We get an opportunity once every six weeks to ask a Minister questions and to hold a Department to account. It is the small opportunity we get in an open democracy to determine whether we can obtain the truth concerning the areas we represent. I understand that the Minister, Deputy Michael Ring, is filling in and doing his best in this scenario. Surely, however, someone has gone to the office of Minister of State, Deputy Joe McHugh, and told him about this. We are half an hour, or nearly 40 minutes into questions. The Minister of State has a responsibility to sit in this Chamber and answer these questions. He is a newly minted Minister of State. That he is not here on the first occasion presented is a disgrace. It is a poor sign of politics. We may have to wait until the end of July or even September before we get another opportunity to ask questions. The Minister present does not have the information and it is not his fault. Is there any way the House can ask Minister of State to attend?
If there is somebody listening to me in the Chief Whip's office, perhaps we can send a message that the House is anxious that he take the remaining questions that do not concern the Minister in attendance, Deputy Michael Ring. There are quite a few, namely, Nos. 62 to 65, inclusive. Question No. 61 is to the Minister. In the meantime, perhaps somebody in one of the offices might send a message to the Minister of State.
Post Office Network
61. Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if she will report on her Department's work with An Post and the Irish Postmasters' Union regarding the implementation of point 20 of the Action Plan for Rural Development; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27513/17]
I congratulate Deputy Michael Ring on being appointed to his ministry. I recall a very heated debate not too long ago when the subject of who was responsible for the post offices at the Cabinet, at the level of Minister or Minister of State, exercised a particular passion on the part of the then Minister of State, Deputy Michael Ring, and the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Deputy Denis Naughten. Obviously, today's question arises after some Cabinet changes. First, Deputy Michael Ring is now to be Minister for community and rural affairs. What is his responsibility for the post offices now? Presumably with the rural affairs brief being transferred from the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Deputy Heather Humphreys, as we understood from the statement this morning of the Taoiseach, Deputy Michael Ring is now to be responsible for the post office network. Part 20 of the action plan for rural development states, "Oversee and monitor the implementation of actions to support the Post Office Network, arising out of the report of the Post Office Renewal Board and the Post Office Hub Working Group". The question is very simple. The leading executives of the post office network - the leading management of the post office network - have produced a plan for hundreds of post office closures. Under the Government of which I was a member, there were almost no post office closures. What is the Minister going to do about it?
I thank the Deputy very much for her good wishes. I am glad to be back on questions that I understand.
A Programme for a Partnership Government made a number of commitments in regard to the post office network that were assigned to my Department. The commitments in question have now been completed or are significantly advanced. Following an extensive deliberations process, I presented the final report of the post office hub working group to the Government in March. This report examined the potential for post offices to act as hubs of economic and social activity, particularly in rural communities, and recommended that a project to test the concept of shared-value co-located post offices should be piloted, initially at four locations.
There have been a number of developments in relation to postal services generally since A Programme for a Partnership Government was agreed last May, including the commissioning by An Post of a root and branch review of the company. By and large, this has overtaken the work of the post office network renewal board, which reported its findings to An Post in December last year.
Overall responsibility for the postal sector, including the governance of An Post, falls within the remit of the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment and, in light of developments in the sector, it has been agreed that all aspects of the postal services, including the post office network, should transfer to the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment. It will be a matter for that Minister’s Department to oversee the future direction of An Post and the post office network. However, my Department will continue to work closely with the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment where necessary to support the post office network in rural communities.
