Ceisteanna ar Sonraíodh Uain Dóibh - Priority Questions

Question Nos. 1 and 4 have been reversed so we will commence with Deputy Ó Snodaigh.

Cúrsaí Gaeilge

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

4. D'fhiafraigh Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh den Aire Turasóireachta, Cultúir, Ealaíon, Gaeltachta, Spóirt agus Meán an bhfaca sí an moladh atá déanta ag Comhchoiste Oireachtais na Gaeilge, na Gaeltachta agus Phobal Labhartha na Gaeilge ina thuairisc maidir le ‘Todhchaí na gColáistí Samhraidh agus an tacaíocht atá á hiarraidh ina leith’, go háirithe moladh a trí, a éilíonn ciste cobhsaíochta láithreach chun tacú le cobhsaíocht na hearnála le linn phaindéim an choróinvíris, mar a soláthraíodh anuraidh; agus cén fáth nár soláthraíodh ciste cobhsaíochta nó cúitimh don earnáil go fóill nó le linn an tsamhraidh atá díreach thart. [48284/21]

Baineann an cheist seo leis an tuairisc ó mo choiste féin, an Comhchoiste Oireachtais na Gaeilge, na Gaeltachta agus Phobal Labhartha na Gaeilge, dar teideal Todhchaí na gColáistí Samhraidh agus an Tacaíocht atá á hIarraidh ina Leith. Seoladh an tuairisc seo chuig gach uile Comhalta an tseachtain seo caite. Tamall de sheachtainí ó shin, sheol muid na moltaí chuig an Aire, chuig an Aire Airgeadais agus chuig an Aire Stáit, an Teachta Chambers, chun cinnte a dhéanamh go raibh siad ar an eolas faoi na moltaí ionas go mbeidh siad curtha san áireamh sa bhuiséad. Tá súil agam go mbeidh an tAire Stáit ábalta freagra a thabhairt dom ar an gceist seo.

Ar dtús báire, ba mhaith liom buíochas a ghabháil leis an Teachta agus leis an gComhchoiste as an tuarascáil chuimsitheach seo a chuir i dtoll a chéile.

Is cinnte go bhfuil tábhacht ar leith le hearnáil na gcoláistí samhraidh sa Ghaeltacht, idir na deiseanna foghlama agus saibhrithe teanga a thugann siad do dhaoine óga, agus an teacht isteach luachmhar do na teaghlaigh agus pobail Ghaeltachta atá ag brath ar an ioncam sin. Mar aitheantas praiticiúil ar thábhacht na hearnála beidh a fhios ag an Teach go ndéanann mo Roinn infheistíocht bhliantúil ar fiú os cionn €4 milliún é ar leas na hearnála via scéim na bhfoghlaimeoirí Gaeilge de chuid mo Roinne. Ina theannta sin, cuireadh tús roinnt blianta ó shin le bearta breise faoi leith ar leas na hearnála ar nós DEIS Gaeltachta agus ERASMUS Gaeltachta. Tá tuilleadh eolais ar fáil faoin raon oibre seo ar fad ar shuíomh mo Roinne.

Ós rud é go mbaineann sé le gnóthaí Covid-19, mar is eol don Teachta, d’fhógair mé cheana pacáiste maoinithe méadaithe ar fiú €2.2 milliún é do na mná tí agus na teaghlaigh Ghaeltachta i mbliana mar aitheantas ar an mbealach tábhachtach a chuireann siad leis an earnáil. Ina theannta sin, d’fhógair mé ciste faoi leith le gairid ar fiú thart ar €240,000 do na hallaí pobail Ghaeltachta a úsáideann na coláistí samhraidh de ghnáth. Is maoiniú tábhachtach breise é seo mar aitheantas ar an obair fhónta a dhéanann lucht na hallaí go deonach den chuid is mó agus an tábhacht atá leo don earnáil.

Maidir leis na coláistí iad féin, tá go leor oibre déanta ag feidhmeannaigh mo Roinne le roinnt míonna anuas i gcomhar le scáthghrúpa na gcoláistí, Comhchoiste Náisiúnta na gColáistí Samhraidh, CONCOS, agus leis na coláistí féin ar mhaithe le scéim chuí a fhorbairt chun earnáil na gcoláistí samhraidh a chobhsú. Chun go mbeifí in ann an cur chuige is fearr is féidir a aimsiú, tugadh faoi roinnt taighde faoi leith faoinar scaipeadh ceistneoir faoin ábhar ar gach coláiste atá bainteach leis an gcóras.

Tá an cheist níos casta i mbliana de bharr ioncam a bheith ag cuid de na coláistí ó fhoinsí eile nach raibh ar fáil dóibh anuraidh. San áireamh seo, tá ioncam ó scéimeanna eile de chuid an Stáit a bunaíodh de bharr na paindéime agus ioncam ó chúrsaí ar líne, go háirithe cúrsaí dírithe ar ábhar oidí. Mar sin féin, tá an obair thaighde agus anailíse réamhluaite beagnach críochnaithe agus tá súil agam an tríú beart a fhógairt go foirmiúil gan rómhoill eile ar mhaithe le leas foriomlán an chórais agus cheantair na Gaeltachta.

Is féidir leis an Teachta a bheith cinnte de go leanfaidh mo Roinn ag faire amach ar na bealaí a bhféadfaí cabhrú leis an earnáil, mar atá déanta ag an Roinn ó bunaíodh córas na gcoláistí Gaeilge.

Tá aitheantas ag dul leis an Aire Stáit, dar ndóigh, agus leis an Rialtas as an mbeartas a rinne siad maidir le hallaí pobail agus mná tí tar éis feachtas uathu sin ag lorg cuidithe. Sa chás seo, is iad na coláistí samhraidh féin atá, i roinnt cásanna, i ngéarchéim toisc gur gá dóibh airgead a chaitheamh bliain i ndiaidh bliana agus gan aon teacht isteach acu. Is éarlais a bhí in aon airgead a bhí acu agus bhí orthu é a íoc ar ais. Tugadh roinnt cuidithe dóibh in 2020 ach in 2021, ní raibh aon ioncam ann. Má tá rúnaíocht nó fógraíocht i gceist nó má tá duine ag freagairt an fhóin agus ag glacadh le bookings ar áit sna coláistí samhraidh, tá gá le hairgead. Ní suim mhór atá i gceist i gcomparáid leis na hearnálacha eile a bhfuair cuidiú le linn na paindéime. Is ceann de na heagrais iad na coláistí samhraidh agus ba chóir go mbeadh cuidiú éigin ar fáil do na heagrais seo.

Bhí teagmháil rialta ag mo Roinn leis na hionadaithe ó na coláistí agus go háirithe leis an scátheagraíocht, Comhchoiste Náisiúnta na gColáistí Samhraidh, CONCOS. Cuireann mo Roinn deontas reáchtála ar fáil do CONCOS gach bliain ar mhaithe le cabhrú tuilleadh le hearnáil na gcoláistí samhraidh. Tuigim go maith na deacrachtaí atá ag cuid de na coláistí i mbliana de bharr nach bhféadfaí cúrsaí samhraidh dul ar aghaidh don dara bliain as a chéile. Tá go leor oibre déanta ag feidhmeanna Roinne le roinnt bliana anuas, i gcomhar leis na coláistí, ar mhaithe le scéim chuí a fhorbairt chun earnáil na gcoláistí samhraidh a chosaint. Táimid ag iarraidh an próiseas seo a chríochnú anois agus beidh an t-eolas ag teacht amach ina dhiaidh sin.

Is blianta as an ngnáth atá ann ach bhí CONCOS agus Gael Linn os comhair an chomhchoiste agus bhí eolas eile curtha isteach. Tháinig 22 moladh as an méid a bhí le rá acu. Ina measc sin, bhí gá cúnamh a thabhairt dóibh toisc go raibh roinnt acu i mbaol dúnadh toisc nach raibh aon ioncam ceart acu le dhá bhliain anuas. Ba mhór an trua é sin. Tá a lán eile gur féidir linn a dhéanamh. Ba chóir go mbeimis ag ardú na ndeontas atá ar fáil i bhfad oiread níos mó ná mar atá. Caithfimid aitheantas a thabhairt don obair atá déanta acu agus seasamh isteach agus cuidiú, má tá cuidiú de dhíth. Sin a dúirt CONCOS leis an gcoiste nuair a bhí sé os ár gcomhair níos luaithe i mbliana. Tá súil agam go dtabharfaidh an tAire Stáit éisteacht leis an méid atá sa tuairisc sin agus leis an méid a bhí le rá agus an méid atá á rá ag CONCOS agus go mbeidh toradh maith an tseachtain seo chugainn nuair a bheidh an buiséad ann.

Tá próiseas agus struchtúr ann idir an Roinn agus CONCOS chun an fhadhb seo a chríochnú, agus beidh réiteach ann idir gach páirtí. Mar a thuigfeadh an Teachta, tá an cheist níos casta i mbliana do na coláistí de bharr ioncam a bheith ag cuid de na coláistí ó fhoinsí eile nach raibh ar fáil anuraidh. Mar chuid den taighde a tugadh faoi le tamall anuas, chuir an Roinn ceistneoir faoin ábhar chuig gach coláiste atá bainteach leis an gcóras. Tá an obair thaighde agus anailíse beagnach críochnaithe, agus tá súil agam an tríú beart a fhógairt go foirmiúil gan rómhoill eile ar mhaithe le leas foriomlán an chórais agus cheantair na Gaeltachta.

