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Dáil Éireann debate -
Tuesday, 21 Jun 2022

Vol. 1023 No. 7

Ceisteanna Eile - Other Questions

Departmental Funding

Holly Cairns

Question:

6. Deputy Holly Cairns asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media the steps she is taking to support the live performance sector. [32415/22]

The Minister will be very aware of the main challenges faced by the arts, culture and live entertainment industry across the pandemic. While the live performance sector welcomed her support, a major issue is the rate at which funds are being distributed to venues. Will the Minister outline her actions to ensure the timely distribution of these supports as quickly as possible to prevent the permanent closure of some venues?

The Deputy asked about the steps I am taking to support the live performance sector. In 2021, my Department paid out grants of almost €54 million to support the live entertainment sector and drive employment opportunities for artists and crews, through the following schemes. There was €25 million for the live performance support scheme, LPSS; €13.7 million for the events sector Covid support scheme; €8.8 million for the local live performance support scheme; €3.1 million for the music and entertainment support scheme; €1.7 million for the commercial entertainment capital grant scheme; and €880,000 for the St. Patrick's Festival.

Following budget 2022, I announced details of another €50 million suite of measures to support the live performance sector in 2022. That has provided for the LPSS 2, which supported pantomimes and seasonal musical theatre impacted by the Covid restrictions in December and January, and under which €2.9 million has been offered. The LPSS 3 supported events due to be staged in December and January that were curtailed, cancelled or rescheduled due to the Covid restrictions. Grants of €9.5 million have been offered under LPSS 3. The live performance restart grant scheme, LPRGS, is supporting the live entertainment sector by providing businesses with restart grants to derisk the planning of events across spring and summer of 2022 and to assist with the costs of reopening. Grants of €14.7 million have been offered under the LPRGS. There was also €1 million for the St Patrick’s Festival.

The music and entertainment business assistance scheme, MEBAS, provided grants as a targeted support for self-employed performers and sole traders operating solely in the live entertainment sector. Some €2.8 million has been allocated under MEBAS 2022. The local live public performance scheme phase 3 has provided €5 million for local authorities to stage live events until the end of June. I have recently allocated a further €5 million to local authorities to provide for live events until Hallowe'en. Grants of €1.7 million have been provided under the 2022 commercial entertainment capital grant scheme, which assisted with the capital costs associated with reopening after closures due to the pandemic.

To date, grants of almost €42.6 million have been allocated. None of the live performance schemes has been oversubscribed and there has been sufficient funding available to provide grants to all eligible applicants.

I thank the Minister for her response. What I am hearing from venues in west Cork is that there is an interconnected importance between the amounts being received and the timing. Crucially, there is a misalignment between the demands of the sector and the manner in which the Department operates. When I raised this issue last May, there were also cases of venues not receiving funding they were promised for pantomimes in December. Venues have to plan months in advance. Any schemes designed to buffer against uncertainty and additional costs need to reflect that reality. This not only affects the venues but performers, crews and equipment providers. There are knock-on effects for so many people. The delay in the allocation of promised funding is itself an additional source of stress and frustration. People in the sector need to have this funding in their bank accounts as soon as possible.

Will the Minister also clarify whether there is a date by which the live performance restart grant schemes have to be spent? I think it was originally cited as June, which is obviously unfeasible at this stage.

Venues are a critical part of the landscape of musicians and bands, and music venues in west Cork are among the most high profile in the country. I am pleased a number of venues in that part of Cork were among the grantees under the live entertainment schemes operated by my Department, including the iconic De Barra's, Shanley's bar, Levis's in Ballydehob and Connolly's of Leap.

In regard to any delay, all requests for payment are being processed and the Department is supporting any grantees who have outstanding information to submit it. Payment continues to issue on a rolling basis as grantees submit their documentation and payment requests, and all payment requests and requests for information are being addressed without delay. Once an application has been deemed eligible and a grant offer made, a service level agreement, SLA, issues to the grantee along with further information on the drawdown procedures and notice of the feedback required on conclusion of the activity the grant supports. Once the signed SLA and payment request have been returned along with other necessary supporting documentation, the payment request is examined and, if all is in order, payment is made. From time to time, further information may be required or vital documents may not have been included with the payment request. In that instance, the Department will contact the grantee and provide assistance with what is needed. That can cause a delay in payment, but as soon as all the necessary documents are there, it will be processed.

I thank the Minister. Will she clarify whether there is a new date by which the grant has to be spent? She will be aware the sector, as well as other arts venues and the wider hospitality sector, is experiencing increasing costs. Local employers in particular in these sectors are highlighting with me rising energy and insurance expenses, and I am sure she is hearing the same from all the venues she cited, given she seems well aware of many of the ones in west Cork. Just as these businesses are beginning to recover from the pandemic, they face those rising costs as well. While these issues are not directly under the Minister's portfolio, they are a major concern for everyone in the arts and hospitality sectors.

Will she outline her engagement, if there has been any so far, with other Ministers regarding the rising costs for these sectors? Is she considering any schemes to assist small and medium businesses in arts and tourism?

I referred to the live performance restart grant scheme, LPRGS, which is supporting the live entertainment sector by providing those businesses with restart grants to derisk the plan of events in the spring and summer, and I hope that will assist with the costs of reopening. As I said, €14.7 million has been offered under the LPRGS. I can revert to the Deputy with information on the date. That is no problem.

