Ceisteanna Eile - Other Questions

Film Industry

Niamh Smyth


39. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht her plans to increase the participation of women in projects funded by the Irish Film Board, IFB; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [1708/19]

The question follows on from points I raised when the House first debated the Irish Film Board (Amendment) Act last year. I raised the increased level of participation in projects funded by the IFB at the time, however the increases appear uneven. Will the Minister outline the actions she has taken to address women's participation in Irish film?

The IFB was renamed Screen Ireland in 2018. Screen Ireland is the national development agency for Irish film making and the Irish film, television and animation industry. Its statutory remit is to assist and encourage the making of film in the State and the development of a film industry in Ireland. Screen Ireland supports writers, directors and production companies across these sectors by providing investment loans for the development, production and distribution of film and television programming.

Screen Ireland is at the forefront of the movement towards gender equality and has demonstrated its commitment to addressing gender equality in Irish film-making and screen content. In particular, in the roles of writers and directors, Screen Ireland is working towards achieving a target of 50:50 creative talent working in screen content by 2020. Screen Ireland has reported a significant increase of 62% in applications received with female talent attached and an 82% increase in funding awards with female talent attached in 2018, in comparison to 2017 figures.

Screen Ireland’s vision for gender and diversity is set out in its five-year strategy and the six-point plan on gender equality, which outlines a number of measures to monitor and enhance gender representation across the sector.

Considerable progress has been made in terms of encouraging female writers, directors and producers into the sector through training initiatives and through the Screen Ireland short film schemes. The commitment of Screen Ireland to gender equality has been acknowledged nationally and internationally, and 70% of Screen Ireland short films funded under the Screen Ireland short stories and frameworks schemes in 2017 have female directors attached.

There has been a particularly high number of female protagonists and producers in Irish film in recent years. In 2017, seven out of ten Irish films had female protagonists. It is something of which we can be proud. The monitoring by Fís Éireann has been valuable and Screen Ireland has played a crucial role in this. However, the number of women directors is relatively stagnant at over 20%. Further efforts by the Minister and the Government are necessary to address this. What specific measures are being introduced to increase female participation in the direction of Irish film?

I appreciate that the Deputy acknowledges that seven of ten Irish films had a female protagonist, of which we are justly proud. She is correct that we cannot rest on our laurels and I will support Screen Ireland's work in proactively seeking to increase the number of female directors, in particular. In the past year, female-led Irish films have included "The Breadwinner", "Float like a Butterfly", "Kissing Candice", "A Girl from Mogadishu", and "A Mother Brings her Son to be Shot". There are many excellent films with high numbers of female protagonists.

On specific initiatives, Screen Ireland has a six-point action plan. It is working to achieve enhanced levels of diversity in films and screen content and has several gender-focused funding initiatives to develop this, which are aimed at the under-representation of women in Irish film. Considerable progress has been made through these initiatives. There are many incentives geared towards directly increasing the numbers of female writers, directors and producers.

Is Screen Ireland on track to achieve gender parity in the industry by 2020? Can the Minister provide a detailed update on the action points contained in the 2016-20 strategic plan? Does she believe there is adequate funding to achieve the goal? On several occasions, she has mentioned Screen Ireland's six-point plan, but there must be funding behind this in order that actions can speak louder than words. Is Screen Ireland adequately funded so that those targets will be met?

There is adequate funding. Since 2016, the statistics have shown significant progress. In 2016, for example, only 34% of successful project development applications had female writers. This has increased by 10% with 44% of successful applications in 2018 having a woman writer attached. In documentary development, successful women directors were at 8% in 2016, which has increased to 48% in 2018, a 40% increase. There has also been an increase in successful women writers in animation development by 31% between 2016 and 2018. These clearly demonstrate the increased percentage in women's representation in the industry. The Deputy is correct that we must continue to do this. Funding initiatives for this include POV, which is a training scheme aimed exclusively at female talent. There is also a low-budget film production and training scheme for female talent and enhanced production funding for female initiated and driven feature films, which increased support of up to €100,000 for projects applying for Irish production funding if the film is led by an Irish woman director, writer or a combination of both. Gender parity will continue to be monitored across all schemes.

