Houses of the Oireachtas

All parliamentary debates are now being published on our new website. The publication of debates on this website will cease in December 2018.

Go to oireachtas.ie

 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 123-142
 Header Item Land Issues
 Header Item Planning Issues
 Header Item Rent Increases
 Header Item Planning Issues
 Header Item Seirbhísí trí Ghaeilge
 Header Item Foireann Roinne
 Header Item Turf Cutting Compensation Scheme
 Header Item Social and Affordable Housing
 Header Item Social and Affordable Housing
 Header Item Departmental Budgets
 Header Item Fire Stations
 Header Item EU Migration Crisis
 Header Item Consular Services
 Header Item Foreign Birth Registration
 Header Item Seirbhísí trí Ghaeilge
 Header Item Diplomatic Representation

Wednesday, 16 December 2020

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 1002 No. 6

First Page Previous Page Page of 110 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 123-142

Land Issues

 123. Deputy Richard O'Donoghue Information on Richard O'Donoghue Zoom on Richard O'Donoghue asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien the position on preserving land in rural areas in which derelict sites are in abundance for potential social housing and commercial use; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44010/20]

Minister of State at the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage (Deputy Peter Burke): Information on Peter Burke Zoom on Peter Burke Local authorities have been provided with a number of powers and measures to deal with the issue of derelict properties, both in larger urban conglomerations and in smaller rural towns and villages. There also exists a framework of overarching policy and capital funding which provides support to development, including urban regeneration.

The Repair and Leasing Scheme was introduced to assist property owners in bringing vacant properties back into use for social housing purposes. The scheme is particularly targeted at owners of vacant properties who cannot afford or access the funding needed to bring their properties up to the required standard for rental properties.

Subject to the suitability of the property for social housing, and the agreement of the property owner, the cost of the necessary repairs is met upfront with a capital loan from the local authority or an approved housing body (AHB) up to a maximum of €60,000. This allows the property owner to sign-up to a lease arrangement with a local authority or an AHB for a period of time that is linked to the value of the repairs, subject to a minimum lease period of 5 years. Up to end 2019, a total of 165 homes had been brought back into use under the scheme.

A similar measure entitled the Buy and Renew Scheme supports local authorities in purchasing and renewing housing units in need of repair which can then be made available for social housing use. It is a matter for each local authority to determine the suitability of a property for social housing. Important considerations in this regard include the location of a property in relation to housing need and demand; the design, scale and suitability of a property for social housing use; and the costs and practicality of acquiring and remediating a property.

The Buy and Renew Scheme particularly focuses on older vacant homes to help tackle the problem of dereliction and improve the appearance of the community. As a complementary initiative to the Repair and Leasing Scheme, it provides the option for suitable properties to be purchased rather than leased, if that is the preference of the owners of the properties concerned. Up until end June 2020, local authorities delivered over 585 new social homes under the scheme. Activity in this regard is largely delegated to local authorities so they can respond flexibly to all opportunities to provide new social housing.

In respect of Social Housing, my Department can provide full funding to local authorities for sites on which they bring forward suitable new social housing construction projects, including sites acquired by compulsory purchase orders for instance. I am keen to see our local authorities expand their ownership of suitable sites for new social housing and with the record funding levels we have secured for new social housing delivery in 2021, we are in a position to support new projects including the associated site costs. It would be important for local authorities to engage with my Department directly and through the Housing Delivery Co-ordination Office on this important issue.

The Derelict Sites Act 1990 imposes a general duty on every owner and occupier of land to take all reasonable steps to ensure that the land does not become, or continue to be, a derelict site. The Act also imposes a duty on local authorities to take all reasonable steps, including the exercise of appropriate statutory powers, to ensure that any land within their functional area does not become, or continue to be, a derelict site.

Local authority powers include requiring owners or occupiers to take appropriate measures on derelict sites, acquiring derelict sites by agreement, or compulsorily, and applying a derelict sites levy on derelict sites. It is a matter for local authorities to determine the most appropriate use of the legislation within their respective functional areas.

Under the Act, local authorities are required to maintain a derelict sites register, which includes the name and address of each owner and occupier, where these can be ascertained by reasonable enquiry, of any land which, in the opinion of the local authority, is a derelict site. Under section 8(5) of the Act, a copy of the derelict sites register for any local authority can be inspected at the offices of that authority during office hours. Members of the public can engage with their local authority in relation to addressing individual derelict sites in their local areas.

