Priority Questions.

There was a printing error in the Order Paper. Deputy McGinley's name appeared on Questions Nos. 38 and 41 instead of Deputy O'Dowd's.

Bullying in the Workplace.

Fergus O'Dowd


38 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if a departmental investigation into allegations of bullying and cronyism within the cross-Border body, Waterways Ireland, has been conducted by his Department; if the investigation has been concluded, the findings of said investigation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33322/04]

An investigation into allegations of bullying and harassment and related matters in Waterways Ireland was carried out, with the consent of the parties involved, by independent investigators appointed jointly by my Department and the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure in the North. The report of the investigators has been submitted to the Departments and actions to be taken on foot of the report have been raised with the chief executive, both orally and in writing. I do not consider it appropriate to comment further on the matter.

I acknowledge the efforts of the chief executive and staff of Waterways Ireland in advancing the work of this important North-South body, often in complex and difficult circumstances. The promotion of North-South co-operation in areas within my Department's remit remains a high priority for me and I will endeavour to continue to support the work of the North-South bodies for inland waterways and language matters in every way possible.

This allegation was made as long ago as 2002. Was any complaint made to the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs in regard to it? The matter was raised in the House of Lords by Lord Laird. Without going into the names of the people concerned, will the Minister inform the House whether he is satisfied that the allegation of cronyism was sustained or not?

I do not want to go into the outcome as the issue is under consideration. In January 2003 the Department first became aware of the allegations of patronage, bullying and harassment within Waterways Ireland. There was an informal investigation. A written report containing the findings of that investigation was submitted in November 2004. We have only just got it and the matter is now being considered. The complainant and the person against whom the complaints were made have both been informed in writing of the findings of the investigation. They have been given an opportunity to comment on those findings. We do not want to pre-empt that. The matter is ongoing and not final. Therefore it would be inappropriate to make further comment until the matter is concluded.

I have no problem with regard to not naming people. My point is that it is a serious allegation. The issue is important. Here in the South we spend approximately €32 million per year on this cross-Border body. It is essential that there is credibility in the context of whether there is bullying at the top of the organisation. After the people concerned have commented on it, will the Minister lay the report before the House or can the matter be discussed here again rather than being buried? I am not implying the Minister is burying the issue.

Public interest dictates that we should know exactly what the findings are. I agree that we should wait until the people concerned have commented. However, we want the result on the record, particularly since it concerns a North-South body. We must have due regard to the hoped-for success of the Anglo-Irish and Good Friday Agreements. Co-operation must continue and we must ensure that there is no question but that the highest standards are adhered to by everybody at all times.

I fully accept what the Deputy said. I stress that we have not yet come to the end of the procedure. When it is finished, the Department will decide what action, if any, needs to be taken. Obviously once a definitive decision has been made on whether action should be taken, we will be obliged to explain what decisions were made. However, I do not wish to pre-empt the decision-making process.

I am anxious to marry two requirements, namely, the right of the individual to confidentiality, especially when the process is ongoing, and the need for accountability to the Dáil for public money spent and to ensure that proper procedures were followed by an agency to which, as the Deputy said, we contribute a significant amount of money.

The Deputy can take it from me that we will certainly seek advice and will make public as much information as would be appropriate once a decision has been made. At this stage it is better to let the process come to an end and give the parties a chance to respond to the report of the investigators.

I stress that we are not sitting on this matter and that has been the case at all stages. It is being dealt with in a thorough manner. The Deputy is aware how complicated issues like this can be. We are anxious to bring closure to the matter.

Irish Language.

Brian O'Shea


39 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he made comments in July 2003 to a newspaper (details supplied) that there would be a dividend of almost 2,000 posts for the Irish language community as a result of the enactment of the Official Languages Act 2003; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33313/04]

I refer the Deputy to Questions Nos. 188 and 189 of 25 November 2004 in which I outlined that full implementation of the Official Languages Act would require us to draw on the language competences of significant numbers of people across both the public and private sectors. I reiterate that I did not at any time indicate that an additional 2,000 jobs would be created in the public sector as a consequence of the legislation. The service has a staff complement of approximately 280,121 people. Within this, a complement of 2,000 people with a competence in Irish would represent less than 1% of the public service. It may be anticipated that further employment would be created in training, translating etc. outside the public service.

