Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees
Wednesday, 6 March 2019
Select Committee on Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs
Estimates for Public Services 2019
Vote 33 - Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht (Revised)
A chairde, táimid i seisiún poiblí anois. Tá triúr Comhaltaí i láthair, mar is gá de bharr Bhuanordú 97A(1), agus is féidir linn tús a chur leis an gcruinniú mar sin. Tá leithscéalta faighte againn ón Teachta Niamh Smyth, nach bhfuil in ann freastal ar an gcruinniú. Iarraim ar dhaoine na fóin phóca a mhúchadh toisc go gcuireann siad as don chóras fuaime agus craolacháin. Más féidir iad a mhúchadh, seachas iad a chur ar flight mode, bheadh sé sin áisiúil dúinn. Táimid anseo inniu chun déileáil le Vóta 33, de chuid na Roinne Cultúir, Oidhreachta agus Gaeltachta agus Meastacháin Athbhreithnithe. Táimid chun plé a dhéanamh leis an Aire Cultúir, Oidhreachta agus Gaeltachta maidir leis an Vóta seo agus cuirim fáilte dá réir roimh an Aire Cultúir, Oidhreachta agus Gaeltachta, an Teachta Josepha Madigan agus roimh an Aire Stáit, an Teachta Seán Kyne agus roimh na hoifigigh ón Roinn.
Sula dtosóimid le bhur bhfianaise ba mhaith liom a chur ar bhur n-aird go bhfuil de réir alt 17(2)(l) den Acht um Chlúmhilleadh 2009, finnéithe faoi chosaint ag lánphribhléid maidir leis an bhfianaise a thugann siad don choiste seo. Má ordaíonn an coiste dóibh, ámh, éirí as fianaise a thabhairt i leith ní áirithe agus má leanann siad dá tabhairt amhlaidh, ní bheidh siad i dteideal dá éis sin ach pribhléidí cháilithe i leith na fianaise seo acu. Ordaítear dóibh gan fianaise a thabhairt ach amháin fianaise a bhaineann le hábhar na n-imeachtaí seo agus fiafraítear díobh cleachtadh parlaiminte a urramú nár cóir, más féidir, daoine ná eintiteas a cháineadh ná líomhaintí a dhéanamh ina n-aghaidh, ina n-ainm, ina hainm nó ina ainm ar shlí a bhféadfaí iad a aithint. Ba mhaith liom na finnéithe a chur ar an eolas freisin go ndéanfar na ráitis tionscnaimh seo a chuirfidh siad faoi bhráid an choiste a fhoilsiú ar shuíomh gréasáin an choiste tar éis an chruinnithe seo. Meabhraítear do chomhaltaí an cleachtadh parlaiminte atá ann le fada nár chóir dóibh tuairimí a thabhairt maidir le duine atá taobh amuigh de na Tithe nó maidir le hoifigeach ina ainm, nó ina hainm, ar shlí a bhféadfaí iad a aithint. É sin ráite cuirfimid tús leis an gcomhrá agus tugaim anois cuireadh don Aire, an Teachta Madigan, an cur i láthair a dhéanamh.
Is mór agam an deis seo a fháil inniu chun Meastacháin mo Roinne do 2019 a phlé leis an roghchoiste.
Key among these priorities is the effective delivery of my sectoral capital plan, Investing in our Culture, Language and Heritage 2018-2027, as part of Project Ireland 2040 which represents a once in a generation opportunity for my Department to conserve our unique culture and heritage and to enhance opportunities to experience them, while also stimulating tourism and local economies. The commitment by the Government to invest €1.2 billion in our culture, language and heritage over the next ten years underpins the recognition of their importance to sustainable development over the next decade and beyond. This level of investment is both unprecedented and transformative, and given the benefits that it will bring to communities across the country, I am deeply committed to ensuring that this ambitious programme of investment is delivered fully and well.
My plan for the Department will bring together for the first time all aspects of our heritage – cultural, linguistic, built and natural – under a single programme of investment with a holistic vision. It is a ten-year investment programme and projects will move through a number of stages in the delivery cycle during this time. At this relatively early stage in the process, much of our energies for 2019 will be focused on ensuring comprehensive appraisal of proposals to ensure that investment decisions are based on best available evidence and are robustly evaluated. As we move further into the delivery phase of programmes and projects, my Department will work closely with the investment projects and programmes office in the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform in terms of technical and other supports. Together we will work to ensure that all of our projects and programmes are subject to robust project governance and rigorous cost control, and are delivered to the highest standard possible.
This year, we will see some positive developments in the delivery of a number of capital projects under our sectoral capital plan as part of Project Ireland 2040. We will see the completion of phase 1 of the National Library and subsequent phases moving into detailed design and planning. We will also see significant progress on the National Archives project, beginning with the decanting of materials to facilitate development works next month, and the launch in September of Galway 2020, our European Capital of Culture, with cultural programming starting in late 2019.
On our commitments to supporting enterprise development, 2019 will see us increase our investment in the audiovisual sector through Screen Ireland and across Gaeltacht communities through Údarás na Gaeltachta. We will deliver on commitments to protect our built heritage through the built heritage investment scheme, which leverages private funding, local authority structures and central Government grants to protect our built heritage while utilising local craft and construction resources.
On our natural heritage, we are actively working with Fáilte Ireland on the implementation of our tourism interpretation master plan which will enhance visitor experiences across our national parks and nature reserves network.
The Deputies are well aware that the remit and responsibilities of my Department are very broad and diverse. I propose, therefore, to address the issues arising across my Department’s Vote on a programme by programme basis, but in the first instance, I would like to provide a broad outline of the overall position. A gross provision of just under €339 million is available to my Department in 2019. An additional €700,000 in funding has been carried over from the 2018 capital provision for expenditure on priority projects in accordance with the provisions of public financial procedures. In broad terms, the 2019 breakdown of allocations to my Vote is as follows: €189 million for culture, including €75 million for the Arts Council; €47.4 million for the national cultural institutions; €20 million for Screen Ireland; €12.2 million for cultural infrastructure and development and a dedicated funding stream of over €7 million for Creative Ireland, which is the Government’s legacy project for Ireland 2016; more than €54 million for the conservation and protection of Ireland’s built and natural heritage, including €13.7 million for natural heritage; just under €6.6 million for the Heritage Council; just over €6.3 million for built heritage, including the very successful built heritage investment scheme; €55.5 million for the Irish language, the Gaeltacht and the islands; and just under €40.4 million for North-South co-operation, including support for two North-South implementation bodies - Waterways Ireland and An Foras Teanga.
The gross allocation for my Department in 2019 is 12% higher than the comparable figure for 2018 and allows for increases in funding across a range of bodies under my Department’s remit, as well as increases in funding for a number of culture, heritage and Gaeltacht schemes.
This additional funding is targeted at key initiatives. These include a 10% increase in Arts Council funding to €75 million, including over €6 million in current funding, which is more than double the increase in 2018. It has also increased Fís Éireann funding by €2 million or 11% for implementation of the Audiovisual Action Plan;and allocated €6 million in funding for the European Capital of Culture, that is, Galway 2020. There are boosts in funding for all of the national cultural institutions; dedicated funding of over €7 million for the further development and implementation of the Creative Ireland programme; the heritage programme has additional capital of just under €5 million in 2019, an increase of some 47% on 2018, which will provide for over 520 restoration projects; and further investment in visitor services and trails at our national parks and implementation of the national biodiversity action plan.
An additional €1 million has also been provided to allow for increased investment in our waterways; an additional €2 million in funding for Údarás na Gaeltachta in addition to the €700,000 available to it via capital carryover from 2018; and an increase of 20% or €1.5 million for our islands and an increase of €600,000 for the 20 Year Strategy for the Irish Language. Almost €1.7 million in additional funding towards schemes to promote the Irish language both inside and outside the Gaeltacht has been allocated. This increased funding is tangible evidence of the importance attached to our cultural and creative heritage under Project Ireland 2040 and clearly demonstrates the Government's commitment to increase spending in the arts and culture sector on a trajectory that will see funding doubled by 2025.
My colleague, Minister of State, Deputy Seán Kyne, and I will now both make brief remarks on individual programme areas and are happy to expand later on any matter members may wish to raise. I will commence with some details on the culture programme. Some €189 million is provided in 2019 for culture. This includes boosts in funding for all of the national cultural institutions, making their combined total allocations for 2019 in excess of €47 million. Collectively, these institutions attracted more than 3 million visitors in 2018 and represent a key component of our cultural tourism product offering.
The Arts Council, our national agency for funding, developing and promoting the arts in Ireland will receive an additional €7 million in 2019 to enhance its support to artists and arts organisations of all sizes throughout the country.
