Aerfoirt Réigiúnacha

Questions (20)

Catherine Connolly

Question:

20. D'fhiafraigh Deputy Catherine Connolly den Aire Cultúir, Oidhreachta agus Gaeltachta maidir le hAerfort na Mine i gContae na Gaillimhe, an bhfuil an cás gnó réitithe; cad iad na céimeanna eile atá tógtha maidir ceannach an Aerfoirt; agus an ndéanfaidh sí ráiteas ina thaobh. [37929/19]

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Written answers (Question to Culture)

Tá an próiseas maidir le ceannach Aerfort na Mine ag leanúint ar aghaidh. Is féidir liom a dheimhniú don Teachta go bhfuil luach an aerfoirt aontaithe idir na páirtithe. Fostaíodh comhlacht le saineolas san earnáil eitlíochta chun an cás gnó a ullmhú i ndáil le riachtanais an Chóid Chaiteachais Poiblí. Tá an cás gnó sin faighte ag mo Roinn agus tá sé á mheas faoi láthair, tá súil na céad céimeanna eile sa phroiséas a thógáil go luath.

Tax Exemptions

Questions (21)

Niamh Smyth

Question:

21. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if she has taken steps to extend the artists tax exemption scheme in advance of Budget 2020; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37881/19]

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Written answers (Question to Culture)

The Artists Tax Exemption Scheme was first introduced in 1969. Under the scheme, the profits or gains arising to a writer, composer, visual artist or sculptor from the publication, production or sale of his or her work is exempt from income tax. Section 195 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 empowers Revenue to make a determination that certain artistic works are original and creative works generally recognised as having cultural or artistic merit. Where a determination is not made in effect the application is rejected. There is a right of appeal to an independent appeal body where the Revenue declines to issue a determination.

The scheme provides that Revenue can make determinations in respect of artistic works in the following categories only:

1. a book or other writing

2. a play

3. a musical composition

4. a painting or other like picture

5. a sculpture.

Where a determination is made by Revenue in respect of a work, income arising from that work, up to a maximum of €50,000 per annum, is exempt from income tax.

Any proposals to extend the Artists Tax Exemption Scheme are a matter for the Minister for Finance and while there are no plans at this point to extend the scheme, I can assure the Deputy that this Government will continue to be proactive in seeking ways to support artists. We recognise the crucial role that the arts and culture play in our nation and have made significant progress on our public commitment to double funding for culture, heritage and the Gaeltacht by 2025. In Budget 2019, funding for arts and culture increased by €22.6m to almost €190m, an increase of 14% on 2018. Initiatives such as the review of the Percent for Arts Scheme, and Social Welfare for Self-Employed Artists which I announced earlier this year, are also providing tangible support to our valued artistic community. The latter initiative recognises the unique creative circumstances of artists in receipt of Jobseekers Allowance and gives them special assistance in their first year out of work, allowing them to focus on their creative output. From this month, self-employed artists in receipt of Jobseekers Allowance for the first year that they are out of work can focus on their artistic work and developing their portfolio, rather than having to participate in the normal labour market activation activities. Artists eligible to apply to the scheme include actors, theatre and film directors, dancers, opera singers, set, costume and lighting designers, musicians, composers, choreographers, architects and street performers.

Animal Disease Controls

Questions (22)

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

22. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the steps she has taken in conjunction with the National Parks and Wildlife Service to address the deadly rabbit haemorrhagic disease which originated in China and has now been found in some animals in the wild in counties Wicklow, Clare and Wexford; and if it is a threat to the native hare population here [37937/19]

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Written answers (Question to Culture)

Rabbit haemorrhagic disease (RHD) was first reported in domestic (farmed) rabbits in China in 1984. By 1986 the disease had been found in continental Europe and has since spread globally leading to significant mortality in wild populations of rabbits.

In 2010, a new more virulent strain of this virus (RHD2) emerged in France. Unlike the original virus RHD2 has been shown to infect hares as well as rabbits.

RHD2 was first reported in the wild in Ireland in early August 2019. In response, I immediately suspended the licenses allowing the capture of hares for coursing meetings. The National Parks and Wildlife Service of my Department also began a programme of surveillance across the country for diseased animals. A request for public help was also issued and the disease has now been confirmed in six counties - Cork, Clare, Leitrim, Offaly, Wicklow and Wexford.

Biosecurity measures have been put in place where the disease has been discovered on state land – to date that includes the Wexford Slobs visitor centre and Scattery Island in Clare.

We have yet to establish the full extent of the disease nationally. I have issued a renewed call for the public to report any suspicious mortality in rabbits and hares. The cooperation of farming groups, hunters, the coursing clubs and other rural land-users will be essential to ensure that a full picture of the disease’s extent and spread are achieved.

My Department is working closely with regional laboratories and the virology unit of Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine.

RHD associated mortality in rabbits and hares can vary from 10-70%. Significant local declines have been seen in Brown hares in the UK, but little is known about how this disease may play out in Irish hares.

Although the majority of confirmed cases to date have been in rabbits, the disease has also been found in hares. The virus is highly contagious and easily spread and environmental contamination presents significant difficulties in terms of biosecurity responses.

My ban on the capture of hares remains in place and will be kept under ongoing review.

Artists' Remuneration

Questions (23)

Joan Burton

Question:

23. Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht her plans to ensure a fair and equitable working wage for persons working in the arts, culture and heritage sector; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37911/19]

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Written answers (Question to Culture)

My Department supports a broad range of programmes and initiatives across its remit to preserve, protect, promote and develop Ireland's rich cultural, language and heritage resources. In 2019, funding of €339 million was allocated for developing culture, heritage and the Irish language.  This is an increase of €36 million, or 12%, on the previous year.  This compares with a 5% increase in overall voted public expenditure in 2019.

