Office of Identity and Cultural Expression

Oral Answers to Questions — The Executive Office – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 2:00 pm on 29 April 2024.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Declan Kearney Declan Kearney Sinn Féin 2:00, 29 April 2024

2. Mr Kearney asked the First Minister and deputy First Minister for an update on work to recruit commissioners to the Office of Identity and Cultural Expression. (AQO 339/22-27)

Photo of Michelle O'Neill Michelle O'Neill Sinn Féin

With your permission, a Cheann Comhairle, junior Minister Reilly will take the question.

Photo of Aisling Reilly Aisling Reilly Sinn Féin

Go raibh maith agat, agus gabhaim buíochas leis an Chomhalta as ucht a cheiste.

[Translation: Thank you, and I thank the Member for his question.]

Tá Oifig an Fheidhmeannais freagrach as na socruithe riachtanacha a thabhairt chun tosaigh leis na forálacha atá san Acht um Fhéiniúlacht agus Teanga (Tuaisceart Éireann) 2022 a chur i bhfeidhm, ina measc, bunú na nithe seo a leanas: an Oifig um Fhéiniúlacht agus Léiriú Cultúrtha; Coimisinéir Teanga na Gaeilge; agus an Coimisinéir um thraidisiún na nAlbanach Uladh agus na mBriotanach Uladh. Beidh sé seo ag teacht le cinntí na nAirí agus coinneoidh muid na Comhaltaí ar an eolas.

[Translation: TEO is responsible for taking forward the necessary arrangements to implement the provisions of the Identity and Language (Northern Ireland) Act 2022, including the establishment of the following: the Office of Identity and Cultural Expression; the Irish Language Commissioner; and the Commissioner for the Ulster Scots and the Ulster British tradition. This will be in line with the Ministers' decisions. We will keep Members updated.]

Photo of Declan Kearney Declan Kearney Sinn Féin

Gabhaim buíochas leis an Aire shóisearach as ucht a freagra. An dtabharfaidh an tAire sóisearach uasdátú ar an obair atá idir lámha leis na struchtúir agus córais a chur ar bun a leagtar amach san Acht Féiniúlachta agus Teanga?

[Translation: I thank the junior Minister for her answer. Will the junior Minister give us an update on the work that is ongoing to establish the structures and systems laid out in the Identity and Language Act?]

Photo of Aisling Reilly Aisling Reilly Sinn Féin

Cinnte, agus arís gabhaím buíochas leis an Chomhalta. Tá obair ullmhúcháin déanta ag feidhmeannaigh na Roinne, agus ina measc sin na socruithe praiticiúla leis na comhlachtaí a bhunú. Mar chuid de sin, tá an obair ullmhúcháin is gá le riachtanais maidir le hearcaíocht, rialachas agus cóiríocht, mar aon le cás gnó achomair a thabhairt chun cinn. Is í an chéad chéim eile sa phróiseas seo na cinntí aireachta nach mór a dhéanamh leis na comhlachtaí nua a bhunú. Nuair a bheas na cinntí sin déanta, beidh muid in ann tús a chur ar an phróiseas ceapacháin.

[Translation: TEO officials have undertaken preparatory work, including the practical arrangements to establish the bodies. That includes the necessary preparatory work to take forward recruitment, governance, and accommodation requirements, alongside an outline business case. The next stage of the process is that ministerial decisions are required to establish the new bodies. Once those decisions have been taken, we will be in a position to commence the appointments process.]

Photo of Patsy McGlone Patsy McGlone Social Democratic and Labour Party

An dtig leis an Aire shóisearach clár ama a thabhairt dúinn ar cad é mar a bheas rudaí agus cén uair a cheapfar na coimisinéirí? Ina theannta sin, cén buiséad a bheas ag oifigí na gcoimisinéirí?

[Translation: Will the junior Minister give us a timeline as to how things will materialise and when the commissioners will be appointed? Moreover, what will the budget look like for the commissioners?]

Photo of Aisling Reilly Aisling Reilly Sinn Féin

Gabhaim buíochas leis an Chomhalta as ucht a cheiste.

[Translation: I thank the Member for his question.]

De réir na taithí i mo Roinnese, glacann an próiseas ceapacháin phoiblí thart ar bhliain iomlán ón uair a dhéanann na hAirí cinntí tosaigh maidir leis an phróiseas. Ós rud é go gcaithfidh trí chomórtas a reáchtáil ag an aon am amháin le suas le hocht gceapachán phoiblí, d’fhéadfadh sé go mbeadh níos mó ama de dhíth. Ag caint go pearsanta, mar Ghaeilgeoir, beidh mise ag déanamh mo sheacht ndícheall agus ag obair i gcomhar leis na hoifigí ina bhfuil na feidhmeannaigh seo bunaithe. Tá an tAcht, mar is eol duit, tá sé i bhfeidhm le breis agus bliain. Tá pobal na Gaeilge ag fanacht le blianta fada leis na Coimisinéirí, ionas gur féidir leis an obair tosú agus dul chun cinn a dhéanamh ar chearta, ar chomhionannas agus ar fhéiniúlacht. Mar sin, tá mise tiomanta dó seo, agus tá a fhios agam gurb amhlaidh leat féin, ag iarraidh na Coimisinéirí agus na hoifigí a fheiceáil. Chomh luath agus a bheidh tuilleadh eolais agam air sin, tiocfaidh mé ar ais chugat le scéala.

[Translation: The experience in my Department is that public appointment processes take approximately a year once Ministers make the initial decisions about the process. As three competitions need to be run at the same time for up to eight public appointments, more time may be required. Speaking personally, as a Gaeilgeoir, I will be doing my utmost and will work closely with the offices in which those officials will be housed. The Act, as the Member knows, has been in effect for more than a year now. The Irish language community is waiting for the appointment of the commissioners so that they can start working on the progress that has been made in rights, equality and identity for many years now. I am determined, as I know the Member is, to see the commissioners established in their respective offices. Once I have any further information on the matter, I will get back to the Member.]

Photo of Doug Beattie Doug Beattie UUP

[Long pause.]

Sorry, Mr Speaker. I had headphones on and did not hear you. A question was asked about the budget, and I will ask it again. What is the budget likely to be, and has it been factored into the Budget that was announced recently?

Photo of Aisling Reilly Aisling Reilly Sinn Féin

On the budget and projected costs — I will answer in English; you do not need to worry about headphones — a business case in respect of establishing the new bodies is well advanced and is in the process of being approved. It will not be possible to meet the cost of establishing and running the bodies, now that the legislation has passed and partially commenced, without additional funding being provided to TEO.

The Executive will make a case — as they have been doing — that the North is massively underfunded, and that case will continually be made by my Executive colleagues and the First Minister and the deputy First Minister to the British Government. As we all know, we have suffered 13 years of Tory austerity, and we should all lay the blame firmly at the doors of Westminster and the Tory party. However, we have work to do: there is a lot of work that we can do and many things that we can continue with, and the implementation of the Act that came into effect in 2022 is one of those.

Photo of Connie Egan Connie Egan Alliance

Apologies, my earphones were not working. I am very sorry if my question has already been asked. Again, it is on the budget. We had the statement last week. What was the Executive Office's bid for those offices?

Photo of Aisling Reilly Aisling Reilly Sinn Féin

I do not have that information in front of me, but I am happy to come back to the Member on that.