Ceisteanna Eile - Other Questions

Question No. 6 replied to with Written Answers.

Artists' Remuneration

Mick Wallace

Question:

7. Deputy Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht to outline the measures she plans to take to address the recent figures published by the Central Statistics Office, CSO, which show that while average earnings here have increased by 7% in the five years to June 2018 earnings for those in the arts sector decreased by 3.5% in the same period; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [47437/18]

Figures published recently by the CSO show that while average earnings increase in Ireland by 15.7% in the five years to June 2018, earnings for those who worked in the arts sector decreased by 3.5% in the same period. The 13.5% increase in arts and culture spending overall in the budget this year is welcome. The Taoiseach has given a commitment to double arts funding by 2022. A greater increase will be required year-on-year to meet that target. We are working from a chronic low base due to under-investment in the past decade in the arts sector.

I thank the Deputy for his question. I am aware of the issues raised by him and the report published by the CSO based on the earnings and labour costs for the first quarter of 2018. The CSO report shows variations in earnings across the sectors as categorised under various statistical groupings, including arts, entertainment, recreation and other service activities. The report states that in the five years to the second quarter of 2018, average weekly earnings rose by 7% from €695.65 in the second quarter of 2013 to €744.08. There were large differences in the changes to average weekly earnings across individual sectors over this period, ranging between from an increase of 15.7% in the accommodation and food services sector and a decrease of 3.5% in the arts, entertainment, recreation and other service activities sector. It should be noted that this category is far wider than simply the arts sector. It includes gambling and betting activities as well as sports, amusements and recreation.

In budget 2019, funding for the arts and culture sector in 2019 supported by my Department was increased significantly by €22.6 million to almost €190 million. This represents an increase of 14% on 2018. Budget 2019 includes an increase to the Arts Council of almost €6.8 million or 10% to bring Arts Council expenditure to a total of €75 million. This increase was more than double the increase in 2018 and was warmly welcomed by the sector.

The Creative Ireland programme of my Department will receive funding of €7.15 million, representing an increase of €1.15 million, to support local authorities and the continued roll-out of the creative youth programme. A total of €6 million is being provided for the European Capital of Culture - Galway 2020 while the €4.1 million provided for Culture Ireland will continue to support the development of Irish artists on the world stage. Overall, the increased funding for the arts and cultural sector secured in budget 2019 clearly shows that the Government is acting on the commitment to double funding for arts, culture and sport by 2025.

We are out of synchronisation with European Union norms for arts funding. The arts continue to be funded at barely above austerity levels. The National Campaign for the Arts movement represents artists and art workers. The movement's pre-budget statement this year asked for the Government to provide a detailed roadmap on how the Taoiseach's commitment to doubling arts funding by 2022 will be delivered. We are now in the second year of the seven-year commitment but the arts community in Ireland has no clear plan or evidence of how this doubling of funding will be achieved. Is the Government producing a roadmap to detail and put shape and structure on where it is going? That would give the arts community something to work off and some confidence that things will improve in this area.

The Deputy mentioned the National Campaign for the Arts. I will refer to what the group said. The group welcomed the €6.8 million uplift for the Arts Council in budget 2019 given the central role the Arts Council plays in supporting artistic creation across the entire country. In response to the announcement, the National Campaign for the Arts chairperson, Angela Dorgan, said:

The 10% uplift in today’s Budget 2019 allocation to the Arts Council is welcomed by the NCFA and demonstrates significant progress towards the restoration of the Arts Council’s pre-recession allocation, which has been dramatically cut since 2008, causing untold damage to the Arts sector in Ireland. The NCFA also welcomes the increase in funding for Creative Ireland, not least in relation to its important work through the Creative Youth programme. These additional investments help to make up ground in the delivery of the Government’s commitment to doubling investment in the Arts and Culture sector over the next six years.

