Ceisteanna ar Sonraíodh Uain Dóibh - Priority Questions

Arts Funding

Niamh Smyth


60. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the roadmap to meet the commitment to double expenditure on the arts and culture in the next six years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39968/18]

Will the Minister give us her roadmap to meet the commitment to double expenditure on the arts and culture in the next six years and make a statement on the matter?

I greatly welcome the commitment given by the Taoiseach to increase Government spending in the next seven years in the arts and culture sector on a trajectory that will see funding doubled by 2025. My Department and I continue to work rigorously with the Taoiseach and all of my Government colleagues towards delivering on this commitment.

A first and significant step in the delivery process has been Project Ireland 2040 which gives explicit recognition to the importance of our culture, language and heritage to our sustainable development in the next decade and beyond. This recognition is underpinned by the unprecedented commitment made by the Government to invest €1.2 billion in our culture, language and heritage in the ten-year implementation period of the national development plan. In April I was delighted to launch my Department's sectoral plan, Investing in Our Culture, Language and Heritage 2018 to 2027. The plan sets out significant investment on a phased basis in the next ten years, prioritised across three areas, namely, €785 million for culture, €295 million for heritage and €178 million for our language. This level of investment will transform cultural and heritage infrastructure across the country. It will go a long way towards honouring the commitment to double the Government’s spending on the arts, culture and heritage.

On current funding, allocations fall to be determined annually as part of the Estimates process. In 2018 total current funding for my Department increased by €11.5 million, or just under 5%, to €248.659 million, including an additional €2.8 million for the Arts Council, an additional €1.7 million across all of the national cultural institutions, just under €1 million in additional funding for the heritage programme and an extra €1.4 million for the 20-year strategy for the Irish language. The cumulative impact of these funding increases is further testament to the commitment to double Government spending in the arts, culture and heritage sector. The Estimates for 2019 are due to be presented on 9 October. I can assure the Deputy of my ongoing commitment to achieve the best possible result for the arts and culture sector within the parameters set out in the summer economic statement and mid-year expenditure report published by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.

I am sure the Minister is familiar with and has met the National Campaign for the Arts. I had the pleasure of hosting the group in Leinster House to make a presentation on its pre-budget submission. As an umbrella organisation which represents the arts across the country, it is concerned about how the roadmap has been set out by the Government and the stated objective of doubling the investment. Doubling the investment is a commitment and a real promise which artists took with all sincerity. However, the National Campaign for the Arts is concerned that there might be a dilution of the commitment by combining capital and current expenditure. While the announcement on capital investment through Project Ireland 2040 is welcome, there is no point in having stages without actors, galleries without art or exhibition spaces without exhibits. Will the Minister make a firm commitment to double expenditure on arts through current expenditure in the next seven years?

I am doing all I can to achieve the best possible result with the Minister for Finance and Public Expenditure and Reform. Funding is allocated on a yearly basis. Current expenditure in 2017 was €237 million, which went up to €249 million in 2018, an increase of 5%. Capital expenditure in 2017 was €51 million, which went up to €54 million in 2018, an increase of 5.8%.

It is important to recognise the work of the Arts Council. Work is also done by the cultural institutions, including by the National Library of Ireland and other project developments under the national development plan. We also want to support the endeavours of Creative Ireland in enabling the creative potential of each child, in enabling cultural creativity in every community, in investing in cultural infrastructure, as well as in having Ireland as a centre of excellence for media production and unifying its global reputation in that regard. We have seen a steady increase during the years and I will do everything I can to assist.

That is comforting. The doubling of current expenditure is where it is at for artists and the National Campaign for the Arts. The Minister alluded to the Arts Council which we know plays a pivotal role in delivering funding to artists. There is a good working relationship between artists and the Arts Council. That autonomy and the arm's length principle the Arts Council has established and maintains with artists across the country are important. For that reason, the National Campaign for the Arts has asked that in the upcoming budget increased funding of €13.2 million be made available to the Arts Council to bring back to its spend in 2008, €82 million. It is important that we remain focused on the council. There is a good working relationship and good faith between it and artists. It is important that it be maintained and that the Government has faith to ensure the Arts Council will receive the money it needs to do its job.

