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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 21-40
 Header Item Broadband Infrastructure
 Header Item Public Procurement Contracts
 Header Item Covid-19 Pandemic Supports
 Header Item Covid-19 Pandemic Supports
 Header Item Driver Test
 Header Item National Car Test
 Header Item Traffic Fines
 Header Item Taxi Regulations
 Header Item Ports Development
 Header Item Public Transport
 Header Item European Council Meetings
 Header Item Road Projects
 Header Item Covid-19 Pandemic
 Header Item Public Procurement Contracts
 Header Item Covid-19 Pandemic Supports
 Header Item Insurance Costs
 Header Item Banking Sector
 Header Item Credit Unions

Thursday, 25 February 2021

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 1004 No. 6
Unrevised

First Page Previous Page Page of 74 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 21-40

Broadband Infrastructure

 21. Deputy Cathal Crowe Information on Cathal Crowe Zoom on Cathal Crowe asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan if he will intervene in a long-running attempt by residents of a development (details supplied) to obtain broadband access; if the process by which new build homes are brought online can be streamlined; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10862/21]

Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications (Deputy Eamon Ryan): Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan I understand the importance of telecommunication services, particularly at a time where restrictions are in place and when people are relying much more on these electronic communications services.

While operational matters of commercial telecommunications operators, including in relation to the mechanisms used to locate specific premises for the purposes of broadband installation are a matter for those commercial operators, it is important that the systems used are effective and facilitate an early connection where a service is actually available.

My Department will bring this matter to the attention of ComReg in its role as independent telecommunications regulator.

Public Procurement Contracts

 22. Deputy Mairéad Farrell Information on Mairéad  Farrell Zoom on Mairéad  Farrell asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan the number and value of procurement contracts for Covid-19-related spending in 2020 and 2021 that took place via negotiated procedure without prior publication in his Department. [11178/21]

 23. Deputy Mairéad Farrell Information on Mairéad  Farrell Zoom on Mairéad  Farrell asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan the breakdown of procurement contracts for Covid-19-related spending in 2020 and 2021 that took place via negotiated procedure without prior publication by his Department, by goods and service type in tabular form. [11208/21]

Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications (Deputy Eamon Ryan): Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan I propose to take Questions Nos. 22 and 23 together. 

  My Department awarded two contracts totalling €81,272 (ex VAT) in 2020 under the negotiated procedure without prior publication for goods which were essential to the Departments response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

  Both contracts were awarded on the grounds of urgency and details are shown in the table below.

Contract Type of goods/services Value of contract (Ex VAT)
SecurID software tokens IT software €53,372
Virtual network licences IT licences €27,900


   No Covid-19 related contracts have been awarded to date in 2021 under this procedure.

Covid-19 Pandemic Supports

 24. Deputy Cian O'Callaghan Information on Cian O'Callaghan Zoom on Cian O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Transport Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan if he will provide the airline industry with a financial aid package to ensure the survival of the industry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10721/21]

Minister of State at the Department of Transport (Deputy Hildegarde Naughton): Information on Hildegarde Naughton Zoom on Hildegarde Naughton The Government has put in place a range of supports for businesses, including those in the aviation sector. The supports include the wage subsidy scheme, alleviation of commercial rates, deferral of tax liabilities, the COVID Restrictions Support Scheme, the Credit Guarantee Scheme, and the SBCI Working Capital Scheme.

As regards supports specifically targeted at the protection of employment, the Employment Wage Subsidy Schemes (EWSS) has been a key component of the Government's response to the COVID-19 crisis to support viable firms and encourage employment amid these very challenging times. The EWSS higher subsidy rate will apply until 31 March 2021. The scheme will continue during 2021 and the Government will decide on the form of its extension when economic conditions are clearer, guided by what the economy requires at that time to support the expected economic recovery.

In November, the Government also agreed a revised €80 million funding package specifically for Irish aviation in recognition of the very difficult circumstances facing the sector. My Department is currently engaging with the European Commission regarding formal approval of this package which will be implemented in line with EU State aid rules.

Any additional supports designed to facilitate growth of air traffic can only be progressed at the appropriate time, taking account of the outlook for the easing of travel restrictions and improving wider epidemiological conditions.

