Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees
Wednesday, 4 October 2017
Joint Oireachtas Committee on Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs
Estimates For Public Services 2017: Vote 33 - Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs
Go raibh maith agat. As Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, I am pleased to have this opportunity to address the committee in regard to the performance expenditure and targets of the Department of Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs during the first half of 2017.
As members are aware, responsibility for the regional development and rural affairs functions of my Department transferred to the new Department of Rural and Community Development with effect from 27 July 2017 and my Department was renamed the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht with effect from 1 August 2017.
The report provided by my Department outlines details of performance and expenditure across all programme areas during the first half of 2017. The 2017 Revised Estimates provides for a gross allocation of more than €368 million for the Department of Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs in 2017.In additional, a further €13.548 million in capital funding was carried over from the 2016 provision.
Gross total expenditure incurred by the Department of Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs in the period to 30 June 2017 was €143 million - this expenditure represents 39% of the overall 2017 gross allocation. In addition, the sum of €3.478 million has been expended in this period in respect of the capital carryover provision from 2016.
For my Department, 2017 has been a very significant year. The heightened sense of identity, pride and goodwill generated by the very successful Ireland 2016 centenary programme has been harnessed and further developed as part of Creative Ireland - a whole-of-Government legacy initiative aligned with Culture 2025 - Éire Ildánach and framed within the programme for a partnership Government.
The core proposition is that engagement with and participation in arts and culture drives personal and collective creativity with significant implications for individual and societal well-being and achievement. My colleague, the Government Chief Whip and Minister of State, Deputy McHugh, and I will now speak about the highlights of each programme area during the first half of 2017. We will commence with the arts, culture and film programme and are happy to expand later on any matter members may wish to raise.
In programme A, more than €158 million is provided in 2017 for arts, culture and film, with a further €11.548 million provided by way of capital carryover. Total gross expenditure for programme A up to 30 June 2017 was €77.621 million, that is, 49% of the 2017 programme allocation.
Due to the scale and complexity of once-off aspects of both the capital and current programmes, some adjustments have been made to allocations within this programme. For example, savings have arisen in subhead A7, cultural infrastructure and development, due to a combination of outside factors, as well as in subhead A16, Cork event centre, which has not progressed as promptly as anticipated. Sanction has been received from the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform to use these savings to address emerging pressures in other programme areas.
I have already made reference to the Creative Ireland programme but I would now like to address this initiative in a little more detail. As I have already mentioned, it is a whole-of-Government initiative, led by my Department, which places creativity at the centre of public policy. It aims to bring an enhanced level of co-ordination, focus and leadership to existing policies and initiatives across national and local government, State agencies, the arts and culture sector, Gaeltacht and Irish language organisations.
Under the initiative, culture teams have been established in each local authority to promote culture and creativity and 31 local culture and creativity plans for 2018 were published in May 2017. The inaugural Cruinniú na Cásca, a day of cultural events and programmes, was celebrated across the country on Easter Monday 2017. A social welfare pilot programme for writers and artists was launched in June to make it easier for such individuals to access social welfare supports.
A number of launches are scheduled under the Creative Ireland programme for later this year, including a capital investment programme for the culture and heritage sector and a creative children programme to enable every child in Ireland to access tuition in music, drama, art and coding - this is a joint initiative with the Departments of Education and Skills and Children and Youth Affairs.
The National Gallery of Ireland re-opened its doors to the public in June 2017 on completion of a €30 million investment project to provide much-needed environmental upgrades and new exhibition spaces. The public response to the new and improved spaces has been overwhelming positive, with the gallery reporting an 89% increase in visitor numbers over the period June to August 2017 compared with 2016. The new cultural and heritage centre at the Bank of Ireland, College Green is progressing well, with a building hand over anticipated by the end of this year. An exhibition on Seamus Heaney by the National Library of Ireland will open in the centre in 2018. The design phase of the phased capital investment plan for the Kildare Street premises of the library is under way in partnership with the Office of Public Works, OPW.
I was very pleased to announce more than €10 million in funding under the arts and culture capital scheme in 2017. A total of 62 arts and culture centres across the country benefitted from funding under strands 1 and 2 of the scheme, which I announced in February, while a further 60 local arts organisations benefitted under strand 3 of the scheme, which I announced in August 2017.
The national cultural institutions continued to attract a large number of visitors through their doors to sample the many and varied treasures on display — total visitors in the first half of 2017 were just under 1.7 million.
I am happy to expand on any issues members would like to raise in respect of this programme area before proceeding.
Yes, an caiteachas. In the end of the day the programmes of the Department have been discussed here recently as part of the Estimates process. I am concerned that we are into the last quarter of the year and looking at what the Department did for the first seven, eight or nine months. There is a very serious underspend in the Department, even against its profiles which themselves are skewed towards everything happening in the last three months. Why everything happens in the last three months I will never fully comprehend.
The Minister might explain. My understanding is that we are in a kind of no man's land as to who is whom. When I looked for the Minister's expenditure report for September, because they have not issues the Revised Estimates volume, it encompasses both the rural and regional affairs and her own Department. I have the Exchequer returns here. That is because, for whatever strange reason, even though the Department of Rural and Community Development was set up on 27 July, the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform has not seen fit to issue Revised Estimates to go with it. I am told the total amount of capital for the year that the Minister had was €119 million starting. The Minister profiled that €62 million of that would be spent by the end of September but, in reality, only €38 million of that capital was spent, which is an underspend of €25 million. Most of this relates to regional and rural affairs. I have been saying from the beginning of the year that the Department, when it was under Deputy Humphreys' control, would underspend its budget on the capital side and there were great howls of denial about that. As the year goes on, it gets worse and worse. For example, €12 million is provided in the Estimate for town and village renewal. Not one project has yet been sanctioned. The Minister cannot account for what happened after the end of July but she can account for what happened up to July. I have it all in parliamentary questions. There is €40 million for the Leader programme. I welcome that the Minister, Deputy Ring, has moved €5 million out of it into the local improvement scheme, LIS. I had been badgering on the record here about that for a long time. Some €11 million was spent on the administration which, for some unexplained reason, is a capital expense and €6 million on projects. Even if all of those projects were brought to fruition by the end of the year - which is very unlikely - the Minister still has a huge hole of approximately €20 million. What I am saying is that in the months we are now looking at, the Minister, Deputy Humphreys, was in control of the expenditure here. How did it arise that such a monumental underspend has occurred?
Two further developments occurred. Some €80 million was brought forward and paid to local authorities in December 2016 for work not done. On 21 September, I got a reply to a parliamentary question stating that only 55% of that money had been spent. I received a reply from the Minister stating that of the €13 million carried forward from last year into this year, only €3 million had been spent, that is, €10 million had not been spent.
I will add it up for the Minister. Of the original allocation on the capital side, irrespective of the Department it is in, and I do not care what Department because it should be on the ground, there is €81 million to be spent between the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht and the rural side of the new Department; there is approximately €10 million of the carry-forward that has not been spent and there is €8 million of the funding that was given to local authorities last year but has not been spent on the ground, which adds up to €99 million to be spent in three months. All the Minister spent in nine months is €38 million. Can the Minister explain to the committee how the Department, for the second year in a row, is failing to spend its money?
First, in regard to the spend at the latter half of the year, as Deputy Ó Cuív will be aware, a lot of work goes on during the year on projects and the bills come in during the latter half of the year.
That is why I do not anticipate any significant underspend in my Department in 2017. Last year, and excluding the carryover, 99.86% of programme funding was spent in my Department. That is not a bad record.
I am sorry, but included in that 99.86% was €13 million carried over and a large sum of money that was given to local authorities in December for projects sanctioned in a pre-spend, which is something that I never saw happen in my time in government.
The important point is that the funding was sanctioned for the projects. Permission was sought and received to do that. We discussed this issue previously.
The Deputy referred to the Revised Estimates. Further Revised Estimates for 2017 will be published shortly, taking account of the new departmental structures. The Deputy knows that it takes time to set up a new Department. The Vote has been split. The Deputy mentioned the €13.548 million carryover in my Vote. Some €3.478 million of that was spent by last June. The remaining €10 million will be used by year end for arts infrastructure and commemoration projects. I am keeping all of the capital expenditure in the Vote under review on an ongoing basis. It is too early to outline some aspects, but I do not anticipate any significant underspend in the capital carryover or the overall budget.
The Minister's explanation of the 99.86% spend is a bit like a pilot who takes off in an aeroplane for New York and, having turned back after a crisis 100 miles off the coast, ditches all of the fuel the aeroplane was given and says that all of it was used. Basically, the Minister has ditched money for projects that had only been sanctioned three weeks prior. It is bad practice. The councils have not even done the work yet.
Let us put it on the record. In all estimation, the Minister might use all of the Department's money. I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy McHugh's announcement about an stratéis óige don Ghaeltacht, but the reality is that the Minister, Deputy Humphreys, has given a hospital pass to the Minister, Deputy Ring, who will not be able to spend the €13 million or more of the capital he has been given because it is too late to do so. That happened under the Minister, Deputy Humphreys's management up to the end of July.
The funding has gone out to local authorities. In my county of Monaghan, a large amount of the funding that was granted has been spent. The Minister, Deputy Ring, today announced more than €20 million in another tranche of town and village enhancement projects. All of these projects have come in and the money has been allocated. That is more good news for rural Ireland. That investment is important, which the Deputy appreciates.
As far as I am concerned, I am satisfied as we sit here that there will be no significant underspend in my budget for this year.
The arts, culture and film spend has been reduced by approximately 16%. Some of that is attributable to the cuts in the capital spend for the 1916 commemorations, but this falls under the headline of "A Decade of Commemorations". There is a concern that some of those commemorations may have lost steam, in that there has not been the same level of meetings with stakeholders regarding the commemorations that happened this year and will happen next year.
I have maintained 2016's current funding levels in terms of the commemorations. As to capital funding, the projects had all been completed by that stage. There was considerable investment, for example, in the GPO and Kilmainham. There were a number of projects across the city and elsewhere in the country, for example, Pádraig Pearse's cottage in Galway. That capital funding was well spent. As the Chairman knows, the projects were great.
We held a commemorative event for Thomas Ashe a few weeks ago. We have been working our way through events in consultation with the expert advisory group. I have sent a letter requesting the Ceann Comhairle to reconvene the all-party committee on commemorations, which worked well. It is being reconvened.
Go raibh maith agat. It is worth focusing on the fact that these are two areas - the Irish language and the Gaeltacht, and the arts - that were hit drastically during the downturn and have been screaming out for increases. There was talk in the previous budget of more money going into them, but both are down funding compared with last year.
No, they are not. The Creative Ireland initiative received €5 million. The Arts Council got an additional €5 million last year, which increased its funding to €65 million. The Irish Film Board received an extra €2 million.
No. I understand that elements within those headlines have seen increases, but the total budget for arts, culture and film decreased from €188 million to €158 million and the total budget for the Irish language will have decreased from €51 million to €46 million. In totality, there are falls in funding.
There are only five minutes left on my clock and I want to ensure that we reach a couple of other issues. Under subhead A, I am concerned about the money that is allocated for the Galway arthouse cinema. As the Minister knows, there has been quite a controversy. Some €8.4 million of public money has gone into this project. The first contract saw a structure built that then cost €250,000 to knock down. Another contract was issued by Solas, but the State was not even made aware of it. The Department was not aware of its details or that it had been issued. I understand that Solas went into liquidation in July. Given the amount of money that has been invested, I would love to find out when the cinema will be open. That is my first question, although I have a couple more.
First, as members are aware, the Solas project started in 2007. In fairness to the people who led that project, it was in the interests of the arts in Galway. There is no doubt that it was a well intentioned project. I am sure that members know of some of the prominent figures who were involved in it at the time. An application came in during 2007 and my Department committed to providing funding of €2 million to the project promoter who was then Galway Picture Palace Ltd., known as Solas, towards the construction of an art house cinema on a city centre site. The site was to be provided by Galway city council. The original total project cost was €6.1 million and construction commenced in August 2009. The project was fraught with difficulties. They started the project right bang in the middle of economic crash.