Does the Minister agree that the prediction of the creation of almost 2,000 jobs for the Irish language community arising from the enactment of the Official Languages Act 2003 amounts to little? The Minister gave an exclusive interview to an Irish language daily newspaper printed in Belfast and read by the Irish language community. In the course of that interview he knowingly presented a false and grossly inflated prediction of the jobs to be created for the Irish language community, thereby strengthening support for the Official Languages Act in that community. He considered he was quite safe to make this outlandish prediction as no one outside the Irish language community would be aware of it and he would not be called to account for it.

I seriously and vigorously dispute what the Deputy said on a number of grounds. The interview was given in July 2003 after the legislation had been passed. I do not understand how I can be accused of garnering support for legislation which had already been enacted. I was asked a reasonable question to which I gave a reasonable answer. A total of 280,000 public servants work in the State. The Official Languages Act must mean something. Either it will bring about an improved service or it will not. It appears reasonable to me to predict that 2,000 people with a competence in Irish will be required to provide services following the enactment of the Official Languages Act. As I said, that would amount to only 1% of the public service which would be required to provide an Irish language service across the service.

I made the point in the interview that those people with bilingual ability would have an advantage when it would come to such jobs. Why should they not? Doctors have an advantage when it comes to jobs in medicine and lawyers have an advantage when it comes to jobs in law. Why would somebody who is bilingual not have an advantage in this respect, just as those who are trilingual have the edge when it comes to jobs in the European Union? Nobody complains about that. They say that is reasonable because, as we live in a multilingual society, one would need to have three languages to get a job there. Somebody like me who only speaks Irish and English would not be able to get a job in the European Union. The same principle applies here.

That is not the way the interview reads. The Minister stated in the interview that 1,000 jobs would be created within the Gaeltachtaí and almost the same number outside it. That statement was clear and unequivocal. The article was headed: "Ó Cuív's dividend: language Act to create 2,000 jobs." Either that is correct or it is incorrect. Is the Minister prepared to refute that statement which he allegedly gave to?

I do not and cannot write newspaper headlines and cannot therefore take responsibility for them. What I said to and am clear on is exactly what I said to the Deputy. Jobs in the public service that did not previously have a bilingual requirement will have one. A number of those will be in Gaeltacht areas. That is a fact.

Are there to be 1,000 jobs in Gaeltacht areas?

The newspaper got that mixed up. It is easy to explain the 1,000 jobs in the Gaeltacht. All Members have done interviews. I am quoted and misquoted in newspapers every day. In the past week it was alleged that I said things about rights of way that I never said. The reference to 1,000 jobs was a separate issue. I stick by what I said which was that Údarás na Gaeltachta could create 1,000 language-based jobs in the Gaeltacht that have nothing to do with the Official Languages Act. They are two separate issues. Such jobs would be in the areas of cultural tourism, translation which would relate to the Official Languages Act, third level education and so on. We had broken it down in rough form in the various earnálacha. That reference to 1,000 jobs did not relate to the Official Languages Act. That was the newspaper's mistake.

As Members are aware, when one does an interview like that, there is always a certain press aim and, at times, misunderstandings. The two issues were separate. That is the case. I hope that clarifies the issue for the Deputy.

I find it difficult to follow the Minister's logic. He is quoted in the article as saying a dividend of almost 2,000 jobs for the Irish language community would be one of the main results that would come from the enactment of the Official Languages Act. Does the Minister now refute that statement? Why has he made no attempt in the intervening year and a half to set the record straight?

I do not correct inaccuracies in every newspaper article because if I did, I would be writing to newspapers virtually every day. I sometimes do and sometimes do not. It depends on a number of circumstances.

