Priority Questions

We will now move on to questions to the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht.

Departmental Expenditure

Niamh Smyth


66. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the rationale for the decision to allocate €900,000 of the Creative Ireland programme budget to initiatives under the heading, citizen engagement; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3356/18]

I congratulate the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Deputy Madigan, on her elevation and promotion to the Cabinet. Will the Minister explain the decision to allocate €900,000 of the Creative Ireland budget to citizen engagement?

Comhghairdeas, a Aire, as ucht do cheapacháin.

Go raibh maith agat, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle.

I thank Deputy Smyth for bringing this question to the House. As part of the 2017 Creative Ireland programme, my Department undertook a comprehensive citizen engagement programme, to which the Deputy alluded, to showcase the range and depth of Ireland's cultural and creative offering. This is to encourage participation in arts and creative activities as a means of individual, collective and societal well-being and to build awareness of the Creative Ireland programme, particularly in its first year.

The vision of the Creative Ireland programme is that every person in Ireland should have the opportunity to realise his or her full creative potential. This represents a new approach to creativity and cultural policy and therefore required a substantial and sustained communications programme in 2017. A combination of approaches and platforms were used to maximise impact taking account of the diversity of the target audiences.

The development of the citizen engagement programme was very much informed by the positive experience of previous programmes, particularly the approach taken in the Ireland 2016 centenary programme. In addition, statistics relating to readership of national and regional newspapers, listenership to local radio and increased use of social media, especially by younger people, all informed the choices made. The programme was also designed to have as wide a reach as possible, including in rural areas.

Expenditure included supplements and resource material published in national newspapers, features in the regional press and regional broadcast media, which optimised the Creative Ireland programme online presence via two bespoke websites and associated social media content. It also was about building awareness of the programme among the Irish diaspora in the United States.

In addition, the opportunity was taken in the initial year of the programme to engage and collaborate with several key cultural partners at various significant national events and festivals to promote the objectives of the programme and encourage deeper appreciation of the role of creativity in Irish life. It was also envisaged that where opportunities arose, the Creative Ireland programme would engage with specific initiatives throughout 2017 to communicate the objectives of the programme.

A full breakdown of how the Creative Ireland programme budget was spent in 2017 including all the elements referred to above is provided on my Department's Creative Ireland programme website. That breakdown of costs is available if Deputy Smyth is looking for it.

I appreciate the reply. I have the 2017 end of year report in front of me. At a very quick glance, one can see a huge proportion of the funds have been spent on media and the promotion of the Creative Ireland programme, especially under the heading of citizen engagement. In 2017 the budget for creative Ireland was €5 million. Of this €900,000 was spent on citizen engagement. Almost €400,000 was spent on supplements and articles in national newspapers, €245,000 was spent on advertisements in regional newspapers and radio stations, €165,000 was spent on what is described as optimising the Creative Ireland programme's online presence and €86,000 was spent on media management fees. A further €600,000 was spent on web and digital media content. Each cent of public money that is spent on slogans, images and social media advertising budgets is money that is directed away from the artists. My main concern is that the money for Creative Ireland is not actually reaching the artists themselves. Perhaps the Minister will respond to this.

I appreciate the reasons for Deputy Smyth asking this question but I strongly disagree. I believe the spend is justified, particularly in the first year of the programme. This is a communication platform across the board where we highlight the Creative Ireland programme. In the breakdown of the €5 million budget for 2017, while €900,000 went towards citizen engagement, Cruinniú na Cásca received €1.25 million and the local authority partnership received €1 million. The events, festivals and partnerships sector received €490,000, digital content spend was €400,000, international spend was €200,000, administrative support received €500,000 and other initiatives received €260,000. For people to have creativity at the heart of policy making and for them to be aware of it, we have to highlight it, especially in the first year of the programme. We will use citizen engagement again this year. We do not know yet exactly how much it will be. This was a widespread and warranted communications strategy. It presented value for money and my Department is very satisfied about it.

The Minister has managed to reaffirm my concerns about how the Creative Ireland moneys are spent. As the Minister has outlined, almost €1 million is media driven and centres on the umbrella and slogan of Creative Ireland, instead of actually reaching the artists and the heart of what they do in very restricted conditions in respect of money and working conditions.

My conversation with the previous Minister, Deputy Heather Humphreys, on her last outing with responsibility for this area in the Dáil Chamber is what set the platform for this discussion today. My concern is that Creative Ireland is becoming an alternative agency for the funding of the arts instead of the funding being directed through the Arts Council, with an arms length approach that is independent of the Government. I am concerned that our Arts Council, which is the fundamental funding agency for artists throughout the country, got a total increase of €3 million, whereas €8 million was set aside for Creative Ireland. As I said, I cannot emphasise enough that, to me, to spend €900,000 on advertising is to have a huge proportion of the overall expenditure for Creative Ireland go to the media.

