Ceisteanna Eile - Other Questions

Departmental Schemes

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

109. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media the criteria and timeline for the pilot scheme for arts and culture workers; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [55224/21]

I refer to the basic income pilot scheme for workers in arts and culture sector. Will the Minister give assurances that all disciplines of arts, culture and music and the crew that support the artists and performers, will be eligible to apply for the pilot scheme?

Since I was appointed the Minister, there has been an incredible focus on the supports needed for this sector. We have had many discussions here about the value of this sector. For years, people have talked about its value while not placing an actual value on it.

I have also focused on the number one recommendation of the arts and culture recovery task force, which related to this pilot scheme, because I saw an opportunity post Covid to place that value on those sectors and to support them. We know that uncertainty about how they can live can prevent musicians and actors from creating. That is why I was delighted to secure that commitment in the national economic recovery plan, which emphasises my commitment to the intrinsic value of culture and the arts to society, which we really saw during the pandemic. These people were deprived of opportunities to perform and earn a living. The next step was to secure that €25 million in the budget for this three-year pilot.

As I said to Deputy Berry earlier, while stakeholder engagement in general is ongoing, facilitated stakeholder engagement will take place next month. I want to cover the disciplines the Deputy mentioned, but with the engagement of the sector. I have mentioned emerging artists, arts workers and everything the Deputy has referred to. This will all have to be teased out in close consultation with the sector. Everything I have done with regard to the sector has been done in close consultation with it. This is a very important issue. What we are doing is groundbreaking and we need to do it properly. That is why I want that consultation with the sector.

I appreciate what the Minister said. I and, more importantly, people in the sector have campaigned for this for a long time because income and employment insecurity is rampant. While I welcome this measure, let us not sit back on our laurels and act as if this is a panacea. We should remember that the background to this, which I acknowledge predates the Minister's tenure, is that we see spend six times less on the arts and culture sector, as a proportion of our GDP, than most countries in Europe. It also does not help for us to sell off infrastructure that we helped to pay for in the first place. Imagine if the Abbey Theatre was flogged off and people had to apply for a job each time there was a play on. The backdrop to this is that we need more income and employment security in general and more funding to create that security in the film, art and music sectors. It is important that everyone be eligible for this pilot scheme.

I am in agreement with the Deputy about that underfunding but things have changed. I secured an unprecedented and record level of funding for the Arts Council this year on foot of last year. I held onto that €130 million. I secured funding of €25 million for this income guarantee pilot. It is to be a three-year pilot so I will obviously seek to secure that funding for three years, and I will secure it because I have a commitment from Government. The intention of the pilot scheme is to study whether such a measure will contribute to ensuring those in the arts sector have that security blanket of knowing that money will come in to help them to do what they do best, to create. It aims to ensure the arts sector remains intact and to provide the artists and creatives with the opportunity to increase their practices, thereby minimising the loss of skills and contributing to the sector's gradual regrowth. It is a no-brainer. I can see why it was the number one recommendation, which is why I am absolutely delighted to have been able to secure that commitment from Government.

As I said, I genuinely welcome this pilot. It is a step forward. It is a pity it took a pandemic for us to realise just how important culture and arts are to us and how life is so much diminished when those in the sector are not able to perform live and so on. I hope we have learned something from the pandemic in this regard. While I welcome the scheme, does the fact that it is for three years mean that we cannot expand it before those three years are up? Perhaps the Minister could clarify that. I would hate to think that this would become a substitute for much more thorough reform of the sector and increased investment to tackle the more general problem, which is the lack of overall investment in permanent infrastructure in arts, music and culture and the jobs that go with that infrastructure. I always contrast our situation with that of Germany. Virtually every village in Germany has a theatre with a full complement of performers, artists and crew who are securely employed. A great many of our artists and culture workers lack that security. That is what we should be aiming towards.

I assure the Deputy that it did not take a pandemic for me to appreciate the arts. I am looking around the Chamber and there are many Deputies here who grew up surrounded and enriched by the arts. I do not think I am alone in that. I am looking at Deputy Boyd Barrett and it certainly did not take a pandemic for him to appreciate the arts either. I am in a position where I can make a difference. That is why I am delighted to have been able to secure this commitment.

With regard to the three-year pilot, this duration was specified in the number one recommendation of the stakeholders' group. I can go through the detail. It is on page 42 of the arts and culture recovery task force's report. I am taking guidance from, and being steered by, the sector itself. We will tease that out in our engagement with the sector, especially in the world café-style engagement to be held in December. That is where that detail came from.

