Ceisteanna Eile - Other Questions

Meath na Gaeltachta

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

5. D'fhiafraigh Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh den Aire Cultúir, Oidhreachta agus Gaeltachta an bhfuil cóip den tuarascáil ó duine (sonraí tugtha) a foilsíodh anuraidh léite aici; agus cad iad na gníomhartha atá, nó a bheidh, á nglacadh aici chun déileáil leis na míbhuntáistí do phobail Ghaeltachta atá soiléir sa tuarascáil sin. [8506/19]

Cad iad na gníomhartha atá chun tarlú de thairbhe ar an tuairisc mhór, Próifíl Shocheacnamaíoch de na seacht gceantar Gaeltachta in Éirinn, a foilsíodh anuraidh ag an gComhairle um Thaighde in Éirinn, an tIonad Breathnaithe um Thaighde Uile-Éireann agus an institúid i gcomhair seirbhísí sóisialta in Ollscoil Mhá Nuad?

Théis go léirítear cuid de na dúshláin atá roimh an Ghaeltacht sa tuairisc atá luaite ag an Teachta, ní mór a thuiscint go bhfuil céimeanna praiticiúla á dtógáil ag an Stát chun feabhas a chur ar chúrsaí. Is í an Straitéis 20 Bliain don Ghaeilge 2010-2030 polasaí an Rialtais i leith na Gaeilge. Tá a fhios ag an Teach gur foilsíodh Plean Gníomhaíochta don Ghaeilge 2018-2022 anuraidh. Ag croílár an phlean sin atá á chur i bhfeidhm, tá breis is 180 beart comhaontaithe a chuirfear i bhfeidhm i gcomhar le os cionn 60 páirtí leasmhar. Feicfear go bhfuil forbairt na Gaeltachta mar réimse oibre faoi leith sa phlean agus níl aon amhras orm ach gur ar mhaithe na Gaeltachta a rachaidh cur i bhfeidhm na mbearta sin agus bearta ábhartha eile an phlean.

Mar a bhaineann sé le gnóthaí airgeadais, beidh a fhios ag an Teach go bhfuil ardú suntasach tagtha ar an gcistíocht atá curtha ar fáil do ghnóthaí Gaeltachta sa bhliain reatha. Áirítear san ardú seo, an ciste atá ar fáil do mo Roinn féin agus go deimhin d'Údarás na Gaeltachta. Mar is eol don Teachta is é Údarás na Gaeltachta atá freagrach as forbairt eacnamaíochta, shóisialta agus chultúrtha na Gaeltachta agus creideann an eagraíocht sin go bhfuil an cur chuige agus na straitéisí cuí acu chun tabhairt faoi na dúshláin éagsúla a shonraítear sa tuairisc ar thagair an Teachta dó ina gceist.

Is iad an nuálaíocht agus fiontraíocht agus an Ghaeilge an dá théama a chuimsíonn plean straitéiseach reatha Údarás na Gaeltachta don tréimhse 2018 go dtí 2020. Leagann an plean seo amach cur chuige na heagraíochta chun pobal agus eacnamaíocht rathúil, inbhuanaithe Gaeltachta a fhorbairt agus, tríd sin, chun áit na Gaeilge mar phríomhtheanga phobal na Gaeltachta a chinntiú. Ina theannta sin ar fad, ar ndóigh, tá mo Roinn agus Údarás na Gaeltachta ag obair chun cúram a dhéanamh de chur i bhfeidhm na mbearta ábhartha sa phlean gníomhaíochta d'fhorbairt tuaithe.

An léiriú is mó a fuair mise as an obair mór atá déanta sa tuairisc seo ná go rinne sé leagan amach ar an bpróifíl de na ceantair Gaeltachta agus na dúshláin mhóra atá roimh clanna atá ag iarraidh fanacht sa Ghaeltacht agus a chlanna a thógáil le Gaeilge agus daoine eile a bheadh ag smaoineamh air. Leag an tuairisc amach go han-soiléir cé chomh deacair agus a tá sé agus leagann sé amach na ceantair ina bhfuil míbhuntáiste mór ag baint leo, i dTír Chonaill agus ar Árainn Mhór ach go háirithe. Is ceantair atá go mór faoi mhíbhuntáiste iad. Níl i gceist ach beagnach 100,000 duine sa Ghaeltacht ag an stad seo agus gan éigeandáil agus géarchéim a aithint agus deifir agus fuadar a chur faoi na beartanna atá luaite ag an Aire Stáit sa phlean is déanaí, níl i ndán don Ghaeltacht ach meath amach anseo. An impí atá mise ag cur ar an Aire Stáit agus an ceist ná, bunaithe ar na figiúirí atá an-soiléir anseo, an deifir nó fuadar a thiocfaidh faoi na pleananna atá ann faoi láthair.

Tá sé ceart go bhfuil dúshlán mór sa Ghaeltacht ó thaobh an daonra de. Chun an Ghaeilge a chur chun cinn agus a brú ar aghaidh, teastaíonn daoine a bheith ina gcónaí i gceantair Gaeltachta agus sa chuid is mó den Ghaeltacht tá siad in áiteanna iargúlta ina bhfuil brú ó thaobh an daonra de. Sin an fáth go bhfuil an plean gníomhaíochta againn mar chuid den straitéis. Is í an straitéis buncloch an pholasaí atá ag an Rialtas agus ag an Roinn. Sin an fáth go bhfuil na limistéir pleanáil teanga againn agus go mbeidh 23 cinn in iomlán ceadaithe faoin bpróiseas faoi dheireadh na bliana. Sin an fáth go bhfuil an t-ardú suntasach ar an mbuiséid d'Údarás na Gaeltachta.

