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Dáil Éireann debate -
Thursday, 24 Nov 2011

Vol. 747 No. 5

Other Questions

Turbary Rights

Bernard J. Durkan


6 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the extent to which he has resolved outstanding issues relating to turf cutting restrictions arising from special areas of conservation and or other conservation orders; the number, if any, of other cases outstanding; the issues of any still to be addressed; the locations so affected; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36618/11]

Further to Ireland's obligations under EU law to protect rare and threatened natural habitats, it is clear that further turf cutting and conservation of Ireland's 53 raised bog special areas of conservation, SACs, are incompatible. Earlier this year, the Government announced a compensation package for those affected by the cessation of turf cutting in these 53 raised bog SACs. The package offers qualifying turf cutters the option of a financial payment of €1,000 per year, index linked, for a period of 15 years or, where feasible, their relocation to a non-designated bog where they can continue to cut turf. To date, my Department has received in excess of 500 applications under this cessation of turf cutting compensation scheme.

In April, the independently chaired Peatlands Council was established, comprising representatives of turf cutting interest groups, environmental groups, Bord na Móna and my Department. The remit of the council allowed it to review the compensation arrangements and to make proposals to me. In this regard it was suggested in the council that the State should provide a delivery of turf to those who must stop turf cutting as an optional interim measure for those who wished to relocate to alternative sites. My Department has now tendered for such a service. The council is also exploring other approaches such as alternative ways of dealing with the long-term energy requirements of affected turf cutters.

In terms of relocation, agreement has been reached on the terms and conditions for relocation from the first of the 53 raised bog SACs to alternative undesignated bogs where the turf cutters involved will be cutting in 2012. This relocation can now be used as a template for other groups who wish to continue cutting on alternative bogs.

I will continue to work with the Peatlands Council and with all interested groups in seeking to resolve all the issues which arise from the cessation of cutting. In the longer term, I would hope that the proposed national peatlands strategy, which is now the subject of a public consultation process, will set out an agreed strategy of how we manage all our peatlands into the future. The list of SAC raised bogs affected by the cessation requirement is available on my Department's website at

I thank the Minister for that comprehensive reply. What proportion of the total number of people who are aggrieved by the measure is represented by the 500 applications for compensation or relocation? Along with the prospect of offering alternative turf cutting to those whose traditional turf cutting is to be interrupted, has consideration been given to offering alternative conservation areas, through the European institutions, to enable those involved in turf cutting in traditional areas to continue while meeting the conservation requirements?

In the past, and in the 20 years since we gave this commitment, the measure suggested by the Deputy might have been discussed. However, at this stage the Commission is very clear about what it wants us to do. It wants us to close the 53 bogs. If we do not do that and if there is cutting on those bogs next February, the Commission will impose an injunction on us. The Commission has been quite clear in that regard. That requirement was repeated last Tuesday in the Petitions Commission by Commissioner Potocnik. That is the stark reality.

Meanwhile, the Government has put in place the National Peatlands Council. We also put in place a reasonable level of compensation of €1,000 per year, index-linked, for 15 years. If that arrangement does not suit people, the Peatlands Council has suggested that they be supplied with fuel and we have decided to provide people who can no longer cut turf with 10 tonnes of turf, whereas the average household's normal requirement is 7 tonnes. It is a generous provision. We are also looking for alternative bogs on a daily basis. A solution has been found in Deputy Kitt's constituency and it would be important if he could support it in every way possible alongside Deputy Connaughton.

A good solution was found in Clara bog in County Offaly, which is being turned into a tourist attraction with an interpretative centre. To counties like Kildare, Roscommon and Galway, it can act as an example of the tourism potential of raised closed bogs that are fully intact, especially given their appeal to Europeans. Our bogs resonate with the Dutch and Germans in particular, who have a genuine interest in Ireland's peatlands to the extent that they purchased some of them. Holland is trying to grow bogs at great expense. Ireland is being asked to conserve 2% of our boglands, representing just 1% of our original boglands. The EU believes it is a reasonable request, but people will be inconvenienced and I am trying to look after them as best I can.

I am glad the Minister did not mention the Germans.

We are over time on this question.

