Houses of the Oireachtas

All parliamentary debates are now being published on our new website. The publication of debates on this website will cease in December 2018.

Go to oireachtas.ie

 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 150-170
 Header Item Company Closures
 Header Item Departmental Communications
 Header Item Protected Disclosures
 Header Item Departmental Strategies
 Header Item Departmental Legal Cases
 Header Item Irish Sign Language
 Header Item Commencement of Legislation
 Header Item Shared Island Unit
 Header Item Census of Population
 Header Item Work Permits
 Header Item Future Growth Loan Scheme
 Header Item Covid-19 Pandemic
 Header Item Public Holidays
 Header Item Foreign Direct Investment

Wednesday, 31 March 2021

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 1005 No. 5
Unrevised

First Page Previous Page Page of 136 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 150-170

Company Closures

 150. Deputy Peadar Tóibín Information on Peadar Tóibín Zoom on Peadar Tóibín asked the Taoiseach Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin the number of permanent closures in the retail sector to date in 2021, not inclusive of the pub, restaurant or SME sectors. [16536/21]

 155. Deputy Peadar Tóibín Information on Peadar Tóibín Zoom on Peadar Tóibín asked the Taoiseach Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin the number of SME permanent closures in 2020 nationally and by county, respectively.  [16529/21]

 156. Deputy Peadar Tóibín Information on Peadar Tóibín Zoom on Peadar Tóibín asked the Taoiseach Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin the number of SME permanent closures to date in 2021 nationally and by county, respectively.  [16530/21]

 157. Deputy Peadar Tóibín Information on Peadar Tóibín Zoom on Peadar Tóibín asked the Taoiseach Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin the number of permanent restaurant closures in 2020 nationally and by county.  [16532/21]

 158. Deputy Peadar Tóibín Information on Peadar Tóibín Zoom on Peadar Tóibín asked the Taoiseach Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin the number of permanent restaurant closures to date in 2021 nationally and by county.  [16533/21]

 159. Deputy Peadar Tóibín Information on Peadar Tóibín Zoom on Peadar Tóibín asked the Taoiseach Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin the number of permanent pub closures to date in 2021 nationally and by county.  [16535/21]

Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach (Deputy Jack Chambers): Information on Jack Chambers Zoom on Jack Chambers I propose to take Questions Nos. 150 and 155 to 159, inclusive, together.

  The exact information requested by the Deputy is not available. However, the CSO has introduced a Business Signs of Life series to examine changes in the Irish Business Economy during the COVID-19 pandemic using available administrative data sources, and to provide more timely indicators than traditional statistical sources. The first report from this new series was published on 18 December 2020 and it provided statistics on the interaction between employment-related payments and business activity.

  Using this analysis, the percentage of businesses in which all persons engaged with the business are receiving the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) provides an indirect indicator of the percentage that are closed (i.e. not trading at all) at any given time. This analysis can also provide an indication of the percentage of businesses that have stayed closed throughout the pandemic. The analysis can be broken down by sector, but a size class (SME) and county breakdown is not available. The analysis does not include any projections.

  In 2018, there were 7,553 businesses with staff engaged in the Restaurant and Mobile Food Services Activity sector (NACE I5610), 5,993 in the Beverage Serving Activity sector (NACE I5630) and 22,080 in the Retail trade, except of motor vehicles and motorcycles (NACE G47). The first two sectors include restaurants and bars respectively, plus other types of business.

  Business Signs of Life information for each month from March to December 2020, showing the percentage of businesses in these two sectors in which all employees received the PUP, is set out in the following table:

Month Restaurant and Mobile Food Service (NACE I5610) Beverage Serving (NACE I5630) Retail trade, except of motor vehicles and motorcycles (NACE G47)
March 2020 15.1% 19.6% 17.3%
April 2020 16.7% 21.6% 18.8%
May 2020 15.4% 21.5% 18.5%
June 2020 12.7% 20.9% 16.1%
July 2020 8.0% 17.9% 9.3%
August 2020 5.7% 15.5% 7.0%
September 2020 5.6% 14.9% 6.1%
October 2020 10.4% 22.0% 10.8%
November 2020 11.2% 22.4% 11.4%
December 2020 12.2% 23.6% 11.4%


  From March to December 2020, 3.2% of Restaurant and Mobile Food Service enterprises had all their staff in receipt of PUP throughout the period, while 10.8% of Beverage Serving Activity enterprises had all their staff in receipt of PUP at all times from March to December. In the retail sector, 4.2% of enterprises had all staff in receipt of PUP from March to December 2020.