Tá an-tábhacht ag baint le hÚdarás na Gaeltachta ó thaobh fostaíocht sna ceantair iargúlta. Gan an t-údarás agus gan an fócas atá aige ar áiteanna iargúlta, beidh i bhfad níos mó fadhbanna sna ceantair sin. Má bhreatnaímid ar na figiúirí a d'fhoilsigh Údarás na Gaeltachta ag tús na bliana ó thaobh fostaíocht de, feicfimid an tábhacht a bhaineann le hÚdarás na Gaeltachta.

Is í an fhadhb is mó, agus is fadhb í seo nach mbaineann leis an Aire Stáit amháin ach le gach uile Rialtas, ná go bhfuil moill ann ó thaobh na céimeanna agus na beartanna a bhfuil gá leo. Glacaim leis go mbeidh pleananna teanga na 23 ceantar i bhfeidhm faoi dheireadh na bliana ach muna bhfuil fuadar fúthu agus muna bhfuil an t-airgead ann éireoidh an fhadhb níos measa, beidh laghdú níos mó ar na ceantair Ghaeltachta, agus leathnóidh úsáid an Bhéarla. Beidh clanna ag bogadh isteach agus bpáistí á dtógáil le Béarla. Déanfar damáiste a bheidh sé an-deacair é a chúlú amach anseo muna dhéantar beart de réir briathar.

Tá tábhacht ag baint le na pleaneanna contae i gcomhair chuile cheann den seacht gcontae ina bhfuil Gaeltacht freisin. Tá sé tábhachtach go bhfuil an córas pleanála féaráilte agus go gcuirfear béim ar an nGaeilge a bhrú ar aghaidh. Sin an fáth go bhfuilimid ag tacú le na naíonraí agus le mná tí na gcoláistí Gaeilge. Tá an t-airgead a bhfuil an Roinn ag infheistiú i seirbhísí teanga tábhachtach d'eacnamaíocht na gceantar sin. Sin an fáth go bhfuilimid ag tabhairt níos mó tacaíochta d'eagraíocht cosúil le Tuismitheoirí na Gaeltachta, Ealaín na Gaeltachta, agus Comhar Naíonraí na Gaeltachta. Tá a fhios againn an tábhacht a bhaineann le na heagraíochtaí sin ó thaobh na Gaeltachta agus a daonra.

Abbey Theatre

Niamh Smyth

Ceist:

6. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if pathways by which additional funding could be provided for productions by independent companies in the national theatre on the condition that there would be increased remuneration for artists will be examined. [8699/19]

At the heart of the recent issues at the Abbey Theatre has been a growing concern about the differential between those who work for independent production companies and those who work directly for the Abbey Theatre. The differential would be addressed by closing the gap. I understand the content of independent productions was of equal but a separate concern and it should be addressed separately. For those who work on the ground in the sector, closing the gap would make a major difference. Have actions been taken to examine the differential and mechanisms by which it could be closed?

I am aware of the issues referred to in the question and continuing to deliver additional supports to the arts and culture sector in line with Government commitments, as evidenced by budget 2019.

Primary support for the arts is delivered through the Arts Council, the funding for which has increased in recent years. I was very pleased to be in a position to increase funding for it to €75 million in 2019, an increase of €6.8 million, which is equivalent to an increase of 10% on the figure for 2018. I understand the council recently announced the level of its 2019 funding for the Abbey Theatre to enable it to undertake an extensive programme of work for audiences, both in its home theatre and on tour. The council will also support the development and presentation of new work in co-productions with some of the most exciting theatre artists making work in Ireland today. Separately, the council continues to invest in established theatre producing organisations such as the Gate Theatre, the Druid Theatre Company and Rough Magic, as well as companies which are presenting new work to audiences in new ways such as ANU, Broken Talkers and Thisispopbaby.

The Arts Council which is independent in its funding decisions under the Arts Act 2003 operates within a published ten-year strategic framework entitled, Making Great Art Work. The strategy prioritises support for artists throughout their careers by the involvement of many agencies in cultural provision, the impact of the arts on the creative economy and the depth and breadth of people's engagement with the arts. In the area of artist support the council now includes as an assessment criterion an organisation's policy on the remuneration of artists. It aims to ensure organisations in receipt of Arts Council funding will offer fair and equitable remuneration to artists.

As Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, I have responsibility for setting the overall vision and strategic direction of Ireland's cultural sector. In the first instance, issues raised by theatre practitioners should be resolved by dialogue between the theatre chair and board, directors and the theatre practitioners. I am pleased to report that this dialogue is taking place between the parties, including, I understand, on the legal and commercial issues surrounding remuneration for artists.

I take on board the fact that the Arts Council funds independent companies, etc. but the differential between what artists are by independent theatre companies and by the Abbey Theatre has been a major part of the current problems at the Abbey Theatre. The Minister did not address that issue in the first part of her response, although perhaps she might do so in further replies.

