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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 906-930
 Header Item Livestock Issues
 Header Item Poultry Industry
 Header Item Covid-19 Pandemic Supports
 Header Item Food Safety Standards
 Header Item Fishing Fleet Protection
 Header Item Animal Welfare
 Header Item Animal Welfare
 Header Item Beef Industry
 Header Item Targeted Agricultural Modernisation Scheme
 Header Item Departmental Contracts
 Header Item Departmental Correspondence
 Header Item Departmental Strategies
 Header Item Departmental Contracts
 Header Item National Broadband Plan
 Header Item Just Transition Commissioner
 Header Item Broadcasting Sector
 Header Item Print Media
 Header Item Telecommunications Services
 Header Item Broadband Service Provision
 Header Item National Broadband Plan
 Header Item Broadband Service Provision
 Header Item Broadband Service Provision
 Header Item Broadband Service Provision

Wednesday, 20 May 2020

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 993 No. 3

First Page Previous Page Page of 170 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 906-930

Livestock Issues

 906. Deputy Brendan Smith Information on Brendan Smith Zoom on Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed if urgent consideration will be given to the issues raised in correspondence from an association (details supplied) in view of the need to have marts functioning as much as possible with appropriate restrictions in place; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6660/20]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Michael Creed): Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed I recognise the vital economic and social role that livestock marts play in cattle and sheep farming in Ireland, and note the engagement between marts, their representative organisations and my Department, which has resulted in marts being permitted to conduct limited operations at this time.

The restrictions arising out of Ireland’s public health response to the unprecedented challenge of Covid-19 is affecting every aspect of Irish life, and marts are no exception.  On 31 March, my Department informed each licensed livestock mart that they could put in place alternative trade facilitation mechanisms that would support the orderly sale of animals necessary to support the essential business of farming. Any livestock mart wishing to engage in limited activities to facilitate the buying and selling of livestock was asked to submit for approval a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) demonstrating to the Department’s satisfaction that the individual mart would be in a position to operate in full compliance with HSE guidelines in relation to hygiene and physical distancing. 80 of the 86 licensed marts submitted SOPs, and were approved to operate.

My Department will continue to engage constructively with marts and representative organisations. at this challenging time. In recent weeks a lot of preparatory work has been done, so that when considered appropriate in the context of the broader approach to Covid-19, further activities in marts can be facilitated while continuing to ensure the safety of mart staff and clients.

With regard to the financial challenges currently faced by marts, I have engaged with the banks on the specific liquidity and financing needs of farmers, fishers and agri-food businesses and have stressed the need for the banks to support and work with their customers through this challenging period. All the banks have announced that they will offer flexibility to their customers, and that they may be able to provide payment breaks or emergency working capital facilities. The advice is that farmers, fishers and agri-food businesses should engage with their bank at an early stage to discuss emerging cash flow issues. I welcomed the recent announcement by Banking & Payments Federation Ireland that their members, including the five main retail banks, have extended their payment break from three months to six months for those directly impacted by Covid-19.

In terms of supports, agri-food businesses, including marts, are eligible for the wide range of supports put in place for businesses generally. This includes the National COVID-19 Income Support Scheme, encompassing both the COVID-19 Wage Subsidy Scheme and the COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment. The €250 million SBCI COVID-19 Working Capital Scheme, co-financed by my Department, has also been deployed to address liquidity and financing needs of eligible businesses arising from the COVID-19 pandemic. For smaller businesses of less than 10 employees, Microfinance Ireland is also offering a COVID-19 Business Loan, providing working capital loans up to €50,000. The Future Growth Loan Scheme (FGLS), also co-financed by my Department, was launched last year and made €300m of investment loans available to eligible Irish businesses. Loans are competitively priced, for terms of 8-10 years, and support strategic long-term investment. As a result of the significant and sudden financial impact of the pandemic on businesses a second tranche of €200million, with up to 40% available to the agri-food sector, will be made available through the banks, with details to be announced shortly.  

In addition, the Government has announced agreement of a further suite of measures to further support businesses that are negatively impacted by Covid-19. Work has commenced on a €2 billion COVID-19 Credit Guarantee Scheme to support lending to SMEs, including agri-businesses, farmers and fishers, for terms ranging from 3 months to 6 years, which will be below market interest rates. Other measures include a €10,000 restart grant for micro and small businesses based on a rates waiver/rebate from 2019; a three-month commercial rates waiver for impacted businesses; and the ‘warehousing’ of tax liabilities for a period of twelve months after recommencement of trading, during which time there will be no debt enforcement action taken by Revenue and no interest charge accruing in respect of the warehoused debt.

My Department will continue our close engagement with stakeholders across the agri-food in relation to the impact of Covid-19.

Poultry Industry

 907. Deputy Brendan Smith Information on Brendan Smith Zoom on Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed if he will establish a compensation scheme in respect of the culling of poultry flocks which has resulted in huge losses for a number of poultry farmers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6689/20]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Michael Creed): Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed I am acutely aware of the difficulties currently being faced by the affected poultry producers in this instance.  My Department has been and will continue to engage with representatives of the poultry sector, to seek to ensure that the current outbreak of avian influenza is dealt with in a timely and effective manner.

