Estimates for Public Services, 1999.

Vote 41 — Arts Council (Revised).

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

Vote 43 — National Gallery (Revised).

Clerk to the Committee

Tosfaimid mar tá quorum againn. In the absence of the chairman and vice-chairman, can I have nominations for temporary chairman?

I nominate Deputy Kenny.

A Aire agus a Aire Stáit, ba mhaith liom fáilte a chur romhaibh agus bhur oifigigh ar son na Choiste chun na meastacháin athbhreitithe seo a leanas a mheas: Vóta 42, An Chomhairle Ealaíon, Vóta 42, an Roinn Ealaíon, Oidhreachta, Gaeltachta agus Oileáin agus Vóta 43, an Danra Náisiúnta. Tabharfaidh an Aire raiteas tosaidh ar dtús agus ansin beidh cead cainte ag an Freasura agus comhaltaí eile. Leanfaidh ráiteas deiridh i ndiaidh san.

I welcome the Minister and Minister of State to the meeting to deal with the Revised Estimates for 1999: Vote 41, the Arts Council; Vote 42, the Department of Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands; and Vote 43, the National Gallery. Both Ministers will make opening statements, followed by Opposition spokespersons and then other Members. There will then be a general discussion, followed by closing statements.

It is a great privilege for me to present to this committee the Estimates for 1999 for the following Votes: Votes 41, 42 and 43. Members of the committee will already have received briefing material setting out the details of the three Votes. All references to the various subheads within the Votes will be broadly in the order as published in the 1999 Revised Estimates for Public Services in the case of Votes 41 and 43 and will be in the order as published in the Further Revised Estimates in the case of Vote 42. The Minister of State, Deputy Ó Cuív, will speak on the Gaeltacht, the Irish language and islands subheads.

On Vote 41 for the Arts Council, I was particularly pleased to secure an increase of £2 million in the funding available to the Arts Council for 1999. This brings the amount available to the Arts Council for 1999 to £28 million, an increase of 34 per cent on the 1997 allocation. This will allow the council to continue to build on the success of the Arts Plan 1995-98. The Arts Council has recently submitted to me the new arts plan which covers the period 1999-2001. I am at present giving the new plan detailed and serious consideration and, provided I am happy with the proposals contained therein for the development of the arts, it would be my intention to seek the Government's approval for its implementation.

Regarding Vote 42 for my Department, Members will note that the administrative cost of my Department, including salaries, exceeds £21 million in a full year. Subhead C1 provides grant-in-aid for the main national cultural institutions. These include the National Museum incorporating Collins Barracks, the National Library, the National Archives, the National Concert Hall, the Chester Beatty Library, the Irish Museum of Modem Art and the National Archives Advisory Council. A 12 per cent increase in the subhead allocation facilitates an increase in the 1999 allocations to each of these cultural institutions.

I am particularly pleased that a significant 15 per cent increase, under subhead C1, was possible in the case of the National Library. The total allocation, when account is taken of funding provided for other subheads in the Vote for the National Library as indicated in the appendix of the Revised Estimates, shows an increase from £2.954 million in 1998 to £3.395 million in 1999, an increase of 15 per cent. The substantial increase above inflation is recognition of the ongoing and valuable contribution of this important institution to our cultural life. The allocation to the National Library includes a provision for the operation of newly developed services in the library in the conservation services unit and the National Photographic Archive in Temple Bar.

In line with Government programme commitments, I have established a Council of National Cultural Institutions to act as a forum for these important institutions. The subhead C2 allocations are in respect of allocations from Exchequer funds to a number of smaller cultural projects and bodies. These include the Irish Manuscripts Commission, Marsh's Library, the Irish Architectural Archive, Hunt Museum etc.

Subhead C2 also contains a provision of £100,000 this year for the Women's History Project. This project, undertaken under the auspices of the Irish Manuscripts Commission and launched by me last year, will identify and catalogue sources of history about women in Irish society on an all-Ireland basis. The capital element of subhead C3 relates to the grant-aiding of arts and culture infrastructural development.

The main funding mechanism is the cultural development incentive scheme, the CDIS, a grant aid scheme which is designed to assist the four main categories of the visual and performing arts — arts centres, theatres, museums and galleries. The current programme of works under the scheme, which is assisted with EU funds under the Operational Programme for Tourism, will be completed in 2000. Taking account of grant aid through my Department and the required matching funds, the scheme will facilitate an overall investment of £45 million in arts and cultural infrastructure up to the end of 2000. There are 38 projects being developed in 18 counties.

In accordance with the Government decision regarding the funding of Teilifís na Gaeilge, the two grant-in-aid subheads 01 and 02 provide £14 million and £1 million for current and capital funding respectively. This is obviously a very significant increase on the 1998 provision. Current funding is allocated principally to programming and staffing costs whereas capital funding is allocated to equipment upgrades and the improvement of the transmission network in line with developments on the RTE 1 and Network 2 facilities. In accordance with the commitment given in An Action Programme for the Millennium, the establishment of Teilifís na Gaeilge on a statutory basis has been included in my proposals for broadcasting legislation. The Broadcasting Bill, 1999, will be published later this week.

This year the Vote for my Department includes a new subhead, subhead M2, with a provisional £1.416 million for costs associated with the establishment of a digital terrestrial transmission entity in Ireland as proposed under the Broadcasting Bill, 1999. It is my hope that the new entity will be established, that negotiations with a suitable prospective partner or partners will be concluded by the end of this year and that digital terrestrial transmission services will be available in the latter half of next year.

Another subhead, subhead M3, includes the sum of £2 million for the expanded Independent Radio and Television Commission as proposed under the provisions of the Broadcasting Bill. This will also provide for the abolition of the 3 per cent levy imposed by the Independent Radio and Television Commission on independent broadcasters. In line with the commitment given in An Action Programme for the Millennium, a further subhead, subhead M4, includes a sum of £500,000 to assist local radio stations with transmission costs.

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 has played and is playing an essential part in providing the opportunities needed by emerging Irish talent as well as supporting more established companies. In addition to providing development and production loans, the board also provides, under its capital provision, funds for film training. In 1999, £500,000 is being provided under subhead N1 to enable the board to offer additional development and production loans and £150,000 is being provided from Irish Film Board recoupments for the operation of the Screen Commission of Ireland.

The role of the Screen Commission is to promote Ireland's advantages as a location and centre for incoming film and television production and to provide a one stop shop for foreign and indigenous producers wishing to make films in Ireland. It also maintains a presence at key international market events, such as the International Locations Exposition last February in Los Angeles, at which I launched the commission, and the Cannes Film Festival which concluded last week.

Last year I announced a major review of the Irish film industry. As part of this review I 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. I understand that the report of the think tank is now undergoing final editing and I expect to receive it within a few weeks. I intend to publish the report, together with a number of background studies which contributed to its deliberations, at an early date.

Members will be aware that the Heritage Council is funded through the Vote of my Department, subheads PI, P2 and P3. A total of £5.080 million is provided for the council for 1999, which represents an increase on the 1998 Estimates of over 40 per cent. The increase will facilitate the council in making grants in respect of conservation works to heritage buildings and includes provision for the acquisition by the council of its headquarters building in Kilkenny. It has enabled the council to increase its funding for Discovery Programme Limited by 10 per cent, to £770,000.

Subhead Q1 relates to the education and visitor service provided by Dúchas, the heritage service of my Department, for the natural and built heritage. The £620,000 allocation assists in the provision of a quality service at 62 fee-paying sites which attracted more than 2.1 million visitors in 1998. I intend to develop the education programmes by publishing an overall education strategy, of which I have announced one element which is to allow free access to heritage sites from 1 January 2000 to all pre-booked school groups.

In relation to subhead S for national parks and wildlife, members will note that the 1999 figure of £23.239 million represents my increasing commitment to preserve our valuable environmental heritage. In this regard, I expect to publish major legislation to amend the Wildlife Act, 1976, shortly.

There is a paper adjustment of £600,000 from subhead S to subhead A1 arising from the redesignation of rangers from industrial civil servants to established civil servants. I am pleased to report that the Civil Service Commission is in the process of recruiting an additional 30 rangers to deal with nature conservation. Last year I secured additional administrative and professional posts for this area. This will enable the national parks and wildlife service of my Department to improve the level of service provided for the public.

A sum of £15.135 million comprises non-capital expenditure, the majority of which, £11.5 million, relates to special areas of conservation, SACs, to which I will refer in more detail later.

A sum of almost £3.2 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 high standards on relatively small annual budgets and are a source of great pride and satisfaction for us all. The balance of £540,000 on non-capital expenditure primarily covers the cost of surveying and designating additional special protection areas — SPAs under the EU birds directive — and SACs.

On the capital side, 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. In recent years a substantial area of land — more than 20,000 acres in total — has been purchased with a view to establishing the Mayo National Park in the Nephin Beg-Owenduff area which I declared formally in July 1998. A working party, including local community groups, has been established to progress matters on acquiring a suitable site in the vicinity of Ballycroy and towards construction of a visitor centre for Ireland's sixth national park.

A sum of £754,000 is targeted for projects under the Tourism Operational Programme. Work will commence during the year on Doneraile Court and Demesne and on provision of a visitor centre for Lough Hyne. Doneraile Court in County Cork is badly in need of major restoration works.

In relation to special areas of conservation, one of my major tasks is the implementation of the EU habitats directive which requires member states to designate their most important sites as special areas of conservation, SACs, and to prevent anything that would damage their ecology. In March 1998 more than 200,000 hectares of land was publicly proposed for SAC status. Legal protection applies to these areas from the date of proposal. Ireland has formally transmitted 108 protected habitat type sites, covering more than 144,000 hectares, to the Commission to date. Those affected can appeal against the inclusion of their lands — appeals will be considered by an SAC appeals advisory committee.

As well as the provision for non-capital payments of £11 million, there is a provision for capital compensation of £5.3 million which will cover the purchase of land in lieu of compensation and situations where a once-off payment is more appropriate than ongoing annual payments. Where restrictions result in loss of income for the landowner, compensation will be payable, either by joining the REP scheme, administered by the Department of Agriculture and Food, or by claiming from my Department for actual losses arising.

