Offshore Islands: Motion [Private Members]

I move:

That Dáil Éireann:

notes that:

— offshore islands and their communities are a dynamic resource in a developing Ireland, representing an extraordinary repository of language, culture and heritage and constituting a unique element in the fabric of Irish society;

— offshore islands make special economic, social and cultural contributions to the life of the nation;

— the decline in the population of offshore islands by 155 persons from the Census 2011 figure of 2,889 to the Census 2016 figure of 2,734, representing a 5.4 per cent decline, represents a serious challenge to the future of the islands as viable, vibrant communities;

— the inaction of successive Governments in addressing the need for an offshore islands policy has been accompanied by a decline in population and a decline in the number of Irish speakers, putting their unique cultural and linguistic heritage at risk;

— there has been a reduction in daily use of the Irish language of 11 per cent on the three Aran Islands (Inis Meáin, Inis Mór and Inis Oírr) where the percentage of active daily Irish speakers has fallen from 63 per cent of the population (over three years of age) in 2011 to 57 per cent in 2016;

— the 1996 ‘Report of the Interdepartmental Co-ordinating Committee on Island Development: A strategic framework for developing the offshore islands of Ireland’ was the last published strategy on the islands;

— the 1996 Interdepartmental Co-ordinating Committee on Island Development did not include any offshore island representatives on its steering committee and did not deliver on its ambitious range of recommendations;

— the 1996 Report pledged to begin work ‘immediately’ and to agree a programme of work by early 1996, and since then policies have been adopted on an ad hoc basis, which are entirely insufficient to address the growing need for action;

— there is currently no policy for offshore islands; and

— the Minister of State at the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht announced his intention to seek Government approval to establish an Interdepartmental Committee for Island Development;

further notes that no date has been set for the work to begin and no timeframe for the work to be completed;

recognises:

— that islanders have an unparalleled knowledge of both the problems and the solutions required to ensure a sustainable future and must therefore be the prime movers in drawing up and delivering on future plans;

— the challenges faced by offshore island communities;

— the unique cultural and economic assets of island populations;

— the economic potential offered by sustainable offshore island communities for the country as a whole;

— the work of offshore island cooperatives in providing equitable and sustainable social and economic opportunities and supports; and

— the need for an urgent and comprehensive policy along with an action plan to ensure the future viability of offshore island communities; and

calls on the Government to:

— develop a policy for offshore islands, underpinned by the principles of equity and social partnership between island communities and State agencies;

— outline an action plan and a timeframe for the delivery of each policy objective;

— ensure island representation on the Interdepartmental Committee for Island Development; and

— engage in meaningful consultation with islanders in the formulation of an offshore islands policy and action plan, including in the areas of housing, health, energy, waste management, climate change, education, communication, employment and transport.

Fáiltím roimh an deis an rún seo a chur os comhair na Dála. Ní mór dom a rá i dtús, cé nach maith liom a bheith diúltach, go gcuireann sé díomá orm go bhfuil leasuithe curtha síos ag an Rialtas mar tá an rún atá agam chomh bunúsach. Táim ag impí ar an Rialtas polasaí a fhorbairt ó thaobh na n-oileán atá ann agus spriocdháta a chur leis an bpolasaí sin. Níor rith sé liom go mbeidh athruithe nó leasuithe i gceist mar tá an rún chomh bunúsach sin.

I am tabling this motion to implore the Government to develop as soon as possible a policy for the islands. I was hoping to hear that the Government was genuine and in earnest about the urgent need to develop and publish such a policy for offshore islands, and I wanted to start off with a positive plan. When I read the amendment, however, I have to say it really knocked me back. My motion is very straightforward. It sets out the historical background to the lack of a policy, and then it simply goes on to call on the Government to publish the policy within a timeframe and to ensure the inclusion of representatives from the island community. It is as simple as that. I would like to be a lot more radical but I went for what I thought would be a consensus motion, so this is a matter of disappointment to me.

That policy needs to be accompanied by an action plan and a budget, and it must be underpinned by legislation if we are serious about our islands and maintaining a viable island community. Moreover, the forum which allows for such a policy, plan or legislation to emerge must be one which allows for the involvement of islanders from the outset and on an ongoing basis in the formulation and implementation of the policy and action plan.

In that context, I gave a cautious welcome to the announcement by the Minister of State back in July, but that welcome, I am afraid, has now gone. I gave a cautious welcome because it was the Minister of State's intention to seek Cabinet or Government approval to set up an interdepartmental committee for island development with a view to developing a cross-Government island policy and an associated action plan. As the Minister knows well, however, the path to hell is paved with good intentions and also with reports, including an interdepartmental report from 1996, to which I will return, which was completed without the involvement of the islanders themselves. All of these reports have gathered dust on various departmental shelves. Indeed, the Minister's own statement was notable for its vagueness, its lack of timeframes and its utter failure to recognise that the islanders themselves must be an integral part of any process proposed.

The vagueness of the statement, which involved the setting up of an interdepartmental committee, along with the silence that has prevailed until tonight, has done little to inspire confidence that the Government has listened and learned from past mistakes. The Minister of State will be aware from repeated and urgent representations from the islanders themselves and from Comhdháil Oileáin na hÉireann that the vacuum created by the absence of a policy on the islands has been detrimental to the viability of the island communities.

The motion itself, which I will not go into because it is there in black and white, sets out the damning statistics, which are still emerging from the Central Statistics Office following the census of 2016. This is in stark contrast to the islands of Scotland, which have seen a reversal in the trend of population decline. The most recent trend has in fact been an increase in population. A report in one newspaper showed that the population of the islands increased by some 4% in the ten years up to 2011, with the biggest rises occurring on the island with the largest population already. That report showed that island leaders and business leaders said new affordable housing and new opportunities were the ways of holding on to islanders and drawing in non-islanders. This reversal in the population's downward trend is premised on a policy for the islands and on legislation, most notably the Islands (Scotland) Act 2018, passed in May 2018. We have no policy or legislation. Significantly, that Act sets out key definitions of an island and of an inhabited island. The definition of the former is stated as an island "surrounded on all sides by the sea (ignoring artificial structures such as bridges)". I will come back to that in the context of an island policy and the meaning of island communities. Equally importantly, that Act, in Part 3, provides for the preparation of a national islands plan. It provides for, among many other things, an islands community impact assessment, including having regard - can one imagine? - to a request for a retrospective island community impact assessment. The Act allows for even a retrospective impact assessment. There must be an annual review of the operation of the legislation and a full review of the actual legislation within five years. That is on top of the Highlands and Islands Enterprise, formerly the Highlands and Islands Development Board, which was set up in 1965. There is absolutely no Irish equivalent to this.

Contrast this with what can best be described as the ad hoc approach of this Government and successive Governments to the development of the islands here. In preparing for this debate I read quite a number of documents, including: the report of the interdepartmental committee, published in 1996; the joint Oireachtas report of 2014; the review of islands capital expenditure, 1998-2004; the west Cork islands study, which was a joint study between Cork County Council and FÁS and which was subsequently referred to in the 1996 report as being a very worthwhile study with many good recommendations that should be taken on board, but which were clearly ignored; and the most recent book by the renowned historian, Professor Diarmaid Ferriter, entitled On the Edge: Ireland's Off-shore Islands: A Modern History. I thank the Oireachtas Library as well for its papers. All these documents helped me to get a deeper understanding of the islands on top of my own practical experience. No words came to me when I thought, "We have no policy for our islands." What jumps out from all the documents and the books cited is the resilience of our islanders in the face of repeated and ongoing neglect by successive Governments. All the while, ironically, this neglect and the complete absence of a positive policy for our islands have been accompanied by report after report, some of which I have mentioned, which, one way or another, have sought to recognise "the special economic, social and cultural contributions which the offshore islands make to the life of the nation". Those precise words are taken from the 1996 report, almost 23 years ago, of the last interdepartmental committee, which sat for three years prior to publication. If we look at page 18 of the interdepartmental report, we really could not improve on it. It is worth reading out because some of the words in the Minister of State's amendment to my motion are taken from it. It states that in developing Government policy to address issues affecting island communities, a number of principles should underline any policy. I do not have the time to read them all out. I will pick out some of them.

- Islanders themselves should be prime movers in strategies to maintain their own communities;

- Principles of equality, social partnership and full participation should underpin the State's approach to developing public policy in relation to island communities;

- A partnership approach between island communities and State Agencies should be adopted in the development and implementation of policy affecting the islands.

Page 18 is really worth looking at.

Notwithstanding these wonderful principles, the ad hoc, reactive approach to the constant challenges faced by our island communities continued and continues. The islands are spoken about peripherally and are never at the heart of any Government discussion, policy document or legislation. The national planning framework, known as Project Ireland, published with great fanfare and at great cost, and the National Development Plan 2018-2027 which accompanies it, are a stark example of this continued neglect. Looking through both these documents for instances of the word "island", it is shocking and frightening. They are peripheral, difficult to find and mixed up with a policy for rural areas. I searched and searched to see whether I could find anything that would resemble a policy or a paragraph; I failed. The national development plan refers to the money given to the Irish language, the Gaeltacht and the islands, so we have mention of islands there. Later on it refers to development of improved peer infrastructure on the islands but nothing about a policy. In the national planning framework islands are mentioned in three contexts. "Our islands and coastal areas contain some of our most vibrant and culturally distinctive communities." No absence of words here to tell us how important our islands are, but no action. They are mentioned peripherally in the contexts of broadband and a marine economy.