Under the Planning and Development (Amendment) Act 2018, both the Derelict Sites Levy and the Vacant Sites Levy increased from 3% to 7% of the market valuation of relevant sites with effect from January 2020. This change in the rate of the levies is intended to ensure that the levies have more meaningful impact and that the powers of local authorities in tackling dereliction and vacancy are strengthened for the purpose of bringing relevant sites into productive use, thereby facilitating urban regeneration and development in designated areas while also combatting land hoarding.

Planning Issues

 124. Deputy Peadar Tóibín Information on Peadar Tóibín Zoom on Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien  if minutes should be kept at preplanning meetings in local authorities. [43645/20]

Minister of State at the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage (Deputy Peter Burke): Information on Peter Burke Zoom on Peter Burke Provision is made under section 247(5) of the Planning and Development Act 2000, as amended, that the planning authority shall keep a record in writing of any consultations or request for consultations under this section that relate to a proposed development, including the names of those who participated in the consultations or request for consultations.

It is further required that a copy of such record shall be placed and kept with the documents to which any planning application in respect of the proposed development relates.

Rent Increases

 125. Deputy Catherine Murphy Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien if his attention has been drawn to instances in which landlords are increasing the rental price on their properties that are inside rent pressure zones by storing personal belongings in same; if he will provide a schedule of exemptions to the rules on price increases on properties for rent inside rent pressure zones (details supplied). [43734/20]

Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage (Deputy Darragh O'Brien): Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien The Residential Tenancies Board (RTB) was established as an independent statutory body under the Residential Tenancies Acts 2004-2020, to operate a national tenancy registration system and to facilitate the resolution of disputes between landlords and tenants. Section 3 of the Residential Tenancies Act 2004 provides that those Acts apply to every dwelling the subject of a tenancy, subject to certain exemptions which include situations where the landlord also resides in the building or part of the building concerned.

  Due to the quasi-judicial nature of work of the RTB, it would be inappropriate for me as Minister or this Department to comment on, or to intervene in the specifics of any individual case.

  Under section 100 of the Act, both parties to a dispute have a right to appeal to a RTB Tenancy Tribunal if either is unhappy with the outcome of a mediation or an adjudication in their case. Section 123(3) of the Residential Tenancies Acts 2004-2020 states that any of the parties concerned may appeal to the High Court, within the relevant time period, a determination of a Tribunal on a point of law.

  The Planning and Development and Residential Tenancies (Amendment) Act 2016 introduced the Rent Predictability Measure to moderate rent increases in those parts of the country where rents are highest and rising fastest, resulting in great difficulty for households finding affordable accommodation. In these areas, called Rent Pressure Zones (RPZ), rents can only increase by a maximum of 4% per annum. The annual rent increase restriction applies to both new and existing tenancies, irrespective of a change of landlord.

  Not all properties in RPZs are subject to the 4% restriction.

  An exemption applies to the first rent setting of a tenancy of a dwelling where:

  - no tenancy existed in respect of the dwelling during the two years immediately prior to this current tenancy beginning;

  or

  - no tenancy existed in respect of the dwelling where the dwelling is a protected structure, or is in a protected structure or is a proposed protected structure during the 12 months immediately prior to the current tenancy beginning. A protected structure is defined in the Planning and Development Act 2000.

  The Residential Tenancies (Amendment) Act 2019 Act provides a legal definition of ‘substantial change in the nature of rental accommodation’ to illustrate the type of works to be carried out to a rental property to qualify for an exemption from the annual rent increase restriction applicable in Rent Pressure Zones (RPZs).

  Such works shall result in:

  - a permanent extension increasing the floor area by 25%; or

  - an improvement in the Building Energy Rating (BER) by at least 7 ratings; or

  at least 3 of the following:

  - a permanent alteration of the internal layout;

  - adaptations for a person with a disability;

  - a permanent increase in the number of rooms;

  - an improvement in the BER by 3 or more ratings where the original BER was D1 or lower; or

  - an improvement in the BER by 2 or more ratings where the original BER was C3 or higher.

