Other Questions

Brexit Issues

Brendan Smith


39. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if his attention has been drawn to the particular concerns of communities throughout the Border region regarding the adverse impact Brexit will have on the area and the need to upgrade infrastructure such as the road network in order to assist businesses to remain competitive (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25398/18]

As the Minister is aware, there is great uncertainty and concern in Border communities, in the Cavan-Monaghan constituency I represent and in neighbouring counties, both north and south of the Border, regarding the adverse impact Brexit will have on our daily lives. There are considerable concerns regarding the impact on the local economy. As the Minister is aware and as we debated in the Chamber previously, the economy of Cavan-Monaghan is very heavily dependent in the agrifood sector, the construction products sector and the engineering sector. By definition, those sectors involve bulky products that need to be transported to ports and airports in order that they might be exported to the marketplace. We need to assist those companies to remain as competitive as possible by having the necessary road infrastructure upgraded. It is the only means to get the product from the area because we do not have a rail service. The road network is of critical importance to us.

I thank the Deputy. I know he has been a most vocal and consistent advocate for the problems of Brexit, not only for the roads but also for the entire Border region. I share his concerns regarding the potential adverse effects of Brexit on the sectors he identified. The efficiency of our transport infrastructure is just one element that determines transport costs. Other elements include the cost of the vehicle and fuel, the cost of the driver, overhead and back-office costs and the time taken to transport the goods. Brexit has the potential to impact on overhead and back-office costs in particular and also on time-related costs.

My Government colleagues and I are working to address the potential impacts of Brexit across all sectors. On transport, we have identified the key areas of adverse regulatory and operational impacts and are seeking to ensure that acceptable alternatives to the current EU structures are agreed as part of the withdrawal agreement and future relationship with the EU.

The publication by the UK of written proposals on customs arrangements aimed at making progress in the Brexit negotiations is a welcome step. However, the Commission will make a first assessment of the technical and legal feasibility of the proposals, and whether they provide a basis for negotiation. We look forward to its assessment and to discussing whether the proposals could be helpful in meeting the UK’s repeated commitment to avoiding a hard border and thereby making progress on the backstop on Ireland and Northern Ireland.

The national development plan, NDP, sets out the Government’s ambition in the area of roads and the Border region. In chapter 4 of the plan, there is an examination of how targeted investment can promote economic resilience in the Border region in the context of Brexit.

This chapter touches on a range of measures, including investment in transport links. The NDP includes references to, among other projects, the N2-A5 roads, the N14 from Manorcunningham to Lifford, the N52 Ardee bypass, the N2 Slane bypass, the N4 from Collooney to Castlebaldwin and the N56 in Donegal.

Schemes on these routes are at various stages of development and Transport Infrastructure Ireland, in conjunction with the relevant local authorities, will be advancing them on a phased basis within the overall capital budget available to it.

The NDP also sets out ambitious investment programmes in our main ports and airports that will enhance capacity and facilitate smoother connectivity to international markets.

I thank the Minister for his reply. I referenced in particular the need to develop the east-west route. Unfortunately, this project is not referenced in the section of the plan dealing with investment in the Border region. It is regrettable that this is not a priority project.

I appreciate the opportunity to discuss in this Chamber with the Minister the need to develop to east-west route. In the early 2000s, the east-west route from Dundalk to Sligo was identified as an important project. It was concluded that the best route would be Dundalk, Carrickmacross, Shercock, Cootehill, Belturbet, Enniskillen, Sligo. In the meantime, substantial parts of the route were upgraded with the building of the Belturbet bypass and stages 1 and 2 of the Cavan bypass as well. In the road allocations for 2010 and 2011, substantial funds were allocated to the local authorities, with Cavan County Council being the lead authority, to carry out substantial planning and design work on the section of the route from Cootehill, Shercock, Carrickmacross to Dundalk. Unfortunately, the then Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Varadkar, did not continue that specific funding for the planning, design and upgrade work on that particular route. We are fortunate that in that particular part of Cavan and Monaghan there is substantial employment, with Abbott Ireland and a number of major engineering companies in Cootehill and Carton poultry products in Shercock. There are many substantial employers in Carrickmacross and Dundalk as well. All of these companies need proper road infrastructure to get their products away from their base.

