Commencement Matters

Housing Policy

I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy D'Arcy.

I thank the Minister of State for attending. He will not need me to remind him that the scale and nature of the housing crisis affecting not just this city, but the entire country, is the greatest social challenge of our time. The Government recognises this and many initiatives have been undertaken to address the issue.

One of the proposals that have been made by the Peter McVerry Trust seems eminently sensible. It aims to utilise the amount of space that is available or vacant, particularly in Dublin city, to house people. The Minister of State knows as much as anyone the long-term damage any stint in homelessness or insecurity of housing can cause, especially to young children, for whom the damage can last the rest of their lives. Ireland has a particular understanding of that issue.

The Minister of State will accept that the Peter McVerry Trust is a credible and compassionate organisation whose heart is in the right place. It has worked with a number of Ministers in recent years on trying to find practical solutions to the housing problem. It has identified approximately 10,000 units that it believes would be beneficial in addressing the housing crisis. It describes them as over-the-shop units. Added to the estimated 33,000 empty residential units across this city and further afield, this would go a long way towards addressing the issues.

There are other housing projects, for example, the interesting Abhaile Project, which recently won an award for redeveloping the upper storeys of large, four-bedroom or three-bedroom occupancies that had just one person living in them in a bid to alleviate some of our issues.

The over-the-shop phenomenon has been identified by the Peter McVerry Trust as a practical means through which the city council, with support from the Minister of State's Department, can address some of the housing shortages. The trust, supported by the city council, has suggested that approximately 10,000 people could be provided with accommodation in these empty or under-used spaces in the upper floors of buildings.

The Peter McVerry Trust is trying to think imaginatively.

It is clear from an audit of the empty spaces that are available in the city that the over-the-shop phenomenon would provide spaces and places where housing could be easily provided for families who are in need. How seriously does the Government view the submission made by the Peter McVerry Trust this month to the Department of Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government for a national re-use strategy? I am sure the Minister has the submission and has studied it in great depth. It makes huge sense. While the conversation is always about building new units and estates, which is understandable, that process is quite lengthy. Obviously, it is necessary to go through the planning process and that can be quite exhaustive and difficult.

The case we are making here is to look at existing buildings, units and spaces that are under-utilised. We believe there are 10,000 of them in Dublin city alone and we ask the Department to take the submission from the Peter McVerry Trust seriously, engage with Dublin City Council and begin the process of utilising these units to house our people.

I assure the Senator that everything from the Peter McVerry Trust is taken seriously in addressing homelessness and housing. The Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government, Deputy Eoghan Murphy, is very much in agreement that tackling the issue of vacant housing, derelict sites and under-utilised spaces, as advocated by the trust, is a key part of the comprehensive approach required to address our current housing challenges. It is good to see that organisations such as the trust are promoting the take-up of important schemes such as the repair and leasing and buy and renew schemes introduced by the Department to maximise their impact. In this regard, I highlight the importance the Government attaches to taking joined-up action with local authorities, property owners and organisations such as the Peter McVerry Trust on empty or under-utilised buildings to secure additional homes as early as possible.

Whereas building new homes is a significant element of Rebuilding Ireland, the Government's Action Plan for Housing and Homelessness, it is clear that an effective and quick way to meet housing needs is to make the most efficient use of the housing stock we already have, across all forms of tenure, as an important source of potential housing supply. Pillar 5 of the Rebuilding Ireland action plan is specifically focused on utilising the existing housing stock and one of its key actions is to develop a national vacant housing re-use strategy to ensure the existing vacant housing stock throughout the country, in both the public and private sectors, is used to the optimum degree possible. With the 2016 census showing more than 180,000 vacant homes across the country, excluding holiday homes, representing approximately 9% of the overall national housing stock, we must assess where and how many of these empty homes can be quickly brought back into use. Almost 80,000 vacant dwellings were recorded in our cities and large towns. This level of vacancy is unacceptable when we are faced with such a severe housing shortage.