The implementation of the habitats directive in an understanding manner is a matter of great priority to me. The best way to ensure conservation in line with the directive is with the full co-operation and participation of landowners. Towards this end, I have taken a number of steps to ensure designation does not impose unnecessary hardship. The directive is EU law. As an EU member, Ireland has an obligation to abide by these directives.

Ireland has done well from EU membership. The farming sector in particular has received large transfers. The European Union recently stressed to Ministers that continued payment of this money was dependent on compliance with EU environmental law. To make the SAC regime more landholder-friendly and to encourage their participation as partners in conservation, I have taken the following steps since my appointment.

Liaison committees are being established so that local landowners will have an input into the implementation of SACs in their areas. The regional staff of Dúchas have arranged well over 100 meetings in all parts of the country and the process is ongoing. Forty committees have been elected by landowners. In 35 cases it appears there is a requirement to have further meetings to appoint a committee and in a further 33 locations there has been no success in establishing a committee. Efforts will continue to be made to encourage the formation of committees in all SACs.

Arrangements have been made to have a representative of the local liaison committee on the appeals board when appeals are being heard. Mr. Michael Mills, the former Ombudsman, has been appointed chairman of the appeals board. As Ombudsman, Mr. Mills deservedly earned a reputation for equity and as having a genuine concern for the ordinary citizen. Arrangements have been made, where the appeals board deems it appropriate, so that independent expert scientific advice will be made available free of charge to appellants to ensure fair play at appeal hearings.

In relation to raised bogs, arrangements have been made to allow domestic turf cutters to continue cutting turf for the next ten years in all but the most sensitive areas. For those who wish to cease cutting turf on raised bogs a generous compensation package has been put in place with a special top-up payment for those who cease cutting this year.

In blanket bogs remapping is under way and certain areas of active turbary have been removed from the SAC. Where active turbary remains within the SAC, cutting with machines other than the sausage machine will be allowed in most areas. For the small number of areas where turf cutting has to cease on blanket bogs an attractive compensation package has been put in place, including a top-up payment if turf cutting ceases this year.

Work is progressing on the commonage framework plans and Ministers hope to be able to announce an acceptable destocking regime in the near future. Full compensation will be paid to any farmer, not in REPs, who has to destock based on Teagasc guideline figures or on profit from hill sheep or, alternatively, based on proven loss. A special premium was paid in December 1998 which greatly assisted farmers at a time of income crisis while dealing in a practical and acceptable way with overstocking on hills. The Minister for Agriculture and Food has negotiated an improved REPs package for farmers whose lands are in designated SAC and NHA areas.

Following strong representations by the Minister of State and me, the 1998 Social Welfare Bill was changed to provide that, in the context of 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 full pound for pound basis as was previously the case. This means, for example, that a farmer who receives a REPs payment of £4,000 will be £1,000 better off.

The Minister of State and I are committed to continued dialogue with all concerned parties regarding the implementation of the habitats directive to ensure all legitimate grievances are accommodated within the framework of honouring our obligations under the directive.

In relation to subhead T — inland waterways — the amount of £9,356,000 includes current and capital expenditure. There are 800 kilometres of waterways under the control of my Department. The potential for development of these waterways for recreational purposes and, in particular, tourism purposes is considerable. We have long recognised this and have invested substantial funding in putting in place the necessary infrastructure to exploit the resource. The committee is well aware of the success of the Shannon navigation in attracting tourists. A total of 3,200 boats are registered for navigation on the river, of which about 550 are hire-cruisers, bringing more than 50,000 visitors to the region. We continue to develop facilities and to add new destinations. Works are being carried out to extend the navigation to Boyle and along the River Suck to Ballinasloe. Major improvement of the navigation in Limerick City is planned to start this year as well as new facilities at Ballyleague and Shannonbridge.

We have also slowly, but surely, improved the Royal and Grand Canals. As the canal infrastructure improves, so should the opportunities for the hire boat operators. This industry is in its infancy on the canals but the potential is there. Angling on the canals is another activity which is popular and can be exploited further. This year's capital provision of £4.241 million includes £2.549 million for projects in the EU tourism operational programme 1994-9. By the end of the year, £19 million will have been spent on waterways projects under the programme with the balance of approximately £0.5 million to be spent next year.

Waterways Ireland is one of the implementation bodies to be set up under the British-Irish Agreement Act, 1999, when powers are devolved to the Northern Ireland Assembly. Initially, it will have responsibility for the Shannon-Erne waterway and studies relating to the possible restoration of the Ulster Canal. The provision of £340,000 is in addition to the £470,000 provided in the Supplementary Estimates passed by the House on 31 March 1999.

The main source of funding for the national monuments and historic properties service comes under subhead V.1 of my Department's Vote. The 1999 allocation, £28.271 million, represents a 14 per cent increase over the 1998 provisional outturn of £24.805 million. While the allocation is substantial by any standards, these funds are directed towards a wide range of activities, including the conservation and maintenance of more than 740 national monuments and historic properties in State care.

Of the expenditure on capital projects at various locations throughout the country, £8.286 million will be spent on EU funded projects under the operational programme for tourism in 1999. Examples of the type of projects funded include Kilkenny Castle, Portumna Castle, the Mainguard-Clonmel, Dún Aenghus, Ardfert Cathedral, Newcastlewest, Roscrea Castle, Newmills, Adare Castle, Barryscourt Castle and Grange Castle. In addition to the capital allocation for EU funded projects, subhead V.1 also includes an allocation of £4.036 million for capital works which are financed in full from the Exchequer. These funds are used mainly to finance capital expenditure on smaller scale projects, including works at sites such as Clonmacno HIL2, No. 2 — Bise, Doe Castle, Listowel Castle, Askeaton Castle and Sligo Abbey.

A sum of £1.1 million under this subhead is allocated to the Archaeological Survey of Ireland which gives legal protection to 120,000 recorded monuments and places throughout the State; the Underwater Sites and Monuments Records Survey; excavations undertaken by the National Monuments Service and those approved by the Royal Irish Academy as well as providing advice and assistance on planning and development issues.

Subhead U of the Vote provides an allocation of £1.150 million in 1999 for conservation works, an increase of 18 per cent on the expenditure in 1998. I propose to allocate this sum to two main projects in 1999 — Dunmore Caves, County Kilkenny and the completion of the works at Charlesfort, Kinsale, County Cork. Subhead V.2 is a new subhead set up to meet the commitment to strengthen the protection of the architectural heritage. Last year I and my colleague, the Minister for the Environment and Local Government, announced a package of measures to strengthen the protection of the architectural heritage. The necessary legislative requirements are currently being put in place. The £520,000 available is a significant increase over the 1998 allocation of £200,000 — previously in subhead V — and is provided to accelerate progress on the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage, to provide guidelines to planning authorities and to promote the development of conservation skills across a range of sectors in the economy. The allocation is supported by additional staffing resources which are being recruited.

Subhead X relates to overseas marketing. This continues a new development commenced in 1998. The amount of £814,000 in the subhead provides for the continuing cost of membership by my Department of OTMI, which is a public private partnership company marketing tourism abroad on an all-Ireland basis, and the continuance of various marketing initiatives undertaken by my Department in close co-ordination with Bord Fáilte. These include the maintenance of the highly successful and much commended Heritage of Ireland website, attendance at overseas trade fairs to market, specifically the attractions of our heritage facilities and cultural institutions, and commissioning a digital image bank of quality photographs. The activities are beneficial for the tourism industry. Consistently, marketing research cites the quality of cultural and heritage attractions as key determinants in delivering and marketing a satisfactory holiday experience to the international tourist.

In respect of Vote 43 for the National Gallery, the 1999 allocation shows an increase of 8 per cent on the 1998 figure. The Clare Street development, which will add significantly to the attractions of the National Gallery, is under construction and scheduled to be completed next year. This is one of the major projects undertaken under the Operational Programme for Tourism 1994-9.

This is but a selective account of some of the activities coming within my brief. When the Minister of State at the Department, Deputy Ó Cuív, has made his statement I will be happy to discuss any issue and answer questions.

Is breá liom an deis seo a bheith againn chun labhairt libh, i dtaca le Meastacháin 1999 na Roinne Ealaíon, Oidhreachta, Gaeltachta agus Oileán, faoi chúrsaí Gaeilge, Gaeltachta agus Oileán. Déanfaidh mé cur síos níos déanaí ar cúrsaí na nOileán ach ar dtús tosóidh mé le cúrsaí Gaeilge agus Gaeltachta.

Fuair mo Roinn 1,025 iarratas tithíochta i 1998 — suas beagán ar an méid a bhfuarthas i 1997. Críochnaíodh 98 teach nua i rith na bliana 1998 le cabhair deontais mo Roinne maraon le 601 cás eile a bhain le hoibreacha feabhsúcháin, sláintíochta agus méadaithe. Bhí áthas orm a fhógairt i Nollaig 1997 go ndúblófaí deontais tógála tithe sna hOileán Gaeltachta le héifeacht ó Eanáir 1999. Sé £12,000 an deontas atá i gceist i gcás na hoileán sin anois. Cabhróidh an deontas méadaithe seo go mór le hoileánaigh atá ag iarraidh tithe a thógáil agus cruthaíonn sé arís go dtuigeann mo Roinnse fadhbanna na n-oileánach agus go bhfuiltear sásta dul i ngleic leis na fadhbanna seo. Meastar go gcosnóidh an méadú seo £40,000 i 1999 agus tá an méid sin san áireamh sna Meastacháin. Tá súil again go gceadóidh an Rialtas an Bille leasaithe tithíochta go luath. Déanfhaidh an Bille seo an cúnamh atá ar fáil faoi Achtanna na dTithe (Gaeltacht) a dhéanamh nios oiriúnaí don lá atá inniu ann. Tá £1.62 milliún curtha ar fáil i mbliana do dheontais tithíochta 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 anseo ná scéim na bhfoghlaimeoirí Gaeilge agus scéim labhairt na Gaeilge. Bhí méadú beag ar líon na bhfoghlaimeoirí a chuaigh go dtí an Ghaeltacht i 1998 chun feabhas a chur ar a gcuid Gaeilge agus ar iocadh deontas ina leith faoi scéim na bhfoghlaimeoirí Gaeilge. Bhí 24,156 foghlaimeoirí ar fad i gceist — 1,049 daoine fásta san áireamh. D'fhan na foghlaimeoirí ar iostas i 730 teaghlaigh sa Ghaeltacht agus seachas an buntáiste mór atá i gcóras na gColáisti Gaeilge don Ghaeilge is cuid an-bhunúsach iad d'eacnamaíocht na Gaeltachta.

