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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 1081-1103
 Header Item Research and Development
 Header Item Greyhound Industry
 Header Item Horse Racing Ireland
 Header Item Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority
 Header Item Teagasc Activities
 Header Item Fishing Industry
 Header Item Agriculture Schemes
 Header Item Animal Diseases
 Header Item Animal Welfare
 Header Item Agriculture Industry
 Header Item National Broadband Plan
 Header Item Agrifood Sector
 Header Item Public Procurement Contracts
 Header Item Covid-19 Pandemic
 Header Item Departmental Reports
 Header Item Broadband Infrastructure
 Header Item Covid-19 Pandemic Supports
 Header Item Covid-19 Pandemic Supports
 Header Item Tourism Industry
 Header Item National Broadband Plan

Wednesday, 3 March 2021

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 1004 No. 7
Unrevised

First Page Previous Page Page of 112 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 1081-1103

Research and Development

 1081. 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 the position regarding funding for wool research (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11625/21]

 1084. Deputy Claire Kerrane Information on Claire Kerrane Zoom on Claire Kerrane asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Charlie McConalogue Zoom on Charlie McConalogue if his attention has been drawn to greatly reduced prices for sheep farmers when it comes to low prices for sheared wool; the action he will take to better support farmers when it comes to sheared wool; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11707/21]

 1085. Deputy Claire Kerrane Information on Claire Kerrane Zoom on Claire Kerrane asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Charlie McConalogue Zoom on Charlie McConalogue if he will explore new industry using wool production in Ireland given that it will be used to a greater extent for insulation purposes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11708/21]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Charlie McConalogue): Information on Charlie McConalogue Zoom on Charlie McConalogue I propose to take Questions Nos. 1081, 1084 and 1085 together.

  Wool production is an important component of agri-industry. It is a sustainable, organic, renewable natural material which can be used in a wide range of products such as textiles, fertilisers, insulation and packaging.

  I was delighted to be in a position to recently announce the allocation of the significant amount of €100,000 for the review of the potential demand in international markets for wool-based products such as insulation and fertilisers and which will assist in developing a roadmap for the Irish wool industry.

  I am now very pleased to be able to advise that the proposed Terms of Reference to implement this review will be published on the Departments website www.agriculture.gov.ie under ‘Consultations’ in the coming week. The proposed terms of reference include but are not limited to the identification of market opportunities domestically and internationally for wool based products; carrying out economic feasibility and cost benefit analysis on proposed market opportunities; determining mechanisms that could be used to support industry initiatives and identification of potential research projects applicable to supporting the identified market opportunities.

  Interested parties will be invited to submit comments on the proposed Terms of Reference and/or submissions on the potential market opportunities for wool products on the domestic and international market by email. Further details will be available on publication of the terms on the DAFM website.

Table

Greyhound Industry

 1082. Deputy Catherine Murphy Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Charlie McConalogue Zoom on Charlie McConalogue the amount per year Greyhound Racing Ireland has received in respect of rental income derived from allowing companies to take a fixing on telecoms and or communications masts located at their race stadiums over the past ten years to date. [11628/21]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Charlie McConalogue): Information on Charlie McConalogue Zoom on Charlie McConalogue Rásaíocht Con Éireann (RCÉ) is a commercial state body, established under the Greyhound Industry Act, 1958 chiefly to control greyhound racing and to improve and develop the greyhound industry. RCÉ is a body corporate and a separate legal entity to the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

The question raised by the Deputy is an operational matter for RCÉ and, therefore, the question has been referred to the body for direct reply.

Horse Racing Ireland

 1083. Deputy Catherine Murphy Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Charlie McConalogue Zoom on Charlie McConalogue the amount per year Horse Racing Ireland has received in respect of rental income derived from allowing companies to take a fixing on telecoms and or communications masts located at their race stadiums over the past ten years to date. [11629/21]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Charlie McConalogue): Information on Charlie McConalogue Zoom on Charlie McConalogue Horse Racing Ireland (HRI) is a commercial state body established under the Horse and Greyhound Racing Act, 2001, and is responsible for the overall administration, promotion and development of the horse racing industry.