Moving from those documents to the reality on the ground, I will look at my own constituency, at the risk of being parochial. I know my colleagues will cover Cork, Donegal and other areas. Inishbofin, off the coast of Galway, with which the Minister of State is very familiar, is an island that has distinguished itself by surviving with a vibrant community in the absence of any policy. The islanders have led the way in ecotourism, and the island is the first to get the distinction of Leave No Trace, an outdoor ethics programme based on seven principles for outdoor recreation, leaving minimal impact on the island's environment. It is also leading the way in dark skies, food and many other sustainable industries. However, year after year at the comhdháil, the annual meeting, they point out the absence of certainty of funding and the absence of a policy. The Minister of State knows that this island does not even have a primary care centre that one could call a primary care centre. My colleague, Deputy Ó Cuív, who is virtually not here, and I have asked repeatedly about the promised primary care facility. I accept that work has been done on all the islands. My point is that it has been done in an ad hoc, reactive fashion and not within a policy that shows that not alone do we cherish our islands, but we recognise that the islands are showing us the way to live sustainably. If we had any sense or courage, we would listen to and follow them. Looking at the Aran Islands, despite the policy for the Gaeltacht maidir le cúrsaí oideachais, agus is iontach go bhfuil an tAire i gcomhluadar ansin, in ainneoin go bhfuil aitheantas faighte ag Coláiste Naomh Eoin, Inis Meáin, a bhfuil mar scoil neamhspleách anois, agus Coláiste Ghobnait, Inis Oírr, tá siad ag streachailt agus ní bhfuair siad an dara múinteoir fós.

Ní thuigim é sin mar tá moladh tuillte ag an Rialtas ó thaobh an polasaí do na scoileanna sa Ghaeltacht de, ach cad mar gheall ar an bpolasaí a chur i bhfeidhm? Cén fáth go bhfuil na scoileanna sin ag streachailt de bharr múinteoirí breise?

Tagraím d'fhorbairt na cé ar Inis Oírr. Bainfidh mé úsáid as na focail a d'úsáid muintir Inis Oírr:

Tá forbairt cé Inis Oírr práinneach mar gheall ar an gceist contúirteach a bhaineann le tonnta loinge a sháraíonn an ché ar thaobh amháin agus an gaoth anoir aduaidh ag crochadh borradh agus ag cur farraige thimpeall na cé ar an taobh eile, go minic ag an am céanna. Ní mór déileáil leis an dá fhadhb seo ag an am céanna mar níl aon deis ann maidir le forbairt céimeanna ar an gcé nó plean caiteachais céimnithe. Tá sé tugtha le fios ag an gcomhairle contae nach mbeidh aon rud ag tarlú go dtí go mbeidh an maoiniú breise seo a theastaíonn cinntí agus sonraí sa Státchiste.

Tá an clog ag teannadh liom ach beidh mé ar ais ag deireadh na díospóireachta le samplái eile de cé chomh deacair agus atá sé ar an talamh,

I am pleased to support the motion from my colleague and I Deputy Connolly commend her for tabling it. Like her, I am disappointed with the amendment and I ask the Government to withdraw it, not push it to a vote, and to accept and work on her motion by setting a date in September to set up a committee. As a city dweller, I only have limited knowledge of what it is like to live on one of our offshore islands. However, I saw a report on television yesterday on a trial to use drones to deliver vital medical supplies when bad weather makes it impossible to access an island. That brings home that the particular issues and needs of island communities. That is why it is essential that there be representatives from the islands on the interdepartmental committee. There should be people who live on the islands and know the issues and the needs of their communities. This is a perfectly reasonable demand from a community that has been continuously ignored. There is a problem with not having community representatives on an interdepartmental committee. Why not change the format to allow representatives on a task force that has the legislative power and funding to implement a policy and follow it through with an action plan?

There is currently no policy for the islands and that is a threat to the future of these communities. Between 2011 and 2016, there was a 5.4% decline in their population and a decline in Irish usage as a daily active language. The Minister should be especially concerned about that, since he went a long way to try to re-educate himself on the language for his brief. The 1996 report of the interdepartmental committee did not include island representatives, which is a key factor in that report's recommendations not being delivered on. A key demand of the these communities is recognition of our offshore islands as a region, which would allow access to specific EU funding and programmes for island regions. In 2018, Scotland passed an act to recognise its islands as a region. One consequence of that has been an increase in their population.

The motion seeks to address housing, health and schools. It is incredible and discriminatory that the special DEIS grant for pupils learning through Irish is denied to all five island post-primary schools, which are multidenominational. In contrast, that grant is paid to voluntary all-Irish schools run by Catholic religious orders, often in quite affluent areas. That is a stark reality for the islands and it is a disgrace. An issue raised in the motion that caught my attention is energy and climate change. The islands offer a unique opportunity as a model for community-based co-operatives to develop renewable energy. This could be a model for smaller rural communities and deal with concerns and opposition to developer-led windfarms. I commend the motion to the House and ask the Minister not to move Fine Gael's amendment.

I move amendment No. 1:

To delete all words after “Dáil Éireann:” and substitute the following:

“notes that:

— offshore islands and their communities are a dynamic resource in a developing Ireland, representing an extraordinary repository of language, culture and heritage and constituting a unique element in the fabric of Irish society;

— offshore islands make special economic, social and cultural contributions to the life of the nation; and

— the decline in the population of offshore islands by 155 persons from the Census 2011 figure of 2,889 to the Census 2016 figure of 2,734, representing a 5.4 per cent decline, represents a serious challenge to the future of the islands as viable, vibrant communities; and

recognises:

— the investment being made by the Government in the language planning process on the Gaeltacht islands;

— the significant investment made by Government in improving access harbour infrastructure since 1996;

— the work that has been done by Comhar Oileán na hÉireann and the individual island communities to date;

— that the island populations are unique cultural assets, and that they face particular challenges;

— that substantial progress has been made in terms of transport supports for the islands, with some 25 subsidised cargo, passenger and air services now in operation, serving islands all along the coast;

— that the Minister of State for the Irish language, the Gaeltacht and the Islands has established an Interdepartmental Committee for the Islands with representatives from the following Departments:

— Justice and Equality;

— Communications, Climate Action and Environment;

— Defence;

— Housing, Planning and Local Government;

— Employment Affairs and Social Protection;

— Business, Enterprise and Innovation;

— Agriculture, Food and the Marine;

— Rural and Community Development;

— Health;

— Education and Skills;

— Transport, Tourism and Sport; and

— Children and Youth Affairs;

— that the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht will be consulting widely with island communities on an island-by-island basis and with Comhdháil Oileáin na hÉireann on the policy being developed;

— that it is envisaged that the Committee, which will be chaired by the Minister of State with responsibility for the Islands, will meet on 24th September, 2019, and will, in consultation with all of the relevant stakeholders, draw up an islands policy, from which an action plan will then be developed and implemented; and

— that the action plan, which will be presented to Cabinet, will comprise specific commitments for implementation by Government agencies, that will be measurable and time bound.

Tá an-áthas orm an deis a bheith agam labhairt anocht ar an ábhar tábhachtach seo. Tuigim go maith gur cuid thábhachtach d'oidhreacht an Stáit iad na hoileáin mhara. The islands and their communities represent a dynamic resource in a developing Ireland, embodying an extraordinary repository of language, culture and heritage and constituting a unique element in the fabric of society. A key objective of the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht is to provide support to ensure the social, cultural and economic development of the inhabited offshore islands and thereby ensure that they survive as viable communities. Population decline in the islands is similarly reflected by demographic trends in many parts of rural Ireland with young people moving to large cities to experience greater economic opportunities and city lifestyle.

The Government, through the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, has put in place a range of measures to support island communities. In 1996, there were just three passenger ferry services, one cargo and an air service route in receipt of financial assistance from the State. The total cost at the time to the State for these subsidies amounted to just £893,910. In contrast, by 2018, the State subsidised 14 passenger ferry routes, nine cargo routes and two air services. The total cost of these services amounted to more than €6.5 million. The increased investment by the State in these services has supported the sustainability of the island communities by underpinning critical access for island life all year round. In 2018 alone, this support translated into 500,000 passengers and more than 27,000 tonnes of freight being carried on services subsidised by the Department. Government, in conjunction with local authorities, has also provided support for the development of harbours, which help to provide safe year-round access to the islands. An annual program of island road and other small capital projects has also been in place for more than 20 years, which has enabled the development and maintenance of island infrastructure. To date, more than €100 million in funding has been provided towards completion of harbour infrastructure for the islands. Three major harbour projects have been included in Project Ireland 2040, namely, improvement works to piers on Inis Oírr, Inis Meáin agus ag Machaire Rabhartaigh, serving Toraí agus an bád farantóireachta sa phlean fosta go dtí Toraí. Tugann an Roinn Cultúir, Oidhreachta agus Gaeltachta aitheantas faoin tábhacht cultúir fadúda an teanga Ghaeilge, ní hamháin ar an mórthír ach ar na hoileáin uilig fosta. Faoin bpróiseas pleanála teanga, tugtar deis do phobal na Gaeltachta fá choinne an phleanáil teanga a ullmhú agus a chur i bhfeidhm ar leibhéal an phobail agus tacaíocht a bhaint amach as an Stát fá choinne an teanga a úsáid sa phobal uilig agus an teanga a neartú. Tá tacaíocht de suas chuig €100,000 ar fáil fá choinne achan plean agus beidh suas chuig €150,000 ar fáil ar na trí oileán Árann. Beidh na pleananna éagsúla á chur i bhfeidhm trasna seacht mbliana.

Chomh maith leis sin, fuair Údarás na Gaeltachta aitheantas breise i mbliana fá choinne cultúr agus pobal forbartha sa Ghaeltacht. Is é an méid iomlán atá i gceist ná €3.85 milliún. Tá an cuidiú sin fá choinne na dreamanna éagsúla ar na hoileáin uilig agus rinne mise cinneadh mar Aire Stáit i 2015 fá choinne na hoileáin gan stádas Gaeltachta. Bhog an dualgas sin go dtí an Roinn Cultúir, Oidhreachta agus Gaeltachta. I ndiaidh sin, bhí cumarsáid chuimsitheach idir na comhlachtaí forbartha áitiúil ag gabháil seirbhísí iontach tábhachtach ar na hoileáin. Tháinig an t-airgead tríd Comhar na nOileán agus anois tá an dualgas agus an fhreagracht leis an eagraíocht sin fá choinne an t-airgead sin a bhaint amach. Ba mhaith liom m'aitheantas a ghabháil leis an dream sin fá choinne an dualgas sin a bheith aici thar na blianta.

