Feicim in alt a 4 go bhfuiltear ag labhairt fadúda Coimisiún na hEorpa. Tá a fhios againn go bhfuil stádas Sprioc a hAon againn agus go mbeidh réigiúnachas ann ach cén dóigh a chuirfidh sé seo isteach ar chúrsaí an Údaráis má tá ceannasaíocht le bheith ag na reigiúin? An mbeidh an tÚdarás istigh ar seo? Tá mé ag smaoineamh ar staid na mbóithre. Ní raibh an t-airgead ón Eoraip againn in iarthar na hÉireann a bhí ag dul dúinn le blianta fada anuas agus tá deacrachtaí móra againn le bóithre na Gaeltachta go ginearálta agus cuid acu atá in aice le heastáit thionsclaíocha. An bhfuil rud ar bith anseo a deir go mbeidh an tÚdarás in ann greim a fháil ar chuid den airgead sin chun na feabhsúcháin atá ag teastáil a dhéanamh?
Údarás na Gaeltachta (Amendment) (No. 3) Bill, 1999: Committee and Remaining Stages.
I did not realise we would proceed so fast to Committee Stage. I thought we were dealing only with Second Stage.
With regard to this section, I raised on Second Stage the power of the Údarás to administer schemes, funds and grants disbursed from the European Union funds. I welcome this move. There is now a variation within the Údarás because some areas have Objective One status and some do not. Will Údarás na Gaeltachta be able to make direct contact with the European Commission and ask for funding without approaching the national Government? Does this section empower it to make a direct approach to the Commission and apply for specific funding for schemes and proposals so that the Commission can adjudicate on those applications without coming back to the Department of Finance? The Minister of State is aware that, in the past, money was secured by bringing Commissioners and their staff to disadvantaged areas in the west. However, there was an imbalance when it came to the disbursement of those funds. Most of the funds go to the east, particularly Dublin, and only a fraction goes to the west. This has been shown in research carried out by the western authority and others. I have little faith in the Department of Finance when it comes to disbursing funds in a fair way and with a sense of natural justice. I hope this section will rectify that situation for the Údarás.
Tá dhá cheist ardaithe. Ar an gcéad dul síos bhí airgead ag teacht ón Eoraip ach ceapaim go mbeadh sé i bhfad níos sábhaltaí go gcuirfí mír mar seo ann ar fhaitíos na bhfaitíos agus tá sé ann anois.
Maidir le ceist na mbóithre agus infrastruchtúr, baineann an cúram sin leis an Roinn Ealaíon, Oidhreachta, Gaeltachta agus Oileán. Mar is eol don Seanadóir, ó tháinig mise isteach sa Roinn tá go leor airgid caite ar sin. Chomh maith leis sin tá mé i dteagmháil leis na háisínteachtaí a mbaineann an cheist leo, mar shampla an Roinn Chomhshaoil, Ar ndóigh táimid ag plé maidir leis an bplean náisiúnta agus bhí cruinniú agam le gairid leis an NRA maidir le cuid de na bóithre a luaigh tú. Ach faoi láthair níl aon chúram ar an Údarás maidir le bóithre. Baineann sin leis an Roinn agus leis na hinstitiúidí náisiúnta eile, An Roinn Chomhshaoil, na Comhairlí Chontae agus an NRA.
At the moment, the Údarás can directly access funds, mainly through programmes like the NOW programme. Regional funding comes through central Government. The vast majority of the money provided to the Údarás comes from the Exchequer. Since this Government took office, adequate funds have been provided to the Údarás, particularly for building and grant aid programmes, to enable it carry out its work. When I took office, the average amount of funding for the building programme was £9 million per year. This has increased dramatically to, I think, £14 million per year. The money is forthcoming when the case is made. The Minister for Finance is more than forthcoming with funds and the Údarás has embarked on an expanded programme of providing industrial space.
It is true that the west did not get its fair share of funds but successive Ministers for the Gaeltacht have ensured that Gaeltacht areas led the west in terms of industrial development. The Údarás should serve as a model to be copied by other enterprise agencies in terms of attracting industry into areas on which those agencies have given up. As long as I am Minister of State, and with the assistance of the Minister for Finance and the Government, funds will be provided for development in the Gaeltacht and for the Údarás. It is important that we are able to access European funds.
