Questions Nos. 19 to 28, inclusive, answered orally.

Question No. 29 answered with Question No. 27.

Reachtaíocht Teanga

Questions (30, 59)

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

30. D'fhiafraigh Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh den Aire Cultúir, Oidhreachta agus Gaeltachta cén uair a bhfoilseofar Bille na dTeangacha Oifigiúla (Leasú) mar atá geallta le blianta. [45459/19]

View answer

Catherine Connolly

Question:

59. D'fhiafraigh Deputy Catherine Connolly den Aire Cultúir, Oidhreachta agus Gaeltachta cad é stádas Bhille na dTeangacha Oifigiúla (Leasú) 2017; cén dáta a fhoilseofar an Bille; agus an ndéanfaidh sí ráiteas ina thaobh. [45409/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Culture)

Ba mhaith liom Ceisteanna Uimh. 30 agus 59 a thógáil le chéile.

Tuigeann an Teachta an cúlra maidir leis an athbhreithniú ar an Acht Teanga. Foilsíodh torthaí an athbhreithnithe i mí Aibreán 2014. Dréachtaíodh Bille leasaithe ag an am ach de bharr míshástachta le cuid de na leasuithe a bhí molta, níor foilsíodh é riamh. Agus mé ceaptha mar Aire Stáit, d’iarr mé athbhreithniú eile ar an mBille agus chuaigh oifigigh mo Roinne i mbun comhairliúcháin leis na Ranna Stáit ábhartha, grúpaí Gaeilge agus Gaeltachta, An Coimisinéir Teanga agus páirtithe leasmhara eile le cinntiú go mbeadh an Bille is fearr, is éifeachtaí agus is láidre gur féidir a bheith againn le tabhairt os comhair an Oireachtais.

I mí Meitheamh 2017, foilsíodh Ceannteidil an Bhille nua agus, i mí Bealtaine 2018, d’fhoilsigh Comhchoiste na Gaeilge, na Gaeltachta agus na nOileán a dtuarascáil ar an scéim ghinearálta.

Is iarracht í an Bille mar sin, tríd na ceannteidil éagsúla, an timpeallacht a chruthú ina mbeidh ról níos lárnaí ag an teanga in obair an Stáit, go mbeidh an teanga níos feiceálaí agus go mbeidh fáil i bhfad níos leithne ar sheirbhísí trí Ghaeilge. Ní hamháin sin, ach go mbeidh tuiscint i bhfad níos fearr ag an tsaoránach ar na seirbhísí atá ar fáil dó nó di, agus ar chaighdeán na seirbhíse ar cheart a bheith ag súil leis.

Is é an bun-aidhm atá againn leis an mBille nua a chinntiú go leanfaidh an tAcht Teanga de bheith ina thacaíocht éifeachtach do gach duine ar mhian leis nó léi seirbhísí d’ardchaighdeán i nGaeilge a fháil ón Stát. Is iad príomhaidhmeanna an Bhille seo deireadh a chur le córas na scéimeanna teanga agus caighdeáin teanga a thabhairt isteach agus foráil nua a thabhairt isteach le hollsprioc go mbeidh 20% d'earcaithe nua chuig an tseirbhís phoiblí inniúil sa Ghaeilge.

Is ábhar casta í seo ach tá dul chun cinn suntasach déanta le déanaí san obair dhréachtaithe. Tá an Bille san áireamh i gClár Reachtaíochta an Rialtais le foilsiú le linn an téarma seo agus tá súil agam go bhfoilseofar an Bhille sna seachtainí amach romhainn.

Cultural Policy

Questions (31)

Alan Kelly

Question:

31. Deputy Alan Kelly asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the progress she has made towards establishing pilot projects to help identify the way in which a night-time culture initiative will work; the local authorities her Department has approached to participate in the pilot projects; when the pilot projects will commence; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [45458/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Culture)

On April 17th, 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.

This work has significant potential to create a family friendly vibrant cultural night life to add to cultural events already taking place and to complement existing night life across the country. This topic has been one of interest in Ireland in light of a demand for a more varied night landscape and a recognition of the cultural, economic and social value of Ireland's evening experiences. It is also building on the back of movements across Europe such as Museum Night and, for example, the appointment of a "night tzar" in London.

My Department has been working with key partners to develop an approach to support a sustainable and forward looking infrastructure to facilitate the development of after-hours cultural events. In addition to local pilot projects and a national forum to consider the matter of night time culture in a comprehensive way, I am finalising plans to engage with local authorities and arts groups with regard to a mapping exercise of existing venues and civic spaces which may be suitable for night time cultural events to identify both gaps and opportunities, building on work done in this area to date. The exact methodology and approach to this mapping exercise is also being finalised.

Officials in my Department have recently written to selected local authorities with a view to establishing local interest groups to examine the potential for night time cultural events.

The main goal of these local groups will be to produce a report on what supports and impediments are currently impacting on opportunities for creative and cultural activity at night, both positive and challenging. The report will also propose practical locally-based initiatives to improve night-time culture. This report will then feed into a National Forum which is envisaged to comprise relevant Government Departments and Agencies. It is intended that this National Forum will meet upon receipt of local reports to consider matters arising for referral to the relevant Government Department or agency.

