Go ndeonófar suim forlíontach suim nach mó ná £40,459,000 chun íochta an mhuirir a thiocfaidh chun bheith iníochta i rith na bliana dar críoch an 31u lá de Nollaig, 1996 le haghaidh tuarastail agus costais Oifig an Aire Ealaíon, Cultúir agus Gaeltachta, le haghaidh seirbhísí áirithe a riarann an Oifig sin, lena n-áiritear deontais le haghaidh tithe agus ildeontais-i-gcabhair.
Is cúis sásaimh dom an Meastachán Forlíontach seo a thabhairt os comhair na Dála. Is é atá i gceist san aistriú cistíochta seo ó Vóta Oifig na nOibreacha Poiblí go dtí Vóta mo Roinne-se — aistriú a bhfuil aontú na Dála á lorg agam na leith — ná an chéim dheiridh san atheagrú riaracháin atá ar siúl i ndáil le cúrsaí oidhreachta.
The heritage services of the Office of Public Works have grown rapidly in recent years. While the Office of Public Works had responsibility for national monuments, the Shannon Navigation, Phoenix Park and St. Stephen's Green from the last century, these were regarded as peripheral to its main functions until about 1970 when a unit with a distinct conservation role was established. The unit was called the National Parks and Monuments Service.
In 1986, with the enactment of the Canals Act and the transfer of the Grand and Royal Canals from CIE to the Office of Public Works, a new waterways service was created to deal with the management of the canals and the Shannon Navigation.
In 1987 the wildlife service was transferred from the Department of Tourism, Fisheries and Forestry to the Office of Public Works and shortly afterwards the National Parks and Wildlife Service was created. We, therefore, now have three arms to the heritage service, the National Parks and Wildlife Service dealing with the natural heritage, National Monuments and Historic Properties dealing with the built heritage and the waterways service dealing with inland waterways.
These three services constitute a large administrative unit with a total staff of the order of 1,000 full-time and 250 seasonal personnel and a total gross budget of the order of £49,000,000 per annum. As Deputies are aware these services have produced magnificent practical work. Deputies on all sides of the House have paid tribute to that work and I would like to pay tribute to the personnel involved.
However, it was not until the establishment of the Department of Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht at the beginning of 1993 that the question of ministerial responsibility for heritage policy was addressed. The position at that stage was that statutory responsibility was divided in a most confusing manner between the Minister for Finance and the Commissioners of Public Works. For instance, in the cases of wildlife and the Botanic Gardens total responsibility was vested in the Minister for Finance. In other cases, particularly waterways and national monuments, responsibility rested in the main with the Commissioners with some responsibility being reserved to the Minister for Finance while in other cases, such as the Phoenix Park, the Commissioners had responsibilities but were subject to the general directions of the Minister for Finance. To complete the picture of statutory confusion I must mention Páirc Náisiúnta An Bhlascaoid Mhóir for which the Commissioners of Public Works had general responsibility but who required the consent of the Minister for the Gaeltacht for certain actions. The powers of the Minister for the Gaeltacht are now, of course, included in the statutory powers of the Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht agus ceapaim féin go bhfuil an Ghaeltacht aitheanta, mar sin, mar bhunchloch oidhreacht ár dtíre.
The establishment of the Department of Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht provided the opportunity of addressing the confusion and integrating policies for the heritage with those for analogous functions which had been brought together in the new Department. On 9 February 1993 the then Government agreed that the Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht be assigned responsibility for the formulation and development of future policy in relation to inland waterways, national parks and wildlife and national monuments and historic properties. On foot of that decision, a heritage policy unit was established in my Department staffed by personnel transferred from the Office of Public Works.
Following discussion which I had with the then Minister of State at the Department of Finance on the process for determining how the Government decision could best be implemented, a joint proposal was submitted to Government who agreed it on 2 June 1993 and who also decided to set up a working group consisting of officials of my Department and of the Office of Public Works to identify the policy matters proper to the Department and to recommend working arrangements whereby the Government decision would be implemented in practice.
The working group produced two alternative sets of arrangements, neither of which, unfortunately, was acceptable to all concerned. In November 1993 the Government decided to appoint a larger interdepartmental group which included representatives of the Department of Finance and of the Attorney General but this too failed to come up with an acceptable solution. The fundamental difficulty lay in the fact that the Commissioners were vested with certain statutory functions which were difficult to reconcile with my responsibility for policy which had no statutory base and while I was prepared to work within these constraints others saw serious practical difficulties in any such arrangement.