Sports Funding

Aodhán Ó Ríordáin

Question:

110. Deputy Aodhán Ó Ríordáin asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media if there is a date for the announcement of the sports capital grants. [54848/21]

James O'Connor

Question:

136. Deputy James O'Connor asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media the status of sports capital grant allocations for 2022; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [55201/21]

Brendan Griffin

Question:

144. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media if additional funds will be allocated towards the current sports capital and equipment programme to help increase the number of successful applicants and increase the amounts each will receive; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [54834/21]

Joe Carey

Question:

161. Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media if he will report on progress in relation to the 2021 sports capital programme; when an announcement will be made regarding the outcome of same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [55207/21]

Neale Richmond

Question:

181. Deputy Neale Richmond asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media the status of the sports capital grants process; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [55046/21]

Is there a date for the announcement of the sports capital grants?

I believe this question is grouped with questions from myself, Deputy Richmond and Deputy Carey.

I propose to take Questions Nos. 110, 136, 144, 161 and 181 together. They were asked by Deputies Richmond, O'Connor, Carey and others.

The Minister of State is such a generous guy.

There are, therefore, many opportunities to discover the date. The sports capital and equipment programme is the primary vehicle for Government support for the development of sports and recreation facilities and the purchase of non-personal sports equipment throughout the country. More than 13,000 projects have benefited from sports capital funding since 1998, bringing the total allocations in that time to over €1 billion.

On 30 November 2020, the Minister, Deputy Catherine Martin, and I announced that a new 2020 round of the programme was opening, with at least €40 million available to allocate. The original closing date for applications was 12 February 2021 but, in view of difficulties some applicants were encountering as a result of Covid restrictions, this deadline was extended until 1 March 2021. By this closing date, more than 3,000 applications had been submitted seeking over €200 million in funding. This is the highest number of applications ever received.

The scoring system and assessment procedures were finalised and published earlier this year and all applications are being assessed in accordance with these procedures. Approximately 1,000 of the submitted applications were for equipment-only projects. These applications were assessed first and grants with a total value of €16.6 million were announced on 6 August 2021. The letter of provisional allocation encouraged all grantees to draw down this funding before the end of the year, if possible, and in recent weeks my Department has been prioritising payment of all existing grants. Ensuring that as many older grants as possible are paid before the end of the year will maximise the funding available to allocate for the 2020 capital applications. With regard to these applications, assessment work is continuing and every effort is being made to complete it as quickly as possible. It is likely to take a number of additional weeks for these assessments to be completed.

With regard to the funding available to allocate, as already stated, the payment of as many older grants as possible before the end of this year will help increase the potential allocation amount for the remaining capital applications. I am pleased that, following completion of the 2022 budget discussions, there was an increase of €6.6 million on the 2021 allocation, bringing the total to be allocated for 2022 to at least €34.5 million. This will cover all existing allocations under the previous rounds in addition to significant new allocations for the 2020 capital applications. Every effort will be made to fund as many worthwhile projects as possible while providing a sufficient level of grant to ensure the projects are viable. We are in ongoing discussions with the Department of my colleague, the Minister, Deputy Michael McGrath, on additional allocations for this round. We will announce the results of these discussions in the coming weeks.

To clarify, questions from Deputies O'Connor, Griffin, Carey and Richmond have been grouped with Deputy Ó Ríordáin's question. I will now revert to Deputy Ó Ríordáin. We will then take the other speakers in sequence.

How long does each of us have?

One minute. I advise the Deputies to keep their eyes on the clock.

I hear the point about "year end". I was listening to what Damien Duff had to say on his announcement as manager of Shelbourne FC about the soccer infrastructure in Ireland being horrific. As the Minister of State outlined, every sports club, as well as local authority, is trying to get a slice of this €200 million fund, yet there is a Horse and Greyhound Racing Fund from which only one industry benefits, to the tune of about €100 million a year. Every cent on every bet placed in Ireland goes into this one fund that benefits one sport, and the majority of that funding goes to prize money. Is there not a significant imbalance between a major soccer figure saying the soccer infrastructure is horrific and the Horse and Greyhound Racing Fund going in its entirety to benefit one sport, with the majority of that going towards prize money and nobody else benefiting, regardless of what the bet is placed on?

I heard what Damien Duff said. One step the FAI has taken is to maximise the number of its applications. In regard to the sports capital and equipment programme, there has been a huge increase in the number of applications from football clubs. Under the large-scale sports infrastructure fund, in which my colleague, Deputy Griffin, was involved, a significant number of football projects were announced under both streams.

I acknowledge the Deputy's point on betting. I have had feedback from various sporting organisations relating to the matter. My colleague, the Minister of State at the Department of Justice, Deputy Browne, is establishing a new gambling regulator, and a fairer spread of betting tax more generally would be more equitable. We are focused, with our allocation for this year, on putting a significant injection into all sporting infrastructure. The Deputy mentioned football, but it will apply to the development of a range of sports. Moreover, we have a positive budget allocation for next year.