Arts Policy

Aodhán Ó Ríordáin

Question:

2. Deputy Aodhán Ó Ríordáin asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media if her attention has been drawn to the recommendations of an organisation (details supplied) in its pre-budget 2022 submission; the recommendations from the submission she would support; the recommendations that are deliverable within the term of Thirty-third Dáil; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [47786/21]

The National Campaign for the Arts, NCFA, has put together quite a substantial document which it is hoping the Minister will consider in the budgetary process. I am interested in hearing the Minister's reflections on that budgetary submission and her vision for the future of the arts which, as she will appreciate, has gone through a hellish 20 months.

I wish to advise the Deputy that the organisation to which he refers has sent copies of its pre-budget submission for 2022 to me and to my officials. I am familiar with the recommendations made by the organisation. Budget 2022 will be announced on 12 October 2021.

A number of the recommendations listed in the pre-budget submission that come within the remit of my Department are also contained in the arts and culture recovery task force report, Life Worth Living, published in November 2020, which outlined a vision for the arts and culture sector which I firmly support. The recommendations included a proposal to pilot a basic income scheme for a three-year period in the arts, culture, audiovisual, live performance and events sectors. Other recommendations relate to increased funding to existing programmes and agencies.

As part of the Economic Recovery Plan launched on 1 June 2021, the Government committed to bringing forward a proposal in response to the task force recommendation for a basic guaranteed income pilot scheme for artists. I established an oversight group with the remit of addressing the outstanding recommendations of the Life Worth Living report. The oversight group was asked to prioritise the manner in which a basic guaranteed income pilot scheme for artists could be delivered, and I am currently considering the optimal mechanism to take this important measure forward.

As the Deputy will be aware, the programme for Government committed to continue to reform and improve the budgetary process to enhance Ireland’s budgetary framework. The budgetary reforms introduced in recent years, including performance budgeting and equality budgeting, are focused on providing the evidence base to support the efficient and effective delivery of services that have a positive impact on people's lives. This work is being further enhanced with the development of the well-being framework for Ireland.

As we emerge from the pandemic, I am committed to supporting the long-term sustainability of the arts and culture sectors, and that remains my focus during the ongoing budget negotiations. We have a unique opportunity to achieve such sustainability in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. The arts have been and continue to be among the most negatively impacted sectors, and in this context I am focused on the recovery and future of the culture sector. I can inform the Deputy that both I and my Department's officials meet regularly with representatives of the organisation to which he refers, and I am meeting them tomorrow to discuss these exact matters.

I am delighted to hear that and know they will impress on the Minister the stark findings contained in their report. The latest analysis indicates that two thirds of workers in the sector are earning less than €20,000 per year, 60% of artists and arts workers have neither health insurance nor private pensions, and 74% of performing artists and creative practitioners are reliant on another source of income. The Arts Council reports that 48% of professional artists have considered abandoning their career in the arts over the past year, with lack of income and financial pressures being cited by 70% of them as the main reason.

Another stark finding which I am sure the Minister will be discussing tomorrow is that, a decade on from the financial crisis, Government investment in the bodies that underwrite the artistic output of the nation, including the Arts Council, Culture Ireland, Creative Ireland and others, has barely recovered. Ireland continues to languish on the bottom rung in terms of investment in culture in Europe. When does the Minister envisage we can move on from the firefighting and the recovery from disaster of the past 20 months and reach the level of funding that used to be in place prior to the economic crash of ten years ago?

I acknowledge it has been an incredibly tough time for all those who work in the arts and culture sector. Effectively, they have been unable to do what they do best, to do what they love and to earn a living. The Deputy may argue that they languish on the bottom rung, but the fact I secured a commitment from Government for a basic guaranteed income pilot scheme, which was the number one recommendation of the arts recovery task force, shows my commitment as Minister with responsibility for arts and culture. I have a vision and I understand that, by its very nature, work in this sector means there are lull periods when artists need to create, and the pilot scheme is a recognition of that. I would also point out that in 2021 I allocated a record €130 million to the Arts Council to provide for the sector. The council is the agency through which Government support for the arts sector is delivered. Building on this record allocation, increased funding for the Arts Council will be considered in the context of the budget Estimates, and negotiations are ongoing in that regard.

I appreciate what the Minister is saying, but the NCFA document argues that it could take until 2024 to recover from the past 20 months in what is already a particularly precarious sector. I am seeking a commitment from the Minister not just to deal with what has happened in the past year and a half but to deal with the long-term situation. It is a source of frustration to the arts community that whenever Ireland is marketed abroad as a tourist destination, the icons put forward from our history are always from the arts community - the poets, musicians and dancers - but funding for the arts has been especially weak.

Yes, the Minister has been engaging with the National Campaign for the Arts and that is to her credit, and she is meeting its representatives tomorrow, but it is not just about recovering from the past 20 months. It is about the underlying under-funding issues that have always been prevalent, and a vision to restore that into the future.

There is where we are in absolute agreement. On numerous occasions in just over a year since becoming Minister, I have pointed out that my focus is not only on sustaining artists during this very difficult time. We are a nation which talks so much about valuing the arts and now is the time for us to put our money where our mouth is. If there was one lesson to be learned during the pandemic of the past 18 months, it was how the arts go to the very core of our being as a nation and I deeply value that. It will not just be words from me. That is why I fought to get that commitment in the basic income guarantee pilot because it is about the vision for beyond Covid and beyond the supports that I am putting in place. I am absolutely determined to support them beyond Covid. That is where my focus is.

Sports Facilities

Gary Gannon

Question:

3. Deputy Gary Gannon asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media her views on the situation in relation to a stadium (details supplied); and if she will consider providing the necessary funds to redevelop the stadium. [48382/21]

As I hope the Minister of State is aware, there is a dearth of quality stadiums not only in the country but in Dublin and, from my perspective, particularly on the north side of the capital. I am asking for the Minster of State's views on the retention of Tolka Park as a stadium and on its redevelopment. Can we save it from the sword of Damocles under which it stands, where it is in the position of being sold by Dublin City Council?

Future development plans for the facility referred to by the Deputy are a matter in the first instance for Dublin City Council as the owners of the stadium. In terms of my role, my Department provides grant assistance for sporting facilities through the sports capital and equipment programme, SCEP, and the large scale sport infrastructure fund, LSSIF.

Under the SCEP, grants of up to €300,000 are available to community organisations, sports clubs, national governing bodies of sport and local authorities. The stadium referred to by the Deputy received a provisional allocation of €71,000 under the 2018 round of the programme but this has yet to be drawn down.

The latest round of the SCEP closed for applications on 1 March. Assessment work is continuing on other grants. The national sports policy published in 2018 provided for the establishment of the LSSIF. The aim of the fund is to provide support for larger sports facilities where the Exchequer investment is greater than the maximum amount available under the SCEP. The national development plan provided a capital allocation of at least €100 million and approximately €86 million has been allocated of which €918,750 was awarded to Dublin City Council towards the design cost for the redevelopment of Dalymount stadium. It is proposed that the redeveloped Dalymount Park will be home to both Bohemian FC and Shelbourne FC. As the Deputy will be aware, Shelbourne FC are the current main users of the Tolka Park facility.

While it is not proposed to open the LSSIF for new applications at present, we are undertaking a review of the LSSIF which is expected to be complete in the near future. This will look to progress on all existing grants and the timing of a new call for proposals will also be considered.

Among the key considerations in the assessment of any applications is the likelihood of increasing participation including female participation, how projects will cater for disadvantaged users and whether the proposed facility will be shared with other users or sports. I am committed to continued investment in our sport infrastructure in the years ahead and any future application for funding for the stadium referred to by the Deputy under either the SCEP or LSSIF will be considered on its own merits in line with the relevant assessment criteria.

I fully appreciate that the owner of this stadium is Dublin City Council but I was also a member of Dublin City Council for over six years and I recognise that we stripped Dublin City Council of all local government funding to the point that all it sees in its assets is how it can sell them off in order to raise funds. In this Chamber, we talk about issues of national importance. High-quality stadiums are something that every person, whether in Dublin or elsewhere in the country, can benefit from. The game of soccer is something that is so important to so many lives and brings positivity. This issue is one of such importance that we can intervene here. We need to take ownership of soccer's viability. There are two stadiums on the north side of the city, as the Minister of State will know well, which are used by Bohemians and Shelbourne. The two clubs deserve to have more than one stadium between both of only 6,500 capacity. There are four quality teams there. Bohemians now have a women's team and Shelbourne has a highly competent women's team. It is unrealistic to expect four teams to play in one stadium. I think we can intervene and provide national leadership, to ask Dublin City Council to halt the same and provide a pathway forward by which we can keep both stadiums.

We are absolutely committed to the development of football, particularly grassroots football, and strengthening the League of Ireland. That is something I am very ambitious for.

