I thank the Chair for giving me this opportunity to raise this very serious matter and I thank the Minister for coming here to reply.
Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann was founded in 1951 and is deep rooted in every parish and town of the country. It is internationally renowned and has branches in Britain, Europe, America and elsewhere. A Bill was passed during the last Dáil session granting £300,000 to Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann. This money was to come out of the funds of suitors. From my information, there were no strings attached to the transfer of those moneys. I cannot understand how the Government did not transfer that money in total. A sum of £200,000 was transferred and I would like the Minister to outline in detail by whom that money was transferred and who received it. Perhaps he would tell the House the reasons why the balance was not paid at that time to Comhaltas Céoltóirí Éireann.
I would also like to know why pressure has been brought to bear on Comhaltas by his Department in particular. At the request of his Department, Comhaltas had to change their accounting and auditing procedures. They were asked to do a six month audit as a result of queries raised by the Minister's officials. Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann carried out a six month audit which cost them a lot in professional fees. Over the past few years Comhaltas expended a great deal on professional fees at the instigation of Government Departments. Once again this organisation had to spend a large sum at a time when they were not financially self-sufficient.
We are all aware that one of the reasons Comhaltas find themselves in financial difficulties is that they built this very beautiful theatre in Monkstown, of which we are all very proud. They went ahead with that project at a time when our economy was very buoyant. The recession hit us all, and they were victims too. The liquid resources they were expecting did not come their way. In 1981 they expected a Government grant to offset their financial targets, but they did not get that grant and they had no option but to borrow £200,000 from ICC to meet the contracts they had signed and to which they were committed. Due to the high inflation rate and the difficult economic times Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann found themselves in financial difficulties.
As Irish people we all have a patriotic duty to ensure that an organisation like Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann is maintained for the preservation of our identity. They are the strongest cultural movement in the country and they have brought us international fame, attracted many people to our shores and, indirectly, have helped to generate a lot of revenue for the economy. They employ 17 permanent and three part time workers. Comhaltas are reasonably good employers. They pay their PRSI and PAYE contributions like every other employer. We must preserve those jobs and we must preserve this cultural institute.
We should compare the annual grants being given to other organisations — ballet gets £400,000, the Projects Arts Centre get £160,000, opera gets £250,000 and Players get in the region of £3 million. There are over one million people involved with Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann and we should compare that number with those involved in the other groups. I acknowledge the contributions made by those groups and I welcome whatever support can be given to them but we must at least examine the contribution made by Comhaltas. We must compare the numbers involved in Comhaltas with those involved in other organisations and we must also compare the grants paid to Comhaltas with those paid to the other organisations. If we examine our conscience in this regard we will admit that we have not given a fair financial contribution to this outstanding organisation over the past few years. I cannot understand how this House passed £300,000 for Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann and that money has not been transferred to them.
Realising their financial situation and the fact that they are short £100,000 by way of the grant which was passed but not paid, there has been accruable interest on their financial commitments since the £200,000 was transferred. I would like the Minister to outline in detail the reason the balance was not paid, to say exactly when it will be paid and if he will pay that organisation the normal commercial interest rate they had to pay for the period the grant was denied to them. The Department have a duty to make sure that this money, plus the interest, is paid to Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann.
Again, I appeal to the Minister to ensure that this great organisation does not stagnate and that the money passed by this House, plus the interest, will be paid to them and I ask him to tell the House why pressure is being applied to this organisation by his Department.