Estimates for Public Services, 1998.

Vote 41 — Arts Council (Revised).

Vote 42 — Department of Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands (Revised).

Vote 43 — National Gallery (Revised).

Is maith liom fáilte a chur roimh an Aire, an Aire Stáit agus oifigigh na Roinne chun an chruinniú seo a bheidh ag déanamh scrúdú ar Meastacháin a bhaineann leis an Roinn Ealaíon, Oidhreacht, Gaeltachta agus Oileán. Beidh deis cainte ag an Aire agus ag an Aire Stáit agus tá sé

curtha in iúl agam d'urlabhraithe an Fhreasúra go mbeidh 15 nóiméad acu chun ráiteas tosaigh a dhéanamh. Déanfar plé ghinearálta ansin i bhfoirm ceisteanna. Ansin beidh deis ag an Aire agus ag na hurlabhraithe ráiteas scoir a dhéanamh.

On behalf of the select committee I welcome the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands, Deputy de Valera, the Minister of State, Deputy Ó Cuív, and their officials.

The purpose of today's meeting is to consider the revised Estimates that fall within the remit of the Department of Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands, namely Votes 41, 42 and 43, for the Arts Council, the Office of the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands and the National Gallery, respectively. We have indicated a timetable for considering the Estimates which will allow for opening statements by the Minister, the Minister of State and the Opposition spokespersons and then an open discussion on the individual Votes by way of question and answer. Is that agreed? Agreed.

I now invite the Minister to make her opening statement followed by the Minister of State.

It is a great privilege to present to this committee the Estimates for 1998 for the following Votes: Vote 41, £26 million for the Arts Council; Vote 42, £147,560,000 for the Department of Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands and Vote 43, £2,274,000 for the National Gallery.

Members of the committee will already have received briefing material setting out the detail of the three Votes. All reference to the various subheads within the Votes will be in the order as published in the 1998 revised Estimate for Public Services. The Minister of State, Deputy Ó Cuív, will speak on the subheads for the Gaeltacht, the Irish language and the islands.

On Vote 41, the Arts Council, I am particularly pleased to point out the total budget of £26 million provided for 1998. This is an increase of more than £5 million on the funds provided to the Council in 1997 and meets in full the commitment given in the Programme for Government, an Action Programme for the Millennium. This level of funding will enable the Arts Council to implement, by the end of 1998, the Council's arts plan one full year earlier than planned. To assess the operation of the plan I have commissioned consultants to undertake an independent review and make recommendations as to the changes in emphasis and orientation which may be considered necessary in a future plan. The review will involve seeking submissions from all interested parties on the implementation of the arts plan. The Arts Council will also undertake its own review of the plan. The committee will be aware of the appointment of the new Arts Council two days ago under the chairmanship of Brian Farrell.

Turning to Vote 42 for my Department, members will note that the administrative cost of my Department, including salaries, will be more than £18.5 million for the full year. In 1998, for the first time, the full funding of administrative and other costs for the three main national cultural institutions is published in tabular form in the Estimates.

Subhead C1 of my Department's Vote is national lottery funded and provides grant-in-aid for the main national cultural institutions. These include the National Museum, including Collins Barracks, the National Library, National Archives, National Concert Hall, the Chester Beatty Library, Irish Museum of Modern Art and the National Archives Advisory Council. I was pleased to be in a position to secure an 8 per cent increase in the subhead C1 allocation in 1998 form £5,558 million to £6,034 million. This additional funding facilitated an increase in the 1998 allocations to each of these institutions.

One of my first pleasant duties since becoming Minister was to preside at the opening, last September, of the inaugural exhibitions at the newly developed facility for the National Museum at Collins Barracks. It is deservedly a source of great pride for all concerned, the caretaker board, the director and his dedicated team and the staff of the Office of Public Works who worked tirelessly on the project, to see many years of aspirations and hopes for the museum finally come to fruition.

Expenditure in the order of £14 million has been incurred to date with the support of EU Structural Funds and the Exchequer and plans are at an advanced stage to proceed with the next stages of the development. Members will note that between the pay elements and subhead C1, a significant increase of 13 per cent, from £2.48 million in 1997 to £2.793 million in 1998, has been achieved in the case of the National Library. I am sure Members will agree that recognition of the ongoing and valuable contribution of this important institution is totally justified. With these additional resources the library will be able to develop further its existing functions through conservation, acquisitions and general service to the public.

I am sure I speak for all library users in welcoming the longer opening hours which the library has introduced in recent months. I take this opportunity of expressing our appreciation of the co-operation of the staff and management for bringing this about.

Under subhead C2 Archbishop Marsh's Library received a substantial increase in 1998, from £63,000 in 1997 to £99,000 in 1998. In addition to covering normal running costs, this increase is an attempt to establish appropriate remuneration rates for the keeper and her staff, which are long overdue in this establishment providing as it does an important conservation function for many institutional and private collections. It is noteworthy indeed that it was instrumental in the conservation of the Michael Collins-Kitty Kiernan letters which are currently on loan to the National Library.

In relation to the National Archives I was pleased to announce at Christmas the allocation of £13 million in capital expenditure for the adaptation of the premises to the rear of the existing building which will provide much needed storage and other facilities for this important institution. The women's history project is a most important area of research and I am pleased to allocate a further £60,000 in funds in 1998, to the allocation for 1997, to the Irish Association for Research in Women's History to enable it to continue to undertake a survey of historical documents relating to the history of women on the island of Ireland.

In recognition of the valuable work of the Irish Architectural Archive, I am pleased my Department is in a position to assist the archive by increasing its 1998 allocation so as to assure its continued operation.

Included in the C2 capital subhead is £200,000 from a total of £400,000 which has been committed over a three year period towards the provision of a furniture conservation and restoration unit as part of a development in the Letterfrack furniture college in Galway. This is in response to the need to foster an indigenous professional educational standard of this type and to complement the furniture design and technology qualifications granted by this innovative college.

In relation to the cultural development incentives scheme, I am happy that of the 39 projects approved for funding, 20 are under construction or completed. I expect the other 19 to commence this year and I envisage that all projects will be completed before the end of 1999.

On the broadcasting side it is estimated that 995,000 television licences will be issued in 1998 and this is expected to yield £69.65 million in gross receipts. The increase of approximately £0.6 million over gross receipts in 1997 primarily reflects the gradual increase in the number of licences issued. The amount payable to An Post in respect of its licence fee for collection work is estimated at £7.47 million. This figure is calculated on the basis of the target of 995,000 licences to be issued. RTE is paid a grant-in-aid equivalent to the total receipts less costs and it is free to use these moneys for the general purposes of broadcasting in accordance with its duties under the Broadcasting Authority Acts.

In accordance with the Government decision on the funding of Teilifís na Gaeilge, two grant-in-aid subheads are provided for in the Vote of my Department. Under one subhead a total of £10.63 million is provided for current funding and under the other subhead a total of £200,000 is provided for capital funding. Current funding is allocated primarily for staffing and programming costs whereas capital funding is allocated for equipment upgrades and the improvement of the transmission network in line with developments on the RTE 1 and Network 2 facilities.

Pending the establishment of separate legal structures for Teilifís na Gaeilge, RTE has been directed to assume responsibility for the service and grants-in-aid are payable to RTE in respect of Teilifís na Gaeilge form the Vote of my Department. RTE has established Comhairle Theilifís na Gaeilge to provide advice to RTE in respect of the operation of the service. In accordance with the commitment in An Action Programme for the Millennium, the establishment of Teilifís na Gaeilge on a statutory basis will be included in my proposals for broadcasting legislation, which I expect to submit to Government in the coming weeks.

The Irish Film Board has a crucial role in the development of the indigenous film industry. By providing loans for the development and production of Irish film projects, it plays an essential part in providing the opportunities needed by emerging Irish talent and, through schemes such as short cuts, has launched the careers of quite a number of young Irish film-makers. The board also supports more established companies in producing Irish culture films which have significant commercial prospects. In addition to providing development and production loans, the board also provides, under its capital provision, funds for film training, carried out by the national training committee for film and training, known as Screen Training Ireland.

Under the board's current expenditure provision, it pays its salary and overhead costs and membership contributions for Ireland's participation in international schemes, notably the EURIMAGES Co-Production Fund. On foot of this payment, Irish producers working with other European producers are able to access funding. Ireland benefits from this fund substantially more than the amount of the contributions. In 1998, an additional provision was made in the Estimates for current expenditure to enable the board to extend its promotion of Irish film at home and abroad and to provide information, seminars and other initiatives to this end.

To date, recoupment of development and production loans by the board amounts to some £1 million — recoupment of a further £400,000 is anticipated this year. A sum of £200,000 is being provided this year from the recoupments for the establishment of the Screen Commission of Ireland, which will have the important role of promoting Ireland abroad as a centre of excellence and location for film production. In addition, £300,000 is being provided to enable the board to offer additional development and production loans.

The screen commission meets regularly to organise its operations and it has recently advertised the position of chief executive. The screen commission's role will be to promote Ireland's many attractions as a location for incoming films and television production and to provide a "one-stop" facility for foreign and indigenous producers who wish to make films in Ireland. It will promote tax advantages and other incentives, the range of facilities, available, the body of professional crews, actors and creative personnel and the variety of locations available. It will also maintain a presence at key international market events.

The committee will be aware that last week I announced a major review of the Irish film industry. As part of this review, I have established a think-tank to formulate a strategic plan for the future of the industry for the next decade. This is a key priority in the Government's An Action Programme for the Millennium. The think-tank comprises a strategic review group drawn from professional industry sources, my Department and the Department of Finance under an independent chairperson. The group will carry out an objective evaluation of the effectiveness of the existing schemes, analyse and identify the fundamental issues facing the industry, make recommendations about future measures to support the film industry and formulate a strategic plan. The think tank will be supported in its deliberations by a panel of national and international experts. Its most immediate task will relate to the section 35 scheme, which expires next year. I will ask the think tank to furnish me with a report on this issue in September.

Members will be aware that the Heritage Council is funded through my Department's Vote under subheads P1, P2 and P3. A total of £4 million is provided for the council for 1998 which represents an increase of more than 33 per cent on the 1997 Estimates. This increase in expenditure is mainly to facilitate the council in making grants available for conservation works to heritage buildings and to provide for the acquisition by the council of its own headquarters in Kilkenny. Members will also be aware that I succeeded in obtaining additional funding of £0.5 million for the council at the end of 1997 by way of Supplementary Estimate, specifically to enable the council to address the problem of heritage buildings at risk in 1998.

In relation to subhead S for national parks and wildlife, Members will note that the 1998 figure of £24.324 million is a very significant increase on the 1997 provision. Of this total, £16.87 million comprises non-capital expenditure and the majority of this — some £13 million — relates to special areas of conservation, to which I will refer in more detail later. A sum of £3.3 million is earmarked for the ongoing maintenance and management of national parks and nature reserves, including the payment of wages, etc., for industrial staff. Our national parks maintain very high standards on relatively small annual budgets and they are a source of great pride and satisfaction to all of us. The balance of £574,000 for non-capital expenditure covers primarily the cost of surveying and designating additional special protection areas, under the EU Birds Directive, and SACs.