Legislative Reviews

Niamh Smyth


40. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the reason no post-enactment reports have been carried out by her Department since 2011; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [1712/19]

The Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht has passed five Acts since 2011. Does the Minister believe this legislation is operating as intended? What oversight of this legislation is in place? Some of these Acts are technical in nature, but others have considerable scope. For instance, Acht na Gaeltachta 2012 provides for A statutory language planning process to support the Irish language and provide for amendments to the board and function of Údarás na Gaeltachta or the Heritage Act. I do not wish to retread the arguments or discussions which took place during the legislation but to ascertain and identify the current mechanisms within the Department for legislative review once a Bill has passed through the Houses. Why has none been conducted?

Post-enactment reports, as referenced in Standing Orders of both Houses of the Oireachtas, serve as a review of the functioning of an Act 12 months following the enactment of a Bill. The Government’s support for this process is reflected in the programme for partnership Government 2016. My Department was responsible for six Acts passed by the Oireachtas during the period specified by the Deputy.

The Wildlife (Amendment) Act 2012, extended arrangements set out in the Wildlife (Amendment) Act 2010 regarding provisions that deemed all holders of valid firearm certificates issued for shotguns between 15 August 2009 and 31 July 2012 to be the holders of a hunting licence under the Wildlife Acts for the purposes of hunting game bird and hare species. Given that the practical effect of this change was considered minimal it has not been considered necessary to undertake a post-enactment report.

Acht na Gaeltachta 2012, provided for the introduction of a language planning process, primarily in Gaeltacht areas, as set out in the 20-Year Strategy for the Irish Language 2010-2030 and for changes in the size of, and method of appointment of members to, the board of Údarás na Gaeltachta. As the full impact of both of these provisions would only become fully evident over an extended period, the appropriate timing for the undertaking of a post-enactment report of this Act remains under consideration.

The purpose of the National Cultural Institutions (National Concert Hall) Act 2015 was to place the National Concert Hall on a statutory footing and provide for appropriate reporting and accounting to the Minister and onwards to the Oireachtas, while not impinging on curatorial independence. I am advised that work on a post-enactment report in respect of this legislation is under way and that this report will be laid before the Oireachtas when complete.

My Department is also responsible for the National Archives (Amendment) Act 2018, the Heritage Act 2018 and the Irish Film Board (Amendment) Act 2018. The conduct of post-enactment reports in respect of these Acts will be addressed in due course.

I thank the Minister. Evidence suggests that an effective process of post-enactment scrutiny includes roles for Departments, the Parliament and independent external bodies and agencies. Experience in the UK and Scottish parliaments suggests that where the initiative rests fully with a parliament to prioritise the legislation for review and then conduct that review, the associated barriers may be too high. These barriers include information asymmetry, capacity and resources. Is the Minister satisfied that the level of post-enactment scrutiny undertaken by her Department is sufficient?

I made brief reference to the various Acts. The Oireachtas Library and Research Service's spotlight report on this issue mentions that while there is no single approach to undertaking post-enactment scrutiny, there is some consensus that its primary purpose is to ascertain whether the legislation, which is usually an Act, has achieved the original policy objectives. The report also highlights that it may be inappropriate to carry out post-enactment scrutiny until a substantive period has passed and that such periods may justifiably differ depending on the Acts involved. This means that it may take longer in some instances, depending on the particular Act, for the post-enactment report to be compiled. Some have said that it is likely to be in part related to the short one-year timeframe.

The purpose of the process is simple. It identifies whether laws made in this House are having the desired impact. Indeed, the programme for Government and that which preceded it contain commitments to support that process. I fully accept that there is a limited capacity to deliver and that it is the responsibility of the Oireachtas committee to request that these reviews be conducted. I am not doing this because I am advocating the commissioning of a report into a specific legislation or because I am seeking to influence the workings of the committee. I am asking the Minister to outline the process by which the Department ensures that legislation has the impact we desire.

