The Minister is very welcome. I understand it is the first time she has been in the House.
Galway 2020 European Capital of Culture: Statements
It is an honour and privilege to be in the Seanad Chamber today as Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. I am very grateful for the invitation to attend and provide an update on Galway's designation as European capital of culture for 2020.
The European capital of culture is an initiative of the European Union which aims at highlighting the richness and diversity of Europe, as well as common cultural aspects with a view to contributing to bring the peoples of Europe closer together and improve mutual understanding.
The European city of culture initiative commenced in 1985. The idea involved the selection of one city each year, which was awarded the title European city of culture to promote the cultural importance of European cities around a common European identity. From 1985 to 2004, each designation was decided by intergovernmental decision by the Council of Ministers. Dublin was European city of culture in 1991. From 2005 the title was changed to European capital of culture. Selection panels of national and international experts were introduced to assess applications against a specific set of criteria. Ireland hosted the European capital of culture for a second time in 2005 when Cork held the title. With membership of Europe growing from 2008, it was decided two countries should host the capital of culture each year in rotation.
In December 2014, the Government decided Ireland should exercise its right to nominate a European capital of culture for 2020. The Government also committed in principle at that time to provide €15 million to the project. This will be the largest single contribution to the overall cost of the European city of culture at €45.7 million. The balance of the funding is sourced from city and county local authorities, as well as commitments from business and sponsorship. The European Commission also awards the Melina Mercouri prize of €1.5 million. Uniquely in Galway, as part of the bid process, the local business community committed to increased commercial rates for three years to support the delivery of Galway 2020.
The European capital of culture is not a festival. It is an entire year of activity which can be transformative to the host city and region. It can have a long-lasting impact on the lives of the citizens, as well as increasing tourism to the city and region.
The initial step of the national competition involved an open call to all local authorities for submissions. Four applications were received from Dublin, Limerick, Galway and a regional three-sisters bid from Kilkenny, Wexford and Waterford. These applications were evaluated by a panel of ten experts appointed by the European institutions. In November 2015, three cities were short-listed to complete and revise their applications taking cognisance of the panels' comments. At this point in the process, Dublin was eliminated from the competition. The final selection stage took place in June 2016 when four members from the EU panel of experts visited each bid location and took part in a programme of activities hosted by the bid teams.
Ultimately, the panel voted and recommended to award the title in Ireland to Galway for 2020. This is a European designation and the idea is to connect the host city to the rest of Europe and to remind ourselves of our common European cultural heritage. There will also be a strong connection with Rijeka in Croatia which will also share the title in 2020.
The theme of Galway 2020 is titled Making Waves. It is about the renewal, disruption and transformation of culture, both Irish and European. Galway's vision is to celebrate what is most valuable in its culture, while making waves of renewal, disruption and transformation. Galway city and county are ready to unlock their vast cultural capacity in a wave of events, performances and initiatives which will leave the west transformed. The initiative is also designed to make waves across the whole of Ireland and Europe too. Galway 2020 will celebrate new voices, young voices, and traditions, both new and old. Galway 2020 is inviting us all to ride these waves with it.
Through a series of flagship projects, Galway 2020 will focus on engaging local communities and linking these communities with professional artists, re-imagining our climate, exploring the promise and perils of the digital revolution, reaching out to Europe and the world through culture and placing children and young people at the centre of Galway 2020. It recognises communities should be at the heart of Making Waves. The flagship project, Small Towns, Big Ideas, invites communities to develop their own cultural projects and celebrate the meitheal - the ancient Irish tradition of coming together for a common purpose. Local communities from Galway city and county will be able to apply for financial support to work with artists and cultural practitioners to develop projects for where they live or work, using the three themes of landscape, language and migration as inspiration. The details of an open call for this project will be announced on 29 January.
An Artist in Every Place project will link communities with Irish, European and international artists through residency programmes across Galway. Locals and visitors alike will discover new art in the most fascinating and unexpected places from hospitals, boats and islands to historic or abandoned buildings.
The Hope It Rains project challenges the perception of the Galway weather. Communities, artists and young designers will collaborate to create major events to encourage us to re-imagine our attitude towards the weather. What is currently perceived as a negative will be a source of joy and delight.
The Ship to Shore project will reach out to the world through culture with an international festival of sheep, wool and cheese, dance and film festivals, plus a celebration of Irish music and dance. At a time when the Government is committed to doubling our global footprint, this initiative will focus the attention once again on our unique traditional culture of Irish music and dance.
The Forward Motion project will be a ground-breaking initiative placing children and young people, play and the arts at the centre of everything we do. It will have a commitment that every child in Galway will have the opportunity to take part in events, workshops or performances specially designed with their rights to participate in cultural life in mind. This chimes with my Department's Creative Ireland programme. These are just the highlights of what should be an awe-inspiring year.
I recently met the chief executive officer of Galway 2020, Hannah Kiely. I was impressed with her and the progress made since her appointment in May 2017. The new company, Galway 2020, commenced trading on 1 June 2017 with a board with a wide range of skill sets together with a management team, as well as its creative director, Chris Baldwin. I congratulate everyone involved to date and look forward to working with and playing a supportive role to Galway 2020 in the lead up to the year.
I am delighted to welcome the Minister on her first occasion to the House and hope we will see her many more times.
Winning the European capital of culture 2020 bid was a massive coup for Galway city and represents a unique opportunity to showcase its cultural richness on the national and international stages. It was a joint bid by Galway City and County Councils. I recently met three Fianna Fáil Galway city councillors, Peter Keane, Michael Crowe and Ollie Crowe, and the application was high on their agenda. They all enthused about the bid. As three businesspeople in the town, there are acutely aware of the benefits it will bring to the city.
There are 300 documented artists in Galway. The creativity industry in the west generates approximately €534 million per annum and accounts for 3.4% of employment in the region. The audio-visual, television and film industry is worth €72 million to the economy with more than 600 people employed in it. The €45.7 million budget to develop the European capital of culture programme will build on this tradition. Galway is uniquely situated on the edge of the Gaeltacht, which makes it a truly bilingual city and county with a diverse heritage. Accordingly, being European culture capital in 2020 will provide an opportunity to put the Irish language on the international stage.
It is an exciting time for Galway, which is a UNESCO city of film and has been designated European Region of Gastronomy 2018, the first time that prestigious award has gone to Ireland. We are also about to open the much-awaited, world-class arthouse cinema, Pálás. This is a vital piece of cultural infrastructure for the city.