To clarify, the Arts Council receives the majority of my Department's allocation. It got €68 million, whereas Creative Ireland got only €6 million. They are completely different engines. We are not a funding body in the sense that the Arts Council is.

Festivals have been funded in the past.

The Deputy knows that related to grants for specific festivals. It is a very different matter.

That were directly chosen-----

The Minister, without interruption.

If I can answer the Deputy's question, we are talking about high quality resource material and interesting articles and interviews, which are all designed to be thought provoking and informative. They are not simply designed to advertise the Department or the programme. They are there to showcase the range of activities and amenities and the research into culture and creativity and to encourage people to get involved. I disagree strongly that artists are not aware of this Creative Ireland programme.

They are aware of it but they are not benefiting from it.

The whole point of the engagement is to create awareness of it. I might add that this is together with the money all the local authorities in each different constituency received. The 31 of them have been using the moneys they got to create awareness as well. This all feeds into implementing the Culture 2025 programme, which is what Creative Ireland is all about.

Straitéis 20 Bliain don Ghaeilge

Peadar Tóibín


67. D'fhiafraigh Deputy Peadar Tóibín den Aire Cultúir, Oidhreachta agus Gaeltachta an bhfuil sí chun a rá cathain go díreach a fhoilseofar an plean gnímh cúig bliana don Straitéis 20 Bhliain don Ghaeilge agus Bille na dTeangacha Oifigiúla. [3446/18]

Ar dtús, guím gach rath ar an Aire nua ina post. B'fhéidir go mbuailfidh sí linne go luath chun rudaí a phlé.

Mar is eol don Aire Stáit, tá géarchéim ann sa Ghaeilge thart timpeall na tíre ag an bomaite agus ba cheart go mbrostóimid orainn chun é a dheisiú. Táimid ag fanacht ón samhradh ar an bplean gnímh cúig bliana don straitéis 20 bliain a d'eascair ó athbhreithniú a thit amach in 2015. Dúirt an Roinn linn i mí na Samhna go bhfoilseofaí é "chomh luath in Éirinn agus is féidir". Níl a fhios agam cad is brí leis sin agus níl a fhios agam cathain a bheidh sé foilsithe ach tá géarghá go mbeadh sé foilsithe go luath.

Dírím aird an Teachta ar an bhfreagra a thug mé ar Cheist Dála Uimh. 303 ar 21 Samhain 2017 maidir leis an bplean gníomhaíochta don tréimhse 2018 go 2022 faoin Straitéis 20 Bliain don Ghaeilge. Mar a thug mé le fios sa bhfreagra sin, ós rud é go bhfuil freagracht thrasRannach i gceist maidir le cur i bhfeidhm na straitéise, tá plé ar bun ag mo Roinn leis na páirtithe leasmhara éagsúla maidir le spriocanna sonracha agus tráthchlár ina leith a aontú.

Mar atá mínithe agam go minic roimhe seo, is é nádúr na hoibre seo go dtógann sé am le nithe a aontú. Ní call a rá go bhfuilim ar an airdeall chomh maith faoin ngá a chinntiú, oiread agus is féidir, go bhfuil fiúntas leis an gclár bearta a mbeifear ag súil leis a chur i dtoll a chéile mar chuid den phlean críochnúil agus is gá, dá réir, a chinntiú go bhfuil téagar agus tairbhe le pé bearta a bheidh sa phlean i ndeireadh thiar thall.

Táim sásta go bhfuil  an obair sin ag dul ar aghaidh go maith agus is féidir a bheith cinnte de go leanfar leis an obair sin i gcomhar leis na páirtithe leasmhara ábhartha leis an sprioc go mbeidh an plean á fhoilsiú faoi dheireadh mhí Feabhra nó mar sin.

Maidir leis an mBille teanga, tá mo chuid oifigigh ag obair i gcomhréir le hOifig an Ard-Aighne chun an Bille a dhréachtú.  Ag an am céanna, tá comhairliúcháin ar bun ag mo Roinn leis na Ranna Stáit ábhartha, leis an gCoimisinéir Teanga agus le páirtithe leasmhara eile le cinntiú go mbeidh an Bille is fearr agus is éifeachtaí againn le tabhairt os comhair an Oireachtais.  Tá an Bille seo san áireamh i gclár reachtaíochta an Rialtais le bheith foilsithe le linn sheisiún an Earraigh-an tSamhraidh de chuid na Dála.

