Cross-Border Co-operation

Questions (21)

Niamh Smyth

Question:

21. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht her plans to improve cross-Border co-operation in the arts; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24341/19]

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Oral answers (6 contributions) (Question to Culture)

Can the Minister outline her plans to improve, strengthen or grow cross-Border co-operation in the arts and cultural sectors?

For more than ten years, my Department has operated a scheme of funding support for small self-contained projects that seek to enhance, celebrate or commemorate the art, culture, music, film or heritage of the island of Ireland on a North-South basis. The co-operation with Northern Ireland scheme provides support for projects that have a clearly demonstrable North-South element and which seek to make a contribution to enhancing, celebrating or commemorating the art, culture, music, film or heritage of the whole of the island of Ireland.

Some €127,500 in funding will be allocated under this scheme in 2019 with a maximum of €15,000 awardable per applicant. Projects are awarded on a competitive basis and I will announce the results of the 2019 scheme on my Department's website in the coming weeks. A total of 30 applications were received in 2019, which is an increase of 18 on the number received in 2018. The years 2016 and 2017 saw an unprecedented demand with 90 applications being received in those years.

In addition, my Department also provides annual funding of €100,000 towards the Cross-Border Orchestra of Ireland Peace Proms event. This event is a unique and ambitious musical education programme in which 20,000 children from 250 schools throughout the island of Ireland participate annually. It is a musical and cultural celebration and provides an important platform for young people to showcase their talent while promoting peace, unity and tolerance through music.

In 2019, my Department will also be providing €12,000 in support for An tUltach magazine, which was first published in 1924 and is considered to be the oldest periodical in the Irish language.

There are other agencies under my Department which also engage in cross-Border co-operation on cultural projects. For example, the Deputy may be familiar with the Tyrone Guthrie Centre, which is one of three residential artists’ spaces operating on the island of Ireland. This is funded annually by both the Arts Council and the Arts Council of Northern Ireland. This Centre is currently undertaking a significant capital development to which my Department has committed €309,000 in funding.

Culture, in general, operates beyond borders and boundaries and can facilitate cross-community and cross-cultural understanding at the deepest level. My Department will ensure that culture continues to play an important role in fostering all-island dialogue, and in particular dialogue between Ireland and Britain, especially during this decade of centenaries, and now in the context of the UK’s decision to leave the EU.

I thank the Minister for her reply. Brexit, alongside the absence of a working Assembly, has put a whole new level of strain on North-South cultural connections. Regardless of the outcome of the Brexit negotiations, cultural links between Ireland and the North of Ireland must be strengthened and supported .

In recent weeks I had the pleasure of meeting some of the staff from the MAC gallery in Belfast city centre and perhaps the Minister may have done so also. Being from a Border county and having worked in curatorial practice before I ever became a politician, I had the experience of bringing together artists from North and South. I see a huge opportunity for the Border counties as to what is happening on the bigger political scale at the moment with Brexit.

Having spoken with artists, arts practitioners, curators and educators from the North of Ireland, there is a real concern and paralysis arising from the non-functional Assembly. It is leaving them almost in limbo. There is a real desire, interest, energy and enthusiasm on their part to engage further with the Minister, with us, and with the culture and artistic sector of the Republic. There is a real opportunity. Aside from what has been happening with North-South co-operation, which has been happening for the past ten years, what new initiatives are the Minister and her Government undertaking to strengthen those links?

The Deputy is correct, as I was in Belfast in January at the Equity Ireland and UK conference. I highlighted there the role of the Creative Ireland programme, with which the Deputy will be familiar and which launched at the end of 2016, and the culture component of Global Ireland - Ireland's Global Footprint to 2025, which was published in May 2018, to ensure that artists and other creative workers are properly supported to allow them to continue to operate in the cultural sector on a self-sustaining basis.

The key reassurance required for the cultural sector remains the continued operation of the common travel area, as highlighted on Friday, 1 March, by the directors of the arts councils in Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and England. Our key message remains that regardless of the outcome of the Brexit process we remain committed throughout the island of Ireland to engaging through culture with our friends in the UK, with our partners in the EU and globally. While Brexit will impact all aspects of the Department's brief, it has not identified specific legislative measures for inclusion in the omnibus Bill on the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union. Notwithstanding this, the Department and those bodies under its aegis are subject to the challenges posed by Brexit and in the event of a no-deal scenario they will benefit from the practical measures contained in the Bill.