Much of this funding related to Covid supports. We will keep everything under review as we enter the budgetary process and see Covid numbers rise. It may be that some funding could be allocated, but that will all depend on where we are with Covid. We keep in close contact with the sector at all times, and that is why we were able to design schemes that worked for it. That will continue and, as I said, we will monitor the situation.

Departmental Schemes

Jennifer Carroll MacNeill

Question:

7. Deputy Jennifer Carroll MacNeill asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media the number of artists, performers and events in Dublin that have benefited from the local live performance programme scheme since its introduction; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32142/22]

I seek an update on the local live performance support scheme, administered through the local authorities. How many artists, performers and events in Dublin have benefited from the scheme?

I introduced the local live performance support scheme, LLPSS, in 2021 as part of a suite of measures aimed at supporting the live entertainment sector through the Covid pandemic. The scheme allocated funding to local authorities to stage live events and thereby animate our town centres for local communities. A key objective of the scheme was to provide for the procurement by local authorities of performances by local performers and local crews in their communities. I provided funding of €8.8 million in 2021 to the LLPSS and the scheme proved very popular, with events taking place in every county. Every local authority participated, with 352 events taking place during 2021. In that year, the scheme provided for more than 7,800 employment days, while more than 5,600 individual artists, performers, production and technical crew benefited from it. Across the four local authorities in Dublin, 122 individual events that took place in the same year were funded by the LLPSS. This resulted in 1,692 employment days for 1,006 individual artists, performers, production and technical crew benefiting from events in Dublin under this scheme.

Feedback from local authorities was overwhelmingly positive, acknowledging the scheme has helped to reinvigorate local communities and provide a welcome boost to their economies during the pandemic. This year, I provided €5 million for events up to the end of June to provide a boost to the reopening of the entertainment sector, allowing live events to take place and local talent to perform to audiences throughout the country. Given the events are ongoing until the end of the month, the feedback surveys detailing the number of artists, crews and events to date in 2022 are not yet available. In light of the success of the scheme, I recently allocated a further €5 million to provide for events up to Hallowe'en.

I am delighted the local live performance programming scheme for local authorities has been such a success. It is part of a €50 million suite of supports in 2022 for those working in the live entertainment sector and has provided support to many working within it. I look forward to seeing communities enjoy the wide range of events over the coming months.

I might just clarify the figures. The Minister referred to 7,800 employment days in 2021 and 1,692 in 2022, but she also mentioned a figure of 5,600. What was that?

In 2021, the scheme provided for 7,800 employment days among more than 5,600 individual artists. That relates to the overall scheme.

I have a copy of a press release from the Minister, dated 7 March, that referred to 10,000 employment days. It stated the 2021 scheme supported 350 events and the funding supported 10,000 days of employment, but it is not clear whether that relates to 2021 or whether it is a cumulative total up to 2022. Either way, it does not seem to add up. Will the Minister check that information and revert to me? Perhaps the press release was inaccurate.

I also have a couple of questions about the distribution of the funds. Following Deputy Cairns's question about when the payments are made, I appreciate the Minister is making the funding available to the local authorities. Will she clarify how that is being distributed to artists?

For Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council, for example, €245,000 was given. We give that money and the local authorities then look after the events and the artists from that. The Deputy will have seen those recent events, such as one relating to the poetry of Séamus Heaney in Irish from Féile IMRAM and Tír na nÓg in the Mill Theatre. I think there was even a baby rave as well. The four local authorities in Dublin were given €245,000 each year. We give the money to them and they employ the local artists and organise the events.

I am fascinated by the idea of a baby rave. Has Deputy Carroll MacNeill ever attended one of them?

I can confirm I have not.

We have had one of them every day in my house for the past ten years.

It is about babies dancing together and exploring the wonders of music and rhythm at an early age.

I suspect it is more for the parents to get out, although that might just be me.

Obviously, we are transitioning away from a Covid period whereby the requirement to support artists in this way may be changing. The Minister indicated a transition to a basic income model for artists. What questions are now being asked of her and her Department by this sector in advance of the budget? Is this still the sort of funding being sought through the local authorities or is there a recognition we are moving back, I hope, to reality? Even if we are still having baby raves, we might be moving back to a more realistic form of providing entertainment in the long run. I appreciate the model of funding may be transitioning and I wonder whether the Minister can give me more detail on that in advance of the budget.

As I said, the most recent tranche was the €5 million for events up to the end of June and, more recently, due to its success, a further €5 million that will run up to Hallowe'en. The various supports put in place for the live entertainment sector were designed to address the challenges posed by the pandemic and, in particular, the constraints imposed on live performance by the necessary restrictions on indoor and outdoor congregation. These supports were designed in close consultation with the stakeholders and have been the subject of very positive feedback. Thankfully, we are in a position whereby the restrictions have fully lifted and the rationale for interventions no longer applies. Nonetheless, my officials will remain in contact with stakeholders throughout the sector. While a continuation of the existing schemes is not envisaged, we will continue to engage in the coming months and I anticipate submissions from the sector in advance of the budget, which will be considered in the normal way ahead of budget 2023.