I do not believe there will be 2,000 extra jobs in the public service but I believe that extra jobs will be created. If one wishes, one can put a figure of 2,000 on it. That is a reasonable figure which is about 1% of the public service. More people in the public service will be required to be bilingual than is the case at present if the Act is to have any effect. In other words, it would be reasonable that an extra 1% of the public service would need to be bilingual. One must distinguish an extra 2,000 jobs in the public service and an extra 2,000 jobs where there would be a requirement for bilingualism, which is what I said to.

The third issue is separate. I spoke to about this but it obviously got mixed up. I predicted and continue to predict that if Údarás na Gaeltachta pursues a policy of maximising the employment possible from language in the Gaeltachtaí, 1,000 jobs could be created, separate from but including the Official Languages Act, from many sources, including cultural tourism, third level education etc. It would be similar to setting a target to create 400 or 500 jobs in fish farming or any other industry. It is a reasonable target to set ourselves as it is quite achievable.

That is rubbish.

Deontais Ghaeltachta.

Trevor Sargent


40 D’fhiafraigh Mr. Sargent den Aire Gnóthaí Pobail, Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta an bhfuil sé ar an eolas faoi chairéal i mBaile na hAille, Contae na Gaillimhe (sonraí tugtha); comhlacht a fuair deontais ó Údarás na Gaeltachta in ainneoin nach bhfuil sé sa Ghaeltacht agus in ainneoin go bhfuair An Bord Pleanála amach go raibh sé ag feidhmiú i gcoinne dlí pleanála; gur chuir Comhairle Chontae na Gaillimhe fógra dlí chuige i mí Feabhra 2003 agus an bhfuil sé i gceist ag an Aire an t-airgead Stáit a tugadh don chomhlacht seo a fháil ar ais de bharr na neamhrialtachtaí seo. [33487/04]

Ní mór dom a mheabhrú don Teachta ar an gcéad dul síos nach dtagann ant-ábhar sonrach seo faoi mo chúram, ós rud é go mbaineann ceadú an deontais chaipitil le feidhmiú Údarás na Gaeltachta ar bhonn laethúil agus go mbaineann an ghné pleanála de leis na húdaráis phleanála féin. Mar a chuir mé in iúl don Teach i mo fhreagra ar Cheisteanna Uimh. 160 agus 76 ar 5 Deireadh Fómhair agus 9 Samhain 2004 faoi seach, cheadaigh Údarás na Gaeltachta deontas caipitil don chomhlacht seo ar an mhíthuiscint go raibh sé ag feidhmiú laistigh de limistéir na Gaeltachta.

Tuigim go bhfuil na céimeanna cuí glactha ag an Údarás chun aon atarlú a sheachaint. Tá athbhreithniú déanta ag an Ard-Reachtaire Cuntais agus Ciste ar an gcás le gairid mar chuid d'iniúchadh eatramhach ar chuntais 2004 an údaráis, agus tá sé curtha in iúl aige nach mbeidh aon bheart eile sa chás á thógáil aige.

Ní dúirt an tAire go raibh an cás seo ina chúis imní aige. Dúirt sé nach raibh sé freagrach as gach rud a dhéanann Údarás na Gaeltachta, agus tuigim é sin. Ag an am céanna, an féidir leis a rá go bhfuil sé ina chúis imní? Ní amháin go bhfuil an cairéal seo i mBaile na hAille taobh amuigh den Ghaeltacht, ní baile fearainn é Baile na hAille féin. An bhfuil an tAire á rá go mbeidh an deontas a fuair an cairéal seo á aistarraingt? An bhfuil sé ar an eolas go bhfuil An Bord Pleanála tar éis rá go bhfuil an tionscnamh seo ag briseadh rialacha pleanála agus go bhfuil an tAontas Eorpach tar éis cur ina leith go raibh disrespect agus non-enforcement i gceist in Iúil 2003?

