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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 544-562
 Header Item Mother and Baby Homes Inquiries
 Header Item Mother and Baby Homes Inquiries
 Header Item Child Care Services Provision
 Header Item Youth Services Provision
 Header Item Family Resource Centres
 Header Item Affordable Childcare Scheme Eligibility
 Header Item Family Resource Centres
 Header Item Child Care Services Provision
 Header Item Affordable Childcare Scheme
 Header Item Affordable Childcare Scheme Implementation
 Header Item Affordable Childcare Scheme Implementation
 Header Item Local Improvement Scheme Funding
 Header Item Charitable and Voluntary Organisations
 Header Item Dog Breeding Industry
 Header Item Departmental Budgets
 Header Item Departmental Staff Data
 Header Item Departmental Expenditure
 Header Item Information and Communications Technology

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 959 No. 6

First Page Previous Page Page of 88 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 544-562

Mother and Baby Homes Inquiries

 544. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone the location of a burial ground for an institution (details supplied); and if there are records of those that died while resident in that institution. [41270/17]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone It is important to state that my Department does not hold any records from the institution known as St. Patrick's Mother and Baby Home. A cohort of files from this former institution are held by TUSLA, the Child and Family Agency, and may be accessed by relevant parties through their Information and Tracing Services.

As the Deputy may be aware, St. Patrick's Mother and Baby Home is one of the institutions currently being investigated by the ongoing Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes and certain related Matters. As part of its terms of reference, the Commission is directed to investigate and to make a report on burial arrangements in respect of persons who died while resident in these institutions. In the course of investigating these matters, the Commission will identify the sources of information and records most relevant to these issues..

Mother and Baby Homes Inquiries

 545. Deputy Denise Mitchell Information on Denise Mitchell Zoom on Denise Mitchell asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone the status of the transitional justice element of the investigation into mother and baby homes; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41293/17]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone It is my wish to develop transitional justice measures to support and empower former residents of these institutions and their families and which could complement the work already significantly advanced by the Commission of Investigation. There is a strong public interest in Government taking whatever action is appropriate to address the issues which have already emerged without encroaching on the ongoing statutory investigation or pre-empting the outcome of that process.

Dr. James Gallen of the School of Law and Government, Dublin City University, is assisting me in mapping out a potential model of "transitional justice" as a means of giving voice to former residents of Mother and Baby Homes and County Homes. I believe that this is the best way forward in our response to what are hugely complex and sensitive matters and I am adopting key transitional justice principles to a number of measures.

In this regard, the Deputy may be aware that I am currently in the process of holding facilitated meetings with former residents. A central focus of these meetings is to explore the nature of services and supports in the area of health and well-being that former residents feel may be of genuine practical value to them now. The first facilitated meeting was held in Dublin on 30 June, with over 100 people in attendance. The next independently facilitated meeting will be held in Cork city on 6 October. Further details of this event can be found on my Department's website.

I believe that open and consistent communication with former residents and other stakeholders on the matters of concern to them is essential while the Commission continues with the work it was established to do. In recent months, my Department has worked to further increase its focus on communication's with former residents by establishing an e-zine update which is posted on the Mother and Babies Homes section of my Department's website on the first Friday of every month. Three updates have been published to date with a fourth being prepared for this Friday. In this way everyone has access to the same information at the same time.

Also in early June, I appointed an Expert Technical Group headed by Forensic Archaeologist Niamh Mc Cullagh to provide me with technical advice in relation to the decisions which need to be taken on the future of the site of the former Mother and Baby Home in Tuam, Country Galway. The Expert Team provided an initial report in June which is available on my Department's website and will submit its final report to me shortly. A course of action can then be agreed to build toward a consensus on the next steps to be taken..

Child Care Services Provision

 546. Deputy Denise Mitchell Information on Denise Mitchell Zoom on Denise Mitchell asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone the number of childminders who have registered with Tusla from September 2016 to date in 2017.  [41294/17]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone The number of registered childminders in September 2016 was 119. As of the end of August 2017, the number of registered childminders was 118.

