Wednesday, 30 May 1984
Dáil Eireann Debate
Mr. E. O'Keeffe: asked the Minister for Industry, Trade, Commerce and Tourism if he will consider declaring Buttevant, County Cork, a priority area for the establishment of a new industry, as many of its workforce are unemployed for the last three years.
I am aware of the serious unemployment problem in Buttevant and am assured that the Industrial Development Authority are making every effort to secure an industrial project for their 5-acre site in the town.
Mr. E. O'Keeffe: With the new special branch arrangement for the Cork city region, would the Minister agree that Buttevant is a much more deprived area where many people have been unemployed over the last three years, where whole families are now unemployed, where the total number of unemployed would now be about 200 people? Buttevant had a fine industry up to that time. The Minister has already given a promise — in a previous question — that he will have this area designated a special case——
Mr. E. O'Keeffe: Yes, sir. Would the Minister give it priority, ensuring that a regional area like this would receive a specially high rate of grant to encourage people to go into industry by rendering it sufficiently attractive?
Mr. J. Bruton: I recognise that there are problems in Buttevant but I never gave any undertaking such as the Deputy indicated. Indeed all of these questions are a bit of a waste of time because Deputies on the other side of the House are each coming along making a special case for a particular part of the country. We must recognise that the unemployment problems this country faces are spread throughout the entire island and that doing a little bit extra for Buttevant by taking money from Galway, or doing a little bit extra for Galway by taking money from Monaghan does not solve anybody's problems. We must endeavour to tackle this problem on an overall basis. While I am quite prepared to answer questions of the type asked by the Deputy — which I know, by his selection of Buttevant will hopefully get him into the appropriate local newspaper as being somebody who is concerned about this matter — we are not really solving the problem by segmenting it into those of individual towns. The unemployment problem is one that covers the entire country. It is not something that can be segmented——
Mr. Reynolds: The attitude the Minister has adopted in the last few minutes amazes me. Arising out of what he said would he not agree that there are different levels of unemployment in different parts of the country and that Deputies have a right to try to get out of the Minister what he is doing and what he proposes doing? It is deplorable for him to come in here with a lecture like that — when he has taken no positive action in the last 18 months, when unemployment is at its highest, when the number of people working in manufacturing industry is at its lowest level in 20 years. It is understandable that the Minister becomes irritated but to come in and lecture Deputies in this House on their fundamental rights vis-à-vis their constituencies is not good enough. We know he has not been a success as Minister for Industry but he should not deny Deputies  their rights in relation to asking questions. Will the Minister admit that there are different levels of unemployment around the country? Will he admit the right of Deputies to do something for their constituencies?
Mr. J. Bruton: Of course, I have never questioned the rights of Deputies to ask these sorts of questions. However, I do not think it is wise for us to assume that we can solve the problem by breaking it up into those of each individual town. The problem of industrial development is one that must be tackled on a global basis in this country. It is not true to say that nothing has been done for Buttevant. I indicated to Deputy O'Keeffe that nine people are already employed by the company whereas he was asking whether or not it had been started. Indeed perhaps Deputies might inform themselves about what is happening in their own areas before asking questions.
Mr. E. O'Keeffe: I should like to be more serious than the Minister about the industrial situation in the country, particularly in regard to Buttevant because, when things were going well, Buttevant was in trouble with regard to industry. Therefore I do not consider I am acting irresponsibly. I think the Minister is being more irresponsible——
Mr. Molloy: ——affecting every town and village? Is the Minister not aware that during the last election he and members of his party went into these towns, told the people to elect them to  Government and that they would provide jobs? Is the Minister now saying that we on the Opposition benches are not entitled to ask the Government what progress they are making in the provision of employment in these towns and villages throughout the country, as was promised by his Government, by their candidates and by the Minister himself in the course of the last general election?
Mr. Molloy: ——most unjustified, completely against the traditions of this House to seek to deny Opposition Deputies the right to ask questions on any matter in respect of which the Government have a responsibility, particularly unemployment at this time.
Mr. J. Bruton: At no stage did I deny the right of any Deputy to ask questions. Indeed at all times I defended the right of Deputies to ask questions. However, I believe I am entitled to say that we will not solve the problem of unemployment by dividing it into segments of this town as against the other — Kerry as against Cork, Buttevant as against Galway; the problem will be solved on an overall basis.
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