Vote 33 - Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht (Revised)

That a sum not exceeding €376,236,000 be granted to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of December, 2020, for the salaries and expenses of the Office of the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, including certain services administered by that Office, and for payment of certain subsidies and grants and that a sum not exceeding €3,435,000 be granted by way of the application for capital supply services of unspent appropriations, the surrender of which may be deferred under Section 91 of the Finance Act 2004.
Is mór agam an deis seo a fháil inniu chun Meastacháin na Roinne Cultúir, Oidhreachta agus Gaeltachta do 2020 a phlé. Tá an-áthas orm an deis seo a bheith agam labhairt faoi leithdháiltí agus tosaíochtaí na Roinne Cultúir, Oidhreachta agus Gaeltachta do 2020. Is eol do na Teachtaí gur le na meáin, turasóireacht, ealaíona, cultúr, spórt agus an Ghaeltacht a bhaineann mo cheapachán. Tá réimsí cláir an-leathan agus an-éagsúil i gceist leis sin agus táim ag tnúth go mór le dul ina mbun agus iad a chur ar aghaidh fad le linn mo thréimhse mar Aire.
Today's appearance relates specifically to the 2020 Revised Estimates for the previous Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. I will therefore confine my remarks to those programme areas and ask that Deputies likewise confine any questions or clarifications they require to these areas. It should be noted that, in the newly created Department, my responsibilities will no longer include the heritage division, which will transfer to the new Department responsible for housing, local government and heritage where they will be the responsibility of my colleagues, the Minister, Deputy Darragh O'Brien, and the Minister of State, Deputy Noonan. In addition, in the newly created Department my responsibilities will no longer include the islands, responsibility for which will transfer to the new Department responsible for social protection, community and rural development and the islands under my colleague, the Minister, Deputy Humphreys.
Déanfaidh an tAire Stáit, Teachta Calleary, agus mise araon tráchtanna gairide ar réimsí cláir aonair anois. Táimid sásta tuilleadh sonraí a thabhairt faoi aon ní ba mhaith leis na Comhaltaí a tharraingt anuas.
Over the past few months, we have all been witness to the devastating and unprecedented impact of the Covid-19 pandemic across all sectors of society and the economy. The arts and culture, heritage, language and islands sectors have suffered considerably in view of the audience-facing focus of much of their work. They will continue to experience difficult and challenging times long after many other sectors have returned to work. These sectors are an integral part of the fabric of society, particularly in rural areas where they support tourism, economic activity, and well-being. They represent a very important component of regional development. Myriad community, voluntary and not-for-profit entities typify these sectors and there is a very significant ecosystem of local and small enterprises, economic activity and regional employment dependent on these sectors. It is therefore imperative that we support these sectors through their vulnerability in the face of the Covid pandemic.
There has been extensive consultation with cultural bodies, the Arts Council, arts organisations and individual artists and arts practices since the commencement of the Covid-19 crisis. This engagement has made us all very aware of the challenges that artists have faced and also of the hugely important role that they have played in sustaining all of us in recent months. The recent announcement of a further investment of €25 million in arts and culture during 2020 reflects the significant role arts and culture play in our individual lives and across society as a whole. Many challenges lie ahead as we begin to exit from Covid-19 restrictions but there is a determination to ensure that we have a vibrant arts and culture sector to see us through these challenges and into the future.
Among the measures that will be introduced on foot of the additional funding will be new bursaries and commissions from the Arts Council, including supports for freelance artists and those looking to develop projects on a collaborative basis. The Department will provide supports for cultural centres, including local and regional museums, as well as for new online cultural and creative content to build on the success of programmes such as Ireland Performs, the "Other Voices: Courage" programme and Cruinniú na nÓg. The funding will ensure that the important role culture plays in contributing to our well-being at all times, and particularly in times of crisis, can be safeguarded and enhanced.
When account is taken of this additional funding of €25 million, a gross provision of €379.6 million is available to the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht in 2020, representing an increase of 12% on the comparable allocation for 2019. An additional €3.4 million in funding has been carried over from the 2019 capital provision for expenditure on priority projects in accordance with the provisions of public financial procedures.
In broad terms, the 2020 breakdown of allocations to the Vote is as follows. Just under €218 million is allocated for culture. This includes €100 million for the Arts Council, €48.9 million for the national cultural institutions, €21 million for Screen Ireland, €9.5 million for cultural infrastructure and development and €14.8 million for regional museums, galleries, cultural centres and projects. Some €62.6 million is allocated for the conservation and protection of Ireland's built and natural heritage. This includes: €13.7 million for natural heritage; €10 million for peatlands restoration, conservation and management, including €5 million from the carbon tax fund; just over €6.6 million for the Heritage Council; and just over €6.8 million for built heritage including the very successful built heritage investment scheme and the Irish Heritage Trust.

There is €58 million for the Irish language, the Gaeltacht and the islands, including €23.7 million for Údarás na Gaeltachta, just under €9 million for the islands and €3.7 million for the 20-year strategy for the Irish language. There is also just over €41 million for North-South co-operation, including support for two North-South implementation bodies, Waterways Ireland and An Foras Teanga.

The gross allocation for the Department in 2020 is 12% higher than the comparable figure in 2019 and allows for increases in funding across a range of bodies under the Department’s remit, as well as increases in funding for a number of culture, heritage and Gaeltacht schemes. This increased funding is targeted at a number of key initiatives. In the case of the culture programme, 2020 funding is 15% higher than the 2019 equivalent. Of its priorities, Arts Council funding is up by 33% to €100 million, including €20 million in response to the Covid pandemic. Among the measures that will be introduced will be new bursaries and commissions, including supports for freelance artists and those looking to develop projects on a collaborative basis. With this funding, the arts sector will be stabilised in 2020, art will continue to be created, artists will be employed and the public will continue to have access to the arts, sometimes in new and imaginative ways.

Funding for our national cultural institutions amounts to €48.9 million in total. Since the lockdown began on 12 March, these institutions have done a wonderful job in responding to the Covid crisis by providing online content of the highest quality on their websites. Clearly, this is no substitute for being able to visit a gallery, library or museum and I am delighted that most of these institutions have now reopened to the public, albeit with a slightly different visitor experience on offer. Those yet to reopen, such as the National Concert Hall, face somewhat different challenges as a consequence of the Covid crisis, but I have no doubt that they will overcome these challenges and welcome patrons across their thresholds again before too much longer.

There is dedicated funding of just under €15 million for regional museums, galleries, cultural centres and projects to provide robust supports that ensure their viability and sustainability and secure new online cultural and creative content. Funding of €12.5 million, including €3 million carried over from 2019, in respect of cultural infrastructure and development will ensure that momentum is maintained in the delivery of a suite of ambitious capital programmes and projects as part of Project Ireland 2040.

Fís Éireann, or Screen Ireland, is to receive additional funding of €1 million. It follows the Government’s decision to extend the section 481 film tax credit to 2024 and the regional uplift of 5%, which provides an additional incentive to increase Irish and international production across the regions. These measures are in line with the audiovisual action plan, which sets out the Government’s ambition to make Ireland a global hub for the production of film, television drama and animation.

Also under the culture heading, an additional €900,000 is being made available for 2020's decade of centenaries programme. This will enable the delivery of a significant programme of commemorative events, including Bloody Sunday on 21 November and the execution of Kevin Barry on 1 November, in an appropriate and meaningful manner consistent with the advice of the expert advisory group. While the restrictions necessarily imposed as part of the Covid-19 crisis management measures will potentially require a reimagining of the commemorative events originally envisaged, it remains critical that all pivotal moments in the history of our nation continue to be remembered in an appropriate and meaningful way.

Funding for the heritage programme in 2020 is €62.6 million, an increase of 16% on the 2019 allocation. The largest increase in the programme is in respect of peatlands restoration, conservation and management, where an increase of €2 million, or 67%, plus a further €5 million from the carbon tax fund will result in an allocation of €10 million for 2020 compared to the 2019 allocation of €3 million. This increased funding will allow for an accelerated programme of peatlands restoration and conservation works, resulting in 1,800 ha of restored peatland in 2020, the generation of 100 jobs in the midlands and ultimately the storage of 28 million tonnes of carbon. Restoration and rehabilitation of raised bogs will provide multiple additional ecosystem services, such as water and air quality improvements, flood mitigation, biodiversity enhancement and opportunities for tourism development, and contribute to the social and economic well-being of local communities.

An additional €1 million is being provided in 2020 to accelerate key nature conservation and biodiversity programmes under the National Parks and Wildlife Service. Funding for the farm plan programme is being doubled in 2020 to €1 million to support measures to protect biodiversity and assist farmers with lands designated as special areas of conservation in their role as custodians of nature.

Also under the heritage programme, Ireland’s national parks and reserves will continue to be supported, including the tourism interpretative master plan, under which the Government is investing to enhance visitor centre experiences and facilities in 2020. These parks and reserves have provided a welcome refuge to many during the past few months when restrictions on movement limited travel and interaction. It was a welcome reunion with the wealth of natural beauty on their doorstep and it is critical that these wonderful natural amenities continue to be available in their optimum iteration for all who wish to enjoy them.

Labhróidh an tAire Stáit, an Teachta Calleary, faoi na gnéithe a bhaineann leis an nGaeilge, an nGaeltacht agus na hoileáin.

Ceapadh mé mar Phríomh-Aoire agus mar Aire Stáit don Ghaeltacht, don Ghaeilge agus don spóirt agus tá mé thar a bheith sásta a bheith anseo ag labhairt faoi Mheastacháin Athbhreithnithe mo Roinne.

Táim ag súil go mór le tús a chur le mo ról agus a bheith ag obair leis an Aire, an Teachta Catherine Martin, sa Roinn mar aithním an tábhacht faoi leith atá ag baint leis an nGaeilge mar chéad teanga na tíre, mar theanga beo agus mar chuid riachtanach d’ár n-oidhreacht mar oileán. Beidh mise i mo ról mar Aire Stáit diongbháilte cur le feiceálacht ár dteanga dhúchais agus cur le líon na gcainteoirí laethúla sa bpobal. Mothaím go paiseanta faoi chosaint agus faoi chaomhnú na Gaeltachta chomh maith chun a chinntiú go mairfidh sí mar thobar den teanga bheo.

Táthar ag leanúint le cur i bhfeidhm na Straitéise 20 Bliain don Ghaeilge agus leis na spriocanna ar leas na Gaeilge agus na Gaeltachta atá leagtha amach sa Plean Gníomhaíochta 2018-22 a foilsíodh i Meitheamh 2018. Gabhaim buíochas don iar-Aire, an Seanadóir Seán Kyne, as an obair a dhein sé sa Roinn.

