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Dáil Éireann debate -
Thursday, 17 Feb 2022

Vol. 1018 No. 3

Ceisteanna Eile - Other Questions

Harbours and Piers

Catherine Connolly

Question:

6. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development further to Parliamentary Question No. 62 of 7 December 2021, the status of the development of Caladh Mór pier on Inis Meáin; the overall expected cost of the development project; the total cost to date of the project; the status of the development of the updated simulation by the National Maritime College of Ireland; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8495/22]

Baineann mo cheist leis an struchtúr bunúsach. Baineann sé le stádas forbartha ché an Chalaidh Mhóir. Cá bhfuil sé? Cad é an costas iomlán agus cén uair a fheicfimid an togra seo críochnaithe? The Minister is familiar with this issue. I know she took a particular interest in the Caladh Mór pier on Inis Meáin. What is the precise status of the project?

The Inis Meáin pier development is included in the national development plan. As the Deputy will be aware, Galway County Council is the body responsible for development of stage 3 of the Caladh Mór pier development. Users of the pier, including several State-subsidised ferry operators, have highlighted issues with capacity within the harbour, as well as with currents around the mouth of the harbour.

As part of the preparatory works, the National Maritime College of Ireland, NMCI, was instructed by Galway County Council to develop a model simulation for the harbour which will inform the business case options for the development. Following feedback from the various parties who attended a demonstration of the model, the NMCI is furthering the development of the simulation. It is expected the updated simulation will give a more precise and accurate overview of how the conditions at the pier affect the specific key vessels that use it. Additional marine studies are also to be carried out in the harbour to gather further data and these will feed into the simulation.

Once the NMCI has completed its work, Galway County Council will incorporate the findings into its draft business case. Following on from this, the Department will be in a position to evaluate the next steps in the process in line with the public spending code and available funding. Approximately €14 million has been spent on the development of the pier to date and, at present, it is estimated that stage 3 will cost approximately €16.5 million.

I welcome the update. I am sure my colleague, an Teachta Ó Cuív, will come in on this issue. He has asked many questions about it. The first and second phases were completed in 2008, almost 14 years ago. The college in Cork is now being asked to look at a simulation exercise. When will that be complete? Do we need to wait for it to be complete before the business case begins? Has the business case already begun? Can the two be done comhthreomhar le chéile - parallel with each other? It is now 2022 and it is unacceptable for phase 3 to be still in never-neverland.

I know this is an issue to which Deputies Connolly and Ó Cuív are very committed. As they are aware, I visited the pier with Deputy Ó Cuív. It has become clear that following completion of phase 2 of the pier project, the expected wave patterns and currents at the entrance to the harbour were not fully understood, requiring preparation of modelling simulations by NMCI which will impact on the development options. The work of NMCI on developing the simulation was delayed by Covid restrictions. That meant it was not until July last year that people could view the simulation. There is a need for additional surveys to be carried out at the location. This relates specifically to the development options to facilitate use of the harbour by the cargo vessel. Once the conclusions are available, the business case can be progressed. Officials of my Department will be holding a meeting with Galway County Council and members of the Inis Meáin community tomorrow, 18 February, to discuss the development of the project and listen to any concerns they may have.

That was my question - whether the meeting in February had taken place. We knew from a previous reply that it was to take place.

It is going take place on Friday. That is progress.

I cannot emphasise enough the consequences of not having the third phase completed, especially in the context of safe access to the pier for cargo ships, for the factory and for the businesses there that rely on importing and exporting either materials or the final product. Will the Minister be in attendance at the meeting taking place tomorrow? Have meetings been happening on a regular basis? Have these been documented in order that we can see that progress is being made in respect of this matter? What does the Minister foresee as the final date for the work on the NMCI in Cork to be completed? I did not hear that mentioned in the previous reply.

The last part of that question was going to be the first part of my question. When will this particular process be over? It has been going on for a long time.

Will the Department provide a list of all the steps that will need to be taken before we can proceed to into construction? In the context of Inis Oírr, for example, the problem that arose was that planning permission had been obtained but just when everything was ready to go, it was suddenly discovered that there was no foreshore licence. Can the Minister provide a list of all of the relevant steps in order that the community, the local politicians and the Department are clear on what is going to be involved in progressing this project? We can then look at what steps can be taken in parallel.