Planning Issues

 126. Deputy Alan Dillon Information on Alan  Dillon Zoom on Alan  Dillon asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien the status of the Mayo County Council timeline for enabling work to commence on utilities, services and infrastructure to develop the 95,000 sq. m strategic development zone at Ireland West Airport Knock; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43774/20]

Minister of State at the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage (Deputy Peter Burke): Information on Peter Burke Zoom on Peter Burke On 30 May 2017, the Government designated 284 hectares of land at Ireland West Airport Knock (IWAK) as a Strategic Development Zone (SDZ) under Section 166 of the Planning and Development Act 2000 (as amended).

The preparation of a Planning Scheme for an SDZ is a function of the relevant development agency, under Section 168 of the Act. In this case Mayo County Council is the designated development agency.

On 29 May 2019, Mayo County Council, published the draft planning scheme for the SDZ for public consultation for six weeks, closing on 12 July 2019, in accordance with Section 169 of the Act. The Chief Executive of the planning authority submitted a report on submissions and observations received during the consultation period for consideration by the Council and on 9 September 2019, the planning authority made the IWAK SDZ Planning Scheme. Further details are available on Mayo County Council's website at the following link: www.mayococo.ie.

Further to the making of the planning scheme, the planning authority must grant permission for any development which is consistent with the planning scheme, with no further appeal to An Bord Pleanála against the decision of the planning authority.

As the planning scheme has now been adopted, delivery of this project is a matter in the first instance for Mayo County Council, as the designated development agency, who may engage as necessary with relevant Departments/Agencies in relation to available capital programmes, as considered appropriate.

Seirbhísí trí Ghaeilge

 127. D'fhiafraigh Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh Information on Aengus Ó Snodaigh Zoom on Aengus Ó Snodaigh den Aire Tithíochta, Rialtais Áitiúil agus Oidhreachta Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien cad iad na pleananna atá ag a Roinn chun seirbhísí faoina riar a chur ar fáil trí Ghaeilge, chun cur le líon na seirbhísí atá ar fáil trí Ghaeilge faoina riar, agus chun an Ghaeilge a chur chun cinn, le linn 2021. [43891/20]

 129. D'fhiafraigh Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh Information on Aengus Ó Snodaigh Zoom on Aengus Ó Snodaigh den Aire Tithíochta, Rialtais Áitiúil agus Oidhreachta Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien sainiú a dhéanamh ar na fadhbanna is práinní i leith seirbhísí faoi riar a Roinne a sholáthar trí Ghaeilge sna ceantair Ghaeltachta, agus cad atá beartaithe aige chun iad a réiteach. [43893/20]

Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage (Deputy Darragh O'Brien): Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien I propose to take Questions Nos. 127 and 129 together.

  Leagtar amach rúin mo Roinne i dtaca le seirbhísí a sholáthar trí Ghaeilge i gcúigiú Scéim Teanga na Roinne, a foilsíodh i mBealtaine i mbliana ar aon dul le hAcht na dTeangacha Oifigiúla. Tugtar léargas ginearálta sa Scéim ar an Roinn agus tugtar cuntas inti ar sheirbhísí Gaeilge agus feabhsúcháin a bheartaítear a dhéanamh i rith tréimhse 2020-2023. Tá an Scéim ar fáil ar ár láithreán gréasáin ag:

  https://www.housing.gov.ie/ga/corparaideach/comhlionadh/sceim-na-gaeilge/sceim-teanga-2017-2020

  Maidir le ceantair Ghaeltachta, tá bonn reachtúil faoin bpróiseas pleanála teanga a chur i bhfeidhm go leanúnach faoi Acht na Gaeltachta, 2012. Aithnítear é seo sa Chreat Náisiúnta Pleanála (an CNP), ina dtagraítear do phleananna teanga a ullmhú agus a chur i bhfeidhm ar leibhéal pobail. Cuspóir 29 den CNP “Tacú le cur i bhfeidhm pleananna teanga i gCeantair Pleanála Teanga Gaeltachta, i mBailte Seirbhíse Gaeltachta agus i Líonraí Gaeilge”.