To make an informed statement or decision on the basis of what the Deputy has spelled out to me requires me to visit the area concerned. This is a matter on which I cannot give any assurance across the floor. If the Deputy so wishes, I will visit the areas some time over the summer. Members opposite sometimes think that politicians on this side of the House are dripping with insincerity in terms of the responses they give in this House but that is not the case. I am conscious of the fact that the Border area is awaiting Brexit with trepidation in terms not only of the roads but the industries to which the Deputy referred, including the agrifood industry and other areas. It would be beneficial if I visited the areas to see the roads to which the Deputy refers. I do not doubt what the Deputy says but there are incredible demands upon the public purse for these roads. I believe the Border area has made its case for priority attention, by which I do not mean preference over any other area. It is important it is not forgotten particularly because of the danger of a hard border, which could have a devastating affect not only on the roads but on industries and people in the area. I am conscious that we are speaking about an area where a devaluation has already had an effect.

I welcome the Minister's commitment to visit the area. I would be happy to show him the roads concerned. Traffic from Cavan to Clones passes through County Fermanagh three times. From the point of view of the transport industry, the concerns of which the Minister will be aware of in terms of possible tariffs and barriers to the free movement of goods, people and services, economies North and South are intertwined and interdependent. I mentioned the local economies in Cavan and Monaghan. Neighbouring economies north of the Border in Fermanagh, Tyrone and Armagh are similarly dependent on the same sectors as a source of employment. There is huge concern in the wider Border area, which spills into neighbouring constituencies as well, be that Deputy Troy's constituency of Longford-Westmeath or Deputy Scanlon's constituency of Sligo-Leitrim. Also, the Leas Cheann-Comhairle spoke eloquently yesterday at the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly about the concerns of all of us in the south of Ulster, the north midlands and the midlands in regard to the adverse impacts, economic and social, of Brexit.

The Deputy did not seek additional time in view of that credit he was given.

He did look for extra money for all of his colleagues.

There is considerable pent up demand for road improvement projects on regional and local roads. One such project, the east-west Dundalk to Sligo link, was referred to by the Deputy. The Department has provided funding this year to allow the appraisal to be updated. The Government is committed to cross-Border roads and development in this regard but there are one or two problems arising in this regard. The Deputy will be aware of the situation with the A5 upgrade, which is a massive commitment in monetary terms. The Stormont House Agreement, A Fresh Start, reaffirmed the Government's commitment to provide funding of €50 million for the A5 project and committed an additional €25 million to ensure that phase 1 of the project can commence as soon as the necessary planning issues are resolved by the Northern Ireland authorities. The Government will be contributing €75 million towards the estimated €163 million cost of phase 1A if the current legal challenge to the scheme is successfully defended. The construction of phase 1A will take about two and a half years to complete.

As regards decisions on any additional financial commitments in regard to further phases of the A5 project and others referred to by Deputy Smith, this is a matter for the Government as a whole.

Deputy Troy has been given permission to take Question No. 40.

Tourism Industry

Barry Cowen


40. Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the criteria by which his Department designated the heart of Ireland tourism area. [25415/18]

I thank the Ceann Comhairle's office for allowing me to ask this question in the absence of Deputy Cowen. As an advocate for the designation of a heart of Ireland brand, I welcome that the Minister recently announced this brand. What criteria was applied by the Department in designating the heart of Ireland tourism geographical area and is the Minister satisfied that sufficient funding has been put in place to ensure there is an adequate marketing fund to establish and promote this brand on the international stage?

I thank Deputy Troy for taking this question which asks about the designation of the heart of Ireland tourism area, a mistake I am sure he would not have made if he had drafted the question.

As the Deputy may be aware, development of Ireland's Hidden Heartlands, including its geographical boundaries, was the responsibility of Fáilte Ireland rather than the Department and it was supported in this task by indepth research.  The brand was designed to service those areas not covered by the existing regional tourism experience brands, in particular, those areas of the midlands whose primary tourism asset is the Shannon and also the areas to the west of the Shannon not serviced by the Wild Atlantic Way. Although Ireland's Ancient East continues to include all areas east of the Shannon, I am advised by Fáilte Ireland that it included a small overlap area for the new midlands brand to the east of the Shannon to allow for the development of riverside walking and cycling trails and access to the Shannon navigation from the eastern banks.  Nonetheless, each brand experience has a very different focus, with separate and distinct unifying themes and experiences.

