Priority Questions

Departmental Expenditure

Éamon Ó Cuív


20. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the progress made to date in 2017 in delivering on her Department’s programmes and ensuring a full spend of the allocated resources; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11790/17]

At the end of last year the Department of Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs had a capital carryover of €30 million - in other words an underspend. In addition the Department had paid €28 million to local authorities for work that was not done and had not even commenced. That means that at the end of last year the Department had underspent by €40 million in terms of effect on the ground. The gross expenditure at the end of February on the Exchequer return showed that the Department had only spent €8 million in capital. What will the Minister do to spend the money to the benefit of the people on the ground rather than hoarding it away for some unknown reason? The Minister is just not spending the money.

My Department has a very broad agenda which includes responsibility for the conservation, preservation, protection, development and presentation of Ireland’s heritage and culture; responsibility for promoting the Irish language; supporting the Gaeltacht and island communities; and facilitating the economic and sustainable development of Ireland's regions and rural communities.

A gross provision of €368.422 million is available to my Department across five programme areas in 2017, comprising current funding of €249.637 million and capital funding of €118.785 million. In addition, a further €13.548 million in capital funding was carried over from the 2016 provision.

Details of provisional expenditure in respect of my Department and all Departments are published at Vote level by the Department of Finance on a monthly basis. Provisional current and capital expenditure figures in respect of my Department at Vote level as of 31 January 2017 are due to be published shortly and these figures indicate that expenditure for January 2017 is on profile.

Preliminary figures for the period to the end of February 2017 indicate that gross total expenditure incurred by my Department amounted to €46.9 million - this expenditure represents 95% of profile. However, these figures are merely preliminary and are subject to an internal verification and monitoring process within my Department, as is usual, prior to their return to the Department of Public and Expenditure and Reform. Adjustments may fall to be made as part of this process and all figures are also subject to audit by the Office of the Comptroller and Auditor General in due course.

All expenditure within my Department's Vote is and will continue to be carefully monitored to ensure the best and most efficient use of available financial resources.

When an answer starts saying what a Department does and all I and the public knows, I know somebody is trying to obfuscate the answer. I have had to resort to putting in freedom of information, FOI, requests to get basic financial information available to the Department made available to me as an Opposition Deputy. I will continue to put in FOI requests to get this information until the Department starts providing it in replies to parliamentary questions.

To give the Minister her own information back, according to the Exchequer returns at the end of February, published by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, €8 million was spent on capital in the gross voted expenditure against a profile of €10 million, which was unnaturally low. This meant the Department was 16% behind where it should have been.

I asked the Department in another parliamentary question what had happened with the carryover. I was told there was not even an order made to allow for any expenditure on that after two months. As well as that, I asked about the local authority spend for work not done and I was told nothing had happened on that either. Will the Minister start coming up with the figures and answering questions with them? I cannot understand why her Department is so shy about the figures, except for the fact that it is not spending the moneys.

The Deputy referred to figures of €8 million out of €10 million. I want to be clear as to why all the capital moneys were not spent in 2016.

I referred to the Exchequer returns for January and February 2017. These were published at the end of February this year. For spend in 2017, the profile was €10 million, actual spend €8 million and shortfall, 16.7%. Those are figures for this year.

Of course at this time of year, bills for projects may not come in until at a later stage. We keep all spending under review and it is monitored closely. To be fair, my officials gave the Deputy a detailed briefing on expenditure in the Department when he was there.

We need to be clear that funding is going out and many projects are being funded. Sometimes, the bills for capital expenditure do not come in as soon as we would like because there are delays. Last year, there were some delays with capital projects. There were certain one-off Decade of Centenary projects where there were unavoidable delays, including the national monument at Nos. 14 to 17 Moore Street and the major redevelopment works at the National Archives. That is why money had to be carried over because it was not actually spent.

Not only was some €30 million not spent last year, but it has not been spent this year. I have also been told by the Department that it has no record of any of the huge amount of moneys given to local authorities for work not done, some of it sanctioned by the Minister of State, Deputy Michael Ring, in December. As well as that, will the Minister confirm there has been zero spend on the 2014 to 2020 Leader programme, except for administration? The reality is there is €40 million available for Leader. Even allowing €8 million for administration, €32 million is still there for capital spend. It is patently obvious that in the beginning of March this year the Department will not spend half this capital allowance on Leader. Is the Minister making alternative plans already? I will be asking the Minister of State, Deputy Kyne, about the moneys which will not be spent in his section of the Department. Is the Minister making alternative plans to spend the Leader moneys that will not be spent or will she once again short-change the people dependent on her Department at the end of the year by having another carryover into 2018?

