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Dáil Éireann debate -
Tuesday, 22 Jun 2021

Vol. 1009 No. 1

Ceisteanna Eile - Other Questions

Arts Policy

Catherine Connolly


61. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media further to Question No. 226 of 20 May 2021, the details of the independent arts evaluation organisation tasked with carrying out the monitoring and evaluation framework of Galway 2020; if the report by this independent arts evaluation organisation which is due by quarter 4 of 2021 will include a detailed audit of the finances of Galway 2020 including a breakdown of the way the moneys were spent; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33290/21]

Catherine Connolly


98. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media further to Question No. 56 of 6 May 2021, the details of the Galway 2020 legacy initiatives to which the remaining €1 million departmental commitment will be allocated; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33292/21]

As I understand Question No. 61 will be taken with Question No. 98, I specifically am asking for the details of the independent arts evaluation organisation tasked with carrying out the monetary and evaluation framework of Galway 2020. Tied in with that, I am asking for details of the legacy initiatives from Galway 2020. I am aware that a meeting was held as far back as November 2020 on the legacy details. Can the Minister update me on that?

I propose to take Questions Nos. 61 and 98 together.

The Audience Agency is the independent arts evaluation organisation tasked with carrying out the evaluation under the Galway 2020 monitoring and evaluation framework. The Audience Agency was awarded the contract following a competitive tender process advertised on The Audience Agency is a registered charity. It is funded by Arts Council England as a cultural sector support organisation. It is an experienced and internationally recognised monitoring and evaluation organisation whose mission is to enable cultural organisations to use data to increase their relevance, reach and resilience.

The monitoring and evaluation framework, developed in consultation with stakeholders, including my Department, provides for review of Galway 2020 project in terms of how it developed Galway’s cultural capacity, delivered the programme rooted in people and place; and the social and economic benefit accruing. The final monitoring and evaluation report, scheduled for delivery in quarter 4 this year, will include results on the number of cultural organisations supported, the jobs created to deliver the programme, new projects commissioned, events held, audience numbers and a breakdown of the total income and expenditure.

It is not within the remit of the monitoring and evaluation framework report to carry out an audit of Galway 2020 finances. Galway 2020, as a registered company and charity, complies with all statutory and regulatory reporting requirements set out under the Companies Act 2014 and the Charities Act 2009, including the annual lodging of an audited financial statement with the Companies Registration Office and the Charities Regulator.

On the question of Galway 2020 legacy initiatives, Galway 2020 will, in the coming months, commence a focused stakeholder consultation process with creative, community, business, Government and European stakeholders. This consultation process, together with the report from the monitoring and evaluation framework, will inform the development of a sustainable strategic legacy plan for Galway 2020. This legacy plan is due to be finalised before the end of the year.

The remaining €1 million from my Department's overall funding commitment of €15 million for Galway 2020 will contribute to the implementation of the legacy plan.

Galway 2020 supported a wide range of local artists and cultural organisations to create, develop and deliver original works. Close to €15 million or 66% of the overall expenditure of €22 million to date by Galway 2020 on delivery of its year as European Capital of Culture has been spent on cultural programme delivery. Over 500 events employing at least 600 artists and other cultural professionals, such as producers, technicians and crew, have been delivered. Cultural project partners are in the process of completing individual post-project evaluations. Artists and cultural organisations funded included Druid Theatre, Branar children’s theatre company, Ealaín na Gaeltachta, Galway Theatre Festival, Blue Teapot Theatre Company, Galway Community Circus, Baboró children’s festival, Trish Forde, Galway Film Fleadh, Ríonach Ní Néill, NUIG Aistriú, Galway International Arts Festival, Macnas, Music for Galway, Galway Dance Project, Máirtín O’Connor, Galway UNESCO City of Film, Galway hospital trust and Galway City Museum.

The data from post-project evaluations are being collated to provide comprehensive information on key project deliverables for each artist or cultural organisation, including income and expenditure, numbers employed, numbers of events held, level of audience engagement, partnerships developed, outcomes and possible legacy opportunities. This information will be used to inform the overall monitoring and evaluation framework for Galway 2020. That will be delivered in quarter 4 this year. As an indication of the level of delivery, I can advise that the seven post-project evaluations completed document that 374 artists and other culture professionals were supported to deliver 188 combined live and online performances and Galway Community Circus, as part of its projects, delivered 93 professional and 95 public training workshops.

I think there is a little discretion because two questions are being taken together.

Unusually, both questions in the group are from Deputy Connolly.

Yes. I think the rule is that a little discretion is shown if a Deputy goes over one minute. I thank the Minister. One of the advantages of being Leas-Cheann Comhairle is that I have a copy of the Minister's answer but she read an additional answer that I do not have. She might supply me with that because the answer I have is a basic one. I welcome what she has set out but I would like the details.

This is something I have followed up. Galway 2020 was the most marvellous thing that happened to the city but the roll-out was not so marvellous. Covid and bad weather interfered but, separate from that, there were huge issues related to staff, legal proceedings and the absence of transparency and accountability. The Department took a lead in this and ensured, finally, that there was a performance delivery agreement. There was no question of a legacy. That came about through pressure, including from me, and eventually a committee was set up to look at the legacy.

