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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 963-989
 Header Item Census of Agriculture
 Header Item Agriculture Schemes
 Header Item Land Issues
 Header Item Fishing Industry
 Header Item Felling Licences
 Header Item Fishing Industry
 Header Item Fishing Industry
 Header Item LEADER Programmes
 Header Item Community Development Projects
 Header Item Dog Licences
 Header Item Digital Hubs
 Header Item Broadband Infrastructure
 Header Item Town and Village Renewal Scheme
 Header Item Outdoor Recreation Infrastructure Scheme
 Header Item Community Employment Schemes
 Header Item Community Services Programme
 Header Item LEADER Programmes
 Header Item Rural Regeneration and Development Fund
 Header Item Dog Breeding Industry
 Header Item Library Services
 Header Item Remote Working
 Header Item Remote Working
 Header Item Family Resource Centres
 Header Item Rural Broadband Scheme
 Header Item LEADER Programmes

Wednesday, 3 February 2021

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 1003 No. 7
Unrevised

First Page Previous Page Page of 93 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 963-989

Census of Agriculture

 963. Deputy Carol Nolan Information on Carol Nolan Zoom on Carol Nolan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Charlie McConalogue Zoom on Charlie McConalogue if Ireland has conducted a census of agriculture in 2020 in line with the integrated farm statistics Regulation (EU) No. 2018/1091; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5910/21]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Charlie McConalogue): Information on Charlie McConalogue Zoom on Charlie McConalogue The Census of Agriculture, which was first collected in Ireland in 1847, is carried out every ten years by the Central Statistics Office (CSO), to provide benchmark statistics on the number and structure of farms.

The Census was initially due to have been collected in June 2020 but, as a result of COVID-19 pandemic, this was postponed to September 2020. Almost 140,000 farms received the Census of Agriculture questionnaire by post in the first week of September.  All farms were required to complete and return the questionnaire to the CSO by 17th September 2020.

The CSO has confirmed that the returned questionnaires are currently being processed. The Census is carried out as part of an EU-wide Census of Agriculture under Regulation (EU) 2018/1091 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 18th July 2018 on Integrated Farm Statistics.  According to the Regulation, Member States shall transmit validated core and module data and a quality report to the Commission (Eurostat) by March 2022. It is expected results of the Census will be available from the CSO shortly after that date.

Agriculture Schemes

 964. Deputy Carol Nolan Information on Carol Nolan Zoom on Carol Nolan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Charlie McConalogue Zoom on Charlie McConalogue the status of the development of a successor scheme to GLAS as part of the 2021-2027 rural development programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5911/21]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Charlie McConalogue): Information on Charlie McConalogue Zoom on Charlie McConalogue Negotiations regarding the new Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and the associated draft regulations are still ongoing. While significant progress has been made, there are decisions on a number of key issues still to be made, particularly in relation to the proposed CAP Strategic Plan.  The proposed new Green Architecture which encompasses enhanced conditionality, eco-schemes and agri-environment climate measures needs to be considered in this regard.

The Green Low Carbon Agri-Environment Scheme (GLAS) was the national agri-environment climate measure under the Rural Development Programme to end 2020. To ensure that environmental benefits achieved to date are maintained and that farmers continue to receive support, the majority of GLAS contracts due to expire at end 2020 will be extended for a further year. As regards its successor scheme, it is proposed that a new agri-environment climate scheme will be included in Ireland’s new CAP Strategic Plan. As outlined in the Programme for Government, some elements will be piloted in the transitional phase between the CAP programming periods.

While the CAP Strategic Plan Regulation has yet to be finalised, my Department is currently working on designing the new agri-environment climate measure.  The experience gained from GLAS and the locally-led projects funded by my Department is informing this process.

I also recently announced the opening of public consultation on the development of a pilot project to test the feasibility of the results-based model in an agri-environment context and the possibilities for upscaling as part of the next national scheme. 

  Question No. 965 answered with Question No. 946.

Land Issues

 966. Deputy Rose Conway-Walsh Information on Rose Conway-Walsh Zoom on Rose Conway-Walsh asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Charlie McConalogue Zoom on Charlie McConalogue if the European Union basic payment scheme inheritance regulation 2017 ensures that when there is no provision for entailments made in a will that the entailments transfer with eligible land; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5940/21]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Charlie McConalogue): Information on Charlie McConalogue Zoom on Charlie McConalogue It is assumed that this Question refers to Basic Payment Entitlements.

  The current EU CAP Regulations are silent on the question of the inheritance of entitlements with land where there is no provision made in a will for the transfer of the entitlements. To address this matter, Ireland enacted national legislation in the form of Statutory Instrument (SI) No. 639 of 2017. 

  This SI provides a legal basis to my Department in relation to the inheritance of Basic Payment Scheme entitlements where the will of a deceased farmer is silent regarding these entitlements. The SI provides for the entitlements to transfer with the land in such circumstances.

  As this SI came into being on 21st November 2017, it is effective from that date and therefore, applies to applications to transfer entitlements by way of inheritance where the date of death is on or after this date.

