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Humphreys, Heather

Thursday, 17 September 2020

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. Nbr.


Regional Development

Was asked: the steps she will take to address the growing regional inequalities here and specifically in the northern and western region, which has been downgraded by the EU from a developed region to a regio...More Button

I thank the Deputy for raising this issue. The designation of the northern and western region by the EU as a region in transition underscores the importance of achieving balanced regional developm...More Button

The programme for Government places a strong emphasis on balanced regional development as our economy and population continue to grow and does this through a range of measures. My Department sup...More Button

In addition to this direct investment, my Department also funds and supports the Western Development Commission, WDC, in its role as an enabler of the development of the western region. Last yea...More Button

I am aware of these matters, being from the northern and western region, as is the Deputy. I have met with the Northern and Western Regional Assembly on two occasions in recent months, most recent...More Button

I want to point out that there has been considerable investment in the region. The national broadband plan represents an investment of €656 million in the northern and western region, and the sc...More Button

There has been considerable investment, which is not to take away from the fact that we want to see more investment. Some €5.6 million was invested under the regional enterprise development fund, ...More Button

Regional Development (Continued)

The counties are Donegal, Leitrim, Sligo, Cavan and Monaghan. This was the first time ever there was a dedicated fund of that nature for a region. Those projects will make a significant differenc...More Button

Rural Transport Services

Was asked: if she has met with the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport on rural public transport challenges under Covid-19 regulations. More Button

I thank Deputy Sherlock for raising this issue. As he will be aware, the provision of transport services, including for rural areas, is the responsibility of the Minister for Transport, Tourism an...More Button

My Department is currently developing the next phase of rural policy for Ireland to succeed the Action Plan for Rural Development which concluded at the end of 2019. The need for further integra...More Button

The programme for Government includes commitments to the development of integrated public transport and connectivity in rural areas and works continue to be funded through Project Ireland 2040 an...More Button

I agree with Deputy Sherlock. There needs to be cross-Government thinking, and there has been. As part of the rural development policy I have engaged right across all of the Departments because e...More Button

I absolutely agree with Deputy Sherlock. That is something I will certainly work closely on with the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport. There is €2 million in the July stimulus package f...More Button

Community Development Initiatives

Was asked: the provisions made for funding for community centres into 2021 due to the restrictions on local fundraising due to Covid-19 and the reduced capacity to operate cafés and receive income from room r...More Button

Was asked: her plans for interaction with local community groups dedicated to improving their respective locations in urban and rural areas nationwide; and if she will make a statement on the matter.More Button

Was asked: the extent to which she plans to liaise with local community based organisations with a view to actions likely to lead to improvement in quality of life in both urban and rural areas; and if she wi...More Button

Was asked: the degree to which she plans to engage with community groups with a view to identifying particular needs in urban and rural area and putting in place remedial measures; and if she will make a stat...More Button

Was asked: the structures she plans to liaise with and respond to the requirements as experienced in various areas, urban and rural nationwide that have suffered economically in recent times; and if she will ...More Button

I propose to take Questions Nos. 251, 253, 255 and 261 together.More Button

My Department's mission is “To promote rural and community development and to support vibrant, inclusive and sustainable communities throughout Ireland." More Button

A key part of achieving this mission is ongoing engagement with a wide range of stakeholders regarding the Department's policies, programmes and supports so that we deliver outcomes that positive...More Button

These stakeholders include groups involved in rural development, the community and voluntary sector, smaller local community groups and organisations, other Government Departments and the statuto...More Button

Communicating with these stakeholders assists in identifying areas relevant to the work of the Department where supports or funding are required and the most appropriate remedial or proactive mea...More Button

One example of proactive interaction with communities was the delivery in 2019, in conjunction with Pobal, of a series of 'Helping Hands' events nationwide last year, to engage with communities a...More Button

In addition to informal engagement, submissions are also encouraged from all such bodies, where appropriate, in relation to consultation processes held by my Department. This will shortly include...More Button

The Department has continued to engage proactively with its stakeholders during the COVID crisis through various on line means. This engagement has helped deliver solutions including additional f...More Button

Was asked: the degree to which she plans to disperse funds from her Department to eligible groups nationwide, with particular reference to areas in need of rejuvenation; and if she will make a statement on th...More Button

Was asked: her plans to reward community activity in such a way as to generate improved economic activity in both urban and rural areas faced with particular difficulties; and if she will make a statement on ...More Button

I propose to take Questions Nos. 252 and 260 together.

  The Department for Rural and Community Development was established in 2017 to support the creation of vibrant and sustain...More Button

  Question No. 253 answered with Question No. 251.More Button

Was asked: the steps she plans to take to address the social and economic needs of areas suffering from social deprivation; and if she will make a statement on the matter.More Button

Was asked: the extent to which she and her office have identified areas of social and economic deprivation in both urban and rural areas nationwide with a view to putting in place supportive measures; and if ...More Button

Was asked: her plans to evaluate the emerging needs of urban Ireland with a view to coordinating measures to address imbalances or lack of opportunity arising from various reasons; and if she will make a stat...More Button

I propose to take Questions Nos. 254, 256 and 263 together.