The two questions were tabled together. I thank the Minister for her response, which is as comprehensive as it can be without providing more details. We need to see the breakdown of the total of €15 million given by the Department. It is a substantial amount of money. Presumably, that breakdown will come with the accounts, which I understand will be finished in June this year. Then there is the Audience Agency. Perhaps the Minister can tell me how much it is costing to carry out this evaluation. I would expected evaluation and monitoring by the Department to be an inherent part of the ongoing process. Then there is the legacy. The Minister will have a consultation about the legacy over the coming year, when Galway 2020 is over.

I will supply the information the Deputy seeks in relation to the extra notes. The legacy planning is a key element of all European Capitals of Culture and an important aspect, as the Deputy pointed out, of Galway 2020. Legacy planning involves taking stock of learnings from the delivery of the European Capital of Culture, incorporating the successes and building on these for the future. The Galway 2020 monitoring evaluation report and stakeholder consultation will be initiated later in the summer and will feed into the development of the strategic legacy plan.

Galway 2020 is working with a number of upcoming European Capitals of Culture on initiatives, such as the inclusion of projects from Galway 2020 in their programmes, thereby creating additional opportunities for Galway 2020 artists to foster sustainability in their careers and contributing further to meeting the objectives of the European Capital of Culture programme.

The performance delivery agreement between my Department and Galway 2020 was signed on 6 November 2018 and addresses the roles and responsibilities of the Department and Galway 2020 in the provision and expenditure of the grant as well as key deliverables and performance indicators attached to the drawdown of the grant. That agreement will expire on 1 July 2021. While this is under discussion, the agreement will likely be extended to year end, at least.

On the Deputy's query about costs, I can get back to her. I think she may have another question. I am happy to talk to her afterwards.

The best legacy we would all like to see would be a basic income for artists. We think of the amount of money that went into Galway 2020, without a basic income for artists. That issue will come up later in another question.

On buildings, I would love to see what we are getting from Galway 2020. Has progress been made on the An Post building? I think it has but the Minister might clarify that. We have a former industrial school which has remained vacant since 2009, although there is a dispute as to whether it was 2011. That is the wonderful Lenaboy site, which is lying idle. It formed part of the redress from the nuns; it was not a gift but part of the redress.

My problem with this is the legacy seems to be an afterthought, like the Irish language. The Irish language officer was an afterthought and the first person to be let go when the troubled descended on Galway 2020. I would have thought the legacy would be an integral part of Galway 2020, not something that came from pressure from Deputies and other sources when a committee was finally set up to determine what the legacy would be.

There are a number of questions there. It will be difficult for me to answer them in the minute available but I am happy to provide the Deputy with all the information she wants and to be as transparent as possible.

I absolutely agree about the basic income guarantee for artists. A legacy and lesson to learn from Covid and from what we missed and enjoyed in Galway 2020 will be to support the arts.

On the An Post building, the redevelopment of the site is a matter for Galway County Council and An Post. The site is in the city centre and includes the city’s central post office and a number of buildings behind it that housed a former telephone exchange and now defunct sorting and storing offices. One of the vacant buildings in the complex on a laneway off the street was repurposed by the Galway International Arts Festival in 2019 and used as a temporary art gallery. A number of arts organisations participating in Galway 2020 used it for rehearsals. Under the An Post plan announced at the end of March 2021, a property developer will refurbish the existing post office, create a civic space and be free to use the rest for retail and commercial units. It is intended that, while An Post will still own the land, the redevelopment will be on a very long lease.

Covid-19 Pandemic

Thomas Gould


62. Deputy Thomas Gould asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media if she plans to bring forward a fund to get young persons engaged in sports and the arts given the significant impact the Covid-19 pandemic has had on youth engagement. [33251/21]

What will the Minister do to bring forward a fund to get young people to engage in sport and the arts, given the significant impact the Covid-19 pandemic has had on youth engagement? Young people have really suffered as a result of the pandemic restrictions and need support now.

I fully recognise the importance of arts, culture, sport and physical activity for our society and well-being, as well as the need to ensure opportunities are in place to allow all members of society to participate in such activities, particularly young people, who may have become disengaged during the pandemic.

Sport Ireland is the statutory body responsible for the development of sport, including promotion of sports participation for all age groups, including young people. Increased funding has been provided to Sport Ireland this year to assist with its participation programmes. Sport Ireland plans to implement a return to sport campaign in 2021 which will target all demographics, including children. This highly visible campaign will encourage people to engage in sport and physical activity and clearly signpost how they can access opportunities to participate.

I am arranging for Sport Ireland to provide the Deputy with a comprehensive outline of its participation and promotion activities, including those for young people. A sport action plan to cover the next three years will be published shortly and will contain a number of important measures and initiatives to steer increased participation in sport over the coming years.

At my request, my Department recently organised two important consultation sessions in sport for young people. In March, I listened to boys from the FAI Fingal transition year programme and girls from the Galway Swimming Club and Shark Swimming Club, also from Galway. In April, with the great assistance of Foróige, I had a similar video consultation with young people from Blanchardstown Youth Service and Comhairle na nÓg from Cork, Meath, Tipperary and Waterford.

There were many insightful and considered views on the current situation, as well as suggestions on improvements. Areas such as access to facilities, transport issues, peer pressure, exam pressure and coaching standards were among the most prominent issues raised. Subject to public health guidance, I intend to hold an in-person event in respect of this topic later this year that I hope those involved in providing sport for young people can attend and listen to their needs with a view to improving the situation in the long term.