  The question raised by the Deputy is an operational matter for HRI and I have requested my officials to refer the question to them for direct reply.

  Questions Nos. 1084 and 1085 answered with Question No. 1081.

Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority

 1086. Deputy Verona Murphy Information on Verona Murphy Zoom on Verona Murphy asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Charlie McConalogue Zoom on Charlie McConalogue the number of Irish-registered fishing vessels that have been inspected by the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority since the introduction of the 2020 European Union (Common Fisheries Policy)(Points System) Regulations 2020 on 28 August 2020; the number of infringements determined and penalty points issued; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11765/21]

 1087. Deputy Verona Murphy Information on Verona Murphy Zoom on Verona Murphy asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Charlie McConalogue Zoom on Charlie McConalogue the number of foreign-registered fishing vessels that have been inspected by the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority since the introduction of the 2020 European Union (Common Fisheries Policy)(Points System) Regulations 2020 on 28 August 2020; the number of infringements determined and penalty points issued; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11766/21]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Charlie McConalogue): Information on Charlie McConalogue Zoom on Charlie McConalogue I propose to take Questions Nos. 1086 and 1087 together.

The monitoring and control of fishing vessels within Ireland’s Exclusive Fisheries Zone are matters for the Irish control authorities. Under the Sea Fisheries and Maritime Jurisdiction Act, 2006, all operational issues of this nature concerning sea fisheries control are, as a matter of law, exclusively for the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority and the Naval Service. As Minister I am precluded from getting involved in operational matters including in relation to the operation of the points system for sea fishing boat licence holders as provided for under the European Union (Common Fisheries Policy) (Points System)Regulations 2020 (SI No 318 of 2020).

I have accordingly referred the Deputy's questions to the SFPA for attention and direct reply.

Teagasc Activities

 1088. Deputy Pauline Tully Information on Pauline  Tully Zoom on Pauline  Tully asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Charlie McConalogue Zoom on Charlie McConalogue if he will provide additional funding to enable Teagasc to recruit both permanent and temporary education officers in a college (details supplied) in order to meet the growing demand for green certificate courses, which currently have a waiting list exceeding 100; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11813/21]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Charlie McConalogue): Information on Charlie McConalogue Zoom on Charlie McConalogue My Department has been proactively engaging with Teagasc to maximise participation in the Green Cert. Since 2014, some 9,000 people have been accommodated on the Cert with the assistance of additional temporary teachers to help bridge resource to demand deficits in some areas.

As demand continues to remain strong, I have now secured a new approval from the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform that will enable Teagasc recruit a further 20 Green Cert teachers on two year contracts. It will increase the number of available places on the part-time and distance education Green Cert options by between 800 to 1,000.

I understand that Teagasc will assign 15 of the temporary teachers to the Northwest and Northeast of the country where demand for the Green Cert is most acute. All of the posts are self-financing with fee income from the additional enrolments covering salary and related costs.

Teagasc has also appointed an additional three permanent teachers to the Northwest and Northeast catchment.

Fishing Industry

 1089. 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 boats (details supplied) have been put forward by his Department to the EU Commission for authorisation by the UK authorities for fishing rights in the zero to six nautical mile region off the Northern Ireland coasts; the dates these were forwarded; when a decision is expected on this application; the reason for the delay; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11837/21]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Charlie McConalogue): Information on Charlie McConalogue Zoom on Charlie McConalogue The Voisinage (or “neighbourhood”) arrangements between Ireland and Northern Ireland have provided reciprocal fishing access for more than 50 years. These arrangements have allowed boats from Northern Ireland to fish in coastal waters in Ireland. They also have allowed Irish-registered sea-fishing boats access to fish in coastal waters in Northern Ireland.