Question No. 8 replied to with Written Answers.

Tourism Funding

Alan Dillon

Question:

9. Deputy Alan Dillon asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media the status of projects in County Mayo under Fáilte Ireland’s Platforms for Growth capital investment programme. [32444/22]

Investment in tourism infrastructure is essential in enhancing the quality of place that visitors experience during their stay. Fáilte Ireland's platforms for growth scheme is an important investment programme to support this objective. I would appreciate an update on capital projects under this scheme for County Mayo.

Platforms for growth is Fáilte Ireland's strategic, platform-based approach to large-scale capital investment in tourism product and it targets investment in line with specific platforms or project types that have been identified as a priority for tourists on the basis of research.

Under Fáilte Ireland's first platforms for growth investment scheme for immersive, heritage and cultural attractions, Westport House and Gardens was successful in an extremely competitive process. It was awarded an investment grant of €20.2 million in 2021 as part of a €36.1 million project to transform Westport House and Gardens into a world-class tourist attraction to enhance regional dispersal of visitors and extend the tourism season beyond the traditional summer months. The proposed restoration, reimagining and rewilding at Westport House and Gardens estate will offer visitors a multilayered, multi-day experience. A key element is the wild realms project, which will allow visitors to connect with nature and explore ancient Irish rituals and our ancestors' connections to the land, as told through a series of accessible wild and natural spaces.

In 2021 also, the second platforms for growth scheme was announced. This investment scheme, developed in partnership between Fáilte Ireland and local authorities, will support the local economy and the outdoor activity sector by significantly enhancing the overall visitor experience, providing new business opportunities in local communities. This funding is to be used to develop world-class facilities at 22 locations across the country where water-based activities are a key visitor attraction, including Achill Island and Louisburgh in County Mayo. These facilities, designed to serve as a hub in each locality from which multiple water-sports operators can base themselves, will provide hot showers, changing and toilet facilities, secure storage, induction spaces, equipment wash-down and orientation points.

I thank the Minister very much. County Mayo has benefited from both rounds of the platforms for growth investment. Westport House is an amazing facility and received a huge investment last year. I was delighted to see two Mayo locations also selected for facilities for water sports at Keel Sandybanks in Achill and Carrowmore beach in Louisburgh. They are fantastic destinations. County Mayo boasts a large number of beaches awarded blue flag and green coast status. In recent times, these have been important amenities for surfing, kite surfing, swimming, paddle boarding and kayaking so it is important that we have this type of investment. We want to ensure we can strengthen our appeal as a county with stronger outdoor water-based activities and facilities.

I was somewhat disappointed that we are not further along with the development and implementation of the investment scheme. As the Minister outlined, both projects are still at the planning process, with construction not due to commence on both facilities until later this year. I would like to see better project management around these projects. It has taken approximately two years to deliver them so any steps we can take to expedite them would be important.

We must also take into consideration the two years we have had with the pandemic. As I said, the €20.2 million in Westport House was Fáilte Ireland's largest investment ever in a singular tourism product. Funding was also awarded to Mayo County Council to develop the two state-of-the-art facilities to which I referred. Mayo County Council was also a successful applicant for the outdoor dining enhancement scheme, with Claremorris and Castlebar receiving funds. The Clew Bay destination experience development plan, which was launched on 19 November 2021, sets out an ambitious vision for the region over the next three to five years. That was developed over a period of three years with robust consultation. We have to take into consideration the two years we had but there is no doubt that County Mayo is being developed. There is ambition for this beautiful part of the country, and rightly so.

Amenities like these benefit not only visitors but also the local community. These projects will create further opportunities for participants and providers in the tourism business industry, including water-based activities. They will ensure there are local jobs and employment and businesses will thrive as a result. I have one question on Fáilte Ireland's intention to run a second round of this scheme with regard to activity centres. When is that expected to open? I would appreciate a response to that.

Fáilte Ireland indicated at the time that it would consider a second round but the current focus is on delivering the first round. A second round has not been ruled out, however.

At a regional local level, Fáilte Ireland develops, supports and promotes tourism in line with the relevant tourism experience brands. To guide medium to long-term development, Fáilte Ireland aims to deliver four new regional tourism strategies in 2022, which will set out a ten-year vision and a five-year action plan for each region. At a more local level, the four regional tourism strategies will be activated through a series of co-ordinated local destination and experience development plans developed by Fáilte Ireland in collaboration with a wide range of stakeholders. I can get the Deputy further information on a second scheme.

Culture Policy

Marc Ó Cathasaigh

Question:

10. Deputy Marc Ó Cathasaigh asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media if she sees a role with respect to the second report on the well-being framework for a specific dimension within the framework dealing with language and culture, as is the case in the corresponding New Zealand and Welsh well-being frameworks; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32205/22]

The second report on Ireland's well-being framework was published at the beginning of this month. It mirrors very closely the OECD Better Life Index, which is excellent in many respects but largely silent on questions of language and culture. Does the Minister see a role for a specific dimension within the framework that could deal with language and culture, as is the case in corresponding New Zealand and Welsh well-being frameworks?