I will continue to monitor the financial impact of COVID-19 on the Irish aviation sector on an ongoing basis in consultation with relevant Government Ministers and all key stakeholders.

Covid-19 Pandemic Supports

 25. Deputy Brendan Griffin Information on Brendan Griffin Zoom on Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Transport Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan his views on a matter (details supplied) regarding the Irish aviation sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10601/21]

Minister of State at the Department of Transport (Deputy Hildegarde Naughton): Information on Hildegarde Naughton Zoom on Hildegarde Naughton The aviation sector is one of the most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, with all airlines seeing a severe depletion of revenue and facing various degrees of financial challenge. The knock-on implications for our airports have also been severe.

My officials and I have maintained regular contact with key stakeholders throughout this crisis, and Government has put in place a range of supports for businesses, including the Aviation sector. The supports include the wage subsidy scheme, waiving of commercial rates, deferral of tax liabilities, the COVID Restrictions Support Scheme, the Credit Guarantee Scheme, and the SBCI Working Capital Scheme. Liquidity funding is also available through the ISIF Pandemic Stabilisation and Recovery Fund for medium and large enterprises.

Budget 2021 provided for €8.5 billion in funding for public services to address the challenges of COVID-19, and extended the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme into 2021. A Recovery Fund is also to be established to stimulate demand and employment and is to be funded to over €3 billion.

In November 2020, in recognition of the very difficult circumstances facing the aviation sector, the Government agreed a revised funding package of €80 million for Irish aviation in 2021. A part of this package, over €21 million, is being provided to our Regional Airports Programme (RAP). The new RAP, published on 4 February, gives funding certainty to those airports up to 2025. Those airports eligible for RAP support are Donegal, Kerry and Ireland West (Knock). Additionally, €32 million is being provided to Cork and Shannon Airports through a new one-year COVID-19 Regional State Airports Programme. Both of these programmes have been created in line with EU State Aid rules.

The Government’s package for aviation also included a proposal for an airport charges rebate scheme, among other schemes, to be taken forward in 2021. A budget of €26 million was earmarked for these schemes, which are subject to the approval of the European Commission. Good progress is being made in this respect and, if approved, these schemes will augment the supports already in place and help the industry to maintain connectivity and to make a recovery from the impacts of COVID-19.

The Government is fully alert to the devastating impact of the global pandemic on international travel and values the critical role that aviation plays in the Irish economy. It is expected that it may be some time before it is possible to permit a large-scale return to air travel, but we remain committed to ensuring that the aviation sector can maintain the necessary core capability to retain strategic connectivity, and to quickly rebound when circumstances allow.

Government’s priority remains to best protect the health and safety of all those living in Ireland.

Driver Test

 26. Deputy Martin Browne Information on Martin Browne Zoom on Martin Browne asked the Minister for Transport Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan if he will address the issue of the delay and cancellation of driver theory tests (details supplied). [10648/21]

Minister of State at the Department of Transport (Deputy Hildegarde Naughton): Information on Hildegarde Naughton Zoom on Hildegarde Naughton The Driver Theory Test has not been deemed to be an essential service under Level 5. As a consequence, the service is closed while Level 5 restrictions remain in place. Candidates who have a theory test scheduled up to 5th March will be contacted via email with a rescheduled appointment.

The service will remain closed until at least the 05 March. While I fully appreciate the inconvenience this poses, I am sure you will agree with me that the limiting of the spread of the virus and the safeguarding of public health takes priority. As you can appreciate, the first priority has to be public safety – we want to provide services, and we know that people are looking for services, but services can only be provided to the limit possible while preserving public health.

The RSA has advised that it is engaging with its service provider to examine ways of increasing the number of tests within the current health constraints, when services resume. In this regard, the aim is to double capacity over a three-month period. Subject to decisions on future Covid 19 restrictions, this will mean that additional capacity would be made available in April, May and June 2021.

Given that normal capacity was approx. 25,000 tests per month, this initiative will provide an estimated 75,000 extra test appointments over the three-month period. This would make substantial inroads into numbers waiting over that time period.

The Department has been in discussions with the RSA on how to return to the normal target for the maximum waiting time. It will not be possible to arrive at this quickly, given restraints which must be in place due to the pandemic.