Beidh cinnithe á dhéanamh go luath, i gcomhar leis an Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta, i ndáil leis na moltaí i dtuarascáil an Ghrúpa a rinne athbhreithniú ar na coinníollacha ginearálta a bhaineann leis na Coláistí Gaeilge Samhraidh. Cabhróidh na leasuithe a eascróidh as na cinnithe sin an córas ar fad a dhéanamh níos éifeachtaí agus níos tairbhiúla do fhoghlaimeoirí Gaeilge do theaghlaigh a choinníonn iad agus do Choláistí Gaeilge agus, ar ndóigh, don Ghaeltacht. Tá £2.125 milliún curtha ar fáil don scéim seo i mbliana. Tá an scéim áirithe seo an-tábhachtach chun labhairt na Gaeilge a chur chun cinn sa teaghlach agus sa phobal i gcoitinne sa Ghaeltacht. Chun na scéime a dhéanamh níos cothroime agus an buntaiste céanna a thabhairt do gach teaghlach, d'fhógair mé anuraidh go bhfuil méadú ó £100 go £200 sa mbliain a dhéanamh ar an deontas a íoctar faoin scéim i gcás teaghlaigh le beirt nó níos lú dalta scoile ón scoilbhliain 1998-99 ar aghaidh. De bharr na méadaithe, beidh an deontas céanna a íoc i leith gach teaghlach cáilithe sa Ghaeltacht feasta.

Íocadh deontas faoin scéim le 3,174 teaghlach Gaeltachta sa scoilbhliain 1997-98 agus meastar go mbeidh thart ar an méid céanna i gceist arís sa scoilbhliain 1998-99. Tugann an scéim seo léargas maith dúinn ar staid na Gaeilge sa Ghaeltacht.

Tá £0.525 milliún curtha ar fáil don scéim seo i mbliana — tá sólathar san áireamh don deontas méadaithe. Is faoin bhfómhírcheann seo freisin a thugtar cúnamh d'Arás Mháirtín Uí Chadhain, d'Arás Charna agus d'Arás Uí Ghramnaigh i leith buanú na Gaeilge. Íoctar cúnamh chomh maith, i leith imeachtaí cultúrtha ina mbíonn ról lárnach ag an nGaeilge, mar shampla, feiseanna agus Irisí Áitiúla Gaeltachta. Íoctar cúnamh freisin i leith pharoistí áirithe a rachaidh chun tairbhe na Gaeilge agus do shaol cultúrtha agus shoisialach na ceantair Ghaeltachta.

Tá sólathar déanta chomh maith i mbliana do scéim nua, "Scéim Champaí Samhraidh trí Ghaeilge d'Aos Óg na Gaeltachta". Is é cuspóir na scéime seo na cabhrú le caomhnú, leathnú agus buanú na Gaeilge sa Ghaeltacht agus go háirithe í a threisiú mar theanga labhartha i measc aos óg na Gaeltachta. Faoin scéim seo, íocfar £15 i leith gach rannpháirtí a dhéanann freastal ar champa aitheanta ar feadh tréimhse nach giorra ná cúig lá agus £30 i leith rannpháirtí a dhéanann freastal ar feadh tréimhse nach giorra ná deich lá.

Faoi scéimeanna feabhscháin na Roinne, bíonn deontais chaipitil ar fáil chun muiroibreacha sa Ghaeltacht a chur ar fáil nó a fheabhsú; agus chun áiteanna ar nós hallaí poiblí, páirceanna imeartha agus mar sin de a chur ar fáil nó a fheabhsú do mhuintir na Gaeltachta. Den sólathar de £3.2 milliún i mbliana tá circa £1.6 milliún a dhíriú ar leanúint le mórscéim mhuiroibreacha chun áiseanna feabhsaithe calaíochta a fhorbairt ag an gcé ag an mBaile Thiar, Toraigh, Tír Chonaill. Tá sólathar déanta chomh maith i mbliana le céibheanna beaga comhairlí condae sa Ghaeltacht a fheabhsú i gcomhpháirtíocht leis na comhairlí condae iomchuí

Tá sólathar £500,000 curtha ar fáil i mbliana faoin scéim seo le bóithre sa Ghaeltacht a fheabhsá.

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

I gcas 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 sólathar caipitil de £26.4 milliún — meadú de £4.3 milliún — atá an Stát-Chiste ag cur ar fáil don údarás i mbliana d'fhorbairt na Gaeltachta, i., chun deontais a íoc le tionscail, scaireanna a ghlacadh i gcuideachtaí agus clár tógála a airgeadú. Anuas ar an tsuim sin, tá suim £3.450 milliún údaraithe don eagraíocht mar chabhair do chostais riaracháin. Is léiriú ar an tábhacht a chuireann an Rialtas i bhforbairt na Gaeltachta an t-airgead de bhreis ar £29.8 milliún in iomlán atá a chur ar fáil don údarás i mbliana.

Ba bhliain shásúil eile í 1998 don údarás maidir le fostaíocht a chruthú sa Ghaeltacht. Ag deireadh 1998 bhí beagnach 11,660 duine fostaithe i dtionscail sa Ghaeltacht a fuair cúnamh ón údarás — 8,174 dhuine go lánaimseartha agus 3,483 dhuine eile go páirtaimseartha nó go seasúrach. I rith na bliana 1998 cruthaíodh 1,295 phost lánaimseartha nua sa Ghaeltacht le cúnamh ón údarás agus, cé gur cailleadh 975 phost, fós féin bhí glanmhéadú de 320 i líon na bpost lánaimseartha i dtionscail sa Ghaeltacht, rud a cíallaíonn go bhfuil an bhuaicphointe is airde riamh sroichte ag an údarás ó thaobh fostaíochta de. Tá méadú substaintiúil sa sólathar d'airgead tógála don údarás mar go bhfuil easpa spáis monarchan mar cheann de na fadhbanna a bhi ag cur bac le forbairt san Ghaeltacht.

I rith 1998 chomh maith cheadaigh an t-údarás luach £24m de chabhair Stáit i leith tionscail nua a bhfuil acmhainneacht fhostaíochta de 1,462 post lánaimseartha ag baint leo. Is i mbliana agus sa dhá bhliain romhainn a thiocfaidh an chuid is mó den fhostaíocht sin ar an bhfód sa Ghaeltacht.

Ní gá, measaim, mórán a rá faoi seo inniu mar bhí díospóireacht faoi seo nuair a bhí an Bille um Údarás na Gaeltachta (Leasú), 1999, faoi bhráid na Dála le déanaí agus beidh deis eile chun labhairt i dtaobh na ceiste sar i bhfad nuair a bheidh an Bille cuimsitheach chun leasú a dhéanamh ar an Acht um Údarás na Gaeltachta, 1979, faoi bhráid an Tí. Mar a dúirt mé nuair a bhí an Bille gairid atá ina Acht anois á phlé againn, tá sé ar intinn agam an chéad toghchán eile don údarás a chur ar siúl san Fhómhar.

Mar is eol daoibh beidh Bille cuimsitheach a chur faoi bhráid an Oireachtais roimh shos an tsamhraidh chun leasú a dhéanamh ar an Acht um Údarás na Gaeltachta, 1979. Athstructúrú ar chomhdhéanamh an bhoird is mó a bheidh i gceist ach glacfar leis an deis chun athruithe eile a dhéanamh ar an mbun Acht chomh maith. Faoi Iáthair tá triur chomhalta déag ar an údaras — seachtar agus an cathaoirleach san áireamh ceaptha ag an Aire agus an seisear eile tofa go daonlathach ag muintir na Gaeltachta. Faoin mBille méadófar líon na gcomhaltaí tofa go mór agus laghdófar líon na gcomhaltaí ainmnithe. Ceapfaidh an t-Aire an cathaoirleach i gcónaí. Faoi láthair is trí thoghlach atá ann do thoghcháin an údaráis — toghlach do na limistéir Ghaeltachta i dTír Chonaill, toghlach do na limistéir Ghaeltachta i gCondae na Gaillimhe, i gCondae Mhaigh Eo agus i gCondae na Mí agus toghlach eile do na limistéir Ghaeltachta i gCondae Chiarraí, i gCondae Chorcaigh agus i gCondae Phort Lairge. Faoin mBille beidh toghlach ar leith, le líon sonraithe comhaltaí le toghadh do gach condae ina bhfuil limistéir Ghaeltachta. Déanfar na boird réigúinda atá ag an údarás faoi lathair a chur ar bhonn reachtúil faoin mbille. Beidh deis againn forálacha an Bhille a phlé nuair a bheidh sé faoi bhráid an Oireachtais.

Ta suim £3.550 milliún ceadaithe mar chúnamh Stáit do Bhord na Gaeilge i mbliana le haghaidh a chuid imeachtaí ar son na Gaeilge — an tsuim is airde riamh agus méadú de 20 faoin gcéad ar shólathar 1998. Obair ghríosaithe agus spreagadh is mó a bhíonn ar siúl ag an mbord. Tuigim na deacrachtaí a bhaineann le hobair den cineál sin a thabhairt chun aibíochta. Ar ndóigh tá an coiste ar an eolas ón díospóireacht a bhí againn in Aibreáin maidir lena bhfuil déanta chun foras teanga thuaidh-theas a bhunú. Mar a bhi imithe cheana, tá an reachtaíochta sroichte ach táim ag fanacht le shocrú ionas go féidir leis an Taoiseach ordú a shíniú faoi alt 1(2) in Acht Comhaontú na Breataine-na hÉireann chun feidhme a thabhairt do fhorálacha an Achta sin. Faoi na socruithe nua díscaoilfear Bord na Gaeilge ó cibé dáta a thiocfaidh an foras teanga i bhfeidhm, déanfar an tAcht um Bord na Gaeilge, 1978, a aisgairm, agus déanfar feidhmeanna Bhord na Gaeilge a aistriú don fhoras teanga nó i bhfírinne chuig an áisínteach Ghaeilge den fhoras sin.

