Ceisteanna Eile - Other Questions

Tourism Industry

Cathal Crowe


54. Deputy Cathal Crowe asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media her plans post-Covid-19 for an international marketing plan to highlight the EuroVelo 1 Route, which travels along the western seaboard in tandem with the Wild Atlantic Way. [21598/21]

I know the Minister is a cycling enthusiast, so I have a cycling-related question. I love cycling myself.

For the last seven years, the Wild Atlantic Way has been a huge success. It has been a magnet in bringing tourists to our country - pre-Covid, of course. Recently, we have seen beautiful signs being erected in County Clare and the west of Ireland, which read: "EuroVelo 1". It is an 11,000 km long cycleway that goes all the way from Norway to Sagres in Portugal, taking in huge skelps of the west of Ireland, including County Clare. I would love to know how the Minister and her Department propose to promote that beyond the signage to use as a tool to attract tourists into Ireland.

I saw a tweet recently showing the Deputy's cycling endeavours in cycling in from Clare. Fair play to him. It is the future of sustainable travel.

The Government travel advisory currently in operation against all non-essential international travel, in addition to other public health restrictions, means that unfortunately there is virtually no inbound tourism at present. As a result, Tourism Ireland, the body responsible for marketing the island of Ireland overseas as a holiday destination, has suspended the majority of its overseas marketing campaigns. Any recommencement of active marketing of Ireland overseas will be guided by the public health advice and decisions by Government on international travel. 

Tourism Ireland is, however, undertaking an extensive, largely virtual, programme of activity to ensure that we are in the best possible place to immediately start converting business for tourism operators across the island of Ireland when the time is right. While we continue to face quite a bit of uncertainty, Tourism Ireland is actively planning for the restart of inbound tourism and in that regard, is developing a new business plan incorporating a three-phase approach to restart, rebuild and ultimately redesign demand.

The restart phase will involve the development of a range of immediate kick-start activities to drive demand for travel to Ireland, as soon as it is safe to do so. The rebuild phase will be rolled out as demand begins to return and will include highly visible activity in our overseas markets with the greatest potential to deliver value. Demand management will be introduced during the redesign phase, to ensure tourism has a sustainable future and meets the long-term aspirations of the industry and the country.

Over the next number of years, it is likely that we will see an increase in demand for outdoor leisure experiences based on nature, such as walking, cycling and mountaineering. The Wild Atlantic Way has been a huge success to date and it will continue to be extensively promoted in Tourism Ireland’s future marketing campaigns. The EuroVelo 1 route overlaps with much of the Wild Atlantic Way and incorporates many of our most popular greenways. It is therefore very much aligned with some our key tourism policy objectives, such as the promotion of more outdoor leisure experiences and increasing tourism to the regions.

Both Tourism Ireland and I are very much open to leveraging the EuroVelo 1 route to promote cycling tourism in Ireland, should a suitable opportunity arise.

That is music to my ears. Speaking of music, the Minister will certainly have heard the song "It's a Long Way from Clare to Here". It is fabulous for one to step up on the pedals of a bike in my home village of Meelick, knowing that going north, one will pass through Galway and Mayo and ultimately get to Norway if one keeps following the route, and travelling in a southerly direction, ultimately get to Sagres in Portugal.

There are huge opportunities here. I know that the Minister's Department recently invested €70 million in a whole masterplan for developing Lough Derg and the whole mid-west tourism product, but there is so much tourism potential here. As we look to recover tourism beyond Covid, including our hotels, guesthouses and outdoor attractions like the Cliffs of Moher, Bunratty Folk Park and Moher Hill Open Farm, we should really focus on these signs that say that we are part of an 11,000 km European cycleway. There is colossal potential. Not every tourist wants to get on a tour bus, fly in on a jet or travel on a train. As we have seen in recent years, many of them get their saddlebags, go on a bike and tour the west of Ireland. Therefore, a promotional package around this initiative could reap massive rewards not just for County Clare, but all of Ireland.

Indeed, that fits in with our programme for Government commitment with the development of that new national tourism policy with sustainability at its very core, which will commence later this year when the sector begins to recover.

Fáilte Ireland has collaborated with Sport Ireland to identify and signpost the full EuroVelo 1 route right along the western seaboard. This work is nearing completion, with just one county left to finalise its route and erect relevant signs.

The EuroVelo 1 cycling route is part of a much wider linear route which, as the Deputy stated, starts in Norway and finishes in Donegal. Fáilte Ireland will continue to work with Sport Ireland to ensure that the route is fully signposted and will promote it on the Discover Ireland website. Fáilte Ireland's programme teams will flag it as an element of the outdoor offering in the destination experience development plan areas and towns and villages through which it passes.

An obvious extension of the initiative would be to invite the Tour de France to come to Ireland, as we did very successfully in 1998. It passed through Dublin and into counties Wicklow, Wexford, Waterford and Cork. It was a huge success. The tour has a global audience each year of 1 billion people. It would be an obvious extension of the EuroVelo 1 initiative.

When I was Mayor of Clare, 18 months ago, I proposed the idea at a council meeting. Like many council motions, we believed that it had been buried in the annals of the council, never to be seen again.

We subsequently discovered it had gone to the Minister's Department and was being investigated as a viable headline tourism option for the coming years.

I ask that the Minister take up the cudgels on this matter. It is a fabulous opportunity. We have lost out on European Championship football games in Dublin this year. Some of these issues are beyond our control but we need to strategise beyond the Covid crisis. We need to look at our natural assets in the west, build on the success of the Wild Atlantic Way and exploit all the wonderful possibilities of EuroVelo 1. I urge the Minister to try to bring the Tour de France to this country in the coming years. The natural route for it would be to follow the Wild Atlantic Way and incorporate EuroVelo 1. As a Clare citizen, I look forward to welcoming the competitors along the beautiful roads of east and west Clare.

I do not know whether the Deputy has sent something in writing on his proposal to me or my colleague, the Minister of State, Deputy Chambers. I will discuss all proposals that are brought my way. Fáilte Ireland is collaborating with Sport Ireland in ensuring EuroVelo 1 is signposted properly.