Fishing Industry

 967. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae Information on Michael Healy-Rae Zoom on Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Charlie McConalogue Zoom on Charlie McConalogue if he will address a matter (details supplied) regarding fishermen; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5972/21]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Charlie McConalogue): Information on Charlie McConalogue Zoom on Charlie McConalogue In the context of the Commission Proposal for a Regulation establishing a Brexit Adjustment Reserve, I am exploring a variety of possible measures to support our sector with the impacts of the quota transfers to the UK agreed under the Trade and Cooperation Agreement.  This is likely to include a Temporary Fleet Tie-up Scheme to support the sector in the short term as the effects of the quota transfers begin to affect fishing opportunities.

However, as I announced to the Dáil on 21 January, I propose to set up a Task Force involving seafood industry representatives and representatives of other stakeholders to provide recommendations to me on the appropriate measures that will best support the sector and the local coastal communities with the impacts of the quota cuts.

I will be asking the task force to immediately focus on arrangements for the Fleet Temporary Tie-up Scheme, so that it can be ready to go live as soon as it is needed. I also expect that the Task Force will provide prioritised recommendations on a range of other appropriate measures that will allow our seafood sector and coastal communities to adjust to the impacts of the quota reductions.

My Department is urgently preparing the Terms of Reference for this Task Force and I will be ensuring a broad representation of our seafood sector, as it is important that there is full buy-in to the process.  I will be asking the task force to immediately focus on arrangements for the Fleet Temporary Tie-up Scheme, so that it can be ready to go live as soon as it is needed.

Felling Licences

 968. Deputy Denis Naughten Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Charlie McConalogue Zoom on Charlie McConalogue when felling licences for a person (details supplied) will be approved; the status of the application; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5978/21]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Charlie McConalogue): Information on Charlie McConalogue Zoom on Charlie McConalogue The Deputy has enquired about two tree felling licence applications, the first of which was issued in October 2019 and was subsequently appealed to the independent Forestry Appeals Committee (FAC).  Their decision was to cancel the licence. 

The person named then reapplied for the same area covered by the cancelled licence in April 2020.  That application has been referred to my Department’s Ecology Unit.  The application site is near designated sites, including Lough Oughter SACs. Therefore, the impact of any felling operations on the sites and the surrounding area, must be carefully considered before deciding on the licence application. 

If the applicant wishes, and at their own expense, they may provide a Natura Impact Statement (NIS).  The NIS must be prepared by a suitably qualified person.  A NIS can considerably reduce the time taken to assess the application, as once received, the NIS will be examined by an ecologist within two to three months and a decision will issue once the assessment of the application is complete.

Fishing Industry

 969. Deputy Michael McNamara Information on Michael McNamara Zoom on Michael McNamara asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Charlie McConalogue Zoom on Charlie McConalogue when the fisheries and harbours funding will open for applications in 2021; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5981/21]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Charlie McConalogue): Information on Charlie McConalogue Zoom on Charlie McConalogue My Department owns, operates and maintains six designated State-owned Fishery Harbour Centres, located at Castletownbere, Dingle, Dunmore East, Howth, Killybegs and Ros An Mhíl under statute. In addition, my Department also has responsibility for the upkeep and maintenance of North Harbour at Cape Clear, as well as the maintenance of a small number of specific piers, lights and beacons throughout Ireland, in accordance with the Marine Works (Ireland) Act 1902, and piers, lights and beacons constructed under the auspices of the Congested Districts Board.

Responsibility for the maintenance and development of Local Authority-owned harbours and piers rests with each individual Local Authority in the first instance and its parent Department, the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage thereafter.

As part of the annual Fishery Harbour and Coastal Infrastructure Development Programme, my Department has provided limited funding to assist coastal Local Authorities in carrying out small-scale projects for the development and repair of piers, harbours and slipways in their ownership. Between 2010 and 2020, over €31m has been made available to assist coastal Local Authorities under this programme.

No final decisions have been made in relation to the composition of the 2021 Fishery Harbour and Coastal Infrastructure Development Programme.  However, I hope to make an announcement on this shortly.

Fishing Industry

 970. Deputy Pearse Doherty Information on Pearse Doherty Zoom on Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Charlie McConalogue Zoom on Charlie McConalogue the number of approved FLAG applications for 2020; when such applications will receive offers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6011/21]

 971. Deputy Pearse Doherty Information on Pearse Doherty Zoom on Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Charlie McConalogue Zoom on Charlie McConalogue if the FLAG programme will open to new applications in 2021; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6012/21]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Charlie McConalogue): Information on Charlie McConalogue Zoom on Charlie McConalogue I propose to take Questions Nos. 970 and 971 together.

My Department's €240 million European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) Operational Programme is the vehicle for financial supports to the seafood sector for the period 2014 to 2020.  The Programme delivers a wide range of supports for fisheries, aquaculture, and seafood processing, and to coastal communities, through a suite of 18 schemes.  The Programme is co-funded by the Government of Ireland and the European Union.

