Dáil Éireann - Volume 426 - 23 February, 1993

Adjournment Debate. - Arts, Culture and Gaeltacht Matters.

Mr. Nealon: For the first time since the grievance procedure was introduced I believe that the two minutes allotted will be in excess of my requirements. I say that because I know that, in asking the new Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht to ensure that a proper percentage of lottery funds goes to the arts as originally intended, I am pushing a wide open door.

I am not trying to build up an argument here tonight or to marshal the facts in favour of more lottery money for the arts, I am assuming that the Minister is in total agreement with me on this. What I am seeking to do is provide a platform for the Minister to announce his intentions on the day before the budget to pre-empt any designs the Department of Finance might have on easy lotto money. I believe that there would never have been a national lottery but for the inclusion of arts and culture for a major slice of the proceeds. The then Taoiseach, Dr. [1305] Garret FitzGerald, sanctioned the lottery because he saw in it one way of finally having some proper funding of the arts. Of course, what we are getting is merely substitution for what should have have been cogent Exchequer expenditure. The intended percentage for the Arts was 35 per cent of the total funds. I was involved in that decision at the time. Unfortunately, this was not written into the Bill and here I detect the hand of the Department of Finance. There is no need to remind the Minister, Deputy M. Higgins, of how that Department, which also controls the Office of Public Works, likes to maintain its control over most things as far as finance is concerned.

I look forward to the Minister of State, on behalf of the Minister, telling us that he intends to deliver to the arts, now that he is in control, what was originally intended when the lottery was established. I am sorry the Minister is not present but I am glad of this opportunity to congratulate the Minister of State and wish him well on his reappointment to his portfolio.

Minister of State at the Department of Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht (Mr. Gallagher, Donegal South-West): I would like to thank Deputy Nealon for his kind wishes and to apologise on behalf of the Minister who is unavoidably absent this evening. National lottery funding has provided the arts and culture area with much needed funding to finance both its current spending and its capital programme. This funding has enabled the national cultural institutions to greatly expand their activities and to develop their services to the public. On the capital side, it is clear that many worthwhile projects could not have been completed were it not for the availability of lottery funding. For example, the Irish Museum of Modern Art which opened in May 1991 was assisted by the national lottery to the extent of £930,000; the heating system in the National Museum is being completely overhauled at a cost of £800,000. Similarly, in regard to arts facilities in the regions it is doubtful whether a project such as the Firkin Crane in Cork which, [1306] for example, received £250,000, could have proceeded without lottery funding.

In the Programme for a Partnership Government our commitment to the arts and culture area is clearly stated. I would like to restate the Minister's and my own commitment to the many areas touched on in that document, from the increased funding to the Arts Council to the current and capital funding needs of our national cultural institutions, including support for their modernisation and refurbishment programmes.

As you are no doubt aware, responsibility for the allocation of lottery funds is a matter for Government. I fully accept that while there are so many worthwhile issues to be addressed and so many exciting projects to be undertaken, there will always be greater demand on our funds than can be met immediately. However, I can assure Deputy Nealon and the House that every effort will be made by the Minister to ensure that this area receives its fair and due share of funding.

Mr. McGinley: Is í an chéad cheist atá agamsa ná easpa fostaíochta sa Ghaeltacht Lár i nDún na nGall. Fáiltím roimh athcheapadh an Aire Stáit ar an Roinn Ealaíon, Cultúir agus Gaeltachta agus déarfainn go n-aontódh sé liom nach bhfuil aon tionsclaíocht ar fiú trácht uirthi, sa cheantar sin. Taobh amuigh de theaghlaigh Uí Bhaoill agus Uí Dhochartaigh ní shílim go bhfuil aon fhostáiocht eile ann. Táimid ag fanacht le fada go dtarlódh rud éigin a bhunódh fostaíocht sa cheantar ach níor tharla rud ar bith go fóill.

Bhí dhá mhonarcha bhréatha ann tráth — Fine Glas, atá druidte anois le cúig blianna agus Raudon, a druideadh cúpla bliain ó shin — ach níl rud ar bith ag dul ar aghaidh iontu í láthair na huaire. Sílim go n-aontódh an tAire Stáit liom go bhfuil éadochas ag teacht ar mhuintir an cheantair sin mar nach bhfuil fostaíocht ar bith curtha ar fáil dóibh. D'ardaigh mé an cheist seo go minic roimhe seo agus táim anois ag achainí ar Aire na Gaeltachta, ar an Aire Stáit agus ar Údarás na Gaeltachta gníomhú gan a thuilleadh moille [1307] faoi choinne fostaíocht a chur ar fáil do mhuintir na Gaeltachta seo.

