Maoiniú Comharchumann agus Comhlachtaí Pobalbhunaithe

Question No. 6 replied to with Written Answers.

Questions (5)

Catherine Connolly

Question:

5. D'fhiafraigh Deputy Catherine Connolly den Aire Cultúir, Oidhreachta agus Gaeltachta cad atá beartaithe ag An Roinn ó thaobh na n-aighneachtaí práinneacha ar bhonn leanúnach atá faighte ó chomharchumainn agus ó chomhlachtaí pobail bunaithe maidir le maoiniú easnamhach atá ag cothú deacrachtaí do na heagraíochtaí ar an talamh; agus an ndéanfaidh sí ráiteas ina thaobh. [37930/19]

View answer

Oral answers (6 contributions) (Question to Culture)

Ta ceist agam maidir le cúrsaí maoinithe. Cad atá beartaithe ag an Roinn ó thaobh na n-aighneachtaí práinneacha ar bhonn leanúnach atá faighte ó chomharchumainn agus ó chomhlachtaí pobail bunaithe maidir le maoiniú easnamhach atá ag cothú deacrachtaí do na heagraíochtaí ar an talamh?

Mar is eol don Teachta, is as an soláthar airgid a chuirtear ar fáil go bliantúil d'Údarás na Gaeltachta faoi fhomhír C7 de Vóta mo Roinne a chuirtear cúnamh ar fáil d’eagraíochtaí pobalbhunaithe agus comharchumainn Ghaeltachta. Ar ndóigh, ós rud é gur eagraíocht neamhspleách reachtúil í Údarás na Gaeltachta, tuigfidh an Teachta gur faoin eagraíocht féin atá sé breithniú a dhéanamh ar conas is fearr is féidir leas a bhaint as an soláthar sin i gcomhthéacs na gcúramaí atá sainithe di, lena n-áirítear na cúramaí a bhaineann leis an bhforbairt pobail.

Ina thaobh sin, níor mhiste a mheabhrú don Teachta go bhfuil €3.850 milliún curtha ar fáil don Údarás faoin bhfomhír seo do 2019 – sin allúntas reatha breise de €500,000 i mbliana agus allúntas breise de €850,000 san iomlán i gcomparáid le 2016.

Tuigim go bhfuil buiséad iomlán de €4.225m ceadaithe ag Bord Údarás na Gaeltachta chun maoiniú a dhéanamh ar fheidhmiú Chlár Forbartha Pobail agus Teanga na heagraíochta do 2019 – sin méadú €530,000 i mbliana. Amach as an mbuiséad seo is buiséad de €2.276m atá á chur ar fáil do na Comharchumainn agus na heagrais phobail do 2019. Tá an chuid eile den bhuiséad curtha ar fáil do, mar shampla, Chomhar Naíonraí na Gaeltachta, Ealaín na Gaeltachta, Muintearas Togra Oideachas Gaeltachta, An Chlár um Fhorbairt Áitiúil, agus réimse imeachtaí/gníomhaíochtaí teanga-bhunaithe, turasóireacht chultúrtha, agus fiontar pobail.

Mar atá ráite agam go minic roimhe seo, mar Aire Stáit do Ghnóthaí Gaeltachta, treisím an tábhacht ollmhór atá ag baint leis na comharchumainn agus na comhlachtaí pobalbhunaithe Gaeltachta atá fréamhaithe sa bpobal agus lárnach i gcur chun cinn forbairtí áitiúla. Cuireann na comharchumainn agus na comhlachtaí pobalbhunaithe Gaeltachta réimse leathan seirbhísí, áiseanna agus tacaíochta ar fáil. Tugann siad guth don phobal agus is feithicil iad chun riachtanais an phobail a aithint agus a shárú. Tá ról leathan acu in úsáid agus i gcur chun cinn an Ghaeilge.

Ina thaobh sin, tuigim go bhfuil Údarás na Gaeltachta ag déanamh athbhreithniú cuimsitheach ar staid reatha na gcomharchumann Gaeltachta ar fad atá ag fáil tacaíocht uatha agus go bhfuil sé seo á dhéanamh i gcomhthéacs Plean Straitéiseach 2018-2020 an Údaráis.

Tuigtear dom go bhfuil an t-athbhreithniú seo ag breathnú ar struchtúr rialaithe, bainistíochta agus nithe eile ábhartha. Tuigim chomh maith go bhfuil sé i gceist ag Údarás na Gaeltachta go mbeidh feidhmeannach sinsearach ar leith ag glacadh freagrachta as cúram na n-eagras pobail atá ag obair faoi scáth Údarás na Gaeltachta agus go mbeidh cláir oibre na n-eagras seo ag luí le cur i bhfeidhm straitéisí agus pleananna ábhartha lena n-áirítear ach go háirithe an Plean Straitéiseach thuasluaite agus An Plean Gníomhaíochta 2018 – 2022 don Ghaeilge a d'fhoilsigh mo Roinn anuraidh.