As regards Objective One or non-Objective One status, the greatest way in which this issue will impact on the operation of the Údarás is in relation to its use of State funds provided directly from the Exchequer. As it is an industrial development authority, the main effect will be to limit the grant aid which can be given to the non-Objective One areas of Ráth Cairn, Port Láirge, Corcaigh and Ciarraí. The County Meath Gaeltacht has problems which are more linguistic than industrial as it is near Dublin and does not suffer from the disadvantage of distance as do Gaeltacht areas in the west. Much of the emphasis in years to come will be on what the people living there tell us, which is that there should be non-industrial, social and service employment development, which has huge possibilities. It will impact on these areas and I am particularly concerned about the Kerry Gaeltacht. However, I do not understand why the Government's reasonable proposal was not accepted. By using its remit flexibly, the Údarás will be able to overcome the difficulties.
Pádraig Ó hAoláin of the Údarás spoke during the week about the make up of the county development and county strategy boards. He stated that the Údarás should take responsiblity for any county development board area within its remit. I do not agree with that suggestion as local authorities should have a large say on many issues. However, the Údarás should be more involved. The point being made is that there is much fragmentation due to the fact that there are so many State agencies and matters need to be consolidated.
The Minister of State said that his Department had responsibility for roads. However, county roads are not really the responsibility of his Department and these are the roads I am talking about. I hope that the thinking behind this section is that the Údarás would have greater control and perhaps have a direct say in obtaining some of the funding for this purpose.
The Údarás or the Department would make the play. Under the principal Act any power can be transferred to the Údarás. When deciding to introduce this Bill, I examined the powers which it would be desirable for the Údarás to have and which it does not have at present. I asked the Údarás to study this issue and it concluded that, under the principal Act of 1979, the Government can transfer any powers it wishes to the Údarás. It is within the gift of Government to transfer responsibility for all the roads in the Gaeltacht to the Údarás. However, some county councillors and county councils may get involved in a turf war if that is proposed.
There is an horrendous lack of basic infrastructure in Gaeltacht areas and it is important that a strong case is made to get funding for roads. As Minister of State, I have taken the sensible approach of going to the Údarás and obtaining its assistance in drawing up documentation for submission to the national plan. I met the NRA and we have made representations to the Department of the Environment and Local Government through the interdepartmental committee on the Gaeltacht and the islands. It is preferable that such representation co-ordinating the efforts of the Údarás and the Department comes from the Department with the support of the Údarás because that it is much more powerful and nearer the centre than the Údarás acting on its own. Therefore, it is my intention as long as I am Minister to maintain that focus because it means the Minister, having obtained the information and the requirements from the Údarás, is in a position to ensure the Gaeltacht element of this is taken into account in the formulation of national policy. However, if complete authority for co-ordinating the effort were handed over to the Údarás, the case would be weakened substantially.
I have been very active on this issue. I was involved in the timber industry in the Gaeltacht and, if any industry requires transport, it is timber because there is a huge transport requirement relating to its value. I could write a book about the problem of bad roads, be they county, national, national secondary, bog or forestry roads. I am conscious of this issue and have done all I can since I became Minister of State to ensure this issue is at the top of the agenda. I have made a strong case that it is foolish for me to spend £30 million of the State's money by giving it to the Údarás while having the largest bac nó cosc ar thionscail a thabhairt isteach sna Gaeltachtaí. Nuair a thugtar duine atá ag smaoineamh ar thionscail a thosú sna ceantair sin ar thuras tríothu, is minic a deireann sé, "No, Bring me somewhere there is a road." I am well aware of the problem and I will continue to co-ordinate that effort with Údarás.
Tuigim go mba cheart go mbeadh an t-alt seo mar gheall ar na coistí meastóireachta sa Bhille, ach nach bhfuil alt 5(2)(a) sa reachtaíocht ó 1979, sé sin go bhfuil ar an Údarás cead a fháil ón Aire? An bhfuil aon athrú á dhéanamh san alt seo?
Tá athrú an-bhunúsach i gceist anseo. Mar atá an córas faoi láthair, má tá tionscnamh ós cionn £1.6 milliúin – socraítear an figiúir ó am go ham; ba £1 milliúin é nuair a tháinig mé isteach sa Roinn agus socraíodh é le déanaí ag £1.6 milliúin – and under £2.4 million, cead an Aire is required.
I have always thought the cead an Aire a bit of a misnomer in that the poor person whose project had been sanctioned by the Údarás would be told immediately after receiving notice of the sanction from the Údarás go gcaithfidh siad cead an Aire a fháil. The project would then come up for cead an Aire and a request made for the Aire to sign off on what was a good and worthy project, only for the Aire to say he could not do so because he had to refer it to various Departments for examination. That process often took months. Projects often went to the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment and, if they had anything to do with acmhainní nádúrtha, they also went to that Department. Those Departments would consult the agencies under their remit and obtain replies. We all know how long such a process took. Eventually the Aire would have the file on his desk and, in my experience, that was the quickest part of the operation because, if I had the file on my desk and read the report and the recommendation, I had it signed and removed from my desk within 24 hours. However, politicians found they were being beaten around the head for the delay in a situation over which they had no control.