Dá bharr sin, an bhfuil sé ina chúis imní ar fad aige, ní amháin go bhfuil an tionscnamh seo ag teacht salach ar bhunrialacha pleanála agus bunriachtanais an údaráis ach go bhfuil go leor den rud ceanann céanna ar siúl, de réir dealraimh? Tá figiúr agam: idir 1998 agus 2002, tarraingíodh beagnach €500,000 siar as deontais a tugadh amach sna cúig bliana sin. Nach cúis mhór imní é sin go bhfuil airgead á thabhairt amach agus ansin €500,000 á tharraingt ar ais? Nach gciallaíonn sé sin go bhfuil gá le mionscrúdú agus iniúchadh chun an scéal sin a réiteach?

Baineann an chuid dheireannach den cheist le ceist eile atá le freagairt inniu, agus sílim go mba cheart é sin a fhagáil go bhfreagrófaí an cheist sin.

Maidir leis an gcéad cheist, cheadaigh ant-údarás deontas don chairéal seo i 1998 ar an míthuiscint go raibh sé sa nGaeltacht. Bhí sé mícheart. Mar a mhínigh mé sa Teach cheanna, bhí sé deacair teorainn na Gaeltachta a aithint ag an bpointe sin, agus rinne sé botún. Níor cheart do dhuine botún a dhéanamh, ach tá sé daonna, agus is dóiche go dtuigimid ar an taobh seo den Teach gurbh é botún bona fide a bhí ann.

Ní bhaineann ceisteanna pleanála leis an ábhar seo ar chor ar bith. Nuair a tugadh an deontas, bhí sé ráite ag an údarás áitiúil gur chreid sé go raibh pleanáil ag an gcairéal seo ar an mbunús go raibh sé ann sular tháinig na dlíthe pleanála i bhfeidhm. I ndiaidh go raibh an deontas ceadaithe agus íoctha, thóg duine éigin ceist go dtí An Bord Pleanála, agus rialaigh sé ina dhiaidh sin nach raibh cead pleanála aige mar go raibh méadú úsáideach chomh mór sin is nach bhféadfaidís úsáid a bhaint as an chead pleanála a bhain le cairéalacha a tosaíodh roimh theacht na nAchtanna Pleanála. Ní féidir an milleán a chur ar Údarás na Gaeltachta, mar ní raibh a fhios aige roimh ré cad a déarfadh An Bord Pleanála trí nó ceithre bliana ina dhiaidh sin. Ghlac sé le focal bona fide an údaráis pleanála. Míníonn sé sin ceist na pleanála, agus dá bhrí sin, is féidir an cheist sin a chur ar leataobh.

Bhí imní orm maidir leis an gcás seo, ach thóg muid an cheist, agus go bhfios dúinn níl aon dearmad eile déanta. Ní amháin sin, ach dhearbhaigh Údarás na Gaeltachta dúinn go bhfuil céimeanna cuí glactha aige le déanamh cinnte nach dtarlóidh sé seo aríst. Mar atá ráite agam sa bhfreagra, scrúdaigh an tArd-Reachtaire Cuntas agus Ciste na cuntais. Ceadaíodh an deontas sa mbliain 1998, agus íocadh €55,234 sa mbliain 1999-2000. Níl sé i gceist aon aisíoc a lorg sa gcás seo.

Is léir go bhfuil sé de nós ag an Údarás deontas a aistarraingt, más gá, agus tá sé ráite gurbh é botún a bhí ann. Is airgead poiblí é seo, agus tá An Baile Dóite, an áit a bhfuil an cairéal, taobh amuigh den Ghaeltacht.

Tá An Baile Dóite sa nGaeltacht.