Gabhaim buíochas leis an gCathaoirleach agus leis an Aire Stáit. Tá neart pleananna agus rudaí beartaithe ach tá siad ag streachailt ar an talamh. Tá a fhios ag an Aire Stáit mar go bhfreastalaíonn sé ar gach cruinniú. Chuaigh an coiste Gaeilge go hÁrainn agus rinneamar tuairisc i mí Mheán Fómhair 2017 le moltaí éagsúla ach is é sin an rud a léim amach as sin ná an obair na gcapall atá á dhéanamh acu ar an talamh. Is é an téama ceannann céanna a bhí ann go raibh an maoiniú a bhfuair siad ón Rialtas trí Údarás na Gaeltachta nó ó bhealaí eile íseal go leor agus b'shin ceann de na deacrachtaí ba mhó agus is mó atá acu. Is é an rud atá ag teastáil ná go bhfuil a fhios agam go bhfuil méadú beag tagtha ar an méid maoinithe agus admhaím é sin. Is é an rud atá i gceist anseo leis na haighneachtaí ná nach féidir leo leanúint ar aghaidh mar seo ag dul ó ghéarchéim go géarchéim agus ag impí orainn mar pholaiteoirí tuilleadh airgid a chur ar fáil. Tá buaine na n-eagraíochtaí agus na gcomharchumann seo ar an talamh i gceist agus gan iad ní bheidh na pobail in ann maireachtáil. Is í an cheist mar sin atá agam ná cad atá beartaithe, go háirithe ag an Roinn, ar leibhéal níos airde chun aitheantas a thabhairt don streachailt seo.

Mar a dúirt mé, tá ról lárnach ag Údarás na Gaeltachta ó thaobh leithdháileadh airgid. Ó tháinig mise isteach sa Roinn tá ardú ar bhuiséad reatha Údarás na Gaeltachta agus an buiséad caipitil agus as sin go raibh méadú ar an airgead agus ar acmhainní a chuirtear ar fáil do na comharchumainn idir 2016 agus 2017, idir 2017 agus 2018, agus idir 2018 agus 2019. Seo é an chéad mhéadú le beagnach deich mbliana anuas. Mar shampla in 2019, ag roghnú ceann de na comharchumainn seo, Comharchumann Oileán Árainn Mhóir Teo, i nDún na nGall, bhí méadú maoinithe ó €90,000 go dtí €107,000 ann. I gcás Comharchumann Oileán Thoraí, is é an méadú céanna de €90,000 go dtí €107,000 a bhí gceist. I gcás Chomharchumann Mhic Dara Teo is méadú €57,000 go dtí €69,000 atá i gceist, le Comhlacht Forbartha an Spidéil is méadú de €31,000 go dtí €45,000 atá ann, agus i gCorcaigh le Comharchumann Chléire Teo, tá méadú de €90,000 go dtí €106,000 ann. Tá na méaduithe sin ann. Tá a fhios agam go dteastaíonn níos mó ach tá méadú ag teacht ar an méid atá curtha ar fáil do na comharchumainn agus teastaíonn airgead uathu agus tá tábhacht ar leith ag baint leis na comharchumainn seo.

Gabhaim buíochas leis an Aire Stáit agus tá an ceart ag an Aire go bhfuil tábhacht ag baint leo. Tá an tAire Stáit ag caint faoi Údarás na Gaeltachta agus tá a fhios aige go bhfuil Údarás na Gaeltachta in áit na leathphingine, i ndáiríre, i gcomparáid leis an IDA agus Enterprise Ireland. Bhí na ciorruithe damanta amach is amach, go háirithe d'Údarás na Gaeltachta agus tá sé fós ag streachailt le tionchar na gciorruithe sin. Cinnte, tá méadú ó shin ach méadú nach bhfágtar ar ais iad san áit a raibh siad in 2008 agus 2007. Tá a fhios ag an Aire Stáit é sin. Tá neart oibre déanta aige chun méadú a chur ar aghaidh ach ní hé sin an cheist i ndáiríre. Tá gá leis an méadú ach tá gá le plean ón Rialtas chun a aithint go bhfuil an obair seo i gcroílár na háite agus na n-oileán. Chun filleadh ar an díospóireacht Dé Máirt seo caite, tá gá le polasaí agus le pleanáil ach go háirithe tá gá le haitheantas nach féidir leis na hoileáin maireachtáil gan plean agus bearta ar leibhéal i bhfad níos airde leis an aitheantas seo.

Aontaím leis an Teachta. B'shin an fáth go bhfuil coiste den rannóg bunaithe agam agus go bhfuilimid ag obair tríd, i gcomhpháirtíocht leis na hoileánaigh agus na comharchumainn agus na heagraíochtaí pobail eile ar phlean gnímh do na hoileáin le spriocdhátaí agus lena chinntiú ó thaobh cúrsaí acmhainní agus go mbeidh cinnteacht maidir le tograí caipitil agus ar thograí buiséid reatha. Is é sin fáth na hoibre sin agus táim sásta go mbeidh ról lárnach ag na oileánaigh ansin.