Screen Ireland will receive an additional €2 million to build on its vital work in supporting Irish film, television drama, documentary and animation. This additional funding together with the extension of section 481 relief until 2024 will help develop and support the necessary environment for Ireland to become a global hub for the production of film, TV drama and animation as outlined in my Department's audiovisual action plan published last June. This industry-wide, long-term plan, under the Creative Ireland programme, will support the Government’s ambition to enable Ireland to become a global hub for this sector and the first progress report under the plan is due to be published in the second half of this year.
The Creative Ireland programme is the Government’s legacy project for Ireland 2016, which aims to harness the goodwill, engagement and momentum created by the Ireland 2016 programme and places creativity at the centre of public policy. Last year was the programme's second year and saw the successful delivery of a number of cross-departmental and inter-agency co-operative initiatives including creative schools together with the Department of Education and Skills and led by the Arts Council involving some 38,000 children; culture and creativity strategies for all 31 local authorities together with the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government; and the National Creativity Fund facilitating 30 new cross-sectoral initiatives including Le Chéile, the first music ensemble for young disabled musicians in Europe led by the Royal Irish Academy of Music and culminating in the founding of the Open Youth Orchestra of Ireland.
The increase in funding for Creative Ireland in 2019 will build on this momentum by further developing the programme as well as providing funding increases to key institutions, agencies and initiatives that deliver arts, creativity and culture right across the country.
Cruinniú na nÓg which is presented in partnership with the local authorities and RTÉ took place for the first time in 2018 and was a major success with 500 events across the country. This national day of creativity has been received positively as a way of getting children involved in new creative activities and supporting local artists and voluntary arts groups.
Ireland is the first country in the world to have a day dedicated to children’s creativity and plans for 2019 include a global programme for Cruinniú in our embassies and consul offices as part of Global Ireland 2025 in partnership with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. I think that will take place on 23 June.
Cruinniú na nÓg is part of the Creative Youth pillar of the Creative Ireland programme and will enjoy increased funding of €6 million for 2019 funded by my Department and the Department of Education and Skills to further enable the creativity of all children and young people.
Culture Ireland will deliver a global programme of Irish arts in 2019 with an increased budget of €4.6 million. It is planned to reach new markets, which Ireland is targeting for trade and tourism, including China. To achieve a wider reach for Irish arts Culture Ireland will continue to showcase Irish artists at a planned series of showcases and build on the 470 events supported in 55 countries in 2018.
As part of my Department's ongoing contribution to the Global Ireland 2025 initiative, a conference of cultural stakeholders to identify how best to advance our global visibility and strengthen our global relationships was held on 24 January 2019 involving international guests, festivals and programmers as well as business, tourism and cultural interests in Ireland. This day-long conference brought together more than 250 key stakeholders in the arts and culture community to debate how we can strategically strengthen and advance our renowned global reputation for creativity.
Finally in terms of the culture programme, €6 million has been allocated in 2019 to Galway 2020, European Capital of Culture, to allow for preparatory work on this year of unforgettable cultural experience which will allow Galway and Ireland to become a window to Europe and indeed the rest of the world.
If the Chairman wishes, I can take questions on the culture Vote here.
Funding of over €54 million has been made available in 2019 for my Department's heritage programme. This includes €38.7 million allocated for current expenditure with a further €15.4 million in capital funding and allows for increased investment in both our built and natural heritage.
There were some 8 million visits to our national parks, nature reserves and national monuments during 2018, including the Prince of Wales and his wife, the Duchess of Cornwall, who visited Killarney National Park at the end of a two-day visit to Ireland. A 10 year €100 million tourism interpretative masterplan, in partnership with Fáilte Ireland, was also launched in 2018 to improve the experience for all visitors through the provision of enhanced amenities, interpretation and recreational facilities and technology.
My Department continued to work with the Office of Public Works in the conservation of over 700 national monuments, including the very significant archaeological discoveries made at Brú na Bóinne last year.
Heritage Week continued its successful run with well over 2,000 registered events undertaken by 1,200 event organisers and some 90,000 website users.
Over the past year, my Department has engaged with a number of key stakeholders to inform a public consultation process to develop a revised and updated national heritage plan, Heritage Ireland 2030, to set out key principles and policies for conserving and managing Ireland's unique heritage over the next decade and more.
This new policy will be built around a vision that Ireland's living heritage is valued, enjoyed and protected for future generations with three themes supporting this vision, namely national leadership and heritage; heritage partnerships; and communities and heritage. Heritage Ireland 2030 will ensure a flexible, modern approach to caring for, managing and celebrating our heritage which takes account of best practice internationally.
Ireland’s first national biodiversity conference took place in Dublin Castle last month. Jointly organised by my Department and the Irish Forum for Natural Capital, the event brought together all key stakeholders from Government, public bodies, business and NGOs to identify measures to help reverse biodiversity loss and implement the National Biodiversity Action Plan 2017-2021.
I was pleased to be able to announce a number of new initiatives to protect Ireland’s biodiversity at that conference. These include doubling annual funding by my Department for biodiversity actions by local authorities’ biodiversity and heritage officers to €1 million and doubling funding to tackle invasive species by 2021.
We will also establish a climate action programme to improve understanding of the impact of climate change on biodiversity and create an Irish business and biodiversity platform in conjunction with the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation and a range of businesses. We will also improve surveillance, detection and prosecution of wildlife crime with a memorandum of understanding with An Garda Síochána.
In terms of protecting our architectural heritage, my Department's historic structures fund was launched at the end of last year. It allows for improved supports for the owners of historic buildings and structures. This fund will build on the 430 projects across all local authority areas funded through the built heritage investment scheme and the structures at risk fund in 2018.
Finally, in terms of the heritage programme area, my Department remains committed to the full and effective implementation and enforcement of the habitats directive and will continue to build on the progress achieved in the past two years with a revised special areas of conservation designation and management work programme. An increased allocation of €3 million is being made available in 2019 for peatlands restoration, conservation and management.
My colleague, the Minister of State, Deputy Kyne, will speak about the relevant aspects of the Gaeltacht, Irish language and islands Estimate. He will also deal with Foras na Gaeilge, while I will outline some details in relation to Waterways Ireland.
Is í an Straitéis 20 Bliain don Ghaeilge 2010 – 2030 bunchloch pholasaí an Rialtais i leith na Gaeilge. Tá úinéireacht tras-Rannach ag an straitéis agus baineann an fhreagracht as í a chur i bhfeidhm, dá réir, le raon Ranna agus eagrais Stáit agus eagraíochtaí Gaeilge agus Gaeltachta. Is ar mo Roinn atá an fhreagracht iomlán as cur chun feidhme na straitéise a chomhordú. Tá cur i bhfeidhm na straitéise agus, go deimhin, an plean gníomhaíochta don tréimshe ó 2018 go 2022 d’fheidhmiú na straitéise a foilsíodh anuraidh, lárnach i gcláir agus i ngníomhaíochtaí éagsúla mo Roinne mar a bhaineann le gnóthaí Gaeilge agus Gaeltachta.
Tá maoiniú breise de €6.705 milliún curtha ar fáil do mo Roinn i leith ghnóthaí Gaeilge, Gaeltachta agus oileáin don bhliain reatha. Is fiú €55.522 milliún, dá réir, an ciste iomlán airgid a bheidh le caitheamh sa réimse seo in 2019. San áireamh anseo tá ciste faoi leith ar fiú €3.2 milliún in iomlán curtha ar fáil in 2019 do chur i bhfeidhm an phróisis pleanála teanga. Is ionann é seo agus ardú €550,000 thar an méid a bhí luaite leis an gciste seo in 2018. Caithfear an ciste seo ag tacú le hullmhú agus le feidhmiú pleananna faoin bpróiseas agus ar bhearta sonracha a dhéanfar ar bhonn lárnach ar leas an phróisis, go háirithe mar a bhaineann sé le gnothaí teaghlaigh, leis na luathbhlianta agus leis na healaíona tradisiúnta teangalárnaithe.
Tá €2 milliún breise curtha ar fáil d’Údarás na Gaeltachta chun infheistíocht bhreise a dhéanamh i gcothabháil agus i gcruthú fostaíochta i gceantair Ghaeltachta. Anuas air sin, tá cinneadh tógtha agam suim de €700,000 nár chaith mo Roinn in 2018 a thabhairt ar aghaidh go 2019 le cur isteach i mbuiséad caipitil an údaráis. Ciallaíonn sé seo go mbeidh buiséad iomlán caipitil de €9.7 milliún á chur ar fáil ag an Roinn don údarás in 2019 le caitheamh ar thograí fostaíochta. Tá €500,000 sa bhreis i maoiniú reatha curtha ar fáil d’Údarás na Gaeltachta chun tacú tuilleadh le comharchumainn agus eagraíochtaí forbartha pobail sa Ghaeltacht den chuid is mó.