There is a direct correlation between the performance of the national soccer team, which we will, I hope, enjoy tonight, and conversations in houses such as this. There is a direct correlation between the priority a state, parliament or government gives to sport and the performance of the senior international team, regardless of the code. There is a complete imbalance if the levy placed on every bet supports just one industry, to the tune of €100 million a year ring-fenced in legislation, with the majority of that going towards prize money, although I am not suggesting the 20,000 jobs it supports should not be supported. There is a reason that industry is thriving, while sports such as soccer have, as Damien Duff described, infrastructure that is horrific. The Minister of State acknowledged there is an imbalance that needs to be addressed but we need to tease it out further. It is not good enough for us to celebrate sporting achievements without asking the difficult questions in Parliament.

Record levels of funding, both current and capital, are going into sport this year and did so last year. There is considerable support for our sporting system and it is important to acknowledge that. The sports capital programme will provide significant support for sporting infrastructure and communities throughout the country. If we compare what was allocated in, say, 2005 and 2006 with how we supported our Olympic athletes last year, and taking account of our national sports policy on doubling funding between 2018 and 2027, which underpins record levels of investment in our high performance system, there have been record increases. Through programmes such as the sports capital and equipment programme, it is important we ensure sporting organisations and clubs will make applications to develop that infrastructure. The State is underpinning record levels of investment in our sporting system and it is important to acknowledge that.

This is a very important topic and I thank the Minister of State for facilitating it. My question relates to the sports capital grants. Throughout my constituency, Cork East, as he will know from his visit, many clubs are hoping to get positive news on the increased investment for new capital infrastructure works. Given the two years we have had with Covid-19, investing in sports clubs and allowing them to continue their planned developments, as a type of reward given back to the communities as a consequence of what they have lost from Covid-19, would be one of the most positive impacts the Government could have. I strongly encourage both the Minister and the Minister of State to seek as much funding as possible and to consider a further round of funding in the near future once this round is complete. Will the Minister of State update the House on the process? It is crucial to my constituency and that of the Acting Chairman.

Of the capital applications that have been assessed, a significant proportion, of between 40% and 60% in certain counties, have provided insufficient documentation, giving rise to the use of the second-chance facility, and this has an impact on the speed at which we can announce the final allocations. There is an opportunity, therefore, for clubs and sporting organisations to rectify errors, and that will dictate the date on which we announce the final assessments.

We are in ongoing engagement with the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform and I am confident there will be an increase on the current baseline we announced in the budgetary allocation for next year in light of, as the Deputy mentioned, the great importance of investment in sporting infrastructure and the extent to which it matters to so many communities and clubs throughout the country in order that they can underpin their ambitions for their club and their considerable volunteer efforts to have that ambition fulfilled in the form of better sporting facilities for their clubs and young people. I acknowledge also the point about Covid.

It is important to take an in-depth analysis of the individual projects. Major schemes have been proposed, such as for Fermoy GAA, and the Minister of State has been in close contact with Youghal GAA and a number of soccer clubs within the constituency. It is important also to recognise on the floor of the House that Midleton FC is seeking significant investment. There are major capital developments, therefore.

The increase in construction costs is causing significant difficulty. It is important that context be given to that in the coming year, as well as additional funds that may become available from future sports capital grants.

I acknowledge the high number of applications from County Cork, as the Deputy outlined, and accept the point about increasing construction costs. In the case of many existing grantees, there is a gap between their capital allocation and the impact of increasing constructions costs. As for what we can do now for existing applications and those who will receive a grant, we must maximise the allocation in order that the funding gap for clubs will be as low as possible. That will be dictated by the quality of the application and whether the club in question is above the threshold of €150,000 for local or €300,000 for regional applications. The Minister and I are trying to maximise the allocation for sports capital this year in order that as many clubs as possible, in the Deputy's county and throughout the country, can fulfil their ambition.

I commend the Minister and the Minister of State on their work, particularly in the area of sport, where the Minister of State has been doing fine work over the past 15 months.

I acknowledge as well in this context the successful outcome for many clubs in respect of the equipment-only element of the sports capital and equipment programme. That was welcome. I am aware, however, that the demand that exists and the overall request for €200 million in funding cannot be addressed by the amounts originally allocated, and that is why the additional €6 million provided in the budget was welcome. I think I speak for most Deputies when I say that the work the Minister of State is doing to try to get extra funding through the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform for existing applicants is critically important. More money will be needed in this regard. Will he provide a breakdown of the amount remaining in the context of outstanding applications, when the equipment-only element is taken out, if that detail is available? If we want more clubs to get more funding, we will need a bigger overall budget.

