking one needs in an organisation like SFADCo. We are all agreed as to the beneficial results. The advance factory idea has been in operation for quite a number of years now and we are at a stage of national development when it is time to take stock and ask ourselves what will replace the small advance factory concept. There has been difficulty in attracting industrialists to rural areas and it is here the concept of the advance factory has played an important role. That concept has served us well. If an industrialist can be shown a small factory unit in a remote region then industry will be attracted to that region.

The time has come now to examine the whole situation. We must look forward to the nineties and to the end of the century to discover what the new concepts should be. We must ask ourselves what we should be doing now. Some ideas have been tested in the United States and these are worth looking at. [1512] Instead of the advance factory concept for the future we shall probably be looking at a more sophisticated type of building. In the environment of the future we will have our very highly skilled welleducated graduates coming out of our schools of technology and our universities, young men and women with creative minds, in whose education we have invested heavily. It will be their job to examine future trends in electronics, computers and telecommunications. That is the area in which there will be growth. The ground work has been laid in electronics, computers and telecommunications. We have made a heavy investment in the infrastructure over the last four or five years. I welcome the change in the curriculum of universities and their adoption of a more extrovert approach to the requirements of industry. As a result of this we will be able to take full advantage of this role in industry in the years to come. These are the new concepts.

More recently in the US, in Denver, I looked at an operation being carried out by Data Corporation. They had taken over an office block and placed computers at the disposal of any student, or anybody with ideas who wanted to sit in to work out projects. Those computers are linked to all the data banks throughout the world and people with ideas about developing projects or programmes have available to them at the push of a button all the information that is necessary to put new projects together. Out of it about 18,000 small enterprises and new business ventures emanated.

That is the type of development we need here, or something along those lines. We have all heard of the Thousand Apples Programme. Computers are made available to young people who want to develop ideas. They can get all the information that is available throughout the world. It is a good marketing strategy by a large computer firm. There are reservations about that type of development in the United States. People feel they are tied to one particular company, but an examination should be carried out to see what the benefits would be for this small country so that we could capitalise [1513] on our strength and ensure that in the future we will invest more in people than in bricks and mortar in which there is heavy capital investment.

In Ireland an area that has not been well developed is the software part of the computer industry. We have the ideal population mix to engage in that type of development. The training that is necessary for all that is there. When you are developing the software side of the computer industry you are investing in people. One clear example of that is the project that was secured for the Blanchardstown estate. The initial year's investment in that project was in the development of a product, research in that product and the training of marketing skills — all investment in people. That is the type of new development we need. We need the total business concept: we do not want to be just an assembly line for particular products for which the research and the marketing have been done elsewhere.

It is a new approach and I know SFADCo would be in line with that approach. There are vast opportunities in the software area. The banking and insurance institutions here are moving into the computer era. There has been a complete new development in the banking service. Those financial institutions could make a great contribution towards solving unemployment if they took in so many young people each year and used the hardware they have in the computer area to train those people for computer programming. A great amount of investment is going to waste in this country. A lot of investment has been made but proper use is not being made of the assets we have. We have enormous expertise in that area.

On my last visit to Germany as Minister for Industry and Energy I visited the Nixdorf Corporation. I am glad we have an arm of that corporation in Bray. There we saw that, side by side with production, there is a vast training programme going on. There are 2,300 young people being trained side by side with the production that is taking place. There is an interchange of young people who are there to be trained in the real work environment: [1514] they can be moved from their training quarters in one corridor to production in another corridor.

That is the type of new thinking we need here if we are to get to grips with our problem. I asked the head of the Nixdorf Corporation at the time if he would consider the same type of pilot programme in Ireland. “By all means”, he said. It is interesting to note that when that philosophy of a self-made man in Germany was initiated, the German authorities frowned on it and the education authorities did not want to know about it. He knew exactly what his requirements were and he was prepared to go ahead, though nobody was prepared to listen. Some few years later the German education authorities came back to him and said they wanted to be part of that development. They were looking for a site in the vicinity of his operation and he put up a temporary building for them. They are now training 600 people on the industrial campus.

He agreed with me that, in conjunction with the IDA and the Irish Government, he would put up a pilot scheme in Bray to accommodate 300, with no ties whatsoever. He was prepared to take in those young people, train them and take his chances on how many of them would join the Nixdorf Corporation. We cannot let red tape and bureaucracy stand in the way of that type of development. Our unemployment problem is too critical. We need action and results. Throughout the country one notices the number of schools that close at three in the afternoon and which are closed altogether for five and a half months each year. Can we afford that at this time?

We will have to come to grips with this. We must use the accommodation that is there. Equipment can be put into those schools to train those young people. That would be genuine training in computer and software programming. As I have said, that is an area that caters for people, not bricks and mortar which requires such heavy investment. Old solutions are no good any more. We must look at our strengths, see where we have to go and decide we will do it, and we cannot afford to let red tape, bureaucracy or anything [1515] else stand in our way. We have 70,000 young people on the labour market at the moment, not counting the number of young people who will come out of the schools at the end of this summer, hopelessly looking for work. We have commissioned enough reports on this front and we must now present radical solutions quickly to prepare those young people for something meaningful in life.

I can assure the Government that any such solution brought forward will get the support of this side of the House. Otherwise the House will become more meaningless as the years go on. That type of thinking is part and parcel of the SFADCo board and staff. They have had tremendous success in taking small industries by the hand over the years. When I was Minister I saw the success of their work and I decided it was time to extend it into the IDA operations. For that reason, last October I extended the SFADCo approach into small industrial development under the aegis of the IDA, giving responsibility to the IDA to bring together the county development officers to join hands, as SFADCo had done, to promote and develop small industries. Incubator type factories were begun in association with third-level colleges, technical colleges and the NIHE in Limerick. That is the type of development programme I saw in my short term in office. Taking into account how SFADCo had developed their own system, I felt the IDA should be given the same type of approach and that decision was taken last October.

Small industries should be helped by the secondment of management expertise, whether in the financial or production areas, from larger companies. We all know that a small concern may have a production expert but they might fall short in the areas of marketing, finance control or other areas and they may not be able to afford to employ these experts who are vitally necessary to the proper development and financial wellbeing of the company. A scheme along these lines is being developed by the IDA and it should be successful.

We see the problems that arise in [1516] industry. Very often there is a lack of trust between workers and management or there may be a lack of communication between them and industries close. But workers feel that in a co-operative they could do a better job. There is a successful co-operative in Navan. This idea should be promoted further especially if a product is viable. We cannot afford not to explore every avenue open to us.

