Priority Questions

Before we start, I wish to congratulate Deputy Ring on his new responsibilities. We will miss him.

Údarás na Gaeltachta

Michael Ring

Question:

1 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Community, Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs the action planned by him or agencies under the remit of his Department to stimulate job creation in Gaeltacht regions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29073/10]

I also wish Deputy Ring the best in his next position, where I am sure he will be as committed as he has been in this position. I thank him for the contributions he has made.

It is a primary aim of Údarás na Gaeltachta to reverse the downward employment trend in the Gaeltacht and to effect the transition from a declining manufacturing sector to employment in services, including Irish-language centred employment. A total of €30 million has been allocated to Údarás na Gaeltachta from my Department's Vote for the year 2010. Extra funding of €2 million was provided as an additional support to the organisation at the end of 2009, bringing its overall allocation to €39.6 million. Thus, over the two year period 2009 to 2010, an t-údarás will have received almost €70 million from my Department's Vote to allow it to pursue its objectives.

In addition to Exchequer voted funding, Údarás na Gaeltachta also has access to other sources of income that enable it to promote and stimulate employment creating initiatives, for example, income generated from schemes, such as the community employment scheme and the rural social scheme and income from dividends, fees and the sale and lease of assets. Funding is also made available to an t-údarás by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Innovation through the employment subsidy scheme and the enterprise stabilisation fund. These supports are important to businesses in the Gaeltacht and help them to continue trading and to protect jobs. Last year, for example, these two schemes safeguarded 605 jobs.

I am acutely aware of the challenges and the obstacles facing Údarás na Gaeltachta in the difficult economic environment currently being experienced at both the national and international level. In this context, it is encouraging to note that 710 new jobs were created in údarás client-companies in the Gaeltacht in 2009.

I would also draw attention to the fact that the Rural Development Programme 2007-2013 is being delivered by Meitheal Forbartha na Gaeltachta in Gaeltacht areas and includes measures providing direct support for investment and job creation. Under the programme, MFG has an overall allocation of almost €17.3 million, with a specific allocation of €1.68 million for business creation and development. Comhar na nOileán, the Leader-partnership company for island communities, most of which are in the Gaeltacht, has been allocated a total budget of €4.6 million under the programme.

I thank the Acting Chairman and the Minister for their kind remarks.

Since 1997, the Government has spent more than €234 million on job creation in Gaeltacht areas. In that time, 13,763 jobs were created and 13,730 jobs were lost. In total, 33 jobs were sustained over 13 years at a cost of €234 million. That is proof that new ideas are needed.

We need new thinking and new policies for job creation in the Gaeltacht. What plans has the Minister to get new thinking and new investment in the Gaeltacht? The money we have spent over the last 13 years has been spent badly if in that time we created 33 jobs. The Minister has to admit that job creation is not working in Gaeltacht areas. What plans do the Minister and Údarás na Gaeltachta have to create sustainable employment in Gaeltacht areas?

I have heard Deputy Ring make these assertions before. During the 13 year period from 1997, there were net increases in jobs in nine of these years and decreases in four years. During that time, Údarás na Gaeltachta has replaced jobs in traditional manufacturing sectors such as textiles, knitwear and engineering sub-supply with jobs in the modern economy — media, information technology, natural resource-based companies such as aquaculture and internationally traded and tradeable services — in the face of stiff competition from more advantaged areas in Ireland and competing areas in Britain.

The vast bulk of job losses occurred during the 2001 to 2003 period, when many of the international manufacturing companies, based predominantly in Gaoth Dobhair, scaled down their operations or transferred to low cost economies. Údarás na Gaeltachta responded by attracting and supporting new companies such as Arán Pita Teo. of Largo Foods, Euroflex, RA Pacáistí Teo. and the VHI, which continue to expand and increase their workforces.

The other major decrease in employment occurred in 2009, commensurate with the overall decrease in employment nationwide resulting from the downturn in the economy. The job performance in the environment in which Údarás na Gaeltachta operates has been more than satisfactory in my view. The average lifespan of a job in an údarás-supported project is approximately eight years. Typically, Exchequer investment is repaid on average in approximately three years. An average of 12% of jobs in Údarás na Gaeltachta client companies are lost as a normal part of the business cycle as sectoral trends change, enterprises restructure and companies streamline to improve their competitiveness. It is important to point out that the employment base in the Gaeltacht is providing good value for money for the taxpayer. Results from the annual business survey carried out by Forfás on the IDA, Enterprise Ireland, Shannon Development and Údarás na Gaeltachta highlight the significant impact that Údarás has had on the Gaeltacht and the national economy. The 2008 results for Údarás, which are the most recent, showed annual sales of €834 million, of which €400 million or 47.6% was in exports, which was an increase of 9.4% on the previous year. The annual total gross pay was approximately €266 million of which €220 million was net pay or direct local economic impact.

