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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 23-44
 Header Item Rural Development Programme
 Header Item Community Services Programme
 Header Item Voluntary Sector
 Header Item Commission for the Economic Development of Rural Areas
 Header Item Ministerial Priorities
 Header Item LEADER Programmes
 Header Item Community Development Projects
 Header Item Telecommunications Infrastructure
 Header Item Island Communities
 Header Item Island Communities
 Header Item Voluntary Sector
 Header Item Local Improvement Scheme
 Header Item Voluntary Sector
 Header Item National Broadband Plan
 Header Item Town and Village Renewal Scheme
 Header Item CLÁR Programme
 Header Item Community Development Projects
 Header Item Island Communities

Thursday, 17 September 2020

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 997 No. 5
Unrevised

First Page Previous Page Page of 83 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 23-44

Rural Development Programme

 23. Deputy Catherine Connolly Information on Catherine Connolly Zoom on Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Community and Rural Development and the Islands Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys the status of Ireland’s town partnership as recommended by the Town Centre Living Initiative, Six Pilot Towns: Synthesis Report; if the partnership has been established; if so, the membership and duties of same; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [24394/20]

Minister for Community and Rural Development and the Islands (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys The Town Centre Living Initiative Synthesis Report is an independent report on the pilot Town Centre Living Initiative which was launched in October 2018. 

  The aim of the initiative was to explore how to encourage increased residential occupancy in rural towns and villages and, at the same time, address the issue of vacant properties.

  The report on the Initiative was published on 22nd June 2020 and contained a number of suggested actions for further consideration, including the establishment of a Town Partnership for Ireland which could act as a hub for all information and resources pertaining to Irish towns.  The report authors suggested that the Partnership would be a not-for-profit entity funded by the Government.

  An Inter-Departmental Steering Group is now being established to examine all of the suggested actions in the Synthesis Report in detail, with a view to bringing forward a set of proposals for consideration by Government.  The Steering Group will consider the proposal for a Town Partnership along with the other suggested actions in the report. 

Community Services Programme

 24. Deputy Niamh Smyth Information on Niamh Smyth Zoom on Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Community and Rural Development and the Islands Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys the number of Pobal applications for community groups finalised and processed since February 2020, in tabular form; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [24196/20]

Minister of State at the Department of Rural and Community Development (Deputy Joe O'Brien): Information on Joe O'Brien Zoom on Joe O'Brien I presume the Deputy is referring to my Department's Community Services Programme, or CSP, which supports over 400 community organisations to provide local services through a social enterprise model. Funding is provided as a contribution towards the cost of an agreed number of full-time equivalent positions (FTEs) and a manager, where warranted. Currently there are over 1,700 FTEs and over 320 manager positions funded under the CSP. Pobal manage the programme on behalf of my Department.

  Funding for new organisations under the CSP is considered in light of available budgets and since February 2020, nine new organisations have been approved contracts under the Programme. This will support nine manager positions and 17.5 FTEs, resulting in an annual contribution of over €653,000. Details are outlined in the table below.

Name of Organisations County Managers FTEs Total Annual Cost
Bluestack Special Needs Foundation Company Limited By Guarantee Donegal 1 2 €70,066
Kerry Diocesan Youth Service Kerry 1 2 €70,066
Bailieborough Development Association Company Limited By Guarantee Cavan 1 3 €89,099
Bundoran Community Development Company Limited By Guarantee Donegal 1 1 €51,033
Donegal Famine Heritage Centre (Dunfanaghy) Company Limited By Guarantee Donegal 1 1 €51,033
Inchicore Community Drug Team Company Limited By Guarantee Dublin 1 2 €70,066
St. Ita's Voluntary Housing & Day-Care Centre Company Limited by Guarantee Limerick 1 2 €70,066
Offaly Integrated Local Development CLG Offaly 1 2.5 €79,583
Coiste Forbartha an Fhal Carraigh Cuideachta Faoi Theorainn Rathaiochta Donegal 1 2 €70,066
  

Voluntary Sector

 25. Deputy Paul Donnelly Information on Paul Donnelly Zoom on Paul Donnelly asked the Minister for Community and Rural Development and the Islands Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys the supports in relation to capital funding for non-local authority community centres for health and safety and fire prevention works.  [24337/20]

