Other Questions

Commission for the Economic Development of Rural Areas

Martin Heydon

Question:

6. Deputy Martin Heydon asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht to outline her views on how the town and village renewal scheme can be utilised for the benefit of rural Ireland; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19844/16]

It is no secret that small towns and villages across rural County Limerick were affected by the financial crash in 2008. What are the Minister’s views on how the town and village renewal scheme can be utilised for the benefit of rural Ireland?

The Commission for the Economic Development of Rural Areas, CEDRA, has shown that rural towns have felt the impact of the economic challenges of recent years more acutely than cities and larger urban centres. This significant deterioration of many small towns and villages throughout the country is clearly visible in the form of empty shops, abandoned buildings, vacant lands and a generally poor environment to live in or visit. Targeted action is needed to arrest this decline and instead harness the regeneration potential of our towns and villages to support a now recovering economy.

The introduction of a new scheme to support town and village regeneration is part of a concerted effort to support the development of rural towns and villages not only as a component of a broader approach to rural development, but also to improve the environment of rural dwellers in a way that will increase their quality of life and simultaneously enhance their potential to support economic activity in their area in the future.

I will shortly launch the 2016 town and village renewal scheme, which will be delivered by local authorities, in conjunction with local communities and development organisations. The type of projects to be funded under this initiative will primarily be a matter for local authorities to identify in partnership with their communities. However, the overall intention of the funding would be to focus on public spaces, thereby increasing the attractiveness of the town or village as a local commercial and social centre, enhancing its environment and tackling minor physical infrastructural deficits and land assembly issues. The 2016 scheme will be strategically focused on the rural towns and villages that require assistance to stimulate new development and regeneration locally. It will specifically target small towns and villages with populations of 5,000 or less.

I welcome the town and village renewal scheme. It is a welcome development. In my town, Rathkeale, local city and county councils invested in the town quite considerably. There is municipal building capital and a major new employer has come into the town in the past two years, which is indicative of the economic recovery. The town also has the main GAA pitch. It is welcome that we have a renewal initiative, involving streetscapes, etc., to rejuvenate the town and pull everything that is already in place together. Development is happening in spots in the town, but it needs to be harnessed and pulled together. Will the Minister consider prioritising towns based on socio-economic as well as population factors, given the socio-economic challenges faced by some towns?

Applications for the scheme will be open to all towns. I want to run the scheme through local authorities, in conjunction with local community groups. It will be up to towns to identify their priorities, in terms of what they feel is best suited to improve them. A REDZ programme was rolled out last year and a number of towns benefited. Some towns had different ideas about how they wanted to improve. Some wanted to assist shop owners to improve the appearances of shop fronts and others wanted to develop more public spaces and amenity areas. The funding is in place and I want to work with local authorities and communities, which can identify their priorities and what best suits their towns.

In terms of marrying this development from a cultural and heritage perspective with the commercial development side, will the Minister consider providing some information for people on how to marry this scheme with commercial development and give towns a sense of unique identity, similar to what was done with the digital hub in Dublin, or Adare which is synonymous with tourism? Will the Minister consider such an educational outlet to help people develop a unique identity or rebrand towns?

As I said, I very much want this to be a bottom-up approach. I am quite happy to consider the different initiatives local authorities bring to me. Some local authorities have established town teams and they will establish their priorities. Under the REDZ pilot scheme that was introduced last year, Limerick received €192,000. I am familiar with a project in my county, where funding of €75,000 was made available. The local authority was able to add €125,000 from its resources, which meant a total investment in the town of €200,000. One could call this seed funding, and it can often leverage funding from other sources. Any suggestions that come forward in regard to how we can improve our towns and villages are something to which I am willing to listen.

Film Industry

Niamh Smyth

Question:

7. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht to outline the supports she provides for the indigenous film and television production sector; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19836/16]

I asked the Minister to outline the support she provides for the indigenous film and television production sector, and if she will make a statement on the matter.

The Irish Film Board has primary responsibility for the support and promotion of film-making in Ireland, in respect of the indigenous sector and inward productions. Its aim is to help film-makers to make Irish films and provide production and development loans for features, television programmes, animation projects, documentaries and short films. The board supports and promotes the Irish screen industries at major international markets and festivals, promotes inward investment, the use of Ireland as a location for international production and provides support for companies filming in Ireland. The film board also liaises with IDA Ireland and Tourism Ireland in terms of maximising joint opportunities for the promotion of Ireland as a location for film productions. Examples of this could be seen during Ireland’s success at the Oscars this year and the promotional activity around the shooting of Star Wars in Ireland.

Film-making in Ireland is also supported by the section 481 film tax credit system, which incentivises film investment in Ireland. This incentive was enhanced in the budget for 2016, when the cap for eligible expenditure on film projects was increased from €50 million to €70 million.