In compiling a register of vacant units, especially in and around cities and larger towns where demand is greatest and where the pressure on house prices and rents is most acute, local authorities are best placed to identify these vacancy hot spots, tracking what has changed on the ground since the April 2016 census count, and to set out a range of actions, in collaboration with property owners, to bring as many of these vacant houses and buildings back into use. A working group led by the Housing Agency has done considerable research work to date. Using the more detailed localised data from the census, the Minister, Deputy Eoghan Murphy, is now considering developing a package of actions to increase the ambition and mobilise all the key arms of the State to work together on this crucial initiative.

This analysis will feed into the targeted review of Rebuilding Ireland which the Minister is now leading to focus on what further actions can be taken and what new ideas we can bring to bear. If budgetary measures are needed to reinforce the ambition, this may delay the publication of the strategy until after the summer. However, this will not delay the commencement of important work at local level in gathering more up-to-date information on where vacant properties are and who owns them in order that we can facilitate the re-use of many vacant properties, particularly in cities and towns.

Ahead of finalisation of the strategy, it is worth noting that the Department has already activated a number of significant measures to incentivise the increased use of vacant housing stock to help meet the needs of those in receipt of social housing assistance. These initiatives include the repair and leasing scheme, the buy and renew scheme and the Housing Agency acquisitions fund, all of which are available to provide opportunities for owners of vacant properties to get them back into use to meet social housing need in their areas.

The Minister of State's response is reasonably positive. I get the sense that the issue of vacancy hot spots, as they were described, is being taken seriously and that the Minister is happy to engage with local authorities on it. I am a little disappointed with the suggestion that the publication of the strategy could be delayed until after the summer, but I understand these things happen occasionally. Given the nature of the crisis, many would suggest that delays of that nature would be disappointing. Perhaps the Minister of State might give me another verbal reassurance that he is aware of the submission from the Peter McVerry Trust and that he understands there are an estimated 10,000 over-the-shop units in Dublin city alone. This is part of the jigsaw of measures that can be used to solve the crisis. I hope all submissions to the Department are accepted in the spirit in which they are submitted.

I do not know if that Department is aware of it, but I will find out. I assume that it is. The Senator said that people need to act imaginatively, which is a good term. I know the Minister, Deputy Eoghan Murphy, well and I believe the Senator knows him well too. The Minister is one of the people whom I believe will act imaginatively to ensure that whatever must be done will be done. I wish to reiterate the point I made earlier. The report could be delayed if additional finance is required. That might be required following the budget. That is the only reason I am aware of for the report to be delayed.

Insurance Costs

I welcome the Minister of State. It is great to see a former Senator returning to the House in such a distinguished role. I congratulate him on his great achievement.

The issue I am raising is the cost of insurance for businesses and farmers in Ireland. It is a very important matter. The cost of doing business in Ireland has dramatically increased over the past few years and the cost of insurance is a major part of that. We are trying to ensure this is a competitive nation but insurance is making us uncompetitive at present. I have been contacted by constituents in towns such as Bandon, Clonakilty and Skibberreen who have seen the cost of their insurance go through the roof. They have not been able to get flood insurance since 2009, but now the cost of their normal retail insurance has increased dramatically. In 2014, one of these people got insurance for €4,500. In 2015, it was €7,500 and in 2016, after a struggle, they got it for €10,000. It is the same premises with no major change but the cost of insurance has driven the cost of the person doing business through the roof. The knock-on effect, unfortunately, is that the consumer pays. It is a major problem.

In 2017 the Minister of State's predecessor, the Minister, Deputy Eoghan Murphy, produced a very positive report on the motor insurance industry. It contained 33 recommendations or objectives. They were positive recommendations. We now must see the same positive input with regard to the business and agricultural communities. There must be a similar report that will examine the needs of those sectors and the needs of the consumer to ensure we can have a competitive market.

Unfortunately, as we have only two major insurance companies in that market, there is no competition owing to the fact that there are only two players. There is talk of price fixing and other issues. On 4 July the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission raided insurance companies in the course of investigating another issue. There are issues of concern in the insurance industry but, unfortunately, there is no silver bullet.

This afternoon I hope we can progress the situation and move forward in order to provide stability in the market. The biggest problem those people face is what their insurance premia will be next year. Given that it has literally doubled in the past two years, the question is whether it will double again. They cannot afford to do business like that. We need to have a Government intervention in order that we can have competition and for the Government to step in and ensure people can do business. I realise there is no silver bullet to solve the issue but unless we start we will not do what is appropriate, which is hopefully to make sure the cost of insurance does not stop people from doing business.