I measc na rudaí faoi leith atá luaite sa phlean atá ag imirt tionchair dearfaigh cheana féin ar an nGaeltacht, tá an próiseas pleanála teanga, tacaíochtaí airgeadais mo Roinne agus Fhoras na Gaeilge go príomha don earnáil pobail agus tacaíocht Údaráis na Gaeltachta don earnáil ghnó. Déanfar cistiú don Ghaeilge, an Ghaeltacht agus na hoileáin, clár C de Vóta na Roinne, a mhéadú faoi 5% sa bhliain 2020 go beagán os cionn €58 milliún.

I mí Aibreáin i mbliana, ba ghá gach cúrsa coláiste samhraidh a chealú ar mhaithe leis an tsláinte phoiblí a chosaint le linn na paindéimí Covid-19. Fógraíodh, dá bharr, ciste cobhsaíochta de €4.7 milliún i mí na Bealtaine i mbliana chun tacú leis an earnáil, ar cuid ríthábhachtach de gheilleagar na Gaeltachta í agus a meastar gur fiú €50 milliún i gach bliain.

Áirítear iad seo a leanas leis na príomhthosaíochtaí eile a dtabharfar aghaidh orthu sa bhliain 2020. Gheobhaidh Údarás na Gaeltachta leithdháileadh caipitil breise €1 milliún, a fhágann go mbeidh a chroí-leithdháileadh caipitil cothrom le €10 milliún san iomlán, méadú de níos mó ná 11% ar an bhfigiúr don bhliain 2019. A bhuí leis sin, beifear in ann infheistíocht bhreise a mhealladh chuig limistéir Ghaeltachta agus tacú le poist a chruthú agus forbairt pobail agus teanga a chothú i réigiúin Ghaeltachta ag an am céanna. Sa chomhthéacs sin, cuireadh €5.6 milliún breise ar fáil don Údarás le roinnt seachtainí anuas idir €5 milliún ón gciste cothaithe fiontair agus €600,000 don scéim dhearbhán trádála ar líne.

Gheobhaidh an tÚdarás cistiú reatha €200,000 sa bhreis do chomharchumainn Ghaeltachta freisin. Fágann sé sin gur tugadh cistiú méadaithe €1 milliún san iomlán don earnáil thábhachtach sin thar na cúig bliana seo a chuaigh thart. Gabhaim mo bhuíochas agus mo chomhghairdeas do na comharchumainn as an obair atá déanta acu i gcomhthéacs Covid-19.

Leithdháilfear €500,000 sa bhreis ar an bpróiseas pleanála teanga sa bhliain 2020. Tá 18 bplean ceadaithe sa Ghaeltacht cheana agus tá beartaithe go mbeidh an ocht gcinn eile ceadaithe taobh istigh de bhliain. Tá plean teanga de thrí líonra Gaeilge ceadaithe do cheantair lasmuigh den Ghaeltacht: i gCluain Dolcáin, in Inis agus i mBaile Locha Riach.

Tagann an méid sin sna sála ar na bearta a fógraíodh thar an mbliain seo a chuaigh thart chun tacú leis an bpróiseas pleanála teanga, lenar áiríodh infheistíocht shuntasach bhreise chun tacú leis an earnáil luathbhlianta, le seachadadh teanga sa suíomh teaghlaigh agus leis na healaíona traidisiúnta. Úsáidfear leithdháileadh breise €275,000 don bhliain 2020 chun a chinntiú go leanfar le seirbhísí riachtanacha iompair a sholáthar do na hoileáin. Mar is eol do bhaill an choiste, níor tháinig méadú ar bhuiséid an Fhoras Teanga ó 2016 i leith. Is í an Chomhairle Aireachta Thuaidh Theas a cheadaíonn na buiséid do na forais trasteorann uile, An Foras Teanga san áireamh. Tugann athbhunú na comhairle deis dúinn anois breathnú arís ar na buiséid sin sa bhfómhair nuair a bheidh cáinaisnéis 2021 á hullmhú.

Níl aon dabht faoi ach go raibh an chéad leath den bhliain reatha dúshlánach do lucht na Gaeilge, agus muid ag cur impleachtaí Covid-19 ar an ngeilleagar san áireamh. Tuigim go maith go bhfuil na heagraíochtaí Gaeilge agus Gaeltachta tar éis teacht tríd roinnt blianta crua ó bhí an ghéarchéim eacnamaíochta deiridh ann, ach is féidir leis an Teach glacadh leis go mbeidh mise agus an tAire, an Teachta Catherine Martin, feadh ár gcumais, ag lorg acmhainní breise do chúrsaí Gaeilge agus Gaeltachta ón Státchiste le linn ár dtéarma oifige.

In terms of North-South co-operation, a provision of more than €41 million is made available to support the two North-South implementation bodies, An Foras Teanga, comprising Foras na Gaeilge and the Ulster-Scots Agency, and Waterways Ireland. These allocations are also subject to the approval of the North-South Ministerial Council.

I am satisfied that the 2020 allocation of €379.6 million for the Vote of the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht will allow for the continuation and enhancement of its very diverse but critical work programmes. We, as a nation, are beginning to emerge from the public health restrictions necessitated by the Covid-19 pandemic. I am confident that the Department is equipped to provide the necessary supports and assistance to the relevant sectors and their myriad stakeholders to ensure they all emerge together and stronger.

I am happy to take any questions Deputies may have in respect of the 2020 Vote of the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. I again ask that the questions be confined to these programme areas, notwithstanding the broader remit of my ministerial responsibilities.

Tá ceisteanna agam.

Is this Deputy Ó Snodaigh's slot?

Tá mé chun mo chuid ama a roinnt leis an Teachta Doherty.

I welcome the Estimates. No one could oppose them in the way they have been fashioned as to do so would starve many organisations and artists which have struggled for many years, and are still struggling, of the funding they have, meagre though it is. The Minister outlined some of the changes that have happened as a consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic. She also stated we are coming out of a recession. The Irish language organisations have never recovered from the cuts imposed by previous Governments since Fianna Fáil collapsed the economy.

I congratulate the Minister, Deputy Catherine Martin, and the Minister of State, Deputy Calleary, on their promotion to high office, and I hope we will be able to work well and positively together in this area. However, I have some criticisms of the Estimates and questions on what has been presented to us, as elements are often hidden in the detail. Is much of what the Minister outlined a repurposing of the budget that was announced last October? Is she moving some of the Department's funding to address the crisis caused by the pandemic given that the money provided in some of the budget lines will not be spent? If capital funding remains unspent at the end of the year because of the restrictions, or unspent moneys are identified prior to that, will the Minister request that this funding be repurposed and distributed among organisations that help artists, musicians and others involved in the arts who are struggling? Many of them were struggling before the pandemic. It is reckoned that 70% of artists and musicians live on income that is below the average industrial wage or even below the minimum wage.

I do not know which Minister will answer my questions on the Irish language section. Prior to last year's budget announcement, the allocation for Údarás na Gaeltachta was 68% below its funding in 2010, and the position with regard to Foras na Gaeilge was much the same. All of the organisations in that sector are still awaiting the restoration of previous levels of funding, not to speak of an increase, to allow them to carry out their duties.

The Minister mentioned regional museums and the national cultural institutions. I agree that these bodies have done immense work during the pandemic in trying to ensure that at least part of their vast collections are available online. Will the Minister commit to ensuring more money goes to the National Museum? The State moved part of the national collection to the museum in 1993, yet not all of the facilities in the complex have been developed to a stage where the public can visit. The same is true of many of the other institutions, although I accept the National Gallery is nearing full completion of its restoration programme. A capital spend is required which has not been fully realised.

I mentioned the shortfall in funding for Údarás na Gaeltachta, which for several years, including this year, has spoken of the need for additional funding to ensure it can create jobs, which it has lined up, in the Gaeltacht areas. There is a need to continuously look at its programmes to ensure that families are retained within Gaeltacht areas and they can sustain themselves. Údarás na Gaeltachta does not just have a remit for the fiontar, tá jab eile aige agus is é sin díriú isteach ar phleanáil teanga chomh maith céanna. Muna bhfuil an chumhacht agus an t-airgead aige chun é sin a dhéanamh, tarlóidh i bhfad Éireann níos mó ná mar atá ag tarlú i Ráth Chairn faoi láthair, áit atá an Ghaeltacht féin i mbaol toisc pleanáil tithíochta agus a leithéid agus an creimeadh timpeall teorainneacha na Gaeltachtaí. Tá sé sin ag tarlú i Ráth Chairn anois.

Luadh campaí samhraidh agus coláistí samhraidh. Tógfaidh mé an deis chun iarraidh ar an Aire agus ar an Aire Stáit an iarrfaidh siad ar an Aire Sláinte athbhreithniú a dhéanamh ar an gcinneadh a glacadh na campaí samhraidh a chur ar ceal, ach go háirithe toisc go bhfuil athrú suntasach tarlaithe maidir leis an treoir sláinte atá tugtha faoin méid daoine ar féidir teacht le chéile. Tá an grúpa Muintearas ag impí ar an Rialtas é sin a dhéanamh chun go mbeadh na campaí samhraidh seo ag na páistí, a lán acu go bhfuil ualaí breise orthu mar pháistí agus go bhfuil a leithéid de champaí samhraidh ag teastáil uathu.

Luadh infheistíocht sa Ghaeltacht chomh maith. Baineann mo cheist dheireanach leis na hoileáin. Tá a fhios agam go bhfuil freagracht as na hoileáin ag bogadh go Roinn nua ach tá sé fós faoin Estimate atá curtha faoinár mbráid faoi láthair. Cad é an scéal mar gheall ar sholáthar uisce d'Inis Oírr, áit nach raibh uisce ceart ann le míonna anuas? In ainneoin na paindéime, tá uisce á thabhairt isteach ar an mbád farantóireachta.

Ar deireadh, tá ceist agam faoi na vouchers i gcomhair trádáil ar líne a luadh. Tá sé sin go maith. Chonaic mé cad a tharla leo sa Roinn Cumarsáide, Gníomhaithe ar son na hAeráide agus Comhshaoil. Bhí a lán daoine á lorg. An bhfuil an t-airgead sin don údarás amháin nó an bhfuil sé roinnte leis an scéim Bhéarla? An bhfuil cuntasaíocht faoi dhó ag tarlú sa chás seo?

