Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Joint Oireachtas Committee on Environment, Culture and the Gaeltacht

2013 Allocations for Public Expenditure
Vote 33 - Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht

4:20 pm

Photo of Michael McCarthyMichael McCarthy (Cork South West, Labour)
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I welcome the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Deputy Deenihan, the Minister of State, Deputy McGinley, and their officials. I do not think there is a need for me to go through the procedures relating to the giving of evidence at committees - the issues of defamation and parliamentary privilege, etc. - because the Minister and the Minister of State are aware of them. Therefore, with the permission of the members, I will proceed straight to the opening statements of the Minister and the Minister of State.

Photo of Jimmy DeenihanJimmy Deenihan (Minister, Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht; Kerry North-West Limerick, Fine Gael)
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Tá áthas orm bheith i láthair chun réamhphlé a dhéanamh leis an gcomhchoiste maidir le Meastacháin mo Roinne don bhliain seo chugainn. I thank the Chairman for giving me an opportunity to discuss the pre-budget position for my Department in 2013 with the joint committee. He is aware that engagement with the committee and the opening up of the Estimates and budgetary process to wider public and parliamentary scrutiny are important elements of the reform agenda and the programme for Government. Members of the committee will be aware that the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht oversees and has policy responsibility for the conservation, preservation, protection, development and presentation of Ireland's heritage and culture. The Department seeks to promote the Irish language, support the Gaeltacht and assist the sustainable development of island communities. A gross provision of almost €269 million was provided to the Department for this purpose in 2012, with a further €8.6 million allocated to the Vote of the National Gallery.

As Members will appreciate, a consequence of the significant fiscal deficit facing the country is that sufficient resources have not been available in recent years to fund all the services we would like to provide. The 2013 allocations will reflect this position once more. In the present economic circumstances, unfortunately we have no choice other than to accept the reality that any failure to meet public expenditure targets at this time would have much more serious implications in the years ahead. It would affect our continued ability to maintain, promote and protect Ireland's heritage and culture, develop cultural tourism, advance the use of the Irish language and support the sustainable development of the islands. I hope the material my officials have provided to the committee will assist today's discussions. I propose to provide some further detail in respect of the comprehensive review of expenditure indicative allocations and the key areas of expenditure under my direct responsibility. I will give the committee a broad update on the issue of public sector reform and on the amalgamations and mergers process as they relate to the Department. My colleague, the Minister of State, Deputy McGinley, will speak about the relevant aspects of the Gaeltacht, Irish language and islands programmes.

As part of the comprehensive review of expenditure and the parallel capital review process, which involved a thorough and detailed evaluation of each area of spending under my remit, a number of options for expenditure reductions were identified in line with the guidance of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. These reviews set an indicative expenditure ceiling of €276 million - current expenditure of €232 million and capital expenditure of €44 million - for my Vote group in 2012 and an indicative expenditure ceiling of €256 million - current expenditure of €218 million and capital expenditure of €38 million - for the same group in 2013. Members will be aware that my Vote group allocation of €277 million in 2012 was in line with that indicative ceiling. The additional €1 million that was provided relates to delivery of the EU culture programme, which my Department leads. With regard to current expenditure in 2013, an adjustment of some €15 million on this year's allocation will be required to meet the indicative ceiling of €218 million. A further reduction of €6 million on the capital expenditure side would be needed to meet the 2013 indicative ceiling of €38 million. If we are to achieve this level of reduction, an overall decrease of approximately 8% will need to be applied to each of my programme areas, including the National Gallery. In light of the level of reductions across various programme areas in recent times, members will appreciate that this represents a very challenging scenario for my Department and for the National Gallery.

Between 2008 and 2012, the overall programme expenditure provision, excluding departmental administration for my Department's four programme areas, has increased by almost €247 million or 51%.

My Department will continue to focus to the greatest extent possible on achieving savings through efficiencies rather than through reductions in services. However, it must be acknowledged that in addition to the indicative reductions for 2013, there are some significant upward pressures for funding that must be addressed. Among the most notable are the provision of compensation relating to turf cutting in protected areas and meeting the capital requirement for the major renovation programme for the National Gallery. Against this background, the Department is continuing discussions with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform as part of the Estimates process.

In broad terms, the 2012 allocations to the Department are €141 million for arts, culture and film, including some €63 for the Arts Council; more than €48.5 million for the conservation and protection of Ireland's built and natural heritage; €44.8 million for the Irish language, the Gaeltacht and the islands; and almost €43 million for North-South co-operation, including support for two North-South implementation bodies, Waterways Ireland and An Foras Teanga. Excluding departmental administration elements, these allocations reflect significant overall reductions since 2008, some 39% in the arts sector, 77% in the heritage sector, 64% in the Irish language, Gaeltacht and islands sectors and 25% in North-South co-operation. Clearly the chellenge ahead is how best to balance the competing demands of expenditure reductions and the various upward pressures while at the same time maintaining the Department's core functions and the range of services provided to the public.

We will, within the resources available, continue to place emphasis on supporting jobs in the film and television sector and in the Gaeltacht, targeting investment in priority areas in the culture and heritage sectors that will support cultural tourism as one of the most important elements of Ireland's tourism product, on complying with the EU directives, including with investment in alternative solutions for those affected by the cessation of turf cutting in special areas of conservation, and on supporting the built heritage, the strategic development of national parks and the development of our waterways in the context of the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement and the St. Andrews Agreement. We also accept, however, that at this stage there are no easy decisions remaining and I am therefore looking forward to discussing these matters with the committee and to receiving any inputs the committee might have in this regard.

There are three areas of particular significance within my Department's ambit: the EU Presidency, the decade of commemorations and the public sector reform plan. Ireland's upcoming Presidency of the European Union in 2013 offers a new platform for cultural links with our key European partners. My Department is actively involved in the ongoing preparation for the Presidency, including preparations for events on both the European and wider international stage in the lead-up to and during the Presidency. In particular, I am overseeing development of a cultural programme to accompany the Presidency. This programme represents an important opportunity to showcase Ireland's cultural heritage and artistic talent and to win positive publicity for Irish creativity both on the European stage and further afield.

As the committee is aware, we are now at the commencement point for a number of important commemorations in our country's history. The decade from 1912 to 1922 was one of considerable economic, political and social change, not just in Ireland but in Europe and globally. I am proud to serve as chairman of the all-party Oireachtas consultation group on centenary commemorations which is dealing with the commemorative programme for the decade of centenaries, 1912 to 1922. The programme will seek to respect the various traditions on this island in a way that is sensitive, fair and reflective of our growth as a people of shared, disparate and sometimes conflicting interests, heritage and culture. I look forward to working with partners in both the North-South and east-west context, as the various commemorative events take place in the years ahead.

I reaffirm my support for the vital work of public sector reform. The Government decision of 17 November 2011 announced a streamlining of State bodies, including a number of bodies funded from my Department's Vote group. The Department has been engaged in a process of consultation over recent months to determine the best way to implement the Government decision and achieve savings and efficiencies while maintaining the integrity of the cultural institutions. This process has involved consultation by the Department with each of the relevant institutions. In addition, I met the chairmen of the various institutions involved in this process to afford them an opportunity to express their views. Meetings took place with a range of stakeholders and interested parties on these issues.

Following this period of assessment, consultation and review, the Government recently considered progress made to date and noted and agreed the range of reform actions to be undertaken. These include a streamlining of all boards and advisory councils, with fewer members and all serving without fees; co-operation between institutions in a real and practical way across a wide range of services like communications, procurement, security, retail services and marketing; making greater use of the Department in providing support services such as HR, IT, legal services and finance to some institutions so those organisations can concentrate on offering core services to the public; aligning the work of relevant organisations with the broader agenda of Government, which is focused on driving investment into Ireland and rebuilding our reputation overseas; encouraging organisations to proactively attract philanthropy and fund-raise nationally and internationally to bolster the funding they receive from the taxpayer; and strengthening the programming, curatorial and operational independence of directors.

The committee should note that savings of €20 million in enhanced service efficiencies and value for money were targeted in the public service reform plan. In this context, it is expected that savings in the region of approximately €1 million will be made initially across the institutions involved in the reform programme which are funded from my Department's Vote group, with further savings to be identified as various cost saving measures are implemented. The real benefit from the rationalisation of State agencies will be a less crowded administrative landscape, resulting in greater democratic accountability, less duplication of effort and clearer lines of responsibility for the citizen. I am confident these reforms will save money at a time of scarce resources and will modernise how these institutions co-operate and work with each other. The organisations funded by the Department understand the challenge Ireland faces and that we must do more with less in the years ahead. I also firmly believe we have an opportunity for reform that should not be lost. I am ambitious for Ireland's cultural and heritage offering and want to equip our organisations with the skills and structures they need in the challenging times ahead.

I will be happy to expand on any matter members may wish to raise. Before passing over to my colleague, the Minister of State, I want to assure the committee I will listen to any proposals the members would like to make. The Estimates for 2013 have not been finalised so if the committee would like to place emphasis on any particular area, this is a good opportunity.

4:25 pm

Photo of Dinny McGinleyDinny McGinley (Donegal South West, Fine Gael)
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Fáiltím roimh an deis teacht i láthair an chomhchoiste inniu chun plé a dhéanamh ar sheasamh réamh-cháinaisnéise mo Roinne don bhliain 2013 sna réimsí Gaeilge, Gaeltachta agus oileán. Táim ag súil le héisteacht le moltaí an chomhchoiste i dtaca leis na cinntí crua atá le tógáil don bhliain seo chugainn chun gur féidir le mo Roinnse maireachtáil taobh istigh den soláthar a thabharfar dúinn, chomh maith le gach cosaint a thabhairt oiread agus is féidir do na seirbhísí a thugtar don phobal sna réimsí Gaeilge, Gaeltachta agus oileán.

Tá léargas tugtha ag an Aire don chomhchoiste maidir leis na laghduithe caiteachais atá á gcur i bhfeidhm againn trasna an bhoird sa Roinn, ag eascairt as an athbhreithniú caiteachais. Mar a thuigfidh an comhchoiste, níl na hacmhainní airgeadais againn le tabhairt faoi gach rud gur mian linn a dhéanamh agus is amhlaidh a bheidh sé an bhliain seo chugainn. Mar sin féin, tá sé i gceist agamsa mar Aire Stáit oiread agus is féidir a dhéanamh chun na réimsí Gaeilge, Gaeltachta agus oileán a chosaint agus a chaomhnú taobh istigh de na laincisí airgeadais atá orainn.

