Priority Questions

Action Plan for Rural Development Implementation

Éamon Ó Cuív


56. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the progress made to date in 2017 in the roll-out of the action plan for rural development; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27287/17]

I congratulate Deputy Michael Ring on his appointment as a senior Minister and look forward to many a joust with him in the coming months in that role. However, as he will be aware, I was underwhelmed when the action plan for rural Ireland was announced and I have not seen evidence of it making any difference on the ground since. There is no point in the Minister giving me information on CLÁR and other schemes because they all predate the action plan. What is new?

I thank the Deputy for his good wishes which I appreciate. He held this brief for many years and I am delighted to be back in charge of it. I am pleased and honoured to serve in government. I am looking forward to working with the Deputy and I am sure we will have many battles on many issues in the coming years.

The action plan for rural development is one of the most significant initiatives undertaken by any Government to support the economic and social development of rural Ireland. The plan recognises that in the 21st century rural Ireland is modern and creative and forms an integral part of the economy through its enterprises, heritage and culture. The plan seeks to change the negative perception of rural Ireland and help it to realise its full potential. In that context, it contains more than 270 tangible actions across government which will support the economic and social progress of rural Ireland. A comprehensive monitoring structure has been put in place to ensure all of these actions will be implemented. Progress reports will he published every six months, with the first due to be published in July. A high level monitoring committee which I chair has also been established to oversee this process and ensure the actions will be delivered. The actions are being rolled out and beginning to make an impact. For example, we launched the 2017 town and village renewal scheme, with funding of €20 million over 15 months, to support the economic development of up to 300 rural towns and villages; €9 million has been approved for investment in 56 arts and culture centres across the country, with over 80% of the investment in rural areas; while I launched the 2017 CLÁR programme and the rural recreation infrastructure scheme, with combined funding of €16 million, to support rural communities.

Other Ministers and Departments have also delivered significant initiatives with clear benefits for rural communities. For example, the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation continues to deliver the regional action plans for jobs and more than three quarters of all employment created in the first quarter of the year was outside Dublin. The Department of Social Protection has created an additional 500 places on the rural social scheme. The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine recently announced that €3.6 million had been allocated to 153 projects under the seven fisheries local action groups. These and other developments can be found in an interim progress report on the action plan for rural development which is available on a new dedicated website for rural development matters:

It does not do the Minister justice when he starts reading Civil Service scripts. That is not the Michael Ring I used to know, who used to be on fire on this side of the House, filled with indignation and going to change the world. He has read a script from civil servants which outlines all of the initiatives that were happening and has nothing new in it. He might have a negative perception of rural Ireland, but I have a hugely positive perception of it. It does not get fair play, which is a different issue. A total of 276 actions are mentioned in the action plan for rural development, many of these were being implemented before the plan was announced. Therefore, let us leave them aside. Will the Minister list three new actions or plans that were not in train and which have commenced as part of the roll-out of the action plan? What are their numbers in the action plan in order that I can read for myself what the three great new actions are?

The Deputy referred to not having taken any action. The first action I took when I took office was simple. When the Deputy was Minister, he had the CLÁR programme up and running, but it was closed in 2009. I reopened it. That is one real action which has helped rural communities throughout the country. The programme has worked well and many rural schemes have benefited from it.

The Deputy also closed the rural recreation scheme. I reopened it last year and advertised it.

I did not close either scheme.

There is substantial funding for the scheme this year.

The Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation has the Action Plan for Jobs which has produced results. A total of 80% of the jobs created last year are in rural Ireland. I am a newly appointed Minister. I have to set up a new Department which, as the Deputy will be aware, takes time. I also have to get a Secretary General in place. However, I have many plans for rural Ireland. Like the Deputy, I am committed to and passionate about rural Ireland. What I really want to stop is the negativity about it, not from the Deputy but from other Opposition Members. We have some fine, intelligent people working for multinational companies in rural Ireland. In my county we have Allergan, Baxter and Coca Cola. They have fine, intelligent people. I want to stop Members being negative.

