Wednesday, 21 February 1996
Dáil Éireann Debate
7. Mr. M. Kitt asked the Taoiseach the funding that will be provided for the implementation of proposals of the Western Development Partnership Board; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2591/96]
Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach (Mr. Carey): An action plan for the western region has been completed by the Western Development Partnership Board. The objective of the plan is to achieve, by the end of the decade, population stability on a county by county basis at 1991 census levels. The plan will be submitted to Government shortly for consideration of the issues arising within it, including funding.
Mr. M. Kitt: I am disappointed that the Minister of State cannot indicate the type of action which will be taken by the Government. It is four years since the west of Ireland bishops took an initiative. Are these proposals realistic and positive and will they lead to the west becoming self sufficient?
Mr. Carey: This is the first time an action plan of this kind has been attempted. It has been a progressive step in tackling the serious problems affecting western communities as a result of declining populations. In the preparation of the action plan there was  considerable commitment from board members to ensure it was of a high quality. As a consequence, it deserves full examination from each Department. I expect that when their observations are complete, the Government will give due consideration to all the proposals contained therein. There has been no prevarication or delay. The Deputy seems to think there has been no movement. There certainly has been movement according to the programme I have been given. We set a deadline for the completion of the report which was the end of September or early October and it was finished in November. I am quite satisfied that everything is up to date.
Mr. M. Kitt: On the question of funding, given that the population of Connacht, Donegal and the Minister's county of Clare is estimated at 650,000, will the Minister of State tell us how much funding per head he might give to that region in the plan?
Mr. M. Kitt: A figure of £1.3 million was mentioned. Could the Minister confirm that figure? It would work out at about £2 per head of population which is not much to ask. Now that the board has reported, will it be wound up and a new committee or agency put in place?
Mr. Carey: It is premature to answer those questions. I expect that the work of the Western Development Partnership Board will be ongoing. It sets out  targets, some of which are realisable. Elements of the report should probably contain more radical proposals but I commend the board for its pragmatic view of the matter. I am reasonably optimistic that when the Government has seen this plan, we will have proper action.
Éamon Ó Cuív: If there were more radical proposals in the plan, would the Minister be willing to fund them? If reports could solve the problems of the west, there would be no problems there because we have had so many reports. What is needed is action. The Minister of State has not yet answered the question about funding. Will he tell us what funds he has available to him in 1996, as Minister of State with responsibility for western development, for that specific purpose?
Mr. Carey: This question deals directly with the Western Development Partnership Board. Funding of £120,000 has been set aside under the Western Development Partnership Board subhead in 1996 and that will be ongoing. As far as the future programme on foot of the report is concerned, I am confident that the Government will respond to the items on it. As the year progresses, we will have a better indication of exactly what will happen in this area.
Mr. Carey: It was not my party which set up the setaside regime which has benefited so many people. I am disappointed in Deputy Ó Cuív. I did not find anybody who groused about the state of the west as much as the Deputies opposite. The people in the west should get on with their activities. There are funds available to develop communities under LEADER, ADM and the county enterprise boards. There are plenty of  areas in which people can get on with development in the west.
There is optimism in the west. For instance, after the furore about the Castlerea prison, we went down to meet the people in Castlerea. There were 300 or 400 people out to see the Minister for Justice.
Mr. Carey: The problem about engendering lack of confidence cannot be underestimated. I am surprised Deputy Ó Cuív, who made so much progress in co-operative movements in the west, is knocking efforts which have been made.
Mr. Carey: I inherited this case, involving the western development partnership board plan, from the previous Taoiseach and I continued it. The report was completed in good time and the small farmers in Loughrea and the bishops who instituted it are satisfied that progress has been made.
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