An bhfuil an tAire Stáit ag rá go mbeidh an plean gnímh le foilsiú ag deireadh mí Feabhra?

Okay. Cén fáth go bhfuil sé déanach? Chualamar an bhliain seo caite go mbeadh sé déanta roimh dheireadh na bliana. An bhfuil an fhoireann chuí ann agus ag obair ar an bplean sin? Cé mhéad duine atá ag obair ar an bplean? Cén fáth go bhfuilimid ag sleamhnú arís agus arís eile mar gheall ar na príomhuirlisí atá againn chun an Ghaeilge a chur chun cinn sa tír seo? An bhfuil tuarascáil faighte ag an Aire Stáit faoin bplean gnímh? An bhfuil aon cheann de na gnímh gur cheart dúinn a dhéanamh feicthe ag an Aire Stáit go fóill?

Dúradh linn freisin go bhfoilseofaí Bille na dTeangacha Oifigiúla (Leasú) i rith an tréimhse Dála a bhí ann ó 2011 go 2016. Gheall an t-iarThaoiseach, an Teachta Enda Kenny, go mbeadh sé déanta roimh an toghchán in 2016. Táimid Dáil amháin déanach anois maidir leis an mBille seo. An féidir leis an Aire Stáit dáta sonrach a thabhairt dúinn maidir leis an ngealltanas atá curtha os comhair na Dála anois?

Beidh an tuarascáil réidh ag deireadh mhí Feabhra agus beimid ag dul ar aghaidh leis sin. An fáth go raibh moill ann agus go raibh am de dhíth fá dtaobh den chomhairliúchán ná go raibh comhairliúchán cuimsitheach ann leis na dreamanna ábhartha. B'fhearr liom go mbeadh an spás ann chun an taighde a dhéanamh agus comhairliúchán cuimsitheach a bheith againn. Maidir le cad a bheidh sa tuarascáil, beidh sé sin níos soiléire nuair a bheidh an taighde agus an comhairliúchán déanta ag deireadh mhí Feabhra.

An fhadhb atá agamsa ná go bhfuil gach duine sa Dáil seo ag rá gur cheart go mbeadh Acht teanga ann sa Tuaisceart ach, ar an taobh seo den Teorann, tá na hacmhainní go léir againn agus an toil go léir againn - tá gach duine ar an taobh céanna mar gheall ar an gcuid is mó den Acht sin agus mar gheall ar an bplean gnímh - ach fós tá an t-am ag sleamhnú thart. Uaireanta úsáideann daoine "taighde" mar leithscéal. Nuair nach bhfuil Rialtas ag iarraidh rud a dhéanamh, uaireanta deirtear go gcuirfear isteach i gcoiste é nó go bhfaighidh sé tuarascáil breise faoin rud. Tá deis iontach anseo ag an Aire Stáit, áfach, agus tá suim aige ann. Níl a fhios ag éinne cé chomh fada is a mhairfidh an Dáil seo. B'fhéidir go dtitfidh sé i mí Aibreán ach b'fhéidir go leanfaidh sé go dtí mí Dheireadh Fómhair. Ní bheidh an deis céanna againn, áfach, chun plean gnímh a chur os comhair na Dála agus os comhair na tíre agus chun Acht na dTeangacha Oifigiúla níos láidre a chruthú. Impím ar an Aire Stáit go mbróstódh sé leis an rud seo.

Tháinig an smaoineamh uaimse cúpla bliain ó shin fá dtaobh den phlean gnímh cúig bliana agus tá an plean gnímh agus an straitéis 20 bliain fite fuaite ina chéile. Tá gealltanas ann fá dtaobh de dheireadh mhí Feabhra. É sin ráite, an gealltanas is mó ná an spreagadh agus an obair atá déanta leis na dreamanna éagsúla a bhí freagrach as an teanga, mar shampla, Conradh na Gaeilge agus grúpaí eile. Leo siúd, tá na dreamanna Stáit ar nós Údarás na Gaeltachta fosta. Tá siadsan ag obair ar chlár na straitéise 20 bliain. Is plean níos faide é an straitéis 20 bliain agus tá an plean gnímh cúig bliana de dhíth fá choinne an spriocdháta agus na príomhspriocanna fá dtaobh den teanga a bhogadh ar aghaidh. Dúirt an Teachta go raibh rudaí diúltacha ag dul ar aghaidh maidir le ceantair Ghaeltachta agus an teanga. Ní aontaím leis sin. Tá cuid mhór rudaí dearfacha ag dul ar aghaidh. Tóg, mar shampla, na scoileanna sa Ghaeltacht. Nuair a bhí mise i mo cheantar féin sa Ghaeltacht, bhí daoine ag labhairt Gaeilge. Beidh na rudaí nádúrtha ag dul ar aghaidh leis an teanga. Tá an teanga in áit difriúil sa Tuaisceart fosta. Fuair mise an spreagadh an teanga a athfhoghlaim ó dhaoine atá ina gcónaí sa Tuaisceart. Daoine iad seo ó Ard Mhacha, Tír Eoghain, Doire agus Béal Feirste. Tá an teanga in áit difriúil faoi láthair.

