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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 902-913
 Header Item National Broadband Plan
 Header Item Commission for the Economic Development of Rural Areas
 Header Item Commission for the Economic Development of Rural Areas
 Header Item Commission for the Economic Development of Rural Areas
 Header Item Rural Development Plan
 Header Item Rural Development Plan
 Header Item Town and Village Renewal Scheme
 Header Item Island Communities
 Header Item LEADER Programmes
 Header Item LEADER Programmes
 Header Item Dormant Accounts Fund

Tuesday, 22 September 2020

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 997 No. 6
Unrevised

First Page Previous Page Page of 112 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 902-913

National Broadband Plan

 902. 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 status of the roll-out of broadband connection points in County Cork; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25206/20]

 912. Deputy Pádraig O'Sullivan Information on Pádraig O'Sullivan Zoom on Pádraig O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Community and Rural Development and the Islands Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys the status of the roll-out of broadband connection points. [25127/20]

Minister for Community and Rural Development and the Islands (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys I propose to take Questions Nos. 902 and 912 together.

In November 2019, National Broadband Ireland was awarded the contract to provide high-speed broadband connectivity to almost 540,000 premises across the State, predominantly in rural areas. This project will be implemented on a rolling basis; however, the Broadband Connection Point (BCP) initiative is designed to bring a measure of connectivity to remote and isolated areas ahead of the completion of the National Broadband Plan roll out.

  BCPs are typically publicly accessible buildings such as community centres, sports clubs and libraries. Approximately 300 BCPs will be provided with a wireless high speed broadband connection which will make free on-site internet connectivity available to the public.

  To date, more than 140 BCPs across the country have been provided with an initial backhaul connection by National Broadband Ireland, including sites in Co. Cork. Vodafone, as the internet service provider, has also begun installing their public access equipment which will enable the BCPs to shortly “go live”.

  BCP locations are listed by county on National Broadband Ireland’s website at https://nbi.ie/bcp-locations/. It should be noted that some BCP sites may change over time as commercial connectivity becomes more widespread or as the circumstances at each site change. In such cases, the BCP list will be updated accordingly.

Commission for the Economic Development of Rural Areas

 903. Deputy Mattie McGrath Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Community and Rural Development and the Islands Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys if she has read in full the report of the Commission for the Economic Development of Rural Areas; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25300/20]

Minister for Community and Rural Development and the Islands (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys I am well aware of the content of the CEDRA report, which made an important contribution to the development of rural policy in Ireland in recent years.

  The CEDRA report identified, as a priority, the need for an integrated approach to rural development. It recommended, as a priority objective, the assignment of responsibility for the coordination of rural development to a Cabinet Minister. This recommendation was delivered through the assignment of responsibility for rural development to the Department of Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs in 2016, and the subsequent establishment in July 2017 of the Department of Rural and Community Development. This Department continues to operate as a stand-alone Government Department, reflecting the current Government's commitment to rural development.

  The 2017 Action Plan for Rural Development, which I launched in 2017, built on, and went beyond the CEDRA report. The Action Plan for the first time took a whole-of-Government approach to rural development and included a wide range of commitments for delivery by Government Departments, State agencies, and other bodies to support both the economic and social development of rural Ireland.

  Many of the recommendations in the CEDRA report which had not yet been implemented were integrated into the Action Plan for Rural Development. Last year, my Department published a review of the status of the recommendations made in the CEDRA report. It found that many of therecommendations contained in the CEDRA report had either been implemented or had been superseded or replaced by actions set out in the Action Plan for Rural Development. The review of the CEDRA recommendation is available at:

  https://assets.gov.ie/10912/1c50e8f6472d4b539d1dc429d8697662.pdf.

  My Department is currently finalising the next phase of rural development policy for the period 2020-2025. The new policy will be forward-looking and will build on the progress achieved through the Action Plan for Rural Development. The new policy will seek to strengthen and build resilience in our rural communities and economies, including in response to COVID-19, and it will identify policy measures that need to be put in place to achieve that objective. As with the Action Plan it will encompass a whole-of-Government commitment to rural development.

Commission for the Economic Development of Rural Areas

 904. Deputy Mattie McGrath Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Community and Rural Development and the Islands Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys the implementation measures taken to date in respect of the 34 recommendations contained in the CEDRA report by specific expenditure or action detail in tabular form. [25301/20]

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 for Rural Development.

  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 was delivered through the assignment of responsibility for rural development to the Department of Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs in 2016, and the subsequent establishment in July 2017 of the Department of Rural and Community Development.

