Seán Ó FearghaílQuestion:
41. Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the measures she is taking to improve the working environment for artists; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [43877/15]
Vol. 899 No. 3
41. Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the measures she is taking to improve the working environment for artists; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [43877/15]
In asking the Minister what measures she is taking to improve the working environment for artists, I am, if one likes, going to the very essence of the existence of her Department and her role as Minister. Recognising that with the indications of economic recovery spreading across the country, albeit slowly to some regions, I am aksing what is being done to make life better for professional artists and the arts sector.
The Government appreciates the importance of the cultural and creative industries to Ireland. The Arts Council is the main mechanism through which it directs funding to the arts and artists. The council provides significant support to individual artists through bursaries and individual grants. It also funds means-tested payments to members of Aosdána. The Arts Council recently published its new strategy statement, Making Great Art Work. The strategy sets out the council's plans to lead the development of the arts in the decade to 2025 and prioritises two policy areas, namely, the artist and public engagement.
The work of the Irish Film Board, which my Department funds, is also a significant support for creative workers. The film sector is also supported by the improved tax incentive system introduced by the Government.
This year, as part of budget 2016, I was pleased to announce a 12% increase in allocations across a range of areas. This includes additional funding to the Ireland 2016 centenary programme and a new investment programme for regional arts and cultural centres. Significant benefits will accrue for artists and creative workers from many of the Ireland 2016 programmes supported by this additional funding, including at an international level.
I was also particularly pleased that the Government introduced a 25% increase in the ceiling for the artists exemption from 2015 onwards. This important measure recognises the invaluable contribution artists make to society. The feedback available to me indicates that artists very much welcome the increase in the exemption limits. The scheme ensures that Ireland continues to be a place where the work of artists is valued.
My Department continues to work with other Departments to promote the cultural and creative industries within the framework of the Government's overall objectives under the Action Plan for Jobs.
The place of artists in society has been a significant theme arising from the public consultation process I established for the development of Ireland's first national cultural policy, Culture 2025. This will be reflected in the policy document which I will publish early in the new year.
I thank the Minister for her response. I recently met ARRO, the Association of Artists Representative Organisations, which represents organisations such as Irish Equity, the Irish Playwrights and Screenwriters Guild, Visual Artists Ireland, the Musicians' Union of Ireland, the Screen Directors Guild of Ireland and the Association of Irish Composers, all of which represent working artists. The story ARRO had to tell was one of cuts in the allocation to the Arts Council over the years and their impact on artists. The budgets of the organisations for which ARRO works have been cut and, in turn, payments to artists and the contracts available have all been reduced.
Approximately 60,000 people work in the arts, the great majority of whom make a valued contribution not only to the welfare of the country, but also to its commercial life. Two issues arose from my meeting with ARRO, the first of which related to copyright, while the second related to competition rules for artists. I ask the Minister to address both these issues.
As Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, I am acutely aware of the impact the economic crisis has had on sectors under my remit, including the direct effect it has had on artists trying to make a living in the sector. The reality is that budgets across my Department were hit hard following the economic collapse. This reflected the burden shouldered by people throughout the country. Thanks to the economic recovery we are now in a position to invest in our arts, culture and heritage sectors in a way that will benefit communities nationwide. I am pleased to have secured a 12% increase in my Department's budget for 2016.
I made clear in my response that the Department principally supports artists and arts organisations through the work of the Arts Council, which is in receipt of €59 million to run a number of programmes and initiatives to support artists and art organisations, events and festivals throughout the country.
I thank the Minister for her reply. Two issues arise in particular. The first is the issue of copyright, which has an impact on people in all disciplines, and the second is the issue of collective pay negotiations. Currently, competition law prevents actors who do voice-overs for advertisements, for example, musicians or freelance journalists from negotiating pay collectively. I understand the previous Government, which was in office up to 2011, was in a position under the Towards 2016 plan to give a commitment to the Association of Artists' Representatives Organisations, AARO, to bring forward legislation to address this particular difficulty in collective bargaining. This is a particular problem. Competition law has an impact on the capacity of many practising artists to generate the sort of revenue they need to operate and maintain a decent standard of living for themselves and their families.
