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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 2079-2099
 Header Item Outdoor Recreation Infrastructure Scheme
 Header Item Town and Village Renewal Scheme
 Header Item CLÁR Programme
 Header Item Rural Regeneration and Development Fund
 Header Item Departmental Transport
 Header Item Community Banking
 Header Item Community Welfare Services
 Header Item Western Development Commission
 Header Item Social Enterprise Sector
 Header Item Social Enterprise Sector
 Header Item Dormant Accounts Fund
 Header Item Social Enterprise Sector
 Header Item LEADER Programmes
 Header Item Broadband Infrastructure
 Header Item Departmental Expenditure
 Header Item Departmental Administrative Arrangements

Wednesday, 24 March 2021

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 1005 No. 3
Unrevised

First Page Previous Page Page of 157 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 2079-2099

Outdoor Recreation Infrastructure Scheme

 2079. Deputy Brendan Griffin Information on Brendan Griffin Zoom on Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys if funding will be provided under stream 3 of the outdoor recreation infrastructure scheme for the application relating to Killarney National Park in recognition of the significant economic activity stimulated by the park; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15063/21]

Minister for Rural and Community Development (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys There has been a strong level of  interest in the Outdoor Recreation Infrastructure Scheme (ORIS) since it was introduced in 2017.  In 2020 alone, 287 applications were received by my Department under the scheme, seeking funding of over €26 million, which greatly exceeded the budget available.

Under the 2020 scheme, I have approved 226 projects, with 61 applications being unsuccessful. 

An application for the project referred to by the Deputy was received by my Department under Measure 3 of the scheme.  On 22nd March last, I announced details of the 14 projects under Measure 3 that have been approved for funding of €6 million.  Unfortunately, it was not possible to support all of the applications within the available budget and the project relating to Killarney National Park was unsuccessful on this occasion. 

Local Authorities will have the opportunity to submit revised applications in respect of the unsuccessful projects to the 2021 scheme which I expect to launch shortly.

Town and Village Renewal Scheme

 2080. Deputy Brendan Griffin Information on Brendan Griffin Zoom on Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys if her Department has received an application from Kerry County Council under the town and village renewal scheme since its inception in respect of Boolteens and Castlemaine, County Kerry; if so, the details of the application; the dates and project proposals of same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15064/21]

Minister for Rural and Community Development (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys I can confirm my Department has not received an application from Kerry County Council under the Town and Village Renewal Scheme in respect of  Boolteens or Castlemaine since the establishment of the scheme in 2016.

The scheme is one of a series of national and local support measures designed to rejuvenate small rural towns and villages throughout Ireland. It is administered by Local Authorities on behalf of my Department.  Under the scheme, expressions of interest are sought by the relevant local authority from local community groups. These are evaluated by the Local Authorities and a number are forwarded to my Department for consideration.

Since its  launch in 2016, over €93 million has been approved to progress over 1,340 projects under the Town and Village Renewal Scheme.

CLÁR Programme

 2081. Deputy Brendan Griffin Information on Brendan Griffin Zoom on Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys if her Department has received an application from Kerry County Council under the CLÁR scheme since its inception in respect of Boolteens and Castlemaine, County Kerry; if so, the details of the application; the dates and project proposals of same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15065/21]

Minister for Rural and Community Development (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys The CLÁR programme provides funding for small scale projects in rural areas that have experienced significant levels of de-population in the past. 

  I can confirm that no application has been received under the CLÁR programme from Kerry County Council in respect of Boolteens, Co. Kerry since the scheme was relaunched in 2016.

  One application was received from Kerry County Council in 2020 in respect of Castlemaine. This application was submitted for Milltown/Castlemaine GAA Club under CLÁR Measure 2 - Community Recreation Areas.

  This application, for the construction of an outdoor socialising area with canopy, storage units, and toilet facilities, was successful and was approved funding of €32,400 on 2nd November 2020. To date, no funding has been drawn down on this project.

