Social Welfare Appeals Status

Questions (135)

Michelle Mulherin


135. Deputy Michelle Mulherin asked the Minister for Social Protection if a decision on an appeal will be expedited in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Mayo; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29615/13]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal, by the person concerned, was registered in that office on 30th April 2013. It is a statutory requirement of the appeals process that the relevant Departmental papers and comments by or on behalf of the Deciding Officer on the grounds of appeal be sought. When received, the case will be referred to an Appeals Officer who will make a summary decision on the appeal based on the documentary evidence presented or, if required, hold an oral hearing.

The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Special Protection Areas Designation

Questions (136)

Denis Naughten


136. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the number of farmers in the National Parks and Wildlife Service corncrake scheme that ceased in April 2013; his plans to introduce a new scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29510/13]

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Written answers (Question to Arts)

Since 2007, a total of 139 farm plans aimed at corncrake conservation have been approved by the National Parks and Wildlife Service of my Department. Most of these plans were in the Shannon Callows. These plans last five years and currently there are still 30 plans operational, and these contracts are being honoured.

As the Shannon Callows corncrake population has all but disappeared due to a succession of summer floods, my Department is focussing its limited resources in the following Special Protection Areas in Donegal and Mayo, where significant numbers of corncrakes still occur:- Malin Head;- Fanad Head;- Falcaragh to Meenlaragh;- Mullet Peninsula.

In addition, a Corncrake Grant Scheme is available to farmers anywhere, who have corncrakes breeding on their lands. My Department will continue to work with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine on appropriate agri-environment measures for threatened species such as the corncrake.

Architectural Heritage

Questions (137)

Catherine Murphy


137. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the steps he has taken to ensure that the Irish Architectural Archives can remain operating on a sustainable financial footing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29538/13]

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Written answers (Question to Arts)

My Department is providing total funding of €315,000 to the IAA in 2013. This is the same level of funding allocated in 2012 and represents some 73% of the IAA’s overall budget. Unfortunately, due to the reduced overall funding available my Department is not in a position to provide additional funding to the IAA at this time.

I understand that the IAA board is currently considering the recommendations of a report which was commissioned to propose a restructuring programme with a view to putting the IAA on a more secure long term footing. I will enter into a meaningful engagement with the IAA regarding this matter, when the board has considered this report and adopted an appropriate course of action.

Pensions Legislation

Questions (138)

Joan Collins


138. Deputy Joan Collins asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the position regarding pensions covered by the Postal and Telecommunications Act 1983; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29603/13]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

Section 46 of the Postal and Telecommunications Act 1983 provides for the preparation and submission by An Post, of a scheme or schemes for the granting of pensions, gratuities and other allowances on retirement or death to or in respect of such members of staff of An Post as it may think fit.

Every such scheme shall fix the time and conditions of retirement for all persons to or in respect of whom pensions, gratuities or allowances are payable under the scheme.

A scheme submitted by An Post under Section 46 shall, if approved by the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs (now Communications) with the concurrence of the Minister for the Public Service (now Public Expenditure and Reform), be carried out by An Post in accordance with its terms.

In order to comply with pensions legislation, specifically the minimum funding standard, I understand that An Post has proposed some changes to the terms of its pension scheme. Once I receive a proposal in this regard, I will consider it along with my colleague the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform.

Better Energy Homes Scheme Applications Refusal

Questions (139)

Finian McGrath


139. Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the position regarding a grant application in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 17 [29506/13]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

The Better Energy Programme is administered by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI). The Better Energy: Homes scheme provides support to homeowners towards the installation of attic and wall insulation, and heating system upgrades including solar thermal with the works being undertaken by privately appointed contractors.

My Department has been informed by the SEAI that the homeowner made an online application on the 9 February 2012. The Declaration of Work (DoW) forms were received on 12 June 2012 and the contractor provided a work completed date of 6 February 2012 which was three days prior to the application being made. A decline letter was sent to the homeowner on 22 June 2012 as the works predated the grant offer. As there was no grant offer in place at the time the works were undertaken, the contract is considered null and void. The homeowner appealed the decision to decline the application. The appeal was unsuccessful and the homeowner was informed of the appeal decision on 15 February 2013.

Queries in relation to individual applications are an operational matter for the SEAI and a dedicated hotline can be reached at 1800 250 204. In addition, the SEAI has established a specific email address for queries from Oireachtas members, which can be sent to and will be dealt with promptly.

Television Reception

Questions (140)

Michael P. Kitt


140. Deputy Michael P. Kitt asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if his attention has been drawn to the difficulties in re-broadcasting TG4 across the North of Ireland and, in particular, in parts of the greater Belfast area; if other areas on the island of Ireland are affected in terms of their reception of TG4; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29529/13]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

Digital Switchover in October 2012 greatly improved the availability of TG4 in Northern Ireland with over 94% of homes now capable of receiving TG4 and RTÉ One and Two on 'free to air' Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) on the UK's Freeview service and/or from 'overspill' of the Saorview signal from Ireland.

TG4 has advised my Department that it has not received any reports of any disruption to TG4 availability in the North.

The location in Northern Ireland of the individual viewer’s home will determine which of the DTT systems best serve. As with all terrestrial-based broadcasting networks, there will inevitably be a few areas that, because of local topography, may not be capable of receiving the terrestrial DTT signals.

In this regard, I am advised that Freeview has a coverage checker that will inform an individual in Northern Ireland about the availability of Freeview, using their post-code. I understand that Saorview also provides a placename-based coverage checker for the same purpose so an individual in Northern Ireland has two methods of checking DTT reception at the address in question.

In addition, TG4 is available to Sky satellite subscribers in Northern Ireland, to Virgin Media cable subscribers in Belfast, and is also available on the TG4 Player via the internet.

In relation to coverage in this jurisdiction, TG4 is available to 98% of the population on the Saorview DTT network. RTÉ has built, owns and controls the Saorview network and is responsible for the roll-out, coverage and operation of that network. This is in accordance with Part 8 of the Broadcasting Act 2009, which provides that the development of the RTÉ network is an operational matter for RTÉ.

In addition to Saorview, RTÉ has developed SAORSAT, a 'free to air' satellite service unique to Ireland, to ensure that Irish television services are available to 100% of the population for the first time ever. At present, this service provides the full range of RTÉ services as well as TG4.

Motor Tax Collection

Questions (141)

Brendan Griffin


141. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his views on a proposed system of motor taxation (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29457/13]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

A review of carbon banding for both motor tax and Vehicle Registration Tax (VRT), which included a public consultation process, was carried out in 2012. Following the review, a new structure was introduced from 01 January 2013, with CO 2 Band A being broken into four separate bands and B band being split into two for both motor tax and VRT. For motor tax only, a new zero band has been introduced for electric vehicles with a lower annual tax of €120 applying.

The revised banding recognises that ever more fuel efficient cars are becoming available and allows for the differentiation of the environmental incentive in favour of the most environmentally friendly vehicles, whilst also allowing for the protection of the tax base.

While the operation of the motor tax system is kept under regular review, I have no plans at present for any further restructuring of motor tax for private vehicles.