Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees
Wednesday, 24 November 2021
Joint Committee on Tourism, Culture, Arts, Sport And Media
Key Priorities and Legislation of the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media: Discussion
This meeting has been convened with the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, Deputy Catherine Martin, and the Minister of State with responsibility for sport and the Gaeltacht, Deputy Chambers to discuss key priorities and legislation of the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media insofar as they relate to the remit of the committee, noting that matters in relation to programme area C - Irish Language and Gaeltacht now fall under the remit of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on the Irish Language, Gaeltacht and Irish-Speaking Communities. Members will also note that following the formal referral of Supplementary Estimate for Vote 33 - Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media to the Select Committee on Tourism, Culture, Arts, Sport and Media, a meeting of the select committee has been convened following this session at 4 p.m. to consider the same.
I welcome the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, Deputy Catherine Martin and the Minister of State, Deputy Chambers, who will be joining the meeting in person; and their officials, who will be joining us remotely via Microsoft Teams. I advise them that their opening statements and any other documents that have been submitted to the committee may be published on the committee website following this meeting.
Members are reminded of the long-standing parliamentary practice to the effect that they should not comment on, criticise or make charges against a person outside the Houses or an official by name or in such a way as to make him or her identifiable. For anyone watching this meeting, in most instances Oireachtas Members and witnesses may now be physically present in the committee room, or they may join remotely via Microsoft Teams. I remind members of the constitutional requirement that members must be physically present within the confines of Leinster House to participate in public meetings. I will not permit members who are outside the confines of Leinster House to attend.
If attending in the committee room, people are asked to exercise personal responsibility to protect themselves and others from the risk of contracting Covid-19. Those attending in the committee room are strongly advised to practise good hand hygiene and to leave at least one vacant seat between themselves and others attending. They should always maintain an appropriate level of social distancing during and after the meeting. Masks - preferably of medical grade - must be worn at all times during the meeting except when speaking.
I ask members to please identify themselves when contributing for the benefit of the Debates Office staff preparing the Official Report, and to please mute their microphone when not contributing to reduce the background noise and feedback. If joining remotely, I ask members to use the raised hand function when they wish to contribute. I remind all those joining today's meeting to ensure their mobile phones are on silent or switched off.
I remind members that the speaking rota has been circulated. The time allotted is seven minutes for questions and answers. I would like to give everybody the opportunity to contribute today. Without further ado, I invite the Minister to make her opening statement.
Go raibh míle maith agat a Chathaoirligh. Táim thar a bheith sásta bheith libh chun labhairt faoi tosaíochtaí straitéiseacha na Roinne. I intend to address the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Tourism, Culture, Arts, and Media while my colleague, the Minister of State, Deputy Jack Chambers, will address matters related to sport. I understand that matters relating to the Gaeltacht will be dealt with by the Oireachtas Joint Committee on the Irish Language, Gaeltacht and Irish-speaking Community.
I am pleased to have this further opportunity to address the committee on the key priorities of my Department and to set out the vision for these wide-ranging and valuable sectors. I spoke to the committee last about my priorities in April this year. At that time, I said that these sectors contribute significantly to our country’s economy, while also supporting individual and community well-being right across Ireland. However, there is no doubt that the diverse range of sectors served by my Department have been, and continue to be, amongst those most severely impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic. These sectors are fundamental to societal well-being. They encourage public confidence and our collective resilience as we continue to emerge from the pandemic over the longer term. They also remain among the most vulnerable to the cruel unpredictability of this devastating disease. It has been said many times that they were the first to close and last to reopen. A key priority has been to continue supports for these critical sectors, which employ hundreds of thousands of people, in order that they can stabilise and generate economic activity as we move further along the road to recovery.
During 2021, the €55 million support fund announced as part of budget 2021 for strategic tourism businesses, and the €5 million for training and digitalisation support in the sector, continued to be provided. These measures have complemented the horizontal measures employment wage subsidy scheme, EWSS; the pandemic unemployment payment, PUP; the Covid restrictions support scheme, CRSS; and the restart scheme. I also launched a €17 million outdoor dining enhancement scheme, which is delivered in partnership between Fáilte Ireland and local authorities across the country.
For the coming year, €288.5 million is allocated for tourism services, which represents an increase of €67.6 million, or 31%, on the comparable 2021 allocation. The additional funding will help to address immediate survival-related concerns for business continuity, domestic and international marketing, and support for tourism product development, while also enabling further resilience and recovery across the industry as we reopen to international tourism and transition to a more sustainable future.
I was very cognisant of the challenges the restrictions caused for the arts, culture and live entertainment industry in 2021, and I allocated more than €60 million to support the sector and drive employment opportunities for artists and crew through the introduction of several new schemes. Those included the provision of support for live entertainment businesses, encompassing a new live performance support scheme, a new support scheme for live events and entertainment businesses, and funding to support local authorities for outdoor live performances. As part of budget 2022, I maintained the Arts Council allocation at the record level of €130 million. This allocation will allow the Arts Council to continue to protect the jobs and livelihoods of artists and assist arts organisations through financial difficulties. With these ongoing levels of public funding in 2022, the Arts Council is empowered to play a strong role in supporting artists and arts organisations to flourish in the years ahead.
I have also allocated €25 million for the live entertainment sector as part of budget 2022, and I am examining the supports in place for the sector to ensure available resources are best deployed to meet the needs of the sector to ensure a full recovery is possible. The supports provided have been essential for those hardest-hit, and I will continue to do everything possible to ensure necessary provisions are in place to allow these sectors, which are essential for our physical, social and mental well-being, to thrive once again.
Regarding my Department’s capital programme, I worked closely with colleagues across Government to renew our national development plan. The programme for Government makes strong commitments to continued capital investment in our national cultural, sporting, language and tourism infrastructure. My priorities under the renewed national development plan are aligned under three categories of activities my Department undertakes to support and develop its sectors: supporting economic recovery and resilience, promoting well-being and social cohesion, and providing sustainability and guardianship of our cultural, linguistic and environmental resources.
A key priority for my Department is the continued safeguarding and modernisation of institutions through the national cultural institutions, NCI, investment programme in the national development plan, NDP. This is an ambitious €460 million programme of capital investment across all our NCIs which will ensure they can continue their legacy of providing engaging cultural and artistic offerings to the people. The national development plan also includes €265 million for a cultural and creativity investment programme. The large-scale sports infrastructure fund and sports capital and equipment programme are also key elements of my Department’s NDP plans, which will be further addressed by my colleague, the Minister of State, Deputy Chambers.
As we continue the recovery, my Department will work to deliver on priorities that are informed by the programme for Government. My Department’s key priorities for economic recovery are also informed by the tourism and arts and culture recovery task forces, which were established to provide recommendations for overcoming the challenges faced by these critical sectors. Ireland’s tourism sector is of significant value to the economy and benefits the development of rural Ireland, especially in regions that lack an intensive industry base or are economically fragile. For tourism, recovery and sustainable growth are essential. This will begin with a survival, stabilisation and recovery programme informed by the recommendations of the tourism recovery task force as well as inputs from the tourism recovery oversight group. I continue to work on the development of a national tourism policy that will set out the path over the coming years towards ascertaining that we have a tourism sector that is socially and economically sustainable and that ensures sustainability is at the heart of the recovery in the sector.
This policy will be underpinned by a programme of capital investment as we develop our national tourism product. This investment programme will take a regions-led approach and will include investments in activity-based tourism, with a particular emphasis on the outdoors, and the development of strategic tourism locations. As well as investing in our tourism product, these investments will provide important supports for regional enterprise and employment, and these are often located in areas where tourism is a key driver of the local economy. The significant increase in funding for this sector provides an opportunity to reimagine and reconfigure Ireland’s tourism for the future. With the climate emergency as our backdrop, we must also play our part. The future we imagine is one that will tell the story of our ancient past and our current modern communities, and one that will bring tourists and tourism businesses on a journey towards a sustainable model that embeds and protects our environment, local communities, natural heritage and beauty.
Turning to our arts and culture sector, last year the arts and culture recovery task force submitted to me its report, entitled Life worth Living, which outlined ten recommendations to support the recovery of these sectors. We have made significant progress already on implementing the report. For example, I was particularly pleased to announce €25 million for the pilot basic income guarantee scheme as part of budget 2022. This is a major policy intervention for the arts and culture sector that requires significant resources from my Department to develop. Work is ongoing and regular engagement with the sector is taking place. My ambition is to open the pilot scheme for applications early next year. I believe this makes a strong statement about the value we place on the arts sector, where employment is characterised by low, precarious and sometimes seasonal income. Artistic and creative work is intrinsically valuable to society, and perhaps never more so felt than during this pandemic. I hope this scheme can bring new life and support to the arts and culture sector, and I hope it will provide an important legacy for our artists after the difficult circumstances they have endured during the crisis.
