Topical Issue Debate

Residential Institutions Data

I thank the Minister for taking this matter. I sent him some of the documents I have in advance, which I am sure he has in his pack.

I was approached by Mr. Tom Wall, who is a former resident of St. Joseph's industrial school, Glin, County Limerick, which was a notorious industrial school that featured in many publications. It featured in the Ryan report and, indeed, Tom Wall wrote a book on his experience, life and times in the former industrial school, which states:

Tom Wall was born in Limerick in 1949. At three years of age, he was detained at St. Joseph's industrial school for senior boys in Glin, County Limerick, where he was regularly beaten, bullied, left cold and hungry, and, worst of all, sexually abused. He is the only survivor from Glin industrial school who continues to live in Glin, a short distance from where the industrial school once stood.

Mr. Wall approached me recently and revealed that in 1973, when he was in his early 20s, he was brought back to work in the industrial school by the Christian Brothers who were in the process of vacating the premises. One of the duties he was asked to perform was to take all the records of all the former residents of the school and burn them. There was a file on every boy who went through the school, which contained many pieces of information in respect of each resident. He asked if he could retain his own file and he was told that he could retain whatever he wanted. He retained a significant number of documents, put them in safe keeping and held them for 40 years. That was a proactive move at that point in time because he moved to preserve those documents, which the Christian Brothers wanted to burn.

In 2015, he donated the entire collection of original documents to the University of Limerick, UL, for safe keeping and for them to be maintained and catalogued. However, the Christian Brothers acting through one of the most high profile solicitors in the country are now threatening legal action and seeking to recover the documents from UL in their entirety. Mr. Wall has engaged with the Christian Brothers in a proactive manner and has said to them that they will afford the Christian Brothers a copy of the documents but they are not getting the original documents. That is at his insistence. He feels that, unfortunately - it is with regret that I say this - the Christian Brothers cannot be trusted in regard to having exclusive possession of the original documents.

A recent report of the Committee of Public Accounts highlighted how they have not lived up to their obligations under the deal they did with the State and we also have seen what is documented in the Ryan report. It is important to realise that these documents include health reports of the former residents, referral letters from the courts service, education referral letters from the Department of Education as well as letters the boys in the schools wrote to their parents and families which were never sent by the Christian Brothers. There are different types of documents in these records. They are, in the first instance, the property of the former residents of the industrial school or their representatives and, second, the State has a claim on these papers because many of them are State papers. I do not have an issue with the Christian Brothers having a copy of these documents. However, a former resident, who is an abuse survivor and who has acted to preserve to these records, is being threatened in a high handed manner by them as they seek to recover these documents to the exclusion of everybody else.

Can the Minister intervene on behalf of the State to secure the documents? Can he take possession of the documents? I also wrote to Tusla about this issue. Would the Minister be willing to meet Mr. Wall to hear at first hand his account of this matter?

I thank the Deputy for raising this matter, which only came into the public domain recently. I had no knowledge of it until it was reported in the newspapers.

With regard to records over which the Department has control, we have a number that relate to the former industrial and reformatory schools. They cover areas such as general inspection, medical inspection and certification. There are also registers which provide details of children who were admitted through the courts system as well as individual files on some of these children. The Department made available such records as were required for the work of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse, CICA, which ultimately led to the Ryan report. The Department also provided personal records of many thousands of former residents who applied for such records under freedom of information legislation.

Apart from such records held by my Department, a significant volume of records are also held in the archives of the congregations that managed the schools. Indeed, such records were also sought and used in the work of CICA and the formulation of the Ryan report. The existence of such distinct sets of records held by the various congregations has been acknowledged by the State. They were obviously created, maintained and archived independently of the State. In such circumstances, my Department has never sought to take ownership of such records. While I understand that the question of the use and ownership of the records in question has been under discussion among various parties, this has only recently come to the attention of my Department.

I understand that a number of parties have expressed an interest in the retention, use and ownership of the records in question. It also appears that certain parties in question have sought independent legal services and that all involved have specific views on a resolution of the issue. It is important to emphasise that the State is not a party to these proceedings. This is not surprising given the State has not now, or at any previous time, had ownership or possession of the records in question. In such circumstances, where litigation is pending, it would be inappropriate for me to comment on how and where these records should be dealt with.

The Deputy raised specific questions about whether the State has the power to seize these documents. I do not know of any such power in my Department but I cannot be decisive on that issue because I do not know whether powers reside in another Department.

