Other Questions

Arts Review

Martin Ferris

Ceist:

17 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht his plans to implement the recommendations of the National Economic and Social Forum report into the arts, cultural inclusion and social cohesion in order to broaden the appeal and participation in the arts; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16485/11]

As the Deputy is aware, the report of the National Economic and Social Forum into the arts, cultural inclusion and social cohesion was published in January 2007 and was based on information collected on the situation in Ireland in the years before that date. At the time I was a member of the project team that worked on this report. It was a worthwhile document, bringing forward as it did a number of interesting and thought-provoking conclusions and recommendations.

The report presented an evaluation of the status of the sector at that time and its role in the changing and varying social and cultural landscape. It should be clearly understood that the conclusions and recommendations in the report were of their time. At that time, conditions in Ireland were very different from what they are today where human and financial resources are much scarcer than they were then. In that context, with my officials, I intend to revisit the report's findings.

In its examination, the report recognised that a significant degree of noteworthy activity was taking place in the arts sector, much of which was State-supported. It highlighted the need for the delivery of a high-level service in the arts and culture sector in a strategic, appropriate, co-ordinated and open manner. The report also set out actions to support broader participation in the arts and made recommendations on creating a more inclusive and cohesive society.

Despite the very significant reduction in resources since 2007, I am of the view that, even in the absence of a formal implementation mechanism for the report, progress was made in certain areas covered by its remit. For instance, there are now much improved numbers and levels of contacts among the network of local arts officers throughout the State, supported by the mainstream local authority structure and the Arts Council. In addition, I would point to the considerable improvements in the digital technology areas which helped to make much of our population more aware of the opportunities for participation in the arts and culture sectors. An example of this is Culturefox, an applications and mobile website funded by my Department and developed by the Arts Council. Anyone with a smartphone need only put it on, and they can see at a glance all the cultural events going on around them in their own areas.

I thank the Minister for his comprehensive reply. One of the key recommendations of the National Economic and Social Forum report, and one on which I am sure we can agree, was to develop a policy on how local groups can access and pay for the use of publicly funded arts centres and to co-ordinate public spaces being built which can be used for the arts and social inclusion. How does the Minister intend to further facilitate the use of public spaces, including NAMA buildings, for local community groups? Will he outline any such initiatives in regard to those on lower incomes which may be a Government priority?

I am glad to point out that I shared a very enjoyable evening with Deputy McLellan in Youghal last Friday. The centre there was a very good example of how such centres work very effectively and efficiently for the communities they serve. I was delighted I was able to spend some time there.

We were delighted the Minister could attend.

I thank the Deputy for the hospitality.

We want further details.

That would be telling.

It was a cultural evening, let me add. With regard to public spaces and NAMA buildings, with my officials I met representatives from NAMA, as I had promised Deputy Wallace in the House just last week that I would. While they are very open to facilitating any community initiatives, they reminded us that they manage loans, not buildings, which is a subtle difference. However, where there are communities willing to take on loans, NAMA will be very sympathetic towards this and the NAMA representatives were quite positive in that respect. I am glad the Deputy has mentioned that report because I did a great deal of work on it for over two years. I attended every meeting and made a number of the proposals in the report. I now have an opportunity to implement them. I brought in all of the local arts officers who are a valuable resource. They had never been consulted previously, yet they know more about the arts locally than anybody else. We have strong national institutions such as the Arts Council which looks after the elite in most cases, but there is also a focus at local level. It is important that everybody feels he or she is included in the arts movement. I thank the Deputy for raising the issue.

I thank the Minister.

Tax Code

Charlie McConalogue

Ceist:

18 Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the steps he will take to ensure arts and cultural venues such as cinemas, theatres and museums pass on savings to customers in the form of price reductions once the reduced rate of VAT of 9% comes into effect from the 1 July 2011 under the jobs initiative. [16610/11]

The introduction of the new temporary 9% VAT rate on certain tourism related services and goods falls within the statutory remit of my colleague, the Minister for Finance. This initiative has been introduced primarily as part of the Government's overall job creation strategy. It will apply to a variety of areas, including the hospitality and tourism sectors, and operate from 1 July 2011 to 31 December 2013. In order for the measure to be successful, it requires the reduction in VAT to be passed on to consumers through a reduction in prices in the tourism sector. With this in mind, the Minister for Finance has stated the VAT change will be kept under review and evaluated before the end of 2012 in order to determine its effectiveness in aiding the industry. If it is shown that the VAT reduction has had little or no effect in aiding the industry, the measure will be reformed or abolished.