  Corresponding statistics for 2021 are not yet available. The next edition of the CSO’s Business Signs of Life series, which will include statistics for January 2021, is being prepared for publication in mid-April. The CSO is also currently collecting an updated survey on the Business Impact of COVID-19, which will include statistics on how COVID-19 impacted on the trading activity of businesses in 2020. The results of this survey will be available in Q2 2021.

Departmental Communications

 151. Deputy Eoin Ó Broin Information on Eoin Ó Broin Zoom on Eoin Ó Broin asked the Taoiseach Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin the dedicated email addresses for members of the Houses of the Oireachtas to contact his Department and bodies under its aegis as outlined in circular 25/2016. [16013/21]

The Taoiseach: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin In line with its obligations under Circular 25/2016, the National Economic and Social Development Office (NESDO), the only body under the aegis of my Department, has the following dedicated email address for Oireachtas members: Oireachtas@nesdo.ie

  Oireachtas members wishing to contact my Department can use the following email address: taoiseach@taoiseach.gov.ie

Protected Disclosures

 152. Deputy Catherine Murphy Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy asked the Taoiseach Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin the number of protected disclosures received by his Department in each of the years 2017 to 2020 and to date in 2021; the number that were accepted as a protected disclosure; the number that were in part or fully examined by a third party or consultancy; the number of protected disclosures under investigation over this time period; and the number that were finalised and the contents accepted and acted on. [16039/21]

 153. Deputy Catherine Murphy Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy asked the Taoiseach Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin the number of protected disclosures received by his Department in each of the years 2017 to 2020 and to date in 2021 from officials within his Department; the number of officials that made protected disclosures over the time period that are now not working in his Department; and the number of protected disclosures received from retired officials of his Department over the time period. [16057/21]

The Taoiseach: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin I propose to take Questions Nos. 152 and 153 together.

  My Department has received no protected disclosures from officials within my Department or retired officials during the period in question.

Departmental Strategies

 154. Deputy Neasa Hourigan Information on Neasa Hourigan Zoom on Neasa Hourigan asked the Taoiseach Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin the progress made to date in the development of a well-being framework for Ireland. [16362/21]

The Taoiseach: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin The development of new measures of well-being and progress was a commitment in the Programme for Government, in recognition that in order to achieve a well-rounded policy-making system there is a pressing need to move beyond uniquely economic measures. In early February, the Government agreed to an approach to developing an overarching Well-being Framework for Ireland utilising the OECD Well-being Framework as a starting point and building on national work already undertaken in this area.

Work on the development of the Well-Being Framework is being led by the Departments of the Taoiseach, Finance and Public Expenditure and Reform; and a Working Group chaired by the Department of the Taoiseach involving a broad range of government departments, the Central Statistics Office and the National Economic and Social Council has been established to support this work.

The development of the Framework is being further enhanced by consultation and broader engagement. The National Economic and Social Council (NESC) is leading this process and has established a subgroup of stakeholders and experts for this purpose.

The development of the Framework will be an iterative process and evolve over time as its uses in the Irish context become clearer and more bespoke data becomes available, but it is intended to submit an initial report to Government on development of a draft Framework by the Summer.

  Questions Nos. 155 to 159, inclusive, answered with Question No. 150.

Departmental Legal Cases

 160. Deputy Mairéad Farrell Information on Mairéad  Farrell Zoom on Mairéad  Farrell asked the Taoiseach Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin if his attention has been drawn to instances of litigation or the threat of litigation arising from the inclusion of social clauses in public procurement contracts in each of the years 2017 to 2020. [16601/21]

The Taoiseach: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin There have been no instances of litigation, or the threat of litigation, in regard to public procurement contracts in my Department for the period in question.

Irish Sign Language

 161. Deputy Holly Cairns Information on Holly Cairns Zoom on Holly Cairns asked the Taoiseach Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin the manner in which his Department and agencies under his remit are meeting obligations under the Irish Sign Language Act 2017. [17435/21]

The Taoiseach: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin The Irish Sign Language Act 2017 provides that all public bodies should provide Irish Sign Language users with free interpretation when accessing or availing of statutory services.