Tá foireann Bhord na Gaeilge le aistriú go hiomlán go dtí an foras teanga agus tá súil agam go bhféachfaidh siad ar an aistriú san mar a fhéacaim air, mar aistriú chun leasú an naisiúin, don Gaeilge agus dóibh féin. Ba mhaith liom fíorbhuíochas a ghlacadh le comhaltaí Bhord na Gailge as an ndíograis agus an dúthracht atá á gcaitheamh acu i mbun cúram an bhoird.

Beidh impleachtaí do Vóta na Roinne as bunú an fhorais agus níl eolas cinnte ag glacadh leis sin de ar fáil go fóill toisc nach bhfuil a fhios cathain go díreach a bunófar an foras. Déantar 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 ilghnéitheacha Gaeilge ar nós "Gaillimh le Gaeilge", "Tiobraid Árainn ag Labhairt" agus An Lárionad Sealbhaithe agus Buanaithe Gaeilge, An Chrannóg, i nGaoth Dobhair. Is suim de £3.25 milliún atá ar fáil ón Vóta don Chiste i mbliana i gcomparáid le £2.759 milliún anuraidh. Nuair a chuirfear an foras teanga ar bun beidh cúram i dtaca le heagrais dheonacha Ghaeilge náisiúnta áirithe, mar a sonraíodh iad san Acht um Chomhaontú na Breataine-na hÉireann, á n-aistriú chuig an foras agus íocfar a gcuid deontas as ciste airgid an fhorais as sin amach.

Tá an obair ar Bhille Comhionnanais Teanga ar siúl i mo Roinnse. Tá moltaí á n-ullmhú faoi láthair le scaipeadh ar Ranna Rialtais le haghaidh a gcuid tuairimí sula gcuirfear meabhrán i dtaobh na ceiste faoi bhráid an Rialtais. Táim dóchasach go mbeifear ábalta dul chun cinn suntasach a dhéanamh faoi seo i mbliana.

Cúis áthais dom go raibh ar mo chumas méadú substaintiúil a chur ar fáil don bhord i mbliana chun a chur ar a chumas scéim nua an bhoird a airgeadú. Cuirfear le fiúntas na scéime maidir le hábhar leathan spéisiúil léitheoireachta a chur ar fáil don phobal agus tá mé cinnte go mbeidh an rath i ndán dó. Tá an scéim nua bunaithe ar straitéis atá i bhfad níos forásaí agus atá i dtiúin níos mó le cúinsí na foilsitheoireachta de réir mar atá siad faoi láthair. Faoin scéim nua tá béim níos mó ar fhorbairt réimsí agus chaighdeán na bhfoilseachán mar aon le forbairt na gcomhlachtaí foilsitheoireachta. Tá trí phríomhbua le sonrú leis an leagan amach nua seo atá le cur i bhfeidhm ag an mbord, is iad: go n-íocfar deontais táirgíochta ag leibhéal níos réadúla chuidiú i leith na mbunchostas táirgíochta; go spreagfaidh an deontas forbartha, a íocfar mar bhónas don fhoilsitheoir as leabhar ar ardchaighdeán a chur ar fáil do mhargadh na léitheoirí, na foilsitheoirí chun aird níos mó a thabhairt ar na gnéithe fiontraíochta agus margaíochta a bhaineann le hearnáil na foilsitheoireachta; agus go bhfuil aitheantas agus cúitheamh níos sásúla le roinnt leis na húdair.

Tá ardú suntasach ceadaithe agam do bhuiséad an bhoird i mbliana le go gcuirfí bunchloch sheasmhach faoi chur i bhfeidhm na scéime nua. Sa méid seo tá soláthar déanta le tacú le tionscnamh nua margaíochta an bhoird. Déanfaidh an bord maoiniú ar sheirbhísí margaíochta agus poiblíochta a roinnfear leis na foilsitheoirí éagsúla mar straitéis chomhordaithe chun díolachán na leabhar a mhéadú agus próifíl na foilsitheoireachta.

Tá soláthar £2.75 milliún ar fáil dom i mbliana le húsáid mar chabhair chun infrastruchtúr na n-oileán ar a n-áirítear Muiroibhreacha, Bóithre, Cosaint Chósta 7rl, a chur ar fáil nó a fheabsú. Tá beagnach £1.7 milliún den mhéid sin dáilithe cheana féin ar thograí caipitil éagsúla ar na h-oileáin — an cuid is mó de, £1.216 milliún, ar chéanna a bheidh ag freastal ar cheithre oileáin ar chósta Chorcaí. Chomh maith leis sin ceadaíodh deontas £320,000, nó 75 faoin gcéad den chostas, do Chomhairle Chontae na Gaillimhe le déanaí chun móroibreacha dreideála a chur i gcrích ag Chaladh Inis Bó Finne.

Tá soláthar £1.2 milliún ar fáil dom i mbliana le húsáid mar chabhair chun tograí reatha ar a n-áirítear seirbhísí farrantóireachta chuig na hoileáin a chur ar fáil nó a fheabhsú. I measc na seirbhísí ar a ndéanfar airgeadú i mbliana tá: seirbhís pháisinéirí agus lastais ó Ghaillimh go dtí na hóileáin Árann; seirbhís farantóireachta laethúil do phaisinéirí idir Inis Mór, Árainn agus Ros a Mhíl, agus Inis Meáin agus Inis Oírr agus Ros a Mhíl; seirbhís farantóireachta idir Inis Bó Finne, Inis Tuirc agus Oileán Chliara agus an mórthír; seirbhís farantóireachta idir Oileán Thoraí agus an mórthír le h-éifeacht ón Fhómhar 1999. Bainfidh costas circa £820,000 san iomlán leis na fóirdheontais seo i mbliana.

Mar atá curtha in iúl agam díobh 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 fós ionas go neartófar an Ghaeilge agus an Ghaeltacht.

Beidh ceisteanna ag na baill anois, ag toiseacht leis an Teachta Ó Cionnaith.

I welcome the Minister and Minister of State and thank them for their presentations on a broad selection of areas for which they have responsibility. I also thank the Secretary General of the Department and his staff for their courtesy in responding to requests by members of the Opposition for information.

I do not intend to make a long speech. I would much prefer to submit a list of questions to which the Minister could supply the answers in due course. A sum of £1.28 million is provided under subhead A5 for office equipment, computers and so on. Are these purchased centrally to reduce costs or is there a specific tender? When the Estimates were discussed the Secretary General of the Department mentioned that the technology available to the Department was not up to standard. Has this matter been addressed? Experts in these matters are being wooed from Departments and small businesses. Has the Department lost personnel in this rush? How many are employed on contract and do other work because of their technological expertise and ability to generate hefty salaries?

A sum of £398,000 is provided for consultancies under subhead A7. How many consultants are employed by the Department and what is their remit and the cost involved?

The millennium project planned for Washington DC in May 2000 which I hope will be a success is provided for under subhead C3. I understood the Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach, Deputy Brennan, was responsible for the millennium project. Is every Department being asked to contribute to specific projects?

Cé mhéad iarrthóirí a chuir isteach leis an dheontas a luadh faoi Fhómhírcheann D agus cé mhéad a glacadh leo in achan Gaeltacht? Tá seans nach bhfuil an t-eolas sin ag an Aire Stáit ach tig leis sin a chur chugam. Cé mhéad a tugadh amach d'achan oileán Gaeltachta? Má tá deontais le tabhairt amach do mhuintir na hoileán Gaeltachta, cad chuige nach dtabharfaí deontas speisialta do chuile dhuine ar chuile oileán chun na tithe seo a fheabsú? An bhfuil sé mar aidhm ag an Rialtas fóirithint cáin a thabhairt do chuile oibrí, cibé go bhfuil sé ina chónaí ar oileán Gaeltachta nó oileán eile?

Baineann Fómhírcheann E le £3.2 milliún. Caidé tá i gceist sa scéim seo? Níl sé luaite sa reamhrá. Baineann E1 le scéim na mbóithre. Chuala mé le deanaí gur tugadh amach a lán airgid i leith na scéime seo. Cén sórt cúlra atá ag baint leis seo. An gcuirfí isteach na meastacháin óna na innealtóirí condae go dtí an Roinn? Céard atá ar siúl gur glacfaí le iarratas ar bith ansin? Dúirt Teachta amháin liom nach bhfuair duine ar bith deontas ach go raibh airgead mar chuidiú dá pháirtí féin i leith bóithre áitiúla. Tá a fhios agam nach bhfuil sin fíor ach sin a bhí le rá aige.

Faoi Fhómhírcheann E5, cé mhéad a fuair gach ceantair as an £822,000? Cé mhéad a fuair Tír Chonaill, Maigh Eo, Gaillimh agus mar sin de? Ó thaobh turasóireachta na Gaeltachta de, feicim go bhfuil fíorsuim faoi láthair ag muintir a bhfuil airgead acu seanthithe chlocha a cheannacht. Beidh fhios ag an Aire Stáit agus Teachtaí eile go bhfuil neart bailte beaga, thart fán iarthar go speisialta, ó aimsir an ghorta mhóir, agus go mbeadh sé thar a bheith sásúil á ndeisiú le haghaidh turasóireachta dá mba rud é go raibh deontas speisialta le fáil ón Roinn chun sin a dhéanamh agus b'fheidir ceann tuí a chur orthu. Is iontach go deo an suim atá ann i láthair. Tá Gearmánaigh, Iodáiligh, Francaigh agus Meiriceánaigh ag teacht agus suimeanna airgid an-ard á lua acu do na seanthithe chlocha san.

Faoi Fhómhírcheann F1, cé mhéad scolairí a bhí i gceist ó thaobh na scéime seo? Cé mhéad scolairí a bhí ag freastal i ngach Gaeltacht? I dtaca le Fómhírcheann F2, tá £4.40 le fáil gach lá ó na daltaí atá ag freastal ar scéim chúrsa Ghaeilge. Conas a d'éirigh leis an Roinn £4.40 a chur amach? Ní thuigim cén fath nach mbeadh £5 no £8 ar fáil. Cé mhéad a bheadh i gceist dá mba rud é da méadófaí an liúntas sin do £8?

