Wednesday, 29 April 1998
Dáil Éireann Debate
Mr. Broughan: There are more than 20 months until the beginning of the third Christian millennium. There is considerable excitement and interest in many other countries, particularly Britain, about this event and many major projects have been planned. We have seen pictures and media coverage of the millennium dome in Britain which the Minister Mr. Mandelson is charged with constructing in London. Many other exhibitions and special projects are planned in France, other EU countries and the United States. However, it appears the importance and significance of the millennium is by-passing the Government. There is a significant possibility that the Government will not be in office when the millennium is celebrated and perhaps that is why it is not bothering to prepare for it. Nevertheless, the Government's performance on this matter has been dismal.
Dublin City Council recently discussed a number of significant projects for the city which were to be prepared and initiated to mark the millennium, particularly the O'Connell Street boulevard project. Some interesting designs on the restoration of the street as a major central area in the capital city similar to the Champs Elysées have been submitted. There is also a proposal for a new bridge over the river Liffey and the announcement of a possible new competition and several regional plans. However, most city and county councillors and Deputies are unaware of what is happening because the Taoiseach and the Government appear to be unsure about what projects will go ahead. Last October-November on a number of occasions on the Order of Business I raised with the Taoiseach the possibility of considering, if not a large project or a number of large projects, a simple project for our capital city and other urban areas. I asked that consideration be given to setting up a special environmental millennium fund, given that most city dwellers love parks and open spaces. As a result of my suggestion, the Taoiseach's office contacted Dublin Corporation and a list of projects was drawn up.
In my constituency there are a number of significant parks such as Belcamp Park, Streamville Park and Fr. Collins Park where major environmental works are needed. When the Taoiseach was leader of Dublin City Council in 1987 he abolished service charges but cut the workforce by 1,500. He also cut back significantly on spending.  Since then the council has had to cope with a threadbare parks budget. Will the Taoiseach support my proposal and make available money for parks and open spaces for our capital city?
A number of major announcements have been made for the city such as the Luas proposal. It looks as if in the Dublin Cabinet Ministers, led by the Taoiseach and Tánaiste, because of opposition by their country colleagues, are not prepared to spend £2 when they can get away with spending £1 in terms of providing the best possible environmentally friendly transport infrastructure for Dublin. There are a number of key projects throughout the city such as the village project in Darndale. The Taoiseach has been able to provide money for that special millennium project. There are ten or 15 other areas around the city and in other cities where an impact could be made in terms of providing for memorable celebrations of the millennium.
The Minister, Deputy McDaid, recently announced spending on sports, but most people in this House were bitterly disappointed with the allocation. It was thought the Government intended to target sports and youth resources at specially deprived areas, yet my constituency with many deprived areas received the miserly sum of £4,000 out of a total of £7 million. Is the Taoiseach serious about the promises made in the election manifesto? As part of the millennium celebrations significant projects should be considered such as the development of parks, the boulevard scheme and so on. Those projects should be expedited.
Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach (Mr. S. Brennan): I thank Deputy Broughan for raising this issue. I will bring his comments, particularly the latter ones, to the Taoiseach's attention. The millennium will probably be one of the biggest events worldwide in our lifetime and it will be spoken about and looked back on by future generations. It is an occasion which has already captured the public's attention and will gain momentum as we approach the year 2000.
The Minister for Tourism, Sport and Recreation, Deputy McDaid, has appointed a millennium festival committee. This committee, chaired by Mr. Derek Keogh, will implement Ireland's millennium festivals project. This will further develop and link together existing festivals and events around the country to provide a “festival of festivals”. The idea is to link participating festivals into a prolonged celebration which will be accessible to all sectors of society, attractive and welcoming to visitors and utilise existing infrastructure and expertise around the country.
Given that St. Patrick's Day falls earlier in the year than most other national days, the Minister has decided that our millennium celebrations will be launched on St. Patrick's Day 1999 — in other words the world's first millennium party will start in Ireland.
 The Deputy will be aware that a very large number of different projects, initiatives and events have been proposed as elements of a programme to commemorate the new millennium. Some of these are specific millennium projects while others of a more general nature have been suggested as suitable for inclusion. There are projects relating to sport, arts and culture, the environment, heritage, social issues, tourism, information technology and education. It is clear that there is no shortage of ideas on how we can commemorate the millennium. Many groups and organisations will proceed with their own plans without Government intervention.
There has been considerable publicity about the plans for millennium celebrations in the UK and other countries. The proposal for a millennium dome in London has attracted considerable international attention. We should not, however, attempt to imitate any other country's proposals, but instead proceed on the basis that suitable and appropriate projects are selected.
Proposals for a comprehensive programme to commemorate the millennium in Ireland are currently being developed. These will be submitted to the Government in the near future. While I cannot disclose the proposals in advance of a Government decision on the matter, it can be anticipated that it will include the appointment of a millennium committee to oversee the commemoration programme and consider possible projects which might be included. It is envisaged that the Government will be involved in co-ordinating a limited number of projects at national level, while also ensuring that people at locations around the country have an opportunity to participate in the commemorations.
The Minister for Finance said in his budget speech last December that he will consider the possibility of some future contribution to the funding of suitable millennium projects. While it may be possible for the Government to fund or partially fund some of these events, it would be wrong to create unjustified expectations which cannot be met. The Government will seek to participate in and support a limited number of projects and it will fall to the proposed committee to make recommendations in this regard.
One of the proposals which has been put forward as a millennium project is the O'Connell Street integrated area plan. This is one of several millennium projects being developed by Dublin Corporation. As the Deputy is aware, this involves extensive plans for the rejuvenation of the entire O'Connell Street area. The Taoiseach has already indicated that he believes this is a good initiative and it is important that we can be proud of the country's primary thoroughfare. This project, along with any others proposed by Dublin Corporation, will clearly be considered by the millennium committee when it is established shortly.
 I am confident we will put in place an appropriate and comprehensive programme for the commemoration of the millennium, which will provide an opportunity for ordinary members of the public, both in Dublin and around the country, to fully participate in and enjoy the arrival of the new millennium. At the same time, we are determined to support practical projects which will leave a lasting inheritance for the citizens of the new millennium by improving the facilities and opportunities available to them. It is in that practical way we will approach the commemoration of the millennium rather than in a grandiose manner.
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