I reiterate that there is a desire on the part of practising artists, curators and art educators in the North of Ireland, particularly the MAC and, I am sure, many institutions such as Queen Street Studios and other independent art studio spaces in Belfast and the North of Ireland, to engage with the Minister and the Arts Council to formalise the relationships that exist with the Arts Council of Northern Ireland. Does the Minister have specific information on what she intends to do to bring a breath of fresh air and a new way of doing things in the arts, and in engaging in a new relationship with the arts sector in the North of Ireland? With Brexit looming and a non-functioning Assembly, these people are asking for our help. They have visited Leinster House to discuss with all parties their desire to work and to formalise the relationship. Will the Minister outline the specifics of what she intends to do? I would appreciate it.

There are many projects the Deputy will be aware of, particularly in the 2019 programme for County Cavan under the commemorations aspect. Cavan County Museum has an exhibition on the War of Independence and the Civil War. The Cavan and Fermanagh conference will be held in October, which will deal with the impact legacy of the events of 1919 to 1923 on the Border. The conference programme is being developed. The exhibition will be County Cavan focused and the conference will be a joint project between Cavan and Fermanagh museums. Work is at an early stage in developing the conference.

Culture Ireland also does a significant volume of work. It operates on an all-Ireland basis and supports artists from Northern Ireland presenting their work globally. It partners with the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and shares promotional stands at the world music trade fair each year, which is part of the horizons partnership to co-promote music at global events. In April, Culture Ireland officials met the executive of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland to discuss how the co-ordination of support to artists can be enhanced, particularly in respect of the focus on key art forms.

An Coimisinéir Teanga

Questions (22)

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

22. D'fhiafraigh Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh den Aire Cultúir, Oidhreachta agus Gaeltachta cad iad na bearta a dhéanfaidh sí chun a chinntiú go gcloífidh an Státchóras agus na comhlachtaí Stáit leis an dualgas reachtúil agus bunreachtúil i leith na teanga náisiúnta, óir is léir ó thuarascáil bhliantúil an Choimisinéara Teanga arís i mbliana nach gcloíonn siad amhlaidh. [24347/19]

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Oral answers (6 contributions) (Question to Culture)

An cheist atá agam ná chun fiafraigh den Aire Cultúir, Oidhreachta agus Gaeltachta cad atá sí chun a dhéanamh chun a chinntiú go gcloíonn an Státchóras agus na comhlachtaí Stáit lena ndualgas reachtúil agus bunreachtúil maidir leis an teanga oifigiúil?

Faoi Acht na dTeangacha Oifigiúla 2003, is é an Coimisinéir Teanga atá freagrach as monatóireacht a dhéanamh ar dhualgaisí na gcomhlachtaí poibli faoin Acht. Is é sin comhlíonadh na rialacha atá i bhfoirm reachtaíochta maidir le comharthaíocht, foilseacháin agus comhlíonadh na ngealltanas atá tugtha sna scéimeanna teanga éagsúla atá aontaithe le mo Roinn. Aontaíodh 132 scéim teanga faoi dheireadh na bliana 2018 ach níl aon dualgas ar mo Roinn maidir le monatóireacht ar fheidhmiú na scéimeanna sin.

Mar is iondúil, d’fhoilsigh an Coimisinéir Teanga tuarascáil bhliantúil an-chuimsitheach a léiríonn an réimse leathan oibre atá ar siúl ag a oifig agus a thábhachtaí is atá an obair sin do phobal na Gaeilge.

Is fiú don Teachta a nótáil go bhfuil oifigigh mo Roinne ag obair faoi láthair i gcomhar le hOifig an Ard-Aighne chun Bille na dTeangacha Oifigiúla (Leasú) a dhréachtú. Mar chuid thábhachtach den leasú ar an Acht, tá sé i gceist aird a thabhairt ar an ábhar atá luaite ag an gCoimisinéir ina thuarascáil.

Mar chúlra, is iarracht é an Bille seo, tríd na ceannteidil éagsúla, an timpeallacht a chruthú ina mbeidh ról níos lárnaí ag an teanga in obair an Stáit, go mbeidh an teanga nios feiceálaí agus go mbeidh fáil níos leithne ar sheirbhísí tri Ghaeilge.