The report of the night-time economy task force was published in September and contained several practical recommendations to help support and sustain the night-time economy as well as some pilot measures to support new developments in this area. Work is also ongoing on the flagship digitisation of the 1926 census records this year, which will provide a further valuable set of records for genealogists across our global Irish community. My Department has a range of key priorities in this area and I look forward to discussing them with the committee. These include support for culture activities in the State-supported and commercial sectors, in which the Arts Council will play a central role. My Department also continues to work on supporting the creative industries, including the audiovisual sector. A key priority in this area will be the continued implementation of the audiovisual action plan over the coming years.
It is a priority of my Department to address the future of broadcasting and media in this country and to safeguard the availability of quality, informed and trusted sources of news and content that are so essential to a democratic society. I am very aware of the important role played by the broadcasting and media sector in delivering key and necessary public health messages in recent times. Some examples of measures in budget 2022 to support this sector include the additional €4.2 million funding I secured for TG4 for 2022, which is the largest ever annual increase in TG4 funding, and the €5.5 million allocated for the media commission. This funding will be used for the setting up and commencement of the media commission’s functions, to recruit an online safety commissioner and to lay the groundwork for an effective regulatory structure. The spread and amplification of harmful online content raises serious concerns, and this will help us close a gap in Irish and international law concerning online safety.
Regarding the enabling legislation for the online safety and media regulation Bill, I also thank this committee for the publication of a comprehensive pre-legislative scrutiny report on the general scheme of the online safety and media regulation Bill. The 33 recommendations contained in the report raise a wide range of important issues and highlight the scale and complexity of the matters to be addressed in the Bill. I commend the thorough and consultative approach taken by the committee in conducting its pre-legislative scrutiny. It represents a continuity of the approach in developing the general scheme, which involved public consultation and significant stakeholder engagement. I am closely considering all the recommendations. Some deal with issues I have been examining for some time, and this includes how the Bill can be further strengthened to better protect individuals online, including by addressing issues relating to the appropriate avenues of complaint or redress. I intend to progress the Bill as a matter of urgency following the current consideration.
Tourism, culture, arts, our language, sport and media are fundamental to our society, identity, well-being and democracy. As Minister with responsibility in this area, I will continue to advocate intensely for these sectors, as we all understand there is still much work left to do. I will also continue consulting with the sectors and assessing supports in that regard. We are operating in the shadow of Covid-19 and our recovery will not be easy. It will not happen overnight, but I am confident Ireland will recover. Our world-renowned tourism industry will welcome visitors back better than ever; our vibrant arts and culture sector will flourish again, showcasing our incredible talents both at home and abroad; we will have a rich landscape in which our language can continue to grow; and we will see our dynamic sports and media sectors strengthened, reinforced and supported. This will require a long-term approach, and all of us here understand these sectors are critical to our lives. I am deeply committed to supporting and realising this strategic vision.
I am happy to take any questions members may have later, but I will hand over to the Minister of State now.
As members will be aware, another committee is dealing with the Gaeltacht element of my responsibilities and, therefore, I will limit my comments to matters related to sport.
Our immediate priority will be to safely accommodate sporting events, sporting organisations and high performance athletes, while continuing to take into account the prevailing public health advice. The Department will continue to prioritise engagement across the sport sector, which, over the past number of months, as members will be aware, has highlighted the significant adverse impact of Covid-19 at all levels.
Sporting organisations should continue to implement strong protocols with regard to training, competition and other sporting activities. These include initiatives such as the collection of contact tracing data, recommending symptomatic individuals do not participate in or attend sporting activities, the ongoing promotion of good respiratory and hand hygiene, and the wearing of face coverings in relevant settings. As we recover from the current crisis, the Department will work diligently with stakeholders across the sector to work out ways of meeting our target of 60% of the population participating in sport by 2027 and focussing on areas of gender diversity and inclusion.
We have started work this year on a number of actions that I believe will be of real benefit to sport and we will work on delivering others during both next year and in 2023. There are a number of priorities that I would like to briefly emphasise, all of which are broadly connected to the sports participation theme. First, I want to embed the idea of sport for all across all strands of the sports sector, whether at national governing body, NGB, level or more locally in sports clubs. We have a record €12 million budget from the Dormant Accounts Fund for investment in 2022 where we can focus increased efforts to help those from disadvantaged backgrounds and people with disability. Second, there is a priority need to address low levels of participation among our schoolchildren. We are planning to intensify our engagement with our colleagues in the Department of Education to identify some practical steps to secure improvements in this area and we will meet them before the end of this month. We are also planning to hold a major, youth-centred stakeholder forum on how to address and rectify the fall-off in participation rates among young people, especially young girls in their teens, in the new year.
Third, we will work on other priorities such as winter initiatives for both 2021 and 2022, as well as the development of a national swimming strategy and a national digital database to provide people with key information on sport and recreational facilities in their localities to help them be more active. We are also delighted that Sport Ireland published its new high performance strategy for
2021 to 2032, which received full Government approval. It is a long-term plan for the Irish high performance system over the next three Olympic and Paralympic cycles. This high performance strategy will support and enhance Ireland’s position internationally.
Another strand of our work for the future is to enhance the governance capacity of the sector in partnership with the NGBs and other stakeholders. We will also continue to improve the facilities available for everyone who wants to participate in sport through new rounds of the sports capital and equipment programme and progressing projects under the large-scale sport infrastructure fund, LSSIF. We are providing additional funding of up to €65 million this year in Covid-19 funding to support the sector. Allied to the additional current expenditure of €26 million already provided to Sport Ireland in budget 2021, a total of €91.3 million will have been allocated in additional current funding to support the sport sector in 2021. We are also providing an increased allocation of €96.2 million for Sport Ireland in 2022, which will enable it to continue to support the sector through various funding programmes.
In recent years, Ireland has won bids to host the Ryder Cup in Limerick in 2027, a section of the UEFA Euro 2020 finals, the Women’s Rugby World Cup 2017 and the T20 Men's Cricket World Cup 2030. We are engaging with the UK Government to assess the potential to submit a co-hosting bid for the 2030 FIFA World Cup and work is also under way to consider other events. As set out in the programme for Government, we are currently developing a major sports events policy and strategy, and are moving now to the public consultation phase of this process. Major events have the potential to drive participation in sport, contribute to our ongoing economic growth, drive a sense of national pride and affect both how we see ourselves as a nation and how we are viewed internationally. Trade, tourism, business, community pride and community engagement would all benefit.
Turning to capital investment in sports projects, the 2022 provision will allow for new grants to be announced under the sports capital and equipment programme. The latest round closed for applications on 1 March this year. By this date, a record 3,106 applications were received seeking more than €200 million in funding. The equipment-only projects were assessed first and grants with a total value of €16.6 million were announced on 6 August 2021. The letter of provisional allocation encouraged all grantees to draw down this funding before year-end and in recent weeks the Department has been prioritising the payments of all existing grants. Ensuring that as many older grants as possible are paid before year-end will maximise the funding available to allocate for the existing sports capital and equipment programme applications.
Assessment work is continuing on the remaining applications for capital works and every effort is being made to complete the process as quickly as possible. Given the record number of applications received, however, it is likely to take a further number of weeks to have these assessments complete with final recommended allocations expected shortly thereafter. In addition, resources have been provided in 2022 to continue to progress the first projects allocated funding last year under the new LSSIF. The priority in the short term is to advance all of the successful projects but as it is now more than 18 months since the first allocations were made, and in view of the issues faced as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, it is timely to review progress on all projects allocated grants. The Department has now consulted all grantees in this regard. This review is considering the scope for awarding new grants to projects that missed out under the first set of allocations and the timing of any new call for proposals. It is expected that the review will be completed in the coming weeks.
I wish to reaffirm the Government’s commitment to developing the Sport Ireland campus at Blanchardstown. The Government reaffirmed its commitment to the development of the campus in the new national development plan published on 4 October. The 2022 allocation of €9.2 millionwill allow Sport Ireland to complete ongoing projects and progress the planning and design of the national velodrome and badminton centre. Sport Ireland has just completed a new master plan, which will be the framework for the development of facilities at the campus over the next ten to 15 years. We will bring the master plan to Government shortly for approval.
I thank the Chairman and committee members for their time. I am happy to take any questions they may have, along with the Minister, Deputy Martin.
I thank the Minister and the Minister of State for their comprehensive statements and the overviews of their Department. I will now turn to our members, who have a rota of speaking slots in front of them. I call Deputy Mythen, who has seven minutes for questions and answers.