I thank the Deputy for outlining the good work done by the Arts Council. The moneys my Department has given to it have increased significantly in the past few years and I will be endeavouring to obtain as much as I can this year. It is important to stress, however, that the spend in 2008 was probably unsustainable. While I am endeavouring to ensure I will get as much funding as I can, it is important that we remember the context. The national development plan is limited to capital investment and does not consider current funding for artists and arts organisations which is distributed by the Arts Council.

That said, there are vital links between the Arts Council's work and the delivery of my Department's culture and creativity investment programme under the plan. It is important that we support the artists on the ground. They are the people who need our assistance most. That is something very close to my heart in my role as Minister, but there is an arm's length principle in that regard. I have to try to secure as much as I can for my Department to implement our commitment to double funding over the next seven years, and within that will be an allocation to the Arts Council. I will do all I can to endeavour to do that.

Film Industry

Peadar Tóibín


61. Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the steps she has taken to implement the specific conclusions and recommendations that were detailed in the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht's report on the development and working conditions in the Irish film industry. [39897/18]

Ireland is a highly attractive place for both indigenous and foreign film productions. Irish workers are known throughout the world for their skill and their craft. It is our objective as a party to build, strengthen and improve the experience of all the stakeholders within the sector and to grow it further. To that end, last July, an all-party Oireachtas committee carried out significant research on the film industry in Ireland and produced a report with 11 key recommendations to reform the industry. It identified significant difficulties that needed to be reformed. What steps has the Minister taken to implement these reforms?

I thank the Deputy and the members of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht for the work they undertook to produce the report on the development and working conditions in the Irish film industry. I note it was launched last July just a few weeks after the Government published its audiovisual action plan. Both the committee's report and the action plan have similar objectives in that they both seek to develop and improve employment in the audiovisual industry.

The committee's report highlights the fact that "Section 481 is a key and central component within the Irish Film Industry" and that it should "remain central in the industry into the future". Likewise the audiovisual action plan identifies section 481 as a "critical support for the Irish production sector, generating jobs, and providing a strong value proposition for the public purse". There is significant overlap across recommendations of the action plan and the Oireachtas committee report, of which the Deputy is probably aware, particularly in the areas of section 481 and training.

One of the key inputs to the audiovisual action plan is a report by international audiovisual consultants Olsberg SPI with Nordicity that identified the challenges faced by the Irish audiovisual industry and provided policy responses. One of the consultant's key recommendations was the establishment of an oversight steering group charged with the overall implementation of the plan's recommendations. This steering group has been established and has met twice since the action plan was published last July. The group includes representatives of all Departments and State agencies with involvement in the audiovisual industry.

I am pleased to advise that the report of the Oireachtas committee was discussed at the recent meeting of the steering group which took place on 27 September. This included discussions regarding the importance of section 481, compliance of the industry with aspects of tax and employment law, and the holding of specific conferences and workshops to consider the development of the industry, including the need for an appropriate forum to consider employment issues. Further work is being carried out on all these initiatives and announcements in regard to them will be made in due course. The steering group will report to me at regular intervals. I thank the Deputy for his question.

As the Minister indicated, the committee stated that section 481 was an essential part of the industry, and most of the elements within the industry would indicate that, but that does not mean section 481 is perfect or without fault. Recently, as the Minister will know, Mel Gibson's attorneys have accused the producer of "The Professor and the Madman" of seeking to swindle Ireland's tax authorities. Allegations have been made that expenses related to the making of the film have been inflated so that the amount of tax relief achieved by the film is higher than it should be and, therefore, the workers and the taxpayers of this country would be at a loss if those allegations are true. If they are true, it means that section 481 is not rigid enough. There has been a review of section 481 by another Department recently. The Minister might advise the Dáil the results of that review. Did it seek to close those loopholes?