The schemes the Minister mentioned were not closed in 2009. I was Minister at the time and when he checks the record, he will find that is not true and that there were budget commitments in 2010 and 2011. The money was made available by us. Is it correct that the Minister was Minister of State with responsibility for rural and regional development?

Is it correct that only €2.76 million out of a total capital allocation of €67 million was spent by his Department in the first five months of the year? Will he confirm that virtually all of the €2.76 million, less €75,000, relates to the administration costs of Leader companies and that no money from this year's allocation has been spent on the ground in rural Ireland in the first five months of 2017? Will he also confirm how much of the €28 million he paid out to local authorities for work that was not done before the end of last year has been spent by them in the first five months of the year?

The Deputy is correct that we paid local authorities upfront last December. To be fair to them, contracts have to be entered into under the rural economic development zones, REDZ, programme and the town and village scheme, but there has been a substantial improvement in the figures the Deputy received last February. I will provide further information for him through an update on the amount being spent in reply to a later question.

I would like the local authorities to spend that money. I would also like more of the funding under the CLÁR, REDZ and Leader programmes and the rural recreation and other schemes to be spent. I will ring county managers this week to make sure that is happening, but there has been a major improvement in the spend in the past few months.

They got that money in December and have been complaining that it was a bad time of year. Let us wait and see. We are getting a progress report from them to see what they actually spent up to May. I will give the Deputy a copy of that the minute I have it.

The Minister-----

I am sorry, but we must move on. There can be no further supplementary questions.

I congratulate the Minister, Deputy Michael Ring, on his appointment and wish him the best of luck-----

On a point of order, the Minister of State with responsibility, Deputy Joe McHugh, is to come in to take these questions shortly. The Minister, Deputy Heather Humphreys, is sick. I am taking the rural and recreation questions and would appreciate it if I could take just those questions. I ask for the permission of the House to do so.

It is not possible unless we get the Members to agree. The information I have is that the next question to be dealt with by the Minister is Question No. 61 in the name of Deputy Joan Burton. She may well be waiting in the wings.

I think it is unfair. The problem is there could be Deputies waiting to come into the House in sequence who assume there will be five Priority Questions. It is unfair to suddenly jump to Question No. 61.

While we are waiting, I want to ask the Minister about the make-up of the Department. Will it be a shared Department or will there be a separate Department for rural affairs in the future?

That is a very good question. There will be two separate Departments. A new, separate Department will be set up with its own Secretary General, a position which has to be advertised. It will be a full, brand new Department and I will only have responsibility for certain areas. I hope the Minister of State, Deputy Joe McHugh, will be here shortly to deal with the questions.

What is the estimated timeframe for the splitting of the Departments?

I have to honest and Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív knows this as he has been here long enough. I was given this role last week. Every other Minister walked into an old Department. This is the only new Department that is being set up. It is a new Department. We will have to get a new Secretary General and offices and get the Department up and running. At present, I am using the old office but that will happen.

As I said, I am taking all the questions relating to rural affairs. The Minister of State, Deputy Joe McHugh, was to come to the House and I hope he will be here shortly.

The Minister of State, Deputy Joe McHugh, is at the Business Committee. The House may consider agreeing that the Minister continue but the next question to him has been tabled by Deputy Joan Burton who is possibly of the view that there are four other priority questions to be taken first. I think, therefore, it would be unfair to her. There is a series of questions, such as Questions Nos. 66, 67, 69 and 71. Perhaps the Minister, if he has the files, might be prepared to continue until the Minister of State arrives.

If the House wants, I can take this question.

Deputy Peadar Tóibín should proceed.

Commemorative Events

Peadar Tóibín


57. Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs when the next meeting of the all-party consultation group on commemorations will take place. [27895/17]

The Government got off to a very shaky start a number of years ago with regard to the commemoration of the 1916 Rising. We had the embarrassment of the video launch which was full of celebrities and individuals who had nothing to do with the 1916 Rising but was void of the ideals and characters of that Rising. We had the insults to the Irish language, the language of the cultural revolution, when it was Google translated. Then, we had the cap-tipping proposal that the British royals would come to oversee the commemorations. What has happened to the all-party consultation group on commemorations?