  Chuir mo Roinn treoirlínte pleanála le chéile freisin, ‘Pleananna Forbartha, Treoirlínte d’Údaráis Phleanála’, chun dul i ngleic le cuspóir éigeantach an Achta um Pleanáil agus Forbairt chun “oidhreacht theangeolaíoch agus chultúrtha na Gaeltachta a chosaint, an Ghaeilge a chur chun cinn san áireamh mar theanga an phobail, nuair atá Gaeltacht i limistéar an phlean forbartha”.   Tagraítear sna treoirlínte seo do limistéir ar nós oidhreacht theangeolaíoch agus chultúrtha, riachtanais an phobail i dtaobh úsáid talún ar mhaithe le tithíocht, áiseanna pobail, fostaíocht, turasóireacht agus dearadh, fógraíocht agus comharthaíocht san áireamh. Cuirimis i gcás, cuireadh athrú san áireamh i bPlean Forbartha Chontae na Gaillimhe 2015-21 chun plean ceantar Gaeltachta a chur san áireamh.

  Ó Aibreán 2019 ar aghaidh, is é Oifig an Rialálaí Pleanála (ORP) a dhéanann measúnú ar na pleananna forbartha údaráis áitiúil agus na pleananna ceantair áitiúil go léir. Áirítear le ról maoirseachta ORP a chinntiú go bhfuil comhsheasmhacht ann maidir le beartais ábhartha náisiúnta nó réigiúnacha, iad siúd ina measc a leagtar amach sa CNP agus dul i ngleic le gach cuspóir éigeantach ábhartha le haghaidh Pleananna Forbartha Contae a leagtar amach san Acht um Pleanáil agus Forbairt, cuspóirí a sholáthar a bhaineann go sonrach leis an nGaeltacht san áireamh.

  Ar aon dul le hAcht na Gaeltachta, 2012, leanann mo Roinn ag tacú le hiarrataí soláthair foirne a dhéanann údaráis áitiúla ar oifigigh dhátheangacha.

  Tá sraith gealltanas i gClár an Rialtais chun an Ghaeilge a chothú agus a fhorbairt, gealltanas san áireamh chun Bille na dTeangacha Oifigiúla (Leasú), 2019 a neartú agus a achtú.

  Críochnaíodh an Dara Céim do Bhille na dTeangacha Oifigiúla (Leasú) 2019 sa Dáil ar 8 Deireadh Fómhair. Is é príomhchuspóir an Bhille ná Acht na dTeangacha Oifigiúla 2003 a leasú ionas go mbeifear in ann feabhas a chur ar sholáthar seirbhísí phoiblí trí Ghaeilge agus líon na gcainteoirí Gaeilge a earcaítear sa tseirbhís phoiblí a mheadú. Tá tacaíocht an Rialtais faighte roinnt leasuithe a mholadh a láidróidh an Bille. Tá an Rialtas tiomanta an Bhille a bhrú ar aghaidh a luaithe agus is féidir. Beidh Céim an Choiste ag tosú ar an 20 Eanáir.

  Ceadaíonn an Bille Coiste Comhairleach reachtúil um Sheirbhísí Gaeilge a bhunú d’fhonn soláthar sheirbhísí poiblí trí Ghaeilge a mhéadú agus a fheabhsú. Bunófar an Coiste Comhairleach tráth nach ndéanaí ná sé mhí tar éis an Bhille a bheith achtaithe. Leagtar amach feidhmeanna an Choiste Chomhairligh sa Bhille, lena n-áirítear Plean Náisiúnta a fhoilsiú ar mhaithe le soláthar seirbhísí poiblí trí mheán na Gaeilge a mhéadú. Beidh an Plean Náisiúnta ullmhaithe agus curtha faoi bhráid an Aire tráth nach ndéanaí ná dhá bhliain tar éis a bhunaithe. Déanfar tuairisciú rialta ar an dul chun cinn trí tuairisc gach dara bliain ón Choiste Chomhairligh, a bheidh le cur chuig an Aire, an Coimisinéir Teanga agus le leagan os comhair na Tithe. Tabharfaidh sé seo leibhéal trédhearcacht d’obair an stáit chun soláthar sheirbhísí poiblí trí Ghaeilge a mhéadú agus a fheabhsú.

  Chuir iniúchadh a rinneadh ar fud na Roinne eolas ar fáil ar an leibhéal éilimh sa phobal ar sheirbhísí i nGaeilge. Tugann na torthaí le fios gurb íseal i gcónaí an leibhéal éilimh ar sheirbhísí Gaeilge i measc an phobail – i bpearsan nó trí ghlaonna gutháin. Déanfar athmheasúnú ar sholáthar seirbhísí trí Ghaeilge ag mo Roinn, i gceantair Ghaeltachta san áireamh, i ndiaidh go n-achtófar an Bille.