As regards the brand elements, including the name, logo and what this new tourism experience brand stands for, Fáilte Ireland developed these following extensive research with consumers in Ireland, the USA, the UK, Germany and France and with reference to key Irish and international benchmark offerings. As part of this process, Fáilte Ireland interviewed over 10,000 consumers through which it received valuable insights that gave it strong confidence that the brand focus and related offering - Active in Nature - has the potential to be both appealing and motivating to visitors.

Given its responsibility for its development, I have asked Fáilte Ireland to reply directly to the Deputy in regard to the criteria by which it designated the Ireland's Hidden Heartlands region. The Deputy should please contact my private office if he has not received a reply within ten working days. The detail of this is a matter for specialists in Fáilte Ireland but I can supply it if they do not provide the information to the Deputy.

It is quite bizarre for the Minister to tell me he will get Fáilte Ireland to inform me. This is not a written question and the whole purpose of submitting questions in advance of Question Time is for the Minister to come into the House fully armed with the information. I have no doubt about the research but when Ireland's Ancient East was established there was no brand for the midlands, as a consequence of which some of the midlands was included. Part of my home county of Westmeath, which is in the centre of Ireland and is home to the Hill of Uisneach, is excluded from Ireland's Hidden Heartlands. It is bizarre stuff. County Laois, also in the centre of Ireland, is also excluded from Ireland's Hidden Heartlands and it is bizarre that the Minister cannot explain why that is the case. Between 2007 and 2014, County Laois received the least amount of funding from Fáilte Ireland.

I am not reluctant to answer any of the Deputy's questions but I thought that, because of the extent of the detail in the survey of 10,000 people, it might be appropriate to get the information from Fáilte Ireland. I can arrange for the Deputy to have a full briefing from them because I know it is close to his heart and to his neighbourhood. I am often asked to micromanage by answering questions which are more appropriate to others and I just thought the Deputy might get a better reply from Fáilte Ireland. I am very happy, however, to get it from them and give it to the Deputy, if that is what he wants.

There was apparently a problem with Laois, but I do not think it is a real problem. County Laois completed a long-term tourism strategy recently, with input from Fáilte Ireland, and it is very much aligned with Ireland's Ancient East. My understanding is that the local chamber is happy with that, as is the chairperson of Laois Tourism. I understand that when this was announced and Laois was left in Ireland's Ancient East, while the response from one or two people was somewhat knee-jerk, the response from people at the coalface was favourable and they wanted to stay where they were.

I will take up the Minister's offer. Perhaps in future the Minister can provide the information in advance of the questions so that we will be better informed to ask him questions on the floor of the Dáil. On the question of marketing, we now have four distinct brands, namely, the Wild Atlantic Way, Ireland's Hidden Heartlands, Ireland's Ancient East and brand Dublin. How does the marketing budget for Ireland's Hidden Heartlands compare with the three other brands? Can the Minister give the exact amount of funding to be allocated to Ireland's Hidden Heartlands in the coming year and say how it compares with the other brands? Since 2012, total marketing funding has decreased by €25 million, or 18%. In light of the new flights announced this week between Dublin and Beijing, there are huge opportunities to increase our presence on the international stage but if we do not have sufficient resources behind our marketing brands they will not develop or prosper. Can the Minister confirm that all our brands will be sufficiently funded?

The Deputy is right about the overseas flights, and about bringing more people in and increasing tourism. The anecdotal evidence I have received in the past couple of days is that the response to the new brand, and the marketing of the new region, is way above and beyond expectations and that is extremely encouraging. An initial €2 million has been allocated for 2018 to start the development stage of the new brand, with further funding and capital grants to follow. The first round of investment will help to develop visitor experiences and the development of infrastructure, tourism products, services and marketing. Next year and beyond, Ireland's Hidden Heartlands will benefit from investment planned under the national development plan, which allocates €300 million in Exchequer funding to tourism under the national strategic outcome No. 3, while €133 million is due to be allocated to Fáilte Ireland between 2018 and 2022 for investment capital. I do not think the Deputy will find it wanting in any way as regards funding.