Tá cistíocht bhreise de €980,000 curtha ar fáil faoin gclár tacaíochtaí pobail agus teanga de chuid na Roinne chun tacú tuilleadh leis an bpróiseas pleanála teanga sa Ghaeltacht. Tá suim bhreise de €700,000 ann le haghaidh scéimeanna tacaíochta Gaeilge mo Roinne lasmuigh den Ghaeltacht. Tá allúntas breise de €1.433 milliún ann chun forbairt a dhéanamh ar infreastruchtúr na gcuan a fhreastalaíonn ar na hOileáin Árainn agus ar Thoraigh agus chun seirbhísí ríthábhachtacha iompair chuig na hoileáin a sholáthar. Sa bhreis ar an soláthar de €55.522 milliún atá luaite thuas, tá suim de €13.323 milliún le cur ar fáil don Fhoras Teanga, a chuimsíonn Foras na Gaeilge agus Gníomhaireacht na hUltaise.
Táim sásta dá réir go bhfuil cistíocht chuí curtha ar fáil chun cúram a dhéanamh do chur i bhfeidhm an phlean gníomhaíochta cúig-bliana agus is féidir leis an gcoiste bheith cinnte de go mbainfear an leas is fear agus is féidir as an gciste suntasach sin ar leas na Gaeilge agus na Gaeltachta
In terms of North-South co-operation, a provision of more than €40 million has been made available to support the two North-South implementation bodies, An Foras Teanga, which comprises Foras na Gaeilge and the Ulster-Scots Agency, and Waterways Ireland. These allocations are also subject to the approval of the North-South Ministerial Council.
In respect of Waterways Ireland, the overall allocation for 2019 is increased by more than €1 million to just over €25.1 million. More thanr 90% of the waterways remained open during the 2019 boating season. The programme of towpath redevelopment along 140 km of the Royal Canal continued throughout the year, as did work to extend navigation on the Ulster Canal from upper Lough Erne to Castle Saunderson with the completion of a bypass canal channel and new bridge at Derrykerrib. Waterways Ireland successfully hosted the World Canals Conference 2018 in Athlone with 320 delegates attending from 12 countries, 48 speakers, and seven tours taking in 11 counties and five navigations.
Táim chun ligean do na Teachtaí ceisteanna a chur. Tógfaidh mé Teachta amháin agus ansin ligfidh mé do na hAirí freagraí a thabhairt. Ansin lean muid ar aghaidh leis an gcéad Teachta eile. Ba é an Teachta Michael Collins an chéad Teachta a d'ofráil.
I thank both the Minister and Minister of State for their attendance. A couple of questions for both Ministers have been drawn to my attention. Some €339 million is available to the Department and I have no argument with the way this money is being spent. The spending areas, including the Arts Council and national cultural institutions, are vital for the whole country. There is no point in going through what the Minister has already discussed in great detail. This level of funding, and probably much more, is required. The Minister is doing the best she can with the funds available to her.
I noticed that the rural regeneration programme provided €3.5 million to the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. I am not sure for what project this money was provided. I have the details in my office; I should have brought them with me. The Department has €339 million to spend, and it could probably spend much more if it had it, but 43 community projects in Cork county alone which sought funding under the rural regeneration programme did not receive anything. How did a Department with a fund of €339 million get €3.5 million from the rural regeneration programme? Perhaps the Minister for Rural and Community Development, Deputy Ring, should answer that question. If that is the case, that is fair enough and it is a question I need to put to him. I know of one shovel-ready project that would create 20 or 30 jobs in a rural community. It is ready to roll but did not get funding, yet it sees Departments getting funding. I do not know how much Coillte got but it was many millions. This has caused great frustration. A budget of €339 million is a substantial amount of money. Is that budget being topped up with money from the rural regeneration programme? Is that included in the €339 million or is it additional? I would appreciate an answer if the Minister can provide one. If she cannot, perhaps she can come back to me. I do not want to put people on the spot but this is an important point to raise. I am trying to deal with the whole of Cork county, in which 43 projects were rejected out of hand. They were all community projects, which is very important.
I will ask another question while I have the floor, although I do not want to hog the airwaves. The Minister of State, Deputy Kyne, carried forward an underspend of €700,000 from last year. I wish I had known that money was available because the residents of eight islands in west Cork would have loved a contribution from that funding. They are probably getting something from it, but there are many genuine projects which could have used some funding. The issue of chaperones for children coming from the islands has probably been raised with the Minister of State several times. Their parents are losing work hours in the morning bringing children to and from the islands, especially Sherkin Island. An olive branch was offered to these parents to the effect that, if the school closed, a chaperone would be provided to bring the children to the school so that parents could go to work in the morning.
A lot of people are reconsidering living on an island. They might need to be at work at 8 o'clock in the morning and that cannot happen because they have to bring the children to school off the island at 9 a.m. They have to be there again at 2 p.m. or 3 p.m. to bring them back. We are losing people from the island. There is €0.7 million of an underspend. Can it be directed back towards people like that to give them a better quality of island life? I would appreciate if the Minister could give me an insight into that.
The Deputy is correct that there is €339 million provided to the Department. My understanding is that from the rural fund we got €7.381 million for heritage and €3.86 million for the Gaeltacht. Many of our projects are in rural areas. In respect of Cork, there was funding of €5.4 million in arts grants in 2018, including to the Cork Butter Museum, Cork county council, Briery Gap, and the Sirius Arts Centre. West Cork Arts Centre got €1,272. Funding went to St. Peter's Cork Leisure World, Cork Opera House, the National Sculpture Factory, Graffiti Theatre, Firkin Crane, the Everyman Theatre, the Cork Arts Theatre, and the Glen Theatre. There is a long list of projects that were funded in Cork. There were also built heritage grant payments to the old schoolhouse in Newmarket, and to projects in Macroom, Carrigaphooca, which is where my grandfather was born, Rossacon Newmarket, Myrtle Grove, Emmet Place and a few more. A substantial amount was given from the structures at risk fund to Castle Bernard and to the charcoal burning house. Many grants are being given to many things. These are grants from our Department to show how much we do rurally. The rural fund will fund our national parks as well.
I do not want to make it look as if we are not grateful for that in Cork but I wanted to concentrate on the rural regeneration programme. The Department is being given funds and unfortunately other areas are losing out. The Department has a fund of €339 million already. It is just a point I needed to make. I will take it up with the Minister, Deputy Ring.
As a former Minister of State in the Department of Rural and Community Development, I can tell the Deputy that the rural regeneration fund which the Minister, Deputy Ring, devised and for which we secured funding represents the first large-scale fund of this type outside the Gaeltacht areas that is cross-departmental, and a number of State agencies have applied. Within my own Department, Údarás na Gaeltachta benefited from a number of projects within that such as the gTeic technology hubs in An Spidéal and other areas. It is a wonderful initiative that groups like Údarás na Gaeltachta can apply to that fund and secure funding. It has added to the overall funding from Údarás na Gaeltachta for the year.
On the underspend, there was a capital underspend of €0.7 million which was transferred to Údarás na Gaeltachta. That was under C3, the Gaeltacht support schemes, under which a number of projects that were expected to draw down money were not available. That is capital funding; even if we were to decide to fund the chaperones, that would be from current funding. The Department provided extra sailings at additional cost to the Department to accommodate the school closure in Sherkin. As the Deputy will remember, I was there that day at the celebration, not of the school's closure, but of its being, I suppose. We funded extra sailings so we would have expected that another agency or Department would have been able to fund the chaperone. Certainly, if it was agreed upon when the decision was made to close the school, then I would expect the Department of Education and Skills should be in a position to examine the matter again. A conscious decision was made to close the school and that could not have been an easy decision for some parents to accept at the time. If there were promises or commitments given, they should be honoured by other Departments.
On the last point raised by Deputy Collins, I would like to record the appreciation of the people of the greater Athy area in south Kildare for the €2.7 million that was recently awarded under the rural regeneration fund, predominantly for the upgrade of Athy heritage centre. I am chairman of the Friends of Athy heritage centre museum. The €2.7 million is going to lead to the development of the Ernest Shackleton centre, safeguarding and promoting a key part of our heritage. We are very proud of the fact that Ernest Shackleton was born and raised just outside Athy in the village of Kilkea. The funding also brings potential from a tourism perspective and shows that where Departments come together and push towards producing projects, there are spin-offs for an area.
Could the Minister provide details on the creative youth project, how it is progressing and her plans for its development in 2019? If she has anything specific to my own county of Kildare I would be very interested to hear about it. Also key for us in Athy and south Kildare are our waterways. The plan was for the Barrow blueway to go from Lowtown and Robertstown all the way through south Kildare into Carlow. It ran into some planning difficulties in Carlow and is currently with An Bord Pleanála. I assure the Minister that the people of Kildare south are very ambitious about the project, which is with Waterways Ireland. I do not expect the Minister to have an answer today but she is aware of my interest in it. I have spoken to her about it previously and would be grateful for everything she and her Department can do to ensure the delivery of the Barrow blueway takes places as soon as possible. It will be another strand in developing our serious tourism potential and a recreational facility for the people of south Kildare and those who visit our area.
