Skip to main content
Normal View

Dáil Éireann debate -
Thursday, 20 Jan 2022

Vol. 1016 No. 5

Ceisteanna Eile - Other Questions

Sports Funding

Joe Carey


73. Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media if she will report on the sports capital programme; if additional funding has been secured for the 2022 scheme; when it is expected that an outcome will be announced to the 2022 programme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [2423/22]

Denis Naughten


95. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media when the sports capital funding allocation will be announced; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [1777/22]

Matt Carthy


103. Deputy Matt Carthy asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media when allocations under the 2020 the sports capital and equipment programme will be made. [1746/22]

Pádraig O'Sullivan


123. Deputy Pádraig O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media if additional funds will be allocated towards the current sports capital programme to help increase the number of successful applicants; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [2412/22]

Denis Naughten


131. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media when funding will be allocated under the sports capital programme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [1776/22]

I wish to ask the Minister of State if he will report on the sports capital programme, if additional funding has been secured for the 2022 scheme, when it is expected that an outcome will be announced for the 2022 programme and if he will make a statement on the matter.

No pressure at all with this question.

It is of interest to many people. I thank Deputy Carey. I propose to take Question Nos. 73, 95, 103, 123 and 131 together.

The sports capital and equipment programme is the primary vehicle for the Government's support for the development of sports and recreational facilities and the purchase of non-personal sports equipment throughout the country. Over 13,000 projects have now benefited from sports capital funding since 1998, bringing the total allocation to over €1 billion. On 30 November, we announced a new round of the programme with at least €40 million available. The original closing date was 12 February 2021 but in view of the difficulties some applicants were encountering as a result of Covid restrictions, the deadline was extended to 1 March 2021. By the closing date, there were over 3,000 applications with an ask of over €200 million in funding. This is highest number of applications ever received.

A scoring system and assessment procedures were finalised and published prior to assessment and all applications have been assessed in accordance with these procedures. Approximately 1,000 of the submitted applications were for equipment-only grants. These applications were assessed first and grants with a total value of €16.6 million were announced on 6 August 2021.

Regarding funding available to allocate, I am pleased that following the completion of the 2022 budget discussions, a significant amount has been provided for the sports capital equipment programme in 2022, which represents an increase on the 2021 allocation. In the Revised Estimates, over €6 million has been carried forward from 2021. This will cover all existing applications under older rounds of the programme but will also allow for significant new allocations in the coming weeks. Furthermore, I am in discussions with my colleague, the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Michael McGrath, regarding maximising the total funding envelope available for the programme and I expect to conclude that process very shortly.

Every effort will be made to fund as many worthwhile projects as possible, while providing a sufficient level of grants to ensure that projects are viable. Regarding the funding available to allocate, as I said there is a carryover from last year and that will assist us in the total envelope that is available. All unsuccessful applicants will also be given the opportunity to appeal the decision of the Department and information in that regard will be issued when the grants are announced. We expect to conclude the overall process very shortly.

I commend the Minister and, in particular, the Minister of State on their work on sport.

I acknowledge the positive outcome to the equipment-only grants, from which many clubs in Clare and across the country benefited. Last November, I asked the Minister of State about this subject. I am aware of the request for €200 million. At that point he was not in the position to outline what would be the net request of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. I ask him to confirm what that net request is. There is a great sense of anticipation among clubs waiting for an outcome to this process. When is he likely to make that announcement? I commend him on his work in this area.

It is 416 days since the project was announced. We need some indication of the available funding and possible timeline through to allocation because there is considerable anxiety out there. On average, clubs across the country have sought approximately €67,000, some of them substantially more than that.

In a High Court settlement in April of last year, €300,000 was paid in a case where a defibrillator failed to operate. This has implications for every sports club across the country. The Department needs to set out clear specifications for defibrillators and a clear process for their maintenance.

Deputy Carey has asked most of the questions I wanted to ask. I understand that the Minister of State has been inundated with requests for this year's funding. Initially we had expected a decision by October, which snowballed into December and now it looks like February at best. A number of clubs have until 27 January to furnish the Department with further details. While I will not hold him to a date, I ask him to indicate when that announcement is most likely. As previous Deputies have said, clubs are getting very anxious at this stage and they have big plans ahead of them.

I would like to ask two other quick questions.

What percentage of projects initially approved have not proceeded to full drawdown in the previous two or three years? I know the Minister of State said that €6 million was carried over from last year and that may answer that question. I ask for that detail from previous years.

Do I just have one minute to answer all that?

I will allow a little latitude.

In response to Deputy Carey's question, we are trying to maximise the amount with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. We expect it to be significantly up on the amount allocated, but I will not announce the outcome of that until we announce the grants. We have had positive discussions and that will be finalised. Regarding the date, as Deputy Pádraig O'Sullivan said, we extended the submission window because of the Covid pandemic. As Deputy Naughten mentioned, it was originally opened in November. We extended it to March last year to allow clubs to submit their applications in a detailed way in order that they could get all the documentation together. Because we have received a record number of applications, we have also allowed for a second-chance submissions. Up to 20% or 30% of applications are invalid.

I must stop the Minister of State there and I will give him an additional two minutes on the last answer because he did not use up all his time.

My understanding is that when questions are grouped the combined total is 18 minutes. Therefore, the Minister of State has three minutes.

