Dáil debates

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Topical Issue Debate (Resumed)

Meitheal Forbartha na Gaeltachta

4:00 pm

Photo of Éamon Ó CuívÉamon Ó Cuív (Galway West, Fianna Fail)
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Before I commence, may I ask if the Minister of State, Deputy O'Dowd, has direct responsibility for the Partnership Programme? My understanding was that under this new Topical Issue Debate, the Minister with direct responsibility would attend the House and not fob it off on the Minister of State.

Photo of Dan NevilleDan Neville (Limerick, Fine Gael)
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Like Deputy Ó Cuív did.

Photo of Jerry ButtimerJerry Buttimer (Cork South Central, Fine Gael)
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They were never responsible for anything.

Photo of Éamon Ó CuívÉamon Ó Cuív (Galway West, Fianna Fail)
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Does the Minister of State have direct responsibility for partnership companies?

Photo of Fergus O'DowdFergus O'Dowd (Louth, Fine Gael)
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Yes, I have. I am responding on behalf of the Department to the issues the Deputy has raised.

Photo of Éamon Ó CuívÉamon Ó Cuív (Galway West, Fianna Fail)
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Yes, but we were given a commitment.

Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
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The Deputy is using up some of his time.

Photo of Éamon Ó CuívÉamon Ó Cuív (Galway West, Fianna Fail)
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On the first day in, the Government goes back on what it said it was going to do.

Photo of Jerry ButtimerJerry Buttimer (Cork South Central, Fine Gael)
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The Deputy will be in Opposition for a long time.

Photo of Éamon Ó CuívÉamon Ó Cuív (Galway West, Fianna Fail)
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That will be a matter for the Irish people to decide, not the Deputy.

Photo of Jerry ButtimerJerry Buttimer (Cork South Central, Fine Gael)
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They have decided already for this term.

Photo of Éamon Ó CuívÉamon Ó Cuív (Galway West, Fianna Fail)
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That is correct, but for the next term they will decide again.

Deputies:

That was on the basis of a false promise. Deputy Buttimer should be careful.

Photo of Jerry ButtimerJerry Buttimer (Cork South Central, Fine Gael)
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Deputy Ó Cuív did not run for the Park.

Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
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Will Members please allow Deputy Ó Cuív to make his case?

Photo of Éamon Ó CuívÉamon Ó Cuív (Galway West, Fianna Fail)
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Mar is eol don Aire Stáit, d'éirigh MFG as trádáil gan choinne an tseachtain seo caite. Bhí iniúchadh a chur mé féin ar bun á dhéanamh ar gnóthaí MFG. Bhí an tuarascáil sin réidh roimh an Aire nuair a tháinig sé isteach sa Roinn. Ba mhaith liom i dtosach báire ceist a chur ar an Aire Stáit faoin eolas a bhí ag an Aire maidir leis na fadhbanna a bhí in MFG agus, go deimhin, na céimeanna a bhí á ghlacadh ag an Roinn agus ag an Aire chun déileáil leis na fadhbanna sin, a bhí ar eolas acu. Is dóigh liom nach dtuigeann an Aire an caillteanas mór atá i gceist sa chinneadh a rinneadh an tseachtain seo caite, ó thaobh cailliúnt seirbhísí agus postanna de.

Tá práinn le réiteach a fháil ar na fadhbanna seo. Creidim gurb é an bealach is fearr ar aghaidh ná teacht ar réiteach eatramhach ar na fadhbanna. Tógadh an cinneadh Dé Céadaoin seo caite agus bhí cruinniú Dé hAoine seo caite idir an Roinn, Pobal agus MFG. De réir mar a thuigim é, ní raibh an tAire i láthair - níor b'fhiú don Aire bheith i láthair nuair a bhí an cheist fíor-thábhachtach seo don Ghaeltacht á phlé. Ba mhaith liom míniú a fháil ón Aire, a bhfuil freagracht air i dtaobh na ceiste seo, cén fáth nach raibh sé i láthair ag an gcruinniú sin. Ba mhaith liom eolas a fháil ar céard atá á dhéanamh, nó céard atá beartaithe le déanamh, chun déileáil leis an gceist seo anois, agus cad atá i gceist a dhéanamh chun na seirbhísí seo a chur ar fáil arís agus poist a chaomhnú.