I thank the Minister and the Minister of State. Their Department's sectors are, arguably, the most volatile and at risk from the Covid-19 restrictions. Many who make their living in the areas of tourism, hospitality and entertainment experience work conditions that are often unstable and precarious. A recent survey by the Music and Entertainment Association of Ireland, MEAI, found that almost 75% of its members are experiencing cancellations of events for the month of December. The survey also discovered that nearly 40% have had to take up work outside the industry, with 40% saying they may have to leave music and entertainment for good to earn a living.
The failure to extend the PUP in alignment with the recent tightening of restrictions on the sector is an almighty blow to many. Workers in the entertainment, hospitality, nightlife and tourism industries are being left high and dry. Taking into account the new restrictions, does the Minister agree that corresponding supports for those employees and their families who are most at financial risk must follow?
Is there currently any plan or procedure in place to monitor the impact of the latest public health restrictions on incomes and well-being within the sector, particularly the impacts on those in precarious work scenarios without the safety net of the PUP?
One of the key recommendations from the Life Worth Living report was making space for arts and live entertainment to contribute to national recovery. The Dun Mhuire Theatre in Wexford has been a hub of activity for many years and the many groups that have used that space have contributed to the social and artistic fabric of the county. The Department has been involved in the purchase of this site, along with Wexford County Council, and I believe that purchase is near completion. I ask that the Department would engage with the council to address the issues of the arts and performance groups that now have nowhere to go.
I thank the Deputy. We are all very much aware of the serious impact the pandemic has had on the live performance sector, our musicians and artists. My Department engages on an ongoing basis with a wide range of stakeholders across the sector, with a view to understanding the pressures that are faced and to ensure that the supports meet the needs of the sector. In 2021, I allocated more than €60 million to support the sector and drive employment opportunities. I also introduced €25 million for the live performance support scheme, €16.5 million for the events sector Covid support scheme, €10 million for the local live performance support scheme, €4 million for the music and entertainment support scheme, €5 million for the commercial entertainment capital grant scheme and €1 million for the St. Patrick's Festival.
In budget 2022, I allocated €25 million for the live entertainment sector. I have maintained the Arts Council allocation at a record level of €130 million. This allocation will allow the Arts Council to continue to protect the jobs and livelihoods of artists and to assist arts organisations through financial difficulties.
My Department will continue to receive feedback on evolving challenges facing the sector. It is on foot of these engagements that the significant supports have been provided. Further funding is available in the recently secured budget. We have continued to engage with the sector on how the supports can be better tailored to meet the needs. The engagement will continue in the coming weeks with a view to opening the supports for applications as soon as possible. If it is the case that these supports are exhausted in 2022 and the pandemic continues to impact on the sectors, we will review the situation.
In terms of the social welfare supports, the Department of Social Protection stands ready to provide support to those impacted in the short term. To date, the Government has responded appropriately and has paid out more than €8.9 billion through the PUP and a similar amount via the EWSS. The Government has not been found wanting. I assure the Deputy that we are monitoring the situation closely. The position remains under review. We will take the appropriate measures to support people, if and when required.
I also remind the Deputy that the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Michael McGrath, clearly signalled in his budget speech that he and the Minister for Finance, Deputy Donohoe, are holding approximately €4 billion of the Covid provision as a contingent reserve in order that we can adapt if faced with the unexpected. Should further measures be warranted to support the sector, I will talk to those Ministers.
Regarding the query relating to Wexford, I will revert to the Deputy with more detail on the position in that regard. Wexford is very important from a cultural perspective, not least because of the Opera House and the opera festival. I will revert to the Deputy on the Dun Mhuire Theatre.
The Minister referred to the €25 million she has budgeted for a pilot basic income guarantee scheme for 2022. What is the progress on the scheme? What criteria are used to define an artist and what is the basis for paying money out?
This was the number one recommendation of the task force, and I was delighted to secure a commitment to it in the national economic recovery plan and to ring-fence the money in the recent budget. There has been ongoing engagement and an oversight group was set up. Everything is being done in close consultation with the sector.
A tender has issued for a partner to develop an online application portal. On 8 December, a significant stakeholder engagement will take place to hear the views of the artists, creatives and the relative resource bodies and representative organisations. This scheme is so important and must be designed in close consultation with the sector, and 8 December will be a key date for the scheme. Stakeholder engagement is key to the success of this policy and has been a cornerstone of my approach to the sector during the pandemic. The launch date for applications and the eligibility criteria will be announced in January following the consultation on 8 December. The consultation will be a global café-style event.
Before you start the clock, Chair, I want to direct my questions to the Minister of State. I have seven questions to ask in the seven minutes. I appeal to the Minister of State to come back with 30-second replies because I want to get the seven questions in. I ask you, Chair, to please keep him in check.
I welcome the Minister and the Minister of State. I particularly welcome the Minister of State because I want to question him first. How much has been committed financially at this point in the World Cup bid to progress matters and what stage are we at with the British Government on it?
What is our assessment of what is needed in terms of stadium infrastructure? We have been down this road before during our failed bid with the Scots for the UEFA European Football Championship and our bid for the Rugby World Cup. What stage are we at in the assessment of needs, given that the Aviva Stadium will be 20 years old and Coke Park will be 35 years old in 2030, and what public infrastructure will be required for us to make a serious bid?
We are involved in establishing a bid board with the British Government and the respective football associations. We have increased the budgetary allocation for major events year on year, and approximately €500,000 has been spent to date. I will confirm that later in the meeting. As part of the bidding process, there will be an assessment of the required stadia in Ireland. On a separate note, as the Minister indicated, we are committed in the NDP to increased investment for large sporting infrastructure as part of the large-scale sports infrastructure fund.
Given that it is only eight years away, if we are serious about this bid and the need for us to secure the World Cup, which is the premier event globally, do we need to start to build a new signature stadium to swing this from the Irish point of view?
The bidding process is ongoing, and an infrastructural assessment will be part of that. It is a combined bid with other countries. We will be able to utilise existing infrastructure. If there is a recommendation on the upgrading of existing infrastructure following the assessment, that will also be part of it. We are at an early stage, and the bid board is being finalised.
Between €80 million and €90 million of the €100 million was allocated in the previous fund. We have recommitted to a large-scale sports infrastructure fund in the current development plan. We have had very limited drawdown on that.
A very limited number. We have had two to three applicants in recent days or weeks. That is one issue we have been prioritising. Departmental officials have met with every applicant who was awarded funding to get a sense of timelines and how to progress the projects. We are anxious to see the capital budget progressed as quickly as possible to get projects moving. The shutdown of the construction sector, first, and the requirement to balance finance has meant that some projects have not been able to commence.
One of the signature projects to which funding has been committed, which sportspeople are really thankful for, is the redevelopment of Dalymount Park, the home of Irish football. Could the Minister of State indicate the status of that project? In recent weeks there has been a lot of controversy because the Dublin City Council manager, Owen Keegan, moved with a draft development plan for the city that included zoning for Tolka Park, which is a key component in terms of the financing of this project. The latter angered many councillors, given that it was a material change within their powers. Is the redevelopment of Dalymount Park contingent on the sale of Tolka Park, a move to which there is huge opposition? Can we see development in Dalymount Park commencing in the next two years?
To answer Senator Cassells' first question, in terms of funding arrangements, there is no contingency from our perspective. We take applications whether it is for Dalymount Park, Tolka Park or for any other use.
We expect drawdown in respect of the design work for Dalymount Park to happen shortly; it may already be under way. That is one of the few projects on which there has been progress in that design work has commenced. We are hoping it can advance to planning permission stage at some point next year. The funding arrangements are a matter for Dublin City Council. I know there is a campaign around that issue. As I have previously stated in responses to parliamentary questions in the Dáil, it is a matter for the councillors.
I know it is a Dublin City Council project, but given that it is important not only to Bohemians fans but to fans of Irish football across the country, is the Minister of State hopeful that if planning is granted next year, construction will start in 2023?
We are funding the initial phase of this project because it was identified as a priority project. Football fans across the country would love to see Dalymount Park developed. If we get the design work progressed and the planning permission secured, moving to the next stage will be a priority for everybody involved.
My final question is in regard to the sports capital programme. The Minister of State alluded to a sum of €200 million in respect of applications received this year. In his budget speech, the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Michael McGrath, committed to additional funding for this area. What is the expected overall spend?
The FAI published a report last week, launched by the Minister of State, Deputy Jack Chambers, with Packie Bonner, on the social return of Irish football to grassroots. One of the points made by the FAI officials was that while there is a huge gain to society, we need to spend more on facilities and, in particular, to look at the shared campus model that is in place across Europe. We need to break away from our model. It is galling for sports lovers when towns and villages located side by side submit applications for funding for clubs, primarily GAA but also soccer clubs. We do not get the best bang for our buck from that. Is it time to knock heads together? We need to put Tom Ryan, Jonathan Hill and Philip Browne into a room to discuss how best we can move to the shared campus model across towns in Ireland into the future.