The Arts Council will, of course, have a pivotal role to play in terms of the future of the Abbey Theatre in the light of the decision to restrict funding. The response to the issue in hand is punitive and there may be an opportunity to introduce a co-operative element. Independent productions are vital to the long-term success of Irish theatre. We risk being in a position where too much focus will be placed on the Abbey Theatre, with other sources of talent potentially being left behind in the rush to protect the national theatre. The Abbey Theatre's letter stated the national theatre reducing its production output would mean that there would be less diversity, but the opposite is also true. Removing opportunities to access the national theatre, where appropriate, could also represent a loss. What mechanisms are being considered to improve remuneration for those who work in independent productions?

Ultimately, the matters raised by the Deputy in the main are issues theatre practitioners had with the Abbey Theatre. I can inform her that a meeting took place between representatives of theatre practitioners and the Abbey Theatre on 1 February. I am pleased to report the meeting was described by both parties as positive and a productive first step. They have agreed to continue the process of having bilateral meetings to deal with the matters raised by the theatre practitioners, to some of which the Deputy alluded. They have agreed to provide a progress report for the Arts Council and my Department. It should be noted the council has been engaging with the Abbey Theatre in recent months on the employment opportunities and remuneration rates it provides for Irish-based artists. The Abbey Theatre has made it clear that it pays the actors it employs the terms and conditions agreed with Irish Equity, the actors' union. In presentation or association arrangements it does not set rates of pay. That has been the prerogative of the producing companies. The Abbey theatre has stated the matter will be reviewed in the dialogue with theatre practitioners.

I agree that a co-operative approach is the most appropriate. I appreciate that in the initial meetings the response appeared to be positive. However, there is a question about the supports in place for independent productions. As a result, there has been a reduction of 54% in the number of actors appearing on stage who are directly employed by the national theatre. The reduction in pay can be as much as 25%. As there is a matter to be addressed, will the Minister expand on what her approach will be in dealing with the disparity?

With respect, the dialogue between the Abbey Theatre and theatre practitioners will continue until the end of April and the issues will need to be worked out between them. As I stated, I acknowledge the necessity for the national theatre to have a degree of artistic freedom in its programming, as all theatres should, but I also recognise the necessity for a strong working relationship with theatre practitioners. This is vital for the continued success of theatre in this country. I am very supportive of the collective endeavours of theatre practitioners and the Abbey Theatre to resolve the matters raised. I welcome the commitment they have given to participate in dialogue and engagement. I look forward to there being a mutually satisfactory outcome.

Commemorative Events

James Browne

Ceist:

7. Deputy James Browne asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht her plans for War of Independence and Civil War commemorations in County Wexford; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8499/19]

What are the Minister's plans for War of Independence and Civil War commemorations in County Wexford?

My objective in approaching the development of the State commemorative programme for the years from 2019 to 2023 is to ensure that, in remembering this complex period in our history, which includes the struggle for independence, the Civil War, the foundation of the State and partition, we promote a deeper understanding of the significance of these events, which accepts that the shared historical experience of those years gave rise to very different narratives and memories.

On 8 January, I outlined how the Government plans to approach the development of the commemorative programme for the coming period. Under the community strand, I am encouraging a collaborative approach, similar to that adopted for the 1916 centenary commemorations, between the State, the local authority network and community organisations, including in Northern Ireland where appropriate. It is, I believe, very fitting that local authorities have a leading role in supporting inclusive, respectful and meaningful community-led commemorations that remember all of the lives lost, augmented as appropriate with support from the State, which will be considered on a case-by-case basis. In recognition of the very important role that local authorities have played to date, and will continue to play, in encouraging measured and authentic citizen engagement, which is sensitive to the local context, I have requested my officials to organise a special decade of centenaries forum for local authorities, which, as I have said, will take place on 13 March.

With regard to the Deputy’s specific query, I can confirm that I have approved funding of €5,000 to support each local authority, including Wexford County Council, in developing commemorative activities in 2018. I will make a further announcement in respect of funding for 2019 shortly. Funding allocations over the coming years will be considered as part of the annual budgetary Estimates process. I encourage local authorities to adopt a broad focus in responding to the significant events and themes of this period, which recognises all of the dimensions interwoven with the conflict, including military activity, the political context and the social, economic and cultural aspects and legacies.

Additional information not given on the floor of the House.

I believe that, building on the success of the commemorative programme to date, local authorities, our national cultural institutions, trade unions, the media, institutions of learning, and custodians of records, together with creative communities, will have a leading role in supporting the national conversation about the events of this period and encouraging respectful and authentic engagement, debate and analysis

I have been asking this question for some time. Obviously the period between 1916 and 1923 was very turbulent throughout the country but particularly in Wexford. In 1916, Wexford rebels took Enniscorthy town during the Easter Rising and subsequently Wexford was very active in the War of Independence and the Civil War. During the War of Independence there were numerous attacks on Royal Irish Constabulary barracks, the Black and Tans were introduced and there were raids and counter raids. It became quite vicious. Many people in Wexford were imprisoned and often mistreated and tortured. Many escaped from these prisons. After the treaty was signed, the IRA in Wexford was very much split down the middle and Wexford was very heavily involved in the subsequent Civil War. In their book, local historians Nicholas Furlong and John Hayes state the split between anti-treaty and pro-treaty adherents was countrywide but County Wexford became one of the most violent counties in the Civil War. The conflict, which scarred and divided families, followed the pattern of guerrilla warfare.

