Other Questions

National Archives

Michael Creed


6. Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht in view of the recent change in legislation in the United Kingdom relating to the transfer of Government records to the National Archives and specifically a change to the twenty year rule; the plans he has to amend Irish legislation regarding same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7488/14]

We have a long and sometimes troubled shared history with our nearest neighbour, the United Kingdom, and it is important that we get our view across in respect of that shared history. As a consequence of the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010 which commenced in January 2013, the British authorities are accelerating the release of public documents, with the 30 year rule being reduced to 20 years. If we do not move simultaneously, there is a danger that our perspective on shared events will not be in the public domain and, therefore, opinions will be formed on events in our recent history while we wait ten years to catch up. A legislative change is required to rectify this.

Recent legislative changes in the United Kingdom provided new arrangements for public access to the archival records of government after 20 years, not 30 years, as had previously been the case. In Ireland the National Archives Act, 1986 provides for the preservation of official Government records, their transfer to the National Archives and release to the public. When enacted, provision for public access was similar to the arrangement in the United Kingdom, that is, records became eligible for release when 30 years old, subject to certain exemptions.

The new 20 year access rule in the United Kingdom is to be implemented over a ten year period, which commenced in 2013. When the 1983 official records of the Irish Government were released in January 2014, the UK National Archives and the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland had released the 1983 and 1984 official records together. Both bodies will release further records in this manner over a ten year period until such time as all records that are 20 years old or more will be accessible to the public.

I recently established an interdepartmental group to consider the current status of the National Archives Act and the implications of moving to a 20 year access rule. The group comprises officials from my Department, the Department of the Taoiseach, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Department of Justice and Equality, the National Archives, the Office of the Attorney General and the Office of the President. The group has met on a number of occasions and is expected to submit its recommendations in the coming weeks, following which I anticipate bringing a memorandum to the Government for consideration.

I thank the Minister for his outline of the position and the dangers that are imminent if we do not implement change. While I welcome the establishment of the working group, it seems a little unwieldy. This is a no brainer, requiring only a simple amendment to the National Archives Act, 1986. The longer we prevaricate and as Britain accelerates its programme of release of public documents under the new 20 year rule - there will initially be a transition period - the more historical interpretation of events will be skewed by the fact that its voice is heard but ours is not. We need to catch up. As I said, all that is required is a simple amendment. I will draft it if that would be helpful to the Minister. It is vital that we have a timescale for implementation of the necessary change. My preference is that it would be published and passed before the end of this Dáil term. It would not tax the Attorney General greatly to devise a minor amendment to the 1986 Act. I implore the Minister to act in view of the shared and troubled history between our two countries. As Britain begins releasing papers on the early formative years of the peace process, we need to ensure our perspective on these events is known.

I agree that we are talking about very important information and a very sensitive period in the context of the Northern Ireland conflict. The longer time lag in this country is rather unfair on historians and researchers. Moreover, as the Deputy says, it means that only one view of what was happening back then will be in the public domain. It may well be the case that the Governments of both countries often had the same point of view, but, equally, there may well have been differences in other instances. It is very important that these differences are made known.

I have asked the working group to produce its report in a timely fashion, which will include an examination of a possible amendment to the legislation. The group is taking its task very seriously and I hope to have its recommendations before too long. If it is the case that a simple amendment is all that is required, I am sure it will be possible to assign a draftsman to devise it.

Can I take it that the Minister agrees that there is a need to move in line with what is happening in the United Kingdom? If so, can I take his response as a promise that legislation will be forthcoming?

Of course. This is an issue we are already pursuing with the intention of changing the legislation. I give the Deputy an assurance that it will be pursued very seriously.

Some 70,000 boxes of records in the National Archives have not been catalogued. If the Minister proceeds to implement the change Deputy Michael Creed has proposed which would be very welcome, will he also ensure the resources are provided to make all of the records physically available?

I am aware that the Deputy has a personal interest in this matter and a deep knowledge of the archival challenge. We will take her point on board in so far as it is possible.