It is important that the Minister understands that the fear is that the Christian Brothers would take sole possession of these documents and they would not be available to any of the former residents or their representatives. That is the key point. Unfortunately - I say it with regret - the Christian Brothers have not been honourable in their dealings with many former abuse survivors or with the State. It is imperative that there should be an honest broker in the middle and the State should be that honest broker. Tusla or the Minister's Department should maintain a copy of the records.

Mr. Wall is clear that he has no issue with the Christian Brothers getting a copy of the documents. The reason they should not have sole possession of the documents is that some of them are incriminating. For example, a document was given to me which is effectively a contract for sale under which boys were sold out of the industrial school into the labour market. Boys worked for a number of years on farms but the Christian Brothers were paid. The boys were effectively sold into slavery. If somebody knocks on their door, the Christian Brothers will not make these records available to former residents or their representatives. It is important that the State should take an active interest in this dispute because, regardless of whether we like it, the State is a player. The State placed these children in the former industrial schools where they were abused and let down. These records should be available to them. In fairness to UL, it is an honest broker. The documents are sealed in the university and a dispute is pending. It is incumbent on the Minister and the chief executive officer of Tusla to address this issue. I have written to the CEO of Tusla and he has not responded yet. I received an acknowledgement from the Minister and he is responding to this matter now. We need to see the State showing an interest. Will the Minister be available to meet Mr. Wall to discuss this issue further following this debate?

As I understand it, this issue is potentially being litigated in the courts so it is not appropriate for me to get involved in meeting sides-----

It is not in the courts yet.

-----in the context of a potential court case. Those who hold the records have indicated they will only release them on foot of a court order. I recognise the concern the Deputy raises about whether there is a power somewhere to protect these records. There is another issue about who has access to such records. The records that were presented to the Ryan report were highly confidential and they are not discoverable by individuals apart from individuals who have a right to their personal records under FOI and so on. I simply do not have the knowledge about whether there is power to provide a protection order of some description to records of this nature. As far as I can establish, there is no such power in my Department to essentially put a freeze on what are private records in this context. All I can say to the Deputy is that I will make further inquiries to see if there are such powers. I can understand the concern people have that such records should be protected and preserved and available where individuals have concerns. I do not know whether these are records that were submitted to the Ryan report or what their status is. This has only come to our attention very recently. They are private records as far as my Department is concerned. The Department was never given power, through the Ryan report or any of that phase, to seize, protect or collate on behalf of the State records that were in the hands of the congregations. I will have to come back to the Deputy on the issue.

School Curriculum

I thank the Minister for being here to answer the question. I was shocked to discover before Christmas last year that there are no leaving certificate applied options available for secondary school students in all of County Leitrim. Since it was brought to my attention, I raised the issue initially with the Taoiseach on December 13 during Questions on Promised Legislation. I submitted several parliamentary questions and wrote to the Minister highlighting the situation. I find it incredible that a recognised State curriculum is completely unavailable to students in all of County Leitrim.

There are over 800,000 people aged between ten and 24 in Ireland. As these young people transition from adolescence to adulthood and from primary school to secondary school and further education or work, they are faced with major changes, pressures, expectations and opportunities. We must ensure their voices are heard and that they are respected, safe and healthy and that they meet their full potential in life and education. The two-year leaving certificate applied programme is designed for students who do not wish to proceed directly to higher education or for those whose needs, aptitudes and learning styles are not fully catered for by the other two leaving certificate programmes. The experiences are active and practical with less emphasis on final examinations. The programme provides for a wealth of opportunity which enhances the self-esteem and confidence of students with regular feedback on their success and achievements. Education is the key to giving every child an equal opportunity in life. Ireland is recognised as having a strong education system with a well-trained and committed teaching profession yet too many of our children still fall through the cracks and are in danger of being left behind, as is the case in County Leitrim. Page 86 of the programme for Government states that "the Government, working in conjunction with the Oireachtas must ... equip young people with key enabling skills for the future so they can meet their full potential in a fast-changing world". Page 90 of the programme states that the Government will "introduce greater flexibility in our schools and pursue measures to achieve this" and that "This may include nurturing different ambitions through new subject choices, greater engagement with enterprise on future skills needs, and increased flexibility". The Government is not adhering to its own commitments.