Tá sé i gceist sa Bhille foráil a dhéanamh a chinnteofar go n-éascóidh comhlachtaí poiblí úsáid ainmneacha agus seoltaí sa dá theanga oifigiúil, lena n-áirítear úsáid an tsíneadh fhada agus sloinnte níos faide a éascú.

Táthar ag súil go rachaidh na forálacha agus na céimeanna eile atá á nglacadh sa Bhille leasaithe maidir le caighdeáin teanga agus earcaíocht don Státchóras cuid mhaith i ngleic leis na deacrachtaí atá ardaithe ag an gCoimisinéir Teanga ina thuarascáil bhliantúil.

Tá an méid atá ráite ag an Aire Stáit tábhachtach ach an cheist ná cad atá an Aire chun a dhéanamh chun a dhéanamh cinnte de go bhfuil an Státchóras chun cloí leis na moltaí atá i tuarascáil bhliantúil an Choimisinéara Teanga an bliain seo agus blianta eile? Chomh maith leis sin, cad atá an Státchóras chun a dhéanamh chun brú breise a chur orthu ionas nach mbeidh ar an gCoimisinéir Teanga fiosrúcháin a bheith aige ar na ceisteanna a ardaíonn an pobal nó a ardaíonn sé féin maidir leis an tromaíocht atá á déanamh ar an nGaeilge sa Státchóras nach féidir linne atá Gaeilge againn agus atá ag iarraidh í a úsáid sa Státchóras teacht ar sheirbhísí chomh tapa céanna nó chomh áisiúil agus a thagaimid orthu leis an mBéarla. An bhfuil sé i gceist ceangailt a dhéanamh amach anseo idir maoiniú na comhlachtaí poiblí seo agus an Státchóras i gcoitinne muna bhfuil siad ag cloí leis na dualgais bunreachtúil agus dualgais teanga atá acu agus go dtarraingeofaí siar roinnt den mhaoiniú ó na comhlachtaí sin. Sampla mór amháin a thug an Coimisinéir Teanga ná RTÉ. Bhí air scrúdú iomlán a dhéanamh ansin agus fós, níl RTÉ tar éis plean nó freagra ceart a chur chuige. Tá síneadh ama tugtha dó go deireadh na míosa seo ach tá súil agam go mbeidh bogadh ag tarlú.

Luaigh an Teachta RTÉ ansin agus níl aon dualgas reachtúil ormsa mar Aire Stáit maidir le craolachán RTÉ. Tuigim gur iarr an Coimisinéir Teanga ar RTÉ plean feidhmiú a ullmhú laistigh de sé mhí ón dáta a foilsíodh an tuarascáil ar an scrúdú a rinne an coimisinéir chun sású a thabhairt don choimisinéir faoi cén dóigh a bhfuil se i gceist ag RTÉ réimse cuimsitheach cláracha teilifíse i nGaeilge agus cláracha faoi cúrsaí reatha i nGaeilge a chur ar fáil. Tá mé ag súil go mbeidh toradh dearfach ar an bplean sin agus tá a fhios agam gur chas an coimisinéir le ceannaire RTÉ maidir leis na ceisteanna sin.

Luaigh an Teachta rud fíor-shuimiúil ó thaobh cén chaoi a bhféadfaí a chinntiú go mbeadh na dualgais a bheadh ag na comhlachtaí Stáit á gcomhlíonadh. Caithfimid breathnú ar sin sa Bhille agus beidh an díospóireacht sin againn sa Teach. B'fheidir go bhféadfaimis fíneáil a chur orthu má theipeann orthu glacadh leis na dualgais atá acu maidir leis an nGaeilge agus maidir leis an nGaeilge a chur chun cinn.

Aontaím leis sin ach ní díreach fíneáil atá i gceist ach nach bhfaigheadh siad airgead sa chéad dul síos má tá siad ag briseadh an reachtaíocht a bheidh ann. Ní chóir go mbeadh muid ag brath ar reachtaíocht ach ba chóir go mbeadh sé uathoibríoch go dtiocfadh sé mar chearta. Ní chóir go mbeadh Coimisinéir Teanga ann fiú ach tá sé ann toisc nach bhfuil ag éirí leis an Stát cloí le na dualgais atá aige.

