Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees
Tuesday, 21 January 2014
Committee on Environment, Culture and the Gaeltacht: Select Sub-Committee on Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht
Estimates for Public Services 2014
Vote 33 - Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht (Revised)
Vote 34 - National Gallery of Ireland (Revised)
Members should switch off their mobile phones as they interfere with the broadcasting equipment. As a result, the proceedings are not broadcast properly.
This meeting has been convened to allow the Dáil Select Sub-Committee on Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht to consider in detail and question the Minister on the 2014 Revised Estimates for Vote 33 - Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht and Vote 34 - National Gallery of Ireland. The Revised Estimates from the Department, with a list of suggested questions from the committee secretariat, have been circulated to members, all of whom I hope have studied them and will use the information provided for them in giving close consideration to the Department's outlet targets, around which we need to establish the issues.
I welcome the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Deputy Jimmy Deenihan, and the Minister of State, Deputy Dinny McGinley. I also welcome the officials from the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Mr. Feargal Ó Coigligh, assistant secretary; Mr. Niall Ó Donnchú, assistant secretary; Mr. Brian Ó Raghallaigh, assistant secretary; Ms Máire Killoran, stiúrthóir na Gaeilge; and Mr. Trevor Donnelly, assistant principal officer in the finance unit. I thank them for their attendance and invite the Minister to make his opening statement.
Is mór agam an deis seo a fháil inniú chun Meastacháin mo Roinne do 2014 a phlé. I am pleased to have this opportunity to outline the principal features of the 2014 Estimates for my Department.
Members of the House will be aware that my Department oversees and has policy responsibility for the conservation, preservation, protection, development and presentation of Ireland's heritage and. culture. My Department also seeks to promote the Irish language, to support the Gaeltacht and to assist the sustainable development of island communities. A gross provision of almost €264million is available to my Department for these purposes in 2014. A further €10.5 million - some €6.7 million in current funding and almost €3.9 million in capital funding - is provided through Vote 34 for the National Gallery.
In broad terms, the 2014 allocations to my Vote group are as follows: over €148 millionfor arts, culture and film, including almost €57 millionfor the Arts Council; over €45 million for the conservation and protection of Ireland's built and natural heritage; more than €41 million for the Irish language, the Gaeltacht and the islands; and over €39 millionfor North-South co-operation, including support for two North-South implementation bodies, Waterways Ireland and An Foras Teanga.
As members will appreciate, as a consequence of the need to meet challenging fiscal targets we have just not had the resources available in recent years to fund all the services that we would like to provide. While the 2014 allocations again reflect the Government's commitment to restoring confidence in our public finances, I welcome in particular the provision of almost €25 million to my Department in respect of economic stimulus measures announced on budget day. My Department makes a significant contribution to supporting economic activity and employment across the country, both in the sectors that it directly supports and equally in the context of cultural tourism. The new jobs rich initiatives being funded underline the importance of the role arts and heritage can play in both job creation and economic recovery and will make a considerable positive impact on the arts and heritage sectors throughout 2014. These initiatives include €10 million for the Cork civic event centre; €6 million for the Limerick National City of Culture 2014; €5 million for the traditional skills and buildings at risk jobs leverage scheme 2014; and €3.7 million for projects relating to the decade of centenaries 1912-1922.
I will now provide some further detail in respect of the key areas of expenditure under my direct responsibility. My colleague, the Minister of State, Deputy Dinny McGinley, will speak about the relevant aspects of the Gaeltacht, Irish language and islands programmes.
Some €148.5million has been allocated to the arts, culture and film subheads, including the National Gallery, this year. This increased funding, which amounts to more than €2.8 million per week, makes an important contribution to protecting jobs and stimulating creativity across the country. Ireland's cultural and creative industries also play a major role in defining a positive image for Ireland abroad. My Department continues to place emphasis on front-line services, as well as on prioritising supports to artists.
With regard to film making activities, I was very pleased that the Minister for Finance, in his 2014 budget speech, confirmed his intention to bring forward the new regime for film tax reliefs to 2015 and also to extend the definition of "eligible individual" within the scheme to include non-EU talent. This will significantly increase the attractiveness of Ireland as a destination for film investment. The extension of the film tax relief scheme, section 481, until the end of 2020 represented a major vote of confidence in the audiovisual production sector by the Government. It provides the sector with continuity and certainty for the future and allows projects to proceed in the knowledge that this important underpinning of the industry will be there for the next seven years.
Given the significant investment in arts infrastructure in recent years, the focus now is to ensure that resources are made available to support the operation of those facilities. Nevertheless, a number of significant projects will continue to be funded in 2014 including, for example, the Solas cinema project in Galway and the West Cork Arts Centre in Skibbereen, County Cork. An additional €10 millionin funding is being provided to fund the redevelopment of the National Gallery historic wings over the course of 2014 to 2016. A provision of €1 million is to be provided in 2014, with the remainder in 2015 and 2016. This project will ensure that the gallery's important collections can be shown and protected in an appropriate forum. It will also enable the gallery to host international exhibitions and, in the longer term, to increase its contribution towards the country's cultural tourism offering.
The valuable work of the Arts Council in supporting the intrinsic cultural, tourism and economic value of the arts throughout the country has been recognised, and this is reflected in the 2014 current allocation of almost €57 million which will allow the council to continue to support arts organisations of varying sizes, from national bodies such as the Abbey Theatre to small, locally-based groups, across a very broad range of individual art forms and arts practices.
Culture Ireland, a division of the Department, will continue to promote Irish artists worldwide with the aim of showcasing our world-class strengths in culture and creativity and restoring Ireland's global reputation. When I announced a new national city of culture initiative last year it was with the aim of delivering a programme of cultural events and engagement in a city for one year, but which also has a longer-term positive impact. With €6 million in capital funding available, this programme represents a highly significant investment in the arts in the mid-west. The allocation offers Limerick a fantastic opportunity to unlock the tremendous creativity that has been associated with the city and to put on a programme of events of national importance.
The funding of the decade of centenaries is also significant, as it allows us to move ahead with the planning and implementation of major building projects to mark the centenary of the 1916 Rising. The Government is also providing €10 million in funding for a multi-functional event centre in Cork city. This project has the potential to provide a significant economic and employment boost to Cork city and county and my Department will work with the city council to progress the project as promptly as possible.
Some €10.5 millionis provided to the Vote of the National Gallery in addition to the €138 million in funding provided for the arts, culture and film sector by my Department. In 2014, the gallery will continue to focus on delivering the best service possible within the resources available.
Funding of some €45.3 millionhas been made available for the Department's heritage programme. This includes almost €33 million allocated for current expenditure with a further €12.5 millionin capital funding. Funding will continue to be made available to support the work of the Heritage Council in its redefined role, the principal function of which will be in the areas of facilitating the grant-aiding of heritage from various sources and engaging with and supporting local government and communities in capacity building and support. The Department will continue to provide support, protection and advisory services for Ireland's built and archaeological heritage. This includes policy input in support of cross-governmental sustainability objectives. With regard to natural heritage, the key outputs in 2014 will focus on the maintenance, development, management and operation of the National Parks and Wildlife Service and meeting obligations under EU directives.