I can reassure the Deputy that there was no short-changing of anybody. The moneys not spent on Leader last year were vired into other programmes.

It went to county councils.

Those moneys went out to rural Ireland and were made available in line with the sanctioned receipt from the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform on the basis of funding agreements signed with the local authorities. The moneys are with the local authorities which are spending it.

I am conscious of the need to ensure that all funds allocated to local authorities under these schemes are fully accounted for. In this context, my Department is working closely with local authorities to ensure worthwhile projects are allocated funding. It is in line with the public spending code. I want to ensure funding is spent properly and in accordance with the projects’ proposals.

National Museum

Peadar Tóibín


21. Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if her Department has investigated the allegations made regarding inappropriate sexual behaviour in the National Museum of Ireland; and if a case of inappropriate sexual behaviour was referred to the human resources section in her Department. [11788/17]

Mar is eol don Aire, tá foireann Ard-Mhúsaem na hÉireann ag fulaingt faoi scamall dorcha le fada. Tá a fhios againn go raibh go leor líomhaintí ann faoi mhí-iompar gnéis, faoi bhulaíocht agus faoi bhainistíocht trom-láimhe. Is rud tromchúiseach é gur tharla na rudaí seo in eagraíocht Stáit agus go raibh oibrí an Stáit ag fulaingt gan faic á dhéanamh ag an Rialtas. An raibh a fhios ag an Aire cad a bhí ag titim amach san Ard-Mhúsaem? An bhfuair an tAire an t-eolas faoi? An bhfuair a Roinn tuairisc faoin mhí-iompar gnéis agus an ndearna an tAire iniúchadh faoi?

I will answer the question put forward to me. Unfortunately, I was not able to pick up all the Deputy said in his introduction, as he well knows.

I am advised my Department has not received any allegations of inappropriate sexual behaviour in the National Museum of Ireland, nor has any investigation of such allegations been undertaken. In April 2012, my predecessor was in receipt of correspondence relating to general staff issues at the National Museum of Ireland.

While it would not be appropriate for me to intervene directly in human resources, HR, issues, the Deputy should be aware that I and senior officials have had discussions with the chair of the museum on legacy staffing issues recently referred to in the media. On foot of these discussions, I have also been assured that steps are being taken to address the issues highlighted in the well-being survey, also recently highlighted in the media, which was commissioned by the museum to improve its working environment.

I am supportive of the chair and the new board, which I appointed in July 2016, in implementing change in the museum, as well as preparing new plans to improve the museum's services to the public over the coming years. I have offered to provide any additional support if required in dealing with these issues.

Ar dtús, ba mhaith a rá go dtacaím freisin leis an gcathaoirleach den bhord------

Gabh mo leithsceal. Tá córas aistriúcháin ar fáil.

Is féidir liom fanacht go dtí go bhfuil an tAire réidh.

An bhfuil an corás aistriúcháin ag obair? Níl a fhios agam.

Is é seo lá na Gaeilge agus bhí sé réitithe cheana féin ag gach duine go mbeadh seans ag Baill labhairt as Gaeilge sa Dáil.

Tá brón orm. Níl-----

Tá an córas ag obair.

Tá sé ag obair. Fanfaidh mé go dtí go bhfuil sé réidh.

Tá an córas aistriúcháin ag obair. It is working.

Go raibh maith agat.

An bhfuil sé ag obair duit anois? An gcloiseann tú aon rud?

Níl aon aistriúchán ann, is dócha.

Dúirt an fear-----

Dúirt an fear go bhfuil.

Dúirt an tAire nach bhfuil.

Beidh ormsa leanúint ar aghaidh as Béarla mar sin. Is mór an trua é sin. Níl ach lá amháin sa bhliain go bhfuil deis againn ár gcuid gnó a dhéanamh as Gaeilge. Is rud simplí atá ann. Is féidir é a dhéanamh sa Bhruiséil.

An bhfuil sé ag obair anois?

