Wednesday, 12 July 2017
Ministers and Secretaries (Amendment) Bill 2017: Committee and Remaining Stages
Amendment Nos. 1 to 14, inclusive, are related. Amendment No. 2 is a physical alternative to amendment No. 1, amendment No. 4 is a physical alternative to amendment No. 3, amendment No. 6 is a physical alternative to amendment No. 5, amendment No. 8 is a physical alternative to amendment No. 7, amendment No. 10 is a physical alternative to amendment No. 9 and amendment No. 12 is a physical alternative to amendment No. 11. Amendments Nos. 1 to 14, inclusive, may be discussed together.
I move amendment No. 1:
In page 3, line 12, to delete “An Roinn Forbartha Tuaithe agus Pobail” and substitute “An Roinn Uile-Éireann Forbartha Réigiúnda, Tuaithe agus Pobail”.
Politics is a funny business. Sometimes we get wrapped up in the minutiae. It is easy to get confused on certain Bills, but it is very important that we hold a very simple yardstick up to anything to do with Bills, whether it comes from the Government or the Opposition, and that yardstick should be to ask if it will benefit people or not. If this yardstick is used for this Bill, it is clear that the creation of this Department will benefit people, especially people in rural areas. It is very important to do that. It will also benefit the areas of arts, heritage and the Gaeltacht, because that Department was a mish-mash of a Department in reality, and separation will mean that it is possible for different Ministers to focus properly on particular issues.
It is important to note that if this Bill does not pass today it is likely that it will be October before the particular Department will be up and running. I do not believe that it will be useful for us to go back to our own communities and explain that we prevented a Department from being up and running until next October. Notwithstanding that, very valid questions have been asked over the past number of minutes, including what functions are to be delivered to this Department and when those functions will be delivered, and what other steps are necessary for this Department to get up and running. Are statutory instruments necessary? Are ministerial orders necessary? When exactly will people be able to contact the Department and actually see that it is functioning?
On the specifics of the amendments we have tabled, the reason I included "regional" in the title of the proposed Department is that regional concerns differ from rural concerns. There can be a rural area three miles outside Navan and that is in the greater Dublin area. Regional concerns, the fact that there is a two-tier society, and population decline in counties such as Mayo and Donegal, are different concerns. Their concerns centre on the fact that the urban areas in those locations are not functioning properly and cannot compete with Dublin's growth. Most young families today, which need two jobs to survive, are being forced to locate in large cities, especially on the east coast. They do not have a choice if they want to get two jobs that would cover all their expenses. As a result the population on the east coast is getting younger while on the west coast it is getting older. That is why I believe it is necessary for this Department to focus on regional issues. Both issues are connected but they are different.
The third title I seek to include in this Department addresses the all-island spatial regional development plan. I understand that the Minister, Deputy Ring, will function under the cross-Border ministerial forum but we have not shifted one iota since the Good Friday Agreement of 1998. That is a long time ago and we are still functioning on that basis. We are asking in this amendment that we take a step further than that and include in the title of a Department within this State an objective that we organise the infrastructure, the population, the economy, and the services of this island on an all-island basis. That invisible line is so disastrous for the communities living along the Border and will cause many problems in the run up to Brexit that I suggest we develop our infrastructure and spatial development on an all-island basis. That is why I seek to have this in here and ask the Minister to include it in the title.
I have to say gur éist mé le fíorspéis leis an méid a bhí le rá ag an Teachta Tóibín. Chuir sé iontas orm go raibh deifir air an Roinn a bhunú, is cuma cé na cúinsí nó cé na cúraimí nó cé chomh dona agus a bheidh an Roinn sin ag déileáil leis na fabhbanna atá ann. Cuireann sé an-iontas go deo orm go ndéarfadh ball Sinn Féin é sin mar creideann an páirtí sin - agus b'fhéidir go bhfuil an ceart aige - gur fearr Tuaisceart Éireann a fhágáil gan Rialtas ar bith ná drochmhargadh a dhéanamh. In ionad Feidhmeannais a thabhairt isteach agus comhréiteach a dhéanamh leis an DUP tá Sinn Féin ag seasamh taobh amuigh agus ag fágáil cúpla Státseirbhíseach agus airí ó thír iasachta leis an áit a riaradh. Cuireann sé sin iontas orm mar shíllfeá go n-aontódh an Teachta liom go ndéanfadh sé ciall cinntiú go mbeadh na cumhachtaí cearta ag an Aire, Teachta Ring. Tá croí an Aire san áit ceart, ní shéanfainn é sin, ach tá sé in aghaidh córais mhór mhillteach. Tá sé seo ar eolas agam.
Tá roinnt figiúirí agam anseo. Tá an méid ollcaiteachais atá ar an Rialtas anois thart ar 5% taobh thiar den caiteachas i 2010. Tá sé spéisiúil go bhfuil an caiteachas ar fhorbairt réigiúnach agus tuaithe 20% níos lú agus go bhfuil caiteachas ar ghnóthaí pobail 42% níos lú. Mar sin, is léir nach bhfuil aon tosaíocht á thabhairt ag an Rialtas san iomlán do na gnóthaí seo agus go bhfuil rudaí eile níos tabhachtaí dó ná gnóthaí tuaithe agus réigiúnacha.
Is aisteach go bhfuil Sinn Féin ag úsáid argóint amháin ó Thuaidh nach úsáideann sé ó Dheas - gur fearr fanacht agus margadh maith a dhéanamh, ná deifir a dhéanamh agus drochmhargadh a dhéanamh. Má táimid ag breathnú ar an leasú atá á mholadh ag baill de Shinn Féin ó thaobh uile-Éireann de, shílfeá go mbreathnóidís ar seo ar bhonn uile-Éireann agus go ndéarfaidís dóibh siúd go bhfuil an cur chuige atá ceart sa Tuaisceart chomh ciallmhar céanna ó Dheas, fiú go bhfuil an cás seo neamhcósúil ó chás an Tuaiscirt. Ó Thuaidh, nuair nach bhfuil aon Rialtas ann, tugtar forlámhas do dream seachtrach taobh amuigh den tír.