The challenges that affect island communities, while similar to those in the rest of rural Ireland, tend to have an extra dimension owing to their separation from the mainland. Issues such as the provision of housing, the delivery of education and healthcare and employment opportunities are magnified on the offshore islands. There is also the added challenge brought about by an ageing population. While a number of policies have been developed across government on an ad hoc basis in the education and health sectors, for example, with the HSE producing a report identifying many of the issues affecting island healthcare services, the Government recognises that an all-of-government approach is required in order for island communities to reach their full potential.

In 1993 an interdepartmental committee on island development was established with a remit of reviewing and prioritising development strategies and recommending actions to ensure a co-ordinated approach to all aspects of island development. The report of the interdepartmental committee which was published in 1996 aimed to set out the strategic framework within which future action related to the islands would be pursued. A major programme of State investment followed in several areas which resulted in issues surrounding access to and from the islands largely being resolved, as alluded to.

Arising from the ongoing consultation with local island communities, island representative organisations and Oireachtas Members, it is acknowledged that it is important to re-establish an interdepartmental committee for the islands to inform the process of developing a new, cross-government policy. Additionally, if the introduction of legislation is seen as a necessary component of this process, such legislative proposals as may be required will be brought to the Government for approval. Déanadh cinneadh ag an gcruinniú Rialtais i mí Iúil i mbliana, agus gabhaim buíochas do mo chomhghleacaí, an tAire Stáit, an Teachta Seán Kyne, fá choinne an cinneadh sin. At the Cabinet meeting held on 25 July in Glencolmcille the Chief Whip and Minister of State at the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Deputy Kyne, informed the Cabinet of his intention to form and chair an interdepartmental committee for island development. An invitation has been extended to all relevant Departments, including my own which is committed to this approach and will be a full partner at the table. I want to see more partnerships, synergy and creativity, based on some very good examples. I refer, for example, to Sherkin Island where there is a partnership between the Technological University of Dublin, TUD, and the local community. I want to see more of this and already conversations are happening on initiating something similar on Tory Island. This initiative will require co-operation and an input from all relevant Departments and their agreement on the policy. Following on from this work, an action plan will be developed that will comprise defined measurable actions associated with various parties, with timeframes set out to ensure the roll out of these actions. To allay the concerns of Deputies about island representation, I stress that there will be an ongoing and comprehensive consultation process with island communities to ensure island voices will have a high level of input into the deliberations of the committee on various aspects of island life, including, among other issues, housing, health, energy, waste management, climate change, education, communication, employment and transport. The consultation process will include ongoing meetings with relevant stakeholders, including bilateral meetings with Departments and agencies and island representative groups, as well as public meetings. While much of what is stated in the Private Members' motion as proposed by the Opposition is to be commended, the work carried out by successive Governments since 1996 to improve services for the islands should be acknowledged, which is what the Government's amendment to the motion seeks to do.

I conclude by commending my colleague on leading to ensure we will have a common-sense approach through an interdepartmental committee. This important committee will build on the good work that is already happening on the islands. There is a lot of innovative work ongoing. On Árainn Mhor, for example, almost 50 students from the mainland are being ferried to a secondary school on the island on a daily basis. That is a massive change. I acknowledge all island communities for their industry, innovation, initiatives and díograis during the years when there were many challenges, some of which persist today. The only way we will ensure progress is through an interagency and interdepartmental approach in partnership with island communities. I know that colleagues on all sides of the House will not be found wanting in that regard.

Deputy Connolly raised an issue related to an island school. I will get the details and respond to her directly.

Gabhaim buíochas don Independents 4 Change group a chur síos an tairiscint seo maidir leis na hoileáin amach ón gcósta. Tugann sé deis iontach dúinn ceisteanna faoi na hoileáin a phlé, go háirithe na fadhbanna agus na dúshláin atá acu i láthair na huaire, agus ar ndóigh tá a lán fadhbanna acu. Tá an-chuidiú de dhíth orthu. Níl sé furasta maireachtáil ar na hoileáin amach ón gcósta. Caithfidh an Rialtas agus na Ranna éagsúla gach cuidiú a thabhairt do na hoileáin seo agus na daoine a bhfuil ina gcónaí orthu.

I compliment my colleagues in the Independents 4 Change group for tabling this important Private Member's motion which Fianna Fáil will be supporting. The Government's decision to table an amendment and set up an interdepartmental committee has come very late in the day. It may have been decided at the aforementioned meeting held in Glencolmcille which was the only time in the last 11 months that the Minister of State visited County Donegal since he was appointed. He did not step into the Donegal Gaeltacht in all of that time. He breezed in and out. He got out as quickly as he could before any delegation could meet him. In the past Ministers of State with responsibility for the Gaeltacht, going back to the first one, Tom O' Donnell, and all of his successors, including me, Mary Coughlan and Dinny McGinley, were not only Ministers of State but were also considered to be Deputies for the Gaeltacht and the islands. We visited the islands and Gaeltacht regions on a regular basis. Immediately on the appointment of a Minister of State with responsibility for the Gaeltacht, he or she visited all of the various Gaeltacht regions throughout the country.

We might not have time this evening to debate the recent flooding in County Donegal, about which the Minister of State totally ignored us. We just received a text which read, "Sound". There was no communication whatsoever. What hope do the islanders have of communicating with the Minister of State when he will not even communicate with those who have been elected to represent them and the Gaeltacht? That is typical of the Government. I often wonder what it would do if it had an overall majority. We are there to try to assist it in the best interests of the country and have done so, but the Minister of State totally ignored us. I was on Árainn Mhor when he was Minister of State previously, with Deputy McHugh who was a Minister of State with responsibility for the diaspora at the time. We visited the road to the lighthouse which was in urgent need of repair. I said to both of them in a facetious way that we had better get back to the mainland soon because the lorries would be on the road the next day. To save embarrassment, some time afterwards, a small grant was made available to repair some potholes. However, the response was that as it was not a county road, nothing could be done. The scenery was beautiful and both Ministers of State were totally enthusiastic and said they would provide funding but none has been provided since.

Fianna Fáil has always recognised the special value and rights of offshore island communities. In government we have consistently supported the islands and those who call them home. We assigned responsibility for the islands to a full Cabinet Minister, Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív.

He was the first Minister responsible for both the Gaeltacht and the islands, and he was always available to visit the various Gaeltachtaí and the islands. I think of 2009, when we had the tuilte, particularly in the Gweedore area in west Donegal. Within a matter of days, the then Minister was there to inspect at first hand the damage done. He provided the necessary funds to repair bridges that were not on county roads. Now we have been told in respect of damage done to a bridge in the west Donegal Gaeltacht that the Government cannot get involved. Of course that is the responsibility of an Roinn Cultúir, Oidhreachta agus Gaeltachta and the Minister for Rural and Community Development, Deputy Ring, who at least came back and communicated with us.

The present Government and its preceding Governments between 2011 and 2016 very much neglected our islands and their communities, to such a point that the islands are under serious threat. The islanders are struggling. The public services are stripped down. There are declining populations, which have been mentioned. The decline in the populations is understandable. There was a decline of 155 between 2011, when the figure was 2,889, and 2016, when the census figure was 2,734, representing a drop of 5.4%. I am surprised it is not more. This demonstrated to us at first hand the challenges that lie ahead. We now find that, as a result of a Government decision and a proposal by the Minister of State responsible for the Gaeltacht and the islands, it has been decided, almost eight years later, that the Government is to establish an interdepartmental committee for the islands. How appropriate. The first meeting is to be held on 24 September, next week. The Minister might inform us later whether all the Gaeltacht representatives have been informed and invited. Who may attend? What is happening is typical. It is very obvious that there is to be an election in the coming months if the Government is trying to convey to the islanders that it has their interests at heart. The Government, including the current Minister, will be judged on its performance over the past seven or eight years.

We have had debates on this. My party is committed to the islands. It had a strong record of delivery between 1997 and 2011. It gave a Minister full responsibility for the Gaeltacht and the islands, under one Department. It provided €100 million for the infrastructural development of the islands and the development of comprehensive ferry services between the mainland and the islands. It saw the lowering of the pupil-teacher ratio on the islands and the provision of a social welfare allowance to compensate islanders for the higher cost of living. It provided for the annual infrastructure fund for the development of the islands.

This is looking back but, of course, we must also look forward. Our policy will focus on providing adequate State-contracted transport services providing full access to the islands. Having spoken to a number of representatives of all the islands, especially from my county as others can speak for theirs, I noted the one problem they all have concerns roads. I have to hand photographs of the roads on some of the islands, which I could make available. I am referring not only to conditions over recent weeks but also over recent years, including on Gola and the small islands, such as Owey, Inishbofin, Tory and Arranmore. All of these islands require funding. We are told there may be some funding available. Táimid i lár mí Meán Fómhair agus tá an t-airgead á cur ar fáil anois. Ba chomhair go raibh an t-airgead sin curtha ar fáil níos luaithe sa bhliain ionas go raibh seans na bóithre sin a dheisiú i rith an tsamhraidh. Maybe, however, there is another major project in some other part of the country that is not in Donegal that might require substantial funds between now and the end of the year. It could be a once-off project and the rest of the islands could be paying for this. This is wrong. It shows the Government has no interest in the islands and no rural development policies as far as the islands are concerned. All the Government is interested in is ensuring the success of other projects on which the Minister might have his eye. Perhaps he might tell us what projects he hopes will come to fruition and that would be used to ensure the money would not be returned to the Exchequer.