Based on these figures, the annual total tax PRSI paid to Revenue annually by Údarás client companies is €75 million, which is the most accurate reflection of value for money to the taxpayer. A total of 43.5% of Gaeltacht companies are engaged in research and development activities, with a spend of approximately €17 million. By any measure, these figures relating to economic impact demonstrate the exponential return the State has received from investment by Údarás na Gaeltachta in job creation in the Gaeltacht over the past number of years.

Time is up. I do not want to upset Deputy Ring on this day so I will ask him to be brief.

I thank the Acting Chairman.

I disagree with the Minister. We have spent very badly in the Gaeltacht with regard to the amount invested and jobs created. A number of years ago, a US company based in my constituency contacted Údarás to state it was withdrawing jobs. Taxpayers' money was given to that company and it was allowed to keep that money to run on until after a general election took place. That money was never paid back to the State. I would say an agreement was reached between that company and Údarás.

Call centres do not represent sustainable jobs. What we need are new ideas and new thinking. The Minister should not forget we have very good people in the Gaeltacht areas and in every county in the country there are people who are prepared to invest in the Gaeltacht. As they are Irish they are not given the same opportunities as some of the US companies which we think will be great but which last a very short time. We need to encourage our native citizens to invest in the Gaeltacht areas.

Unfortunately, I have to disagree with Deputy Ring. However, I will examine the case he cited. The vast majority of jobs created in the Gaeltacht are spin-off jobs from larger companies. For example, in the Connemara Gaeltacht there are many spin-off jobs from the medical devices and media areas. The companies I cited in the Donegal Gaeltacht are, by and large, companies of Irish origin.

Investment by Údarás in jobs in the Gaeltacht represents very good value for money. The role of Údarás includes job creation but it also includes improving the general environment where the Irish language and culture can develop and can be promoted. Central to this is creating an economic situation which allows people who live in the Gaeltacht to remain in the Gaeltacht.

Community Development

Jack Wall

Question:

2 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Community, Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs if any research has been done in relation to areas in which funding has been withdrawn from community development programmes to determine the effect of the withdrawal of such funding on the communities involved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29077/10]

As the Deputy is aware, the local development social inclusion programme and the community development programme were my Department's two main social inclusion and community development programmes. These came to an end on 31 December last and have been superseded by a new integrated programme, the local and community development programme. A key difference between the new local and community development programme and its predecessor programmes is the fact that, when fully implemented, it will be delivered nationally on an integrated basis by a reduced number of companies.

Under the new programme, local development companies and community development projects continuing in the programme are required to identify and meet the needs of their communities and I have asked that particular attention be given to RAPID areas and to those areas where community development programmes no longer operate. As I have outlined in the past, my overall aim is to ensure that, notwithstanding the difficult budgetary position, disadvantaged communities will benefit from a more focused programme and better integrated actions. As previously indicated, my primary concern in this most difficult economic climate is to make every effort to ensure that the front-line services provided by or supported through my Department, especially those focused on the needs of the most disadvantaged communities, are protected and to minimise overheads and ancillary costs. My Department will continue to work to that end with Pobal and the local development and community groups involved.

I wish to be associated with the remarks made with regard to Deputy Ring. He is going on to greener pastures and I wish him well. He has been a great advocate of the community, rural and Gaeltacht affairs brief and he will be missed in that regard.

The Minister is from Kerry and he can sidestep better than many people. In that reply he gave me the best sidestep I ever saw a Kerryman give anyone because he did not answer the question. Not one word was with regard to the question. I asked what has been done where funding has been withdrawn from particular community development programme areas. I am afraid there was nothing in the answer on that.

Groups did not get funding, for whatever reason. There is a need to look at these areas to see what can be done. I trust the Minister to see whether something can be done. Perhaps they can be covered by the new programme. However, just because they did not qualify for funding they should not be ignored. Good work was done in those areas. Will the Minister look at the files and see whether something can be done and perhaps at a later stage we can ask about it again? I am concerned about a shortfall and I want to know there will not be one with regard to existing facilities. Everyone involved in those community development programmes sought to do good.