The Deputy is correct. The primary purpose of these post-enactment reviews is to enable us to demonstrate clearly whether an Act has been implemented in the way originally envisaged and whether it is doing what it was designed to do. This is a very valuable process. Post-enactment reports were not required before 2011. As part of the political reform agenda, the Government aspires to implement a process of post-enactment scrutiny for all legislation. The programme for Government contains a commitment to supporting post-enactment review of legislation by Oireachtas committees. This reiterates the previous Government's commitment to the concept. While there is no single approach to undertaking this type of scrutiny, there is some consensus that its primary purpose is to ascertain whether the legislation, usually an Act, has achieved the original policy objectives.

Question No. 41 replied to with Written Answers.

Heritage Promotion

Bernard Durkan


42. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the extent of specific events scheduled in 2019 to encapsulate and promote an even greater awareness of Irish culture and heritage at home and abroad; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [1756/19]

I am seeking to obtain information on the number of events scheduled for the current year and promoting Irish heritage and culture at home and abroad, with a view to tapping into the economic benefits arising therefrom.

The Government agency with primary responsibility for promoting knowledge, appreciation and practice of the arts in Ireland is the Arts Council of Ireland, which has been allocated €77 million for its work in 2019, an increase of some €6.8 million, or 10%, from its allocation for last year.  Total expenditure on arts and culture by my Department in 2019, including the Arts Council of Ireland, national cultural institutions and Screen Ireland, will be some €190 million, an increase of €23 million, or 14%, on 2018. 

Through its Culture Ireland division, my Department has primary responsibility for the promotion of Irish culture abroad. In 2019 I allocated  €4.6 million to Culture Ireland, an increase of €600,000, or 15%, from last year.  On 7 January last I announced the appointment of five cultural ambassadors. These new positions will see high-profile figures from Ireland’s arts and culture community promoting Ireland globally as part of the Government’s Global Ireland 2025 initiative. The latter is a whole-of-Government initiative which aims to double Ireland’s footprint globally through a mix of actions in the cultural, diplomatic, business, education and tourism areas.  In addition, a conference of cultural stakeholders is being held in Dublin on 24 January to discuss how best to advance Ireland’s global visibility and strengthen global relationships.

Other mechanisms by which we support culture and creativity include the Creative Ireland programme, a culture-based programme designed to promote individual, community and national well-being. Its core proposition is that participation in cultural and creative activities drives personal and collective well-being and achievement.  Under the programme, my Department will commit €2 million to local authorities under pillar 2, the creative communities element, in 2019.

I thank the Minister for her reply. I have a further supplementary question. From her information on events which have already taken place, to what degree is information under the headings she has mentioned to the House being made available to schools in order to create an early awareness of our history and culture, and obviously to reap the consequent benefits? Has the Minister determined the extent to which the Government can use the advantages of Ireland's stamp or image abroad for economic purposes, in order to ensure, particularly in the aftermath of Brexit, that a greater and wider audience both at home and abroad is aware of our presence?

I thank the Deputy. He mentioned schools. I note that the creative schools programme is one of the key deliverables of the creative youth plan, which is an initiative of the Creative Ireland programme. It is led by the Arts Council of Ireland in collaboration with and funded by my Department and the Department of Education and Skills. Following an open application process, 150 schools were selected for the pilot in the school year running from 2018 to this year. These schools have approximately 38,000 pupils. There are a diverse range of school types involved in rural and urban parts of the country. Primary, post-primary, DEIS and special schools and Youthreach centres are included. A total of four schools in Kildare are participating in the pilot scheme, namely, Scoil an Linbh Íosa in Ballycane in Naas, Scoil Mhíchíl Naofa in Athy, Scoil Mhuire in Ballymany in Newbridge and Ursaille Naofa in Naas. Schools participating in the pilot are working with artists, creative practitioners and educators to develop their own unique programme of arts and creative work, connecting them to the full range of local and regional cultural resources and opportunities. Concerning Ireland in general, the cultural ambassadors will go some way towards expanding our global footprint.

