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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 357-373
 Header Item Emergency Vehicles
 Header Item Local Improvements Scheme
 Header Item Road Improvement Schemes
 Header Item Transport Costs
 Header Item Sporting Events
 Header Item Tourism Industry Issues
 Header Item National Transport Authority
 Header Item Hospitality Industry
 Header Item Transport Costs
 Header Item Roads Maintenance
 Header Item Sale of Aer Lingus
 Header Item Sports Capital Programme Applications
 Header Item Sports Capital Programme Applications
 Header Item Coast Guard Stations

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 787 No. 5

First Page Previous Page Page of 76 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 357-373

Emergency Vehicles

 357. Deputy Patrick O'Donovan Information on Patrick O'Donovan Zoom on Patrick O'Donovan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar if obsolete equipment including redundant emergency vehicles from Shannon Airport were made available to voluntary groups along the Shannon Estuary since July 2012; if the airport received expressions of interest for equipment from Foynes Search and Rescue; if they were successful in their request for equipment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [57561/12]

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar The matters raised by the Deputy are ones that fall within the operational responsibilities of Shannon Airport Authority and I have referred the question to the company for direct reply.  I would ask the Deputy to contact my office if a reply has not been received within ten working days.

   

   

Local Improvements Scheme

 358. Deputy Brendan Smith Information on Brendan Smith Zoom on Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar his plans to allocate funding in 2013 to local authorities for local improvement schemes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [57629/12]

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar The Local Improvements Scheme provided funding for the maintenance and improvement of private roadways which are, in the first instance, a matter for the relevant landowners. 

State grants available to supplement expenditure by local authorities on the maintenance of regional and local roads have been reduced significantly and there will be further cuts over the next few years.  The scale of the cuts have necessitated that some grant programmes be curtailed or ended.

In making adjustments to the regional and local roads allocations the primary aim has been, as far as is possible, to protect previous investment in the road network and use the  available funding to maintain and restore public roads, including those in rural areas.  Given that priority, it was not possible this year to assist with any works on private roads. 

The feasibility of providing funding to assist with maintenance of private roads will be reviewed in the context of the monies available under the 2013 grant allocations for regional and local roads. In the interim, it is open to local authorities to continue to operate the scheme or a similar scheme from their own resources.

I will announce the 2013 regional and local road grant allocations early in the new year.

Road Improvement Schemes

 359. Deputy Brendan Smith Information on Brendan Smith Zoom on Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar if he will ensure that funding is provided to Cavan County Council for the 2013 road works scheme; if he will outline the progress of the proposed major upgrading of the East/West route from Cootehill to Dundalk  [57639/12]

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar The improvement and maintenance of regional and local roads, in its area, is a statutory function of each road authority in accordance with the provisions of section 13 of the Roads Act, 1993.  Works on such roads are a matter for the relevant local authority to be funded from its own resources supplemented by State road grants.   

Earlier this year the National Roads Authority (NRA) on behalf of the Department requested information from local authorities in respect of Strategic Regional and Local Road schemes.  Cavan County Council submitted an application for funding towards the preliminary design stage of the Cavan to Dundalk scheme.  All applications will be considered by the NRA and the Department having regard to eligibility criteria, the need to prioritise projects, competing demands from other local authorities and the funding available for this grant category in 2013.  

I will announce the 2013 regional and local road grant allocations early in the new year.

Transport Costs

 360. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar the extent to which transport costs have been identified in the context of the implementation of national economic recovery; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [57654/12]

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar The Government's plans to address the economic difficulties facing all elements of the economy are set out in the Programme for Government and place a heavy emphasis on the delivery of effective transport services. In addition, the Government's Jobs Initiative includes a number of measures intended to stimulate tourism by increasing the competitiveness of access transport and our tourism product.  

The predominant element of transport costs is fuel. My Department has no direct control over this cost but keeps under review all costs over which we do have an influence, including the cost of services provided through our agencies. In this context, my Department is engaged in an initiative  to reduce, where feasible, the administrative cost to business of complying with transport legislation. In addition, the Minister for Finance announced in his Budget Statement  the introduction of a rebate on diesel for hauliers with effect from 1 July 2013 in order to assist the competitiveness of this key industry.  

In general, transport demand is primarily derived from the outputs of other economic sectors. One would expect increases in demand and employment within the transport sector to result from increased economic outputs generally.

