Other Questions

Scéimeanna Forbartha Pobail

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

6. D'fhiafraigh Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh den Aire Ealaíon, Oidhreachta agus Gaeltachta an raibh aon phlé aige leis an Roinn Comhshaoil i dtaobh an tionchar a bheidh ag na hathruithe ar an tslí ina mbeidh na scéimeanna forbartha pobail, ar nós LEADER, á riaradh, ar phobail Ghaeltachta, ar fhorbairt pobail sa Ghaeltacht, agus ar phleanáil teanga sa Ghaeltacht; agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina thaobh. [38493/13]

D'írím aird an Teachta ar an bhfreagra a thug mé ar Cheist Dála Uimhir 375 ar 18 lúil 2013 inar thug mé le fios go dtagann Leader faoi réimse na Roinne Comhshaoil, Pobail agus Rialtais Áitiúil agus go raibh an t-ábhar a bhí luaite sa Cheist á phlé idir oifigigh mo Roinne agus oifigigh na Roinne sin. Leanann an scéal amhlaidh.

Ina theannta sin, tá oifigigh mo Roinne agus oifigigh Údarás na Gaeltachta ag déanamh cíoradh ar na riachtanais agus ar na deiseanna maoinithe d'fhorbairt na Gaeltachta le linn an chéad tréimhse eile pleanála a bheidh le haontú mar chuid de phlean infheistíochta an Rialtais agus an Aontais Eorpaigh ag an am cuí.

Sa chomhthéacs sin, tá plé leanúnach ar siúl faoi na riachtanais forbartha agus infheistíochta a bhaineann le clár forbartha Gaeltachta a chuimseoidh cur chuige comhtháite sna réimsí forbartha geilleagair, pobail agus pleanála teanga. Ní miste dom a rá go dtugann an Straitéis 20 Bliain don Ghaeilge 2010-2030 agus forálacha Acht na Gaeltachta 2012 comhthéacs do na dúshláin a mbeimid ag dul i ngleic leo le linn na tréimhse sin. Is féidir glacadh leis go ndéanfar gach iarracht cur chuige éifeachtach a aontú chun an oiread infheistíochta agus is féidir a chur i dtreo comhlíonadh na riachtanas sin.

Cé go bhfáiltím roimh an bhfreagra, ní léiríonn sé go bhfuil an tAire Stáit ag buachaint sna comhráití leis na hAirí eile agus é ag rá gur cheart an Ghaeltacht a mheas mar chás eisceachtúil agus go mbaineann tábhacht as an ngnáth leis na grúpaí agus na scéimeanna forbartha pobail sa Ghaeltacht toisc go bhfuil siad ceangailte leis an straitéis 20 bliain agus le forbairt agus tarrtháil teanga agus Gaeltachta. An féidir leis an Aire Stáit a rá go bhfuil ag éirí leis na comhráití go dtí seo? An bhfuil comhráití ag dul ar aghaidh idir an Roinn, na ceardchumainn agus na grúpaí pobail? An bhfuil sé leagtha amach go ndéanfar infheistíocht chuí sna scéimeanna pobail atá ar siúl faoi láthair agus na scéimeanna a bheidh riachtanach amach anseo?

Tá mé cinnte go n-aontaíonn na Teachtaí ar fad go bhfaigheann an Ghaeltacht agus na hoileáin buntáistí móra ón scéim a bhí ann go dtí seo, agus a mhairfidh go dtí deireadh na bliana. Bhain an Ghaeltacht agus na hoileáin go leor tairbhe as an infheistíocht atá déanta faoin scéim go dtí seo. Mar a dúirt mé, tá na cainteanna idir mo Roinn agus an Roinn Comhshaoil, Pobail agus Rialtais Áitiúil, maidir leis an gcur chuige a bheidh ann i ndáileadh na scéime ó 2014 go dtí 2020, ag dul ar aghaidh go leanúnach agus go rialta. Creidim go láidir is go daingean gurbh fhearr i bhfad go mbeadh socrú ann a thabharfadh aitheantas don Ghaeltacht mar limistéir amháin pleanála agus forbartha. Ar ndóigh, is é sin an cuspóir atá ag oifigigh mo Roinne sna comhráití atá ag dul ar aghaidh. Mar shampla, bhí dlúthbhaint ag Údarás na Gaeltachta leis an gcomhlacht - Meitheal Forbartha na Gaeltachta - a bhí ag dáileadh na scéime sa Ghaeltacht go dtí anuraidh nó arú anuraidh. Bhí siad ar an gcoiste gnó. Mar a dúirt mé, tá freagrachtaí ar an údarás de bharr Acht na Gaeltachta. Ar ndóigh, ba mhaith liom go mbeadh ról ag an údarás i ndáileadh na scéime a thiocfaidh chun cinn san am amach romhainn.