With regard the development of a support scheme for the current outbreak of low-pathogenic avian influenza, there is no legal basis for mandatory compensation in respect of the particular subtype of the disease identified, as it is not of a subtype defined as highly pathogenic under Council Directive 2005/94/EC.  However, my Department is currently exploring potential for funding, in the context of the State Aid rules framework, to partially offset the costs of depopulation and rendering for those poultry farmers affected during the recent outbreak.

Covid-19 Pandemic Supports

 908. Deputy Brendan Smith Information on Brendan Smith Zoom on Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed the specific proposals he put forward at the recent EU Agriculture and Fisheries Council in relation to the urgent need to provide adequate financial support for the farming sector in view of the additional difficulties that have arisen for different sectors due to Covid-19; the outcome of such discussions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6717/20]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Michael Creed): Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed On 13 May, I attended a video-conference meeting of EU Agriculture Ministers with Agriculture Commissioner, Janusz Wojciechowski, and Fisheries Commissioner, Virginijus Sinkevicius, to discuss the effectiveness of measures introduced by the Commission to address the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on agriculture and fisheries.

I welcomed these measures, which include, inter alia, private storage aid for the dairy and meat sectors which were a response to an Irish initiative. However, I also reiterated my ongoing concerns regarding the depth and potential duration of the crisis, and made it clear that these actions can only be the first step. In particular, I called for additional funding to be made available in the form of exceptional aid for livestock producers.

I also called for the CAP post-2020 budget to be fully restored in the next Multiannual Financial Framework.  The COVID-19 pandemic has further highlighted the important role farmers play in putting food on European tables. They are also expected to contribute to achieving higher levels of climate ambition post-2020, and so we must ensure that we have a CAP budget that is fit for purpose.

Food Safety Standards

 909. Deputy Jackie Cahill Information on Jackie Cahill Zoom on Jackie Cahill asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed if his attention has been drawn to the implications on food production of a dispute between the Food Safety Authority of Ireland and the local authority veterinary service in relation to the funding of the service; if he has had communication or briefings with the Minister of Health regarding same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6797/20]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Michael Creed): Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed Funding for the Food Safety Authority of Ireland is a matter for the Minister for Health.

Fishing Fleet Protection

 910. Deputy Johnny Mythen Information on Johnny Mythen Zoom on Johnny Mythen asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed if he will include in the voluntary fleet support scheme boats licensed for the fishing sector namely mussels (details supplied). [6820/20]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Michael Creed): Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed I announced on 8 May a Covid-19 Temporary Fleet Tie-up Scheme for fishing vessels in the Polyvalent, Beam Trawl and Specific segments of the fleet, to be implemented under Ireland’s European Maritime and Fisheries Fund Operational Programme 2014-20, co-funded by the Government of Ireland and the European Union. The purpose of the scheme is to address the supply of  fish to market so as to better balance the supply of fish from these vessels to the available market demand for these fish. 

  The Scheme will be operational from 1 June and will allow vessel owners of fishing vessels to voluntarily opt to tie up for a maximum of two months over the period June to August.  The Scheme will support the fixed costs incurred by the vessel owners and is designed to complement the Covid-19 wage supports and loan arrangements already being provided by Government to the fishing sector and indeed other sectors of our economy.  The supports to fixed costs available under the Scheme range from €6,000 per month for a maximum of two months for the very largest vessels over 24 metres, to €500 per month for a maximum of two months for the very smallest vessels under 6 metres in length.  More details available at the following link

  https://www.agriculture.gov.ie/press/pressreleases/2020/may/title,142520,en.html

  The Scheme is implemented under article 33 of the EMFF Regulation (508/2014) which allows aid to fishing vessels only for temporary cessation of fishing activities.  Vessels in the aquaculture segment of the fleet are not included in the scope of the Regulation and, accordingly, their inclusion in the Tie-up Scheme is precluded.

Animal Welfare

 911. Deputy Johnny Mythen Information on Johnny Mythen Zoom on Johnny Mythen asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed the guidelines for pet groomers reopening (details supplied). [6821/20]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Michael Creed): Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed The current list of essential services includes the provision of veterinary, animal welfare and related services. Where there is a clear and an immediate welfare issue associated with an individual dog which needs to be groomed/clipped, this may be dealt with on animal welfare grounds whilst adhering to an operational protocol that is in compliance with the HSE advice regarding hand and respiratory hygiene and physical distancing and where engagement by appointment would be important factor. In the provision of essential services, providers should always consider whether such a service is actually essential at any point  in time and how it can be undertaken such that it poses minimal risk of the provider and client.