A referred reply was forwarded to the Deputy under Standing Order 42A.

Road Projects

Eamon Scanlon


41. Deputy Eamon Scanlon asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the status of the completion of the western distributor route. [22879/18]

I welcome the Minister's answer to a previous question on the N4 and the stretch of road from Castlebaldwin to Collooney. I recognise the fact that he is committed to the project and we are all looking forward to work on the road starting, hopefully at the end of this year. Given the number of fatalities on this stretch of road, on which 27 people have been killed over the past number of years, this very important.

This question relates to the western distributor route, which is crucial to the development of Sligo and its environs. The IDA needs the road to serve 70 acres of land it owns in order that it can progress factories on that parcel of land for companies to move in very soon and create jobs.

I am grateful to Deputy Scanlon for raising this matter. The news is encouraging. The maintenance and improvement of regional and local roads is the statutory responsibility of the relevant road authority under section 13 of the Roads Act 1993. Works on those roads are funded from the local authority's own resources, supplemented by State road grants. The initial selection and prioritisation of works to be funded is also a matter for the local authority.

While the construction of the western distributor road was not included in the original Building on Recovery capital plan, nevertheless my Department facilitated the development of the project by providing grant assistance for the project planning and design over a number of years.

As for the construction phase of the project, my Department made a strong case for additional funding under the capital plan review and, following the conclusion of the review in 2017, significant extra funding was allocated to my Department in the period to 2021. I was, therefore, very glad to be able to commit grant funding for the construction phase of the distributor road.

Sligo County Council, as the statutory road authority, is responsible for implementation of the distributor road scheme which is, I understand, at land acquisition stage. The council is required to comply with the requirements of the public spending code, the Department’s capital appraisal framework and the memorandum relating to the provision of grants for regional and local roads. In this context, during 2017, approval was given to the council to proceed with the detailed design of the scheme and the preparation of contract documents. In addition, approval was given to the council to proceed with an advance works contract for fencing and site clearance. I understand that the fencing work is now substantially complete.

Grant funding of €800,000 has been allocated to the scheme this year. The project tender documentation has been finalised and was submitted to my Department for review in mid-April. Approval has recently been given to the council to invite tenders for the main construction contract.

I welcome the fact that approval has been given because it is crucial for the region for the road to be put in place to facilitate the building of factories.

There is a greater chance of getting companies when buildings are available than when there is no building for them to move into. I welcome the fact that the funding is in place. I am sure the county council has been informed and that it will progress the project as fast as possible.

This is a happier story than some of the others we have had today. I am glad to be able to welcome it as well. It is important we take note of not only the views of the local authority and ourselves and our own examination but also the views of the Industrial Development Authority, IDA. The development of this land was regarded as essential to enable the IDA to attract foreign direct investment, FDI, to the Sligo region. That is a significant fact, not forgetting as well that local representatives made such strong efforts to get funding and to progress this. It has been ongoing since the mid-2000s. Planning through the Part 8 process was achieved in 2006, phase one was constructed in 2010, a compulsory purchase order for phase two was approved by An Bord Pleanála in 2011 and the notice to treat was subsequently served on landowners. It has been a long journey to get as far as we have. When I put forward the Department's submission as part of the capital review process in 2017, additional funding was sought to allow it go ahead. The extra funding allocated as part of the capital review process, and reflected in the national development plan, means the project is now being progressed to construction.

I welcome and want to convey again the importance of this project. The current IDA industrial estate in Finisklin is chock-a-block. There is no space for new factory buildings so it is crucial that this progresses as quickly as possible.

I thank the IDA, Sligo County Council and the local representatives. The Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport provided €11 million and I think the IDA provided €5 million. It is a good combined effort.

Health Promotion

Kevin O'Keeffe


42. Deputy Kevin O'Keeffe asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the measures he is taking to increase the number of children and adults whoplay sports on a regular basis. [25418/18]

The Minister's Department published a report in 2016 on the national physical activity plan. It is being implemented at the moment on a stage by stage basis. Are we doing enough for the well-being of our children, adults and senior citizens regarding fitness? Can we do more on activity and is the Minister progressing matters on this issue?