The independent copyright review committee, which was appointed by the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Deputy Bruton, published a report entitled Modernising Copyright in October 2013. The report contains more than 60 recommendations covering a diverse range of copyright issues. Following extensive analysis of the recommendations in the report, the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation is in the process of developing legislative proposals for consideration by Government.
There is a progressive and evolving framework on copyright at EU and international level. In the EU context, proposals are expected from the European Commission before the end of this year and further proposals are expected in spring 2016.
I am conscious that copyright issues affect several Departments. Officials at the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation have been trying to influence the development of EU proposals in the copyright area - for example, in the context of the 2013 EU Commission consultation on copyright modernisation and the Commission's digital single market strategy published on 5 May 2015. Work is being carried out in this area and I will continue to watch it closely.
42. Deputy Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht to outline the status of the national monument at 14-17 Moore Street, Dublin 1; and if she will make a statement on the matter [43863/15]
Will the Minister for Arts Heritage and the Gaeltacht provide a progress update on the national monument at 14-17 Moore Street?
The Government decided to acquire the national monument at 14–17 Moore Street because of its historic association with the events of Easter 1916. The decision demonstrates and acknowledges the historical importance of the site in a clear and substantive way and ensures that the long-term future of this historical landmark will be preserved and safeguarded. Bringing the monument into public ownership also allows for the development of a 1916 commemorative centre on the site.
The legal steps to bring the national monument into my ownership as Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht have been completed. My Department has also concluded a tendering process for the scheme of conservation works initiated when the property was under lien by National Asset Management Agency in order to get construction work under way as speedily as possible and prevent further deterioration to the fabric of the national monument buildings. This conservation work has commenced and will be completed during 2016, the centenary year.
Provision has been made in the contract to facilitate managed public access to the monument for some centenary events. I met the 1916 relatives following my announcement on 10 November 2015 that work was about to get under way. They were given a detailed briefing by the project team and I will continue to keep the relatives and other interested parties informed about the project as it progresses.
I thank the Minister for her update. 2016 is almost upon us and this is a very important issue. The Minister will acknowledge that this question has been raised on Priority Questions since the start of the last Dáil. We have called for a long time for the protection of 14-17 Moore Street, but we also advocated for the retention of the surrounding area as we feel it is of great significance and national importance as a key battlefield site in the 1916 Rising.
The people of Ireland have a vision, which we all share. Would the Government not agree that if 14-17 Moore Street and the surrounding areas were developed as an historic battlefield site it would be a major tourist attraction, bring significant economic value to the city of Dublin and encourage repeat visitors? Perhaps the Minister could give us an update on how much of the project will be completed in time for the centenary.
As Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, my responsibility relates to the national monument, which comprises 14-17 Moore Street. The historical significance of 16 Moore street as the final headquarters of the 1916 Rising and the location of the last council of war was the determining factor in the decision to make the preservation order in 2007. Nos. 14, 15 and 17 Moore Street were included in the preservation order to enhance and preserve the amenity and setting of 16 Moore Street.
Collectively, 14-17 Moore Street represent the most significant, original, complete, discrete and continuous section of substantially intact pre-1916 buildings on the street, most of the remainder being post-1916. Unlike adjacent properties, these buildings also retain significant and extensive internal 18th-century elements, including staircases, partitions, plasterwork, doors, floors, fittings and fixtures. The forms and profiles of the 18th-century buildings also survive. Most important, we also have physical evidence of the presence of the insurgents in the form of the openings that were broken through party walls in the houses.
I thank the Minister for her response. We in Sinn Féin and many others across the State feel that, due to the historic nature and importance of the site, it may be beneficial to reconsider its development with the inclusion of the entire battlefield site. Many sites of these nature, in a national historic sense, exist right across Europe. Has the Minister investigated any similar models and examined the benefits they provide to their respective cities?