Clearly, funding across the public service was severely impacted by the economic crisis, including the funding that could be provided for investment in culture and the arts. Since my appointment as Minister with responsibility for the arts, I have succeeded in securing increased funding for the sector year on year. The allocation to the Irish Film Board in 2016, at almost €14.5 million, shows an increase of 3.6% from last year. I am pleased I have already been able to provide some additional funding support to the film board this year, with additional current funding of €500,000. This increased investment will help to maximise the benefits brought about by the enhancement of the section 481 film tax credit system to which I have referred.

The programme for a partnership Government contains an ambitious agenda of priorities to achieve a stable, sustainable and secure funding model for the arts, in line with improvements in the economy and the public finances.

I thank the Minister. We all agree that the indigenous film and television production sector has a significant cultural and economic impact in Ireland. Indigenous producers preserve Ireland's rich cultural heritage and chronicle what it means to be Irish. The sector has enjoyed many successes in recent years and competes well on the world stage. However, there is a growing belief that assistance is needed, in particular in the form of increased funding for the Irish film board and the introduction of a film policy for RTE.

Does the Minister have any plans in regard to this? Is there a key area in the forthcoming culture 2025 proposals? The Minister will be aware that this allows us to create and preserve our artistic heritage in a format that has mass appeal and is viewed by large audiences across home and abroad. It is imperative that the funding and tax credits for this vital sector to which the Minister referred are preserved and increased so that indigenous producers may continue to capture and promote our national identity and attract foreign direct investment to provide high-quality jobs. Is that the commitment the Minister can and will make?

The success of the Irish Film Board is tremendous in terms of the level of funding it receives. The Deputy is correct. It supports productions. It secured seven nominations at this year's Oscars. Lenny Abrahamson was nominated in the best director category for "Room". "Room" and "Brooklyn" were nominated in the best picture category and Emma Donoghue who was nominated in the best adapted screenplay category for "Room", which she adapted from her award-winning book. Nick Hornby was also nominated in this category for "Brooklyn". Brie Larson and Saoirse Ronan were nominated in the best actress in a leading role category for "Room" and "Brooklyn", respectively. The board does tremendous work. I will seek the support of the Deputy in terms of the budgetary process.

The money we invest in the film board is well spent and we get a great return for it.

The Minister will be aware that independent producers and production companies employ several thousand people and foster a habitat for the type of creative talent that attracts big-budget productions. An analysis by the Revenue Commissioners showed that the estimated expenditure on employment for projects availing of section 481 in 2015 was €97 million and that approximately 1,200 jobs were supported. A further €70 million was spent on goods and services. In 2014 the Irish Film Board invested just over €10 million in production activities which enabled Irish producers to leverage funding, thereby generating production expenditure of more than €42 million for the funding of IFB projects in that year. Increasing IFB funding could have a significant multiplier effect, and I urge the Minister to give that active consideration.

The Minister is not responsible for RTE, but broadcasting should be part of the arts brief. In contrast with many European countries, Ireland has no legislative or regulated commitment from its national broadcaster, RTE, to spend a minimum amount on locally produced films. Could the Minister raise the issue with the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Deputy Naughten, and have the matter examined?

I have met the chairperson of RTE and we had a very positive meeting. RTE wishes to work in a collaborative manner. We had significant collaboration with RTE for the 2016 commemorations. I note what the Deputy said about the expenditure by film companies, which is very good news for this country. The tax value of the Government's support for the film industry is €85 million per annum. The aggregate value in 2015 was €70 million in tax credits - this is real taxpayers' money to support and encourage investment in this country and to support indigenous film makers and the industry as well.

I would like the film board to focus also on rural areas, because when a town is chosen as a location for a film it is of major significance to the local economy. "Star Wars" is a powerful example of that. I remember when "The Butcher Boy" was filmed in Clones, and "The Playboys" and "The Run of the Country" were filmed in Redhills. We should work to get the film industry to locate in such places as Monaghan and Cavan.

National Monuments

Maureen O'Sullivan

Question:

8. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht to outline her plans for the task force on Moore Street, Dublin 1, including its composition, chairperson, terms of reference and power to make decisions that can be implemented. [19867/16]

Could I ask the Minister to outline her plans for the recently announced task force? I am inquiring about the composition of the task force, the chairperson, the terms of reference and whether the task force will have the power to make decisions that can be implemented.