  The Department for Rural and Community Development was established in 2017 to support the creation of vibrant and su...More Button

  Question No. 255 answered with Question No. 251.More Button

  Question No. 256 answered with Question No. 254.More Button

Town and Village Renewal Scheme

Was asked: if she will extend the 2020 town and village renewal scheme outline for the accelerated measure in response to Covid-19 to enable more communities to avail of this funding.More Button

I thank the Deputy for raising this issue. This year's town and village renewal scheme has been tailored to assist our rural towns and villages to respond to the challenges presented by Covid-19. ...More Button

When the 2020 town and village renewal scheme was launched in May, it had a budget of €15 million, including an indicative allocation of €5 million for the accelerated measure. The Government's ...More Button

Successful projects under rounds 1 and 2 of the accelerated measure were announced recently, with a total of €6.1 million approved for 226 projects, including those Deputy Cairns mentioned. Appl...More Button

Applications under the standard measure for towns and villages will place a focus on the next stage of recovery. That process will be announced at a later stage.More Button

The town and village scheme is close to my heart because I first established it when I had responsibility for the rural development brief in 2016. I am glad to see that it has gone from strength t...More Button

We originally had a budget of €15 million for the scheme. I have since got an extra €10 million, bringing the total package up to €25 million this year. The €10 million has been allocated to th...More Button

There are 226 projects involved, with approximately €6 million spent to date. There is still €4 million in the budget.More Button

Was asked: her plans to roll out the town centre living initiative to other towns following the pilot project involving six towns; the criteria by which such towns will be assessed for inclusion in the initia...More Button

I thank the Deputy for raising the issue, in which I have a great interest. The pilot town centre living initiative was launched in October 2018 to explore in a holistic way how to encourage ...More Button

The point is that it is a complex issue, there is no doubt about that. If it was easy it would have been solved years ago. I want to see more people living in the centre of towns. It is about mo...More Button

We are learning from it. There are really good findings that can be applied to other towns across the country. This is not just about my Department alone but it is cross-Government. For example,...More Button

Was asked: the details of the grants awarded in County Clare under the Covid-19 town and village renewal scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter.More Button

I thank Deputy Carey for raising this issue. This year's town and village renewal scheme has been tailored to assist our rural towns and villages to respond to the challenges presented by Covid-19...More Button

The Deputy is right that the town and village renewal scheme has been very successful since it was launched in 2016. It has worked extremely well, due to its co-ordinated bottom-up approach whereb...More Button

Was asked: the projects in receipt of funding through the town and village renewal scheme 2020; and if she will make a statement on the matter.More Button

This year’s Town and Village Renewal Scheme has been tailored to focus on interventions that can assist our rural towns and villages to respond to the challenges presented by COVID-19.  

&...More Button

Was asked: if she will expand the 2020 town and village renewal scheme outline for accelerated measure in response to Covid-19 to enable more communities to avail of this funding. More Button

Was asked: the number of approved and rejected applications from counties Laois and Offaly to the town and village renewal scheme including the accelerated measure strand in 2020; and if she will make a state...More Button

The 2020 Town and Village Renewal Scheme was tailored to focus on interventions that can assist our rural towns and villages to respond to the challenges presented by COVID-19.  The scheme includes...More Button

Was asked: the status of the proposed plan outlined in the Programme for Government to expand the town and village renewal scheme to bring vacant and derelict buildings back into use and promote residential o...More Button

The Programme for Government includes a commitment for an expanded Town and Village Renewal Scheme to bring vacant and derelict buildings back into use and promote residential occupancy. More Button

In October 2018, my Department launched a Town Centre Living Initiative to explore in a holistic way how to encourage increased residential occupancy in rural towns and villages.  The pilot focus...More Button

An independent report on the pilot Town Centre Living Initiative was published on 22nd June 2020.  The report outlines the approach taken by each town under the pilot and sets out the key issues ...More Button

The report, which is available on the Gov.ie website, highlights the multiplicity of factors that need to be addressed which cut across a number of Government Departments and agencies.  More Button

It also highlights the importance of Local Authorities consulting with local communities and property owners on town centre development proposals and the value of developing a shared vision or ma...More Button

Programmes such as the Town and Village Renewal Scheme and the Rural Regeneration and Development Fund and can provide funding for projects which emerge from this process, subject to meeting the ...More Button

In this context, my Department is examining how the Town and Village Renewal Scheme can be further focused to support town centre living in line with the commitment in the Programme for Government.More Button

Town and Village Renewal Scheme (Continued)

We increased it. There is still money left in the pot. It is targeted at the larger towns but there is nothing to stop the villages applying under the standard town and village scheme which is st...More Button

I was delighted that Cross in Clare got €40,000 to repurpose an old school to create a remote working hub and community social space. This is the kind of project that makes a difference.More Button