Ba dheas liom anois léargas a thabhairt don chomhchoiste ar an méid atá curtha i gcrích ag mo Roinn i mbliana sna réimsí Gaeilge, Gaeltachta agus oileán agus ar na tosaíochtaí atá againn sna réimsí seo don bhliain seo chugainn. Tá leithdháileadh de bheagnach €45 milliún tugtha ag an Státchiste do mo Roinn i mbliana do ghnóthaí Gaeilge, Gaeltachta agus oileán, chomh maith le leithdháileadh de bheagnach €15.5 milliún d'Fhoras na Gaeilge.

Ar ndóigh, tá gach gné de ghníomhaíochtaí mo Roinnse sna réimsí Gaeilge agus Gaeltachta fite fuaite leis an straitéis 20 bliain don Ghaeilge. Rinneadh dul chun cinn suntasach ar an straitéis i mbliana agus an Acht na Gaeltachta 2012 ina dhlí anois. Tá tábhacht ar leith ag baint leis an Acht seo, os rud é go dtugtar aird i reachtaíocht don chéad uair ó 1956 ar an riachtanas atá le sainmhíniú nua a thabhairt don Ghaeltacht. Faoin Acht, tá sé i gceist go mbeidh an Ghaeltacht bunaithe feasta ar chritéir theangeolaíochta seachas ar limistéir thíreolaíochta mar a bhí roimhe seo. Chomh maith le sin, beidh deis ag ceantair lasmuigh de na limistéir pleanála teanga Ghaeltachta aitheantas reachtúil a bhaint amach mar líonraí Gaeilge nó mar bhailte seirbhíse Gaeltachta, faoi réir critéir áirithe a bheith comhlíonta acu.

Beidh an phleanáil teanga ag leibhéal an phobail lárnach do phróiseas an tsainmhínithe nua don Ghaeltacht. Tá mo Roinn ag obair go dlúth le hÚdarás na Gaeltachta agus le Foras na Gaeilge chun tús a chur leis an bpróiseas pleanála teanga, i gcomhar leis na heagraíochtaí pobalbhunaithe atá ag feidhmiú ar an talamh sna limistéir éagsúla. Tá mo Roinn ag obair ar na dréacht-orduithe a thabharfaidh tús feidhme don phróiseas pleanála teanga faoi Acht na Gaeltachta 2012 agus táim ag súil go mbeidh na horduithe sin réidh le síniú agam i dtús na bliana úire.

Maidir le maoiniú mo Roinne do na scéimeanna tacaíochta Gaeilge sa Ghaeltacht, cuireadh maoiniú reatha de €7.35 milliún ar fáil agus maoiniú caipitil de os cionn €1.7 milliún ar fáil i mbliana. Caitheadh €3 mhilliún den mhaoiniú reatha ar an gclár tacaíochta teaghlaigh, clár nua a bunaíodh faoin straitéis i mbliana agus a bhfuil sé mar aidhm aige an Ghaeilge a threisiú mar theanga teaghlaigh agus pobail sa Ghaeltacht. Caitheadh an fuílleach den mhaoiniú reatha, is é sin €4.35 milliún, ar scéim na bhfoghlaimeoirí Gaeilge faoina dtugtar deontas do mhná tí chun scoláirí a choinneáil ar iostas agus iad ag foghlaim Gaeilge sa Ghaeltacht. Is scéim theangabhunaithe thar a bheith rathúil í seo agus beagnach 24,000 scoláire tar éis freastal ar choláistí Gaeilge sa Ghaeltacht in 2012. Caitheadh an maoiniú caipitil de €1.7 milliún ar thógáil agus ar athchóiriú ionaid teangalárnaithe sa Ghaeltacht chun tacú le cur i bhfeidhm na straitéise ar an talamh.

Cuireadh breis agus €4.6 milliún ar fáil do na scéimeanna tacaíochta Gaeilge taobh amuigh den Ghaeltacht i mbliana. As an tsoláthar seo, cuireadh maoiniú ar fáil d'institiúidí tríú leibhéal in Éirinn agus thar lear chun cúrsaí éagsúla a reáchtáil i nGaeilge. Chomh maith le sin, cuireadh maoiniú ar fáil do thionscnaimh théarmaíochta, aistriúcháin, logainmneacha agus foclóireachta, mar aon le maoiniú d'eagraíochtaí atá ag tacú le cur chun cinn na Gaeilge taobh amuigh den Ghaeltacht.

Chomh maith leis an maoiniú a chaitheann mo Roinn ar an nGaeilge laistigh agus lasmuigh den Ghaeltacht, cuirtear maoiniú ar fáil d'áisíneachtaí a bhfuil ról reachtúil ar leith acu agus a thagann faoi chúram mo Roinne, is iad sin Údarás na Gaeltachta, an Foras Teanga agus Oifig an Choimisinéara Teanga. Tá soláthar iomlán de os cionn €19 milliún curtha ar fáil ón Státchiste d'Údarás na Gaeltachta i mbliana. Cuimsíonn sé seo soláthar reatha de bheagnach €10 milliún do chostais riaracháin an údaráis agus os cionn €3 milliún d'eagraíochtaí pobalbhunaithe agus teangabhunaithe sa Ghaeltacht. Chomh maith le sin, tá soláthar caipitil de bheagnach €6 milliún ag an údarás ón Státchiste ar mhaithe le hinfheistíocht fiontraíochta sa Ghaeltacht agus tá foinsí maoinithe eile de thimpeall €5 milliún ag an údarás féin chun cur le seo i mbliana. Mar thoradh ar an maoiniú seo, táthar ag súil go n-éireoidh leis an údarás 400 post nua a chruthú sa Ghaeltacht i mbliana, chomh maith le bonn fostaíochta de 6,500 post i gcliantchuideachtaí an údaráis a choinneáil slán.

Tá athruithe déanta ar fheidhmeanna agus ar struchtúr Údarás na Gaeltachta faoi Acht na Gaeltachta 2012. Tugann an tAcht feidhm reachtúil don údarás maidir le cur i bhfeidhm na straitéise 20 bliain don Ghaeilge sa Ghaeltacht. Chomh maith leis sin, déantar foráil faoin Acht chun líon comhaltaí bhord an údaráis a laghdú go suntasach agus chun deireadh a chur leis an riachtanas do thoghcháin do bhord an údaráis. Is athruithe chun feabhais iad na hathruithe seo go léir a chuirfidh le héifeacht an údaráis. Ní miste a rá sa chomhthéacs seo go bhfuil sé i gceist agam bord nua an údaráis a ainmniú go luath.

Is gné thábhachtach í d'obair mo Roinne tacú leis an chomhoibriú Thuaidh-Theas agus tá suim iomlán de bheagnach €15.5 milliún curtha ar fáil ón Státchiste chun tacú leis An Foras Teanga i mbliana. Tá dhá áisíneacht ar leith i gceist leis An Foras Teanga, is iad sin, Foras na Gaeilge, atá freagrach as cur chun cinn na Gaeilge ar fud an oileáin, agus Gníomhaireacht na hUltaise, atá freagrach as cur chun cinn na hUltaise agus an cultúr a bhaineann léi ar fud an oileáin. Ach an oiread le hUiscebhealaí Éireann, tá An Foras Teanga cómhaoinithe ag mo Roinn agus ag an Roinn Cultúir, Ealaíon agus Fóillíochta ó Thuaidh. Dá bhrí sin, beidh buiséad na bliana seo chugainn don Fhoras Teanga le haontú leis an Roinn ó Thuaidh agus le faomhadh ina dhiaidh sin ag an gComhairle Aireachta Thuaidh-Theas.

Labhair an tAire, an Teachta Deenihan, ball beag roimhe seo maidir leis na gníomhartha athchóirithe atá á gcur i bhfeidhm ag an Roinn ag eascairt as plean an Rialtais um athchóiriú na seirbhíse poiblí. Ar mo thaobhsa, táthar ag dul ar aghaidh leis na hathchóirithe a chur i bhfeidhm i gcás Oifig an Choimisinéara Teanga agus an Choimisiúin Logainmneacha. Mar thoradh ar chinneadh an Rialtais, beidh Coimisinéir Teanga atá ceaptha go reachtúil lonnaithe sa Ghaeltacht i gcónaí agus leanfaidh an Coimisinéir Teanga le feidhmiú a chumhachtaí reatha go neamhspleách faoi Acht na dTeangacha Oifigiúla 2003. Chomh maith le sin, tiocfaidh coiste saineolaithe, a bheidh ag feidhmiú ar bhonn pro bono, in áit an Choimisiúin Logainmneacha. Beidh leasuithe reachtaíochta de dhíth chun feidhm reachtúil a thabhairt do chinntí an Rialtais sna réimsí seo.

Mar fhocal scoir, ní miste a rá go bhfuil feidhm thábhachtach ag mo Roinn maidir le forbairt na n-oileán. Cuireadh €5.9 mílliún i maoiniú reatha ar fáil do na hoíleáin i mbliana chun fordheontais a íoc le soláthróirí iompair éagsúla a chuireann seirbhísí farantóireachta, lastais, bus agus aeir ar fáil chuig 20 oileán amach ón gcósta. Ina theannta sin, cuireadh €963,000 ar fáil i maoiniú caipitil i mbliana chun cothabháil a dhéanamh ar thograí infreastruchtúra ar na hoileáin.

Tá léargas gairid tugtha agam ar na gníomhaíochtaí agus ar na forais a bhfuil mo Roinn ag tacú leo sna réimsí Gaeilge, Gaeltachta agus oileán. Is é an dúshlán atá romham mar Aire Stáit ná feidhmeanna mo Roinne a chur chun cinn sna réimsí Gaeilge, Gaeltachta agus oileán laistigh de na laincisí airgeadais atá orainn agus cosaint a thabhairt oiread agus is féidir don raon seirbhísí a thugtar don phobal sna réimsí sin. Ach an oiread le mo chomhghleacaí, an tAire, an Teachta Deenihan, beidh mé lánsásta aon cheisteanna a fhreagairt faoi mo chumais agus éisteacht le h-aon mholtaí atá ag na baill agus gníomhú chomh fada agus is féidir faoi na laincisí atá orainn.