What proportion of the total number displaced have been offered compensation or have grievances arising therefrom? To what extent has an examination been carried out of whether those who have been displaced regard the level of compensation or the principle of the matter as the most important factor? While it is important that we all concur with the notion of conservation, we must also have due regard to those who are directly affected.

Although the number has not been verified, I understand there are approximately 1,500 active turf cutters in the designated bogs. More than 500 people, nearly 33%, have applied for compensation.

Deputy Durkan asked whether it was down to inadequate compensation or the principle of not being allowed to cut turf on their own bogs that people had grievances. For some, including Deputy Charles Flanagan, it is the principle. However, those people and the generations to come will continue to own their bogs under this scheme and we will give them nearby bogs that they can cut. This is not unreasonable, particularly given that no one will take the bogs they own from them. People should review the principle of being unable to cut.

Since entering the EU, we have accepted the habitats directive and other directives to protect our environment and other parts of our landscape are protected. For example, one can no longer take sand or gravel from a shoreline. The bogs are an addition to those areas.

If Deputy Durkan can influence people in County Kildare, I am willing to meet them at any time. I have met people in counties Roscommon, Galway, Offaly and, of course, Kerry. I have not met anyone in County Kildare yet, but I will discuss the matter with people there at any time and explain to them what we are trying to do.

Údarás na Gaeltachta

Aengus Ó Snodaigh


7 D’fhiafraigh Aengus Ó Snodaigh den Aire Ealaíon, Oidhreachta agus Gaeltachta cad é todhchaí Údarás na Gaeltachta, an bhfuil sé i gceist aige an buiséad caipitil a ardú chun níos mó fostaíochta a chruthú, cathain atá sé i gceist ag an Aire príomhfheidhmeannach agus bord nua Údarás na Gaeltachta a cheapadh. [36564/11]

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin


13 D’fhiafraigh Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin den Aire Ealaíon, Oidhreachta agus Gaeltachta an féidir leis sonraí a straitéise fostaíochta sa Ghaeltacht a léiriú don Dáil. [36563/11]

Michael Moynihan


16 D’fhiafraigh Michael Moynihan den Aire Ealaíon, Oidhreachta agus Gaeltachta an bhfuil laghdú á dhéanamh ar fheidhmeanna Údarás na Gaeltachta, an bhfuil sé sásta le héifeacht an Údaráis go dtí seo mar gheall ar chúrsaí fiontraíochta; agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina thaobh. [36608/11]

Tógfaidh mé Ceisteanna Uimh. 7, 13 agus 16 le chéile.

Tá straitéis fostaíochta Údarás na Gaeltachta dírithe ar earnálacha seirbhíse agus déantúsaíochta nua-aimseartha, ar an teicneolaíocht faisnéise agus ar fhiontair a bhaineann le hacmhainní mara agus nádúrtha eile, leis an ngeilleagar sóisialta agus leis an turasóireacht chultúrtha sa Ghaeltacht.

Ag deireadh na bliana 2010, bhí 7,074 duine fostaithe go lánaimseartha i gcliant-chuideachtaí de chuid an Údaráis. Cé gur laghdú é sin ar na blianta roimhe sin, is tuar dóchais é gur cruthaíodh 704 post nua in 2010 i gcliant-chuideachtaí de chuid an údaráis. Taispeánann figiúirí fostaíochta an Údaráis gur éirigh go maith lena chliant-chuideachtaí atá ag plé le heaspórtáil, i gcomhréir leis an treocht náisiúnta. Chomh maith leis na cláir thacaíochta atá ag an údarás féin, rachaidh gnéithe den tionscnamh post a d'fhógair an Rialtas i mbliana chun leasa a chuid gníomhaíochtaí.