When the Minister transferred responsibility for the post office network back to the Minister, Deputy Denis Naughten, notwithstanding the fact that he is now the Minister responsible for rural affairs, he washed his hands of the post office, other than to say God speed and that he will watch how the progress goes. We know from the Kerr report that half the post offices in this country are not commercially viable. The Minister is talking about a study or a pilot with regard to, as I understand it, four post offices. The Minister is known, fairly, I think, as somebody who is quite truthful, honest and open in his answers. Can we get some serious honesty in terms of what is happening to the epayment account? The problem is that many people who use post offices have no form of current banking as referred to in European plans and in Irish plans over a long period of time. What about the motor tax services in the post office? Has the Minister had a chance to discuss that with his colleagues around the Cabinet table? What about the Minister's own four hub pilots? Can he tell us a little bit about what that is going to mean, in particular for hard-pressed rural communities? When I was Minister for Social Protection, I ensured that the social welfare business stayed with the post office as did Deputy Eamon Ó Cuív when he was Minister, even though Fianna Fáil presided over many closures. What is being proposed to the Government is catastrophic.
Above anybody else, the Deputy knows how Government works. She was long enough in government. She knows about delegated orders, responsibility and what happens when somebody is given a task. As a Minister of State, I was given the role of looking at the post office hub working group which I chaired. I made a recommendation to Government. I was delighted that the Government accepted that recommendation. What was accepted was that we would have a pilot scheme run in four post offices to be rolled out to 150 post offices. We needed the pilot scheme first. I could talk to Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív about rural Ireland and I will in a minute. I will tell the Deputy what he did for rural Ireland when he was there.
The Minister will not have a minute.
As I said, the report was accepted by Government. My Department is going to pay the cost of that, which is €100,000. We hope to have services put in, like a peace commissioner service, a one-stop shop for communications, ICT training, expert advice services, collection of motor taxes and so on. In the private sector we have already seen somebody else taking one on in Kildare. When we get these pilot schemes up and running and if they are successful, we will roll them out in 150 post offices. Overall, the responsibility is with the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment. It has responsibility for An Post.
Everybody knows that one of the weakest links in the chain of the protection of rural Ireland is the future viability of post offices. I think we are all agreed on that issue.
I agree with the Deputy, as well as on the issue of fibre broadband.
I worked might and main to ensure that only a very small number of post offices closed during the period when the Labour Party was in government. The Minister has still not answered the principal question. The view has been given by post office management and by the Kerr report that half the post offices in the country are not commercially viable. That means that up to 500 post offices or more could close over a period of time. Of course, I welcome the Minister's pilot initiative, but I question if that is enough to maintain the post office network, or if the demand of many of the elements within the Fine Gael Party to privatise and outsource as much as possible is actually the dominant the philosophy. I acknowledge that the Minister's own philosophy is not that.
Action 20 in the action plan for rural Ireland states,"Oversee and monitor the implementation of actions to support the Post Office Network". It lists the responsible bodies as the Department of Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, An Post and relevant Government Departments. We are beating around the bush too long on the whole post office issue. My question to the Minister is this: is he going to start making decisions? There are a fair number of people in post offices - the truth is told in rural Ireland - who are hanging on and wondering what the Minister is going to do. Let us be straight about it. Some of those would like to get a package and get out because they know there is not a living in it.
It is a favourite topic of people in Dublin that the only thing in rural Ireland is post offices. To be quite honest, for many people fibre broadband outscores the post office network. I hate to say it, but that is the reality and I live in the real rural Ireland and not in some leprechaun rural Ireland. When is the Minister going to start making decisions? Anybody who tells me that it would have been viable to keep every post office that was there for 20 years open is talking tommyrot.
I accept what Deputy Joan Burton said about no closures of post offices. There have been very few in the lifetime of this Government. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív's Government nearly closed more post offices than there are post offices now. I do not have the figures but I will have them for him the next time.
Is the Minister telling me-----
Wait a minute-----
The Minister to continue, without interruption.
I will chair the meeting.
Fadhb ar bith.
Tá Teachta McHugh anseo. Tá fáilte roimhe. Tháinig sé ar deireadh.
Sin an scéal.
Tá sé cineál deireanach. Thosaigh muid ag a cúig tar éis-----
The Minister to continue, without interruption. He has one minute.
Deputies Joan Burton and Éamon Ó Cuív, who were both senior Ministers in government, know about semi-State companies and that An Post is a semi-State company that is now doing a root and branch review of the whole post office network. I have done my report to Government on the hub. We are now waiting for An Post to come to the Government with whatever proposals it will come with. Therefore, we cannot do anything until the proposals come.
Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív is quite correct and I will be honest as well as him. We have many post offices. Some of them have a very bright future and some of them have very serious difficulties. I saw some of the transactions that were taking place in some of these post offices. I will be honest. Some of these post offices are not going to survive. We have to make sure that we strengthen the ones that survive and get them whatever they need to assist and help them. However, I cannot interfere with the process of An Post, which is a semi-State company. As previous Ministers, both of the Deputies know that semi-State companies are independent of the Government.
Aengus Ó SnodaighQuestion:
62. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs her plans to reinstigate an Oireachtas decade of centenaries committee under the auspices of her office, as was the practice before (details supplied). [22975/17]
Is ceist an-simplí í seo. I do not know which of the two Ministers are in charge now. This question was submitted over a month ago. When will the Minister reinstigate the Oireachtas decade of commemorations committee which has operated in some form or other since 2006?
Sula bhfreagraíonn an tAire Stáit, tá súil agam go bhfuil sé ag iarraidh leithscéal a dhéanamh agus míniú a thabhairt don Teach os rud é go raibh an oiread sin gearán idir an dá linn.
Tá brón orm fá dtaobh de sin, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle. Níl an tAire sinsearach, Teachta Heather Humphreys, ábalta bheith anseo inniu. Tá brón orm fá dtaobh de sin.
Ar dtús, ba mhaith liom mo bhuíochas a ghabháil le Teachta Ó Snodaigh as an gceist. Ba mhaith liom mo fháilte mhór a chur roimh a chomhghleacaí, Teachta Peadar Tóibín, an fear a bhí ag tabhairt amach trí bliana ó shin, in 2014, nach raibh Gaeilge ag Joe McHugh ag an am. Tá mé ag súil go mór leis an díospóireacht am éigin i dTeach Laighean idir an Teachta agus mé féin trí Ghaeilge.
I refer the Deputy to my earlier reply to Priority Question No. 2. I am committed to re-establishing the Oireachtas All-Party Consultation Committee on Commemorations. The Minister 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 of 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 World War I. 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 United Kingdom in partnership with the mayor of Messines. On the Sunday of that week. she was also honoured to lay a wreath on behalf of the Irish Government at the war memorial in 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, the Minister 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 World War I.
I believe both the all-party committee and the expert advisory group have a significant contribution to make with regard to the second half of the decade of centenaries and I look forward to continued positive engagement and consultation with both groups in the coming period.
It is a pity the Minister is not here. In fact, this question and Question No. 70 were originally put to the Taoiseach but for some reason, they were bounced to the Minister. I was asking about which events the Taoiseach attended. Given that most of the events seem to be bye or bye, there has been no decade of centenaries committee meeting since last year despite the fact that this is supposed to be a decade of commemorations covering the whole range of events. The members of the old committee were not informed about or invited to the events mentioned by the Minister of State which relate to World War I and there was no planning for major key events that took place in that period. We are talking about 1917, a year in which there were four by-elections which had a major effect on the future War of Independence. That year also saw a hunger strike and the death and funeral of Thomas Ashe but to my knowledge, there has been no planning for a State event to mark that. Other major events include the Sinn Féin Ard-Fheis in 1917 or the IRA convention, which had a major impact on the progress of war thereafter.
If we are to have the same success the nation experienced with regard to events celebrating and commemorating the events of 1916 or even the First World War, the Government must plan for it but there has been no planning involving the centenaries committee in this House since the last meeting in Easter 2016.
One thing the Minister has been exceptional at is her work on the 1916 commemorations. We are still within that space - the decade of commemorations. When one thinks about what has done for this country, not just in terms of acknowledging the past but also opening so many doors and windows to the past through the Irish language and when one thinks that primary schoolchildren see the tricolour flying high outside their schools and the all the effort and work that went into the commemorations, one can see that there was a lot of thought and partnership went into it. The Deputy rightly pointed out that the Department of the Taoiseach has been involved, as has different personnel in the Department of Defence. There has been such a combined effort to get it right and do it not just in a poignant way but a very sensitive way. I record my thanks for the work the Minister and her team have done in contributing to opening up such a rich window of heritage, language, history and culture which is not just having an impact down South but also in Northern Ireland.
