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Dáil Éireann debate -
Thursday, 18 Feb 2010

Vol. 702 No. 4

Other Questions.

Community Service Programmes.

Phil Hogan


6 Deputy Phil Hogan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the allowances and grants which participants of the rural social scheme can claim; the specific criteria, payment and so on; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8309/10]

Joe McHugh


7 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the changes made to the materials grant to cover ancillary costs such as travel, health and safety equipment for participants of rural social schemes; the monetary effect same has on participants; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8305/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 6 and 7 together.

In general, participants on the Department's rural social scheme, RSS, can apply for adult and child dependant allowances, depending on their family circumstances, and also for the free fuel allowance. All of these allowances are payable directly by my Department and the qualifying criteria are generally in line with those applied by the Department of Social and Family Affairs. Other allowances and grants may be payable to RSS participants by other Departments and agencies in certain circumstances — for example, the back to school clothing and footwear allowance and higher education grants. The qualifying criteria for such allowances and grants are a matter for the relevant Department or agency.

Since the introduction of the RSS in 2004, a materials grant to cover ancillary costs such as travel and health and safety equipment has been paid to the implementing bodies that administer the scheme at local level on behalf of my Department. This grant was paid at the weekly rate of €15.24 per participant per week up to the end of 2008. In 2009, in the context of the availability of resources, the materials grant was set at €11.63 per participant per week. Guidance was issued to the implementing bodies to prioritise essentials such as health and safety requirements with the materials funding made available to them. This can include safety clothing and boots for participants, where appropriate.

The rural social scheme is an excellent programme. I hope the Minister will contact his colleague, the Minister for Finance, to seek additional funding so that more places can be provided on the scheme. Rising unemployment has led to increased demand and I hope the scheme will be allocated its fair share of funding.

As the Minister pointed out, allowances in regard to health and safety, clothing and so on have been reduced. I am pleased to hear that the Minister has written to the implementing bodies to emphasise that health and safety requirements should be prioritised within the available materials funding. Will the Minister follow that up to ensure recipients retain their current funding levels and do not endure further cutbacks in allowances for clothing and other health and safety requirements? I hope the Minister will write to the implementing bodies.

I thank the Deputy for his support for the scheme. It is a success on the ground and I thank those participants in the scheme who did such Trojan work during the bad weather at the start of January.

We can be clear about one thing, we have been paying €11.63 per week since 2009. Of that, €4.63 goes directly to paying PRSI, leaving €7. If we multiply that by 50 and add €14, it amounts to €364 per year for participants. That should be more than enough to buy all the rainwear, safety boots and direct, personal paraphernalia someone would need.

I had the choice to reduce the number of participants or to reduce slightly the money for materials. I still believe €364 is quite adequate to provide personal safety equipment. We must also recognise that many of these workers are working for local committees, for sports clubs and Tidy Towns organisations. If a voluntary committee has access to free labour, it is a huge head start on the old days when it had to provide the labour and the materials. It is not unreasonable to expect community groups, if they need some cement or some blocks, to come up with the money as a community. That is the spirit of rural Ireland. One of the amazing things I find in CLÁR and Gaeltacht areas that community groups are queuing up with money, telling me they have the funds if I can match them, far more than was the case during the heyday of the Celtic tiger. Perhaps they realise there is no more free lunch. The right decision in all my policies is to keep participants on the schemes.

I also support this scheme. How many participants are there at present and what is the geographical spread?

The proactive nature of the groups in terms of funding is fine in some areas but not in all. It is a matter the Minister must keep under review. The positive nature of the scheme should not distract from the need to examine it constantly. Small changes make a difference and if it is possible to secure an increase in funding, every group will welcome that. The positivity of the people involved is great but it is up to the Minister to keep an eye on it and to try to increase funding and participation numbers.

If I got extra funding tomorrow, I would leave the materials grant as it is and I would create more positions on the scheme. Everything must be focused for people on the ground. For many communities getting the labour is the major bonus. They can come up with the money for materials if they need it. Often it is not a major requirement because the clubs spend much more per week on materials than the €4 we have cut and they are delighted to have someone who turns up every day to line the pitches, put up the nets and open the grounds.

In terms of geographical spread, Kildare, for instance, would have a small number. The reason is that the scheme mirrors the number of people on farm assist when the scheme started. We established schemes telling each area to keep applying until we hit 2,600.