As an soláthar iomlán de €19.6 milliún atá curtha ar fáil d'Údarás na Gaeltachta ón Státchiste in 2011, tá €6 mhilliún curtha ar fáil mar bhuiséad caipitil don údarás. Chomh maith leis an tsuim seo, tuigim ón údarás go bhfuil tuairim is €7 milliún ar fáil dó ó fhoinsí eile, ar a n-áirítear díol sócmhainní agus aisíocaíochtaí deontas. San iomlán mar sin, tá buiséad caipitil de thuairim is €13 milliún ag an Údarás i mbliana chun tacú le cruthú agus le caomhnú fostaíochta sa Ghaeltacht. Déanfar cinntí faoin soláthar a bheidh ar fáil don Údarás ón Státchiste don bhliain 2012 mar thoradh ar an athbhreithniú cuimsitheach caiteachais atá ar siúl faoi stiúir na Roinne Caiteachais Phoiblí agus Athchóirithe agus i gcomhthéacs an phróisis meastachán.

Ar 31 Bealtaine 2011, thóg an Rialtas na cinntí polasaí seo a leanas maidir le struchtúr agus feidhmeanna Údarás na Gaeltachta go mairfidh an status quo maidir le feidhmeanna reatha Údarás na Gaeltachta go ginearálta, a chuid feidhmeanna fiontraíochta san áireamh; go mbeidh an fhreagracht maidir le forfheidhmiú na Straitéise 20 Bliain don Ghaeilge laistigh den Ghaeltacht ar Údarás na Gaeltachta; agus go ndéanfar foráil faoin mBille Gaeltachta atá beartaithe chun bord an Údaráis a laghdú go suntasach agus chun deireadh a chur leis an riachtanas do thoghcháin do bhord an Údaráis.

Tá na dréacht-chinn den Bille Gaeltachta a thabharfaidh feidhm do na cinntí seo, de réir mar is cuí, dréachtaithe ag mo Roinn. Táthar ag súil na dréacht-chinn a chur faoi bhráid an Rialtais go luath. Tá an Bille Gaeltachta le foilsiú in 2012, de réir chlár reachtaíochta an Rialtais.

Maidir le post phríomhfheidhmeannach Údarás na Gaeltachta, tá céimeanna sa treis ag an Roinn faoi láthair chun cead na Roinne Caiteachais Phoiblí agus Athchóirithe a fháil chun an post sin a líonadh i gcáil bhuan.

Mar fhocal scoir, níl aon dabht ach gur comhartha muiníne é na cinntí polasaí atá tógtha ag an Rialtas i gcás Údarás na Gaeltachta. Mar thoradh ar shaineolas agus ar thaithí Údarás na Gaeltachta sa Ghaeltacht ón uair gur bunaíodh é in 1980, tá cinneadh tógtha ag an Rialtas go leanfaidh an Údarás ag plé lena réimse saineolais agus le cur i bhfeidhm na Straitéise 20 Bliain don Ghaeilge sa Ghaeltacht.

As three questions are being taken together, how many minutes will be provided?

Approximately 14 minutes.

Tá cúrsaí dífhostaíochta sna ceantair Ghaeltachta ag dul in olcas. Mar shampla, tá 20,000 duine dífhostaithe anois i dTír Chonaill. Tá 22,000 duine dífhostaithe i nGaillimh agus ar fud na ceantair Ghaeltachta sa tír tá na mílte daoine dífhostaithe agus mílte daoine eile ag dul ar imirce. Is ceist phráinneach í seo. Tá an tAire Stáit ina chaothaoir aireach le hocht mí anuas ag an mbomaite seo, ach fós tá Údarás na Gaeltachta i Liombó. I mo thuairim, tá an tAire Stáit ag bogadh ar luas seilide i dtaobh príomhfheidhmeannach an bhoird nua a cheapadh. Níl slí toghcháin an bhoird nua roghnaithe fós aige agus tá an caipiteal infheistíochta laghdaithe, mar adúirt sé, ó €26 mhilliún go €6 milliún faoi láthair.

De réir an tuairisc inniúchta, teastaíonn €12 milliún ón Údarás chun na poist atá ann anois a choimeád. Má leanann an tAire Stáit ar aghaidh, beidh clú air mar an duine a chuir deireadh leis an Ghaeltacht. An bhfuil an tAire Stáit ag iarraidh sin a dhéanamh? Gan phoist, ní bheidh daoine ann, gan daoine ní bheidh teanga ann agus gan teanga ní bheidh an Ghaeltacht ann. Gan an Ghaeltacht ní bheidh aon tobar teanga ann do phobal na Gaeilge ar fud na tíre. Gan an Choimisinéir Teanga, ní bheidh cearta teanga ag muintir na hÉireann. Táimid go léir bréan den bhriathar, ba mhaith linn beart. An bhfuil an tAire Stáit sásta beart de réir a bhriathar a dhéanamh ar an ábhar seo?

