Is mian liom fáilte a chur roimh an t-Aire agus an t-Aire Stáit a bhfuil cúram na Roinne Ealaíon, Oidhreachta, Gaeltachta agus Oileán orthu. Cuirim fáilte roimh oifigí na Roinne chomh maith; tá a lán díobh ann. I welcome the Minister and the Minister of State who are here today to consider the Estimates for the Department of Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands and the agencies within its remit. They will deal specifically with the Revised Estimates for Vote 41 relating to the Arts Council, Vote 42 relating to the Department and Vote 43 relating to the National Gallery. The Minister and the Opposition spokespersons will make opening statements which will be followed by a general discussion.
Estimates for Public Services, 2000.
Vote 41 — Arts Council (Revised).
Vote 42 — Department of Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands (Revised).
Vote 43 — National Gallery (Revised).
It is a privilege to come before the committee this morning. The Chairman commented on the fact that we have so many officials with us today. Our departmental title is the longest of any Department and reflects the wide ambit of our responsibilities.
Under Vote 41, a sum of £34.525 million has been allocated to the Arts Council, £188.932 million has been allocated to the Department of Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands under Vote 42 and £6.484 million has been allocated to the National Gallery under Vote 43. Members have already received briefing material on the individual subheads in the three Votes. The Minister of State will speak on the Gaeltacht, Irish language and islands subheads.
On Vote 41, I am very pleased to have secured £34.5 million for the Arts Council in the year 2000. This represents a 66% increase on the 1997 allocation. This scale of funding is necessary to implement the new £100 million arts plan under which the Arts Council will provide more focused and targeted resources to the arts sector with a view to radically invigorating the arts in Irish society.
On Vote 42 for the Department, committee members will note the administrative cost of my Department, including salaries, now exceeds £26 million. Subhead C1 provides grant-in-aid to cover the general expenses of the National Museum, the National Library, the National Archives, the National Concert Hall, the Chester Beatty Library, the Irish Museum of Modern Art and the National Archives Advisory Council. Securing an allocation of £9.905 million, which is an increase of 47% in the subhead, is a very satisfactory and represents an increase of 77% over the 1997 level of funding.
Subhead C2, Cultural Projects, includes funding for a number of approved cultural projects, long-term archival or conservation projects, the Hunt Museum, Limerick and other regional initiatives to promote the work of national collecting institutions, museum services within the regions. cultural conferences and seminars and co-ordinated action in respect of collecting institutions.
Under subhead C3, funding is mostly for the cultural development incentive scheme, CDIS, designed to assist arts centres, theatres, museums and galleries. This scheme will have facilitated an overall investment of £45 million in the arts up to the end of 2000 involving 38 projects in 18 counties. The scheme has been hugely beneficial countrywide. I am very pleased I was able to announce recently details of a new scheme. This will be known as ACCESS, the arts and culture capital enhancement support scheme. A total of £36 million will be allocated to this new scheme over the period 2001-04.
In relation to broadcasting, we estimate 1,048,000 TV licences will be issued in 2000, yielding £73.2 million in gross receipts. Regarding the funding of TG4, two grant-in-aid subheads provide over £14 million for current spending and £870,000 for capital spending. There is an increase of 40% since 1997. Pending the establishment of separate legal structures, RTE has responsibility for the service and moneys for TG4 are paid to RTE.
As Members know, I am working on implementing digital broadcasting and hope the establishment of the new digital transmission entity and negotiations with a suitable prospective partner or partners will be concluded by the end of this year and digital terrestrial transmission will be available next year. Some £1.513 million is included for the expanded Independent Radio and Television Commission, taking into account the abolition of the 3% levy on independent broadcasters. A sum of £500,000 is provided to assist local radio stations with transmission costs.
The Irish Film Board has a crucial role in developing the Irish film industry. In providing loans for the development and production of Irish film projects, it creates opportunities for emerging Irish talent. The screen commission became operational in 1998. In June 1998, I established the Film Industry Strategic Review Group which reported in August 1999. Following its report, The Strategic Development of the Irish Film and Television Industry 2000-2010, the Government approved the extension of section 481 tax scheme for a period of five years, the strengthening of the Irish Film Board, the appointment of consultants to advise on its governance and executive structures and the provision to it of increasing funding. The Government also agreed that the audio-visual industry should have a central place in industrial policy pursued by the relevant industrial agencies.
The Heritage Council is funded under subheads P1, P2 and P3. A total of £6.5 million is provided for 2000, which represents an increase on the 1999 Estimates of 28% and an increase of 117% since I came into office. This includes provision towards the purchase of a new headquarters building in Kilkenny. It will enable the council to give funding for the Discovery Programme Limited of £840,000, an increase of 9% and to provide a special once-off grant for the restoration of Ballyfin House, County Laois.
Subhead Q1 relates to the education and visitor services for the natural and built heritage. The budget covers recruitment for some 350 guides at 67 heritage sites, advertising of heritage cards, production of 30 individual heritage publications and the provision of marketing literature. Free access to heritage sites to pre-booked school groups is available since 1 January 2000.
Funding is also available for a dedicated presence in public libraries involving five libraries initially. A notice board featuring heritage activities with dedicated shelf space for heritage publications and temporary exhibitions will be provided. This interesting initiative will be extended further before the end of the year. Subhead Q2, at £238,000, assists the purchase of books, postcards and stocks of film for resale at heritage sites.
With regard to subhead S, £10.551 million in 2000 is non-capital. Some £6.647 million of this relates to special areas of conservation, £3.3 million is earmarked for management and maintenance of national parks and nature reserves, £335,000 covers mostly the cost of surveying and designating additional special protection areas under the EU directives on birds and SACs. On the capital side, £500,000 is to acquire additional lands and sites, £200,000 is to continue work on Doneraile House in north Cork, £200,000 is for audio-visual presentations at Glenveagh and Connemara national parks, £430,000 is for visitor facilities at nature reserves and £50,000 is towards the cost of improvement works at Killarney House.
The manner in which the EU Habitats Directive is implemented is a matter of great concern to me. I believe that by far the best way to achieve conservation objectives is with the co-operation of landholders. Liaison committees have been set up so that local landholders will have a say in the implementation of SACs. A representative of the relevant local liaison committee will participate in the deliberations of the SAC Appeals Advisory Board, as appropriate.
To the chairman and members of the SAC Appeals Advisory Board, from both the farming and conservation organisations, I extend my sincere gratitude. They have brought to conclusion many issues through their pragmatic and commonsense approach. The annual cost of this board is in the order of £50,000. The Minister of State, Deputy Ó Cuív, and I are committed to dialogue with all concerned parties regarding implementation of the EU Habitats Directive in order to ensure all legitimate grievances are accommodated while honouring our obligations under the directive. I intend to extend, as appropriate, the appeals system for the SACs to the NHAs in due course.
In relation to inland waterways, the setting up of the new cross-Border implementation body, Waterways Ireland, which came into being on 2 December last, is an exciting development. The headquarters of the body will be in Enniskillen with regional head offices at Scarriff, Carrick-on-Shannon and Dublin. The estimates for waterways are divided into two sections — T1 for expenditure incurred within my Department and T2 for the grant to Waterways Ireland. There is a nominal provision in subhead T1 but we can revisit and allocate the appropriate amounts to T1 and T2 in due course. In co-operation with my northern colleague in the North-South Ministerial Council, I will review the funding requirements later in the year. At this stage, I wish the new body well in its endeavours to provide a coherent all-island strategy for the management of inland waterways. The breakdown of the figure of £12.545 million is as follows, current expenditure of £6.345 million includes the wages for upwards of 200 industrial staff who carry out an extensive programme of vital maintenance, the capital expenditure of £6.2 million is for the development of facilities along the waterways.
The allocation of £31.97 million under subhead V is in respect of the conservation of maintenance of over 740 national monuments and historic properties. Of the expenditure on capital projects, some £5.674 million is included for projects such as Trim Castle, Kilkenny Castle, Portumna Castle, Ardfert Cathedral, Roscrea Castle, Newmills, Barryscourt Castle, the National Botanic Gardens and Grange Castle.
Other projects in 2000 involve expenditure at Ferns Castle, Dunmore Cave, Castletown House and Lucan Demesne. A sum of £520,000 is provided under subhead U to support the work of the recently established architectural heritage protection division. The legislative and financial measures for strengthening the protection of the architectural heritage, which I brought forward together with the Minister for the Environment and Local Government, have become operational. The National Inventory of Architectural Heritage will be a key resource to assist planning authorities in the protection of architectural heritage and has, to date, published one interim county survey and ten town surveys.
Subhead X relates to overseas marketing and £600,000 provides for various cultural and heritage marketing initiatives commenced in 1998 which are to be taken in close co-operation with Bord Fáilte. In the case of Vote 43 for the National Gallery, the 2000 allocation shows an increase of 154% on the 1999 figure. This reflects the Exchequer's capital contribution of £2 million to the Clare Street extension, supplementing £7.5 million in EU funding and other capital from private sector sources.
I hope I have covered most of the areas of significant activity connected with the Estimates for my brief. I will now ask the Minister of State to present his statement.
Go raibh maith agat. San aitheasc uaim beidh mé ag díriú ar a bhfuil ar siúl ag na Rannóga Gaeilge, Gaeltachta agus Oileán den Roinn — fomhírchinn D, E, F, G, H, I, J agus W de Vóta na Roinne. Suim £53.778 milliún in iomlán atá sa Vóta faoi na fomhírchinn sin don bhliain 2000 i gcomparáid le caiteachas de £49.496 milliún anuraidh — méadú de 8.6%. Is suim shubstaintiúil í sin agus is méadú de £16.543 milliún í ar chaiteachas 1997 nuair a tháinig an Rialtas seo i gcumhacht.
Fuair mo Roinn 1,348 iarratas ar dheontas faoi Achtanna na dTithe 1999. Sin méadú 31% ar líon na n-iarratas thar 1998. Criochnaíodh 127 teach nua i rith na bliana 1999 le cabhair deontais mo Roinne maraon le 707 cás eile a bhain le hoibreacha feabhsúchain, sláintíochta agus méadaithe.
Cheadaigh an Rialtas scéim ghinearálta de Bhille chun Achtanna na dTithe (Gaeltacht) a leasú agus tá téacs den Bhille sin á dhreachtú faoi Iáthair. Táthar ag súil go bhfoilseofar an Bille níos déanaí sa bhliain. Tá £1.8 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 cultúrtha agus soisialta is mó atá i gceist anseo ná Scéim na bhFoghlaimeoirí Gaeilge agus Scéim Labhairt na Gaeilge. Ó thaobh scéim na bhFoghlaimeoirí Gaeilge de, i 1999 d'íoc mo Roinn cúnamh i leith 23,549 foghlaimeoirí — 1,146 daoine fásta san áireamh — a chuaigh go dtí an Ghaeltacht chun feabhas a chur ar a gcuid Gaeilge agus a d'fhan ar iostas le 650 teaghlaigh sa Ghaeltacht. Méadaíodh an deontas a íoctar leis na teaghlaigh a chionníonn foghlaimeoirí Gaeilge ar iostas fad is a bhíonn siad ag freastal ar chúrsa Gaeilge samhraidh aitheanta ó £4.40 go £5 in aghaidh an lae le héifeacht ó 1 Eanair 2000.
Deineadh cinnithe i gcomhar leis an Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta agus cuireadh sceideal de na cinnithe sin go dti na coláistí agus na teaghlaigh Ghaeltachta a choinníonn na foghlaimeoirí. Cabhróidh na cinnithe seo chun an córas ar fad a dhéanamh níos éifeachtaí agus níos fearr ó thaobh foghlaim na Gaeilge de; £2.31 miliún atá curtha ar fáil don scéim seo i mbliana.
Tá Scéim Labhairt na Gaeilge an-tábhachtach chun labhairt na Gaellge a chur chun cinn sa teaghlach agus sa phobal i gcoitinne sa Ghaeltacht. Sa scoilbhliain 1998-99 rinne níos mó ná 3,600 teaghlaigh iarratas ar chúnamh faoin scéim seo agus meastar go mbeidh thart ar an méid céanna i gceist arís sa scoilbhliain 1999-00. Is faoin bhfomhírcheann seo freisin a thugtar cúnamh d'Áras Mháirtín Ui Chadhain, Áras na hOllscoille Carna agus Áras Uí Ghramnaigh i leith buanú na Gaeilge. Íoctar cúnamh chomh maith i leith imeachtaí cultúrtha ina mbíonn ról Iárnach ag an nGaeilge, mar shampla, feiseanna, irisí áitiúla Gaeltachta agus "Scéim Champaí Samhraidh trí Ghaeilge d'Aos Óg na Gaeltachta", a bunaíodh i 1999.
Faoi scéimeanna feabhsúchain na Gaeltachta mo Roinne-se 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. Den soláthar de £4.5 milliún i mbliana tá thart ar £1.6 milliún á dhíriú ar leanúint le mórscéim mhuiroibreacha chun áiseanna feabhsaithe calaíochta a fhorbairt ag an gcé ag an mBaile Thiar, Toraigh, Dhún na nGall. Tá pleananna á réiteach le hobair a dhéanamh ar chéibheanna straitéiseacha ar fud na Gaeltachta. Leanfar arís i mbliana leis an gclár oibre — a tosnaíodh i 1998 — le céibheanna beaga comhairli contae sa Ghaeltacht a fheabhsú i gcomhpháirtíocht leis na comhairli contae iomchuí.