The report also contains the finding that €73 million of section 481 relief is concentrated within 12 companies. That was considered to be a very uneven spread of that tax relief and that this relief might be militating against jobs coming to Ireland due to the oligopolistic nature of the Irish producers sector. The committee called for an international comparative study. Perhaps the Minister will commit here today to the carrying out of an international comparative study with regard to the way in which section 481 could be strengthened.

That is certainly something we can consider. I am not going to comment on any specifics the Deputy mentioned regarding section 481. That is a matter for the Revenue Commissioners and others to investigate, but suffice it to say section 481 film relief is a very valuable asset to the film industry in Ireland. It is one of the primary mechanisms by which the Government supports the film industry and attracts new film projects to Ireland. The existing scheme concludes on 31 December 2020. It provides support in the form of a corporation tax credit related to the cost of film production. The minimum amount that must be spent on the production is €250,000 and the eligible expenditure amount to qualify is €125,000. The extension of section 481 beyond 2020 and its administration will be considered further in light of the recommendations arising from the consultant's report.

I remind the Deputy of the key points of the audiovisual action plan. One of the recommendations was to consider extending section 481 tax relief as well as increasing the expenditure ceiling, revising the regulations and, inter alia, extending the relief to Ireland's games sector.

I want to bring another issue to light. The Minister mentioned training in the first part of her response. I am still receiving allegations of production companies crewing their staff with a massive number of trainees to try to keep down their crew costs. That is a difficulty in some elements of the industry. One of the recommendations in our report related to the disconnect between craft grades and the Irish Film Board. I mentioned to the Minister previously that someone from the craft grades should be nominated as a member of the Irish Film Board to ensure there would be proper communications between all elements of the industry here.

Last March and again in July, I mentioned to the Minister the idea that a film forum would be set up as part of Screen Ireland. I do not believe that has happened yet, and I ask the Minister to push for that as well.

Also, the precarious nature of workers within the sector is a grievance. The Minister mentioned there would be an examination of that element. I urge her to ensure that work within the sector is not precarious because, when it is precarious, serious problems such as the exploitation of workers can arise. Given we are funding the sector so much, there should be zero tolerance of any exploitation.

The Department, through the audiovisual steering group, will work with all partners to ensure the industry operates to the highest standards. As we know, new legislation from the Minister, Deputy Regina Doherty, will address all of these issues. Protections for workers in the film industry will be part of that legislation she will bring forward.

There will also be improved training and education as a key objective of the audiovisual action plan. Screen Ireland has taken steps to strengthen its training arm. It is also considering the practical issues around the establishment of a suitable forum, which is something that could be considered also. The Olsberg report identified the importance of section 481 in underpinning the Irish industry. The Department of Finance is undertaking an economic analysis of the relief. We have to make sure, however, that people who are working, even if it is on an ad hoc or loose contract basis, are protected regardless of the industry they are working in, but especially in the film industry.

Údarás na Gaeltachta

Éamon Ó Cuív


62. D'fhiafraigh Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív den Aire Cultúir, Oidhreachta agus Gaeltachta an bhfuil sé i gceist aici breis airgid a lorg ón Aire Caiteachais Phoiblí agus Athchóirithe lena thabhairt d’Údarás na Gaeltachta sa bhliain 2019 lena chaitheamh ar fhorbairt na gcomharchumann pobail agus na gcomhlachtaí pobalbhunaithe Gaeltachta; agus an ndéanfaidh sí ráiteas ina thaobh. [39405/18]

Mar is eol don Aire Stáit, tá na comharchumainn Ghaeltachta agus na comhlachtaí pobalbhunaithe Gaeltachta lárnach i gcur chun cinn na Gaeltachta i gcoitinne, ach tá ról faoi leith acu sna ceantair tearcfhorbartha agus ar na hoileáin. Tá an cúnamh Stáit atá á íoc leo anois níos lú ná mar a bhí sé deich mbliana ó shin. Céard atá i gceist ag an Aire Stáit a dhéanamh sa cháinaisnéis le déanamh cinnte de go bhfuil cothrom na Féinne le fáil ag na comhlachtaí agus na comharchumainn seo?