Special Protection Areas Designation

Patrick O'Donovan


7. Deputy Patrick O'Donovan asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the number of landowners nationally whose land is designated for hen harrier protection; his plans to extend the compensation schemes currently administered by his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10557/14]

My question relates to the designation of lands in different parts of the country, particularly in my own area in west Limerick, for the protection of hen harrier habitats. I am concerned about the compensation arrangements available to some but not all landowners. Where lands are designated for habit protection, thereby limiting their use from an agricultural point of view, but no compensation is forthcoming, the landowners in question are in limbo.

My Department uses a variety of data sources to identify landowners and land users within areas proposed for designation, including the Property Registration Authority, the land parcel identification system used by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and information on forestry lands. When advertising six hen harrier special protection areas in November 2007, my Department identified approximately 4,000 individual land users within these SPAs. In order to include others who may also have had an interest in sites, a total of 4,439 notifications of designation were issued. It should be noted that not all these land users are landowners.

At the time of designation, my Department opened a voluntary incentivisation scheme to support farmers to improve habitat for the hen harrier and various other species that shared the same landscape. Applications were sought and a total of 376 hen harrier farm plans were approved until 2010, when the scheme had to be closed to new applicants owing to budgetary constraints. My Department continues to honour existing contracts, which were of five year duration.

My Department is in discussions with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine concerning a range of measures for the protection or restoration of biodiversity under Ireland's next rural development plan. These include measures focused on Natura areas, that is, areas designated as special protection areas under the birds directive or special conservation areas under the habitats directive. It is envisaged that this approach will be implemented primarily through the proposed green low carbon agri-environment scheme, GLAS, under the new rural development programme. The draft programme is subject to a public consultation process, as announced by the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

Of the 4,439 landowners whose lands have been designated for this purpose, fewer than 10% are in receipt of compensation, which is remarkable. In my own area land that is suitable for agricultural use - forestry, in particular - is, essentially, rendered valueless. When Deputy Michael Creed and I met officials from the Minister's Department and the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine some time ago to discuss this issue, we were told that a threat response plan was being initiated by both Departments to ascertain whether the designations would continue in their current form or be reduced in line, for example, with what had been done with the bogs. Has the Minister's Department sought legal advice on the scheme as it currently operates? The people I represent who are outside the scheme are asking me on a weekly basis what is happening with their land and whether they will ever be in a position to farm it. If not, will they at least be compensated for the use to which it is being put?

Deputy Patrick O'Donovan's intervention is timely as my Department is in discussions with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine under the rural development programme to see how best to compensate farmers who are in Natura areas. The points the Deputy has raised are very important. Some 300 farmers were on farm plans to provide proper feeding grounds for the hen harrier but not all farmers in the special protection areas that were designated for hen harriers were involved. The scheme closed due to the financial constraints in 2010 and was not reopened but we are honouring the commitments in respect of those who were in the scheme at the end of that five year programme. We are now discussing how to approach the compensation issue in the next scheme whether it should be funded by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine or my Department. I feel it should be funded directly from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

I thank the Minister. I will allow him back in.

I thank the Minister. As the Minister is probably aware, some were not involved because there was an appeals period when many landowners were in the process of trying to get out of the designation and then the door to compensation closed so they were left in the worst of both worlds. I welcome the discussions taking place with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, but can the Minister give the House a timeframe by which a plan will be put in place? Will he examine the scientific evidence on which the designations are based at present? It is questionable that, say, Patrick O'Donovan's farm is in, Michael Creed's farm is out, Bernard Durkan's farm is in. I know the flight paths of birds but I never thought they avoided ditches and particular gates as they flew over. That is a reason for much of the frustration.

Lest there be any confusion, I have no vested interest or land in the Mullaghareirk or Boggeragh district electoral divisions.

This issue is a stain on the Minister's Department and on the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine. They are a relatively small number of farmers but they have rights. They are landowners and their rights are being infringed. Deputy O'Donovan asked a pertinent question in respect of legal opinion. They are locked out of a compensation system that others are getting. That is the important issue.

