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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 365-380
 Header Item Brexit Negotiations
 Header Item Brexit Negotiations
 Header Item Departmental Staff
 Header Item European Council Meetings
 Header Item Harbours and Piers
 Header Item Customs and Excise
 Header Item Areas of Natural Constraint Scheme
 Header Item Forestry Sector
 Header Item Departmental Communications
 Header Item Public Procurement Contracts
 Header Item Public Procurement Contracts
 Header Item Public Procurement Contracts
 Header Item Public Consultation Process
 Header Item European Council Meetings
 Header Item Public Procurement Contracts

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. 365-380

Brexit Negotiations

 365. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Charlie McConalogue Zoom on Charlie McConalogue the reason the Hague preferences were not invoked as part of the Brexit discussions and fishery arrangements to ensure Irish access to stocks did not fall below the agreed limits; if it could be still invoked; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10798/21]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Charlie McConalogue): Information on Charlie McConalogue Zoom on Charlie McConalogue The EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement will, unfortunately, have a negative impact on our fishing industry. However, this impact would have been far greater had the Barnier Task Force agreed to UK demands or had we been in a no-deal scenario which would have seen all EU vessels barred from UK waters and subsequent displacement into Ireland's fishing zone.

While the outcome on fisheries was a difficult compromise, this Government is working to ensure that the fisheries sector, and the coastal communities that depend on it, are supported. I advised the EU Fisheries Council in January and again at the meeting earlier this week that we consider that the quota transfers that fall to us in Ireland are disproportionate in terms of burden sharing. I have also made it clear that the inequitable relative contribution of quota share by Ireland is contributing to a strong sense of grievance within our fishing industry and indeed more broadly and Ireland will continue to push for a mechanism to be found within the EU Commission and relevant Member States to find solutions. Ireland intends to continue to keep the focus on this situation and use any opportunity available to seek constructive solutions that would help to alleviate this unacceptable position.

In relation to the Hague preferences, there are based on commitments made in Annex VII of Council Resolution of 3 November 1976 (the Hague Resolution) to take account of the vital needs of communities which were especially dependent on fishing when allocating fishing quotas to each of the Member States. This commitment was later quantified as specified minimum quantities of quota for certain fish stocks to be allocated to certain fisheries dependent communities. The regions to which they applied were Ireland, northern parts of the UK.

The Hague Resolution passed on 3 November 1976 introduced the 200nm Exclusive Fisheries Zone for all the Member States of the European Community as well as laying down a series of guidelines for the development of the Common Fisheries Policy and obtaining a mandate to begin negotiations with third countries with regards to obtaining access rights to their newly claimed territorial waters. Ireland did not have a long distance fleet at that time and could only support these measures on the basis of commitments that allowed it to develop its fishing fleet. The Hague Resolution was also intended to recognise the considerable burden placed on Ireland to control the large fishing grounds in its 200 zone.

There is strong opposition each year from some Member states to the application of the Hague Preferences, which provide Ireland (and previously the UK) with additional quota for key fish stocks. These Member States argue that the Hague Preferences were taken into account when allocations keys were first established in 1983.

Within the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) Regulation 1380/2013, the Hague Preferences are recognised as forming part of relative stability in the allocation of fish stocks between Member States. Ireland has consistently, and successfully, argued each year since that when quotas are set at EU level, the Hague preference must be applied. It is important to be aware that the matter was the subject of a European Court of Justice Judgment which found that the application of the Hague Preferences is not a legal entitlement and that its application is at the discretion of the EU Fisheries Council.

The EU/ UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement sets down in Annex Fish.1 the UK shares of fish stocks which are shared with the EU for the period 2021 to 2026 onwards. The share of the stocks set for the EU will be allocated within the EU under relative stability. In that regard, I can fully assure the Deputy that I will be requiring that the Hague Preferences are applied to relevant stocks, after the completion of the current consultations with the UK for establishing TACs for shared stocks, when the EU Council adopts EU Total Allowable Catches and quotas, which is expected at the March Fisheries Council.

