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Wednesday, 18 Jul 2012

Priority Questions

Merger of Cultural Institutions

Questions (1)

Robert Troy

Question:

1Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Arts; Heritage and the Gaeltacht if he has submitted his recommendations and proposals to the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform in relation to bodies under his Department on the critical review list in relation to the mergers and amalgamations of National Cultural Institutions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35511/12]

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Oral answers (9 contributions) (Question to Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht)

As the Deputy will be aware, the Government announced a series of rationalisation measures in its public service reform plan on 17 November 2011 and a number of amalgamations, mergers and critical reviews of bodies funded from my Department's Vote group are currently being progressed, as required under that plan. Four bodies funded from my Department's Vote group were listed in Appendix IIb of the public service reform plan for critical review, namely, the Chester Beatty Library, Culture Ireland, the Heritage Council and the Placenames Commission. In the context of furthering these critical reviews, my Department has met and consulted extensively with each of these bodies and also has consulted with a range of stakeholders. I should say that in the overall context of the public service reform agenda, one of my key concerns is to ensure that all options are examined in order that the most appropriate implementation approach can be adopted for each institution.

As for the four bodies listed for critical review in the Government's reform plan, I have now submitted proposals and recommendations to the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform in this regard. These are being examined by his Department at present and I anticipate the Minister will bring a memorandum to the Government on these matters in due course. In this context, the Deputy will, of course, appreciate that I am not in a position to provide specific details on proposals and recommendations regarding the critical reviews at this time, pending their consideration by the Government.

Furthermore, I also have sent my proposed approach on implementation of the Government decisions on the amalgamation, merger and restructuring of various national cultural institutions and other bodies to the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform. As this also will be subject to consideration by the Government, I am not in a position at this juncture to go into the matter in any detail. I was, of course, able to give the House an insight into my overall thinking on these matters as they relate to the national cultural institutions during the Private Members' debate three weeks ago.

Members are no wiser today than they were three weeks ago during the debate on the Private Members' motion tabled by my party, at which time the Minister stated they should know within a short time. I pressed the Minister at the time and was led to believe Members would know within weeks. The Minister has confirmed his proposals have gone to Deputy Howlin's Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. Has that Department reverted to the Minister with questions or queries regarding the submissions? Will the Cabinet make a decision on these proposals prior to the summer recess? When the Minister finally lets Members into his thinking on the amalgamations and regarding the bodies under critical review, does he intend to publish his cost benefit analyses to enable everyone to see the rationale in this regard? I have spoken at length, both during the debate on the Private Members' motion and at other times, on Fianna Fáil's thinking in respect of the merger of these cultural institutions. Fianna Fáil believes that if the Government proceeds with what has been reported, it would constitute an attack on the autonomy of those cultural institutions and would be extremely short-sighted. The Minister should clarify this point to Members.

As I outlined to Deputy Troy during the aforementioned Private Members' debate, his party proposed precisely the same measure when in government and continued with that policy right up to August 2010, during which time it advised people being appointed to boards that it would be for the duration of the board or until a possible merger or amalgamation took place.

Fianna Fáil has changed its position subsequently.

It is easy to change one's position when one is in opposition.

The Government parties changed a lot when they entered office. I refer to burning the bondholders.

I note this is Deputy Troy's last day as spokesperson for this portfolio, as he is moving on to another position. I wish him the best of luck and acknowledge he raised many important issues. Moreover, he generally was highly constructive on that side of the House.

As I outlined in my reply, I have sent on my proposals to the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform. He is reviewing the proposals at present and I doubt whether there will be any announcements before the summer recess. However, that Minister certainly will bring proposals to the Government in the autumn. As the bodies with which I am involved only comprise a small number of the State agencies under review at present, of which there are 48 in total, there obviously will be an announcement made in the autumn relating to a number of State agencies.

I am disappointed to realise and those concerned in the particular cultural institutions will be disappointed to learn that their fate will be left hanging over them indefinitely. I imagine passing it over to the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform is a rubber-stamping exercise in that ultimately it is a decision for the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. These institutions fall under the remit of his Department and I would be quite surprised were the Minister, Deputy Howlin, to challenge what he proposes. It is disappointing that the Minister was unable to come forward today with a more realistic timeframe, which at least would let people know before the summer recess. Does the Minister intend to publish the cost benefit analysis to support the decisions he will take?