I naturally welcome the decision relating to the reduction of the VAT rate to 9% in respect of cultural venues, including cinemas, theatres and museums. This is a recognition that the arts are a central component of our cultural tourism offering. I strongly encourage traders to deal with the savings that arise to benefit all those who wish to avail of these cultural pursuits.

I welcome the Minister's response. The VAT cut will have two effects. First, it will stimulate the creation of new jobs in the sector and, second, it will attract more tourists with prices being reduced to reflect the reduced VAT rate. How will the Minister monitor the position from 1 July? Has the Government set a target for the number of jobs that the VAT reduction will create in the hospitality sector? How will these effects be assessed? The Minister said he would assess them until the end of 2012. What will be his barometer in the context of whether he reviews, retains or abolishes the measure?

As I pointed out, the Minister for Finance will monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of the reduction. We will know whether it is being passed on by visiting a cinema and so on to ensure that is the case. If it is not passed on, the reason for introducing the measure will no longer apply. The Minister has stated it will be monitored carefully and reviewed. It is important that all operators approach the reduction in the right spirit. It is meant to increase audiences, for example, which are declining, as many would say, because of cost and will I hope increase employment opportunities. If more people attend events and the theatre, for example, more workers will be needed to service them. What is at issue is the spirit in which the change will be implemented. If it is not implemented in the spirit intended, it may not be as effective as it should be. The Minister for Finance has made a clear commitment that the measure will be monitored. The same applies to the travel tax change if it does not work. The Government is committed to its reintroduction if the change does not benefit the taxpayer.

The Minister did not outline the target for the number of jobs he hopes will be created. I have spoken to three hoteliers since the announcement was made and all of them have indicated they might not necessarily pass on the VAT reduction because they are at breaking point and looking on this measure as an opportunity to save the hotels they run a few bob, which will mean current jobs will be retained. However, the reduction will not have the desired effect in these hotels. Will the implementation of the reduction be reviewed quarterly, biannually or annually?

I am disappointed hoteliers would say that. The reduction has not yet been implemented, but if that is the spirit in which it is being taken, I am disappointed. Hoteliers and restaurateurs welcomed the reduction when it was announced in press releases by their representative organisations, but if that is the attitude that will be taken to it, it will be reviewed quickly. It is intended to drive consumer demand to get more people to use hotels. Hotel prices in Dublin and throughout the country are competitive. I acknowledge that a large number of hotels are hanging in, but this is meant to act as a stimulus. The number of additional jobs that could be generated by this initiative has not been quantified, but if there is more demand, employers will have to take on more staff to provide a service to satisfy demand. I hope the measure will have a positive effect in reducing the number on the live register and providing necessary jobs all over the country. Tourism has an impact on every part of the country, which is a positive aspect of the industry.

Departmental Staff

Robert Troy

Ceist:

19 Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the impact of the employment control framework on arts and cultural institutions. [16608/11]

Arising from the Government's commitment to restore the public finances and restructure and reorganise the public service, each Department has been directed to achieve a progressive reduction in the number of civil servants employed and in the number of public servants employed in bodies funded from their Vote groups through the implementation of an employment control framework, ECF, during the period 2010 to 2014. The achievement of payroll savings and numbers reductions is a key element of the reporting arrangements under the memorandum of understanding as part of the joint EU-IMF programme for Ireland. The memorandum of understanding requires quarterly data for the public service wage bill, the number of employees and average wage. No deviation from the overall numbers reductions targets can be permitted over the period of the programme.