The Minister, Deputy Ring, might remember many years ago when I was the Minister and he was a backbench Deputy I met him coming across the "Bridge of Sighs" between here and Government Buildings and I said things were bad in Achill and Mayo and he said "Yes". Then I said things were very depressed and he said "Yes".
Tá an leasú faoi uile-Éireann agus táim ag tógáil dearcadh uile-Éireann ar seo. Tá mé ag iarraidh a mhíniú cén fáth go gcreidim, má táimid ag breathnú ar seo ar bhonn uile-Éireann, go mbeadh ceart dúinn an chur chuige céanna a dhéanamh ó Dheas.
Tá difríocht amháin ó Dheas. Ó Thuaidh nuair nach bhfuil Rialtas ann ní tharlaíonn tada. Ó Dheas, go dtí go mbunófar an Rialtas, beidh na feidhmeanna seo ag an Aire a ainmníodh nuair a tháinig isteach sa Roinn. Mar a chéile leis an Roinn Cumarsáide, Gníomhaithe ar son na hAeráide agus Comhshaoil. Bogfaidh an saol ar aghaidh. Beidh Airí i gceannas. Beidh an tAire, Teachta Ring, cur in iúl don Rialtas na rudaí gur theastóidh uaidh go ndéanfaí. Ní bheidh aon fhadhb ann. Beimid ag láidriú lámh an Aire go mór dá mba rud é go gcuirfimid siar é. Tá seanfhocal ann, marry in haste and regret at leisure. Tá an-oiread deifir ar seo. Tá fíordhrochmhargadh á dhéanamh. Tá sé cosúil leis an bhfeirmeoir a théann chuig an aonach ag rá gur gcaithfidh sé bó éigin a dhíol an lá sin. Tá a fhios againn cén cineál praghais a gheobhaidh sé ar an mbó dá ndéanfadh sé é sin. Tá a fhios againn, ar ndóigh, nuair atáthar ag dul ar an aonach déarfaí nach bhfuil deifir ar bith ann. Déarfaí gur féidir an bó a thabhairt abhaile muna fuarthas margadh ceart. Is léir nach bhfuil géarphráinn ar an Aire margadh a dhéanamh. Ag éisteacht leis an Aire, Teachta Ring, tá áthas orm go bhfuil sé ag tógáil dearcadh dearfach maidir leis na gceantar tuaithe.
They have improved a lot since with the Wild Atlantic Way and everything else.
Allow me to finish. We think they were all started during our time by the way. The Minister, Deputy Ring, kept saying how depressed things were and I said that if it was that bad, it would be great that people were moving out. No one would want to live in an area like that. I did not believe that, however. I said that, in fact, living in Connemara was a great thing. It is a fantastic community and if it got fair play, it would be the best place in the world. Despite the lack of infrastructure, we have developed fantastic industries. I said we needed to take a more positive view and I am delighted the Minister listened to me and has now adopted a very positive view.
I remember going down to Ballycroy one night. I do not think the Minister was there. There were about 300 people in a hall.
Sorry, there were 300 people in the place. Much to my embarrassment, they insisted on giving me a full dinner first. I said I would go out and talk to the people first. They are hospitable people, they all stayed and we had a very interesting night. I remember saying to them that night that compared to some urban areas, life was actually good in Ballycroy. I agree with that but we also need to provide basic services, including broadband.
I would like to think that Deputy Tóibín takes his amendment about an all-Ireland approach seriously. If he did, he could have made the simple proposal that the Minister, Deputy Ring, would persuade the Taoiseach to put the three all-Ireland bodies that used to be in the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs in this new Department. When I was there, Foras na Gaeilge, An Foras hUltaise and Waterways Ireland were all under the remit of the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs. It was unique as a Department to have three all-Ireland bodies. It was fantastic. As any of the Deputy's colleagues in the North will know, I spent a great deal of time in the Six Counties visiting all of the communities, nationalist and unionist. I operated on an all-Ireland basis and provided Exchequer funds to schools and rudaí cultúrtha eile. I have always believed that actions are more important than words. If Sinn Féin was really interested in an all-Ireland approach, it would be pressing very hard for those functions to transfer to the Department of the Minister, Deputy Ring. If not in name, it would in fact be working on an all-Ireland basis.
Turning to my amendments, during the period from 2002 to 2011, rural affairs, the Gaeltacht and the islands were the responsibility of the same Department, which created a good synergy. Labhróidh mé faoi na hoileáin i dtosach. Nach bhfuil sé aisteach go bhfuil cúram na n-oileáin ag dul a bheith scoilte amach, scartha amach agus deighilte amach ó cúram tuaithe? Má tá áiteanna ar bith in Éirinn a bhfuil tuathúíl, nó amuigh faoin tuath, is iad na hoileáin iad. Tá sé thar a bheith ciallmhar go mbeidís istigh i Roinn amháin le gnóthaí tuaithe nó forbairt tuaithe. Ní bheidh aon fhadhb maidir leis an aireacht Stáit dá ndéanfaí é sin. Ní bheidh le dhéanamh ag an Taoiseach ach a rá i mbun cruinniú Rialtais go mbeidh cúraimí idir-Ranna ag an tAire Stáit, Teachta McHugh. Níl aon fhadhb. Rinneadh é seo míle uair. Ní gá dó ach teacht os comhair na Dála agus beidh na cúraimí ann. Tá go leor Airí agus Ranna Stáit faoina chúram, nó tá plé aige le go leor Ranna Stáit. Cuirfidh sé téagar agus neart leis an Roinn. Cuirfidh sé le ciall na Roinne. Is é an dream is mó atá scoilte amach ó na cathracha ná an dream atá amuigh ar na hoileáin. Tagann an dream sin faoin Roinn cultúir nua. Tá sé an-deacair é sin a thuiscint.