I am concerned, however, that things have changed with the downturn in the economy. If there were to be more places, we would have to ensure those areas with small numbers would get an increase. There is no prospect of extra places at present in case people get the opposite idea.

Almost 80% of participants, if a line was drawn from Derry to Cork, would be west of that line. Deputy Ring's county has the highest number on the scheme of any county, which reflects the high number of farm assist recipients.

I agree with Deputy Wall that it is a great scheme. Perhaps some of the funding the local authorities get should be diverted to the rural social scheme. In some cases they are doing better work than the local authorities. Perhaps the Minister might discuss that with his colleague, the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, so local authority schemes have their funding put into the rural social scheme, which is then given more authority to do work that local councils do not do.

The opening of drains is damaging more roads. This is very simple work that local authorities cannot do. It would save the taxpayer a fortune if those on the scheme were let do this.

The scheme is particularly cost effective. It costs approximately €7,000 more per annum than participants would have received on social assistance. That allows for these all having home income, so a fair number were not getting the full farm assist, which is a means tested scheme. It is a small premium to pay for the extra work we are getting.

I note the Deputy's remarks. If local authorities, however, were encouraged to lay off staff, the Deputy's party would be quick to tell us we are causing more unemployment. As funds become available in future, I will endeavour to secure them. It has been my priority in the cutbacks to keep numbers on the schemes intact. We secured that and did the same in the community services programme, where the numbers are higher this year than they were last year. I cut back the materials grant because the number one priority is to keep people working.

Joe McHugh


8 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs his views on whether the level of community supports provided by community service programme organisations across the country will be hindered by the reduction in 2010 financial allocation from his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8314/10]

Martin Ferris


13 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if cuts in the allocation from Pobal to community groups will be reversed. [8244/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 8 and 13 together.

During 2009, over 80 different organisations were approved for grants from my Department's community services programme, supporting an additional 300 employment opportunities in the provision of services. As Deputies will appreciate, the pressure on the public finances has significantly impacted on resources available for initiatives delivered by my Department with funding of €46 million available for the CSP in 2010, compared with over €50 million in 2009.

Of the 450 or so organisations approved to deliver services under the CSP, an increase of 80 on the January 2009 position, contracts in respect of some 320 projects expired at the end of 2009. In the current economic climate, I am keen that the current levels of employment in these organisations are maintained. However, given the reduction in overall funding for the programme, I can only do this by abolishing the non-wage grant that was previously payable. I have, however, provided a review process where an immediate examination of the impacts of the reduction in support to organisations is being undertaken.

It should be noted that organisations providing services under the CSP are required to develop non-public forms of income by way of charging fees, trading or fund-raising, as the programme is not designed to cover the full operating costs of supported organisations.

A number of groups have made representations to me about this scheme, including many women's groups, active retirement groups, security services for the elderly, rural transport, community development and enterprise and local radio stations. They are concerned that following the cutbacks they will not be able to meet their health and safety criteria or cover their insurance. The schemes will not have enough money to keep going and they will close down as a result. Is there any way funding can be found for these groups, which are all deserving in their own right? They are dealing with the elderly and community groups and I do not want us to lose community feeling. During the past ten years it was extremely difficult to encourage people to become involved in their communities. However, increasing numbers of individuals are now doing so. We need our communities now more than ever. I urge the Minister to reconsider the matter in order to see what funding he might be able to obtain for any of the groups that are in difficulty. I received representations from 13 to 14 such groups.

As already stated, there are many more people employed on the scheme now than was the case on 1 January. In light of the budgetary position, I faced a decision whereby I could either reduce the number of people in employment, which I was extremely reluctant to do, or cut the non-wage grant. If my Department had been obliged to examine the 450 projects involved to assess their ability to do without the non-wage grant, this would have taken a great deal of time. What we did, therefore, was to notify the groups that the non-wage grant had been discontinued. We then stated that those on which this would have a serious impact, create a risk in the context of health and safety implications, prevent compliance with any law or affect the viability of a project would have the right to put a case to the Department.

We imposed a closing date in January on the making of applications in order that matters might be progressed. As I informed the CSPs, however, I will not refuse late applications. We imposed the closing date in order that groups experiencing the type of problems to which the Deputy refers might make applications which could then be dealt with rapidly. Of the total of 450 projects, 320 were notified of the change I have outlined. Some 50 of these have sought reviews. I understand that before the end of February a further ten may seek reviews.