On the first question, as I stated in my initial remarks, we are finalising the assessment of the applications. I am engaging with the Minister, Deputy McGrath, on the final figure and what we can allocate. I expect the final amount to be very significant. I do not propose to give a figure until it has been agreed with the Minister but there is a commitment, reaffirmed in the national development plan, around sports capital and equipment programme. I expect that - this is also relevant to the Senator's point on the FAI report - to be of huge benefit to our grassroots football, but also across many other sports.
On the point regarding multi-use and shared facilities, I share the Senator's view on that. We try to encourage sharing of facilities and multi-use sporting facilities in our sports capital and equipment programme. Across Europe, the proliferation and development of sporting infrastructure has been on a shared basis in communities, as mentioned by the Senator. We are trying to encourage that through our capital investment. This is evident in the sports capital plan, where we reward clubs and communities that come together to share facilities. There will be an overall net benefit for all sports where that happens.
I thank the Chairman for allowing me in at this point as I have to leave this meeting at 2.30 p.m. I welcome the Minister, Deputy Catherine Martin, and the Minister of State, Deputy Chambers.
I have a number of questions for the Minister. Where is the creative industries roadmap, as promised in the programme for Government? The Creative Ireland website states that Creative Ireland has been working throughout 2019 to finalise the roadmap. Where is the roadmap as promised most recently in the programme for Government? When can we expect a plan for the future of Creative Ireland, which concludes in 2022? I raised that issue with the Minister when she last appeared for the committee. We have not yet seen any progress on the plan for Creative Ireland.
Yesterday, I had a Commencement matter on a digital legal deposit taken in the Seanad. The Minister will be aware that we are losing our country's memory at an alarming rate. We are creating a black hole in our country's memory because the National Library of Ireland does not have the power to sweep the .ie domain and nobody in government appears to care that we are losing Irish web records at such an alarming rate. Where is the leadership on this issue? Under the Copyright and Other Intellectual Property Law Provisions Act 2019, the Government was required to bring forward a feasibility report on establishing a digital web archive within 12 months of the passing of that Act, which occurred in June 2019. It is well and truly more than 12 months since then. Why is the Government breaching the Act and breaking the law in not bringing forward that report? When will we have a digital legal deposit so that we can protect our country's memory for current and future generations?
The Minister will be aware that the committee has been working on gender representation and a safe and respectful working environment in the arts for women. I am conscious that funding allocated by the Arts Council on one hand is contingent on policies and procedures in regard to dignity and respect being in place. The Arts Council awards marks to applicants and applicants are assessed on how they demonstrate awareness and understanding of equality, diversity and inclusion. That is just a small sample of what the Arts Council requires of its funding partners. What does the Minister's Department require of funding partners such as Comhaltas, whose representatives appeared before the committee recently? What conditionality does the Department place on organisations in receipt of significant public moneys?
I thank the Senator. As he indicated, the current iteration of Creative Ireland comes to an end shortly. My officials are preparing proposals which seek to extend the programme, in particular the creative communities via local authorities, which I will shortly bring to Cabinet. The work of Creative Ireland in increasing access to creative opportunities for young people has been impactful and will continue.
On the creative industries, the Creative Ireland programme consulted extensively with industry bodies, businesspeople, practitioners and academics in the field of design-based digital creative and content creation sub-sectors and with other Departments, agencies and enterprise partners. A roadmap for the creative industries was drafted in 2020, as the Senator will know. However, the Covid-related issues have been prioritised over the past year. With a view towards economic recovery, discussions are again under way concerning how best to finalise and implement the draft roadmap.
Comhaltas has committed to the area of dignity and equality in the context of the recent launch of its results and in regard to Speak Up. We are doing a lot of work to reinforce the importance of dignity at work for the creative sectors. For example, we have worked extensively with, and funded, the Irish Theatre Institute, ITI, survey and report on bullying and harassment survey. The ITI will be funded to continue its work, as a starting point in regard to the findings of the survey. It will develop a code of behaviour that organisations can adopt and, in doing so, declare their commitment to provide a safe and dignified workplace. The code will be accessible online and will include a register that organisations and individuals can formally sign.
A dignity in the workplace toolkit will be developed for arts organisations and individuals. It will contain comprehensive information on supports and resources for independent workers. This will provide a suite of training tools, starting with bystander training and intimacy co-ordination, and incorporate behaviour modules onto all arts-related accredited courses. It will expand existing resources, including access to counselling, human resources, mediation, and legal consultation, free of charge, to artist art workers. In this area, Minding Creative Minds, which is funded by my Department, has been providing an exemplary service since 2020. We will be developing arrangements for confidential reporting of harmful behaviours without fear of reprisal; build cross-sectoral support for change; continue research in this area; and, as committed to at the launch of the survey, commit to further follow-up service so that we can monitor the success of our actions.
The National Library of Ireland is already doing work to digitise websites. We will continue to work with it and the National Archives with a view to addressing the question of digital archives.
We need a scheme that is substantially better than the one that is in place. It should not be the job of the National Library of Ireland to reach out and make requests in respect of websites. We know it is understaffed compared with its equivalent national libraries elsewhere in Europe. It should not be its job to request web records. It is a significant job of work. We need to allow it to sweep that audio domain and we need to do it quickly because we are losing our country's memory and web records at an alarming rate.
I welcome the Ministers and the officials and thank them for their time.
I concur with Senator Warfield in respect of the National Library of Ireland issue. It is very important to have that report under section 108 of the 2019 Act back as quickly as possible. I understand the Minister of State, Deputy Troy, is responsible for this area in the context of legislation that may be forthcoming. This is an important issue. There are a lot of physical and social records being lost from websites that are gong offline. It is important to keep those archives for future generations. I urge the Minister to prioritise the report and try to speed up the changes that are needed in that regard.
Will the Minister address the issue of the pub and restaurant sector? There is significant concern among those in the sector that they do not have enough of a voice at the tables that matter. Will particular consideration be given to ensuring representation of pubs and restaurants on the board of Fáilte Ireland in light of their very important role in tourism and hospitality? I ask her to address the issue of pubs and restaurants not being included in the Fáilte Ireland business continuity grant scheme. That is of concern to the sector.
There is much uncertainty and fear, as well as many rumours, in respect of further restrictions coming in. The word "lockdown" is even being used. There is a requirement for certainty and clarity for the tourism and hospitality sector as it plans for the period up to Christmas and into the new year. Will the Minister give clarity and certainty to the sector today in the context of its plans for the next six weeks in particular which, it is to be hoped, will be a very busy period for all in the sector?
I commend the Minister of State, Deputy Chambers, on his work to try to get more money into the sports capital programme. It is very important and he has my full support. It is important the fund be increased given the significant demand that exists. Will the allocations under the local scheme be announced before Christmas or is it more likely to be after Christmas?
In the context of large-scale projects, given the time that has elapsed since the announcement of those grants and the significant construction inflation in the meantime, does the Minister of State consider there will be a requirement for top-ups of some of those grants for projects that were funded?
What is the position in respect of the appointment of a new CEO to Sport Ireland? Is there a timeframe for that? What is the process? Does the Minister of State have further information on that appointment?
I thank the Deputy. As regards the issue he and Senator Warfield raised, as I stated, it is being considered and we are consulting the National Library of Ireland. I will revert to both of them on that specific issue.
As regards clarity and certainty for pubs and restaurants, I wish I was in a position to provide that. The only thing that is certain about Covid-19 is its uncertainty. As the Deputy is aware, the National Public Health Emergency Team, NPHET, will be meeting this week. We await its deliberations. Just like everyone else, I am not in a position to give clarity or certainty, unfortunately. I can point to the budget, which included an increase of more than 30% for the tourism sector in my Department, and the cross-sectoral supports that are in place already, such as the Covid restrictions support scheme, CRSS, the employment wage subsidy scheme, EWSS, the pandemic unemployment payment, PUP, the restart grant, the credit guarantee scheme, the €55 million for the tourism business continuity scheme, the €26 million in the Covid adaptation fund, the €10 million allocation for coach tourism, the €10 million for Ireland-based inbound agencies, the €8 million in restart grants and all the outdoor dining and urban animation schemes. We have not been found wanting in that regard. I do not have a crystal ball - none of us have one - in the context of this awful pandemic that has had a devastating impact on our tourism sector that supports more than 250,000 jobs. The Government will not be found wanting. We will keep everything under review.