I thank the Senator for raising the matter and his good wishes. It is always nice when a good friend offers wishes of that nature and we are good friends. It should be noted that the Minister for Finance is responsible for the development of the legal framework governing financial regulation. Neither he nor the Central Bank of Ireland can interfere in the provision or pricing of insurance products, as these matters are of a commercial nature, and are determined by insurance companies based on an assessment of the risks they are willing to accept. However, as has been stated, it is possible for the State to play a role in helping to stabilise the market and deal with factors contributing to the availability and cost of insurance.

It was for that reason that the cost of insurance working group was established by the previous Minister for Finance, Deputy Michael Noonan, in July last year. As the Senator noted, the first phase of its work centred on motor insurance given the large increases seen in the sector in recent years. As part of the consultations during that phase, the working group received a number of submissions from businesses on the increasing cost of insurance they were facing, in particular in employer liability and public liability cover. The submissions made it very clear that there was a pressing need to examine the rising and unsustainable cost of such insurance for businesses. Reinforcing that position are the Public Injuries Assessment Board, PIAB, statistics which indicate that employer liability and public liability insurance are the two largest areas, after motor insurance, where personal injury claims arise. In 2016, for example, public liability and employer liability applications represented 27% and 15%, respectively, of all applications received by the PIAB. By comparison, motor applications made up approximately 57% of applications. For those reasons, the working group decided to undertake a second phase to see what could be done to tackle the cost of employer and public liability insurance as those are the two core types of insurance which the business and agriculture sectors require. In carrying out its work, the working group is considering the impact of the cost of insurance on the competitiveness of particular business sectors, the impact of health and safety issues on the cost of insurance and other market issues.

The working group is also building on the previous work done in the motor phase on personal injury data, the effect of legal costs on insurance costs, current claims compensation arrangements and the cost of claims, and the impact of unlawful activity on the insurance sector to determine how it can be applied in the employer and public liability insurance claims areas.

The working group has held extensive consultations with a range of stakeholders, including the Irish Farmers Association, which provided a submission for the working group. There have been two meetings with Meat Industry Ireland, one with officials and one which I held. I have also very recently received a submission from Donegal Marts Association. Consultations have also been held with, for example, IBEC, ISME, Chambers Ireland, the Irish Hotels Federation and RGDATA, the Retail Grocery Dairy & Allied Trades Association. A range of issues has been raised by the business and agriculture sectors including lack of competition in the insurance market, frustration with inconsistency of awards, and huge legal and business costs associated with challenging claims through court process, among other things.

It is envisaged that the final results of the second phase will take the form of an addendum to the existing report. As with the first phase, the aim is for all relevant bodies and stakeholders to work together in order to deliver fairer premiums for businesses without unnecessary delay. As it is likely that employer and public liability risks are a major factor in the cost of insurance for those involved in agriculture and business, any recommendations emerging from the review should be of relevance to those sectors.

I thank the Minister of State for his report on this very important matter. The working group is an important initiative and I compliment him on his involvement and ensuring the working group is up and running. He mentioned that it will produce a report. When does he envisage the report will come before the committee and does he propose to bring a copy of the report to this House at some stage also? The previous report on motor insurance that was carried out by a committee under the chairmanship of the then Minister of State, Deputy Eoghan Murphy, came to this House for discussion and it would be appropriate when the next report is published that the Minister of State, Deputy Michael D'Arcy, might bring it to the House.

To clarify, the motor insurance report contained 71 recommendations. We are on target to fulfil 45 recommendations before the end of this calendar year. The hope and expectation is that all 71 recommendations will be concluded before the end of 2018. What we learn from the implementation of the report we will use in the area of personal injury in terms of employer liability and public liability so we will not need to do all the same work again. We will be able to transpose as much of that as it practicable into phase 2, namely, employer liability and public liability. We understand this is a significant business cost.

