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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 160-175
 Header Item Social and Affordable Housing
 Header Item Home Loan Scheme
 Header Item Vacant Properties
 Header Item Social and Affordable Housing
 Header Item Social and Affordable Housing
 Header Item Covid-19 Pandemic
 Header Item Freedom of Information
 Header Item Foreign Conflicts
 Header Item Human Rights
 Header Item Freedom of Information
 Header Item Defence Forces Properties
 Header Item Legislative Process

Wednesday, 29 July 2020

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 996 No. 2
Unrevised

First Page Previous Page Page of 101 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 160-175

  Question No. 160 answered with Question No. 152.

Social and Affordable Housing

 161. Deputy Thomas Gould Information on Thomas Gould Zoom on Thomas Gould asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien the number of affordable homes that have been built in north central areas of County Cork in each of the past five years; the amount planned for 2020; the funding allocated each year to the local authority to supply affordable housing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19484/20]

Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government (Deputy Darragh O'Brien): Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien Under the Serviced Sites Fund, €310 million has been allocated to provide infrastructure to support the delivery of more affordable homes on local authority lands.  With a maximum of €50,000 funding available per home, at least 6,200 more affordable homes, to buy or rent, can be facilitated.  To date, Serviced Sites Funding of €127 million has been approved in principle in support of 35 projects in 14 local authority areas, which will assist in the delivery of almost 3,200 affordable homes.

  Utilising SSF funding Cork City Council will make new homes available under the Affordable Purchase Scheme at Boherboy Road, County Cork in Q1 2021.

  Nine of the SSF projects are situated in the county of Cork whereby €22 million in funding will support the delivery of approximately 400 affordable homes.  Details can be found at the following links;

  SSF Call 1 https://rebuildingireland.ie/news/minister-murphy-gives-the-go-ahead-for-ten-local-authority-sites-for-affordable-housing-under-the-serviced-sites-fund/

  SSF Call 2 https://rebuildingireland.ie/news/minister-murphy-approves-funding-of-e84m-to-support-delivery-of-1770-affordable-homes-under-the-ssf/

  In terms of affordable housing more generally, I will outline my detailed plans in the Autumn, taking account of progress to date under the SSF, other measures and the input of key delivery partners.

  Question No. 162 answered with Question No. 154.

Home Loan Scheme

 163. Deputy Thomas Gould Information on Thomas Gould Zoom on Thomas Gould asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien the number of applicants for Rebuilding Ireland home loans from Cork City Council; the number that have been successful; the number refused; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19486/20]

Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government (Deputy Darragh O'Brien): Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien The Housing Agency provides a central support service which assesses applications for the Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan on behalf of local authorities and makes recommendations to the authorities to approve or refuse applications. Each local authority must have in place a credit committee and it is a matter for the committee to make the decision on applications for loans, in accordance with the regulations, having regard to the recommendations made by the Housing Agency.

  I have asked the Agency to compile figures on the numbers of applications that it has assessed and recommended for approval/decline for Cork City Council.  The most recent figures, as at the end of June 2020, indicate that of the 278 applications assessed by it since the Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan scheme launched, the Agency had recommended 116 applications for approval and 162 for decline.

  The next stages in the process are loans approved by and drawn down from the local authorities.

  My Department publishes information on the overall number and value of (i) local authority loan approvals and (ii) local authority loan drawdowns. Local authority approval means that an official letter of offer has been sent to a borrower (and therefore relates to a specific property and loan amount).

  Information on the Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan for 2019, including the number and value of mortgage approvals and drawdowns, as well as average loan amounts, are available on my Department's website at the following link:

  https://www.housing.gov.ie/housing/statistics/house-prices-loans-and-profile-borrowers/local-authority-loan-activity.

  Information on the Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan for 2018 is also available through this link and can be found under local authority loans approved and local authority loans paid, however these figures are not detailed by loan type.  My Department recently issued data requests for the first two quarters of 2020 and more up to date figures will be made available in due course, as additional data is compiled.

  Question No. 164 answered with Question No. 152.

Vacant Properties

 165. Deputy Thomas Gould Information on Thomas Gould Zoom on Thomas Gould asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien if he has invited Cork City Council to make an application for the vacant properties voids programme; if such an application has been submitted; the amount of funding his Department plans to allocate to the authority; the expected timeframe for release of the funding; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19488/20]

Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government (Deputy Darragh O'Brien): Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien The management and maintenance of local authority housing stock, including pre-letting repairs to vacant properties, the implementation of a planned maintenance programme and carrying out of responsive repairs, are matters for each individual local authority under Section 58 of the Housing Act 1966. 

  Since 2014, Exchequer funding has also been provided through my Department's Voids Programme to support local authorities in preparing vacant units for re-letting. This funding was initially introduced to tackle long term vacant units and is now increasingly targeted at ensuring minimal turnaround and re-let times for local authority vacant stock. 

  In relation to the Voids Programme for 2020 and arising from the impact of COVID-19, there was an initial call for proposals for COVID-19 Voids funding. Vacant units funded by my Department were required for the emergency accommodation of qualified households arising from the need to prevent, limit, minimise or slow the spread of COVID-19. Cork City Council submitted 50 properties for assessment in relation to this programme and my Department approved funding of €624,250 which returned all 50 units.

