Departmental Funding

Ceisteanna (561)

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

561. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the status of the funding and staging of the procurement process of the new convention centre in Cork city; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38322/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Culture)

The Taoiseach has indicated that a new simplified process is being put in place to ensure certainty over the levels of funding and delivery mechanisms for the Cork Event Centre project, which will provide a substantial addition to the cultural offering in Cork City and County when it is complete. Under the new arrangements it is intended that responsibility for oversight of the project will transfer to the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government and discussions in that regard are underway.

Living Wage

Ceisteanna (562)

Maurice Quinlivan

Ceist:

562. Deputy Maurice Quinlivan asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the number of workers employed by her Department and in each office or agency under the aegis of her Department who earn less than the living wage of €12.30 per hour; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38253/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Culture)

I have been advised by my Department that there are 100 employees in this Department earning less than €12.30 per hour.

In respect of the State Agencies under the remit of my Department, there is an overall total of 81 officers earning less than €12.30 per hour. The is illustrated in the table below:

Agency

No. of Employees earning less than €12.30 per hour

Arts Council

1

Chester Beatty Library

4

Crawford Art Gallery

Nil

Foras na Gaeilge

7

Heritage Council

Nil

Irish Museum of Modern Art

Nil

National Concert Hall

Nil

National Gallery of Ireland

24

National Library of Ireland

3

National Museum of Ireland

42

Screen Ireland

Nil

Údarás na Gaeltachta

Nil

Ulster Scots Agency

Nil

Waterways Ireland

Nil

Animal Disease Controls

Ceisteanna (563, 564)

Martin Ferris

Ceist:

563. Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the steps being taken to protect the wild hare population from rabbit haemorrhagic disease; and if animals that have been found with the disease have been sent for independent testing. [38274/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Martin Ferris

Ceist:

564. Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the counties in which rabbit haemorrhagic disease has been found to date; and if a vaccination scheme for the wild hare population has been explored. [38275/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Culture)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 563 and 564 together.

Rabbit haemorrhagic disease has caused deaths of domestic pet rabbits in Ireland for a number of years. It was first confirmed in the wild in Ireland in July 2019. The first two positive tests recorded were from rabbits – one in Wicklow, the other in Clare. The first report of and RHD2 positive test in an Irish hare came on the 9th August – an animal found dying in the Wexford Slobs Nature Reserve. The disease has now been confirmed from six different counties – Cork, Clare, Leitrim, Offaly, Wicklow and Wexford.

A post mortem of each dead animal has been carried out by qualified personnel in the regional laboratories of the Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine (DAFM). Tissue samples have then been sent to that Department’s specialist virology lab in Backweston where the RHD tests take place.

Most of the research available on the particular strain of virus, RHD2, comes from rabbits to date. From this work, and some investigations in a number of hare populations around Europe, we know that the RHD2 strain is highly contagious and has led to significant declines in wild rabbit populations across Europe since it first appeared in 2010. It has also been reported from several different species of hares.

The disease is density-dependent (i.e. the higher the density of animals the higher the incidence of the disease). The virus is extremely resistant, remaining viable for up to two months in the environment. It can be passed on by direct contact, in faeces (including the faeces of predators that have consumed infected animals) and in urine. Infected carcasses can harbour infective virus for several months post mortem. The virus can also be transported on soil, shoes and on clothing. Environmental contamination presents significant difficulties in terms of any biosecurity responses. There is no cure for the disease and while some animals are believed to be carriers and thus apparently immune, mortality of up to 70% is possible.

In an effort to reduce the spread of the disease, biosecurity measures have been put in place at the two NPWS Nature Reserves where the disease has been located – Wexford Wildlife Reserve and Boora Bog. The Office of Public Works have also implemented biosecurity measures at Scattery Island – one of the locations in Clare where the disease has been confirmed.

There is an effective vaccine against RHD2 available for domestic rabbits. However, this has not been tested on wild rabbits and has not been tested on hares. Licensing of vaccines for use on wild hares would require authorisations from the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA) and also potentially the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

My Department's NPWS Staff are continuing to monitor reports of wild rabbit and hare deaths to gain a fuller understanding of the extent and impact of this disease in Ireland. At least 4 more hares from three different counties are currently with DAFM for testing.

Arts Funding

Ceisteanna (565)

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

565. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the available funding for artists under 18 years of age; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38398/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Culture)

The Creative Youth Plan under the Creative Ireland Programme commits to specific actions to increase and enhance access to a range of creative and cultural activities and practices for young people. The Creative Ireland Programme supports do not however provide funding directly to young artists, but are aimed at supporting projects and initiatives which engage young people in activities, as well as whole-of-school supports and support for teachers’ continuing professional development. Such supports include pilot projects aimed at increasing and enhancing access to drama and group singing activities for young people in partnership with Youth Theatre Ireland and Sing Ireland respectively.

Additionally, the Creative Ireland Programme’s National Creativity Fund is supporting a number of initiatives which are designed to support young performers, including the

- Royal Irish Academy of Music development of Le Chéile, music ensembles for young disabled musicians;

- Irish Chamber Orchestra’s establishment of the Limerick City Youth Orchestra for 12 to 18 year olds; and

- Ireland’s National Musical Instrument Resource which is seeking to ensure that no one, regardless of age or socio-economic background, is prevented from fulfilling their creative potential for lack of access to an appropriate musical instrument.

My Department has a range of other supports which may benefit young performers, such as the Music Capital Scheme which provides funding for the purchase of equipment by performing groups and individual talented musicians. At the same time, the Department of Education and Skills is supporting the national roll-out of Music Generation as part of the commitments under the Creative Youth Plan.

Animal Disease Controls

Ceisteanna (566, 567)

Michael Healy-Rae

Ceist:

566. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if she will address a matter (details supplied) regarding a netting licence; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38412/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Seán Sherlock

Ceist:

567. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if a licence (details supplied) will be granted. [38435/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Culture)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 566 and 567 together.

I made the decision last month to suspend the licences in question.

Based on what we have been able to establish over the last 7 weeks, RHD2 appears to be widespread in Ireland. The virus is known to be highly contagious and easily spread and environmental contamination presents significant difficulties in terms of any biosecurity responses.

Netting and collecting hares for coursing meetings has been identified as a significant risk factor in spreading the disease.

The disease was first reported in Ireland from domestic rabbits in 2018 and was first reported in the wild in early August this year. The virus has now been confirmed in Counties Clare, Cork, Leitrim, Offaly, Wicklow and Wexford with some other animals still awaiting testing. My Department's officials will continue to work closely with colleagues in the regional laboratories and virology unit of Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine to gain a fuller understanding of the extent and impact of the disease in Ireland. All post-mortems and RHD2 testing to date has been done in DAFM’s labs and I would like to acknowledge their ongoing support and cooperation in our efforts to date.

While most of the confirmed reports to date have been in rabbits, the disease has also been recorded to date in two Irish hares. The National Parks and Wildlife Service of my Department continue to monitor the situation.

The cooperation of farming groups, hunters, the coursing clubs and other rural land-users will be essential to ensure that a full picture of the disease’s extent and spread are achieved.

The decision to suspend the licences in question will be kept under ongoing review.