Tá a fhios againn gur theip ar Meitheal Forbartha na Gaeltachta, a luaigh an tAire Stáit, ach an bhfuil aon phlean ann chun a leithéid a chur sa tsiúl arís amach anseo?

Is féidir leis an Teachta glacadh leis go leanfaidh oifigigh mo Roinne agus oifigigh an údaráis ag plé an ábhair seo le hoifigigh na Roinne Comhshaoil, Pobail agus Rialtais Áitiúil, agus iad ag súil gur féidir a dhéanamh cinnte de go mbeidh ról lárnach agus aitheanta tugtha don údarás agus do mo Roinn nuair atá comhdhéanamh na gcoistí a réiteach. Mar a dúirt mé, is é an dearcadh atá agam ná go mbaineann cúinsí speisialta leis na ceantair Ghaeltachta. Aontaíonn an tAire go bhfuil sé loighciúil agus praiticiúil aitheantas a thabhairt do na cúinsí speisialta sin sna comhlachtaí úra a bheidh ag dáileadh na scéime sa tréimhse amach romhainn.

An Straitéis 20 Bliain don Ghaeilge

Timmy Dooley

Question:

7. D'fhiafraigh Deputy Timmy Dooley den Aire Ealaíon, Oidhreachta agus Gaeltachta cén dul chun cinn atá déanta maidir leis an Straitéis 20 Bliain don Ghaeilge; agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina thaobh. [38461/13]

I dtús báire ní miste dom a rá go n-aithnítear sa Straitéis 20 Bliain don Ghaeilge 2010-2030 go bhfuil gá le cur chuige céimneach chun bearta éagsúla na straitéise a chur i gcrích. I gcomhréir leis an gcur chuige seo, tá obair leanúnach ar siúl ag iliomad páirtithe leasmhara chun raon leathan gníomhaíochtaí faoin straitéis a chur i bhfeidhm.

Ós rud é gur ar mo Roinnse atá an fhreagracht uileghabhálach an straitéis a chomhordú agus a chur i bhfeidhm i gcomhar leis na páirtithe leasmhara, d'fhoilsigh mé tuarascáil i mí lúil a thugann léargas cuimsitheach faoin dul chun cinn atá déanta maidir le cur i bhfeidhm na straitéise go dáta. Is ionann an tuarascáil sin agus achoimre ar na gníomhartha ar thug mo Roinn féin agus Ranna ábhartha eile fúthu le linn na tréimhse idir dháta foilsithe na straitéise i Nollaig 2010 agus lúil 2013.

Ní miste a rá fosta gur foilsíodh pleananna forfheidhmithe na Ranna ábhartha faoin straitéis ar láithreáin ghréasáin éagsúla na Ranna i mí lúil. Áirítear anseo 11 de Ranna, lena n-áirítear mo Roinn féin, ar ndóigh. Feictear dom go léiríonn an tuarascáil ar dhul chun cinn agus na pleananna forfheidhmithe éagsúla atá foilsithe ag na Ranna ábhartha go léir go bhfuil cur chuige soiléir ann maidir le feidhmiú na straitéise a mbeidh tionchar dearfach aige ar an teanga san fhadtréimhse.