Youth Services Provision

 547. Deputy Mick Barry Information on Mick Barry Zoom on Mick Barry asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone the level of reporting that has been sought by the city of City of Dublin Youth Service Board from a club (details supplied) in Dublin 5 in terms of the range, volume and frequency of activities it organises with the funds it receives from her Department; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41303/17]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone My Department administers a range of funding schemes and programmes to support the provision of youth services to young people throughout the country, including those from disadvantaged communities. The funding schemes support national and local youth work involving approximately 1,400 youth work staff working in youth services and communities throughout the country.  St. Monica's Youth Project received €111,711 in funding under the Young Peoples Facilities and Services Fund in 2017.

  The City of Dublin Youth Service Board, CDYSB, acts as funding intermediary for the organisation concerned. The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform Circular 13/2014 outlines the responsibilities for both grantors and grantees in relation to expenditure of public funds by way of disbursement of grant funding to all bodies, including agencies, companies, committees, advisory groups, charities or individuals, whether directly from the Votes of Government Departments/Offices or through an intermediary body or series of bodies.

  Youth funding grants are awarded on the basis of completed renewal of applications forms which are submitted to the Department via the funding intermediary. These renewal applications request details of the service's proposed programmes, objectives, outputs and outcomes for the year in which funding is sought.

  All services in receipt of Department of Children and Youth Affairs grant aid are required to submit annual signed audited accounts/financial statements. Services are also required to submit progress reports via the grant administering body. These progress reports request information on opening times, target groups, numbers of staff, volunteers and young people. The reports also request details of core objectives, programmes provided, core outputs, contact hours with young people, number of days the service is provided and number of attendees per month participating in the various programmes.

  The service-level agreement in place between my Department and CDYSB to facilitate the administration of grant funding provides that CDYSB will carry out the financial management and administrative system for the management and monitoring of expenditure and associated governance. The governance arrangements in place within CDYSB include a review system which is a formal documented process that examines the financial governance and service status of an organisation in receipt of funding against plans, agreements and best practice comparators. This review system includes, inter alia, service reviews, verification visits, unscheduled visits and follow-up.

Family Resource Centres

 548. Deputy John Brassil Information on John Brassil Zoom on John Brassil asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone if funding and resources will be increased for the family resource network; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41411/17]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone There are over 100 Family Resource Centres currently in receipt of funding from Tusla, the Child and Family Agency. Tusla provides funding to the centres under an annual Service-Level Agreement. This funding is provided by way of a contribution toward the running costs of the centres. The 2017 Tusla allocation to Family Resource Centres is €13.512 million.

Family Resource Centres are front-line services rooted in the communities they serve. Acting as a focal point within their communities, Family Resource Centres provide a holistic service of child, family and community support and advocacy to all children and families in their communities. While Family Resource Centres operate an open-door policy and provide many services and development opportunities at a universal level, they also proactively target specific cohorts within their communities.

Tusla fully appreciates the role that Family Resource Centres play in offering early intervention support to families in difficulty.

It is not possible at this stage to advise on what level of funding will be made available by Tusla to Family Resource Centres in 2018. This issue will be clarified in the context of the annual Estimates process and having regard to the overall level of funding available to Tusla in 2018..

Affordable Childcare Scheme Eligibility

 549. Deputy Catherine Murphy Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone the levels of entitlement stated in the affordable childcare scheme; the entitlements for persons who do not work regular hours or shift work and who cannot place their children in crèche care during normal business hours; her views on whether there is a level of inconsistency regarding the number of persons who can avail of affordable child care under the scheme (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41427/17]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone Childcare provisions in my Department operate to support parents to access employment and to meet the needs and well-being of children.

It is considered to be in the best interests of children to have regular and consistent patterns of childcare and our systems are set up with this in mind.