B'fhéidir. Níl a fhios agam.

Éist ar uimhir a haon. Number one.

Labhair arís.

Tacaím go huile is go hiomlán leis an gcathaoirleach ar an mbord sin. Bhí a fhios ag an Aire le fada go raibh rudaí ag titim amach san Ard-Mhúsaem. In ainneoin go bhfuaireamar an t-eolas sin-----

Tá sé ann anois.

Tá sé ann anois.

In ainneoin go bhfuaireamar an t-eolas ón Aire nach bhfuair siad eolas faoi seo, tá fhios agam go bhfuair oifig an Aire glaoch gutháin i mí an Mheithimh 2015 mar gheall ar an rud seo. Tá fhios agam freisin ón bhfoireann a bhí ann ag an am gur chuir an fhoireann sin an t-eolas os comhair na Roinne mar choimeád siad cóip istigh sa National Museum freisin. An bhfuil an tAire ag tabhairt eolais mhíchruinn dúinne, mar tá an t-eolas atá ag an Aire iomlán difriúil ón eolas atá faighte agamsa ón bhfoireann atá istigh ann agus daoine eile a bhfuil baint acu leis?

Just to be very clear, I am not giving anybody wrong information. A number of different issues have been outlined from different sources and I want to clear the record. First, there was a consultant's report in 2012 which was referred to the Department at that time. Human resources, HR, issues were mentioned in it and that was a matter for the museum. A new board was appointed to the museum in July 2016. A well-being survey was commissioned last autumn and it is now dealing with HR issues in the museum and any legacy issues. The board and the director of the museum, therefore, are dealing with those issues. As I said, the well-being survey outlined a number of issues and it is on that basis that the board and the director will address the HR issues in the museum.

I want to be clear that it is not my job to get involved in HR issues. I am very clear about that. It is the responsibility of the museum. The museum has a new board and a new chairperson. It is a very good board with a very capable chairperson and there is also the director of the museum. That is their responsibility.

With regard to the case of the individual who is on administrative leave, it is my understanding that a report was sent to the Minister's Department, that there is a copy of that report in the National Museum and that this report was destroyed in the Department. It is also my information that a protected disclosure was made to the National Museum but there is no record of a protected disclosure on the Department's records or on the National Museum's records. The stand-off that exists between the Minster and the Department and the museum is very difficult to understand given that two cases were settled in the High Court around this issue.

Given that with respect to the cases with regard to heavy-handed management and bullying, a telephone call was made to the Minister's office in June 2015 about this issue, and given the fact that all these reports have come to light, it is not credible that the Minister would say that it is not her responsibility to fix this particular problem. Hundreds of thousands of euro have been spent on High Court settlements, psychotherapists and on all those reports that were carried out, and State workers have been working in a dysfunctional environment where they have not felt safe for a number of years. It is the responsibility of the Minister to come up with the goods in that scenario.

I repeat that I am advised that my Department has not received any allegations of inappropriate sexual behaviour and I am not aware of any protected disclosures. What I can say, however, is that an official in my Department received a telephone call approximately two years ago during the course of which the same issues were raised that had been previously written about to my predecessor regarding the report of 2012. I did not ignore the matter. This is a HR issue. I am not getting involved in HR issues. As the Deputy knows, HR is a specialised area for specialists. In fairness to the board of the museum, I respect the chairperson and the new board and the work they are doing at the museum. It is not appropriate for me to get involved in HR issues. It is a matter for the director and the board. It is not my role. I will not get involved in issues relating to HR. What is more, I have no proof that the museum is spending, or wasting, the type of money the Deputy mentioned on those matters. I have outlined clearly that I have no role in staff management at the museum.

Arts Funding

Niamh Smyth


22. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the amount of funding that will be delivered under pillar 2 of the Creative Ireland plan; and her views on whether this is sufficient. [12037/17]

Creative Ireland is the Government's recent policy document for enhancing Ireland's creative sector. Creative Ireland is made up of five pillars, with pillar 2 referring to the links with the local authorities. Under pillar 2 each local authority will be encouraged to create and establish a cultural team comprising the arts officers, the librarians, the heritage officers and so on and to develop a cultural plan. How much funding has the Minister allocated under pillar two and does she believe it is sufficient?