The secondary role of SFADCo, in the micro-electronic centre and the innovation centre and their success in these areas, is a good example of where we as a nation can go. I subscribe fully to the philosophy of the chairman and hope this House will endorse what they are doing.

Another area which has a significant potential for development is the development of the food industry. Many reports were issued in the seventies. I remember an excellent report, commissioned by the Bank of Ireland on the development of added-value in the food processing industry in Ireland. It is a very interesting document which contains many excellent and worthwhile ideas. That issued in the mid-seventies but nothing much has been done about it since.

The co-operatives have done an excellent job developing their products. Bord Bainne have done an excellent marketing job. However, there are many other areas in the food industry which need to be tackled, decisions made and action needs to be taken. I have always held the view that while responsibility for this area is stretched over many areas we will never see desirable results. The beef industry is a good example. The Department of Agriculture have responsibility for agriculture, but I believe their responsibility should stop at the farm gate; pricing structures in Brussels all finish at the farm gate and a single Minister must take responsibility from there on. For example, in the marketing area CTT do a little, CBF do a little, the co-operatives do a little and there is a range of people doing bits and pieces, some successfully. On the development side, the IDA have their own input. Last year they produced a document which served to focus the mind and attention on the opportunities that exist.

[1517] The FEOGA grants are not being fully utilised. The Minister of State knows that as well as I do. Last year and the year before grants went a-begging in Europe. The FEOGA allocations to Ireland were not taken up. Here we are crying about development and unemployment yet we are letting money go by the board. I believe a single Minister or agency will have to take responsibility for this area. I wrote it into the record in the Department before I left that I believe the development of the food industry should be handed to SFADCo as a pilot project for three years. They have the expertise. They are centred in an area where they can come to grips with many of the problems facing the food industry. After three years we could look at the results that can be achieved if nobody puts any blockages in their way, if the bureaucratic problems are removed and if they are given free rein and full responsibility. If they are successful the responsibility can then be given to a national food development corporation, an agricultural development corporation or any other organisation. I hope the Minister will take this opportunity to tell us if he believes in this concept, if he is prepared to run with it and give SFADCo the opportunity to develop our food processing industry.

When the Prime Minister of New Zealand was in Ireland last year I had the opportunity to meet him. He was involved in carrying out a full reappraisal of his industrial strategy and industrial policy. As we all know, New Zealand suffered very heavily during the recession in the seventies when the British joined the EEC, because many of their markets were closed. At that time they were faced with a very difficult challenge. I asked the Prime Minister what the results of his industrial strategy and policy reviews had been and he said he was coming more and more to the conclusion that there were many types of industry which New Zealand should not be in but there was one they should be in. His philosophy was, if you can grow it, New Zealand should be in it. We have the finest grasslands in the world, the best climate for producing food with a flavour which is [1518] unsurpassed anywhere in the world, and our biggest asset is under-utilised.

We have the capacity to do the job properly but we need to develop a philosophy of excellence and quality, which is the theme running through this SFADCo operation. That needs to be done at national level so that Irish food can be identified as excellent quality food for the international markets. In recent times the impact that can be made on import substitution has been discussed in this House. Import substitution is not given much attention by many, but there is huge potential for job creation, not alone in food but also in connection with the building construction industry. Again, the job must be well done and we must produce quality products. We must do what we do well. If we focus our minds in that direction we can succeed, just as New Zealand has done, overcoming its problems of the seventies by concentrating its full energies and resources in the eighties on the development of its food industry. Job creation has followed in the area of packaging, advertising, printing and all the spin-offs running right through the economy.

If we cannot develop an industry for which we have the raw materials, we are on the road to nowhere, but I believe we have the capacity for this development. Everybody should know the direction in which he or she is going and be responcible to a particular Minister or agency and, given the wherewithal, that agency can do the job and can also show us the way to import substitution. As a member of the last Government and as Minister I took a decision to set up import substitution units in the Department of the Environment to supervise the purchasing of raw materials and to monitor their importation in order to ensure that Irish suppliers got a fair crack of the whip. However, you must deliver and you must have a quality product. The same goes for the Department of Industry and Energy.

I also set up a monthly reporting system under which a report should come in from every State and semi-State purchasing area. We saw where our purchases were being made and what was being [1519] done. That gave us the opportunity of channelling most of our investment within the Irish economy. Many purchases are being made abroad by State and semi-State operations which could have been bought at home.

Within the offices of the Irish Goods Council, we set up a data bank to ensure that the suppliers' names and their products are available at the press of a button. A similar operation is carried on in the Institute for Industrial Research and Standards. A pool of information is available, but it needs to be monitored, co-ordinated and more cohesive. We can produce many more jobs with import substitution, not to mention the thousands of jobs that would be created if we got down to producing quality food to replace all the imports on our supermarket shelves.

An entrepreneurial spirit exists in most Irish people. It saddens me to see today's approach of killing enterprise and initiative and not recognising the need for risk-takers. The man who puts his money at risk should be rewarded for doing so, otherwise we are killing the goose that lays the golden egg. Either we are committed to private enterprise or we are not. If we are, the spirit of enterprise must be helped and fostered. We should not introduce policy measures, whether in budget strategy or Finance Bills which will kill that entrepreneurial spirit. We must produce before we can distribute. If we do not recognise that fact I and many Members of this House know where we will end up.

SFADCo have shown the way in the past and can do so in the future. Like every good organisation, after so many years in operation they are now prepared to have a look at themselves and see where they are going. They are to be complimented for that. If anyone wants to have a look at many of our semi-State agencies all hell breaks loose and the agencies involved adopt a defensive attitude, backing into corners. Every three years, SFADCo look at their operations to see that their overheads are not getting out of line and that they are giving value for money invested. I read a report [1520] recently that they intend bringing in a consultancy firm to help them with the investigation into their entire operation over the last three years. I welcome that wise approach. It is also wise not to tie up their own top managerial people where there is another job of work to be done, by bringing in outsiders to help them. We look forward to the results of that in-depth examination.

I also welcome their new approach of looking out for the next 20 years and seeing where they should be going. I admire their chairman, who has capability and ability. He points the way to other semi-State agencies not to be afraid to take a look at themselves and change their route. SFADCo have achieved the role which they set themselves over the last 20 years and why should they not look at their role for the next 20? There will have to be a different approach and perhaps a need for different policies and objectives. That is the correct way to run a good organisation and that is why SFADCo have achieved their success. They will be equally successful over the next 20 years, given the same freedom and opportunity. I fully support the Bill.

