Wednesday, 28 September 2022
Financial Resolutions 2022 - Financial Resolution No. 6: General: Financial Resolution (Resumed)
Malcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party) | Oireachtas source
I am honoured today to announce programme funding of €147.5 million for the heritage sector for 2023, plus €7.5 million through the share island fund, giving a total of €155 million. This figure represents a doubling of the 2020 allocation, with overall capital funding increased by more than 80% and current funding increased by 75%. Such significant investment speaks strongly and eloquently to the commitment of the Government, including the Minister and me, to the built and natural heritage sector.
While maintaining that trajectory of growth in funding for heritage programmes and agencies, we have also ensured that the operational budgets of the National Parks and Wildlife Service, NPWS, the National Monuments Service, the Heritage Council and Waterways Ireland have also been considerably enhanced.
Following the commitment in the programme for Government and the Government decision earlier on this year, I have delivered on the funding committed to the strategic action plan for the renewal of the National Parks and Wildlife Service. Its core capital budget has been increased by over 45%, the current programme budget has been increased by 20%, and its operating budget by a further 20%. Coupled with the EU funding secured by the organisation and additional funding for the expansion of the local authority biodiversity officers programme through the Heritage Council, combined funding for nature for 2023 is more than €90 million.
The built heritage arena has also benefited greatly from these increases and I am delighted to announce significant increases in capital support schemes for communities, custodians of heritage properties and also for Waterways Ireland and the Irish Heritage Trust.
Overall, the funding increase made available to heritage today will benefit six national parks and 74 nature reserves, enable the continuation of NPWS reform and renewal, provide for significant investment in the conservation and restoration of our precious habitats and species, and just as importantly, in the rangers and conservation staff who drive the organisation forward. It will allow for the continued extension of the biodiversity officers network, progress the completion of the network of heritage officers, further support the national biodiversity data centre, progress the extension of the Ulster Canal with shared island support, and benefit over 1,500 built heritage and national monuments projects. This funding will touch every community in the country, and will no doubt be deeply appreciated by the 14 million users of our national parks, nature reserves, waterways and national monuments sites.
I will now deal with the other element of my brief, electoral reform. I am delighted to have delivered its legislative elements, with the Electoral Reform Act having been enacted in July. I am determined to further progress and implement those reforms in the course of the coming year.
This will include the establishment of an independent electoral commission, to be called an coimisiún toghcháin, which will bring about a more cohesive and efficient administration of electoral functions in Ireland. It is now in the process of being stood up and its formal establishment will happen in the coming months. I am delighted to provide an coimisiún with significant funding of €5.7 million for the coming year.
It will also include the modernisation of the electoral registration process, and the implementation of a new, simplified and more accessible system. I am pleased to be providing €2.77 million for this work, which will also support local authorities to engage with their communities to improve data quality in respect of the register.
I acknowledge the tremendous work of officials in the heritage and franchise sections of the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage. I thank the many advocates for biodiversity, heritage and electoral reform here in the Dáil and also in the Seanad, not least the Minister, my colleague, the Minister of State, Deputy Burke, and the Taoiseach. By working together collaboratively, this Government is making real, transformative change in these areas, and that is something we can all be proud of.