As announced on the 23rd   of July in the Government's Stimulus Package, additional funding has been made available in relation to the Voids programme and a further call for proposals will issue to all local authorities imminently.

  It is also important that local authorities increasingly move toward a preventative maintenance approach to the management of their housing stock and my Department is working with local authorities to this end.

  Question No. 166 answered with Question No. 158.

Social and Affordable Housing

 167. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien further to Parliamentary Question No. 325 of 7 July 2020, if a more proactive approach will be considered with regard to working with Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council to acquire an apartment block (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19543/20]

Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government (Deputy Darragh O'Brien): Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien I refer to the reply to Question No. 325 of 7 July 2020; the position remains unchanged.

  It is a matter for Dun-Laoghaire Rathdown County Council to determine, in the first instance, the most appropriate response to the need for social housing supports in their area and to make the necessary application to my Department for consideration.

Social and Affordable Housing

 168. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien the measures he plans to take to ensure the timely delivery of social and affordable housing at a site (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19545/20]

Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government (Deputy Darragh O'Brien): Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien On Monday, 13th July, planning permission was granted by An Bord Pleanála for the development of 597 homes at Shanganagh Castle, Shankill.  It is intended to comprise 306 Cost Rental homes, 200 social homes, and 91 homes for sale under the Affordable Purchase scheme.  Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council (DLRCC) is working in partnership with the Land Development Agency (LDA) to develop the site. 

My Department is working in support of this development with DLRCC and the LDA,  as it proceeds through detailed design, tendering and construction.

Covid-19 Pandemic

 169. Deputy Paul McAuliffe Information on Paul  McAuliffe Zoom on Paul  McAuliffe asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney the reason the Balearic and Canary islands were not included on the green list for travel in view of the fact their case numbers and direct access via flights from Ireland; and if they will be considered for inclusion in a review of the list. [19233/20]

Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney I can advise the Deputy that, in accordance with Government policy, which is based on official public health advice, the Department of Foreign Affairs continues to advise against non-essential travel overseas. This includes Great Britain but does not apply to Northern Ireland. It also includes all travel by cruise ship.

On 21 July, the Government agreed a list of fifteen locations for which the advice against non-essential  travel no longer applies. The travel advice for those locations now is to 'take normal precautions,' which is represented by a green bar under the system of country security ratings used by the Department of Foreign Affairs.

The fifteen locations are: Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, Gibraltar, Greece, Greenland, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Norway, Monaco, San Marino and Slovakia.

Persons arriving into Ireland from those locations will not have to restrict their movements on arrival. However, they will still be obliged to complete a mandatory Public Health Passenger Locator Form and to submit it to the relevant authority at their port of entry. 

Inclusion on the list is based on the current epidemiological situation and related public health information in each location. The list and related travel advice will be reviewed on a fortnightly basis, based on advice from officials including public health experts. Any updates or changes will be made in line with Government decisions.

We are in the midst of a global pandemic, with more than 16 million people infected. The situation is developing rapidly and the government's message is clear that the safest option is to stay in Ireland. 

Freedom of Information

 170. Deputy Mairéad Farrell Information on Mairéad  Farrell Zoom on Mairéad  Farrell asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney the number of freedom of information requests being processed by his Department; the number that have had the deadline for reply extended; the number at least one week, two weeks. one month and over one month overdue, respectively; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19352/20]

Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is committed to meeting its obligations under the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act 2014. In line with the guidance issued by the FOI Central Policy Unit of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, it has worked with requesters during the COVID-19 response period to ensure the maximum number of requests are answered.

  To date this year the Department has received 153 FOI requests and has issued completed responses in relation to 115.

  The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is currently processing 38 FOI requests. Eighteen requests are in processing, two requests have had their deadlines extended with the agreement of the persons making them and eighteen requests overdue a final response as per the statutory deadlines as follows:-

FOI Requests Nos.
FOI requests overdue 1 week 3
FOI requests overdue 2 weeks 0
FOI requests overdue 3 weeks 0
FOI requests overdue 4 weeks 15
Total 18


  Much of the Department’s offices have been closed for the preceding months and all but essential staff have been working remotely in line with the Government’s Road Map for Reopening Society and Business. The number of overdue requests arises from the inaccessibility of certain records. These are physical records held within offices that are closed due to social distancing measures. In these circumstances, the requesters have been notified of the delay (and the reason) in processing their requests. To date, no requester has made complaint to the Department about the delay.

  These requests are retained on file and will be processed as soon as health and safety guidance is such as to permit staff to return to the office to access the records in question.

Foreign Conflicts

 171. Deputy Pa Daly Information on Pa Daly Zoom on Pa Daly asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney his views on the escalating conflict on the Armenia and Azerbaijan border; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19372/20]

Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney My Department is closely following developments along the border of Armenia and Azerbaijan, where recent events have regrettably led to the loss of lives. Indiscriminate attacks against civilians and civilian areas are completely unacceptable and are contrary to the ceasefire in place.  