Mr. Carey: Information on Donal Carey  Zoom on Donal Carey  I welcome this Bill, in conjunction with Deputy Reynolds who breeds optimism every time he speaks in this House on the subject of industry. His compliments to the Shannon Free Airport Development Company are very well deserved and I concur with everything he said about the need for optimism in the future and the need to develop the service industry and about the programme already being undertaken by that development company.

In conjunction with this injection of capital outlined in the Bill, SFADCo have undertaken to re-examine their long-term and short-term future strategy. They have already been involved in a food development programme on a small pilot scheme basis which was illustrated last year by a food exhibition in Limerick. That food exhibition included a wide range of products, some small products being produced in home industries. That was a notable achievement for that area. However, the Minister should give the [1521] development company a new direction. If Deputy Reynolds will forgive me, as a Clare Deputy I will be introverted because the development has been established in my county. Since the small industries programme of 1978, allocated funds by Minister O'Malley, major industrial development in the industrial estate and in Ennis, in particular, has lost its emphasis. The development company must receive greater authority from the Minister with regard to major industry in that location, instead of accepting crumbs from the IDA table. That is not good policy. That the IDA have not established any new major industry in Ennis since 1978 is an indictment of their policy and of their attitude to SFADCo.

As Deputy Reynolds said, SFADCo was founded in 1959. Next year they will celebrate their silver jubilee. The financial injection proposed under the provisions of this Bill is well merited by such a successful company which has secured for the industrial estate a peak of almost 5,000 jobs, mainly labour-intensive. Since the fringe elements now attaching to work have rendered it less attractive to bring in labour-intensive industries the direction of SFADCo should be towards some kind of food development programme. There are other natural resources I should like to see them take a hand in. One of those would be the development of the entire Shannon estuary on an industrial basis. For too long we have been ambivalent about the development of that port, of the long line on the Northern shore from Carrigaholt to Limerick and, on the southern shore, from Kerry into Limerick. While there have been major developments in Alcan, Foynes and at Moneypoint, when these major construction industries are wound down there will be no other major industry based on the banks of the river. I believe a company such as SFADCo would be able to undertake and examine the situation obtaining in other ports such as Le Havre in France, or other major ports in Europe, ascertaining what major industrial development took place there and also how we could attract major heavy industry into the Shannon area.

[1522] There is unemployment in the Shannon region with a pool of skilled labour, suitable to heavy industry, to the construction industry, available there. This development company should be given some authority to assist in the industrial development of the estuary. That would constitute a new scheme and I think was spoken about when the enabling Bill was first introduced in 1978. I do not think the idea was ever developed. I believe it is necessary to proceed along those lines because of the ambivalance experienced in arriving at a Shannon estuarial authority. There does not seem to be agreement between the Kilrush, Clarecastle, Limerick and Foynes harbour boards. It is a pity to see the lack of usage of the great natural resource there, particularly with the depth of water of the Shannon. In that respect I might compliment Limerick Harbour Commissioners on their recent report outlining how, with a limited injection of capital, a great port could be made available by the removal of the sand bank opposite Carrigaholt. I would suggest that the Minister examine the role of SFADCo in relation to this estuarial development. While it is geographically well placed it is not being taken advantage of, nor are the labour skills available there. While I do not know sufficient about the capital availability, SFADCo's marketing ability should be able to attract major international companies to our shores if given the opportunity.

In regard to the service industries about which Deputy Reynolds spoke, there is enormous scope for software industrial promotion and service industries here, particularly in Shannon. Indeed I might commend SFADCo on the tremendous work they are doing to provide such service industries. I cannot say the same of the IDA, certainly in the mid-west region, because of numerous occasions Clare County Council and public figures in Clare have requested the IDA to examine service industries. All we have been told in this respect is that they have a pilot scheme in operation on a national basis. They do not seem to be aware that in County Clare, particularly at Shannon, there is the greatest number [1523] of young people coming on to the labour market, without facilities, without mobility and that there is grave necessity to harness their energies and skills. Therefore SFADCo might well move into that area also and develop service industries.

One recent development was not of much advantage to the area, that was the loss of two contracts by Westinghouse Electronics and Control, at site 7 on the industrial estate. Some 30 engineers, very skilled computer engineers, were employed on that project to develop and bid for contracts, on both occasions with the ESB. The first was for the national control centre, when the ESB saw fit to give the work to the Brown-Boveri Corporation of Switzerland. The other contract in respect of which Westinghouse bid was the planned control system at the Moneypoint project, when again the ESB gave it to an outside company, Siemens, of Germany or Holland; certainly they are not an Irish company. I suppose the ESB took these decisions on economic grounds but the result of those losses of contracts has been that Westinghouse have transferred almost 30 engineers to the USA, all of them Irish, well trained, highly skilled. I think four only remain here. Incidentally all 30 of them have continued to find work which is an indication of the degree of skill they possess. It should be said also that it is a tribute to the technological institutes they attended, whether it was the NIHE, UCC, UCG, UCD or elsewhere. Haemorrhages like this cannot be tolerated here. Heavy investment in technological education should be taken advantage of rather than losses such as these being incurred. I understand that the Minister for Industry and Energy has great admiration for the Westinghouse Corporation who have made substantial investments here. There should have been some monitoring of these contracts before the ESB decided to place them in Europe.

On the social scene, last year we had the Shannon Town Commissioners established. Here again SFADCo must be complimented on the smooth system they adopted and on their attitude to the take-over by the commissioners of part [1524] of the management role they had undertaken since 1979. That particular election was not a great success for the Fine Gael party. I am sure the majority party——

Mr. Barrett: Information on Sylvester Barrett  Zoom on Sylvester Barrett  (Clare): Ceann amháin.

Mr. Carey: Information on Donal Carey  Zoom on Donal Carey  ——I am sure the majority party took great pride in it. Indeed I think that election accompanied the election of the former Taoiseach and, as Deputy Barrett is wont to say, was an indication of the desire of the electorate to get rid of successive Governments no matter to which party they belonged. Much credit is due to the agencies involved in improving the social environment of Shannon town, a new town with a population of almost 10,000 people. The facilities being provided by the development company indicate a keen awareness of planning, though there are some aspects of the planning with which I would not agree. However, the company are promoting the development of the town. There has been rapid commercial development of the town centre and the facilities being provided are very good.

