Dáil Éireann - Volume 412 - 13 November, 1991

Ceisteanna — Questions. Oral Answers. - Agri-tourism Projects.

[1363] 12. Mr. Farrelly asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the number of applications which have been received for agri-tourism grants and the number which have been approved; the total grant cost involved; and if he has satisfied himiself with the structure which is in place for dealing with these applications.

72. Mr. J. Higgins asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the amount of money allocated to agri-tourism over the next three years; whether all of the moneys have been committed to date; the number of projects involved; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

81. Mr. Finucane asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the total allocation to SFADCo in the mid-west region for agri-tourism projects; the number of projects that were assisted; the value of the grant approved for each project; the number of projects that were not considered because of lack of funding; and, if he will give details of his plans to provide suitable funding for these projects.

99. Mr. Creed asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the amount of funds allocated by his Department for agri-tourism; the number of staff involved in processing applications for such funds; and the number of applications approved by his Department.

Mr. Kirk: I propose to take Questions Nos. 12, 72, 81 and 99 together. The amount allocated by way of grant aid under the agri-tourism scheme over the next three years is £5.3 million, out of which £1.7 million relates to the area covered by SFADCo. The total number of applications received to date is 368 and 196 projects have been approved. The relevant figures for the SFADCo area are 106 applications and 63 approvals. I do not consider it appropriate to give details of individual projects. The scheme is administered on behalf of my Department by the Shannon Free Area Development Company in the mid-west [1364] and Bord Fáilte in the rest of the country as part of their normal remit.

As the total allocation has now been committed, the processing of further applications has now to be suspended for the time being. I am satisfied with the manner in which the scheme is being administered by the agencies involved.

I propose to circulate a copy of the Minister's address at the agri-tourism awards.

Mr. Farrelly: Is the Minister happy that there is not over-emphasis on duplication by the people who are trying to organise and run this scheme? Second, as a result of an industrial dispute which has been ongoing since 15 October 1991, is he also aware that no actual training is being provided for people who have been approved for grants and are looking for help to ensure that the projects they are initiating get off the ground? What follow-up action is taken when people are approved for grants?

Mr. Kirk: I can tell Deputy Farrelly that the agri-tourism grant scheme has been a considerable success. It is one of the grant schemes that comes in under the general heading of the operational programme for rural development. The number of applications and approvals that I have just read out clearly underline the success of the scheme. As I said, the two agencies dealing with the administration of the scheme are the Shannon Development Company and Bord Fáilte. Those two bodies have considerable experience in that regard. I am sure that in the processing of various applications the examination of the capacity and the ability of individual applicants to plan, invest and ensure that the investment is carried through to finality and commercial fruition, will be a matter on which the agencies seek satisfaction.

Mr. J. Higgins: Would the Minister of State not agree that his statement that the scheme is a tremendous success is somewhat of an overstatement in view of the fact that the amount of money involved is a mere £5.3 million and in [1365] view of the fact that of the 368 applications received 196 were approved for the Shannon area and only 80 were approved for the rest of the country? Would he not agree that the scheme is way beyond the range of scope of the vast majority of those who should have benefited and that what should have been an ideal alternative enterprise for small farmers is in fact total nonsense and a total flop in that it is very bureaucratic, tied up in red tape, very grandiose and beyond the relevance of the vast majority of small farmers?

Mr. Kirk: I do not agree with Deputy Higgins' sentiments on the matter. The statistics show that the total number of applications received to date is 368 and that 196 projects have been approved. The relevant figures for the Shannon Free Airport development area are 106 applications and 63 approvals. I think those figures fairly graphically underline the attractiveness and importance of the scheme and the important role it will play in the whole question of alternative enterprises on farms throughout the country.

Mr. Farrelly: A Cheann Comhairle——

An Ceann Comhairle: I was going to bring in Deputy Creed, who also has a question tabled on the matter. I shall come back to the Deputy for a final question and facilitate Deputy Cotter also. I presume that Deputies will be brief.