I thank the Deputy for his remarks. A process is under way in respect of applications. As I said, between 40% and 60% of applications will require a second-chance opportunity in cases where insufficient documentation may have been supplied or there were errors. Applicants in such situations will have that opportunity. A percentage of applications in every round will not provide the required documentation or will be unable to do so, and that will have a consequent effect on the net overall request. Equally, a certain proportion of what some applications are seeking may not align with what can be funded by the sports capital and equipment programme. Until all the applications are fully assessed, therefore, we will not be able to provide a net overall figure. I am confident, though, that we will see an increase beyond what has been announced thus far. To conclude the discussions under way with the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, we must know what the net funding request is, and that assessment process is ongoing.

I welcome that response from the Minister of State. He has my full support and I think I speak for many Deputies in that regard concerning his endeavours in this area. Since 1998, more than €1 billion has been distributed through the sports capital programme. It has transformed the landscape of Irish sport in the time it has been operating. Much more must be done, though, and a great deal of catching up must be undertaken, particularly regarding certain sporting organisations that have not availed of the programme as enthusiastically and in as organised a way as others may have. This catching up must happen and money talks. If we can get the overall budget pot increased, the other problems will tend to take care of themselves and the outcome for many more clubs will be much better. That is why the macro situation in respect of the overall pot of funding available is critically important. I commend the Minister of State on his efforts in that regard and I ask him to keep going with them, because these funds will make a massive difference on the ground for so many organisations.

I agree that the programme thus far has transformed the sporting landscape, with the improvements in the quality and quantity of sporting facilities in virtually every village, town and city. It has funded the smallest clubs in rural areas all the way up to national centres of sporting excellence, and everything in between. Another important element is that many clubs and organisations are now submitting joint applications, such as between clubs and schools. Those applications maximise the use of the investment because the schools use the facilities during the day, while the clubs use them at night. That kind of collaboration across communities provides for even better participation in sport. As the Deputy will know, having been involved in the programme previously, its focus is on overall participation in sport. Increasing female participation in sport is a major part of what we are trying to do in this round of funding, as well as focusing on participation by disadvantaged groups and encouraging the sharing of facilities. I thank him for his remarks.

I acknowledge the work of the Minister and the Minister of State on this valuable funding stream for sports. The Minister of State has visited County Clare on several occasions, where he met and spoke with representatives of clubs and in that way heard from the grassroots about the importance of this funding stream. I agree with the Deputy that it is important that more money in this regard is secured through the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. If more funding is secured for the programme, more clubs will benefit. The original figure provided in this context was €40 million. Some €16.5 million of that went to the equipment grants and then €6 million was added in the budget. A figure of approximately €29 million then remains. How much funding overall will be requested from the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform? What kind of increase in funding is being sought?

I am not going to speculate on this issue. The increase is quite open-ended, let me put it that way. As the Deputy will be aware, sports capital funding is allocated on a multi-year basis. Therefore, we are not only negotiating funding for next year but for subsequent years as well. We are calculating what the potential drawdown will be overall and what the capital allocation will be under particular subheadings. This is not about securing a certain amount for next year, therefore, but for many years, and that process is under way.

We secured extra funding for next year in the budget, as the Deputy mentioned, but part of what we are trying to do in getting as much capital funding as possible paid out this year is to open up opportunities for additional capital allocations through this programme and that will help us to formulate that final calculation. Finding out what that overall net amount to be requested will be is important in the context of our engagement with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.

I reiterate that one point of concern in this area is that between 40% and 60% of applications have insufficient documentation. It will be important that we work through that aspect and that those organisations are given the opportunity to make corrections to ensure their applications can then be considered legitimate for potential funding allocations. That process will dictate what the final requested amount will be.

I thank the Minister of State for his answer. Is it safe to say, though, that allocations of funding will be made by the end of the year? Can he envisage a situation where this process might continue into next year? If it were to happen, could he find himself in a situation where he might be using money from next year’s budget along with this year’s budget to make a more rounded sports capital block grant available for clubs? In addition, when does he expect that the next sports capital and equipment programme will open for applications and will it include a large-scale sports infrastructure scheme?

There were many questions in that contribution. The programme for Government contains a commitment to running the sports capital and equipment programme regularly. We have not set a date for when the next round will be, but that commitment is in the programme for Government and it is also referred to in the national development plan, NDP.

Turning back to the current programme, it will take some weeks to try to assess what the net request to be made will be. I am hopeful that it will be done by the end of the year, but I am not going to set a date until I am presented with the final assessments. It could be the end of the year, but it will make no difference if it is the end of this year or early next year, because no capital will be drawn down in respect of any allocation made this year since successful applicants have just received formal notification of their allocations. It will, therefore, make no difference to the capital envelope whether the announcement is made at the end of this year or early next year. It would not be possible anyway to draw down funds in such a short timeframe, even if the details of awards were announced tomorrow. It would be unlikely that grantees would be able to draw down funds in the context of the documentation and protocols required to enable that process to happen.