My Department's EMFF Programme includes a community-led local development approach to the socio-economic development and economic diversification of coastal communities through seven Fisheries Local Action Groups (FLAGs).  The Scheme aims to promote innovative approaches in coastal communities to create growth and jobs in those areas, in particular by adding value to fishery and aquaculture products and diversifying the local economy towards new economic activities, in particular those offered by blue growth and the broader maritime sectors.  

Each of the seven FLAGs covers a portion of our coastline and each has developed its own Local Development Strategy.  The FLAG scheme has a total budget of €12 million, with each FLAG allotted a portion of this and the Board of each FLAG determines which projects are to be selected for EMFF funding from its allocated budget.  

In 2020, 189 projects were approved for grants totalling €3.3 million, which will incentivise total investment in our coastal communities of €5.5 million. 

With respect to 2021, I am examining with BIM and the FLAG boards what budget remains for each FLAG from its total allocation, with a view to finalising what if any funding is available for new grant offers in 2021.

LEADER Programmes

 972. Deputy Paul Kehoe Information on Paul Kehoe Zoom on Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys the funding streams available for an organisation (details supplied) seeking to build a new premises; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5484/21]

Minister for Rural and Community Development (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys Funding for the type of project referred to by the Deputy may be available through the LEADER Transitional Programme.

This programme, which will cover the period 2021-2022, will come into effect on the 1   April 2021 for new project applications.  The programme will be delivered through Local Action Groups (LAGs) in each of the 28 LEADER sub-regional areas around the country. 

  Funding is provided under a broad range of themes, including enterprise development and social inclusion.  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. 

  The decision to approve a project, or otherwise, is a matter for the LAG which administers the programme in each LEADER area.  Interested applicants should, in the first instance, contact the relevant LAG through its Implementing Partner to discuss the eligibility of the project and the funding that may be available.

  The list of all Local Action Groups, their Implementing Partners and their contact details, is available on my Department's website at the following link: https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/c45498-local-action-groups.

Community Development Projects

 973. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard J. Durkan Zoom on Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys the extent to which she and her Department continue to address issues of urban and rural isolation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5767/21]

Minister for Rural and Community Development (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys Addressing the issue of individual isolation in communities has become more important than ever before due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The issue of isolation in rural and urban communities cuts across the work of a number of Departments, and this is reflected in ongoing work on community policing, rural transport and social inclusion, among other areas.

Many of my Department's policies and funding programmes aim to address isolation issues in communities, and also deliver benefits by responding to the challenges facing vulnerable individuals due to COVID-19.

The National Social Enterprise Policy aims to enable social enterprises increase their social, environmental and economic impact. Many social enterprises are based in rural or isolated areas and provide services to communities that may not otherwise be available. They also operate in our cities and other urban areas, often providing services to disadvantaged communities.

Physical and social isolation can have a significant impact on people living in rural areas. My Department is finalising a new rural development policy for the next five years, which will build on the progress achieved through the Action Plan for Rural Development, which concluded in 2019. The policy will seek to strengthen and build resilience in our rural communities and will identify policy measures for delivery in order to achieve these objectives.

Other key interventions include funding the Seniors Alert Scheme, which enables older people to live securely, with peace of mind, in their homes through the provision of personal monitored alarms, ensuring contact is maintained with those who are vulnerable. In addition, as part of the Department’s COVID-19 Action Plan , increased support was provided for older people through our funding partnership with ALONE for their crisis telephone support line and follow-on practical supports for those who need it.

The Social Inclusion and Community Activation Programme (SICAP) is Ireland’s primary social inclusion funding intervention, delivered locally by Local Development Companies (LDCs) to help those in the greatest need access supports to enable participation in communities. SICAP workers have extensive local connections and in-depth knowledge of available resources and supports and are continuing to work to ensure the emerging needs of their localities are responded to.

Local Development Companies (LDCs) have put in place various measures to ensure SICAP supports continue to be delivered and that vulnerable people continue to be supported throughout the COVID-19 crises, examples as follows:

Online supports are delivered via telephone, email, Zoom, etc., with LDCs providing additional support to individuals with limited access to technology, in the form providing them with laptops/tablets and upskilling them in their usage.

- LDCs that operate a “friendly call” service to elderly people saw an increase in demand for the service with some LDCs mobilizing  local community groups to become involved in making regular contact with older, vulnerable isolated people during COVID.

- LDCs supported an increase in demand for Meals on Wheels services and foodbanks, particularly for those not able to travel to shops and those experiencing food poverty.

- Other responses included Pharmacy & Shopping Services; Employment and Self-Employment Supports; Supports to Community Groups; Online Training; Health, Well-Being and Social Prescribing; Mental Health Supports.

- My Department offered every flexibility to the Local Development Companies (LDCs) which freed up SICAP workers to focus on a community response to the crisis. Given their presence in local communities, the LDC response to the crisis was rapid and widespread with many of their 170,000 service users reached in the early days and weeks of the crisis.

Volunteering is also very much at the forefront of initiatives of this nature and the Department will continue to support volunteering both by the provision of funding and other supports, and the implementation of the recently published National Volunteering Strategy.