In certain exceptional circumstances, we do allow for unusual arrangements, but as currently constructed we cannot facilitate all possible permutations of childcare. Our system operates on the basis of fixed weekly patterns. This may be something that my Department can review for future programme cycles, as unfortunately, it is not possible to make major system changes after the operational commencement of a childcare programme..

Family Resource Centres

 550. Deputy John Curran Information on John Curran Zoom on John Curran asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone if her attention has been drawn to anomalies in the funding of family resource centres by Tusla in which some centres are funded for two full-time staff and some for three full-time staff; her views on whether this system is equitable; her plans to address this anomaly; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41468/17]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone There are over 100 Family Resource Centres, FRCs, currently in receipt of funding from Tusla, the Child and Family Agency. Tusla provides funding to the centres under an annual Service-Level Agreement. This funding is provided by way of a contribution toward the running costs of the centres. The 2017 Tusla allocation to FRCs is €13.512 million.

Tusla has advised that, since its establishment in 2014, the budget model which it uses to allocate funding to individual centres has had regard to the location, size and catchment area of each FRC.

As previously highlighted to the Deputy, FRCs are independent organisations. They are managed by a Voluntary Board of Management which is representative of the local community. The centres operate independently of Tusla and each individual centre is responsible for the recruitment of employees and the terms and conditions under which they are employed.

Tusla has developed a strategy for the future commissioning of services. The strategy is based on a comprehensive needs analysis and review of current service provision. It will take account of the total resources available to the Agency, the statutory duties assigned under legislation and services that can best be provided by partner agencies and statutory organisations to support the continuum of care at local and national level.

It is important that the approach adopted ensures the best possible use of resources, ensures that services commissioned in the future are aligned with the strategic objectives of the Agency, maximises outcomes for children and families and improves the users’ experience of services. The approach adopted must also provide a platform for ensuring efficient, affordable services into the future.

Tusla fully appreciates the role that Family Resource Centres play in offering early intervention support to vulnerable children and families in demographically diverse communities around the country..

Child Care Services Provision

 551. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh Information on Aengus Ó Snodaigh Zoom on Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone if Tusla has agreed to the provision of a day-to-day support worker to assist with the needs of persons (details supplied).  [41595/17]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone I have referred the Deputy's request for specific information as detailed to Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, for direct response to the Deputy concerned.

Affordable Childcare Scheme

 552. Deputy Bríd Smith Information on Bríd Smith Zoom on Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone if the cap for parental contribution will be maintained when TEC schemes are abolished and replaced with a new affordable childcare scheme.  [41734/17]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone I am pleased to assure the Deputy that no recipients of the Training and Employment Childcare, TEC, childcare scheme, including new entrants onto the scheme in 2017-18, will be made worse off as a result of the introduction of the Affordable Childcare Scheme. Under the current programmes, including the TEC schemes to which the Deputy refers, there are many families with low income levels who are not currently able to access subsidised childcare because of the requirement to be in receipt of certain state benefits or attending certain training programmes.

  In moving from the existing targeted schemes to the new Affordable Childcare Scheme, it is proposed that transitional arrangements should be put in place for current scheme beneficiaries, including TEC beneficiaries. Under these arrangements, beneficiaries would apply for a subsidy under the new scheme but would enjoy a “saver” status for a transitional period, for example until their current training/education course ends in the case of Childcare Education and Training Scheme, CETS, beneficiaries. This would mean that, in circumstances where they do not benefit from moving over to the new scheme (i.e. they no longer qualify for a subsidy or they qualify for a lower level of subsidy), they will still be able to retain their existing level of subsidy for a transitional period.

The proposed base income threshold at the introduction of the Affordable Childcare Scheme will guarantee that the maximum rate of subsidy will be available to all families below the relative income poverty line and will ensure that the majority of current scheme beneficiaries (77%) will receive the maximum subsidy rate under the new scheme. While there will be no cap on prices charged by providers within the Affordable Childcare Scheme, the proposed maximum subsidy rate, which will apply for all those below the base income threshold, will reduce the expected average parental co-payment under the new scheme to below the capped co-payment under CETS, which is the most generous of the current targeted schemes.