The Minister is committed to re-establishing the Oireachtas all-party consultation committee on commemorations. She intends to put in place the practical arrangements to reconstitute the group very shortly. In the period leading up to the 1916 centenary commemorations, the all-party consultation committee on commemorations was instrumental in promoting an open, consensus-based and honest approach which allowed all narratives to be heard and ensured that the State reflected appropriately on all the major historical events as they unfolded. The work of the committee complemented the work of the expert advisory group on commemorations which also advised the Government on the approach based on the authentic history of the period.

The Government will continue to mark significant events throughout the second half of the decade of centenaries. This includes the Easter commemorations ceremonies to mark the Easter Rising and events to mark the progress of the First World War. For example, two weeks ago the Minister attended commemorations of the Battle of Messines Ridge at the Island of Ireland Peace Park in Messines, which were jointly led by the Governments of Ireland and the UK, in partnership with the Mayor of Messines. On the Sunday of that week, the Minister was honoured to lay a wreath on behalf of the Irish Government at the War Memorial, Armagh, in memory of the men of the 16th Irish Division and the 36th Ulster Division who fought side by side in that battle. Last weekend I attended a special ceremony to mark the centenary of the foundation of Leopardstown Park Hospital as a convalescent home and hospital for the treatment of soldiers injured in the First World War.

I believe that both the all-party committee and the expert advisory group have a significant contribution to make in regard to the second half of the decade of centenaries and I am looking forward to continued positive engagement and consultation with both groups over the coming period.

The Government is again on shaky ground, just as it was at the start of the 1916 rising commemorations. Not only has the Minister of State, Deputy Joe McHugh, not turned up for his first questions, but we have an answer from the senior Minister stating that, at the mid-point of the decade of commemorations, we will have something up and running fairly shortly. Given the fact the all-party consultation group on commemorations was the vehicle that actually put the Government back on the right path before the 1916 Rising commemorations, it is shameful that this consultation group is not up and running at this stage.

It seems there is a dissonance in Fine Gael with regard to the commemorations of the republican revolution. I asked why the commemoration committee on the republican revolution was not up and running. Perhaps the answer is in the question. There is a strong Redmondite wing to Fine Gael which has difficulty with some of the details of that decade of the Irish revolution. John Bruton articulated his views on the 1916 Rising and it seems his view was that the only decent Irish soldier that existed before 1922 was one in a British uniform.

I urge the Minister who is present to make sure he passes on to his colleagues that this issue must be grasped immediately and that the consultation group must be constituted as soon as possible.

I will not debate with the Deputy about the Redmondites and John Bruton and we are not going to rewrite the history of this. However, it must be agreed the commemoration was a very successful event. Everybody has been complimented, including the Minister, the State agencies, the local authorities and the general public. The whole country and community responded and everybody agrees it was a major success.

I will pass on the Deputy's views to the Ministers. I am sure the committee will be reconvened. To be fair, it was an equal committee with representation from all sides. It was not controlled by anybody and everybody had a say. As I said, it was a tremendous event and a tremendous year, which worked very well for the country and the State.

I agree the commemorations were terrific and that they grasped the imagination of the nation at the time. As I said, however, the key to reorientating what was a catastrophe at the start was the all-party group. Commemorations are about events and this year, 2017, sees the anniversary of the by-election victories of the Sinn Féin candidates, Count Plunkett, WT Cosgrave and Eamon de Valera. I ask what the Department has done to commemorate these events.

There were four. What about Joseph McGuinness?

What has the Government done to officially commemorate these events? Some people say Sinn Féin tried to commandeer republicanism in this country. I am of the view that we do not own republicanism. However, the lack of interest of the Government towards commemorating these important republican events only leads me to believe the Government does not have any interest in taking hold or taking ownership of these key events in the development and evolution of the Republic. I ask the Minister again to give us a date.

We have to be fair. The Government was not afraid to deal with the commemorations over the last year and it did an excellent job. There was consultation with everybody and it worked out very well. The Deputy is correct that Sinn Féin, Fianna Fáil or anybody else does not own republicanism. I come from a very strong republican background.