I fully understand that Moore Street is a location of great importance for many people and for many different reasons. There is a range of views about what is the best way forward for the street and what can be done to retain its historic character and to reflect the part it played in the events of Easter 1916. In a bid to bring together those views and seek positive progress on the future of the street, I have announced that I am establishing a consultative group on Moore Street with an independent chairman. My intention is that the group would not be given fixed terms of reference but would have the freedom to examine and discuss the range of relevant issues within the framework of this broad objective. The independent chair of the group will be Mr. Gerry Kearney, former Secretary General of the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs. It is intended that the group will include cross-party Oireachtas membership as well as representatives of relevant stakeholders, including Dublin City Council, the 1916 relatives and the street traders. The group will be given administrative support by my Department. I look forward to its formation as soon as possible so that work can begin on charting a way forward. I acknowledge the work of Deputy Ó Cuív in this matter.

Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan will also be aware that the works approved by the High Court to safeguard Nos. 14 to 17 Moore Street started yesterday. The works are urgent and essential and are solely intended to preserve and protect the buildings until such time as a more permanent solution is identified.

The date we celebrated the Rising and the actual date of the Rising have both passed, and the derelict site looks as though it will probably remain for another 100 years. I do not know how the Minister can set up a task force while she is appealing a High Court decision. In the meantime, there has been a transfer of loans from Mr. O'Reilly of Chartered Land to a foreign-owned company, Hammerson. Has the Minister had any discussions about this with Dublin City Council, especially given the request to extend the planning permission for Chartered Land far beyond the expiry date? The Minister has already part-purchased No. 18 Moore Street, but I have not been able to get many details on it. A number of issues arise that have not been answered. How can someone be described as an independent chairperson if he is from the Department, and how soon is "as soon as possible"?

The High Court decision has much wider implications than Moore Street. I took advice from a number of Departments and brought a memo to Cabinet, where it was decided that it was necessary to appeal the decision.

To clarify, I will ask Dublin City Council to nominate a representative councillor to sit on the stakeholders' group. I also intend to have representatives of the 1916 relatives and the traders and cross-party representation from the Oireachtas. Mr. Gerry Kearney is a former Secretary General of the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs and he left the Department many years ago. The Department was a very different one at the time with a different set of responsibilities compared to what it has now. I also hope that the Dáil-----

I will stop the Minister there. She is well over the time.

I do not accept that there is a range of views. I think there are two opposing views: one favours major development of what is a battlefield and historic site and the other view favours the preservation of the site as an historic and cultural quarter. It looks as if the task force will kick the issue to touch for another while. The task force needs a set timeframe within which a decision will be made on the best way forward. From my perspective, that means the decision will be based on what is for the good of the city. It should not be about what is good for a developer. We have had enough of that. The good of the city is to preserve an area of great historic significance to which so many ordinary Dublin people and Irish people are very committed.

The High Court judgment was very much welcomed by so many who have concerns about our heritage and who want to preserve those sites and not leave them at the mercy of whatever developer comes along. I accept that in the meantime we must protect what is there, but I urge the Minister to outline when the task force will finish its job and what power it will have to make recommendations that can be worked on. Would it not be wonderful if the close of the centenary year brought a satisfactory conclusion for the battlefield site?

The committee will be formed and a meeting will be held within the coming weeks. A chairman has been appointed and we will work with the Dáil reform committee to assist in the selection of Dáil Members to sit on the forum. I anticipate that Members who have an interest in the issue will put themselves forward to the consultative group. This is a genuine attempt to get all the views and for people to sit around the table and find a solution to go forward. I wish to bring people together. I accept it is a very emotive issue but I want people to work together to find a solution.

Arts Funding

Mick Barry

Question:

9. Deputy Mick Barry asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht her plans to increase the existing funding to the arts, given that the European average for arts funding is 0.6 per cent of Gross Domestic Product; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19895/16]

Many statistics have been produced in this session so far. Let us focus on the most important statistic, namely, the average European spend on arts funding of 0.6% of gross domestic product, GDP. The equivalent Irish figure is 0.1%. That is one sixth of the European average. What steps does the Minister intend to take to bridge this shameful gap?

The programme for a partnership Government contains a very important commitment to work progressively to increase funding to the arts, including the Arts Council and the Irish Film Board, as the economy continues to improve. I assure the Deputy that I will be engaging with my colleagues in Government and with the Oireachtas to seek to advance this commitment in the context of the forthcoming Estimates and budgetary processes.

I understand that the figures quoted by the Deputy are from a Council of Europe project called "Compendium: Cultural Policies and Trends in Europe". I understand that many European countries are not included in the figures, including ten EU member states. The data for the compendium project are provided by independent researchers and it is not a standardised system for the collection of statistics.

I further understand that the compendium project itself warns that data provided by the researchers are not comparable across countries because each researcher includes different elements in the definition of culture and these elements are reflected in the figures for public expenditure. For example, local authority expenditure on the arts, artists, exemption tax relief, expenditure on public service broadcasting and the Irish language are all examples of elements not included in the Council of Europe figures for Ireland but included in the figures for some other countries.

