Ceisteanna ar Sonraíodh Uain Dóibh - Priority Questions

Covid-19 Pandemic

Imelda Munster


104. Deputy Imelda Munster asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media the position regarding and her views on the reopening guidelines for nightlife and entertainment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [54840/21]

I am asking the Minister her position and views on the reopening guidelines for nightlife and entertainment and if she will make a statement on the matter.

In its decision of 19 October 2021, the Government agreed that the remaining aspects of the hospitality, entertainment and night-time economy sector could reopen with a full range of protective measures in place and the wide and robust implementation of the Covid-19 pass. My officials and I have been engaging with the various sectors to address some of the challenges faced throughout the past 20 months in the run-up to the Government's decision and also following that decision. This extensive stakeholder engagement has resulted in the production of an updated set of guidelines for nightlife and entertainment to provide for the safe operation of the sector, as Covid-19 is still circulating in our communities. The guidance contains a range of advice, including on ventilation, hygiene, management structures, face coverings and so forth.

In light of the epidemiological situation that has emerged over the last number of weeks, it is imperative that we carefully manage reopening. The Government's aim has been to allow as many businesses as possible to reopen in the safest possible way. This is why we need regulations and robust guidance to assist businesses to reopen safely and, importantly, to stay open. Central to these guidelines is a commitment to adhering to best practice in infection prevention control measures which are necessary to protect individuals and society, as well as supporting our continued progress towards a full return to the operation of various sectors. Compliance with these measures should not be considered best practice but rather the minimum standard required to protect our communities. Individual businesses must proactively risk assess their premises to calibrate mitigation measures in a bespoke way for the business.

Covid-19 infection rates have been increasing, along with hospitalisation and ICU admissions, but thanks to the exceptional levels of engagement with the vaccination programme we were in a position to continue our careful and gradual approach to reopening. However, we must redouble our efforts to protect ourselves, our families and our communities. The night-time economy sector, which includes so many businesses, has been patient and was one of the last sectors to return. The sector has worked very constructively with my Department, the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment and other Departments in developing and implementing the relevant guidelines and regulations. This engagement is continuing with a view to safeguarding public health while ensuring we continue to move forward with reopening.

First, we all welcome the reopening of hospitality, nightlife and entertainment, but I am sure the Minister will agree that the rise in the number of cases in recent weeks has been particularly stark. We cannot blame this on any single sector but, clearly, the reopening of hospitality has had a part to play in that. We also cannot ignore that mask wearing requirements are very lax in nightclubs. People are exempt if they are dancing, but that is what one does in a nightclub. It is one thing if it is happening when everybody is fully vaccinated but some premises are not asking for Covid vaccine passes and in others, people are using passes that do not belong to them. What is the Minister going to do about non-compliance? Has she made particular recommendations regarding non-compliance to ensure we curb the spread of Covid-19 and allow the reopening to continue?

As the Deputy knows, the HSE and the Health and Safety Authority, HSA, are the relevant bodies under the indoor dining regulations which came into force on 26 July 2021. Since the reopening of the night-time economy from 22 October 2021, compliance officers from the HSE have been undertaking checks, with an initial emphasis on the nightclubs and late bars. This included 123 inspections undertaken between 8 p.m. and 1 a.m. on the initial bank holiday weekend, where overall compliance was generally found to be good. A further 50 inspections took place on the weekend of 29 to 31 October covering retail, cinema and related areas. As for the night-time economy, compliance officers from the HSE have been engaged in compliance checks in the night-time sector since 22 October and over the initial bank holiday week over 40 teams of compliance officers undertook checks focusing on the hospitality service sectors, particularly pubs, restaurants and late night venues. Nightclubs in Dublin, Cork and Galway received particular attention. In the engagement this week with the hospitality and nightclub sectors and in further engagement with the arts and culture sector, I believe leadership is being shown by the industry on this. The sectors realise the real risk. Everybody needs to be on board on this in order to keep their livelihoods safe, to keep business reopened and to protect public health.

What sanctions can non-compliant businesses in food and hospitality expect if they are not adhering? Regarding the percentage that is complying, the Economic and Social Research Institute, ESRI, revealed last week that the percentage of people not having Covid certificates checked in pubs was 37%, which is quite high, and it was 34% in restaurants. That is quite serious given the way things are going. Again, what sanctions are there for businesses in food and hospitality that are non-compliant? Also, would the Minister support the call for a helpline for members of the public who do not feel safe in an environment where they see that Covid passes are not being checked or health guidelines are not being adhered to? Would she support that not only for patrons but also for workers in those environments?