  The Department of Rural and Community Development continues to retain the status of a stand-alone Department under the current Government, emphasising the importance the Government attaches to rural development.

Commission for the Economic Development of Rural Areas

 905. Deputy Mattie McGrath Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Community and Rural Development and the Islands Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys the overall or full costs associated with undertaking and publishing the CEDRA report. [25302/20]

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. Costs associated with undertaking and publishing the CEDRA report amounted to €20,702.

Rural Development Plan

 906. Deputy Mattie McGrath Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Community and Rural Development and the Islands Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys her views on whether the overarching control and decision-making measures pertaining to rural towns falls between Departments and agencies with a lack of a joined up approach including no central body taking charge of policy, strategy, funding and research of towns; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25303/20]

Minister for Community and Rural Development and the Islands (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys Our towns and villages have always been at the heart of social and economic activity in rural Ireland. The Government wants our towns and villages to function as viable, vibrant and attractive locations for people to live and work, to raise families, and to act as hubs for services and for cultural and recreational activity for their surrounding areas.

However, we also recognise the challenges that many rural towns face. These include addressing vacant and derelict properties, the impact of online shopping on town-centre retail, and the general move away from town centre living and commercial activity. Addressing these challenges will require a more coordinated approach across both national and local government.

The Programme for Government commits to a collaborative and strategic Town Centre First approach to the development and regeneration of our towns. This approach will require the involvement of a number of key Departments, including my own. My Department has recently been in discussion with the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage in relation to the establishment of an Inter-Departmental Group to progress the commitment in the Programme for Government in a more coorindated way.

Over the last few years, my Department has invested significantly in the regeneration of rural towns and villages through Rural Regeneration and Development Fund, the Town and Village Renewal Scheme, and the CLÁR programme. In addition, in October 2018 my Department launched a pilot Town Centre Living Initiative in 6 towns in different parts of the country to explore ways to encourage increased residential occupancy in town centres. A report on the pilot Initiative was published in June 2020 and is available on my Department’s pages on the Gov.ie website.

Rural Development Plan

 907. Deputy Mattie McGrath Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Community and Rural Development and the Islands Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys the attempts made to develop a place-based approach to rural policies which would emphasise bottom up policies supported by top-down supports; and her plans to decentralise central services to a point of contact closer to the citizen. [25304/20]

Minister for Community and Rural Development and the Islands (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys I recognise that there is no “one-size-fits-all” approach to rural development. Different rural areas have different needs and require different solutions depending on their local assets, their peripherality, and their population density.

There are already some successful initiatives which proactively respond to the localised needs of rural areas. For example, the LEADER programme is based on a local-led ‘bottom-up’ approach. The programme recognises the diversity of rural areas and the importance of tailoring projects to local needs.

My Department is currently finalising a new rural development policy for the period 2020-2025. This new policy will reflect a whole-of-Government approach to supporting the economic, social and cultural development of rural Ireland and will place an emphasis on adopting a more tailored, place-based approach to rural development.

The Government also recognises the opportunity for the increased location of public services in rural areas. The Programme for Government commits to the siting of new State agencies, Departments and enterprises in towns and cities outside Dublin. The Programme for Government also places a strong emphasis on supporting remote working, which will enable more people to pursue a career while continuing to live in rural areas.

We will continue to build on these commitments for rural Ireland, not just within my own Department, but across Government, in order to deliver resilient, sustainable and vibrant rural communities and economies which support our national development.

Town and Village Renewal Scheme

 908. Deputy Mattie McGrath Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Community and Rural Development and the Islands Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys if successful applicants to the 2019 town and village renewal scheme can have their match funding requirement of 20% reduced to 10% in line with the 2020 scheme due to the difficulty that community groups are facing in fundraising during the Covid-19 pandemic and risk the entire project collapsing as a result; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25317/20]

Minister for Community and Rural Development and the Islands (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys The Town and Village Renewal Scheme provides funding for the development and enhancement of our rural towns and villages. Applications for funding are submitted through the Local Authorities. The scheme provides funding for 80% of the cost of the projects being delivered, with the remaining 20% provided by the Local Authority, local community and/or philanthropic donations.

Each Local Authority, in submitting applications under the Scheme, is required to confirm that the matching funding required to deliver the project is in place. All successful applications approved under the 2019 Scheme were approved on the basis that the 20% match funding was in place. I therefore have no plans to revisit that requirement at this time.

The 2020 Town and Village Renewal Scheme was adapted to reflect the significant challenges facing communities as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. As an exceptional measure for 2020, the rate of grant aid was increased to a maximum of 90% of total project cost, with 10% match funding to be provided by the project.