4:35 pm

Photo of Michael McCarthyMichael McCarthy (Cork South West, Labour)
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Deputy Ó Cuív is substituting for Deputy Ó Fearghaíl and on that basis I will call him before calling Senator Fiach Mac Conghail. I ask Deputy Ó Cuív to put his questions and to bear in mind that colleagues have been here since 2.15 p.m.

Photo of Éamon Ó CuívÉamon Ó Cuív (Galway West, Fianna Fail)
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Tá go leor rudaí ráite, ach an chéad cheist atá agam ná cén uair a ainmneofar bord an údaráis. Bhí an-deifir i lár an tsamhraidh an tAcht a chur tríd an Teach gan aon phlé, ach táimid ag fanacht ó shin ar cheapachán an bhoird. Céard a chiallaíonn go han-luath? Bhí an tuiscint ann nuair a haontaíodh an Straitéis 20 Bliain don Ghaeilge, d'ainneoin aon chiorruithe a bheadh le déanamh, go gcuirfí cistíocht faoi leith ar fáil leis an straitéis a chur i bhfeidhm, mar ní féidir í a chur i bhfeidhm gan cistíocht. An bhféadfadh an Aire Stáit léargas a thabhairt ar an bhfuil sé sin taobh amuigh den phróiseas seo agus an gcuirfear cistíocht breise ar fáil go lárnach le haghaidh an straitéis 20 bliain?

Dúirt an Aire Stáit go bhfuil €3 mhilliún dhá chaitheamh ar chlár tacaíochta teaghlaigh. Céard é an briseadh síos ar an gcaiteachas sin? Céard atá nua ann nach mbíodh ann agus céard a cuireadh in áit scéim labhairt na Gaeilge, a bhí suas le €700,000 á chaitheamh uirthi, in íocaíocht nó mar shochar éigin díreach do teaghlaigh?

Deireann an tAire Stáit go bhfuil €3 milliún ann don chlár tacaíochta teaghlaigh, ach chaill mise an t-eolas sin má fógraíodh an cineál sin airgid nua do theaghlaigh na Gaeltachta.

An bhfuil sé i gceist airgead caipitil a chur ar fáil do na hoileáin leis an gclár caipitil orthu a chríochnú? Caitheadh €100 milliún ar na hoileáin, ach bhí roinnt tograí nach raibh críochnaithe. Orthu sin, bhí Céibh Reannaigh in Árainn Mór i dTír Chonaill, céibh Inis Oírr, agus an foirgneamh nó an air terminal don aerstráice ar Inis Bó Finne. Oibríonn na hoileáin amach go dteastódh thart ar €3 mhilliún in aghaidh na bliana le haghaidh na tograí sin a chur i gcrích. An bhfuil sé i gceist airgead a chur ar fail le haghaidh clár oileánda?

Tá sé luaite go bhfuil €9,871,000 á chaitheamh ar riarachán an údaráis, ach níl aon airgid beagnach ag an údarás le caitheamh anois. An bhféadfadh an tAire Stáit an briseadh síos, idir pá agus pinsean, a íoctar as sin a thabhairt dom? Feictear domsa gur figiúr ollmhór é i gcomhthéacs an buiséad laghdaithe atá ag an údarás.

An féidir leis an Aire Stáit a dheimhniú nach gcuirfear deireadh le haon seirbhís rochtana go dtí na hoileáin? Tá ráfla ag dul timpeall go bhfuil sé i gceist deireadh a chur leis an seirbhís aeir go dtí na hOileáin Árainn. An féidir sásamh a thabhairt do na hoileánaigh nach mbeidh ciorrú mar sin á dhéanamh, mar is ionann é sin agus rud ar nós 30% de chiorrú ar an bhuiséad iompair oileánda? Mar is eol don Aire Stáit, ní bheadh sé sin inghlactha do phobal na n-oileán. An féidir leis an Aire Stáit a dheimhniú chomh maith nach mbeidh níos mó de chiorrú pro rata á dhéanamh ar sheirbhísí rochtana go dtí na hoileáin thar mar atá á dhéanamh trasna na Roinne ar fad?

An bhféadfadh an tAire Stáit eolas a thabhairt dúinn ar an tsábháilt atá le déanamh i 2013 ar na moltaí atá aige maidir le Coimisiún na Logainmneacha agus maidir leis an gCoimisinéir Teanga? Cé mhéad a chosain an Coimisinéir Teanga don bhliain 2012? Céard é an costas iomlán a bhain le Coimisiún na Logainmneacha don bhliain 2012? Muna bhfuil na figiúrí sin ag an Aire Stáit, déanfaidh na figiúrí don bhliain 2011 cúis.

Tá go leor ceisteanna eile agam, ach ba mhaith liom dhá cheist a chur ar an Aire, an Teachta Deenihan.

4:45 pm

Photo of Michael McCarthyMichael McCarthy (Cork South West, Labour)
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Ar aghaidh leat le do thoil.

Photo of Éamon Ó CuívÉamon Ó Cuív (Galway West, Fianna Fail)
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I will be very quick. I was looking at the Estimate for the Department and have two questions for the Minister. Are there opportunities for increasing the appropriations-in-aid by, for example, changing the fees? The same thing would apply, for example, with regard to ferry services. Many islanders, even though they value the €8 return fare, would rather pay €1 extra to retain the services they have rather than suffer a traumatic cut. Are there possibilities in this regard? Could we raise more money from fees rather than make cuts to institutions?

Under the caps on the access programme, the cultural cinemas programme, Bord Scannán na hÉireann and so forth, how many projects promised funding under this programme are being carried out currently? Will enough money be made available under the respective headings to ensure all of these projects, without fail, are given the money sanctioned for them in order that they can be completed and we do not end up with half-finished white elephant projects?

Photo of Michael McCarthyMichael McCarthy (Cork South West, Labour)
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We will take the response from the Minister of State, Deputy McGinley, first and then from the Minister, Deputy Deenihan.

Photo of Dinny McGinleyDinny McGinley (Donegal South West, Fine Gael)
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Gabhaim buíochas leis an Teachta as na ceisteanna a chuir sé. Bhain an chéad cheist le baill an údaráis. De réir an Achta, beidh 11 agus Cathaoirleach ar an údarás. Tá cúigear acu sin roghnaithe cheana féin ag na comhairlí contae ina bhfuil ceantair Gaeltachta faoina gcúram. Tá seisear eile agus Cathaoirleach le hainmniú agus beidh siadsan ainmnithe gan mhoill, taobh istigh de laethanta, ní seachtainí. Táim cinnte, cé is moite an anacra, go mbeidh said éifeachtach - beidh sé sin le feiceáil – agus go ndéanfaidh said an jab atá le déanamh acu, sé sin forbairt ar an tionsclaíocht agus ar an bhfostaíocht agus mar sin de sa Ghaeltacht. Chomh maith le sin, beidh cúram úr orthu an phleanáil teanga, agus sin an fáth go bhfuil dúil agam go mbeidh daoine a mbeidh na scileanna sin acu ar an údarás úr. Mar a dúirt mé, beidh na daoine sin ainmnithe taobh istigh de laethanta seachas seachtainí.

Bhain an chéad cheist eile leis an straitéis 20 bliain agus an t-airgead breise atá á chur ar fáil. Maidir leis an straitéis, is cuid í seo d’obair na Roinne agus de chaiteachas na Roinne ar fad. Tá cuid mhór den airgead atá á chaitheamh ag an Roinn ag dul chuig tacaíocht a thabhairt d’eagraíochtaí agus gluaiseachtaí sa Ghaeltacht agus d’oideachas sa Ghaeltacht. Tá siad sin go léir fite fuaite le chéile. Níl sé ar intinn an oiread seo a atheagrú. Is don straitéis é sin. Beidh tionchar ag an straitéis ní hamháin ar gach gné de chaiteachas airgid na Gaeltachta ó seo amach, ach de chaiteachas airgid Ranna eile. Beidh cuid d’airgead na Roinne Oideachais agus Scileanna dírithe isteach ar an straitéis, agus cuid d’airgead Ranna eile chomh maith. Beidh na Ranna a bhfuil feidhmeanna acu sa Ghaeltacht ag tabhairt aghaidh ar an straitéis chomh maith. Mar sin, tá buiséad iomlán sa bhliain reatha de €60 milliún á chur isteach i gcúrsaí Gaeilge agus Gaeltachta. Tá sin go léir dírithe isteach ar an aidhm atá ag Údarás na Gaeltachta agus ag Foras na Gaeilge an straitéis a chur i bhfeidhm.

Maidir leis na hoileáin, caitheadh breis agus €5.9 milliún i mbliana ar na seirbhísí a chuirtear ar fáil do na hoileáin ar fud an chósta, oileáin Gaeltachta agus oileáin nach bhfuil sa Ghaeltacht. Téann an chuid is mó den airgead sin faoi choinne seirbhísí an-tábhachtacha a chur ar fáil do na hoileáin, seirbhísí farantóireachta, lastais agus aeir go dtí oileáin áirithe ar chósta na Gaillimhe - Inis Mór, Inis Meáin agus Inis Oírr – agus seirbhísí bus agus mar sin de ar an mórthír. Sin beagnach €6 milliún atá ar fáil. An cuspóir atá agam ná leanúint leis na seirbhísí atáimid á chur ar fáil dos na hoileáin chomh mór agus is féidir. Caithfimid gníomhú taobh istigh de na laincisí áirgid atá orainn, áfach. Táim cinnte go dtuigeann an Teachta, níos fear ná éinne eile sa seomra seo, cad iad na laincisí móra airgid atá orainn i láthair na huaire.

Tá próiseas ag dul ar aghaidh i láthair na huaire, agus tuigeann an Teachta, níos mó ná aon Teachta eile anseo, an próiseas seo. Tuigeann sé go bhfuilimid ag cur agus ag cúiteamh i láthair na huaire agus ag iarraidh oiread agus is féidir linn a fháil ón Státchiste chun oiread de na seirbhísí seo agus is féidir a chur ar fáil. Maidir leis na ceisteanna a chuir sé faoi an mbeidh seo nó siúd ar fail, beimid ábalta freagra a thabhairt ar na ceisteanna sin nuair a bheidh a fhios againn cad é an t-airgead nó cad iad na hacmhainní atáthar ag cur ar fail dúinn.