Tá a fhios agam go bhfuil an Teachta ag cuardach freagraí ach cuirfidh mé mo cheisteanna. Déanaim comhghairdeas leis an Aire, an Teachta Catherine Martin, agus leis an Aire Stáit, an Teachta Calleary. Go n-éirí an t-ádh leo. Is é an rud is tábhachtaí a bhfuil mé á iarraidh ón Aire Stáit ná níos mó acmhainní uaidh agus ón Aire sinsearach. Níl dabht ar bith nach bhfuil go leor anseo don Ghaeltacht, do na hoileáin agus d'Údarás na Gaeltachta, mar atá léirithe go soiléir ag an Teachta Ó Snodaigh. Scríobh mé ag an bheirt acu agus thug mé cuireadh chuig an Ghaeltacht i nDún na nGall dóibh. Tá súil agam go nglacfaidh siad leis. Tá cinneadh le déanamh ag an Aire Stáit fosta ó thaobh ionad bualadh isteach don óige i nGaoth Dobhair. Thug an t-iar-Aire Stáit gealltanas dom féin agus don iar-Theachta, Pat the Cope Gallagher, go maoineofar é seo. An bhfuil cinneadh déanta air sin?

Tá staidéar faoi bhráid an Aire Stáit i leith ionad bualadh isteach don aos óg i nGaeltacht Ghaoth Dobhair. Rinne Údarás na Gaeltachta an staidéar sin. Cén uair a bheidh cinneadh déanta air sin?

Freagróidh an tAire Stáit, an Teachta Calleary, na ceisteanna faoin nGaeltacht, má tá sé sin ceart go leor. I acknowledge that Deputy Ó Snodaigh and his family are deeply connected to and steeped in culture and the arts. I recognise the invaluable contribution that his family has made to the arts and culture sector. This Revised Estimate comprises the allocation from last year's October budget plus the additional €25 million announced last month. That €25 million for the arts and culture reflects the significant role that they play in our individual lives and across society as a whole. With regard to the Deputy's question about repurposing money, we are halfway through the year and 48% of our money has been spent. Our intention is to spend all the money but we will repurpose if necessary. We did that already with "Other Voices: Courage" and Ireland Performs.

All funding remains in place for our cultural institutions. We have an ambitious capital development programme for all cultural institutions, including the museum. As Minister in this area, I am aware that the arts and culture sector is on its knees. This is a crisis. I am aware that arts and culture go to the being of who we are as a nation. Our culture, arts and music are a celebration of who we are as a nation. They must be supported. The crisis has emphasised the importance of our arts and creativity in all of our lives. I pledge that I will work with my Department officials and State bodies in consultation with stakeholders to ensure that the talent and creativity of Ireland's performers, writers, music-makers and makers of everything in the arts world are developed to their full potential, sustained and stay alive to be once again enjoyed by widespread audiences nationally and internationally.

Aontaím leis an Aire, an Teachta Martin, faoin obair atá déanta ag an Teachta Ó Snodaigh agus ag a chlann. Maidir le cúrsaí an údaráis, tuigim an brú faoina bhfuil sé ach bhí ardú sa bhuiséad deireanach. Beidh muid ag obair leis an údarás chun go mbeidh sé san áireamh sa phacáiste spreagtha a sheolfar i mí Iúil chun an dochair atá déanta ag Covid a réiteach. Bhí airgead breise ag an údarás sa bhliain seo. Tá sé ag déanamh an-obair leis an airgead sin. Labhair mé faoi na comharchumainn agus Gteic. Beidh siad sin an-tábhachtach. Tá a fhios agam go bhfuil obair mhór le déanamh againn. Tá sé ráite sa chlár Rialtais go ndéanfar athbhreithniú ar an údarás. Tá a anniversary 40 bliain ann. Tá sé in am dúinn obair leis. Tá an ceart ag an Teachta. Déanann an t-údarás níos mó ná fiontar a spreagadh. Déanann sé a lán rudaí eile. Tá sé sin tábhachtach.

Maidir le campaí samhraidh, tá a fhios ag na Teachtaí go bhfuil an Rialtas fós ag plé na rialacha nua le haghaidh scoileanna a thabhairt ar ais, so níl muid in ann aon rud a dhéanamh faoi champaí samhraidh sula gcríochnófar an phlé sin. Tugadh airgead do na campaí samhraidh a reachtáiltear taobh amuigh an tseachtain seo caite. Tá a fhios agam nach bhfuil an aimsir maith go leor do sin faoi láthair ach níl guidelines againn chun aon rud a dhéanamh taobh istigh. Tá airgead ann agus beidh seans ann. Sin an scéal agus an chomhairle a fuair muid ó Mhuintearas - go reachtáilfear rudaí taobh amuigh an samhradh seo.

Tiocfaidh mé ar ais ag an Teachta maidir le cúrsaí uisce ar Inis Oírr agus maidir leis an scéim um thrádáil ar líne. Beidh an scéim sin an-tábhachtach.

Maidir le Dún na nGall, gabhaim buíochas le Teachta Doherty as an gcuireadh. Beidh mé ann. Bhí an iar-Theachta, Pat the Cope Gallagher, ar an nguthán sula raibh a fhios agam go raibh an post sin agam. Tá a fhios agam go raibh geallúint tugtha ag an gcruinniú sin. Tiocfaidh mé ar ais ag an Teachta chomh luath agus is féidir maidir leis an ngeallúint sin. Tá sé an-tábhachtach go mbeidh scéimeanna ann do dhaoine óga. Tiocfaidh mé díreach ar ais ag an Teachta faoi sin.

I congratulate the Minister and the Minister of State on their new roles. I look forward to working with them over the coming months and for however long this Government lasts.

I get a sense from the Minister that she has a strong understanding of all the difficulties the arts sector faces and I am encouraged by that. The programme for Government states that as part of the July stimulus, there will be funding and initiatives for the arts sector. Is what we heard today part of the stimulus? I am concerned about packaging. Will there be an announcement later this week or next week where what has been said today will be repurposed or repackaged? We had a meeting of the Special Committee on Covid-19 Response a couple of weeks ago. I know that Deputies Ó Snodaigh and Gannon were there. It was one of the more memorable sessions of the committee. Representatives from the arts sector came to tell us just how difficult financially, emotionally and psychologically this pandemic has been for their entire sector. I am sure they are listening to this session as they do every time the arts have been raised in the Dáil since the pandemic hit. When they take down figures and measure it against the programme for Government, they will want to know without uncertainty if this is the July stimulus or if further initiatives will be announced later in the month.

At that meeting of the Special Committee on Covid-19 Response were representatives for workers in the arts industry who are funded through the Arts Council. I welcome the additional funding for the Arts Council in this Revised Estimate. There are also workers in the industry who are not funded through the Arts Council, such as sound engineers. At the committee, the wonderful night of fundraising and the national broadcast that took place a couple of weeks ago were referred to. There was a performance by Hozier from the middle of the pitch in Croke Park. It was visually stunning, it sounded stunning and it was a high point of that evening. All the workers who put that together were not funded by the Arts Council.

Is the Minister or her Department working on anything that will target those workers in the arts who are fundamental to literally keeping the show on the road?

The programme for Government mentions how important night-time culture is and how difficult it will be with physical distancing, etc. It stated the intention to establish within the first 30 days of Government a night-time economy task force which I know will have an economic remit beyond what we are discussing today. The wording in the programme for Government is that it will have some remit to protect night-time culture. We are 11 days into this 30-day commitment. What has been done to establish this task force?

This is not the July stimulus package; this is last October's budget with the addition of the €25 million announced last month. Some €20 million of that has gone to the Arts Council and the other €5 million will be allocated. I am still new to the role, but I am working on that to support the other artists the Deputy mentioned and those who work in the industry. I am keenly aware of how they are struggling and the supports they need. This is last October's budget and not this the July stimulus package. Regarding that July stimulus package, I am that voice at Cabinet. I am working on that and the discussions are under way on it. I am advocating for the arts and culture sector at Cabinet.

On the night-time economy task force, I am getting to grips with my brief. It is moving quite fast, but I am completely up for that challenge. I will be meeting representatives of the Arts Council this week. I hope to establish this month an arts task force with voices from the entire sector on how best to support them. As the Deputy said, there is a commitment there with the night-time economy task force as well. I will be looking at how best to protect that night-time culture.

Does the Deputy have further questions?

Would it be fair to say that the Minister is pushing for more funding in the July stimulus package so that there may be some expectation or hope in the industry of further announcements later this month?

Absolutely. I am that voice pushing for more funding and supports for the arts and culture sector.

I wish the Minister well in her new role and welcome her to the heart of Dublin's north inner city. I am not too sure about the auditorium we are in, but the location is spectacular. Given where we are located, I want to raise an issue that is locally relevant and nationally important and relates to the Estimates we are discussing. Like many places in Ireland, the north inner city is defined by its connection to the arts. If the Minister walks around the corner, she will see a statue of one of our greatest, Luke Kelly, which has undergone a bit of a hard time of late. It is spectacular in that location. We also have people who make their careers and live their lives through the arts, not in the performing arts but in the associated industries related to them.

According to the Estimates, the numbers of feature film projects receiving production funding from Screen Ireland are 40 this year, 39 last year and 43 in the previous year, which is very welcome. The film industry in Ireland is performing very well at the moment. Behind that film industry are the workers who make it happen. I am not talking about the actors, producers and directors, who are rightly acclaimed internationally. I am talking about workers such as carpenters, painters and set designers, many of whom live in the north inner city. I think there are 400 members of the Irish Film Workers Association. In recent years, they have asked for their plight, including unsafe and inappropriate conditions, to be raised. My colleague sitting to my right, Deputy Boyd Barrett, has been raising it for a long time. I ask the Minister to meet these professionals from the industry.

Last week, the Covid committee had a presentation from engineers and other people who make their living through the arts. It was really interesting to hear the plight they are facing. All they are asking is to be included. These people will not be able to apply for grants. I know departmental officials are meeting representatives from the Event Production Industry Covid-19 Working Group, EPIC. I ask the Minister to meet people from the Irish Film Workers Association. That is their only request at the moment.

I raise the issue of local authority funding as it pertains to the arts. In my previous role as a councillor on Dublin City Council I had the great honour of being chair of the arts and cultural strategic policy committee, SPC, for a very short time. While in that role I got to see the all-encompassing nature of the role the local authority plays in the arts. It brings the arts down into communities, helps with funding and provides funding for new artists coming through. It is innovative in the manner in which it does this and it is flexible. Local authorities' arts funding is a major way by which new communities can access funding that enables them to see their own reflection in our arts. Will that funding be protected? Is it possible for it to be enhanced?