Against this background the policy agreement for A Government of Renewal provided in December 1994 that the Office of Public Works would be restructured on a phased basis, including, inter alia, the transfer of appropriate functions to my Department. In particular, it provided for the transfer of the responsibilities of the Minister for Finance in relation to heritage to me and this was effected by means of statutory instruments on 20 December 1994 and 2 March 1995. It also provided for the amendment of the Heritage Bill which was then before the Oireachtas by stating that the functions of the Commissioners under legislation relating to heritage should be performed by them subject to the general directions in writing of the Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht of the day. The Heritage Bill with this amendment became law in April 1995.
While the new arrangements which followed from these statutory changes were an improvement, there still remained a disjointed and complex division of responsibilities which produced practical difficulties despite the efforts of all concerned to make them work effectively. In the circumstances the Minister for Finance and I agreed that it was necessary to remove the ambiguity which was inherent in the existing arrangements to establish an optimum structure for the management of the heritage. On 19 September 1995 the Government decided to transfer to the Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht by Government order, in accordance with section 9 of the Ministers and Secretaries Act, 1924, the statutory powers of the Commissioners of Public Works under specified heritage legislation.
Deputies will be aware that the policy agreement A Government of Renewal also provided that consideration be given to the creation of an inland waterways authority which would have responsibility for effective North-South arrangements for the management of all navigable waterways on the island. The Government, accordingly, set up a high level interdepartmental steering group to prepare the implementation of the transfer of functions from the Office of Public Works to the Department of Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht and to consider the question of an inland waterways authority.
The group's report has been received and presented to Government. Two Statutory Instruments were made on 12 March 1996. The principal order, S.I. No. 61 of 1996, transferred the statutory functions of the Commissioners of Public Works in relation to the heritage to the Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht. The other order, S.I. No. 62 of 1996, transferred from the Minister for Finance to the Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht certain powers under the Shannon Navigation Act, 1990, which had been omitted from the earlier transfer order of 2 March 1995.
With regard to inland waterways, the group recommended that any organisational arrangements adopted for the management of inland waterways should facilitate the conversion of such organisation into a statutory waterways authority with minimal disruption and drafted a scheme of a Bill to give effect to its recommendations. I hope to introduce such a Bill in the House in due course.
The North-South dimension will have to be a matter for discussion between the political heads of the relevant Departments, North and South. In the meantime the group recommended that, pending such developments, the precursor waterways organisation should form part of the Department of Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht.
The Supplementary Estimate, which I am placing before the House for its approval, is to enable funds to be transferred from the Vote for the Office of Public Works to my Department's Vote for the new heritage service being established within the Department as recommended by the steering group. I am satisfied these arrangements will not only remove the ambiguity to which I referred, but will give a clearer sense of identity and sharper focus to the Heritage Service staff and provide an integrated framework for the formulation of heritage policy and its implementation. Nil aon amhras orm go mbeidh na struchtúir nua a ndearna mé tagairt dóibh cúpla nóiméad ó shin éifeachtach, soiléir agus solúbtha chomh maith amach anseo.
This is the final stage in the reorganisation of the administrative arrangements for the heritage. The first step was the setting up of a Heritage Policy Unit in my Department; the second was the appointment of a statutory Heritage Council following the enactment of the Heritage Act, 1995, and the third is the establishment of the Heritage Service within my Department.
The Heritage Council has the task of providing independent advice and assistance to voluntary organisations, local authorities and private individuals on heritage issues and will prepare, for my consideration, policies and priorities on the heritage. It also has a role in regard to the protection of heritage buildings in public ownership.
It is useful to reflect on the elements of a heritage strategy and where they fit in. I have described the Heritage Council with its much stronger role as statutory, but it will be able to liaise with the groups mentioned. The Heritage Policy Unit formulates and develops policy and legislation, whether on the basis of recommendations from the council or any other source or as necessity and European Union requirements demand. The Heritage Service will be responsible for the management of heritage properties in State care and, generally, for the implementation of legislation and policy on the heritage, apart from those areas within the executive function of the council. These three units will provide a co-ordinated approach to the heritage which will ensure there is a structured system of policy formulation and a clear identity and focus to the implementation of heritage policy.
The Supplementary Estimate I am presenting for the approval of the House is for a net total of £40,459,000 in respect of the Heritage Service being transferred to my Department following the Government Order of 12 March 1996. It is, in effect, the pro rata amount for the period 13 March to 31 December 1996 of the provision in Vote 10, Office of Public Works, for heritage services in the current year.
A total of £5,613,000 is required for the administration budget, that is, subheads A1 to A7. This represents the salaries and associated costs of approximately 250 staff for the period in question.