Expenditure on the arts in Ireland comes from multiple sources, both public and private. I understand that the CSO does not produce national statistics that capture the totality of this expenditure as a percentage of GDP. The issue of a definition of culture and of capturing public expenditure on culture is one that was discussed in the public consultation process held for the purpose of developing Ireland's first national cultural policy framework, Culture 2025.

The Minister does not accept the figures that I have quoted so I ask her to produce her own figures. What are the Minister's figures? Does she calculate that our 0.1% of GDP might be greater than the European average? Does she calculate that our shameful figure of 0.1% might be equal to or the same as the European average, or does she calculate that it is very close? If it is not equal, what is the Irish figure compared with the European average? Is it a half or a third? I say it is a sixth of the European average. What is the Minister's figure? I would like to know.

What I can confirm to the Deputy is that almost 50% of my entire budget in arts, heritage, regional, rural and Gaeltacht affairs is for the arts. As I said in my reply, the programme for a partnership Government commits to increasing funding for the arts, including the Arts Council and the Irish Film Board, as the economy improves. This is the most effective way to provide support for artists and other creative workers. Ireland has a reputation for being supportive of artists through the provision of the tax exemption for artists. I was pleased that the previous Government introduced a 25% increase in the artists' tax exemption in 2015. This important measure recognises the invaluable contribution which arts and culture practitioners make here at home and abroad. The feedback available to me indicates that artists very much welcomed the increase in the exemption limits. The Arts Council provides income supports for members of Aosdána who require it in order to allow them to work on their artistic output. In addition, my Department, through Culture Ireland, plays a major part in promoting Irish arts and music on the world stage.

I take it from the Minister's reply that she is unable to produce the figure that I have asked for. I will move on and look at the issue of words rather than figures. I quote the Minister the following words: "There is anger, disquiet and disbelief about the effective dilution of the arts as a Cabinet portfolio." That is taken from a motion which was unanimously passed in this House just a couple of weeks ago. Given that anger, disquiet and disbelief, can the Minister, instead of talking about what is planned in a programme for Government over the next five years, give us an indication as to what increase she intends to deliver for arts funding in this year's budget? The National Campaign for the Arts is looking for a trebling of funding to 0.3%. Is the Minister going to deliver that trebling? If not, will it be a doubling or what?

I have met the National Campaign for the Arts. We had a very positive meeting and I look forward to working with them. I recently met the Arts Council and had another positive meeting there. Everybody who comes into my Department is looking for increases in budgets. I would like to give everybody the increase they want. However, that is a matter that I will be pursuing in the budgetary and Estimates process for 2017 and I will be seeking the support of my Oireachtas colleagues in that process. In terms of the figure that is spent on the arts, as I said, I cannot give the Deputy the exact figure. What I can tell him is that the figure that was produced by the compendium project is incorrect because it does not include all of the money that is spent on the arts in this country. It is in the Culture 2025 policy that we need to look at how we measure the investment that we put into our arts sector. That is something I will be pursuing.

Rural Recreation Policy

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

10. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht her plans to develop rural recreation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19880/16]

As Deputies know, there was quite a bit of work going on in the development of rural recreation up until 2010. Reading reports that we have received at the committee, it is a bit like Pompeii: nothing has moved since the minute the Government came in. What we are told is happening is exactly the way it was when I walked out of the Department. They say a new brush sweeps clean. Maybe the new Minister of State could outline the dynamic he is going to bring to this sector.

I certainly will be trying to do what the Deputy did in the earlier years. We were in more difficult times in 2010, as the Deputy knows. The Deputy knows what we inherited in 2011.

My Department’s walks scheme is currently operating on 39 trails supported by 1,908 landowners and is managed by 16 local development companies around the country. The programme for a partnership Government includes a commitment to double the scheme during the lifetime of the Government and these matters will be addressed in the context of the forthcoming Estimates and the budgetary process. Officials in my Department are continuing to work closely with a number of State agencies to agree a national outdoor recreation plan for public lands and waters. A successful outcome to these discussions will provide the basis for a co-ordinated development of State lands for recreation and tourism purposes into the future.

My Department continues to be a main funding partner of Leave No Trace Ireland, which promotes responsible recreational use in the outdoors. It encourages all those engaged in outdoor activities to act responsibly and to do their part to protect lands used by the public for the benefit of the environment and for the future generations.

In the context of access to Ireland’s uplands for hill walking and similar activities, two pilots have been developed, one at Mount Gable in Connemara and the other in the MacGillycuddy's Reeks area in County Kerry. A management committee is now in place in the pilot in Kerry to provide guidance on issues associated with further roll-out of the scheme.