I launched the 2021 CLÁR programme on 15 March and further details can be found on the Gov.ie website at:   https://www.gov.ie/en/policy-information/91ba52-clar/?section=2021-clar-measures

Rural Regeneration and Development Fund

 2082. Deputy Brendan Griffin Information on Brendan Griffin Zoom on Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys if her Department has received an application from Kerry County Council under the rural regeneration scheme since its inception in respect of Boolteens and Castlemaine, County Kerry; if so, the details of the application; the dates and project proposals of same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15066/21]

Minister for Rural and Community Development (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys The first and second calls for Category 1 and Category 2 applications under the Rural Regeneration and Development Fund are fully complete.  To date, 63 Category 1 projects have been approved for funding of €131 million and 76 Category 2 projects have been approved for funding of €35 million.  Category 1 relates to major projects that can drive sustainable rural regeneration and development, while Category 2 supports projects that require development funding to bring projects to a stage where they are ready to apply under Category 1 calls.

The third call for Category 1 applications closed on the 1 December 2020.   Applications received under this call are currently being assessed by my Department under the oversight of the Project Advisory Board, comprised of representatives from key Government Departments and independent experts. 

I have been informed by my officials that no application to the Fund has been received to date from Kerry County Council specifically for Boolteens and Castlemaine.  However, the Council has been very active in engaging with my Department in respect of the Fund and has submitted a number of applications across the calls to date. 

The third call for Category 2 applications under the Fund will be announced shortly.

Departmental Transport

 2083. Deputy Duncan Smith Information on Duncan Smith Zoom on Duncan Smith asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys the number of vehicles owned or leased and operated by her Department and agencies and semi-State companies under her remit broken down by the number of ICE and non-ICE vehicles and fuel category, that is, petrol, diesel, hybrid, plug-in hybrid, electric and so on; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15126/21]

Minister for Rural and Community Development (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys My Department does not own, rent or operate any vehicles.

  Of the four agencies under the remit of my Department - Pobal, the Western Development Commission, the Charities Regulatory Authority, and Water Safety Ireland - only Water Safety Ireland operates vehicles.

  Water Safety Ireland uses 10 vehicles, 8 of which diesel and 2 are petrol. 9 vehicles are owned by the agency and 1 is leased.

Community Banking

 2084. 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 the engagement she has had with banking entities that have indicated their plans to close in provincial towns; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15215/21]

Minister for Rural and Community Development (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys In my role as Minister for Rural and Community Development I am absolutely clear on the importance of ensuring that rural communities can access the services they need so that they remain vibrant places in which to live and work.

As the Deputy is aware, the Minister for Finance has responsibility for banking.

However, I am acutely aware of the value placed by rural communities on services such as those provided by banks. Ensuring access to services for rural communities is an issue that cuts across almost all Government Departments. It also relates to services provided by the private sector.

The Deputy will no doubt appreciate that the provision of services by banks, including the location of branches, is a commercial decision for the boards and management of those institutions.

That said, I expect that any bank closing branches will do everything that it can to mitigate the impacts of the branch closures on local communities, including the use of technology and the use of alternative means of service delivery to address the potential impacts on individuals and communities. 

I have had direct and constructive engagement on these matters with the Bank of Ireland which has recently taken the operational decision to close 88 branches nationwide in response to the changing nature of banking in this country. In this particular case, I have been given reassurance that measures are being taken to avoid a service gap emerging, including through the partnership Bank of Ireland has secured with An Post for cash services as well as the plans to retain ATM facilities in those places where such facilities currently exist. It is important that rural communities do not lose access to critical services in rural areas, so I welcome innovative and proactive alternatives such as these being put in place.

Rural and regional development is at the heart of the Programme for Government. My Department is currently finalising an ambitious new five year rural development policy. This policy will recognise that strong rural economies and communities are vital in supporting and safeguarding the sustainability of vibrant towns and villages across the country.  It also recognises that rural areas are critical to our national economic, social and environmental well-being.

Significant investment in rural Ireland is taking place across Government and my Department will continue to support communities across rural Ireland through a range of funding schemes and supports.

Budget 2021 has allocated a total of €341 million to my Department. Much of this funding will support the economic and social development of rural areas under my Department’s Rural Development, Regional Affairs and Islands Programme.

Funding is available for rural areas in my Department through: the €1 billion allocated to the Rural Regeneration and Development Fund, the CLÁR Programme, the Community Enhancement Programme, the Town and Village Renewal Scheme and funding for our Public Libraries.

Funding is also delivered through the Community Services Programme, LEADER Programme and the Social Inclusion and Community Activation Programme where supports are tailored to the specific needs of individual areas.