I thank Deputy O'Keeffe for raising this. We are all well aware of the important health and well-being benefits of participation in sport by children and adults. Government investment in participation initiatives is having an impact and we will continue to invest in programmes and initiatives to increase participation levels further.

The national physical activity plan, launched in early 2016, contains a series of actions designed to foster increased physical activity by children and young people, including primary school children. My colleague, the Minister for Education and Skills, Deputy Richard Bruton, exercises lead responsibility for the majority of these actions. Significant progress has been made in relation to these actions, details of which are available in a progress report published on the Healthy Ireland website in December 2017. In respect of adult participation in sport, the 2017 Irish sports monitor report published by Sport Ireland last month shows that 43% of the adult population regularly take part in sport, representing 1.6 million regular participants.

Government investment in participation in sport is channelled through Sport Ireland, which invests in a wide range of programmes aimed at increasing participation in sport, including programmes aimed at groups currently underrepresented in sport. Sport Ireland is committed to providing enhanced sporting opportunities targeted at those less likely to participate through the local sports partnership network, national governing bodies and other partners. In the context of the new national sports policy, currently being finalised in my Department, there will be a strong focus on increasing participation levels in sport and physical activity at all ages and particularly for children and young people.

Achieving such increased participation levels is a significant challenge that will require the development of new projects and programmes in the future as well as continued implementation of existing successful initiatives. I consider that a fundamental requirement in this context is to maintain and strengthen links between the various Departments, agencies and sporting organisations. The means to address this requirement will be set out in the new sports policy. This will also refer to the need to invest further in sport. However, I can also point to many positive things happening on the ground, particularly in respect of our young people. The "daily mile", which was an outstanding success in Scotland, has been reported on here. Schools, Athletics Ireland, Sport Ireland and our Department are trying to see this rolled out in all schools throughout the country. It is very positive.

I welcome the Minister of State's response. I note the contents of the report. As the Minister of State said, only 43% of adults actively participate in sport. How can we increase this percentage? It is important. Almost 60% are still not participating in sports or activities for the sake of fitness. Do we need to give more hours to physical education for our children in our schools? The Minister of State opened a conference last week in Trinity College Dublin with the Sports Federation of Ireland. We are trying to put ourselves on the same level as New Zealand. It has the same population and the same approach to sports but we do not win the same number of medals. One of the things brought home to us during that deliberation was that schoolchildren in New Zealand get three hours a week of physical education while here there is a maximum of two hours. I do not know if the schools are actually doing the two hours. I am concerned. Could we do more and make it statutory that a number of hours are given to physical education?

As Deputy O'Keeffe knows, the Department of Education and Skills has carried out much work in respect of increasing the status of physical education in schools. I will address some of the other work going on that is worthy of a mention. The Government provides €10.8 million in core grant funding through the national governing bodies and Sport Ireland. Another €6 million goes to the local sports partnerships. Their key aim is to increase participation in sport at local level. That is sometimes overlooked but their work is very important. I refer in particular to areas underrepresented in sport. They do really good work.

The women in sport programme provides another €0.6 million to 26 national governing bodies. In addition, €7.54 million was allocated in 2017 to youth field sports by Sport Ireland. That money is again often overlooked but it is important funding as well. The sports monitor gave us some very interesting data recently but also something about to be published later this year will be very important in respect of young people and children in particular. I refer to the updated children's sport participation and physical activity, CSPPA, report. The last one was published 2010. That is something we will be watching keenly because it gives us a specific focus on children.

I thank and compliment the Minister of State, Deputy Griffin, for his work. When we think of obesity, people straightaway refer to the Mars bar and the bag of Tayto. However, much is also down to non-participation in physical activities. Physical education is a good way of getting our youth up to standard in the education system in respect of physical co-ordination and other aspects of well-being like that. We will keep an eye on things.