Tolka Park is owned by Dublin City Council so any future plans are a matter for the council and the councillors. Dublin City Council is also the lead applicant for the redevelopment of Dalymount stadium and the design work is at an advanced stage. In a previous proposal it was understood that Dublin City Council planned to fund some of the construction costs with Tolka Park, however as the Deputy is very well aware, as am I, the proposal has met with opposition locally with a high profile campaign to keep the Tolka Park facility for sporting use. From my perspective and that of the Department there would be no objection to keeping Tolka Park in sporting use and any future proposal for the development work could be considered like any other application under the sports capital and equipment programme and to the large scale sports infrastructure fund. That would be a matter for the council around any funding implication for its plans around the redevelopment of stadiums but we are committed. The national development plan just published includes continuity of the large scale sports infrastructure fund and the sports capital and equipment programme to strengthen our league and our grassroots. However, this is a matter around ownership on which the council will have to make a decision.

In my last years on the council the controlling group committed to not selling off any more public land. The council management, which is unelected, does not have the same vision for the city and certainly does not have the same vision for League of Ireland football as maybe the Minister of State, myself and others in the Chamber. The Minister of State's comment that no there would be no objection to an application for the large scale sporting infrastructure fund is welcome. Maybe we can find unity between the Government and Opposition and say that it would be a welcome development for us that a stadium such as Tolka Park, with all its historical importance, should be retained. It should be a stadium for Shelbourne Football Club and as a local amenity for the area. The Minister of State's remark is one that we can see as a form of quasi-commitment and one that we can build a path forward from because League of Ireland football is too important to be neglected. Shelbourne and Bohemians have each have histories and futures in their own rights and they deserve stadiums worthy of their achievements. Let us save Tolka Park and build it as a football stadium worthy of its place in the country.

I acknowledge what the Deputy said. As I mentioned, there must be prioritisation within both the FAI and the council around sport. We are ambitious for growing the league and our grassroots. That is why if any application came in, we would look at it on its merits. That is the same for any stadium in north Dublin, south Dublin or anywhere around the country. Plenty of people here have ambitions for their areas. We have tried to progress the stadium for Finn Harps that has been sitting there for years, for example. A big area by which to grow the league ensuring that the sporting infrastructure which facilitates the matches is modernised. That is something that is in the current large scale sports infrastructure fund and I am sure will feature in further iterations. The primary issue here is that Dublin City Council needs to decide on the future of the stadium. As far as any future application is concerned, we treat every application on its merits and that is really important and any sporting organisation or club can apply and they are assessed fairly as per the published criteria.

I will now return to Question No. 1 in the name of Deputy Munster.

Covid-19 Pandemic Supports

Imelda Munster

Question:

1. Deputy Imelda Munster asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media her views on the current situation in which tour operators whose businesses are based in Ireland and offer day trips to tourist destinations in the north of Ireland have not been eligible for State supports despite the facts that northern tourist attractions generate international tourism to Ireland given the importance of cross-Border co-operation in terms of attracting tourists to Ireland; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [47914/21]

I ask the Minister for her views on the current situation in which tour operators whose businesses are based in Ireland and who offer day trips to tourist destinations up North have not been eligible for State supports despite the fact that Northern Ireland tourist attractions generate international tourism to Ireland, and given the importance of cross-Border co-operation in terms of attracting tourists to Ireland; and if she will make a statement on the matter.

My Department’s role in relation to tourism lies in the area of national tourism policy development. It does not have any role in the administration of tourism business support schemes including the setting of eligibility criteria. These are operational matters for Fáilte Ireland.

In 2020 Fáilte Ireland established the Ireland-based inbound agents business continuity scheme, which has provided business continuity funding of more than €10 million to a total of 97 businesses. Last year Fáilte Ireland also established the coach tourism operators business continuity scheme, which has provided business continuity funding of just over €10 million to 1,372 coach tourism businesses. In addition to these supports, phase 1 and phase 1+ of Fáilte Ireland's 2021 tourism business continuity scheme supported hop-on hop-off tourism bus tour operators, cruise hire companies and tourism boat tour operators.

Fáilte Ireland is legally precluded from providing funding to businesses in respect of tourism activity taking place outside the State. This position is set out in section 8(1)(e) of the National Tourism Development Authority Act 2003 which states that the authority, Fáilte Ireland, shall:

... support ... such enterprises and projects relating to -

(i) the development of tourist traffic within or to the State, and

(ii) the development and marketing of tourist facilities and services in the State

as it considers appropriate.

Accordingly, applications for funding related to tourism activity outside the State are ineligible under Fáilte Ireland's capital and business continuity schemes.

Ireland is marketed as a single destination in overseas markets. Tourism Ireland, which operates on a North-South basis, does an excellent job in promoting Ireland in overseas markets, in co-operation with both Fáilte Ireland and Tourism Northern Ireland. I had first-hand experience of this recently when I supported Tourism Ireland on trade missions overseas in London and the United States. This arrangement benefits the tourism sector both here and in Northern Ireland. Many tourists who come to Ireland also include Northern Ireland as part of their trip and the opposite is also true.

I am acutely conscious of the ongoing challenges faced by tourism businesses, including tour operators. Informed by the recommendations in the latest report from the recovery oversight group, and in the context of budget 2022, I am working with officials and Government colleagues to establish what further supports can be put in place for the tourism sector.

We recognise that the issue relates to eligibility, and particularly under the scheme, but it seems to me that Fáilte Ireland has decided that this particular business does not drive tourist traffic into the State. We need to look at tourism on an all-island basis. As the Minister has said, Tourism Ireland has done a great job and the island is marketed abroad as one country. These inbound tour operators operate from this State - from the South. They offer packages of seven to ten days. The people who go on these tours would travel all over Ireland. They might go to Killarney, to Clare and they might even go to Louth, but they might also want to spend a night up in the Glens of Antrim. That these companies based in the South do not qualify for any supports, given all that they have gone through with the pandemic, seems like something that is not insurmountable. I am asking if the Minister could sit down with Tourism Ireland and Fáilte Ireland, and if between them they could see if they can give something and if some support can be arranged.

I thank the Deputy. I do not believe it is accurate to say that Fáilte Ireland has made a decision against any specific business. The facts are that under the National Tourism Development Authority Act 2003, Fáilte Ireland is not permitted to assist businesses in respect of activities outside the State. Accordingly, Fáilte Ireland has provided business continuity funding to businesses such as inbound tour operators and coach tour operators in respect of their activities within the State. As I have said, Tourism Ireland does a fantastic job, on a North-South basis, in promoting Ireland to the overseas market as the island of Ireland.

I suggest that it may be worth bringing this up with the Deputy's colleagues to facilitate a discussion with Tourism Northern Ireland on supports for businesses, including the business the Deputy is referring to, which brings tourists to Northern Ireland. That may be an angle from which to approach it.

The Minister will be aware that Tourism Ireland was set up under the Good Friday Agreement. I have said already that these tour operator companies are based in the South. The only wrongdoing they might do is to go across the Border for a night or two during a tour of seven to ten days. I will certainly see what we can do from our end. The Minister has said that it is in the Act but Acts can be amended. Given that in the Good Friday Agreement we want to market the country as a whole and invite people to go North, South, east and west, it is not insurmountable if the political will is there. All I am asking is that the Minister would take an interest in it and sit down with Fáilte Ireland and Tourism Ireland to see if a way can be found.

The Minister does not need me to tell her how the tourism sector has suffered through the pandemic. While some sectors such as hotels and restaurants are starting to come out of it, international tourism was hit worst of all and they will not see any comeback at all until spring or summer of next year. For those tour operators who are operating in the South and bringing tourists into the State, the only sin they commit is to travel up to Armagh or Antrim. That is all they do. If there is a will there is a way, and I ask that the Minister would take an interest in it to see what can be done.

I thank the Deputy. If the Deputy wants, she can forward the details to me of the specific business, but I do feel that the agencies are prohibited from funding these businesses because of the 2003 Act. Perhaps Tourism Northern Ireland should be approached and not Tourism Ireland, which the Deputy is aware is a separate body. Maybe this is the angle from which to approach it.

Departmental Funding

Catherine Connolly

Question:

5. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media her plans to commission research or analysis into the way the €15 million provided by her Department to Galway 2020 was spent; her plans to publish any such analysis; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [47905/21]

Baineann mo cheist le Gaillimh 2020. An bhfuil sé beartaithe aon anailís a dhéanamh ar an €15 milliún atá caite? My question relates to Galway 2020. Does the Department intend to carry out any analysis off its own bat with regard to the €15 million, given the recent chapter from the Comptroller and Auditor General?

To date, €14 million has been drawn down from the total commitment of €15 million from my Department to the European Capital of Culture. Of this €14 million drawn down, €13 million has been spent on the development, production and delivery of the key projects under the Galway 2020 cultural programme, most of which were set out in the original winning bid book.

From the date of signing in November 2018 of the performance delivery agreement between my Department and Galway 2020, and as per the terms of the agreement, my Department has and continues to be in regular receipt of detailed information on how funding from my Department is spent. This information includes comprehensive quarterly management reports providing progress updates on all aspects of the Galway 2020 project, including the cultural programme, as well as a breakdown of project income and expenditure, which is confirmed through quarterly checks by an independent auditor. Relevant quarterly reports are reviewed by my Department as part of the controls in place in advance of the approval of funding drawdowns.