Tá naoi réimse difriúil sa straitéis agus ba mhaith liom ceist a chur maidir leis an dul chun cinn atá déanta ar na réimsí sin, go háirithe maidir le hoideachas agus seirbhísí poiblí. An mbeidh muid in ann líon na ndaoine a labhraíonn an teanga a mhéadú mar atá leagtha amach sa straitéis? An féidir leis an Aire Stáit níos mó eolais a thabhairt dúinn mar gheall ar dhá cheann de na réimsí sa straitéis, cúrsaí oideachais agus seirbhísí poiblí?

Mar atá luaite ag an Teachta, tá dhá Roinn i gceist, an Roinn Oideachais agus Scileanna agus an Roinn Caiteachais Phoiblí agus Athchóirithe. Maidir leis an Roinn Oideachais agus Scileanna, tá lúcháir orm a rá go bhfuil dul chun cinn suntasach á dhéanamh ansin. Tá an Roinn ag tabhairt faoi athbhreithniú a dhéanamh ar an oideachas a chuirtear ar fáil sa Ghaeltacht, chun soiléiriú a dhéanamh ar a pholasaí i leith oideachais trí mhéan na Gaeilge i scoileanna Gaeltachta, ag aithint na riachtanais faoi leith atá ag na scoileanna sin. Tá an Comhairle Náisiúnta Curaclaim agus Measúnachta, NCCA, ag forbairt curaclaim nua comhtháite teangacha do bhunscoileanna agus don chéad uair riamh, tá scrúduithe caighdeánaithe ar fáil le n-úsáid don Ghaeilge i mbunscoileanna na tíre.

Tá bearta tugtha isteach chomh maith go mbeifear ag súil le hardú caighdeáin d'ábhar múinteoirí a bheidh ag dul isteach sna coláistí oiliúna chomh fada agus a bhaineann sé le Gaeilge. Tá dhá cúrsa curtha ar fáil anois dóibh le linn na Cásca agus beidh ar ábhar múinteoirí dhá thréimhse coicíse a chaitheamh sa Ghaeltacht an fhad agus atá siad ag traenáil le feabhas a chur ar a gcuid Gaeilge. Sílim gur dul chun cinn é sin. Ina theannta sin, tá coiste idir-rannach againn, faoi mo chathaoirleacht, agus tá 11 Ranna i ndiaidh an méid atá á dhéanamh acu maidir leis an straitéis a leagan amach ar a suíomhanna Idirlín.

Nuair a d'fhoilsigh an Rialtas deiridh an Straitéis 20 Bliain don Ghaeilge, dúradh ag an am gur treor plean nó plean mór a bhí ann chun caomhnú agus athbheochan na Gaeilge a chur i gcrích thar an tréimhse sin. Cé mhéad cruinniú a bhí ag an choiste idir-rannach ar a bhfuil an tAire Stáit mar chathaoirleach, maidir leis an straitéis? An mbíonn an Taoiseach ag na cruinnuithe sin freisin?

Os rud é go bhfuil coiste Rialtais ag baint le cúrsaí Gaeilge, léiríonn sin dáiríreacht an Rialtais maidir leis an teanga agus cur i bhfeidhm na straitéise. Go dtí seo i mbliana, bhí trí chruinniú ag an choiste Rialtais faoi chathaoirleacht an Taoisigh agus tá ceann eile beartaithe idir seo agus deireadh na bliana, b'fheidir i mí Dheireadh Fómhair, ach nílim cinnte de sin. Ag gach uile cruinniú acu sin, ba é an Taoiseach féin a bhí sa chathaoir, rud a léiríonn an tsuim phearsanta atá aige sna cúrsaí seo.

Tá na freagraí a fhaigheann muid maidir leis an straitéis 20 bliain spéisiúil. An bhfuil an tAire Stáit sásta go bhfuil an phráinn cheart á instealladh maidir leis an straitéis? Tá an straitéis bunaithe ar staidéar a ndearnadh ocht nó naoi mbliana ó shin agus tá an straitéis trí nó ceithre bliana d'aois faoi seo. Ní fheiceann an pobal i gcoitinne, pobal na Gaeilge agus na Gaeltachta, go bhfuil aon tairbhe mhór tar éis teacht ó tosaíodh ag caint faoin straitéis 20 bliain. An bhfeiceann an tAire Stáit an phráinn le seo nó conas is féidir linn práinn bhreise a instealladh maidir leis an straitéis?