Finally, I thank the Minister for his kind words. I enjoyed working as spokesperson for arts and heritage and I look forward to moving on to a new portfolio on Members' return. The Minister was pleasant to work with 95% of the time.

In respect of cost benefit analysis, any time one shares services such as human resources or information technology and so on, one obviously saves money. In addition, there will be a streamlining process and I hope that whatever will emerge and be decided on by the Minister, Deputy Howlin, will improve the effectiveness of the cultural institutions. This is my ambition and I note all institutions and the effectiveness thereof, including the Oireachtas, must be reviewed periodically. This is precisely what is being done in this regard and is a good sign of democracy. It is what democracy is all about, namely, continuous renewal and refocusing. I have worked closely with the cultural institutions for years and am convinced and confident that whatever will emerge will be in the best interests of those institutions. In general, when it happens I believe that while they may not all be happy with the outcome, they will accept it. In the meantime, all the cultural institutions continue to work as before, in the interest of the Irish taxpayer. They continue to do their work and in no way will they be impaired in their work by the ongoing deliberation in respect of the future of these institutions.

Íocaíochtaí Deontas

Questions (2)

Peadar Tóibín

Question:

2Deputy Peadar Tóibín den an Aire Ealaíon; Oidhreachta agus Gaeltachta an féidir leis an Aire a dheimhniú go mbeidh na deontais reáchtála a íoctar leis na comharchumainn Ghaeltachta ar an leibhéal céanna an bhliain seo chugainn nó níos airde i bhfianaise an ualaigh breise oibre a bheidh orthu ó thaobh pleanáil teanga de. [35035/12]

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Oral answers (5 contributions) (Question to Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht)

Mar a thuigeann an Teachta, socrófar an soláthar airgid a bheidh ar fáil do mo Roinnse in 2013 i gcomhar leis an Aire Caiteachais Phoiblí agus Athchóirithe mar chuid den phróiseas meastacháin níos faide anonn sa bhliain. Is i gcomhthéacs an phróisis sin a dhéanfar cinntí sonracha maidir leis an mbealach is fearr le freastal ar na héilimh éagsúla atá ar mo Roinnse, lena n-áirítear na héilimh a eascróidh as cur i bhfeidhm na pleanála teanga sa Ghaeltacht. Ar ndóigh, is féidir leis an Teachta a bheith cinnte go gcuirfear san áireamh mar is cuí an cheist maidir leis an leibhéal maoinithe a bheidh de dhíth ar na comharchumainn Ghaeltachta, a fheidhmíonn faoi scáth Údarás na Gaeltachta, mar chuid den phróiseas sin. Maidir leis an mbliain reatha, níor mhiste a chur san áireamh go bhfuil os cionn €9 milliún, idir mhaoiniú caipitil agus reatha, curtha ar fáil do na scéimeanna tacaíochta Gaeltachta a thagann faoi mo Roinnse. Tá an soláthar sin á chur chun fónaimh i leith bearta, scéimeanna agus tionscnaimh éagsúla a bhfuil baint acu, ar bhealach amháin nó bealach eile, le cur i bhfeidhm na pleanála teanga sa Ghaeltacht. I dtaca leis an soláthar seo, tá an soláthar €3.273 milliún faoina gcuireann Údarás na Gaeltachta maoiniú ar fáil do na comharchumainn Ghaeltachta a fheidhmíonn faoina scáth.

Le cur chuige stuama agus praiticiúil, táim sásta go mbeifear in ann féachaint chuige go leanfar ag baint an tairbhe is fearr as pé soláthar a chuirfear ar fáil as an Státchiste, a chuimseoidh na héilimh a eascróidh as cur i bhfeidhm na pleanála teanga sa Ghaeltacht.

Bhí mé i Ráth Chairn aréir ag caint le muintir Ráth Chairn, nó cuid acu ar aon nós. Bhíomar ag caint faoi an mBille Gaeltachta agus an ísliú daonlathais atá ag baint leis an mBille sin. Bhíomar ag caint freisin faoi nach mbeidh ionadaí buan ar Údarás na Gaeltachta ag Ráth Chairn as seo amach. An rud ina raibh an chuid is mó suime againn áfach ná na pleananna teanga. Bhí daoine ag rá go raibh brú úafásach ar na comharchumainn ag an bomaite agus ag rá nach raibh siad in ann gach rud a bhí le déanamh acu a dhéanamh de bharr an ghanntanais acmhainní atá ann. Bhí daoine ag rá go raibh sé do-dhéanta pleananna teanga a chur ar siúl sna ceantair muna mbeadh acmhainní breise do na comharchumainn sin.