Sporting Events

 361. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar the extent to which he expects to utilise sport as a medium to protect a positive national image at home and overseas in 2013; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [57655/12]

 364. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar the extent to which he and his Department expects to be in a position to utilise high profile sporting fixtures as a means to boost economic recovery and the national image; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [57658/12]

Minister of State at the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Michael Ring): Information on Michael Ring Zoom on Michael Ring  I propose to take Questions Nos. 361 and 364 together.

Sport is one of the most widely enjoyed and valuable sectors of Ireland's society, beneficial to our economy, health and culture.  The performance of Irish athletes on the world stage this year, in the London Olympic and Paralympic Games, and in sports including golf, rugby, football and boxing, not only boosts the morale of the country but it also promotes our image internationally and has the potential to generate tourism from around the world. 

 The allocation for the Irish Sports Council for 2013 is almost €43.2 million.  This funding will allow the ISC to continue to support our elite athletes through the High Performance Programme as they compete on the world stage. 

 There is a financial dividend to be obtained through the success of major sporting events, particularly those with an international dimension.  Through a variety of actions and investment, Ireland has developed a reputation as a destination to play and watch sports.  Stadia such as the Aviva, Croke Park and Thomond Park attract international and domestic tourists in large numbers throughout the year. 

 The Programme for Government includes a commitment that event tourism will be prioritised in order to continue to bring major events to Ireland.  As well as bringing spectators to our shores, the hosting of events such as the Ryder Cup, the Tall Ships Race, Volvo Ocean Race or the Solheim Cup can provide a great showcase for Ireland.  Fáilte Ireland continues to support the holding of sports and other events that can boost tourism.

Tourism Industry Issues

 362. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar the extent to which the tourism sector is projected to develop and expand in 2013; the degree to which any such expansion is likely to impact on the economy as a whole; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [57656/12]

 370. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar the total number of persons employed directly and or indirectly in the tourism sector; the potential for improvement in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [57664/12]

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar I propose to take Questions Nos. 362 and 370 together.  

The Government recognises the key role that the tourism industry will play in our economic recovery and has put in place a range of programmes and measures to support tourism, enhance competitiveness and further grow the sector next year and beyond. Key commitments in the 2011 Programme for Government were reflected in the Government's Jobs Initiative, with further actions set out in the 2012 Action Plan for Jobs. The Government has already delivered on measures such as reducing VAT to 9% on a range of tourism services and halving employers' PRSI for those on modest wages. These measures will continue in 2013.  

In terms of our main tourism priority, the Gathering Ireland 2013 will be the biggest tourism led initiative ever held in Ireland. The event aims to attract an extra 325,000 overseas visitors to Ireland with associated spending of over €150 million.  Significant resources are in place to ensure that 'The Gathering' will be successful in delivering these targets.  A special allocation of €5 million was provided in 2012 and a further specific allocation of €7 million has been provided for 2013.  The overall provision for tourism services in 2013 is approximately €140 million across a diverse range of activities.

In seeking to grow overseas visits to Ireland, our objective is ultimately to generate jobs.  The Central Statistics Office (CSO) does not measure tourism employment as such, but does measure "Accommodation and Food Service" employment, a category that includes hotels, restaurants, bars and catering.  According to the most recent figures from the CSO, employment in the accommodation and food sector accounted for 123,100 jobs in the third quarter of 2012.

Drawing on an alternative approach, Fáilte Ireland’s estimate of all direct jobs in tourism and hospitality businesses in 2012 (full-time, part-time, seasonal/casual and not confined to "main job") indicate total employment across sectors, including tourism services and attractions as well as accommodation and food, of around 185,000.  

Using The Gathering Ireland 2013 as our centrepiece for 2013 and through continued collaboration between Fáilte Ireland, Tourism Ireland and the Irish tourist industry, I am confident that we can further grow business for the tourism sector next year with consequential growth in employment. 

National Transport Authority

 363. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar the full extent of the budget at the disposal of the National Transport Authority; the way the authority prioritises its work projects; the various agencies, statutory or otherwise the authority consults in the course of its spending on the various selected projects; the way the selection process is done; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [57657/12]

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar As Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport I have responsibility for policy and overall funding in relation to public transport.  The National Transport Authority (NTA) was established on 1st December 2009 in accordance with the Dublin Transport Authority (DTA) Act 2008. In fulfilling its functions under the  Act, the Authority has a broad role in relation to transport planning, provision of public passenger transport services  as well as the provision of public transport infrastructure. The NTA consults with a range of stakeholders in carrying out these functions.