I have no problem with what the Minister of State said but one of the key lessons we have learned to date in the decade of commemorations is that there needs to be planning. There needs to be a timeframe. Regardless of whether it is planning to commemorate the ending of World War I in 18 months' time or the major event that was the Westminster elections of December 1918, they need to be planned. Even the museum needs to be asked to put on an exhibition in either case. For a museum to put on a proper exhibition, it needs a three-year lead in. That support has not been granted to it. There is a range of issues. If the Government wants to engage local authorities, the Department, the Minister and the committee should be instructing them at this stage. We successfully managed to put together a range of events quite quickly. We could have had a lot more. It was very successful and I believe this success should have continued. I asked the Minister last year and a few times since then when this decade of centenaries committee will be formed because that can be the mechanism to stimulate planning for major events that founded the State and other major international events that happened during that revolutionary period between 1917 and 1921 that related to Ireland.
As a member of the Fine Gael-Labour Party Government, with others in the Labour Party, I expressed in government very strong support for all the different mechanisms of the decade of centenaries and a very significant capital budget in respect of the renewal of key capital cultural institutions in this country. Can the Minister of State tell me whether this moribund committee will be reinvigorated? He did not say that. In addition to what Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh said, the 1918 election saw the first votes for women and Countess Markiewicz's election as the first female Member of Parliament, which is a unique distinction in these islands. The period also saw her appointment as the first female Minister in government and the democratic programme, which was subsequently superseded by de Valera's Constitution but which was a far more democratic programme. Now that Fine Gael is in alliance with the Independent Alliance, many of whose members are from a Fine Gael background, as are many Independents, Fine Gael could be racing away from this shared history. Can the Minister of State tell us whether this committee will be reinstated with the capital programme?
Yes, it is. The Minister is very focused on it and her vision is to have it reconstituted. She is working on that issue. When we consider what has happened in the past few years in terms of the approach to commemorations, I was at an event in Glasnevin with Jeffrey Donaldson. I would never have imagined that ten years ago. I was in Derry a couple of Sunday's ago with Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh's colleague, Martina Anderson, MLA, and different politicians. I take the Deputy's point in terms of remaining focused and vigilant and I understand what he is saying. My job today is to convey that message. I can tell the Deputy that the Minister is committed and focused. Many lessons would have learned in the past few years. I will certainly convey the Deputy's strong words to the Minister.
I agree with Deputy Joan Burton, particularly in respect of the major events. I can give a huge list which includes the revolutionary period.
The counter-revolutionary period also needs to be considered. Even though we have said it covers a decade, I have always argued that we should not stop at 1921 - one of the biggest failures in the State - that we should look beyond it and at the international effect the outcome of the First World War had on small nations. We have an opportunity to enrich young people, in particular, with an understanding of where we stood and stand in the world. If we do not plan, we will lose that opportunity. Outside of everything else, anybody who was involved in any of the projects saw the tourism potential for local communities in their local history. There is a huge opportunity for us, but it will be lost unless we sit down and agree on a list of State commemorative events, a list for which we want local authorities to start planning. The fund helps to invigorate them and local communities. Without it, we would have been much the poorer in the commemorations last year. It should not be down to just that, however, but it was a help and there was a successful programme. We will definitely need much of the fund in the next few years to enable people to understand. We will not agree, but we might understand our history better.