With regard to capital expenditure, the allocation of €5 million on heritage buildings as part of my Department's stimulus measures is the most significant investment in heritage buildings in Ireland in recent times. The built heritage job leverage scheme will allow for urgent repairs on protected heritage buildings to take place across the country, improving our heritage stock, adding to Ireland's attractiveness as a place to live and work, and generating employment in the construction and skilled crafts trades.
I also welcome the decision to extend the living city initiative, introduced last year, to Cork, Galway, Kilkenny and Dublin, for all buildings built prior to 1915. This incentive targets Ireland's historic building stock. It is a tangible example of the Government's commitment to sustainable development, so we do not repeat the mistakes of the past, and it focuses on our existing urban core. This scheme, which complements the new investment scheme in the built heritage jobs leverage scheme, will ensure that Ireland's major urban cities are enhanced, continue to have vibrant city centres, and encourage increased tourism and direct inward investment.
Other capital expenditure in 2014 will focus on two main areas - peatland protection and national park investment. The protection of Ireland's unique raised bog special areas of conservation is a key concern, as is the avoidance of major fines by the Court of Justice of the European Union.
Priority will continue to be given to the turf cutter compensation schemes and investment in alternative turf cutting sites for affected cutters. A reduced capital budget will target a small number of key tourism investments in the national parks. Turf cutting and the protection of designated raised bogs remain key concerns for my Department. I am determined to address this issue in a way that is fair, balanced and supportive of those affected. The Department and the Peatlands Council will continue to work closely with turf cutters who are required to cease cutting turf on Ireland’s 53 special area of conservation raised bogs to ensure their needs are met through relocation to a new bog or compensation. A national plan will be implemented for the management of these protected habitats, together with an overarching peatlands strategy to set out national policy on the future of all of Ireland's peatlands.
Other built heritage capital investment will support the activities of the Heritage Council, provide some funding for structures at risk and support the new heritage towns initiative. My Department is liaising with local authorities and communities with a view to progressing one or more of the sites on Ireland's world heritage tentative list to full world heritage status. The inscription of another world heritage site could only help to enhance Ireland's growing reputation as a heritage tourism destination and a good environment for economic investment and job creation. Heritage functions in my Department will continue to be supported through the environment fund in 2014. The Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government has overall responsibility for the operation of the environment fund and will decide on the total level of allocation from the fund in due course.
Some €41.4 million, comprising current investment of €32.9 million and capital investment of €8.5 million, has been allocated for the Irish language, the Gaeltacht and the islands in 2014. This includes an allocation of more than €17 million for Údarás na Gaeltachta to enable it to continue its vital work in creating employment opportunities in Gaeltacht areas and developing the skill sets of people in the Gaeltacht, thereby enabling them to take maximum advantage of available employment opportunities. My colleague, the Minister of State, Deputy Dinny McGinley, will speak about the relevant aspects of the Estimate for the Gaeltacht, the Irish language and the islands.
I am committed to developing North-South co-operation within the broader arts, heritage and commemorative activities of my Department, as well as through the funding of North-South bodies. More than €39 million is being made available to support the two North-South Implementation Bodies, An Foras Teanga - comprising Foras na Gaeilge and the Ulster-Scots Agency - and Waterways Ireland. These budgets will be subject to the approval of the North-South Ministerial Council in due course. The provision will enable Waterways Ireland to deliver on its core activities and targets which include keeping the waterways open for navigation during the main boating season and promoting increased use of the waterways resource for recreational purposes. This expenditure should also assist in developing and promoting the waterways, attracting increased numbers of overseas visitors and stimulating business and regeneration in these areas. Capital funding of almost €4 million is being made available to Waterways Ireland to facilitate the ongoing maintenance and restoration of Ireland’s inland waterways, thereby increasing recreational access along waterway routes. The 2014 provision will also enable An Foras Teanga to continue to support the valuable cultural heritage we share on the island, North and South. Foras na Gaeilge and the Ulster Scots Agency will continue to support language and cultural organisations and schemes throughout the island.
I am confident that the funds being made available will enable my Department and the sectors it represents to make a significant contribution to growing the economy and helping to create jobs. I will be happy to expand on any matter Deputies may wish to raise.
Is mór agam an deis seo a fháil inniu Meastacháin 2014 sna réimsí Gaeilge, Gaeltachta agus oileán do mo Roinn a phlé leis an roghchoiste. Tá sé i gceist agam léargas a thabhairt ar na tosaíochtaí don bhliain seo chugainn sna réimsí a bhfuil na feidhmeanna reachtúla ina leith tarmligthe chugam. San iomlán, beidh níos mó ná €41 milliún le caitheamh ag mo Roinn sa bhliain 2014 ar ghnóthaí Gaeilge, Gaeltachta agus Oileán agus beidh níos mó ná €39 milliún le caitheamh ar ghnóthaí Thuaidh-Theas. Cé go bhfuil laghdú tagtha ar an soláthar atá ar fáil, tá mise dóchasach go mbeimid in ann aghaidh a thabhairt ar ár gcuid tosaíochtaí a chur i gcrích taobh istigh den bhuiséad. Ós rud é go mbeidh ciorruithe le déanamh chun maireachtáil taobh istigh den soláthar, beidh mé ag cur níos mó béime ná riamh ar éifeachtacht agus ar luach ar airgead a fháil ó allúntas an Státchiste. Beidh cosaint na seirbhísí túslíne mar dhearbhthosaíocht agam agus cinntí á dtógáil i gcomhthéacs an leithdháilte laghdaithe.
Mar is eol don Teach, tá cur i bhfeidhm na straitéise 20 bliain don Ghaeilge ar an chloch is mó ar phaidrín mo Roinne ón uair gur foilsíodh í i mí na Nollag 2010. Sa chomhthéacs sin, cuirim fáilte roimh an €500,000 atá curtha ar fáil sna Meastacháin mar allúntas ar leith don straitéis. Is léiriú follasach é seo ar chur i bhfeidhm an ghealltanais i gclár an Rialtais a deir go dtacóidh an Rialtas leis an straitéis agus go ndéanfar na spriocanna indéanta atá luaite inti a sheachadadh. Cuirfidh an maoiniú seo ar chumas mo Roinne tabhairt faoi ghníomhaíochtaí éagsúla a thacóidh leis an phróiseas pleanála teanga ar an talamh. Áirítear anseo tacaíocht d'eagraíochtaí pobail chun cabhrú leo tabhairt faoi phleananna teanga a ullmhú agus a fheidhmiú faoi Acht na Gaeltachta 2012. Ós rud é go bhfuil an fhreagracht uileghabhálach ar mo Roinn don straitéis, ní miste a lua go bhfuil mo Roinn ag obair go dlúth ar bhonn leanúnach leis na páirtithe leasmhara chun gníomhartha éagsúla faoin straitéis a chur i gcrích. Léiríonn an tuarascáil ar an dul chun cinn atá déanta le trí bliana anuas, a foilsíodh i mí Iúil 2013, agus na pleananna forfheidhmithe a d'fhoilsigh na Ranna Rialtais ábhartha ag an am céanna - 11 acu san iomlán - go bhfuil cur chuige soiléir ann maidir le cur i bhfeidhm na straitéise.