While I am on my feet I will ask the Minister whether there is agreement on the new proposal. Where does it stand? How many groups have signed up to it? Has an overall national plan been agreed? Proposals were made with regard to specific groups seeking to sign up to a national plan but others did not agree with that. Will the Minister provide the House with an overview on where we stand now?

I will give a very direct answer to Deputy Wall this time. I meant to do so first time and I hope I did so. It is not my intention, it is not the Department's intention and I certainly do not think it was my predecessor's intention to have any diminution in the intensity and vigour of community development work in this country. I do not want to see that happen. I acknowledge and recognise the superb work being done throughout the country by many projects, including community development projects. However, the vast majority of these interventions have been in existence for the best part of 20 years. Any intervention in the community development area or any area that is not prepared to look at itself, have itself examined and evaluate whether it is doing the job that is appropriate to today has questions to answer. These projects were very appropriate when they were established in the 1980s. The vast majority of them that were able to evolve over that period are still very relevant.

I visited a number of projects in recent weeks. In Cork, I saw community development projects that were the drivers of development. They made very good interventions. Unfortunately, elsewhere in the country I saw community development projects that had become isolated from some innovative work. To answer the Deputy's question, I do not want to see any group that feels it has been doing very good work to be thrown to the four winds. The Department has always stated it will assist in whatever way it can to try to help those projects that perhaps did not meet the standard set by the Department and its evaluators as centres for effective services.

On the question on whether there is agreement now, there is not total agreement by any means. The majority of groups has seen the merit of going down the integration route. There are a number of models.

I met a number of people who were able to tell me that in different parts of the country interest models were beginning to evolve. As the Deputy is aware, last night was the cut-off point for those groups to sign up. I was very conscious of the fact that if I gave any indication of a model I favoured early on, everybody would run after it. There are a number of them in different parts of the country. Members in this House from all parties have suggested to me that there are models of potentially good practice.

Over the next weeks and months my officials and I will be working out how we can make the best impact on people's lives because ultimately, this is about having an impact in, by and large, marginalised and disadvantaged communities throughout the country, whether they are urban or rural. It has to be done. They will in time become part of a very effective overall plan. There will be some teething problems and bedding down will be needed but the essence of the model and the approach that has been taken is the correct one for the moment.

I pray that the Minister will not ignore those who have not signed up. There was a deadline. This has required a lot of examination. I ask the Minister that if someone feels he or she is hard done by and has not met the deadline that the Minister would consider the case and give them an opportunity to apply, but not next September. If a person wants to apply he or she should do so now and be given an opportunity.

As I said in an interview recently which has been broadcast, to continue the sports analogy I am prepared to allow a little bit of injury time, in terms of days rather than stringing it out for several weeks.

Michael Ring

Question:

3 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Community; Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs the proportion of funding earmarked for LEADER partnerships that has been drawn down to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29074/10]

As the Deputy is aware, my Department is responsible for the delivery of axes 3 and 4 of the rural development programme 2007-13 for which overall funding of the order of €425 million is available. The main objectives of the programme are to improve the quality of life in rural areas and facilitate the diversification of the rural economy. The individual measures under the programme, including the indicative funds available, are as follows: diversification into non-agricultural activities for farm families- €16.66 million; support for business creation and development — €48.26 million; encouragement of tourism activities — €45.4 million; basic services for the economy and rural population — €49.61 million; village renewal and development — €54.2 million; conservation and upgrading of the rural heritage — €51.7 million; training and information on adapted and new skills — €29.45 million; and implementing co-operation projects — €10.7 million.

There are 36 local action groups contracted on my Department's behalf to deliver the rural development programme throughout the country and these groups are the principal decision-makers on the allocation of project funding. Such decisions are made in the context of the individual group's local development strategy and in line with my Department's operating rules and European Union regulations. In terms of funding, €27 million was made available to the groups in 2009 and the allocation under the programme in 2010 is €40 million. This year's allocation represents an increase of approximately 120% on expenditure in 2009.