I should like the Minister for the Environment to consider changing the status of the town from that of a town commission to urban council for the next local election. This would give a greater sense of responsibility and of unity to the town in that they would be responsible for their own rates and so on.

In the area of tourism SFADCo have played an important role in the Clare region and at Bunratty in particular where there has been developed a folk park that is a tribute to the various skills available in the region. There remain in Clare craft skills that seem to have vanished elsewhere. The company are to be complimented for their work in that regard. However, I regret the recent controversy regarding planning permission for a building near Bunratty bridge. This planning permission was given properly by An Bord Pleanála but Clare County Council objected to it.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on John J. Ryan  Zoom on John J. Ryan  Is the Deputy referring to the tourist potential of the construction or to the planning permission?

[1525]Mr. Carey: Information on Donal Carey  Zoom on Donal Carey  I am referring to the tourist potential which I consider to be inhibited by the new building.

Mr. Daly: Information on Brendan Daly  Zoom on Brendan Daly  It looks very nice.

Mr. Carey: Information on Donal Carey  Zoom on Donal Carey  The folk park is geared towards crafts while the new building which will be at the other side of the bridge will also be a place in which crafts will be sold so that there will be competition within that small area.

Mr. Daly: Information on Brendan Daly  Zoom on Brendan Daly  The new building blends in well with Durty Nelly's.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on John J. Ryan  Zoom on John J. Ryan  Deputy Carey is being crafty enough in the way he is using this Bill.

Mr. Carey: Information on Donal Carey  Zoom on Donal Carey  Perhaps I am digressing a little but the Bill relates to SFADCo who have a role in the area of tourism as was referred to by the Minister earlier. The development company have been attempting to emphasise the connection between tourism and crafts but their efforts will be inhibited to some extent by this new development. In the interest of preserving the single unit there the State should have stepped in to control the planning in respect of the new development. It does not say much for the State's warning system that there was no objection after the matter was passed to the planning board.

This capital injection for SFADCo is on a three-year basis but I am wondering if, while this is in line with the different reviews conducted by the company, it is too short a time. Perhaps it should be extended. I realise that this would impose a further limit on the capital being made available but in the sixties the development company, having somewhat more freedom and more time, developed a considerable amount of industry. They were in a position to move into wider fields. I would consider the time element in this case to be a limiting factor.

I am glad to be here today to support legislation that will be to the benefit of Shannon. It was alleged recently in the [1526] national press that as a Deputy for Clare I had no interest in Shannon. The situation is that for more than 20 years I have been working in an industry that was set up by SFADCo. We started in that industry with 40 people. The number peaked at 1,000 but it is now down to 90. I understand that, because of the international recession, that company are experiencing further difficulties. However, coming into public life in 1974 I have at all times promoted the interests of Shannon and of the development company, a company which is subjected to quite severe bashing from time to time. They are bashed locally on the basis of their bureaucratic attitude on some matters, but they have been a very progressive company. I was disappointed that I should be accused of not having any interest in the company and also that it was alleged that a Deputy had to go around this House looking for me to come in and speak on the Air Companies Bill. That is not true. I was here to speak on the Bill. I was the last person offering but Deputies on the other side endeavoured to let the Minister in rather than to let me contribute.

Mr. Daly: Information on Brendan Daly  Zoom on Brendan Daly  That is not correct.

Mr. Barrett: Information on Sylvester Barrett  Zoom on Sylvester Barrett  (Clare): The Minister got in by way of agreement from the Government side.

Mr. Daly: Information on Brendan Daly  Zoom on Brendan Daly  The Deputy could have asked the Minister to let him in.

Mr. Carey: Information on Donal Carey  Zoom on Donal Carey  What happened is on the record.

Mr. Daly: Information on Brendan Daly  Zoom on Brendan Daly  The Deputy's name is not on it.

Mr. Carey: Information on Donal Carey  Zoom on Donal Carey  It is hardly fair of Deputies, especially those from my own constituency, to claim that I have no interest in the development of Shannon or of that entire region. I am depending on the votes of those people. I do not know what sort of minds the people have who say that I am not interested in being reelected. I am interested in being returned [1527] to this House and for that reason I support the Bill wholeheartedly.

Mr. Cowan:  I, too, welcome this Bill. I welcome it basically because it gives statutory authority to SFADCo's role in the promotion of small indigenous industry in south-west Offaly. The relevant power is contained in the 1970 Act.

In 1980 the then Minister for Industry, Commerce and Tourism, Deputy O'Malley, brought this area of Offaly under the umbrella of SFADCo, a move that was much welcomed in that part of the county. The basic reason for the then Minister's action was his awareness of the necessity for improved industrial development in that part of Offaly particularly.

I compliment the IDA for their co-operation with SFADCo in the past three years in relation to the development of the area I am speaking of. There has been very welcome industrial improvement in south-west Offaly as a result of that co-operation. Deputy O'Malley as Minister was aware of the very poor industrial growth in that part of Offaly along the banks of the Shannon in the south-west end of the county.

Public representatives in County Offaly at both local and national level have always advocated that Offaly should be classified as a designated area due to the poor industrial growth rate there. Unfortunately successive Ministers have not acceded to our request and even at this late stage I would urge the Minister of State to consider putting the whole county under the umbrella of SFADCo. I urge this course because the industrial and employment situations have been deteriorating in the county, especially during the past year or so. I specifically mention recent redundancies in Tullamore Yarns and the closure of Paul & Vincent in Tullamore. There are many IDA factories in Tullamore, Birr, Edenderry and Clara which have been idle for some time. The Offaly Development Team have on numerous occasions put forward a very good case to have the whole county designated because we have one of the slowest industrial growth rates in the country.

[1528] The involvement of SFADCo has brought about improvements in west and south Offaly which we could not have envisaged. Small industries have been expanded and others have been created and there is agreement among all concerned that the involvement of SFADCo in the whole county could bring about further improvements, particularly in areas where there have been job losses. I know it is not easy at this late stage for the Minister to give full consideration to my request but I would hope that action would be taken on the basis of the record of industrial development and the unemployment problem.

I welcome the fact that SFADCo now have statutory authority for the area in question but I am requesting that the whole county should come under the wing of SFADCo. I compliment SFADCo on their job creation effort.

It is not easy to draw a line defining precisely the areas of west and south-west Offaly. Small industries which are in close proximity to the designated line cannot avail of the extra grants made available through SFADCo and do not receive the same co-operation from them. I request the Minister to give every consideration to including the whole of County Offaly under the wing of SFADCo. This would help to alleviate the problem caused by so many job losses in the area.

