Garda Operations

Questions (169)

Clare Daly

Question:

169. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will inquire of Garda authorities where the property of protestors involved in the occupy Dame Street movement was taken when the police removed the camp; and the action citizens can take to have their belongings returned, with particular reference to an expensive braille reader owned by one of the protestors who needs it to communicate with other blind persons. [21801/13]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

I have requested a report from the Garda authorities in relation to the matter referred to by the Deputy. I will contact the Deputy directly as soon as the report is to hand.

Employment Rights Issues

Questions (170)

Seán Kyne

Question:

170. Deputy Seán Kyne asked the Minister for Justice and Equality when it is envisaged that the newly constituted Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission will be in a position to examine and report on the effects of section 37 of the 1998 Employment Equality Act; and if he will indicate a timeframe for implementing the recommendations, if any, on legislative changes. [21876/13]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Parliamentary Question No. 194 of 1 May 2013, below. The position is unchanged since then.

I refer the Deputy to my replies to Parliamentary Questions No. 54456 of 4 December 2012, No. 2999 of 22 January 2013, No. 4077 of 5 February 2013 and No. 10664 of 27 February 2013. As I explained in response to these previous questions, the Government has undertaken in its Programme for Government to ensure that people of non-faith or minority religious backgrounds and publically identified lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people should not be deterred from training or taking up employment as teachers in the State. I have previously expressed concern about the potential impact of section 37 of the Employment Equality Acts on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons. This section is designed to allow schools and other institutions to maintain their religious ethos. It was examined by the Supreme Court in 1996 when the Employment Equality Bill of 1996 was referred to it under Article 26 of the Constitution. The Supreme Court found that it is a reasonable balancing in legislation of the different rights involved, including chiefly the right to earn a living and the rights to freedom of religion and association. I am concerned however that, in practice, the balance is not a fair one and that in practice this provision can operate in a way that is unfair to LGBT persons. I consider that an extensive consultative process and formal assessment of the options should be undertaken. On 16 April, I announced the names of 14 new members designate of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission. In advance of legislation to establish the new Commission, the members designate will take up their positions on the two existing bodies that are being merged, the Equality Authority and the Human Rights Commission. I will be meeting the Commissioners shortly. As I have previously explained, I intend to ask them to examine this issue as a priority. I hope they will complete this consultation process quickly and report on their views and recommendations to the two Ministers centrally concerned, the Minister for Education and Skills, Deputy Quinn and myself as the Minister for Justice and Equality and to the House. I am committed, once this necessary consultation process is completed, to bringing forward Government proposals for any necessary anti-discrimination amendment to this provision. In this context, the Government has welcomed the Private Members' Employment Equality (Amendment) (No.2) Bill which has passed Second Stage in the Seanad. During the Second Stage reading of the Bill, my colleague Minister of State Kathleen Lynch signalled to the House the Government's intention to take forward this Bill, with any amendments that might be needed, with Government support for enactment.

Fodder Crisis

Questions (171)

Seamus Healy

Question:

171. Deputy Seamus Healy asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine in view of the continuing bad weather, stretching back to Summer 2012, the resultant fodder shortage at present and the probable knock on fodder shortage this coming winter and spring 2014, if he will apply to the EU for emergency funding to address the situation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21778/13]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

With regard to the EU Solidarity Fund, this Fund is, in the main, confined to major disasters which have lasting repercussions on economic stability, living conditions and the natural environment. A natural disaster is considered as 'major' if it results in damage on the State's territory estimated either at over €3 billion (2002 prices), or at more than 0.6 % of its gross national income. I am keeping the funding and fodder situation under review and will react as appropriate to emerging situations.