As regards the business continuity scheme and the money that was ring-fenced in the most recent budget, Fáilte Ireland is in consultation with relevant stakeholders to assess where that money will go.
It is open to anyone to apply to the board of Fáilte Ireland. Obviously, we will be looking for specific skill sets, in consultation with the chairman of the board. It is open to anyone to apply to that process. Of course, the hospitality sector does have a strong voice via the tourism and hospitality forum I and the Tánaiste co-chair.
I am sorry for interrupting the Minister. Obviously, she is the Minister who makes those appointments. Is it a part of the criteria that she will seek people who are recommended and that consideration will be given to that particular part of the sector? It is important for that to be the case.
The directors and I will consult with the chairman on that. It then goes through the Public Appointments Service process and that shortlist is brought to me. As I stated, it is open to anyone to apply. It is a fair and transparent process. The hospitality sector has a strong voice via the tourism and hospitality forum. I know this has been a devastating time for those in the sector and that the uncertainty for the sector as we approach Christmas is awful. The Government has not been and will not be found wanting in the context of supports.
I thank Deputy Griffin for his questions. On the sports capital programme, as I stated in the Dáil last week, there has been a delay of several weeks as a result of incomplete applications in certain counties. Clubs have been given an opportunity to respond. We were hopeful to conclude the process by the end of November, but I expect it will be just before Christmas or, more likely, the first two weeks of January that we make the announcements. We have had positive conversations with the Minister, Deputy McGrath. As I stated to Senator Cassells, we await the outcome of that.
To provide more detail on the large-scale sports infrastructure fund, progress has been made in recent months. Two projects have finalised a funding agreement, ten projects have completed due diligence and are progressing, while 17 projects are at further due diligence stage. The first payment has been made to fund the Newcastle West athletics hub in co-operation with Limerick City and County Council and, as I stated to Senator Cassells, there have been payments to Dublin City Council in respect of the Dalymount Park project. It was slow due to Covid but it is progressing now. These are important projects.
On the issue of the Sport Ireland chief executive, Sport Ireland has appointed Lansdowne Executive Search to manage all aspects of the recruitment.
The position was advertised on Friday, 29 October, with a closing date of Friday, 19 November. It was advertised on Publicjobs.ie. It is anticipated that the first interviews will take place in early December for the new chief executive role of Sport Ireland.
I thank the Minister and the Minister of State and commend them on the continuing increases in the budgets in the areas of arts, sport and tourism. I am going to focus my questions on the area of arts, media and culture. The Minister mentioned the Online Safety and Media Regulation Bill, which is critical legislation. I welcome the fact the Minister is committed to the recruitment of the online safety commissioner. Will she indicate when that recruitment process might start? In the context of the legislation, the Minister will be aware that our committee made a recommendation around an individual complaints mechanism. Can she indicate if, in principle, she is supportive of that and if it will inform part of the legislation? Our committee also recommended the introduction of a content levy on the streaming services to help with the development of production here. Again, the Minister might indicate if she will be supporting our recommendations.
I would be grateful if the Minister could indicate when we will see publication of the report of the Future of Media Commission. She will be aware there is also a vacancy on the RTÉ board after a process that this committee engaged in. She might outline if she intends to fill that vacancy and when she might do it.
I echo the concerns around the entertainment sector and providing the supports for those working in that sector, as well as the Minister’s commitment on the pilot universal basic income, UBI. I hope that a broad a range of artists and arts workers is included when it is introduced. We are obviously talking about everybody from choreographers to set designers. It is a huge area, so that is key.
The Minister mentioned the importance of our theatres, arts venues and galleries for national well-being. They are extremely safe venues. With other members of the committee, I was at a theatre last night and I have been in a number of theatres in Wexford in recent weeks. They were all operating in a very safe way, with Covid certs being checked. I am looking for assurances that there will be no effort to close some of these vital venues in the weeks and months ahead, particularly given these venues have scheduled quite a number of shows well into next year. It is important that assurance is given to try to support those venues. Again, I echo colleagues’ comments around continued support for those in the entertainment sector who are being badly hit. I accept there are quite a few questions.
Yes, I am trying to write them down to make sure I answer them all. In regard to the media commission, it cannot formally be established until the Online Safety and Media Regulation Bill is enacted. However, it is my intention to go to the Government in the coming weeks to seek agreement to start the recruitment process for key personnel on an administrative basis in advance of this. That would enable preparatory work to be undertaken to ensure the commission hits the ground running on establishment. The provision of the €5.5 million in funding that I secured in the recent budget will enable that. I reckon the commission will probably require 120 personnel for the start-up phase, with a number of these to be hired before the formal establishment.
With regard to the individual complaints, this is a matter I have been considering closely for some time. The issue of providing for avenues of redress in terms of individual pieces of content in the online world is, of course, complex. I am currently looking at the 33 recommendations. I have to commend the committee for the detailed and thorough pre-legislative scrutiny that was done. Although the Senator is talking about one specific recommendation, to have made 33 recommendations shows the complexity of all of this.
I am currently examining how this issue and others can be overcome. It is a complex issue. Ireland could actually be regulating for the whole of Europe in respect of video-sharing platforms. That is approximately 450 million people and it brings various languages and cultural norms into it all. It is about how we would actually manage that volume. I am examining how these issues could be overcome in the context of that specific recommendation. That is where we are right now.
In regard to the levy, the Bill already provides that such a levy may be introduced by the media commission once its viability has been assessed with regard to whether or not it would have any negative effects. The proceeds of any such levy will go into a content production scheme from which producers could apply for funding, similar to the sound and vision scheme, with which the Senator will be familiar. I hope that answers the question.
In regard to the Future of Media Commission, that report currently lies with me and the Taoiseach. We will be consulting key Cabinet colleagues and then bringing it to government. As the Taoiseach said in recent weeks, the terms of reference and recommendations of that commission are pretty substantial so we are giving it consideration. We will consult the relevant Ministers and then bring it before Cabinet.
In regard to the basic income, the Senator may have heard me answer on that earlier. There is a key stakeholder agreement consultation on 8 December. We went out to tender for the facilitator of that and it will be a sort of global, café-style forum. I would like as broad a range as possible, which was the Senator’s question. It is so important that the sector is with us all the way in the design of this process, so I would see all of that being discussed on that key date of 8 December. The invites will issue shortly for that consultation process. Was there a final question?
It was on giving certainty to theatres, arts venues, museums and galleries. It is important to try to provide them with some level of certainty. I know these are difficult times but they are operating safely. It is that they can continue to open while operating within the rules.
I agree they are operating very well and they are to be admired for it. However, as I said earlier to Deputy Griffin, I cannot give a definitive response on the pandemic and the twists and turns it will take, nor is there any ambition to impose any further restrictions at present. We have to wait and assess the impact of the changes introduced last week and the consistent messaging around individual behaviour. I am, of course, hugely sensitive to the impact of this on live performances in all the venues the Senator has mentioned. As I said earlier, we will not be found wanting in regard to supports. There is the €25 million that was ring-fenced in budget 2022 and there is the money in the Covid fund mentioned by the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Michael McGrath. It will come through him and the Minister for Finance, Deputy Donohoe, if needs be. We have them open and I want to keep them open and I want them to be viable. I hope that is the case. If that does not happen, I can assure the Senator they will receive the supports they need. Let us hope we can turn this around.
The procedure for appointing the board members to RTÉ is set out in section 81 of the Broadcasting Act 2009.
That section provides for a board of 12 comprising six members appointed by the Government on the nomination of the Minister, four appointed by the Government on the nomination of the Minister after the joint Oireachtas committee process, one staff member and the director general. As the Senator will know, arising from the most recent joint Oireachtas committee process, the Government approved the nomination of four persons to fill the four vacancies. There is now one vacancy because a subsequent resignation took place. I have engaged with the Senator on this. I look forward to hearing from members of the committee regarding a new nominee to the RTÉ board. This is a challenging time for public broadcasting and I look forward to working with the board of RTÉ. I understand that this replacement process is ongoing.
I also welcome the Minister and the Minister of State. My first question is for the Minister of State. It is on the importance of the role the Government plays in sports programmes and how it contributes to a healthier and more active society. It was mentioned earlier that promoting sports participation is a key priority and that the Department is collaborating with the Department of Education. Will the Minister of State expand on the work that is being undertaken in that regard? We are all aware that students and children are probably less active in the school environment due to the curriculum that is currently in place. The number of hours being allocated to sporting activities certainly needs to be revisited. I would like to get the Minister of State's comments on this topic.