Is cinnte go n-aithním tábhacht na Gaeltachta mar thobar na fíor-Ghaeilge agus an dhúchais. Nuair a bhí deis agus pribhléid agam cuairt a tabhairt ar Ghaeltacht atá i ndáilcheantar an Teachta féin seachtain ó shin — bhí searmanas aoibheann againn i Rath Carn — chuir mé mo thuairimí ní hamháin mar Aire Stáit ach mar dhuine a rugadh agus a tógadh le Gaeilge in iúl gur comhartha dóchais é an rud atá á dhéanamh acu i nGaeltacht a bunaíodh sna 1930í agus atá ag dul ó neart go neart i láthair na huaire. Tá an teanga le feiceáil ansin go soiléir, tá sí á labhairt i measc an phobail. Aithním tábhacht na Gaeltachta.

Aithním go bhfuil géar-ghá fostaíocht a chur ar fáil. Mura bhfuil fostaíocht ann, is cinnte nach mbeidh daoine ann agus mura bhfuil pobal ann, ní bheidh teanga ann. Aontaím leis sin. Tá an-obair déanta ag Údarás na Gaeltachta le blianta anuas. Tá breis agus 7,000 ag obair i monarchan i gcliant-chomhlachtaí a dtug Údarás na Gaeltachta cuidiú, tacaíocht agus airgead dóibh le blianta anuas. Ní bheidís ann ach amháin go bhfuil Údarás na Gaeltachta ann. Sin an fáth go bhfuil muinín agam in Údarás na Gaeltachta.

Tá fadhb dhífhostaíochta sa Ghaeltacht; tá fadhb dhífhostaíochta ar fud na tíre agus níor tháinig na comhlachtaí faoi Údarás na Gaeltachta saor ó na deacrachtaí eacnamaíochta agus cailleadh poist. Is dúshlán an-mhór é don údarás fiú na poist a cailleadh go dtí seo a athchruthú. Ní fadhb í sin a bhaineann leis an Ghaeltacht, baineann an fhadhb sin leis an tír ar fad. Sin an fáth nuair a tháinig mé isteach san oifig seo ocht mí ó shin go raibh imní orm agus ar an Údarás go raibh deireadh lena ré. Nuair a tháinig foireann an Údaráis isteach ansin cad a tharla ach chuaigh an deontas ó €26 milliún anuas go dtí €6 milliún agus chuir sin scanradh, amhras, imní agus éadóchas ar an Údarás agus ar mhuintir na Gaeltachta. Sin an oidhreacht a fuair mé nuair a tháinig mé isteach, nach raibh ag an Údarás ach €6 milliún.

Tá na deacrachtaí eacnamaíochta céanna againn go fóill. Sin an fáth go ndéanfaidh mé gach dícheall dóchas a thabhairt don Údarás go mbeidh sé ann agus gur fhoilsigh mé an cinneadh a d'fhógair muid i mí na Bealtaine go mbeidh an t-Údarás ann agus cúraimí fostaíochta aige. Bhí daoine ar thaobh eile an Tí agus sna meáin a rá go mbeadh deireadh leis an Údarás agus go gcuirfear isteach leis an ÚFT é. Tá mé i mo sheasamh inniu agus an t-Údarás ann go fóill. Is é an dúshlán ná an oiread acmhainní agus is féidir a chur ar fáil dó sa dóigh is gur féidir leis a chuid dualgais a chomhlíonadh chomh héifeachtach agus is féidir leis. Caithfimid, áfach, gan dearmad a dhéanamh ar an ghéarchéim ina bhfuilimid.