It is important to recognise that there are no quick fixes and that the continuing build-up of applications as the pandemic goes on means that it will take time to return to a normal waiting time. Whether in-person services will be able to resume from the 05 March will be dependent on Covid-19 restrictions in place at that time. The position in relation to backlogs will be reviewed again when Level 5 is lifted.

National Car Test

 27. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae Information on Michael Healy-Rae Zoom on Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Transport Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan if the case of a person (details supplied) will be examined; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10701/21]

Minister of State at the Department of Transport (Deputy Hildegarde Naughton): Information on Hildegarde Naughton Zoom on Hildegarde Naughton The operation of the National Car Test (NCT) service is the statutory responsibility of the Road Safety Authority, and I have no role in individual cases. I have therefore referred the question to the Authority for direct reply.

  I would ask the Deputy to contact my office if a response has not been received within ten days.

Traffic Fines

 28. Deputy Duncan Smith Information on Duncan Smith Zoom on Duncan Smith asked the Minister for Transport Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan if he will examine increasing the penalty fees for persons parking in disabled parking bays; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10708/21]

Minister of State at the Department of Transport (Deputy Hildegarde Naughton): Information on Hildegarde Naughton Zoom on Hildegarde Naughton My predecessor raised the penalty for parking in a disabled bay without displaying a valid permit from €80 to €150 in March 2018.

While I cannot condone the selfish and irresponsible practice of a certain cohort of motorists parking unlawfully in disabled bays, I believe that the current level of penalty is proportional to the offence, and I have no plans to increase it at this time.

Taxi Regulations

 29. Deputy Robert Troy Information on Robert Troy Zoom on Robert Troy asked the Minister for Transport Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan if he will urgently reinstate the small public service vehicle, SPSV, driver entry test; and his views on whether this test can be held in a very safe environment (details supplied). [10730/21]

Minister for Transport (Deputy Eamon Ryan): Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan The regulation of the small public service vehicle (SPSV) industry, including SPSV driver entry test, is a matter for the National Transport Authority (NTA) under the provisions of the Taxi Regulation Act 2013.

  Given the role of the NTA as regulator, I have referred your question to the Authority for direct reply to you. Please advise my private office if you do not receive a response within 10 working days

Ports Development

 30. Deputy Imelda Munster Information on Imelda Munster Zoom on Imelda Munster asked the Minister for Transport Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan if his attention has been drawn to the proposed development by Drogheda Port Company of Bremore Port on the County Meath coast north of Bremore Head; the details and planning for the proposed development; the precise location of the proposed development on the County Meath coast; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10738/21]

Minister of State at the Department of Transport (Deputy Hildegarde Naughton): Information on Hildegarde Naughton Zoom on Hildegarde Naughton As the Deputy is aware Drogheda Port Company, as a Port of Regional Significance, transferred to Louth County Council in October 2017 and is no longer directly under the remit of my Department.

I am however aware that Drogheda Port Company has announced it is to develop a new deepwater port, to be located on the Meath coast north of Bremore Head. I understand that the Port Company is still in the early stages of developing this project. The details for the project and the planning and the exact location of the proposed development are matters for the Port Company to develop in line with relevant consents and planning requirements.

Public Transport

 31. Deputy Catherine Murphy Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Transport Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan the number of passengers that used the Dublin to Belfast rail service in 2020 and to date in 2021; and the number of passengers that used Bus Éireann services to Northern Ireland in 2020 and to date in 2021. [10782/21]

Minister for Transport (Deputy Eamon Ryan): Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan As Minister for Transport, I have responsibility for policy and overall funding in relation to public transport. However, I am not involved in the day-to-day operations of public transport. That is the responsibility of the National Transport Authority (NTA) in conjunction with the public transport operators.

  The individual operators, Irish Rail and Bus Éireann, are best placed to assist the Deputy with her enquiry and I have therefore forwarded the Deputy's question to the companies for direct reply.

  Please advise my private office if you do not receive a response within ten working days.

European Council Meetings

 32. Deputy Denis Naughten Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Transport Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan the number of formal and informal Council of the European Union meetings that have been held since 27 June 2020 under the remit of his Department; and the number of formal and informal meetings, respectively held virtually. [10825/21]

Minister for Transport (Deputy Eamon Ryan): Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan Three informal Council meetings of EU Transport Ministers have taken place since 27 June 2020.