The Roadmap for Reopening Society and Business further sets out the sequence by which businesses may incrementally reopen. This Roadmap is guided by over-riding principles and a focus – safe, rational, evidence-informed, fair, open and transparent and whole of society. The roadmap for Retail, Personal Services and Commercial activities are set out in Table 5 of the Roadmap document. All businesses that are preparing to resume work should do so in line with the Roadmap and in accord with the additional Return to Work Safely Protocol.

Animal Welfare

 912. Deputy Aodhán Ó Ríordáin Information on Aodhán Ó Ríordáin Zoom on Aodhán Ó Ríordáin asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed if his attention has been drawn to the fact that there are particular difficulties for dog owners and animal welfare caused by lack of access to dog grooming services; the steps he plans to take to assist such services in resuming; and his views on which stage of the 5 stage Roadmap for Reopening Society and Business is appropriate for dog grooming to resume. [6836/20]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Michael Creed): Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed The current list of essential services includes the provision of veterinary, animal welfare and related services. Where there is a clear and immediate welfare issue associated with an individual dog which needs to be groomed/clipped, this may be dealt with on animal welfare grounds whilst adhering to an operational protocol that is in compliance with the HSE advice regarding hand and respiratory hygiene and physical distancing and where engagement by appointment would be important factor. In the provision of essential services, providers should always consider whether such a service is actually essential at any point  in time and how it can be undertaken such that it poses minimal risk of the provider and client.

The Roadmap for Reopening Society and Business further sets out the sequence by which businesses may incrementally reopen. This Roadmap is guided by over-riding principles and a focus – safe, rational, evidence-informed, fair, open and transparent and whole of society. The roadmap for Retail, Personal Services and Commercial activities are set out in Table 5. In addition businesses that are preparing to return to work in accord with the Roadmap, should proceed in line with the guidance set out in the Return to Work Safely Protocol.

Beef Industry

 913. Deputy Charlie McConalogue Information on Charlie McConalogue Zoom on Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed his views on a proposal raised in correspondence by a person (details supplied) regarding the BEAM scheme. [6904/20]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Michael Creed): Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed The objective of the Beef Exceptional Aid Measure (BEAM) was to provide temporary exceptional adjustment aid to farmers in the beef sector in Ireland subject to the conditions set out in EU Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2019/1132.  This aid was granted to provide temporary market adjustment support in response to a specific market disturbance as outlined in Ireland's notification to the EU Commission and the 5% reduction was part of the conditionality sought by the EU.  

Approved BEAM participants have given a commitment to reduce the production of bovine livestock manure nitrogen on the holding by 5% for the period 01 July 2020 to 30 June 2021 as compared with the period 01 July 2018 to 30 June 2019 as recorded on Department systems.  Given the timeframes involved, it is not intended to review this commitment at this time.

Participants who require advice on the management of this reduction can contact the Department or consult an agricultural advisor.

Targeted Agricultural Modernisation Scheme

 914. Deputy Charlie McConalogue Information on Charlie McConalogue Zoom on Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed the number of applications received under the targeted agricultural modernisation scheme 2 in tabular form; the number of approved applications; the number of payment claims logged; the number of payment claims that have been approved for payment; the amount of funding allocated to the scheme under the 2014-2020 RDP; the amount expended to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6925/20]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Michael Creed): Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed There are a wide variety of investment items available under the suite of seven measures under TAMS II. The financial allocation in respect of TAMS for the full Rural Development Programme period will be in the region of €395m. To date, total expenditure has exceeded €216m, with a further approximately €120m in commitments to farmers who have yet to make a payment claim.  Payments continue to issue at the average rate of €1.3m per week.

  I would encourage all farmers who have completed approved works and have payment claims outstanding in relation to TAMS II to submit them to the Department’s online system as soon as the works are completed to facilitate the prompt issue of payments.

  The information requested in tabular form is as set out in the following table:

STATUS TOTAL
Applications Received 35,532
Approvals Issued 28,611
Payment Claims Received 15,250
Number Paid 14,424
Total amount Paid €216,208,490

Departmental Contracts

 915. Deputy Cian O'Callaghan Information on Cian O'Callaghan Zoom on Cian O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed the amount spent on external consultants by his Department in 2019; the average hourly rate; if caps or limits on such spending are in place; the way in which conflicts of interest are managed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7274/20]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Michael Creed): Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed My Department seeks to minimise the use of consultants and only engages consultancy companies when particular additional expertise is required for delivery of the services which support the business processes of the Department.  Such services are used in areas where the Department does not have the necessary expertise or internal capacity to deliver the services and where it would not make practical, operational or economic sense to build up this capability within the Department. Some engagements are necessary to satisfy auditing and EU regulatory requirements as to independent review. All contracts are negotiated with a view to achieving best value for money.

A total of €1,755,562 was spent by my Department on external consultants in 2019. It is not possible to provide the Deputy with the hourly rate as the majority of consultants were engaged under a framework agreement, set fee or fixed price contract.