Mr. Creed: Would the Minister agree that the hype and fanfare associated with the £5 million involved is no substitute for the capacity of farming families to generate an income off their own holdings, that in the context of the Common Agricultural Policy reform, which will take approximately £600 million out of farm incomes annually, this is merely a drop in the ocean of terms of compensations; and that the rate of approval, which is less than ten per county, goes nowhere near balancing the equation [1366] with regard to what this country is suffering from the proposed reform of the Common Agricultural Policy?

Mr. Kirk: I think Deputy Creed might well be trying to portray an incorrect picture. The agri-tourism grant scheme is part of an overall integrated rural development programme; it is merely one segment of it.

An Ceann Comhairle: Deputy Leonard has been offering for some time.

Mr. Leonard: I want to ask the Minister whether future allocations of funding could be related to regions rather than to carry on with the present system. The more advanced tourist regions are picking up the greatest amount from all of those schemes, the result being that when people from other regions make applications for aid under many of those schemes, as has been experienced even recently in my own region, they are told that the money is gone. In order to make the operational programme really effective in the future grants could be allocated on a regional basis rather than on a free-for-all basis, under which the strongest bodies get the most.

Mr. Kirk: It is understandable that a greater intensity of interest in the scheme itself will come from areas in which the tourism culture is the strongest, but Deputy Leonard's observations will certainly be kept in mind.

Mr. Cotter: Could the Minister indicate from the figures he has, the number of applications that came from my own constituency and whether that would support my thesis that this programme will have some impact in coastal counties but will, in fact, have a very minor impact on job creation in counties such as my own, County Monaghan? Could the Minister extract figures on that?

Mr. Leonard: I have tabled a question for both our counties.

An Ceann Comhairle: That is fine. If [1367] there is a question tabled then we should wait.

Mr. Wilson: We will come to that later.

Mr. O'Kennedy: It is in safe hands.

Mr. Kirk: I know the constituency represented by Deputies Cotter and Leonard and by the Tánaiste, Deputy Wilson, and there are many areas there to which the agri-tourism grant scheme would be ideally suited and fitted.

An Ceann Comhairle: I now call on Deputy Farrelly with a final question.

Mr. Farrelly: The Minister did not give an answer to the problem of the people who have been approved and are awaiting training because of the dispute that has been going on since 15 October in which the Department of Finance and the Department of Agriculture are refusing to accept the terms agreed with the unions. Of the applications that have been approved there are 39 groups and 88 other industries involved. The people in the regions and the regions themselves should be given the process of dealing with the applications and a sufficient amount of funds. Would the Minister ensure that sufficient funds will be made available in 1992 for the regions to deal with other applications? I am not surprised that the Minister is side-stepping or has set that matter aside in the question, because that is the way that things have happened here all day.

Mr. Kirk: Naturally, as I said at the outset, the scheme has been a considerable success — I think that is the word I used. The matter of additional funds may need to be further examined——

Mr. Farrelly: The Minister never answered the question about the dispute.

An Ceann Comhairle: It is on this subject.

[1368] Mr. Kirk: I think we are in the process of learning from the experience of the individuals who submitted applications, had them approved and are in the process of implementing their plans. Naturally, there will be experiences to be gained from that, and any experience that can be gained can be used when dealing with further applications.

Mr. Farrelly: What about the courses that Teagasc were to carry out for those people?

An Ceann Comhairle: I am sorry, this question has been dealt with more than adequately.

Mr. Farrelly: They are on strike.

An Ceann Comhairle: I call Question No. 13, Deputy Creed's question.

Mr. Farrelly: What about the fact that the Minister has been set aside?

Mr. O'Kennedy: I am on my last day here, give me a chance to say something, will you? I will miss you, but——

(Interruptions.)

Mr. Kirk: It was a cheap remark.

Mr. O'Kennedy: I will miss Deputy Farrelly's noise.