Most of the pertinent points on this issue have been raised more than eloquently by my colleagues and, therefore, I am not going to go over old ground or focus on the status of the applications from the many individual clubs in my constituency, which the Minister knows better than I do.

I would like to tease out two or three points that were mentioned, however. One point highlighted in the opening remarks concerned encouraging the drawing down of existing allocated grants. It has been an extremely tough two years for sport. Every club has been devastated at every level and resources, including human resources, time and fundraising abilities, have been devastated. In turn, the ability to draw down funds is also now greatly reduced. Simply encouraging clubs, therefore, is not enough. What efforts are being made by the Department to work with clubs and sports associations to ensure they can realise those already-allocated grants?

Letters of allocation for the equipment-only awards were sent to all grantees.

They were all encouraged to draw down funding before the end of the year. All staff in the sports capital division have been prioritising the effort to pay out existing grants.

We are all involved in different sporting clubs and organisations so we know that fundraising has been difficult. The Department is prioritising those matters, working with clubs. That was in the formal note to all the equipment-only grantees and the Department is working with clubs. A significant number of the equipment-only grants have been paid out. A significant amount was paid out in the previous quarter to grantees who were granted payments in the two most recent sports capital rounds. Those payments were outstanding because works could not be commenced during the pandemic. There has been a lot of capital moving out to clubs.

On specific funding gaps, we are not in a position to bridge gaps in existing allocations because that would undermine the existing application process.

I fundamentally agree with the Minister of State. I am not necessarily talking about funding gaps; I am concerned with capacity gaps. The volunteers simply are not there and numbers coming out of clubs have not been there. Clubs, to a large extent, have been dormant for a considerable time.

I will tease out something he referred to regarding the influence of sports capital grants, particularly on involvement in and encouragement of women's sports. I would be interested to know what engagement, either through the sports capital programme or more generally, he and the Minister are having with the IRFU on its review of the women's game, the failure to qualify for the Rugby World Cup and the fact that the union has not met its targets. Quite frankly, the IRFU is failing female participants in the sport.

I thank the Deputy. Sport Ireland, on behalf of the Government, is engaging with all sporting organisations on our priority to maximise female participation and support our female athletes at high-performance and grassroots levels. On the sports capital programme, the Minister and I have directly prioritised clubs that are promoting female participation at grassroots level. That is central and new in this sports capital round.

With regard to women in sport funding, we have announced increases for the sporting organisations, which will be funded by Sport Ireland. That will be a two-year funding cycle and was announced earlier this year. We regularly engage with all sporting organisations about their participation and performance. Sport Ireland does that on behalf of the Government. We will certainly reflect on what the Deputy has outlined. We were all disappointed that we did not qualify for the Rugby World Cup. There has been great growth in female participation in grassroots rugby and we want to see that maximised in the coming years. We will certainly reflect that in our engagements with the union.

Departmental Funding

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

111. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media if the funding provided by the Ulster-Scots Agency to a festival (details supplied) was used to organise centenary celebrations of partition and of the creation of a sectarian statelet in the North of Ireland; her views on the appropriateness of this use of State funds by a Good Friday Agreement body; and her further views on whether it appropriate for a Good Friday Agreement body to be co-financing and endorsing a festival, which she acknowledged in response to Parliamentary Question No. 315 of 2 November 2021 involved a living history component celebrating the sectarian B-Specials. [55155/21]

My question relates to the appropriateness of the use of funding from this State, via the Ulster-Scots Agency, to fund a celebration of partition and an event celebrating the sectarian paramilitary B-Specials.

The Ulster-Scots Agency is an agency of the North/South Language Body, one of six North-South implementation bodies established under the Good Friday Agreement. The work of the agency is funded jointly by the Northern Ireland Executive, through the Department of Communities, and the Government of Ireland, through the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and the Media. As the Deputy will be aware, the Department of Communities is under the remit of his Sinn Féin colleague, Ms Deirdre Hargey MLA. That Department provides 75% of funding for this agency. I trust the Deputy will also engage with his colleague to pursue the issue to his satisfaction.

That has been done. It has also been raised at council level.