When I came in to the Department in 2014 I was left with a situation where a premises in the heart of Galway was unfinished. It was a site with a huge amount of anti-social behaviour. I visited the site and it was a shell of a building. The decision I had to make at that stage was whether to allow this whole project to collapse or to do something about it. I decided that it was in the best interests of everybody, including the people of Galway city, that the project should be finished and opened as a cinema, as planned. At that stage I committed the further funding. The project already had €2 million, and that was gone. In 2015 and 2016 I committed the €990,000, almost €1 million. We worked closely with Galway City Council and the project promoters from Element Pictures who are experts at running this type of project - they also run the Light House Cinema in Smithfield, Dublin. My Department has been working with Galway City Council to progress the project. It is well on its way and we hope that it should be finished by January next year. This is the plan. There are, however, still a few issues. The closure of the building site over a prolonged period, from 2009 until the work re-started, presented difficulties in rectifying certain design deficiencies and this may give rise to some additional costs. The costs are being very closely monitored and will be considered by all funding partners as the project completes. The Department has not lost any public money on the project. There is no money lost to pursue. There is a lean on the building to protect the taxpayers' investment. The plan is to open it by early January. It will be a wonderful addition to Galway, which has won the bid for European Capital of Culture 2020. One of the issues the city needed to address was the lack of arts space. This project will be a great addition. It was a legacy project that I had to deal with. I felt that it was in the best interests of everybody to proceed and to work with the different stakeholders to bring it to fruition
The Minister said there was no State money lost but €250,000 was spent knocking down a building that was built, according to the Comptroller and Auditor General's recent report with "poor ground conditions, design inadequacies and delays due to suspension of works while the builder was on site." In other words, people went ahead under a departmental partnership and built a building that was on poor grounds and with poor design. As a result the building had to be knocked down. There was also an overrun of funds. The Minister said there was an overrun of some €900,000. This means that the project's own estimate of costs was not enough to cover it. To say that there was no loss of Government funds does not square with those two pieces of information. Is the Minister looking to pursue Solas to recoup revenue for the State? What safeguards have been put in place with regard to the last €900,000 of funds?
Solas has not benefitted from anything in this. It has gone into liquidation. The whole purpose of Solas was to build the Picture Palace and to provide the additional art space in Galway city. It was not a profit making organisation. As members are aware, Lelia Doolan put a huge amount of time and effort into trying to make this project happen. There is no doubt that the project was fraught with difficulties, on the site and when they did some damage to an adjoining building. It was one thing after another. It cost more than had originally been anticipated but I still believe that, at the end of the day, it was better to work closely with the city council to ensure the necessary checks and balances were in place. The project was granted back in 2007 and things have changed somewhat since then in ensuring that projects are much more tightly administered and that good, clear plans are in place.
I am not at all suggesting that Solas made money from the project. The Comptroller and Auditor General's report says:
A second construction contract was awarded by Solas in March 2012 for the remaining works. The Department has stated that this was done without its knowledge or consent.
The Department was in a financial partnership on a project with a private company. The company issued contracts for a second time for the construction of a building that had proven to be on poor ground conditions and had poor design. This shows that the Department was not in charge of the funds it was giving to Solas.
The Department is committed to the ongoing management of projects in accordance with the public spending code and relevant grant circulars. Measures are in place to ensure that staff are appropriately trained and supported in the appraisal and oversight of grant aided projects as part of the Department's annual quality assurance process. The Department intends to hold further training sessions, accompanied by guidance material, prior to the end of 2017. The Department will ensure that particular care is exercised in the appraisal and oversight of projects in accordance with the provisions of the public spending code. This will include further staff training on the early establishment of performance metrics, to be used as a signal for action during the implementation phase. It will also include the need for regular management reports to be provided around the recommendation that where projects do not progress as expected, or where serious shortcomings are identified with the project sponsor, then early action needs to be taken. That is in place now in the Department, and rightly so.
The relationship between the Department and this committee has been a topic of conversation in this committee. I am new here and I have no experience of relationships between committees and Departments. From the Minister's end, is she content that the relationship between the committee and the Department is good, that we are kept in the loop around initiatives and that attendance at the committee by the Department is good? Is it regular for attendance to be more than what we currently see from the Department? Has the Minister anything to say about the relationship between the committee and the Department?
I do not have a problem with the relationship between the committee and the Department. I come here and I answer the questions. The committee serves a very important role. I acknowledge that I have received its report on the Culture 2025 - Éire Ildánach.
A lot of work went into that. It is important that the Minister and the committee work together on progressing the interest of arts, culture, heritage and the Irish language. I am happy to work with the committee and will be meeting the Chair shortly for a conversation. We have the common goal here of promoting increased participation and interest in the arts, in heritage and in the Irish language.
No, it has not. Culture 2025 is the framework policy document. I want to acknowledge the work done by this joint committee, particularly with regard to the report on the draft framework policy document. My Department is giving serious consideration to this report in preparing the final document. The committee has made some very helpful suggestions on the content and presentation of Culture 2025. The members will appreciate, however, that much progress has been made in cultural policy in the last year through the Creative Ireland programme, which I see as very much the delivery mechanism for the overall policy set out in Culture 2025. This connection is made very clear by the Irish version of the name, "Éire Ildánach", which is used both in the policy document and the implementation programme. Culture 2025 is the high level policy document, while Creative Ireland can be seen as the implementation of the goals set in that policy.
Culture 2025, then, is the State strategy for culture. The first document in it is the public consultation discussion document and the second document, the green document, is the framework policy. Creative Ireland, then, is the implementation plan.
No. This is what we in the Department want to do. This committee came back with recommendations which we are now looking at. There will be some things that we can change in the overall policy document. Some of the things that have happened as a result of Creative Ireland can help inform us on the possibility of being more ambitious, perhaps, or of looking at different issues around the policy. We will review this having taken this committee's report on Culture 2025 on board. While I see Creative Ireland as the implementation of the policy, it allows us to-----
There will, yes. My intention is that the final Culture 2025 document will be finalised before the end of the year, having taken the committee's report on board along with other submissions received on the draft document.
The Creative Ireland booklet states: "a number of launches are scheduled under the Creative Ireland programme for later this year, including a Cabinet investment programme for the culture and heritage sector and a creative children's programme to enable every child to access tuition in music and drama." Can the Minister give us any details on that initiative in terms of the age groups and the financial support involved? Is funding for this coming from Creative Ireland's €5 million budget? Surely not.
We are working with the Department of Education and Skills and the Department of Children and Youth Affairs on a creative children programme which will be rolled out over a number of years through schools and youth groups. This is aimed at increasing young people's participation in the arts and at ensuring they get access to tuition in whatever form, be it in music, drama or coding. It is so important that children get access to the arts at an early age as it instills in them an appreciation and a love for whatever particular area they want to join in on. We will be launching this later in the year and the details will all be set out in the plan, which is being finalised at the moment. This will all be part of the budgetary considerations which are currently underway.
What can I say? The Senator will have heard the Minister for Finance outlining the fact that the budget will be very tight this year. Naturally, I will of course be making the case for all remits of my Department: the arts, heritage and the Gaeltacht. Last year we benefitted from considerable increases and the good news is that we will hold onto these. I will make the case and we will know more about the budget next week.
Galway has just come to mind; my apologies if I catch the Minister off guard here. Galway is a UNESCO City of Film as well as the European Capital of Culture for 2020. Conversations are taking place there around Galway airport and the possibility that the hanger there might potentially be used as a film studio space. Is the Minister aware of this matter?
No formal proposal has been sent to me about this. Galway is currently benefitting from the Capital of Culture status, as the Senator knows. I do know that there will be a funding application coming in to support Galway in this regard and we will be looking at this shortly. New studios are also due to open in Limerick shortly. We will certainly look at whatever proposals come into us.
Tá brón orm nach raibh mé i láthair do thús na díospóireachta ach bhí mé sa Seanad. Ag leanacht leis na ceisteanna a bhí ag an Seanadóir Warfield maidir le Gaillimh, luaigh an tAire féin an bhliain cultúrtha 2020 atá ar bun i nGaillimh. Tá roinnt ceisteanna ardaithe agamsa maidir leis seo. An mbeadh an tAire in ann soiléiriú a thabhairt dúinn faoi cé mhéad airgid go díreach a mbeidh an Roinn ag tabhairt do Chultúr 2020 sa bhliain atá romhainn? Tá roinnt postanna líonta i gCultúr 2020: tá tionscnamh le haghaidh an stiurthóir ealaíona agus an riarthóir airgeadais, mar shampla. Tá scálaí pá go €130,000 in aghaidh na bliana ag duine amháin agus €120,000 ag an duine eile, de réir mar a thuigim. B'fhéidir go bhfuil costais sa bhreis air sin. An bhuil an Roinn sásta nach bhfuilimid ag íoc an iomarca le daoine? Tá airgead gann ar an talamh ó thaobh cúrsaí ealaíona i nGaillimh de. An bhfuil an Roinn dearfach agus dóchasach go bhfuil an t-airgead agus an maoiniú a bheas ag teastáil le haghaidh na dualgais a bheas ar an togra 2020 ar fáil, sé sin an maoiniú eile ó na foinsí eile ar fad? Tá sé ráite nach bhfuil an oiread sin airgid ag teacht ón Eoraip. Cé go dtagann an t-aitheantas ón Eoraip go bhfuil an branda sin ag Gaillimh, tá sé ráite nach bhfuil airgead nó maoiniú mór mílteach i gceist agus go bhfuil an togra ag brath ar fhoinsí maoinithe eile. Ón plé atá déanta le muintir Cultúr 2020 i nGaillimh, an bhfuil an Roinn sásta go mbeidh an t-airgead eile sin ar fáil?
Tá ceist eile agam maidir leis na hoifigí ealaíona sna comhairlí contaetha agus na húdaráis áitiúla. An bhfuil oifigeach ealaíona lán-aimseartha i ngach comhairle contae ag an pointe seo? Muna bhfuil, cén fáth nach bhfuil?
Tuigim gur chuir cuid de na comhairleoirí contae an t-oifigeach ealaíon ag déanamh obair eile de bharr easpa foirne nuair a bhí an ghéarchéim airgeadais ann. Ar cuireadh ar ais duine lán-aimseartha ag plé le cúrsaí ealaíon i ngach comhairle contae agus comhairle cathrach?
Ceist eile i nGaillimh a bhain go leor cainte agus atá fós ag tarraingt cainte ná an Picture Palace - an t-ionad scannánaíochta nua. Tuairiscíodh arís an tseachtain seo go ndeachaigh an togra sin €2 mhilliún thar buiséad ach tá sé fós le hoscailt. Ag an bpointe seo, cá seasann an Roinn air sin? An bhfuil iniúchadh á dhéanamh ag an Roinn maidir leis an ró-caiteachas a rinneadh agus na deacrachtaí a bhain leis an togra sin? An bhfuil na socruithe airgeadais anois daingean agus an leanfaidh an togra sin ar aghaidh?
Bhí locht faighte ar chuid de na heagraíochtaí cultúir maidir le cur i bhfeidhm Acht na dTeangacha Oifigiúla. Bhí cuid acu ag diúltú daoine a fhostú agus ag diúltú cloí le forálacha áirithe agus treoracha a bhí an Coimisinéir Teanga ag tabhairt dóibh. Tá mé ag ceapadh go raibh deacrachtaí san Ard-Mhúsaem, mar shampla. An bhfuil an tAire sásta go bhfuil na forais chultúrtha atá faoina scáth agus a cúram ag comhlíonadh Acht na dTeangacha Oifigiúla mar is ceart?
Ó thaobh cúrsaí Gaeilge agus cúrsaí ealaíon, an bhfuil an tAire sásta go bhfuil na heagraíochtaí atá faoina scáth ar nós Amharclann na Mainistreach agus dreamanna eile a bhfaigheann maoiniú airgeadais ó thaobh cúrsaí ealaíon de ag déanamh a ndóthain ó thaobh ealaíon trí mheán na Gaeilge a chur chun cinn? Mar shampla, bhí Amharclann na Mainistreach ann agus ar feadh na blianta ar fad ní dhearna sí dráma amháin as Gaeilge ar stáitse na Mainistreach. Tuigtear dom go bhfuil pleananna anois ann go mbeidh níos mó ag tarlú. Céard faoi na heagraíochtaí cultúir eile atá ag fáil maoiniú maith go leor ón Roinn? An bhfuil siad ag comhlíonadh a ndualgas maidir leis an gcéad teanga oifigiúil agus a gcuid oibre a dhéanamh trí mheán na Gaeilge?
Molaim an t-airgead atá an Comhairle Ealaíon ag tabhairt d'Ealaín na Gaeltachta i gcomhar le hÚdarás na Gaeltachta agus Roinn na Gaeltachta. An bhfuil na hAirí in ann deimhniú go leanfaidh sé sin ar aghaidh agus b'fhéidir go dtiocfaidh méadú fiú ar an méid sin?