Ó thaobh bóithre sa Ghaeltacht, leanadh i 1999 leis an obair a bhí ar bun ar bhóithre áise agus athnuachain baile. Tosnaíodh i 1999 ar bhóithre straitéiseacha sa Ghaeltacht a fheabhsú agus leanfar leis an gclár oibre sin i mbliana. Chuige sin tá cúnamh breise de £5 milliún in aghaidh na bliana go dtí 2006 ceadaithe ag an Roinn Airgeadais le déanaí don obair seo. Ó thaobh grúpscéimeanna uisce sa Ghaeltacht, deontas forlíontach nach mó ná £300 nó10% den chostas inghlactha in aghaidh gach tí ata incháilithe atá iníoctha. Suim £50,000 atá ar fáil faoin scéim i mbliana.
Ó thaobh Údarás na Gaeltachta de, is soláthar caipitil de £27.5 milliún atá á chur ar fáil ón Stát-Chiste don Údarás i mbliana le haghaidh forbairt na Gaeltachta, sé sin chun deontais a íoc le tionscail, scaireanna a ghlacadh i gcuideachtaí agus clár tógála a airgeadú. Anuas ar an suim sin tá suim de £3.760 milliún údaraithe don eagraíocht mar chabhair do chostais riaracháin. Is léiriú ar an tábhacht a chuireann an Rialtas le forbairt na Gaeltachta an t-airgead de bhreis ar £31 milliún in iomlán atá á chur ar fáil don Údarás i mbliana.
Tá méadú 30% ar fhostaíocht Iánaimseartha i gnóthais Ghaeltachta a fuair cúnamh ón Údarás le cúig bhliain anuas — ó 6,296 dhuine ag tús 1995 go 8,183 dhuine ag deireadh 1999. Ag deireadh 1999 bhí beagnach 12,000 duine fostaithe i dtionscail sa Ghaeltacht a fuair cúnamh ón Údarás — 8,183 duine go Iánaimseartha agus 3,604 duine eile go páirtaimseartha nó go séasúrach. I rith 1999 cruthaíodh 1,042 phost lánaimseartha nua le cúnamh ón Údarás i dtionscadail sa Ghaeltacht ach cailleadh 1,033 phost, rud a chiallaigh nach raibh ach méadú de naoi bpost ar líon na bpostanna Iánaimseartha ag deireadh 1999 i gcomparáid le deireadh na bliana 1998. I dtaca leis sin de maíonn an tÚdarás gurb airde i bhfad a bheadh an líon postanna a cruthaíodh i 1999 mura mbeadh ganntanas oibrithe i gceantair Ghaeltachta áirithe. Faoi láthair tá thart ar 28% de lucht saothair na Gaeltachta fostaithe sa tionscal déantúsaíochta. Is éacht mór é sin do cheantar tuaithe. Tá an cuma ar an scéal anois, áfach, go bhfuil teorainn le leibhéal na fostaíochta déantúsaíochta nua a bheifear in ann a chruthú — go háirithe i roinnt ceantar Gaeltachta. Aithníonn an tÚdarás an dúshlán rompu agus beidh polasaí chruthú fostaíochta na heagraíochta ag díriú níos mó ar chaighdeán na bpostanna seachas líon na bpostanna.
Tá bonn níos daonlathaí curtha faoin Údarás tríd an Acht um Údarás na Gaeltachta (Leasú)(Uimh. 2), 1999. Den 20 comhalta, toghadh 17 díobh ag muintir na Gaeltachta sa toghchán a reachtáladh i mí na Nollag seo caite agus tá an triúr eile, an Cathaoirleach ina measc, ainnmithe ag an Aire.
Tá suim £5.967 milliún ceadaithe mar chúnamh Stáit don Fhoras Teanga i mbliana. Bunaíodh an Foras Teanga ar 2 Nollaig 1999 nuair a tháinig an tAcht um Chomhaontú na Breataine-na hÉireann, 1999, i bhfeidhm. Tá dhá Áisínteacht ag an bhForas — Áisínteacht Ghaeilge agus Áisínteacht Ultais. Díscaoileadh Bord na Gaeilge faoin Acht agus aistríodh feidhmeanna an Aire, a mhéid a bhain na feidhmeanna sin le maoiniú na n-eagraiochtaí deonacha Gaeilge seo a leanas, chuig an bhForas Teanga: sé sin Comhdháil Náisiúnta na Gaeilge, Gael Linn, Conradh na Gaeilge, An tOireachtas, An Comhlachas Náisiúnta Drámaíochta, Cumann na bhFiann, Comhluadar agus lontaobhas Ultach.
Déantar Ciste na Gaeilge — ciste airgid laistigh de mo Roinnse — a airgeadú tri Vóta mo Roinne ó fháltais an Chrannchuir Náisiúnta. Ó bhunú an Fhorais Teanga tá na freagrachtaí cistíochta d'eagraíochtaí Gaeilge a shonraítear san Acht um Chomhaontú na Breataine-na hÉireann,1999, aistrithe chuig an bhforas, mar atá lualte agam cheana. Tugtar cúnamh bliantúil, áfach, as an gciste d'eagrais áirithe — sé sin le rá, Bord na Leabhar Gaeilge, Comhaltas Ceoltoirí Éireann, Taibhdhearc na Gaillimhe agus lomairt Cholmchille — an tionscnamh atá comh-mhaonaithe idir na húdaráis in Éirinn agus in Albain. I mbliana d'éirigh liom cúnamh méadaithe a thabhairt do na heagraíochtaí sin. Tá laghdú ar an soláthar airgid san fhomhírcheann i mbliana toisc gur aistríodh an cúram maidir le maoiniú a dhéanamh ar eagrais dheonacha Ghaeilge áirithe chuig an bhForas Teanga agus maidir le maoinú a dhéanamh ar roinnt tograi Gaeltachta chuig Fhomhírcheann F — scéimeanna cultúrtha agus soisialta — de Vóta mo Roinne. Táim sásta go bhfuil ciall leis an socrú nua seo. Méadaíodh an soláthar a cuireadh ar fáil do Bhord na Leabhar Gaeilge ó £370,000 i 1998 go dtí £423,000 i 1999. Tá £655,000 curtha ar fáil i mbliana. Tá réimse cúnamh an Bhoird á leathnú leis an airgead seo. Tá ceann-cheathrú an Bhoird á aistriú go Rath Cairn freisin.
Maidir leis an mBille Comhionannais um Theangacha Oifigiúla, scaipeadh dréacht Mheabhrán don Rialtas ar gach Roinn ar 16 Márta le haghaidh a dtuairimí. Is é cuspóir an Mheabhráin sin ná cead an Rialtais a lorg chun scéim ghinearálta den Bhille a dhréachtú bunaithe ar mholtaí an Aire maidir le scóip an Bhille. Ach moltaí an Aire a bheith údaraithe ag an Rialtas tabharfar faoin dréachtscéim a ullmhú le cur faoi bhráid an Rialtais san fhómhar agus an Bille a bheith foilsithe faoi dheireadh na bliana.
Bhunaigh an Rialtas Coimisiún na Gaeltachta níos luaithe i mbliana le moltaí a chur ar aghaidh maidir le Iáidriú na Gaeilge sa Ghaeltacht. Beidh siúl le túarascail an bhliain seo chugainn ón gComisiún.
Ó mhí Iúil 1997 i leith tá cúram na n-oileán faoi Roinn amháin den chéad uair agus is mór an cúnamh é sin dóibh siúd a mhaireann ar na hoileáin amach ón gcósta. Tá soláthar £3.8 milliún ar fáil dom i mbliana le húsáid mar chabhair chun infrastruchtúr na n-oileán ar a n-áirítear muiroibreacha, bóithre, cosaint chósta 7rl., a chur ar fáil nó a fheabhsú.
Tá soláthar reatha de £1.2 milliún ar fáil dom i mbliana le húsaid mar chabhair chun tograí reatha ar a n-áirítear seirbhísí farantóireachta chuig na hoileáin a chur ar fáil no a fheabhsú. I measc na seirbhísí ar a ndéanfar airgeadú orthu i mbliana tá seirbhís phaisinéirí agus lastais ó Ghaillimh go dtí na hoileáin Árann, seirbhís farantóireachta laethúil do phaisinéirí idir Inis Mór, Árainn agus Ros a'Mhíl chomh maith le hInis Meáin agus Inis Oírr agus Ros a'Mhíl, seirbhís aer-eitilt ón mórthír go dtí na trí Oileáin Árainn, seirbhís farantóireachta idir Inis Bó Finne, Inis Tuirc agus Oileán Chliara agus an mórthír agus seirbhísí farantóireachta idir Inis Earcain, Oileán Faoide agus Oileán Beara agus an mórthír agus seirbhísí farantóireachta idir Oileán Chléire agus an mórthír. Tá sé fógraithe chomh maith go mbeidh Oileán Thoraí i gceist níos déanaí sa bhliain freisin.
Mar atá curtha in iúl agam daoibh tá an-chuid oibre ar siúl ag mo Roinnse i dtaca le cúrsaí Gaeltachta, Gaeilge agus oileánda. Tá go leor bainte amach againn go dtí seo ach tá go leor fós le déanamh chun an Ghaeilge a chur chun cinn, an Ghaeltacht a neartú agus a fhorbairt agus chun saol mhuintir na n-oileán a fheabhsú. Gabhaim mo bhuíochas leat, a Chathaoirligh, as deis a thabhairt dom labhairt le comhaltaí an Rogha-Choiste.
Cuirim fáilte roimh an tAire agus an tAire Stáit chun an díospóireacht seo. I feel like Brendan Kennelly when he was asked to speak at an academic meeting. He went out on the stage and said he was faced with this wall of intelligence and all he had to offer was his few words of poetry. I feel a little like that.
On 10 November 1998, the then Secretary General of the Department referred to the key challenges facing the Department, specifically that of staff resources, which he felt was critical. He said in his view that the continued expansion of the role and functions of the Department had not been matched by a corresponding growth in staff resources. What has happened in the Department since that statement was made to this committee?
He went on to refer to cross-departmental issues, saying that there was a pressing need to establish stronger co-ordination, interactive and partnership arrangements with other Departments whose functions impinged on his Department's areas of responsibility. He identified issues that should be targeted for priority action which included digital broadcasting, arts and education issues, coastal zone management, the information society, biodiversity the Irish language and the Gaeltacht, offshore island development and architectural heritage. The Minister should give us an update on this in the future.
I will not go through all the Estimates in detail but will raise some points and if the Minister or Minister of State do not have the answers today they might send them on to us later. This Department impinges on the lives of every person in the country and has the capacity to strengthen the personality of Irish people in understanding who they are, what our heritage is, what makes us unique and what should instill a sense of pride in our country. In that sense it has not yet come together for this Department; this understanding is not felt by people to the extent I would like.
There has not been much legislation from this Department. We have had the canals Bill, Broadcasting (Major Events Television Coverage) Bill, the Broadcasting Bill — with which we are stuck — and the Wildlife (Amendment) Bill. The Minister should let us know what consultation has taken place on the list of events to be covered by the Broadcasting (Major Events Television Coverage) Bill. Who has been consulted? What work is going on in relation to this? When will the list be published? Regarding the Broadcasting Bill, has the facilitator reported to the Minister? What is the position on the remit given to the facilitator by the Minister to deal with RTE workers, management and transmission network personnel? It seems that every day this drags on those already in the digital broadcasting area are making serious headway and it will be difficult to get viewers back once they are subsumed into a particular kind of digital coverage.
Regarding TG4, the Minister mentioned 1.048 million viewers. I am concerned by this. We spoke to a delegation from the European Language Initiative here. The Minister of State, Deputy Ó Cuív, made funds available to them for folklore — An tOireachtas — which covers North and South. That delegation made the point that up to 83% of those in the Welsh Assembly carry around the parliamentary folklore but also speak the Welsh language. There is a new urgency and strength in that Assembly to speak that language even from those who would have been weak in that language and who might have been afraid they would not be able to score the political points they wanted to. Welsh television gets over £100 million sterling a year and we are discussing £14 million current funding and £800,000 capital funding for TG4.
I also made the point to that delegation that second level teachers are teaching an average of three hours Irish per day — that is 8,000 hours of Irish per day in the school year. The effectiveness of this approach must be examined in terms of those who speak Irish and who want to do so when they finish school. This is no reflection on teachers, but I said to the Minister for Education and Science that money is channelled to TG4 for educational programmes might be very well spent. This should at least be examined.
Regarding the film material sold recently, I said the State should acquire it and the Minister responded by saying most of this was already in the public domain and that she would be able to acquire the remaining section from private collections. Can she guarantee that? When will that take place?
I have a letter from Etain Doyle, the telecommunications regulator, on pirate radio stations. She says that we are regulated by the Acts of 1926 and 1988, but that
there are several shortcomings in this legislation which render its application difficult. This is particularly so with respect to the closure of radio stations. Many unlicensed operators refuse to comply with directions from this office and there is considerable difficulty with the seizure of transmission equipment.
There are quite a number of pirate radio stations in operation and the director says she has difficulty with sections of the Act being inadequate? Have we looked at that? Does the Minister intend to strengthen this area? Is there any liaison going on there?
Yesterday the Northern Ireland Assembly agreed unanimously that a united Christian broadcaster be given space to conduct its business. We discussed this previously in the committee and the Minister dealt with this in the Dáil when I asked a Priority Question on the issue. I hope it is still the Minister's intention to amend this to allow them to conduct their business, either in the Broadcasting Bill or by some other method.