The sports capital and equipment programme, SCEP, supports the development of sports and physical recreation facilities and the purchase of non-personal sports equipment throughout the country. The programme has transformed the sporting landscape with improvements in the quality and quantity of sporting facilities in virtually every village, town and city, for people of all ages and from all walks of life.

I thank the Minister of State.

I have more to say but my time is up.

I acknowledge that there has been investment in capital expenditure and on equipment. That is to be welcomed. My question goes further than that because, unfortunately, young people are not returning to sport or to the arts. As a result of the lockdown restrictions, people were isolated at home and could not train. Some of them have not gone back. I recently spoke to a coach who is a GAA academy co-ordinator in Cork city who told me he believes that one in five children between the ages of 11 and 16 has not returned to training. This is quite a serious issue. What supports are we going to provide for GAA clubs, soccer clubs and arts organisations to reach out to children and young people because I do not believe anyone should be let fall through the cracks as a result of the Covid-19 restrictions and the lockdowns?

We must continually review the impact of the ongoing restrictions on sport and young people's participation in it. I held a sports management group meeting only yesterday with many of the governing bodies and organisations and that was a topic raised by some involved in the call. We will do everything we can to support the grassroots system and the sporting organisations so that we can enable young people to go back to sport.

From my engagement with many sporting clubs and organisations, I know that many young people were delighted to get back playing and participating in recent weeks. That has been extremely positive. Matches have taken place. Training is back and gyms have reopened. As Deputy Gould outlined, however, we must identify those who may not have returned and do everything we can for them. We are in discussions with the sports sector on a package for this year, which is about ensuring sporting organisations are kept afloat and can recover properly but also ensure that clubs at grassroots level are strong and sustainable post Covid. That means keeping young people participating and involved.

I thank the Minister of State.

We want to do everything we can to get as many young people as possible back playing sport. I share Deputy Gould's objective. I am of the same view about getting as many people back as possible.

I expect everyone in this Chamber would be of that opinion; we want to get as many people as possible involved again in sports and in the arts.

Yesterday, I was in Churchfield industrial estate visiting the Golden Gloves boxing and fitness club, a thriving young club for boys and girls of various ages. It was fabulous to see the return to sport and the energy and excitement up there. One of the problems for the club is that it does not own its own facility, it rents it. The other problem for the club is that it pays fixed costs for electricity, gas and water and it also has to pay other bills. For most of the past 15 months, the club has had no income. Other clubs right across the sporting spectrum have likewise been affected. I know some funds have been put in place to assist with rates and grants for opening up and installing sanitisers and other such measures to deal with the pandemic. I welcome all of that, but we must go a step further. Many clubs and organisations are now in real financial trouble as a result of the pandemic and I ask the Government to consider what we can do to support them.

I would like to get the maximum number of people on the pitch myself, so I ask Members to stick to the allotted times.

That is always important. I thank Deputy Gould. As I indicated previously, we are in ongoing engagement with the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform on a package for sport this year. There was a very positive package last year of approximately €90 million, which included a club resilience fund. The fund was designed to support sporting organisations at grassroots level with some of their costs. We are engaging in discussions on a package for this year.

Whether it is a boxing club or other type of sports club, the sports capital and equipment programme is open to everyone to try to strengthen clubs. We had a record number of applications for funding this year. I am not sure whether the club to which Deputy Gould referred applied to that particular fund.

We are working with Sport Ireland to make sure we get as many people as possible back playing and participating in their clubs and being active now that sporting activity has reopened. I hope we will have pods of six involved in boxing from early July. Many indoor sports that have been restricted for such a long period will be able to reopen to a much greater extent, which will also improve participation. I thank Deputy Gould for tabling the question.

Covid-19 Pandemic Supports

Steven Matthews


63. Deputy Steven Matthews asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media the number of successful and unsuccessful applications for the music and entertainment business assistance scheme to date; if her attention has been drawn to the concerns of sectoral interests regarding the qualifying criteria for the scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33214/21]

The music and entertainment business assistance scheme, MEBAS, was launched recently. I know the Minister and her officials put a lot of time and effort into it and met with a broad range of people involved in the music and entertainment sector. The Oireachtas committee meets regularly with them as well. At our most recent meeting, they expressed concern about some of the complexity involved in applying for the scheme and some of the qualifying criteria. What has the success rate been like? Have there been many applications and how would the Minister judge the success of the scheme so far?

As part of a €50 million suite of supports for the live entertainment sector, the music and entertainment business assistance scheme opened for applications on 9 June. This scheme aims to support businesses operating solely in the live entertainment sector that do not qualify for other business supports and have been significantly impacted by Covid restrictions. This scheme will see support offered by way of three levels of once-off, flat payments: €2,500 for businesses with a VAT-exclusive turnover of €20,000 and €50,000 with minimum business costs of €3,000 incurred from 1 April 2020 to 31 May 2021; €4,000 for businesses with a VAT-exclusive turnover of between €50,001 and €100,000 with minimum business costs of €6,000 from 1 April 2020 to 31 May 2021 and; €5,000 for businesses with VAT-exclusive turnover in excess of €100,000 with minimum business costs of €7,500 from 1 April 2020 to 31 May 2021.