In addition to the development of trails and supports for use of the uplands, it is also important to ensure visitors and landowners' protection as part of the development process. In this context, officials in my Department are working closely with the State Claims Agency in relation to the development and implementation of a national indemnity scheme, which would indemnify private landowners against claims from recreational users for injury or damage to property.

I have heard it all before. I set up the group that looked at the public lands and waterways to make sure that they were all made available.

Can the Minister of State say what progress was made on that in the past five years?

As regards the uplands, Binn Shléibhe - what the Minister of State knows as Mount Gable - and the MacGillycuddy Reeks were picked. That was progressing and in fact we put in the car parks in 2009. Living right beside Mount Gable, I know that nothing has really happened since. Perhaps the Minister of State could give an outline of what he thinks happened.

We were looking at the indemnity issue which has become much more critical since a rather strange court judgment was given on it. That was also on the table in 2009 and early 2010 when I left office. Will the Minister of State admit that nothing happened in the past five years? Will he make up for lost time? Giving back to me what I had in place and saying that it is exactly where it was, is really too weak.

As the Deputy knows, this Department did not have responsibility for the legality of it. Since I came into office, great progress has been made, although I am concerned about some things. It is unfair on landowners if the general public are using their lands and a landowner has to go to court to defend himself. My Department is talking to the State Claims Agency and we have made a lot of progress. I intend to make an announcement on that in the coming weeks. If at all possible, I intend that the landowners will not be liable. If there is a problem, the State Claims Agency will defend such cases in the courts. It is wrong if a landowner makes his land available and then somebody goes up a mountain and is injured. We saw that in a recent court case and I am glad the case is being appealed because the original judgment will frighten farmers and other landowners over their lands being used by the public.

I assure the Deputy that we have made substantial progress in recent weeks and I am happy with it. I will revert to the Deputy in the coming months. I am delighted with the two pilot schemes, particularly the one in Kerry. We have the same problem with Croagh Patrick because everyone wants to climb it, yet nobody wants to take responsibility for it. That is because they are all afraid that whoever takes responsibility will have to go to court and pay. I hope that in the coming weeks we will have good news concerning my Department's proposal.

The Minister of State might explain what his colleagues were doing for the past five years. He seems to be bringing a little bit of energy to this matter, which was missing before now. Does he agree that if they would only give him responsibility for marine leisure as well as rural recreation, he could create 6,000 jobs in five years in this sector? The possibilities for pot-holing, cliff-climbing and other activities are limited only by a person's imagination. We have the perfect playground for those who want to get involved in marine or countryside activities. Will the Minister of State be given responsibility for marine leisure? Does he agree that 6,000 jobs could be created in five years if the effort and investment were put in? That would be the equivalent of many IDA Ireland factories spread around rural Ireland.

I would love to take all the responsibilities I can get because the more responsibility one has, the bigger budget and the better chance one has of spending it.

Good on the Minister of State. Keep going.

I agree with the Deputy. When I was Minister of State with responsibility for tourism, I remember people condemning me about the Wild Atlantic Way. They laughed and said it was another gimmick that would never work. It did work, however, and it created jobs.

It is one of the greatest tourism projects we have ever had in the west. We will now continue with the blueways plan for inland waterways. I will be working with Fáilte Ireland to ensure it rolls that out. The Deputy is correct that there are many jobs to be created in the outdoor activity sector. People want to get involved in such pursuits and are healthier and fitter as a result. The Government and Fáilte Ireland are committed to promoting such activities, as well as investing major funding in the sector. It is the Minister's job and mine to get as much of that funding as possible. I know that the Deputy will, both in committees and here in the Chamber, make a plea to the Taoiseach and the Minister for Finance to give us the money.

The Minister, the Minister of State, Deputy Kyne, and myself will create those jobs. There will be so many people working in the west of Ireland that they will give us the required support and money. All Departments should be more biased towards rural areas which have been neglected for too long. We need to revitalise them.

I look forward to that. The Minister of State mentioned Mount Gable and I am sure he is aware that the Tuatha Dé Danann met at the top of the mountain before they fought the Fir Bolg over in Magh Tuireadh.

Leader Programmes

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

11. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht when she will sign contracts with successful bidders to deliver the Leader programme to facilitate the commencement of work on delivering projects; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19877/16]

I believe there will be another launch of Leader programmes tomorrow. Have the contracts been signed? When will the Leader companies be open for business in terms of taking applications? That is what people really care about, rather than the official launch.

I thank the Deputy for raising this matter. I am pleased to note that tomorrow morning I will launch the Leader programme at an event in Virginia, County Cavan. My Department has issued funding agreements to local action groups in 21 of the 28 sub-regional areas designated under the Leader programme and I expect that most, if not all, of these local action groups will be in a position to finalise their respective agreements at this event.