The team that prepared the bid worked tirelessly over the 18 month period to prepare and secure the wonderful opportunity for the region. The local community and businesses came together with a number of initiatives to help fund the bid and raise funds for the programme. This included the raising of commercial rates by 3% in 2015 and ring-fencing the resulting €1 million for projects dedicated to Galway's 2020 bid. The work of these groups must be commended. Councillors also took brave moves to garner the extra money to make this happen. It was a joint bid from the city and county councils. I welcome all the councillors who are in the Gallery today. They are the ones who took the flak on the street, and the city councillors in particular got quite a lot of hard stick. It is great that this has happened. We certainly appreciate it and it has our full support.
I welcome the Minister, Deputy Madigan on her first visit to the Seanad. As a Galway native, I am extremely proud that Galway city and county, in consideration with other great cities like Dublin, Wexford, Waterford and Kilkenny, was awarded the city of culture for 2020. Galway has shown through the annual international arts festival and by twice hosting the Volvo Ocean Race that it has not only the capacity, but also that it is a world beater in the promotion of large-scale cultural and sporting events. The board that was established to deliver a successful European Capital of Culture bid for Galway in 2020 is comprised of extremely talented individuals of cross-spectrum experience. I have no doubt they will make this a global success story.
One of the highlights of 2020 will surely be the ambitious attempt to have 400 Galwegians walking a tightrope over the River Corrib to beat a world record. The Minister will be relieved to hear that I will not be one of them. I would give up on that one. In itself, this event will be a unique spectacle which rightly promotes Galway as a place of adventure and risk taking.
The express purpose of the concept of the city of culture is not just to entertain and promote Galway as a tourist destination. It is also a way of demonstrating the use of culture as a means for regional development. This is something I wholeheartedly support. The three themes of Galway's bid were language, landscape and migration. The latter is, of course, very close to my heart. A significant portion of the over 100 page bid that ultimately proved successful included the concept of ship to shore, which focused on projects that will develop long-term, tangible trans-local connections that highlight and explore shared European themes. I hope this aspect of Galway 2020, while acknowledging that it is the European Capital of Culture, does not just confine itself to the shared local connections across Europe but also extends to the United States, where a vast Galwegian emigrant population resides. As well as connecting migrant links, there is a focus on the new citizens of Galway city and county, as Ireland has become a nation of immigrants over the past two decades. A portion of the bid book reads:
Galway has known emigration for centuries. More recently, there has been an increase of immigrants to the region from all around the world, particularly from Europe. This ebb and flow of human movement has created mixed emotions, not least a sense of uncertainty and displacement. Few people are entirely alone. Those that come and those that leave bring with them a connectedness to where they have come from. So our displaced Galway and European people become remote extensions of their native cultures, creating a rich network for communication and influence. Galway 2020 is already tapping into the potential of these migratory links to Europe so as to develop projects which will integrate those who have recently arrived and those who have been left behind.
While lofty in its language and aspiration, this reflects entirely a political view which I support and which I believe a vast proportion of citizens both at home and abroad share, namely, that the story of Ireland's migration is intimately intertwined with our development into a diverse cultural and ethnic nation. This is reflected in how we celebrate Galway as a European capital of culture. This celebration should correlate to our advocacy for the undocumented abroad and our compassion for those at home.
As the Minister may be aware, I am privileged to serve as chairperson of the Galway committee of Chicago Sister Cities International. The Galway committee in Chicago has been contributing to the culture of Galway for many years in many ways. To give some recent examples, in 2003, it opened a photo exhibit, "Images of Chicago: A spectacle of urban life at the water's edge". It was the first exhibit at the new Galway City Museum. The photos were gifted to the city of Galway. In 2007, the city of Galway gifted the Grainne sculpture to Chicago. Its dedication was presided over by Mayor Richard Daley and Galway Mayor Tom Costello. Irish artist Maurice Harron created this elegant bronze statue, which stands in a park directly across from the centre doors of the historic Old St. Patrick's Church. This is the church to which all the Irish immigrants first looked when they arrived into Chicago from the west of Ireland.
In May 2014, a large delegation from Chicago travelled to Galway for the dedication of the Circle of Life national organ donor commemorative garden. The Galway committee of Chicago Sister Cities was a major sponsor of this garden, which remembers and gives thanks for the generosity of spirit of more than 2,500 people in Ireland who have given the gift of life through organ donation. The garden was established by Denis and Martina Goggin, parents of Éamonn Goggin, a young man from Spiddal who was involved in a fatal car crash in 2006 and became an organ donor. The garden in Salthill has become a major attraction in the west of Ireland, serving as an inspirational setting celebrating the lives of organ and tissue donors and their recipients while offering the public a place of beauty, inspiration, healing and hope. Of all the initiatives between the two cities, this is the one I am most proud of. During the same visit, an additional gift from the Chicago committee to Galway city was the stainless steel Umbrella for Peace sculpture by the Chicago-based Irish-American artist, Matt Lamb, which was unveiled adjacent to City Hall.
These initiatives were all facilitated by the wonderful relationship that exists between Galway and Chicago and they have served to augment Galway's reputation as an authentic city of culture. I wish Galway all the encouragement and success that I can muster and will do all that I can to ensure that at least within the immigrant community in the US, if another Irish Gathering cannot be had in 2020, we will have a Galway one. I hope Galway 2020 presents an opportunity for families to rekindle and for diversity to be celebrated. As ever, I have no doubt that Galway city and county will make Ireland proud.
I am standing in for Senator Maura Hopkins. I welcome the Minister. It is her first occasion here in the Seanad and I wish her well in her new portfolio.
I welcome the opportunity to contribute to the debate on the awarding of the European capital of culture to Galway. It is a signal and well-deserved honour. Many in this room and throughout the country have always known it was a capital of culture. It follows in the footsteps of Dublin in 1991 and Cork in 2005. In my own respect, I was involved deeply in promoting the culture of Gaelic football there for many years.
All of my family attended third level college there. I have never heard someone speak anything but praise for the city's culture and all that goes with it in every aspect of life in Galway.
I compliment the board, the CEO, Ms Hannah Kiely, and the creative director, Mr. Chris Baldwin. The bid was under way since 2014. A great deal of work has been done and much more remains to do. It is important that 2020 leaves a sustainable and long-lasting legacy, not just in Galway city or the towns and villages of the county such as Tuam or in areas such as Connemara and so on but also in the west overall. Galway is the west's capital.