Ar ndóigh, tá an straitéis fite fuaite le scéimeanna mo Roinne sna réimsí Gaeilge, Gaeltachta agus oileán trí chéile. Tá allúntas thart ar €7.5 milliún san iomlán ar fáil sna Meastacháin do na scéimeanna tacaíochta Gaeltachta i mo Roinn do 2014. As an allúntas reatha de €6.1 milliún, caithfear thart ar €2.4 milliún ar an gclár tacaíochta teaghlaigh a bhfuil sé mar aidhm aige tacú leis an nGaeilge mar theanga pobail sa Ghaeltacht. San áireamh faoin gclár seo, tá scéim na gcúntóirí teanga, scéim na gcampaí samhraidh agus maoiniú do na heagraíochtaí éagsúla Gaeltachta atá ag tacú le cur i bhfeidhm an chláir. Ina theannta sin, caithfear thart ar €3.7 milliún ar scéim na bhfoghlaimeoirí Gaeilge faoina gcuirtear deontais ar fáil do theaghlaigh Ghaeltachta chun lóistín a sholáthar do lucht foghlamtha na teanga, lena n-áirítear na hábhair oidí, sna coláistí Gaeltachta. Ní miste a nótáil gur fhreastail beagnach 23,000 scoláire ar choláistí sa Ghaeltacht i samhradh 2013. Bainfear leas as an allúntas caipitil de €1.4 milliún faoi na scéimeanna tacaíochta Gaeltachta ar fhorbairt infreastruchtúir na teanga sa Ghaeltacht chun tacú le cur i bhfeidhm na straitéise ar an talamh.
Tá allúntas de beagnach €3.7 milliún san iomlán ar fáil sna Meastacháin do na scéimeanna tacaíochta Gaeilge i mo Roinn do 2014. Caithfear an t-allúntas reatha de €3.6 milliún ar mhaoiniú cúrsaí tríú leibhéal in Éirinn chun mic léinn a oiliúint chun freastal ar riachtanais Ghaeilge an Státchórais in Éirinn agus ar riachtanais Ghaeilge na n-institiúidí Eorpacha. Ina theannta sin, cuirfear maoiniú ar fáil ón soláthar seo do chúrsaí Gaeilge in institiúidí tríú leibhéal thar lear a chabhraíonn le cur chun cinn na Gaeilge ar bhonn idirnáisiúnta. Chomh maith leis sin, cuirfear maoiniú ar fáil ón soláthar seo do thionscnaimh éagsúla téarmaíochta, aistriúcháin, logainmneacha agus foclóireachta, mar aon le maoiniú d'eagraíochtaí atá ag tacú le cur chun cinn na Gaeilge taobh amuigh den Ghaeltacht.
Mar thoradh ar an phacáiste spreagtha caipitil de chuid an Rialtais, tá allúntas ar leith de €0.5 milliún curtha ar fáil sna Meastacháin do Theach an Phiarsaigh chun gur féidir ionad cuairteoirí a thógáil i Ros Muc mar chuid de chlár cuimhneacháin 2016. Tá na céimeanna cuí idir lámha ag mo Roinnse i gcomhar leis na páirtithe leasmhara chun an togra seo a chur i gcrích in am do chomóradh céad bliain Éirí Amach na Cásca.
Ní miste a rá go bhfuil feidhm thábhachtach ag mo Roinn maidir le forbairt na n-oileán. Beidh €5.9 milliún i maoiniú reatha ar fáil in 2014 chun fóirdheontais a íoc le soláthróirí iompair éagsúla a chuireann seirbhísí farantóireachta, lastais, bus agus aeir ar fáil chuig 19 oileán amach ón gcósta. Ina theannta sin, beidh €644,000 ar fáil i maoiniú caipitil in 2014 chun cothabháil a dhéanamh ar thograí infreastruchtúir ar na hoileáin.
Chomh maith leis an maoiniú a chaitheann mo Roinn ar an Ghaeilge 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 allúntas de beagnach €17.5 milliún san iomlán ar fáil sna Meastacháin don údarás do 2014. Cuimsíonn sé seo soláthar reatha de €8.8 milliún do chostais riaracháin an Údaráis agus €3 mhilliún d'eagraíochtaí pobalbhunaithe agus teangabhunaithe sa Ghaeltacht. Beidh foinsí reatha maoinithe eile de thart ar €4 mhilliún ó chíosanna ag an údarás féin chun cur leis seo in 2014. Beidh soláthar caipitil de beagnach €5.7 milliún ag an údarás ón Státchiste ar mhaithe le hinfheistíocht fiontraíochta sa Ghaeltacht in 2014 agus beidh foinsí maoinithe eile de thart ar €3 mhilliún ag an údarás féin chun cur leis seo in 2014. Mar thoradh ar an maoiniú seo, táthar ag súil go n-éireoidh leis an údarás 500 post nua a chruthú sa Ghaeltacht in 2014, chomh maith leis an bhonn fostaíochta de 7,000 post a choinneáil slán i gcliantchuideachtaí an údaráis sa Ghaeltacht.
Is gné thábhachtach í d’obair mo Roinne tacú leis an chomhoibriú Thuaidh-Theas agus tá suim iomlán de níos mó ná €13.5 milliún curtha ar fáil don Fhoras Teanga sna Meastacháin in 2014. Tá dhá áisíneacht ar leith i gceist leis an Fhoras Teanga, is iad sin, Foras na Gaeilge agus Gníomhaireacht na hUltaise. 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 don Fhoras Teanga le haontú leis an Roinn ó Thuaidh agus le faomhadh ina dhiaidh sin ag an Chomhairle Aireachta Thuaidh-Theas.
Tá soláthar de €567,000 curtha ar fáil sna Meastacháin in 2014 d'Oifig an Choimisinéara Teanga chun a chuid feidhmeanna reachtúla a chomhlíonadh faoi Acht na dTeangacha Oifigiúla 2003.
Tá léargas tugtha agam ar na gníomhaíochtaí agus ar na forais a bhfuil mo Roinnse 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 sin 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 Deenihan, beidh mé sásta aon cheisteanna a fhreagairt ar feadh mo chumais.
Ar an chéad dul síos, caithfidh mé a admháil go bhfuil an-chuid figiúrí os ár gcomhair agus bheadh sé dodhéanta dul tríothu ar fad san an am atá againn. Fáiltím roimh na ráitis cabharthach atá tugtha dúinn ag an Aire agus an Aire Stáit. Sa bhformhór, bheinn i bhfábhar formmór na liúntas atá luaite anseo.
