Ceisteanna ar Sonraíodh Uain Dóibh - Priority Questions

Covid-19 Paindéim

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

13. D'fhiafraigh Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh den Aire Cultúir, Oidhreachta agus Gaeltachta cén uair a bhéas plean cuimsitheach tharrthála iar-Covid-19 foilsithe aici don Ghaeilge agus Gaeltachta. [17297/20]

Táim ag iarraidh fáil amach ón Aire cén uair a bheidh plean tarrthála cuimsitheach againn don bhealach romhainn maidir leis an Ghaeilge, an Ghaeltacht agus na pobail atá cónaí orthu sna ceantair sin tar éis Covid-19. Cén uair a fheicimid an plean sin ón Rialtas?

Tugann an Rialtas aitheantas do thábhacht na Gaeilge mar chéad teanga an Stáit, mar theanga bheo agus mar chuid dár n-oidhreacht. Tá réimse gníomhaíochtaí curtha i bhfeidhm ag an Roinn cheana féin chun dul i ngleic le dúshláin Covid-19 mar a bhaineann siad leis an Ghaeilge agus leis an Ghaeltacht.

In Aibreán, fógraíodh nach mbeadh cúrsaí foghlama Gaeilge sa Ghaeltacht ag dul ar aghaidh an samhradh seo, mar a bhí beartaithe acu, ar mhaithe le sláinte phoiblí a chosaint. Ag aithint go mbeadh tionchar mór ag an gcinneadh seo ar an earnáil, d’fhógair mo Roinn go mbeadh ciste éigeandála aon uaire ar fiú €4.7 milliún á chur ar fáil. Is beart aon uaire é seo leis an aidhm inmharthanacht leanúnach na hearnála a chinntiú agus ligean don earnáil leanúint ar aghaidh chun cur leis an iarracht chórasach atá á dhéanamh tacú leis an nGaeilge agus leis na réigiúin Ghaeltachta de réir cuspóirí uileghabhálacha an straitéis 20 bliain don Ghaeilge 2010-30.

Tá maoiniú suntasach curtha ar fáil le haghaidh gnóthaí Gaeltachta agus Gaeilge do 2020. Tá sé fógartha cheana féin go mbeidh infheistíocht bhreise ar fiú €500,000 curtha ar fáil don phróiseas pleanála teanga, a chinnteoidh go dtógfar ar an obair mhaith atá ar siúl faoin bpróiseas cheana féin. Chomh maith leis sin, déanfar ardú €1 milliún nó 11% ar sholáthar caipitil Údarás na Gaeltachta chun tuilleadh a chur lena chumas ar chlár oibre a chur chun cinn ar leas na Gaeltachta, agus tá €200,000 breise curtha ar fáil do mhaoiniú na gcomharchumann Gaeltachta freisin.

Gabhaim comhghairdeas leis an Aire Stáit as ucht a hardú céime chun Aire Stáit don Ghaeilge agus don Ghaeltacht. Tá súil agam go mbeimid in ann oibriú le chéile ar mhaithe na hearnála seo go háirithe. Chuala mé cad a bhí á rá ag an Aire Stáit agus tá brón orm, ach ní freagra é sin ar mo cheist. Don chuid is mó de na hearnálacha eile, tá bealach chun tosaigh, plean oibre nó pacáiste tarrthála chun déileáil le torthaí Covid-19 anois agus sa todhchaí leagtha amach cheana féin nó á leagadh amach ag an Roinn. Bhí an méid a dúirt an tAire Stáit ina fhreagra ag díriú isteach ar an méid atá ag tarlú faoi láthair. Aithním roinnt de na cinntí sin agus d’fháiltigh mé rompu cheana féin leis an Aire sinsearach, ach cá bhfuil an plean tarrthála a théann chun tosaigh ar an méid atá leagtha amach go dtí seo? Cén uair a bheidh sé foilsithe agus cén uair a bheidh sé soiléir do ghnáth phobal na tíre?

Gabhaim buíochas leis an Teachta as an ábhar tábhachtach seo a ardú. Ní raibh an t-am agam an t-eolas iomlán a thabhairt dó i mo chéad fhreagra. Leanfaidh mé ar aghaidh le cuid den eolas seo.