We have written to Hammerson plc about the acquisition of Project Jewel. Has the Minister had any contact or correspondence with it or does she have any plans to meet it? Perhaps she could make a statement on the matter.
The national monument comprises 14-17 Moore Street, which is where my responsibility lies.
We want to extend that.
Anything outside of that is a matter for Dublin City Council. The Deputy mentioned other buildings and said that perhaps the entire terrace should be saved. Different proposals are coming forward. I understand how passionate a number of groups feel about the Moore Street area, but the reality is that most of the other buildings on the street have been extensively altered since 1916 and retain little of the historical fabric and character of the time. A number of buildings date from after 1916. This issue has been ongoing for a number of years.
Of course I would like to see the wider street developed, and I know Dublin City Council is progressing plans in this regard, but I must re-emphasise that my responsibility is for the national monument and I am happy to be able to say today that work is getting under way to preserve the national monument and develop a commemorative centre at the site, which will be a great visitor attraction on Dublin's historic trail. The improvements and development at the GPO are anticipated to attract 300 visitors and it will be a natural progression for them to go to Moore Street and visit the new interpretive centre. I hope there will be limited access to the buildings for Easter 2016. They will not be finished but I would like to see some access. I expect they will be finished by 2016. I know people will be anxious to visit the buildings because they are very important.
Has the Minister had any contact with Hammerson?
43. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the proposals in the capital plan for the National Archives; the proposals that will be funded in the first phase; how this funding is intended to address the deficiencies in storage capacity, digital archiving and public accessibility at the National Archives; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [43689/15]
This question relates to the capital allocation and the capital plan for the National Archives. What is likely to be contained in the first phase of the plan? Will it address some of the key deficiencies which are putting at risk some of the records in some of the institutions?
It has long been recognised that the National Archives building at Bishop Street is inadequate for the storage of all State archives and future provision. The site has insufficient flooring and archival shelving in which to store records in an accessible manner, and consequently the building is not being used to maximum advantage. Furthermore, there are no exhibition spaces in Bishop Street to allow the display of rare and important collections. To address this, and as part of the decade of commemorations programme, the Government agreed to provide funding of €8 million for the first phase in a capital development plan at the National Archives. The OPW has recently appointed a design team to the project and I expect it to go to tender shortly, with construction starting in 2016.
This development will address many of the issues with the headquarters of the National Archives by providing additional floor space within the existing building. I am confident the investment plan will allow the National Archives to improve delivery of its core objectives, including the protection and conservation of its collections, as well as allowing it to develop as a venue for research, culture, learning and tourism.
In relation to digital archiving, I was very pleased to have been in a position to provide the National Archives with a special allocation of €150,000 for 2016 to assist in the work being undertaken by it in association with the Office of the Government Chief Information Officer on digital records and public sector records management policy.
I have had the benefit of a tour of the National Archives and I have also visited the Public Records Office of Northern Ireland, which was built recently. There is a world of difference between them as one is a purpose-built national archive. Some National Archives records are stored off site, some as far away as Portlaoise, which adds to the inefficiency of retrieving documents. When this work is complete, will there be sufficient floor space to have all of the records stored on site, whereby it would not be necessary to have to retrieve materials from various locations?
A significant number of records, some 70,000 boxes, are not catalogued. This makes it very difficult to retrieve these records and use them in a meaningful way for research. Is it intended to deal with this particular aspect or is it more on the revenue side as opposed to the capital side?
The development will be done in phases. The project involves the creation of a modern archive facility on two storeys inside a warehouse at the rear of the National Archives premises. That warehouse is currently being used to store the backlog of uncatalogued and closed archives. The refurbished facility is urgently required because the archival space available to the National Archives is completely full and the warehouse has no shelving or temperature and humidity controls.
Phase one will see the development of full storage over two storeys in half of the warehouse, with linear, fully accessible racking systems being put in place. This phase will also deliver the plant and machinery requirements to allow phases two and three to proceed. In addition, the first phase will provide capacity for an additional 17,000 archival boxes. Phase two will develop full storage over two storeys in the remainder of the warehouse and provide capacity for an additional 22,000 archival boxes. Phase three will develop a storage area over an existing archive storage area and provide capacity for another 3,500 archival boxes.