Furthermore, under the terms of my approval in July 2020 of the restructured cultural programme for Galway 2020, which was developed in the wake of the impact of the pandemic on activity, my Department meets with Galway 2020 on a fortnightly basis to discuss and review project progress. Also under the terms of the approval, my Department received a monthly written report from September 2020 to April this year on all cultural programme projects supported by Department funding. This monthly report provided information on events planned and delivered, health and safety measures in place, identified risks and mitigation, communications and audience development measures.

In addition, the cultural partners supported from Department funding are completing post-project evaluations with Galway 2020. These evaluations provide information on the numbers employed in each project, the number of events held, partnerships developed, audience numbers, volunteers engaged and income and expenditure. My Department receives and reviews the reports as they are completed.

Finally, and as advised to the Deputy on the floor on 22 June last, the overall monitoring and evaluation programme of Galway 2020 is now at an advanced stage. The final report from this programme, scheduled for delivery before year end, 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.

The advantage of being Leas-Cheann Comhairle is that I have read the answer. Forgive me, therefore, for being a little impatient because the Minister has not addressed my question. Does the Department intend to carry out an analysis, bearing in mind the 12 very succinct pages from the Comptroller and Auditor General, who pointed out that the Department had a nominee on the broad of directors but that nominee never received any minutes and had no role? The report stated that there was a nominee on the board with no role and that "the Department did not receive the terms of reference of the sub-committees of the Board, minutes of Board meetings ... [and so on]".

There has been a high turnover of personnel. Of the 28 original people, there are only two left. In addition, a declaration that was necessary regarding co-funding was never forthcoming. Where the funding was conditional on money coming from the private sector, that was not included. The performance delivery agreement did not include that it was conditional. There are serious questions here for the Department. I say that reluctantly because I sit on the Committee of Public Accounts. I drew to the Department's attention what happened regarding the pictiúrlann in Galway where the cost escalated. The Department was to learn from that.

The Deputy raised a number of questions to answer in one minute. All European Capital of Culture designations carry with them a wide range of challenges in delivering on their broad objectives, and, in the case of Galway 2020, these challenges have been made more acute by the global pandemic.

Nonetheless, even against this challenging background, much was achieved. Some 350 Irish-based artists and other cultural professionals completed their projects and delivered commissioned original work with more than 500 events delivered online or to live audiences.

I am completely supportive of the highest levels of transparency and accountability in the use of public funds. That is why my Department continues to meet with Galway 2020 to assess outcomes as part of its ongoing monitoring role. In addition, I welcome the scrutiny that my Department's expenditure received by the Comptroller and Auditor General and note that my Department is committed to the implementation of the recommendations set out in his report.

I look forward the report of the Audience Agency, which is carrying out the evaluation under the Galway 2020 monitoring evaluation framework. This excise, which will capture feedback from a wide range of stakeholders, will inform decisions on the purpose to which the remaining legacy funding will be applied. This is my principal focus at present.

The analysis being undertaken is costing €200,000. I asked about the Department. Let us consider what the Comptroller and Auditor General said. Recommendation 7.1 states that, "The Department should put in place robust controls to ensure compliance of future grantees with relevant grant management and reporting requirements". We have a situation where the Department is a nominee on the board of directors but is unaware of anything, which begs the question: why is there a nominee at all on the board?

The second matter is the 50% of funding being conditional on private funding. It was not included in the performance delivery agreement nor could it be explained to the Comptroller and Auditor General. I am paraphrasing from the report as to why that was not done. I welcome that there was a new Secretary General and a hands-on approach regarding this but somewhere along the line, we got deflected with Covid-19 and the bad weather. I agree they have been particularly difficult but that does not take from the absence of robust controls.

With regard to the reference to 50%, in the 2014 decision by Government to exercise Ireland's right to nominate a city to be Ireland's 2020 European Capital of Culture, it was noted by Government that Exchequer funding would not exceed 50% of its overall financial costs. The €15 million in funding for the Department was subsequent included by the Government in Project Ireland 2040, the national planning framework without a provision to limit percentages in respect of overall costs.

Notwithstanding this, the impact of Covid-19 on Galway 2020 activity and funding resulted in significant anticipated funding not materialising. This included in excess of €1 million in local authority funding, partnership funding and box receipts. This directly and substantially contributed to the Department funding exceeding 50% of its overall costs.

My clear focus for Galway 2020 has been to maximise the potential for culture and creativity in Galway and the surrounding region. It would be unconscionable to withdraw support at a time projects had been years in development and were days, weeks or months from delivery. I am aware that the Deputy brought up other issues regarding the Comptroller and Auditor General's report. The time has run out but I am quite happy to follow up in writing with the officials.

Deputy Acting Chairman

I thank the Minister. I do not see Deputy Colm Burke so I propose to move to Question No. 7, which will be put by Deputy Devlin.

Question No. 6 replied to Written Answers.

Arts Policy

Niamh Smyth

Question:

7. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media the plans in place or proposed to encourage diversity within the arts; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [47924/21]

I will ask this question on behalf of my colleague, Deputy Niamh Smyth. What plans exist to encourage diversity within the arts? I believe it is fair to say that all of us in this Chamber have missed the arts over the past 18 months. The artists were creative in every way they could be to try to engage with the public, however, be it virtually or otherwise. I commend the support of the Department but I would like to hear the Minister's plans.

The published statement of strategy for 2021 to 2023 for my Department sets out the priorities for this Department over the next few years to ensure all sectors recover and grow in a manner that underpins social cohesion and supports strong, sustainable economic growth with a focus on a number of cross-cutting goals of equality, diversity, social inclusion, the Irish language and environmental sustainability. One of the cross-cutting goals of the strategy is to support and promote diversity, social, inclusion and full and effective female participation across my Department’s sectors and society in line with programme for Government commitments.

Access to participation in arts and culture is one of the cornerstones of the national framework cultural policy. Culture 2025 underpins the right of everyone to participate in the cultural and creative life of the nation. My Department works with the Council of the National Cultural Institutions to encourage the development of universal audience access, including access for new communities, people with disabilities, the Traveller community and the LGBT+ communities.

The Arts Council of Ireland is the Government agency with responsibility for the arts and artists. Under the Arts Act 2003, the council provides primary responsibility for the promotion and support of the arts throughout the country. The council’s equality, human rights and diversity, EHRD, policy and strategy is designed to build on a range of existing Arts Council work areas. The council is committed to promoting and enhancing inclusion, diversity and equality.

It funds key arts organisations that have a central role in supporting these areas of work. These awards and schemes operated by the council are informed by the Arts Council‘s EHRD policy and strategy and the paying the artist policy. Diversity is a core organisational value in the Arts Council’s ten-year strategy. The council encourages board membership with knowledge of matters relating to diversity, equality and inclusion.

Screen Ireland is also committed to developing policies in these areas and plans to publish its diversity and inclusion strategy in 2022. My Department is working to achieve better gender balance and more diversity across membership of all the boards of the national cultural institutions and agencies under its remit.

I agree that diversity is very important. For too many communities, the arts are on the periphery rather than a core part of those communities. Diversity and inclusion should be the core values for how we view and support our arts. Diversity is important across arts practice in how artists make work and how people experience it. Importantly, support for cultural diversity within the arts sector will allow us to build and reflect an inclusive and diverse society. We need to open our cultural life to all communities and remove the barriers in place to ensure equal and active contribution, participation and enjoyment of the arts and culture for everybody.

I welcome the commitment in the programme for Government to support, through a consultative process, community groups, arts groups, cultural bodies, sports clubs, voluntary organisations and charities to recover and enhance their impact after Covid-19. We need make sure that the diverse voices are heard, welcomed and integrated into the arts community as part of this process. I welcome what the Minister said with regard to the Arts Council of Ireland and Screen Ireland.

I have two questions for her, however. What are the specific measures and plans to encourage diversity within the arts, particularly for people with disabilities or older people? RTÉ recently broadcast a segment on the Lough Ree Access For All boat, with which I am sure the Minister is familiar. Does she agree that more innovative programmes are needed to open access to the arts? What plans and measures are in place to ensure the voices of those impacted are heard as part of the consultative process?

My Department is developing a number of policies to support diversity and full and effective female presentation and engagement. I would point the Deputy to the Creative Ireland programme. There have been a number of initiatives that encourage diversity within the arts, for example, to facilitate the integration of migrant populations.

Songs from Direct Provision in south County Dublin; Song Seeking initiatives in Limerick; a film project called "Under Surveillance" in County Wicklow and a children's art exhibition in Tramore library are just some examples of projects that provide creative opportunities for people living in direct provision. The programme promotes the inclusion and participation of Travellers and Roma. For example, Cork community arts link is working collaboratively with the Travellers' visibility group on a large street art project for its premises. The project Crown - hair and identity in Traveller Culture from Mayo County Council wonderfully explores the subject of hair with Irish Traveller women as a powerful symbol of individuality and one which is intrinsically linked to identity, ethnicity, culture and gender.

I refer to the programme which supports people with disabilities, Le Chéile. The Open Youth Orchestra of Ireland is a cross-Border ensemble made up exclusively of musicians of with disabilities, including Down's Syndrome, autism and cerebral palsy. It was developed by the Royal Irish Academy of Music with Creative Ireland funding. It is the first open national youth orchestra in the world. There are quite a number of initiatives.