Maidir le scéim tacaíochta teaghlaigh, cuireadh an méid adúirt mé - €4 milliún – ar fail don scéim sin. Ar ndóigh, níl scéim labhairt na Gaeilge ann a thuilleadh, ach tá scéim tacaíochta teaghlaigh ann. Tá teagmháil déanta ag 300 duine leis an Roinn cheana féin, ag iarraidh eolais faoin scéím tacaíochta teaghlaigh.

Tá scéimeanna eile a bhfuil eolas ag an Teachta orthu, mar atá scéim na gcampaí samhraidh agus scéim na gcúntóirí teanga. Tá scéimeanna ansin chun tréanáil a chur ar fáil sa Ghaeltacht do dhaoine óga idir 15 and 17 bliana d'aois a bhfuil Gaeilge acu, agus beidh fáil orthu siúd fá choinne a gcuid Gaeilge a chur ar fáil dos na campaí samhraidh agus dos na coláistí Gaeilge. Táimid ag cur an-chuid airgid ar fáil, do dháilcheantar an Teachta Uí Chuív féin chomh maith. Tá scéim tacaíochta linbh agus scéim tacaíochta teaghlaigh ar bun ó Indreabhán siar go dtí an Cheathrú Rua. Beidh mé ansin i gcionn seachtaine ag déanamh rud éigin eile.

Tá na scéimeanna sin go léir dírithe isteach ar an teanga agus ar an aos óg, mar creidimse go daingean go bhfuil sé iontach tábhachtach go bhfuil an teanga ag an pháiste ón teallach agus ní ón scoil. Nuair a théann an páiste go dtí an scoil, tá an chéad teanga sealbhaithe. Sin an fáth go bhfuilimid ag díriú isteach ar scéimeanna linbh, scéimeanna réamhscolaíochta, scéimeanna naíonraí agus scéimeanna den chineál sin.

Thóg an Teachta ceist faoi Choimisiún na Logainmneacha.

4:55 pm

Photo of Éamon Ó CuívÉamon Ó Cuív (Galway West, Fianna Fail)
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An bhféadfadh an tAire Stáit rud a shoiléiriú? Bhi na cúntóirí teanga agus na rudaí sin ann nuair a bhi mé féin i m'Aire. Céard é an rud nua, agus cé mhéad atá an rud nua ag cosaint, a cuireadh in áit scéim labhairt na Gaeilge?

Photo of Dinny McGinleyDinny McGinley (Donegal South West, Fine Gael)
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Tá mé tar éis a insint go bhfuil an scéim tacaíochta teaghlaigh agus scéim na gcúntóirí teanga ansin. Tá scéim tréanáil ansin do dhaoine óga idir 15 agus 17 bliana d'aois agus, ar ndóigh, tá na naíonraí ann. Is cuid é seo de chur i bhfeidhm na straitéise. Nílimid ag brú Béarla nó an teanga eile. Táimid ag brú na Gaeilge.

Mar dhuine as an nGaeltacht, tuigeann an Teachta go bhfuil sin thar a bheith tábhachtach, mar le 30 nó 40 bliain anuas tá a fhios aige cad é a tharla. Cad é a dúirt an Coimisinéir Teanga agus cad é a dúirt an suirbhé teangeolaíochta? Muna ndíreoimid isteach mar seo ar na daoine, beidh an Ghaeilge caillte sna Gaeltachtaí. Tá mé cinnte go bhfuil an tuairisc sin léite ag an Teachta é féin agus go bhfuilimid ar ais na haille, más féidir liom é a chur mar sin. Bhí baint mhor ag an Teachta leis sin ina am mar Aire, chomh maith. Bhí muid ar ais na haille. Tháinig an tuarascáil amach agus táimid ag iarraidh straitéis úr a chur i bhfeidhm sa dóigh nach dtitfimid thar an aill. Ní airgead amháin atá i gceist, ach meoin agus machnamh agus dearcadh na ndaoine.

Thóg an Teachta Ó Cuív ceist eile maidir le Coimisiún na Logainmneacha. Tugaimse creidiúint mhór do Choimisiún na Logainmneacha ar an saothar mór a cuireadh ar bhuiséad na blianta fada ó shin. Cé nach mbeidh Coimisiún na Logainmneacha ann beidh bord speisialta ansin go mbeidh saineolaithe air, agus iad ag obair pro bono agus saor in aisce.

Photo of Éamon Ó CuívÉamon Ó Cuív (Galway West, Fianna Fail)
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Cén costas a bhain leis go dtí seo?

Photo of Michael McCarthyMichael McCarthy (Cork South West, Labour)
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The Minister of State, without interruption, please.

Photo of Éamon Ó CuívÉamon Ó Cuív (Galway West, Fianna Fail)
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Chuir mé ceist cén costas a bhain leis. Níor chuir mé aon cheist faoi logainmneacha. Tá a fhios agam go maith an obair a rinneadh ar logainmneacha.

Chairman, I asked a simple question on some facts.

Photo of Michael McCarthyMichael McCarthy (Cork South West, Labour)
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We have spent almost 15 minutes on the first questioner. Others have been here since 2.15 p.m. and are waiting to speak.

Photo of Éamon Ó CuívÉamon Ó Cuív (Galway West, Fianna Fail)
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I apologise, Chairman, but I am getting very long answers to questions I did not ask and I am not getting answers to the questions I did ask.

I asked two things. First, how much did Coimisiún na Logainmneacha cost last year? Second, the Minister of State set up a new scheme for families rearing their children through Irish in the Gaeltacht. I asked how much was spent on that scheme this year. This meeting is meant to be about finance. I am asking financial questions.

I also asked for a breakdown of wages and pensions in Údarás na Gaeltachta.

Photo of Michael McCarthyMichael McCarthy (Cork South West, Labour)
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Can we have the answers to those three questions from the Minister of State? We will then go to the Minister to answer the questions that were asked as Béarla, and then to other committee members.

Photo of Dinny McGinleyDinny McGinley (Donegal South West, Fine Gael)
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Is siad na táillí ar Choimisiún na Logainmneacha an bhliain seo ná €20,000. Tá costais riaracháin lena chois sin ach chuaigh €20,000 chuig táillí. Cad é an dara cheist?

Photo of Éamon Ó CuívÉamon Ó Cuív (Galway West, Fianna Fail)
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Ag éirí as sin, ar iarradh ar an gcomisiún an obair a dhéanamh pro bono?

Photo of Dinny McGinleyDinny McGinley (Donegal South West, Fine Gael)
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Faoi na riaracháin úra, beidh sé pro bono. Beidh saineolas ansin. Tá na daoine ansin go fóill. B'fhéidir nach mbeidh oiread cruinnithe acu ach beidh siad ansin agus beidh roinnt cruinnithe sa bhliain acu. Ar ndóigh, beidh siad ag déanamh cuid mhór den obair ar an Idirlíon agus mar sin de. Sílim go mbeidh sábháilt san fhadtéarma.

Photo of Éamon Ó CuívÉamon Ó Cuív (Galway West, Fianna Fail)
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There are still two questions to which I have not got an answer. How much was spent this year on the new scheme for the 300 families to whom the Minister of State referred?

Photo of Dinny McGinleyDinny McGinley (Donegal South West, Fine Gael)
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Ní shílim go bhfuil an t-eolas sin go cruinn againn. Ar an iomlán do na scéimeanna tá-----

Photo of Éamon Ó CuívÉamon Ó Cuív (Galway West, Fianna Fail)
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We got that. I know exactly what that figure is.

Photo of Dinny McGinleyDinny McGinley (Donegal South West, Fine Gael)
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Caitheadh €3 mhilliún san iomlán.

Photo of Éamon Ó CuívÉamon Ó Cuív (Galway West, Fianna Fail)
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I know that.

Photo of Dinny McGinleyDinny McGinley (Donegal South West, Fine Gael)
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Níl an briseadh síos againn ag an bpointe seo.

Photo of Éamon Ó CuívÉamon Ó Cuív (Galway West, Fianna Fail)
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An gcuirfidh an tAire Stáit na figiúirí chugam?

Photo of Dinny McGinleyDinny McGinley (Donegal South West, Fine Gael)
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Ó tharla nár tháinig an scéim isteach go dtí mí Aibreáin na bliana seo, tá sé deacair teacht ar fhigiúirí agus gan muid ag deireadh na bliana go fóill. Tá an scéim ag dul ar aghaidh anois le cúig nó sé mhíosa. Tá sé iontach deacair ag an bpointe seo cuntas cruinn a thabhairt. Is cuid den €3 mhilliún é atá caite ar thacaíochtaí teaghlaigh go ginearálta.

Photo of Éamon Ó CuívÉamon Ó Cuív (Galway West, Fianna Fail)
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Le cead an Aire Stáit, nuair a bhí mise mar Aire dá mbéadh scéim nuabunaithe in aon bhliain, chaití airgead a chur ar leataobh le haghaidh feidhmiú na scéime agus chaití buiséad a bheith ann le haghaidh feidhmiú na scéime.

Photo of Dinny McGinleyDinny McGinley (Donegal South West, Fine Gael)
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Tá 300 duine i ndiaidh cur isteach ar an scéim, tugadh an t-eolas dóibh agus tá an t-airgead ansin fá choinne é a dhéanamh. Tá sé i measc an €3 mhilliún atá luaite agam.

Photo of Éamon Ó CuívÉamon Ó Cuív (Galway West, Fianna Fail)
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This is like trying to pull hen's teeth. I asked for a breakdown of wages and pensions in Údarás na Gaeltachta. If the Minister of State does not have the other figure, he surely has this one. It is a figure we were always watching.

Photo of Dinny McGinleyDinny McGinley (Donegal South West, Fine Gael)
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Maidir le foireann an údaráis féin, tá líon na ndaoine atá ag obair san údarás íslithe go dtí 82 faoi láthair. Sílim go raibh sé ag 121 roimhe seo. Tá an mhórchuid den airgead sin ag dul ar phá, ar phinsin agus ar riarachán. Tá beagnach €5.934 mhilliún den airgead ag dul don deontas caipitil.