Regarding the calls for a hotline, where a person has a concern that the requirements of the regulations are not being complied with, he or she may communicate this via the HSE live helpline on 1800 700700. It should be noted that anybody doing so would have to press number 3, which is the other issues category. It might be useful to tailor the helpline to allow members of the public to report specific instances in a more targeted manner. This is something we will communicate to the Department of Health, as the HSE is under the remit of that Department. It will a subject of discussion between officials in the Department of Health, the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment and my Department.

Regarding what happens when there is non-compliance, the fines have been set out but, ultimately, there is the threat of closure. We are appealing to businesses that are not checking for certificates, because it is not fair to the other businesses and it is not fair for public health. For both reasons, to protect public health and to help the businesses that have been through such a tough time to keep their businesses open, everybody should abide by the rules.

Film Industry

Richard Boyd Barrett


105. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media her views on the recent sale of a studio (details supplied) to a large real estate corporation particularly given that the State had only recently disposed of its share of the studios and that the studios have received large amounts of public funding over many years; her further views on whether it is now time to take the studios into public ownership and investigate the circumstances of the sale; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [55228/21]

In the dead of August, a time when shady deals are often done, Ardmore Studios was sold to an American capital investment firm called Hackman Capital Partners and Square Mile Capital, an American real estate firm. This is the former national film studios set up in 1958 with State assistance. It was the National Film Studios of Ireland in the 1970s and it has now been handed over to a real estate investment firm. Is that not a form of cultural treason and privatisation that is absolutely indefensible?

I note the Deputy's question, as submitted, was to make my views known on the recent sale of a studio to a large real estate corporation, particularly given that the State had only recently disposed of its share of the studios and that the studios have received large amounts of public funding over many years and my further views on whether it is time to take the studios into public ownership.

I understand that the sale of this studio is to the world leader in studio infrastructure and as such, this development will inject further essential investment into Ireland's network of studio infrastructure. It is a positive indication of the increasing sophistication of the development of the screen sector in recent years and a vote of confidence in the future of Ireland’s audiovisual industry. The inward investment will assist in establishing Ireland as a primary location for strategic investment in film and TV drama. I understand that the studio will shortly see an expansion of its studio and support spaces with an additional 21,000 sq. ft. of sound stages and 21,000 sq. ft. of support space added.

This sale was conducted between two private sector entities. The grounds for any investigation into the circumstances of the sale are not immediately apparent. In any case, queries about the conduct of the sale would be a matter for the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment.

The Government’s ambition as stated in the audiovisual action plan is to establish Ireland as a global hub for the production of film, TV drama and animation. Ireland competes internationally to attract inward productions that brings valuable investment to Ireland and this company with its global reach will assist the growth of our audiovisual industry. This development will underpin that ambition.

With the growth in streaming services, the demand for high-end TV series is almost limitless. The audiovisual industry is transforming at an exponential rate and I would not favour taking studio infrastructure into State ownership. The circumstances of the sale is a private matter for the studio’s commercial owners.

The studio is and was, before its sale, in full commercial ownership and the State has no stake in ownership. It did not receive public funding in the past decade. From an EU perspective, studios are subject to state-aid rules and any state intervention would require EU approval, which would not ordinarily be forthcoming.

The Government recognises the very significant success of our audiovisual industry in recent years. This success has been underpinned by the Government’s investment in Screen Ireland, the agency responsible for the development of the screen industry.

The studio provides world-class production facilities for both indigenous and incoming productions alike. This sale has the potential to bring new investment which will allow ongoing expansion and secure the future of this iconic studio.

That is quite an extraordinary response from the Minister. In the beginning it was referred to as "a studio". This studio was set up with the assistance of Seán Lemass in 1958. It then became the National Film Studios of Ireland in the 1970s. It was where "My Left Foot" and "The Spy Who Came in from the Cold" were filmed. I could go through the list of classic films. This is part of Irish cultural heritage and history. I should also mention Troy Studios. Is the Minister joking in suggesting that public money did not go into it? I believe that Troy got €9 million or €10 million from Limerick County Council, which extraordinarily ends up in private ownership.

Section 481 tax relief to film producers has probably come to €2 billion to €3 billion in recent years with about a €250 million in Screen Ireland grants and the State owns nothing. IDA Ireland sold off its share for an undisclosed price in 2018 and then it was flipped to an American company in a deal rumoured to be worth about €80 million to €90 million. Somebody has made a lot of money here and we used to own this studio.

Film studios are privately owned commercial entities, of which there are a number in Ireland with several new studios in various stages of development and planning. There is no rationale for public intervention in the provision of film studios as the private sector is doing so effectively. There is no evidence that the public sector would be more successful than the private sector in running a film studio. Taking one film studio into public ownership would be seen as anti-competitive by other film studio owners.