Mr. P. Gallagher (Donegal South-West): Is ceantar é an Ghaeltacht Lár atá buailte go dona le tamall anuas le fadhbanna na dífhostaíochta agus na himirce. Tá géarghá le tionsclóirí a mhealladh chun tograí fiúntacha a bhunú sa cheantar d'fhonn deiseanna fostaíochta breise a chruthú do mhuintir na háite agus caighdeán maíreachtála na ndaoine sín a ardú oriead agus is féidir. Tuigimse agus tuigeann Údarás na Gaeltachta é sin go maith. Chuige sin bíonn iarrachtaí leanúnacha ar siúl ag an Údarás chun gnóanna inmharthana a aimsiú a thabharfaidh spreagadh agus uchtach do phobal an cheantair sin chun aghaidh a thabhairt ar na blainta atá romhainn le misneach agus féinmhuinín.

Maidir le Coiste Oibre Bhaile na Finne, atá ag feidhmiú mar eagraíocht fhorbartha áitiúil, tuigim ón Údarás gur bhuail feidhmeannaigh dá chuid faoi dhó le toscaireacht d'ionadaithe an choiste sin le roinnt míonna anuas chun deis a thabhairt do phobal an cheantair a gcuid tuairimí agus moltaí maidir le forbairt na háite i gcoitinne a nochtadh agus a chur ina luí ar lucht an Údaráis. Is comhartha dóchais é an tsuim seo atá á léiriú ag muintir na háite ina dtodhchaí féin. Bíonn comhoibriú ar siúl idir Oifig Réigiúnda an Údaráis agus an Coiste Oibre d'fhonn daoine áitiúla a spreagadh chun tionscnaimh a bhunú a bheadh dírithe ar achmhainní nádúrtha an cheantair a fhorbairt. Is trua nach bhfuil an toradh a rabhthas ag súil leis bainte amach go fóill ag na hiarrachtaí go léir chun fostaíocht bhreise a chruthú sa cheantar ach caithfear brú ar aghaidh go dícheallach leis na hiarrachtaí sin.

Tá céimeanna suntasacha glactha agus á nglacadh agamsa i gcomhar leis an Údarás chun féachaint chuige go ndéanfar an oiread dul chun cinn agus is féidir i bhforbairt thionscail sa Ghaeltacht lár sa tréimhse go deireadh 1993.

I measc na gcéimeanna sin tá: cinneadh glactha ag an Údarás le cúpla mí anuas iarrachtaí speisialta a dhíriú ar an nGaeltacht [1308] Lár sa tréimhse go dtí deireadh 1993 ar a laghad; dlús curtha ag an Údarás lena gcuid iarrachtaí chun togra fiúntach a aimsiú don mhonarcha folamh i mBaile na Finne; cead tugtha agam don Údarás ceithre ionad nua fhiontraíochtas a thógáil sa Ghaeltacht Lár — ceann amháin díobh i gceantar Ghleann Finne; cúrsa oiliúna fiontraíochta do choistí sa cheantar curtha ar siúl; liosta de dhaoine atá ag iarraidh cúrsa traenála curtha le chéile i gcomhair le Coiste Oibre Bhaile na Finne; agus teach de chuid an Údaráis curtha ar fáil don Choiste Oibre mar Ionad Acmhainní don cheantar.

Maidir le Raudon Teo tuigim ón Údarás go bhfuiltear ag feitheamh le plean gnó ó phríomhaithe nua d'fhonn an tionscal seo a athbhunú. Tá an tÚdarás dóchasach go n-éireoidh leis ar iarracht seo.

Is léir ón méid atá ráite agam thuas go bhfuil iarracht nach beag ar siúl chun tionchar fadhbhanna dífhostaíochta an cheantair seo a mhaolú oiread agus is féidir agus bí cinnte de go ndéanfaidh mise mo chion féin i gcónaí ar mhaithe le saol eacnamaíochta, sóisialta agus cultúrtha phobal na háite seo a fheabhsú agus a chur chun cinn.

Aontaím leis an Teachta McGinley go bhfuil fadhb fostaíochta sa cheantar seo le fada. Tá súil agam go mbeidh toradh ar ár gcuid oibre go luatil.

