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Financial Resolution No. 2: General (Resumed) (Continued)

Thursday, 13 October 2016

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 924 No. 3

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Katherine Zappone: Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone] In that regard I certainly value parents and grandparents who do stay home, but people who want to go out to work have to be assisted and their families also deserve a chance to improve their lives. It is worth noting that 96% of eligible children are accessing our existing free preschools. They come from families of all backgrounds and circumstances, including with parents who stay at home. This week's announcement is just the start and it is in line with years of campaigning and my election commitments. My first actions are aimed at helping those on the lowest incomes, as well as a universal measure to support families from all income backgrounds.

As Minister for Children and Youth Affairs I have specific responsibility for the provision of accessible, high quality and affordable child care for working parents. There is a lot of work to be done and I am looking forward to continuing the journey to transform Irish child care forever. With 30 years involvement in community child care in west Tallaght and as a campaigner I am keenly aware of the challenges in the sector which must be addressed. As I travel around the country meeting people on the ground there are concerns about pay, high staff turnover and the red tape and administration which the sector faces. That is why I have established a national early years forum to listen to and act on the concerns of the people providing this vital service in communities.

We have taken some steps in the budget to assist providers. A total of €14.5 million is being made available. The average provider with 25 children will receive €2,400 a year as recognition for the time they must spend on paperwork and planning. We will continue working with them as the scheme is rolled out in the coming months and years. There is also a very important discussion taking place on the role of childminders. Immediately after the budget I met a number of representative groups, including Childminding Ireland, and we are working to get more childminders registered and for their role to be recognised. We have almost a year to get this right and I encourage every Member of this House, as well as the sector and those who campaign for children's rights, to have their say. As Minister, I value Deputies' inputs.

I am pleased that I secured an increase in €37 million in current funding for Tusla for 2017, which will be added to the capital provision of €13.56 million already provided to the agency for 2017. This will allow Tusla to provide child welfare and protection services to children waiting to be allocated a social worker. At the moment 20,019 children have an allocated social worker. While Tusla has made progress on this, a further 5,050 children are still waiting for an allocated a social worker. I have been assured by Tusla that all urgent cases are dealt with immediately and do not go on a waiting list. Reducing the number, and eventually eliminating the waiting list, is a key priority for me and for Tusla.

There will be a strong focus on adoption legislation in the coming months. The Adoption (Amendment) Bill has passed Second Stage and deliberations will commence on Committee Stage in early November. In addition, the Adoption (Information and Tracing) Bill will be enacted this year. Funding has been provided for the allocation of additional staff to help with the adoptions of children who will now be eligible for adoption and for an information campaign to ensure that birth parents and adopted persons are aware of the provisions of the Adoption (Information and Tracing) Bill. As a Minister of this Government, I recommend this budget to the Oireachtas and I hope it will deliver equality and fairness to the Irish people as that has certainly been its aim for all of us.

Minister of State at the Department of Education and Skills (Deputy John Halligan): Information on John Halligan Zoom on John Halligan I welcome the opportunity to address the House on budget 2017 and in particular, the increased allocation in my Department’s innovation budget for next year. Innovation and technology are key drivers of Irish economy. Continued investment in innovation, research and development has been crucial for attracting, creating and maintaining high value jobs as well as developing and nurturing a technologically advanced workforce. I am pleased to say that in budget 2017 the Government is committed to increasing the funding available for research, development and innovation supports. My Department’s capital allocation for 2017 for investment in research, development and innovation will be €323 million, an increase of €15 million over 2016 levels.

  This Department of Education and Skills investment is part of the picture in terms of the wider goals set out by Government in Innovation 2020. The investments through the Department have to be considered alongside the investments through the Department of Education and Skills and other Departments. The 2017 capital allocation of €323 million will assist a range of key research funding supports and activities led in particular by Science Foundation Ireland, Enterprise Ireland and the Tyndall National Institute.

  I will outline some of the key research and innovation initiatives that will be supported in 2017. Science Foundation Ireland, SFI, will see its capital budget increase by €5.5 million bringing it to €162 million in 2017. This capital investment will enable Science Foundation Ireland to invest in excellent and impactful research for Ireland. It will allow SFI to make the following new investments in the coming 12 months: an increase in the number of large scale research centres, additional new strategic partnerships with industry and funding of up to 50 new awards to excellent senior, mid and early-career researchers through the SFI Investigators and SFI career development award programmes.

  The SFI budget in 2017 will also allow it continue to support its existing 12 SFI research centres of excellence that are focused on areas of national strategic importance. In 2017, SFI will support the recruitment of eight to ten internationally renowned researchers through the SFI research professorship and SFI research funding leader programmes. A number of strategic partnerships with international research agencies will also be supported with an increased focus on UK research councils and other funding bodies, in light of Brexit. Education and public engagement are also critical, through the SFI Discovery programme. SFI will invest in projects which promote STEM, science, technology, engineering and mathematics education and public engagement.

  Enterprise Ireland will see its capital budget for research and development supports increase by €4.4 million in 2017 bringing it to €122 million. Enterprise Ireland’s increased capital allocation for research, development and innovation programmes will enable the agency to develop new supports aimed at increasing the ability of indigenous companies to carry out research and development, develop new products and services and access new markets. The additional capital allocation will fund a number of new initiatives including a new programme for business innovation initiatives aimed at driving company innovation towards more customer focused product and service solutions. The funding will also enable the roll-out of a small business innovation research programme, following successful pilots, to leverage the considerable national public procurement budget to drive innovation in small and medium enterprises. It will also assist in scaling up of activity under the recently launched Health Innovation Hub Ireland, and enhance the supports to help companies access non-Exchequer research funding, including through the EU Horizon 2020 programme. I am pleased to inform the House that, to the end of September, Ireland has won over €336 million in competitive Horizon 2020 funding. This figure is ahead of where we expected to be at this point in time with regard to our national target.

  I am pleased to announce an increase in the budget allocation to the Tyndall National Institute. The capital investment of €4.5 million will enable this fantastic institution to grow its interactions with industry substantially both in Ireland and internationally and target non-Exchequer income of up to €6 million in 2017. The funding will help the institution to build on its national leadership in postgraduate training by producing up to 30 highly skilled postgraduate researchers at PhD level for industry in 2017.

  The objective of this investment is to foster and enable Ireland to delve into world class innovation systems. The investment also ensures Ireland is connected and respected internationally. Ireland’s ranking in the Innovation Union Scoreboard has moved from tenth place in 2013 to sixth place in 2016, and Ireland is currently grouped with other nations known as strong innovators.

Minister of State at the Department of Defence (Deputy Paul Kehoe): Information on Paul Kehoe Zoom on Paul Kehoe The combined 2017 defence allocation of €922 million is comprised of €692 million on defence Vote 36 and €230 million on Army pensions Vote 35. This represents an increase of €10 million within the defence Vote and €6 million within the Army pension Vote in 2017. This increased allocation will allow the Defence Forces to deliver on their operational outputs, at home and overseas. The 2017 pay allocation of some €497 million allows for the pay and allowances of up to 9,500 Permanent Defence Force personnel, 550 civilian employees and 350 civil servants. Funding of over €2 million for the Reserve Defence Force is included in the allocation.


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