My Department utilises the Office of Government Procurement (OGP) Request for Tender (RFT) services templates in the tendering of services, including consultant services. The RFT (Part 2, Section 2.18 – Conflicts of Interest) requires Tenderers to fully disclose any conflict of interest, or potential conflict of interest, on behalf of a tenderer, sub-contractor, or individual employee(s) or agent(s) of a tenderer or sub-contractor as soon as the conflict of interest is or becomes apparent. Section 2.18 also enables my Department to decide on the appropriate course of action and allows for, in appropriate circumstances, eliminating a Tenderer from the competition or termination of a contract.

The OGP Services Contract (Schedule A: Terms and Conditions, Clause 20 - Conflicts, Registrable Interests and Corrupt Gifts), which my Department also utilises in respect of services, including consultant services, reiterates the requirement for a conflict of interest check on the part of the contractor, and confers on my Department the right to terminate a contract if a conflict of interest is disclosed.

All staff in my Department sign an annual Conflict of Interest Declaration, while those engaged in the evaluation of responses to RFTs must also sign a conflict of interest form at evaluation stage in order to prevent, identify and remedy conflicts of interest in procurement procedures.

Departmental Correspondence

 916. Deputy Michael McGrath Information on Michael McGrath Zoom on Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton if a reply will issue to a matter raised in correspondence (details supplied) in relation to the Roadmap for Reopening Society and Business; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5989/20]

Minister of State at the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment (Deputy Seán Canney): Information on Seán Canney Zoom on Seán Canney The correspondence referred to has not been directly received by my Department or Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI).  The IFI issued angling guidelines in relation to Covid-19 on 27 March and updated these on 5 May.  My Department has forwarded the correspondence, received from the Deputy, to the IFI and asked it to consider it in the context of any further updated guidelines it may issue.

While inputs are appreciated,  I should emphasise that angling guidelines must be based on the advice of NPHET and any revision of same will be based on such advice.

I am happy to advise that angling representative bodies have confirmed to me their support for the guidelines and continue to encourage their members to comply with all measures advised by NPHET.

Departmental Strategies

 917. Deputy Peter Burke Information on Peter Burke Zoom on Peter Burke asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton his views on a commitment (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6066/20]

Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton My Department has been examining this issue in detail and has engaged with relevant stakeholders, including representative organisations and the HSE, in an effort to see how best to provide a financial support to persons with long-term incontinence with respect to the disposal of medical incontinence wear. However, there are complex issues at play in this area, which are understandable given the sensitive nature of the medical data in question.  Since mid-2017, a range of charging options have operated, which encourage householders to reduce and separate their waste. This provides flexibility to waste collectors to develop various service-price offerings that suit different household circumstances. Mandatory per kilogramme 'pay by weight' charging was not introduced. A Price Monitoring Group (PMG) was established in mid-2017 to monitor the on-going cost of residential waste collection to homeowners across Ireland as the ‘flat-rate structure’ was being phased out. While fluctuations in prices and service offerings have been observed, the overall trend has been relative price stability. Results from the PMG are available on my Department's website.​

Departmental Contracts

 918. Deputy Carol Nolan Information on Carol Nolan Zoom on Carol Nolan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton if his Department has engaged the use of external consultants from 1 January 2020 to date; the details and costs of such engagements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5525/20]

Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton My Department administers a very diverse and complex brief.  Its remit includes oversight of very complex policy areas, oversight of State regulation and service provision across key strategic services such as energy, environment, climate change and public broadcasting, as well as regulation of sectors such as mining and hydrocarbon exploration.  Given the technical complexity, economic significance and community interest in these areas, it is necessary that my Department, from time to time, procure specialist external professional advice to enable it to discharge its responsibility to deliver quality services and protect the interests of the State and the taxpayer.  In procuring these services, my Department always seeks to ensure value for money and keeping expenditure to the minimum necessary.

  The information requested in relation to my Department is outlined in the following table.

  External Consultants engaged from 1 January 2020 to date;

Name of consultants Details of Work undertaken Total Cost of Contract (including VAT unless otherwise stated)
UCC Consultancy to support work of the Technical Research and Modelling (TRAM) Group. Work focused on energy systems and climate modelling; The work is being undertaken as part of a 4 year publicly procured multiannual contract December 2018-2022; €587,955 for 2020
Economic and Social Research Institute Research Programme on Climate, Energy and the Economy 2020-2022;