I thank the Minister. Has her Department evaluated the extent, if any, to which people's personal contacts internationally can be accelerated and expanded with a view to making it almost impossible to ignore the existence of what we have to offer in the context of culture and heritage? This has an obvious benefit from the points of view of tourism, education, utilising every opportunity to promote what we have to an even greater extent than has been done in the past and identifying the extent to which that can be done practically.

I thank the Deputy. One of the aims of Global Ireland 2025 is to ensure that Ireland is showcased around the world. One of the reasons I appointed the cultural ambassadors was in order to do this. Culture Ireland has a lot of ambition for 2019, and we hope to double our footprint by 2025 through a mix of actions in the cultural, diplomatic, business, education and tourism areas.

We have a strong reputation for culture and creativity and it is central to the initiative. We propose a number of actions to enhance the promotion of Ireland's culture globally. The Heritage Ireland 2030 plan is exceedingly important for this country. It is at public consultation at present and the process will go on until February 2019.

Some projects in County Kildare were successful in applying to the national creativity fund, which was launched in May 2018.

Gorse Burning

Eamon Ryan


43. Deputy Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht to outline the reason she opened a public consultation on draft regulations allowing burning in March of uncultivated land at 5.30 p.m. on the Friday before Christmas to close on 16 January 2019; her views on whether timing public consultations to run over the Christmas period represents good practice; and if she will extend the consultation period to allow for effective engagement by the public and environmental organisations. [1755/19]

At the time of the formation of this Government the programme for Government stated specifically that the Government wanted to do consultation in a new way. It was to be proper consultation and not simply a tick-the-box exercise. The idea was that we really listen with respect to the views before the public service makes a policy decision. Does the Minister believe it is appropriate, therefore, that the public consultation in regard to the burning of vegetation regulations and the strategic plan for the Skellig islands was announced and issued late on Friday, 21 December, the last Friday before Christmas? Does the Minister believe that was an appropriate approach to public consultation given the intention set out in the programme for Government on how the Government will do public consultation properly?

As the Deputy is aware, section 7(1) of the Heritage Act 2018 provides that I, as Minister, make regulations to allow the burning of vegetation during such periods as the month of March in such parts of the country as specified in the regulations. For me to be in a position to make a decision on whether to allow burning in certain areas this March, my Department initiated a public consultation process on the draft regulations and guidelines on 21 December last. Two documents were published. These included draft regulations to permit controlled burning only in March, only in certain parts of the country and only due to adverse weather conditions such as when winter rainfall is higher than average. The second document sets out draft best practice guidelines for burning management. It covers issues such as the requirement for consent on any Natura sites, advice on rotational burning, the prohibition of burning on blanket bog habitat and guidance on how to carry out controlled burning to benefit certain ground-nesting birds, including the hen harrier, red grouse, curlew and golden plover.

While I take the view that publishing these documents over the holiday period gave people the time and space to reflect on the proposals, I appreciate the concerns that have been expressed by several organisations and individuals on the closing date for the receipt of submissions being 16 January. In making the decision on the standard 28-day consultation period, my Department had allowed the latitude to automatically extend that period if stakeholder interests so demanded. My Department decided to exercise that automatic extension on Monday, 7 January last. Therefore, the consultation period referred to by the Deputy for this process is now open up to 31 January. The Deputy may not have been aware of this prior to tabling the question. I believe this deadline will allow all interested parties to be in a position to consider the documents and make a submission if they so wish.

I am glad there was an extension but I retain my concern that the opening date for the consultation, late on Friday, 21 December, was not designed to encourage maximum participation. That is a real problem. It gives a sign of the real intent of the Minister and the Department. Furthermore, the document on wildlife burning refers to a period from XXX to YYY on which we are asked to comment, but without knowing what those dates are. Similarly, the document refers to burning taking place in parts of the State set out in Schedule 1 and to the process taking into account the best practice guidelines set out in Schedule 2 of the regulations, but neither schedule was provided. People are being asked to consult on a document in circumstances where the Department has not provided the necessary schedules to allow them to consult properly. The timing and the nature of the consultation documents, which do not include the schedules or timelines to which the regulations refer, send out the signal that the Minister is not serious about this consultation. The Minister is doing a tick-the-box exercise. She has made up her mind and consultation is not real.