My Department will provide funding for Galway 2020. This is a big thing for the city. It won the bid and we will support the city in its endeavours and for the projects it will be undertaking for 2020. The salaries of those involved in the project will be a matter for the company involved. A special company has been established to run the European City of Culture. I understand the chief executive and the artistic director have been appointed. The salaries are a matter for the company board. It would not be for me to determine their salaries.
The Senator mentioned arts officers in local authorities, which is a matter for each local authority. I think nearly every local authority has an arts officer. I meet them regularly and we are working on the Creative Ireland plan for every county. Every county has its own Creative Ireland plan now. They are part of the cultural team that has been set up in every county. I do not want to say every single county definitely has an arts officer, but I would be surprised if any did not. There is a big focus. We have provided funding this year for the Creative Ireland programme so that they can prepare their plans for this year and next year.
The Senator mentioned the production of Irish plays in the Abbey Theatre. Of course, we encourage that. I have to recognise these cultural institutions' curatorial independence in programming. As far as Creative Ireland is concerned, I want to see the Irish language permeate through every single pillar. Having Irish language plays and Irish language events is just a natural thing and something we should do even without having to talk about it. Especially through the Creative Ireland plan, I will encourage local authorities to put on Irish language events as part of their normal cultural offering. That is something we would certainly encourage. I know the Minister of State, Deputy McHugh, strongly supports that.
Bhí fadhb leis an reachtaíocht reatha. Mar shampla, ní raibh an tArd-Mhúsaem fiú ag cur an reachtaíocht i bhfeidhm. Mar Aire Gaeltachta, an bhfuil an tAire Stáit sásta go bhfuil gach eagraíocht faoina chúram ag cur Acht na dTeangacha Oifigiúla i bhfeidhm mar is ceart?
Sílim go raibh beagán mí-thuiscint ansin ó thaobh cuid de na ceisteanna a chur mé.
As part of the funding the Minister guaranteed for the Galway 2020 bid, she will have looked at the other funding sources. Is she confident at this stage that the other funding sources will be in place for 2020? My understanding is the European Union has no big pot of gold to fund Galway 2020. It is very much dependent on other funding sources. The Minister has committed what she is committing. Is she confident that those other sources will come in because it is all dependent on the moneys being available?
The bid is being led locally by Galway City Council. Obviously, it has to make the case for funding from other sources. I will come in and step up to the mark in terms of what my Department will contribute towards it. This is not just about Galway city; it is about Galway city, the county and the wider area around it. There are two local authorities, Galway City Council and Galway County Council, which are working together. They will have to make the applications for such funding.
I welcome the clarification on the arts officers. I do not believe all local authorities have full-time arts officers; many of them were seconded to other duties. Perhaps the officials might come back to me on that.
I take the Minister's point on the Abbey Theatre. I would not expect any Minister to dictate the types of plays or artistic endeavours any organisation would undertake. However, she could give guidance. She said she expects that the Culture Ireland programme would reflect that, but that is not the case in a number of the organisations to my understanding and I have been working in the arts for a long time. It has certainly not been reflected in the Abbey Theatre for a number of years. I hope the new regime there will take it on board. I imagine the Minister can have a very positive effect in that regard if she speaks to them as positively as she did to us just now.
I apologise for having to leave earlier. There was a protest by the IFA on the Mercosur deal. One has to support the IFA as well.
I have not had much time to look over this document. Any funding that comes available is most welcome. Has the Minister moved away from the Leader funding? This is not Leader funding as such.
Unfortunately the Rural Independent Group will not have a seat on that new rural affairs committee which is an absolute scandal. We are a rural Independent group and it is a rural and community affairs committee which anyone would expect to be the natural place for us to sit. Some urban political groupings have been offered a place on that new committee, which is a disgrace to say the least. Can that be looked into? Maybe we should send a letter to the Ceann Comhairle addressing that important issue.
Before we leave heading A, I notice that the number of Irish artists supported by the Culture Ireland programme has reduced from 582 in 2013 to 300 in 2015 and the budget has been reduced from €3.9 million to €2.5 million. That is less than one tax break to one company for one film made in the country last year. It is important that we do not have an inverted pyramid for funding such that a few organisations get massive funding but the funding for the average ordinary struggling artist is at the bottom.
We have increased the funding to Culture Ireland. In 2013, as part of the Irish presidency of the EU, a lot of extra funding was spent on cultural events. In 2016 Culture Ireland supported Irish artists to present over 550 events which reached a live audience of approximately 4 million, with a further online radio and television audience of 15 million. Investment by Culture Ireland in 2016 generated the equivalent of 258 full-time jobs for Irish artists working abroad. During 2016 Culture Ireland supported 160 international presenters to experience Irish work; led six international promotion admissions abroad and supported 42 Irish bands to perform at five international showcases. It is very important funding to support artists going abroad, for example, to the Edinburgh Festival. Last Saturday, I attended a play at The Garage theatre in Monaghan performed by two Irish artists who had been funded to go to Edinburgh. They told me there is huge interest in their show in the UK. There is great value in supporting artists to go abroad through Culture Ireland. An extra €1 million was given to Culture Ireland's base budget this year. There is a big focus on Great Britain next year.
Funding of over €45.5 million has been made available for the Department's heritage programme. This includes €35.7 million allocated for current expenditure, €9.8 million for capital expenditure and a further sum of €2 million by way of capital carry over. Total gross expenditure for programme B up to 30 June 2017 was €7.102 million. That is 16% of the 2017 programme allocation. In addition, approval has been received from the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform to apply capital savings of €4 million to sub-head B5, natural heritage National Parks and Wildlife Services. This additional funding is being used in part to meet the costs arising in 2017 of Government agreed compensation for turf cutters affected by measures implemented to support compliance with the EU Habitats Directive as well as to provide for essential works at our national parks and reserves. Sanction has also been received to apply further capital savings of €2 million to meet additional demand under built heritage schemes.
The first half of 2017 has been extremely busy at the national parks and reserves, with visitor numbers for the full year expected to exceed 3 million. The development of the strategic partnership with Fáilte Ireland with regard to the national parks continued apace in the first six months of the year, as did the planned programmes of investment. A highlight of that investment was the opening to the public for the first time of the historic rooms at Killarney House. Since the official opening of the rooms on 4 July, over 17,000 visitors have seen them. Work on our outdoor recreation facilities at the parks also continued with several extensions to trails and other visitor amenities.
National monuments sites operated on the Department's behalf by the Office of Public Works, OPW, have also enjoyed a record year with visitor numbers set to exceed 3.2 million. There was also a strategic investment partnership with Fáilte Ireland for our national monuments and capital funding is now going into much-needed improvements in visitor facilities and interpretation at key sites. Work on the natural environment also continues and I look forward to publishing the national biodiversity action plan tomorrow at the Botanic Gardens. Any members of the committee who are available are welcome to attend.
Work has been done on international compliance particularly in respect of the special areas of conservation, SACs. It was my privilege in recent weeks to launch the living bog project in Clara Bog, which will oversee the rehabilitation of significant tranches of raised bog in the midland region. This will be a historic year for investment by the Department in built heritage. Over €4 million, leveraging a further €3 million, will be invested by the end of the year in important heritage buildings and structures. The Department has also progressed work on a national heritage plan and I look forward to reporting to the committee on that matter in due course.
The Moore Street campaign looms large in Dublin city. The area offers a phenomenal opportunity to create an internationally recognised and attractive heritage location, battlefield site that would enrich the area, for those who live and do business there. The area is, however, sterilised due to the case in the High Court. It may be sterilised for a few years if the appeal proceeds. That is a great shame. While I understand the Minister's instinct is to defend the rights of the Department and future decisions, there must be some regret that the area is sterile and that those buildings, while they have been stabilised, will be left frozen until some agreement is reached.
I understood that when the ministerial advisory forum was created, which was a great initiative on the Minister's part, there would be an effort to separate the national monuments on Moore Street from the substantive issue of the appeal. In other words, if an agreement was made between the developer and the State on the design, lay out and function of the national monument that could be separated from the legal element of the appeal the Minister is involved in. The advisory forum agreed that there would be such an agreement and that a new planning application for a completely new space would be lodged within six months of the establishment of the committee. The developer has said nothing will happen until the end of the legal process. What can be done in that regard? There are costs in these Estimates for the stabilisation of the national monument and the work of the OPW which is involved there now.
The State's High Court appeal is running into millions of euro in costs. At a previous discussion at the committee, the Minister indicated the moneys would come from those assigned to the 1916 centenary celebrations but the Taoiseach said differently on Leaders’ Questions. Is there any provision in these Estimates for any of the legal costs which will pertain to the High Court appeal?
The Moore Street forum was set up. It was well attended and it worked well. One of its main recommendations was to set up an advisory group. That group, chaired by Dr. Tom Collins, is working away. Its objective is to seek consensus on a way forward for Moore Street and the surrounding area, liaise with the interested groups, provide a forum for the resolution of concerns and co-operate with the adjoining landowner, Hammerson, in getting an agreed plan for the area. I thank the group for its good work. It is moving this along in a collaborative way to ensure we can reach a good solution through consensus.
As the High Court judgment gives rise to much wider concerns in terms of the administration of the National Monuments Acts for other developments and official bodies regarding public and social infrastructural provision, it has been appealed in all respects. It moved into a different space when the judgment clearly indicated it would impact on infrastructural projects across the country and could lead to significant delays in much-needed projects. The appeal is due to be heard in the Court of Appeal in December. We cannot separate the issues.
Would it be possible to leave Moore Street as a national monument or national battlefield site? The third recommendation of that report was that there would be a planning application for the new structure of the area after six months. Six months has gone by since the advisory group was established, meaning this will not happen. By the looks of things, it will not happen for another year.
In fairness to the advisory group, it is working with the stakeholders in progressing it. However, there is nothing I can do about the court case. We had to appeal it because projects right across the country could be held up because of this particular judgment on national monuments. I got advice from the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport and other Departments, which stated this interpretation could lead to problems. That is why it was appealed.
The stabilisation and protection of the building, in so far as we are allowed to do it under the court ruling, cost €2.9 million. There was much money spent on securing the building. There was also an illegal occupation of the building by protestors and the bill for that was quite high. It is all about restoring this building to where it was in 2016. We were able to carry out some essential stabilisation works in agreement with the court ruling and that came to €2.9 million.
The Government has promised €5.1 million in State funds for the Mary Robinson library project in Ballina. A chunk of that could come from the local authority. There is a concern about the tax break which will be achieved with regard to the donation of the archive. There are several other issues but I am concerned that this project will end up like the Galway art house project. The feasibility study carried out by the chief executive officer of Mayo County Council indicated there would be a €10 charge per person to enter this new building. It is felt that this is quite high a charge and would limit the number of people who would visit it. This would then prevent the sustainable running of the project through local revenue generation and a further subvention from the State would be required.
There will also be four separate cultural locations in Ballina with four separate front-of-house staff, four cafes, etc. There is also an issue that the building costs could run into further moneys. Is the Minister confident this is the most efficient use of money to bring about the same benefits to Ballina, given that the main archive will be based in Galway and we do not know what level of archives will be in Ballina?
We are awaiting proposals from Mayo County Council. Nothing formal has been submitted to the Department as of yet. We will consider any proposals once they are submitted.
The issue of tax relief does not arise as the Mary Robinson archive is now being donated to NUIG, National University of Ireland Galway, and tax relief is not being sought.
The Irish cultural centre in New York is another project which has had cost overruns. A previous Minister stated no more moneys would be given to that project whatsoever. However, it came that the Department decided further moneys would be given. Where does this project stand now? What is the analysis with regard to value for money on it?
The Irish centre in New York is a $60 million project. It is a huge boost to the community there and a wonderful centre which is about encouraging people to engage in Irish culture. Last year, I was able to fund a further €1 million to it, a donation with which the centre was happy. It has many high-profile supporters. At $60 million, it is a large project and the €1 million has allowed it leverage to get more funding from philanthropic donations. There are no overruns in the New York centre and it is hoped to begin construction next year. A total of €2 million has been funded by the Government. Much more funding has been provided by the New York city and state authorities, as well as by individuals.
Loretta Glucksman is doing wonderful work in attracting donations and support for the centre. When completed, it will be a showcase Irish centre in New York which will allow Irish artists to perform in New York and Irish and non-Irish citizens in New York to participate in our culture. This is a great way to promote Irish culture abroad. The site was donated by New York City Council.
I do not doubt the benefits of the project. The State probably does not do enough for the diaspora, especially in the United States. However, there is considerable concern here and in the United States regarding overruns in the cost of these projects. It is important that a strict attitude is taken to how taxpayers' money is spent.
