The Western Development Commission was established under the Western Development Act 1988 to promote economic and social development in the counties of Clare, Donegal, Leitrim, Mayo, Roscommon and Sligo. The Commission is a corporate body. Its functions are to provide assist, foster and encourage economic and social development in the western region. This is to include in particular, fostering and encouraging the establishment, maintenance and expansion of enterprises and projects
It may act in co-operation with national, regional and local bodies, whether financed by public funds or otherwise. It may co-ordinate and make proposals for coordination of the bodies in the western region in relation to development. It may identify business, social enterprise and infrastructural projects in the western regions which should be established or developed. It may propose the priority that in its opinions, should be given by the Commission to such enterprises and projects. It may identify the nature and extent of assistance which should be provided for such enterprise and projects.
The Commission may advise as to which bodies should best provide support. It may provide assistance, participate in the provision of support or make proposals in relation to bodies identified. It may promote, foster and encourage the provision of assistance for infrastructural projects in the region as it considers necessary or expedient for economic and social development in the western region. It may change, postpone or withdraw support. The Commission may not provide financial or other material aid for infrastructural projects, unless they are subsidiary and ancillary to business and social enterprises or projects.
The Commission shall not allow the Minister for Finance or Minister for the Gaeltacht to provide financial or other material aid to a business or enterprise, unless it is satisfied that it is profitable and viable or will be so, within reasonable period of time. Such business or enterprise must be capable or be likely to be capable of paying dividends to the Commission or any shares held and capable of paying interest and repaying any loan made. Assistance must not be given in such form that the investee company becomes a subsidiary of the Commission.
The commission consists of 11 members. The Chairman and ordinary members are appointed by the Minister for the Gaeltacht, with the consent of the Minister for Finance. They hold office for 3 years. There is to be a chief executive who carries on and manages generally, the administration and business of the Commission. Staff and officers are to be appointed. There is provision for staff, remuneration of staff and superannuation. The Commission may establish committees to advise it in relation to the performance of its functions. It may determine the terms of reference and regulate their procedures.
The Commission is to establish a fund known as the Western Investment Fund. It is managed and controlled by the Commission and consists of a current account and investment account. The Minister for the Gaeltacht, with the consent of the Minister for Finance is to advance money to the Commission for monies approved by the Oireachtas. The Commission has powers to borrow, but they are relatively limited
The Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2007 confirmed and put a range of functions of the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs on a statutory basis. It amended the legislation relating to the Western Development Commission. It raised limits for financial and other material aid to enterprises, which the Western Development Commission can provide without ministerial consent. It clarified the Minister’s remit in relation to transport services for islands, including functions in relation to aerodromes and auxiliary facilities connected with air services between islands and the mainland. It repealed the Arramara Teoranta Acquisition of Shares Acts, 1949-2002.
The Act includes power for the Minister to develop, implement and maintain any scheme which in his opinion promotes and supports the functions of the Minister under the Act. The functions include community development, voluntary activity, philanthropy rural development, national drugs strategy and the Irish language. This includes coordination of policy on the Irish language and the development of the Gaeltacht, North- South co-operration, including matters in relation to Ulster-Scots heritage, culture and language.
The limit for financial assistance which the Western Development Commission may provide without consent of the Minister, is raised to €1 million.
The legislation enables the Minister to pay subsidies in respect of travel by island students to second level schools on the mainland within a radius of 120 kilometres of the terminus. The Minister may pay subsidies in respect of travel by island students to second level school, beyond 120 kilometres subject to certain conditions and consultations. The Minister’s remit in respect of a new and existing aerodrome and auxiliary facilities is confirmed.
The Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs (Powers and Functions) Act 2003 consolidated the Minister’s existing powers in relation to the provision of transport to the islands, the provision of airstrips and connecting bus passenger services.
The Minister may, with the consent of the Minister for Finance, pay ferries for the operation of ferry services as previously provided under the Aran Island Transport Acts and the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht in Islands (Powers and Functions) Act 1998. The Minister may acquire by agreement or compulsorily, existing aerodromes or land for the construction, improvement, extension or development of the same.
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