The Deputy will be aware that it is imperative, particularly in the current economic climate, that the rural development programme maximises the funding available for the programme in local areas, in order to ensure the improvement of the quality of life in rural areas and the diversification of the rural economy. With this in mind, I recently announced that the groups are free to enter into commitments up to the value of €40 million for 2011. In announcing this initial allocation for next year, I urged the groups to focus their energies on supporting projects that will bring jobs and real and sustainable growth to communities across rural Ireland and I am confident that the availability of this initial €40 million allocation for 2011 will allow the groups to do this.

To support them in the roll-out of the programme, my Department is working very closely with individual groups to ensure efficient and effective delivery. It is also worth noting that I and the Minister of State, Deputy White, intend to meet with all the groups during July to discuss progress and emerging opportunities and also to address any difficulties that they have encountered in the ongoing delivery of the programme. I am confident that groups will continue to serve their local communities by ensuring that all available funding is spent so as to maximise the impact of the programme in their areas.

The following table outlines the allocations and the spend in each group.

Local Action Group

Overall Programme Allocation 2007-2013

Funding delivered to Date Jun-10

Proportion of overall allocation

%

Avondhu/ Blackwater Partnership Limited

9,057,810

961,627.87

11

Ballyhoura Development Limited

11,673,519

1,278,904.58

11

Carlow County Development Partnership Limited

8,878,177

554,913.07

6

Cavan Part & County Monaghan Area Part

12,035,118

462,741.84

4

Clare Local Development Company Limited

14,028,529

1,063,707.28

8

Comhar na nOileáin Teoranta

4,642,415

376,302.23

8

Donegal Local Development Company Limited

12,831,901

925,420.87

7

Fingal LEADER Partnership

7,766,780

400,547.73

5

FORUM Connemara

9,668,965

334,339.14

3

Galway Rural Development Company Limited

15,257,985

1,000,342.22

7

Inishowen Development Partnership

8,286,143

619,081.42

7

I.R.D. Duhallow

10,315,943

958,076.37

9

Kildare (Cill Dara ar Aghaidh Teoranta)

12,282,448

481,031.64

4

County Kilkenny LEADER Partnership Limited

11,523,729

830,127.88

7

Laois Community & Enterprise Development

10,993,608

491,886.56

4

Leitrim Integrated Development Company

10,845,497

807,668.04

7

Longford Community Resources Limited

8,714,110

742,395.54

9

Louth LEADER Partnership

8,839,815

620,659.06

7

Mayo North East LEADER Partnership

10,751,894

1,037,252.11

10

Meath Partnership

12,748,771

1,076,271.32

8

Meitheal Forbartha na Gaeltachta Teoranta

17,278,809

1,039,589.06

6

North & East Kerry LEADER Partnership Teoranta

10,558,882

635,054.10

6

North Tipperary LEADER Partnership Company

9,708,008

514,979.29

5

Offaly Integrated Local Development Company

11,520,489

870,177.10

8

Roscommon Integrated Development Company

12,838,021

888,848.65

7

County Sligo LEADER Partnership Company

10,888,673

857,779.19

8

South East Cork Area Development Limited

10,641,494

668,415.74

6

South Kerry Development Partnership Limited

12,370,667

862,785.35

7

South Tipperary Local Development Company Limited

11,106,187

737,632.12

7

South West Mayo Development Company Limited

12,150,007

934,345.45

8

Waterford LEADER Partnership Limited

10,558,519

819,324.65

8

West Cork Development Partnership

14,601,149

1,070,430.28

7

West Limerick Resources

9,997,751

757,498.95

8

Westmeath Community Development

10,987,060

666,883.07

6

Wexford Local Development

12,515,565

1,085,331.36

9

County Wicklow Partnership

11,135,560

685,962.86

6

Totals

399,999,998

28,207,949.22

7

I tabled some parliamentary questions on this matter. In his reply the Minister said €40 million is allocated for this year but we are halfway through the year and the most recent reply I received stated €9 million has been drawn down so far. Some of the groups told me they are having difficulty in accessing the funding from the Leader programme. Will the full €40 million be drawn down for this year, particularly given the current economic difficulties in the country? It is very important that as much of that funding as possible can be spread around the country to try to create badly needed jobs. Is the Minister happy that the Exchequer funding will be in place for this year and for the duration of the programme from 2007-13? It is very important that it is, as well as the European funding which can be matched by it, in place.