Galway has a proven track record in large-scale cultural events, with its arts festival, the summer racing festival and the Galway Film Fleadh taking place annually. The city also played host to the Volvo Ocean Race, making world headlines. Towns like Ballinasloe in the east of the county play host to one of Europe's oldest horse fairs every October, contributing significantly to the county's cultural offering. The designation of capital of culture will provide Galway city and county with an unprecedented opportunity to show off its rich cultural offering. It will place an international spotlight, not just on Galway, but all of Ireland. Tourism has seen significant growth in the west with the development of the Wild Atlantic Way. The designation will benefit the entire region in 2020 and beyond.
The three themes are language, landscape and migration. In the context of Brexit and increasing isolation from Europe across the Continent, the symbolism of the most western city within the Union being designated the capital of culture cannot be underestimated. It puts not just Galway, but Ireland, at the heart of European culture.
The ability of Small Towns, Big Ideas to succeed will depend on community engagement. I urge communities to continue engaging, as the scheme has the potential to have a positive and lasting impact on the country. It seeks to bring back the idea of community and collective action, which has begun to fade in recent times. By reconnecting people in rural towns and villages with their rich cultural heritage, we can help to foster a greater sense of community and thereby improve the quality of life for everyone.
I welcome the Minister. As the House knows, Galway is known for its cultural identity and its place as a cultural hub for the west, thriving on the distinctive platform that it gives to music, theatre, film and the Irish language. One could not help but see it as a natural competitor for city of culture status, given that Galway has fostered creativity throughout its history.
I will pay particular tribute to the Limerick campaign to be named city of culture. It also deserves that title. Unfortunately, we were not successful in the final.
Galway's exceptional cultural landscape is renowned throughout the world. Its success has been a result of the Galway community nurturing and encouraging talent and giving it a platform, and good cultural policy at council and Oireachtas level. In this regard, I pay tribute to our Sinn Féin council team and my colleague, Senator Ó Clochartaigh.
An important strength that Galway has is the accessibility of its culture regardless of financial means. One need only walk down Shop Street to see and hear Galway's vibrancy. I am concerned that the by-laws proposed by Galway City Council were drafted without consulting the busking community. Under them, a street performer would only be able to perform in any one space for a maximum of two hours and "shall not act, say, do or sing anything that is likely to cause alarm, distress or offence to any member of the public". Drum kits would be forbidden and amps would be allowed, albeit only battery-powered ones and only up to 6 p.m. A street performer must "immediately cease a performance in circumstance where a crowd have gathered thereby stopping the movement of pedestrians". These drastic measures would hinder audiences and artists alike and are unbecoming of a city that should be embracing such culture. I would be interested in the Minister's comments in this regard. The artists of Galway will be key to the success of 2020. How does the Minister intend to address the ability of an artist to earn? As cultural budgets were decimated throughout the economic downturn, the ability of artists to support themselves through their work was also decimated. I fear that although artists will be front and centre in the pageantry of Galway 2020, true incentives and fair pay may not be in place.
We need only consider initiatives like Creative Ireland, which has spent a lavish 30% of its budget on marketing itself and looks more like a window dressing exercise for the Department than the vision set out in the Culture 2025 framework, which sought to create cultural infrastructure and an ability to earn. Will the Minister outline how her Department intends to make the events accessible to audiences but also artists who are struggling to make ends meet?
I am concerned about the emphasis placed on the Irish language. While we are on the subject of accessibility, Galway is officially a bilingual city. The Irish language is central to every initiative that Galway undertakes, making it open and inclusive to the large cohort of people whose first language is Irish, those who wish to be communicated with in Irish and those who wish to learn Irish. Every presentation that has been given on Galway 2020 publicly and to politicians has been exclusively delivered through English. Sinn Féin's council leader, Councillor Mairéad Farrell, has been particularly vocal on this issue.
Galway has much to be confident about as we approach 2020. The city thrives consistently due to its culture and the people of Galway can be proud of this achievement being recognised. I share the views of every Senator when I wish them every success. I commend those involved in the Pálás cinema, which at long last looks set to open soon.
The Minister's Department has been on record as saying that it would provide funding to Galway and its two authorities for the delivery of events. Will she give any detail as to how much funding will be provided? Galway 2020 has the potential to be a major stimulus for the city's economy, if adequately funded. I trust that the Minister will agree with me on this and support Galway in every way possible.
I welcome the Minister and congratulate her on her new brief. It is an exciting one. Through culture, we touch every pulse point of society. It is one of the ways through which we can most strongly and immediately feel the concerns, ideas and thoughts of the nation. Culture is a powerful and important thing.
While I am proud of Galway being chosen as the European capital of culture for 2020, I acknowledge the strong bids from other cities and areas throughout the country. Limerick has an extraordinary record in terms of music. It lost one of Ireland's musical luminaries in Dolores O'Riordan recently, but it has people from new generations, including the Rubberbandits, who are making cultural marks. It also has heritage and museums. I hope that the ideas that were raised and community conversations that were held in areas that made bids are listened to because they make for extraordinary and interesting reading. Limerick is keen and ready to develop its cultural and creative industries.
Similarly, the Three Sisters area submitted a strong and interesting cross-county proposal. One of the loveliest ideas within that bid was the prescription for arts, the notion that, at times, the idea of an artistic input, access to proper libraries with books and access to performance can be essential to the health and well-being of an individual or community. These ideas can be pushed forward.
On this occasion, Galway was chosen as European capital of culture. I recall the weekend that the judges visited Galway. This is how deeply participative it was.
Rates were increased and many businesses contributed to the bid. The artistic community also contributed. We all know about the many festivals that are run in the city. Galway has an artistic and creative community that keeps the cultural and creative life of the city going, despite being deeply underresourced. Many in that community earn very low wages and are living on very little but they keep Galway alive. Similar to the Corrib itself, that community is a source of fast-moving energy for the city all year round. Those volunteers and artists who work for very little have contributed to making the bid possible. They are very important. On the weekend when the judges were visiting, one could feel the energy in the streets and the enthusiasm of the people of Galway for this bid. The judges were literally immersed in that spirit. I mean that quite literally because they were taken for a swim in the Atlantic as part of Galway's bid. I emphasise this because the spirit of participation which was key in the securing of the bid will also be key to a successful European capital of culture year for Galway. It is vital to ensure that the participation of all of the diverse groups within Galway, including marginalised groups, and of the different generations is front and centre during the year.
