Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Border Counties Funding.

Wednesday, 21 February 1996

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 461 No. 8

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[2186]

  8.  Mr. B. Ahern  Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern   asked the Taoiseach  Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton   the funds from the EU and other sources available for the southern Border counties; the funds that are additional or consequent on the peace process; and the purposes for which they have been or will be used in each of the years from 1994 to 1996. [3928/96]

Mr. Carey: Information on Donal Carey  Zoom on Donal Carey  Funding for Border counties under my Department is through the local development programme. The sub-programme to the operational programme for local, urban and rural development is implemented through ADM Limited. It allocates funding to area partnership companies on the basis of the local development plans. There are nine partnership companies in the Border counties, one of which, Dundalk, has had its local development plan appraised; £2.546 million has been allocated to the partnership to the end of 1999. When plans have been received from the other partnerships, they will be appraised and funding allocated.

Under the special local development grant scheme, £10,000 was allocated to the Ardara Methodist community for the development of a community centre and Comhdháil Oileán na hÉireann, a voluntary representative association which includes islands off County Donegal and the north of Ireland, received £32,000. The issue of refocusing the operational programme, required as a consequence of the EU initiative to support peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland and the Border counties, is being kept under review by the monitoring committee of the operational programme, particularly in view of its importance and relevance to the local development programme.

ADM Limited will take account of the possibility of refocusing to provide additional support for development in the Border counties when allocating financial support to partnerships and selected organisations. ADM Limited, together with the Combat Poverty Agency, is an intermediary for a number of measures under the peace and reconciliation initiative. As announced recently by the Taoiseach, I am reviewing existing arrangements in order to ensure that funds for the development of the Border regions are [2187] maximised for the benefit of these regions and to ensure that the maximum effectiveness of the funding is achieved.

Mr. B. Ahern: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  It appears not much money has been allocated but that is not my point. Will the Minister of State demonstrate that the funding being provided to the Border region is wholly additional to and not a substitution for existing funds? The Minister of State is aware of the strong conviction among various communities along the Border that all the money they received from the Delors II package and the funds under the operational programmes and the Washington conference last May are in substitution for Exchequer funding. Will the Minister of State give a categorical assurance that any funding which accrues to the State is additional and will not be a substitute for funds already being spent?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  May I appeal for brevity? A number of Deputies are offering and we must commence priority questions at 3.30 p.m. Brevity must be the key note of the proceedings.

Mr. Carey: Information on Donal Carey  Zoom on Donal Carey  I fully accept Deputy Ahern's point about the need for emphasis on additionality. The meetings I have held to date discussed putting arrangements in place in that regard. I admit there is considerable confusion about exactly what is available. Some of the first meetings examined how we might put in place a full complement of information so people can see where they are going and what money may be drawn down. I am anxious there should not be obstacles in the way and we are trying to make arrangements in that regard also.

Mr. D. Ahern: Information on Dermot Ahern  Zoom on Dermot Ahern  Unlike the last question where the Minister of State was not sure what money is available, I assure him £17 million from a total of £34 million is available under the Delors package. This is available over a certain period and it has not yet been allocated. [2188] Has the Minister of State taken into account the views expressed by all parties in the House regarding the proper utilisation of the £17 million? I refer him to the Fianna Fáil motion which exhorts the Government to consider using part of the required industrial infra-building of the required industrial infrastructure in the Border counties.

Mr. Carey: Information on Donal Carey  Zoom on Donal Carey  I am certain, when the groups are properly established and the CSF programme becomes clearer——

Mr. D. Ahern: Information on Dermot Ahern  Zoom on Dermot Ahern  The Minister of State designates the money.

Mr. Carey: Information on Donal Carey  Zoom on Donal Carey  ——the points made by Deputy Dermot Ahern will be taken into consideration. However, as yet we have not cleared the hurdle of having definite information available for people to make proper applications. This is where the matter stands and I have a meeting tomorrow with the interdepartmental task force to iron out many of the difficulties. I hope I will have more information for the Deputy when he resubmits the question.

Dr. O'Hanlon: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  Will the Minister of State accept there is no confusion about the fact that funds provided by the taxpayers, mainly in Germany and France, and targeted at the Border area as additional money are not being spent as additional funds? It is being spent as a substitution for funds which should come from the Exchequer.

Is the Minister of State aware that only 20 per cent of the funds arising from the peace initiative are coming to the southern Border counties and there is much concern about the lack of co-ordination in terms of the funds already available? Will he tell me why that money will be distributed by three different agencies? Why are ADM and the Combat Poverty Agency included as distribution agencies?

Mr. Carey: Information on Donal Carey  Zoom on Donal Carey  I inherited the system. I understood agreement was reached [2189] between the previous Government and the Commission.

Mr. D. Ahern: Information on Dermot Ahern  Zoom on Dermot Ahern  No, the Combat Poverty Agency was added later.

Mr. Carey: Information on Donal Carey  Zoom on Donal Carey  I can only do my best for the Border regions and this is what I am doing.

Mr. D. Ahern: Information on Dermot Ahern  Zoom on Dermot Ahern  That is why the Combat Poverty Agency is involved.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  The Deputy should desist from interrupting.

Mr. D. Ahern: Information on Dermot Ahern  Zoom on Dermot Ahern  I never heard tell of it before.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  I am sure the Deputy heard the Chair.

Mr. D. Ahern: Information on Dermot Ahern  Zoom on Dermot Ahern  Not on the Combat Poverty Agency.

Mr. Carey: Information on Donal Carey  Zoom on Donal Carey  The Combat Poverty Agency and ADM together are trying to assist in this area. The simplified application form they devised is a forward move at least for genuine applicants.

Mr. D. Ahern: Information on Dermot Ahern  Zoom on Dermot Ahern  The Minister is ringing agencies and asking where money should be spent. He is not asking politicians.

Mr. Carey: Information on Donal Carey  Zoom on Donal Carey  In addition, both agencies have opened an office in Monaghan and guidelines for applicants for funding will be available in the first week of March. These guidelines will be issued to all those who attended information seminars held in the Border regions recently. They will also be available in the ADM office in Monaghan.

Regarding Deputy O'Hanlon's question, the bulk of the peace programme is being implemented by intermediary bodies with whom the Commission finalised a global grant agreement last December. As far as I am concerned, the matter is a fait accompli. I must ensure the money is spent properly [2190] according to the guidelines which were agreed.


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