Minister for Community and Rural Development and the Islands (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys Capital funding for non-local authority community centres for health and safety and fire prevention works as outlined by the Deputy, could potentially be considered, subject to eligibility criteria being met, under the following schemes funded by my Department;

- Under the LEADER (2014-2020) Programme. All funding decisions regarding projects are entirely a matter for the Local Action Groups (LAGs), which administer the programme in each LEADER sub-regional area. In order for a project to be eligible for LEADER funding, it must be compatible with the actions outlined in the approved Local Development Strategy for the relevant LEADER area, and it must comply with the Operating Rules and EU Regulations in place for the programme. Interested applicants should, in the first instance, contact the relevant LAG through its Implementing Partners to discuss the funding and criteria that may be available. The list of Local Action Groups, their Implementing Partners and their contact details, is available on the National Rural Network website at the following link: www.nationalruralnetwork.ie/leader/local-action-groups/.

- The 2020 Community Enhancement Programme (CEP) with funding of €2m, launched in June.  The CEP provides capital grants towards enhancing the facilities available to communities. The CEP is administered by Local Community Development Committees (LCDCs) in each Local Authority area.

- The July stimulus package, of €5m, launched by my Department in August 2020, provides  funding under the Community Enhancement Programme for community centres and community buildings.

-  The CLÁR programme provides funding for small scale projects in designated rural areas that have experienced significant levels of de-population. Under the 2020 programme a “Schools/Community Safety Measure” is being funded. This may fund the provision of safety related infrastructure in the environs of a school or community space such as lighting, car park and footpath upgrades and digital speed safety signs.

- The CLÁR programme 2020, launched at the end of May and closed for applications under these measures at the end of August last. The applications received are now being assessed and it is hoped to announce successful projects by November.

- The 2020 Town and Village Renewal Scheme has been tailored to focus on interventions that can support the economic and social recovery of our rural towns and villages, and assist them in responding to the challenges presented by COVID-19. Repurposing of existing buildings in town or village centres to facilitate remote working and/or other community use, and that deliver a benefit to the community as a whole, are included among the activities that are eligible for funding. The closing date for the Standard Town and Village Renewal Scheme is 30th   September 2020 with communities being encouraged to submit their applications through their Local Authority by that date. 

Commission for the Economic Development of Rural Areas

 26. Deputy Catherine Connolly Information on Catherine Connolly Zoom on Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Community and Rural Development and the Islands Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys the status of each of the recommendations of the CEDRA report; the number of recommendations implemented in full, in part and not at all, respectively; the anticipated date by which each of the outstanding recommendations will be implemented in full; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [24398/20]

Minister for Community and Rural Development and the Islands (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys The Commission for the Economic Development of Rural Areas (CEDRA) was established in November 2012 as an independent expert group to examine and report on the medium-term economic development of rural Ireland. The CEDRA report was published in April 2014. 

  The Government’s Action Plan for Rural Development which was published in January 2017 built on, and went further than, the CEDRA report in seeking to address not just the economic development of rural areas, but also to support the social and cultural development of rural communities.

  Many of the recommendations in the CEDRA report which had not yet been implemented were integrated into the Action Plan.

  In 2019, my Department reviewed the status of all of the recommendations in the CEDRA report and found that the vast majority of recommendations had either been implemented where feasible, or were being addressed through the Action Plan for Rural Development or other Government initiatives.

  The review, detailing the status of each recommendation, is available on the Gov.ie website at https://assets.gov.ie/10912/1c50e8f6472d4b539d1dc429d8697662.pdf.

  The priority recommendation made by CEDRA was the need for a co-ordinated approach to rural development across Government, led by a Cabinet Minister.  This recommendation has been implemented through the establishment of the Department of Rural and Community Development in 2017.  The Department continues to retain the status of a stand-alone Department under the current Government, emphasising the importance the Government attaches to rural development.  