Tá fadhb mhór le dífhostaíocht sa Ghaeltacht i nGaillimh agus is dúshlán í an fhadhb sin. Nílim sásta leis an méid a dúirt an tAire Stáit mar níl a fhios againn cad a dhéanfaidh sé faoin bhfadhb seachas a rá gur dúshlán í. An gcuirfidh sé airgead ar fáil do na fiontair sa Ghaeltacht? Tá an tAire ag déanamh an-obair sa turasóireacht. Cad faoi na féilte ar na hoileáin nó "The Gathering" atá le teacht? An mbeidh airgead ag dul chuig an Ghaeltacht le féilte mar sin?

Luaigh an Teachta Gaillimh. Ó cheapadh mar Aire Stáit mé, thug mé cuairt ar na Gaeltachtaí uilig. Chuaigh mé go Gaillimh níos mó ná uair amháin, go Corcaigh, go Ciarraí, go Port Láirge, go dtí Gaeltacht na Mí agus an tseachtain seo chugainn beidh mé i gceantar Gaeltachta an-tábhachtach eile i gContae Mhaigh Eo le heolas a fháil ar cad é atá ag dul ar aghaidh ar an talamh. Tá mé an-bhródúil as an obair atá á dhéanamh ag an Údarás. Tá sé de rún ag an Údarás freastal ar sheimineár an-tábhachtach sna Stáit Aontaithe an tseachtain seo chugainn. Beidh an tÚFT ann chomh maith agus an dá údarás ag iarraidh tionsclaithe agus infheisteoirí a mhealladh go dtí na ceantair Ghaeltachta. Ar an drochuair, ní féidir liom féin a bheith ann ach chuir mé teachtaireacht chucu ag geallúint gach tacaíocht.

Tá féilte an-tábhachtach. Brathann freagra faoi sin ar an airgead a bheidh ag an Údarás. Tá sin á phlé go fóill idir an Roinn, an Roinn Caiteachais Phoiblí agus Athchóirithe agus an Roinn Airgeadais. Go dtí go dtiocfaidh na Meastacháin amach agus go dtí go mbeidh an cháinaisnéis ann, níl a fhios agam cé mhéad a bheidh ann. Déanfaimid ár ndícheall, áfach, freastal ar gach gné de shaol na Gaeltachta leis an méid airgid a bheidh againn. Tá mé dóchasach go mbeidh an t-údarás ábalta gníomhú chomh maith an bhliain seo chugainn agus a bhí sé ábalta a ghníomhú i mbliana. Sin an t-aon rud is féidir liom a rá ag an phointe seo.

Maidir leis an phríomhfheidhmeannach nua, post reachtúil is ea an post sin. An príomhfheidhmeannach atá ann faoi láthair, fuair sé síneadh ama agus ba mhaith liom é a mholadh gur ghlac sé an síneadh ama sin. Tá iarratas istigh faoi láthair chuig an Roinn Caiteachais Phoiblí agus Athchóirithe ó mo Roinn le cead a fháil chun príomhfheidhmeannach úr a cheapadh. Tá mé dóchasach go mbeidh dul chun cinn air sin roimh an chéad uair eile a bheidh mé anseo ag freagairt ceisteanna.

Tá muintir na hÉireann tuirseach traochta, caite amach, spíonta ag éisteacht le focail faoin ábhar seo. Tá na míonna ag dul thart gan aon rud ag tarlú. Is rud práinneach é. Tá daoine ag fágáil na tíre chun obair a fháil agus ní mór dúinn rud éigin a dhéanamh anois. Tá oidhreacht fágtha ag an iar-Rialtas ach caithfidh an tAire Stáit smaoineamh ar a oidhreacht féin sa todhchaí. Beidh daoine ag féachaint siar sa todhchaí ag iarraidh fáil amach cad a rinne an Rialtas faoin ábhar seo agus tá deis ag an Aire Stáit rud éigin a dhéanamh.

Chuala muid go bhfuil Fiontar Éireann chun an buiséad atá fágtha aige a thabhairt do na heagraíochtaí forbartha Stáit eile. Cé mhéad airgid atá aige le tabhairt amach? Tá sé chun €2 mhilliún a thabhairt do Shannon Development agus €10 milliún a thabhairt don IDA. Níl airgead ar bith ag dul chuig Údarás na Gaeltachta. Is ceart go dtabharfar airgead chuig na ceantair seo chun poist a fhorbairt. Is rud práinneach é seo agus táim féin, muintir na Gaeltachta agus na heagraíochtaí Gaeilge an-bhuartha faoin athbhreithniú mar tá cinntí déanta roimh dheireadh an athbreithnithe ar ról an Choimisinéara Teanga. Tá imní ar dhaoine go mbeidh laghdú ar chúrsaí Gaeilge sa tír. Impím ar an Aire Stáit seasamh ar son na Gaeilge. Nílimid ag iarraidh briathra, táimid ag iarraidh beart atá ann cheana a fheiceáil ón Rialtas.