It was very unsatisfactory for the tionsclaíocht to have to wait for this approval and I had this experience when I was working in the Gaeltacht. It created uncertainty. My idea is to pre-empt that, since we know the people making the recommendations, and have a committee where they, local interests, my Department, which would be the main financing agency, and someone from the staff and the chairman of the Údarás could discuss the project before it went to the board of the Údarás for final sanction which, if they agreed to it, would be the end of the matter. The person would then know their project was sanctioned. That is what is proposed in this section and it is radical in a practical sense. We often do not pay enough attention to devising practical solutions for problems which cause a great deal of trouble for people. This proposal does that.
Projects costing more than £2.4 million go to Government for approval and a similar provision exists for Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland. That is a normal provision for large projects. The number of projects of that nature in a year is very small. Everyone recognises that, with a major industry costing that amount of money being started, it is proper that the Government, which provides the funding, would have a say in its approval.
Labhair mé ar an bpointe seo níos luaithe mar gheall ar na baill ar an choiste meastóireachta seo, I am concerned with the need to have representatives of IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland on the evaluation board. I agree with the idea of the board. It is a system which was introduced at the time of the country enterprise boards although it is possible the membership of the evaluation boards may be too extensive.
IDA Ireland has not served the west well, especially the areas substantially outside the Gaeltachtaí. There was an employment increase of only 290 two years ago in Donegal and only 300 last year. When job losses are taken into consideration, there was a fall in employment. The people working for the Údarás or people with business experience in Gaeltacht areas would have a much better knowledge of the needs and functions required within the Údarás. As well as the two agency representatives, a civil servant will be appointed, so three people will be on the committee as against three members of the board of Údarás and the chief executive. I would like to know the Minister's views on this and perhaps he would consider what I have said about the record of IDA Ireland in the west.
I join with Senator Bonner in his remarks. The membership of the evaluation committee seems a little too bureaucratic and administrative, and I mean no disrespect to the people concerned. It is necessary for a person with an entrepreneurial spirit who is prepared to take a risk in making an investment in an area such as the Gaeltacht and make the necessary personal and financial commitment to have as a member of the committee a person with a broader vision, for example, an entrepreneur or even two or three people from that background who know what it is like to overcome the difficulties with which other people would not be familiar. Such a person would be invaluable in terms of their assistance to an evaluation committee and could be of enormous advantage in assisting less daring people to open their minds to the possibilities.
IDA Ireland tends to focus on major population centres because they are easier to sell for industrial development. This means it is as if the west does not exist as far as that agency is concerned. That may be an unfair comment but the reality is there in what cannot be seen. The mind boggles at the thought of a representative from IDA Ireland being on the evaluation committee. The people to whom the Minister of State and I referred are poles apart in terms of their mentalities, attitudes and approaches to overcoming the difficulties that exist. As far as those to whom the Minister of State referred are concerned, everything must fit into a nice little formula. However, the people to whom I referred know what they are capable of doing because they are used to working against the grain, fighting trends and overcoming problems as a result of trying to cope with the harsh realities of the areas in which they live. These people have a different ethos and mentality because they come from a different background.
There is a need to give serious consideration to the composition of the evaluation committee. We need to appoint someone to the committee with gumption, expertise and skill. Senator Bonner, for example, could serve on the committee because he deals with people in his professional practice. The Senator knows the difficulties faced by people entering business and he knows how to overcome those difficulties. It must be remembered that bureaucrats, administrators and people in cosy pensionable jobs are not responsible for the success of the Celtic tiger.
The Senators should take a step back and look at what is being proposed in this section. I return to what I said earlier. This section deals only with the evaluation committee, nothing else, and we are discussing only projects that are valued above a certain fixed amount – I believe it is £1.6 million.
All the more reason for us to be concerned.
At present, projects are passed by the board, referred to the Department and then submitted to the relevant agencies for decision. Despite popular myth, during my term of office they have recommended approval on most occasions. Approval may have been refused from time to time but I do not believe the Ministers of the day went against the recommendations they received. One must accept that on the vast majority of occasions when they were asked for advice, they issued positive replies.
Údarás na Gaeltachta already works with Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland on a daily basis and they consult each other in respect of major projects. When I worked in the timber industry, for example, the executives of the company by which I was employed were obliged to consult the relevant section of the relevant agency before a project was submitted to the board. That is the way the process works.
