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PQ - Arts

To ask the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if he will make public the terms under which the State seaweed company Arramara Teo was sold; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

- Mick Wallace.

 

For PRIORITY answer on Wednesday, 16th July, 2014.

R E P L Y

 

 

AN tAIRE STÁIT SA ROINN EALAÍON, OIDHREACHTA AGUS GAELTACHTA (JOE MC HUGH, T.D.)

The sale of Údarás na Gaeltachta's shares in Arramara Teo to Acadian Seaplants Ltd was approved by the board of Údarás on 1 March 2013, subject to Ministerial approval being obtained and legal details being agreed. Following an assessment of the proposal, approval was granted for the sale on 29 July 2013, subject to a number of specific conditions being fulfilled. I am advised that the sale of Arramara Teo was concluded on 7 May 2014 and that Údarás na Gaeltachta is satisfied that the conditions laid down have been fully complied with.

I am satisfied that the best value that could be obtained for Arramara Teo was achieved through this course of action. As a multinational company based in Nova Scotia, Canada with significant experience in the seaweed processing sector, I am satisfied that Acadian Seaplants Ltd has the expertise to develop Arramara Teo and secure its long-term future for the benefit of its stakeholders. I believe that this strategic partnership will secure Arramara's future in Connemara and will result in the development of the seaweed processing sector here.

While I am unable to give further details with regard to the terms of the sale of Arramara Teo because of the confidentiality provisions of the contract, I am advised by Údarás na Gaeltachta that continuity of supply to Arramara's existing Irish customers is assured. One of the conditions of the sale agreement between Údarás na Gaeltachta and Acadian Seaplants Ltd related to existing Irish customers of Arramara Teo being guaranteed supply of product on reasonable terms and conditions into the future. In that regard, Údarás na Gaeltachta has confirmed that the sale agreement provides for the protection of future supply to existing Irish customers of Arramara Teo, with no increase in price for Year 1 and with prices advantageous to the Irish customers as against international customers being secured. It is also understood that Acadian Seaplants Ltd has covenanted to continue to supply the Irish customers. In the event of a breach of covenant, Údarás na Gaeltachta has advised that penalties would apply.

In overall terms, it is envisaged that the sale of Údarás na Gaeltachta's shares in Arramara Teo will benefit the State through a cash consideration to Údarás na Gaeltachta, through a significant investment in Arramara Teo and through the development of the seaweed sector into the future with benefit accruing to the State as a result of increased economic activity.

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To ask the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if she has any discussions with the Arts Council regarding the manner in which the council allocates funding in order to ensure that all persons and organisations receiving funds are operating in an ethical manner; and if she will make a statement on the matter.

- Mick Wallace.

For ORAL answer on Wednesday, 16th July, 2014.

R E P L Y

Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht (Ms. Heather Humphreys T.D.)

Primary responsibility for the promotion of the arts at all levels throughout the country is devolved to the Arts Council as the national agency for funding, developing and promoting the arts in Ireland.  This year, the Arts Council will receive a total allocation of €56.9 million.

Although, the Arts Council is funded from my Department's Vote, it is statutorily independent in its day-to-day operations as provided for in the Arts Act 2003.  This specifically includes independence in its funding decisions.

The Arts Council recently published the report of an independent strategic review group chaired by Mr. Terence O’Rourke.  The Strategic Review Report was commissioned by the Arts Council and provides a series of proposals that may be used by the Arts Council to inform strategy in the years ahead.  The Council will now begin to examine the detail and the implications of the Review.

Members of the Arts Council are subject to the Ethics in Public Office legislation, and members make annual returns under that legislation. Furthermore, meetings of the Council are governed by declaration of interest protocols, in accordance with best practice. Staff at the Council are also subject to declaration of interest codes.

To ask the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht her plans for the commemoration of World War One; her views on whether the occasion should be used to highlight the devastating effects of war; and if she will make a statement on the matter.

- Mick Wallace.

For ORAL answer on Wednesday, 16th July, 2014.

R E P L Y

Minister for Arts Heritage and the Gaeltacht, (Ms. Heather Humphries TD) :

The outbreak and escalation of World War I is being remembered with many activities, nationally, in Britain and further afield. The Government continues to be represented at war memorial ceremonies in Dublin, Belfast and other centres, marking the Battle of the Somme in July and the Armistice in November. The Government has also taken part in the annual commemorations on the Somme – participating at the international commemoration at Thiepval and the special commemorations of the 16th (Ulster) Division at the Ulster Tower and the 10th (Irish) Division at Guillemont.