Ó tháinig mé isteach sa phost den chéad uair in 2016 bhí a fhios agam an tábhacht a bhí ag baint leis na comharchumainn agus go raibh siad ag lorg níos mó acmhainní agus go raibh siad faoi bhrú agus b'shin an fáth go rabhamar sásta an méadú sin a dhéanamh ar bhuiséid na gcomharchumann agus beidh mé ag déanamh gach iarracht méadú eile a fháil don chéad bhliain eile sa bhuiséad atá á phlé faoi láthair. Tá na comharchumainn agus na comhlachtaí lárnach sa Roinn agus in Údarás na Gaeltachta agus aon seans go bhfuil airgead le spáráil sa Roinn, cuirfimid é i dtreo Údarás na Gaeltachta ionas go mbeidh sé sin in ann breis acmhainní a chur ar fáil don obair thábhachtach atá á déanamh aige.

Question No. 6 replied to with Written Answers.

Inland Waterways Development

Question No. 8 replied to with Written Answers.

Questions (7, 11)

Martin Heydon

Question:

7. Deputy Martin Heydon asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the role her Department and Waterways Ireland can play in developing and progressing the proposed Barrow blueway through counties Kildare and Laois; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37640/19]

View answer

Martin Heydon

Question:

11. Deputy Martin Heydon asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the status of progress of the Barrow blueway through counties Kildare and Laois; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37639/19]

View answer

Oral answers (6 contributions) (Question to Culture)

The Minister will be aware that the proposal to have the Barrow Blueway run through south Kildare is of great interest to residents of the area. She experienced the great excitement in the area when she attended a recent public meeting hosted by the Monasterevin Blueway group. Other public meetings in Rathangan and Athy were attended by officials from Waterways Ireland, including Mr. John Boyle. These were very well attended and great interest was shown by everybody. I have raised this matter with the Minister previously but my focus today is on the role of her Department and Waterways Ireland in rolling out this project to make it a reality.

I propose to take Questions Nos. 7 and 11 together.

The Barrow blueway is a planned upgrade to provide a multi-use shared leisure route connecting Lowtown in County Kildare to St. Mullins in County Carlow, a distance of 115 km of off-road, flat, accessible, public space. Waterways Ireland is now moving forward with plans to develop the Barrow Canal towpath as a 46 km blueway from Lowtown to Horse Bridge in Athy.

Kildare County Council in partnership with Laois County Council and Waterways Ireland, with the support of my Department, made an application under the rural regeneration and development fund for funding for this development and the outcome of that process will be known before the end of the year.

Waterways Ireland has undertaken an economic appraisal of the development of the towpath, which concluded ultimately that benefit to the local economy of the development would be €2.5 million per annum from tourism and recreational spend, with a payback period of less than five years. The project to enhance the Barrow towpath will create approximately 90 jobs during the construction phase and create an estimated 130 direct and indirect jobs in the tourism, recreational and hospitality sectors in the area.

The blueway will link and connect many communities along the 46 km route. In developing the blueway it is hoped to engage effectively with those local communities and thus provide a sense of civic pride in areas that might otherwise by overlooked by visitors.

Waterways Ireland has considerable experience in developing blueways throughout the inland navigations, including the Shannon navigation in 2014, which attracts more than 100,000 visitors to the region, and generates an estimated €4 million per annum for the local economy. Waterways Ireland will actively work with other bodies in the region to progress the development of the initiative in Kildare and Laois. It will provide assistance to the local authorities in sourcing appropriate funding for the project and will be centrally involved in the construction phase if funding is obtained. It is this strong partnership approach among public sector bodies and the private, community and voluntary sectors that will ensure that ultimately the Barrow blueway will be developed, promoted and maintained for the benefit of the entire Barrow community.

I was delighted to speak at a public meeting on 29 August about the Barrow blueway organised by Deputy Heydon in Monasterevin community centre. I congratulate him on it. There was a very good turnout. In particular, we spoke about the significance for counties Kildare and Laois. Some of the other officials, as well as councillors from Kildare and Laois, Mr. John Boyle of Waterways Ireland, Mr. Joe Boland of Kildare County Council and the local tidy towns group have done a lot of good work. The Monasterevin blueway group has been integral to much of the progress made thus far.

To provide background on the development of previous blueways by Waterways Ireland, the Shannon blueway attracts more than 100,000 visitors to the region and generates an estimated €4 million every year. Thanks to the collaborative approach by Waterways Ireland and Kildare and Laois local authorities, and the support of the local community, an opportunity has finally arisen for the development of the Barrow blueway. The blueway should be an experience and perhaps the word does not fully capture what is on offer in such a project. It is about much more than the water and water-based pursuits. It offers opportunities for walkers and cyclists on the adjacent paths, connecting communities and enhancing the tourism potential of an area by showing off some of its incredible natural amenities. It is also about preserving and protecting an artificial ecosystem with diverse species and an important water supply. It is, and will be, a hook, and this was discussed at length at the meeting, to get people to stay an extra night in the area. Ultimately, this is what it is all about so that people will stay over and invest in the local economy. To be realistic, this is a three-year project and, as with all projects, a funding package needs to be put together.