Broadband Connection Points (BCPs) funding will ensure that remote areas, particularly those that are likely to wait longest for connections, are provided with access to high-speed broadband in their communities while waiting for the National Broadband Plan roll-out to reach them.

The 2020 Town and Village Renewal Scheme (T&V) was tailored to help rural towns and villages respond to the challenges presented by COVID-19. The 2020 Scheme included two separate funding Measures – an Accelerated Measure and a Standard Measure - to enable towns and villages to tackle the short and medium-term impacts of COVID-19. Under the two measures, some €25.8 million was approved for a total of 510 projects across the country.

I will continue to work with my Government colleagues to monitor the adequacy of these supports to address isolation during the coming months. 

Dog Licences

 974. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae Information on Michael Healy-Rae Zoom on Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys if she will address a matter (details supplied) regarding dog ownership; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5970/21]

Minister for Rural and Community Development (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys The overall intention of dog control legislation is to place the onus on dog owners and those in control of dogs to act responsibly by keeping their dogs under effectual control. Such responsible dog ownership is the key to reducing incidences of sheep worrying and other problem behaviours.

The Control of Dogs Acts 1986, as amended, set out a range of requirements for all dog owners or any other person in charge of a dog. In particular, section 9 of the 1986 Act outlines requirements regarding keeping dogs under effectual control. Section 9 (2) states that the owner or any other person in charge of a dog that worries livestock is guilty of an offence, while Section 21 of the 1986 Act provides that the owner of a dog shall be liable in damages for an attack on livestock.

A public consultation process on a review of measures relating to the control of dogs in Ireland is nearing completion and I expect the findings of this review to be submitted to me shortly.  Some of the comments received through the consultation process would require a change to primary or secondary legislation.  My Department is considering these and other points as part of a review of the legislation in this area, and is now identifying any necessary legislative amendments, including in relation to the issues raised, that may be required with a view to inclusion in the 2021 Government legislative programme.

My Department will continue to work with all responsible stakeholders towards the shared aim of promoting responsible dog ownership and consistently reinforcing the message that dogs should never be allowed to roam alone.

Digital Hubs

 975. Deputy Ruairí Ó Murchú Information on Ruairí Ó Murchú Zoom on Ruairí Ó Murchú asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys the status of remote working facilities at digital hubs; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5039/21]

Minister for Rural and Community Development (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, remote working has proven its value in maintaining economic activity and in the continued provision of many public services. Remote working can help to retain talented people in rural communities, encourage mobile workers to move to the regions, provide increased trade for local businesses, and revitalise our rural towns.  

My Department has been working with the Western Development Commission (WDC) over the last year to develop an integrated network of remote working hubs along the Atlantic Economic Corridor (AEC), from Kerry to Donegal.  The WDC has identified and mapped more than 100 remote working hubs which serve that region. 

This project is now being extended to a national scale. A Working Group, chaired by the Secretary General of my Department, was established last October to oversee the development of a National Remote Working Hub Network.  The first phase of this Group’s work is to identify, map, survey and classify the various remote working facilities available throughout the country.  

This work will lead to the establishment of an integrated network of remote working facilities with shared back-office services for the hubs, and a common booking engine for users.  This will become a significant knowledge asset to inform future investment in remote working facilities.

In addition, since 2016 my Department has been working on the Broadband Connection Points (BCP) initiative, which is now rolling out across the country. BCPs are amongst the first deliverables under the National Broadband Plan in the State intervention area and will provide free public access to high-speed wifi broadband at approximately 300 locations in some of the most remote parts of the country. The location of all BCPs which have been installed or which are planned at any point in time is available at: https://nbi.ie/bcp-map/.  Many BCPs have the potential to provide remote working facilities.

I secured an additional €5 million this year under my Department's Town and Village Renewal Scheme for investment in remote working facilities at hubs and BCPs throughout the country and I hope to be in a position to announce details of this funding stream shortly.

Broadband Infrastructure

 976. Deputy Ruairí Ó Murchú Information on Ruairí Ó Murchú Zoom on Ruairí Ó Murchú asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys the number of broadband connection points per county; the number of those that are actively live; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5040/21]

Minister for Rural and Community Development (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys Broadband Connection Points (BCPs) are among the first deliverables of the National Broadband Plan (NBP) and will provide high-speed broadband connectivity to publicly accessible sites in rural and isolated areas of the country, including a number of our off-shore islands.  The sites will be provided with a high-speed broadband service for onsite community use. 

  After a site survey, BCPs are provided with a high-speed wireless connection by National Broadband Ireland (NBI), the company contracted to deliver the NBP in the State intervention area.  Vodafone Ireland then install the customer premises equipment (control boxes/switches and wifi access points) which enables broadband services to be provided. 

  Once both NBI and Vodafone equipment has been installed and its performance approved by my Department, the site is declared 'live' and made available for public use.

  At present, 264 sites have been identified for site surveys and installation as publicly accessible BCPs. As of 26th January, 151 sites are in progress, with 113 BCPs declared 'live'. These sites are summarised by county in the table below. 