The delivery of Leader will commence immediately in these areas and the local action groups can begin receiving applications starting from Monday morning. I am aware that a large amount of work has been ongoing behind the scenes in each area since the closure of the old Leader programme, aided with funding from my Department, and I expect that these groups should be able to hit the ground running in terms of receiving and approving applications.

I am also confident that funding agreements will issue in the remaining seven Leader sub-regional areas in the coming weeks as the local action groups provide the additional information and clarifications requested by the independent selection committee established to review and select the strategies submitted in each area. The independent selection committee met today to review progress and will meet again in early August to facilitate the finalisation of strategies. I met the committee members for the first time today.

There is also the possibility of an appeal in two of the competitive areas where more than one strategy was submitted and that process must be allowed to run its course before a funding agreement can issue. I can assure the Deputy that funding agreements will issue in all of these remaining areas as a matter of urgency once all of the outstanding issues have been resolved.

I am pleased to note that Leader funding can now begin to flow into communities throughout Ireland. I look forward to providing funding to the many fine Leader projects that will undoubtedly emerge in the coming months and years.

Despite the fact that there is €40 million in the Estimate, there is always a big delay between getting an application approved and actually spending the money. Even allowing for the administration money that will be taken out of that €40 million, and whatever legacy funding is left over from the previous programme, the Minister is likely to have an underspend of €30 million this year. Will she use that money for other purposes within the Department? There will be a massive underspend, or what used to be termed a cash cow, in the Department. Will the Minister seek permission from the Department of Finance to reallocate that to priority rural areas within her Department's remit, to ensure that that money is used this year? There is no way it can be spent on Leader this year.

The Deputy mentioned funding that we have set aside for Leader this year. As savings emerge, it is my plan to build on the success of the rural economic development zones pilot scheme. I hope to announce details of a REDZ scheme to facilitate the initiation of the new REDZ project. If there are savings I will be keeping in close contact with my colleague, the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Donohoe, to manage the pressures within my allocation.

I want to see funding being allocated to rural Ireland. There is no doubt that that is where it is needed. The Deputy will be aware that my Vote crosses many different areas and as such it is complex in terms of management. There will be demands on the Department in terms of the budget but if there are opportunities in this space I will be happy to look at them, particularly those in the rural development area. I want to spend as much as I can of this funding. I am keen to ensure that these funding agreements are signed without delay. Like the Deputy, I want to see the money being spent in the communities, because that is what makes the difference.

I accept that, but we all know there is a time lag on the spending of money. The money could, for example, be transferred to the CLÁR fund, which is under the responsibility of the Minister's colleague, the Minister of State, Deputy Michael Ring. It would benefit greatly from a transfer of €10 million, €15 million or even €20 million, but the transfer would have to be done quickly because it takes time even for the Minister of State, Deputy Ring, to spend money and he does not have to go through the same convoluted process of a Leader application. The money needs to be redistributed early. There will be an underspend; I can see it a mile away. We need to put more money into rural Ireland, particularly rural infrastructure. We should not be handing money back to the Exchequer. Will the Minister confirm that the commitment made to Fianna Fáil, when the supply arrangement was made with it, to increase Leader funding over the period between now and 2020 will be honoured and that funding over and above that provided in the rural development programme will be provided in next year's budget?

I will be seeking an increase in Leader funding under the budgetary process, as per the commitment in that regard in the programme of Government.

There are many good schemes in rural Ireland. The Minister of State, Deputy Ring, and I will review the schemes and we will do all we can to ensure this funding goes to rural Ireland. The regional employment development scheme piloted last year was very successful and could be developed further. During a recent visit to Tubbercurry I opened a project funded under the regional employment development scheme under which an old building vacated by a creamery was adapted into office space and provided with broadband and so on. I would like to see more projects of that type because they revitalise our rural towns and rural areas.

Commemorative Events

Martin Heydon

Question:

12. Deputy Martin Heydon asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht her views on the legacy of the 2016 commemorations; her plans for the remainder of 2016; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19843/16]

Tom Neville

Question:

13. Deputy Tom Neville asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht her views on the success of the 2016 commemorations; her plans for the remainder of 2016; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19841/16]

We are now more than half way through 2016. I would welcome the Minister's views on the legacy of the commemorations and her plans for the remainder of 2016.

I propose to take Questions Nos. 12 and 13 together.

I am delighted with the success to date of the Ireland 2016 centenary programme, which I was very pleased to launch with the Taoiseach last year. The citizens of Ireland and our young people in particular have engaged with the programme in huge numbers through its various elements. The programme particularly resonated at local level and I am delighted that so many local community groups and organisations, with support from their local authorities, are continuing to hold a wide range of exciting events and commemorative initiatives.

