Consultancy Contracts Expenditure

Questions (6)

Gerry Adams

Question:

6. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if he will provide a detailed account of the amount of money spent by his Department on consultancy services in culture and film in 2012 and to date in 2013; if he will provide specific details of the way the money was spent; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26094/13]

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Oral answers (3 contributions) (Question to Arts)

Aggregate expenditure in this area by my Department in 2012 was less than €14, 000. There were two projects in my Department on consultancy services in culture and film in the 2012 calendar year and in 2013, to date, that incurred expenditure. In 2012, €3,000 was expended on the international promotional works of the culture Ireland division in respect of a web development consultancy carried out by SureSkills Limited. That was the final payment for a consultancy that had commenced in 2011. A total of €10,959.30 was expended in 2012 on the independent external review of Dublin Contemporary 2011. The review is being carried out by Bonnar Keenlyside and should be completed later this year.

I thank the Minister for his response. His Department has not spent that much on consultancy fees. I was not aware of that. I am pleased the Minister agrees that consultants should only be used in exceptional circumstances and that it is of the utmost importance that taxpayers' money is spent sparingly when it comes to the employment of consultants. His response has satisfied me.

I thank the Deputy. My policy is that we should have the competency in any Department to be able to review projects. In my Department we have experienced staff who have served under a number of Governments in various capacities and I rely on them for their judgment at all times. They are very energetic and they have always fulfilled any task I have asked them to complete in terms of reviewing projects or making reports within the expected timeframe. I do not see a necessity to employ consultants.

Natural Heritage Areas Designation

Questions (7)

Brian Stanley

Question:

7. Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if he will outline in detail the bogs where turf cutting has traditionally taken place will be preserved this year as national habitat areas; if he will outline the engagement that has taken place with turf cutters from these bogs, what flexibility his Department has regarding the NHAs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26105/13]

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Oral answers (3 contributions) (Question to Arts)

A total of 75 raised bogs have been formally designated as natural heritage areas - NHAs - under the Wildlife Acts. The Wildlife Acts provide protection to NHAs through a requirement for certain activities to require ministerial consent before being undertaken. As with the case of special areas of conservation, a ten-year derogation was applied to allow domestic turf cutting to continue on NHAs. In May 2010, the previous Government decided that turf cutting should come to an end on all raised bog NHAs at the end of 2013.

However, the current Government undertook to review the situation. This review is now under way. To assist in this task, my Department has engaged a team of scientific specialists to underpin the review, which I hope will be completed in the autumn. NHAs are not subject to the same legal regime under the habitats directive that apply to raised bog special areas of conservation, SAC. However, the approach to peat extraction on NHA raised bogs has been raised by the European Commission in the same reasoned opinion that was addressed to Ireland on turf cutting on raised bog special areas of conservation, SAC. The issue relating to NHAs concerns adherence to the requirements of the environmental impact assessment, EIA, directive.

It should be noted that the NHA raised bogs were formally designated as part of a resolution to a case where Ireland was found against in the European Court of Justice in regard to inadequate application of the EIA directive regarding peat extraction. This judgment was made against Ireland in 1999. Therefore, while the Government has more options in regard to the management of NHA raised bogs we need to work closely with the European Commission to ensure we meet our legal obligations. The review will provide clarity for turf cutters and landowners in advance of the 2014 turf cutting season and my Department will contact individual landowners and turf cutters on the outcome of the review. Issues in relation to NHA raised bogs have also been discussed with stakeholders represented at the Peatlands Council as part of its remit.

I thank the Minister. Is he aware that there are lots of difficulties with 53 special areas of conservation bogs and that there is also concern with bogs in the natural heritage areas? Could the Minister inform the House how many bogs are designated under Irish law and how flexible is the law? In how many natural heritage areas is turf cutting taking place? What meetings have been held with turf cutters? What meetings have been held between turf cutters and the National Parks and Wildlife Service? Is there a possibility of lifting the designation on some or part of the bogs in the natural heritage areas?