Budget 2020

Questions (32)

Martin Heydon

Question:

32. Deputy Martin Heydon asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the additional funding available for the Heritage Council under budget 2020; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [45569/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Culture)

While the allocation for 2020 has not yet been published I can confirm that the Heritage Council will receive funding of over €6.5 million under Budget 2020. This is similar to the amount it received in 2019.

The voted funding allocation to the Heritage Council each year is published in the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform’s Revised Estimates Volume. Funding for the Heritage Council has increased by almost 40% since 2015. The amounts published from 2015 to 2019 are as follows:

2015 - €4.743 million

2016 - €5.243 million

2017 - €6.254 million

2018 - €6.377 million

2019 - €6.588 million

The Heritage Council operates a range of programmes which impact positively on employment within the heritage and tourism sectors, on education and on promotion of heritage. The Heritage Council is independent in the performance of its functions and it is, therefore, primarily a matter for the Heritage Council itself to decide how its funding is allocated across the research, education and conservation programmes it supports. The Historic Towns Initiative (HTI), however, is a joint undertaking between my Department and the Heritage Council. It provides support to historic towns engaged in a programme of heritage-led regeneration. Earlier this year, along with the Heritage Council, I announced funding of €1 million, to be shared by six towns under the 2019 programme. This funding will be retained in 2020.

The Heritage Council is entering a new phase in its development with the appointment of a new CEO on the 1st of February. The new CEO will oversee the implementation of the Heritage Council’s Strategic Plan Heritage at the Heart 2018-2022.

The Heritage Council’s budget must also be viewed in its wider context. My Department is currently in the process of drafting Heritage Ireland 2030, a new national heritage plan, which will identify and assign priorities for the funding designated under Project Ireland 2040 for investment in our built and natural heritage. Heritage Ireland 2030 will provide an overarching framework of values, principles and strategic priorities to guide, inform and resource the heritage sector at all levels over the next decade.

Invasive Species Policy

Questions (33)

Joan Burton

Question:

33. Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if her attention has been drawn to the number of invasive plants, animals and insects in the ecosystem here; her plans to assess the ecological risks of invasive species; her plans to assess the estimated economic costs of their damage and control; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [45452/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Culture)

My Department is responsible for the implementation of the Wildlife Acts and the European Communities (Birds and Natural Habitats) Regulations 2011 (S.I. No. 477/2011), both of which prohibit the spreading of invasive species.

There is significant work being carried out by my Department in this area in conjunction with a range of agencies, including by a number of local authorities. The National Parks and Wildlife Service of my Department have prepared Management Plans for invasive species of EU concern and Priority Pathway Action Plans are also being developed to address the major routes of entry of invasive species into Ireland. My Department continues to work closely with colleagues in the UK and across the EU to manage the risks associated with Invasive Alien Species.

My Department has also worked closely over the years with the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) to fund and manage the Invasive Species Ireland Project. Information on general management approaches to invasive plant species is available from the Invasive Species Ireland website: invasivespeciesireland.com (http://invasivespeciesireland.com/toolkit/invasive-plant-management/)

In addition, the Management of Invasive Alien Plant Species (IAPS), launched in 2016 and led by Transport Infrastructure Ireland, is a €5.5 million project aimed at managing invasive knotweed and other non-native invasive plant species on the national road network and its interactions with regional roads. The project involves collaboration with the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport (DTTAS).

In 2018 my Department piloted a targeted grant scheme for local authorities to assist with the implementation of actions contained in the National Biodiversity Action Plan. This scheme included a funding stream to specifically target invasive alien species. The scheme was rolled out again in 2019 with increased funding and grants have been awarded to a range of projects across the 28 Local Authorities who applied.

While my Department does not collect data from local authorities on the incidence of specific invasive species in their areas, information on the distribution of invasive species in Ireland is available on the invasive species section of the National Biodiversity Data Centre (NBDC) website at http://maps.biodiversityireland.ie.

Departmental Schemes

Questions (34)

Joe Carey

Question:

34. Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht her plans for the built heritage investment scheme and historic structures fund for 2019 and 2020; the levels of interest in both schemes in County Clare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [45406/19]

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Written answers (Question to Culture)

In April 2018 I announced a €1.2bn capital investment in culture, language and heritage under Project Ireland 2040. The capital funding for built heritage under this plan will run from 2018-2027 and is focused on enhancing and safeguarding our built heritage throughout the country. Funding under both the Built Heritage Investment Scheme and Historic Structures Fund is made available under Project Ireland 2040.

While the primary responsibility to care for and maintain a protected structure rests with the owner, the Built Heritage Investment Scheme and Historic Structures Fund invest essential capital in our valuable built heritage and help the owners and custodians of historic structures in every local authority area across the country to safeguard their properties into the future for the benefit of communities and the public.

The Built Heritage Investment Scheme is a scheme for the repair and conservation of protected structures on the local authority Record of Protected Structures. It is designed to leverage private capital for investment in small scale conservation projects and to support the employment of skilled conservation professionals and tradespeople. I allocated funding of €2.5m for this Scheme in 2019; this included €60,000 for 15 projects in County Clare. The Built Heritage Investment Scheme is administered through the local authorities.

