I propose to take Questions Nos. 147, 148 and 154 together.
As the Deputy will be aware, my Department operates a range of schemes across the country that contribute to Ireland's economic recovery through funding made available for the support and promotion of arts, culture, film and heritage. Details can be accessed at www.ahg.gov.ie.
A key priority for the Government in the Action Plan for Jobs 2014 is the conservation, development and presentation of the arts, heritage and Gaeltacht sectors so as to help make a significant contribution to supporting economic recovery and in sustaining enterprise and job creation across the country. This is achieved through direct support from my Department and the bodies funded from my Department's Vote Group and, in particular, through promoting cultural tourism.
In 2014, there are a number of specific initiatives underway in my Department in relation to the built heritage which will have positive employment benefits. I recently approved funding of almost €5 million from the Government’s Capital Stimulus Programme under the Built Heritage Jobs Leverage Scheme for the repair and conservation of 618 structures protected under the Planning and Development Acts 2000-2012. It is anticipated that these projects, with a combined value of €21 million, will unlock €16 million in private funds and support significant employment in the conservation and construction industries and in specialist trades. In tandem with this, my Department is also operating a pilot Traditional Skills Training Programme, in conjunction with four local authorities, to enhance skillsets in built heritage conservation, thus improving employment prospects for trainees. The creation of approximately 270 high-end construction jobs, many of which are specialist positions, will be provided for through the major renovation project of the historic wings of the National Gallery of Ireland.
With particular reference to historic sites, the protection and promotion of our national heritage assets has a significant role in generating employment through cultural and heritage tourism, through direct employment in built heritage conservation, repair and maintenance, as well as through related employment opportunities in the retail, catering, accommodation and construction sectors.
The Heritage Council, which my Department funds, has also recently awarded funding of €0.652m to 144 heritage projects across the country this year under its Heritage Management Grants Programme.
In addition, my Department is concluding the pilot of a heritage-led urban regeneration scheme, the Historic Towns Initiative, in Youghal, Westport and Listowel, in conjunction with Fáilte Ireland, the Heritage Council and the relevant local authorities. This initiative aims both to conserve heritage assets and to enhance the visitor experience.
I have also allocated over €56 million in funding for 2014 to the Arts Council, which in turn will provide funding to over 500 individual artists and 870 organisations across a range of arts venues, festivals, arts organisations and touring initiatives. This supports tens of thousands of direct and indirect jobs in Ireland and recognises the important role the arts play in innovation and expression, as well as job creation and economic recovery in 2014.
My Department is also committed in its continuing support of the Irish Film and Audiovisual Industry. This sector has contributed over €168 million to the Irish economy and has witnessed an increase of 42% since 2011. 2014 will see this support continue, with over €13 million earmarked for investment in over 40 significant projects, creating up to 800 jobs in the audiovisual production sector alone.
My Department continues to advance the 1916 Commemoration and Decade of Centenaries programmes, including a range of capital projects, which will directly and indirectly support job creation, as well as cultural tourism. The national programme marking the anniversary of Brian Ború and the Battle of Clontarf is also being supported.
In addition, as part of the Action Plan for Jobs, Údarás na Gaeltachta, which is funded from my Department's Vote Group, aims to create 520 new jobs and retain 7,000 existing jobs in the Gaeltacht area by supporting developments in the Life Sciences, Food and Business Support Services and Creative Enterprises sectors and providing ongoing support for community development initiatives. My Department also supports a range of Irish language arts, publishing, creative writing, training and other schemes, as well as festivals and drama companies through Foras na Gaeilge.
I would like to assure the Deputy that my Department is determined to support and increase employment across the arts, heritage and Gaeltacht sectors. My Department is actively working to maintain existing jobs and explore new opportunities that arise so as to contribute to the next phase of our economic development.