Foireann Roinne

 128. D'fhiafraigh Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh Information on Aengus Ó Snodaigh Zoom on Aengus Ó Snodaigh den Aire Tithíochta, Rialtais Áitiúil agus Oidhreachta Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien sonrú a dhéanamh ar gach post atá sainaitheanta mar phost a bhfuil riachtanas Gaeilge leis ina Roinn faoi láthair, líon na bhfostaithe ina Roinn a bhfuil cumas sa Ghaeilge acu, agus líon iomlán na bhfostaithe ina Roinn. [43892/20]

Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage (Deputy Darragh O'Brien): Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien Níl aon phoist i mo Roinn i láthair na huaire a éilíonn go sonrach inniúlacht sa Ghaeilge. Coinnítear, áfach, an cás faoi léirmheas mar chuid den phróiseas Pleanála d’Fhórsa Oibre.

Tá an deis ann d’fhoireann iomlán na Roinne a gcuid cumas sa Ghaeilge a fheabhsú agus cuirtear oiliúint teanga ar fáil ag roinnt leibhéil éagsúla. Lorgaíonn mo Roinn go rialta daoine i measc na foirne a bheadh sásta seirbhísí a sholáthar trí Ghaeilge nuair a bhíonn gá leis. Tá na baill foirne seo liostaithe ar shuíomh inlíon na Roinne. Tá 15 ball faoi láthair leis an gcumas seo ach táthar ag déanamh athbhreithniú ar seo i ndiaidh na haistrithe feidhmeanna agus foirne oidhreachta chuig mo Roinn le gairid.

Is é líon iomlán na bhfostaithe i mo Roinn ag deireadh Mhí na Samhna ná 1,269.

  Question No. 129 answered with Question No. 127.

Turf Cutting Compensation Scheme

 130. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae Information on Michael Healy-Rae Zoom on Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien the reason a person (details supplied) has not received compensation for having ceased cutting turf; if the matter will be addressed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43908/20]

Minister of State at the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage (Deputy Malcolm Noonan): Information on Malcolm Noonan Zoom on Malcolm Noonan An application for compensation under the raised bog cessation of turf cutting compensation scheme was received by my Department from the individual referred to in the Deputy’s Question.

  The 2020 annual payment under the scheme was issued to this individual on 27 May 2020.

  I have been informed that an official of my Department has been in contact with the individual to advise of the current position.

Social and Affordable Housing

 131. Deputy Sorca Clarke Information on Sorca Clarke Zoom on Sorca Clarke asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien the social welfare incomes considered temporary when a local authority is assessing a person's application for social housing. [43964/20]

Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage (Deputy Darragh O'Brien): Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien Applications for social housing support are assessed by the relevant local authority, in accordance with the eligibility and need criteria set down in section 20 of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009 and the associated Social Housing Assessment Regulations 2011, as amended.

  The 2011 Regulations prescribe maximum net income limits for each local authority, in different bands according to the area concerned, with income being defined and assessed according to a standard Household Means Policy which is available at the following link:

  https://www.housing.gov.ie/sites/default/files/migrated-files/en/Publications/DevelopmentandHousing/Housing/FileDownLoad%2C29413%2Cen.pdf.

  Under the Household Means Policy, which applies in all local authorities, net income for social housing assessment is defined as gross household income less income tax, PRSI, Universal Social Charge and Pension-Related Deductions within the meaning of Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Act 2009. Certain specific payments, as outlined in the Policy, are disregarded for the purposes of income assessment. Other than those payments listed, all income from social insurance and social assistance payments, allowances and benefits, is generally assessable. However, local authorities have discretion to disregard income that is temporary, short-term or once-off in nature.

Social and Affordable Housing

 132. Deputy Richard O'Donoghue Information on Richard O'Donoghue Zoom on Richard O'Donoghue asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien the number of applicants for social housing in County Limerick to date in 2020, by district in tabular form; the number of social housing units completed to date in 2020; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44009/20]

Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage (Deputy Darragh O'Brien): Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien Details on the number of households qualified for social housing support in each local authority area is provided in the annual Summary of Social Housing Assessments (SSHA).

