Thursday, 19 November 2020
Covid-19 Pandemic Supports
8. To ask the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the extent to which she has engaged with all stakeholders in the areas of tourism, culture, arts, Gaeltacht, sport and media with a view to maximising the benefits of Covid-19-related assistance throughout the sectors; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37325/20]
61. To ask the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the extent of ongoing discussions she continues to have with the major players throughout the tourism, entertainment, sport, arts, media and culture sectors with a view to monitoring the progress to date in the alleviation of the impact of Covid-19; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37326/20]
This question seeks to ascertain the extent to which the Minister remains in contact with the various bodies referred to, with a view to monitoring the impact of Covid and keeping in mind also the potential impact of Brexit, although not mentioned in the questions.
I propose to take Questions Nos. 8 and 61 together.
While absolutely necessary to protect us all, the impact of the public health guidelines has been extremely challenging for the sectors supported by my Department. These sectors are integral to our society; supporting economic activity; and enhancing physical and societal well-being. The public-facing and audience-driven nature of those sectors means that each time there is an escalation in the level applicable under the Plan for Living with Covid-19, these sectors are often the hardest hit. My officials and I are acutely aware of the need to support our sectors through these challenging times and have been in regular and sustained contact with a broad range of stakeholders over the past weeks and months. In addition to bilateral engagements with a wide range of stakeholders and agencies under the aegis of the Department, a number of task forces and consultative forums have been established in relation to the particular difficulties facing these sectors. This includes the Tourism Recovery Task Force, the Tourism Hospitality Forum, the Arts and Culture Recovery Task Force, and the Sports Monitoring Group. These involve a broad range of stakeholders with experience and insight to develop sustainable road maps for the recovery of these sectors. This engagement led to the very favourable outcomes achieved for these sectors in the context of the July stimulus and budget 2021. I will continue this positive engagement with the sectors and consider the views and recommendations of these task forces and consultative forums in regard to any further necessary measures or supports required as a consequence of Covid-19. That engagement is key to informing our decisions so we do the right things.
The Deputy will be aware that I put in place substantial measures in budget 2021 to support and strengthen the sectors. This engagement with stakeholders has been key in providing a comprehensive response to the impact of Covid-19. In tandem with these support measures, consultative groups were established in both the sport and culture sectors to ensure the necessary guidance and supports are in place to comply with the requirements of the Government’s Plan for Living with Covid-19, including the Expert Group on the Return to Sport and the National Cultural Institutions Consultative Forum. I am also engaging with the stakeholders across the broadcasting and media sector and the Deputy would have heard me describing some of the meetings that have happened this week earlier in the debate. I note particularly the important advocacy role played by agencies under the aegis of my Department. Agencies, including the Arts Council, Screen Ireland, Fáilte Ireland and Sport Ireland, have worked diligently with my officials to raise awareness of the challenges facing our sectors and to identify ways to support them through this pandemic.
The need for important public health measures such as social distancing has placed necessary limits on gatherings to protect public health. Some of the key measures that have been introduced in 2020 to help the sectors within my Department's remit include and additional €25 million for the Arts Council, a €5 million live events pilot scheme, €5 million to support the national cultural institutions, NCIs, and nationwide arts infrastructure.
There is also a €5 million company stabilisation support for Gaeltacht companies, the stay and spend tax credit initiative, a €26 million adaptation grant for the tourism sector, a €10 million grant for coach tourism, €40 million for the three main field sport bodies, namely, the GAA, the IRFU and the FAI, and a €15 million fund for sport governing bodies and clubs. The universal income supports of the pandemic unemployment payment and the wage subsidy scheme have been key to supporting all sectors throughout the crisis. The extension of both of these schemes has provided some much needed certainty.
I thank the Minister for her comprehensive reply and I compliment her for the interventions that have been made and the support already offered. Has the Minister continued to monitor this, as it impacts more on some organisations than others and it impacts more on the income streams of some than others? Having monitored the situation, to what degree will the Minister be in a position to offer further measures of support if required?
I continue to monitor it through the ongoing engagement. It is absolutely critical to provide the correct supports, for example, the €50 million live events scheme, from which I hope some in the Deputy's constituency will benefit. We are tweaking what happened with the €5 million pilot scheme to find ways to reach those we did not reach.. We are looking to see how best we can implement the tourism recovery task force but the Deputy can already see that we have brought in a fund in the budget to provide support for strategic tourism businesses. The supports and engagement will change with the ever-changing nature of Covid and all Ministers in every Department will have to be cognisant of finding the right supports and we will continue with this engagement to inform it.
Keeping in mind Brexit, which will also impact on most of the organisations concerned, does the Minister have in place a procedure that triggers alarm bells in the event of particular or specific issues arising well in advance of the need to respond?
Absolutely, and as a Minister I am keenly aware that we have to be ready if alarm bells ring. We are watching the situation and closely monitoring it. The officials are engaged, there is cross-departmental engagement and we will be ready to react if needs be. Hopefully this will not arise but we have to be ready.