There appears to be a decline in the number of heritage sites that received State funding. The number of structures and monuments protected and assisted through grants and other mechanisms and ministerial recommendations for protection numbers increased from 142 in 2013 to 548 in 2014 and declined to 29 in 2015. What is the reason for this decline?
The figure is listed in group B of heritage under the heading "Context and Impact Indicators". It refers to the number of structures and monuments protected or assisted through grants or other mechanisms and the figure increased from 142 in 2013 to 548 in 2014 and then declined to 29 in 2015. The number of ministerial recommendations for protection decreased from 3,923 in 2013 to 1,979 in 2014 and 511 in 2015.
I am informed that the Chairman is referring to the national inventory figure, which depends on the counties being covered. Dublin City Council and Monaghan County Council carried out major reviews. In the case of the former, as a result of the survey, 1,456 recommendations were issued recently. This is the national inventory of architectural heritage. Fieldwork for the 11th phase of the Dublin survey has just been completed. The second phase of the Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown survey has been published, with 176 ministerial recommendations issued. A list of monuments is submitted to the relevant local authority which has responsibility for deciding whether the monuments should be designated as protected structures.
My next question may sound a little parochial. The River Boyne, which flows from Kildare to Drogheda, is littered with internationally recognised heritage sites, including Newgrange, Slane, Tara, the Battle of the Boyne site, Monasterboice and hundreds of abbeys, raths, wells and old bridges. It is a very well served area and one of the top ten Fáilte Ireland tours. The area is known as the heritage capital of Ireland. It would be useful to develop the idea of a heritage park and link the many heritage sites stretching from the source of the River Boyne to its estuary by means of a greenway. The route would take in three counties and could become one of the great walks of Europe, with visitors spending eight or nine days traversing it and spending time in bed and breakfast accommodation, restaurants and water adventure facilities. I ask the Minister to consider that idea.
In Canada, there is a strong focus on river parks. This involves sterilising rivers as cities develop. For example, as the city of Toronto has developed, the river has been left in its natural state, with parkland stretching approximately 200 m either side. This linear park in a densely populated city is good for the natural function of the river and its heritage value. It is also good that citizens have a green belt with a river in the middle of their city. If there is to be significant building works here in the next three to ten years, it would be useful to consider this idea.
I agree with the Chairman on the idea of having a large heritage park with links to various sites. Perhaps this could be done under the heading of rural recreation. Some of the local authorities could come together to produce a proposition on a regional basis and the idea could then be developed further. It would be great if people could cycle from one site to another as cycling is much more environmentally friendly than travelling by car, which creates problems with parking, etc. The Department engages with local authorities all the time. Deputy Tóibín is fortunate to live in a heritage rich area that is part of Ireland's Ancient East route. If a number of partners were to become involved, they could make a big difference in this regard. We would be happy to work with the different agencies to see what we could come up with on this issue, which is a good idea.
Mar eolas don Chathaoirleach, tá brú ama orm agus beidh orm imeacht faoi cheann deich nóiméad nó mar sin. Tá brón orm faoi sin roimh ré. Tá cúpla ceist tapa agam ar an mír seo. Tá siad paróisteach ar bhealach amháin. Tá cainteanna fós ar siúl idir an Roinn agus Comhairle Contae na Gaillimhe faoi na staidéir atá le déanamh ar an N59. An bhféadfadh an tAire nó an tAire Stáit tuairisc a thabhairt dúinn ar an chaiteachas breise a bheidh ann as seo go deireadh na bliana? An bhfuil na staidéir sin gar do bheith réidh? An bhfuilimid dóchasach go bhfaighimid réiteach ar na fadhbanna atá ann idir an bóthar nua agus cúrsaí dúlra?
Tá an Roinn tar éis €4 milliún a chur i leataobh le haghaidh cúiteamh ó thaobh na bportach. Cá seasaimid ó thaobh na bportach sin agus an t-aighneas ar fad a bhí ann maidir le lucht bainte móna? An bhfuil na deacrachtaí ar fad sáraithe? An bhfuil tuilleadh airgid le chur i leataobh an bhliain seo chugainn le haghaidh cúitimh? Cá seasann na comhráite sin i láthair na huaire?
Tá an chéad ceist eile cosúil leis an ceist dheireanach. Muna bhfuil an freagra ag an Aire ná an Aire Stáit inniu, b'fhéidir go gcuirfeadh siad an t-eolas ar aghaidh chugam. An bhfuil oifigeach oidhreachta i ngach údarás áitiúil? Má tá, an bhfuil siad ar fad fostaithe go lán-aimseartha le plé le cúrsaí oidhreachta sna húdaráis áitiúla?
I will respond first to the Senator's final question. While heritage officers are a matter for local authorities, I understand there are a significant number of them. I will revert to the Senator with an exact figure.
We will ask the local authorities for the information the Senator seeks. The Heritage Council works very well with heritage officers. The reason Heritage Week is such a success is that the Heritage Council is able to connect to local communities through heritage officers.
On the N59 project from Mayo through Connemara to Galway city, this matter is being considered by Galway County Council. The Department addressed the issues that were raised. A revised method statement for the ground investigation works for the Maam Cross to Bunnakill section of the N59 was submitted by Galway County Council to the Department on 28 June last. This was approved on 29 June, which was a quick turnaround. It is understood Galway County Council is assessing tenders for the ground investigation works and hopes to have a contractor on the ground by early October 2017.
On 6 September 2017, the Department received a draft method statement from the council for archaeology testing on the Maam Cross to Bunnakill section and this was approved by my Department on 7 September. We have engaged extensively with the local authority and when it raises matters, we turn them around very quickly because the issue of this road has been raised on many occasions here and I know it is a very important route in the west.
We continue to run the compensation scheme. I consider it a generous scheme for turf cutters. I launched a bog restoration project in Clara a couple of weeks ago which involves examining the restoration of some of the bogs. Again, there is a huge amount of engagement with local communities. It is important that we get buy-in from local communities for this type of work. It is important that we recognise that just because Europe says they are good, does not mean that they are not good. We have a wonderful resource in this country in terms of our bogs and it is a matter of how we can turn this into a positive. Tourism is changing. People want to go on holidays that are healthy and that allow them to enjoy the natural environment. Our bogs are a wonderful resource so this bog restoration project, which is funded by the Department and the EU, will be a new way to engage more people to see the benefits of having restored bogs and all the beautiful flora and fauna they can produce that relate to tourism and other such activities.
There is no doubt that there are pressures on some bogs. We keep talking to the people involved but there is a very good compensation scheme for those who cannot continue to cut turf in the bogs and there is also a relocation scheme.
The Minister spoke about the €5 million assigned to Creative Ireland. When we get into the nitty-gritty, we see that no money was actually set aside for the delivery of Creative Ireland in terms of programming. What is the Minister hoping to do in terms of setting aside actual funding for the delivery of Creative Ireland? How much does she intend to apportion to each of the pillars, of which there are five.
The Arts in Education Charter contains lots of proposals, ambitions and actions. What funding does the Minister intend to set aside to deliver the charter? The local arts in education partnership is the model that is recommended in the charter. That will involve a conversation. I compliment the Minister on engaging with the Department of Education and Skills. Perhaps, more importantly, the Department of Education and Skills is engaging with the Minister. This relationship must be cemented. If we are serious about arts in education, it is the only way it can done otherwise services will be duplicated. What are the Minister's plans for local arts in education partnerships? Will money be set aside for that scheme which is clearly set out in the Arts in Education Charter?
Will the Government recommit to investing in local authorities over the coming years and will it ensure that the arts budget is ring fenced as non-discretionary funds. As the Minister and I know from being members of local authorities, they are discretionary funds and there is always a battle over how much is put into the local arts office. It is really important that the funding is ring-fenced as non-discretionary funding. Is the Government committed to doing that?
My final question relates to the cultural organisations and creative industries across the country that are doing so much. In many cases, these are not being supported by the LEOs because those offices cannot provide support. Does the Minister have plans to give them that opportunity and to see to it that the LEOs can support these organisations and industries, which create many types of employment?
I will first address the arts in education. I increased resources for the Arts Council by 8%, to €65 million, in 2017. The Arts Council has, in turn, increased its funding for the children-related initiatives from €3.1 million to €3.7 million. I thank Deputy Niamh Smyth for her comments. We are working very closely with the Departments of Education and Skills and Children and Youth Affairs. The teacher training scheme has been extended to provide training for the largest number of teachers this year and it has gone from six centres in 2013 to all 21 education and training centres being involved now. That is progress. Teachers are being trained in terms of the arts offering. I visited Scoil Éanna in Ballybay two weeks ago and spoke to two teachers who had undergone the training and who were very happy with the training they received. Now, however, it is about delivering for children on the ground. This year, I have also been involved with the national arts in education day. I met art teachers from across the country and listened to their views on pillar 1 of Creative Ireland, which is about enabling the creative potential of every child. The feedback from them was positive.
Every local authority has been given €65,000 for its Creative Ireland programme this year. This has supported a wide variety of events, including Creative Ireland events at local level. Many of these were targeted at children and young people. Events such as Culture Night and Cruinniú na Cásca are also family-orientated and designed to get young people involved. Many things are happening in that space - with the different agencies across interdepartmental lines involved - in terms of getting the right environment so that young people can access, participate in and enjoy the arts. The next step is the Creative Children plan, which will be launched later this year. It is the first time the three Departments have come together.
The Deputy mentioned ring-fencing arts funding within local authorities. I accept what she is saying. Sometimes if there is a cut in funding, the first place that gets cut is the arts budget. I can only encourage local authorities, which, in fairness, have done a huge amount in setting up their culture teams. The process is director-led within local authorities. Again, it is about encouraging them to see that engagement in the arts is good for people and society. These culture teams are set up. By continuing to elevate the importance of the arts across the country in every local authority area, it instills in them the need to maintain those budgets but the Deputy knows that I cannot tell them to ring-fence their budgets. That is something I cannot do.
Local authorities are independent in what they do.
On the creative industries and the local enterprise offices, LEOs, as the Deputy will know that these offices are part of local authorities. It is for them to decide how to allocate their budgets. While I would like to see them invest more in the creative industries, I cannot tell them what to do. We can only encourage them and keep pointing out the benefits of investment in the arts and in the creative industries.
To answer the Deputy's question on the budget for Creative Ireland, I will break it down for her. The budget was kept under review. Some €5 million was allocated for the Creative Ireland programme. It is important to say that Creative Ireland is not involved solely with my Department, it is across all of Government. Some Departments have a bigger role to play, such as the Department of Children and Youth Affairs in-----
I put it to the Minister that, in respect of the €5 million, there was no fund or pot of money that allowed people to apply to Creative Ireland for specific programmes or anything of that nature. The Creative Ireland €5 million to which the Minister keeps referring relates to the marketing of the idea of Creative Ireland, which amalgamates and promotes what was already happening in many of our local authorities.
No. I will give the Deputy the details of this. First, €1.25 million was allocated to Cruinniú na Cásca, our annual cultural day. There were cruinnithe right across the country. There was a very successful one here in Dublin.
No. The money for Cruinniú na Cásca came out of the Creative Ireland budget. There were 750 events, of which 200 were funded by Creative Ireland on behalf of the local authorities. The local authority partnership received €1 million from my Department and a further €1 million from the Department of Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government. I will finish this and then I will explain the rest of it. On citizen engagement, we had a lot of consultation with people right across the country. Those involved all said that they wanted to hear more about this, they wanted to be informed and they wanted to be told about it. That cost €900,000. On events and festival partnerships, we went to different events. There was some high-profile-----
If I could just finish, in respect of the events and festivals partnerships at which we had stands such as, for example, Electric Picnic. Again, we were getting involved and putting out the message about the importance of the arts. There were many other events. I have a list of them here that I can give to the committee. We spent €490,000 in that area.
We spent €400,000 on digital content and a further €200,000 on the international part of the programme. On the administrative costs of the whole project, there was lot of work involved in getting different agencies and organisations working together. The administrative project office cost €500,000. Other initiatives came to €260,000. That is how the entire €5 million was spent. There is a great awareness about Creative Ireland. The arts sector has welcomed it hugely. There are five different pillars and it is about delivering on these.
I cannot set up a funding stream in my Department to fund projects that fall under the remit of the Arts Council.
That is the point I am making. The €5 million allocated in respect of Creative Ireland was really spent on public relations for all the things that were already happening within our local authorities.
Tá soláthar de €46.736 milliún ar fáil in 2017 don chlár Gaeilge, Gaeltachta agus oileán. Tá suim reatha de €35.769 milliún san áireamh anseo, mar aon le suim €10.967 milliún do chaiteachas caipitil. Bhí oll-chaiteachas de €16.355 milliún san iomlán do chlár C go dtí 30 Meitheamh 2017.
