Ceisteanna — Questions. Oral Answers. - Decentralisation Programme.

Tuesday, 28 February 1995

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 449 No. 7

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  25.  Mr. Andrews  Information on David Andrews  Zoom on David Andrews   asked the Minister for Finance  Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn   the plans, if any, he has for further decentralisation of Government offices to the west of Ireland. [2630/95]

  51.  Mr. O'Leary  Information on John O'Leary  Zoom on John O'Leary   asked the Minister for Finance  Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn   if he will include Kenmare, County Kerry, in the next list of towns in which decentralised Government offices will be located; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4410/95]

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  I propose to take Questions Nos. 25 and 51 together.

By the west of Ireland I take it the Deputy means the counties of Connacht together with Clare and Donegal — those counties under the ambit of the Western Development Partnership Board recently launched by the Minister of State, Deputy Carey.

The programme of decentralisation to the west is well under way. The programme will take some time to complete however. Pending its completion and a review of its effectiveness, the Government has no plans to extend decentralisation to any further centres in the west or, indeed, the rest of the country.

[1718] Considerable progress has been made in the Government's decentralisation programme for the west. According to the most recent estimates available more than 1,000 staff have decentralised to Connacht, Clare and Donegal, resulting in considerable social and economic benefit to the designated centres of Galway, Sligo, Ballina, Letterkenny and Ennis.

Benefit to the west and to Munster generally has also been derived from implementation of the Government's decentralisation programme in the other designated centres of Longford, Athlone, Nenagh, Limerick, Killarney and Cork.

Mr. Callely: Information on Ivor Callely  Zoom on Ivor Callely  Will the Minister acknowledge the difficulties the decentralisation programme has caused in the Dublin area where there are social, economic and unemployment problems above the norm? Does he consider that decentralisation has contributed to these and, if so, how can they be redressed?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Joe Jacob  Zoom on Joe Jacob  The Deputy is straying outside the bounds of the question.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  I do not want the Deputy to lose the Whip by answering him.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  Does the Minister support the decentralisation programme and, if so, why has the Government called a halt to that programme? Why is he not prepared to continue with the programme? Does he recognise that the problem, which has been referred to by the previous speaker, relates more to over population in the Dublin area and the imbalance that is causing in the structure of this country?

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  The ongoing programme of decentralisation is continuing and I am not aware of any new plans for decentralisation. As a Dublin Deputy, I concur with the observations made by [1719] Deputy Callely that Dublin has a dis-proportionately higher than average rate of unemployment.

Mr. M. Kitt: Information on Michael P. Kitt  Zoom on Michael P. Kitt  Will the Minister agree it is somewhat ironic that having appointed a Minister of State with responsibility for western development the Government is now saying that the decentralisation programme has been effectively stopped? The Minister should be aware of the figures on rural depopulation — his Minister of State, Deputy Higgins, gave the figures in the Dáil on many occasions. Will the Government continue the successful policy of regionalisation within certain Departments?

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  The Deputy's question referred to western development. I am sure that he, a western Deputy, does not think the people of the west are so bereft of entrepreneurial skill that they require the transfer of offices from the east to the west to supplement their activities. The Minister of State, Deputy Carey, will seek to assist development by people in the west, together with the considerable array of existing supports, including the extensive county enterprise board system set up by the previous Government and SFADCo in the mid-west region. To answer the Deputy's specific question, more than 1,000 jobs have been decentralised from the Dublin region.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  The Minister opposed that decision.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  Yes, I did. It is history now.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  The Minister tried to block it again.

Mr. M. Ahern: Information on Michael Ahern  Zoom on Michael Ahern  The 1982-87 Fine Gael-Labour Government sold all the sites which had been purchased for decentralised offices. Will the Minister confirm that the Government will not reverse the decentralisation policy, [1720] which was a success in the west, south, north and northwest between 1987-94, and that the thousands of rural people working in Dublin who wish to return to Munster, Leinster or Connaught will have an opportunity to do so?

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  I hesitate to come between Deputy Ahern and his frontbench colleague, Deputy Ivor Callely, but I can confirm that the existing decentralisation proposals will be implemented. I am not aware of new proposals for further decentralisation on top of the ones in the process of being implemented.

Mr. Callely: Information on Ivor Callely  Zoom on Ivor Callely  Dublin Deputies are 100 per cent behind the Minister.

Mr. M. McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell  Zoom on Michael McDowell  As a Deputy who apparently knows everything, may I ask the Minister to assist me in regard to one point which I cannot understand at all, that is his two statements made in rapid succession that the programme of decentralisation is going ahead and that there are no further plans for decentralisation?Will he explain in ordinary words of one syllable to a fool like me which of those two propositions is correct?

Mr. D. Ahern: Information on Dermot Ahern  Zoom on Dermot Ahern  It was Fianna Fáil policy.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  I hesitate to engage with Deputy McDowell's renowned debating skills——

Mr. M. McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell  Zoom on Michael McDowell  Just answer the question.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  ——but I can say that the existing programme is going ahead and there are no proposals for a new programme.

Mr. McCreevy: Information on Charlie McCreevy  Zoom on Charlie McCreevy  Given the success of the decentralisation programme, as evidenced in the towns to which the Minister referred, and the Taoiseach's pauline conversion in regard to programme managers, will the Minister say if he still [1721] holds the view he held some years ago that the decentralisation programme was a mistake?

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  The decentralisation programme has conveyed considerable benefits to a substantial number of people and the economies of the towns in which the offices are located. As the Deputy will appreciate as Fianna Fáil spokesperson on Finance, the programme has introduced additional fixed costs in public expenditure which will not be recouped.

Mr. D. Ahern: Information on Dermot Ahern  Zoom on Dermot Ahern  Given that the scope of the question has been broadened, will the Minister circulate to Deputies on this side of the House a list of existing and proposed decentralisation locations so that we will at least know the locations under the existing programme?This includes my town of Dundalk.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  If the Deputy does not want to put down a question I can write to him directly with the information.

Mr. D. Ahern: Information on Dermot Ahern  Zoom on Dermot Ahern  I put down a question on Dundalk but I would like to know the full details of the programme.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Joe Jacob  Zoom on Joe Jacob  We are moving way beyond the scope of the question. I want to facilitate other Deputies. I call Deputy Molloy for a final question.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  Does the Minister understand the anger of parents and young people in the west at the system whereby they must live in Dublin if they want to take up a position in the Civil Service? Does he recognise the urgent need to continue the decentralisation programme so that people from rural areas will be given the opportunity to return to those areas and also to provide a better opportunity for young people in rural areas to obtain a position in the Civil Service and live locally? It is a matter of great concern and a cause of [1722] much anger, resentment and frustration——

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Joe Jacob  Zoom on Joe Jacob  That should be adequate, Deputy.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  ——that people who wish to work in the Civil Service must live in Dublin.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  If the Deputy and his party colleague beside him can propose how one can have decentralised Civil Service offices in virtually every town and at the same time reduce public expenditure then I would be very anxious to hear from them.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  I must complain about the flippant way in which the Minister has answered questions today. He has no understanding of or concern about the problem.


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