The three phases of the plan will increase the archival capacity of the National Archives at Bishop Street by approximately 160%. This substantial expansion is intended to meet the institution's needs for some years to come and obviate the requirement for off-site storage in the future, thereby creating significant savings.
Regarding the allocation on the digital side, is it intended to be used to develop a standard, or is it for the purpose of carrying out specific work? If the latter, will the Minister indicate whether the particular project has been identified at this stage?
At present, there is no common digital records management and preservation strategy with related guidelines for the public service. Implementation of such a strategy would prevent the loss of born-digital records, which are currently being created and filed in a non-co-ordinated manner. Staff of the National Archives are working with the Office of the Government Chief Information Officer to agree a records management policy. The budget allocated €150,000 to assist with this project.
44. D'fhiafraigh Deputy Michael P. Kitt den Aire Ealaíon, Oidhreachta agus Gaeltachta an bhfuil athbhreithniú á dhéanamh ar struchtúr bainistíochta Údarás na Gaeltachta agus ar ghrádú na bpost bainistíochta sinsearach san eagraíocht; cén uair a bheidh an t-athbhreithniú thart; agus an ndéanfaidh sí ráiteas ina thaobh. [43688/15]
An bhfuil athbhreithniú á dhéanamh ar struchtúr bainistíochta Údaras na Gaeltachta agus ar ghrádú na bpost bainistíochta sinsearach san eagraíocht, cén uair a bheidh an t-athbhreithniú thart agus an ndéanfaidh an tAire Stáit ráiteas ina thaobh?
Dírím aird an Teachta ar an bhfreagra a thug mé ar cheist Dála ar 19 Samhain 2015 faoin ábhar seo, nuair a thug mé le fios gurb é príomhchuspóir an athbhreithnithe atá luaite ag an Teachta ná measúnú a dhéanamh ar an struchtúr agus an grádú ag leibhéal na bainistíochta sinsearaí in Údarás na Gaeltachta, ag féachaint do ról, d’fheidhmeanna, do bhuiséad agus do fhreagrachtaí na heagraíochta i gcomparáid le heagraíochtaí eile sa tseirbhís phoiblí; agus ag tabhairt san áireamh na feidhmeanna breise a tugadh don údarás faoi Acht na Gaeltachta 2012. Rinneadh an t-athbhreithniú i gcomhpháirtíocht leis an údarás.
Is iad seo a leanas téarmaí tagartha an athbhreithnithe: an struchtúr foirne ardbhainistíochta is fearr a oireann do riachtanais na heagraíochta agus lena mbaintear an úsáid is éifeachtaí agus is éifeachtúla as na hacmhainní atá ar fáil; a áirithiú go bhfuil an struchtúr molta ailínithe go hiomlán leis an trí réimse is mó de ghnó na heagraíochta, is iad sin fiontraíocht agus fostaíocht, pleanáil teanga agus forbairt pobail, agus rialachas corparáideach; na scileanna agus an taithí is gá chun tacú leis na cuspóirí straitéiseacha a bhaint amach; sainchuntas mionsonraithe poist a ullmhú le haghaidh gach ceann de na poist shinsearacha, rud a chothóidh feidhmiú níos éifeachtaí agus a éascóidh caighdeáin feidhmíochta a leagan síos agus measúnuithe a dhéanamh; a áirithiú go ndéanfar próifílí daoine aonair agus foirne comhtháite a fhorbairt ag leibhéal na hardbhainistíochta chun ceannaireacht éifeachtach an struchtúir nua a éascú; a áirithiú go bhforbrófar cultúr agus creat bainistíochta feidhmíochta, go bhforbrófar na scileanna agus an saineolas agus an taithí a bheidh de dhíth sa struchtúr comhtháite, agus go bhforbrófar straitéis thacúil oiliúna don lucht bainistíochta agus don fhoireann.