Will the Minister outline what the Department intends to do in terms of commemorating in County Wexford events from the War of Independence and the Civil War? She mentioned an announcement of further funding. When will that be made? Will a list be available of the events it is intended to commemorate in County Wexford?

I will be making the announcement shortly. I have heard what the Deputy said about 1916 and the commemorative events that took place in Wexford. The restoration of the Enniscorthy Athenaeum was important. There was an interactive 1916 exhibition and a local authority grant scheme. It might be good for the Deputy to know Wexford County Council did not make a submission in the public consultation on commemorating the decade of centenaries. A total of 20 submissions from local authorities were received, none of which was from Wexford. This is not to say it would be precluded from participating in the local authority collective group on 13 March. It would then be in a position to make a submission by 30 April with any idea it has on the key themes from the expert advisory council and the points it wishes to take on board.

I thank the Minister. Obviously careful thought and planning of these events must take place. To this day, memories are still raw. The 2016 events were very well received in County Wexford and it is imperative the same sensitive note is forthcoming for upcoming events. Commemorations should take place and sensitivity should not be an excuse for avoidance. This is about our history, the birth of our nation and Ireland rightly taking its place among the independent nations of the world. I am somewhat surprised that Wexford County Council did not make a submission as it was very heavily involved in 1916 events. Perhaps it may have been an oversight on its part.

I urge the Minister to make a substantial announcement given that the most successful aspect of the centenary in 2016 comprised the many local events that were funded by the Department and local authorities throughout the country. The €5,000 for each local authority mentioned by the Minister is obviously an initial payment to help them with their plans. I hope the Minister will ensure a substantial amount will be available to encourage local authorities to match whatever funding she comes up with and to follow on the success they had to deal with the next five or six years of the centenary programme.

I can tell Deputy Ó Snodaigh that Dublin City Council did make a submission and, no more than Deputy Brown's Wexford County Council, all local authorities will be in a position to contribute to the forum on 13 March and all local authorities will be in a position to make a submission by 30 April with any ideas and suggestions they have for their particular counties in commemorating the next decade of centenaries, taking into account the expert advisory group's recommendations and the key themes. It is worthwhile reiterating some of these, including that local stories and experiences, which both Deputies have mentioned, will be significant and local research scholarships and access to local archival sources will support communities in exploring and reflecting upon these events. A collaborative approach is something that would be of assistance. Local cultural organisations and the library networks have a significant role to play as cultural brokers in managing conversations, building relationships and engaging communities in a meaningful way through the various forms of creative expression. There will be great opportunities for each county to become involved.

Creative Ireland Programme

Joan Burton

Ceist:

8. Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the amount of Creative Ireland funding committed for 2019 and 2020; and the committed funding, by county and project, in tabular form. [8691/19]

Will the Minister set out the amounts being committed in 2019 and 2020 for Creative Ireland's budget? Will she set out in an ancillary table the committed funding, by county? Will she highlight the significant projects in various parts of the country that Creative Ireland will fund? What interaction, if any, does it have with the Arts Council?

I thank the Deputy for the question. A budget of €7.15 million was provided as part of budget 2019 to further the delivery of the Creative Ireland programme. This will ensure the Department can build on the work accomplished in 2017 and 2018, continue to drive implementation of the programme at local level and fund specific projects, actions and priorities that further the wider aims of the programme.

A total of €1.86 million of the above budget has been allocated to the implementation of the creative youth plan in 2019. This includes doubling the number of creative schools from 150 to 300 primary, post-primary and Youthreach schools, increasing continual professional development courses and broadening our reach beyond the arts to creative practices among other initiatives.

A sum of €2 million has been allocated among all 31 local authorities to enable them implement their five-year culture and creative strategies, which I launched last September with An Taoiseach and the Minister, Deputy Eoghan Murphy, whose Department is providing an additional sum of €1 million to local authorities.

Each local authority will, therefore, receive a total of approximately €96,000 in 2019 to fund a comprehensive local programme of activities. Some €800,000 has been allocated lo Cruinniú na nÓg, which will take place on 15 June 2019 and which aims to get children and young people involved in creative activities with an emphasis on making, doing, seeing and experiencing. Every local authority has been allocated specific funding in addition to its programme funding for local activities. We will also be running an extensive awareness-raising campaign nationally and regionally to get as many young people involved on the day as possible.

Approximately €1 million has been allocated to the national creativity fund, which was launched in May 2018. The 30 partnership projects being funded under this scheme were initiated in 2018 and will significantly add value, scale or both to the wider implementation of the programme. They will also help inform policy and cross-sectoral development in the area of culture, creativity, health and well-being. The scheme focuses on three areas: individual and collective well-being; innovation; and connecting communities.

Additional information not given on the floor of the House

The remainder of the budget will be agreed in the coming weeks in line with the priorities for the Creative Ireland programme in 2019. These priorities include enhancing the potential of the wider creative industries. Other costs relating to targeted citizen engagement initiatives, research and costs associated with the effective running of the Creative Ireland programme office will also be agreed in the coming weeks.

The Deputy will appreciate that the overall allocations to each of the above elements at this point are approximate and may vary throughout the year as the programme unfolds. The matter of funding in 2020 will be examined in the context of the usual annual budgetary Estimates.

Did I understand the Minister to say that the programme will be expanded from 150 schools to 300?