An Teanga Gaeilge

Éamon Ó Cuív


68. D'fhiafraigh Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív den Aire Cultúir, Oidhreachta agus Gaeltachta céard iad na beartais speisialta atá beartaithe ag a Roinn mar chuid de Bhliain na Gaeilge; agus an ndéanfaidh sí ráiteas ina thaobh. [3130/18]

D'fhógair an Taoiseach Bliain na Gaeilge i dTithe an Oireachtais díreach roimh an Nollaig. Tá ceist an-simplí agam. Céard iad na beartais atá i gceist le cur i bhfeidhm ó thaobh an Rialtais de as seo go ceann bliana mar chéiliúradh agus mar chomóradh ar Bhliain na Gaeilge?

Is ar 13 Nollaig 2017 a d’fhógair mise agus an Taoiseach go raibh Bliain na Gaeilge 2018 faofa ag an Rialtas. Ag tógáil ar rath "an teanga bheo" a bhí mar shraith faoi chlár comórtha Éire 2016 agus i bhfianaise go mbeidh Conradh na Gaeilge ag ceiliúradh 125 bliain d’athbheochan na Gaeilge in 2018, feictear gur togra tráthúil í Bliain na Gaeilge 2018 chun ceiliúradh a dhéanamh ar an teanga, go náisiúnta agus go hidirnáisiúnta. Chun tacú le gníomhaíochtaí na bliana, cheadaigh Foras na Gaeilge pacáiste airgeadais de €450,000 roimh dheireadh na bliana agus tá meitheal oibre comhdhéanta d'ionadaíocht ó mo Roinn, Foras na Gaeilge, Údarás na Gaeltachta, RTÉ, TG4 agus Conradh na Gaeilge bunaithe ar mhaithe leis an togra a stiúradh. Anuas air sin, tá breis agus 50 grúpa ag comhordú féilire d'imeachtaí cruthaitheacha, ealaíne agus pobail atá á n-eagrú ar fud an domhain in 2018, le roinnt tionscadal tábhachtacha a leanfaidh ar aghaidh tar éis 2018.

Tá i gceist go mbeidh cur chuige tras-Rialtais i gceist agus an bhliain á ceiliúradh. Tá clár imeachtaí Eanáir go Meitheamh foilsithe cheana féin agus is féidir imeachtaí breise a chlárú i gcónaí ar Ar mhaithe le rannpháirtíocht tras-Rialtais a éascú agus a chur chun cinn, beidh mé ag scríobh gan mhoill chuig mo chomhghleacaithe sa Rialtas ag iarraidh orthu a gcuid Ranna agus na comhlachtaí poiblí faoina gcúram a spreagadh le bheith páirteach sa cheiliúradh agus le himeachtaí a eagrú a thacaíonn leis an gcoincheap. Beidh mé ag déanamh an rud céanna, dár ndóigh, taobh istigh de mo Roinn fhéin.

Teastaíonn uaim go mbeidh na himeachtaí seo ag díríú isteach ar bheocht na teanga a cheiliúradh; úsáid, íomhá dearfach, infheictheacht agus gnáthú na Gaeilge sa phobal a mhéadú; an obair leanúnach a spreagadh agus aitheantas a thabhairt do chur chun cinn na Gaeilge; agus an Ghaeilge a chosaint mar theanga labhartha na Gaeltachta.

Táim cinnte go ndéanfaidh an fócas speisialta ar an Ghaeilge dearcadh dearfach i leith na teanga a spreagadh i measc an phobail i gcoitinne, rud a thacóidh le cuspóirí na Straitéise 20 Bliain don Ghaeilge 2010-2030 a bhaint amach. Ba mhaith liom an deis a thapú anseo inniu cuireadh a thabhairt do mo chomhghleacaithe anseo sa Dáil a bheith páirteach freisin agus Gaeilge a labhairt agus muid i mbun ár gcuid oibre.