Mr. Prendergast: Information on Frank Prendergast  Zoom on Frank Prendergast  I, too, have great pleasure in welcoming this Bill. During my working life as a trade union official I have had very close involvement with the Shannon Free Airport Development Company. It gives me great pleasure to record my appreciation of the work SFADCo have done for the mid-west region. The company deserve every support this House can give because by any standards theirs has been a shining success story of which any country could legitimately be proud. They are a model for any semi-State or private company because of the minimum of bureaucracy, their vision and fresh approach and their readiness and flexibility to try out new concepts for the greater development and protection of worthwhile employment.

[1529] Their track record in regard to successful innovation is unique. They set up the first duty-free airport in the world which became a model of its kind. Afterwards, when the whole area was threatened by the overflying of jet aircraft, they pioneered the development of what became one of the world's outstanding industrial estates. That concept was responsible for student groups and study missions coming from many Third World countries to examine and learn from that project.

I am pleased to say that when I was Mayor of Limerick in 1977 I played a part in setting up an arrangement between SFADCo and the authorities in Derry for a model prototype project there based on what had been achieved by SFADCo so that they could help their own region. This venture has reached some fruition and it was announced a fortnight ago that they are talking about a joint project on both sides of the Border. This has been mentioned by John Hume and it has sprung from their involvement with SFADCo. I know this to be a fact because I was involved in the initial contacts. This development is to be welcomed.

SFADCo were responsible for a unique concept in entertainment and tourism which has now been copied successfully by six other countries. I refer to the promotion of entertainment in castles at Bunratty, Knappogue and Dunguaire.

A recent development was the setting up in conjunction with the NIHE authorities of a micro-electronics application centre in the Plassey Technological Park. There has been great interaction between SFADCo and the NIHE. I was a member of the governing body of the NIHE for five years. Their joint influence in the Plassey Technological Park and in other areas has revolutionised the industrial face of the mid-west region. There is still room for improvement but that recent project has been responsible for the attraction of new industries in the information-intensive sector. This is very important.

It would now seem to be the policy of the industrial promotion authorities that they should in future concentrate on capital rather than labour intensive projects. [1530] While it is certainly desirable that we should have as many research and development facilities as possible, nevertheless I would not entirely discard the idea of attracting labour intensive industries. I know that many of these industries, such as the textile industry, have largely moved to the Third World and are not a worthwhile risk venture for companies in this part of the world.

One of the greatest benefits gained from SFADCo was their use of the labour liaison officer concept. I do not know if this was repeated elsewhere. They had their own labour liaison division staffed by able people who had vast experience in the area of labour relations. Their sole function was to advise companies coming to the area of the culture and ethos of the region and of the country generally and of our industrial history. Some companies ignored at their peril advice with regard to unionisation but generally one of the great benefits of this initiative was the spin-off in the industrial relations scene. Foreign companies coming to the area had highly developed personnel policies that were light years ahead of the almost barbaric and primitive approach of native Irish companies with regard to industrial relations. This was one of the advantages of setting up the Shannon Industrial Estate.

I remember when an ambassador from one of the major industrial European countries came to the region. I met him and discussed with him the whole set-up in the region. He was also an industrialist and he toured the factories. He paid an earnest tribute to the flexibility and level of productivity in the mid-west region. There were factories there that had exact counterparts in his own country in terms of technology and manning levels and the factories in Shannon were producing nine products for every seven produced in the parent company. This gives an idea of the work done by SFADCo in some of the industries that were attracted to the area. Some of the best individual work performances for some multinationals came from their subsidiaries in the mid-west region. That should be put on record because frequently it is forgotten.

I support the idea of SFADCo being [1531] asked to develop the concept of food processing. We are in a very difficult situation at the moment. We have gone through an industrial recession since 1973 and we are now in a position where our unemployment is an all-time high. People say that when the present recession passes everything will be all right. It will not be all right because lost within the present recession is the development of the micro-chip. We are now moving into the age of structured unemployment. What I mean by structured unemployment as distinct from cyclical unemployment is this: for example, is some industries such as the hotel and tourist catering industries there are peaks and valleys in summer and in other periods of the year but now we are moving into the modern and frightening phenomenon of structured unemployment.

Let us take the example of a company who employ 1,000 people who are doing well and who want to expand. They will build a new factory with ultra-modern technology and they will employ 100 people. In a few years there may be a recession: the company will not close down the modern factory with the work force of 100 but it will close down the old factory with 1,000 jobs gone. Redundancy payments will be made and everyone will be satisfied they have done the best job in the circumstances. In the future the business may pick up and the owner of the business will make the necessary accommodation but he will not hire the original 1,000 employees or an outmoded technology. He will build an even newer factory with another 100 people so that the net loss will be 800 jobs. This is an example of what is happening and the implications for society are frightening. We have not adapted ourselves culturally to face the problem. SFADCo are to be commended for what they have done in this area. They have set up a micro-electronics application centre to keep abreast of developments. We need research and development because they are the value-added type of benefits we need. We will not survive if we do not keep ahead in investigation and research of product development. [1532] This is where our future lies. The Danes have given us an outstanding example in that context. They are similarly situated to Ireland in the context of lack of resources.

It is beyond argument that our whole future lies in the area of food processing. We are part of the biggest and wealthiest common market of people in the history of the world, with the highest living standards. Unfortunately our traditional food processing companies — I regret to say this about companies in my own region — failed to adapt to the terms of free trade in the 1960s despite the fact that they were given adequate warning. Some adapted and they are surviving and doing very well. We are now in an era where, for example, a girl in Hamburg who goes to work at 8 a.m. and returns home at 4.30 p.m. can pre-set an automatic oven to cook a meal. We are in the era of processed foods and, again, the Danes have given an example to the rest of the world. Ironically, the Danes came to Limerick to study this aspect in the bacon and pork industry at the end of the last century. We sent people to Russia from my own city to teach them. We have fallen behind and we must make every effort to get back into this area. We have the best indigenous resources in the world. A German industrialist in Kilrush told me that if his country had our climate he would have two sets of crops each year. Our cattle are out for nearly 12 months each year and we have everything going for us. Yet we have the scandalous situation that in 1983 food to the value of £800 million will be imported here.

