Adjournment Debate. - Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann.

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.

I thank Deputy Treacy for giving me the time to contribute to this debate and I thank the Chair for agreeing to it. I do not want to add to the friction that has been generated between Comhaltas and Government Departments. I cannot understand why such an organisation, which has brought our music and traditions back from the dead, has been neglected by successive Governments. Comhaltas have many volunteers who apply themselves very assiduously to preserving our music and traditions. Most Governments did not do enough for Comhaltas; I am not saying my Government were more generous but they were more considerate and more aware of the great work Comhaltas were doing.

I do not know the cause of this friction, but there is hassle to the point where the Government do not reflect the wishes of the people who are indebted to Comhaltas. What happened in this case is similar to what happens in other voluntary organisations. Many people are willing to work for these organisations on a voluntary basis and the Governments, and the present Government too, treat these organisations as they treat sporting organisations. Their attitude is, "They are enjoying what they are doing and let them do it for nothing. Why should we give them money?" When the case was being made here for money the attitude then was that as they have so many members another £5 per head would give them what they required. It was as though the members were not giving enough in time, money and effort.

I do not want to say anything that would add to what is the near rejection of Comhaltas by the Government. The least that might be done is that the moneys voted for them should have been paid before now. It should not have been necessary for Deputy Treacy, Deputy Daly or myself to say anything further. What was right should have been done. I hope that next year and in future years, irrespective of which Government are in power, the tremendous and invaluable work done by Comhaltas will be honoured more generously than has been the case in the past.

I wish to thank the Deputy for giving me an opportunity to say a few words on this matter and to lend my support to what has been said so well here by Deputy Treacy and Deputy Tunney.

It has been a cause of concern to all of us to have it brought to our attention in the past few days that this substantial amount, in the region of £100,000, is outstanding. I am alarmed about this because there is now a crisis situation in Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann which may necessitate the cutting off of some of the services they have and the closing down soon of their operations. We have been told that insurance cover may have to be cancelled, that telephones may be cut off and the ESB supply terminated. All of this could be avoided if there was payment of the amount of money which it is considered is due and which should be paid. I should like to hear from the Minister the reason it has not been paid. I am sure this debate this afternoon can expedite payment of the outstanding amount.

I will not go into detail on the arguments that have been made here. When the Funds of Suitors Bill was going through the Dáil I highlighted the impact of Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann on the cultural and social activities of my own constituency and also nationally. I said then we needed to put the financial structure of Comhaltas on a sound footing. Incidentally, I do not criticise the amounts given from the fund for other projects. We know that the other projects that have been grant-aided out of the Funds of Suitors legislation are worthwhile and we do not criticise what it has been decided to pay to other organisations and associations. However, there is need for an explanation now as to how this situation has arisen. We hope the discussion this afternoon will have the effect of speeding up payment, thus fulfilling the obligations we entered into last July.

Tá áthas orm an deis seo a bheith agam miniú a thabhairt céard go baileach atá ag tarlú maidir leis an íocaíocht seo. Faoi mar is eol don Teach, cuireadh £300,000 ar fáil do Chomhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann faoin Acht don Ciste Eagróirí 1984 níos luaithe i mbliana. Faoin Acht sin, alt 2 (c), tá sé de fhreagracht ormsa mar Aire na Gaeltachta cinntiú go bhfuil na cuntais i ceart, agus chomh maith leis sin chugamsa a thagann an t-iarratas agus ormsa atá an fhreagracht an t-airgead sin a íoc.

Íocadh £200,000 don ICC mar aisíoc don Chomhaltas ar iasacht a fuair an Comhaltas ón ICC. Chomh fada agus is eol domsa tugadh geallúint i scríbhinn i 1982 go n-íocfaí £200,000 ó Chiste na nEagróirí agus idir an dá linn shocraigh an Rialtas seo a bhfuil daoine ag tabhairt amach faoi láthair go n-ardófaí an £200,000 go £300,000. Rinneadh é sin agus fuair mé tacaíocht ón Tí seo chun é sin a dhéanamh, ach is é an Rialtas a mhéadaigh an tsuim sin. Is é an fáth nach bhfuil an £100,000 breise sin íoctha go fóill — agus ní thógfainn ar an Teachta Treacy é gan a fhios sin a bheith aige — ná go raibh coinníollacha ag baint leis an íocaiocht sin.