That is what I just said. I will let the Minister of State back on the second, the final one.

Should I come in now?

More questions might come in, if that is okay.

I might be able to deal with some of them if you want to-----

Okay. We will give the Minister of State another two minutes here.

As I was saying, there was a record number of applications. We gave all the applicants in a county a second chance to submit technical information and that process is concluding at present. From closure to announcement, we are actually ahead of what has happened in previous rounds. When the deadline closes, it will be less than a year from when we announced the applications to when we announced the grant outcomes. We expect that to happen in early February.

As Deputy Pádraig O'Sullivan mentioned, the final second-chance applications will be submitted at the end of January. We will then finalise the figure with the Minister, Deputy Michael McGrath, and we will announce it in early February. I expect it will be in the first week or two of February when the assessment is concluded. It is just a case of receiving the technical information and giving clubs the opportunity to submit the technical information in order that they are included in the round. It is in their interest that the Government is giving that second opportunity. When Deputy Griffin was Minister of State, along with others he brought in the second-chance opportunity, which is greatly benefiting clubs and communities so they are not ruled out. Up to 20% or 25% of applications were ruled out in previous rounds. I think early February is a good time to announce grants. People have the year ahead to get their funding together, get drawdown and get planning for the summertime where it is better to actually progress sports applications.

I thank Deputy Naughten for his question on defibrillators. Just before Christmas, the Minister, Deputy Catherine Martin, and I announced a stimulus for sport in which we funded a significant number of defibrillators. We are working with Sport Ireland to establish a geo-database of all sport and recreational facilities across the country. We want to include defibrillators as part of that in order that people will be able to see where defibrillators are available. The Deputy is correct about their maintenance and people need to know how to use them. Through the local sports partnerships, we fund much of the training for defibrillators. Part of that training in a club environment for those people who know how to use them is to ensure that they are charged and that their batteries are updated. I will ask Sport Ireland to revert to the Deputy on what communication it is having with clubs and sporting organisations. It is a fair question.

We need to provide a mechanism that protects community groups and individuals regarding defibrillators. I actively encourage their availability. However, individuals and community groups could be exposed if the defibrillators are not checked at least once a month, if the batteries and pads are not being replaced as specified by the manufacturer, if they are not housed in heated defibrillator cabinets as specified by the manufacturer or if they are out of the manufacturer's warranty. We do not want sporting clubs or community groups prosecuted and having to pay substantial settlements as a result of this. We want to actively support the roll-out of working defibrillators and having the local people available to use them.

I welcome the Minister of State's reply, particularly that he has had positive discussions with the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform. Have those discussions now concluded? I ask him to give some idea of the percentage. How much money will be available? The request was for €200 million. What percentage would be available to fund it? If more funding is made available, more clubs will benefit. That is a key question and I would like the Minister of State to clarify the situation.

I echo that sentiment. The Minister of State, Deputy Chambers, said February is a good month to announce grants. As I think every month is a good month to announce sports capital grants, the sooner we can get the announcement better. I commend the Minister of State and his team in the Department, who have been excellent at liaising with us. I echo the sentiments of Deputy Carey. I ask the Minister of State to give an indication of how much he requested from the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. If he could give us an indication of a percentage that would be appreciated.

Will he give us the information for 2020, 2019 or any previous schemes and the percentage of projects that never proceeded to full drawdown?

I commend both the Minister and the Minister of State, in particular, on their work in the sports capital and equipment programme. It is really important that more funding is provided and I acknowledge the significant work the Minister of State has done in it. Quite simply, a bigger budget means more funding for a larger number of clubs. In the context of Covid, we know that over the past two years these clubs were unable to do the types of fundraising activity they normally do to supplement the capital grants they would have received through previous programmes. It is crucial now more than ever that the grants provided in 2022 will be as large as possible for as many clubs as possible. We all know the benefits.

I commend the work, as does everyone in this House, of the Minister and the Minister of State in this regard. The logistical exercise in getting all these applications processed and giving the second chances is significant. I acknowledge the dedicated team in Killarney who are doing that in the Department with responsibility for sport. It is a massive exercise and it takes time, but it is worth taking the time to get it right and it will benefit those clubs in the end.

I too commend both the Minister and the Minister of State on their work. As someone who has been involved in many sports throughout my lifetime, the importance of the sports capital programme to many clubs and communities is enormous. It is good to hear the Minister of State is fighting for additional funding in this regard. As I understand, each county will receive a set amount from the national total fund. It would be important to get clarity on that. That money will then be distributed among the clubs within each county. What is the total number of applications received by the Department, with a breakdown per county?

I too am in agreement. I thank the Minister of State, Deputy Chambers, for coming to Carlow and meeting several groups that are looking for funding. I have received lots of phone calls and emails asking when the funding will be announced. I ask that it be announced as quickly as possible. This is about the community. This is about survival. Particularly after Covid, this grant will make such a difference. It is also important that women in sport who apply are looked after because we have to make sure they get their fair share.

I am not without a stake in this. The Minister of State can take as much time as he wants in his concluding remarks. He can go on until 12 noon if he wishes so long as there is good news in it.

You may give me a few minutes more.

The Minister of State might as well announce it while he has the floor, but only to the Members who are here.

Lots of questions; lots of counties.

Do not forget Dublin South-West anyway.