Photo of Jimmy DeenihanJimmy Deenihan (Minister, Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht; Kerry North-West Limerick, Fine Gael)
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With regard to looking for alternative sources of funding, we are considering all options. I have established a philanthropy initiative and I am encouraging the national cultural institutions to take part in it. The National Archives have been successful in getting a philanthropic contribution of €250,000 from the Wellcome Trust, which proves this can be done. I see the director of the Abbey Theatre is at this meeting. My Department is working closely with the Abbey Theatre on a number of issues, including the acquisition of land to ensure a new theatre can be built in the future. The director was in Boston recently looking for philanthropic opportunities. The director of the National Library is looking at opportunities. We are trying to get funding from as many sources as possible because the taxpayers' contribution will be reducing, as we know.

I have asked the National Museum, the National Library and the National Gallery to ensure we encourage personal donations, without having compulsory entry fees. I have visited museums and libraries all over the world and I have noted there is almost always a place at the entrance or elsewhere where visitors can make a contribution if they wish. I have seen people making very generous contributions.

We are trying to encourage people to use the national cultural institutions. I am proposing different approaches to seeking revenue for those institutions.

An interesting programme was initiated recently by the Arts Council. The RAISE project is working with ten different groups to build the council's capacity to raise funds.

That will prove to be productive. The idea is to raise €10 million in extra funding over the next ten years, and if anyone has any ideas, I will listen to them. We want to protect the free entry, and the census documents have also proven very popular. There were around 700 million hits on them and access is free of charge. They offer a service to the diaspora without charging for it. The more we can make available free of charge to the diaspora, the better. It is the least we can do for them.

The Deputy is a man of ideas and if he has any more I will be delighted to entertain them. It is part of my vision at present to source as much funding support for the national cultural institutions as possible. This week I will be in New York at the Lincoln Centre with representatives of the National Concert Hall. We are trying to identify potential contributors and philanthropists that will donate to the National Concert Hall. It is part of our policy at the moment.

As regards access and capital, we are trying to manage the projects. This year, Smock Alley Theatre was completed, along with the Niland Gallery in Sligo and the Belltable Theatre and the City Art Gallery in Limerick, and the Garage Theatre in Monaghan is about to be completed. This committee should visit that venue because it was done in collaboration with County Monaghan Vocational Education Committee so education and the arts will take place side by side in the centre of a complex that will support first and second level educational institutes. It is an example for everyone. The Theatre Royal in Waterford is almost completed, and although Solas in Galway is proving to be a challenge, we are trying to manage it as best we can to ensure its completion. Work is also ongoing on Athlone Art Gallery, and in the next few years there will be high profile projects in the Butler Gallery in Kilkenny and the theatre in Tullamore. No project has failed yet, and despite the tight finances, we are still managing to ensure cashflow for their completion. I am confident the commitments made in the access programme will be honoured within the constraints we face.

5:05 pm

Photo of Éamon Ó CuívÉamon Ó Cuív (Galway West, Fianna Fail)
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So any work that was sanctioned will be honoured?

Photo of Jimmy DeenihanJimmy Deenihan (Minister, Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht; Kerry North-West Limerick, Fine Gael)
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We have had no casualties to date. We are trying to manage these projects with the county councils and organising committees and are doing so successfully.

Photo of Fiach MacConghailFiach MacConghail (Independent)
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Cuirim fáilte roimh an Aire agus an Aire Stáit. I welcome everyone here today and extend that welcome to the officials. As director of the Abbey Theatre, the national theatre is in receipt of funding from the Department when it comes to capital allocation and from the Arts Council when it comes to the current account. We currently receive €7.1 million from the Arts Council and have had a welcome capital contribution towards the building from the Department.

I know the Minister and I have not seen eye to eye recently when it came to the mergers of national cultural institutions.

Photo of Jimmy DeenihanJimmy Deenihan (Minister, Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht; Kerry North-West Limerick, Fine Gael)
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I was not aware of that.

Photo of Fiach MacConghailFiach MacConghail (Independent)
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It is on the record now. It is nothing personal, as the Minister knows. I admire his work as a politician and Minister but I also need to state publicly my opinion.

Photo of Jimmy DeenihanJimmy Deenihan (Minister, Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht; Kerry North-West Limerick, Fine Gael)
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That is understandable.

Photo of Fiach MacConghailFiach MacConghail (Independent)
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While there are little savings to made as a result of some of the decisions, I realise this is a Government decision and none of the board members has objected publicly to those decisions.

The Minister mentioned the committee should note savings of €20 million in enhanced service efficiencies and value for money were targeted and in this context €1 million in savings across institutions has initially been located. Is that €1 million already taken into account or can we look forward to that saving with the 2013 allocation?

We now know the envelope and medium-term expenditure framework over 2013 and 2014, and looking for that additional €20 in savings, how much more can we look forward in the context of mergers and abolition in 2014? We must clarify that so we can look at supporting the decisions the Minister must make.

There is a ceiling of €232 million for 2012 and a decrease to €218 for 2013. The Minister must look for savings of €14 million, although he mentioned €15 million in his opening remarks. I presume the extra million is to do with the EU Presidency. Will that be ring-fenced and will it become a saving in 2014? How is it treated? It is almost like a punishment where the Minister is given this €1 million but it is then taken away from him afterwards.

Photo of Jimmy DeenihanJimmy Deenihan (Minister, Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht; Kerry North-West Limerick, Fine Gael)
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That was just a once-off allocation.

Photo of Fiach MacConghailFiach MacConghail (Independent)
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Yes, but is the €1 million already spent in 2012 or will it be spent in 2013? These are clarifications.

The baseline figure for Arts Council funding is €63 million. The Minister mentioned having to look for an 8% cut. Can he give the top end percentage cut for which the council, and therefore arts organisations, should be prepared? We might not be able to get an exact figure and we might have to wait for the budget but can we get the headline figure? The Minister invited us to give our opinions on how the ever-decreasing resources might be spent and I urge him to spend most of the money on the living arts. There are some capital requirements but the majority of the money should be spent on arts organisations and groups, whether on traditional music or other art forms, and on the presentation of work for the here and now that will ultimately support not only our communities but also The Gathering.

I welcome the Minister's initiative on income streams. He has consistently been supportive and taken a lead in philanthropic policy in the Department. I was sorry to miss the conference in Smock Alley Theatre but I was in the United States to raise funds for the Abbey Theatre. Can the Minister confirm the amount that has been set aside for the philanthropic initiative and can the committee know what subhead that comes under in order that we can look at both 2013 and 2014?

I assume subhead A7 outlines some of the necessary capital funding and the valuable work of Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann, which I welcome. Are there any other arts bodies included in the subhead that receive current funding?

Photo of Jimmy DeenihanJimmy Deenihan (Minister, Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht; Kerry North-West Limerick, Fine Gael)
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I have outlined where the saving of €1 million will come from. In terms of the three galleries, there will be a cost saving of at least €150,000.

Photo of Fiach MacConghailFiach MacConghail (Independent)
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Is that a saving so the Minister is now looking for €14 million rather than €15 million?

Photo of Jimmy DeenihanJimmy Deenihan (Minister, Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht; Kerry North-West Limerick, Fine Gael)
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These savings are not factored into next year's Estimates. Also, the savings will be made when the rationalisation takes place, which will depend on the introduction of legislation. The saving I can make immediately, and I contacted the chairmen of the institutions on this, is that all directors and board members will act on a pro bono basis.

They will not pay fees to members of boards. That will save approximately €350,000. Other savings will be made when the changes take place, for example, when the boards of the National Museum and the National Library are taken over by the advisory council and the services are shared from our Department. It is hoped that savings will be made through rationalisation. The extent of these savings depends on how soon we put in place the new arrangements and when the various shared services are rolled out. As the galleries put forward the proposal on shared services, they have already agreed to it. Given the tightness of the budget, I see substantial opportunity for adding money to my philanthropy budget.

As regards funding for Europe, this was a one-off contribution for this year that we could use for next year. This money has been spent. I argued on Committee Stage of the Arts Bill 2002 that the arms length principle should be protected. I am trying to provide as much funding as I can to the Arts Council. Over the three years until last year, its funding had been substantially reduced in each budget. I arrested that trend to some extent and the cut was just 3% last year. I will do my best to limit the reduction in Arts Council funding because I realise that groups and centres in all parts of Ireland benefit from the grants it provides. These grants are allocated not on a political basis but according to criteria decided independently by the Arts Council. I am sure members will support me in minimising the reduction to Arts Council funding.

5:15 pm

Photo of Fiach MacConghailFiach MacConghail (Independent)
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That can be taken for granted. Can the Minister provide a top end percentage figure?

Photo of Jimmy DeenihanJimmy Deenihan (Minister, Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht; Kerry North-West Limerick, Fine Gael)
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I cannot do that for the Estimates, as Deputy Ó Cuív will attest. We are still in discussions with the Department and we have not yet even approached it with our proposals. We are still reviewing the Estimates and doing our best to make do with the massive reduction in funding imposed on us four years ago. I do not need to remind members why that was the case.

Photo of Fiach MacConghailFiach MacConghail (Independent)
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Surely it is within the Minister's remit to allocate moneys.

Photo of Jimmy DeenihanJimmy Deenihan (Minister, Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht; Kerry North-West Limerick, Fine Gael)
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As the Senator knows, I have been involved with the arts for a long time. My priority will be to do my best for the Arts Council. As regards incomes, I got €230,000 last year for a special philanthropy scheme to see how it would work. We hope the scheme will leverage €1 million, which can be built on next year. If an investment of €230,000 can get a return of €1 million, it is worth investigating other sources of funding for arts organisations. The Arts Council allocated €620,000 last year to encourage philanthropy. This is funded under subhead A7 and other organisations funded under subhead include Business to Arts and IntroArt.

We will do our best to protect funding for the Arts Council and the arts. While I have yet to prepare my final proposals, discussions have been ongoing between my department and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform on the Estimates for next year.

Photo of Fiach MacConghailFiach MacConghail (Independent)
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Can the Minister indicate the savings for 2014 arising from the mergers and amalgamations? He has suggested a figure of €1 million for 2013 but clearly he has also estimated the savings for 2014.

Photo of Jimmy DeenihanJimmy Deenihan (Minister, Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht; Kerry North-West Limerick, Fine Gael)
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I hope savings will emerge for 2014 but that depends on when the arrangements are put in place.

Photo of Fiach MacConghailFiach MacConghail (Independent)
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The Minister has clearly done the sums because he brought his proposal to the Cabinet.

