Tuesday, 29 March 1994
Dáil Éireann Debate
3. Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Tourism and Trade the time scale he has set for agreeing the terms of reference for the study of Bord Fáilte, the receipt of tenders and the appointment of the consultants and the receipt of the consultants report; and if he will assure Dáil Éireann that future State structures for the development and promotion of Irish tourism will be in place before September 1994, when the marketing of Ireland for 1995 must be underway.
4. Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Tourism and Trade if the terms of reference for the consultants he is to appoint include an examination of his Department, Bord Fáilte, the regional tourism organisation and the county tourism committees, due to the complexity and inter-relationships that must exist between all these bodies and their interactive roles.
12. Mr. Crowley asked the Minister for Tourism and Trade when the consultants will be appointed to study Bord Fáilte; their terms of reference; the length of time their study will take; when their report will be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
40. Mr. Nealon asked the Minister for Tourism and Trade when the consultants will be appointed to study Bord Fáilte; their terms of reference; the length of time their study will take; when their report will be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
62. Mr. Noonan (Limerick East) asked the Minister for Tourism and Trade when the consultants will be appointed to study Bord Fáilte; their terms of reference; the length of time their study will take; when their report will be published.
64. Ms McManus asked the Minister for Tourism and Trade in regard to his announcement of 10 March the terms of reference of the proposed study of the role of Bord Fáilte; the persons who will carry out the study; when it is expected to be completed; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Minister for Tourism and Trade (Mr. McCreevy): I propose to take Questions Nos. 3, 4, 12, 40, 45, 62 and 64 together. Deputies will be aware that in a press release of 10 March 1994, I announced the initiation of a consultancy study to preview the structure and functions of Bord Fáilte.
On 14 March 1994, a number of consultancy firms, with extensive international experience in the tourism field, were invited to submit proposals for the provision of that advice, on the basis of the following terms of reference.
In the light of the growth targets for tourism set by the Government for the rest of the decade, to review and make recommendations on the role and operations of Bord Fáilte Éireann, having regard, in particular to the suitability of its existing structures and functions in terms of strategically responding to the Government's targets; the compatability of its existing mix of functions with the priority exercise of its core promotional role; whether its involvement of, and participation with, the sector in its developmental activities is likely to promote  an evolving level of sectoral self-reliance over time.
The deadline for receipt of proposals in my Department is tomororw, Wednesday, 30 March 1994. Following receipt of these proposals, it would be my intention to make an early decision on the appointment of consultants. I would not envisage having a protracted consultancy, and thus all firms invited to submit proposals have been informed that a maximum period of 12 weeks is envisaged for the consultancy work. I would, therefore, expect the review to be completed in early July.
Mr. Deenihan: I will be magnanimous and congratulate the Minister for his work in bringing the world equestrian games to Ireland. What criteria will the Minister use in appointing a consultancy agency to produce the report? He has outlined the terms of reference but does he not consider they are narrow? Will he agree that the consultants should examine the inter-relationships between Bord Fáilte and other agencies involved in promoting tourism including the Department of Tourism and Trade, Shannon Development, RTOs, the two county tourism boards——
An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy should not ask too many questions. We must have brief relevant questions. I will facilitate the Deputy by allowing him to ask a number of questions but not in an omnibus form.
Mr. Deenihan: Will the Minister agree that this is a major issue that requires the involvement of agencies other than Bord Fáilte and that a major consultancy  report involving all relevant agencies should be prepared?
Mr. McCreevy: I thank the Deputy for his good wishes regarding the world equestrian games. Regarding the criteria for selecting consultants, we asked a number of consultancy firms to submit proposals by tomorrow evening. They will be considered by my Department's officials and hopefully we will be in a position to announce the appointment of consultants in the near future. The terms of reference could be expanded to cover the wide range of activities referred to by Deputy Deenihan. When I answered a question about Bord Fáilte during Question Time on 16 February I outlined my views on its role, matters I had dealt with and plans for its future. I stated then that it would be unwise to draw firm conclusions in the absence of a comprehensive view of Bord Fáilte obtained with the assistance of consultancy expertise. I will engage consultants with limited terms of reference, consider their recommendations and make decisions. I made that position clear on other occasions.
Mr. Deenihan: The Minister stated he will allow the consultants 12 weeks to produce the report, but how long will he take to consider their recommendations and to implement them? Will they be implemented in time to allow the tourism industry and Bord Fáilte to market Ireland for the 1995 season?
Mr. McCreevy: The consultants' report should be submitted by the end of July and I will then consider their recommendations. As I stated at an earlier Question Time I have formed some conclusions about the efficacy of various aspects of the functions of Bord Fáilte. The consultants will narrow the focus. I hope any changes will be made well in advance of the 1995 season. I would not like to give the impression that I would delay in considering and implementing the consultants' recommendations. I am hopeful the matter will be wrapped up by the end of the year.
Mr. Deenihan: Will the Minister agree that several of his utterances in the press have led to uncertainty in the tourism industry, especially in relation to the role of Bord Fáilte, and to a fall in morale among its workforce? Will he agree it is vitally important that the report is produced as early as possible to clear up that uncertainty? Will he respond to statements made by Mr. Jimmy Murphy at the ITIC Conference yesterday where he condemned the Minister's attitude to Bord Fáilte?
Mr. McCreevy: The consultants will be engaged to focus on particular activities of Bord Fáilte and to submit recommendations in a report. I will make the decisions in respect of those activities and I will not be bound by the consultants' recommendations. Deputy Deenihan referred to uncertainty in the industry and a fall in morale among the workforce in Bord Fáilte. Other Deputies referred to tensions in the industry. Deputy O'Malley stated during the debate on the Supplementary Estimates that many semi-State organisations produce institutionalised propaganda. From my experience of dealing with agencies I agree with his view. It is no accident that more than 15 members of the workforce of Bord Fáilte are also members of the NUJ and they have good contacts with newspapers and other areas of the media. I do not accept that this uncertainty has harmed Irish tourism. The gentleman Deputy Deenihan referred to does not appear to know that a new Department of Tourism and Trade was set up under the Programme for Government. People may have thought that matters would continue as before. The manner in which matters were dealt with in the past was regarded as sacrosanct and it was envisaged that pattern would continue. The change has not led to any difficulties in Irish tourism.
The debate regarding the role of Bord Fáilte and other functions pertinent to State organisations has been healthy. There is an ongoing debate about tourism. I opened a seminar this morning in University College, Dublin. This debate  which involves Bord Fáilte, regional tourism organisations, this House and commentators in the media and elsewhere has been healthy. It highlights that tourism is no longer the Cinderella industry of our economy and that by the end of the decade it will be the main provider of jobs in most countries.
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