In the context of a threat response plan, to which Deputy O'Donovan referred, we met officials from the Minister's Department and the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine almost 12 months ago. How many meetings of the various parties have taken place in drafting that threat response plan because it is multifaceted? It is a complex issue but the simple net point is that there are farmers who are being discriminated against.

The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Deputy Simon Coveney, and I have been engaged at a personal and ministerial level on this issue for the past two years. I am concerned that people who live in designated areas should be properly compensated. Compensation should accompany designation and I have emphasised that aspect at national and European level. There is an opportunity to deal with the issue through the rural development programme and we must not miss out on it to ensure that those people who are restricted in farming practices, who cannot plant trees and who may have to destock in some cases, are adequately compensated. The discussions are taking place. As Deputies are aware the RDP proposal is out for consultation at this time. It is important those people who are interested in this area would forward their own submissions. As the Deputy is aware SACs and SPAs are designated by European law. Therefore a change in designation is quite complex.

It is not without precedent.

Question No. 8 is next but the Deputy is not present.

Questions Nos. 8, 17, 20 and 139 replied to with Written Answers.

Question No. 9 is next but the Deputy is not present.

Questions Nos. 9 and 165 replied to with Written Answers.

Waterways Ireland Remit

Martin Heydon


10. Deputy Martin Heydon asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if he will provide an update on the review to the draft canal by-laws to incorporate the recently completed public consultation process; the number of submissions received; the way the concerns raised will be addressed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10727/14]

Anthony Lawlor


11. Deputy Anthony Lawlor asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if he will provide an update on the review to the draft canal by-laws taking into account that the public submission process was recently closed; the number of submissions that were received; when he expects the review to be completed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10741/14]

Bernard Durkan


28. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if he has studied the submission received from traditional canal dwellers and recreational users of the canals encompassing their strong objection to proposals to increase dramatically and prohibitively the charges for use of the canals to such an extent as to make it virtually impossible for them to afford to use the canal system for residential or navigational purposes; if his attention has been drawn to their general acceptance of the concept of regulation but in a structure within which they can continue as per their tradition; if he will arrange to meet with a representative delegation from the group at an early date to discuss the issue having particular regard to the fact that in large measure restoration of the canal system was undertaken by local community and voluntary effort; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10696/14]

Bernard Durkan


163. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if he has studied the submission from the traditional canal users and canal dwellers in County Kildare with particular reference to the likely punitive impact of the proposed new by-laws on them; if he expects to be in position to meet with representatives of the group at an early date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11479/14]

Bernard Durkan


164. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if his attention has been drawn to the likely dramatic increase in the fees chargeable by Waterways Ireland to canal users and canal dwellers under the proposed new by-laws with particular reference to the fact that moorings of a shorter long-term nature may no longer be feasible for those using the canals; if he will intervene in order to ensure that the by-laws as now proposed are not implemented; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11480/14]

I welcome the Minister. Deputy Martin Heydon and Deputy Bernard J. Durkan have met boat dwellers on the canals. We are anxious to get a resolution to the issue. The proposals as put forward by Waterways Ireland were not acceptable from a financial point of view and from the perspective of the boat dwellers staying in situ. They were not suitable at all. I hope the Minister will come forward with proposals that will be acceptable to all sides.

I propose to take Questions Nos. 10, 11, 28, 163 and 164 together.

Sorry, Minister, we have a problem here that has to go before the Committee on Procedure and Privileges. Many of the Deputies whose questions are tabled are not present and, therefore, they cannot be taken. Only Deputies who are present in the Chamber can take the question because it affects the time allocated for the questions and it is unfair to other Deputies. Deputy Martin Heydon has just arrived and Deputy Kevin Humphreys.

There are three questions in my name.

Did Deputy Kevin Humphreys have a previous question?

My Question No. 17 was grouped with Question No. 8.

May we go back to Question No. 8?

No, sorry. Only one person has the 30 seconds to introduce the question. I invite the Minister to proceed.