Regarding the town and village renewal scheme, I will engage with the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform on the budgetary ask but I assure the Deputy that it will remain a priority scheme...More Button

I assure the Deputy I am engaging with the local authorities and will meet shortly with all the county and city managers. It is about working with local authorities and local communities in gettin...More Button

Community Development Projects

Was asked: the number of organisations which applied for the community and voluntary stability fund; the number of applications granted; if the fund is still open for applications; and if she will make a stat...More Button

Was asked: if the Tidy Towns Competition will be allowed proceed in 2021 under social distancing regulations. More Button

The TidyTowns competition has a unique place in Ireland’s culture.  Since its inception in 1958 when it had 52 entrants, the competition has grown year-on-year to see a record number of 924 entrant...More Button

Was asked: the timetable for the Programme for Partnership Government commitment to introduce a number of projects similar in approach to community development projects. More Button

Was asked: if feasibility study funding will be provided for a strategic project (details supplied) in County Kerry; when a decision will be announced in relation to the scheme; and if she will make a stateme...More Button

My Department does not appear to have received an application from the project in question. 

  If the Deputy wishes to provide my office with further details of the application ...More Button

LEADER Programmes

Was asked: her plans to increase the funding of the LEADER action group in County Clare to assist in the economic recovery of the county; and if she will make a statement on the matter. More Button

I thank the Deputy for raising this issue. LEADER is a multi-annual programme with a budget of €250 million over the period from 2014 to 2020. Some €225 million of this budget has been allocated ...More Button

The total funding allocated to the local action group in County Clare is in excess of €8.9 million. This includes €6.6 million for core project activity and €2.3 million in funding for the LAG's...More Button

Was asked: if the role that LEADER companies can play in supporting small rural businesses to overcome the challenges posed by Covid-19 has been explored; and if she will make a statement on the matter. More Button

The LEADER programme is delivered through 29 Local Action Groups (LAGs) across rural Ireland.  The programme includes a specific funding strand to support Rural Economic Development, Enterprise Dev...More Button

Was asked: if further administration, project and animation funding will be provided to the LAGs administering Leader for the years from 2021 until a new Leader programme is in place; and if she will make a s...More Button

The LEADER Programme is co-funded by the European Commission under the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). The current programming period concludes in December 2020.More Button

Proposals for new regulations for the CAP 2021-2027 were launched in June 2018 by the European Commission.  However, given the nature of the discussions on the CAP and the wider EU Budget post-20...More Button

As a result of the delays in agreeing new CAP regulations, the European Commission has published proposals for transitional measures to allow for continuity between the programming periods of 201...More Button

The transitional regulation is still under negotiation and there are a number of issues yet to be resolved over the coming months, including the duration of the transitional period.More Button

The Programme for Government includes a provision to bridge the gap between the current LEADER programme and the next programme.  Decisions relating to funding for projects, administration and an...More Button

Was asked: if it is planned to provide animation funding to the LAGs under new Leader round to encourage more community involvement in the Leader programme; and if she will make a statement on the matter.More Button

LEADER is an EU-funded programme which adopts a Community-Led Local Development (CLLD) approach to the delivery of rural development interventions, underpinned by a Local Development Strategy for t...More Button

In June 2018, the European Commission published a proposal for a draft Common Provisions Regulation (CPR) for the next programming period, 2021-2027.  The draft regulation is similar to the curre...More Button

As the Deputy will be aware, the current LEADER programme runs to the end of this year.  Given the delay at EU level in agreeing the EU Budget for the post-2020 period, the next LEADER programme ...More Button

The Programme for Government includes a provision to bridge the gap between the current LEADER programme and the next programme.  Decisions relating to funding for project, administration and ani...More Button

LEADER Programmes (Continued)

I know Deputy Carey is a passionate supporter of the work carried out by the local development company in County Clare. The Deputy raised the issue of additional funding with me on a number of occ...More Button

That funding is available and I believe it is in the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine. I will certainly check that out. If any of the projects are involved with food or food process...More Button

I compliment the LEADER companies across the country because they have done a really good job in helping communities to develop projects and in helping businesses to set up. When one looks at th...More Button

Harbours and Piers

Was asked: the stage of progress regarding her plans to develop the pier on Inis Oírr.More Button

Was asked: if the €500,000 for preparatory works for the upgrade of Inis Oírr pier and breakwater has been officially confirmed by her Department; the items the funding will be spent on; and if it will be use...More Button

I propose to take Questions Nos. 8 and 15 together.More Button

It is a strategic objective of my Department to develop and implement various initiatives and measures to support the social, cultural and economic development of the inhabited offshore islands t...More Button

I know the pier project at Inis Oírr is long awaited. Deputy Ó Cuív raised this matter on many occasions, he has worked hard on it and is very familiar with it, as are other Deputies. We are maki...More Button

Harbours and Piers (Continued)

I take on board what the Deputies have said but the day-to-day maintenance of piers, including the development and enforcement of by-laws, is primarily an issue for the relevant local authority whi...More Button