  Due to the ongoing public health emergency, these meetings took place in virtual format only. All videoconference Councils are considered informal as no formal decisions can be taken at these meetings: decisions can only be taken at Council meetings when there is a quorum of Ministers physically present to do so.

  Under normal circumstances, the Council meetings that took place on 8 October 2020 and 8 December 2020, respectively, would have been formal Transport Council meetings, while the meeting that took place on 29 October 2020 would have been an informal meeting.

  Details of the meetings are available on the Council website and the website of the German Presidency of the Council of the EU at the following links:

  8 October (originally scheduled for 28 September)

  https://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/meetings/tte/2020/09/28/

  29 October

  https://www.eu2020.de/eu2020-en/news/article/passau-declaration-eu-transport-ministers-virtual-informal-meeting/2412078

  8 December

  https://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/meetings/tte/2020/12/08/

Road Projects

 33. Deputy James O'Connor Information on James O'Connor Zoom on James O'Connor asked the Minister for Transport Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan the breakdown of the regional and local roads allocations for each local authority in each of the years 2015 to 2021, inclusive in tabular form. [10929/21]

Minister for Transport (Deputy Eamon Ryan): Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan The improvement and maintenance of regional and local roads is the statutory responsibility of the relevant local authority in accordance with the provisions of Section 13 of the Roads Act 1993. Works on those roads are funded from the Council's own resources supplemented by State road grants.

Details of the regional and local road grant allocations and payments to local authorities are outlined in the regional and local road allocations and payments booklets which are available in the Oireachtas Library. The tables included in the allocations and payments booklets outline expenditure by type of grant programme.

I announced the 2021 Regional and Local Road allocations on the 15th February and details of the allocations for each local authority will be available in the 2021 allocations booklet which will be lodged in the Oireachtas Library shortly.

Covid-19 Pandemic

 34. Deputy Róisín Shortall Information on Róisín Shortall Zoom on Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Transport Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan the number of persons who have arrived into Ireland from Brazil in each week from 1 January 2021 to date; the reason the weekly aviation statistics published on gov.ie do not include figures for Brazil despite reports that the three cases of the Brazil P1 variant of Covid-19 recently identified in Ireland are directly associated with recent travel from Brazil; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10934/21]

Minister of State at the Department of Transport (Deputy Hildegarde Naughton): Information on Hildegarde Naughton Zoom on Hildegarde Naughton The weekly aviation statistics compiled by my Department with assistance from the airports and published on gov.ie give headline statistics on passenger numbers at our airports for the previous quarter.

Public Procurement Contracts

 35. Deputy Mairéad Farrell Information on Mairéad  Farrell Zoom on Mairéad  Farrell asked the Minister for Transport Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan the number and value of procurement contracts for Covid-19-related spending in 2020 and 2021 that took place via negotiated procedure without prior publication in his Department. [11187/21]

 36. Deputy Mairéad Farrell Information on Mairéad  Farrell Zoom on Mairéad  Farrell asked the Minister for Transport Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan the breakdown of procurement contracts for Covid-19-related spending in 2020 and 2021 that took place via negotiated procedure without prior publication by his Department, by goods and service type in tabular form. [11219/21]

Minister for Transport (Deputy Eamon Ryan): Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan I propose to take Questions Nos. 35 and 36 together.

  My Department conducted one Covid-19 related procurement via a Negotiated Procedure without prior publication in 2021 in accordance with the derogation as provided for in Regulation 32(2)(c) of the European Union (Award of Public Authority Contracts) Regulations S.I 284/2014. Regulation 32(2)(c) states that the use of a negotiated procedure without prior publication may only be relied on in certain unforeseeable circumstances of extreme urgency. Details in respect of 2020 and 2021 are as follows;

Year Number of Covid-19 related procurements conducted through a Negotiated Procedure Description. Goods/Services Value of contract
2020 0 Nil €0
2021 1 Services. Covid-19 testing arrangements for hauliers travelling to France. €4,000,000 (ex-VAT)

Covid-19 Pandemic Supports

 37. Deputy Michael Creed Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed asked the Minister for Finance Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe the position regarding the entitlement of a person (details supplied) to the temporary wage subsidy scheme and employment wage subsidy scheme. [10705/21]

Minister for Finance (Deputy Paschal Donohoe): Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe The Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme (TWSS) was introduced on 26 March 2020 to provide income support to eligible employees where the employer’s business activities were negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. This scheme ended on 31 August 2020 and was replaced by the Employer Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS).