Under Irish law there are 75 designated bogs that are referred to as natural heritage areas, NHAs. Under EU law, there are 53 special areas of conservation, SAC, and that law has been transposed into Irish law. We have more flexibility on the NHAs. The previous Government decided in a Cabinet decision in May 2010 that turf cutting would cease in all 53 SAC bogs and all 75 NHA bogs. Turf cutting can take place this year but the Government was given until 2014 to cease cutting turf on NHA bogs. We gave a commitment in the programme for Government that we would review the decision on NHA bogs because we have more flexibility on the issue at national level.

Consequently, the Department has taken on consultants to do this job. At present, they are examining the various bogs and are considering alternatives on a scientific basis, within the context of the habitats directive, as whatever proposals will be made to the Commission must be within that framework. Those involved are engaged in consultations, obviously working with the Peatlands Council, but in general as well. An entire process is under way with the consultants and the National Parks and Wildlife Service. This consultation will be extremely important in the effort to get solutions for this issue which, as all Members are aware, is highly sensitive.

Arts Funding

Questions (8)

Barry Cowen

Question:

8. Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht his plans to develop a strategy to improve the level of philanthropic donations to the arts here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26131/13]

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Oral answers (7 contributions) (Question to Arts)

The programme for Government included the following commitment in the area of philanthropy and the arts:

We will work with stakeholders in the Arts community to develop new proposals aimed at building private support of the Arts in Ireland exploring philanthropic, sponsorship or endowment fund opportunities.

Since taking office two years ago, I have introduced a number of initiatives to address this commitment. In May 2012, I announced the introduction of a new philanthropic initiative on a pilot basis for arts and culture organisations. The initiative, called the Philanthropic Leverage Initiative, was designed to encourage philanthropic sponsorship and endowment of the arts from private sources. It has provided an incentive to arts organisations to seek proactively new funding relationships with sponsors that deliver private sector financial support, thereby increasing overall funding available to the arts. It was anticipated that a multiple of 3.5 on the pilot initiative funds of €230,000 would result in philanthropic funding of approximately €800,000 being raised for the arts. The initiative proved very successful with a multiplier of 4.26 in philanthropic donations being leveraged for the arts. The arts got a boost of more than €1 million last year, of which less than one fifth came from the public purse. A full list of awards under this scheme can be viewed on the Department's website and I have a list of them to hand. This year, €210,000 is available to arts organisations under the initiative, which is being targeted at arts and education and for arts organisations that are carrying out projects in schools. In 2013, priority will be given to arts and culture organisations seeking support for projects that include an education component. This is to support the Arts in Education Charter which I launched in conjunction with the Minister for Education and Skills, Deputy Ruairí Quinn.

Last October, I hosted and chaired a forum on philanthropy and the arts in Smock Alley Theatre. It featured speakers from key philanthropic organisations and the arts in Ireland. The conference was well attended and generated positive feedback and a full report on it may be found on my Department's website. Parallel to these initiatives, the Arts Council is undertaking an initiative which dovetails with the work in my Department. The initiative is called RAISE: Building Fundraising Capacity and consists of a programme that is providing one-to-one professional support to eight selected arts organisations for two years. The initiative is designed to assist in planning and implementing a tailored fund-raising programme for each organisation. Eight leading Irish arts organisations aim to raise €10 million in private funding over the next five years as part of this Arts Council initiative.

I commend the Minister on the positive report he has given. Members had a very useful debate in this Chamber a couple of months ago on the importance of philanthropy. This question was tabled conscious of a development that is of concern, namely, the exit from the Irish scene of Atlantic Philanthropies, which over the years has contributed €1.1 billion in funds to not-for-profit organisations, and of the One Foundation, set up by Declan Ryan, son of the late Tony Ryan, which has contributed €40 million. Between them, the aforementioned two organisations represent approximately 86% of philanthropic contributions in general. I accept the Minister's comment that unfortunately, only a small percentage of such moneys go towards the arts. Consequently, the initiative taken by the Minister is particularly welcome. However, at a time when these major donors appear intent on exiting the Irish stage, how can one ensure Ireland will get its comparative contributions? In this context, I note the United Kingdom gives 6% of its overall giving to the arts, while the equivalent figure in the United States is 5%. If the figures I have to hand are correct, even now, less than 1% is given in Ireland. What initiatives has the Minister in mind to address this issue?