Photo of Jimmy DeenihanJimmy Deenihan (Minister, Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht; Kerry North-West Limerick, Fine Gael)
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The sums are clear and they are quantified. The Senator referred to cost benefit analyses on numerous occasions but these are the sums and they are very credible. Further savings could be achieved in the future. Once all the arrangements are in place, the savings we make from the rationalisations in 2013 will endure into 2014.

Photo of Sandra McLellanSandra McLellan (Cork East, Sinn Fein)
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The programme for Government commits to supporting cultural tourism as one of the most elements of Ireland’s tourism product. Heritage is a key part of cultural tourism yet its budget is being reduced by 77%. How will the Minister implement this key aspect of the programme for Government if its budget is being cut by 77%? Does he intend to rely solely on the 13 world heritage sites mentioned in his report? What about the importance of local heritage as an educational tool for young children and a potential source of local employment? Does he accept that depending on just 13 key sites limits the potential for developing the domestic tourism market?

Is the Minister concerned about over dependency on philanthropy among the key national institutions? Can he give an assurance that his Department does not intend to introduce an admittance fee for entry into any of the key institutions? Has a budget been put aside for compensating turf cutters and, if so, how much money has been allocated? Where will the €500,000 saved on Údarás na Gaeltachta elections be spent? What does the Minister intend to do to get all of the cultural institutions to comply with the Official Languages Act? How much is being spent on pensions for former employees of Údarás na Gaeltachta?

Photo of Jimmy DeenihanJimmy Deenihan (Minister, Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht; Kerry North-West Limerick, Fine Gael)
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Some of Deputy McLellan’s questions were directed to my colleague, the Minister of State, Deputy McGinley. Heritage tourism is very important and I accept that funding for heritage decreased significantly from €97 million in 2008 to €22 million in 2012. That is a major reduction in funding.

That is putting funding for our built heritage and other aspects of our heritage under a great deal of pressure but we have to cope with what we have. In the heritage sector, we also have compensation for bogs. Last year, I set aside €5 million and the allocation will be similar next year. That places a further burden on the available money. We are doing our best and coping with the budget we have. We are doing innovative work and sometimes when one has less money, one must think more. My Department is doing a good job in managing national parks and doing creative work in introducing good initiatives.

Ireland has two world heritage sites at Brú na Bóinne and Skellig Michael. A number of sites are on the tentative list, which it is hoped will in time become UNESCO world heritage sites. Heritage sites are major attractions in the State and it is important we maintain and protect them properly and promote them as much as possible.

As regards admission fees, we will do our best to avoid charging to visit the National Museum and the National Library and to secure other sources of funding. The voluntary contribution, which is used in many museums around the world, is one I favour very much. I do not suggest there should be an over-reliance on philanthropy. We must try to balance what we generate through philanthropy with State funding and, hopefully, in a few years, when the recovery comes, we can begin to increase State funding again. At the same time, I do not wish to take away the emphasis from philanthropy.

Last year we set aside €5 million and compensated a large number of turf cutters. The Department received 2,472 applications for compensation and 723 for relocation, of which 2,444 have been acknowledged, 1,729 have been paid, including second payments to applications from the previous year, and 145 turf deliveries have been made with a further 71 approved. To date, almost €3 million has been spent on compensation. This was a significant logistical issue. Such a process had not been undertaken previously and it was difficult because the applications had to be verified and so on. There are problems with title when it comes to bogs. I compliment the departmental officials who took on this challenge on doing an excellent job. There has been a huge uptake of the scheme.

We were at the door of the European court and if we had not put this process in place and turf cutters had not accepted the compensation, stayed off the bogs and obeyed the law, we would have faced a massive fine of €25,000 a day. That is not an exaggeration. People were concerned about it from the Taoiseach down and the fines would have been imposed. This was not a threat. The fines were going to happen because formal notice had issued and reasoned opinion had been provided. The next step was court and this country would have been fined heavily because we were supposed to do this ten years ago and it was not done. We procrastinated and we did not do what we promised having transposed the directive into domestic law. We were not getting sympathy on this. I acknowledge the work of Mr. Conor Skehan who is still a member of the Peatlands Council. He stepped down as chairman having made a commitment that he would give it one year. He has been replaced by Mr. Seamus Boland, who was very much involved in the successful relocation in Clara, County Offaly. Mr. Skekan's contribution will be valuable and important.

5:25 pm

Photo of Dinny McGinleyDinny McGinley (Donegal South West, Fine Gael)
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I will reply to three questions. It is estimated there was a saving of €500,000 in the allocation for the Gaeltacht elections. While we saved money on the election, it is part of Údarás na Gaeltachta's overall budget and savings. The capital budget could be less than the €6 million I succeeded in getting this year. This amount is part of the overall savings and therefore, it is included in the current budget. If we had an election, it is likely the organisation would get less for capital spending.

The administrative cost of the organisation is €9.871 million and it is estimated the current pensions bill is €4.3 million per annum. That covers the pensions for 136 former employees.

It is a matter for the cultural institutions primarily to adhere to the Officials Languages Act 2003. I understand that under the Act the Department has no direct responsibility to order them what to do.

Photo of Éamon Ó CuívÉamon Ó Cuív (Galway West, Fianna Fail)
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Na pleananna teanga?

Photo of Dinny McGinleyDinny McGinley (Donegal South West, Fine Gael)
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We can ask for the pleananna teanga. Quite of a few of them have plans and we are working on the rest. We expect them to be provided.

Photo of Michelle MulherinMichelle Mulherin (Mayo, Fine Gael)
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I welcome the Ministers and their officials. I compliment the Minister on the practical measures he has introduced to encourage philanthropy in the arts. They are welcome at this difficult time. The fact we are in a financial crisis does not make the arts less valuable within our society. The growth of community arts has been one of the most exciting developments in recent years. Community arts have spread to all corners of the country and they are not just based in the large centres of population, in particular, Dublin.

My concern is the manner in which the Arts Council allocates money and how the 8% cut referred to by the Minister will be passed by the council to the groups and individuals to whom it awards grants, particularly the arts venues that have expanded successfully over recent years. As we discuss cuts being meted out, the reality is they are not being meted out equally. The council has funding commitments, to which it is adhering, to established galleries, theatres and arts venues in Dublin and other urban centres to a lesser extent.

My concern is for the other arts venues throughout the country, which have very commendable programmes which include community arts. I stress this because, unfortunately, for a long time the arts have laboured under the idea they are for certain people. Community arts and the outreach work of many arts centres have made the arts relevant through people participating and through interaction with professional artists. It gives a platform to the abundance of creativity we have.

Will the Minister engage with the Arts Council and point out to it that smaller arts centres are taking a greater percentage of the cuts because of commitments to larger institutions? These cuts are more detrimental to the future of these arts centres, particularly in light of the fact that town councils are being discontinued. Many town councils fund arts centres and this funding stream will go. The Minister should raise this with the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government. The town councils which fund the arts get their money from ratepayers and I am aware of a number of arts venues which will suffer from the loss of town councils. This cannot happen. It is a serious problem and it will be impressed upon the Minister even more as reality bites for arts venues. Is the Minister prepared to discuss this with the Minister, Deputy Hogan?

I also have a question for the Minister of State, Deputy McGinley. If part of a proposed business or operation was in an Údarás na Gaeltachta area, would a joint venture between the údarás and the IDA or Enterprise Ireland be possible whereby they could work co-operatively to deliver to an area larger than the údarás area?

5:35 pm

Photo of Jimmy DeenihanJimmy Deenihan (Minister, Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht; Kerry North-West Limerick, Fine Gael)
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I thank the Deputy for her contribution. She raised a number of relevant subjects. As I explained before the Deputy arrived, it is enshrined in the relevant Act that the Minister cannot get involved in the day-to-day activities of the Arts Council. The Minister cannot direct the Arts Council to give any particular organisation or individuals funding. I argued in favour of this principle almost ten years ago when the Bill was going through the Dáil. What I can do is give policy directives to the Arts Council. I did so with regard to touring, it was quite successful and I recognise the fact the Abbey Theatre was in Tralee recently. I am sure it also toured the Deputy's county and it was in Limerick. It was very successful and got a great reception in Tralee, as I am sure was the case in Limerick.

Photo of Fiach MacConghailFiach MacConghail (Independent)
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There is money in Tralee. It sold out every night there.

Photo of Jimmy DeenihanJimmy Deenihan (Minister, Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht; Kerry North-West Limerick, Fine Gael)
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There is creativity in Tralee also and the people respect good performances. The important point is that all parts of the country can see a professional performance by a national cultural institution. I mentioned the Abbey Theatre because seeing a professional performance resonated in Tralee and Limerick and this is how it should be. The Arts Council took on the policy directive with regard to touring. I also gave a policy directive on having a national literature strategy, and the Arts Council is working on this. It has also taken up the challenge of philanthropy with a very creative approach.

The committee should invite the Arts Council to come before it as soon as possible, prior to it making its allocation, to put these issues to it. Legally I cannot give the Arts Council a direction on how it spends its money. I am trying to limit the reduction as much as I can within reason, taking into consideration every organisation and those who depend on our funding. As the Arts Council funds organisations throughout the country, it has a considerable effect on the arts in all communities.

From my travels throughout the country I agree with the Deputy that there is great energy in the performing and visual arts in communities. Every village and town has an arts group, with several such groups in some places. There are drama groups and music and singing clubs, and there is an amazing cultural movement, as Senator Ó Murchú would confirm. As a small example, there is a singing club in my village of Finuge. The rambling house there was the only one several years ago but now there are several in north Kerry. Much is happening which must be supported and encouraged.

The point with regard to town councils supporting local centres through the arts and culture capital enhancement support scheme, ACCESS, and previous programmes must be carefully considered in the change in structures.

Photo of Michelle MulherinMichelle Mulherin (Mayo, Fine Gael)
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I was referring to an annual funding stream. I appreciate ACCESS funding and my town benefits from it-----

Photo of Jimmy DeenihanJimmy Deenihan (Minister, Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht; Kerry North-West Limerick, Fine Gael)
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My point is that programmes such as ACCESS provided venues which must be maintained. Urban councils provided the current funding for them, and in a new arrangement without urban councils an alternative source of funding must be provided.