To a certain extent, we over-egged the business case. Effectively, this can only be done in one way in order to arrived at the desired result from a maritime point of view. Whatever that cost, it is going to have to be done. Either that or it will cost much more money to relocate the people off a dying island.

I thank Deputies Connolly and Ó Cuív. This issue relating to this pier is complex. We tried to do this before many years ago and we did not get it right. As a result, it is important that all of the necessary preparatory work is done so that we do get it right. It is early in this development process and a revised timeline for the project has yet to be agreed with Galway County Council. The timeline will be prepared in consultation with the engineers, and we will lay out the various development steps following agreement of the business plan with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. Prior to construction, there are a number of pre-construction issues to be addressed. Deputy Ó Cuív is correct in his reference to foreshore licensing, planning, environmental and marine surveys and the tendering process. Accordingly, based on the previous harbour development, it may be that, following approval of the project, actual construction may not commence until year 2.

We are having fortnightly meetings with Galway County Council and are keeping the pressure on. I know this has been going on for a long time. I have visited the pier and I am committed to working with the Deputies to try to move this on as quickly as we can. However, the matter is complex. The currents at the entrance to the harbour are making it difficult to get it right. That is the position.

Community Development Projects

David Stanton

Question:

7. Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the measures being taken by her Department to support communities and to encourage community activities and events as Covid-19 restrictions begin to ease; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8573/22]

This question has to do with the fact that many communities have been locked up for a number of years now with Covid-19 and are beginning to come back out into the open again. We all know how important it is for mental and physical health that communities are active and can get together to do things. Very often, they do not have places for this. What supports are the Minister of State and the Department putting in place to enable this to happen?

I thank the Deputy for his question. Given my Department's remit in supporting the economic and social development of rural Ireland and community development throughout the country, many of our existing funding schemes support the response to and the recovery from the pandemic. However, a number of specific targeted measures are aimed at directly supporting the Covid-19 response and recovery in communities right across the country.

Through the Covid-19 stability fund, my Department supported 863 organisations in 2020 and 2021 with total funding of approximately €48.8 million. This funding enables organisations to continue to deliver vital services to the most vulnerable in our communities during the pandemic.

The community enhancement programme provides vital supports to assist local groups to reopen their facilities post Covid-19. The programme provided €4.5 million funding in 2021 for small capital grants for the improvement of facilities and it is planned to run the scheme again in 2022.

We also recently launched a €9 million community activities fund to support community and voluntary groups affected by Covid-19. This fund will help community groups, especially in disadvantaged areas with running costs such as utility and insurance bills, as well as with improvements to the facilities. In order to ensure that funding is targeted to where it is most needed in each local authority area, it will be administered locally by the local community development committees.

My Department's committee services programme supports over 420 community organisations to provide local services through a social enterprise model with a co-funding model of €19,000 paid towards the cost of each agreed full-time equivalent position and €32,000 paid towards the cost of each manager position. The transitional LEADER programme also runs until the end of 2022, with €65 million available to local action groups who deliver the programme and approve projects at local level. Some €20 million of this is funded by the European Union recovery instrument to enable local communities and enterprises to respond and recover from the Covid-19 pandemic. In addition, adjustments to programmes delivered by my Department, such as the town and village renewal and CLÁR programmes, are made where required to further support communities.

I thank the Minister of State for his response. I congratulate him and his Department on the work they are doing and the money that is being made available. Much of the money that is being put forward is dependent on facilities being made available such as playing fields, playgrounds, sports facilities, halls and so forth. In many instances, where communities have expanded greatly in the past number of years, there are no such facilities except the local school.

I draw the Minister of State's attention to guidelines on the use of school buildings outside of school hours which were issued in October 2017 by the Department of Education and Skills which encouraged the use of local schools but in many instances these school buildings are not available. Doors are locked at 3 p.m. or 3.30 p.m. There are fantastic sports halls and community rooms in these schools. They are all locked up all evening and all night and are not available to communities. Would the Minister of State consider looking at these guidelines to see what could be done to encourage and support the schools and the communities to make these facilities available? Does the Minister of State not agree that this kind of move would be of great benefit, especially where there are no community halls, rooms or sports facilities available to communities?

I thank the Deputy. I should mention to him that the forthcoming community centre fund may also be of relevance.

