O'Rourke optimistic on retention of duty free


The Minister for Public Enterprise said there was growing optimism that duty free could be retained after it is due to end next June.

There were indications, she added, that the new German government was going to adopt a pro-duty free line. "I know that the Taoiseach intends raising the issue at the EU summit in mid-December. "I will also use the opportunity of the Transport Council of Ministers meeting in Brussels on November 30th to sound out my colleagues on the latest developments."

Mrs O'Rourke told delegates that Ireland was determined to be the centre for electronic commerce in Europe. "This is the age of the Internet and will be the age of electronic commerce. The pace of development of the Internet and electronic commerce are unprecedented and breathtaking. The full implications of these developments are as yet unknown, but it is already clear that there are major implications for all businesses."

Mr Seamus McCormack (Mayo) urged the Minister to prioritise the west of Ireland and the Border counties as the primary areas for the development of a digital corridor. "This has been a historic week in which Fianna Fail in Government officially recognised the uneven distribution of wealth in the Irish economy. It recognised that regions lacked the infrastructure to compete on a level playing pitch and, accordingly, sought a continuation of Objective 1 status."

He said that the failure of successive governments to stem the flow of emigration and provide alternative employment to compensate for the decline in jobs in agriculture was a major blot on Ireland's economic history.

Addressing the Minister, he added: "Strike the first major technology blow for the west and tell us before we leave this ardfheis that when it comes to extending the digital corridor and driving the digital train, you will utter the immortal but politically correct words `go west, go west'."

Mr Pat Kelly (Cork North Central) called for an integrated public transport policy for Cork. He added that a better attitude to passengers and a better service were required in public transport.

"The idea that a passenger is some unfortunate nuisance who has to be carried is not on any more."