As per my previous response to a parliamentary question, the Ulster-Scots Agency informed my Department that it awarded the sum of £2,359 to a two-day festival of the Ulster-Scots language, heritage and culture, in accordance with the mandate of the Ulster-Scots Agency, which relates to the promotion of greater awareness and use of Ullans and of Ulster-Scots cultural issues, both within Northern Ireland and throughout the island. The programme included a variety of activities which provided opportunities for people of all ages to engage with different aspects of Ulster-Scots language, heritage and culture. As I have previously informed the Deputy, funding was neither sought nor allocated by the Ulster-Scots Agency for the living history component mentioned. The group funded that element from its own resources. To be absolutely clear, the agency funded a singer for a selection from Sam Henry's Songs of the People; a talk on the works of Sam Henry; an arts and crafts workshop; an Ulster-Scots language workshop; traditional Ulster-Scots music, poetry and dancing; and hiring a bandstand and sound system. It is important to factually set out what the agency did or did not fund.

As the Deputy will be aware, we are now in the final and perhaps most challenging period of the Decade of Centenaries. The events of the period now being commemorated, which include the foundation of Northern Ireland, radically altered relationships on this island. We are acutely conscious that the events of this period do not belong exclusively to one tradition or another. I will outline further details in my supplementary reply.

I am aware of exactly what the Ulster-Scots Agency has stated it funded. However, that is not reflected in the poster for the event. The poster refers to Northern Ireland centenary celebrations and a historical re-enactment of the B-Specials. It states the event is backed up by the Ulster-Scots Agency. That is reflected in the poster. I do not know whether subsequent to this emerging, the Ulster-Scots Agency has been encouraged or asked by the Minister of State or his Department to disassociate from that event, in particular the part that celebrates partition and, even worse, the part which celebrates the B-Specials and its role in Irish history in the nearly 50 years it existed.

I thank the Deputy for his question. I want to be clear that funding was neither sought nor allocated by the Ulster-Scots Agency for the living history component the Deputy has mentioned. It is important that we are factual about this matter. I hope the Deputy is not undermining agencies of the Good Friday Agreement in what he is trying to do here. It is also important to note that the Deputy's Sinn Féin colleague in the North, the Minister for Communities, Deirdre Hargey MLA, provides 75% of the funding for this agency, while the Irish Government provides 25% of the funding. We have sought a breakdown, as I outlined, of where the £2,500 was actually allocated. I referenced some of those activities, which included an arts and crafts workshop, art and the Lambeg drum, a language workshop for children, Ulster-Scots music, a display of Scottish country music and dancing, drumming, Scottish and highland music, traditional Ulster-Scots music, the hiring of a sound system, language and poetry. That is what the agency funded and it is for that I am accountable to this House and for which the Deputy's colleague in the North is accountable to the Assembly in the North. I hope the Deputy will be taking up his variety of questions with her as well.

As I said earlier, I have raised this issue with my colleague. She is not answerable to me because she is a Minister of the Assembly and the Minister of State needs to bear that in mind. The matter has been raised in the council, which also part-funded this event. I will repeat my supplementary question in the hope I will get an answer this time. Has the Ulster-Scots Agency been asked to disassociate from the part of the event, which celebrated the deeds of the B-Specials? I did not ask what exactly the funding was. The Ulster-Scots Agency is associated with the event because it is referred to on the poster. There is no disassociation. It is not said that the agency funded a stage, which was used as a part of the event.

The Department sought to find out exactly where the funding from the Ulster-Scots Agency went. I have set that out and it is important we are factual about what it did or did not fund. I have been informed that the particular component of the event to which the Deputy has referred was funded by the organisers themselves and not by the Ulster-Scots Agency. That is the factual position. We sought answers on that to get a breakdown of what the agency did or did not fund.

To me, partition was devastating for this country. I believe in uniting our people and bringing people of all traditions on this island together, underpinned by the principles of the Good Friday Agreement, which is about respecting difference and history. We sought a breakdown of what was funded. It is important that we provide a factual basis for that. Funding was neither sought nor allocated by the Ulster Scots Agency for the component the Deputy referred to.

Question No. 112 replied to with Written Answers.

Sports Funding

Neasa Hourigan

Question:

113. Deputy Neasa Hourigan asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media her plans to ensure equality in funding for women's and men's Gaelic players' grants; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [54697/21]

What are the Minister of State's plans to ensure equality in funding of women's and women's Gaelic player grants? Will he make a statement on the matter?

I thank Deputy Hourigan for her question. Equality in sport is a key priority for both me and the Minister, Deputy Catherine Martin. Our overall vision for women in sport is one where women have an equal opportunity to achieve their full potential while enjoying lifelong involvement.

Government support for inter-county female Gaelic games players, which is distributed through Sport Ireland, is an indicator of the recognition at national level of the contribution of the athletes to their sport and their commitment to play the game at the highest level possible.