On the capital side, £5.5 million of the total allocation of £7.450 million is reserved for SAC capital compensation where this is the only option to preserve important privately owned habitats. A sum of £500,000 is being set aside to acquire land by mutual agreement which would be incorporated into existing or future national parks and reserves. My Department pays a fair and equitable price for such lands, but I do not have vast resources at my disposal, contrary to the hopes of some landowners. The thrust of this land acquisition will be in north west Mayo where over the last few years a substantial area of land — more than 20,000 acres — has been purchased with a view to establishing a national park in the Nephin Beg-Owenduff area. The proposed designation of this national park is under consideration and I hope to make a formal announcement on the matter in the near future.

While this country has large areas of blanket bog, we have comparatively small tracts of raised bogs. These bogs are unique in many respects and I propose to spend £160,000 on their conservation and restoration during 1998. This is the final stage of a project for the restoration of raised bogs funded under the EU Cohesion Fund.

The balance of the capital allocation, £790,000, is targeted at projects under the Tourism Operational Programme. This money will be spent mainly on Doneraile Court and Demesne and on the provision of a visitor centre for Lough Hyne. Doneraile Court in County Cork is badly in need of major restoration works. The roof requires replacement and it is hoped this work will be undertaken before the end of the year. Lough Hyne is located on the west Cork coast and it was designated as Ireland's first statutory marine reserve in 1981. Plans are at an advanced stage to establish a visitor centre in Skibbereen which will interpret this very special amenity.

In relation to the special areas of conservation, one of my major tasks as the Minister responsible for nature conservation is the implementation of the EU Habitats Directive. This directive requires member states to designate their most important natural areas as special areas of conservation, and to prevent anything that would damage their ecology.

The directive was transposed into Irish law on 26 February 1997 by the then Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht, Deputy Higgins. The transposing regulations gave the Minister power to control or prohibit damaging activities within these areas. During March 1997, more than 200,000 hectares of land were publicly proposed for SAC status. Legal protection applies to these areas from the date of the proposal. Those affected can appeal against the inclusion of their land. Appeals will be considered by an SAC appeals advisory committee comprised of equal numbers from the farming and conservation sides, with the former ombudsman, Mr. Michael Mills, as the independent chairman.

Where restrictions result in a loss of income for the landowner, compensation will by payable. Farmers can obtain compensation by joining the REPS, administered by the Department of Agriculture and Food or by claiming from my Department for losses incurred. Standard REPS payments of £50 per acre will be paid up to 100 acres, and those with land in proposed NHAs, which include all SAC areas, will get an additional £30 per acre on this NHA land. Proposed NHA land of between 101 to 200 acres will qualify for £8 per acre and between 201 to 300 acres for £6 per acre.

Standard REPS payments are provided for in the Department of Agriculture and Food's Estimates provision. The top-up on standard rates for SACs, SPAs and overgrazed areas is provided for in my Department's Estimates provision and will be transferred to the Department of Agriculture and Food as required. The provision for capital compensation is £5.5 million. This will cover purchase of land in lieu of compensation and situations where a once-off payment is more appropriate than ongoing annual payments.

I have no difficulty supporting the principle of nature conservation. However, when the SAC process started there was widespread confusion among those affected and a prevalent feeling that decisions affecting landowners' rights were being taken without any meaningful input from those directly affected. I considered this to be unacceptable and on taking up office the Minister of State and I initiated a complete review of SAC arrangements. To ensure there was adequate local consultation on SAC issues, and that the appeal process effectively took account of local concerns, I decided to set up liaison committees in each area affected by SAC designation proposals. These committees will be representative of local landowners and arrangements will be made to have regular consultations with local officers of Dúchas, my Department's heritage service.

I was also aware of the clear concern in areas where turf has been traditionally used as a domestic fuel about the turf cutting restrictions resulting from SAC proposals. Bogs, in particular raised bogs, are a priority for protection under the Habitats Directive. Although I could understand the conservation arguments for an immediate cessation of turf cutting in these areas, I felt it essential that adequate time be given for compensation and other arrangements to be worked out. As this had not happened before the 1998 cutting season, I decided cutting would be allowed for another year. I intend to have the matter resolved long before the 1999 cutting season.

When this Government came into office, farmers claiming unemployment assistance, pre-retirement allowance and old age non-contributory pension could have the first £2,000 of REPS payments disregarded for means testing purposes. Following strong representations by me and the Minister of State at my Department, Deputy Ó Cuív, the 1998 Social Welfare Bill was changed to provide that in the scheme of compensation for SAC conditions, the first £2,000 would continue to be disregarded, with the balance being assessed at 50 per cent rather than on a pound for pound basis, as was previously the case. This means a farmer who receives a REPS payment of £4,000 will now be £1,000 better off.

On the inland waterways subhead the European Regional Development Fund-funded programme is progressing well and the funding will be expended by the end of 1999. The major projects this year are the extension of navigation along the river Suck to Ballinasloe, and the extension of navigation along a new canal towards Boyle, County Roscommon which will be completed in 1999. Projects are also going ahead at Moran's Bridge on the Royal Canal at Mullingar, the Tralee Ship Canal and Parkavera Lock on the Eglinton Canal in Galway.

The other main project scheduled to start this year is the improvement of navigation and the development of facilities in Limerick. This project is being financed by my Department, Limerick Corporation and Shannon Development. The works will be carried out in conjunction with phase I of the Limerick main drainage project which also requires major dredging works in the Abbey River.

Of special interest is the community barge project where four barges were provided to community groups in Killucan, Shannon Harbour, Athy and Clondalkin, to be reconstructed by local groups in conjunction with FÁS training schemes. When completed, the intention is that the barges will be used by the communities to promote interest in the canals. I would like to pay tribute to my predecessor, Deputy Michael D. Higgins, for this initiative. I recently had the pleasure of visiting the site of the Killucan group project based in Mullingar.

Moving to the national monuments and historic properties section of Dúchas, the heritage service of my Department, the main source of funding for these activities is sourced from subhead V of my Department's Vote. For the information of the committee, the broad distinction between the concept of a national monument and an historic property is that a national monument would generally pre-date 1700 AD. The 1998 allocation under this subhead, at £25.297 million, represents a 10 per cent increase over the corresponding allocation of £22.995 million in 1997. The main element of this increase is an additional £2.3 million which is being made available this year to provide capital funding for projects under the EU Operational Programme for Tourism 1994-99.

While the allocation of £25.297 million under Subhead V of my Department's Vote is substantial by any standards, these funds are directed towards a wide range of activities, including the conservation and maintenance of a significant number of the more than 700 national monuments and historic properties in State care, the wage bill for some 520 industrial depots throughout the country, and 19 historic properties, such as the Phoenix Park, Dublin and Garnish island, Cork and the six national monuments depots located at Athenry, Dromahair, Kilkenny, Killarney, Mallow and Trim. The total amount allocated to these conservation and maintenance operations in 1998 is £9.98 million — expenditure on capital projects at various locations throughout the country.

This year, some £8.29 million will be spent on EU-funded projects under the Operational Programme for Tourism. Examples of the type of projects so funded include Portumna Castle; Barryscourt Castle, Cork; Ardfert Cathedral; Kilkenny Castle; Dún Aenghus; Knowth-Boyne Valley; the Mainguard, Clonmel; Castletown House; Ennis Friary and Roscrea Castle. The actual nature of works being carried out under the tourism operational programme tends to vary from project to project, but typically it would involve an element of essential restoration works, coupled with provision of visitor services such as interpretative materials, tea-rooms, toilets, car-parking facilities etc. Given that the end of 1999 is the timescale for EU funding, my Department is currently reviewing the progress on these projects with a view to ensuring only projects which can be completed in time will be EU funded.

In addition to the £8.29 million capital allocation for EU-funded projects, subhead V of my Vote also includes an allocation of £3.79 million for capital works which are funded in full from the Exchequer. These funds are used mainly to finance minor capital expenditure, including works at sites such as Clonmacnoise, Doe Castle, Listowel Castle, Askeaton Castle, Emo Court, Derrynane and preparations for the Phoenix Park stage of the Tour de France. Other activities funded under this allocation include the purchase of vehicles and some property acquisition.

A sum of £1.11 million under Subhead V is allocated to the archaeological survey of Ireland which, when completed, will give legal protection to some 120,000 recorded monuments and places throughout the State: the underwater sites and monuments records survey; the architectural inventory; excavations undertaken by the national monuments service and those approved by the Royal Irish Academy as well as the Environmental Action Programme.

Members will be aware of the press release which I recently issued with my colleague Deputy Dempsey, Minister for the Environment and Local Government, in which we announced a package of measures designed to protect the architectural heritage. The package includes an additional sum of £800,000 for my Department in 1999 which relates in particular to the completion of the national inventory of architecture and its central role in the new listing system.

Subhead V includes a sum of £2.126 million in 1998 in respect of miscellaneous items, involving current expenditure on activities such as the guide service at some 57 visitor sites, accident claims, purchase of certain publications, etc.

I should refer to one other source of funding, separate from that at Subhead V, which is included in my vote for the national monuments and historic properties section of my Department. Subhead U of the Vote involves an allocation of £1 million in 1998 for national lottery-funded conservation works. This very welcome source of funding from the national lottery allows me to target certain prestigious projects each year which cannot be accommodated either within the basket of EU-funded projects or those projects funded directly by the Exchequer. For 1997, the allocation of £745,000 under this subhead was directed at prestigious projects such as restoration of Kilmainham jail, restoration of the Birr Castle telescope, the provision of new propagation glasshouses at the National Botanical Gardens, the restoration of the cascade at the Iveagh Gardens, Dublin, and new visitor and safety facilities for visitor access at Charles Fort, Kinsale.

Another innovation in the Estimates for 1998 is the provision of £666,000 in subhead X for the Operational Programme for Tourism 1994-1999 which consists of an EU-funded package to market abroad cultural and tourism facilities.

In respect of Vote 43 for the National Gallery, the 1998 allocation shows an increase of 8 per cent on the 1997 figure. In connection with the Clare Street development, Dublin Corporation has granted planning approval to the gallery's proposals and I am hopeful this revised development will add significantly to the attractions of the National Gallery.

This is but a short account of some of the activities within my brief. When the Minister of State, Deputy Ó Cuív has presented his statement I will be happy to discuss any of the issues raised and answer questions.

Go raibh míle maith agaibh.

Ba mhaith liom mo bhuíochas a ghabháil leis an gCoiste as ucht an cuireadh a thabhairt dom labhairt anseo inniu i ndáil le meastacháin 1998. Mar is eol daoibh, ní foláir, beidh mé ag labhairt faoi chúrsaí Gaeilge, Gaeltachta agus oileán. Anuraidh don chéad bhliain riamh cuireadh na hoileáin faoi chúram an t-aon Roinn Stáit amháin. Chomh maith le sin tá roinnt mhaith dul chun cinn déánta i ndáil le cúrsaí Gaeltachta agus agus Gaeilge. Déanfaidh mé cur síos níos déanaí ar chúrsaí na n-oileán ach ar dtús tosóidh mé le cúrsaí Gaeilge agus Gaeltachta.