  NBI and Vodafone continue to install sites on a daily basis. In addition, applications for additional BCPs continue to be received by my Department. These applications will be assessed and approved, where appropriate, for inclusion in the BCP programme at the earliest possible opportunity. 

  Full details of the BCP locations, both installed and planned, including on the islands, can be found at https://nbi.ie/bcp-map/.

  In addition to the substantial Government investment already made in the BCPs, an additional €5 million has been allocated to my Department this year under the Town and Village Renewal Scheme for the development of remote working facilities at hubs and BCPs throughout the country.  I hope to be in a position to announce details of this scheme shortly.    

Local Authority Area Total In progress Live
CARLOW 8 6 2
CAVAN 12 6 6
CLARE 6 2 4
CORK Co 18 10 8
DONEGAL 12 6 6
DUBLIN/DLR 1 0 1
DUBLIN/FINGAL 4 2 2
DUBLIN/SDCC 1 0 1
GALWAY Co 20 16 4
KERRY  9 6 3
KILDARE 4 3 1
KILKENNY 6 0 6
LAOIS 4 1 3
LEITRIM 12 11 1
LIMERICK 14 13 1
LONGFORD 8 5 3
LOUTH 7 0 7
MAYO 15 8 7
MEATH 15 7 8
MONAGHAN 15 6 9
OFFALY 9 4 5
ROSCOMMON 8 1 7
SLIGO 7 7 0
TIPPERARY 18 14 4
WATERFORD 4 1 3
WESTMEATH 7 3 4
WEXFORD 10 6 4
WICKLOW 10 7 3
  264 151 113

Town and Village Renewal Scheme

 977. Deputy Paul Donnelly Information on Paul Donnelly Zoom on Paul Donnelly asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys the capital budget allocation for the town and village renewal scheme in each of the years 2019, 2020 and 2021, in tabular form. [5121/21]

Minister for Rural and Community Development (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys Since the launch of the Town and Village Renewal Scheme in 2016, over €93 million of funding has been approved for more than 1,340 projects across Ireland.

  From an initial allocation of €10 million in 2016, the capital budget for the Town and Village Renewal Scheme grew to €15 million in 2019 and 2020. The funding for 2020 was increased by €10 million to €25 million as part of the Government's July Stimulus package. This additional funding was provided to support towns and villages to adapt to COVID-19.

  For 2021, €20 million has been allocated to support an expanded Town and Village Renewal Scheme. €5 million of this funding will be used to support the development of remote working facilities throughout the country, including by upgrading existing hubs and Broadband Connection Points.

  The following table outlines the capital budget allocation for the Town and Village Renewal Scheme in each of the years 2019, 2020 and 2021, as requested:

Scheme Year 2019 2020 2021
Capital Budget €15 million €25 million (includes €10 million under July Stimulus) €20 million

   

Outdoor Recreation Infrastructure Scheme

 978. Deputy Paul Donnelly Information on Paul Donnelly Zoom on Paul Donnelly asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys the capital budget allocation for the outdoor recreation and infrastructure scheme in each of the years 2019, 2020 and 2021, in tabular form. [5122/21]

Minister for Rural and Community Development (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys Since the launch of the Outdoor Recreation Infrastructure Scheme (ORIS) in 2016, my Department has invested over €55.2 million in over 920 projects across Ireland.

  The capital budget allocation for the scheme in 2019 and 2020 was €10 million.

  Recognising the importance of outdoor recreation to our physical and mental wellbeing, particularly at this time, I secured a 20% increase in funding for the scheme this year, to €12 million.

  It should be noted that Fáilte Ireland also provides a financial contribution to projects approved under the Outdoor Recreation Infrastructure Scheme and will provide €4 million in additional funding for the 2021 scheme.  The combined funding provided by my Department and Fáilte Ireland will allow for the approval of a large number of outdoor recreation projects this year.

  The following table outlines my Department's capital budget allocation for the Outdoor Recreation Infrastructure Scheme in each of the years 2019, 2020 and 2021, as requested:

Scheme Year 2019 2020 2021
Capital Budget €10m €10m €12m 

Community Employment Schemes

 979. Deputy Brendan Griffin Information on Brendan Griffin Zoom on Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys if an application by an organisation (details supplied) for a post will be successful; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5141/21]

Minister for Rural and Community Development (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys The type of posts referred to by the Deputy are linked to the Walks Scheme which is administered by my Department.  The scheme currently facilitates the development and maintenance of 39 walking trails through modest payments to almost 2,000 landholders for maintenance works undertaken in line with agreed work plans.

In 2019, my Department invited Expressions of Interest for the inclusion of additional trails in the Walks Scheme.  In December 2019, 10 new trails were approved for inclusion in the scheme, as the first phase of an expansion of the scheme which will see up to 80 trails included when all phases of the expansion are completed.

While not amongst the initial phase of trails which met all of the requirements to be added to the scheme, I can confirm that my Department has received an Expression of Interest from the organisation referred to by the Deputy for the inclusion of further trails in the scheme. 