Work will include further development of the ESRI’s I3E economic model; research relating to new EU emissions targets; development of carbon budgets and implementation of certain actions under the Climate Action Plan 2019.
€600,000 over 3 years
Tobins Consulting Engineers National Litter Pollution Monitoring System -29th April – 12 month Contract Extension €47,109
Crowleys DFK Internal audit Services Drawdown Contract @ €707.25 per day
Mazars External Quality Assurance of Audit Committee Consultancy €30,135
Ramboll UK Ltd Environmental Assessment of applications for consent for offshore geophysical, environmental, seismic survey and/or exploratory drilling activities. €4,833.90
Norcontel Review of products for deployment under the Metropolitan Area Networks Concession Agreement €4,305
Analysys Mason Technical and financial advice in respect of Galway-Mayo Telecommunications Infrastructure Project €122,508
Eversheds Sutherland Provision of corporate legal and tax advice in relation to the NDRC procurement. €2,500 - €3,150 (ex VAT)
Hayes Solicitors Legal advisory services in respect of compliance with court discovery order €69,054.75
Matheson Specialist legal advice €5,009.18
MKO​ SEA/AA screening of National Energy and Climate Plan €9,102
Analysys Mason Provision of technical advisory services to support the implementation of the National Broadband Plan €7,485,400 (ex VAT -  two year drawdown contract)
Quadra Consulting Review of GSI SOP’s, Risk Assessments and Method Statements. €700 per day (estimated 2-4 days)
​ McKinsey and Company Inc. Ireland This work was the subject of a Request for Tender in September 2019. The contract is to provide: (i) a Marginal Abatement Cost Curves to identify least cost 2050 decarbonisation pathways for Ireland, including net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050;(ii) a Marginal Abatement Cost Curve to identify the abatement potential of circular economy (including bio-economy) activities; and assistance in the development of a pilot aggregated retrofitting model for Ireland. The contract is ongoing. €861,000 (1 year contract)
EnvEcon ​Consultancy to support work of the Technical Research and Modelling (TRAM) Group. Work focused on climate and air quality modelling; in addition work during 2020 will include support to the Department in implementing elements of EU Directive 2019/904 on the reduction of the impact of certain plastic products on the environment (the Single Use Plastics Directive). The work is being undertaken as part of a 4 year publicly procured multiannual contract November 2018-2022; €470,537 for 2020
UCD Consultancy to support work of the Technical Research and Modelling (TRAM) Group. Work focused on electricity systems modelling; The work is being undertaken as part of a 4 year publicly procured multiannual contract February 2019-2023; €341,264 for 2020
Byrne Wallace Legal Advice €3,863.97

National Broadband Plan

 919. Deputy Jack Chambers Information on Jack Chambers Zoom on Jack Chambers asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton the status of the roll out of the National Broadband Plan in view of ongoing restrictions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5540/20]

 925. Deputy Jack Chambers Information on Jack Chambers Zoom on Jack Chambers asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton if he will publish an updated timeline for the delivery of the National Broadband Plan. [5861/20]

Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton I propose to take Questions Nos. 919 and 925 together.

  The National Broadband Plan (NBP) contract was signed with National Broadband Ireland (NBI) in November last to roll out a high speed and future proofed broadband network within the Intervention Area which covers 1.1 million people living and working in the nearly 540,000 premises, including almost 100,000 businesses and farms along with 695 schools.

The NBP network will offer users a high speed broadband service with a minimum download speed of 150Mbps from the outset. By the end of next year, NBI plans to pass approximately 115,000 premises, with 70,000 - 100,000 passed each year thereafter until rollout is completed.  All counties will see premises passed in the first 2 years and over 90% of premises in the State will have access to high speed broadband within the next four years. The first homes passed will be able to get connected before the end of this year.

  Deployment activities related to the National Broadband Plan (NBP) are continuing, in line with the advice provided by Government and the HSE during the Covid-19 event, and key mobilisation and design activities continue to be progressed.

To support remote working and connected communities, approximately 300 Broadband Connections Points (BCPs) are scheduled to be connected to high speed broadband this year. This will assist communities to quickly get free public access to high speed broadband, in advance of the main NBP deployment.  The planned BCP locations, including schools, library hubs and local sports are available to view on the High Speed Broadband Map on the Department’s website www.broadband.gov.ie.  It should be noted that some BCP locations may be subject to change.

These BCPs will leverage the high speed broadband connection through a range of measures and initiatives, for example providing free public Wi-Fi, some will also have hot-desks, and some will be digital hub business centres where digital training, business information events and other SME supports are organised. The BCP delivery project is well underway and surveying of the BCP locations is progressing, which will facilitate detailed design and installation.

Just Transition Commissioner

 920. Deputy Jack Chambers Information on Jack Chambers Zoom on Jack Chambers asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton the supports in place to support the Just Transition Commissioner; his views on whether they are appropriate; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5541/20]

 926. Deputy Carol Nolan Information on Carol Nolan Zoom on Carol Nolan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton when he received the Mulvey Report on the just transition strategy; the reason for not publishing it to date; if it will be published immediately; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5886/20]

Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton I propose to take Questions Nos. 920 and 926 together.

The Government has appointed Mr Kieran Mulvey as the Just Transition Commissioner on a non-statutory basis to facilitate discussions and work with stakeholders to develop, mobilise and deliver opportunities for the Midlands for both the workers directly affected and the wider community. I have asked the commissioner to engage with all relevant stakeholders, including local community organisations, Bord na Móna, ESB, the Midlands Transition Team, Local Authorities, public representatives, and relevant trade unions and workers' representatives.

