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Financial Resolution No. 5: General (Resumed) (Continued)

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 893 No. 1

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Paschal Donohoe: Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe] There will be an increase of €47 million in current funding to bring the total current spend to just under €722 million. This increase in funding includes an additional €28 million or a 14% increase in public service obligation, PSO, subvention. This is being provided to support increased and improved public transport services, including those operated under the rural transport programme. The priorities for this funding will be to reduce congestion by responding to passenger demand on key Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann services, the opening of the Phoenix Park tunnel next summer and improving the services currently available on the DART. As a result of this extra funding the National Transport Authority, NTA, will now finalise its plans for 2016. An additional €2 million will be provided to support co-operative overseas marketing to support important initiatives such as the Wild Atlantic Way, Ireland’s Ancient East and the work pertaining to the Rugby World Cup 2023 bid. An additional €3 million also will be made available to support important sporting and physical activity initiatives, such as the new national physical activity action plan, and to help the sporting bodies and national governing bodies, NGBs, of sport to continue in their important work in preparing for the Olympic and Paralympic Games at the end of next year.

As for capital expenditure, there will be an increase of €78 million to provide funding for the maintenance of the existing road and rail network and to allow for an increase in capital funding to deliver the construction of the national indoor arena, which is to open by the end of 2016. This will be an incredibly important and positive development for Irish sport in that it will provide an indoor facility in which up to 20 different disciplines will be able to participate, as well as an arena that will further allow Ireland to compete for major international sporting events that currently are being held elsewhere.

On taxation, yesterday the Minister for Finance announced a €43 million plan with regard to the commercial motor tax system for heavy goods vehicles. This will reduce, and have a positive effect on, motor tax levels for 29,000 goods vehicles. I wish to acknowledge in the Chamber that the work this sector performs for the economy is vital to its effective performance. Earlier today, while preparing for work in respect of this sector, I was struck by how, due to the fact we have an island economy, transport costs absorb an extremely high portion of the total cost base a company must face when it is selling its goods and services abroad or when it seeks to sell its goods and services into Ireland. Consequently, while this measure is important for the sector and is a recognition of the vital work it does to allow the economy to perform and to allow goods and services to circulate, even more importantly this measure seeks to contribute to the cost-effectiveness of the economy and to the competitiveness of manufacturing, in particular. I look forward to continuing to work with the sector to support it in its measures to employ more people and to allow others to employ more people as a result of this measure. Of itself, this measure is an interim one put in place pending the replacement of the current commercial motor tax regime with a fairer basis for calculating motor tax, which will be based on the design gross vehicle weight of goods vehicles and will promote more efficient and less polluting vehicles. In addition to the importance of that measure, other plans confirmed in the capital plan also will allow the haulage sector to do its work in a more efficient way by upgrading important roads it requires, as well as investing in connectivity and access into important ports.

Yesterday's budget also included a freeze in the special tourism-related VAT rate of 9%. As with previous years, this will be subject to review to ensure that visitors to Ireland continue to benefit in terms of value for money from this lower rate. I recognise this is an important measure that has played an important role in the creation or retention of 30,000 jobs nationwide. However, I also emphasise this measure is conditional on not witnessing a return to the kind of pricing that caused such damage to Irish tourism in the past. In particular, I recognise that outside Dublin and some of the larger cities, the hotel sector continues to grapple with legacy debt issues and is working hard to get back on its own feet. It is in particular recognition of the speed of that recovery across many parts of Ireland that the Government has decided to maintain the rate at this level for next year.

Turning to spending, I will outline a few important priorities. I already have outlined the increase of €28 million to support increased public transport services. This is a significant development in the funding of public transport within Ireland. It represents the restoration of approximately 25% of the total cuts since 2008 and comes after many years of decline. When I took office more than a year ago, I indicated that an important priority for me was to stabilise the level of PSO funding and to ensure it was not cut further. I did so in recognition of the fact that for the first time in a number of years, the number of journeys on the public transport network increased after many years of decline. If one considers the case of Bus Éireann alone, last year that company carried almost 1 million additional passengers. It now is important to begin the work to invest further to allow more services to be provided. However, I emphasise this cannot be at the expense of losing the efficiency gains generated by the public transport companies because such further investment should have a tangible and noticeable effect for commuters who need better trains and a more reliable service and who, in many cases, experience bus services that do not meet their needs. This is why I am making this investment.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett Is the Minister sharing time?

Deputy Paschal Donohoe: Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe I was not aware of that.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett The Minister for Children and Youth Affairs is not on the list I have to hand.

Deputy Paschal Donohoe: Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe I certainly can wrap up quickly.

I wish to emphasise one other important priority in respect of sport, which is to recognise that for 2016, there now is an overall sports allocation, in current terms alone, of €47 million for Sport Ireland and that the overall sports programme allocation has been increased by 40% from last year's allocation. This is to deliver the progress I mentioned with regard to the national indoor arena and to continue preparations in the run-up to Rio.

As for the final portfolio within my Department pertaining to tourism, I wish to continue all the great work that is under way and I am allocating a further €2 million to Tourism Ireland and Fáilte Ireland. The allocation of €1 million to each agency is to go into developing overseas marketing campaigns to continue to get more people into Ireland, particularly at a time when our hotels and bed and breakfasts have the capacity to cope with that demand.

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy James Reilly): Information on Dr. James Reilly Zoom on Dr. James Reilly I thank the Ceann Comhairle.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett There was a mix-up in the jerseys. The Minister was not listed in the programme.

Deputy James Reilly: Information on Dr. James Reilly Zoom on Dr. James Reilly Really?

Deputy John McGuinness: Information on John McGuinness Zoom on John McGuinness Members are anxious to hear what the Minister has to say.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett I have no problem with that.

Deputy James Reilly: Information on Dr. James Reilly Zoom on Dr. James Reilly The Government remains committed to a sustainable and secure recovery based on strong economic growth and a determination not to repeat the mistakes of the past. It also is right that the people start to see the tangible benefits of the recovery. It is with these twin priorities in mind that the Government has framed its budgetary choices this year. In so doing, it remains acutely aware of the need to walk a narrow path between the benefits arising from a fledgling recovery and the danger of overplaying our hand and finding ourselves back in troubled waters.

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