On the question asked by Deputy Carey, we will try to maximise the total funding envelope. I expect its amount will be significantly up on what we currently have. I will not go into our negotiation. The outcome will be announced when we announce the package. It will be positive for clubs and we are ambitious to help as many as possible.

On Deputy Pádraig O'Sullivan's question, I will ask the Department. Covid has impacted a number of clubs around drawdown over the past two years in regard to construction and, as Deputy Griffin said, there have been difficulties with fundraising. One of the measures we are trying to take in this round is to allow the amount to be much closer to the ask. If we increase the envelope amount that will be more possible and, therefore, the drawdown will be more likely and that is important.

To answer Deputy Dillon's question, yes there is a split between the per capita consideration, which reflects the county population, and then it is based on the demand per county as well. I know Deputy Griffin was involved in developing that model. It has worked well in that there is a fair split and particularly rural and regional areas get a fair share of funding as well.

On Deputy Naughten's question about defibrillators, I will ask Sport Ireland to follow up on the legitimate points he made. We have supported the purchase of many defibrillators through the equipment programme. Some will be included in the sports capital. Through sporting organisations, we have funded many defibrillators as outlined in the announcement before Christmas. The Deputy is correct in that we cannot have an adverse court outcome impacting the fair usage and the incentive for people to purchase defibrillators.

On Deputy Murnane O'Connor's question, in this round we included a specific focus on female participation in sport. Clubs that are trying to attract women and girls to participate in their local clubs will benefit to a greater extent, and that is something we are keen to do in all the funding schemes.

As I said, I know people want to see this announced as quickly as possible. We expect it to conclude very shortly. The second chances will be finished in the next week. Following this, it is a case of finalising the envelope, which we are concluding, and completing the assessments. We expect this to be announced in early February. There will also be an appeal mechanism. The Government is conscious that it is important to give momentum to sport, volunteers and people participating in communities, and to allow the Government to match the ambition in our local communities with progress in terms of community infrastructure. This sports capital round will deliver on that when we announce the conclusion and the grant outcomes in early February. I expect the next time I am standing here answering questions, we will not be awaiting the current round.

The next time the Deputy will be standing answering a question is in about 30 seconds. My apologies, the Minister, Deputy Catherine Martin, will be taking the next question.

Ceisteanna Craolacháin

Aengus Ó Snodaigh


74. D'fhiafraigh Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh den Aire Turasóireachta, Cultúir, Ealaíon, Gaeltachta, Spóirt agus Meán an bhfuil sé i gceist aici aon dlí a chur i bhfeidhm sa stát seo bunaithe ar mhúnla an dlí DDADUE sa Fhrainc chun an treoir Eorpach um sheirbhísí meán closamhairc a chur i bhfeidhm ar chaoi a dhéanfaidh cosaint agus cur chun cinn ar earnáil closamhairc agus scannánaíochta na hÉireann agus go háirithe na Gaeilge, agus ráiteas a thabhairt ar an gcomhréiteach socraithe le déanaí idir an Fhrainc agus na comhlachtaí sruthaithe. [2635/22]

Sa Fhrainc, ar Netflix agus Disney+ agus araile, caitear 20% den ioncam a fhaigheann siad ar ábhair a dhéantar sa Fhrainc, a chosnaíonn agus a thugann tacaíocht bhreise don earnáil scannánaíochta. An bhfuil sé i gceist an macasamhail den DDADUE na Fraince, a chuireann treoir Eorpach um sheirbhísí meán closamhairc i bhfeidhm, a thabhairt isteach anseo?

Ag teacht leis an treoir athbhreithnithe um sheirbhísí meán closamhairc, foráiltear sa Bhille um Rialáil Sábháilteachta agus Meán Ar Líne a foilsíodh le déanaí go bhféadfadh coimisiún na meán tobhach ábhair a ghearradh ar sheirbhísí teilifíse agus físe ar éileamh atá ar fáil sa Stát chun tacú le léiriú cláir chlosamhairc nua i réimsí éagsúla lena n-áirítear an Ghaeilge agus cultúr na hÉireann, athrú aeráide, agus comhionannas, éagsúlacht agus cuimsiú. Forálann an Bille freisin go n-úsáidfí íosmhéid de 25% den mhaoiniú a bhaileofaí sa tobhach ábhair le haghaidh léiriú chláir Ghaeilge.

Ní bhainfeadh aon tobhach ach le hioncam a thuillfí laistigh den Stát agus ghearrfaí é go cothrom ar gach seirbhís a dhíríonn ar mhargadh na hÉireann, rud a chiallaíonn go mbeadh soláthraithe seirbhísí meán in Éirinn ar nós RTÉ agus Virgin Media faoi réir an tobhaigh. Ina theannta sin, bheadh seirbhísí in Éirinn agus seirbhísí atá lonnaithe san Aontas Eorpach i dteideal iarratas a dhéanamh ar an gciste um léiriú ábhair a bhunófaí mar thoradh ar an tobhach. Bheadh rioscaí chomh maith le buntáistí ann mar gheall air seo agus dá réir sin, ní chuirfí tús leis na forálacha tobhaigh sa Bhille um Rialáil Sábháilteachta agus Meán Ar Líne ach amháin sa chás go léireofaí i dtaighde déanta ag coimisiún na meán go mbeadh tabhairt isteach tobhaigh den sórt sin ina fhoinse maoinithe cothrom agus inmharthana d’ábhar Éireannach.