The Hard of Hearing Association has mentioned the need for RTE to carry subtitles for the main news and South Coast Community Television has contacted the ODTR on a number of occasions regarding a pilot licence to operate in a particular part of the spectrum. It has not had that licence issued yet. I do not know if the Minister has been apprised of this issue but I am sure the ODTR will deal with the request.
An Blascaod Mhór has been a great failure. I remember the Haughey legislation going through the House in 1979, I think, and the legal battles which have taken place since. This is a national treasure and building cannot take place on the island because planning conditions can be laid down by Kerry County Council. The Minister should involve herself more in this issue. We have spent £1 million defending the legal case, which was lost. The owners of the property are willing to talk about the future and are not going to be around forever. The Minister should call all concerned together and work out a compromise which would be in the national interest, as they say on "Bull Island".
I received the report of the board of visitors to the National Botanic Gardens for 1995 to 1997. The report is only 20 pages long but why have we not received a report from the board up to last year? I have seen fine television documentaries and references to the botanic gardens and the work done, including the restoration project. This makes interesting reading but we should not be two years behind with such reports.
The Minister answered a question on 12 April regarding conservation rangers and such issues, and gave a list of contacts. I thank her for that information. There are nine performance tasks to be undertaken by each wildlife ranger, including talks and lectures to schools and farming groups, carrying out wildlife surveys and so on. Young people have a great interest in this kind of activity and, with respect, the Department is seriously under-staffed in this area. Many rangers have to cover large geographic areas. There are always crises — a deer breaks a leg, a river is polluted or whatever — but is there a programme worked out for these people so they follow a roll-on programme? The Government would look favourably on requests from the Minister to increase the number of people involved in this area. There is an increasing interest in this area among the public but there is a serious lack of staff.
As regards the Irish genealogy project, a business plan was agreed between the Department and the project directed at addressing a number of critical tasks. Can we see that plan? What stage is it at? The Minister provided £210,000 this year for the project.
The Minister referred to the £3 million Exchequer funding for the development of the visitors' centre at Ballycroy. I appreciate that officials cannot give definite answers until everything is finalised, but does the Minister expect work to start in 2000? When I last raised this issue in the Dáil it was down to three sites after three others had been eliminated. Have the other three sites been discussed, is agreement being finalised and will be see work going ahead in 2000?
I also raised the issue of St. Kevin's bed, Glendalough, on Priority Questions in the House. Page 42 of the Minister's report gives details of the work being done safeguarding and protecting 740 sites. A visit to Glendalough is incomplete without the opportunity, if one wishes, to visit St. Kevin's bed. The Department has carried out exceptional work and great credit is due to the craftsmen. I do not see why modern craftsmen cannot make safe a relatively short access to St. Kevin's bed so people could visit the bed if they so wished. There are guard rails on the Snowdon ring and thousands of people access Croagh Patrick even though it is very steep. The cost of flying rescue helicopters into Glendalough would more than cover the number of steps required. The Minister should examine the situation and ensure access for foreign and Irish visitors.
A scheme was introduced between the Department and the Department of the Environment and Local Government for conservation grants for protected buildings. This scheme was supposed to be operated by county councils and an advisory group comprising the Department, the Heritage Council and the City and County Managers Association. What has happened to that scheme? A question was answered in January 1999 but I do not know if it is operational yet. If not, it should be.
I received much communication from archaeologists concerned about the code of practice between the Department and the NRA. It is possible to deal with both issues. These people are very skilled and do not want their professional expertise downgraded because of economic pressure from the NRA to build roads. The Minister should stand firm on this issue. It is possible to build roads and excavate archaeological sites, where warranted.
What is the career structure for archaeologists? There do not seem to be set rates of pay for young archaeologists who work for eight or ten years with little remuneration or career prospects. We are going to find many more sites given the road development which will take place and this career should be made more attractive. A young person who wishes to become an archaeologist should have a career path.
I raised the issue of the underwater archaeological unit. The contracts were discontinued and I do not know whether the Minister has gotten around to this again. I have three questions for the Minister of State.
Tá an-imní ar mhuintir Mhuigheo Eo faoi Choimisiún na Logainmneacha agus an t-ainm ar Chnoc Mhuire. Thug an tAire Stáit freagra ar cheist Dála anuraidh agus dúirt sé go mbeadh sé i dteagmháil le Coimisiún na Logainmneacha ach dhiúltaigh siad don iarratas a chuir seisean agus muide isteach agus tá muintir an chontae míshásta le trí nó ceithre ghlúin anuas leis an ainm do Knock, ar a dtugann muintir Mhuigheo Cnoc Mhuire. Ba mhaith liom go ngabhfadh an tAire ar ais ag an gCoimisiún agus iarraidh orthu eisceacht a dhéanamh faoi seo ionas go mbeadh cead ag muintir an Iarthair Cnoc Mhuire a thabhairt ar an mbaile sin.
Bhí mé ag éisteacht leis an Aire Stáir ar Raidió na Gaeltachta inné ag caint faoi phá chathaoirleach Údarás na Gaeltachta. Tá a fhios agam go gcaithfidh an t-ainmiúchán dul faoi bhráid cruinniú Rialtais. An bhfuil athrú tagtha ar an scéal sin nó an bhfuil tuarastal níos airde i gceist as seo amach do chuile cathaoirleach ar bhord Stáit? Nó ar thug an tAire Stáit dualgais bhreise don Uasal Ó hÉalaithe mar tá príomhfheidhmeannach ag an Údarás le fada an lá agus tá sé ag fáil an tuarastal atá leagtha amach don phost sin. Tá a fhios agam go bhfuil neart oibre le déanamh ag cathaoirleach ar bith ach ar shocraigh an tAire Stáit an tuarastal don phost seo, agus an mbeidh an tuarastal céanna le fáil ag chuile chathaoirleach ar bhord Stáit as seo amach?
On 9 August 1999 the Minister of State issued a statement to the effect that he was pleased with the current review of fire service arrangements for the islands. The Minister of State did not refer to it as regards the offshore islands but he might be able to give the committee a report. This is a serious situation given the fire on Inishbofin. There should be a dedicated building on each island with a four wheel drive vehicle, fire retardant suits, breathing apparatus and so on. Young people on islands should be given some training by the Department and county councils so they know what to do in an emergency or tragedy.
I was disappointed the Minister of State was not able to introduce the islander's allowance. I received a report from the Department on 3 June 1999 outlining the number of people involved on the offshore islands between old age pensioners, contributory and non-contributory retirement pensioners, widows, pensioners and so on. This does not involve many people so the Minister of State might be able to raise this issue with the Minister, Deputy McCreevy, given the amount of money available. It is not very much given the money now in the Exchequer. Perhaps it would be possible to return to the Minister of Finance in this regard.
A licence was issued for theAsgard restoration project some time ago, and perhaps the Minister can give us a report on what is happening.
The number of deer shot under licence was 6,099 in 1997-98. What happens to these? Are they sold to hotels or just disposed of? Is a person with a licence entitled to keep a deer they shoot? Where are the deer shot? Are they sika deer or red deer? Is there an intention to reintroduce any of the native species to the other national parks, such as north Mayo national park, which is a wilderness?
I see the ESB is releasing 3.6 million salmon into the River Shannon, namely, 1.1 million fry of multi-sea winter origin and 2.5 million fry of grilse parentage. Have there been discussions between the Department and Waterways Irelands or the ESB about this? It is a huge number of fish to release in the waters and I hope it is successful. Is it part of an ongoing programme and is there an intention to introduce such a programme in other canal or lake systems?
Tá áthas orm go bhfuil seans agam páirt a glacadh sa díospóireacht are na Meastúcháin. Úsáidfaidh mé mo chuid ama ag cur ceisteanna faoi rudaí a bhfaca mé nuair a bhí mé ag dul tríd na meastúcháin, agus ar mhaith liom mhíniú a fháil mar gheall orthu.
It struck me on going through the Estimates that there was no reference to the women's history project, which was in last year's Estimates. Has the project been abandoned or what is the current position?
It was impossible to extrapolate information from the Estimates in relation to Dúchas and its operations. I get more representations in relation to problems concerning Dúchas than about any other aspect of the Department's operations, other than broadcasting, although they arise from the Broadcasting Bill. What is the staffing position in Dúchas? Have additional staff been taken on? Deputy Kenny dealt with the fact that there appears to be a rather loose career structure at best for people coming into Dúchas as architects. How long does it take to process referrals to Dúchas and applications for licences? Some planning authorities are referring individuals' applications for planning permission where there is a site and monument reference to Dúchas. This worries me somewhat as it is putting an additional cost on people who want to provide their own houses. If there is a direction for excavation, the cost of the excavation must be borne by the applicant and it could amount to a minimum of £500 or £600. How long does it take to process applications for an excavation licence? Obviously those who want to build want to get on with the job and not unnecessarily spend additional money.
My major concern in relation to the activities of Dúchas is that it appears that because of under-staffing and probably bad accommodation arrangements, a bottleneck can develop in the planning process which can have not only implications for housing development but substantial implications in terms of infrastructural projects which arise in the context of the national development plan.
In the context of subhead V which deals with national monuments and historic properties, the Minister did not mention St. John's Castle in Dungarvan. I was under the impression that money was being spent on that project this year and I ask the Minister to clarify the position.
Tá a lán airgead sa Mheastúcháin don Gaeilge. Ach rud a ghoileann orm i gconaí ná bun-fheidhm an polasaí, is é sin leathnú agus caomhnú labhairt na Gaeilge. Níl aon scrudú neamhspléach á thógaint de réir mar is eol domsa, nó aon taighde ar siúil ar conas atá ag éirí leis na scéimeanna éagsúla atá á gcur i bhfeidhm ag an Roinn. De réir mar a fheicimse, tá labhairt na Gaeilge sna Gaeltachtaí ag dul in éag. Táimid ag caitheamh airgead, agus conas is féidir linn bheith cinnte go bhfuil na scéimeanna seo ag obair ar son an Gaeilge, go bhfuil siad ag cur leis na tacaíochtaí atá ag teastáil i gcóir caomhnú agus leathnú labhairt na teangan? Ba mhaith liom freagra ón Aire Stáit i leith seo.
Cuireadh ceist mar gheall are an íocaíocht atá a fáil ag cathaoirleach Údarás na Gaeltachta. Cé mhéad atá a fáil aige? Conas a sheaseann an méad seo i gcomparáid leis na híocaíochtaí atá ag dul do chathaoirligh na mbord Stáit eile? De réir mar is eol domsa, tá sé ard i gcomparáid leis na bord eile. Cén fáth a bhfuil an scéal mar seo? Nílim ag caint mar gheall ar an fhear cumasach atá ina gcathaoirleach, ach ba mhaith liom fháil amach an fáth a bhfuil an structúir mar atá.
Under subhead A.1, I note in terms of salaries there was an under-spend of £1.1 million due to vacancies. Will the Minister give a breakdown of how this occured? Is there a problem in terms of recruitment at certain levels in the Department? There is an additional 40 posts, the great majority of which are as wildlife rangers and other wildlife staff. I do no need the information at this meeting, but I ask the Minister to give me a list of where the 40 new positions were offered.
Regarding the transfer of the placenames commission to the Department, exactly what work is the commission carrying out? Will its role change in any way now that it has become part of the Department?
Under subhead A.3 I noted there is a very slight decrease in terms of staff training and development spending as against the provisional outturn in 1999. I thought the Department and public would benefit from further staff training and development. It appears this aspect of the Department's activities is stagnating.
Under subhead A.5 I note there has been an increase of more than 100% in expenditure on computers and a substantial increase on other office equipment. If the Department's IT capacity is being extended, why are more resources not being devoted to staff training and development? Under subhead A.7, I note that the major engagement in both years relates to expenditure reviews required under the strategic management initiative and on IT. Again, I am concerned as to why the funding for staff training has not been increased.
Under subhead B — payments to match resources generated by the National Museum, the National Library and the National Archives — what new measures are being introduced this year in regard to the National Archives? An embarrassing situation arose at the beginning of the year when certain documents said not to be in the archives were subsequently located. It appears this problem arose due to insufficient staffing levels. The current and capital breakdown of the general expenses of the main cultural institutions under subhead C1 shows that the National Archives will receive £582,000 and £100,000 for capital expenses. Against the background of the debacle which occurred at Christmas, which I believe was a symptom of a staffing and accommodation resources problem, why is the funding being provided not more substantial?
A sum of £500,000 is being provided this year under the heritage fund to allow institutions to acquire heritage objects and collections of special interest or value at short notice. Could this fund be used to purchase the type of film material which was auctioned last Saturday? What exactly is that £500,000 intended to cover and what institutions will benefit from it?
Ar Údarás na Gaeltachta, rinne an t-Aire Stáit tagairt don ábhar seo nuair a labhair sé linn i dtosach báire ach de réir mar a fheicimse, cruthaíodh 1,042 post lánaimseartha i 1999 ach i 1998 cruthaíodh 1,296 phost lánaimseartha. Dúirt an tAire linn go bhfuil deacracht ann tuilleadh post i gcúrsaí déantúsaíochta a chur ar fáil. Cad a bheidh á chur in áit ag an údarás nua lena chinntiú go gcuirfear poist nua ar fáil amach anseo sa Ghaeltacht agus le go mbeadh caighdeán na bpost seo ag dul in airde i gcónaí mar is iadsan na poist a bhfuil an seans is fearr acu. Ba mhaith liom freagra a fháil ón Aire Stáit ar sin.