Public funding of film studios is a state-aid matter and the agreement of the European Commission is not likely to be forthcoming if we were to attempt to take this studio into public ownership. There is a well-known case, involving Ciudad de la Luz film studio in Alicante in Spain. In 2012 the European Commission ruled that public subsidies of €260 million had to be repaid to the regional government as the subsidies violated European competition law and the studio closed as a result.

What the EU says is countries are supposed to create with state aid to the film industry a permanent pool of skills and labour. Virtually nobody has a job in the Irish film industry. They go from film to film, as the producers keep saying. In cases before the Workplace Relations Commission, WRC, at the moment, film producers have come in and said to people who worked on those film productions funded by public money, "You are not my employee and you never were." That is what is going on.

Every film production is funded with section 481 tax relief and with grants from Screen Ireland. The people are paying - this is the people's money - but the money ends up in the hands of a small number of film producers. IDA Ireland sold off the bit of film infrastructure that it had. It had a one third share in it. We put money into it and into Troy Studios, which now end up in the hands of an American real estate firm. It is cultural treason and it is shocking. The EU requires us to build up companies of scale for state aid and a permanent pool of workers. We have neither but we pumped out billions of euro and got nothing for it.

I can tell the Deputy what the new investor will bring. As a long-term substantial investor in Ireland's creative sector, it has pledged to support job-train initiatives to ensure that the local workforce grows to meet the increasing demands of domestic and international content producers. It has already pledged a substantial financial commitment towards such job programmes and is looking to partner with stakeholders including Screen Skills Ireland. Its global change endowment has committed more than €10 million to date and focuses primarily on screen-sector employment opportunities for disadvantaged and under-represented communities whether dealing with gender diversity or regionalisation. In the press release announcing the sale, Joe Devine, the chairman of both Troy and Ardmore studios, said on behalf of the shareholders in both Troy and Ardmore that when they were approached, they realised that this investment could really transform-----

It will transform their lives with a lot of cash. It will put big money in their pockets.

-----the outlook, not just for the two studios but for the wider industry in Ireland. It will help the development of this indigenous industry.

Seirbhísí trí Ghaeilge

Aengus Ó Snodaigh


106. D'fhiafraigh Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh den Aire Turasóireachta, Cultúir, Ealaíon, Gaeltachta, Spóirt agus Meán an bhfuil sí ar an eolas faoin easpa teiripeoirí urlabhra le Gaeilge a bhféadfadh measúnú a dhéanamh ar Ghaeilgeoirí óga sa Ghaeltacht; gur i mBéarla amháin atá seirbhísí ríthábhachtacha ar nós Childline agus iad á maoiniú ag an Stát agus ar sheirbhísí iad nach féidir freastal ar Ghaeilgeoirí óga sa Ghaeltacht nó lasmuigh di, go háirithe iad siúd gan mórán Béarla acu; faoin easpa deiseanna do Ghaeilgeoirí leanúint ar aghaidh leis an oideachas lán-Ghaeilge tar éis na bunscoile toisc easpa Gaelcholáistí agus spásanna iontu a bheith in easnamh; an bhfuil cás na Gaeltachta agus na Gaeilge pléite aici go fóill leis na hAirí eile atá freagrach as na seirbhísí sin; agus mura bhfuil, an bhfuil sí sásta, mar Aire atá freagrach as an nGaeltacht agus as cur chun cinn na teanga náisiúnta, bualadh leo nó scríobh chuig na hAirí eile chun a chur ina luí orthu an drochthionchar atá ag an gcur chuige sin ar chearta agus ar dhea-bhail phobail labhartha na Gaeilge agus ar dhaoine óga sa Ghaeltacht atá faoi bhrú iompú ar an mBéarla chun bunseirbhísí a fháil. [55414/21]

Tá an cheist seo dírithe ar an bhfadhb atá ann maidir le heaspa seirbhísí agus an gá chun déanamh cinnte de go bhfuil straitéis ann chun déileáil leis ionas nach gá do dhaoine óga, ach go háirithe, casadh ar an mBéarla chun bunseirbhísí a fháil.