Ministerial Priorities

 27. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard J. Durkan Zoom on Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Community and Rural Development and the Islands Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys her plans to ensure maximum positive impact on the community, rural development and the islands aspect of her portfolio with particular reference to the maximisation of employment opportunities throughout the country; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [24328/20]

 28. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard J. Durkan Zoom on Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Community and Rural Development and the Islands Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys the mission statement in respect of her portfolio; the degree to which she expects to expand and enhance opportunities and quality of life for persons in their respective locations; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [24329/20]

 250. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard J. Durkan Zoom on Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Community and Rural Development and the Islands Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys the mission statement of her Department with particular reference to rejuvenation of rural towns and villages nationwide; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [24557/20]

Minister for Community and Rural Development and the Islands (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys The Mission Statement of my Department, as set out in its published Statement of Strategy is: “To promote rural and community development and to support vibrant, inclusive and sustainable communities throughout Ireland."

  Behind that mission lie a number of key objectives:

- creating conditions to support increased economic opportunities and local employment in all areas of the country

- delivering schemes and programmes that support the revitalisation of towns and villages

- improving access to services and social networks that ensure a high quality of life

- enabling communities disadvantaged by location or social issues to reach their full potential

- supporting communities to have a voice to shape their own future

  My Department has begun the process of consulting on and developing a new Statement of Strategy. The Departments mission and objectives will be reviewed in the context of the new Programme for Government; many of the objectives listed above will remain as key Government priorities, and the Strategy will set out the ways in which we aim to deliver positive outcomes for rural Ireland and all communities.

  I am also delighted to have been given responsibility for policy and programme delivery for our Islands, and this important policy area will also feature in the new Statement of Strategy.

  In respect of delivering enhanced opportunities to communities throughout Ireland, I am satisfied that through its various funding supports and policies the work of my Department is having an important and positive impact across the country.

  The continued economic and social development of rural Ireland during these challenging times is supported by various targeted investments in rural Ireland. These include the €1 billion Rural Regeneration and Development Fund whose objective is to strengthen rural economies and communities. Other funding supports provided by the Department include the town and village renewal programme, the Community Services Programme and the Social Inclusion and Community Activation Programme (SICAP) - all delivering for communities.

  These programmes are  investing in projects that will bring much needed employment opportunities and social benefits to towns and villages across Ireland and it is my intention that this objective will remain a key focus of programme delivery in my Department into the future.

  In addition, my Department continues to work with colleagues across Government to drive positive rural and community development and to deliver policies and initiatives that consider the economic and social recovery needs of all communities, regardless of location.

  These policies include the implementation of Ireland’s first National Policy on Social Enterprise, and Sustainable, Inclusive and Empowered Communities: A five-year strategy to support the community and voluntary sector in Ireland. The Department is also in the process of finalising a new rural development policy to follow on from the Action Plan for Rural Development.

  I am determined that the important work of my Department will continue to deliver available funding and supports that lead to positive visible impacts for all of our communities. My Departments supports are now needed by communities more than ever.

LEADER Programmes

 29. Deputy Denis Naughten Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Community and Rural Development and the Islands Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys if the role that LEADER companies can play in supporting small rural businesses to overcome the challenges posed by Covid-19 has been explored; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [24193/20]

Minister for Community and Rural Development and the Islands (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys The LEADER programme is delivered through 29 Local Action Groups (LAGs) across rural Ireland.  The programme includes a specific funding strand to support Rural Economic Development, Enterprise Development and Job Creation. 

  Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the LAGs, in conjunction with Local Development Companies who act as Implementing Partners in most areas, have approved over 200 projects under the Rural Economic Development, Enterprise Development and Job Creation theme of LEADER.   

  The value of these projects is in excess of €8.4 million and the type of monetary supports provided include direct capital for construction and purchase of equipment, analysis and development type projects, and marketing and training projects.

  These projects will bring much needed assistance to small businesses at this time, as well as supporting job retention and new employment opportunities.

  As the Deputy will be aware, the Government has also introduced a range of supports to businesses of all sizes to help them to cope with the impact of the COVID-19 virus on the economy.  I would encourage all businesses to consider availing of these supports.  Full details are available on the Gov.ie website.