The Historic Structures Fund, (formerly the Structures at Risk Fund) is for conservation works to heritage structures, in both private and public ownership. I allocated €1.824m for the Historic Structures Fund in 2019, and this included €15,000 to one project in County Clare. The Historic Structures Fund is administered through the local authorities.

In 2019, 478 built heritage projects were successful in their application to the Built Heritage Investment Scheme and the Historic Structures Fund. Details of all projects approved under both these funding schemes are published on my Department’s website as well as on local authority websites.

I will shortly be announcing details of the Built Heritage Investment Scheme 2020 and the Historic Structures Fund 2020. Details of the schemes, including the amounts to be allocated to each local authority, will be published on my Department’s website and local authority websites.

National Orchestras

Questions (35)

Niamh Smyth

Question:

35. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the reason she favoured moving the National Symphony Orchestra to the National Concert Hall over establishing it as a national cultural institution in its own right; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [45506/19]

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Written answers (Question to Culture)

As the Deputy will be aware, RTÉ commissioned a report from independent consultants Helen Boaden and Mediatique on the RTÉ Orchestras entitled RTÉ Orchestras Ensuring a Sustainable Future. The Report made a number of recommendations including that the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra (NSO) be a national cultural institution in its own right or within the National Concert Hall (NCH).

My Department, the Department of Communications, Climate Action and the Environment, the National Concert Hall and RTÉ considered the Report and were all of the view that the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra should come within the remit of the National Concert Hall and should not be established as a separate body.

The main reasons for this are as follows:

- The NSO has been located in the NCH since it opened in 1981 and it provides the backbone to the Hall's orchestral music programme.

- To the public at large the NCH and the NSO are already intrinsically linked and the aims of both are entirely compatible.

- The recently announced capital investment plan for the NCH includes enhanced and additional facilities for the NSO, incorporating a dedicated rehearsal studio.

- The support services for an orchestra and a concert hall significantly overlap: programming, education and outreach, finance, operations, marketing and communications, personnel, and fundraising.

- Finally a combined creative and imaginative overall programme strategy will greatly enhance the offering of both organisations to the public.

At its meeting on 5 July 2018 the Government agreed in principle that the NSO should come within the remit of the National Concert Hall. The Government also authorised the initiation of discussions on the implementation of the recommendations of the Boaden report.

The overall aim of the Government decision in relation to the proposed transfer of the RTÉ NSO is to enable the orchestra to be established as a world class orchestra which would, with the NCH, provide a creative and imaginative programme strategy that would greatly enhance the offering of the combined organisation to the public. I was pleased to secure funding of €1m as part of Budget 2020 towards the cost of the proposed transfer in 2020.

In addition to this there are currently a number of other musical organisations located at the National Concert Hall - the Chamber Choir Ireland, the Irish Baroque Orchestra, Crash Ensemble, Music Network and Music Generation. The work of these organisations complements that of the NSO and represents a broad spread of artistic output across the classical music spectrum that is at the core of the remit of the NCH.

Budget 2020

Questions (36)

Niamh Smyth

Question:

36. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the way in which budget 2020 will improve income streams for those working in the arts; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [45505/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Culture)

In 2020, total funding for the arts and culture sector will increase by over 2 per cent from €189m to just under €193m composed of €153m in current expenditure and €39.7m in capital.

Primary support for the arts in Ireland is delivered by the Arts Council. Funding for the Arts Council has been increasing steadily in recent years and it will reach €80 million in 2020. This is an increase €5m or 6.7% over 2019. The Arts Council, which is independent in its funding decisions under the Arts Act 2003, operates within a published 10 year strategic framework entitled Making Great Art Work. This strategy prioritises support for artists throughout their careers, by the involvement of many agencies in cultural provision, by the impact of the arts on the creative economy, and by the depth and breadth of people's engagement with the arts. The additional funding will allow the Arts Council to enhance its support for all artists, arts festivals, street arts and family events.

In addition, over €7m will be available from my Department next year to support the European City of Culture, Galway 2020. This is a significant sum to support artistic and creative activities in 2020.

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 reputation. Strategic priorities include providing support for the international presentation of Irish artists and arts organisations, developing new and diverse international audiences and markets for Irish arts, and linking culture into the Government’s international promotion strategy in tandem with other relevant Government Agencies. Critically, the work of Culture Ireland is focused on increasing career opportunities for Irish artists.

This Budget has been framed in the context of Brexit and additional funding for our arts and culture, at a time of prudent budgetary management reflects the Government’s continued commitment to supporting Irish arts and artists. The Per Cent for Arts Scheme and the extension of the Social Welfare Scheme for Self Employed Artists in conjunction with the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection announced earlier is further proof of our commitment.

My Department and I will continue to work with all of my Government colleagues towards delivering on the commitment to increase Government spending in the arts and culture sector on a trajectory that will see funding doubled by 2025. 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.

Invasive Plant Species

Questions (37)

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

37. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the action she is taking to rid Ireland of invasive species and noxious weeds in national parks and in other parks and lands controlled by the OPW or local authorities. [45463/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Culture)

My Department is responsible for the implementation of the Wildlife Acts and the European Communities (Birds and Natural Habitats) Regulations 2011 (S.I. No. 477/2011), both of which prohibit the spreading of invasive species. Work is also underway in my Department to implement the EU Invasive Alien Species Regulation (No. 1143/2014) in the national context and legislation to do this is at an advanced draft stage.