The public consultation undertaken by Waterways Ireland on the proposed by-laws governing the Grand Canal, the Royal Canal and the Barrow system concluded on 3 February, in line with the relevant legislation which provides for a 21-day consultation period. I am informed by Waterways Ireland that the main stakeholders were contacted individually and invited to meet with the chief executive and the senior management team of Waterways Ireland prior to submitting their views. I am also advised that all current permit holders on the three waterways, including traditional canal users and canal dwellers in County Kildare, received individual written notice and were given the opportunity to respond within the statutory consultation timeframe on an individual basis.

I understand that more than 2,000 submissions were made in the course of the public consultation process, all of which were submitted directly to Waterways Ireland as the body responsible for conducting the consultation process. Waterways Ireland is now giving full and careful consideration to all of these submissions, following which it will prepare a report setting out its proposed approach, including any revisions it may wish to make to its original proposals. The report will be submitted to my Department and will then be referred to me, with recommendations for consideration and final decision. I have not set a deadline for the completion of this process in order to ensure that the issues raised in submissions are fully considered.

I welcome the assertion of Deputy Durkan that there is general acceptance of the concept of regulation of the use of canals. The proposed new by-laws provide for the management of house boats, extended moorings and residential moorings. An annual houseboat mooring permit will be required for a houseboat not navigating or continuously cruising the canals. The permit will allow the use of a mooring identified by Waterways Ireland on the canals where the houseboat may moor for more than five days and up to one year. The proposed by-laws will also modernise the charging regime which has remained unchanged for almost a quarter of a century.

The proposed by-laws are intended to support the investment already made by Waterways Ireland in new infrastructure and facilities along the Grand and Royal Canals and the Barrow system. They will enable Waterways Ireland to develop the canals as a vibrant recreational and tourist amenity for all waterway users, including those who use the canals for residential purposes, and will help create and develop the canals into a waterways system that is modern and fit for purpose.

The final consultation report will be made available on the Waterways Ireland website. Also, as I indicated during a debate in Seanad Éireann on Wednesday, 26 February 2014, I will afford interested Deputies and Senators an opportunity to discuss the proposals with me prior to making a final decision on the new by-laws.

I welcome the Minister's response. It is noteworthy that there were more than 2,000 submissions. I gather that most of those people have attended a number of meetings in my constituency where there are two canals and the Barrow system. Whether the bulk of the submissions are in favour of an increase in the rate or in favour of some of the proposed regulations, the scale of what is being proposed is making the boat dwellers and users of the canals very nervous. I welcome the fact that the Minister will have further discussions when the recommendations have been forwarded to him by Waterways Ireland. I look forward to discussing the issue further with the Minister at that time.

I am aware Deputy Anthony Lawlor has a personal interest in this matter and has raised it with me on a number of occasions.

As promised, I will come back to the Deputies and Senators who have expressed an interest before I make a final decision. Eventually, I will get the proposals from Waterways Ireland and my Department. I will discuss the sensitivities involved and the effect this will have on canal users.

Based on the Minister's comprehensive reply, the proposed charges will result in a €1,000 or €1,500 increase. The canal restoration that has taken place over the past 50 years was largely done through voluntary effort. While Waterways Ireland has an involvement in upgrading the canals, and it has a responsibility that we all respect, cognisance should be taken of the huge voluntary effort in the restoration of the canals. It would be grossly unfair to penalise people who, having made a voluntary effort, are now using the canals for leisure and residential purposes. Perhaps the Minister can take particular interest in ensuring charges are reduced to something manageable.

The concerns expressed by Deputy Durkan are expressed in the submissions made to Waterways Ireland. Hopefully, what will be proposed will take into account concerns expressed by Deputies on all sides. Before I reach a final decision, I will consult with Deputies on all sides to ensure that what is proposed is reasonable and workable. It must also capitalise on the major investment made by Waterways Ireland in our canal system of 1,000 km. Waterways Ireland is a vibrant cross-Border body. It is one of the benefits of the Good Friday Agreement and it really works. It has proven itself from a tourist point of view. Many of the canals go through isolated rural areas and it brings life into those areas. We should try to facilitate that investment through proper but reasonable regulation.