Ba mhaith liom go mbeadh tuilleadh eolas againn faoi F3, the Irish Language Summer Camps. Tá an-suim ag muintir na tíre sna campaí seo agus tá an-mhothú ar fud na tíre faoi labhairt agus foghlaim na Gaeilge trí na Gaelscoileanna. Tá an-suim ag múinteoirí agus tuismítheoirí ar fud na tíre go mbeadh an bhaint chultúrtha cothaithe ag a ngasúir agus iad ag na campaí. Dar liom is maith an rud seo agus aontaím leis.

Ó thaobh H1, an t-údarás, cé mhéad spás tionsclaíochta nach bhfuil in úsáid i ngach Gaeltacht? Tá fhios agam go bhfuil an-bhrú ar an údarás postanna a chur ar fáil. An bhfuil mórán spás folamh i ngach Gaeltacht? An bhfuil an t-údarás agus an Roinn ag fáil na cabhrach atá uaibh leis na tionscail seo a mhealladh isteach sa chaoi is go mbeidh bhfuil seans agaibh postanna a chur ar fáil?

Regarding J2, the North-South body, a sum of £4.829 million is involved. What is the position at present? We understand the complexities of decommissioning and the triggering of various mechanisms involved. For our part, the Department is ready to roll if the work of both bodies is successful.

In respect of RTE and the £64.1 million, RTE seems to have panicked into paying excessive amounts for various programmes while losing out on others which appear to be of major interest, such as soccer leagues? Is the Minister happy that the allocation made to RTE will allow it to do the job as competently and professionally as it wishes?

Subhead H refers to the collection of licence fees by An Post. An Post pays the Department monthly and it pays An Post monthly. Would it be good accounting practice to tell An Post to charge a certain amount for collection of fees and to retain that from what it collects, rather than sending it all to the Department and for the Department to pay An Post back? Is there an administrative cost involved and, if so, how much is it?

The REP scheme compensation levels were mentioned and farmers are concerned that where one has a SAC and a farmer decides to join the REPS, if he or she provides a slatted unit for livestock in an SAC/REPS area, the slurry has to be spread somewhere. If one spreads slurry in a SAC, the consequences are very clear, as it is either a bog or other sensitive area. Is that not a contradiction? On one hand, if a farmer provides a slatted unit and goes into the REP scheme, he or she generates slurry that must be spread. Has the Department and Teagasc carried out any analysis of the effect of slurry spread in SAC areas where farmers have joined the REP scheme to acquire compensation? The same applies in forestry, where pine needle accumulations get into streams and clog spawning beds. Trout populations die as a result and this is happening in Lough Conn, which was a world famous lake until it slipped down the ratings for some years.

The Minister of State should spell out what the compensation levels are for blanket bogs. I am interested that the matter of the Ulster Canal is to be pursued vigorously and that there is money provided for this. This would be a major international project and would create one of the longest inland waterways in Europe if made navigable.

The National Inventory of Architectural Heritage is a matter that will be debated again. What will the extra £320,000 made available this year mean? How many staff members will be recruited using it? Has this process begun and have interviews been held? Are these being completed by the Local Authorities' Appointments Commission, the Civil Service Commission or another body? When will these people commence work?

What was the High Court case referred to in subhead M1? Was it taken by an individual or organisation against the Department and how much was paid out? What is the situation regarding the Supreme Court appeal on the Blasket Islands? This has not been mentioned for some time and, presumably, some work has been done on it. What is the cost to date of this case and is there a projected date for the Supreme Court to deal with it?

Subhead M4 refers to local radio. Do we know which stations have transmission costs and how is the £500,000 to be divided among those which have transmission costs? Do they tender on the basis of what it will cost them to transmit?

I raised the Broadcasting Bill on the Order of Business many times and the text of that Bill has now been approved by Government. Was that done recently and, with the text approved, is it likely to come into the public domain in completed form soon?

I was interested in the discussion of the national parks. I am in the process of concluding a report on the national parks which I will present to the committee and I will make a number of recommendations for the Minister to consider. It was wrong to drop the legislation governing national parks. It seems to have disappeared from the Government's list because of other priorities. Given that only one half of the national park in Killarney is covered by legislation, it should be revised. If the park cannot be completed it should be one of the Department's objectives.

The genealogical project has not been referred to by the Minister in her selective comments. She allocated £210,000 this year but this project deserves concentrated attention from her. The Minister answered a priority question on this recently and I never received more e-mails from people around the world who seem to have an avid interest in genealogical practices and related matters. People visit Ireland from New Zealand, America etc., making strong cases about what should be done. Is the Minister happy that everything is on stream and this programme can be demonstrated to be proficient, professional and available to users?

I was concerned about a recent article in Magill by Bruce Arnold in which he commented that the National Gallery was in crisis. I obviously cannot substantiate the claims made in the article but they range from inordinate sick leave among certain members of staff to rooms being closed when they should not be. The National Gallery, of which all of us want to be proud, is not as it should be. Mr. Arnold referred to the fact that an early John Lavery painting was bought for £1.3 million by a private purchaser, who was named.

A sum of £320,000 is allocated in respect of purchase and repair of pictures. If Irish works are to achieve such a standard, we will obviously lose out substantially to private purchasers if such a sum is allocated. If the board of the National Gallery informed the Minister that it was in a position to acquire five major Irish paintings, for example, could she provide the necessary finance? The National Gallery is, and should be, a fine national institution.

This is an opportunity for the Minister to respond to an article which has raised grave concern among a number of people that all is not well in the gallery. I am sure her officials have examined the article. She should respond openly and leave everybody in no doubt that the National Gallery is as it should be, is on a path of progress for the new millennium of which all of us can be proud, that she Minister will direct it as such and provide its board with the resources to do its job.

Molaim an t-Aire agus an t-Aire Stáit as ucht an eolais chuimsithigh a thug siad dúinn. In oráid an Aire Stáit, dúirt sé go bhfuil 24,156 foghlaimeoirí sa Ghaeltacht i 1998, 1,049 daoine feasta ina measc. An bhfuil eolas ag an Aire an bhfilleann daoine óga a fhillean go dtí an Gaeltacht agus an bhfuil aon meastachán ar fheabhas na Gaeilge i measc na leanaí agus daoine feasta a théann go dtí an Gaeltacht, idir iad a théann an t-aon am amháin agus iad a théann gach bliain?

Cailleadh 975 post sa Ghaeltacht i 1998. Tá sin tubaisteach ach cruthaíodh 1,294 post lánaimseartha — méadú 319 ina iomlán. Ar cruthaíodh na postanna nua sna háiteanna inar cailleadh na postanna eile? Cén fáth ar cailleadh an méad sin postanna?

Dúirt an t-Aire Stáit gur obair ghríosaithe agus spreagadh is mó a bhíonn ar siúl ag Bord na Gaeilge. An bhfuil aon taighde déanta ag an mbord i dtaobh seo? Níl suim sa Ghaeilge ag chuid mhaith den phobal. An bhfuil scéimeanna ar siúl ag an bhord le suim na ndaoine seo sa Ghaeilge a spreagadh nó an bhfuil an bord ag deileáil le daoine agus suim acu sa teanga amháin? Bheadh sé maith tuiscint níos fearr a bheith againn ar obair an bhoird.

It is welcome that a large amount, £28 million, is allocated to the Arts Council. However, my difficulty with its operation is a lack of democratic accountability. I do not suggest that the council should not be independent in its role, but the Houses of the Oireachtas should have more input into what it does. For instance, the Minister is studying the new arts plan. It will be approved by her and, perhaps, amended prior to approval, but the Houses will see it first in the national plan. The Houses should at least have the opportunity to debate the arts plan before it is finalised because lack of such debate and accountability may lend itself to a certain exclusiveness in the public perception of the council.

I welcome the provision of £100,000 for the women's history project. In conducting research on a family tree it struck me that in the early part of this century and the latter part of the last century women died at a young age having given birth to many children. The project should give us cause to reflect on how difficult life was for women.

An additional 30 rangers are being recruited for the nature conservation service. In which counties will they be deployed?

There is an increase of 51 per cent in payments to match resources generated by the National Museum, the National Library and the National Archives. This is explained by anticipated increased earnings by the institutions concerned. What are the changes that will generate increased income?

There is a substantial drop in the amount provided in subhead C3 — cultural development. What are the reasons for this? A sum of £5.9 million was provided in 1998.

The figure of £1,000 provided in subhead C4 — heritage fund — astounds me. The Minister stated that this is a new subhead which will enable funding to be made available to assist institutions acquire, at short notice, heritage objects or collections of special interest or value. Will the Minister expand on this?

Bhain an t-Aire Stáit le tithe Gaeltachta. Tá £3.2 milliún curtha ar fáil do scéim feabhasachán na Gaeltachta i mbliana. Bhí £3.4 milliún ar fáil le haghaidh na scéime seo anuraidh. Cén fáth go bhfuil laghdú ar an bhfigiúr?

It was stated that the money provided in subhead E1 is used to repair Gaeltacht roads. A sum of £822,850 is provided. Why is the same figure included in subhead E5 in which funding is provided for Gaeltacht roads, including village renewal?

The sum provided for coláistaí Gaeilge, £210,000, represents a reduction on the figure of £352,000 provided last year. What are the reasons for this?

It appears that the funding provided by an Chrannchuir Náisiúnta has reduced from £2.9 million to £900,000. Will the Minister and Minister of State elaborate on the reasons for this?

Why has the figure provided in subhead L — payment to An Post for collection of broadcasting licence fees — been reduced to £7.2 million from £7.47 million last year? Will the Minister explain the reasons for the reduction?

There was a once-off exceptional payment of £700,000 to the Irish Film Board last year. Given the potential for growth and development in terms of job creation and opportunities to attract tourists, this is not an area in which one would expect the Minister to cut back.

I welcome the Minister and Minister of State and congratulate them on the plans they have published which highlight the importance of our culture and heritage. They should also result in greater co-operation.

I welcome the increase for the National Library. Will this facilitate the recruitment of extra staff as well as longer opening hours? On the Irish Film Board, will the findings of the think tank be debated in the House?