I thank the Minister for her response. I acknowledge the role she and the Department have played, along with Waterways Ireland, in making the crucial decision over the summer. I raised the issue with the Minister prior to the summer recess. We had lost out on planning permission to the element of the proposed blueway south of Athy. At the time, the proposed blueway was 115 km. It was a brave decision and the right decision to proceed with the 46 km for which we now have planning permission. The people in Carlow who objected to this originally will, in time, look at us with great envy and wish they had this. I hope that in time the challenges with regard to the full route can be met.

The point made by the Minister about funding is very valid and I understand an application has been made to the rural regeneration and development fund. I hope the Department is working closely with the Department of Rural and Community Development and the Minister, Deputy Ring, to put the best case forward. Waterways Ireland has made a very detailed submission. We will do everything to try to bring through the funding.

What role does Fáilte Ireland have in funding? Will it play a role in marketing afterwards? We know the huge potential Kildare has to bring in tourists. A large number of tourists travel through Kildare at present and our challenge is to get them to slow down and stay. Many of them drive to areas beyond Kildare. In 2017, the Waterford greenway had more than 250,000 visitors, with an average spend of €29.50 per day or €110 per person who stayed overnight in the area. This is what we want to achieve in Kildare. We want people to slow down, stay and spend time in the area and, obviously, leave more money behind them in the process.

The Department of Rural and Community Development has a key role to play, as do other State agencies and Departments that can fund the blueway once it is constructed. I hope we receive the grant from the Department of Rural and Community Development. How will ongoing maintenance be funded? What role will the local authority have in this regard?

I note what the Deputy has said on the planning and his acknowledgement of the 46 km part of the project. This will be of great benefit to the area. In future it would be good to see if we can roll out the full blueway but at least we have this element of it. Planning permission for the remainder of the route from Athy to St. Mullins was refused mainly on the grounds of the impact it would have on the special area of conservation. Waterways Ireland now wishes to develop the 46 km stretch in collaboration with Kildare and Laois local authorities. The estimated cost of developing the 46 km route from Lowtown to Athy is €6.8 million. Earlier this year, Kildare County Council, in partnership with Laois County Council and Waterways Ireland, made an application under the rural regeneration and development fund. We await the outcome of this process in the autumn. It is this strong partnership approach among the public sector parties and the private, community and voluntary sectors that will ensure that ultimately the project will be developed, promoted and maintained for the benefit of the entire region.

With regard to Fáilte Ireland, as I said, the public meeting is an opportunity to explore what funding may come from it. It is certainly something that should be investigated.

I thank the Minister for her reply. Another point she heard raised at the meeting organised by the Monasterevin blueway group, one that was also raised at the meeting we held afterwards in Athy at which there was an equally impressive crowd and energy, as was the case at gatherings in Rathangan previously, were concerns from local landowners. These are challenges that must be worked through with the development of every blueway and greenway that traverses private land. Points were made on drainage issues and roads and local bridges that might need maintenance. Mr John Boyle of Waterways Ireland went into detail on navigation of the channel. Engagement on ongoing maintenance will be very important after we obtain the funding and construction starts. We will need a proper mechanism for engagement. Will the Minister outline how this will work? Will it be the responsibility of Waterways Ireland or the local authority? Who will be the go-to person for people who might have concerns or to bring the issues that we will need to thrash out as it is being developed? There is huge goodwill in Kildare and that is not to be underestimated in any way. Therefore, it is all the more important that when local residents or landowners raise a concern they have an opportunity to be heard. Local landowners know the local challenges better than anybody else and we want to ensure every potential problem that crops up along the way for our tourists, visitors and locals can be addressed in a collaborative way without causing upset.

A good engagement process throughout is really important. Does Waterways Ireland or the local authority have lead responsibility for that?

There would be a collaborative approach on the canals. Waterways Ireland is ultimately guided by a three-year aquatic weed management plan. It is informed by operational needs and best international practice. The plan considers both the protected and invasive aquatic weed species and pays due cognisance to the need for biosecurity during all aquatic weed control operations in order to minimise the spread of invasive alien species, which is important when talking about dredging and ensuring the canals are clear.

Aquatic vegetation growing in the navigation channels is not removed by dredging but is controlled by weed harvester, a weed-cutting boat, during the growing season which is May to October as resources permit and it is currently ongoing. We are aware of all these matters. I know that some of the Members who attended on the evening discussed ensuring that the boats can go through the canal. There is no point in having a canal unless it is properly maintained and looked after. Waterways Ireland does as much as it can. We want to be able to ensure that people can canoe and kayak, and enjoy a quality experience on our canals. Waterways Ireland is always conscious of that with all its canals.

