Wednesday, 28 April 2021
Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht
Údarás na Gaeltachta
383. To ask the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if her attention has been drawn to the assessment of the impact of Brexit and Covid-19 on Údarás na Gaeltachta and its client companies which was carried out as part of the Spending Review 2020; the engagement she has had with the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment with regard to reducing the disproportionate exposure of Gaeltacht companies to Brexit-related impacts; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [43940/20]
As with communities across the country, our Gaeltacht communities continue to struggle with the impacts of the pandemic. In light of Brexit, coupled with the economic impact of the pandemic, client companies of Údarás na Gaeltachta will continue to need support which is being provided on an ongoing basis by Údarás na Gaeltachta.
Údarás na Gaeltachta continues to work in conjunction with my Department and other state agencies such as Enterprise Ireland to ensure that Gaeltacht enterprises also have access to the broad range of targeted national and sectoral measures in place since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, senior officials from my Department have been in regular contact over the past year with their counterparts in both the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform regarding the additional financial requirements of Údarás na Gaeltachta. This has resulted in an additional €8m being allocated to the organisation under the 2020 July Stimulus package and access for the organisation to up to €5m from the Sustaining Enterprise Fund administered by Enterprise Ireland. An tÚdarás was also provided with additional funding during the course of last year to allow the organisation expand the reach of its Trading Online Voucher Scheme in Gaeltacht areas.
Against this backdrop, the Board of Údarás na Gaeltachta has approved over €7.4m of COVID-19 supports to date for over 435 Gaeltacht companies to address financial and supply difficulties, ensure cash-flow and enhance their ability to access global online sales markets. In addition, many Gaeltacht companies operating in the tourism and hospitality sectors will have accessed the broad range of supports being provided on an ongoing basis for these sectors and for businesses in general which have been introduced by Government since the onset of the pandemic.
The Deputy refers to a spending review and assessment of the impact of Brexit and COVID-19 on Údarás na Gaeltachta and its client companies, which my Department recently completed. The work was carried out by the Evaluation Unit of my Department, which is a stand-alone unit working with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and the Irish Government Economic and Evaluation Service (IGEES).
My Department engaged with both Údarás na Gaeltachta and a selection of its client companies in order to complete the assessment. The findings and recommendations were considered as part of the 2021 Estimates process and resulted in significant additional exchequer funding of €8.1m being provided to Údarás na Gaeltachta in Budget 2021 - bringing its total allocation to €31.8m for the current year.
As I already alluded to, it is important to reiterate that Gaeltacht enterprises continue to have access to the broad range of targeted national and sectoral measures put in place by Government since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and in preparation for Brexit. Furthermore, Údarás na Gaeltachta also has access to the schemes and funds administered by the IDA, Enterprise Ireland and the Local Enterprise Offices to ensure delivery within the Gaeltacht areas.
Looking to the future, Údarás na Gaeltachta is currently finalising a new Strategic Plan for the period 2021–2025. The Strategy will set out the Údarás na Gaeltachta vision for advancing the sustainability of Gaeltacht communities, via a vibrant enterprise base.
The organisation has confirmed that it will continue to ensure that effective and practical supports are available to businesses to mitigate insofar as possible the impacts of COVID-19 and Brexit and will continue to work closely with my Department and other Government agencies to ensure that Gaeltacht businesses and communities are appropriately assisted through the current challenges.