I am sorry that Deputy Ryan doubts our bona fides with regard to this public consultation, bearing in mind the fact that we have extended it to allow for further public consultation and to allow people to make submissions on such a necessary topic. It is a complex issue that the Department needed to research. The drafting of the best practice guidelines for burning took longer than anticipated due to the various issues that needed to be covered in the guidelines. It was not a question of waiting until 21 December. It was more a question of not being ready until then. We offered a 28-day consultation period, as I have said. That is at the higher end of standard consultation periods. We allowed for automatic extension, if needed. It was needed in this case. We did that last Monday. It is now a six-week consultation period. There was no statutory obligation on me to consult. It seems I am actually being criticised for acting in good faith. The extension of the deadline to 31 January gives interested parties a reasonable opportunity to consider. Moreover, I did this without being asked by the Oireachtas.

Why did the Minister not include Schedules 1 and 2 to the regulations? Why were they not included in the consultation documents on which people were invited to comment to allow proper consultation?

Several issues are covered in the regulations and best practice guidelines, both of which are now out for public consultation. The regulations will permit controlled burning only and only on the basis of adverse weather conditions, such as where winter rainfall is higher than average. The draft guidelines refer to the requirements for consent on any Natura sites and other relevant legislation on the burning of lands. Advice is provided on rotational burning, since uncontrolled and unplanned burning can result in monoculture and more dominant vegetation types over land areas. The guidelines also state that burning should not be carried out in a blanket bog habitat in any circumstances or in humid mires or wet heaths as this can lead to damage to the moss layer or to the peat itself. The guidelines emphasise that species and habitat considerations should be to the fore prior to embarking on a planned burn. The objectives should always be to return the habitat to its pre-burnt condition in a reasonable timeframe.

Heritage Promotion

The question was submitted by Deputy Burke but permission has been given to Deputy Joe Carey to ask this question. I understand it may be grouped.

Peter Burke


44. Deputy Peter Burke asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht to outline the details of the public consultation process for Heritage Ireland 2030; and the opportunities for residents of counties Longford and Westmeath to contribute to the process, including details on public events. [1720/19]

Tom Neville


48. Deputy Tom Neville asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht to outline the details of the public consultation process for Heritage Ireland 2030; and the opportunities for residents of County Limerick to contribute to the process, including details on public events. [1777/19]

I am asking this question on behalf of Deputy Burke and I thank the Ceann Comhairle for his co-operation in this regard.

Will the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltactht provide details of the public consultation process for Heritage Ireland 2030 and the opportunities for residents of counties Longford and Westmeath to contribute to the process, including details on public events?

I propose to take Questions Nos. 44 and 48 together.

Our heritage is a priceless and irreplaceable national asset that belongs to all of us. We want everyone to be able to enjoy this heritage, to have a sense of pride in it and to keep it safe for the future. The four-month public consultation process that I announced on 1 November 2018 is a critical phase in the development of Heritage Ireland 2030, the new national heritage plan for Ireland. The consultation is open until the end of February 2019. The public consultation is designed to afford plenty of opportunity for everyone to have their say.

There are four means whereby people can participate. The first is to go to the Heritage Ireland 2030 section on my Department's website and complete the online survey. People can send a written submission by post to Heritage Ireland 2030 at the Department. People can email heritageireland2030@chg.gov.ie. People can participate in local or regional events throughout the country. There will be a series of regional workshops in the coming weeks, the first of which will be in Dublin on 29 January. As more details and dates are confirmed for these regional workshops they will be published on my Department's website.