An external review of the Walks Scheme, and the role of the posts associated with it, is currently under way and is due to be completed shortly.  This review will help to inform decisions in respect of the location of further additional walks to be added to the Walks Scheme. The question of the appointment of additional posts of the nature referred to by the Deputy will also be considered when assessing the findings of this review.  

Community Services Programme

 980. Deputy Pádraig O'Sullivan Information on Pádraig O'Sullivan Zoom on Pádraig O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys when the community services programme Pobal grants will reopen for applications; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5299/21]

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 My Department's Community Services Programme, or CSP, supports over 420 community organisations to provide local services through a social enterprise model.

The CSP provides an annual co-funding contribution of €19,033 towards the cost of each full time equivalent position supported, and, where warranted, provides €32,000 in co-funding towards the cost of employing a manager.  Qualifying organisations must be social enterprises capable of generating income from their activities in order to meet the full salary costs of the supported posts, for example, from income received from the public use of facilities and services.

In 2020, Indecon International Economic Consultants carried out an independent review of the Community Services Programme on behalf of my Department. This report was published in September 2020 and is available on my Department's website. My Department and Pobal have now commenced work on the restructuring of the Programme in line with the Indecon report recommendations. Pending the transition to the newly restructured programme, the open Expression of Interest process is closed.

It is expected that the Programme will open targeted calls to address identified gaps in service delivery again in mid to late 2021.

LEADER Programmes

 981. Deputy Marian Harkin Information on Marian Harkin Zoom on Marian Harkin asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys if a copy will be provided of the European Commission communication to her Department in spring 2020 regarding the verification of the reasonableness of administration costs of LEADER in accordance with article 48(2)(e) of EU Regulation 809/2014; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5341/21]

Minister for Rural and Community Development (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys The communication referred to by the Deputy was provided to my Department through the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine as the Managing Authority in Ireland for the Rural Development Programme, of which LEADER is one element.

The document is part of a deliberative process between my Department, the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and the European Commission.  I am not, therefore, in a position to provide a copy of the document at this point in time.

Rural Regeneration and Development Fund

 982. Deputy Marian Harkin Information on Marian Harkin Zoom on Marian Harkin asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys the funds allocated to the Rural Regeneration and Development Fund by county in each of the years 2018 to 2020, in tabular form.  [5344/21]

Minister for Rural and Community Development (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys The allocation of Rural Regeneration and Development funding is overseen by my Department with a view to supporting the development and delivery of ambitious and strategic projects which contribute to sustainable rural regeneration and development in towns and villages with a population of less than 10,000 and outlying areas.  To date, 139 projects around the country have been allocated over €166m in support from the Fund. 

  The funds allocated by county in each of the years 2018 to 2020 are set out in the table below:

County 2018 2019 2020
Carlow €654,820.00 €450,000.00  
Cavan €867,174.00 €4,109,525.00 €787,500.00
Clare €1,023,300.00 €7,734,571.00  
Cork €2,157,375.00 €5,071,843.00 €551,250.00
Donegal €3,228,042.00 €7,014,393.00 €372,494.00
Galway €2,276,887.00 €5,662,660.25 €1,984,885.00
Kerry €1,270,000.00 €2,247,077.00 €2,056,380.00
Kildare   €2,865,500.00 €2,063,865.00
Kilkenny €561,750.00 €1,623,045.20  
Laois €1,200,000.00    
Leitrim   €3,378,825.00 €476,033.00
Limerick €7,167,477.00 €330,000.00 €2,500,000.00
Longford   €4,663,718.71 €468,750.00
Louth   €2,673,743.75 €710,980.00
Mayo €2,884,055.00 €7,681,502.00 €524,116.00
Meath   €6,997,879.00 €608,250.00
Monaghan   €6,643,936.00 €295,000.00
Multi-County   €23,032,399.00 €300,000.00
Offaly   €597,207.00 €395,250.00
Roscommon   €8,328,089.16 €434,010.00
Sligo €1,115,752.00 €131,250.00 €424,000.00
Tipperary   €7,233,046.00 €1,648,646.00
Waterford   €3,854,842.00 €1,207,500.00
Westmeath   €600,000.00 €311,250.00
Wexford   €8,158,812.37  
Wicklow   €2,675,226.00 €357,750.00

Dog Breeding Industry

 983. Deputy Steven Matthews Information on Steven  Matthews Zoom on Steven  Matthews asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys the steps she will take to ensure the robust and consistent enforcement of the Dog Breeding Establishments Act 2010 to reduce the prevalence of puppy farms. [5394/21]

Minister for Rural and Community Development (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys My Department has overall policy responsibility for the Dog Breeding Establishments Act 2010.  The Act provides a robust regulatory framework for, inter alia, the licensing, monitoring and inspection of dog breeding establishments by local authorities and, where a serious and immediate threat exists to public health or animal health and welfare, for the closure of such establishments. 

The day to day regulation of dog breeding establishments to ensure compliance with the Act is a matter for local authorities.  It is the responsibility of each local authority to maintain the register of dog breeding establishments in its functional area.  The Act also places an obligation on any person seeking to operate a dog breeding establishment to have the premises included on the register. Welfare standards regarding dog breeding establishments have been provided for through guidelines.