  The European Commission has confirmed that the arrangements are preserved under the EU-UK Trade & Co-operation Agreement by Article FISH.19 ‘Relationship with other agreements’. The application of the arrangements post-Brexit is governed by the Sustainable Management of External Fishing Fleets Regulation (2017/2403).

  My Department contacted Irish sea-fishing boat owners to establish those who wish to be authorised to fish in the Northern Ireland 0-6 nautical mile zone. My Department has regularly submitted lists of the applicant vessels to the European Commission seeking authorisation for them to fish in the Northern Ireland 0-6 nautical mile zone. However, none have yet been authorised to fish in the Northern Ireland 0-6 nautical mile zone by the UK authorities. My Department is continuing to review applications from Irish sea-fishing boat owners, and a further list of those seeking authorisation to fish in the Northern Ireland 0-6 nautical mile zone will be submitted to the European Commission shortly.

  I can confirm that the boats specified by the Deputy were included in a list of boats my Department submitted to the European Commission on 15 January.

Agriculture Schemes

 1090. Deputy Thomas Pringle Information on Thomas Pringle Zoom on Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Charlie McConalogue Zoom on Charlie McConalogue the grants available for outer farm building that are used for residential proposes on active farmland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11860/21]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Charlie McConalogue): Information on Charlie McConalogue Zoom on Charlie McConalogue There are no grants available in my Department for outer farm buildings that are used for residential purposes.

  There are grants available for the restoration and preservation of traditional farm buildings which are used for agricultural purposes, and structures such as historic yard surfaces, walls, gates and gate pillars under the GLAS Traditional Farm Building Scheme which will open in March 2021 for new applications.

  The scheme is open to applicants who participate in the GLAS Scheme and it is jointly funded by the Department of Agriculture, Food & the Marine under the transitional arrangements for Ireland’s 2014 - 2020 Rural Development Programme.

  The grant available can range between €4,000 and €25,000 and it can cover up to 75% of the cost of the works which is subject to a maximum ceiling.

Animal Diseases

 1091. 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 regarding vaccination against TB (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12017/21]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Charlie McConalogue): Information on Charlie McConalogue Zoom on Charlie McConalogue Bovine Tuberculosis (bTB) is a highly infectious disease of cattle caused by a bacterium called Mycobacterium bovis (M. bovis). At present, there is no legal vaccine available to use against bTB in cattle. The Bacille Calmette Guérin (BCG) vaccine is not approved for use in cattle. In addition, it is impossible to distinguish between a BCG-vaccinated and TB-infected bovine therefore the vaccination of cattle against bTB is forbidden under EU and international law.

  Scientific research is being carried out to develop a test that can differentiate between infected and vaccinated animals. Until such a test is developed and receives both EU and international approval, Ireland's current bTB testing protocol as per EU regulations will continue.

  In relation to the eradication of this disease, I recently launched a new Bovine TB Eradication Strategy 2021-2030. The implementation of this strategy will be overseen by the established Bovine TB Stakeholders Forum along with support from three working groups on science, implementation and finance, ensuring that all aspects of the Strategy are addressed. As we are dealing with an infectious disease, the strategy is not set in stone - it is a living document which will be subject to amendment and refinement on an on-going basis. This new bTB Strategy is available on www.bovinetb.ie.

At the most recent Forum meeting on Thursday 4th February 2021, it was agreed by all stakeholders that extensive consultation, on the implementation of the Strategy, as part of the Forum process, will develop a shared understanding of how collectively we can reduce TB incidence. My Department remains committed to reducing and ultimately eradicating bTB in Ireland. Attaining bTB-free status remains critical from a farm family profitability and sustainability perspective and from a trade perspective at national and at international level. I am acutely conscious that every bTB restriction represents a significant emotional and financial challenge to the farm family concerned.

  I want to work with all stakeholders in ensuring fewer herd owners experience the challenges associated with a bTB restriction and that we work purposefully towards eradication of this disease, thus eliminating this on-going cost on farmers and the State.