  The most recent summary, conducted in June 2019, shows that 68,693 households were assessed as qualified for and being in need of social housing support. The total number of households qualified for social housing support in Limerick was 2,363. A further breakdown by district is not available. Due to the Covid 19 pandemic, the 2020 assessment has been delayed and will be published in due course.

  My Department publishes comprehensive statistics on a quarterly basis on all social housing delivery activity. This is published on the statistics page of my Department’s website, at the following link: https://www.housing.gov.ie/housing/social-housing/social-and-affordble/overall-social-housing-provision

  In addition to the statistical overview of activity in each local authority, a detailed Social Housing Construction Status Report is published each quarter which provides scheme level detail on new build activity under Rebuilding Ireland. The most recent publication covers the period up to the end of Q2 2020 and is available on the Rebuilding Ireland website at the following link: https://rebuildingireland.ie/news/minister-obrien-publishes-social-housing-construction-status-report-for-q2-2020/.

  Data on social housing completions is available for the first two quarters of 2020, and shows the delivery of 49 homes in Limerick through build, acquisition and leasing programmes. Data for Quarter 3 will be published before the end of 2020.

Departmental Budgets

 133. Deputy Sean Sherlock Information on Sean Sherlock Zoom on Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien the current budgets in his Department for social media advertising for 2021; and the campaigns behind each budget line in tabular form. [44025/20]

Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage (Deputy Darragh O'Brien): Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien My Department does not have a specific budget for social media advertising. Decisions to advertise on social media normally form part of individual communications campaigns’ planning. The table below sets out provisional details for one campaign planned in 2021.

  My Department recognises the role of social media (and advertising on it) in creating awareness of campaigns among certain cohorts of the public that rely on social media for information. My Department uses social media on an ongoing basis to communicate policies, schemes and Departmental work and it is likely that this will continue in 2021.

2021 Campaign Social media budget
Promotion of audio weather forecasts (provisionally planned) €300

Fire Stations

 134. Deputy Claire Kerrane Information on Claire Kerrane Zoom on Claire Kerrane asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien the reason Castlerea fire station, County Roscommon, was closed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44090/20]

Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage (Deputy Darragh O'Brien): Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien The provision of a fire service in its functional area, including the establishment and maintenance of a fire brigade, the assessment of fire cover needs and the provision of fire station premises is a statutory function of individual fire authorities under the Fire Service Acts, 1981 and 2003. My Department supports fire authorities through general policy-setting and preparing legislation, providing a central training programme, issuing guidance on operational and other related matters and providing capital funding for priority infrastructural projects.

Roscommon County Council provides its fire services from fire stations at Roscommon town, Elphin, Boyle, Ballaghdereen and Strokestown. Significant areas of the county are also served from fire stations located in adjacent counties including Athlone, Ballinasloe, Ballyhaunis, Carrick-on-Shannon and Lanesboro. It also runs both statutory and community fire safety services.

My Department was informed by Roscommon County Council in February 2017 that, due to a particular local circumstance, Castlerea fire brigade was being stood down. It is my understanding that this situation arose because of internal staffing issues and it was judged by Roscommon County Council that it was unsafe to mobilise this fire brigade to emergency incidents. I was assured that, during this period, an efficient and appropriate fire cover for Castlerea fire station ground was provided from adjacent fire stations and that the elected members of Roscommon County Council were briefed on the on-going situation.

Fire cover has continued to be provided from the adjacent fire stations and my Department has been assured that fire cover in the area has been and continues to be managed and delivered in an efficient and safe manner by adjacent fire brigades. Roscommon Fire and Rescue Service is equipped to deal appropriately with the level of fire risk in the community and, while Castlerea Fire Brigade was stood down three years ago, the fire service to residents, business owners, institutions and schools has continued to be delivered in a safe and appropriate manner.

As you are aware, under the Local Government Act 2001, arrangements in relation to staffing in each local authority are the responsibility of the relevant Chief Executive of that Authority. In this regard, as the employers, Roscommon County Council pursued grievance, disciplinary and mediation processes to try resolve the issues within Castlerea fire station over the last number of years. As these efforts have not been successful, I understand that a decision has now been made by Roscommon County Council not to re-open Castlerea Fire Station. This is an operational decision taken appropriately at local authority level.