There are wonderful programmes at work. We have seen the arts sector respond very creatively to presenting its programmes, be it virtually or otherwise. All of those programmes are extremely well received and vital to those communities, but the Minister should also look to those communities impacted long before we even heard of Covid, communities in disadvantaged areas. I am familiar with a number of programmes which have been run on shoestrings that did not or need not apply to the Arts Council for funding. One should try to be as broad and diverse as possible, in terms of new and existing communities. It is very important everyone experiences the arts, regardless of their backgrounds or status.

I know where the Minister's heart lies on this point. I have heard her perform, when she sang. It was in a church. It was for a very worthy cause, but the church happened to be the venue. The point I wanted to make is one close to my heart. Every parish and community in Ireland has clubs, pavilions and clubhouses. Sports capital has been incredibly successful. With the exception of those we know best, such as the civic theatre in Tallaght and the theatre in Dundrum, there are no dedicated performance spaces. A great ambition for the Minister to set herself over the period of this Government would be to achieve the establishment and integration of dedicated arts performance spaces in every community. Groups have to beg, borrow and steal, using the school hall, sports hall or the classroom to perform.

It was an excellent performance by the Minister.

The Deputy is doubly blessed to have heard the Minister sing and not to have heard the Acting Cathaoirleach.

I am stuck for words, which is a first. I thank Deputy Lahart. I will not sing it now.

In response to Deputy Devlin, due to my background teaching in DEIS schools, I have asked for more DEIS schools to be included in creative schools. Another great initiative is the fighting words creative writing programme, of which the Deputy is probably aware, that works with children from disadvantaged backgrounds. Deputy Lahart is probably aware of the local authority scheme for those creative spaces launched by my Department during the summer. Front and centre is finding those places for those interested in the arts to have easy, accessible spaces to perform.

Arts Policy

Dara Calleary

Question:

8. Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media the status of the basic income guarantee pilot scheme for the arts; when the scheme will commence; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [47919/21]

Gary Gannon

Question:

49. Deputy Gary Gannon asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media the status of the pilot project for universal basic income for artists; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [47954/21]

Catherine Connolly

Question:

63. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media the status of the basic income pilot for artists; the timeline for when the details of the pilot scheme will be finalised; the number of times the oversight group tasked with examining the manner in which the pilot scheme will be delivered has met to date; the membership of the oversight group; if the oversight group has produced any interim reports to date; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [48012/21]

There is always a follow-up. There is no such thing as a free compliment, as the Minister will discover.

The Minister has somewhat covered this question in one of her previous answers. I am asking it on behalf of my colleague, Deputy Calleary, but it is a subject close to me and to many Deputies and especially my constituents in Dublin South-West. It concerns the basic income guarantee pilot scheme for arts and when it will commence. Will the Minister make a statement on that?

I propose to take Questions Nos. 8, 49 and 63 together.

I am critically aware of the devastating impact Covid-19 has had on all areas of the arts and cultural sector and have endeavoured to make sure the concerns of those in this sector have been understood and addressed. I have met with numerous representative organisations and officials in my Department have continued contact with these organisations and others on a regular basis, throughout the pandemic, to confirm I had the most up-to-date information to ensure appropriate supports were delivered for the sector. This includes stakeholder forums in August and September where I spoke directly to a wide range of stakeholders and heard their concerns.

With regard to the basic income guarantee pilot, the arts and culture recovery task force report, Life Worth Living, was published in November 2020 and made ten recommendations for the sector. These recommendations included a proposal to pilot a basic income scheme for a three-year period in the arts, culture, audio-visual and live performance and events sectors. The delivery of this pilot will be key to underpinning the recovery in the arts and culture sector and will provide much-needed certainty to the artists and creatives who choose to avail of the pilot scheme.

The Life Worth Living report describes a basic income as an unconditional State payment each citizen receives - in this instance, for the arts and cultural sector. The introduction of such a basic income pilot would create a more stable social protection mechanism to allow artists and workers to sustain themselves during the pandemic. It should keep the sector intact, minimising the loss of skills and contributing to its gradual regrowth, with ongoing social and economic, local and national benefits.

I fully agree the arts sector represents a very appropriate area for a basic income guarantee scheme for many reasons, including that it is often being characterised by low and precarious income; it includes a broad mix of employment types; and it has been chosen for basic income pilots in other jurisdictions, allowing for international comparisons to be drawn.

I was delighted that as part of the national economic recovery plan, I secured a commitment from Government to prioritise the development of a basic income guarantee pilot scheme for the arts and cultural sector.

As Minister with responsibility for arts and culture, I am conscious of the value this sector brings to all citizens, which was especially evident during the pandemic. The importance of Irish culture, Irish art and Irish productions as a whole cannot be understated in its impact both internationally and at home. The Government recognises that bold steps are necessary for our much-treasured arts, events and cultural community to come back stronger than ever before.

I established the oversight group in June to appraise the recommendations in the Life Worth Living report. Although the remit of the oversight group included the examination of all recommendations in the report, I asked they prioritise the consideration of the recommendation of a basic income guarantee pilot scheme for artists and arts workers. The oversight group is chaired by my Department and joined by representatives of the Departments of Finance; Social Protection; Housing, Local Government and Heritage; Public Expenditure and Reform; and Enterprise, Trade and Employment. The directors of the Arts Council and Screen Ireland are also members, alongside a representative of the County and City Management Association.

The oversight group has met eight times over the past four months to discuss the basic income recommendation, alongside the other nine recommendations. To assist in these discussions, the oversight group established a subcommittee to focus solely on the progression of the recommendation for the basic income pilot scheme. This subcommittee met nine times over the summer months to develop a number of options that could fulfil the requirements of a pilot scheme as set out in the Life Worth Living report. The oversight group, with the research carried out by this subcommittee, has provided me with a preliminary report on the different options for a three-year pilot scheme, which I am currently considering.

A number of organisations have given presentations to the oversight committee to inform its considerations. These include the National Campaign for the Arts; Social Justice Ireland; Praxis,the artists' union; Dr. Stephen Kinsella, economist in University Limerick; and Niamh NicGhabhann and Annmarie Ryan, who have done research in the area of artist basic income. In addition, Equity, the actors' union is due to present to the group next week.

The objectives of the pilot scheme will include: minimising the ongoing loss of skills in the arts sector with regard both to artists and arts workers; contributing to the sector's post-pandemic recovery with ongoing social, economic, local and national benefits; and enabling artists to focus on their practice without having to enter into employment in other sectors to sustain themselves.

It is particularly important for this pilot scheme to also address the well-being of those in the arts and cultural sector, and to stimulate the arts sector’s recovery post-pandemic. I will be providing further detail on how this pilot scheme will operate in the near future as part of the discussions around budget 2022. Significant stakeholder engagement will take place in the coming weeks between my Department and those in the sector to ensure this pilot meets the needs of the sector alongside the objectives agreed by the oversight group. I envision that this pilot should launch in early 2022 and I believe it will bring new life and support to the arts and cultural sector, after the difficult circumstances it has endured over the last year and a half.

As far as I am concerned, the Minister has left few questions to be asked. The fact that a number of us submitted questions gave her ample time to give us that answer. I am taken with the Minister's response. I completely trust her on this issue. She has touched on every possible point there, from stakeholder involvement, to various different models of pay that might be considered, to the need that she recognises for a universal basic income. This is what motivated Deputy Calleary to ask the question. The Minister has demonstrated a sensitivity and an empathy in her answer. Anybody who seeks to be able to take advantage of a universal basic income, UBI, when it emerges, can know that it is in safe, capable and, as I said, empathic hands. The Minister clearly wants to deliver this.

The Minister mentioned 2022. When might we see an artist, or anybody involved in this walk of life, being able to draw down such a basic income?

Similarly, I am taken with the Minister’s response. I appreciate the work she has done in this area. This would be an extraordinarily welcome development. A basic income scheme for our artists will allow them to be just that - artists. They will be able to be creative. The basic income will be an investment into the work they will produce, and all that will bring with it.

The Minister mentioned early 2022. Should we assume that the date will be in January? I would be interested to know the types of figures we are talking about and what artist would be paid by way of the basic payment. I appreciate the work the Minister has done to bring it to this point. It is a Rubicon that we will cross in terms of appreciating our artists. t will be a legacy that will long surpass the Government and I congratulate the Minister.

I, too, appreciate the Minister’s comprehensive answer and that she acknowledged that the arts sector represents an appropriate area for a basic income guarantee, because of the precariousness of the employment, that it includes a broad range of employment types and that the basic income has been successful in Finland, Germany, Canada, and France.

The Minister has answered some of my questions, such as how many meetings have been held, and so on. However, I am troubled about what was published. The Pathways to Work Strategy 2021-2025 was published in July 2021. It proposes a working age payment and a basic income guarantee in the arts sector, which is good. However, as proposed, it is along the lines of the working family payment, which is means tested and is not universal. Could the Minister tell me what contact she has had with the Department of Social Protection? I know the Department is on the oversight board. However, the Minister and the Department seem to be going down two different paths, but maybe I am wrong. Could the Minister clarify that?