The higher level of aid was introduced in recognition of the fact that for new projects this year, communities are faced with reduced capacity to fundraise, while there are also increased demands on the resources of Local Authorities in responding to COVID-19.

Island Communities

 909. Deputy Ged Nash Information on Ged Nash Zoom on Ged Nash asked the Minister for Community and Rural Development and the Islands Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys when her Department will take action to remedy the infrastructural deficiencies on Inis Bigil; if her Department has received correspondence (details supplied); her plans to visit the island; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25380/20]

Minister for Community and Rural Development and the Islands (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys I can confirm that my Department has received correspondence relating to infrastructural issues on Inis Bigil. Officials have contacted Mayo County Council, as the Local Authority with responsibility for such matters, regarding those issues.

  The works in question relate to the sea wall at the pier, degraded roadways and a missing windsock at the helipad.

  The works to the sea wall and road repairs formed part of a grant allocated to Mayo County Council in 2019 under the small capital works programme. Mayo County Council has informed my Department that a contractor has recently been appointed to undertake the road works.

  The Council further advised that works on the sea wall at the pier will commence shortly and will be completed before the end of the year.

  Maintenance of the windsock at the helipad is also a matter for Mayo County Council. My officials have advised the Council that this issue was raised in the correspondence referred to by the Deputy, and have requested that they address this matter.

  In my role as Minister for Minister for Rural and Community Development, I am hoping to be in a position to visit as many rural communities as possible when circumstances permit. However, the Deputy will appreciate that I am not in a position to make any specific diary commitments in relation to such matters at this stage while public health concerns over COIVID-19 continue.   

LEADER Programmes

 910. Deputy Dara Calleary Information on Dara Calleary Zoom on Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Community and Rural Development and the Islands Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys her plans for the Leader programme for 2021 and beyond; if she will implement findings for a transition programme; when she will notify Leader companies of her plans; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25441/20]

Minister for Community and Rural Development and the Islands (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys The LEADER Programme is co-funded by the European Commission under the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). The current programming period concludes in December 2020.

Proposals for new regulations for the CAP 2021-2027 were launched in June 2018 by the European Commission. However, given the nature of the discussions on the CAP and the wider EU Budget post-2020, there has been a delay in adopting these proposals. This means that the next LEADER programme will not now commence until January 2022 at the earliest.

As a result of the delays in agreeing new CAP regulations, the European Commission has published proposals for transitional measures to allow for continuity between the programming periods of 2014-2020 and 2021-2027. The Transitional Regulation is still under negotiation and there are a number of issues yet to be resolved over the coming months, including the duration of the transitional period.

The Programme for Government includes a provision to bridge the gap between the current LEADER programme and the next programme. Decisions relating to any such transitional programme at national level will be taken in the coming months having regard, inter alia, to any arrangements that may be agreed at European level, and will be notified to the Local Action Groups which administer LEADER at local level.

LEADER Programmes

 911. Deputy Dara Calleary Information on Dara Calleary Zoom on Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Community and Rural Development and the Islands Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys the amount each local authority has billed either her Department or a local Leader company for staff members, administration, LAG overhead or other cost in each year since 2014; and the amount paid out by her Department, each LAG or Leader delivery sub-group in audit fees since 2014, in tabular form. [25442/20]

Minister for Community and Rural Development and the Islands (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys It is not possible, in the time available, to compile the detailed information requested by the Deputy.

  My officials are collating the information requested and a further reply will be issued to the Deputy in the coming days.

The following deferred reply was received under Standing Order 51

LEADER is a multi-annual programme with a budget of €250 million over the period 2014-2020.

  €225 million of this budget has been allocated to the Local Action Groups (LAGs) which deliver the programme at local level. The balance of €25 million is provided for specific thematic projects and is allocated at national level once projects have been approved by the LAGs.

  Funding was allocated to the LAGs at the outset of the programme to provide greater flexibility in the management of their budget and covers the

- cost of developing their Local Development Strategies at the outset of the programme (preparatory support);   

- expenditure incurred on administration and on supporting the development of LEADER projects (administration & animation); and   

- funding provided to LEADER projects.

  In line with EU Regulations no more that 25% of the overall budget may be spent on a LAG’s administration costs. The division of this administration funding between the various partners in the LAG such as Implementing Partners (usually Local Development Companies), or the Local Authority as the Financial Partner, is a matter for each individual LAG.

  From my Department’s perspective, Table 1 below outlines the overall amounts paid by my Department in each LAG area where the Local Authority, as Lead Financial Partner in the LAG, has claimed for costs incurred for the period 2016 to date in 2020. No payments were made in the years 2014 and 2015.