Ireland's well-being framework is the result of a programme for Government commitment to develop a set of well-being indices to create a well-rounded, holistic view of how Irish society is faring. The overarching vision for the framework is enabling all our people to live fulfilled lives now and into the future. The framework is a cross-government initiative, which is led by the Department of the Taoiseach and jointly sponsored by the Departments of Finance and Public Expenditure and Reform.

The second report on Ireland's well-being framework, Understanding Life in Ireland: A Well-being Framework, was published on 2 June. This report sets out an updated well-being framework for Ireland, which has 11 dimensions of well-being as well as sustainability and equality as cross-cutting themes.

With regard to language and culture, which were raised by the Deputy, Ireland's well-being framework is similar to comparative international well-being frameworks. The 11 dimensions allow for a multidimensional approach to monitoring Irish society and the consideration of language and culture takes place across a number of the dimensions. Cultural identity and language issues are considered as part of the dimension entitled civic engagement, trust and cultural expression, which includes an aspect of cultural expression, identity and non-discrimination. This dimension explores a person's rights to express his or her identity, for example, activities relating to specific groups such as traditional Irish communities, including Gaeltacht communities, as well as the cultural practices and expression of migrant or new Irish. It also includes the ability to express one's culture or identity or celebrate one's native language, placing a particular emphasis on the Irish language.

In addition, individual cultural participation is recognised as part of personal time in the time use dimension. Similarly, the social aspect of participating in community groups like artistic or creative groups and sporting clubs is captured in the community and cultural participation aspect of the connections, community and participation dimension.

The role of culture and language in the assessment of our collective well-being is very important to me. In this context, the Deputy may be interested to know that officials in my Department have begun early research with a view to developing a sectoral well-being indicator set relating to arts, culture, creativity, sport and language over the coming months. Such indicator sets will allow more detailed analysis of specific sectors with linkages to the high-level well-being dashboard which, by nature, cannot cover every area in detail.

I understand there is only one measurable indicator in the cultural expression dimension. I want to give the Minister the Welsh context as a counterpoint because I believe there is scope for this to be improved and strengthened within our well-being framework.

Some of its measurable indicators are the percentage of people who agree they belong to an area; the percentage of people who volunteer; the percentage of people attending or participating in arts, culture or heritage activities at least three times a year; the percentage of people who speak Welsh daily and can speak more than just a few words of Welsh; the number of people who can speak Welsh; the percentage of people participating in sporting activities three or more times a week; the percentage of museums and archives holding archival heritage collections meeting UK accreditation standards; and the percentage of designated historical environment assets that are in stable or improved conditions. If we built these into our well-being framework, it would give the Minister's Department a very powerful set of levers to achieve progress in artistic and cultural dimensions across society.

I firmly believe that culture and language are vital for our well-being in Ireland. This was clearly demonstrated particularly with regard to culture during the Covid-19 pandemic, and I will continue to make this clear to my colleagues in the Government. The Deputy referred to Wales. A key lesson, too, is that it is an iterative process requiring patience, commitment and planning, as the embedding process takes time. For example, in New Zealand, which the Deputy referenced in his initial question, there is the inclusion of a specific, additional dimension on culture related to the demography of the country and the Maori culture specifically. In the case of Ireland's well-being framework, culture, both in terms of identity and participation, has been explicitly integrated into the dimensions of well-being. My officials and the Department are currently giving detailed consideration to how we can use data to allow us to measure well-being. I am grateful for the Deputy's contribution and for his ideas with regard to what is being done in Wales. That is something my officials are looking at too. We have to identify indicators across the sectors in my Department for capturing data that will assist us in measuring well-being for evidence-based policy development.

I know it is an iterative process, but it is certainly easier to get in at the ground floor on these things. If we establish the space for this particular dimension of our well-being framework, I believe we can expand from that. I try to explain this idea to economists, who do not very often pick up on it. I try to explain to them that if they do not understand that the progress of Oulart-The Ballagh in the Wexford senior hurling championship plays quite a large role in my father-in-law's sense of well-being, they do not quite understand the country in which I live. Similarly, if they do not understand the importance of James Joyce, Samuel Beckett, Seamus Heaney, Martin Hayes, U2 or even, God help us, Westlife, they are not really understanding that there is more to life than those things that economists like to measure. The Minister said that we should have a well-rounded and holistic view. I strongly believe that cultural and linguistic dimensions are essential and intrinsic to that well-rounded and holistic view.

I agree with much of what the Deputy said. The development of our well-being framework is ongoing, and the work we are doing at Department level will help to inform future iterations of the framework as it evolves. That will include determining the longitudinal data that could be used to construct the output and impact indicators reflecting the areas of language and culture. With regard to everything the Deputy said about explaining to economists, that is one of the key lessons from Covid-19 when we were deprived of the experience of enjoying the arts and culture and, even within our Gaeltacht communities, of our children going to the Gaeltacht communities and the immense importance of our native tongue. The work is under way in the Department, and I agree with much of what the Deputy said.

Tourism Industry

Jennifer Carroll MacNeill

Question:

11. Deputy Jennifer Carroll MacNeill asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media the plans in place to help rebuild and support Ireland’s tourism sector taking into account current difficulties highlighted with the cost of hotels, vehicle rental and pressures on Dublin airport; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32143/22]

On a point of information, the baby rave is on this Saturday in Dún Laoghaire in the DLR LexIcon at 10.30 a.m., 12 noon, 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. I cannot believe I did not know about it before now. I thank the Minister for letting me know and I will promote it on my social media. Babies and toddlers are invited to wear sunglasses, bring glow sticks and rock away for whatever length of time. It was a useful night's work even just for that.