Aontaím leis an Teachta maidir leis an tábhacht a bhaineann leis an ról atá ag na comharchumainn agus na comhlachtaí atá lonnaithe ar na hoileáin agus ar an mórthír. Is as an soláthar airgid a chuirtear ar fáil go bliantúil d'Údarás na Gaeltachta faoi fhomhír C7 de Vóta mo Roinne a chuirtear cúnamh ar fáil d'eagraíochtaí pobalbhunaithe agus comharchumainn Ghaeltachta. Ar ndóigh, ós rud é gur eagraíocht neamhspleách reachtúil í Údarás na Gaeltachta, tuigfidh an Teachta gur faoin eagraíocht féin atá sé breithniú a dhéanamh ar conas is fearr is féidir leas a bhaint as an soláthar sin i gcomhthéacs na gcúramaí atá sainithe di, lena n-áirítear na cúramaí a bhaineann leis an bhforbairt pobail. Ní miste a mheabhrú don Teachta go bhfuil €3.35 milliún curtha ar fáil don údarás faoin bhfomhír seo i mbliana, nó allúntas reatha breise de €100,000 i mbliana i gcomparáid le 2017 agus allúntas breise de €350,000 san iomlán i gcomparáid le 2016.

Faoi mar is eol don Teachta, is trí phróiseas na Meastachán agus na cáinaisnéise a dhéantar leithdháileadh ar an soláthar airgid a chuirtear ar fáil ar bhonn bliantúil do mo Roinn agus do na Ranna Rialtais go léir. Sa chomhthéacs sin, tuigfidh an Teachta go ndéanfar soláthar airgid d'Údarás na Gaeltachta don bhliain 2019 a mheas i gcomhthéacs an phróisis sin atá ar bun faoi láthair. Agus é sin ráite, ní miste dom a threisiú uair amháin eile go n-aithním, mar Aire Stáit na Gaeltachta, an tábhacht ollmhór atá ag baint leis na comharchumainn agus na comhlachtaí pobalbhunaithe Gaeltachta atá préamhaithe sa bpobal agus lárnach i gcur chun cinn forbairtí áitiúla. Cuireann na comharchumainn agus na comhlachtaí pobalbhunaithe Gaeltachta réimse leathan seirbhísí, áiseanna agus tacaíochtaí ar fáil. Tugann siad guth don phobal agus is feithicil iad chun riachtanais an phobail a aithint agus a shárú. Tá ról leathan acu fosta in úsáid agus i gcur chun cinn na Gaeilge. Is féidir glacadh leis mar sin go leanfaidh mé orm, feadh mo chumais, leis na hiarrachtaí leanúnacha atá ar bun le hallúntas breise a chur ar fáil d'eagraíochtaí pobalbhunaithe agus comharchumainn Ghaeltachta.

Tá gealltanas sa chomhaontú muiníne agus soláthair, nó confidence and supply, go dtiocfaidh méadú sa soláthar náisiúnta don Ghaeilge. Caithfimid cuimhneamh freisin go bhfuil Bliain na Gaeilge linn i mbliana. Mar sin, bheinn ag súil go mbeadh an tAire Stáit in ann dearbhú anseo inniu go gcomhlíonfar an gealltanas sin. Nílim ag iarraidh an figiúr a fháil inniu. Fanfaidh mé go dtí an tseachtain seo chugainn. Tá súil agam go bhfuil an tAire Stáit in ann deimhniú go seasmhach leis an ngealltanas atá sa chomhaontú muiníne agus soláthair. An mbeidh an Rialtas ag seasamh leis an ngealltanas sin? In ainneoin an mhéid atá ráite ag an Aire Stáit, tá sé san Acht gur féidir leis treoir a thabhairt don údarás. An bhfuil sé i gceist aige treoir a thabhairt don údarás an maoiniú breise a úsáid chun breis airgid a chur ar fáil do na comharchumainn agus na comhlachtaí pobail Gaeltachta?