To answer the last question first, I am happy that will happen. To broaden the debate, the Minister of State, Deputy White, and I have been discussing concerns Deputy Ring and others have brought to our attention about difficulties that clients of Leader companies seem to be encountering. Over the past number of weeks we have been in discussions with our officials and others to see where we can identify best practice and where the difficulties are. Access to credit is one of them, about that there is no doubt. We had some useful meetings in recent weeks at which we asked the officials to explore how that difficulty can be overcome. When we meet the groups in the middle of July we hope we will be able to encourage and support them in trying to get through the different aspects of that difficulty.

I have spoken to the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation, Deputy O'Keeffe. There are great ideas being circulated but there has been a difficulty in drawing down funding. I spoke to a senior official in charge of the programme yesterday and I gather that, for whatever reason, there is an improved flow of funds going out at this stage. The approval of the Department of Finance is for €40 million next year and required an assurance from us that we could deliver the spending of it. I am fairly confident that will be the case because the potential of the programmes is enormous and can have a transformational effect in rural communities.

I am glad the Minister, Deputy Carey, and the Minister of State, Deputy White, are aware of the problems. They are correct to say that there are some wonderful ideas in circulation. I agree with them on the issue of credit. The banks have to play their part and support the people who are prepared to take a risk.

On the question of funding, I have been critical of the previous Leader programmes. I do not want to be hypocritical and say we allowed people to draw down funding without due care. That has to be done as we all have to protect the taxpayer's money. At the same time I am glad the Minister and the Minister of State have had meetings with their officials and the Leader companies. I ask them to revert to these companies. There are some very good ideas in my county and people from other parts of the country come to me to tell me they have good ideas. They want to create employment in rural areas.

We need to try to get credit flowing from the banks if possible, through the Minister for Finance, and the Leaders companies need to speed up to try to get the decisions made on applications. It is important. We need to create as many jobs as possible. I believe in the bottom up approach. If we do not create them in rural areas it will not happen. It is important to support local communities.

Deputy Ring is correct. We are anxious to address those blockages. When he examines the table on spend and allocation, he will find while there is a feeling that more could be spent the vast majority of companies are spending an average figure for this stage of the programme, bearing in mind that this will continue beyond 2013. There is a two year roll-over period.

Housing Grants

Michael Ring

Question:

4 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Community, Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs his plans, if any, to reintroduce the grants scheme for the building of new homes and improvements to certain existing homes to qualifying applicants in Gaeltacht areas. [29075/10]

As the Deputy will be aware, the scheme of housing grants under the Housing (Gaeltacht) Acts was suspended with effect from 7 April 2009 due to the high level of commitments and the large number of applications on hand. However, applications for new house grants under the scheme were accepted up to 15 June 2009 on condition that the applicants had full planning permission on or before 7 April 2009. While my Department is continuing to process all housing applications that were approved or on hand prior to suspension of the scheme, there is no plan at present to reintroduce the housing grant scheme in the Gaeltacht.

In general terms, the draft 20 year strategy for Irish envisages significant changes in the definition of the Gaeltacht and emphasises the need for language planning and sociolinguistic interventions. I anticipate that the effectiveness of the Gaeltacht housing scheme and other Gaeltacht and Irish language schemes will be considered in that context at the appropriate time.

This was a good scheme. I am aware there is a shortage of funds at present but, like Deputy McGinley and others, I regularly deal with constituents from Gaeltacht areas. This scheme helped young couples to build homes in Gaeltacht areas and elderly people to make their homes safe and warm. Mr. McCarthy called for the abolition of the scheme but he does not live in a bad house in a rural or Gaeltacht area. I urge the Minister to engage the Department of Finance with a view to introducing a limited scheme in the next budget to assist the elderly. I recognise the scheme may not be fully reinstated but the elderly are particularly deserving. The quality of people's homes have improved over the 16 years in which I have represented Gaeltacht areas, partly thanks to this scheme.

I agree with Deputy Ring but in case people think nothing is happening, the 250 applications that are currently awaiting a decision will add approximately €1.5 million to our existing commitment of €4.533 million. Of the allocation of €2 million for 2010, some €1.7 million has been spent. I agree it is a good scheme but it will take an estimated three to four years to pay out all the grants. Discussions are ongoing with the Department of Finance on this and other matters.

I acknowledge the presence in the Chamber of Deputy Feighan. I am sure the Minister will also acknowledge him.

I am pleased that Deputy Feighan has joined the team. I look forward to similar co-operation and engagement to that which I received from his colleague, who is moving to corner forward or centre back.