Community Welfare Services

 2085. 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 the number of applications received by her Department in 2020 and to date in 2021 for home safety and personal alarms. [15216/21]

Minister for Rural and Community Development (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys My Department is responsible for the Seniors Alert Scheme which encourages community support for vulnerable older people in our communities through the provision of personal monitored alarms to enable them to live securely in their homes with confidence, independence and peace of mind. Funding is available under the scheme for the purchase by a registered community based-organisation of a personal alarm or pendant. The scheme is administered by Pobal with the support of local community and voluntary groups.

During 2020, 16,719 new participants were approved for the scheme, and to the end of February 2021, an additional 2,530 new participants have been approved. There were no applications refused by Pobal in 2020 and to date in 2021.

The total number of participants of the Seniors Alert Scheme as at 28 February 2021 is 78,816 since the scheme commenced in 2015.

Western Development Commission

 2086. Deputy Michael Fitzmaurice Information on Michael Fitzmaurice Zoom on Michael Fitzmaurice asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys the current and capital budget allocation in each of the years 2019 to 2021 to the Western Development Commission in tabular form; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15468/21]

Minister for Rural and Community Development (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys The Western Development Commission was established on a statutory footing in 1999 under the Western Development Commission Act, 1998.  The main aim of the Commission is to promote, foster and encourage economic and social development in the Western Region, covering counties Donegal, Leitrim, Sligo, Mayo, Roscommon, Galway and Clare.

  The Western Development Commission operates the Western Investment Fund (WIF) which contributes to the development of the region by investing through equity or loans in business start-up, growth-oriented small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and in community-based measures to encourage enterprise development.

  The Exchequer allocations for the Western Development Commission for each of the three years from 2019 to 2021 inclusive are detailed in Table 1 below. The figures reflect the published Revised Estimates Volume (REV) for the years in question.  

  There is currently no capital budget allocation for the Western Development Commission. 

  Table 1 – REV allocations 2019-2021, Western Development Commission

Year Current €000 Capital €000 Total €000
2019 2,028 0 2,028
2020 2,049 0 2,049
2021 2,166 0 2,166 

Social Enterprise Sector

 2087. Deputy John Lahart Information on John Lahart Zoom on John Lahart asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys the number of social enterprises registered in Ireland. [15799/21]

 2089. Deputy John Lahart Information on John Lahart Zoom on John Lahart asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys the number of new social enterprises that were registered in Ireland in 2020.; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15801/21]

 2093. Deputy John Lahart Information on John Lahart Zoom on John Lahart asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys the breakdown of the sectors under which Irish social enterprises are registered; and the way in which the majority are registered within each sector. [15805/21]

Minister for Rural and Community Development (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys I propose to take Questions Nos. 2087, 2089 and 2093 together.

  Social enterprises are businesses that work primarily to improve the lives of people. Their core objective is to achieve a social, societal, or environmental impact. Like other businesses, social enterprises pursue their objectives by trading in goods and services on an ongoing basis. However, surpluses generated by social enterprises are re-invested into achieving their core social objectives. 

  Social Enterprises operate across a very wide range of sectors and are constituted using a variety of legal forms. There is no centralised register of social enterprises retained by the Companies Registration Office, or elsewhere.

  Additionally, while many social enterprises are charities, and are legally required to register with the Charities Regulator, there is no requirement to declare that they are social enterprises during that process.  As a consequence, and given the relatively recent publication of a National Policy definition of social enterprise in 2019, it is not possible at this time to provide an accurate estimate of the number of social enterprises that are registered in Ireland.

  Several reports on social enterprise in Ireland have pointed to the limited empirical evidence and data about the scope, prevalence, and contribution of social enterprise in Ireland. Attempts have been made to estimate the scale and scope of the sector, but these estimates are not necessarily reliable or up to date.

  Improving data collection and developing impact measurement mechanisms are two of the 26 measures for delivery contained in the National Social Enterprise Policy 2019-2022. My Department is actively researching data collection methods, and currently engaging in scoping activities with relevant Government Departments and agencies as well as Higher Education Institutions and social enterprise stakeholders. It is envisaged that this work will, at minimum, provide more reliable information including economic data and numbers of staff employed by social enterprises in Ireland, as well as the sectors of activity.