As I have already advised, I am finalising plans to set up a Task Force involving seafood industry representatives and other stakeholders to provide recommendations on the appropriate measures that will best support the sector and the local coastal communities. I intend to set out in the arrangements and the terms of reference for this Task Force very shortly. I will ask the Task Force to focus immediately on possible arrangements for a temporary fleet tie-up scheme to counter the impacts of the reduction in quotas which will impact our fishing industry from the beginning of April. The Task Force will, I hope, also provide recommendations on a range of other actions and measures that will allow the sector and the coastal communities to adjust and develop so that both the direct and downstream future impacts on the wider seafood sector can be taken into account.

Any change to the existing system of quota allocations within the EU would require a majority of Member States to agree under the qualified majority voting system. This would require other Member States to give up existing quota shares. Any change to relative stability would involve a loss for some other Member States and therefore poses particular challenges in a qualified majority voting context.

The CFP is reviewed every 10 years and the next review is scheduled to be completed by 31 December 2022 when the European Commission will report to the European Parliament and the Council on the functioning of the CFP. The review is expected to be detailed and comprehensive. At EU level, it is expected that all stakeholders will have an opportunity to engage actively in the review work including the fishing industry, eNGOs and Member States.

I will consider how Ireland will prepare for and participate actively and effectively in the review, including the interaction with stakeholders to prepare Ireland's case and identify priorities.

Brexit Negotiations

 366. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Charlie McConalogue Zoom on Charlie McConalogue the reason the principle of relative stability was not invoked as part of the Brexit fishing arrangement to ensure that each country’s slice of fishing quota remains proportional, which clearly did not happen in the arrangement agreed; if it is too late to invoke it now; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10799/21]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Charlie McConalogue): Information on Charlie McConalogue Zoom on Charlie McConalogue The EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement will, unfortunately, have a negative impact on our fishing industry. However, this impact would have been far greater had the Barnier Task Force agreed to UK demands or had we been in a no-deal scenario which would have seen all EU vessels barred from UK waters and subsequent displacement into Ireland's fishing zone.

The Agreement sets out new arrangements for the joint management of more than 100 shared fish stocks in EU and UK waters. Under the Agreement, EU fishing vessels will continue to have the current level of access to UK waters until 2026, but with a reduction of EU quotas in UK waters over that time. The changes in shares of stocks between the EU and the UK are set out in the Annexes to the Agreement from 2021-2026 (onwards). The share of the stocks set for the EU will be allocated within the EU by the Fisheries Council under relative stability and I will be working to ensure that this includes the application of the Hague Preferences.

The share allocation of stocks between Member States was established as a principle of the first Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) in 1983 and was based on the average catch of each Member State over a period of reference years (track record). The only exception to this relates to the Hague Preferences, on the basis of a special recognition agreement of the underdeveloped nature of the Irish fleet and the heavy control responsibility on us when Ireland joined the EU. The Hague Preferences give Ireland an increased share of traditional stocks (cod, whiting, haddock, sole and plaice) when Total Allowable Catch (TAC) levels reduce below a specified level.

Any change to the existing system of quota allocations would require a majority of Member States to agree under the qualified majority voting system. This would require other Member States to give up existing quota shares. Any change to relative stability would involve a loss for some other Member States and therefore poses particular challenges in a qualified majority voting context.

The CFP is reviewed every 10 years and the next review is scheduled to be completed by 31 December 2022 when the European Commission will report to the European Parliament and the Council on the functioning of the CFP. The review is expected to be detailed and comprehensive. At EU level, it is expected that all stakeholders will have an opportunity to engage actively in the review work including the fishing industry, eNGOs and Member States.

I will consider how Ireland will prepare for and participate actively and effectively in the review, including the interaction with stakeholders to prepare Ireland's case and identify priorities.