Tagraím do RTÉ. Bhí an plean feidhmíu le bheith ann an tseachtain seo caite ach níl sé ann agus tá síneadh ama tugtha go deireadh na míosa. Ní fheicim go dtiocfaidh sé so tá mé ag impí ar an Aire Stáit, más féidir leis in aon chor, an Bille a fhoilsiú chomh tapa agus is féidir ionas gur féidir linn díriú isteach air agus ionas go dtuigeann an Státchóras i gcoitinne go bhfuil gá cloí leis an méid atá sa Bhunreacht agus leis an méid a bheidh san Acht sin. Níl siad ag cloí leis an Acht atá ann faoi láthair fiú.

Sin ceann de na fadhbanna. Sin an fáth go aontaím le chuile dhuine go bhfuil an Acht atá againn faoi láthair sort lag ó thaobh na ndualgas agus nach bhfuil dóthain meas ag comhlachtaí ar an teanga. Caithfimid níos mó a dhéanamh.

Is é sin an fáth go bhfuilimid ag déanamh leasú ar an mBille agus go mbeidh níos mó dualgas ar na comhlachtaí, go mór mór na comhlachtaí a bheidh ag obair sa Ghaeltacht agus ag obair le muintir na Gaeilge a bheidh ag labhairt agus ag feidhmiú trí mheán na Gaeilge. Beidh an díospóireacht sin san fhómhar nuair a bheidh an Bille foilsithe, roimh an sos nó roimh dheireadh an téarma seo.

Tá sé sin fíorthábhachtach. Aontaím go gcaithfimid é sin a dhéanamh. Is é sin an fócas atá againn, agus tá a fhios agam go mbeidh ceist againn i gceann nóiméad ón Teachta Calleary ar an ábhar sin. Aontaím go gcaithfidh na comhlachtaí Stáit a bheith cinnte faoina ndualgais agus go mbeidh siad sásta iad a chomhlíonadh. Beidh na rudaí sin á bplé sa Bhille nuair a bheidh sé foilsithe.

Acht na dTeangacha Oifigiúla

Questions (23)

Dara Calleary

Question:

23. D'fhiafraigh Deputy Dara Calleary den Aire Cultúir, Oidhreachta agus Gaeltachta cén uair atá sé i gceist Bille nua na dTeangacha Oifigiúla a fhoilsiú; agus an ndéanfaidh sí ráiteas ina thaobh. [24443/19]

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Oral answers (6 contributions) (Question to Culture)

Ba chóir don Aire Stáit leanúint ar aghaidh chun an cheist dheireanach a fhreagairt maidir leis an uair a fhoilseofar an Bille sin. An mbeidh sé foilsithe roimh dheireadh an tseisiúin seo agus an mbeidh seans againn dul go dtí an dara leath den seisiún seo leis an mBille seo? Tá sé cosúil leis an Nollaig. Tá sí fós ag teacht. Cén t-am a bhfuil Lá Nollag ann?

Is iarracht é an Bille seo, trí na ceannteidil éagsúla, an timpeallacht a chruthú ina mbeidh ról níos lárnaí ag an teanga in obair an Stáit, go mbeidh an teanga níos feiceálaí, agus go mbeidh fáil níos leithne ar sheirbhísí trí Ghaeilge. Tá an Rialtas ag súil go mbeidh an tAcht nua ina thacaíocht éifeachtach do gach duine ar mhian leis nó léi seirbhísí d’ardchaighdeán i nGaeilge a fháil ón Stát.

Agus an Bille á thabhairt chun cinn, cuireadh tréimhse chomhairliúcháin ar bun leis na páirtithe leasmhara. Leagadh na ceannteidil faoi bhráid Chomhchoiste na Gaeilge, na Gaeltachta agus na nOileán agus foilsíodh tuarascáil ag eascairt as an bpróiseas seo roimh shamhradh 2018. Tá an tuarascáil sin scrúdaithe anois ag mo Roinn i gcomhthéacs dréachtú an BhiIle.