Níl lá ar bith nach labhraím Gaeilge so beidh an tAire Stáit sásta leis sin. Dúirt an tAire Stáit go bhfuil €450,000 ag Foras na Gaeilge. An t-allúntas breise é sin nó céard as a dtáinig an €450,000 sin? Céard air a chaithfear an t-airgead sin? Táim ag iarraidh a fháil amach céard as a dtáinig an t-airgead agus an t-allúntas breise é. An bhfuil sé ag teacht as an méid airgid a tugadh do Roinn an Aire Stáit? An bhfuil comhmhaoiniú ón Tuaisceart i gceist sa €450,000? Sa ghnáthbhealach bíonn €3 ón Rialtas anseo agus €1 ón Rialtas ó Thuaidh nó ón bhFeidhmeannas. Tá cúpla ceist bheag anseo. B'fheidir go bhféadfadh an tAire Stáit iad a fhreagairt.

Is é €450,000 an méid airgid atá ar fáil. Sin an t-airgead agus sin an clár a bhí ar intinn Chonradh na Gaeilge-----

Céard as a dtáinig sé?

-----nuair a tháinig an smaoineamh chuige. Gabhaim m'aitheantas chuig Conradh na Gaeilge fá choinne an smaoinimh. Ní smaoineamh é seo a tháinig ón Rialtas amháin. Is smaoineamh thar barr é a tháinig ó Chonradh na Gaeilge. Bhí oifigigh i gConradh na Gaeilge ag iarraidh an airgid agus sholáthair an tOireachtas €450,000. Dá mbeadh smaointe ag daoine taobh amuigh den cheantar, bheadh airgead sa Roinn. Dá mbeadh smaointe i nGaillimh ná sna ceantair éagsúla, bheadh mise sásta iad a fheiceáil. Chomh maith leis sin, thar an Nollaig bhí mise ag casadh le daoine ó mo cheantar féin, daoine ón Tuaisceart agus daoine ag teacht abhaile ó Londain, Bostún agus Nua-Eabhrac. Bhí siad ag iarraidh plean difriúil agus togra ar son na teanga fosta. Is í mo theachtaireacht inniu ná go bhfuil cuid mhór oibre ar son na teanga indéanta taobh amuigh de rudaí a bhaineann le cúrsaí airgid. Mar shampla, bhí daoine i gCiarraí i dteagmháil liom ag iarraidh chiorcal comhrá agus ní bheidh aon airgead de dhíth leis sin.

Bíonn frustrachas iomlán orm nuair a chuirim ceisteanna ar an Aire Stáit mar ní fhreagraíonn sé aon cheist a chuirtear air. Labhraíonn sé i gcónaí faoi rudaí eile ar fad. Glacaim leis nach bhfuil a fhios aige céard as a dtáinig an t-airgead agus glacaim leis nach bhfuil a fhios aige céard air a chaithfear an t-airgead. Dúirt sé sa dara chuid den fhreagra go bhfuil sé chun ceist a chur ar na Ranna Stáit ar fad maidir le gníomhaíochtaí a bheidh ar bun acu siúd agus ag na háisíneachtaí faoina gcúram i gcaitheamh na bliana. Táimid ag deireadh mhí Eanáir anois. Cén uair a bheidh an tAire Stáit ag súil go bhfaighfidh sé freagra ar ais ó na Ranna Stáit agus a gcuid áisíneachtaí faoi na gníomhaíochtaí a bheidh ar bun acu i gcaitheamh na bliana seo? Feictear dom, ar an luas a bhogann rudaí i gcúrsaí Rialtais, go mbeidh leath den bhliain caite sula mbeidh a fhios againn céard iad cláir na Ranna seo ar fad agus a gcuid áisíneachtaí.

Ar dtús, tháinig an t-airgead ó Fhoras na Gaeilge, mar atá a fhios ag an Teachta.

Cá bhfuair Foras na Gaeilge an t-airgead? Sin an cheist a chuir mé.

