Political Reform

Question No. 44 answered with Question No. 19.

Questions (43)

Joe McHugh

Question:

43. Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he will provide an update on political reform; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42300/13]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

Work is ongoing in relation to the political reform priorities included in the Programme for Government. The summary position in relation to specific elements of the government reform programme is as follows:-

- The Ombudsman (Amendment) Act 2012 is now in force extending the Ombudsman’s remit and strengthens the Ombudsman’s powers;

- The Houses of the Oireachtas (Inquiries Privileges and Procedures) Act 2013 has recently been commenced;

- The Regulation of Lobbying Bill is currently being drafted by the Office of the Chief Parliamentary Counsel and the General Scheme of the Bill have been referred to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Finance and Public Expenditure Reform for pre-legislative scrutiny;

- The Protected Disclosures Bill 2013, establishing a detailed and comprehensive legislative framework protecting whistleblowers in all sectors of the economy, has passed Committee Stage in the Seanad;

- The Freedom of Information (Amendment) Bill 2013, published in July 2013, completed Second Stage in the Dáil last week. The Bill restores Ireland’s FOI legislation and extends FOI to all public bodies;

- A revised draft Code of Practice for FOI for Public Bodies is in the process of being finalised drawing on the report and recommendations of expert FOI users, advocates and researchers;

- Work is continuing on developing proposals for consideration by Government for an overhaul of ethics legislation in response to the findings and recommendations of the final report of the Mahon Tribunal as well as to consolidate, modernise and simplify the existing legislative framework;

- Work is underway on the development of Ireland’s first Open Government Partnership (OGP) national action plan in consultation with civil society interests;

- A comprehensive programme of Statute Law Revision has been approved by Government. The first Bill developed under this new programme is expected to deal with pre-1922 secondary legislation; and

- A review of the existing accountability framework for ministers and civil servants has been undertaken. A consultation paper based on the outcome of that review is currently being finalised.

Question No. 44 answered with Question No. 19.

Expenditure Reviews

Questions (45)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

45. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the extent to which his previously identified targets in respect of savings throughout the public sector, across all Departments, State and semi-State, have been achieved to date; the degree to which specific Departments have been particularly successful in this regard; if he is confident of meeting all outstanding targets in preparation for exit from the bailout programme; if any particular sectors fall short of meeting their targets; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42438/13]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

Since this Government was established in 2011, a medium-term expenditure management process began with a Comprehensive Review of Expenditure exercise. This exercise was carried out by all Departments in order to identify ways of reducing expenditure in line with commitments under the Joint EU/IMF Programme of Financial Support for Ireland, while minimising the impact on service delivery. Following on from this, the Ministerial expenditure ceilings for 2012 - 2014 were introduced on an administrative basis in the Comprehensive Expenditure Report , published in December 2011. The CRE exercise forms the foundation of these ceilings and is the basis for all subsequent decisions on expenditure.

The Expenditure Report 2013 was published on 5 December 2012 and includes further well-specified expenditure savings measures across every area of Government spending. The Deputy might be interested to know that both of these documents, along with a range of other informative reports and data are available on my Department’s website at www.per.gov.ie .

The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for our EU/IMF Programme of financial assistance was signed in December 2010, and following each of the subsequent quarterly reviews by the Troika, an update of the MoU is agreed. Each update to the MoU can include the protraction or revisions to existing commitments along with new commitments.

The Irish Government's commitment to the EU/IMF Programme of Financial Support remains firm as is clearly illustrated by our continued strong record in implementing the agreed policy frameworks and measures while meeting all quantitative targets. Indeed, data released in the Exchequer Statement of 2 October, indicated that the Exchequer primary deficit target outlined in the EU/IMF Programme was met for the twelfth consecutive quarter. It is the Government’s intention to achieve a successful and durable exit from our programme and to make a full and sustainable return to the financial markets.

National Monuments

Questions (46)

Sandra McLellan

Question:

46. Deputy Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform his plans to incorporate Kilmainham Court House into the Kilmainham Jail experience; and the timeline for the incorporation of the court house. [38501/13]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

Kilmainham Gaol is a National Monument site in the care of the Office of Public Works (OPW) and, with 310,910 visitors in 2012, is one of the most popular tourist sites in Ireland.

The OPW's role at Kilmainham is to maintain the physical fabric of the site and to present it to the public through a dedicated Guide Service, explaining its 217 year history and its role in some of the key events in the formation of the State.

The site opens to the public on a fulltime basis, attracting significant numbers of visitors and sustaining a strong income profile. As well as its tourist and heritage attractiveness to visitors, it is also the preferred chosen venue for frequent formal events and functions of social, cultural, artistic, civic and diplomatic significance. However, its capacity to deal with an ever-increasing demand is severely limited currently by a number of key factors, most notably the physical limitations of the building which was obviously constructed with a different purpose in mind and which is not ideally configured to sustain an exponentially increasing volume of visitors. It is expected that further pressure will be an inevitable consequence of an expected increase in visitor numbers in the period ahead, particularly in the context of the interest generated by the various commemoration events over the next few years.

At current levels, the existing Gaol building is at absolute capacity and cannot sustain further large scale increases in visitor traffic without significant risk to the fabric of the Monument and to the comfort and safety of visitors.

A possibility for expansion was identified in the adjacent former Kilmainham Court House building which will be adapted and incorporated into the Heritage site offering. This will allow the Gaol operation to expand and will greatly improve the possibilities for strong continued visitor growth, while creating additional capacity to deal with visitors in a more modern setting and providing the needed ancillary curatorial, exhibition, research and welfare facilities which must be regarded as key objectives in a national heritage presentation of this type.

A public event was held at the Courthouse building in July this year when the Courts Service formally handed over the building to the Commissioners of Public Works, thus signalling the public commencement of this significant and important cultural and historic project.

The initial phase of works, which has commenced, focusses on the renewal of the roof fabric and later phases will address the substantive works needed to provide for modern visitor facilities appropriate to this nationally-important site. The project is targeted to be completed in time for the 1916 Centenary commemoration.

Flood Prevention Measures

Question No. 48 answered with Question No. 14.

Question No. 49 withdrawn.

Questions (47)

Denis Naughten

Question:

47. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the steps he is taking to address the summer flooding in the Shannon Callows; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42412/13]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

There is on-going progress in respect of the River Shannon Catchment Flood Risk Assessment & Management Study which is the core strategy for addressing flood risk in the Shannon Basin.

The Deputy is aware that the ESB agreed to lower its target operating level in Lough Ree in the early summer on a trial basis as part of the Catchment Flood Risk Assessment & Management (CFRAM) process. This new interim regime for the management of levels on the River Shannon was implemented this summer.

A meeting between the ESB, Waterways Ireland and the Office of Public Works to review the interim operating regime is due to take place shortly.

Question No. 48 answered with Question No. 14.
Question No. 49 withdrawn.