Tá brón orm. Tá An Baile Dóite sa Ghaeltacht, agus dúradh go raibh an áit sa Bhaile Dóite. Ag an am céanna, tá sé taobh amuigh den Ghaeltacht. Tá go leor tionscnamh ag iarraidh dul ar aghaidh agus rud éigin a bhunú sa Ghaeltacht, agus tá sé dochreidte go bhfuil an tAire agus an t-údarás sásta an t-airgead a fhágáil cé go bhfuil botún déanta. Tuigim go bhfuil cúrsaí pleanála taobh amuigh den cheistper se, ach is léir go bhfuil fadhbanna ag an dtionscnamh seo, agus tá airgead poiblí á infheistiú, ní amháin i dtionscnamh atá i gcoinne rialacha pleanála ach i gceann atá taobh amuigh den Ghaeltacht. Tá sé de nós ag an údarás airgead a aistarraingt. Cén fáth nach bhfuil sé á dhéanamh aige sa chás seo?

Mar gheall ar an chaoi ar tugadh an t-airgead, mar gurbh é an t-údarás a rinne dearmad, agus mar nach raibh, dá bharr sin, seans ag an té a fuair an deontas dul chuig na heagraíochtaí taobh amuigh den Ghaeltacht. Shíl sé féin agus an t-údarás go raibh sé taobh istigh den Ghaeltacht nuair a ceadaíodh an deontas. Nuair a scrúdaigh an tArd-Reachtaire Cuntas agus Ciste é, níor mhol sé go lorgófaí aisíoc.

Acht na dTeangacha Oifigiúla 2003.

Fergus O'Dowd


41 D’fhiafraigh Mr. O’Dowd den Aire Gnóthaí Pobail, Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta cad atá déanta go dtí seo chun forálacha Acht na dTeangacha Oifigiúla a chur i bhfeidhm. [33275/04]

Seo a leanas roinnt de na príomhchéimeanna atá tógtha go dáta maidir le cur i bhfeidhm an Achta: rinne mé ordú tosach feidhme ar 19 Eanáir 2004 a thugann feidhm don chuid is mó d'fhorálacha an Achta le héifeacht ón lá sin agus ó 1 Bealtaine 2004 i gcás Alt 10; cuireadh soláthar ar fáil i Meastacháin mo Roinne chun Oifig Choimisinéir na dTeangacha Oifigiúla a mhaoiniú, agus tá an tUas. Seán Ó Cuirreáin ceaptha ag an Uachtarán mar Choimisinéir Teanga le héifeacht ó 23 Feabhra 2004; foilsíodh ar 30 Meán Fómhair 2004 an leagan daingnithe de na treoirlínte a ullmhaíodh faoi Alt 12 den Acht chun cabhrú le comhlachtaí poiblí dréachtscéim a ullmhú faoi Alt 11 den Acht.

Tá scéim mo Roinne faoin Acht don tréimhse 2004 go dtí 2007 foilsithe freisin ó 30 Meán Fómhair 2004, agus tá sí ar fáil anois mar eiseamlár do chomhlachtaí poiblí eile; d'fhógair mé ar an lá céanna ainmneacha an chéad 25 chomhlacht poiblí a bhfuil iarrtha i scríbhinn agam orthu dréachtscéim a ullmhú i gcomhréir leis na treoirlínte sin. I measc na gcomhlachtaí sin tá Ranna, údaráis áitiúla, boird sláinte agus institiúidí tríú leibhéal. Tá mé ag súil go mbeidh na comhlachtaí poiblí atá san áireamh sa chéad bhabhta de phróiseas na scéimeanna ag cur dréachtscéimeanna faoi mo bhráid roimh dheireadh Mhárta 2005.