Is féidir liom a dheimhniú don Teachta go bhfuilim ar an eolas maidir le go leor de na ceisteanna atá luaite aige agus go mbím féin agus oifigigh mo Roinne ag caint go minic lenár gcomhghleacaithe i Ranna agus eagrais eile Stáit ina dtaobh agus i dtaobh cinn eile nach iad. Luaim ach go háirithe anseo an coiste stiúrtha do chur i bhfeidhm na straitéise 20 bliain don Ghaeilge agus dhá choiste dháthaobhach, ceann leis an Roinn Oideachais agus ceann eile leis an Roinn Tithíochta, Rialtais Áitiúil agus Oidhreachta. Féachann Acht na dTeangacha Oifigiúla, 2003 le héifeacht reachtúil a thabhairt, a mhéid is a bhaineann le seachadadh seirbhísí poiblí, d’Airteagal 8 de Bhunreacht na hÉireann. De réir an ailt seo, is í an Ghaeilge, mar an teanga náisiúnta, an chéad teanga oifigiúil. Aithnítear an Béarla mar dhara teanga oifigiúil.

Tuigfidh an Teachta na deacrachtaí atá ann go minic na daoine oiriúnacha le Gaeilge a fhostú sa Státchóras. Tá mise, mar Aire Stáit na Gaeltachta, ag iarraidh teacht ar réiteach ar an fhadhb seo ar bhealach ar bhonn céimnithe agus praiticiúil le béim ar an gcomhpháirtíocht trasna an Státchórais. Chuige sin, táim ag tabhairt Bille na dTeangacha Oifigiúla (Leasú), 2019 trí Thithe an Oireachtais faoi láthair. Agus an Bille seo a bheith achtaithe, bunófar coiste reachtúil, an coiste comhairleach um sheirbhísí Gaeilge, chun tacú le soláthar seirbhísí poiblí trí Ghaeilge a mhéadú agus a fheabhsú.

Leagtar amach feidhmeanna an choiste chomhairligh sa Bhille, lena n-áirítear plean náisiúnta a fhoilsiú ar mhaithe le soláthar seirbhísí poiblí trí mheán na Gaeilge a mhéadú. Tabharfaidh an coiste comhairligh comhairle do chomhlachtaí poiblí maidir leis an gcaoi ina bhféadfar seirbhísí nach soláthraíonn na comhlachtaí trí mheán na Gaeilge faoi láthair a sholáthar amhlaidh. Mar is eol don Teachta, rinneadh plé fada cuimsitheach sa Dáil ar an iliomad leasuithe ar an mBille agus beidh deis eile ann, gan mhoill, plé eile a dhéanamh orthu ar Chéim an Choiste sa Seanad sna seachtainí amach romhainn.

Tacaím le gach iarracht chun líon agus caighdeán na seirbhísí Gaeilge sa Stát a fheabhsú. Trí mhéadú agus feabhsú a dhéanamh ar na seirbhísí a sholáthraítear trí Ghaeilge, cinnteofar go dtabharfar aghaidh ar shaincheisteanna a bhaineann le soláthar seirbhísí Stáit trí Ghaeilge do chainteoirí Gaeilge agus do phobail Ghaeltachta araon agus, chomh maith leis sin, ar dhúshláin agus ar dheiseanna maidir le hearcú cainteoirí Gaeilge i gcomhlachtaí poiblí. Neartóidh an Bille stádas na Gaeilge san earnáil Stáit, rud a chinnteoidh, dar liom, go mbeidh seirbhísí ardchaighdeáin Ghaeilge á soláthar ag an tseirbhís phoiblí do phobal na Gaeilge agus na Gaeltachta.

Chuala mé cad a bhí á rá ag an Aire Stáit ach sa deireadh thiar thall, do Ghaeilgeoirí agus lucht na Gaeltachta, i gcás bunseirbhísí, ní hí an Ghaeilge an teanga oifigiúil ó thaobh na seirbhísí sin de.

Is teanga tánaisteach í toisc go mbíonn orthu go minic casadh ar an mBéarla. Sin an léiriú is simplí dá bhfuil ann ar an gceist seo. Tá easpa seirbhísí i nGaeilge á gcur ar fáil do Ghaeilgeoirí ó a bunaíodh an Stát agus tá an fadhb ag dul in olcas. Guím gach rath ar an mBille nuair a bheidh sé críochnaithe sa Seanad agus nuair a bheidh an díospóireacht seo críochnaithe againn ach ní chóir go mbeadh muid ag brath go huile is go hiomlán ar an mBille sin gach rud a leigheas. Ba chóir go mbeadh muid ag glacadh céimeanna móra chun tosaigh agus muid ag fanacht ar an mBille sin. In ainneoin go dúirt an tAire Stáit go mbualann sé go rialta leis na Ranna eile maidir leis an straitéis 20 bliain don Ghaeilge, cé chomh minic is a bhíonn na cruinnithe sin ar siúl agus cad go díreach atá ag teacht astu seachas an Bille atá os comhair an tSeanaid faoi láthair?