The review taking place at present is immediate in nature and is meant for those projects that are in serious trouble. My Department informs me that I will be receiving proposals from next week onward in respect of those groups which have sought reviews. It is not my intention to allow good projects to be lost. I stress, however, that the nature of community service or social economy projects is that groups are expected to try to generate their own income streams.

I agree with the Minister in respect of the review and the fact that good projects should not be allowed to fail. I am of the view that if, in the context of the core goal of a project, there is an inventiveness on the part of a group involved to try to create income, the Minister should look positively on its efforts. I accept that such inventiveness might involve a slight divergence from that original core goal. Community projects are at the heart of social development in many areas. I was extremely critical when the boards of management of the community development programmes, CDPs, were removed because such groups are at the centre of communities. If they can display inventiveness in creating additional income that will make a difference, the Minister should welcome this. He should reward these groups by awarding them whatever additional funding is at his disposal.

Absolutely. When we assumed responsibility for the programme and carried out the initial review, it emerged that a significant variety of groups were involved. There are some groups in RAPID areas which will find it extremely difficult to create their own incomes. Some others are operating quite substantial tourism projects and have extremely good sources of income. There are still others which have enormous reserves of income because they have been making good profits.

If, in a time of scarce resources, projects are making good profits which can be sustained, would it not be much better for me to continue to devote funding to the creation of additional employment rather than giving grants to those who do not really need them? The projects under discussion are meant to operate in the middle economy that is located between 100% funded community groups and the 100% commercial service. There is a fantastic example of such a project in Deputy Wall's constituency, namely, Lullymore Heritage and Discovery Park. Visitors are willing to pay hard-earned money to gain entry to this park.

Some of these projects are what I would term serious loss leaders in the context that they draw in visitors, who frequent shops, public houses, etc., and help create wealth. However, there are known sources of income within some of these projects and we are trying to see how we might use the funds that exist to create further employment. There are some very good projects in RAPID areas which do not have ways of earning money. These will be treated very fairly in the review process. I have kept in reserve a small amount of money that can be allocated to groups which are acting in good faith, which are making genuine efforts and which require funding.

I chose to act in this way because if I had been obliged to review the 320 projects and then put in place an appeals process, progress would have been too slow. Only 50 groups have requested reviews — this number may eventually rise to 60 — and this is obviously because the remainder, although they may not be happy about it, are in a position to stretch their resources that bit further. They have informed me that they are willing to do the latter. In such circumstances, we will look after the groups which are experiencing problems.

Departmental Expenditure.

Bernard J. Durkan


9 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the amount, extent and value of budgetary cutbacks in his Department in 2010; the degree to which it has affected the various services provided by his Department directly or through subsidiary agencies; the number of persons affected as a result thereof in terms of loss of personnel through cessation of schemes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8377/10]

Joan Burton


32 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the extent to which decisions announced in budget 2010 will impact on the operation of his Department or agencies under his remit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8391/10]

Joan Burton


41 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he will make a statement on the Estimate for his Department for 2010. [8390/10]

Bernard J. Durkan


42 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the extent to which operation of the CLÁR and RAPID schemes have been affected by the current economic climate; if consideration has been given to the substantial increases in such schemes to compensate for the downturn in the economy and the needs arising therefrom; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8376/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 9, 32, 41 and 42 together.

As the Deputy is aware, as part of its strategy to manage its way through the current severe economic crisis and to return the country to prosperity, the Government decided, in budget 2010, to reduce spending on public services by almost €1 billion in 2010 compared to the pre-budget Estimates. To the greatest extent possible, savings have been sought through efficiencies rather than through reductions in services. The individual breakdown of these reductions for my Department at a subhead level is provided in the Revised Estimates Volume for 2010, which, I understand, was published in the past hour or so.

While the allocations in most expenditure programmes are reduced for 2010, my primary concern is to make every effort to ensure that the daily front line services provided with funding from my Department, particularly those focused on the needs of the most socially deprived communities, are protected. Every saving that can be made from reducing overheads is being pursued in order that the entire range of urban, rural, Gaeltacht and island communities we serve will retain, to the greatest extent possible, the services that have been developed in partnership with them over the years.

Deputy Durkan indicated to me that he would be present to deal with this question. As he is not here, I will pose some supplementaries in respect of it. What are the cutbacks affecting the Minister's Department that have been announced in the past hour? Is the Minister in a position to guarantee that he will do everything to protect the positions of staff who provide front line services.

Absolutely. The Deputy will be glad to hear that there have been no further cutbacks. In fact, the Revised Estimate published in the past hour contains a number of small adjustments that are positive in nature.