On the grant to RTE for broadcasting licence fees, the Minister indicated that this will be increased. Why are we anticipating an increase in the number of people who will acquire television licences? Is that because many people still do not hold television licences? On payments to An Post for collecting the licence fee, the provisional outturn for 1999 was £7,200,000 whereas the anticipated figure this year is £7 million. Why has this reduction of £200,000 arisen?
A number of issues arise in regard to expenditure on the Broadcasting Bill which is currently before the Dáil and I will turn to those in a moment. Last year's provisional outturn in regard to the Broadcasting Complaints Commission was £60,000 whereas the Estimate for this year is only £11,000. I would like to know how this figure was arrived at.
Under subhead M.2, a figure of £1.4 million is outlined to cover the cost of consultants to advise the interdepartmental management group on the establishment of digital terrestrial transmission. What work has been carried out by the consultants to date and what exactly is their mandate? Are they advising the management group in a technical, commercial or general sense?
On the Broadcasting Bill, has the Minister received the facilitator's report and, if so, what can she tell us about it? When can we expect to hear the Minister's definitive position on this issue?
Subhead O.1 relates to TG4. I note that the provisional outturn for 1999 was £14 million and that the estimated figure for this year is marginally higher. Those in TG4 would feel that the station's potential is being curtailed due to lack of funding. The station has produced some excellent work from a very low financial base. While I am aware that we are anticipating the situation which will arise when the Bill is enacted, would it not be in the national interest for the Minister to take a closer look at where additional funding might be provided, particularly in the area of film making? An excellent documentary on Newfoundland, which was produced on a shoestring, was broadcast at Christmas. I do not believe that potential is being encouraged by the current level of funding the station receives.
I note that in regard to architectural inventory, the subhead provides for the preparation and publication of the national inventory of architectural heritage surveys. Some 14 town surveys and one interim county survey are scheduled for publication this year. Will the Minister identify the towns and county in question?
Unfortunately, there has been a considerable level of adverse media comment about An Comhairle Ealaíon in the past year. I do not intend to offer any opinion on that. In terms of the money provided for the Irish language, has the Minister carried out independent research, monitoring or measurement of how effective the new plan has been up to now? Given the considerable amount of money available, will she give an undertaking that this will be monitored to make sure the optimum results are acquired in the context of the population at large and the artistic community?
Go raibh maith agat, a Chathaoirligh. Ba mhaith liom fáilte a chur roimh an Aire agus an Aire Stáit anseo agus le móruaisle na Roinne. Tá cúpla ceist agam faoin méid a bhí le rá ag an Aire Stáit. Tá an Teachta Ó Cionnaith agus an Teachta Ó Sé i ndiaidh díriú isteach ar an méid a bhí le rá ag an Aire féin.
Thagair an tAire Stáit do Scéim Tithíochta na Gaeilge agus dúirt go raibh Bille Tithíochta á ullmhú. An cuspóir atá le deontas tithíochta Gaeltachta ná úsáid na teanga sa Ghaeltacht a dhaingniú agus a neartú. Ní dóigh liom go bhfuil éifeacht leis an scéim mar atá sí faoi láthair, chun é sin a dhéanamh. Ba mhaith go ndíreofar ar mhéid an deontais féin sa Bhille Teanga — £4,000 le blianta fada. Tá costais thógála ag méadú sa Ghaeltacht mar atá ar fud na tíre agus tá deacrachtaí móra ag aos óg na Gaeltachta agus ag na daoine atá i dtionscail a chuir an t-Údarás ar bun tithe a thógáil. Caithfear amharc ar sin agus an Bille á thabhairt isteach.
An dara rud ná go gcothaíonn riail na Gaeilge a cuid deacrachtaí féin, nach gcuidíonn leis an nGaeilge san fhadtéarma. Mar shampla, tá a fhios agam go dtáinig daoine ar ais ó Shasana agus ó Mheiriceá, a raibh Gaeilge ag na tuismitheoirí agus na páistí ag foghlaim Gaeilge anois i scoileanna na Gaeltachta agus níor éirigh leo ar chúis amháin nó ar chúis eile an deontas tithíochta a fháil. Ní théann sé sin chun leasa na Gaeilge. Cén fáth go mbeadh fonn ar thuismitheoirí mar sin an Ghaeilge a labhairt nuair nach tugtar deontas dóibh? An riail ná go gcaithfidh tú a bheith i do chónaí anseo nuair atá an teach á thógáil. Is iomaí duine a thógann teach agus a thagann abhaile nuair a bhíonn sé tógtha. Ní gheibheann siad siúd an deontas agus ní chuidíonn sé sin leis an nGaeilge. Tá cás amháin a pléadh ar Raidió na Gaeltachta — is dóigh liom go bhfuil a fhios ag an Aire Stáit an cás atá i gceist agam — mar ar chainteoir dúchais Gaeilge Thír Chonaill an t-athair agus cainteoir dúchais Breatnaise an mháthair agus níor éirigh leo deontas a fháil. Níl a fhios agam ar deineadh aon chinneadh faoi sin ó shin. Rinne mé féin agus go leor daoine eile achainní ar a son. Cainteoirí teangacha Ceilteacha an bheirt acu ach níor éirigh leo go bhfios dom.
Pointe beag suarach é seo. Nuair a chuirtear isteach ar dheontas ón Roinn Comhshaoil, déantar na scrúduithe nuair atá an teach tógtha agus má cloíodh leis na rialacha gheofar an deontas. Má thosnaíonn tú teach sa Ghaeltacht agus má chuireann tú isteach ar dheontas Gaeltachta, má tá an dúshraith istigh nó má tá sé glanta amach cuirtear pianós ort cúpla céad punt ort. Gheofar deontas de £3,700. Cén fáth nach bhfuil an £4,000 á fháil? Bhí an dúshraith istigh sular dearnadh an scrúdú. Níl a fhios agam cén bunús atá leis sin. Tá mionphointí mar sin sa scéim, mionphointí nach bhfuil éifeacht ar bith leo ó thaobh dhaingniú na Gaeilge de ach a chuireann isteach ar iarrthóirí. Tá a fhios agam go dtuigeann an tAire Stáit é féin go maith na rudaí seo — tá sé ag déileáil leo gach lá ina Dháilcheantar féin. Dá ndéanfaí iad a leasú, rachadh sé go mór chun sochar don teanga.
Scéimeanna cultúrtha agus sóisialta na gcoláistí Gaeilge——
The committee will adjourn for 15 minutes because there is a vote in the House.
Tá easnamh ins an Roinn chomh fada agus a bhaineann sé le cigirí nó maoir tithíochta. Go minic bíonn moill mór cuairt a thabhairt ar an áit a bhfuil teach á thógáil agus na tuairiscí a chur ar ais. Níl mé ag lochtú na maoir nó na cigirí. Tá siad ag déanamh a ndíchill ach tá réimse mór dúiche faoina gcúram, tá an tír uilig le clúdach ag an gcigire atá ann agus tá an-chuid oibre le déanamh ag na cigirí atá lonnaithe go logánta sa tuaisceart, san iarthar agus sa deisceart. Tá cigire de chuid an iarthair a bhfuil curaimí de chuid an tuaiscirt sa chondae seo againne air i láthair na huaire. Is fiú amharc air sin mar go minic bíonn moill mór ó cheadú an deontais go dtí go n-íoctar é mar go mbíonn scrúduithe agus an-chuid oibre le déanamh ag an uimhir theoranta de chigirí agus de mhaoir.
Bhí mé ag labhairt faoi na coláistí samhraidh agus an méid a dhéanann freastal orthu. Is fiú go mór an tacaíocht atá an Roinn ag tabhairt do na coláistí agus do na mná tí. Ní hamháin go dtarraingíonn siad an oiread sin scoláirí go dtí an Ghaeltacht gach bliain ach cuidíonn siad go mór le tionscail na turasóireachta sa Ghaeltacht mar go dtagann tuismitheoirí agus cairde eile go dtí an Ghaeltacht. Is mór an chuidiú í seo do eacnamaíocht na Gaeltachta.
Tá sean-taithí againn uilig ar scéim labhairt na Gaeilge le blianta fada. Dúirt an t-Aire Stáit gur cuireadh 3,600 iarratas isteach i 1999. An bhféadfadh sé a insint cé mhéad acu sin gur éirigh leo sa scrúdú nó cé mhéad gur theip orthu?
Téann na scéimeanna feabhsúcháin Gaeltachta idir hallaí, páirceanna agus mór-oibrithe go mór chun sochar do infrastruchtúr na Gaeltachta ó thaobh cúrsaí soisialta de. Is fiú go mór an t-airgead a chaitear ansin. Tá sé tábhachtach go mbéadh na bun-áiseanna sin le fáil ag na daoine a fhanann sa Ghaeltacht.
Ba mhaith liom aitheantas a thabhairt don Roinn, agus go speisialta don Aire Stáit, as an méid atá á dhéanamh le cúpla bliain ó thaobh bóithre Gaeltachta, go háirithe bóithre áise. Tá an t-airgead á chaitheamh níos fearr agus níos ciallmhaire ná mar a caitheadh ariamh é. Nuair a chaitear airgead ar bhóthar áise ní cóir a chuirtear air a thuilleadh ach airgead ceart fá choinne jab a dhéanamh a mhairfidh go fadaimseartha. Mar dhuine de chuid na Gaeltachta, cuirim fáilte speisialta roimh an fógra a rinneadh cupla seachtain ó shin go gcuirfear béim ar bhóithre straitéiseacha isteach go dtí na Gaeltachtaí ar fad. Tá sin iontach tábhachtach ó thaobh na tionsclaíochta, forbairt na tionsclaíochta, fostaíocht, turasóireachta agus saol na Gaeltachta de. Fógraíodh aréir £1.2 milliún don Ghaeltacht seo agam féin chun caitheamh ar an mbóthar ó Ghleann Cholm Cille go dtí an Charraig agus ar bhóithre tábhachtacha sa Ghaeltacht Lár. Is fiú go mór an t-airgead sin a chaitheamh. Is ceart aitheantas a thabhairt don fhógra a tugadh amach go mbeidh £35 milliún le caitheamh idir an bhliain seo agus 2006. Má choinnítear leis an gheallúint sin is cinnte go gcuifidh sé athrú mór ar bhunriachtanaisí bhóithre na Gaeltachta agus go rachaidh sé go mór chun sochair don tionsclaíocht, don turasóireacht agus do shaol mhuintir na Gaeltachta.
Tá an t-ádh linn go bhfuil Údarás na Gaeltachta ann. Ach amháin go bhfuil sé ann ní bheadh an fhostaíocht chéanna ins na ceantair Ghaeltachta agus atá. Mar sin féin cruthaíodh 1,042 post anuraidh agus cailleadh 1,033. Fágann sin nach bhfuil ach naoi bpost breise sa Ghaeltacht. Cúis imní gur cailleadh beagnach an oireadh postanna agus a cruthaíodh. Níl a fhios agam cén fáth gur tharla sin. An bhfuilimid ag iarraidh ar na tionscail contráilte nó an bhfuil freagra ag an Aire Stáit air sin?
Ba chóir díriú níos mó ar na mion-Ghaeltachtaí. Tá obair an-mhaith á dhéanamh ins na mór-Ghaeltachtaí ach tá roinnt ceanntair mionGhaeltachta ins na contaetha uilig ar fud na tíre. I mo chondae féin tá an Ghaeltacht Lár agus Gleann Cholmcille, An Charraig agus Cill Chartha in iar-dheisceart an chondae. Tá sé tábhachtach go gcuirfí fostaíocht ar fáil do na daoine óga ins na Gaeltachtaí sin chomh maith. Tá an t-údarás níos daonlathaí ná mar a bhí ariamh. Tá 17 mball tofa agus ionadaíocht níos fearr ag na mionGhaeltachtaí ná mar a bhí go dtí seo. Tá mé cinnte go mbeidh siad ag díriú a n-aird agus a n-aire ar an fhadhb sin.
Bá chóir don údarás ath-scrúdú a dhéanamh ar na seirbhísí. Tá seirbhísí in easnamh ins an Ghaeltacht go fóill. Tá go leor daoine a mbeadh fonn orthu seirbhísí a chur ar fáil ach cuidiú beag de chineál éigin a fháil. Tá sé thar am ag an údarás breathnú air sin. Ba chóir go mbeadh na seirbhísí céanna ar fáil ins an Ghaeltacht agus atá le fáil in aon pháirt eile den tír. Tá lúcháir orm go bhfuil Údarás na Gaeltachta ag cur béime ar sheirbhísí shoisialta. Tá tionscnamh ag dul ar aghaidh i mo phobal féin a chuirfidh cúram ar sheandaoine agus tá lúcháir orm go bhfuil an t-údarás chun tacaíocht a thabhairt dóibh i dtaca le hotharlann seandaoine. Seirbhís rí-thábhachtach é seo do cheantar Gaeltachta. Tá tacaíocht agam ar dhul ag amharc ar chomharsana de mo chuid féin atá lonnaithe in ionaid do sheandaoine taobh amuigh den Ghaeltacht agus níl fáth ar bith nach mbéadh seirbhís mar sin i gceartlár na gaeltachta agus seandaoine abálta fanacht ina dtimpeallacht féin agus a dteanga féin le cloisint acu. Céim ar aghaidh é sin.