  With regard to the sectors that social enterprises operate in, and how they are legally constituted, in May 2020, my Department conducted a short survey on the impact of COVID-19 on social enterprises in Ireland. There were 523 responses to this survey. This was a self-declaration survey, and is likely to represent a relatively small percentage of the overall cohort.  However, the following tables offer an insight into the sectors of activity of the social enterprises who responded, and the predominant legal forms utilised.

Sector of Business Activity %
Local/Community Development 34.03%
Social Health/Community Care 23.14%
Arts/Culture 8.0%
Services 7.4%
Environmental 5.5%
Hospitality 4.4%
Industrial/Manufacturing 2.6%
Other 13.96%
Legal Constitution of Social Enterprise %
Company Limited by Guarantee 84.32%
Cooperative 3.82%
Designated Activity Company 2.29%
Other 9.56%

Social Enterprise Sector

 2088. Deputy John Lahart Information on John Lahart Zoom on John Lahart asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys the estimated revenue brought into the economy by social enterprises in 2020 and to date in 2021. [15800/21]

 2090. Deputy John Lahart Information on John Lahart Zoom on John Lahart asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys the number of persons employed by social enterprises in Ireland. [15802/21]

Minister for Rural and Community Development (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys I propose to take Questions Nos. 2088 and 2090 together.

Social enterprises are businesses that work primarily to improve the lives of people. Their core objective is to achieve a social, societal, or environmental impact. Like other businesses, social enterprises pursue their objectives by trading in goods and services on an ongoing basis. However, surpluses generated by social enterprises are re-invested into achieving their core social objectives. 

Social enterprises contribute significantly to social, environmental, and economic development in Ireland, and as we recover from COVID-19 they can play a critical role in ensuring a sustainable and inclusive recovery. 

Social Enterprises operate across a very wide range of sectors and are constituted using a variety of legal forms. As a consequence, and given the relatively recent publication in 2019 of a National Policy definition of social enterprise, it is not possible at this time to provide an accurate estimate of the economic value that social enterprise brought to the economy in 2020 and 2021.  Neither is it possible to accurately estimate the numbers employed in the sector.

Several reports on social enterprise in Ireland have pointed to the limited empirical evidence and data about the scope, prevalence, and contribution of social enterprise in Ireland. Attempts have been made to estimate the scale and scope of the sector, but these estimates are not necessarily reliable or up to date.

Improving data collection and developing impact measurement mechanisms are two of the 26 measures for delivery in the National Social Enterprise Policy 2019-2022. My Department is actively researching data collection methods, and is currently engaging in scoping activities with relevant Government Departments and agencies, as well as Higher Education Institutions and social enterprise stakeholders.

It is envisaged that this work will, at minimum, provide more reliable information including economic data and numbers of staff employed by social enterprises in Ireland, as well as the sectors of activity they are engaged in.

  Question No. 2089 answered with Question No. 2087.

  Question No. 2090 answered with Question No. 2088.

Dormant Accounts Fund

 2091. Deputy John Lahart Information on John Lahart Zoom on John Lahart asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys the funding that has been provided to social enterprises by the Dormant Accounts Fund since 2019. [15803/21]

 2092. Deputy John Lahart Information on John Lahart Zoom on John Lahart asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys the social enterprises which have received funding from the Dormant Accounts Fund since 2019. [15804/21]

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 propose to take Questions Nos. 2091 and 2092 together.

I can confirm that since 2019, €2million of Dormant Accounts Funding has been used for a Small Capital Grants Scheme for social enterprise. 230 social enterprises have benefitted from this scheme, each receiving a grant of between €2,000 and €15,000.

In 2020, €45million in Dormant Accounts Funding was allocated to the Covid-19 Stability Fund for Community and Voluntary organisations. Scheme criteria aligned with Dormant Accounts Fund objectives, supporting critical front line organisations to continue delivering vital services to the most vulnerable in our communities. To date, funding of €42million has been allocated to 600 organisations. Applicants were required to indicate their organisational structure, with 87 successful applicants indicating they are a social enterprise. Total funding drawn down by these social enterprises under the Stability Fund amounts to €5,859,144.

