Ceisteanna Eile - Other Questions

Questions No. 7 replied to with Written Answers.

National Lottery

Cormac Devlin

Question:

8. Deputy Cormac Devlin asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform when he expects the review of the national lottery to be completed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45685/21]

I commend the Minister on initiating the review of the national lottery, which I believe is long overdue. When is it due to be completed?

I thank the Deputy for tabling this question. I was pleased to announce recently that Indecon International Consultants have been commissioned to support the Department in the review of the effectiveness and transparency of how national lottery funding for good causes is distributed. The national lottery plays a vital role in generating funding for a wide range of clubs, charities and community groups throughout the country each year. Close to 30 cent of every €1 spent on national lottery games is transferred to the Exchequer to fund good causes projects. Approximately €6 billion has been raised since national lottery operations commenced in 1987, and over €254 million was transferred to the Exchequer last year for good causes.

It is timely that we should review the existing funding model now to ensure that it can continue to support good causes projects in an effective manner into the future. My Department will be engaging with a number of relevant Departments and other key stakeholders during this process, and the review will also examine international best practice in this area. I envisage that the review will conclude in the first half of next year and I intend to bring any new proposals arising to the Government as soon as possible afterwards.

I note the figures the Minister gave for Ireland. In the UK, approximately 53% of every £1 spent goes to the prize funds, 25% goes to good causes, 12% goes to the UK Government as duty, 4% goes to the retailers and 5% goes to the operator, with 4% of that 5% for operating costs and 1% of it for profits. The Minister mentioned €6 billion for good causes in this country. What percentage of sales in the Irish system goes to good causes, prize funds, State levies and the operator? I appreciate the Minister might not have that information with him this morning, but he might forward it to me. While I know funds go to good causes in various sectors such as sport, culture, heritage, the arts, youth, welfare and amenities, can the Minister give the House an indication, or arrange to send us that information as well, of how much was allocated to each of those sectors?

I will arrange for a more detailed reply to be issued to the Deputy. However, I will give a sense of my thinking in asking for this review to be conducted. My view is that, at present, it can be difficult to track the good causes expenditure that has occurred and at times it can be difficult for clubs and organisations to navigate the funding options available and to identify if they are eligible for funding. Some Departments do not publish details of which organisations have been awarded funding, while others may publish details of expenditure grants but not mention that the grants have any link to the national lottery. Furthermore, while the National Lottery Act 2013 sets out the areas to which funding can be assigned, there is no framework in existence which sets out how funding should be assigned. While all the spending is voted expenditure and subject to robust oversight and audit by the Comptroller and Auditor General, a lack of clarity can create a perception that money is not distributed in a fair and transparent manner. The Regulator of the National Lottery has conveyed a perception, which exists among some members of the public, that funding goes to certain constituencies, for example, and this is an issue that must be addressed. I want to improve the oversight and transparency of the system and ensure it is operating fairly and that all organisations get a fair crack of the whip.

I appreciate the fact that the review is taking place. I am not sure if a review of this scale has been undertaken since 1987 so it is very important. The Minister highlighted the example of the sports clubs. All Members of the House have been contacted by sports clubs, community organisations and others that are eager to access any type of funding, but there has to be a clear pathway to that funding. It is very generous funding but we must have transparency. We discussed freedom of information earlier, so it is important that there is transparency in respect of funding for all the good causes that the national lottery has funded over the years and will fund in the future.

I strongly agree with the Deputy's sentiments on this issue. As part of the review, a steering group will be set up, led by my Department, comprising representatives from a number of Departments that have national lottery-related expenditure subheads. Public consultation will be conducted as part of this process, which is likely to involve a targeted group of relevant stakeholders. That will be finalised in the coming weeks. The legislation sets out the areas that can benefit from funding under the national lottery good causes heading but not all of those that are listed as potentially being beneficiaries are currently getting any funding, so we need to improve and streamline the process for the allocation of this funding. That may well lead to some changes and that is something we can manage over time. However, a large amount of money is being distributed and the link between that money and the national lottery and the protection of the lottery brand into the future are very important. That is also a key part of the review that is being undertaken.