The Commissioner will report to Government through me and I have asked him to consider specifically a number of matters in framing his recommendations including: the delivery of the just transition measures provided for in budget 2020; the optimal structures or processes to support co-ordinated and effective delivery, including developing liaison channels between institutions in the region and central Government; the implementation of other actions underway, or planned, by Departments and Agencies that could assist in the just transition; and any additional actions or measures that he considers appropriate for Government consideration. The Commissioner has also been invited to take account of relevant existing plans and programmes such as the Regional Enterprise Plan for the Midlands.

I received the Commissioner's first progress report at the end of April and, following its consideration by relevant Government Departments, I intend to bring this report to Government and to publish it shortly. 

The Commissioner is undertaking his work on a part time basis, with administrative support provided by my Department. The Commissioner is also being supported in his engagements with stakeholders in the Midlands, as required, by the secretariat to the existing Midlands Regional Transition Team.  I intend to further consider these arrangements in the context of the envisaged ongoing role for the Commissioner in relation to just transition in the Midlands.

The Government has committed significant resources in 2020, through allocating a portion of the additional carbon tax revenue to be raised on foot of Budget 2020, to measures to support the delivery of an effective just transition for the Midlands. This includes €20 million for a new energy efficiency retrofitting scheme to be focused on the Midlands, €5 million for peatland rehabilitation outside of the Bord na Móna estate, and €6 million for a dedicated new just transition fund (with a further €5m coming from ESB in 2020). The Government is also seeking to bring forward appropriate measures to support a much higher level of bog restoration on Bord na Móna bogs and to provide for a continued role for existing Bord na Móna workers on these bogs.

Broadcasting Sector

 921. Deputy Jack Chambers Information on Jack Chambers Zoom on Jack Chambers asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton the funding released to date from the sound and vision fund for broadcasters experiencing difficulties related to Covid-19; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5542/20]

 937. Deputy Robert Troy Information on Robert Troy Zoom on Robert Troy asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton if support packages are being put in place to assist provincial newspapers and local radio stations (details supplied). [6452/20]

Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton I propose to take Questions Nos. 921 and 937 together.

I have no statutory function in relation to print media other than in relation to media mergers.  Funding under the Sound and Vision Scheme is restricted under the Broadcasting Act 2009 to broadcast media and is funded by TV licence receipts. 

At my request, the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) has waived the broadcasting levy for the independent radio sector for quarters 1 and 2, 2020 which will save the sector €1m. This waiver covers all independent radio at national, regional and local level as well as community radio.

The BAI are engaging with other broadcasters to track the impact of the crisis and to explore possible responses by the Authority. In this regard a Revised Sectoral Development Plan is due to be ratified by the BAI in the coming week.

The final round of Sound and Vision 3 was announced in March 2020 awarding just over €7m for 126 projects (€6.4m for 36 TV and €605k to 90 radio projects).  The BAI is currently liaising with grantees to facilitate payments for pre-production and administrative work where the grantee is unable to start filming or recording. The first payments under this scheme are commencing this month.

The BAI has also agreed to my request to put in place a Covid 19 funding round under the Sound and Vision 4 Scheme of €2.5m for commercial radio given their important role in awareness-raising of Covid 19 at local level. This round is now underway with applications currently being assessed with decisions expected by the end of May.

The commercial radio round of Sound and Vision will be complemented by a funding round of €750,000 for the community radio sector.  There will be further rounds later in 2020 for television and public service radio.

Print Media

 922. Deputy Jack Chambers Information on Jack Chambers Zoom on Jack Chambers asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton if he has met representatives of the print sector to discuss issues related to the impact of Covid-19; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5543/20]

Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton I have no statutory function in relation to newspapers other than in relation to media mergers.

Telecommunications Services

 923. Deputy Niall Collins Information on Niall Collins Zoom on Niall Collins asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton if matters raised in correspondence from a person (details supplied) will be addressed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5557/20]

 941. Deputy Aindrias Moynihan Information on Aindrias Moynihan Zoom on Aindrias Moynihan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton if his Department has conducted health research on 5G; the status of a national risk assessment of technologies or equipment involved with the roll out of 5G networks; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6545/20]

Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton I propose to take Questions Nos. 923 and 941 together.

The matter of potential health impacts of exposure to non-ionising radiation is informed by a substantial volume of internationally recognised scientific research and evidence.  International organisations such as the World Health Organisation have assessed that there is no established scientific evidence to support any adverse health effects to individuals below the exposure levels set by International Commission on Non-Ionising Radiation Protection (ICNIRP).

The ICNIRP guidelines provide scientifically-based exposure limits that are applicable to both public and occupational exposure from electromagnetic fields (EMF).  They apply up to a frequency of 300 gigahertz (GHz), well above the maximum frequencies being considered for 5G.  The guidelines are based on evidence gathered from all peer-reviewed scientific literature and not on the conclusions of any single scientific paper, event, or other source; updated guidelines, were released in March 2020.