Our own history of protracted conflict means we understand that resolution and reconciliation can be a long and complex process. 

As such, and together with our colleagues in the EU, we strongly support the OSCE Minsk Co-Chairs Group as it works to resolve the situation by peaceful means. Ireland encourages both Armenia and Azerbaijan to strictly respect the ceasefire, ensuring no further loss of life.

Human Rights

 172. Deputy Jennifer Whitmore Information on Jennifer  Whitmore Zoom on Jennifer  Whitmore asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney the representations made by Ireland calling for an end to state-sponsored oppression and persecution of Baháí citizens in Iran; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19451/20]

Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney Ireland strongly condemns all forms of persecution on the basis of religion or belief, irrespective of where they occur or who the victims are. This commitment to promoting freedom of religion and belief is reaffirmed in the Global Island: Ireland’s Foreign Policy for a Changing World and A Better World.

Discriminatory practices with respect to employment, education and access to other basic services, continue to affect Bahá’í and other minority groups in Iran. Bahá’í business owners struggle to start and operate businesses, including issues with forced closures. Bahá’í students face challenges in gaining access to education, with consistent reports of applicants to universities being rejected on the basis of their faith. The UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran has reported that members of minorities continue to be subjected to arbitrary arrest and detention for engaging in peaceful advocacy for their rights. 

Ireland continues to call strongly for the end to the persecution of members of the Bahá’í faith in Iran. Ireland has consistently raised the discriminatory treatment of the Bahá’ís in multilateral fora. Most recently, at the 43rd session of the Human Rights Council (HRC), Ireland raised concerns regarding the continued discrimination against ethnic and religious minorities, in particular those that are not recognised under the Constitution in Iran, and made specific reference to the Bahá’í community. Ireland is also a traditional co-sponsor of the HRC resolution on Freedom of Religion or Belief.

Ireland called on Iran to take all necessary steps to protect the rights of the Bahá’í during the Universal Periodic Review of Iran’s human rights record in November 2019.

Bilaterally, our concerns about human rights are conveyed to the Iranian Embassy on all appropriate occasions. As part of political consultations with Iran which took place in Tehran in February, senior officials from my Department again directly communicated our concerns regarding the human rights situation in Iran.

Ireland, along with the EU, will continue to encourage progress in relation to religious minorities in Iran, and to make clear our concerns to the Iranian authorities.

Freedom of Information

 173. Deputy Mairéad Farrell Information on Mairéad  Farrell Zoom on Mairéad  Farrell asked the Minister for Defence Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney the number of freedom of information requests being processed by his Department; the number that have had the deadline for reply extended; the number at least one week, two weeks. one month and over one month overdue, respectively; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19348/20]

Minister for Defence (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney My Department is currently processing five Freedom of Information requests. In the case of one of those requests, following discussions with the requester and with their agreement, the deadline for replying to the request has been extended by four weeks (20 working days).  The extension is required in order to process the large volume of records requested. 

  I fully expect the remaining four requests to be dealt with within the normal 20 working day timeframe. 

  Staff in my Department regularly engage with requesters to ensure the best possible service is provided, in line with the Freedom of Information Act 2014.

Defence Forces Properties

 174. Deputy Paul Kehoe Information on Paul Kehoe Zoom on Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Defence Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney the properties for sale from the Defence Forces property portfolio; and the properties that will be coming up for sale in the next number of months; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19514/20]

Minister for Defence (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney Currently, there are no Defence properties for sale on the open market.  However, my Department has had proactive engagements with the Land Development Agency (LDA), following confirmation of its interest in acquiring the former Columb Barracks in Mullingar for the development of housing provision. To this end, my officials have commenced the necessary background work to facilitate the early transfer of these lands and property.

The LDA have also confirmed a future interest in acquiring the St. Bricin’s medical facility in Dublin 7. The Department will continue to liaise with the LDA in transferring this property. In addition, the former RDF facility, Rockbrae House, Bray which is surplus to military requirements, is to be transferred to Wicklow County Council for social housing development in the coming months.  

Legislative Process

 175. Deputy Paul McAuliffe Information on Paul  McAuliffe Zoom on Paul  McAuliffe asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley the status of the Retention of Records Bill 2019; if she will consider reducing the sealing period; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19254/20]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Norma Foley): Information on Norma Foley Zoom on Norma Foley The purpose of the Retention of Records Bill was to ensure that important records of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse and the Residential Institutions Redress Board are preserved for posterity, rather than be destroyed as is currently provided for in legislation.

However, as proceedings before both bodies were confidential, the decision to retain these records requires that a balance be struck between the important rights of those persons who engaged with the bodies, and the legitimate public interest in preserving the records. For that reason, the previous Bill provided that the records were to be sealed for a period of 75 years.

At a meeting of the Dáil Select Committee on Education and Skills in November 2019, a number of stakeholders, including survivors, academics and lawyers, expressed their view that sealing the records for such a lengthy period was excessive, and would prevent survivors from accessing their own records.

My Department is currently considering how best to balance the rights and interests of all of the parties involved, and following consultation including across Government, I hope to introduce an updated Bill to the Houses as soon as possible.


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