I thank the Deputy. I referenced the Department of Education and I met representatives from Sport Ireland this morning in respect of this matter. We have a new winter initiative, the Let's Get Back campaign, which is based around trying to encourage the return to indoor and outdoor sport. When it comes to schools, representatives from the Department of Education and a couple of the working groups at Sport Ireland have worked on participation and the physical literacy plan that will be launched next year. A great deal of work has been done by the Department of Education on the use of school facilities in recent times. The Deputy will probably know that in his community, and across many communities, we are seeing sporting infrastructure being integrated into educational facilities and the use of that infrastructure in the evenings and during the day. It is a key piece in the context of trying to marry physical activity and sport with our education system more generally.
We will have ongoing engagement with the Department of Education. The Covid pandemic has obviously presented a challenge with protocols and, as we all know, the school setting has been challenging for the past 18 months. As Minister of State with responsibility for this area, I am keen to see much greater co-operation and to build on a lot of the work many of our governing bodies do. For example, members of the GAA or other sporting bodies go into schools. There are development officers who facilitate basketball, some football and other activities. We are trying to support and enhance that, in addition to strengthening coaching. We will launch a new coaching plan in the coming weeks that will be about strengthening the whole coaching system across the sports system generally and the opportunities that are there between schools and our sporting system. It will be a major opportunity to improve physical literacy among our young people and give them the tools to promote physical activity in their lives. That is something we are ambitious about.
I certainly welcome that initiative. I have highlighted the lack of provision of sporting facilities in the primary and secondary school environment to the Minister for Education. I welcome the expansion of the sports capital and equipment programme that allows schools to make applications in this regard. While physical education is a senior cycle subject, certain schools are using facilities that are not in close proximity to the school, which causes major issues and concern. I would like to see this programme expanded and more collaboration between the Department and the Department of Education to ensure that we provide adequate funding in this regard. There is funding in the NDP, but it needs to be targeted and specific to school environments and made more accessible to school management and principals.
The Minister of State made reference to initial delays, and allowing a number of weeks for clubs to respond, in respect of the sports capital and equipment programme. Were clubs that were not successful in being allocated funding for sporting equipment communicated with? Will there be an opportunity for them to reapply in future in order to secure funding?
An appeals mechanism is available to clubs that made applications for equipment only. There was a little confusion around that. I can state that if a club had, for example, some sports capital and equipment on the same application, that is still a live application and has not yet been decided on or assessed. Some clubs that might need a hurling wall or a lawnmower might have thought that they would not get the equipment if those items were included on the application. However, that is all still in the mix when it comes to equipment. There was a little uncertainty around that but there is an appeals process. Very few applicants missed out, although I know some did, in the equipment-only programme, but an appeals process was open to them. As I said, we expect the sports capital programme to conclude now. We hope to announce details of it in the first two weeks of January at the latest.
My final question is on major sporting events and the responsibility of the Department in co-ordinating Government supports for potential bids on the back of the bid to host the Ryder Cup in 2027. Has the Minister of State any detail on the programme of expenditure for hosting this event that is currently in place in the Department?
I will have to provide the committee with specific detail on the Ryder Cup. There is an expanded envelope under that subhead for next year of just over €6 million. We had under €6 million this year. To go back to Senator Cassells' question on the World Cup, we expect to spend more than €2 million over a four-year period. We have spent a very limited amount so far, but it could be up to approximately €500,000 by the summer of next year. I will have to get detail on the breakdown for the Ryder Cup. I will be happy to provide that directly to the Deputy or to the committee.
The Government has refused to revise the changes to the PUP and the EWSS, even in view of the recent surge in cases, the changes to restrictions on hospitality and the ongoing hardships experienced by the sector. I do not think the matter was even discussed at yesterday's Cabinet meeting. Is the Minister happy with the Government's decisions so far to proceed with cuts to the payments?
These are not "Yes" or "No" answers. What the Deputy insists on ignoring is that I am also a Minister in the Government that awarded record, unprecedented funding to the Arts Council. I am also a Minister in a Government.
On social welfare supports, the Department of Social Protection stands ready to provide support to those impacted in the short term. My Department engages on an ongoing basis with the stakeholders and we will continue to do so to receive feedback on the evolving challenges facing the sector. We have not been found wanting. We will assess the situation and keep it under review.
Okay. That is not an answer to the question. I refer to page 5 of the Department's briefing for the committee. It shows the numbers of workers in the sector under its remit that rely on the PUP. At the end of October the number was 15,000. The EWSS supported 115,000 in the accommodation and food sector. Is that correct?
The most recent analysis I have by the Department of Social Protection was that in September, 533,000 people with a known employer number had returned to work having availed of the PUP. It shows that 62% returned to the same employer, 12% moved to a different employer and 26% moved to a different employer and different activity. Four in ten tourism and hospitality workers on the PUP did not return to their pre-pandemic employers. Some 18,500, or 15%, had moved to a different employer in the same sector while 33,500, or 27%, had moved to a different sector. This summer one in three workers were new to the sector. Up to 40,000 vacancies, 24%, are at senior level. Those are the details I have on tourism.
I asked the Minister about the figures that I quoted her and just asked if that was correct. It was about the 15,000 on PUP. Look, if the Minister is reading from a script I cannot expect her to answer the questions.
Can I ask the Minister about the cut in the PUP and EWSS payments that she would not answer directly even though she is a Minister in the Government that reduced the payments?
I want to ask about her relationship to the press release from the music and entertainment sector. The sector stated that 75% of its members are experiencing cancellations for events in the month in December. It also said that is happening against a backdrop of cuts in support and, in some cases, withdrawal of those supports. It said that it proposed a new scheme in September. We are now four weeks from Christmas. The Minister said there is ongoing engagement with her. That proposal would have safeguarded the workers against losses incurred right up to Christmas. Where do things stand with that proposal? Does the Minister support it? If so, we are four weeks out from Christmas and what is the hold-up?
The music and entertainment business assistance scheme, MEBAS, was something we did. It has had a few iterations. We did it with close consultation from MEAI. The officials examined the specific scheme to which the Deputy referred and felt it was not feasible -----
I want to touch on tourism. One of the greatest threats to tourism and hospitality at the moment is the skills shortage. We know that a significant part of the problem is working conditions. The committee recently heard from union representatives and some of what they said made for very disturbing listening.
In correspondence with the committee, the Minister said that working conditions in the hospitality sector are ultimately a matter for the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment. However, she said she was concerned about issues that would negatively impact on tourism enterprises. We heard some horrific stories. The committee is trying to do work on this issue. It does not help that the Minister is not taking much of a part in it and is automatically deferring to her colleague, the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment. However, the Minister has said she has concerns about issues that would negatively impact the tourism sector. Did she meet the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment on this? Did she have a conversation? If so, what was that conversation? Has she raised it?
I have not met with the Minister on this yet but I will meet him in advance of the tourism and hospitality forum to discuss it. As the Deputy can imagine, the current evolving situation with Covid has been taking all our attention where we are assessing and reviewing the supports that are needed. We are seeking to address skill shortages. Recruitment continues to be a significant challenge in the sector. Two thirds of businesses have reported reduced capacity. We can see that. I was glad to see the work done by Fáilte Ireland on a new recruitment, marketing and awareness campaign. It continues to promote opportunities and communicate the benefits of working in the industry with its content and social media strategy.
The committee is working on this issue. It had the unions in. We corresponded with the Minister on that and she still has not raised the concerns that she says she has with the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment. She will be aware of the tweet about the young worker who was paid with a bucket of coins. That was just one of thousands of examples. The committee has heard horrific stories from the unions about how workers in the hospitality sector have been treated and the Minister has not yet raised it.
I did not have to go to him specifically. The stakeholders have a discussion with us as co-chairs of the forum. The idea is that they are talking to both of us at the same time and that the Tánaiste hears what I am hearing at the same time and we both respond.
I welcome the Minister and the Minister of State. I thank both of them and their Department for the supports given across the various sectors it covers. They have been fed particularly through the arts and sports. I compliment them on the work that they have done.
Is it possible to get a reply to the recommendations that the committee made in July for the hospitality and entertainment sectors? There were some 30-odd proposals. Rather than going into them all individually, would it be possible to come back to use with a reply on those proposals and where they stand and if any of them are being accepted? I would appreciate that.
We met with various industries, and hospitality and restaurants in particular. One recommendation was that there would be a representative on the board of Fáilte Ireland from the industry. I want to highlight that. It is extremely important that that happens. It is tourism and hospitality, not just tourism. We need to make sure that the hospitality industry is fully represented on the various boards.
I apologise as I had to go out because I was caught with a vote at another meeting. Is there a timescale for the Future of Media Commission reporting? The report was expected some months ago. Can the Minister give a date? Is the funding sufficient to fully resource it?