Is é sin an áit ónar tháinig an t-airgead. Chomh maith leis sin, maidir leis an cheist a chuir mé ar mo chomhghleacaithe, roimh an Nollaig chuir mé teachtaireacht agus cuireadh chuig an Teachta Ó Cuív fá choinne cruinniú sa Teach seo. Sheol mé cuireadh chuig gach comhghleacaí de mo chuid, gach Seanadóir agus gach Teachta Dála fá choinne an cruinniú roimh an Nollaig faoi Bhliain na Gaeilge. Ní raibh mórán daoine ag an chruinniú agus gabhaim m'aitheantas chuig na daoine a bhí. Ag an chruinniú, bhí mé ag rá nach bhfuil an Rialtas freagrach as Bliain na Gaeilge. Tá an Rialtas lárnach i mBliain na Gaeilge agus beidh mise ag bogadh ar aghaidh leis agus ag tabhairt cuidithe dá clár, ach tá na dreamanna uilig - Glór na nGael, Foras na Gaeilge, Conradh na Gaeilge, Údarás na Gaeltachta - agus muintir na hÉireann freagrach as Bliain na Gaeilge. Ní chiallaíonn muintir na hÉireann na daoine a bhfuil cónaí orthu sna Fiche-Sé Chontae amháin, ach na daoine ina gcónaí sa Tuaisceart agus go hidirnáisiúnta fosta. Táim ag súil go mór go mbeidh cuid mhór oibre ag dul ar aghaidh ar son Bhliain na Gaeilge. Dá mbeadh aon chuidiú de dhíth trasna na bpáirtithe bheadh mé sásta é a thabhairt.

Archaeological Sites

Peadar Tóibín


69. Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht when her Department will address issues and implement new measures at the Hill of Tara (details supplied). [3447/18]

The Hill of Tara is a magical place. It has a special place in the hearts and minds of Irish people all over the world and is one the few locations that is internationally recognised. According to tradition, it is the seat of the High Kings of Ireland and it is covered with numerous, internationally recognised monuments including a neolithic passage grave which is 5,000 years old and the banqueting hall of Tara, as well as the Lia Fáil. It is a massive cultural asset to the country and to County Meath but it is all but ignored by the Department and the Office of Public Works, OPW. It is not in a fit state for the number of visitors it has and I ask what the Minister is looking to do to fix that.

The Hill of Tara, with its many earthwork monuments and long historical associations, is one of Ireland’s premier national monuments and is of international prominence and importance.  In recent years, it has been subject to extensive research by the Discovery Programme, funded by my Department, through which our knowledge and understanding of the site has been greatly increased.

The Office of Public Works, OPW, has responsibility for day-to-day management of the State-owned lands and conducts ongoing monitoring of visitor numbers to the site which has open access all year round and is used by large numbers from the local community as well as by many other visitors. Around 200,000 people visited Tara in 2017. I acknowledge the work our OPW colleagues do to maintain the site in optimal condition.  Meath County Council and its county manager also do a lot of work in this area.

We need to be aware of the potential impact increasing visitor numbers might have on the upstanding monuments and on the site itself. The imperative is, first and foremost, to protect and conserve the site so that it remains in a good state of conservation and that visitors and future generations can derive maximum enjoyment and benefit from visiting it. With that in mind, my Department is leading a working group of relevant stakeholders, including the OPW, Meath County Council, the Heritage Council and the Discovery Programme, with a view to developing a conservation management plan for the State-owned lands at the hill. This working group met as recently as 18 January 2018 when a provisional roadmap was agreed which anticipates the revised draft plan being ready for circulation in mid summer.

The new plan will focus on conservation and will inform a list of priority conservation and site management actions and measures. Focusing on the lands that are in the ownership of the State, it will inform future interventions on the site, aided by the ongoing monitoring of visitor numbers by the OPW. The plan will not, nor is it intended to, address land use and planning issues in the wider environs of Tara. It will nevertheless help to inform the future planning and development of the area.

Additional information not given on the floor of the House

Meath County Council has the primary role and responsibility for such issues as car parking facilities and traffic management, including safety on approach roads. I understand that the council is developing proposals in this regard that will strive to be compatible with the conservation management plan for the hill itself. My Department and the OPW will liaise and co-operate with the council in every way possible in this regard.

While the development of a plan of this nature is challenging, given the complexity and size of the site and the interests of varied stakeholders, I am confident that it can be completed and adopted in 2018.  When finalised, it will form a solid framework in which all of the ongoing site management issues referred to by the Deputy will be addressed.  It will help to inform conservation priorities on the site and guide future investment decisions in visitor and interpretation facilities that are compatible with its international standing and significance.