The Taoiseach announced the establishment of the Department of Arts, Heritage and Gaeltacht in March, bringing together functions from the former Departments of Tourism, Culture and Sport; Community, Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs, and the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. Arising from this transfer of functions, my Department is liaising with the Department of Finance on a new ECF for the reconfigured Department and the bodies funded from its Vote group. In the meantime, I am advised that under the ECF of the former Department of Tourism, Culture and Sport in 2010, the following numbers reduction targets, to be met by the end of 2014, were set for the national arts and cultural institutions funded by my Department: a phased reduction of 86 staff to be achieved by the end of 2014 in the number of public servants employed in the national institutions, other than the National Gallery of Ireland, bringing the total numbers employed to 452; and a phased reduction of 15 staff to be achieved by the end of 2014 in the National Gallery of Ireland which has its own Vote, bringing the total numbers employed by that body to 110.

I understand the arts and cultural institutions were advised in January of the required staffing numbers reductions to be attained by the end of this year. Of the required reduction of 51 in the number of public servants employed by the arts and cultural institutions during 2011, a total of 14 was achieved by the end of March 2011.

Additional information not given on the floor of the House.

In the National Gallery, where a reduction of nine in staff is required, a reduction of three had been achieved by the same date.

The Acting Chairman is very strict on the Minister.

We need a different chairman.

I do not have the written replies so must be careful as to the clock.

I welcome the Minister's response and understand the stringent hand he must deal. I appreciate that his Department is the lowest staffed of all Departments. My main concern is for staffing levels in the various cultural institutions. At present these are at breaking point, with staffing levels in the region of 700 across all the institutions.

I reiterate that cultural tourists spend seven times more than ordinary tourists. I am concerned, therefore, about the Minister's prediction up to 2014. Does he honestly believe these institutions will be able to maintain their current service to the public and to tourists? Significant emphasis is being placed on tourism and cultural tourism in the revitalising of the economy. If the levels are at breaking point with approximately 700 staff, what will the situation be like by 2014? Will we see reduced opening hours in cultural institutions? If so, this will be counter-productive to the aims of the Minister's Government.

I must be fair to everyone.

According to the Croke Park agreement, we can reach our target and this is very much tied into the EU-IMF deal, which as the Deputy knows was put in place by his party's Government and before our time. I am in regular contact with the cultural institutions and realise they could use more staff. Nevertheless, they have not been forced to remove any services which, in fact, have improved with better technology. They have not been forced to reduce opening hours and are in discussions about increasing hours. The intern project, which was included in the jobs strategy, could be of major assistance to the cultural institutions. There are a large number of young graduates who would be delighted to have the experience of working in the cultural institutions through that scheme.

There is a way, therefore, of providing additional human resources for the various cultural institutions that would be of major value to the actual institutions, obviously, but also to the people involved because of the very important experience they would get by working in our cultural institutions. I reiterate, these institutions are free of charge to tourists which is why we see so many tourists on Kildare Street every day. The institutions are as good as one would find in any part of the world. There is an exhibition in the National Museum at present which I would recommend to anyone. We should all go to it; it is only next door. One can also go next door to the National Library and see an exhibition on Yeats that compares with any exhibition one might see in any part of the world. We should feel very privileged to have these cultural institutions right on the doorstep of this House, although at times people may not visit them.

Comhoibriú Trasteorann

Pearse Doherty

Ceist:

20 D’fhiafraigh Pearse Doherty den Aire Ealaíon, Oidhreachta agus Gaeltachta i bhfianaise feidhmeannas nua a bheith ceaptha sna sé chontae agus Aire nua sa Roinn Cultúir, Ealaíon agus Fóillíochta an bhfuil sé i gceist aige cruinniú a lorg leis an Aire nua maidir le comhoibriú trasteorann ar cheist na Gaeilge agus cúrsaí ealaíon; agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina thaobh. [16436/11]

Peadar Tóibín

Ceist:

106 D’fhiafraigh Peadar Tóibín den Aire Ealaíon, Oidhreachta agus Gaeltachta tá feidhmeannas nua ceaptha sna sé chontae agus Aire nua sa Roinn Cultúir, Ealaíon agus Fóillíochta, an bhfuil sé i gceist ag an Aire cruinniú a lorg leis an Aire nua maidir le comhoibriú trasteorann ar cheist na Gaeilge agus cúrsaí Ealaíon. [13218/11]

Tógfaidh mé Ceisteanna Uimh. 20 agus 106 le chéile.