I acknowledge the Minister’s comments on the vacant position on the board of RTÉ. It is disappointing that when we wrote to RTÉ's board asking that its representatives come in to discuss what happened with that position, which had been nominated by this committee, RTÉ did not do so. It has indicated that representatives will appear. That is disappointing given that RTÉ is fully funded by the taxpayer. Will the Minister comment on that?
With regard to sport, I am delighted the Minister of State has gone to the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Michael McGrath, to get extra funding for the sports capital programme, which is money that is well spent throughout the country. I am glad he has held back on making announcements until he gets further funding. I will be parochial by highlighting figures I raised with him previously with regard to Longford. The county received the lowest per capitafunding in the country in the previous rounds of funding.
We spoke at our previous meeting about an audit of sports facilities. What is the position with that audit and an audit of participation across sports? We should highlight the large-scale sport infrastructure fund, LSSIF, when it is opened up in order to identify areas where facilities are lacking so that they can be prioritised for funding through the scheme. None of the midland counties of Longford, Leitrim and Roscommon have an athletics track. We need to prioritise that through the fund.
The 2020 campaign was successful. We see that in the national media reporting of women’s sports. However, the campaign needs to be improved. Should we extend it or have a 2025 campaign to make sure we get higher levels of participation in sport among women and recognition of ladies’ sport in the media?
The Irish Athletic Boxing Association, IABA, has featured in the media in recent weeks. It is disappointing to see dragged out in the media the suspension of people who have served the sport for generations. This was done in the middle of a democratic process to elect a new central council. We live in a democracy.
As I said earlier, it is open to anyone to apply for a position on the Fáilte Ireland board. It is an open and transparent process. The voice of the industry is heard already in the hospitality and tourism forum. As I said, it is an open and transparent process and anyone can apply to it.
The work of the Future of Media Commission has been completed and the report of the commission has been submitted to the Taoiseach and me. We are currently considering its contents. We will then decide the next steps with Cabinet colleagues. In relation to funding, the Senator may be referring to the media commission, which cannot be formally established until the Online Safety and Media Regulation Bill has been enacted. It is my intention to go to government in the coming weeks to seek an agreement on starting the recruitment process for key personnel. This is to ensure we can hit the ground running on an administrative basis. I understand the Senator was referring to that commission when he spoke about the €5.5 million. I secured that funding to ensure we can have a parallel process and hit the ground running when the Bill is enacted. Those were the key questions addressed to me. I will hand over to the Minister of State.
I thank the Senator for the questions. I will try to get through them. On sports capital, which we have discussed before, I take the Senator’s point on County Longford. We have structured the funding this year by splitting it half-and-half between demand and per capita. This will allow for a fair distribution across the country. On the Senator’s point, we are developing a national digital database which will show the deficits in certain regions, pockets and communities around the country. It will map every indoor and outdoor facility, enable participation across organisations, identify opportunities and support funding models into the future. Work has commenced on that database and involves an audit of every sporting facility in every town, village and townland. We expect it will take approximately two years to complete. It will be a public-facing portal accessed using an app. People will be able to see every piece of working infrastructure in every townland and region. It will be huge for participation and helping to inform further funding models.
I agree with the Senator that the 2020 campaign was very important for the promotion of women’s sport. That is why the Minister and I increased the funding allocation by 33% on the previous round. It is a two-year programme and has been allocated €4 million for this year and next year. As the Senator will know, we equalised grants for male and female players in Gaelic games. On grants generally, we also enhanced the international carding scheme for all athletes in recent days.
On the issue with boxing that has been in the public domain recently, Sport Ireland appeared before the committee on 3 November. Sport Ireland has commenced an independent governance review, which is being carried out by Brian MacNeice of Teneo. It will assess the full governance structures. We expect the review to report by the end of November. There are other concerns in the public domain around particular individuals. There are structures in sporting governance whereby people who have particular concerns can appeal through Sports Dispute Solutions Ireland, SDSI. These rules are set out within the IABA and other sporting organisations. It is an independent structure and the mechanism for dealing with that. There is also a separate independent governance review.
To speak generally, boxing is an important sport in Ireland, across many communities, both as regards participation and competing. We achieved great success in boxing last summer. I hope we will see progress around the review. I accept there is tension around different individuals and in different areas but we need to keep focused on participation, performance and communities, as well as any governance issues that arise. That is why the independent governance review will report by the end of November. There will have to be recommendations and an implementation plan arising from that. That will be overseen by Sport Ireland with the IABA.
I thank the Chair for facilitating me in this meeting. I welcome the Minister, the Minister of State and the Secretary General, Ms Licken, whom have I have not seen in a long time. I always knew she would hit the top. Well done.
I will first address the Minister of State, Deputy Chambers. The social return on investment in sport infrastructure was alluded to briefly by Senator Cassells. The UEFA and FIFA model has been rolled out across the world. We had our own national launch, in which the Minister of State may have been involved, with Packie Bonner. It is great to him see back as a non-executive director of the Football Association of Ireland. Aside from the sports capital programme and the various other support mechanisms we have, is this a model the Minister of State is going to embrace? Will he start perhaps with the main pillar banks by asking them to partner on this model? In case anyone present is not familiar with it, the model basically involves setting tangible achievables from a health perspective, for example, reducing diabetes or obesity, and there are metrics to measure their success.
It could also be related to increasing literacy rates, the number of young people in education, training or employment or the reduction in the number unemployed. It has been proven to work throughout the world. Some €56 million has been collected internationally to date in the 40 countries participating in the initiative in Europe and there are approximately 140 participants in it. The initiative is working to bring down those numbers. Basically, the Government would go to the bank - let us say the Bank of Ireland for the sake of argument - and advise that Sligo Rovers has a development, with which I know the Minister and the Minister of State are familiar, which would cost €16 million. It seeks to come up with €10 million of that cost from a particular source and the Government would advise the bank it would like it to lend the club €10 million and in five years’ time provided the club has met its plan, which tangibly is to have reduced obesity levels, reduced incidence of heart disease or other various measurable outcomes from a social perspective, the Government would pay the bank back that money. That is an infinitely cheaper way to tackle those health and social-related problems that might face a regional capital like Sligo or any town around the country. To touch on something Senator Cassells said, it could result in a large sporting facility being delivered which caters for multiple sports. As the Minister and Minister of State know, that plan incorporates rugby and hockey and would be a community facility. Will the Minister of State bring in the banks and drag them around the table? We all know about their systemic nature. They are great people when they are looking for you but now we are looking for them. Will they divvy up? Can the Minister of State get them to partner on this initiative?
I thank the Deputy for his question. I was involved with some members of the FAI, including Packie Bonner and its president, Gerry McAnaney. I have read the report on the UEFA model and it is excellent. As the Deputy said, it sets out funding structures that parallel social outcomes. Where there is a front-loading of investment from other sources, the State oversees the outcomes to that end and then provides the end funding when there is delivery. I was very impressed by it. As the Deputy said, it has worked in other places that have tried it. I have spoken to the officials about it and certainly we will be exploring the opportunities it presents for football and for sporting investment more generally. It offers a serious potential to leverage funding into sport beyond our traditional programmes, which involve the State front-loading with the balance of investment from others. However, this model offers other opportunities. Where the metrics are clear and outlined, we should embrace it. We will be exploring what is possible and I am open to that. The Deputy was right in what he said. He set out potential achievements in the area of health, such as reducing obesity levels or improving physical health, or with regard to literacy levels, mental health, or education and employment. It is a new funding model that offers serious potential for Ireland.
One aspect of it could involving private banking but also there is the potential to involve the European Investment Bank. I would like to have a conversation with it too. We will engage with the banks. That will not be a difficulty. We received the report last week and we need to know what way we would structure this model if we were to embrace it. We will engage with the financial-----
I do not want to be telling the Minister of State his business but I respectfully suggest he would invite in the CEOs of the Government pillar banks and representatives of the credit union movement. Unfortunately, the Central Bank seems to have a basic aversion to allowing the credit unions to do anything with their €20 billion other than hide it under the bed. All that money is there and we could use it. My respectful suggestion to the Minister of State would be to grab it by the scruff of the neck. He should drag in the banks because if we wait for the administrative merry-go-round to dish it out, he and I will be old men, or I will probably be dead and the Minister of State will be an old man. That covers that element.
I welcome this opportunity to engage with the Minister, Deputy Catherine Martin. I know the Chair will cut me off if I go over my time. I sympathise with the Minister's position on the night-time economy and hospitality sector because there is an irrational focus on the ability of six people sitting in a bar to spread Covid with 51,000 people singing in the Aviva Stadium not appearing to be capable of doing the same or worse. Who from the Minister's Department is a member of NPHET? Some 38 people are members of it. They are all physicians and nobody from the Department is a member of it.