I want to raise the issue of local authorities' discretionary funding. Discretionary funding, not covered in the Estimates, is usually how communities, often taking their first step into the arts and unable to fill out the forms, are able to access a small grant allowing them to put on a local production with local artists. That was been decimated in recent months, even before the Covid-19 crisis. I imagine it has become an even greater problem after the pandemic. I ask the Minister to pay particular attention to the local authorities' discretionary funding, which is a very important funding mechanism for artists.

I welcome the additional €25 million for the arts, with €20 million going to the Arts Council and a further €5 million still to be decided. Although it is welcome, we are starting from a very low level. We talk about the arts in Ireland all the time. Dublin Airport displays pictures of our artists. We use the arts to sell Ireland on a global stage. However, we have grotesquely underfunded the sector for decades despite taking advantage of it so much. That €25 million is welcome. However, that can be compared with the stimulus announced for the arts across the water in the UK, which has been extended into the billions. That meant the North of Ireland got €36.7 million for the arts there, despite having a smaller population and a smaller cohort of artists. While our artists and artistic community welcome the €25 million, although it is not enough, can we guarantee that it will be committed to for next year and possibly extended?

The artistic community feels vulnerable at the moment. What is keeping our artists and others in the artistic community alive and helping them feed themselves is the pandemic unemployment payment and the temporary wage subsidy scheme. These need to be continued for as long as our artistic community cannot access their workplace in the manner in which they previously could. Be it through the July stimulus or any other mechanism, I know the Minister will advocate strongly. I ask her to advocate to allow our artists to continue to be able to avail of the pandemic unemployment payment and the temporary wage subsidy scheme until they can return to their place of work.

The Deputy compared the €25 million with the supports given across the water. Making comparisons across different countries is difficult for many reasons, including population size and the nature of the arts and entertainment sectors. For example, the UK has a very large commercial theatre sector. According to the EU, the arts and culture share of public expenditure in Ireland in recent years has been broadly in line with the EU average. The Arts Council has established an expert advisory group to make recommendations on measures to support the arts. The recent allocation of that additional €25 million to the sector, including the €20 million to the Arts Council, was a direct response to the need identified by that expert advisory group. It is also very much in line with the recommendations of the National Campaign for the Arts.

I am very mindful of the concerns of people working in the sector. I am absolutely willing to meet all stakeholders. That is my intention and it is what I will be doing.

Local authorities have well developed connections with local historical groups and are very effective in supporting a wide range of events, for example, commemorative events.

The creative communities initiative is being implemented via the local authorities, largely through a joint investment programme of €8.7 million supported by Creative Ireland and the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government. We will continue to protect that.

The Deputy also mentioned discretionary funding. I will sit down with officials in my Department and tease out how best to deal with that matter. I am keenly aware of the struggles and crises that are there and if Deputies will bear with me, I am determined to include and listen to all stakeholders as we seek to support them.

I am provoked by Deputy Gannon's reference to the venue we are in. It is a nice venue but if one was trying to do an artistic evocation of the weirdness, surreality and alien character of the impact of the pandemic on Irish society, one could do worse than start with an image of this place, with Deputies sitting miles away from each other in this weird environment. Having said that, it is better that democracy continues to function, even in a slightly weird environment.

It is democracy, in the broadest sense, that has produced the additional €25 million funding for the arts. That has come about as a result of the agitation of the arts and cultural community who made their voices heard. Those voices were then expressed in a Dáil debate and at the Special Committee on Covid-19 Response. The National Campaign for the Arts and many of the arts workers, crew and groups like EPIC and many others have made their voices heard and reminded us about the value and importance of our arts. That has been even clearer than ever during the pandemic because it is unimaginable to try and think what the past six months would have been like without music, literature, films, books and all the results of talent and creativity. At this moment when we need arts, culture and music the most, there is an existential threat to the people who make that art, including the artists and performers but also the crew members who stand behind them and make those productions happen.

As Deputy Gannon and others have already stated, the €25 million is a start but is not nearly enough. That is only one of the 13 requests of the National Campaign for the Arts. It does not really touch the crew members who work in live music and entertainment at all. They need commitments that there is going to be additional support and funding for all of those who produce music, live entertainment, art and culture.

The key demand that unites them all is the appeal that the income supports will continue until there is a full recovery in the industry. There is no foreseeable moment of recovery for music, live entertainment, the arts, theatres or gigs. We have no idea when that will happen and the Government needs to sustain crew members who have the necessary skills, artists and performers. Critical to doing this is continuing, in some form, an income subsidy. It does not have to be an unemployment payment. These artists and crew members want to do what work they can but there will not be enough work available for them to make a sustainable living, and we should remember that most of them were struggling to earn a sustainable living even before Covid-19. Now more than ever, those people need an income support that will give them a baseline of a dignified living income but beyond which they can also do what work they can in the period ahead. I appeal to the Minister to address that matter. It is the key request and must materialise in the July stimulus package.

It is not a good start to dealing with these issues that thousands of arts workers had their payments cut yesterday. That is really kicking people when they are down rather than supporting them when they need it. The incomes of many musicians and artists were hit because the manner in which the pandemic unemployment payment was cut failed to take into account the episodic and precarious nature of the employment of many in the arts, culture and entertainment sector. Therefore, many of those people saw their incomes cut yesterday. There is no alternative for them to simply go out and make work for themselves to increase their incomes. How will they pay their bills, rent and childcare costs when they simply do not have the money? The Government made the situation worse by cutting the payment yesterday. We need those income supports to be restored and maintained, and additional supports to be put in place, until the arts, entertainment and music sectors recover.

Reference was made to the Irish Film Workers Association, many members of which live around the corner from here on Sheriff Street. Representatives of the association came before the Joint Committee on Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht two years ago and have been blacklisted by the industry since because they raised issues about health and safety, pay and conditions, and direct employment in the film industry. Many of them have not worked in the film industry since. There is a big difference when one compares the film industry with all the other areas that the Minister is supporting with this Revised Estimate. When we give money to galleries, museums and theatres, people get jobs. Therefore, most of those people, during the past six months, have been on the wage subsidy scheme. The Government policy was to give the wage subsidy scheme in order to maintain the relationship between employer and employee. There are employees in museums and theatres but there are none in the film industry. Producers can access funding of €20 million that the Government gives to Screen Ireland and also receive money through the relief provided under section 481 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997, which amounts to approximately €100 million, and yet nobody in the industry has a job. Everybody who was working in Ardmore Studios, Troy Studios and Ashford Studios was sacked on 12 March. Those people were not put on the wage subsidy scheme, they were sacked. There was no consultation with the workers and front-line people whatsoever in the development of the guidelines to reopen the industry. All the money goes to a group of producers and, as a result, we do not actually have a national film infrastructure and nobody has a job. That needs to be examined.

I repeat the appeal that the Minister needs to meet all stakeholders and insist that they come to a forum on the film industry, as was recommended by the all-party Joint Committee on Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht two years ago, but which certain stakeholders simply refused to attend. I do not think that such people should continue to get funding if they refuse a request from an all-party Oireachtas committee to come to a stakeholder forum and resolve the difficulties and disputes that exist in the Irish film industry. I appeal to the Minister on that front.

The time available has expired. If we get a few minutes later, we might address a couple of the questions that are outstanding. Otherwise, the Minister might correspond with Deputy Boyd Barrett. Deputy Denis Naughten has eight minutes.

I welcome the opportunity to address the Minister. I wish her the best of luck in what is a challenging Department. I think the acronym relating to her new Department will include every letter of the alphabet. I wish her and the Aire Stáit the very best of luck.

I will turn to the Aire Stáit initially to say that the communities across the Gaeltacht are deeply disappointed that the Gaeltacht portfolio has been sellotaped on to what is already a very large Department. As the Minister knows first hand, the Gaeltacht population is declining. It is an ageing demographic and that is even more challenging when we look at na hoileáin where we have similar problems. This needs to be looked at right across Government.

When I held the portfolio of the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment, I was very focused on bringing high-speed broadband to the islands and rural communities and on ensuring that they should not be left behind. It will transform those islands.

Against the advice at the time, I included the offshore islands as part of the clean energy for EU islands strategy, and that will directly benefit them, providing sustainable clean energy to them. There is a great opportunity in servicing the offshore renewable industry from the Gaeltacht areas and the islands but Údarás na Gaeltachta needs to be supported now to be proactive rather than reactive in that regard. Again, that is an area that had completely fallen by the wayside until I resurrected the offshore renewable strategy, and in fairness, through persistence at Cabinet level, the leadership was taken on by the office of An Taoiseach. I hope that this Government actually delivers on the objectives that I set out in my time in that Department.

I also ask the Minister of State, Deputy Calleary, if he could provide our new Aire with a copy of the Western Development Commission report, the Creative West report. While it is a decade old at this stage, I think the Minister will find great benefit in reading it in terms of the potential economic stimulus that exists regarding creating jobs, particularly in our rural communities and regions in the creative, arts and culture sector. I hope the Minister takes the opportunity to review that document.

There are two other issues I wish to bring up, one of which is close to the heart of the Minister's Secretary General, namely, the ban on hedge cutting. I am not going to go into that heated debate. As the Minister knows, the ban on hedge cutting applies from 1 March to 31 August. At long last, by 1 March of next year, we are going to have high-speed broadband outside people's homes. They will be offered up to 500 Mbps as a standard offering from about 1 March next year. The last thing we need when that broadband arrives outside people's homes is for them to be told that because of the Minister's Department, they cannot connect as they have to remove a tree or cut down a hedge between the telegraph pole on the road and their house. I ask the Minister to make contact with National Broadband Ireland, find out the exact specification needed for householders and circulate it to householders so that from 31 August of this year they can start preparing for that broadband. If they have to trim back trees and hedges, they could then do it between August and March of next year rather than waiting until the broadband arrives at their door and then have a delay of up to six months on that. It is about bringing logic into this issue rather than creating a problem next spring.