The Government's priorities in relation to arts expenditure are evident with the following initiatives:

- The Taoiseach's commitment to double funding over a ten year period;

- The 13% increase in funding for my Department in this year's Estimates;

- The €6.8 million 10% increase in funding for the Arts Council;

- An increase of €1.15m for Creative Ireland;

- Funding of €4.6m for Culture Ireland;

- The €1.2bn in capital funding for culture, heritage and the Gaeltacht over the ten years 2028 announced as part of the National Development Plan; including:

- The €460m investment programme in our National Cultural Institutions; and

- A €200m Audio-visual Action plan by me launched last summer.

In addition to these funding increases, I recently announced an increase in the Percent for Arts Scheme in which many artists have received high profile commissions for public art works.

My Department and I will continue to work rigorously with all of my Government colleagues towards delivering on the commitment to increase Government spending in the arts and culture sector.  In this context, I am already delivering additional supports to the arts and culture sector, building on the €1.2 billion earmarked for culture, heritage and the Irish language under Project Ireland 2040, thus leading to increased activity and employment across all sectors under the remit of my Department.

Artists deserve our full support particularly given the significant income challenges they can face. With regards to artists' pay and conditions, I would like to draw the Deputy's attention to the recent announcement by Minister O' Doherty and myself to extend the Social Welfare Scheme for Self-Employed Artists on Jobseeker’s Allowance on a permanent basis to other self-employed professional artists such as those working in theatre and music. This scheme recognises the unique creative circumstances of professional artists in receipt of Jobseeker’s Allowance and gives them special assistance in their first year out of work, allowing them to focus on their creative output.

In addition to this, my Department has also worked to address conditions and employment rights in the performing arts and screen industry in conjunction with the relevant agencies under its remit. Central to this is the Arts Council policies on the remuneration of artists which strives to ensure that organisations in receipt of Arts Council funding offer fair and equitable remuneration to artists.

The Government will continue to give consideration to measures to further deliver on its commitments but will balance supports to ensure that they are felt across the sector.

Scéim na mBóithre Áise

Questions (24)

Pat the Cope Gallagher

Question:

24. D'fhiafraigh Deputy Pat The Cope Gallagher den Aire Cultúir, Oidhreachta agus Gaeltachta an ndeimhneoidh sí go mbeidh allúntas á chur ar fáil i mbliana do thograí bóithre Gaeltachta; an ndeimhneoidh sí freisin an mbeidh allúntas ar fáil do bhóithre ar na hoileáin sa bhliain airgeadais reatha agus cén scála ama a bheadh i gceist lena leithéid d’allúntas a cheadú, ag cur san áireamh gurb é seo an 9ú mí den bhliain; an gcuirfidh sí san áireamh maoiniú a chur ar fáil do Bhóithre Áise i meastacháin na bliana seo le haghaidh Bhuiséad 2020; agus an ndéanfaidh sí ráiteas ina thaobh. [37661/19]

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Written answers (Question to Culture)

Tá Scéimeanna na mBóithre Straitéiseach agus Áise faoi seach, faoina mbíodh cúnamh airgid á chur ar fáil ag an Roinn do na húdaráis áitiúla ábhartha den chuid is mó, chun athchóiriú a dhéanamh ar bhóithre Gaeltachta ar fionraí le tamall de bhlianta anois. Is i gcomhthéacs fhorfheidhmiú na Straitéise 20-Bliain don Ghaeilge 2010-2030, a ndéanfaí aon chinneadh maidir le hathnuachan na Scéimeanna sin – rud nach bhfuil beartaithe a dhéanamh ag an bpointe ama seo. Ach an oiread leis an gcuid eile den tír, is faoi na húdaráis áitiúla ábhartha a bhaineann an fhreagracht maidir le cothabháil bhóithre na gceantar Gaeltachta.

Maidir le bóithre ar na hoileáin, tá an cheist i dtaca le Clár Mionoibreacha 2019 á scrúdú ag oifigigh mo Roinne faoi láthair i gcomhthéacs an tsoláthair airgid atá ar fáil le caitheamh ar thograí oileánda i mbliana agus na n-éileamh éagsúil ar an soláthar sin.

Commemorative Events

Questions (25)

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

25. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht when the programme for a State-run decade of centenary commemorative events and legacy projects for 2020 and 2021 will be announced; and the funding set aside for same. [37938/19]

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Written answers (Question to Culture)

One of my key priorities for the remainder of this year is to continue to progress plans for the Decade of Centenaries commemorative programme, with a particular focus on 1) developing specific initiatives for 2020; and 2) continuing to support collaborative relationships with key stakeholders, with a particular focus on local authority engagement.

This year, I allocated €1.1 million to support the Decade of Centenaries programme in 2019, which is a funding increase of €250,000 above the 2018 allocation. I will seek to continue to appropriately resource the programme over the coming period through the annual budgetary estimates process.

Building on the success of the commemorative programme to date, local authorities, our national cultural institutions, trade unions, the media, institutions of learning, and custodians of records, together with creative communities, will all have a leading role in supporting the national conversation about the events of this period and encouraging respectful and authentic engagement, debate and analysis.

I am mindful of the challenges that we face in remembering, in a historically authentic, respectful, measured and inclusive way, the difficult and often deeply personal events that took place on the road to the foundation of the State and in remembering all of those who suffered and who lost their lives during this time.

My objective is to ensure that in remembering this complex period in our history, which includes the Struggle for Independence, the Civil War, the Foundation of the State and Partition, we promote a deeper understanding of the significance of these events, which accepts that the shared historical experience of those years gave rise to very different narratives and memories. It will also take account of sensitivities across communities in Northern Ireland and will continue to recognise that very different perspectives persist on many of these events.

My Department is currently developing specific proposals for a co-ordinated, cross-governmental commemorative programme for 2020 and indicative plans for the remainder of the Decade of Centenaries. This work will continue to be informed and supported by the Expert Advisory Group on Centenary Commemorations and developed in consultation with the All-Party Consultation Group on Commemorations. I hope to be in a position to give further details on the programme in due course.

Budget 2020

Questions (26)

Niamh Smyth

Question:

26. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the priorities for her Department for budget 2020; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37877/19]

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Written answers (Question to Culture)

I refer the Deputy to my earlier reply to her Priority Question.