I will be on the moderate wing from Deputy Ring.

Údarás na Gaeltachta

Dinny McGinley

Question:

5 D’fhiafraigh Deputy Dinny McGinley den Aire Gnóthaí Pobail, Comhionannais agus Gaeltachta an raibh nó an bhfuil sé ar intinn aige bualadh le baill Bhord Údarás na Gaeltachta; an dtuigeann sé na deacrachtaí airgeadais atá ag an Údarás faoi láthair; cad iad na socruithe atá déanta aige maidir le tréimhse na mball tofa ar an Údarás; cén uair a bheidh an chéad tóghchán eile ann le baill úra a thoghadh; agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina thaobh. [29175/10]

Tá áthas orm a chur in iúl don Teachta go bhfuil socruithe déanta agam casadh le Bord Údarás na Gaeltachta roimh dheireadh na míosa seo.

Maidir le cúrsaí airgeadais an Údaráis, tá soláthar iomlán de bheagnach €30 milliún curtha ar fáil don eagraíocht trí Vóta mo Roinne don bhliain 2010. Ní mór a chur san áireamh chomh maith gur ag deireadh 2009 a cuireadh méadú de €2 mhilliún leis an mbunsoláthar de €35.6 milliún a bhí i Meastacháin 2009, mar thacaíocht bhreise don eagraíocht. Ciallaíonn sé sin go mbeidh soláthar iomlán de bheagnach €68 milliún curtha ar fáil ag mo Roinnse don Údarás sa tréimhse 2009-10 chun a chuid spriocanna maidir le forbairt na Gaeltachta a chur i gcrích.

Ní mór a chur san áireamh freisin go mbíonn teacht ag an Údarás ar fhoinsí ioncaim eile, ar a n-áirítear ioncam ó fheidhmiú scéimeanna ar nós na Scéimeanna Fostaíochta Pobail agus Sóisialta Tuaithe, agus ioncam ó dhíol nó léasáil socmhainní, ó dhíbhinní agus ó tháillí. Chomh maith leis seo, cuirtear maoiniú ar fáil don Údarás tríd an Roinn Fiontair, Trádála agus Nuálaíochta chun an Scéim Fóirdheontas Fostaíochta agus an Ciste Cobhsaíochta Fiontar a fheidhmiú. Tá tábhacht ar leith ag na tacaíochtaí seo do chomhlachtaí sa Ghaeltacht chun cuidiú leo leanúint ag trádáil agus poist a choinneáil slán. Anuraidh, mar shampla, thacaigh an dá scéim seo le caomhnú 605 post Gaeltachta.

De réir na reachtaíochta faoina bhfeidhmíonn an tÚdarás i láthair na huaire, ní mór toghchán a reáchtáil taobh istigh de thréimhsí nach giorra ná ceithre bliana agus nach faide ná cúig bliana go leith ó dháta an toghcháin deiridh. Reachtáladh toghchán deireadh an Údaráis ar 2 Aibreán 2005 agus, dá bhrí sin, bheadh an chéad toghchán eile le reáchtáil roimh 1 Deireadh Fómhair 2010.

Mar is eol don Teachta, tá leasuithe maidir le cumhachtaí, feidhmeanna agus struchtúr Údarás na Gaeltachta á meas faoi láthair i gcomhthéacs na moltaí atá sa dréacht-Straitéis 20-Bliain don Ghaeilge, atá faoi bhreithniú ag an Chomhchoiste um Ghnóthaí Ealaíon, Spóirt, Turasóireachta, Pobail, Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta. Táthar dóchasach go mbeidh obair an Chomhchoiste i ndáil leis an Stráitéis curtha i gcrích go luath agus tá súil agam, ach cead an Rialtais a bheith faighte, go mbeidh dul chun cinn suntasach bainte amach maidir le foilsiú na Straitéise faoi Mheán Fómhair seo chugainn. Beifear ábalta ina dhiaidh sin díriú isteach ar an bpróiseas maidir le reachtaíocht an Údaráis a leasú.

San idirlinn, meastar go bhfuil sé inmholta dáta an toghcháin a chur siar chun deis a thabhairt an próiseas atá luaite agam a chríochniú. Chuige sin, foilsíodh an Bille um Údarás na Gaeltachta (Leasú) 2010 chun síneadh a chur leis an uas-thréimshe idir thoghcháin ó chúig bliana go leith go dtí seacht mbliana go leith. Tógadh an Bille sa Seanad an tseachtain seo caite agus tuigim go mbeidh sé le tógáil sa Dáil an tseachtain seo chugainn. Le hachtú an Bhille seo, bheadh an dáta deiridh do thoghchán an Údaráis sínte amach go dtí 30 Meán Fómhair 2012.