Given the Authority's responsibility in this regard, I have referred the Deputy's question to the NTA for direct reply.  Please advise my private office if you don't receive a reply within 10 working days.

  Question No. 364 answered with Question No. 361.

Hospitality Industry

 365. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar the extent to which he has continuous dialogue with the hotel and catering sectors with a view to identifying the issues most commonly regarded as impacting positively or negatively on the industry at the present time; if bank lending or credit has been a feature of any such discussions; the degree to which he has had discussions with the banking sector in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [57659/12]

 366. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar the extent to which he has investigated the effect of debt on the hotel, catering and consequently the tourism sector over the past two years; the degree to which provision has been made to address any such issues; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [57660/12]

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar I propose to take Questions Nos. 365 and 366 together.

I am in regular contact with stakeholders in the tourism industry and indeed I met, at their request, with the Irish Hotels Federation (IHF) most recently just prior to the Budget and the issues of bank lending and credit as well as the existing hotel debt burden were discussed.

The issue of credit availability is primarily a matter for the Minister for Finance. I am informed by him that the Government has imposed SME lending targets on the two domestic pillar banks and the banks meet with the Department of Finance and the Credit Review Office (CRO) on a quarterly basis to discuss progress and address any issues arising.  The Government has also introduced the Microenterprise Loan Fund Act which provides for a scheme to facilitate additional lending to microenterprises over the next five years. Furthermore, the Government is in the process of facilitating up to €150 million per annum of additional credit through the Temporary Partial Credit Guarantee Scheme, designed for SMEs who, because of lack of collateral or because of the specialised sector they operate in, face difficulties in accessing bank credit.

In relation to the issue of debt burden on the sector, I have examined and discussed with the IHF their recent report on this matter, including their proposals to address the issue.  The proposals all fall to be considered by the Department of Finance and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and in that regard, following on from the Budget, I have signalled my intention to have further discussions with the Minister for Finance on the possible involvement of hotels in the extended Employment and Investment Incentive Scheme (EIIS) and the Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) initiative. 

Transport Costs

 367. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar the extent to which he intends to highlight issues affecting transport costs here during Ireland’s presidency of the EU; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [57661/12]

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar The Presidency Programme on Transport is very ambitious and will focus on delivering key legislative dossiers as we enter final 18 months of current Commission and European Parliament. There are over 20 dossiers on the table or in the pipeline, some of which will have an impact in driving transport costs down over the longer term - particularly for Ireland as an island destination on the periphery of Europe.

The key dossiers in this context are the Connecting Europe Facility and the Trans-European Transport Network Regulation - both of which are intended to address bottlenecks and missing links across the key strategic transport routes in the EU -  ensuring that Europe's transport network is efficient and fit for purpose. These will feature high on my list of priorities for the Presidency.  

In addition, I am very keen to see progress in implementing the Maritime Labour Convention, launching important debates on issues such as Passenger Ship Safety and taking the next step in relation to the Blue Belt initiative – which aims to reduce the administrative burdens for short sea shipping within the EU.  The 4th Rail Package is another priority dossier which has the potential to drive greater competitiveness within the rail sector in the EU and encourage a modal shift with important environmental implications. The Airports Package - which I hope to secure agreement on during my term as Chair of the Transport Council - has the potential to make a real difference in addressing the cost base within the aviation sector as a whole with significant positive impacts for consumers in the longer run.

Roads Maintenance

 368. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar the extent to which his Department continues to identify accident black spots on local, regional or national routes; the extent to which he expects to provide funds to alleviate such problems in 2013; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [57662/12]

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar The improvement and maintenance of regional and local roads is a statutory function of each road authority in accordance with the provisions of Section 13 of the Roads Act 1993.  The carrying out of works on these roads is a matter for the relevant local authority to be funded from its own resources supplemented by State road grants.  Local authorities were allocated over €6million this year for works under the Low Cost Safety Improvement Scheme.  In addition to this the National Roads Authority also provided over €18 million for road safety schemes on national roads.