If we consider the membership of the evaluation committee, IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland will both be represented. There will also be an officer from my Department on the committee and I wish to stress that the civil servants who work for me take a proactive, pro-Gaeltacht and pro-development approach to matters because they recognise the importance of my Department's remit. Three officers of Údarás na Gaeltachta will also serve on the committee. The chairperson of Údarás na Gaeltachta will also be a member. I hope my successors will make good appointments and I hope I have the wisdom to appoint someone who recognises the needs of the Gaeltacht and knows what action to take.
The three members of Údarás na Gaeltachta who will serve on the committee are the people to whom Senators Bonner and Taylor-Quinn referred. There is another myth that the people of the Gaeltacht never elect energetic people or those with a background in business. At present, there is a member of Fianna Fáil serving on the board of Údarás na Gaeltachta who is very much involved in the business world and who is involved, as I was for 30 years, in the development of a Gaeltacht area. There are two members of Senator Taylor-Quinn's party who could use their entrepreneurial skills to help develop the Gaeltacht if they were elected to the board of Údarás na Gaeltachta. I would expect the new board of Údarás na Gaeltachta, which will be elected by the people, to reflect the entrepreneurial dynamic which obtains in Gaeltacht areas where there are a number of people who have succeeded in business, despite being forced to endure difficult circumstances. A number of these people have already managed to gain election to the board.
When one considers the eight members of the committee, one can see there will be a good balance in terms of coping with international trends because IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland deal on a global scale. It must be remembered that IDA Ireland represents a vital cog in the wheel for Údarás na Gaeltachta in terms of attracting interest from abroad. On the other hand, its involvement is well balanced by the fighting spirit of the ordinary people of the Gaeltacht who know what development entails. In my opinion, the entire committee is evenly balanced.
The Minister of State made a fair attempt to convince us of the validity of his argument. During our contributions, I do not believe Senator Bonner or I cast any reflections on the three members of Údarás na Gaeltachta who will serve on the committee. I stated on Second Stage that some fine people with great gumption, skill and ability have been elected to the board of Údarás na Gaeltachta. However, they represent only three out of a total membership of 20.
Three out of eight.
No, they represent three out of the total membership on the board of 20. The possibility that all three of these people will come from an entrepreneurial background is slim. However, if all three are entrepreneurs and the Minister of State appoints a chairperson who also comes from an entrepreneurial background, the remaining four members of the evaluation committee will be representatives of IDA Ireland, Enterprise Ireland, etc. The chief executive officer of an tÚdarás will also be a member. These people are already settled in permanent and pensionable jobs or cosy administrative positions. Therefore, the membership of the committee will be divided evenly and then we will face a catch 22 situation. The Minister of State should appoint a further two members from the entrepreneurial sector and give the committee the impetus it requires.
Is section 8 agreed?
Not quite. Will the Minister of State consider my proposal for Report Stage?
That is a matter for the Minister of State to decide.
Níl mé sásta ar chor ar bith leis an míniú atá tugtha ag an Aire cúpla uair inniu ar an alt seo.
I had intended to make a query on section 6 in respect of the regional committees. As stated earlier, I fully understand and appreciate why Gaeltacht na Mí and Gaeltacht na Rinne will be represented on the board. However, in the case of the regional boards they will be sucked back into the larger system. I accept that they will each have a representative but a representative from County Meath will not have much influence on a committee which also includes members from counties Mayo and Galway. I appreciate the Minister of State's reasons – the size of the population in each area, etc. – for making this decision. However, there are a number of Gaeltacht areas such as Meath, Ring and Corca Dhuibhne where the size of the Irish speaking population does not warrant their having a member on the board.
Level of population alone should not be the basis on which the number of members of the board should be decided, particularly in the case of County Donegal. I agreed with a great deal of what the Minister of State said when we debated the Údarás na Gaeltachta (Amendment) (No. 1) Bill. However, I will wager that no one from the places to which I referred earlier will be elected to the board. I am deeply upset that there will be only four members on the board from County Donegal. I have already referred to the size of the county and its need for development and representation on the board of Údarás na Gaeltachta. I am not asking that the membership of the board be extended on a pro rata basis to 100. I ask that the board be extended to include another one or two members to ensure we have proper representation.
The Minister of State is a great man for encouraging the use of Irish. When I have raised some projects with him he has asked how strong the use of Irish is in that particular area. Even within Donegal, the election of members to Údarás does not reflect the strong Gaeltacht areas because of the size of the population. I am particularly concerned as to why the number of members for Galway was increased to six, as I understood the number was to be five. That is probably because of the size of the population adjacent to the city.
The blow-ins from Barna.