Is í an earcaíocht croílár na ceiste, agus táim dóchasach gur féidir tógáil, ar bhonn chéimiúil, ar líon na bhfostaithe le Gaeilge sa státchóras agus ag eascairt as sin, go mbeifear in ann feabhas a chur ar sholáthar seirbhísí trí Ghaeilge, mar is cóir. De bharr sin, beidh sé mar ollchuspóir sa Bhille go mbeidh 20% de na daoine nua a earcaítear don tseirbhís phoiblí ina gcainteoirí Gaeilge, go mbeidh gach oifig phoiblí atá lonnaithe sa Ghaeltacht ag feidhmiú trí Ghaeilge, agus go mbeidh comhlachtaí poiblí in ann freastal ar an éileamh ón bpobal ar sheirbhísí trí Ghaeilge.

Tá dul chun cinn suntasach déanta ó shin i leith agus tá oifigigh mo Roinne ag obair faoi láthair i gcomhar le hOifig an Ard-Aighne chun Bille na dteangacha oifigiúla (leasú) a dhréachtú. Cé go bhfuil píosa oibre le déanamh air go fóill, táim dóchasach go mbeidh an Bille foilsithe againn go luath agus go mbeimid in ann an chéad chéim eile a ghlacadh.

Gabhaim buíochas leis an Aire Stáit. Tuigeann gach duine tábhacht an Bhille seo agus céard atá istigh ann. Bhí cruinniú sa Teach againn leis an urlabhraí agus rinne an coiste tuarascáil an-láidir faoi. Bhí an tAire Stáit ag an gcruinniú sin, is dóigh liom gur mí Feabhra a bhí ann, agus bhí sé ag labhairt faoi dhlíthe nua le haghaidh Brexit. Tá na dlíthe nua sin críochnaithe ach níl an Bille againn fós. An bhfuil an tAire Stáit ag rá go mbeidh an Bille foilsithe roimh dheireadh an tseisiúin seo agus go mbeidh seans againn é a phlé ag an Dara Céim, nó an bhfuil plean ag an Rialtas cruinniú a thionól i gceantar Gaeltachta agus é a fhoilsiú ag an gcruinniú sin, tar éis an tseisiúin?

Tá a fhios agam go bhfuil gach uile dhuine ag iarraidh go mbeidh an Bille seo foilsithe chomh luath agus is féidir. Mar a dúirt mé leis an Teachta Connolly an uair dheireanach, bhí moill ar an mBille mar gheall ar an mBreatimeacht ach níl mé ag cur aon mhilleán ar an mBreatimeacht faoi láthair. Tá an obair ag dul ar aghaidh idir fheidhmeannaigh sa Roinn agus le hOifig an Ard-Aighne. Bhí cruinniú aréir ag feidhmeannaigh shinsearacha de chuid na Roinne Cultúir, Oidhreachta agus na Gaeltachta le hOifig an Ard-Aighne chun an obair seo a bhrú ar aghaidh go dtí an chéad chéim eile chun an Bille a fhoilsiú. Táimid ag súil go mbeidh an Bille foilsithe roimh dheireadh an tseisiúin. Níl sé eagraithe go díreach fós agus beidh cruinniú de Chomh-Aireacht an Rialtais i nDún na nGall i mí Iúil, ach nílimid cinnte fós cén uair a tharlóidh sé sin. Mar sin féin, táimid ag brú ar aghaidh leis an mBille le go mbeidh sé foilsithe chomh luath agus is féidir.

Beidh sé úsáideach go mbeidh cruinniú eile againn leis na hurlabhraithe. Cheap mé go raibh an cruinniú a bhí againn an-úsáideach agus tháinig an-eolas as. Maidir leis an obair atá déanta ag an Ard-Aighne agus ag an Roinn, an bhfuil a fhios ag an Aire Stáit an mbeidh seans ann go mbeidh cruinniú neamhfhoirmiúil againn roimh fhoilsiú an Bhille chun go mbeimid in ann is éard atá sa Bhille a phlé? Sa tslí sin, nuair atá sé foilsithe, ní bheidh aon mhoill ann agus beimid in ann é a chur ina dhlí chomh luath agus is féidir. Caithfimid é sin a dhéanamh. Is príomhaidhm de chuid an Rialtais é sin freisin agus caithfidh an Rialtas an chumhacht sin a úsáid chun bagairt agus brú a chur ar Oifig an Ard-Aighne agus ar oifig an Aire Stáit féin chun é a fhoilsiú roimh dheireadh an tseisiúin seo.