Tá soláthar iomlán de €23.652 milliún curtha ar fáil ag an Roinn d’Údarás na Gaeltachta i 2020. Baineann €10 milliún den soláthar seo le buiséad caipitil na heagraíochta chun fostaíocht a chruthú. Sa bhreis ar sin, tá ciste suas le €10.484 milliún san iomlán curtha ar fáil don údarás faoin gciste um athghiniúint agus forbairt tuaithe, chomh maith leis an gciste um fhorbairt fiontraíochta réigiúnaí, le dhá bhliain anuas. Ó tharlaigh géarchéim Covid-19, tá teagmháil leanúnach ag oifigigh mo Roinne le hoifigigh Údarás na Gaeltachta faoin tionchar a d’fhéadfadh a bheith ag an géarchéim ar cliant-chomhlachtaí na heagraíochta. Fógraíodh le déanaí go mbeadh rochtain ag cliant-chomhlachtaí Údarás na Gaeltachta ar réimse iomlán tacaíochtaí faoin gciste cothaithe fiontair agus €5 milliún breise ar fáil i mbliana mar thús don eagraíocht le hathbhreithniú a dhéanamh ar a chuid riachtanais roimh dheireadh na bliana.

Fáiltím roimh an €5 milliún breise a luaigh an tAire Stáit d’Údarás na Gaeltachta, ach sin an t-aon mhaoiniú breise a fheicim go dtí seo don Ghaeilge agus an Ghaeltacht. Arís, cén uair a bheidh an plean tarrthála don Ghaeltacht atá bainteach le Covid-19 á fhoilsiú? Ní bhaineann an t-ábhar seo leis na fadhbanna atá ann faoi láthair, ach na fadhbanna a bheidh ann do mhná tí an bhliain seo chugainn, mar an t-airgead a bheidh gá dóibh a infheistiú ina gcuid tithe, mar shampla. Beidh fadhbanna ann freisin do na hionaid phobail, don Ghaeltacht i gcoitinne agus d'Údarás na Gaeltachta é féin agus é ag triail comhlachtaí a mhealladh isteach sa cheantar in iomaíocht le ceantair eile. Tá slám mór oibre le déanamh agus níl mé ach ag fiafraí cén uair a bheidh an plean tarrthála sin foilsithe.

Tá ceist eile ag an Teachta faoin ábhar seo a bheidh mé ag freagairt níos déanaí. Tuigim go bhfuil deacrachtaí agus dúshláin romham agus teastaíonn uaim aghaidh a thabhairt orthu. Tugtar aitheantas sa chlár Rialtais do thábhacht na Gaeilge mar theanga bheo agus cuid luachmhar dár n-oidhreacht agus dá stádas mar chéad teanga oifigiúil an Stáit i mBunreacht na hÉireann.

Maidir leis an bpróiseas pleanála teanga, tá 18 plean ceadaithe sa Ghaeltacht cheana féin agus tá sé beartaithe go mbeidh ocht gcinn eile ceadaithe taobh istigh de dhá bhliain. Ar ndóigh, is ceist í cúrsaí pleanála don Roinn Tithíochta, Pleanála agus Rialtais Áitiúil. Is tríd an bpróiseas Meastacháin a chuirtear soláthar airgid ar fáil ar bhun bliantúil do mo Roinn agus, ar ndóigh, do na Ranna go léir.

Beidh ceist eile ag an Teachta faoin Ghaeltacht níos déanaí agus beidh freagra agam air sin freisin.

Night-time Economy

Duncan Smith

Ceist:

14. Deputy Duncan Smith asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if the night-time economy task force has been appointed; if not, when it will be appointed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17502/20]

The programme for Government commits the Government to establishing a night-time economy task force within 30 days, which would lead us up to Monday, 27 July. I am looking for an update as to whether that task force has been set up.

My Department is leading on the programme for Government's key commitment to establish a night-time economy task force. The aim of the proposed task force will be to look at innovative approaches to supporting and developing a vibrant, diverse night-time culture and economy in Ireland, and it is intended that the key Departments, agencies and relevant groups will be represented on this task force at senior level. The task force will build on the work carried out already in the Department in this area, which included a symposium to investigate the possibility of creative nightlife and cultural activity after hours and the establishment of pilot projects in both Cork and Dublin, which intended to provide a more detailed insight into the specific issues facing the development of a night-time culture and to seek wider public views. The task force will examine progress on these measures to date and examine more complex issues, including issues around licensing laws and regulations governing our night-time culture at national and local level.