Businesses, whether sole traders, partnerships or incorporated entities operating exclusively within the live entertainment sector may apply. Businesses of musicians and singers of all genres are eligible to apply, as are sound engineers, lighting engineers, audio engineers, stage managers, stage technicians, sound and lighting equipment suppliers, live-streaming equipment suppliers and full-time disc jockeys. The scheme was designed to reach out and provide support for those who have not been supported to date.

It should be noted that this scheme is not a horizontal income support and grants are intended to provide a contribution towards business costs. The scheme was developed in consultation with the sector and the eligibility criteria aim to strike an appropriate balance, having regard to other available supports and the need to reach as many professional musicians and crew as possible. To date, just over 300 applications have been submitted for the scheme. Of these, approximately 50 have been approved and three have been unsuccessful. All details in respect of this scheme, including guidelines and the MEBAS application portal can be accessed on my Department's website.

I thank the Minister for the update. If I read the reply correctly, only three of 300 applications have been refused, which is a refusal rate of only 1%. That would speak to the scheme having some success.

I note that the Minister mentioned the other scheme that was launched recently as well, providing €25 million for the live performance support scheme, which will provide an opportunity for all those involved in the sectors mentioned to get back to work in some shape or form.

What is apparent to me from the meetings I have had with these groups is the urge and desire just to get back out there and entertain and not to have to depend on supports and not to have to go through the process to get those supports. What measures can we take to try to get as many people back entertaining as possible? I know the local authorities have funding for outdoor entertainment locations in towns and villages. Can we do more in that regard?

I thank the Deputy and I assure him I am doing everything I possibly can. I come from this background myself and I am very much aware of the need not just for us to hear and enjoy music but for these people to get back to work. It is not just the musicians but the technicians, the crew and everyone behind the scenes. That is one of the lessons that has been learned because a light has been shone on those who work behind the scenes and how they need to be supported.

The recent development has been the securing of the number one recommendation of the arts and culture recovery task force in that I have received agreement from my coalition partners and Cabinet agreement to pilot the basic income guarantee. We have to look to the future and place value on artists by looking at how we can support them beyond Covid. The pilot events I am rolling out at present in music are all about establishing that safe pathway back to work. As the Deputy knows, I today announced one for 3 July, where 3,500 fans will attend, 500 will be healthcare workers and there will be antigen testing and reduced social distancing.

I thank the Minister, who raises an important point. Often, when we go to see a show or we go to be entertained, we see who is standing on the stage but we have to recognise that many more people are operating front of house, backstage, in production, in decor and in everything else it has taken to get that entertainer on the stage. It is important the schemes recognise them as well.

In terms of outdoor entertainment, we have to look at places like pubs that have large beer garden spaces that are carefully managed and carefully controlled, so we can get as many of these people who are involved in entertainment, lighting, production and everything that goes with that operating as best we can. I note that the live performance support scheme has a good range and that it ranges from the small independent venues right up to the bigger events we all enjoy during the summer. I thank the Minister.

I thank the Deputy. The live performance support scheme is unprecedented. It shows that a sector that never had to reach out before had to reach out, and we responded with €50 million in supports, including €25 million in the live performance support scheme that was announced last week. That will supply thousands of hours of work to thousands of performers and technical staff.

On the Deputy’s query in regard to when we will get singers outdoors at those licensed premises, the Deputy may be aware that I have raised with my Cabinet colleagues that those regulations be reviewed because I want to get them performing again. As many Members have said in the House, and I firmly believe it, the best support we can give to our musicians is to get them back performing again, and that is my goal.

I believe Deputy Matthews is taking Question No. 64.

I was not made aware of that.

Questions Nos. 64 and 65 replied to with Written Answers.

I call Deputy Alan Farrell on Question No. 67, which is being taken with Question No. 77 in the name of Deputy Dillon.

The Acting Chairman is due to take Question No. 66 before my question, if he wishes to take it now.

I will surely be reached. The Deputies should proceed.

Sports Funding

Alan Farrell


67. Deputy Alan Farrell asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media if her Department will commit to additional funding for the 2021 sports capital and equipment programme in view of record applications; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33142/21]

Alan Dillon


77. Deputy Alan Dillon asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media the status of the processing of applications under the 2020 round of the sports capital and equipment programme; the percentage of applications that have been processed; if efforts have been made to increase the amount of funding available to the programme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33250/21]

My question relates to the sports capital programme, the unprecedented level of applications in recent months and the discussion on that in regard to the potential to increase the general fund to facilitate that.

I propose to take Questions Nos. 67 and 77 together.

The sports capital and equipment programme, SCEP, is the primary vehicle for Government support for the development of sports and recreation facilities and the purchase of non-personal sports equipment. In excess of 13,000 projects have benefited from sports capital funding since 1998, bringing the total allocations in that time to more than €1 billion. The programme for Government commits to continuing the sports capital and equipment programme and to prioritising the investment in disadvantaged areas.

The 2020 round of the sports capital and equipment programme closed for applications on Monday, 1 March. By the closing date, 3,106 applications were submitted, seeking in excess of €200 million in funding. This is the highest number of applications ever received. The scoring system and assessment manual for the 2020 round has been finalised and is available at All applications are being assessed in accordance with this manual. Given the large number of applications received, this assessment process is likely to take a number of months to complete fully.

