Questions Nos. 1 to 23, inclusive, answered orally.

Questions Nos. 24 to 100, inclusive, resubmitted.

Questions Nos. 101 to 107, inclusive, answered orally.

The Gathering Initiatives

Questions (108, 140, 174, 780)

Michael Moynihan

Question:

108. Deputy Michael Moynihan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his targets for the Gathering 2013; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8555/13]

View answer

Barry Cowen

Question:

140. Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will provide an update on the Gathering 2013; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8540/13]

View answer

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

174. Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will provide an update on the Gathering 2013; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8397/13]

View answer

Andrew Doyle

Question:

780. Deputy Andrew Doyle asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will provide an update on the Gathering 2013; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8525/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Transport)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 108, 140, 174 and 780 together.

I am pleased to report good progress on the Gathering Ireland 2013 -  Ireland's biggest ever tourism initiative. The overall target is to attract at least 325,000 extra overseas visits to Ireland in 2013. Assuming this target is achieved, it will generate an additional €170 million in revenue for the Irish economy this year, based on historic spending patterns.  The 2013 Estimates allocations to Failte Ireland include a special provision of €7 million which was specifically provided for The Gathering. This amount is to be used exclusively to fund the promotion, development and legacy of the event.

The general response from the public and tourism stakeholders has been overwhelmingly positive. There are now over 3,000 individual gatherings confirmed on the Gathering website. These include clan gatherings, festivals, special sporting events and concerts taking place all across the country throughout the year. Along with well-established events and festivals, we are also supporting a specially targeted set of events for the Gathering, such as the very successful New Year's Eve Event in Dublin which marked the start of the festivities.

Obviously the ambitious targets for overseas visits and associated revenue can only be achieved if people in our main source tourism markets are aware of the initiative. Tourism Ireland continues to mount a major consumer campaign to promote The Gathering to the people across the world that feel linked by family, friends or otherwise with Ireland. The agency is undertaking cooperative activity with the major airlines and ferry operators to highlight the value fares that are on offer. Print, online and TV advertising is also being used to promote the initiative while the upcoming programme of overseas Ministerial visits during the St. Patrick's Day period will again be used to highlight this special year for Irish tourism.

While progress to date has been encouraging, I believe that all tourism stakeholders must continue to work hard to ensure that our targets are achieved.  I have said previously that the benefits of participation in the event will also have longer term positive consequences in terms of additional annual events as well as the strengthened connections being estabished as a result of the initiative.

Driver Licences

Questions (109)

Alan Farrell

Question:

109. Deputy Alan Farrell asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the number of agent network locations that he is seeking to establish nationwide through SGS Ireland; the locations that have been agreed; if all agencies will be established by September 2013; if there will be any job creation in local areas from this distribution; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8326/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Transport)

In May 2011, the Government decided to centralise the driver licence service under the Road Safety Authority (RSA). With the commencement of the relevant sections of the Road Safety Authority (Commercial Vehicle Roadworthiness) Act 2012, the RSA became the driver licensing authority for Ireland with effect from 12th January 2013.

The RSA proposes to operate the service through three separate contracts related to licence card production, back-office processing services and front-office customer interface. The Authority will also operate a specialist unit from its headquarters in Ballina. Responsibility for procuring the service of the three contracted bodies rests with the RSA and I have referred the Deputy's question to the Authority for reply to the specific aspects raised.

However, in relation to the agent network service, I understand from the RSA that this will be in place by the end of September this year. Until then, licence applications will continue to be made at the Motor Tax Office and I want to thank those local authority employees in the Motor Tax Offices who are facilitating this changeover.

The locations of the offices have not yet been identified however I am informed that the 35 centre locations will provide service to 98% of the population within a 50km radius.  There will be a minimum of one location per county and the new network of offices will be open Monday through Saturday and during lunchtime, a major improvement for drivers, especially those in employment. In addition, they will have longer opening hours to facilitate customers who may not be able to apply for their licence during normal working hours. When the location of these centres is finalised, their locations will be announced though a public information campaign.

Harbour Authorities Expenditure

Questions (110, 147, 155, 162, 177)

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

110. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if, further to Parliamentary Question No. 890 of 5 February 2013, the matter of the overpayment to a board member at the Dún Laoghaire Harbour Company is the subject of legal action, this means that the board member in question has refused to repay the moneys owing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8569/13]

View answer

John Halligan

Question:

147. Deputy John Halligan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if, further to Parliamentary Question No. 890 of 5 February 2013, the matter of the overpayment to a board member at the Dún Laoghaire Harbour Company is the subject of legal action, this means that the board member in question has refused to repay the moneys owing; and if he will make a statement on the matter.; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8647/13]

View answer

Thomas Pringle

Question:

155. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if, further to Parliamentary Question No. 890 of 5 February 2013, the matter of the overpayment to a board member at the Dún Laoghaire Harbour Company is the subject of legal action, this means that the board member in question has refused to repay the moneys owing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8575/13]

View answer

Joan Collins

Question:

162. Deputy Joan Collins asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if, further to Parliamentary Question No. 890 of 5 February 2013, the matter of the overpayment to a board member at the Dún Laoghaire Harbour Company is the subject of legal action, this means that the board member in question has refused to repay the moneys owing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8573/13]

View answer

Joe Higgins

Question:

177. Deputy Joe Higgins asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if, further to Parliamentary Question No. 890 of 5 February 2013, the matter of the overpayment to a board member at the Dún Laoghaire Harbour Company is the subject of legal action, this means that the board member in question has refused to repay the moneys owing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8571/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Transport)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 110, 147, 155, 162 and 177 together.