I remain re-assured that fire safety in the area has been and continues to be managed and delivered in an efficient and safe manner from adjacent fire brigades by Roscommon Fire Service.

EU Migration Crisis

 135. Deputy Alan Farrell Information on Alan Farrell Zoom on Alan Farrell asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney the status of the aid provided to the Greek Government in respect of the refugees in Lesbos and the families who were being relocated to Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43936/20]

Minister for Foreign Affairs (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney The Greek authorities requested assistance from EU Partners in dealing with the immediate humanitarian needs arising from the fire at the Moria Camp on Lesvos on 9 September. My Department, through our Embassy in Athens, has been in contact with the Greek Ministry of Migration Policy and has confirmed Ireland’s readiness to provide assistance from emergency stocks which we have in place at the UN Logistics Base in Brindisi, Italy. The Greek authorities have thanked us for this offer of assistance and we understand from them that, while immediate needs have been met, the Ministry will continue to assess the situation in case of another renewal of interest for more items.

My Department also recently made a contribution of €225,000 to UNICEF, which will support the restoration of Education and Child Protection services for children and youth from the Moria Camp on Lesvos. The destruction of Moria Camp on 9 September has led to the disruption of education and child protection services for 4,200 children. Support for these migrant children, who are mostly from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq, complements the considerable Irish Aid humanitarian support to refugees in Syria, Lebanon and Jordan.

With regard to the families being relocated to Ireland, this is a matter for the Department of Justice and was the subject of an announcement by that Department on 1 October.

Consular Services

 136. Deputy John Brady Information on John Brady Zoom on John Brady asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney the steps he is taking to secure the release of a person (details supplied) currently being prevented from leaving China by the authorities there; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44346/20]

 138. Deputy Patrick Costello Information on Patrick Costello Zoom on Patrick Costello asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney the progress by his Department in securing the return of a person (details supplied) detained in China; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43750/20]

Minister for Foreign Affairs (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney I propose to take Questions Nos. 136 and 138 together.

I can confirm to the Deputy that my Department is providing ongoing consular assistance to this citizen through our Consular Assistance Unit in Dublin, our Embassy in Beijing and our Consulate General in Shanghai. Our Consul General has been meeting and engaging regularly with the citizen since we were first informed of this complex case last year, and continues to provide all possible consular advice and support.

The case has been raised regularly at senior political and diplomatic level with the relevant authorities in China, and with the Embassy of China to Ireland. These engagements have highlighted the humanitarian aspects of the case, and the importance of the citizen being permitted to leave China and return home as soon as possible.

The Deputy will appreciate that it would not be appropriate to discuss the details of any individual consular case, nor to comment on matters pertaining to a legal process in another jurisdiction. However, I can assure the Deputy that my Department will continue to provide all possible consular assistance to the citizen until he is permitted to return to Ireland.

Foreign Birth Registration

 137. Deputy Pearse Doherty Information on Pearse Doherty Zoom on Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney when a decision will be made on a foreign birth registration application by a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43711/20]

Minister for Foreign Affairs (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney The annual intake of Foreign Births Register (FBR) applications has increased significantly in recent years, from approximately 6,000 applications in 2015 to 32,000 in 2019. So far this year over 18,500 applications have been submitted. This heavy demand is largely due to Brexit.

  In addition, the complex nature of the applications, as well as the constraints on output due to Covid-19 restrictions, has meant that there are approximately arrears of 27,000 applications. The service is, therefore, currently taking twelve to eighteen months to deliver.     

  With additional resources, the Department is working to reduce these arrears and thereby improve the delivery period for this service.

  With regard to the specific application to which the Deputy refers, this was registered on 18 October 2019 and is on schedule to be processed in the coming weeks.

  Question No. 138 answered with Question No. 136.