National Monuments

David Stanton

Question:

9. Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform when he expects Barryscourt Castle, Carrigtwohill, County Cork, to open to visitors; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45452/21]

When does the Minister expect the works in Barryscourt Castle, which has been closed for up to seven years, to be completed and when will it be open to the public again?

I understand from the Commissioners of Public Works that works are continuing on the external walls of Barryscourt Castle. The conservation nature of this project requires the use of heritage products and traditional lime mortar, which requires painstaking attention to detail and expert craftsmanship. The OPW is on target to complete its programme for 2021, which will leave 50% of the south wall and 50% of the east wall completed. It is expected that the regrouting of the south wall and east wall will be completed in 2022. Progress has also been made on the specification for the mechanical and electrical works which will follow the grouting programme.

Covid-19 restrictions and lockdowns in 2020 and 2021 have seriously impacted progress on the project and, unfortunately, continue to do so. Notwithstanding that, the Office of Public Works hopes to have the works completed and the castle reopened in 2023. As the Deputy knows, I visited the castle when I had the opportunity to do so with the local councillor, Mr. Anthony Barry, and I pay tribute to the outdoor workers and the craftspeople of the OPW who are based in east Cork. This is a very difficult and constrained project for us, but the OPW is committed to it.

I met the local community as well as Deputy Stanton and other public representatives and I visited a number of the OPW facilities in the Fota, Cobh and Great Island areas. I know the contribution Barryscourt Castle has the potential to make to that particular part of east Cork. I understand the frustrations, but this is the nature of conservation work and the nature of the work at hand. The progress is incredibly slow. I can provide additional supplementary material to the Deputy and we can meet him on-site as well. We are prepared to engage with the Deputy to see if there is additional material that can be beneficial to him on this matter.

Frustration is an understatement. It is seven years since this project was started.

The Minister of State has said it will not be open until 2023. I have a letter here from his predecessor, Deputy Canney, stating that it would be open in 2019. It is very disappointing that it has taken so long. I understand it is painstaking and difficult. Does the Minister of State have any plans for developing the castle and the grounds when it finally reopens? Has he had any contact with the Barryscourt trust which I understand controls a substantial amount of the property?

The answer is "Yes". We had a meeting with the Minister of State at the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Deputy Noonan, to discuss the broader issue yesterday. We are engaged with Fáilte Ireland on the whole issue of how we look at our estate and at the responsibilities we have. As the Deputy will know, during the Covid-19 pandemic, thanks to support I received from the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, I initiated a programme across the entire OPW estate, offering free admission last year, which was a success with people staycationing. It was an attempt to get people to come into OPW-operated facilities to experience places like Barryscourt and lesser known and lesser visited sites. When Barryscourt is finished it will obviously have a bigger role to play in the wider tourism product of east Cork, including the Great Island, Cobh and Fota. We will be linking with Cork County Council, Fáilte Ireland and the local stakeholders including the local community to do exactly what the Deputy has requested.

I am pleased the Minister of State has plans to do that but I am disappointed it will take until 2023 for this to happen. It has now been seven years and it does not make any sense to add another two years to that. I ask the Minister of State to expedite this because it is frustrating for people in the region. It is a very important project. It is a magnificent castle just off the N25 with great potential. The grounds are also spectacular. I am not sure if any of my colleagues have seen it, but it is worth visiting even though it is not possible to go on the grounds at the moment. I ask the Minister of State to talk to his colleagues in the OPW to see if this can be expedited given that it is now seven years and counting.

Due to the nature of the work the OPW does, social distancing and public health issues have meant that we have been put offsite twice, which has been desperately frustrating. I know the Deputy and other public representatives in the east Cork area would like this to be put on the record of the House. Last year OPW outdoor staff in Barryscourt came to the rescue when a group of local nuns in the St. Benedict's Priory in Cobh needed apples. At that time Barryscourt came to the attention of many people in the east Cork area and beyond. I pay tribute to and thank the outdoor staff of the OPW who came to the rescue of the nuns at St. Benedict's Priory who make jams and chutneys. The OPW has a significant orchard down there. I want to put on the record of the House my gratitude to the OPW outdoor staff for their generous gesture in coming to the assistance of the St. Benedict Order in Cobh.