Scéimeanna Tacaíochta Gaeilge

Aindrias Moynihan


55. D'fhiafraigh Deputy Aindrias Moynihan den Aire Turasóireachta, Cultúir, Ealaíon, Gaeltachta, Spóirt agus Meán cén teagmháil a bhí aici leis na coláistí samhraidh agus na páirtithe leasmhara éagsúla eile maidir le coláistí a rith an samhradh seo chugainn; cé na socruithe atá á ndéanamh; agus an ndéanfaidh sí ráiteas ina thaobh. [21956/21]

Catherine Connolly


59. D'fhiafraigh Deputy Catherine Connolly den Aire Turasóireachta, Cultúir, Ealaíon, Gaeltachta, Spóirt agus Meán an gcuirfear an pacáiste tacaíochta a bhí ann anuraidh ar fáil arís i mbliana chun cabhair a thabhairt do na coláistí samhraidh agus do na mná tí; agus an ndéanfaidh sí ráiteas ina thaobh. [21874/21]

Tá an-tábhacht le cúrsaí samhraidh i gcomhair cothaithe teanga agus cúrsaí eacnamaíochta sna Gaeltachtaí. Tá sé soiléir nach mbeidh na gnáthchúrsaí á reáchtáil arís i mbliana ach go bhfuil seans go mbeidh cúrsaí laghdaithe ann. An bhféadfadh an tAire Stáit a léiriú cad é an teagmháil atá aige leis na páirtithe leasmhara? Cad iad na hullmhúcháin atá déanta i gcomhair na bliana romhainn agus i gcomhair na gcúrsaí más rud é go mbeidh cúrsaí in aon chor ann? Má tá siad laghdaithe, cén saghas tacaíochta a bheidh ar fáil i gcomhair pobail na Gaeltachta?

I gcomhthéacs an chúraim atá ar an Roinn tacú le hearnáil na gcoláistí samhraidh agus ar mhaithe le soiléiriú a dhéanamh oiread is féidir ar na bunriachtanais a chaithfí a chomhlíonadh i gcás go mbeadh cúrsaí Gaeilge in ann dul ar aghaidh an samhradh seo, scaipeadh dréacht-treoirlínte maidir le Covid-19 ar earnáil na gcoláistí Gaeilge ag tús na seachtaine seo caite. Is ar lucht stiúrtha na gcoláistí Gaeilge agus ar theaghlaigh cháilithe Ghaeltachta a chuireann lóistín ar fáil dóibh atá na treoirlínte dírithe. Ós rud é go dtagann na treoirlínte seo faoi réir pé rialacháin agus comhairle sláinte phoiblí atá i bhfeidhm ag aon am faoi leith, aithnítear go bhféadfadh athruithe teacht orthu le linn an ama. Is dréachtcháipéis bheo í dá réir.

Bhí sraith chruinnithe agam féin agus ag feidhmeannaigh na Roinne le seachtain anuas le hionadaíocht ó na teaghlaigh Ghaeltachta a chuireann lóistín ar fáil do na coláistí. Bhí cruinniú againn chomh maith le scáthghrúpa na gcoláistí samhraidh, Comhchoiste Náisiúnta na gColáistí Samhraidh, CONCOS, tar éis na deise a bhí tugtha do gach éinne na dréacht-treoirlínte seo a mheas. Anuas ar an gcomhairliúchán seo, chas mé le toscaireacht ó Choistí na Hallaí Pobail i gConamara níos túisce i mbliana chun a chuid riachtanais a phlé. Ina theannta sin, tugadh deis do pháirtithe leasmhara a gcuid tuairimí faoi na treoirlínte réamhluaite a roinnt i scríbhinn leis an Roinn le seachtain anuas.

Is é an cuspóir atá leis an mbeart comhairliúchán seo trí chéile ná a chur ar shúile gach éinne a bhfuil baint acu leis an earnáil cad iad na himpleachtaí a bheadh ann dóibh ó thaobh Covid-19 i gcás go bhféadfaí dul ar aghaidh le cúrsaí ar an gcéad dul síos agus deis éisteachta agus plé a bheith ag an Roinn le páirtithe leasmhara faoin ábhar. An sprioc atá leis na treoirlínte agus leis an bplé seo ar fad ná féachaint an féidir cúrsaí a reáchtáil go sábháilte an samhradh seo. Agus an comhairliúchán críochnaithe anois, déanfar cinneadh maidir le cúrsaí 2021 go gairid. Tá mé thar a bheith buíoch dóibh siúd ar fad a ghlac páirt sa chomhairliúchán seo le seachtain anuas agus bhí sé tábhachtach domsa go mbeadh deis acu a gcuid tuairimí a léiriú agus a phlé liom. Níl aon cheist ann ach gurb í sláinte an phobail an rud is tábhachtaí i gcónaí dúinn ar fad agus bhí sé sin le sonrú sa phlé ar fad.

Fáiltím roimh an comhairliúchán atá ar siúl agus don teagmháil. Tá sé sin an-dearfach agus tá sé tábhachtach go labhrófaí leis na páirtithe leasmhara éagsúla. Tá an-tábhacht leis na coláistí sna ceantair Ghaeltachta agus i measc an phobal chomh maith. Ní hamháin go bhfuil tábhacht leis an gcoláiste féin, leis na daoine a bhíonn ag obair ann agus leis na mná tí ach tá sé an-tábhachtach chomh maith i gcomhair na siopaí, na mbialann, na n-óstán agus mar sin de. Cé nach bhfuil siad bainteach go díreach leis an gcoláiste, faigheann siad an-tairbhe as agus i gcomhair cúrsaí eacnamaíochta pobal na Gaeltachta chomh maith. An raibh deis acu teagmháil a dhéanamh agus páirt a ghlacadh sa chomhairliúchán agus an bhfuil deis go mbeidh tacaíocht ann dóibh siúd chomh maith nó conas a bhféadfaí é sin a dhéanamh?

Tuigim go bhfuil an comhairliúchán críochnaithe le cúpla lá anuas. An bhfuil tuairim faoi leith faoin tráth seo ar cathain a bheidh cinneadh déanta chun an pobal agus na coláistí a chur ar an eolas?

Tá sé deacair a bheith ag éisteacht leis an bhfreagra ceannann céanna a thug an tAire Stáit don Teachta Ó Snodaigh. Tá an cheist seo ardaithe agamsa, ag an Teachta Aindrias Moynihan agus ag an Teachta Ó Snodaigh. An fáth go bhfuil sé ardaithe againn ná go bhfuil sé chomh práinneach sin. Impím ar an Aire Stáit gan dul ar ais go dtí an freagra atá scríofa dó agus a chur in iúl don Dáil go bhfuil tuiscint aige cé chomh tábhachtach is atá an earnáil seo do na ceantair Ghaeltachta, do na gasúir, do na coláistí, do na mná tí atá ag brath ar na híocaíochtaí agus don teanga, atá chomh leochaileach sin. Seo an dara bliain. Níl an locht ar an Aire Stáit as Covid ach tá air cinneadh a dhéanamh anois cad atá i ndán do na coláistí samhraidh, do na mná tí agus do na gasúir don samhradh seo. Ná léigh amach an rud ceannann céanna. De réir mar a thuigim, bhí cruinnithe ag an Aire Stáit a bhí dírithe ar na treoirlínte. An cheist atá againne agus agamsa ná cén uair a bheidh cinneadh déanta agus an mbeidh pacáiste tarrthála i gceist cosúil leis an bpacáiste a bhí ann an bliain seo caite.