If someone's business terms and conditions have not changed and there has not been a claim, there are no grounds for an alarming increase in the premium. I was insistent that each time a premium is renewed it is important to show the amount paid in the previous year. I spoke with one farmer who has 13 insurance policies ranging across machinery, stock, goods, public liability and employer liability. He said he could not remember what each one cost on each occasion. On each occasion that one gets a quote the documentation should show the amount one paid in the previous year. If there is an alarming increase and there has been no change one should contact the company and other companies. In the short term that I have been in this job I was shocked to hear the number of occasions on which people have had a large increase. They challenged that or went to other brokers or companies. On many occasions they came back to me to say that when a different broker went back to the same company there was only a modest increase in the premium. What is happening in those circumstances is that a different underwriter takes a different view and comes up with a different cost for the customer. That indicates to me that there is something very wrong with the insurance sector.

Straitéis 20 Bliain don Ghaeilge

Gabhaim buíochas leis an Chathaoirleach as ucht an deis a thabhairt dom mar bhí an t-ábhar seo ag fanacht le píosa beag.

Tá fáilte roimh an Seanadóir.

Déanaim comhghairdeas leis an Aire Stáit. Táim an-sásta go bhfuil sé ar ais sa suíochán sin arís. Tá mé cinnte ón aithne atá agam air go ndéanfaidh sé chuile iarracht ó thaobh forbairt a dhéanamh ar an nGaeilge agus ar an nGaeltacht. Tabharfaidh mé chuile tacaíocht dó sa gcás sin.

An dtabharfaidh an tAire Stáit imlíne dúinn ar an straitéis 20 bliain a cuireadh le chéile in 2010 ó thaobh na Gaeilge de? Feictear domsa agus do go leor daoine go bhfuil teipthe ar sin agus nach bhfuil ag éirí leis. Táimid seacht mbliana istigh ann anois. Tá roinnt staitisticí agus figiúirí ón ndaonáireamh agam. Deireann an plean go mbeidh méadú ar an líon daoine a labhraíonn an Ghaeilge ó 83,000 go dtí 250,000. Tharlaigh a mhalairt. Táimid imithe ó 83,000 in 2010 go dtí 73,800 anois. Sin laghdú de 10%. Táimid ag rá go n-ardófar líon na gcainteoirí dúchais 25% ón méid atá ann faoi láthair agus, faraor, is é a mhalairt atá ag tarlú. In 2010, bhí thart ar 20,000 cainteoir dúchais ann. De réir an daonáirimh in 2011, bhí 23,000 ann agus tá an figiúr sin íslithe go dtí 20,000 in 2016.

Ní fheictear dom go bhfuil ag éirí leis an straitéis sin. Bhain mé úsáid cúpla úair as rud a dúirt John Wayne uair amháin i seanscannán. Dúirt sé, "When you are on a dead horse, the best thing to do is to get off." Tá fadhb mhór againn ó thaobh na Gaeilge de, ó thaobh labhairt na Gaeilge de agus ó thaobh na straitéise de because, dar liomsa agus dar le go leor daoine, níl ag éirí leis. Bhí comhráite agam leis an Aire Stáit le roinnt seachtainí anuas. Tá a fhios agam go bhfuil sé ag iarraidh bheith dairíre agus é seo a fhorbairt, ach ceaptar nach bhfuil ag éirí leis an straitéis. Caithfimid tosú arís. Níl tada mícheart leis sin. Tarlaíonn sé i gcúrsaí gnó agus cúrsaí saolta an-mhinic. Is maith an rud é agus is rud ciallmhar é le rá go gcaithfimid tosú le plean nua.

Bhí mé ag caint leis na comharchumainn inné. Tá a fhios agam go bhfuil aithne ag an Aire Stáit orthu. Bhí mé ag caint le Cathy Ní Ghoill ó Inis Mór. Bhí mé ag rá léi go mbeidh mé ag caint leis an Aire Stáit faoi seo agus dúirt sí liom go bhfuil teipthe go glan ar an bplean Gaeilge. Is é an rud atá ag teastáil uainn sa Ghaeltacht agus ó phobal na Gaeilge ná poist agus seans a thabhairt dúinn teach a thógáil inár n-áit féin. Mar atá fhios agam, agus tá a fhios ag an Aire Stáit ina cheantar féin, tá fadhbanna móra ó thaobh pleanála de. Tá an talamh againn. Ní talamh maith é ach tá talamh againn. Táimid ag iarraidh tithe a thógáil ann agus táimid ag iarraidh post. Má thugtar deis dúinn, cheapfainn go n-éireódh go geal leis an nGaeilge agus leis an gcultúr agus go mbeidh tobar todhchaí na tíre seo ann ó thaobh na staire agus an chultúir de.