It has to be pointed out as well that the artist tax exemption scheme is not helping the vast majority of working artists. In reality, only a few artists earning far higher wages are benefitting from the scheme. Under the scheme, artists can apply for an exemption from income tax on earnings from an approved work for one year of up to €50,000. My good friend, the former Minister for Justice and Equality, Mr. Shatter, was approved under the scheme for his autobiography. However, few artists will earn anywhere near enough in a year to benefit from the tax exemption. According to the latest available figures from the Revenue, tax relief earned from the artist exemption scheme in 2015 rose by €10.8 million. However, the number of artists successfully applying for the exemption only rose by 8%. This indicates that only a small group of artists are reporting higher income figures while the vast majority of artists see little or no financial benefit. There is a major discrepancy in this area. It beggars belief that someone like the former Minister, who hardly needs the money, can get tax relief on this while the average artist is on the poverty line.

I have no wish to comment on my former constituency colleague's writings. Whatever about the tax exemption, artistic endeavours have traditionally never been paid well. This is something that we have been trying to address in government. I note what Deputy Wallace has said about the tax exemptions. We are trying to counteract that and the Arts Council is giving more money towards bursaries. The council had bursaries of €19,000 to help grassroots people, for example, people who want to write a book or paint a painting. These bursaries are really important to try to help people and encourage them to develop. I will also be doing Markievicz bursaries in my Department. These are designed to fund and supporting female artists.

The Taoiseach has put on record a public commitment to double spending on arts and culture by 2025. Budget 2019 is a notable milestone along this journey. We put a significant amount into this - such investment has not been available for many years – and we will continue to do so.

National Monuments

Maureen O'Sullivan

Question:

8. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht to outline the status of the programme of restoration works for 14-17 Moore Street; and the timeline for the national monument to be restored. [47405/18]

My question relates to the status of the programme of restoration works for 14-17 Moore Street and the timeline for the restoration of the national monument there.

As the Deputy is aware, the project to conserve the national monument buildings and to open them to the public to honour the leaders of the 1916 Rising was suspended in early 2016 on foot of proceedings in the High Court.

The aim of the works was to restore the buildings in a way that would have ensured that they reflected as closely as possible what they would have been like when they were occupied by the insurgents in 1916. Each of the buildings has extensive original features. The intention was, and remains, to retain all of this original material. With the agreement of the High Court a programme of works was subsequently completed to stabilise and weatherproof the buildings. This agreed programme was completed last year and the monument buildings are now in the care of the Office of Public Works. Working with The Moore Street Report — Securing History as its guide, the Moore Street advisory group, of which the Deputy is a member and whose support for the process I greatly appreciate, is currently engaged in discussions with the new owners of the Dublin Central site about the implementation of these recommendations and the future of the site surrounding the national monument. I was pleased to hear from the chair of the advisory group that the discussions are progressing positively.

I understand that the advisory group has been briefed in some detail by the architects for the new owners on how the previous plans for the wider site are being significantly modified in a way that is seen to be more sympathetic to the traditions and history of the area and that also brings the commemoration of the events of Easter 1916 much more to the fore. The design changes that will follow in relation to aspects such as architectural heritage, urban regeneration, community benefit and social amenity will determine how the wider regeneration work interacts with the national monument buildings themselves and how both elements are appropriately and sensitively integrated. Until that discussion, in which I see the Moore Street advisory group having a significant role, is complete and an overall solution to the regeneration of the surrounding site is in place, it would not be possible to put a precise timeframe on the resumption of work on the national monument project.

As the Minister states, I am a member of that consultative group and I was party to the report produced, called "Securing History". In that report, there were a number of realisable recommendations. One of those recommendations was that at an appropriate time, a cross-departmental group chaired by the lead Minister, Deputy Madigan, with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, the OPW, Dublin City Council, DCC, and the line Departments would pull together the State interests and oversee how the agencies can all deliver on their respective responsibilities. When will that happen?

We know what to do but when are we going to do it? I do not accept the Minister's point that we must wait on discussions with the developer for the rest of the terrace because I do not understand why the restoration work on Nos. 14 to 17 Moore Street, which the State owns, cannot commence immediately. The stabilising works have been done. They have cost a great deal. Why are we not in working on the restoration?

As the Deputy will be aware, the advisory group's most recent meeting was on Tuesday last, 13 November. It is now engaging on a regular basis with Hammerson to provide stakeholder input to the plans for the wider Dublin Central site.