The Taoiseach and I launched the Creative Ireland Programme-Clár Éire Ildánach 2017–2022 on the 8 December 2016 as the Government legacy programme for Ireland 2016 and as the main implementation vehicle for the priorities identified in Culture 2025-Éire Ildánach, the draft cultural policy which I published in July 2016. This is a cross-Government initiative to mainstream culture and creativity in the life of the nation and to promote individual, community and national well-being.

The second pillar of the programme, enabling creativity in every community, will be implemented primarily through our local authorities as they are the primary instruments of local community engagement. Each local authority has now established a culture team bringing together arts officers, librarians, heritage officers, museum curators, archivists and other relevant personnel led by a director of services, with a nominated person as Creative Ireland co-ordinator. A dedicated budget of €1 million from the overall Creative Ireland programme budget of €5 million has been allocated to the local authorities towards the implementation of initiatives under pillar 2, including the aforementioned culture teams, the publication of a culture and creativity plan for each county, reflecting at local level the overall structure and aims of the national programme, and the implementation of Cruinniú na Cásca, a programme of arts activities and events on Easter Monday.

I understand that additional support will also be made available to the local authorities for these initiatives by the Department of Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government.

I wholeheartedly welcome the initiative. Cultural events do not only happen in Ireland's main cities but, as we know, culture is embedded in rural Ireland as much as anywhere else. This policy echoes one brought forward by my party some years ago proposing that all local authorities formulate an action plan for arts and heritage. The current level of funding is likely to be insufficient to support the real development of our towns and villages. With 31 local authorities in Ireland, each will receive approximately €33,000. This is a serious cut in funding compared with the allocation in 2016 when €3 million was allocated to local communities to implement their counties' arts and commemorative plans. For many local authorities this funding is much needed. Given the Government's previous cuts in funding for the arts and heritage sector, this is quite a significant reduction in the amount of funding they will have with which to work. During the period from 2011 to 2106, many of the main arts agencies operating within the State suffered massive funding cuts of up to 40% and that was particularly pronounced in our rural communities. Will the Minister comment on the funding issues I outlined?

The Deputy mentioned the local authorities received a funding allocation of €3 million last year. That was made up of €1 million from my Department, €1 million from the Department of Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government and €1 million from IPB Insurance. That allocation funded more than 3,500 events nationwide. There was a wonderful collaboration between local authorities and the 2016 programme. They did tremendous work and made a small amount of funding go a long way.

Funding under Creative Ireland is enabling money to put culture and creativity at the centre of communities in every county in the country. It is important that the €1 million for local authorities is not viewed in isolation.

We are increasing funding across the board. As the Deputy is aware, I increased the funding to the Arts Council by €5 million in the 2017 budget. This will support arts groups all across the country. Likewise, I increased funding to the Heritage Council by €1 million, and we all know the fantastic work that body does, particularly as part of National Heritage Week, which again involves a group-up approach at community level. I was also delighted to announce recently the €9 million arts and culture capital scheme in Cavan.

I am curious about the Minister's cultural teams. Will they involve the education and training boards, ETBs? Where are we going with our local arts and education partnerships? The Minister talked about initiatives with schools, but I hope that this model, of which she herself was very supportive, has not been dropped and that the ETBs will be involved in these cultural teams in some way or another because they have much to offer, as she knows. It is somewhat unclear whether the funding is intended just to develop a plan or whether further funding will come on stream to implement it. How it will be implemented is the huge concern for arts practitioners and arts and cultural centres around the country. Without ring-fenced funding, implementation of local authorities' plans will be seriously jeopardised and a hugely important point of all this is how we will actually implement these nice plans.

As I said, funding of €1 million has been made available to local authorities under Creative Ireland. This is enabling funding and will attract other funding. Apart from this, as the Deputy knows, I was delighted with the €9 million arts and culture capital scheme. This scheme is the most significant investment in our regional arts centres in a decade, and 85% of the funding went to projects outside of Dublin. This was about reaching out to arts groups country-wide and Townhall in Cavan is a great example. It was awarded €750,000. Of course, the Deputy is very familiar with it and she will know the people there have been crying out for funding for years. They submitted an excellent application and I was delighted to be able to support them. There are strong synergies between pillar 2 of Creative Ireland, "enabling creativity in every community", and pillar 4 of the Action Plan for Rural Development, "fostering culture and creativity in rural communities". Pillar 1 of Creative Ireland, "enabling the creative potential of every child", to which the Deputy referred, will go to the heart of our local communities through our schools and other venues where children access arts, music, drama and other disciplines. This will include the arts in education charter and my Department working with the Department of Education and Skills to make sure every child has access to the arts.