Photo of Noel CoonanNoel Coonan (Tipperary North, Fine Gael)
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Municipal councils.

Photo of Jimmy DeenihanJimmy Deenihan (Minister, Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht; Kerry North-West Limerick, Fine Gael)
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I hope so, but it is important to highlight the dependency of these centres on the funding they receive. It should be considered when the changes are made.

Photo of Michelle MulherinMichelle Mulherin (Mayo, Fine Gael)
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I understand the Minister does not direct the Arts Council to fund particular projects. I ask the Minister to address the fact it has an unequal and inequitable manner in meting out cuts. Some cuts are made at a certain percentage and other projects are not cut at all. The wonderful venues described by the Minister are under threat and in difficulty because of how the Arts Council metes out cuts. I ask the Minister to ask the Arts Council to examine this from a policy point of view.

Photo of Dinny McGinleyDinny McGinley (Donegal South West, Fine Gael)
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The Deputy made a very specific point. Under the 1956 Act, the údarás is primarily responsible for industrial development within designated Gaeltacht areas. Other agencies such as the IDA and Enterprise Ireland are responsible for development outside the Gaeltacht areas. The Deputy mentioned projects which straddle Gaeltacht and non-Gaeltacht areas. There is an impediment in the Act which prevents the údarás from assisting in anything outside the designated Gaeltacht areas. However, having said this, there is a mechanism in the Act which enables co-operation between the údarás, the IDA and Enterprise Ireland, and a working group has been established between the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation. Earlier this year, this co-operation was visible as Bioniche Pharma and the international company Mylan announced more than 600 jobs.

On the same day Údarás na Gaeltachta was represented and in negotiations with Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland. Some 350 jobs were created in Baldoyle, with 250 more in Galway. That shows the level of co-operation between the agencies. If the Deputy knows of a specific case, she can send on the details and we will see what can be done.

5:45 pm

Photo of Labhrás Ó MurchúLabhrás Ó Murchú (Fianna Fail)
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Cuirim fáilte roimh na hAirí. Like my colleague, Senator Fiach Mac Conghail, I also declare an interest because I am associated with Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann which is a beneficiary of the Department. To paraphrase Martin Luther King, that help enables us not only to dream but also to realise a major part of the dream.

It is widely acknowledged that culture is an important ingredient of national morale, but sometimes its economic aspect in national development is understated. The fact that 73,000 jobs are dependent on cultural tourism is significant. In its 2009 survey Fáilte Ireland identified that €1.9 billion was generated by the cultural and heritage aspects of tourism. It is estimated that there will be growth of 15% per annum worldwide in cultural tourism. If this figure was related to any other industry in the current recessionary times, it would be a huge cause for celebration. In that context, we must be careful to know which goose is laying the golden egg. Can we take it that this aspect of the generation of funding will be kept in mind when funds are being dispensed and policy is being formulated?

Connected with this issue is the EU Presidency. Is it envisaged that events will not be confined to Dublin city? Will entourages and related activities be widely dispersed? I could issue straightaway an invitation to visit the Rock of Cashel and Brú Ború if the Minister was going in that direction. Because of the importance worldwide of cultural tourism, we will benefit, but we must share the publicity. In the case of the Eurovision Song Contest, for example, other aspects of Irish life were shown. I hope this will be a priority in planning and that we will ensure those who come to Ireland will get to see the whole island.

The Minister has invited us to bring forward our ideas on how to generate finance. I have one suggestion at which he might look. If a person deposits surplus cash in the bank, at most he or she will receive interest at a rate of 1%, on which DIRT is payable. There is a message to be learned from how charities can claim back tax on donations. The Department of Finance, the Revenue Commissioners and the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht could devise a scheme under which those who deposit money with an arts organisation would receive interest on the sum deposited tax free. This should apply to both capital and current funding. If a person borrows money from a bank, he or she will pay at a rate of 4% or 5%. This might sound like an unusual idea and while it is not radical because the concession for charities is already provided for, it would be novel because the opportunities to raise money are fewer and there are huge sums on deposit - up to €70 billion. There must be a way to release some of these funds from the banks into the business sector by offering some carrot to do so. It should not be beyond the bounds of possibility. I ask the Minister, even if it is outside his remit, to consider it with the Department of Finance and the Revenue Commissioners.

Photo of Jimmy DeenihanJimmy Deenihan (Minister, Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht; Kerry North-West Limerick, Fine Gael)
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The biggest test of the potential of cultural tourism will be provided by The Gathering next year. Across the country communities in villages and towns are gearing up by organising different festivals that will all be based on culture. The test of our cultural product is whether we can attract more visitors. Many people will come for family or school reunions or for other reasons, but the cultural product available is different from what was available 30 years ago. The Senator will agree that the standard has improved because of work done by his organisation and the different schools of music, from primary to third level. There is a major movement. I was in the Senator's parish some time ago when I was very impressed by a young harper. It is now cool to play Irish music and there has been a great revival in the playing of the harp. We will put this to the test next year in seeing how many will come during The Gathering and if we can gain an extra 350,000 tourists. That will be a challenge, but we do have a great cultural offering.

As regards funding, I encourage people to look to the Leader programme under which there is more of a fund for heritage projects than in my Department. It provides vital funds, as does the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport through Fáilte Ireland. It offers product development funds for important cultural projects across the country. Apart from my Department - as Deputy Sandra McLellan points out, the funding for heritage projects has been cut drastically by 75% - there are other sources at which people should look in seeking funding for heritage and cultural projects.

We will launch the programme for the EU Presidency on 29 November and it would be great if committee members could attend. There will a huge regional aspect to the programme. Despite the financial constraints, it is a very good programme.

Senator Labhras Ó Murchú's idea is a very good one. Does he know if it has been tried in any other country?

Photo of Labhrás Ó MurchúLabhrás Ó Murchú (Fianna Fail)
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No, I am certain it has not. I introduced the idea on a previous occasion at a time when the banks were doing well. However, this would be an ideal time because of the deposit rates on offer.

It has never been tried or examined.

5:55 pm

Photo of Jimmy DeenihanJimmy Deenihan (Minister, Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht; Kerry North-West Limerick, Fine Gael)
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We will follow up on Senator Ó Murchú's idea. I thank him very much for bringing it to my attention.

Photo of Noel CoonanNoel Coonan (Tipperary North, Fine Gael)
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Before I call Senator Ó Clochartaigh, I thank you, Minister, for the invitation you extended to the committee. Could you provide the text of the invitation to the clerk in order that he can send it to members of the committee?

Photo of Jimmy DeenihanJimmy Deenihan (Minister, Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht; Kerry North-West Limerick, Fine Gael)
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I will do that.

Photo of Trevor Ó ClochartaighTrevor Ó Clochartaigh (Sinn Fein)
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Sula dtosóidh mé, caithfidh mé a rá go mbeidh orm dul go dtí an tSeanad mar tá ábhar agam ar an Athló agus tá an Seanad tar éis críochnú go luath. Murar mhiste leis an gcoiste é, cuirfidh mé mo chuid ceisteanna le go mbeidh siad ar an dtaifead. Bhéinn thar a bheith buíoch dá mbeadh an tAire agus an tAire Stáit sásta na freagraí a thabhairt agus mé sa Seanad.

Feicim gur laghdú 64% a rinneadh ar bhuiséad na Gaeltachta. Nach n-aontaíonn an tAire agus an tAire Stáit gur éagóir mhór í seo agus go bhfuil muintir na Gaeltachta ag iompar ualach níos mó ná mar ba chóir dóibh ó thaobh na ciorraithe atá á dhéanamh?

An bhféadfadh an tAire Stáit deimhniú nach bhfuil sé i gceist aige deireadh a chur leis an tseirbhís aeir go hÁrainn? Bhí cruinniú mór i nGaillimh inné faoi seo agus tá an-imní ar an bpobal faoi. Tá siad breá sásta suí síos agus comhphlé a dhéanamh leis an Aire Stáit. An bhféadfadh sé deimhniú nach bhfuil sé chun deireadh a chur leis an tseirbhís?

Cén sábháiltí airgid atá le baint as cónascadh Oifig an Choimisinéara Teanga le hOifig an Ombudsman? Cén chaoi a thángthas ar na figiúirí sin?

Cad iad na hacmhainní breise airgid agus cén chiste bhreise a bhéas á chur ar fáil dos na comhlachtaí pobail le straitéis 20 bliain don Ghaeilge a chur i bhfeidhm? Maidir le scéim na bhfoghlaimeoirí Gaeilge don bhliain seo chugainn, an bhfuil an tAire Stait in ann deimhniú nach mbeidh laghdú ar ráta na mná tí as scoláirí Gaeilge a choinneáil? Cén laghdú a tháinig ar líon na ndaltaí a d'fhreastail ar na coláistí samhraidh i 2012 agus cé mhéad dalta a bhfuiltear ag déanamh meastacháin dóibh do 2013?

Tá 400 post cruthaithe in Údarás na Gaeltachta le bliain ach cé mhéad post a cailleadh? Bhí an t-údarás ag rá go raibh gá le 1,000 post sa bhliain a chruthú le go gcoinneofaí an líon reatha post ansin. Cé mhéad post a cailleadh agus an bhfuilimid ag coinneáil suas nó ag titim de réir a chéile?

Céard atá i gceist ag an Aire Stáit a dhéanamh maidir le comhalta bhord Údarás na Gaeltachta as Tír Chonaill? Tá an cás sin le réiteach.

An stang is mó a baineadh asam, agus a bhfuil mé ag iarraidh soiléiriú air, go ndúirt an tAire Stáit go raibh €4.3 mhilliún ó bhuiseád reatha Údarás na Gaeltachta á chaitheamh ar phinsin do 136 iar-fhostaithe. An bhfuil sé sin cruinn? Shíl mé gurb shin a dúirt an tAire Stáit agus tá mé ag iarraidh soiléiriú air. Sin leath bhuiséad reatha Údarás na Gaeltachta, má tá an figiúir sin cruinn.

Cé mhéad scéim teanga atá fós le daingniú ag an Roinn faoi Acht na dTeangacha Oifigiúla? Baineann sé sin leis an gceist a cuireadh níos túisce.

I would not like to leave the Minister out. Regarding the national plan for the 53 raised bogs, what negotiations are ongoing between the Minister and the Turf Cutters and Contractors Association, TCCA, and when did they take place?

