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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 143-151
 Header Item Civil Registration Issues
 Header Item Disability Allowance Appeals
 Header Item Tax and Social Welfare Codes
 Header Item Departmental Expenditure
 Header Item Turf Cutting Compensation Scheme Applications
 Header Item Special Areas of Conservation Designation
 Header Item Alternative Energy Projects
 Header Item Wind Energy Guidelines

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 801 No. 3

First Page Previous Page Page of 92 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 143-151

  Question No. 143 withdrawn.

Civil Registration Issues

 144. Deputy Willie O'Dea Information on Willie O'Dea Zoom on Willie O'Dea asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton the reason there has been a delay in registering humanists as solemnisers for wedding ceremonies here; the reason, despite the passing of the legislation last December by all party agreement, there has only been one registration and there are some 11 other humanists awaiting registration leaving couples in limbo; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20710/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The General Register Office has advised me that an application has been made to the Registrar General by the Humanist Association of Ireland to register eleven solemnisers. I understand that to date one solemniser has been registered.

  The General Register Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and is responsible for the registration of solemnisers.

  Section 56 of the Civil Registration Act 2004, provides an appeal mechanism for the applicant in cases where the Registrar General refuses to register a person named in the application.

Disability Allowance Appeals

 145. Deputy Róisín Shortall Information on Róisín Shortall Zoom on Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton the position regarding an appeal for disability allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 11. [20739/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton I am advised by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that an Appeals Officer having fully considered all the available evidence allowed the appeal of the person concerned by way of summary decision. The person concerned has been notified of the Appeals Officer decision.

The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Tax and Social Welfare Codes

 146. Deputy Ciara Conway Information on Ciara Conway Zoom on Ciara Conway asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton further to Parliamentary Question No. 162 of 24 April 2013, if her attention has been drawn to the information contained in the response (details supplied) and further to this response, if she will specify the issues that need to be considered and addressed before her Department can make these deductions at source; if this is currently under active consideration; if there is timescale for same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20796/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton As I stated in my response to PQ 162 on the 24 April 2013, my Department has no role in relation to standard PAYE taxing procedures. As previously stated, the collection of taxes is a matter for the Revenue Commissioners.

In the context of its role in processing and making income support payments, the Department makes 87 million payments per annum to over 2 million recipients in any year. These payments are of various types; universal payments, means assessed payments, payments based on social insurance contributory history and grants. Payments can be once-off, based on short term need or of long term duration.

The operation of deduction at source arrangements for income tax purposes on social welfare payments would require detailed consideration of policy issues in relation to the operation of the income support system. Because of the sheer scale, variety and nature of payments made by the Department, such an arrangement would also require substantial development of IT systems and business processes and impose a significant additional administrative burden on my Department.

The Department is currently engaged in a major transformation programme to meet Government objectives in relation to activation and supporting the provision of integrated income support and activation services through Intreo to clients of working age. It has embarked on a major programme of business and system change to support these objectives and is focussing its development efforts in this regard.

In all of these circumstances, there are no plans under consideration within my Department for the development of deduction at source arrangements for income tax purposes.

Departmental Expenditure

 147. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Information on Jimmy Deenihan Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan the amount of money paid out by the National Parks and Wildlife Service to farmers in the Twelve Bens/Maam Turk complex in Connemara in interim funding for each of the years 2011 and 2012; the amount allocated for payment in 2013; if this includes payments covering the period from November 2012 until the beginning of the new agri-environment options scheme 3 programme; if farmers have entitlement to this payment on foot of the written agreement entered into in relation to the destocking of this area of Connemara; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20577/13]

Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht (Deputy Jimmy Deenihan): Information on Jimmy Deenihan Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan Farmers in the Twelve Bens/Garraun and Maumturk Mountain Complex Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) have had to amend their farming practices since November 2008 to ensure that all these mountain areas recover from past overgrazing. This grazing restriction continues until November 2013. The affected farmers have received payments through agri-environment schemes (such as REPS, Agri-Environment Options Scheme (AEOS), from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, and the National Parks and Wildlife Service farm plan scheme, operated by my Department) for loss of income arising from the prescribed restrictions. However, due to the breaks in the availability of REPS and AEOS schemes financial compensation has been a continuing issue since 2009.