My grand-uncle was killed in 1921. He took the Free State side, of which I am very proud. Let nobody think they have ownership of the republican movement. This was not about the republican movement, it was about the State honouring the commemoration. I compliment the Minister, the Department, the State agencies and everybody. The celebrations that took place in this city on Easter Sunday were a credit not alone to Dublin but to the country and the world. The amount of people who wrote articles afterwards that complimented everybody involved showed we had grown up as a State and did very well as a country. The other commemorations will be honoured and will be done in a very detailed way. People will be consulted. That group will be established again. I hope it can be done as a mark of respect to everybody.

Arts in Education Charter

Niamh Smyth


58. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the steps she has taken to develop arts in education practices by professional artists in schools; if she has conducted an analysis of the value of arts education; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27896/17]

What steps have been taken to develop arts in education practices by professional artists in schools? Has analysis been carried out of the value of arts education? Will the Minister make a statement on the matter?

The Creative Ireland programme which the Taoiseach and the Minister launched in December places a special focus on enabling the creative potential of every child. Building on the Arts in Education Charter, this will involve the development of an integrated plan, creative children, to enable every child in Ireland access tuition in music, drama, art and coding by 2022. Departmental officials continue to work with other Departments and stakeholders to develop this plan, with a launch timeframe of Autumn 2017.

I am pleased to say continuing professional development through teacher-artist partnerships is ongoing, and this July will see a significant increase in the number of courses taking place across 21 education centres throughout the country. In addition, the Arts Council-commissioned report, Arts and Cultural Participation among Children and Young People: Insights from the Growing Up in Ireland Study, which was published in September 2016, concluded that arts and cultural participation leads to a range of positive outcomes for children, both in terms of their cognitive development and their well-being. This study found that schools are important arenas for access to arts and culture, and school emphasis on culture has a positive impact on student engagement in these activities.

The creative children plan will build on work to date in implementing the Arts in Education Charter to include the delivery of arts-rich schools, making the arts a key part of school life across the country. The Department continues to work closely with the Department of Education and Skills, the Department of Youth and Children Affairs and the Arts Council to deliver the key objectives of the charter in the wider context flow of the Creative Ireland programme, to include non-mainstream education.

Arising from the significant increase of support of €5 million which was secured for the Arts Council as part of Budget 2017, the Minister is pleased that the Arts Council increased funding in this area for 2017 from €3.1 million in 2016 to €3.7 million this year. The Minister will also provide an additional €70,000 to the Arts Council to assist in the expansion of the teacher artist partnership this year. This funding is being provided under the Creative Ireland programme.

These initiatives demonstrate the overall commitment of the Government to deliver for children as we work in finalising the creative children plan.

I thank the Minister. I know he has been thrown in at the deep end

It was the first time I had read it.

The Creative Ireland plan was launched with huge fanfare throughout the country. A specific and important pillar is to deliver arts in education throughout the country. I have asked the Minister on umpteen occasions to explain explicitly how she will implement arts in education in schools. A chapter is dedicated to lovely talk and language about how we aspire to having arts in education flourish in our schools. I would like to know three tangible actions that will be taken whereby we will see this implemented in our schools.

The Minister spoke about ongoing summer courses for teachers whereby artists come and work with them. This is fantastic, but what we really need are these artists going into schools. It is not enough to expect the teachers in the schools to take this on board. It is wonderful and fantastic, but there is an opportunity and we are not tapping into the skills set of the artists who are hungry to get into schools and deliver proper professional arts in education. I ask the Minister to tell me how it will be implemented.

That is a fair question. There are five pillars in the programme, one of which is that every child in Ireland will have access to the arts by 2022. The Arts Council has increased its funding for Creative Ireland. It is at an early stage. There will be a launch of the arts in education initiative in the autumn and the launch will include details explaining how it will be rolled out. The Deputy asked very fair question. I cannot give her an answer today, but when the initiative is announced in the autumn how it will be rolled out to every child and every school will be explained. It is a good programme for which the Arts Council has provided funding. It is important that every child in every corner of the country going through education has an opportunity, because all children have something artistic in them. They deserve the same opportunity as others, which they might not get. The scheme itself is very good. The details of the scheme will be announced in the autumn and the details on how it will be rolled out will be given.