Mar is eol don Teachta, tá an Bill ar an bpríomhliosta do reachtaíocht sa seisiún seo. Beidh cruinniú reachtaíochta tras-rannóige agam tráthnóna inniu agus táim ag plé arís an dul chun cinn atá déanta ar an mBille seo agus ar gach Bille atá ar an bpríomhliosta. Nuair a bheidh sé foilsithe, beimid ag brú ar aghaidh chomh sciobtha agus is féidir ó thaobh na Dara Céime agus na gcéimeanna eile ina dhiaidh sin. Caithfidh an Bille a bheith foilsithe ar dtús agus teacht ar ais chuig cruinniú Rialtais roimh é a bheith foilsithe go hoifigiúil. Tá tábhacht ag baint leis agus an-chuid rudaí maithe ann agus táim sásta cruinniú a eagrú le hurlabhraí an Fhreasúra chomh luath agus is féidir chun dul tríd an mBille arís, ceannteideal ar cheannteideal.

Creative Ireland Programme

Questions (24)

Mattie McGrath

Question:

24. Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht her plans to include support for traditional Irish crafts under the national creativity fund initiatives; if local craft enterprises can apply for support under the Creative Ireland programme in 2019; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24589/19]

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Oral answers (7 contributions) (Question to Culture)

Has the Minister any plans to include support for traditional Irish crafts under the national creativity fund initiatives? Can local community or private craft enterprises apply for support under the Creative Ireland programme in 2019? Will the Minister make a statement on the matter?

I thank the Deputy for his question. The Creative Ireland programme is a five-year, all-of-Government, culture-based initiative, led by my Department, that emphasises the importance of human creativity for individual, community and societal well-being. When we talk about creativity, we are talking about it in its widest possible sense, including, as the Deputy mentioned, traditional heritage-based activity.

The main source of funding for local craft enterprises under the Creative Ireland programme is pillar 2, enabling creativity in every community. In 2019, my Department allocated a sum of €2 million and the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government allocated a sum of €1 million to all 31 local authorities, which is a total of €96,000 each approximately, to enable them to support an extensive programme of activities, events and initiatives in each county. Each local authority has established a Creative Ireland co-ordinator and a local culture team to manage and allocate this funding in accordance with local needs and in line with their five-year culture and creativity strategies.

Projects funded include arts projects, grant schemes, concerts, conferences, exhibitions, festivals, outreach projects, publications, research programmes and workshops, among other activities. They cover topics such as archaeology, architecture, biodiversity, crafts, heritage, dance, film, history, literature, music, photography, poetry, storytelling, theatre and the visual arts. The Deputy’s constituency of Tipperary has a very rich programme in place with some great examples of heritage related projects. For example, in 2018, the local culture team, with the support of the Creative Ireland programme, funded Ode on a Castle and a Tower, a communal drawing project carried out as part of the community engagement on a project of heritage-led regeneration works on the streetscape in Carrick-on-Suir.

Additional information not given on the floor of the House

In addition to this core funding, the Creative Ireland programme has allocated €15,000 to each local authority outside of Dublin and €75,000 each to the four local authorities in Dublin to develop a special programme of events for Cruinniú na nÓg, the national day of creativity for children and young people. Cruinniú na nÓg is taking place on 15 June 2019 and includes a range of traditional heritage based activities for all ages. Full details of the programme can be found on the Creative Ireland programme website.

We need to provide a renewed and sustained focus on ensuring the future viability of our crafts. Unfortunately, we have already had the announcement of the closure of a regional craft gallery, the Craft Granary in Cahir town. The way it was handled was simply appalling. It was unfair to the staff, the gallery's suppliers and the craftspeople who used the gallery. I salute the management and staff, including the acting manager, Rachel. What happened there was unfair. The board knew about this decision but decided for some reason to keep it hush hush until after the local elections. That is an appalling treatment of a valuable industry in Cahir and of a space where artists and creative people could display and sell their wares. It was run by a community employment scheme.

Those community employment projects deserve more respect and we need to do more to support these. An allocation of €96,000 per county is a pittance. Concerns were expressed to me some time ago but it was decided to be deceitful, disrespectful and downright disingenuous to the staff, management and artists involved. They have put on many an excellent display in the building which I have attended. Something should be done to keep wonderful buildings like this. It is based in Cahir town with the support of the South-East Regional Authority. The 2017 to 2020 arts strategy for Tipperary is clear about the importance of the Craft Granary not only to Cahir town but the south east. It is reprehensible that it will be closed when we are exiting a recession. It will leave a significant gap in the landscape for artists and creative people, not giving them exposure for their wonderful gifts and talents as well as the chance to sell their products.