Tuigim go bhfuil údaráis na Fraince chun oibleagáidí infheistíochta a fhorchur ar sheirbhísí sruthaithe ar nós Netflix agus Amazon. Ar mhaithe le comhsheasmhacht agus trédhearcacht socraíodh gurbh é tobhach ábhair an cur chuige is oiriúnaí don cheist i gcomhthéacs na hÉireann. Ar nós na scéime fuaime agus físe atá ann faoi láthair, ligfeadh an múnla atá beartaithe sa Bhille um Rialáil Sábháilteachta agus Meán Ar Líne do léiritheoirí dul san iomaíocht le haghaidh maoinithe ar bhonn trédhearcach agus iomaíocht de réir chritéir oibiachtúla. Ní bheadh sé seo amhlaidh maidir le hoibleagáidí infheistíochta, ina mbeadh cinntí maidir le cineál an ábhair a bheadh le maoiniú le déanamh ag an gcuideachta faoi réir na hoibleagáide infheistíochta.

Dá mbeadh na rialacha mar atá siad leagtha síos sa Fhrainc i gceist maidir le, mar shampla, Netflix in Éirinn, chuirfeadh sé €10 milliún bhreise ar leataobh lena chinntiú go mbeadh ábhar breise scannánaíochta nó cláir chlosamhairc ar fáil. Mar chuid den chóras sa Fhrainc, caithfear 75% den 20% a chaitheamh ar ábhair i bhFraincis.

Tá sé tábhachtach, agus muid ag féachaint air seo, go dtarlóidh sé sin. Mar a dúirt an tAire, tá RTÉ agus a leithéid i gceist. Tá ualach á chur orthu íoc arís amach anseo. Caithfidh siad a n-obair féin a dhéanamh ó thaobh na Gaeilge de. Sa chás seo, táim ag impí go mbeadh ar Netflix agus a leithéid ar a laghad 20% nó 25% dá n-ioncam a chaitheamh ar na hábhair seo agus go dtabharfar tús áite don Ghaeilge.

Mar eolas, i mí an Mheithimh 2021, d'fhoilsigh Rialtas na Fraince foraithne inar leagadh amach na hoibleagáidí atá ar sheirbhísí físe ar éileamh ar nós Netflix, Amazon Prime Video agus Disney+ maidir le saothair Fhrancacha agus Eorpacha a mhaoiniú. Sonraítear san fhoraithne go bhfuil ar sheirbhísí síntiúis ar a laghad 20% dá n-ioncam bliantúil sa Fhrainc a chur ar fáil d'fhorbairt léiriú scánnánaíochta nó closamhairc ó thíortha Eorpacha nó ón bhFrainc. Is fiú a lua go bhfuil oibleagáidí i bhfeidhm cheana féin faoi chreat rialála reatha na hÉireann maidir le craoltóirí. Mar shampla, caithfidh craoltóirí 10% den am craolta nó 10% den bhuiséad clár a leithdháileadh ar léiriúcháin neamhspleácha. Maidir le hoibleagáidí infheistíochta ar sheirbhísí físe ar éileamh, ar mhaithe le comhsheasmhacht agus trédhearcacht, socraíodh gurb é tobhach ábhair an cur chuige is oiriúnaí don cheist i gcomhthéacs na hÉireann, mar a dúirt mé cheana. Ar nós na scéime fuaime agus físe atá ann faoi láthair, ligfidh an múnla atá beartaithe sa Bhille um rialáil sábháilteachta agus meán ar líne do na léiritheoirí dul san iomaíocht le haghaidh maoinithe ar bhonn trédhearcach agus iomaíoch de réir critéir oibiachtúla. Ní bheadh sé seo amhlaidh maidir le hoibleagáidí infheistíochta ina mbeadh cinntí déanta maidir le cineál an ábhair. Ina theannta sin, faoi dhlí an AE, ní féidir oibleagáid infheistíochta a thabhairt isteach bunaithe ar chraobh léirithe faoi leith san Eoraip. Is féidir liom níos mó info a chur ar fáil don Teachta.

Gabhaim buíochas leis an Aire. Tuigim an cás. Is é an fáth a bhfuil mé ag díriú air seo ná go bhfuil muid ag iarraidh déanamh cinnte de, nuair atá oibleagáidí á leagan síos do sheirbhísí teilifíse agus a leithéid sa tír seo, go bhfuil na seirbhísí sruthaithe ar nós Netflix gafa leis na hoibleagáidí sin agus go mbeadh oibleagáidí orthu cloí le pé dlíthe atá ann ní hamháin san Eoraip, ach sa tír seo freisin. Sa chás seo, tá an Fhrainc tar éis léiriú dúinn gur féidir oibleagáidí a chur síos atá níos déine ná na hoibleagáidí atá ann ó thaobh na hEorpa de chun cosaint a dhéanamh ar an gcóras scannánaíochta agus a leithéid ina tír féin agus ar an teanga náisiúnta atá aici.