Is féidir liom a chur in iúl don Teachta go mbeidh mé ag bualadh leis an Aire Cultúir, Ealaíon agus Fóillíochta nua ó Thuaidh, an tUasal Carál Ní Chuilín, MLA, ar an 7 Iúil 2011 in Ard Mhacha nuair a reáchtálfar cruinnithe den Chomhairle Aireachta Thuaidh-Theas i bhformáid rannach na teanga agus na n-uiscebhealaí. Ag na cruinnithe sin déanfar plé go príomha ar an obair reatha mar a bhaineann leis na forais trasteorann a thagann faoi scáth ár Ranna, is é sin, An Foras Teanga, ar a n-áirítear Foras na Gaeilge agus Gníomhaireacht na hUltaise, agus Uiscebhealaí Éireann. An méid sin ráite, tá súil agam go mbeidh seans againn plé a dhéanamh fosta ar na deiseanna nua a d'fhéadfadh bheith ann maidir le comhoibriú trasteorann sa todhchaí. Ní miste dom a lua gur chas mo chomhghleacaí, an tAire Ealaíon, Oidhreachta agus Gaeltachta, an Teachta Jimmy Deenihan, leis an Aire Ní Chuilín ag lánchruinniú na Comhairle Aireachta Thuaidh-Theas a tionóladh i Farmleigh ar 10 Meitheamh 2011.

Go raibh maith ag an Aire Stáit as an bhfreagra sin. Tá fás tagtha ar an Ghaeilge i dTuaisceart na hÉireann le blianta beaga anuas. Mar is eol don Aire Stáit, tá Aire ann a bhaineann leis an Ghaeilge anois. Tá áthas orm go mbeidh an tAire Stáit ag bualadh léi i Mí Iúil.

Tá an-chuid rudaí le déanamh i dtaobh ghaelscolaíochta agus téacsleabhair a bhaineann le gaelscoileanna. Tá daltaí i ngaelscoileanna ag léamh leabhar Béarla ag an mbomaite seo, ach tá téacsleabhair sa Tuaisceart cosúil leis na cinn atá á iarraidh sa Deisceart. Tá gá le curaclam Éireannach a chruthú don dá thaobh den tír. Níl sé ceart go bhfuil dhá chóras ag feidhmiú ar dhá thaonh den Teorann. Bheimís in ann a lán airgid a shábháil sa tír seo dá n-oibreoimís le chéile. Tá daoine i mBaile Munna ag iarraidh gaelscoil nua a bhunú agus tá Gaeltacht i mBóthar na Seoighe i mBéal Feirste. D'fhéadfaí eolas an dá cheantar sin a roinnt idir a chéile. D'fhéadfaimís an Ghaeilge a láidriú ar an dá thaobh den Teorann. Impím ar an Aire Stáit oibriú leis an Aire Cultúir, Ealaíon agus Fóillíochta, más féidir leis.

Aontaím le gach rud atá le rá ag an Teachta agus leis na tuairimí atá sé ag cur chun tosaigh. Caithfimid comhoibriú agus is maith an rud go mbeadh comhoibriú idir muidne anseo agus na húdaráis ó Thuaidh. Sin an fáth go bhfuil mé ag tnúth chomh mór sin bualadh leis an Aire úr ar 7 Iúil in Ard Mhacha, nuair a bheidh cruinniú den Chomhaire Aireachta Thuaidh-Theas ann.

Is cúis áthais dom gur chainteoir bhreá Gaeilge í an t-Aire úr a bhfuil na cúramaí seo uirthi. Is cinnte gur féidir linn comhoibriú a dhéanamh. Beidh ról cinnte ag Foras na Gaeilge san straitéis 20 bliain sa chuid eile den tír. Tá an Roinn i gceannas go hiomlán uirthi. Beidh an t-údarás i gceannas na straitéise san Ghaeltacht ach beidh ról cinnte ag Foras na Gaeilge i gcur chun cinn na straitéise ar fud na tíre seo. Is cinnte go bhfuil mise ag tnúth go mór le comhráití a bheith agam leis an Aire úr agus teacht ar dhóigheanna gur féidir linn an deis sin a thapú, más féidir liom é a chur mar sin.