Hammerson has presented an outline of its new plans to the group of which the Deputy is a member and I believe these have generally been well received by the members. These plans are acknowledged to be a big step forward from the previous proposals, in terms of being more representative and reflective of the history and culture of the area and of the events that took place during the 1916 Rising.

I met Dr. Tom Collins earlier this year when he provided an update on the positive progress and significant engagement that is taking place with Hammerson. In the meantime, Hammerson has presented its revised proposals to the group of which the Deputy is a member and is looking forward to continuing discussions and to getting the Deputy's group's view on the much revised development approach which is now being pursued.

The sub-group of which the Deputy is also a member has been formed only in the past fortnight and is chaired by Deputy Ó Cuív, who was here earlier. It is tasked with coming up with a vision for the national monuments at Nos. 14 to 17 Moore Street and I would not like to pre-empt that work.

The Minister correctly states that there is a more constructive engagement with the new developer, Hammerson, but with all that is happening in the retail sector, there is no guarantee that it will be there ad infinitum. I acknowledge that Hammerson has a much better appreciation of the historical and cultural atmosphere, ethos and history of the area but it does not own Nos. 14 to 17 Moore Street - the State does. Nos. 14 to 17 Moore Street are very old. Despite the stabilising works, there is still a great deal of work that we could be doing on restoring it instead of putting money into stabilising.

I also will refer to the traders. In our report, we made a number of recommendations to regenerate the market area there. There were suggestions around the by-laws and services and those are at a stalemate. What I get from the Minister is that our consultative group has the power to move all of these issues along but Deputy Madigan is the line Minister with the responsibility and power to do what she seems to be suggesting that we can do.

The Taoiseach has a strong interest in what is happening in Moore Street. As the line Minister, I agreed that he visit the area soon. As part of that visit, I expect that he will meet Hammerson's architect to review the research that Hammerson has done on the area and how the plans have been changed to reflect better the culture and history of the area and its links to the 1916 Rising. The Taoiseach will also visit the national monument buildings at Nos. 14 to 17 Moore Street and the rest of the Dublin Central site, which extends from Moore Street to the former Carlton Cinema on O'Connell Street and takes in much of the ground in between.

Deputy Jan O'Sullivan also mentioned the traders there. I believe the advisory group met Dublin City Council previously and discussed a range of issues. A submission was made by the group on behalf of the traders to the review currently taking place with regard to the casual trading by-laws. I believe Dublin City Council is currently examining all these submissions. It is important to say that we want to get it done as expeditiously as possible but properly.

Question No. 9 answered with Question No. 5.

Heritage Council

Martin Heydon

Question:

10. Deputy Martin Heydon asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the interaction planned with county heritage officers as part of Heritage Ireland 2030. [47428/18]

In accordance with Standing Order 41A, approval has been given to Deputy Deering to take Question No. 10 on behalf of his colleague.

The Minister recently launched a public consultation process into Heritage Ireland 2030. What plans has she to interact with the heritage officers right around the country, as I believe they have an important role to play?

Our heritage is a priceless and irreplaceable national asset which belongs to all of us. The natural and built heritage around us enriches our lives, inspires our achievements and gives life to our communities. It underpins our culture, our economy and our society. We want everyone to be able to enjoy this heritage, to have a sense of pride in it, and to keep it safe for the future.

The four-month public consultation process, which I announced on 1 November and which is open until the end of February 2019, is a critical phase of the development of the new national heritage plan for Ireland, Heritage Ireland 2030. This consultation offers us a unique opportunity to rethink how we care for our habitats, landscapes, wildlife, historic buildings and monuments so they can be celebrated and enjoyed long into the future.

The Heritage Council is a key partner of the Department in the consultation process and the heritage officers, as the Deputy correctly mentioned, in every county will have a significant role to play in engaging with communities and heritage partners at a local and county level to ensure that everyone in our communities across the country who wishes to do so has the opportunity to contribute and help shape the plan. My Department is in contact with the Heritage Council about this engagement and details will be announced shortly. It will more than likely involve a series of work shops and town-hall like meetings, all feeding into the final document. The Heritage Officers' Network is in a unique position to bring their particular expertise into the consultation process and I look forward very much to their input as key partners. As heritage officers, they are closer to communities and have an instinctive feel for what those communities want in a national plan and for what will deliver real and tangible heritage returns.