Is cinnte go n-aithním an phráinn, ach is fear Gaeltachta mé agus chím ón áit ina bhfuil mé i mo chónaí na rudaí atá ag tarlú i mo cheantar Ghaeltachta agus i gceantair Gaeltachta eile ar fud na tíre. Chím é sin. Ar ndóigh, sin an fáth gur cuireadh fainic ar an straitéis, mar gheall ar deireadh a chur leis an tráth atá ar an Ghaeilge sna ceantair Ghaeltachta. Tá go leor ag dul ar aghaidh sna Gaeltachtaí. Mar shampla, tá scéim tacaíochta teaghlaigh úr tar éis teacht isteach agus tá beagnach 2,000 pacáiste tugtha amach do thuismitheoirí úra sa Ghaeltacht ó bunaíodh é sin anuraidh. Tá scéim na gcúntóirí teanga ann chomh maith, ceann de na scéimeanna is éifeachtaí atá ann. Bhí an scéim seo ann sular tháinig mise isteach sa Roinn, ach táimid ag leanúint leis an scéim sin agus ag forbairt na scéime agus ag tabhairt breis acmhainní don scéim, mar go bhfeiceann muid chomh tábhachtach agus atá sé go mbeidh deis ag daltaí, chomh hóg agus is féidir leo, eolas a chur ar an teanga. Caithfidh muid díriú isteach ar an aosóg.

Tá scéim do na coláistí Gaeilge ann freisin, ar a mbíonn 3,000, 4,000 nó 5,000 sa bhliain ag freastal orthu. Scéim an-mhaith í sin agus tá an Roinn tiomanta leanúint leis an scéim sin, a thugann deis do bhuachaillí agus chailíní ó thaobh amuigh den Ghaeltacht dul siar agus aithne a chur ar na Gaeltachtaí agus an teanga a fheiceáil á labhairt go nádúrtha i measc an phobail. Tá go leor rudaí ar siúl. Mar adúirt mé freisin, tá Údarás na Gaeltachta thar a bheith gnóthach anois. Inné féin, shínigh mé na critéir pleanála teanga agus beidh siad sin ar shuíomh Idirlín na Roinne inniu agus ag dul amach chuig an údarás agus Foras na Gaeilge le tabhairt faoi na limistéir pleanála teanga.

Tourism Project Funding

Clare Daly

Question:

8. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the steps he has taken to assist in delivering the promised maritime museum and facilities for the Irish Seal Sanctuary in partnership with Fingal County Council; and the action that can be taken to bring this project, which has planning permission, to fruition, even initially on the basis of a pop-up museum. [29217/13]

Clare Daly

Question:

715. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the assistance he will provide for the Irish Seal Sanctuary, the future of which will be in jeopardy if it does not have a site or fresh financial prospects by 1 November 2013. [37021/13]

Clare Daly

Question:

716. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the assistance he will provide for the Irish Seal Sanctuary the future of which will be in jeopardy if it does not have a site or fresh financial prospects by 1 November 2013. [37022/13]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 8, 715 and 716 together.

My Department has not made any commitment regarding the development of a maritime museum and seal rehabilitation facility in Balbriggan and does not have funding available to assist this particular project. While I appreciate the work carried out by the Irish Seal Sanctuary, it should be noted that my responsibilities under the Wildlife Acts relate principally to the conservation of habitats and populations of protected species, rather than the rehabilitation of individual animals. It is a matter for the promoters of the project, in consultation with Fingal County Council, to consider the option of developing the project on a more interim basis, if they so chose.