Molaim an obair atá déanta cheana féin, agus níl aon dabht go bhfuil níos mó Gaelainne á húsáid ná a bhí roimh an Acht. Tá ceist bhunúsach agam, áfach. Tá fhios agam go bhfuil an tAire go mór i bhfabhar an Bhille seo, ach tá mé ag éisteacht lena lán daoine timpeall na tíre á rá liom go bhfuil an iomad sin béime curtha ar an Ghaelainn sna pleananna bliantúla atá á gcur i gcrích anois, ag na húdaráis áitiúla ach go háirithe — development plans, annual reports agus rudaí mar sin — go gcosnaíonn sé na mílte euro na pleananna seo a chur faoi bhráid an phobail gan aon duine á léamh. Ba chóir go mbeadh ní ba mhó béime ar Ghaelainn a úsáid sna Gaeltachtaí agus níos mó seirbhísí a chur ar bun as Gaelainn sna ceantair a bhfuil Gaelainn á labhairt ach go háirithe. Tá daoine ag gearán go mór faoin méid airgid a chaitear amú ar an aistriúchán ach go háirithe. Ba chóir an t-airgead sin a dhíriú ní b'fhearr ar na daoine a bhfuil Gaelainn acu.

Ní thiocfainn leis an Teachta faoi sin. Maidin inné bhí mé i mBrí Cualainn, agus ní Gaeltacht í. Tá dhá bhunscoil lán-Ghaeilge agus meánscoil lán-Ghaeilge bunaithe le scaitheamh anois, agus feictear gasúir óga ag fás aníos i ngach baile in Éirinn agus iad ag fáil a gcuid oideachais trí Ghaeilge. Muna bhfuil an Ghaeilge taobh amuigh de na scoileanna, muna bhfuil sí le feiceáil i gcáipéisí poiblí, muna bhfuil múinteoir ranga, mar shampla, in ann a rá le gasúir go bhfuil cáipéisí poiblí ar fáil i nGaeilge, tá sé deacair ag na gasúir sin a thuiscint go bhfuil an Ghaeilge beo ina bpobail féin taobh amuigh den Ghaeltacht.

Bhí figiúirí thar a bheith spéisiúil mar thoradh ar fhreagra Ceiste inFoinse ag an deireadh seachtaine. Taispeánann sé go bhfuil Ranna ar an meán ag caitheamh €17,000 ar chur i bhfeidhm an Achta. Nuair a chuirtear é sin i gcomhthéacs na n-ollsuimeanna airgid a chaitheann Ranna — an méid, mar shampla, a chaitheann siad ar fhógraíocht nó taisteal — feicfear go bhfuil muid ag caint ar fhíorbheagán airgid i gcomhthéacs na mbuiséad riaracháin sna Ranna éagsúla.

Ní aontaíonn an pobal leis an Aire. Ba cheart an t-airgead a dhíriú ar rudaí ar nós na scoileanna lán-Ghaeilge atá, buíochas le Dia, ag fás i ngach áit. Sílim go mbeadh sé an-mhaith seirbhís ní b'fhearr a thabhairt do na scoileanna sin agus do na daoine atá ag múineadh iontu, a bhíonn ag labhairt na teanga agus a bhfuil baint acu léi. Is é an gearán a chloisim ná go bhfuil an t-airgead á chaitheamh amú ar thuarascálacha bliantúla na n-údarás áitiúla, pleananna forbartha agus rudaí eile nach léann aon duine iad. Nár chóir an t-airgead sin a chaitheamh ar an ghnó sin? Ní dhéanann sé aon mhaitheas, mar ní léann aon duine in am ar bith iad. Níl aon duine ag gearán faoin méid airgid atá á chaitheamh ar son na Gaelainne; níl aon cheist faoi sin. Tá an tAire sásta an t-airgead a chaitheamh, ach ceapann na daoine a bhí ag caint liom gur féidir é a chaitheamh níos fearr.

Ní chaithfí an t-airgead atá á chaitheamh ar an obair seo ar an Ghaeltacht, mar tagann sé as buiséad eile.

Ba chóir go mbeadh plean forbartha Gaelainne ag na comhairlí contae chun na Gaelainne a fhorbairt. Cén fáth nach bhfuil an t-airgead á chaitheamh ar sin seachas é a chaitheamh ar cháipéisí nach léann aon duine?

Más cáipéisí nach léann aon duine iad, níl a fhios agam cén fáth a bhfoilsítear i mBéarla nó Gaeilge iad.

Tá an ceart ag an Aire.