Easter weekend saw more than a million people on the streets of Dublin for a series of commemorative, reflective and celebratory events, which were a great source of pride for all of our citizens. Feedback from members of the public and the media indicated the very positive engagement of the general public with the commemorative events, as well as the extent to which citizens felt a great sense of national pride and respect during this historic time.

I have no doubt that the Ireland 2016 centenary programme has already facilitated a heightened sense of shared identity and pride of country, but there are still a significant number of events planned for the remainder of the year, including some major national cultural and academic events as well as many local events. My Department will also be placing a special emphasis on the Re-imagine phase of the programme over the coming months to consider the long-term legacy of 2016, building on the momentum and very positive public responses to the programme to date.

My officials and I will be engaging with our partners in the arts community, the national cultural institutions and local communities over the coming weeks to build on the work to date and to ensure that the positive lessons from the Ireland 2016 centenary programme are harnessed and built on for the future. I am also committed to ensuring that the ambitious capital programme will be implemented in full and that the permanent reminder projects funded under the Ireland 2016 centenary programme become a lasting legacy for all our citizens.

As I said earlier, the Ireland 2016 centenary programme is a year-long programme. The commemorations continue across the seven strands of the programme, with a particular focus on the Re-imagine element. A State commemoration will be held in Glasnevin on 3 August to mark the anniversary of the execution of Roger Casement, similar to the ceremonies held in Kilmainham during April and May. On that day a free family open day and UN Expo will be held at Casement Aerodrome in Baldonnel, focusing on Ireland's role in peacekeeping and the role of Irish Aid.

On 3 and 4 September the annual Electric Picnic festival will have a special Ireland 2016 theme, including an exploration of future possibilities. My Department will conduct a series of structured consultation meetings with Ireland 2016 partners, including other Departments and agencies, to discuss the legacy of the Ireland 2016 centenary programme and also with the local authorities to discuss the experience of the programme to date and how they can build on this positive engagement for the benefit of future community initiatives.

I thank the Minister for her extensive response. I am fortunate to have been elected to this House in 2016. I am privileged and humbled to be here to represent my county in this centenary year. The commemorations have helped to create a sense of healthy patriotism in a new generation of Irish people, particularly younger members. I visited many primary schools across County Limerick for the raising of the blue flag. The promotion within their speeches of multiculturalism and inclusiveness, including their pro-European rhetoric, was welcome.

As a returning emigrant of the economic crash of 2008, I would like to know if, in the context of the diaspora, there are any plans to put in place for 2017 and 2018 initiatives along the lines of The Gathering and the Ireland 2016 centenary programme and so on, which were very successful in that regard.

Yes. We had a successful diaspora programme within the 2016 commemoration programme which I would like to build on. It gave us an opportunity to showcase our tremendous wealth of culture and arts abroad. I want to continue that engagement, which was overseen by Culture Ireland, which developed the Mise Éire/I am Ireland programme. A huge amount of work was also undertaken by our embassy network, which allowed our diaspora to reconnect with Ireland. Feedback on the programme from the embassies has been very positive. Inspiring Ireland is a collaborative online project developed by Ireland 2016 and the Royal Irish Academy. It will produce a programme of fresh and innovative online exhibitions rolling out this year. This will enable the diaspora to connect with our cultural heritage.

I reiterate that when members of the diaspora, be they in Bondi Beach in Australia, Brooklyn in New York, London, Canada and many other places, see these events on the web at 4 a.m. or 5 a.m., it is extremely important that they really connect with them. We need to keep that connection with the diaspora. I welcome the Minister's comments and initiatives, hope to see them over the lifetime of this Government given the economic recovery we are experiencing and hope that the funding would be married with that.

I agree with the Deputy about the schools programme. This was a very successful programme where our national flag was delivered to every primary school in the country by a member of the Defence Forces. I acknowledge the role the Defence Forces played in the commemorations. There was a great sense of pride on Easter Sunday when we saw our Defence Forces march down O'Connell Street. They delivered flags to all primary schools. Secondary schools came to Croke Park to deliver their flags. As the Deputy noted, the children set out their vision for the future on Proclamation Day. He is right. It was about inclusivity and the acceptance of diversity and was very pro-European. The children's vision for Ireland in the future augurs well for this nation. It was surprising to see how in touch the young people were with the various issues. We have a legacy from 2016 on which I want to build because there is a sense of civic pride and national identity that has not been expressed in a long time. This is something I want to work on in terms of the legacy of 2016.

Questions Nos. 14 to 16, inclusive, replied to with Written Answers.