That was short and not very sweet. I am not sure why the Minister even agreed to answer the question, given that it was a non-answer. The reality is that this is a potentially important facility, given that there is an opportunity to develop a maritime museum - we do not we have one - and to proactively assist a not-for-profit organisation that has done enormously well in rehabilitating and protecting seals. I believe some of this activity takes place even in the Minister's constituency. It is a hugely popular pursuit. When the Irish Seal Sanctuary released a seal on New Year's Day, 500 people turned up for the ceremony. The Minister turned out in Balbriggan to celebrate the opening of a pop-up museum for one day. If 1,000 people can turn out for one day, surely that supports the notion that this can be maintained on a long-term basis. Such a facility would boost ecotourism. There are no fisheries museums and it would be an important educational facility. The Minister said he did not have to do anything. However, should he not develop such a facility - there is no such facility in any other part of Ireland - for tourism and employment purposes?

I do not dispute the Deputy's comments about the merits of this project, but my Department has no role in the provision of funding for this type of project. Other Departments may have and it should be noted that the Deputy's question was transferred to my Department from another Department. We have a responsibility for the protection of seals, but we are not responsible for their rehabilitation or the provision of a museum relating to them.

I was in Balbriggan as I was invited there by a former Deputy, Trevor Sargent. There was a big buy-in from the local people for the pop-up museum on that occasion. It is a very good idea and there is potential for a project in future if the council gets together with the appropriate statutory authority that might have funding for this type of project. Perhaps other sources of funding could be available in addition to local funding. I do not dispute the merit of what Deputy Daly has proposed but my Department has neither the resources nor the responsibility for the matter.

We have a problem in that the Minister referred to “the appropriate statutory authority”, but that is not the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht nor the Department to which I originally tabled the question. Yet everyone thinks it is a very good idea. Surely the Government, as the authority in power, has the answer as to which is the correct authority to approach. If the desire exists for the establishment of a maritime museum, which it should, and if we are to protect seals, then their rehabilitation is part of the project. It is an important environmental issue but it is also a critically important job creation project as well in the sense of developing tourism. If the Minister is not responsible but thinks the museum is a good idea, could he indicate which Department is responsible so that we can match it up with Fingal County Council and the volunteers at the Irish Seal Sanctuary? The other side of the equation is that Government moneys have been given to private operators such as Tayto Park and other operators in Dingle for seals and maritime activity, but they are more commercial outlets and are not animal welfare facilities of the type provided by the Irish Seal Sanctuary, which will be needed in the future if we are to preserve the species. That is the job of the Department.

My responsibility is to designate certain special areas of conservation to protect seals, which I do, as a result of which they are protected in habitats where they typically live. However, I do not have responsibility for the rehabilitation of seals. I suggest that the council might be the appropriate body to promote the project and develop it in conjunction with local people and organisations. As someone who has been involved in promoting and creating a number of projects in different areas, I sincerely offer my assistance to Deputy Daly. We can discuss the matter afterwards and I will give her any direction I can, as I know she is very committed and sincere about the project.

National Monuments

Brendan Smith

Question:

9. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the timeframe for the restoration of the national monument at Moore Street, Dublin 1; the further difficulties that need to be overcome to ensure that redevelopment takes place in advance of the centenary anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38479/13]

Martin Ferris

Question:

24. Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht his views on the current state of the 1916 national monument at Moore Street-Moore Lane, Dublin 1; when he will make a decision on the future of the site; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38505/13]

Maureen O'Sullivan

Question:

38. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the category and status of the national monument at 17 to 21 Moore Street, Dublin 1, on the Office of Public Works listing of national monuments; and the responsibility and role of his Department in this matter. [27977/13]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 9, 24 and 38 together.

The national monument at Nos. 14 to 17 Moore Street is the subject of a preservation order under the National Monuments Acts. The effect of the preservation order is that any works affecting the site require my consent, as Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, under section 14 of the National Monuments Act 1930, as amended.

On 16 July last I made a determination on a consent application and related environmental impact statement submitted by the owners, which dealt with proposed works on the monument site. I believe that, having carefully considered all the relevant factors, my decision on the consent application is the best way to ensure that work can take place at the national monument to develop an appropriate centre to commemorate the events of Easter week 1916, while also ensuring that the monument site is fully protected for future generations.