The transitional phase of TWSS operated until 3 May 2020 and provided a subsidy of 70% of the average net weekly pay up to a maximum of €410 in respect of eligible employees. The operational phase of the scheme was introduced from 4 May 2020 and included increased subsidy rates up to 85%, to a maximum subsidy payment of €410. The operational phases also included a tapering mechanism that ensured the subsidy payment plus any additional payment by the employer did not exceed the employee’s ‘normal’ average weekly wage (ARNWP). This ARNWP, was calculated using the pay and tax details as reported to Revenue in the employer’s payroll submission for each pay date in January and February 2020.

Under the TWSS, the employer was expected to make best efforts to maintain employees’ net income for the duration of the scheme. However, there was no legal requirement for an employer to pay an additional gross (top-up) payment that fully or partially made up the difference between the amount provided by the subsidy scheme and the employee’s normal wage (ARNWP). The TWSS legislation also required employers to separately identify subsidy payments on employee payslips from any top-up payments made.

Revenue has advised me that based on payroll submissions received from the person’s employer, her ARNWP was calculated at €721.00 per week and the maximum subsidy payable to her under the TWSS was €350.00 per week. According to Revenue records, the person received TWSS payments from 9 April 2020 to 27 August 2020, which were in accordance with her ARNWP and which took account of the various additional top-up payments received from her employer during this time.

However, Revenue has previously publicly stated that for certain employees where their employer paid net weekly earnings of between €586 and €960 pre-COVID, the full amount of the subsidy due to such employees may not have been paid through the payroll process during the period the TWSS was in operation. The process of identifying those employees who qualify for an additional subsidy is currently in progress. Revenue intends to offset any additional amount against an individual’s outstanding income tax/Universal Social Charge (USC) due for 2020, or by way of direct refund if the person has no 2020 arrears. Based on the information available, it would appear that the person concerned may meet the relevant criteria and may be due an additional wage subsidy. It is hoped that this process will be implemented by the middle of this year when all the relevant data from employers has been reconciled and the required IT systems developments have been completed. It is not possible to quantify at this point how much additional subsidy amount each person would be entitled to.

As already indicated, the EWSS replaced the TWSS from 1 September 2020. The scheme is an economy-wide enterprise support that operates differently to the TWSS in that it provides a flat-rate subsidy to qualifying employers (rather than employees) based on the numbers of eligible employees on the payroll and on the level of weekly gross pay to those employees. The qualifying criteria for subsidy payments require that the employer pays gross weekly wages to the eligible employee of between €151.50 and €1,462. There is no subsidy payable where the gross weekly wage is less than €151.50 or more than €1,462. The rates of subsidy payable to employers per employee are €350, €300, €250 and €203, based on the level of gross wages paid. The level of gross wages paid is a matter for the employer and employee to agree.

Revenue has advised me that taxpayer confidentiality prohibits the disclosure of any information regarding the specific employer’s operation of the EWSS.

Insurance Costs

 38. Deputy Patricia Ryan Information on Patricia  Ryan Zoom on Patricia  Ryan asked the Minister for Finance Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe if his attention has been drawn to the fact that insurance companies are charging double excess on claims, a policy excess and a voluntary excess, without informing customers in advance; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10610/21]

Minister for Finance (Deputy Paschal Donohoe): Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe I understand that the Deputy’s question relates to motor insurance. At the outset, it should be noted that neither I, nor the Central Bank of Ireland, can direct the pricing or policy conditions attached to insurance products, as this is a commercial matter. This position is reinforced by the EU Single Market framework for insurance (the Solvency II Directive) which expressly prohibits Member States from doing so.

The Central Bank’s Consumer Protection Code requires insurers to act honestly, fairly and professionally in the best interests of their customers and the integrity of the market. The Central Bank also requires insurers to make full disclosure of all relevant material information, including all charges, in a way that seeks to inform the customer and not to recklessly, negligently or deliberately mislead a customer as to the real or perceived advantages or disadvantages of any product or service. Furthermore, the Central Bank considers that information regarding an insurance policy excess is relevant, material information and as such that insurers are obliged to disclose this to prospective policyholders.