  While neither my Department nor the body under its aegis, the National Economic and Social Development Office (NESDO), provides any such statutory services to members of the public, both have committed to providing competent ISL interpreters, where requested, for relevant interactions with members of the public who cannot hear or understand English or Irish. In addition, my Department provides Irish Sign Language interpreters through the Government Information Service for live press events held in the Department.

Commencement of Legislation

 162. Deputy Holly Cairns Information on Holly Cairns Zoom on Holly Cairns asked the Taoiseach Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin the details of the Acts falling under his Department that have been signed into law but have not been commenced. [17453/21]

The Taoiseach: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin There are no Acts, or parts of Acts, under the Department of the Taoiseach awaiting commencement.

Shared Island Unit

 163. Deputy David Cullinane Information on David Cullinane Zoom on David Cullinane asked the Taoiseach Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin the terms of reference for the all-island healthcare research study that he stated in the media (details supplied) he had commissioned from the ESRI. [17508/21]

The Taoiseach: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin On 22 October, I set out the Government’s vision and priorities on Shared Island in an online event at Dublin Castle. A Shared Island unit has been established in my Department to coordinate and drive this work as a whole of Government priority.

The unit is progressing a Shared Island research programme, working with the National Economic and Social Council, the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI), the Irish Research Council, and other partners. Research outputs will be published through 2021 and in subsequent years. Strengthening social, economic and political links on the island and the promotion of all-island approaches to the strategic challenges facing Ireland, North and South are key objectives of this work.

The research programme with the ESRI is on ‘the Economic and Social Opportunities from Increased Cooperation on the Shared Island’. 2021 work is focusing on aspects of health, education, and economy on the island. The research on health in 2021 will explore similarities and differences between the primary care systems, North and South, quantify outcomes and examine what can be learned to inform reforms. Scoping papers on each of the ESRI research topics for 2021, will be finalised and published in the coming weeks, and made available on www.gov.ie/sharedisland.

Census of Population

 164. Deputy Paul McAuliffe Information on Paul  McAuliffe Zoom on Paul  McAuliffe asked the Taoiseach Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin his plans to have optional questions on gender identity and sexuality in the April 2022 Census here in view of the recent census in the UK, which included same. [17518/21]

Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach (Deputy Jack Chambers): Information on Jack Chambers Zoom on Jack Chambers Preparations for the Census, to take place in April 2022, are now at an advanced stage and the addition of further questions is not now possible.

The addition of new questions on both gender identity and sexual orientation to the census were considered as part of the public consultation undertaken by CSO between 2017 and 2019.

The CSO convened a Census Advisory Group (CAG) in 2017 to consider the content of the census. The membership of the Group was reflective of the key users of census data. It comprised of representatives of Government departments, local authorities, public bodies, the social partners, universities and research institutes, as well as CSO personnel. The considerations surrounding the inclusion of questions on gender identity and sexual orientation were discussed at the Census Advisory Group meetings between 2017 and 2019, at that time neither topic was recommended for inclusion in Census 2022.

However, the CSO strongly recognises the importance of developing its capacity to collect and produce data on both topics and it is committed to doing so, including with a view to including the topics in the Census in the future.

The CSO has introduced new questions on both gender identity and sexual orientation in its General Household Survey in the first quarter of 2019. The first release from this iteration of the survey was published in July 2019. CSO is also currently planning to include a new gender identity question in addition to a sex at birth question in a new social survey due to be conducted in the coming months. The CSO will monitor the collection and production of data on both gender identity and sexual orientation in its social surveys with a view to developing questions which are well understood and acceptable to users, stakeholders and respondents and produce confidential, robust and consistent data. Achieving this will facilitate the introduction of questions on both gender identity and sexual orientation for testing as part of the next consultation process after Census 2022, which is the final step before inclusion on the census questionnaire.