Seirbhísí trí Ghaeilge

Peadar Tóibín


23. D'fhiafraigh Deputy Peadar Tóibín den Aire Ealaíon, Oidhreachta, Gnóthaí Réigiúnacha, Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta i bhfianaise na cáipéise nua atá curtha le chéile ag Acadamh na hOllscolaíochta Gaeilge, ina léirítear imní forleathan maidir lena laghad seirbhísí poiblí atá ar fáil as Gaeilge, cad atá á dhéanamh aici chun dul i ngleic leis an easpa seirbhísí poiblí sin, cathain a thosóidh an próiseas sin; agus an ndéanfaidh sí ráiteas ina thaobh. [11789/17]

An teachtaireacht atá ag teacht ón Rialtas ná foghlaim an Ghaeilge, labhair an Ghaeilge ach ná labhair linne mar Stát í. Ar maidin chuaigh mé i dteagmháil leis an Revenue. Bhí píosa oibre le dhéanamh agam. Roghnaigh mé an líne as Gaeilge. Tar éis ceithre nóiméad tháinig duine ar ais chugam agus dúirt siad "Oh sure I have no Irish at all". Cúpla bliain ó shin chuaigh mé i dteagmháil le heagraíocht Stáit ag iarraidh léarscáil Gaeilge a fháil agus dúirt an fear liom: "Do you think we can make maps for every hobby in the country?" Léiríonn sé sin meon an Stáit mar gheall ar sheirbhís na Gaeilge. Cathain a bheidh an Rialtas sásta seirbhísí na Gaeilge a chur ar fáil le haghaidh daoine sa Ghaeltacht agus Gaeilgeoirí thart timpeall na tíre?

Is é príomhaidhm Acht na dTeangacha Oifigiúla 2003 a chinntiú go gcuirtear feabhas ar sholáthar seirbhísí poiblí trí Ghaeilge agus is tríd na scéimeanna teanga faoi alt 11 den Acht go príomha a chuireann comhlachtaí poiblí seirbhísí ar fáil don phobal.

Tá próiseas leanúnach ar bun ag oifigigh mo Roinne chun scéimeanna teanga a dhaingniú le go leor comhlachtaí poiblí a thagann faoi scáth Acht na dTeangacha Oifigiúla 2003. Ón eolas is déanaí atá ar fáil do mo Roinn, tá 214 scéim teanga san iomlán daingnithe le comhlachtaí poiblí éagsúla, ón uair gur tháinig an tAcht i bhfeidhm, ar a n-áirítear céad, dara agus tríú scéimeanna. Ag tógáil san áireamh athruithe atá tagtha chun cinn mar thoradh ar scor nó ar athstruchtúrú comhlachtaí poiblí éagsúla le tamall anuas, tá 121 comhlacht poiblí san iomlán clúdaithe faoi na scéimeanna teanga i láthair na huaire. Ina theannta sin, tá plé gníomhach ar siúl le tuairim is 120 comhlacht poiblí faoi láthair chun scéimeanna teanga a aontú leo. Tá scéim daingnithe le gach Roinn Stáit agus le gach comhairle contae, seachas ceann amháin. Is féidir a rá go bhfuil scéim daingnithe le mórchuid na gcomhlachtaí poiblí a mbíonn plé rialta ag an phobal leo.

Ar ndóigh, ní miste a mheabhrú gur cúram d'Oifig an Choimisinéara Teanga féachaint chuige go bhfuil na gealltanais atá tugtha ag comhlachtaí poiblí i scéimeanna teanga á gcomhlíonadh acu.

Ní miste a nótáil go bhfanann scéim teanga i bhfeidhm, faoi réir alt 14(3) den Acht Teanga, ar feadh trí bliana ón dáta a dhaingnítear í, nó go dtí go ndaingnítear scéim nua, cibé acu is moille. Tá sé aitheanta go bhfuil an próiseas chun scéimeanna teanga a aontú dúshlánach, go háirithe sa chomhthéacs reatha ina bhfuil brú mór ar acmhainní. Tá céimeanna éagsúla á mbeartú chun an próiseas aontaithe scéimeanna a éascú, go háirithe i gcomhthéacs na leasuithe reachtúla atá beartaithe ar an Acht Teanga.