Additional information not given on the floor of the House

In developing the public consultation document guiding this public consultation, my Department met the Heritage Council and other key stakeholders. Written submissions were also sought and received from various other stakeholders, including the heritage officers. This engagement was critical to developing the broad themes of Heritage Ireland 2030.

Our vision for heritage is simple - that heritage is valued and protected. Heritage Ireland 2030 is built around that vision: that the way in which we identify and protect our heritage is the best it can be. Heritage Ireland 2030 is built around three emerging themes: national leadership, stronger heritage partnerships and communities and heritage. It is intended to draw up an action plan under each theme with full, open and regular review of objectives over the lifetime of the plan to 2030. We now look forward to the public and all other stakeholders expressing their views on these central themes, draft objectives and actions so we can all deliver on our central vision for heritage that it is valued and protected.

I am grateful to all those key stakeholders, including the heritage officers around the country, who have engaged with us in shaping the consultation strategy for Heritage Ireland 2030.

I thank the Minister for her response. I concur with her sentiments as regards our heritage and the importance of it. I also agree with the importance of local community involvement and the heritage officers having a key role to play in that regard.

I suppose I speak from a parochial point of view. There are 27 heritage officers around the country. Unfortunately, Carlow does not have a heritage officer. Carlow is at a significant disadvantage in this consultation process in that it will not be able to provide input directly to it. Are there any plans to rectify that? Carlow is one of the only such counties. Even though it is a small county, it is a proud county and has its own heritage like every other county. It is essential that the heritage officers provide input directly. The heritage officers are the ones who have expert knowledge of what is happening, the local connections etc. Has the Minister any plans to rectify the situation? In the event that it will not be rectified, how does the Minister foresee counties, such as Carlow, which do not have a heritage officer having the same input into the proposal?

The heritage officer programme is co-ordinated and funded by the Heritage Council and the heritage officers are local authority employees. Our primary channel of communication with the heritage officers is through the Heritage Council. The Deputy may well be disposed to let the Heritage Council know of the gap in Carlow in heritage officer provision which I am sure is badly needed. It may be something the Heritage Council might be interested in addressing.

My Department has been in close contact with the Heritage Council through the development of the consultation process and we have been in direct contact with the Heritage Officers' Network as well.

A meeting is happening tomorrow, the purpose of which is to discuss the practical arrangements for the consultation. There are major monuments in Carlow such as Carlow Castle, the high cross at Nurney and the prehistoric portal tomb at Brown's Hill. There are also monuments that span the prehistoric period, from the fourth millennium BC through the high point of early Christian art in the ninth and tenth centuries and into the key historical events of the Norman invasion of Ireland. There is a lot of heritage in Carlow that will be worth considering.

I thank the Minister for recognising the fact there are a number of key heritage sites in Carlow. The dolmen she mentioned is one of the biggest in Europe and the site needs to be developed even further.

The Minister mentioned the idea of workshops throughout the country, which could be beneficial. In the event that there is no heritage officer in Carlow, is there a plan to have a similar type of workshop involving the Kilkenny officer, who services Carlow on a reasonably regular basis? Will that type of workshop proposal be available in Carlow to take on board all of these suggestions in order that the county can get equal representation?

It is important that Carlow is represented, whether by Kilkenny, as the Deputy said, or perhaps through talking to the Heritage Council directly. The regional workshops will be rolled out in the coming weeks and will continue throughout the consultation period. The locations and dates will be set following our meetings with the County Heritage Officers Network, the Royal Irish Academy and other partners who are going to be involved in the workshops. These discussions will, of course, include the heritage officers for the Deputy's area, if they are available, or somebody representing them, who will have an opportunity to offer to host a workshop in that area. The final workshop will take place in Dublin as a national discussion day on heritage which will mark the end of the public consultation and will draw together all of the strands from the earlier local and regional meetings.

Film Industry

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

11. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if she will report on meetings she held recently with stakeholders in the film industry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [47421/18]

The Finance Bill is going through the Houses at present. Section 481 dealing with tax relief for the film industry amounts to €70 million or €80 million a year. It is positive that we are investing in the film industry but, as the Minister knows, given it was discussed at length at the all-party Oireachtas committee, there are quite serious disputes and issues over working conditions in the film industry. The all-party Oireachtas committee recommended that there be a stakeholder forum where all stakeholders get together to discuss the future of the industry. I want to know which film industry stakeholders the Minister met recently. When will the forum be convened? Can we have assurances that all stakeholders will be asked to attend that forum?