There is a concerned parent in south County Leitrim whose child attends school there and whose educational psychologist has recommended the student be enrolled on a leaving certificate applied course. However, the school the student attends does not provide that programme. No school in County Leitrim offers the leaving certificate applied curriculum. In response to a parliamentary question and a letter to the Minister, Deputy Bruton, I received a copy and paste response which advised me that "It is the responsibility and choice of each individual school to decide to put in place the LCA programme, including the admittance of a student to the programme". In this instance, is it not a matter for the Department to intervene? Are parents and children in County Leitrim just to get on with it? Teachers have raised concerns that the falling numbers opting for LCA are as a result of choices forced on schools by education cutbacks. Due to staffing limitations imposed by several budgets, some schools have dropped programmes such as the LCA altogether. This is a matter for the Department of Education and Skills and the Department must address it, particularly in the instances where the educational psychologist has recommended a student for the leaving certificate applied programme.

Level 4 education is an essential component of the education system which each and every child is entitled to and it is being denied to children in County Leitrim. Society has an expectation that young people embrace change. Those of us charged with education must step up to the mark. There are students in County Leitrim who are not being educationally supported to prepare positively for their future. They are being denied the entitlement of their required educational needs, which is confirmed by the National Educational Psychological Service as the leaving certificate applied qualification. The statistics relating to schools in neighbouring counties offering the programme are staggering. Records from 2016 show there were 48 in County Sligo, 14 in County Roscommon, 79 in County Galway, 73 in County Mayo and 136 in County Donegal but none in County Leitrim. This is not an acceptable situation. Students in County Leitrim are losing out. The education system is failing children in the county. Putting them on a bus and sending them to counties Sligo or Roscommon is not the answer.

The Deputy will have further opportunity to reply.

I am calling on the Minister for Education and Skills to rectify the situation and ensure all students have access to the leaving certificate applied irrespective of where they live.

I thank Deputy Scanlon for raising this issue. It is our desire that parents and children should have the best pathway possible available to them. I see from the statistics in respect of County Leitrim that while last year no children from County Leitrim participated in the leaving certificate applied, the previous year 11 children took part. It is not that no school is offering it. Where children seek it in a school that provides it they obviously will be provided with the option. The Department has not imposed cutbacks in any way in this area - far from it. A school that decides to take on the leaving certificate applied gets an additional allocation of half a teaching post regardless of the number of children who take it on. We have taken steps to ensure there is resourcing available for schools to take this on. Notwithstanding that, it is true that about one third of all schools offer the leaving certificate applied. It is not every school, by any means, but it is available and they get the premium staffing resource to allow them to deliver it. We do not compel schools to provide it. We do not have the legal power to compel schools to run particular items of curriculum apart from elements of the curriculum that are compulsory. We do not have that power. It is up to the local schools to decide, based on the needs and desires of their pupils, to provide this programme. We provide a substantial incentive to support them in providing that programme.

It is correct, as the Deputy says, that there has been some decline in participation, which is down from 5.8% in 2010 to 4.7%. The NCCA is reviewing this, along with the rest of the leaving certificate, to see if provision in this area is appropriate to the needs of all children who are offering to participate in the leaving certificate programme. We will look specifically at things that may be discouraging participation such as its standing with employers. We will also look at the pathways. It is hoped that the leaving certificate applied can provide a pathway into post-leaving certificate courses, traineeships and other options so that it is an attractive pathway.

However, we do not do what the Deputy has suggested and impose an obligation on schools to provide the leaving certificate applied programme. It is the responsibility of each school to decide the matter based on its student composition. If the Deputy wishes to draw attention to a particular case though, I would be happy to get the advice of appropriate agencies in the Department for him and the family concerned.

I thank the Minister for his response. I understand his point and have read the answers to my parliamentary questions. Officials write those answers, but the Minister, like me, must consider the human side of this matter. We meet the people who attend our clinics.

The case in question involves a single mother with a young child for whom a psychologist has recommended a leaving certificate applied course, but such a course is not available in the child's school. I understand the Minister's comments on extra staffing, but if the school cannot, or refuses to, offer the course, I do not know what can be done. The mother is out of her mind with worry, as the parent of any child with special needs would be. She is working and providing for her family, but she is not in a position to drive 20, 30 or 40 miles to and from another school. The stress that she is being placed under is unfair.

I will revert to the Minister regarding this case. Through his good office, will he do everything that he can to ensure that this child is catered for?