The overall spending allocations for my Department for 2020 will be announced as part of Budget Estimates 2020 which is due to be published on Tuesday, 8th October. As budgetary negotiations are ongoing I am not in a position to comment in detail on my Department's 2020 budget allocation.

My colleague, the Minister for Finance and Public Expenditure and Reform has recently announced that Budget 2020 will be based on the assumption of a no-deal Brexit. Against that background, my Department will, within the resources available in 2020, continue to place emphasis on core functions and services, including measures to:

- maintain the momentum created across the arts and culture sphere by initiatives funded by, or through, my Department, consistent with the Taoiseach's commitment to double the funding to the sector by 2025 allowing my Department to build on the increased funding received in the 2019 Budget of 10% in respect of the Arts Council, 11% in respect of Screen Ireland, 19% in respect of Creative Ireland as well as over €2 million additional funding secured in respect of our National Cultural Institutions who welcome more than 3.5 million visitors annually;

- to conserve and manage our heritage as a support to economic renewal and sustainable employment, in compliance with legal obligations and to conserve and restore biodiversity and ecosystems in Ireland to focus on the environment;

- further advance the statutory demand-led Language Planning Process and ensure continued access to our islands;

- promote North-South co-operation, particularly in the context of An Foras Teanga and Waterways Ireland; and

- deliver on Project Ireland 2040 which gave explicit recognition to the importance of our culture, language and heritage to our sustainable development over the next decade and beyond. This recognition is underpinned by the commitment by Government to invest almost €1.2 billion in our culture, language and heritage over the 10-year implementation of the NDP. Project Ireland 2040 provides for an investment of €460 million in the National Cultural Institutions, €265 million for a culture and creativity investment programme, €285 million in our natural and built heritage and €178 million to support and protect the Irish language, Gaeltacht communities and communities on our offshore islands.

Community Development Projects Funding

Questions (27)

Willie Penrose

Question:

27. Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht her plans to create a specific funding scheme for community groups to assist them in the conservation and promotion of biodiversity; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37913/19]

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Written answers (Question to Culture)

On the 3rd September, I announced a contribution of €100,000 towards The Community Foundation for Ireland’s Biodiversity Fund - one of our Seeds for Nature. The total grant allocation this year through the fund will be €370,000. It will be awarded to 56 organisations covering each county in Ireland to tackle biodiversity loss within their community.

I am delighted that my Department was able to participate in such a scheme which provides grants to help communities develop local biodiversity plans. Biodiversity loss is a pressing issue and it is important that every sector of society plays its role. The fund is an example of how Government, communities and philanthropy have come together to create real, on the ground impact.

Successful applicants are awarded grants from €5,000 to €10,000 to conduct local biodiversity studies with a trained ecologist and to engage others in the area, including farmers, to get a clear picture of the biodiversity needs in their communities. Future involvement in this scheme will be considered by my Department as part of its normal budgetary estimates process.

In addition, as part of the Seeds for Nature which I announced earlier this year at the National Biodiversity Conference, my Department has expanded on the existing scheme of National Biodiversity Action Plan grants to local authorities to assist them in funding locally led biodiversity projects and to raise awareness of biodiversity issues at local level. A total of €500,000 has been made available to 28 local authorities who applied in 2019.

My Department also provides funding each year to An Taisce to support the biodiversity component of their successful Green Schools programme. I place great value on this programme and its importance in introducing young people to engagement with biodiversity at an early age.

Biodiversity Week takes place annually in May, to coincide with the UN International Day for Biological Diversity. My Department provides funding each year to the Irish Environmental Network to run a series of events and activities at a local level, aiming to engage citizens in biodiversity and raise awareness across communities.

I will continue to look at ways in which targeted funding can be made available to promote and assist biodiversity awareness and locally-led projects in the context of resources available to my Department and the demands on those resources.

EU Directives

Questions (28)

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

28. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht her views on the recent European Commission six-yearly habitats directive article 17 report on Ireland (details supplied); and the steps she has taken to ensure that the next report will have a more positive outlook. [37935/19]

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Written answers (Question to Culture)

Ireland’s Article 17 Report was submitted by my Department to the European Commission in April 2019.

In Ireland, 85% of habitats are reported as being in Unfavourable status. The main drivers are agricultural practices which negatively impact over 70% of habitats, particularly ecologically unsuitable grazing, abandonment and pollution. The Unfavourable status of many habitats is not surprising as this is the reason they have been listed on the Directive.

My Department is engaged in a range of targeted activities to address these issues at regional, national and EU level, and also liaises with other departments, particularly the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, to implement policy and practices which will help tackle the drivers of biodiversity loss.

The status of species is somewhat better: 57% assessed as Favourable and 30% assessed as being in Unfavourable status, with 72% demonstrating stable or improving trends while just 15% demonstrated on-going declining trends. Progress is being made and a number of species such as bats, otter, pine marten and grey seal are doing well.

As part of the ongoing implementation of the National Biodiversity Action Plan 2017-2021, in 2018 I launched a grant scheme to assist local authorities with biodiversity projects in their areas that support actions in the Plan and this scheme has been expanded in 2019 with an increased level of funding.

Recognising the need for a coherent cross-sectoral response to the biodiversity crisis, earlier this year I announced our ‘Seeds for Nature’ , a range of commitments to be undertaken by public authorities and other stakeholders to drive implementation of actions in the Plan.

Climate and biodiversity are inexorably linked and climate change will exacerbate the impact of pressures with peatland, coastal and freshwater systems. My Department is currently finalising a sectorial Climate Change Adaptation Plan for Biodiversity as part of the Government’s overall climate change adaptation strategy.

Biodiversity underpins all aspects of our lives and society. Halting biodiversity loss is not simply a matter for a single agency or department. However, my Department is the lead for implementation of biodiversity policy in Ireland and takes this responsibility very seriously and will continue to work across a range of areas, engaging across sectors, to tackle biodiversity loss.