Tá an t-Aire Stáit ag iarraidh níos mó ó na comharchumainn agus na heagraíochtaí Gaeilge mar gheall ar na pleananna teanga ar luach níos lú, gan airgead a chur isteach iontu. Tá an Rialtas ag cur an ualaigh go léir ar ghualainn na ndaoine sna Gaeltachtaí. Nílim lán cinnte maidir le freagra an Aire. An ndúirt sé go raibh níos mó airgid le fáil do no h-eagraíochtaí cosúil leis na comharchumainn a bheadh ag cruthú agus ag cur na bpleannana teanga i bhfeidhm, nó an bhfuil sé ag rá go mbeidh siad ar an leibhéal airgid céanna? An mbeidh ardú airgid ann dóibh nó an mbeidh siad ar an leibhéal céanna? Muna mbeidh ardú maoinithe ann, ní bheidh a lán acu in ann pleannana teanga a cruthú agus ní bheidh siad in ann na pleananna teanga a chur i bhfeidhim. De réir na critéir atá luaite ag an Aire Stáit, tá contúirt ann go gcaithfear cúpla Gaeltachtaí amach as an nGaeltacht, de bharr nach bhfuil siad in ann pleannana teanga a cruthú.

B'fhéidir go ndúirt mé cheana é, ach beidh 19 ceantair pleanála teanga sna Gaeltachtaí ar fad. Beimid ag súil go mbeidh gach deis ag gach ceantar acu sin plean forbartha teanga a dhéanamh amach. Táimid ag brath ar na comharchumainn agus na heagraíochtaí sna Gaeltachtaí chun tosaíocht agus ceannródaíocht a thabhairt do seo. Táimid ag brath ar ghnáth phobal na Gaeltachta sealbhú a dhéanamh ar phlean teanga, mar is leosan an plean. Sin ráite, beidh Údarás na Gaeltachta ann agus tá sé sin ag cur €3.273 milliún ar fáil i mbliana do na heagraíochtaí seo fá choinne cuidiú leo san obair thairbheach agus fhiúntach atá ar siúl acu.

Is cinnte go bhfuil acmhainní riachtanach, ach caithfimid a bheith réadúil ag an am céanna agus caithimid gníomhú taobh istigh de na hacmhainní atá ar fáil dúinn i bhfianaise na haeráide eacnamaíochta atá againn. Idir seo agus deireadh na bliana, beidh mo Roinn, cosúil le gach Roinn eile, ag bualadh le agus ag plé na gcúrsaí seo leis an Roinn Airgeadais agus leis an Roinn Caiteachais Phoiblí agus Athchóirithe agus beidh muid ag plé na dúshlán atá romhainn sa bhliain amach romhainn. Ag an phointe seo, níl mise, ná aon Aire eile, ábalta a rá caidé an caiteachas a bheidh againn don bhliain seo chugainn. Ach tá mé cinnte, le dea-thoil agus dea-mhéin na gceanntar pleanála teanga agus ionchur Údarás na Gaeltachta agus ionchur Roinn na Gaeltachta agus Acadamh na hOllscolaíochta agus aon chomairle eile a bheidh riachtanach, go mbeidh muid ábalta tacú le agus cur ar chumas na gceanntar na pleananna a thagann aníos uathu a chur i bhfeidhm. Baineann an Bille le seo uilig, leis an Ghaeltacht agus muintir na Gaeltachta, ionas go mbeidh lámh agus focal acu in a giniúint teanga féin as seo amach. Ní raibh sin acu go dtí seo, ach beidh sé acu ina dhiaidh seo.

Muna mbeidh níos mó acmhainní acu, ní oibreoidh seo agus tá a fhios sin ag an Aire Stáit. Dúirt sé an rud céanna nuair a bhí sé ina shuí ar an taobh seo den Teach. Tá seo iontach práinneach. Bhí an díospóireacht agus an argóint againn an tseachtain seo caite, ach tá a fhios ag an Aire Stáit céard atá ag teastáil. Tá airgead ar fáil. Tá an Rialtas ag íoc airgid leis na sealbhóirí bannaí chuile bliain. Caithfear tosaíocht a chur le seo agus caithfidh an Rialtas dea-thoil a thaispeáint i leith na Gaeilge. Tá airgead ann ach caithfear tosaíocht a thabhairt do chur i bhfeidhm na bpleananna.