There are thousands of schools in the country. I am really anxious that schools in the delivering equality of opportunity in schools, DEIS, system and schools in less well-off areas are able to access this very important programme as soon as possible. Perhaps the Minister could tell us about that.

The second point I want to make is that much of Creative Ireland will result in events at local community and regional level. That is all to the good. However, there is a crisis in the arts community concerning remuneration for people who work in the arts, who are employed not on a full-time basis but part-time or as events arise. Does the Minister's Department have an embedded policy to ensure that people working at different levels in these programmes get a living wage, or at least a minimum wage? I am not aware of the Department having a policy of ensuring that all the people employed on a part-time, full-time or temporary basis at the events it supports are paid a living wage.

The Deputy has raised a few questions there. DEIS schools are the subject of another parliamentary question, as is the issue of the minimum wage. I can address those now. I will go into DEIS schools in more detail in reply to the Deputy's other question. If my memory serves me correctly, 41 DEIS schools are involved. Many schools can participate in the creative youth scheme. It cannot be open to just one type of school. It has to be a cross-section. If my memory serves me correctly, 41 out of the 150 schools participating in the present scheme are DEIS schools. I note also that the scheme will be expanded to 300 schools.

In regard to the national minimum wage and a living wage, I note that as a voluntary initiative the living wage has no legislative basis and confers no statutory entitlement. The national minimum wage, on the other hand, has a legislative basis. It confers a statutory entitlement on employees and a statutory obligation on employers. I am not sure of the other questions the Deputy mentioned. In general, Creative Ireland will receive funding of €7.15 million, which is an increase of €1.15 million this year. It will primarily support the culture and creativity teams established in every local authority and allow for the continued roll-out of the creative youth programme, which is of wonderful assistance to children.

The reason I am raising the issue of DEIS schools and a living or minimum wage in this and in other questions is this that the young people to whom the Minister has referred, who are at the start of their career working in the arts, find it difficult to get adequate remuneration. The Minister and the Government will be aware that rents are now sky high. If people involved in the arts are to live independent lives it is critical that all the funding organisations that deal with the arts support a move to at least a minimum wage, and preferably a living wage. When I was Tánaiste, I secured a deal with Fine Gael to advance a minimum wage in this country and set up a Low Pay Commission to look at issues affecting people on very low pay and in precarious work. The arts are particularly affected by this. Is the Minister is developing any kind of policy to deal with the real problem of very low and precarious pay and work in the arts sector, particularly among young people?

The Deputy was part of the Fine Gael-Labour Party coalition which cut funding for the arts and culture from the already low level of €139 million in 2011 to €125 million in 2013, a decrease of almost 10%. The current Government and I, as Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, have been increasing capital and current funding for the arts back to sustainable and required levels. While the Deputy criticises support for artists, as Minister for Social Protection she introduced the heavily criticised JobBridge programme, which the National Youth Council of Ireland said required significant reform if it was to provide participants with a worthwhile experience that would help them to secure employment.

The Deputy raised the idea of precarious employment, which she has done on numerous occasions in this House. With regard to legal protections for workers across the arts sector, it is important to note that employees in every industry and sector are entitled to all existing legal protections. As Members will be aware, legislation sponsored by my colleague, the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection, is working its way through the Houses. This should improve the security and predictability of working hours for employees on insecure contracts and for those working variable hours. The existing protections of employment law also have a role to play . There are institutions for reporting abuse of employment legislation, as the Deputy is aware. I am satisfied that in general the industry works to a high standard.

I am sure the Minister is aware that there is a thriving arts community in Ireland. I know she has met various people. We had a searing presentation a couple of weeks ago from mostly young people working in the arts outlining how precarious and low their income was. The Minister chose to go back to the bank collapse in this country. Happily, I was part of the Government that got the country out of the mess it was in but we do not have time to debate that now. Now, on the Minister's watch, young people in the arts are increasingly finding it next to impossible to make a decent living. Does the Department have a policy? Does the Minister have a policy for practitioners and people working in the arts? What we heard in the recent presentation in the AV room would draw a tear from a stone. Young people cannot afford rent because they are working in the arts. They love what they do but they need a living wage. Older people in the arts literally cannot afford rent and cannot qualify for social housing. I am asking the Minister to get engaged.

Labour Party was in government and was a party to the cuts in public expenditure, although the party dishonestly campaigned against austerity before the election. The Government's focus is on increasing funding for the arts and we have been doing that. This is evidenced by the Taoiseach's repeated commitment to doubling funding over a ten-year period. As I said, there is a 13% increase in funding for my Department in this year's Estimates. There is a €6.8 million increase in funding for the Arts Council of Ireland - an increase of 10% - which the National Campaign for the Arts welcomed.

Capital funding of €1.2 billion was announced, as part of the national development plan, for culture, heritage and the Gaeltacht over the ten years to 2028. It includes a €460 million investment programme in our national cultural institutions and a €200 million audiovisual action plan which I launched last summer. The Government will continue to consider measures to deliver further on its commitments. It will balance supports, however, to ensure they are felt across the sector. I am pleased that we, in Fine Gael, are doing everything we can to support artists with the resources available.