I note the departure from the community, rural and Gaeltacht affairs brief of my long-standing colleague, Deputy Ring. He was a great boss as senior spokesperson and I am left in his wake. I welcome the incoming front bench spokesperson, Deputy Feighan. Front benchers come and go but I seem to go on forever as far as the Gaeltacht is concerned.

My parish priest will be very happy about that.

I do not know what will happen in the autumn.

Thank you. I know I have the support of the Acting Chairman and of his parish priest.

Tá áthas orm go bhfuil an tAire chun bualadh le bord Údaras na Gaeltachta níos moille an mhí seo. Tá mé cinnte go gcuirfidh an bord ina luí ar an Aire an ghéarchéim agus an easpa misnigh atá in Údarás na Gaeltacht i láthair na huaire mar gheall ar easpa acmhainní. An bhfuil a fhios ag an Aire go bhfuil foireann an údaráis ag 100 anois? Bhí 120 nó 130 ann uair. An dtuigeann an tAire go bhfuil feidhmeannaigh sinsearacha, senior executives, ag fágáil an údaráis seachtain i ndiaidh seachtaine agus nach bhfuil éinne ag teacht chun a n-áit a thógáil de thairbhe an bhaic earcaíochta, the recruitment ban? Tá sin ag cur isteach ar an údarás agus ar a chuid oibre. An mbeidh an tAire ag déanamh iarrachta na daoine a fhágfaidh a bpost, daoine eile a chur ina n-áit sa dóigh is gur féidir leis an údarás a chuid oibre a dhéanamh níos éifeachtaí?

Chomh luath agus a bheidh an tuarascáil agam ón choiste, i gceann seachtaine nó coicíse, déanfaidh an Rialtas scrúdú ar impleachtaí na moltaí d'Údarás na Gaeltachta. Síneadh téarma fostaíochta an phríomhfheidhmeannaigh go dtí deireadh na bliana seo. Tá níos lú daoine fostaithe san údarás ná mar a bhíodh ach tá laghdú ar líon na ndaoine atá fostaithe i ngach cuid den earnáil phoiblí. Is féidir jab maith a dhéanamh leis an méid atá ag obair faoi láthair san údarás agus tá jab an-mhaith á dhéanamh acu.

Beidh mé ag bualadh leis an bhord agus beidh suim agam fáil amach cad iad na pleananna a theastaíonn ón údarás féin, cén ról atá oiriúnach dó. Sa dréachtstraitéis, tá athrú ar an ról. Níl a fhios agam an aontaíonn gach duine ar an fhochoiste ach gan a thuilleadh a rá faoi cad tá i ndán don údarás, beidh ról lárnach tábhachtach ann dó. Seans go mbeidh athrú treo ann, beag nó mór, ach beidh athrú ann gan amhras, cé go mbeidh ról lárnach ag an údarás ag cothú agus ag leathnú cúrsaí Gaeilge agus cúrsaí Gaeltachta idir cultúr, teanga agus fostaíochta.

Beidh reachtaíocht maidir leis an údarás sa Teach Dé Máirt seo chugainn chun síneadh tréimhse a thabhairt do na baill atá tofa ar an údarás go dtí 2012. Tá sé deacair bheith cinnte faoi aon rud anois nuair atá an straitéis á meá agus á plé ag an chomhchoiste. Cuirfear an tuarascáil chuig an Aire roimh dheireadh na miosa seo, is cinnte sin. An féidir leis an Aire a rá nuair a bheidh an tuarascáil aige ón chomhchoiste, cén uair a bheidh cinneadh á dhéanamh na moltaí a chur i bhfeidhm?

Tá sé ar intinn agam, má tá an tuarascáil réidh timpeall an ama seo, í a chur faoi bhráid an Rialtais roimh dheireadh na míosa seo agus an straitéis a phlé agus a chur i bhfeidhm go luath san fhómhar. Beidh díoma orm má tá moill ann. Ba mhaith liom tús a chur leis an chéad chéim go luath san fhómhar. Níl am le spáráil againn.