Separately, I have perhaps a more serious question about the rebuilding and supporting of Ireland's tourism sector taking account of the many pressure points that exist at present, between the holistic experience from the airport through to taxis, vehicle hire and the cost of hotels, which was mentioned in Questions Nos. 3 and 4.

Follow that, Minister.

I will enjoy that at the weekend.

A tourism recovery task force was established in May 2020 and delivered a tourism recovery plan with recommendations on how best the Irish tourism sector could adapt and recover in the changed tourism environment. Later that year, I appointed a recovery oversight group to oversee the implementation of this plan. This group has reported regularly to me and has provided valuable inputs to the Government on the measures required to assist the sector. The recovery oversight group is continuing its work and will report to me with updates on implementation of the tourism recovery plan and recovery in the sector more generally.

Looking to the longer term, my Department has initiated the development of a sustainable tourism policy. The development of this new policy will involve consultation with the tourism industry and with communities to help set out a path for the coming years which will support sustainable recovery and growth in the sector. In budget 2022, €288.5 million was allocated for tourism services. This allows for significant increases in domestic and overseas marketing in building a strong digital presence for the sector and in developing new and enhanced visitor experiences that will drive sustainable and dispersed visitor growth. I have referred the Deputy's question to Fáilte Ireland and Tourism Ireland for further details of their specific plans to help the tourism sector to recover in 2022 and beyond.

A significant challenge facing the sector at present is the recruitment and retention of staff. My Department and Fáilte Ireland have been collaborating with industry and other Departments to ensure there is a co-ordinated approach to addressing the labour and skills shortages. A key task in this regard is to drive the long-term repositioning of the sector as an appealing and rewarding career choice and workplace. As we enter the peak summer months and the tourism industry recovers, there are inevitably additional pressures on hotel capacity and pricing. The initial recovery phase has resulted in issues for all tourism businesses, many of which are repeated in other markets around the world.

Hotel supply in Dublin has been affected by a range of factors. Some of them are short-term, such as deferred business from the last two years and increased demand. Businesses are also facing significant cost pressures due to inflation and other economic factors, all of which have contributed to higher prices than in 2019. International supply chains are impacting on the car rental fleet. While this is not in the control of the Government and there are no short-term solutions, my Department is examining possible taxation options which might assist, with the recognition that taxation measures are a matter for the Minister for Finance.

I appreciate the points the Minister made, in particular regarding pent-up demand and the supply chain issues relating to vehicle rental. Nevertheless, the holistic experience for a tourist coming to Ireland is one of extremely high costs. Other Deputies gave the costs of hotels in different ways. I did my own analysis and the pressure is considerable in Dublin, in particular. However, there are also other examples of value questions. One can get a room in the Camden Court Hotel tonight or tomorrow night for €185. An equivalent hotel bed out in Liffey Valley is approximately the same price. I do not see that as the same value proposition - a hotel room in the centre of Dublin versus out in Liffey Valley, with every respect to Liffey Valley. There are questions about how pricing is being conducted. The questions about price gouging in different sectors are valid.

In particular, there is the pressure in Dublin Airport. It is not just the queues, it is also the actual experience there. The Department with responsibility for tourism should have a strong interest in it. It is about the availability and accessibility of taxis and, frankly, about the availability of food after 2 p.m. or 3 p.m., when most places seem to be sold out. It is simply a very difficult experience for visitors going in both directions at present.

Representatives from the Irish Hotels Federation, IHF, appeared before the tourism committee last week and we had a good discussion. I have a question about car hire prices. Will the Minister call in the industry? Just because one can charge something does not mean one should charge it. Right now, the gouging that is happening is going to do enormous reputational damage to this country. A select number of hoteliers are doing the same. The reputable hoteliers are providing excellent value for money in most cases, but there are a small number who are spoiling it for everyone else and giving this city, in particular, a very bad name and also giving the country a bad name. I suggest that the Minister call in those who are causing reputational damage to Ireland in both sectors and tell them it is not good enough. In addition, I believe we need to consider regulatory interventions if they will not toe the line and behave.

With regard to the hotel prices the Deputy mentioned, my officials have engaged with the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Fáilte Ireland, Tourism Ireland, the Irish Tourism Industry Conferation, ITIC, and the IHF. They are also working with the tourism agencies. The Tánaiste and I co-chair a tourism and hospitality forum. That will be convening next week and we will raise those issues with it. I wrote to the DAA at the time, although it is not under my remit. I could see the potential and I wrote to express my concerns about the reputational damage to Ireland as a tourism destination as we seek to rebuild.

Regarding car rental, I am aware of the difficulties and the potential impact on the recovery of the tourism sector or the reputational damage. My officials have met the Car Rental Council of Ireland, which recommends that people can contact hire companies directly. However, neither my Department nor Fáilte Ireland has control over prices set by service providers in the tourism industry.