Tá an fhadhb chéanna leis an nGaeltacht, taobh amuigh de Ghaeltacht Chathair na Gaillimhe. I ndairíre is beag an Ghaeltacht atá sa chathair fiú go n-ainmnítear mar Ghaeltacht í. Nuair a theítear don Roinn Ealaíon, Oidhreachta, Gnóthaí Réigiúnacha, Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta is beag an plé atá ann faoin Gaeltacht na Gaillimhe sa gciall ina thuigtear Gaeltacht. Is cuimhin liom a bheith ag canbhaiseáil istigh i dTír Oileáin, eastát tithíochta i nGaillimh. Bhí mé ag dul ó theach go teach. Tá Tír Oileáin sa Ghaeltacht agus dúradh liom i gceann de na tithe go raibh fear as an nGaeltacht ina chónaí sa chéad teach eile. An rud a bhí i gceist acu ná go raibh fear as Gaeltacht Conamara ina chónaí ann. Ní bhfaca siad iad féin mar dhaoine a raibh cónaí orthu sa Ghaeltacht. Nílim cinnte go bhfuil a fhios ag formhór an phobail sin go bhfuil cónaí orthu sa Ghaeltacht.
Maidir leis na Gaeltachtaí mar a thuigimid na Gaeltachtaí - na Gaeltachtaí a bhí i gceist go mbeadh siad sainaitheanta sa mBille a thug an t-iarAire, -Dinny McGinley, isteach - is ceantair tuaithe iad. Tá fadhbanna fisiciúla sa Ghaeltacht. Ní cheist teanga amháin í an Ghaeltacht. Tá imirce go mór i gceist. Tá easpa bunstruchtúr go mór i gceist. Mar sin, ritheann sé le réasún go mbeadh an Ghaeltacht, mar aonad tíreolaíoch, sa Roinn céanna le forbairt tuaithe agus go mbeadh an tAire céanna ós a gcinn. Mar sin, táimid ag moladh go n-athrófaí teideal na Roinne. Táimid ag moladh go dtabharfaidh isteach an Ghaeltacht sna hoileáin agus go tabharfaidh téagar don Roinn.
Arís, bhí mé ag breathnú ar na figiúirí agus is eol don Aire Stáit, muna bhfaighidh sé ach cúraimí tuaithe, cúraimí pobail agus cúraimí réigiúnach - agus glacaim leis go bhfaighfidh sé cúrsaí réigiúnacha fiú nach bhfuil iad luaite sa teideal - beidh thart ar €60 milliún euro ag an Roinn nua. Sa bhliain deireadh ina raibh mise mar Aire Gnóthaí Pobail, Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta bhí €418 milliún faoi mo stiúradh. Bhí sé sin tábhachtach ag bord an Rialtais. Ná habair liom nach ndéanann cistiú na Roinne aon difríocht. Is an-áit é a bheith mar Aire, ach beidh an Teachta Ring in ann rud eígin i bhfad níos foirfe a dhéanamh faoin rud atá faoina chúram féin.
Ceann de na fáthanna gur bunaíodh an scéim CLÁR mar a bhunaíodh é, nuair a bhunaíodh é don chéad uair, ná an smaoineamh céanna a bhí taobh thiar an RAPID programme sa gcathair. Bhí sé díreach mar atá an jab a tugadh don Aire. Bhí muid ceaptha chun fadhbanna na gcathracha a leigheas - bochtanas agus na ceantair fíorbhocht sna cathracha - trí chomhchoistí de Ranna Stáit a thabhairt le chéile agus an tAire ag imirt tionchar orthu. Dúirt mé liom féin, mura mbeinn an t-airgead agam chun dul i ngleic le sin, ní bheidh in ann tionchar a imirt. Dúirt mé go raibh airgead uaim. Stiúr mé €20 miliún. Cheap mé go mbeinn in ann tionchar a imirt ar Airí eile dá mbeinn in ann a rá go bhfuil mo chuid den airgead agam agus a fhiafraí cá bhfuil cuid an Aire eile. Is as an gcoincheap sin a bhunaíodh CLÁR. Tá a fhios agam go bhfuil an-mheas ag an Aire ar an scéim CLÁR. Nílim lánsásta leis an gcaoi ina bhfuil sé ag feidhmiú meicníocht an scéim, ach tá a fhios agam go bhfuil meas aige ar an scéim agus go dtuigeann sé go dtugann sé cumhacht dó. Tugann sé deis dó dul ag Airí eile agus a rá go cuirfidh sé euro ar fáil má chuireann an Aire eile €3 no €10 ar fáil. Tá a fhios agam go bhfuil sé i gceist ag an Aire an scéim sin a oibriú, ach muna bhfuil an t-airgead aige ní bheidh sé in ann é sin a dhéanamh. Leis an smaoineamh seo, beidh sé in ann an-tionchar a imirt trí rural-proofing.
Gheobhaidh an tAire amach, mar a dhéantar le chuile proofing atá ar na meamraim Rialtais, go scríofar, má tá siad á scríobh, céard a tharlóidh nuair a bheidh sé scríofa. Thíos in íochtar, beidh liosta ceisteanna. An bhfuil sé féaráilte ó thaobh chúrsaí cothromais gnéis? An bhfuil sé féaráilte ó thaobh chúrsaí bochtanais? Ní chuirfidh siad aon athrú ar an meamram, ach déarfaidh siad nach mbaineann sé leis seo nó go mbaineann. Ní bhfuair an tAire agus ní fhaca sé agus ní fheicfidh sé aon mheamram ag teacht ar aghaidh. Má tá sé ag déanamh rud faoi scolaíochta nó rud éigin leis an Aire Oideachais agus Scoileanna, déarfaidh siad go bhfuil leas scoileanna na tíre ar fad agus mar sin de chun tairbhe i gceantair tuaithe. Is dóigh liom go bhfuil dóthain ráite agam. Tá mé ag moladh go nglacfar leis na leasuithe atá curtha síos agus go n-athrófar teideal na Roinne. Bheadh súil agam go n-éisteoidh an tAire sinsearach linn agus go nglacfaidh sé leis na leasuithe.
I call Deputy Mattie McGrath and remind him that we are considering specific amendments dealing with the title of the Department. I am not pre-empting anything but it certainly will not be a Second Stage debate.