Fuair mo Roinn beagán os cionn 1,000 iarratas tithíochta i 1997. Bhí méadú 50faoin gcéad ar na hiarratais i gcomparáid le 1996. Ba é an phríomhchúis leis an méadú ná gur cuireadh cúnamh ar fáil arís — ó Bhealtaine 1997 — d'oibreacha atá bainteach le Fuinneoga agus Doirse seachtracha agus mionoibreacha eile. Ní raibh cúnamh ar fáil do na hoibreacha áirithe sin ó Eanáir 1996. Is mar chuid den deontas feabhsúcháin atá an cúnamh do na hoibreacha sin ar fáil anois.

Is faoi Achtanna na dTithe (Gaeltacht) a ritheadh ó 1929 i leith atá na deontais tithíochta — do thithe nua agus oibreacha feachsúcháin — á n-íoc. Tá an Roinn ag athbhreithniú na nAchtanna sin faoi láthair chun iad a dhéanamh níos oiriúnaí don lá atá inniu ann.

Críochnaíodh 115 teach nua i rith na bliana 1997 le cabhair deontas mo Roinne maraon le 475 cás eile a bhain le hoibreacha feachsúcháin, sláintíochta agus méadaithe. £1.5 milliún atá curtha ar fáil i mbliana faoi na hAchtanna agus is cosúil go gcaithfear an t-airgead sin go léir sa bhliain reatha.

Is iad na scéimeanna is mó atá i gceist le Scéim eanna Cultúrtha agus Sóisialta ná Scéim na bhFoghlaimeoirí Gaeilge agus Scéim Labhairt na Gaeilge. I 1997 d'ioc mo Roinn cúnamh i leith 23,709 foghlaimeoirí — 905 daoina fásta san áir eamh — a chuaigh go dtí an Ghaeltacht chun feabhas a chur ar a gcuid Gaeilge agus a d'fhan ar iostas le thart ar 740 teaghlaigh sa Ghaeltacht.

Tá méadú 10 faoin gcéad — ó £4 go £4.40 in aghaidh an lae — £28 go £30.80 in aghaidh na seachtaine — ceadaithe i mbliana sa deontas a íoctar le teaghlaigh Ghaeltachta a mbíonn foghlaimeoirí Gaeilge a fhreastalaíonn ar na Coláistí Gaeilge Samhraidh sa Ghaeltacht ar iostas acu. Tá an ráta nua iníoctha ó 1 Eanáir 1998.

Tá tuarascáil an ghrúpa a rinne athbhreithniú ar na coinníollacha ginearálta a bhaineann leis na Coláistí Gaeilge Samhraidh á scrúdú ag mo Roinn agus ag an Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta faoi láthair. Tá mé dóchasach go bhféadfar aon leasuithe a eascróidh as moltaí na tuarascála a fheidhmiú go héifeachtach i gcomhar leis na coláistí agus leis na teaghlaigh Ghaeltachta.

£2,150,000 atá curtha ar fáil don Scéim seo i mbliana — tá soláthar san áireamh don deontas méadaithe.

Is é cuspóir Scéim Labhairt na Gaeilge muintir na Gaeltachta a spreagadh chun labhairt na Gaeilge a chur chun cinn sa teaghlach agus sa phobal i gcoitinne. Má tá an Ghaeilge le maireachtáil mar theanga bheo sa Ghaeltacht tá sé thar a bheith tábhachtach go dtabharfaí gach uchtach do theaghlaigh chun í a chaomhnú agus a neartú mar ghnáth-theanga cumarsáide. Má leanann na teaghlaigh á labhairt ní baol don teanga sa phobal. Sa scoilbhliain 1996-97 íocadh deontas faoin scéim le breis is 3,280 teaghlach agus meastar go mbeidh thart ar an méid céanna teaghlaigh i gceist arís sa scoilbhliain 1997-98. £360,000 atá curtha ar fáil don scéim seo i mbliana.

Is faoin bhfomhírcheann seo freisin a thugtar cúnamh d'Áras Mháirtín Uí Chadhain i leith buanú na Gaeilge agus Shiamsa Tíre, Amharclann Náisiúnta Tíre na hÉireann. Íoctar cúnamh, chomh maith, i leith imeachtaí cultúrtha ina mbíonn ról lárnach ag an nGaeilge, mar shampla, feiseanna agus irisí áitiúla Gaeltachta.

Faoi Scéimeanna Feabhsúcháin mo Roinnese bíonn deontais chaipitil ar fáil chun muiroibreacha sa Ghaeltacht a chur ar fáil nó a fheabhsú; agus chun áiseanna ar nós hallaí pobail, páirceanna imeartha agus mar sin de a chur ar fáil nó a fheabhsú do mhuintir na Gaeltachta. Den soláthar de £2.9 milliún i mbliana tá circa £1.3 milliún á dhíriú ar leanúint le mórscéim mhuiroibreacha chun áiseanna feabhsaithe calaíochta a fhorbairt ag an gcé ag an mBaile Thiar, Toraigh, Contae Dhún na nGall. Cuirfear críoch chomh maith i mbliana leis an mhórscéim mhuiroibreacha ag Ros Céide, Rosmuc mar aon le mionmhuiroibreacha eile.

Ní raibh soláthar i Vóta mo Roinne i 1997 le haghaidh caiteachas ar bhóithre sa Ghaeltacht. Shocraigh mé, áfach, ar shuim de £0.5 milliún a chur ar fáil chun bóithre sa Ghaeltacht a fheabhsú,. Tá soláthar £500,000 curtha ar fáil i mbliana don scéim sin.

Tá soláthar de £370,000 ann i mbliana le húsáid mar chabhair chun ionaid phobail/coláistí Gaeilge agus áiseanna caitheamh aimsire a chur ar fáil nó a fheabhsú sa Ghaeltacht.

I gcás grúpscéim uisce sa Ghaeltacht is féidir leis an Roinn deontas forlíontach a íoc anuas ar an gcúnamh atá ceadaithe ag an Roinn Comhshaoil agus rialtais áitiúla. Deontas forlíontach nach mó ná £300 nó 10 faoin gcéad den chostas inghlactha in aghaidh gach tí atá incháilithe atá iníoctha. Suim £30,000 atá ar fáil faoin Scéim i mbliana.

Is soláthar caipitil de £21.1 milliún atá á chur ar fáil ón Stát-chiste don Údarás i mbliana le haghaidh fhorbairt na Gaeltachta, i.e., chun deontais a íoc le tionscail, scaireanna a ghlacadh i gcuideachtaí agus clár tógála a airgeadú. Anuas ar an tsuim sin, tá suim £3.150 milliún údaraithe don eagraíocht mar chabhair do chostais riaracháin. Is léiriú ar an tábhacht a chuireanna an Rialtas i bhforbairt na Gaeltachta an t-airgead de bhreis ar £24 milliún in iomlán atá á chur ar fáil don Údarás i mbliana.

Ba bhliain shásúil eile í 1997 don Údarás maidir le fostaíocht a chruthú sa nGaeltacht. Ag deireadh 1997 bhí beagnach 12,000 duine fostaithe i dtionscadail sa Ghaeltacht a fuair cúnamh ón Údarás — 7,854 dhuine go lánaimseartha agus 4,110 go páirtaimseartha nó go séasúrach. I rith na bliana 1997 cruthaíodh 1,073 phost lánaimseartha nua sa Ghaeltacht le cúnamh ón Údarás agus, cé gur cailleadh 658 bpost, fós féin bhí glanmhéadú de 415 i líon na bpost lánaimseartha i dtionscadail sa Ghaeltacht — rud a chiallaíonn go bhfuil an bhuaicphointe is airde sroichte ag an Údarás ó thaobh fostaíochta de. Tréaslaím a saothar leo.

I rith 197 chomh maith cheadaigh an tÚdarás luach £24.3 milliún de chabhair Stáit i leith tionscadail nua a bhfuil acmhainneacht fhostaíochta de 1,700 post lánaimseartha ag baint leo. Is i mbliana agus sa dá bhliain atá romhainn a thiocfaidh an chuid is mó den fhostaíocht sin ar an bhfód sa Ghaeltacht.

Tá suim £2.960 milliún ceadaithe mar chúnamh Stáit do Bhord na Gaeilge i mbliana — an tsuim is airde riamh agus méadú de 15 faoin gcéad ar shuim 1997. Tá ról tábhachtach ag an mBord i dtaca leis na cláir ghníomhaíochta atá le cur i gcrích ag Ranna agus ag Comhlachtaí Stáit chun feabhas a chur ar an bhfáil atá ar sheirbhísí Stáit trí mheán na Gaeilge sa Ghaeltacht agus sa tír i gcoitinne. Obair ghríosaithe agus spreagtha is mó a bhíonn ar siúl ag an mBord agus tuigim go maith na deacrachtaí a bhaineann le hobair den chineál sin a thabhairt chun aibíochta. Is chun a chumasú don Bhord leanúint leis an obair thábhachtach sin a chur i gcrích, chun a gcuid costas riaracháin a sheasamh agus chun íoc as cuid de na costais a bhaineann le feabhas a chur ar Áras an Bhoird atá an soláthar méadaithe ar fáil. Tá obair mhaith ar siúl ag an mBord agus tréaslaím a saothar leo.

Déanfar Ciste na Gaeilge — ciste laistigh de mo Roinnse — a airgeadú trí Vóta mo Roinne ó fháltais an Chrannchuir Náisiúnta. Is ón gCiste sin a thugtar cúnamh bliantúil do na hEagrais Dheonacha Ghaeilge agus is cúis áthais dom go raibh ar mo chumas méadú a dhéanamh arís i mbliana sa ghnáthchúnamh bliantúil a thugtar dóibh. D'éirigh liom freisin cúnamh a thabhairt do roinnt díobh le haghaidh tograí sonracha éagsúla ar mhaithe leis an nGaeilge. Is ón gCiste sin freisin a thugtar cúnamh, mar shampla, do thograí ilghnéitheach Gaeilge ar nós "Gaillimh le Gaeilge", "Tiobraid Árann ag Labhairt" agus An Lárionad Sealbhaithe agus Buanaithe Gaeilge, An Chrannóg, Gaoth Dóbhair. Is suim de £2.425 anuraidh.

Mar a dúírt mé nuair a bhuail mé leis an gComhchoiste seo i mí an Mhárta seo caite tá mé sásta go bhfuil gá le reachtaíocht chun dul chun cinn suntasach a dhéanamh maidir le feabhas a chur ar an scéal maidir leis an bhfáil ar sheirbhísí Stáit trí Ghaeilge. Tá obair ar Bhille ar siúl i mo Roinnse le hionchas Bille a fhoilsiú go luath san athbhliain.

Tá plécháipéis curtha timpeall ag Bord na Leabhar Gaeilge ar na foilsitheoirí Gaeilge agus ag na dreamanna eile a bhíonn ag gabháil don fhoilsitheoireacht Ghaeilge maidir le leasú a dhéanamh ar scéim dheontas an Bhoird d'fhonn cur lena fiúntas maidir le hábhar leathan spéisiúil léitheoireachta a chur ar fáil don bpobal. Meastar go mbeidh toradh an phlé sin ar fáil sa bhFómhar am a chuirfear scéim leasaith faoi bhráid mo Roinne le scrúdú — rud a dhéanfar go tapa d'fhonn scéim fheabhsaithe a fhaomhadh go luath ina dhiaidh sin.