First, obviously not all the funding from Atlantic Philanthropies or the other organisation mentioned by the Deputy was going towards the arts.

I acknowledge the arts benefited to some extent, perhaps in the university sector. Basically, in this country approximately half a billion euro is available through philanthropic means on an annual basis, of which the arts generally get just 0.6%. As for total funding for the arts, approximately 3% comes from philanthropic sources. I am trying to create a culture here of philanthropic giving towards the arts and this is succeeding to an extent. In addition, I am trying to encourage organisations to seek such funding and a number of initiatives have taken place over the past two years, as I have outlined here. However, my Department also supports the Business to Arts organisation. It has a highly creative scheme called Fund It and a number of initiatives have resulted therefrom, as Business to Arts is doing really good work in this regard. I also am very encouraged by the efforts being made by organisations such as, for example, the National Archives, which last year succeeded in getting one quarter of a million euro from the Wellcome Trust, which was very important for it. I am encouraging the national cultural institutions, as much as possible, to seek funding from philanthropic sources. For example, representatives of the Abbey Theatre visited the United States recently, as did representatives of the National Concert Hall. These institutions are looking at possibilities for their projects, as is the National Gallery. Overall, a culture is developing within the national cultural institutions and in cultural organisations across the country towards trying to attract philanthropic contributions.

I seek one assurance from the Minister, which is that as such philanthropic contributions increase, as the Minister quite rightly directs the organisations to chase them, there will not be the sort of dramatic decline in State funding for such agencies that otherwise might happen.

I have made that quite clear. As a result of the programme framework, all the organisations know precisely by how much their funding will be reduced next year. I have deliberately tried to keep Arts Council funding at as high a level as possible and the decrease in its funding was not commensurate with the decrease in the funding of other national cultural organisations because of the dependency of so many organisations on Arts Council funding. I made this commitment previously when I was referring to the review and reform of the national cultural institutions, namely, that in no way will there be a reduction in public funding because of an increase in philanthropic funding. I assure the Deputy that so doing would defeat the purpose. I am trying to gain additional funding for the arts through the philanthropic process to help bolster pre-existing funding. Consequently, the funding from the State must be guaranteed, albeit while looking at the opportunities that exist to attract philanthropic funding. As I know from my own experience, they exist.

Limistéir Pleanála Teanga

Questions (9)

Peadar Tóibín

Question:

9. D'fhiafraigh Deputy Peadar Tóibín den Aire Ealaíon, Oidhreachta agus Gaeltachta maidir leis an bhfógra a thug an tAire le déanaí, á rá go mbeidh méadú ar líon na Limistéar Pleanála Teanga faoin Straitéis Fiche Bliain, agus i bhfianaise na moltaí sa Staidéar Cuimsitheach Teangeolaíochta maidir le catagóirí A, B agus C a choinneáil scoite ó thaobh pleanáil teanga de, cén treoir a bheidh á tabhairt ag an Roinn dóibh siúd a bheidh freagrach as pleananna teanga sna limistéir sin; conas a bheartaíonn siad a chinntiú go mbeidh na pleananna ag teacht leis an gcur chuige is fearr ó thaobh na teangeolaíochta de. [26257/13]

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Oral answers (6 contributions) (Question to Arts)

Mar is eol don Teachta, d'fhógair mé níos túisce an mhí seo go mbeidh 26 limistéar pleanála teanga Gaeltachta faoi leith ann chun críche an phróisis phleanála teanga sa Ghaeltacht faoi Acht na Gaeltachta 2012. Bunaíodh a leithéid de dháileadh ar staid reatha na teanga sna limistéir éagsúla sa Ghaeltacht agus d'eascair sé as plé a bhí ag Údarás na Gaeltachta leis na heagraíochtaí pobail atá maoinithe acu agus a bheidh freagrach as na pleananna teanga a ullmhú agus a fheidhmiú sna limistéir éagsúla.

