Skip to main content
Normal View

Dáil Éireann debate -
Tuesday, 21 Jun 2022

Vol. 1023 No. 7

Ceisteanna ar Sonraíodh Uain Dóibh - Priority Questions

Reachtaíocht Teanga

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

1. D'fhiafraigh Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh den Aire Turasóireachta, Cultúir, Ealaíon, Gaeltachta, Spóirt agus Meán cén fáth nár cuireadh tús le feidhm Acht na dTeangacha Oifigiúla (Leasú) 2021 go fóill; cén dáta faoina mbeidh feidhm ag an Acht; cén dáta faoina mbeidh an Coiste Comhairleach bunaithe; agus cén dáta faoina mbeidh na caighdeáin teanga forordaithe de réir an Achta. [32440/22]

Ba mhaith liom a fhiafraí den Aire cén fáth go bhfuil moill le feidhmiú Acht na dTeangacha Oifigiúla (Leasú), 2021, a ritheadh sa Teach seo roimh Nollaig anuraidh agus a sínigh an tUachtarán ar an 21 Nollaig 2021. Dúradh linn ag an am go mbeadh feidhm iomlán leis an reachtaíocht seo agus is léir nach bhfuil.

Mar is eol don Teachta, síníodh Acht na dTeangacha Oifigiúla (Leasú), 2021 ina dhlí i mí na Nollag anuraidh.

Ó shin i leith táim féin agus oifigigh mo Roinne ag obair chun feidhm a thabhairt d’fhorálacha uile an Achta ar bhonn céimiúil. Ní gá a rá, dar ndóigh, nach dtarlóidh sé seo thar oíche. Is tionscadal fadtéarmach é seo agus ag croílár na n-iarrachtaí ina leith, beidh taighde cuimsitheach le cur i gcrích agus de dheasca an taighde sin beidh plean náisiúnta i leith soláthar seirbhís poiblí trí mheán na Gaeilge le forbairt agus le foilsiú. Is é seo a leanas achoimre ar an méid atá déanta ó thaobh fheidhmiú an Achta 2021 go dtí seo. Tá acmhainní breise faighte agam laistigh de leithdháileadh mo Roinne i gcáinaisnéis 2022 chun dlús a chur le cur i bhfeidhm na reachtaíochta nua, chomh maith le hacmhainní breise a sholáthar d’Oifig an Choimisinéara Teanga i mbliana chun córais mhonatóireachta na hoifige sin a neartú. Tá earcú na n-acmhainní foirne breise seo beagnach críochnaithe ag mo Roinn anois.

Níor mhiste a lua gur togra uile-Rialtais é seo agus go mbeidh dualgais orainn go léir sa státchóras trí chéile maidir lena fhorfheidhmiú. Chuige sin, scríobh mo Roinn chuig comhlachtaí poiblí níos luaithe i mbliana chun a n-aird a tharraingt ar an Acht nua agus ar na príomhspriocanna atá san áireamh ann. Ó thaobh feidhme a thabhairt d’fhorálacha sonracha an Achta, ba é an phríomhthosaíocht a bhí agam go dtí seo ná an coiste comhairleach um sheirbhísí Gaeilge a bhunú. Beidh ról lárnach ag an gcoiste i gcur chuige comhordaithe a stiúradh chun a chinntiú go n-earcófar líon dóthanach pearsanra le Gaeilge chun seirbhísí a sholáthar. Nochtfar ballraíocht an choiste chomhairligh ar an lá bunaithe, a bheidh le fógairt an tseachtain seo.

I measc phríomhfhorálacha an Achta nua, beidh sé de dhualgas ar gach comhlacht poiblí 20% ar a laghad dá fhógraíocht bhliantúil a dhéanamh i nGaeilge agus 5% dá fhógraíocht a dhéanamh sna meáin Ghaeilge. Tá an fhoráil úd leagtha amach ag alt 10A den Acht. Chuige sin, tá beartaithe agam ordú um thosach feidhme na forála seo a shíniú ar an 3 Deireadh Fómhair 2022 chun go dtiocfaidh sé i bhfeidhm ar an 10 Deireadh Fómhair 2022. Tá scríofa agam go pearsanta chuig mo chomhghleacaithe Rialtais chun an méid atá beartaithe a chur in iúl dóibh. B'fhéidir go mbeidh seans agam an freagra a chríochnú ina dhiaidh don Teachta Ó Snodaigh a chuid a rá.

Thuig mé i gcónaí nach thar oíche a tharlódh seo ná an plean náisiúnta. Rinneamar dul chun cinn mór nuair a rinneamar an reachtaíocht a aontú anseo agus nuair a rinne an tUachtarán é a shíniú.