Under the current legislative framework, responsibility for invasive alien species rests, in the first instance, with landowners. Throughout my Department’s 87,000 hectare network of National Parks and nature Reserves, tackling invasive species such as Rhododendron ponticum, Japanese Knotweed and Giant Hogweed is an ongoing operational matter.

Since 2011, my Department has invested circa €1.4m to tackle rhododendron clearance in Killarney National Park alone. This is in addition to separate investments throughout Glenveagh, Connemara and Wild Nephin / Ballycroy National Park and in a number of Nature Reserves.

Clearance work is carried out across various NPWS sites directly by our staff and also in certain instances by contractors. With regard to combatting these invasive species, glyphosate is one of the most effective means of killing problematic invasive plant species, and it is an essential herbicide in the control of other noxious weeds. NPWS invasive species eradication programmes over many years have mainly focussed on injection of herbicide into the plant, or application onto cuts made in the stems, rather than spraying, both of which greatly reduce the quantity used and human contact with the herbicide.

Eradication of invasive alien species, once they become established, is usually difficult to achieve and resources are best used to promote awareness, prevent introduction of invasive alien species and, where a species has established itself, put in place effective and appropriate management measures to mitigate the effects of the species on native habitats and species.

Raising awareness of invasive alien species and the threat that they pose to native biodiversity is an important component of my Department's work in this area. In 2018, a new stream of grant funding for local authorities was piloted. This funding is to assist local authorities to support projects that support actions in the National Biodiversity Action Plan, including those that target invasive alien species in their areas. In 2019, €500,000 was allocated to the 28 local authorities who applied. Grant funding of €700,000 will be available in 2020.

Wildlife Protection

Questions (38)

Hildegarde Naughton

Question:

38. Deputy Hildegarde Naughton asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the activities of the National Parks and Wildlife Service in combatting wildlife crime; the successes in counties Galway and Mayo in respect of same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [45444/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Culture)

The Wildlife Acts 1976 to 2018 are the primary statutes designed to afford protection to the various species in the State and which set out the framework for dealing with wildlife crime. In addition, the European Communities (Birds and Natural Habitats) Regulations 2011 include provisions affording strict protection to a number of species and habitats.

Wildlife crime takes many forms ranging from persecution of badgers, illegal hunting of deer species, illegal hunting of hares with packs of dogs generally known as lurchers, trapping of wild birds such as native finches for illegal trade, wilfully disturbing or destroying the eggs or nests of wild birds, poisoning of raptor species and the illegal cutting of hedges during the nesting season for birds.

While much wildlife crime is local we should not underestimate the dangers involved in investigating it as many perpetrators have links with other more serious crime.

Within my Department, the National Parks and Wildlife Service has responsibility for the protection and conservation of Ireland’s natural heritage, including species protection and biodiversity at national level. The NPWS is therefore dedicated to looking after our species and habitats and NPWS frontline conservation Rangers are deployed through a regional structure. Some of their work entails scientific research and survey work and the monitoring of compliance with national and European law in relation to nature conservation and wildlife crime across the country. The team also conduct patrols and site visits to enforce the various provisions of national and EU legislation and investigate reports of breaches of legislation including the various types of wildlife crime I have already described. My Department works closely with An Garda Síochána who are also specifically empowered under the Acts to investigate alleged wildlife crime offences and to prosecute as they see fit.

In the period 2013 to date in 2019 some 80 prosecutions were taken by my Department for breaches of the Wildlife Acts. As far as counties Galway and Mayo are concerned thirteen individuals have been convicted of breaches of the Wildlife Acts since 2013 in these two counties. In fact there were two recent successful prosecutions this year for illegal hare lurching by individuals in county Mayo. While bringing perpetrators of crime to justice is important, the success of dealing with wildlife crime cannot be judged on this alone, as ensuring compliance in the first instance is clearly of critical importance.

Given the concerns that I have surrounding the apparent widespread nature of wildlife crime, an internal Wildlife Crime Group staffed by field staff and senior Departmental officials which meets regularly most recently last week. The Wildlife Crime Group has pursued many important initiatives including the organisation of a major Wildlife Crime Conference last year which was attended by An Garda Síochána and representatives from organisations in Britain and Northern Ireland dealing with wildlife crime.

I am also committed to ensuring that we continue our covert actions with other agencies, including An Garda Síochána and the I.S.P.C.A to counteract these illegal activities.

Arts and Culture Capital Scheme Funding

Questions (39)

Aindrias Moynihan

Question:

39. Deputy Aindrias Moynihan asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if the examination of options for a new round of arts and cultural capital funding has been completed further to the review of the arts and culture capital enhancement support scheme; if so, when the round will be announced; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [45417/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Culture)

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that I have recently announced a new €4.7m capital investment scheme for arts and culture centres across the country. Applications are now being invited for the Cultural Capital Scheme which will run from 2019-2022. The Scheme will focus on enhancing the existing stock of arts and culture centres that operate as not-for-profit organisations throughout the country and that have a clearly defined arts and culture focus.