I thank the Minister and the Minister of State for their presentations. I will begin with the issue of heritage. It is important to acknowledge that the Minister deserves to be commended. While the arts and cultural heritage have an obvious intrinsic value - something of which we were conscious in the context of the recent controversy in Limerick - it is nonetheless worthwhile, valuable and important to emphasise the employment opportunities and economic activity that can flow from the proper development of arts, cultural and heritage resources. To some extent, this is at play in the Estimates, in which there are two figures in respect of the stimulus package available. The figure of €18 million is mentioned in one location, while in his presentation the Minister mentioned a figure of €25 million. Will he give us some indication of how he sees this money being invested and leveraging other funds from the private sector to generate some sustainable employment in particular areas?
On a number of occasions here we have welcomed the security the Government has brought to film production and the work of the Irish Film Board. The investment being made is supported by the arts community and the public. Given that we have had many years of public investment in film and television production, are we or when will we begin to see some return from that investment to the Exchequer? I am astonished to read in the document circulated to us the number of films produced with State aid. I commend all those involved and Bord Scannán Éireann for the work they have been doing.
Expenditure in respect of the National Gallery of Ireland and the national museums is covered by the Estimates. It is unfortunate that there has been a massive cutback of €740,000 in the funding available for regional centres such as galleries, cultural centres and museums. I know we are in difficult times, but the value of these centres is enormous. They are greatly valued by the communities in which they are located. To return to the point made by the Minister, there are also valuable economic outflows from investment in this area. Are we, therefore, being penny wise and pound foolish in depriving these art centres of the funding they require?
The allocation to the Arts Council has seen radical reductions in recent years. The Minister now sets out where the focus will be in spending. One element that has caught my eye is that funding will be concentrated on building based organisations. What exactly does the Minister have in mind in that regard?
I welcome the provision of €10 million, albeit spread over three years, for the work on the redevelopment of the historic wings of the National Gallery of Ireland. When we see the numbers visiting the gallery, we know that work needs to be done. We can appreciate what is being done in it.
In regard to the national city of culture initiative, we will refrain from getting into a debate on the situation in Limerick and the unfortunate developments there. The city of culture initiative is really worthwhile.
Everybody who was involved in it deserves to be commended. I read recently that the Minister has suggested that the next city of culture will not be launched until 2016. Notwithstanding the hiccups that have been encountered in Limerick, I wonder whether an annual initiative would be feasible. To what extent has that possibility been examined?
That is even worse. Could consideration be given to the nomination of city of culture on an annual or biannual basis?
The investment in built heritage and the Living City initiative are really positive things. Cork, Galway, Kilkenny and Dublin have been prioritised. Is it intended that the living cities initiative will be extended? How does the Minister envisage that the leverage system that he mentioned with regard to work on buildings of heritage or architectural value will work? Does he plan to include other cities or large towns in the initiative?
I would like to mention in passing the real tragedy that is befalling this country's heritage. The loss of our thatched houses, which I have raised with the Minister previously, is certainly a reality in Leinster. When one drives around the countryside, one notices that the last ten years were particularly devastating for this country's stock of thatched properties. Sort sort of radical initiative will have to be taken if we are to sustain the small number of remaining thatched properties. The relevant local authority, as the planning authority, might have to get involved directly.
We are all conscious of the controversy surrounding the peatlands work that has been done. Obviously, the Department has relocated turf cutters and tried to meet their needs. Can the Minister give us details of the precise cost that has been incurred in all of that to date?
The Minister referred to the possibility of adding Irish sites to the lost of world heritage sites. I think Clonmacnoise has been mentioned in this context.
Has a shortlist of priority sites been drawn up? I am conscious of the huge benefit of heritage and ecclesiastical heritage tourism. The clerk to the committee will be familiar with the Brigidine centre that is being built in Kildare at present. Those involved with this development have attracted the attention of substantial numbers of people from all around the world who are interested in the culture and background of St. Brigid. One would have assumed that this particular field is quite narrow. When one bears in mind that thousands of people have come to the Kildare area on foot of their connectivity with that issue, one appreciates the value associated with it. I think the people of Louth want to claim St. Brigid as well as the people of Kildare.
The whole area of North-South co-operation is hugely positive. The €39 million that is to be spent in this area will go into An Foras Teanga and Waterways Ireland. Can the Minister give us a breakdown of the sums of money that are involved in the two areas? Can he give us a sense of the active level of co-operation that is happening between the agencies in the North and the South and the all-Ireland bodies that are in play?
Ba mhaith liom focal nó dhó a rá i dtaobh an méid a bhí le rá ag an Aire Stáit, an Teachta McGinley. Tuigim ón Teachta Kitt go bhfuil go leor daoine ar na hoileáin buartha nach bhfuil caiteachas buan - multi-annual funding - i gceist ó thaobh cúrsaí taistil go dtí na hoiléain. An bhfuil sé i gceist ag an Aire Stáit rud éigin a dhéanamh mar gheall ar sin go luath, ionas go mbeidh muintir na n-oileán cinnte faoin gcóras taistil a bheidh ar fáil dóibh?
I thank Deputy Ó Fearghaíl for his positive contribution. He has raised a number of important questions. The stimulus package can generally broken down as involving €10 million for the centre in Cork, €5 million for the employment leverage fund, €6 million for Limerick and approximately €3.8 million for the GPO project and the development of Teach an Phiarsaigh in Connemara. That is a general breakdown of the €25 million spend. All of the projects are very worthwhile. The contribution from the sale of the National Lottery has been welcomed in those areas. We are fortunate to have it in our Estimates for this year.
The film incentives that were published by the Minister in the recent budget have created broad interest in the film community. They seem to be attracting a great deal of interest already. It appears that we will do very well in the film festivals this year. Films like "Calvary" and "Frank" are getting very good reviews. We are doing very well in the Sundance Film Festival, which is taking place at present. It is possible that a number of Irish actors will be in line for Oscars as well. The film industry is very buoyant at the moment despite the cutbacks at the Irish Film Board. I am encouraged that so much talent is emerging at production and other levels. We have a number of young producers and some really exciting new male and female actors. It is quite encouraging. There is a very good technical base in this country in areas like cinematography, costume design and set-making. I hope that this rich source of technical expertise will land some major films for us in the near future.
The Deputy asked about the return in this area. It is generally estimated that the film and audiovisual industry is worth over €500 million to Ireland. A report on the creative industries that we produced over two years ago sets out objectives of increasing that figure to €1 billion and of employing 10,000 people. At the moment, over 6,500 people - full-time equivalents - are involved in the film industry. There is a major payback on the small amount of money we are investing in the film industry. The Irish Film Board is one of the most efficient boards in the country. It employs approximately 18 people, including a chief executive. This streamlined and focused organisation has been recognised in Cannes and at other film festivals for the good work it is doing. The film industry is quite vibrant at present. The animation industry, which turns over approximately €60 million a year, is making major progress as well. It is growing because it attracts younger people.