Dúirt an tAire Stáit ansin go mbeidh an coiste comhairleach ann go gairid. Is trua an moill seo. Mar is cuimhin leis an Aire Stáit, sa díospóireacht dúirt muidne trí mhí agus dúirt sé féin sé mhí ach go mbeadh an coiste ann roimh dheireadh na tréimhse sin. Ar a laghad, beidh sé le fógairt i gceann seachtaine. Dúirt sé freisin gur scríobh sé chuig na comhlachtaí Stáit agus a chomhghleacaithe, na hAirí eile. Tá dul chun cinn á dhéanamh ansin. Tá mé tar éis a bheith ag díospóireacht leis an Aire Breisoideachais agus Ardoideachais, Taighde, Nuálaíochta agus Eolaíochta mar gheall ar an reachtaíocht ardoideachais agus leis an Aire Stáit, an Teachta Noonan, faoi reachtaíocht a bhaineann leis an gcoimisiún toghcháin. Ghlac siadsan le roinnt den bhunús atá in Acht na dTeangacha Oifigiúla ach níl an tAire Dlí agus Cirt ag glacadh leis an méid atá sa reachtaíocht sin. Iarraim ar an Aire Stáit rá léi, sula dtagann sí os comhair na Dála lena reachtaíocht féin ar Chéim na Tuarascála, go gcaithfidh sí cloí leis an Acht.

Maidir le tosach feidhme d’alt 16, a dhéanann leasú ar alt 12 d’Acht na nGiúiréithe, 1976, tá beartaithe agam ordú um thosach feidhme na forála seo a shíniú ar an 9 Meán Fómhair 2022, chun go dtiocfaidh sé i bhfeidhm ar an 12 Meán Fómhair 2022.

Leagtar amach feidhmeanna sonracha an choiste chomhairligh san Acht, lena n-áirítear plean náisiúnta a fhoilsiú ar mhaithe le soláthar seirbhísí poiblí trí mheán na Gaeilge a mhéadú laistigh de dhá bhliain ó bhunú an choiste. Mar dúirt an Teachta, beidh mé in ann an coiste a fhógairt an tseachtain seo. Tá ullmhú an phlean náisiúnta ag teacht le cuspóir foriomlán an Achta a bhaint amach, sé sin, gur cainteoirí Gaeilge a bheidh in 20% de na hearcaigh nua chuig an tseirbhís phoiblí tráth nach déanaí ná an 31 Nollaig 2030. Mar chuid den phlean, beidh spriocdháta á shocrú faoina gcuirfear gach seirbhís phoiblí sa Ghaeltacht agus don Ghaeltacht ar fáil trí mheán na Gaeilge, rud atá á éileamh ag pobail Ghaeltachta le blianta fada anuas. Chuige sin, tá na próisis chuí sa tsúil ag oifigigh mo Roinne chun, mar chéad chéim, léirithe spéise a lorg ar an taighde a bheidh le coimisiúnú chun an plean náisiúnta a chur i dtoll a chéile. Beidh téarmaí tagartha sonracha don taighde le haontú ag an gcéad chruinniú den choiste comhairleach sna seachtainí amach romhainn, agus iarratas ar thairiscint le fógairt go luath san fhómhar. Tá oifigigh mo Roinne, i gcomhar le hOifig an Choimisinéara Teanga, i mbun sraith seimineár faisnéise a eagrú ar líne ag deireadh mhí Iúil ar mhaithe le comhairle a chur ar eagrais Stáit i dtaobh a ndualgais nua faoin Acht.

Dar ndóigh, beifear ag leanúint le feidhm a thabhairt d’ailt agus forálacha eile an Achta ar bhonn céimiúil, an fhoráil a bhaineann leis na caighdeáin teanga san áireamh. Leis an Acht nua seo, tá bunsraith láidir leagtha síos dúinn, mar Stát, chun fíorcheannaireacht a léiriú i dtaobh na teanga a chaomhnú do na glúnta amach romhainn. Tagann forálacha an Achta le huaillmhian bheartais fhoriomlán an Stáit maidir le tacú leis an nGaeilge agus le hí a chur chun cinn.

Aontaím leis an méid atá an tAire Stáit ag rá. Caithfimid cinntiú nach dtarlóidh aon mhoilleadóireacht agus nach gcaillfidh muid mí i ndiaidh mí toisc cruinnithe coiste nó a leithéid. Tá dúshlán mór roimh an Stát. Má tá moilleadóireacht ann ag an staid seo, beidh muid mall ag comhlíonadh na ndúshlán móra atá roimh an státchóras ina iomláine ó thaobh earcaíochta de agus ó thaobh gach rud eile agus na seirbhísí a bheith ar fáil.