Tá sé thar a bheith tábhachtach, in aon socrú nua a dhéanfar, go gcuirfear na seirbhísí ar fáil trí Ghaeilge. Bunaíodh Meitheal Forbartha na Gaeltachta chun déanamh cinnte go mbeidh seirbhísí ar fáil do Ghaeilgeoirí na Gaeltachta ina dteanga fhéin. Ní bheadh sé sásúil dom, nó do phobal na Gaeltachta, dá smaoineófaí ar na seirbhísí sin a chur ar fáil in aon teanga eile. Ba mhaith liom a dheimhniú go bhfuil sé i gceist ag an Aire casadh le bórd iomlán MFG. Cén uair atá sé i gceist aige casadh leo? Cad iad na socruithe atá i gceist a dhéanamh chun a chinntiú go mbeidh na cláracha Leader agus LCDP, agus na cláracha eile a bhí á reachtáil ag MFG, ar fáil do phobal na Gaeltachta amach anseo?

Photo of Fergus O'DowdFergus O'Dowd (Louth, Fine Gael)
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Ba mhaith liom freagra a thabhairt don Teachta. Tá sé an-thábhachtach go réiteofaí an cheist práinneach seo ar son muintir na Gaeltachta, go háirithe. Tá an Aire agus an Roinn ag déanamh a ndícheall lá agus oíche chun an scéal seo a socrú, i dtreo is go gheobhaidh gach chuid de gach Gaeltacht sa tír an buntáiste atá ag teastáil ón airgead seo. Is é sin an bun-aidhm atá againn ar an taobh seo den Dáil. Tá súil agam go bhfuil an Teachta Ó Cuív ag cabhrú linn sa mhéid sin.

Mar is eol don Teachta, is comhlacht é Meitheal Forbartha na Gaeltachta atá ag obair sna Gaeltachtaí i gCorcaigh, Ciarraí, Dhún na nGall, Gaillimh, Maigh Eo, an Mhí agus Port Láirge. This company operates a number of programmes on behalf of the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government, agus Ranna eile. Tá an comhlacht seo ag obair sa Roinn ina bhfuil mé i mo Aire Stáit. The programmes that are being delivered from my Department are rural walkways, rural development programmes and the local and community development programme. Is comhlacht neamhspleách lena mbord fhéin é MFG. Tá dualgaisí aige ó thaobh company law de. It - bord an chomhlacht - has responsibilities under company law with regard to the proper stewardship of that company.

Níl aon baint ag an Roinn leis na rudaí inmheánacha atá ar siúl i measc na gcomhlachtaí seo, ach go háirithe. Dá bhrí sin, níl aon ról ag an Roinn in relation to rudaí inmheánacha, go mórmhór na daoine atá ag obair ionta agus na rudaí a bhaineann leo. Tá an dualgas iomlán ar an mbord na rudaí sin a réiteach agus a chur chun cinn, más féidir. Mar is eol duit, a Theachta, Pobal, which manages the Local and Community Development Programme on behalf of the Department, commenced an audit of MFG in January 2010. The audit findings and associated recommendations were notified don comhlacht sin in June 2010.

An independent executive, Mazars, was appointed by Pobal to MFG on 30 June 2011 to examine the outstanding audit issues and identify suitable mechanisms for their resolution. The executive presented their interim findings to Pobal in mid-August 2011 and presented their recommendations and progress to the board of MFG on 7 September 2011. The final status on the recommendations was scheduled to be presented by the independent executive to Pobal by 30 September 2011.

LCDP funding was temporarily extended to September 2011 to facilitate the completion of the final report. MFG has confirmed that its board, on examination of the company's financial situation, took the decision to cease trading as of 4 p.m. on 7 September 2011 on the basis of insolvency. The board has also confirmed that all staff contracts have been terminated since the board meeting.

On 9 September, a meeting was held with representatives from the Department, Pobal, Mazars and MFG. This meeting was used to gain clarifications on the specific decisions taken by the company and on its progress on implementing these decisions. The company was strongly encouraged to avail of financial advice, alongside the legal advice which, it was stressed, is imperative immediately. It also committed to effect all other necessary work to meet its statutory obligations.