Tá go leor cruinnithe idir mo Roinn agus na Ranna eile. Mar is eol don Teachta, táimid ag iarraidh an bhunlíne sin a fheabhsú agus na seirbhísí sa Státchóras a neartú ar fud na tíre. Le hachtú an Bhille seo, tá i gceist go ndéanfar deireadh a chur leis na córais scéimeanna teanga agus córas nua a chur i bhfeidhm a bhaineann úsáid as na rialacháin an caighdeán teanga a leagan síos do na comhlachtaí poiblí a thagann faoi scáth an teanga. Tá oifigigh mo Roinne i mbun dréachtú na gcaighdeán seo faoi láthair. Bhíomar ag caint faoi na caighdeáin nua tríd an bpróiseas nuair a bhí an Bille os comhair na Dála mar is eol don Teachta ach táimid ag iarraidh an bhunlíne sin agus struchtúr nua a chur ann chun an Státchóras a fheabhsú. Beidh coiste comhairleach agus struchtúr nua ann agus tabharfaidh an Bille teachtaireacht an-tábhachtach do dhaoine óga go mbeidh go leor deiseanna nua sa Státchóras agus go mbeidh an bhunlíne sin i bhfad níos fearr amach anseo.

Ní chóir dúinn a bheith ag fanacht ar an gcoiste comhairleach nó ar an mBille nó fiú ag úsáid an Bille gan bogadh ar aghaidh faoi láthair. Neartóidh an Bille ceist na Gaeilge agus tá súil againn go mbeidh seirbhísí ar fáil i nGaeilge. Mura mbeadh sin i gceist bheadh mise ag vótáil ina choinne. Táim den tuairim go gcuideoidh sé agus go neartóidh sé cás na teanga. Ní théann an Bille chomh fada agus atá mise ag iarraidh agus táimid fós ag fanacht ar na dréachtchaighdeáin a fheiscint. B'fhéidir nach bhfeicfidh muid iad go ceann tamall eile.

D'ardaigh mé an cheist seo a leanas le linn na díospóireachta sin: cad é an straitéis maidir le déagóirí atá sna scoileanna faoi láthair nó maidir leo siúd atá ag lorg oideachais i nGaelcholáistí nach ann dóibh? Caithimid iarracht a dhéanamh gairmoideachas a thabhairt dóibh agus iad a mhealladh i dtreo na seirbhísí poiblí agus i dtreo na Státseirbhíse ionas gur féidir leo, atá Gaeilge acu cheana, na seirbhísí sin a chur ar fáil amach anseo. Níl aon straitéis ann ó thaobh earcaíochta de nó ó thaobh oideachais de chun daoine a mhealladh i dtreo post as Gaeilge amach anseo.

An bhunsprioc atá againn leis an mBille nua ná cinntiú go leanfaidh an tAcht a bheith ina thacaíocht éifeachtach do gach duine ar mian leis nó léi seirbhísí Gaeilge d'ardchaighdeán a fháil ón Stát. Ó mo thaithí féin ag déileáil le pobal na Gaeilge agus na Gaeltachta agus ón bhfianaise atá ar fáil ó thaighde ó Oifig an Choimisinéara Teanga ó na heagrais Ghaeilge agus ó ghrúpaí eile, tá éileamh i measc an phobal go mbeadh seirbhísí ar fáil i nGaeilge. Chun pleanáil a dhéanamh don soláthar scoile agus chun anailís a dhéanamh ar na sonraí déimeagrafacha ábhartha, déanann an Roinn Oideachais an tír a roinnt i limistéir pleanála scoile agus úsáidtear córas faisnéise ina úsáidtear sonraí ó réim pointí lena n-airítear socrú linbh agus sonraí ar eolaithe scoile le fáil amach cá dtiocfaidh an brú ar ráta na scoile ar fud na tíre agus ar cá mbeidh gá le soláthar breise scoile ag leibhéal na bunscoile agus na hiarbhunscoileanna. Níl dóthain ama agam an cheist a fhreagairt ach tá oifigigh mo Roinne i dteagmháil leis an Roinn Oideachais faoin gceist seo. B'fhéidir go mbeidh seans agam an t-eolas seo a roinnt leis an Teachta.

Impím ar an Aire Stáit, más féidir in aon chor, dul i dteagmháil leis an Roinn Caiteachais Phoiblí agus Athchóirithe chun déanamh cinnte de anois, seachas tar éis an mBille a bheith achtaithe nó tar éis an choiste comhairliúcháin, go mbeidh sé ag dul isteach sna Gaelcholáistí agus na coláistí i gceantair Ghaeltachta ag moladh do dhaoine díriú isteach ar an státseirbhís.