Ceist a bhaineann leis seo ná ceist na gcaighdeán. Le linn na díospóireachta, bhí muid ag lorg go mbeadh na caighdeáin, nó dréacht-chaighdeáin ar a laghad, leagtha amach. Cén uair a shíleann an tAire Stáit go mbeidh siad leagtha amach, ionas go mbeidh a fhios againn ar fad cén tslat tomhais a bheidh á úsáid ag na comhlachtaí Stáit nó na Ranna Stáit maidir leis na seirbhísí a bheidh siad ag cur ar fáil dúinn ar fad trí Ghaeilge amach anseo?

Mar a dúirt mé, beifear ag leanúint le feidhm a thabhairt d’ailt agus forálacha eile an Achta ar bhonn céimiúil agus an fhoráil a bhaineann leis na caighdeáin teanga san áireamh. Beidh an coiste comhairleach ann an tseachtain seo, beidh cruinnithe ann, agus beimid ag obair ar an taighde maidir leis an bplean náisiúnta ina dhiaidh sin. Beimid in ann na céimeanna eile a chur i bhfeidhm freisin agus tríd an bhliain seo beimid ag déanamh go leor oibre ar an ábhar seo.

Raidió Teilifís Éireann

Mick Barry

Question:

2. Deputy Mick Barry asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media if she will report on the engagement she has had with two organisations (details supplied) following the ending of their partnership last week; the measures she will take to ensure that trans people are respected and their rights are upheld in the media; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32759/22]

I wish to ask the Minister to report on the engagement she has had with RTÉ and Dublin Pride following the ending of their partnership last week, the measures she intends to take to ensure that trans people are respected and their rights upheld in the media, and if she will make a statement on the matter.

At the outset, I acknowledge that the announcement by Dublin Pride last week that it is terminating its media partnership with RTÉ reflects the hurt and anger within the LGBTI+ community and beyond it. I am proud of how far Ireland has come in recent years in terms of the greater respect offered to minorities and groups in society that were previously marginalised, and in particular to members of the LGBTI+ community. I am committed to supporting LGBTI+ people across all the areas under the remit of my Department. In that regard, my Department will be providing €55,000 to support the Dublin Pride festival this year.

As the Deputy will be aware, the independence of our public service broadcasters is set out in legislation in section 98 of the Broadcasting Act 2009. For that reason, it would not be appropriate for me to meet with RTÉ in respect of an individual programme. However, I am strongly of the view that media policy and regulation does and must continue to play an important role in ensuring respect and protection for trans people and other vulnerable groups in society. As Minister, my role is to ensure that there is a robust statutory framework in place, with appropriate standards and accountability mechanisms overseen by an independent regulator.

Under the Broadcasting Act, the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland, BAI, as independent regulator for broadcasting content in the State, is required to make broadcasting codes governing the standards and practice to be observed by broadcasters. The two codes of particular relevance are the code of fairness, objectivity and impartiality in news and current affairs and the code of programme standards, which is designed to ensure that the representation of persons and groups in society is appropriate, does not prejudice respect for human dignity and does not stigmatise, condone discrimination or incite hatred, including on the basis of protected characteristics.

All broadcasters in Ireland must ensure that their output is compliant with the law and with any codes and rules made by the BAI. The Broadcasting Act provides for a robust complaints procedure and sets out the power of the compliance committee of the BAI to initiate an investigation of a broadcaster for a serious or repeated failure by a broadcaster to comply with a broadcasting code and ultimately for the imposition of financial sanctions.

The framework for broadcasting regulation is designed to protect the independence of the media and I am therefore necessarily restricted in terms of direct intervention on this matter. I do, however, wish to conclude by saying we must ensure that all our people feel safe, valued and equal in our country. This is particularly the case where people are members of a very small, and consequently very vulnerable, minority, as is the case for trans people. Any conversations involving such a small minority must be carried out with great care and with absolute respect.

Hateful, divisive, manufactured so-called debate has now been imported to this country from the US and the UK. Two weeks of targeted abuse of the LGBT community in general, and the transgender community in particular, has been the result. Shamefully, the national broadcaster has been central to the whole thing.

We have heard a lot about the freedom to discuss in the past two weeks and I am going to make a point about that when I ask my next question. However, in reality, RTÉ, "Liveline" and the corporate media more generally have covered up the fact that the four people who were excluded from the National Women's Council event had announced by way of press release in advance that their intention was to disrupt the event and to do so by targeting a trans person for hostile criticism.

The Oireachtas Joint Committee on Tourism, Culture, Arts, Sport and Media has let RTÉ off the hook by cancelling the invitation to a meeting tomorrow. RTÉ might have faced some interesting questions at that meeting on its suppression of the facts surrounding this case. Will the Minister agree that the invitation should be reissued?