It was agreed that MFG would take full legal advice on the necessary steps and that the company would ensure it is fulfilling all statutory duties relevant to its situation. The Department and Pobal are awaiting a written update on this work.

Photo of Éamon Ó CuívÉamon Ó Cuív (Galway West, Fianna Fail)
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Ba mhaith liom buíochas a ghlacadh leis an Aire ach, in ndáiríre, níor fhreagair sé na buncheisteanna. An chéad cheist, muna n-éiríonn le MFG ord a chur a a chuid gnóithe céard iad na socruithe eile atá i gceist a dhéanamh leis na seirbhísi a chur ar fáil don phobal, is é sin, seirbhísí chomhlucht Leader agus LCDP, an local community and development programme? Ar ndóigh tá an comhlucht neamhspleách. Ach muna bhfeidhmíonn sé de réir critéir na Roinne níl sé neamhspleách, mar tá an Roinn ag tabhairt a gcuid airgid. Mar sin, muna bhfuil sé ag feidhmiú cad iad na malairt socruithe atá i gceist a dhéanamh le déanamh cinnte go mbeidh na seirbhísí seo ar fáil do phobal na Gaeltachta? Bhí dóthain ama agus dóthain fógra go raibh an fhadhb seo ann.

An dara rud, an bhféadfadh an t-Aire a dheimhniú dom go raibh an dliteanas ar fad a tharraing an trioblóid seo ag dul don Stáit? I gcás amháin, tá ordú Ard Chúirte go gcaithfear duine áirithe a íoc agus ní raibh aon rogha ag an Stáit ach aisíoch a dhéanamh ag MFG i dtaobh an duine sin. De bhreis ar sin, de réir mar a thuigim is dliteanas de thart ar €100,000 é, de réir tuairiscí. An bhféadfadh an t-Aire a dheimhniú gurb shin an dliteanas atá i gceist? Cuireann sé iontas orm nach rabhthas in ann teacht ar shocrú leis an gcomhlucht maidir leis an €100,000 sin agus déanamh cinnte go leanfadh an comhlucht ag déanamh na hoibre a raibh sé ceapaithe a dhéanamh ar son phobal na Gaeltachta.

Níor thug an t-Aire aon fhreagra céard atá i gceist a dhéanamh. Ta pobal na Gaeltachta gan na seirbhísí seo. Cén uair ar féidir linn a bheith ag súil go mbeidh na seirbhísí seo ar fáil do ghnáth mhuintir na Gaeltachta atá ag braith ar na seirbhísí seo agus atá ag fanacht ar chúnamh airgid nach bhfuil ar fáil anois.

Photo of Fergus O'DowdFergus O'Dowd (Louth, Fine Gael)
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Tá sé an-tábhachtach go mbéadh na seirbhísí sin ar fáil ins na gaeltachtaí chomh luath agus is féidir iad a bheith ann. Tá sé an-thábhachtach go mbéadh an Roinn ag déanamh a dhícheall chun na seirbhísí a chur ar fáil, más rud é nach bhfuil an comhlucht in ann é sin a dhéanamh.

Tá an Roinn ag déanamh a dhícheall. It is currently working on both long-term and short-term solutions to ensure the continued delivery of the programme for rural and Gaeltacht areas. At this stage, is féidir liom geall a thabhairt gur féidir aon project promoter who already has contractual commitments under RDP to have his or her contract honoured. Tá sé sin thar a bheith soiléir anois.

I assure the Deputy that the intention is to find an efficient and effective solution that can be applied at the earliest opportunity. My Department would be happy to brief Deputies from Gaeltacht areas to ensure they are fully informed at every stage of this process, which is critical for the Gaeltacht.

The funding that MFG has been given to spend in 2011 amounts to €1.8 million. It is also contracted to deliver other services between 2007 and 2013. The financial allocation to MFG over the programme period to the end of 2015 will be more than €17 million. Tá sé an-thábhachtach ar fad go mbéadh an t-airgead caite san áit cheart. Déanfaidh mé sár-dhícheall go dtarlóidh sé sin.

Photo of Éamon Ó CuívÉamon Ó Cuív (Galway West, Fianna Fail)
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An féidir leis an Aire a dheimhniú gur €100,000 atá i gceist, give or take?