We have no regulatory or other functions in regard to the car rental industry. Each operator decides on its level of charges, having regard to its costs and the requirement to make an adequate return on its investment. My Department is examining possible taxation options which might assist car rental companies to rebuild their fleet in order to meet tourism demands, while recognising that taxation matters are ultimately a matter for the Minister for Finance.

I appreciate the points the Minister makes. I wish to return to the matter of Dublin Airport in particular. I appreciate that, strictly speaking, it is under the remit of the Department of Transport. Nevertheless, as Minister for Tourism, it is associated with her because of the visitor experience attached to Dublin Airport as our main port of entry. I want to highlight again the impact of the issue there. It is as if we have outgrown the infrastructure, but we cannot have done so yet. It cannot be the case that one cannot get food after 2 p.m., 3 p.m. or 5 p.m. in the afternoon and evening in terminal 1, as my constituents are telling me is the case. It cannot be that restaurants are closing down at that point, either because they do not have enough food in for the day or they have run out, whatever it happens to be. It cannot be that places are not cleaned as the day goes on. It cannot be that the pressure of people, not just in queues, but all the way through the airport is creating an environment that is unpleasant for tourists. It is the last impression they have as they leave Ireland. There must be a better way of organising taxis on the way in to the airport so that there is not a big group of taxis stuck in a pen and a big group of people waiting for taxis at the airport. I ask the Minister to engage again with Dublin Airport as Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Sport, Gaeltacht and Media to highlight these points again.

As I said, the smooth running of Dublin Airport is of critical importance in terms of the recovery of the tourism sector. The DAA has the statutory responsibility to operate, manage and develop Dublin Airport, including all the operations associated with security screening at the airport. The passenger experience at Dublin Airport is falling far short of the service that citizens and visitors should expect at our largest State airport. The Government recognises the undue stress that these unacceptable delays are having on passengers. The Minister for Transport, Deputy Eamon Ryan, and the Minister of State, Deputy Naughton, continue to hold meetings with the CEO, Dalton Philips, and his management team in this regard. From a tourism perspective, I am concerned. If this situation were to continue, it has the potential to cause significant reputational damage to the country abroad, and as a result hinder the recovery of the tourism sector. That is the reason I wrote to Dalton Philips to express my concern. In his reply, he outlined some key measures being rolled out, which aim to substantially mitigate the risk of a repeat of recent days. My time is short, but I can send the communication to the Deputy. I am informed that regular meetings will continue with the DAA at ministerial level with the Department of Transport until the Minister is satisfied that difficulties persisting at the airport are satisfactorily resolved. I will keep in contact with the Minister and Minister of State.

Departmental Funding

Alan Dillon

Question:

12. Deputy Alan Dillon asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media if her Department will be providing small-scale funding for local festivals and summer schools in 2022; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32445/22]

Small-scale local festivals and summer schools are held annually across the country, which are largely attributable to successful community engagement in tourism. Many of these festivals have a long history and are part of the fabric of life in towns across Ireland. I would appreciate if the Minister could provide an update on funding from her Department for these types of events.

My Department runs an annual small-scale local festivals and summer schools scheme. The scheme is reserved for appropriate not-for-profit festivals, summer schools and other such similar events. Funding available under this scheme is typically capped at €5,000. Although making available relatively modest amounts, the value of the payments under this scheme is amplified hugely by the community commitment and voluntary effort that bring about these events, which are greatly enjoyed and appreciated around the country.

The scheme is intended to support local cultural festivals and summer schools which are not in receipt of other central government moneys and which may not be eligible under funding criteria for larger scale events supported by Fáilte Ireland, the Arts Council and similar bodies. Events that are funded by the Arts Council and Fáilte Ireland are not eligible. The projects make a very important contribution to the development and promotion of Ireland's cultural tourism offering, to the benefit of both the domestic and foreign tourist market, and represent an important component of the delivery of the cultural tourism commitments in the programme for Government.

I am very conscious of the special efforts being made this year by event organisers and promoters to re-establish their annual arrangements, which have been suspended for two years because of Covid. Tremendous efforts were made by many to continue their programmes with online presentations while public gatherings were not possible. Some of these initiatives may be carried forward to strengthen outreach and inclusion. However, the calendar of local festivals and shared celebration is a vital element of community life and cultural expression, and I am pleased to be able to support the recovery efforts through this scheme.

The closing date for applications for the 2022 scheme was 23 April. The applications are being assessed in the Department and the decision will be announced imminently. The Deputy may be interested to know that from the introduction of this scheme in 2017 up to 2021, a total of €393,611 has been awarded to eligible events. In that period, 22 applications for events in County Mayo were approved for payments amounting to €59,000. Four applications were received this year from County Mayo in respect of the small local festivals and summer schools scheme 2022.

The importance of the scheme in assisting local cultural events cannot be underestimated. Local community events connect residents, keep traditions alive and contribute new elements to the cultural sector. They are hugely important. Scoil Acla, the Ballina fringe festival and the Ballina salmon festival are a few of the hugely important events of significance to towns. These events help to attract new visitors to towns and villages, show what makes each locality unique and build a strong sense of pride in communities. Does the Minister intend to strengthen the national allocation for 2022? Will there be an increase in the maximum grant of €5,000 on the back of rising costs and inflationary pressures? I would like to get the Minister's thoughts on that.