In respect of investment in built heritage in 2019, the Minister might talk through her plans, including any specific plans for south Kildare, if she has them.
On creative youth, significant progress has been made for this scheme. It was published at the end of 2017 and originally encompassed about 150 schools. We are going to roll it out to 300 schools. Some schools in the Deputy's area are Scoil an Linbh Íosa in Prosperous, Scoil Mhichíl Naofa in Athy and Scoil Mhuire junior school in Ballymany in Newbridge. This is in conjunction with the Department of Education and Skills. It has been a great success. We also have three new pilot local creative youth partnerships, which are being led by Kerry, Laois, Offaly and Limerick. They were announced after a competitive process. These partnerships aim to enhance creative and cultural activities in disadvantaged areas. The creative schools programme has been particularly successful and in the future I would like to see it further rolled out to more than just 300 schools. We try to encompass DEIS schools, primary and secondary schools, so there is a mixture of different schools being able to benefit from it. There are also culture liaisons between the schools trying to assist the children and the schools in coming up with different projects. It is all about having the children participate and enjoy creativity.
On built heritage in Kildare, in 2018 Carbury church received a grant of €5,000, and grants were also received by Donaghcomper church ruins in Celbridge, St. Michael's church in Athy, and Riverstown House in Kildangan. In November 2018 I announced about €4.3 million in funding for the built heritage investment scheme and historic structures fund. Both schemes were open for applications until 31 January 2019. The applications are being assessed at the moment and I expect to announce the successful projects under both schemes before the end of this month. Since 2016, these schemes have funded more that 1,100 projects across every local authority area in the country. I was very pleased to be able to allocate €1 million in additional funding to the schemes for 2019. Kildare County Council has been allocated €79,000 under the built heritage investment scheme for 2019, which is up 58% compared to 2018.
Funding for any projects in County Kildare under the historic structures fund in 2019 will be additional to this and will be announced after the assessments have taken place.
The Deputy asked about the River Barrow blueway. I believe in that project, too, and I am watching the development closely.
I also have a few questions. Everybody appreciates when funding is invested in one's local community. Thankfully, due to the economic situation, we have seen an increase in some of the funding available for local communities and some of the investment in the arts, heritage and culture. Investment in those areas is often returned in spades and enhances our international reputation, a subject to which I will return.
There are a number of questions that we will return to later. Members asked questions about the film industry, including the specific numbers of jobs being created by the significant investment in the industry over the years and the enhanced investment this year.
We will leave the question about the theatre because I do not wish to discuss the Abbey Theatre today. The particular problems that arose are being addressed-----
We wish the theatre well and I do not wish to go over old ground. Per Cent for Art is a public sculpture scheme that is available for installations along motorways and at other major capital projects. I am interested that the Government has the ability to commission major capital projects. One such project, the national children's hospital, is in the news for the wrong reasons but there are other schemes. Is it intended to ensure that art forms part of those works, whether in public view, in the corridors of a building or elsewhere? Will the Minister elaborate on that?
The committee previously heard presentations from the Local Authority Museum Network, which represents smaller, local museums, in which it explained the additional burdens on local museums and, in some cases, the need to access funding for works around the museum and for security. The network stated when people visit local museums, in many ways the museums do not have the security or wherewithal to protect their works in the way they should, and that it would be easier for them to digitalise some of their collections, put them on display in facsimile and send them back to the families who granted them access or send them to the national programme. In my dealings with the national institutions, I have noted their strong desire to make as much of their collections as possible available to the public online, given the new technology available.
I had hoped to attend a highly successful project in the past two weeks, namely, the digitalisation of pension and other records, which is being run by the Department of Defence. The project is accessible and the website receives a high number of hits from around the world. An online study programme for the Book of Kells has been made available this week by Trinity College and anybody can take part in it. It is another example of our national treasures being made available beyond our shores and beyond their physical limits. I am interested to learn whether the funding that is available can be considered for the future. Two other museums have been mooted, including moving the Garda museum from Dublin Castle to Kevin Street where the original Peeler station - it was not a Garda station - existed. Is that being considered now that Kevin Street Garda station has been fully built and the old building can be vacated?
Representatives of the Heritage Council appeared before the committee on a number of occasions in the past year, including once or twice since I took over the Chair. The council sought funding to ensure it would have the full cohort of staff it requires. Representatives from the Local Authority Heritage Officer Network also appeared before the committee and appealed for funding to be made available through the Minister's good offices or through local authorities in order that each local authority could have a heritage officer in place.
I was delighted to hear the Minister mention the additional money to address invasive species, such as Japanese knotweed, rhododendrons and another which I cannot remember. It appears from legislation that only two species are reportable. If one sees Japanese knotweed and the other weed, which is yellow, one is supposed to report it and the local authority is supposed to take action. In the case of the yellow one, which is usually seen on derelict building sites and so on, there does not seem to be any action taken to remove it or stop its spread. On rhododendrons, the Minister mentioned Killarney National Park, which is being strangled by rhododendrons. However, it is not the only major heritage area that needs the wherewithal and personnel to deal with this. Members of a men's shed travelled to Killarney on separate weekends this year to try to help because all that is needed to remove rhododendrons is labour. The question is how we can encourage that type of meitheal or attitude. While I accept some funding is available, it is not only a matter of funding. Rather, we must try to mobilise the local community to get stuck in and remove the plants. I do not know enough about Japanese knotweed but I think it is strangling our waterways and the same type of action might be required, that is, physical work rather than funding. While the latter will help, it needs to be spent and the local authorities need to ensure it is spent on as many people as possible.
On the recent scandalous attack on St. Michan's Church and the beheading of the crusader, although the head has, thankfully, been returned, this incident strengthens the call for an increase to the historic structures fund in order that security can become a part of it. It should not just cover the protection of the structure but also the exterior and surveillance to ensure that people will be discouraged from carrying out such actions.
There have been other attacks and wanton vandalism of some of our historical structures.
The canal is just outside my door. If I throw a stone from my back garden, it lands in the canal in Dublin. The problem with the Grand Canal is that it is the responsibility of Waterways Ireland, which is not under the aegis of the Department. Few barges travel on the Grand Canal, except on certain weekends. The towpath is fine on one side but in the Bluebell, Inchicore and Clondalkin areas, there is land on both sides of the canal, which should be enhanced. This is not a criticism of the grant this year. I simply wish to encourage Waterways Ireland and the local authorities that back onto the canal to plan something that can be worked on quickly. The land is there and its improvement could be delivered quickly.
I will let the Minister answer those questions, before posing more.
An é go gcaithfidh an tAire Stáit imeacht?
I will try to answer all of the Chairman's questions, but if I miss any, I ask him to remind me at the end. He referred to the film industry in general and we have spoken about it in the Dáil by way of parliamentary questions. At the moment, according to the Olsberg report, there are approximately 12,000 whole-time equivalent jobs in the audiovisual sector and the sector is worth approximately €1.1 billion to the economy.
I have said that I intend to reform the per cent for art scheme and a proposal in that regard is currently under consideration. It is clear that the existing €64,000 project limit should be revisited. At the moment, the scheme provides financial support for art works and thresholds are in place, namely, 1% up to €2.55 million, up to a maximum of €25,500, and then they go up incrementally. I am looking at revising those limits to double the level of financial support, broadly speaking. I am also looking at establishing a new, higher contribution for the largest projects. We are also looking at improving data collection and re-establishing the interdepartmental committee to improve the flow of information in the context of harmonisation and the implementation of the scheme. I have not finally decided exactly how much will be involved but the point made by the Deputy is important. The scheme is useful from an aesthetic perspective, as well as helping artists. I intend to revise the scheme as soon as possible.
Reference was made to museums in general. We have a digitisation fund under the National Development Plan, NDP, of approximately €10 million. Some of that funding has been used for projects. On the mobility of our collections, while funding is available for local and regional galleries and museums, there are costs associated with transport. I believe the Chairman's father was involved with the National Museum of Ireland so he will be aware of the difficulties that face museums in terms of transporting pieces from the national collections to and from the institution, including the costs of insurance while they are being transported and the costs of exhibiting pieces. Just to go back a bit, in the context of the digitisation of collections, the Chester Beatty Library is a good example. There was a poor uptake of the mobility of collections scheme in 2016. In fact, there was only one applicant so the allocation was reduced for 2017. In that year, only four projects were supported from seven applications. The remaining three were not fully eligible. The funding, based on demand, is there and was held at €25,000 for 2018. A total of €9,122 was awarded to three projects under the scheme in 2018. Given the declining demand for this scheme, consideration is being given to a reduced allocation in 2019. As with anything else, if it is under-utilised, it is difficult to secure funding for it. I appreciate the comments that the Chairman made on the scheme-----
Comments were made to me about difficulties with the way the scheme is structured, the lead-in times and the fact that availing of it takes a long time to plan. That is the nature of it. I will try to find a record of what was said to me and send it on to the Minister. Those who commented were not criticising the amounts involved but said that they had difficulties because they were smaller museums. We will get back to the Minister on that.