Community Development Projects

 30. Deputy Sean Sherlock Information on Sean Sherlock Zoom on Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Community and Rural Development and the Islands Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys if the Tidy Towns Competition will be allowed proceed in 2021 under social distancing regulations.  [24445/20]

Minister for Community and Rural Development and the Islands (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys The TidyTowns competition has a unique place in Ireland’s culture.  Since its inception in 1958 when it had 52 entrants, the competition has grown year-on-year to see a record number of 924 entrants in 2019. 

  Unfortunately, the 2020 SuperValu TidyTowns competition had to be cancelled this year on public health grounds, due to COVID-19. The work of the TidyTowns Committees is built on communities coming together and working together.  In the situation we found ourselves in this year, it would not have been possible for Committees around the country to deliver their projects in the usual way.

  The situation in relation to the 2021 competition will depend on the public health considerations and advice as we head into the first quarter of next year.

  My Department will be monitoring the situation on an on-going basis and a decision on the competition, with any necessary precautions in place, will be made early in 2021.  The competition undoubtedly brings many benefits to communities right across the country, not just in terms of improving the attractiveness of our urban and rural areas, but also in terms of the team work and social interaction within the TidyTowns Committees.

  It is worth noting that €1.4 million was allocated to TidyTowns Committees towards the end of last year to support them in their work for the 2020 competition.  The Committees have been advised that this funding can now be carried forward to support their work in 2021.

Telecommunications Infrastructure

 31. Deputy Sean Sherlock Information on Sean Sherlock Zoom on Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Community and Rural Development and the Islands Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys if she has met with the Mobile Broadband Taskforce since her appointment as Minister.  [24446/20]

Minister for Community and Rural Development and the Islands (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys The Mobile Phone and Broadband Taskforce was launched in July 2016 to be a driving force for improving access to telecommunications services throughout Ireland.

  Since its inception, the Taskforce has addressed more than 70 targeted actions to alleviate connectivity barriers and resolve issues that negatively impacted on the rollout of essential telecommunications infrastructure in rural areas.

  The completion of the Taskforce’s 2019 Work Programme marked the end of the Taskforce as originally constituted.  A Final Three-Year Review Report, detailing the progress made by the Taskforce since 2016, is due for publication in Q4 of this year.

  Attention has now turned towards the future orientation of the Taskforce in line with the Programme for Government commitment to continue to support the work of the group.

  While I have not yet had an opportunity to meet the Taskforce members, officials from my Department and the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment have had engagements with the members and with industry on the future direction of the group.  Based on these engagements, the Departmental officials are actively discussing future options for the Taskforce, to ensure it remains effective in enhancing the quality of mobile phone and broadband services around Ireland.

  I envisage that a new direction for the Taskforce will be agreed in the near future which will build on the success and positive engagement of the group up to now across central government, local government, statutory agencies and industry.

Island Communities

 32. Deputy Claire Kerrane Information on Claire Kerrane Zoom on Claire Kerrane asked the Minister for Community and Rural Development and the Islands Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys the stage the Interdepartmental Committee on Island Development is at; the next steps and the way in which she plans to progress the work; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [24322/20]

Minister for Community and Rural Development and the Islands (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys The Programme for Government includes a commitment to develop a new Policy for Island Development which will identify and address the main challenges and opportunities for our island communities to support their social, economic and cultural development.  There has already been a large amount of consultation with island communities in relation to the development of this policy under Minister Catherine Martin’s Department, and this consultation will continue as the islands function transfers to the Department of Rural and Community Development.

  The process is overseen by an Inter-Departmental Committee which has met on a number of occasions.

  As the Deputy will be aware, prior to the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, officials had been engaged in a process of consultation with island communities through public meetings on the islands in order to facilitate community input to the policy development process.

  A number of the scheduled meetings had to be deferred due to travel restrictions introduced as a result of COVID.  However, the consultation process has remained open, and submissions from individuals and groups are still welcome via email.

  In the interim officials have been examining alternative options to enable the island consultation stage of the policy development process to recommence and to engage with those island communities that have not yet contributed to the consultation process.

  Where public meetings have not yet been held, officials are working with island representatives to obtain their input, and to establish focus groups.  It is proposed that online meetings will be held in the coming weeks to allow these groups to present their views.