Mar a bheidh na cúrsaí ag dul ar aghaidh, beidh mo Roinn ag breathnú go géar ar an leibhéal tacaíochta a theastaítear a chur ar fáil don earnáil chun í a thabhairt slán isteach in 2022. San áireamh anseo beidh na mná tí, na hallaí pobail agus na coláistí féin. Anuraidh, cuireadh os cionn €4 milliún ar fáil ar phacáiste tacaíochta. Is earnáil í seo ar fiú €50 milliún in aghaidh na bliana do gheilleagar na Gaeltachta, rud a léiríonn a thábhacht do phobal na Gaeltachta. Tá mise, mar Aire Stáit le freagracht as an nGaeilge, tiomanta don earnáil a choinneáil beo, in ainneoin an tionchar atá á imirt ag an bpaindéim air. Beidh mé ag breathnú go géar ar an gceist seo sna seachtainí amach romhainn.

Glacaim leis go bhfuil rudaí ag tarlú anseo agus nach bhfuil an comhairliúchán agus an deis ag pobal ach díreach tar éis dúnadh ansin le cúpla lá anuas. Tá sé deacair é go léir a thabhairt le chéile go tapa ach tá brú ama ann. Tá an t-am ag sleamhnú i gcomhair clárúcháin agus gan dabht beidh tuismitheoirí agus pobal na Gaeltachta ag iarraidh pleanáil i gcomhair an tsamhraidh amach rompu. Tá sé soiléir nach mbeidh an gnáthchóras ann ach go mb’fhéidir go mbeadh cúrsaí laghdaithe i mí Lúnasa. Mar sin, tá sé fíorthábhachtach go ndéanfaí cinneadh ann agus go dtabharfaí treoir do dhaoine agus do na páirtithe leasmhara eile chomh luath in aon chor agus is féidir. Iarraim ar an Aire Stáit, más féidir in aon chor, gach iarracht a dhéanamh é sin a bhrostú ar aghaidh agus, más féidir, treoir ama a thabhairt. Bheadh sé cabhrach do mhuintir na Gaeltachta.

Tagraím do na comhlachtaí agus do na heagraíochtaí éagsúla lasmuigh de na coláistí a bheadh bainteach leo nó a bheadh ag baint tairbhe as na cúrsaí. An bhfuil slí éigin ann ina bhféadfaí tacú leo siúd?

Tá gá práinneach le soiléireacht. Croílár na Gaeltachta is ea an earnáil seo agus tá a fhios ag an Aire Stáit go bhfuil an Ghaeilge chomh leochaileach. An tseachtain seo, leagadh tuarascáil os comhair Thithe an Oireachtais ón gCoimisinéir Teanga, an beart deireanach a bhí sé in ann a dhéanamh. De réir mar a thuigim, tá sé i ndeireadh na feide de bharr easpa dula chun cinn ó thaobh An Gharda Síochána de toisc nach bhfuil a chuid dualgas á chomhlíonadh aige. Níl ansin ach sampla amháin ach tá samplaí eile. Tá muid ag caint anois faoi chroílár na Gaeltachta gan aon soiléireacht. Tá a fhios ag an Aire Stáit ón mbliain seo caite cad atá ag teastáil. Tá plean B ag teastáil i gcónaí. Más rud é go bhfuil sé beartaithe dul ar aghaidh leis na coláistí, agus buíochas le Dia go mbeifear, ach ansin nach bhfuil an cosúlacht sin ar an scéal, tá gá le plean B agus le cinneadh agus tá práinn leis sin. Impím ar an Aire Stáit beagáinín soiléireachta a thabhairt dúinn.

Mar a dúirt an Teachta Moynihan, tuigim go bhfuil an brú ann agus go bhfuil an cheist seo an-tábhachtach ach bhí sé thar a bheith tábhachtach domsa agus don Roinn go mbeadh deis againn labhairt le hionadaíocht na mná tí an tseachtain seo caite agus cloisteáil go díreach uathu sula ndéanfaí aon chinneadh faoi seo ar fad.

Chuir an Roinn tacaíocht de €4.7 milliún ar fáil anuraidh. Bhí sé dírithe ar an sprioc go mbeimis in ann earnáil na gcoláistí samhraidh Gaeilge a choinneáil. Ó bunaíodh an Rialtas seo, tá an tAire, an Teachta Catherine Martin, agus mé féin ag obair gan staonadh lenár gcomhleacaithe sa Rialtas chun an chuid is measa de thioncar Covid-19 a mhaolú. Mar a dúirt mé, bhí cruinnithe againn an tseachtain seo caite agus tá próiseas ar súil. Chualamar an méid a bhí le rá ag na mná tí. Bhí an Roinn i dteagmháil le CONCOS freisin. Tuigim go bhfuil an cheist seo an-tábhachtach ag an am seo. Tuigim go bhfuil sé an-tábhachtach an cheist seo a fhreagairt go luath. Beimid i dteagmháil leis na mná tí agus le pobal na Gaeltachta go luath chun na freagraí sin a thabhart dóibh. Tá an próiseas atá ann an-tábhachtach freisin.

Comhairle Aireachta Thuaidh-Theas

Aengus Ó Snodaigh


56. D'fhiafraigh Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh den Aire Turasóireachta, Cultúir, Ealaíon, Gaeltachta, Spóirt agus Meán an bhfuil tuairim aici faoin gcruinniú Thuaidh-Theas maidir le cúrsaí teanga a cuireadh ar ceal le déanaí, cathain a reáchtálfar an cruinniú sin an athuair, agus cad atá á dhéanamh aici idir an dá linn chun tacú le hAcht Teanga ó Thuaidh agus comhoibriú uile-oileánda i leith na teanga a chur chun cinn. [21954/21]

An bhfuil tuairim ag an Aire Stáit maidir le cathain an mbeidh Airí de chuid an DUP ar fáil ionas go mbeidh an cruinniú uile-Éireann nó uile-oileánda maidir le cúrsaí teanga, a cuireadh ar ceal ag deireadh mhí an Mhárta nuair nach raibh an tAire Gordon Lyons ar fáil, in ann tarlú?