In July, the National Roads Authority (acting on behalf of the Department) invited applications from local authorities for funding in 2013 under the Low Cost Safety Improvement Grants Scheme in respect of regional and local roads in their respective areas.  

Under the Low Cost Safety Improvement Works scheme the criterion for approval and grant allocation is based on accident data, discussions between the local authority and the National Roads Authority, together with inspection of sites.  Works include a variety of safety work measures including road signage, road line works, surface works including anti-skid surfaces and works to improve sight lines at junctions and other locations.  However, it must be emphasised that the initial selection and prioritisation of such works is a matter for the local authority in the first instance.  I will announce the 2013 regional and local road grant allocations early in the new year.

Sale of Aer Lingus

 369. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar the extent to which he is kept up to date on matters appertaining to the future development of Aer Lingus including possible takeover offers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [57663/12]

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar In relation to the future of the State's shareholding in Aer Lingus a Steering Group has been established to examine the potential options for the disposal of the shareholding and the issues that may need to be addressed in that context.  The Steering Group is chaired by my Department and comprises representatives from the Department of Finance, the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and NewEra.

The position in relation to the recent Ryanair offer for Aer Lingus  has been considered by me and by the Government and is being kept under review. The Offer is currently the subject of a Phase II investigation by the European Commission under the EU Merger Regulation. The deadline for the Commission's decision is 27 February 2013.

At the Government meeting on Tuesday, the matter of the State's shareholding in Aer Lingus was discussed. The Government is committed to the sale of the stake in Aer Lingus at the right time under the right conditions. However, the Government is not prepared to support any offer that would significantly undermine connectivity or competitiveness for Ireland.

Question No. 370 answered with Question No. 362.

Sports Capital Programme Applications

 371. Deputy Michael McGrath Information on Michael McGrath Zoom on Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar if he will provide for each county in tabular form the number of applications received under his Department's 2012 sports capital grant programme; the number that were deemed invalid and the number that were awarded a grant; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [57670/12]

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar  The information sought by the Deputy is set out in the table.

County Number of Applicants Local Grants Awarded Invalid
Carlow 42 13 20
Cavan 59 14 24
Clare 72 23 30
Cork 218 64 99
Donegal 108 25 48
Dublin 281 110 145
Galway 162 33 79
Kerry 95 19 48
Kildare 76 21 42
Kilkenny 48 13 23
Laois 39 18 14
Leitrim 30 8 18
Limerick 117 22 56
Longford 30 10 13
Louth 59 22 20
Mayo 113 15 60
Meath 74 25 45
Monaghan 48 15 15
Offaly 45 14 19
Roscommon 45 10 22
Sligo 48 12 22
Tipperary 95 30 43
Waterford 69 19 34
Westmeath 43 15 24
Wexford 94 19 36
Wicklow 56 26 25

Sports Capital Programme Applications

 372. Deputy Michael McGrath Information on Michael McGrath Zoom on Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar if he will confirm when organisations who had applied under his Department's 2012 sports capital grant programme were officially informed that their application was invalid; if he will confirm the way this information was communicated to each organisation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [57671/12]

Minister of State at the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Michael Ring): Information on Michael Ring Zoom on Michael Ring My Department is writing to all unsuccessful applicants.  Where applications were deemed invalid, my Department is informing the applicants of the reasons why they were deemed invalid.  This information has already been conveyed to a number of such  applicants who contacted the Department in advance of receiving the Department's correspondence.

Coast Guard Stations

 373. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar if it is intended to seek tenders for the provision of a site for a Coastguard station in the Cleggan area of County Galway; and if it is, the reason that the Coastguard do not use the site at Cluain Leacht an Abba, An Cloigeann that is already in the ownership of the State and has an airstrip and car parking built on it; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [57730/12]

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar The Cleggan Volunteer Coast Guard Unit, which is designated as a shoreline search unit, is currently operating out of an old Coast Guard station, sometimes called the Rocket House. It is one of a number of Coast Guard Units around the coast operating from Rocket Houses that have been identified for upgrade.  

Funds are not available for the Cleggan upgrade in the current capital envelope as the building projects at Killybegs, Doolin and Greystones will take priority. The current site of the Unit and the Cleggan BIM Ice Plant have been deemed unsuitable for development by the Office of Public Works (OPW).  The identification of an appropriate site can be progressed when there is more certainty about when funds may become available.


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