Tá lagdhú an-mhór tagtha ar chúrsaí infheistíochta. Tá laghdú de 70% tagtha ar infheistíocht in Údarás na Gaeltachta ó 2007 go 2016. Níl ach 30% den mhéid airgid a bhí ag an údarás sin aige anois. Tá laghdú de thart ar 40% tagtha ar bhuiséad Fhoras na Gaeilge. Tá dhá rud ann. Is rud amháin é an méid airgid a chuirtear ar fáil, ach is dóigh liom go bhfuil an dara rud níos tábhachtaí. Tá a fhios agam go bhfuil an tAire Stáit liom ar seo. Is í an fhadhb eile ná an chaoi ina gcaitear an t-airgead sin. Sin rud an-tábhachtach. B'fhéidir san am atá caite go bhféadfaí é a chaitheamh i bhfad níos éifeachtaí.

Tabharfaidh mise chuile tacaíocht don Aire Stáit cabhrú leis sin más féidir go gcuirfí straitéis nua ar siúl a bheidh bunaithe ar an bpobal áitiúil sa chaoi gur féidir leo bheith ina gcónaí agus a bheith ag obair san áit inar rugadh agus tógadh iad in áit a bheith ag dul go Dorchester, Boston nó áiteanna eile ar fud na cruinne. Bheadh an straitéis sin bunaithe ar fhostaíocht agus comhoibriú idir na Ranna Stáit éagsúla. Dar liomsa go bhfuil na Ranna Stáit i gcineál silos dóibh féin. D'éirigh an Wild Atlantic Way, an Slí Atlantaigh Fhiáin, thar barr. Is sampla amháin é sin de rud a tháinig isteach i rith ré Rialtais an Aire Stáit agus rinne sé an-dul chun cinn. Tá go leor eile gur féidir a dhéanamh ar an gcás sin. Tá ag éirí go maith le coláistí Gaeilge. Tugann siad sin €20 milliún sa mbliain isteach don eacnamaíocht áitiúil. Sin rud an-mhór do phobail Ghaeltachta atá ar imeall na tíre seo.

Is rudaí atá fíorthábhachtach freisin iad na comharchumainn. Tá laghdú mór tagtha ar thacaíocht airgid do chomharchumainn. Is bealach an-saor don Stát é sin le go leor obair a fháil déanta i gceantair áitiúla. Tá titim an-mhór ó thaobh tacaíochta do na comharchumainn de. Is coistí deonacha iad na boird comharchumann. Níl fostaithe ach cúpla duine ach tá siad ar chois leis an bpobal áitiúl agus tuigeann siad céard atá ag teastáil ó thaobh cúrsaí forbartha áitiúla de. Ba bhreá liom dá bhféadfaí glór níos láidre a thabhairt do na comharchumainn áitiúla ó thaobh forbairtí agus pleananna áitiúla de. Sin go díreach é ach-----

Tá an t-am nach mór istigh.

Déarfaidh mé focal amháin i mBéarla más féidir liom. Tá mé breá sásta go mbeadh sé seo dátheangach because tá go leor daoine a bhfuil suim acu sa Ghaeilge ach nach bhfuil an cumas i, nó an tuiscint ar an, nGaeilge acu mar atá agam nó ag an Aire Stáit. Is rud é don tír uilig é seo. Dar liom, the more European or the more global we get, the more we need to support and protect our own identity as a people. That is very close to my heart. I believe and I know the Minister of State will give it 100%. I will support him in it. I am very interested in listening to his reply.

Ar dtús, chuir an Seanadóir iontas orm nuair a chuir sé an cheist síos i mBéarla. Is é polasaí mo Roinn nuair a chuirtear ceist i mBéarla go dtugtar an freagra i mBéarla. Tá mé thar a bheith sásta an cheist seo a fhreagairt trí Ghaeilge. Is í an teanga is fearr sa tír seo. Ar dtús gabhaim buíochas leis an Seanadóir faoi choinne na ceiste. Cinnte, bíonn díospóireachtaí i gcónaí fadúda an teanga agus fadúda an Ghaeltacht a bhogadh chun tosaigh.