While the outcome on fisheries was a difficult compromise, this Government is working to ensure that the fisheries sector, and the coastal communities that depend on it, are supported. I advised the EU Fisheries Council in January and again at the meeting earlier this week that we consider that the quota transfers that fall to us in Ireland are disproportionate in terms of burden sharing. I have also made it clear that the inequitable relative contribution of quota share by Ireland is contributing to a strong sense of grievance within our fishing industry and indeed more broadly and Ireland will continue to push for a mechanism to be found within the EU Commission and relevant Member States to find solutions. Ireland intends to continue to keep the focus on this situation and use any opportunity available to seek constructive solutions that would help to alleviate this unacceptable position.

The European Commission Brexit Adjustment Reserve (BAR) will provide support to counter the adverse consequences of the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union in Member States, regions and sectors, in particular those that are worst affected by that withdrawal, and to mitigate the related impact on the economic, social and territorial cohesion. I have listened carefully to the representatives of the fishing industry and I am reflecting on how to ensure that the funding made available to the sector is focused to meet the challenges of the sector and of the coastal communities most impacted.

I am finalising plans to set up a Task Force involving seafood industry representatives and other stakeholders to provide recommendations on the appropriate measures that will best support the sector and the local coastal communities. I intend to set out in the arrangements and the terms of reference for this Task Force very shortly. I will ask the Task Force to focus immediately on possible arrangements for a temporary fleet tie-up scheme to counter the impacts of the reduction in quotas which will impact our fishing industry from the beginning of April. The Task Force will, I hope, also provide recommendations on a range of other actions and measures that will allow the sector and the coastal communities to adjust and develop so that both the direct and downstream future impacts on the wider seafood sector can be taken into account.

My Department’s forthcoming Seafood Development Programme 2021-27 under the European Maritime Fisheries and Aquaculture Fund will also play an important role over the next seven years in assisting our seafood sector adjust to the impacts of the TCA.

Departmental Staff

 367. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Charlie McConalogue Zoom on Charlie McConalogue if it is planned to strengthen the staffing numbers in the marine sector of his Department by the appointment of new and extra senior staff in order to prepare fully and diligently to protect Ireland’s maritime interests during the forthcoming renegotiations of the Common Fisheries Policy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10800/21]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Charlie McConalogue): Information on Charlie McConalogue Zoom on Charlie McConalogue My Department uses workforce planning processes to identify the critical resources necessary to formulate long-term strategic policy development to encourage the continuing prosperity of Ireland’s agri-food sector, including the fisheries sector. Workforce planning is a key tool in enabling my Department to anticipate current and future staffing needs. The Workforce Plan aims to ensure that my Department has the right people, with the right levels of talent and skills, in each location and Division, doing the right thing at the right time.

As business needs arise, staff are allocated to support organisational priorities within my Department. Overall staffing levels within Divisions are continually monitored and staff are assigned to Divisions at all grade levels as business needs dictate.

The question of staffing levels in the State Agencies under the aegis of my Department is an operational matter, generally delegated to the Agencies themselves.

European Council Meetings

 368. 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 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. [10809/21]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Charlie McConalogue): Information on Charlie McConalogue Zoom on Charlie McConalogue Please see the details of physical and virtual meetings held since 27 June 2020 which are outlined in the table below:

Table

Harbours and Piers

 369. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Charlie McConalogue Zoom on Charlie McConalogue if his Department has a multi-annual programme for the development of the fishery harbours owned by his Department; the location in which details of this programme are published; the amount allocated to the programme in the current national development plan; if it is planned to review the programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10827/21]

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.

Funding is made available by my Department to the Fishery Harbour Centres by way of the Fishery Harbour and Coastal Infrastructure Development Programme. To clarify for the Deputy, this programme is operated on an annual basis and not on a multi-annual basis. While some larger projects by their very nature carry over into subsequent years, these are treated as contractual commitments in the capital programme and funding is made available for these commitments on an annual basis.

Each year, full details of the Fishery Harbour and Coastal Infrastructure Development Programme are made public. €30 million has been allocated to my Department’s 2021 Programme, and while no final decisions have been made in relation to the composition of the 2021 Programme, I hope to make an announcement on this shortly.