I anticipate that many people will be most interested in the events in their local area. I acknowledge the contribution of the county heritage officers in arranging these events. To find out about Heritage Ireland 2030 public events in their own county, individuals should contact the heritage officer in their local authority. A list of heritage officers is available on the Heritage Council website, www.heritagecouncil.ie. I am aware that a small number of local authorities do not have a heritage officer. My Department will work with these local authorities and the Heritage Council to ensure that all counties are catered for and have a public event for people to attend. People may also contact my Department directly or make a submission through any of the channels I have already mentioned.

Our vision for heritage is a simple one: that heritage will be valued and protected. Heritage Ireland 2030 is built around the vision that the way in which we identify and protect our heritage is the best it can be. I am very grateful to all the key stakeholders who engaged with us in shaping the public consultation strategy for Heritage Ireland 2030. I would encourage everyone to avail of this unique opportunity to rethink how we care for our habitats, landscapes, wildlife, historic buildings and monuments so they can be celebrated and enjoyed long into the future.

Longford and Westmeath are in Ireland's hidden heartlands and are home to our majestic Shannon, a shimmering lakescape, rolling pastoral landscapes, wild peatlands and villages and towns with built heritage that is lovingly preserved. Together and separately these counties provide a heritage centre of gravity for the entire country and island. Their contribution to this strategy is essential. Limerick includes the "Treaty City", one of contrasts where the contemporary embraces a past of heritage treasures, and a county that remains guardian of a rich medieval and monastic history. A strategy uninformed by what Limerick has to offer is irretrievably impoverished.

The public consultation on Westmeath will be discussed at the Westmeath heritage forum in Westmeath County Council on 26 January. Deputy Burke might be interested in that. There will also be a public drop-in event at Athlone library on 31 January where those concerned can hear about the plan and get advice on preparing a submission. If anyone would like further information, the contact person is Ms Melanie McQuade of Westmeath County Council.

I congratulate and commend the Minister and her Department on taking this initiative. It makes an awful lot of sense to revitalise and refresh our heritage plan. The initiative Heritage Ireland 2030 does just that.

It is important that we publicise these events and let individuals and groups know they can have an input into the process. I welcome the various ways by which individuals can have an input. The Minister outlined them. Has she any other plans to publicise the events? The heritage officers who work in the local authorities, in County Clare in particular, do a very fine job. Has the Minister any other ideas or ways to publicise the public consultation process?

I understand there is a heritage officer in County Clare. It would be good to liaise with that officer. Perhaps the officer would have ideas on how to promote the public consultation of the heritage plan. The role of a heritage officer is really important. An officer works with other sections in the local authority to develop policies and projects that highlight the importance of our national built heritage when planning for the future. The officers co-ordinate and implement county heritage plans and also help inform, develop and implement national and regional heritage policy at local level.

The Department is updating its website daily as details on more events come in. The Deputy talked about highlighting the heritage plan. In general, Members should contact the local authority heritage officer, who will have the most up-to-date information on events locally. A list of heritage officers is available on the Heritage Council's website.

I thank the Minister for her reply and for visiting Lough Gur in County Limerick recently to attend the launch of the book by Ms Rose Cleary, The Archaeology of Lough Gur. I thank the Minister of State, Deputy Griffin, through the Minister's offices, for visiting St. Kieran's Heritage Association in regard to the celebration of the finding of the Ardagh chalice 150 years ago.

With regard to heritage consultation, I would like to take matters a step further in regard to county towns. We should use our heritage and culture to market those towns and enhance how they are perceived. We should encourage an influx to the towns and drive industry in them. My town, Rathkeale, has the Augustinian Abbey, Castle Matrix, Holy Trinity Church of Ireland, the Palatine Museum, St. Mary's Roman Catholic Church and a Victorian courthouse. Mr. Ernest Walton, the Irish physicist famous for splitting the atom, spent part of his childhood in Rathkeale. The tenor Christopher Lynch is from Rathkeale, as was Seán Ó Faoláin's mother. All such facts should be used as a marketing tool to create an influx to a town. If something could be done between the local authorities and the Department to drive such an initiative, through social media or above-the-line advertising, it would generate more industry. As we know, the arts and culture are now migrating to digital platforms. New occupations are being created, particularly in the visual arts and also in the sound arts.