I am sure there is not a great deal of Irish spoken in that area. We could argue the pros and cons in terms of the size of the population etc. but all I am seeking is that we, in a strong and vibrant Gaeltacht area, get what we consider to be our fair share and that number should not be based on the size of the population.
The Minister of State will probably not give in to me now.
I will take account of what he said. I am intrigued about this argument concerning Donegal. The Senator is correct. The original proposal was that the number of members would be five for Galway, but there was a historical reason for that in terms of certain proposals that are not included in the Bill. The full population of Galway, therefore, was not taken into account originally.
Údarás covers an area defined by the 1956 Act. I am always willing to listen and I will explain briefly from where I was coming when I decided to do this. One might ask why did I decide in very small Gaeltacht areas to give them representation when I will not guarantee representation to Uíbh Ráthach, to Árainnmhór, to Gleann Cholm Cille, to Fánaid, to Dúiche Sheoigheach, Tuar Mhic Éide and so on. I decided on such representation because it is different being in a different county, particularly when that different county is across the other side of the country.
I represented Connemara in Galway County Council for a while, and I represent Connemara, the islands, and Galway city in the Dáil. In doing that, I deal with Galway County Council and the Galway local authorities. I know the officials and where there is an overlap between Údarás and county council or whatever I have to deal with only one set of agencies. It is stretching it to expect an Údarás member from Galway to represent Mayo and to represent Ráth Cairn, to know the housing officer in Meath as well as the housing officer in County Galway.
The Senator spoke about Mayo, Galway and Meath being on the same regional committee. Given the rivalry between Mayo and Galway, I could see the Galway people siding with the Meath people quicker than they would side with the Mayo people over the next few months.
It was not possible for somebody from Corca Dhuibhne to represent, not only Corca Dhuibhne but Cork, not only one part of Cork but two parts of Cork, because there is Oileán Chléire, plus Uíbh Ráthach, to represent Port Láirge. I thought there was a basic problem and I started to work out the figures. I decided there was no way of dealing the idea of "countyism" in Ireland except to say that each county that has a Gaeltacht can have one representative. That still poses a problem. If I got Ráth Cairn, I have two separate Gaeltachts – Baile Gib and Ráth Cairn. There might be a greater use of Irish in Ráth Cairn but there might be more people in Baile Gib. That could give us an interesting result.
I decided that I had to opt for one representative in every county because of the emphasis we put on the county structure. I decided on one representative for each county and I came up with the figure of seven representatives. There is a logic in doing that, although that system it is not perfect.
I decided that if we are to have regional committees in law and they are to comprise only the elected members, I will have to guarantee a minimum of four members on a regional committee. Any committee with fewer than four members would not be a real committee. That set a base line in terms of the number of members on the board. If I were to proceed on the basis that one member should represent 4,000 people, which I was tempted to do, I would have ended with such a very large board and a Government would say to a Minister with responsibility for such a board that its membership was too great. This is a State board, not a county council; it is a hybrid.
I was faced with a dilemma. I had considered all sorts of the possibilities. I got the Civil Service to give me figures in this regard. There was a possibility of single seat constituencies within counties, but immediately I ran into trouble on that score. Ráth Cairn was handy and Port Láirge was handy. I decided on allocating one seat each for those areas. Then I considered Cork and I thought of allocating one seat, but I thought I would be in trouble because Oileán Chléire is off the coast and the Gaeltacht of Múscraí is on the mainland and Cléire will never get a representative elected to the board of Údarás. There are 165 people on the island and there are 3,000 people in Múscraí. There is no way of solving that matter.
Then I considered Kerry. It is a very awkward county in this regard. I say that with no insult intended to my good colleague, Senator Fitzgerald. Three quarters of the population of the Gaeltacht in Kerry happen to be from Corca Dhuibhne and a quarter are in Uíbh Ráthach. If I split the county and decided on allocating one seat for the north of the county and one seat for the south of the county, I would be in trouble with the people from Corca Dhuibhne. If I considered the county as a single unit, I would be in trouble with the people from Uíbh Ráthach, but in terms of the two I could not win.
I then considered Galway. Pól Ó Foighil would be making a pitch for the Aran Islands. I have got Díachréidh taobh thoir de Ghaillimh, Baile an Chláir. There is also the question of the city. I must also consider the Gaeltacht from Barna out to Carna and the Gaeltacht in Dúiche Sheoighe and in Bun a' Chnoc. I faced any amount of problems. If I were to divide the area up that would create difficulties.