Ón uair gur tháinig córas na scéimeanna i bhfeidhm faoin Acht Teanga, tá sé tábhachtach a aithint go bhfuil feabhas tagtha ar líon agus ar chaighdeán na seirbhísí Stáit a chuireann comhlachtaí poiblí ar fáil i nGaeilge. Aithníodh ón tús gur próiseas forchéimnitheach a bheadh i gceist le feidhmiú an Achta, ag tógáil céimeanna de réir a chéile le comhoibriú agus le dea-thoil na bpáirtithe leasmhara éagsúla.

Ceapaim go bhfuilimid ag dul in olcas i ndairíre mar fiú go bhfuil scéim teanga daingnithe ag an Aire agus ag an Rialtas, conas a bhfuil fhios aige go bhfuil siad ag oibriú? Conas a bhfuil fhios aige go bhfuil na heagraíochtaí ag comhlíonadh a gcuid dualgas mar gheall ar na scéimeanna sin? An bhfuil Revenue faoin scéim? Ní raibh mise in ann aon seirbhís a fháil as Gaeilge inniu ó Revenue. Is féidir gach scéim a chur i bhfeidhm ach muna bhfuil an Rialtas sásta daoine a earcú le Gaeilge fheidhmeach ní oibreoidh na seirbhísí amach sa todhchaí. Sin leath den fhabhb.

Táimid beagnach ag teacht chuig deireadh na straitéise 20 bliain. Chuir mise ceist pharlaiminte i ndiadh ceist pharlaiminte isteach ag lorg an dáta foilseacháin agus ní dhearna an Rialtas dada ach an cheist a chur ar an méar fháda. Is léir dúinne uile an chúis a bhí leis an ndrogall a bhí air an cháipéis a fhoilsiú. Léiríonn sí teip mhór an Rialtais i leith na Gaeilge. Taispeántar dúinne i measc iliomad laigí eile go bhfuil easpa seirbhísí poiblí ar fáil as Gaeilge. Cad a dhéanfaidh an tAire Stáit chun dul i ngleic leis an laghad sheirbhísí poiblí seo? Cathain a dtosnóidh an próiseas chun dul i ngleic leis na fadhbanna seo?

Is mór an trua nach bhfuair an Teachta seirbhís ón gCoimisinéir Ioncaim ar maidin nó i rith na seachtaine. Chuala mé ó dhaoine eile a bhí ag freastal ar an gCoimisinéir Ioncaim go raibh siad in ann seirbhís a fháil trí Ghaeilge. Níl fhios agam cén fáth nach raibh an Teachta in ann ar an ócáid seo. Tá dualgas ar an gCoimisinéir Teanga agus a fheidhmeannaigh monatóireacht a dhéanamh ar na scéimeanna. An bhfuil siad ag oibriú? An bhfuil daoine in ann seirbhísí a fháil trí mheán na Gaeilge ó chuile seirbhís Stáit?

Ó thaobh an méid atáimid ag déanamh faoi láthair, níl sé fíor go bhfuilimid ag teacht chuig deireadh na straitéise. Nílimid ach sa séú bhliain de 20. Níl sé fíor go bhfuilimid ag teacht go deireadh na straitéise. Ag cruinniú in 2013 chuir an Rialtas tús le cur chuige nua chun cumas agus úsáid na Gaeilge sa Státseirbhís a threisiú. Tháinig na socruithe nua in áit an chórais a bhí ann go dtí sin maidir le marcanna bónais i gcomórtais earcaíochta agus arduithe céime as a bheith inniúil sa Ghaeilge.

An rud atá mé ag rá ná go bhfuilimid ag teacht chuig deireadh na deise chun an straitéis a chur i bhfeidhm. Táimid ag teacht chuig deireadh na deise chun na cuspóirí atá istigh sa straitéis a bhaint amach. Is léir nach bhfuilimid ag teacht chuig na figiúirí mar gheall ar sheirbhísí, achmhainní nó cainteoirí laethúla taobh amuigh den Státchóras.