There is nothing in what the Deputy said with which I would disagree. He is right, that we should not stop at 1921 and that it should not stop with the ceremonies. I remember being at an event on Banna Strand to remember Roger Casement. Prior to that event I had start to learn much more about him and the impact he had had in the Leas-Cheann Comhairle's county and mine with reference to Coláiste Uladh in Gort an Choirce. He was imprisoned in England but still sent money back to national school children on Tory Island and in Gort an Choirce. All of that history has opened up so much for us and we have to think cleverly and creatively about how we can develop it in the Department of Education and Skills also. I agree that there is much more we could do and know that the Minister, Deputy Heather Humphreys, is very conscious of this. Even the name of the Department is up for discussion - that is where officials start to get nervous about what Ministers say - but I know that she is very focused on culture, while I am very focused on the Gaeltacht.
63. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs her views on the loss of nests and food stores of birds and other wildlife caused by the recent gorse and heather fires that were started illegally in some mountain areas; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27567/17]
Before I ask the question which relates to forest fires, I express the sympathy of my party and I am sure of everybody in the Dáil to the people of Portugal who have suffered a severe loss in forest fires in the last couple of days. My question relates to the loss of wildlife and the nests and food stores of birds and other wildlife in the recent gorse and heather fires started illegally in some mountain areas. I ask the Minister of State to make a statement on the matter.
I thank the Deputy for raising this important issue. Significant environmental damage is caused by wildfires. The issue has become more acute in recent years, as evidenced by the spate of fires in various parts of the country, including a Coillte-owned site of some 4,000 ha in County Galway in recent weeks. Wildfires are not a natural phenomenon in Ireland and can have a local impact on species that cannot escape or that lose breeding habitat as a result. Such impacts are generally short-term but could be very serious for species already in decline such as the curlew. Some plant and moss species may be temporarily lost or greatly reduced.
I take the opportunity to strongly condemn the recent spate of wildfires and appeal to members of the public to be conscious of the dangers posed by fire on open ground. The primary responsibility for firefighting lies with the fire service and the Department of Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government. The prosecution of those responsible is a matter for the Garda. My Department is one of a number of agencies represented on the interagency gorse fire group that explores issues surrounding such fires. An Garda Síochána is also represented on the group and leads any criminal investigation. My Department co-operates fully with Garda and other investigations that may be initiated by other statutory bodies.
What I really want to get at is that the burning of vegetation is forbidden in certain months but takes place regardless of the restraints. What we need to know is the extent of the damage and the scale of the impact of recent fires on wildlife because only then can we gauge the damage the Minister, Deputy Heather Humphreys' Heritage Bill might do. In case people do not know, the Bill proposes to allow burning in the months of March and September. It is illegal from April to August. Extending it to March and September would have a huge impact on wildlife. I want to read something about the extinction of wildlife. Birdwatch Ireland states species at risk in upland habitats were burning to occur in March, April and May would include the hen harrier, the merlin, the golden plover, the dunlin and the breeding curlew, which, as we know, is already on the brink of extinction. We need a commitment from the Minister of State's Department that it will assess the damage to wildlife in order to assess the damage the proposed new Heritage Bill might do.
I have worked with the officials in the Department and I am glad to be back working with them again. I know just how focused they are on the issue. The Department of Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs has responsibility for monitoring controlled, not illegal, burning. The Deputy mentioned a couple of incidents. In my county, on the Inishowen Peninsula, the people who responded first were the members of the fire service but there was also a phenomenal response and intervention not just by members of the community but also by specific sectors. Some members of the farming community used their slurry tankers to put out the fires by putting water into them. There is a groundswell of support for the Deputy's proposition that people support the protection of wildlife, fauna and flora. There is certainly no shortage of dedication within my Department. There are other issues to do with common sense and taking specific responsibility, but I will certainly convey the Deputy's message to the Department.
Gabhaim mo chomhghairdeas leis an Aire Stáit, an Teachta Joe McHugh, mar gheall ar an bpost nua atá aige. Tá súil agam go n-éirí go geal leis ina phost. Ní raibh gearán ar bith agamsa mar gheall ar an gcumas Gaeilge a bhí ag an Aire Stáit ag an am. Ba é an gearán a bhí agam, agus a bhí ag go leor san earnáil Gaeilge ag an am, ná gur ainmnigh an Rialtas duine gan Ghaeilge le haghaidh na Gaeltachta. Is am cinniúnach é mar gheall ar an nGaeilge agus tá súil agam go dtreiseoidh an tAire Stáit an Ghaeilge agus an Ghaeltacht as seo amach. Déanaim mo chomhbhrón freisin le muintir na Portaingéile a fuair bás sa tine sin.