I should have said I congratulate the Minister on his elevation to the Cabinet.

As the Minister is not here herself to answer questions, in the launch that will be held in the autumn, which is some time away, I request, as I have on a number of occasions, the use of the local arts in education partnership, with which the Minister is completely familiar and which was run as a pilot scheme by Cavan Monaghan Education and Training Board. We have been through all of this. We have identified how ETBs are one of the primary delivery or implementation sources throughout the country. There are only 16 of them and they can work with the local authorities. I ask the Minister to deliver the message loud and clear to the Minister, Deputy Heather Humphreys, that I hope as part of the launch in the autumn she will roll out the local arts in education partnerships. They are part of what was written down in black and white a number of years ago in the arts in education charter. This was the aspiration in 2013. It is now 2017 and we have not seen anything tangible. I was involved in the pilot scheme in Cavan and Monaghan. We know it works. It is a no-brainer. Until responsibility to deliver it has been designated to somebody it will not happen. It is all meaningless talk and huff and bluster. I want to see this as part of what the Minister rolls out in the autumn and I ask the Minister to carry the message back to her loud and clear that the local arts in education partnerships are to be delivered. Until the Minister tells me otherwise, I suggest and recommend the ETBs, with the local authorities and local arts in education officers, are best placed to deliver it.

Part of the programme will be to bring artists into schools and this is a good idea. I know about the scheme because I have heard the Deputy speak about it in the House and I listen to her. She spoke about the pilot programme in Cavan and Monaghan. Every scheme will be looked at and the best of everything will be taken, including what local authorities have to offer, what the private sector has to offer and what artists themselves have to offer. We hear people speaking about artists and, to be fair to them, some of them find it hard to make a living. It would be great if we gave some of them an opportunity and give them a payment to go to schools and let them show what they have to offer and give children an opportunity to see how real artists work. I will pass on the Deputy's question to the Minister. It is happening. Every scheme is being examined and we are looking at their good parts. When the plan is launched in the autumn it will outline exactly what will happen. With regard to the point raised by the Deputy about artists, it is great. The Government has been looking at many schemes. When I had responsibility for rural development we looked at schemes to see whether we could have a social welfare scheme for artists to give them help and assistance and they would not have to sign on every week. This might be an opportunity to give some artists a bit of work and give them an opportunity to show what they do and give children an opportunity to see real artists at work. It is a great initiative. I will ask the Minister to look at all of the issues raised by the Deputy because she has consistently raised the pilot scheme in Cavan and Monaghan. We will take the best parts of every scheme up and running at present and try to complement them with the scheme we will run in the autumn.

I remind Members that the Minister of State, Deputy Joe McHugh, is at a meeting of the Business Committee. He was due to take these questions and the Minister is merely obliging him by being in the hot seat.

Film Industry Tax Reliefs

Bríd Smith


59. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if her attention has been drawn to film companies availing of section 481 relief that are recruiting workers as trainees on film sets but providing no training to these workers; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27565/17]

Has the Minister's attention been drawn to film companies availing of the section 481 relief of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997? These companies are recruiting workers as trainees on film sets but are providing no training to the workers.

The Government supports the Irish audiovisual industry through the Irish Film Board and through section 481 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 - the film tax relief scheme. This twin approach of direct funding and tax expenditure measures maximises the benefits of the Government’s support to the audiovisual industry.

The Irish Film Board is the national development agency for Irish film making and the Irish film, television and animation industry. Screen Training Ireland is part of the Irish Film Board and is the national training and development resource specifically created for Ireland’s film and television industry. Screen Training Ireland works with national and internationally recognised industry professionals to identify, design and deliver training for Irish professionals. Training programmes are offered to enhance expertise in film, television, animation and interactive screen content.

Section 481 is an incentive to film and television production in Ireland. One of the requirements for receipt of the tax relief is the employment of trainees by the producer company. Specifically, the project must employ a minimum of two trainees for each €355,000 of corporation tax credit claimed, up to a maximum of eight trainees.

The Irish Film Board and the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland have commissioned a report on the skills needs of the audiovisual industry in Ireland, which is currently being finalised and will make recommendations on the operation of section 481 as it applies to skills development. The Department will consider any recommendations contained in the report, in consultation with the Irish Film Board, once the report is published.