Tionóladh cruinniú earnáil teanga na Comhairle Aireachta Thuaidh-Theas ag deireadh mí na Samhna 2020.  Ar an drochuair, cuireadh an cruinniú a bhí beartaithe ag deireadh mhí an Mhárta ar athló.  Táthar ag súil go ndéanfar an chruinniú seo a thionóil gan mhoill, ach níl aon dáta socraithe go fóill. Idir an dá linn, tá mé féin agus mo Roinn ag comhoibriú leis an Roinn Pobal sa Tuaisceart, leis an gComhrúnaíocht Thuaidh-Theas in Ard Mhacha agus leis an Roinn Gnóthaí Eachtracha maidir le gach gné den obair a bhaineann leis an gComhoibriú Thuaidh-Theas, go hairithe i réimse an Fhorais Teanga.

Tuigim tábhacht cruinnithe na Comhairle Aireachta Thuaidh-Theas.  Ceadaíonn an chomhairle buiséid an Fhoras Teanga, Foras na Gaeilge san áireamh. Gan cruinniú den chomhairle, ní féidir aon mhéadú nó athrú a dhéanamh ar bhunmhaoiniú an fhorais. Beag beann air sin, tá Foras na Gaeilge agus a chuid ceanneagraíochtaí agus grúpaí nó eagraíochtaí ar fud an oileáin ag obair go dian chun tacú le pobal na Gaeilge.  Cé nach raibh mórán deiseanna ann chun bualadh le chéile go fisiciúil le bliain anuas, tháinig méadú suntasach ar an méid deiseanna atá ar fáil ar líne agus ar na meáin shóisialta.  Thacaigh Foras na Gaeilge le roinnt imeachtaí ar líne trína gcuid ceanneagraíochtaí, mar shampla, seoltaí leabhar agus ceoil; seimineáir ar cheisteanna oideachais agus go leor ábhair eile; imeachtaí teaghlaigh ar nós biongó agus tráthanna na gceist; ceardlanna agus imeachtaí óige ar nós léitheoireacht, amhránaíocht agus comórtais ceoil agus scríbhneoireachta; agus ceolchoirmeacha agus drámaí ar line.

Tá réimse tacaíochtaí agus maoiniú breise á gcur ar fáil ag an Rialtas ó Dheas chomh maith faoin gcomhaontú New Decade, New Approach.  Is léiriú ar thiomántas an Rialtais d'fhorbairt agus do chur chun cinn na teanga ar bhonn uile-oileáin atá anseo. Cuirfear €4.2 milliún ar fáil thar tréimhse trí bliana ar mhaithe leis an nGaeilge a fhorbairt i measc an phobail sa Tuaisceart.

Maidir leis an Acht teanga ó Thuaidh, tá Rialtas na hÉireann tiomanta don reachtaíocht tábhachtach seo a bheith tugtha chun cinn.  Tá ceist na reachtaíochta seo ardaithe go minic ag mo chomhghleacaí, an tAire Gnóthaí Eachtracha, leis na húdaráis ó Thuaidh agus leanfar á dhéanamh sin go dtí go bhfeicfear toradh ar ár gcuid iarrachtaí.  Tá lucht labhartha na Gaeilge sa Tuaisceart, dár ndóigh, ag éileamh le fada an lá go mbeidh Acht teanga acu. Mar Aire Stáit, ba mhaith liom gach rud is féidir liom a dhéanamh ar mhaithe le tacú le comhlíonadh an ghealltanais sin.

Bhí sé i gceist go mbeadh cruinniú uile-oileánda idir na hAirí maidir le cúrsaí teanga in Ard Mhacha ar an 31 Márta seo caite. Tá a fhios agam go raibh an tAire Stáit, an Teachta Chambers, agus an Aire Pobal ó Thuaidh, Deirdre Hargey as Sinn Féin, sásta bheith i láthair ag an gcruinniú sin. Is trua nár chuaigh an cruinniú sin ar aghaidh. An bhfuil díomá ar an Aire Stáit nár tharla an cruinniú? An síleann an tAire Stáit nár ghlac an DUP nó an tAire Lyons páirt sa chruinniú mar chuid de bhaghcat ar chruinnithe Thuaidh-Theas agus iad ag agóid i gcoinne an phrótacail nó rud éigin eile a shíleann siad go bhfuil siad ag déanamh agóide faoi? Mar a dúirt an tAire Stáit, táimid fós ag fanacht ar an Acht teanga ó Thuaidh. Ba chóir go mbeadh an reachtaíocht sin achtaithe ag an staid seo, ach níl sé ann toisc go bhfuil an DUP ag cur ina gcoinne, in ainneoin an gealltanais a thug siad i gcomhthéacs New Decade, New Approach breis is bliain ó shin. An síleann an tAire Stáit go bhfuil seans go n-éireoidh rudaí níos measa anois toisc gur fhógair Arlene Foster níos luaithe inniu go bhfuil sé i gceist aici éirí as an ról atá aici faoi láthair?

Ar nós gach duine eile, tá díomá orm nár tharla an cruinniú atá luaite ag an Teachta. Tá oifigigh de chuid mo Roinne ag comhoibriú le oifigigh na Comhrúnaíochta Thuaidh-Theas in Ard Mhacha. A luaithe agus a reáchtálfar cruinniú den Fhoras Teanga, beidh mé ar fáil le freastal ar an gcruinniú sin. Mar is eol don Teachta, tá folúntais ar bhord an Fhorais Teanga, ról an chathaoirligh ina measc. Ba mhaith liom tréaslú le leas-chathaoirleach an bhoird, Barra Ó Muirí, as an sár-obair atá á dhéanamh aige faoi láthair. Feictear dom go bhfuil sé ríthábhachtach go ndéanfar cathaoirleach a cheapadh chomh luath agus is féidir le cinntiú gur féidir le háisíneachtaí an Fhorais Teanga, agus an foras féin, leanúint ina bhfeidhmeanna reachtúla ar bhonn féideartha. Faoi láthair, tá dhá fholúntas ar bhord Fhoras na Gaeilge, cathaoirleach san áireamh. Ag cruinniú earnáil teanga na Comhairle Aireachta Thuaidh-Theas i mí na Samhna anuraidh, ceapadh triúir comhaltaí nua go bord an Fhorais Teanga.