Animal Welfare

 1092. Deputy Joan Collins Information on Joan Collins Zoom on Joan Collins asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Charlie McConalogue Zoom on Charlie McConalogue the European intervention that has been taken to resolve the situation in which 2,500 cows are stranded on the high seas since they left Spain on 18 December 2020 (details supplied); if he will intervene with his European counterparts to organise a quarantine arrangement for these cattle in safe conditions and to have them disembarked from the ships as soon as possible; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12023/21]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Charlie McConalogue): Information on Charlie McConalogue Zoom on Charlie McConalogue The welfare of animals during transport is of paramount importance to me and to my Department. The specific matter that the Deputy raises is an issue for the Member State who certified the consignment for export and for the European Commission. It is not appropriate for me to comment further on that specific matter.

My Department implements a stringent system of controls on the welfare of animals being exported from Ireland, in particular through a comprehensive legislative framework relating to the transport of animals by sea (The Carriage of Livestock by Sea Regulations 2016 (S.I. 356 of 2016). Ships must be approved by my Department in advance of exporting cattle from Ireland. Furthermore, animals are inspected and certified by Official Veterinarians from the Department with regard to their health status and fitness for travel.

My Department will continue to work closely with other EU Member States and the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), with a view to improving animal welfare practices worldwide.

Agriculture Industry

 1093. 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 regarding the case of a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12033/21]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Charlie McConalogue): Information on Charlie McConalogue Zoom on Charlie McConalogue Applications from existing and eligible Beef Data and Genomics Programme (BDGP) particpants for the rollover scheme in 2021 were accepted through the Agfood.ie online portal from 15th December to 15th January 2021. No application was submitted by the person named during that period.

On 27th January 2021, an appeal was received by my Department from the person named asking to be included in the programme. A letter denying this appeal issued to the herdowner on 15th February 2021. However in light of the new information provided here, that decision has been re-examined and arrangements to facilitate the participation of this herdowner in the scheme for 2021 are being made.

Officials from my Department will contact the person named shortly to explain the process.

National Broadband Plan

 1094. Deputy Sean Sherlock Information on Sean Sherlock Zoom on Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Charlie McConalogue Zoom on Charlie McConalogue if he has engaged with National Broadband Ireland on any aspect of broadband provision in the past six months; and the outcome of any engagement. [12113/21]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Charlie McConalogue): Information on Charlie McConalogue Zoom on Charlie McConalogue I wish to advise the Deputy that my Department did not engage with National Broadband Ireland on any aspect of broadband provision in the past six months.

Agrifood Sector

 1095. Deputy Holly Cairns Information on Holly Cairns Zoom on Holly Cairns asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Charlie McConalogue Zoom on Charlie McConalogue the steps he is taking in response to the withdrawal of the environmental pillar from the 2030 Agri-Food Strategy Committee; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12178/21]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Charlie McConalogue): Information on Charlie McConalogue Zoom on Charlie McConalogue The agri-food sector has benefited from an approach to strategic planning through the development of 10-year stakeholder-led strategies, updated every five years. Since their inception twenty years ago, up to the current Food Wise 2025 plan, these strategies have ensured that the sector has a coherent, stakeholder-led vision and strategy to underpin the sector's continued development.

A Committee consisting of a broad range of stakeholders, including representatives from all parts of the food supply chain, academics, NGOs and State agencies, and chaired by Tom Arnold, was established in late 2019, and tasked with developing the agri-food strategy to 2030.

The Committee's terms of reference are to outline the vision and key objectives, with associated actions, required to ensure the economic, environmental and social sustainability of the agri-food sector in the decade ahead. Developing this strategy is a commitment of the Programme for Government.

I regret the decision of the Environmental Pillar to withdraw from the process, especially as it has not yet concluded. I have already said that I hope they will reconsider that decision and engage in the process as they still have an important role to play in the development of the Strategy to 2030.