Cultural Policy

Questions (29)

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

29. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the measures she plans to take to ensure greater income and employment security and full entitlement to employment rights in the arts, film and creative industries; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37927/19]

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Written answers (Question to Culture)

I am aware of the challenges referred to in the question and I am continuing to deliver additional supports to the arts and culture sectors including the film sector in line with Government commitments, as evidenced in Budget 2019. The cumulative impact of these funding increases is testament to the commitment to double Government spending in the arts, culture and heritage sector.

My Department and I will continue to work rigorously with all of my Government colleagues towards delivering on the commitment to increase Government spending in the arts and culture sector. I am already delivering additional supports to the arts and culture sector, building on the €1.2 billion earmarked for culture, heritage and the Irish language under Project Ireland 2040, thus leading to increased activity and employment across all sectors under the remit of my Department.

Primary support for the arts is delivered through the Arts Council. Funding for the Arts Council has increased in recent years and now stands at €75 million in 2019, and increase of some €6.8m or 10% over 2018. The Arts Council operates within a published 10 year strategic framework entitled Making Great Art Work which prioritises support for artists throughout their careers.

The remit of Culture Ireland, a division of my Department, is to promote and advance Irish arts worldwide thus strengthening Ireland’s cultural profile and global. The work of Culture Ireland is focused not just on promoting Ireland but also increasing career opportunities for Irish artists.

In tandem with securing additional funding, my Department has also worked to address conditions and employment rights in the performing arts and screen industry in conjunction with the relevant agencies under its remit. In that context, the Deputy may be aware that the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) is undertaking an audit of the independent film and television drama production sector with a view to examining industrial relations generally, employment practices and procedures, assessing issues arising (if any), and making recommendations for their improvement where appropriate. In this regard, the WRC has invited submissions on these matters by 31 October, 2019.

Brexit Supports

Questions (30)

Niamh Smyth

Question:

30. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the provisions her Department has put in place to protect the film and television industry in the event of a no-deal Brexit; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37880/19]

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Written answers (Question to Culture)

Many of the key concerns for the arts and culture sector, encompassing the film and television industry arising from a no-deal Brexit are not sector specific - they relate to the implications of exchange rate movements and free movement of people, goods and services on the island of Ireland and between Ireland and the UK. As the Deputy will be aware, the Government published a Contingency Action Plan in December 2018 setting out its approach to dealing with a no-deal Brexit with an updated report launched in July 2019. In addition, in May this year, the Irish and UK Governments signed a Memorandum of Understanding reaffirming a joint commitment to the Common Travel Area (CTA), and to maintaining the associated rights and privileges of Irish and British citizens under this long-standing arrangement. However, Brexit is a major strategic challenge to Ireland as a whole and there remains a range of potential outcomes that depend on the exact nature of the future relationship between the UK and Europe. With 6 weeks to go until a possible no deal Brexit, it is vital that the film and television industry, like all others, step up preparations.

In relation specifically to the cultural sector, the Government has increased investment in arts and culture in recent years in part as a mitigation measure against Brexit. This includes funding of over €20m for Screen Ireland in 2019 as part of a €200m Audiovisual Action Plan. A key recommendation of the Audiovisual Action Plan was that Ireland should sign up the revised European Convention on Cinematographic Co-Production which would allow a straightforward mechanism of facilitating potential co-productions which would otherwise not be feasible. In May this year, Ireland signed and ratified the treaty which has also been signed by the UK. While it has not yet ratified the revised Convention, the decision by the UK to sign it has been regarded by some as symbolic of its determination to continued cooperation with European countries, and other international territories, on a multilateral basis in the audiovisual sector, regardless of the outcome of Brexit. The UK will still remain members of the Council of Europe and will therefore still be parties to the European Convention on Cinematographic Coproduction, the treaty under which most European Co-productions involving Screen Ireland funding are made.

It is possible the Brexit will offer opportunities to Ireland as the only major English-language market that will remain in the EU and, in that regard, my Department, through its role in implementing the Audiovisual Action Plan, continues its work to support the Government’s ambition to enable Ireland to become a global hub for the production of film, TV drama and animation.

Heritage Sites

Questions (31, 266)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

31. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the extent to which she plans the development of various historical and heritage sites or buildings nationally with a view to maximising public interest in the context of both the domestic population and tourists; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37723/19]

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Bernard Durkan

Question:

266. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the extent to which preservation or restoration works under her aegis have been undertaken at various historical sites and buildings by county nationally; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38007/19]

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Written answers (Question to Culture)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 31 and 266 together.

I am grateful to the Deputy for his enduring personal interest in my Department's efforts to conserve, present and promote the unique range of cultural and heritage assets, both natural and built, that Ireland is fortunate enough to possess and that do so much to provide enjoyment and amenities for our people, to sustain and create identities for our communities and to generate tourism interest in our country throughout the world.

My replies to the Deputy's previous Question No. 65 on 16 January 2019 and Questions Nos. 216, 217 and 220 on 10 April 2019 provide a good insight into the work being done by my Department in this area and especially in relation to National Monuments.

I would also refer the Deputy to the reply Question No. 37433/19 for answer today as this emphasises the work I'm doing in relation to our National Parks, and I know that this too will interest the Deputy.

In July of last year, as part of this partnership, we published Experiencing the Wild heart of Ireland – A Tourism Interpretative Masterplan for the National Parks and Nature Reserves.

The plan recommends a suite of capital projects of varying sizes. The first such project, a €2.1m investment in Wild Nephin- Ballycroy National Park was announced on the 31st of August, 2018 to develop a continuous 53km walking cycling trail from Newport to Ballycastle on the Wild Atlantic Way through the National Park.

The second project, is an investment of some €1.9m in Connemara National Park. This project will also improve the visitor experience at the Park and focuses on the enhancement of the existing Recreational Trail Network as well as the construction of a new car park, the provision of toilet facilities, the development of an additional 10.5 Km of new trails, a children’s natural play area, and a new Lime Kiln Trail to enhance access to more areas of the National Park. Development works have begun on site and will be completed by the end of 2020.

Under the Rural Regeneration Fund (RRF) 32 projects, dispersed nationally, are being resourced with the total investment relating to the projects at €7,175,000. The projects are currently underway and funding will go towards the upgrading and development of trails across the Parks and Reserves network, increased visitor facilities and improved signage and branding. Hybrid buses in selected National Parks will be purchased to assist in lowering the carbon footprint of visitor activities.