Bhí an tAire Stáit ag caint faoin gCoimisinéir Teanga. Sheas an iar-Choimisinéir Teanga siar. An fáth a sheas sé siar ná go raibh sé iomlán den tuairim nach raibh sé in ann a chuid poist a chomhlíonadh agus nach raibh an Stát sásta seasamh taobh thiar de na focail a bhí á rá aige. Dar leis an gCoimisinéir Teanga atá ann anois, tá teip iomlán déanta ag an Rialtas maidir leis na cúraimí atá aige.

An t-eolas atá ag teacht chugainn ná nach mbeimid in ann cuspóirí na straitéise 20 bliain a bhaint amach muna bhfuil athrú iomlán i meon an Rialtais. Nílim lán cinnte. Ceapaim go bhfuil dearcadh dearfach ag an Aire Stáit mar gheall ar na rudaí ach níl an bheirt Airí in aice leis fiú ag éisteacht leis an gceist. Ní thuigeann siad cad atá i mbun na ceisteanna seo. Níl an cumhacht nó an toil chuí ag an Rialtas dul i ngleic leis na fadhbanna atá i gceist.

Aontaím leis an Teachta go dteastaíonn níos mó a dhéanamh agus feabhas a chur ar sheirbhísí trí mheán na Gaeilge ón seirbhís phoiblí. Ó thaobh cad atáimid ag déanamh, tá sé socruithe ag an Roinn Caiteachas Phoiblí agus Athchóirithe go ndéanfaidh Ranna agus oifigí Rialtais sainaithint ar phoist agus ar réimsí oibre inar dteastaíonn oifigí le Gaeilge. De réir an pholasaí nua, tá beartas á chur i bhfeidhm leis an méid daoine atá in ann a gcuid oibre a dhéanamh go dátheangach a mhéadú. Tá sé seo á dhéanamh chun go mbeidh cur chuige ann a bheidh dírithe ar iomaíocht i gcomhthéacs chomórtas earcaíochta agus ardaithe céime don Stáitseirbhís. Mar chuid den phróiséas nua seo, tá fo-phainéil d'íarrtheoirí cáilithe dátheangacha le bunú mar thoradh ar an gcomórtas atá ar siúl faoi láthair ag an Seirbhís um Cheapacháin Phoiblí, PAS, d'oifigigh chléireachais, oifigigh fheidhmiúcháin agus oifigigh riaracháin. Cuireann na ceapacháin a dhéanfar ó na fo-phainéil seo go mór le cumas na Ranna éagsúla seirbhísí níos fearr a chur ar fáil trí Ghaeilge.

Toisc go bhfuilim in amhras maidir le feidhmiú an chóras seo, tá sé iarraithe agam ar mo oifigigh comhrá oscailte a thógáil le comhghleacaithe i Ranna eile féachaint an féidir an córais a fheabsú. Tá siad i mbun na hoibre sin faoi láthair agus tá siad ag déanamh dul chun cinn maith.

Brexit Issues

Joan Burton


24. Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs her role in dealing with the consequences of Brexit within a regional and rural affairs context and the threat it poses to communities on both sides of the Border; the contingencies her Department has prepared in view of the threats it poses to the livelihoods of persons in rural Ireland; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11791/17]

Ba mhaith liom ceist a chur ar an Aire mar gheall ar Brexit agus cad atá á dhéanamh aici agus ag an Roinn chun cabhair a thabhairt do mhuintir na réigiún ar an dá thaobh den Teorainn. An bhfuil a fhios aici go bhfuil an-eagla ar dhaoine go mbeidh poist chustaim ann arís ar an Teorainn?

I am acutely aware of the challenges arising from Brexit for rural Ireland and for the Border area in particular. Last November, I hosted a productive public forum on Brexit in Monaghan which was attended by a range of interests from the Border region. I also hosted a sectoral dialogue on Brexit in Cavan on 6 February which was attended by over 100 stakeholders from across the arts, culture, film, heritage, Irish language, regional and rural affairs sectors.

This sectoral dialogue meeting focused on the impacts of Brexit on the sectors served by my Department, with particular attention being given to the impact on rural and Border communities. This event was part of the ongoing engagement with civil society initiated through the series of all-island civic dialogues hosted by the Taoiseach.

