Meeting with Minister Varadkar 18th of January 2013

The Young Fine Gael National Executive met with Minister Leo Varadkar; and his ministerial advisers John Carroll, and Brian Murphy, to discuss the workings of the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport and field questions from branch members and the national executive.

The meeting began with an introduction from YFG President Dale McDermott. This was followed by an outline of the Department by Minister Varadkar. The Department consists of five different sections:

・ Transport - which is divided into Aviation, Land, and Maritime; Tourism; and Sport. There are approximately thirty agencies under the Department, including Fáilte Ireland. At the current time, the Department is focusing on forty issues: with twenty-five priority issues, and fifteen minor issues.
・ He also highlighted the importance of focusing on changes that will bring an overall benefit to the country, not just the Department
・ The Minister then highlighted some of the issues forthcoming in 2014 - including the introduction of M plates for new licence holders, and he highlighted the need for more hotels in the Dublin area, as a positive sign of tourism numbers.

Members Submissions

1. The issue of public transport fares for those over sixteen was highlighted. This being an issue as college students receive the reduced rate, while those in school over sixteen do not. The Minister suggested that Young Fine Gael could prepare a document on the issue and refer back to him when this was compiled.
2. The problem of match fixing in sport was highlighted. In response the Minister highlighted the work being done by Minister Ring to combat this, but it was difficult to deal with if occurring outside the state.
3. A case for the independence of Cork Airport was outlined. However, it was noted by the Minister, that Cork is operating at a major loss due to the new terminal building, and has high debt levels, while Shannon was debt free prior to independence.
4. Called for electrification of the Cork-Dublin line. However, the Minister's adviser highlighted that this would cost over €1 Billion and not be feasible at present.
5. Highlighted the possibility of opening up a disused railway line in Wexford for the use of a Steam Railway to attract tourism to the area. The Minister highlighted that there may be outside interest in the project, but that it would require significant input from locals in the area.
6. Called for the direct funding of sports parks in each county by the Department. The Minister suggested that this idea may be a possibility in future.

National Executive submissions

Transport – Six Submissions
1. Called for the extension of bus times on the Dublin bus route to 12.30 am and an increase in penalties for anti-social behaviour. It was highlighted that this could be possible, and may include the introduction of security on buses.
2. An enquiry about the next phase of the Atlantic Corridor under Transport 21, following the completion of the Gort-Tuam Motorway. The Minister stated that he expected the current project to be completed by 2017, and that the next phase would be the Cork-Limerick Motorway due to begin construction in 2015/2016.
3. Outlined a proposal for the introduction of mini-buses onto rural Bus Eireann routes to reduce costs and secure routes, there was also a question asked regarding privatisation of certain routes. The Minister suggested there would be change in the way that rural transport operates and this may be a possibility. With regards to privatisation, there is scope for privatising certain expressway routes.
4. An issue with waiting times for the new National Driving Licence Service was brought up with the Minister. He stated there is currently a three month backlog, but the issue should be resolved by mid-February , by when the system will be running smoothly.
5. A suggestion of refunds for delays on Irish Rail. It was mentioned that there are difficulties with Irish Rail being a public company, there may be a lack of incentive, but that it could be introduced for long delays.
6. Asked about the possibility of Iarnroid Eireann selling off Rosslare Europort. In response, the Minister stated that this would occur under a concession basis, of thirty year leases, but that Irish Rail would still technically own the Port.
7. Asked about the possibility of an extension of the Visa Waiver programme for Chinese tourists to increase numbers. It was noted that this is in the works at the moment, but it is a slow process. However, the increase in Chinese business investment in the Tourism sector in Ireland should benefit tourist numbers also.
8. The Minister fielded questions about the Gathering, outlining that it could be repeated in future, possibly in five to ten years, but that certain elements will be maintained such as the Christmas Festival. It was also hoped that local involvement in tourism could be maintained by means of co-funding projects.
9. Regarding the World Cup 2023 bid, asking what had been done to date, and what would be required. The Minister indicated that the Department are playing a large role in the bid along with the IRFU, and that certain stadia would require upgrading, such as Pairc Ui Caoimh; The RDS; and Ravenhill.
10.With regards other major tournaments, the Minister highlighted that Ireland would be hosting an American Football match; the Giro D'Italia cycling tournament and possibly an Ironman competition in 2014. There is also a possibility of a bid with the FAI for three soccer games for Euro 2020.
11.On the subject of increasing youth participation in sport, the Minister suggested that a number of programmes were in place in schools, but that more could and would be done in the near future.
12.Lastly, the Minister responded to suggestions of improving Ireland's cycling infrastructure by stating that there are high quality cycling routes in place in Mayo and Kerry, but that there could be work done in West Clare, and along the Grand Canal between Dublin and Galway in the future.
Engagement with Third Level Institutions
Finally, there was a brief discussion about the possibilities of YFG engagement with Third Level institutions in the area of Transport. The Minister highlighted that this was an opportunity for YFG to highlight what is happening with regards to public transport, walkways and cycling access, especially in UCD and DCU, as there will be a lot happening in Dublin universities.

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