Specifically on the question about schools, I can certainly identify with that because there are plenty of examples I can think of where there are large rooms available that are not always accessible. Ultimately, it is, I presume, a question for the boards of management of these schools. I hope that as we come out of Covid-19 that we will have some positive announcements in the coming days on the easing of restrictions and that the schools may be more open to doing this then. Obviously, for the past two years, the boards of management of schools have been very reluctant to rent those rooms out, and, of course, they were not allowed to do so.

On another aspect, I have talked a great deal about facilities under the community employment programme, CEP, and the community activities fund. There is also the Tidy Towns initiative for activating community groups. The Minister should be making an announcement about the 2022 competition soon. Some €1.5 million is being put towards that initiative last year and it is a great way of activating communities at a very grassroots level.

I thank the Minister of State for his response/ I acknowledge that there are many schools which open their doors and make their facilities available. There are also quite a number of them that do not and will not. It is wrong that we have hundreds of millions of euros being made available by the taxpayer for these facilities and yet the boards of management and the management of the schools refuse to even engage with local community groups who are crying out for activities and are worried about their children hanging around the streets at night with nowhere to go. We know where that can lead.

I ask the Minister of State to consider some proactive measures to reach out and engage with these schools and communities and to call on them publicly to make their facilities available? Perhaps we can also use some of the funding that is out there - the Minister of State outlined tens of millions of euros in that regard - to cover the insurance and the caretaker costs that are very often used as a reason why schools will not be made available. Would the Minister of State not agree with me that it is wrong that these facilities are locked up, especially where there is nothing available in a community which may have expanded, with many new housing developments and many teenagers hanging around with nowhere to go. This is a positive move which does not cost a great deal of money because the facilities are already there.

I again thank the Deputy. In respect of any improvements or adjustments that schools might wish to make, that is definitely not within our Department's bailiwick but it may be something we can talk to the Minister for Education about.

I will take this question on board because it is a good one. We all are aware of space that is available in communities but which is not always accessible. We have a responsibility to at least make an inquiry as to what we can do in that regard. However, we are talking about facilities that are funded by another Department and have independent boards of management. We cannot force anybody to do this but we can certainly explore how we can encourage it and say that we would be supportive of a move to make such facilities more active.

Regarding the Deputy's initial question on supporting community activities, we have a big day coming up next month with St. Patrick's Day. My colleague, the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, Deputy Catherine Martin, will be doing a great deal to support cultural and artistic events. I have not looked forward to a St. Patrick's Day as much as I am looking forward to the one coming up. Many people across communities in the country will be looking forward to it as well. The Government, and the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media will certainly support those activities and help people to get out and socialise again.

Question No. 8 replied to with Written Answers.

Regional Development

Colm Burke

Question:

10. Deputy Colm Burke asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the engagement her Department has had on the development of new regional enterprise plans; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8652/22]

This question is about the development of the new regional enterprise plans. I understand that nine plans are to be developed. What progress has been made on them and what engagement has taken place? When are the plans to be finalised and when will they be launched?

The development of new regional enterprise plans falls within the remit of my colleague, the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment. A total of nine plans are being developed by his Department for each region, which will run until 2024. I understand that these are expected to be published in the near future.

The plans are massively important for achieving balanced regional development by ensuring that regional strategies are aligned with the national ambitions for enterprise and employment growth as outlined in Project Ireland 2040 and the national recovery and resilience plan. The plans will drive sustainability and quality job creation in the regions, facilitating each region to achieve its economic potential through bottom-up, collaborative initiatives based on each region's strengths and opportunities. The publication of the new plans will also fulfil a commitment in Our Rural Future 2021-2025, the national rural development policy developed by my Department collaboratively across Government. This engagement continues through the implementation of Our Rural Future 2021-2025.

In terms of engagement with the development of the new regional enterprise plans, my Department has played an active role. Officials from my Department are members of the national oversight group and also sit on steering committees for the development of the new regional enterprise plans in a number of regions. I welcome the forthcoming completion of the plans and I look forward to further engagement regarding their implementation over the coming years.

Under the rural development policy for 2021 to 2025 there are 152 policy measures in the framework plan. For example, policy measure 25 is to promote awareness, and the use, of remote working hubs. That is a problem in my constituency. There are three hubs in my constituency but approximately 50% of the people in one of the areas involved do not have access to broadband. There is a community centre that is serving a huge population. There are 900 children in the local primary schools. As one can imagine, there is also a large number of children in secondary school and college. There is a facility available but we cannot get a hub there. That is Inniscarra parish. It is likewise with Mourneabbey and Glenville. These are things we need to develop. Is there any proposal for the provision of funding for the roll-out of additional hubs in areas where there will not be broadband for the next five years? Broadband will not be available in many of these areas until 2025 or 2026.