Mar a thuigfidh baill den choiste, tá réimse leathan oibre agus gníomhaíochtaí idir lámha agam féin agus ag mo chuid oifigigh chun tacú agus cuidiú leis an Ghaeilge. Is orainn atá an fhreagracht fhoriomlán as cur i bhfeidhm na Straitéise 20 Bliain don Ghaeilge 2010-2030. Tá sé tábhachtach a aithint go bhfuil an obair agus an infheistíocht atá á ndéanamh i gcaitheamh an ama i leith an raon leathan scéimeanna, beart, clár agus tionscnamh atá á mhaoiniú ó rannóg na Gaeltachta de chuid na Roinne lárnach d'feidhmiú na straitéise 20 bliain. Chuige sin, tá sé i gceist go mbeidh plean gníomhaíochta don tréimhse 2017 go dtí 2022, ina mbeidh spriocanna sonracha agus amscálaí ina leith, á chur i dtoll a chéile ag mo Roinn agus á fhoilsiú gan mhoill.
Ó cuireadh tús leis an phróiseas pleanála teanga trí bliana ó shin, is ar ullmhúchán pleananna a bhí an próiseas dírithe. Lean an obair seo ar aghaidh i gcaitheamh na bliana anuraidh. Níos túisce i mbliana, fógraíodh go raibh allúntas ar fiú €850,000 in iomlán á chur ar fáil ag mo Roinn chun cabhrú le feidhmiú an phróisis pleanála teanga sa bhliain reatha. Agus tús á chur le feidhmiú na bpleananna teanga sna limistéir Ghaeltachta i mbliana, tógadh céim mhór chun tosaigh le feidhmiú an phróisis agus dá réir, le feidhmiú na straitéise. Tá an chéad trí cinn de na pleananna sin seolta agam anois agus beidh allúntas de €100,000 an ceann curtha ar fáil sa chéad bhliain chun tús a chur le iad a chur i bhfeidhm. Is tráthúil go bhfuil tús á chur leis an phróiseas seo comhthreomhar le cur i bhfeidhm an pholasaí don oideachas Gaeltachta ag an Roinn Oideachais agus Scileanna mar tá an dá bheartas seo fite fuaite ina chéile. Tabharfaidh an t-allúntas seo deis do na coistí áitiúla oifigigh pleanála teanga a fhostú chun tús a chur le cur i bhfeidhm a gcuid pleananna. Anuas ar sin, beidh fáil ag na coistí seo sa ghearrthéarma ar na tacaíochtaí éagsúla atá ar fáil faoin réimse leathan scéimeanna atá á riaradh ag mo Roinn agus ag Údarás na Gaeltachta.
Caithfear a chur san áireamh anseo nach bhfuil ach trí cinn de phleananna teanga seolta go fóill. De réir mar a thagann tuilleadh pleananna chun cinn, beidh mo Roinn agus an tÚdarás in ann anailís a dhéanamh ar na riachtanais comónta atá sonraithe ag na pobail éagsúla ina gcuid pleananna agus scéimeanna an dá eagraíocht a leasú le freastal ar na héilimh sin. Ag baint úsáide as an gcur chuige seo, tá mé thar a bheith muiníneach go mbeidh an Stát in ann freastal ar an bhealach is cuí agus is éifeachtaí ar riachtanais an phobail taobh istigh de na hacmhainní atá ar fáil.
Cuireann mo Roinn maoiniú ar fáil d'Údarás na Gaeltachta mar an ghníomhaireacht forbartha réigiúnach don Ghaeltacht agus oibríonn sí go dlúth leis. Maidir le buiséad caipitil an údaráis do 2017, fuair mé €1 milliún breise i maoiniú caipitil aon uaire mar chuid de Mheastacháin athbhreithnithe 2016. Tá sé seo coinnithe don bhliain reatha, rud a chiallaíonn gurb é €6.687 milliún an bunlíne nua caipitil i mbuiséid 2017 d'Údarás na Gaeltachta, €1 milliún níos airde ná an bunlíne i mbuiséid 2016. Anuas air sin, tá áthas orm gur éirigh liom maoiniú breise de €1.5 milliún a chur ar fáil do bhuiséad caipitil Údarás na Gaeltachta níos túisce i mbliana, rud a thugann buiséid caipitil na heagraíochta go dtí €8.187 milliún i 2017. Cuirfidh an maoiniú breise seo ar chumas Údarás na Gaeltachta poist a choinneáil ina gcliant-chomhlachtaí sa Ghaeltacht agus tuilleadh infheistíochta a mhealladh go ceantair Ghaeltachta. Chuige sin, is í mo thuiscint go bhfuil sí mar aidhm ag an údarás 500 post úr a chruthú sa Ghaeltacht i 2017.
Tá roinnt céimeanna tógtha anseo in Éirinn agus sa Bhruiséil chun tabhairt faoi dheireadh a chur leis an maolú maidir le húsáid na Gaeilge in institiúidí an Aontais Eorpaigh i 2021. Bhí cruinniú dearfach agam leis mo chuid oifigigh agus na daoine uilig ó Lucsamburg ar maidin. Tá thart ar €1 milliún á chur ar fáil i mbliana don earnáil tríú leibhéal chun cúrsaí oiliúna cuí do na poist san Aontas a sholáthar. Tá borradh ag teacht faoi na hiarrachtaí seo faoi láthair agus tá tuilleadh aistritheoirí fostaithe ag na hinstitiúidí Eorpacha le sé mhí anuas chun cur ar a gcumas tuilleadh ábhair a aistriú go Gaeilge. An mhí seo amháin, beidh ionadaithe ón Chúirt Bhreithiúnais ag teacht go hÉirinn chun an togra a thabhairt chun cinn agus, chomh maith leis sin, tá mo Roinn, i gcomhar le Coimisiún na hEorpa, i mbun comhdháil a eagrú i mBaile Átha Cliath ar 12 Deireadh Fómhair ar mhaithe le gréasáin de shaineolaithe a bhunú in Éirinn chun tacú le haistritheoirí san Eoraip.
Leis na forbairtí seo uile, tá mé lán-mhuiníneach go mbeidh ar ár gcumas deireadh a chur leis an maolú in 2021. Tugaim m'aitheantas d'achan duine a bhí ar chúl an phróisis sin thar na blianta, daoine macasamhail le Dáithí Mac Carthaigh ó Ostaí na Rí.
Maidir le teagasc na Gaeilge in ollscoileanna thar lear, tá ag éirí go han-mhaith leis an chlár seo agus tá méadú leanúnach tagtha ar na hiarratais faoin scéim ó bhliain go bliain. Mar léiriú ar sin, tá deontais de €1.8 milliún san iomlán ceadaithe don tréimhse 2016-17 go 2018-19 le os cionn 40 ollscoil agus coláistí tríú leibhéal thart ar an domhan. Cuireann an scéim seo go mór le scoláireacht na Gaeilge i measc an phobail acadúil idirnáisiúnta agus méadaítear stádas na teanga dá réir.
Tá obair leanúnach ar bun againn chun cuidiú le cur chun cinn na Gaeilge tríd an teicneolaíocht. Tá forbairtí móra déanta agus á ndéanamh ar chorpas na Gaeilge leis an fhoclóir úr foclóir.ieagus an suíomh téarma.ie.Chomh maith leis sin, tá tacaíocht á tabhairt ag mo Roinn d'Acadamh Ríoga na hÉireann chun foclóir stairiúil na Gaeilge a chur i gcrích. Anuas ar na forbairtí seo go léir, tá an tionscadal taighde abair.iei gColáiste naTríonóide ag déanamh tuilleadh forbartha ar shintéiseoir Gaeilge - córas inar féidir téacs scríofa a aistriú go caint bheo i gcanúintí éagsúla. Ceadaíodh beart maoinithe chomh maith i mbliana d’Ollscoil Chathair Bhaile Átha Cliath chun taighde tábhachtach eile a dhéanamh maidir leis an Ghaeilge sa ré teicneolaíochta. Chun na deiseanna teicneolaíochta seo ar fad a threisiú san am amach romhainn, tá plean digiteach don Ghaeilge á ullmhú faoi láthair ag an dá ollscoil le tacaíocht na Roinne agus tá súil agam go mbeidh sé réidh le seoladh roimh dheireadh na bliana.
Tar éis athbhreithniú cuimsitheach a dhéanamh ar Bhille na dteangacha oifigiúla (leasú), a dréachtaíodh anuraidh, agus tréimhse comhairliúchán leis na páirtithe leasmhara, foilsíodh ceannteidil úra Bhille na dteangacha oifigiúla (leasú) níos túisce i mbliana ag mo chomhghleacaí, An Teachta Seán Kyne. Tá an Bille á dhréachtú faoi láthair agus tá na ceannteidil curtha faoi bhráid Chomhchoiste na Gaeilge, na Gaeltachta agus na nOileáin le scrúdú. Beidh an cheist maidir le hearcú daoine le Gaeilge don tseirbhís phoiblí lárnach don reachtaíocht seo.
Tá an Foras Teanga ar cheann de na sé chomhlacht forfheidhmithe a bunaíodh faoin Acht um Chomhaontú na Breataine-na hÉireann 1999.
Tá go leor ceisteanna agam. Thug mé faoi deara, agus mé ag léamh an cháipéis a chuir an Roinn ar fáil, go bhfuil sé i gceist ag an Roinn tacú le clár straitéiseach bóithre i gceantair Gaeltachta i mbliana - as seo go deireadh na bliana - as sábháil airgid a bhaineadh amach. An bhféadfadh an tAire Stáit a rá liom cén uair a fhogrófar é seo agus cén uair a iarrfar ar iarratais? Cé mhéad airgid a bheidh i gceist? An bhfuil sé muiníneach go mbeidh an t-airgead caite agus na sonraisc faighte roimh deireadh na bliana?
Ó ceapadh an Teachta mar Aire Stáit sa Roinn, cé mhéad atá ceadaithe aige nó fógartha aige as airgead rannóg Gaeilge, Gaeltachta agus oileán na Roinne do thograí caipitil i dTír Chonaill agus sna contaetha eile? Mura bhfuil an t-eolas faoina lámh ag an Aire Stáit b'fhéidir go b'fhéadfadh sé socrú leis an rúnaí cúnta atá taobh leis iad a chur chugam. Rinne an tAire Stáit fógra i leith Céibh Mhachaire Uí Rabhartaigh le gairid. Cén uair a bhfuil súil tosú ar an tógáil agus ar obair fhisiciúil ar an talamh i dtaca leis an iarratas sin? D'fhógair sé go bhfuil sé i gceist bád a thógáil ag an Roinn le seirbhís a chur do Thoraigh. An bhfuil sé i gceist an polasaí céanna a leanúint i gcás éileamh ó na hoileáin eile ar fud an chósta? Cé mhéad airgid a cuireadh ar leataobh le haghaidh an togra sin?
Mar is eol don Aire Stáit, bhí geallúint i gclár an Rialtais go mbeadh breis infheistíochta ar fáil don Ghaeilge agus don Ghaeltacht. Laghdú €4 milliún a tháinig idir 2016 agus 2017. Táimid €4 milliún taobh thiar seachas píosa ar aghaidh. An bhfuil an tAire Stáit muiníneach go mbeidh airgead breise, mar atá iarrtha ag Teachtaí Dála sa Teach seo, ag eagraíochtaí Gaeilge agus ag pobal na Gaeilge, de thart ar €5.3 milliún ar fáil an bhliain seo chugainn?
Chomh maith leis sin, tá cás faoi leith déanta ag na comharchumainn Gaeltachta. Bhí mise i mo bhainisteoir comharchumainn blianta fada ó shin. Chaith mé 18 bliain i mbun na hoibre sin. Is ceann de na jabanna is deacra gur féidir a dhéanamh é. Murach na comharchumann i go leor de na pobail atá thar a bheith scaipthe, ní bheadh aon fhorbairt déanta. An bhfuil an tAire Stáit ag breathnú go fabhrach ar iarratas na gcomharchumann ar €600,000 breise in aghaidh na bliana mar chéad chéim le iad a thabhairt suas ar aon leibhéal leis na community development projects atá á maoiniú ag an Roinn Forbartha Tuaithe agus Pobail?
Tá roinnt ceisteanna sonracha ansin. Beidh mé ag tnúth le freagraí an Aire.