One issue was easy to deal with Connemara. The east of the city of Galway and the city pose a problem and that is one we will have to deal with in the future. In the context of Connemara, the county councils concerned represent everyone including those living on the islands. The islands are quite significant in Galway. Any councillor on the mainland who would ignore the islands would do so at his or her peril.
I apologise for speaking on this matter at length, but it is important to outline the position. Once the thought process is outlined, it challenges people to come up with a comprehensive solution to the problem. I do not mean a solution for Donegal but a solution nationally in terms of what we want to achieve.
I considered the population of Mayo. I have to consider Erris, Achill and Tourmakeady. Tourmakeady is very near Galway and I was tempted to include it in the Galway area and reclaim it for County Galway. I was a manager of Comharchumann Dúiche Sheoighe – the Joyce County. When I there, our area stretched to Tourmakeady and across the county border. It is the only Gaeltacht that stretches across a county border. It has more of a physical connection with Tourmakeady than it has with Erris. When I was canvassing during a by-election, I was amazed to find that no way would the people from Tourmakeady vote for Connemara candidate and they said they would definitely vote for the candidate from Erris who lived further away. County loyalties are very strong. There are two seats for the Mayo. If Senator Bonner thinks there is a problem in south Donegal, whatever chance a representative from Achill has of getting a seat, a representative from Erris will definitely get a seat. A representative from Tourmakeady will never get a seat on the board of Údaras. Tourmakeady does not have the numbers. What was I to do, given that I had only two seats to allocate?
The people in Donegal have not put a cogent and logical argument as to how I could give a fifth seat to a representative from Donegal without unravelling all I had done in this regard in terms of the rest of the country. An argument has been put forward that half of the people around Galway city are not Irish speakers. That might be a fairly good argument. We could have identified the number of Irish speakers and proceeded on the basis of the number of Irish speakers in an area, but I believe that would give rise to some argument. There might be serious problems in regard to the area in which Senator Bonner was born and brought up in, if we to proceed by way of a head count of the number of people in that area who speak Irish daily.
I have not seen much Údarás investment there until the last few years.
Tá i bhfad níos mó ansin ná mar atá i gcathair na Gaillimhe. When I considered that matter, I decided that I had to do what county council election commissions do, aside from the giving one seat to every county, I allocated seats on the basis of the size of the population. I do not think there is another way to do it. However, I am open to the theory of allocating Dáil seats based on land area, which would mean that County Galway would get the second greatest number of Dáil seats. I have a feeling that County Dublin, the second smallest county, might argue against that. I am intrigued by that proposal which I would love to happen.
There is as much of a problem in going for a one seat constituency and breaking up the county. This would create more problems. I looked at Donegal in that context but I would still have to include Fanaid, Ros Goill and some of the area north of Cnoc Fola to make up the numbers. It still does not work out. No matter what way one tries to work it, the Gaeltachts are so geographically dispersed and so dissimilar in size, that even if I did that, someone would say it was crazy and would want it done another way.
I cannot see how I can justify an extra seat for Donegal without unravelling the process and increasing the numbers on the board. There is a serious debate taking place on this issue, to which people have given very little reflection, and I hope they do so. I cannot see how it could be done – if there was an easy way I would do it.
Two members represent Donegal at the moment and this will be increased to four under the Bill. There is a quota in the south and perhaps they will not bother electing someone. However, they will have a huge influence on the result of the election, irrespective of where the people represent. The Aran vote was vital in my election to the county council and the Dáil and I would not ignore it. Having four members and, therefore, reducing the quota to half increases the electoral importance of these areas. It would be a foolish person who would ignore the smaller areas due to the increased number of seats.
I have listened to the arguments made. One major change was made at the last minute by the Government. If there is a huge anomaly, the Minister has the power, without any specification, to nominate two people to the board. So if one area is totally ignored, the Minister of the day can nominate two people, whether they are civil servants, business people or whoever.
Six members have been nominated to the Údarás board since its inception. I asked today for a list of those people and where they came from. I eliminated civil servants and staff representatives who were not geographically appointed. Over the years, 19 people from Gaeltacht areas have had the privilege of being nominated to the Údarás board. It is intriguing that 14 of those came from areas which already had an elected member on the board, places such as Cois Fharraige, An Ceathrú Rua, Gweedore and Chorca Dhuibhne. Under the old regime, only five of the 19, which is almost a quarter, came from Gaeltachts which did not have a snowball's chance in hell of getting a member on the board. Those were Achill, twice, Uibh Ráthach, twice and iarthar na Gaillimhe, Menloe, once. This means that Rath Cairn, Portláirge, the islands, Glencolmcille, or Baile na nGall have never been represented, despite the provision for six nominees. With that I rest my case. They will be a great deal better represented under the new arrangement than they were under the old one.