  On completion of the consultation process within the island communities, officials will consult with other stakeholders and with the Inter-Departmental Committee, with a view to developing a draft policy paper.

Island Communities

 33. Deputy Catherine Connolly Information on Catherine Connolly Zoom on Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Community and Rural Development and the Islands Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys her plans to progress the national policy for the islands; the status of the islands policy; the findings of the consultation process; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [24395/20]

Minister for Community and Rural Development and the Islands (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys The Programme for Government includes a commitment to develop a new Policy for Island Development which will identify and address the main challenges and opportunities for our island communities to support their social, economic and cultural development.

There has already been a large amount of consultation with island communities in relation to the development of this policy under Minister Catherine Martin’s Department, and this consultation will continue as the islands function transfers to the Department of Rural and Community Development.

As the Deputy will be aware, prior to the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, officials were engaged in a process of consultation with island communities through public meetings on the islands to facilitate community input to the policy development process.

This process was temporarily suspended due to travel restrictions arising from COVID-19. However, the consultation process has remained open, and submissions from individuals and groups are still welcome via email.

In the interim, officials have been examining alternative options to enable the island consultation stage of the policy development process to recommence and to engage with those island communities that have not yet contributed to the consultation process.

Where public meetings have not yet been held, officials are working with island representatives to obtain their input, and to establish focus groups.  It is proposed that online meetings will be held in the coming weeks to allow these groups to present their views.

On completion of the consultation process with the island communities, officials will consult with other stakeholders, and with the Inter-Departmental Committee which oversees the process, with a view to developing a draft policy paper.

  Question No. 34 answered with Question No. 20.

Voluntary Sector

 35. Deputy Ruairí Ó Murchú Information on Ruairí Ó Murchú Zoom on Ruairí Ó Murchú asked the Minister for Community and Rural Development and the Islands Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys the funding that will be allocated to youth and community centre facilities which are working within reduced incomes due to Covid-19; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [24338/20]

Minister of State at the Department of Rural and Community Development (Deputy Joe O'Brien): Information on Joe O'Brien Zoom on Joe O'Brien Through our ongoing engagement with the Community and Voluntary sector, my Department is keenly aware of the challenges faced by the sector whilst meeting increased demands on many of their services. My Department is providing additional vital supports to rural and community organisations in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is supporting the following initiatives:

  On 16 March 2020, my Department launched the COVID-19 Government Action Plan in partnership with other Departments, State agencies and our extensive network of community and voluntary organisations. These initiatives provide support for volunteering, funding to ALONE for their crisis telephone support line, and an email helpdesk facility to assist smaller community groups with their queries.

  On 9 April 2020, an initial €2.5 million COVID-19 Emergency Fund was introduced to provide immediate and urgently needed funding to community and voluntary groups that are participating in the Government’s “Community Call” initiative which is being led by the Local Authorities.

  On 11 May 2020, a €40 million support package for the Community and Voluntary Sector, Charities and Social Enterprises was launched by Government and is administered by the Department. This funding is being made available through the Dormant Accounts Fund, which is specifically set aside to support initiatives which will benefit the most disadvantaged groups in society.

  The package included:

  A €35 million COVID-19 Stability Fund which will provide a level of support to qualifying organisations who are most in need and have seen their trading and/or fundraising income drop significantly during the crisis; and

  A €5 million Government commitment to a Philanthropy Fund, (Innovate Together) which will focus on supporting responses to the COVID-19 crisis that require innovative and adaptive solutions to existing and emerging challenges.

  To date, funding of over €25 million has been allocated to more than 480 organisations under the COVID 19 stability Fund. This funding is supporting the delivery of critical services in every part of the country.

  This funding is provided in addition to the more than €45 million in funding, announced last November, for the Dormant Accounts Action Plan 2020. That funding was allocated for 43 separate measures to be delivered across nine Government Departments to benefit disadvantaged groups.

  The funding package for these organisations is complementary to the range of other supports provided by the Government to support businesses, employers and employees on foot of the crisis.

  As a result of COVID-19 my Department also developed a €1.2m Support Fund to assist Community Service Programme, or CSP, supported organisations.