Táimid ag fanacht leis an mBille Teangan atá geallta le fada. Nuair a bhí an tAire Stáit ina bhall den Chomhchoiste seo bhí sé ag tabhairt tacaíochta don Bhille agus tá sé san áit anois gur féidir leis rud éigin a dhéanamh faoi. Is dócha go bhfuil dul chun cinn déanta agus beimid ag súil le cloisteáil faoi roimh dheireadh na bliana.
Tá aitheantas á fháil ag na hoileáin agus caithfear aitheantas a thabhairt don Aire Stáit freisin as an méid atá le déanamh aige, agus más ceadmhacht dom é a rá, duit féin, a Chathaoirligh, a chuir tús le scéim na n-oileán. Rinneadh tagairt do Thoraí agus tá lúcháir orm go bhfuil breis airgid á chur ar fáil chun an scéim a chríochnú ach b'é an Cathaoirleach anseo a cheadaigh an chéad £4.8 milliún le tús a chur leis an scéim. Beidh muintir an oileáin sin thar a bheith sásta nuair a bheas an obair críochnaithe roimh dheireadh na bliana. Cuireann sé lúcháir orm freisin go bhfuil aerstráice á scrúdú agus á bheartú i láthair na huaire.
Bhí geallúintí tugtha — níl a fhios agam an geallúintí páirtí nó rialtais a bhí iontu agus rinne an Teachta Ó Cionnaith tagairt dóibh — go dtabharfaí liúntais bhreise do dhaoine atá ina gcónaí ar oileáin, maidir le leasa shóisialta agus mar sin de. Tá costais bhreise orthu — cosnaíonn sé airgead chun bia agus riachtanais a thabhairt go dtí na hoileáin agus fágann sé sin go bhfuil an costas maireachtála níos airde ar oileáin ná mar atá sé ar an mórthír. Ba chóir rud éigin a dhéanamh faoi sin.
Thagair an Teachta Ó Cionnaith do chomharthaíocht bhóthair agus go háirithe do Chnoc Mhuire. Bhí mé sa Dáil an lá a tógadh an cheist seo. Bhí díospóireacht ar Raidió na Gaeltachta inné faoin ábhar seo — tá áiteanna sa Ghaeltacha a bhfuil cúpla ainmneacha difriúla orthu. Baile an Finne, Baile na Finne — tá sé firinsceanach ar chomhartha amháin agus baininsceanach ar chomhartha eile. Caithfimid a bheith daingean mar gheall ar chomharthaí Gaeltachta agus ról níos lárnaí a thabhairt do Choimisiún na Logainmneacha a bhfuil míniú acu ar na focail seo ag dul siar na céadta bliain. Ní chóir go mbeadh cead ainm a chumadh agus a chur suas. Caithfimid an t-ainm cruinn ceart a chur suas.
Tá dul chun cinn déanta, tá go leor eile le déanamh agus ba mhaith liom freagraí a fháil ar na pointí a rinneadh go dtí seo.
As a new member of the committee I was confronted with reading all the documentation provided to me. I am very impressed with the range of activities in which the Minister and the Minister of State's Department is engaged. It is a tremendous learning experience for me to see so much going on in a Department that perhaps has not received the general public recognition to which it is entitled.
I want to raise a number of questions. On the Arts Council, is the Minister aware that there is some criticism from time to time of its accountability in regard to the allocation of grants? Does she have any plans to examine this as an issue, bearing in mind that her colleague, the Minister for Tourism, Sport and Recreation, Deputy McDaid, has introduced a new vetting and points scheme etc. for allocations from his Department, in other words, that information would be available to those who apply for grants as to the reasons they were successful or unsuccessful?
On the collection of licence fees, does the Minister have information with regard to estimates on fees that have not been successfully collected by An Post? The Department pays a substantial sum of money — I believe £7 million — for the collection. Has the Minister information on that money which is not collected? Can her Department impose penalties on An Post for its failure to collect more of the outstanding fees that remain uncollected and has she ever thought of examining any other means whereby these fees could be collected if we need to be more successful?
I am not up to speed on the purchase of the headquarters for the Heritage Council in Kilkenny. Has a headquarters been purchased and, if so, is it culturally suitable, if I can use that term?
On the national inventory of architectural heritage, I am sure the Minister is concerned about the alleged robbery of some of these objects like crosses, ancient stones etc. Is she taking any special action to try to work with other agencies etc. to prevent this happening? How specific will the national inventory be in terms of some of the items I mentioned? I think it was Deputy Kenny who mentioned this matter in terms of the building of national roads etc. and all the pressure that is imposed to develop these roads. We can now include the major house building that seems to be taking place on the outskirts of many of our towns and the impact such building may have on objects of the type I mentioned. I hope some effort will be made to ensure we can save these objects to the best of our ability. The home of Catherine Tynan on the outskirts of Clondalkin has been seriously interfered with through the development process and to a certain extent it has been largely lost to the country and to the community. Similarly, Riversdale House in Rathfarnham has been under threat through the planning process and, therefore, I hope the Minister has something positive to say about her Department's proposals.
In relation to our national monuments like castles, old monasteries and so on, in many cases there is freedom of access to these buildings. That is fine but those who would have bad intentions relative to these buildings can use them for all sorts of anti-social activities — I am familiar with some of those in the area which I come from in County Westmeath. I wonder if the time has come to try to secure a number of these buildings more permanently because every time one returns to them, something else is missing. It could be a stone, an old windowsill or some other part of it, and that is due to the fact that there is such freedom of access in many cases. I hope we will develop some policy on that to try to preserve these monuments to the best of our ability.
In relation to the grant paid to households, has the Minister of State considered extending that grant scheme to houses not within defined Gaeltacht areas? I refer to the area I am familiar with, namely, Tallaght and Clondalkin, where there is a significant commitment on the part of local people from all classes and creeds to the Irish language and involvement in the primary and second level all-Irish schools. We need to examine this issue because it can be just as useful for a young person to be accommodated in a house in Clondalkin where Irish is spoken as in the Gaeltacht. I know this scheme is of help to the Gaeltacht and I understand the historical position, but it is as easy for a young person to develop a continued commitment and a grá for the language in a home in Clondalkin, Tallaght or anywhere else, and I ask the Minister of State to examine what is essentially a very good scheme.
In relation to the grant from the European bureau for lesser used languages, we met an organisation yesterday which is drawing up a dictionary for use in parliamentary assemblies. Are there proposals to increase the grant aid to that bureau? Has an attempt been made to add any of the lesser used languages? I referred yesterday to the language of the Travellers, which is usually called "cant". If the Minister makes further grants available, perhaps she will provide funding to further support this language in terms of the carrying out of research and so on?
I note 1,042 jobs were created in Gaeltacht areas in 1999. Is the Minister of State aware of the number of jobs lost in those areas and, if so, what is the net difference in terms of employment creation in those areas?
In relation to the commission on special inquiries, the Broadcasting Complaints Commission, does that commission produce an annual report similar to the Ombudsman's report which details various cases investigated and their outcomes, detailing the types of complaints made, the action taken and the results?
With regard to the training of guides under Subhead Q.1, the number of guides here is increasing. The number mentioned is 350, which is significant. What organisation carries out the training of guides? What standards are imposed for guides? Do terms and conditions of employment apply to guides once they are employed? When one is abroad one sees guides involved in activities regarding finances etc. that I would not support, which can leave a bad taste in one's mouth. I am not saying there is anything untoward in relation to our guide system, but we should be conscious of the points I raised.
Cuirim fáilte roimis a bhfuil curtha romhainn anseo inniu agus go háirithe roimis fhógra an Aire inné go mbeidh £5 milliún breise ann do na bóithre. An airgead breise é seo le cois an t-airgead a bhí á chur ar fáil do chóras na mbóithre áise? Aon uair a cuireadh deireadh leis an deontas do na bóithre aíse, bhí siad ag brath ar na local improvement schemes sna comhairlí contae agus níor deineadh an deisiúchán ansin. Tá na bóithre níos measa sa Ghaeltacht ná in aon áit eile.
An rud is fearr ná go bhfuil geallúint á tabhairt go leanfaidh an scéim seo ar feadh cúig nó sé de bhlianta. Sin atá ag tarlú le gach airgead a fuaireamar sa Ghaeltacht le blianta beaga anuas. Bheadh paiste beag bóthair deisithe le hairgead bliana amháin agus ní bheadh an t-airgead ann don chuid eile i mblianta eile.
Go raibh maith agat. Tá ceist agam féin faoin mBille teanga. Dúirt an tAire Stáit gur scaipeadh dréacht den Bhille ar gach Roinn Rialtais ar an 16 Márta. Cén sort freagra a fuair sé? An bhfuil na ranna eile i bhfábhar Bille teanga agus cearta a thabhairt do Ghaeilgeoirí? An bhfuil tacaíocht á fáil aige?
The number of questions I have been asked shows the amount of work that has been done in the Department. I will deal first with Deputy Kenny's questions. If I do not cover every question asked, I will report to the member concerned, but I will do my best to answer all the questions put to me.
With regard to staffing and resources, given the responsibilities of the Department — they are becoming more onerous in terms of being able to deliver a service due to pressure from many areas — we need to increase the number of staff in a number of areas within the Department. We are cognisant that staff training is important and further training is required in performance management, general management and IT in particular. We are in constant contact with the Minister for Finance on this issue, as we need further staffing resources to deal with various issues. There have been some positive outcomes to our discussions and I will refer to those when we come to deal with various questions.
With regard to Deputy Kenny's question on the cross-departmental arrangements that exist within the Department, he is correct it is most important that we do not have tunnel vision and consider that what happens in one Department in regard to addressing an issue to be sufficient. Dealing with many issues requires cross-departmental co-operation and we are engaged in many such cross-departmental arrangements. We have been very careful to avail of the opportunity to work with other Departments to deal with various issues.
One such issue is the cross-departmental issues concerning digitalisation. The Broadcasting Bill referred to a project management group to consider this issue. That group consists of representatives of my Department, the Departments of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Public Enterprise and Finance and RTE. All the Departments that need to be consulted on that issue have been or are being consulted.
Arts in education is an issue we need to pursue. There is a task force on arts in education, which will prove to be helpful and useful. Many people might consider that the requirements of a music school are the responsibility of my Department, but the requirements of such a school are a matter for the Department of Education and Science. We have been working with the Department of Education and Science on this area and the most obvious example of that is the Performing Arts Centre.
Deputy Kenny also mentioned coastal zone management. There is at least one publication on that. I can give the reference to the Deputy is he does not know of it. That publication was prepared in conjunction with the Departments of the Marine and Natural Resources, Environment and Local Government and my Department on coastal zone management. As that area encompasses the responsibilities of those three Departments, it is important there is a unified view on it.
The question of biodiversity relates to the Departments of the Environment and Local Government and the Marine and Natural Resources.
With regard to the Irish language and the islands, all Departments are involved in those issues. An interdepartmental committee, chaired by the Minister of State, deals with those issues.
Other cross-departmental issues include architectural conservation and policy. We had discussions with the Office of Public Works and the Departments of the Environment and Local Government, Education and Science and the Marine on those issues.
The cases I outlined are good examples of what has been done in a cross-departmental approach. That is the only way to proceed in dealing with issues, as we cannot pigeonhole them and say they are the responsibility of only one Department.
Since 1997 we published no fewer than eight Bills and I understand, although I stand to be corrected on this, the previous Administration, which was in office for more than four and a half years, published only two Bills.
Some of the specific issues raised with regard to legislation included the list of the events for the sporting Bill. Deputies will remember from our discussions when this legislation was going through both Houses that I said there would be consultation with the Department of Tourism, Sport and Recreation. Events organisers, broadcasters and others have already been contacted and have given their views. I understand they are to report to me within a week or two. I will examine those submissions and we will then have public consultation on what should be on that list. It is important that when we are talking about cultural sporting events we come up with various examples that would be valid, but what we are really looking for is a list of significant events. We do not want a very long list but something that is significant. That is under way and a public consultation process is to follow.
The situation concerning the facilitator was raised by a number of Deputies. The project management group which was set up came to certain conclusions. RTE was not happy with its role in the whole question of digitalisation. RTE obviously plays an important role in all of this and it was incumbent upon me to listen to its particular anxieties and to determine the best way to push the issue forward. I would not want any undue delay in the implementation of DDT. There is a small window of opportunity which we must grasp. There has been no delay on my part. RTE had genuine concerns. That is the reason I asked the facilitator to come on board. The facilitator has just reported to me. I will examine those issues and if I need to bring proposals to Government at that stage on foot of the information I receive from the different groups, not just RTE, I will do that. The position as of now is that the facilitator has just reported to me, I will examine his report and that will go into the melting pot to see if any amendments or proposals are necessary. As of now, I have put no other proposals to Government other than what was put in terms of the Broadcasting Bill which has been published.
With regard to TG4, I am well aware that the Welsh language has been given a tremendous boost in terms of funding and finance. It must be remembered that is a far greater organisation in terms of money generally for broadcasting and so it is not fair to compare the £100 million for the Welsh language with the £14 million for TG4. The £14 million is a 40% increase on 1997 but I agree with the Deputies opposite that TG4 has played an enormous role in the appreciation and fostering of the Irish language. For that and other reasons, because obviously it is an excellent service, it is important that we give TG4 the help it seeks. TG4 has put forward plans to me for the next three years on the way it would like to proceed. I have examined those plans and will discuss them with the Minister for Finance, Deputy McCreevy, to see if it is possible to get further moneys to help TG4 with its plans. All of us realise that TG4 has been tremendously successful. It employs young, progressive people which is good for the broadcasting sector. We have to acknowledge also technically it is up with the best of them and perhaps even better than others in some respects.