It is important that we refer to cultural rights in this discussion, particularly the rights of young people to participate in culture. There are lots of exciting initiatives in that regard, including a new festival for those aged between zero and six which was announced in Galway this week. Such initiatives are important but it is also important that young generations of producers and creators are included as part of the bid. I regret that we do not have stronger representation of artists on the board but that might be considered again as this moves along. I say this because it is very important to stay in touch with the local artistic community. The Making Waves booklet must be checked again to make sure that its spirit is retained as we move along but I am confident that will happen.
One of the most important aspects of the European capital of culture concept is the importance of culture to European cohesion and identity. The neglect of culture during the recent protracted period of austerity has been damaging to European social cohesion. However, this is a two-way street. Damage to culture can damage social cohesion but culture is often the medium through which artists first send us signals and tell us about social concerns. Art can be challenging and it is appropriate that we embrace that challenge and welcome what artists are telling us. A key moment for me was the play about the Magdalen laundries that was first performed in Galway as a challenge to society. That spirit of art as challenging is something we need to embrace. Europe needs to ensure that cultural rights and cultural diversity are celebrated.
What is interesting about the vision for the European capital of culture is that it is about diversity and understanding. It is not simply about finding the common points across Europe but also about recognising that Europe is an ongoing conversation between diverse experiences and ideas and that we can benefit each other in that. One of the examples in Galway that captures that very beautifully is the Inish: Island Conversations Festival which has been taking place on Inishbofin over recent years. It is a conversation in the most local of places but it is an international conversation. Those living in small and island communities right across Europe and the world have been invited to come and talk about what it means to survive as a community in the world. That is why the change from European city to European capital of culture is exciting. Galway can be a capital of culture for the west of Ireland. It is also an invitation to those from across Ireland, Europe and the world to be part of conversations that are important and experiences that can be transformative.
The Small Towns Big Ideas project was mentioned and that is really important. I know that towns such as Headford and Athenry have already put huge efforts and ideas forward. One of the great gifts that we could take from the European capital of culture year is if people in the west of Ireland who participate have their imaginations sparked so that they can imagine all sorts of extraordinary and interesting things and can imagine a future for themselves in the west of Ireland. That is part of sparking peoples' imagination so that they can imagine futures, the impossible and what is not there yet. That is important and that is why it is significant that the Minister said that this is not a festival; it is not even a showcase or a tourism opportunity. This is a moment for sea change, for the making of identity and of possibilities.
To return to the language of the Making Waves document, we talk about ripples, splashes and sea change.
The Senator is over time.
I will conclude now. The power of spectacle is something all of us have seen in moments like those created by Els Comediants or Macnas. I know we are excited about extraordinary spectacles such as the Gilgamesh proposal which is on the cards for 2020. As well as splash and spectacle, however, we also need lasting supports and a sea change in terms of the resources that are available. We need inspiration from this as part of the legacy but we also need infrastructure. There are so many ideas in that regard, including spaces for dance, concert facilities and multi-artistic spaces that are needed in Galway. Those ideas are important and that legacy is something that has been a hallmark of successful capitals of culture across Europe. My final point-----
The Senator is a minute over time already.
One of the projects proposed is Hope It Rains. People in Galway have made great use of the city's outdoor spaces. It is a matter of serious concern if we are to clamp down on street performers and buskers, on which I have made a lengthy submission which I am happy to share with the Minister. That is crucial but we also need some indoor spaces. Let us protect the streets but also build new infrastructure. Let us embrace what is an exciting year for everyone in Ireland.
I welcome the Minister to the House.
On a point of order, when will I be allowed to contribute?
Senator Ó Clochartaigh is next on the rota. This is the rota as agreed by the Committee on Procedure and Privileges. It has nothing to do with me.
I welcome the Minister to the House and wish her well in her new portfolio. These are challenging times in the area of arts and culture. I am speaking on this matter because I was chairperson in 2003 and 2004 of the board that made the bid for Cork to be the European city of culture in 2005. It is important to learn from that experience and I would urge the Minister to speak to some of the people who were involved in the Cork project. I am sure that issues arose about which, with the benefit of hindsight, a lot more could have been done. That project in 2005 received funding of €6 million but a huge amount of money also came from the private sector which helped to organise some of the events. In fact, one event which was attended by more than 10,000 people was organised by the private sector without any support from the organisers of the European city of culture and was a huge success. It is important that we learn from events in the past.
Time is on our side in terms of forward planning for this project. Galway has an advantage in that it is already regarded as a city of huge cultural influence.
It is important that the team it has developed is given the support it deserves. It appears to have done quite a bit of work in winning the competition for Galway to be the European capital of culture. It did a lot of work at the preplanning stage, but it is now important that in preparing for the year, it is given the maximum amount of support.
It is also important that the year is not exclusive to Galway city. The team seems to have incorporated that into its plan. The year is not just for Galway but also the entire region. I refer to involving others in the process. I served on the board of the Port of Cork from 1997 to 2007. During that time, we started encouraging cruise ships to come into Cobh and Cork. When I started working in the Port of Cork, ten cruise liners a year visited. In 2017, 67 cruise liners came to the port and in 2018 we are expecting 95 cruise liners. It is not just Cobh which benefits but the entire region. People can go to Killarney, Blarney and a number of other areas. More than 200,000 people will visit the region as a direct result of getting others involved in the European capital of culture, making sure that it is not confined to the people organising the event and that it encourages others to grow and promote the areas in which they work.
The Leas-Chathaoirleach will be interested to hear that in 2005, people in Kerry were disappointed that the focus on tourism would be on Cork. Killarney decided to celebrate 250 years of tourism that very year. The hope was that people would spend four or five hours in Cork and then a week in Killarney. It is not just about focusing on the European capital of culture in one place. Others will also benefit, which is an extremely important point.
It is an important venture for Galway, the region and the country. It offers a major opportunity. If we faced the same financial difficulties as we did prior to 2017, it would not be possible to give support to this project. Now it is possible because of the economic upturn. It is also about highlighting and focusing on people who have left the country, and using it as an opportunity to bring them home. That is an important point. I again thank the Minister and wish her every success in her role.