I believe that with this pilot and this commitment and by delivering the number one recommendation, we as a country have an opportunity to lead. In earlier questions I mentioned how we really value and the arts. I see this opportunity, so I am grabbing it. That is why we had so many meetings over the summer. The pilot scheme we are working on relates to the commitment in the National Economic Recovery Plan 2021. That is what I am committed to. There may have been confusion in the wording in the Pathways to Work Strategy 2021-2025. As the Deputy said, the Department of Social Protection is on the oversight group. I am working on what was sought in its task force report last year.

On the timeframe, I said early 2022. If I could have done it yesterday, I would have done it, but it will take time. I am aiming for 1 January 2022, but I do not know if it will be that date. However, it will be as early as possible. I am committed to that. As soon as it can be done, we will do it. We are doing something different and unprecedented, so I want to make sure that we do it properly.

The thought that comes to mind is that Fianna Fáil has a proud tradition in this area, of which the Minister will be aware. Charles Haughey was remembered for the tax exemptions for artists. These kinds of measures do not even happen once in a generation. These kinds of measures skip generations from time to time. The Minister now has a heavy burden on her shoulders. I do not think that we are bigging this up. We have a sense of what we hope that she will be able to deliver. The Minister will be making an impact and a statement, in particular about how Ireland views its artists. Artists can be a vulnerable community of people, whether they are writers, painters or musicians. It can be a vulnerable craft. Artists were particularly vulnerable during Covid-19. I wish the Minister well in this regard. I hope that she keeps the House updated. We look forward to the matter coming to a conclusion.

Again, I acknowledge the Minister’s work and commitment to this issue. In addition to being the Social Democrats' spokesperson on the arts, I am also its spokesperson on social protection. I do not necessarily share the Minister's the same level of regard for the way that Department has operated. The scheme will be innovative and new. I hope it will be operated on the basis of trust. I hope we give the payment to the artist without subjecting them to the type of scrutiny that, for example, one-parent families currently receive from the Department of Social Protection. Let us make this initiative one that demonstrates trust in our systems, by paying our artists. For me, that would be the most important thing about how the initiative will operate.

I do not think I heard the date in January that the scheme would begin. Maybe I missed that. I am going back again to my earlier question. I am concerned, but I am not confused. I do not know where the confusion is, but there is confusion. The Pathways to Work Strategy 2021-2025, which was published in July 2021, proposed a pilot with a working age-based payment, or basic income guarantee in the arts sector, which would be modelled on the working family payment, WFP. The Minister mentioned that Social Justice Ireland, among other organisations, made a presentation to her. Social Justice Ireland points out that the working family payment model has utterly failed to reach its objectives. The WFP is also limited in time. While I am delighted with the answer the Minister has given, I am a little concerned by the confusion within Government and, certainly, within the Department of Social Protection. Can the Minister confirm that she will not use the WFP model and that the Department of Social Protection is exploring that model in parallel? Is that right, or is it not right? I am quoting verbatim from the strategy.

I can confirm that I am looking at the recommendation in the task force report from last year. The oversight group presented a number of options to me. I will make my decision based on the option that I think is best for the arts sector. I cannot give any more detail than that. The Deputy will appreciate that this information is sensitive. It is also part of the budget negotiations. With the greatest of respect, I ask the Deputy to give me some time. It is at a crucial stage.

On the Deputy's question on the date, I did not give a specific date, because I cannot give one. All I can say is that the desire is there for it to be as early as possible in the new year. However, I must have everything over the line with the budget negotiations. I need to consult with the sector to make sure that it is happy with the decision I take on the options the oversight group has presented to me. To me, engagement is key here. It is how I operate as a Minister. Therefore, I will not just decide, but I will go back to the sector to engage with it.

Gaeltacht Policy

Catherine Connolly

Question:

9. D'fhiafraigh Deputy Catherine Connolly den Aire Turasóireachta, Cultúir, Ealaíon, Gaeltachta, Spóirt agus Meán soiléiriú a thabhairt i dtaobh an phacáiste tacaíochta atá beartaithe chun cabhair a thabhairt do na coláistí samhraidh i mbliana; agus an ndéanfaidh sí ráiteas ina thaobh. [47902/21]

Glaoim ar an Teachta Uí Chonghaile. Tá tú gnóthach anocht. Tá an chéad cheist eile, ceist Uimh. 9, i d'ainm freisin.

Is í seo ceist maidir leis na coláistí samhraidh. Is dócha gur thug an tAire Stáit freagra roimhe seo. Bheinn buíoch dá bhféadfadh sé é a rá arís, mar níl soiléiriú agam. Níl a fhios agam cén fáth go bhfuil moill ann ó thaobh na gcoláistí samhraidh de agus mar sin tá soiléiriú ag teastáil uaim.

Mar aitheantas ar thábhacht chóras na gcoláistí Gaeilge, cuireann mo Roinn cistíocht ar fiú os cionn €4 milliún ar fáil go bliantúil de ghnáth mar thaca praiticiúil don earnáil. De thoradh an chúnaimh seo, déantar fóirdheonú ar an gcostas a bhaineann le freastal ar chúrsa Gaeilge sa Ghaeltacht - beart a bhaineann os cionn 26,000 scoláire leas as go bliantúil.

Is le os cionn tuairim is 700 teaghlach Gaeltachta atá cáilithe faoi réir scéim na bhfoghlaimeoirí Gaeilge na Roinne a íoctar an cúnamh sin faoi scáth na scéime go príomha. Lena chois sin, cuirtear cúnamh reatha ar fáil don scáthghrúpa CONCOS le go mbeidh sé in ann gníomhú mar is cuí thar ceann mhóramh na gcoláistí. Ina theannta sin, cuirtear cúnamh faoi leith ar fáil ar leas foriomlán na hearnála mar a bhaineann sé le dhá bheart faoi leith: DEIS Gaeltachta agus ERASMUS Gaeltachta.

De thoradh Covid-19, beidh a fhios ag an Teachta gur cuireadh ciste cobhsaithe faoi leith ar bun in 2021 ar leas lucht lóistín agus lucht stiúrtha na gcoláistí araon. Dearadh an ciste sin go cúramach, ag cur san áireamh oiread agus ab fhéidir na tosca faoi leith mar a bhí an tráth sin. Maidir le gnóthaí na bliana seo, mar is eol don Teachta, d’fhógair mé cheana pacáiste maoinithe méadaithe ar fiú €2.2 milliún é do lucht lóistín an chórais mar aitheantas ar an mbealach tábhachtach a chuireann siad leis an earnáil. Tá tuairim is 700 teaghlach atá aitheanta faoi scéim na Roinne tar éis leas a bhaint as an gciste méadaithe faoi leith sin. Ina theannta sin, d’fhógair mé ciste faoi leith le gairid ar fiú thart ar €240,000 do na hallaí pobail a úsáideann na coláistí samhraidh de ghnáth. Is maoiniú tábhachtach breise é seo mar aitheantas ar an obair fhónta a dhéanann lucht na hallaí go deonach den chuid is mó agus an tábhacht atá leo.

Maidir leis na coláistí féin, tá go leor oibre déanta ag feidhmeannaigh mo Roinne le roinnt míonna anuas i gcomhar le scáthghrúpa na gcoláistí, CONCOS, agus leis na coláistí féin ar mhaithe le cur chuige a fhorbairt agus a fheidhmiú chun cabhrú tuilleadh leis an earnáil. Mar chuid de chur chun feidhme an tríú beart seo, ar leas foriomlán na hearnála, tá bailchríoch á cur faoi láthair ar an obair ullmhúcháin ina leith. Chuimsigh an obair sin ceistneoir faoi leith a seoladh chuig gach coláiste mar aidhm aige léargas níos fearr a fháil ar staid reatha gach coláiste agus foirmle réitigh cuí a dhearadh a thabharfadh aghaidh oiread is féidir ar thacú tuilleadh leis na coláistí iad féin. Tá sé i gceist agam toradh an phróisis seo a fhógairt gan rómhoill.

Gabhaim buíochas leis an Aire Stáit as an dá leathanach eolais agus tugaim faoi deara go mbaineann an chuid is lú díobh leis na coláistí samhraidh. Dúirt an tAire Stáit go bhfuil go leor oibre déanta agus go bhfuil go leor oibre le déanamh, agus go bhfuil ceistneoir i gceist. Ní thuigim an mhoill leis seo. Tá an tuarascáil ón gcomhchoiste Gaeilge againn, agus mar is eol don Aire Stáit, is ball den choiste mé mar aon leis an gCathaoirleach Gníomhach, an Teachta Ó Cathasaigh. Tá 23 moladh ann agus ní raibh aon easaontas ó thaobh na moltaí sin. Nuair a scríobh Cathaoirleach an choiste an réamhrá, chuir sé béim ar mholadh uimhir a trí maidir le tacaíocht phráinneach atá ag teastáil ó na coláistí samhraidh. Cuireann an tuarascáil seo in iúl dúinn chomh tábhachtach is atá siad do na Gaeltachtaí uilig agus do na daltaí, agus - mar atá scríofa sna moltaí - gur gá iad a leathnú amach do dhaoine eile. Sa chomhthéacs sin agus i gcomhthéacs na paindéime, an féidir leis an Aire Stáit a rá go simplí cén fáth go bhfuil an mhoill seo ann?