There is a subgroup of the national physical activity plan on children and young people. That focusses on 14 of the 60 actions trying to increase participation by children in sport. There is also representation on that group from Comhairle na nÓg, the National Parents Council and the agencies and national governing bodies as well. That is an important area in trying to implement those action points. I commend the work of everybody involved. To add to what Deputy O'Keeffe said, we do need to have more outlets. We try to provide outlets through the sports capital programme to ensure the best possible infrastructure is available to as many people as possible. Another key area has to be a focus on nutrition and what people, and children in particular, are putting into their bodies. Sometimes high levels of sugars and saturated fats are accepted as part of ordinary diets and they really should not be. That is another area we need to examine. I also compliment the work of Healthy Ireland and what it is doing on that front. That is all part of the bigger picture that we need to focus on.

Transport Policy

Imelda Munster


43. Deputy Imelda Munster asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the impediments which exist to the regulation of rickshaws in view of the fact that most other European states have regulated their use; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25253/18]

What are the impediments to regulating rickshaws, given that most other European cities have regulations?

The Deputy will be aware that, like her, I am very conscious of the case for taking steps to regulate the operation of rickshaws or to curtail their activities. She will also be aware that my Department is deeply engaged in working out whether and how the problems that have been identified in connection with rickshaws could be addressed or regulated in a meaningful and legally-robust way that is also proportionate, effective and cost-efficient.  She was part of the very useful and extensive discussion we had about this two weeks ago at a meeting of the Joint Committee on Transport, Tourism and Sport. The choice is simple. Rickshaws can be banned, left as they are or regulated. Banning them is one option, as is regulating. Leaving matters as they are is not an option.

As rickshaws are vehicles that operate on the public road, regulation requires us to consider the matter in the context of the Road Traffic Acts in the first instance.  Given the extensive record of litigation under those Acts, we must be very exact in terms of how we define a vehicle as a basis for developing new laws. The NTA advises that a pedal-powered rickshaw can be converted to a motorised one within minutes by attaching a small motor and that the motor can also be removed just as quickly.  However, the provisions of the Road Traffic Acts are clear in distinguishing mechanically-propelled vehicles from others.  There would be a very different set of requirements for a motorised rickshaw - because it would be regarded as a mechanically-propelled vehicle - than those that would apply in the case of a non-motorised rickshaw or bicycle.

While it may not be impossible, it is clear that a significant impediment in this context relates to the ability to develop new legislation that can be enforced in any meaningful way – especially given the ability to switch from being one type of vehicle to another at such speed.

In the international context, the position is not absolute.  There are EU member states where, like Ireland, rickshaws are not regulated at all. There are some where rickshaws are subject to regulation or where legislation is currently under development. In many cases where regulation has been introduced, this has often happened at local or municipal level.

Additional information not given on the floor of the House

The Deputy will be aware that the tradition across Europe demonstrates a model with stronger powers and functions at municipal level than is the case in Ireland. The question of regulation at local level has also been considered here. While some would favour that approach, there are also matters to be considered in terms of the powers currently available for local authorities, particularly the question as to what extent those powers could be used to ensure effective enforcement.

As I said when I appeared before the joint committee recently, I am putting the rickshaw industry on notice that I will be deciding very shortly as regards the introduction either of an outright prohibition or a new regulatory framework for rickshaws. While the preferred approach at present is an outright ban, I am aware that this option is not entirely without obstacles. My Department is engaging with the Office of the Attorney General to consider any blockages which might arise, including how best to weigh and balance private interests in the context of the public good.  Once consultations with the Office of the Attorney General are complete, I expect to be in a position to finalise and announce my decision before the end of this Dáil term.

I have said previously that rickshaws constitute a novel way of travelling that tourists enjoy. They are another transport option for many people, and the service provides around 1,000 jobs. There are problems with rickshaws but nothing that cannot be solved through regulation. The lack of regulation is the main reason for the problems. I have been calling on the Minister to regulate rickshaws for the past two years. I tabled an amendment in December 2016 to allow for regulation but, until now, the Minister has done absolutely nothing. Two weeks ago he announced that favoured an outright ban on rickshaws. It seems that, after two years of having every option on the table, the option the Minister has favoured the laziest one available rather than the most suitable in terms of policy or law.

The National Transport Authority, NTA, exists as a licensing authority. It regulates taxis, for example. Is the Minister saying that sufficient expertise are not available, between the NTA and his Department, to regulate for something as simple as a rickshaw?