Agri-Environment Options Scheme Payments

Questions (172)

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

172. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine when agri-environment options scheme 1 and AEOS 2 payments will issue to farmers who have penalty reviews attached to their cases; the reason for the delay in issuing these payments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21614/13]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

Under the EU Regulations governing all area-based payment schemes, a comprehensive administrative check of all applications, including cross-checks with the Land Parcel Identification System, must be completed before any AEOS payment can issue. Successive EU audits have made it absolutely clear that compliance with the Regulations must be strictly adhered to and that all administrative checks must be passed and eligibility conditions met before payment issues. As a result, my Department is obliged to ensure that individual payments will not issue until all aspects of a farmer's application are in order, all outstanding documentation provided and all queries resolved. When a person is found to be in breach of the Terms and Conditions of the scheme a penalty will be applied to their AEOS application. Penalties can be applied to AEOS applications for a number of reasons including non compliances with the terms and conditions of the scheme following on farm inspections, area over declarations and SPS penalties which can cross over to AEOS applications. Payments on penalty cases under AEOS 1 and 2 are nearing completion and officials in my Department are currently finalising penalty cases with the intention of completing outstanding cases as soon as possible.

Coillte Teoranta Reports

Questions (173)

Andrew Doyle

Question:

173. Deputy Andrew Doyle asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he has commissioned a report on State forestry and the future of Coillte; the date on which he commissioned the report; the person appointed to conduct the report; if he has received a copy of the completed report and the date on which he received same; the main points of the report; if he has had the opportunity to review its content in full and its implications; the date on which he intends to publish the report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21670/13]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

An in-depth review of national forest policy is currently being finalised. This review, arising from a Government commitment that such be undertaken, commenced in 2010 and was undertaken by a group consisting of representatives of the forestry sector. The review of forestry policy is currently in the process of a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA), which includes consultation with statutory bodies and the general public. It is anticipated that the process will be concluded by the end of July after which it is planned to issue the report, taking account of any further inputs received during the SEA process. A review of Coillte was also undertaken as part of the process. While significant work was undertaken by an interdepartmental group dealing exclusively with the role, functions and operations of Coillte, the deliberations were superseded by the Government Decisions in 2012 in relation to the sale of state assets which encompasses Coillte.

While I have not formally commissioned a report on State forestry and the future of Coillte, a number of detailed financial, technical and other specialist reports were prepared for Coillte, by external specialist consultancy bodies, in full consultation with the Board of Coillte and its executive management, as part of the analysis undertaken on foot of the Government's decision, in June 2012, that a concession for the harvesting rights to Coillte's forests be considered for sale. NewERA, Coillte, the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and my Department have worked to examine the financial and other implications of a potential transaction, with NewERA liaising with the bodies engaged to undertake specific aspects of that examination. Drafts of the reports from all of the bodies so engaged were received and consideration of those reports is ongoing. While the consideration process is at an advanced stage, no decision has been taken, as yet. The outcome of the overall analysis will be considered by the Government upon its completion.

Forestry Grants

Questions (174)

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

174. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the position regarding a forestry payment in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21678/13]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

Due to the applicant's plantation not being up to the required standard, a remedial works letter issued to him in March 2013. Once the works outlined have been completed and the plantation is up to the Forest Service standard, the applicant (or his forester on his behalf) should notify the Forest Service to arrange an inspection. No further payments can issue for this plantation until the site is passed by the Forest Service.

Agri-Environment Options Scheme Payments

Questions (175)

Michelle Mulherin

Question:

175. Deputy Michelle Mulherin asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the position regarding an agri-environment option scheme payment in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Mayo; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21682/13]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The person named was approved for participation in the 2011 Agri-Environment Options Scheme with effect from 1 September 2011. Under the EU Regulations governing the Scheme and other area-based payment schemes, a comprehensive administrative check, including cross-checks with the Land Parcel Identification System, must be completed before any payment can issue. The person named was selected for a ground inspection which took place on 1 May 2012. During this inspection, issues of non compliance with the terms and conditions of the scheme were noted in relation to the Tree Planting – Standard and Laying of Hedgerow actions, which resulted in a penalty being imposed. A letter issued to the person named informing him of this penalty and giving him the option to appeal the decision. No appeal has been received from the person named.

Officials in my Department are currently processing the application on this basis and payment in respect of the 2011 scheme year will issue shortly. Payments in respect of the 2012 Scheme year are subject to a similar administrative checking process which includes verification of capital investments through checks on receipts. These checks have now been completed and following the payment for 2011, the payment in respect of 2012 will be finalised.