I welcome the women's history project for which the Minister has allocated £100,000 and which will be placed on an all-Ireland basis. Will funding be available from cultural boards in Northern Ireland to broaden the scope of the project, perhaps to include a visual presentation on oral histories? I could speak at more length on this topic. It has great potential for reaching out to the Irish diaspora. Many women have worked on history projects of this sort abroad and their work could be collected and brought back.

Deputy Kenny spoke of the long-term development potential of our waterways. Does co-operation take place between the Department of Tourism, Sport and Recreation and the Department of Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands with regard to shared investment in the restoration of inland waterways and in the establishment of a State-owned enterprise such as exists in other countries? The parts of the country which are served by canals are among those where tourism is least developed. A canal barge holiday is most relaxing, as those of us who have enjoyed such a holiday know.

In all but the most sensitive areas, turf cutting will be permitted for ten more years. Are we sure we can allow this when so much valuable bogland has been lost in the rest of Europe?

Deputy Kenny spoke of the restoration of traditional houses. Is it possible to limit the proliferation of modern holiday houses which are closed for ten months of the year? We cannot interfere with personal freedom, but this development does not contribute to job creation or to the conservation of the environment. People who live in areas of high tourism cannot afford to build houses in their native places because of rising house prices. Do we have plans to control this development?

Tá cupla ceist agam ar an Aire Stáit. Cathain a thosnóidh obair ar ché Thoraigh ag tosnú? Níl sé tosnaithe go fóill.

De réir na gceisteanna a chuir na Baill, caitheadh £1milliún púnt, nó níos mó, ar bhóithre áise. Cad iad na treoirlínte don chaiteachas seo? An bhfuil sé i gceist agat, comhpháirtíocht a dhéanamh idir na daoine atá ina gcónaí ar thaobh na mbóthar áis agus na comhairlí condaetha, a bhfuil dualgas orthu na bóithe áise a chothú.

Last year, there was virtually no expenditure on special areas of conservation. Has a date been decided for the finalisation of SAC payments in 1999? In the constituency which I share with the Minister, many landowners who originally supported the idea of SACs are now disenchanted with the scheme and do not wish to participate in it. Would it not be advisable to set a date for the finalisation of payments?

I thank Members for taking part in the discussion and for their questions, which I will do my best to answer.

Deputy Kenny's questions referred to central purchasing of office equipment, information technology, loss of personnel and consultancies. The Department does not have a central purchasing system. Computers are purchased by public tender. A major study of IT needs has been done in the Department, as in all Departments. We have not lost staff and are, in fact, adding to our staff. The section which deals with IT will have a staff of between seven and eight. Page 12 of the large document which was distributed to Members contains a reference to the IT strategy plan which was prepared by Price Waterhouse Coopers. The additional costs will be approximately £2 million in 1999. The implementation of the overall plan will take four years at a total cost of approximately £8.2 million.

The 1999 provision for consultancy services is £398,000, of which almost 70 per cent is earmarked for IT consultancies. I can send information about the other consultancies to Deputy Kenny if he so wishes. They include studies of Glendalough, County Wicklow, the heritage tourism potential of Mount Bellew, industrial heritage and others.

Deputy Kenny is correct in saying that millennium projects come under the auspices of the Department of the Taoiseach. The millennium projects committee is chaired by Minister of State, Deputy Séamus Brennan. My Department is engaged in a pre-millennium project, the ceol áite project. The Irish contribution to a major Irish millennium festival which will take place in the John F. Kennedy Centre for the Performing Arts in Washington DC comes under subhead C3. The previous US ambassador, Mrs. Kennedy-Smith was very interested in this project and it is appropriate that we use this occasion to bring both countries together under the umbrella of the arts.

Approximately nine staff are working on the architectural inventory. The relevant Bill has been passed in the Seanad and Committee Stage will be taken in the Dáil next week. The £500,000 fund for local radio will be administered by the Independent Radio and Television Commission. This fund is provided for in the Broadcasting Bill and more information about it will be available when the Bill is published on Thursday next. The fund will provide support for those, mainly rural, stations which have difficulty providing coverage in their franchise areas.

I understand Deputy Kenny's interest in legislation for national parks. The Department has been occupied with the preparation of a great deal of legislation, such as the Major Events Television Coverage Bill, the Architectural Heritage (National Inventory) and Historic Monuments Bill, the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands (Powers and Functions) Bill, the Irish Film Board (Amendment) Bill and the forthcoming broadcasting and wildlife Bills. They had to take precedence over this legislation. The Wildlife Bill will also be published soon. It was not for that reason alone but because we are in the process of drawing up our national heritage plan. When that information is to hand, we will be in a better position to formulate policy on the national parks.

Deputy Kenny raised the issue of the Blasket Islands and the related court case. The 1989 Act was declared unconstitutional last year and the State is appealing that decision. That appeal is to be held in the Supreme Court next month. We have obtained an independent evaluation and will have discussions with the private company to see if agreement can be reached on acquiring the island.

Deputy O'Shea raised the issue of the heritage fund. I am sure he looked at the figure of £1,000 rather quizzingly. That amount was inserted to put in place a subhead for the heritage fund. I am very much in favour of having such a fund. Deputy Kenny also raised the matter of acquisitions. There has been an increase in funding for acquisition for all our national institutions but it is never enough. We have been able to assist in exceptional cases such as the retrieval of the Nugent papers for the National Library. We need to put a substantial fund in place that can be used for priority cases. I understand legislation may be needed to establish such a fund. I am looking at that matter very closely as it is an issue in which I am particularly interested. I earmarked it as one of my goals while in Opposition and Deputies can be assured I will put it into effect in the next few months.

We have to await the outcome of the North-South bodies on the higher political plain. The Department of Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands is responsible for two of the six bodies. From our point of view, we are ready to roll on both. Deputy Kenny raised a question under subhead N. That relates to the Anthony Coplin judgment and the decision of the Broadcasting Complaints Commission.

Special areas of conservation are of great concern to everyone. This matter is governed by a European directive. The Minister of State and I have ensured from the beginning that we would adopt the fairest possible approach to implementing that directive. In doing so, one ensures compliance with the directive and therefore will achieve the overall goal of conservation. It took time to set up those procedures. I will reply to Deputy Carey's question on that later. I understand that concerns may arise with regard to slurry and slatted houses, but they will be taken into account when drawing up the REPs plans. It would not be the first time — I do not say this to accuse any Department in particular — because of European influences and directives that a Department would be seen to deal with issues which appear to be at variance with my Department. The Department of Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands has to deal with the question of over-grazing as a result of European payments. We can send the information relating to compensation for blanket bogs to the Deputy if he so wishes.

There is tremendous potential in the tourism area — I referred to that in my reply to Priority Questions. I would be interested to hear further from the Deputy on this to see if we can make further inroads in relation to the approach that might be taken.

I have already referred to acquisitions. Naturally, we would like to see more and more of our heritage remaining in this country. Our problem is that, while we have such a rich heritage, we do not have enough money to deal with it. This problem arises not only in relation to arts but also to national monuments and historic houses. We would like to take responsibility for much more but we simply cannot because of financial constraints.

The National Gallery is a very well respected institution. A new room was recently opened to display the Yates Collection. I read, in February, in one of the national newspapers about certain concerns which people had about the National Gallery. As a result, I invited the chairman of the board to a meeting with the Secretary General of the Department and myself. We were put at ease when we heard the full explanation. The gallery is open 361 days of the year. That is a very good service. The Kildare Street extension is expected to cost approximately £16 million and will be a wonderful asset to the gallery. I have appointed the Secretary General to the gallery which will be of further assistance to the very distinguished group of people there. Mr. Peter Barry is chairman of the fundraising committee for the Kildare Street project and, as far as we are aware, that is running very well.

I would like to come back to some of the questions raised by Deputy O'Shea. There has been a tremendous increase in funding last year and this year for the Arts Council — it is £28 million this year — which is completely independent of the Department in its workings in the sense that it dispenses grants. It would not be proper for any Minister, of any political persuasion, to interfere in the day-to-day workings of the Arts Council. It is the Minister's role to ensure that the Arts Council receives as much money as possible to do its work. I will be very interested to see how the new arts plan is implemented. In general, I would like to see the extra money spent on matters of regional concern, the Irish language and disability. I hope these matters will be given particular consideration when this money is dispensed.

Deputy O'Shea raised the question of increased earnings for the National Museum, the National Library and the National Archive. Last year, 200,000 people visited the National Museum at Collins Barracks, for example. Such visitor numbers will generate income for the museum café and so on. These earnings will be put to good use in the museum and similarly in the other institutions.

Wildlife rangers have been appointed in most counties. We have tried to spread the nature conservation service as fairly as we could.

The Deputy raised the question of the women's history project, in which Deputy Barnes has a particular interest. I thank the Deputy for his kind comments on this project. I agree that it will be extremely interesting to see the entire body of evidence when it has been correlated. The question of providing access to the information will then have to be addressed. As history is my great love, I will be personally interested in that development. Deputy Barnes is correct in saying that a follow-on to the project is required and that a great deal of work remains to be done. I thank her for suggestions she has made to me regarding the further progress of the project. On foot of some of her suggestions, I am examining models in other countries which we may follow in setting up a further structure and I look forward to future discussions with Deputy Barnes on this matter.

Deputy Barnes raised the question of the opening hours of the National Library and the need for more staff there. I would like to see more staff in the library and a number of other issues being examined. Since Mr. Brendan O'Donoghue was appointed as director he has addressed issues such as the extension of opening hours, the opening of the new reading room and future plans for further reading rooms.

We hope the think tank will make useful recommendations for the film industry. The think tank has been asked to look at the industry and to plan for the next ten years. I agree with Deputy Barnes that a debate in the House would be very useful. I have not seen the report but I am sure it will be necessary to prioritise its recommendations and I would be interested to hear the views of Deputies, and particularly of the members of this committee, on the recommendations of the think tank.

There is enormous potential for development of our inland waterways. It is fortunate that one of the North-South implementation bodies will be responsible for them. Much has been achieved in the last number of years and there is growing interest in our waterways. When a sound infrastructure is established for our waterways it may be possible to act on Deputy Barnes's suggestion and put a co-operative structure between my Department and the Department of Tourism, Sport and Recreation in place.