We recognise the traditional rights of islanders, including in respect of roads and piers. The Minister, Deputy McHugh, mentioned Project 2040. Reference was made to Inis Meáin and Inis Oírr and it is said there will be a major project for Magheroarty, which is not an island but which services Inishbofin and Tory. The project would recognise its importance. I remind the Minister in his absence that he made a commitment on Raidió na Gaeltachta when he was Minister responsible for the Gaeltacht. He said Magheroarty breakwater, a major infrastructural project, was to be completed in 2020. It is not even on the drawing board yet, let alone in construction or planning. This is a cynical approach. The Government's representative in Donegal is good at making announcements but there is no follow through. It is very easy to hit the first golf ball but it is more difficult to get it right. We are hitting the golf balls all the time but no progress has been made. Thug an tAire, an Teachta McHugh, a fhocail ar RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta go mbeadh tonnchosc cé Mhachaire Uí Rabhartaigh ann sa bhliain 2020. Nuair a bheidh an tAire céanna ag tabhairt freagra ar an díospóireacht seo, b'fhéidir go gcuirfeadh sé in iúl dúinn cén áit a bhfuil an togra sin. Cé nach oileán é, tá an cé sin ag freastal ar Oileán Thoraí agus Inis Bó Finne.

Nuair a lua an tAire na hoileáin sin, níor dhúirt sé dada fadúda cé Reannaigh ar Oileán Árainn Mhór. Bhí díospóireacht agam leis an Aire níos mó ná bliain ó shin sa Teach seo ina ndúirt sé nach raibh Comhairle Contae Dhún na nGall i dteagmháil leis an Roinn maidir leis seo. Chuireamar in iúl dó i ndiaidh sin go raibh Comhairle Contae Dhún na nGall i dteagmháil leis maidir le cé Reannaigh ar an oileán sin. Níor lua sé é sin, fiú. Maidir leis na n-oileán eile i nDún na nGall cosúil le hInis Bó Finne, Inis Mhic an Doirn agus Inis Fraoigh, tá airgead de dhíth orthu go léir. Nílimid ag caint faoi airgead mór ach airgead réasúnta chun na bóithre a dheisiú.

Last year, we supported a Private Members' motion from Sinn Féin on fishing rights and island communities. We were glad to do that but it has now come to my attention that there will be a money order relating to this. That stops us in our tracks and means we cannot go any further. We are very supportive of this motion by Independents 4 Change. It was very cynical to suggest that next Tuesday there is to be a meeting on development, with so many attending from all the Departments and island communities. I wish the Minister well in his endeavours but it is a bit cynical coming at this late stage in the life of the Government.

Táimid ag tabhairt lán tacaíocht don rún seo maidir leis na hoileáin amach ón gcósta. Impím ar an Aire rud éigin a dhéanamh do na bóithre. Is féidir é sin a dhéanamh go luath agus an t-airgead a chur ar fáil díreach.

Tá Comhairle Contae Dhún na nGall réidh chun tús a chur leis an obair chun na bóithre sin a dheisiú. Maidir leis na céanna, tá súil agam go mbeidh scéal anocht maidir le cé Reannaigh. Mar a dúirt mé go minic, tá an cé seo ar an gclár oibre le blianta fada. Tá sé in am don Rialtas seo déileáil leis. Ní fiú dul ar ais go dtí na blianta roimh 2011. Tá an Rialtas i gcumhacht ar feadh ocht mbliana anois. Tá sé in am aige rud éigin a dhéanamh fadúda seo.

Gabhaim buíochas leo siúd a chur an rún seo os comhair na Dála agus a tharraing fócas ar phobal na n-oileán. Is fócas é nach mbíonn ag an institiúid seo, ag an Rialtas ná ag cuid mhór de phobal na hÉireann go minic. Ní dhírítear air go minic agus is mór an trua é sin. Is trua é freisin nach dtógann an chuid is mó de pholaiteoirí, saoránaigh agus grúpaí pobail cad atá ag tarlú ar na hoileáin san áireamh nuair atá siad ag forbairt polasaithe, ag dáileadh seirbhísí nó tacaíochtaí, nó ag smaoineamh ar obair a dhéanamh. Ní thógann siad na deacrachtaí atá acu siúd atá ina gcónaí ar na hoileáin san áireamh. Measaim gurb é an t-aon uair a thugann a lán daoine sa Stát tús áite dóibh siúd ar na hoileáin ná nuair a chaitheann siad a vótaí toisc gurb iad an chéad dream a chaitheann iad. Díríonn na meáin chumarsáide isteach orthu ar feadh lá amháin agus is minic a dhéantar dearmad orthu ina dhiaidh sin. Ba chóir go dtabharfaimis níos mó tosaíochta dóibh siúd atá ina gcónaí ar na hoileáin agus ag obair orthu agus do na deacrachtaí atá acu fanacht agus cuidiú leis an gcultúr agus traidisiún a ghabhann le bheith i gcónaí ar oileán.

Mar a dúirt mé, tá deacrachtaí ann. Tá sé éirí níos deacra do a lán daoine a bheith ina gcónaí ar na hoileáin sin, go háirithe de bharr an bhrú níos mó atá ann sa tsochaí. Bíonn sé deacair ar thithe earraí difriúla a fháil. Tá brú ann maidir le siopaí agus oideachas. Ba chóir go mbeadh sé ag éirí níos éasca leis an oiread dul chun cinn atá déanta againn mar gheall ar bhóithre, innealra, gléasanna nua-aimseartha, na meáin chumarsáide, agus na meáin shóisialta. Ba chóir go mbeadh sé i bhfad níos éasca orthu, nó beagáinín níos éasca ar aon chor, ach is é an cuma atá ar an scéal ná go bhfuil sé ag éirí níos deacra. Sin an fáth go bhfuil muid ag feiceáil níos lú agus níos lú daoine ag fanacht agus ag tógáil a gclann ar na hoileáin. Ag cur leis sin, toisc go bhfuil an Ghaeilge láidir ar an gcuid is mó de na hoileáin timpeall na tíre - mar shampla, na hOileáin Árann amach ó chósta na Gaillimhe nó leithéidí Thoraigh nó Inis Bó Finne - tá roinnt den dul in éag mar gheall ar an nGaeilge sa Ghaeltacht ghafa leis sin.

As the motion states, the experts on offshore islands are not those within this House, myself included, but those who live on the islands. They need to be listened to. If we do not listen to them, we will lose a valuable and unique cultural and traditional resource. They are people and they deserve to live. They deserve the rights and services their specific area needs. I do not understand why the Government's amendment acknowledges the dynamism of island communities and so on but seeks to establish an interdepartmental committee without, it seems, consulting the islanders first. I welcome the Independents 4 Change motion. It was brought forward in good faith and what is contains comes from the frustrations of the island communities, which arise from the meaningless promises that were made to them from 1996 onwards, and even before then. We should reject the Government's amendment and support the motion to send a message to those who are living and surviving on the islands that we have their interests at heart and will continue to work with them and for them.

Tá áthas orm labhairt ar an rún seo, a dtagann as an ngrúpa neamhspleách, anocht. Cuireann an rún ceist i lár an tseomra anocht. Is seoid náisiúnta luachmhar atá againn na hoileáin amach ónár gcósta. Tá cuid acu tréigthe agus tá pobail bhríomhar bheo ag maireachtáil ar chuid eile acu, ach ag maireachtáil le go leor deacrachtaí. Tá a fhios againn, agus tá sé ráite cheana féin, go bhfuil an iomarca déanta trí na blianta ó thaobh na n-oileán de. Tá sin le feiceáil agus le cluinstin nuair a éisteann le pobail na n-oileán iad féin. Tá siad gan na hacmhainní agus na huirlisí chun na pobail sin a dhéanamh níos bríomhaire. Tá siad ag iarraidh maireachtáil lena dteaghlaigh ar na hoileáin.

Níl dabht ar bith ach go bhfuil feabhas tagtha ar na hoileáin le linn tréimhse an Rialtas agus i rith tréimhse Rialtas Fhianna Fáil fosta. Ach, sin ráite, nuair a labhraítear le mórchuid de phobail na n-oileán deir siad nach bhfuil go leor á dhéanamh. Tá sin iontach soiléir ón neamhaird atá á dhéanamh ar na hoileáin. Chínn muid é sin i go leor rudaí difriúla. Chínn muid é ó thaobh cúrsaí iascaireachta de. Is féidir a bheith ar oileáin ag amharc amach ar an fharraige ar achan taobh ach ní cheadaítear eangach a chur amach ón mbád mar ní cheadaítear iascaireacht ar na hoileáin anois. Tá reachtaíocht agam féin agus an Teachta Martin Kenny - the Island Fisheries (Heritage Licence) Bill 2017 - ar luaigh an Teachta Gallagher é. Tá an Rialtas ag cur bac ar an reachtaíocht sin.

It is important legislation which would allow for the island fishermen and fisherwomen to go back to their traditional way of life and to fish the waters around their islands. The Bill looks at best practice across Europe and what is happening in other jurisdictions. The Government, however, is using a money message. The reason it is using to declare this a financial drain on the State, that is to say how it can get away with using a money message, is that sending out the heritage licence to the fishermen on the islands would cost money as they would require stamps. That is ridiculous and is probably the highlight of the Government's disrespect for the fishing community on the islands and for the island communities themselves.

There have been some positive developments on the islands, which I welcome. These include, over different periods, piers, schools and so on. These are very positive. The reality, however, is that we are still not doing enough for the islands. The islands should not be an issue that divides this House. I ask the Government to withdraw its amendment. As Dáil Éireann, we should recognise the islands as a national treasure. Every day, as I sit down for my breakfast or dinner and look out my window, I see Gola Island. It pains me to think of it being deserted in the 1960s. It is possible that it would not have been if the right decisions had been made and the right policies put in place to support the way of life on the island at that point. We need to make sure that families that currently reside on islands and their children - whether on Árainn Mhór off Donegal, on Toraigh, or on islands off Galway, Mayo or Kerry - can continue to live and to have the opportunity to live a full and fulfilling life on the island. That opportunity is not there at this point in time in any full sense. There has been talk about promises of this, that and the other and we see the stroke of setting up a committee to counter this motion.