Bhí an Seanadóir ag caint fadúda na huimhreacha. Cinnte fosta, tá deacrachtaí agus dúshláin ann fadúda dhaoine atá abálta Gaeilge a labhairt istigh sa Ghaeltacht agus taobh amuigh de. Tá mise ag amharc i dtreo na rudaí dearfacha. Nuair a tháinig mé isteach sa phost seo in 2014 bhí conspóid ag an am gur ainmníodh Aire Stáit le freagracht as an nGaeltacht nach raibh a chuid Gaeilge ró-mhaith ag an am. Chonaic mé an sár-obair a bhí ag dul ar aghaidh istigh sa Ghaeltacht agus an reachtaíocht a bhí ag dul ar aghaidh fadúda, mar shampla, limistéar pleanála na mbailte seirbhíse. Tá dualgais mhóra ar Fhoras na Gaeilge agus Údarás na Gaeilge faoi choinne pleanáil teanga a chur i bhfeidhm nó a bhrú chun cinn. Ba mhaith liom mo thacaíocht agus mo chuidiú a thabhairt chuig na daoine a bhíonn ag obair ar phleanáil teanga. Chas mé le daoine a n-oibríonn ar sin i nGaillimh coicís ó shin - daoine ó Chorcaigh, ó Chiarraí, ó Phort Láirge, ó Ghaillimh agus ó Thír Chonaill fosta. Tá na daoine sin ag amharc ar an airgead agus ar an chuidiú atá de dhíth chun an phleanáil teanga a chur i bhfeidhm. Tá siadsan ag obair in achan bealach i dtreo an todhchaí.

Bhí an Seanadóir ag caint faoi Shlí an Atlantaigh Fhiáin, an cultúr, an oidhreacht, an teanga ach go háirithe, agus na posit atá ag teastáil ón nGaeltacht. Tá cuid mhór obair dhearfach déanta agus tá sárobair déanta maidir leis an teanga a bhogadh chun cinn. Agus é sin ráite, fadúda na bailte seirbhíse taobh amuigh den Ghaeltacht, mar shampla Leitir Ceanainn agus cathair na Gaillimhe, beidh mé ag amharc chuig na coistí deonacha a luaigh an Seanadóir agus an obair a dhéanann siad ar son na teanga. Ba mhaith liom bheith ag amharc i dtreo na rudaí dearfacha atá ag tarlú amach anseo. Tá an t-údarás freagrach as na bailte taobh istigh den Ghaeltacht, mar shampla an Clochán Liath, Daingean Uí Chúis agus Béal an Mhuirthead. Beidh breis bailte ar an liosta fosta. Tá cuid mhór oibre ag dul ar aghaidh ar na líonraí Gaeilge ar son an teanga fosta, mar shampla, i mBaile Locha Riach agus i gCluain Dolcáin. Beidh sé tábhachtach go mbeidh rudaí fite fuaite idir an Ghaeltacht agus limistéir taobh amuigh di.

Tá an fuinneamh sa Tuaisceart, sna Sé Chontae, tábhachtach fosta. Chas mé le suas le 100 duine i mBéal Feirste inné. Bhí siad i rang CLG Uladh. Chas mé le suas le 100 duine, ó Ard Mhacha, Aontroim, Fear Manach agus Tír Eoghain, a bhí ag foghlaim Gaeilge. Tá sé sin thar a bheith suimiúil. Dá mbeadh aon ghá mhór de dhíth fadúda na rudaí sin a bhogadh chun cinn, tá mé sásta leanúint ar aghaidh leis an díospóireacht fadúda sin.

Tá an Seanadóir ceart fá dtaobh de na coláistí samhraidh. Tá sárobair déanta agus tá siad ag bogadh ar aghaidh. Mar shampla, tá Coláiste Lurgan i gcontae an tSeanadóra, agus beidh suas le 600 duine ag dul go dtí Árann Mór i mbliana.