Part of the role of the task force will also be to examine the establishment of night-time culture mayors in Cork and Dublin, a role that some other European cities have already established. We know that many businesses and creative practitioners which depend on the night-time economy are suffering huge losses due to the necessary restrictions caused by Covid-19, and the work of this task force is even more important in this context. The support and cooperation of key Departments, agencies and local authorities will be vital to the success of this initiative, and my Department is writing to them to seek nominations to the task force. As the Deputy said, there is a commitment in the programme for Government to establish this task force within the first 30 days, and I am happy to confirm that I will be announcing the establishment of this task force next week. The task force will consult and inform the various interested groups who have been involved in the development of this initiative as the work progresses.

I thank the Minister for her reply. It is very encouraging that she will be announcing the task force next week, and if it is a day or two after Monday, we will not be holding her to that. I think all Members of the House agree that the promotion of our night-time culture is very important. What the Labour Party committed to in our manifesto complements a lot of what is in the programme for Government. As such, we would be supportive of any of the measures that are coming in that we feel will progress this issue. As we know, our licensing laws do need some reform. Many of our pubs and restaurants are not open at the moment and we need to use this time to plan for when they do, not only during the day but through the night.

I have something else to ask the Minister as well. It is all very well and good to have a vibrant night-time culture, but on the issue of provision of out-of-hours or 24-hour public transport in Cork, Dublin and the major cities and towns, will the Minister give any indication of what work the task force will be doing in that regard?

To address the issue that the Deputy has raised, the membership of the task force is under consideration, but it is likely to include some key Departments, for example, the Department of Justice and Equality, the Departments responsible for climate action and transport, and for housing, local government and heritage. On licensing, I anticipate that a wide range of public bodies will have a strong role to play in this but the licensing issue will be under Department of Justice and Equality. That is why I hope we will have An Garda Síochána on the task force. To address transport issues, we will have the Department responsible for climate action and transport represented there. The idea is that the task force will engage with all relevant groups to bring the necessary knowledge in to make it effective.

That is brilliant. I thank the Minister again for her response. I would appreciate it if we could have some update from the task force on its early work through the late summer and early autumn when we return after the recess, or as early as is practicable. I look forward to discussing this further with the Minister in future questions.

I wish to say also that I will be recommending that someone from Give Us The Night, who made a detailed submission to us, will be part of that task force. It is my intention to invite them. One of the recommendations in their submission was the expansion of the 24-hour night transport services etc. which the Deputy mentioned. We will be looking at all of those issues. They are complex but we intend to address them and have someone from Give Us The Night on the task force.

Covid-19 Pandemic Supports

Richard Boyd Barrett

Ceist:

15. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the additional funding she has requested in the July stimulus; the way in which she plans to allocate the stimulus to support those working in music, live entertainment and the events sector to sustain performers, crew and event organisers who are unable to recommence work or who will see the work and income available to them dramatically reduced as long as social distancing and public health restrictions remain; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17392/20]

Our arts, music, live entertainment and events sector is facing an absolutely dire crisis as a result of Covid-19. Our artists, performers and skilled crew see no roadmap to recovery and have seen their incomes absolutely devastated. What has the Minister asked of her Government colleagues in the July stimulus to respond to the crisis being faced by arts, music, live entertainment and events?

I agree that the entire arts community and those who work in it have taken a massive hit. They were the first impacted, and due to the very nature of their activities, they may be the last to return. We need our arts now more than ever. They defines us as a people.

Since the advent of the crisis, officials from my Department have been actively engaging with the sector and continuing to engage with the agencies under its remit and other sectoral stakeholders to ensure that there is the greatest level of awareness of the available supports and to ensure that optimal use is made of available resources to best support this sector at this challenging time.

On businesses involved in the entertainment industry, such as SMEs and sole traders, the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation has put in place a comprehensive suite of supports for firms of all sizes, which includes grants, low-cost loans, commercial rates write-offs and deferred tax liabilities. These supports are designed to build confidence, to further assist businesses in the management of their companies, and to allow them to begin to look into the future and start charting a path forward for the weeks and months ahead. The Government has also extended its two universal income support measures for all sectors, and further measures will also be set out in the forthcoming July stimulus, which will build on the existing suite of supports introduced since the pandemic began and will aim to help sustain incomes. boost business, and kick-start the various sectors. Furthermore, the Government has committed to brining forward a national economic plan, to be published alongside the budget in October, which will outline the Government's plans to support the long-term sustainability of the economy.