A particular focus of this scheme will be its emphasis on the reduction of carbon footprints to dovetail with the Government’s action on climate change. Projects providing additional capacity for artists and artistic production particularly in arts centres will also be favoured. The Scheme builds on the success of the Arts and Culture Capital Scheme 2016-2018 which saw grants allocated to 134 organisations in 26 counties to refurbish and enhance their facilities. This funding is provided from a €40m capital investment allocation for local arts and culture infrastructure contained in Project Ireland 2040 “Investing in our Culture, Language & Heritage 2018-2027'.

This scheme has been informed by the recently published strategic Review of Arts Centres and Venues by the Arts Council & the County and City Management Association (CCMA) as well as the Arts Council's published Arts Centre Policy and Strategy 2019 which sets out its funding criteria for arts centres from 2020 onwards.

Applications must be made online at www.licences.ie. Organisations are required to register their details on www.licences.ie prior to application. Applications are being invited under three separate Streams as follows.

* Stream A will offer grants up to €50,000 for small enhancement/expansion/ refurbishment projects which may involve construction works to arts and culture facilities and/or upgrading of equipment.

* Stream B will offer grants from €50,000 up to €300,000 for larger enhancement /expansion/ refurbishment projects involving construction works to arts and culture facilities.

* Stream C will be a separate scheme aimed at the upgrading of visual artists’ workspaces. Applications for this Stream will be invited separately by Visual Artists Ireland.

Further information on the Cultural Capital Scheme 2019 – 2022 is available on my Department’s website.

National Biodiversity Plan

Questions (40)

Joe Carey

Question:

40. Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the additional funding provided for nature conservation and biodiversity in budget 2020 with a particular focus on initiatives in County Clare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [45407/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Culture)

Over the course of the last year I have listened very carefully to the extensive public debate on biodiversity loss and the threats to nature. The National Biodiversity Conference in Dublin this year, which I hosted, the development of the Seeds for Nature initiative, the wide ranging public debate on the Heritage Ireland 2030 Plan as well as the extensive engagement across Government on Climate Action were instrumental in my securing an overall 15% budget increase in the Heritage sector in Budget 2020.

Total funding for our Built and Natural Heritage sector in 2020 will amount to €62.5m, up from €54m last year – an increase of over €8m – comprising additional capital provision of €6.75m (up 44%) on 2019 and additional current funding of €1.623m.

This funding includes €7m in funding to embark on an accelerated programme of peatlands restoration and conservation works. This programme will result in 1,800 hectares of restored peatland in 2020, generating 100 jobs in the Midlands. It is part of a multi-annual programme which aims will ultimately lead to the storage of 28 million tonnes of carbon dioxide. Restoration and rehabilitation of raised bogs will provide multiple additional ecosystem services such as water and air quality improvements, flood mitigation, enhancing biodiversity, opportunities for tourism development, and contribute to the social and economic well being of local communities.

Additional funding of €1m is also being provided to accelerate key nature conservation and biodiversity programmes under the National Parks and Wildlife Service, which includes the recruitment of front line conservation specialists.

The NPWS Farm plan scheme will also be enhanced in 2020 by doubling the fund available to €1m to support measures to protect biodiversity and assist farmers with lands designated as Special Areas of Conservation and Special Protection Areas in their role as custodians of nature.

My Department continues to provide grant funding for local authority projects that promote actions contained in the National Biodiversity Action Plan (NBAP) 2017-2021. This funding includes a grant award made to Clare County Council to undertake a three year project aimed at enhancing biodiversity education and action within the County. My Department will continue too to support the Burren National Park in the context of progressing the Tourism Masterplan for the National Parks.

Wildlife Conservation

Questions (41)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

41. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the extent to which she continues to be actively involved in conservation measures to protect various species of birds or other wildlife now deemed to be near extinction; the degree to which audits take place in respect of native and migratory species; if there are areas in which she can assist in such conservation in return for particular assistance; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [45449/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Culture)

My Department is responsible for implementing the Wildlife Acts 1976 to 2018, the primary legislation underpinning the protection of biodiversity and nature in Ireland. The Wildlife Acts afford protection to a range of habitats and species and provide for regulation and control of activities that impinge on biodiversity, such as hunting and trade.

The legislative framework in place to protect our natural heritage is further strengthened by the European Communities (Birds and Natural Habitats) Regulations 2011 SI No 477/2011, 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, giving 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.

Under Article 12 of the EU Birds Directive (2009/147/EC), Member States report on the implementation of the directive and the trends in bird populations. My Department submitted Ireland’s 3rd assessment on the status of EU-protected habitats and species to the European Commission in April 2019. A summary report has just been published which provides an overview of the assessment methodologies and the main findings of the assessments are available on my Department's website (www.npws.ie/sites/default/files/publications/pdf/NPWS_2019_Vol1_Summary_Article17.pdf).

These very thorough assessments were undertaken by the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) of this Department, Inland Fisheries Ireland and external 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. 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 (www.npws.ie/publications/article-17-reports). In addition, detailed reports have been published, exceeding 2,000 pages of assessments. These assessments were undertaken by over 40 scientific experts.