Arts Funding

Aindrias Moynihan

Ceist:

9. Deputy Aindrias Moynihan asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the funding streams which will be made available to redevelop a theatre (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8672/19]

The Briery Gap has been closed since the May 2016 fire and the cultural heart of Macroom and the wider area has been hard hit. While there are temporary measures in place to try to facilitate some services, there is a cultural void in the absence of the theatre and the cinema. I have raised this issue with the Minister previously. It is going to be expensive to redevelop the Briery Gap. There is significant local funding, with almost €1 million allocated by the county council, but national funding, however, has been very poor. It comes to only 6% of the overall cost of the redevelopment. Will the Minister outline what kind of funding streams will be available?

The recent arts and culture capital scheme is focused on the refurbishment and enhancement of the existing stock of arts and cultural facilities throughout the country. To date, funding of €10.214 million has been allocated to 134 projects under three complementary grant streams. This is the most significant investment in cultural infrastructure in a decade with funding provided to a range of facilities, including arts centres, theatres, galleries and museums, as well as artists' studios and creative spaces. A substantial grant was allocated before to the facility to which Deputy Aindrias Moynihan refers. A full list of all successful projects is available on my Department's website for his information.

Due to the exceptional circumstances in the case to which the Deputy refers, my Department was supportive of assisting with the reconstruction of this building, under the above mentioned scheme. My Department offered to provide funding of up to €250,000 to Cork County Council, in principle, to assist with restoration and enhancement of the Briery Gap. That funding offer was dependent on clarity concerning all reinstatement issues, including the contribution from insurance, and subject to acceptance by the council of the conditions attached to this funding.

I understand, however, that the council's reinstatement proposal is significantly more ambitious than the available finance and the council has been in ongoing engagement with officials in my Department regarding the project and the funding shortfall. The council may also have other options open to it to close the funding gap. My Department will maintain contact with council in this regard. My grandfather was born outside of Macroom and it is a place close to my heart. We only have certain resources available to us, however. Project Ireland 2040 has given explicit recognition to the importance of our culture, language and heritage in general. It sets out significant investment on a phased basis over the next ten years, including €40 million to secure existing investment in arts and culture infrastructure nationwide and to ensure a regional balance.

There is an ambitious programme to redevelop the Briery Gap and it will cost up to €4 million. Substantial funding has been put in place from a number of different sources but there is still a gap of about €1.5 million. We need somebody with deep pockets, such as the Government, to bridge a gap of that size. The county council has already committed more than €1 million to the project. The €250,000 made available by the Department is positive but it is still only 6% of the overall cost. Additional funding is needed. We understand an arts and cultural capital scheme is being discussed. Is that scheme in place? How much funding is available for the scheme?

Project Ireland 2040 is far away and we have been without the theatre and the cultural centre for several years already. Realistically, we need to move on this faster than 2040, 2030 or even 2025. Is there a scheme in place at present from which the Minister is considering funding? What kind of moneys are available in that scheme? Does the Minister have an active proposal for Briery Gap? There was great disappointment locally when the rural regeneration scheme did not provide any funding and we need to see if there is another active scheme from which the Minister might consider funding this project.

We provided €250,000 before to the Briery Gap from the arts and cultural capital scheme mentioned by Deputy Aindrias Moynihan. That was due to the exceptional circumstances. There is no question of the merit of this theatre. It is unfortunate that the insurance did not cover all the costs and that there is a gap. It is a community arts and cultural facility which included a 200-seat theatre space and associated sports facilities, as well as a public library and an exhibition space on the ground floor. It has been operating as a theatre since 2000.

I will be opening the capital scheme again shortly and I am sure the Briery Gap will be in a position to apply. It will be a competitive process requiring a combination of funding sources to bridge the existing gap. We also gave other capital funding to the Briery Gap, including €30,000 under the ACCESS II scheme in 2007 for health and safety works and other equipment. It also got €10,000 in 2013 under the small capital grants scheme for the purchase of carpets and I know that funding was drawn down.

I thank the Minister for confirming she will be opening a scheme. How much will be available to distribute to places such as the Briery Gap? Have there been applications already? We are being told locally by party colleagues that funding has already been committed for Briery Gap and that it is on the way. Will the Minister confirm that or is somebody else approving arts funding on this project? Will she also clarify how much will be able to distribute through that new scheme when it is up and running? Given the gap in funding is about €1.5 million, and the council has already put in substantial funding, what scale of funding would the Minister expect to be distributing through those schemes? Sums of €30,000 and €250,000 are positive but when a job costing more than €4 million is being undertaken, we need a commitment of more than just 6% from the Government.

I assure Deputy Aindrias Moynihan that no funding commitments have been given in respect of this particular scheme. From experience to date, the Department has noted better value for money from providing smaller grants to organisations. When a new round opens, therefore, the maximum grant most likely will be in the region of €200,000 to €300,000. It is most likely, however, that a smaller capital scheme for amounts up €50,000 will be announced. We are in the process of elaborating and expanding on that scheme. I already mentioned some of the funding Briery Gap has received in the past. I also know that under the Department's philanthropy leverages scheme, Briery Gap received €2,500 for the production of "Titanic: Message in a Bottle" in 2012. The organisation again applied in 2013 and received another €2,000 towards the all-Ireland transition year drama festival. It is an important cultural venue and I am aware of that.

Aerfoirt Réigiúnacha

Catherine Connolly

Ceist:

10. D'fhiafraigh Deputy Catherine Connolly den Aire Cultúir, Oidhreachta agus Gaeltachta cén dul chun cinn atá déanta maidir le hAerfort na Mine a cheannach [8685/19]

Tá a fhios ag an Leas-Cheann Comhairle cé chomh tábhachtach agus atá an aersheirbhís do mhuintir oileáin Árainn. Tá ceist dhíreach agam, cén dul chun cinn atá déanta ag an Roinn chun Aerfort na Mine a cheannach?