  Costs incurred by the Local Authorities relate to staff administration costs and the performance of some of the mandatory EU regulatory checks on project applications and payment claims. Pobal, on behalf of my Department, carried out all regulatory checks for the calendar years 2017 and 2018. Responsibility for some of these regulatory checks was transferred to 25 Local Authorities in early 2019, where they act as the Lead Financial Partner in the LAG.

  It is not possible to provide figures on audit fees claimed and paid by my Department to the LAGs, as this data is not specifically recorded. Expenditure of this nature is captured under the general category heading of Financial/Professional fees and it has not been possible to identify the specific amounts relating solely to audit fees.

Table 1: Amounts paid to Local Authorities for the period 2016 – 2020 (to date)

           
Local Action Group Area
2016
2017
2018
2019
2020
Carlow
€0.00
€55,415.29
€38,397.83
€35,842.62
€18,485.15
Cavan
€0.00
€0.00
€0.00
€31,120.02
€28,517.41
Clare
€0.00
€0.00
€0.00
€0.00
€0.00
Cork North
€0.00
€0.00
€0.00
24,113.40
23,698.56
Cork South
€0.00
€0.00
€0.00
24,113.40
23,698.56
Cork West
€0.00
€0.00
€0.00
24,113.40
23,698.56
Donegal
€0.00
€0.00
€0.00
70,234.56
90,828.93
Dublin Rural
€0.00
€0.00
€0.00
14,689.00
27,074.36
Galway East
€0.00
€0.00
€0.00
€0.00
€0.00
Galway West
€0.00
€0.00
€0.00
€0.00
€0.00
Kerry
€0.00
€0.00
€0.00
76,244.41
76,648.20
Kildare
€0.00
€0.00
€0.00
€29,015.80
€19,530.02
Kilkenny
€0.00
€0.00
€0.00
€0.00
€0.00
Laois
€0.00
€46,452.21
€63,692.42
€69,842.00
€30,614.93
Leitrim
€0.00
€0.00
€0.00
€21,308.26
€18,179.88
Limerick
€0.00
€0.00
€0.00
62,664.37
69,574.45
Longford
€0.00
€27,591.33
€49,854.12
€42,020.14
€16,333.68
Louth
€0.00
€0.00
€0.00
34,513.66
34,513.66
Mayo
€18,372.97
€14,459.25
€0.00
€89,033.95
€0.00
Meath
€0.00
€0.00
€0.00
38,827.89
49,290.00
Monaghan
€0.00
€0.00
€7,509.53
€76,164.74
€41,168.32
Offaly
€0.00
€0.00
€0.00
60,275.73
60,275.73
Roscommon
€0.00
€0.00
€20,970.86
€50,554.69
€22,661.37
Sligo
€19,139.15
€45,933.96
€45,933.96
€45,933.96
€11,483.49
Tipperary
€0.00
€0.00
€0.00
€109,858.91
44,171.58
Waterford
€0.00
€0.00
€3,657.42
€36,477.15
€25,375.38
Westmeath
€0.00
€17,960.00
€17,960.00
€51,188.93
€49,413.70
Wexford
€10,607.55
€42,203.52
€40,852.49
€52,344.92
€11,660.93
Wicklow
€0.00
€0.00
€0.00
47,524.12
47,524.12
Totals
€48,119.67
€250,015.56
€288,828.63
€1,218,020.02
€864,420.97

  Question No. 912 answered with Question No. 902.

Dormant Accounts Fund

 913. Deputy Sorca Clarke Information on Sorca Clarke Zoom on Sorca Clarke asked the Minister for Community and Rural Development and the Islands Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys the way in which the Civil Defence made a successful application under dormant accounts for €1 million for vehicles in 2019. [25635/20]

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 In 2019, the Department of Defence applied for, and secured, funding (€1million) to upgrade Civil Defence’s fleet under the Dormant Accounts Fund. This application occurred in the context of adverse weather events and the role of the Civil Defence in assisting vulnerable people and communities, in particular elderly people living in more isolated settings. The application was approved by both the Minister of Defence and the Minister for Rural and Community Development in accordance with legislative requirements. It was subsequently included in the 2020 Dormant Account Action Plan, which was published in late 2019.

In that connection, I understand that 32 new four-wheel drive vehicles have recently been allocated to Civil Defence units throughout the country. This will further enhance the organisation’s fleet and ensure it can continue to support the Principal Response Agencies of An Garda Síochána, the HSE and Local Authorities - including in assisting in the Covid-19 response.


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