My Department continues to drive targeted conservation work throughout the country and co-ordinates a number of EU-funded LIFE nature projects. KerryLIFE, a project worth over €5 million to support two local communities in the Caragh and Kerry Blackwater areas, for instance, is focussed on helping restore populations of the endangered freshwater pearl mussel.

The NPWS Farm Plan Scheme of my Department offers a mechanism for engaging with individuals in a joint conservation effort. The scheme will be enhanced in 2020 to support measures to protect biodiversity and assist farmers with lands designated as Special Areas of Conservation and Special Protection Areas in their role as custodians of nature.

Culture Ireland

Questions (42)

Joan Burton

Question:

42. Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the funding allocated to Culture Ireland in each of the years 2017 to 2019; the projected funding for 2020; if her attention has been drawn to comments from the arts community (details supplied) that the provision of funding is disappointingly low and will negatively impact on artists; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [45455/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Culture)

The funding allocated to Culture Ireland in 2017 was €3.5m, in 2018 €4m and in 2019 it was €4.6m. Funding for 2020 is being finalised in the context of the Revised Estimates to be published in December.

Culture Ireland provides support for Irish artists to travel and present their work internationally and in 2018 audience numbers of 5.5m were reached in 55 countries worldwide. In 2019 those numbers will increase which demonstrates success for Culture Ireland’s aim to broaden Ireland’s cultural reach and therefore our global footprint in keeping with the Government’s Global Ireland 2025 initiative. I am satisfied that sufficient funding will be available to Culture Ireland in 2020 to deliver on the programme's strategic objectives next year.

Total funding for the arts and culture sector in 2020 will increase from €189m to almost €193m. This funding will comprise €153m in current expenditure and €39.7m in capital investment. This Budget has been framed in the context of Brexit and additional funding for our arts and culture, at a time of prudent budgetary management reflects the Government’s continued commitment to supporting Irish arts and artists. The Per Cent for Arts Scheme and the extension of the Social Welfare Scheme for Self Employed Artists in conjunction with the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection announced earlier is further proof of our commitment.

Aerfoirt Réigiúnacha

Questions (43)

Catherine Connolly

Question:

43. D'fhiafraigh Deputy Catherine Connolly den Aire Cultúir, Oidhreachta agus Gaeltachta maidir le ceannach Aerfort na Mine i gContae na Gaillimhe, cén dul chun cinn atá déanta maidir leis an gcás gnó a mheas; cad iad na céimeanna atá glactha agus atá le glacadh go fóill; agus an ndéanfaidh sí ráiteas ina thaobh. [45411/19]

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Written answers (Question to Culture)

Tá an praghas chun Aerfort Chonamara a cheannach aontaithe idir mo Roinn agus Galway Aviation Services Ltd (ag trádáil mar Aer Árann) le tamall. Tar éis an praghas seo a bheith aontaithe, d'fhostaigh mo Roinn comhlacht le saineolas san earnáil eitlíochta chun an cás gnó a ullmhú i ndáil le riachtanais an Chóid Chaiteachais Poiblí a chomhlíonadh. Tá an cás gnó sin faighte ag mo Roinn agus tá na céimeanna chuí á dtógáil anois chun na ceadanna éagsúla a fháil ar mhaithe leis an aerfort a cheannach.

Ach gach rud a bheith in ord, táthar ag súil leis an bpróiseas seo a bheith críochnaithe roimh dheireadh na bliana.

National Monuments

Questions (44, 45, 52)

Maureen O'Sullivan

Question:

44. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the status of progressing the recommendations of the Moore Street report, Securing History 2, of 31 July 2019; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [45088/19]

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Joan Burton

Question:

45. Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the status of her plans for Moore Street; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [45453/19]

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Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

52. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the actions taken by her on foot of the recommendations contained in the Moore Street report of 2 July 2019 from the Moore Street Advisory Group. [45461/19]

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Written answers (Question to Culture)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 44, 45 and 52 together.

As the Deputies are aware, the Moore Street Advisory Group (MSAG) was established 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 - Securing History 2 - in August and would like to sincerely thank the members for their invaluable contributions during their time on the Group. I am conscious of the huge voluntary commitment by all concerned.

Among the main recommendations of the 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 advance 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.

Work is in progress on all of these recommendations. My Department is liaising with the Office of Public Works with a view to progressing the completion of the conservation of the national monument buildings so that they can be opened for presentation to the public. The Irish Heritage Trust has been engaged to develop the scoping document referred to in the report and will have the full support of my Department's officials in this regard. I can also confirm that I have asked Dublin City Council to act on the recommendation for the expert group to lead the regeneration of the street market and I understand that this is in course of being set up. I would also shortly hope to appoint a chair to lead the next phase of the MSAG's work.

I regard the Securing History 2 report as a significant milestone in the revitalisation of this crucial part of our capital city. The proposals put forward by Hammerson are sympathetic to and embrace the history and heritage of O’Connell Street and the Moore Street area and can be aligned with the objectives of protecting the national monument at Nos. 14 -17, opening it to the public and resonating the mercantile, social and political heritage of the area as a 1916 commemorative quarter. I understand that a recent statement from the Moore Street Traders Association has expressed its members' full backing for the proposals which it sees as providing an important opportunity for their businesses to become viable again.