It should also be noted that the Department has commissioned an economic analysis of our screen based creative industries, in partnership with the Departments of Communications, Climate Action and Environment and Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation. Last month, as part of this process, the Minister hosted a successful media production workshop at the Royal Hospital Kilmainham for stakeholders in the film, broadcast, animation and gaming industries. The recommendations of the economic study will inform the development of Government policy and a plan envisaged under the Creative Ireland programme for the overall development of the audiovisual sector in Ireland.

The concern is not about the large number of tax breaks that are given to the film industry but about the way the scheme is being used. Recently, many companies have been using specific clauses in the legislation that are meant to encourage the training of workers in the industry but are not training them. There is evidence of false training schemes, with no curriculum, no start, middle or end dates, no accreditation and no promise or prospect of jobs at the end of the training period. There are also many examples of fully qualified, trained and skilled workers in the industry being offered posts on film productions only as trainees, despite the fact that they are already trained and qualified. At the same time they are being told the posts are being filled. The generous nature of section 481 means there has been approximately €7 billion in tax rebates over 15 years. The companies must employ two trainees for every €355,000 corporation tax allowed. There is a generous scheme in place but my question is not about the generosity of the scheme but about whether it is being used in the way it was intended to be used and whether there is evidence for that. We have evidence that it is being used to undercut fully qualified people in the industry. Various claims are being made about people employed in the industry. What is the Department's comment on that issue?

I can outline the number of projects certified for film tax relief from 2013 to 2017. There were 66 in 2013, 66 in 2014, 65 in 2015, 76 in 2016 and 21 in 2017 to date. To be fair to the Deputy, she raises this question in the context of concern about taxation. The Department is anxious to know if somebody is misusing the scheme. If the Deputy can give such information to the Department, it will certainly investigate it to ensure the scheme is not abused. These tax schemes are in place to support the industry, not for people to misuse or abuse them. If the Deputy has any information that would be helpful to the Department or the Revenue Commissioners, they would be delighted to receive it. The economic study points to the issues. We will be happy to address the issues the Deputy raises if she can provide us with any information or assistance in that regard.

I do not wish to be accused in any way of not supporting the development and enhancement of the arts and the film industry. The Revenue Commissioners guidelines state:

The Minister, in considering whether to give Revenue an authorisation in relation to a film, will:

- examine the professional capability (creative and technical) of the producers and creative collaborators;

- examine the anticipated net contribution that the s.481 Scheme and other State Aid Schemes will make to the project; and

- consider those opportunities provided by the project for quality employment and training.

I am alleging that it is not providing quality employment and training, but is being used in a spurious way to displace professional and qualified operatives in the film industry. I welcome the Minister's suggestion I provide him with that evidence. I will do so immediately after this. However, I seek a further comment on the matter. It appears the questions we should be asking relate to what type of training modules these companies are engaged in, what type of certification they are giving to the people who complete the training and whether their training systems have a start, middle and end or are simply open-ended recruitment to replace professional jobs.

I accept that the Deputy raises this question in the best interest of the industry. The Deputy wishes to support that industry, as does the Government. We do not wish to see people being displaced as a result of initiatives that are in place. This is to help and support people into the industry and to get the industry to take on trainees and support and train them. I appreciate and accept the Deputy's offer. She might let the Department know about the issues in this regard and the Department will certainly deal with them. I thank her for that.

National Monuments

Question No. 60 is in the name of Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan. Permission has been given to Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív to take it.

Maureen O'Sullivan


60. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs when she will bring the memorandum to Cabinet relating to the report of the Moore Street consultative group; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27357/17]

The Minister will be aware that there was much controversy about the Moore Street site. A committee was established and it made recommendations in March on how Moore Street should be developed in the future. The Minister has now set up a new committee. Has she brought a memorandum to the Cabinet, or when is it proposed to bring a memorandum to Cabinet, in order that a decision can be made by the Government on foot of the Moore Street report prepared by the previous committee and so this issue can be brought forward?