  Any changes to the base income threshold and maximum subsidy rate for future years, and the consequent impact on the affordability of childcare, will depend on decisions made in the context of the budget available for the scheme at the time.

Affordable Childcare Scheme Implementation

 553. Deputy Jack Chambers Information on Jack Chambers Zoom on Jack Chambers asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone the number and percentage of childcare providers nationally who have signed up for the affordable childcare scheme; the number and percentage that have not yet signed up; the reason some providers have not yet signed up; the efforts under way to achieve 100% compliance (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [41814/17]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone Currently, 3,155 of 3,705 of applicable childcare services (85%) have signed up to deliver the affordable childcare scheme. Further applications to sign up to deliver DCYA programmes are being received every day.

  I am aware that some providers have expressed concerns around the administration of the new measures. In recent months, I have announced payments toward "non-contact hours" for all childcare providers who register for the enhanced childcare measures under the Community Childcare Scheme.

  My Department has also engaged with providers through roadshows, a dedicated website and through the city/county Childcare Committees which provide support and advice to service providers.

  With regard to the details supplied by the Deputy, I understand that officials from my Department have been in contact with this service provider and this issue has been resolved to the provider’s satisfaction. If this service provider has any further queries, I would advise them to email: eyqueries@dcya.gov.ie. 

Affordable Childcare Scheme Implementation

 554. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae Information on Michael Healy-Rae Zoom on Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone the steps she will take to ensure the initiation of the affordable childcare scheme continues to meet requirements and provides a high-quality service; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41817/17]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone My Department engages with key partners and stakeholders on an ongoing basis to ensure that all of our schemes meet their objectives and the needs of parents and providers.

  Our consultation mechanisms include an Early Years Forum which I set up in 2016 and there are also sub-groups looking at specific concerns. There are also operationally focused groups and consultation groups looking at how my Department’s schemes operate.

  The Department of Education and Skills, Tusla and Pobal all undertake inspections of childcare services to ensure that the service providers meet all relevant standards and requirements.

Local Improvement Scheme Funding

 555. Deputy Niamh Smyth Information on Niamh Smyth Zoom on Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development Information on Michael Ring Zoom on Michael Ring if the local improvement scheme has officially been reinstated basis; if it will be on a yearly basis; the funding that can be expected for this scheme in 2018 in counties Cavan, Meath and Monaghan; if the funding will be ring-fenced to the local authority; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41287/17]

Minister for Rural and Community Development (Deputy Michael Ring): Information on Michael Ring Zoom on Michael Ring On 21 September, I announced the provision of €10 million for a Local Improvement Scheme.  This is a nation-wide scheme which supports improvement works on private and non-public roads.

My Department wrote to Local Authorities in August to establish the level of demand for an LIS scheme this year. The Local Authorities were advised that any requests for funds would be subject to their capacity to complete any proposed works in 2017, and funding availability.

Within the budget available for 2017, it was not possible to fully support the level of demand which the Local Authorities stated they could deliver in 2017.  However, all eligible Local Authorities received a minimum of €250,000, with the exception of three authorities who requested less than that amount.  County Cavan was allocated €295,000, County Meath was allocated €359,000 and County Monaghan was allocated €250,000.  The allocations had regard to the geographical area of the counties and the level of demand indicated by the Local Authorities.

The level of funding available for the LIS scheme in 2018 will be considered in the context of the 2018 Budget and Estimates process..