Bhí laghdú mór san airgead a bhí ar fáil do na comharchumainn thar na blianta a chuaigh thart. Tá siadsan ag obair go deonach fosta. Bíonn siad ag obair ar achan rud maidir leis an teanga chomh maith le cúrsaí forbartha agus fostaíochta. Tá mé ag amharc ar an chuidiú dóibh freisin.

Tá obair bhreá ag dul ar aghaidh sna bunscoileanna sna Gaeltachtaí. Tá an clár cúntóirí teanga ann. Tá eolas maith ag an Seanadóir ar obair Muintearas. Tá an eagraíocht sin ag obair go dian dícheallach ar son na teanga sna scoileanna. Tá sé sin thar a bheith tábhachtach.

Maidir le Bille na dTeangacha Oifigiúla (Leasú), bhí cruinniú agam leis an gCoimisinéir Teanga cúpla seachtain ó shin. Bhí mé ag obair leis an gCoiste Gaeilge, Gaeltachta agus na nOileán. Tá an Seanadóir ar an gcoiste. Dá mbeadh aon chuidiú de dhíth maidir leis an mBille seo, tá mé ar thaobh an choiste. Chomh maith leis sin, tá na dréachtóirí ag obair ar an leasú faoi láthair. Thug an Rialtas tiomantas agus gealltanas mór chuig an Bhille cúpla mí ó shin. Ba mhaith liom mo aitheantas foirmiúil a ghabháil chuig an iarAire Stáit le freagracht as cúrsaí Gaeltachta, an Teachta Seán Kyne, a chur fíor-iarracht isteach sna rudaí sin.

Is é mo thuairim pearsanta ná go mb'fhéidir go mbeadh deiseanna leis An Clár Éire Ildánach amach anseo. Bhí comhrá ollmhór agam leis an Taoiseach an tseachtain a chuaigh thart maidir leis seo. B'fhéidir go mbeadh bealach ann an bhliain seo chugainn fá dtaobh den teanga a chur chun cinn nó a bhogadh chun tosaigh. Tá mé ag amharc ar phlean ollmhór sa tír. B'fhéidir go mbeidh ról ann ó thaobh Bliain na Gaeilge 2018. Tá suim mhór ann. Beidh mé ag fáil tuairimí agus smaointe fá dtaobh den phlean sin amach anseo fosta.

Maidir le h-iarratas an tSeanadóra fá dtaobh de a bheith ag obair le chéile, tá mé thar a bheith sásta é sin a dhéanamh. Tá sé sin de dhíth. San am a chuaigh thart, bhí an Ghaeilge mar pháirt den díospóireacht polaitíochta. Níl anois ach tá freagrachtaí agus dualgais orainn uilig fá dtaobh den teanga. Tá freagrachtaí agus dualgais ar dhaoine ón tuaisceart agus ó Chorcaigh agus ar dhaoine atá taobh amuigh den Rialtas, den chóras agus de na rannóga éagsúla. Ba mhaith liomsa obair taobh amuigh den pholaitíocht ar son na teanga. Tá sé sin de dhíth. Tá gá mór ann dó agus tá suim mhór ag daoine ar an teanga taobh amuigh de na cúrsaí sin.

An bhfuil an Seanadóir sásta leis an bhfreagra?

Tá mé beagánín sásta. Tá mé an-bhuíoch den Aire Stáit as ucht teacht isteach anseo agus an cheist a fhreagairt. Mar a thuigeann sé, is ceist an-tábhachtach í seo ó thaobh na tíre de agus ní hamháin ó thaobh na Gaeltachta de. Dúirt sé cúpla rud ar a rinne mé roinnt rudaí. Tá obair an-mhaith á dhéanamh ar fud na tíre ó thaobh na Gaeilge de. Mar a dúirt an tAire Stáit, agus tá mé breá sásta agus buíoch den Aire Stáit as ucht a léirigh sé é, tá obair an-mhaith ar siúl i dTuaisceart Éireann. Bheadh sé an-tábhachtach, dar liom, go dtabharfadh an Rialtas tacaíocht ó thaobh aitheantas na Gaeilge de sa Tuaisceart. Níl fáth ar bith nach mbeadh sé sin ann. Is cearta daonna é sin. De réir mar a thuigim, aontaíodh é sin cúpla bliain ó shin ó thaobh na páirtithe polaitiúla ar fad ansin. Tá mé breá sásta gur luaigh an tAire Stait an tAire Stáit a bhí roimhe, an Teachta Seán Kyne, mar rinne seisean go leor oibre.