It is very important to realise when we talk about this issue that under the current legislation, only one application was made last year for a licence to engage in controlled burning. That means that Government practice, as it stands, is irrelevant and failing farmers and the environment miserably.
I express my condolences to the people of Portugal on the dreadful loss of life, habitat and forests in the big fires. I think everybody has been extremely upset by the fires in Ireland. I hope what has happened constitutes an opportunity for the Minister, Deputy Heather Humphreys, to think twice about extending the dates within which burning is allowed. What has happened this year has been an environmental and ecological disaster which will affect the promotion of tourism and the amenity use of forests, as well as their viability. We present this as a green Ireland to ourselves and the world at large in the promotion of both tourism and the food sector.
The sight of uncontrolled burning, with damage being done to wildlife and habitats, is an enormous tragedy for the country. I hope the Minister will let go of the current plans she has to extend the burning seasons.
Ar dtús, mar fhreagra ar an Teachta Peadar Tóibín, chuala mé a theachtaireacht. Gabhaim buíochas leis as an fháilte. Táim ar a thaobh féin maidir le na rudaí tábhachtacha sa cheangal idir an oidhreacht agus an pobal, mar shampla, seirbhísí éigeandála. Bhí mé ag caint faoi na rudaí a bhí ag dul ar aghaidh i mo chontae féin i gContae Dhún na nGall. Tá sé thar a bheith tábhachtach go mbeadh na rudaí nádúrtha ar an talamh fite fuaite sa chomhoibriú chun na rudaí a choimeád, chomh maith leis an bpobal agus na daoine áitiúla atá ina gcónaí ann a choimeád sábháilte. Tá mé ar aon taobh le na Teachtaí maidir le sin.
Deputy Joan Burton raised issues around technical aspects about timing. I certainly will convey them to the Minister.
Does Deputy Bríd Smith have a final supplementary?
These fires, whether started illegally or naturally, cause considerable damage to wildlife, in particular, at the time of year to which the Minister, Deputy Heather Humphreys's Bill proposes to extend the provision, when birds and other forms of wildlife are beginning to make their homes, nest and mate and then to breed their young throughout that season. With the cutting of the hedging, it is lethal to the protection of wildlife.
The Bill has been dubbed the anti-wildlife Bill and that describes it well. It makes no sense at all for us to increase the length of time allowed for burning, in particular when the Minister of State says only a small number of applications were made to allow the burning. That implies that most of the burning is illegal.
A Bill or measures that enforces what already exists should be brought in rather than extending the potential for further burning and possible destruction to wildlife. Ultimately, there is a significant cost to the Exchequer of this burning but there is a bigger cost to nature and to the quality of all our lives by losing these habitats.
At the risk of repeating myself, which I do not want to do, I re-emphasise the separation in terms of the Department's responsibility around controlled burning. There are issues outside of the Department's control. We will continue to work in close collaboration with the Garda, the emergency services and the local authorities.
When we talk about habitat, nature and all things relating to wildlife, none of the people I meet on a daily basis in my constituency is against this debate but we must also have a debate around the co-existence of communities and habitat. It is a co-existence. In terms of sustainability, we have to work closely with communities because many of the communities have the answers. I am grateful for the officials in the Department who work on a regional basis also and who feed those community concerns back.
64. Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if she has brought the Moore Street advisory group report to Cabinet with a view to prioritising the proposals to conserve and restore the historic properties in Moore Street associated with the Rising and adjacent areas of lanes and the proposals to improve and expand the market trading in Moore Street and the situation in which the traders are working; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27510/17]
I am not quite clear which Minister will respond, although either would be welcome, but I ask about the extensive report, The Moore Street Report - Securing History, on securing the future of the battlefield areas beside the GPO, rebuilding Moore Street as a trading and food market for Dublin and for visitors to Dublin, and reinvigorating the area. I am shocked the Minister has not yet brought this report to Cabinet because there has been a broad hard-working group working on this at the Minister's request.