As the Deputy will be aware, annual commemorations of national losses in World War I are organised by embassies and communities in Ireland, notably Australia, New Zealand and Germany.  Official representation was undertaken at the ANZAC commemoration on 25 April last in Dublin. Arrangements are also being made to mark the anniversary of the start of the war with a special service of prayer.

On 31 July, a memorial "Cross of Sacrifice" at Glasnevin Cemetery will be dedicated to the memory of all Irish soldiers lost in the war and particularly those laid to rest there. This cross will be a welcome addition to the comprehensive and inclusive representation of Irish history on the site and is being brought forward in a partnership between Glasnevin Trust and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

The Deputy will no doubt be aware of the event jointly hosted by the National Library of Ireland and Trinity College, with substantial support from RTÉ, which was held on Saturday last. This was a well-attended event which allowed members of the public to relate stories of their families' connections with the Great War and to have their memorabilia catalogued and uploaded unto the digital Europeana library.

Indeed, as my first official function as Minister with responsibility for commemorations, I attended the annual ceremony of remembrance and wreath-laying for the Irish dead of the First World War on 12 July last in the National War Memorial Gardens at Islandbridge, Dublin. This year, of course, made particular reference to the outbreak of the Great War.

The National Museum of Ireland hosted a conference at Collins Barracks on 1 February last on ‘Remembering World War One in Europe, 1914-2014’, while the National Gallery of Ireland arranged an extensive programme of events commencing on 1 March with a Study Day on War Artists, followed on 2 March by a consideration of War Poetry and Images of the First World War.

I welcome also the contributions to the commemorative programme from colleges where conferences are being organised to present research and stimulate consideration of the centenary of the war.  One such event was programme, prepared by the School of History at University College Cork earlier this year, addressed themes such as media, culture, religion, conscription, politics, society and legacy. The conference included a keynote address from British Minister Dr Andrew Murrison, MP, who referenced important issues of purpose, direction and tone in the official commemoration of the war. I was pleased to meet Minister Murrison at the Islandbridge ceremony last weekend.

As to the effects of war, certain of the events hosted by the cultural institutions already mentioned highlighted some of these effects. Clearly, while Ireland was at a distance from the immediate effects of major military confrontations, the brutal impact of casualties was experienced by many Irish families and this will continue to be recognised.

To ask the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if there are an adequate number of National Parks and Wildlife Service officers to properly protect our wildlife; his plans to recruit additional officers; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

- Mick Wallace.

For ORAL answer on Wednesday, 16th July, 2014.

R E P L Y

Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht  (Heather Humphreys TD):

My Department directly employs 565 staff, who are deployed across a broad range of functional areas in the Arts, Culture, Film, Music, Built and Natural Heritage, Irish Language, Gaeltacht, Islands and North/South Co-operation sectors. These staff are assigned to the various functional areas on the basis of need, having regard to overall resource availability. Of the total Departmental staff, 283 work in the area of natural heritage, through the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) of my Department.  In addition, my Department will take on up to 50 seasonal staff during this year to assist the NPWS.

As the Deputy will be aware, the moratorium on public service recruitment remains in place and, as a result, my Department is not in a position to recruit new staff to deal with wildlife protection. However, it is hoped to bring in some staff from other Departments on secondment to assist in priority areas.

Despite the constraints, I am satisfied that NPWS is playing a comprehensive and valuable role in the conservation and protection of our natural heritage.  For example, in the last year or so:

·

Ireland's 6 National Parks at Wicklow, Killarney, The Burren, Connemara, Ballycroy and Glenveagh have been well-managed, remained open for visitors and provided a wide range of education and visitor services to the public.

·

Significant progress has been achieved on a major capital project of developing Killarney House and Gardens as a new interpretive and information service for Killarney National Park.

·

Considerable progress was made on the development of a suite of initiatives to address peatlands policy issues. This work, which was carried out in conjunction with the Peatlands Council, led to the publication early in 2014 of a draft National Peatlands Strategy, a draft National Raised Bog SAC Management Plan and the results of the Raised Bog Natural Heritage Area (NHA) Review. These documents raise issues of considerable importance for current stakeholders and future generations. A public consultation process in relation to them began in early 2014.

