Ceisteanna – Questions. Priority Questions. - Departmental Estimates.

Liz McManus


9 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if he will make a statement on the Estimates for his Department for 2004. [31566/03]

The allocation for my ministerial Vote group, as published in the Abridged Estimates for Public Services on 13 November last, is €432.2 million. This Vote group consists of Vote 35 in respect of the Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism, which has been allocated €423.7 million and Vote 18, the National Gallery of Ireland, with an allocation of €8.5 million. I am very pleased that the allocation for my Department, representing an increase of 8% over the 2003 figure, will enable me to continue the Government's programme for the development of the arts, sport and tourism sectors.

With regard to the arts, film and culture areas, the total funding increases from €93 million in 2003 to almost €112 million for 2004. With a 19% increase in funding for the Arts Council to €52.5 million, I am able to provide the council with the financial commitment to continue and develop its work. I have also been able to increase significantly the financial resources that will be available to the Irish Film Board. The successful organisation of the cultural programme associated with the forthcoming Irish Presidency of the Council of the European Union, the organisation of an Irish festival of culture in China and the celebration of the 100th anniversary of Bloomsday will be particular priorities in 2004.

In relation to the sports sector, I have been able to secure increased funding of over €176 million for 2004, which includes an amount of €67 million in respect of the activities of Bord na gCon and Horse Racing Ireland. With such a significant increase in funding for the development of sport, I am able to increase support to the Irish Sports Council to €30.75 million to allow it to continue and enhance its wide range of programmes aimed at increasing participation in sport at all levels. This increase is particularly appropriate in an Olympic year. Increased funding is also provided for the development of sports facilities throughout the country in 2004. The Deputy will be aware that the 2004 sports capital programme was advertised on 30 November 2003 with a closing date for receipt of applications of 16 January 2004.

The Estimates for 2004 also include an allocation of almost €114 million for tourism services, representing an increase of 6% over this year. Here the emphasis will be on increased funding for the tourism marketing fund where a record provision of €31.5 million will enable major marketing programmes to be rolled out in key target markets. There is also increased support for the tourism State agencies to begin the process of implementing the recommendations of the tourism policy review group which sets out a new vision and strategy for Irish tourism for the ten year period to 2012.

Why has the allocation for advertising and publicity in the Minister's Department increased by 100% this year? Is this because of the EU Presidency? Why has the figure increased from €75 million to €150 million?

Can the Minister explain the reduction from €170 to €70, which is 59%, in loan subsidies for small business expansion? If the Minister does not have the information to hand, will he send it to me at a later stage.

I will communicate the replies to Deputy Wall, as he has requested.

Funding for the arts plan was lower than expected last year. Now that the Minister has more money available, how long will it be before the arts plan is back on track?

Is an increase in the number of local sports partnerships envisaged? There are only 14 or 15 of them at the moment. Is it planned to increase funding to existing partnerships and to increase the number of partnerships? They are very effective.

It is appropriate that the Deputy should ask that question. The Sports Council increased the number of sports partnerships by four during this week.

The implementation of the arts plan is a matter for the Arts Council itself. The council will decide how to proceed. The concept of multi-annual funding of an arts plan is something the Arts Council decided itself. That is fine, except that the Minister with responsibility for the arts must go to the Minister for Finance every year to discuss his budget for the following year. It is simply not possible for any Minister, irrespective of who he or she is, to give a guarantee of roll-over funding, as the Arts Council proposed. Things just do not work like that. The Minister for Finance must look extremely carefully at his priorities, options and resources and do the best he can for the country. That is not an easy task. I am particularly grateful to the Minister, Deputy McCreevy, for his deep understanding of the problems of the arts sector. The manner in which he responded has been magnificent and the arts sector across the country acknowledges that.

Is Tourism Ireland responsible for the tourism aspects of our inland waterways? In Kildare we have two canals and the rivers Barrow and Liffey, but we do not seem to develop our waterways to their true potential. A number of boating companies operate on the canals and on the Barrow but they do not seem to reach their potential as waterways in other countries do. Does development of the waterways as a tourist attraction come within the Minister's remit?

For the most part the inland waterways are in the control of the Office of Public Works. I know this because I was for a period in the early 1990s Minister of State with responsibility for the Office of Public Works. The Office of Public Works is certainly responsible for the Ballinamore canal. Tourism Ireland's only responsibility is for marketing the country on the international stage and, in doing so, it refers to tourism facilities such as the inland waterways. Fáilte Ireland does the same when advertising within the country. The Office of Public Works has most to do with the inland waterways.