They are well versed in technology and so on. The sector is now attracting that type of individual graduating from the colleges which have adapted to the animation industry and are very animated about the subject. The film industry is vibrant. I look forward to the day when either I or somebody else will say funding for it will be increased because it deserves support.
Let me give another statistic: 20% of the people who visit Ireland choose to come here because they have seen Ireland depicted in a film. That is why the film industry is so important. West Kerry has an extraordinary association with the film "Ryan's Daughter" which put it and Dingle, in particular, on the map. "The Quiet Man" did the same for Cong, County Mayo. The attention generated by both films is proof that a film can have a major promotional and marketing effect on an area or county.
Regional centres were mentioned. Unfortunately, I agree with the Deputy that cutbacks have an impact across the country. In general, spending on regional centres is spread across the country. There has been spending on the Hunt Museum in Limerick, the Foynes Flying Boat Museum which did not have its funding cut, Archbishop Marsh's Library, Culture Night in Dublin and the regions, as well as the James Joyce Centre which also did not have its funding cut. In general, however, cuts were made to the funding for such schemes. There is also funding to meet EU and Council of Europe commitments, participation in the European digital library and ongoing support for local and regional museum schemes. I agree that this is one area in which funding is distributed across the country and the cut in funding was commensurate with others in other institutions. We will try to limit the cuts as much as possible, but we have maintained the figure for the main agencies and museums to an average of about 4%. The cuts have probably affected programmes and other initiatives more than the museums.
Let me explain the rationale behind the choice of Limerick as national city of culture. After I was appointed Minister, I was in Limerick on a number of occasions when I witnessed the city's vibrant arts community. It struck me that Limerick was probably not recognised to the extent it should be and was not respected or appreciated for the level of arts activity in the city. At the time we were preparing for the EU Presidency. As the European City of Culture initiative was in my area and part of the Creative Europe initiative, obviously I was very conscious of the concept. Derry had been designated the city of culture - or Londonderry as it was referred to it - in the United Kingdom and received a lot of media attention. It dawned on me that we should have a national city of culture and Limerick was chosen to be included in the pilot project. In parallel, the Limerick regeneration implementation group, under the tutelage of Mr. Denis Brosnan, was considering a similar initiative. In other words, it wanted to capitalise on the strength of culture for regeneration purposes. Mr. Brosnan and people like Mr. Mike Fitzpatrick, now acting CEO, got a group together and made a good presentation on the connection. I suggest everyone, including the media, read the presentation, as it proves where the city of culture initiative originated. It made much of the opportunities the city of culture brand would give Limerick in terms of regeneration. The city is far advanced in terms of physical infrastructure, but the presentation dealt with the cultural aspects. The group commenced its examination in October 2011 and presented a very good report in May 2012. In the meantime, my officials had drawn up the necessary criteria in choosing an Irish city of culture; we supplied a memorandum to the Government in June 2012 and announced Limerick as the first city of culture in July that year. It was quite clear that Limerick City Council would be the implementing body, together with the regeneration group, and that all personnel and programming issues would be dealt with by them and that the Department would adopt an arm's length approach. Obviously, we would provide the funding, but we simply did not have recourse to provide it in the 2013 budget. Again, we were lucky we had national lottery funding available. If we had not, the funding would have had to come from either a special allocation by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform or my Department's core funding for the arts, thus reducing funding for the arts across the entire country. The sum of €6 million was provided and the city of culture organisers received an indication that it would be provided in April. They went ahead and produced the programme of events based on that sum.
The city of culture programme is a very good one. There was a great opening night which some Members may have seen on national television. It was a positive event when Dolores O'Riordan and Paul O'Connell expressed their pride in their city. The organisers put on a strong display, particularly as it was being held on New Year's Eve. I have since opened a photographic exhibition by Franz Haselbeck, one of the greatest photographers this country has produced. The centre that houses the exhibition was full to capacity on that occasion.
Last weekend a production of Riverdance was performed in Limerick and extra performances had to be added to accommodate the demand for tickets. The show was a resounding success, particularly for its creator, Mr. Bill Whelan. It was great for him to return to his city for the first time with the show, which resonated with the audience and attracted a great deal of attention. I am very confident that the programme for the city of culture will be dynamic for the year ahead and that it will be successful.
I will respond to the request to extend the Living City initiative. The initiative which covered Limerick and Waterford last year had come from my Department. We presented it to the Department of Finance last year and this year it was extended as a result of the Bacon report. We had engaged Dr. Bacon to examine the initiative and make recommendations. We will monitor the scheme very carefully. I agree that if has worked in the designated cities, it can work in core urban areas.
I share the Deputy's view of thatched houses and I am quite worried that they are disappearing. There are a number of reasons for their decline. First, the cost of insurance is a major factor. Second, there is the cost of thatch and the availability of thatchers with the necessary skills. That is also a source of worry. There is a grant available from the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government and on foot of what the Deputy has said, I will examine whether another initiative and incentive could be created. Thatched houses are very much part of the Irish landscape and culture and should be protected as much as possible.
With regard to expenditure on peatlands, we have spent over €7.4 million since 2011 on relocation, compensation and turf deliveries. That represents a huge part of the Department's budget.
This expenditure is important because, as I have explained to a number of people, we were at the door of the European court. The European Commission is very serious about this issue. It allowed us a long period to get our house in order, but ran out of patience and if there was to be any regression now on extensive cutting of the SACs, we would end up in court. I believe the threat is not an idle one. This could result in fines of up to €25,000 a day and a lump sum - anything up to €9 million a year. I would prefer to give money to the people living in rural Ireland and to protect our bogs which are important in the context of climate change, flood control, nature and services for the community and the public. I would prefer to give the money to people to protect our bogs rather than pay it in fines to Europe.
With regard to world heritage sites, the brand of world heritage site is important. When we go to Italy, Greece or other European countries, we see how seriously they promote these sites. Ireland has several heritage sites, but we only have two world heritage sites, Brú na Bóinne and Skellig Michael. There is a reason for this. Clonmacnoise, for example, would be an iconic world heritage site, but the people there, particularly the farmers and landowners, fear they would not get planning permission because of planning restrictions for world heritage sites. This is one of the main reasons it is not a world heritage site. The case is similar in regard to the Céide Fields. I have met people from that area and they share the same concerns regarding planning.
I organised a meeting and brought people over from Europe and UNESCO to explain the implications for designation as a world heritage site. Following that meeting, a number of community groups and councils are reviewing their situations and hopefully something will come from that. I believe that if the fear of planning restrictions was overcome, more proposals would come forward. Unless proposals are agreed locally by communities and the local authorities, we cannot impose a designation on them. There are a number of proposals on the tentative list, including Georgian Dublin, that could be pursued. We hope that following the meeting and consultation, we will receive some proposals we can take forward. The world heritage brand is an important one to have and could be part of our unique selling point from the archeological, architectural and tourism points of view. We will pursue this.