Tá an-obair á dhéanamh sa Tuaisceart ag na gaelscoileanna agus tá súil agam, nuair a bheidh mé ansin, go mbeidh seans agam cuairt a thabhairt ar chúpla ceann. Thug mé cuairt ar chupla gaelscoil ansin cheana féin, an ceann i mBóthar Seoighe agus i mBaile Stíl i nDoire. Sílim gur féidir linn foghlaim uathu sin agus gur féidir leosan foghlaim uainne.

Maidir le téacsleabhair agus mar sin de, is é an teanga céanna atá i gceist agus ní fheicim aon fáth nach mbeadh comhoibriú ceart eadrainn. Is Gaeilge Uladh a bheadh sna téacsleabhair san Tuaisceart, rud a chuireann áthas ar mo chroí. Tá mé cinnte go dtuigeann an Teachta Kitt é sin. Ní dhéanfaimid dearmad ar Ghaeilge Chonnachta ach an oiread. Tá go leor gur féidir linn a dhéanamh. Tá mé ag tnúth go mór le bualadh leis an Aire úr agus dul ar aghaidh leis an straitéis.

Go raibh maith agat, a Aire.

The Minister of State is too good to be stopped.

Turbary Rights

Brian Stanley

Ceist:

21 Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if he will confirm if any raised bog obtained or will obtain favourable conservation status under the EU habitats directive to allow the continuation of turf cutting. [16486/11]

When surveyed in 2005, six of Ireland's 55 raised bog special areas of conservation, SACs, were found to be in favourable conservation status. These were generally sites where significant restoration work had been undertaken and no significant turf extraction was taking place.

Most of Ireland's 55 raised bog SACs have not reached favourable conservation status. This is as a result of a number of pressures on these sites, including drainage and turf cutting. Turf cutting, and the drainage necessary for it to take place, detract from the conservation value of these sites in two ways. First, turf extraction directly removes the habitat for which these sites are protected; namely, degraded raised bog capable of restoration. Second, the drainage associated with turf cutting has a negative impact on active raised bog — that part of the bog where peat is still forming. Drainage causes the active part of the bog to contract. The impacts of drainage can extend well into the dome of the bog, causing significant habitat loss. Ending turf cutting on these sites, along with undertaking restoration work to reverse some of the impacts of drainage, will significantly enhance the prospects of achieving favourable conservation status for these bogs. On the whole, turf cutting and the associated drainage required are incompatible with the conservation of raised bog SACs and attainment of favourable conservation status for these sites.

What criteria were applied when the levels of compensation payable to affected turf cutters were being decided on? Was appropriate consideration given to the possibility that some of those affected may be forced into fuel poverty this winter? The Minister mentioned that 55 bogs are special areas of conservation and 75 bogs are natural heritage areas. Can he tell the House where the other 40 bogs are and explain how he intends to deal with them? The report to which I refer was prepared for the EU Environment Commissioner.

The agreed level of compensation — €1,000 per annum for a maximum of 15 years — was calculated in consultation with Bord na Móna and is based on the amount of money an ordinary household would spend on the extraction of peat for fuel in advance of each winter. I understand the total cost to the Exchequer over that period will be approximately €22 million. It is a fair cost to the Exchequer. These people have to be compensated. I will clarify the rules governing eligibility for compensation. To qualify, applicants must be able to demonstrate that they have a legal interest in or over the land in question and that they were cutting turf on that land during the five years in question. The payments will be limited to one applicant per bog plot. I am aware that some people may have problems in meeting these requirements. Those who do not meet these conditions but feel they have a right to compensation should apply for the scheme and explain their situations. Such cases will be considered on an individual basis. If one's application is declined, one will have the right to appeal to the Peatlands Council, which will make recommendations to me.

Deputy McLellan is aware that this measure has been imposed on us by the EU. It is important that I clarify this. We have been threatened with huge fines. I was entrusted with this matter eight weeks ago. In that time, I have put together a Peatlands Council and tried to do something about it. Nothing had been done about this issue since 1998. If it had been addressed, we would not be in this position. We are trying to do something about it now. We have put a compensation scheme in place. We are trying to examine alternative turf extraction choices.

I thank Deputy Flanagan and all the other Deputies who have helped out in this respect. A definite effort is being made to find a solution to this problem. It is not that easy to do so.

I appreciate what the Minister has said on the question of raised bogs generally. What is the role of Bord na Móna with regard to finding alternatives to the 31 areas where turf cutting will cease? What is the position?

