Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Responsibilities of Ministers of State.

Wednesday, 24 April 1996

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 464 No. 4

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[878]

  2.  Mr. O'Dea  Information on Willie O'Dea  Zoom on Willie O'Dea   asked the   Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton   asked the Taoiseach, the programmes of work of Ministers of State Donal Carey and Gay Mitchell for the remainder of this administration; and whether there are any areas of overlap in their respective responsibilities. [

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  The Minister of State responsible for Western Development and Rural Renewal, Deputy Carey, has responsibility for co-ordinating the Government's support for the development of the western region in particular by tackling population decline, which has many socio-economic consequences.

His responsibilities will, therefore, continue to include; liaison with the Western Development Partnership Board whose action plan is currently being considered by the Government; overseeing the implementation of the pilot programme initiative for the development of a more integrated approach to the delivery of public services in remote rural areas, following the recommendations of the National Economic and Social Council's report New Approaches to Rural Development; special responsibility for the development and improvement of living conditions on the offshore islands of Ireland, in particular as chair of the Interdepartmental Co-ordinating Committee on Island Development which has recently produced a detailed report outlining a strategic framework for future development; chairing a task force on funding arrangements in the Border region. The Minister hopes to submit a report to Government shortly.

Finally, Deputy Carey's related appointment as Minister of State at the Department of Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht with special responsibility for the Gaeltacht represents a clear expression of the Government's commitment to the development and preservation of these unique cultural and historic areas.

The Minister of State with responsibility for European Affairs and Local [879] Development, Deputy Gay Mitchell, has a vital role in ensuring the effective implementation of the Government's local development strategies. His appointment as Minister with special responsibility for local development is testimony to the Government's commitment to an integrated approach to tackling economic and social exclusion.

His responsibilities in respect of local development will, therefore, continue to include: support for the many initiatives under the Operational Programme for Local Urban and Rural Development and the EU urban initiative. The focus of the operational programme is on drawing on the combined resources of State agencies, local communities and the social partners to target specific areas of difficulty and disadvantage; active support of the various initiatives on the ground, such as the area partnerships; communicating to Government the lessons learned from local development strategies which will benefit and inform mainstream economic and social policy, especially arising from the mid-term review of the operational programme in 1997; promoting European awareness of and support for local development strategy through a major conference to be held during our EU Presidency.

As Minister of State with special responsibility for the International Financial Services Centre, Deputy Gay Mitchell has set the following targets: first, the continued economic development of the centre, particularly substantially increasing the level of direct employment from the current 3,000; targeting 1,000 jobs in related back-office development located outside the centre; and maximising consequential employment in associated legal, accounting and general services in the domestic economy.

Second, to prepare a strategy for the long-term development of the centre beyond 2005 when the EU provision for [880] preferential tax treatment is due to expire.

Obviously, the Minister has considerable responsibilities in the European area. He has established an international advisory group to assist him in regard to the Financial Services Centre. Furthermore, there is no overlap in the responsibilities of Deputies Carey and Gay Mitchell. Each has a clear programme and a specific set of objectives. Avoidance of duplication ensures complementarity between local development initiatives and the wider responsibilities of Government policy.

Mr. Barrett: Information on Seán Barrett  Zoom on Seán Barrett  I am glad to see Deputy O'Dea being asked to do something.

Mr. O'Dea: Information on Willie O'Dea  Zoom on Willie O'Dea  I can explain why part of my question asks about the overlap of responsibilities because it occurs in the context of a wider question concerning the responsibilities of a number of other Ministers of State. I asked the Taoiseach to list the achievements of the Minister of State with responsibility for urban renewal but that question was referred to the Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry. Perhaps the Taoiseach could comment on the appropriateness of that?

Having listened carefully to the Taoiseach's reply, I still cannot understand what Deputy Carey does for a living, apart from being a TD. The Taoiseach says he is responsible for halting population decline but can he point to any specific achievement or to anything he is supposed to do between now and the end of this administration?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  This is becoming a speech, Deputy. Let us have a brief, relevant question.

Mr. O'Dea: Information on Willie O'Dea  Zoom on Willie O'Dea  I am asking the Taoiseach to point to one specific achievement of Deputy Carey, Minister of State with responsibility for western development who apparently was appointed as an afterthought when he could not get another job.

[881] The Taoiseach says Deputy Gay Mitchell is responsible for local development. The only local development I can see Deputy Gay Mitchell having engaged in is local development in his own constituency in Dublin South Central. What has he achieved and for what is he responsible?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  Deputy O'Dea is embarking upon a comprehensive speech.

Mr. Barrett: Information on Seán Barrett  Zoom on Seán Barrett  The Deputy should look at his own record.

Mr. O'Dea: Information on Willie O'Dea  Zoom on Willie O'Dea  Say nothing.