It is. Bhí an chéad amendment from Deputy Tóibín ar pholasaí Uile-Éireann and an all-Ireland policy. We heard from Deputy Ó Cuív that in former times in the Department a number of these areas were together and that there was much cross-Border and all-island activity. Many efforts were made, including by Deputy Ó Cuív. He might have been late for that meeting, but he was often late for meetings. However, he was always listening with a cluas mór that was oscailte í gconaí and he was ag obair go cruaidh ar fad. I often waited for him too, but it was worth waiting for him. I hope the Minister will be worth waiting for too. I genuinely wish him well with his portfolio. I will give praise where it is due, but I see the vagaries in this. This amendment will not deal with them. It is a case of how long is a piece of string. One thinks of the adage, dúirt bean liom go dúirt bean léi go raibh fear i dTiobraid Árann a bhfuil póca ina léine aige. In English, a woman told me that a woman told her that there was a man in Tipperary with a pocket on his shirt. The Minister has no pockets. This is like a shroud. The Minister has no money, no budget and no portfolio. In his reply on Second Stage, and I am not sure of the exact words he used, he did not give any dates and referred to as soon as he could. I accept his bona fides, but I am used to the permanent government being slow to allow people in rural Ireland to have their fair share of the cake, nothing more. It is not the béal bocht, just a fair slice. It might not be fully fair, but it should be a reasonable amount. We will make good use of it. Let the communities and groups make use of it, because they will. Allow them to do the work. As I said a number of times earlier, níl neart go cur le chéile.
With regard to the other amendments, Deputy Ó Cuív said that during his time in Government rural affairs, the Gaeltacht and na hoileáin were all together in a single portfolio. Too much chopping and changing makes matters hard to bed down. It can be difficult for groups to engage. There should be a one-stop-shop in the Minister's Department, when he gets it, which people, communities and organisations can contact so they are not going ar fud na tíre, ó áit go háit and ó bhaile go baile, as we were obliged to do with the Department for the environment in respect of voluntary housing, as I mentioned earlier. Voluntary housing groups were doing great back in the 2000s when there was a one-stop-shop. However, the Department got jealous of the success of these people who were embarrassing it so it set up seven regional offices where one had to go with a proposal. They were all over the country, ar fud na tíre. It is like IDA Ireland being covetous of ConnectIreland.
There must be a one-stop-shop, direct communication and clarity. The Leas-Cheann Comhairle said when I finished my contribution on Second Stage that my points were succinct and to the point. All of them might not have been, but we need clarity. Communities and groups are waiting long enough for it. After the last election Fine Gael was badly bruised and it had to form a minority Government with the supply and confidence arrangement with Fianna Fáil. The Rural Independent Group fought hard for a Department for rural affairs, but we did not get it. As I told the Minister, we got the hind teat of the bó bhocht, or the poor cow. It could not even be milked because it was a hind teat of the Department. I accept that the Minister will crack the whip when he gets his portfolio and into the saddle, but there must be rural proofing from all the other Departments and Ministers. There must be cohesion. We cannot go around in circles and not get anywhere. This Department is needed. It is a pity it is the second last day of this session. It is also late in the night and many of us might wish to go elsewhere and leave this, but we are here to support the amendments. I compliment na Teachtaí Tóibín agus Ó Cuív agus gabhaim comhghairdeachas leo for tabling these amendments in order that we could have this debate.
The amendments tabled by Deputy Tóibín propose to change the name of the Department to the all-Ireland Department of regional, rural and community development. While I cannot accept the amendments, I assure the Deputy that the new Department will be very active on North-South co-operation. Under the North-South Ministerial Council set up under the Good Friday Agreement, the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine is the lead Department with regard to the agriculture sector, which also includes rural development. My Department will play a role in co-operation on agriculture and rural development issues, including ministerial involvement in the meetings. Officials from my Department will also participate on the steering committee on cross-Border rural development, where there is regular and ongoing contact between officials on both sides of the Border.
Another promising area of cross-Border activity is the North West Strategic Growth Partnership, where my Department will also be represented. That was established towards the end of 2016 by the chief executive officers of Derry City and Strabane District Council and Donegal County Council with the aim of progressing economic and social development on a regional basis across the north west.
Strong regions provide the basis for improving economic opportunities and job creation in rural areas. While the term "regional" does not feature in the title of the new Department, there will be a strong regional dimension to its work. My Department will continue to support regional development and to deliver the regional initiatives that the Department of Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs has been involved in to date. These include working with the Western Development Commission to support the economic development of the western region, progressing the Atlantic economic corridor proposals with key stakeholders and working with local authorities to facilitate preparations for the roll-out of the national broadband plan and improving mobile telephone services throughout the region.
The amendment tabled by Deputy Ó Cuív proposes to change the name of the Department to the Department of rural, community and Gaeltacht development. I cannot accept the amendment. However, I wish to make the following points. On 14 May 2017, when the Taoiseach announced the new Government he assigned responsibility for culture, heritage and the Gaeltacht to the Minister, Deputy Heather Humphreys. The Minister of State, Deputy Joe McHugh, was assigned the role of Chief Whip and Minister of State with responsibility for promoting the learning and use of Irish, both within and outside the Gaeltacht. The Minister of State, Deputy McHugh, is providing a voice at the Cabinet for our first national language. A delegation of functions order has already been made assigning functions relating to the Irish language, Gaeltacht and the islands to the Chief Whip, Deputy McHugh, under the aegis of the Department of the Minister, Deputy Humphreys. The Minister, Deputy Humphreys, has already signalled that she intends to rename the reconfigurated Department as the Department of culture, heritage and the Gaeltacht and the order to give effect to the change has been prepared. In drawing up the configuration of the new Department, the Taoiseach signalled a new emphasis that will be attached to the promotion of culture, heritage and the Gaeltacht and the newly-reconfigured Department will have a budget to match this emphasis.
Feicim go bhfui croí an Aire ag preabadh go láidir, cé go bhfuil sé i bhfolach, mar tá cara nua aige. Tá an Teachta Éamon Ó Cuív ag obair ar a shon anois agus é ag iarraidh go mbeidh níos mó airgid agus níos mo cumhachta ag an Aire. Is ally iontach é an Teachta Éamon Ó Cuív don Aire anois.