An tseachtain seo caite dúirt an Teachta Creed cúpla rud maidir le language imperialists agus mar sin de. Bhí sé ag tabhairt amach faoi daoine le líofacht sa Ghaeilge agus ag rá go raibh siadsan ar bealach mar naimhde don teanga. Bhí an méid a bhí le cloisint uaidh dochreidte. Nuair a bhí mé ag caint le cuid de na daoine as Ráth Chairn, bhí siad faoi dhubh-iontas gur thug Teachta Dála ó Fhine Gael an t-ainm "language imperialists" ar dhaoine le líofacht agus adúirt gur naimhde don teanga iad. Caithfidh muid a bheith i ndáiríre faoin teanga. Is féidir linn breathnú ar an Bhreatain Bheag, Catalonia agus tír na mBascach agus díriú isteach ar an rud atá á dhéanamh acusan. Tá siad ag cur i bhfeidhm pleananna straitéiseacha ach tá acmhainní ar fáil acu agus de bharr sin, tá a dteangacha ag fás. Má ghlacann an Rialtas seo an straitéis chéanna atá á chur i bhfeidhm sa Bhreatain Bheag, i gCatalonia agus i dtír na mBascach, beidh seans athbheochana againn don Ghaeilge. Tá sé dochreidte áfach go bhfuil daoine gan Gaeilge ag rá go bhfuil daoine le líofacht mar naimhde don teanga. An bhfuil aon tuairim ag an Aire Stáit maidir le sin?

Maidir leis an Teachta a luaigh an Teachta Tóibín, sílim go bhfuil an Teachta Tóibín ag glacadh an rud adúirt sé as comhthéacs ar fad. Labhair an Teachta san Ghaeilge, ach d'admhaigh sé nach bhfuil an Ghaeilge ar a thoil aige. Tá sé mar ionadaí do cheantar Gaeltachta agus tá sé á dhéanamh go héifeachtach chomh maith. Chomh fada agus a bhaineann sé liom féin, is é an manadh atá agam ná go bhfuil Gaeilge bhriste chomh maith le Béarla cliste. Is dóigh gur chuala an Teachta Tóibín é sin cheana.

Maidir leis na hacmhainní atáthar á chur ar fáil - tá acmhainní an-tábhachtach - táimid réadúil agus tuigeann muid agus an Teachta na deacrachtaí atá againn. Tá €60 milliún á chur ar fáil do mo Roinn i mbliana fá choinne ciste na Gaeilge agus na Gaeltachta. Ní suim bheag í €60 milliún. Lena chois sin, deir an Roinn Oideachais agus Scileanna go bhfuil sé ag cur €500 milliún isteach i gcur chun cinn na Gaeilge sa chóras oideachais. Táimid ag déanamh airgeadú ar TG4, ar Raidió na Gaeltachta ar na tréimseacháin a fhaigheann muid gach seachtain. Nuair a cuirtear sin go léir san áireamh, tá an-chuid acmhainní ag dul isteach i gcur chun cinn na Gaeilge. Tá mise dóchasach, mar Aire Stáit atá anseo le bliain agus ón taithí atá agam ar chúrsaí mar seo le blianta fada anuas, go mbainfidh muid an úsáid is fearr as na hacmhainní teoranta atá againn. Beidh an saol eacnamaíochta ag dul i bhfeabhas. Tá mé dóchasach agus tá misneach agam go dtarlóidh sin. Má tharlaíonn sé, beidh níos mó acmhainní ar fáil. Ach san am i láthair, is é an dúshlán atá romhainn ná toradh fiúntach a bheith ar an airgead atá againn agus muid ag gníomhú taobh istigh de na teorainneacha sin.

Arts Funding

Questions (3)

John Halligan

Question:

3Deputy John Halligan asked the Minister for Arts; Heritage and the Gaeltacht the advice he will give for alternative funding for an organisation (details supplied) which has studios in Swords, Athlone, Navan, Ashbourne, Finglas, Balbriggan and Portlaoise in view of the fact they do not qualify for funding from the Arts Council; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35361/12]

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Oral answers (5 contributions) (Question to Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht)

Primary responsibility for the promotion of the arts at all levels is devolved to the Arts Council which is funded by my Department but statutorily independent in its day-to-day operations, including funding decisions.

