Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees
Tuesday, 27 November 2012
Joint Oireachtas Committee on Environment, Culture and the Gaeltacht
Western Development Commission: Discussion with Chairman Designate
I welcome Mr. McGuinness and thank him for his presentation. I wish him all the best in his role, which is an important role. As a Galway and Connemara man, I know that the west of Ireland has lagged behind in development terms for many years. I note there are a number of important projects to be brought to a conclusion, including the West on Track project, continuation of the M17 and the broadband project. Connectivity in air, rail and road is hugely important if we are to develop tourism and business in the areas covered by the Western Development Commission.
Energy is an important issue. Perhaps Mr. McGuinness would outline the direction he would like to take in relation to wind, electricity, oil and gas and renewable energy potential so as to ensure the State gets the best dividend from the resources available to us and as many jobs as possible are created in the area. Having worked in the audiovisual sector in my previous existence, I note the WDC has produced a number of good reports on the development of the audiovisual and creative sector. I would welcome comment from Mr. McGuinness on how this could be harnessed.
In Mr. McGuinness's opinion, how could the commission's investment fund be best used to provide employment where most needed along the western seaboard? As I understand it, WDC does not provide grant aid but invests by way of share capital, preference share capital, loans, etc. Is this the best way to go in the current economic climate or does Mr. McGuinness envisage changing that model? The commission expects a financial return on moneys invested and does not provide hand-outs to prop up businesses. In Mr. McGuinness's view, what type of return on loans provided by the commission is fair in the current climate?
I wish Mr. McGuinness well in his new role and wish the commission every success in the future in development along the western sea board, which development is badly needed.