Public Procurement Contracts

 1096. 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 details of contracts of €25,000 or more that have been awarded by her Department or bodies under her aegis that were found to be non-compliant with procurement guidelines in 2018, 2019, 2020 and to date in 2021; the value and nature of the contact work carried out in each case; the year of each contract, in tabular form; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11383/21]

Minister for Rural and Community Development (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys All procurement within my Department takes place in the context of national procurement guidance, and national and EU requirements and regulations. My Department has not awarded any contracts over €25,000 (excluding VAT) which were found to be non-compliant with these requirements over the period 1 January 2018 to-date.

  I would note that during this period there have been two contracts over €25,000 (excluding VAT) awarded through direct award, where a competitive tender process was not conducted, but these were in compliance with exemptions permitted. I have set out, for the sake of completeness, details of these contracts which were not subject to a competitive process, but were in full compliance with procurement guidelines.

  With regard to the four bodies under the aegis of my Department, (Pobal, Water Safety Ireland, The Charities Regulator and the Western Development Commission), day to day operational matters, including contract award and compliance with procurement requirements are matters for the individual agencies concerned. The procedures for procurement by State Bodies are set out in the Code of Practice for the Governance of State Bodies and, in accordance with this Code of Practice, it is the responsibility of each Board to satisfy itself that public procurement requirements are adhered to.

  In line with these responsibilities I have asked my officials to contact the agencies to provide you with the information requested by separate cover, within the next ten working days. Please advise my private office if you do not receive a response within ten working days.

Company/Entity Contract > €25k (excluding VAT)
‘Version 1’ Contract to develop a bespoke Information Technology system to manage the LEADER 2007-2013 programme was initially awarded 28/4/2008, by way of a competitive process. The system requires ongoing maintenance and updates. A contract for this was signed on 23/12/2019, covering the period 1 January 2020 to 31 December 2023. €35,154
ESRI - Research Partnership Two-year research agreement between DRCD and ESRI to facilitate research and analysis to (i) support the monitoring and development of rural and community development policy, and (ii) helping develop a framework for monitoring and evaluation of rural and community development programmes. Non-competitive award is provided for in line with Article 14 of Directive 2014/24/EU. €210,000

Covid-19 Pandemic

 1097. Deputy Carol Nolan Information on Carol Nolan Zoom on Carol Nolan asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys the details of the meetings, correspondence and engagements she and her officials have had with a group (details supplied); if she will specifically address the concerns outlined by the group; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11415/21]

Minister for Rural and Community Development (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys I wish to advise the Deputy that there have been no meetings or engagement between this organisation and my Department.

Departmental Reports

 1098. Deputy Bríd Smith Information on Bríd Smith Zoom on Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys if she will provide the necessary resources such as communications and an index for the Crowe report issued in December 2020 which the new board of Waterford Area Partnership is expected to respond to but which will require assistance in doing so. [11717/21]

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 I remain concerned about the challenges currently facing Waterford Area Partnership. The Partnership delivers many programmes and schemes locally on behalf of Government, including SICAP, Tús, Jobs Initiative and Local Employment Services. These services are very important and provide assistance to people in the Waterford City and County area who are experiencing disadvantage and to the wider community and voluntary sector. The continuation of these services remains my priority.

The Partnership is an independent company - I have no direct role or contact with the Board. Once again, I would encourage the Partnership to continue to engage with the LCDC and the Local Authority to gain any clarity needed and to work to address the issues raised in the recent report prepared by Crowe Ireland.

I know that Waterford City and County Council, along with both of my Departments, are monitoring the situation closely and continue to support the company, while remaining conscious of its independent status. The overall objective for all concerned is to try and ensure that vital services continue to be delivered to the people of Waterford.

Broadband Infrastructure

 1099. 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 these declared live from 26 January 2021 to date; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11812/21]

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 at publicly accessible sites in rural and isolated areas of the country.

