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 Header Item National Cultural Institutions (Continued)
 Header Item Air Strips
 Header Item Commemorative Events

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 861 No. 1

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Heather Humphreys: Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys] The National Library had also mentioned the difficulties it was facing. The breakdown has not been published yet. It will be published shortly. I have had discussions with the directors and chairpersons of the different institutions. We will try to resolve the issues they have raised.

Air Strips

 94. Deputy Seán Kyne Information on Seán Kyne Zoom on Seán Kyne asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys her plans for the airstrips at Cleggan and Inishbofin, County Galway; if discussions have taken place or are planned with the Irish Coast Guard regarding the use of the facilities in its work; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [46858/14]

Deputy Seán Kyne: Information on Seán Kyne Zoom on Seán Kyne This question relates to the Government's plans for the airstrips at Cleggan and Inishbofin. Has the Minister of State had any engagement with the Irish Coast Guard on their use?

Deputy Joe McHugh: Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh Beidh mé ag streachailt i mBéarla anois. An bhfuil sé sin ar dóigh? As the Deputy is aware, my Department has developed airstrips at Cleggan and Inishbofin in County Galway. These airstrips are not open at present. They are not licensed for use by the Irish Aviation Authority. The landing of aircraft on the airstrips is prohibited. The Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht decided in 2013 to dispose of both airstrips. This decision was made in view of the economic downturn, the ongoing cost of maintaining the airstrips and the unlikelihood that the Department will at any time in the near future have the resources to provide financial support to an air service between Inishbofin and the mainland. The Department is assessing the disposal options that are available to it. A decision in this regard will be announced in due course. I can confirm that the Department has received inquiries from various parties, including the Irish Coast Guard, about the future use of the facilities. I understand the Irish Coast Guard has used the island's airstrip for daytime emergency medical evacuations. Night-time evacuations are not possible as there are no landing lights on either airstrip. My Department has been in contact with the Irish Coast Guard and has indicated that it will examine any proposals it may have in this regard.

Deputy Seán Kyne: Information on Seán Kyne Zoom on Seán Kyne I thank the Minister of State for his reply. I would like to take this opportunity to thank him and the Minister for the additional capital funding for Údarás na Gaeltachta, which was announced today. I know the Minister and the Minister of State engaged in a great deal of consultation with my colleague, Seosamh Ó Laoi, who is a member of the board of Údarás na Gaeltachta, on this matter. Today's announcement has been welcomed in my local area.

I thank the Minister of State for response to Question No. 94. Has any timeline been set out for when a decision will be made? Has consideration been given to opening a period of consultation with the people of Inishbofin and the general Cleggan and Clifden area? Given that a great deal of investment was made to put the airstrips in place, it is a shame that they have been left in their current condition. Has the Government explored the options with regard to consultation with local people? Has the option of leasing the airstrips been offered to them? I imagine that the cost of purchasing them would be prohibitive. Has the Government considered that? If not, will it do so?

Deputy Joe McHugh: Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh I dtús báire, ba mhaith liom mo bhuíochas a ghabháil le mo chomhghleacaithe, na hAirí, na Teachtaí Humphreys, Howlin agus Noonan as ucht a gcuid tacaíochta i rith an phróisis Mheastachán i ndiaidh an bhuiséid. Tá mé thar a bheith sásta go mbeidh airgead breise ar fáil d'Údarás na Gaeltachta. Rinne mé gealltanas i ndiaidh an bhuiséid fá choinne iarracht a dhéanamh ina thaobh. Tá sár-obair ar siúl ag an údarás. Thug an Teachta Kyne agus mé féin cuairt ar HID Global i nGaillimh i rith an tsamhraidh. Tá Údarás na Gaeltachta ag obair go dian dícheallach le Randox agus na comhlachtaí eile sna ceantracha éagsúla timpeall na Gaeltachta chun fostaíocht a chruthú agus a chosaint.

Deputy Kyne proposed that a timeline should be set out with regard to the two airstrips. I am open to doing something constructive here. The Deputy will be in touch with the various groups and comharchumainn on the ground in his backyard and his constituency. I would be interested in doing something about these two airstrips, which cost €9 million. That is the amount of money that went into the two airstrips, which are lying idle. As far as I am aware, the Irish Coast Guard has an interest in them. I have spoken to a few senior officers. The Deputy's question is a demonstration of his interest in this matter. Some of his colleagues in County Galway have been on to me as well. We have to try to move this forward. If the Irish Coast Guard is interested, maybe we should sit down and see how we can move this forward. I am open to the Deputy's suggestions. If he has ideas on how to move this forward, I will certainly be interested in hearing them.

Deputy Seán Kyne: Information on Seán Kyne Zoom on Seán Kyne I thank the Minister of State for his reply. Gabhaim buíochas leis as ucht an fhreagra. Given that we are coming up to Christmas, I would suggest that a brief period of consultation be provided for early in the new year to allow people to express their opinions. Perhaps we can take submissions of interest and proceed from there with a plan. Some of the people who are interested in renting these airstrips believe options like unlicensed aerodrome activity should be considered. They have suggested that private aeroplanes could be allowed to land at these airstrips without them having to be manned. Ideally, we would want a commercial operation, but that might not be possible. We need to explore all options. Perhaps the Minister of State will consider setting aside a period of consultation early in the new year to allow people to respond.

Deputy Joe McHugh: Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh I am interested in doing something constructive with the many stakeholders and different groups in this sector. Galway County Council was heavily involved at one stage. Deputy Kyne has his ear to the ground and will certainly have ideas as well. I will speak to my officials on this matter. We will see how we can try to move it forward. If people have an interest in and are willing to use the existing infrastructure, commercially or otherwise, that should be considered. The Irish Coast Guard, which is primarily a voluntary organisation, has expressed an interest. We should be open to any ideas that might be proposed by the Irish Coast Guard, which does a great deal of professional work on the ground. If there are other ideas, they should be considered too.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Joe O'Reilly): Information on Joe O'Reilly Zoom on Joe O'Reilly Question No. 95 is in the name of Deputy Durkan. As the Deputy is absent at the moment, we will move on to Question No. 96.

Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl It is not very often that the Deputy is absent, especially if there is a question to be asked.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Joe O'Reilly): Information on Joe O'Reilly Zoom on Joe O'Reilly Do not tempt fate. He could be on his way.

Commemorative Events

 96. Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys her views about the discontent of some relatives of those who partook in the 1916 Rising with regard to the centenary commemoration plans; if she has requested a meeting with these relatives; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [46807/14]

Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl I wonder whether the Minister has met some of the relatives of the 1916 participants who have expressed their disappointment with the commemoration ceremonies. I hope she will meet as many as possible of the representative groups, disparate as they are, before final plans are made for the commemoration.

Deputy Heather Humphreys: Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys I thank the Deputy for raising this matter. Along with my Government colleagues, I am committed to ensuring the commemorations to mark the centenary of the 1916 Easter Rising will be inclusive, appropriate and respectful. I appreciate the concerns of the relatives of those who fought and those who died during the Rising. I am actively engaging with them to ensure they will have a central role in a number of key State events. I recently met representatives of the various relatives' groups to highlight the important role they will have in the plans to commemorate the centenary of the events of Easter 1916. I have established a 2016 project office within my Department. It is tasked with co-ordinating all activities relating to the commemoration of 1916. The relevant officials are liaising with officials in the Department of Defence on matters regarding relatives, including the compilation of lists for events that will be organised to commemorate the centenary of 1916.   The project office can be contacted at 2016projectoffice@ahg.gov.ie.


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