The framework for broadcasting regulation is designed to protect the independence of the media by preventing interventions by Government or Ministers, particularly the Minister with responsibility for the media, in programming decisions or programming content. As I said, that is outlined in section 98 of the Broadcasting Act.

The provisions to prevent the Government of the day from intervening in programme content broadcast on Irish television or radio necessarily and rightly limits the degree to which I can comment on individual terms of content. That is a vital principle that underpins the freedom of the media in our country and, in particular, the freedom of our public service broadcasters.

That said, I acknowledge that it can be uncomfortable and frustrating at times.

As I set out in my initial reply, there is a robust regulatory framework in place requiring broadcasters to adhere to appropriate standards and practices. I understand that the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Tourism, Culture, Arts, Sport and Media issued a statement yesterday indicating that it does not propose to hold a meeting to consider the broadcasts in question in recognition of the rights of the complainants to be afforded due process in proceedings. It is also important that I as Minister do not intervene in any regulatory decisions of the BAI and allow the process to operate as designed.

I repeat that as a general principle it is important that we conduct our national conversations in a spirit of respect and in recognition of the fundamental dignity of all our people. We must be cognisant of the words we use and how we use them and that is all the more important when we are speaking about a small and vulnerable minority in our society.

The Minister has been let off the hook. I am opposed to debating anyone's human rights. I am in favour of more discussion on gender identity issues. I am also in favour of asking hard questions like why, for example, the gender identity adolescent clinic at Crumlin hospital has not been operational for nearly 18 months. Why is there a waiting list of more than six years at the national gender service in Loughlinstown? Why is this service operating on an outdated model of care? Why is there no recognition for non-binary trans people? Why are there no public health service options for gender affirming surgery? Why, more than 20 years into the 21st century, do we still not have a GP-led and consent-based service for trans people in this Republic?

Clearly there is still much work to do to win LGBTQ liberation and I hope that the Pride events are well attended this month and that the trans Pride event on 16 July is a huge success.

Equally, I hope that those events are very well attended. I cannot answer his specific questions but what I can do is tell the Deputy what I am doing in my own Department to support and engage with the LGBTI+ community across the areas under my remit. Under the Creative Ireland programme, the creative communities initiative with local authorities provides funding to support community-led creative projects including for the LGBTI+ community such as Rainbow Library in Cork and the LGBTI+ Inclusion Festival in Galway. The Deputy may also be aware that the Government decided in February of this year to extend the Creative Ireland programme to 2027. As part of this, I specifically proposed that Creative Ireland should deepen its work collaborating through creativity across key interest groups and supporting, among others, LGBTI+ equality promotion.

In the broadcasting sector the BAI plays both a regulatory and a development role through support schemes such as Sound and Vision. My officials have been engaging with the BAI regarding the actions it is taking to promote equality, diversity and inclusion in the broadcasting sector in Ireland. The BAI is currently reviewing its 2018 gender action plan.

Finally, I share the Deputy's hope that both events are very well attended. As I outlined in my initial response to the Deputy's question, it would be inappropriate for me to intervene at this point and the Oireachtas committee made the same decision.

Tourism Industry

Imelda Munster

Question:

3. Deputy Imelda Munster asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media her views on the rising cost of tourist accommodation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32833/22]

Peter Fitzpatrick

Question:

4. Deputy Peter Fitzpatrick asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media if she has plans to make any policy changes to assist inward tourism in respect of reported price-gouging by various tourism providers for car rental, hotels, car parking, inbound flights and so on; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32760/22]

I ask the Minister to outline her views on the rising cost of tourist accommodation.

What plans does the Minister have to introduce policy changes to assist-----

Sorry Deputy, but Questions Nos. 3 and 4 are grouped and will be taken together.

My question is slightly different from Deputy Munster's question.

Yes, but the Minister will answer both questions.

I propose to take Questions Nos. 3 and 4 together.

While the recovery momentum in our tourism sector continues, inflation, other economic factors and the significant cost pressures on tourism businesses are likely to impede the recovery. In terms of international perception, there is a risk of damage to Ireland's tourism offering and the promotion of Ireland as a good value destination through negative customer experience arising from the issues and challenges within the sector post­Covid. Many of these issues and challenges, such as reduced services and higher prices as a result of inflation, energy costs, labour shortages, recruitment challenges and supply chain issues, occur in other countries around the world. We see them manifested in Ireland in a lack of affordable accommodation and car rental options in certain areas, and in delays at Dublin Airport.