The National Development Plan 2018-2027 (NDP) sets out a 10-year programme of capital investment aimed at upgrading Ireland’s infrastructure, enhancing economic capacity and promoting balanced regional development. Under the NDP, a capital investment programme of up to €180 million across all six Fishery Harbour Centres, encompassing ongoing safety and maintenance and necessary new developments, is set out for commencement up to 2022. Ongoing improvements will be required thereafter. A review of the NDP is currently being undertaken by the Department of Public Expenditure & Reform and my Department is participating in this review process.

Customs and Excise

 370. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Charlie McConalogue Zoom on Charlie McConalogue the percentage of HGVs and containers arriving into Ireland from the United Kingdom that had the relevant phytosanitary paperwork done correctly; the percentage delayed due to faulty phytosanitary paperwork; the percentage that were inspected physically; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10839/21]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Charlie McConalogue): Information on Charlie McConalogue Zoom on Charlie McConalogue Up until 31stDecember 2020, consignments of plant and plant products could move freely between GB and Ireland without the need for phytosanitary checks. The changes that came into force on 1stJanuary , with the end of the UK transition period, are very significant changes, and understandably there some difficulties in the early weeks, complying with those requirements, while all in the supply chain adjusted to the ‘new’ reality. In some cases, these difficulties led to delays, whilst documents or clarifications were sought. In other cases, it required the trucks to be opened and the contents physically inspected.

  My officials based at the ports, have been working closely with importers and operators to help businesses adjust to these very significant changes. In response to this, the quality of documentation being submitted has been steadily improving. Currently approximately 80% of plant consignments are in compliance with documentary requirements. The percentage of plant loads that have been physically inspected since the 1st January, is approximately 45 %.

Areas of Natural Constraint Scheme

 371. Deputy Kieran O'Donnell Information on Kieran O'Donnell Zoom on Kieran O'Donnell asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Charlie McConalogue Zoom on Charlie McConalogue if the case of a person (details supplied) will be examined in a sympathetic manner, given the circumstances; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10841/21]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Charlie McConalogue): Information on Charlie McConalogue Zoom on Charlie McConalogue An application for participation in the 2019 Areas of Natural Constraint (ANC) Scheme was received from the person named on the 10th April 2019.

Under the terms and conditions of the scheme, in order to qualify for payment under the scheme, participants must meet minimum stocking retention and annual stocking density requirements. While the person named has met the minimum stocking retention requirements, they have not met the annual stocking density requirements.

My Department had not previously received an appeal in relation to the 2019 ANC scheme from the person named. On foot of this parliamentary question, a member of staff of my Department has contacted the person named and has requested the supporting documentation required to examine this matter as an appeal. On receipt of this information, my Department will review the matter and will then make contact with the person named once a decision has been made.

Forestry Sector

 372. Deputy Brendan Griffin Information on Brendan Griffin Zoom on Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Charlie McConalogue Zoom on Charlie McConalogue his views on a matter raised in correspondence by a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10853/21]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Charlie McConalogue): Information on Charlie McConalogue Zoom on Charlie McConalogue I welcome the interest shown by the organisation named to actively contribute with their ideas to Ireland’s forestry sector and we are more than open to engaging with all practical solutions to improve and enhance the position of the sector. I was heartened to read about the organisations’ work with younger farmers and I am in agreement that this is an area that should be expanded in the future.

I fully recognise the impact the current forestry licensing delays are having on private timber growers. Along with Minister of State Pippa Hackett who is responsible for forestry, it is my immediate priority to deal with this backlog and to issue licences in the volume needed to continue to contribute to our rural economy.

The Deputy will be aware of the delays caused by changes to the licensing system, which means that a significant number of cases now need ecological input to comply with environmental requirements. We are tackling these delays by means of a systematic project plan. In 2020, we invested heavily in resources including the recruitment of additional ecologists, forestry inspectorate and administrative staff, with extra resources to be added this year. This has already resulted in an increase in the number of licences issued, and the last quarter of 2020 saw the highest number of licences issued last year. In addition, January saw the highest number of licences issued in any one month since July 2019. So far this year, 568 licences have issued, which is well ahead of what we had delivered at the same time last year. We intend to build on this momentum and have committed to issuing 4,500 licences in 2021.