I gcomhréir leis na rialacháin um sholáthar poiblí, bronnadh an conradh don athbhreithniú ar an chomhlacht Public Affairs Ireland. Is é €15,800 luach an chonartha, gan cáin bhreisluacha san áireamh, agus bhí sé mar choinníoll den chonradh go ndéanfaí an obair leis an údarás agus an Roinn trí Ghaeilge. Tugtar le fios dúinn gur chomhlíonadh an coinníoll sin. Tá an tuarascáil chríochnaitheach curtha ar fáil anois agus tá plé ar bun faoi láthair idir mo Roinnse agus an t-údarás maidir le cur i bhfeidhm mholtaí na tuarascála. Ní dhéanfar cinneadh faoi fhoilsiú na tuarascála go dtí go mbeidh an próiseas sin thart.
Ní dóigh liom gur thug an tAire Stáit freagra ar an gceist a bhí agam, is é sin, cén uair a bheidh an t-athbhreithniú thart. B'fhéidir gur féidir leis an cheist sin a fhreagairt. Táim ag caint anseo faoi ghrádú na bpost bainistíochta sinsearach. An bhfuil sé ag rá go bhfuil an iomarca priómhoifigeach san údarás? Tá sé deacair comparáid a dhéanamh le poist sa Státseirbhís ach is dócha go bhfuil a fhios ag an Aire Stáit go bhfuil laghdú tagtha ar bhuiséad Údarás na Gaeltachta le cúpla bliain anuas, ó €25 milliún go dtí €6 milliún. D'fhéadfaí an t-airgead sin a úsáid chun an Ghaeilge a chur chun cinn, chomh maith le fostaíocht a chur ar fáil sa Ghaeltacht. Tá muintir na Gaeltachta ag brath ar an údarás chun na poist a choinneáil agus iarracht mhór a dhéanamh chun poist nua a fháil. Tá an t-údarás ag déanamh go maith maidir leis sin ach tá sé deacair agus is dúshlán mór é don údarás mar ní faoi chathair mhór nó baile mór atáimid ag caint. Táimid ag caint faoi bhailte beaga. Tá an t-údarás in iomaíocht leis an IDA agus tá an IDA ag fáil i bhfad níos mó airgid. Caithfidh an tAire Stáit níos mó a dhéanamh chun broadband a fháil, mar shampla, sa tír agus go háirithe sa Ghaeltacht.
Aontaím le tuairimí an Teachta fá choinne an dea-scéil atá ar siúl sna ceantair Ghaeltachta. Tá an t-údarás freagrach as an dea-scéal. Chonaic mé an dea-scéal sin an tseachtain seo a chuaigh thart i mBéal an Mhuirthead i gContae Mhaigh Eo. Bhí cúrsa traenála úr ar siúl agus beidh comhpháirtíocht ann idir an bord oideachais agus oiliúna, Muintearas agus Údarás na Gaeltachta, agus tá dea-scéal ar siúl. Aontaím le tuairimí an Teachta fá choinne na sároibre atá déanta ag an údarás agus an obair atá ag dul ar aghaidh.
Chomh maith leis sin, bhí laghdú mór ann sa bhuiséad chaipitil thar na blianta, mar a dúirt an Teachta. Bhí laghdú €26 milliún ann thar na blianta agus chonaiceamar laghdú chuig €6 mhilliún anuraidh. Fuair mise cúpla milliún euro breise anuraidh agus chonaiceamar an figiúr €6 mhilliún arís i mbliana. Táim ag fáil acmhainní breise fá choinne sin. Maidir leis an gceist, tá suas le 80 duine ag obair go dian dícheallach in Údarás na Gaeltachta agus ba mhaith liom aitheantas a thabhairt d'achan duine atá ag obair go dian. Bíonn siad faoi bhrú ó am go ham ach tá an ceantar níos láidre, ó Thír Chonaill go Ciarraí go Port Láirge go Contae na Mí, Gaillimh, Maigh Eo agus Corcaigh fosta. Tá dea-scéal ar siúl. Tá siadsan faoi bhrú. Níl an tuarascáil críochnaithe.