Policy measure 30 is to deliver a suite of new measures to support the development of social enterprise in rural areas. Again, that is very important one for job creation. When will we see the overall delivery in respect of these two measures? These are just two of the 152 policy areas in this framework.

Regarding the area the Deputy mentioned that has no broadband and cannot get a broadband connection point, I suggest that he contact either Cork City Council or Cork County Council-----

The parish of Inniscarra has been divided in two with the extension of the city boundary. Half of the parish is now in the city and half is in the county. It is a huge community. We have been very lucky in developing community facilities. There are over 50 acres of community grounds between rugby pitches, soccer pitches, GAA pitches and camogie pitches, but there is no broadband.

There is no reason that Cork City Council and Cork County Council cannot work together. It is not a big job to get a broadband connection point, to be honest. We have been rolling them out across the country. We have been working with the broadband officers in the local authorities and they have given great service. In other counties where there is no broadband in the area we fund the connection of a broadband connection point. We have also funded different communities to provide the facilities they need for remote working, e-learning and the different things they can do in the broadband connection points.

I strongly recommend contacting the broadband officer in the local authority and making an application to get a connection point there. Nobody wants to see that number of people in an area without broadband. If the Deputy wishes to write to me about it, I will follow it up on his behalf. It is important in this day and age that people have a community space where they can access broadband.

I have engaged with the local authority and it says it does not have funding to develop further hubs. Can that be looked at with regard to funding so additional hubs can be made available?

I do not have the list with me but I understand a lot of broadband connection points have been funded in Cork. There are 17 on the connected hubs platform and we have mapped out 19 to invite on board to get into the connected hubs platform. That is quite a few, but we will look at the specific issue the Deputy has raised.

Is it agreed that we go back to Question No. 9 in the name of Deputy Higgins? Agreed.

Philanthropy Initiatives

Emer Higgins

Question:

9. Deputy Emer Higgins asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the work carried out by her Department to encourage and further develop philanthropy in Ireland. [8607/22]

I thank the Acting Chair for her discretion. My apologies, but I was attending a committee meeting. This question is about the work being carried out by the Department to encourage and further develop philanthropy in Ireland.

I thank the Acting Chair for the flexibility because I very much welcome this question. My Department's statement of strategy contains a commitment to support the growth and development of philanthropy in Ireland and to develop a national policy on philanthropy. My Department works in partnership with Philanthropy Ireland, Charities Institute Ireland and Rethink Ireland to support their work to facilitate, encourage and grow philanthropic giving in Ireland. This includes the provision of grant funding. In 2021, my Department signed a new five-year contract with Rethink Ireland. The business model is for Government funding to match the philanthropic donations on a 50:50 co-funded basis. An allocation of €5.5 million match funding for this initiative is provided in the dormant accounts action plan for this year.

I thank the Minister of State for his response. As he rightly outlined, the existence of a vibrant and thriving philanthropic community is a very important element of civic society. In recent years especially, we have seen outstanding philanthropic work from individuals and organisations. Even at times of such difficulty and constraint Irish people have always managed to find the time and means to think of others. This is something we should be very proud of as a nation. Annual philanthropic giving to registered charities amounted to €108 million over the period from 2017 to 2018. However, research by Indecon notes that outside of Ireland there has been a decline in annual levels of philanthropic giving by international philanthropists. There was a decline of approximately €65 million from 2014 to 2019. How do we address this international shortfall? How will the Department's national philanthropic policy ensure we, as an island, do not become overreliant on international philanthropy?

I thank the Deputy who has made a very good point. In the past there has certainly been a level of overreliance on a small number of very large international philanthropic organisations. As the policy goes forward I will be supportive of getting more Irish-based medium-sized philanthropic giving throughout the country. There is an argument for it being area-based also. There have been some proposals in this regard from foundations working in the area, whereby we should encourage a localised form of philanthropic giving. It is already happening but it is certainly an area of huge untapped potential in the country. There are many good people and businesses who want to make a contribution towards improving society. It is certainly our intention that the policy will facilitate this in a much better way than it has in the past.

