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Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers (Resumed). - Southern Border Counties' Funding.

Thursday, 28 March 1996

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 463 No. 5

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 8. Mr. B. Ahern Information on Bertie Ahern Zoom on Bertie Ahern  asked the Minister for Education Information on Niamh Bhreathnach Zoom on Niamh Bhreathnach  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]

Ms Bhreathnach: Information on Niamh Bhreathnach Zoom on Niamh Bhreathnach The main EU sources of funding from my Department are the Operational Programmes for Human Resources Development, Tourism and Industrial Development. These come under the Community Support Framework 1994-1999. The education measures aided under these operational programmes are national programmes delivered by vocational education committees, second level schools, regional technical colleges, the Dublin Institute of Technology and the universities as well as the capital programmes at second and third level.

EU aid for these programmes in 1994 in the southern Border counties, including capital, amounted to almost £13 million. The figure for 1995 is not yet available; the necessary data from vocational education committees, schools and colleges is being collated by my Department at present. The estimate of EU aid for the southern Border [1380] counties for 1995 and 1996 is in the region of £19 million per annum.

In addition to the mainstream operational programmes, education sector activities are also eligible for EU aid under a number of Community initiatives, including the Special Support Programme for Peace and Reconciliation. This programme has particular relevance for the Border counties — North and South.

Management and administration of measures under this programme, including the measures relevant to the education sector, have been allocated to Area Development Management (ADM) Ltd. and the Combat Poverty Agency. These agencies will jointly administer the measures, primarily through a joint management committee. The allocation to the education sector will depend on the extent to which project promoters apply and are successful in securing funding for education-related projects.

Other sources of EU funding in the education sector are the EU acting programmes — SOCRATES and LEONARDO DA VINCI. Within the framework of the European Commission guidelines and eligibility criteria for these programmes, individuals and education interests throughout the State, including the Border counties, may apply for assistance under these programmes.

Miss Coughlan: Information on Mary Coughlan Zoom on Mary Coughlan Will the Minister guarantee that the funding which will be made available through the Delors package will be additional, that is, over and above the operational programme funding? What role will the Department have in the administration of the Delors package which is to be administered through ADM and the Combat Poverty Agency? What role will the Department have in setting guidelines for eligibility for funding?

Ms Bhreathnach: Information on Niamh Bhreathnach Zoom on Niamh Bhreathnach The special support programme for peace and reconciliation is known as the Delors package. Shortly after the cessation of violence in autumn [1381] 1994 a task force was set up to look at giving practical assistance to the Northern Ireland and Border counties in consultation with the national authorities. The result was the Delors package.

It is proposed that the initiative would run for five years from 1995 to 1999, equivalent to the remaining period of application for the current Structural Funds programmes. It runs in parallel but it is additional. Community funding amounting to ECU300 million or £240 million will be provided for a three-year period from 1995 to 1997. Further finance for the last two years will be subject to a review based on a Commission report.

There is a lot of information which I will make available to the Deputy. The Department of Education has a specific role in support of the programme for peace and reconciliation's measures two, three and six, which are mainly concerned with disseminating information and clarification. The information was circulated widely to all the education interests — in the Border areas mainly the vocational education committees and the regional technical colleges. The implementation of these measures is still at an early stage and proposals from promoters are still coming in.

I have a responsibility to broadcast this information. There are many different programmes and I will convey the information to the Deputy. The main role of the Department is in disseminating information.

Miss Coughlan: Information on Mary Coughlan Zoom on Mary Coughlan One of the main concerns of Deputies from Border areas is that money which has been earmarked through the operational programme may be reduced and supplemented by EU funding through the Delors package and INTERREG. This has been done by the Minister for the Environment and I would like a guarantee it will not be done by the Minister for Education.

I realise it is quite complex and has not been finalised. Many of us are anxious that through measure six projects other than those that might be [1382] termed “mainstream education” would be eligible for funding, in particular outdoor pursuit centres. Will the Minister meet with ADM and the Combat Poverty Agency to ensure there is no misunderstanding with regard to eligibility criteria? Will she guarantee that she will be vigilant in the allocation of funding to ensure it will be additional?

Ms Bhreathnach: Information on Niamh Bhreathnach Zoom on Niamh Bhreathnach I note the Deputy's points. The main role for the Department is in the dissemination of information and we might proceed in greater detail on the different measures when I make the information available to the Deputy. The issue includes the Community initiatives, INTERREG and the guidelines, and we are at an early stage. I take the Deputy's point about additionality.

Mr. Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin Will the Minister agree that the existence of strong, efficient and effective vocational education committees in the Border counties is useful in the context of this additional European funding, that they have proved to be an effective conduit and partner in the decision making process for the allocation of the funds and that the experience demands that the Minister adopt a more benign attitude to the vocational education committees?

Ms Bhreathnach: Information on Niamh Bhreathnach Zoom on Niamh Bhreathnach These are national programmes delivered by many of the partners. The vocational education committees played a positive role along with the second level schools, the regional technical colleges, the Dublin Institute of Technology and the universities. Without any of those bodies there would be difficulty in disseminating relevant programmes. I thank all the partners in education who play a positive role in ensuring that this generous investment is reaching those who can respond best.

Mr. Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin Can the Border county vocational education committees have any further confidence they will not be abolished by the Minister following the [1383] establishment of the regional education boards? This is a real concern in the Border counties.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Joe Jacob Zoom on Joe Jacob This departs somewhat from the substance of the question.

Ms Bhreathnach: Information on Niamh Bhreathnach Zoom on Niamh Bhreathnach In reply to an earlier question I gave a lot of information about the commission that has set about the rationalisation of the vocational education committees——

Mr. Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin We know that. It is the political decision that will determine it.

Ms Bhreathnach: Information on Niamh Bhreathnach Zoom on Niamh Bhreathnach I think it is relevant. There is a definite role for the vocational education committees. The question the Deputy has asked is relevant to an earlier reply. I have answered it already. I have undertaken to share the information and I will make sure the Deputies have it.


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