Mo mhíle leithsceál go bhfuil orm imeacht ach chríochnaigh an Seanad go luath agus dá bhrí sin caithfidh mé a bheith suas le ceist a ardú ar an Athló. Beidh mé ag léamh na tuairisce go cúramach.

Photo of Dinny McGinleyDinny McGinley (Donegal South West, Fine Gael)
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Tá ceisteanna go leor tógtha ag an Seanadóir ansin.

Maidir le buiséad Roinn na Gaeltachta, cuireadh €60 milliún ar fad ar fáil sa bhliain reatha le tacaíocht a thabhairt don teanga, d'Údarás na Gaeltachta, d'Fhoras na Gaeilge agus mar sin de. Ní beag an tsuim í sin.

Tá seirbhís aeir ann go dtí na hOileáin Arann. Is páirt í sin den tseirbhís a cuirtear ar fáil dos na hoileáin go léir. Tá seirbhís á chur ar fáil do 20 oileán ar fad ar chósta na tíre. Tá seirbhísí farantóireachta, lastais agus aeir go dtí na hOileáin Arann - Inis Mór, Inis Meáin agus Inis Oírr - agus tá seirbhísí bus a thugann daoine go dtí an áit a bhfuil na heitleáin nó na báid ag teacht i dtír. Cosnaíonn sé sin go léir €5.94 milliún sa bhliain. Téann €2 mhilliún de sin fá choinne an tseirbhís aeir go dtí na hOileáin Árann. Tiocfaidh deireadh leis an gconradh reatha don seirbhís aeir chuig na hoileáin ar 31 Lúnasa na bliana seo chugainn. I láthair na huaire, is féidir liom a rá nach bhfuil aon chinneadh déanta ag mo Roinn maidir le haon seirbhís, le deireadh a chur leis nó le haon rud eile. Is é an cuspóir atá againn ná gach seirbhís gur féidir linn a choinneáil. É sin ráite, caithfimid gníomhú taobh istigh des na hacmhainní a bhéas ar fáil againn. I láthair na huaire táimid ag plé agus ag cúiteamh cad iad na hacmhainní a bhéas ar fáil don Roinn don bhliain seo chugainn. Go dtí go mbeidh a fhios againn cad iad na hacmhainní agus cad é an t-airgead a bhéas ar fáil dos na hoileáin agus don Ghaeltacht, ní féidir aon chinneadh a dhéanamh.

Tá an t-airgead dos na mná tí iontach tábhachtach. Seo ceann des na tionscail is tábhachtaí dá bhfuil againn maidir leis an nGaeilge a chur chun tosaigh agus a chothú. Chuir an Seanadóir ceist cé mhéad duine a d'fhreastail ar na coláistí Gaeilge sa bhliain reatha. D'fhreastail 24,000 scoláire ar chúrsaí Gaeilge. Tá sin thart faoin uimhir chéanna a bhí ann le blianta. An uair is airde, bhí sé cupla míle níos airde ná sin agus an uair is ísle bhí sé cupla míle níos ísle. Sin an meán rud - 24,000 - agus is mór an uimhir í sin.

Rinne an Seanadóir tagairt dos na mná tí féin chomh maith. Íocann an Roinn leis na mná tí €9.50 in aghaidh an lae leis na mná tí le haghaidh gach dalta a freastalaíonn ar na cúrsaí seo. Íslíodh é sin anuraidh agus an bhliain roimhe sin, euro gach bliain. Bhí áthas orm gur éirigh liom an t-airgead a choinneáil don bhliain reatha ag an ráta a raibh sé, sé sin, €9.50. Ba mhaith liom go mbeimid in ann é sin a dhéanamh arís mar go bhfuil na costaisí ag dul suas. Déanfaimid gach dícheall é a choinneáil mar sin. Ag an am seo, beimid arís ag brath ar cad iad na hacmhainní a bhéas ar fáil ag an Roinn agus cad é an áit is fearr leis na hacmhainní sin a chur.

An cheist eile a chuir an Seanadóir ná ar thuig sé i gceart an méid den airgead reatha a cuirtear ar fáil d'Údarás na Gaeltachta a íoctar ar phinsin. Is é an figiúr atá againn ná go n-íoctar €4.3 milliún ó bhuiséad an údaráis faoi choinne pinsin a chur ar fáil do 136 pinsinéir ar fád. Tá an figiúr a luaigh mé mar fhreagra ar na Teachtaí eile cruinn.

Maidir leis an méid fostaíochta atá ar fáil, deir an t-údarás go raibh €6 mhilliún de dhíth air faoi choinne an líon fostaithe atá aige sa Ghaeltacht a choinneáil. Cailltear postanna gach bliain ach cruthaítear postanna chomh maith. I láthair na huaire, tá 6,500 duine fostaithe i gcomhlachtaí a thug Údarás na Gaeltachta cuidiú dóibh. Chomh fada agus is eol dom, sa bhliain deireanach a bhfuil figiúirí agam di, sí sin 2011, cruthaíodh 734 post agus cailleadh 808 post. Mar sin, bhí cailliúint iomlán de 74 post. Nuair a chuimhnítear ar na deacrachtaí eacnamaíochta atá sa tír agus go bhfuil postanna á chailliúint gach áit ar fud na tíre agus i dtíortha eile, tá éacht déanta ag an údarás, leis na hacmhainní teoranta atá curtha ar fáil dó, an oiread sin postanna a chruthú. Níl a fhios agam cé mhéad postanna atá cruthaithe ag an údarás i mbliana go dtí an t-am seo, ach beidh na figiúirí sin curtha ar fáil nuair a fhoilsítear tuairisc bhliantúil an údaráis.

Maidir le chomhthathú Oifig an Choimisinéara Teanga le hOifig an Ombudsman, cosnaíonn Oifig an Choimisinéara Teanga €635,000 in aghaidh na bliana. Ní shílimid go mbeidh mórán sábháilt ansin sa ghearrthéarma.

Beidh an fhoireann chéanna ann. Beidh oifig ag an gcoimisinéir. Beidh an coimisinéir lonnaithe sa Ghaeltacht. Mar sin féin, de réir mar a ritheann an t-am ar aghaidh, sílim gur maith an rud é go mbeidh dhá oifig ag cosaint cearta an tsaoránaigh. Beidh an Coimisinéir Teanga ag cosaint cearta teanga agus beidh an tOmbudsman ag cosaint cearta an phobail go ginearálta. Beidh siad ag obair as lámh a chéile. Is dóigh liom go mbeidh obair an choimisinéara teanga níos éifeachtaí dá bharr.

Luaigh an Seanadóir go bhfuil líomhaintí anaithnid, nó anonymous, curtha i leith duine de na daoine atá ainmnithe. Is léir dom go bhfuil líomhaintí curtha i leith beirt i láthair na huaire, duine acu a cheap an chomhairle contae agus ar moladh é. Ar ndóigh, tá na líomhaintí curtha in iúl d'Údarás na Gaeltachta agus do Chomhairle Chontae Dhún na nGall. Ní bheadh sé cuí aon rud a rá sa chomhthéacs seo inniu. Níl sé de cheart agam aon rud a rá mar gheall ar na líomhaintí anaithnid seo ag an bpointe seo. Baineann an cheist seo leis an gcomhairle contae agus an údarás, mar gur acu sin a rinneadh na líomhaintí. Chuir na heagrais seo in iúl dúinn iad. Is dócha nach féidir liom níos mó a rá faoi sin ag an bpointe seo.

6:05 pm

Photo of Noel CoonanNoel Coonan (Tipperary North, Fine Gael)
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The Minister, Deputy Deenihan, mentioned earlier that he does not have any discretion in relation to turf-cutting, particularly in special areas of conservation. Is it correct to say that the State, the Department and the Minister have some discretion in the case of the raised bogs that have been listed as being in natural heritage areas? If so, does the Minister intend to exercise that discretion by carrying out a review?

Photo of Jimmy DeenihanJimmy Deenihan (Minister, Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht; Kerry North-West Limerick, Fine Gael)
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I will respond to the Vice Chairman's query and to Senator Ó Clochartaigh's question about the national plan for raised bogs. We are doing preliminary work on that at the moment. Local aspects of the matter are being considered. Obviously, we would love to engage with the Turf Cutters and Contractors Association. As members of the committee will be aware, the association left the Peatlands Council last year. It is important for the association to come back into the council. When Deputy Luke Flanagan and others tabled a motion in the Dáil calling for a national plan on raised bogs, I accepted the motion and took the substance of what was called for in the motion to the Commissioner in Europe. The Commissioner accepted that. The motion called for a plan to be drawn up for the 53 raised bogs in special areas of conservation and for an accommodation to be found in the cases of a small number of bogs where there are no relocation possibilities. That is exactly what this plan will be pursuing. It will be in the spirit of what was accepted by the Commissioner last year. That is exactly what was proposed in the Dáil at that time. It is there. The motion is there. I accepted that motion. I took the spirit of that motion to Europe and it was accepted by the Commissioner. This process is happening with regard to raised bog special areas of conservation.

Both parties in government gave a commitment in the programme for Government to examine the management structure of natural heritage areas with a view to finding an alternative approach. The derogation that applies to natural heritage areas will not expire until 2014. We have another year in which to complete the review we are carrying out at the moment. The Peatlands Council is examining the matter at present. The difference between special areas of conservation and natural heritage areas is that special areas of conservation are designated by Europe whereas natural heritage areas are designated under national law. Obviously, we have some flexibility with regard to natural heritage areas. In the programme for Government, we promised to review natural heritage areas and examine different approaches. I have explained the difference between the two issues that are arising at this time. I thank the Vice Chairman, Deputy McLellan and Senator Ó Murchú for staying for the duration of this session. I congratulate them on their endurance and patience.

Photo of Noel CoonanNoel Coonan (Tipperary North, Fine Gael)
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Ba mhaith liom buíochas a ghabháil leis an Aire, an Aire Stáit agus na hoifigigh a tháinig anseo inniu chun cúnamh a thabhairt dúinn sa díospóireacht seo. I thank the Minister, the Minister of State and the officials for their perseverance, endurance and help this afternoon. As a Kerry man, the Minister has great stamina. I thank him for the invitation to attend the launch of the programme.

The joint committee adjourned at 6.25 p.m. until 2.25 p.m. on Monday, 19 November 2012.