The Hill of Tara is full of archaeological monuments. It has historical links with the 1798 rising and with Daniel O'Connell's monster meetings as well. The Minister mentioned the number of people who have visited it. The figure of 200,000 is conservative. It is probably closer to 250,000. There are at least 1,000 buses travelling to the Hill of Tara every year. It pains me to say this because it is literally four miles from my house, but currently the Hill of Tara is in a mess. It is really difficult to find parking at the space. A field is being used for parking at the moment. Buses find it extremely hard to navigate the area. The hill itself is increasingly mucky. The rath on which the Lia Fáil currently stands is flooded throughout the whole of the year. There are no pathways of any sort. There are some archaeological worries around the introduction of pathways onto the hill itself, but the ground is currently being torn up by people. There must be extra focus on the outside of the OPW site because there are planning issues. There are issues with the lack of capacity, toilets, shops and restaurants, and I would ask the Minister to take a more comprehensive view on how this can be fixed.

I thank the Deputy for raising these concerns. I understand that Meath County Council is reviewing its county development plan. It will have to look at parking and traffic congestion around the Hill of Tara, and I understand that at the November meeting of Meath County Council's Ashbourne municipal district, the executive and members agreed to scope out and prepare a brief for the appointment of consultants to carry out a feasibility study which will examine car parking and toilet facilities.

The Deputy is correct to say that the critical amenity infrastructure issues around the Hill of Tara have to be dealt with. I very much welcome that and the fresh impetus that this new working group will give to the environs of the Hill of Tara, which as the Deputy has pointed out is very important internationally. There are 100 acres of State-owned lands and 150 recorded archaeological monuments spanning 5,000 years, from the neolithic to the medieval period. We have to look after our heritage. At the moment the figures that we have suggest that 200,000 people visited the Hill of Tara in 2017, but perhaps the working group will say otherwise. It remains to be seen, but I am satisfied that the concerns the Deputy has will be addressed by this new working group.

I believe the Minister should have two or three guiding rules here. The first rule should be the protection of the heritage on the site. The second rule should be that it is open, offering safe, unrestricted access. The third rule should be that the Minister looks at the opportunity presented here. Not only does the heritage available on the site set minds alight with the wonder of the history and the location, but the fact that this is a facility with a quarter of a million people and upwards visiting regularly should mean that the Minister should be looking at how to develop the area so that it adds economically to the location, having already fulfilled the obligation of protecting the heritage there.

The problem I have is that there is a report which has been sitting with the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht for the past three years which I believe has not been acted on at all. The Minister has mentioned the publication of another report. Will there be a budget to go with that as well? When will the report sitting with the Department be delivered and will there be a budget associated with the report?

I appreciate the Deputy's concerns. As I mentioned in my original reply, there is a revised draft plan which we hope to have by mid-summer. It is focused on conservation and site management. Meath County Council will have to look at the car parking and toilet facilities issue. The Office of Public Works looks after the day-to-day management of the Hill of Tara. It is the symbolic capital of Ireland. That is not in dispute, and we have to have a proper plan for it. The plan that is there will include all stakeholders. It will be a five to ten-year policy plan. We want to make sure that the aesthetic, social and spiritual values of the Hill of Tara are protected. As a Minister I want to make sure that we look after our heritage, in particular the Hill of Tara which is such a popular place to go to. It was the site of the 1798 rebellion, among other historical events which the Deputy mentioned earlier. We are looking at a serial application to UNESCO and whether we can do something with that. I am satisfied that we will have something with which to come back to the Deputy by mid-summer, and it is to be hoped that will address his concerns.

Bullying in the Workplace

Joan Burton


70. Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht further to the recent publicity surrounding sexual harassment in the arts, her plans in respect of this issue; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3067/18]

Is the Minister concerned at the sexual harassment and bullying of women in particular but also of young men in the theatre and arts in Ireland? Has she has any proposals, as an incoming Minister, to stem the tide of such disgraceful behaviour?

As I have stated publicly, everyone, regardless of their job, is entitled to work in an atmosphere in which respect, dignity, fairness and equality are very much the norm.

My Department is working closely with the Irish Theatre Institute with a view to putting in place a series of actions that will find an appropriate way forward for the theatre sector on this sensitive topic. On 16 November 2017, my predecessor, Deputy Humphreys, met the group of eight leaders from Irish theatre organisations who had co-signed a statement condemning sexual harassment and abuse of power in the theatre in Ireland. The meeting focused on how the theatre sector, in particular, could come together to discuss the issues which have arisen.  It was agreed that my Department would assist in any practical arrangements in this regard.

Following that engagement, the Irish Theatre Institute has worked to develop an initiative to provide an opportunity for people in the sector to come together to voice views on recent happenings and to consider a respectful way forward for the sector. Details of this initiative are being finalised at present, and we are hoping to announce details of that at the end of this week, if not next week.