There will be challenges in ensuring any kind of quality experience. Waterways Ireland has worked in partnership with Sport Ireland, Fáilte Ireland and other bodies to ensure that.

Question No. 8 replied to with Written Answers.

Culture Night

Questions (9)

Tony McLoughlin

Question:

9. Deputy Tony McLoughlin asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the events planned for Culture Night 2019 in County Sligo; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37429/19]

View answer

Oral answers (6 contributions) (Question to Culture)

I ask the Minister to outline the events scheduled to take place in Sligo on Culture Night, which is taking place on Friday night.

Culture Night has grown from a relatively small-scale cultural event staged only in Dublin in 2006 to the significant national cultural event it now is, with more than 400,000 people visiting museums, galleries, historic houses, artists’ studios and cultural centres across the country on the night. I have been very impressed at the variety of events I have been able to attend on Culture Night as Minister. In 2018, a total of 1,606 venues across the island of Ireland participated in Culture Night, with an attendance of 420,000. Nationally, events are run in partnership with local authorities. Events were also held throughout Northern Ireland and overseas. In 2018, Sligo hosted 38 events in 19 venues and welcomed 2,435 visitors.

Culture Night 2019 will take place on Friday, 20 September from 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. Details of events in every area are available on www.culturenight.ie. It is anticipated that attendance figures will increase this year. This year Sligo has been allocated funding of €4,500 to assist with the cost of events. This funding is provided on a matched funding basis through the local authority.

I know that Sligo has always been a place with a vibrant, active and devoted cultural community. Some of the innovative events in the Sligo programme for 2019 include Art House Open Studio, Sligo Global Kitchen at the Model and Culture Comhrá at the Hawk's Well Theatre.

My Department has also allocated a further €183,005 to projects in the Sligo area through my Department's Creative Ireland programme in 2018 and 2019, including "His Deep Gaze" and for activities in Cruinniú na nÓg.

The cultural scene is bubbling and bursting with new ideas and pioneering practices, and is winning the world over. It calls on people across Ireland not to miss out and get out and support our culture creators, big and small, across the country on Friday. Around every corner there will be something to explore from awesome animation and stunning light projections to rattling reading and pulsating performances, exhilarating exhibitions and resounding concerts.

I welcome the funding allocated to Sligo and the local authorities. I also welcome the funding given to the Model and to the Hawk's Well Theatre over recent years. The Minister mentioned the events taking place. I compliment everybody associated with Sligo County Council on their effort and commitment in recent years. It is encouraging that the numbers have been increasing and we expect this trend to continue on Friday night. The Minister has given considerable funding to the creative arts. The funding of €4,500 for Friday is badly needed by the local authority because matching funds can be difficult at times. It is vital that people come out on Friday night, not just in Sligo but throughout the country. It is encouraging to see the number of people coming out. I ask that the Department consider funding for all these events again in the future.

I hope that funding for Sligo will continue. The allocation of €4,500 this year is the same as the amount allocated last year. I have no doubt it will be put to good use on Friday night. While in Sligo in March, I visited the Hawk's Well Theatre, which has received capital grants from the Department. The Hawk's Well Theatre is a 340-seat theatre which hosts a diverse programme of arts and entertainment, including professional and amateur drama, a wide range of music from traditional and jazz to opera, dance, pantomime, children's theatre and comedy.

On 19 May I attended the national Famine commemoration in Sligo town. I also visited the Model, home of the Niland collection, which features one of the largest public holdings of works by Jack Butler Yeats. It also features a broad range of traditional and contemporary works by artists, including Norah McGuinness, Dorothy Cross, Alice Maher, Clodagh Emoe, Eamon O'Kane, Seán McSweeney, Estella Solomons and Paul Henry among others.

I also attended the launch of Project Ireland 2040 at the Institute of Technology Sligo on 15 February 2018, when we announced the details of almost €1.2 billion in capital spending plans for my Department.

I acknowledge the funding. The Minister is right in what she said about the Hawk's Well Theatre. That money was very well received. Work is about to begin on a major development in the theatre. Wonderful works are being done at the Model. Great credit is due to the staff at the Model and the Hawk's Well Theatre as well as to the people supporting those fine facilities in Sligo town. The Minister has been to the Model on a number of occasions and she also went to the Hawk's Well Theatre to announce additional funding. She will have seen the enthusiasm in both those facilities which is replicated in many others. Sligo County Council has a number of events in the programme for Friday night. The Minister has always been very supportive on her visits to Sligo and the announcements made in respect of the two major projects at the Hawk's Well Theatre and the Model.

I agree with the Deputy. At the Hawk's Well Theatre this Friday, Rafeef Ziadah and Sorcha Fox will perform "Sendiana", which is about exile and terror. I expect it to be really powerful. Sligo Global Kitchen at the Model will bring communities together to enjoy a global food experience. The Yeats Society in Sligo will host "Sisters, Sisters, Sisters" by storyteller Imelda Ryan Jones. People will be able to tour the Sligo Masonic Hall and learn about the Masonic order.

I also mention the small-scale local festivals and funding schemes for summer schools.