Gabhaim buíochas leis an Teachta. Ar an chéad ceist fadúda an t-airgead a sabháladh, aistríodh €2 milliún ón taobh eile den Roinn go dtí an rannóg Gaeltachta i mbliana mar gheall ar an airgead a sabháladh. Chuaigh €1.5 milliún chuig an údarás le caitheamh ar a tograí fostaíochta. Chuaigh €500,000 le haghaidh na scéimeanna tacaíochta Gaeltachta le caitheamh ar tograí caipitil teanga agus pobal.
I am sorry, I have the brief here in front of me. I will read out the English version. I suppose people are surprised that somebody got up at 7 a.m. to read all this stuff. What it says is simple: "€2m to Programme C – Irish Language, Gaeltacht and the Islands to support employment in Gaeltacht areas (Subhead C.8) and to support a strategic roads programme in Gaeltacht areas". Mar atá ráite i nGaeilge sa gcáipéis céanna a cuireadh ar fáil dúinn le haghaidh an chruinnithe seo "agus chun tacú le clár straitéiseach bóithre i gceantair Ghaeltachta". Sin an cheist a bhí ann. Ní dúirt mé tada faoi aon rud eile.
Níl na sonraí sin ceart. Táim ag freagairt na ceiste agus ag tabhairt an eolais atá agam. Arís, chuaigh €1.5 milliún chuig an údarás le caitheamh ar a tograí fostaíochta agus chuaigh €500,000 le haghaidh na scéimeanna tacaíochta Gaeltachta le caitheamh ar thograí caipitil teanga agus pobail. Níl aon chuid den airgead sin le caitheamh ar bhóithre. Tá scéim eile do bhóithre fógartha ag an Aire, an Teachta Michael Ring, agus gheobhaidh an Ghaeltacht cuid de sin. B'fhéidir go mbeidh sonraí de dhíth fadúda an t-eolas agus na sonraí atá ag an Teachta ach táimse ag rá nach bhfuil na sonraí sin ceart.
We got this briefing, I believe it was in the last day or two. In both the Irish and English versions it says there will be a strategic roads programme. I consider it to be a very serious matter if we were given misleading information which was not corrected before the meeting. I cannot understand how we were told this solemnly in a briefing document and are now being told that there is no such programme. Like so many things involving the Department, this has disappeared into the mists. It is a serious issue if a briefing were to be so seriously, erroneously wrong.
Tá mé sásta é sin a dhéanamh. Maidir leis an scéim caipitil, bhí ceist faoin obair atá de dhíth i Machaire Rabhartaigh agus bád úr a thógáil go Toraigh. Thosaigh an comhrá maidir le Machaire Rabhartaigh agus tá réamhobair de dhíth ar dtús. Beidh agus tá airgead ar fáil fá choinne an obair atá de dhíth roimh an infheistíocht sa ché a dhéanamh. Maidir leis an bád a thógáil, bhí mise sásta leanúint ar aghaidh le muintir Thoraí agus bhí cruinniú dearfa againn coicíos ó shin. Rinneadh cinneadh ag an chruinniú sin agus bhí siad sásta leis an bhealach seo chun dul ar aghaidh. Tá mise agus mo chuid oifigigh sásta leanúint ar aghaidh leo fá dtaobh den bád úr a thógáil do Thoraigh. É sin ráite, ó thaobh an ruda is mó a bhí de dhíth, thar na blianta a chuaigh thart bhí an comhairle contae ag déanamh dreidireachta i gcé Mhachaire Rabhairtaigh agus bhí muintir Mhachaire Rabhartaigh agus muintir an oileáin ag rá i gcónaí gurb é seo bealach diúltach don airgead a chaitheamh bliain i ndiaidh bliana. Tá mise sásta go bhfuil obair de dhíth ar ché Mhachaire Rabhartaigh.
Gabhaim m'aitheantas do na dreamanna deonacha, na dreamanna a bhí ag obair thar na blianta air seo, agus na hiascairí fosta. Tá bearna mhór ann maidir leis an togra sin. Tá mé ag obair leis an chomhairle contae fosta. Níl an bealach do Thoraigh cosúil leis an bealach go dtí aon oileán eile mar gheall ar an aimsir, na céanna agus an fharraige. Tá mé ag éisteacht leis an imní atá sa chomhrá anois. Beidh comhrá de dhíth le mo chuid oifigigh fosta.
Maidir leis an breis airgid agus infheistíochta an bhliain seo chugainn, níl mise ábalta a rá aon rud faoin bhuiséad an tseachtain seo chugainn. Lena bheith ionraic agus mar a dúirt an tAire, an Teachta Heather Humphreys, níl airgead ag fás ar na crainn.
Ligfidh mé isteach an Teachta níos déanaí. Tá cúpla ceist agam féin. Tá mise ag déanamh camchuairt ar na Gaeltachtaí thar timpeall na tíre. Bhí mé ar na hoileáin Árann cúpla mí ó shin agus bhí mé i gCiarraí cúpla seachtain ó shin. Bhí mé thuas i nDún na nGall chomh maith agus Dé hAoine seo chugainn beidh mé i Maigh Eo. Is léir go bhfuil easpa uafásach airgid ann ó thaobh na gcomharchumann agus an phleanáil teanga. Tá a fhios agam gur ábhar conspóideach nó cnámh spairne é an t-airgead, ach tá titim mhór san airgead i mbliana don Irish language, Gaeltacht and the islands. Dar leis na daoine atá i mbun oibre sna comharchumainn, níl siad in ann maireachtáil nó dul ar aghaidh mar atá rudaí anois. Bhí mé ag caint leis na daoine atá i mbun na bpleananna teanga agus, dar leo, tar éis na oibre go léir atá déanta acu, ní fiú ach liathróid a dhéanamh den phlean agus é a chaitheamh sa bhosca bruscar. Sin an méid feirge agus ísle bhrí atá orthu. Tuigim nach bhfuil an tAire Stáit ach tar éis teacht isteach ina phost nua agus tá a fhios agam nach féidir leis a rá cad atá sa bhuiséad. Táim ag iarraidh, áfach, é a chur os a chomhair go bhfuil an fhadhb seo ann.
Bhí mé ag caint faoi na cúntóirí teanga sna scoileanna. Tá a fhios agam go bhfuil an t-airgead do na cúntóirí teanga ag teacht ón Roinn seo. Ní bhíonn a fhios ag na cúntóirí teanga go dtí an dara leath de mhí Mheán Fómhair nó, b'fhéidir, mí Dheireadh Fómhair go bhfuil siad le tosú nó cathain a bheidh siad ag tosú. Ní thosaíonn siad sa phost go dtí an dara leath de mhí Mheán Fómhair agus ní bhíonn siad ann go dtí deireadh na scoilbliana. Ó thaobh cearta oibrithe de, is mór an trua é nach bhfuil an t-eolas sin acu. Is mór an trua freisin nach bhfuil an scéim sin á leathnú ag an Roinn ó thús na scoilbliana go dtí deireadh na scoilbliana. Maidir le cáilíochtaí na gcúntóirí teanga agus acmhainní, níl aon cháilíocht de dhíth ag cúntóirí teanga ach go bhfuil siad in ann labhairt as Gaeilge agus níl feck all acmhainní ag baint leis an bpost freisin. Caithfidh an Rialtas struchtúr proifisiúnta a chur i gcrích.
Maidir leis an easpa airgid, sin an scéal i gcónaí. Bíonn daoine ag rá i gcónaí go bhfuil airgead, deontais, cuidiú agus infheistíocht de dhíth. Sin an fáth go bhfuil mé sa phost agus ag fáil airgid. É sin ráite, tá dea-scéal ann i gceantair Ghaeltachta fosta. Bhí an Cathaoirleach i gCiarraí agus i nDún na nGall, áit a raibh sé san amharclann. Tá dea-scéalta agus sár-obair déanta sna ceantair Ghaeltachta fosta. Nuair a bhí mise ar m'aistear thar na blianta a chuaigh thart, bhí mé i gConamara, Carna, Bearna, Daingean Uí Chúis agus áiteanna eile agus bhí na daoine ann ag coiméad an teanga beo. Daoine iad seo a tógadh le Gaeilge agus atá ag coiméad an teanga beo. Tá aitheantas tuillte acu siúd a bhfuil ag tógáil a leanaí le Gaeilge mar níl sé sin furasta toisc go bhfuil an Béarla chomh láidir. Tá an Béarla láidir sna meáin shóisialta fosta, ach sna ceantair Ghaeltachta agus lasmuigh dóibh tá daoine ag úsáid na teanga i dtéacsanna agus ar Twitter agus Facebook, agus is léir go bhfuil sé níos feiceálaí.
Maidir leis na comharchumainn, cinnte go bhfuil tacaíocht de dhíth. Tá daoine ag obair go crua agus daoine ag obair go deonach fosta. Tá struchtúr de dhíth. Sin an fáth gur thosaigh Dinny McGinley leis an phróiseas fá dtaobh den phleanáil teanga in 2012. Bhí mise i nGaoth Dobhair agus d'fhógair agus lainseáil mé na chéad trí phlean teanga a chlúdaíonn áiteanna ar nós Cois Fharraige, Gaoth Dóbhair, an Fál Carrach, Machaire Rabhartaigh, Rann an Feirste, Loch an Iúir agus Anagaire. Cinnte tá difear ann maidir leis na hiarratais a chur siad isteach. Chomh maith leis sin, áfach, trí bhliain ó shin ní raibh airgead ar bith ar fáil, ach d'fhógair mé €300,000 i nGaoth Dobhair fá choinne na trí dreamanna. Chuala mé, cloisim agus cím na deacrachtaí fá dtaobh de sin. An rud is mó a bhí mise ag rá ag an am ná go bhfuil bealach féaráilte de dhíth fosta. Ní mhaith liom go mbeadh níos mó airgid i gceantair amháin ná mar atá i gceantair eile. Sin an fáth go bhfuil, ag tús an phróisis, suas le €100,000 ann do gach plean teanga. Amach anseo, b'fhéidir go mbeidh bealaí éagsúla ann agus go mbeidh tacaíocht ó dhreamanna eile nó ó chúrsaí eile. Amach anseo, b'fhéidir go mbeidh comhairle ann ón gcomhairle contae nó rudaí mar sin. Tá mise sásta leis an tús. Tús maith, leath na hoibre.
Maidir le scéim na gcúntóirí teanga, tá athbhreithniú ar siúl. Tuigim na deacrachtaí a bhí ann i mí Mheán Fómhair. Níor foilsíodh aon rud agus tuigim na deacracthaí a bhain leis sin. Amach anseo, i ndiaidh an athbhreithnithe, b'fhéidir go mbeidh an fógra déanta níos luaithe sa bhliain.
Tá sé sin de dhíth. Tá an éileamh ag dul suas, áfach. Tá bunscoileanna agus meánscoileanna eile ag iarraidh níos mó airgid agus tacaíochta. Tá sárobair déanta ag an dhá dream sa Mhumhain, agus Muintearas fosta, agus b'fhéidir go mbeidh seans eile ann amach anseo. Tá córas nua á chur i bhfeidhm chun an fhadhb sin a sheachaint an chéad bhliain eile. Tá súil agam go mbeidh an scéim seo ceadaithe roimh thús na scoilbliana as seo amach.
Tá a fhios agam go bhfuil dea-scéalta ann sa Ghaeltacht ach tá cúpla dosaen daoine sna Gaeltachtaí thart timpeall na tíre ag an bomaite ag coiméad an córas le chéile lena chuid ingne, má thuigeann an tAire Stáit mé. Sin chomh deacair is atá rudaí. Tá a fhios agam nach bhfuil an tAire Stáit sa phost ach le giota beag ama agus, mar sin, nílim chun díriú an iomarca air sin. Mar gheall ar an airgead atá á chur sna pleananna teanga, áfach, tá níos mó airgid le fáil ag comhlacht amháin i faoiseamh cáin i mbliain amháin sa tír seo ná mar atá ag dul isteach i ngach plean teanga thart timpeall na tíre. Tá go leor daoine ag déanamh rudaí iontacha agus tá go leor dea-scéalta ann, ach ní féidir linn dearmad a dhéanamh ar an bhfíric nach bhfuil ach 800 páiste i mbunscoileanna sa Ghaeltacht ag teacht ó theaghlaigh lán-Ghaeilge. Sin chomh beag agus chomh caol is atá an Ghaeltacht ag an bomaite.
Chuala mé go bhfuil an-chuid brú ann ó thaobh airgead do na campaí samhraidh. Chualamar faoi oifigigh ealaíon agus oidhreachta sna comhairlí contae. I gContae na Mí, tá dhá Ghaeltacht beag ach níl oifigeach Gaeilge lán-aimseartha againn. Tá trí nó cheithre dhualgas eile ag an bhfear sin. Mar sin, ní féidir leis go leor oibre a dhéanamh air sin. Ba chóir go mbeadh dualgas ar gach comhairle contae maidir le cúraimí teanga ina gcuid limistéar mar níl aon chúraimí teanga ag na comhairlí contae thart timpeall na tíre. Is drochrud é sin agus, i mo thuairimse, de ghnáth déanann siad neamhaird ar an nGaeilge.