Costings have been done. There are estimates but I do not want to elaborate because if I give details publicly, the estimate will then become the floor price. I will not do that but we have fairl...More Button

Social Isolation

Was asked: her plans to address the increased isolation many persons in rural Ireland are facing as the country enters the first winter with Covid-19; her further plans to develop systems in isolated location...More Button

Road Signage

Was asked: if she will consider introducing a code of standardisation of road and pathway signage that must be used by community groups and local residents associations in view of the many different signs and...More Button

Air Services Provision

Was asked: her plans to investigate the provision of air services to Inishbofin Island; and if she will make a statement on the matter.More Button

I thank the Deputy for raising this issue. In April 2017, a public consultation process was undertaken, seeking submissions from interested parties in regard to the future use of airstrips and sur...More Button

With regard to the site at Cleggan, I understand discussions have been taking place with the Irish Coast Guard, with a view to utilising part of the site for the provision of a Coast Guard statio...More Button

I want to tell the Deputy that I do not have a State car, I have my own car.More Button

I have visited the islands. Last year, I had the pleasure of attending a wedding on Clare Island and I got an opportunity to see first-hand the difficulties people face. When I was on staycatio...More Button

Of course. I will finish my answer shortly.More Button

I am happy to engage with the Deputy on this issue. At the first opportunity, I will go and visit the island.More Button

Air Services Provision (Continued)

I would be delighted to go and see first-hand again the issues presenting on those islands off the Galway coast. I have not been to any of them but I would be happy to go there and talk to the Dep...More Button

Adult Education Provision

Was asked: if her Department has considered setting up rural information pods and lectures in the community to facilitate adult learning within the rural environment in relation to issues such as job seeking,...More Button

National Broadband Plan

Was asked: her plans to increase digital infrastructure and connectivity in County Wexford in view of the increased number of persons working from home due to the Covid-19 pandemic.More Button

I thank the Deputy. The provision of telecommunications services is primarily a matter for commercial providers operating in a liberalised market. Nonetheless, under the national broadband plan, ...More Button

Written Answers are published on the Oireachtas website.More Button

Was asked: her plans to improve connectivity and infrastructure for rural areas in County Cork, particularly those that recently moved into the city boundary under the boundary changes.More Button

The provision of telecommunications services is a matter for commercial providers operating in a liberalised market.  Nonetheless, under the National Broadband Plan (NBP), the Government will fund ...More Button

Was asked: the status of the roll out of broadband connection points in counties Longford and Westmeath.More Button

Was asked: when the 300 high-speed Internet hubs announced under the National Broadband Plan on 19 November 2019 will be delivered; and if she will make a statement on the matter.More Button

Was asked: the status of the roll out of broadband connection points in counties Carlow and Kilkenny.More Button

Was asked: The status of the roll out of broadband connection points in County Clare.More Button

I propose to take Questions Nos. 20, 34, 36 and 39 together.

  The Broadband Connection Points, or BCPs, are a collaborative initiative involving my Department, the Department of...More Button

Was asked: the steps taken to advance the commitment in the Programme for Government to improve connectivity and access for rural dwellers to work, study, social activities and public services while reducing ...More Button

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of digital connectivity in supporting many aspects of our daily lives.  Throughout the crisis, digital connectivity has helped people to avoid b...More Button

Social Welfare Eligibility (Continued)

I thank the Deputies for raising this matter. I have also received correspondence from those involved and I acknowledge the huge stress many of the affected workers are under at this time. I have...More Button

We have committed billions of euro in funding to support people's income since the onset of the pandemic through the pandemic unemployment payment, PUP; the TWSS, and the EWSS, which is new and w...More Button

Since the EWSS took effect on 1 September, many thousands of companies have transitioned onto it without any impact on their workers. It is difficult to understand how an organisation the size o...More Button

This issue only came to the fore in the past number of weeks. My priority is in getting the issue sorted for the workers so they can claim the supports they are entitled to. In order to do that, ...More Button

I share the frustration of the Deputies as to why that has not happened previously. There are thousands of companies in receipt of the EWSS and, to the best of my knowledge, this issue has not a...More Button

I hope and expect the management at Aer Lingus to communicate fully with its staff members on this matter and provide them with the necessary documentation. Once that documentation is received by ...More Button

Regarding the EWSS, when those forms come in, to be clear, they will be backdated to 1 September and claims will be paid from that date. Turning to TWSS, that was a different scheme to the EWSS,...More Button

Vacant Properties

Was asked: if specific measures will be introduced to assist in the upgrading of vacant premises to provide living accommodation in smaller towns and villages in rural communities in view of the fact such inv...More Button

The Programme for Government contains a number of commitments to develop a Town Centre First policy, including a commitment for an expanded Town and Village Renewal Scheme to bring vacant and derel...More Button

Remote Working

Was asked: the steps being taken by her Department to provide additional funding to both enhance existing hubs in view of the fact that remote working is now becoming the new normal for persons both in the pu...More Button

The Government is committed to supporting remote working, not least in the context of retaining skilled young people in rural communities. More Button