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  As far as Deputy Carey's responsibilities are concerned, I think Deputy Ó Cuív, who is sitting beside Deputy O'Dea, will give a very concrete example of the influence Deputy Carey has had in terms of being able to ensure proper standards of electrical power on Inish Meán in the Aran Islands. Apart from that very specific example he has been responsible for bringing to light and proceeding with the implementation of a comprehensive programme to deal with the problems of the islands, the first ever such comprehensive programme dealing with access, standard of living and standard of services related matters. He is responsible for the first time in a Government for the political focus on the wider question of western development, something that no previous Government felt was worthy of the appointment of a Minister of State. Furthermore, he has taken on responsibility for co-ordinating the many expenditures that occur in the Border areas, again something that was not co-ordinated at political level under the previous Government. When one contemplates the work-load that Deputy Carey has undertaken in terms of island development, western development and co-ordination of Border expenditure, one will have to question the omission of the appointment of somebody with Deputy Carey's [882] responsibilities by any previous Taoiseach.

Mrs. O'Rourke: Information on Mary O'Rourke  Zoom on Mary O'Rourke  Why was his appointment an afterthought?

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  I am very pleased I made that appointment——

Mr. D. Ahern: Information on Dermot Ahern  Zoom on Dermot Ahern  As an afterthought.

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  ——whereas none of my predecessors had that degree of commitment either to western development, to Border areas or to the islands, that Deputy Carey and I have expressed.

It is significant that while Deputy O'Dea was putting his questions most of his Front Bench colleagues were sniggering at the questions he was putting——

Mrs. O'Rourke: Information on Mary O'Rourke  Zoom on Mary O'Rourke  We were sniggering at the Taoiseach's attitude.

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  ——which displayed a lack of seriousness on the part in particular of the Deputy who now stands up to protest and displays the long known lack of seriousness about western development of the party to which both Deputies belong. Both of them believed that tokenism was sufficient.

Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  Is this a speech? Is this not Question Time?

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  This is not tokenism; this is a case of a Minister being given responsibility to do a job and doing it very well.

Deputy O'Dea also asked about Deputy Gay Mitchell. Deputy Mitchell has been effective in ensuring that the local development programme works extremely well. As a result of his management of that programme, local people have a wider degree of interest in making economic decisions about how EU and national moneys are spent in their areas. The success of that programme under Deputy Mitchell's [883] leadership is such that other EU countries are interested in examining how we are carrying out this task better than they can. That is why we are having an EU conference during the Irish Presidency on the issue of local development, with particular reference to urban areas where there is significant deprivation and social exclusion. Furthermore, Deputy O'Dea might recognise that Deputy Gay Mitchell will be responsible during our Presidency for representing the national position at meetings of the EU Council of Foreign Ministers, given that the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs will be in the chair.

Mr. B. Ahern: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  God forbid.

Mr. R. Burke: Information on Ray Burke  Zoom on Ray Burke  What did we do to have a threat like that hanging over us?

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  The Deputy is well fitted for that task. He was a member of the Reflection Group responsible for the preparation of an excellent preparatory report for the Intergovernmental Conference which has been widely welcomed throughout the European Union.

Good work is being done by both Minister of State. That Deputy O'Dea and the Fianna Fáil Party have chosen to table such a question indicates their paucity of ideas at this time.

Mr. D. Ahern: Information on Dermot Ahern  Zoom on Dermot Ahern  Which Minister of State is responsible for overseeing the peace and reconciliation money?

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  Neither Minister of State is responsible for that.

Mrs. O'Rourke: Information on Mary O'Rourke  Zoom on Mary O'Rourke  On a point of information, the Taoiseach said we were laughing at our Members whereas we were laughing at him.

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  The Deputy laughed when her colleague spoke.

Éamon Ó Cuív: Information on Éamon Ó Cuív  Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív  Can the Taoiseach confirm that the only direct finance available to the Minister of State with [884] responsibility for the islands, Deputy Carey, to implement the islands report is £1 million?

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  That report calls for action from a wide range of Government Departments. Its purpose is to bring together in a coherent programme the activities of a range of Government Departments. The finance provided for Deputy Carey is simply to finance actions which are not covered by existing departmental responsibilities. It is right that there should be a Minister of State in the Taoiseach's Department with specific responsibility for island development. That was a good decision and Deputy Ó Cuív might usefully communicate with his urban colleague, Deputy O'Dea, on the value of having a Minister of State for island development.

Mr. T. Kitt: Information on Tom Kitt  Zoom on Tom Kitt  The Taoiseach said the Minister of State, Deputy Mitchell, had responsibility for local development strategies. It is legitimate to ask — and this is not the first time we have asked — who is in charge of what. Is the Taoiseach inferring that Deputy Mitchell is in charge of local development strategies——

Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  Particularly in Dublin South-Central.