Leanfaidh mé ar aghaidh mar ní raibh mé críochnaithe. Má tá aon eolas breise ag teastáil ón Teachta, cuirfidh mo Roinn é ar aghaidh chuige. Faoi dhlí an AE, ní féidir oibleagáid infheistíochta a thabhairt isteach bunaithe ar chraobh léirithe faoi leith san Eoraip. Is féidir oibleagáid a thabhairt isteach chun ábhar a léiriú nó infheistíocht a dhéanamh in ábhair i dteanga áirithe, mar atá ann sa Fhrainc, faoi chásdhlí an AE toisc gur cuspóir chun leasa chách é teanga oifigiúil ballstáit a chaomhnú agus a chur chun cinn. Mar a dúirt mé níos luaithe, cinntíonn ár gcur chuige maidir leis an dtobhach ar léiriú ábhair cheana féin go gcaitear ar a laghad 25% den airgead a bhailítear a chaitheamh ar léiriú ábhair Ghaeilge. Is fiú a lua chomh maith go gcaithfidh aon oibleagáid infheistíochta a bheith le haghaidh léiriúcháin ó thíortha Eorpacha agus ní gá go mbeadh ábhair Éireannach i gceist. Is dócha go gcomhlíonfadh go leor soláthróirí móra atá bunaithe san AE atá ag díriú ar Éirinn an riachtanas seo cheana féin tríd a n-infheistíocht reatha. Mar sin, is dócha nach mbeadh beart den sórt sin ina bhuntáiste d'Éirinn.

Online Safety

Alan Farrell


75. Deputy Alan Farrell asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media the status of the efforts by her Department to address recommendations from the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Tourism, Culture, Arts, Sport and Media that proposed an individual complaints mechanism for harmful online content with regard to the Online Safety and Media Regulation Bill; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [2304/22]

The next question is in the name of Deputy Alan Farrell but is being taken by Deputy Higgins.

I will begin by thanking the Minister for progressing everything she is doing in terms of online safety and media regulation. I ask her to consider including an individual complaints mechanism for harmful online content in the legislation she is progressing. This is being called for by many of the NGOs that do such fantastic work in this space.

Thanks are due to the members of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Tourism, Culture, Arts, Sport and Media for their extensive work on the pre-legislative scrutiny report on the general scheme of the Online Safety and Media Regulation Bill. This included 33 recommendations, which shows how complex and important this legislation is. One of those recommendations was that an individual complaints mechanism for harmful online content be provided. This is a matter I have been considering closely for some time.

The issue of providing for avenues of redress in terms of individual pieces of content in the online world is complex. The approach in the development of the Online Safety and Media Regulation Bill to date has been to provide the online safety commissioner with the power to require that regulated online services have effective complaints mechanisms in place with full powers of audit and investigation provided to the commissioner in that respect. The Bill also provides for a super-complaints mechanism whereby nominated bodies may notify the commissioner of concerns regarding a designated online service's compliance with an online safety code or relating to the availability of harmful online content on a service.

I am very conscious that the introduction of an individual complaints mechanism raises a number of complex practical and legal issues, including in terms of the sheer volume of content online. I am also conscious that Ireland will be regulating a number of services on an EU-wide basis, which involves regulating on behalf of a population of 450 million, and of questions relating to due process requirements and how quickly decisions could reasonably be made by the online safety commissioner.

In light of the recommendations of the Oireachtas joint committee, I am examining how these issues can be addressed. I announced last week that I will shortly establish an expert advisory group. I hope the membership of the group will be announced in the coming days. This group will report on this matter within 90 days with recommendations as to how best to address this issue. Following the report of the group, I will consider how to give effect to any recommendations through amendments to the Bill.

I am pleased the Minister has established this advisory group and that it has such a tight timeframe, 90 days, in which to report back. It is a very complex area, as we know. We need to make sure there is a path through which to escalate individual complaints. I appreciate that this would involve a large population because of so many companies having their EU headquarters here. If there are any legal ways around that, we need to explore them. I also acknowledge the work of the Minister for Justice, Deputy McEntee, in this area with regard to making sure that Coco's Law came into effect. As legislators, we have a great responsibility to ensure the safety of our young people online, but the social media companies share that responsibility. Anonymous accounts and pile-ons can do a lot of damage to people's confidence and mental health. We need to acknowledge that. The fact that, as the Minister has said, so many social media companies are headquartered here in Ireland and, indeed, here in Dublin gives us the opportunity to become world leaders in this area. I ask the social media companies to step up to the mark.

It is exactly for all of those reasons that I have established this expert group to examine the proposals. There are significant complex legal and practical issues in this area. For example, in the constitutional and legal context, there is the complexity of upholding fundamental rights and respecting due process requirements for complainants, online services and the uploaders of content that is the subject of a complaint. I direct the Deputy to the binding codes and the real teeth this commissioner will have. Provision is to be made for fines of up to €20 million or 10% of turnover, whichever is greater, for criminal liability for those involved, search warrants and the blocking of platforms.

Within the expert advisory group, I hope to have the legal expertise required, particularly with regard to complexities of regulating the online world; knowledge of, and expertise in, the operation of complaints systems in other regulatory contexts; experience in the protection of children's rights in an online environment; and knowledge of, and expertise in, the practical requirements, such as resourcing an organisation required to operate an individual complaints system. That is what I hope to have in this expert group.

That sounds comprehensive and is really welcome.

It is important that the online safety and media commission will have teeth.