  To address this issue, in consultation with the farming organisations and local public representatives, my Department has offered eligible out-of-contract farmers compensation for continuing to honour their environmental commitments during those breaks.

  In September 2011, I announced an interim compensation package for out-of-contract REPS farmers in these SACs whose plans were completed after the closing date for applications to AEOS 2 in May 2011. These payments of up to €4,000 per farmer ran until the 15th May 2012.

  In November 2012, I announced an extension to the interim compensation package to cover the period from May 16th 2012 to November 30th 2012, the closing date for AEOS 3 applications. Payment was based on the number of months that each farmer was out of contract in this period, equating to a pro-rata percentage of the AEOS 2012 financial package to a maximum of €4,000.

  My Department paid out €204,883 in 2011 and €164,702 in 2012 in interim funding.

  I have no plans to introduce further measures for farmers who have applied to join AEOS 3. Any issues relating to the acceptance into the AEOS 3 scheme or delayed payments should be addressed to the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

  In the period 2008 to 2012 my Department has paid out a total of €2,000,523 to farmers in these SACs and I am committed to ensuring that farmers are paid in respect of the commitments which fall to be met by my Department within the much reduced resources now available to me. Final decisions on the management of those resources for 2013 will be made in due course.

Turf Cutting Compensation Scheme Applications

 148. Deputy Martin Heydon Information on Martin Heydon Zoom on Martin Heydon asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Information on Jimmy Deenihan Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan the position regarding compensation for turf cutters in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20620/13]

Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht (Deputy Jimmy Deenihan): Information on Jimmy Deenihan Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan An application for compensation under the cessation of turf cutting compensation scheme has been received by my Department from the individual referred to in the Deputy’s Question.

Two deliveries of 15 tonnes of turf each have been made to this applicant, under the scheme, in respect of 2012. Where applicants claim to have been extracting more than 30 tonnes of turf per annum from their bog plots for themselves and family members, such as this applicant, assessments have been carried out in order to verify the claims.

My Department is considering the position of a number of applicants who have sought large amounts of turf and will write to them in relation to their position in due course.

Special Areas of Conservation Designation

 149. Deputy Áine Collins Information on Áine Collins Zoom on Áine Collins asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Information on Jimmy Deenihan Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan his views on the fact that many small farmers in western Duhallow are suffering serious loss of income as most of the area is a designated special area of conservation, they cannot plant trees, put up wind turbines or draw hen harrier subsidies as this scheme is closed; the way this issue can be resolved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20626/13]

Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht (Deputy Jimmy Deenihan): Information on Jimmy Deenihan Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan The area to which the Deputy refers is the Stacks to Mullaghareirk Mountains, West Limerick Hills, and Mount Eagle Special Protection Area, designated in S.I. No. 591 of 2012.

The development of wind farms requires planning permission under the Planning and Development Acts and approval from the Commission of Energy Regulation. Afforestation is subject to approval by the Forest Service of the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine. The public authorities concerned are responsible for making their decisions in compliance with applicable EU and national law, including the Birds Directive and the Habitats Directive.

The European Commission has expressed concerns regarding compliance with the requirements of EU law in regard to afforestation and the development of wind-farms in these sites and survey data from 2010 has shown an overall decrease in the numbers of breeding hen harriers in the six SPAs designated for the protection of the species. Forestry, agricultural practice and wind-farm development are the principal pressures on the species.