An dara cuid den cheist ná cad atá ann don todhchaí. Cad atá á dhéanamh chun cinntiú go bhfuil tacú ag teacht ón Deisceart don Acht teanga ó Thuaidh? An bhfuil comhoibriú uile-oileánda i leith na teanga á chur chun cinn, agus ní amháin tríd Foras na Gaeilge mar atá luaite ag an Aire Stáit? Níl pobal labhartha na Gaeilge sna Sé Chontae chun fanacht a thuilleadh. Tá sé sin feicthe againn. Ní raibh siad riamh sásta fanacht. Dhein siad éacht thar na blianta agus dhein siad an gníomh. Tá feicthe againn cheana féin an fás ollmhór atá tagtha ó thaobh oideachais trí Ghaeilge agus úsáid na teanga, atá le cluinsint agus le feiscint níos forleithne anois trí na Sé Chontae. Tá cosaint reachtúil ag teastáil uathu. Tréaslaím leo siúd - agus tá súil agam go dtréaslaíonn an tAire Stáit leo freisin - sna comhairlí difriúla atá ag cur comharthaí bóithre dátheangacha suas i gceantair nár shíl aon duine go mbeadh siad riamh roimhe seo. Níl tacaíocht acu ó Acht teanga agus sin atá á lorg acu. Tá siad ag iarraidh go mbeadh an stádas sin acu, seachas go mbeadh orthu dul timpeall agus timpeall mar a dhein siad ar feadh na mblianta. Déanfaidh siad é sin más gá mar sin na sórt daoine iad.

Tuigim go bhfuil an tAcht seo an-tábhachtach don phobal. Maidir leis an Acht teanga, tá Rialtas na hÉireann tiomanta don reachtaíocht thábhachtach seo a bheith tugtha chun cinn. Tá ceist na reachtaíochta seo ardaithe go minic ag mo chomhghleacaí, an tAire Gnóthaí Eachtracha, leis na húdaráis ó Thuaidh agus leanfar á dhéanamh sin go dtí go bhfeictear toradh ar ár gcuid iarrachtaí. Tá lucht labhartha na Gaeilge sa Tuaisceart, dar ndóigh, ag éileamh le fada an lá go mbeadh Acht Teanga acu agus ba mhaith liomsa, mar Aire Stáit, gach rud gur féidir liom a dhéanamh ar mhaithe le tacú le comhlíonadh an ghealltanais sin.

Tourism Project Funding

Brendan Smith


57. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media when a tourism project (details supplied) will be given further consideration for funding under Fáilte Ireland’s Platforms for Growth programme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21934/21]

 Cavan County Council submitted an excellent project for funding under Fáilte Ireland's Platforms for Growth investment programme. The proposed project consists of the development of a Shannon Pot discovery centre at the source of the River Shannon at Derrylahan, near Glangevlin. This is right in the heart of the UNESCO-recognised Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark and in the Cavan Burren area. This project, when delivered, would be a key tourism attraction for the upper Shannon region. I am very anxious for this project to be advanced without delay as it will add considerably to the tourism product in the upper Shannon region.

Platforms for Growth is Fáilte Ireland’s strategic approach to large-scale capital investment in tourism product, which targets investment in line with specific platforms identified as a priority for tourists on the basis of research and insights.  I understand the Deputy is asking about a project that remains under consideration following Fáilte Ireland’s first call for applications, which focused on heritage and cultural attractions and invited proposals for large-scale projects of €2.5 million upwards.

In terms of the likely timeframe for completing the current stage of assessments, I am informed that Fáilte Ireland is evaluating applications which made it through to stage 3 of the five-stage overall assessment process and that decisions are due by the end of May.  At that point, projects that have successfully passed stage 3 will progress into the development phase.  Accordingly, I expect that those involved with the project referenced by the Deputy are likely to be notified of Fáilte Ireland’s decision before June. In addition to funding provided under the platforms for growth approach to large grants schemes, it should be noted that Fáilte Ireland also provides further capital supports to tourism attractions and experiences across Ireland through other channels, including small grants schemes, strategic partnerships with other State bodies and some direct investments.  Following the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic last year, Fáilte Ireland also ran an adaptation fund grants scheme aimed at assisting tourism businesses make physical adaptations to mitigate the impacts of Covid-19.

All capital investment in tourism is further supported by Fáilte Ireland's current investment in complementary programme supports, including festivals and events, business supports and training, aimed at enhancing, animating and promoting the regional tourism experience brands.  The overall objective is to support sustainable growth in the Irish tourism sector and drive higher revenue and job creation around Ireland.

I welcome the commitment that there will be decisions next month. Cavan County Council did excellent work in preparing this application. Councillor John Paul Feeley has strongly advocated for the development of such facilities and I am glad to have supported his work on this project. The overall cost of the project is €6.6 million, with the council providing €1.7 million of that cost. This discovery interpretative centre will promote history and culture and, notably, the importance of the River Shannon, the country's longest river at 360 km. Visitor displays, walking trails through the forest and a major viewing point will all dovetail very well with the amenities developed already as part of Cavan Burren Park. The tourism master plan for the Shannon from 2020 to 2030 identifies this particular region as needing tourism infrastructure investment. The source of the River Shannon, a river that is central to so much of our national tourism industry, needs this amenity. I sincerely hope the Minister will be able to speak to the officials in Fáilte Ireland who are assessing the application about its merits and the need for such investment in this part of the hidden heartlands of Ireland.

As I said, it is currently being assessed. To receive the funding, the successful applicant must pass all five stages of the overall assessment process, three steps in the application phase and two steps in the delivery and development phase. Stages 1 and 2 have been completed and Fáilte Ireland is currently evaluating the business case submitted under stage 3 of the five-stage process. I expect the decision to be notified before the end of June.

Fáilte Ireland has provided a wide range of supports to County Cavan. The county is served by two regional brands, Ireland's Hidden Heartlands in the west of the county, where the Shannon rises and through which the Shannon river and the Shannon-Erne waterway flow, and Ireland's Ancient East in Cavan's historical east. Tourism has always played a significant part in Cavan's economy. It has a great selection of tourism assets, which I am familiar with having grown up in the nearby county of Monaghan, ranging from natural assets, including lakes, rivers, mountains and woodlands, to built heritage. Tourism development in Cavan is critical for regional development, which, in turn, has a positive effect on employment, quality of life and the attractiveness of the area for inward investment.