National Heritage Plan

Niamh Smyth

Question:

17. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the progress made on producing an updated national heritage plan; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19837/16]

Will the Minister outline the progress on updating the national heritage plan?

It is my intention to develop and publish an updated national heritage plan. I am looking at how best to do this. The plan has a number of different components and a lot of work has gone into it, including the national landscape strategy, the peatlands strategy and the national biodiversity plan. I will consult stakeholders and I want to work very closely with the Heritage Council in terms of this plan.

Deputy Smyth mentioned investment in our cultural institutions. The investment in the National Gallery is in the order of €33 million. The historic Dargan and Milltown wings of the gallery are near completion and it is hoped that they will be opened to the public in early 2017. I also mentioned the National Library and omitted to say that I visited the library to see its storage facilities. The building goes back to the 19th century and badly needs investment. This is phase one of that investment where we were able to provide it with €10 million to get it started because the National Library does tremendous work. It is a tremendous asset in terms of our cultural institutions along with the National Museum, including the museum here on Kildare Street, the museum at Collins Barracks and the Museum of Country Life in Mayo. Huge numbers of people visit those cultural institutions and the number continues to grow. Some people forget they are all free of charge. They are tremendous assets.

The one thing I want our cultural institutions to do is to start loaning material to local museums. There is a magnificent local museum in Ballyjamesduff, County Cavan. I know the tremendous work that has been done there. Last year, I increased the budget for the loaning of items to local museums because it is important that cultural institutions based in Dublin share their material with rural Ireland.

I have a supplementary question. I thank the Minister for that update. I have an interest in the national heritage plan, particularly the Heritage Bill, which I believe is imminent. I represent Kildare North, which has probably more kilometres of canal than perhaps any other county in Ireland with the possible exception of Dublin. I recently met representatives from the inland waterways group and some canal users and canal dwellers. I am aware that canals have a section in the Heritage Bill. I think it is the first or second section in the new Bill. There is a view among users of the canals that the canals are difficult to navigate and have problems in terms of supporting structures and the development of tourism. Blueways and greenways are being promoted but canal traffic itself - pleasure cruising, barges and recreational and tourism usage - is not being promoted to the extent that it could be.

Where is the Heritage Bill in the legislative programme? Will the Minister consider a separate canals Bill dedicated to the management of canals, the by-laws and the conditions around same? Will the Minister consult the stakeholders prior to making that decision?

The Heritage Bill was ready to go into Committee Stage during the term of the previous Government and stopped in the Seanad on Committee Stage. I have requested of the Seanad that we recommence the Bill there. I am waiting on a date to continue with the Bill. It covers the canal by-laws, about which there has been consultation. Other Deputies have raised this with me. It is on Committee Stage in the Seanad and must then come back to the Dáil. I will be happy to discuss it with the Deputy when it goes through committee but this is where it stands at the minute. The Bill was raised in the Seanad so that is where it is.

I thank the Minister for that update. From what she said, my understanding is that the Bill is on Committee Stage in the Seanad. Is it likely to come before the House or progress before the summer recess? Has the Minister given consideration to producing a separate canals Bill? A number of stakeholders have requested that this be done, arguing that the canals are a sufficiently important infrastructure in their own right to merit a Bill dedicated to them. It is a significant issue to the users of canals and everyone involved in tourism, boating and living on the canals, as I do myself. Will the Minister consider a separate canals Bill that involves taking that section out of the Heritage Bill and putting it into a stand-alone Bill? Does she think that is likely to come before the House or progress before the summer recess?

It is part of the Heritage Bill, which addresses many of the issues raised with me. I do not have any plans to produce a separate stand-alone Bill. It has yet to come to the Dáil and go through Committee Stage in the relevant select committee. I will be happy to hear the Deputy's views on the Bill at that stage. It falls under my remit under Waterways Ireland and a tremendous amount of work is being done on the waterways in terms of developing blueways along the towpaths and as a tourist amenity.

Recently, I was at the launch of a programme on the Shannon-Erne waterway. It does not take an awful lot but when the waterways are developed for recreation, there will be young people out kayaking on the water. It is a tremendous asset to any town. The one I was in was in Ballyconnell and it was powerful to see the young people out on the waterways. Waterways Ireland is particularly good at working with local communities and local councils to develop the waterways. That is something I would like to see and support. I was happy I was able to give it some additional funding in the 2016 budget to carry out more of the good work it does because there is so much more interest in getting out and having a healthy lifestyle. To see the young children out on the water kayaking was powerful and it is something we need to do more. One of them was supported by the rural economic development zones, REDZ, scheme. That is something I want to work on.

I thank the Minister, Ministers of State and Deputies for an energetic session. The Minister earned her salary today.

Written Answers are published on the Oireachtas website.