I am happy with the Minister's response.

I relayed a copy of the submissions to the Minister and my colleagues have done likewise. Has the Minister studied the submissions with a view to meeting a delegation of representative groups before any decision is made?

Waterways Ireland is receiving submissions and I have received copies of some of them. There is a common trend going through the submissions. Waterways Ireland deals with people out there and the commitment I am giving is that I will talk to Deputies and Senators from all parties who are interested in the topic. I cannot reopen the consultative process by meeting different groups. That is the business and responsibility of Waterways Ireland. As promised, I will meet Deputies and Senators.

I thank the Minister for the commitment to come back and talk to us about this. I also welcome the fact that Waterways Ireland is committed to further developing our inland waterways. Those in County Kildare know the importance of the River Barrow, the River Liffey, the Grand Canal and the Royal Canal. I welcome the fact that the current proposals include proper concessions for tourists who use waterways. It is intolerable that indigenous users of the waterways will be penalised in the way Waterways Ireland proposes. The structure and the scale of the fee increases envisaged will render the whole project untenable. Indigenous users will be taken off the waterways. It is not the objective of the Minister, nor is it the objective of Members. We must do something about it quickly.

I am aware that a number of people reside on canals and use them as a home. It is a very important consideration and we do not want to push the fee to a level at which it is no longer economical to reside on the canals. That must be taken into consideration. I take the points raised on board.

Scéimeanna Teanga

Michael P. Kitt


12. D'fhiafraigh Deputy Michael P. Kitt den Aire Ealaíon, Oidhreachta agus Gaeltachta cén dul chun cinn atá déanta maidir leis na scéimeanna Teanga faoi Acht na dTeangacha Oifigiúla; agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina thaobh. [10694/14]

Baineann an cheist seo leis na scéimeanna teanga agus cén dul chun cinn atá déanta maidir leo. Tá imní ar a lán daoine go dtógfaidh sé tamall fada chun na scéimeanna teanga a shocrú. Bhí sé seo soiléir ag cruinniú a bhí againn leis an iar-Choimisinéir Teanga. An cheist atá agam mar sin ná, cén dul chun cinn atá déanta leis na scéimeanna teanga.

Tá próiseas leanúnach ar bun ag oifigigh mo Roinne chun scéimeanna teanga a dhaingniú leis an iliomad comhlacht poiblí a thagann faoi scáth Acht na dTeangacha Oifigiúla 2003. Ón eolas is déanaí atá ar fáil do mo Roinnse, tá 155 scéim teanga san iomlán daingnithe le comhlachtaí poiblí éagsúla, ón uair gur tháinig an tAcht i bhfeidhm, ar a n-áirítear céad, dara agus tríú scéimeanna. Ag tógáil san áireamh athruithe atá tagtha chun cinn mar thoradh ar scor nó ar athstruchtúrú comhlachtaí poiblí éagsúla le tamall anuas, ar a n-áirítear na boird oideachais agus oiliúna nuabhunaithe, tá 185 comhlacht poiblí san iomlán clúdaithe faoi na scéimeanna teanga i láthair na huaire. Ina theannta sin, tá plé gníomhach ar siúl le tuairim is 120 comhlacht poiblí faoi láthair chun scéimeanna teanga a aontú leo.

Ní miste a nótáil go bhfanann scéim teanga i bhfeidhm, faoi réir alt 14(3) den Acht Teanga, ar feadh trí bliana ón dáta a dhaingnítear í, nó go dtí go ndaingnítear scéim nua, cibé acu is moille. Tá sé aitheanta go bhfuil an próiseas chun scéimeanna teanga a aontú dúshlánach, go háirithe sa chomhthéacs reatha ina bhfuil brú mór ar acmhainní. Tá céimeanna éagsúla á mbeartú chun an próiseas aontaithe scéimeanna a éascú, go háirithe i gcomhthéacs na leasuithe reachtúla atá beartaithe ar an Acht Teanga.