During 2020, my Department’s Community Services Programme supported 425 organisations, to provide local services through a social enterprise model, providing employment to 323 managers and 1,708 full-time equivalent positions.  As a result of the COVID-19 crisis my Department developed an additional exchequer funded 2020 Support Fund to assist Community Services Programme (CSP) supported organisations to continue to retain their CSP supported employees. The funding was providing an additional once off payment, to assist with staffing costs, to cover a 12 week period from 26th March 2020 ensuring that they can pay their full time CSP supported employees a maximum of €350 net per week, with a proportionate amount for part time CSP supported employees.

I will set out, under separate cover, the list and details for each social enterprise that received funding and the amount each received under each scheme.

  Question No. 2093 answered with Question No. 2087.

Social Enterprise Sector

 2094. Deputy John Lahart Information on John Lahart Zoom on John Lahart asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys if the national social enterprise policy implementation group is still functioning. [15806/21]

 2095. Deputy John Lahart Information on John Lahart Zoom on John Lahart asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys if the social enterprise higher education institutes network is still in place. [15807/21]

Minister for Rural and Community Development (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys I propose to take Questions Nos. 2094 and 2095 together.

  Social enterprises are businesses that work primarily to improve the lives of people. Their core objective is to achieve a social, societal, or environmental impact. Like other businesses, social enterprises pursue their objectives by trading in goods and services on an ongoing basis. However, surpluses generated by social enterprises are re-invested into achieving their core social objectives.

  Ireland's first National Social Enterprise Policy 2019-2022 was launched in July 2019. This Policy is helping to create an enabling environment for social enterprise in Ireland to grow and contribute to Ireland’s social and economic progress.

  The Policy is focused on three main objectives:

  1. Building Awareness of Social Enterprise

  2. Growing and Strengthening Social Enterprise

  3. Achieving Better Policy Alignment

  The Policy provided for the establishment of a National Social Enterprise Policy Implementation Group.

  The Implementation Group was formed in December 2019 and has been instrumental in advising, supporting and providing oversight on the progress of the implementation of the Policy. The Group includes Government Departments, Agencies and a broad range of Social Enterprise Stakeholder interests.

  The Implementation Group meets on a regular basis and five meetings of the group have been held to date, where all aspects of policy implementation have been discussed. The minutes of the Implementation Group meetings are available on my Department's pages on the Gov.ie website. 

  Based on the spirit of partnership which is a key principle of the National Social Enterprise Policy, the Implementation Group will continue to play a critical role in guiding the implementation of the Policy over its lifetime.

  The Higher Education Institutions (HEI) Network on Social Enterprise was established in October 2019. It enables communication regarding developments and activities related to social enterprise, as well as the sharing of good practice in terms of teaching, research and community engagement. Furthermore, it engenders collaboration and innovation regarding the development of social enterprise amongst network members.

  The network also provides the opportunity for the Department to avail of the expert input of HEIs in the context of the implementation of the National Social Enterprise Policy. The network has met three times, most recently in March 2021, with the next meeting expected to take place in early Summer 2021. The minutes of all meetings are available on gov.ie.

LEADER Programmes

 2096. Deputy Joe Carey Information on Joe Carey Zoom on Joe Carey asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys the basis for the programme for Government commitment to move the delivery of the LEADER programme to independent local action groups supported by local community development committees and away from the present model; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15811/21]

Minister for Rural and Community Development (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys The Programme for Government contains a commitment to deliver a Rural Development Programme that is led by independent Local Action Groups and supported by Local Community Development Committees.

This just one of a number of commitments in the Programme for Government related to LEADER. 

Due to a delay at EU level in agreeing the post-2020 EU Budget, my Department’s priority amongst these commitments was to develop and deliver a transitional LEADER programme this year to bridge the gap between the end of the 2014-2020 programme, and the next EU framework LEADER programme which will not commence until 2023. 

In December 2020, I announced details of a Transitional LEADER Programme for the period 2021-2022, with an initial allocation of €20 million.  The Transitional Programme will come into effect from 1 April 2021.  I also extended the timeframe for project approvals under the 2014-2020 LEADER programme until 31 March 2021.

EU co-financing has now become available for the Transitional Programme and I recently announced an increased allocation of €70 million for the programme. The programme will be delivered through the existing Local Action Group and Implementing Partner structures, as any funding available from the EU is on the basis of the framework applicable to the 2014-2020 LEADER programme.