As regards the issues raised in relation to my Department’s Reconstitution and Underplanting Scheme, I would like to emphasise that this is a new Scheme which was opened for applications in June 2020. Two hundred and fifty applications have been received to date and decisions have been issued since the start of this year. No changes to the scheme are planned at this stage and I would like to point out that my Department has invested heavily since 2013 on breeding ash for resistance and there are many projects at an advanced stage.

I expect the implementation plan for the recommendations of the Mackinnon Report will be published this week and it will no doubt provide a framework for addressing the wide ranging issues faced by the forestry sector, including the way forward for forestry in Ireland, in terms of a new Forestry Strategy and Programme.

We look forward to active and constructive engagement from all interested parties across society to help shape this new vision.

I would like to reiterate that it is long-standing DAFM policy to encourage all forest producer groups to come together and have one collective, strong voice as part of this process.

Departmental Communications

 373. Deputy Michael Fitzmaurice Information on Michael Fitzmaurice Zoom on Michael Fitzmaurice asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Charlie McConalogue Zoom on Charlie McConalogue if a departmental official can block a member of the public from contacting any department official via his or her official departmental email; if so, the offence the member of the public must have committed to warrant the sanction; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10855/21]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Charlie McConalogue): Information on Charlie McConalogue Zoom on Charlie McConalogue My Department engages with many different types of stakeholders in the course of our business. Our Customer Charter and Customer Action plan commits us to treating everyone properly, fairly, impartially and with courtesy. We expect that our staff are engaged with in a similar way. Criticism of policy is, of course, not unusual and may at times be robust, but the norm is that there are respectful exchanges between the parties in the course of engagement with our sectors. A constructive working engagement between DAFM and our stakeholders is essential even if we do not always agree on some things. However, any approach that involves targeted personal abuse is a hindrance to this working relationship.

In cases where personal abuse is reported by a member of staff, the staff member concerned is entitled to inform the person that the abuse is unacceptable. Where this abuse is personalised and targeted and/or extended over a period of time, the staff member’s manager is entitled to take action out of a duty care for the staff member. This is particularly true where the person engaging in abuse has been informed that their interaction is unacceptable but continues with it. It would be remiss of the manager not to undertake such action in response in order to protect staff.

Thankfully, the vast majority of stakeholders engage in a positive and constructive manner and instances of abuse are rare. Similarly, the need for the Department to take action in such instances is also rare but must, on occasion, be undertaken.

Public Procurement Contracts

 374. Deputy Mairéad Farrell Information on Mairéad  Farrell Zoom on Mairéad  Farrell asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Charlie McConalogue Zoom on Charlie McConalogue 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. [11174/21]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Charlie McConalogue): Information on Charlie McConalogue Zoom on Charlie McConalogue My Department ensures that there is an appropriate focus on good practice in procurement and that procedures are in place to ensure compliance with relevant guidelines and legislation. EU and national rules promote an open, competitive and non-discriminatory public procurement regime which delivers value for money.

EU Directives declare that there can be legitimate reasons for awarding contracts non-competitively, such as extreme urgency brought about by unforeseeable events or if there is a single supplier to perform the contract. Therefore, a non-competitive procurement is not necessarily non-compliant with procurement rules.

Circular 40/02 issued by the Department of Finance requires my Department to report all contracts above €25,000 (exclusive of VAT) awarded without a competitive process to the Comptroller and Auditor General (C&AG) by 31 March of the following year. My Department is currently compiling the 2020 40/02 report.

Information on any instances of contracts awarded in 2020 and 2021, without a competitive process will be available in my Department's 2020 and 2021 Appropriation Accounts respectively which will be published by the Comptroller and Auditor General.

