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 Header Item Passport Controls (Continued)
 Header Item Offshore Islands

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 861 No. 1

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Dominic Hannigan: Information on Dominic Hannigan Zoom on Dominic Hannigan] The reasoning as to why recognition is not being provided could be extended to other professions, which also have different representative bodies in various countries. Those bodies vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. We might consider the position with regard to the European engineer, EUR ING, professional qualification, for which chartered engineers in this country are entitled to apply, because it may provide a way forward. I will discuss the Minister of State's reply with my colleagues and the experts in the field. I will also ensure to forward a copy to Engineers Ireland because it may be of assistance in progressing matters. I thank the Minister of State for his time.

Deputy Dara Murphy: Information on Dara Murphy Zoom on Dara Murphy As already stated, no one would in any way suggest that civil engineers are not capable of fulfilling this very important function. I also indicated earlier that there is a need to have a generic or broad list of individuals from groups throughout the world who are clearly identifiable. It is not really intended that the list can never change. However, such a change is not envisaged at present. The list is kept under review. I again thank the Deputy for raising this important matter.

Offshore Islands

Deputy Noel Harrington: Information on Noel Harrington Zoom on Noel Harrington I thank the Office of the Ceann Comhairle for selecting this matter. I also thank the Minister, Deputy Kelly, for coming to the House to take it. I know he is aware of some of the issues which are affecting funding for the non-Gaeltacht islands. There has been a differentiation with regard to the funding for Gaeltacht and non-Gaeltacht islands. The former are primarily funded by Údarás na Gaeltachta and the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, while there is a patchwork of funding streams for the non-Gaeltacht islands which dates back to the time of the rainbow coalition which held power from 1994 to 1997. The latter was the first Administration to commit to provide funding for non-Gaeltacht islands. Funding was originally provided by the then Department of Social Welfare and was very modest in nature. From 2001 to 2009, funding was provided by the then Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht affairs. Since 2009, funding for non-Gaeltacht islands has been delivered by the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government via the local community development programme. Each of the islands in question would have service level agreements with Comhar na nOileán and Comhdáil Oileán na hÉireann, the Irish Islands Federation.

Much of the funding in question would have related to community development officers on a few of the islands. Some of those officers would have overseen multiple islands in the context of the provision of after-school services, play groups, services for the elderly, youth services, employment support, advocacy services, rural social schemes, rural transport and tourism projects. Such services are provided by a range of agencies on the mainland and tend to be taken for granted by citizens. The community development officers to whom I refer built up quite a track record in the context of delivery. In Civil Service speak, it might be stated that they had developed a competency or capacity in this regard. Essentially, this means that they were trusted by the relevant agencies and Government Departments to provide a one-stop-shops facility in the context of the delivery of State services. This has been the position on the non-Gaeltacht islands for some years. I recall stories to the effect that decades ago, before the funding to which I refer was put in place, the local national school teacher or parish priest would have been the go-to person in terms of getting what was required for a particular island. Those days are gone. The challenge for the islands is to obtain funding through the community development officers, who have done a fantastic job.

The Minister is aware of the difficulties being encountered by island residents, whether in terms of putting their children through national school, fighting for access to services and trying to obtain acknowledgement to the effect that life on offshore islands can be quite difficult and challenging. The maintenance of development funding, to be disbursed by community development officers, is critical not only in terms of the day-to-day running of the islands but also in the context of maintaining population levels and fighting to obtain additional services. Successive Governments have for too long seen the islands as being a burden on the State. That is not the case; they are a resource which should be funded.

I look forward to the Minister's reply. I am aware he has done a great deal of work on this matter. I thank him for facilitating dialogue in respect of it between his Department and the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. Progress has been made but there is more to be done.

Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Alan Kelly): Information on Alan Kelly Zoom on Alan Kelly I thank Deputy Harrington for raising this matter. I am aware that it is extremely important to him and to most of the Deputies who live in coastal constituencies. Along with Deputy McCarthy and a number of others, he has raised this matter on previous occasions.

My Department's local community development programme, LCDP, is the largest social inclusion intervention of its kind in the State. The most recent programme officially ended at the end of 2013, having operated for four years and provided funding of €281 million during that period. It is being implemented on a transitional basis for 2014, with a budget of €47 million, pending the roll-out of the new social inclusion and community activation programme, SICAP, in April 2015. I believe it was the appropriate and necessary decision to make that intervention.

My Department currently provides LCDP funding to Comhar na nOileán Teoranta, the company with responsibility for delivering the programme to the offshore islands. In 2014 the Department allocated €527,272 to the company for the delivery of the LCDP to the offshore islands of Bere, Sherkin, Inishturk, Inishbofin and Clare. I am quite familiar with some of these islands and passed through the Deputy's constituency on my way to visit them. In terms of the successor programme, SICAP, the intention is that island areas will be eligible for inclusion in the tendering process, which is currently underway and is due to be completed in February 2015. The SICAP funding allocations are informed by a specific resource allocation model, RAM, which focuses on relative disadvantage of individual areas. Using this model brings logic and consistency to funding allocations and means each funded group receives a fair share of resources. The procurement process for SICAP was open to local development companies, other not-for-profit community groups, commercial firms and national organisations that can provide the services to be tendered for to deliver the new programme. In stage 1, joint applications were encouraged and organisations of varying sizes, for example smaller organisations working in consortia with larger ones, were invited to submit joint applications.

Discussions have taken place and are ongoing between my Department and the Department of Arts, Heritage and Gaeltacht, which has lead responsibility for the islands, in response to the issues raised regarding the continuation of funding for the development offices on a number of non-Gaeltacht Islands. This reflected the fact that the issues involved are broader than just those relating to SICAP, which I acknowledge. I assure the Deputy that both Departments fully understand the importance of the community development infrastructure on these islands. I and my colleagues, the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Deputy Heather Humphreys, and the Minister of State, Deputy McHugh, who has a particular responsibility in this area, will be ensuring that both our Departments continue to collaborate to agree a workable solution into the future. In the meantime, LCDP funding for the groups concerned will continue until the end of March 2015.

Deputy Noel Harrington: Information on Noel Harrington Zoom on Noel Harrington I thank the Minister for his reply. I note the work that has been done in this area by the Minister of State at the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Deputy McHugh, and Deputy McCarthy. As the Minister indicated, there is an uncertainty with regard to funding for Bere Island, Sherkin Island, Dursey Island, Whiddy Island, Long Island, Hare Island, Inishbofin, Inisturk and Clare Island because they are non-Gaeltacht islands.

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