Ach níl aon cheist faoin iliomad páipéir a fhaighimid i mBéarla. Dá ndéanfadh duine iarracht é a léamh, ag tosacht ar 1 Eanáir gan aon chabhair nó tada, ní bheadh sé léite ag deireadh na bliana aige. Sin fadhb ghinearálta, agus ardaítear na fadbhanna sin nuair a chuirtear na cáipéisí millteanacha seo ar fáil sa Bhéarla. Feicim — chonaic mé go minic san am atá caite — cáipéisí á gclóbhualadh ar chostas mór a bhí uafásach trom, agus ní dóigh liom gur léigh mórán daoine iad agus iad i mBéarla amháin. Níl aon cheist faoi sin. Sílim féin go bhfuil sé in am breathnú ar fhadhbanna mar sin go ginearálta. Má bhreathnaítear ar na tuarascálacha bliantúla, feictear go bhfuil siad an-mhaisithe agus lán de phictiúir. Cosnaíonn sé sin airgead, ach ní deir éinne rud ar bith. Ní thagann aon cheist costais le rud ar bith a bhaineann le cúrsaí riaracháin go dtí go n-iarrtar ar dhuine éigin rud a chur ar fáil san dá theanga oifigiúil.

Nuair a bhí an díospóireacht faoin Acht ar siúl anseo, bhí argóint go raibh an méid cáipéisí a bhí á lorg againn trí Ghaeilge agus trí Bhéarla i bhfad ró-theoranta. Ag an am, ghlac mé leis go mbeadh argóint an Teachta á cur i mo choinne, agus choinnigh mé teoranta é, mar bhí a fhios agam go n-iompódh an taoide. Ag an am céanna, creidim gur bunrud é tuarascáil bhliantúil eagraíochta poiblí. Ós rud é go mbaineann na meáin Ghaeilge úsáid astu seo le labhairt le pobal na Gaeltachta, tá sé thar a bheith tábhachtach go bhfuil na cáipéisí seo ar fáil trí Ghaeilge.

An mbeadh an tAire sásta dul i gcomhair leis na comhairlí contae le caint leo mar gheall ar an bhuiséad atá acu chun na Gaelainne a chur chun cinn le feiceáil an mbeidís sásta plean eile a chur i bhfeidhm seachas an ceann atá ann faoi láthair in áiteanna nach labhraítear aon Ghaelainn ar chor ar bith? Sin é an gearán is mó. Níl daoine á rá nár cheart an t-airgead a chaitheamh ach gur féidir value for money a fháil dó.

Níl a leithéid d'áit ann níos mó nach labhraítear an Ghaeilge inti. Bíonn spéis ag an bpobal i gcoitinne i bpleananna contae. Níl na daoine ag maireachtáil i gcoirnéal den tír; tá siad ag dul anonn is anall. Má bhreathnaimid ar thuarascálacha bliantúla i mBéarla, feicimid gurb é an dream is mó a chuireann i láthair an phobail iad ná na meáin Bhéarla. Ní rud a cheannaíonn an mórphobal iad. They are not bestsellers, mar a deirtear. Úsáideann na meáin Bhéarla iad chun rudaí a chur i láthair an phobail. Is éard a tharlaíonn leis an Ghaeilge anois, buíochas le Dia, ná go n-úsáideann na meáin Ghaeilge iad chun an rud céanna a dhéanamh. Go minic, ní hé an léitheoireacht atá tábhachtach ach an úsáid a bhaintear astu, mar a gcéanna leis an Bhéarla, chun rud a chur os comhair an phobail. Go minic is é an chaoi a bhfaigheann daoine amach céard atá i dtuarascáil bhliantúil Béarla ná an páipéar áitiúil a léamh.

Inland Waterways.