A few months ago, I attended a protest organised by young people who feel it is time we as a society faced up to Facebook. Social media companies of this type use algorithms to target people to sell advertisements and generate engagement. As we all saw when Frances Haugen faced up to Facebook, doing so can have massive consequences. Social media offer major opportunities to all of us to sell our message and connect with people. There are many positives, but there are also threats, including to society, people's mental health and safety and our democracy. We must face up to that. I compliment the Minister on all she is doing in leading in this space. It is so important that the online safety and media commission tackles these important issues.

That is the intention. I spoke previously about the detail and real teeth of this commissioner. We have already started the recruitment process for the commissioner, in parallel with the progress of the Bill through both Houses. I will be initiating the Bill in the Seanad, and I have written to the relevant joint committee in that regard. That we have started the recruitment process for the online safety and media commissioner shows how seriously this Government is taking this issue. This Government and I will always seek to protect children online rather than the technology companies. This is about safety online, and that is where our focus is.

Heritage Sites

Bríd Smith


76. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media the role her Department can play in ensuring that a vital aspect of Dublin city's culture is preserved, restored and utilised for the benefit of the city and tourism in saving the Iveagh Market, Francis Street, from being totally destroyed due to neglect and legal interventions between Dublin City Council and persons (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [2481/22]

I am taking this question on behalf of Deputy Bríd Smith, who has been delayed in hospital. The question concerns the Iveagh Market in the Liberties. It is an absolute scandal that the building has been sat on by a developer. It is derelict and could collapse. It is an historical heritage site and the local community wants it to be re-established as a market, which could really revitalise the Liberties area. The community and Dublin City Council have been frustrated at every hand's turn by the greed of a developer, essentially, who wants to sit on the site.

I must clarify that policy responsibility for the core issues at the heart of this matter, namely, the protection of architectural heritage, urban regeneration and planning legislation, rests with my colleague, the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Deputy Darragh O'Brien. Implementation of such policies on the ground falls, to a great degree, to local authorities, which in this instance is Dublin City Council. The local authorities have particular responsibilities and powers under the planning Acts regarding the safeguarding of protected structures, such as the Iveagh Market, and development proposals affecting such structures.

Our heritage and cultural offering, including our built heritage, is an important underpinning of the wider tourism offering, but any possible role for my Department or the tourism agencies regarding the Iveagh Market might only arise, once any legal issues have been resolved, at a later stage in the process, should a tourism-related development be proposed or advanced. This question from the Deputy concerns my responsibility in this regard in the context of tourism. In that case, in line with its tourism development functions, Fáilte Ireland could consider the proposal and any possible agency supports. My Department's role concerning tourism lies primarily in the area of national tourism policy development and in securing resources to assist the tourism agencies, Fáilte Ireland and Tourism Ireland, in implementing that policy. Accordingly, the development and enhancement of our tourism product offering and related funding decisions are operational matters for Fáilte Ireland.

Commenting more generally on the role of heritage and culture as part of the overall tourism offering, Fáilte Ireland has advised that prior to the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic more than 70% of overseas tourists to Ireland visited sites of historical or cultural interest. Accordingly, to develop more participative experiences that bring local culture and heritage to life, Fáilte Ireland has prioritised capital investment in projects that will deliver innovative and interactive experiences in which our visitors can immerse themselves.

With specific regard to Dublin and Fáilte Ireland's supports to enhance the city's heritage and cultural offering, examples include the Dublin surprising stories small grants scheme. This is offered in tandem with continued support by Fáilte Ireland for tourism issues in Dublin.

I understand the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage is centrally responsible for this area, but this is a heritage site. It is an absolute scandal that this beautiful building is now on the brink of collapse, instead of having been refurbished, revitalised or redeveloped as a market for the people. That was originally what this building was intended to be when it was given to the people of the area by the Guinness family. The greed of a developer has frustrated efforts to get this vital heritage site back into use. It could transform Francis Street and the wider Liberties district, and be a win-win situation. The community wants this developer out of the picture and Dublin City Council and the State, including the Minister's Department, to-----

I ask the Deputy to finish up.

-----intervene to get this site refurbished in the interests of the people and our heritage.

In her absence, I commend Deputy Bríd Smith on the work she is doing on this issue. Again, I remind Deputy Boyd Barrett that the policy responsibility for the core issues at the heart of this matter, namely, the protection of architectural heritage, urban regeneration and planning legislation, do not lie with my Department but with that of my colleague, the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage. Any role for my Department or the tourism agencies regarding the Iveagh Market would come at a later stage in the process, once any legal issues have been resolved, if a tourism-related development is proposed or advanced. The role of my Department comes later, once the legal issues have been resolved.

While that is the formal position, given that she is responsible for the protection of our heritage, the Minister should see this as a priority. What the community is saying is that the mediation with this developer, Mr. Keane, should end. This person has no interest. From looking at the record and the neglect of this beautiful site, and the resulting dereliction and vacancy, it is evident that he has no useful role to play. What we want is for all the arms of government with any stake in this matter to end this ridiculous and terrible situation and ensure this site is restored to its glory in the interests of the people. It should become one of the jewels in the crown of tourism and heritage, as well as an important local amenity for the people of the Liberties.