I agree with Deputy Dillon that festivals are of great significance to communities, even more so now after two years of being deprived of the festivals.

The 2022 allocation has been capped at €5,000. The announcement is imminent for the 2022 allocation, which remains as it is. Although the scheme is capped, it is working in that it has a massive impact on local communities. There are no plans in train to increase the allocation. The current scheme, which is capped at €5,000, will be announced very shortly.

The point about increasing the pot is on the back of the Department of Rural and Community Development, which provides up to €2 million for the Irish Shows Association for agricultural shows. I would like to see additional funding being allocated both to small-scale festivals and summer schools.

I acknowledge the input, contribution and support for the Home to Mayo campaign, which took place in May. That was an important event across the county, which provided a unique reason for visitors to visit County Mayo.

In recent years, we have seen a noticeable increase in activity challenges and events such as marathons, duathlons, triathlons and adventure challenges. I ask the Minister to look at a potential scheme to supports this type of event in the future. That would be important. The Achill half marathon takes place on 2 July and Race2Glory takes place in Kiltimagh on 9 July. These are significant events that will bring an enormous number of visitors and participants to the areas, which will support local businesses. It is important that such events would be supported in the future.

Heritage, tradition and culture are not the exclusive preserve of a few, nor to be found only within institutions. These festivals are essential to community life. They thrive and develop among people shaped by their diverse interests and enthusiasms. I am very pleased to provide supports for such events.

Other supports are provided by my Department. We also operate schemes to support links and strengthen exchanges in relation to culture, heritage and history with counterpart groups in Northern Ireland. Completing our suite of small grant schemes, there are two others that are worthy of mention: the scheme supporting the mobility in Ireland of the collections of the national cultural institutions and the scheme supporting the development of regional and local museums. I place particular importance on these schemes because they are of significant value to the community activities that they support. My officials will get back to the Deputy on any other issues or ideas he has raised.

Question No. 13 replied to with Written Answers.

Údarás na Gaeltachta

Mairéad Farrell

Question:

14. D'fhiafraigh Deputy Mairéad Farrell den Aire Turasóireachta, Cultúir, Ealaíon, Gaeltachta, Spóirt agus Meán cén dul chun cinn atá déanta maidir le toghcháin phoiblí do bhord Údarás na Gaeltachta; agus an ndéanfaidh sí ráiteas ina thaobh. [32450/22]

Ba mhaith liom iarraidh ar an Aire Stáit cén dul chun cinn atá déanta maidir le toghcháin Údarás na Gaeltachta.

Mar is eol don Teachta, luaitear i gclár an Rialtais go ndéanfar athbhreithniú ar an bpróiseas roghnúcháin agus toghcháin i ndáil le bord an údaráis. Faoi réir na bhforálacha ábhartha de na hAchtanna um Údarás na Gaeltachta, arna leasú faoi Acht na Gaeltachta, 2012, is saolré cúig bliana atá ag boird an údaráis. Ós rud é gur ceapadh an bord reatha i mí Eanáir 2018, tiocfaidh deireadh lena shaolré i mí Eanáir 2023. Is é seo an dara bord atá ceaptha faoi na socruithe reatha réamhluaite.

Faoin socrú reatha, déantar ceapacháin chuig bord an údaráis ar dhá bhealach. In ionad toghcháin dhíreacha a reáchtáil, déantar ainmniúcháin chuig an mbord ó na húdaráis aitiúla a bhfuil limistéar Gaeltachta ina gceantair feidhme. Chomh maith leis sin, féachtar chuige, trí cheapacháin na seachtar comhalta eile a thagann tríd an gcóras a ndéanann an tSeirbhís um Cheapacháin Phoiblí a riar, go bhfuil daoine leis an saineolas agus na scileanna ábhartha cuí á roghnú don chúram, rud atá ar leas foriomlán an údaráis agus na pobail a ndéanann sé freastal air mar fhoras Stáit.

O tharla go mbeidh tréimhse an bhoird reatha caite in Eanáir 2023, ta sé tráthúil go ndéanfaí athbhreithniú den chineál atá beartaithe anois. Tá an oiread sin athruithe tagtha ar chlár oibre na heagraíochta ó 2012 i leith, lena n-áirítear feidhmiú an phróisis pleanåla teanga a bhfuil a rath ag brath ar ionchur agus glór leanúnach a bheith ag an bpobal ón mbonn aníos. I dtaca leis seo, aithnítear go bhféadfadh cur chuige malartach a bheith tráthúil då mbeadh próiseas ní ba daonlathaí agus cur chuige leasaithe i leith comhdhéanamh agus próiseas roghnúcháin-toghcháin an bhoird.

Mar is eol don Teachta, rinneadh dhá iarracht faoi leith faoi scáth an Oifig um Sholáthar Rialtais ar iarratas mo Roinne chun sainchomhairleoireacht a aimsiú don chúram trí chomórtas tairisceana. Is cúis díomá é nach bhfuarthas aon tairiscint de thoradh na gcomórtas seo. Tå mo Roinn i mbun próiseas féin sholáthair faoi láthair chun sainchomhairleoireacht a cheapadh don tasc. Táthar ag súil leis go gceapfar sainchomhairleoireacht don chúram gan rómhoill.