Níl aon mhearbhall orm maidir leis an rud seo. Ní chreidim in aon chor go bhfuil croí an Rialtais seo i gcúraim na réigiún nó na gceantar tuaithe ar chor ar bith. Is léir ón méid atá feicthe againn ó thaobh chúrsaí airgeadais agus gnó agus ó thaobh an daonáirimh agus an méid atá an daonra bogtha go dtí an taobh seo den tír go bhfuil an Rialtas ag ligean dó sin a tharlúint agus gan aon stop á chur leis ar chor ar bith. Ní cheart go mbeadh muid ag súgradh leis an rud seo. Is rud uafásach tábhachtach é an tuath. Ba cheart dúinn an méid is mó a dhéanamh chomh tapaidh agus is féidir linn chun go mbeidh daoine in ann maireachtáil amuigh faoin tuath gan aon bhochtanas ag baint leis.
Tá iontas orm faoin méid ama atá ag an Teachta Ó Cuív. Tá géarchéim uafásach sna ceantair tuaithe thar timpeall na tíre seo. Níl am ag daoine. Tá daoine ag fágáil na tíre. Tá siad ag fágáil na contaetha sin. Tá siad ag cailliúint a dtithe agus tá an bochtanas go forleathan sna ceantair tuaithe thar timpeall na tíre. Ní féidir linn dul ar ais abhaile amárach agus a rá le daoine i gContae na Mí nó i gContae na Gaillimhe go bhfuil gach rud ceart go leor, gur chóir dóibh fanacht linn agus go mbeidh gach rud réitithe againn am éigin i mí Dheireadh Fómhair. Ba chóir dúinn an t-am a úsáid chomh éifeachtach agus is féidir linn.
Leis an bhfírinne a rá, tá Fianna Fáil ag cur ceist ar Fine Gael maidir leis an méid airgid a bheidh i mbuiséad na Roinne seo ach braitheann an buiséad sa Roinn seo ar bheirt: an Teachta Micheál Martin agus an Taoiseach, an Teachta Leo Varadkar. Tá an cinneadh i lámh an Theachta Éamon Ó Cuív maidir leis an mbuiséad a bheidh ag an Roinn seo agus tá an cinneadh ina lámh maidir leis an méid cumhachta a bheidh ag an Roinn seo. Ní chóir don Teachta Ó Cuív a bheith ag imirt linn maidir leis an méid a bheidh sa chiste seo sa todhchaí.
Maidir leis an nGaeltacht a bheith luaite i dteideal na Roinne, gan dabht, tá an Ghaeltacht i bponc ag an bomaite. Tá an-seans ann gurb í seo an ghlúin deireanach a bheidh an Ghaeilge mar theanga pobail sa Ghaeltacht aici. Níl ach 20,000 duine ag labhairt na Gaeilge mar teanga laethúil sa Ghaeltacht ag an bomaite. Is rud uafásach é sin, gan dabht ar bith.
An rud atá mise buartha faoi ná an méid airgid agus an méid cumhachta a bheidh ag an Roinn agus an t-am a bheidh ag an Aire Stáit, an Teachta Joe McHugh, agus ag an Aire sinsearach, an Teachta Heather Humphreys, maidir leis seo. Is iad sin na rudaí is tábhachtaí ó thaobh dul chun cinn i dtaobh chúrsaí fostaíochta agus todhchaí na Gaeilge sa Ghaeltacht. Baineann an Roinn eile leis an nGaeilge freisin. Tá níos mó daoine ag labhairt an Ghaeilge go laethúil taobh amuigh den Ghaeltacht sa bhliain seo ná mar atá á labhairt sa Ghaeltacht. Ba cheart go mbeadh an Roinn sin ag breathnú agus ag díriú ar na ceantair thar timpeall na tíre agus, mar shample, ar an mbreacGhaeltacht uirbeach atá i gCluain Dolcáin. Ba cheart go mbeadh an Roinn ag féachaint ar conas is féidir an Ghaeilge a chur chun cinn sna bailte agus na cathracha thar timpeall na tíre.
I mo thuairimse, an fhadhb atá sa leasú atá ag an Teachta Ó Cuív ná go laghdóidh sé líon na nAirí atá ag labhairt - tá súil agam - ar son na Gaeilge ag bord an Rialtais. Tá beirt acu ann: an tAire Stáit, an Teachta Joe McHugh, agus an tAire sinsearach, an Teachta Heather Humphreys. Má bhainfimid cúraim na Gaeltachta ón Roinn sin agus má chuirfimis sa Roinn nua iad, ní bheidh ach Aire amháin ag labhairt ar son na Gaeilge. Céim siar é sin. Mar sin, ní féidir liom mo thacaíocht a thabhairt don leasú sin.
Tá rud eile le tabhairt san áireamh. Dúirt daoine san HSE liom go dtagann Aire nua ar an bhfód gach cúpla blian agus smaointí difriúla aige nó aici agus bíonn rialacha nua le cur i bhfeidhm. Gach bliain, bíonn an-chuid oibre déanta ag an HSE agus é ag bainistiú na n-athruithe seo. Gach bliain bíonn an HSE ag obair ar na hathruithe seo ionas go mbeadh siad in ann rud éigin a dhéanamh le haghaidh na n-othar thar timpeall na tíre. Ní féidir leis an HSE obair ar son an chuspóra atá aige mar caitheann sé obair ar son na n-athruithe atá ag titim amach. Bheinn buartha, dá mbeadh freagracht as an nGaeltacht tógtha amach as an Roinn ina bhfuil sé agus curtha sa Roinn nua, go mbeadh na daoine sa Roinn sin ag bainisitiú athruithe seachas ag déanamh obair eile. Níl an t-am againn anois chun é sin a dhéanamh. Caithfimid díriú ar an obair chuí.