The Chairman raised a question regarding special areas of conservation. When the Government came to office it was felt that an appeals system was needed. Mr. Michael Mills, the Ombudsman, was asked to head that appeals system. Because of the importance of local involvement, local liaison committees were established. I have already outlined the number of meetings which have taken place and the number of committees which have already been set up. Following this consultation, plans will be drawn up. In County Clare, for example, particular issues have been raised in the Burren which are different from those raised in other parts of the country. Within the last two weeks, I announced a pilot scheme involving two farms, to help farmers decide whether it would be preferable for them to take part in the rural environmental protection scheme or the scheme sponsored by the Department of Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands. This practical approach will allow landowners to view practical examples and assess their own needs.

Deputy Kenny's question regarding the method of dealing with the RTE licence fee has not been answered.

The grant paid to RTE is derived from the net television licence revenue. Apart from the grant-in-aid paid in respect of Teilifís na Gaeilge, no other moneys are paid to RTE. Deputy Kenny wondered if there is a more practical way of dealing with this matter on a month-to-month basis. I would be interested in seeking a more appropriate mechanism for paying the grant to RTE. I am not aware of one but I would be happy to investigate the possibility.

Chuir an Teachta Éanna Ó Cionnigh ceist maidir le cursaí tithíochta. Níl na huimhreacha agam inniu de réir chondae. Tír Chonaill agus Condae na Gaillimhe an dá Ghaeltacht is mó sa tír agus is uatha is mó a thagann iarrataisí ar thithíocht, cé go dtagann siad ó na Gaeltachtaí ar fad. Gheobhaidh mé briseadh síos de réir chondae ar na figiuirí sin. Is léir ó na figiúirí go bhfuil éileamh an-mhór ar na deontais feabhsúcháin. Ainneoin go bhfuil na deontais an-bheag, tá éileamh mhór orthu.

Dúblaíodh na deontais do thithe nua ar na hoileáin Gaeltachta agus ag an am chéanna, dúblaíodh na deontais — go £9,600 — do thithe ar na hoileáin galltachta. Níl aon bhaint ag an Roinn Ealaíon, Oidhreachta, Gaeltachta agus Oileán leis na deontais tithíochta do na hoileáin galltachta. Is ceist í sin don Roinn Comhshaoil agus Rialtais Áitiúil. Tá deontas beag feabhsúchán tithíochta ar fáil sa nGaeltacht go ginearálta, sna hoileáin san áireamh. Níl a leithéid ar fáil taobh amuigh den nGaeltacht in áit ar bith sa tír. Sin an áit a thagann an difiríocht i gceist. Sé an Roinn Chomhshaoil agus Rialtais Aitíúil atá ag plé le deontais tithíochta ar fad ar na hoileáin galltachta.

Maidir le deontas le seanthithe a dheisiú do thurasóirí, baineann an ceist seo leis an gceist a chuir an Teachta Barnes. Tá deontas beag ar fáil sa nGaeltacht, deontas atá beagán níos airde ar na hoileáin — £2,300. Glacaim nach bhfuil sé sármhór. Tá mé ag breathnú ar an gceist seo i gcomhthéacs an Bhille nua tithíochta atá le foilsiú go luath.

Bíonn gearán ó mo chomhghleacaithe faoi bóithre. Tá scéim na mbóithre aise ann. Is iad na stiúirtheoirí faoi réir critéir atá leagtha síos go ginearálta a roghnaíonn na bóithre. An córas atá ann ná go ndéantar iarracht an oiread dena foirmeacha iarratais agus is féidir a scrúdú ach tháinig an oiread foirmeacha iarratais sin isteach anuraidh nár éirigh le foireann na Roinne iad uilig a scrúdú. Sé an rud a chuirtear san áireamh ná cé chomh dona is atá an bóthar, cé mhéad teach atá ar an mbóthar agus an costas a bhaineann leis an obair seo. Go minic bíonn gearán nach ndéantar bóithre. Nuair a bhreathnaítear air, áfach, níl na bóithre sin cáilithe. Rinne socrú anuraidh faoi scéim na mbóithre aise go ndéanfaí bóithre chuig tithe daoine — sin an riachtanas — agus chuig portaigh go raibh níos mó ná 20 duine ag baint úsáid astu. Bhí na bóithre portaigh ag éirigh i bhfad róchostasach agus tá scéim nua, atá mé le fógairt go luath, le féachaint ar bhealaí níos fearr bóithre portaigh a dhéanamh. Tá na bóithre a dhéanamh go bunusach de réir ord na bportach. Bhí gearán dóite ó chondae amháin ó chomhghleacaí de mo chuid féin faoin na bóithre a bhí á roghnú. D'iarr mé ar na polaiteoirí agus stiúrthóirí mé a thabhairt thart ar chuid dena bóithre. Ní raibh duine ar bith acu sásta a dhéanamh. Tuigtear go háitiúil go gcaithfear béim a chur ar na bóithre is measa.

Déantar caitheamh ar iarratais le hallaí agus mar sin de réir éilimh. Má fhaigheann an Roinn iarratas ar halla nó ar pháirc pheile, scrúdaítear sin agus ceadaítear deontas de réir mar is gá. Neamhchosúil leis an gcoras atá ag an Roinn Turasóireachta agus Spoirt, tá éileamh ag teacht isteach i gcónaí. Déilítear le chuile cheann ar a bhonn féin.

Sa gcás go bhfaighimid éileamh a cheapaimid atá rómhór do cheantar, in ionad é a dhiúltú, suímid síos leis an gcoiste áitiúil agus oibrítear amach leis é. Tá an córas sin thar a bheith maith agus tá an-luach airgid bainte amach ag an gcóras sin.

Cuireadh an ceist cén fáth, faoi na saoraidí ilghnéitheacha, go raibh an £800,000 seo ann anuraidh nuair nach bhfuil sé ann i mbliana. Bhí airgead nach raibh caite ag an Roinnanuraidh agus ceadaíodh Meastachán fóirithinteach agus d'éirigh liom teacht ar airgead breise. Caitheadh sin ar obair ar na bóithre. Cuireadh an t-airgead sin isteach faoi na saoraidí ilghnéitheacha.

Tá briseadh síos an-chruinn déanta ag an Roinn ar scéim labhairt na Gaeilge, ar na bailte is fearr agus na bailte fearainn agus ceantair is láidre ó thaobh na scéime. Is féidir linn briseadh síos a dhéanamh de réir chondae. Ag cur i gcomparáid leis an daonáireamh, sé na ceantair is láidre i scéim labhairt na Gaeilge na ceantair is láidre ina ndeir daoine go mbíonn siad ag labhairt Gaeilge go laethiúil. Tá an-staidéar déanta ar an dhá scéim — ar an daonáireamh agus ar scéim labhairt na Gaeilge — sa dóigh is go mbeidh eolas againn ar na ceantair is laige agus is láidre ó thaobh na Gaeilge de.

Méadaíodh an deontas na mban tí ó £4 go £4.40 anuraidh. I láthair na huaire tá áthscrúdú iomlán cuimsitheach déanta ar na coláistí Gaeilge. Bhí seo tosaithe sular tháinig mé isteach sa Roinn. Tá roinnt comhráite fós ag baint leis an Roinn Oideachas agus Eolaíochta mar baineann sí leis an scéim fosta. B'fhearr aon athrú a dhéanfaí i reachtaíocht na mban tí a dhéanamh mar chuid den phróiseas seo atá ar bun le heagrán nua a dhéanamh ar an scéim. Tá súil agam go mbeidh sé ar chumas na dhá Roinne rud a fhógairt faoin áthbhreathnú seo go luath. Is sa gcomhthéacs sin gur fearr an rud seo a mheas. Thug mé ardú substaintiúil anuraidh i gcomhthéacs na harduithe atá tughtha le blianta fada. Tugadh é níos scioptha ná mar a bhí na harduithe ag teacht fosta. Aontaím gur ceist an-mhór le plé ceist na gcoláistí Gaeilge. Bheadh súil agam go mbeidh deis againn an tuarascáil chríochnaithe a fhoilsiú go luath agus a phlé anseo.

Tá scéimeanna na gcoláistí Gaeilge ann dona gasúir ón ngalltacht. Thug mé beaganín airgid ar bhonn trialach do chumann a bhí le scéim campaí lae sa ngalltacht a chur ar bun i mbliana do ghasúir na galltachta. Tá an saol athruithe go mór sa nGaeltacht. Tá daoine bogtha isteach ann nach bhfuil Gaeilge acu agus daoine ag pósadh isteach sa nGaeltacht nach bhfuil Gaeilge acu. Tá ceist na Gaeilge sa nGaeltacht ag iarraidh níos casta. Is maith an rud é an Ghaeilge a mhúineadh mar theanga labhartha i measc gasúr.

Níl muintir na Gaeltachta ag baint an fhéir nó ag obair ar an bportach anois, déanann measíní na rudaí seo. Mar sin tá saoire i rith an tsamhraidh ag gasúir na Gaeltachta ar nós achan gasúr eile. Ceann dena rudaí a shíl muid a bheadh tairbheach ná go mbeadh scéim deas curtha ar bun go gcuirfimís scéim campaí samhraidh ar bun do bhunadh na Gaeltachta. Bheadh £15 in aghaidh na seachtaine in aghaidh achan gasúr a íocfar le lucht freastal na gcampaí agus £30 in aghaidh coicíse. Bheadh seo mar an-leas ó thaobh na ngasúr a chuirfeadh imeachtaí ealaíona, ceardaíochta agus spórt ar bun. Ní bheidh sé teoranta in aon bealach. Tá campaí peile ann le blianta fada ach is campaí samhraidh ilghnéitheacha iad seo. Beidh leas iontu ó thaobh na Gaeilge.

Níl eolas cruinn agam ar cé mhéad spás tionsclaíochta atá ar fáil sa nGaeltach ach is féidir dul ar lorg an eolais sin ó Udarás na Gaeltachta. Tá figiúrí chuimsitheacha aige. Dúirt an t-údarás liom anuraidh go raibh breis airgead uaidh mar bhí fíorbheagán spás in úsáid ar fáil sa nGaeltachta. Theastaigh uaidh chomh maith cur le tógáil i gcuid dena ceantair is faide amach ón lár. D'éirigh liom tuilleadh airgead a fháil anuraidh agus tá méadú eile i mbliana le cur le spás monarchain. B'fhearr liom eolas fíorchruinn a thabhairt air sin agus is féidir sin a fháil briste síos de réir chondae. Tá clár tógála an-chuimsitheach agus an-mhaith ag an údarás.