Ón uair gur tháinig córas na scéimeanna i bhfeidhm faoin Acht Teanga, tá sé tábhachtach a aithint go bhfuil feabhas tagtha ar líon agus ar chaighdeán na seirbhísí Stáit a chuireann comhlachtaí poiblí ar fáil i nGaeilge. Aithníodh ón tús gur próiseas forchéimnitheach a bheadh i gceist le feidhmiú an Achta, ag tógáil céimeanna de réir a chéile le comhoibriú agus le dea-thoil na bpáirtithe leasmhara éagsúla. Sa chomhthéacs seo, tá bearta dearfacha á dtógáil ag an Rialtas chun feabhas a chur ar na seirbhísí i nGaeilge atá ar fáil ón Státchóras. I measc na mbeart sin, áirím na céimeanna atá idir lámha chun cur le líon na n-oifigeach sa Státseirbhís atá inniúil ar an nGaeilge.

Mar is eol don Aire Stáit, creideann Conradh na Gaeilge go mbeadh sé scannalach dá síneofaí an tréimhse trí bliana do scéimeanna teanga go seacht mbliana. Deir an Conradh go bhfuil na scéimeanna lag ón tús, ach deir an Rialtas go n-éireoidh siad níos láidre gach trí bliana. Deirtear freisin go bhfuil moltaí sa dréacht straitéis don Bhille go síneofaí an tréimhse go seacht mbliana, rud a ligfeadh do na Ranna éagsúla a ndualgais a sheachaint. B'fhearr i bhfad fáil réidh leis na scéimeanna agus córas nua a fhorbairt - córas le caighdeán bunaithe ar rialacháin reachtúla, cosúil leis na rialacháin a d'éirigh as Acht na dTeangacha Oifigiúla 2003 nó an córas caighdeán atá bunaithe acu sa Bhreatain Bheag. Céard é tuairim an Aire Stáit faoin méid atá ráite ag Conradh na Gaeilge?

Mar atá léirithe ag an Teachta, tá imní ar Chonradh na Gaeilge nach bhfuil níos mó scéimeanna teanga aontaithe ag an bpointe seo. Tá 185 comhlacht poiblí clúdaithe anois ag scéimeanna teanga agus tá comhráite ar siúl idir mo Roinn agus oifigigh na Roinne atá ag déileáil le scéimeanna teanga le 120 comhlacht eile, agus tá dul chun cinn á dhéanamh.

Má éiríonn leis na scéimeanna sin, beidh breis agus 300 comhlacht clúdaithe. Tá sin idir lámha i láthair na huaire. Deir Conradh na Gaeilge gurbh fhearr dúinn, b'fhéidir, in ionad scéimeanna teanga cur chuige eile a bheith againn. Ar ndóigh, táimid ag breathnú ar na féidearthachtaí sin san athbhreithniú atá á dhéanamh ar an Acht Teanga. Mar a dúirt mé, tá céimeanna éagsúla á mbeartú chun an próiseas aontaithe scéimeanna a éascú, go háirithe i gcomhthéacs na leasuithe reachtúla atá beartaithe san Acht Teanga. B'fhéidir go bhfuil dóigh níos fearr, níos tapúla agus níos éifeachtaí len é a dhéanamh, ach táimid ag obair go crua ar scéimeanna teanga faoi fhorálacha an Achta mar atá sé i láthair na huaire.

An bhfuil buiséad ann do na scéimeanna seo? Má tá, cé mhéad airgid atá i gceist?

Tá aontú na scéimeanna mar thoradh ar na comhráite a bhíonn ar siúl idir oifigigh na Roinne agus na comhlachtaí iad féin. Mar a dúirt mé inné, tá foireann iomlán bhreise san Roinn a bhfuil cúraimí scéimeanna teanga uirthi. Tá mé iontach dóchasach, mar go bhfuil foireann ansin ag déileáil go huile agus go hiomlán le haontú scéimeanna teanga, go rachaidh seo ar aghaidh níos tapúla ná mar a bhí go dtí seo. Tá foireann bhreise againn agus, ar ndóigh, ciallaíonn sé sin go bhfuil acmhainní breise ag dul isteach. Ní shílim gur sin an deacracht ná go bhfuil aon deacracht le sin.