I have already recorded in the House my sincere appreciation to the members of the group for the report entitled, The Moore Street Report - Securing History, that it presented to me at the end of March.

The Moore Street consultative group which was independently chaired by a former departmental Secretary General included local and Oireachtas political representatives, 1916 relatives, street traders and other stakeholders. It was set up in a bid to bring together the full range of views on the matter. In this regard the group reviewed numerous presentations and submissions from a range of interests, looked at a variety of official and other reports, interviewed relevant public officials and other experts and examined a large body of work from within its own membership. That extensive programme of work culminated in the series of recommendations contained in the report.

It is welcome that the report is seeking a way forward based on consensus. I believe its recommendations can help breathe new life into the area, while at the same time retaining its sense of history and tradition.

In addition to its particular association with the 1916 Rising, there are other relevant aspects of the street and the surrounding area that need to be taken into account, including the range of State, public and private property holdings and ownership and, of course, the presence of the street traders themselves, who do so much to give the area its unique place in the life of our capital city.

The report examines carefully all these elements, and I am pleased that it signals the potential for a successful outcome to be agreed between the relevant parties, balancing the perspectives of all the key stakeholders. I am fully supportive of this collaborative approach and I want to see the work already done being continued so that we can progress to the next stage and see tangible results on the ground. Critical to this has been the establishment of the new advisory group, which the report itself identities as the most effective ay to move forward with its recommendations. As the Deputy is aware, I have now proceeded with the setting up of this group under the chairmanship of Dr. Tom Collins. The group has already met and embarked on the task of looking at how best to implement the recommendations. I am happy that this ongoing process represents the best approach to achieving an optimal outcome for the Moore Street area. This will involve extensive discussion, negotiation and agreement with, and actions by, a variety of public and private bodies. The process is being supported by my Department, and I am looking forward to seeing positive outcomes from the interactions between the various parties.

When I was a Minister and a draft reply was telling a Deputy what he already knew, I put a line through it and said it was not what the Deputy was asking about. I said the Deputy was looking for information and was entitled to get it in the House. I am not blaming the Minister but just giving him a little bit of advice for when he moves to his new Department. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan, no more than myself, and Deputies Peadar Tóibín and Joan Burton were on the committee. We know all about the committee and the report. As we actually were involved in writing the report, giving us a long spiel about what was in it and what the committee did and did not do is dodging the issue.

I accept that the Minister set up a new committee but what we want to know is whether the Government has accepted the recommendations in the report. What will it do about them? Will the Minister bring a memo to the Cabinet to have a formal decision endorsing the report? Is it intended to transfer responsibility for 14-17 Moore Street, the national monument, from the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht to the OPW?

The Minister does appreciate the Deputy's support in this. He has been very helpful in regard to what is happening at Moore Street. The report, as the Deputy knows, has been published on the Department's website for everybody to see. The new group has been set up and it is chaired by Dr. Tom Collins. I am told the progress to date has been very positive. The committee will examine how to bring this to a conclusion. The Deputy knows this is very complex. Everybody had to be talked to and brought on board. The Deputy knows this is a very sensitive issue. It is one on which a lot of progress has been made. The Minister has set up the group and has consulted the Deputy and everybody else. I am sure that at a later stage, she will fill the Deputy in on exactly what is happening. All I can say for now is that the Minister set up the working group. It is in place and we have to await its recommendations.

I do not know what to say because it is quite funny to hear the Minister telling me what the committee did. Three of us here were on the committee and we know what we did. What we want to know is what the Government will do. The Minister might just give one little, simple piece of information today. I accept that the Minister is standing in. I see the Secretary General of the Department is present. She might be able to slip the Minister a note. Will the Minister tell us whether a decision has been made to transfer responsibility for 14-17 Moore Street from the Department to the Office of Public Works which normally handles heritage and national monuments? I seek a simple "Yes" or "No" answer.

I will get the Department to drop the Deputy a line on that matter. As he knows, I have only filled in for the Minister.

The Minister is doing a great job.

I will get the Department to drop a line to the Deputy this evening.

I accept that it is unfair to ask a rural Minister about something in Moore Street in Dublin.

No, but I believe it is unfair to be handed the files two minutes before coming in.