Mr. McGinley: Baineann an cheist seo leis na hoibrithe a chail a gcuid postanna i monarcha Éadach Chonamara Teoranta i gCill Chárthaigh, Co. Dhún na nGall, breis is dhá bhliain ó shin. Chaill 53 duine a bpostanna an uair sin agus níor tugadh dóibh ach an ráta reachtúil iomarcaíochta. Fuair daoine a bhí ag obair ann feadh leathchéad bliain £6,000 nó £7,000 d'íocaíocht agus ní bhfuair daoine eile a d'oibrigh ann ar feadh fiche bliain ach £3,000. Cé gur dhein bord Údarás na Gaeltachta cinneadh go bhfaigheadh na hoibrithe níos mó ná an ráta reachtúil iomarcaíochta, níor éirigh leis na hoibrithe aon íocaíocht sa bhreis a fháil. Tuigim, leis, gur tháinig an moladh sin chuig Roinn na Gaeltachta ach nár dearnadh aon rud faoi i rith an dá bhliain [1309] sin. Deirtear go bhfuil fadhb ag an Ard-Aighne maidir leis an íocaíocht bhreise ach nuair a chuimhnímid go bhfuair daoine eile a chaill postanna laistigh agus lasmuigh den Ghaeltacht, íocaíochtaí sa bhreis ar an ráta reachtúil, ní thuigim cén fáth nach féidir rud a dhéanamh ar son na n-oibrithe in Éadach Chonamara Teoranta a thug seirbhís chomh fada sin.

Tá ráflaí ag gabháil thart anois go mb'fhéidir go mbeidh dífhosta ar siúl ag bord stáit eile cosúil le hAer Lingus. Más amhlaidh, tá mé cinnte go bhfaighidh na hoibrithe sin íocaíochta sa bhreis ar an méid reachtúil. Chas an tAire Stáit leis na hiar-oibrithe níos mó ná uair amháin ach tá siad ag fanacht go fóill le aitheantas a fháil dá seirbhís don mhonarcha seo, d'Údarás na Gaeltachta, do Ghaeltarra Éireann agus don dream a bhí ann roimh Ghaeltarra. An mbeadh an tAire ábalta insint dúinn an bhfaighidh siad íocaíochtaí breise go háirithe óir nár éirigh lena bhformhór post eile a fháil ó shin?

Mr. Gallagher (Donegal South-West): Sa chéad dul síos is mian liom a rá, mar Theachta Dála don cheantar áirithe seo agus mar Aire Stáit na Gaeltachta chomh maith, go dtuigim go maith cé chomh buartha is atá iar-oibrithe Éadach Chonamara Teo. toisc nach bhfuair siad íocaíochtaí iomarcaíochta de bhreis ar shuimeanna reachtúla. D'fhreastail mé ar roinnt cruinnithe áitiúla faoin ábhar seo agus rinne mé gach iarracht ab'fhéidir ó thús chun réiteach sásúil a fháil ar an gceist.

Ba bhuille tubaisteach do cheantar Chill Chárthaigh nuair a d'imigh an chuideachta seo as gnó agus nuair a ceapadh leachtaitheoir uirthi dhá bhliain ó shin. D'ainneoin na tacaíochta a thug Údarás na Gaeltachta don fhochuideachta seo thar na blianta theip ar an ngnó sa deireadh ar chúiseanna éagsúla. Ní fiú dul isteach go mion sa ghné sin den scéal anois ach tig leis an Teachta glacadh leis gur scrúdaíodh na féidearthachtaí uile a bhain leis an gcás ag an am féachaint an bhféadfaí an tionscal a tharrtháil.

Bhí suim phearsanta agam sa chás seo i gcónaí d'fhonn teacht i gcabhair ar na hiar-oibrithe trí íocaíochtaí iomarcaíochta [1310] de bhreis ar na suimeanna reachtúla a íoc leo mar chúiteamh ar an tseirbhís dhílis fhadtréimhseach a thug siad don chuideachta. Phléigh mé an cheist leis an Aire Airgeadais agus d'iarr seisean comhairle ón Ard-Aighne faoin gcás agus is í an chomhairle a fuair sé uaidh ná nach bhfuil aon chumhacht ag Údarás na Gaeltachta pá iomarcaíochta de bhreis ar na suimeanna reachtúla a íoc le hiaroibrithe Éadach Chonamara Teo. Chuir mé é sin in iúl do na hiar-oibrithe ag cruinniú a bhí agam le Rúnaí Údarás na Gaeltachta in Ard Rathain cúpla mí ó shin.