Natural Heritage Areas

Questions (32)

Peter Burke

Question:

32. Deputy Peter Burke asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the details of the awarding of funding under the peatland community engagement scheme 2019; and the number of recipients in counties Longford and Westmeath. [37423/19]

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Written answers (Question to Culture)

The Peatlands Community Engagement Scheme aims to encourage local communities, groups, schools and interested parties to engage with my Department in relation to the conservation of raised bog special areas of conservation, natural heritage areas and other raised bog areas and to promote public engagement and awareness of our natural heritage.

On 24 April this year, I announced a call for applications for the 2019 peatlands community engagement scheme. The scheme provides for grant funding of 75% of the total cost of a project. This year, I introduced a phased payment option of the total grant. To facilitate start-up, 30% of the funding for a project may be payable on acceptance of the grant and meeting start up conditions.

Applications were accepted for the scheme up to the end of May 2019.

In July 2019, I approved grant funding of just under €131,000 to thirteen local community groups and organisations, with €16,245 to be provided to seven of these groups through the phased payment option.

Funding was awarded to two local groups in County Westmeath

1. Ethos (Everything Tyrrellspass has on show), Co. Westmeath was awarded funding of €1,500 to photograph species of night flying moths found on local raised bogs and display the images. To run a bog plant identification workshop with emphasis on sphagnum mosses present at Cloncrow Bog natural heritage area, to hold public lectures and talks on the value of raised bogs as carbon sinks and to organise a community bog walk on Cloncrow Bog highlighting the unique habitat during heritage week.

2. Meath Westmeath Peatland Heritage (Coolronan Bog part of the Bracklyn Bogs Complex) was awarded funding of €1,000 towards a proposed bog week comprised of a raised bog education programme for three primary schools and one secondary school, with events including talks, activities, a bog art exhibition and a raised bog fact sheet publication

No applications were received from local groups / organisations from County Longford.

National Parks

Questions (33)

Hildegarde Naughton

Question:

33. Deputy Hildegarde Naughton asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the progress being achieved on the development of national parks and reserves, including Connemara National Park, and improving the visitor experience; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37433/19]

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Written answers (Question to Culture)

In January 2017, my Department entered into Strategic Investment Partnership with Fáílte Ireland, aimed at enhancing and promoting the tourism offering at Ireland’s National Parks and also conserving and protecting the natural environments of the National Parks for the enjoyment of future generations. In July of last year, as part of this partnership, we published Experiencing the Wild heart of Ireland – A Tourism Interpretative Masterplan for the National Parks and Nature Reserves.

The plan recommends a suite of capital projects of varying size (from smaller scale interventions such as installation of viewing platforms to larger projects such as the development of new boardwalks and trails, to the construction of new visitor centres). The first such project, a €2.1m investment in Wild Nephin- Ballycroy National Park was announced on the 31st of August, 2018 to develop a continuous 53km walking cycling trail from Newport to Ballycastle on the Wild Atlantic Way through the National Park. The outcome of this project will be an off road continuous cycling and walking trail in challenging terrain which will link the popular Great Western Greenway with the Wild Atlantic Way.

The second project, is an investment of some €1.9m in Connemara National Park. This project will also improve the visitor experience at the Park and focuses on the enhancement of the existing Recreational Trail Network as well as on infrastructure development at Mweelin, including the construction of a new car park, the provision of toilet facilities and the development of a new walking trail. The project includes the development of an additional 10.5 Km of new trails, a children’s natural play area, and a new Lime Kiln Trail to enhance access to more areas of the National Park. Development works have now begun on site. It is envisaged that the project will be completed by the end of 2020.

Under the Rural Regeneration Fund (RRF) 32 projects, dispersed nationally, are being resourced with the total investment relating to the projects at €7,175,000 (75% co-funding from the RRF, with my Department and Fáilte Ireland providing the remaining 25%). The projects are currently underway and funding will go towards the upgrading and development of trails across the Parks and Reserves network, increased visitor facilities and improved signage and branding. Hybrid buses in selected National Parks will be purchased to assist in lowering the carbon footprint of visitor activities.

Cultural Policy

Questions (34)

Tony McLoughlin

Question:

34. Deputy Tony McLoughlin asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the details of the expansion of the creative schools programme; the status of the programme in County Sligo; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37430/19]

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Written answers (Question to Culture)

The Creative Schools pilot is one of the flagship projects of the Creative Youth Plan, which seeks to enable the creative potential of every child and young person. This Plan is led by my Department, with the Departments of Education and Skills, and Children and Youth Affairs and the Arts Council, all working in partnership.

Creative Schools aims to understand, develop and celebrate the arts and creativity as a core aspect of school life. It strives to foster children and young people’s creativity, potential and participation in the arts as an integral part of their education. The initiative recognises that the arts are a powerful means through which children and young people can explore communication and collaboration, stimulate their imaginations to be inventive, and harness their boundless curiosity.

Schools selected to participate in the programme do so on a two-year cycle - the first to support them in developing a feasible creative plan for the school, and the second to enable them to implement this plan. Each participating school is provided with access to a Creative Associate, who are essential in embedding inspirational and sustainable creative practices in teaching and learning. Creative Associates are a mixture of practising artists and teachers with an understanding of creativity and its potential to transform the lives of children and young people. In addition, each school is allocated an annual grant of €2,000 to implement their plans.

There was significant interest in the pilot when launched in 2018 - with some 400 schools applying for 150 places. Given this level of interest, and the positive feedback from participants, total investment in the initiative for 2019 has increased to €2.36m - funded by my own Department as well as the Department of Education and Skills and the Arts Council. A second round of applications was opened in 2019 and just last week, the Minister for Education and Skills and I announced the details of a further 150 schools which have been selected to participate from this month.

The participating schools in Creative Schools from County Sligo are:

Carraroe National School, An Ceathru Rua, Sligeach

Killaville National School, Killavil, Ballymote, Co Sligo

St. Cecilia's School, Cregg, Co Sligo.