Of the 3,106 applications, 1,000 were seeking sports equipment and these applications are being assessed first. Approximately 75% of these have been assessed and the remaining ones should be finalised in the coming weeks. Allocations to these applications will be made once the assessment is complete. The remaining applications for capital works will be assessed immediately afterwards, with these allocations expected before the end of the year.

No decision on allocation amounts will be made until all applications have been assessed. Every effort will be made to fund as many worthwhile projects as possible while providing a sufficient level of grant to ensure the projects are viable. While a minimum of €40 million is available, the level of funding will be kept under review in the context of drawdown demands in the coming years for older sports capital and equipment programme grants and the review of the national development plan. As both Deputies know, that review is ongoing and will inform any future uplift in the sports capital programme.

I appreciate the response. I am very pleased there has been such a significant uptake. It is an extraordinarily important scheme, which I know the Minister of State will recognise. I am certainly hopeful the Minister of State would see fit, along with the Cabinet, to increase the level of funding available, given the unprecedented level of applications. I am very pleased to hear that more than 1,000 of the clubs and associations that have applied for equipment grants, if I am reading between the lines, should hear a little sooner than the balance, which is very good news. A number of improvements have been made to the sports capital scheme in recent years. Certainly, in my time in this House, it has become a much fairer and more transparent process which the public can access regularly through the online portal.

I have one question in regard to the clubs and associations which apply but whose application is unsuccessful initially, perhaps due to a lack of documentation. Is it the Minister of State's intention to permit those clubs to fix their application to become eligible or will they be rolled on into the next programme, whenever that might be? The Minister of State might offer clarity on that.

The development of local sports and recreational facilities has both immediate and long-lasting effects on communities. It is encouraging people of all ages to get physically active while simultaneously increasing the membership of local sporting clubs. It would be useful to know if any communication has taken place with applicants on the sports capital and equipment programme since they submitted their applications. It may be useful to consider sending an update on the information outlined by the Minister of State earlier to keep them informed on the progress with the processing of applications and to provide clarity to them on this matter. Many clubs and sporting organisations are under incredible pressure financially as they maximise their efforts to provide outdoor facilities. Keeping applicants informed will certainly go a long way and I ask the Minister of State to consider this important step.

I thank both Deputies for their questions. On the first question from Deputy Farrell, the factual position is that if an error is identified in an application, that is communicated to the club and can be clarified. However, if it is a matter of submitting new information which will affect the assessment, that is not allowable. Historically, there were a huge number of unsuccessful applications because of minor errors in the application process. That is outlined in the documentation and all clubs are kept abreast of that.

Regarding Deputy Dillon's question, I will have to clarify whether there has been any further direct communication. There would be communication from assessors if something has to be clarified or if an obvious errors is identified. I can clarify the broader communication of timelines with my officials and revert to the Deputy about it. Many parliamentary questions are asked by Deputies who are anxious to see this timeline progressed. As I said to Deputy Farrell in the initial response, the equipment is being assessed and we hope to conclude that in the coming weeks. The broader sports capital applications will hopefully conclude in the autumn.

I am always pleased with the sports capital programme because it is so significant for community sporting clubs across the country. I refer to a prior question from Deputy Gould answered by the Minister, Deputy Catherine Martin, about sustaining participation in sport. The sports capital programme forms a critical part of that process. While I appreciate that €200 million for the sports capital programme is unlikely and that €40 million is quite generous, I am interested to see if there will be a move in the near future to try to accommodate as many clubs as possible. The Minister of State has mentioned that criteria will be made available. What sort of recognition might be given for future sports capital and equipment grant programmes for those clubs which have submitted successful applications?

Considering the number of applicants and the popularity of this programme, it is welcome to hear that consideration is being given to increasing the funding allocation. This would be welcome. Sporting clubs and organisations will be key in counteracting the mental health challenges which have resulted from this pandemic. We need to increase the quality of our outdoor sporting infrastructure after a period of social interaction having been kept to a minimum for many people. Increasing the funding to this programme should be considered as an investment and not viewed as a cost. To add to Deputy Farrell's point, that would also allow for an increase in the number of applicants who would benefit from this funding. This year will be the most important ever with regard to how we support our sporting organisations and maximising how we benefit our communities.

A minimum of €40 million is available but there should be scope to make a higher allocation in the context of the lower than expected drawdown of existing grants and the possibility of extra funding following the review of the national development plan. There is scope for it and there will be ongoing engagement with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. Regarding the published criteria, key components are: the likelihood of increasing participation in sport, as people mentioned; sharing of facilities; level of socioeconomic disadvantage; technical merits of the project application; and the level of own funding available. We also have a particular focus on greater female participation, people with disabilities, disadvantaged areas, and minority groups, as well as focusing on areas that we have identified that have a sporting deficit so that they can have an opportunity. The criteria are all set out and address many of the key aims under the sport policy.

Tourism Policy

Marc Ó Cathasaigh


66. Deputy Marc Ó Cathasaigh asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media her plans for the sustainable recovery of the tourism sector from Covid-19; the status of her plans to tackle issues of climate action and sustainable development with the tourism recovery plan; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33243/21]

The Minister and Minister of State's Department covers some sectors most grievously hit by the effects of this pandemic, including sport, cultural output and tourism. What are the plans for a sustainable recovery of the tourism sector from Covid-19 and the status of plans to tackle issues of climate action and sustainable development in the long term in our tourism recovery plan?