Ó mhí Iúil 1997 i leith tá cúram na n-oileán faoi Roin amháin den chéad uair, agus is mór an cúnamh é sin dóibh siúd a mhaireann ar na hoileáin amach ón gcósta.

Tá soláthar £1.6 milliún ar fáil dom i mbliana le húsáid mar chabhair chun infrastruchtúr na n-oileán ar a n-áirítear muiroibreacha, bóithre, cosaint chósta srl. a chur ar fáil nó a fheabhsú.

Tá cúnamh gur fiú beagnach £2 milliún in iomlán do na hoileáin fógraithe le déanaí chun forbairt eacnamaíoch agus shóisialach na n-oileán a chur chun cinn ar bhonn comhpháirtíochta idir pobal na n-oileán, na hÚdaráis Áitiúla agus an Rialtas. Tiocfaidh £759,250 den tsuim sin ó na Comhairlí Contae agus cuirfear £1,130,100 ar fáil ó mo Roinnse.

Tá soláthar £1m ar fáil dom i mbliana le húsáid mar chabhair chun tograí reatha ar a n-áirítear seirbhísí farantóireachta chuig na hoileáin, a chur ar fáil nó a fheabhsú. I measc na seirbhísí ar a ndéanfar airgeadú i mbliana tá seirbhísí phaisinéirí agus lastais ó Ghailliimh go dtí an hoileáin Árann; seirbhísí farantóireachta laethúil do phaisinéirí idir Inis Mór, Árainn agus Ros a' Mhíl agus idir Inis Meáin agus Inis Oírr agus Ros a' Mhíl agus seirbhísí farantóireachta idir Inis Bó Finne, Inis Tuirc agus Oileán Chliara agus an mórthír.

Bainfidh costas circa £650,000 san iomlán leis na fóirdheontais seo i mbliana.

Mar atá curtha in iúl agam tá go leor oibre ar siúl ag mo Roinnse i ndáil le cúrsaí na Gaeltachta agus na Gaeilge agus i ndáil le cúrsaí oileánda. Tá go leor bainte amach againn go dtí seo ach tá go leor oibre gur gá a chomhlánú ionas gur féidir linn bheith cinnte go bhfuil saol na n-Oileánach níos fearr agus ar a laghad ar chomhchéim le muintir an mhórthír agus go bhfuil an Ghaeilge agus an Ghaeltacht á neartú agus á bhfeabhsú.

Ba mhaith liom mo bhuíochas a ghabháil leat, a Chathaoirligh, as an gcuireadh seo agus leis na Teachtaí as ucht éisteacht liom.

Fáiltím roimh an Aire agus roimh an Aire Stáit. Consideration of the Estimate in any year for any Department allows for discussion between Government and Opposition on the action plan laid out by the Department, how it is progressing and how it is being implemented, and this Estimate is no different. I had the privilege of preparing scripts at one time and I know how much work goes into them by officials. Ministers do not always have the opportunity to delve behind the minutiae of these paragraphs. I am sure, however, that the Minister, Deputy de Valera, and the Minister of State, Deputy Ó Cuív have been active in this regard over the past few weeks. I have been reading the statements made by the two Ministers present when they were in Opposition, and people's words come round to hang them when there is an opportunity to implement recommendations they made.

This is a wide-ranging Department. I am not an expert in the arts but am trying to absorb a sense of this Department's functions. The people do not really appreciate the extent to which this Department can impact upon their lives now and in the future. The Department appears to lack the confidence to convince people it can have a direct impact upon their lives and the lives of their children.

Architecture, dance, drama, film, video, literature, music, opera and the visual arts are covered by the Arts Council and when one adds to that the cultural life of the Gaeltacht — the Irish language, employment, traditions — and national parks and wildlife reserves, one can appreciate that there are spokespeople for everything from whales to statues to music. It is difficult to find a central spine in this Department on which one can concentrate because there are so many important issues to be considered on their own merits. Looking at the Programme for Government upon which these Estimates have a direct impact, the Government has not performed very well to date. Given that the Government may last up to three and a half years more, there are only about 120 working weeks left and an increased drive and greater energy is required to honour the commitments made.

The first item mentioned was the modification of the school curriculum to place greater emphasis on arts and culture. When I asked the Minister about this in the Dáil, I was referred to the Minister for Education even though it is included under the arts, heritage, Gaeltacht and the islands section of the Programme for Government. I expected the Minister to answer by saying that she had presented her plans to the Minister for Education and that he was pursuing the matter through his Department to see that the curriculum is modified. I would like to see greater openness in Dáil responses: either the Minister has met the Minister for Education and Science, Deputy Martin and submitted proposals to him or she has not, and if not, she is not implementing the programme as required.

I do not know the stage local authorities have reached in the formulation of their three year cultural development plans. Some local authority arts officers are exceptionally good while others lack motivation. It is important the Minister is available to local authorities to observe the arts work and absorb new ideas and initiatives from it. I am pleased £26 million is provided for the Arts Council as promised. I congratulate Brian Farrell on his new appointment and I am glad to see a greater regional spread. The council should hold two or three meetings per year in different locations around the country to meet the people active in the regions.

What is the progress on tax incentives to encourage cultural development? Has the Minister met the Minister for Finance, Deputy McCreevy, on this matter? Has the national cultural institutions council been established yet? What is its membership and remit and when is it due to report?

A group was set up to examine the Dublin Centre for the Performing Arts but that has been done in the wrong order. This group is examining a centre for the performing arts in Earlsfort Terrace, Dublin, which is under Government control but one quarter of that centre is now being established by Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin in Limerick and the group should take that into account. It should ask if we need a centre for the performing arts and, if so, where should it be located and how much should it cost. It will be difficult for this group to bring to fruition the proposal in the Programme for Government.

The legislation in respect of protection of major sporting events on RTE and TV3 has not come through yet. Perhaps the Minister will report to us on that matter in her reply.

I am glad to hear reference to the statutory independence of Teilifís na Gaeilge but it is more important to know if Teilifís na Gaeilge can expect to receive the full benefits of being a public and national broadcasting station. The station was set up by the previous Minister and credit is due to him for that. Teilifís na Gaeilge has applied for an extra £3 million for 1999. Can the Minister guarantee this sum? The Welsh language service gets between £70 million and £80 million from the British Government while we are operating on one seventh of that. That impacts on Government attempts to have Irish recognised as an official language of the European Union and to derive maximum benefit from all the voluntary work done on behalf of Irish.

The Programme for Government also contained a commitment to abolish the 3 per cent levy — the Taoiseach referred to this on the Order of Business recently — and to set up the £500,000 rolling fund for the development of sites and transmission links.

There are about 50 pirate radio stations operating at present. The regulator was before the committee yesterday and dealt with this matter to some extent.

There are elements of the Programme for Government that the Minister has failed to address, including the encouragement of world class residential recording studios, a digital music library and a campaign to attract performing artists to live in Ireland. Has work commenced on these? Have meetings been held with the Minister for Finance and other relevant Ministers? The script refers to all that is going on now, but much has been going on for a number of years.

I note in subhead A1 that 12 new posts have been created in the Minister's Department. This requires a major increase. What are these new posts and what work will they do? There are 40 new posts in respect of SACs. Are these inspectors, assessors or what are their functions? In the script it was stated that there was no confusion about SACs and REPS and that any confusion that arose had been generated by state ments made across the road and not by members of the then Government. I hope Mr. Mills gets to work quickly because while the directive was transposed into law by the former Minister we must get the list of sites to Brussels as quickly as possible.

I thank the Minister for the mid-term report on the genealogical project which she sent me. It was not referred to today. The chief executive says it will not be completed until 2007 even if resources are made available immediately. This is a project that many Departments did not want to handle. The Minister was given responsibility for it last year by the Department of Finance and she should ensure whatever finance is required over the years is made available. The chief executive says almost £4 million will be required. Almost £440,000 has been sought unsuccessfully for the technology update requirements and £570,000 for a marketing strategy. It amazes me that European Regional Development Fund funding for a promotion effort has been offered to Irish Genealogy Limited at 42 per cent and he goes on to say that lack of funding to provide for the remaining 58 per cent is preventing implementation. Since we are trying to sell Irish tradition to the 70 million Irish diaspora worldwide and this project has another ten years to run, the 42 per cent available should be backed up by the Minister so that an income can be generated from it.

The Minister referred recently in the Dáil to the non-availability of information on Tipperary through the National Library. The Archbishop in Tipperary holds copyright over the parish records. This is wrong and would not stand up in law. It would be inappropriate for the Minister to bring someone here from the film business in Los Angeles and discover they have relatives in Tipperary but information cannot be obtained from the National Library because of a letter written in 1991 by the Archbishop. This matter should be sorted out.

The Minister might explain the provision of £40,000 for entertainment. Is this for official bashes around the country for the promotion of the arts? I notice a reference to uniforms. Are these for departmental staff?

Subhead A6 shows that provision for office maintenance is down by £31,000, but one would think that these costs would rise.

Under Subhead A7 I note that the provision for consultancy is up by £280,000. In one of the Minister's speeches, she said that the former Minister seemed to rule his Department through consultancy. She has appointed quite a few commissions herself and this sum may not be enough to cover them.

There is an increase of 100 per cent under subhead B of arts and culture for enhanced capacity at Collins Barracks museum. Is that for ongoing development work there and at what stage is it now?

Under subhead C1 there is an increase of 8 per cent in allocations to the National Library and the Irish Museum of Modern Art. Clarification would be appreciated.

Under subhead C2 I would like a list, not necessarily today, of the projects included.

Under subhead C3 there are 39 projects, some of which were commenced quite some time ago, which are very important. How would the Minister envisage continued assistance being provided here? Great effort goes into setting up projects and they get State assistance under this programme but then they are left to themselves. Local authority involvement through arts officers and a close relationship with the Department is important.

Maidir le cúrsaí Gaeltachta, léigh mé ráiteas Chathaoirleach an Údaráis agus deirtear anseo go bhfuil sé riachtanach go mbeadh an tÚdarás ábalta filleadh ar chlár tógála réamhmhonarcha go háirithe in áiteanna iargúlta chun go mbeidh foirgneamh ullamh chun seilbhe tarraingteach mar uchtach do thionscail. Tá a fhios ag an Aire go bhfuil sé iontach deacair ar an Údarás tionscail a mhealladh chuig áiteanna sa nGaeltacht nach bhfuil réamhmhonarcha le fáil iontu. Dúirt an Príomhfheidhmeanach freisin, "we continue to be unable to make any major inroads in the overall lack of space through, for instance, returning to a programme of developed and advance factory units." Céard atá i ndán dóibh anseo? An bhfuil sé i gceist ag an Aire Stáit plean réamhmhonarcha a chur ar fáil? Ar labhair sé leis an Aire agus leis an Aire Airgeadais faoi seo? Tá sé seo fíorthábhachtach. "This shortage may be a considerable contributory factor in slowing down the rate at which job approvals can be converted into jobs on the ground."