Mr. T. Kitt: Information on Tom Kitt  Zoom on Tom Kitt  ——with the exception of those in the western region? That is the inference I have taken from his reply. We are told Deputy Carey is doing a world of work in the western area. Would it not be terrible if the Taoiseach presided over a Government in which two Ministers of State do the same job and cause confusion for people trying to avail of the services the Government should provide at local level?

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  Local development occurs outside the western region and Deputy Mitchell has responsibility for that.

[885]Mr. D. Ahern: Information on Dermot Ahern  Zoom on Dermot Ahern  What about the Border regions? They are not in the west.

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  Deputy Carey has particular responsibility for local development in the western region. There is no difficulty between the two Ministers. As far as the Border areas are concerned, I have asked Deputy Carey, as a special mission, to take on that responsibility.

Mr. D. Ahern: Information on Dermot Ahern  Zoom on Dermot Ahern  Has he any money to allocate to those areas?

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  The matter was raised in the House by Deputy Leonard in a constructive question and the response was to allocate that responsibility. There is a need for co-ordination of the many sources of funds available in Border areas. There was no Minister with responsibility for that in the past, but Deputy Carey is now responsible for it.

Mr. D. Ahern: Information on Dermot Ahern  Zoom on Dermot Ahern  There is not a Minister for the Border areas.

Mr. R. Burke: Information on Ray Burke  Zoom on Ray Burke  I trust independent observers will have noted the length of the Taoiseach's response to supplementary questions on this matter when, on the serious question of extradition, he refused to give even a little information to the House.

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  I hope independent observers will note the low level of importance attached by Deputy Burke to the matters of western, island, local and Gaeltacht development and also the financial services centre which is the responsibility of Deputy Gay Mitchell.

Mr. D. Ahern: Information on Dermot Ahern  Zoom on Dermot Ahern  The same importance the Taoiseach gave to it when he was giving out 30 jobs.

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  A lengthy report on these activities, which are important in terms of jobs creation, is justified. I would welcome further parliamentary questions on this matter so that the [886] Ministers of State concerned can elaborate further on what the Government is doing in those areas.

Mr. Ring: Information on Michael Ring  Zoom on Michael Ring  I invite the Taoiseach, the Minister for the Environment, the Minister of State, Deputy Carey, and the Ceann Comhairle to Westport. The people of Westport want to thank the Taoiseach and the Government for the allocation of £2.25 million last week for the Westport water supply scheme. The people of Westport ask the Taoiseach to visit and the Ceann Comhairle is more than welcome.

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  I have been aware for some time of the need for enhancement of the water supply system in Westport particularly in view of the industrial needs of the many important modern industries in Westport. I thank Deputy Ring for the interest he has taken in this matter.

Mr. N. Treacy: Information on Noel Treacy  Zoom on Noel Treacy  The Minister of State, Deputy Jim Higgins, is not happy with that remark.

Mr. B. Ahern: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  Is the Taoiseach satisfied with the Minister of State, Deputy Mitchell's, handling of the IFSC centre and particularly the scandal whereby dozens of companies have not moved into the centre but are still benefiting from a tax relief which is effectively illegal because they have breached the deadline? This represents a loss of millions of pounds to the taxpayer. If the Taoiseach is satisfied, will he explain why, to ordinary taxpayers who must pay their full share of tax?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  That is a specific matter worthy of a separate question. It is a distinct matter that is quite separate from the matter under discussion.

Mr. B. Ahern: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  With regard to Deputy Carey's handling of his portfolio does the Taoiseach stand over the disgraceful way the Minister of State handled the [887] situation of Deputy Ring's constituents in Inishbiggle.

Mr. Ring: Information on Michael Ring  Zoom on Michael Ring  That is incorrect.

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  As far as the financial services centre is concerned, the Minister of State, Deputy Gay Mitchell, is anxious to ensure as soon as practicable that all companies availing of incentives appropriate to the financial services centre should locate in the centre. That matter is engaging his constant attention. There are practical problems in terms of the availability of buildings and the disposal of existing accommodation commitments which must be overcome. It is a matter that Deputy Mitchell, without prompting from anybody, has taken up and is pursuing vigorously.

With regard to the islands off the coast of Mayo, Deputy Ahern can be satisfied that the interests of the islanders in Mayo will be adequately looked after by Deputies Kenny, Higgins and Ring.

Mrs. O'Rourke: Information on Mary O'Rourke  Zoom on Mary O'Rourke  What about the water scheme in north Westmeath?

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  I will visit that area in May.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  I am concerned about the lack of progress made on questions today.

Mr. B. Ahern: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  It would be nice to have some questions allowed.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  Half an hour for two questions is not good enough from any point of view. I want to dissuade Members from the notion that they can debate matters at Question Time; they cannot.


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