D'fhonn na riachtanais reachtúla a chomhlíonadh, tá roinnt céimeanna idir lámha ag mo Roinn agus ag Údarás na Gaeltachta faoi láthair maidir leis an phróiseas pleanála teanga sa Ghaeltacht: Tá bailchríoch á chur ag mo Roinn ar na rialacháin faoi alt 12 d'Acht na Gaeltachta faoina ndéanfar na critéir phleanála teanga a fhorordú. Beidh na critéir seo riachtanach chun measúnú a dhéanamh amach anseo ar na pleananna teanga a ullmhófar do na limistéir pleanála teanga Ghaeltachta, do na bailte seirbhíse Gaeltachta agus do na líonraí Gaeilge; Tá mo Roinn ag obair freisin ar na fógraí faoi alt 7(3) d'Acht na Gaeltachta, a dhéanfaidh sainiú ar na toghranna éagsúla a bheidh i gceist sna 26 limistéar pleanála teanga Gaeltachta; Tá Údarás na Gaeltachta ag leagan amach córas trédhearcach i gcomhréir le halt 7(6) d'Acht na Gaeltachta faoina roghnófar eagraíochtaí pobail chun pleananna teanga a ullmhú agus a fheidhmiú sna limistéir pleanála teanga Ghaeltachta; I ndeireadh báire, tá mo Roinn ag obair ar threoirlínte, i gcomhar le hÚdarás na Gaeltachta agus le Foras na Gaeilge, a leagfaidh síos próiseas trédhearcach d'ullmhú, d'fheidhmiú agus do mheasúnú na bpleananna teanga sna limistéir, sna bailte agus sna líonraí, rud a chabhróidh leis na heagraíochtaí pobail agus iad ag tabhairt faoin phróiseas pleanála teanga ar an talamh.

Mar thoradh ar na céimeanna riachtanacha seo atá idir lámha, níl aon amhras orm ach go mbeidh na pleananna teanga a ullmhófar agus a fheidhmeofar faoi Acht na Gaeltachta ag teacht leis an chur chuige is fearr ó thaobh na teangeolaíochta de. Ní miste a lua fosta go bhfuil saineolas Acadamh na hOllscolaíochta Gaeilge sa réimse pleanála teanga ar fáil do mo Roinn agus muid ag tabhairt faoin obair seo uile.

Ní cúis sásaimh dom é seo a rá ach is soiléir go bhfuil praiseach déanta ag an Rialtas de Bhille na Gaeltachta agus de phleanáil teanga. Is léir agus is trua thubaisteach é nach bhfuil clú ag an Rialtas cad tá sé ag déanamh maidir leis seo. Tá an Rialtas tar éis líon na limistéar ó 18 go dtí 26. Is fearr é seo ach fós tá áiteanna nach bhfuil cosúil lena chéile ó thaobh teanga de lonnaithe sa limistéar céanna. Níl aon chiall leis seo ó thaobh pleanáil teanga nó teangeolaíochta de. Leis an fhírinne a rá, caithfidh an Rialtas tosú arís agus an rud a dhéanamh i gceart. Ba cheart Bille na Gaeltachta nua a thabhairt chun cinn agus leasú a dhéanamh ar an chóras pleanála. Is léir go bhfuil easpa tuisceana i gcroílár Bhille na Gaeltachta. Is léir ón U-chasadh a chonaic muid ón Aire go bhfuil easpa tuisceana ann. Cathain a bheidh scála ama curtha síos le tús a chur leis an phróiseas? Tá bliain caite anois agus na pleananna teanga seo á gcur os comhair an phobail agus fós, cé go bhfuil práinn ann maidir le todhchaí na Gaeltachta, níl scála ama le feiceáil leis an phróiseas go fóill.