In response to these developments, my Department is formulating a hen harrier threat response plan under the European Communities (Birds and Natural Habitats) Regulations 2011, and, in that context, is working with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine to explore possible ways forward that can meet the requirements of the EU directives and allow for ongoing forest management and afforestation in a structure way. It will also consider the requirement for appropriate agri-environment supports to farmers under the Rural Development Programme, to assist them in meeting the demands of farming within the SPA.

Because of the unavailability of resources, my Department has been unable, since 2010, to offer new applicants access to the National Parks and Wildlife Service's Hen Harrier Farm Plan Scheme. It should be noted that the principal source of EU and State funds intended for the support of farmers in Natura 2000 sites generally is the Rural Development Fund, which is administered by the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

Alternative Energy Projects

 150. Deputy Robert Troy Information on Robert Troy Zoom on Robert Troy asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte if he has carried out any cost benefit analysis of the potential exporting of wind energy to the UK. [20707/13]

Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Deputy Pat Rabbitte): Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte A preliminary cost benefit analysis of the potential for the exporting of wind energy to the United Kingdom was completed in 2012 which indicated that in principle the project has potential positive economic and employment benefits. In particular, it indicated that if an Inter-Governmental Agreement is entered into between Ireland and the UK, there are potential significant employment opportunities. As an example, employment creation arising from a 3,000MW project would be expected to be in the order of 3,000 to 6,000 job years in the construction phase, with the actual number dependent on the construction schedule to 2020. There would also be additional jobs created in the on-going maintenance of turbines over a 20-year operating life. Further employment opportunities could arise if turbines or components were to be manufactured in Ireland. All relevant State agencies, particularly in the enterprise area, would have to coordinate their activities early in the process to ensure the employment potential of export projects is maximised. This opportunity has already been identified by the Industrial Development Authority and Enterprise Ireland in their clean technology growth strategies.

The Memorandum of Understanding on energy cooperation that United Kingdom Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Edward Davey and I signed on 24 January this year will result in completion of consideration of how Irish renewable energy resources, onshore and offshore, might be developed to the mutual benefit of Ireland and the United Kingdom, including undertaking further analysis of the costs and benefits of renewable energy trading for Ireland and the United Kingdom. This detailed and complex work is underway and will include examining various options for support mechanisms, grid, return to the exchequer, and risk. It will complete the determination as to whether it is beneficial for both countries to enter into an Inter-Governmental Agreement under the Renewable Energy Directive to provide for renewable energy trading.

Wind Energy Guidelines

 151. Deputy Robert Troy Information on Robert Troy Zoom on Robert Troy asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte if he will ensure the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland will not have any advisory role in his deliberations on the proposed wind turbines for the midlands in view of the apparent conflict of interest of the chairperson; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20709/13]

Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Deputy Pat Rabbitte): Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte In January of this year I signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with my UK counterpart, Mr. Edward Davey M.P., to explore the potential for export wind based renewable energy from Ireland to the UK. Intensive discussions are being progressed by my Department and its UK counterpart on this matter. Whilst the signing of the MOU indicates a strong statement of intent on the part of both Governments, considerable work remains to be done to put the necessary comprehensive framework in place. This would be necessary in advance of any specific project being implemented and any such project will be subject to all appropriate statutory consents. The Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) has no statutory responsibility in this regard and also has no regulatory role in the area.

More generally, a technical review of the Wind Energy Guidelines is being overseen by officials from the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government, my Department and the SEAI. This review will be completed later this year. SEAI has been commissioned to conduct a targeted study of certain aspects of the Wind Energy Guidelines 2006 which will be one input into the review of the Wind Energy Guidelines. I have no doubt that SEAI will discharge this work in a fully objective manner.

Finally, the appointments of the Chair and Directors to the Board of SEAI are made in accordance with the relevant provisions of the Sustainable Energy Act 2002. The Board acts in accordance with the revised Code of Practice for the Governance of State Bodies published by the Department of Finance in 2009, and all Board members are required to make Statements of Interests under the Ethics in Public Office Acts 1995 and 2001.


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