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 Header Item Commemorative Events (Continued)
 Header Item Arts Plan
 Header Item Genealogical Services

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] I look forward to working with the Oireachtas all-party consultation group on commemorations, the expert advisory group and a wide range of stakeholders over the coming 18 months to make the events of Easter 2016 a very special and poignant tribute to all those involved. I would welcome the involvement of the relatives in the commemorations, as well as their comments and views. The matter is open to consultation.

Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl I commend the Minister on meeting some of the relatives. I encourage her to continue that work. Recently, I became conscious of the fact that there may be a large number of relatives, including internationally. Among the criticisms voiced about the commemorative ceremonies was the opinion that the Government was treating the situation like the homecoming or whatever we called that festival some time ago.

Deputy Heather Humphreys: Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys The Gathering.

Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl The Gathering. There may be some merit in reaching out nationally and internationally to people with direct connections to those who fought and died in this formative event in Irish history. Has the Department plans in that regard?

Deputy Heather Humphreys: Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys Yes. I want to consult as widely as possible. In that regard, we will work closely with the embassies. I recently attended the Famine commemoration in New Orleans where I met many people of Irish descent. They were keen to get involved in the 1916 commemorations. I encouraged them, as I want them to make contact with us. We will make contact with a number of organisations in America. 1916 was about the people of Ireland. It is important that we have national and international involvement. In that respect, I will make every effort to make contact with the diaspora through our embassies.

Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl A figure of €4 million has been mentioned in the context of the commemorative ceremonies. In the limited time available, will the Minister tell the House a little about that? Will the €4 million be channelled through the Arts Council? Is it for specific arts-related projects or is it for marketing and PR in respect of the ceremonies? Does the Arts Council envisage mounting schemes, programmes, competitions or whatever? If so, will they be public, will they be advertised and will participation be encouraged and invited?

Deputy Heather Humphreys: Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys It is my intention to allocate the budget of €4 million in a manner that will facilitate the roll-out of an integrated plan focused on commemorating the centenary of the 1916 Rising. I intend to use the money to support a wide range of activities and events by interested groups, including local communities, as well as the arts and education sectors. We are considering a number of proposed commemorative activities. I intend for there to be a number of broad headings. It is important to involve the arts, community and education sectors. It is also important that we include our young people through the education system. The 2016 commemorations do not just belong to one part of the country, so I want to ensure that they are extended to the whole of the country so that people might engage. For this reason, the consultation process will continue until the end of March, giving people an opportunity to propose ideas. I want the cultural institutions to be involved. They are considering what they will do for 2016. The Rising was an important event in our history. Next year will give them good time to plan. The additional €4 million-----

Acting Chairman (Deputy Joe O'Reilly): Information on Joe O'Reilly Zoom on Joe O'Reilly I must interrupt. In light of the fact that Deputy Durkan has just arrived and given that we broke the order of questions, he should put Question No. 95 now. In deference to the next questioner, who has been waiting, we will only take the question and the Minister's reply before going straight into the next question.

Arts Plan

 95. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys if her Department continues to encourage economic development through the medium of the arts; the degree to which specific targets continue to be identified and met in this regard; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [46816/14]

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan I apologise for the lateness of my arrival, which was due to my being in transit. The question is self-evident. Will the Minister indicate the extent to which the arts and heritage sectors are being used to encourage job creation and economic development?

Deputy Heather Humphreys: Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys As set out in the programme for Government, the Government's policy on the arts is to promote and strengthen the arts in all forms, to increase access to and participation in the arts and to make the arts an integral and valued part of our national life. The Government appreciates the importance of the arts, culture and the creative industries to our society and economy. The arts sector continues to offer vital opportunities for the provision of important cultural, social and employment benefits to communities throughout the country.

  Primary responsibility for the promotion of the arts at all levels throughout the country is devolved to the Arts Council. The council is funded by my Department and is statutorily independent in its day-to-day operations, including its funding decisions. In 2014, the Arts Council received an allocation of €56.9 million. Details of all funding provided by the Arts Council to arts practitioners, groups and venues, including arts centres, are available on its website at www.artscouncil.ie.