My Department and I have a strong relationship with the film industry, with meetings and other interaction taking place on an ongoing basis. This is particularly true of the relationship with Fís Éireann, the State's agency for the development of the film industry which comes under the remit of my Department. Fís Éireann is funded by my Department and in budget 2019 I announced an increase of 14% in the 2019 Fís Éireann allocation, bringing it to €20.04 million.

Most recently, I met a delegation from Universal Pictures in Los Angeles. In October I met the Fís Éireann chair, Annie Doona, and the chief executive officer, James Hickey, along with officials of my Department, in September I visited the animation production studio of Brown Bag Films and in August I met Neil Jordan on the occasion of his donation of his archive to the National Library. I visited Troy Studios earlier in the year and, later this month, I hope to visit the set of "Sweetness in the Belly". Officials from my Department have recently met with the IBEC audio-visual committee, representatives from TG4 and representatives from the Irish Film Workers Association, among other engagements.

As part of the Government's audio-visual action plan, which was launched last June, I established an oversight steering group charged with the overall implementation of the plan's recommendations. I have put this in place as previous strategic plans have lacked an agency or group responsible for implementation. This steering group has met three times. The group includes representatives of all Departments and State agencies with involvement in the audio-visual industry. The steering group will report to me at regular intervals and is engaging proactively with stakeholders in the film industry.

Screen Training Ireland, which is a division of Screen Ireland, plans to hold an inaugural screen industry education forum on 19 November. The aim of this annual event is to bring screen industry stakeholders, education-training providers and policy influencers together to focus on the skills development challenges and opportunities of the screen sectors in Ireland. My Department is also engaging with Fís Éireann in regard to the holding of an industry forum, which the Deputy mentioned, in the near future.

The screen education-training forum is important and is long overdue because there is still no proper structure for training and progression for trainees. However, the industry forum is critical. This was recommended by the all-party Oireachtas committee and we need to know it is going to happen. As the Minister knows, there are very serious issues that need to be resolved in the interests of everybody in the industry, so we need that forum to happen. I am sure the Minister is aware there is a lot of controversy around this. The position of the Government has to be absolutely clear that all stakeholders, whether representatives of workers, producers or otherwise - namely, all those who work in the industry - need to be represented to address whether workers' rights are being fully vindicated in the industry, whether section 481 and public investment in the film industry are being properly policed, what benefit we are getting in terms of employment and, in particular, the requirement for quality employment and training in the industry. I am seeking assurances that the Minister will ensure that this forum happens and soon.

The Deputy has my assurance in that regard. I would be open to any suggestions he has on resolving the inter-union disputes in regard to the industry forum. It is the unions which are not talking to each other. My Department is working very closely with others to try to get this up and running but, unfortunately, there are inter-union issues, which were highlighted by the transmission of the "Prime Time" programme, which focused on bullying and harassment in the film and television industry. As a result of that, implementation is proving very challenging.

At a meeting I had on 17 October with Screen Ireland, it discussed proposals for the holding of this forum and for the appointment of an independent chair. Following the meeting, Screen Ireland has made significant progress, having prepared draft terms of reference for the forum and circulating them to my Department, with proposals for the independent chair as well as the proposed speakers at the forum, and with reference to Screen Producers Ireland. Unfortunately, there has been a great deal of difficulty because of that. Screen Ireland issued a press release condemning harassment in the workplace. It is important to note that employees in every industry and sector are entitled to all existing legal protections. The Deputy may be aware that Kieran Mulvey has been appointed as mediator and has been trying to get everybody involved in this forum.

The "Prime Time" programme certainly outlined the disputes that exist. However, it was a bit of a travesty in terms of balance because it tried to imply that one group alone was responsible for problems in the industry and deliberately ignored evidence from other sources, for example, from workers in the industry and in particular from a number of organisations such as the GMB and SIPTU-Equity, whose representative, for example, said blacklisting was widespread in the industry.