The Minister of State has done his best to convince me but I remain unconvinced. I am not trying to get an extra board member for an Clochán Liath, as no one from there has ever been a member on the board of the Údarás. I am looking for an extra seat to give the smaller Gaeltachts in Donegal a better chance of having a member selected. At present, four members of the Údarás are from Donegal because we have two nominated members.
If I was nominating them, Donegal would not have any.
Perhaps the Minister of State will be a Minister by the time that comes around. I am glad the Minister is considering using two of the three nominations for Gaeltacht areas. If the Minister of State cannot put down an amendment on a later Stage, perhaps he will consider giving one of those nominations to an area such as Glencolmcille which has never had a representative on the board.
Section 17 (b)(ii) provides that any member of the Údarás, other than an elected member, who is subsequently elected to the Seanad, Dáil or European Parliament would be disqualified from continuing to act as a member of the Údarás. I presume that applies at present. However, has the Minister of State considered that any member of the Údarás who is elected should be disqualified? Recently, the Minister of State discussed the possibility of disbarring members of local authorities from running for the Údarás. This would give a better chance for representation to areas.
Members of the Údarás have become Members of this House, for example, my colleague, Pól "Báinín" Ó Foighil. Election is just that and is the people's right to choose. Having considered this matter, I came to the conclusion that if the people want something, why should I stop them? I might think they are foolish and wrong but I respect the people's right and they very rarely elect foolishly. Therefore, if the people see Údarás membership as being so time-consuming as to be full-time, they will ensure will elect people who can devote themselves full-time.
This also applies to councillors being elected to the Údarás. I can see an argument in favour of that, as there is a great deal of dual membership at the moment. However, I can also see an argument against it. If someone on the Údarás wants to run for a local authority and set out his or her term, there will be problems. The best solution is to leave the status quo and let the people decide if they want dual, triple or quadruple mandates. However, it is right that nominated members, being ministerial appointees, would not be elected to other authorities.
Aontáim leis an tAire. It would be wrong for a Minister to be entitled to nominate an elected Member of either House. Apart from being wrong, it would also put unfair pressure on a Minister to reward a party member by giving them a nomination. I have spoken time and again in this House about legislation excluding Members of the Oireachtas from doing certain things. It would be wrong to exclude elected Members from standing for election to the Údarás. Ceapaim go minic gur feidir leo díospóireacht a dhéanamh ar na hábhair céanna sa Tigh seo nó sa Tigh eile, rudaí nach idir lámhach acu sa Údarás cheana féin.Níl aon ghá in aon chor deighilt a bheith idir an tÚdarás agus an tOireachtas. Creidim go bhféadfadh duine taithí a thabhairt ó áit amháin go dtí áit eile. A positive synergy could be developed between them. I am of the view that the House should not restrict access. I accept Senator Bonner's view about greater participation. However, people will lose out by being represented by somebody who is a Member of the Oireachtas. In fact, there is a possibility they could have added value.
They could have, mar a déarfá, focal sa chúirt. D'fhéadfaidís rudaí a chur ar chlár an Taoisigh nó ar chlár an Tí eile, rudaí a bheadh tábhachtach don Údarás. Ba mhaith an rud é dá dtárlódh sin anois is arís. Creidim nach bhfuil go leor díospóireachta nó go leor oibre idir lámha againne a bhaineann leis an Ghaeltacht. I believe this could help and could be a positive interaction. I support the section.
Rud amháin a smaoinigh mé air nuair an bhí an Seanadóir Ó Tuathail ag caint ná cad a thárlódh dá dtárlódh rudaí ar an láimh eile. What would happen if a nominated or elected member stood for election and was successfully elected to the Údarás? Would this section debar that person from running for or sitting on the board of the Údarás? The section states that where a member of an tÚdarás is nominated or elected to the European Parliament, he or she shall thereupon cease to be a member of the Údarás.
It states "other than an elected member". This only applies to non-elected members, that is, the three ministerial appointees. They are the only ones who are debarred. There was a similar provision in the previous Act. I am glad gur aontaigh an Sedanadóir Ó Tuathail leis an bpointe seo. Cuireann sé uafás orm go mbíonn an-bhrú ann nach bhféadfadh Teachtaí Dála a bheith ina gComhairleoirí Chontae. Nuair a bhí mise mar Sheanadóir agus mar Theachta Dála ina dhiaidh sin agus mar bhall de Chomhairle Chontae na Gaillimhe rinne mé an oiread inchur sa Chomhairle Chontae agus a rinne duine ar bith agus d'oibrigh mé go huafásach dian mar Theachta Dála nó mar Sheanadóir. Níor chuir an dá rud isteach ar a chéile.