These questions relate to a payment to a board member at Dún Laoghaire Harbour Company.

As I stated previously on 5 February, the payment of expenses to directors is a matter for the Company in accordance with the Code of Practice for the Governance of State Bodies. I understand that the matter is subject to legal proceedings by the Company and in such circumstances I am not in a position to comment further at the moment.

Tourism Promotion

Questions (111, 126, 159, 773, 781)

Jerry Buttimer

Question:

111. Deputy Jerry Buttimer asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will provide details of Greening events on St Patrick’s Day to promote Irish tourism; if particular efforts will be made to separate the celebration of St Patrick’s Day events which receive State support from the promotion of alcohol; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8375/13]

View answer

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

126. Deputy Patrick O'Donovan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will provide an update on the buildings/structures that are due to take part in the Greening initiative in the various different cities around the world as well as those in this country owned by the State as part of the St. Patrick's Day programme for 2013; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8245/13]

View answer

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

159. Deputy Patrick O'Donovan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the level of consultation that has taken place with the Office of Public Works in relation to broadening the Greening initiative for the St. Patrick's Day programme for this year to other public buildings, including State and Government buildings such as Dáil Éireann and the Department of an Taoiseach; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8373/13]

View answer

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

773. Deputy Patrick O'Donovan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will provide details of Greening events (details supplied) on St Patrick’s day to promote Irish tourism; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8400/13]

View answer

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

781. Deputy Patrick O'Donovan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will provide details of Greening events on St. Patrick's Day to promote tourism here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8618/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Transport)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 111, 126, 159, 773 and 781 together.

These questions relate to the St Patrick's Day "Global Greening" initiative.

Tourism Ireland recently publicised details of their 2013 “Global Greening” initiative.  The initiative helps to create a supportive backdrop against which Tourism Ireland can run its targeted marketing programmes.  Among the landmarks going green this year are the Pyramids of Giza, the Christ the Redeemer Statue in Rio de Janeiro, the Sydney Opera House and the Leaning Tower of Pisa.  I also understand that the St. Patrick's Festival Company will again organise a greening programme for some landmark venues in Dublin, such as Trinity College, Bank of Ireland on College Green, and Christchurch Cathedral.

Given that 2013 is the year of The Gathering, I am, in conjunction with Minister of State Brian Hayes,encouraging a wider programme of “greening” of public buildings at home. This will help to publicise the Gathering and enhance the visitor experience for those visiting the country during the period around the St. Patrick’s Day weekend.  I have also invited my Ministerial colleagues, the local authorities, bus and rail companies and airports to green prominent buildings in their care and the Gathering Team are disseminating the concept through their network across the country.  A number of high profile buildings have been confirmed already and, together with Minister of State Hayes, I hope to make an announcement on the subject over the coming weeks.

In relation to alcohol sponsorship, I understand that the St. Patrick's Festival Company, which organises the national parade and related events in Dublin, has a policy of not seeking sponsorship from the alcohol sector.

Sale of State Assets

Questions (112, 117, 181, 182)

Timmy Dooley

Question:

112. Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the strategic value he puts on the State’s holding in Aer Lingus; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8535/13]

View answer

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

117. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his intentions with regard to the Government stake in Aer Lingus; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8561/13]

View answer

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

181. Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his views on the implications of a takeover of Aer Lingus by Ryanair; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8396/13]

View answer

Kieran O'Donnell

Question:

182. Deputy Kieran O'Donnell asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his views on the implications of a takeover of Aer Lingus by Ryanair; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8462/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Transport)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 112, 117, 181 and 182 together.

These questions relate to the State Shareholding in Aer Lingus, and the  Ryanair's Offer for Aer Lingus.

In relation to the issue of strategic value of the Aer Lingus stake, I refer the Deputies to my earlier response to the priority question. In relation to the Ryanair Offer for that stake, it is the Government's strongly held view that a takeover of Aer Lingus by Ryanair would have a significant detrimental effect on competition, connectivity and employment in the Irish market.

Promoting competition among airlines serving the Irish market is at the heart of the Government’s aviation strategy and the continued presence of at least two strong competing airlines serving Ireland’s air transport needs is regarded as important. At the moment, we are fortunate to have two very strong and profitable airlines operating in Ireland and the competitive dynamic between the two companies has brought significant benefits for Irish consumers.  The Government wants to see continued competition in the market.