The Department held the remit for heritage before I became the Minister, but that responsibility has now moved over to the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage. I am looking at Deputy Bríd Smith's question before me and it directly relates to the tourism aspect. My role does not come into play until the legal issue is worked out. As I said, the architectural heritage responsibility rests with the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, while urban planning and development policy is primarily a matter for local authorities. County and city development plans are drawn up by the local authorities in accordance with their functions under the Planning and Development Acts. I reiterate that the heritage responsibility is no longer with my Department but with the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage.

Gender Equality

Patrick Costello


77. Deputy Patrick Costello asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media the way that Sport Ireland and an organisation (details supplied) plan to address the issues of inequality within Irish women’s rugby as highlighted by the recent letter from former and current players; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [2438/22]

There has been much talk in recent days about needing a new culture of respect. Treating women's sport equally is one of the many things we can do to contribute in that regard. Some 62 current and former Irish women rugby players wrote to the Minister of State seeking support to make meaningful changes at all levels of the women's game in Ireland, from the grassroots to green shirts. What is being done to support these women in their ambition to make the game of Irish women's rugby a world-beater?

On Friday, 10 December, the Minister, Deputy Catherine Martin, and I received a letter from a group of current and former female international rugby players in which they highlight a number of concerns regarding the Irish Rugby Football Union, IRFU, and its ongoing reviews into the Rugby World Cup 2021 qualification campaign and the women in rugby action plan. We are of the view that it is extremely important that the issues that were raised are addressed to ensure there is a positive future for women's rugby in Ireland.

We met with a representative group of the players on Monday, 20 December, at which meeting the players outlined their concerns in detail. We also met separately with the IRFU on the same day and raised with it all of the players' concerns. With the agreement of the players, we asked Sport Ireland to engage with the players to provide assistance and guidance to progress the issues of concern. Sport Ireland met with the group of representative players on 23 December and again earlier this week. Sport Ireland is currently working with the players and the IRFU to address the issues. I am hopeful that this process will result in a positive outcome for women's rugby.

I am also pleased to note that the announcement made by the IRFU on 17 December confirms that it intends to fully publish the two independent reviews being undertaken. The next steps will now involve the players meeting directly with the IRFU following their meetings with Sport Ireland. Sport Ireland will engage further in this process.

One of the issues raised by the players was the fact that these reviews have not been published. The commitment by the IRFU to publish them is welcome. It shows that the input from Sport Ireland and the Minister of State to help mediate between the players and the IRFU is essential. I ask that he and the Minister continue the good work and continue to support the players and any sort of mediation or resolution.

We spoke earlier about the importance of funding women's sports. However, there is also a level of institutional respect and organisation that needs to go behind that. There is a lot the Minister of State's office can do to drive positive changes here. It is one of the many things we need to do to improve our culture of respect and bring about the sea change we have all been talking about in this House.

I fully agree. Certainly at the start of this process, some of the remarks made did not show that respect. We were very clear in our engagements that it was something that had to happen. There has to be respect and there has to be a culture of equality within sport.

Equality in sport is a key priority for the Government. Our overall vision is for women to have an equal opportunity to achieve their full potential while enjoying a lifelong involvement in sport. Both the programme for Government and the national sports policy are unequivocal in their commitment to making this a reality. The national sports policy sets out that we want to eliminate the gender participation gap entirely by 2027 and commits to increasing female participation in sport, including participants, coaches, referees and administrators, as well as increasing the funding year on year for Sport Ireland's women in sport programme. It goes from the grassroots right the way up to the high performance system.

For sporting organisations, that means not only when they are dealing with their top teams, both men and women, but also at an organisational and governance level. In our sport action plan we have set ambitious targets for the leadership and board roles within sporting organisations. They need to ensure their boards reflect the broader population. Some of them have significant work to do and will face consequences in the next 12 to 24 months if they do not get with the agenda of ensuring their boards reflect the broader population.

Arts Policy

Steven Matthews


78. Deputy Steven Matthews asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media the position regarding the outcome of the recent stakeholder and public engagement for the universal basic income for the arts scheme; and the timeline for its launch. [2571/22]

Cormac Devlin


81. Deputy Cormac Devlin asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media if an update will be provided on plans to support artists with a basic income. [2477/22]

Catherine Connolly


99. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media further to Parliamentary Question No. 130 of 11 November 2021, the expected timeline for the opening of the basic income pilot scheme for artists; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [2439/22]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh


100. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media the status of the proposed basic income for artists scheme following the stakeholder forum in December 2021; and when artists can expect to benefit from the scheme given her previous commitment to open applications for the scheme early in quarter 1 of 2022. [2636/22]

Gary Gannon


120. Deputy Gary Gannon asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media the status of the pilot for a basic income for artists. [2649/22]

Colm Burke


127. Deputy Colm Burke asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media if consideration will be given to increasing the resources of her Department for the basic income for the arts pilot scheme in the event of significant demand for same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [2378/22]

Dara Calleary


128. Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media if she will provide an update on the status of the pilot basic income guarantee scheme for artists, including its planned scope, start date and duration; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [2491/22]

Richard Boyd Barrett


130. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media the reason the basic income pilot scheme for arts and culture workers is limited to 2,000 persons rather than including all arts, entertainment and music workers; if she will reconsider this number; the way she plans to choose the participants in the scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [2525/22]

Colm Burke


152. Deputy Colm Burke asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media the way that her Department plans to award payments to all successful applicants to the proposed basic income for the arts pilot scheme; if the number of applications far exceeds the allocated funding of €25 million; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [2379/22]

I was happy to see the public consultation launched on the basic income for the arts. It is welcome. I know the Minister has engaged extensively across the sector over the last 18 months during the pandemic. She is aware of the difficulties that the arts, entertainers and musicians have suffered through the pandemic, like many other people throughout the country. Will she outline to the House her vision for what this basic income for the arts might deliver, the outcome of her engagements throughout the process and an approximate timeline for the launch when musicians and artists may start to receive payments?