I thank the Minister of State for his response. We know the regulatory and fiscal frameworks vary between countries. There is no single example of best practice in this regard. One aspect is, of course, Government support for philanthropic endeavour through providing tax or other incentives. The OECD has indicated there is no single accepted rationale for the preferential tax treatment of philanthropy. This is because it is such a complex area. It is critical that any tax incentive is used effectively and not in any way exploited. I would welcome more information on how we are navigating regulation of philanthropic work and proper use of incentives.

I thank the Deputy. This specific issue is one we will start tackling this year. We hope to announce in the near future an advisory group to help us develop this policy. It is worth citing the top five things that motivate philanthropic giving as listed in the Indecon report. These are care about the cause, people believing they can make a difference, people believing we all need to help solve social problems, trusting the organisations being donated to and wanting to help people who are less fortunate. These are very good intentions that we want to support more. While there is a reasonable level of philanthropic giving in Ireland, compared to other European countries of a similar level we are quite low. It is an area of untapped potential and we will be deciding this year, through the national policy development process, how we facilitate more of these people who want to do the things that we do in government also. There will be a challenge because much philanthropic giving is very personal and there is a balancing act in trying to encourage it to align to some extent with government priorities also. It is a delicate balancing act. We want to facilitate people to give to the causes that they want to.

Community Development Projects

Colm Burke

Question:

11. Deputy Colm Burke asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the total amount of funding provided to community and voluntary organisations specifically to assist with the impact of Covid-19; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8653/22]

I thank the Department for the work it has done. My question is on the funding provided to community and voluntary organisations specifically to assist with the impact of Covid-19. This funding was extremely beneficial in helping communities. Now it is about trying to encourage communities to get back into full action. We have had the Covid-19 stability fund and the town and village renewal schemes. What changes do we need to make to ensure there is adequate support for the community organisations that made a huge contribution during very difficult times?

The Department introduced a range of supports to help community and voluntary organisations meet the challenges they faced during and after Covid-19. For instance, the Covid-19 stability fund supported 863 organisations in 2020 and 2021, with total funding of approximately €48.8 million. In 2020, €4.2 million was provided under the Covid-19 emergency fund which targeted help at groups participating in the Government's community call initiative.

The community enhancement programme provides vital supports to assist local groups to re-open their facilities post Covid-19. The programme provided €4.5 million funding in 2021 for small capital grants for the improvement of facilities and it is planned to run the scheme again in 2022.

In November 2021, we launched the new community activities fund. This €9 million fund is being provided to support community and voluntary groups impacted by Covid-19, helping them with their bills and maintenance. The community services programme, CSP, also funded by the Department supports more than 420 community organisations nationwide. In response to the Covid-19 crisis, the Department developed a €8.95 million CSP support fund to cover the period 2020 to 2021.

As Deputy Burke can see, the Department has responded very well to the needs of the community and voluntary sector throughout Covid-19. In general, I encourage all organisations to check the gov.ie website in order to be aware of funding opportunities as they become available. The community activities fund being run through local community development centres is the most current of these.

I thank the Minister of State. The community activities fund he outlined is a €9 million fund. My understanding is that demand for the fund may have exceeded the total funding available. Is any provision being made whereby additional money can be put into this? It is extremely important. The town and village renewal scheme had funding of €15.4 million. This goes back to the issue of hubs. The Minister of State referred to 17 hubs in Cork. Two of these are in my constituency even though 50% of the constituency is rural. We have had very little by way of a positive response from Cork County Council on this matter. The town and village renewal scheme and the community activities fund are extremely important. It is important that we ensure there is adequate funding for community groups.

This year there was a significant increase in the town and village renewal scheme with €22 million allocated to it. With regard to the Deputy's point on the community activities fund being oversubscribed we do not know this yet. It may be happening at a local level. Over the coming month or two we will get feedback from the local authorities, which will tell us how many applications they have had. I suspect it will be oversubscribed. Later in the year we will look at the community enhancement programme, which is a similarly run programme through the local community development centres. There will be opportunities for similar type applications under this front later in the year. We monitor the situation closely in terms of demand and take-up of grants. I acknowledge the work of volunteer centres throughout the country. We often talk about the community enhancement programme and the town and village renewal scheme. We also support the volunteer centres and we now have one in every county. I acknowledge their work particularly during Covid.

I thank the Minister of State and the Minister for all the work particularly during Covid-19.