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the value of remote working in maintaining economic activity and in the provision of many public services has been clearly demonstrated.  The increased s...More Button

Remote working has the potential to transform rural Ireland, allowing people to build careers in good quality jobs while continuing to live in their home place.  It also provides an opportunity f...More Button

Since 2019, my Department has been working with the Western Development Commission to build an integrated network of remote working hubs along the Atlantic Economic Corridor, from Kerry to Donega...More Button

My Department has allocated €1 million to this project, including the provision of €280,000 to assist the hubs in adapting to the challenges of COVID-19.More Button

In addition, my Department has been working to connect approximately 300 Broadband Connection Points in remote and rural areas across the country. These BCPs will be among the first premises conn...More Button

My Department has also funded a number of hubs under the Rural Regeneration and Development Fund and the Town and Village Renewal Scheme in the last two years and will continue to explore the opt...More Button

Rural Development Plan

Was asked: the status of the new rural development policy; when it will be published; and if she will make a statement on the matter.More Button

My Department is currently finalising a new rural development policy for the period 2020-2025.  The new policy will be forward-looking and will build on the progress achieved through the Action Pla...More Button

The new policy will seek to strengthen and build resilience in our rural communities and economies, particularly in response to COVID-19, and it will identify policy measures that need to be put ...More Button

The process of developing the policy has included a wide range of consultation events with key stakeholders, including Government Departments, State agencies, rural organisations, young people an...More Button

Over the past number of months, my Department has held a series of further consultations with key stakeholders to explore the short and longer-term implications of COVID-19 for rural communities ...More Button

The inputs from all of these consultations are now being factored in to the drafting of the policy and I expect that the final policy will be published in the last quarter of the year.  More Button

Was asked: the number of new positions developed of the 135,000 new jobs by 2020 which was the aim in Realising our Rural Potential-Action Plan for Rural Development 2018; and if she will make a statement on ...More Button

The Action Plan for Rural Development was published in January 2017 as a whole-of-Government initiative to support the economic and social progress of rural Ireland.  The three-year Action Plan con...More Button

One of the objectives of the Action Plan was to support enterprise growth and job creation in rural areas.  The Plan's coordinated cross-Government approach contributed to increased employment in...More Button

Between 2015 and 2018, employment in the regions increased by over 146,000 outside of Dublin, surpassing the Government’s target of increasing employment outside of Dublin by 135,000 by 2020.More Button

The enterprise development agencies continue to provide a strong focus on growing regional employment. 66% of new jobs created by Enterprise Ireland client companies in 2019 were outside the Dubl...More Button

A number of Government initiatives continue to contribute to supporting regional employment. The Regional Enterprise Plans, overseen by the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation, play...More Button

My own Department also contributes to job creation in rural areas through programmes such as the Town and Village Renewal Scheme, the Outdoor Recreation Infrastructure Scheme and LEADER.  The €1 ...More Button

My Department is currently developing the next phase of rural development policy, which will set out measures to support the economic and social needs of rural areas over the period 2020-2025, in...More Button

Voluntary Sector

Was asked: the steps being taken in relation to the commitment in the Programme for Partnership Government to ensure that organisations (details supplied) are properly resourced especially in view of the Covi...More Button

Was asked: the supports in relation to capital funding for non-local authority community centres for health and safety and fire prevention works. More Button

Capital funding for non-local authority community centres for health and safety and fire prevention works as outlined by the Deputy, could potentially be considered, subject to eligibility criteria...More Button

Was asked: the funding that will be allocated to youth and community centre facilities which are working within reduced incomes due to Covid-19; and if she will make a statement on the matter. More Button

Was asked: the schemes under her Department that can allocate funding to community organisations, including clubs (details supplied) to develop ancillary services such as car parking; and her plans to provide...More Button

Support for the works outlined by the Deputy could potentially be considered for funding, subject to eligibility criteria being met, under the following schemes funded by my Department:  

...More Button

  Question No. 39 answered with Question No. 20.More Button

Rural Development Programme

Was asked: the status of Ireland’s town partnership as recommended by the Town Centre Living Initiative, Six Pilot Towns: Synthesis Report; if the partnership has been established; if so, the membership and d...More Button

The Town Centre Living Initiative Synthesis Report is an independent report on the pilot Town Centre Living Initiative which was launched in October 2018. 

  The aim of the init...More Button

Was asked: the extent to which she has evaluated issues affecting rural Ireland such as isolation and lack of connectivity with a view to making a positive contribution in line with local requirements; and if...More Button

Connectivity, whether in terms of transport, in-person social contact or through communications networks, is important in ensuring the wellbeing and cohesion of our rural communities.