Cuirim céad fáilte roimh an Aire. Déanaim comhghairdeas léi as ucht a cheapacháin. Aithním gurb í an tAire a bhfuil freagrachtaí Gaeilge faoina cúram freisin. Guím gach rath uirthi leis sin. Bheinn á moladh, más féidir. Tuigim go bhfuil an tAire ag foghlaim níos mó Gaeilge i láthair na huaire, nó sin atá ráite aici. Má bhíonn an mhisneach aici an Ghaeilge a úsáid níos minicí sna Tithe, tabharfadh sé misneach do dhaoine eile chomh maith.
I welcome the Minister and wish her well in her new brief. I note she also holds the brief for the Gaeltacht. I have been told that she will learn more or brush up on Irish, on which I commend her. I hope she will use more of it in the House and give other people here a bit of encouragement to do that.
When I started my working life, I worked in the arts in Galway. Most of us at that time were on the dole, but we had incredible times making art, theatre, etc. for quite a number of years. My heart and soul is rooted in the arts in Galway. I welcome the designation of Galway as the European city of culture but I also have questions around it. If it is going to work for everybody in the spirit of what has been written and said, we need to ask quite a lot of questions.
As a programme, Making Waves has had a bit of a stormy start. I want to outline that to the Minister because she is making a substantial investment of €15 million in the €45 million budget. She needs to make sure that the money is spent well. People have welcomed all of the different cultural initiatives. We have had different initiatives in Galway, but one which has been mentioned today is the art-house cinema which we all welcome. That was very much a funding debacle and I understand the project had to be bailed out twice by the Department. The oversight was not up to scratch. When the bid was put forward, I asked how much it would cost. We were initially told that the bid for 2020 would cost €1.5 million. Subsequently, the city council announced it was €1.8 million. We have been told that around €1.8 million was spent on the bid.
Officials in Rijeka, Croatia, which also had a bid in 2020, had a budget of €390,000 but only spent €258,000. The Serbian city of Novi Sad, which will have a similar designation in 2021, spent €169,000. It seems that the average figure spent on a bid is €300,000. The smart alec answer I got from Galway was that it won the bid. I do not think that is good enough. One has to be very responsible with the money which is being spent. In my mind, it raises questions as to whether we have the proper governance and oversight in respect of the money which is being spent.
There were two major positions advertised publicly, namely, CEO and artistic director. The salaries for those positions will cost in the region of €260,000 per year. I do not think that includes expenses. I understand there are six or seven other staff members. I do not begrudge any of those holding those positions. I am just asking questions about the money. Staffing costs will probably be €500,000 or €600,000 per year out of the €45 million to be spent on the project. I am asking whether that figure is very high and whether the money is being properly spent. How much will be spent on projects and the arts in the town? What legacy will it leave?
There were two major positions advertised publicly, namely CEO and artistic director. The salaries for those positions will cost in the range of 260,000 all per year. I do not think that includes expenses. I understand the six or seven other staff members. I'm not begrudging any of those in the position; rather, I'm just asking questions about the money. Staffing costs will probably attract 500,000 or 600,000 per year. Out of the €45 million which will be spent on the project. Is that bigger very high? Is the money being properly spent? How much of the money will be spent on projects and the arts in the town? What legacy will it leave?
I also note that the Minister referred to the €1.5 million prize which will be awarded. My understanding is that will not be awarded until the entire project has finished and been audited and the European Commission is happy. The money is not in the bank. At this stage, how certain are we that the balance of the €30 million that is to be made available will be made available? Will the money be forthcoming and where will it come from? I ask this so that the project is a success. I do not want to be told afterwards, in the event of any problems, that I did not raise any questions in the run-up to the project. That is why I am asking the question now. I have engaged with the project in this regard.
From an artistic perspective, there was a bit of a rocky start. Senator Higgins might have enjoyed this. The director, Chris Baldwin, was interviewed in The Irish Times by Rosita Boland after his appointment. We were told that he was on a steep learning curve about Ireland's culture and cultural figures. Rosita Boland wrote:
The week we meet Mike McCormack, long-time resident of the Galway region, had just been longlisted for the Booker Prize.
“Do you know who Mike McCormack is?”
“No. Not yet.”
“Do you know who Michael D Higgins is?”
“Yes, of course,” Baldwin answers.
“Who is he?”
“Well, I think the history of Ireland is something that is going to be incredibly important to me. When I come to a place I spend my time completely immersing myself ..."
She pushed him and said:
By this stage I am pretty sure Baldwin is bluffing. “Who is he?” I ask again.
“One of the important leaders of the early revolutionary movement,” Baldwin says confidently.
He is absolutely right.
The interview goes on to state:
I type. Then I say, “I think you might be confusing Michael D Higgins with Michael Collins.”
We are talking about somebody who has been appointed as the artistic director of European city of culture in Galway. That raises concerns in my mind as to the integrity of the process which appointed that person. I certainly have concerns and I hope to be reassured that there will be no problems in the future.
I also engage regularly with many artists around Galway city and county. There are concerns about the whole process of the bid and call-outs which were happening. I attended as many as I could. It was a great process and lots of ideas were taken on board. All of the ideas were used in the bid process, but artists in the area have heard very little since. I have talked to people who were asked to do a lot of the organising in different areas on a voluntary basis and they have heard nothing. They do not know what is happening. There are concerns.
Small Towns, Big Ideas is great in principle but we need to see it happening in practice.
I have concerns about a project called Symphonic Waves. It is a wonderful project, but I am hearing there are difficulties and challenges. I am not sure whether the Minister has any knowledge of it.
Senator Aidan Davitt is correct that business owners welcome the development. My concern is that it is really being pushed by the corporate and business elements in Galway city. We have seen that happen in many other projects. I have the same concerns as Senator Alice-Mary Higgins about the input of artists, particularly local artists.
On our talk about the outreach element, it is really important to me that there be an ongoing legacy. What will we see in Galway in 2021? We are told that what is to occur is not a festival, but many involved in the arts in Galway believe it is just a festival for one year and that we will not see a major legacy afterwards. What will be left behind? Many artists are telling me that they have significant problems in finding arts spaces. For example, they cannot find places in which to exhibit in the city, while others cannot find places to perform. There is an issue in the area of dance. What will be left after 2020? How much of the €45 million will be spent on infrastructure that will stay in place, training and upskilling to enable people to continue working in the area? How far outside the city centre will the project reach? It has been said in the newspaper that various towns in the county will have activities. I am worried about some of the socio-economically disadvantaged areas in which people on lower incomes might be living. How will the project be extended to these communities? Will there be an outreach programme covering ethnic minorities, the new Irish, Travellers in the city, etc?