Public Procurement Contracts

 375. Deputy Mairéad Farrell Information on Mairéad  Farrell Zoom on Mairéad  Farrell asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Charlie McConalogue Zoom on Charlie McConalogue 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. [11203/21]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Charlie McConalogue): Information on Charlie McConalogue Zoom on Charlie McConalogue My Department ensures that there is an appropriate focus on good practice in procurement and that procedures are in place to ensure compliance with relevant guidelines and legislation. EU and national rules promote an open, competitive and non-discriminatory public procurement regime which delivers value for money.

EU Directives declare that there can be legitimate reasons for awarding contracts non-competitively, such as extreme urgency brought about by unforeseeable events or if there is a single supplier to perform the contract. Therefore, a non-competitive procurement is not necessarily non-compliant with procurement rules.

Circular 40/02 issued by the Department of Finance requires my Department to report all contracts above €25,000 (exclusive of VAT) awarded without a competitive process to the Comptroller and Auditor General (C&AG) by 31 March of the following year. My Department is currently compiling the 2020 40/02 report.

Information on any instances of contracts awarded in 2020 and 2021, without a competitive process will be available in my Department's 2020 and 2021 Appropriation Accounts respectively which will be published by the Comptroller and Auditor General.

Public Procurement Contracts

 376. Deputy Mairéad Farrell Information on Mairéad  Farrell Zoom on Mairéad  Farrell asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys further to Parliamentary Question No. 287 of 25 November 2020, if further details of six of the projects submitted by four library authorities (details supplied) that included a social consideration clause will be provided, in particular the value of each of these contracts; and the nature of the contract work and a description of the social clauses used therein in tabular form. [10787/21]

Minister for Rural and Community Development (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys Circular 20/2019 on Promoting the use of Environmental and Social Considerations in Public Procurement provides for public bodies to deliver wider social aims through their procurement processes by the inclusion of social considerations, such as the promotion of social enterprises.

  The purpose of such a clause is to support the inclusion of social enterprises in public procurement given their not-for-private-profit nature and their ability to deliver the same quality product or service but with potentially wider social benefits.

  My Department approved funding of €691,231 for the provision of sensory facilities and equipment in public libraries across 30 library authorities on 27 February 2020.

  Six of the projects submitted for approval by the four library authorities in question included a public procurement social consideration clause and details of these projects are provided in the attached file.

Table

Public Consultation Process

 377. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys when it is planned to publish the outcome of the public consultation on the Control of Dogs Act 1986 pertaining to dog breeds; the reason for the delay in doing same; when it is planned to make recommendations as a result of this consultation exercise; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10807/21]

Minister for Rural and Community Development (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys The issues raised in the approximately 1,000 submissions to the public consultation relating to the control of dogs in Ireland are wide ranging, complex and require analysis, further consultation with stakeholders and an exploration of approaches in other jurisdictions.

This process 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 give rise to a consideration of changes to primary or secondary legislation. My Department is examining these and other points as part of a review of the legislation in this area and is now identifying any necessary legislative amendments that may be required with a view to inclusion in the Government's legislative programme.

European Council Meetings

 378. Deputy Denis Naughten Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys the number of formal and informal Council of the European Union meetings that have been held since 27 June 2020 under the remit of her Department; and the number of formal and informal meetings, respectively held virtually. [10822/21]

Minister for Rural and Community Development (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys I do not currently attend any specific Council of the European Union fora, either formal or informal, in my role as Minister for Rural and Community Development.

Public Procurement Contracts

 379. Deputy Mairéad Farrell Information on Mairéad  Farrell Zoom on Mairéad  Farrell asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys 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 her Department. [11185/21]

 380. Deputy Mairéad Farrell Information on Mairéad  Farrell Zoom on Mairéad  Farrell asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys the breakdown of procurement contracts for Covid-19-related spending in 2020 and 2021 that took place via negotiated procedure without prior publication by her Department, by goods and service type in tabular form. [11216/21]

Minister for Rural and Community Development (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys I propose to take Questions Nos. 379 and 380 together.

  I can confirm that no contracts for Covid-19 related spending for my Department, in 2020 or to date in 2021, took place via negotiated procedure without prior publication.


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