Sheas mé i gcónaí agus seasfaidh mé chomh fada agus atá mé anseo agus ina dhiaidh sin, leis an Ghaeilge, leis an Ghaeltacht, leis an Údarás agus leis na heagraíochtaí ar fad. Bhí mé féin páirteach iontu nuair nach raibh mé anseo fiú. Maidir leis an údarás tionsclaíochta, dúirt an Teachta go bhfuil sé ag tabhairt airgid amach do Shannon Development agus áiteanna eile. Níor chuala mé sin go fóill. Tá caidreamh an-mhaith idir Údarás na Gaeltachta, Fiontar Éireann agus an tÚdarás Forbartha Tionscail. Bíonn cruinnithe ar bhonn leanúnach agus comhoibriú iontach idir na heagraíochtaí. Tá an cuspóir céanna acu go léir — poist a thabhairt isteach sa tír agus a chruthú sa Ghaeltacht. Luaigh mé níos luaithe go bhfuil cruinniú an-tábhachtach an tseachtain seo chugainn in Philadelphia le hinfheisteoirí agus tionsclaithe agus ní amháin go mbeidh Údarás na Gaeltachta ann, beidh an tÚFT ann chomh maith agus iad ag comhoibriú as lámh a chéile ar mhaithe leis an tionscal.

Tá sé geallta i mBille na Gaeilge atá á ullmhú go mbeidh an comhoibriú sin idir Fiontar Éireann, an tÚFT agus Údarás na Gaeltachta mar tá an cuspóir céanna acu go léir, poist a thabhairt isteach sa tír, sa Ghaeltacht agus sa Ghalltacht. Is í an Ghaeltacht mo phríomhchúspóir féin; tá daoine eile ag breathnú air seo taobh amuigh den Ghaeltacht. Tá fadhb ann; tá deacrachtaí airgid ann agus déanfaimid ár ndícheall, leis an airgead teoranta atá againn, na poist seo a thabhairt isteach. Ní mise a chruthóidh na poist seo, cruthóidh an t-Údarás agus tÚFT iad. Tá feabhas ag teacht ar an gheilleagar agus cuireann sé áthas orm gur poist nua-aimseartha iad na poist atá á gcruthú sa Ghaeltacht anois, cuid acu teanga-bhunaithe, cuid eile bunaithe ar an nua-theicneolaíocht.

I remind Deputies there is a limit of one minute per supplementary. We are taking too much time per question when other Deputies are waiting. That applies to both Ministers and Deputies. There are two minutes for the initial answer and one minute for supplementary questions and answers.

Built Heritage

Denis Naughten


8 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the steps he is taking to make heritage protection grants available; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36437/11]

Owing to the economic crises, and the significant reductions in the capital allocations provided to my Department, the resources available to me for the provision of grants for the protection of the built heritage are limited. None the less my Department supports a number of schemes. In 2011, I provided €650,000 through a structures at risk fund to assist with works to safeguard structures protected under the planning and development Acts. This fund replaced the local authority conservation grants scheme and the civic structures conservation grants scheme which were both suspended as a result of budgetary decisions in 2010. The allocation for the structures at risk fund in 2011 is fully committed with 23 local authorities having been issued with grant offers for a total of 31 projects under the fund. My Department is also providing capital assistance of €1.25 million to the Office of Public Works to assist in the conservation and presentation of historic properties and national monuments in State care, for example for works Cormac's Chapel in Cashel.

