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Dáil Éireann debate -
Tuesday, 5 Oct 2021

Vol. 1012 No. 1

Ceisteanna Eile - Other Questions

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.

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.

Coláistí Samhraidh

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.
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