Private companies have failed to move into this area. I will give an example of what I mean. Some years ago there was a possibility of a change of government in Italy which resulted in tremors running through some of the industries and factories in that country. Some of them approached SFADCo with a view to coming here and I was involved in negotiations to set up a company that was going into the liqueur business in a small way. They would have used 100 million dozen of eggs in a year, 800 million gallons of milk and 1 million small bottles. I think there would have been about 28 or 30 [1533] direct jobs with a spin-off employment of about 60 other jobs. In addition, the benefits would have gone back to the farmers supplying the produce. This is an area in which we should be active and our neglect in this matter is an indictment of us. We are scandalously at fault in not moving into that situation.

We must face the fact that we have no other great resources to create employment for young people. This is why I think SFADCo are very suitable as a State body who have given the lead to most other semi-State companies because of their vision, imagination and their flexibility to adapt at very short notice. This was proven when Deputy Desmond O'Malley asked them to move into the small industries programme. They were in like wildfire. That has paid off.

The State through SFADCo could get in, research, pioneer and develop the food processing concept and get in as many people as possible. The food processing industry as a labour intensive industry is second only to petro-chemicals within the Common Market. It came from seventh to second place in the league table of labour intensive industries.

The progress of SFADCo is an example for everybody. In the Ennis, Limerick, Shannon triangle 40 per cent of the entire work force are based. There are 2,000 people employed directly at Shannon Airport. Other areas ask for a SFADCo for their region. The main function of SFADCo is to promote Shannon Airport. That has been done very successfully. There are 6,000 people working in the industrial estate. The spin-off to the entire western seaboard, not just to the mid-west region, is unquestionable. In 1974, TWA insisted, with their economic muscle, on overflying Shannon and landing at Dublin. They forced us to give way on that, with the help of the Civil Aeronautics Board in America, but it emerged that eight out of every ten tourists terminating their flight at Shannon went as far up as Mayo or Donegal or down to Kerry. The spin-off to those regions is unquestionable. That is the industrial hub of the entire mid-west region.

[1534] SFADCo have been very fortunate with the ability of many of the people working there. They have been very fortunate in the vision of people like Brendan O'Regan, his successors and other people down the line because they have a great social commitment not merely a norrow industrial programme. They were also concerned with reversing the trends of rural imbalance in the mid-western region. They shoved industries into the less populated areas. I would like to compliment Father Harry Bohan, who worked with SFADCo and pioneered the concept of the rural housing organisation, to bring housing out from the major areas of conurbation into the rural areas. That was another example of the broad philosophy of SFADCo. They deserve every support we can give them. They are a model for the rest of the country.

People on one side of the political divide do not often praise people on the other side but I want to praise Deputy Dessie O'Malley for the great courage and initiative he showed in instigating the small industries programme. I believe if that programme is intensified properly and SFADCo supply the back-up facilities, research, marketing and accountancy facilities, that can be one of the major hopes for the country. I heard Dr. Krabbe, a German-born engineer and one of the bosses of one of the major companies in the mid-west region, pay tribute to the quality of Irish engineers. Westinghouse, which was mentioned earlier, could not get over the quality of the Irish engineers who went to their company initially. We now have educated people who have the capacity to take advantage of the opportunities there. Some of them, who are graduates of NIHE, have already moved into this area. It is very significant that when Bombardier last year had to cut back their work force of 350, 300 other workers in small industries were locked into the Bombardier programme. That is where the significance of the small industries programme lies.

Somebody referred to import substitution. I understand that if import substitution was properly researched and intensified, we could save on a balance of [1535] payments situation £1,000 million. That concept needs to be far more intensely developed than it is at the moment. We call it the matchmaker programme, where you can tie up the needs of one company with another company who can supply them. That has also been set up by SFADCo and other people in the region.

One of the things I welcome is SFADCo's recent announcement of setting up a task force. It is good for SFADCo as well as other organisations to review their progress on a periodic basis. SFADCo, because of the threat to employment which we are now facing, have set up this task force. They will look at a whole new concept and investigate where existing employment can be improved, with a view to consolidation of good, worthwhile employment, and where new types of industries can be brought in. They will look at new investment opportunities and future prospects. I would like to quote from the terms of reference of that study group. They are:

Technological developments, the micro and macro environment, demographic trends, educational developments, etc., which are likely to have a bearing on the development of the estate during the remainder of the eighties and nineties, investment opportunities appropriate to Shannon for the eighties and nineties in the light of these developments; the relevance and adequacy of existing practices, policies and incentives in relation to the development of the estate during the same time phase; the identification of barriers to development and suggestions for their modification or removal and strategies calculated to best help the company market and implement the opportunities identified.

I know it is very difficult in the present climate but we should not discard willy-nilly the idea of attracting labour-intensive industries. We should concentrate where we can on the promotion of the Shannon Estuary, which is one of the prime estuaries of the world capable of rivalling Rotterdam. I am a member of [1536] the Limerick Harbour Authority and I appeal again to all the interests involved to submerge their local aspirations and concentrate on the macro development of the estuary for the good of all. One area should not seek to take advantage over another area. We should have the courage and vision to submerge local interests and come together for the benefit of the whole region. We all know local antagonisms were whipped up for political reasons. That was short-term thinking. I welcome the talks which are being carried on between some of the areas concerned.

SFADCo have a major role to play in the development of Shannon. Heavy industry will guarantee future employment. I am talking about two great growth industries, engineering and chemicals. These have major potential for development. If we develop this estuary for the good of all we will have a great future. I welcome the Bill. It gives the necessary authority and support to SFADCo in the wonderful work they are doing.

Mr. Daly: Information on Brendan Daly  Zoom on Brendan Daly  I welcome the Bill. I wish the Minister well in his appointment. He is coming to office at a most difficult time and I assure him he will have our co-operation in dealing with the serious problems which face industry. Deputy Reynolds said we should do what we do do well. Anything SFADCo have done they have certainly done well. Anyone who visits Bunratty folk park, the industrial estate or any projects with which SFADCo have been involved will see that they were careful in attending to details. They have ensured that projects in which there was State investment have been well taken care of. I have found this ever since I was elected to the House.

I compliment the staff and management of the board who have always been courteous to public representatives. On numerous occasions we have to deal with them about various issues relating to our constituencies. They have always been helpful and courteous and so enabled us to resolve many problems.

Their most outstanding success in recent times has been that of the small [1537] industries programme. It is acknowledged that small industry has very high job creation potential. More attention will have to be paid to outlying areas rather than the Shannon triangle. In my constituency in north, east and west Clare while there has been continued expansion and job opportunities in the region as a whole we have not seen the type of development we want. It is essential to provide job opportunities so that rural communities will remain in their own areas. Through their advance factory programme SFADCo have expanded their industrial base into remoter areas. They built factories in Ennistymon, Lisdoonvarna, Kilmihil, Kildysart, Killaloe, Kilkee and so on. Unfortunately many of these are now vacant. We must see how these buildings can be used.