Aontaím leis an Teachta go mbeidh rudaí níos soiléire an tseachtain seo chugainn. Bhí cruinniú agam agus ag an Aire sinsearach, an Teachta Madigan, leis an Aire Airgeadais, an Teachta Donohoe, an tseachtain seo caite. Chuir mé fíorbhrú air an t-éileamh maidir leis na rudaí reatha, go háirithe ceist na gcomharchumann agus na comhlachtaí atá ardaithe ag an Teachta inniu sa cheist atá os comhair na Dála, a bhaint amach. Tá mé cinnte go bhfuil brú air fosta i gcomhthéacs an chomhaontaithe muiníne agus soláthair idir Fhianna Fáil agus Fine Gael. Le bheith ionraic, tháinig an Teachta Ó Cuív isteach sa bhliain atá imithe thart chun an buiséad caipitil atá ag Údarás na Gaeltachta a phlé liom. Thug an Teachta tacaíocht dom ag an am sin agus bhí sé sin go breá. Níl a fhios agam cén comhráite a bheidh ag dul ar aghaidh idir Fhianna Fáil agus mo pháirtí féin. Níl páirt agam sa chóras sin. Tá mé sásta brú ar aghaidh leis an gcuidiú atá de dhíth ar na comharchumainn agus na comhlachtaí. Tá mé breá sásta obair le chéile leo i dtaobh aon chomhoibriú a bheidh riachtanach sa chomhthéacs sin.

Is féidir leis an Aire Stáit bheith cinnte go mbeidh muidne i bhFianna Fáil ag iarraidh cur ina luí ar Fhine Gael go gcaithfidh siad seasamh le gach gealltanas sa chomhaontú a rinne siad linn don trí cháinaisnéis. Is é seo deireadh na feide, mar is eol don Aire Stáit. Tiocfaidh deireadh leis an gcomhaontú seo tar éis cáinaisnéis na seachtaine seo chugainn. An nglacann an tAire Stáit leis nach n-éireoidh leis na comharchumainn agus na comhlachtaí pobalbhunaithe scoth na mbainisteoirí a choinneáil mura bhfuiltear sásta pá réasúnach a íoc leis na bainisteoirí agus leis an bhfoireann atá acu, rud nach dtarlóidh gan tacaíocht cheart a bheith ar fáil ón Stát?

Níl a fhios agam céard a tharlóidh sa todhchaí. Tá mé ag obair go dian ar son na ndreamanna atá i gceist inniu. Tá aithne mhór agam ar na comharchumainn agus na comhlachtaí i dTír Chonaill. Tá sonraí agam maidir leis na dreamanna éagsúla atá scaipthe ar fud na tíre. Tá athbhreithniú ag dul ar aghaidh fosta. Tuigim go bhfuil sé beartaithe ag Údarás na Gaeltachta athbhreithniú straitéiseach a dhéanamh ar na comharchumainn Ghaeltachta ar fad i gcomhthéacs cur i bhfeidhm straitéis na heagraíochtaí do na trí bliana amach romhainn. Tá mé cinnte go mbeidh leanúnachas i gceist maidir leis an ról tábhachtach atá ag na comharchumainn atá freagrach as ceannaireacht ar na hoileáin agus ar an mórthír. Tá siad ag obair go dian ar an talamh. Tá tiomantas na gcomharchumann i dtaobh an ról atá acu soiléir ar an talamh fosta. Tá mé sásta brú ollmhór a chur ar mo chomhghleacaí, an tAire, an Teachta Donohoe, idir inniu agus Dé Máirt seo chugainn. Is léir go bhfuil ról tábhachtach ag na heagraíochtaí seo. Aontaím leis an Teachta go bhfuil gá mór leo.

Caithfimid bogadh ar aghaidh go dtí an chéad cheist eile.