Tá an Teachta thar a bheith diúltach ar fad. Táimid tar éis na ceantair phleanála teanga a athrú ó 19 go dtí 26. Is léiriú é sin nach bhfuil an doras dúnta, nach bhfuil cluasa an Aire bodhar agus go bhfuilimid sásta éisteacht leis an ghuth a tháinig ón phobal nuair a bhí Údarás na Gaeltachta i dteagmháil leis na pobail Ghaeltachta ar fud na tíre. Bhí 19 ceantar pleanála teanga againn a bhí bunaithe ar cheantair gheilleagracha agus ceantair thionsclaíochta a bhí ag Údarás na Gaeltachta. Tar éis dul i gcomhairle leis na heagraíochtaí agus na pobail féin, d'éist an Rialtas leo, agus anois an 26 ceantar sin atá luaite mar cheantar pleanála teanga, is léargas na ceantair seo ar an teanga reatha a labhraítear sna ceantair sin. Táimid sásta éisteacht le moltaí agus má tá siad fiúntach agus praiticiúil, táimid sásta glacadh leo.

An fhadhb a bhí ann ná nach raibh sibh sásta éisteacht le moltaí nuair a bhí an Bille ag dul tríd an Dáil. Bhí orainne ar an taobh seo Tí siúl amach ag an am. Dúirt muid gur cheart don Rialtas i bhfad níos mó limistéar a ainmniú. Dúirt muid nár cheart go mbeadh áiteanna nach bhfuil cosúil ó thaobh teanga de lonnaithe sa limistéar céanna. Níor ghéill an Rialtas ar an phointe thábhachtach sin. Tá bliain caite anois ón uair a fógraíodh na ceantair phleanála teanga; cá bhfuil na spriocanna sonracha leagtha síos? An aithníonn an Rialtas cé chomh práinneach is atá cúrsaí faoi láthair? An bhfaighimid spriocanna soiléire inniu? An bhfuil an tAire Stáit sásta a rá go mbeidh an gníomh ag dul ar aghaidh ar an dáta seo agus críochnaithe ar an dáta siúd ionas go mbeidh muinín ag muintir na Gaeltachta san obair seo?

Caithfidh an Teachta a thuiscint go bhfuil an straitéis 20 bliain céimnithe mar is próiseas í. Tá an Teachta den bharúil gur cóir go raibh an straitéis go léir tugtha chun críche nuair a chuaigh an Bille fríd. Tá an réamh-obair á déanamh, tá an dúshraith á cur síos, beidh na rialacháin a bhfoilsiú gan mhoill, b'fhéidir roimh an samhradh nó gan mhoill ina dhiaidh. Beidh an straitéis críochnaithe go hiomlán i gceann 20 bliain. B'fhéidir nach mbeidh mise anseo, b'fhéidir go mbeidh an Teachta anseo, ach straitéis 20 bliain atá ann. Caithfidh an bóthar ar aghaidh bheith soiléir do gach duine. Mura ndéanaimid an réamh-obair seo, ní bheidh sé soiléir agus rachaimid amú ar an bhealach.

Ní chiallaíonn sin go gcaithfear é a chríochnú roimh 20 bliain.

Inland Waterways Development

Questions (10)

Micheál Martin

Question:

10. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht his plans for capital investment in Waterways Ireland in the coming year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26149/13]

View answer

Oral answers (5 contributions) (Question to Arts)

Waterways Ireland is the largest of the six North-South Implementation Bodies established under the British-Irish Agreement of December 1999. It is responsible for the management, maintenance, development and restoration of the inland navigable waterway system throughout the island, principally for recreational purposes.

Waterways Ireland has responsibility for approximately 1,000 km of navigable waterways comprising of the Shannon-Erne Waterway, the Shannon Navigation, the Barrow Navigation, the Grand Canal, the Royal Canal, the Erne system and the Lower Bann Navigation. In 2007, Waterways Ireland’s remit was extended by the North-South Ministerial Council to include responsibility for the restoration of the Ulster Canal between Clones and Upper Lough Erne.

While the Waterways Ireland 2013 business plan and budget is the subject of ongoing discussions with the co-sponsoring Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure in Northern Ireland and will require formal approval by the North-South Ministerial Council, I have provided an indicative funding allocation of €4.071 million to Waterways Ireland for capital projects in this jurisdiction in the coming year. This will facilitate capital works by Waterways Ireland in developing, restoring and improving infrastructure for water based and activity recreation and tourism, consolidating facilitates and improving access to the waterways across the navigations.