Tá mé an-amhrasach faoi chúrsaí Gaeilge chomh maith. Níor luaigh an tAire an Ghaeilge le linn a haithisc. Níl mórán cainte faoin nGaeilge sa chlár mar atá sé leagtha amach i láthair na huaire. Tá amhras orm nach mbeifear ag tabhairt aitheantas sách mhaith do chúrsaí Gaeilge sa rud seo ar fad. I will be a thorn in the side of Galway 2020 and will keep asking questions between now and 2020 because I want it to be a success. As the Minister is devoting €15 million of taxpayers' money to it, she also needs to ask many questions about how it is being spent to ensure there will be no more debacles and that we will have a lasting legacy. Galway 2020 should be a great success, of which everybody can be proud.
I welcome the Minister. I have been passed a note by my colleague and friend Senator Alice-Mary Higgins which contains a question she did not think of asking. The national capital of culture programme which was meant to be every four years has been suspended. I seek reassurance from the Minister that it will be reactivated speedily after Galway's successful period as European Capital of Culture.
We should remind ourselves that culture covers a very wide spectrum. One element that seemed absent from the Minister's contribution was food. Some years ago I was invited to open the oyster festival in Galway, but, unfortunately, I was not able to do so. We should be extremely proud not only of natural products such as shellfish and salmon but also of our cooking, which is now really quite extraordinary. Places such as Moran's on the Weir are absolutely wonderful. I remember going to Inishbofin in the 1960s with a friend of mine, Mr. Tony Hanahoe, who was then captain of the Dublin football team. We had a choice between going shark spotting and having a ten-bob lobster lunch in Mrs. Vaughan's hotel. As I am very greedy, I went for the lobster lunch. I relaxed and patted my expanded belly. From the foreland, I looked out over the cliff and there was a pod or whatever one calls it of sharks. Tony came back and he had not seen as much as a tailfin. I managed to do both and still remember the lobster lunch.
In the west one has the most wonderful prawns, not the awful rubbery yokes that are flown in from the Far East. They are real, beautiful Atlantic prawns with batter which are cooked and served so beautifully. I would like to believe seafood and the general culture of food presentation will be part of the festival.
I believe I am right in saying the great sean nós singer Seosamh Ó hÉanaí was from Connemara.
It is really distinctive. Tá an Ghaeilge go flúirseach agam agus blas álainn dílis Protastúnach agam. Ba mhaith liom an Ghaeilge a labhairt sa Seanad ó am go ham, although not as often as I would like. I would like to support Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh. This is something very distinctive about our culture. I greatly regret getting rid of the old cló Gaelach, through which I learned Irish. It was a really distinctive alphabet.
There are wonderful paintings. This morning I passed an art gallery that was showing paintings by Seán Keating of the Aran Islands ferry setting out and Aran Islands fishermen and their distinctive costumes, with the pampooties and little jackets. It is wonderful stuff. There were also paintings by Paul Henry who produced paintings depicting the majestic landscape of Connemara.
Where literature is concerned, like all parts of Ireland, Galway has a special element to contribute to world culture. I am thinking, in particular, of Pádraic Ó Conaire and stories such as M'Asal Beag Dubh which we all read in school. It is a most enchanting, delightful book. Pádraic Ó Conaire also wrote the most searing accounts of sexual and social isolation which would not have been printed or allowed in English. He was writing these wonderfully insightful stories in the 1920s. Of course, he was a bit of a drinker. When the statue of him was unveiled in Galway, some rag put a bottle of whiskey in his hand.
They did worse to him.
We also have Liam O'Flaherty, the most striking looking man. I remember him in his old age and he was still classically good looking. He wrote The Informer. He also wrote wonderful stories about animal life that are now, I am afraid, a little neglected. He really got under the skin of creatures such as an eel, a goat or a rabbit. He was a very remarkable writer.
Then, of course, there is Synge who wrote The Playboy of the Western World. Yeats advised him to go to the western islands and learn something about his own culture, which he did. He produced what could be described academically as "Synge-song" such as "The old man from the wesht", "Get up and travel easht", and "Let the wind be with you." There are only four or five grammatical constructions taken from Irish, but they project across the footlights to give the audience a feeling of contact with real Irish language and culture.
Let me end by referring to the theatre. I am very proud to say a play of mine about Oscar Wilde was put on in An Taibhdhearc. I have appeared in the Town Hall Theatre which is a very fine resource in Galway.
There is Coole Park, the home of Lady Gregory, one of the great figures of the Irish literary renaissance. She left her house to the State, but what did it do? It demolished it. My God, that is a black mark against it. To turn one's face against a gift and slap the courageous woman who had helped to found the Abbey Theatre right in the face was dreadful. There is now an opportunity for Galway city to make good by pushing out its image as a city of culture.
I welcome the Minister and congratulate her on her elevation to her new portfolio. As she is very interested in the arts, she will be fantastic in her new role.
We are here to talk about Galway and the fact that it is to be European Capital of Culture. I congratulate it on winning. Limerick was runner up. Certainly, the experience not only of Galway but also of Limerick and the Three Sisters, the other finalists, has been absolutely fantastic.
I will move backwards a little because I know that the national city of culture was referred to. Limerick had the honour of being the first national city of culture. It certainly helped in bringing artistic societies together. It covered everything from the visual arts to painting and performance. Bringing all of them together was an absolutely fantastic experience.
I can only imagine what the designation as European capital of culture will do for Galway, a city with a strong tradition in the arts and performance. When we brought together the various associations and groups to develop an itinerary for Limerick when it was national capital of culture, people from all over the country visited the city. I expect Galway will attract people from all over Ireland and Europe.
Winning the title of European capital of culture is a spectacular achievement. The people who worked on Limerick's bid for the title are working closely with colleagues in Galway. It is positive that people in the mid-west are working with people from elsewhere along the west coast. Senator Colm Burke is correct that this designation will have a knock-on effect on the entire west. Galway and Limerick have much in common and much to offer. For example, many performers appear in both cities.