Níor chreid mé go mba cheart dom postanna onóracha, mar shampla, mar Chathaoirleach, a thógáil fiú dá mbeadh deis agam. Tá stádas nó gradam seachas brú oibre atá i gceist ansin ach ní fhaca mise aon dua an dá rud a dhéanamh. Chreid mé go minic go raibh sé i bhfad níos éasca domsa a bheith im Chomhairleoir an-éifeachtach agus a bheith mar Theachta Dála ná mar a bhí sé mar shampla ag duine a raibh post lán-aimsireach aige.
I do not understand how a full-time public representative is meant to be too busy to be a county councillor but someone who has a full-time job, from which they must keep bread on the table, is meant to have plenty of time to be a local public representative. Many of these aspects overlap and one often wears two hats when one goes to meetings.
The councillors found it useful to have a number of Oireachtas Members on the council because they had interface with what Dublin was thinking and what was happening in these Houses that might affect them. I found there was a great interaction with councillors, across party boundaries, seeking wisdom, information and the outside perspective on problems, rather than a purely local one, from Oireachtas Members.
It is a pity we are now trying to decide everything for the electorate. I have ultimate faith in the wisdom of the people. We might not like their decisions at times and most of us have lost elections. However, they can be sharp and wise and we should leave it to them.
Would it not be prudent, given that the Minister of State gave Senator Bonner a commitment of sorts that he might be in a position to increase the membership for Donegal, to allow him the opportunity to table an amendment in the House? He will not have that opportunity if we proceed now. It would be a shame not to provide him with the opportunity to do so.
I rhetorically challenged the Senator because I have been waiting for the past three or five months, since this debate has raged in Foinse and on Raidio na Gaeltachta, for someone to make a cogent proposal in this regard. It has not come to date. I will never live it down that there is a belief in Donegal – I am surprised the Kerry people have not got in on the act, but no doubt they will—
We are much more amenable.
I am not going to accept an amendment to this because, after all the hours and days I have put into it, if we are to stick with 17 members I do not think there is a more equitable way to divide the seats. That cannot be done if we are to stick with the principle I enunciated at the outset of giving at least one representative to each county, given the emphasis on counties in this country. There are two principles involved – population and one representative per county. Unfortunately, there is no other way to divide the seats equitably. Any other method would mean solving one problem but creating five more. I do not see a solution to it.
I am not dismissing the point. I live in a small Gaeltacht, which has never been represented on the Údarás. However, although there are only 1,000 people in it – not 6,000 – we are going to make a pitch in this Údarás election. Given the efficiency of the people in my area, I know that when they get working they will sell their wares.
Ba mhaith liom ár mbuíochas a chur in iúl don Aire Stáit. Aontóidh gach éinne liom gur thug sé mion eolas agus mion léiriú dúinn ar an mBille seo. Caithfidh mé a rá gur ghlac sé le fuinneamh agus go héifeachtach leis na ceisteanna agus leis an tuairimíocht a tháinig os ár gcomhair. Táimid go mór faoi chomaoin aige dá bhárr. Gura míle maith aige.
I thank the Minister of State for bringing the Bill to the House and for the detailed responses he has given to the various sections, although they might not have been quite to our satisfaction at all times. He gave us an insight into how he arrived at particular decisions and details in the Bill, which has been helpful. I presume Senator Bonner will have time to draft a cogent, coherent, logical proposal which he will be able to present to his colleagues in the Lower House, where the Minister of State will accept it.
I accept the Minister of State's promise but I am sure Deputy McGinley will have something to say about it.
Ba mhaith liom buíochas a ghlacadh leis an Seanad as ucht an díospóireacht thar a bheith bríomhar a bhí againn tráthnóna agus as an méid spéis a léiríodh sa Bhille. Is dóigh liomsa gur chéim mhór chun tosaigh do mhuintir na Gaeltachta é agus go dtabharfaidh sé an-mhisneach dóibh go raibh an oiread sin de dhíospóireacht anseo tráthnóna. Ba mhaith liom freisin buíochas a ghlacadh leis na Stát Seirbhísigh a chaith an oiread dua agus ama leis an mBille seo. Tá sé á phlé againn le fada. Bhí go leor leor oibre i gceist agus chaith siad leis le foighid agus le tuiscint agus is dóigh liom go bhfuil fíor phíosa reachtaíochta curtha ar fáil acu leis an obair a rinne siad. Ba mhaith liom buíochas a ghlacadh leo agus leatsa a Chathaoirligh as ucht an díospóireacht a bhí againn anseo inniu.