It was a pleasure to visit Lough Gur and meet Ms Rose Cleary and launch her book on the archaeology of Lough Gur. I accept the Deputy's points on Rathkeale and the area of Limerick in question. It would be worthwhile having a conversation with the heritage officer there on bringing that part of the country to light and also working from a tourism perspective because it is certainly a beautiful part of the world.

Some of the projects we funded in Limerick include the Georgian core project in Limerick city. This involved repairs to the wrought- and cast-iron railings. In regard to the Georgian terrace on Mallow Street, there was a pilot scheme for the restoration of the historic railings. Also included were the guardhouse at Castlegarde, Cappamore, County Limerick. That benefited from the built heritage investment scheme and the structures-at-risk fund over a number of years, including 2016 and 2017. Limerick is working on a regional workshop related to Heritage Ireland 2030. It would be a good idea to go to that.

Could the Minister outline and expand on the intention behind the three themes of the Heritage Ireland 2030 campaign?

Again I recognise the Minister's visit to Lough Gur. I thank the Government for the funding it is providing through the outdoor recreation scheme. Moneys have been coming through in this regard and they all feed into their heritage and culture side.

Lough Gur, which the Minister visited, for which we are very grateful, has 1,000 field monuments within 5 km. On the night the Minister visited, Dr. Philip O'Regan, dean of the Kemmy Business School, University of Limerick, stated in his speech that the area is the home of Ireland's largest stone circle. It is a key driver of tourism in the region. Such a feature could be used as a key driver of tourism on a global scale. We have attractions that can do this. I ask that the Government continue to help in using such attractions to market Limerick and Ireland globally. Anybody who pops into County Limerick might also pop into County Clare, County Tipperary or County Kerry. It is a way of enhancing and fostering more development and employment in rural areas.

One of the primary purposes of the public consultation was to have people in a position to make submissions by the end of February. Certainly the points the Deputy raised on Limerick will be very valuable. I acknowledge the Deputy's point on attracting overseas tourists to Ireland, including the part of the world to which he referred.

For his information, Ms Conjella McGuire is Clare County Council's heritage officer.

Mr. Tom O'Neill is the heritage officer for County Limerick.

Deputy Carey referred to themes. There are three main themes in the context of the Heritage Ireland 2030 project. The first is that of national leadership to provide an overall national heritage policy direction reflecting commentary in recent years and the strong need for leadership by Government in the heritage area. The second is the need for organisations and communities to work better in partnership to manage, protect and conserve the heritage. The third relates to the importance of communities and supporting local people in caring for heritage in their areas. The plan also seeks to empower local authorities and communities in the increasingly important role that they play in protecting and managing heritage for the enjoyment and benefit of all.

National Orchestras

Joan Burton


45. Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht further to Parliamentary Question No. 101 of 2 October 2018, if she will report on the ongoing working group to undertake the transfer of the National Symphony Orchestra from RTÉ to the National Concert Hall; the representation musicians and employees of each orchestra have on the working group; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [1582/19]

I understand that a working group is to undertake the transfer of the National Symphony Orchestra from the direct control of RTÉ to that of the National Concert Hall. What representation do musicians or other members of the orchestra have on that working group? How is the move progressing? When is it proposed that it will take place?

Following the publication of a report commissioned by RTÉ from independent consultants Helen Boaden and Mediatique on the RTÉ orchestras - RTÉ Orchestras: Ensuring a Sustainable Future - the Government agreed in principle that the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra should come within the remit of the National Concert Hall. It also authorised the initiation of discussions on the implementation of the recommendations of the report.

The overall aim of the Government decision in regard to the proposed transfer of the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra is to enable it to be established as a world class orchestra which, with the National Concert Hall, would provide a creative and imaginative programme strategy that would greatly enhance the offering of the combined organisation to the public. The process offers a welcome opportunity to plan a way forward for the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra and the RTÉ Concert Orchestra and ensures that they can contribute fully to Ireland’s rich cultural heritage.