  In June 2020, the Department launched the 2020 Community Enhancement Programme (CEP) with funding of €2m. The CEP provides capital grants towards enhancing the facilities available to communities. The CEP is administered by Local Community Development Committees (LCDCs) in each Local Authority area.

  In August 2020, with funding from the July stimulus package, the Department launched a €5m fund under the CEP for community centres and community buildings.

  The Department’s other investment programmes, such as the 2020 Town and Village Renewal Scheme, CLÁR programme, Outdoor Recreation Infrastructure Scheme and Rural Regeneration and Development Fund, which support large and small scale capital development in rural areas, continue to be rolled out and all place a particular emphasis on supporting a post-COVID recovery.

  In respect of the Department’s other programmes, funding commitments are being maintained, and though delays may be experienced in delivery for a period of time it is expected that all projects and initiatives will continue when safe to do so.

  My Department also funds the COVID-19 Community Outreach (CCO) programme. Coordinated by  the Wheel and Irish Rural Link the programme links and supports the work of thousands of community groups across Ireland who are responding to meet the needs of communities during the COVID-19 crisis.

  Question No. 36 answered with Question No. 20.

Local Improvement Scheme

 37. Deputy Niamh Smyth Information on Niamh Smyth Zoom on Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Community and Rural Development and the Islands Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys the status of the local improvement scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [24197/20]

Minister for Community and Rural Development and the Islands (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys The Local Improvement Scheme, or LIS, is a programme for improvement works on small private or non-public roads in rural areas which are not under the normal maintenance of the Local Authorities. The scheme is funded by my Department and is administered through the Local Authorities. 

  As the Deputy will be aware, there was no dedicated funding available for this scheme for a number of years until it was re-launched in 2017.  Since then, over €58 million has been allocated to the Local Authorities to deliver the scheme.

  In March this year, €10 million was made available for the 2020 Local Improvement Scheme, with each Local Authority being provided with the same financial allocation as 2019.

  All Local Authorities have now determined the roads to be funded under the scheme this year. My Department has reviewed the information supplied and funding letters of offer have issued to all Local Authorities on this basis.

  I understand that works are ongoing and I expect all roads designated by the Local Authorities to be completed by the end of the year.

Voluntary Sector

 38. Deputy Matt Carthy Information on Matt Carthy Zoom on Matt Carthy asked the Minister for Community and Rural Development and the Islands Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys the schemes under her Department that can allocate funding to community organisations, including clubs (details supplied) to develop ancillary services such as car parking; and her plans to provide additional schemes and funding in this regard.  [24317/20]

Minister for Community and Rural Development and the Islands (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys Support for the works outlined by the Deputy could potentially be considered for funding, subject to eligibility criteria being met, under the following schemes funded by my Department:  

- Under the LEADER (2014-2020) Programme. All funding decisions regarding projects are entirely a matter for the Local Action Groups (LAGs), which administer the programme in each LEADER sub-regional area. In order for a project to be eligible for LEADER funding, it must be compatible with the actions outlined in the approved Local Development Strategy for the relevant LEADER area, and it must comply with the Operating Rules and EU Regulations in place for the programme. Interested applicants should, in the first instance, contact the relevant LAG through its Implementing Partners to discuss the funding and criteria that may be available. The list of Local Action Groups, their Implementing Partners and their contact details, is available on the National Rural Network website at the following link: www.nationalruralnetwork.ie/leader/local-action-groups/.  

- The 2020 Community Enhancement Programme (CEP) with funding of €2m, launched in June. The CEP provides capital grants towards enhancing the facilities available to communities. The CEP is administered by Local Community Development Committees (LCDCs) in each Local Authority area. 

- The July stimulus package, of €5m, launched by the Department in August 2020, provides  funding under the Community Enhancement Programme (CEP) for community centres and community buildings.

- The CLÁR programme provides funding for small scale projects in designated rural areas that have experienced significant levels of de-population. Under the 2020 programme a “Schools/Community Safety Measure” is being funded. This may fund the provision of safety related infrastructure in the environs of a school or community space such as lighting, car park and footpath upgrades and digital speed safety signs.  