  The nature of employment within the arts sector encompasses a wide range of activities. It can include those engaged in the arts practice within specific artistic genres and can encompass areas that flow from such artistic pursuits. It may also embody the industrial creative sectors, including audiovisual production.

  The Government appreciates and values the contribution that the arts sector makes to the internationally renowned artistic reputation of this country. Within the current economic constraints, investment in the arts, culture and creative sectors is more important than ever, having regard to the employment intensity of the sector. In October 2012, the Arts Council published its latest update of the "Assessment of the Economic Impact of the Arts in Ireland", which is available on the council's website.

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan I thank the Minister.

Genealogical Services

 97. Deputy Catherine Murphy Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys if, in the pursuit of a vital all-island approach to genealogical heritage, a conflict arises in the different legal regimes surrounding access to digitised records online versus digitised indexes; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [46866/14]

Deputy Catherine Murphy: Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy This relates to having an all-Ireland approaching to genealogical heritage services. Obviously, there are two legal jurisdictions involved. I wish to draw attention to the General Register Office's birth, marriage and death records. We are out of synch with the North's progress. I presume the Minister will be able to address this matter.

Deputy Heather Humphreys: Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys I thank the Deputy for raising this matter. I assume that her question relates to the indexes of births, deaths and marriages. As part of the Government's policy to enhance public access to our - I cannot say the next word; it is gone from me - heritage,-----

Deputy Catherine Murphy: Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy It is all right.

Deputy Heather Humphreys: Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys -----online access to the indexes to births, deaths and marriages is in the process of being finalised through my Department's website www.irishgenealogy.ie. The provision of such access is a joint project between the Department of Social Protection, the General Register Office and my Department. I understand from my colleague, the Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection, that the online availability of historical registry data is now provided for in section 27 of the Civil Registration (Amendment) Act 2014. The Act was signed by the President on 4 December and I understand that it will be subject to a commencement order in early 2015. Section 27 amends section 61 of the Civil Registration Act 2004 and provides for public access, via www.irishgenealogy.ie, to register entries in respect of births more than 100 years ago, marriages more than 75 years ago, and deaths more than 50 years ago. Currently, a member of the public cannot search the registers online. Instead, users may apply to the Registrar General, a superintendent registrar, a registrar or an authorised officer to search the registers on their behalf. The new provisions in the 2014 Act will allow a member of the public to directly search these historical registers, via online access, for the first time. The date restrictions are in line with international practice as regards what historic records are available online, and also reflect the current position in Northern Ireland.

Deputy Catherine Murphy: Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy The website of the General Register Office of Northern Ireland, GRONI, provides indexes which lead the user to the actual records. The records that were made available on the website to which the Minister referred had to be taken down because the Data Protection Commissioner had a difficulty with the information that was thereby made available. Now, it seems, there is no such problem. However, we will park that issue for now. Will the Minister indicate when the information will be available online?

The GRONI website allows users, for a fee, not only to search the index entries but to see the records themselves. We should not be out of line with Northern Ireland in this regard. There was a major project done in Roscommon, at a cost of more than €10 million, where the records were digitised. Will those records, in addition to the indexes, be made available to the Department under the legislation to which the Minister referred and, if so, when is it likely to happen?

Deputy Heather Humphreys: Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys The relevant provision of the 2014 Act allows for public access, via www.irishgenealogy.ie, to the register entries. That legislation was signed by the President on 4 December. As I said, users will be able to see entries for births more than 100 years ago, marriages more than 75 years ago and deaths more than 50 years ago.

Deputy Catherine Murphy: Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy Will users be able to access the actual records or just the indexes?

Deputy Heather Humphreys: Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys They will be able to access the register entries, which I presume is the actual record. I am aware of the facility that is available on the GRONI website. I will double-check to ensure the same facility will be available on our site. Users could previously click a link on the site and access the database that is controlled by the Department of Social Protection. That has been changed, but I will check with the Department and get back to the Deputy.

  Written Answers follow Adjournment.


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