Charitable and Voluntary Organisations

 556. Deputy Kevin O'Keeffe Information on Kevin O'Keeffe Zoom on Kevin O'Keeffe asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development Information on Michael Ring Zoom on Michael Ring if an organisation (details supplied) is not registered as a charitable organisation, if it can accept gifts. [41408/17]

Minister for Rural and Community Development (Deputy Michael Ring): Information on Michael Ring Zoom on Michael Ring Under Section 41 of the Charities Act 2009, it is an offence for any person to advertise on behalf of, to invite members of the public to give money or property to, or to accept such money or property on behalf of, a charitable organisation that is not registered, or for an unregistered charitable organisation to carry on such activities. In addition, it is an offence under Section 46 of the Act for a body (other than a registered charitable organisation), to describe itself or its activities in a manner that would cause a member of the public to reasonably believe that the body was a charitable organisation.

I am advised that the organisation (referred to by the Deputy is not currently on the Charities Regulator’s Register of Charities. If anybody has concerns that a charitable organisation is in breach of the Charities Act 2009, they should forward details of these concerns to the Charities Regulator.  All concerns received by the Charities Regulator are actively reviewed..

Dog Breeding Industry

 557. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan Information on Maureen O'Sullivan Zoom on Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development Information on Michael Ring Zoom on Michael Ring his plans to conduct a review of the breed restrictions in the Control of Dogs Act 1998 regulations in view of a group's (details supplied) call to conduct a review; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41753/17]

Minister for Rural and Community Development (Deputy Michael Ring): Information on Michael Ring Zoom on Michael Ring The overall thrust of dog control legislation is to place the onus on dog owners and those in control of dogs to act responsibly by keeping their dogs under effectual control, irrespective of breed.  Such responsible dog ownership is the key to reducing incidences of dog biting and other problem behaviours.

The Control of Dogs Acts 1986 to 2010 set out a range of requirements for all dog owners or any other person in charge of a dog. In particular, section 9 of the 1986 Act requires the owner or any other person in charge of a dog to accompany it and keep it under effectual control in any place other than the premises of the owner, the premises of the person in control of the dog, or other premises with the consent of the owner of the premises.  Section 21 of the 1986 Act provides that the owner of a dog shall be liable in damages for damage caused in an attack on any person by the dog.

In addition to the foregoing, the Control of Dogs Regulations 1998 set out further requirements that owners of specific breeds of dogs have to follow, namely that such dogs must be muzzled and led, on a sufficiently strong leash or chain not exceeding two metres in length, by a competent person over 16 years of age when in a public place.  The specific control requirements for these restricted breeds are a balanced and workable arrangement which recognises the rights of dog owners, respects animal welfare to the extent possible, while also taking account of the needs of society to be protected from dogs with a significant capability to inflict very serious injury, or cause death. 

I am satisfied that the restrictions under the current legislative framework provide the necessary controls for the protection of society.  However, I will ask my Department officials to work with all relevant stakeholders to review the findings of the newly published scientific research..

Departmental Budgets

 558. Deputy Michael Fitzmaurice Information on Michael Fitzmaurice Zoom on Michael Fitzmaurice asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development Information on Michael Ring Zoom on Michael Ring the budget he has received to operate his Department for 2017; the expected budget for 2018; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41422/17]

Minister for Rural and Community Development (Deputy Michael Ring): Information on Michael Ring Zoom on Michael Ring The Department of Rural and Community Development was established on 19 of July 2017, following the enactment of the Ministers and Secretaries (Amendment) Act, 2017. Functions transferred include the Rural Division from the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, the Community Division from the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government, and the Charities Regulatory Authority from the Department of Justice and Equality.

  The Transfer of Functions Guidelines and Best Practice Handbook, issued by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, sets out the arrangements for the transfer of functions in situations where and entirely new Department is established.

  This specifies a number of principles including that:

  (i) staff working on the functions to be transferred should move with those functions;

  (ii) finances, including pay, non-pay (administrative), and programme (current and capital), allocated in the Estimate to the functions to be transferred move with those functions;

  (iii) the total staff and financial resources transferred to a new or receiving Department, including corporate resources, should be appropriate and proportionate to support the functions transferred.