- The CLÁR programme 2020, launched at the end of May (closed for applications under these measures at the end of August last). The applications received are now being assessed and it is hoped to announce successful projects by November next.

 - The 2020 Town and Village Renewal Scheme has been tailored to focus on interventions that can support the economic and social recovery of our rural towns and villages, and assist them in responding to the challenges presented by COVID-19. Car parking improvements expressly designed to encourage increased footfall in town centres and that deliver a benefit to the community as a whole are included among the activities that are eligible for funding. The July Stimulus Package provided an additional €10 million of funding that allowed for the expansion of the Scheme and brought the total funding available for the Scheme this year to €25 million. This funding will provide funding for more projects in rural towns and villages to respond to the challenges presented by COVID-19. A total of €6.1m has been approved for 226 projects to date in 2020 with additional successful projects due to be announced in due course.

- The closing date for the Standard Town and Village Renewal Scheme is 30th September 2020 with communities being encouraged to submit their applications through their Local Authority by that date.

  Question No. 39 answered with Question No. 20.

National Broadband Plan

 40. Deputy Holly Cairns Information on Holly Cairns Zoom on Holly Cairns asked the Minister for Community and Rural Development and the Islands Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys the steps taken to advance the commitment in the Programme for Government to improve connectivity and access for rural dwellers to work, study, social activities and public services while reducing car dependence.  [24320/20]

Minister for Community and Rural Development and the Islands (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of digital connectivity in supporting many aspects of our daily lives.  Throughout the crisis, digital connectivity has helped people to avoid becoming socially isolated; it has enabled students to continue their education through on-line learning; and it has demonstrated its potential to support economic activity, remote working and a better quality of life for many people who previously spent many hours in long commutes.

  The National Broadband Plan (NBP) is the key component of the Government’s digital connectivity strategy and will have a positive impact across a number of policy areas, including climate adaptation, agriculture, education, transport, tourism, jobs and health.

  The NBP will provide a high-speed and future-proofed broadband network to almost 540,000 premises across the State which will not be served by commercial broadband rollout.   

  Among the first premises to be connected will be approximately 300 Broadband Connection Points (BCPs) which are situated in remote rural areas.  Each of these sites will be provided with a wireless high speed broadband connection which will provide free on-site internet connectivity to the public. 

  The planned BCP locations are listed by county on NBI's website at https://nbi.ie/bcp-locations/.  Some BCP sites may change over time as commercial connectivity becomes more widespread or as the circumstances at each site changes. 

  The first sites will become operational over the coming weeks.

  In parallel with this initiative, my Department has been working with the Western Development Commission to build an integrated network of remote working hubs along the Atlantic Economic Corridor, from Kerry to Donegal.  The approach to building this network and shared backoffice services will serve as a model which can be replicated in other parts of the country.

Town and Village Renewal Scheme

 41. Deputy Holly Cairns Information on Holly Cairns Zoom on Holly Cairns asked the Minister for Community and Rural Development and the Islands Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys if she will expand the 2020 town and village renewal scheme outline for accelerated measure in response to Covid-19 to enable more communities to avail of this funding.  [24321/20]

Minister of State at the Department of Rural and Community Development (Deputy Joe O'Brien): Information on Joe O'Brien Zoom on Joe O'Brien This year’s Town and Village Renewal Scheme has been tailored to focus on interventions that can assist our rural towns and villages to respond to the challenges presented by COVID-19.  The scheme includes an Accelerated Measure which will enable towns and villages to introduce initiatives immediately to support increased footfall and enable people to shop and socialise safely in accordance with public health guidelines.

  The scheme also includes a second Measure which places a focus on the recovery of towns and villages from the impact of COVID-19 in the medium-term.

  When the 2020 Town and Village Renewal Scheme was launched in May, it had a budget of €15 million, with an indicative budget of €5 million for the Accelerated Measure.  The Government’s July Stimulus Package provided an additional €10 million in funding which will allow more projects in rural towns and villages to respond to the challenges presented by COVID-19.  