The point is that no group should have a veto on whether this forum happens. The forum should happen. Everybody should be involved and these issues should be resolved. I agree there are internecine trade union disputes and so on, but it is not a trade union forum; it is an industry stakeholders forum. Trade unions should be invited but all representatives of workers and all stakeholders need to get into a room to resolve this in the interests of the film industry. While I appreciate the Minister's response, we have to force the pace of this and ensure that industry forum happens and that nobody tries to boycott or sabotage it.

As I said, I would welcome suggestions from the Deputy on how we could get the unions to come together. The Deputy will be aware that SIPTU will not allow the Irish Film Workers Association, with which, as far I am aware, he is working, to come to the table. Screen Ireland and the Department want it to happen and it is hoped that Mr. Kieran Mulvey will be successful in bringing people together. Mr. Mulvey has been engaged to start conversation. The Screen Directors Guild of Ireland, which represents the majority of Irish film workers, has expressed concern about ongoing labour relations issues, including wild cat protests and intimidation, which it says was instigated by a minority of workers within the film industry and is causing long-term damage to Ireland on the global stage and is not representative of its members.

I understand that Mr. James Hickey of Screen Ireland wrote to Deputies Boyd Barrett and Tóibín on 5 November in regard to the issues raised in the "Prime Time" programme.

I did not receive a letter from him.

Screen Ireland has a comprehensive dignity at work policy. Also, legislation is being brought forward by my Cabinet colleague, the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection, Deputy Regina Doherty, in regard to security and predictability of working hours for employees on insecure contracts and those working variable hours.

I would be careful about the narrative that a minority of people in the industry are doing this, that or the other. There are accusations flying from all directions. I would not take anything related to the "Prime Time" piece as read. We need to get to the substantial issues, which are predictability and continuity of employment and whether the public investment in the industry is securing what the tax relief is supposed to in law achieve, which is quality employment and training. It is critical that the forum happens and that we have an open airing of the different perspectives and come to a solution which allows the industry as a whole to move forward. The accusations and counter-accusations seem to be designed to prevent getting a resolution to this important question, which if we get it right will be to the benefit of the film industry and the country.

I note what the Deputy is saying. I reiterate that if he has any suggestions, other than the appointment of Mr. Kieran Mulvey-----

If the Deputy has any suggestions on how deal with the inter-union issues he should forward them to my Department. In regard to what was written in the letter from Screen Ireland, I urge caution.

Wildlife Protection

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

12. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht her views on the request by an organisation (details supplied) for a global deal along the lines of the Paris Agreement on climate change for wildlife and natural resources following the report of the organisation on catastrophic falls in many wildlife populations across the world since 1970; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [47220/18]

I also met the film workers on a number of occasions and I support Deputy Boyd Barrett's comments.

The Minister will be aware that a few weeks ago the Zoological Society of London published the Living Planet Report 2018, which shows that the animal populations on the planet have reduced by approximately 60% since 1970. This is being talked about as the sixth mass extinction. The World Wildlife Fund is asking that we would begin to treat this matter in the same way as we do climate change by putting in place an agreement similar to the Paris Agreement in regard to animals and biodiversity.

My Department is aware of the recent Living Planet Report 2018, which is the latest to highlight global declines in biodiversity in very stark terms. I am concerned about any decline in species, as well as any loss of habitats around the world. Biodiversity loss is an enormous challenge that requires a concerted response from the global community. The UN Convention on Biological Diversity, CBD, is the key international agreement underpinning international co-operation on biodiversity and, as noted in the Living Planet report, it is the appropriate body for such a global agreement.

My Department will be represented at the Conference of the Parties which will take place in Egypt later this month. The main work of this conference is to achieve the groundwork for the post-2020 framework for tackling biodiversity loss and this has been the subject of lengthy discussions between the EU member states during this year. In addition to the overarching framework of the CBD, there are a number of targeted agreements that Ireland and our colleagues across the EU actively participate in with a view to meeting the challenges presented by the loss of species and habitats around the world. These agreements include the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, CITES. The CITES agreement is instrumental in tackling, on a global level, the continued threat posed by illicit trade to vulnerable and endangered species, including rhinos, elephants, sharks and rosewood. It should be noted that protecting species also helps preserve the habitats they live in for future generations.

