Government Chief Whip and Minister of State for the Irish Language, the Gaeltacht and the Islands, Seán Kyne TD, speaking at the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht
Irish Language, Gaeltacht and the Islands
I welcome this opportunity to address the Committee today on issues relating both to Programme C of the Department relating to the Irish Language, the Gaeltacht and the Islands and Programme D relating to Foras na Gaeilge and the Ulster-Scots Agency.
Total expenditure for Programme C at 30 June 2019 was €18.4m. Current expenditure at mid-year was €13.6m or 99% of profile and 37% of the overall allocation for 2019, while capital expenditure amounted to €4.8m or 70% of profile and 36% of the overall allocation.
In terms of our language, good progress continues to be recorded on the implementation of the Five Year Action Plan for the Irish Language, with the first annual progress report currently being prepared for publication.
Regarding the language planning process, of the 26 Gaeltacht Language Planning Areas, 16 plans have been approved with a target of 23 to be approved by year end.
Significant progress has also been made with the drafting of the Official Languages (Amendment) Bill, while the schedule to the 2003 Act has been updated for the first time since 2006 and is currently proceeding through the Houses.
The Report from the European Commission to the European Council on the Union institutions’ progress towards the implementation of the gradual reduction of the Irish language derogation was published in July and I updated cabinet on the report shortly afterwards. The report was broadly positive, noting that:
- The first two increments towards ending the derogation have been implemented in full;
- Significant progress has been made in all aspects of the action plan aimed at ending the derogation;
- While the rate of progress in terms of recruitment of permanent staff has been lower than expected, the institutions are committed to bringing the derogation to an end;
- Delivery to date has been greatly facilitated by Ireland’s commitment and cooperation
Finally, the first meeting of the newly established Interdepartmental Committee on Island Development took place last week and was attended by representatives from a range of Government Departments. A wide ranging consultation process will now be undertaken to inform the development of the policy and action plan.
The important work of both Foras na Gaeilge and the Ulster-Scots Agency has continued to benefit communities from both traditions on the island this year and the spend to mid-year is in line with the profile agreed.
Finally, a provision of €40.4m is made available in 2019 to support the North South Co-operation programme area. 95% of this funding is used to support initiatives by the two North-South implementation bodies, An Foras Teanga (comprising Foras na Gaeilge and the Ulster-Scots Agency) and Waterways Ireland. These are also subject to the approval of the North/South Ministerial Council.
Total gross programme expenditure under North South Co-operation up to the period ending 30 June 2019 was just over €19m, representing 50% of the 2019 programme allocation.
This expenditure had increased to €25.3m as at 31 August 2019.
Waterways Ireland continues to focus on delivering its core activities and maintaining front line services.
In addition to the organisation’s statutory function, Waterways Ireland has a strong community and business outreach and partnership policy which it continues to implement in 2019.
As part of this policy, Waterways Ireland continues to engage with and deliver services for communities adjacent to the waterways to create social, recreational, health and economic benefits.
I am happy to expand on any issues Members would like to raise.