I listened with interest to Deputy Peadar Tóibín. I also listened to the Minister's explanation as to why he could not accept my amendment. Deputy Peadar Tóibín said it was impractical to have a delay. This is different from what happens in the HSE. I have been extremely critical of the constant changes in management, structures and so forth that take place in the HSE because the same managers are not left in the same place. However, what I am proposing does not involve any of that. When the name of the Department changed from the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs to the Department of Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, it did not make any difference from a management point of view. As the Ministers of State, Deputies Seán Kyne and Joe McHugh, know, all of the staff dealing with the islands and the Gaeltacht are located in the office in Na Forbacha under the stiúthóir Aodháin Mac Cormaic, fear an-bhreá. If one were to move it from one Department to another, it would simply be moved, including the few staff in Gaoth Dobhair. There is nobody left in County Kerry, unfortunately, which is a terrible tragedy. The Department with responsibility for the Gaeltacht used to have an office in Tralee to serve the Gaeltachts in counties Kerry, Cork and Waterford, but it was closed. However, such offices would simply be transferred and the only difference one would see is that there would be a different Secretary General - there would be a different Secretary General because they change all the time - and a different Minister. In this case, there would not be a different Minister because the Taoiseach would simply state the Minister of State, Deputy Joe McHugh, would now be Minister of State at Roinn an Taoisigh, the Chief Whip and the Minister of State at the Department with responsibility for rural, community and Gaeltacht development. That is all that would have to be done.
Of course, there would be new delegated functions, but this is done all the time. It would not be a big deal. The Minister, Deputy Heather Humphreys, would have to make a minor adjustment to her title, but that would make it easier to say it. Adjustments to ministerial titles happen all the time. I believe they happen too frequently and unnecessarily. We did it too and I often wondered if it was worthwhile. It was not very expensive to do it, but such adjustments were a nuisance. People get used to calling something by whatever it is called and just when they are getting used to a new name, it changes and becomes an acronym and so forth. However, there would be no practical difficulty if one knows, as I do in this case, the reality of the structures we are discussing and how simple it would be. The arguments the Minister makes do not hold water.
The 20,000 native speakers in the Gaeltacht were mentioned. The number had risen in the inter-census period between 2006 and 2011, but it dropped quite significantly throughout the country from 2011. In addition, the number of people who said they knew Irish dropped. One has to look to Government policies for the reason that happened. From a linguistic point of view and considering the small size of the Gaeltachts, the reality is that the Gaeltacht has been amazingly resilient. Professor Brian Ó Cuív carried out an accurate and deep analysis of the figures in 1950. He wrote some papers that were published in a booklet entitled, Irish Dialects and Irish-Speaking Districts. It was probably the first attempt to establish what the figures were. Until then people were asked in the census if they knew Irish. That gives a figure for the number who say they know Irish but not for the number who speak it every day.
He had a complicated, comprehensive and detailed way of analysing how many people in the Gaeltacht were speaking Irish. Based on the 1948 census, he arrived at a figure of between 30,000 and 33,000 in 1950. When one considers the widespread emigration from rural areas in the 1950s and socio-economic changes such as people moving into the Gaeltacht for reasons of marriage and so on, it is amazing from a linguistic point of view and a credit to the State that these pócaí beaga - all the Gaeltacht areas are small, isolated pockets, even the Connemara Gaeltacht - have survived.
Deputy Tóibín stated he is in a hurry to get the Department up and running as otherwise nothing will happen. Again, the Deputy does not understand the structure of government here. Unlike in the northern part of our country, every section of every Department is under some Minister every day of the year, even in interregnum periods. This is not only a question of money, but also one of powers and function. That is what I am fighting about, although money obviously goes with powers and functions. If a decision was taken to delay this change with a view to having a proper Department established and the Minister were to hold out for the proper price, as one would do at a fair - we are talking a great deal about cows tonight - the two existing Departments with responsibilities would, in the meantime, have an obligation to ensure progress was made as quickly as possible. As a Cabinet Minister, the Minister would also have an input into both Departments. In the arrangement I am suggesting, the Minister of State, Deputy McHugh, would transfer with the Department and could bang away as good as ever in the existing Department until the function was transferred.
Go raibh maith agat. Ní raibh mé ag iarraidh teacht isteach ach déarfaidh mé cúpla focal. Tá mise istigh sa Roinn cultúir, oidhreachta agus Gaeltachta. Tá mo ról i leith an teanga agus mo ról i leith na Gaeltachta fite fuaite. Mar atá a fhios ag an Teachta, tá Údarás na Gaeltachta freagrach as pleanáil teanga. Ní raibh an Teachta ag úsáid an focal "teanga" anocht. Tá muidne sa Rialtas, agus An Taoiseach, Teachta Varadkar, go háirithe, ag spreagadh an teanga. Táimse timpeall an bhord Rialtais. Táimse freagrach as an teanga agus as an Gaeltacht. Tá nasc agus ceangal idir ár gcultúr, ár n-oidhreacht agus an teanga. Is é sin an fáth ar cheap an Taoiseach mise. Sin mo phointe, ach dá mbeadh an Teachta ag iarraidh freagra maidir le ról an Taoisigh i leith cinntí maidir le cibé a bheas freagrach as na Ranna éagsúla ábhartha, sin scéal difriúil.
Dúirt an Aire Stáit faoi chúrsaí teanga. Tá fíorthábhacht leis an teanga ach gan pobal na Gaeltachta ní bheidh an teanga ann. Thóg mise clann le Gaeilge sa Ghaeltacht agus, go deimhin, tá mo chlann ag tógáil a gclanna le Gaeilge taobh amuigh den Gaeltacht. Tháinig mise ó thaobh amuigh den Ghaeltacht, ó chlann a choinnigh an teanga beo ó ghlúín go glúín - ó ghlúin mo sheanaithreacha agus mo sheanmhaitreacha. Tá mó shaol tugtha don teanga. Creidim go bhfuil eolas faoi leith agam ar na dúshláin atá roimh tuismitheoirí atá ag tógáil gasúir le Gaeilge, taobh istigh agus taobh amuigh den Ghaeltacht. Ní thógfaidh mise aon léachtaí ó éinne a dtabharfadh le fios nach bhfuil díogras agam don teanga. Ní ghlacfaidh mé le tuiscint nach bhfuil spéis agam i gcainteoirí Gaeilge taobh amuigh agus taobh istigh den Ghaeltacht - Thuaidh agus Theas. I bhfad sula raibh mise sa Teach seo, bhí mé ag saothrú go dian doicheallach agus go leanúnach ar son na teanga. Ní hamháin go ndearna mé é ar an taobh seo den tír ach rinne mé é ó Thuaidh.