The 18th Conference of the Parties for CITES will take place next year in Sri Lanka. EU member states, including Ireland, are beginning preparations so that a strong and coherent pro-conservation position can be presented at the conference negotiations on behalf of the EU and its member states.

Additional information not given on the floor of the House

Efforts to achieve global consensus on tackling biodiversity loss are complementary to existing agreements on climate change. The impacts of climate change on biodiversity are significant and detailed consideration is given to this issue in the context of discussions at EU level and the CBD. Another important consideration is the effects of invasive alien species on native species and habitats. This issue is also being tackled on an international level, notably through the EU invasive alien species, IAS, regulation and frequent discussions, at scientific and policy levels between member states to best deal with the threats posed to biodiversity across the EU and also with a view to EU member states having their voices heard at a global level during the CBD Conference of the Parties and other international meetings.

The need for a coherent multilateral and multi-disciplinary approach to halting biodiversity loss is clear. I support the work of my Department in participating in efforts through a range of international agreements and conventions to make progress on this issue and I look forward to a productive and forward-looking outcome from the CBD Conference of the Parties later this month.

As the Minister will be aware this report follows a widespread study of 4,000 vertebrate species, including more than 18,000 populations of mammals, reptiles, amphibians, birds and fish. The director of the World Wildlife Fund, Mr. Mike Barrett, is of the view that we are facing a cliff in this regard and, thus, the comparison with the Paris climate change accord. This situation is as detrimental to the survival of the planet as climate change is because ecosystems rely on each other. The Minister mentioned the UN convention and the 2020 meeting. Given 60% of the earth's mammals have been wiped out since 1970 and our forest and river habitats are facing depletion, would she be interested in pushing for a comparable accord to the Paris climate change one in relation to this matter?

I can assure the Deputy that we take this matter seriously. Ireland's third national biodiversity action plan sets out actions to which a range of Government, civil and private sectors will undertake to achieve our vision for biodiversity. It is important that we do this. An allocation of €250,000 has been provided in 2018 to support, for example, local authority biodiversity projects and an additional €150,000 has been allocated to support tackling invasive alien species in their areas. There are many targeted actions that contribute towards our obligations under EU international directives and other relevant national policies, including the national peatlands strategy and the climate change adaptation framework. In February 2019, I will host a conference with Irish stakeholders on biodiversity, at which I will announce the first Biodiversity in the Community awards. We must address these issues at a local level before reaching out at a global level. I will also launch the 21/Seeds programme, which is an initiative of agreed actions by all stakeholders. We also have the The Living Bog programme which I spoke about earlier.

We tend to think of Asia, palm oil and deforestation, Latin America and the expansion of soya and the fears that many people have for the new Brazilian President in that regard. I commend the Government on the Dublin Bay biosphere. It has been reported that Howth Castle is to be sold. There is concern in my constituency that Howth peninsula, which has been a fantastic green lung for Howth, could be under threat as well. The Minister's Department can confer national park status on endangered wildlife areas. Will she consider taking such action in relation to Howth, to which there are approximately 1 million visitors annually? Everybody who comes to Dublin is told it is a wonderful place to visit and explore in terms of its green areas, wildlife and so on. National park status for Howth is, perhaps, the way we need to go in this regard closer to home.

My Department is always interested in receiving submissions from Members of the Oireachtas. Howth may well be an area that we could examine.

We already have six national parks covering 8,000 ha, 78 national reserves and 280 national monuments. There is a balance to be struck between conservation and extending that. I appreciate the Deputy's comments that the Department is doing everything it can to work with the new Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Deputy Bruton, on climate action, across Government and on biodiversity. There is also a draft sectoral climate change adaptation plan for biodiversity which has been drawn up by the scientific staff at the National Parks and Wildlife Service, NPWS. This was circulated by the NPWS recently. We also held a stakeholder workshop in October to discuss and refine elements of the plan. What the Deputy said is very important. We have to make sure we look after ecosystems and habitats for future generations. As Mary Robinson said, if we do not deal with it in this generation there will not be another one.

Written Answers are published on the Oireachtas website.