My decision provides for the creation of a 1916 commemorative centre, involving the full repair and conservation of the four buildings. The order I signed did not approve the demolition of any structures or the removal of any material from the site which dates from 1916 or before; nor did it approve works for the provision of an underground car park within the boundary of the national monument site, or the demolition of the Moore Lane facades of Nos. 15 and 16.

The national monument is in private ownership and, accordingly, the advancement of proposals that reflect the terms of the consent I have granted is a matter for the owners. The consent is, however, conditional on the submission of a revised project design for approval within nine months of the decision date that takes full account of the elements of the proposal for which consent has been refused and the conditions attached to the approved works.

A further condition requires substantive works to commence on site within three months of the approval of the revised proposals.

Responsibility for the upkeep and maintenance of the monument rests with the owners. My function in that respect is confined to considering any related proposals by the owners for which my consent must be sought under the National Monuments Acts. In addition to the order which I signed in July, consent has been applied for and granted from time to time for various works to protect the monument buildings, including, most recently, improvements to the appearance of the front of the buildings. The buildings are also included in the record of protected structures maintained by Dublin City Council under the planning Acts, and the council has specific powers of intervention should any particular concerns arise about their condition.

I take it that the very fact this matter has arisen on every Question Time over the past 12 months is indicative of the seriousness with which all Members regard it. Although it took two years for the consent to be issued, I commend the Minister on having given it and ensuring Nos. 14 to 17 are to be protected and that a commemorative centre will be erected. Now that consent has been given, we must move on to the question of whether anything at all will happen. Could the Minister give us any indication as to whether any sort of meaningful discussions have taken place between Chartered Land, NAMA and Dublin City Council? It is required that a planning application or plan be submitted within 12 months to the local authority to get this issue moving. We want to see the development happen and a proper commemorative centre developed but this will not happen without the co-operation of NAMA, Chartered Land and the local authority. What can the Minister and his Department do to ensure the required co-operation?

I understand Chartered Land has sought a meeting with me. I will facilitate that immediately. What happens between Chartered Land and NAMA is very much up to those to parties and I obviously cannot get involved. I have had two meetings with the specialist sub-committee of Dublin City Council, whose members are very proactive on this project. What I gave permission for was very much what they were looking for. They welcomed it and are very supportive of what we are trying to do.

The monument is not in State ownership but private ownership. Therefore, it is up to Chartered Land to produce a plan for me within nine months that will state clearly what it intends to do with the national monument at this stage, bearing in mind the refusal I gave for intervention with the monument. I hope the plan is forthcoming. It is very much in the hands of Chartered Land and Dublin City Council. NAMA also has a key role to play.

Can the Minister update the House on the planning position? I understand from colleagues in Dublin City Council that for planning to take place any proposal will have to come back to the Minister before returning to the council as the planning authority. Does the Minister accept their view in this regard? The Minister stated he is to have a meeting with Chartered Land. Has he considered my request that he meet all the relevant stakeholders, including the relatives of the leaders of the 1916 Rising, the National Museum of Ireland, relevant State agencies and the NGOs, not only to preserve the national monument fully but also to develop the site of the historic 1916 battlefield?

I agree with the point being made by Deputy McLellan. At issue, among other matters, is the fact that the land is in the ownership or control of NAMA. Do we know whether Chartered Land has the capacity or finance to proceed with the development? Does the Minister know or can he establish it? If he cannot engage directly himself - I am not sure why he cannot do so-----

I must operate within the legislation.

Okay, if the Minister is prohibited from doing so under the legislation, can he call on somebody else to engage, whether it be the local authority or some other body, to establish whether NAMA will make the funding available for the development to happen? If there is no funding, there will be no development and we will continue to look at a derelict site. Not alone are these critically important buildings derelict, but all of us deserve to be ashamed of much of what we see in the north O'Connell Street area. The city deserves better and we all need to co-operate to try to achieve a better outcome.