D'íoc mo Roinn an £200,000 díreach don ICC. Maidir leis an £100,000 breise bhí coinníollacha ag baint leis agus is é an choinníoll ba mhó a bhain leis ná nach n-íocfaí é go mbeinnse sásta go raibh cuntais an Comhaltais i gceart agus de réir gnáth rialacha cuntasóireachta. Caithfidh mé a rá go bhfuair mé tacaíocht an Comhaltais sa mhéid gur iarr mé orthu cuntais leath-bhliana a chur ar fáil, go bhfuair siad cuntasóirí nua agus gur chuir siad na cuntais ar fáil, ar 24 Meán Fomhair, agus níos déanaí ná sin, go deimhin i lár na míosa seo caite, trí sheachtain ó shin, fuair mé eolas faoin toradh a bhí ar an bhfeachtas bailiúcháin a d'eagraigh an Comhaltas cúpla mí ó shin. B'fhéidir go mba mhaith le Baill an Tí a fhios a bheith acu nár éirigh chomh maith agus ba mhaith liomsa leis an bhfheachtas bailiúcháin sin, go dtí seo ar aon nós.

Tá an ceart ag na Teachtaí gur obair an-tábhachtach í obair an Chomhaltais, go bhfuil cultúr, ceol agus rudaí eile a bhaineann leis an gcultúr á gcur chun cinn acu ar fud na tíre le 30 bliain agus an-obair déanta acu agus á déanamh acu. Tá an-taithneamh le baint as an pháirt a ghlacann daoine in obair an Chomhaltais ach d'ainneoin an caitheamh aimsire a chuirtear ar fáil is cosúil gur beag airgid a thagann go dtí an Comhaltas ón obair sin. Tá 400 brainsí acu sa tír seo, i Meiriceá, Canada, san Astráil, sa Bhreatain agus ar fud na hEorpa, chomh fada agus is eol dom, ach is cosúil nach bhfuil siad ábalta é sin a aistriú go teacht isteach dóibh féin.

(Cur isteach.)

Níor chuir mise isteach ar an Teachta. Tá an Comhaltas — agus ní chuireann se aon áthas orm é seo a rá — i dtrioblóid maidir le costais agus maidir le airgead. Thóg siad amharclann a bhfuil an-bhród agamsa as amuigh ansin, ach chuaigh na costais as riocht ar fad. B'fhéidir go raibh baint ag an boilsciú leis seo ach chuaigh sé ó £340,000 go dtí £984,000. Sin ardú de bheagnach 300 faoin gcéad. Bhí boilsciú ard ann ach ní raibh sé chomh hard sin. Sin í an fhadhb a bhaineann leis seo agus go deimhin bhí an obair tosaithe beagnach bliain go leith sula bhfuair siad an gheallúint i scríbhinn go raibh an £200,000 ar fáil. Sin í an trioblóid agus tá siad i bhfiacha anois sa suim sin minus an £200,000 a íocadh leis an ICC agus minus an £100,000 atá sa chiste. Mar a deirim, ní bhfuair mise an cuntas deireadh uathu ach trí sheachtain ó shin. An mhi roimhe sin fuair mé na cuntais ó na cuntasóirí nua agus glacaim anois go bhfuil na cuntais sa riocht a mba cheart dóibh a bheith. Beidh an £100,000 á íoc dóibh go han luath ar fad. Ní réiteoidh an £100,000 an fhadhb atá ag Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann. Beidh siad os cionn £600,000 i bhfiacha ina dhiaidh sin féin.

Beidh sé níos mo i gceann seachtaine eile agus níos mo sin fós i gceann míosa eile.