I will come back to that again.
On digitisation, one initiative is the Beyond 2022 project, Ireland's virtual record treasury. An allocation of €95,000 was approved to support the transition phase of that initiative. It is being led by Trinity College, Dublin and is a very exciting project. It will go a long way to preserving our collections and records, which are important in the context of Irish history.
Reference was made to invasive species, particularly Japanese knotweed. It is difficult to deal with them but it is something that we must tackle. It is an offence to spread alien invasive species and responsibility for dealing with such species ultimately falls to the landowner. The law is enforceable to some extent but it is difficult in the case of individuals who allow species such as knotweed or rhododendron to infest lands around their property, particularly if they are elderly or infirm. Many introductions are accidental but some are deliberate. In terms of invasive fish species, accidental introductions can happen when they are carried on the bottom of boats or get caught in fishing tackle and so on. The Asian clam is an insidious, highly invasive freshwater species and it is often difficult to acquire sufficient proof for prosecutions for that particular species. New regulations, which transposed the 2014 EU regulations on invasive species, have been introduced here. The EU published a new regulation, which came into operation on 1 January 2015. It aims to establish a framework for concerted action across the EU to prevent the spread of invasive species to protect biodiversity and the economic health of certain sectors. The former Minister at my Department, Deputy Heather Humphreys, announced the establishment of an invasive fund in late 2017 for the targeted removal of invasive alien species, particularly those listed under the EU regulation. Funding can be provided to local authorities for projects led by the authorities themselves or by community groups. The fund amounts to €150,000 in the first year of operation, which was 2018, and I increased that to €200,000 this year. I announced that increase at the National Biodiversity Conference. I also promised at that conference to double the funding. The Chairman's points about invasive species are important. He made specific reference to rhododendron.
Rhododendron clearance continued throughout 2018 at Glenveagh National Park. There are many different invasive species but approximately €600,000 was allocated for nationwide rhododendron clearance in 2018. Since 2011, the Department has invested approximately €1.25 million in tackling rhododendron clearance, specifically in Killarney National Park. Approximately €300,000 was spent in 2017, with €110,000 spent on clearing rhododendron in Glenveagh National Park.
Doubling the previous funding amount to tackle invasive species is an important commitment. It is important that we do everything we can to mitigate the problem because they can take over lakes and ponds and ruin natural ecosystems and habitats.
Reference was made to the head of the crusader. It is good and we are happy that it has been found. In the recovery of the archaeological remains taken from the church the National Museum of Ireland, as the principal organisation with responsibility, assisted An Garda Síochána and provided advice, as required.
Funding for the Heritage Council has increased by 80% since 2012 under successive Fine Gael-led Governments. The appointment of heritage officers is a matter, in the first instance, for the local authorities, but such officers are funded jointly by the Heritage Council. I approved the allocation of funding for the council to hire a biodiversity officer, something it has done. It has also recruited Ms Virginia Teehan as its new CEO. I met her last week.
Reference was made to the Grand Canal. I understand Waterways Ireland will look to extend the blue way to the River Shannon when funding permits. It is definitely within our horizon as something at which we should look.
Tá seilbh ag an Aire Stáit chun freagraí a thabhairt dúinn. Tá súil agam go bhfuil loads of freagraí aige. Níor chuir mé aon cheist. Ní raibh mórán os mo chomhair ach ba mhaith liom fiosrú mar gheall ar mhaoiniú do na pleananna i gcomhair ardoifig Chonradh na Gaeilge. Bhí plean ag an gconradh roimhe seo agus tá plean nua aige anois chun athmhaisiú agus atógáil a dhéanamh ar chúl an fhoirgnimh. Is foirgneamh tábhachtach stairiúil é. Bhí sé i gceist go mbeadh an conradh chun an áit a dhéanamh slán sábháilte agus chun é a dhéanamh cinnte de go mbeadh sé nua-aoiseach.
Bhí ceist eile agam maidir le maoiniú do Raidió Rí-Rá agus a leithéid. An bhfuil aon airgead breise ag an Aire Stáit le tabhairt do thograí dá leithéid?
Gabhaim buíochas leis an gCathaoirleach. Bhí deis agam le déanaí cuairt a thabhairt ar 7 Sráid Fhearchair chun breathnú ar an bhfoirgneamh, chun casadh le foireann Chonradh na Gaeilge, agus chun breathnú ar na pleananna atá ag an gconradh. Tá a fhios agam go bhfuil na pleananna á bplé le Comhairle Cathrach Bhaile Átha Cliath faoi láthair. Beidh siad ag dul ar aghaidh le cur isteach iarratas ar chead pleanála go luath. Tá an togra seo luaite sa phlean forbartha náisiúnta, NDP. Tá €4 milliún luaite leis. Is é an plean atá ag an gconradh ná é a cómhaoiniú le Comhairle Cathrach Bhaile Átha Cliath agus le Fáilte Éireann. Is plean iontach é. Tá a fhios againn go bhfuil an-stair ag baint leis an ionad sin ó thaobh Chogadh na Saoirse agus cúrsaí na tréimhse sin. Tá an-tábhacht ag baint leis an bhfoirgneamh. Táimid sásta go bhfuil an togra luaite sa NDP agus go mbeidh airgead ar fáil ó mo Roinn féin.
Tá an Roinn ag cur €75,000 isteach i Raidió Rí-Rá. Tá cruinniú le socrú leis an Aire, an Teachta Bruton, mar gheall ar mhaoiniú chun Raidió Rí-Rá a chraoladh ar FM. Phléigh mé an t-ábhar sin arís ag cruinniú le déanaí. Tá a fhios againn gur chas foireann an stáisiúin leis an iarAire Cumarsáide, Gníomhaithe ar son na hAeráide agus Comhshaoil, an Teachta Naughten, nuair a bhí sé sa phost. Tá sí anois ag iarraidh casadh leis an Teachta Bruton chun ceisteanna maoiniú a phlé chun go mbeidh an stáisiún craolta ar FM.
Tá ceisteanna ullamh agam. Ní cóir go mbeadh aon imní ar an gCathaoirleach faoi sin. Dúirt an tAire Stáit go bhfuil €1.5 milliún breise le haghaidh na gcalafort in Inis Meáin, Inis Oírr, agus Toraigh. Glacaim leis nach easpa airgid a bheidh mar fhadhb againn ach easpa dul chun cinn ó thaobh pleanála de. An bhfuil an tAire Stáit in ann a rá liom ag an bpointe seo cá seasaimid leis na trí thogra sin - Inis Meáin, Inis Oírr, agus Toraigh? Cén uair a bheifí ag súil leis anois go dtosófar ag cur sluaistí sa lámh ar an talamh chun dul ag tochailt agus ag tógáil? Is cuimhin liom go cuireadh €6 milliún ar fáil le haghaidh céibhe Inis Oírr in 2015, i rith tréimhse an Rialtais dheiridh. Táimid in 2019 agus níl aon chosúlacht air go bhfuil an oiread sin dul chun cinn. Cinnte dearfach, níl dada feicthe againn ar an talamh. Sin mo chéad cheist. Tógfaidh mé ceann ar cheann iad.
Ba mhaith liom é a chur ar an taifead freisin go bhfuil breis acmhainní curtha ar fáil. Nuair a bhí mise i m'Aire Stáit an uair dheireanach, chuireamar airgead isteach ó thaobh an córas ingearáin agus cuireadh maoiniú caipitil ar fáil chun dhá chraein nua a cheannach do chéibh Mhachaire Rabhartaigh agus céibh Thoraigh. Tá sé sa phlean forbartha náisiúnta go ndéanfaí athfhorbairt ar chéibh Mhachaire Rabhartaigh. Tá cainteanna ar siúl ag mo Roinn le Comhairle Contae Dhún na nGall. Tá doiciméid tairisceana á réiteach chun comhairleoirí a fhostú i leith na céibhe.