With regard to funding submissions by groups of the nature referred to, the Deputy will appreciate that any such submission would be for independent assessment and decision by the Arts Council. Any such potential applicant approaching my Department would be directed to the council as a matter of course.

Understandably, on foot of the recent violence in the Phoenix Park, people expressed their despair about the situation with many young people. The incidence of suicide among young people and child poverty is on the increase. In that context, we all agree that it is vitally important the Government take a hands-on approach to support any initiative or organisation which provides a real alternative to drug-taking, drinking and violence. I draw the Minister's attention to the plight of the Streets Ahead dance school. While it is based in Swords, it involves hundreds of young people across north Dublin and beyond. It is a fantastic outfit set up in 2004 and so far many of its members have managed to compete at national and international dance championships and competitions. It deals with disadvantaged kids who otherwise could be in serious trouble. However, it has been particularly hard hit by the recession and forced to reduce its numbers. It is just about hanging on by its fingernails but is threatened with closure. It cannot receive any funding support or a break in its rates because it falls between different stools. The Arts Council claims because there is a competitive element involved, it cannot fund it, while the Sports Council claims it is not its responsibility because it is a dance organisation. Will the Minister intervene and give it some advice on how it can secure funding? It would be a significant loss if it did not survive.

Some weeks ago the Deputy and others were arguing for an arm's length approach between the Minister and the Arts Council to be preserved to ensure the Minister would not have a direct say in how arts funding was spent. I remind the Deputy that I allocated €63 million to the council to look after groups such as the one in question. It makes its decision on funding, while I have to retain the arm's length approach. I advise the Deputy and the organisation in question which does a good job to go directly to the council.

In defence of the council, last year it spent €3.1 million across all genres of dance. It has a positive approach towards dance. I would be delighted to give the organisation in question advice. I work with various arts groups every day. At 8 a.m. I met one such group with a very good proposal. However, it is the council which is the funding agency and it is protected by this House. As it is re-emphasised that it must be independent and at arm's length, I cannot direct it in cases involving funding. Doing so would be against the law, as this approach is now enshrined in the Constitution. I can meet the group in question to advise it. The Deputy should take a direct approach with the council and put forward the group's case.

While I do not have the time to go into the details of the case, I would appreciate it if the Minister met the group. The service it provides covers many Departments and the problem is that it seems to be falling between different stools. I am not proposing that the Minister interfere with the Arts Council's provenance in arts policy, rather I am calling for the Minister to support a good initiative which is a small business but also a community service. It nurtures young talent and plays a significant social role in north Dublin and beyond. It has also enhanced Ireland's reputation on the international stage. It is now faced with closure because of difficulties in navigating its way through the funding hoops of Departments and State agencies. It would be helpful, therefore, if the Minister agreed to meet it.

Yes, I will meet it. If the Deputy contacts my secretary, Ms Sarah Doyle, we can arrange a meeting with it.

Straitéis 20 Bliain don Ghaeilge

Questions (4)

Question:

4Deputy Michael P. Kitt den an Aire Ealaíon; Oidhreachta agus Gaeltachta cén dul chun cinn atá déanta mar gheall ar an Straitéis Fiche Bliain, cé na cruinnuithe a bhí aige; agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina thaobh. [35512/12]

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Oral answers (6 contributions) (Question to Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht)

Aithnítear sa Straitéis 20 Bliain don Ghaeilge 2010-2030 go bhfuil gá le cur chuige céimneach chun bearta éagsúla na straitéise a chur i gcrích. Le linn 2011, thug oifigigh mo Roinnse faoi chéim an bhunaithe den straitéis inar díríodh ar bhunú na struchtúr eagraíochtúil agus oibríochtúil. Le linn na bliana seo, tugadh tús áite do dhréachtú Bhille na Gaeltachta 2012. Tá an Bille sin ag dul tríd an Teach seo faoi láthair agus táim ag súil go mbeidh sé achtaithe go luath. Chomh maith le cúrsaí reachtaíochta, tá mo Roinnse ag tabhairt tús áite do ghníomhaíochtaí praiticiúla faoin straitéis, mar shampla, an cár tacaíochta teaghlaigh, a bhfuil sé mar aidhm aige an Ghaeilge a threisiú mar theanga teaghlaigh agus pobail sa Ghaeltacht i gcomhréir leis an straitéis.