Before I deal with the film archive I want to address other broadcasting matters. Deputy Kenny referred to the United Christian Broadcasters. That group asked to see me and we met a deputation. They outlined their difficulties and their primary concern, as I said in a reply to an oral question on this matter, was that they wished to obtain a retransmission licence from the ODTR. The ODTR believes they should apply to the Independent Radio and Television Commission. The Independent Radio and Television Commission agrees with that but both the ODTR and the Independent Radio and Television Commission, as the Deputies will appreciate, are independent bodies so I cannot interfere in their workings — I am prevented from doing so under legislation. I have told UCB that I will examine the whole issue given that we have had an in-depth discussion to see if an amendment is warranted on Committee Stage.
The Deputy also referred to those who are hard of hearing. The Irish Deaf Society came to see me and put forward its views. I agree with it that there should be more subtitles on programmes. Under the provisions of the Broadcasting Bill, if enacted, the Independent Radio and Television Commission will have responsibility to ensure that proper and improved facilities for subtitling are made available. That will be an expense, which is a consideration, but we are always talking about access and this is an obvious issue. That is the reason the Independent Radio and Television Commission will be given the power to improve requirements with regard to subtitling on the part of all broadcasters. That will be a positive move and they were quite pleased with that recognition.
We all know the difficulties that can be caused by the pirate radio stations which often interfere with the legitimate stations. Those stations operate in breach of the Wireless Telegraphy Acts which are not my responsibility. As Deputies know, the ODTR has specific responsibility for the frequencies, and pirate radio would be its responsibility. I acknowledge — Etain Doyle made this point to members — that it is often difficult to track down these people, but it is a matter for the Department of Public Enterprise.
On the archival film, such material came up for auction last Saturday, 10 June. I was very interested in this film from a personal point of view, but also as Minister I felt we had an obligation to investigate it. I carried out a check on those particular reels to see if we already had the material, or even some of it. Some of the material was in the National Library but others, including the wedding of General Seán Mac Eóin, was not in the archives. Somebody said that section of the film was only 22 seconds but I felt it is worth having because the personalities of those attending the wedding come across in the footage. I am told there were two cameramen at that wedding. We are currently researching the possibility of getting a copy of that. I am told we will be able to purchase a copy for the State but it is important to ensure that it is done in a way that we would not have any problems with copyright because that might affect access to the general public. I wanted to have these images so that if somebody went into their local library either for research or educational purposes, they would be immediately available. That is the position and I am glad there will be a happy outcome to that matter.
Deputy Kenny also raised the question of the Blasket Islands. As the Deputy said, the legislation that referred to that issue was found to be faulty in the High Court and Supreme Court and, therefore, falls. The three main houses of Peig Sayers and the other authors are protected under the law as it stands. The natural heritage there is also protected through SACs and general legislation in that regard. I would be interested to hear Deputies' ideas on how best to approach this matter. I accept that the Blasket Islands have a particular story to tell. There was a difficulty in trying to acquire the land and this was in the public domain. We want to do what is best for the State and to ensure that there is access, enjoyment and protection. However, lest anybody thinks otherwise, protection is provided under the legislation as it stands.
The issue of the Botanic Gardens was raised. The Deputy is correct that the report was tardy. Since I came to office, I have noticed that some reports are slow to reach the Department or to go through the Comptroller and Auditor General's office. I set up a procedure in the Department to try to hurry that matter along and to encourage people to give information and report more quickly. This is in everybody's interest. I acknowledge the Deputy's point in that regard.
The Deputy also referred to the IGP. A business plan is available and rather than discussing the issue at length now, perhaps the Chair could arrange for copies of the plan that will be supplied to be circulated to the members. A further discussion can then be arranged or questions taken on that issue.
TheAsgard was also mentioned. My role in that regard was the issuing of the licence. However, I am not the owner of the Asgard, it is owned by the Minister for Defence. Therefore, the ARP group is working on the boat in conjunction with the Department of Defence. My role consisted of issuing the licence.
The Deputy has an interest in Ballycroy. As the Chairman and the Deputy appreciate, visitor centres have caused more than a small problem in the past. It is important that there is agreement on the ground. As the Deputy said, three sites were at issue and this has been reduced to two. The problem is the amount of money that has been sought from the Department for the sites. Some of the prices are prohibitive. As the Deputy will appreciate, we can only go a certain way in terms of financial commitment. I hope the matter can be brought to a resolution quickly. If that happens, work can begin this year. It is a question of the people on the ground and the amount of money that has been sought.
I know the Deputy has a particular interest in Glendalough because he mentioned it during Question Time. The issue is one of safety. Resources are also an issue because it is so dangerous at present that much work would be required even to consider if it was possible. Access has been discussed and I understand it is not only a question of a few steps. Major work would need to be done and the question of conservation would have to be considered in that context. As I said to the Deputy during Question Time, the matter can be considered further. There are 740 sites and even if safety was not an issue, we would still have a difficulty in terms of funding. The major problem is safety.
The issue of archaeologists and the NRA was also raised by Deputy O'Shea and Deputy Flood. The whole question involves drawing up a code of practice and the Department has been working on this with the NRA. The Department is represented in this area by a number of experts, two of whom are highly qualified in archaeology. We must get the balance between development and conservation right. It is not a question of driving through a road at the expense of our heritage. Equally, there must be development but, as we have often said in the context of these debates, it is a question of sustainable development. There should be a code of practice under which everybody knows the criteria and the parameters of such discussions which will enable them to come to a fair conclusion and ensure that our heritage is preserved in addition to the building of roads under the national development plan.
There is a career structure for archaeologists employed in the Department. I understand this is also the case with regard to engineers but I will get further information on the precise structure and forward it to the Deputy. Regarding the underwater archaeology unit, interviews are about to take place for eight posts and they will be filled from the panel.
The Deputy referred to salmon and the ESB. Perhaps that is more a matter for the Department of the Marine and Natural Resources than my Department. However, I will consider it.
Deputy O'Shea referred to the women's project. I am glad the women's history project, which was initiated in September 1997, is going ahead and doing some tremendously interesting work. As the Deputy may be aware, it has realised a number of publications already. I was present when it published the Drennan and MacAteer letters in September 1999. There is also a collection of photographs called "If Ever You Go To Dublin Town". Work is proceeding on indexing and recording the records of the Department of the Taoiseach, a calendar of papers of the Ulster Women's Unionist Council in the early part of the 20th century and editing the diaries of Elizabeth Dillon, the wife of John Dillon, leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party at the end of the 19th century. All this work is tremendously interesting and, as I have often said to them, I would enjoy doing that work.
To highlight the importance I attach to the women's history project, I have given the go-ahead for a new cultural project, the oral history project. This will run for five years and will collect oral histories from around the country for the purpose of providing a unique insight into life in Ireland as remembered by its older living citizens. This will give an opportunity to men and women to contribute to the cataloguing of events in recent times. It will be extremely interesting and it is most important that it is recorded now. Otherwise, much will be lost.
Deputy O'Shea also raised the matter of the archaeological licences and the question of staffing and Dúchas. I agree with him in that most of the representations I get as a Deputy deal with Dúchas rather than other sections of the Department. There was a bottleneck regarding applications for archaeological licences. We redeployed people to deal with it and we also got permission and support from the Department of Finance to take on extra staff. Thankfully that has been resolved.
Given the economic boom and consequent developments, there has been a deluge of requests for work to be done. However, this does not mean that every piece of ground must have an archaeological dig. People could be on site, but only a minimum amount of work may be required. The developer must pay principle is the only way to proceed, otherwise the Department would be unable to sustain the work involved.
On the question of Dungarvan Castle, the estimated cost is £1.8 million. It is expected to be largely completed by the end of this year. I will get more up-to-date information and advise the Deputy.
I agree with Deputy O'Shea that further staffing is needed for the National Archives. A deputation visited me and outlined the need for extra expertise. I have spoken yet again with the Minister for Finance about the need for staffing. The National Archives does tremendous work and it needs further help in terms of staffing.
I hope the building work for the National Archives will be given the go-ahead. I received positive feedback from the Minister for Finance. The debate on decentralisation has meant that some of these projects have been looked at again. However, there is no question of the National Archives being decentralised. It must stay in Dublin for practical reasons. The Minister for Finance and I have made a commitment to provide it with extra space.
Given the number of new houses, there will be a further need for RTE licences. Following negotiations with An Post the collection fee was decreased. TG4 has sought extra funding on foot of a three year plan. I am consulting the Minister for Finance on that. Reference was make to the station's programming being done on a shoestring budget. Programming can be very expensive, especially in terms of news and current affairs. TG4 has done very well on the moneys allocated to it. Given its good record, it is worthwhile to fight the good fight on its behalf with the Department of Finance.
With regard to the National Infantry, the county referred to is County Clare. The 14 towns are Athlone, Athy, Carrick-on-Shannon, Castlebar, Cavan, Dundalk, Monaghan, Navan, Roscommon, Roscrea, Sligo, Tralee, Waterford and Wexford. The National Infantry surveys are very detailed. Interim surveys will be completed within two years.
We wanted to bring the National Infantry on stream as soon as possible. In conjunction with the Minister for the Environment and Local Government we were able to introduce measures for the protection of our heritage by first ensuring that legislation is in place dealing with the National Infantry and, second, by ensuring that a fund is in place, channelled through the local authorities, that would help people to deal with properties of cultural value via a grant system.
The National Infantry will be very detailed. With regard to some of the interim work that has been completed, those with a local knowledge who consider that something has been excluded should contact the Department. The use of the legislation is the way to proceed, otherwise we would have been waiting 40 years for the correlation of this kind of information. I hope we can now do it in under ten years. We will do our utmost to ensure this.
Deputy O'Shea also mentioned An Comhairle Ealaíon. It has more money to spend than ever on its new arts plan. It cost £100 million and the Government was able to deliver on it immediately. In the plan An Comhairle Ealaíon said it wants to be seen not just as a grant giving but also a developmental agency. I agree with that approach.
The Deputy asked if, in view of the large sums of money involved, there would be a monitoring mechanism on the arts plan. The same approach will be taken to this plan as to the first arts plan. This means that there will be a proper evaluation and review of the plan on its completion. In fairness, it is not possible to review a plan when it is only a few months or a year old. It is, therefore, best to deal with it in that way.
I have given a commitment to review the arts Acts and it is my intention to publish my proposals shortly. The idea is to see how best we are approaching the arts and to ensure that the right kind of delivery of funding is made to those who can best use it in terms of access and participation for the greatest number. The review will also look at the Arts Council and review its structure in the context of what will be required of it over the next ten to 15 years.
The Arts Council was established 50 years ago, so it is timely to review the arts Acts. Thankfully the arts mean much more to many more people today than was the case 50 or even 20 years ago. The publication of the review will provide an opportunity to discuss the arts. The feedback will enable me to introduce further legislation.
The heritage fund in respect of which legislation is needed was mentioned by Deputy O'Shea. I received the go-ahead from the Cabinet for my proposals and the heads of the Bill about one week ago. While I will give further details when I make the announcement, there is great scope for the fund which I have very much wanted to put into operation from the time I was in opposition. I am glad to say that it is now being brought to fruition.
Deputy Flood referred to the accountability of the Arts Council in the giving of grants. It is not for me to comment on the workings of the council, which is an independent body, but I am aware that it wishes to be more forthcoming about the criteria applied in the giving of grants and to explain further its day-to-day operations and decisions. The matter should be raised directly with it.
The Deputy asked where in Kilkenny the headquarters of the Heritage Council will be located. Discussions are ongoing between the Church of Ireland and the council and although no decision has yet been taken the likely location is the Bishop's Palace. I hope the discussions will be quickly brought to fruition and that there will be a positive result. If the matter can be resolved I will look at how the building can be refurbished. The capital costs have been provided for in the Estimate. I am not in a position to give any further information until the discussions have been brought to a conclusion.
The Deputy mentioned that it was important that our heritage was protected. To this end the heritage Acts are being reviewed. They have not been looked at for some time. The Deputy mentioned Riversdale, Rathfarnham, in respect of which I am glad to say we were able to be of some assistance. I have referred to the inventory and the interim survey. Some of the monuments to which the Deputy referred are in State ownership. On the question of access to those in private ownership one has to strike a balance in terms of restrictions. The vast majority of those who appreciate our heritage want to be in a position to view it and leave it in the condition in which they find it. To ensure its protection there is a need to ensure the law is complied with. To this end local communities have an important part to play in monitoring the situation and feeding us the information we require.
Under the proposed legislation the Broadcasting Complaints Commission will play a far greater role. As the matter has been discussed in the House there is no need for me to deal with it in detail. The commission arranges for the publication of the findings of its investigations of complaints. It does not however investigate all complaints received. It also publishes an annual report which is made available to Members in the usual way.
Tour guides are trained inhouse with the assistance of external training companies. While the Deputy concerned went out of his way to make it clear that he was not casting any aspersion on the service provided, market research indicates that State guides are considered to be very professional.
Deputy Flood raised the question of the yield from the licence fee.