Rinne Galway Aviation Services Limited, GASL, cinneadh i Mí Meitheamh na bliana seo caite, péire de na conarthaí a bhí ag an gcomhlacht leis an Roinn maidir le seirbhísí aeir Oileáin Árann a thabhairt ar ais. Mar thoradh air seo, b'éigean do mo Roinn socruithe a dhéanamh chun go leanfaí ag cur seirbhís ar fáil do na hoileáin. Tar éis tairiscintí phoiblí a lorg, aontaíodh conradh eatramhach le GASL maidir leis an tseirbhís aeir, a sheasfaidh go dtí 30 Meán Fómhair 2019.

Comhthreomhar leis sin, tá comhaontú sínithe idir mo Roinn agus GASL faoina dtabharfar faoi phróiseas chun an poitéinseal go gceannódh an Stát Aerfort Chonamara a scrúdú. Chuige sin, tá luachálaithe fostaithe ag an dá pháirtí agus tá suirbhé innealtóireachta déanta ag mo Roinn ar an suíomh. Leanfaidh an teagmháil idir an dá pháirtí chun gach iarracht a dhéanamh teacht ar shocrú maidir le ceannach an aerfoirt, ar théarmaí a bheidh sásúil don dá thaobh.

Anuas ar an méad thuas, bíonn cruinnithe rialta á dtionól ag mo Roinn le hionadaithe na n-oileáin agus tá tús curtha le próiseas comhairliúcháin phoiblí ar mhaithe le mianta phobail na n-oileáin maidir le dearadh na seirbhíse don chéad conradh public service obligation, PSO, eile a bhailiú.

Tá a fhios agam go bhfuil an tAire Stáit ar an eolas cé chomh tábhachtach agus atá an aerseirbhís agus i ndáiríre, ba scéal dearfach é go rinne an Roinn an cinneadh an t-aerfort a cheannach agus is dul chun cinn suntasach é sin. Áfach, níl aon cinnteacht fós agus ba mhaith liom a fháil amach an tréimhse ama atá i gceist. Mar is eol don Aire Stáit, tá muintir oileáin Árann ag streachailt le fada an lá chun cinnteacht a bheith acu ó thaobh na seirbhísí de. Cuireann an easpa cinnteachta isteach go mór orthu mar bíonn orthu streachailt seachtain i ndiaidh seachtaine chun cinnteacht a fháil. An bhfuil tréimhse ama i gceist leis an bpróiseas seo chun an t-aerfort a cheannach?

Táimid ag déanamh chuile iarracht go gcríochnóimid an próiseas roimh dheireadh Mí Márta. Sin an méid a bhí leagtha amach roimh an Nollaig. Léiríonn na céimeanna atá tógtha ag an Roinn go dtí seo go bhfuil tuiscint mhaith againn ar thábhacht na seirbhísí ar na hoileáin Árann agus tá sé sin luaite ag an Teachta freisin. Tá an comhaontú sínithe idir na húinéirí agus mo Roinn a leagann amach slí maidir leis an bpoitéinseal an suíomh a cheannach. Caithfear praghas a aontú agus caithfear riachtanas an cód caitheachais poiblí a shásamh tríd an bpróiseas. Tá luach faighte ag an Roinn ó Aer Arann agus tá luach faighte ag Aer Arann ón Roinn ar an suíomh. Tá suirbhéireacht déanta ag innealltóirí an Roinn ar an suíomh agus anois caithfimid dul i gcaidreamh maidir leis an bpraghas agus teacht ar phraghas atá sásúil don dhá thaobh.

Tuigim é sin agus cuirim fáilte roimh an bpróiseas sin ach is dócha go n-aontaíonn an tAire Stáit liom nach féidir dul ar aghaidh mar a bhfuil cúrsaí faoi láthair agus le cúpla bliana anuas. Caithfimid cinnteacht a bheith againn agus caithfimid an t-aerfort a cheannach chomh sciobtha agus is féidir agus ansin caithfimid conradh a chur i gcrích ionas go mbeidh cinnteacht ann. Níl a fhios agam an bhfuil tuiscint mhaith ag an Roinn ar seo. Cloisim é sin agus de réir mar a thuigim, tá an Roinn ag caint faoi helicopter arís. B'fhéidir gur ráfla atá i gceist agus b'fhéidir go bhfuil mé mícheart ach iarraim ar an Aire Stáit a rá liom nach bhfuil an Roinn ag caint faoi sheirbhís helicopter a chur ar fáil agus go bhfuil an Roinn dáiríre faoi chumarsáid chiallmhar a bheith aici le muintir Árann chun seirbhís a chur ar fáil do mhuintir oileáin Árann?