Subhead Q — miscellaneous services at visitor centres — for which £130,000 is sought is the cost of providing certain services at visitor centres for which charges are made. There is a contra provision in Appropriations-in-Aid of £157,000. Subhead R1 — maintenance and supplies — for which £130,000 is sought is for the maintenance of various visitor centres. Subhead R2 — Heritage Service publications — for which £186,000 is sought is for the cost of producing various guide books, published inventories, etc. I compliment the Heritage Service on the great quality and diversity of its publications. Several new site booklets will be published this year, including guides for Glenveagh National Park, Céide Fields, Corlea Bog, the Boyne Valley, Dublin Castle, Phoenix Park, Glendalough and Ormond Castle. In addition, new information leaflets, posters and post cards are planned.
A guide or information service will be provided this year at 54 heritage sites throughout the country where approximately two million visitors are expected. This operation provides full-time employment for 26 staff and seasonal employment for about 250.
A sum of £6,933,000 is required for subhead S — National Parks and Wildlife Service. This includes £3,678,000 for capital services and £3,315,000 for current services.
The ongoing work of the National Parks and Wildlife Service includes the conservation of five national parks and 76 nature reserves. Management plans for four national parks are being prepared i.e. Burren, Wicklow Mountains, Connemara and Glenveagh and seven nature reserves. The draft management plan for the Burren has been completed and I have sought the views of the public on its proposals.
A study has been carried out on a proposed national park in north-west Mayo which I hope to launch very shortly. A study is also being conducted on a future strategy for Doneraile Park. I hope that this, too, will be completed in the near future.
More than £2,000,000 is being provided for the acquisition of lands of special ecological importance and £500,000 for the midlands raised bog restoration programme.
A sum of £8,941,000 is required for subhead T — inland waterways — of which £4,740,000 is capital and £4,201,000 is current.
There are a number of projects being undertaken on the Shannon Navigation, including the extension of navigation on the River Suck to Ballinsaloe, on the Boyle River to the town of Boyle and to Sarsfield Lock in Limerick. I recently opened the extension of the navigation to Lough Allen. On the Shannon-Erne waterway, which has been a great success additional moorings are proposed for Keshkerrigan.
Work is proceeding on the Grand Canal where the new sealock gates at Ringsend were recently completed. The corridor study task force under the chairmanship of Senator Pat Magner is working hard at revitalising the Dublin stretch of the canal. It is receiving great co-operation from the Inland Waterways Association of Ireland which recently held a very successful rally in Dublin. This partnership between the State, voluntary and community groups has blossomed. This is welcome.
A sum of £886,000 is being provided for works on the Royal Canal in the current year as part of the project for the complete restoration of the navigation from Dublin to the Shannon. I expect that work will commence this year on the Tralee Ship Canal and the marina in the Claddagh Basin in Galway.
A sum of £771,000 is required under subhead U for conservation works funded from the national lottery. Of this, £271,000 is for the final payments on the new museum which I recently opened at Kilmainham Gaol. I congratulate the curator, Pat Cooke, and the team who assisted him in this magnificent project. The remaining £500,000 is to meet the commitment made to contribute towards the cost of restoring the telescope and associated works at Birr Castle.
In subhead V, £20,361,000 is sought for national monuments and historic properties of which £10,701,000 is capital and £9,660,000 is current expenditure. Capital works are being undertaken at almost 40 sites throughout the country. Many of these are EU aided projects. The largest project is the Boyne Visitor Centre due to be opened next year. Extensive works are also being done at Trim Castle, Rathfarnham Castle and at Castletown, County Kildare. Conservation work will continue at various national monuments and historic parks, most of it done by the direct labour staff who have, over the years, built up an enviable reputation for the quality of their work. I paid tribute to it when I first became a Member of the Seanad more than 25 years ago and I do so again today. It is admired by everybody.
Work will continue on the archaeological and architectural inventories. This is an essential prerequisite to the process of providing protection to our built heritage. Very good progress has been made in recent years on the archaeological inventory and there is a sites and monuments record now for every county. It is important however that fieldwork should continue to provide definitive descriptions and records of all visible monuments. These records form the basis for the system of protection which is provided under section 12 of the National Monuments (Amendment) Act, 1994.
The architectural inventory is being reviewed by the interdepartmental committee which the Minister for the Environment and I established last year to look at this issue and the question of providing statutory protection to listed buildings. I hope to receive the report of that committee in the next month or so.
These various subheads come to a gross total of £43,125,000. There are offsetting Appropriations-in-Aid of £2,666,000 which is made up for the most part of receipts at various heritage centres.
This brings to an end a very long process in the arrangement and strengthening of the heritage services. Legislation is one matter but administrative structures are another. Much depends on the co-operation of the public whose heritage it is. I hope the arrangements will be seen to be successful. What we are doing today is almost pro forma, transferring moneys voted to the Office of Public Works to the Department which will be in charge of providing the services.
Dá réir sin, molaim an Meastachán Forlíontach seo d'oll-shuim £40,459,000 don Teach agus tá súil agam go nglacfaidh an Teach leis.