We have been examining every programme in the interests of cutting administrative costs, reducing duplication, etc. The tying up of the local and community development programme, LCDP, is a perfect example of what we are trying to achieve in the context of bringing programmes together and ensuring that two people in the same area are not replicating each other's work. I am engaged in a similar streamlining exercise in respect of organisations in the Gaeltacht. The aim of this exercise is to ensure that each Gaeltacht area will have an organisation operating within it but that there will be no area in which two such organisations are operating.

In reply to the previous question, I outlined the approach we took in respect of the CSP, namely, we removed the non-wage grant but we will assist those experiencing particular difficulties. In the past two years, the approach in respect of the rural social scheme has been to reduce funding and ask communities to do a little extra.

In the context of the Department's Vote, our approach has been to try to obtain more for less. The Deputy is probably aware that I made an announcement in the Seanad last night in respect of the payment for mná tí na Gaeltachta. The cut in respect of this payment, which currently stands at €10.50, will be 5%. That is a far cry from what Professor Colm McCarthy suggested, namely, the abolition of the scheme over two years. Deputy Ring will be aware that the Government is 150% committed to this key scheme. I accept that, in the context of the drop in the consumer price index, it will not be easy for the mná tí to cope with the cut. However, we are retaining the scheme and the tax exemption for the mná tí will also be maintained. I am of the view that these are welcome developments.

In reviewing the position with regard to cutbacks in the Department's Vote, is it possible that a positive approach might be taken? As we examine this can we identify areas where we can develop aspects of the project or funding that may make a difference? The negativity of cutbacks in itself is divisive. It shows a lack of enthusiasm for what is being done. Opportunities to review each project and funding head do not come very often. Are there positive aspects? Have places been identified where the Minister feels further funding will create more employment? I gave out to the Minister because he did not fight the McCarthy report initially but waited to respond to it. With this review the Minister has an opportunity to come up with the positive aspects of what is involved in communities in rural Ireland. I am asking with what positive aspects has he come up.

With regard to the McCarthy report, if one considers the Department's Estimate now and the Government's clear statement that it is committed to a 20 year strategy for the Irish language, one will accept that the Government did not accept the McCarthy report's recommendations on the Department and has solidified the importance of the Department in the decisions taken. I was always aware that the Government's view of the Department did not mirror the slashing proposed in the McCarthy report but we must allow these processes to go forward. Without boasting, if one examines the Department's Estimate it is in line with what happened in every other Department.

I agree with Deputy Wall's point on positivity. Last year, I created extra positions in the CSP scheme against the head and maintained them this year. I will meet the Leader companies tomorrow and I will beg them to get the money approved. I kept the administration money very tight; I cut it because I want to put the money into projects. Every euro I save in administration will go into a project. I want large projects and I want the Leader programme rolled out fast. I do not want €1,000 or €2,000 projects; I want €100,000 and €200,000 projects and community projects of €300,000, €400,000 or €500,000 so that in five or ten years people will state that something was done under the Leader programme between 2007 and 2013. Wherever we can be positive we are.

I am also working on the matter of rural recreation. I met a senior executive of Fáilte Ireland during the week to see how we can invest the wealth of resources in rural Ireland into rural recreation. The RAPID programme is extremely important and we are examining new ways of improving matters under this programme on a low cost basis. Recently, I visited DIT Kevin Street which had brought in local children. This was organised by private industry, a voluntary organisation and the third level institute at a low cost.

I do not want to disrupt the Minister but I wish to allow more supplementary questions.

I am only anxious to help.

The Minister is very helpful to the House.

This House should debate where we are going and where we have been with rural development. Has the Minister introduced Gaeltacht house grants for windows, doors and roofs again this year? Is there any hope for their introduction?

I am disappointed the Minister had to cut back on the scheme where children stay in houses in the Gaeltacht. I compliment the Minister on that scheme and I supported him very strongly on it. It is big business in Gaeltacht areas and creates employment. The Minister should not worry about the McCarthy report. McCarthy is another one who wants to live in Dublin 4, Dublin 5 or Dublin 6; he does not want a rural Ireland. He wants to keep only the cities going and have us for coming down to at weekends to shoot snipe.

I have been working on where we go from here with rural development and where the opportunities exist. I am more than willing to debate it at any time in the House. It is important that we have a clear vision of what rural development is about, what type of urban and rural societies we want, and how we see those societies developing.