Inland Waterways Maintenance

Questions (35)

Brendan Smith

Question:

35. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the capital funding allocated for the restoration of the Ulster Canal in 2019; the expenditure to date and the works undertaken; the funding proposed for further development in 2020 and the restoration works that will be undertaken; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37922/19]

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Written answers (Question to Culture)

In July 2007, the North South Ministerial Council agreed to a proposal to restore a 13km section of the Ulster Canal from Upper Lough Erne to Clones. This project is important for the border region with potential to stimulate economic activity, giving a much needed boost to job creation and with the growth in water based tourism helping to attract significant numbers of visitors to the area. This is increasingly significant in the context of Brexit.

Government approval for Phase 1 of this project, to restore a 2.5 km stretch of the Ulster Canal from Upper Lough Erne in County Fermanagh to the International Scout Centre at Castle Saunderson near Belturbet in Co. Cavan, was secured in February 2015.

In relation to Phase 1, work is nearing completion and includes dredging works to the River Finn, construction of a new navigation arch at Derrykerrib Bridge and installation of a new mooring facility at Castlesaunderson.

Funding of €260,000 has been allocated towards the restoration of the Ulster Canal in 2019.

Waterways Ireland anticipates expenditure of €160,000 to complete payment for works at Derrykerrib and €100,000 for construction works for Castlesaunderson public moorings.

The expenditure to date, including commitments amounts to €3,960,000 which is fully funded by my Department.

Waterways Ireland is also working with Cavan County Council in relation to the development of recreational amenities at Castlesaunderson, including a new moorings facility. The contract for this project has been awarded with completion of the works expected in October 2019.

In relation to the Ulster Canal Phase II, Restoration of Ulster Canal Lough Erne to Clones – The Clones Terminus Project is under development with an anticipated cost of €433,000 of which 75% is funded from the Rural Regeneration and Development Fund, with 25% funded by my Department.

This project is currently in preparation for planning if required, with a tender under assessment for a feasibility study relating to a sustainable water supply and a tender under preparation for a study relating to a master development plan for the proposed site.

Waterways Ireland is also continuing work with the partners Monaghan County Council, Armagh City Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council, East Border Region Ltd. and Mid Ulster District Council to develop 22km of greenway along the Ulster Canal towpath from Smithborough, Co. Monaghan to Middletown, Co. Armagh, funded through the successful application to the Interreg VA sustainable transport measure (circa €5.0m).

Design work is ongoing in preparation for planning and the group have also completed development proposals for a Greenway strategy exploring how the Ulster Canal Greenway could form the spine of a network of off road Greenways across this rural border region.

Natural Heritage Areas

Questions (36)

Hildegarde Naughton

Question:

36. Deputy Hildegarde Naughton asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the details of the awarding of funding under the peatlands community engagement scheme 2019; the number of recipients in counties Galway and Mayo; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37434/19]

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Written answers (Question to Culture)

The Peatlands Community Engagement Scheme aims to encourage local communities, groups, schools and interested parties to engage with my Department in relation to the conservation of raised bog special areas of conservation, natural heritage areas and other raised bog areas and to promote public engagement and awareness of our natural heritage.

On 24 April this year, I announced a call for applications for the 2019 peatlands community engagement scheme. The scheme provides for grant funding of 75% of the total cost of a project. This year, I introduced a phased payment option of the total grant. To facilitate start-up, 30% of the funding for a project may be payable on acceptance of the grant and meeting start up conditions.

Applications were accepted for the scheme up to the end of May 2019.

In July 2019, I approved grant funding of just under €131,000 to thirteen local community groups and organisations, with €16,245 to be provided to seven of these groups through the phased payment option.

Funding was awarded to three local groups in County Galway:

1. Galway Telework Co-op Society Ltd. , Mountbellew, County Galway was awarded funding of €12,500 for outdoor information panels, indoor display columns for its Visitor Centre, outdoor seating and to undertake a bird survey and report for Carrownagappul Bog special area of conservation.

2. Looscaun Shannonside Rural Development , County Galway was awarded funding of €25,000 to assist in the development of a national walking and cycling trail through Clonmoylan Bog/ Barroughter Bog special areas of conservation. Funding is being provided to engage the services of a project manager and carry out a number of environmental surveys.

3. Glenamaddy Tidy Towns, County Galway was awarded funding of €15,000 for the proposed upgrade of two walking trail loops around Frass Clooncon Bog, part of the Lisnageeragh Bog and Ballinstack Turlough special area of conservation, including the installation of interpretive signage, to establish a link return to the start point via a bog bridge ad improve/extend the current parking area.

No applications were received from local groups / organisations from County Mayo.

EU Directives

Questions (37)

Brendan Smith

Question:

37. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if her attention has been drawn to the concerns of an organisation (details supplied) on a proposed EU-wide ban on lead shot; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37895/19]

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Written answers (Question to Culture)

The Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA) was developed under the UN Convention on Migratory Species. Ireland signed up to the Agreement in 2003. The agreement includes a commitment that “Parties shall endeavour to phase out the use of lead shot for hunting in wetlands as soon as possible in accordance with self-imposed and published timetables." This is because there is slow accumulation of lead from shot in wetlands where hunting occurs. The lead is generally harmful in the environment and can also be consumed by wildfowl which often swallow small pieces of hard materials such as gravel and the like, to assist the maceration of vegetable matter in their gizzard. My Department’s position is to support the AEWA commitment to phase out the use of lead shot over wetlands.

The European Commission have published an initial draft Regulation for consideration by Member States on the use of lead shot in wetlands following a report on the matter by the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA). It is my understanding that the proposal, should it ultimately progress into law, would make provision for a lead-in time to facilitate the making of arrangements to source alternatives to lead shot. It is Ireland's understanding the majority of Member States currently have some restrictions on the use of lead shot over wetlands.