In 2019 the Sligo Feis Cheoil received €2,000, the Yeats International Summer School received €5,000 and the Enniscrone and District Community received €1,500 for the Black Pig Festival in 2018.

I will continue to support Sligo in any way I can. I hope that all the Members present enjoy Culture Night.

Wildlife Conservation

Questions (10)

Oral answers (5 contributions) (Question to Culture)

Deputy Durkan has requested permission for Deputy McLoughlin to take his question.

Bernard Durkan

Question:

10. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the action she can take to restore or protect 82 species of birds and animals deemed to be extinct or threatened; if her Department can sponsor specific schemes nationally to address the red lists species; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37724/19]

View answer

I thank the Leas-Cheann Comhairle for the opportunity to raise this question on behalf of my colleague Deputy Durkan who is at a meeting. He asks the Minister what actions she can take to restore or protect 82 species of birds and animals threatened with extinction, if the Department can sponsor specific schemes nationally to address the red lists species and if she will make a statement on the matter.

My Department, through its National Parks and Wildlife Service, NPWS, is responsible for implementing the Wildlife Act 2018, the primary legislation underpinning the protection of biodiversity and nature in Ireland. The Wildlife Act 2018 affords protection to a range of habitats and species and provides for regulation and control of activities that impinge on biodiversity, such as hunting and trade.

The legislative framework in place to protect biodiversity is further strengthened by the European Communities (Birds and Natural Habitats) Regulations 2011, which also fall under the remit of my Department. These regulations transpose the EU Birds Directive and the EU Habitats Directive into national law and provide for protection of certain habitats and species across the European Union and give a framework for specific measures to be taken to target areas of concern in each member state. The main instruments provided for are the designation of special protection areas, SPA, aimed at the protection of threatened species of birds and special areas of conservation, SAC, aimed at protecting other animal species and habitats.

My Department is also responsible for developing and publishing Ireland's national biodiversity action plan. The most recent plan, Ireland's third, was published in October 2017 and contains a range of actions to protect and conserve biodiversity, including measures to restore and conserve habitats and protect vulnerable species.

The NPWS, working together with national experts and colleagues in Northern Ireland, produces regional red lists for the island of Ireland. Red lists are published on an irregular basis as datasets and the necessary national expertise for taxonomic groups become available.

In addition, threat response plans are being prepared by NPWS as part of Ireland's response to the judgment of the European Court of Justice in case C-183/05 and the requirement to establish a system of strict protection for species listed in Annex IV of the Habitats Directive.

These plans provide detailed information on range, distribution and habitat. They also focus on the particular threats facing each species and identify the measures required to address these threats, as well as identifying who is responsible for implementing them and providing a timeframe for delivery.

The NPWS will continue to monitor and assess the status of vulnerable species in Ireland and takes into consideration any appropriate responses possible within their remit and the resources available to the Department, including specific schemes to address particular threatened species.

I know that Deputy Durkan, and I suppose everyone in this Chamber, is concerned about the many sensitive species of birds and animals, such as the corncrake and others. People tell me regularly that the corncrake is nearly a thing of the past. It is vitally important that the Department, the officials and the Minister do everything that can be done, particularly to enhance or increase the special areas of conservation to help protect the various birds and animals that could be extent in a few years. They are threatened unless we now take action. The Minister has outlined that and I appeal to her on my behalf and that of my colleague to do whatever is possible to ensure they are protected.

The Deputy mentioned the corncrake. The population of corncrakes in Ireland has been monitored annually since 1993 but it is critically low, with an estimated 83% decline between 1978 and 2018 with only 153 calling males remaining. The breeding range population declined by 86% between 1972 and 2018. Since 2005 the population has remained stable and there are nine special areas of protection which have been designated for the protection of breeding corncrake populations in Ireland with an estimated 70 calling males, approximately 45% of the total national population. There are many positive outcomes and conservation measures we are undertaking for the corncrake. They include the provision of early cover dominated by broadleaved herbaceous species such as the iris or nettle, the suitable corncrake friendly mowing machine with late cutting, a friendly mowing pattern and late cover provision by leaving some field strips unmown until September, maintaining early cover strands through to the season’s end and field operations reduced or removed from late April and general access to meadows kept to a minimum from May to August.

Question No. 11 answered with Question No.7.

Question No.12 replied to with Written Answers.

National Museum

Questions Nos. 14 and 15 replied to with Written Answers.

Questions (13)

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

13. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the steps she has taken to fund the National Museum of Ireland plans to reflect fully the history of Ireland in a permanent exhibition in Collins Barracks from the United Irishmen, the Famine, the Fenians and onwards. [37936/19]

View answer

Oral answers (10 contributions) (Question to Culture)

This question relates to the National Museum of Ireland and asks what steps the Minister will take to help the museum as it continues its preparation to add to its exhibitions in Collins Barracks of various periods of Irish history, in particular the modern part.