I am advised that the Waterways Ireland draft 2013 business plan has a development schedule providing for 1354 m of additional moorings across the navigations. Works planned within this jurisdiction include a range of major projects such as upgrading Bagenalstown Lock on the Barrow; provision of a slipway and stabilisation of the dock walls at Grand Canal Dock, dredging the Grand Canal; development of houseboat facilities at Lowtown and Sallins; lifting the bridge at Tullamore depot; bridge upgrades, works on weirs and locks on the Shannon; and commencement of work on the Belturbet Service Block on the Shannon Erne and purchase of plant and machinery.

Waterways Ireland continues to work within the funding available to continue to improve facilities across the waterways network.

I welcome the many positive developments to which the Minister referred but one of our concerns is that since 2011 the funding available for Waterways Ireland has been cut from €35 million to approximately €32 million.

Studies over the years have shown that waterways tourism is one of the activities that is most likely to generate return visits. As a regular user of places like the Shannon Navigation, one never ceases to be amazed at the number of non-nationals one meets on that waterway who have been coming back to Ireland year in, year out. I wonder to what extent the funding the Minister has available to him should be augmented by the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport. These waterways are of immense value to the local populations privileged to live in the catchment area of each amenity, along with their huge tourism importance. What sort of interaction does the Minister have with tourism bodies north of the Border and the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport? Is anything planned for the waterways under the auspices of The Gathering?

I have seen for myself the provision the provision of moorings at Killaloe and Ballina. Those have made a major difference to both towns in different counties on either side of the Shannon. The result of that investment is obvious and local people would accept that.

As regards involvement from Fáilte Ireland, Waterways Ireland is augmenting Fáilte Ireland's promotion of the waterways. Waterways Ireland is providing funding on an annual basis for the promotion of tourism on its waterways. It is a North-South body, which is also very important, because Tourism Ireland promotes the entire island and the waterways network of more than 1,000 navigable kilometres can really be pushed on an all-island basis and we are doing that. I have tried to minimise the reduction in funding for Waterways Ireland because of its North-South significance and its potential and considerable work has been done. We have improved facilities for tourists so we are now ready to proactively promote this great facility.

A number of groups are actively trying to create a green way along the Boyne from the estuary to its source. The Boyne is littered with internationally recognised heritage monuments and would be a fantastic tourist attraction that would bring people into the region. People who holiday in the region visit Trim Castle and Newgrange on coach trips and as ar result Meath does not get the full value of their tourism. The Boyne Canal runs from Navan to Drogheda. It is not covered by the Waterways Ireland network. Would the Minister agree that such a canal should be brought within the ambit of Waterways Ireland, along with other canals, and would he consider the funds that might be available to help with the development of such a green way along the River Boyne?

We have no plans to extend the present 1,000 kilometres of navigable waterways. The focus of our investment in capital development will be from Clones to Lough Erne to the value of €35 million.

As regards the green way, I do not have direct responsibility but any way I can help through Waterways Ireland, I will do so. As a keen cyclist and walker, I am all for encouraging green ways wherever possible. If the Deputy has a proposal I can forward to Waterways Ireland for discussion, I will gladly take it.

An Foras Teanga

Written Answers follow Adjournment.

Questions (11)

Charlie McConalogue

Question:

11. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the funds, if any, that have been granted for the preservation of the Ulster-Scots dialect in 2011, 2012 and to date in 2013; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26117/13]

View answer

Oral answers (7 contributions) (Question to Arts)

By way of background, I should remind the Deputy that the Ulster-Scots Agency is an agency of one of the six implementation bodies established under the British-Irish Agreement Act 1999. Therefore, the agency is accountable to the North-South Ministerial Council and to the Ministers in the sponsor Departments: the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht and the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure in Northern Ireland. The Ulster-Scots Agency is co-funded on the basis of 25% from my Department and 75% from the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure in Northern Ireland. The North-South Ministerial Council approved an overall budget provision of €3,692,824 (£3,028,116) for 2011 and €3,251,103 (£2,828,460) for 2012 for the Ulster-Scots Agency.