&nbs...More Button

  Question No. 263 answered with Question No. 254.More Button

Community Services Programme

Was asked: the number of Pobal applications for community groups finalised and processed since February 2020, in tabular form; and if she will make a statement on the matter. More Button

Was asked: if there is a review of the community services programme ongoing; if so, when it will be concluded; and if she will make a statement on the matter.More Button

Commission for the Economic Development of Rural Areas

Was asked: the status of each of the recommendations of the CEDRA report; the number of recommendations implemented in full, in part and not at all, respectively; the anticipated date by which each of the out...More Button

The Commission for the Economic Development of Rural Areas (CEDRA) was established in November 2012 as an independent expert group to examine and report on the medium-term economic development of r...More Button

Ministerial Priorities

Was asked: her plans to ensure maximum positive impact on the community, rural development and the islands aspect of her portfolio with particular reference to the maximisation of employment opportunities thr...More Button

Was asked: the mission statement in respect of her portfolio; the degree to which she expects to expand and enhance opportunities and quality of life for persons in their respective locations; and if she will...More Button

Was asked: the mission statement of her Department with particular reference to rejuvenation of rural towns and villages nationwide; and if she will make a statement on the matter. More Button

The Mission Statement of my Department, as set out in its published Statement of Strategy is: “To promote rural and community development and to support vibrant, inclusive and sustainable communiti...More Button

Was asked: her priorities for rural development in the coming months and years; the extent to which she expects to be in a position to address issues that have arisen; and if she will make a statement on the ...More Button

My priority for rural Ireland is to develop and publish a new 5-year Policy for Rural Development in the coming months.More Button

The new Policy will reflect a whole-of-Government approach to supporting the economic, social and cultural development of rural Ireland.  It will be forward-looking, ambitious and will seek to hi...More Button

The new Policy will address the short-term and longer-term impact of COVID-19 on rural communities and economies.  It will support the Government’s overarching objective of getting people back to...More Button

The development of the policy is at an advanced stage, informed by an extensive consultation process with a wide range of stakeholders.  I hope to publish the policy in the final quarter of this ...More Button

The new policy will be underpinned by my Department’s Rural Development Investment Programme which includes schemes such as the Rural Regeneration and Development Fund, the Town and Village Renew...More Button

We will continue to build on these, and other investments for rural Ireland, not just within my own Department, but across other Departments also, recognising the importance of rural Ireland to o...More Button

Telecommunications Infrastructure

Was asked: if she has met with the Mobile Broadband Taskforce since her appointment as Minister. More Button

The Mobile Phone and Broadband Taskforce was launched in July 2016 to be a driving force for improving access to telecommunications services throughout Ireland.

  Since its ince...More Button

Island Communities

Was asked: the stage the Interdepartmental Committee on Island Development is at; the next steps and the way in which she plans to progress the work; and if she will make a statement on the matter. More Button

The Programme for Government includes a commitment to develop a new Policy for Island Development which will identify and address the main challenges and opportunities for our island communities to...More Button

Was asked: her plans to progress the national policy for the islands; the status of the islands policy; the findings of the consultation process; and if she will make a statement on the matter. More Button

The Programme for Government includes a commitment to develop a new Policy for Island Development which will identify and address the main challenges and opportunities for our island communities to...More Button

There has already been a large amount of consultation with island communities in relation to the development of this policy under Minister Catherine Martin’s Department, and this consultation wil...More Button

As the Deputy will be aware, prior to the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, officials were engaged in a process of consultation with island communities through public meetings on the islands to...More Button

This process was temporarily suspended due to travel restrictions arising from COVID-19. However, the consultation process has remained open, and submissions from individuals and groups are still...More Button

In the interim, officials have been examining alternative options to enable the island consultation stage of the policy development process to recommence and to engage with those island communiti...More Button

Where public meetings have not yet been held, officials are working with island representatives to obtain their input, and to establish focus groups.  It is proposed that online meetings will be ...More Button

On completion of the consultation process with the island communities, officials will consult with other stakeholders, and with the Inter-Departmental Committee which oversees the process, with a...More Button

  Question No. 34 answered with Question No. 20.More Button

Was asked: the membership of the interdepartmental committee devising the national policy for the islands; and if she will make a statement on the matter. More Button

The Interdepartmental Committee which was established in 2019 to oversee the preparation of a new Policy for Island Development included senior officials from the following Departments:-

&...More Button

Was asked: her plans to address issues affecting the inhabitants and their quality of life on the islands; and if she will make a statement on the matter.More Button

The Programme for Government includes a commitment to develop a new Policy for Island Development which will identify and address the main challenges and opportunities for our island communities to...More Button

The process is overseen by an Inter-Departmental Committee which met on a number of occasions in 2019.  More Button

Prior to the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, officials had been engaged in a process of consultation with island communities through public meetings on the islands in order to facilitate comm...More Button

On completion of the consultation process with the island communities, officials will consult with other stakeholders, and with the Inter-Departmental Committee, with a view to developing a draft...More Button

In relation to island transport, ensuring that the island communities have access to reliable transport and cargo links is of paramount importance to my Department.  Currently here are 26 separat...More Button

In 2019 alone, these services carried 523,828 ferry and bus passengers, 31,100 air passengers and 26,351 tonnes of cargo to the offshore islands.More Button

I should also point out that a total funding package of €2 million was approved by the Government under the July Stimulus Package aimed at accelerating capital works programmes on the islands.More Button