Last May, I announced my intention to ensure equality in grant funding for female Gaelic games players from this year forward. Additional funding of €1.7 million is being provided in 2021 and for future years for enhanced support of female inter-county Gaelic games players on a basis equivalent to that for male inter-county Gaelic games players. This additional provision brings the total amount available for female players in this context to €2.4 million. Sport Ireland has established a working group, which includes player representation, to finalise the detailed arrangements for the distribution and oversight of this enhanced State funding to the 1,650 female players concerned. I am very pleased that the funding gap has now been eliminated and that, from this year, female Gaelic players will have parity with male players in respect of grant funding. This is important to the development of women's sport and demonstrates the Government's commitment to equality in sport.

I thank the Minister of State. His commitment to grant equality is very welcome. The grants are important to the individual players involved. It is important that they be equal. With regard to inter-county players, the grants probably have a larger impact in that they result in players becoming role models for young women in sport.

We are aware that kids start out with an interest in sport. To give an example, the gender balance at nursery level in a GAA club in my constituency, Na Fianna, is a result of great work in that club. Parity was reached for the first time in 2020. While it is positive to see kids starting off in equal numbers, we are aware that women tend to drop out in larger numbers as they get older. Sport Ireland's research report Adolescent Girls Get Active identifies role models as comprising one support for keeping young women involved in sport. I am wondering about the level of data tracking on the impact of the grants. Are they being allocated in the proper way? What is the position on other infrastructural supports for women in sport?

I thank Deputy Hourigan. In many nurseries and clubs across the country, the increase in female participation has been so positive. We are seeing this across so many sports but, as the Deputy said, there is attrition, particularly in the teenage years. That creates the participation gap. Sport Ireland has an Irish sports monitor that produces quarterly reports and examines the gender gap. A priority of mine and of the Minister is to abolish the gender gap when it comes to participation and to track the attrition, particularly in the teenage years. It is also a question of trying to promote participation throughout adulthood. There is a lot of oversight and research by Sport Ireland to ensure active participation so women and girls will be given opportunities to stay in sport. We must track the trends in disadvantaged communities and places where participation levels might be lower and address the issue. We are committed to that.

I am aware that time is limited so, considering that I have been talking about Na Fianna, I hope the Minister, Deputy Catherine Martin, will join me in wishing Kilmacud Crokes, which is in her constituency, and Na Fianna all the best in the Dublin hurling final on Saturday. It is Na Fianna's first time in the final. There is a lot of excitement in our community and we fully intend to beat Kilmacud Crokes.

A Aire Stáit, an bhfuil aon rud le rá agat?

I am not going to speak on behalf of the Minister, Deputy Catherine Martin. I am sure there are many GAA clubs that she supports. My club, St. Brigid's, was beaten by Cuala, which was subsequently beaten by Kilmacud Crokes, if I am not mistaken. We are all looking forward to the hurling final. Castleknock GAA club, in my constituency, is in the Senior B championship and is hoping to get promoted to the Senior A championship. I hope to be at that match. We wish all the players of Na Fianna and Kilmacud Crokes well. We have had a great autumn of league action in football, hurling and camogie. Large numbers have attended local grounds. We had a very positive summer season in sport. There was significant participation over recent weeks and attendance figures have been really positive. In the Ceann Comhairle's constituency, Naas won the Kildare final for the first time since 1991. Different clubs have been winning championships. The essence of sport is clubs competing at county level and bringing everyone along. We wish Deputy Hourigan's club well.

Pleanáil Teanga

Catherine Connolly

Question:

114. D'fhiafraigh Deputy Catherine Connolly den Aire Turasóireachta, Cultúir, Ealaíon, Gaeltachta, Spóirt agus Meán maidir le Ceist Pharlaiminte Uimhir 34 ar an 5ú Deireadh Fómhair 2021, an dtabharfaidh sí soiléiriú ar stádas phlean teanga Oileán Árann agus plean teanga na Gaeltachta Láir; cathain a cheadófar na 26 phlean teanga; cé mhéad plean díobh sin atá ag feidhmiú faoi láthair; agus an ndéanfaidh sí ráiteas ina thaobh. [55211/21]

Baineann mo cheist le stádas phlean teanga Oileáin Árann agus plean teanga Ghaeltacht an Láir. Cén uair a bheidh na 26 plean teanga foilsithe? Cé mhéad atá ag feidhmiú faoi láthair?

Tá na pleananna teanga d'Oileáin Árann agus do Ghaeltacht an Láir á meas ag mo Roinn faoi láthair. Bhí deis agam le gairid plean teanga Oileáin Árann a phlé le hionadaithe na n-oileán sin. Is i dtreo plean teanga Oileáin Árann agus plean teanga Ghaeltacht an Láir a bheith faofa gan rómhoill eile atá mé féin agus mo Roinn ag obair. Ach an próiseas meastóireachta a bheith curtha i gcrích ag mo Roinn, beidh an dá phlean sin ar an 25ú agus 26ú plean teanga do na limistéir phleanála teanga le bheith ceadaithe. As an 24 plean teanga atá faofa do na limistéir phleanála teanga, tá 19 ag feidhmiú faoi láthair.