   Funding for the Accelerated Measure increased from €5 million to €10 million for 2020. This additional funding has allowed my Department to:

  - increase the number of funding rounds from two to three;

  - increase the number of applications that can be submitted by the Local Authorities; and

  - as an exceptional measure, provide funding under the Accelerated Measure for larger towns with a population above 10,000 people.  This is in recognition of the importance of larger towns in supporting the economic and social fabric of surrounding rural communities.

  Successful projects under Round 1 and Round 2 of the Accelerated Measure have recently been announced, with a total of €6.1 million being approved for 226 projects to date.  

  Applications under Round 3 and from Large Towns are currently being assessed by my officials and further announcements will be made when the process is complete.

  Details of the projects that were approved under Rounds 1 and 2 of the Accelerated Measure can be found on the Gov.ie website at the following link: www.gov.ie/en/collection/0012f5-town-and-village-renewal-scheme/.

CLÁR Programme

 42. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Community and Rural Development and the Islands Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys her plans to reinstate the CLÁR measure for group water schemes that existed under CLÁR from its inception until 2011; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [24202/20]

Minister for Community and Rural Development and the Islands (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys The CLÁR programme provides funding for small scale projects in rural areas that have experienced significant levels of de-population.  As the Deputy is aware, no funding was available for new applications under the programme between 2010 and 2016 due to constraints on the public finances. 

  Since the programme was relaunched in 2016, it has supported a range of different Measures including:

  - Safety measures around schools and community facilities

  - Outdoor play facilities

  - Local Access Roads

  - Targeted Community Infrastructure needs

  - First Response support measures

  - Support for Mobility and Cancer Care transport

  - Community Wellbeing supports

  - Community Recreation Areas

  - Meals on Wheels and linked services.

  This year's programme places a particular focus on supporting CLÁR communities to deal with the impact of COVID-19 in their areas.  At present, I have no plans to include group water schemes in the programme.  

  A review of the CLÁR programme is currently underway and this review will examine a number of issues which will inform the future direction of the programme, including the implications of 2016 Census of Population data on CLÁR areas, and whether factors other than depopulation should be considered as part of the eligibility criteria.    

  This review will also help to determine the most appropriate measures to be included in CLÁR programmes in the future.  

Community Development Projects

 43. Deputy Patrick Costello Information on Patrick Costello Zoom on Patrick Costello asked the Minister for Community and Rural Development and the Islands Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys the timetable for the Programme for Partnership Government commitment to introduce a number of projects similar in approach to community development projects.  [24319/20]

Minister of State at the Department of Rural and Community Development (Deputy Joe O'Brien): Information on Joe O'Brien Zoom on Joe O'Brien The Community Development Programme (CDP) was established in 1990.  It sought to challenge the underlying causes of disadvantage resulting from the effects of poverty and exclusion. 

  Up to 200 Projects and organisations were funded under the Programme. These projects had an anti-poverty, anti-exclusion focus and were managed by a voluntary board of management drawn from the local community. 

Further to a process of cohesion in 2009, implementation of the programme required the projects funded under the CDP to be integrated with Local Development Companies, with some exceptions. 

  In respect of the Programme for Partnership Government commitment to introduce a number of projects similar in approach to community development projects, officials in my Department are currently scoping a proposal which would support a small number of existing independent community development organisations to work with marginalised communities and support flexible and innovative community work initiatives.

  Additional funding will be sought in budget 2021 to support this proposal.  

Island Communities

 44. Deputy Catherine Connolly Information on Catherine Connolly Zoom on Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Community and Rural Development and the Islands Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys the membership of the interdepartmental committee devising the national policy for the islands; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [24397/20]

Minister for Community and Rural Development and the Islands (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys The Interdepartmental Committee which was established in 2019 to oversee the preparation of a new Policy for Island Development included senior officials from the following Departments:-

  Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht

  Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine

  Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation

  Department of Children and Youth Affairs

  Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment

  Department of Defence

  Department of Education and Skills

  Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection

  Department of Health

  Department of Housing, Planning & Local Government

  Department of Justice and Equality

  Department of Rural and Community Development

Following the formation of the new Government on 27th   June 2020 and the subsequent realignment of a number of Departments and responsibilities, membership will be reviewed in order to ensure that all Departments operating policies and programmes which impact upon island communities are represented on the Committee.


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