In July 2018, following a public consultation, my Department published revised guidelines for Dog Breeding Establishments.  These came into effect on 1 January 2019.  There is a substantial shift in the new guidelines towards a focus on the welfare of dogs and pups.  Each local authority is responsible for the monitoring of these standards with regard to the registration of such establishments.

Following a review, my Department is currently developing necessary legislative amendments to the Dog Breeding Establishments Act 2010, with a view to inclusion in the 2021 Government legislative programme.

Library Services

 984. Deputy Patricia Ryan Information on Patricia  Ryan Zoom on Patricia  Ryan asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys if funding will be provided on a trial basis to the library service in County Kildare to fund delivery of a library lending service via the postal service; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5452/21]

Minister for Rural and Community Development (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys The provision of library services is primarily a matter for local authorities in their capacity as library authorities under the Local Government Act, 2001. 

There are currently no proposals to provide funding for the delivery of a library lending service on a trial basis via the postal service. However, I understand that Kildare libraries have been providing a delivery service to the housebound and vulnerable since last May. This service is co-ordinated through Kildare County Council’s Community Call Helpline and I commend them for this fantastic initiative. 

My Department continues to support local authorities in the delivery of a public library service, especially during the current Covid-19 pandemic. In September 2020, my Department invested €3m in a Small Scale Capital Works programme which supported local authorities in carrying out refurbishment works in library branches thereby helping them to adapt to comply with Government health guidance. Kildare County Council were approved funding of €100,000 under this initiative and this supported works in all 14 library branches in the county.

In addition, during 2020, my Department invested some €400,000 in the excellent online library service which has soared in levels of membership and usage since the beginning of the pandemic. The service provides access to more than 48,000 eBooks and 33,000 eAudiobooks, 4,000 magazines, 2,400 online newspapers from over 100 countries, more than 500 e-learning courses and 100 online language courses.  These online services will continue to be provided in 2021. 

Remote Working

 985. Deputy Patricia Ryan Information on Patricia  Ryan Zoom on Patricia  Ryan asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys if she has considered establishing co-working spaces in rural areas of counties Kildare and Laois to facilitate persons working remotely within their communities; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5453/21]

Minister for Rural and Community Development (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys My Department has invested significantly in co-working spaces and enterprise hubs over the last number of years though programmes such as the Town and Village Renewal Scheme and the Rural Regeneration and Development Fund.

  Investments approved include a digital hub in Mountmellick and an enterprise hub in Mountrath, Co, Laois.  A Food hub is also being supported in Athy, Co. Kildare.

  My Department, along with the Department of Environment, Climate and Communications, has also invested in the establishment of a network of Broadband Connection Points (BCPs) throughout the country.   BCPs are amongst the first deliverables under the National Broadband Plan in the State intervention area and will provide free public access to high-speed wifi broadband in some of the most remote parts of the country.

  Included in the BCP network are a number of sites in Kildare and Laois with plans to provide for remote working, co-working and community use.  Full details of the location of all of the BCPs, both installed and planned, are available at https://nbi.ie/bcp-map/.

  I have secured an additional €5 million under the Town and Village Renewal Scheme this year for the further development of remote working facilities in hubs and BCPs.  I hope to be in a position to announce details of this scheme shortly.

Remote Working

 986. Deputy Patricia Ryan Information on Patricia  Ryan Zoom on Patricia  Ryan asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys the status of the interdepartmental group set up within her Department to examine the remote working hubs and co-working spaces; when the group is due to report; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5454/21]

Minister for Rural and Community Development (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys Remote, or connected working has the potential to transform rural Ireland, allowing people to continue to live in their communities while building careers in good quality jobs.  Remote working also provides an opportunity for others to move to, or return to, rural areas to work and raise their families, and we are increasingly seeing people making this choice since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

  The Government recognises that remote working will form part of how many organisations operate into the future.  That is why the Government recently published a National Remote Work Strategy, to provide a framework in which remote working can be supported in a cohesive way.   

  One of the pillars of the Remote Work Strategy is to develop and leverage remote work infrastructure across the country.  As part of this objective, a Working Group chaired by the Secretary General of my Department was established last October to oversee the development of a National Hub Network.  The first phase of this Group’s work is to identify, map, survey and classify the various remote working facilities available throughout the country.  

  This work, which is currently under way, will lead to the establishment of an integrated network of remote working facilities with shared back-office services for the hubs and a common booking engine for users.  This will become a significant knowledge asset to inform future investment in remote working facilities.

  I expect to be in a position to outline the results of Group's work over the course of the year as various elements of the Working Group's programme are completed.

   

Family Resource Centres

 987. Deputy Alan Dillon Information on Alan  Dillon Zoom on Alan  Dillon asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys the capital funding opportunities that exist within her Department for an organisation (details supplied) in County Mayo; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5545/21]

Minister for Rural and Community Development (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, administers the Family Resource Centre (FRC) Programme. I understand that a specific allocation of Tusla's funding in 2021, including in respect of family support services, will be finalised in Tusla’s Business Plan for 2021 which is currently in development.