The Deputy really does talk in exaggerated, broad-brush-----

The Minister does that regularly.

She said that she has been calling on me to act for two years. It has certainly not been two years. The amendment to which she refers-----

That amendment was made in 2016.

-----was made in December 2016. That is not two years ago.

The Minister has done nothing.

We would have four-year parliamentary terms if we used the Deputy's calculations and all sorts of other unpleasant problems would arise.

The Deputy went on to say that I have done nothing during the period in question. That is simply not true. We have been through this at the Joint Committee on Transport, Tourism and Sport. The NTA carried out an extremely thorough survey in respect of this issue in the past year and has come up with some fairly startling conclusions, one of which is that the majority of the people want to ban rickshaws. How can the Deputy say that nothing has been done when we have had a public consultation that has produced serious conclusions? I ask that she examine those conclusions before she comes out with rash statements.

There is an onus on the Minister to regulate. I have read a couple of the reports that have been compiled. They contain every single excuse under the sun. That is why I said the Minister is seeking to take the easy option. He is talking as if this is an impossible task, suggesting that we could never regulate the industry. Here is an example of what is possible. Rickshaws are regulated in cities such as Vienna, Copenhagen, Paris, Berlin, Frankfurt, Hanover, Hamburg, Budapest, Krakow, Milan, Rome, St. Petersburg, Barcelona, Valencia and London. Those cities are able to something as simple as regulate rickshaws. Two years have passed and the Minister needs to get his act together and do it.

This is ludicrous. The Deputy has said that I have done nothing and that I should get my act together. We seem to have an amnesiac in our midst. I accepted the amendment tabled by the Deputy.

Other countries are able to regulate rickshaws.

I will move on to the next question.

I accepted the amendment tabled by the Deputy. I gave her that commitment. I found that the legal problems were too great and that the matter has to be addressed in a different way. I immediately responded to what the Deputy did and said that we would take her point on board. To say that I do not have the enthusiasm for tackling this issue is absurd. We now have legal complexities which will be resolved.

Brexit Issues

Brendan Smith


44. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if the necessary upgrading of national and regional roads in the Border region will be prioritised for investment due to the particular economic challenges that will arise for the region following Brexit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25397/18]

The national development plan, NDP, sets out the investment priorities to 2027 that will support the implementation of the national planning framework. In doing so, the NDP sets out the major challenges facing the country including: demographic change; the need to move to a being a low-carbon, climate-resilient society; Brexit; and realising sustainable growth.

The plan seeks to set out a balanced set of investment priorities - with those challenges in mind - within an overall capital envelope.  While the NDP acknowledges the continuing uncertainty about the final arrangements relating to the UK's exit from the EU, chapter 4 of the plan contains an examination of how targeted investment can promote economic resilience in the Border region in the context of Brexit.  This chapter touches on a range of measures, including promoting research and innovation, attracting new investment, assisting SMEs to prepare for Brexit and investment in transport links.

In the context of the road network serving the Border region, the NDP includes references to many roads to which I have already referred in an earlier question.

Schemes on these routes are at various stages of development, and Transport Infrastructure Ireland, TII, in conjunction with the relevant local authorities, will be advancing the schemes on a phased basis within the overall capital budget available to it.

As regards the A5, implementation of the upgrade of the route is the responsibility of the Northern Ireland authorities. Under the Fresh Start agreement, the Government is committed to providing €75 million sterling towards the cost of the first phase of the scheme. The project is the subject of legal proceedings at present.

The funding allocated to my Department as part of the capital plan review last year includes financial provision for meeting the Government's commitment regarding the A5 in three £25 million tranches over the period 2019 to 2021.

I will take just one supplementary in order to facilitate other members. I welcome the fact that the Minister has committed to visiting the Border region during the summer months to see at first hand the interdependence of the road network in the North and the South and the huge challenges that businesses and commerce in general in the Border region face due to the adverse impact that Brexit will have. I emphasise that our local economy in the Cavan-Monaghan and south Ulster area is very heavily dependent on the agrifood sector, the construction products sector and the engineering sector. By definition those sectors require good infrastructure to transport their products to ports and airports. They use heavy goods vehicles. If vehicles are delayed on the roads as a result of inadequate infrastructure, there will be a cost to the business of the primary producer. The challenge is for local businesses to remain competitive. We have to try to assist those companies to remain as competitive as possible through the upgrading of infrastructure, and trying to reduce those transport costs as much as possible. That is within the competence of the Government. For historical reasons, the region has not had the investment required. It is now facing the particular challenge of Brexit. Investment must be prioritised.