Tá airgead ann dó na scéimeanna sin nó chun na daoine ag obair orthu a íoc, an bhfuil?

Tá an t-airgead ann chun iad a íoc agus táimid i ndiaidh daoine breise a chur isteach ag déileáil le scéimeanna teanga.

Commemorative Events

Martin Heydon


13. Deputy Martin Heydon asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht his plans to commemorate the exploits of Ernest Shackleton in view of the fact that 2014 is the 100th anniversary of the launch of the Endurance expedition in 1914; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10728/14]

Anthony Lawlor


27. Deputy Anthony Lawlor asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht his plans to commemorate the exploits of Ernest Shackleton during 2014 as it is the 100th anniversary of the launch of the Endurance expedition; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10742/14]

In light of its being the 100th anniversary of the launch of the Endurance expedition by Ernest Shackleton in 1914, I would like the Minister to outline his and his officials' plans to mark this very significant event. From his recent visit to Athy, the Minister will know about the close link between Ernest Shackleton and south Kildare. There is great interest in the region in determining how we can mark this great milestone appropriately.

I propose to take Questions Nos. 13 and 27 together.

The increasing interest being shown in the heroic activities of Irish-born Ernest Shackleton and his companions in this centenary year of the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition, 1914–1917, is a welcome development. In these days of easy travel and general convenience, it is almost impossible for us to imagine the challenges and discomfort suffered by explorers on polar explorations, including several Irishmen, and to appreciate their heroic achievements. Following on the loss of the expedition ship Endurance, which was trapped in the ice from January 1915 until it was finally crushed in November 1915, the 800-mile journey of Shackleton, Worsley, Crean, Vincent, McCarthy and McNish from Elephant Island to South Georgia in April 1916 has become renowned as a truly amazing achievement. Across the years, it testifies to the fortitude of the group and their heroic resilience, seamanship and survival skills.

I am pleased to note the various projects in development in Ireland and abroad to mark the centenary of this historic expedition. Against the background of the First World War and the Irish revolution, it offers insight into a bygone age. Keeping tightly to the historic timeline, the commemorative programme will feature this expedition from its outset to its conclusion. I will continue to monitor the programme.

I have a particular interest in Shackleton because of Tom Crean. Recognition must be given to the wonderful one-man show about Tom Crean by Aidan Dooley, which has now enjoyed over 800 performances and has been seen by almost 400,000 people. If one wants a real sense of the challenge involved in the expedition, one should go to this show the next time it is in one's town.

I thank the Minister for the response. I wish to refer to a number of points and the tying in of the event to a First World War commemoration. The tale of the Endurance and of Shackleton's expedition is one of survival against the destruction of war. The Minister mentioned some proposed projects. It is proposed to have a concert in the National Concert Hall in early October. It would be very fitting and it would chart the story of Shackleton and the Endurance. It would be a perfect national commemoration of the event. It is very fitting that it would be in the National Concert Hall because Shackleton gave a talk in the building in 1909. There is a plaque in the lobby to mark the occasion.

I ask that the Minister engage with the promoters of the project to determine what support could be given to it from the State, and to see it as a national commemoration.

That is a very good proposal and I would be just delighted to speak to the Deputy and the staff of the National Concert Hall about it so as to be facilitating in every way possible.

There are a number of young students in the Visitors Gallery and they are fascinated with this story. It is important that we reach out to the education and culture sectors in general to recognise the achievements.

I understand where the Minister is coming from as Tom Crean was from his own area in Kerry. However, Kildare is trying to develop its tourism industry. Would the Minister be in favour of giving a grant to Kildare Fáilte to develop the Shackleton museum in south Kildare?

The proposal seems to be very reasonable. If the Deputy passes it on to me, I will certainly have it examined by my officials.