As the Deputy stated, an oversight group and working group have been established with formal terms of reference and with a view to identifying and addressing the relevant issues to enable the successful transfer of the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra from the remit of RTÉ to that of the National Concert Hall. The terms of reference of the oversight group provide that the group will be chaired by the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht and constitute representatives of that Department, the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment, RTÉ and the National Concert Hall. The terms of reference of the working group provide that its membership may vary depending on the nature of the issue being discussed and that it will report to the oversight group.

The oversight group has met on a number of occasions, most recently on 8 January, and has agreed on the importance of a proper communication process between the oversight and working groups and representatives, members and support staff of the National Symphony Orchestra in order to ensure that the orchestra is informed on a timely basis about all aspects of the proposed transfer and can input to the process. In this regard, it is intended that a meeting will be arranged shortly between the working group and union representatives of the National Symphony Orchestra to update them on developments to date.

I thank the Minister for her reply. However, the question I asked - and which she failed to answer - relates to whether any of the working musicians or others in the orchestras are represented on the working group or the oversight group. The Minister waxed lyrical in reply to previous questions from Fine Gael backbenchers. The orchestras are a great national cultural treasure for Ireland. Musicians in the orchestras are paid at living wage and union wage rates. Earlier, I asked the Minister about the many people in the arts who are on very low rates of pay - below the minimum wage - and who are unable to afford housing due to the meagre remuneration they receive. The orchestras are very important in terms of the calibre of their artistic merit and the fact that they provide regular, secure employment that is paid at a good rate. Are any of the musicians represented on either of the groups?

I appreciate the Deputy's question. I will take it as a compliment that I have been waxing lyrical in my replies to Fine Gael backbenchers.

The Minister's reply could have been set to music.

I hope to do the same in reply to Deputy Burton. As stated, the oversight group may task working groups to report on specific issues as the need arises. These groups may include members of the oversight group together with other individuals as appropriate. Working groups may be tasked to: design and make recommendations on the appropriate process for the transfer of the National Symphony Orchestra from RTÉ to the National Concert Hall; identify which staff to transfer in accordance with the rules governing the transfer of undertakings; formally engage and consult the employees of the National Symphony Orchestra, as the Deputy mentioned; finalise the costs involved in the transfer, having regard to the recommendations in the report; and identify any existing central corporate supports provided by RTÉ and not subject to transfer, and the costs thereof. The membership of the group may vary depending on the nature of the issue under discussion. All working groups will report to the oversight group. I am satisfied that all parties are represented and that all stakeholders and relevant persons are being engaged in the process.

That is what is outlined in the written statement in front of the Minister. What is the representation of musicians and employees of each of the orchestras on the working and oversight groups? Either there are musicians from the orchestras on the working group or there are not. I acknowledge the Minister's comment to the effect that the membership of the working group may vary. If no musicians are on it, I ask her to vary that membership in order to include representatives of the artists and musicians as soon as possible. Their artistry has made the orchestras what they are. I ask the Minister to provide me with the names of those on the working groups in order that we can find out whether musicians are represented in this very important undertaking for the future of orchestral music in Ireland.

I can only answer the question in so many ways. I stated that the oversight group may task working groups to report on specific issues as the need arises and that the make-up of the working group will depend on the issue that is being discussed. It is impossible to say at any given point who is sitting on a particular working group. If the Deputy wishes to have further information, I will provide it.

The oversight group is to meet on 5 February. It has discussed many issues such as funding arrangements, communication, engagement with stakeholders, legal issues and a shared vision of the future. Significant progress has been made on the terms of reference of the oversight group and the composition of the working groups and how they will work. Ultimately, it is for the oversight group, on which all stakeholders are represented, to determine the make-up of each individual working group.

The Minister does not know whether there are musicians on this very important working group. She does not have a clue.

I strongly resent that personal accusation.