My Department is also providing funding of almost €7.5 million to support the work of the Heritage Council. This includes €1.5 million which is made available from the environment fund from receipts of the landfill and plastic bag levies. The council supports a number of conservation grants schemes including the significant places of public worship grants scheme, the heritage management grants scheme, the large-scale heritage properties grants scheme, the conservation plan-led projects grants scheme and the Irish walled towns grants scheme which has, for example, just completed phase 3 works to Talbot's Tower in Kilkenny. The level of funding available in 2012 and future years for these purposes will be subject to the normal budgetary and Estimates processes, noting that the total capital budget for my Department will see a further decrease next year.

With the recent reconfiguration of the Department's agencies, will there be any effect on the Department's ability to maintain services and funding for heritage groups?

The elements that came into the new Department had already been severely cut between 2008 and 2011. Heritage was hit with an 83% reduction. The reduction this year means there will be less funding for the protection of the built heritage. We are doing our best to ensure that with the limited resources we have, we achieve as much as possible with those resources. We had a huge allocation just two years ago for built heritage but it has been reduced drastically. It follows that we will not be able to dedicate as much to conservation and protection of structures at risk. Unfortunately that is the reality of the financial challenges we face.

I remind Members that Deputy Stanley is waiting for an answer to his question after Question No. 9. We must finish at 5.45 p.m. so I ask Members to respect that.

Ealaín na Gaeltachta

Michael Colreavy


9 D’fhiafraigh Michael Colreavy den Aire Ealaíon, Oidhreachta agus Gaeltachta an bhfuil comhaontú aige leis an gComhairle Ealaíon chun cómhaoiniú a dheimhniú d’Ealaíona na Gaeltachta do na blianta atá romhainn. [36565/11]

Is fochuideachta de chuid Údarás na Gaeltachta é Ealaín (na Gaeltachta) Teo, a chuireann forbairt na n-ealaíon comhaimseartha agus traidisiúnta chun cinn i gceantair Ghaeltachta. Is é Údarás na Gaeltachta agus An Chomhairle Ealaíon a dhéanann an fhochuideachta a chómhaoiniú.

Tuigim ó Údarás na Gaeltachta go bhfuil maoiniú iomlán de €820,000 curtha ar fáil d'Ealaín (na Gaeltachta) Teo don bhliain 2011, ar bhunús leath agus leath ón Údarás agus ón gComhairle Ealaíon araon. Beidh maoiniú na fochuideachta don todhchaí ag brath ar an gciste iomlán a bheidh ar fáil don Údarás agus don gComhairle Ealaíon, agus ar na socruithe cómhaoinithe a aontófar eatarthu.

Tá sé dochreidte go raibh deich mí de dhíth an bhliain seo caite chun buiséad a réiteach don bhliain 2011. Bhí Ealaín na Gaeltachta ag fanacht deich mí chun an buiséad a fháil. An mbeadh an tAire Stáit in ann feidhmiú mar sin? An bhfuil sé sásta gealltanas a thabhairt inniu go mbeidh a fhios ag Ealaín na Gaeltachta i mí Eanáir cén buiséad a bheidh ann don bhliain seo chugainn? Cé mhéad airgid a thabharfar don eagraíocht?

Tá eolas pearsanta agam ar an obair thábhachtach atá ar siúl ag Ealaín na Gaeltachta. Bhí deis agam cuairt a thabhairt ar chuid de na himeachtaí a dtug Ealaín na Gaeltachta tacaíocht agus cuidiú dóibh ar na hoileáin, i mo cheantar féin, i gCiarraí, i gCorcaigh agus in áiteanna eile. Ghlac sé níos faide ná mar is gnách leis na comhráití idir Údarás na Gaeltachta agus Ealaín na Gaeltachta a chríochnú agus bhí moill ann ag teacht chun socrú i mbliana. Leis an fhírinne a rá, níor chuir sé isteach an oiread sin ar éifeacht na scéimeanna atá á ndéanamh ag Ealaín na Gaeltachta.