  Details of Irish Government commissioned reports in the area of potential health effects of electromagnetic fields are available on my Department’s website at this link: https://www.dccae.gov.ie/en-ie/environment/topics/environmental-radiation/electromagnetic-fields/Pages/Frequently-Asked-Questions-on-Electomagnetic-Fields.aspx 

  Moreover, as Minister for Communications, Climate action and Environment, I assigned a new statutory function to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) last year to provide general information to the public in this regard, to monitor scientific developments and provide independent advice to my Department in this area. Information is published on the EPA’s website at http://www.epa.ie/radiation/emf/

  As regards 5G, the roll-out of infrastructure in Ireland is primarily a matter for private mobile network operators, operating in a liberalised market.  The regulation of these service providers, to the extent permitted by law, is a statutory function of the communications regulator, ComReg.  This role includes the monitoring of compliance by authorised operators with terms and conditions, including with respect to non-ionising radiation levels.  ComReg is statutorily independent in the exercise of its functions.  Its most recent report on its measuring of Non-Ionising Radiation levels in public areas can be found on ComReg’s website www.comreg.ie.

Broadband Service Provision

 924. Deputy Jack Chambers Information on Jack Chambers Zoom on Jack Chambers asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton if the broadband and connectivity issues outlined by a person (details supplied) will be examined; and if they will be engaged with and advised on the measures being taken to address their case and similar cases. [5700/20]

Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton The Question refers to a premises which is located in the BLUE area on the NBP High Speed Broadband Map, which is available on my Department's website at http://www.broadband.gov.ie  BLUE areas are parts of the country where commercial operators are already providing high speed broadband or have indicated future plans to do so. The Department defines high speed broadband as a connection with minimum speeds of 30Mbps download and 6Mbps upload. There may be a choice of operators offering this service in the area referred to and further information in this regard is available at www.comreg.ie/compare/#/services.​ 

  Complaints about service provision are initially between the consumer and the service provider. If this avenue has been exhausted without a satisfactory resolution, the Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg) may be able to assist further. ComReg is the independent body that issues licences to broadband service providers and investigates complaints to make sure that companies are delivering services in line with their licence obligations.

  Question No. 925 answered with Question No. 919.

  Question No. 926 answered with Question No. 920.

National Broadband Plan

 927. Deputy Thomas Pringle Information on Thomas Pringle Zoom on Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton when the roll out of the National Broadband Plan will commence in County Donegal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5987/20]

Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton The National Broadband Plan (NBP) contract was signed with National Broadband Ireland (NBI) in November last to roll out a high speed and future proofed broadband network within the Intervention Area which covers 1.1 million people living and working in the nearly 540,000 premises, including almost 100,000 businesses and farms along with 695 schools. The NBP network will offer users a high speed broadband service with a minimum download speed of 150Mbps from the outset. By the end of next year, NBI plans to pass approximately 115,000 premises, with 70,000 - 100,000 passed each year thereafter until rollout is completed.   All counties will see premises passed in the first 2 years and over 90% of premises in the State will have access to high speed broadband within the next four years. The first homes passed will be able to get connected before the end of this year.

To support remote working and connected communities, approximately 300 Broadband Connections Points (BCPs) are scheduled to be connected to high speed broadband this year, including sites in Donegal. This will assist communities to quickly get free public access to high speed broadband, in advance of the main NBP deployment.  The planned BCP locations, including schools, library hubs and local sports are available to view on the High Speed Broadband Map on the Department’s website www.broadband.gov.ie.  It should be noted that some BCP locations may be subject to change. 

These BCPs will leverage the high speed broadband connection through a range of measures and initiatives, for example providing free public Wi-Fi, some will also have hot-desks, and some will be digital hub business centres where digital training, business information events and other SME supports are organised. The BCP delivery project is well underway and surveying of the BCP locations is progressing, which will facilitate detailed design and installation.

Broadband Service Provision

 928. Deputy Robert Troy Information on Robert Troy Zoom on Robert Troy asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton the status of the provision of fibre broadband to a property (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6087/20]

Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton The government is committed to delivering high speed broadband to every home, farm, business and school in Ireland. It is vital that we ensure the people of rural Ireland have the same opportunities as the people in our towns and cities. The Question refers to a premises which is located in the AMBER area on the NBP High Speed Broadband Map which is available on my Department's website at www.broadband.gov.ie. The AMBER area represents the area to be served by the network to be deployed under the NBP State led Intervention, the contract for which was signed in November last with National Broadband Ireland (NBI). 

  All counties will see premises passed in the first 2 years and over 90% of premises in the State will have access to high speed broadband within the next four years. The NBP network will offer users a high speed broadband service with a minimum download speed of 150Mbps from the outset. By the end of next year, NBI plans to pass approximately 115,000 premises, with 70,000 - 100,000 passed each year thereafter until rollout is completed. 

  I note that there is fibre installation close to the premises mentioned in the Question, however, eir’s rural deployment of high speed broadband is a commercial undertaking and not part of the planned State Intervention network. The decision as to what areas and premises are served was made by eir  on a commecial basis and my Department has no statutory authority to intervene in that process.

