Thursday, 21 May 2020
Covid-19 (Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht): Statements
Michael Collins (Cork South West, Independent)
I have a number of questions on which I would appreciate a response from the Minister. Arts and culture are the cornerstone of our society. Creativity is vital to our health and wellbeing. Culture and creativity are helping people through this crisis. People are looking to the arts for inspiration and consolation. Expectations of financial commitment will need to be revised across all sectors in light of the significant and necessary emergencies being introduced in response to the Covid-19 crisis. It is imperative that investment in arts and culture in Ireland is safeguarded. Can the Minister ensure that artists and organisations can plan for next year by immediately guaranteeing that, at least, the same level of investment in the Arts Council and Culture Ireland will be committed for 2021? Can she provide a clear road map for the doubling of arts investment by 2025, including the commitment to double investment in the Arts Council and Culture Ireland over the same period, which are the agencies that directly support artists and their work. As per the Minister's statement in October 2019 that we are on a good trajectory and we have a good road map ahead in terms of doubling the funding by 2025 and the Government is committed to doing so, will this now happen?
I have questions on other issues. The Minister's decision to rule out a derogation for shooting pigeons during summer months has tillage farmers throughout the country and in west Cork furious. Shooting pigeons is the only way to control their numbers and protect crops such as brassicas from ravage during the summer months. Every year, pigeon shooters come here to help control the pigeon population. There is no other way to control the pigeon population. If they are not controlled they will be an even bigger problem in the future. Will the Minister make public the scientific evidence on which she decided not to sign the derogation? In light of the issues raised by the farmers and others, will she change her position and sign the derogation?
In the UK, a similar rule was introduced in 2016 but was reversed afterwards. In the event of the Minister not signing this derogation, what realistic steps can farmers and horticulture growers take to protect their crops from serious attacks by pigeons?
I have a question for the Minister about dangerous rural secondary roadsides. Between March and September, the verges on those roads cannot be cut. There is a lot of confusion in this regard, although the Minister said earlier that there is no such confusion and that the roadside verges can be cut. However, contractors who are trying to cut are being told they are not allowed to do so. We need clarity. There is too much confusion on this issue and the Minister is the only person who can provide clarity. The contractors either can or cannot cut between March and September. It is quite simple. They are trying to save lives and stop people from having accidents.
Finally, the islands cannot reopen until 10 August, which is understandable. If that is the rule, we cannot argue with it. There are eight islands in my constituency, including Heir Island, Whiddy Island, Bere Island and Sherkin Island. Most of our islands are dependent on tourism. What is the plan for the people living there and how they will survive if the islands are closed until 10 August? It will be a very slow reopening, so they will lose the summer season. What is the Department's plan, if there is one, for their survival?