While I have no regulatory function with regard to the operation of our airports or the car rental sector, I am very aware of the potential impact of negative stories on customer sentiment. In this regard, Tourism Ireland is monitoring sentiment in our source markets in terms of reputational impact as a result of pricing concerns based on consumer, media, industry, and trade feedback and is issuing a weekly report on this matter to my Department. As we enter the peak summer months and the tourism industry recovers, there is inevitably additional pressure on hotel capacity and pricing. Hotel supply in Dublin has been affected by a range of factors, some of which are short term. These include deferred business from the past two years and increased demand. Businesses are facing significant cost pressures due to inflation and other economic factors, all of which have contributed to higher prices than in 2019.

It is important that Ireland maintains its reputation as a value for money destination. Value is not just about the price the customer pays; it is also about what the customer gets for that price so that visitors are attracted back again and continue to recommend Ireland to family and friends. We cannot assume that 2022 will be a baseline for linear growth in future years because it is an exceptional year as we emerge from the Covid years of 2020 and 2021. Next year will present its own challenges as the pent-up and deferred demand that we are seeing at the moment might be dissipated. The distorting effect of the pandemic makes it difficult to definitively assess the long-term supply and demand situation but there does seem to be a clear need for more short-term accommodation supply, specifically in Dublin.

We all want to see the return of a sustainable and vibrant tourism sector and I must stress how important it is that businesses maintain a long-term perspective on competitiveness and value for money. The céad míle fáilte reputation that the sector has built up over the years is an important element of our tourism offering and must be protected.

With regard to assisting inward tourism, Tourism Ireland, as part of its marketing strategy, established a recovery framework which will be underpinned by an extensive programme of promotional activity throughout 2022. The organisation has a flexible, three-phase plan to restart, rebuild and ultimately redesign demand. Over €80 million will be invested in the programme in 2022, which will allow Tourism Ireland to ramp up its campaigns in key international markets.

My officials continue to engage with many stakeholders, including the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, the Irish Tourist Industry Confederation and the Irish Hotels Federation, in order to further understand the underlying issues impacting the recovery of the tourism sector and to emphasise the importance of maintaining a strong value proposition at the core of tourism. Department officials are also working with the tourism agencies to identify potential remedial actions such as the reweighting of marketing campaigns to ensure promotional activity is aligned with supply across the year. Tourism Ireland's promotional activity right now is focused on driving demand for later in 2022. The Tánaiste and I co-chair the tourism and hospitality forum, which is due to meet next week. This will offer another opportunity to discuss and address the many issues facing both sectors.

Last week representatives of the Irish Hotels Federation appeared before the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Tourism, Culture, Arts, Sport and Media. They said that there was a faster rebound in tourism than anyone had previously anticipated. They said there was a very strong recovery, exceeding all forecasts, which is very welcome so why the price gouging? Why the extortionate room rates that are being charged? Huge reputational damage is being done to our country in both the domestic and international markets.

I looked up accommodation for one night in July. In Dublin the price is €379 for one room for one night with no breakfast. In Madrid, a four-star hotel on the same night costs €120, meaning that Dublin is three times more expensive. In Lisbon, a room in a four-star hotel is €141, meaning that Dublin is two and half times more expensive. The price in Paris is €147 and in Amsterdam it is €141. This weekend, a room in Paris for two nights, from 24 to 26 June, is €208 for two people. On the same night in Dublin the cheapest room I can find for two people is not a private room but a bed in a dormitory costing €400. This is doing such damage, particularly to those hotels across the State that are offering good value for money, that are not engaging in price gouging and are doing all they can to encourage tourism.

At this stage, given that everybody is talking about it, is the Minister not concerned? One only has to go onto the booking sites where one can see and compare prices. The excuse they gave about inflation does not weigh up because if hotels in Europe are facing the same inflation costs as hotels in Dublin yet can offer value for money, then inflation is no excuse whatsoever. Is the Minister not concerned at this ongoing rip off? For most people the public opinion out there is that it just stinks of pure greed.

We live in a great country and we have great people, but we are not doing ourselves any justice. While at the same time it is not fair for me to comment on everyone with the same brush, the facts speak for themselves. The price of hotel accommodation and the costs of car rental, parking, food and everything else are going totally out of control. During the pandemic the country had an opportunity to put itself back on the map. The Minister referred earlier to spending €80 million on Tourism Ireland, which is welcome. I have met many people in my county of Louth who travelled here for the past number of years. They got some fantastic holidays. However, when they went to book it three or six months later to go back to the same place or a similar place, it was double or treble the price. The hotels did not want them at all, but during the pandemic they wanted us. It was mentioned earlier by Deputies that the simple thing is to go abroad but I believe that people do want to stay in Ireland. If one goes abroad one gets a flight, accommodation and a guarantee of weather, and it is a lot cheaper than everything else. People do want to stay in their own country too because this country really came together during the pandemic.