Details of the July stimulus will be announced shortly, but I can assure the Deputy that I am on the Cabinet subcommittee for economic recovery, and I am acutely aware of the pressure facing the sector in light of the public health guidance. They have a voice at Cabinet and a voice on that Cabinet subcommittee. As I said, I am acutely aware of their needs and am pushing for everything in the July stimulus package.

I certainly hope that is true. The arts, music, live entertainment and events sector will be watching closely to see if it is true. While I welcome the fact that an additional €25 million was given in response to campaigning by the National Campaign for the Arts and the Minister alludes to some supports for small businesses in the events sector, some of the signs are not very good. The truth is that the cuts in the pandemic unemployment payment, PUP, have already impacted very significantly on many artists, performers, musicians and so on. Some of them did not even get the pandemic payment because they were not working at the time, even though it is obviously an episodic existence where employment and income is concerned, so that was totally unfair. We are getting indications that the Government plans to cut the pandemic payment from €350 to €300, which will further punish people such as artists, performers, crew and so on who are dependent on that. Is the Government going respond to the key call, which is that the income supports should be maintained as a basic income for artists, crew, performers and musicians?

I am examining a whole suite of measures because that is what is needed to support this sector. As I have said, my Department has met with a wide range of stakeholders from across the arts and culture sector in recent months. The programme for Government commits to establishing a cross-departmental task force to develop a clear approach, informed by the views of all stakeholders, to protect and sustain the arts and culture sector throughout the Covid recovery and beyond, which in turn will inform the national economic plan.

Officials from my Department have met with the live entertainment sector which has sought a range of supports, including an extension of the temporary wage subsidy scheme, TWSS, a waiver of business rates and establishment of that cross-departmental task force. I am considering a whole suite of supports for them.

The Minister is slightly dodging the question because the reports are that the TWSS is going to be tapered, that is, reduced - I love these euphemisms - and that the pandemic payment is going to be cut. That is going to hit disproportionately the musicians, performers and live entertainment and events sectors. That payment should be turned into a minimum income above and beyond which people can earn something.

Some of the other big requests that are being asked for are whether we can take measures to make sure people like Spotify and other online content platforms pay artists, because much artistic content is now online. Even though they make huge profits, they pay miserable amounts of money to the actual artists and performers. Can we ensure broadcasters are actually required to broadcast a minimum percentage of 40% or 50% of domestically produced artistic, theatrical and dramatic output so that we can give real support? Critically, the main demand of the sector is that the PUP is maintained, not cut and is extended to everybody in the arts, music and live entertainment and events sectors.

As I said, I am fighting for a whole range of supports. That specific matter is one for my colleagues in the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection and the Department of Finance. I am seeking all measures to support the community.

With regard to online content, it is not enough for people to say we value or artists or they are invaluable to our economy and well-being. We have to pay them for the content, and I am working on a whole range of solutions and have been engaging to see how we can do that. We must, in this context of Covid-19, explore, develop and pay our artists for new platforms to enjoy what they bring to society. As I said, it is crucial our artists are paid for what they provide us.

Arts Funding

Catherine Connolly

Ceist:

16. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the status of Galway 2020; the amount paid to Galway 2020 to date in 2020; the way in which the funding has been spent; the conditions that will be attached to further allocations, including the reappointment of an Irish language officer; the status of the performance delivery agreement between her Department and Galway 2020; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17298/20]

Baineann mo cheist le Gaillimh 2020. Tá soiléiriú á lorg agam ó thaobh an caiteachas go dtí an lá inniu agus an caiteachas ata beartaithe ag an Roinn.

My question is about Galway 2020 and I want an update on how much money the Department has given to date, how it has been spent, how much money is promised for the future, what conditions, if any, are attached to that future money, in particular, the re-employment of an Irish language officer, and an update on the performance delivery agreement. Go raibh maith agat.

Since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, Galway 2020, like so many cultural and artistic organisations around Ireland and, indeed, the world, has been deeply impacted, with a significant number of events cancelled or postponed. On 29 April last, Galway 2020 received approval from my predecessor to re-engage with the cultural partners from the original winning bid for the European Capital of Culture to explore the options for project delivery in the context of the evolving public health situation.

On 10 July, following consideration and review, I approved a reimagined cultural programme for Galway 2020. While the reimagined programme is scaled down compared with that originally planned, it will still see more than 350 Irish artists work on the delivery of a range of projects covering the broad spectrum of art forms and addressing the varied sectors of society, including children, youth and older people, the Traveller community, people with intellectual and sensory disabilities and hospital patients.