·

A total of 2,959 applications for compensation under the cessation of turf cutting compensation scheme, applicable to raised bog special areas of conservation, have been received and are being dealt with by my Department.

·

The Burren Farming for Conservation Programme is in 4th year of operation, with some 160 farmers involved. In September 2013, Ireland was awarded its first ‘European Diploma of Protected Areas Award’ from the Council of Europe for the sustainable management of the Burren.

·

In the period 2009 to end-2013, there were almost 160 prosecution cases taken by NPWS officials for breaches of national wildlife legislation.

·

My Department's NPWS staff processed and granted some 7,000 licences in 2013 under various provisions of the Wildlife Acts and the European Communities (Birds and Natural Habitats) Regulations 2011.   In addition, over 360 certificates and permits were granted under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

·

My Department's NPWS contributed to a successful Irish Presidency of the European Council in relation to Cultural and Heritage issues, including guiding European legislation, leading at international meetings and hosting relevant events and meetings here at home.

In the circumstances, I consider that my Department's staff are continuing to deliver an excellent service to the public, notwithstanding the demands placed on them, including resource constraints.

To ask the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht in view of her responsibility for the decade of commemorations programme, her role in deciding to whom the Government extend invitations to attend commemoration events; and if she will make a statement on the matter.

- Mick Wallace.

 For ORAL answer on Wednesday, 16th July, 2014.

R E P L Y

(Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Ms. Heather Humphreys, T.D.)

A variety of commemorative opportunities will arise over the coming period, some of which will fall under State remit. These include lectures, exhibitions, conferences, religious, community and other events over the coming months, all of which will combine to form a appropriate and evolving programme of events.

As has been stated previously, many of the commemorative events will be undertaken with the co-operation of partners and decisions on invitations will be taken collaboratively. As a co-ordinator and partner, my Department will be happy to offer advice as to invitations to be issued, if required, and the matter will be kept under ongoing and active consideration, as individual events arise.

My Department recently invited expressions of interest from relatives of those involved in the 1916 Rising in relation to attending commemorative events in 2016.

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To ask the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if he will provide an update on a matter (details supplied) in view of the fact that it is now over two months since the matter was referred by him to the National Museum of Ireland for direct reply and no correspondence has been received from that Institution; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

- Mick Wallace.

For ORAL answer on Wednesday, 11th June, 2014.

R E P L Y

Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht (Jimmy Deenihan T.D.):

I refer the Deputy to my replies to his previous Questions No. 30 of 6 March 2014 and No.15 of 17 April 2014 which related to the same topic.

As I outlined on both of those occasions, whilst my Department provides funding to the National Cultural Institutions, including the National Museum of Ireland, the board of each institution is responsible for all operational matters, including recruitment and internship programmes and I have no direct function in these matters.

That said, I am given to understand that the National Museum has now replied directly to the Deputy on this matter and has indicated that the Museum provides a range of internship opportunities on a regular basis in its marketing, education, collections and other areas.  Those internships are mainly provided to third-level students who wish to gain practical experience and develop work place skills relevant to their course and area of study.  The Museum has well-established relationships with many universities and relevant third-level institutions, both nationally and internationally, which place students with the Museum. Applications from students are assessed on their individual merits and opportunities are provided in as many cases as possible.

The Museum assures me that all internships and work placements operate in a mutually supportive and complementary manner, which assists the Museum in achieving its goals and objectives whilst ensuring a rewarding and beneficial experience for interns in terms of enhancing their career opportunities.

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To ask the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht further to written correspondence on 31 January 2014, his views on whether it is acceptable for a national cultural institution to request a person to work full-time for a period of six months without pay; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

- Mick Wallace.

For ORAL answer on Thursday, 6th March, 2014

R E P L Y

Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht (Jimmy Deenihan T.D.):

Whilst my Department provides funding to the National Cultural Institutions, the board of each institution is responsible for all operational matters, including recruitment and internship programmes. Such matters are, of course, required to be in compliance with public sector pay and recruitment policy as set down by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.

While I have no direct function in the matter, I am given to understand that a number of the National Cultural Institutions offer internship opportunities, which are provided mainly to third-level students and/or new graduates who wish to gain practical experience and develop work place skills relevant to their area of study with a view to enhancing their career opportunities.

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