The island community has heard broken promises in the past. It is two years ago this week when the now Minister, Deputy McHugh - it is a pity that he left the Chamber after his speech - went to the Tory Island community and told it that he had secured €4 million for a new ferry. He told the community that the ferry would be built within 18 months to two years. There is no ferry. There is not even a line in the budget concerning the €4 million ferry. As Deputy Gallagher mentioned, the Minister also told the community that there was €2.5 million for Magheroarty and that its breakwater would be delivered next year. It is not happening. There are no plans at this point in time. The project is not advanced, yet we see press release after press release.

In reality, there are things that we can do that will support the islands. We should be coming at this from a non-party political point of view. We should recognise that the island has a unique tradition, a saibhreas of teanga and a large history of culture. It would be an absolute sin if we as parliamentarians in 2019 did not instigate the types of measure and support that are necessary to ensure that the community thrives into the future and can reach its full potential.

I commend the Independents' motion to the House. I genuinely appeal to the Minister of State at this late stage not to divide the House on the issue of the islands. Let us come together and make a positive contribution to that community, which needs not a handout, but a hand up.

Is mór an onóir é dom labhairt ar an ábhar tábhachtach seo. Like many who were brought up in cities or towns, particularly as I was in the centre of Dublin, my experience as a 15 and 16 year old of spending summers in the Gaeltacht on Arranmore in Donegal was amazing. I have always viewed all of the islands that I have had the good fortune to spend time on subsequently as magical places. From my experience of speaking to their people in a personal capacity when visiting privately and as someone involved in what is now the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection under three Governments, it is essential to resource the islands adequately.

The Government is probably a little frightened of this motion. It is an open motion that speaks to the islands' incredible linguistic and cultural heritage, but also to their potential now that considerable advances in technology mean that their isolation, which was once such an elemental feature of island life, does not need to be the case in the same way as it was in the time of Peig. If there was investment, the islands could not only be a significant resource for the islanders themselves, but also for the rest of Ireland and the world. What this Government often lacks is the imagination to see potential and, as time passes, potential changes. I get the feeling from the Government that, in many ways, it sees the islands as a charge and a drag rather than as a positive opportunity.

In terms of biodiversity, the islands are a unique resource. We are in discussions with the EU and the UN about our international commitments in respect of various environmental plans. In many ways, the islands are a major source of biodiversity, for example, fishing and what is to be found on the islands themselves. The Government should have a little bravery, which is lacking currently, and seek to utilise this resource.

It is for the Ministers with responsibility to have some courage and provide structures that allow islanders to be seriously involved in plans concerning their islands. I have enough experience to know that every island is different and has its own views about how it should be developed. The GAA has a good slogan - "Give Respect Get Respect". The Government should give respect to the islands and the people who live on them. As a lecturer in what was DIT and is now TU Dublin, I had many students from islands right around the Irish coast. Although some ended up living away from the islands permanently, what was unique to almost all of those young people was that, although they lived away from the islands for ten, 15 or 20 years, they went back at a different stage in their lives to give their children an opportunity to experience the uniqueness of island life.

The Government lacks imagination about what is a unique resource for Ireland's culture, history and biodiversity. We should see the islands in that way. The Government might put up its hands and say that it does not have all the money at the moment, but it is possible to create, maintain and resource community infrastructures that provide islanders with a sense of empowerment and a connection with people in far off large towns and cities such as Letterkenny, Dublin and Cork.

There has been a large growth in various forms of tourism in Ireland, for example, walking, cycling and so on. The islands lend themselves to many of these important and modern tourism activities for people visiting the Wild Atlantic Way. The Wild Atlantic Way has been a successful concept. Of course, there are other islands around the coast.

People on the islands must feel respected by the Government and that their issues are viewed as important. I support the motion. For islanders, including young people, the issue of education is important. Parents have the same ambitions for their children about achieving as best they can in whatever it is they want to do. Obviously, the islands have tremendous fishing resources. We have fishing communities on various islands around our coastline and in the ports close to them. It is possible to draw up an exciting plan for the future of life on the islands.

Many of the islands experience difficult winter weather. Let us be honest - people like me tend to visit them when the weather is nice. That is the experience of most people who live on the mainland. With modern technology, islanders, including older people, can be resourced to improve and weatherproof their housing. It is possible to transform life on the islands. There are problems for older people in terms of medical services and other services that people require. It is a taxing job for anyone in government to provide the support that the islands need in order to make them viable and, in many ways, the jewel in the crown of many visitors' experience in Ireland.

The Labour Party supports this motion. It is possible to envisage a very good future for the islands. From a recent visit to Sherkin Island, I saw the collaboration between the educational initiatives on the island and TU Dublin, my old college where I taught for many years.

I think that has given tremendous opportunities to people-----

I thank the Deputy.

-----in terms of education and I urge the Government to accept the motion and get on with doing the job.

It is very late. I thank the Deputy kindly.

I am delighted to have the opportunity to speak on this motion tonight. I come from the constituency of Cork South-West with its fair share of islands and peninsulas. I support the contents of the Independents 4 Change motion and thank them for bringing this debate forward.

The eight islands in west Cork, namely, Heir Island, Bere Island, Sherkin Island, Cape Clear, Whiddy Island, Dursey Island, Long Island and Garnish Island, offer fantastic activities and intriguing histories. They are known to be strung like jewels along the south-west coast of Ireland. I agree with the call on the Government to develop a policy for offshore islands in order that the communities there and back on the mainland can be cohesive and progressive. The Government needs to engage in meaningful consultation with the islanders. From my own clinics on the islands and along the coast, I know full well the issues that affect the islands on a day-to-day basis, which include transport and ferries to the island, the limited access to healthcare and general practitioner, GP, services, the declining numbers of inhabitants on islands due to the lack of infrastructure or strong communication links, such as network coverage and Internet access. This latter issue limits job prospects and educational opportunities for people living there whose parents and grandparents lived there before them.

These islands have unique assets and considerable economic potential. I commend the local tourism groups that work hard to promote and boost jobs in their local economies. The Minister and Deputy Burton have spoken about the arts degree course on Sherkin Island, which has been a stunning success for the island and farther afield. People such as Mr. Timmy O'Leary and others on Whiddy Island work hard to boost tourism in that region. However, there are issues on the islands that need to be tackled and addressed. When the school on Sherkin Island shut down, the efforts to which the islanders had gone to get young people to stay on the island were ruined because to date, there has been a failure to provide a chaperone to bring their children to and from the island. There is a lack of a residential nurse on Bere Island. What will happen in the event of an elderly person falling ill at night or a woman in labour or any type of emergency? This situation cannot continue. It is vital that a nurse be reinstated. There is a lack of social housing on islands like Whiddy Island, Cape Clear, Sherkin Island and Bere Island. Social housing on these islands would turn them around but it has not happened. There are many such situations and all this potential has been somewhat limited due to the inaction of successive Governments in implementing progressive and positive policies to help these islanders.

The 2016 census noted a decline in the population of offshore islands by 155 persons, a significant 5.4% drop since the 2011 census. This represents a serious challenge for the future of our islands.

The uncertainty regarding Brexit is another issue of concern to people living on our islands. Issues around our seas and fisheries policies also will have a detrimental effect on the communities if they are not ironed out.

I urge the Government to accept this motion in order to stop further economic decline across our islands from west Cork to Donegal, many of which experience the same issues every day.

I also thank the Independents 4 Change for bringing this important motion to the floor of the Dáil and I support it. It is important that we keep our islands on the agenda for improvement. It is sad that numbers are declining all the time on the islands that are still inhabited, despite the fact that we have more modern means of transport and better ways of getting on and off these islands. That is the trend and, as was mentioned already, peninsulas such as the Iveragh Peninsula are suffering a decline in population because we cannot get work or job opportunities for people in such places. The same applies to the islands. The only future for the Blasket Islands and smaller islands such as Rossdohan and Rossmore is by developing the tourism product.

I am personally familiar with Rossdohan Island, where there is an old castle that was very modern in its time. When one stands in that castle, one can see all the way up to the suspension bridge in Kenmare. There is a future there if tourism is enhanced and developed to ensure the island does not go into further decline.

I am disappointed to relay what happened in Valentia Island this year. Two area plans, which spanned 12 years, zoned a little section on the island as residential. Councillor Johnny Healy-Rae proposed that it be zoned as residential again in the most recent area plan for south Kerry. The council all voted for it but, lo and behold, the planning regulator arrived down from Dublin and threatened all kinds of action. Despite it being proposed again by Councillor Johnny Healy-Rae, the rest of the council decided it was safer not to vote for the area to be zoned as residential again. For the 12 years it was zoned as residential, only two houses were built in it but it has now been ensured that no house will be built in this little plot of ground. That is wrong because if one cannot build a house for people, how can any place be sustained? We are very proud that Mr. Mick O'Connell, who hailed from that great island, Valentia Island, is still hale and hearty and he fully supported the zoning of this area and he would not want anything bad to happen to the place in which he was born and raised and lived all his life. It is sad to think that, despite his wishes and those of many other locals, the planning regulator got his way, the land is de-zoned and no houses will be built.

My brother, Deputy Michael Healy-Rae, and I also sought funding for a new ferry service for that island. That has not been forthcoming from the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport. He has done much harm to rural Ireland but he would not even do that bit of good to provide the funding for that small request for a new ferry.

The Deputy is very hard on the Minister, Deputy Ross.

The people of rural Ireland would say to the Ceann Comhairle that the Minister has been very hard on them. He got help from Members in this Chamber to be hard on the people of rural Ireland. He has caused much hurt, anger and anguish to many people around the country without any need or justification. It is clear that he did not, and does not, know or understand what the people of rural Ireland have to go through to live, remain and travel around the places where they live, to go to work and other necessary things such as attending schools. The Minister does not understand it.

I am still very disappointed with the Deputies who backed the Minister. They should have known because many of them are from rural places and should not have allowed him to do what he has done to rural Ireland. He has practically shut down rural Ireland.