I welcome the prospect there now is for reviving the Moore Street area and its market and to give Dublin a national main street and historic area to be proud of.

Departmental Schemes

Questions (46)

Pat Deering

Question:

46. Deputy Pat Deering asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht her plans for the built heritage investment scheme and historic structures fund for 2019 and 2020; the level of interest in both schemes in counties Carlow and Kilkenny; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [45364/19]

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Written answers (Question to Culture)

In April 2018 I announced a €1.2bn capital investment in culture, language and heritage under Project Ireland 2040. The capital funding for built heritage under this plan will run from 2018-2027 and is focused on enhancing and safeguarding our built heritage throughout the country. Funding under both the Built Heritage Investment Scheme and Historic Structures Fund is made available under Project Ireland 2040.

While the primary responsibility to care for and maintain a protected structure rests with the owner, the schemes invest essential capital in our valuable built heritage and help the owners and custodians of historic structures in every local authority area across the country to safeguard their properties into the future for the benefit of communities and the public.

The Built Heritage Investment Scheme is a scheme for the repair and conservation of protected structures on the local authority Record of Protected Structures. It is designed to leverage private capital for investment in small scale conservation projects and to support the employment of skilled conservation professionals and tradespeople. I allocated funding of €2.5m for this Scheme in 2019 including €60,000 for seven projects in County Carlow and €98,000 for fourteen projects in County Kilkenny. The Built Heritage Investment Scheme is administered through the local authorities.

The Historic Structures Fund, (formerly the Structures at Risk Fund) is for conservation works to heritage structures, in both private and public ownership. I allocated €1.824m for the Historic Structures Fund in 2019, including €46,000 to two projects in County Carlow and €165,000 to five projects in County Kilkenny. The Historic Structures Fund is administered through the local authorities.

In 2019, 478 built heritage projects were successful in their application to the two schemes. Details of all projects approved under both these funding schemes are published on my Department’s website as well as on local authority websites.

I will shortly be announcing details of the Built Heritage Investment Scheme 2020 and the Historic Structures Fund 2020. Details of the schemes, including the amounts to be allocated to each local authority, will be published on my Department’s website and local authority websites.

Offshore Islands

Questions (47)

Maureen O'Sullivan

Question:

47. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the status of the interdepartmental committee on offshore island development; and if she has reconsidered that island communities should be directly represented. [43819/19]

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Written answers (Question to Culture)

The first meeting of the Interdepartmental Committee for Island Development took place on Tuesday 24 September 2019. Twelve Government Departments were represented at the meeting.

My Department is currently drafting, in conjunction with other relevant Departments, a consultation document that will form the basis for a comprehensive public consultation process among island communities and wider stakeholders.

In practical terms this will involve senior officials from my Department visiting the islands to meet directly with stakeholders to obtain island input into the deliberations of the committee. It is envisaged that these consultations will cover all relevant aspects of island life and that the end result will be a comprehensive cross-Government policy document which will inform the delivery of public services to island communities over the coming years.

I can, therefore, assure the Deputy that the island communities will have a central voice throughout this entire process.

National Heritage Plan

Questions (48)

Fiona O'Loughlin

Question:

48. Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if she will consider making the Curragh a national heritage area; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [45336/19]

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Written answers (Question to Culture)

My Department, has no role in the designation of national heritage parks, which are managed by the Office of Public Parks (OPW). Any queries in respect to such a designation should be pursued with OPW. Through its National Parks and Wildlife Service, my Department manages an extensive conservation and recreational property portfolio of some 87,000 hectares, which includes 6 National Parks. I have no plans at present to designate any further National Parks.

The IUCN, also known as the World Conservation Union which is affiliated to the United Nations, is the international authority which sets the criteria for the protected areas of the world. All of Ireland's six National Parks are managed as Category II National Parks under the criteria set out by the World Conservation Union (IUCN). Under this Category, ownership and management should normally be by the highest competent authority of the State and there is a minimum size associated with such designations. Accordingly, all National Parks in Ireland are fully owned and managed by the State through the National Parks and Wildlife Service Division (NPWS) of the Department. It is the policy of my Department to abide by the criteria and standards for the National Parks laid down by the IUCN.

Our 6 existing National Parks account for circa 65,000 hectares with another almost 22,000 hectares of nature reserves and other heritage sites. The existing National Parks are managed from a conservation perspective, and attract in excess of 4 million visitors annually. Given the resources available for capital investment within our National Parks and Nature Reserves, I am ever mindful of the need to focus on the core responsibilities relating to the management of the existing Parks and Reserves lands and have no plans at present to increase the number of National Parks in the country.

However, as part of my Department’s continuing commitment and contribution to protecting our heritage and improving our tourism and recreation product, we have been exploring ways to optimise the sustainable potential of heritage sites under our control in a way that is compatible with conservation objectives.

In this context, it should be noted that in late 2016 my Department negotiated the extension of Wicklow Mountains National Park by purchasing almost 4,900 acres of Dublin Uplands at Glenasmole in 2016 at a cost of €800,000. The purchase underpins the Government’s on-going commitment to the preservation of our natural heritage for future generations of citizens and visitors alike to enjoy.