Following detailed consideration of the most recent offer by Ryanair for Aer Lingus the Government announced in December 2012 that it was not prepared to support the Offer because of the significant negative impact the offer would have on Ireland's air transport market.  The European Commission is conducting a detailed examination of the Offer under the EU Merger Control Rules and it has consulted a wide range of stakeholders, including my Department, on the remedies packages put forward by Ryanair to address the competition concerns identified by the Commission. Many of the details of these remedies are already in the public domain but it is not open to me to discuss them.

The deadline for the European Commission's decision in this case is March 6th.  Notwithstanding recent media reports of the outcome of the Commission's investigation the Government awaits the Commission's formal decision which we expect in the coming weeks.

Alcohol Advertising

Questions (113, 129, 156, 176, 792)

Anthony Lawlor

Question:

113. Deputy Anthony Lawlor asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his views on the implications of a ban on alcohol sponsorship for sporting events and teams at both a micro and macro level; his views on whether such a ban on local sponsors will have a negative impact on local teams and organisations in small communities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8498/13]

View answer

Martin Heydon

Question:

129. Deputy Martin Heydon asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his views on the implications of a ban on alcohol sponsorship for sporting events and teams at both a micro and macro level; his views on whether such a ban on local sponsors will have a negative impact on local teams and organisations in small communities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8586/13]

View answer

Michael McGrath

Question:

156. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his views that a ban on sponsorship by alcohol companies would be detrimental to sport in this country; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8550/13]

View answer

Dara Calleary

Question:

176. Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his position on sports sponsorship by alcohol companies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8536/13]

View answer

Brian Walsh

Question:

792. Deputy Brian Walsh asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the extent to which he considers that a ban on alcohol sponsorship of sporting events here would impact on advertising income arising from international events for Irish sports organisations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8728/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Transport)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 113, 129, 156, 176 and 792 together.

These questions relate to the sponsorship of sport by the alcohol industry.

I fully support the central aim of the National Substance Misuse Strategy in reducing the level of alcohol consumption and binge drinking. I am very supportive of a number of the measures proposed including minimum pricing, health warning labels and statutory advertising codes. However, I am concerned that placing constraints on sporting organisations by eliminating the alcohol industry as a source of sponsorship will have negative impacts on the development and availability of sport and consequently on our efforts to maintain and increase sporting participation at local level.

There are huge and obvious economic, social and health benefits accruing from sport. It is very important that funding is available to sports organisations to ensure that sport is maintained at grassroots level so that as many people as possible can participate.

In view of the current economic constraints, Government investment in sport has had to be reduced in recent years. The imposition of a ban on sponsorship would further undermine the efforts of sporting organisations to be self-sufficient.

It is estimated that sport sponsorship by the alcohol industry amounts to around €30m per year. To place this in context, the Irish Sports Council’s budget is just over €40m. Difficulties currently being experienced by some of our high profile teams and events in securing sponsorship suggest that the funding lost might not readily be replaced by alternative sources. Sports organisations may well be placed in a position where they have to curtail their development programmes, which are pivotal to promoting participation at all levels.

I believe that any measures introduced should be evidence based, effective and proportionate. Furthermore, any decision in this area should have regard to the potential downsides that may occur.

There is no evidence to show that a ban on sponsorship would be effective in terms of reducing alcohol consumption amongst youths. Indeed, given the 'Loi Evin', it is worth noting the comparisons between Ireland and France in the 2011 ESPAD Report on Substance Use Among Students in European Countries, which was published last June. This report monitors substance use among 15–16-year-old European students in order to monitor trends within, as well as between, countries. Since 1999, the proportion of these young people reporting having had five or more drinks on one occasion during the past 30 days in Ireland has decreased by 17% to 40%. In comparison this has increased by 11% in France to 44%.

It should be remembered that Britain, having recognised the failure of the 'Loi Evin' in France to reduce alcohol consumption by young people, decided not to ban alcohol sponsorship of sport for evidence based reasons. We should not implement policies merely for the ‘optics’ but we should only do so after an evidence based cost benefit analysis.

Furthermore, it must be recognised that many of the major sporting events in which Irish teams compete are international events and are directly or indirectly broadcast into the State by foreign broadcasters. Were Ireland to ban alcohol sponsorship, the only effect would be to exclude the Irish sporting organisations from sponsorship money while the advertising occurred anyway.

There are also a number of practical difficulties at a local level which must be considered, for example will pubs and hotels be allowed to sponsor teams? How will the difficulties with sports which operate on an all- Ireland level be addressed?

Instead of imposing a ban on alcohol sponsorship, my preference is for the introduction of a voluntary system, such as currently exists in Australia, where the Department of Health would compensate sporting organisations who voluntarily give up such sponsorship and moving to the introduction of a ban only when it is shown that the money lost can be replaced through alternative sponsors.

Certainly, I do not think that the Government should impose such a law without fully compensating sports organisations for the revenue lost in the same way as we compensated political parties when corporate and private donations were restricted.