As I have previously advised the House, decisions on the curation and presentation of temporary or permanent exhibitions within national cultural institutions are operational matters for the relevant cultural institutions. However, I understand that the National Museum of Ireland is at the initial stages of planning a major new history of Ireland gallery which will eventually cover the period from 1600 to the present day, which will be located at the Museum of Decorative Arts and History at Collins Barracks.

The galleries will offer visitors an opportunity to explore the key events in Irish history leading up to and including the momentous events of the period 1912 to 1923. They will also provide a compelling, accurate and interactive account of the basic tides of Irish history since 1600. They will deal as much with the social, economic and cultural changes that affected everyday life, as with the political and military events that dominate most popular understanding. It is the museum's intention that the first phase of these permanent exhibition galleries will open in 2022 at the Museum of Decorative Arts and History, Collins Barracks and will cover the period of 1900–2022 to coincide with the conclusion of the commemorations around the decade of centenaries and the foundation of the Irish State.

This major new exhibition will be considered in the context of the ongoing development of the Decade of Centenaries Commemoration Programme. In the meantime the Museum will also be working on other aspects of the overall exhibition covering the period 1600 to 1900.

The question of funding for this exhibition will be considered when the Museum has drawn up detailed plans as part of the overall funding arrangements for both the Museum itself and the Decade of Centenaries Commemoration Programme. I look forward to working with the Museum in relation to this programme.

The National Museum is at the initial stages of planning a major new history of Ireland gallery. I think that will be of interest to the Deputy. The museum has held several exhibitions which also explore various aspect of this period, including Soldiers and Chiefs - the Irish at War at Home and Abroad which traces Ireland's military history from 1550 into the twenty-first century. There was also one entitled Proclaiming a Republic: The 1916 Rising which explores the background to the Rising.

I am aware of the National Museum's plans. I am also aware that 22 years ago it moved much of its collection to Collins Barracks.

I have a particular interest because my father worked in the National Museum for more than 30 years. At the time of the move to Collins Barracks, we were told the site would allow for a large expansion in the exhibition space in order that the museum could display much of what was in its vaults in collections that had been unseen by the public for many years. Some 22 years later, the space used within Collins Barracks remains limited. The large undertaking the museum has proposed will require money to open more gallery space and showcase much of the Irish history that is not fully explored and interpreted in the existing exhibitions.

I accept that the Minister is not directly involved in dictating the content of exhibitions. When the museum comes looking, as it will have to because it has been starved of funding for many years, I hope the Government will not be found wanting in ensuring there is no delay in putting on the exhibition they have outlined.

Funding is always an issue for the museum. I will negotiate with the Minister for Finance in respect of my budget for culture this year and how it will be of value to the National Museum of Ireland. As we know, under Project Ireland 2040 significant funding will be invested in the museum. We do not as yet know from the National Museum of Ireland what the detailed plans or costings are for the exhibition, although I believe that it hopes some funding will be available.

As the Deputy will be aware, the National Museum of Ireland has a master development plan and has published a 15-year master vision statement, which may be pertinent to his question, for the period 2018 to 2032 that sets out plans for the transformation of the museum into an institution of international standing. Physical developments throughout the museum site over the next 15 years will be underpinned by three principles: to protect it and provide the best conditions for the care of its collections and access for educational research; to safeguard it and ensure that all the National Museum of Ireland sites are safe and secure for the collections and the public; and to promote accessibility to make the museum's sites, exhibitions and interpretations fully accessible for everyone. It is envisaged that a separate master plan will be developed for each site, underpinned by the principles. The Collins Barracks site, which the Deputy mentioned, will be developed as the headquarters and focal point of all the National Museum of Ireland sites. New galleries will be developed for earth science and world culture, while on-site facilities will be developed to provide improved access to collections. As I outlined, an extension will be added to the Natural History Museum in Merrion Street, while a link will be provided to the museum of archaeology in Kildare Street.

The Minister mentioned the decade of centenaries, which has occurred in previous years. During the period, particularly until 2016, there was specific funding for legacy programmes. I encourage the Minister, if possible when it arrives on her desk, to examine the plan for the exhibition at the museum from 1900 to 1922. At the very least, it should be considered as one of the legacy programmes to be held at the end of the decade of centenaries, which runs from 2012 to 2023.

The commemorations will be of major significance in the next number of years. The National Museum of Ireland, along with all the national cultural institutions, will have a major role to play in how we tell the story and commemorate it properly. The Department is developing specific proposals for a co-ordinated, cross-governmental commemorative programme for 2020 and indicative plans for the remainder of the decade of centenaries. The work will continue to be informed and supported by the expert advisory group, with which the Deputy will be familiar, on the centenary commemorations. It will also be developed in consultation with the all-party consultation group on commemorations. I hope to be in a position to give further details in respect of the programme in due course.

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 have a leading role in supporting the national conversation about events during the period and encouraging respectful and authentic engagement, debate and analysis. There are plans for 2022, in particular, as the Deputy noted. The first phase of the permanent exhibition galleries will open in 2022 at the museum of decorative arts and history at Collins Barracks and will continue the period 1900 to 1922-----

We have to respect the time.