Approximately €6 million in approved Gaeltacht housing grants has not yet been paid and a number of applications have not been fully assessed for various reasons; sometimes an applicant does not provide required information. I am committed to it and all of the funding available this year will be used. I heard what Deputy Ring stated on the importance of the scheme.

With regard to the mná tí it is fair to state that there is unanimity in the House on the importance of Scéim na bhFoghlaimeoirí Gaeilge. It has had huge success in inculcating in young people a love of the language in a natural setting outside of the classroom. Last year, the numbers that attended were as high as ever and it is very important. In recent years I managed to substantially increase the grants to the mná tí. Furthermore, I require the colleges to pay €1.20 for every €1 grant paid by us to the bean an tí. Previously we increased the money and the college decreased the money. I stopped that for a number of years. I was reluctant to make any cut but given the circumstances of the time the 5% cut is reasonable.

The Government is looking to the future and today's Estimates contain an extra provision in the Department's Vote for Stráitéis Fiche Bliain don Ghaeilge. We see this as something new and positive that we must drive. We must await the approval of the Government and so on before spending that money but we are committed to the strategy.

Will the Minister continue his proposals on rural recreation? The waterways in Ireland are under the control of Waterways Ireland but it is an area we have not developed to its true potential. They, along with the walkways along the banks of the canals, can be a huge tourist attraction. Will the Minister make a commitment to be in contact with Waterways Ireland to ensure that progress is made on this?

When one travels throughout the country one can see the fantastic work done on the Shannon and Erne waterways. We have a huge length of waterway. I fully agree with Deputy Wall on the need to continue to develop these resources, not only the boating resources but also the banks. Recently, I brought in all of the State agencies that have major land holdings, including Coillte Teoranta, which has done a huge amount of work on rural recreation, Waterways Ireland, the inland fisheries agency, Bord na Mona, the National Parks and Wildlife Service, Fáilte Ireland and Iarnród Éireann. We discussed how the State can use the fantastic resources it has through all of these agencies not only for their primary purpose but also in a co-ordinated way for rural recreation. Abandoned railway lines would be super for cycleways and walkways. Waterways Ireland has dry canals that would be very good for walkways. We also have the waterways themselves. Cutaway bog could be used for children from cities and towns to do things they would not be allowed to do anywhere else because we do not have ecological problems there and Bord na Móna was very enthusiastic about this.

Coillte has been particularly good at providing scrambler and mountain bike areas and it has developed several great walking routes. Building on that model, we are seeking to bring together all the State agencies which own significant amounts of land to take a more coherent approach. I look forward to Members' support in that effort.

Community Development.

Mary Upton


10 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the progress made to re-instate the scheme for áisitheoirí pobail for the smaller Gaeltacht areas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8365/10]

My Department is carrying out a comprehensive review of arrangements currently in place regarding the structure and funding of various organisations involved in all aspects of community development in the Gaeltacht. The purpose of the review is to ensure greater co-ordination and efficiencies in the delivery of a range of services to Gaeltacht communities by strong community structured organisations, encompassing community development, community enterprise, social inclusion and language planning. It is proposed that these organisations will operate within clearly defined geographical regions throughout the Gaeltacht.

Having regard to the Government's clear commitment to maintaining and developing the Gaeltacht and in the context of the draft 20 year strategy for Irish, language planning will be a critical element of the overall community development process in the Gaeltacht in the years ahead.

The role of smaller Gaeltacht areas such as Ráth Chairn-Baile Ghib in County Meath and Na Déise in County Waterford is being considered in the context of the overall review. It is envisaged that areas such as these will be recognised as entities in their own right and afforded the opportunity to have a community based organisation recognised for the purpose of delivering a comprehensive range of community development services, including language planning, as outlined above.

Arising from a meeting convened in Na Forbacha on 18 January 2010 to initiate the review process, the various Gaeltacht community organisations have been invited to submit their views and proposals to my Department, which will then formulate formal proposals on how the process will be advanced. It is intended that the revised arrangements for delivery of community services in the Gaeltacht will be operational by 1 January 2011. In the case of the smaller Gaeltacht areas, I understand Údarás na Gaeltachta will continue to support Comharchumann Forbartha Ráth Chairn for the remainder of this year. I understand also that an tÚdarás has approved funding to Comhlacht Forbartha na nDéise for the employment of a community development officer in the Waterford Gaeltacht to assist that company's development plan in the coming months.