I welcome the Minister's comments. I fully agree with her in regard to the potential in both Cavan and Monaghan for further tourism development, increased economic activity and the creation of much-needed employment. The Shannon master plan is very welcome. Key to the successful implementation of this strategy is the development of new amenities and attractions. The boardwalk trail on the Fermanagh side of the Cuilcagh mountain is a fabulous attraction. To further realise the potential of the Cavan Burren Park area and the upper Shannon region, the discovery centre at the Shannon Pot is essential, both for domestic and international tourism. The Shannon Pot is unique. There is no other such location, so we must market and sell it in a very positive manner.

Today, the Minister and I welcomed the announcement of further funding for the restoration of the Ulster Canal, a welcome, all-Ireland, cross-Border project. Harkening back to the early 1990s, Fianna Fáil was in government at the time and developed the Shannon-Erne waterway through the restoration of the Ballinamore-Ballyconnell canal. When we were initiating those projects we were told that it would not be possible to achieve them, but it was. They now play a critical part in the tourism product, not just locally but also nationally. I hope that during the Minister's term of office she will ensure that some of the areas that did not realise their potential in the past will have the opportunity to grow their tourism product and attract more visitors.

During my term of office, I will be seeking to achieve that realisation for the wonderful natural beauty there. Fáilte Ireland provides a range of supports to ensure Cavan benefits as much as possible from tourism across the county. It has identified the natural assets and distinctive experiences that Cavan could leverage. The eastern side of Cavan is particularly rich in heritage and cultural experience, including Castle Saunderson and the Cavan County Museum. The western part, due to its proximity to the Shannon, fits into the hidden heartlands. The destination and experience development plans and the destination resilient plans are three- to five-year local tourism development plans which identify priorities for sustainable tourism destinations. Of relevance to County Cavan, several such plans have been identified or are under way in the region.

Covid-19 Pandemic

Aengus Ó Snodaigh


58. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media if she has conducted research and preparation for the harmful impacts on the music, entertainment and live events sector of the UK sector reopening well ahead of the sector here; and the steps she has put in place to ensure commercial arts workers and businesses are not disadvantaged as a result. [21953/21]

What steps will the Minister take to ensure that the commercial arts workers and businesses here are not at a disadvantage as a result of the early reopening of the music, entertainment and live events sector in England before it reopens here?

The impact of  public health measures, both domestic and international, on live performance opportunities is monitored on an ongoing basis by my Department.  Due to its proximity and facilitated by the common travel area, the UK has always provided opportunities for Irish artists to expand their horizons and gain experience. If the UK's planned reopening of the music and entertainment sector proceeds as intended at present, Culture Ireland hopes to resume its support to artists to travel abroad to present their work in other countries, subject to public health considerations in Ireland.  It is expected that this activity may commence later in 2021, subject to the Covid-19 emerging position and in adherence to quarantine and all other safety protocols.

In 2018, Culture Ireland programming had a special focus on the UK in its GB18 initiative.  A key aim of the Culture Ireland GB18 year-long programme was to renew the unique cultural relationship which exists between Ireland and Great Britain. Culture Ireland is keen to support the presentation of Irish arts in British institutions, venues and festivals and to expand the reach of Irish culture as soon as Covid-related restrictions allow. We all aspire to a safe resumption of live performance, which is so fundamental to the arts, culture and entertainment sectors, when public health considerations permit it.  In the interim, my Department operates a range of sector-specific supports.  These include the €25 million live performance support scheme.  Applications made under this scheme are currently being assessed.

I assure the Deputy that I am acutely aware of the importance of the UK market to Irish artists and look forward to them being in a position to avail of opportunities in the UK when it is safe to do so. The Covid-19 Resilience and Recovery 2021 - The Path Ahead plan committed to the development of sectoral guidance for very large purpose-built event facilities, for example, stadia, auditoria, conference or event centres. I established the live entertainment working group to facilitate stakeholder consultation and to develop Covid-19 guidelines for the live entertainment sector.  These guidelines will be critical in preparing for the ultimate reopening of the sector.

As the Minister rightly pointed out, the music, entertainment and live events industry is reopening in Britain from 17 May, when people will be invited to return to indoor events, venues, concert halls and even cinemas, play areas and so forth. This is a serious threat to the industry here. It is not just an opportunity for artists to play in Britain, which is welcome, but there are many in the industry who may leave Irish shores to work abroad. We will lose the income to the venues here when they reopen if the money is directed towards Britain.

The commercial arts workers and businesses in England, and Britain in general, will have a significant advantage on us. We have no roadmap or indication of when the music, entertainment and events industry will be allowed to return. Part of this is due to the slow vaccine roll-out but also because of what appears to be a lack of serious planning.

Has any work been done, in particular looking at events in Barcelona at the end of March where a concert was held for those who could prove they had a negative Covid-19 test? Are we looking at that? Are there plans afoot? Can the Minister let us know, or at least, let the music industry know?

I understand there is actually much uncertainty about activity in the live entertainment sector in the UK. The organisers of Glastonbury cancelled the 2020 event and have now cancelled for a second year. Other festivals have also been cancelled, for instance, the Boomtown Fair music festival. One of the key arts and culture summer events in the UK is the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. I understand that while it will proceed in August and will use bespoke temporary outdoor pavilions in easily accessibly places throughout the city, much of the festival will actually take place online.

On the Deputy's other query about skills, I understand it is an absolute fear that highly-skilled individuals will leave Ireland and relocate to the UK if the opportunities there are seen to be more attractive. Recommendation No. 7 of Life Worth Living: The Report of the Arts and Culture Recovery Taskforce proposed the establishment of a capacity-building and upskilling scheme for artists and creative workers, aimed at recovery and renewal through professional development.

The Arts Council is a statutory agency under the Arts Act 2003 and is the primary support for the arts in Ireland. The Arts Council has experience and expertise in training in the sector. Screen Skills Ireland is the training division of Screen Ireland and has significant experience and expertise in the provision of training. The Arts Council and Screen Ireland collaboration will, therefore, take responsibility for the implementation of this recommendation, with the Arts Council taking the lead. I have also established that live entertainment working group with the stakeholders. Using their expertise, the guidelines available will be critical in preparing for that ultimate reopening of the sector.

I wish that team well. Hopefully, it will be able to expedite some of the decisions that needed to be taken.

The Minister mentioned some of the large concerts that have been cancelled and will not go ahead this year. Obviously, they will not go ahead for a whole variety reasons because the lead-in time was not there. However, in Liverpool, for instance, a crowd of 5,000 will attend a near-normal concert on 2 May. The Minister will, therefore, see much more of that rolling out over the summer months whereas we have no indication at this stage when such concerts will happen or open here.

