Seanad debates

Wednesday, 28 February 2024

Nithe i dtosach suíonna - Commencement Matters

Tourist Accommodation

10:30 am

Photo of Lisa ChambersLisa Chambers (Fianna Fail) | Oireachtas source

I thank the Minister of State. I appreciate him delivering the response on behalf of the Minister, Deputy Martin, who seems quite reluctant at times to come into this Chamber despite numerous requests to do so.

I will pick up on a couple of points. I take the Minister of State's point about sustainability, but that is not really what I am talking about today. We are on a completely different topic but it is always nice to point out the positives happening in the Department as well and we, of course, support that work.

I am glad to hear that in the Minister's reply, she acknowledged the need for balanced regional supply. That is the crux of my problem here.When we look at the areas that are most affected in terms of the levels of accommodation being taken out of the system, it is the part of the country where I live in the west of Ireland. It has more than shouldered its fair share. We want to respond to this issue. Last week, we stood in this Chamber and marked the second anniversary of the invasion of Ukraine and the illegal war perpetrated on those people and we, of course, continue to stand in solidarity with the people of Ukraine. That is not in question but there needs to be fairness in our approach to how we deal with that response collectively as a country. We have spent decades building up our tourism sector and our offering in the west of Ireland. In the past couple of years, because of Government policy, it has been severely damaged and we are taking steps backwards. This is not acceptable. It is not fair and it is not just. Businesses are asking for a proper response from the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media as to how she is going to advocate for businesses in the west of Ireland and support the tourism sector.

What Fáilte Ireland has asked for are alternatives for accommodation as quickly as possible. It has been asking for this for the past two years but we will only see the details of some sort of plan next month. Regarding suggesting that a €10 million business support scheme is an appropriate response, it is derisory and miserable. It will do a little bit for some of the recreational businesses but it will not help the coffee shops, restaurants and pubs because they are not included, and this point has been made to the Minister going back months.

Regarding the lovely list of projects detailed by the Minister of State that have been delivered in County Mayo, I very much welcome those projects in Keel, Belmullet and Castlebar. They were not delivered by the Minister. They were delivered by the Government across multiple Departments and they are, of course, very welcome but we want tourists to come and visit and have somewhere to stay when they come to enjoy those recreational facilities. That is the point I am making. The Minister of State's response is wholly unacceptable. It does not meet the requirements of the industry, does not respond to any of the questions I have raised and leaves me with very little reassurance that there will be any real solution to the shortage of tourist accommodation in the west of Ireland for 2024. I would even question where we are going with regard to 2025.


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