The Transitional Programme also provides for an increase in the aid rate for private enterprises, from 50% to 75%, thereby addressing a further commitment in the Programme for Government in relation to LEADER.

Preparations for the design and delivery of the next EU LEADER programme from 2023 are currently underway.  The question of the administrative structures for the delivery of the programme will be considered as part of that work, having regard, inter alia, to the provisions of the EU Regulations governing the structure of future Local Action Groups, a review of the 2014-2020 programme, and the outcome of consultations with all relevant stakeholders.

Broadband Infrastructure

 2097. 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 engagements her Department has had with satellite companies on broadband connectivity; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15835/21]

Minister for Rural and Community Development (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys My Department's remit includes working with Local Authorities to develop telecommunications infrastructure, both mobile and broadband, around Ireland.  Accordingly, my officials are actively involved in a number of programmes and projects that are intended to improve connectivity in rural areas.

In support of this work, my officials engage with a wide and diverse network of stakeholders, including other Government Departments and agencies, Local Authorities, development groups, local community organisations, industry representative bodies and telecommunications operators.

My Department's primary means of supporting regional telecommunications development is through the national network of 31 Local Authority Broadband Officers.

Broadband Officers meet as a network on a monthly basis. These meetings allow the Department to disseminate updates on recent developments and provides an opportunity for Broadband Officers to share their experiences and expertise.

Over the years that the network meetings have operated, a large number of telecommunication providers, including satellite providers, have been invited to present their technologies and deployment plans to Broadband Officers. 

For example, late last year, my Department's officials 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.  The company in question 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.  My Department had no role in this matter beyond the introductions that it made to the Broadband Officers.

Departmental Expenditure

 2098. Deputy David Cullinane Information on David Cullinane Zoom on David Cullinane asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys the total Covid-19-related spend in 2020 by her Department, agency and budget line item; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16280/21]

Minister for Rural and Community Development (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys 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 challenges, recognising that it will require a whole of Government approach. Along with other broader Government initiatives, my Department provided a range of supports in 2020 to assist community and voluntary organisations in dealing the impact of Covid-19.

  The provisional gross outturn for my Department in 2020 was €359.42 million. Of this, €152.73 million was spent within the rural development programme area and €202.51 million within the community development area. The remaining €4.17 million funded the Charities Regulatory Authority.

  With regard to Covid-19 related expenditure, given the role of my Department in supporting the economic and social development of rural Ireland, and supporting community development throughout Ireland, all of our existing funding schemes have supported the response to, and recovery from, the pandemic in some way. For example, our existing funding for the LEADER programme ensures continued support for the economic recovery in rural Ireland, and the Community Services Programme has helped maintain vital community services throughout the pandemic. However, there were a number of specific targeted measures in 2020 which aimed to directly support the response and recovery. The main focus was on community development supports, and the increase in gross expenditure for that programme area, from €149.73 million in 2019 up to the €202.51 million spent in 2020, reflects that.

  Existing and additional funding has provided strong support for the broad community and voluntary sector, and helped to ensure that vital supports and services are maintained both throughout the pandemic, and as we recover from its impacts.

  The table below provides details of supports provided by my Department or agencies under its remit through existing funding or additional funding provided to specifically target the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic. For completeness I have also provided details on spend by my Department or its Agencies with regard to compliance with public health and safety guidelines in the workplace.

https://data.oireachtas.ie/ie/oireachtas/debates/questions/supportingDocumentation/2021-03-25_pq2098-24-03-21_en.docx">Departmental Funding 

The following revised reply was received on 6 April 2021.

The amount provided for the Department of Rural and Community Development Covid-19 Stability Fund should have read €32 million not €37million as stated.

Departmental Administrative Arrangements

 2099. Deputy Emer Higgins Information on Emer Higgins Zoom on Emer Higgins asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys the payment options available for persons to pay fines, charges or bills by her Department; and if there are plans to provide further online payment facilities. [16299/21]

Minister for Rural and Community Development (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys I can confirm that my Department does not issue any fines, charges or bills in respect of the programme areas under its remit. Any funds which need to be remitted to the Department must be lodged through the Department of Justice, who provide Financial Shared Services to my Department. As such, any future plans for provision of an online payment facility would have to take place through that shared service.


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