I will talk to the Minister again about the opportunity we have to ensure the entertainment industry in Ireland benefits from the fact that due to Brexit, Britain will be at a loss because of the different tax regimes that will now be forced on it. We have an opportunity to become the English language-speaking entertainment industry. We can send people to Europe during the summer months to deliver this.

Finally, as Britain will open earlier than us and there is an incentive for some workers to leave our shores, what additional supports will the Minister give to the arts and entertainment workers given that her proposed basic income is a long way off, despite being flagged last year?

Although the UK may be ahead of us in vaccinations, we have responded with many supports. Hopefully, it is not too long before we catch up with it in terms of reopening. Rest assured, my officials and I are in engagement with the sector. That is how I started as a Minister and it is how I will continue.

I am acutely aware that the sector needs time to plan, rehearse and engage audiences in advance of reopening, the lead-in time about which the Deputy spoke. I will continue to advocate for the sector to ensure it has the supports and pathways needed as we emerge from the crisis.

The €25 million live performance support scheme has built on the successful pilot of that scheme in 2020. Much work also went into the allocation of €14 million to be made available in the music and entertainment business assistance scheme to help those who had not received support up until now. That is €2,500 for businesses with a VAT exclusive turnover of €20,000 to €100,000, and €5,000 for businesses with a VAT exclusive turnover in excess of €100,000. I am also liaising with the Tánaiste to look at anyone else in the events sector who needs support and who has not been reached to date.

Question No. 59 answered with Question No. 55.

Tourism Project Funding

Brendan Smith


60. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media the level of funding provided for Fáilte Ireland’s Platform for Growth Programme in 2021; the indicative allocations for subsequent years; when the next projects will be approved under this programme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21933/21]

The Minister mentioned earlier that substantial funding would be made available for the Platforms for Growth investment programme. It is very welcome. I sincerely hope that Fáilte Ireland is assessing the application. It can give particular consideration to places where there had been underinvestment in the past due to no fault of those areas.

Where the Minister and I come from, however, we suffered because of the Troubles. We suffer for historic reasons and we were slower getting development and tourism amenities put in place than other parts of the country. Thankfully, we are catching up but we need additional investment to drive and create more tourist attractions and further develop our tourism product to create additional employment.

To date, there have been two calls for applications under Platforms for Growth, Fáilte Ireland’s strategic, platform-based approach to large-scale capital investment in tourism product, as referred to in the question submitted by the Deputy, which targets investment in line with specific platforms. Under this overall programme, Fáilte Ireland aims to invest up to €150 million between 2019 and 2022 in developing major new visitor attractions of scale and greatly enhancing existing attractions.

Fáilte Ireland’s first call for applications under this programme in 2019 focused on heritage and cultural attractions, and invited proposals for large-scale projects of €2.5 million upwards. As I said earlier, I am informed that Fáilte Ireland is currently evaluating applications that made it through to stage 3 of the five-stage overall assessment process and that decisions are due by the end of May. As we discussed earlier, the projects that have successfully passed stage 3 will then move into the development phase.  Fáilte Ireland cannot provide any indicative funding figures for Platforms for Growth 1 allocations until the evaluation process has been completed.

The results of a second targeted call for local authorities to develop activity facility centres at waterside locations across Ireland were announced on 15 April 2021.  The €19 million investment announced for this platform will be used to develop world-class facility centres at 22 locations across the country where water-based activities are a key visitor attraction. Each centre will provide hot showers, changing and toilet facilities, secure storage, induction spaces, equipment wash-down and orientation points.

With specific regard to Exchequer funding allocations, Fáilte Ireland's overall Exchequer capital allocation this year for tourism product development is €32.8 million. Allocations for subsequent years will be the subject of the annual Estimates discussion with the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform.

I would appreciate if the Deputy could keep to his time. I am hoping to get two more questions in.

I thank the Minister for her reply. I very much welcome the fact that we will have €150 million in that particular programme over the next few short years. Our tourism product is quite rightly sold on an all-Ireland basis. We want to develop the tourism product on an all-Ireland basis with more cross-Border tourism products.

As a member of Government in January 2009, I had the privilege to launch with Ms Arlene Foster, the then enterprise Minister for Northern Ireland, the first transnational geopark in the world, namely, the Marble Arch Caves geopark in Cavan-Fermanagh. We need more projects that have international and national renown that can attract visitors from many countries overseas. As a public representative in a neighbouring constituency, I wish Ms Foster well for the future. We had the opportunity to work together on different projects over the years.

I appeal to the Minister again, when formulating policy, to ensure that the all-Ireland, cross-Border dimension is factored into all investment considerations and investment programmes.

Rest assured, having grown up on the Border, it informs much of my thinking on that all-island approach. Of course, Tourism Ireland helps with that too.

With regard to other capital investment priorities and capital funding schemes that are under way, funding provided under the National Development Plan 2018-2027 is targeted at helping support and grow tourism in rural communities, in line with the further redevelopment and promotion of regional tourism experience brands thereby developing the regions and rural Ireland. It is our natural asset as a tourist destination.

Priority areas for tourism capital investment identified under the national development plan include the development and enhancement of tourism attractions, as well as of activity-based tourism, to provide the type and quality of experience visitors seek. There is that pent-up demand. When it is safe to do so, we will be ready to welcome visitors to our shores again.

Recently I had the opportunity to attend the launch of the tourism master plan for Shannon which, again, will promote the Hidden Heartlands. The whole river master plan for the Shannon region clearly demonstrates the opportunities and potential to grow tourism in many counties. I compliment Waterways Ireland, along with all the local authorities through which the River Shannon flows, for their co-operative nature in developing this strategy.

We want to see it implemented now so we need investment. The plan gives a strategic direction and identifies necessary tourism investment. A central part of the strategy is the need to protect and enhance the environment. One can protect and enhance the environment while having a positive impact on the economy and providing employment opportunities to many rural areas.

All through that strategy is the protection of the environment and its sustainability. As we emerge from Covid, there is a huge opportunity to tap into that natural beauty we have, while protecting our environment and promoting joined-up thinking when it comes to tourism. We must tap into local attractions, cycling and walking routes, as well as local food products. That will be good for our regions and for having thriving rural communities with good employment. It makes sense to have joined-up thinking. Sustainability in tourism, as the Deputy said, is an example of that and is in that strategy. That is what we are aiming for.