I support the remarks made by other Deputies but on a practical note, it is only a short space of time to the 1916 centenary celebrations. If the people who sacrificed their lives could see O'Connell Street now and the facades of the businesses and the users or occupiers of those businesses, they would not believe what they had sacrificed their lives for. There is an air of menace at nighttime on O'Connell Street. It is all linked in and it is shocking. I ask the Minister to take a leadership role and encourage Dublin City Council to get active about this. We should not go through the normal slow administrative choreographies that occur. This needs executive action. O'Connell Street is the gateway to our city. It used to the be the street that led to the house of parliament, now the Bank of Ireland, to Trinity College and to the Rotunda, now a hospital. It is a shocking embarrassment that while O'Connell Street has received road and footpath surfacing and a spire which is not very inspirational, the shocking activities of those amusement arcades, fast food stores and so forth are allowed to continue. This needs robust action now.

In response to Deputy McLellan, I have no problem whatsoever in meeting the stakeholders. I have already had numerous meetings with them and the decision I came to was welcomed by the relatives of those involved in 1916 and indeed, was universally welcomed. I must repeat that the planning permission process is the responsibility of Dublin City Council. My role in this, as I have said many times in this House, is only to approve what the developer proposes for the site. The developer had a major plan for the site but it included demolishing some of the monument and building a car park underneath a section of it and I refused that. I am sure that Deputy McLellan agrees with that decision and would support me in doing that. Sometimes I am rather confused as to what people really want here. Are people playing politics or do they really want a solution? I hope it is the latter. I have no problem whatsoever in meeting any stakeholders, which I have done already, including members of Deputy McLellan's party.

On the issue of NAMA and Chartered Land, Deputy Ó Fearghaíl's party colleague, Senator Mark Daly asked Chartered Land, when it was making a presentation to the 1916 commemoration committee, if it could produce a letter from NAMA clarifying whether money is available to carry out the project. That was a number of months ago but the committee never received such a letter from Chartered Land. As far as I am aware, that was the only time Chartered Land was asked to come up with confirmation of a commitment from NAMA for the necessary funding to carry out the work.

Finally, in response to Deputy Mathews, I would love to have responsibility for all of O'Connell Street. The problem of dereliction on O'Connell Street has been with us for some time. It is not a new phenomenon but I hope that the centenary of 1916 will be the catalyst for a major upgrade of the street. Some very good work has already been carried out on O'Connell Street but there are some parts of it, because they are in private ownership----

The problem is the users of the street, the occupations----

I ask the Deputy to allow the Minister to reply.

Certain parts of the street which are in private ownership are in obvious need of upgrading. Dublin City Council has a key role to play in that respect, in terms of ensuring that happens. I assure the Deputies that in my capacity as chairman of the decade of commemorations committee I will do everything possible to make progress on this matter.

One project that we can advance, hopefully, is that of the GPO, as it is in State ownership. An Post is coming forward with proposals for the site shortly. This is a project that State agencies can get behind, as we have control of the site.

Archaeological Sites

Charlie McConalogue

Question:

10. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the position on the significance of the recent uncovering of an ancient monastic settlement beside the Drumholm Church of Ireland graveyard, near the village of Ballintra, County Donegal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38472/13]

I am aware of the reported archaeological find at Drumholm graveyard on foot of recent excavations carried out under licences issued by my Department under the National Monuments Acts 1930 to 2004. The licenses relate to investigations associated with an application to Donegal County Council under the planning Acts for an extension to the graveyard and the provision of a new vehicular entrance and additional car park spaces. The graveyard is the location of a number of monuments already listed in the record of monuments and places under the National Monuments Acts.

Holders of excavation licences under the National Monuments Acts are required to submit a preliminary report on the excavation to my Department and the National Museum of Ireland within four weeks of completion. A detailed report must follow within 12 months of completion of excavation. An assessment of the significance of the reported find in this case, taking account of its context within the ecclesiastical complex of which it forms part, will be commenced by my Department once the preliminary report is received. An inspection of the site will also be carried out as part of that assessment.