I apologise but there was a slight error on my part. I must move to the next question.

Departmental Schemes

Cathal Berry


107. Deputy Cathal Berry asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media if she will provide greater detail on the proposed universal basic income for the arts sector that was announced in budget 2022; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [55101/21]

I was happy to see on page 160 of the budget last month that there is a €25 million allocation to support a pilot basic income guarantee scheme for the artistic community in the country. It is a very good concept but I would like to know a little more of the detail. Perhaps the Minister could use the opportunity this morning to expand the detail of the scheme and let everybody know what is involved.

I was delighted, as part of the national economic recovery plan, to secure the commitment from the Government to prioritise the development of a basic income guarantee pilot scheme for the arts and cultural sectors. As Minister with responsibility for arts and culture, I am conscious of the value this sector brings to all Irish citizens. It is something we really felt during the Covid-19 pandemic when they were taken from us. The importance of Irish culture, art and productions as a whole cannot be understated and it contributes to individual and societal well-being, as well as contributing to Ireland's reputation as a country with a rich cultural history and output. The intrinsic value of culture and the arts to society was particularly evident during the pandemic, as I mentioned.

Against this backdrop and my own experience of the arts, funding for the basic income guarantee pilot scheme was a key priority of mine for the budget and I secured €25 million to realise the pilot scheme next year. With regard to the timeline for the launch of the pilot, the Deputy will appreciate that this is a major policy intervention requiring significant resources to develop a coherent policy and to operationalise. This work is ongoing and my ambition is to open the scheme for applications during the first quarter of 2022. The oversight group continues to meet regularly and met yesterday with a representative from SIPTU.

My Department will hold a stakeholder consultation forum on 8 December on the basic income guarantee pilot scheme, in particular to tease out the eligibility criteria for the scheme. It is really important we develop the scheme in close consultation with the sector. We will be using a professional facilitator to run a world café method event to ensure the arts sector and resource bodies and representative organisations are given the opportunity to feed into the policy development for the scheme. The selection process for recipients of the basic income will be finalised following the stakeholder engagement early next month. However, I can confirm that participation in the scheme will not be based on a means test and it will be a non-competitive process, so once a person satisfies the eligibility criteria, that person will be included in a randomised selection process. A number of unsuccessful applicants will be invited to participate in a control group to facilitate a comprehensive ex post facto appraisal of the pilot in due course. Proposals for the parameters of the scheme will be finalised in light of the stakeholder engagement.

That is a useful reply and we are really in full agreement that Ireland's artistic and creative sector has achieved world renown for good reason. These people are exceptional and need to be supported just to maximise value both from a societal and economic perspective. I thank the Minister of articulating the timeline in general. Who is the scheme for? What internal sectors within the artistic community is it for? I appreciate the Minister has indicated the first quarter of 2022 for the devising of the scheme but when is it anticipated that payments will start to flow for the people involved? How will people apply for this? Will they apply in writing or online? Will there be interviews or how will that be teased out? If the Minister does not have this information to hand now, perhaps there may be a press release or further details issued in the next couple of months.

I thank the Deputy. It is my intention that the pilot scheme will be open to eligible artists and creative arts sector workers. The process for recipients will be finalised through the stakeholder engagement I mentioned, which should happen next month. I can confirm it will be a non-competitive process and people will be chosen randomly. My intention is to have a number of streams, such as professional artists, emerging and developing artists and arts workers.

This will be subject to two further stakeholder engagements in the coming weeks. This consultation is key in that regard.

It is good the Government recognises that the artistic sector needs to be supported financially. I would argue that it also needs to be supported infrastructurally. There are many small towns and villages throughout rural and regional Ireland that do not have an artistic centre, although they have digital hubs. Perhaps this is an issue the Minister will raise with her Cabinet colleague, the Minister, Deputy Heather Humphreys. Many of the digital business hubs are underutilised at the weekend and evenings. Could these spaces be provided for use by the artistic and creative community at weekends and after normal business hours? It is good that the artistic community will be supported financially, and I look forward to the launch of that scheme, and its expansion in 2023 and thereafter.

The Department of Rural and Community Development is working with us and other Departments in order to map out all digital hubs throughout the country, and Údarás na Gaeltachta is also developing digital hubs in Gaeltacht areas.

I refer to the Deputy's proposal for the use of digital hubs for arts purposes. I would be interested in any proposal that allows digital hubs to be adapted for arts purposes and I will engage with the Minister, Deputy Humphreys, and with Údarás na Gaeltachta on this matter. I understand the Minister may have mentioned the concept of adapting digital hubs for arts purposes in her discussions with the Arts Council recently.