Tá struchtúir ar leith bunaithe chun an straitéis a sheachadadh agus eagraítear cruinnithe, de réir mar is gá, faoi na struchtúir seo: tá an Coiste Rialtais ar an nGaeilge agus ar an nGaeltacht, a bhfuil an Taoiseach ina chathaoirleach air, ag déanamh maoirseachta ar an dul chun cinn leis an straitéis; tá grúpa oifigeach sinsearach, atá comhdhéanta d'oifigigh ardleibhéil ó na Ranna cuí, ag tacú leis an gcoiste rialtais; tá grúpa idir-rannach, a bhfuil mise, mar Aire Stáit, mar chathaoirleach air, ag déanamh comhordú ar chur i bhfeidhm na straitéise; agus tá aonad straitéise i mo Roinn freagrach as pleanáil agus feidhmiú na straitéise a threorú.

Maidir leis an gCoiste Rialtais ar an nGaeilge agus ar an nGaeltacht, beidh an chéad chruinniú eile den choiste sin ann amárach. Maidir leis an ngrúpa Idir-rannach atá ag feidhmiú faoi mo chathaoirleacht, bhí an cruinniú deireanach den ghrúpa sin ann ar an 27 Meitheamh 2012 chun cur i bhfeidhm réimsí sonracha gnímh sa straitéis a bhrú chun cinn ar bhealach comhtháite. Chomh maith leis na grúpaí atá luaite agam, tá trí ghrúpa oibre ardleibhéil bunaithe ag mo Roinnse leis na príomhpháirtithe leasmhara chun dlús a chur le feidhmiú réimsí gnímh éagsúla den straitéis. Eagraítear cruinnithe de na grúpaí oibre sin, de réir mar is gá.

Nuair a d'fhoilsigh an Rialtas deiridh an straitéis 20 bliain don Ghaeilge, bhí plean treorach ann maidir le caomhnú agus athbheochan na Gaeilge thar tréimhse 20 bliain. Mar adúirt an tAire Stáit agus é ag tabhairt freagra ar cheist eile, bhí réimse difriúil ann ag an am, maidir leis an Ghaeltacht, oideachas, an clann, seirbhísí poiblí, an eacnamaíocht, na meáin cumarsáide agus reachtaíocht. Ar bhaineadh aon rud as an réimse sin le cur leis an straitéis? An cuspóir atá ag an straitéis ná líon na ndaoine a labhraíonn an teanga go laethúil a mhéadú. Cén polasaí atá ag an Aire Stáit chun an chuspóra sin a bhaint amacht?

Sílim go bhfuil Bille na Gaeltachta ag díriú isteach ar sin, agus an straitéis 20 bliain chomh maith. Is é an aidhm agus an cuspóir atá leis an straitéis ná go mbeidh 250,000 sa bhliain ag labhairt na Gaeilge go laethúil agus go dtiocfaidh méadú 25% ar an líon daoine a bhíonn ag labhairt na Gaeilge go laethúil taobh istigh den Ghaeltacht.

Tá sé mar chroí lár sa Bhille atá ag dul tríd an Dáil agus an Seanad, chomh fada agus a bhaineann sé leis an Ghaeltacht, níos mó cainteoirí dúchais a chothú ins an Ghaeltacht. Sin an fáth go bhfuil 19 gceantar pleanála teanga ar fud na Gaeltachta, i gcontae an Teachta féin, Gaillimh, i mo chontae féin, Dún na nGall agus i Mhuigheo, Corcaí, Ciarraí, An Mhí, Port Láirge agus ins na Gaeltachtaí ar fad. Táimid ag iarraidh ar mhuintir na Gaeltachta teacht linn agus pleananna teanga a ullmhú. Beidh spriocanna á leagadh síos ó bhliain go bliain agus beidh cuidiú, comhairle agus tacaíocht le fáil ó Údarás na Gaeltachta chuige sin. Beidh comhairle agus tacaíocht ar fáil ó na hollscoileanna agus ón Roinn féin.

