Thursday, 11 July 2019
Ceisteanna Eile - Other Questions
Rural Regeneration and Development Fund
7. To ask the Minister for Rural and Community Development the discussions he or his Department have had with the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht regarding the eligibility of a theatre (details supplied) for the rural regeneration and development fund; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30432/19]
31. To ask the Minister for Rural and Community Development if the refurbishment of a theatre (details supplied) is eligible for funding under the rural regeneration and development fund; if a special case to prioritise the theatre will be made in view of the circumstances; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30430/19]
The Briery Gap theatre in Macroom closed its doors in recent weeks after three years of trying to operate out of temporary arrangements. It has now been three years since the fire that damaged the theatre and it was difficult for it to continue operating out of a temporary set-up. There are ambitious plans in place to do up the existing facility, but those plans need funding. We need to establish what options are available to the theatre to bring about that ambitious reopening.
I propose to take Questions Nos. 7 and 31 together.
The rural regeneration and development fund seeks to support ambitious, strategic projects which have the potential to transform rural economies and communities. The Government has committed €1 billion to the fund over ten years and €315 million is allocated to the fund for the period of 2019 to 2022. I launched the second call for applications to the fund in April 2019, details of which are set out in the information booklet and application form relating to the fund on the Government website. The information booklet provides full details on all requirements for potential applications. The second call is currently only open to category 1 applications, which relate to projects which have full planning permission, have all necessary consents in place and are procurement-ready. The closing date for applications is 12 noon on Tuesday, 6 August 2019. Calls for applications to the fund are competitive in nature once all requirements are met and no project is prioritised for funding. My Department will provide general guidance relating to both the application process and the objectives and requirements of the fund. In that regard, a public information session was held last week in Athlone to inform prospective applicants, which was well attended and positively received. Officials from my Department are willing to speak to applicants to assist them in any way.
There is an ambitious plan in place to do a job on the Briery Gap theatre, which will cost up to €4 million. It has been a big loss in Macroom over the last three years since it was lost in a fire. The council already has its own funding of over €1 million in insurance money, but only 6% of the cost is being put forward by the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, or by any State agency beyond that. Has any discussion taken place between the Minister and the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht to fund the scheme up to now, beyond the scheme having now opened? The question is fairly specific. To what extent, if any, have the two Departments discussed this up to now? The talk locally is that this scheme is the only show in town for funding, as the arts funding only amounts to €200,000 or €300,000. Is some commitment already in place to fund this through the Minister's Department, or have any discussions taken place?
I want to be honest with the Deputy. Applications for the rural regeneration scheme close on 6 August. Department officials will assist anyone in putting applications together and will give advice on how they have to be done. However, no scheme or particular project would be discussed with any other Department. When the applications come in, they are assessed by an evaluation committee which brings them to me for a decision. We do not discuss individual cases and would not discuss them with the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht because that it is a separate Department which is doing its own thing. If the Briery Gap application comes in, it will go through the evaluation committee and be assessed and a decision will then be made.
I am glad the Minister has cleared that up because the talk locally, including from many of his own party colleagues, is that this is already a done deal and the plan will be funded through this channel. It is now clear that discussions are not taking place with the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. It is good that the scheme is open and that there is an opportunity to make applications. I am keen for this project to be prioritised through this channel. The Briery Gap is looking for about €1.5 million in funding. Is that kind of project preferred for the rural regeneration scheme? Would it be a real contender and can it be prioritised?
I confirm that the scheme is open and that funding is there. While anyone can make an application, it must fit the criteria in order to be successful. We do not discuss individual cases with anyone, in the interests of fairness. The process is there and any group, including the one the Deputy has referred to, can make an application. There is a process and an evaluation committee in place. If an application comes through the process, it will be considered like all other schemes. We do not talk about individual cases to anyone. One would expect that as it would not be fair to any particular project.