I have spoken with some people who came in from Canada a few weeks ago. With regard to the Dublin Airport Authority, which is a semi-State company, when they came in from Canada they waited seven hours to get their bags and everything else. That is happening on a regular enough basis. In tonight's debate we are just concentrating on Irish people, but these tourists are coming in here and getting very bad vibes at Dublin Airport. What is happening? Are we getting value for money with that €80 million budget?

I thank the Deputies. I am concerned about any potential reputational damage to Ireland. We must be seen as a value for money destination so that people would want to return. Neither my Department or Fáilte Ireland have any role in setting the prices for accommodation. Commercial decisions such as pricing are the sole responsibility of business owners. I would continue to urge accommodation providers to be mindful of that longer-term picture with regard to competitiveness and value for money.

I believe the distorting effect of the pandemic makes it too difficult, as I have said, to robustly analyse the long-term supply versus the demands to meet currently.

Reference was made to Europe. Our hotel occupancy in Dublin is now one of the highest in Europe. It is driven by a range of factors, some of which are short term. I believe that in Dublin we have been running at 10% above Paris, Amsterdam and London in recent weeks. That shows the demand that is there. Pricing is, ultimately, a commercial decision for each business. We do not have a role in that but I would urge accommodation providers to be very mindful of the need to attract tourists back. I believe that what is happening now is probably due to the pent-up demand from the past two years.

On the costs of car rental and the issues with the Dublin Airport Authority, of course I am aware of these. The DAA issue is an operational matter for it. It may be more for my colleague, the Minister, Deputy Eamon Ryan.

On the car rental costs I have no remit there but I have had-----

I ask that the Minister would stay within the time limit of one minute.

People are comparing prices, whether it is European cities or coming to Ireland. They will see the vast difference and they will see that Ireland is no longer a value-for-money destination. In its submission to the committee last week the Irish Hotels Federation said - in black and white - that at weekends and on nights when there are major concerts or events "there are now more nights where occupancy in Dublin exceeds 90% and the last available rooms are quoted at rates in excess of the average [daily room rate]". That is an admission of price gouging, in black and white. The Minister has said she is concerned about international reputation. The Lonely Planet has just posted a very critical review on Ireland that refers to the "soaring costs", including for hotels, that are "wreaking havoc" with holiday makers' budgets. It is out there. This short-term greed is doing long-term damage.

It must be borne in mind that the hotel sector has received the continuance of the 9% reduction in the VAT rate. It was also flagged that other countries' hotels that are not playing ball and offering value for money are being separated from the 9% VAT rate. It is doable. Should these extortionate rates continue, which are multiples of increases that other European countries are offering, and if the rates continue to cause reputational damage as a value-for-money destination, will the Minister consider removing hotels from the reduced VAT rate if they do not start to offer value for money?

As I said earlier, it is a great country. Ireland is known as a great sporting country. We do very well with the GAA, soccer and rugby. It is also great to see that our soccer teams and our rugby teams are looking to bring world cup, European cup and UEFA cup competitions to Ireland, which is fantastic. There are also plenty of concerts in the Aviva Stadium and Croke Park, with all of the superstars coming in. Ireland has always been known for having fantastic restaurants, especially with our fish, and so on. However, people do talk. The problem we have at the moment is that people are not talking about the great sport, concerts or food. They are talking about the prices. I am really alarmed at the moment that Tourism Ireland is getting €80 million. Where is the €80 million going? There is something seriously wrong. I used to go abroad but over the past number of years I have holidayed in Ireland when the value for money was good. The situation now, however, is putting people back on aeroplanes. We have seen it getting totally out of control. It is up to the Minister to call them in and see what the problem is.

My Department officials have engaged with the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Fáilte Ireland, Tourism Ireland, the Irish Tourism Industry Confederation and the Irish Hotels Federation on this very issue.

On the VAT question I would point out that the reduced VAT rate applies to a wide range of businesses in addition to the hospitality sector, many of which are still trying to rebuild after a very difficult and stressful two years. These include catering, restaurant supply companies, tourist accommodation, cinemas, theatres, museums, historic houses, open farms, amusement parks, certain printed matter, and hairdressing. While no option should be off the table in the context of encouraging price moderation and a strong focus on a good value-for-money proposition into the medium and long term, it is likely that a disapplication of the extension of the reduced VAT rate would damage many hotels around the country. The extension of the VAT reduction is providing an important support to rebuild.

Nonetheless, no potential option should be off the table, as the protection of the value-for-money proposition in Irish tourism is a critical priority for the years ahead. I will be making that very clear at the Hospitality and Tourism Forum, which the Tánaiste and I will be co-chairing next week.