Paudge Connolly


42 Mr. Connolly asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if consideration will be given to the restoration of the Ulster Canal as a navigable waterway and to the development of this project on a cross-Border and all-island basis; his views on its potential as an integral part of one of the world's longest inland waterway systems; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33405/04]

The Deputy will be aware that one of the functions of Waterways Ireland, one of the six North-South implementation bodies established under the British-Irish Agreement Act 1999, is to examine the possible restoration of the Ulster Canal. No decision has yet been taken to proceed with the restoration of the Ulster Canal.

A commissioned study estimated the cost of restoration of the full canal to be approximately £90 million Sterling based on 2000 costs. The issues arising in regard to the Ulster Canal, including the question of whether a phased or partial approach to the matter might be feasible, are being considered by my Department and the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure in the North.

I thank the Minister for his reply though I regret it is not a little more positive. Will he agree that the financing and re-opening of the Ulster Canal connecting the Shannon-Erne waterway and Lough Neagh and passing through counties Leitrim, Cavan, Fermanagh, Monaghan and Armagh, is a classic example of a cross-Border project and of cross-Border all-island co-operation? Will he agree that project would breathe new life into large tracts of the BMW region, in particular small towns such as Belturbet, Killeshandra, Smithboro-Monaghan and the Glaslough-Tyholland areas?

Will the Minister further agree there is no major tourist attraction in that area? The Ulster Canal has done wonders for County Leitrim, west Cavan and the Ballyconnell area. The re-opening of that canal has enormous potential. The framework for doing so already exists as does the route. All that is needed is for it to be revamped. The project is headed by a North-South voluntary committee which acts, as cross-Border bodies should, in a true spirit of co-operation. However, the committee has met with many obstacles in trying to obtain finance. Some €1 million raised by it through private investment has been lost but could be recouped if the two Governments were to show a willingness to enter into such a cross-Border project.

The opening of the Ulster Canal, taking into account the scale and costs of the project, estimated in 2000 to be £90 million Sterling, is a matter for the two Governments in conjunction with Waterways Ireland. I do not believe a voluntary body could carry out such a sizeable project. A major project requires major decisions. We must all hope and pray the current ongoing talks come to fruition. In that context, much greater progress would be made on this issue. There is general support in both communities, North and South, for the project. The representatives of the various counties in question have approached me on it. However, a consideration of the project would have to be a joint one between the authorities, north and south of the Border. The conditions for this to happen would require certain political events to unfold in a favourable way.

We either have cross-Border co-operation or not. While similar major projects in Dublin have been discussed, this project seems to be in the wrong geographical area. The Minister talks about the scale of the project, yet this should be balanced with its benefits. Over time it would represent excellent value for money and more than likely would be self-financing. People want to see examples of cross-Border co-operation but there have been few tangible projects. This project is tangible, with research completed and committees in place. The committees have much expertise and are more than willing to give their time freely to ensure this project becomes a reality. I ask the Minister to reconsider it.

I said I believed it was not a project that a voluntary body could undertake. If it is to happen, it will happen under the aegis of Waterways Ireland. That is a reasonable statement. I never said it should not take place——

The Minister is not coming across in a positive way.

I cannot make a unilateral decision on the project as any decision must be taken jointly between the authorities North and South. The Deputy is aware of the current political situation in which we find ourselves. I hope the situation will work its way through. If the talks come to a positive conclusion, then a stable political situation would exist where representatives of the Northern Ireland Assembly, acting once again as ministers, could re-engage with these issues. At this juncture, it is not possible to make any significant progress on the issue.

People on both sides of the Border would like to see such a project take off and develop. It would show what can be gained from North-South co-operation.

I fully agree with the Deputy. However, another issue in North-South co-operation must be resolved first. The appropriate structures in Northern Ireland must be in place before major projects such as this can proceed. There is no question about the benefits the Shannon-Erne waterway has brought to Ballyconnell. Every time, I visit counties Leitrim and Cavan——

It has done wonders for County Leitrim.

It has done incredible wonders for the county. The project will be examined but I cannot make a unilateral decision on it and will not be goaded into making such an announcement. Certain circumstances must be in place before we can proceed with the project.