Seirbhísí trí Ghaeilge

 139. D'fhiafraigh Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh Information on Aengus Ó Snodaigh Zoom on Aengus Ó Snodaigh den Aire Gnóthaí Eachtracha Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney cad iad na pleananna atá ag a Roinn chun seirbhísí faoina riar a chur ar fáil trí Ghaeilge, chun cur le líon na seirbhísí atá ar fáil trí Ghaeilge faoina riar, agus chun an Ghaeilge a chur chun cinn, le linn 2021. [43873/20]

 140. D'fhiafraigh Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh Information on Aengus Ó Snodaigh Zoom on Aengus Ó Snodaigh den Aire Gnóthaí Eachtracha Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney sonrú a dhéanamh ar gach post atá sainaitheanta mar phost a bhfuil riachtanas Gaeilge leis ina Roinn faoi láthair, líon na bhfostaithe ina Roinn a bhfuil cumas sa Ghaeilge acu, agus líon iomlán na bhfostaithe ina Roinn. [43874/20]

 141. D'fhiafraigh Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh Information on Aengus Ó Snodaigh Zoom on Aengus Ó Snodaigh den Aire Gnóthaí Eachtracha Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney cad iad na fadhbanna is práinní i leith seirbhísí faoi riar a Roinne a sholáthar trí Ghaeilge sna ceantair Ghaeltachta, agus cad atá beartaithe aige chun iad a réiteach. [43875/20]

Minister for Foreign Affairs (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney Tá sé i gceist agam ceisteanna 139, 140 agus 141 a ghlacadh le chéile.

Tá mo Roinn tiomanta go hiomlán le seirbhísí a sholáthar agus comhfhreagras a fhreagairt trí Ghaeilge nuair is gá. Tá Scéim Teanga nua á réiteach againn I láthair na huaire, agus úsáideann oifigigh atá lonnaithe inár misin thar lear an Ghaeilge go minic chun seirbhísí a sholáthar do bhaill an diaspóra. Oibríonn ár ngréasán d’ambasáid agus consalachtaí le páirtnéirí Gaeilge chomh maith le cur chun cinn agus tacaíocht a thabhairt d’úsáid na Gaeilge thar lear. Tugann mo Roinn tacaíocht do roinnt eagraíochtaí agus tionscadail Gaeilge le tacú le cláranna Gaeilge tríd an gClár Tacaíochta Eisimirceach, agus leanfaimid ar aghaidh leis sin i 2021.

Tá trí ról faoi leith ag mo Roinn ag a bhfuil an Ghaeilge riachtanach; an tOifigeach Gaeilge agus dá ról seirbhís chustaiméara sa tSeirbhís Pas. Líonadh na rólanna sin ag oifigigh a rinneadh measúnú ar a gcuid inniúlacht sa Gaeilge ag an tSeirbhís um Cheapacháin Phoiblí. I láthair na huaire, tá 2,386 oifigigh fostaithe i mo Roinn, sa bhaile agus thar lear. Léirigh iniúchadh den fhoireann i 2012 go raibh Gaeilge líofa nó ag ard-leibhéal ag 55 baill foirne i mo Roinn, agus d’fhógair 160 baill eile go raibh Gaeilge ag meán-leibhéal acu.

Níl láithreach fisiceach ag mo Roinn in aon cheann de na ceantair Ghaeltachta. Is féidir iarratais ar phas a dhéanamh trí Ghaeilge ar líne nó ar pháipéar, agus mar sin de ní fheicim go bhfuil aon fadhbanna práinneacha I leith seirbhísí faoi riar mo Roinne a sholáthar trí Ghaeilge sna ceantair Ghaeltachta.

Diplomatic Representation

 142. Deputy Sorca Clarke Information on Sorca Clarke Zoom on Sorca Clarke asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney if he plans to appoint a cultural officer to the Irish Embassy in Australia. [43966/20]

Minister for Foreign Affairs (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney The appointment of specialist Cultural Officers in priority locations worldwide was identified in the Government’s Global Ireland 2025 strategy as a key action to widen and deepen our global cultural presence and engagement. This new strategic capability is being delivered in a close partnership between my Department and the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media.

An initial three positions in Berlin, New York and London have been filled this year. Four other priority locations for the appointment of Cultural Officers were specified in Global Ireland 2025 - Beijing, Los Angeles, Paris and Tokyo - with the possibility of additional locations in the lifetime of the Strategy. The timing for recruitment to these posts is in each case subject to resources and to conditions and requirements in the relevant location.

While there are no specific plans at present to appoint a Cultural Officer in Australia, our Missions in Canberra and Sydney are very active in the field of cultural promotion, exchange and collaboration.


Last Updated: 25/01/2021 14:25:01 First Page Previous Page Page of 110 Next Page Last Page