In 2017 the entire Wild Nephin area was consolidated into the ownership of the National Parks and Wildlife Service. This creates a State – Owned wilderness project of over 11,000 hectares and aims to provide increased nature conservation benefits and biodiversity as well as enhanced recreational and social benefits through the ‘re-wilding’ of the forest which adjoins the National Park. Thanks to the acquisition, we will be returning the area to a natural wilderness state.

My Department, in conjunction with Fáilte Ireland, launched a strategic partnership in 2017 with a view to growing tourism revenues in the rural areas where the parks are located and increasing Ireland’s appeal as a recreation destination. One of the outputs from the partnership with Fáilte was “Experiencing the Wild Heart of Ireland”; an interpretative masterplan for the development of our National Parks and Reserves, which was published last year and sets out a road map for investment at these important nature conservation, public amenity and tourism sites and underpins the objectives of Project 2040.

The investment in our National Parks will create memorable and meaningful experiences of Ireland’s landscapes, wildlife and culture. This will be done though sensitive design and the development of authentic experiences, providing better access to nature and an increased understanding of society’s conservation responsibilities, as well as supporting significant investment in recreational facilities including upgrading and development of the trails network, increased visitor facilities and improved signage and branding. These will be designed and delivered with a strong emphasis on conservation and allow us protect and preserve our most fragile environments and investing in our culture, language & heritage provide a well-being benefit for all.

In this regard, a provision of some €5million in funding, for 32 individual projects across the network of NPWS sites, was announced earlier this year as part of the Rural Regeneration Development Fund. Therefore, while I have no plans to expand the Park network at present, my Department is actively ensuring the preservation, protection and presentation of the assets we already own.

City of Culture Initiative

Questions (49)

Hildegarde Naughton

Question:

49. Deputy Hildegarde Naughton asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the status of progress in respect of Galway 2020; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [45443/19]

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Written answers (Question to Culture)

I was delighted to officiate at the launch of the Galway 2020 cultural programme on 18 September last. It was wonderful to see Eyre Square come to life with the large crowd in attendance and the breath-taking performance by composer and musician Anna Mullarkey and the French aerialists Gratte Ciella.

As the Deputy is aware, the cultural programme that was launched that evening is arranged according to the old Celtic calendar with over 1900 events spread over the course of the year, starting with the opening ceremony in the first week of February, which will travel over six days from towns across the county to culminate in the city on 8 February.

Following the recent third and final review by the EU Expert Monitoring Panel, Galway 2020 was also recommended for the prestigious Melina Mercouri Prize of €1.5 million. The EU Commission will make an announcement on the award of the Prize early next year.

Under the terms of the Performance Delivery Agreement between my Department and Galway 2020, a quarterly financial and management report is received in advance of a formal monitoring meeting between the Department and senior management in Galway 2020. All aspects of Galway 2020 European Capital of Culture are discussed at both the monitoring meetings and in regular communication that takes place between my Department and Galway 2020.

At the most recent meeting in September, my Department was advised that the cultural projects are proceeding according to target; the major sponsorship drive is continuing with over the 500 companies contacted and over 130 meetings held; the monitoring and evaluation programme is in place; the volunteer programme is gathering pace; and a sub-committee of the Board has been convened to address the legacy of Galway 2020.

As we are now a little over 100 days out from the Opening Ceremony for Galway 2020, I am looking forward to a truly memorable, once in a lifetime year for all concerned.

City of Culture Initiative

Questions (50)

Catherine Connolly

Question:

50. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht further to Parliamentary Question No. 62 of 16 January 2019, the breakdown of sponsorship raised by Galway 2020 to date; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [45408/19]

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Written answers (Question to Culture)

Galway 2020 commenced the rollout of a largescale fundraising drive earlier this year with leading cultural production company, Artichoke, working with Galway 2020 to secure fundraising and sponsorship income in support of the European Capital of Culture project. Since their appointment, contact has been made with over 500 companies and over 130 meetings have been held. Recent additional appointments have been made to the fundraising team to further support the fundraising drive.

To date, over €1.7m has been secured in sponsorship. This includes both cash and in-kind support.

Notable amongst these was the announcement on 31 July last that Galway 2020 had entered into a significant corporate partnership with Medtronic. The partnership sees Medtronic become the official Health Partner of Galway 2020 and sponsor of the Wave Maker volunteer programme and the Wave Maker Health Hub, the first of its kind for a European Capital of Culture.

In addition to this, the current value of the fundraising and partnerships pipeline is €3.2m – this includes a combination of commercial as well as trusts and foundations, comprising funds proposals submitted and further partnerships that are under consideration.

Galway 2020’s fundraising team continues to engage with local, national and international businesses very positively and effectively, following up on pledges of support made as well as contacting new businesses, to determine their interest and capacity to support. As is normal for projects of this scale, it is envisaged that the fundraising drive will continue into and during 2020, with funding realised throughout the entire duration of the project.

The process to negotiate and agree packages with fundraising partners continues to take time to finalise for each individual business, however the overall feedback from partners is positive and there is great interest from the business community in getting involved. A series of cultivation and stewardship events have been held in Galway and these will continue to be organised in support of the Galway 2020 project in the coming months.