Beimid ag tabhairt deis do mhuintir na Gaeltachta, don chéad uair riamh, lámh a bheith acu ina gcinniúint teanga féin. Go dtí seo, bhí na Ranna agus boird ag insint dóibh caidé a bhí le déanamh, ach anois beidh siad ag brath orthu féin. Beimid ag súil leis an dea-mhéin agus an tacaíocht don teanga atá imeasc an phobail agus a chonaic mise le bliain agus mé ag dul ar fud na tíre. Beimid ábalta úsáid a bhaint as sin, le cabhair ón údarás agus ón Stát, agus tiocfaidh méadú, de réir mar atá luaite sa straitéis, ar an líon cainteoirí, ní hamháin ins an Ghaeltacht ach taobh amuigh di. Sin an fáth go bhfuil clár tacaíochta teaghlaigh againn, go bhfuil Bille na Gaeltachta ag dul tríd agus go bhfuil straitéis 20 bliain don Ghaeilge ann. Is é an cuspóir atá againn cur le líon na gcainteoirí Gaeilge laethúil ins an Ghaeltacht agus taobh amuigh di.

Maidir leis na cruinnithe, an mbeidh aon pholasaí nua ag teacht ó na cruinnithe a bhí ag an Aire Stáit? An raibh cruinnithe ag an Aire leis na heagrais Gaeilge, iadsan atá ag moladh go gcuirfear an díospóireacht ar an mBille siar go dtí an fómhar? Deir na heagrais Gaeilge nach bhfuil gá leis an deifir agus go mb'fhearr fanacht, an Bille a láidriú agus é a dhéanamh fiúntach agus fadradharcach.

Bím sásta bualadh leis na heagrais Gaeilge aon uair. Aon uair a thagann iarratais isteach ó na heagrais Gaeilge bím sásta bualadh leoBhuail mé le go leor acu ó ceapadh im Aire Stáit mé. An tseachtain seo chaite bhuail mé le ceann des na príomh eagrais Gaeilge. Tá cur agus cúiteamh agus caidreamh agus cumarsáid eadrainn go rialta, go seachtanúil agus uaireanta go laethúil.

Maidir leis an Bhille féin, is cinnte go bhfuilimid ag iarraidh é a chur tríd an Dáil amárach. Tá Bille Gaeltachta beartaithe le 20 bliain. Táimid ag ullmhú don Bhille seo le dhá bhliain déag, ó tháinig tuairisc Choimisiún na Gaeltachta, an suirbhé teangeolaíochta agus tuairisc an chomhchoiste Oireachtais amach. Tá na forálacha atá sa Bhille pléite agus athphléite. Bhí a fhios ag gach duine sa tír a raibh suim aige ins an Ghaeilge agus ins an Ghaeltacht cad a bhí le bheith ins an Bhille. D'fhógair mé féin é cúpla uair. Chaitheamar deich n-uair sa tSeanad á phlé, bhíomar anseo Déardaoin agus Dé hAoine seo chaite. Dála an scéil, Dé hAoine seo chaite thit an tóin as an díospóireacht mar nach raibh éinne anseo chun labhairt agus b'éigean dúinn é a chur chun chríche sular tharla sé. Bhí go leor cainteoirí ar an taobh seo den Teach ach bhí ganntanas cainteoirí ón Fhreasúra. Labhair an Teachta Kitt, labhair sé go maith agus cuirim fáilte roimh an méid a bhí le rá aige, ach ní raibh aon chainteoirí ag teacht óna thaobhsa den Teach agus b'éigean deireadh a chur leis an díospóireacht. Beidh trí huaire go leith againn amárach agus sin tamall fada. Beidh an Bille pléite go maith agus tá sé in am é a bheith reachtaithe anois. Beidh an gléasra ina áit ansin leis an straitéis a chur i bhfeidhm.

Beidh a lán leasaithe á mholadh amárach.

Heritage Funding

Questions (5)

Sandra McLellan

Question:

5Deputy Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for Arts; Heritage and the Gaeltacht his plans to invest in heritage infrastructure in order to maintain productive jobs in the public and private sector; his plans to revitalise investment with key partners in local authorities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35832/12]

View answer

Oral answers (8 contributions) (Question to Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht)

My Department is currently promoting the role that Ireland's heritage has to play in making our country an attractive destination for sustainable tourism and inward investment, both in terms of the operation of our national parks and nature reserves and in the context of our unique built heritage. Culture and heritage are important elements of Ireland's tourism product, and heritage properties, including those in State care, are prominent tourism sites.

My Department provides some limited funding under a number of headings for investment in the built and natural heritage. It also supports the Heritage Council and the Irish Heritage Trust in their work in this area. However, the scope to provide additional funding for the protection, conservation and development of the State's built heritage is constrained by the current significant reduction in the public finances. My Department, therefore, is focusing on working creatively across the Government and with partner bodies such as the Heritage Council, the Irish Heritage Trust, Fáilte Ireland and the rural development programme in seeking to ensure that resources are directed towards the heritage sector.