Limistéir Pleanála Teanga

Catherine Connolly

Question:

5. D'fhiafraigh Deputy Catherine Connolly den Aire Turasóireachta, Cultúir, Ealaíon, Gaeltachta, Spóirt agus Meán stádas an ghasra oibre bunaithe ag a Roinn agus an Roinn Tithíochta, Rialtais Áitiúil agus Oidhreachta chun beartas maidir le pleanáil sa Ghaeltacht a phlé; soiléiriú a thabhairt ar ról a Roinne sa ghasra; an fhaisnéis is deireanaí a thabhairt ar obair an ghasra go dtí seo; líon na n-uaireanta ar chas an grúpa go dtí seo lena chéile; agus an dtógtar miontuairiscí maidir le cruinnuithe an ghasra [32569/22]

Is ceist dhíreach atá agam arís. Baineann sé le stádas an ghasra oibre a bhunaigh Roinn an Aire agus an Roinn Tithíochta, Rialtais Áitiúil agus Oidhreachta chun beartas maidir le pleanáil sa Ghaeltacht a phlé. An dtabharfaidh an tAire Stáit soiléiriú ar ról na Roinne sa ghasra agus an fhaisnéis is deireanaí ar obair an ghasra go dtí seo? Cad é líon na n-uaireanta a chas an grúpa le chéile go dtí seo? Cad é an scéal maidir le miontuairiscí ó thaobh na gcruinnithe sin?

Mar is eol don Teachta, is ar an Aire Tithíochta, Rialtais Áitiúil agus Oidhreachta atá an fhreagracht maidir leis an Acht um Pleanáil agus Forbairt, 2000 faoina dtagann gnóthaí i ndáil le cúrsaí pleanála agus tithíochta sa Ghaeltacht. Faoi réir alt 10(2)(m) den Acht sin, is gá go ndéanfadh plean forbartha cúram do chosaint oidhreacht teanga agus cultúrtha na Gaeltachta lena n-áirítear an Ghaeilge a chur chun cinn mar theanga an phobail i gcás ina mbeidh limistéar Gaeltachta i limistéar an phlean forbartha. Thionóil an Roinn Tithíochta, Rialtais Áitiúil agus Oidhreachta grúpa oibre i mí na Bealtaine 2021 chun gnéithe éagsúla den phróiseas pleanála sa Ghaeltacht a scrúdú. Tá an grúpa seo comhdhéanta d'ionadaithe ó mo Roinn, an Roinn Tithíochta, Rialtais Áitiúil agus Oidhreachta, Údarás na Gaeltachta agus an t-ocht údarás áitiúla ábhartha. Is cruinniú amháin den ghrúpa seo atá eagraithe go dáta. Chun tacú leis an obair atá ar bun agus chun dlús a chur leis, tá oifigigh ón Roinn Tithíochta, Rialtais Áitiúil agus Oidhreachta, ó mo Roinn féin agus ó Údarás na Gaeltachta ag obair i gcomhar lena chéile chun cúrsaí pleanála i gceantair Ghaeltachta a chur chun cinn.

Ceann de na príomhaidhmeanna atá ag an ngrúpa idir-rannach ná córais a chur i bhfeidhm, de réir mar is cuí, chun cur chuige éifeachtach agus comhsheasmhach a chothú do na húdaráis áitiúla mar a bhaineann sé leis an gcóras pleanála sa Ghaeltacht a bhainistiú. Tá an grúpa idir-rannach ag scrúdú conas a d’fhéadfaí cleachtais reatha maidir le cur i bhfeidhm na bhforálacha seo a neartú ar mhaithe le leas iomlán na Gaeilge sa Ghaeltacht agus ar mhaithe le forbairt inbhuanaithe agus polasaí pleanála cuí a bheith i bhfeidhm sa Ghaeltacht. Tá sé i gceist go ndéanfaidh an polasaí seo an soiléiriú agus treoir a chur ar fáil maidir le conas gur fearr comhsheasmhacht agus cothromaíocht an córas pleanála a fheabhsú, stádas na Gaeilge a chosaint sa Ghaeltacht agus cúnamh a sholáthar do na húdaráis áitiúla ábhartha.

Tionóladh an cruinniú is déanaí den ghrúpa idir-rannach ar an 24 Bealtaine 2022 in oifigí mo Roinne sna Forbacha. San iomlán, tháinig na Ranna le chéile sé huaire ó mhí Feabhra 2021. Is é an cleachtas reatha go nglactar miontuairiscí ag cruinnithe den ghrúpa idir-rannach de ghnáth.