I also understand that a policyholder may choose to pay a voluntary excess on top of an existing policy excess, and that choosing this option may lower the overall premium.

In a situation where a customer feels they have been treated unfairly by a particular insurance provider in this regard, they have the option of making a complaint to the Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman (FSPO). The FSPO acts as an independent arbiter of disputes which consumers may have with their insurance company or other financial service provider. The FSPO can be contacted either by email at info@fspo.ie or by telephone at 01-567-7000.

Banking Sector

 39. Deputy Peadar Tóibín Information on Peadar Tóibín Zoom on Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Finance Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe the steps taken by his Department to ensure competition in the SME loan market; if his attention has been drawn to the impact the withdrawal of a bank (details supplied) will have on SME lending and financial services for rural communities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10646/21]

Minister for Finance (Deputy Paschal Donohoe): Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe As the Deputy will be aware one of the Government's key priorities is to ensure that viable SMEs continue to have access to credit from both bank and non-bank sources. However, the responsibility for competition policy rests with the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment and the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) which is an independent statutory body that is responsible for the enforcement of competition law in Ireland.

NatWest has outlined that an orderly phased withdrawal of Ulster Bank from the Irish market is to take place over a number of years. There is no immediate change for customers with full banking services to continue across all channels for existing and new customers. While NatWest has confirmed that it is negotiation with Permanent TSB and other strategic banking counterparties in relation to certain retail and SME assets, liabilities and operations, these negotiations are at an early stage.

Ulster Bank’s withdrawal from the Irish market must be undertaken in accordance with the provisions of Irish financial services legislation, including the Central Bank of Ireland’s codes of conduct. The Central Bank of Ireland has clear requirements that apply when firms cease operations or transfer operations to another entity. Customers must be informed about these decisions and given at least two months’ notice to move to alternative providers. If their loans are transferred, they must be given full details of the arrangements. Where a loan is sold or transferred to another regulated entity, the protections that were available to borrowers prior to the transaction continue to be in place with the new owner.

The Irish retail banking system is concentrated by international standards, with five retail banks accounting for the majority of new mortgage lending, and three retail banks accounting for the majority of new bank lending to SMEs. However, the wider context is one of improving competition in the provision of financial services, with new non-bank entities entering or expanding their operations in SME lending, including through loan guarantee schemes such as the Covid-19 Credit Guarantee Scheme.

As the Deputy may be aware, the Department of Finance published a paper in 2019 by Indecon Consulting on an Evaluation of the Concept of Community Banking in Ireland. This was a follow on to a previous paper on Local Public Banking published by the Department of Finance in 2018. The Indecon report concluded that there is no business case for the State to establish a public banking system in Ireland, supporting the outcome of the previous report on Local Public Banking. Indecon’s report also noted that there is extensive provision of and access to banking services through bank branches, credit union offices and An Post branches across the country, as well as a wide range of Exchequer funded existing supports.

It is also worth noting that the provision of financial services is evolving rapidly. These range from innovations in fintech to new initiatives from credit unions and the likes of An Post that are resulting in the provision of new services and products.

Credit Unions

 40. Deputy Peadar Tóibín Information on Peadar Tóibín Zoom on Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Finance Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe the recent engagement his Department has had with the three credit union representative bodies (details supplied) regarding the provision of SME lending and ensure the productive use of credit union members savings that are at present on deposit in the major retail banks; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10647/21]

Minister for Finance (Deputy Paschal Donohoe): Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe I met all of the representative bodies you refer to in September 2020, the third such meeting during 2020. In addition, Minister of State Fleming met two of the representative bodies you refer to in January 2021.

  The parties you refer to have outlined to us in these meetings their plans to support their members to grow lending, including through SME and mortgage lending and lending for retrofit.

  Credit unions have a low loan-to-asset ratio of c 26%. Of the €5.1 billion in loan book at 30 September 2020, €207 million was mortgage lending and a further €119 million was commercial lending.

  We are supportive of their plans to grow mortgage and SME lending either individually or in collaborative ventures. We also supported the involvement of nineteen credit unions in the Covid-19 Credit Guarantee Scheme which is operated by the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland on behalf of the Department of Enterprise Trade and Employment.

  Credit unions have the potential to develop further as community banks offering their members a wider range of products and services – including SME lending.   


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