Funding may be available through the LEADER Transitional Programme for the type of project referred to by the Deputy. The Transitional Programme which will cover the period 2021-2022 and will come into effect on the 1 April 2021 for new project applications. Due to delays at European level, the next EU Programme will not commence until January 2023. The programme will continue to be delivered through Local Action Groups (LAGs) in each of the 28 LEADER sub-regional areas around the country. 

Funding is provided under a broad range of themes, including enterprise development and social inclusion. Under the Transitional LEADER Programme particular emphasis will be placed on communities that have not previously benefited from LEADER funding. 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. 

The decision to approve a project, or otherwise, is a matter for the LAG which administers the programme in each LEADER area. Interested applicants should, in the first instance, contact the relevant LAG through its Implementing Partner to discuss the eligibility of the project and the funding that may be available.

The Implementing Partner for the area of Mayo referred to by the Deputy is Mayo North East LEADER Partnership, Lower Main Street, Foxford, Co. Mayo. (Email: info@mayonortheast.com)

If the project is part of a larger regeneration proposal in the community, then the Rural Regeneration and Development Fund may be suitable. The Fund provides investment in ambitious and strategic projects to support rural renewal, strengthen and build resilience in rural communities and assist in the regeneration of towns and villages with a population of less than 10,000 and outlying areas. The lead party in an application must be a State funded Body.

The Fund seeks applications under two categories. Category 1 relates to large scale ambitious capital projects with all necessary planning and other consents in place and which are ready to proceed. The minimum request from the Fund for Category 1 projects is €500,000. Category 2 relates to detailed project development and enabling initiatives to reach Category 1 readiness. There is no minimum request for funding for Category 2 projects. 

The third call for Category 1 applications - relating to projects with all planning and other consents in place and ready to commence works - closed on the 1st December 2020. A further call for Category 2 applications – relating to projects that require further development - will be announced in early 2021. 

Rural Broadband Scheme

 988. Deputy Kieran O'Donnell Information on Kieran O'Donnell Zoom on Kieran O'Donnell asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys the process for communities, towns and villages wishing to set up a broadband connection point; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5969/21]

Minister for Rural and Community Development (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys Broadband Connection Points (BCPs) are among the first premises to be connected in the State intervention area under the National Broadband Plan (NBP).  They are publicly accessible premises, such as community centres, libraries and sports clubs in more isolated or remote rural areas, including some of our off-shore islands. 

  The BCPs will make onsite broadband access available for a variety of uses, such as remote working, remote study, eHealth, education and training, arts and culture, and general community use.

  While the BCPs are an important element of the National Broadband Plan in their own right, the objective is that that they will become long-term community assets, providing for a multitude of local needs as they develop and mature over the coming years, beyond the completion of the NBP rollout.

  At this point, the majority of sites for inclusion in the BCP project have been identified and the installation programme is at an advanced stage. The intention is to have approximately 300 sites connected in the coming months.

  Notwithstanding this, there remains a small amount of capacity for additional sites. In the first instance, potential BCP locations should be discussed with the relevant Local Authority Broadband Officer who will offer advice and will coordinate an application.  Contact details for the Local Authority Broadband Officers are available at: https://assets.gov.ie/3908/061218122032-88ceac03820f4db6b6807c6178f5c2b4.pdf 

  In general terms, a potential BCPs will:

  - be located within the NBP State intervention area;

  - be a publicly accessible site with the potential for indoor and outdoor use;

  - have adequate public liability insurance in place;

  - show clear potential for public benefit.

  On receipt of a completed application, officials at my Department make an initial assessment based on a number of factors, including location and proximity to similar facilities, proposed use of the site, local needs, community involvement, and the long-term viability of BCP services at the site. 

  If an application passes this phase, it is forwarded to officials at the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications for cost and viability assessments. A physical survey must also be carried out before a final determination can be made on the suitability of the premises for use as a BCP.

LEADER Programmes

 989. Deputy Sean Sherlock Information on Sean Sherlock Zoom on Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys if consideration has been given to allocating funds available under the European Union Recovery Instrument funding for 2021 and 2022 of which €190 million is allocated to Ireland for the purpose of the LEADER programme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6025/21]

Minister for Rural and Community Development (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys The European Union Recovery Instrument (EURI) is a Fund established by the European Union to support recovery in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.  €190 million is to be allocated to Ireland from the Instrument over the period 2021-2022 for agriculture and rural development.  

The funding must be programmed into the CAP Rural Development Programme 2014-2020, which has now been extended to 2022, and is overseen by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.  LEADER is only one element of the wider package of measures which can be supported through this funding. 

I understand that the accompanying regulations to the EURI have yet to be adopted, so we must await further details before decisions can be taken on how the funding allocated to Ireland is distributed. 

Decisions around the allocation of funding between the relevant priorities, including LEADER, will be considered when the final legal rules are agreed. I will engage with the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine on the matter at that stage in relation to funding for LEADER from the Recovery Instrument.


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