The Department is aware that the ban on using lead in gunshot would provide a range of difficulties to transition to new guns/gunshot for many gun owners in Ireland, including farmers and hunters. In those Member States which do have some restrictions, many gun owners would already have guns with non-lead shot ammunition. This would not be the case in Ireland where a considerable number of gun owners would have to make alternative arrangements, in many cases to purchase new guns.

Discussions with the REACH Committee (which is within the remit of the ECHA), are ongoing. Ireland is represented on the Committee by the Health and Safety Authority (HSA), and will be requesting a lead-in time of sufficient length for the implementation of the Regulation.

Calafoirt agus Céanna

Questions (38)

Pat the Cope Gallagher

Question:

38. D'fhiafraigh Deputy Pat The Cope Gallagher den Aire Cultúir, Oidhreachta agus Gaeltachta an dtabharfaidh sí cuntas ar an dul chun cinn go dáta ar an iarratas chun uasghrádú agus cóiriú a dhéanamh ar ché na Reannaí ar Oileán Árainn Mhór i gContae Dhún na nGall; an dtabharfaidh sí cuntas freisin ar an scála ama leis an obair seo a dhéanamh ar an gcé, a rachaidh go mór chun tairbhe do phobal an oileáin; an bhfuil meastachán déanta ag a Roinn ar na costais a d’fhéadfadh a bheith bainteach leis an togra oibre seo; agus an ndéanfaidh sí ráiteas ina thaobh. [37660/19]

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Written answers (Question to Culture)

Is féidir liom a dheimhniú don Teachta go bhfuair mo Roinn iarratas ó Chomhairle Chontae Dhún na nGall maidir le forbairt a dhéanamh ar Ché Reannaí, Árainn Mhóir ar 17 Meitheamh 2019. Tá iarrtha agam ar mo chuid feidhmeannaigh breathnú ar an iarratas agus déanfar cinneadh ina leith amach anseo.

Tá sé tábhachtach a athrá go gcaithfear gach iarratas a scrúdú, Cé an Reannaí san áireamh, faoi réir forálacha an Chóid um Chaiteachais Poiblí agus i gcomhthéacs an tsoláthair airgid atá ar fáil le caitheamh ar thograí oileánda agus na n-éileamh ar an soláthar sin.

EU Directives

Questions (39)

Niamh Smyth

Question:

39. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht her plans to tackle the loss of biodiversity; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37879/19]

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Written answers (Question to Culture)

I refer the Deputy to my response to Question No. 37935/19.

Ireland’s Article 17 Report was submitted by my Department to the European Commission in April 2019.

In Ireland, 85% of habitats are reported as being in Unfavourable status. The main drivers are agricultural practices which negatively impact over 70% of habitats, particularly ecologically unsuitable grazing, abandonment and pollution. The Unfavourable status of many habitats is not surprising as this is the reason they have been listed on the Directive.

My Department is engaged in a range of targeted activities to address these issues at regional, national and EU level, and also liaises with other departments, particularly the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, to implement policy and practices which will help tackle the drivers of biodiversity loss.

The status of species is somewhat better: 57% assessed as Favourable and 30% assessed as being in Unfavourable status, with 72% demonstrating stable or improving trends while just 15% demonstrated on-going declining trends. Progress is being made and a number of species such as bats, otter, pine marten and grey seal are doing well.

As part of the ongoing implementation of the National Biodiversity Action Plan 2017-2021, in 2018 I launched a grant scheme to assist local authorities with biodiversity projects in their areas that support actions in the Plan and this scheme has been expanded in 2019 with an increased level of funding.

Recognising the need for a coherent cross-sectoral response to the biodiversity crisis, earlier this year I announced our ‘Seeds for Nature’ , a range of commitments to be undertaken by public authorities and other stakeholders to drive implementation of actions in the Plan.

Climate and biodiversity are inexorably linked and climate change will exacerbate the impact of pressures with peatland, coastal and freshwater systems. My Department is currently finalising a sectoral Climate Change Adaptation Plan for Biodiversity as part of the Government’s overall climate change adaptation strategy.

Biodiversity underpins all aspects of our lives and society. Halting biodiversity loss is not simply a matter for a single agency or department. However, my Department is the lead for implementation of biodiversity policy in Ireland and takes this responsibility very seriously and will continue to work across a range of areas, engaging across sectors, to tackle biodiversity loss.

EU Directives

Questions (40)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

40. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the findings of the recent Irish Habitats and Species Report prepared by her Department and submitted to the EU which revealed a worrying deterioration in habitats here; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35806/19]

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Written answers (Question to Culture)

Ireland’s 3rd assessment on the status of listed habitats and species was submitted by my Department to the European Commission in April 2019. A summary report has also been published and is available on the NPWS website (https://www.npws.ie/publications/article-17-reports). In addition, detailed reports have been published, exceeding 2000 pages of assessments. These assessments were undertaken by over 40 scientific experts.

The aim of the EU Habitats Directive is to contribute towards the conservation of biodiversity by requiring Member States to take measures to maintain or restore natural habitats and wild species listed on the Directive. They have been listed because they are considered vulnerable at a Union level. Ireland has 59 habitats and 68 species listed on the Directive.

The habitats that occur in Ireland are a good representation of Ireland’s semi-natural and natural habitats covering marine, freshwater, peatland, grassland and woodland habitats. The species listed on the Directive include whale and dolphin species, bats species, other mammals such as otter, hare and pine marten; as well as plants, invertebrates, fish, amphibians and reptiles. Many are important indicators of wider ecosystem health. Birds are not listed on this Directive as they are covered separately by the EU Birds Directive.

In Ireland, 85% of habitats are reported as being in Unfavourable status with 46% demonstrating ongoing declines. The main drivers are agricultural practices which negatively impact over 70% of habitats, particularly ecologically unsuitable grazing, abandonment and pollution. The Unfavourable status of many habitats is not surprising as this is the reason they have been listed on the Directive; however the ongoing declines are of particular concern.

The status of species is somewhat better with 57% assessed as Favourable and 30% of assessed as being in Unfavourable status, with 72% demonstrating stable or improving trends while15% demonstrating on-going declining trends.