Bhí sé spéisiúil an méid a bhí le rá ag oifigeach na Roinne a d'éirigh as an tseachtain seo caite. Bhí an na hAirí Stáit, na Teachtaí McHugh agus Kyne, i láthair. Labhair sé ar ré órga sa Roinn. Nuair a chuaigh sé síos go dtí an tóstáil labhair sé go poiblí faoi Roinn a bhí ag plé le gnóthaí pobail agus le gnóthaí teanga. Tá go leor buntaistí go mbeadh na cúrsaí seo fite fuaite le forbairt tuaithe, go mórmhór gur tharla go bhfuil na hoileáin agus na Gaeltachtaí ar fad i gceantair tuaithe. Bheadh sé i bhfad níos ciallmhaire dá mbeadh na rudaí sin ceangailte le chéile ná iad a cheangal leis an Ard-Mhúsaem agus an Dánlann Náisiúnta - rudaí atá go maith iontu féin.
Chuile lá nuair a tagaim ar an Teach Dóite labhraím leis an bpobal atá ann. Is pobal a dhéanann a gnóthaí liom trí Ghaeilge é. Céard faoi a bheadh siad ag caint ach fadhbanna tuaithe? Níl a fhios acu cé a bheidh siad ag plé na bóithre, na céibheanna agus na rudaí a bhí faoin Roinn Ealaíon, Oidhreachta, Gnóthaí Réigiúnacha, Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta leis le linn na blianta beag anuas. Is é an rud is measa faoi ná go bhfuil an-dochar á dhéanamh don teanga nuair atá scoilt agus deighilt á dhéanamh idir leas an phobail, na rudaí a ghabhann leis agus cúrsaí teanga. Tá go leor den phobal Gaeltacht gurb iad na cainteoirí is láidre Gaeilge iad. Tá go leor acu ag fiafraí cén mhaith teanga muna bhfuil muid ag breathnú amach ar na rudaí praicticiúla agus muna bhfuil an Roinn in ann rud ar bith a dhéanamh faoi ghnáthshaol an phobail? Níl mise ag iarraidh go raibh an Taoiseach ná an Rialtas á dhéanamh. Nílim in ann. Is iad na hAirí atá sa Rialtas.
Nuair a aontaím leis an Rialtas aontóidh mé leis, agus nuair nach aontaím leis ní aontóidh mé leis, ach tá cead cainte agam sa Teach seo. Tá cead agaim easaontú le rudaí a dhéanann an Taoiseach. Tá cead agam a rá nach bhfuil an rud atá an Taoiseach ag déanamh ceart agus go gcreidim go bhfuil botún ollmhór á dhéanamh aige. Tá an ceart sin agam. Muna thuigeann an Aire Stáit an rud atáim a mholadh, molaim go mbeidh an tAire Stáit sa Roinn, mar atá sé faoi láthair, agus fós ag bord an Rialtais mar Phríomh-Aoire. Go n-éirí a chúram leis. Beidh sé deacair go leor bheith ina phríomh-Aoire agus é ina chónaí i dTír Chonaill ach a bheith ag iarraidh bheith ina Aire Stáit le freagracht as an nGaeltacht agus na n-oileáin chomh maith. Feicimid. Maidir leis an méid a dúirt an Teachta Tóibín faoi deifir.
I was a bit surprised by Deputy Tóibín's comments on the need to hurry. As I stated in Irish, Sinn Féin is in an awful hurry to have something done that would be well looked after by the same Minister in the Department's current configuration. Its Deputies refer to the whole of the island but the party is in no hurry North of the Border.
The amendment is on the title of the Department and is general in nature. I indicated when I took the Chair that we should not have a Second Stage debate as we were considering specific amendments dealing with the title of the Department.
No, I will read the amendments: Roinn Forbartha, Tuatha agus Pobail nó an tAire Forbartha, Tuatha agus Pobail. Tá sé go léir bunaithe air sin. B'fhéidir go bhfuil daoine ag iarraidh tuarascáil, ach b’fhéidir go mbeadh sé níos réadúil é a thabhairt chun chríche chomh luath agus is féidir. Iarraim ar achan taobh a bheith foighneach ar feadh cúpla nóiméad.
An bhfuil an Teachta Ó Cuív réidh?
Well rebuked. I notice that we are getting very fussy late in the night about procedure. When we entered this Dáil, I believed that there was a procedure whereby, when Bills would be published, their heads would first go to the committees and that we would not bring Bills to the House and take all Stages in one go. This is the most extraordinary situation. On Sunday after the match, I went to my office in Galway and went through the large amount of paperwork that I had, including my diary for the week. I started examining carefully what the week's business was, as I tend to do and as I am sure the Whip will be glad to hear, to find out that there was the Ministers and Secretaries (Amendment) Bill. When I decided to check what it was, I found out that it had not even been published yet.
The Taoiseach announced this the day that he told the House that he would change the Departments. Surely to God it did not take four weeks to write three lines of a Bill, most of which is repetitive.
Nóiméad amháin. Ionas go mbeadh fhios agaibh go léir, mholl an Teachta Toibín leasú Uimh. 1. Ach, táimid ag plé na leasuithe go léir le chéile. Má tá sibh ag iarraidh gach cheann as a chéile a phlé, beidh an díospóireacht-----
It was the other side of the House that started discussing procedure. Unfortunately, it always seems that, when it comes to the Gaeltacht and rural affairs, the Government tries to rush the fences together. When Mr. Dinny McGinley was the Minister of State, everyone on this side of the House walked out of the Dáil because he tried to put the relevant Bill through all Stages.
We got this Bill on Monday. Amazingly, we also got a notice by email telling us that amendments had to be submitted by 11 o'clock on Tuesday before the Bill had even gone through Second Stage. I presume that the Minister will tell us that the Report Stage amendments had to have been submitted before we even started our Second Stage discussion. The whole thing is a cod, but the Government is fussing about us discussing the wider aspects of the Bill-----
-----because it does not suit the Members opposite and they are in a hurry to get home to their beds. The Government always seems to be in an awful hurry. When it comes to the Gaeltacht, islands, rural affairs and any other of those matters, the Government does not give a damn.