Níl aon chinneadh déanta fós agus tá an bunphlé idir mo Roinn agus an t-údarás ag dul ar aghaidh agus ní maith liomsa cur isteach ar sin.
Cinnte nach bhfuil freagra fós faighte agam maidir le cathain a bheidh an t-athbhreithniú thart. Agus an t-athbhreithniú ar siúl, mar atá sé anois, an féidir leis an Aire Stáit moladh a dhéanamh maidir le daonlathas san údarás agus go mbeadh toghchán ann? Faoi láthair, tá baill an údaráis roghnaithe ag an Aire agus an Rialtas agus ról ag cuid de na comhairlí contae freisin chun baill a ainmniú. Ní dóigh liom, áfach, go bhfuil an ceangal céanna ann idir an t-údarás agus muintir na Gaeltachta nuair nach mbíonn toghchán ann. Nuair a bhíonn cruinniú poiblí ann le húdarás tofa, is féidir leis na baill ceisteanna a chur ar son mhuintir na Gaeltachta. Tá a lán dúshlán ann do mhuintir na Gaeltachta agus ceisteanna ann maidir le cúrsaí oideachais, sláinte, bóithre agus, ar ndóigh, cúrsaí Gaeilge.
Chuir mé cúpla ceist ar an Aire Stáit faoin aersheirbhís go dtí Oileáin Árann. D'fhéadfadh díospóireacht a bheith ann leis an údarás maidir leis sin chomh maith. B'fhéidir le húdarás tofa go mbeifear in ann níos mó a dhéanamh don Gaeltacht.
Tá ról mór ag Údarás na Gaeltachta maidir le cúrsaí sláinte, oideachais agus pleanáil teanga a chur i bhfeidhm do mhuintir na Gaeltachta. Dúirt mé go mbeidh suas le 80 duine fostaithe san údarás. Tá an t-údarás ag obair ar chúrsaí turasóireachta ar nós Slí an Atlantaigh Fhiáin fosta. Tá achan rud ag dul ar aghaidh. Bhí na daoine uilig i gceantair Ghaeltachta ar nós an Ghaillimh agus Gaoth Dóbhair i dTír Chonaill ag lorg post breise i bpáirceanna gnó. Labhair an Teachta Kitt fá dtaobh de leathanbhanda i gceantair Ghaeltachta. Tá plé ar siúl anois idir mo chuid oifigigh agus Údarás na Gaeltachta maidir leis an dea-scéal a bheidh ann. Tá leathanbhanda de dhíth i bpáirceanna gnó agus iad ag lorg comhlachtaí nua ann.
Tá deiseanna ann sa Ghaeltacht. Tá na daoine sna háiteanna iargúlta seo i gCiarraí, i gConamara nó i dTír Chonaill ina gcónaí in áiteanna breátha chun a bpáistí a thógáil. Beidh seans agus deiseanna ann comhlachtaí agus poist bhreise a mhealladh do cheantair Ghaeltachta agus tá an t-údarás ag obair go dian ina leith. Bhí oifigigh agamsa i dteagmháil le comhlachtaí agus b'fhéidir go mbeidh dea-scéal ann maidir leis na díopóireachtaí atá ar siúl idir Údarás na Gaeltachta agus na comhlachtaí breise sin, ina measc comhlachtaí atá lonnaithe lasmuigh den tír. B'fhéidir go mbeidh dea-scéal ann amach anseo maidir leis sin.
45. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht to what extent an all-Island approach is being adopted to the ongoing digitisation of records at the National Archives, in collaboration with the Public Records Office of Northern Ireland; to what extent the National Archives is co-operating with the United Kingdom National Archives in this regard; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [43690/15]
In some ways, this follows from my previous question about the record management policy. There is a high level of co-operation between the cultural institutions, North and South. There is already a UK standard that they are working to in Northern Ireland. It is important that we do not end up with duel standards which would make it much more difficult for such a level of co-operation where there is a new system being developed, and that is what this question is primarily about.
