Dáil Éireann - Volume 506 - 03 June, 1999

Ceisteanna–Questions Priority Questions. - Department Website.

2. Mr. O'Shea asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands when she will update the website of her Department; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14786/99]

Minister for Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands (Miss de Valera): My Department's worldwide website is not currently operational. The IT resources available to my Department have been directed in recent months towards critical projects such as the year 2000 issue. However, the Deputy will be aware of the launch in October last of the Heritage of Ireland website, the marketing website for my Department. This website promotes the national cultural institutions, the heritage sites managed by Dúchas, the heritage service of my Department and the inland waterways from a tourism perspective. The Deputy will also be aware that this website has received widespread popular acclaim.

A project to develop a single website for my Department as part of an overall IT strategy is due to commence shortly. The project will involve the identification of material for publication and the launch of a pilot site, the development of detailed website plans and procedures and the implementation of a fully managed website.

Mr. O'Shea: Does the Minister agree that it is totally unacceptable that the website of the Department of Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands shows no change in organisational details since 21 July 1997 and that there are no statements or speeches later than 1997? If one looks up its website for the Government's proposals on broadcasting, one will get a statement from the Minister's predecessor, Deputy Michael Higgins.

[65] Miss de Valera: The resources available to my Department have not allowed me to get this website operational. However, I advise the Deputy that it is expected to be fully operational by the end of this year. While it is still in its infancy, the Heritage of Ireland website has proved a popular and critical success. It received a best website runner up award at the Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International awards last November and it has been featured by computer magazine, PC Live, as one of its top ten December sites. It also received several other nominations.

The Deputy might be interested to know that in the period from January to April 1999 the website received 32,628 visits and 350,543 web pages were requested. An IT strategy plan was produced recently by external consultants. We hope to have the website operational by the end of this year.

Mr. O'Shea: Does the Minister agree that it is totally unacceptable that the website will not be operational until the end of the year, given that many people will want to visit it not only to view the broadcasting legislation which was published recently but also to find out about the Government's proposals on broadcasting? It is ridiculous that the only proposals on the website are those which relate to the last Administration.

Miss de Valera: Again, it is a question of priority. The Deputy is well aware of my anxiety to ensure that the Bill is published so that everybody is given an opportunity to examine it, a proper debate is held and it is passed through the House before the end of the year. Certainly, if I had a choice to have the website operational without publishing the broadcasting Bill or to publish the Bill and put the IT resources in place before the end of the year, I would prefer to publish the Bill.

I am sure that the Deputy is aware that there are only three people in the broadcasting section of my Department and our priority is to ensure that, rather than having Green Papers and clear focus papers, etc., on broadcasting, we publish broadcasting legislation. This is one of a number of Bills that have been published by my Department over the past two years and the broadcasting Bill is the priority. At the end of the year, there will also be a fully operational departmental website. I have set priorities which I believe to be correct.

Mr. O'Shea: Does the Minister agree that if all the material relating to the broadcasting Bill were available on the website, it would lead to a much more efficient and effective use of the resources currently in the Department? People could visit the website without having to write to or telephone the Department. It is incredible that the Department is not availing of information technology, which is in use throughout the public ser[66] vice and the country at large, for such major legislation.