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 Header Item School Meals Programme (Continued)
 Header Item Fishery Harbour Centres

Thursday, 29 April 2021

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 1006 No. 3

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Joe O'Brien: Information on Joe O'Brien Zoom on Joe O'Brien]  Both schools referred to by the Deputy submitted an expression of interest for the hot school meals scheme. Despite being located on the same site, the schools have separate roll numbers and are two separate entities. Unfortunately, one of the schools was not selected and I appreciate this was very disappointing for school 2. The school received €42,000 for the current 2020-21 school year to provide a cold lunch and snack club for pupils attending.

The Department has contacted all schools selected for the hot school meals scheme to confirm their involvement in the scheme. Following this process, in the event that some places on the scheme become available, consideration will be given to how best we can use any excess spaces to accommodate those who wish to avail of the scheme. Any further extension of the provision of hot meals will need to be considered in the upcoming budgetary context.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl The Minister of State said "the school" is receiving funding of more than €42,000 for 2020-21. Which school? Is it the school that is not getting the hot meal allowance?

Deputy Joe O'Brien: Information on Joe O'Brien Zoom on Joe O'Brien School 2 receives the cold lunch option at the moment. That is what the €42,000 is for.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl One school is being funded for hot meals and the other is being funded for cold meals.

Deputy Joe O'Brien: Information on Joe O'Brien Zoom on Joe O'Brien Exactly.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl All right.

Deputy Patrick Costello: Information on Patrick Costello Zoom on Patrick Costello As the Ceann Comhairle pointed out, one school is being funded for hot meals and the other is being funded for cold meals, and they are located right beside each other. I appreciate there are resource limits and it is a pilot scheme but it seems we are missing a trick here in being able to provide cheaply and easily an extension by simply treating the two schools on one site as one unit. I have no doubt there are many other schools, both in and outside the scheme, that could also benefit from this. Treating them as one unit would allow an expansion of the scheme with very few additional resources and facilities.

As the Minister of State said, this is a very important meal scheme for enabling people to engage in education, which is very important for enabling them to reach their full potential. This is why Deputy Collins and I raised the issue. We want the children of Mary Queen of Angels 2 to be able to reach their potential as much as the children of Mary Queen of Angels 1.

I have no doubt there are many other co-located schools. Extending provision to these schools seems to be a quick, easy and relatively cheap way to expand the scheme. I appreciate that, as the Minister of State indicated, budgetary constraints would need to be taken into account but surely expanding the scheme to co-located schools is the quickest and cheapest way to extend this very worthy scheme to needy communities.

Deputy Joe O'Brien: Information on Joe O'Brien Zoom on Joe O'Brien I appreciate the disappointment and frustration for all 92 schools that submitted an expression of interest to access hot school meals and were not selected, including the school in question. The level of demand for the programme is a clear sign of the need for its expansion. I will raise the matter with the Minister.

Officials from the Department have contacted all schools selected and are in the process of considering responses. If schools that have been selected decide not to proceed, we can reallocate the places. Further consideration will be given to the use of any excess capacity once we have confirmed the position with the selected schools. Any further extension of the provision of hot meals will need to be considered in this year's budget process.

As Minister of State with responsibility for the implementation of the roadmap for social inclusion, I recently announced the establishment of a working group on food poverty. It is my intention that this working group will bring together key stakeholders from various Departments and State agencies, as well as the NGO sector, to share information and assess the myriad different schemes and programmes currently under way that have a connection to the wider issues of food poverty, including the school meals programme. It is my intention to have the group meet with a view to identifying the key drivers of food poverty to maximise interventions that adequately address the underlying issues.

Fishery Harbour Centres

Deputy David Cullinane: Information on David Cullinane Zoom on David Cullinane I thank the Ceann Comhairle for selecting this Topical Issue matter and the Minister for taking it in person.