I will obtain that information for the Deputy. I will also obtain the information sought on the estimated losses.
Tá na ceisteanna curtha le chéile agus déanfaidh iarracht freagraí cuimsitheacha a thabhairt.
Thóg an Cathaoirleach ceist faoin mBille Teangan. Ní féidir liom dul isteach sa cheist seo go mion san obair atá ar bun faoi láthair ach tá Bille teangan mar chuid de chlár oibre an Rialtais. Tá go leor obair theicniúil déanta air agus sin atá ar bun i láthair na huaire agus tá súil agam go ndéanfar dul chun cinn suntasach ansin i mbliana. Ceann de na céimeanna is tábhachtaí í i dtaobh na Gaeilge a tugadh faoi le fada an lá ach is obair fíortheicniúil é mar a thuigeann chuile dhuine a bhí ag plé le reachtaíocht. Sa chás seo is reachtaíocht iomlán as an nua atá i gceist, ainneoin gur féidir linn breathnú ar rudaí a rinneadh i dtíortha eile agus thug mé cuairt ar Cheanada le gairid. Ach caithfear an rud a chuir in oiriúint do na toscaí áirithe atá i réim sa tír seo.
Maidir le Coimisiún na Logainmneacha, aistríodh é ag deireadh na bliana seo caite agus beidh ról an-tábhachtach acu amach anseo ar bhealaí éagsúla. Tá sé fíorthábhachtach nuair a chuirtear suas ainmneacha go gcuirtear suas an leagan ceart. Chaithfinn teacht leis an méid a dúirt an Teachta Mac Fhionnlaoich. Tá sé míshásúil ar fad go mbíonn dhá leagan ann ar bhaile amháin agus ceann acu mícheart. Bím i gcónaí ag déanamh tagairt do chomhartha eile i gContae Mhuigheo a bhfuil dhá leagan éagsúil ann den ainm chéanna ar dhá thaobh den chomhartha chéanna. Tá ceann amháin ceart agus an ceann eile mícheart go hiomlán. Caithfimid polasaí láidir a fheidhmiú le go mbeadh an t-ainm ceart oifigiúil mar atá leagtha síos ag Coimisiún na Logainmneacha á chur ar chomharthaí.
Tá mise agus go leor daoine eile buartha faoin gcineál ainmneacha atá á úsáid ar eastáit tithíochta nua. Caithfear déanamh cinnte gur ainmneacha dúchasacha atá á n-úsáid seachas ainmneachas nach bhfuil baint ar bith acu le stair, dinnseanachas nó nádúr na n-áiteanna ina bhfuil siad tógtha.
Tá an oiread sin rudaí éagsúla ar bun sa Roinn agus toisc nach bhfuil ach oiread áirithe foirne againn caithfimid brú ar aghaidh chomh scioptha agus is féidir linn. Cúram nua is ea an t-ábhar seo agus beifear ag tabhairt aird air.
Maidir le Cnoc Mhuire, tuigim cad as a bhfuil an chomhairle ag teacht nuair a mholann siad An Cnoc, agus tagaim leis an méid a dúirt an Teacht Ó Cionnaith. Má théim go Cois Fharraige agus má deirim go bhfuilim ag dul ar an gCnoc, síltear gur cnoc éigin sa cheantar atá i gceist. Ní bheadh éinne ag ceapadh go raibh mé ag dul síos go Cnoc Mhuire. Sin í an úsáid choitianta sna Gaeltachtaí ar fad anois agus taobh amuigh de. Tá sé sa chaint anois le beagnach céad bliain.
Go teicniúil, ní féidir liom tada a dhéanamh go dtí go n-aistreofar feidhmeanna a bhí ag an Aire Airgeadais ainmneacha a dheimhniú go dtí an Roinn Ealaíon, Oidhreachta, Gaeltacha agus Oileán. Tá sé sin le déanamh sular féidir aon aithbhreithniú a dhéanamh ar leibhéil Aireachta faoin rud seo. Tá an Coimisiún tar éis a dtuairim a chur in iúl. Géillim ó thaobh na staire de, ach caithfimid breathnú air i dtéarmaí úsáide, go mór mór úsáid na ndaoine sin a labhraíonn Gaeilge go ceart agus go cruinn.
Tógadh ceist maidir le Cathaoirleacht Údarás na Gaeltachta. I bprionsabal, tá mise go láidir ar son íocaíocht cheart a thabhairt do dhaoine as ucht obair a dhéanamh don Stát. Tá stair ag baint leis an rud seo, mar shampla, nuair a bunaíodh an t-údarás bhí cathaoirleach lánaimseartha air ar feadh bliain amháin — Mícheál Ó Máille, a bhí ina bhainisteoir contae ar Chontae Mhuigh Eo — agus is dóigh liom go raibh muintir na Gaeltacha ag an am an-fháilteach roimhe sin. Rinne iarchathaoirleach eile — Seán Ó Neachtain — iarracht dul go lánaimseartha ina phost mar bhí brú damanta air ó thaobh na hoibre. Aithnítear go forleathan, toisc na Gaeltachtaí a bheith chomh scaipthe agus toisc an oiread sin a bheith le déanamh go bhfuil ról áirithe ag cathaoirleach Údarás na Gaeltachta atá níos cosúla le ról chathaoirleach Údarás Áitiúil ná gnáthbhord Stáit. Bítear ag súil go mbeidh cathaoirleach an Údaráis ar fáil go ginearálta ag ócáidí poiblí sna Gaeltachtaí ar fad agus cuireann sé sin dua ar an gcathaoirleach. Jab an-mhór é ar údarás poiblí. Caithfear aghaidh a thabhairt ar seo. Tuigimid chomh mall is atá an Stát uaireanta ag athrú rudaí chun feabhais. Athraíodh an rud seo maidir leis na húdaráis áitiúla sa deireadh agus íoctar na cathaoirligh ansin. Tugann sé sin cothromas idir an feidhmeannachas sna húdaráis seo agus an deis agus na hacmhainní atá ag an mBord agus ag an gcathaoirleach chun taobh na polaitíochta a chothromú, le go mbeidh tionchar ar an mbord ar reachtáil na n-eagras seo. Tá sé fíorthábhachtach an chothromas seo a choinneáil.
Tá plé á déanamh anois faoi na húdaráis áitiúla agus tá an-bhéim á cur ag an Aire Comhshaoil — agus an ceart aige — ar an gcothromas seo a theastaíonn idir an feidhmeannachas agus an chomhairle chontae. Sa chás áirithe leis an údarás, nuair a bhí Rúnaí na Roinne ag éirí as an Roinn, ní raibh gá dó é an Roinn a fhágáil agus d'fhéadfadh sé fanacht sa tseirbhís phoiblí go dtí aois a 65, mar bhí sé faoi bhun 60 bliain d'aois. Aontaíodh nach mbeadh sé ceart go dtabharfadh sé sin comharthaí míchearta ionas go mbeadh sé le rá ag daoine gur cuireadh státseirbhíseach isteach mar chathaoirleach ar an údarás. Má ghlactar leis an bprionsabal go mba chóir na daoine seo a íoc i gceart, gur rud é a bhí á éileamh agus nár géilleadh dó agus tá litreacha ar chomhad ag diúltú don iarratas a rinneadh, agus na cuinsí iomlána atá i gceist anseo, creidim go bhfuil an rud ceart déanta. Ní bhaineann an cinneadh a rinneadh ach leis an gcathaoirleach atá ann i láthair na huaire ach tá an feasach ann anois agus bheadh súil agam go leanfar leis seo. Tá bealach faighte le rud a dhéanamh a ba cheart a dhéanamh. Murach seo bheimis ag rá nach fiú an t-airgead seo ar obair na ndaoine a gcuirimid ar bhoird Stáit.
Tá baill an údaráis agus an cathaoirleach san áireamh ag déanamh an-obair agus má táimid dáiríre faoi dheis a thabhairt do gach duine dul ar bhord Stáit a thógann an oiread seo ama agus dua agus a bhfuil constituency de dhaoine i gceist leis seachas boird ar nós an IDA a bheadh ag plé le cúrsaí tionsclaíochta amháin agus ní le pobal. Tá na daoine ar na boird seo ag cailleadh deiseanna eile ó thaobh fostaíochta agus mar sin de agus caithfear iad a chúiteamh nó ní bheimid in ann daoine mar iad a fháil chun na jabanna a thógáil.
Maidir le Biúró na dTeangacha Neamhfhorleathana, faigheann siad airgead de réir mar a dhéanann siad éileamh air. Ní thugann siad aon deontais amach but in response to Deputy Flood, recently I had the privilege of launching a book which was prepared specially for Traveller children in the west. That day I spoke about the importance of them realising that they have a culture of their own, a background and a way of saying things which is important to preserve, and that particularly the older people possess a great deal of culture and folklore which maybe we have ignored in the past. Certainly in the context of what the Minister said regarding the oral tradition, this must be taken into account. It is not obviously an Irish language issue, but I will discuss this issue with the Minister and see how we can look at that culture and see how it can be built into the work of the Department. I have a particular interest in that because all of these traditions, ways of saying things and what the Deputy referred to as Cant — I understand that is the technical name — has a richness which may have been dismissed in the past in the way the Irish language was dismissed by some people at the beginning of the century as just being a barbarous language which was not fit for modern society. I accept what the Deputy said. It is something on which we should reflect deeply.
Ardaíodh ceist maidir le cúrsaí tine ar na h-oileáin. Bhí an Roinn Comhshaoil, an chomhairle contae agus an Roinn seo againne ag plé leis an gceist seo. Rinneadh an rud is simplí agus is éifeachtaí ar fad — tháinig an chomhairle contae le chéile agus chuir siad smoke alarm ar fáil do chuile theach ar na hoileáin. The use of a smoke alarm in every island house had a number of advantages as a first approach. It has been recorded time and again that where there are functional mains smoke alarms the number of fatalities is virtually zero. In terms of personal safety, smoke alarms are by far the most effective way of preventing loss of life or even injury. In many rural areas which are a long distance from fire services, no matter how good the fire service there is a lesson to be learnt about what we are doing on the islands, that the simple approach can be the most effective.
The Deputy raised the wider issue. We have implemented the first step. Even though it seems so simple, it is effective in achieving what we are trying to achieve. The second issue which then arises is the question of fire appliances, etc. This is much more complicated. As a Department, we would deal with islands individually. When somebody asks about one island, without being facetious, one then starts with one island and then two islands, 20 islands, 100 islands, etc.
The other issue the county councils raised as a major issue is the standard of care which, once provided, they must maintain under the health and safety Acts, etc. This is a matter of major consideration. Obviously there is already a fire service on Inis Mór and, for instance, Bear Island has access to one. We are looking at this issue but it is not an easy one to solve because there are certain challenges posed in making sure that when one calls on the fire service everything one has put in place is functional, operational and able to provide the service to the required national standard. We are looking at that. However, rather than wait until we have resolved all of that and until a decision is made on the size of island to which it would apply, whether it was one inhabited by 500, 400, 300 people, etc., we did the simple but effective thing and we are now moving on to phase II of it. Something major has happened, however, even though to some people it might seem too simple. I am not accusing the Deputy in that regard. I discussed this matter with the islanders at the AGM of Comhdháil Oileáin na hÉireann and they appreciate the effectiveness of what has been done.
I discussed the islander allowance with the Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs and he was very sympathetic. Tá an-bhá aige leis an rud seo. Ní fadhb airgid é ach fadhb prionsabail. Dá dtabharfaí a leithéid, an mbeadh daoine eile ag déanamh cás air agus cad iad na himpleachtaí a bheadh i gceist. Sin iad na rudaí atáimid ag iarraidh a shárú ach tá a fhios agam go bhfuil spéis faoi leith ag an Aire Leasa Shóisialaigh sa chás seo agus leanfaimid orainn ag scrúdú na ceiste. Ag pointe amháin shíl mé nach n-éireodh liom ach dúirt an tAire ansin go bhféadfaí an rud ar fad a athscrúdú as an nua.
Maidir leis an gceist a chuir an Teachta Ó Sé maidir le cothú agus caomhnú na Gaeltachta agus an gá le slat tomhais éigin, tá an pointe seo déanta ag an Teachta go minic agus glacaim leis. Tá dhá bhealach chun é seo a dhéanamh — Coimisiún na Gaeltachta agus beidh acmhainní ar fáil ag an gCoimisiún le taighde a dhéanamh aon áit a gceapann siad a bhfuil easnamh. Tá roinnt mhaith eolais ar fáil ar staid na Gaeilge agus ar cé mhéad daoine atá á labhairt. Níl an oiread céanna eolais againn faoin éífeacht na scéimeanna. Ní scéimeanna na Roinne amháin atá i gceist agus ar a laghad tá siadsan ag obair go dearfach agus tá drochthionchar ag feidhmiú ranna Stáit eile le cur san áireamh. Sin ceann de na fáthanna ar bunaíodh Coimisiún na Gaeltachta. Níl aon remit tionsclaíochta nó infrastruchtúir acu ach plé a dhéanamh ar chúrsaí Gaeilge sa Ghaeltacht.
Tá an Foras Teanga ag feidhmiú anois, ar ndóigh, agus nuair a bheidh na fadhbanna atá acu faoi láthair réitithe, beidh go leor taighde agus obair substaintiúil le déanamh acu. Ainneoin na bhfadhbanna go dtí seo, léiríodh fuinneamh agus dúthracht sa chur chuige atá acu. Idir an dá rud sin, bheinn ag súil go dtabharfaí faoin taighde agus an tomhas atá i gceist ag an Teachta.