In regard to North-South co-operation, An Foras Teanga gets €13.58 million and Waterways Ireland gets €24.18 million.
Ardaíodh ceist maidir le seirbhísí iompar chuig na hoileáin. Tá seirbhísí iompar á chur ar fáil ag an Roinn. I rith na bliana seo, beidh €5.9 milliún ar fáil don tseirbhís sin - an méid céanna agus a cuireadh ar fáil anuraidh. Is iad na seirbhísí a chuirtear ar fáil ná seirbhísí farantóireachta, seirbhísí lastais agus seirbhís aeir chuig Oileáin Árainn - Inis Mór, Inis Meáin agus Inis Oírr. Chomh maith le sin, cuirtear seirbhís busanna ar fáil do na daoine a thagann ó Oileáin Árainn faoi choinne iad a thabhairt isteach go Gaillimh agus amach go dtí na calafoirt arís.
Faoi láthair, déanann muid freastal ar nó cuirtear seirbhís ar fáil do 19 oileán ar fad ar chósta na tíre. Tá conarthaí idir an Roinn agus 21 soláthróirí - daoine a chuireann an tseirbhís ar fáil. Chuir an Teachta ceist faoi multi-annual funding. Níl sin ann go sonrach, ach is é an módh atá againn ná go mbíonn conradh idir an Roinn agus na soláthróirí agus go mbíonn conradh de trí bliana nó cúig bliana eatarthu. Lorgaítear tairiscintí arís nuair a bhíonn an conradh rite. Tá sin ag oibriú go maith agus níl aon deacracht mhór leis.
Maidir leis An Foras Teanga agus Foras na Gaeilge, tá dhá áisíneacht i gceist, Foras na Gaeilge agus Gníomhaireacht na hUltaise - the Ulster-Scots Agency. Chuir muid €13.578 milliún ar fáil don bhliain seo don fhoras ar fad. Déantar comhmhaoiniú idir an Roinn anseo agus an Roinn ó Thuaidh. Tagann an t-ábhar seo aníos ag an cruinniú a bhíonn ag an Comhaireacht Thuaidh-Theas. Ón taithí atá agam le bliain nó dhó, ó tháinig mé isteach sa Roinn, caithfidh mé a rá go bhfuil an comhoibriú agus an nós imeachta sásúil go leor.
I thank the Minister and Minister of State for their presentations and for engaging with us this afternoon and I thank their officials. The living cities initiative is welcome and appears to have worked quite well in Limerick and Waterford during its pilot phase. The initiative will now be extended to other urban centres, but will the Minister elaborate on the criteria the Department has laid down for selection of urban centres. Is it based on scale, on population or on other factors?
In regard to UNESCO world heritage sites, we would all welcome the inclusion of some of the sites mentioned today on the tentative list. I am aware Monasterboice in my constituency is included in the list of monastic sites. Will the Minister inform us of the current status of the list? This process has been going on for a considerable number of years, but it is not clear what the obstacles are in terms of advancing designation. The Minister mentioned fears that have been communicated to him - I have heard similar concerns - from individuals concerned by the planning implications in terms of designation of a world heritage site. To be frank, the value and richness of our cultural heritage should take priority over some of these concerns, some of which may not be entirely legitimate. It would be helpful if we could alleviate those concerns in some way. Are these concerns contributing to the delay in designation of these sites or to the delay in advancing these projects to the next phase?
In page 29 of the document, the Minister referred to the decade of centenaries and stated that priority will be given to a limited number of capital projects acknowledging the Easter Rising and the birth of the Republic. Will the Minister re-apprise the committee of the particular projects involved? On page 31, reference is made to an updated management plan for the Brú na Bóinne world heritage site. What kind of improvements does the Minister envisage will stem from this and where does he see these improvements happening in terms of management of the site?
I would like to refer to the Limerick city of culture initiative. We are all agreed an initiative of this nature is very important for developing Irish culture, in the context of recognising the contribution that practitioners in particular areas make. Generally there is a positive contribution, economically, socially and culturally to any area that receives such a designation.
Does the Minister agree it would be more open and transparent from the start to have towns or cities engage in a competitive public call for expressions of interest for such a mantle? This would be a more positive way to approach such an initiative. It seems we are determined to award city of culture designation to other cities and towns in the coming years. That would be positive, but we should have a competitive process to ensure the playing pitch is level and seen to be so. It is also critical that we have a higher proportion of practitioners and artists involved in the process from the outset if it is to be given the legitimacy it should have. I would appreciate the comments of the Minister on this point. If we are to pursue the initiative again which is, by and large, positive, I would like to see a commitment from the Minister and the Department that it will be an open process, with public calls for expressions of interest in participating in such a scheme.
On the last question about the city of culture, the Deputy knows this is an important year for Limerick. There is a change in governance, with the city and county areas amalgamating, which is seen as a seismic change. The regeneration implementation group requested that it receive the designation this year to help with the process. That was the reason. I said Limerick city of culture would be treated more or less as a pilot project, but from now on there will be an open competition. Originally, we thought we would hold it every two years. This would have taken in 1916, which will be a major year of culture. We thought people would need a longer run-in, but if the regeneration implementation group had sought to cover 2015 or 2016, we would have granted its request. It is a coincidence that this is a major year for Limerick and the cultural sector was seen as another facilitator in the regeneration of Limerick. In the future the city of culture designation will be based on an open competition which will be launched shortly. I hope to announce the next city of culture at the closing event of the Limerick city of culture programme. There is interest in other cities.
In 2020 we will mark the European city of culture in Ireland and there will be a major competition for it. This will help cities to focus on their applications for designation as European city of culture. The last Irish city chosen was Cork in 2005. Dublin has been chosen previously. We hope the designation in Ireland will focus city on the strength of their applications. The emphasis will very much be on arts and culture and the events planned for the year. Community involvement will be very important, particularly among local arts practitioners. When there were issues with the Limerick board, I requested members of the arts community to be brought on board and they have responded.
Fostering creativity is important as one of the criteria set. Limerick is promoting itself as a technology hub. Those promoting it see culture as an intrinsic part of promoting Limerick as a technology hub and centre of creativity. There will be an application system which will be put in place shortly. We will announce it this year such that there will be a three year run-in to 2018 and it is already attracting attention.
The Living City initiative has created much interest. The Heritage Council carried out a review of how to make towns and population centres more attractive to live in. The review which ties in with the Living City initiative was carried out by Mr. Peter Bacon. I launched the report last week and it gives a very good insight into how effective the Living City initiative can be. We will carry out an overview of its effectiveness and what it yields in terms of conservation, preservation, job creation and a return to the Exchequer. If it meets these challenges and withstands the economic tests, I will promote its continuation and extension to other areas beyond those specified.