Tá cúrsaí Ealaín na Gaeltachta an-tábhachtach agus tá gach sórt ealaíon ar siúl ar fud na Gaeltachta acu. Ag an bpointe seo tá súil agam go mbeidh acmhainní ar fáil don bhliain seo chugainn ach mar a dúirt an tAire ní féidir linn a rá ag an bpointe seo go díreach cé mhéad a bheidh ar fáil sna Meastacháin toisc is nach bhfuil siad socraithe go fóill. Caithfimid fanacht go dtí go dtiocfaidh na Meastacháin amach i gceann seachtaine nó dhó agus fanacht ar an cháinaisnéis ina dhiaidh sin. Mar sin féin, tá súil agam go mbeidh airgead ar fháil a chuirfidh ar chumas an Chomhairle Ealaíon agus Ealaín na Gaeltachta dul ar aghaidh leis an obair thábhachtach atá idir lámha acu i réimse na n-ealaíon go ginearálta.

Special Areas of Conservation

Brian Stanley


10 Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the procedure for lifting the designation of Knockacollier bog as a special area of conservation; if he will consider pursuing this action in view of the fact that there is a neighbouring bog, Coolrain bog, already designated as an SAC; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36572/11]

Any decision to declassify a special area of conservation is one for the European Commission in accordance with Article 9 of the habitats directive. Furthermore, the article provides that the Commission may only consider the declassification of a special area of conservation where it is warranted by natural developments. As this does not arise in regard to the bog referred to in the Deputy's question, it is difficult to see how a case for declassification of the site could be made.

Regulation 14 of the European Communities (Birds and Habitats) Regulations 2011 transposes Article 9 of the habitats directive into Irish law by providing for the de-designation of special areas of conservation where the agreement of the European Commission has been obtained. However, as I stated, the decision to declassify is, in the first instance, is one for the Commission.

If the Minister had been going home before the new motorway was built, he would have passed by Pike of Rushall between Mountrath and Borris-in-Ossory. On each side there is a small bog, namely, Knockacollier bog, the larger of the two, and Coolrain bog, the smaller of the two. The problem is that they have been designated as special areas of conservation. Locals would be happy if the designation was lifted on either bog, even the smaller one, such that Coolrain bog would stay operational. The Minister stated he could lift the designation only if it were warranted by natural developments. The problem in south County Laois is that there are no options for relocation.

The three methods the Minister has set out to deal with this issue are compensation, relocation and redesignation. Compensation is a non-runner for turf cutters. Relocation is also a non-runner, not because people want to be inflexible but because there is no suitable alternative bog within a radius of 20 km or 25 km.

Designation has never been explained properly. When were the people from the European Commission over on Knockacollier bog, or, as it is known locally, Butterisland bog? Have they done tests on it, examined and re-examined it? What straitjacket are we in? Neither I nor the turf cutters have a problem working with the Department in seeking redesignation. We can find other bogs that could be designated as special areas of conservation. The problem is that in the small area in question both bogs have been designated. People would be happy to use the smaller one only.

I can perfectly understand where the Deputy is coming from. When the bogs were first designated, the designation was based on science, not economics or social implications. I am sure that if the designator of the bog had realised the turf cutters would not be able to cut turf on it and would have to travel for miles if the adjacent bog was also designated, he or she would have considered the matter further. I said this to the Commissioner when I met him and was very forceful in stating adequate consultation had not taken place at the time in question and that the people affected had not been sufficiently involved. The result is the problem I am faced with today. The practicalities in closing a bog without providing a real alternative to cut turf within an acceptable distance from the house of the people affected were not taken into consideration.

I also raised the issue of redesignation when I met the Commissioner and it was just ruled out of order. We signed up to the habitats directive 20 years ago. We gave commitments to the European Commission that we would close all the bogs in question. The discussion taking place should have taken place 20 years ago, at which time the Deputy was not in the House to raise the issue. There is no doubt that people took their eye off the ball and did not realise the full implications of the directive for those using the bogs. We are now threatened with injunctions. I am convinced that there will be an injunction, judging from what we have all read following the petitions event last Tuesday. The matter is serious.

My officials have visited bogs around the country. Any time I am driving home from the Oireachtas, I would not mind meeting the people affected by the designation with the Deputy and other colleagues to see at first hand the circumstances on the ground, if my doing so would be of any use to them.

I thank the Minister. We are anxious to solve the problem.

Written Answers follow Adjournment.

The Dáil adjourned at 5.47 p.m. until 2 p.m. on Tuesday, 29 November 2011.