The tourism sector has been severely impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic and the necessary public health restrictions introduced to control it. Since my appointment as Minister, I have been fully engaged with stakeholders in seeking to identify and implement supports to ensure the sector’s survival and sustainable recovery. Until now, the focus has been on the survival phase.

The Tourism Recovery Plan 2020-2023, submitted by the tourism recovery task force last year, continues to be an important consideration for me, as well as my colleagues in the Government, as we continue to evaluate additional measures to support the recovery of the sector. It has informed many of the measures introduced to date which support the tourism sector. The sector-specific measures I have introduced, together with the horizontal supports available, have been critical for helping tourism businesses and employees through the pandemic.

  There are recommendations aimed at the stabilisation and recovery phase in the recovery plan, with an emphasis on sustainability. These include the development of a suite of actions to promote the sustainable development of tourism and that these actions in turn will underpin the development of a sustainable tourism policy to be adopted by Government.

A sustainable tourism working group set up under the aegis of my Department published guiding principles for sustainable tourism development at the end of 2019. An ambition in it states, "Ireland will seek to be amongst the world-leaders in sustainable tourism practices". Earlier this year, in order to maintain momentum on the sustainable tourism agenda, I reconvened this working group to complete the development of a set of actions that promote sustainable tourism practices which can be implemented prior to a new national tourism policy being developed. I expect to receive the group's final report shortly. It will outline the steps that can be taken to promote sustainable tourism practices in the short term. Following this, I will instruct my officials to initiate the development of a new national tourism policy later in the year. This policy will mainstream sustainability, rather than having it as an additional consideration. I want the recovery in the tourism sector over the coming years to be sustainable in environmental, social and economic terms.

What does "sustainable tourism practices" mean if we are talking about a suite of actions? Surely we want to focus on longer stays rather than getting people in and out of the country quickly? Surely we want to look at more dispersed tourism rather than all the pressure and bed nights being in Dublin? I will naturally refer to Waterford but also to the rest of the country, so that tourism spending is more dispersed. People will increasingly focus on experience rather than consumption. Will we focus on cultural output, heritage and those intangibles, which is what we do well in this country, rather than on just consumption? The pandemic has taught us many things, including perhaps that tourists need to slow down to enjoy their stays rather than to get quickly in and out.

I encourage every Member of this House to slow down and enjoy the wonderful sights across our country, to promote staycations and to support a sector that has been ravaged due to the pandemic. Sustainable development in tourism means using, without exploitation, our cultural and other tourist resources, to preserve them for future use by future generations. This means that tourism can be a positive, as the Deputy would understand, for local communities, as well as being economically sustainable. It means longer stays and tapping into all the resources in a community during those stays. We must seek to realise Ireland's ambition to be among world leaders in sustainable tourism practices. We are well placed to be a world leader. Development of the new policy which I mentioned earlier will set out the path for the coming years, which will support sustainable recovery and the subsequent regrowth. The Deputy mentioned Waterford. It has been a leader in sustainable tourism activities, especially the greenway from Dungarvan to Waterford city, which has been an exemplar for other cycle routes across the country. It is a testament to the determination and co-operation locally.

We would be delighted to have the Minister in Waterford and I would be delighted to show her the sites. I see the Minister of State with responsibility for heritage waiting in the wings. There is a real role in heritage-led development, not only of our towns and villages, but also of our tourism product. Waterford is an outstanding example of that. The Minister of State with responsibility for heritage opened the Museum of Time in Waterford for us last week. Our Museum of Silver will be opened by the Minister for Finance on Thursday. The Minister referred to the greenway, St. Declan's Way, going farther west.

It will link all the way to Cashel and will provide an outstanding tourist experience. We need to focus on that and away from the consumption model where people come quickly into and out of our cities and perhaps do not spend a great deal or experience the culture in the way that we might like them to. We need to ensure we have a regional approach to this and not just concentrate on bed nights in Dublin which before the pandemic was reaching capacity. We need to spread that spend across the country.

Sustainable low-impact activities, such as that Waterford greenway, provide a high return and show the potential to bring economic activity to local communities such as Kilmacthomas. A week ago, the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Bill 2021 got amazing support in this House. It will establish a legally binding framework for clear targets and commitments set out in law to ensure we achieve our national, EU and international climate goals and obligations in the near and long term. Every sector needs to play its part.

I am confident that our tourism sector will be a strong participant in achieving these legally binding targets. Ireland's commitment to pursue a climate-neutral economy will help us to realise the ambition that we spoke about earlier to become the world leader in sustainable tourism practices. These objectives are consistent with the EU climate ambition and the United Nations 2030 agenda for sustainable development. Ireland has the reputation for being the Emerald Isle internationally. Sustaining and nurturing this real green image through the adoption of sustainable tourism practices is an important underpinning for the recovery and future tourism growth.