While the 2013 business plans and budgets for the North-South Language Body are the subject of ongoing discussions between the sponsor Departments and will require formal approval by the North-South Ministerial Council, an overall allocation of €14.613 million has been allocated in the Revised Estimates for the North-South Language Body in 2013.

I am new to Ullans and Scots Gaelic so the Minister of State must forgive me. I understand that rather than recognising it as a language in the Good Friday Agreement, it was seen as part of the culture and wealth of Ireland as a whole. How many people speak the language on even an occasional basis? What sort of practical steps are being taken, using the funding being provided, to keep the language alive and to revive it? What method of evaluation does the implementation body apply to the expenditure of these funds?

I cannot give an accurate figure for the number of people who speak it in Northern Ireland and, indeed, in Border counties. Coming from Donegal, I recognise the importance of the Ulster-Scots language to sections of the people along the east Donegal border with Northern Ireland. I do not have an in-depth knowledge of the language but I have had the opportunity to listen to it and to spend time in the company of people who speak it regularly and I know they have a rich cultural heritage in music, song, dance and the language itself. There is a bimonthly newspaper that I always look forward to that is published both in English and Ulster-Scots. The language is more vibrant in some parts of Northern Ireland than others. In the east of the Province, if I can put it that way, along Antrim and Down, it is very prominent but it is to be found in every part of Northern Ireland and along Border counties, in Donegal, Cavan, Monaghan and perhaps Louth.

The Ulster-Scots Agency has a board, four of whom are nominated by the Government and four by the Northern Executive. The board lays down policy and appoints a chief executive. We meet the board regularly and last Friday, on my way home from Dublin, I had the opportunity of attending a function in the hall in Raphoe where a play was being staged about the effect of partition from the Ulster-Scots perspective, and how it divided a family in east Donegal in 1924.

The Minister and I had the pleasure of visiting their headquarters in Belfast a number of weeks ago and we were very impressed with what is going on there. I had the privilege and pleasure of opening a new office for the Ulster-Scots Agency in Raphoe, the entrance of which is from the street. That fine office is frequented by many people on a daily and weekly basis.

The language is an important part of what makes us up and I believe we must give it parity of esteem. That is what it is all about. The Ulster-Scots language is as important to those who speak it as the Irish language is to us.

I would agree that the Ulster-Scots language is very much part of the rich cultural heritage of Ireland. Whether it is a language or a dialect is a debate that continues; there is no doubt about that.

I have one question on the Ulster-Scots Agency. My understanding is that the accounts of the Ulster-Scots Agency, or at least the combined accounts, have not been published for the past three years, and it seems there is a reason for the holding back of their publication by An Foras Teanga, which is the organisation for both the Ulster-Scots Agency and Foras na Gaeilge. Perhaps the Minister can shed some light on that and tell us how it will be solved.

I believe there was a review of the functionality of An Foras Teanga in 2008, which has not yet been published. The review of the functionality of both organisations has not been published for five years. If we are waiting five years for the publication of a functionality review, it does not bode well for the efficiency of that organisation.

I am delighted to report that there has been significant progress on the publication of accounts. Since the new chief executive took over in recent times, there has been a noticeable improvement. There will be consolidated reports and we expect them shortly, perhaps at the meeting that will be held within the next fortnight.

Deputy Tóibín's second question-----

I believe there was an organisational or functionality review of An Foras Teanga, which includes Foras na Gaeilge and the Ulster-Scots Agency, in 2008, which has not yet been published. Perhaps the Minister could look into it.

I am not so sure of the status of that report. I have not got a report on it here. Within the next fortnight, we will be able to query that at the next meeting of the North-South Ministerial Council, which is due to take place on 12 June.

Written Answers follow Adjournment.
The Dáil adjourned at 7.35 p.m. until 2 p.m. on Tuesday, 11 June 2013.