Thursday, 19 November 2020
Covid-19 Pandemic Supports
I propose to take Questions Nos. 8 and 61 together.
While absolutely necessary to protect us all, the impact of the public health guidelines has been extremely challenging for the sectors supported by my Department. These sectors are integral to our society; supporting economic activity; and enhancing physical and societal well-being. The public-facing and audience-driven nature of those sectors means that each time there is an escalation in the level applicable under the Plan for Living with Covid-19, these sectors are often the hardest hit. My officials and I are acutely aware of the need to support our sectors through these challenging times and have been in regular and sustained contact with a broad range of stakeholders over the past weeks and months. In addition to bilateral engagements with a wide range of stakeholders and agencies under the aegis of the Department, a number of task forces and consultative forums have been established in relation to the particular difficulties facing these sectors. This includes the Tourism Recovery Task Force, the Tourism Hospitality Forum, the Arts and Culture Recovery Task Force, and the Sports Monitoring Group. These involve a broad range of stakeholders with experience and insight to develop sustainable road maps for the recovery of these sectors. This engagement led to the very favourable outcomes achieved for these sectors in the context of the July stimulus and budget 2021. I will continue this positive engagement with the sectors and consider the views and recommendations of these task forces and consultative forums in regard to any further necessary measures or supports required as a consequence of Covid-19. That engagement is key to informing our decisions so we do the right things.
The Deputy will be aware that I put in place substantial measures in budget 2021 to support and strengthen the sectors. This engagement with stakeholders has been key in providing a comprehensive response to the impact of Covid-19. In tandem with these support measures, consultative groups were established in both the sport and culture sectors to ensure the necessary guidance and supports are in place to comply with the requirements of the Government’s Plan for Living with Covid-19, including the Expert Group on the Return to Sport and the National Cultural Institutions Consultative Forum. I am also engaging with the stakeholders across the broadcasting and media sector and the Deputy would have heard me describing some of the meetings that have happened this week earlier in the debate. I note particularly the important advocacy role played by agencies under the aegis of my Department. Agencies, including the Arts Council, Screen Ireland, Fáilte Ireland and Sport Ireland, have worked diligently with my officials to raise awareness of the challenges facing our sectors and to identify ways to support them through this pandemic.
The need for important public health measures such as social distancing has placed necessary limits on gatherings to protect public health. Some of the key measures that have been introduced in 2020 to help the sectors within my Department's remit include and additional €25 million for the Arts Council, a €5 million live events pilot scheme, €5 million to support the national cultural institutions, NCIs, and nationwide arts infrastructure.
There is also a €5 million company stabilisation support for Gaeltacht companies, the stay and spend tax credit initiative, a €26 million adaptation grant for the tourism sector, a €10 million grant for coach tourism, €40 million for the three main field sport bodies, namely, the GAA, the IRFU and the FAI, and a €15 million fund for sport governing bodies and clubs. The universal income supports of the pandemic unemployment payment and the wage subsidy scheme have been key to supporting all sectors throughout the crisis. The extension of both of these schemes has provided some much needed certainty.