Defibrillators Provision

Mark Ward


68. Deputy Mark Ward asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media if it will be made a requirement for defibrillators to be placed in all sports organisations to ensure the greatest chance of survival from sudden cardiac death; and if resources will be provided to such organisations to meet this requirement. [33329/21]

Ruairí Ó Murchú


85. Deputy Ruairí Ó Murchú asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media if she is satisfied with the number of defibrillators located in sports clubs throughout the State; if plans are in place to increase the number; if consideration has been given to further supports for club networks; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33228/21]

We are all aware of the recent incident involving Christian Eriksen collapsing on the field of play. I take this opportunity to commend the Danish football team on the dignified way they minded their teammate and the medical staff on their response. Like most people, I watched in horror thinking the worst was going to happen and was delighted that it did not. Having a defibrillator and trained personnel on site made a difference to Christian Eriksen still being alive today. Will it be a requirement for sporting organisations to have a defibrillator? Will funds be available for them?

I propose to take Questions Nos. 68 and 85 together.

I echo what the Deputy said. We were all horrified by what happened to Christian Eriksen and I commend his teammates on what they did on the day. I am glad he is recovering well.

The procurement of defibrillators and subsequent training is in the first instance a matter for each individual club. However, the State provides a number of supports for their purchase and training for their use. The sports capital and equipment programme is the primary vehicle for Government support for the development of sports and physical recreation facilities and the purchase of non-personal sports equipment throughout the country. Grants are available for a wide variety of capital works and non-personal sports equipment including first aid kits and defibrillators.

Defibrillators situated at sports clubs are generally also for community use. Funding is also available through the HSE’s national lottery grants schemes and other community grants schemes. At a local level, the network of local sports partnerships throughout the country deliver education and training opportunities across a broad range of areas to local sports clubs and community groups. This includes first aid workshops, which typically cover CPR and-or defibrillator training as part of the content.

Defibrillators can improve a person’s survival chances following sudden cardiac arrest and their availability can be an important part of the medical response. I would encourage all governing bodies to support their clubs in their efforts to purchase defibrillators. I am aware that much important work is happening already. The three large field sports have been very proactive and have dedicated programmes in place relating to cardiac care, screening and defibrillator training.

A number of national governing bodies of sport also have schemes in place to support their club networks in cardiac care, screening and defibrillator training. The GAA’s community heart programme, the FAI’s heart care programme and the IRFU’s safe rugby programme are excellent examples of proactive supports to assist clubs and members to participate safely in sport.

Sport Ireland has also commenced work on the development of a national database of sport and recreation amenities. This GIS-based database encompasses considerably more datasets than was originally envisaged in an audit of sports facilities and is expected to be substantially completed within two years. As part of this work, Sport Ireland is examining a proposal to include the location of defibrillators in the database. This would be an important part of our sporting infrastructure and would allow us to see where defibrillators are located and then target investment on having them located in areas where there has not been an intervention up to now.

We have ongoing capital and equipment supports for defibrillators and also through our local sports partnerships. It is important that we train volunteers in our communities so that they can use the equipment in a way that saves a person's life. We should also have ongoing support through the sporting organisations for their maintenance and so on. I have outlined the broad range of supports there and I appreciate the importance of the question.

I thank the Minister of State for that response. In my area I commend the Ciaran Carr Foundation. Ciaran collapsed while training in 2012. He was training for my club, Round Tower GAA club, and despite the valiant efforts of his teammates, Ciaran tragically passed away just short of his 21st birthday. His parents, Gemma and Phillip, set up the Ciaran Carr Foundation to raise awareness of sudden adult death syndrome and provide supports for the families of people who pass away as a result of it. I acknowledge the work the Government has done in providing funding for the equipment. Would the Minister of State consider having an awareness campaign on where these are located, how to use them and how clubs can access the funding for this life-saving equipment?

I echo what Deputy Ward has said. We were all shocked by what happened to Christian Eriksen. We were absolutely delighted that it did not end in tragedy. There was spectacular action, particularly by the Danish captain and his teammates. Obviously, the medical care kicked in quickly. We need that to happen in all these sorts of circumstances.

I accept what the Minister of State has said on the sports partnerships and the amount of grants available. We need to ensure we have a steady supply of these defibrillators where they are needed. We also need to ensure people are trained up. The Minister of State mentioned the GIS database system. I ask him to consider an audit to go beyond just sports groups so that we also look at the community sector and ensure as many defibrillators as are viable are provided wherever they are needed.

I am sorry about Ciaran Carr and I commend his family. In my area, Seaghan Kearney, who is involved in St. Oliver Plunkett Eoghan Ruadh GAA club, tells the story of the importance of having a defibrillator in communities throughout the country. In response to Deputy Ó Murchú's question, this will primarily cover the deficits in sporting infrastructure throughout the country. We are trying to ensure it includes defibrillators. I will engage with my colleagues with responsibility for the community sector.

Speaking personally, a relation of mine passed away from sudden adult death syndrome and I know how difficult that is for the families. I would be supportive of an awareness campaign. Family screening is also important. Many people are not aware of how it can run genetically. Having cardiac screening for families that have been affected is also important. I would absolutely support any campaign on that front.

Na Gaeil Óga is an Irish-speaking GAA club in Lucan. It plays in two different parks, located in two different local authority areas, Griffeen Valley Park and St. Catherine's Park, one of which is in the South Dublin County Council area the other of which is in the Fingal County Council area. Members of the club are really concerned that if there were an incident, it would be too late for them if they needed to get a defibrillator on site. Not all clubs have a structure or a building in which to locate a defibrillator. Would the Government consider working with local authorities to provide defibrillators in local parks so that all sporting organisations can avail of them irrespective of whether they have a building in which to locate them?