Is é an cuspóir trí chéile a chinntiú go mbeidh fáil ag an údarás ar an saineolas, na scileanna agus an t-ionchur pobail ábhartha agus cuí atá de dhíth ionas go mbeidh an bord in ann tacú le feidhmeannas an údaráis a chuid feidhmeanna a chomhlíonadh go héifeachtúil agus go héifeachtach, ar leas na pobail Ghaeltachta a ndéanann an t-údarás freastal orthu.

Is í an cheist a cuireadh i ndáiríre ná cén uair a bheidh sé seo ar fad déanta. Tuigim na deacrachtaí a bhí ag an Roinn maidir leis an athbhreithniú ach is dócha go bhfuil go leor daoine amuigh ansin a cheapann go bhfuil a fhios acu céard ba chóir go mbeadh ag teacht amach as an athbhreithniú sin agus a chreideann go dteastaíonn toghchán le haghaidh bhord Údarás na Gaeltachta.

Tá cúpla ceist agam i gcomhair an Aire Stáit. Tuigim go bhfuil sé ag rá go bhfuil píosa oibre le déanamh maidir le téarmaí sainchomhairleachta a cheapadh. Cén uair a bheidh sé sin déanta mar ní raibh sé sin soiléir dom?

Is í an cheist eile ná cé chomh fada is a thógfaidh an t-athbhreithniú tar éis gur ceapadh iad sin. Má táimid ag caint ar thoghchán bhord Údarás na Gaeltachta, caithfimid é sin agus aon athbhreithniú a dteastaíonn uainn a dhéanamh láithreach. Más rud é go mbeidh toghcháin ann, is dócha go gcaithfear iad a bheith ann chomh luath agus gur féidir. Teastaíonn soiléireacht ó mhuintir na Gaeltachta.

Ba mhaith liom a rá i dtús báire go raibh próiseas comhairliúcháin phoiblí ann freisin. Tá na freagraí sin ag mo Roinn cheana féin agus tá m’oifigigh ann ag obair ar an gceist seo. Bhí go leor daoine i dteagmháil leis an Roinn chun an cheist seo a phlé agus tá an obair seo déanta. Bhí go leor fadhbanna againn leis an Oifig um Sholáthar Rialtais chun tús a chur leis an bpróiseas seo. Tá an próiseas seo á dhéanamh i mo Roinn féin agus tá súil agam go mbeimid in ann é a thosú chomh luath agus is féidir. Bhíomar ag dul tríd an bpróiseas atá ann leis an Roinn Caiteachais Phoiblí agus Athchóirithe freisin. Tá súil agam go mbeimid in ann an próiseas a thosú. Tá an próiseas comhairliúcháin phoiblí críochnaithe. Beidh an Roinn ag obair ar an athbhreithniú seo le linn an tsamhraidh agus tá súil agam go mbeidh sé críochnaithe ag druidim le Meán Fómhair nó roimh an geimhreadh.

Tá sé sin go hiontach. Ní raibh sé iomlán soiléir sa chéad fhreagra a thug sé. Tá sé sin go maith. Sílim go mbeidh muintir na Gaeltachta sásta a chloisteáil go bhfuil amlíne de chineál éigin ann.

Tá ceist amháin agam ionas go dtuigfidh mé i gceart é. Dúirt an tAire Stáit sa chéad fhreagra a thug sé go raibh fadhb ann sainchomhairleoireacht a cheapadh. Tá an próiseas inmheánach nó an próiseas comhairliúcháin poiblí críochnaithe agus tá an Roinn ag oibriú ar seo anois. Caithfear athbhreithniú a dhéanamh ina dhiaidh sin. Beidh an obair sin á dhéanamh i rith an tsamhraidh. Céard go díreach atá ag teastáil anois? An bhfuil aon cheapachán eile ag teastáil nó an é sin an próiseas atá le dhéanamh sa Roinn go dtí go mbeidh tuairisc á chur amach? Mar is eol don Aire, tá súil agam go mbeidh toghchán ann ina dhiaidh sin.

Tá mo Roinn i mbun próisis féinsholáthair faoi láthair chun sainchomhairleoireacht a ceapadh don tasc. Táthar ag súil go gceapfar sainchomhairleoireacht don chúram seo gan mórán moille. Tá an próiseas comhairliúcháin phoiblí críochnaithe ag an Roinn. Nuair a bhíomar ag dul tríd an bpróiseas eile, bhí an próiseas comhairliúcháin phoiblí críochnaithe agus an athbhreithniú a dhéanamh freisin.

Beidh an t-athbhreithniú á dhéanamh ag lucht an saincomhairleoireachta. Tá súil agam go mbeimid in ann é a dhéanamh le linn an tsamhraidh agus go mbeidh sé críochnaithe roimh an gheimhridh. Tá trí nó ceithre mhí againn chun é dhéanamh agus beimid in ann an athbhreithniú a fhoilsiú ina dhiaidh sin. Beidh an tAire, an Teachta Martin, agus mé féin in ann an struchtúr nua a phlé i ndiaidh na hathbhreithnithe.

Is féidir teacht ar Cheisteanna Scríofa ar www.oireachtas.ie .
Written Answers are published on the Oireachtas website.
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