Tá obair mhaith ar siúl faoi Scéim Labhairt na Gaeilge agus mar sin de agus tá sé den riachtanas go gcuirfí scéimh réamhmhonarcha ar fáil i dtreo is go mbeidh ar chumas an Aire agus an Aire Stáit tionsclóirí a thabhairt go dtí na háiteanna seo le go bhfeicfeadh siad céard go díreach atá i gceist agus nach gcuirfí an obair ar athló.

I 1995, ag an gcruinniú meastacháin, bhí cúpla ceist ag an Aire Stáit atá linn inniu ar Aire an ama sin. Ina measc sin bhí teorainneacha na Gaeltachta. An bhfuil athscrúdú déanta orthu siúd? Dúirt sé freisin — agus is dóigh go luíonn sé seo le réimse an Ombudsman — go raibh duine i gConamara gan cárta leighis toisc nach raibh daoine in ann Gaeilge a labhairt leis agus go mba chóir go mbeadh daoine le Gaeilge ar fáil i gcónaí ag na heagrais Stáit.

Mhaígh an tAire Stáit go raibh sé i gceist le 20 bliain anuas athbhreithniú a dhéanamh ar cheist na gColáistí Gaeilge. An bhfuil sé sin ar bun anois?

The Minister of State might also state if he has presented a case for an islander allowance to the Department of Finance. If so, what was the response? Will it be included in the next budget?

The cultural relations committee of the Department of Foreign Affairs comprises important people who give freely of their time, spending hours going through mountains of literature for the sake of a £500 grant for a group who might be going to Austria. I do not believe that committee is necessary. It is a remnant of a tea and buns committee from the time when the Department was more influential than it is now. This function should be absorbed by the Minister's Department and the Arts Council. I would like to hear the Minister's view on that matter.

Fáiltím roimh an Aire agus an Aire Stáit. Seans é seo dúinn súil a chaitheamh ar an teoiric agus an dearcadh straitéiseach atá taobh thiar de na polasaithe éagsúla.

I will take up one or two points made earlier. I congratulate the Minister on her achievements, particularly the increase in funding for the Arts Council. In two weeks' time it will be exactly one year since the Minister took office. It is appropriate, therefore, to cast an eye back on the year's achievements and to see what will be implemented from the programme that was promised.

It is still my view that the word "culture" should not have been taken out of the title of the Department. The Minister frequently states that I said the word "heritage" or "oidhreacht" connoted a wider range of matters than any other word in the title. I want to put an end to this once and for all. I said that on some occasions the word "oidhreacht" has a wider reference than the word "heritage" but I never said any word was a substitute for "culture". The next time I hear that said I intend to ask the Minister or the Minister of State to provide me with an instance where I said such. This allegation has seriously affected the promotion of Irish culture in Europe and wider afield.

The absence of an Irish Government Minister from the Stockholm Intergovernmental Conference on Culture was appalling. At that conference, creative diversity was discussed, including the Peres de Cuellar report which was prepared over a couple of years and the Council of Europe document "In from the Margins". The chairman and a number of other Deputies attended but there was nobody present to cast the vote for Ireland. I instance this to indicate that the deletion of the word "culture" was a retrograde step. It is interesting that in Britain the title of the corresponding Minister under the Blair Government was changed to the Secretary for Culture, which includes many other things.

I take issue with other remarks that affect not only myself but members of my former staff. It is unworthy to suggest that an adequate series of meetings did not take place on the SACs before I signed the Directive on 26 February. I am not trying to protect my reputation; I am trying to be fair to the staff that attended those meetings which took place in the context of Partnership 2000. The signing took place on the basis of good faith and after detailed preparation.

In answer to a Dáil question I notice that subsequent meetings about SACs were concentrated in Counties Galway and Wicklow. I wonder why? Perhaps we will hear the figures which were given in the Dáil again this afternoon and find out the reason for this. Was it because there were difficulties or was that where promises proliferated? The attitude in relation to SACs is disgraceful. The Directive was signed and preparations made for its submission to Europe. We have not been told if local liaison committees will include conservation interests. Will they? What price was paid in terms of this country's reputation, ecological practice and public policy for making promises and then tearing up an agreement which had been entered into between farming and ecological organisations.

I deferred signing the Directive until 26 February and the Minister welcomed the delay in the Dáil. We can be explicit about any dissent. When I left office, the only outstanding disagreement about SACs and turf cutting was the operation of sausage machines which were reducing bogs to soup. I refused to compromise the very principles upon which I had sent officials out to negotiate and I would like people to know that. I want to know the number of meetings that took place in the counties, whether they were on the basis of commitments entered into and who gave these commitments. Why were 90 meetings held in Galway? At whose request were they held?

Tá suim agam i Mír E5, in the transition from the 1996 to 1997 to 1998 Estimates. In the 1996 Estimates there is a forecasted figure and an outturn figure for the 1997 Estimates. There is a considerable gap between the 1998 outturn and the 1997 figure and it is not explained entirely by the fact that tennis courts and playing fields, which are under "ilghnéitheach", had to give way to the commitment to bring back funding for the Bóithre Áise. I would like to look in more detail at airgead a caitheadh ar Oileán Thoraí agus an t-airgead a cuireadh ar fáil le linn m'Aireachta nár caitheadh. An bhfuarthas cead á a aistriú uaidh sin agus é a chaitheamh faoi cheannteidil eile? Conas is féidir beagnach suas le £400,000 imeacht isteach faoi Mír 5 agus amach arís? Tá na bóithre sa scéim feabhsacháin faoi cheann teideal eile i mbliana.

I wish to raise a few fundamentals that arise from the Minister's speech. A considerable legislative programme is promised by the Department and the Minister has my sympathy. The Department has always been understaffed and I doubt she will be able to make her case now. If she wishes to get a programme manager or an adviser I will not complain; Ministers benefit from that. I understand she has a distinguished media adviser. I did not have a press officer or a media adviser but I did have an adviser on policy and a programme manager.

The Minister will have my support for employing whatever staff she needs. The state of the legislative programme is perilous. The decision not to make the case for a broadcasting regulator has ceded the field entirely to the Department of Public Enterprise. When I asked the Tánaiste in the Dáil recently if Ireland had replied to the Green Paper on convergence in telecommunications the question was redirected the following day to the Taoiseach. A reply, dated 11 June, was sent to me for which I am grateful to the Tánaiste. The reply said that the response recognises that a new approach will have to be developed to the regulation of the convergence of telecommunications broadcasting and IT sectors but does not deal specifically with whether a separate broadcasting regulator should be established.

There were 13 pages of a reply from the Minister, Deputy O'Rourke's Department on regulation. It says "I further understand that the question of how Broadcasting Regulation should be developed into the future is being addressed by my colleague, Sile de Valera, Minister for Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands, in the context of the development of Government policy for the introduction of digital TV." I would be sympathetic if specific legislation had been introduced to bring forward the appointment of a regulator so as to keep the field level between services and broadcasting, or if there had been legislation for the autonomy of Teilifís na Gaeilge. It is a horrific mistake and a great burden on the staff preparing the legislation to say that all these problems will be solved in the broadcasting legislation.

It is almost impossible for RTE and Teilifís na Gaeilge to plan their future because they still await a decision on whether the vehicle for the introduction of digitalisation will be terrestrial. In relation to RTE's income, when seeking an increase in the licence fee, which I obtained, in the same memo I sought indexation and that, together with the type of mechanisms to be established was agreed between the Minister for Finance and myself. Was there a subsequent Government decision to abandon indexation? If so, it disappeared from the licence renewal notices.

What public service broadcasting reasons were taken into account in the Minister's assent to the sale of Cablelink ahead of the crucial digitalisation decisions and the broadcasting legislation? What has happened to the review which was going to take place on the cost of collecting the licence fee from An Post — £7 million in this Estimate?

Maidir le Teilifís na Gaeilge tá sé tábhachtach a choimeád i gcuimhne nuair a bhuail Comhairle Theilifís na Gaeilge leis an gCoiste seo gur luaigh siad dhá chineál airgid atá uathu — airgead caipitil chun iad a chur in oiriúint don ré dhigiteach agus airgead reatha ionas go mbeidh sé ar a gcumas níos mó clár a dhéanamh mar tá an carn clár a bhí déanta acu ag an tosach beagnach ídithe. Bhí sé iontuigthe nuair a rinne mé féin mo chuid argóintí ar son bunú Theilifís na Gaeilge idir 1993 agus 1995 nach raibh mé ach ar cur airgead tosaigh ar fáil agus go mbeadh tuilleadh airgid ag teastáil chun leathnú ceart a dhéanamh ar an tseirbhís nua.

I congratulate the Minister on the fact that the broadcasting legislation will be published in the next few weeks. There is evidently a distinction in the definition of seasons here since the Taoiseach promised yesterday that we would have it in the autumn. I welcome a number of measures the Minister is taking. I say with humility that a Minister may establish all the advisory groups in the world and tell everyone she is listening, but ultimately decisions have to be taken about broadcasting, cultural policy, language, conservation and other topics.

In relation to the conservation, the staff who worked on this matter are owed an acknowledgement. Improvements were necessary in some areas, but it is unworthy to say that consultation was inadequate. One wants to reap the benefits of populism by saying people can do anything they like for a while when we get back. That is what was said and that is the commitment that was implemented. That is why this area is now in such a perilous state.

What will happen to the Supreme Court decision on the Blasket Islands? Will the Minister amend the legislation to incorporate Inisvickillaune?

I notice the Minister of State mentioned cúrsaí tithíochta sa Ghaeltacht — broadcasting — bhí sé mar thús aige. I suggest the reason it is being prepared is not to bring us into the modern era but that a court case was successfully brought and many of the decisions taken as far back as the 1970s and 1980s have a question mark hanging over them now. Gealladh an reachtaíocht ag tús na bliana ach ní ann dó fós.

Ba chóir súil ghéar a chaitheamh ar an mhír sin, caiteachas ilghnéitheach. God bless those worthy civil servants who thought it up and are getting away with it, given the incredible battles in my time with the Department of Finance, which has been consistently against everything in the State, from electricity to Teilifís na Gaeilge. The secretary will probably be able to advise us on how he manages this heading. It is a kind of revolving door section.

Maidir leis na tuarascálacha a cuireadh i gcrích maidir leis na coláistí Gaeilge agus na heagrais dheonacha, an bhfuil sé ar intinn ag an Aire iad a chur ar fáil don phobal? It might be useful since they have been widely commented on in the public realm.

The Minister referred to a substantial increase for the National Library. My impression is that there is still a serious staffing shortage in the National Library and at the museum in Collins Barracks.

One of the difficulties when the Department was established de novo, bringing together a number of other Departments, was that staffing was inadequate. The newer Departments should have been exempted from the public service embargo to give them a chance to do the new things that were planned. The Minister has my support in her request for more staff.

I wish the Minister well. I do not suggest any plot on the Department of Finance but it resists staff increases when discussing Estimates. There have been staffing shortages in all the cultural institutions in the past and sometimes the shortages are more wasteful of resources. A few thousand pounds or an agreement on regrading could avoid much confrontation.