Cuireadh chuig coláiste Ghaeilge mise nuair a bhí mé ag foghlaim na Gaeilge. Tá toradh ar na coláistí Ghaeilge. Ó mo thaithí féin mar bhainisteoir choláiste Ghaeilge agus mar fhear an tí i dteach a choinníonn Gaeilgeoirí, níl aon amhras go dtagann feabhas i bhfad níos fearr ar na gasúir a thagann ar ais le dhá nó trí bhliain i ndiaidh a chéile. Fiú na gasúir a thagann ann uair amháin, is soléir go dtagann feabhas orthu. Go minic bheadh sé le maíomh agam go mbeadh níos mó Gaeilge foghlamtha i dtrí sheachtain ag coláiste Ghaeilge ná a bheadh foghlamtha acu i naoi mbliain roimhe sin ar scoil. Tá tairbh ag baint leis mar sin.

Tá coláistí thar chéile níos fearr ná a chéile ag múineadh na Gaeilge. Tá cuid acu ag a bhfuil caighdeán níos airde. Beimid ag díriú ar an gceist sin sa tuarascáil a bheidh le foilsiú. Dá dhéanfaí suirbhé ina ndéarfadh milliún duine go bhfuil Gaeilge acu, gheofar amach go mbeadh céatadán an-ard acu ar chúrsa Ghaeilge.

Maidir le cailleadh na jobanna a tharla sa nGaeltacht, ba chóir a rá go dtarlaíonn sé i gceantar an IDA agus STATCO fosta. Cailltear postanna i gcónaí. Chomh maith leis sin, bhí roinnt tionscail sa nGealtacht agus a ré thart. I dtús ama bhí tionscal inneallach an-láidir sa nGaeltacht agus de réir a chéile tháinig meath ar an dtionscal sin. Tá postanna a chailleadh inniu i gcuid dena tionscail seo. Ag an am céanna, tá tionscal nua ag teacht — ríomhaireacht agus clósamharc. Tá orainn díriú ar tionscail nua a fheileann don nGaeltacht.

Caithfimid a aithint fosta go bhfuil na Gaeltachtaí ar chuid dena háiteanna is deacra tionscal a mhealladh isteach ann mar gheall ar an easpa infrastructúir. Tá job maith déanta ag an údarás. Sé an rud a chaithfar a dhéanamh le meastaracht a dhéanamh ar an údarás ná na ceantair Gaeltachta a chur i gcomparáid le ceantair iargúlta den chineál céanna taobh amuigh den nGaeltacht. Má dhéanfar sin, feicfar go bhfuil toradh ar obair an údaráis. Bhí an t-údarás i gcomhairle liom anuraidh faoi chuid dena tionscail seo a bhí ag imeacht. Tá gach iarracht déanta aige aon tionscal gur fiú a shabháilt a shabháilt ach caithfimid glacfadh leis go bhfuil ré chuid den tionscal caite.

Cuireadh ceist ar cruthaíodh na jobanna nua sna háiteanna céanna ar cailleadh iad. Níl comhréir díreach ann idir áiteanna inar chailleadh tionscal le háiteanna inar bunaíodh tionscal. Ag deireadh an lae, beidh sé suas don tionscal cá dtiocfadh sé. Tá an t-eolas seo i dtuarascáil ag an údarás agus is féider liom fáil amach cad iad na tionscail inar cailleadh postanna agus cár cruthaíodh na postanna nua de réir chondae.

Tá trí aicme duine sa tír seo: iad nach bhfuil speis acu sa Ghaeilge ar chor ar bith, iad siud atá ina nGaeilgeoir láidir, agus iad atá speis acu sa Ghaeilge ach nach n-úsáideann í an-mhinic. Ar an margadh deireanach sin is mó atá iarrachtaí Bhord na Gaeilge dírirthe — an dream nach bhfuil aon rud aige in aghaidh na Gaeilge ach atá fabhrach don nGaeilge ach nach bhfuil á húsáid agus ar mhaith leis deiseanna breise.

Chomh maith leis an dream seo, tá baint ag an mbord leis an Ghaeilge a dhéanamh níos feiciúla i gcoitinne i measc an phobail. Má bhreathnaítear ar obair ghríosaithe an bhoird agus an rud atá i gceist aige a dhéanamh leis an mBille teanga go dtagann an dhá rud le chéile sa méad is go bhfuil muid ag iarraidh go mbeadh Gaeilge mar chuid lárnach i saol na tíre seo.

If we look at the Bord na Gaeilge target market, it comprises those people who are interested in Irish but do not have the opportunity to use it everyday. Bord na Gaeilge's remit is also to make Irish more visible. The vast majority of citizens would agree that we have two official languages which should be seen side by side, not as one pushing out the other — two complementary languages. As more people travel abroad, they will see countries which are bilingual and trilingual, where signage in two languages is accepted and you read whichever you chose. I would see the work being done on the Bille teanga as complementary to that Bord na Gaeilge is doing to encourage people to use the Irish they have.

Tá titim ó £3.4 milliún go dtí £3.2 milliún i scéim fheabhsúcháin na Gaeltachta. Mar chuid den £3.4 milliún a bhí ann anuraidh bhí £800,000 a fuair mé sa Meastachán fóirithinteach ag deireadh na mbliana. Tháinig Daidí na Nollag beagainín luath chugam. Mar sin, i ndáiríre, sé Meastachán bunaidh dena feabhsúcháin anuraidh ná £2.6 milliún. Ansin fuair mé £800,000 as airgead nach raibh caite ag an chuid eile den Roinn agus bhí meastachán fóirithinteach tugtha isteach ann in aghaidh na mbliana. Tá £3.2 milliún ann i mbliana. Tá méadú ó £2.6 milliún go £3.2 milliún i mbliana.

Cá ndeachaigh an t-airgead le Bord na Gaeilge — £2.96 milliún go dtí £900,000? Tá sé imithe go foras na Gaeilge, an foras Thuaidh-Theas. Más rud é go mbunófear an foras Thuaidh-Theas amárach, beidh deireadh le Bord na Gaeilge agus caithfear an t-airgead a thabhairt don bhforas Thuaidh-Theas. Sé an deáscéal ná má chuirimid an foras Thuaidh-Theas le Bord na Gaeilge i mbliana i gcomparáid le Bord na Gaeilge anuraidh, tá an méad airgid méadaithe 25 faoin gcéad ó £2.96 go £3.5 milliún. Tá méadú beagnach £600,000 i gceist. Tá súil agam go míníonn sin an scéal.

An bhfuil líon an airgid ag dul go Gael Linn méadaithe?

Tá sé. Tháinig méadú nach beag le dhá bhliain anuas ar airgead Chiste na Gaeilge. Tá béim agam ar luach airgid. Thug mé méadú beag do chuile eagraíocht dheonach atá ag fáil airgid ón Roinn. Ansin, rinne mé airgeadú breise air sin ar na tógraí breise ar fad a chuir siad chugam. Ar an mbealach sin, bhí gach eagraíocht Geailge in ann teacht ar bhreis airgead. Mura raibh siad ag dul aon rud breise a dhéanamh i mbliana, ní raibh ag dul leo ag ardú an-bheag. Ag an am céanna, bhí mé in ann eagraíochtaí agus pleánanna an-fhoirfe acu a airgeadú . De réir mar a thuigim óna heagraisí Gaeilge, tá siad thar a bheith sásta leis an gcóras seo mar tá an dream is lú atá i mbun gníomhaóichta breise ag fáil an airgid is mó. Tagann sé sin leis an rud a bhí molta i dtreo 2000, i., go ndéanfaí breis airgeadú ar bhonn tógraí agus tá mé ag glacadh gur moladh thar a bheith tairbheach sin.

Deputy Barnes raised the issue of the proliferation of holiday homes in the Gaeltacht. There is a small Gaeltacht grant for second houses which has traditionally existed to help people to develop old houses for letting. This is desirable because it relates to the old addage "Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, teach a man to fish and you feed him for life". In this case, if they own the house and let it, there is an income to supplement that from poor farming areas or other income.

I agree that there is a problem with short-term holiday homes. It is mainly a planning issue and most planning authorities are now taking steps to deal with this issue which can cause myriad problems for local people. Some want to sell sites and others want the area left as it is. The Department is looking at those systems on the islands and in the Gaeltacht which generate the maximum long-term income for local people who have to live in the areas and earn a living from them. We should not kill the goose which laid the golden egg when it comes to long-term income. I am examining this in the new Gaeltacht housing Bill and I hope for cross party support to deal with the problem in a sensitive way which develops the economies of these areas.

Bhí ceist faoi chéibh Thoraigh. D'fhógair mé airgead breise don chéibh sin an tseachtain seo caite. Beidh costas £7 milliún i gceist. Tá súil an chéibh a chríochnú thar an dhá bhliain seo. Millennium Project atá ann. Tá súil go bhfostófar an oiread de phobal Thoraigh ar obair na céibhe agus is féidir. Beidh an obair sin ag toiseacht i mí an Mheithimh. B'é Roinn na Mara agus Acmhainní Nadúrtha príomhghníomhaí ar an obair ar chéibh Thoraigh.

Níl aon baint ag na comhairlí condae leis na bóithre aise ach amháin an obair a dhéanamh. Is bóithre iad nach bhfuil cúram ag na comhairlí condae orthu. Mar sin, is é an Roinn, bunaithe ar na foirmeacha iarratais, a roghnóidh na bóthre aise agus déanfar iad a scrúdú ag oifigigh na Roinne. Tá an t-eolas uilig ar fáil faoi FOI. Níl rud ar bith le ceilt againn faoin mbealach a roghnaítear na bóithre. Tá obair eile ar bun faoina scéimeanna feabhsúcháin — iniúchadh balla, bóithre chuig céibheanna agus a leithéid. Déantar sin i gcomhpháirtíocht leis na comhairlí condae. Cuireann an Roinn airgead ar fáil dona comhairlí condae ar bhonn 50 faoin gcéad leis an obair sin a dhéanamh.