I commend Deputy Connolly and support her motion and our islands. The key argument set out in the motion before us is accurate, particularly the reference to the ad hoc nature of how we are managing and developing the islands. I am familiar with Inishbofin off the coast of Galway and may take that as an example. What the Minister and Government have stated is true - there have been real improvements.

There is now a first class ferry to the island, which is of huge benefit. On the other hand, a runway was built on the western side of the island. I cannot remember how much it cost - it must have been the guts of €5 million to €10 million - but one can only think of what could have been done with that money. There was a matching runway in Cleggan, but both are now sitting idle. Submissions were invited on what should be done with the runways. I made my submission about a year and a half or two years ago and we have not heard anything back since. That is an example of the ad hoc nature of the process and the lack of a clear sense of direction or development. I mention Inishbofin in that context. It is related to the first point made by Deputy Connolly about island communities, namely, that they have unparalleled knowledge of both the problems and the solutions to ensure a sustainable future. To back up that contention, I cite the great green economist, Richard Douthwaite, who was very familiar with Inishbofin. He used to stay with friends who were living just above the harbour. He was a brilliant green economist who looked at alternative ways of measuring progress and seeing the limits on growth. He called it the growth illusion. He thought the islands were very useful places with which to start in thinking about this issue because what went onto or came off an island was measurable. That first point in the second part of Deputy Connolly's motion is absolutely right. As well as for their own intrinsic right to development and importance, if there is a need for another argument in favour of investment on the islands, they are the perfect test cases for the massive transition we will need to make towards sustainability. I will give a few pointers in that regard that might steer the Government or the committee when it meets next Tuesday in considering what that might involve.

First, good examples are starting to evolve in considering how the islands might be energy independent. I refer to the first test cases in respect of the new 100% renewable sustainable energy and zero carbon future we are heading towards. The community energy co-operative on Inis Mór has done very good work and is often cited as the best case. We should take what it is doing and encourage it to go further. We should support, facilitate and fund it to go further. As we move the entire island system towards the use of electric vehicles, electric heating, properly retrofitted buildings and battery storage systems to store wind energy, we learn lessons that will be applicable in other areas. The same applies to all of the islands which have particular difficulties in getting fossil fuels out to them. There are security risks. There are costs involved in that regard. It is to make the case for islands as a special place to become energy centres.

Second, in terms of food, I will start with fisheries because there is a need for a complete shift away from massive marine protected areas. We need to stop big offshore trawlers catching all of the fish and allow fish to reach us and the islands to become some of the first locations where we start to restore inshore fisheries. If we can again develop the island fisheries systems, we will also develop the connecting ports. If we can develop half a dozen half deckers on Inishbofin, we will find the same can be done on Cleggan and that the distribution system that will work on Inishbofin will work on Cleggan. The same applies to Castletownbere and Bere Island and Inis Mór and Rossaveal which I understand has just lost its fish factories. If we could develop fisheries and the supply chain to the islands and also connect Rossaveal, that would work.

It is interesting that we are having this debate on the same evening we had the debate on the beef farming issue. Given my experience on Inishbofin and elsewhere, the real question is: where is the next generation of farmers for the island? Who will maintain the landscape and the incredible special sense of nature? I know some of the farmers. While they are young of heart, they are not that young. I cited a case. There was a training programme in west Connemara and the youngest person attending it was 48 years old. They were the young farmer. If we could get farming sorted on the islands, it would help us in similar areas in rural Ireland. If one of the solutions to the farming issue is connections to the consumer progeny - a sense of where things come from - as a product, Inishbofin lamb would attract a premium price and have a connection to the market. In its response the Government stated that half a million people go to the islands. They have a connection, so we could connect the food to those people. I was talking to my colleague Saoirse McHugh who ran in the European Parliament elections. She had a great time canvassing and one of the reasons was no matter where she went, when she said she was from Achill Island, the world and its wife sensed that they had a connection. They would say, "I know Achill. Do you know Paddy Joe in Dugort?" That sense of connection is important. Connecting food from the islands might be how we start encouraging a new generation of young farmers who will form a new life on the islands because they would be able to gain a valid income from producing food to which people could connect because they would know from where it was coming.

When I talk to islanders, they scratch their heads and say what they fear losing is the rich cultural life - the language, the music and everything else about island life. The term used is "island skills", that sense of men and women who are multi-tasking. They have great capability to turn their hand to construction, fisheries, farming and fixing things. We are now educating everyone to go. We should educate people in island skills, which would be as useful as any degree and is something that requires real wisdom. We should value it. If we do not do this, we will continue to see the population decline. We need to value island skills.

All islands face challenges, the main ones being population decline, isolation and limited economic activity. Economic activity is usually limited to three areas - agriculture, fishing and tourism - but one of the biggest threats is the loss of population owing to limited work opportunities, especially for talented young people. In many respects, the islands are victims of their own success because with the powerful pupil-teacher ratio, many island children go on to third level, but when they come out of third level with their degrees, there are limited work opportunities to bring them back to the islands. What we are seeing, therefore, is a brain drain from the islands.

The islands have so many advantages compared to the mainland. Island communities are innovative, adaptive and self-reliant because they have to be. There is very strong community involvement. Successive Governments have failed to recognise this and support island communities that are struggling to survive. The failure has not been the result of a lack of goodwill. There have been occasional beneficial efforts made. I acknowledge that they are included in the Minister's amendment, but there has been a deep misunderstanding of the nature of the problems islanders face and how to fix them. I will give some examples.

Many policies implemented nationally can work well on the mainland, but they impact negatively on the islands and very often have serious repercussions. That is because island communities are small and isolated and do not have the range of services and skills the policies presuppose. I have three examples. Many smaller island communities cannot provide a crèche or preschool facilities simply because of the onerous training and qualifications now demanded. Another example is the provision of recycling and waste disposal facilities. Again, the legal requirements are extremely onerous for the small scale facilities required. Another example is the regulations that were brought forward for accommodation associated with Irish colleges. They have had detrimental consequences for island communities. Student numbers had to be reduced to almost unsustainable numbers. For many families, the summer colleges are their main source of income to sustain them throughout the year. The feeling is the new rules were brought forward to suit areas such as Connemara where there are large pupil populations during the summer months.

I believe the islands are great locations to pilot environmental and natural resources based innovations if the red tape issue could somehow be resolved. Time and again, islanders have to fend for themselves.

They are prevented from doing so by well-meaning legislation that imposes an impossible burden of compliance on them. Good proposals remain undone and problems remain unsolved.

The 1996 report of the interdepartmental co-ordinating committee, which is the latest published strategy on the islands, pledged to begin work immediately to get a programme of work up and running. Since then initiatives have been adopted on an ad hoc basis that are entirely insufficient to address the growing needs for action. Currently, there is no policy for offshore islands and that has to be rectified. Offshore and inshore islands differ greatly, not only from a geographical point of view, but also from a socioeconomic point of view and have to be treated differently.

We failed the Blasket Islands in 1954 when the islanders were forced to abandon their homes and we have been lamenting this loss ever since. In 2009, €2 million was spent buying land there with the intention of establishing the islands as a national historic park and developing sustainable tourism. The Minister at the time described the purchase as "a major advancement of the objective to preserve an important component of our national cultural, historic and linguistic heritage". The objective should surely be to preserve, protect and support the living island communities so that they do not become the next Blasket Islands. We have to be proactive rather than reactive.

In 2016, €250,000 was allocated to the OPW for phase 1 of the development of new visitor facilities on the Great Blasket Island. If that support had been there pre-1954, it would have enabled islanders to remain and those type of facilities would have developed organically. Every islander's fear is that his or her island would be the next Blasket Island. They do not want their homes turned into museums. We have living communities that need to be protected. Tory Island was in the same position. It would have been abandoned only for islanders, under an tAthair Ó Peicín, ensured that their island communities survived.

Last April, Cork County Council was set to seek planning permission for an iconic €7 million project aimed at transforming Dursey Island, one of the countries most southwesterly islands into a tourist mecca. The 2016 census, however, showed that the island had four residents. The conclusion is that this was for west Cork, in the same way that the Blasket Islands project is for County Kerry. Those kind of investments can surely be better conceived. Islands are struggling to keep their primary schools open. Why not build centres on those islands that still have viable populations?

The island I know best is Cléire, where the comharchumann and the community have been very innovative and inventive. In the past five years they have leveraged the nearby iconic Fastnet Rock lighthouse into a major tourist attraction, with numbers increasing year on year. The tour has won many accolades, recognised by National Geographic as one of the ten best on the Wild Atlantic Way and by the Irish Independent as one of the seven wonders of Ireland but it is the only wonder that is not Government-funded. Cléire has shown the way so why is there not an urgent pivot of State investment in iconic tourism infrastructure towards island with living populations? Some €150 million is currently earmarked by Fáilte Ireland for immersive heritage and cultural experiences. What portion if any of that will be invested in our inhabited offshore islands?

There is an urgent priority regarding housing. Families and young children who want to live on the pristine environment of islands, with the excellent pupil-teacher ratio, are being priced out because there is a limited supply of housing on islands and there is competition from wealthy people for luxury summer houses. There is also an ability for one individual to own two or three homes on an island and leave them uninhabited. There is a need for a flexible housing policy through community associations and local co-operatives on islands. Closing an island school is the death knell because without children, they effectively become retirement homes.

Irish Water did major work on Cléire laying rainwater pipes and it had to redo the roads it had disturbed, which covered two thirds of the island. There was no joined-up thinking with the council, which is to repair the other one third of the roads. The infrastructure, equipment and workforce will have to be brought back. I just do not understand how this can happen.

We are all agreed on the need for a policy for all islands where the needs of islanders will drive the agenda. Who understands those needs, challenges and reality best but the islanders, not officials, some of whom have never set foot on an island or perhaps have spent an hour or two on a visit. Islanders must be on that interdepartmental committee to ensure that the policy is in line with their specific needs to enable the islands to grow and flourish.