Work Permits

 165. Deputy Martin Browne Information on Martin Browne Zoom on Martin Browne asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar the average wait time for employment permit renewals; and if his attention has been drawn to delays in the system (details supplied). [17328/21]

Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar In March 2020, the Employment Permits Section of my Department implemented a COVID-19 contingency plan to ensure that the employment permit regime could continue to operate throughout the crisis. Since 30th March, the employment permit system has been operating fully remotely and online.

  Operational practices have been adjusted to replace the paper-based elements of the service to allow for a fully online process involving electronic/scanned documents and all decisions/outcomes now issue via e-mail rather than by post. Agreement was reached with the Immigration Service Delivery in the Department of Justice and Equality on arrangements to introduce, on a temporary basis, a type of “e-employment permit” and a similar soft copy process to transition to permanent residence permission.

  The current processing waiting times for Trusted Partner applications, which include both new and renewal applications, is 2 weeks. Trusted Partners are regular users of the service and account for 74% of all applications. The current processing waiting times for Standard applications, which include both new and renewal applications, is 5 weeks. These processing times are largely within our ambitious customer service targets of 2 and 4 weeks respectively. Therefore there are no delays in processing renewal permits at present.

  Full details in relation to the contingency arrangements introduced by the Employment Permits Section in response to the pandemic can be accessed on my Department's website through the following link: https://dbei.gov.ie/en/Publications/COVID-19-Employment-Permits-System-Contingency-Arrangements.html

Future Growth Loan Scheme

 166. Deputy Imelda Munster Information on Imelda Munster Zoom on Imelda Munster asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar if he plans to open the future growth loan scheme to new applicants for long term loans of seven to ten years, given the extended period of lockdown expected in 2021; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17623/21]

Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar The Future Growth Loan Scheme makes lending available to SMEs and small mid-caps (up to 499 employees) seeking financing for long-term strategic investment, including in response to the impacts of Brexit and COVID-19.

The scheme was launched in 2019 and initially provided for up to €300m in long-term lending, however in July of 2020 it was expanded by €500m to make a total of €800m available through participating financial providers. As of 29 March 2021, 3,269 loans have been sanctioned through the Future Growth Loan Scheme to the value of €680.42 million.

Funding under the scheme is made available through commercial finance providers: AIB, Bank of Ireland, Ulster Bank, Permanent TSB, KBC and Close Brothers. The scheme has seen rapid uptake and a number of the participating finance providers are currently closed to new applications as they process a “pipeline” of existing applicants. That pipeline is expected to amount to further tens of millions of lending through those participating providers.

At present, Close Brothers and KBC remain open to new applicants.

As noted above, this scheme makes funding available to businesses seeking to make strategic investments. That the uptake of the scheme has remained strong throughout the pandemic is a positive indication that businesses are looking beyond the difficulties of the last year.

I would also encourage businesses seeking funding for investment purposes to consider their options under the COVID-19 Credit Guarantee Scheme, which makes lending available at favourable terms to COVID-19-impacted businesses for terms up to five-and-a-half years including for investment purposes. Loans under that scheme range from €10,000 to €1m and loans of up to €250,000 are available unsecured.

Covid-19 Pandemic

 167. Deputy Pa Daly Information on Pa Daly Zoom on Pa Daly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar if approval will be given for bridal wear shops to be classified as essential retail outlets in accordance with NPHET guidelines, given the exceptionally lengthy process involved in ordering and altering bridal clothing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16310/21]

Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar I understand this is an incredibly difficult time for families and businesses across the country and I would like to thank them for their efforts at this difficult time. By each of us following the spirit of the rules and working together we can hopefully ease some restrictions soon.

  S.I. No. 701 of 2020 Health Act 1947 (Section 31A - Temporary Restrictions) (COVID-19) (No. 10) Regulations 2020 and S.I. No. 4 of 2021 Health Act 1947 (Section 31A - Temporary Restrictions) (COVID-19) (No. 10) (Amendment) Regulations 2021 (https://www.gov.ie/en/collection/1f150-view-statutory-instruments-related-to-the-covid-19-pandemic/) clearly sets out the temporary restrictions under Level 5. A list of essential services can be found at https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/c9158-essential-services/ and the list of essential retail outlets at Level 5 can be found at https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/60ecc-essential-retail-outlets-for-level-5/

  Under Level 5, only essential retail outlets will remain open and all measures in Level 5 will stay in place until at least April 5 2021. Further information can be found on https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/2dc71-level-5/ Non-Essential items can be ordered remotely for delivery and are also available on compassionate grounds as circumstances arise.