People in Limerick would have loved to have won the title of European capital of culture. Galway's win will be very positive for the city. Youth and children will be central to Galway 2020, as will the city's coastal location. For a long time, Limerick had a tendency to turn its back to the River Shannon and people did not see the river as an asset. That position has now reversed. Galway has the beautiful Connemara coastline which will play a significant part in its year as the capital of culture. I wish all those involved the best of luck.
As with everything, there will be teething problems but nothing ever starts smoothly and I believe Galway will get it right with the support of the local community. It is important that everybody becomes involved. I agree with previous speakers on this point.
Limerick's experience of being the national city of culture was highly positive. I encourage the continuation of this title, which is due to be awarded every four years. I am sure the Minister will keep a close eye on it.
I warmly welcome my colleague and friend, the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Deputy Josepha Madigan. Having served with her on Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council, I know something of her enormous commitment to and passion for the arts and culture. I am delighted with her appointment and wish her every success in her role. I also wish her well with the Creative Ireland programme, which is an imaginative and important initiative.
We are discussing today a good news story. I congratulate all those who made this happen, including business people and members of the local authorities in Galway as well as departmental officials. It is in everyone's interests, including business and the arts community, that this capital of culture year is a success.
The benefits of subsidies and sponsorship for the arts cannot always be quantified. The arts are a key part of who we are as Irish people and we should be proud of them. When promoting the arts, it is important to recognise theatre, arts, literature and food. Irish people are good at celebrating and it is important that we recognise that we are now a multicultural nation of people with diverse views and beliefs and none. Everyone must be made welcome to the table and the great party and celebration of our multiculturalism.
I was pleased to hear the Minister describe Galway's designation as European capital of culture as a national and European celebration. Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council, of which I was a member for many years, led in this area by hosting a world festival of culture for some years. The festival became so large it had to be scaled back because it was taking too much time to organise. One of the great aspects of this was that it made people feel accepted and they shared their traditions, heritage and culture. People dipped in to the degree with which they felt comfortable. Through music, art and literature, we open up and break down barriers and celebrate diversity and multiculturalism, which is extremely positive.
I understand the reasons people in Galway are proud. Galwegians have always been proud and one always feel welcome in the city. While it is described as a city, I always feel Galway is a town.
Reading through A Programme for a Partnership Government, I note the short section on arts and culture. Perhaps the Minister will return to the House in a few months to discuss progress on achieving the key objectives set out in the programme for Government in the areas of arts, heritage and culture. I wish the Minister well in her portfolio. She is the right person at the right time in the right place and I congratulate her.
I welcome the Minister whom I have known for some years. As a councillor during the previous Seanad, she demonstrated her expertise in mediation by assisting me in drafting a motion on mediation, which was passed unanimously in the House. The motion was an important prerequisite in creating the narrative around mediation that the country needed. Mediation can be used in many ways to solve many issues. Ministers sometimes find it difficult to bring everyone together and I have no doubt the mediation role she played before her election to the Oireachtas will assist the Minister in her current role.
The new Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht is a great Ministry because it is creative, different and allows various initiatives and programmes to be fostered and developed. Ireland is a nation of culture, artists and creators. It is fitting, therefore, that Galway has been selected as the European capital of culture. Limerick undertook a valiant campaign to secure the title and it is interesting that the two cities are located at either side of County Clare.
We have developed many types of cultures in this country and we have a rich heritage. I hope the experience Galway is about to enjoy will benefit surrounding regions. On Galway Bay, we have the Burren with its food trail. Traditional music permeates County Clare, especially the north of the county around Lisdoonvarna, Kilfenora, with its famous céilí band, and the Burren. Ennis also had the good fortune of hosting Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann for the past two years. Traditional music is deep-rooted and goes back many generations in north County Clare, specifically Ballyvaughan, New Quay and Bellharbour. Bellharbour was made famous by the late Seamus Heaney, the Nobel laureate for literature, when he spoke about the Flaggy Shore. All of this can be found on Galway Bay.
I sincerely hope those charged with developing the programme for Galway's year as European capital of culture will extend it to the city's hinterland which is rich in heritage and culture. This would immensely increase the value and lived experience of the hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people who I hope will come to Galway. Their stay will be enriched, enhanced and developed if they experience the culture north County Clare has to offer.
The programme for the city of culture is great. There is a lot happening. It is very energetic and powerful. Culture has played a significant part of our economic recovery. The right person is at the helm of Galway 2020 and will drive the programme. I look forward to great things and I know that we all will experience great things as a result.
I am not sure if anyone else has mentioned the fact that this is the first time that the Minister has appeared here since her elevation to Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. The Minister and I were both county councillors in the same area not that long ago. It is great to see another Stillorgan person doing well. I congratulate her on her appointment and I know all Senators wish her well in her role. I call on her to conclude the debate.
I thank the Acting Chairman and the Leas-Chathaoirleach, Senator Paul Coghlan, who was in attendance earlier, for their kind words. I am grateful for and appreciate all of the contributions made by Senators here today. It is great to see their passion, energy and interest in this project.
As I outlined in my opening address, the Government will provide €15 million to support Galway as the European city of culture. I am confident that we have a strong team who will develop a strong programme for the year. The project will be an amazing opportunity for the whole of the west of Ireland. It also offers us an opportunity to celebrate what we do best and to remind ourselves of our strong connections with the whole of Europe.
Senator Davitt mentioned councillors and how city and county councillors worked together. He is not present. I welcome the idea of holding board meetings in various parts of the county and holding workshops in the regions. The initiative will ensure maximum involvement by the community. He mentioned that there are 300 documented artists in Galway, which I thought was an interesting figure. He also mentioned the Irish language, which is important.
Senator Billy Lawless said he is a native of Galway and, therefore, this project is close to his heart. He mentioned the ambitious project of having 400 people walk a tightrope, which is called funambulism.
Two projects will focus on migration and immigration, which are important. One of the projects is called Dul Amach, which means "go out", and the other is called Tar Isteach, which means "come in". The Galwegians will welcome visitors to the region just as they did when many towns played host to people during the Special Olympics.
The Senator mentioned the plans to reach out to the diaspora. They can enjoy the virtual European capital of culture.
The Senator mentioned the Circle of Life Commemorative Garden, which was established by the parents of Éamonn Goggin. The garden formed part of the Galway itinerary of the panel of jurors on their first visit to Galway. They assessed the bid by Galway in situ as well.
The Senator mentioned the Volvo Ocean Race. New citizens to Galway were also mentioned. We must ensure that they get involved in this celebration.