I know and that is a major issue. I knew the answer to that question. We have 38 people, who are not qualified to do so, deciding on the safety or otherwise and the implications of working in the hospitality environment. If the Minister reads the Health Protection Surveillance Centre's weekly reports, as I do and as I am sure her officials do, she will be aware there are outbreaks of Covid-19 in private homes in the region of 6,000 per week, very high outbreaks in residential settings in hospitals, institutions, nursing homes and so on, and outbreaks are creeping up in schools. Collectively, outbreaks in hospitality are quite low. It is in the region of 100 as opposed to 7,000. The issue I have is that any of us who have been to a pub or a restaurant – unfortunately, my nightclub days are over - will find, in most instances, we are asked to show a Covid-19 certificate and to give our name, we are shown to a table, we must wear a mask when walking to and from the toilet and, as we know, there is no dancing, as it seems that is far too dangerous. If we limit controlled hospitality, as has been the practice up to now, we are encouraging people to go to each other’s homes. That is where outbreaks will happen. If you visit my house or I visit your house, I will not sanitise the worktops when you leave and, presumably, you will not do so either. That is why we are all more relaxed at home. The figures show that. Equally, Dr. Holohan, at the weekend, said that the midnight issue would not particularly make much of a difference but it would send a message. I find it reprehensible that we have in some way decided to victimise one sector to be the vehicle with which we send a message to the wider public. Many people are suffering as a result. I put those points to the Minister to get her view on them.
On the other issue, I reassure the Deputy that the Secretary General of the Department is a member of the Covid-19 oversight group and the body that makes the recommendations is represented on that oversight group. The Secretary General gets to feed into that process. I would add that dancing is allowed in certain circumstances.
No, it depends. There are strict regulations on it. I will make sure the Deputy gets the relevant information on that. If one has a relevant licence, the dance-floor space and the event is ticketed, it is allowed. The restrictions are about the layering process. I know the decision on the midnight issue is very tough on the night-time economy in particular. That is what the Deputy is fighting for but at least the sector's doors are still open. Up to two months ago, they had been closed for 18 or 19 months. This is about simply reducing socialisation and the interaction that involves. That is where the decision came from. The doors of the sector are still open and we want to keep them open. I am determined to do that. We will keep the supports in place. That would be my comments on that point.
I thank the Deputy for joining us today.
I also have a few questions. I would like to take this opportunity to publicly congratulate, and I hope both the Minister and the Minister of State will join me in doing so, Maggie Farrelly from Laragh in County Cavan who a few weeks ago became the first woman ever to referee a county final in Kingspan Breffni Park.
It is extraordinary on so many levels that it was 2021 before this occurred. The match was a replay between Gowna and Ramore United. Ms Farrelly did an extraordinary job at a very tough game, particularly considering that it was a replay. I acknowledge her extraordinary achievement in breaking the glass ceiling to become the first woman in Ireland ever to do what she did. Both Ministers might join me in congratulating her.
That leads me neatly to the question of women in sport. What are the plans of the Minister of State to encourage all women in all sports? Senator Carrigy talked about the success of the 2020 campaign. Perhaps he is right. Perhaps the Minister of State and the Department have plans to follow up on that. Could he comment on the matter? It is not just about getting women to engage in sport; the bigger problem concerns the retention of young girls and women and what we do to support them. In the new year, we are going to have a hearing on this issue, but I would like to hear the Minister of State's comments and plans.
Could the Minister outline the eligibility criteria for the basic income guarantee for artists under the associated scheme? I congratulate her on ring-fencing €25 million in that regard. She spoke about an app. Perhaps she could give us some more insight into the roll-out of that and how soon we might see it.
What are the Minister's plans for the Creative Ireland programme? It has led to extraordinary work in bringing professional arts to young children in primary schools and, perhaps, secondary schools. It has been very successful in terms of its engagement and partnerships with local authorities and education and training boards. Has the Minister plans for arts education officers? There are three in place with education and training boards around the country. This is certainly a model that could be expanded and developed. Could the Minister speak to the points I have raised?
We will hear the responses of the Minister of State first. Maybe he will mention Maggie Farrelly's achievements first.
It was fantastic to see Maggie Farrelly referee the senior county club final. I hope she is the first of many female referees to officiate across our club and county systems. When she spoke about this, she wanted to focus on the future and on her being one of many female referees. It was brilliant to see what she did.
Through our women in sport programme, we are trying to fund officiating, along with coaching, active participation and reducing the gender gap we see in sport. Having female referees from grassroots level all the way up to the top of our refereeing system is key for all women and girls across the sporting landscape. We are supporting this to the women's sport programme, which focuses on coaching, officiating, participation, leadership and other areas. I congratulate Ms Farrelly and hope she will be one of many female referees. I hope we will see many more county and inter-county finals refereed by women referees.
On the next question, on women in sport more generally, a priority regarding players was to send a strong signal around equality of treatment and parity of esteem. That has happened this year. We have increased the funding allocation for women in sport by 33%. We are trying to be very positive. We are seeing significant growth in participation by young girls in particular. We are seeing this across all sports. There is significant participation in clubs across the country.
As said before, there is attrition, particularly in the teenage years. Sport Ireland is doing a lot of work with the governing bodies on trying to mitigate the attrition in our sporting landscape. Through our local sports partnerships and clubs, a lot of work is being done. In the sport action plan that we are to publish shortly, we will focus very much on trying to narrow the participation gap and make sure women and girls have a full opportunity across the sporting landscape. To be fair, many sports are embracing that agenda in a really positive way when it comes to leadership.
We have a women in sport lead in Sport Ireland, Ms Nora Stapleton, whom the Chairman knows. Ms Lynne Cantwell is the chair of the women in sport steering committee. We are committed not only to matching the funding increases but also to ensuring we see delivery across the participation gap. I am aware that this committee has been very interested in this in recent times.
Comhghairdeas le Maggie Farrelly on being the first woman ever to referee a county final. As the Chairman said, it is shocking that she is the first despite it being 2021. We have a long way to go. Maggie has definitely played her part. As the Chairman knows, young girls cannot aim to be what they cannot see. Maggie will definitely inspire young girls to referee in the future. The members should rest assured that the Minister of State and I are absolutely determined to increase the participation of women in all areas of sport, as the Minister of State has outlined in so many ways. We are committed to that.
With regard to eligibility for the basic income, a lot depends on the engagement on 8 December at the global café-style event. We are considering the possibility of having two streams, one being for professional artists, most likely based on membership of a resource body such as Visual Artists Ireland or Dance Ireland. That stream would also include emerging artists to ensure developing artists are given the opportunity to develop their creative practice. There would be a second stream for those working in the arts sector who have a creative input into the final output of an artist's practice, such as screenwriters, directors and costume designers. We are considering this. Participation will not be based on a means test; it will be a non-competitive process. We will have a control group, a meaningful number of unsuccessful applicants, so we can capture the important data and determine the impact on both unsuccessful and successful applicants, creative output and artists' well-being. A tender has been issued for a partner to develop the online application portal. Maybe that is what the Chairman was referring to. The key date in the basic income guarantee pilot is 8 December. All the artists issued with invites will get to help to shape the scheme.
With regard to Creative Ireland, together with the Department of Education, the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, and the Arts Council, the programme has seen investment of approximately €13.4 million in the Creative Youth initiative since 2017, with a further €6.8 million in 2021. That will considerably enhance children's and young people's access to creative activities. Three additional education and training, ETB, initiatives are being advanced in Cork, Galway–Roscommon and Mayo–Sligo–Leitrim. The ETBs have been really brilliant at targeting the disadvantaged
Responsibility for the decisions on the local Creative Youth partnerships lies mostly with the Minister for Education, Deputy Foley. A total of 651 schools have chosen to participate in the Creative Schools programme since its introduction, and a further 299 schools have been chosen to participate in the Creative Clusters initiative of the Department of Education. The current iteration of Creative Ireland is coming to an end and my officials are preparing proposals to extend the programme that I will bring to the Cabinet. Creative Communities, with the local authorities and Creative Ireland, has resulted in incredible work on increasing young people's access to creative opportunities.
It has been and will continue to be a real positive.
I thank the Minister and the Minister of State for their time and their comprehensive answers and presentations. The committee is now fully informed of what exactly is happening in their Department. That will be very beneficial in the context of our work. I thank them for that.
The committee will now adjourn until 11.30 a.m. on Wednesday, 1 December 2021, when we will have a private session on Microsoft Teams. Following a suspension, the committee will resume in public session for a meeting with key sporting organisations to discuss the elimination of any and all abuses directed towards referees, officials and players in sports. I remind members that the select committee will meet at 4 p.m. today to consider a Supplementary Estimate for Vote 33. Go raibh míle maith agaibh.