On the final issue I want to raise, the Minister might respond to me if she has the figures available to her. I am going to give her a bit of history. Back in 1996, the then Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht, Michael D. Higgins, provided for the designation of bogs which led to the ban on turf cutting on a number of designated bogs across the west. Twenty-four years later, about one in ten of those families that looked for it has been relocated. A massive 70% of those turf cutters who sought relocation are still without any plan to provide them with an alternative turf bank. The first test of the just transition is the relocation of those turf cutters who had their rights removed from them 24 years ago. At the formation of the previous Government in May 2016, 68 turf cutters had been accommodated on alternative sites. At the end of last year, that had risen to 72 families relocated. That is four families in four years or one relocation a year, which is grossly inadequate. Because this has been so frustrating and delayed for so long, in the meantime the Minister's Department has paid €1,500 per annum to those families until they are relocated. About 8% of those families have thrown in the towel and said they will allow the Department to buy out their rights. However, in a sneaky move by the Department, it is deducting the payments that have already been made for the Department's failure to relocate them from the compensation payment that is being paid. Can we issue these people with their rightful compensation payment and not deduct the payments that were made to them in the interim in lieu of relocation?

We do not have time for a reply but we will try to accommodate-----

There is one minute left for the Minister to reply. I know she is anxious to reply.

Perhaps we can accommodate it at the end if we have time.

With all due respect, I did leave one minute for the Minister. It was a simple question and one minute would have been sufficient to answer that question.

If the Minister wants to answer, but otherwise it is not really fair to expect a reply.

The Minister has indicated twice that she wishes to answer.

I am quite happy to answer. I welcome the Deputy's engagement which is always highly constructive and helpful on these areas and working with the communities involved. I am aware that options exist in respect of turf cutters which include relocation to non-designated bogs, annual compensation payments and in some instances lump sum payments. My colleague, Deputy Noonan, will have responsibility for this and I will bring the matter to his attention. I will also bring the issue to his attention in respect of the roll-out of broadband and hedge cutting.

I congratulate the new Ministers who are before us today and wish them luck in their positions. I was across the corridors from the Minister, Deputy Martin, for the past four years and thankfully we had a lot of conversations and I hope we can work together going forward. The Deputy has the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht and in my own constituency of Cork South-West the Gaeltacht and culture are very important. I am disappointed somewhat that the Gaeltacht and the islands have been split. It is a very big mistake. I come from a constituency where there are eight islands and great people have worked very closely in islands like Cape Clear, where the Gaeltacht is very strong. It was imperative that those areas of responsibility stayed together, and unfortunately they have been split. It will lead to the weakening of the islands.

Our heritage and culture have been eroded more and more. An Irish neighbour of mine who visited Chicago over a year ago for a holiday told me that there were so many Irish men, women and children openly Irish dancing on the streets of Chicago and showing how proud they were of our Irish heritage. My neighbour told me it was a joy to see and that Irish-Americans are truly more Irish than we are in Ireland today.

We need to look at our culture and heritage and build on what is there in our communities. We can do that. We need to invest in Irish culture. There are fabulous Irish musicians both North and South of the Border who are going through a terrible time with the loss of income during this Covid crisis. We need to support these musicians, singers and dancers who sell Ireland all over the world, including Nathan Carter with his song, "May the Road Rise to Meet You". Tourism Ireland use this to sell Ireland and musicians are selling Ireland all over the world to people who love our culture and heritage. We should be proud of what we have achieved and where we came from to be where we are today. I would appreciate if the many singers and artists who are selling Ireland all over the world were seriously considered in any stimulus package. This is what people around the world love about Ireland and these artists should be enabled to continue to do so.

I will touch on verge and hedge cutting on roadsides, as opposed to farms, in rural Ireland as the matter is also in the Minister's brief. I know the Minister has visited west Cork because I have met her there, and she is familiar with the beauty of the area. Hedges grow on to roadsides and this has led to deaths and serious accidents. We are always looking at the bigger picture of road deaths caused by factors that come under other Departments, but in the peninsula and constituency I represent, from Innishannon all the way west to Skibbereen, Clonakilty and Bantry, people are asking that hedges on roadside verges be cut for safety reasons. It can look like people are trying to interfere with our natural beauty but that is not the case. They are asking that verges be maintained so that people are safe.

In the event of a second wave of Covid, what contingency plans are in place for the centenary commemorations in famous historical places such as Crossbarry and Kilmichael? The Michael John McLean memorial in Lowertown is right outside my door. What contingency plans are in place if things go wrong?

Guím gach rath ar an Aire ina ról nua. Tá mé ag tnúth le bheith ag obair leis. Níl ach am gearr agam agus ba mhaith liom béim a chur ar gheallúintí i gclár an Rialtais maidir le dul chun cinn na Gaeilge. Mar Gaeilgeoir agus mar iar-mhúinteoir, tá sé seo fíorthábhachtach dom. Tá sé fíorthábhachtach go mbeidh dul chun cinn maidir leis an nGaeilge mar phríomhchuspóir ag an Rialtas nua. Tá sé soiléir go bhfuil Conradh na Gaeilge agus TG4 ag déanamh sár-obair chun an Ghaeilge a chur chun cinn ar an oileán seo. Tá geallúintí i gclár an Rialtais an scéim teanga a fhorbairt agus a chur chun cinn agus scéimeanna eile cosúil leis a bhunú. Cuirim fáilte roimh seo ach tá i bhfad níos mó ag teastáil ón Rialtas. Tá maoiniú ag teastáil in ionad focail dhearfacha dheasa ón Rialtas. An fhadhb is mó atá ann ná an t-easpa maoinithe sna Gaeltachtaí. Phléigh mé an fhadhb seo le Conradh na Gaeilge cúpla uair nuair a bhuail mé leo. Tá réiteach ar an bhfadhb ag teastáil chomh luath agus is féidir. Tá súil agam go mbeidh níos mó airgid ag dul ón Rialtas seo chuig Údarás na Gaeltachta chun poist a chruthú i gach cúinne den Ghaeltacht. Tá an méid seo ag teastáil ó phobal na Gaeltachta. Mothaíonn siad go bhfuil siad tréigthe agus nach bhfuil siad mar phríomhchuspóir ag an Rialtas agus nach raibh siad mar phríomhchuspóir ag an Rialtas deireanach. Caithimid é sin a athrú.

Last year's revised Estimate for the Department of Culture, Heritage and Gaeltacht amounted to €351 million. I am very concerned that we now have oversight and development of the Gaeltacht mixed in with several other vast and wide-ranging portfolios. Does the Minister accept that this will not give people hope with respect to being able to deliver on commitments for the development of the Irish language strategy, for instance? This issue has been raised in the House time and again. We must get to the root of it and show we are serious about it. There is a real concern that the Irish language will get lost in the maze of the new Department and that it will not be prioritised in the manner in which it should. I dearly hope that we will see a different approach under this Government. What assurances can the Minister give that this will not happen?

Tá sé fíor-thábhachtach go mbeidh gach uile iarracht ar bun ag an Rialtas nua seo an Ghaeilge a chosaint agus a fhorbairt agus gan í a chur ar leataobh sa Roinn nua. Bheadh sé i bhfad níos fearr Roinn amháin don Ghaeltacht a bhunú. Is é sin mo thuairim agus tuairim go leor Gaeilgeoirí agus muintir na Gaeltachta.

Tuigim gach rud atá ráite ag an Teachta. Tá mé féin agus an Teachta Catherine Martin ag bord an Rialtais. Is é seo an chéad uair le blianta anuas a bhfuil beirt Aire as an Roinn a bhfuil freagrach as an nGaeltacht ag bord an Rialtais. Beimid ag obair go dlúth le Conradh an Gaeilge agus le gach coiste Gaeilge. Aontaím go mór leis an Teachta agus a buairt faoin nGaeilge agus faoi na Gaeltachtaí. Tá mé ag súil le bheith ag obair leis an Teachta. Tiocfaidh mé ar ais chuig an Teachta Collins ar a ceist.

We now move to the Independent Group. I call Deputy Connolly.

Gabhaim comhghairdeas don bheirt Aire nua. Guím gach rath ar an mbeirt. Tá trua agam don Aire sinsearach mar ní dóigh liom gur féidir níos mó cúraimí a chur faoin a stiúir. Baineann a ról le turasóireacht, ealaíon, cultúr, spóirt agus na Gaeltachtaí. Tá dúshlán ollmhór os a comhair.

Maidir leis an Meastachán Athbhreithnithe, is scéal dearfach atá ann. Ní féidir cur in aghaidh an Mheastacháin seo. Tá airgead breise do na healaíona, do Údarás na Gaeltachta agus do na hearnáil eile. An rud atá in easnamh ná comhthéacs agus cúlra. Níl aon chomhthéacs anseo mar shampla an géarchéim atá sna Gaeltachtaí ar fud na tíre. Níl aon aitheantas tugtha don ghéarchéim atá ann ó thaobh na teanga de. Cuireann sé sin olc orm i ndáiríre. Ní mhaith liom tús a chur le mo obair leis na hAirí i mbealach atá diúltach, ach tá gá le haitheantas a thabhairt agus iad ag caint faoi chúrsaí airgid agus caiteachais. Is rud dearfach é na figiúirí, ach gan chúlra agus gan aitheantas don ghéarchéim atá ann, tá sé thar a bheith deacair muinín a bheith agam as an gcaiteachas seo.

Níor luaigh na hAirí Bille na dTeangacha Oifigiúla. Ní raibh trácht air in aon áit. Ní mór dom a rá freisin b’fhéidir as seo amach go mbeadh ceannaireacht ón dtús i gceist agus go mbeadh na hóráid i nGaeilge freisin. Le ceithre bliana anuas tá mé féin agus mo chomhghleacaithe ag troid chun dáta a fháil maidir leis an mBille. Stopfaidh mé ag an bpointe seo chun nóiméad a thabhairt don Aire a rá cén uair a bheidh Bille an dTeangacha Oifigiúla foilsithe.

Mar Phríomh-Aoire, tá mé ag tabhairt geallúint don Teachta go mbeidh sé ann roimh an Nollaig.

Briathra millte arís. Cén rud a mbeidh ann roimh an Nollaig? An mbeidh sé foilsithe nó achtaithe?

Tá mé ag iarraidh go mbeidh sé achtaithe.

Go raibh míle maith agat. Sin gealltanais amháin.

Ó thaobh na n-oileán de, tá díomá orm go bhfuil na hoileáin anois faoi Roinn eile. Ceapaim gur droch-chinneadh é sin ach feicfimid. Tá mé sásta obair leis na hAirí agus leis an Roinn eile.

Maidir le polasaí do na hoileáin, cá bhfuil sé? Níl sé luaite in aon áit. Chuireamar rún os comhair na Dála cúpla bliain ó shin agus ghlac formhór na Dála leis an rún sin maidir le polasaí do na hoileáin. Cé atá i gceannas anois? Tá na hoileáin faoi Roinn eile. Cathain a mbeidh an polasaí sin foilsithe?