Senator O'Mahony spoke on behalf of his colleague, Senator Maura Hopkins, and talked about legacy. Galway has always been a capital of culture and the legacy conference will take place in 2018. A group of 64 leaders will come together to determine the focus of the legacy of Galway 2020 because it is important that the initiative continues after the year concludes. As someone alluded to earlier, we do not want it to be just a moment in time. We must capture and harness the energy and passion generated by the project and deliver that into the future. In this way the programme will remain on track. I am sure that the programme will inspire people to love where they live and live where they love.
I noted the GAA background of Senator O'Mahony. I like the fact that he mentioned the symbolism of Galway in terms of Brexit. He made the important point that we should heal divisions and make sure that we build and strengthen the relationship between Ireland and the UK.
Senator Gavan mentioned that Limerick has been the national capital of culture. The scheme compares very favourably with the European capital of culture. Galway 2020 has decided to publish its material in Irish and English in order to be inclusive as a bilingual city and to support Gaillimh le Gaeilge.
The Senator mentioned the by-laws. As he will know, the local authority will take cognisance of the by-laws. I am happy that the councillors will consider the matter as well. There is a balance to be struck between street performance and protecting people from anti-social behaviour and excessive noise. I am sure that the councillors will work on the matter and will consider blueprints used by other European cities.
I thank Senator Higgins for her contribution. Galway has nine strategic partnerships with neighbouring counties, including Dublin, as a national gateway. There is engagement with young people and people with special needs. I do not think that I mentioned elderly people in my speech but they are important too. In one particular area of Galway lacemaking was very popular. I would like to see such heritage celebrated as part of the programme. Galway 2020 is not just specifically for the young. We will provide for the next wave of the Druid Theatre Company, Macnas, Galway International Festival, and Baboró, the international arts festival for children.
Senator Higgins suggested that real artists should be part of the board. Leon Butler and Christopher Greene are on the board. They represent the digital sector, youth and artists, together with John Crumlish from the Galway International Arts Festival. The members of the board will go to local authorities and will speak to local artists. Galway 2020 is very much about listening to artists and does not exclude anybody. The programme aims to bring everybody on board and will offer artists the opportunity to showcase their work and performances.
The initiative called Small Towns, Big Ideas will be launched on 29 January. I liked the language used by the Senator, particularly when she said: "This is a moment for sea change" and "the spirit of participation". She also mentioned the Inish festival and she was right to highlight that festival.
Senator Colm Burke mentioned that Cork was the European city of culture 2005, which was a great success. Ms Mary McCarthy is chair of Culture Ireland but she was the deputy director of Cork 2005. She had made herself available to assist with the current bid. All of that experience will be linked with Galway 2020 to ensure that all of the positive aspects are put forward.
I am very happy that Professor Declan McGonagle will represent my Department and that Ms Aideen McGinley will chair the board. Both of them have experience of the European capital of culture scheme. Galway 2020 will also see an increase in the number of conferences being held.
Senator Ó Clochartaigh spoke during the debate. Many years ago I attended the Irish colleges of Coláiste Chiaráin and Coláiste Columba in County Galway. I shall not speak here in Irish but I can confirm that I enjoyed the time I spent there learning Irish. I appreciate the fact he addresses the House in Irish as it is important to do so. Most of the Senators have alluded to the importance of the Irish language, landscape and emigration. Those are the main three themes of Galway 2020. It is important that we ensure the Irish language plays an important role because it is integral to who we are. I take note of what the Senators have said.
The figures are in the public domain. Each project has been costed. The Melissa McCrory prize is awarded in line with EU regulations and ongoing monitoring ensures that it meets same. There are also regular meetings with the CEO of the commission.
I am aware of the interview with Mr. Chris Baldwin who was newly appointed creative director. His role is to programme the European capital of culture. He was appointed following a vigorous interview process. He has experience of running large events. I welcome all of the questions and I am happy to work with the board on same.
Senator Norris is not here but he mentioned food. I enjoy Galway oysters but not everybody does and they should be very much included in Galway 2020. A project called Edible Towns and Villages will undertake to turn towns into edible landscapes in partnership with the organisation called European Region of Gastronomy. It is planned to have community gardens and plant fruit trees in schools. Senator Norris is quite right about all of that.
The Senator mentioned literature. Social isolation will be addressed in both the Tar Isteach and Dul Amach projects. The Sea Tamagotchi is a project that will collect the words of coastal communities and words of minority languages, including Connemara in Ireland, Galicia in the Basque country and the Sami territories in Norway.
Senator Maria Byrne is not present but I thank her for mentioning Limerick. I can confirm that Limerick had 156 projects and 1,630 performances. The cultural programme supported 2,400 artists from Limerick and 1,060 artists from outside of Limerick city. Of course, Limerick was a national city of culture too. All of those experiences will be brought forward into Galway 2020.
I thank Senator Boyhan for his comments. I note what he said about multiculturalism. I very much agree with him that we must celebrate our diversity in terms of the community of Galway and the west of Ireland and Europe.
UNESCO was also mentioned, which is part of the Government programme. I would be delighted to come back at some stage over the next few months and update the Members on my Department in line with our proposals in the Programme for a Partnership Government, which I helped to negotiate. It was nearly two years ago. I will be delighted to come back and update Members on progress.
I thank Senator Conway for his comments. Heritage is very important. It benefits the regions. Strategic partnership will be key to spreading the benefit of Galway 2020 to all counties west of the Shannon. I note his comments relating to Clare. It is important that all contributions are taken in across Ireland. One thing that Galway 2020 does not want to do, and the same with any other county hosting something like this, is to exclude other counties. I refer to the wisdom, knowledge and experience that they have in relation to this. We will be bringing that onboard.
I thank the Acting Chairman for having me here today. If anybody needs to speak to me, or my Department, at any stage, please feel free to do so.
I thank the Minister. I was in Coláiste Cholumba as well in Cheathrú Rua. Ciaran Bheag was where I stayed. Perhaps Senator Ó Clochartaigh could arrange a trip for us all to go back?
Someday in Cheathrú Rua.
It is all being mentioned this afternoon. It might have been Senator Davitt rather than Senator Nash who was the first contributor.
My sincere apologies.
That is fine. I thank the Minister and ask the Acting Leader to propose a suspension until 3 p.m.
I propose that we suspend until 3 p.m.
Is that agreed? Agreed.