Thursday, 19 November 2020
Ceisteanna - Questions - Ceisteanna ar Sonraíodh Uain Dóibh - Priority Questions
1. To ask the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the amount of additional funding allocated by her Department in budget 2021 above the allocation outlined in the Revised Estimates for 2020; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37041/20]
The 2021 total gross funding allocated to my Department, as per the budget Estimates, amounts to €1.082 billion. This represents an increase of €79 million, or 8%, on the 2020 allocation as published in the further Revised Estimates for my Department. Those Revised Estimates included additional funding of €183 million, secured during 2020, to deal with the impacts of Covid-19 and to ensure the survival and recovery of businesses and operations in the sectors for which I have ministerial responsibility. The revised 2020 figures represented an increase of some 25% on the total comparable figure for the relevant programme areas in 2019. In broad terms, the 2021 funding for these sectors will represent an increase of 35% on what was available to them in 2019 prior to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Our cultural institutions, theatres, tourist destinations, pubs, restaurants, sporting occasions and Gaeltacht communities have been severely impacted since the beginning of the pandemic in March. The increased funding secured as part of budget 2021 is a testament to my commitment and that of the Government to ensure a range of robust funding streams and targeted measures are available to support resilience and recovery across these sectors, including a new €55 million support fund for strategic tourism businesses, €50 million in support for the live entertainment industry, record funding of €130 million for the Arts Council, €8 million to provide for the transfer of the National Symphony Orchestra to the National Concert Hall, more than €78 million allocated to the Gaeltacht and Irish language sector, €31.8 million for Údarás na Gaeltachta, €104.5 million for Sport Ireland, increased funding of €40.7 million for TG4, and additional funding for Irish language broadcasting to meet New Decade, New Approach commitments. As Minister, I am satisfied that the increase in funding to €1.082 billion secured as part of budget 2021 will support resilience and recovery across the diverse sectors for which I have responsibility and allow them to thrive once more on the global stage in the fields of tourism, culture, sport, language and public service media.
When I raised this matter at a committee meeting, the response was not clear. That was not down to the Minister. Rather, there was no proper scrutiny of the Revised Estimates. That was just the nature of the way the meeting was handled. I asked about the budget. The Minister announced €200 million of additional funding, but that did not reflect the Estimates budget book. In the budget document, the gross Revised Estimates for 2020 amounted to just shy of €1.003 billion. The gross Estimate for 2021 was €1.082 billion, representing an increase of €79 million. It is not that I am taking issue with the funding for Covid and so on in addition to core funding. Rather, my issue is that the actual increase for 2021 is €79 million.
The 2021 total gross funding allocation to my Department, as per the Estimates, is €1.082 billion. This represents an increase of €79 million, or 8%, on the 2020 allocation, as per the Revised Estimates voted for the Department on 8 October 2020. The 2020 figures published as part of those further Revised Estimates included additional funding of €183 million, which was secured during 2020 to deal with the impacts of Covid-19 and to ensure the survival and recovery of businesses and operations in sectors for which I have responsibility. In broad terms, the 2021 funding for those sectors represents an increase of 35% on the 2019 levels.
Some of the funding increases, such as the €55 million support fund for strategic tourism businesses and the €50 million for the live entertainment industry, are exclusively directed at interventions to mitigate the impact of Covid-19. Other measures, such as the €8 million for the transfer of the National Symphony Orchestra and funding to support the Irish language, are not Covid related but relate to the development of sectors generally and, in the case of Údarás na Gaeltachta, recognise the Brexit-related challenges faced by its client companies.
The Minister is talking about funding that was allocated in 2020, including the July stimulus package. When that is excluded, there is additional funding of just €79 million for 2021. It is not that I am taking issue with that funding, given that it is needed. Plenty of businesses and sectors have fallen through the cracks, and that is a situation that must be addressed. When the warranted and much-needed July stimulus package is excluded though, the Minister has secured just €79 million for her Department for 2021.
The budget document reflects the figures. If they have been recycled from somewhere else or taken from another Department I ask her to tell us. The budget document is in black and white and there is €79 million in additional funding for 2021.
The budget 2021 supports that we announced last month have been welcomed by all of the sectors that I represent. The Deputy has raised the question of what is Covid spending and what is in the budget on a number of occasions. A suite of funding measures, such as increased funding for the Arts Council, Screen Ireland and Sport Ireland, represent an acknowledgement of the important role these organisations play generally in supporting the sector. I know the Deputy has focused on what is Covid or non-Covid funding, but my focus is on giving support to the sectors that are struggling. There is no precise Covid-19 allocation. Rather, there is an increase in budget 2021 to reflect a mixture of supports for range of sectors which are impacted by Covid and Brexit or for which increased funding was deemed appropriate more generally.