Údarás na Gaeltachta

Catherine Connolly


108. D'fhiafraigh Deputy Catherine Connolly den Aire Turasóireachta, Cultúir, Ealaíon, Gaeltachta, Spóirt agus Meán maidir le Ceist Pharlaiminte Uimhir 12 ar an 5ú Deireadh Fómhair 2021, an dtabharfaidh sí soiléiriú ar an athbhreithniú atá idir lámha ag Údarás na Gaeltachta ar na córais agus ar an gcur chuige atá i bhfeidhm ag an údarás faoi láthair chun tacú le cur chun cinn na Gaeilge sna cliantchuideachtaí agus ar na bealaí a dhéantar an t-ábhar a bhaineann leo a riaradh; cathain a chríochnófar tuarascáil an athbhreithnithe; cathain a fhoilseofar tuarascáil an athbhreithnithe; agus an ndéanfaidh sí ráiteas ina thaobh. [55213/21]

Tá soiléiriú ag teastáil uaim ar an athbhreithniú atá idir lámha ag Údarás na Gaeltachta ar na córais agus ar an gcur chuige atá i bhfeidhm ag an údarás faoi láthair chun tacú le cur chun cinn na Gaeilge sna cliantchomhlachtaí agus ar na bealaí a dhéantar an t-ábhar a bhaineann leo a riaradh. Cathain a chríochnófar tuarascáil an athbhreithnithe agus cén uair a fhoilseofar é?

Maidir leis an athbhreithniú atá idir lámha ag Údarás na Gaeltachta ar na córais agus an cur chuige in áit aige faoi láthair i dtaca le cur chun cinn na Gaeilge sna cliantchuideachtaí, tá sé curtha in iúl dom ag an údarás go bhfuil trí chéim san obair athbhreithnithe inmheánach seo.

Bhain an chéad chéim le hathbhreithniú ar riachtanais na heagraíochta mar a bhaineann sé le cothú na teanga i gcliantchomhlachtaí agus ar na córais riaracháin agus tuairiscithe inmheánacha atá i bhfeidhm le pleananna teanga a aontú agus le monatóireacht a dhéanamh ar chur i bhfeidhm na bpleananna teanga sin. Tuigtear dom go bhfuil an chéad chéim den athbhreithniú críochnaithe agus tá céimeanna tógtha cheana féin chun tús a chur le moltaí a tháinig ón athbhreithniú a chur i bhfeidhm. Baineann na moltaí sin le córais inmheánacha lárnach agus ar líne a fhorbairt chun an obair thuairiscithe agus mhonatóireachta a dhéanamh níos éifeachtaí; ról na foirne in aontú pleananna teanga a thabhairt chun tosaigh níos luaithe sa phróiseas nuair atá fiosrúchán faighte ó ghnólachtaí atá ag iarraidh gnó a bhunú nó a fhorbairt sa Ghaeltacht; an gá atá le pleananna teanga a aontú ag tabhairt san áireamh riachtanais an chliaint féin, an ceantar ina bhfuil siad lonnaithe, an margadh ar a bhfuil siad dírithe agus an earnáil ina bhfuil siad ag feidhmiú; agus an gá atá le tacaíochtaí breise agus nuálaíocht a thairiscint chun na cliantchomhlachtaí a spreagadh agus a mhealladh leis an nGaeilge a chur chun cinn sa ghnó go hinmheánach agus go seachtrach.

Tuigtear dom chomh maith go bhfuil tús curtha leis an dara gné den obair anois ina mbeidh taighde á dhéanamh ar na cliantchomhlachtaí féin agus a gcuid fostaithe le heolas agus tuairimí a bhailiú uathu a bheidh mar bhunús do chlár tacaíochta nua a fhorbairt dírithe ar na cliaint a mhealladh agus a spreagadh chun an Ghaeilge a úsáid agus a chur chun cinn ina ngnólachtaí, go hinmheánach agus go seachtrach.

Bainfidh an tríú gné den obair athbhreithnithe seo le cur i bhfeidhm na moltaí a thiocfaidh ón obair thaighde ar na cliantchomhlachtaí agus le forbairt ábhair agus tacaíochtaí breise a bheidh mar chuidiú leis na spriocanna thuas a bhaint amach.

Tá sé soiléir anois go bhfuil athbhreithniú i gceist, go bhfuil an chéad chéim críochnaithe agus go bhfuil an t-údarás i mbun oibre leis an dara céim. Cén uair a thosaigh an t-athbhreithniú seo agus cathain a bheidh sé críochnaithe? Cé atá i mbun oibre: an próiseas inmheánach nó a bhfuil foireann sheachtrach i gceist?