Film Industry

Richard Boyd Barrett


63. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the manner in which she plans to respond to the report by the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht on working conditions in the Irish film industry, which was published in July 2018, in particular the issues (details supplied) in the report raised by workers in the industry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39896/18]

The Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Deputy Josepha Madigan, said that section 481 film industry tax relief is key to underpinning a film industry. Yesterday morning, I was with film workers outside Ardmore Studios where they were protesting. They say there is no industry. There is an awful lot of money going into the hands of ten or 12 companies who employ next to nobody. The workers who worked on production after production for those same companies for ten, 15 or 20 years have been disowned by the companies and have no security of employment. This is precarious employment and a denial of rights. These workers have asked to meet the Minister but she has refused a meeting. They say they are now being blacklisted because they are insisting on the quality of employment that was promised under the legislation, which was supposed to be attached to section 481 tax relief. How will the Minister respond to them?

As I stated in an earlier reply, I thank the members of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht for the work undertaken to produce the report, which was published last July, just a few weeks after the Government launched its audiovisual action plan. The committee's report and the audiovisual action plan have significant overlap and share the objectives of developing the Irish audiovisual industry and improving employment within it, which goes to the heart of the Deputy's question.

A steering group has been established to implement the audiovisual action plan and has already met twice since the action plan was published. The group includes representatives of all Departments and State agencies that have an interest or involvement in the audiovisual industry.

The report of the joint committee was discussed at the recent meeting of the steering group on 27 September. This included discussions regarding the importance of section 481, compliance of the industry with aspects of tax and employment law, and the holding of specific conferences and workshops to consider the development of the industry, including the need for an appropriate forum to consider employment issues. Further work is being carried out on all these initiatives and announcements in regard to them will be made in due course. The steering group will report to me at regular intervals.

On the specific details supplied by the Deputy, it is important to note that employees in every industry and sector are entitled to all existing legal protections. I draw attention to legislation being brought forward by my colleague, the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection. The Employment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2017 will improve the security and predictability of working hours for employees on insecure contracts and those working variable hours. This legislation responds specifically to the commitment in A Programme for a Partnership Government to address the problems caused by the increased casualisation of work and to strengthen the regulation of precarious work. I am happy to report that the Bill completed Report and Final Stages in the Dáil on 12 July 2018 and it is anticipated that it will be introduced in the Seanad this autumn.

When is the film industry forum as recommended going to happen to bring all stakeholders into a room to sort out the problems? We need to consider matters such as Mel Gibson suing a company that has produced a film, stating that the producers benefiting from section 481 tax relief are defrauding that tax relief by artificially inflating costs and expenses and milking the taxpayer. That is a very serious matter.

Business cannot continue as usual when there are workers outside Ardmore Studios who say, and I have seen evidence to back this up, they are being blacklisted, even though they have worked for many years for these production companies which are getting €80 million a year from these loans, grants and section 481 tax relief which are intended to give employment. The GMB trade union and the Irish Film Workers Association, IFWA, have asked to meet the Minister. Will she meet them to hear what they have to say?

Screen Training Ireland is a division of Screen Ireland and is the national training and development resource specifically created for Ireland's film and television industry. It delivers training programmes for the film industry and approximately 500 participants take part in the training every year. I am committed to ensuring that any requirements related to training deliver good quality outcomes for trainees in return for generous tax credits provided by the Government. I am not going to comment on Mel Gibson's issue. That is a matter for him.

It is a very serious issue.

It may well be, but I am not in a position to comment on it. The Department will address the issue of training by working closely with Screen Ireland and having regard to the recommendations of the Crowe Horwath report. Over the past two years there have been sporadic industrial relations incidents made manifest through protests by film workers outside film sets and various Oireachtas offices. Screen Ireland is addressing that and I hope that a forum will develop from that in which all the stakeholders can be involved and through which they can come to an amicable resolution.