Tá straitéis ar bun agus tá consultation ar siúl ach tá moill ann mar gheall ar an pandemic. Ní raibh seans déileáil leis go tapaigh, ach beidh sé ar an mbóthar agus bhí sé ar siúl faoin iar-Aire, an Seanadóir Kyne.

Ní thuigim sin. Cé hé an duine atá taobh thiar den pholasaí anois? Tá fhios agam go bhfuil córas cumarsáide i gceist agus tá sé sin thar a bheith tábhachtach. Ach tá sé níos tábhachtaí dáta a bheith againn maidir le cathain a mbeidh an polasaí foilsithe.

Bhí an Roinn ag iarraidh comhairliúchán poiblí a dhéanamh le haghaidh mhuintir na n-oileán agus bhí sé sin ar siúl roimh Covid-19. Cé go bhfuil an fhreagracht seo ag dul go dtí Roinn dhifriúil beimid ag coimeád súil ghéar ar cad atá ag tarlú ann mar gheall ar cé chomh tábhachtach is atá sé do chúrsaí Gaeilge agus Gaeltachta. Tiocfaidh mé ar ais chuig an Teachta faoin moill agus faoi dháta ina mbeimid in ann é a fhoilsiú.

Gabhaim buíochas mór leis an Aire Stáit. Tugann sé sin beagáinín dóchais dom go mbeidh sibh ag coinneáil súil ghéar ar an bpróiseas. Cuirfidh mé an rud seo i gcomhthéacs. Tá méadú suntasach tagtha ar an daonra ar oileáin na hAlban de bharr go bhfuil reachtaíocht agus polasaí acu. Níl siad ag obair i bhfolús sa chaoi go bhfuil na hoileáin anseo agus tá an-tábhacht ag baint leis seo. Tá a fhios agam gur chuir Covid-19 isteach ar an bpróiseas ach bhí cruinnithe i gceist agus tá súil agam go bhfuil rud foghlamtha agaibhse go dtí seo agus go bhfuil treoracha ann faoin gcaoi nó faoin mbealach a bheidh an córas cumarsáide ag dul ar aghaidh as seo amach agus go mbeidh dáta againn.

Maidir le cúrsaí ealaíne, tá a fhios agam go bhfuil airgead breise curtha ar fáil agus fáiltím roimhe sin. Maidir le Gaillimh 2020 agus cúrsaí ealaíne, de réir mar a thuigim tá droch-chaoi ar cúrsaí caiteachais agus airgid ann agus níl siad in ann airgead a íoc don earnáil ealaíne. An bhfuil an tAire Stáit in ann soiléiriú a thabhairt dom faoin uair a bheidh airgead breise ar fáil don chóras áitiúil?

Chomh maith leis sin maidir le Gaillimh 2020 féin, an bhféadfadh an tAire Stáit in ann soiléiriú a thabhairt dom maidir leis? Fuair an tionscadal seo réidh le foireann agus chuir sé díomá orm go raibh an t-oifigeach Gaeilge ina measc siúd. Cheap mise gurbh í an duine ba thábhachtaí, go háirithe agus muid ag caint faoi chathair dhátheangach atá ar thairseach na Gaeltachta is mó sa tír. An féidir leis an tAire Stáit soiléiriú a thabhairt don ar an dá phointe sin, lena thoil?

Ar an gcéad dul síos caithfidh mé a rá go bhfuil, mar is eol don Teachta, an-suim agus an-ghrá agam don Ghaeilge. Úsáidim í chomh minic agus is féidir liom. Beidh mé féin agus an tAire Stáit, an Teachta Calleary, ag tabhairt cuairte ar an nGaeltacht an mhí seo. Is i nGaeilge a rinne mé mo chéad agallamh.

If the Deputy can bear with me as regards Galway 2020, táim chun an cheist sin a fhreagairt i mBéarla agus beidh sé níos soiléire, I hope, ansin. I have received a request from Galway 2020 to continue funding for a repurposed programme. The current Covid-19 pandemic will continue to have a significant impact on the delivery of Galway 2020. The Department has indicated approval for Galway 2020 to re-engage with cultural partners from the original bid book to examine options for the delivery of a revised cultural programme in light of Covid-19 impacts. On this basis, Galway 2020 is proposing a revised cultural programme comprising 27 projects from the original winning bid book, many of which will include multiple events to be held over the period from July to March 2021. The proposed format for delivery is on the basis that social distancing requirements will remain in place, with delivery methods to include limited access physical performance, exhibition installations and a significant element of digital delivery. One cultural partner has indicated that it will not be possible to deliver its proposed events by the end of March 2021. A request for the prolongation of the cultural programme to April 2021 has been sent to the European Commission to allow time for delivery in changed circumstances and a response is awaited.

The unspent elements of committed local authority funding is no longer guaranteed and there is no expectation of further private sponsorship, leaving the Government as the sole funder. As I said, I have received a request from Galway 2020 to continue funding for a repurposed programme and I hope to make a decision on this shortly. I ask the Deputy to bear with me as I am only a few days in this brief. The matter has been brought to my attention and I am dealing with it. Gabhaim buíochas léi.

I congratulate the Minister, Deputy Martin, on her appointment. Tá sé an-deas an Ghaeilge a chloisteáil sa Dáil freisin, gabhaim buíochas leo.

I will speak briefly about Shannon Heritage and its portfolio of sites. The group has nine sites and also operates the iconic GPO visitor centre on O'Connell Street. Shannon Heritage’s origins lie in the mid west. It was once run by Shannon Development. Some years ago, as many Deputies will remember, the Dublin Airport Authority was broken up. The Shannon Group is now a separate entity from the DAA and operates Shannon Heritage as a subsidiary. Shannon Heritage employs 300 staff, some of whom do not work all year around, although a core staff group of 145 works on a 12 month basis. Some staff have been with the organisation for upwards of 30 years.

The most iconic site owned by Shannon Heritage is Bunratty Castle, which is also the setting for the world famous Bunratty Folk Park, one of two major attractions in County Clare. We are blessed to have a beautiful county but most people who come on day visits to Clare, whether they are on Paddywagon tour buses or fly into Shannon Airport, will visit the iconic sites of the Cliffs of Moher and Bunratty Castle.

The region has been devastated in recent weeks to hear from Mary Considine, the chief executive of the Shannon Group that, and her management team that, on 31 August, Bunratty Folk Park and all the other sites managed by the group, including King John's Castle and Knappogue, will remain closed for the autumn and winter months. Initially, the Covid-19 public health guidance was cited but now it has become an issue of solvency. As the Shannon Group portfolio is spread between aviation, commercial property and heritage sites, the group is in an acute financial crisis. We heard in the Dáil earlier this week debates on staff lay-offs and pay cuts in Shannon Airport. The same is now happening in Shannon Heritage. This company has a staffing problem but it certainly does not face the same crisis that the aviation sector faces in that there is not the same volatility. If Dublin Zoo, the GPO site and key sites in the centre of Dublin are open to tourists at the moment, I cannot see why the mid west should lose out.

This is essentially a solvency issue. It makes no sense to have key, iconic, strategic sites in the mid west closed for business at a time when we are trying to attract those who are in our country and want to have a quality staycation. The international tourism market has imploded this year but the domestic tourism market is buoyant. Every possible attraction should be open to satisfy domestic tourists' needs.

The aviation task force, which we discussed last night, will report back this month. It is widely expected that funding will be announced for the airports, including Shannon Airport. I ask the Minister to insist at Cabinet that any more money awarded to the Shannon Group be conditional on it keeping its Shannon Heritage sites open throughout the autumn and winter months. I made the same point to the Taoiseach.

This has a domino effect. By closing down Bunratty Castle, a site that has been open since the late 1600s, due to Covid-19 during the autumn and winter months, we are denying ourselves huge opportunities in the mid west. People nowadays are very fickle in how they book holidays. With a few clicks of a mouse, they can decide to holiday in Kerry instead of Clare, which is very damaging to the region. The domino effect impacts on the many bars and restaurants in the immediate footprint of Bunratty Castle and those further afield in the county which leverage the castle to sell packages to incoming tourists. Will the Minister intervene to ensure that any State funding to the Shannon Group is made conditional on it reopening its sites? I would also like her Department to communicate the strategic importance of keeping Bunratty Castle, King John's Castle and the other Shannon Heritage sites in the mid west open throughout the autumn and winter.

I wish the Minister the best in her portfolio and thank the Acting Chairman.

I will be as brief as possible and try to leave time for the Minister and Minister of State to respond. I wish both of them the best of luck in their new briefs. In regard to the Minister, I am encouraged by her approach and commentary thus far in respect of the arts, culture and tourism, which is now part of her brief. I genuinely wish her the best of luck and I look forward to working with her and to welcoming her to west Cork to show her the incredible tourism offering there. I know the Minister of State a bit better than I know the Minister, and I am aware of his passion for the Gaeltacht and the islands. I have no doubt he will do a fantastic job.

I welcome the announcement of the additional funding in the Revised Estimate, which seems targeted. All of the additional funding for the different events mentioned by the Minister will be for nothing if we do not protect our events sector and workers. As the Minister rightly stated, the sector has never faced a crisis like this so we need to support it by means of the funding to which I refer and the July stimulus. We have all referenced the impact on tourism, hospitality and aviation but it could be argued that the events and arts sector is potentially most affected because of its reliance on mass gatherings. We do not know when mass gatherings will be permitted again. I have spoken to events workers and sound engineers who do not expect to have an income until April 2021. Judging by some of the commentary in the Chamber in recent days, Covid may be with us for a couple of years and so it may be some time before mass gatherings will be permitted again. We need to protect and support the sector in question and its workers.

The events sector is a thriving industry. I know from a conversation I had 25 years ago with an events worker who had oversight of the festival that was then known as Oxegen, and previously known as Witnness, that British event companies rigged and set up events here. These days, that work is being done by Irish companies and, as I said, we now have a thriving events industry and skilled crew. We need to protect the sector and ensure that it will exist when we emerge from Covid. Funding for all of the cultural events mentioned by the Minister will be nothing unless we protect the industry. We cannot allow this talent and skilled labour force to be leaked or lost to other industries. We cannot let that happen. We can protect the sector by listening to some of its demands.