Post Brexit, the harbour in Dunmore East has been removed as a port for British and Northern Ireland-registered fishing vessels to land their catches. Since then, seven ports have been redesignated, six on the west coast and one, Howth, on the east coast, but Dunmore East is not one of them. In response to my colleague Deputy Mac Lochlainn, the Minister previously stated that other areas were not designated because of lower landing figures but that he would keep it under review and his ears would be open to challenge. I hope they are open to challenge during this debate.

Deputy Mac Lochlainn has also engaged with the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority, SFPA, on this matter, which is the body that will be responsible for operating the landing measures. The SFPA advised Deputy Mac Lochlainn that no additional resources would be required by it to reintroduce the limited hours' landing schedule that was in place previously.

This is an easy fix. It requires the Minister's agreement and signing-off. It would be very beneficial to the economy of Dunmore East and I ask him to consider it as a matter of urgency.

Deputy Matt Shanahan: Information on Matt Shanahan Zoom on Matt Shanahan I submitted a parliamentary question to the Minister on 20 January and his response did not provide a resolution. I thank him for the invitation to engage with him on the issue of south-east fishing on 11 May. As Deputy Cullinane has highlighted, this is a significant economic issue for Dunmore East. The travel time to Dunmore East for fishing vessels that access the fishing grounds known as the Smalls is five or six hours. However, they cannot access the port and are forced to go to either Castletownbere, which is 17 or 18 hours' travel distance, or Howth, which is ten or 12 hours' travel distance. This has obvious emissions, economic and even safety impacts. Will the Minister review this matter? There are fisheries protection officers and facilities at the port to allow Department officials to check landings. This is an issue of rural regeneration and support for our fishing ports, in particular Dunmore East. I ask the Minister to give this matter favourable consideration.

Deputy Marc Ó Cathasaigh: Information on Marc Ó Cathasaigh Zoom on Marc Ó Cathasaigh I corresponded with the Minister as far back as 19 January and I have raised it with him personally since then. The decision made by his Department to designate five additional ports for Britain and Northern Ireland-registered vessel landings for both illegal, unregulated and unreported, or IUU, and North-East Atlantic Fisheries Commission, NEAFC, purposes, while omitting Dunmore East, means that, in effect, there is no designated port to serve UK-registered boats anywhere between Castletownbere and Howth, as my colleagues have pointed out, leaving the entire south-east coast unserved. This has an impact not only on the port of Dunmore East and the fish processing services that rely on the port but also on the fishers through higher operating costs and carbon emissions, as Deputy Shanahan mentioned. Furthermore, I worry about the risk to the safety of ship crews, who may choose in the event of bad weather to make for a port where they can land their catch over the nearest safe harbour. In conjunction with my colleagues, I ask the Minister to find a resolution to this issue, if possible.

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Charlie McConalogue): Information on Charlie McConalogue Zoom on Charlie McConalogue I thank the Deputies for raising the issue and for their contributions. That the three of them are coming together, as Waterford Deputies, to raise the issue shows the importance they place on it. The Minister of State, Deputy Butler, has also been raising and discussing the matter with me. I welcome the opportunity to address it in the House.

As the Ceann Comhairle will be aware, in January 2021 five additional ports were designated for landings by Britain and Northern Ireland-registered vessels, namely, Greencastle, Rathmullen, Burtonport, Ros a Mhíl and Howth. The five ports join Killybegs and Castletownbere, which continue to be designated for landings by vessels of any third country origin. I designated these five additional ports having regard to the level of activity by Britain and Northern Ireland-registered vessels in the recent past.

Any Britain or Northern Ireland-registered boat landing into any of the seven designated Irish ports must comply with additional documentary and procedural requirements as a result of the changes brought about by Brexit. The designation of ports is within the states' authority but all requirements and protocols are subject to EU and international law and must be strictly adhered to in order to gain entry to such ports.

The designation of the five additional ports was an important decision that allows fishers and small vessels in particular to continue landing at Irish ports following Brexit. The SFPA has undertaken significant work in putting in place the arrangements necessary, including additional staff, to provide for these port designations. I am glad the outcome will mean many of those fishers will now have the opportunity to access a number of additional ports.

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