-----to coincide with the conclusion of the commemorations during the decade of centenaries, which celebrates the foundation of the State.

We are running over time. I have a request from Deputy McLoughlin on behalf of Deputy Burke but I did not receive it in time and I cannot deprive Deputy Smyth, who has been present all day, of her question. Deputy McLoughlin has made his effort.

I wanted to have it on the record. We will see how Deputy Smyth gets on.

Questions Nos. 14 and 15 replied to with Written Answers.

Cultural Policy

Written Answers are published on the Oireachtas website.

Questions (16)

Niamh Smyth

Question:

16. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if she has made observations and or submissions on the protection of cultural spaces in Dublin; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37878/19]

View answer

Oral answers (4 contributions) (Question to Culture)

Has the Minister or her Department made any observations or submissions in respect of the protection of cultural spaces in Dublin, and will she make a statement on the matter?

My Department provides significant capital support for the enhancement and protection of cultural spaces under Project Ireland 2040, the Government's long-term overarching strategy for investment in Ireland’s public infrastructure. Under the programme, the Department was allocated almost €1.2 billion for capital expenditure over a ten-year period to 2027. As the Deputy will be aware, in April 2018, I published Investing in our Culture, Language and Heritage, 2018-2027, a ten-year plan setting out the detail of the Government's commitment for capital investment in Ireland’s culture, language and heritage as part of Project Ireland 2040. A significant focus for my Department over the next ten years will be on enhancing the cultural infrastructure in Dublin city, recognising the challenges our national cultural institutions have experienced over the past decade. Outside of the national cultural institutions investment programme, and as part of our wider investment in cultural infrastructure under Project Ireland, we also support a wide range of smaller projects in Dublin. Such projects are designed to ensure the ongoing sustainability of the existing cultural infrastructure and include projects such as the redevelopment of the Royal Irish Academy of Music in partnership with the Department of Education and Skills.

Responsibility for local cultural spaces rests in the first instance with local authorities, which are charged under section 10 of the Planning and Development Act with adopting a development plan that integrates the planning and sustainable development of the area with the social, community and cultural requirements of the area and its population. Adoption of the development plan is a reserved function of the local authority. While it would not be appropriate for me to comment on planning matters, my Department works closely with local authorities to support culture, creativity and heritage activities throughout Ireland, including in Dublin.

In April 2019, I held a symposium to investigate the possibility of creative nightlife and cultural activity after hours as an alternative and complementary option to Ireland's existing rich night-time experience. My Department has also worked with key partners to develop an approach to support a sustainable and forward-looking infrastructure to facilitate the development of after-hours cultural events.

Additional information not given on the floor of the House

It is my intention to establish pilot projects to identify how a night-time culture initiative might work in both urban and rural settings. To this end, my Department will approach a number of local authorities to establish a group comprising representatives from the relevant local authority, local creative nightlife sector, policing, transport, and artists and creative workers. The purpose of this group will be to consider and collate what supports and impediments currently have an impact on opportunities for creative and cultural activity at night, in different settings, and what would be required locally to develop, promote and encourage late-night culture. The groups will also consider the appropriateness of appointing local night-time commissioners.

In parallel to the structured research initiative, I intend to establish a national forum comprising my Department, the National Transport Authority, the Arts Council and several other Departments with important roles in developing night-time infrastructure. The committee will consider matters arising from the operation of the pilot local groups that could require a national policy or legislative response, which would, in turn, be referred to the relevant Department or agency for consideration.

I also intend to engage with local authorities and arts groups on a mapping exercise of existing venues and civic spaces that may be suitable for night-time cultural events to identify both gaps and opportunities.

The Minister met the organisers of the Give Us the Night campaign, who are concerned about the recent closure of the Bernard Shaw pub and the Tivoli Theatre. They feel that, bit by bit, our cultural capital and identity are being eroded by the loss of such venues to make way for hotels, student accommodation and apartment blocks.

We know the Government has not helped with the housing crisis. However, I appreciate that ultimately it is the work of the local authority and An Bord Pleanála. The Minister mentioned Project Ireland 2040 and providing investment of €40 million for cultural infrastructure nationwide, with a need to ensure regional balance. Outside the investment for our national institutions, what money is being spent on cultural spaces for our capital?

Under the arts and culture capital scheme, funding of €10.214 million was awarded to a total of 134 arts organisations across the country. With regard to the Deputy's specific question, I have allocated an amount up to €3 million in principle to Dublin City Council for capital development works for studio workspaces to match funding provided under the urban regeneration development fund on sites owned by the city council. This level of investment will greatly benefit the artists in the area and address the deficit in artist workspaces in Dublin city. The Deputy acknowledged that this is primarily up to local authorities and councillors, who have a function with respect to artist studios and spaces. We are working in collaboration and there are discussions on what else we can do to help artists with the space they have to be creative.

Written Answers are published on the Oireachtas website.