So were the Ministers of State, Mr. McGinley and Deputy McHugh. All were very good Ministers of State with responsibility for the Gaeltacht. They all performed very well in that regard. Deputy Ó Cuív thinks that, because he is the only one in the House who can speak Irish, no one else can speak it and represent the Gaeltacht. These have all been very fine Ministers of State.
He knows that I need to get this legislation through so that I can start fixing up my Department, getting my staff and fighting for my budget. The Deputy tells me every week that I have so much money that I will not be able to spend it.
I thank Deputy Tóibín for his co-operation. He has an understanding of how rural Ireland works. The Government is setting up a new Department to represent and put rural Ireland at the Cabinet table. Maybe Deputy Ó Cuív does not like that, but I am delighted that the Taoiseach has selected a Minister. The Deputy should be delighted that the Gaeltacht Department will not be represented by one Minister, but by two ministerial members at the Cabinet table. The Deputy would love to be that Minister and he would be delighted to be there. While he was there, I praised him for some of the work that he did and criticised him for other work that he did, but at least I was fair and honest.
This Bill is about setting up a Department. I will tell Deputy Ó Cuív about the Order of Business. He knows how the House works better than anyone. This was agreed at the Business Committee last week. It is a small Bill.
The Deputy is a good Irish speaker, as is Deputy Tóibín. I do not speak Irish. I was not as lucky and as privileged as Deputy Ó Cuív. I came from a big family. In the summer, I could not go to the Gaeltacht. I had to go out and work. I make no apologies for that.
I did not like tonight, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle. This debate was not about the Irish language or the Gaeltacht. It was about setting up a new Department. I just want to put that on the record loud and clear.
I am proud to have been born and reared in rural Ireland. I have never used it as a holiday home.
I have always lived in rural Ireland. I understand the problems of rural Ireland. I do the best I can with my colleagues, the Ministers of State, Deputy Kyne and Deputy McHugh, and my colleagues here who represent rural constituencies. This legislation is about setting up a Department that is badly wanted. I thank Deputy Tóibín for his co-operation. We need to get this legislation through. I want to get into the Seanad tomorrow. With the support of the House tonight, we might get into the Seanad tomorrow. We might have this Department up and running so I can come back to the Dáil and tell it what functions I have, what delegation orders I have and what funding I am getting from Government. I need time to get in to deal with the Minister for Finance to make sure I have a proper budget in place, that I have a proper Department set up and that I have a proper team put in place. That is what this legislation is about. It is not major legislation. It is three-line or four-line legislation. I hope we get it through the Seanad tomorrow.
I will just say a couple of sentences. We are in extreme crisis in this country with regard to the two tier society we have. We have a spatial distribution of enterprise and population that is way out of kilter. It is hurting rural Ireland badly and Dublin city too. There is poverty in both areas due to the fact there is imbalance in the development of our country. It always amazes me the level of energy we seem to put into the hijinks of parliamentary activities in the Dáil when we should be putting the same level of energy into trying to fix the problems affecting the people we are supposed to be representing. This Bill is a very small step towards the possibility of helping those people. The idea of putting it on the long finger makes absolutely no sense. I will press my amendment.
No, this is the end of Committee Stage. The Bill is reported without amendments. We now proceed to Report Stage in accordance with the order of the Dáil of yesterday. There are no amendments on Report Stage and the amendments on Committee Stage which were defeated cannot be moved on Report Stage.
Hold on, Deputy Ó Cuív. If anyone wants to contribute, they may but it should be very short because we have had a long debate. Many Deputies wandered in to Second Stage. Members have waited here this evening and they are anxious to proceed with the defence motion of approval by the Dáil.
I regret how this matter was introduced in the Dáil. I accept that it was not the Minister's fault that it was introduced in this way. We have the usual end-of-term madness, of which I thought we had got rid in the reform of the Oireachtas. I thought there was a new dispensation - new politics - but I regret that that does not seem to be the case.
I wish the Minister well in his new Department. We have known each other for a long time. We have often worked together in good spirit, but there have been other times when we have disagreed. Politics in this country would become very unhealthy if we all agreed with each other all the time. I have never questioned the Minister's sincerity and whether he knew the Irish language. I am one of the few in this country who believe it is people's absolute right not to know Irish and that they should not have to apologise for it. I have also been vehemently strong in insisting on the right of Irish speakers to use the language and not have to apologise for speaking it. I accept that I was fortunate to learn Irish, despite the fact that I was from Dublin. By the way, I never stayed in holiday homes in rural Ireland and hope the Minister will correct what he said. I hope he will apologise for the inference that I had some connection with a holiday home in rural Ireland; I never had. At 23 years of age, I moved to the Gaeltacht to work there by choice. Just because I come from the city, I do not think I should be looked down on by rural people.
I thank the Deputy for his comments. I also thank those in Sinn Féin and all those who made a contribution to the debate on the Bill.
If Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív had listened, he would know that I spoke about myself. I said I did not have a holiday home in the west but that I lived in it. I did not speak about the Deputy at all. If he thought that I was referring to him, that is his problem, but I did not refer to him.
I thank all of the Members who made a contribution. I agree with Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív that we will have many differences in the times ahead. We have had many debates during the years in this House. I also accept his contribution to rural Ireland. When he was a Minister, his heart was in the right place. Many years ago he had responsibility for the areas covered by the new Department and I certainly supported him on rural issues. I hope he will give me the same support in coming years in what I propose to do. He will not agree with everything, but we will debate it n the House and at the committee.
I thank my officials who have worked long and late on the Bill for their support and co-operation. I also thank the House for its support. I thank the Leas-Cheann Comhairle for his co-operation as it has been a long day, but I suppose everybody's heart is in the right place.
We have many problems in rural Ireland with which we need to deal, but there are many positive things happening. There are many people living and working in rural Ireland who want to stay there. That is why the Taoiseach chose me to be a member of the Cabinet. The Department is being set up in order that we can try to ensure rural Ireland will get its fair share of the national cake.
Go raibh maith agat, a Aire. Guím gach rath Dé ort. Nuair a bheidh sé seo go léir thart, tá súil agam go mbeidh gach duine ag caint. Ag deireadh an lae, is í an Ghaeltacht an rud is tábhachtaí. Bogfaimid ar aghaidh anois.