Is obair í idir an Roinn agus CONCOS chun an próiseas seo a chríochnú. Beidh sé críochnaithe chomh luath agus is féidir. Mar atá ráite agam cheana, bíonn teagmháil rialta ag mo Roinn le hionadaithe na gcoláistí agus go háirithe le scátheagraíochtaí. Go deimhin, is fiú a thabhairt faoi deara go gcuireann mo Roinn deontas reáchtála ar fáil do CONCOS gach bliain, mar is eol don Teachta, ar mhaithe le cabhrú tuilleadh le hearnáil na gcoláistí samhraidh. Tuigim go maith na deacrachtaí atá ag cuid de na coláistí i mbliana de bharr nach bhféadfadh cúrsaí samhraidh dul ar aghaidh don dara bliain as a chéile. Tá go leor oibre déanta ag feidhmeannaigh mo Roinne le roinnt míonna anuas i gcomhar leis na coláistí ar mhaithe le scéim chuí a fhorbairt chun earnáil na gcoláistí samhraidh a chobhsú.

Mar a thuigfidh an Teachta, tá an cheist níos casta i mbliana de bharr ioncam a bheith ag cuid de na coláistí ó fhoinsí eile nach raibh ar fáil dóibh anuraidh. Mar shampla, fuair roinnt coláistí ioncam ó chúrsaí ar líne dírithe ar ábhar oidí. Chomh maith leis sin, ar ndóigh, bhí cuid de na coláistí ag tarraingt ar scéimeanna eile de chuid an Stáit a bunaíodh de bharr na paindéime. Dá réir sin, b’éigean don Roinn é sin a chur san áireamh.

Mar chuid den taighde a tugadh faoi le tamall anuas, chuir an Roinn ceistneoir faoin ábhar chuig gach coláiste atá bainteach leis an gcóras. Tá an obair thaighde agus anailís beagnach críochnaithe agus tá súil agam an tríú beart a fhógairt go foirmiúil gan rómhoill eile ar mhaithe le leas foriomlán an chórais agus ceantar na Gaeltachta.

Maith dom é má tá mé soiniciúil maidir leis an bhfreagra go bhfuil go leor déanta agus go leor le déanamh fós. Cathain a bheidh an obair seo críochnaithe? Cén dáta atá i gceist? Tá sé sin tuillte agam mar Theachta Dála. I bhfianaise thábhacht na gcoláistí samhraidh don cheantar uilig agus don Ghaeilge agus an ghéarchéim atá ann ó thaobh na Gaeilge de, tá gá le dáta ann. B’fhéidir go bhfuil sé casta; níl a fhios agam cén fáth go bhfuil sé. D’éirigh leis an Roinn pacáiste a chur ar fáil an bhliain seo caite. Táimid sa dara bliain agus bheinn den tuairim go mbeadh sé níos éasca mar go bhfuil taithí ag an Roinn anois agus go bhfuil sé aitheanta go bhfuil na coláistí samhraidh thar a bheith tábhachtach. Ag an bpointe seo, an féidir leis an Aire Stáit a rá liom cén dáta a bhfuil súil aige go mbeidh an obair críochnaithe agus pacáiste cabhrach ar fáil?

Tuigim go bhfuil dúshlán ann agus is í sin an fáth go bhfuilimid i measc an phróisis seo. Mar a dúirt mé cheana, tá an próiseas beagnach críochnaithe agus is féidir leis an Teachta a bheith cinnte go leanfaidh mo Roinn ag faire amach ar na bealaí a bhféadfaí cabhrú leis an earnáil mar atá déanta ag an Roinn ó bunaíodh córas na gcoláistí Gaeilge. Tá súil agam go ndéanfar é chomh luath agus is féidir. Bíonn an Roinn agus CONCOS i dteagmháil an t-am ar fad chun an obair seo a chríochnú.

Arts Policy

Niamh Smyth

Question:

10. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media the measures that will be taken to place the arts at the centre of local communities for children; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [47923/21]

On behalf of my colleague, Deputy Niamh Smyth, I ask the Minister to outline the measures that place arts at the centre of local communities, with specific reference to children.

There are two major areas of work taking place under the remit of my Department in regard to arts in the context of the child, through the Arts Council and the Creative Ireland Programme. Children and young people participate in the arts in early learning and care settings, schools, and other education and youth work settings. These opportunities may be offered in partnership with independent and community providers. Other activities are offered outside mainstream education or youth work settings and are led by artists, specialist teachers and facilitators working in a range of organisations and community settings.

The Arts Council recognises the value of arts and cultural participation among children and young people and acknowledges their fundamental right to participate in the arts. The council supports and promotes children's and young people’s engagement with the arts from birth to early adulthood. The Arts Council considers opportunities for children to learn and develop artistic skills, and to experience the arts, as being essential to realising their rights as set out in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Through the Creative Ireland programme, my Department continues to support community-based measures to increase and expand the opportunities for children and young people to access arts and culture-based creative activities. As part of the ongoing implementation of the Creative Youth plan, a number of measures and initiatives have been developed and delivered which have enabled increased access to a wide range of creative activities, including the arts. Key in this regard has been the establishment of Cruinniú na nÓg, the annual day of free creative activities for children and young people under 18 years of age. Cruinniú na nÓg is funded by my Department and delivered by all 31 local authorities. On Saturday, 12 June last, my Department’s support enabled more than 630 events and activities to take place throughout the country. As society begins to reopen, it is important to ensure children and young people continue to have opportunities to take part in and access a range of art activities through which they can express and enjoy themselves and develop their skills. For this reason, I will continue the important work of Creative Ireland in relation to the Creative Youth plan, and I look forward to continuing engagement with the Arts Council in its strategies to ensure ongoing engagement by children with the arts.

We know the arts play a crucial role in bringing communities and people together. We need an arts strategy that reaches into every corner of the country and, indeed, society. Planning and providing for the arts within the local communities for children is a vital part of building a strong and vibrant community. Strong supports for the arts at local community centres will create a space for communities to express themselves and for talented artists to thrive.

We have seen great success with the Creative Youth programme and Cruinniú na nÓg, as referred to by the Minister. There is an explicit commitment to enable children's participation in cultural life and the arts in Ireland through initiatives such as Making Great Art Work, which is the Arts Council strategy for 2016 to 2025.

As noted by Professor Emer Smyth of the Economic and Social Research Institute, ESRI, in her review of this topic for the Arts Council, "Children and young people’s experience of the arts and culture is clearly impacted by their parents and by a range of personal circumstances", as well by decisions "made in the public realm" on their behalf. These include, "the quality of their early childhood care and education, their school experiences, and the availability and accessibility of cultural activities after school".

The Creative Youth plan to enable the creative potential of every young person was published in December 2017 as one of the five pillars of the Creative Ireland programme. One of the key measures taken to support young people's engagement at community level has been the establishment of Cruinniú na nÓg, as I mentioned earlier. It is the day when every young person in Ireland can experience something new and exciting and something to spark and nurture their creative skills. As with many other events and activities, unfortunately, the necessary public health measures meant that we had to shift much of the programme online and undertake it virtually. However, the engagement was still happening and that was the key point. It ensured that every child in Ireland had access to Cruinniú na nÓg activities and also enabled us to reach children in the Irish diaspora. It was interesting that what happened during Covid-19, therefore, was the broadening out of such activities.

Moving to creative schools, and similar to the response to a previous question asked by the Deputy, over the last year and a half I have sought to ensure that initiatives such as the Creative Schools programme place a particular focus on supporting young people at risk of marginalisation. To that end, I provided resources last year to enable the Arts Council to increase capacity within creative schools with additional places, 10% of the total, all of which were targeted at DEIS schools. I will be making an announcement tomorrow with my colleague, the Minister for Education, Deputy Foley, about new schools entering the Creative Schools programme from May 2023. There is a policy, therefore, of providing more access at all times to the arts for more children.

I thank the Minister. I am glad that we had this engagement because that is welcome news. It ties in nicely with what we were talking about previously. The programme for Government outlines a vision for Ireland where people of all ages and the arts and culture thrive. We must ensure that children are given every opportunity to express themselves, to take part in the activities of their communities and to reach their full potential. I note what the Minister said about Cruinniú na nÓg and the 630 events in that context. I commend the local authorities for their engagement with this programme and its roll-out. The promotion of the programme was excellent, given everything that was going on then.

I have two other questions on this topic. What are the Minister's plans to ensure that all parts of our communities have access to artistic facilities in their local areas, and for our children in particular? How can we ensure that the voices of children are best heard and that their needs are best met as part of the delivery of arts services in their local communities?

The local authorities have an extensive track record of community engagement through the arts, culture, heritage and library services. The Deputy is aware of this aspect as we both served on Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council. These services are fundamental to developing a stronger society. Through the Creative Ireland programme and in partnership with the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage, my Department has supported each of the 31 local authorities to develop and implement individual cultural and creative strategies. These strategies are designed to engage local communities.

Within the 31 local authorities, priorities around programmes for children and young people exist in more than 75% of their culture and creative strategies. Good progress is being made in that direction, therefore. I also point the Deputy in the direction of the pilot local Creative Youth partnerships that have been established in conjunction with six education and training boards. Those seek to develop closer local networking and to provide more opportunities for young people to engage with creative activities outside of school and especially those who are most disadvantaged. The Creative Ireland national music education programme, Music Generation, is expanding to the remaining areas where music education partnerships have not yet been established. This amounts to nine new partnerships being established. Five have already been set up in Kerry, Kildare, Meath, Longford and Tipperary and one is being established in Fingal in 2021.