I have also asked the Theatre Institute to engage with representatives of the 72 signatories of the open letter which was published in The Irish Times last week with a view to ensuring that the measures proposed can address some of the concerns they expressed, in particular addressing culture and practices in the sector into the future. I have indicated that I would welcome a meeting with these representatives in due course so that I can hear their concerns first hand and to ensure that any measures we support address the core of the issues facing the sector and beyond.

It is not appropriate for me as Minister to become involved in, or comment on, individual cases, and it is important that due process is followed in each case. I am, however, vigorously following up on the measures announced by my predecessor last month which are designed to work with stakeholders to address culture and practices within the sector.   I want to send a clear message that compliance with the law and a culture of dignity and respect are fundamental and should be the norm for everyone, regardless of where or how they work.

I will be doing all I can to progress this matter. It is a very sensitive issue, and I am doing everything I can to support everybody involved so that we can come to a proper and mutually beneficial solution to this issue.

Does the Minister agree that Irish theatre is a cold place for women, just as the Oireachtas has been on very many occasions? That is not withstanding the fact that there are now more women in the Oireachtas, which I welcome. Was the Minister shocked by the revelations, in particular those concerning the Gate Theatre?

She said she has read the letter from the 72 women who are workers and practitioners in the arts and in theatre across the spectrum in Ireland. They have said that they are very shocked by the fact that, in respect of what happened at the Gate Theatre, the people who are the subject of the harassment and bullying were not consulted about the inquiry commissioned by the Gate. I understand that inquiry was commissioned on 17 November, around the time, as the Minister said, of the previous Minister having spoken to the Irish Theatre Institute. What I am struggling to understand is how a young person, be it a man or a woman, although most of the harassment affects young women, going to work in the theatre can feel empowered to take on what can be a very powerful theatre management where they experience bullying and harassment. What has the Minister got to say to that?

I really appreciate the Deputy's concerns. I was deeply saddened to hear of the allegations she mentioned in the Gate Theatre, and indeed in any sector. I am not in a position to comment on individual cases but what I can do is outline the measures we are taking to ensure this does not happen in the future. One of the measures is the holding of workshops and the closing date for tenders for that is 26 January. There will be an emphasis on dealing with sexual harassment and bullying in those workshops, which will be rolled out over the coming period. Also, the Arts Council will be issuing invitations to other cultural institutions and arts centres throughout the country to avail of similar training, which will help create awareness of the issues the Deputy mentioned. The Department has also written to all agencies highlighting the nature of their legal obligations under employment legislation. They are governed by employment legislation and they will have their own guidelines, but we have to make sure they are following the guidelines.

We also want to accelerate a planned review of compliance with the code of practice for the governance of State bodies, and that process will start shortly. I am hoping to announce the solutions we are examining at the end of this week or the end of next week. The co-signatories are the Abbey Theatre, Druid Theatre, the Dublin Fringe Festival, the Dublin Theatre Festival, the Gate Theatre, the Project Arts Centre and Rough Magic Theatre Company. I am aware my predecessor had a very beneficial meeting with the directors in November.

Will the Minister tell us if she has taken any action regarding this area? She has indicated a lot of sympathy but what she has not indicated, in particular about the Gate Theatre, which has been a marvellous theatre in the life of the arts in Ireland with many magnificent productions to its credit, is that the board of that theatre, which commissioned the study undertaken by Ms Gaye Cunningham, is the board on which the previous director of the theatre sat. Does the Minister believe that is appropriate? She is a lawyer. Would she agree that a board so conflicted by association with the retired recent director is the proper mechanism to initiate a review, presumably to provide justice for people who were subject to appalling harassment, appalling behaviour and sexual abuse? Does she believe that is appropriate or that a more independent mechanism, as suggested by the 72 signatories of the letter, should be utilised?

The Minister to respond.

Is this not the moment for the Minister to strike out and be a little independent in this regard?

I have said that I was deeply distressed and upset to hear about these allegations. I am not in a position, as the Deputy will appreciate, to comment on individual cases but I hear her concerns.

Regarding my own actions, as I mentioned, the details of an initiative are being finalised. My officials have engaged with the Irish Theatre Institute on making an announcement regarding this, and they are dealing with the 72 signatories of the letter to The Irish Times, but as the Deputy will appreciate, it is a very sensitive time. There are many people involved who have suffered and I do not want to say anything that would scupper that. We want to make sure that these issues and allegations do not arise again in any environment and I am doing everything I can to try to address that. I would welcome a meeting with the people who have suffered in this way because I want to hear their concerns and ensure that any measures address the core issues facing this sector and beyond.