An rud is tábhachtaí ná go bhfuil seirbhís ar fáil do mhuintir Árann ó Aerfort na Mine agus go bhfuil siad sásta leis an tseirbhís a bheas á chur ar fáil. Tá a fhios agam go bhfuil tuairimí á lorg ag an Roinn ar an tseirbhís faoi láthair agus tá a fhios agam go bhfuil ceist an helicopter ann fós ach tá tuairimí á lorg i scríbhinn ó na comharchumainn maidir leis an tseirbhís. Táimid dáiríre gurb é ceannach an t-aerfort an rud gur ceart a dhéanamh don Roinn, do mhuintir na hoileáin agus don Stát ach caithfimid teacht ar phraghas atá an dhá thaobh sásta leis agus sin mar a táimid ag dul ar aghaidh. Mar a dúirt mé, tá mé dóchasach go mbeimid in ann an próiseas sin a chríochnú roimh an dáta a bhí leagtha amach roimh an Nollaig, sé sin deireadh Mí Márta.

Hare Coursing

Clare Daly

Ceist:

11. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if a pilot project will be introduced to microchip hares at some coursing meetings during the 2019-2020 coursing season in consultation with an organisation (details supplied); and if submissions in relation to the matter will be considered from animal welfare organisations directly concerned with the protection of hares. [8629/19]

The Minister indicated previously that she agrees with us that there is some merit in considering the issue of microchipping hares at coursing meetings in order to protect them from being illegally traded or trafficked from one coursing event to another. I understand from replies to me that the Minister has asked her Department to examine this issue. Has there been any progress? Would the Minister consider taking submissions from organisations, such as the Irish Council Against Blood Sports?

First, I would say that we would.

My Department issued the Irish Coursing Club with licences in August 2018 on behalf of its affiliated clubs to capture and tag hares for the 2018-2019 coursing season which included conditions relating to the reporting of coursing trials.

There are 29 conditions associated with the licences issued to the Irish Coursing Club which have been developed and refined over the years. One of the conditions requires that hares may not be coursed more than once on the same day. In addition, the licence specifically requires that hares that have been coursed can be readily identified to ensure that this condition is rigidly observed.

I agree that there may be some merit in considering the issue of microchipping of hares at coursing meetings and I have requested officials of my Department to examine the possibility of perhaps introducing a pilot project at some coursing meetings during the 2019-2020 season in consultation with the Irish Coursing Club. Officials of my Department have already made contact with the Irish Coursing Club in this regard. It is certainly a method used in the tracking, quantification and assessment of certain species in the wild and if it aids the welfare of the wild animal and can be feasibly, safely and cleanly done, then it merits that consideration. I thank Deputy for suggesting it as a way to ensure the safety and welfare of hares. I would be open also to receiving submissions from animal welfare bodies on the question of microchipping, as the Deputy mentioned.

I am aware that the Deputy has raised the issue of illegal - the Deputy mentioned trafficking - trading of hares previously and the suggestion of microchipping is made in that regard too. I can assure the Deputy that any allegations made to my Department about illegal trading of hares will be investigated where possible.

I am glad the Minister has confirmed that she is progressing with the idea of a pilot scheme for either this year or next year. While recognising that the opinion of the ICC have been sought already, I would ask how the welfare groups, such as Irish Council Against Blood Sports, ICABS, have an input. Can they now contact the Department? Is there someone they can talk to? Of course, the licence currently states that one cannot do this activity. One cannot traffic in or reuse hares, but the reason the issue of microchipping is being raised is it is difficult to police that, even with the tagging. There have been some graphic examples of unscrupulous characters hanging around outside coursing events selling on hares to clubs.

This is a significant concern for many rural communities as well. Gardaí in Kerry have been on the airwaves about pursuing these hunters who are coming onto land, collecting hares which they should not be doing and then "casing the joint" as well. It is necessary that we would move to the next stage.

Of course, it would be useful if any such allegation about trafficking were backed up by some evidence. If anybody the Deputy knows has any information, I ask her to get him or her to contact the Department or the National Parks and Wildlife Service.

The current position is that at a coursing meeting, the hares are tagged, normally, with an ear tag, in order to prevent them being coursed more than once a day. There would be a cost to coursing clubs, that we would have to bear in mind, in introducing microchipping and it is important that we collaborate with it in terms of exploring the possibility of bringing this in. Hence, the proposal to undertake a pilot project in co-operation with the Irish Coursing Club is probably the way to go for the moment in order to get its buy-in and the buy-in of everybody involved. Details would have to be worked out. An ear tag is readily visible; a chip is not so.

Over the years, there have been a number of allegations relating to the use of hares by coursing clubs. Some allegations claim that individuals catch hares illegally and sell them on to coursing clubs and that is something that we obviously want to stamp out as much as we can.

I thank the Minister. We have passed on specific allegations to the Minister and we will pass on more. I am sure the people watching will later on after this.

The illegal trafficking of hares between coursing clubs has always been a problem. As the Minister stated, in theory, the uninjured hares are supposed to be released but quite often they are caught again and traded on, which is something that we want to stamp out.

My understanding is that the National Parks and Wildlife Service, NPWS, mammal expert has indicated support for the use of microchipping.

It is relatively cheap to do, as Dogs Trust will do it for roughly €4.50. I would be keen to see a compulsory system, even if only on a pilot basis at this stage. It would be a step in the right direction. Ideally, I would like to see coursing banned outright. The public would support that as well. Audiences are diminishing and it is an area that is dying out. In the meantime, we should be doing everything we can to ensure that the law is upheld and microchipping is cost-effective. The National Parks and Wildlife Service, NPWS, seem to be on for it and I am really hopeful that we could engage. Were the Minister in a position to give me the name of a person the groups could contact or to whom they could make their views known, that would be great.

Written Answers are published on the Oireachtas website.