I support the views expressed earlier about the need to develop our natural resources. The timber industry has not been fully developed or exploited. Upwards of £4 million worth of timber products are imported. As regards fishing, the company together with BIM and other interests could see where job opportunities could be created, for example, in fish processing. This would provide opportunities in remoter areas such as Doolin, Quilty, Carrigaholt and other areas along the Clare coast.

There is urgent need for the company, together with other organisations and associations, to see what action can be taken with regard to the advance factory buildings. Companies in the mid-west region were always assured that if they got into difficulty they would get careful attention from SFADCo. In recent weeks two major industries have closed down. One was the Interton industry in Ennis. It employed over 100 people in high technology. There is need for agencies to move in quicker than they have been moving when a viable project gets into difficulty due to problems in the parent company which is often located outside the State. When it becomes evident, as it was in the case of Interton, that there are serious problems which would have repercussions in local industry, action should be taken — indeed, it should have been taken much earlier — in an effort [1538] to avoid the present situation there with over 100 people out of work.

The same applies in relation to the recent closure of the ceramics factory in Kilrush where again over 100 jobs were lost in the pottery manufacturing industry which has been operating successfully for many years. There is no doubt about the demand for their product. Their books are full of orders, yet for some reason associated mainly with the agencies acting for the company outside the State, whatever difficulty they have the company is now closed and over 100 people are out of work in Kilrush. The closure of a company with 100 employees in Kilrush, where the work force is small anyway, is a major disaster for the town. We have heard a great deal of publicity about the closure of some companies nationally and the effect that that will have on the economy of the city of Dublin, but 100 jobs in Kilrush is almost equivalent to 10,000 jobs in Dublin city. If an industry with employment potential for up to 20,000 people in Dublin were to close the country would come to a standstill. Nevertheless, very little action is being taken in relation to the closure of this pottery plant in Kilrush which is causing major hardship for the young people employed there, many of whom will not get other employment opportunities in the area. Consider the effect that that has not only on the employees and their families but on business generally in the whole area.

I want to compliment in the highest degree the work force in my constituency and in the whole mid-west region. They are a credit to the region. Unfortunately, issues outside the control of these dedicated workers, some of them very highly skilled and experienced, are putting their jobs at risk. Not only SFADCo but all the development agencies and the State agencies involved in industrial promotion, expansion and development have a responsibility as a matter of grave national urgency to get together to deal with this nervousness, this instability which is affecting industry in so many ways. Industries which could quite well expand now are afraid to do so. There is [1539] a need for confidence in industry generally and we must instil this confidence into the workforce and assure them that people in Government and in the State agencies care about them, are committed to them and are prepared to make sacrifices in order to resolve their problems.

Another area of tremendous potential is the attraction of the new service companies into the regions. The special 10 per cent rate for those companies must be fully exploited. Through the good offices of Deputy Barrett we have seen the re-establishment and relocation of the vehicle registration unit at Shannon and a major influx of highly skilled civil service personnel into Shannon town. This indication of how successfully a Government agency can operate in a town the size of Shannon is a further attraction to the service type operations to expand and develop further. I would like to see more emphasis on the promotion of this 10 per cent tax rate. More aviation oriented operations especially in Shannon would create further employment opportunities there and that will have a spin-off effect on the rest of the area.

In recent times the development company have decided to spread out their offices into the region and to establish field officers in towns such as Ennis, Nenagh and Birr. This worthwhile exercise would be of very great importance for the development of industry in the region. We need closer liaison between agencies in the region working through the field officers and the county development teams, and especially the local development organisations who in many respects have the knowledge and experience of many years to promote industry in their own areas. They can be a major influence in helping industry to locate in the various areas.

The development of tourism-related projects is very important to the whole development of the economy especially in the western counties, the tourist counties. I congratulate SFADCo on the work they have done not only at Bunratty but also at Knappogue and other castles in the mid-western area and especially the [1540] development of the folk park in Shannon which is a credit to the personnel involved in the planning and execution of the work. Above all, it is a centre of attraction, a holding point for tourists passing through the airport. The collection of various historical indicators of life in the rural communities is an incentive to many tourists to go further afield to see at first hand what is depicted in this small park development in Bunratty.

There is an example of what can be done with a little imagination and investment. The development company have a number of sites in various locations in the region which have not been developed up to now but they have the potential for development. It should be possible with the assistance of private enterprise to involve in either joint ventures or co-operative organisations of one kind or another between the State agency and local private enterprise to develop tourism facilities and amenities in these areas. Where I live near Miltown Malbay is a sizeable site in a very scenic area of enormous potential for the development of tourist amenities. Also some private investors are prepared to share in an operation of this kind. Much can be done here to develop this type of project, and the small village hotels with proper facilities could accommodate the passing tourist trade. Some work has been done by SFADCo already in this regard in an effort to exploit more fully the tourism potential of this area.

I have always been pleased at the co-operation between the development agencies and Shannon itself and also the co-operation between Aer Rianta, SFADCo and other agencies. All this is vital if we are to get an overall strategy for the development of the airport, the industrial complex and Shannon town. Now the commissioners, the various public representatives bodies and agencies should come together to plan an overall strategy to exploit more fully the potential here. If international companies who were involved in air freight came into the area and if there were customs clearance facilities there would be an increase in traffic to the airport generally, which would have enormous repercussions, [1541] both in job creation and in the economic structure of the region. There must be more involvement by the agencies, not only in industrial promotion but also in airport promotion, to make a further onslaught on international business which could be brought to this airport. Indeed, some of the other international airports are looking for places to move to because they are under pressure in their own countries.

I fully support the views which have been expressed about the need for the linking of the estuary with the development of the whole region. Although the estuary has not been developed, everybody knows its potential. So many reports have been written on the Shannon Estuary that people are confused by them. However, the necessary legislation does not seem to be there to provide for the major development which is needed in the estuary as one unit. You can look at all the separate ports like Cappagh Pier, Foynes Harbour development, Tarbert development or the Limerick Harbour development, but there is a need for an overall strategy to ensure that the estuary is developed to its maximum capacity.