In relation to film, I am glad the Screen Commission is in existence but how does the think tank intersect with the work of the Irish Film Board? That has been an outstanding success, as the Minister acknowledges, but is the commission a rerun of the working group that reported in January 1993? It is not but the Irish Film Board came after that and the Screen Commission has now been established so what is its specific remit? The Minister said it will monitor the effectiveness of the existing schemes. That is being carried out to some extent by Indecon already. Maybe the Minister will give details in her reply of the consultancies she has in mind.

I always regarded it as miserable of people to say "Do you know you are spending money on this, that and the other?" I thought it unworthy of the Minister's colleagues when they were in Opposition to ask if members of my staff used mobile phones. She need not expect us to descend to that level. I wonder if the Minister intends to take the brave step of making the final transition of staff from the Office of Public Works to the Inland Waterways and establishing that body on an independent basis by statutory instrument.

Ceist fá choinne an Aire í féin. I welcome both her and the Minister of State.

I notice TV3 was not mentioned in the Minister's speech. I read an article in Foinse of 7 June in which there was a long interview with programme commissioning editor, Jane Gogan, giving us an idea of what we can expect when TV3 is broadcasting and transmitting. One of the points she made which is of concern to me and I hope to her, is nach mbeidh aon chláir Ghaeilge ar TV3, go fóill ar aon chuma. That seems to be at variance with the undertakings given in the Radio and Television Act 1988, which provides that a national TV station transmitting all over the country has responsibility to the whole country and certainly to the Gaeltacht areas with regard to the language. It seems a number of conditions laid down in that Act are being disregarded and the Minister may have something to say on that.

Maidir le hAcht na dTithe Gaeltachta tá sé thar am scrúdú a dhéanamh ar na coinníollacha a ghabhann leis an Acht sin. Leagadh an chuid is mó de na coinníollacha síos i 1929 agus is mó athruithe atá tagtha ar chúrsaí Gaeltachta ó shin i leith. Tá cásanna uafásacha sa Ghaeltacht i láthair na huaire, tuismitheoirí agus daltaí ag cur isteach ar na deontais seo agus toisc nach bhfuil Gaeilge ag duine amháin ní cháilíonn siad. Níl an tAcht oiriúnach do chuinsí Gaeltachta i láthair na huaire.

Tá cás amháin agam féin. Cainteoir dúchais ó Dhún na nGall a phós cainteoir dúchais ón Bhreatain Bheag — Breataisis ó dhúchas ag duine amháin agus Gaeilge ó dhúchas ag an duine eile — agus ní cháilíonn siad cé go bhfuil teangacha Ceilteacha ag an mbeirt acu. Tá sé in am na coinníollacha a leasú chun go mbeadh siad oiriúnach do 1998.

Dúirt an tAire Stáit go bhfuil soláthar de £370,000 ann i mbliana le húsáid mar chabhair chun ionaid phobail, coláistí Gaeilge, áiseanna caitheamh aimsire agus eile a chur ar fáil agus a fheabhsú sa Ghaeltacht. Ach ag amharc ar fhigiúirí anuraidh, tháinig sé fho-mhírcheann E4 agus E5 agus nuair a chuirtear an dá cheann sin le chéile bhí breis is milliún punt agus tá míniú ag teastáil air sin. Sin an míniú a bhainimse as agus b'fhéidir go bhfuil míniú eile ag an Aire Stáit.

I welcome the Minister and the Minister of State who preside over a diverse Department which affects all our lives.

I congratulate the Minister on the funding she secured to set up the Irish women's history project and welcome the continued funding this year. That is an important area of research. I was involved with the Irish women's archive and resource centre for which much of the resources came from abroad. Deputy Kenny mentioned the 70 million Irish diaspora. During the short-term of that project we had huge interest from the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South America. There is a great opportunity here for co-funding.

The Irish Association for Research into Women's History would undertake a survey of historical documents relating to the history of women on this island. I ask the Minister to consider extending that to the history of Irish women abroad. It was exciting that the project with which I was involved reached out to the Irish diaspora and to community groups here. It was neither exclusive nor academic. Since then, however, it has become academic and exclusive and does not fulfil its potential.

Déanaim comhgháirdeas leis an Aire agus an Aire Stáit atá anseo inniu.

An smaoineodh an tAire ar dheontais a thabhairt ar son seantithe timpeall na Gaeltachta agus na tíre nach bhfuil aon úsáid á baint astu agus go bhféadfaí iad a dheisiú agus a chur ar fáil le haghaidh teaghlaigh óga in ionad tithe nua a thógail i gcónaí.

In saying I would support the Minister in the employment of extra staff or consultants I am aware she has a distinguished public servant, Ms Bridget McManus, as policy adviser, an enlightened spirit who fled the Department of Finance and who will return to re-constitute it.

The Minister of State and I will do our best to answer the numerous questions that have been asked.

Deputy Kenny referred to the new Arts Council. I am glad he is aware of the distinction of having Brian Farrell as chairperson, who has already said he is interested in holding meetings of the council around the country.

I am in favour of regionalising the arts and this is reflected in the make-up of the Arts Council. It was important to reflect as many elements of the arts as possible in its membership to ensure all aspects of the arts were considered and included in the council's approach. Each person asked to serve on the council is rooted in a community. This is the only way to do away with perceived elitist notion of the arts. I am confident this Arts Council will achieve that. I thank Deputies Kenny and Higgins for their reference to the £26 million allocated to the Arts Council.

Deputy Kenny asked if my Department has been in contact with the Department of Education and Science about the revision of the school curriculum. It has. It is important that we use whatever moral force we have to ensure the education system reflects that emphasis. I am pleased the first arts officer was appointed in County Clare. Regionalisation and a direct input from local people is crucial and this is reflected in the make-up of the Arts Council in that county councils throughout the country are represented. The national cultural institutions will be the subject of an announcement shortly. The centre for performing arts is well under way. A working group dealt with this matter because it is the responsibility of several Departments and takes time. The group, which comprised officials of the Department of Education and Science and my Department, was chaired by Noel Lindsay, and I expect a progress report from it within the next few weeks.

Deputy Kenny worried me when he asked if we need a centre for the performing arts. Surely those of us who have the opportunity to listen to people who are involved in the arts would be in no doubt that such a centre is necessary. We happen to be, to our shame, the only European county without such a centre. Much artistic talent leaves the country looking for such training and may well remain away from Ireland. The centre is intended to stop that kind of haemorrhage and the Taoiseach has given this commitment many times.

The TV sports legislation will be published this year. I will have proposals to put before Government by the end of July relating to the directive on free to air coverage.

Teilifís na Gaeilge is close to everyone's heart. I have frequently given credit to my predecessor who had our full support for this venture. It was not by accident that the Minister for Finance was a Fianna Fáíl member in that Government and was well disposed to Teilifís na Gaeilge. We are committed to the station's continuation and strengthening. The question of Teilifís na Gaeilge's statutory position will be referred to in the upcoming broadcasting legislation to which I have frequently referred by way of parliamentary question and in speeches. That legislation will provide for the 3 per cent levy and the £500,000 fund. I am on record as saying that we will publish the legislation by the end of this year and I will be bringing my proposals in this matter to Cabinet over the next few weeks.

Policy will be reflected in the broadcasting legislation and I have strong views on how we should proceed, views that I have already outlined in memorandums sent to colleagues for further observations. The previous Minister will understand the procedure necessary in this matter. The new posts created under Subhead AI refer.

Will the legislation that is being circulated redress the proposals on digitalisation?

In full. I was referring to digitalisation which will be part of the legislation with ongoing technological changes. The new posts are in the Minister of State's office and in the ranger service being established for the SACs. Not all of these posts has been filled yet. Discussions are ongoing with the trade unions about the ranger posts. The proposals have been passed by the Department of Finance.

The transferred functions relate to the genealogical project and have already been filled. We are also referring to the islands here. Last November my Department took from the Taoiseach's Department responsibility for the genealogical project. The Comptroller and Auditor General was critical in his report of the project. I understand that my Department is reviewing that matter at the moment and hopes to complete the review by September. I will be seeking finance for it at a later stage.

Will there be money to continue the employment of the chief executive who will be employed from August?

I am waiting for the report in September and I do not want to pre-empt it.

The chief executive wants to know if he will be there in September.

We inherited this from the Taoiseach's Department and when we have seen all the implications I will let the Deputy know of further details, probably by parliamentary question.

As to SACs and the new posts, I have already outlined the position with regard to rangers. Representing a rural constituency where I attended the usual meetings of farming organisations and others when in opposition, I noted deep concern about the implications of SACs, which is understandable, by landowners who have been free to farm as they wished for generations. Many meetings took place because people wanted to know how this Government was going to deal with the situation. I and the Minister of State attended meetings where there was some tough talking and we had to allay fears by dealing with the matter in a fair and open way and making certain changes, which I outlined at the beginning of the meeting. In so doing, I am not criticising officials who attended many of those meetings while we were in Opposition, but no matter what was said, fears remained. Deputy Kenny asked about uniforms. They are for the staff of the museum.

With regard to the reduction in maintenance costs, as the Deputy and the former Minister will know, when a new Department with new offices is formed one needs to establish a location. My preference, as I told unions and others, is to have one building to house the entire Department, which remains a long-term ambition. This is important for the identity of the Department and it would also save time. The current offices are relatively new and maintenance costs are low.

The question of consultancies was raised. My Department has used consultancies sparingly. I thank Deputy Higgins for saying he will support the use of consultancies if the need arises. These figures are specific and refer only to areas where I think it is appropriate for an outside body to consider a matter. This is dealt with under subhead A7. The main consultancies include the review of heritage and related functions, the acting director of the National Library, the bio-diversity plan and the study of conservation facilities and resources. The total cost for those consultancies is £127,715. I have asked for consultants to consider other matters, including the importance of a review of the arts plan. That must be done with proper consultation throughout the country. I want to ensure consultations in that regard take place in eight parts of the country and that they are advertised in local newspapers and on local radio.

Another consultancy is reviewing visitor centres and cultural institutions. This is being done jointly with the Department of Finance and the IT strategy. This tranche of CDIS funding will become available in 1999 and all the 39 projects will be on target for that. There is a great need for further funding and my Department will make a strong argument for continued funding to set up an infrastructure. The CDIS funding ensured that venues as well as performers were available throughout the country.

Deputy Higgins referred to the SACs. With regard to the liaison groups, it is important that local groups have an input into appeals. That is why local landowners will elect a representative to the group to represent their SAC.

I asked if there would be a conservation interest on the group.

Of course. That has already been decided for the appeals system between conservationists and farmers.

I know that, but I am asking about the local liaison committees.

That will be up to the local people. It will be a democratic decision as to who people want to represent them. I have no intention of saying a person with a particular view must be represented on it. The whole point is not to direct from the top, but where an appeal relates to a local area, local people will have an input.

Ecologically-minded people may have no property, but they have the right to be interested in their areas.

It is unfortunate this debate caused divisions when people claimed landowners are not pro-conservation.

Nobody would say that.

I think the inference is there.

Landowners are keepers of the land, but only one person can inherit a farm. Many others have an interest in their areas and should not be blackguarded.

The idea of ensuring the appeal system and the operation of SACs can be accessed by local people is to ensure conservation takes place. That is the bottom line. Conservation is impossible without co-operation and that is why we have put in place these particular mechanisms.