I hear the Deputy loud and clear. I will be delighted to visit. Perhaps as well as looking at the roads the Deputy could arrange that we visit one or two of the companies that are likely to suffer.

Question No. 45 replied to with Written Answers.

Sports Capital Programme Administration

Martin Heydon


46. Deputy Martin Heydon asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the status of a new Sports Capital Programme; when it will be announced; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25280/18]

When will the new round of sports capital grants open this year? The grants are important for sports clubs that are planning development. The programme has had a positive impact on Kildare South clubs, and many are lining up to apply again. Can I have an update on that?

Has the Deputy projects in mind?

Every Member has a few projects in mind.

I thank the Deputy for raising this matter again. Along with many other Deputies, he has been a great champion of the sports capital programme. The Government allocated more than €60 million to more than 1,800 projects throughout the country under the 2017 programme. The Minister and I were delighted to do that, particularly with an increased budget.

A review of the 2017 programme has been finalised and is available on the Department's website. The review highlights aspects of the 2017 round that worked well, but also suggests further improvements that are currently being prioritised for consideration prior to the opening of the next round of the programme. Some of these changes will also require amendments to the Department's online application process and they have commenced.

The good news I have to announce is that formal sanction was received in recent days from the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform to open a new round of the programme. Accordingly, the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport and I expect to make an announcement on the timing of this round in the coming weeks. Some €40 million will be available for the 2018 programme, and all clubs and organisations registered on the Department's online application system will be notified at that time. I very much look forward to engaging with all Members on delivering that programme, as I have done in the past. It has a great impact on clubs and organisations on the ground, and we very much look forward to getting that money into communities in order that these organisations can improve their sporting infrastructure for everybody's benefit.

I thank the Minister of State for his positive response. It is great to hear that the programme will reopen soon. The sum of €40 million, an increase from last year, is a great resource for which the clubs can apply.

As we enter into the new process, I wish to ask about the lessons learned from the last one, and the sore and contentious issue of those clubs whose applications were deemed invalid. I discussed this with the Minister of State privately, and he shared my frustrations. Those decisions were disappointing for clubs that invested a great deal of time and effort in filling out the applications. It is hard on the individuals who volunteered to do that and who sometimes gets caught in the middle, along with the local politician, and is blamed for something falling through. At times, that can be because of a technical point. We need a system whereby if a club's application is deemed invalid, it is told early on and given a brief opportunity to rectify it, and the error is either sorted or it is not. We should not drag them through the process, not knowing until the last day when everyone else's result is announced. In particular, I refer to two clubs in Kildare South whose applications were deemed invalid in 2017 - Cill Dara Rugby Football Club, with which the Ceann Comhairle will be familiar, and Clogherinkoe GAA club. I hope they will be facilitated in the new process, taking into account the difficult process they went through last year.

I thank the Deputy. Great progress was made in the 2017 programme in cutting down the number of invalid applications. In 2012, 48% of applications were invalid while in the 2014 and 2015 rounds, the percentage was in the mid-thirties. It reduced to approximately 20% in 2017 and, for the first time, we had an appeals process for applicants that felt they were harshly adjudicated and their applications wrongly invalidated. That resulted in a further €2.3 million worth of allocations for applicants.

One of the key aspect of the 2018 programme is that no organisation will have its application ruled invalid without having a second chance to rectify the matters raised. That will be positive because, as the Deputy mentioned, one of the key frustrations for volunteers over the years has been disqualification of applications for a minor infraction of the rules. By giving people a second chance to set the application right before it is adjudicated on will give everybody a day at the races. After that, they can be adjudicated on based on the number of points they achieve under our scoring criteria.

I thank the Minister of State. That sounds sensible.

Written Answers are published on the Oireachtas website.