The case of Clara is an example of a very good solution. Bord na Móna owned a bog nearby. There is a bog interpretation centre in Clara village. People can visit that. Clara Bog itself is being preserved. An alternative has been offered to people. That allows them to engage in turf cutting in a well organised fashion. Clara is a very good example of how people can be accommodated. Rangers from the National Parks and Wildlife Service are working with people throughout the country to try to find alternative sites. People like Mr. Mike Fitzmaurice are working with departmental officials and people like Mr. Conor Skehan of the Peatlands Council to try to find alternatives. A serious effort is being made to accommodate people by finding alternative locations for turf cutting. This difficulty is shared by the Department, the recently established Peatlands Council and the Irish Turf Cutters and Contractors Association. This problem is a challenge for all of us. I hope we can find a solution by working together. It is possible for us to show Europe that we care and that we are able to protect this country's environment.

I will allow Deputy Flanagan to ask a supplementary question if he can do so in 20 seconds.

I would need about 25 hours on this issue. I want to clarify something. When one is cutting turf on a high bog, one does not drain the high bog. One would be a fool if one were to do so. It would be the equivalent of trying to make concrete without adding water to the cement and the sand. Water is needed in the high bog to make a brick or sod of turf. We need to get away from the idea that the high bogs are being drained. The drains on my bog were put there by the State, not by the turf cutters. They should be filled in.

I appreciate that Deputy Flanagan is an expert in this area. The Peatlands Council welcomes his expertise and advice as a turf cutter. He is engaging with Mr. Skehan. Most people from rural areas, including myself, have cut turf. If one comes to County Kerry for a weekend every August, one will find Éamon de Buitléar explaining how bogs are formed and should be preserved. We have been doing that for 20 years. I agree with the Deputy that there are times when scientists and turf cutters might agree on the practical application of turf cutting to bogs. There is no doubt about that. I thank the Deputy for his clarification. He might come to the festival I mentioned some time, perhaps as a guest speaker.

Irish Language

Luke 'Ming' Flanagan

Ceist:

22 Deputy Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the different methods he will employ from his predecessors in order to revive the Irish language. [13095/11]

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

115 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht his proposals for the development of the Irish language through education, broadcasting, the arts, culture and business; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12968/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 22 and 115 together.

The 20-year strategy for the Irish language lays out a comprehensive strategy for preservation and promotion of the Irish language. It encompasses a total of nine priority areas for action — education, the Gaeltacht, family transmission of the language and early intervention, administration, services and community, media and technology, dictionaries, legislation and status, economic life and cross-cutting initiatives. I have already referred to the most immediate priority for my Department and its agencies, which is the linguistic crisis in the Gaeltacht. The comprehensive linguistic study of the use of Irish in the Gaeltacht, which was carried out for my Department in 2007, indicated that if urgent remedial action is not taken, Irish may have a lifespan of just 15 or 20 years as a community and household language in the Gaeltacht. The House discussed the position in this regard in the context of an earlier question.

The Government has approved the following approaches with regard to implementation of the 20-year strategy. The Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht will retain the central overarching responsibility for Irish language affairs. Foras na Gaeilge will continue to deliver on its all-island remit as an agency of the North-South language implementation body. The implementation of the strategy outside the Gaeltacht will be the responsibility of the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, in co-operation with the relevant State partners. The possibility of the delivery of some elements of the strategy being assigned to Foras na Gaeilge on an agreed basis will be pursued. The implementation of the strategy within the Gaeltacht will be the responsibility of Údarás na Gaeltachta.

A strategy unit has been established in my Department. Officials are currently completing the drafting of one-year and three-year operational plans for implementation of the strategy. I anticipate that these plans will be published in due course. Deputies will be aware that a range of ideas in regard to the promotion of Irish were proposed on the floor of the House during a recent debate in Irish. I anticipate that further discussions will take place in this regard, including in the context of future proceedings of the newly established Joint Committee on the Environment, Transport, Culture and the Gaeltacht.

Additional information not given on the floor of the House.

I assure the House that I will seek to engage constructively on these matters in the context of promoting the implementation of the 20-year strategy.