I will attempt to assist. It is a different programme with a different structure - vocational preparation, general education and vocational education - over four half-year blocks that are accredited at the end of each. The programme is not just an add-on, and a school undertaking it must commit to providing a certain structure to the course.

I do not know the details of individual schools, but it would appear that schools in Leitrim have provided this programme previously. Given that a number of children in Leitrim are offering to participate in it next year, they must be attending some school that is providing it. It may be possible that the programme can be provided in a school other than the one the child in question is attending.

This has nothing to do with cutbacks, which the Deputy suggested in his opening remarks. This is not a move to reduce the programme. We are constantly increasing our investment in this area and are trying to add resource teachers and so on to meet needs. This is a matter of seeking practical solutions to meet each individual's needs.

I will arrange for people to contact the Deputy so that we can see whether there is any assistance the Department can offer.

Schools Building Projects

I thank the Minister for taking this matter. I am unsure as to whether he is familiar with the Meakstown area. It has grown considerably to over 3,000 units, with more on the way. It covers Charlestown, Lanesborough, Seagrave, Mayeston, Creston and Melville in the Fingal area and Hampton Wood in the Dublin City Council area. According to recent statistics, its population has increased by 15%. It has been in existence for nearly 18 years, and in that time no community centre, crèche, school, playing surface or playground has been provided. Even the main park has not been completed thanks to a dispute over a piece of land. The rates levied on the Charlestown shopping centre have run into the millions of euro over the centre's existence.

When I raised these matters with the planners in the early stages, I was told that all of the money had to be pooled to pay for facilities in other areas. This area has deliberately been built up with no infrastructure and the fees it has paid have been invested in other areas. That is scandalous and I have never heard of the like happening elsewhere.

More developments are being built in Charlestown, Creston, Lanesborough and Mayeston. Recently, Fingal County Council engaged in a local area plan and consulted residents. After years of being pressed by me, Councillor Philip Lynam, other public representatives and the residents themselves, we have managed for the first time to get the council to consult. In fairness, the new CEO is on board, but previous CEOs and others let us down badly in terms of planning.

The area development plan is broken. I call on the Minister and his officials to tell Fingal County Council that this is unacceptable and facilities must be put in place. The past has shown us that, if facilities are not put in place, we will end up with anti-social problems and other issues and the area will become run down. To build an area like Meakstown and not provide facilities is criminal, but that is how the area has been treated. It is unacceptable. Every requirement of proper planning has been contravened. The practice of pooling money and spending it elsewhere instead of on a new scheme - I am not just referring to small schemes, but large ones like new schools - makes no sense to me. It makes no sense to the Minister either. Will he explain to Fingal County Council through his officials that this situation is unacceptable and action is needed?

I thank Deputy Ellis for raising this matter. Like many of the issues that he raises, I sympathise with it, as I understand the pressure on growing areas and the difficulties that poses. However, questions of development fees being collected and applied to purposes other than local community facilities are more for the local authority than me as Minister for Education and Skills.

Regarding my Department's approach to such matters, we have 314 local planning areas. We examine the demographical statistics, enrolments at preschool level and so on in order to identify any upcoming need for schools. We are conducting such an analysis at the moment using fresh demographic data. As of today, however, the Department has not identified a need within the Ballymun-Finglas east planning area. Currently, there is an enrolment of 3,642 pupils in the area. As of today, the Department believes that the nine schools have the capacity to provide the necessary service. A fresh review is under way. In the event of it identifying a need, there will be a process to find a patron for any new school.

Regarding longer term planning where houses are being built, my Department has a protocol or code of practice in place with the local authorities for school provision so that land is reserved in the event of there being substantial population growth. As such, there is a capacity to identify and provide sites.

As of today, the Department reports that the existing schools in the neighbourhood, of which there are nine, have the capacity to meet the immediate demand for places so there is not a plan for a commitment to a construction project in this area at present.

In the course of the local area plan consultation, people were asked to identify the problems in the area and everyone pointed to the lack of a community centre and education facilities, among other issues which I outlined. The situation is not good enough. This is a vast area and people are being told there is capacity at the other end of Finglas to deal with the population needs. The population is rising and more houses and apartments are being built.

I note what the Minister said about how he calculates what is needed in the area in terms of the building of schools but I do not accept it. There is an opportunity to build a multidenominational Irish or other school in the area. Such a school is badly needed. The area is vast and the public transport linkages are very poor and people must travel a distance to bring their children to school.