All of us in this Chamber have enjoyed various events, gigs, theatre performances and concerts. I come from west Cork, which I consider to be the rock capital of the world. For the final 20 years of his life, Noel Redding, the bassist with the Jimi Hendrix Experience, lived in west Cork. Eric Bell of Thin Lizzy also lived there. It is home to incredible venues that have hosted world famous names. Venues such as DeBarras in Clonakilty, Connolly's of Leap and Levis' Bar in the small village of Ballydehob are gems. We need to protect them and to ensure that this industry still exists when we emerge from Covid. It is important that we protect not only the venues but the events and the festivals, including the International Guitar Festival in Clonakilty and the Cork Jazz Festival. We all enjoy these events and the music. We need to start appreciating what happens prior to an event, including the sound checks, the rigging and so on. We are sometimes oblivious to what these incredible events workers do. Many of the small events and festivals that take place in west Cork and other parts of rural Ireland depend heavily on sound engineers to set up public address systems and the stages, and they sometimes do this work free of charge or at a reduced rate.

I would like now to mention some of the requests from EPIC, of which I am sure the Minister is aware because EPIC will have communicated them to her. The main request is that the Covid pandemic unemployment payment, PUP, and wage subsidy scheme will continue for event workers until such time as mass gatherings are permitted again. That is very important and it should be addressed in the July stimulus package. I acknowledge that this debate is not about the July stimulus. We need business grant support of, potentially, 20%, if possible, above the turnover for 2018. This is essential.

Another issue affecting this sector is insurance coverage, which I would like the Minister to highlight to Cabinet. The risk factor has been reduced dramatically because events are not happening, rigs are not being set up and so on but the insurance companies are not being flexible. This matter needs to be tackled.

There is also a mental health aspect involved, which I know EPIC has also communicated to the Minister. The arts sector, from musicians to event workers, have been supportive of each other to get them through this pandemic. We have all seen the Facebook live performances. DeBarras in Clonakilty has held a Facebook live event for the past four months. It has been a brilliant way to bring these events into our living rooms. The sector needs targeted funding in order to put in place proper and effective mental health programmes.

I welcome the Minister's reference to the possible establishment of an industry task force. I echo the calls for a meeting with stakeholders. There is another issue with the PUP which I would like the Minister to bring to Cabinet. For some reason, random events workers are receiving the lower payment of €203 per week but their 2018 accounts would have reflected a position much healthier than that. This needs to be rectified. The situation of the many seasonal workers who were not employed in January and February and, therefore, do not receive the PUP also needs to be rectified to get these essential workers through the crisis. This sector needs to be provided for in the July stimulus.

I will move on now to the islands, following which I hope there will be time remaining for the Minister and Minister of State to respond. I come from west Cork. As Deputy Michael Collins indicated, we have many vibrant offshore islands. I would like confirmation that island services will not be impacted by the move of responsibility for the islands from its existing Department to the new Department with responsibility for social protection, community and rural development and the islands. We need a guarantee that services will be protected. In the context of the overall approach to the islands, there is an issue with housing. There are many couples who would like to move there and work remotely but they cannot do so because there is no available housing on the islands. Provision needs to be made for housing on our offshore islands. Tied closely to this is the provision of rural broadband so that people can choose to live and work on the islands and thus the islands would be repopulated and lead to a very healthy island economy. One of the local islands off the coast of Cork, Cape Clear Island, recently restarted a market which had not been held for 15 years, which is helping to keep expenditure in the local economy. I would welcome a brief response from the Minister and Minister of State on the issues I have raised.

On Deputy Cathal Crowe's question regarding Shannon Heritage, we are critically aware of the issues facing the heritage sector, as well as the arts and cultural sector. As a Government, we are working with all stakeholders to ensure facilities can reopen safely and to stabilise them financially. As requested by the Deputy, I will raise this matter with my colleagues in government, including the Minister of State, Deputy Noonan, who will have responsibility for heritage. In terms of my new remit, I am also very conscious of it from a tourism perspective.

On the issues raised by Deputy Christopher O'Sullivan, as I have previously stated, the Covid-19 crisis has emphasised the importance of our arts and creativity in all of our lives. Along with my Department officials and State bodies I am working with all stakeholders to ensure that the talent and creativity of our performers, writers and music makers is developed to their potential and sustained and enjoyed once again by audiences in our local communities, at national level and globally. The impact of Covid has been deep across the sector. Live performances to audiences will be impacted long-term. This is one of the sectors that was first hit and it will be the last to return. I am very aware of that. On live performances, my Department is engaging with EPIC and the entertainment industry in order to ways to sustain them.

I fully agree we have built a skilled labour force in that sector and we want to protect and continue to work with the sector. As I said, it was the first to go and will be the last to return. I am fully aware that the arts and culture sector is heavily dependent on the pandemic unemployment payment, PUP, and the temporary wage subsidy scheme and that an extension of the former has been sought by the National Campaign for the Arts.

As the Deputy may be aware, the programme for Government states that, as part of the July stimulus package, the Government will set out a pathway for the future implementation of the temporary wage subsidy scheme and the future distribution of the PUP based on the principles of fairness and equity. As he rightly noted, these are industries where seasonal workers must be considered. That is on my radar and I seek to address it. The work is under way.

As there is no Fine Gael Deputy who wishes to speak, I call Deputy Ó Cathasaigh from the Green Party.

Ar dtús báire, déanaim comhghairdeas ó chroí leis an Aire nua as a bheith ceaptha ina ról nua. Tá sé suntasach domsa mar bhall den Chomhaontas Glas mo chomhghleacaí a fheiceáil sa ról sin, ach freisin mar Ghael tá sé suntasach go bhfuil beirt Airí sa Roinn a bhfuil tacaíocht don teanga léirithe acu ag gach uile dheis go dtí seo. Guím gach rath ar a gcuid oibre amach anseo.

I will ask my questions in two parts to allow the relevant Minister or Minister of State an opportunity to answer. My first questions pertain to the equality budgeting outlined in the Estimates. Under the previous programme for Government, a pilot programme on equality budgeting was rolled out in a number of Departments in budget 2018. The equality budgeting objectives and performance indicators outlined in the Revised Estimates raise a few questions, not just on the attention paid to increased female participation in film and screen content supported by Fís Éireann but also on the future of equality budgeting, its success and whether we can improve on efforts made thus far.

In considering these issues, what is the status of the pilot programme that sets out to improve equality in all Departments and what is the proposed timeframe for its completion? Will the Department report on lessons learned from the pilot programme on equality budgeting to inform and improve equality budgeting in all Departments in the coming years? Has the Department considered following up on or implementing the recommendations in the OECD review of Ireland's equality budgeting?

The Revised Estimates set out the aims of increasing the number of applications received with female talent and increasing the number of successful applications received with female talent, both by 5%. Will the Minister indicate the starting point or baseline for those targets and whether they had a financial underpinning?

I thank the Deputy and all Deputies who have expressed their good wishes to me and the Minister of State, Deputy Calleary. I look forward to working with them all.

While the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform is responsible for the equality budgeting programme, my Department was one of six that participated in the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform's equality budgeting pilot in 2018. Dedicated equality indicators were included in the 2018 Revised Estimates with the objective to work to achieve enhanced levels of representation of women and girls in films and screen content supported by the Irish Film Board. Equality budgeting uses impact indicators to provide information on how the allocation of resources impacts various groups in society, such as women, children and disadvantaged groups.

While the pilot scheme focused mainly on gender in 2018, with five gender objectives and one socioeconomic objective, the scope was broadened in 2019 to include other equality measures such as poverty, the promotion of inclusiveness and disability. My Department has engaged, and will continue to do so, with this process annually. While an equality budgeting advisory group has been established by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform to support this process, my Department is not a member of the group. I am very supportive of equality budgeting as a means of advancing equality, reducing poverty and strengthening economic and social rights.

With regard to the pilot programme, a key lesson for my Department was the value in setting metrics as a means of driving policy change. In 2018, for example, the Irish Film Board, or Screen Ireland as it is now known, launched a scheme, POV, that was aimed at delivering on Screen Ireland's commitment to achieving a 50-50 gender parity in the Irish screen industries, both in front of and behind the camera. Screen Ireland offered enhanced production funding for female-initiated or female-driven feature films. Screen Ireland surpassed its 2018 equality budgeting targets of 5%, achieving an increase of 12% in the number of applications with female talent attached and an increase of 7% in the number of successful applications with female talent attached. Equality budgeting provides an objective way to track and measure success in this area.

A key lesson learned from participation in the pilot was that linking funding decisions to greater gender equality has paid dividends in encouraging greater equality in the film industry and provides a positive model to replicate in other policy areas. Screen Ireland is confident that 2020 will build on the success of 2018 and 2019 in terms of the participation of women in screen productions. It is my strong belief that extending equality budgeting to other policy areas in my Department will incentivise and reward positive change towards greater equality, and I will seek to expand this success into areas in the Department.

To respond to the Deputy's third question, my Department is very cognisant of the recommendations contained in the OECD report on equality budgeting. While the report recognises that equality budgeting in Ireland is in its infancy, I am pleased my Department has participated in Ireland's initiative since its inception. In recent years my Department and its bodies have engaged in a number of initiatives to promote inclusion and equality in the context of gender participation in the arts and culture sector. This work has involved staff in the culture and corporate divisions and external staff in agencies under the Department's remit working together to achieve gender balance on State boards in the arts and culture sector, which I am pleased to say stands at 49%. The project focused on support for women at a senior level in arts organisations, support for promotion to the public of the work of women artists, leadership in dealing with accusations of abuse of power and sexual harassment in sections of the arts sector, and diversity and equality training for boards and senior management of State agencies in the sector. This work was the subject of a Civil Service excellence and innovation award in 2019.

My Department will continue to focus on equality when developing policy and will be proactive in ensuring that our strategic objectives underpin equality of opportunity, access and outcomes in the arts for everyone living Ireland.

Admhaím nach mbeidh seans nó am ag an Aire Stáit freagra a thabhairt ach b’fhéidir go mbeidh sé in ann freagra scríofa a thabhairt dom ar an gceist seo. Maidir leis an uimhir mhoil digiteach atá leagtha amach laistigh de na Meastacháin seo, le 31 luaite mar sprioc don bhliain seo, an bhfuilimid ar an treo ceart chun an sprioc sin a bhaint amach an bhliain seo? I bhfianaise an mhéadú ollmhór cinn oibre atá tar éis tarlú de bharr na géarchéime sláinte Covid-19 agus na gealltanais atá sa chlár Rialtais ó thaobh cinn oibre, an smaoineoidh an Roinn ar na spriocanna níos ilmhaoiní de na moil digiteach a chur i láthair amach anseo agus muid ag pleanáil cén áit go díreach a bheidh na moil digiteach seo lonnaithe? An bhfuilimid ag cinntiú go bhfuil treoirlínte ann ionas go mbeidh aidhmeanna ó thaobh spriocanna aistíochtaí agus pleanáil straitéise agus fadtéarmach dár gceantair Ghaeltachta bainte amach freisin? Mar shampla, an mbeidh siad cóngarach do sheirbhísí áitiúla cosúil le scoileanna nó siopaí, chomh maith le naisc chórais iompar poiblí laistigh den Ghaeltacht, agus ar aghaidh go seirbhísí Gaeilge go háirithe?