Ceann de na rudaí is tábhachtaí a tharla sé nó seacht mbliana ó shin ná go raibh an tAire Stáit, nuair a thosaigh sé ina Aireacht anseo an uair dheireadh, ar bheagán Gaeilge ach anois tá Gaeilge an-mhaith aige. Bhí sé in ann labhairt ansin óna intinn agus óna chroí agus ní ó nótaí. Tugann sé sin ardú croí agus inspioráid do mhuintir na Gaeltachta agus do mhuintir na Gaeilge mar feictear dúinn go bhfuil sé lándáiríre faoi sin.

Tá naíscoileanna fíorthábhactach. Tá an Roinn agus an Roinn Oideachais agus Scileanna ag tabhairt tacaíochta do naíscoileanna agus go fad buan é sin go mbreathnaítear ní hamháin ar bhunscoileanna agus meánscoileanna ach ar naíscoileanna freisin. Seo na gasúir bheaga idir b'fhéidir dhá bhliain agus cúig bliana sula dtéann siad ar an scoil.

B'fhéidir an rud is tábhachtaí a dúirt an tAire Stáit ná go mbeidh blank page ann ó thaobh plean iomlán don tír in 2018. Dúirt sé go mbeidh sé ag lorg inputs agus tuairimí ó dhaoine éagsúla agus ní hamháin ó státseirbhísigh nó na gnáthdhaoine a thugann é ach ón phobal ina iomláine. Tá an-suim agam a bheith páirteach ansin, más féidir, agus tacú, mar an tAire Stáit, mar cheannaire, leis seo a thabhairt tríd.

Gabhaim mo mhíle buíochas leis an Aire Stáit as ucht teacht isteach. Tá mé ag tnúth go mór leis an bplean iomlán don tír in 2018.

Bhí 18 nóiméad ar fáil don topaic seo agus tá thar 16 nóiméad tógtha againn anois.

Beidh mé an-sciobtha.

Beidh mé i dtrioblóid amháin ach tabharfaidh mé nóiméad amháin don Aire Stáit.

Gabhaim mo bhuíóchas leis an Seanadóir as a gcuid focal. Rinne mé dearmad tagairt don Roinn Oideachais agus Scileanna atá ag bogadh ar aghaidh leis an tumoideachas. Ba mhaith liom m'aitheantas a thabhairt do na hoifigigh san Roinn sin. Chonaic mé an fiúntas atá ag an Ghaeilge tríd an tír agus tríd an domhan. Labhair an Seanadóir fá dtaobh den cheangal le Bostún agus Ceanada. Faoi láthair tá daoine ag foghlaim Gaeilge i Londain agus i Sydney san Astráil. Chuir an Roinn airgead ar fáil do na tograí sin. B'fhéidir go mbeidh deiseanna móra amach anseo. Dá mbeadh aon bhealach ann a bheadh mise ábalta cuidiú leis an Seanadóir nó leis an teanga, tá mé oscailte dó sin.

Fá choinne na figiúirí maidir le hÚdarás na Gaeltachta, bhí €2.4 milliún breise sa Roinn don Údarás in 2016. Tá mé ag amharc go mbeidh breis airgid ann. Rachaidh airgead díreach go dtí na comharchumainn trí Údarás na Gaeltachta. Tá an t-airgead thar a bheith tábhachtach. An chéad fhocal a d'fhoghlaim mé in 2014 ná "deontas". Tá sé sin tábhachtach fosta. Feicim na buntáistí ansin.

This is a topic that is worthy of a full debate in the House, for which the Senator might look when we return in September or October. The time allocated is only four minutes apiece although I allowed the Senator and the Minister of State to speak for nearly 18 minutes between them. It is important, however, and other Members of the Seanad might like to get involved in the debate on the future of the Irish language. The Senator might consider asking the Leader, when we come back in late September, if at some time there will be a full debate. The Minister of State could come in and other Members from various sides could have a two-hour debate, perhaps, on the issue, of which it might be more worthy.

Sitting suspended at 12.50 p.m. and resumed at 1 p.m.