The recently published Heritage Council report, The Economic Value of Ireland's Historic Environment, provides comprehensive and evidence-based data which supports and enhances our understanding of the importance of our built heritage. The report in question indicates that capital investment in built heritage conservation provides significant employment in the construction industry and is of major benefit to the national economy. Such investment also assists in developing and maintaining specialised skills among conservation professionals and craftspeople.

My Department continues to work on developing initiatives that contribute to the protection and appropriate reuse of our built heritage and the ongoing challenges facing our architectural heritage, such as adaptive reuse for historic properties and a forward-planning-led approach to cultural heritage and urban design in our towns and cities. A key initiative in this regard is the development of a specific heritage-led historic towns initiative in collaboration with Fáilte Ireland and the Heritage Council. I expect that the initiative, which will be fully developed by the end of this year, will be piloted in 2013. I am aware that Deputy McLellan has a particular interest in this matter because the town in which she lives, Youghal, is one of those involved.

That is correct.

As regards our natural heritage assets, Ireland's six national parks and 78 nature reserves attract a large number of visitors every year. This adds significantly to the tourism product and brings economic benefits to rural areas, while also playing an important role in the conservation of Ireland's rich biodiversity and increasing awareness of our natural heritage. A specific programme of capital works is undertaken, within available resources, at these properties each year. Such works involve, for example, the provision of improved information or interpretation and the development of walks and, where possible, new visitor facilities. Essential to these various initiatives is the involvement and collaboration of the relevant local authorities.

I thank the Minister for his reply. Ireland lags behind its European partners when it comes to intergovernmental strategies that position culture, heritage and the creative industries as the foundation of a new creative economy. Between now and the end of 2013 the European Commission will be investing €70 billion in developing the creative economy across Europe. When one considers the position in Ireland, it is abundantly clear that there is an almost total lack of joined-up thinking on how to develop the sector and tap into its full potential in terms of revenue and employment. Ireland lacks the sophistication of other member states which support intergovernmental strategies that position culture, heritage and the creative industries as the foundation of the new economy. Derry, which is due to become the UK's first city of culture, is an excellent example in this regard. That the latter is even possible is due in part to the flexible and smart decisions made by the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure in Northern Ireland, which is investing £5 million in innovative initiatives in this area.

Does the Minister agree that I have provided an accurate description of the current state of affairs in respect of this matter? Does he plan to reconsider the position in the context of investing along with local authorities in, for example, the historic towns initiative to which he referred, and which I welcome?

The European Commission's plans to invest €70 billion in this area are the subject of a later question. In the context of the funding that is available to us, we are investing a significant amount in promoting heritage and culture in this country. In this regard one need only consider Kildare Street, on which two cultural institutions - the National Library and the National Museum - are located. These institutions are visited by large numbers of tourists on an hourly basis. If one goes onto the streets, one will see them. They have free access to both institutions. Last year the National Museum of Ireland attracted over 1 million tourists. Cultural tourism is one of the reasons many people come to Ireland. When Bord Fáilte and Fáilte Ireland carry out surveys, they ask people to outline the reasons they decide to come to Ireland. Cultural and heritage tourism is generally found to be the main reason. Although we are really using our cultural heritage, I accept we could do more in this regard and I will try to do so while I am in this job. According to a report published by the Heritage Council last month, our historic environment supports approximately 35,000 jobs and contributes approximately €1.5 billion to the economy. Cultural tourism which involves the built heritage, our natural heritage and cultural heritage is a central part of the tourism industry and the economy. As long as I am in this job, I will continue to emphasise as much as possible the promotion of cultural tourism.

I accept that the Minister's Department is facing budgetary constraints. I look forward to the pilot scheme of the heritage-led historic towns initiative which involves my home town of Youghal. I hope to see many more projects of this nature in the future.

It is important for local communities to avail fully of the pilot project which involves Westport, Youghal and Listowel. The people of Youghal have a great opportunity to develop tourism in the town even further. Youghal is interesting because of its connections with people such as Cromwell and its location at the mouth of the River Blackwater. It has a great deal going for it. I hope the three towns in question will enjoy a major spin-off from the initiative which I am sure the Deputy supports wholeheartedly.

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