  Retailers can and have made arrangements, on compassionate grounds, for individual customers to urgently purchase a non-essential item in store. This is only in exceptional circumstances where it is not possible to plan ahead and avail of remote ordering services such as in emergencies, e.g., admission to hospital.

  We are asking retailers to fully get behind the spirit of the regulations. In particular, we are asking retailers with mixed retail offering which have discrete spaces for essential and non-essential retail to make arrangements for the separation of relevant areas.

  We are also asking retailers to exercise their best judgement and common sense on a case by case basis, to ensure those requiring urgent access to a non-essential item are accommodated.

  Minister English has met regularly with Retail Forum members and representatives from the retail grocery and distribution sector to continuously discuss and assess adherence to the public health restrictions.

It is important to monitor gov.ie for the latest information, public health advice and guidelines from Government in relation to COVID-19.  

Public Holidays

 168. Deputy Neale Richmond Information on Neale Richmond Zoom on Neale Richmond asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar if he has considered implementing additional public bank holidays; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16317/21]

Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar The legislation which provides for public holidays is the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997. This Act provides that certain days may be prescribed as public holidays. At present, there are nine public holidays.

An extra holiday has implications of a broad nature in terms of costs and productivity and has cross-government issues to be explored.

Any proposal for the provision of an additional public holiday would require careful consideration and wide-ranging consultations with relevant stakeholders. Not least we would need to consider the implications and impact of any such designation on employment and for the economy at large, in particular the extra costs it would impose on employers already dealing with the unpredictability of the Covid-19 crisis.

Foreign Direct Investment

 169. Deputy John Brady Information on John Brady Zoom on John Brady asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar the due diligence mechanisms that will be put in place to ensure that an Israeli-headquartered entity seeking investment opportunities in Ireland does not operate in or profit from Israel’s illegal settlements in occupied Palestine; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16342/21]

 170. Deputy John Brady Information on John Brady Zoom on John Brady asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar if the IDA will use the UN database of companies operating in Israeli settlements in order to screen for companies that may be guilty of human rights abuses in the context of the planned IDA campaign to situate a business development consultant in Israel; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16343/21]

Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar I propose to take Questions Nos. 169 and 170 together.

  IDA Ireland’s overseas teams and office network are vital to support the agency’s efforts in winning new Foreign Direct Investment across the world. From time-to-time IDA seeks to expand its global network of offices and teams. Many firms are looking to expand into new markets and Ireland is a proven location for global companies to grow and serve their customer base in the Europe, Middle East and Africa region.

  IDA Ireland has decided to tender for a part-time Israel based Business Development Consultant. This person will represent IDA to support its efforts to win new investment. This is a model used across many territories. The Business Development Consultant will be expected to identify Israeli-headquartered target companies with potential for investing in Ireland, engage with senior decision-makers in these companies and present Ireland’s value proposition as an investment location.

  IDA Ireland has advised my Department that as part of its normal evaluation and due diligence process across all geographies, it considers many factors including societal and reputational risk, that could be associated with investment activities prior to accepting a client into its portfolio.

  As an Agency of my Department, I expect IDA Ireland to align with Ireland's well known position on the illegality of Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian territory, which informs our engagement with the State of Israel across a range of bilateral issues, including trade. Ireland distinguishes between the territory of the State of Israel and the territories occupied since 1967.

  The EU and its Member States, including Ireland, are wholly opposed to Israeli settlements, which are contrary to international law, and are damaging to the prospects of peace.

  UN Security Council Resolution 2334, adopted on 23 December 2016, calls on all States to distinguish, in their relevant dealings, between the territory of the State of Israel and the territories occupied since 1967. This Resolution reflected the position already held by Ireland, the EU and the UN for many years.

  Ireland consistently raises human rights issues in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory at the highest international levels, including most recently at the 46th session of the UN Human Rights Council.

  Ireland remains steadfast in its support for a comprehensive two state solution which protects the future of both the Palestinian and Israeli peoples.


Last Updated: 15/04/2021 12:37:40 First Page Previous Page Page of 136 Next Page Last Page