I urge the Minister to talk to the Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government, Deputy Coveney. It is not good enough to build residential developments and not to put infrastructural facilities in place. I accept that the responsibility of the Minister, Deputy Bruton, is education, but I would be grateful if he could ask the Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government to examine the issue with his officials and convey to the local authority in question, Fingal County Council, that in future, it must ensure proper facilities are put in place. Those facilities include schools. There is a need for schools in the area as there is a growth in population and more housing schemes are coming on-stream. There will be a deficit of school places in the future and the Minister must make provision for that. It is all well and good looking at statistics but when one is on the ground one sees the need and people tell us they need the facilities.

I understand the Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government, Deputy Coveney, is currently consulting on a spatial strategy that considers the type of issues raised by Deputy Ellis, such as how we plan for growth in communities and ensure we do not have overpopulation in some areas and the run-down of facilities in others. There is an opportunity for that much broader point to be presented to the Minister in a very coherent way by the Deputy and the community he represents. I will convey the Deputy's concerns to the Minister, Deputy Coveney.

From an educational point of view, I am working hard to provide seats for 20,000 students every year based on proven need where existing schools simply do not have enough provision. The provision of 20,000 places exhausts 80% of the budget so it leaves me with very little scope for expansion beyond that. I am working hard to ensure that whenever a child comes out of preschool that there is a place for him or her. We do not build schools in advance on the basis that an area will have 10,000 houses in 20 years' time and we should start building the school now.

We should do that.

That is not the way it is done in the Department. We build on a just-in-time basis, to use the related commercial term for the way school facilities are delivered, and that exhausts our resources.

I assure the Deputy that we will examine planning in the area based on need and we will examine the demographic trends, the trends in preschools serving the area and assessing where that is heading and if there is a need for which we must begin to plan.

Arts Funding

I thank the Ceann Comhairle for affording me the opportunity to raise this issue, which is a very important matter locally. I thank the Minister for coming into the House to reply to the debate.

The matter I raise refers to The Moat Club in Naas, County Kildare, which is famous for its traditional fostering of the arts in drama and music and also for the number of people it has assisted, promoted and attracted to its facilities over the years. The centre is renowned locally and nationally for the quality and professionalism of its performances.

Like all voluntary organisations, The Moat Club has ongoing funding needs, and in order to comply with health and safety requirements and to ensure patrons, staff and all associated with it are in a safe environment, the club made an application to the Minister for grant aid in the current year. Unfortunately, due to a number of issues that were beyond my control and that of most others, the club did not qualify for funding. An application had been made for in excess of €180,000 and it was a huge blow to the club that it did not get it, given that it was relying on the funding to continue its performances in the future, to keep the quality and standards high, and to ensure that it operated in a safe environment. However, that was not to be but that is another story. The show goes on and we must find ways and means to ensure the club operates in a safe environment.

The Minister has access to some funding later in the year which could possibly facilitate groups and organisations such as The Moat Club in Naas. It would be money well spent. I ask the Minister to favourably consider an application from the club for funding when the time comes. The town and its environs suffered considerably during the downturn in the economy and it is taking somewhat longer to recover than some of the other towns in the area. In those circumstances, it is of particular importance that we would apply ourselves to the best of our ability to try to ensure that the funding required by the club, or at least most of it, might be made available to it in the shortest possible time.

The club is a local community organisation that has put on shows for generations. It has won awards at national and international level and people of international stature perform at the club. I refer, for example, to Celine Byrne, Rebecca Storm, Tommy Fleming, John Kenny and Mary McEvoy, Ballet Ireland, Neil Delamere and Pat Shortt, who have all performed there with distinction. A total of 23,000 people go through the doors to support those performances on an annual basis. The club provides five to six shows every year and it is renowned for the quality of the performances. The Minister knows the story and I urge her to bear it in mind when the time comes for the allocation of the remaining resources within the Department which could aptly be applied to this organisation.

I thank Deputy Durkan for raising this matter. The arts and culture capital scheme is the most significant investment in regional arts and cultural centres in a decade. This kind of investment goes to the very heart of what I am trying to achieve through Creative Ireland and the Action Plan for Rural Development. Creative Ireland aims to place culture and creativity at the heart of every community nationwide, while the rural action plan seeks to revitalise rural towns and villages through a range of investments and initiatives. The Creative Ireland programme places a focus on investing in our cultural infrastructure, because high quality infrastructure is critical for a vibrant arts and culture sector, which in turn underpins social cohesion and supports sustainable economic growth.