My understanding is County Cork has the largest allocation of broadband connection points. There has been some exploration of how more might be got, perhaps through a private channel in the short term, before we develop additional support for it. The Deputy and I have been in touch about this. We have done a little bit of digging.

Harbours and Piers

Catherine Connolly

Question:

12. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development further to Parliamentary Question No. 811 of 14 December 2021, the status of the development of the pier on Inis Oírr; when she expects the pre-construction issues to be finalised; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8494/22]

Ag dul ar ais go dtí na hoileáin, an uair seo go hInis Oírr. Baineann mo cheist leis an gcéibh agus an obair atá beartaithe uirthi le fada an lá. Tagraím go háirithe do stádas na dtascanna atá riachtanach roimh an fhorbairt atá beartaithe.

My question relates to Inis Oírr and the pier development. It has been promised for years. Previous questions were asked by me and my colleagues in Galway West. We have specifically asked for times and dates. I am asking today about the pre-construction issues. Can we have clarity on those?

Táimid ar ais ag na hoileáin. As the Deputy is aware, Galway County Council is the responsible authority for the maintenance and development of infrastructure on the Aran Islands. The development of the pier on Inis Oírr is listed among the strategic objectives set out in Project Ireland 2040.

I understand that the council held a meeting recently with the foreshore unit in the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage to discuss the application for a foreshore licence. They were advised that it is a lengthy process and some additional studies will need to be undertaken.

Given these developments, I am not in a position to provide the Deputy with a definitive date for the resolution of all of the pre-construction issues. I can assure the House that my Department will continue to engage robustly with Galway County Council so that the issues continue to be progressed as quickly as possible.

I note the words "robustly" and "continue". They are appropriate in the context of this island because the planning permission dates back to 2008. Here we are again. I welcome that there is a steering committee and I welcome the fact that it is meeting regularly. It would be more helpful if the minutes were available so we could all be part of that, because that would bring openness and accountability. What is worrying in this case, however, is that the business case was agreed, I understand, last April. The business case is out of the way, and I understand that the money problem is out of the way. The planning permission problem is out of the way. The difficulty now are the pre-tasks such as the pre-construction and the application for a foreshore licence. I do not know whether I am misunderstanding this, but from my reading of comments made, I believe by the Minister when she was addressing the Joint Committee on Social Protection, Community and Rural Development and the Islands, we were given to understand that an application had been made for a foreshore licence. Is that application with the Department? Perhaps the Minister could clarify that for me.

Galway County Council is submitting that application. I understand that the application is with the relevant Department, which I believe is the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage. As I understand it, it is there. We are meeting fortnightly with Galway County Council but the ball is in its court at this moment. The Department has approved the business case. Galway County Council is in the process of resolving the pre-construction issues, before a request for tender can be issued. Money is not the issue here. I am concerned about how long it is taking. We are meeting with the council and we are continuing to make sure that it is moved on quickly as possible, insofar as we can. That is all I can say to the Deputy on it. There are a number of things that must be addressed. I am a bit concerned that the foreshore is going to take time to issue, but there is a process to go through. That is where the matter stands.

I understand that, and I understand the Minister doing her best in respect of this matter. I do not know, however, how we can get so far from where it was good news, nearly with the approval to go out to tender, and with the business case done and everything ready. Yet now we are back here again. I understood that construction was to begin, albeit in stages, before the end of this year. Now we are back looking at a foreshore licence and a compulsory purchase order.

In fairness to the council, there has not been a manager for that council for a long time. There have been acting managers. There have been problems with retention of staff and people moving. How much attention are they in a position to give to a project of this size? Are there enough staff and is there a driving force? I acknowledge that the Minister has a driving force now with the steering committee, but who is driving this in the county council? Does it have sufficient staff and expertise? At some stage, can we get a date for completion of the work? Why was the foreshore licence not applied for before this?

Gabhaim buíochas leis an Teachta Connolly as ucht na ceiste tábhachtach seo a chur chun cinn. Tá sé go maith go bhfuil cruinnithe rialta ar siúl leis an gcomhairle contae ach is mór an trua é go bhfuil daoine ag fanacht le fada an lá agus nach bhfuil amlínte ann faoi láthair mar tá amlínte tábhachtach. Tá a fhios againn go bhfuil Stoirm Eunice ag teacht amárach agus b'fhéidir go mbeidh tuilleadh damáiste. Táthar ag rá go mb'fhéidir go mbeidh stádas dearg ag baint leis sin agus léiríonn sin arís eile cé chomh tábhachtach is atá sé seo mar phíosa infreastruchtúr do mhuintir na n-oileán, do mhuintir Inis Oírr agus d'éinne atá ag déanamh obair le hInis Oírr.