Chuamar ar ais go dtí an Aire Airgeadais agus an tArd-Aighne agus cuireadh in iúl dúinn arís nach bhfuil an ceart ná an cead ag Údarás na Gaeltachta airgead sa bhreis ar na suimeanna reachtúla a íoc leis na hiar-oibrithe. Is oth liom nach féidir liomsa mar Aire Stáit ná leis an Aire Gaeltachta ná an Aire Airgeadais, fiú, an cead sin a thabhairt. I rith na tréimhse, rinne an Teachta McGinley, an Teachta Coughlan agus mé féin gach iarracht ab'fhéidir ar son na n-iar-oibrithe ach ní raibh sé ar ár gcumas an ceadú a bhaint amach d'ainneoin an chinnidh a ghlac bord Údáras na Gaeltachta ina thaobh. Sin mar atá an scéal i láthair na huaire agus is trua é.

Mr. Deenihan: St. John's Church of Ireland was built in 1819. The clock and the church tower, which is such a feature of the square in Listowel, was installed in 1861. The church ceased to be used as a place of worship in the late seventies. In 1987 a voluntary committee was set up to restore St. John's and convert it into an arts and heritage centre. To date, over £200,000 has been spent on restoration and conversion work. The committee were fortunate to receive £50,000 from the Irish American fund, £30,000 from Shannon Development, £30,000 from the National Heritage Council and £30,000 from local fund raising events. However, there is an outstanding deficit of £60,000 owed to the bank. There is also a need to develop the literary foundation section and carry out further remedial structural work to the main building, including [1311] replacing the existing roof and repairing the church spire. The additional works will cost in the region of £75,000.

St. John's Arts and Heritage Centre has proven to be an outstanding success. It has become a major centre for the visual and performing arts in the north Kerry-West Limerick area. It now caters for over 100 events per annum. Over 10,000 patrons attended the various events in 1992. The front section of the building is used as a tourist point. From May to September over 10,000 tourists were assisted in 1992 at this location.

Minister Higgins is an acknowledged supporter of the arts. Indeed, he has had memorable moments in Listowel, especially during writers' week. No doubt there are moments during writers' week which he cannot remember. I appeal to the Minister on behalf of his several admirers in Listowel to make a commitment to provide funding for this most magnificent and valuable centre of the arts, both in County Kerry and in Ireland.

Mr. Gallagher (Donegal South-West): As Deputy Deenihan is, no doubt, aware, the National Heritage Council offered a grant of £35,000 to this project in May 1990. The project involved restoration work to St. John's building, the former church in the centre of the square in Listowel. The building itself, as well as its important location in Listowel, were the determinants of the decision to offer grant assistance. The sum of £30,000 of the grant had already been paid by the National Heritage Council. This related to carrying out specified works agreed between the Office of Public Works architect and the secretary of the restoration committee. The [1312] National Heritage Council are of the view that the grant of £35,000 is relatively generous and while they cannot guarantee any increase in the funding, they would, however, be prepared to consider the matter further if specific information and proposals are submitted.

I wish to point out that the Arts Council provided grants of £7,500 in 1990-91 and £6,159 in 1992 to help defray some of the operating costs of the centre. The council has also approved a grant of £13,000 in 1993 of which £2,500 has already been paid.

Níor mhiste a lua freisin gur aithin Roinn na Gaeltachta sa bhliain 1991 go raibh sár-obair ar siúl san ionad sin. Már chomhartha air sin, ceadaíodh deontas £4,000 in aghaidh na bliana ar feadh tréimhse trí bliana ó fháltais an chrannchuir náisiúnta chun a chumasú don choiste clár sonrach ar mhaithe leis an nGaeilge a chur i bhfeidhm san ionad sin agus sa cheantar maguaird.

Tá an deontas seo á ioc i dtráthchuideanna dhá uair sa bhliain agus tá £6,000 íochta go dtí seo. Mar Aire Stáit ag an Roinn Ealaíon, Cultúir agus Gaeltachta is cúis sásaimh ar leith dom an raon fairsing d'imeachtaí cultúrtha ealaíon atá á reachtáil ag muintir Lios Tuathail faoi scáth Ionad Naomh Eoin. Is léir go bhfuil cúnamh nach beag faighte ag an togra seo agus guím gach rath ar an ionad sna blianta romhainn.

As I have said, the National Heritage Council cannot consider further funding in the absence of specific information and proposals. Perhaps the Deputy would discuss that with me.

The Dáil adjourned at 9.40 p.m. until 10.30 a.m. on Wednesday, 24 February 1993.