I have visited numerous arts and cultural centres in recent years, and it is abundantly clear to me that we are well served in terms of the number of centres nationwide. The main objective of the capital grants is to maintain and enhance the existing stock of arts and culture centres across the country, many of which need to be upgraded. In that regard, more than 85% of the investment is going to projects outside Dublin. The scheme was considerably over-subscribed. My Department received 106 applications in total under stream 1 and 2 requesting funding of just over €20 million. Detailed selection criteria and eligibility requirements were published in the guidelines of the scheme. There was a two-stage assessment process. The first stage involved all applications being reviewed on receipt to ensure eligibility. All eligible applications were then forwarded to an assessment panel which undertook the second stage of the assessment of the applications which advanced from stage one. The assessment panel reviewed each eligible application within the defined criteria and scored them accordingly. The recommendations were then forwarded to me for decision as set out in the published scheme conditions. Following the assessment process, 56 projects are being funded and will benefit from this capital investment, including theatres, heritage centres, galleries, archives, integrated arts centres, artist studios and creative and performance spaces.

Unfortunately, some organisations, including the project to which the Deputy refers, have been unsuccessful on this occasion as they did not meet the eligibility criteria as set out under the terms of the scheme. However, my Department is happy to engage with each applicant on the specific applications. In this regard, my Department has been in contact with the applicant, which has since forwarded the outstanding documentation not provided at the time of the application. Should further funding become available, this application can be given further consideration. Unsuccessful applicants have also been informed of the stream 3 small capital grant scheme for arts and cultural facilities, which I will be announcing shortly. It will be geared towards providing smaller capital grants of up to €20,000 to not-for-profit organisations with a defined arts and cultural remit. Whereas the amounts involved are relatively modest, the grants will in themselves make a major difference to individual organisations.

I understand the disappointment of the Moat Theatre and arts centre, which is run on a totally voluntary basis, as the Deputy noted. I understand its disappointment but my Department is happy to work with the organisation.

I hope that in the course of the discussions that take place in the near future, it will be possible to identify the most likely opportunities to make some funding available. I do not wish to select one particular aspect of the application against another as that could be worked out in the course of the discussions taking place now. The organisation would be extremely grateful and appreciative as it put in a major effort. There are approximately 40 people in the voluntary group who are always involved with the productions and fund-raising, and that is happening now. They are not looking for a handout as they are well capable of making fund-raising efforts themselves. They do that all the time. Having exhausted their facilities at various levels, they need to move to the next stage. Meeting health and safety requirements is fundamental to everything they do and stand for. The Minister would agree it is very important that we meet health and safety requirements on an ongoing basis. Anything that happens in that area usually brings a negative response.

I hope the Minister will find ways and means to address the issue in a favourable way. To quote the old phrase, the show must go on. It cannot go on unless we have resources and meet health and safety requirements. I hope that some time in the current year, one or more aspects of the theatre's programme might be funded under the headings already referred to by the Minister.

I know the Deputy is very committed to and passionate about the Moat Theatre and the good work it does in Naas and the surrounding communities in Kildare. Volunteers are the backbone of communities right across the country, doing much work while giving up their time. I acknowledge that. This theatre underwent major upgrade works in 2003 and it has a 200-seat auditorium with retractable seating in place. I know it has an excellent programme of events coming up in the next few weeks, including "Some Like it Hot", an evening of one-act plays and Pat Shortt, just to name a few. It is certainly a very active theatre, which is good to see.

Various clubs and organisations in my constituency were not successful in getting funding and I understand the absolute disappointment coming from that. The arts and culture capital scheme was designed to be as flexible as possible to ensure projects of varying sizes could benefit. The vast majority of eligible applications received some level of funding. Seven flagship projects will receive substantial funding allocations, including the €1 million investment in the Riverbank Theatre in Kildare. A further 49 projects will receive funding ranging from €20,000 to €276,000. All these projects aim to improve the audience and creative experience. This funding package will also ensure past investment in these arts and cultural centres will be protected and sustained.

My Department has received the necessary additional information from Moat Theatre and should further funding become available, my Department will consider the matter at that stage. The application is valid and on a shortlist. I would be very optimistic that support will be forthcoming. I thank the Deputy for raising the matter.