Tá a fhios ag an Aire Stáit go bhfuil práinn le beartais agus treoirlínte ó thaobh cúrsaí tithíochta agus cúrsaí pleanála. Tá cathaoirleach an choiste Gaeilge anseo. Tá an coiste sin ar tí tuarascáil a fhoilsiú maidir leis na pleananna. Bhí sé soiléir ó na heagraíochtaí a tháinig os ár gcomhair, na rialtais áitiúla ina measc, nach bhfuil beartais á dhéanamh. Ar a laghad, tá easpa tuisceana ag na húdaráis áitiúla ó thaobh cad atá i gceist le plean forbartha. Tá sé leagtha amach go sonrach i dtuarascáil bhliantúil an Coimisinéir Teanga go bhfuil fadhbanna i gCiarraí agus i gContae na Mí. Cheap sé gur díol suntais é go raibh gasra oibre bunaithe.

Gabhaim buíochas leis an Aire Stáit as a bhfreagra ach cuireann sé iontas orm. Tá dhá rud i gceist. Tá grúpa oibre ann. Cuireadh tús leis an ngrúpa sin i mí na Bealtaine na bliana seo caite ach ní raibh ann ach cruinniú amháin. Chomh maith leis sin, tá an grúpa idir-rannach ann agus bhí níos mó cruinnithe ag an ngrúpa sin. Cad é an ceangal idir an dá rud - an grúpa oibre, nach raibh aige ach cruinniú amháin agus an córas eile atá ar siúl?

Mar a dúirt an Teachta, tá an cheist seo an-tábhachtach don Ghaeltacht agus chun treoirlínte nua a chruthú. Beidh treoirlínte nua ag an Aire Tithíochta, Rialtais Áitiúil agus Oidhreachta agus beidh sé freagrach as an gceist seo. Tá siad ag déanamh go leor oibre. Tá oifigigh mo Roinne i dteagmháil leis na hoifigigh sa Roinn Tithíochta, Rialtais Áitiúil agus Oidhreachta an t-am ar fad chun an cheist seo a phlé. Tháinig na Ranna le chéile sé huaire ó mhí Feabhra 2021. Tá polasaí pleanála don Ghaeltacht á hullmhú ag an ngrúpa a chuirfidh béim ar an bpróiseas chun iarratas pleanála a dhéanamh sa Ghaeltacht. Tá sé i gceist go bhfeidhmeoidh sé seo mar struchtúr agus treoir d’údaráis áitiúla agus iad ag bainistiú iarratais sa Ghaeltacht. Tá sé mar sprioc ginearálta ag an ngrúpa idir-rannach go mbeidh córas aontaithe i bhfeidhm a chinnteoidh cur chuige éifeachtach agus comhsheasmhach chun stádas na Gaeilge a chinntiú sa chóras pleanála.

Tá a fhios ag an Aire Stáit nach bhfuil an córas ag feidhmiú do dhaoine atá ag lorg cur fúthu sna Gaeltachtaí. Tá géarchéim ann. I gCeantar na nOileán, mar shampla, an rud is iontaí ná an méid tithíochta atá folamh agus tréigthe. Chomh maith leis sin, níl daoine in ann cead pleanála a fháil sa Ghaeltacht. An rud atá ag teastáil go géar ná treoirlínte, polasaithe agus beartais. Cheap mé, mar bhall den choiste, go raibh sé sin ag tarlú ar bhonn práinneach, ach tá an chosúlacht ar an scéal nach bhfuil. Níor tháinig an grúpa oibre sin le chéile ach uair amháin. Tá breis agus bliain caite agus níor tháinig siad le chéile ach uair amháin. An bhfuil cinneadh déanta le fáil réidh leis an ngrúpa oibre anois? An bhfuiltear ag díriú isteach ar an gcoiste idir-rannach? Cad atá ag tarlú? An bhfuil dáta ar leith ann go mbeidh beartais agus treoirlínte le feiceáil againn?

Aontaím leis an Teachta. Bím i dteagmháil le go leor daoine sa Ghaeltacht, ina Dáilcheantar féin agus ar na hoileáin. Níl an córas ag obair ag an am seo. Sin an fáth go bhfuil struchtúr ann, idir mo Roinn féin agus an Roinn Tithíochta, Rialtais Áitiúil agus Oidhreachta le chéile. Mar pháirt den struchtúr sin, bhí sé chruinniú idir na Ranna. Bíonn m’oifigigh i dteagmháil leis na hoifigigh sa Roinn Tithíochta, Rialtais Áitiúil agus Oidhreachta an t-am ar fad.

Aontaím go bhfuil an cheist seo an-phráinneach. Tá sé tábhachtach go bhfuil na treoirlínte ceart agus go mbeidh réiteach ann chun na fadhbanna a fheabhsú maidir le cúrsaí pleanála sa Ghaeltacht. Beidh dáta ag an Roinn Tithíochta, Rialtais Áitiúil agus Oidhreachta, agus tá mo Roinn féin i measc an phróisis seo chun réiteach a chruthú.

Top
Share