We have the example of the programme implementation board that was set up to address the needs of the north inner city following the gangland feud and years of neglect. There were high-level officials from all Departments on that board but there were also two community representatives on that programme implementation board, so this can be done.

Ba mhaith liom aitheantas agus comhghairdeas a ghabháil leis an Teachta Dála Ó Conghaile agus a hoifig as an obair a rinne siad i gcomhair an ghnó seo.

History repeats itself for those who are unwilling to learn from the past. We can learn from past mistakes but it means acting now.

D'imigh na daoine amach chun na míntíre. Tá an Blascaod Mór ciúin anois, leis féin os cionn na taoide. Let there be no more islands silenced on the coast of Ireland. The best way to do that is to have islanders involved in addressing their needs.

Gabhaim buíochas leis an Leas-Cheann Comhairle agus leis an Teachta Catherine Connolly agus a grúpa as an rún seo.

I have studied the proposal and I wanted to be able to support it. Two issues were alluded to by the Minister, Deputy McHugh. One related to the inaction of successive Governments in addressing the needs of offshore islands. I was particularly concerned that Fianna Fáil might take offence at that proposal but perhaps that was an undue concern.

The second and more interesting issue is on the membership of the interdepartmental committee and the inclusion of island representatives. It is an interdepartmental committee and we all want it to work and to improve the lives of islanders. Having islanders on this committee could be contrary to what Members wish for because I do not believe there will be openness among officials regarding the preparation of their plans. I respect the islanders and I engage quite a bit with them. I will fully engage with island representatives in the work of the interdepartmental committee. I am happy to meet them before, after and between the meetings, on a quarterly basis or whatever is necessary but being part of the same meeting around the table could be counterproductive, which I know is not what the Deputies want. This is my concern.

There was a plan in 1996, also as it happens under a Fine Gael Government, by the then Minister of State, Donal Carey. There has been considerable investment by successive Governments in island infrastructure but I acknowledge more is needed.

A number of issues have been mentioned, including the primary care centre at Inisbofin. It has been refurbished, which has improved the appearance and usability of the centre. The HSE is progressing plans and we are co-operating with the executive on the allocation of a site next to but not impacting on the airstrip there.

Regarding education on the islands, the Minister has undertaken to follow up the issues raised. My Department is continuing on from previous Governments in supporting secondary education ar na hoileáin. Tá daoine, trí scéimeanna atá eagraithe ag mo Roinn, ag freastal ar scoileanna ar na hoileáin. Tá 30 dalta ansin ó fud fad na tíre ann, ó Bhaile Átha Cliath, Ghaillimh, Chorcaigh agus chuile áit ag freastal ar na hoileáin agus tá an-tábhacht ag baint leis na scoláirí sin ó thaobh uimhreacha na múinteoirí agus mar sin de.

I hope that after nearly nine years serving together that the Leas-Cheann Comhairle, Deputy Pat The Cope Gallagher, and I will not end up having a row. I acknowledged his concerns on the flooding. He mentioned Deputy Ó Cúiv visiting Gweedore at the time. That scheme was closed when Deputy Ó Cúiv was there and has not been resurrected since. My relatively small Department does not have funding for flooding in Gaeltacht areas. That is why I referred Deputy Gallagher to larger Departments such as those of the Ministers, Deputies Ring and Ross, and I am aware that officials from the Office of Public Works were also present.

On the question of funding, since 2011, the Government has consistently found moneys for annual islands small-works programmes, including for roads. Last year, for example, more than €1,073,000 was spent, of which €359,000 went to Donegal and a much smaller allocation of €43,000 went to Galway. Deputy Gallagher mentioned that I was perhaps holding money back for a Galway project. There is a very important Galway project that I have no doubt his party supports.

Deputy Connolly is also supporting it. Sin an obair atá muid ag déanamh chun Aerfort na Minne a cheannach. Táimid ag brú ar aghaidh leis an obair sin, agus is obair fhíorthábhachtach é ó thaobh todhchaí na n-oileán. Beidh airgead ag teastáil chun an airstrip sin a cheannach, ach táimid dóchasach go mbeimid in ann clár na n-oibreacha a fhoilsiú do na hoileáin go luath. Táimid fós ag obair ar sin.

I also remind the Deputies that nearly €100 million has been invested in capital industry on the islands for the past 20 years and a number of projects are listed in the plan forbairt náisiúnta. Maidir le cé Mhachaire Uí Rabhartaigh, bhí cruinniú againn le Comhairle Contae Dhún na nGall agus tá sé ag teacht ar ais chugainn le moltaí maidir le forbairt na céibhe. Maidir le cé Reannaigh, tá iarratas faighte againn anois ón gcomhairle contae agus beidh sé á mheas i gcomhthéacs an airgid atá ar fáil don Roinn agus na héilimh eile ar an airgead sin.

Maidir leis an méid a dúirt an Teachta Pearse Doherty faoi bhád nua d’Oileán Thoraí, tá bád nua luaite sa phlean forbairt náisiúnta. Beidh an chéad chruinniú de choiste nua Thoraí ar siúl Dé hAoine agus beimid ag iarraidh brú ar aghaidh le forbairt chás gnó don bhád nua sin.

Aontaím leis an méid a dúirt an Teachta Burton. We would all agree with Deputy Burton regarding the protection of biodiversity on our islands. My Department was at the forefront of developing and implementing the successful AranLIFE programme, which has gained international recognition in promoting the new Caomhnú Arann programme which has just begun.

Deputy Michael Collins mentioned the BA programme in visual arts in Sherkin Island which has been guaranteed funding for the next three years thanks to the intervention of the Department. That is a very successful programme and one of which the Department is rightly proud of its role.

Deputy Danny Healy-Rae spoke about Valentia Island. As much as we would love to take on another island, it is linked with a bridge and there is also a ferry to the island. It is not regarded as one of the offshore islands because it is linked by a bridge. The issues the Deputy raised will have to be progressed through the county council and the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport.

With respect to Deputy Eamon Ryan's points, my Department is very supportive of islands which have become energy efficient and have moved away from fossil fuels. We supported the provision of electric vehicles and sustainable energy sources in the Aran Islands some years ago in conjunction the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland, SEAI. AranLife is also very relevant to the points the Deputy raised.

Luaigh an Teachta Maureen O'Sullivan na coláistí Gaeilge. My Department stands over any regulations it has introduced to improve the experience of learning Irish. The Department currently spends more than €4 million per annum with the mná tí keeping Gaeilgeoirí. I increased the grant per capita during my first term as Minister of State.

The issue of housing is one the new interdepartmental committee will have to get to grips with in terms of na liostaí feithimh agus an easpa tí ar na hoileáin. Tá sé ag cruthú a lán deacrachtaí d’oileánaigh trasna na tíre. Tá sé tábhachtach go mbeidh dul chun cinn ann maidir leis an ábhar sin. Déanaim iarracht dul amach ag breathnú ar rudaí ar na hoileáin agus dul ar cuairt ag na ceantair Ghaeltachta trasna na tíre.

I have been to all the Gaeltacht areas in my two terms as Minister of State: an Mhí, Port Láirge, Corcaigh, Ciarraí, Gaillimh - áit atá mé i mo chónaí - Maigh Eo agus Dún na nGall. Tá mé sásta casadh le haon ghrúpa nuair a bhím ar cuairt ar na háiteanna sin. An uair dheireanach a bhí mé ag cruinniú Rialtais, chas mé le grúpaí ó Ghleann Cholm Cille a d'eagraigh an Aire Oideachas agus Scileanna, an Teachta McHugh, agus tá mé sásta casadh le grúpaí ar son aon Teachta Dála áitiúil.

Maidir leis an bplean gníomhaíochta do na hoileáin, I first announced this at the Comhdháil Oileáin annual general meeting last April or May in Inis Meáin. This has been a demand - is éileamh é seo ó na hoileánaigh le tamall. Bhí mé ag smaoineamh air an chéad uair a bhí mé i m'Aire Stát agus bhí mé sásta go raibh mé in ann glacadh leis i mbliana. Táimid ag brú ar aghaidh. Fuair muid cinneadh ó chruinniú Rialtais i nDún na nGall i mí Iúil, agus scríobh muid chuig chuile rannóg ina dhiaidh sin. Fuair muid ainmnithe ó na Ranna go léir agus scríobh muid chuig cuid acu ina dhiaidh sin arís nuair nach raibh ainmneacha faighte againn. Shocraigh muid an chéad chruinniú ansin. Dúirt mé tamall ó shin go mbeadh an chéad chruinniú ann i mí Meán Fómhair agus tá mé sásta go mbeidh sé ar siúl an tseachtain seo chugainn.

Tá mé sásta leis an chuid is mó de na rudaí atá luaite ag an Teachta, agus tá mé sásta casadh agus oibriú le hionadaithe ó na hoileáin, roimh nó ina dhiaidh cruinnithe, mar a dúirt mé. Sílim go gcruthaíonn sé fadhbanna, áfach, iad a bheith sa seomra céanna ag an gcruinniú céanna agus go n-imeoidh sé sin in aghaidh na rudaí atá an Teachta agus chuile dhuine anseo ag iarraidh déanamh. Tá mé sásta casadh leo agus comhoibriú leo agus mar sin de, seachas iad a bheith istigh sna cruinnithe. Sílim go gcuireann sé sin deacracht leis, agus níl mé ag iarraidh é sin a dhéanamh.

I pay tribute to Deputy Connolly for putting forward this motion. It is very important that the islands are an integral part of rural life and of Irish life and they should be treated as such. All the Members who spoke on the motion outlined the work that is happening and the value of the islands with which they are familiar. That is important in the context of this discussion.