Tá sé de dhualgas ormsa mé fein a shásamh sula n-íocaim amach an t-airgead. Tá tú ag caint anseo faoi airgead poiblí go bhfuil freagracht agamsa dó. Nílimse ag rá——

Ach——

Níor thug an Teachta seans dom an abairt a chríochnú. Nílim ag rá go bhfuil éinne sa Chomhaltas a chuirfidh pingean rua ina phóca agus a imeoidh leis. Nílim ag rá sin ar chor ar bith. Ach de réir an Achta tá sé de dhualgas orm cinntiú go bhfuil chuile rud sa riocht ceart. Tá sé sin déanta ag an gComhaltas. Go deimhin bhí comhoibriú an Chomhaltais ag teacht chuile uair a chuir mise ceist orthu. Ba mhaith liom a rá maidir leis an rud a dúirt an Teachta Tunney go raibh rud éigin mí-cheart agus go raibh raic idir an Rialtas nó idir an Roinn agus an Chomhaltas — rud nach raibh fíor nuair a bhí Fianna Fáil i gcumhacht. Sin é an cineál tuisceana a thug sé.

Ni dúirt mé é sin.

Ni dúirt tú é ach sin é an tuiscint a bhí le tógail as.

(Cur isteach.)

Muna ndúirt tú é, níor dúirt tú é agus tarraingim siar an rud a dúirt mé faoi. Ach nil sé fíor a rá go bhfuil aon rud agamsa i gcoinne an Chomhaltais. Chuir mé comhairle ar an gComhaltas chomh fada agus ab fhéidir liom ach níor ghlacadh é. Chuir an Roinn comhairle ar an gComhaltas ceithre bliain ó shin chomh fada agus ab fhéidir leo agus níor ghlacadh é. Ní haon mhaith a rá gur thosaigh an Comhaltas ag togáil fhoirgnimh íontach amuigh ansin nuair a cheap siad go mbeadh go leor airgid ar fáil dóibh. Níor tugadh an tuiscint sin dóibh am ar bith ag oifigigh na Roinne ná go deimhin ag aon Aire a bhí ann romhamsa. Ní haon mhaith a rá gur tógadh é sin ar mhíthuiscint, go rabhadar ag súil le airgead a fháil nach bhfuair siad toisc go raibh droch-bhail ar chursaí airgeadais na tíre. Níl sé sin fíor. Cuireadh comhairle orthu agus níor ghlacadar leis an gcomhairle.

Mar fhocal scoir — agus ni chuireann sé áthas ar bith orm é seo a rá — ni dóiche go réiteoidh sé seo fadhb an Chomhaltais. Má tá daoine sa tír seo a bhfuil suim acu go mbeidh an Comhaltas ann agus go mbeidh ag éirigh leis sna blianta atá romhainn, anois an t-am le cúnamh airgid a thabhairt dóibh. Tá bailiúchán ar siúl acu agus anois tá an deis ag daoine airgead a chur i gciste an Chomhaltais agus tá sé ag teastáil go dian.

Ba mhaith liom a fhiafraigh den Aire an bhfuil sé sásta go bhfuil cuntais Chomhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann in ord; cén fáth go bhfuil a Roinn ag lorg eolais ón Chomhaltas faoin bhailiúchán náisiúnta atá ar siúl acu anois agus cén bhaint atá ag an mbailiúcháin náisiúnta sin leis an deontas a cheadaigh an Teach seo cúpla mí ó shin. An mbeadh an tAire in ann eolas a thabhairt dúinn cén lá nó cén seachtain a gheobhaidh Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann an £100,000 seo ón Aire, ón Roinn nó ón Rialtas?

Dúirt me leis an Teachta——

Cá bhfuil an t-airgead anois?

Dúirt mé leis an Teachta cheana go raibh coinníollacha ag baint le íocaiocht an airgid seo. Tá mé sásta leis na cuntais a cuireadh ar fáil le déanaí. Tá sé de cheart agam mar chuid den dualgas ata orm ceist a chur agus eolas a fháil ar staid airgeadais an Chomhaltais, agus sin é an fáth a rinne mé é. Tá an £100,000 slán agus tá sé ansin le híoc. Beidh sé ag an gComhaltas taobh istigh de dheich lá.

Táimid an-bhuíoch den Aire.

The Dáil adjourned at 5.30 p.m. until 2.30 p.m. on Tuesday, 13 November 1984.