I thank the Minister of State. First, I apologise that I cannot respond in Irish or as Gaeilge because tá náire mór orm Gaeilge a labhairt because I, like many people, am afraid that I will make an eejit of myself. That is people's main worry about speaking the Irish language.

I am not sure whether I should have directed this to the Minister for Education and Skills or to the Minister of State, Deputy McGinley. I am not sure who will really take responsibility for the future of the Irish language. Perhaps I should have directed it towards the Minister for Education and Skills because that is the main place where my children and all the neighbours' children will learn the Irish language. On a personal level, I am wondering is there anything innovative or different that can be done to avoid my kids having to go through the torture of being taught Irish the way it is currently taught. That is nothing against the teachers who are trying their best. It seems nearly impossible to catch the children's imagination. I am merely wondering is there anything different that will be done because I believe that the Irish language will be wiped out within 20 years unless we do something imaginative.

Would the Minister of State consider the idea, as I stated here on the day we had the debate on the Irish language, of a text-only-in-Irish day or maybe contact some of the companies which produce chocolate, such as Cadbury, to ask is it possible to get some wrappers in Irish?

I congratulate the Sinn Féin Deputies who, since they have come in here, along with other Deputies, have brought the Irish language back here in more of a way than I have ever seen previously.

I can actually understand some of it. It is quite hopeful.

I would be interested to hear has the Government any innovative plans.

I thank Deputy Luke ‘Ming' Flanagan. He need not be worried. His heart is in the right place. Ní fhéadfaidh sé aon náire a bheith air.

I recall his contribution to the debate on the Irish language some time ago here in the Dáil where he spoke from the heart and I remember some of the valid constructive points he made at that time. They were almost semi-autobiographical, if I can put it that way. He told of his experience of going to school and I do not think he understood "Ní thuigim". He could not buy a loaf through Irish but he was able to give a literary analysis of "An Droimeann Donn Dílis" — My Faithful Brown Cow. Is it not all there?

Certainly, we must look at other ways of passing on the language. As far as the Department of Education and Skills is concerned, there is a top-level committee of senior officials from my Department and the Department of Education and Skills looking at ways and means that we can improve the teaching of language at that level.

As the Deputy stated, perhaps more fluently than I can put it because I have not got the time either, the days of talk and chalk are no longer acceptable and we must look at new ways, means and technology. Even today, I had someone in the Department from Trinity College who had new ways and means of teaching Irish through the new technology games etc. There are huge possibilities out there and we merely must sit down to try to figure them out and exploit them for the benefit of the language to ensure it is passed on to the next generation.

I remember what Deputy Luke ‘Ming' Flanagan said. He made many relevant points. I appreciate his contribution.

Deputy Toibín, a tiny contribution or question.

Ba mhaith liom buíochas a ghabháil leis an Teachta Flanagan. Ní chóir go mbeadh náire air. Is fearr Gaeilge bhriste ná Béarla cliste. Broken Irish is sometimes better than smart English. Ba mhaith liom ceist bheag amháin a chur ar an Aire Stáit. Cé hiad na hAirí a ghlacann páirt sa choiste idir-rannach atá ag déanamh monatóireachta ar an straitéis? Cad iad na feidhmeanna atá acu? Cathain a bhíonn an coiste ag bualadh le chéile? Cén teanga ina dhéanann an coiste a chuid oibre?

Tá cuig Ranna i gceist — Roinn an Taoisigh, an Roinn Oideachais agus Scileanna, an Roinn Cumarsáide, Fuinnimh agus Acmhainní Nádúrtha, an Roinn Ealaíon, Oidhreachta agus Gaeltachta agus an Roinn Comhshaoil, Pobail agus Rialtais Áitiúil. Tá an Taoiseach ina chathaoirleach ar an gcoiste.

An mbíonn na hAirí go léir ina suí ar an gcoiste?

Muna mbíonn na hAirí ann, bíonn na hArd-Rúnaithe ann. Bhí dhá chruinniú ag an gcoiste go dtí seo. Mar a dúirt mé, sílim go mbeidh cruinnithe rialta againn as seo amach.

Bíonn na cruinnithe dátheangach — i nGaeilge agus i mBéarla — mar atá an díospóireacht anseo inniu.

Written Answers follow Adjournment Debate.