Mar a dúirt mé, tá sé leagtha amach sa phlean forbartha náisiúnta. Tá an obair ag dul ar aghaidh. Tá comhairleoirí á bhfostú. Tá cainteanna ag dul ar aghaidh le Comhairle Contae Dhún na nGall. Tá a fhios ag an Teachta go bhfuil próiseas ann ó thaobh a leithéid seo de thogra. Caithfimid leanúint ar aghaidh le gach uile chéim go dtí go bhfuilimid in ann tairiscintí a lorg agus conraitheoirí a chur ag obair. Caithfimid dul tríd an bpróiseas, so níl mé in ann a rá cén uair a thosóidh an obair sin ar Thoraigh. Ó thaobh Inis Meáin de, bhí an Teachta ag plé leis an gcúpla céim sa Chaladh Mór. Tá an tríú céim de mar chuid den phlean forbartha náisiúnta. I láthair na huaire tá Comhairle Contae na Gaillimhe i dteagmháil le páirtithe leasmhara chun tuiscint a fháil ar na tosaíochtaí don togra sin. Gabhfaidh an tuiscint sin le moltaí mo Roinne maidir leis an bhforbairt. Táthar ag súil go mbeidh críoch leis an bpróiseas sin go gairid agus go mbeifear ábalta dul i dtreo iarratas ar chead pleanála ina dhiaidh sin. Mar is eol don Teachta, tá mo Roinn ag íoc as innealtóir do Chomhairle Contae na Gaillimhe. Tá an t-innealtóir sin ag obair sa Chaladh Mór agus ar Inis Oírr chun dul ar aghaidh leis na tograí tábhachtacha sin. Mar a dúirt mé, táthar ag dul i dtreo iarratais ar chead pleanála don Chaladh Mór. Beidh obair le déanamh roimhe sin ach tá an próiseas ag leanúint ar aghaidh. Ó thaobh Inis Oírr-----
Tá. Ó thaobh cé Inis Oírr, tá a fhios agam go bhfuil fás an-mhór ar na huimhreacha atá ag dul isteach go hInis Oírr agus an obair fós le críochnú. Tá faitíos ar mhuintir Inis Oírr maidir le sábháilteacht daoine ar an gcéibh. Ó thaobh an togra, tá athbheochan déanta ar an tionscadal. Arís tá an fhorbairt sin luaite sa phlean forbartha náisiúnta. Tá cead pleanála don fhorbairt faighte. Leanfaidh sé sin ar aghaidh faoi stiúir Chomhairle Contae na Gaillimhe. Leanfar leis an réamhobair maidir leis an bhforbairt. Cheadaigh mé airgead chun obair shuirbhéireachta a dhéanamh ar an togra sin. Tá an obair sin ag dul ar aghaidh faoi láthair. Cheadaigh mé thart ar €27,000 nó €28,000 chun an obair sin a dhéanamh chun gur féidir dul ar aghaidh leis an togra agus na doiciméid tairisceana a ullmhú. Tá sé ag dul ar aghaidh go céimiúil. Tá súil agam go mbeifear in ann obair a thosú an bhliain seo chugainn.
Táimid ag caint ar 2020.
Tá dhá cheist shonracha agam. I gcás Inis Meáin, tá na hoileánaigh ag iarraidh go ndéanfar an chuid is saoire agus is simplí den obair, is é sin tochailt isteach agus an tóch as a leanúint isteach i dtreo na tamhna, agus é a dhéanamh domhain dá réir istigh sa chalafort atá ann i láthair na huaire. Tá sé réasúnta éasca é sin a dhéanamh sa mhéid is nach uisce domhain atá i gceist. Creidim go bhfuil an chomhairle contae ag breathnú ar rud a bheadh i bhfad níos deacra a dhéanamh, is é sin chun dul amach san fharraige agus sa domhaine, agus an tonnchosc a chur amach. Bheifí ag ceapadh gur mhaith é sin a fhágáil go dtí arís, agus tabhairt faoin obair fíor-phráinneach atá le déanamh mar tá fadhb ollmhór ann mar nach dtéann an bád lastais ag an gcé sin ar chor ar bith, mar deir siad nach féidir leo tiontú taobh istigh. Má bíonn an aimsir go dona ar chor ar bith, ní théann siad ar chor ar bith go dtí an t-oileán agus tá tionscadail ar an oileán atá ag brath ar an gcé le lastas a fháil isteach, mar ní cheadaítear an lastas a thabhairt isteach ar na báid paisinéirí. Ba mhaith liom soiléiriú a fháil ar cé acu de na tionscnaimh atá i gceist: an ceann taobh istigh nó an ceann taobh amuigh?
Is ceist é sin do na comhairleoirí. Tá a fhios agam go raibh na pleananna ann anuraidh, is é sin go raibh an dá thogra le chéile agus go mbeidh siad ag tógáil na clocha ón gcaladh mór agus iad a úsáid in Inis Oírr. Tá cead pleanála faighte in Inis Oírr-----
Tá cead pleanála faighte in Inis Oírr agus beidh tús curtha leis an obair sin roimh an obair ar Inis Meáin, cé nach bhfuil cead pleanála faighte in Inis Meáin faoi láthair. Tá moill freisin maidir leis an bpróiseas úr don tionscadal seo maidir le léas úr a bheith i bhfeidhm cheana sa cheantar. Tá Comhairle Contae na Gaillimhe ag fiosrú roghanna maidir leis an ábhar seo ó thaobh ceist Inis Oírr.
An cheist atá agamsa anois ná go bhfuil sé all right a rá go bhfuil sé suas do na comhairleoirí, ach má thagann na comhairleoirí ar ais ag rá gur féidir cé den scoth a thógáil ach go gcosnóidh sé €150 milliún, cheapfainn go ndéarfaí nach bhfuil luach ar airgead ar é sin agus gur chóir dearmad a dhéanamh air. Mar sin, an bhfuil treoir airgid tugtha ag an Roinn nó cén cineál buiséid atá i gceist? Níl aon mhaith a bheith ag caint ar rudaí agus ag pleanáil rudaí nach dtarlóidh. Ag an am céanna, dhéanfadh sé an-leas go deo dá mbeadh an obair taobh istigh déanta, is é sin doimhniú a dhéanamh ar an áit taobh istigh, agus an bealach cosanta nó an tonnchosc a thógáil isteach. An bhfuil an Roinn fós ag breathnú ar an dá rud agus an bhfuil an t-airgead ag an Roinn chuige, fiú dá molfaí go ndéanfaí an rud taobh amuigh, agus go mbeadh an rogha sin go maith?
Tá an plean luaite sa phlean forbartha náisiúnta. Tá airgead luaite do gach uile bhliain don Roinn Cultúir, Oidhreachta agus Gaeltachta. Braitheann sé ar an bpraghas agus má tá difríocht sa phraghas nach rabhamar ag súil leis, beidh orainn dul i dteagmháil arís leis an Roinn Caiteachais Phoiblí agus Athchóirithe. Tá an próiseas seo cosúil le haon togra eile. Mar is eol don Teachta, tá praghsanna ag ardú i ngach togra mar an gcéanna, agus is í sin an chaoi ina bhfuil rudaí faoi láthair. Teastaíonn an obair shuirbhéireachta uainn mar bhí obair déanta anuraidh, agus cé go bhfuil an cé nua sa chaladh mór, tá difríocht anois mar gheall ar an gcé sin ó thaobh na dtonnta agus rudaí mar sin. Caithfidh na comhairleoirí an obair a bhí déanta acu anuraidh a dhéanamh arís go dtí go mbeidh siad cinnte ar cén chaoi a bhféadfaí dul ar aghaidh leis an togra sin. Tá an méid sin oibre ag dul ar aghaidh faoi láthair. Táimid ag íoc as an innealtóir agus tá siad i dteagmháil le comhairleoirí maidir leis an togra sin.
-----tá beatha agus slí mhaireachtála ag daoine i gceist anseo. Mar a deir an seanfhocal: "Mair, a chapaill, agus gheobhaidh tú féar." Seans nach mbeidh féar ar bith ann sa chás seo.
Caithfidh mé a rá agus feictear domsa gurb éard atá ag tarlú ná go ndéantar staidéar, agus ansin déantar staidéar eile, agus fós staidéar eile, agus ansin go ndeirtear go gcaithfimid staidéar eile a dhéanamh. Ag an am céanna níl tada tarlaithe. I gcás Inis Oírr tuigeann an tAire Stáit an chontúirt. Níl aon tonnchosc ar chuan na cé agus nuair a tharlaíonn an aimsir a bheith go dona, tá baol uafásach go gcaithfear daoine isteach san fharraige.
Tá an tAire Stáit ag rá go dtosóidh sé sin in 2020. An é sin an ché leis féin, nuair a bhí caint éigin ar áit a réiteach le haghaidh busanna agus trapanna agus rudaí mar sin?
Aontaím leis sin mar is féidir le haon cheist eile a dhéanamh neamhspleách agus arís, ar an talamh tirim.
Is é an dara rud ná go gcloisim go bhfuil ganntanas airgid fós ag Údarás na Gaeltachta. Céard atá ar bun lena dhéanamh cinnte de go mbeidh dóthain airgid caipitil ar fáil le go mbeidh an t-údarás in ann na tograí ar fad a mbeadh tairbhe ag baint leo a chur chun cinn? Tá sé seo ag éirí thar a bheith práinneach i gcomhthéacs an rud a tharla do HID Global agus rudaí mar sin. Tá a fhios agam nach raibh neart go pearsanta ag an Aire Stáit air sin, ach é sin ráite, tá gá le fostaíocht sa Ghaeltacht agus ní deas an rud é go mbeadh an t-údarás ag rá le mo leithéidí gur bhreá leis é seo a dhéanamh, ach tá brú airgid air. An bhfuil an t-údarás tar éis an airgid ar fad a bhí ag gabháil dó go dtí seo i mbliana a tharraingt anuas?