A number of issues have arisen regarding Brú na Bóinne. My Department met Louth County Council and the local community in considering an updated management plan for Brú na Bóinne. The current plan is out of date and the most difficult issue concerns planning and how the needs of local communities can be met without putting the world heritage status at risk. Engagement is ongoing on the new management plan for Brú na Bóinne and other areas. Planning is the central issue. Families living on the periphery are concerned that they may not receive planning permission in the future because the zone outside the site has been frozen. If it could be loosened up, it would allay the fears of those who are concerned about the matter. This applies particularly to Clonmacnoise and the Céide Fields, but several more sites could be designated. I have a particular interest in the issue on which I will continue to work.
With regard to expenditure on the decade of commemoration, including the 1916 Rising, the capital projects that will progress will be completed by 2016. They include the GPO which will have a major cultural and interpretive centre located within it. There has been considerable planning and the artefacts are in place. A vast number of artefacts remain from 1916. Last week, at the launch of the military pensions archive, we saw the amount of information available that had not been made public before. There is the capacity to have something exciting that will not only honour the people of 1916 but also provide a major boost for the GPO and O'Connell Street. It will result in a high footfall and could rejuvenate that part of the city.
Another ongoing development is the enhancement of Kilmainham Courthouse, a fine architectural building in Kilmainham Gaol.
There was an issue in regard to catering for the large numbers who visited it. It did not have proper facilities to hold the groups of people who visited and the result was that it could take only a certain number of people. The availability of the courthouse will certainly facilitate visitors and provide them with services. Food, memorabilia and so on will be available. All of that will be enhanced by the addition of the courthouse.
The military service pension project incurred some expenditure. Currently, we are working on Teach an Phiarsaigh in Connemara with Údarás na Gaeltachta. That is a very important project for which funding has been provided. I suppose they are the main capital projects we envisage.
There is another private project in Moore Street which, hopefully, will go ahead. NAMA has announced an allocation of €6.5 million for that project but it is in private ownership. If planning issues and other issues with Dublin City Council can be resolved, there is a strong possibility that the project could be delivered. There are proposals for Richmond Barracks and for a tenement building also. They are the main projects at this point.
I thank the Minister, Minister of State and their officials for coming in this afternoon. In regard to heritage, one of the best moves made was the appointment of heritage officers in each county council. One of the disadvantages of the downturn is that they have had less money to distribute.
I very much welcome the buildings at risk leverage scheme and the provision of €5 million. I know a number of people who own buildings at risk and, in many ways, they have been victims of the downturn. One of the criteria attaching to the application for funding under the buildings at risk leverage scheme is that they must provide matching funding up to the maximum of €15,000. Will the Minister consider revising that because some of those people who are genuinely in possession of key structures may not be able to match funding to that level and yet they would need that level and possibly more? Will the Minister consider that where people are able to prove they cannot match that funding? Overall, I very much welcome that scheme.
The Arts Council has been under-funded for years, even at the height of the boom. The developmental work it is doing in terms of the arts is second to none. It should be commended on what it is doing. I am a little worried that the reason for the reduction is that it is to focus its support on the clients' artistic rather than administrative needs. Many of its clients, in particular smaller companies, would perhaps need the assistance of administrators to help with application forms and so on and I am a little worried that might have a negative impact on them. I would very much appreciate it if the Minister explained the thinking around that.
I refer to the funding of our national institutions. I do not believe I have ever got in free to museums or to various other institutions abroad. I have noticed that if a particular project is being developed, such institutions have a donations box. Is this something at which we should consider in the National Gallery and the National Museum, which are outstanding resources for ourselves and for visitors. Would it be possible to have a donations box discretely but visibly placed? International travellers are used to paying for things, so a donations box could be a good way to raise some money. I would like to know if that has been examined.
I very much welcome developments in regard to Irish Film Board, the continued support for section 481 and the work the film board is doing in supporting film-making. We have some very fine people involved in the film-making business and they are tremendous ambassadors for us internationally. However, I would like to know if any consideration is being given to encouraging the Irish Film Board to focus on regional film-making. I see the benefit of regional film commissions, one of which I am involved in, and those involved would like it to be developed throughout the country. Has the Irish Film Board been requested to examine the potential of supporting regional film-making?
The philanthropy scheme was a great idea. What has been the uptake? It has been on the go for a year and half.
Culture Night and the City of Culture are great initiatives. The fact Culture Night has gone nationwide has really added something new to the calendar culturally and artistically in rural and urban areas. It is a date in almost everybody's diary and I very much support it. I also very much support the City of Culture initiative, which has great potential. In the future, I suppose people will vie for it but I would like to see it extended to county towns as well as cities.
I acknowledge the work done by the Peatlands Council and commend the two chairs, Mr. Conor Skehan and Mr. Séamus Boland, and all of the stakeholders on their very responsible and constructive approach to dealing with this matter. The Minister mentioned the cost to date but does he have a total figure on what it will cost or is there a fixed budget for it in the short term to solve the problems throughout the country?
In regard to Waterways Ireland, a consultation process is underway to review regulations and costs. I am a little concerned by some matters raised with me by users of the waterways, in particular the canals, for leisure and recreational purposes and whether these will cause more problems. They are concerned about having to move their boats on a more regular basis and the costs involved. Will that have a negative impact on tourists and indigenous users? Is there a reason for doing this? Is it to bring us into line with Northern Ireland?
I agree with what the Deputy said about the Heritage Council and the heritage officers. This year we were able to slightly increase our funding to the Heritage Council, taking into consideration the very important work it is doing and to ensure it can continue to support heritage officers. In regard to the whole area of matching funding for buildings at risk, we are trying to spread the €5 million as far as possible. The more generous the grant the less funding there is for distribution. When one breaks it down based on population per county and the number of protected structures in each county, which we are doing, the amount is quite small when distributed to each local authority. We are trying to leverage as much funding as we can for this scheme. We will keep it under review. The reason we have had such a short lead-in time was to encourage people to apply as soon as possible, so work could be carried out and we could evaluate the scheme at the end of the year and perhaps look for more funding next year to continue with it.
Regarding the idea of a donation box, that is something I have encouraged. If one goes into the National Museum next door, one will see a donation box at the entrance. I have encouraged the other national cultural institutions to provide a donation box so that people who want to contribute can do so. The amount of goodwill towards in the National Museum, in the form of donations, is quite significant. It is working very well. I do not know exactly how much money will be collected by the end of the year but it is certainly the case that people are giving generously. In the past, visitors to the National Museum who wanted to make a donation there and then could not do so. On the other hand, it is important to remember that the National Museum, the National Library and our other national cultural institutions belong to the people and access to them should be free. As with many other museums around the world, we can encourage people to make contributions while not charging an entrance fee.
On the Irish Film Board and the question of regional distribution, film making in the regions can prove to be very difficult logistically although with modern technology, that situation is improving. However, taking film crews out of Dublin and into the regions can be very expensive. Overall, the film industry is doing quite well. "Penny Dreadful" is now being filmed in Ardmore Studios, "The Vikings" was completed in Ashford, while "Ripper Street" may be back again in Clancy Barracks. There have been some very positive developments this year. At various international film festivals, Irish film makers, actors, producers and others involved in the industry will be recognised this year. The film industry, despite the cutbacks, is quite vibrant at the moment.
