Wednesday, 23 September 2015
Tourism Project Funding
10. To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the reason Fáilte Ireland has not granted funding to Donegal County Council for toilets and car parking facilities at Malin Head, now that planning permission has been granted; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31945/15]
This question seeks from the Minister an explanation for the delay in Fáilte Ireland awarding funding for the development of toilet and car parking facilities at the icon site that is Malin Head now that planning permission has been granted to Donegal County Council for that development. The Minister will be aware that this project is being carried out in three phases. That was the agreement. Phase one, the construction of pathways and erection of the viewing platform, has been completed. The facilities now to be provided form part of phase two, with the third phase involving a wider project. When will the funding to allow the toilet and car parking facilities to be developed be made available?
The role of the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport in tourism lies primarily in the area of national policy. The development of tourism attractions is an operational matter for the board and management of Fáilte Ireland. I have no role in the decision to allocate funding to specific projects. Accordingly, I have referred the Deputy's question to the agency for direct reply.
I am aware that Fáilte Ireland recently completed a strategic environmental assessment of the full Wild Atlantic Way initiative. Given the environmental sensitivity of Malin Head, completion of this assessment was essential prior to the awarding of funding to Donegal County Council to develop plans for the site. Fáilte Ireland is now in a position potentially to provide funding, including technical assistance, to Donegal County Council to prepare plans for a significant visitor enhancement and management solution for Malin Head. Once finalised and costed, the plans could be evaluated for capital funding.
I understand that toilets and car parking facilities will be considered as part of the work but a wider vision and solution is needed if Malin Head and the Wild Atlantic Way are to deliver their full potential for Donegal. Any development works at the site must also enhance the visitor experience at the location and allow for better visitor flow as well as ensuring the protection of the natural environment there.
I commend the work of the local community, Malin Head Development Association, local businesses, the Inishowen Development Partnership and, in particular, local councillor Mr. Martin McDermott, all of whom have been working together to try to further this project. I am disappointed by the Minister of State's response. It is three years since Fáilte Ireland, with Donegal County Council and local partners, committed to the development of Malin Head over three phases. Phase one has been completed. Phase two provides for development of the car parking and toilet facilities. Donegal County Council worked with the National Parks and Wildlife Service and planning authorities in respect of planning permission for this project. It did so on the understanding that once permission had been obtained Fáilte Ireland would then provide a grant to deliver on the project. Fáilte Ireland brought people down a pathway on the understanding that funding would be available. Now that the end of that pathway has been reached, Fáilte Ireland is proposing a return to the start of the process and the taking of a new route, with no funding to be provided until that new process has been exhausted. In the meantime, three years have been lost and local businesses and the tourism potential of the county and peninsula is suffering, which is unacceptable.
I know this is an operational matter for Fáilte Ireland. At the end of the day, however, the Minister, Deputy Donohoe, and the Minister of State, Deputy Ring, are the persons in charge in this matter. Fáilte Ireland has messed up in this process. Will the Minister and Minister of State engage with Fáilte Ireland and ask it to account for how it dealt with this matter? Will they ask in particular that the funding it committed to at the outset once planning permission had been granted be delivered in order that we can see some improvement in the facilities at Malin Head and development of the tourism potential in that area?
The Deputy knows that. He also knows that this Government put in place the funding for the Wild Atlantic Way. Last Friday, I was in Donegal, where I met hoteliers, restaurateurs and bicycle and boat suppliers, all of whom are delighted with what is happening with the Wild Atlantic Way. The site in question is a very sensitive site and we must be very careful about how it is developed. There were initiatives that had to be dealt with.
They are now dealt with. Fáilte Ireland will make the decisions in future. The Government has always said that the Wild Atlantic Way will be a ten-year plan. We are into the third year and the Wild Atlantic Way is working. A meeting in Donegal last week was the first time those in the tourism sector took the view that there was a way forward and that something was happening for their area. I am delighted that the local community and businesses, including hoteliers and restaurateurs as well as all the other people involved in tourism, are buying into the Wild Atlantic Way.
Malin Head is one of the three designated areas for signature points. Donegal is getting three of these. We will develop them and it will take time, but that is a matter for Fáilte Ireland. Fáilte Ireland will respond to Deputy McConalogue. This Government has provided €10 million. Last week, we provided €3.5 million for signs for signature and photographic points. Everyone in Donegal was delighted last week. I never saw those in the tourism sector happier since I came into it.
I will finish by putting this much on the record. When Deputy McConalogue's Government was in office it was unable to deliver the Wild Atlantic Way. A total of 7.5 million people came into this country last year and 220,000 people are employed in tourism. I am delighted to say that the people of Donegal see a way forward now. They are delighted with the Wild Atlantic Way and we will deliver it.