Will the Minister of State work with the local authorities to achieve this? This would be very beneficial. In my own area, there are hundreds of children involved in Collinstown Football Club, but there is no defibrillator in the park where they play. This would be a really welcome initiative. I ask that the Minister of State work with the local authorities to proceed with it.

I am sorry to hear about the tragedy that occurred within the Minister of State's family. It highlights the necessity for defibrillators and for us to ensure the availability of defibrillators and know-how in that regard where and when it is needed. We need to make sure that happens.

I welcome the Minister of State's commitment to engage with some of his colleagues in regard to putting in place a holistic solution. Screening is necessary. I have heard it said previously that one in 500 people have cardiomyopathy, but as most people do not train as elite athletes they are not necessarily always tested. We need a greater level of screening. As I said, an audit, not only in regard to sports clubs but across the community sector and local authorities, would be beneficial so that we can identify the deficits. We must ensure we have defibrillators where we need them when we need them.

I am sure that the broadcasting team will be delighted to get back to Leinster House where they are able to press a button and update the system much faster than they can here.

I welcome the questions from Deputies Ward and Ó Murchú. In the days that followed the Christian Eriksen collapse, I would say many Deputies got emails from members of the public querying the availability of automated external defibrillators, AEDs, in their communities. In that regard, the local Lions organisation in Fingal has an extensive list, which is really useful to be able to provide to people.

It has been brought to my attention that Dublin City Council has an extensive list of public locations. Fingal County Council, which is my local authority and that of the Minister of State, Deputy Chambers, does not. As mentioned by one of the Deputies, it would be a good idea to ask our local authorities to co-ordinate on this issue. I am aware that there are funding streams available to other non-governmental organisations for the provision of AEDs, in addition to the sports capital grants. The Government might consider the roll-out on a national basis of a register and maps for AEDs.

I thank all of the Deputies for their questions and constructive input. I agree with what Deputy Farrell said. All of the local sports partnerships are interlinked with the local authorities. We can play a role in aligning the sports infrastructure with community facilities in line with what the Deputy mentioned has been done by Dublin City Council. We will work with all Deputies on this issue. What people saw on their screens with regard to Christian Eriksen has alerted the minds of everyone to it. We also need general screening. Deputy Ó Murchú mentioned cardiomyopathy. It is a condition unknown in so many people until something happens, which then results in families getting screened. Any event or incident that brings about public attention should cause us to provide a proper response, be that through the provision of information working with the local sports partnerships, the local authorities and the community sector. My door is open to everyone so that we can save lives. This is an important issue to raise.

Tourism Industry

Alan Farrell


69. Deputy Alan Farrell asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media the expected impact of the closure of an airline (details supplied) on tourism; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33143/21]

My question relates to support for the tourism sector and the expected impact of the closure of Stobart Air.

While the aviation sector is of critical importance in terms of the recovery of our tourism sector, the responsibility for aviation falls to my colleague, the Minister for Transport, Deputy Eamon Ryan. Accordingly matters such as the closure of an airline come under the remit of his Department.

As an island nation, Ireland relies heavily on air transportation for tourism purposes. Maintaining and growing direct, competitive and convenient access to the island of Ireland is of critical importance to our tourism sector.  The air access landscape has profoundly changed since the outbreak of Covid-19 and it may be several years before air capacity returns to the levels seen in 2019. For our tourism sector, strong air and sea access links are vital. The restoration of air connectivity will be essential to restoring growth in overseas tourism to Ireland.  

I am keenly aware of the particular importance of regional connectivity and the importance of our regional airports to the regions they serve.  Stobart Air had the contract for operating Government-supported PSO air services on two routes between Dublin and the airports of Kerry and Donegal. The recent termination of its franchise agreement with Aer Lingus had immediate implications for both PSO services. I understand that the Department of Transport has initiated an emergency procurement process with a view to restoring air services linking Dublin with Donegal and Kerry airports.  The Minister for Transport hopes that this process will be completed by early July with a view to services recommencing by the new operator as soon as possible thereafter. The contract will be subject to a maximum term of seven months and will operate in accordance with EU law.  

In light of Government restrictions on travel, load factors on these routes had been very low since the onset of the pandemic.  Accordingly, the interim impact of this event on tourism in the regions of Kerry and Donegal is expected to be very small given that replacement services will be restored in the coming weeks in conjunction with the resumption of international travel on 19 July. I will continue to work closely with the Minister, Deputy Eamon Ryan, and my colleagues across Government to support the restoration of direct connectivity to and within Ireland.

It is difficult not to stray into the Department of Transport as well, as I am sure the Minister, Deputy Martin, will appreciate. I appreciate the level of funding her Department has offered the sector. There are extreme difficulties, particularly in our regions. As a general observation, I want to express my disappointment that Stobart Air went to the wall, in light, in particular, of it being a PSO carrier. A modest level of funding with a requirement for us to ensure that the routes would be retained and maintained might have gone a long way, but it is a bit late now. I appreciate what the Minister said in her response.

On a point of order, I have a bit of difficulty keeping track of business. For some reason, the screen behind the Leas-Cheann Comhairle does not display the business or question being dealt with. I am sure that like me other Members find that slightly problematic.

Written Answers are published on the Oireachtas website.