It is unfair to say any of us favour turfcutting sausage machines. They do irreparable damage to the environment and the bogs and we do not agree with that method.

I accept the Minister's word, but it would help to also have her colleagues' word on that.

The Minister of State has said so on many occasions, and I know I speak for him as well.

The legislative programme is extremely important. A philosophy is essential, but that philosophy must be mirrored in legislation that will effect the necessary changes. I have already piloted through two pieces of legislation within seven months of coming into office. I have four further Bills coming through the system — two major Bills, the Broadcasting Bill and the Wildlife Bill, and the TV sport Bill and the Architectural Heritage Bill. We expect to make six Bills available within a year and a half and to implement a number of them.

Deputy Higgins, as a former Minister, will be aware of the need for extra staff in the Department in a number of sections such as broadcasting which is an urgent technical issue. Since those already involved have been working extremely hard, we have been able to adhere to the planned timescale.

I was pleased to hear the Deputy pay tribute to two of my staff who are giving me tremendous help.

Indexation of the licence fee has often been raised. In opposition Fianna Fáil said it did not agree with this proposal. That is still my view and there has been no further discussion at Cabinet.

Has a Government decision been reversed?

No. There was no formal Government decision.

There was; I submitted the memo.

I am talking about the Government of which I am a member.

My apologies. Is the Minister saying it still stands?

I misunderstood the Deputy. It has not come before Cabinet but it is my view, and the Government's view, that indexation of the licence fee will not take place. There is no reason to change the current method of collecting the licence fee.

When I said earlier that the broadcasting legislation would deal with digitalisation as well as other complex issues, I wished to refer to the free to air service of the TV sports Bill which will be separate legislation. That will not be incorporated into the major broadcasting Bill.

The committee will understand that I cannot discuss the Blasket Islands decision at length because we are appealing it to the Supreme Court.

The Taoiseach said no decision had been taken.

The decision has been taken. The judgment did not find exclusion of Inisvickillaun a problem; in fact the rejection was on the compulsory purchase grounds.

It would be a way of solving two problems.

On the think tank, Deputy Higgins asked if it were a rerun of what happened before. I recognise the work done by Statcom and this think tank can use the information correlated by that report. I have asked for a report by September on section 35 and the tax incentives because that section is due for review in 1999. I am in favour of the section's retention, perhaps with some modifications, but I do not wish to pre-empt the work of the think tank. They have a day-to-day knowledge of the film industry and it comprises erudite film people and a national panel of experts.

The questions of education and training will be addressed also. I have no intention of having a think tank that continues forever; that would defeat its purpose. I expect its report on tax incentives shortly and its report on other issues by the end of the year.

Our inland waterways have tremendous potential. In the Good Friday Agreement specific reference was made to these waterways and their management in a North-South context. It would be unwise to pre-empt any future arrangement here.

Deputy McGinley asked about TV3 which is a commercial concern and I have no direct input into its content. That would be a matter for the Independent Radio and Television Commission. It would come to its own conclusions based on the contract signed at the outset. There is no specific requirement regarding Irish language programmes in the 1988 legislation. All of us would like to see Irish language programmes on TV3 but that is the position.

I thank Deputy Barnes for her kind comments on the Women's History Project and I hope it will not be female Dáil Members only who feel strongly about this issue. Women have been written out of world history because their story has not been told and this project was set up to ensure the necessary research in this area.

The Minister's opening remarks were very refreshing — that arts and culture belong to everyone. That is the difficulty I had with some of the arguments made regarding the project in which I was involved.

I accept the Deputy's views. The work done under the current project will be extremely useful and I do not wish to denigrate the great work done previously. I would like to discuss the issue further with the Deputy so that I could consider other projects that would be suitable for promotion, particularly those involving the diaspora.

Thóg an Teachta Kenny ceist liom maidir le monarcha réamhdhéanta. Tháinig an tÚdarás chugham ag tús na bliana seo ag rá go raibh ganntanas airgead tógála orthu. Phlé mé an cheist leo agus d'iarr mé orthu roinnt eolas breise a chur ar fáil dom. Tá an t-eolas sin fachta agam agus tá sé fúm casadh leis an bPríomhfheidhmeanach go luath chun an cás a phlé tuilleadh. Is é an sprioc a bheadh agam ná nach gcuirfí siar aon tógáil a bheadh riachtanach agus glacaim go bhfuil obair ar gá a dhéanamh ar lámha agus tá mé ag plé an cháis sin leo.

Beidh mé ag déanamh cás fíorláidir le haghaidh méadú sa soláthar do chúrsaí tógála an Údaráis chun réamhmhonarcha agus spás eile a chur ar fáil agus athchóiriú a dhéanamh ar mhonarcha le haghaidh na bliana seo chugainn agus na bliana dár gcionn. Táim dóchasach go n-éireoidh liom anseo. Is dea-scéal é nach bhfuil ach dó faoin gcéad de spás monarchan an Údaráis fágtha anois le tograí a chur ann.

Cuireadh ceist maidir le teorainneacha na Gaeltachta. Bhí comhleacaí de chuid an Teachta ag cur moltaí ar fáil dom ar maidin ar Raidió na Gaeltachta maidir le teorainneacha na Gaeltachta agus Bord an Údaráis. Chas mé le Bord an Údaráis agus d'iarr mé orthu aighneacht a chur faoi mo bhráid roimh dheireadh na míosa seo maidir le leasuithe ar Acht an Údaráis. Ceann de na ceisteanna a thóg mé leo agus a bhfuil mé ag fanacht ar a moltaí faoi ná cad is féidir a dhéanamh faoi gcuid sin den chathair atá taobh istigh de limistéir na Gaeltachta ach ar ndóigh nach mbíonn móran plé ag an Údarás leis ó thaobh cúrsaí fostaíochta de.

Nuair a bheidh na moltaí sin agam déanfaidh mé cinneadh an bhfuil gá le leasú a dhéanamh ar Acht an Údaráis mar baineann an cheist seo le toghchán an Údaráis agus cearta vótála chomh maith le toghcháin teorainneacha na Gaeltachta.

Tá fadhb faoi leith i gcathair na Gaillimhe mar gheall ar an méadú daonra ollmhór ann. É sin ráite, caithfimid a aithint go bhfuil níos mó Gaeilgeoirí sa chathair sin ná mar atá in aon chathair eile in Éirinn agus níos mó cainteoirí dúchasacha ina gcónaí ann de bharr chomh gar is atá sé do cheantar Chonamara.

Tá ceantair agus pocaí beaga Gaeltachta atá sách lag. Tá sé tar éis cuairt a thabhairt ar fhormhór na gceantar sin. Caithfimid athbhreithniú iomlán a dhéanamh ar fheidhmiú scéimeanna sna ceantair sin agus féachaint an féidir na ceantair sin a shlánú mar Ghaeltachtaí sa gcéad uair.

Ó thaobh thoghchán an Údaráis, bheadh na ceantair sin beag agus imeallach agus lag ó thaobh daonra de agus ní chuirfidís amach nó isteach ar thorthaí an toghcháin áirid sin.

Tá staidéar á dhéanamh ar fhigiúirí an daonáirimh a tháinig amach le gairid. Maitear dom é má chuirim an aguisín seo leis an gceist agus fágfaidh mé mar sin é. Bhí tuarascálacha i gcuid de na nuachtáin a rá go raibh athrú mór ar stádas na Gaeilge i gcuid de na Gaeltachtaí. Níl sé sin soiléir ó fhigiúirí an daonáirimh. I ngach uile daonáireamh a bhí ann go dtí seo cuireadh ceist, an raibh Gaeilge agus Béarla agat, agus dúirt trian den tír go raibh Gaeilge acu agus b'shin an méid eolais a bhí againn.

Anois tá figiúirí againn atá i bhfad níos úsáidí ná sin. Tá a fhios againn an labhartar go laethúil í nó an labhartar go seachtainiúil í nó corruair. Tá anailís á déanamh ar na figiúirí i gcomhthéacs na tíre ina iomláine agus i gcomhthéacs cathracha difriúla agus beifear ag breathnú ar na figiúirí le haghaidh na District Electoral Divisions. Nuair a bheidh an t-eolas sin againn beidh eolas i bhfad níos cuimsithí againn ná mar a bhí riamh maidir le stádas na Gaeilge sna Gaeltachtaí agus timpeall na tíre. Bunófar cinneadh maith, ciallmhar ar an figiúirí sin.

Luadh rud a dúirt mise ag an gCoiste seo i 1995: thug mé faoi deara ag an am go riabh dearmad cló sa tuairisc a thug mé faoi deara ag an am ach nár cheartaigh mé agus tá an milleán sin orm féin. Cárta leighis atá sa tuairisc ach cóiríocht a d'úsáid mise. Seasann an pointe agus is chuige sin atáimid ag réiteach Bille Teanga a leagfaidh síos cé na cearta teanga atá ag daoine ó thaobh seirbhísí Stáit de. Tá obair ar bun taobh istigh den Roinn féin, tá aigheachtaí iarrtha ó Bhord an Údaráis agus ó Bhord na Gaeilge agus le seachtain anuas tá tuarascáil chuimsitheach agam ó Chomhdháil Náisiúnta na Gaeilge a bhí ag déanamh comhordnú ar ár son ar thuairimí na n-eagraíochtaí deonacha. Ní raibh deis agam é go léir a léamh go fóill ach léifear é agus déanfaidh feidhmeannaigh na Roinne staidéar air agus cuirfear san áireamh é. Is féidir a bheith cinnte go bhfuil an obair seo á brú chun cinn go láidir.

An mbeidh sé réidh an chéad bhliain eile?

Tá an chosúlacht sin ar an scéal mar tá an jab níos mó ná mar a shí muid. Tá sé á bhrú ar aghaidh chomh sciobtha agus is féidir.

Luadh na coláistí Gaeilge. Tá go leor sa tuarascáil faoi na coláistí agus tá sé ar intinn agam é a fhoilsiú agus a chur chuig eagraíocht an gcoláistí agus chuig na gcoláistí féin chun a dtuairimí a fháil. Nuair a bhreathnaigh mé air an fómhar seo caite bhraith mé go raibh sé ró-dheireannach aon mhórathruithe a dhéanamh ar an scéim le haghaidh na bliana seo. Bhí beagán breis airgid agam agus smaoinigh mé ar mhionleasuithe a dhéanamh ar an scéim ag tús an bliana seo leis an airgead sin ag luí leis an rud atá sa tuarascáil ach chinn mé nach bhféadfainn jab ceart a dhéanamh ar an gcaoi sin agus mar sin tá sé i gceist agam cibé athruithe a chuirfear i bhfeidhm a dhéanamh don bhliain 1999 agus do na blianta ina dhiaidh sin.

Ardaíodh ceist an liúntais oileánda — the islander allowance. Before the general election I published a comprehensive island programme and we have set up an interdepartmental committee on the islands. Rather than ask that committee to prepare a report we have put all the points raised and some which have come forward since in relation to islands and do not relate directly to this Department to that committee and they are being considered in plenary session and bilaterally. We hope in this way to take a broad view of island problems and Gaeltacht and Irish language problems rather than a departmental view only. The question of an islander allowance is being considered and I cannot pre-empt budget considerations but I assure the Deputy that discussions have taken place.