I am asking the Minister to meet these workers. She is obviously meeting Screen Ireland. Will she meet these workers, who have asked to meet her, to hear their side of the story? It is a direct question and I wish she would answer it. Unless she gets all the stakeholders involved in this discussion, she is not being serious about trying to address the problems.

The Mel Gibson action is very serious. That could shred our international reputation, never mind the fact that serious sums of public money are involved. That needs to be investigated as a matter of urgency. Whatever about the individual case, we need to establish whether there are loopholes that can be exploited and are being exploited. Something needs to be done about the fact that we are putting €80 million into an industry and there is no standing workforce. A child could take €80 million and employ a few hundred people or 1,000 people for a year, but there is no standing workforce. It is, so to speak, a hire 'em and fire 'em workforce. If anyone dares say a word about their rights, compliance with EU directives or the working time directive, and if he or she does not sign up to certain agreements that are imposed on him or her, that person is blacklisted. That cannot go on.

Between 2011 and 2013, Screen Ireland regularly organised consultation committee meetings which included stakeholders in the film industry. They were convened in the context of a production downturn, and attendees included trade unions and Screen Producers Ireland and, in some instances, the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland and RTE. These meetings referred to an industry forum. They ceased when production activity picked up.

The Oireachtas Joint Committee on Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht met five organisations in January and February of this year. These organisations included Screen Ireland, Screen Producers Ireland, SIPTU, the IFWA and the GMB union. SIPTU disputed in writing some of the evidence given to the committee by GMB and the IFWA. It is clear that there is an inter-union rivalry on some issues. Nonetheless there are good reasons for holding an industry forum, as called for in the July report on developments and working conditions in the Irish film industry as published. There is validity in that. There is a willingness to put this in place and the Department has been in discussions with Screen Ireland in this regard. Consideration has been given to the most appropriate mechanism to convene a forum and a possible role for an independent chair. The matter will be discussed at a meeting planned with Screen Ireland on 27 October.

Arts Funding

Catherine Connolly


64. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the amount of moneys provided to Galway 2020 to date; the details of the robust project management structures in place at Galway 2020; the name of the Irish language officer at Galway 2020; when the Irish language officer was appointed; the period of time for which he or she was appointed; and if the Minister will make a statement on the matter. [39967/18]

The background for my question is Galway as European Capital of Culture. It is a very specific question about how much money has been given to project 2020, the robust project management structures in place, whether an Irish language officer has been appointed, if so, when, and the name of that officer.

I assume the Deputy is referring to Galway 2020. The Government has committed €15 million towards the funding of Galway 2020 as European City of Culture. As outlined in my response to Question No. 21 of 21 June 2018, the Department provided a first tranche of funding in 2017 amounting to €250,000 to Galway 2020 towards certified expenditure incurred by Galway 2020.

A performance delivery agreement to set out the mutual responsibilities of Galway 2020 and the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, and the terms of the drawdown of the funds under the agreement, is being progressed by officials in the Department. They are working closely with the Galway 2020 team to put in place the agreement, as well as support it in its work to deliver a strong culture programme in 2020. In this regard, officials from the Department will be meeting senior management from Galway 2020 next week and I expect that the agreement will be signed this month.

The stepping down of the creative director in May and, more recently, the chief executive officer, CEO, has been a cause for concern. I will talk to the Deputy in the supplementary replies about the new chief executive who has been appointed. This has created uncertainty around the mechanisms for the delivery phase of the project and did not assist the finalisation of the performance delivery agreement. I and the officials are engaging on an ongoing basis to assist in resolving the current difficulties.

In this regard I met the chairperson of the Galway 2020 board on 13 September to discuss recent developments, including the stepping down of the CEO, who has only today been replaced, and cultural leadership plans. I advised the chairperson that I wish to see the leadership matters resolved as quickly as possible in order that Galway 2020 can move forward to focus on the delivery of what is an ambitious and exciting programme for the year. While I share the concern regarding the recent difficulties, I am confident that the issues can be resolved. Significant public resources are being provided for this year.