If it transpires that the find is as significant as has been suggested, it will indeed be a valuable addition to our archaeological heritage that will further highlight and demonstrate the continuity of worship that has taken place at the site for many generations. The Church of Ireland authorities and the local community are meanwhile to be commended on their stewardship, care and management of the monument site, which has facilitated and made possible the recent reported discovery.

I welcome the Minister’s positive response. I am glad he commended the local community on its stewardship of the site, as it deserves it. The archaeologist working on the site has said he cannot overstate the national importance of this significant and exciting ecclesiastical site. The sooner the archaeological investigations to which the Minister referred are completed, the better. The site needs to be designated as a national monument. It is also clear that some sort of commitment of funding from the Minister’s Department will need to be forthcoming in the not-too-distant future so the site can be excavated and developed to its full potential. The Minister seems to be positively disposed to this. I hope this will be moved on to some practical support from the Department, which everyone involved would welcome.

I agree with the Deputy that this is a major discovery. The connection with St. Columba is also very important. Whatever expertise and professional resources the Department has at its disposal will be made available. I am looking forward to the deliberations on the site. I hope the significant excitement and expectations about the site will be fully realised and that the site will be of the significance and importance that we hope it will. Obviously, this will have to be confirmed by the archaeological investigation.

Grazing Rights

Seán Kyne

Question:

11. Deputy Seán Kyne asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if interim payments will be made to farmers in the Twelve Bens region, County Galway, for 1 December 2012 to 1 May 2013 in recognition of the fact that said farmers were unable to avail of the agri-environment options scheme as no applications were accepted. [38372/13]

Farmers in the Twelve Bens-Garraun and Maumturk mountain complex special areas of conservation have had to amend their farming practices since November 2008 to ensure these mountain commonage areas recover from past overgrazing. This grazing restriction continues until November 2013 and will assist farmers in ensuring their lands are deemed to be in good agricultural and environmental condition, as required under cross-compliance requirements. As part of the compensation package that was agreed in 2008, an additional annual payment of €2,000 over five years was to be paid by my Department to those farmers who were in existing rural environment protection scheme, REPS, contracts for the additional grazing restriction.

Over this period, however, the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine closed the REP scheme and replaced it with the more limited agri-environment options scheme, AEOS, which was opened periodically for farmers. As an exceptional measure, my Department put in place a system of interim payments to cover gaps in which farmers could not access AEOS funding during periods when the scheme was closed to applicants. Such interim payments were sanctioned on three occasions, notwithstanding the significant reduction in funding available to my Department over this period. This was much appreciated by the farmers in question. In sanctioning the final interim payments in November 2012, my Department made clear that it would not be in a position to make any further additional payments for the period mentioned in the question. This position has not changed and there is no funding available to my Department to make further interim payments.

Since November 2008, my Department has paid more than €2.6 million to farmers in this area of County Galway. As already referred to, the five years of this grazing restriction will terminate in November of this year.

I thank the Minister for his reply. I know similar problems were rectified in late 2012, for which the farmers affected were greatly appreciative. However, the farmers in question were mandated by the National Parks and Wildlife Service, NPWS, to join the Twelve Bens destocking scheme. They simply had no choice. One of the conditions was that they were also mandated to participate in the agri-environment options scheme. However, REPS had closed and AEOS was not available for certain periods. The end result was that these farmers were left with no agri-environment payment for 1 December 2012 to May 2013. Will the Minister engage with the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Deputy Simon Coveney, to see if a solution can be achieved between the two Departments to provide interim payments to these farmers?

I will consult with the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Deputy Simon Coveney. I suggest the Deputy does so himself. This matter has been considered by my Department but there is no funding available to make an interim payment. We have been generous in the past. If the moneys were available, I would be delighted to provide interim payments. I have met the farmers affected, who are very hardworking and need this funding. Later this evening I am having a meeting with farmers from County Mayo with a similar problem. However, to date there is no source of funding for this kind of project.

Written Answers follow Adjournment.