I thank the Minister for his reply. Clearly, progress is being made on the issues I have been raising. The áisitheoirí pobail were financed by MSF but that funding was withdrawn. The áisitheoirí teangan were financed by the Minister's Department on the basis of a survey and development plan for the language. Which posts are we discussing in terms of the funding available for Gaeltacht na nDéise — An Rinn agus an Seanphobal?

Déanfaimíd cínnte go bhfuil an dá phobal i gceist. Bhéinn i dtrioblóid dá ndéanfainn dearmad ar cheachtar acu. Tá deontas de €50,000 ceadaithe ag an údarás. Tá Comhlacht Forbartha na nDéise tar éis glacadh leis sin. Is ceist don chomhlacht fhéin í cé mhéad daoine a fhostófar ar an €50,000 sin. An bhfuil aon fhoinse ag an Teachta? Is le haghaidh oifigeach forbartha pobail atá an €50,000 atá ar fáil i mbliana. Ar ndóigh, níl anseo ach rud eatramhach. De réir an phlean nua atá á chur le chéile agam, beidh comhlacht buan — maoinithe tríd an Stáit — sna Déise. Is rud eatramhach é seo, ach déanfar socrú buan ceart sa todhchaí. Beidh clúdach iomlán á dhéanamh ar Ghaeltacht na nDéise faoin bplean nua.

An mbeidh an socrú buan in áit ó 1 Eanáir 2011?

Nuair a bhí mé sna Forbacha, bhí focal agam le muintir na nDéise. Mar is eol don Teachta, chas mé leo nuair a bhí mé i nDún Garbhán roimh an Nollaig. Dúirt mé gur thuig me a gcás. Ó tharla go bhfuil an dá phobal sásta oibriú le chéile, agus go bhfuil na struchtúir acu, tá súil agam socrú buan a dhéanamh an-luath sa phróiseas. Ní chaithfidh siad fanacht go dtí 1 Eanáir 2011 le socrú buan a chur in áit. Is é sin an dáta deiridh do gach ghrúpa sa tír. Má tá na grúpaí réidh le bogadh ar aghaidh le socrú buan roimhe sin, ní bheidh fadhb ar bith agam leis sin.

An mbeidh an maoiniú ar fáil?

Beidh. Tá €50,000 ar fáil ar aon chaoi. Ar ndóigh, caithfidh an socrú nua bheith níos fearr ná sin le teacht in áit roimh an dáta sin. Tá mé cinnte gur mhaith le pobal na nDéise go mbeadh socrú fadtéarmach in áit agus fios acu cá seasann siad go fadtéarmach. Déanfar cinnte de go bhfuil cúram ceart déanta do na Déise. Caithfidh mé a rá go bhfuil an-mheas agam ar phobal na nDéise. Is beag Gaeilge a bhí fágtha sa cheantar sa bhliain 1926. Tá éacht déanta acu chun an Ghaeilge a choinneáil beo. Tá iarrachtaí an-dáiríre á dhéanamh ag an bpobal áitiúil, go mórmhór na daoine óga, ó thaobh na Gaeilge de. Is féidir leis an Teachta bheith cinnte go dtabharfar aitheantas do sin sna socruithe.

In regard to small and large Gaeltacht areas, will the Údarás na Gaeltachta elections be held this year? Will the Minister give an undertaking to the House that he will speak to the directors general of RTE and Raidió na Gaeltachta about their public service obligations to broadcast Irish mass on four Sundays every year? I ask that he restore the Sunday mass to Raidió na Gaeltachta.

The Deputy made as good an attempt at the end of Question Time as he did in the beginning. Cathain a bheidh toghcháin Udarás na Gaeltachta?

Tá ceist á fhreagairt faoi sinn inniú. Deputies are debating an Stratéis Fiche Bliain. Allowing that good suggestions are approved by the Government, it will be necessary to introduce new Gaeltacht legislation. I could delay the elections until October but I am not sure if there is much point in an election if we are introducing new legislation which would require us to rerun it in a changed context. I may introduce a short Bill later this year in order to postpone the election until the new legislation is enacted. That is something we should tease out in the coiste when I am invited to discuss the stratéis. I will be guided by the Deputy's opinions on how we should proceed.

I wrote to ceannaire Raidió na Gaeltachta and received a reply from her. I then wrote to the stúirthóir of RTE and he wrote back. I have made the case that there was grave disappointment among older Gaeltacht people at the withdrawal of the mass. They regarded it as a lifeline.

Written Answers follow Adjournment Debate.