With the drawing up of the financial framework, it was obvious that my Department, like others, would have its budget cut. The Government made a commitment to examine the possibility of using philanthropy to make up the shortfall in funding. My Department introduced a philanthropy scheme. In the first year of operation, we had a very small allocation for philanthropy of €250,000 but that leveraged up to €800,000. In the second year we focused on the arts in education and with a philanthropy budget of €190,000 we leveraged a further €400,000. Parallel to that initiative in the Department, the Arts Council has a programme called RAISE, through which it is funding major organisations to enable them to raise money from business. Business-to-arts funding is very vibrant at the moment. Sporting organisations are very professional at raising philanthropic funding and the arts organisations are getting better at it. In the United States, philanthropic donations are keeping the arts going. Two thirds of the budget of the Lincoln Centre, for example, comes from philanthropic donations, amounting to $900 million. We are trying to encourage the same type of giving to the arts here. The level of philanthropic giving is quite low in Ireland in comparison with other countries, despite the fact that Irish people are very generous overall. We must promote the arts more as a target for philanthropic donations.
Culture Night is going very well and more centres are getting involved every year. The involvement of Northern Ireland last year was a very welcome development. The event received an enormous amount of television coverage in 2013, which was very important. Culture Night involved 34 locations last year and is growing very well. On the extension of the City of Culture concept, once we have gone through all of the cities in the country, it can be extended to larger towns. It happens every four years and it involves a high level of collaboration in the designated cities between the various arts agencies. It is very important to involve the arts community at all times in that. In larger urban areas, it is a way of bringing split communities together. Culture is a great uniter, from a national, European and, most importantly, local point of view.
On the Peatlands Council, I am glad the committee has recognised the work of people like Conor Skehan and Séamus Boland. The members of the Peatlands Council have come up with a very good national peatlands strategy which identifies issues like climate change, flood control, the services that peatlands provide to the farming community through things like pollination and tourism potential. The consultation document, the National Peatlands Strategy, is the first of its kind in this country. It looks at a range of issues and includes some 700 submissions. It has now been put out for public consultation and hopefully it will be added to and improved further. Our peatlands make up 20% of our national landscape and are quite unique in the world. The Irish raised bog is unique and that is why the peatlands strategy is so important. Rural communities are represented by organisations like the IFA and environmentalists are represented by various groups from the environmental pillar. They have all come together to develop a very good national peatlands strategy. I would like acknowledge the leadership of Conor Skehan and Séamus Boland and the work of all those who were involved in developing the strategy.
I thank both the Minister and Minister for State for their presentations and for answering questions on various departmental programmes. The Minister said that in the past year, over €7 million was spent on relocation expenses, compensation and so forth. In the context of the CAP, there was a hope or an expectation that there would be some funding that could be allocated to those landowners whose holdings include special areas of conservation, SACs, but who are paid very little to leave as is. It was hoped that environmental funds within the CAP budget could be geared in their direction to address issues such as maintenance, flood control and other issues in those SACs. That would then be more akin to the type of compensation deemed necessary or appropriate for those landowners who have many acres which are designated as SACs and from which they derive very little income. Such landowners do not have the same options as those who have turf banks in the context of relocation expenses and compensation. For example, if a landowner has four acres it has a certain value and to be compensated with a turf bank at another location is not adequate.
I am aware that the Minister has faced a dilemma in trying to address this issue, but I understand there is an option to address it in the environmental element of expenditure under the Common Agricultural Policy. I hope it will not be sucked into the REPS which does not shine a light on those caught in this bind. Having spoken to some members of the Peatlands Council earlier in the year, I know the possibility of offering an olive branch was dependent on a successful conclusion of the CAP negotiations. What is the position now?
I wish to address the targets set in the Estimates. The target for 2013 was to end turf cutting on raised bogs. That target was missed on what the Minister terms SSE raised bogs and what I call "so-called SSEs". For how much longer will he continue to kid himself, given that there are 9,000 turbary rights land owners on the 53 so-called SSEs and that after 18 years of coercion or trying to convince people - a phenomenal level of scaremongering - only 796 landowners out of the total of 9,000 with turbary rights have followed what he has tried to get them to do? When does he think he will have the issue resolved?
The Minister mentions - in fairness to him, it has been very carefully worded - that he accepts that none of the 53 so-called SSEs has seen successful relocations. This is borne out by the statement that three groups on three bogs have accepted relocation, but after all this time, since 1997 - some say as far back as 1992 - none of the issues has been resolved. There is a variety of reasons for this, but the major reason is that people would like to have something similar to replace what they have; it is a case of it being like for like. The reason this will not work, even in 1,000 years - the same reason applies to the 45 NHAs that the Minister is considering de-designating within three years and having everyone involved agree to relocation - is that the authorities must learn the lesson that until one offers like for like, one will not arrive at a solution. Whether it be a house, bog or any piece of property or land, if one does not offer like for like, one will not get a deal. If somebody was to come to the door of a city dweller to tell him or her that he or she had to get out of the house, he or she would be annoyed. It might be easier to accept if a person was told he or she might be given another house, but if a person were to discover that after 65 years, he or she or his or her family had to leave the house, he or she would not accept it. Unless the Minister offers like for like, the deal will never be accepted. The Minister can keep trying to convince people it is working and set himself a target of 2014-16 to stop them cutting turf on the so-called SSEs, but until he plays ball and does things fairly, that will never happen.
On the issue of commemorating the 1916 Rising, I suggest the best way to do so would be to allow people to cut turf without dragging them through the courts and calling them bad citizens and criminals. The best way to celebrate the centenary of the 1916 Rising is not with a load of fluff but a dose of reality. Let me say one thing for sure: I will go and cut turf in 2016, as will many others. The target date of 2013 was not achieved and the target date of 2014 will not be achieved until the Minister treats people fairly. Otherwise, the memory of the 1916 Rising will only ever be a memory and we will have learned nothing of what those involved stood for - freedom. There is no freedom to be gained in what the Minister is offering.
I make a plea on behalf of those involved in Carrownagappul and other areas known as the Mountbellew bogs, as there is an impression that the issue has all been sorted and that everybody is happy. The people are far from happy, as far as relocation or the criteria that apply to it are concerned. They have been told that if a person was not cutting turf, he or she will not get anything, or if he or she was cutting turf when he or she should not have been doing so. There is confusion and double speak. It is very clear to me that people are not happy and that the issue should be addressed. There is no point in saying it has been sorted out and that people have relocated because they are not getting like for like.
The Minister might respond to Deputy Barry Cowen in his own time. We do not have time for him to do so this afternoon as the Minister and the Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Community and the Local Government and waiting and they must go through the same process on the Estimates. I thank the Minister, Deputy Jimmy Deenihan; the Minister of State, Deputy Dinny McGinley, and their officials for their attendance.