Tá an t-ábhar seo thar a bheith tábhachtach. Mar is eol don Aire Stáit, tá ardmheas ag muintir na Gaeltachta ar fud na tíre ar obair Údarás na Gaeltachta. Bhí beagnach 8,000 duine fostaithe aige faoi dheireadh 2020. Níl mé ag iarraidh aon rud a rá faoin údarás ach amháin go bhfuil trí ghné de na freagrachtaí atá air: a bheith tiomanta don Ghaeilge a chothú agus a chur chun cinn; an pobal a chothú sna Gaeltachtaí; agus fostaíocht. Tá trí ghné i gceist agus, mar chúlra do mo cheist, tá mise ag díriú ar thábhacht na Gaeilge i measc na monarchana.

Mar is eol don Teachta, tá straitéis nua ag Údarás na Gaeltachta chun an Ghaeilge a chothú agus a neartú ar fud na tíre, agus bhí mé i nDún na nGall chun é a fhoilsiú i rith an tsamhraidh. Tríd an mbuiséad nua agus buiséad na bliana seo chugainn, ba mhian leis an údarás an straitéis seo a chur i bhfeidhm. Tá sé i mbun athbhreithnithe agus ag dul trí na céimeanna chun an taighde a dhéanamh faoi láthair. Tá an t-údarás ag iarraidh an taighde seo a chríochnú, chun monatóireacht níos éifeachtaí a dhéanamh, chomh luath agus is féidir. Níl dáta agam nuair a bheidh an taighde seo críochnaithe. Tá an próiseas seo atá á chur i gcrích an-tábhachtach. Beidh mé i dteagmháil le hÚdarás na Gaeltachta agus b’fhéidir go mbeidh dáta aige. Fad is atá an t-údarás i mbun an taighde seo, tá sé tábhachtach go mbeadh sé i dteagmháil le gach cliantchomhlacht chun an obair seo a dhéanamh.

Tá an straitéis sin ar eolas agam agus tá sí léite agam agus tuigim go bhfuil cúig chuspóir faoi leith inti. Is é an rud is tábhachtaí ná go gcuirtear tús leis an taighde. Tá sé tábhachtach a chur in iúl dom cén uair a thosaigh an taighde agus cathain a bheidh sé críochnaithe, agus an bhfoilseofar é. Is cuid lárnach é seo den ról atá aige chun an Ghaeilge a chur chun cinn. Ní raibh monatóireacht éifeachtach i gceist go dtí seo. Ar a laghad tá sé sin admhaithe ag Údarás na Gaeltachta anois agus tá tús curtha leis an bpróiseas seo. Tá sé tábhachtach fostaíocht a mhealladh; gan é ní bheadh Gaeltacht ann. Chomh maith leis sin, gan an polasaí ceart ó thaobh na teanga de, ní bheadh Gaeltacht ann ach oiread. Tá an dá rud fite fuaite le chéile. Is é seo an chéad uair a bhfuil monatóireacht éifeachtach i gceist. Tá sé tábhachtach soiléiriú a thabhairt dom. Cén uair a thosaigh an taighde? Cén uair a bheidh sé críochnaithe? Cé atá taobh thiar de? An bhfoilseofar na torthaí?

Mar a dúirt mé, tá sé curtha in iúl dom ag an údarás go bhfuil an chéad chéim críochnaithe den athbhreithniú inmheánach seo ar na córais agus ar an gcur chuige atá i bhfeidhm. Maidir le cur chun cinn na Gaeilge sna cliantchomhlachtaí, mar thoradh ar an gcéad chéim sin, tá sraith moltaí curtha le chéile chun feabhas a chur ar an bpróiseas seo ar fad, ní hamháin chun pleananna teanga a fhorbairt agus a aontú leis na cliantchomhlachtaí, ach chun monatóireachta níos éifeachtaí a dhéanamh orthu.

An dara céim atá le glacadh ag an údarás mar chuid den athbhreithniú ná taighde a dhéanamh leis na cliantchomhlachtaí agus a gcuid fostaithe maidir lena gcuid smaointí chun an Ghaeilge a chur chun cinn ina ngnólachtaí, go hinmheánach agus go seachtrach. Tuigtear dom go bhfuil tús curtha leis an obair seo.

Is í an chéim dheiridh ná na moltaí a eascraíonn as an taighde seo a chur le chéile agus a chur i bhfeidhm ar mhaithe leis na spriocanna teanga a bhaint amach.