Tá 17 oifigeach pleanála teanga agus ceathrar oifigeach cúnta pleanála teanga i mbun oibre faoi láthair, le hoifigeach pleanála teanga úr le tosú i dToraigh go luath.

Is fiú a lua go bhfuil pleananna teanga ceadaithe i gceithre bhaile seirbhíse Gaeltachta agus trí líonra Gaeilge faoi Acht na Gaeltachta, 2012 chomh maith. Tríd is tríd, táim sásta go bhfuil dul chun cinn maith á dhéanamh leis an bpróiseas agus beidh mé ag súil le tógáil air sin in 2022. Chuige sin, bhí mé an-sásta gur shlánaigh mé ardú ar an gciste a bheidh ar fáil don phleanáil teanga do 2022 sa cháinaisnéis a fógraíodh an mhí seo caite, rud a chiallóidh go mbeidh ciste de €5.8 milliún ar fáil don phróiseas an chéad bhliain eile. Beidh an sciar is mó den chistíocht ar leas chur i bhfeidhm an phróisis pleanála teanga ag dul i dtreo fheidhmiú na bpleananna teanga in 2022. Ina theannta sin, ar aon dul le blianta eile, tá maoiniú á chur i dtreo earnálacha a thacaíonn leis an bpróiseas - réimse gnímh an teaghlaigh, na luathbhlianta agus na healaíona traidisiúnta.

Bíonn mo Roinn i gcónaí ag iarraidh a chinntiú go mbaintear an leas is fearr is féidir as an infheistíocht shuntasach bhreise atá curtha ar fáil ón Státchiste don phróiseas le blianta beaga anuas. Meabhraítear go bhfuil €100,000 sa bhliain ar fáil do na limistéir sa ghnáthshlí ach le 50% níos mó ná sin do limistéir a shásaíonn critéir áirithe. Tá allúntas suas le €80,000 ar fáil freisin.

Fáiltím roimh an dea-scéal go bhfuil suas le €100,000 faofa do chathair na Gaillimhe mar aitheantas ar na dúshláin bhreise a bhaineann léi ach bhain mo cheist le stádas phlean teanga Oileáin Árann agus Ghaeltacht an Láir. Tá sé ráite ag an Aire Stáit go mbeidh siad faofa gan rómhoill. Táimid ag cloisteáil an freagra ceannann céanna le bliain anuas. Cén uair go cruinn a bheidh na pleananna faofa ag Roinn an Aire Stáit? Cén fhad atá sé os a chomhair?

Mar a luaigh mé, tá na pleananna don dá limistéar pleanála teanga faoi leith, Oileáin Árann agus Gaeltacht an Láir, á mbreithniú ag mo Roinn faoi láthair. Bhí deis agam le gairid plean teanga Oileáin Árann a phlé le hionadaithe na n-oileán nuair a bhí mé sna Forbacha cúpla seachtain ó shin. Bhí cruinniú maith agam leis an ngrúpa sin. Tá an próiseas seo ar siúl anois. Beidh an grúpa sin ag dul ar ais go dtí Oileáin Árann chun na ceiste agus an chiste seo a phlé. Tá na hoifigigh i dteagmháil leo. Nuair atá siad ar ais, tá súil agam go mbeimid in ann an plean seo a chríochnú.

Gabhaim buíochas as an soiléiriú sin. Tá a fhios agam go bhfuil an tAire Stáit agus a oifigigh i mbun oibre ach tá práinn leis seo. Is í mo cheist go díreach ná cén fhad atá na pleananna os comhair an Aire Stáit nó os comhair na Roinne.

Baineann an próiseas pleanála teanga leis an nGaeilge a chothú, a neartú agus a láidriú, toisc go bhfuil stádas na Gaeilge i mbaol. Tá sé sin aitheanta againn go léir agus ag an lucht acadúil. Seo cuid den phróiseas don 26 limistéar pleanála teanga. Cé mhéad atá ag feidhmiú agus cén uair a bheidh an dá phlean seo faofa?

Mar a dúirt mé, beidh siad críochnaithe. Bhí cruinniú maith againn leis an ngrúpa seo agus beidh muid ar ais. Tá na hoifigigh sna Forbacha i dteagmháil leis an ngrúpa seo chun an plean seo a aontú. Tá sé an-tábhachtach go mbeadh an plean seo aontaithe agus go mbeidh muid in ann é a chur i bhfeidhm sna hOileáin Árann, mar shampla. Tá na hoifigigh i dteagmháil leo agus tá súil agam go mbeidh muid in ann é a chríochnú chomh luath agus is féidir.

Written Answers are published on the Oireachtas website.