Bhí tuairisc nó breithiúnas le foilsiú maidir leis an Straitéis 20 Bliain don Ghaeilge agus cá bhfuilimid anois leis. Bhí sé le foilsiú i rith an tsamhraidh ach níl sé foilsithe fós. Cathain a bheidh sé foilsithe?
Rud eile atá ag teacht suas ná na toghcháin do bhord Údarás na Gaeltachta. Tá daoine sa Ghaeltacht ag rá nach bhfuil córas cumarsáide eatarthu agus Údarás na Gaeltacht níos mó mar níl na daoine ag teacht ar ais ón údarás ag rá cad atá ag titim amach. Tá daoine tofa ar bhord Údarás na Gaeltachta anois nach bhfuil aon bhaint acu leis na ceantair Ghaeltachta ar chor ar bith nó nach bhfuil aon Ghaeilge acu fiú. Is rud polaitiúil é anois é a thabhairt do chomhairleoir éigin sa pháirtí má tá an deis ann. Tá an nasc scriosta go hiomlán idir muintir na háite agus an t-údarás. Ba cheart go mbeadh two-way cumarsáid ann idir an Ghaeltacht agus an t-údarás, ach tá sé sin ar leataobh anois.
An bhfuil polasaí oileánda ag an Rialtas? An féidir linn é a fheiceáil?
Maidir leis an straitéis 20 bliain, beidh straitéis cúig bliana ag dul ar aghaidh fosta agus beidh sé sin réidh ag deireadh mhí na Samhna nó roimh an Nollaig. Beidh mé i dteagmháil maidir leis na sonraí.
Maidir leis an Ghaeilge go ginearálta, bhí an Cathaoirleach ag caint faoi Chontae na Mí agus faoi na deacrachtaí, na buntáistí agus na míbhuntáistí atá ann. Beidh ról ag agus dualgas mór ar an Roinn Oideachais agus Scileanna. Sin an fáth go bhfuil an polasaí oideachais le cur i gcrích fosta. Ba mhaith liom m'aitheantas a ghabháil chuig na hoifigigh sa Roinn Oideachais agus Scileanna mar tá siad ag obair leis na daoine sna scoileanna ón mbun aníos. Tá na daoine sna ceantair agus pobail tuaithe i mo cheantar féin freagrach as cén cineál scéimeanna a bheidh sna scoileanna. Sin dea-scéal fosta.
Taobh amuigh den Ghaeltacht, an tseachtain a chuaigh thart bhí mé i Sord agus chas mé leis na daoine sa bhunscoil. Bhí idir 750 daoine ann. Tá spreagadh mór ann sa scoil seo agus taobh amuigh den Ghaeltacht. Tá na rudaí nádúrtha ag bogadh ar aghaidh. Níl náire ar dhaoine a bheith ag labhairt Gaeilge i dTeach Laighean. Tá na ushers, na daoine uilig a oibríonn sa chistin agus achan duine eile ag labhairt Gaeilge. Is é athrú sin ar an an scéal a bhí ann cúpla bliain ó shin. Níl náire ar dhaoine botún a dhéanamh agus iad ag labhairt Gaeilge. Tá dualgas orainn uilig maidir leis na rudaí sin a bogadh ar aghaidh. Má tá smaoineamh ag éinne maidir leis sin, tá mise sásta lean ar aghaidh leis fosta.
Tá polasaí ar na hoileáin. Tá deacrachtaí ann agus sin an fáth go mbíonn na báid fharantóireachta agus an aeirsheirbhís go dtí na hoileáin Árann ann. Inniu, mar shampla, thug an tAire Stáit, an Teachta Michael Ring, tiomantas mór d'Árann Mór fá choinne ionad digiteach. Tá gach duine ag labhairt faoi leathanbhanda. Tá daoine in Manchain ó Árainn Mór, Bere Island agus Sherkin Island ag iarraidh teacht ar ais ach níl an leathanbhanda ann. Céim ar chéim, beimid ag obair i lámh a chéile fá dtaobh den todhchaí.
Tá dearcadh dearfa agam fa dtaobh den todhchaí. Leis na bóithre, na bealaí isteach go dtí na Gaeltachtaí agus an leathanbhanda, b'fhéidir go mbeidh an saol níos fearr amach anseo do na daoine ag teacht ar ais. Cím na deacrachtaí maidir leis na huimhreacha sna scoileanna fosta.
Ar an gcéad dul síos, chuir mé ceist parlaiminte ar an Aire maidir le caipiteal le cúpla mí anuas chun an t-eolas a fháil an bealach sin. Tá sé dhá bhliain ó fograíodh airgead agus ó cuireadh airgead ar fáil do ché Inis Oírr. Cén dul chun cinn atá déanta ag réiteach pleananna don cé agus cén uair a bhfuil súil anois go dtosófar ar tógáil an síneadh atá le cur leis an gcéibh sin? Cén dul chun cinn atá déanta maidir le cé Inis Meáin? Tá obair beag go maith le déanamh ansin. Rinneadh an obair mhór nuair a bhí mise mar Aire.
Maidir le hInis Oírr, an chéad choicíos a bhí mé sa phost bhí cruinniú agam leis an grúpa ó Inis Oírr agus le mo chuid oifigigh. Leanaimid ar aghaidh chuig an chomhairle contae i nGaillimh ag an am sin. Tá an comhrá ag dul ar aghaidh. Níl an spriocdháta agam ach táimid ag lean ar aghaidh. Má tá aon eolas nó sonraí ag an Teachta faoin bealach a bogadh ar aghaidh, tá mise sásta éisteacht leis. Níl aon dabht ann ach go bhfuil na céanna thar a bheith tábhachtach. Bhí mé ar Inis Oírr-----
Tá dhá bhliain caite. Bhí Fine Gael sa Rialtas i rith an ama sin. Cén dul chun cinn atá déanta le go mbeifear in ann an ché a thógáil? Níl aon mhaith a rá leis an bpobal, "Mair, a chapaill, agus gheobhair féar". Tá muintir na háite ag iarraidh a fháil amach cén uair, nuair a leaindeálfar a gcuid báid in Inis Oírr, go mbeidís in ann na báid sin a thógail isteach i gcé nua.
Chuir an Rialtas airgead chuig an togra. Thug an Rialtas gealltanas. Níl an tiomantas i gceist. Nuair a bhí bearna ann cúpla mí ó shin, d'eagraigh mé cruinniú idir mhuintir Inis Oírr agus mo chuid oifigigh. Ina dhiadh sin, níl tiomantas na Roinne i gceist. Tá dualgas mór ar achan duine. Tá an raiteas ag dul ar aghaidh. Beidh mé i dteagmháil le Comhairle Chontae na Gaillimhe tar éis an chruinnithe seo. B'fhéidir go mbeidh ceisteanna le cur ar an gcomhairle contae fosta. Má tá aon trioblóid nó aon fhadhb, tá mé anseo. Níl an t-airgead i gceist.
Okay. Tá sé sin go maith. Thug an Rialtas gealltanas don phobal ar fad i gclár an Rialtais go gcuirfear breis infheistíochta ar fáil do chúrsaí Gaeilge agus Gaeltachta. Tugadh an gealltanas céanna d'Fhianna Fáil sa socrú muinín agus soláthar eadrainn, a chlúdaíonn trí bhuiséad. Is gearr go mbeidh péire dóibh caite. Laghdú airgid a bhí i gceist go dtí seo. Ba mhaith liom ceist ghinearálta a chur ar an Aire Stáit faoi seo. An bhfuil sé i gceist ag an Rialtas seasamh lena ngealltanais, nó an gciallaíonn gealltanais aon rud? Iarraim ar an Aire Stáit gan easpa airgid a lua sa chomhthéacs seo. Tá níos mó airgid á chaitheamh againn anois ná mar a bhí á chaitheamh sa bhliain 2007, am a deirtear go rabhamar an-fhlaithiúil leis an airgead. Dháileadh i bhfad níos mó airgid don Ghaeltacht agus don Ghaeilge an tráth úd ná mar atá á chur fáil i láthair na huaire. Chiallódh €5 mhilliún 0.008% de chaiteachas an Rialtais. An bhfuil sé i gceist ag an Aire Stáit agus a chomhghleacaithe seasamh leis an ngealltanas a thug siad maidir le breis infheistíochta a dhéanamh sa Ghaeilge agus sa Ghaeltacht i dtéarma an Rialtais seo?
Dá mbeadh dóthain ama againn, bheimid in ann díospóireacht a bheith againn ar na fáthanna éagsúla a bhaineann leis na cinntí atá déanta ag an Rialtas. Mar shampla, tháinig laghdú de €26 mhilliún ar chúrsaí caipitil in Údarás na Gaeltachta. Cén fáth? Cad chuige?
Tá mé ag iarraidh freagra a fháil. Tá an tAire Stáit ag caint timpeall san aer ach níl se ag freagairt tada. Chuir mé ceist shimplí. Thug an Rialtas an gealltanas atá luaite agam. An bhfuil sé i gceist ag an Rialtas é a chomhlíonadh nó nach bhfuil?
Níl na sonraí agam. Níl sonraí ar bith agam. Ní cheart go mbeadh laghdú i gceist. Mar shampla, tá an buiséad don phlean teanga imithe ó náid go dtí €1.25 milliún. Is méadú é sin. Nuair a tháinig mé isteach sa ról seo sa bhliain 2014, fuair mé €1 milliún fá choinne Údarás na Gaeltacht fosta. Iarraim ar an Teachta stop a chur leis an gcaint mar gheall ar laghdú. Ní bheidh aon laghdú. Tá sé ag méadú. Ní bheimid ar ais go dtí 2007, 2008 nó 2009. Tá na sonraí agam faoi na fáthanna a bhaineann leis an scéal sin.
Is maith liom go bhfuil Fine Gael tar éis an méid sin a thabhairt dúinn. Tá sé i gceist ag an Aire Stáit an dubh a chur ar an mbán nó, mar a deirtear i mBéarla, "robbing Peter to pay Paul". Níl airgead breise i gceist. Caithfidh mé a rá go dtacaím go hiomlán leis an gCathaoirleach maidir leis an dá uair a cuireadh siar na toghcháin daonlathacha do bhord an údaráis. Faoi láthair, tá daoine sna comhairlí contae nach bhfuil spéis dá laghad acu sa Ghaeltacht - i gcuid de na comhairlí contae, níl duine ar bith ar an gcomhairle ón Ghaeltacht - ag ainmniú daoine le cur ar bhord an údaráis. De réir ráflaí, níl fiú an Ghaeilge ag cuid de na daoine a bhfuiltear ag caint orthu. Tá ceist agam don Aire Stáit maidir leis na hainmniúcháin atá á dhéanamh sna comhairlí contae. Má chuirtear moltaí chuige daoine a n-ainmniú nó a ceapadh ar bhord an údaráis nach dóigh leis go bhfuil Gaeilge acu, nó dóthain Gaeilge lena gcuid gnó a dhéanamh chuile lá trí Ghaeilge, agus nach bhfuil aon cheangal acu leis an nGaeltacht, an ndiúltóidh sé iad a cheapadh ar an mbord? Tá sé de dhualgas air de réir na reachtaíochta a leithéid a dhéanamh.
Bhí comhrá dearfach againn sa Seanad nuair a d'ardaigh an Seanadóir Ó Clochartaigh an cheist seo an tseachtain seo caite. Bhí comhrá tábhachtach againn faoi na fáthanna a bhfuil daoine áirithe ag iarraidh na suíocháin seo a fháil. Bhí sé socraithe i reachtaíocht na bliana 2012 go laghdófar baill an údaráis ó 20 ball go 12 ball, agus bhí comhaontú sa chomhthéacs sin. Ní bheidh an costas níos mó. Ní hé nach raibh bord an údaráis ag obair. I mo thuairim, bhí sé ag obair go breá. Tá suas le ceithre scór duine ag obair leis an údarás. Tá Comhairle Chontae Chiarraí, Comhairle Chontae Mhaigh Eo, Comhairle Chontae na Gaillimhe agus Comhairle Chontae Dhún na Gall freagrach as na hainmniúcháin a dhéanamh. Tá Comhairle Chathrach agus Chontae Phort Láirge, Comhairle Chontae na Mí agus Comhairle Chontae Chorcaí ag obair le chéile chun ainmniúchán amháin a dhéanamh. Tá sé socraithe i nDún na nGall comhghleacaí de chuid Cathaoirleach an choiste seo, John Sheamais Ó Fearraigh, a aimniú. Tá ceapachán úr déanta i nGaillimh fosta. Tuigim gur comhghleacaí de chuid an Teachta Ó Cuív atá i gceist.