As part of the approval I have made it a requirement that all projects comply fully with public health advice and that all stakeholders remain informed on the evolving public health situation and employ appropriate contingency measures with regard to project delivery. There will also be close monitoring by both Galway 2020 and my Department of the progress on all projects.

As the Deputy can appreciate, Galway 2020 has incurred significant reductions in its staffing levels over recent months due to the pandemic, with only seven full-time equivalent staff members remaining. Notwithstanding this, the Irish language remains one of the three central themes of Galway 2020, and seven of the 28 approved projects are either solely in the Irish language or fully bilingual. While I understand it was not possible to retain an Irish language officer, Galway 2020 will be engaging with Irish language organisations on a plan it will devise for the community as part of its delivery of the programme.

The Government commitment of €15 million to Galway 2020 remains in place with an allocation of €7.1 million in 2020, of which €2.819 million has been paid to date. As per the terms of the performance delivery agreement between the Department and Galway 2020, funding has been spent on cultural programming, programme production staffing costs and costs associated with the operation of the Galway 2020 volunteer programme.

I thank the Minister for answering comprehensively on the general running of Gaillimh 2020, but I am not sure how much money has actually been spent from the Department's allocation. Galway 2020 has certainly suffered from Covid-19 and bad weather, but prior to that there were serious issues with regard to governance and non-inclusivity. We spoke about this on the Committee of Public Accounts, and there was a lesson to be learned from the previous debacle with regard to the Pálás Cinema. I understood that a monitoring agreement was set up. Are the reports available publicly from that monitoring process? What money is now planned to be given and what conditions will be attached separately from public health concerns? I am more concerned at this point as to who will be involved and the inclusivity, and how come, in a bilingual city on the edge of or that is the gateway to the biggest Gaeltacht in the country, there is no Irish language officer.

The Government has committed €15 million to the project. Of this, €6.9 million was paid in 2017 and 2019. A total of €7.1 million is committed for 2020, of which, €2.82 million has been drawn to date. The €1 million balance from the commitment is due for payment in 2021. Galway City Council has committed €6 million in total to the project. A total of €2.2 million of this was expanded during the bid phase, resulting in a commitment of €3.848 million for the delivery phase. A total of €3.117 million of this commitment has been paid to date. As a result of the severe impact on revenue streams of the city council, the future funding situation is uncertain. Galway County Council has committed €3.5 million with an additional €500,000 earmarked for legacy initiatives in the county.

Galway 2020 has cash-sponsored commitments of €968,000, with €398,000 paid to date. Having received approval to resume the programme, Galway 2020 will re-engage with all sponsors to establish if they wish to continue with sponsorship in light of the changed environment. Galway 2020 has sold €83,000 in ticketing prior to the Covid-19 crisis. A total of €55,000 has been refunded for cancelled or postponed events. Should the programme resume, tickets will be sold again. Otherwise, further refunds will be issued.

It is time-limited but I will get my officials to write to the Deputy on that issue and on the conditions.

I very much appreciate that and, indeed, theoretically, that it was declared the cultural capital of Europe was the best news story for Galway. There is no point going back on the history of it, but certainly serious mistakes were made.

At this point, I find it difficult that in a bilingual city on the edge of the biggest Gaeltacht in the country we have let go of the Irish language officer. I would have though that would have been pivotal. We had to fight a battle for the appointment of that officer. Perhaps 1 April was a bad day to make that appointment last year, but that is the date it was made.

We also had to fight a battle to get a legacy committee to get Galway 2020 to look at what legacy would be left. In that regard, what has happened with An Post in Galway and the wonderful building that is lying empty in the middle of the city with wonderful possibilities for the arts? Sin uimhir a haon, agus uimhir a dó: what is the total private sponsorship raised by Galway 2020?

Regarding the Irish language officer, I did not get an opportunity in the previous time I had to address it, and I am very aware that the Gaeltacht is under my remit. I am sure the Deputy is aware that I am genuinely committed to the promotion and use of our native tongue. It is so unfortunate that the Irish language officer, Ms Freda Nic Giolla Chatháin, who was fantastic, has been made redundant due to the financial and operational constraints. I am conscious of that strong Irish language theme and will re-engage with Galway 2020 and discuss this further with the board, because I am genuinely committed to the promotion of Galway. As Deputy Connolly said, it is a bilingual city and I will see what I can do on that.

I will get back to the Deputy with further details regarding the two other questions. I will get my officials to write to Deputy Connolly.