I am glad the Minister is expressing concern. I want her to clarify who has been appointed today. The question I asked, further to previous questions, was how much money has been given to date. The Minister referred to €250,000 at a particular time. The concerns did not arise today or yesterday but have been ongoing for some time. Serious questions arise concerning the manner of the exit of a number of key personnel and whether money was involved in exit packages.

It is not my job today to discuss the content. It is my job to ask questions about robust management structures, which the Minister has not answered. We know from the debacle of the Pálás Cinema that there was a lack of governance and management by the Department. A post-project review is planned for that in the coming year. Lessons have apparently been learned and more will be learned. What has delayed the performance delivery agreement? It was due immediately after I last questioned the Minister, which was some time ago. Why has the agreement not been signed? Who has been appointed today? What is the position regarding the Irish language officer? These are simple, practical questions which will help to instil confidence. I would appreciate if the Minister could answer them.

Galway 2020 announced today the assignment of Ms Patricia Philbin to the Galway 2020 team following the departure of the CEO. Ms Philbin has been seconded from Galway City Council.

Is she the new CEO?

Yes. She was director of services in Galway City Council. She stated in a press release issued today that she is very excited about working with Galway 2020, a project which has been close to her heart, and she looks forward to working with the team to make it an exceptional year for County Galway and the council.

To answer the Deputy's specific questions, the performance delivery agreement is being drawn up by the Department in consultation with Galway 2020. The resignations that occurred slowed down the process. I, as Minister, expressed my concern to Aideen McGinley when she came in and she accepts that this has to be expedited. The delivery agreement sets out the respective roles and responsibilities of the Department in the provision and expenditure of the grant, key deliverables, performance indicators, the drawdown of the grant and the monitoring and reporting arrangements to be put in place. As we move into the delivery phase, Galway 2020 is signing contracts with organisations, artists and performers and it is expected that it will announce many of the contracted performances under the programme in a showcase event in November. With regard to funding, as I stated, the Department provided a first tranche of €250,000 in December 2017 towards certified expenditure already incurred for Galway 2020.

I appreciate the Minister taking a hands-on approach in as much as she can do that but she is not answering my question. I come from a bilingual city, chathair dhátheangach. I asked the Minister a specific question about the Irish language officer. It would have been helpful if she had responded. With regard to governance structures, if we have learned anything, even with the most recent debacle relating to the President's Establishment and expenses, we want robust structures that we can rely on. It is good to meet with the chairperson but alongside that we need robust management structures. The Committee of Public Accounts is retrospectively examining a project that became a debacle, namely, the Pálás Cinema, a public building which is now under a private entity. We are all very proud of Galway, the multicultural city that it is and its bilingual status, but this is not coming across in Galway 2020. Recently, the company failed to provide a spokesperson for a discussion in Irish on a radio station. I am reluctantly raising this matter because I am proud Galwegian who is very happy that the city will be European Capital of Culture in 2020. However, I will certainly not remain quiet when I see a number of people walking out a door with no questions being asked or properly replied to. Is the Minister confirming that no money other than the €250,000 has been provided?

I can confirm that. The majority of Government-committed funding will flow over 2019 and 2020 with the remaining amount to be provided in 2021. These final funding figures will be agreed with me in the current period. It is difficult to answer all the Deputy's questions given the time constraints. I can provide her with a full written response to her questions. I appreciate and understand her concerns. I want Galway 2020 to be a success. Robust structures have to be put in place and I am determined that will be the case.

Senior management of Galway 2020 are in the process of finalising a job specification for the Irish language officer which will issue shortly. The recruitment of an Irish language officer is part of the delivery phase of the programme currently progressing. The bid book, which sets out the planned programme for the year as part of Ireland's bid to the European Commission for the European Capital of Culture, identified language as one of its three key themes. As Irish is a key element of Galway's cultural identity, it is important that the project has an Irish language officer. The process to appoint the officer is taking place. It is also important to note that the EU has a monitoring role and regularly monitors expenditure on the success of Galway 2020.