Maidir le scéim labhairt na Gaeilge, is féidir na staitisticí a fháil a léireoidh an céatadán a d'éirigh leo deontas a fháil. Éiríonn le cuid mhaith daoine faoin scéim seo. I was particularly interested in Deputy Flood's suggestion about extending scéim labhairt na Gaeilge outside the Gaeltacht. In principle, I have always felt that what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander má tá tú ag tógaint clann le Gaeilge i mBaile Átha Cliath. However, organisations such as Comhluadar, the umbrella body for Irish speaking families who live outside Gaeltacht areas, will state that if we are going to extend the scheme perhaps the money could be spent in a more effective way in support of those families. I have an open mind in respect of this matter. However, I would like to consult with those who would be affected by such a decision in order to allow them to offer suggestions regarding how they believe further support should be given to them.
The idea of placing people in Irish speaking households outside the Gaeltacht is positive and novel. For example, if we could locate ten, 20 or 30 houses in Dublin which are Irish speaking and if we could establish a coláiste Gaeilge, I would have no difficulty with that. It would have certain advantages in terms of proving that the Irish language is not confined to the wild west. I recall attending a planning meeting in County Galway where people began discussing the architecture of the Gaeltacht. I was slightly annoyed by this and pointed out that I had managed to raise an Irish speaking family in a four bedroomed modern bungalow and that the architecture had not interfered with our ability to speak the Irish language.
In the past there appears to have been a belief the Irish language does not belong in Tallaght, Clondalkin or other places. I do not believe it would affect the fantastic impact the coláistí Gaeilge have had in the Gaeltacht if people were placed in Irish speaking households outside Gaeltacht areas. A number of Irish colleges have run courses in boarding schools and given the demand being placed on Gaeltacht colleges, which all seem to be full, I do not believe this suggestion would interfere, I believe it would be a positive addition. I have an open mind in respect of this novel way of proceeding. There are now more Irish speaking families than ever outside the Gaeltacht and we should recognise that as a fantastic development. Shíolraigh go leor de seo ón nGaeltacht. A great deal of this originated from the Gaeltacht and we should build on it. The Deputy's suggestion is extremely positive.
Ardaíodh go leor ceisteanna faoi Údarás na Gaeltachta. Is fíor nár cruthaíodh ach naoi bpost bhreise.
The answer to the question is that nine extra net jobs were created. However, there are a number of reasons for this agus caithfidh Coimisiún na Gaeltachta breathnú ar seo.
Mar shampla, i ngo leor áiteanna Cois Fharraige, ní hí fostaíocht i ndéantúsaíocht, mar a bhíodh fadó. An fhadhb, mar is féidir le daoine dul go Gaillimh. Ní fiú a bheith ag cruthú fostaíochta trí Bhéarla sa Spidéal más féidir le daoine na poist chéanna a fháil i nGaillimh. Tá na riachtanais ag gearradh agus caithfimid breathnú ar an ról is fearr a bheith ag an Údarás anois. Conas is ceart an t-airgead a chaitheamh agus cén cineál fostaíochta is ceart a lorg? Cinnte, tá fíorghá le poist sna ceantair iarghúltai in iarthar Mhuigheo agus in iarthar na Gaillimhe agus ar na hoileáin agus i gceantair i dTír Chonaill a bhfuil an imirce mar fhadhb ann fós. Tá caighdeán na fostaíochta fíorthábhachtach — tá go leor de ghasúir na Gaeltachta ag dul ag an triú leibhéal anois agus buíochas le Dia go bhfuil daoine ag fáil an t-oideachas. Ach cothaíonn sé sin dúshláin nua.
Caithfimid breathnú i bhfad níos mó ar an teanga mar acmhainn tionsclaíochta. Feicimid é sin i gcás TG4. Má théimid go dtí na Déise, feicimid chomh mór is atá Nemeton mar chrann taca tionsclaíochta agus Gaeilge agus an obair iontach atá ar bun acu.
Tá spéis ag an saol mór i gcúrsaí teanga agus caithfidh an t-Údarás breathnú as an nua ar na rudaí atá ar bun agus ar ról na teanga agus dul ar aghaidh uaidh sin. Tig le daoine a theacht ar ais le moltaí, agus sinn ag athrú an cineál caiteachais atá á dhéanamh againn caithfimid a bheith dearfach agus solúbhtha. Luadh an fhorbairt atá ar bun i mBaile Bhúirne, mar a cheannaigh an t-Údarás áitreabh agus tá aonad oideachais á bhunú ann le haghaidh múineadh na Gaeilge agus múineadh trí Ghaeilge ar fud na tíre. Seo é an cineál ruda a ba cheart a dhéanamh sa Ghaeltacht mar tá an teanga beo ann.
Maidir le cúrsaí tithíochta, tá leibhéal na ndeontas ceangailte le deontais an Roinn Comhshaoil, ach amháin go bhfuil éirithe liom leathnú a dhéanamh ar na deontais fheabhsúcháin tí go mór mór ó thaobh teas lárnach de. Tá an tarraingt ag muintir na Gaeltachta orthu seo agus sin faoi ndear cuid mhaith den méadú ar éilimh agus is rud maith é sin. Go traidisiúnta bhí fadhb teasa i dtithe an iarthair, go háirithe le seandaoine.
Beimid in ann na rialacha a bhaineann leis an scéim a phlé nuair a fhoilseofar an Bille. Caithfimid a bheith daingean. Ní mór am a thabhairt do dhaoine an Ghaeilge a shealbhú, go háirithe má tháinig siad ó Shasana nó ó Mheiriceá ach ag deireadh an lae, muna bhfuil an Ghaeilge á tabhairt ar aghaidh acu go dtí an chéad ghlúin eile níl aon chúis go mbeimid ag tabhairt deontas tithíochta dóibh. Caithfimid a bheith daingean agus tuisceannach ag an am céanna. Sin an fáth go bhfuilim ag tabhairt cúnamh chun cúntóirí teangan a chur isteach sna scoileanna. In ionad a rá go gcuirfimid deireadh leis an riail — sin an dearcadh a bhí ann riamh cheana — tugaimis breis tacaíochta do dhaoine an Ghaeilge a mhúineadh mar theanga teaghlaigh le go mbeidh siad in ann na deontais a fháil. B'fhearr liom acmhainní a chaitheamh sa treo sin ná a bheith ag iarraidh na rialacha a mhaolú. É sin ráite, rinne an Teachta an-phointe go deo maidir leis an riail seo go gcaithfidh cónaí a bheith ort sa Ghaeltacht chun cur isteach ar dheontas. Sa phreasráiteas a cuireadh amach maidir leis an mBille atá aontaithe ag an Rialtas agus atá á dhréachtú faoi láthair tá an riail sin a leasú ionas go mbeidh cead ag daoine cur isteach ar dheontas agus iad ina gcónaí taobh amuigh den Ghaeltacht. Íocfar an deontar nuair a lonnaíonn duine go buan sa teach. Tuigeann gach duine an fhadhb a bhí i gceist leis seo.
Tá an-phointí déanta ann agus nuair a fhoilseofar an Bille féachfaimid cad é an bealach is fearr le cothromas a chothú sa rud seo agus déanamh cinnte go bhfuil na deontais seo ag tacú leis an nGaeilge.
Tá na maoir tithe ag déanamh a ndícheall freastal ar an éileamh mór. Ach ar nós chuile rud atá ar bun ag an Roinn faoi láthair tá méadú mór ar líon na hoibre agus tá gaisce á dhéanamh ag an fhoireann. Fanann na maoir go dtí go mbíonn cúpla iarratas acu ó cheantar amháin agus sin an fáth leis an mhoill.
Ba mhaith liom buíochas a ghlacadh leis na Teachtaí faoi cé chomh dearfa is atá siad faoin obair atá ar bun ar na bóithre áise. Éinne a chónaíonn i gceantar Gaeltachta nó atá mar Theachta Dála ar cheantar Gaeltachta, tuigeann siad gurb é an t-achainní ba mhó a bhí ag pobal na Gaeltachta riamh ná infrastructúr — céibheanna, bóithre agus mar sin de. Tá áthas orm gur éirigh liom scéim na mbóithre áise a thabhairt ar ais. Anuraidh caitheadh £3 mhilliún nach mór ar bhóithre Gaeltachta. Cheana féin, nuair a bheas an chuid deiridh de na bóithre straiséiseacha fógraithe an tseachtain seo, beidh £6 mhilliún fógraithe i mbliana go dáta, nuair atá sé sin fógraithe. Is mór an dul chun cinn é sin.
Is féidir liom a dheimhniú go bhfuil an cúig míle punt a gealladh de bhreis ar an airgead a bhí ann ag tús na bliana, ar an airgead a bhí ann do na bóithre áise agus athnuachan baile agus mar sin tar éis milliún punt a chur ar fáil cheana féin i mbliana d'athnuachan baile agus do bhóithre áise — sin thart ar an méid céanna a caitheadh anuraidh — tá cúig mhilliún punt á fhógairt an tseachtain seo le haghaidh na mbóithre straitéiseacha Gaeltachta. Leanfaidh sé sin bliain i ndiaidh bliana, tá sé sin cinnte anois ó litir ón Aire Airgeadais, go ceann seacht mbliana. Na hoibreacha atá tosaithe, leanfar leo go dtí go mbeidh na bóithre sin críochnaithe.
Sin an fáth go bhfuil an oiread béime sa rud atá leagtha amach agam ar chaighdeán na hoibre a bheas le déanamh ag na comhairlí contae agus tá an-chomhoibriú faighte ón Roinn Comhshaoil, ag tabhairt cúnaimh dúinn agus ag cur comhairleoirí ar fáil chun caighdeán agus sonraíocht a leagadh síos don obair.
Le correisceacht, is é atá i gceist leis na bóithre a bheas á dheánamh ná tosú ag pointe amháin — go minic an pointe is faide isteach — agus oibriú amach go leanúnach de réir a chéile go dtí deireadh an bhóthair. Tá áiteanna ann nach féidir a fháil amach cad é an pointe is faide isteach mar i gceantar Thuar Mhic Éide mar shampla téann tú isteach taobh amháin agus tagann tú amach taobh eile. Sa chás sin thosaigh muid ag baile Thuar Mhic Éide, an áit ba mheasa ar an mbóthar agus beifear ag oibriú ó dheas. Sa chás sin tá an cur chuige sin réasúnta. Ach go ginearálta tá mé ag iarraidh déanamh cinnte ar an Eachléim, i bhFánad, i nGleann Cholmcille agus na háiteanna sin nach bhfágfar as an áit is faide ó bhaile. Sin an rud a tharla go dtí seo. Go minic b'iad na háiteanna le daonra beag a bhí thíos leis.
Rinne mé staidéar ar cé mhéad míle bóthair a bhí i gceist agus an costas a bheadh ann leis na bóithre a thabhairt suas chun dáta. Le hairgead ón Roinn Comhshaoil brisfidh sé seo cnámh droma na fadhbe thar seacht mbliana. Ach ní thuigeann daoine i gcónaí cé chomh dona is a bhí an fhadhb, agus cé chomh fada siar ón gcaighdeán atá ag an chuid eile den tír is a bhí cuid na ceantair Ghaeltachta. Chuir sé an-iontas orm nach raibh aon bhóthar ó thuaidh ó dheas i gceantar Mhúscraí ag ceangail Baile Bhúirne agus Gaeltacht Bhéal Átha an Ghaorthaidh. Bhí dhá bóthar ag dul soir siar ach ní fheadfaí bóthar ceart a thabhairt ar an mbóithrín beag a bhí ag ceangail an dá chuid den Ghaeltacht sin agus tá súil agam go mbeidh an fhadhb sin leigheasaithe agam.
Tá mé buíoch don tacaíocht atá ar fáil. Ó thaobh meanman na Gaeltachta de, déanfaidh na bóithre seo an-difear go deo agus go bhfeicfidh pobal na Gaeltachta go bhfuilimid ag cur deireadh leis an íomhá a bhí ann go mbaineann Gaeilge leis an rud atá i bhfad siar, le drochinfrastruchtúr, le seansaol. Is féidir le daoine i dtoscaí nua-aimseartha Gaeilge a labhairt agus a bheith chomh nua-aimseartha le duine ar bith ar domhain agus ag an am céanna an cultúr iontach atá againn a chaomhnú. Sin an cur chuige atá uainn sa chomhthéacs sin.
Ní féidir an obair atá ar bun againn ar an infrastruchtúr a dhíscaoileadh ón gceist a d'ardaigh an Teachta Ó Sé faoi chaomhnú agus leathnú na Gaeilge agus an Coimisiún Gaeltachta. Chreid mise dá mbeadh Coimisiún Gaeltachta ag scrúdú ceist teanga agus gan aon rud a bheith á dhéanamh faoi na rudaí praiticiúla go ndéarfaí cén mhaith a bheith ag caint faoin teanga agus na bunrudaí gan a bheith déanta. Ach ní haon mhaith bheith ag cur feabhas ar infrastruchtúr na Gaeltachta mura bhfuilimid sásta díriú ar an gceist faoi cén fáth a bhfuil Gaeltacht ann. Dhá chuid atá i gceist ag tacú lena chéile agus seo é an bealach is fearr atá againn.
Go raibh maith agat.
The evasion rate is estimated by An Post to be 13% of households.