To support remote working and connected communities, approximately 300 Broadband Connections Points (BCPs) are scheduled to be connected to high speed broadband this year. This will assist communities to quickly get free public access to high speed broadband in advance of the main NBP deployment.  The planned BCP locations, including schools, library hubs and local sports are available to view on the High Speed Broadband Map on the Department’s website www.broadband.gov.ie.  It should be noted that some BCP locations may be subject to change. 

These BCPs will leverage the high speed broadband connection through a range of measures and initiatives, for example providing free public Wi-Fi, some will also have hot-desks, and some will be digital hub business centres where digital training, business information events and other SME supports are organised. The BCP delivery project is well underway and surveying of the BCP locations is progressing, which will facilitate detailed design and installation.  

Broadband Service Provision

 929. Deputy Niamh Smyth Information on Niamh Smyth Zoom on Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton the reason a person (details supplied) cannot get adequate broadband to run their business from home. [6121/20]

Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton The government is committed to delivering high speed broadband to every home, farm, business and school in Ireland. It is vital that we ensure the people of rural Ireland have the same opportunities as the people in our towns and cities. The Question refers to a premises which is located in the AMBER area on the NBP High Speed Broadband Map which is available on my Department's website at www.broadband.gov.ie. The AMBER area represents the area to be served by the network to be deployed under the NBP State led Intervention, the contract for which was signed in November last with National Broadband Ireland (NBI). 

  All counties will see premises passed in the first 2 years and over 90% of premises in the State will have access to high speed broadband within the next four years. The NBP network will offer users a high speed broadband service with a minimum download speed of 150Mbps from the outset. By the end of next year, NBI plans to pass approximately 115,000 premises, with 70,000 - 100,000 passed each year thereafter until rollout is completed. 

  While I note that there is fibre installation close to the premises mentioned in the Question, eir’s rural deployment of high speed broadband is a commercial undertaking and not part of the planned State Intervention network. Decisions regarding what areas and premises were served was made a commercial basis by eir and my Department has no statutory authority to intervene in that process.

To support remote working and connected communities, approximately 300 Broadband Connections Points (BCPs) are scheduled to be connected to high speed broadband this year. This will assist communities to quickly get free public access to high speed broadband in advance of the main NBP deployment.  The planned BCP locations, including schools, library hubs and local sports are available to view on the High Speed Broadband Map on the Department’s website www.broadband.gov.ie .  It should be noted that some BCP locations may be subject to change. 

These BCPs will leverage the high speed broadband connection through a range of measures and initiatives, for example providing free public Wi-Fi, some will also have hot-desks, and some will be digital hub business centres where digital training, business information events and other SME supports are organised. The BCP delivery project is well underway and surveying of the BCP locations is progressing, which will facilitate detailed design and installation.

Broadband Service Provision

 930. Deputy Danny Healy-Rae Information on Danny Healy-Rae Zoom on Danny Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton the location fibre broadband has been installed in a rural area of County Kerry (details supplied); when the connection of broadband to a house in the area will continue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6170/20]

Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton The government is committed to delivering high speed broadband to every home, farm, business and school in Ireland. It is vital that we ensure the people of rural Ireland have the same opportunities as the people in our towns and cities. The Question refers to a premises which is located in the AMBER area on the NBP High Speed Broadband Map which is available on my Department's website at www.broadband.gov.ie. The AMBER area represents the area to be served by the network to be deployed under the NBP State led Intervention, the contract for which was signed in November last with National Broadband Ireland (NBI). 

  All counties will see premises passed in the first 2 years and over 90% of premises in the State will have access to high speed broadband within the next four years. The NBP network will offer users a high speed broadband service with a minimum download speed of 150Mbps from the outset. By the end of next year, NBI plans to pass approximately 115,000 premises, with 70,000 - 100,000 passed each year thereafter until rollout is completed. 

  While I note that fibre installation is taking place close to the premises referenced in the Question, eir’s rural deployment of high speed broadband is a commercial undertaking and not part of the planned State Intervention network. Decisions as to what areas and premises are served were made by eir on a commercial basis and my Department has no statutory authority to intervene in that process.

To support remote working and connected communities, approximately 300 Broadband Connections Points (BCPs) are scheduled to be connected to high speed broadband this year. This will assist communities to quickly get free public access to high speed broadband in advance of the main NBP deployment.  The planned BCP locations, including schools, library hubs and local sports are available to view on the High Speed Broadband Map on the Department’s website www.broadband.gov.ie.  It should be noted that some BCP locations may be subject to change.

  These BCPs will leverage the high speed broadband connection through a range of measures and initiatives, for example providing free public Wi-Fi, some will also have hot-desks, and some will be digital hub business centres where digital training, business information events and other SME supports are organised. The BCP delivery project is well underway and surveying of the BCP locations is progressing, which will facilitate detailed design and installation.


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