Ardaíodh ceist na muiroibreacha agus na n-oibreacha ilghnéitheacha. Mar is eol don Teachta Ó hUiginn ní raibh aon chaiteachtas ar bhóithre sna meastacháin anuraidh. Faoi fo-mhírcheann E5 mar sin tá £500,000 a bhaineann le caiteachas ar bhóithre do 1997. Fágann sé sin nár caitheadh ar shaoráidí ilghnéitheacha — páirceanna peile agus áiseanna spóirt don chuid is mó — ach £272,000. Idir an dá fhigiúr sin, £596,000 a bhí ann do hallaí agus coláistí Gaeilge agus saoráidí ilghnéitheacha anuraidh nach bóithre áise iad agus i mbliana tá £370,000. Ina choinne sin, tá méadú iomlán i Vóta E ó £2.423 milliún go £2.900 milliún. Sin ardú de 20 faoin gcéad.

Tá £250,000 curtha ar fáil sna meastacháin do bhóithre áise agus d'fhógair mé le seachtain go raibh £200,000 eile le cur le sin. Níl aon choiníní sa hata agam — an rud atá tarlaithe ná go bhfuil moill ar chuid den obair muiroibreacha ní de bharr cinneadh a tógadh taobh istigh den Roinn agus de bharr moill ar ché Thoraí. Ní mheastar anois go mbeidh an caiteachas faoi mhuiroibreacha chomh mór agus a bhí measta.

Bhí díomá mór ar mhuintir Thoraí nár thosnaigh an obair go dtí le cúpla lá. Ba chóir dó a bheith tosaithe le dhá mhí. Cén fáth ar tharla an mhoill?

Tá an obair sin á dhéanamh ag Roinn eile ar ár son agus níl aon smacht dhíreach agam air. Tá brú oibre ar Roinn na Mara agus níl an fhoireann acu chun freastal ar na hoileáin go léir. Ó tharla go bhfuil clár méadaithe oileánda ann caithfidh mé breathnú conas is féidir an clár

muiroibreacha a bhrú chun cinn agus déanfar sin.

Muna gcaitear an t-airgead faoi fhomhírcheann amháin caithfear faoi cheann eile é mar tá go leor oibre le déanamh sa Ghaeltacht ar infrastruchtúr.

Ar fo-mhírcheann E5, is £160,000 atá aimsithe do 1998. Agus má bhaintear an leathmhilliún den £772,000 tá £272,000. Mar sin is laghdú é idir anuraidh agus 1998. Agus caithfear £160,000 ar nithe tábhachtacha do dhaoine óga na Gaeltachta.

Tagaim leis an Teachta ansin agus má éisteann sé le Raidió na Gaeltachta beidh a fhios aige gur fhógraigh mé go leor hallaí agus áiseanna spóirt le gairid. Cuid mhaith de na rudaí go gceadófar airgead ina leith as seo go deireadh na bliana, ní dhéanfar an caiteachas taobh istigh den bhliain seo. Tá mé sásta go mbeidh dóthain soláthair agam do na scéimeanna a chríochnófar roimh dheireadh na bliana. Níl aon mhoilliú á dhéanamh ar chéadú deontas agus beidh airgead ag teastáil amach anseo chun freastal ar an éileamh.

Trí é a aistriú ó Thoraigh arís.

Beidh éileamh an bhliain seo chugainn agus caithfidh mé troid go mbeidh dóthain soláthair agam ansin. Ach tá time-lapse i gceist idir ceadú agus íoc amach an airgid.

Cad é an méid a baineadh amach as ciste Thoraí i mbliana?

Ní as ciste Thoraí ach tá £250,000 eile curtha isteach le bóithre agus de réir mar a thuigim tagann sé as muiroibreacha. Tá roinnt mionathruithe eile déanta ó thaobh ach sin an príomháit as a dtáinig an t-airgead. Tá muiroibreacha eile i gceist seachas Toraigh nach dtiocfaidh ar aghaidh de thoradh fadhbanna le Roinn na Mara agus Acmhainní Nádúrtha.

B'fhearr an t-airgead a chaitheamh ar na muiroibreacha ach ní féidir an obair a dhéanamh tapa go leor. Is féidir leis an Teachta a rá le muintir Thoraí go dtuigimse gurb é an rud is práinní a theastaíonn i dToraigh ná caladh ceart feiliúnach le céibheanna cearta. Cheadaigh muid faoi cheannteideal na n-oileán airgead le haghaidh obair ag Machaire Rabhartaigh mar tuigim go bhfuil fadhb ar an mórthír freisin. Ní tarraingt siar atá i gceist ach fadhbanna meicniúla is cionnsiocair leis an moill i dToraigh.

Ardaíodh ceist faoi reachtaíocht tithíochta. Glacaim leis gur seanreachtaíocht atá ann agus nach bhfuil cuid de na rialacha ann feiliúnach go háirithe go gcaithfidh duine a bheidh ina chónaí sa nGaeltacht ionas má fhilleann duine as áit eile chun cónaí go buan sa nGaeltacht bíonn fadhb ann. Glacaim leis an rud a dúirt an Teachta Mac Fhionnlaoich faoi dhaoine atá ag déanamh sár-iarrachta ó thaobh na Gaeilge de ach go bpósann siad duine nach bhfuil Gaeilge acu.

Caithfear aithbhreithniú a dhéanamh ar an gceist sin ar fad. Tríd an gcoiste idir-rannach táimid ag plé leis an Roinn Comhshaoil mar i láthair na huaire muna gcáilíonn teaghlach faoi scéim na Gaeltachta deirtear leo dul ag an Roinn Comhshaoil agus teacht ar ais faoin scéim Spreagadh na Gaeilge. Creidim go bhfuil sé sin místuama agus táimid ag scrúdú na ceiste sin. Tá gá le hAcht nua sa cheist seo agus beidh sé ann, tá súil agam. Sin trí Acht atá luaite ar mo thaobh-se den Roinn agus tá blianta fada ann ó tháinig aon Acht substaintiúil isteach ó thaobh na Gaeilge/Gaeltachta den Roinn. Tá Acht Teanga beartaithe, táimid ag breathnú ar cheist an Údaráis agus tá obair ar bun ar an Acht seo.

Tá deontas feabhsúcháin ann do sheantithe — tá £2,300 le fáil — agus i gcuinsí áirithe tá suas le £3,000 le fáil. Is beag an t-airgead é ach níl a leithéid le fáil taobh amuigh den nGaeltacht. B'fhéidir go mba cheart go mbeadh. Tá an-éileamh ar an scéim sin. Tá athrú beag amháin chun feabhais déanta ann. Má fhaigheann duine cúnamh faoin housing scheme for the elderly — go hiondúil faightear £2,500 nó £3,000 — tá muide sásta obair bhreise, nach é údar an chéad deontais é, a cheadú agus deontas a íoc dó. Cuireann sé sin ar chumas seandaoine £4,000 nó £5,000 a chaitheamh ar theach.

The question of why I was suddenly getting extra staff in my Department needs clarifying. Deputy Carey had a foot in two camps when he was Minister of State — he was Minister of State in the Department of the Taoiseach and Minister of State in my Department. I understand that the vast majority of his staff was in the Department of the Taoiseach. I have staff in one Department only since we absorbed the islands so all I have is the normal allocation to a Minister of State; I have not taken on board the full complement normally available. These issues hit the headlines sooner than the hard work.

I want to be clear about the indexation of the licence fee; I will be delighted to hear that I am wrong. There was a memorandum to the Government and the decision of Government was to increase the licence fee by a formula to be negotiated between the Department of Finance and the then Department of Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht. The Estimates take into account the income from the licence fee. Until another Minister stated that this matter was not discussed at Cabinet, RTE is in possession and is in favour of indexation. If the Minister wants to leave the licence fee with the simple increase that was part of the proposal, the decision would have to be changed. If not, a decision to exclude RTE from the indexation would be ultra vires. Therefore the figure cannot be accepted.

My views on indexation will be no surprise to the Deputy. I bow to his experience on this issue and I will see what is the legal position and I will contact him.

The Minister said she was worried about my comment on the Centre for the Performing Arts.

I was surprised.

"Worry" was the word used. The Minister has gone about this backways. It would have been less costly for the Government if she had decided the nature of the centre required and the best location rather than saying we will put it someplace, which makes it a captive decision, and costs will escalate accordingly.

The Minister did not mention the National Library and the Archbishop's copyright or the encouragement of world class residential recording studios, the establishment of digital music libraries and the campaign to attract performing artists to live in Ireland.

In one of her contributions on last year's Estimates, she queried of the Minister why drama and dance should be together in the Arts Council Vote; they are still together this year.

Training by the Irish Film Board was mentioned and the Estimate is down by 61 per cent this year — from £350,000 to £136,000.

I take the Minister's point about Government support for Teilifís na Gaeilge but when one removes the News and the World Cup from RTE 1 and Network 2, about 60 per cent of what is left comes in from Dublin Airport by courier whereas all that is prepared in Teilifís na Gaeilge is independent bodies creating jobs in Ireland and those that do come in are voiced over in Irish here.

I thank the Minister and her staff for replying in writing on a number of issues arising from parliamentary questions. I hope she was not shocked last Friday to receive 50 questions in Irish from Fine Gael. On the last occasion we had Dáil Question time at least six Deputies spoke Irish in the Chamber but Oireachtas Report on RTE that night used Irish only once, to mention the presenter, Aonghus Mac Grianna. That is not good enough when we devote so much time to teaching the Irish language. Those who make the effort to speak it should see their work reflected in media coverage.

It would not be shocking to receive any or all questions in Irish; that is the right of any Deputy and is to be encouraged.

The Deputy said I was starting at the wrong end with the Centre for the Performing Arts. At least we are starting and we have ensured that there will be such a centre. We know it must involve the Department of Education and Science as well as ourselves. The centre is based on the knowledge of those working within the sector who put forward sensible proposals. The working group was set up to see how best those proposals could be implemented and they will have a useful, scholarly report for me soon. We are the only country in the EU without such a facility.

I mentioned training in film in response to Deputy Higgins' remarks about the Statcom report. The think tank will examine the question of training and publish its report shortly. This a most important area because those working within the film sector tell me that, although the institutions that deal with film education at the moment cannot be faulted for their work, there is a difficulty getting trainees for camera crews and other positions. This matter will be addressed by the think tank.

I am particularly interested in drama and dance and cannot apologise for having both represented on my Arts Council.

The Minister made the point that they were lumped together in the Vote.

I understand——

They are still lumped together.

Yes, but there has been some movement with regard to representation of the people involved in the disciplines and the Deputy might recognise that.

Deputy Kenny was worried about certain records in the National Library not being made available to all. I apologise for omitting that. The Cashel Diocese gave the Library certain documentation that would be made available only on specific request and would not be generally available to agencies, etc.

But one must go to Tipperary to get it. The National Library will not give it as they say they do not have permission to do so.

I can make further inquiries but I understand that is the position.

The Minister might ask the Attorney General for his view on that. I think it is wrong.

Before I do that, I will see what is the general position and come back to the Deputy.

Perhaps when the Minister is making inquiries about the Diocese of Cashel that she would include the Diocese of Cloyne.