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Financial Resolution No. 2: General (Resumed) (Continued)

Thursday, 13 October 2016

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 924 No. 3

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Minister of State at the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Patrick O'Donovan): Information on Patrick O'Donovan Zoom on Patrick O'Donovan I welcome the budget and will focus in my contribution on two areas for which I have responsibility, tourism and sport, before commenting on the budget in general. I welcome the fact that the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport has been allocated an additional €72 million. Specifically in my own area of responsibility in the development of sport and tourism, I am delighted that I have secured agreement from Government through the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform for funding around the sports capital programme for 2017. I will provide further details of that in the coming weeks. This is of huge importance to me and other Deputies and to communities across the country. It is a programme that makes a tangible difference to communities in urban and rural areas. It is a labour activation measure and also a recognition by the State of the work that has been done by sporting organisations on the ground.

I compliment and commend the work of the State agencies for which I have responsibility, namely Sport Ireland, Fáilte Ireland and Tourism Ireland. There is competition for resources and there are challenges in the areas of both current and capital expenditure, but I am committed to working with the three agencies for which I have direct responsibility as well as the national governing bodies in sport and the representative organisations within tourism to ensure that we grow those sectors. Specifically in the area of sport, I draw particular attention to the work of Sport Ireland and my Department over the last number of months to prepare athletes for the Olympics and Paralympics. Contributing to the debate on the financial resolution is the first time I have had a chance to speak in the House since the games and I take the opportunity to compliment all of the athletes who represented us so impeccably in Rio. Sport Ireland and the Department are looking at the effectiveness of the high-performance programme and at Ireland's participation and performance at the Olympic Games. This will form part of our work programme for 2017.

I am delighted that my efforts have resulted in the securing of the 9% VAT rate for the tourism and hospitality industry for the next 12 months. When that initiative was brought before the House initially some years ago, it was opposed for political purposes and the wrong reasons. It was opposed because of opposition for opposition's sake. The initiative has played no small part in the revival of the Irish tourism and hospitality industry and the creation of thousands of jobs in communities across the country. I welcome the decision of the Minister for Finance to continue with the 9% VAT initiative. It has returned a great deal to the Exchequer in terms of VAT, PRSI and PAYE contributions as well as other taxes by virtue of the fact that it is a stimulus to the tourism industry. It is regrettable that some of those who opposed the measure in the House when it was originally introduced as part of the jobs initiative do not have the courage to say now that they were wrong. They might use the opportunity to do that in their budget speeches later. Very few people have spoken about tourism but they might use their parties' time and their own time to say they were wrong to oppose the initiative.

We have a tourism programme for 2017 which includes €109 million on the current side and €13 million on the capital side. This is very important in terms of growing the tourism industry. We have a vibrant tourism industry and we are developing brands that are enablers in terms of bringing people to the country to have a good experience. I cite in particular the Wild Atlantic Way, Ireland's Ancient East and the Dublin brand, A Breath of Fresh Air, but there is a great deal more that we have to do. There are three critical risks facing the Irish tourism industry as I have said publicly before. Brexit is an obvious threat but there is also competitiveness and political stability. I rank those in no particular order, but Brexit has its own challenges because tourism is an area which has contributed in no small way to the revival of the economy. It is a regional industry which has spread through every county. For my summer holidays, I was in the constituencies of both the Minister of State, Deputy John Halligan, and the Leas-Cheann Comhairle. Counties Donegal and Waterford have fantastic offerings, as do all our counties and there is an opportunity for people to experience that. The risks that exist are ones we cannot take for granted. I appeal to the industry on competitiveness. We must ensure that the visitor who comes to Ireland has an enjoyable experience and that our staycationer, the person holidaying at home in Ireland, also has an enjoyable experience so that we get the repeat business.

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