I refer the Deputy to Priority Question No. 60, to which the Minister, Deputy Michael Ring, replied.
The Minister, Deputy Heather Humphreys, already recorded in this House her sincere appreciation to the members of the group for the report, entitled The Moore Street Report - Securing History, the group presented to her 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.
The Minister, Deputy Heather Humphreys, welcomes the fact the report is seeking a way forward based on consensus. She believes its recommendations can help breathe new life into the area, which Deputy Joan Burton attested to as well, 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 surrounding area that also 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 ambience and place in the life of the capital city.
The report has looked carefully at all these elements and the Minister, Deputy Humphreys, is pleased that it signals the potential for a mutually successful outcome to be agreed between the relevant parties, balancing the perspectives of all the key stakeholders. The Minister is fully supportive of this collaborative approach and she wants to see the work already done being continued in order 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 that the report itself identifies as the most effective way to move forward with its recommendations.
Additional information not given on the floor of the House
As the Deputy will be aware, the Minister has 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.
If the Minister of State cares to take a walk down Moore Street and the lanes running between the GPO and Moore Streets, he will note that it is an area in total crisis in which Moore Street, as a vibrant street market, and the traders who have traded inter-generationally there are on their last legs. A great deal of work was done by a diverse group, ranging from relatives of the 1916 leaders to those with an interest in the architecture and in the revitalisation of this important part of the city, and all the public bodies and authorities.
As a former Tánaiste, I find it shocking that this report has not been brought to the Cabinet. That is what my question is about. For instance, the new Taoiseach has not seen this report. Maybe he has read about it in the newspapers but he certainly has not seen it, as an outgoing member of the Cabinet and the incoming Taoiseach.
We have to take our opportunities. In Donegal the Minister of State, Deputy Joe McHugh, has to do so in relation to tourism, commemorations, etc. There is enormous scope for the development of the whole Moore Street area in a way in which other cities across Europe have done that combines history with a vibrant agricultural and produce market and that gives a future to the traders also. However, that will start with not only those who wrote the report but the Cabinet having ownership of the report.
We are running short of time. I will take a supplementary from Deputy Peadar Tóibín.
The consultative forum was an excellent idea. It was one of the best things Fine Gael and the Independents did on this issue. However, that forum highlighted a number of actions that need to be taken and those actions place responsibilities on Ministers concerned. That is why Deputy Joan Burton is correct in stating that it is necessary that it gets the full stamp of the Department so that it not only remains in the ether but is physically accepted as Government policy.
There needs to be co-operation between the developer and the forum. We need to ensure 14-17 Moore Street are taken into OPW hands and that a preservation order is placed on 10-25 Moore Street. The Government needs to look at how 10-25 Moore Street can come into either Government use or ownership.
I would not be prescriptive about it but I would like to see Irish language groups, for example, locate there rather than be scattered around the town or city. In that way, cultural and language organisations could realise critical mass in that part of Dublin.
I believe we are all in agreement that this is something of value. Moreover, we want to hold on to what we have and develop it further. The committee will look at how to bring the recommendations forward. I will take the message back.
Progress to date has been positive. For information purposes, the report has been published on the Department website. A question was asked about bringing the matter to the Cabinet. I will follow up on that to see what processes are involved.
As a young boy in the late 1970s and early 1980s, my first introduction to Dublin was to Moore Street and the traders there. I came up to do the Christmas shopping with my mammy, brothers and sisters on John Joe Boyce's bus. It is a valuable part of the social infrastructure and legacy of Dublin. It is something of which the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, Deputy Heather Humphreys, is conscious. Not only does she want to protect it but she wants to develop it also. Knowing the Minister as I do, I am confident that she is open to different ideas and suggestions from different groups.