Tipperary has a cultural and creativity team, along with a Creative Ireland co-ordinator, all of whom would welcome input into the development of their plan. For pillar 2 of the Creative Ireland programme for creative communities, my Department allocated €2 million while the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government gave €1 million. That means €96,000 has been allocated to each local authority. My Department and the Creative Ireland programme do not prescribe what creativity is and what activities can be supported, however. Autonomy is granted to the local authorities, community groups or schools partaking in any Creative Ireland project or initiative.

There is an array of creative activities, including traditional heritage-based activities and events, which are being supported by the Creative Ireland programme. Cruinniú na nÓg, the national day of creativity for children and young people, for example, will take place this Saturday. In 2018, there was the Ode on a Castle and a Tower event. There was also the Vox Materia exhibition of sculpture and prints by the renowned artist, Alice Maher, which was curated by the Pluck Projects and commissioned by Brendan Maher of the Source Arts Centre in Thurles. This exhibition was inspired by a visit to Kilcooley Abbey and the 12th century carving of a mermaid there.

The Minister will have another minute. Other Members are waiting patiently for their question.

The Tipperary arts strategy is clear about the importance of the Craft Granary in representing craft-making not only for Cahir but the south east. It was one of the only dedicated facilities in the ownership of a local authority whose mandate was crafts promotion. We have Róisín Treacy and Mr. Maher, as well as other creative people. We need this focal point. As such there is an obligation on the local authority and the Department to ensure its activities collaborate with enterprise support agencies, council, regional bodies, higher education institutions, training bodies and the private sector to protect the future viability of the Craft Granary. There has been a clear lack of ambition in ensuring this happens. There is little point in developing glossy tourism strategies if we cannot protect the excellent resources we already have. The Craft Granary building has been in use since 1809. It is vital, therefore, that we not only protect the existing jobs there but the building's important historical legacy.

The primary responsibility is with the Design and Crafts Council of Ireland, the national agency with the remit for the commercial development of Irish designers and makers. It provides a variety of programmes and supports for the sector. Its activities are funded by the Department of Business, Enterprise, and Innovation via Enterprise Ireland. My Department provides funding through the Creative Ireland programme to local authorities for the implementation of their cultural and creativity strategies. In doing so, it sets out the broad parameters for the uses to which this funding is applied. The precise projects which are funded and the manner in which the moneys are dispersed is a matter ultimately for each local authority. Several local authorities operate grant schemes which involve an open call for applications. Tipperary County Council is one such local authority which operates this.

Offshore Islands

Questions (25)

Eamon Ryan

Question:

25. Deputy Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if she has considered further the possible purchase of a location (details supplied) by the State; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24327/19]

View answer

Oral answers (6 contributions) (Question to Culture)

It is several months since High Island off the Galway coast was put up for sale. We had a discussion at that initial stage as to whether the State might have an interest during which I set out the benefits of the island’s heritage and important wildlife sanctuary which tells us what is happening in the north Atlantic’s ecology. I do not believe there has been a sale of the island since but there may well be tenders. Will the Minister reconsider the State purchasing the island on behalf of the National Parks and Wildlife Service, NPWS, to maintain it as a sanctuary?

The property referred to contains a national monument in my ownership as Minister. The day-to-day care of this national monument is undertaken by the Office of Public Works, OPW, on behalf of my Department which has overall policy responsibility for its long-term conservation. The property is also part of a larger special protection area, SPA, under the birds directive. My Department is aware that recent surveys have found larger colonies of certain bird species than were known previously. Some of the survey work was partly funded by the Department.

My Department continues to explore ways to optimise the protection and presentation of heritage sites under our control in a way that is compatible with conservation objectives and that provides excellent value for money outcomes to the state. In some instances this has included strategic land purchases. As it is in State care, the national monument on this site is fully protected under the National Monuments Acts. Any works at or in its vicinity may only be carried out with ministerial consent under those Acts. This will remain so, irrespective of future ownership arrangements. As we have discussed before, access to the site is very difficult and, therefore, any acquisition would bring little benefit in terms of visitor access to the monuments on the site. The same access issues also mean that disturbance levels are low, which is of benefit to the breeding birds.