Cé atá ag déileáil leis an gceist seo?

Tiocfaidh mé ar ais chuig an Teachta.

Tiocfaidh an tAire Stáit ar ais chuige. Glaoim ar an Teachta Ó Cuív.

Ar an gcéad dul síos, creidim go bhfuil sé thar a bheith tábhachtach go dtabharfaí tacaíocht do na healaíona agus go leanfar leis seo. Phléigh muid cheana, sa Dáil agus sa choiste um Covid, cé chomh tábhachtach is atá sé go dtabharfaí tacaíocht dóibh siúd a chuireann imeachtaí móra poiblí ar fáil. Beidh siad ag teastáil arís nuair a shocraíonn rudaí síos agus ba thragóid é dá ligfí leis na healaíona i lár na géarchéime seo.

Tá ceisteanna sonracha gur mhaith liom a chur faoin nGaeilge, faoin nGaeltacht agus faoi na hoileáin. Bhí iontas orm nuair a roinneadh cúram na n-oileán agus cúram na Gaeltachta sa mhéid is go bhfuil formhór dhaonra na n-oileán ina gcónaí ar oileáin Ghaeltachta. Táim ag caint faoi Chléire ó dheas, na hOileáin Árann, Árainn Mhór, Inis Bigil agus Toraigh le gan ach cuid acu a lua. Tá siad ar fad sa Ghaeltacht agus daonra mór orthu. An bhféadfadh an tAire a shoiléiriú cén cúraimí a bhaineann leis na hoileáin Ghaeltachta a bhfanfaidh lena Roinn agus cén cúraimí a aistreofar go dtí an Roinn nua ar a mbeidh freagracht as coimirce shóisialta, forbairt tuaithe agus oileáin? An bhféadfaí deimhniú a thabhairt go mbeidh na seirbhísí a aistreofar ar fáil trí Ghaeilge sa Roinn nua? Ó 1997 go dtí lá inniu, bhí an rud ar fad lonnaithe sna Forbacha agus bhí gach seirbhís ar fáil i dteanga an phobail, is é sin i mBéarla i gcás oileán taobh amuigh den Ghaeltacht agus i nGaeilge i gcás oileán taobh istigh den Ghaeltacht.

Chomh maith leis sin, ba mhaith liom dhá cheist shonrach a chur ar an Aire Stáit. An bhfuil sé tiomanta brú ar aghaidh láithreach le forbairt na céibhe in Inis Oírr? Marófar duine éigin lá éigin, tá sé chomh contúirteach sin. Briseann na maidhmeanna ar chúl na céibhe thar an gcéibh agus scuabfar duine éigin isteach sa bhfarraige mura mbeidh muid cúramach. Bhí cead pleanála don chéibh sin sa mbliain 2008. Bhí sé le tosú nuair a bheidh an chéibh ar Inis Mór tógtha. Seo 12 bliain ó shin agus níl sé bogtha ar aghaidh cé go raibh an cead pleanála ann i gcónaí. Tá sé in am an chéibh sin a dhéanamh. Tá gá le forbairt bhreise a dhéanamh ar céibh Inis Meáin freisin. Cé a bheidh freagrach as na céibheanna seo? An bhfuil sé i gceist dul ar aghaidh leis seo le dlús agus le teannas? Tá mórchuid airgid caipitil ag teastáil sa nGaeltacht agus ar na hoileáin.

Maidir leis an straitéis 20 bliain don Ghaeilge, foilsíodh é i mí na Nollag, 2010. Sin beagnach deich mbliana ó shin. Ní féidir a rá go ndearnadh mórán leis an bpolasaí sin a chur chun cinn seachas polasaí oideachais Gaeltachta a fhoilsiú. Go deimhin féin, bunaithe ar an daonáireamh, is siar a bhí rudaí ag dul faoin dá Rialtas deiridh, tar éis go raibh rudaí ag dul ar aghaidh go breá go dtí 2011. De réir an daonáirimh, bhí méadú ar líon na nGaeilgeoirí laethúla, líon na ndaoine a raibh Gaeilge acu, agus ar líon na gcainteoirí Gaeilge laethúla taobh istigh den Ghaeltacht. An bhfuil sé i gceist ag an Rialtas seo an maoiniú a chur ar fáil leis an straitéis 20 bliain don Ghaeilge, a réitigh an Rialtas seachas aon dream taobh amuigh agus a d'aontaigh an Rialtas i 2010, a chur i bhfeidhm go hiomlán agus go huile? Ní fiú leathdhéanamh a dhéanamh air seo má táimid leis an nGaeilge a láidriú agus a threisiú mar theanga labhartha sa bhaile i dtithe ar fud na tíre taobh istigh agus taobh amuigh den Ghaeltacht.

An bhfuil muid chun treisiú an maoiniú d'Fhoras na Gaeilge? Arís tá gach rud stoptha le deich mbliana anuas agus níl aon dul chun cinn déanta.

Beidh sin mo cheist dheireanach chun go mbeidh am chun freagra a thabhairt dom ar chuid de na ceisteanna. An bhfuil sé i gceist bord tofa daonlathach a chur ar Údarás na Gaeltachta? Níl an socrú atá ann ceart ar chor ar bith mar is iad na comhairleoirí a roghnaíonn na baill. Níl ceangal dá laghad ag formhór na comhairleoirí atá ag déanamh an roghnú sin leis an nGaeltacht agus níl siad ag déanamh aon ionadaíocht uirthi. Tá a fhios ag an Aire Stáit é sin i Maigh Eo agus tá a fhios agam é sin i nGaillimh. D'oibrigh an socrú a bhí ann roimhe seo go maith. Bhí na hionadaithe tofa ag an bpobal féin. Mhol mé Bille ag pointe amháin agus foilsíodh Bille mar é. Mhol sé nach dtiocfaidh ar ais bord chomh mór leis an gceann a bhí ann cheana, cé gur oibrigh an bord sin i bhfad níos fearr ná na boird ó shin, ach a thabharfadh guth do chuile Ghaeltacht sa tír ar bord an údaráis fós féin agus a chinnteodh gurb iad muintir na Gaeltachta a bheadh i mbun a bhforbairt féin. Sin an bunéileamh a bhí ann nuair a bunaíodh an t-údarás.

Gabhaim buíochas leis an Teachta. Beidh orm teacht ar ais chuige lena lán de na freagraí. Tá a fhios agam go bhfuil daoine buartha faoi sheirbhísí ar na hoileáin ach táimid soiléir go mbeidh muid ag obair leis an Roinn nua agus go mbeidh seirbhísí ar fáil trí Ghaeilge. Tá sé sin an-tábhachtach dúinn, go háirithe, mar a dúirt an Teachta féin, toisc go bhfuil formhór na n-oileán ina n-oileáin Ghaeltachta. Beidh muid ag obair air sin. Bhí comhrá agam le hoifigigh mo Roinne féin faoi sin inné.

Bhí comhrá againn leis an Teachta faoi chúrsaí ar Inis Oírr. Bhí comhrá agam le hoifigigh na Roinne inné. Tá rudaí ar siúl maidir leis an gcé. Tiocfaidh mé ar ais chuig an Teachta leis an scéal ar fad. Tiocfaidh mé ar ais maidir le hInis Meáin. Níl eolas agam faoi sin.

Tuigim go raibh dul chun cinn faoin straitéis mall ar dtús agus tá an obair ag teacht le chéile anois. Tá pleananna teanga foilsithe agus tá daoine ag baint úsáid astu. Tá obair le déanamh agam ach tá rudaí ag teacht le chéile. Tuigim go gcaithfimid an straitéis a úsáid chun an Ghaeilge a chur chun cinn níos fearr.

Tá sé sa chlár Rialtais go mbeidh athbhreithniú ar chúrsaí an údaráis. Beidh an cheist faoi thoghcháin dhíreacha go dtí bord an údaráis páirt den athbhreithniú sin. Ceapaim féin go bhfuil sé tábhachtach.

Go raibh maith agat. An bhfuil éinne eile ag ofráil? Ní dóigh liom go bhfuil. Tá sé beagnach in am dúinn dul ar aghaidh go dtí Ceisteanna ó Cheannairí ach níl chuile dhuine anseo go fóill. Ar mhaith leis an Aire bomaite amháin ag an deireadh chun rud éigin a rá? Gabh mo leithscéal. Ba mhaith leis an Teachta Tóibín labhairt.

An féidir liom ceist ar bith a chur ar an Aire?

Is féidir leis an Teachta é a chur ach ní dóigh liom go mbeidh an t-am aici freagra a thabhairt.

Is ceist an-sciobtha é. Tá fadhb ann i gContae na Mí mar gheall ar thithíocht nua atá á tógáil i Ráth Chairn. Tá An Bord Pleanála tar éis iarratas pleanála a fhaomhadh a scriosfaidh Gaeltacht Ráth Chairn ina iomláine. Tá an fhadhb sin ag teacht chun cinn arís agus arís i ngach Gaeltachtaí eile. Caithfidh an Rialtas a bheith sásta srian a chur ar chead pleanála sa Ghaeltacht maidir leis an líon teaghlach atá sásta an Ghaeilge a labhairt atá ag dul isteach sna háiteanna sin. Tá Gaeltachtaí leithéidí Ráth Chairn, Baile Bhuirne agus an Rinn in aice le bailte móra thart timpeall na tíre.

Ba cheart go mbeadh an Roinn ag eagrú córas éigin do dhaoine atá ag tógáil a chlainn le Gaeilge sna chathair agus sna bailte móra chun go mbeidh siad in ann bogadh go dtí an Ghaeltacht agus a chlainn a thógáil le Gaeilge ansin, ach a gcuirfeadh an Ghaeilge san áit tosaigh, seachas an plean atá ann i Ráth Chairn ag an bomaite a chuireann tógáil tithe san áit tosaigh.

Go raibh maith agat, a Theachta. Tiocfaidh an tAire ar ais chugat

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