Question No. 11 replied to with Written Answers.

Údarás na Gaeltachta

Catherine Connolly

Question:

12. D'fhiafraigh Deputy Catherine Connolly den Aire Turasóireachta, Cultúir, Ealaíon, Gaeltachta, Spóirt agus Meán cén teagmháil a bhí agus atá aici le hÚdarás na Gaeltachta maidir leis an mhonatóireacht atá á dhéanamh ag an Údarás ó thaobh an Ghaeilge a chur chun cinn sna monarchana a thagann faoi chúram an Údaráis; agus an ndéanfaidh sí ráiteas ina thaobh. [47903/21]

Baineann mo cheist le hÚdarás na Gaeltachta agus leis an gcóras monatóireachta atá aige ó thaobh na Gaeilge de maidir lena comhlachtaí a thagann faoi chúram an údaráis. An bhfuil an córas monatóireachta cuí don fheidhm; is é sin chun a chinntiú go bhfuil an Ghaeilge i lár an aonaigh sna monarchana uilig?

Is é cuspóir forbartha agus fostaíochta Údarás na Gaeltachta ná postanna poist a chruthú do phobal na Gaeltachta ar mhaithe le pobal inmharthana Gaeilge a chothú sa Ghaeltacht. Oibríonn an t-údarás lena chliantchuideachtaí ar bhonn leanúnach le cinntiú go bhfuil a dtionchar ar an nGaeltacht dearfach ar go leor bealaí mar a bhaineann sé le fostaíocht, úsáid na Gaeilge, seirbhísí agus infreastruchúr pobail ach go háirithe.

Agus pacáiste tacaíochta á phlé agus á cheadú ag an údarás do chliantchuideachta, déantar plean teanga a aontú leis an chliantchuideachta. Déantar bearta sonracha a aontú mar chuid dá bplean teanga i réimsí faoi leith lena n-áirítear gnéithe a bhaineann le: an chumarsáid scríofa, mar shampla ar chomharthaíocht, i bhfógraí agus in ábhar poiblíochta agus bolscaireachta; an chumarsáid labhartha; polasaithe earcaíochta agus oiliúna na cuideachta; agus aitheantas a thabhairt don Ghaeilge sa ghnó agus sa phobal ina bhfuil sé lonnaithe. Aontaíodh pleananna teanga agus rinneadh athbhreithniú ar phleananna teanga i mbeagnach 60 cliantchuideachta le linn 2020. Anuas air sin, fuair 199 gnó tacaíocht faoin scéim trádáil ar líne agus d’éirigh leis an údarás dul i bhfeidhm ar na gnóthaí sin maidir le breis Gaeilge a úsáid ar a gcuid uirlísí ar-líne.

Cuireann an t-údarás na tacaíocht deontais ar fáil do chliaintchuideachtaí nuair atáthar sásta leis an dul chun cinn atá á dhéanamh ar an bplean teanga. Sa chás go mbíonn dúshláin ag cliaintchuideachtaí an plean teanga a chuir i bhfeidhm, oibríonn feidhmeannaigh an údaráis go dlúth leo chun tacú leo na gníomhaíochtaí a bhíonn aontaithe a chomhlíonadh. Ní phróiseáiltear éilimh ar íocaíochta mura bhfuil an plean teanga atá aontaithe comhlíonta chun sástacht an údaráis. Tá córais rialaithe inmheánacha i bhfeidhm ag an údarás a chinntíonn an méid sin. Tuigtear dom go bhfuil athbhreithniú idir lámha ag an údarás ar na córais agus an cur chuige atá in áit aige faoi láthair le taca le cur chun cinn na Gaeilge sna cliantchuideachtaí agus ar na bealaí a dhéantar an t-ábhar a bhaineann leis a riar.

Maíodh san abairt deireanach ansin "go bhfuil athbhreithniú idir lámha ag an údarás ar na córais". Fáiltím roimh sin. Cén uair a bheas an t-athbhreithniú sin críochnaithe? Bhain mo cheist le hÚdarás na Gaeltachta agus bhain sí go shonrach leis an dteagmháil a bhí ag an Aire Stáit leis. An bhfuil an t-údarás sásta, nó níos tábhachtaí fós, an bhfuil an tAire Stáit sásta go bhfuil an córas monatóireachta cuí don fheidhm? Mar is eol don Aire Stáit, tá trionóid de fhreagrachtaí ag Údarás na Gaeltachta. Is iad sin fostaíocht, an pobal agus an teanga. Tá a fhios agam go bhfuil obair na gcapall déanta aige, ach go háirithe i bhfianaise na ciorruithe leis na blianta fada ach tá mé ag díriú isteach ar an teanga mar tá sí tábhachtách agus tá sí mar chuid lárnach den trionóid atá aige. Tá athbhreithniú i gceist; cén fath agus cén uair a bheidh sé críochnaithe?

Beidh mé i dteagmháil leis an Teachta maidir leis an dáta a bheidh an t-athbhreithniú seo críochnaithe. Mar is eol don Teachta, tá sé mar chuspóir ag Údarás na Gaeltachta pobal inmharthana Gaeilge a chothú sa Ghaeltacht. Déanann an t-údarás an cuspóir seo a bhaint amach trí fhorbairt fiontraíochta agus tionscnaimh fostaíochta a chothú agus a mhaoiniú chomh maith le tacaíocht a thabhairt d'imeachtaí pobal, cultúrtha agus teangabhunaithe. Tá an cheist seo maidir le húsáid na Gaeilge sna cliantchomhlachtaí ardaithe cúpla uair le bliain anuas agus tá sé curtha in iúl ag an údarás go mbíonn teagmháil rialta ag roinnt oifigigh teanga leis na cliantchomhlachtaí agus leis na feidhmeannaigh fiontraíochta a bhíonn ag plé leo agus n-éiríonn go maith leo dul i bhfeidhm orthu ó thaobh na Gaeilge de.

Táim ag súil leis go dtiocfaidh an tAire Stáit ar ais chugam.

Questions Nos. 13 to 23 replied to with Written Answers.

Culture Policy

Thomas Gould

Question:

24. Deputy Thomas Gould asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media the plans for alcohol-free events in the night-time economy proposals. [47898/21]

I wish to ask the Minister what plans are in place for alcohol-free events in the proposals for the night-time economy.

The report of the night-time economy task force was launched in recent days. I and the Minister of State, Deputy Naughton, emphasised that it was not all about alcohol. I thought that was key to it. There were offerings regarding cultural institutions and spaces for events to happen without alcohol. It is a key element of the approach that we do not associate the night-time economy solely with alcohol. There was a lot of engagement with the HSE in the preparation of the report. Multiple events can be considered in the context of the night-time economy task force.

As the Sinn Féin spokesperson for addiction recovery and well-being, I have met with various groups and organisations. The importance of having an alternative to alcohol has been raised, especially for people in recovery. I am the chairman of St. Vincent's Hurling and Football Club in Cork. We partnered with a recovery group and gave it the use of our all-weather facilities for the month of September as part of National Recovery Month. The group got a coffee van and we had a group meeting with various people in recovery.

As the Minister indicates, there is a culture in Ireland whereby if you are out late at night, it all revolves around socialising with alcohol. We need to do a lot of work as a society to change the culture. That is something on which I want to work with the Minister to see what events and spaces we can provide. It is very important we work with local authorities because there are many people who are in recovery as well as many others who do not drink alcohol. It would be a positive step if we could organise more events for them.

A key part of the report, as emphasised at the launch, was to place a value on electronic music and the club culture as part of the arts and culture sector, which has never been done before. There is also ample opportunity to ensure cultural activities do not stop when it gets dark. That does not mean all cultural activities must involve alcohol. We will be looking to have family-friendly activities. I would like to be in a position to take my children to events at 10 p.m., 11 p.m. and 12 midnight, if they want to engage in them. I see huge potential in this regard.

As Deputy Gould says, we must engage with the HSE and addiction services. That engagement has been happening and will be ongoing. As the Minister of State, Deputy Naughton, and I said at the time, there is potential in this area. I do not think the focus for the night-time economy should be on alcohol, as that would be unnecessarily negative. This is a positive development in the extension of the night-time culture and all that it offers to everyone.

I agree with the Minister. There are initiatives we can work on. The night-time economy can be positive and we can build on it. Coupled with that, we can have alcohol-free events and change the culture. Like the Minister, I have two daughters aged 12 and 15. Sometimes, pre-Covid we went to concerts, but virtually everything we attended at night involved alcohol. Irish society is now more nuanced and we are starting to change. One of the results of Covid is that people are looking at different ways to live their lives and interact. That is why it is so important the night-time economy is not just captured by alcohol. We want to see a broad range of events that everyone can attend. I hope we can work together on this.

I see massive potential for a broad range of events for everyone, as the night-time economy belongs to all people. I am open to suggestions. There is potential for consultation with the cultural advisers that are mentioned in the report on the events to which Deputy Gould refers. As it is, great work is being done by the cultural institutions and theatres. As outlined in the report, there will be pilot events in cultural institutions late at night and some family-focused events.

Written Answers are published on the Oireachtas website.