Over the last number of years there has been tremendous interest in off-shore oil exploration and I know the Minister has a special interest in this. A number of tests and explorations have been carried out in the Porcupine and it is well known there is oil potential in that area. It is not clear how soon and to what extent it can be developed but in any off-shore oil development in the Porcupine off the west coast, the Shannon Estuary must play a major role. At present the infrastructural development which needs to be done on the estuary is not being done and the removal of the sandbar has not taken place. These areas need special and urgent attention and the estuary must and will fit into the overall development, not only of the mid-west region but also of the whole country. The Shannon Estuary can be the Rotterdam of Ireland.

I should like to congratulate Shannon Free Airport Development Company for their commitment to young people. They [1542] have always been concerned about the interests of young people and they have appointed youth officers in the airport and in Shannon town. The fact that there are now over 10,000 people living in the town is an indication of good planning and proper development. However, there is a need for further sport and recreational facilities because we have heard successively from community leaders, politicians and others in Shannon that although there has been tremendous development of the industrial base and of the town itself, the people do not have the sporting and recreational facilities which are so essential in a town like Shannon. Development in this area has been a little haphazard with individual clubs and organisations doing their own separate development. There is a higher proportion of young people in Shannon town than in any other part of the country and, while the company have been committed to young people, they need to provide recreational facilities. The lack of these facilities has been a major cause of discontent.

One welcome development, as mentioned by the Minister, is that roughly 60 per cent of housing stock is privately owned. There is a need for development of the housing stock in Shannon and I know the county council are already engaged in building houses there. I welcome the Bill. I want to encourage the various people in the Shannon development company to carry on the magnificent work which they have been doing up to now. I assure them of our co-operation on this side of the House in helping them to deal with the various problems that affect that region. I hope there will be many more successes in the future.

Mr. O'Donnell: Information on Thomas G. O'Donnell  Zoom on Thomas G. O'Donnell  Aontaím go mór le haidhmeanna an Bhille seo chun breis airgid a chur ar fáil do Chuideachta Forbartha Aerfort na Sionna. Ba mhaith liom ar an gcead dul síos mo chomhghairdeas a dhéanamh le stiúrthóirí na cuideachta as ucht an dul chun cinn atá déanta acu. Níl aon amhras ann ar chor ar bith go bhfuil obair an-mhaith, an-suimiuil, déanta ag an gcuideachta seo ó bunaíodh í na blianta ó shin. Tá sé soiléir go bhfuil [1543] dul chun cinn déanta i bhforbairt tionscail agus turasóireachta, agus torthaí na hoibre sin le feiceáil anois ní he amháin in Aerfort na Sionna ach i Stát tionscail agus chomh maith leis sin sna himeachtaí atá ar siúl mór thimpeall an aerfoirt. I dteannta leis sin, tá dualgas ar an gcomhlacht seo tionscail a bhunú ar fud reigiún an mhean-iarthair. Cúpla bliain ó shin tugadh breis dualgas don chomhlacht seo chun tionscail a bhunú i gcuid de Chontae Uíbh Fhailí. Tá tagairt déanta ag an Aire, ina ráiteas faoin mBille seo atá curtha os comhair na Dála aige, don obair ata ar siul agus an dul chun cinn ata deanta.

I am pleased to have this opportunity to contribute again to a debate on the role and functions of the Shannon Free Airport Development Company Limited. Over the past 22 years I have spoken in every debate in this House on SFADCo. Sometimes there is a little friction between Clare and Limerick people, when Clare people question the right of Limerick people to talk about Shannon affairs and SFADCo.

SFADCo are now a regional development organisation with functions extending throughout the mid-west region. Recently they were given functions in relation to parts of County Offaly. I am not too clear about this extension of their activities. I want to refer to it later in the context of regional development. There is no doubt that the development and the whole operation of the SFADCo complex have been a striking and remarkable success story. There were problems from time to time. We can go back to the establishment of the airport at what was then Rineanna, the development of air traffic and the industrial estate, and the extension of the company's activities to promoting industry in County Clare, County Limerick, Limerick city and North Tipperary.

I support the purpose and the objectives of the Bill. I endorse the Government's decision to give additional funding to SFADCo. As I said, the company have been a striking success and a remarkably successful regional development agency working within the rather limited terms of reference assigned to them. The success [1544] of SFADCo can be illustrated by the number of requests to the company from newly emerging African nations and from many parts of South America for professional advisers to go out and advise on regional development in those countries. The work of SFADCo has been inspected and examined by delegations from many countries.

We must put on record our recognition of the fact that, as a regional development agency, SFADCo have been highly successful. In the Bill before the House it is proposed to increase State funding to SFADCo from £80 million to £120 million in the aggregate of the amounts which the Minister for Finance may subscribe in taking up shares in the company. There is a proposed increase from £40 million to £60 million in the aggregate amount of grants which may be made to the company.

I have praised the work of SFADCo and acknowledged the progress made by the company and the contribution they have made to the economic and social development of the mid-west region. I have noted in particular the statement by the Minister that a study to chart the future of the industrial estate over the next 20 years is being undertaken by the company. The Minister said the findings of this study will determine the kind of industry that Shannon will endeavour to attract over this period and the promotional strategies the company will need to use.

It is very important that a reassessment should be made periodically of the aims and objectives of any State body. I am disappointed to note that this study is being confined to the future of the industrial estate, rather than having a comprehensive study of the future role of SFADCo as a regional development agency extending throughout the entire mid-west region. I find it difficult to understand the reason for confining this study to the industrial estate. The Minister might rethink this. I should like to see a comprehensive report on the progress made to date and signposting the future of the company as a comprehensive regional development agency. SFADCo are not just an industrial development [1545] body. They are a broadly-based regional development agency covering a wide spectrum of economic and social activity.

This brings me back to the point I have already made. The Minister said:

Factors to be examined in the course of this study include technological developments, the micro and macro environment, demographic trends and educational developments all of which will have a bearing on the future development of the industrial estate.

That is valid, but these factors will also have a vital bearing on the future development of the entire mid-west region, Ennis, West Clare, Limerick city, Nenagh, North Tipperary and Shannon town. I want to emphasise that, while I believe this type of study is desirable, rather than confining it to the future of the industrial estate at Shannon it should be broadened to include the entire geographic area over which the company have jurisdiction.

Reference was made to a very controversial matter, the decision in 1978 by the then Minister, Deputy O'Malley, to confine the industrial promotional activities of SFADCo to the development of small industries.

Debate adjourned.

Sitting suspended at 1.30 p.m. and resumed at 2.30 p.m.


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