Breis ar chuir an t-údarás fáilte roimhe. Bhí sé sásta agus fuaireamar, mar is eol don Teachta breis airgid freisin ó chiste na Roinne Forbartha Tuaithe agus Pobail chun leanúint ar aghaidh le tograí cosúil leis an GTech sa Spidéal agus mar sin de. Tá an Rialtas ag comhoibriú lena chéile chun acmhainní a chur ar fáil d'eagraíochtaí Stáit ar nós Údarás na Gaeltachta. Foilsíodh na figiúirí ó thaobh post ag tús na bliana agus bhí ardú ar na huimhreacha.
Tá a fhios agam go raibh scéal fada maidir le HID Global agus níl mé ag cur aon mhilleán ar Údarás na Gaeltachta mar go ndearna sé gach uile rud i gceart. Is comhlacht príobháideach é HID Global a rinne cinneadh, agus rinne an t-údarás gach rud a bhféadfadh sé a dhéanamh chun HID Global a choimeád sa Ghaeltacht.
Buíochas le Dia, tá na poist ag fanacht i nGaillimh. An bhfuil Údarás na Gaeltachta ag fáil an méid airgid a bhfuil sé ag iarraidh? Níl, ach tá sé ag fáil airgead suntasach agus bhí ardú suntasach i mbliana ó thaobh an mhéid airgid a cuireadh ar fáil dó. Fuair an t-údarás breis airgid i dtaca le hathbhreithniú an bhuiséid 2017, agus fuair sé breis airgid arís in 2018 agus in 2019. Aon airgead atá ar fáil tríd an bpróiseas athbhreithnithe buiséid, nó airgead gur theip orainn a chaitheamh sa réimse caiteachais, cuirimid an t-airgead sin ar fáil don údarás. Ba sin an fáth a bhfuaireamar €500,000 maoiniú reatha chun tuilleadh tacaíochta a thabhairt do chomharchumainn.
Is ardú suntasach a theastaíonn ó na comharchumainn ar na hoileáin agus sa Ghaeltacht é sin. Táthar in ann an €700,000 nár chaith mo Roinn in 2018 a thabhairt ar aghaidh go 2019. Beidh buiséad iomlán caipitil de €9.7 milliún ar fáil don Roinn in 2019. Beidh airgead breise ar fáil, mar shampla €2 milliún ó chiste réigiúnach an Roinn Gnó, Fiontar agus Nuálaíochta. Beidh airgead ag teacht ón Roinn Forbartha, Tuaithe agus Pobail freisin. Beidh níos mó ná €12 milliún ar fáil don údarás in 2019 chun obair a dhéanamh ar tograí trasna na Gaeltachta.
Má bhreathnaíonn an tAire Stáit siar ar na cuntais feicfidh sé go raibh. An bhfuil mórán céille leis an gcóras atá ann i láthair na huaire? Faoin gcóras sin, bíonn ar an údarás dul isteach i bpróiseas iomaíoch le Ranna eile le cuid den chistíocht a fháil seachas cistíocht a fháil dhíreach ón Státchiste. Téann an t-údarás ag Roinn amháin agus ansin tagann sé ar ais, seachas an rud ar fad a fhail trí Roinn an Aire Stáit. Céard é an loighic a bhaineann leis seo ó thaobh an údaráis de?
Is cuma más ón údarás, ón Roinn Forbartha, Tuaithe agus Pobail, ón Roinn Gnó, Fiontar agus Nuálaíochta, nó ó Roinn an Taoisigh a thagann sé. Is cuma leo ach go bhfuil infheistíocht á déanamh i gceantair faoin tuath chun poist a chruthú agus deiseanna a chur ar fáil don cheantar. Is cuma le hÚdarás na Gaeltachta freisin cárbh as a dtagann an t-airgead ach go bhfuil an Rialtas ag cur airgead ar fáil. Tá an Roinn seo agus an tAire, Teachta Madigan, ag tacú liom chun breis acmhainní a fháil. Le linn athbhreithniú an bhuiséid chuir an Taoiseach breis acmhainní ar fáil d'Údarás na Gaeltachta. Táimid ag déanamh ár ndícheall breis acmhainní a chur ar fáil.
Ní sin an cheist a chuir mé. Cuirfidh mé an cheist arís. Tá an tAire Stáit ag rá go bhfuil €2 milliún faighte ag an údarás ón Roinn Forbartha, Tuaithe agus Pobail. Tá an tAire Stáit ag bord an Rialtais in éineacht leis an Aire. Nach mbeadh sé i bhfad níos simplí ó thaobh an Rialtais de agus níos cinnte ó thaobh an údaráis de an €11.7 milliún a thabhairt dó ag tús na bliana díreach ó chiste an Stáit seachas é a chur ar seachrán go Roinn eile agus ansin go gcaithfidh an t-údarás dul ar a thóir agus a bheith ag guí go bhfaighidh sé an t-airgead. Tógfaidh pobail airgead ó áit ar bith as a dtiocfaidh sé. An cheist atá agam ó thaobh straitéis mhór an Rialtais ná, nach mbeadh sé níos straitéisí an t-airgead a thabhairt dhíreach don údarás? Mar sin bheadh sé aige ó thús na bliana agus bheadh sé in ann pleanáil i bhfad níos fearr seachas a bheith ag cur isteach ar chomórtais iomaíocha.
Tá ciall áirithe leis mar caithfidh an t-údarás pleananna sonracha a chur isteach agus a bheith freagrach as tograí a chur i bhfeidhm. Tá a lán pleananna aige. Bíonn sé ag lorg airgid ó aon áit ónar féidir é a fháil.
Má bhreathnaíonn an Teachta ar Pháirc na Mara, tá an t-údarás freagrach as ach tá Ollscoil na hÉireann, Gaillimh, Bord Iascaigh Mhara, agus Foras na Mara ag obair ar an togra seo freisin. Tá a lán grúpaí, eagraíochtaí agus bord Stáit ag obair ar na tograí sin le chéile. Sin an fáth go bhfuil cistí réigiúnacha na hAirí, na Teachtaí Humphreys agus Ring, i gceist freisin. Tá tograí speisialta ag an údarás. Níl buiséad ginearálta i gceist. Ó thaobh an chiste atá ag an Aire, an Teachta Ring, táimid ag caint faoi €1 billiún thar tréimhse deich mbliana. Is é an chéad uair riamh a bhfuil ciste chomh mór sin ann, fiú go gcaithfear páirt de thaobh amuigh den Ghaeltacht. Tá a fhios agam go bhfuil ciste caipitil ag an Roinn Cultúir, Oidhreacht agus Gaeltachta ach is é sin an chéad uair a fhuil ciste chomh mór sin ann chun leanúint ar aghaidh le tograí faoin tuath. Mar is eol don Teachta, tá ciste eile ag an Aire Tithíochta, Pleanála agus Rialtais Áitiúil do na ceantair, agus cathracha san áireamh.
Tá an Rialtas ag iarraidh breis acmhainní a chur ar fáil d'Údarás na Gaeltachta gach uile bhliain. Mar a dúirt mé, tá dul chun cinn déanta againn. Tá an t-airgead dúbailte le dhá bhliain anuas. Beimid ag lorg níos mó airgid arís sa chéad bhuiséad eile. Tá obair mhaith á déanamh agus tá dul chun cinn maith ann. Tá an t-údarás an-sásta go bhfuair sé an t-airgead ón Rialtas, is cuma cén Roinn ónar tháinig sé, chun dul ar aghaidh lena tograí tábhachtacha.
Mar a deirim, ní thuigim an cur chuige straitéiseach sin, ach fágfaimid é sin mar atá sé. É sin ráite, i bhfreagraí a fuair mise ón údarás tá sé ag rá go bhfuil sé gann ar airgead le dul ar aghaidh le tograí maithe. Dúirt sé é sin seachtain ó shin. Níl muid ach i mí an Márta. Seo tograí nach gcosnódh mórán airgid, ach fágfaimid é sin mar atá sé mar táimid gann ar am.
Déanaim comhghairdeas leis an Aire, an Teachta McHugh, mar sheas sé leis a ghealltanas agus chuir sé €500,000 breise ar fáil do na comharchumainn Ghaeltachta. É sin ráite, thuig mise go raibh sé sin le tabhairt le déanamh suas an t-easnamh a bhí ann ó thaobh cúnaimh do na comharchumainn agus do na comhlachtaí pobalbhunaithe agus chun acmhainní a chur ar fáil le pá iomaíoch a íoc le bainisteoirí. Bhí beagáinín iontais orm nuair a chonaic mé preasráiteas an údaráis le seachtain anuas. De réir mar a thuigim, tá ar na comharchumainn go leor oibre breise a thabhairt orthu féin leis an airgead seo a fháil. An gceapann an tAire Stáit go bhfuil pá idir €30,000 agus €40,000 sa bhliain réalaíoch do bhainisteoir comharchumainn nó do bhainisteoir comhlachta fhorbartha pobail? Tá siad ag obair go lánaimseartha agus níl siad teoranta d'uaireanta an chloig. Ní oibríonn siad ó 9 a.m. agus 5 p.m. amháin. Tá siad ar fáil don phobal ag cruinnithe, imeachtaí pobail, féilte agus gach uile rud eile.