Is that a "Yes" or a "No"?

I will have the proposal examined but the outcome will obviously depend on resources.

Turf Cutting Compensation Scheme Data

Luke 'Ming' Flanagan


14. Deputy Luke 'Ming' Flanagan asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the number of turf cutters on special area of conservation bogs who have signed the final agreement with his Department on relocation/compensation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10743/14]

How many people have signed up to the final agreement on compensation? Perhaps the Minister will make a statement on it.

Under the cessation of turf cutting compensation scheme, three types of legal agreements have been and are being issued by my Department. The first is a final legal agreement for qualifying turf cutters who are signing up to the annual payment of €1,500, index-linked, for 15 years. The second is a relocation interim legal agreement for qualifying turf cutters who have expressed an interest in relocation but no relocation site is currently available for them. This relocation interim legal agreement provides for the payment of €1,500, index-linked, or a supply of 15 tonnes of cut turf per annum, while these applicants are awaiting relocation to non-designated bogs. The third is a relocation final legal agreement. This agreement has been issued to qualifying turf cutters where a site has been assessed as suitable for relocation and is ready, or can be made ready, for use for domestic turf cutting.

Turf cutters who sign and return the applicable legal agreement to my Department will also receive a once-off incentive payment of €500.

A total of 1,711 legal agreements have been issued and my Department is continuing to issue agreements to qualifying applicants. Applicants have been requested to return the completed legal agreements within four months of the date of issue. A total of 1,209 legal agreements have been returned to my Department thus far. The majority of legal agreements returned are final legal agreements as most of these agreements are from qualifying turf cutters who have opted to receive the annual payment under the scheme. To date, in the region of 1,050 once-off incentive payments of €500 have been made to applicants in respect of these legal agreements.

An impression is being given by the Minister to the media that the vast majority of turf cutters on the so-called special areas of conservation have given up cutting turf and signed up to his plan. The reality is that but 1,209 legal agreements out of over 9,000 have been returned by those with turbary rights and landowners in the so-called special areas of conservation.

That is not the vast majority. It is approximately 15% and the other 85% are being abandoned, not by me but by the State.

I was interested to hear an earlier reply the Minister gave on the bogs issue. He appears to think that the de-designation of some of the NHAs has not left grasslands that farmers need to use in parts that were not de-designated. The Minister said that none of them had been put in those areas. Since he said that I have received two messages. One is from a landowner in Cashel bog in Leitrim, whose house and land are in this designated area. The other is from somebody in Carricknaughton, who has acres of grassland within the area the Minister does not intend to de-designate. What the Minister said earlier is incorrect. He has now created a situation where people will have to ask permission to put cattle on their land. It appears they will also have to ask permission to open the front door of their house, because the Minister has left houses within these designations. Earlier he smiled and suggested this was not the case, but it is. I can bring the Minister to meet the people concerned.

I said there was no turf being cut on grassland. The fact is that this is rather complex. Sometimes bog was not registered in people's names and so forth, so to have 1,200 legal agreements returned to the Department is quite an achievement. Anybody who is familiar with turbary rights and bog ownership will be aware that in many cases bogs were not registered in people's names. It is complicated. When bogs were passed on either through purchase or inheritance sometimes the bog was not registered and that is a challenge for us as well as for the people who are affected. In addition, not everybody with turbary rights was an active turf cutter. It is only people who were cutting turf for the previous five years who are affected, so not everybody who owns a bog or has turbary rights on a bog will have this legal agreement applied to them.

With regard to grasslands, when these SACs were first designated, they were based on information dating back as far as the 1970s and 1980s and obviously there was some land reclamation and bog cut away. Those people are being informed now. Anybody with any connection to the NHAs in this instance is being informed, so it is much broader than the people cutting turf on them. If the Deputy has particular cases in mind, he should bring them to my attention. There is no intention to prevent anybody from carrying out their normal farming practices. I urge the Deputy to bring these cases to me and I will have them investigated.

Written Answers follow Adjournment.