  The budget for 2017 and the revised estimate for the 2017 Vote is being finalised on this basis and will be brought before the Oireachtas for approval shortly. Discussions on the Department’s estimate for 2018 are ongoing.

Departmental Staff Data

 559. Deputy Michael Fitzmaurice Information on Michael Fitzmaurice Zoom on Michael Fitzmaurice asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development Information on Michael Ring Zoom on Michael Ring the number of staff employed by his Department; the number in Dublin and Ballina, respectively; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41423/17]

Minister for Rural and Community Development (Deputy Michael Ring): Information on Michael Ring Zoom on Michael Ring The Department of Rural and Community Development was established on 19 July 2017. As of 3 October 2017, there was 108 staff employed in my Department, although discussions are ongoing to finalise the Department’s full staffing complement.

  There is currently 40 staff in the Department's core offices in Dublin, and 60 in Ballina.  There is eight staff in an Inspectorate service that is based regionally throughout the country.

  A further 42 staff are employed in the Charities Regulatory Authority, which is also based in Dublin.

Departmental Expenditure

 560. Deputy Michael Fitzmaurice Information on Michael Fitzmaurice Zoom on Michael Fitzmaurice asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development Information on Michael Ring Zoom on Michael Ring the amount his Department has spent since being established; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41424/17]

Minister for Rural and Community Development (Deputy Michael Ring): Information on Michael Ring Zoom on Michael Ring I understand that the Deputy’s question relates to my Department’s programmes and grant schemes, as distinct from the payroll and administrative costs.

The 2017 spend to date for my Department's programmes and grant schemes is €75.1 million.

Typically, the bulk of expenditure on capital programmes occurs in the latter half of the year. In 2017, the majority of expenditure on these programmes is profiled to occur in the latter half of the year.  For example, successful projects under the CLÁR and Rural Recreation programmes were announced between May and June of this year, and payments will be drawn down as these projects are delivered.

Since June, the number of project approvals under LEADER has increased significantly, with well over 200 projects fully approved for grant aid of over €6 million. This compares to approvals with a grant aid of less than €1 million in the previous six months.  This funding will be drawn down as projects start to incur expenditure and submit payment claims.

It is expected that the allocations in relation to the Rapid and Libraries Development Programmes will be fully expended by year end, while successful projects under the Town and Village Renewal Scheme will be announced shortly..

Information and Communications Technology

 561. Deputy Michael Fitzmaurice Information on Michael Fitzmaurice Zoom on Michael Fitzmaurice asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development Information on Michael Ring Zoom on Michael Ring if the information technology system in his Department will be upgraded to prevent the issue which occurred with the release of the Tidy Towns results on 25 September 2017; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41425/17]

 562. Deputy Thomas Byrne Information on Thomas Byrne Zoom on Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development Information on Michael Ring Zoom on Michael Ring if his attention has been drawn to ongoing issues with the Tidy Towns website; and if his attention has been further drawn to the annoyance and confusion that this problem has caused Tidy Towns groups across the country in accessing adjudicators reports and the results for the 2017 competition. [41561/17]

Minister for Rural and Community Development (Deputy Michael Ring): Information on Michael Ring Zoom on Michael Ring I propose to take Questions Nos. 561 and 562 together.

  The Supervalu Tidy Towns competition is now in its 59th year and is a positive and exciting competition for the many communities involved. A very successful National Awards Ceremony took place on Monday, 25 September 2017, in the Helix Theatre, Dublin, where Birdhill, County Tipperary, was declared the overall winner of the competition for 2017.  

  I am aware that there were difficulties with accessing information on the Tidy Towns website, www.tidytowns.ie, following the release of the competition results. These issues were of a technical nature and were rectified within 24 hours of the problem coming to light.  My officials also provided a telephone support service while the site was unavailable.

  Access to the information on the website is now fully restored. I appreciate that the issue may have caused inconvenience for Tidy Towns committees around the country for a short period.  The technical difficulty which arose has been identified and measure are being taken to prevent a recurrence of the problem in the future.


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