Ar ndóigh, ní fhaigheann siad ragobair ós rud é go bhfuil siad ag obair ar thuarastal. An gceapann an tAire Stáit gur thuarastal féaráilte agus réalaíoch atá i gceist agus na bainisteoirí ag fáil €34,000 mar phá? An bhfuil sé sásta leis an gcaoi inar chaith Údarás na Gaeltachta leis an airgead breise a chuir an tAire, an Teachta McHugh, ar fáil nuair a bhí sé mar Aire Stáit sa Roinn seo? Cuireadh an t-airgead sin ar fáil ionas go mbeifear in ann dul i ngleic le ceist phá na mbainisteoirí chomharchumann.
Thosaigh mé ar an bpróiseas seo an chéad uair ina raibh mé mar Aire Stáit sa Roinn seo. Bhí na comharchumainn breá sásta go raibh méadú tagtha ar an airgead sin don chéad uair i ndeich mbliana. Aontaím go bhfuil an méadú sin ag teastáil. Gabhaim comhghairdeas leis na hAirí, na Teachtaí McHugh agus Madigan, as ucht an t-airgead breise a bhaineadar amach. Is ceist do bhord an údaráis í conas a rinneadh leithdháileadh ar an airgead sin. Faigheann an t-údarás moltaí ó fheidhmeannaigh an údaráis sa chomhthéacs sin. Tá a fhios agam go bhfuil costais na gcomharchumann ardaithe. Gach uair a bhuailim leo, deireann siad liom nach mbíonn na hacmhainní acu uaireanta chun a gcuid billí a íoc. Cuirim fáilte roimh an méadú atá tagtha ar an airgead atá ar fáil dóibh i mbliana. Tá súil agam go mbeidh siad ag lorg níos mó airgid sa bhliain 2020. Cé nach bhfuil mé in ann aon rud a rá faoin chéad bhuiséad eile, is féidir liom a dhearbhú go mbíonn breis airgid á lorg againn i gcónaí do rannóg na n-oileán.
An gceapann an tAire Stáit go bhfuil pá idir €30,000 agus €40,000 sásúil do bhainisteoirí na gcomharchumann? An aontaíonn sé gur cheart go mbeadh ardú pá ag dul chucu? Ní féidir leis na coistí aon ardú pá a chur ar fáil, nuair nach bhfuil breis airgid á fháil ón Stát, gan cúraimí breise a thógáil orthu féin. Tá cuid dá na bainisteoirí seo ag obair lá agus oíche ar son an phobail ar aon chaoi. Ar thug an Roinn aon treoir don údarás - b'fhéidir i litir shonrach chuig an údarás - faoin gcaoi ina raibh an t-airgead seo le caitheamh? Céard le haghaidh a bhí sé tugtha?
No, níor thug muid aon treoir don údarás, seachas a rá go raibh breis acmhainní curtha ar fáil. An uair dheireanach a bhfuair mé an t-airgead breise, bhí a fhios ag Údarás na Gaeltachta céard air a bhíomar ag iarraidh ar an údarás an t-airgead a chaitheamh. Chas mé leis na feidhmeannaigh agus le muintir na gcomharchumann ag an am. Bhí a fhios acu go raibh mé ag iarraidh an t-airgead a chaitheamh ar na comharchumainn. Ba cheart don Teachta an cheist atá curtha aige maidir le pá, srl., a dhíriú ar feidhmeannaigh Údarás na Gaeltachta. D'ardaíodh ceist maidir le pá ar oileán amháin i gContae Chorcaí an uair dheireanach a bhí mé mar Aire Stáit sa Roinn seo, agus cuireadh breis acmhainní ar fáil don oileán sin an bhliain dár gcionn. Tá sé sin luaite sna figiúirí don bhliain 2017 nó 2018. Níl mé cinnte cén bhliain a bhí i gceist. Nuair a cuireadh an cás os ár gcomhair ag an am sin, bhíomar in ann teacht suas le maoiniú. Bhí cás maith acu i gcomparáid le hoileáin eile. Caithfidh mé an treoir a sheiceáil. Sílim gur shínigh mé litir ar aon nós. Níl a fhios agam céard a rinne an tAire, an Teachta McHugh, nuair a bhí sé mar Aire Stáit sa Roinn seo.
Bheadh an-díomá orm mura mbeadh an Roinn tar éis treoir a thabhairt maidir le húsáid an airgid. Tá cumhacht ag an Aire é a dhéanamh. Lena cheart a thabhairt don iarAire Stáit, an Teachta McHugh, fuair sé an t-airgead. Tugaim creidiúint 100% dó. Chuir sé an-antrom air féin an t-airgead a fháil. Feictear dom nach bhfuil an chaoi ina bhfuil an t-airgead caite ag an údarás tar éis na faidhbe a leigheas. Tá ceist eile agam.
Creidim go mbeidh an Roinn ag lorg tairiscintí go luath le haghaidh aersheirbhís fhadtéarmach go dtí na hOileáin Árann. Mar chuid den chonradh sin, an bhfuil sé i gceist seirbhís go dtí Inis Bó Finne agus an Cloigeann a chur san áireamh? D'fhéadfaí a leithéid de sheirbhís a chur ar fáil trí lá sa tseachtain mar thús. Bheadh na heitleáin lonnaithe sna Minne ar aon chaoi. Bheadh costais na bpíolótaí íoctha. Bheadh costais na haerfoirt, ina measc Aerfort na Minne, íoctha. Bheadh costais chothabhála na n-eitleán íoctha. Dá bhrí sin, agus ag tógáil san áireamh go bhfuil na haerstráicí ann, ní chosnódh sé an oiread sin breise an tseirbhís seo a chur ar fáil. An bhfuil sé i gceist seirbhís go hInis Bó Finne a chur san áireamh, ar a laghad ar bhonn roghnaíoch, sa chonradh atá le teacht i bhfeidhm ag deireadh mí Mheán Fómhair seo chugainn?
Níl sé ar intinn agam seirbhís a thosú go hInis Bó Finne. Faoi láthair, tá sé i gceist agam cinnteacht a fháil maidir le seirbhís aeir Árann, maidir leis an gcéad chonradh eile agus maidir leis an bpróiseas atá ag dul ar aghaidh faoi láthair chun iarracht a dhéanamh Aerfort na Minne a cheannach. Tá na rudaí sin ar intinn agam faoi láthair. Tá cás an-simplí curtha ag an Teachta. Dúirt se go bhfuil na bpíolótaí agus na heitleáin, srl., ar fáil. Níl aon infreastruchtúr forbartha ar Inis Bó Finne nó sa Chloigeann. Níl seirbhísí dóiteáin ann agus níl foireann ar an talamh. Bheadh breis costais i gceist sa chomhthéacs sin. Is é Aerfort na Minne an príomhrud atá ar m'intinn faoi láthair ó thaobh seirbhísí eitleáin. Beidh costais ar an Roinn agus ar an Rialtas chun é sin a cheannach, ach níl a fhios againn cé mhéad. Táimid ag breathnú ar sin amháin faoi láthair. Ina dhiaidh sin, déanfaimid an conradh fadtéarmach do na hOileáin Árann a fhógrú agus tairiscintí a fháil. Tá súil againn go mbeidh conradh á shíniú roimh dheireadh na bliana. Is é sin an méid atá ar m'intinn faoi láthair.
Tá próiseas eadrána tosaithe anois. Tá sé leagtha síos go mbeidh sé críochnaithe roimh dheireadh mí an Mhárta. Tá an spriocdháta sin fós ann. Táimid ag obair ionas go mbeidh rudaí críochnaithe roimh dheireadh mí an Mhárta. Tá an próiseas eadrána ag dul ar aghaidh faoi láthair.
Cuireann sé sin scor lenár mbreitheamh ar an ábhar seo inniu. Ba mhaith liom mo bhuíochas a ghabháil leis an Aire, an Teachta Madigan, leis an Aire Stáit, an Teachta Kyne, leis na Teachtaí eile a bhí i láthair, agus le hoifigigh na Roinne a thug cúnamh agus am dúinn. Thug an tAire agus an tAire Stáit freagraí beachta dúinn nuair a chuir muid ceisteanna orthu. Beidh cruinniú príobháideach den choiste ar siúl ag 3.45 p.m.