Thursday, 12 December 2019

Questions (6)

Bernard Durkan


6. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the important cultural and heritage projects of 2019; the extent to which she expects these and other projects to progress in 2020; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [52084/19]

View answer

Oral answers (6 contributions) (Question to Culture)

This question seeks to identify the most prominent cultural and heritage projects of 2019.

I thank the Deputy for his question. Under Project Ireland 2040, €1.188 million in capital expenditure has been allocated to my Department. Of this, €460 million has been allocated to the redevelopment of our national cultural institutions. Progress has been made in delivery of this ambitious investment programme. Already this year my Department has supported the completion of the first phase of the redevelopment of the National Library of Ireland. The second phase will continue in 2020. In partnership with the Office of Public Works, OPW, the planning phase of the National Archives of Ireland project has also been completed. This will see the capacity of the institution increase significantly as well as meeting modern archival standards. In 2020 the tender will be awarded for the construction elements of this project.

Work is continuing with the other national cultural institutions and the Office of Public Works to progress the other projects included in the investment programme. These are currently being appraised and planned in accordance with the requirements of the public spending code. In 2019 I approved several preliminary appraisals for these projects and it is my intention to see these projects complete the business case phase in 2020.

My Department is also investing €265 million in culture and creativity. September 2019 saw the launch of a significant programme of events under our Galway 2020 European Capital of Culture programme. Another flagship project within this investment strand is the Beyond 2022 project, which I launched with An Taoiseach last week and which will see the important records of the 1922 Public Records Office digitally recreated. My Department is also delivering several regionally-focused investment schemes to enhance cultural facilities across the country.

As part of our €285 million heritage investment programme, 2019 has seen my Department support a wide range of important built heritage restoration and maintenance projects across the country under both the historic structures fund and the built heritage investment scheme. We will continue these vital supports in 2020. Just last month I announced total funding of up to €4.3 million for the coming year.

Regarding natural heritage, my Department is progressing a broad range of projects and programmes which protect our unique landscapes and enhance all our well-being through our national parks and nature reserves. This year saw a significant programme of trails upgrades across this network. We will continue and expand this programme to further enhance our visitor facilities in 2020. In line with this Government's commitment to climate action, my Department is also working towards a major expansion of our peatlands restoration programme in 2020 and beyond. We are also working with the Heritage Council, Waterways Ireland, Screen Ireland, Údarás na Gaeltachta, Fáilte Ireland and local authorities on a broad range of projects, programmes and schemes to enhance our culture and heritage.

I thank the Minister for her very comprehensive reply. By way of a supplementary question I would like to ask the extent to which she and her Department monitor the various projects with a view to maximising their impact and appeal from the points of view of tourism, education, school tours and instilling in the new generation the importance of relating to their history and heritage.

We keep a very close eye on the benefit of our projects in the culture and heritage section as well as those pertaining to Gaeltacht matters under the management of the Minister of State, Deputy Kyne. They are constantly monitored to ensure that we are providing adequate facilities, that we are ahead of our game and that we are in touch with what tourists want to see and enjoy. There have been some interesting projects in Kildare in the last several years as part of the built heritage investment scheme and the historic structures fund. Applications can be made under the new schemes for Kildare no later than 31 January in the case of the built heritage investment scheme and 14 February 2020 in the case of the historic structures fund.

I thank the Minister for the broad scale of her projects. I would like to ask if she has identified suitable projects throughout the country which might have a major beneficial impact on the local community and the nation as a whole.

I thank the Deputy. The local authorities are closely involved with the Department's work and receive funding for heritage and cultural projects which can be applied for under various schemes. We will be funding up to 500 projects under the built heritage investment scheme, which is currently open for applications through the local authorities. We are also funding heritage-led regeneration projects, which will benefit six other towns under the historic towns initiative. This will be done in collaboration with the Heritage Council. That is also currently open for applications.

Next year we will publish the new national heritage plan. We will hold a heritage forum in Dublin Castle in May 2020. We will run a public consultation process for a new national policy on architecture in early 2020 and progress the drafting of this policy by the year's end. We will also progress objectives on the climate change adaptation sectoral plan for built and archaeological heritage. It is of supreme importance that we protect what is already in situ and under our control for future generations. We will obviously support the OPW in conservation projects around our national monuments and historic properties. We will also publish two more surveys as part of the national inventory of architectural heritage, Dublin phase 15 and Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown phase 4.