Arts Funding

Patrick Costello


61. Deputy Patrick Costello asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media the status and progress of the ten recommendations in the Life Worth Living report by the arts and culture task force, including recommendation No. 1 to establish a basic income pilot scheme for arts and culture. [21486/21]

At the end last year, we had a report from the arts recovery task force with a series of recommendations on supporting and renewing the arts sector in the wake of Covid. Will the Minister give us an update on this? Has any progress actually been made in implementing these recommendations, particularly that of a universal basic income pilot? As we heard today from other Deputies, the arts sector is really struggling and this would be an essential way of supporting it.

Life Worth Living, the report of the arts and culture recovery task force was published in November 2020.  It made ten recommendations.  The introduction to the report suggested the establishment of a cross-sectorial implementation group to oversee and monitor the implementation of these recommendations.

Several of the recommendations are in train or have already been implemented.  In particular, recommendation No. 4, securing the viability of the live events industry, recommendation No. 6, ensuring the well-being of Ireland’s creative and cultural community and recommendation No. 9, providing more outdoor public spaces for cultural events, are largely implemented. Meanwhile significant work is ongoing with recommendation No. 3, ensuring fair play for the makers of creative content; recommendation No. 7, building sectorial capacity through upskilling and professional development; recommendation No. 8, making space for arts and live entertainment to contribute to national recovery; and recommendation No. 10, addressing the environmental impact of arts, cultural and event activities.

The recommendations included a proposal to pilot a universal basic income scheme for a three-year period in the arts, culture, audiovisual and live performance and events sectors. The task force was of the view that a pilot basic income would keep the sector intact, minimising the loss of skills and contributing to its gradual regrowth, with ongoing benefits, social and economic, local and national. I believe the arts sector represents an appropriate area for a pilot basic income scheme for many reasons. It is characterised by low, precarious and often seasonal income. Artistic and creative work is intrinsically valuable to society.

I have established an oversight group with the remit of addressing the recommendations of the Life Worth Living report, particularly those which are outstanding. The group's membership is drawn from Departments and agencies which have the ability and wherewithal to make appropriate progress on the outstanding recommendations. The oversight group is being chaired by my Department and includes representatives of the Departments of Finance, Social Protection, Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Public Expenditure and Reform as well as Enterprise, Trade and Employment. The directors of the Arts Council and Screen Ireland are also members. They will be joined by a representative of the County and City Managers Association.

I have asked the oversight group to prioritise the examination of recommendation No. 1, a basic income for artists. This is pushing an open door with me. I have engaged with relevant Ministers and colleagues on this matter who have indicated their support for developing this proposal.

There has been much talk in the media about the various areas which are suffering. Many areas have suffered in the wake of Covid-19 but, in recent weeks, most of the discussion has focused on restaurants and pubs. The live music venue and the general arts sector which is struggling. This proposed universal basic income is the best way to address the precarious nature of this sector. While I welcome the development from the oversight group and the work done to date, a clear timeline or date for when this trial will begin would ease the uncertainty and insecurity that many in the arts industry are feeling. Will the Minister provide us with that information?

On a personal level, I have spoken of my support for and have also written about a basic income for artists. Universal basic income is also core to Green Party policy.

Work is being done on this matter. It has gained the support of my colleagues in the Cabinet and the relevant Departments in the oversight group. This work on a basic income for artists is independent of the work of the Low Pay Commission which has been tasked by my colleague, the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, to examine the programme for Government commitment to pilot a universal basic income within the Government's lifetime. I intend, therefore, to proceed with the development of proposals for a basic income for artists as a matter of priority. The sector is on its knees. People in it have heard too much talk about valuing our arts and culture and they need to see that we do. Our actions will show it.

Tourism Promotion

Brendan Griffin


62. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media her plans with Tourism Ireland for the marketing of Ireland internationally for the post Covid-19 era; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20946/21]

I am substituting for Deputy Griffin.

What are the Minister's plans with Tourism Ireland for the marketing of Ireland internationally for the post Covid-19 era?

The Government's travel advisory currently in operation against all non-essential international travel, in addition to other public health restrictions, means that, unfortunately, there is virtually no inbound tourism at present. As a result, Tourism Ireland, the body responsible for marketing the island of Ireland overseas as a holiday destination, has suspended the majority of its overseas marketing campaigns. Any recommencement of active marketing of Ireland overseas will be guided by the public health advice and decisions by the Government on international travel.

Tourism Ireland, however, is actively working behind the scenes to keep Ireland front and centre in the minds of potential travellers. At the appropriate time, it will launch an extensive global recovery kick-start programme. In 2021, I have sustained the tourism marketing fund at previous levels to ensure Tourism Ireland has the resources to do all it can to protect our hard won market share. It is undertaking an extensive, largely virtual programme of activity to ensure that we are in the best possible place to immediately start converting business for tourism operators across the island of Ireland when the time is right. For example, the agency has just recently completed a successful virtual St. Patrick's Day programme which reached out to potential visitors right across the world.

Tourism Ireland is currently developing a new business plan to reflect the global economic changes brought about by Covid-19. This plan will draw from the work of the tourism recovery task force which Deputy Griffin helped to establish. This new business plan will incorporate a three-phase approach to restart, rebuild and ultimately redesign demand.

The restart phase will involve the development of a range of immediate kick-start activities to drive demand for travel to Ireland, as soon as it is safe to welcome tourists to our shores again. The rebuild phase will be rolled out as demand begins to return. It will include highly visible activity in our overseas markets with the greatest potential to deliver value. Demand management will be introduced during the redesign phase to ensure tourism has a sustainable future and meets the long-term aspirations of the industry and the country.

When the time is right to actively promote Ireland abroad as a travel destination, Tourism Ireland will then enter a market that will be extremely competitive but I am confident the agency is well-positioned to meet that challenge.

I thank the Minister for her response and for the excellent work she is doing within the Department to support the tourism sector. We must respond quickly to ensure employment return to pre-Covid levels. We were supporting more than 260,000 people within the sector prior to the pandemic and generating revenue of in excess of €9 billion to the Exchequer, with export revenue accounting for €6.9 billion.

I read earlier that Mediterranean countries such as Spain, Greece and Portugal are marketing intensively to welcome UK citizens from June. We need to be in a position to press the green button and ensure Tourism Ireland has adequate funding and a budget. Can the Minister identify what target markets and campaigns Tourism Ireland is planning to ensure we return to pre-Covid levels of tourism? I come from a constituency that has Knock Airport on its doorstep, which is vital for inward tourism from the UK and European market.

The Minster might reply to the Deputy in writing. That brings Oral Questions to an end for this evening.

Written Answers are published on the Oireachtas website.