The care and management of electronic records and the preservation of digital material is a challenge in all jurisdictions. Earlier this year, the National Archives joined the Digital Preservation Coalition to prepare itself for the development of a digital preservation strategy and to ensure it adopts appropriate and relevant standards in this area.
The management of Government and other public documents is, properly, a matter for each jurisdiction. The National Archives has a very good working relationship with the Public Records Office of Northern Ireland, PRONI.
Both organisations have digitised material for each other, as and when required. A member of the National Archives staff was on the review group for PRONI's digital repository in advance of its operational roll-out. My Department is supportive of this close working relationship.
Regarding digitisation, as I mentioned in my reply to the Deputy's earlier question, the Office of the Government Chief Information Officer and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform are working with the National Archives on a strategy and associated plan regarding the electronic management and preservation of digital records. A collaborative approach, based on a pilot and phased implementation of electronic record keeping systems, would have benefits across the Civil Service. In developing this project, regard will be had to international experience, including in Northern Ireland. As I said, I was delighted to be in a position to provide the National Archives with a special allocation of €150,000 for 2016 to commence work on the project.
We do not want to end up with a collection of different standards and a long lead time where various Departments are operating to different standards and there must be an expensive retrofit. We could easily lose records that were generated on different digital platforms or early generation computer systems, for example, records on floppy disks. It will be difficult and expensive if we do not address it in a timely way. To what extent is the Chief Information Officer dealing with the various Government agencies and Departments to minimise what needs to be done? Are we waiting for a standard to be set before it happens?
I agree that we do not want a collection of different standards. They are engaging with the different Departments. The Deputy's question focuses on co-operation with Northern Ireland. I have met my counterpart in Northern Ireland, Carál Ní Chuilín, and we totally agree on it. Our last North-South Ministerial Council sectoral meeting was held in the Annaghmakerrig centre, which is, uniquely, funded by both the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and the Arts Council of Ireland. There is good co-operation between the various bodies, such as between the National Museum and the National Gallery and the Ulster Museum. We need to continue this co-operation.
The UK National Archives is working with the National Archives of Ireland on the digitisation of a number of important records around the Easter Rising, including the digitisation of UK court martial reports for the 1916 leaders. Each file contains the statement of the prisoner to the court martial and, sometimes, last letters to loved ones. The National Archives will make such records available next year and the British National Archives at Kew, PRONI, the National Library of Ireland and the National Records of Scotland are members of the Digital Preservation Coalition, and will work together to develop digital preservation strategies for born digital material.
I am very supportive of any initiatives that would encourage more co-operation with Northern Ireland and the UK, where appropriate. Those are the areas in which we are working together. If the Deputy has any examples in which she feels enhanced co-operation between the relevant archive authorities would be beneficial, I would be happy to examine them.
The Minister has outlined shared heritage and the need for it. We will be accessing information that is stored in different locations and it is a very sustainable approach, whereby people will not have to go and physically retrieve material from an archive. The more of this that can happen, the better and the more accessible it will be.
I would like to mention before I finish that I had been asking routine questions about allocations to the National Library, so I welcome the allocation that has been made as a good investment in the future.
I thank the Deputy for acknowledging that, having raised this issue with me on many occasions. I am very concerned about the protection of the valuable archives and documents that are in the possession of the National Library, so I am pleased to be able to allocate €10 million to it. I was delighted to go to the library yesterday evening to launch its comprehensive 2016 plan, which focuses on the seven signatories. Personal documents and items relating to each individual signatory will be displayed as part of the library's 2016 exhibition. I acknowledge that and wish the staff of the library well. They have a great deal of work ahead of them as they face into this major project. I have seen the difficult working conditions in the basement with which staff have to contend. The Deputy has rightly raised this matter with me on a number of occasions. I am glad that phase one is under way. I hope it will bring about a huge improvement for staff.