The actions set out in Realising our Rural Potential - the Government's Action Plant for Rural Development, which was launched in January - will also assist in supporting rural communities, including those in Border areas, to meet the challenges posed by Brexit and to position themselves to avail of the opportunities which may arise. The action plan contains over 270 actions to be delivered by a range of Government Departments, State agencies and other bodies and sets out to support sustainable communities, support enterprise and employment, maximise our rural and recreation potential, foster culture and creativity and improve rural connectivity.

The plan sets out a number of actions which will address the effects of Brexit in particular. For example, specific research will be commissioned on the impact of Brexit on rural areas, and particularly rural areas in the Border region. InterTradeIreland will fund the development of a programme of initiatives to increase the awareness and capacity of SMEs to deal with the practical consequences of Brexit for cross-Border trade.

I am confident my Department’s preparations for Brexit are comprehensive and will assist in ensuring that rural communities and businesses are equipped as best as they can be to deal with the issues which will arise.

Is the Minister aware of the indication, which has been confirmed by an tAire Airgeadais, that there may be customs posts along the Border and that, in the event of Britain leaving the customs union, the Republic will be the border of the 27 remaining states and that the Northern Ireland side of the Border will be the frontier for the United Kingdom? I am sure the Minister is aware that this is highly concerning for people living along the Border. Matters improved dramatically for communities in the aftermath of Britain joining the EU and since the commencement of the peace process. Now, there is an open Border. We could very soon have a difficult situation. Has the Minister met the Minister for Finance to discuss this issue? Has she or her officials met Revenue and Customs and Excise to find out what they are doing in terms of scouting possible sites for Border posts? Could she enlighten us about what she has done on that? It is the big fear. Tá an-eagla ar mhuintir na háite mar gheall air sin.

I live five or six miles from the Border. I am very conscious of the issues Brexit will have on the Border area. There is no doubt that issues will arise. There are threats but also opportunities, which is something somebody said to me. On Monday, I spoke to a man who lives very close to the Border. He said we cannot be all negative about this because opportunities will arise as a result of this as well. I am very conscious, as is the Government, of the potential consequences of Brexit in the Border areas. We have emphasised this in our engagement with EU and UK counterparts. That message is well understood. For example, Michel Barnier, the EU's chief negotiator on Brexit, has indicated that border issues - meaning matters that affect our Border with Northern Ireland and Spain's border with Gibraltar - are one of just four key issues to be addressed in the Brexit negotiation. This is an issue that will certainly be addressed in the negotiations. Before the elections in Northern Ireland I spoke to my counterparts, the Ministers, Chris Hazzard and Paul Givan, about issues in my Department regarding Waterways Ireland.

My question was in the context of the Minister's position as Minister with responsibility for the regions and regional development. Has she met the Minister for Finance to specifically raise with him the issue of the possible return of Border customs posts? It has been suggested there could potentially be five or six major customs points? As the Minister said, she lives close to the Border so she knows the implications of that. If there are approved customs points, many of the roads that the Minister and others use will essentially become unapproved for customs purposes. Has she met the Minister for Finance and Revenue and Customs to discuss what they are doing? My question asked the Minister about contingencies. The largest and most difficult contingency facing the Minister - in her ministerial capacity and in her constituency - is the return to a hard Border. Has she met the people who are potentially scoping out areas where there may be customs posts? That is the question. I appreciate the Minister's answer on the other matters but could she tell us about this? As Minister with responsibility for regional affairs and in light of where she lives, I thought she would be very aware of that.

I meet the Minister for Finance at least once a week at the Cabinet meeting. I have raised the issues regarding the Border and Brexit. We want free movement of people. We want to maintain and build on the peace process. We want to support all that was achieved through the Good Friday Agreement and the Fresh Start agreement. We want to have free trade and movement of goods across the Border. It happens every day in a seamless manner. We want to maintain that in so far as we can. As I have mentioned, the EU's chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, has indicated that matters which affect our Border with Northern Ireland comprise one of the four key issues to be addressed in the Brexit negotiations. I am very aware and conscious of the points made by the Deputy.

I regret that the Minister has not discussed them with the Minister for Finance.

I have discussed them.

What have the Ministers discussed?

I meet him every week at Cabinet meetings.