It is positive that these regular meetings are happening. That is very important. Obviously, the most important thing is to make sure that the people of Inis Oírr are fully aware. We are coming up to another storm tomorrow and we know the impact this can have on the island community, and especially when this kind of critical infrastructure is needed. I would urge that there is constant contact with the local community.

There is constant contact between my officials and the islanders.

I have been asked questions regarding Galway County Council, which I honestly cannot answer. I can say that my Department is giving Galway County Council all of the support we can give in trying to move this on as quickly as possible. They are finalising the compulsory purchase order, CPO, for two parcels of land. One is a temporary CPO for the duration of the development and the other is permanent.

Galway County Council has lodged the foreshore licence application but they were advised during a recent meeting with the foreshore unit that it is a lengthy process and no estimated time for approval had been given. If we can move it on quicker we can, but obviously there is a process that must be gone through to get that.

Additional marine surveys and environmental studies are to be carried out at the location as part of the foreshore application. Galway County Council has published draft bye-laws for the management of the pier and is currently collating the submissions received from the public.

The project will not be held up by my Department. The money is not the issue. It will get the funding but there are things that have to be done before the project can be progressed any further.

Regional Development

Aindrias Moynihan

Question:

13. Deputy Aindrias Moynihan asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the range of schemes and value of same for regional development throughout Ireland in the past two years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8686/22]

My question relates to the range of schemes that will be available for people who want to advance a lot of different regional developments across the country, and the euro value of those schemes to them. There are many options, but people need to be able to access those and know where they can access them.

I thank Deputy Moynihan for raising this matter. The programme for Government places a strong emphasis on balanced regional development through a range of measures. My Department supports this commitment through targeted investment that supports rural regeneration, facilitates new working opportunities, and fosters regional enterprise growth.

Our Rural Future is a whole-of-government rural development policy which sets out a range of measures to strengthen the resilience of our rural communities and economies, including addressing the impacts of the challenges experienced by people living and working in rural Ireland and maximising opportunities for rural areas.

The NDP will support the achievement of the ambitious objectives set out in that document. Over the life of the NDP, my Department will continue to invest in and support rural Ireland and communities across the country, supported through the various scheme such as the rural regeneration and development fund, the LEADER programme, the town and village renewal scheme, the outdoor recreation infrastructure scheme, the local improvement scheme, the CLÁR programme, the islands capital programme, the community enhancement programme, the libraries investment capital funding, the PEACE IV programme and the PEACEPLUS programme. Details of funding allocations under specific schemes provided by my Department are available online at www.gov.ie. All of the different funding we have allocated in the past is outlined there. People can make the necessary applications to the various schemes available to help them in their regions.

I thank the Minister. I want to acknowledge the wide variety of schemes available, which is good because it allows specific needs to be targeted. However, there are many options available to different groups, which means that they end up making a range of different applications, often carrying a lot of overheads and effort in order to access that funding.

I deal with a large number of people in my constituency office. The LEADER group IRD does similar. A range of others also do this work, including the council. There is no one-stop shop because there are so many different channels. It is difficult for groups to know where to access the various different streams. Can the Minister identify whether there could be a one-stop shop approach?

Due to myriad applications, many groups are putting a lot of effort into making the same, or very similar, application for a number of different programmes. There are overheads involved for individual groups at the expense of communities if funding is being directed towards applications. Has the Minister considered whether there are opportunities to change that?

I thank the Deputy. He is correct. Sometimes there are many different funding streams and organisations are not sure which one to apply for. I will engage with local authorities and various other groups to give them briefings on the different funding streams and what they are targeted towards.

The first port of call for any community group applying for funding through my Department is the local authority. I have encouraged local authorities, through community officers and LEADER companies, to try to build capacity within communities to help them submit applications. The one place any organisation needs to go for funding is the local authority. We need a joined up approach. I will meet local authorities very soon and we will go through all of the different funding streams and explain in detail what they relate to so that there is no duplication in applications. Many of the applications we receive are for sports capital grants. Other funding is available for tourism projects, through Fáilte Ireland or the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media. Local authorities should provide that joined up approach.