  Sites are provided with a wireless connection by National Broadband Ireland (NBI), the company contracted to deliver the NBP in the State intervention area. Vodafone Ireland then install customer premises equipment (control boxes/switches and WiFi access points) which enables broadband services to be fully operational. This connection will remain in place until the sites have been given a permanent connection under the NBP.

  The total number of BCPs by county, and the number which have been accepted as fully "live" by my officials, are outlined on the table below.

  To date, 152 sites have been reviewed and accepted as fully "live" by my officials. 39 of these sites have gone "live" since 26 January.

  The location of all BCPs which have been installed or which are planned at any point in time is available on NBI's website, at https://nbi.ie/bcp-map/. This map is updated on a regular basis and will imminently reflect the increased number of live sites.

  Vodafone are continuing to install sites as and when they become available from the NBI.

  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. My officials are also exploring the use of BCPs as educational settings, as locations for eHealth services and as locations for the creative arts.

County Total BCPs Live BCPs
CARLOW 8 4
CAVAN 12 8
CLARE 7 4
CORK 18 12
DONEGAL 12 8
DUBLIN 9 4
GALWAY 20 5
KERRY 9 6
KILDARE 4 2
KILKENNY 6 6
LAOIS 4 4
LEITRIM 12 5
LIMERICK 14 2
LONGFORD 8 6
LOUTH 7 7
MAYO 15 9
MEATH 15 8
MONAGHAN 15 10
OFFALY 9 7
ROSCOMMON 8 7
SLIGO 7 2
TIPPERARY 18 7
WATERFORD 4 4
WESTMEATH 7 5
WEXFORD 10 7
WICKLOW 10 3
Grand Total 268 152

Covid-19 Pandemic Supports

 1100. 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 her plans to introduce a special package of supports for island businesses affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, particularly in the hospitality and tourism sectors given the unique challenges of running a business on the islands (details supplied); if not, if she has had discussions with other relevant Ministers to request that they would do so in view of her responsibility for island policy; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11858/21]

Minister for Rural and Community Development (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys COVID-19 has affected communities across the country and the Government has addressed the question of supports for businesses on a national basis. A range of specific supports have been put in place to support the hospitality and tourism sectors. These include:

  - A reduction in VAT from 13.5% to 9% until 31 December 2021

  - The “Stay and Spend” tax credit initiative

  - A €26 million Adaptation Grant for the tourism sector

  - A €10 million grant for coach tourism

  - A €55 million Tourism Business Continuity Scheme

  The Government has also developed and delivered a series of schemes that may be availed of by island businesses and communities, including:

  - Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme

  - Covid Restrictions Support Scheme

  - Covid-19 Credit Guarantee scheme

  - Covid-19 Business Aid Scheme

  - Covid-19 Business loans Scheme

  - Covid-19 Working Capital Scheme

  - Enterprise Support Grant

  - Covid-19 Business Financial Planning Grant

  I was also pleased, earlier this year, to be able to announce an increase in the Island Allowance paid to Social Welfare recipients on our islands, to assist with the additional costs of living on an island.

  As the Deputy will also be aware, a new Islands Policy is currently being developed by my Department. The purpose of this policy, and its associated action plan, is to work to address specific issues affecting island communities. These issues fall under the remit of many Government Departments and agencies.

  Having completed the initial consultation phase, my officials are now in the process of holding bilateral meeting with relevant Departments to identify additional policy measures which can be introduced to support our island communities.

Covid-19 Pandemic Supports

 1101. Deputy Neale Richmond Information on Neale Richmond Zoom on Neale Richmond asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys if a charity (details supplied) has availed of funding under the Covid-19 stability fund; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12001/21]

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 The Government is aware of the challenges facing community and voluntary organisations and is committed to working closely with the sector in managing through these, recognising that it will require a whole of Government approach.

  In 2020, my Department provided support through the €45m COVID 19 Stability Fund for organisations in the Community and Voluntary Sector, Charities and Social Enterprises. The Fund was intended to be a targeted once-off cash injection for organisations and groups delivering critical front-line services to the most at need in our society and in danger of imminent closure due to lost fund-raised or traded income as a direct result of restrictions to counter the spread of COVID-19.