I propose to answer Questions Nos. 78, 81, 99, 100, 120, 127, 128, 130 and 152 together. The number of questions on this issue goes to show the interest in and support for our arts in this House, which I welcome.

As Minister with responsibility for arts and culture, I am conscious of the value that this sector brings to all Irish citizens and how art is an inherent part of Ireland's cultural identity. The importance of Irish culture and art and Irish productions as a whole cannot be overstated. They contribute to individual and societal well-being, as well as to Ireland's reputation as a country with a rich cultural history and output. The intrinsic value of culture and the arts to society has been particularly evident during the pandemic.

I was delighted that as part of the economic recovery plan, I secured a commitment from the Government to prioritise the development of a basic income pilot scheme for the arts and cultural sector. This was the number one recommendation from the arts and culture recovery task force. Against this backdrop, and my own experience of the arts, funding for the basic income pilot scheme was a key priority of mine for budget 2022 and I secured €25 million to launch the pilot scheme this year.

The basic income for the arts will allow artists and creative arts workers to focus on their creative practice and to help support the arts as they recover from the devastating impact of the Covid pandemic. Stakeholder engagement has been central to my Department's response to the pandemic. As the Deputies are aware, my Department held a stakeholder consultation last month on the basic income for the arts, to provide the arts sector, those working in it and the resource bodies and representative organisations with the opportunity to engage with the policy development and share their views. Over 150 participants from 50 artists and arts workers resource and representative bodies came together to discuss the proposal and provide their views and feedback. Following the forum, I launched a public consultation on the pilot basic income for the arts on Thursday, 6 January. The consultation will remain open until 27 January. The purpose of the online consultation is to ensure that the general public, artists and those working in the arts and culture sector have the opportunity to contribute to the policy development. To date, we have received over 500 submissions on the public consultation. It is important that we get their suggestions from their experiences as artists, arts workers and members of organisations on the key issues such as the scheme's objectives, eligibility criteria, supporting emerging artists and participant responsibilities.

The selection process, application details and rate of payment for recipients of the basic income for the arts pilot scheme will be finalised following the stakeholder engagement and online consultation. However, I can confirm the following. Participation in the scheme will not be based on a means test. It will be a non-competitive process and, as such, once a person satisfies the eligibility criteria, he or she 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 appraisal of the pilot in due course. Proposals for the parameters of the scheme will be finalised in light of the stakeholder engagement.

Eligibility will be based on the legal definition of the arts as contained in the Arts Act, namely, that "arts" means any creative or interpretative expression, whether traditional or contemporary, in whatever form, and includes, in particular, visual arts, theatre, literature, music, dance, opera, film, circus and architecture, and includes any medium when used for those purposes. There will be a number of ways of demonstrating eligibility, including but not limited to membership of a relevant representative or resource organisation. Applications will be through an online portal.

The intention of the pilot scheme is to study whether a basic income contributes to ensuring the arts sector remains intact, provides artists and creatives with the opportunity to increase their practice, minimising the loss of skills and contributing to the sector's gradual regrowth, with ongoing benefits, social and economic, local and national.

On 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 is a significant undertaking and work is ongoing to develop the online portal and review the hundreds of submissions received on the topic. I have always stated that my ambition is to open the scheme for applications in the first quarter of 2022 and that remains the case. Once applications have been received, these will need to be assessed for eligibility and I expect that process would take at least six to eight weeks depending on the volume of applications. On that basis, I would expect to see the first payments issue in April. That timeline could be subject to change if the volume of applications is very high.

However, I reiterate that the basic income for the arts scheme is a key priority of mine and we in the Department are devoting as many resources to it as possible to ensure that we reach our goal of opening for applications in the first quarter.

Additional information not given on the floor of the House The basic income for the arts pilot scheme will bring new life and support to the arts and cultural sector and I hope it will provide an important legacy for our artists and creatives. In addition to this measure, I have also secured continued investment of €130 million for the Arts Council in 2022. Combined, these measures will significantly contribute to the development of the arts in Ireland.

Since we have only two minutes left, I will allow the Deputies to make a quick comment.

I will be quick. I congratulate the Minister on securing this scheme. It is vital. We know the level of creativity across the arts sector. Anything we can do to support and nurture that is to be welcomed.

I note that the Government has agreed a new public holiday on St. Brigid's Day, which will give us a great opportunity to celebrate creativity and entertainment across the country as we emerge from winter.

I welcome the Minister's statement. I hope that, even though the system will be randomised, she will take account of how it will sometimes be people who are in groups who are applying. It would be divisive if one person got a payment but the rest of his or her group, troupe or whatever did not. We must be conscious that there are pitfalls. The €2,000 limit might have to be extended to take account of this type of situation.

There is no time left. I gave Members extra time.

I will revert to all of the Deputies.

Written Answers are published on the Oireachtas website.