I thank the Minister. There are a range of different streams. While many of them will be dealt with through local authorities, there is still a need for groups to go to the likes of IRD or access other local groups such SECAD and so on in order to access some funds. A very good example is the scheme being operated by Cork County Council, where one application covers amenity, community and recreation grants. That reduces the burden on community groups and ensures they are focused on a particular need.

I am trying to establish whether the Minister wants to have a one-stop shop in local authorities or anywhere else. Has the Minister considered various options? What kind of timeframe does she have in mind to support community groups?

Any community group looking for funding from my Department needs to go to the local authority. Local authorities engage with communities. They send applications to my Department and put proposals together. In terms of LEADER funding, organisations go to a local LEADER company which funds different initiatives, such as enterprises or community halls. There are a number of different funding opportunities. I advise communities to engage with their local authorities. I will make it very clear to local authorities what is available when I meet them in the next few weeks. There is a community section in every local authority and I want organisations to engage with their local communities.

Question No. 14 replied to with Written Answers.

Rural Schemes

Marian Harkin

Question:

15. Deputy Marian Harkin asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development if the new 2023-2027 LEADER programme will be ready for activation at the start of 2023. [8716/22]

Can the Minister confirm that the new 2023-2027 LEADER programme will be ready for activation at the start of 2023?

I thank the Deputy for the question. The LEADER programme is one of the key intervention of our rural future, the Government's policy for rural development launched last year. An indicative budget of €180 million is allocated for the LEADER programme for the period 2023-2027, with €70 million already provided for 2021 and 2022 under the transitional LEADER programme. A total of €250 million will be made available for the 2021-2027 period, thus maintaining the level of funding provided for the 2014-2020 programme period.

The draft CAP strategic plan, which includes LEADER, was submitted to the EU Commission by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine at the end of December 2021. This is in line with the timeline set by the European Commission. The process of negotiating and agreeing the plan with the European Commission has commenced. The timeline for implementation of the new LEADER programme is closely linked to this process. Accordingly, my officials will continue to work closely with colleagues from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and the Commission over the coming months with a view to obtaining approval for the CAP strategic plan as a matter of priority. In parallel with this process, my officials are continuing to engage with key stakeholders regarding the new LEADER programme and the ongoing implementation of the transitional LEADER programme to ensure that the vital role that LEADER plays in rural Ireland continues to be supported.

The Minister clearly said that the timeline for implementation is closely linked to the negotiation of the CAP strategic plan. In that context, we know that it is not unusual for programmes to be delayed. If, for example, we are not ready to go by 1 January 2023, the Minister and I know some companies would struggle to keep going financially. The transition programme is in place to 1 January, but some companies are tight enough, especially when it comes to administrative funding and would have real difficulty going beyond 1 January next year.

The Minister knows if that were to happen jobs and the continuity of some of programmes would be at risk. Is there any plan, stopgap or mechanism in place to ensure that if we are not ready to go by 1 January next year that those companies will not find themselves running out of money?

I thank the Deputy. In fairness, she probably knows this process much better than I do when it comes to Europe. The funding allocation for 2021-2027 has been maintained at the current level.

It is important to me that LEADER continues to support rural communities as it moves into the new programming period. That is why it was vital for Ireland to submit its CAP strategic plan to the EU on time. Not every member state met that deadline. An intensive process of negotiations with the EU will follow the initial review of all the schemes in the new CAP strategic plan. My officials are engaging in this process as a matter of priority to ensure the new LEADER programme is in place as soon as possible. Next January is some time away yet but I am aware of the good work that LEADER is doing. I was quick to commit to the transitional funding of €70 million, because we did not want it to stop. I am committed to supporting it.

I agree that the Minister and her officials are actively engaged in the negotiation of the CAP strategic plan and want things to start next January. We also know that we need to plan for the future. There have been previous occasions where we have not been ready to go and it may happen again, when everything is not in place. Some companies just will not have administrative funding. Jobs and the continuity of programmes will be at risk.

We are running over time, so I will not keep going. I will give the Minister the last few seconds to respond. This is a concern.

It was the same story in 2016. The programme did not run out of money then. We have always supported it. I am conscious of the work that it does. I do not want to second guess the negotiations in the EU. We hope that it will move on quickly. The transition programme was brought in and the funding was provided so that it could continue its good work.

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