  This Fund was made available in conjunction with many other Government supports. The Fund is providing up to €45million of funding through the Dormant Accounts Fund (DAF) and the criteria is aligned with DAF objectives to support:

  1.The personal and social development of persons who are economically or socially disadvantaged; or

  2.The educational development of persons who are educationally disadvantaged; or

  3.Persons with a disability.

  My Department received 1,060 applications during the application periods. Funding of over €43m, including an additional €10M in funding announced during Budget 2021, has been approved to over 600 organisations to date and the payment processes for this funding remain ongoing.

  An additional €10M has been allocated to the Stability Fund as part of the Covid-19 Resilience and Recovery 2021 plan announced by the Taoiseach on Tuesday 23rd February. Further details on how relevant organisations can apply for this funding will be available shortly.

  I can confirm that the organisation in question submitted an application to the Stability Fund in 2020 and was awarded €272,970.

Tourism Industry

 1102. Deputy Eoghan Murphy Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys if consideration was given to potential negative impacts on the Kerry International Dark Sky Reserve, the only gold tier reserve in the northern hemisphere, in its discussions with a company (details supplied) on the siting of its pilot communications antennae project. [12038/21]

Minister for Rural and Community Development (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys My Department's mission is to promote rural and community development and to support vibrant, inclusive and sustainable communities throughout Ireland. As part of this objective, my Department engages with a wide variety of organisations and stakeholders to improve access to mobile phone and broadband services throughout rural Ireland.

Late last year, officials at my Department were contacted by a company which was interested in exploring possible sites for a small-scale pilot deployment of the company's equipment in the State, in line with the provisions of a trial license issued by the Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg).

The company was provided with the contact details for the Local Authority Broadband Officers. They also addressed the monthly Broadband Officers network meeting on 25 February 2021.

It is not within the remit or expertise of my Department to assess the company's equipment or its planned pilot deployment. The decision to proceed with the pilot is a matter for the relevant Local Authority. My Department has had no role in the matter beyond the introductions that it made to the Broadband Officers.

National Broadband Plan

 1103. 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 she has engaged with National Broadband Ireland on any aspect of broadband provision in the past six months; and the outcome of any engagement. [12126/21]

Minister for Rural and Community Development (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys The National Broadband Plan (NBP) will bring reliable high-speed broadband to approximately 540,000 premises across the State, primarily in rural and isolated areas. These premises include homes, farms, community and health facilities, schools, and businesses.

National Broadband Ireland (NBI) has been contracted by the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications to deliver the NBP in areas where connectivity is not commercially viable and, as such, responsibility for the NBP contract is a matter for the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications.

Notwithstanding this, the impact of the NBP rollout will be transformational for rural Ireland in terms of supporting both local economies and sustainable communities.

In my capacity as Minister for Rural and Community Development, I met with National Broadband Ireland in late February 2021 for an update on the progress of the NBP project, including the provision of connectivity to Broadband Connection Points (BCPs). BCPs are among the first deliverables under the NBP contract and are a vital service for communities within the NBP State intervention area.

NBI outlined recent positive developments, with the first high-speed broadband connections in the State intervention area taking place at homes in counties Cork and Cavan. NBI also outlined its plans to improve information to the public on when individual areas are likely to be connected.

NBI also explained the work they are undertaking to carry out a comprehensive survey of the requirements of each area, including pole and ducting infrastructure, to prepare for the installation of broadband. The potential to accelerate the rollout of the NBP project was also discussed.

The National Broadband Plan will have a profound impact on the future of our country and will provide new opportunities for rural areas in particular. These include improved career opportunities for those living in rural areas, facilitating smart farming, allowing employers to access the pool of talent that resides outside our large towns and cities, and the provision of services such as eHealth and eLearning.


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