Generally, bats, otter, pine marten and grey seal are doing well. Losses are noted in species reliant on ecological suitable grazing regimes (whorl snails for instance) and high water quality (pearl mussel and several fish species).

Climate and biodiversity are inexorably linked and climate change will exacerbate the impact of pressures with peatland, coastal and freshwater systems. My Department is currently finalising a sectoral Climate Change Adaptation Plan for Biodiversity as part of the Government’s overall climate change adaptation strategy.

Biodiversity underpins all aspects of our lives and society. Halting biodiversity loss is not simply a matter for a single agency or department. However, my Department is the lead for implementation of biodiversity policy in Ireland and takes this responsibility very seriously and will continue to work across a range of areas, engaging across sectors, to tackle biodiversity loss.

An Teanga Gaeilge

Questions (41)

Catherine Connolly

Question:

41. D'fhiafraigh Deputy Catherine Connolly den Aire Cultúir, Oidhreachta agus Gaeltachta cén dul chun cinn atá déanta maidir le hanailís bhreise a dhéanamh chun teacht ar bhunlíne maidir le líon reatha na gcainteoirí Gaeilge sa Ghaeltacht ionas gur féidir gníomhú chun é seo a mhéadú de 25% faoi 2030; agus an ndéanfaidh sí ráiteas ina thaobh. [37933/19]

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Written answers (Question to Culture)

Ós rud é go bhfuil tábhacht faoi leith leis an bpróiseas pleanála teanga tá bearta luaite ina leith sa Phlean Gníomhaíochta 2018-2022 a d'fhoilsigh mo Roinn anuraidh chun dlús a chur le cur chun feidhme an Straitéis 20 Bliain don Ghaeilge 2010-2030.

Tá tábhacht faoi leith sa phróiseas pleanála teanga ar úsáid a bheith á baint as faisnséis chainníochtúil agus cáilíochtúil maidir le staid na Gaeilge sna Limistéir Pleanála Teanga Ghaeltachta, sna Bailte Seirbhíse Gaeltachta agus sna Líonraí Gaeilge araon. Chun go mbeidh úsáid chuí á baint as an gcineál seo faisnéise ar leas an phróisis trí chéile, iarrtar ar gach ceanneagraíocht pleanála teanga atá i bhfeighil pleananna a ullmhú agus a fheidhmiú faisnéis den chineál seo a bhailiú ag an tús mar chuid den obair. Leagtar amach go sonrach cad is gá do cheanneagraíochtaí a dhéanamh ina leith seo uile sna Treoirlínte Pleanála Teanga atá foilsithe ag mo Roinn. Ní call a rá go seastar pé costas a bhaineann lena leithéid d'eolas a bhailiú agus a scagadh as an allúntas a chuirtear ar fáil dóibh faoin bpróiseas.

Ar bhonn lárnach is fiú a nótáil go bhfuil Córas Faisnéise Geografaí (GIS) forbartha ag an Roinn faoina gcuirtear eolas ar fáil ar bhonn físiúil ag úsáid amharcóir mapa, chun staid reatha na Gaeilge a chur i láthair ar bhonn Limistéir Pleanála Teanga Ghaeltachta, Bailte Seirbhíse Gaeltachta agus ar bhonn Líonraí Gaeilge. Faoin gcóras seo tugtar léargas soiléir ar staid na Gaeilge sa Ghaeltacht bunaithe ar thorthaí Daonáireamh 2011 agus 2016 faoi seach. Ní call a rá go gcuirfear torthaí Daonáireamh 2021 ar fáil faoin gcóras seo in am trátha. Tuigtear go deimhin go bhfuil sé beartaithe ag an CSO ceist bhreise a chur i nDaonáireamh 2021 faoin nGaeilge.

Maidir lena bhfuil ar bun agus beartaithe i ndáil leis an bpróiseas pleanála teanga agus clár oibre mo Roinne trí chéile ar leas na Gaeltachta, is féidir leis an Teachta a bheith cinnte go leanfar, ar thaobh amháin, ag féachaint chuige go mbaintear úsáid chuí as foinsí reatha faisnéise ar nós an Daonáireamh chomh maith le faisnéis cháilíochtúil a bhailítear go logánta agus, ar an taobh eile, ag féachaint chuige go bhfuil an bhéim chuí ar bhearta praiticiúla a thugann aghaidh ar staid na Gaeilge a fheabhsú.

National Monuments

Questions (42)

Maureen O'Sullivan

Question:

42. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht her plans to progress the recommendations of the Moore Street report: Securing History 2 (31 July 2019); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37890/19]

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Written answers (Question to Culture)

As the Deputy is aware, the Moore Street Advisory Group (MSAG) was established in May 2017 to represent and work with all stakeholders (including the owner of the development site surrounding the State owned National Monument at Nos. 14 - 17 Moore St) to help broker regeneration solutions that can be supported by all concerned.

I received the report of the MSAG in August and would like to sincerely thank the members of the Group for their invaluable contributions made over the last two and a half years. I am conscious of the huge voluntary commitment by all concerned. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the Deputy herself for her genuine and unstinting dedication to the work of the Group and, in particular, her support for the traders on Moore Street.

Among the recommendations in the MSAG's report are that:

- there is an urgent need to secure the fabric of the national monument at Nos. 14 to 17 Moore Street and that the MSAG confirms its support for the OPW to carry out this process as soon as possible;

- my Department should develop a scoping document on the potential for an increased State and State supported heritage and culture presence in the area;

- an expert group should be appointed by Dublin City Council to lead the urgent regeneration of the Moore Street market; and

- the MSAG should be reconfigured to a smaller more focussed group in order to move the process forward as quickly as possible.

I would like to assure the Deputy that work is underway on all of these recommendations. In particular, I can confirm that I have written to Dublin City Council to ask it to act on the recommendation for the expert group to lead the regeneration of the street market which I understand was discussed at the Council’s monthly meeting on Monday, 2 September.

I look forward to the Advisory Group moving on to the next phase of its task and to seeing this part of the centre of our capital city restored to its former glory and in a manner which is sensitive to the memory and courage of the men and women and to the events of 1916.