Tá ceist an-sciobtha amháin eile agam. Is ceist fíor-thromchúiseach í seo. Tá go leor de na daoine seo taobh amuigh den Ghaeltacht incheaptha ar bhord an údaráis. Is seafóid é caint ar sábháil airgid, go mórmhór nuair a mhéadaigh an Rialtas deiridh go leor de na comhairlí contae. Tá líon na gcomhaltaí ar Chomhairle Chontae na Gaillimhe, mar shampla, méadaithe ó 30 ball go 39 ball. Tá 18 ball ar Chomhairle Chathrach na Gaillimhe, seachas 15 ball roimhe seo. Tharla an rud céanna ar fud na tíre. Mar sin, níl leithscéal ar bith ag an Rialtas don bhúistéireacht a rinne siad ar an údarás. Ní féidir a rá gur sábháil airgid a bhí i gceist. Chosnaigh sé €100,000 an toghchán a rith uair i ngach cúig bliana. An bhfuil sé i gceist ag an Aire Stáit treoirlínte a eisiúnt don chomhairle chontae maidir leis an gcineál cáilíocht riachtanach go mbeadh ag duine sular ndéanfar é nó í a ainmniú le bheith ceaptha ar bhord an údaráis? Ba cheart go mbeadh a fhios ag na baill cén cineál rud-----
Ba mhaith liom focal breise a rá le bheith soiléir faoi. Tá an Ghaeilge de dhíth. Tá common sense ag na comhairleoirí contae fosta maidir leis na daoine a bheidh freagrach. Tá Gaeilge ag an mbeirt ón bhFál Carrach agus ó Ghaoth Dobhair a bhí san iomaíocht sa toghchán i gcás Comhairle Contae Dhún na Gall. Tá taithí ar bheith ag obair ar son na ceantracha Gaeltachta agus ar son an teanga de dhíth fosta.
Ba mhaith liom ceist an laghdaithe nó an méadaithe a shoiléiriú. Cuireadh €7.4 milliún ar fáil do scéimeanna tacaíochta Gaeltachta sa bhliain 2016, agus d'ardaigh an figiúr sin go dtí €7.8 milliún i mbliana. Méadaíodh an €3.6 milliún a cuireadh ar fáil do scéimeanna tacaíochta Gaeilge anuraidh go dtí €3.8 milliún i mbliana.
I gcás Údarás na Gaeltachta, cuireadh €8.8 milliún ar fáil an bhliain seo caite agus ardaíodh an figiúr sin go dtí €8.9 milliún sa bhliain 2017. Tháinig méadú ó €3 milliún go dtí €3.25 milliún ar an gciste do chláir an údaráis. Ardaíodh an maoiniú le haghaidh pleanáil teanga ó €1 milliún sa bhliain 2016 go dtí €1.25 milliún i mbliana.
Baineann an clár seo le comhoibriú Thuaidh-Theas agus leis an bhForas Teanga. Tá an Foras Teanga ar cheann de na sé chomhlacht forfheidhmithe a bunaíodh faoin Acht um Chomhaontú na Breataine-na hÉireann 1999. D'éirigh liom €750,000 breise a fháil curtha san áireamh sna Meastacháin Athbhreithnithe do 2017 don Fhoras Teanga. Tá tograí éagsúla ar a gcaithfidh Foras na Gaeilge an t-airgead breise sin ceadaithe agam i mbliana. San áireamh anseo, tá an costas a bhaineann le bogadh na heagraíochta go dtí ceannáras nua ar Shráid Amiens agus tuigtear dom go bhfuil an foras istigh sa bhfoirgneamh úr cheana féin.
More than €38.6 million has been provided in 2017 to support the two North-South implementation bodies: An Foras Teanga, comprising Foras na Gaeilge and the Ulster-Scots Agency, and Waterways Ireland. These provisions are also subject to the approval of the North-South Ministerial Council. Total gross expenditure for programme D up to 30 June 2017 was €16.192 million, or 42% of the 2017 programme allocation. Approval has been received from the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform to apply capital savings of €2 million to Waterways Ireland to provide for essential works to the waterways network at a range of locations. Our waterways heritage is an essential component of Ireland's unique selling point. Waterways Ireland's programme of maintenance, investment and marketing of these hugely important and historic bodies of water is critical in this regard. I am happy to answer any questions that members may have.
Ba mhaith liom ceist a chur ar an Aire Stáit i dtús báire. In éagmais Rialtas nó Feidhmeannas ó Thuaidh, an bhfuil plé ar bun maidir le soláthar airgid don bhliain seo chugainn? Céard iad na socruithe atá i bhfeidhm ó thaobh an chomh-mhaoinithe d'Fhoras na Gaeilge agus do Bhord na hUltaise in éagmais aon Rialtas a bheith ann? An bhfuil sé i gceist breis airgid a chur ar fáil? An bhfuil an tAire agus an tAire Stáit in ann aon ghealltanais a thabhairt a chuirfidh in iúl dúinn go gcuirifidh siad cistíocht ar fáil dóibh siúd a bheidh i gceannas ó Thuaidh?
Tá teagmhail idir mo chuid oifigigh agus na daoine sa Tuaisceart. Tá sé sin go breá. Is í an bhearna is mó ná nach bhfuil aon Rialtas ann. Dá bhrí sin, ní bheidh seans agam obair a dhéanamh le mo chomhghleacaí thar an Teorainn tríd an gComhairle Aireachta Thuaidh-Theas. Tá easpa i gceist sa chomhthéacs seo. Níl a fhios agam caithin a bheidh an cruinniú deireanach. B'fhéidir go mbeidh sé roimh dheireadh na bliana, nó ag tús na bliana seo chugainn. Níl a fhios agam. Tá comhrá foirmiúil de dhíth idir na polaiteoirí tríd an gComhairle Aireachta Thuaidh-Theas, ach níl sé sin ag tarlú.
An é go mbeidh an tAire Stáit ag déileáil le Rialtas Sasana? Nuair a bhí mé san oifig seo, ba é mo thaithí ná nach raibh spéis dá laghad ag an Rialtas thall i Londain sa cheist seo nuair a bhíomar á plé leis.
Maybe I will put this question to the Minister, Deputy Humphreys. As the senior partner in the operation of the North-South bodies, has she had any ministerial meetings with her counterparts in the North since January?
Waterways Ireland and Foras na Gaeilge are continuing to operate. Waterways Ireland is continuing to invest in its projects. We have continued to fund it from our side. I think the biggest chunk of Waterways Ireland's budget comes from my Department. I understand the civil servants are given certain temporary powers.
I am a bit puzzled because even though the position was very unsatisfactory during a previous hiatus, at least we had designated Ministers from Westminster to deal with. The planning for next year has to go ahead.
We are nine or ten months into this year. The way we are going, it will soon be too late to make decisions for next year. Are there ministerial contacts between the Ministers? There must be some political control. I presume Westminster is responsible. Has the Minister had ministerial contacts with her counterparts about next year's budget?
No. I understand that no Minister from Westminster with responsibility for that has been appointed. I do not have a counterpart in Northern Ireland whom I can speak. My officials will continue to meet their counterparts in the North when needed. That is it.
Okay. I have a second question. When there was a significant level of demand for office buildings in Dublin some time ago - it is even greater now than it was then - it was proposed to sell a piece of air that was known as block C for a considerable sum of money. The idea at the time was that the money in question would be used to bring the Ulster Canal to Clones. Has there been any talk about reviving that proposal? Money could be raised in this way to fund the development of the Ulster Canal as far as Clones, which is a most strategic project. What happened to the famous piece of air that we were going to get the big money for?
The Deputy is right about the Ulster Canal project: it is very important, bringing it to Clones especially important, and I know that when the Deputy was Minister in the Department, he had a proposal for a commercial building to be sold. However, property prices then collapsed. The Ulster Canal is a priority for me and I am delighted we got it started. I got approval to start the project in 2015, when the economic situation was a lot more difficult, from Belturbet to the scout centre in Castle Saunderson. Phases 1 and 2 of that are complete and phase 3 is under way. This particular part of the canal is one of the most complex infrastructural projects on its route from Belturbet to Clones. I am working closely with Waterways Ireland - I continue to make the case for this important project - and Waterways Ireland continues to review its assets. I have not got a recent valuation on the particular property the Deputy speaks of.
We all know that if things were good around the docklands area of Dublin, they are even better now. One need only walk around there and count the cranes. This was down near the Grand Canal basin on the railway line. The Minister might come back to me and give me a brief on that. How many metres in length is this extension the Department is carrying out to Castle Saunderson?
-----is the Ulster Canal. The Government should prioritise it. It is a strategic North-South project. Every community in the North of Ireland was in favour of it so it was a real unity project. Under this new capital plan the Minister will bring in for Christmas, the project should really be prioritised. Anyone who knows what the Shannon-Erne Waterway did for that region can see that the Ulster Canal would be a major economic booster and I certainly am eager that it would proceed.
Gabh mo leithscéal, d'fhág mise an cruinniú toisc go raibh ceist Dála thíos agam. Tá a fhios ag an gCathaoirleach an chaoi a n-oibríonn an crannchur. Ní minic a thagann deis ceist a chur aníos. Ba cheist í faoi leathanbanda-----
-----agus cúrsaí forbartha tuaithe a bhí thar a bheith tábhachtach. Mar a tharla, bhí mé imithe níos faide ná mar a bhí súil agam leis, mar bhí ceisteanna tosaíochta faoin ábhar céanna agus theastaigh uaim na freagraí a thabharfaí dóibh sin le nach mbeadh mé ag déanamh athrá. Sin an míniú maidir le cá raibh mise. Tá mé gnóthach ó thosaigh an cruinniú seo.
While the Minister does not have responsibility for rural and regional affairs, her Department did and, according to my estimates and the figures given to me recently, the underspend on the rural and regional side of the new Department, not the community side, will be in the region of €30 million. Why was remedial action not taken a lot sooner to reallocate the money when it was obvious that it was not going to be spent on, for example, the Leader programme or the town and village renewal scheme? The Minister should not let anyone tell her that county councils are suddenly going to spend €12 million between 4 October and the end of the year when they could not spend in nine months the money they were given at the end of last year.
No, it is not. It is a specific question. I am asking the Minister specifically, since I have never asked her the question until now, why the money was not reallocated to other things that could be done within the calendar year to achieve full spend.
The funding was allocated to the rural side for this year. As for the spend, the Minister, Deputy Ring, as Deputy Ó Cuív knows, now has responsibility for the rural brief. In fairness to Deputy Ring, he recently announced the local improvement scheme, LIS, under which €10 million will be spent, and today he has allocated the town and village enhancement programmes. When the Departments were divided and the new Department of Rural and Community Development was set up, I no longer had any flexibility in relocating funding.
However, I do know that that funding is for rural projects and that the Minister is committed to spending it on rural projects. To discuss the rural development and rural affairs part of the Vote, which has gone to the new Department, perhaps the committee could invite the Minister, Deputy Ring, to appear before it.
It is fair to ask the Minister to account for her stewardship for as long as she had it. I will confine my comments to Leader, which she handled personally. According to the most recent answers I have received to parliamentary questions, a few hundred thousand was spent under the Leader programme and projects and €6.7 million approved. On the exact same day, in the previous programme - the one that went from 2007 to 2013 - €8 million was spent but, more importantly, we had got to €48 million approved. In other words, six times as much had been approved. Can the Minister explain how it is that in comparison with the exact same day on an equivalent programme under the previous Government, this is so slow to be rolled out?
The Deputy might be aware that last May, while Leader was under my responsibility, I met all the Leader companies. We met in the National Concert Hall, I listened to all of their concerns and, as a result of that, 31 actions were changed on the advice of the Leader companies. They said that these issues need to be addressed, and we did address them. Since then, the process has sped up in terms of applications and, as I understand it, it is working very well. The Deputy might ask why I did not bring them in sooner, and the reason is that we had to bed down the system and see where the issues were. We listened to them and the necessary changes were made. I understand that the Leader programme is now working very effectively and the projects are being processed. The most important thing is that the money gets out to the projects on the ground. As I said, the implementation of the 31 actions is well under way, with approximately two thirds of the actions implemented and substantial progress made on the remaining actions.