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 Header Item LEADER Programmes (Continued)
 Header Item Ceisteanna Eile - Other Questions
 Header Item Broadband Infrastructure

Thursday, 17 December 2020

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 1002 No. 7

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Seán Canney: Information on Seán Canney Zoom on Seán Canney] The allocation announced by the Minister yesterday gives it €695,000. I know how the scheme works from my time in the Department and there is demand for it. The money is welcome as an initial allocation but it is important that we make sure that the funding is there for the throughput.

My other question is about projects that have applied for funding but did not make the cut because the money required to deal with them was not there. Do they have to reapply or will they carry on in transition?

Deputy Heather Humphreys: Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys An initial allocation of €20 million is being made available for the delivery of the programme and 75%, or €15 million, of the funding is being allocated to new project activity, with the remaining 25% or €5 million available for administration and project animation costs. The funding will be distributed between the local action groups, LAGs, on a pro rata basis commensurate with the allocations made at the start of the 2014-2020 LEADER programme. It is important to recognise that LEADER is a multi-annual programme and that the payments in respect of projects which are approved in any given year are generally not drawn down until subsequent years, depending on the nature and scale of the projects concerned. In that context, costs related to projects under the transitional programme are likely to be relatively low in 2021, but the overall costs will be met from the provision in my Department's Vote in 2022 and 2023, as necessary.

  I wanted to make sure there would be no gap between one programme and the next. We have the transition programme and it is important that the LEADER companies will be able to continue and finish off their projects.

Deputy Seán Canney: Information on Seán Canney Zoom on Seán Canney I agree wholeheartedly with the sentiment and thank the Minister for that. The importance of this scheme to rural Ireland is enormous. In Galway East, the budget for the past five years was €5,728,456, from which 170 community projects have benefited. By 31 December, the allocations will have been made to 170 projects. That is an enormous amount of money. Some 25 projects will have received €934,000 for enterprise development. Seventeen projects in rural tourism will have received €563,000, and so on. There is not a parish, boreen or village that has not benefited from the scheme. Of all the schemes I know, this is the one that I would like to see continued and built upon. We have the necessary expertise within the companies that are developing it and in the Department. I compliment the Department, the Minister and her predecessor, Deputy Ring, for all the work that went into this scheme and continues to be put into it.

Deputy Heather Humphreys: Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys A lot of work has been done by my officials in the Department, my predecessor, Deputy Ring, and Deputy Canney, as a former Minister of State. I met with representatives of the LEADER companies and heard their concerns. I have addressed those concerns in this transitional programme. The Deputy is right about Galway, which has an impressive record in this regard. As of 13 December, the LAG had approved a total of 149 projects, which equates to €5.3 million. A further 16 applications are at various stages of the approval process, seeking funding of over €500,000, over €2.3 million in payments and a further €3 million remains to be drawn down in Galway East. As the Deputy has said, the area will be allocated €695,986 under the transitional programme, of which €521,990 will be for new projects.

I have also committed to meeting representatives of the LEADER companies and the Irish Local Development Network on a three-monthly basis. I am going to keep in touch with them regularly and if any problems arise, I want to work with them. It is what they deliver on the ground that makes the difference.

Ceisteanna Eile - Other Questions

Broadband Infrastructure

 5. Deputy Barry Cowen Information on Barry Cowen Zoom on Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys the status of the establishment of a network of broadband connection points in counties Offaly and Laois; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [43602/20]

 16. Deputy David Stanton Information on David Stanton Zoom on David Stanton asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys the status of the roll out of broadband connection points in rural communities; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [43656/20]

 25. Deputy Marc MacSharry Information on Marc MacSharry Zoom on Marc MacSharry asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys the status of the establishment of a network of broadband connection points in counties Sligo and Leitrim; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [43606/20]

 26. Deputy Jennifer Murnane O'Connor Information on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor Zoom on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys the status of the establishment of a network of broadband connection points in County Carlow; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [43598/20]

Deputy Barry Cowen: Information on Barry Cowen Zoom on Barry Cowen The question speaks for itself. I would like the Minister to respond to the question about the roll-out of broadband in my constituency and other rural constituencies like it. It is incumbent on me and other public representatives in my constituency to work tirelessly in an effort to ensure that the transition away from peat power generation meets with the approval of those we represent. We want to ensure that every effort has been made by the Government on its contracted roll-out of broadband and that it is meeting its commitment to make broadband available to those who wish to avail of it and take on board the opportunities that arise as a result of Government investment in the area during the transitional period.

Deputy Heather Humphreys: Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys I propose to take Questions Nos. 5, 16, 25 and 26 together. I thank the Deputy for raising the question.

  Broadband connection points, BCPs, are among the first deliverables of the national broadband plan, NBP, and will provide high-speed broadband connectivity to publicly accessible sites in rural and isolated areas of the country, including a number of our offshore islands. These sites will be provided with a temporary wireless connection by National Broadband Ireland, NBI, the company contracted to deliver the NBP. This connection will remain in situ until the sites have been given a permanent connection under the NBP.

  As of last Thursday, 10 December 2020, 162 sites had the initial connection established by NBI. Of these, 133 had been passed to Vodafone to install its equipment to provide broadband services to the site. Vodafone had installed its equipment at 113 of these sites up to last Thursday and is continuing with its installations. In the Deputy's constituency of Laois-Offaly, there are eight connected broadband points, which are, Vicarstown, Oisín House, Emo community centre in Laois and Ballycommon, Primo Coachworks, Coolderry community hall, Kilclonfert and Croghan community hall in Offaly. They have been connected and another five sites are waiting to be connected. It is my plan that all of these connections will be done by the end of the first quarter of 2021.

  In addition to the substantial investment already made in the BCPs, my Department is planning to develop the facilities and services available at these sites. Included in this programme is the use of ehealth technology at BCPs. If successful, this could reduce the need to travel from remote areas to towns and cities for many medical appointments, which is to be welcomed. My officials are also exploring the use of BCPs as educational settings, remote working hubs and as locations for the creative arts.

  Under budget 2021, I secured an additional €5 million to enhance remote working capability and remote access for students at BCPs and digital hubs across rural Ireland next year. The location of all BCPs which have been installed or which are planned across the country is available on the National Broadband Ireland website, www.nbi.ie.

  The national broadband plan is the biggest investment in rural Ireland since electrification and nobody questions whether it was the right decision or anything else. All we want to do now is establish how soon we can get that broadband. It is a request that arrives frequently to my constituency office and I hear about people who need to go online for different reasons, including remote working, and they want to know how soon they can get access to broadband. Rolling out the plan is akin to rural electrification and we cannot get it to every house straightaway. In the interim, we are going to use these broadband connection points. I have a fund of €5 million and I want to help communities to create spaces where co-working can happen or where students can do their college work, or whatever, in hubs. For a small investment, we can make a real difference in communities.

  A teacher called me the other day. He was marking an exam and needed to be able to upload the results.


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