Property acquisition by my Department is the exception rather than the norm. The countryside is populated with a rich range of almost 150,000 archaeological monuments. The Department, working with OPW, is only in a position to acquire, maintain, conserve and present to the public a limited number of properties and monuments. Acquisitions are, therefore, only contemplated where there is a clear, tangible and substantial benefit to the overall quality and management of the State’s heritage portfolio.

Additional information not given on the floor of the House

In this case, the national monument and other recorded monuments are already well protected. Even if the entire property were in public ownership, public access would continue to be hazardous and unsuitable for large-scale visitor exploration, which of itself also provides a significant safeguard for the bird population. Additionally, value for money principles must be carefully considered where any acquisition is proposed. Neither would it be appropriate or prudent for me to compromise any possible acquisition proposals by publicly disclosing interest or otherwise in any property.

At this stage, will the Minister still consider that this might be one of those unique sites? It is not just because of the national monument on it and that the OPW should have an interest. The NPWS should also have a critical interest in the island. The recent scientific analysis from the island shows it is a spectacularly important location with 4,000 breeding pairs of storm petrels and an important colony of Manx shearwaters. Seabirds are one of the most threatened species. The seabirds on this island travel to the north Atlantic to feed. We are in a row with Scotland about Rockall. If we want to show we are serious about what is happening in the north Atlantic and preserving its ecology, it is important the NPWS takes ownership of islands like this and manages them.

Last summer, I was on the beautiful Inishkea Islands, similarly located off the far west coast. There is a real problem there of overgrazing, even though it is isolated and hard to get to. We need to manage certain particularly sensitive sites. High Island is one of the most sensitive of them all, not just for its archaeology but for the birdlife on it. There is a prospect of managing this if we owned it.

I appreciate the Deputy’s points. As I have outlined previously, the site referred to contains a national monument owned by the Department and is in the day-to-day care of the OPW.

It does not have the potential to become a significant tourist attraction, in any event, as access is hazardous. The asking price, which I think is €1.25 million for approximately 32 hectares, is significant, and there are value for money principles which must be given careful consideration in the case of any acquisition. The acquisition of land for the purposes of presentation or protection of national monuments, as I said, is the exception rather than the norm. It is only considered where the national monument is otherwise not adequately protected, which is not the case in this instance.

As the Deputy mentioned, the site is listed for a number of bird species but the difficulty of public access means a high degree of protection for the birds.

I am not telling the Minister what to bid; I am asking that she makes a bid. I understand the value for money proposition, which any Minister has to take into account. However, to have no bid and no interest is, to my mind, a real missed opportunity.

I want to draw the Minister back to the key question. Let us put the national monument aside, although it is spectacular, and focus on the ecology. The island, the birds on it, the monitoring of them and the management of the island to assist that, could be a critical part of our understanding of what is happening in the ecology of the north Atlantic. In a world where climate change is changing weather systems, feeding systems and bird life systems in the north Atlantic, that is not an insignificant issue. The populations there are not small; they are huge and hugely important.

On that one issue alone, we should give the National Parks and Wildlife Service a real management capability. I know the island is isolated and hard to get to. However, I know the NPWS would love to have that sort of site within its portfolio and we would show we are interested in what is happening in the north Atlantic. We could then go to the Scottish Government and say we have a real interest because we are engaged and because we are active in managing that whole system.

The Deputy asked about the ecological status of the site. The site is listed for the following bird species: fulmar, barnacle goose and Arctic tern. Some 358 fulmar pairs are estimated to breed on this site, which is approximately 1% of the total Irish population. Another protected species, the barnacle goose, frequents this site in winter but, due to its remoteness, a precise and accurate estimate of site use is not available. Bird survey and monitoring work is undertaken there by UCC and is part-funded by my Department. The surveys led to population estimates for two additional species, the Manx shearwater and storm petrel, that are much higher than previous estimates and indicate that the place is of significant conservation value for these species. Therefore, the designation may have to be amended to reflect this new information.

Though not in State ownership, the site currently enjoys very low levels of human or farming disturbance, which benefits the birds. It can be difficult to secure optimal grazing levels on offshore islands but, in this case, the access difficulties may well prevent that problem.

The Department would be a statutory consultee on any planning proposal and should, therefore, have substantial influence over any proposal to build there.