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Departmental officials have worked closely with island representative groups, passenger, air and cargo operators to ensure that the offshore island commu...More Button

My Department will continue to engage with all island stakeholders and relevant health authorities to ensure that the services it provides continue to support the needs of the islanders while adh...More Button

  Question No. 260 answered with Question No. 252.More Button

  Question No. 261 answered with Question No. 251.More Button

Local Improvement Scheme

Was asked: the status of the local improvement scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. More Button

The Local Improvement Scheme, or LIS, is a programme for improvement works on small private or non-public roads in rural areas which are not under the normal maintenance of the Local Authorities. T...More Button

CLÁR Programme

Was asked: her plans to reinstate the CLÁR measure for group water schemes that existed under CLÁR from its inception until 2011; and if she will make a statement on the matter. More Button

The CLÁR programme provides funding for small scale projects in rural areas that have experienced significant levels of de-population.  As the Deputy is aware, no funding was available for new appl...More Button

Community Employment Schemes

Was asked: the position regarding the implementation of the Labour Court recommendation that community employment supervisors should be entitled to a pension or gratuity; and if she will make a statement on t...More Button

Was asked: the position regarding community employment scheme supervisor pensions.More Button

I propose to take Questions Nos. 131 and 133 together.More Button

As the Deputy will be aware, Community Employment (CE) supervisors and assistant supervisors have been seeking for several years, through their union representatives, the allocation of Exchequer ...More Button

CE sponsoring authorities are the legal employers of their CE supervisors, CE assistant supervisors and CE participants; the Department’s role continues to be that of CE funder.More Button

The issue was examined by a Community Sector High Level Forum, chaired by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. A number of Departments including my own Department were represented on...More Button

A detailed scoping exercise was carried out with input from the Irish Government Economic and Evaluation Service (IGEES) on the potential costs of providing Exchequer support for the establishmen...More Button

Officials from my Department held a series of meetings with CE supervisor union representatives to consider a range of proposals, mindful of the wider environment and the financial implications ...More Button

Was asked: if her Department currently liaises with the Department of Community and Rural Development and the Islands in terms of the recruitment of community employment workers by rural community groups; and...More Button

In order to qualify for Community Employment (CE), a number of conditions must be met, including being in receipt of a qualifying social welfare payment for a specific period.  The focus of CE is o...More Button

  Question No. 133 answered with Question No. 131.More Button

Was asked: when the interdepartmental review of the community employment schemes will be published.More Button

The Community Employment (CE) programme is a community centred labour market initiative established for the purposes of social inclusion and activation, to help long-term unemployed people and othe...More Button

Carer's Allowance

Was asked: her plans to address the means test for carer’s allowance; if she considers it a fair assessment; and if she will make a statement on the matter.More Button

Was asked: her plans to address the income disregard for carer’s allowance; if consideration has been given to the consequences of the measure for working families; and if she will make a statement on the mat...More Button

I propose to take Questions Nos. 134 and 135 together.More Button

The main income supports for carers provided by my Department are Carer’s Allowance, Carer’s Benefit, Domiciliary Care Allowance and the Carer’s Support Grant. The projected expenditure on Carer...More Button

Carer's Allowance is a means tested payment made to people whose income falls below certain limits, and who are looking after certain people in need of full-time care and attention. More Button

The system of social assistance supports provides payments based on an income need. The means test plays a critical role in determining whether or not an income need arises as a consequence of a...More Button

Current disregards for Carer’s Allowance are €332.50 per week for a single person and €665 per week for a couple, making the means test for carers the least onerous within the social protection s...More Button

A couple earning a joint annual income of up to €37,500 (net of PRSI and other allowable deductions) can qualify for maximum payment and, given the tapered withdrawal approach, retain a payment o...More Button

Changes to schemes are considered in an overall budgetary and policy context and from an evidence based perspective. Some 92% of the current recipients of Carer’s Allowance have no means or mean...More Button

I am very much aware of the key role that family carers play in our society and I will continue to keep the range of supports available to carers under review; however, any changes to scheme crit...More Button

Was asked: if a decision has been made on a further appeal for a carer’s allowance by a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if she will make a statement on the matter.More Button

I am advised by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that an Appeals Officer, having fully considered all the evidence, disallowed the appeal of the person concerned by way of summary decision.
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Covid-19 Pandemic Supports

Was asked: if her attention has been drawn to the number of employees (details supplied) on reduced pay and hours without access to claim short-time work support payments; if the matter has been raised with a...More Button

My Department has already advised that, subject to satisfying the relevant eligibility criteria, employees may claim casual (i.e. part-time) jobseeker payments or Short-Time Work Support payments f...More Button

The position regarding any retrospective entitlement to jobseekers payments prior to the introduction of the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme will depend on meeting the eligibility conditions, incl...More Button

Any legal obligations that the employer may have to their employee as regards terms, conditions or entitlements of their employment, including pay, is a matter for the employer.More Button

I trust that this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.More Button

Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment

Was asked: the reason newly approved applicants for the pandemic unemployment payment are not being given an initial payment which includes arrears due from the date on which their application was received ra...More Button

My Department receives information from Revenue in relation to payments made under the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS).  This includes a customer’s PPSN, customer’s wage payment frequency (mo...More Button

A Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) will not pay if the date of a customer’s last EWSS payment from Revenue was within a certain period prior to the PUP payment date.  This is based on...More Button

My Department is aware that a small number of employers, having initially registered for the EWSS, are no longer paying their employees this way.  An EWSS registered employee, who is no longer en...More Button

The person concerned initially submitted a PUP application on 28/08/2020.  This application was refused as according to Departmental records the employer was registered for EWSS.  In the interim,...More Button

The PUP is paid as a flat week, and it is not possible to include arrears.  My Department is aware that many people are due some arrears and that each person’s case is unique. This means that eac...More Button

I trust that this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.More Button

Fuel Allowance

Was asked: if the fuel allowance will be increased due to the increases in electricity, home heating oil, smokeless fuel and carbon tax and the situation in which persons will have to spend much more time ind...More Button

The Government is committed to protecting vulnerable households from the impact of energy costs through a combination of supports, energy efficiency awareness initiatives and investment in programm...More Button

Firstly, under the Supplementary Welfare Allowance scheme, a special heating supplement may be paid to assist people in certain circumstances with special heating requirements.  In addition, exce...More Button

Secondly, my Department also pays an electricity or gas allowance under the Household Benefits scheme, at an estimated cost of €194 million in 2020.   More Button

Thirdly, Fuel Allowance is a payment of €24.50 per week for 28 weeks (a total of €686 each year) from October to April, to an average of c. 352,000 low income households, at an estimated cost of ...More Button

The Deputy will appreciate that provision of income support is only part of the answer in terms of addressing energy costs.  One of the best ways to tackle energy costs in the long term is to imp...More Button

In terms of the forthcoming budget, the Government will consider how it can support people on low incomes and those on social welfare payments.  The Deputy will be aware that in the context of ca...More Button

I trust that this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.More Button

Company Liquidations

Was asked: the status of the implementation of the Duffy Cahill report; and if she will make a statement on the matter.More Button

The Duffy Cahill report, which was commissioned by the Government in the aftermath of the Clery's closure, highlighted how the issues raised by the event and the subsequent legal cases are highly c...More Button

The Duffy-Cahill Report was sent to the Company Law Review Group (CLRG) in 2016 for its consideration as part of the work of that group in advising the Minister for Business Enterprise and Innova...More Button

The CLRG, as part of its deliberations, also considered related amendments proposed by Deputy Nash (then Senator Nash) to the Companies (Accounting) Bill in April/May 2017. More Button

The CLRG's ‘Report on the Protection of Employees and Unsecured Creditors’ was presented to the Minister for Business Enterprise and Innovation in June 2017 and published on the website of the CL...More Button

It is clear that the implementation of the recommendations in the Duffy-Cahill Report give rise to a host of complex issues and that any proposal to progress them would require further careful co...More Button

A commitment has been made in the Programme for Government to review the Companies Acts with a view to addressing the practice of trading entities splitting their operations between trading and p...More Button

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.More Button

Maternity Leave

Was asked: the eligibility of those on maternity leave and in receipt of a maternity benefit payment to end maternity leave early to enable them to submit an application for the pandemic unemployment payment ...More Button

The Government has decided to extend the application date for the Pandemic Unemployment Payment to the end of the year.  The payment was due to close to new applications on the 17th ...More Button

Ministerial Travel

Was asked: her plans to visit west Connemara and Inishbofin island in the near future; if so, if she will visit organisations (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter.More Button

Subject to public health guidelines, I hope to visit a number of rural areas, including the off-shore islands, over the coming months in my capacity as Minister for Rural and Community Development....More Button

  Question No. 250 answered with Question No. 27.More Button

Job Creation

Was asked: her plans to encourage job creation in rural areas nationwide; the degree to which she has in mind specific targets in this regard; and if she will make a statement on the matter.More Button

My Department is currently developing the next phase of rural development policy, which will set out measures to support the economic and social needs of rural areas over the period 2020-2025, incl...More Button

One of the key objectives of the Action Plan was to support enterprise growth and job creation in rural areas. The coordinated approach of the Plan contributed to increased employment in the regi...More Button

Overall employment in the regions increased to over 146,000 people employed outside of Dublin between 2015 and 2018.  This surpassed the Government’s target of increasing employment outside of Du...More Button

66% of new jobs created by Enterprise Ireland client companies in 2019 were outside the Dublin region, while 57% of jobs created by IDA Ireland’s client companies have now been created outside of...More Button

The Regional Enterprise Plans, overseen by the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation, play a particularly important role in supporting job creation in the regions.  My own Department ...More Button

The Rural Regeneration and Development Fund will provide investment of €1 billion into rural areas over the period 2019-2027.  These projects will have a transformational effect on towns, village...More Button