The Minister of State outlined the positive work that is happening on the various islands in his summing up of the discussion but in doing that he highlighted the problem in terms of the islands. There is no coherent plan and there does not seem to be a plan for the islands. That is the real problem. Things are going well in Dursey Island because the DIT is working there. Something else is going well on Tory Island and they have pulled everybody together and something else is going well on the Aran Islands. However, what we need is a plan for the islands as a whole to ensure that the islands will continue and develop, regardless of who is the Minister or what is happening in this House. That is what is important. What we would want to leave from our work in this House for the whole country is that there would be a plan for the islands in place.

Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher outlined the work that happened when Fianna Fáil was in power. It was good work but it depended on Fianna Fáil being in power and on Deputy Ó Cuív being the Minister. It now depends on the Minister of State present having responsibility for the islands, and that is the problem across the board. It depends on who the Minister is and on he or she having a particular liking for the islands. We should be drawing up plans that will happen and work, regardless of who is Minister and of which party or parties are in government. Our islands should be recognised for the value they have and that should be enough to make it happen, rather than hoping we get the right person in office as Minister who will fight for it to happen. That is the problem. It may be totally idealistic to be even thinking that is the way we should be doing things but I believe that is the correct way. If we leave this House having worked in that way we will have achieved something. The important point is that our islands should be developing and growing after all of us have gone from this House. That should be the measure of how successful we have been.

In his reply the Minister of State covered work that other Members mentioned has happened and that has been of value to the islands. Arranmore Island has broadband as part of an Eir advertising campaign. That is a sad reflection on all of us here in this House. That is what this motion is trying to get at. Our islands should have broadband as a right, not as part of an advertising campaign for a mobile phone company. That is the sad part of it. It is a tribute to the people of Arranmore Island that they went after it and now have broadband.

We got that and they have the broadband now. However, that is the problem. The people of Tory should have broadband. The people of the Aran Islands should have broadband. People all around the country should have it.

It should be a measure of our society how we treat, look after and help the people on the islands. I would have great time for anybody who lives on the islands. They have a struggle. They have a hard life. However, they make it work well, without any real assistance from the State - that is the sad part about it. That is what we are trying to get at. We are trying to make sure that in the future, regardless of who the Minister is, the islands will be looked after and could be of value for all of us. That will be a measure of all of our success. That is what is important. That is what this motion is trying to get at.

Ba mhaith liom mo bhuíochas a ghabháil le gach cainteoir. Tá an chosúlacht ar an scéal go nglacfaidh formhór na Dála leis an rún seo. Cé go mbeinn sásta leis an toradh sin, ba mhaith liom go mbeadh an Rialtas sásta leis an rún seo freisin. Cé nach bhfuil drogall ar bith orm a admháil go bhfuil an t-uafás oibre déanta ag an Rialtas seo agus ag Rialtais eile ar thograí éagsúla ar na hoileáin, caithfidh mé a rá nach bhfuil polasaí cuimsitheach ag an Rialtas dóibh. Is é sin croílár an rúin. Dúirt an tAire Stáit ina óráid go bhfuil fadhb aige. Tá sé admhaithe agam go bhfuil obair mhaith déanta ag an Rialtas. Níl drogall ar bith orm é sin a admháil. Glacaim leis an mhéid atá leagtha amach sa leasú faoin obair sin. Más mian leis an Rialtas, beidh mé sásta leasú a dhéanamh ar mo rún ionas go n-admhaítear sa rún go bhfuil obair mhaith déanta. B'fhéidir go réiteodh sé sin an fhadhb. Is í an fhadhb atá ann i ndáiríre, áfach, ná go bhfuil faitíos ar an Rialtas - b'fhéidir go bhfuil rud éigin níos tromchúisí i gceist - polasaí cuimsitheach i dtaobh na n-oileán a fhorbairt go práinneach. Is é sin an t-aon rud atá ag teastáil. Níl muinín againn as an Rialtas seo nó as aon Rialtas. Bhí coiste tras-rannach i gceist sa bhliain 1996, ach níl aon pholasaí againn go fóill. Tuigeann an tAire Stáit é sin. Tá neart oibre déanta aige agus tá a chroí san áit cheart.

Perhaps I can solve the problem and not have a divisive vote. Deputy Pearse Doherty put it well. We should not divide on the islands. They are the jewels in the crown. They have shown us the way forward, not only in surviving but in a sustainable way of living. They have existed in a vacuum. Professor Ferriter has captured it beautifully in his book where he points out the contradictory policies on the island over the years from all Governments. Governments could not make up their mind what they wanted to do with them.

That is captured if one looks at the review that I mentioned originally. Between 1998 and 2004, an independent report was commissioned on the previous report. One can see why we are cynical. One of the major conclusions was the original justification for the allocation of public resources, as set out in the 1996 report, is still applicable and continued support for island communities is warranted. Imagine, after a report, they are telling us that it is warranted, as opposed to what was mentioned by Deputy Joan Burton. It is unusual for me to quote the Labour Party but I agree with her. There is a complete lack of vision. That sentence captures it, does it not? Bhí an mhéid a bhí á rá acu srianta amach is amach. It is telling us it is still warranted as opposed to addressing what the Government can do to help them survive.

The clock caught up on me earlier. I wanted to refer to some of the problems on the islands. I might have misled the Minister of State on one of them. Ós rud é nach bhfuil aitheantas mar scoileanna beaga faighte ag Coláiste Naomh Eoin ar Inis Meáin agus Coláiste Ghobnait ar Inis Oírr, i gcodarsnacht leis an scoil ar Inis Mór, tá an dá scoil thíos ó thaobh líon na múinteoirí atá acu. Chomh maith leis sin, tá idirdhealú déanta i gcás na scoileanna atá ag múineadh trí Ghaeilge a thagann faoi scáth an bhoird oideachais agus oiliúna. Mar is eol don Aire Stáit, faigheann na scoileanna sin níos lú airgid ná na scoileanna atá ag múineadh trí Ghaeilge nach dtagann faoi scáth an bhoird oideachais agus oiliúna.

D'fhéadfainn a lán fadhbanna eile a lua. Dé réir an eolais a fuair mé inniu, bhí daoine den tuiscint go raibh €250,000 ag dul go dtí na hoileáin. Níl mé cinnte an bhfuil sé seo fíor. Tiocfaidh mé ar ais chuig an Aire Stáit leis na sonraí. Tá an chuma ar an scéal go raibh an t-airgead sin ceadaithe, ach ní fhaca aon duine é.

Is mian liom pointe a dhéanamh a bhaineann le cúrsaí sláinte. Is pointe ginearálta é, ach tá sé thar a bheith tábhachtach. Baineann sé leis an athbhreithniú a rinneadh sa bhliain 2017. Níor fhoilsíodh é go dtí gur chuir muidne agus an Teachta Ó Cuív brú damanta ar an Rialtas é a fhoilsiú. D'fhoilsíodh an tuarascáil sin sa bhliain 2018, agus neart moltaí istigh ann. An bhfuil aon airgead ann do na moltaí sin? An bhfuil na moltaí curtha i bhfeidhm? Ní dóigh liom go bhfuil. Ní dóigh liom go bhfuil aon airgead curtha ar leataobh do na moltaí sin. Is dóigh liom go raibh 72 moladh sa tuarascáil.

I ndeireadh na Dála, ní rún radacach é an rún seo. Tá mé ag iarraidh sprioc ama a leagan amach ionas go mbeidh dáta srianta i gceist ó thaobh polasaí a fhorbairt. Má tá an Rialtas míshásta nach bhfuil na pointí maithe luaite agam sa rún, glacaim leis an gcuid sin den leasú. Is dócha nach mbeidh an vóta againn an tseachtain seo. Dá bhrí sin, tá neart ama ag an Aire Stáit machnamh a dhéanamh ar an ábhar seo. Tá go leor machnamh le déanamh ó thaobh na n-oileán. Níl mórán ama fágtha dul i ngleic leis an laghdú daonra atá ag tarlú. Ní raibh deis agam caint faoin laghdú atá ag teacht ar líon na gcainteoirí Gaeilge ar na hoileáin. I ndáiríre, táimid i gcruachás ó thaobh na Gaeilge de in ainneoin na rudaí maithe atá déanta.

Impím ar an Aire Stáit gan an rún seo a chur chun vóta. Ba cheart don Rialtas glacadh leis an rún. Ba mhaith liom rudaí i bhfad níos radacach a fheiceáil. Sa rún seo, táimid ag iarraidh an Rialtas a tharraingt linn. Is mian linn a chur in iúl don Rialtas go bhfuilimid i ndáiríre faoin gcruachás agus faoin ngéarchéim atá ar na hoileáin. Ba cheart polasaithe i dtaobh na n-oileán a fhorbairt go práinneach. Mar fhocal scoir, ní thuigim cad atá taobh thiar de thuairim an Aire Stáit nach féidir le muintir na n-oileán bheith i seomra leis na hoifigigh. Más rud é nach bhfuil dóthain spáis ann do dhaoine ag an gcoiste idir-rannach, tá sé sin ceart go leor ach ba cheart athrú a dhéanamh. Sa chás sin, ba chóir don Rialtas fóram eile a fháil.

Tá an t-am caite.

Ba chóir go mbeadh muintir na n-oileán mar chroílár aon pholasaí. Níl aon éalú as sin.

Tá mé sásta go mbeidh ról lárnach ag na hoileánaigh. Tá mé sásta mo leasú a tharraingt siar má tá an Teachta sásta an rún atá curtha chun cinn aici a athrú ar an mbunús sin. An mbeimid in ann é a oibriú amach?

Is féidir linn é sin a dhéanamh ag deireadh na díospóireachta.

Ní féidir a rá nár cheart go mbeadh muintir na n-oileán laistigh de sheomra. Ba chóir go mbeidís ann mar chuid de chroílár an réitigh. Ní féidir réiteach a bheith againn gan iad a bheith mar cheannairí orainn.

Amendment No. 1 put.

Ní bheidh an vótáil againn go dtí an Déardaoin seo chugainn, i gcomhréir le Buan-Ordú 70(2).

The Dáil adjourned at 11.30 p.m. until 10.30 a.m. on Wednesday, 18 September 2019.