Mary Lou McDonaldQuestion:
311. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will provide a PPS number in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 22. [15439/14]View answer
Written Answers Nos. 311-327
Question No. 312 withdrawn.
311. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will provide a PPS number in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 22. [15439/14]View answer
In order for a person to be allocated a PPS Number, she or he must verify his or her identity and also demonstrate the requirement for one to be issued, i.e. that a transaction with a specified public body is to be carried out.
Generally, application for a PPS Number requires attendance at a PPS Number Registration Centre. The PPS Number Registration Centre for Dublin is located at Kings Inn Street, just off Parnell Street in Dublin city centre.
The process involves evidence of identity and address being examined, verified and recorded. Further detail in relation to the process and the documents required are set out on the Department's website.
313. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if his Department provides funding or assistance to BirdWatch Ireland; if he will provide the details of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15079/14]View answer
My Department and BirdWatch Ireland have worked together on a range of issues over many years. BirdWatch Ireland has tendered successfully for scientific survey work and/or conservation management projects advertised under the usual procurement procedures by my Department. It has also been in receipt of grants for specific project proposals. Details of the projects and funding involving BirdWatch Ireland, covering the period since my Department was established in 2011, are being collated and will be forwarded to the Deputy as soon as possible.
314. Deputy Michael P. Kitt asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the position regarding the arrangements for staff pensions in respect of employees of Waterways Ireland, in view of the proposed pension changes on 1 April 2014; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14739/14]View answer
I assume that the proposed changes referred to by the Deputy relate to those arising as a result of the Hutton Pension Reforms. I am advised by Waterways Ireland that meetings, facilitated by the Labour Relations Commission, have taken place between trade union representatives and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform to discuss these matters. I understand that, to date, Waterways Ireland has not been advised to make any changes to its pension scheme.
315. Deputy John O'Mahony asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the amount of funding allocated by his Department in County Mayo, and the list of the projects that benefited in 2011, 2012, 2013 and to date in 2014 in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14889/14]View answer
As the Deputy will recall, my Department was established in June 2011. Details of the annual funding allocation to my Department at subhead level are published in the annual Revised Estimates Volume. Through these subheads, my Department administers and delivers a wide range of programmes and measures, descriptions of which are available on its website at http://www.ahg.gov.ie/. Expenditure under these programme areas is recorded and accounted for on a national basis and it is not possible to give a regional or county-by-county breakdown of that expenditure. For example, a number of my Department's programmes are delivered through agencies and other intermediary bodies that operate across county boundaries and in respect of which there is no detailed breakdown on a county basis held by my Department. Groups and organisations that receive grants directly from my Department are not typically constituted on a single-county basis.
In view of this and because of the wide range of my Department's schemes and programmes, and the large volumes of payments and grants involved, it is not possible to provide the information sought. However, if the Deputy has specific queries relating to a particular programme or grant, I will endeavour to provide him with relevant information in that regard.
316. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht in view of the fact that Granard Town Council is contributing 55% of the amount towards the purchase of Granard Motte, if he will ensure that Longford County Council will be recognised in the title (details supplied). [14970/14]View answer
I refer the Deputy to my reply to Question No. 585 on 25 March 2014. In the meantime my Department has written to Granard Town Council confirming the availability of Departmental funding to assist with the acquisition of the property, provided the Council is agreeable to ownership being vested in me as Minister.
Although still in private ownership, Granard Motte and Bailey has been in the guardianship of the State under the National Monuments Acts since 1926. It is one of the relatively few such monuments in County Longford. The inclusion of the monument in the State's portfolio for almost 90 years reflects its importance as one of the foremost examples of its type in Ireland. Maintaining the State's stewardship into the future would mean that the monument would continue to benefit directly from the expertise and resources of the management team (comprised of my own Department's National Monuments Service and the Office of Public Works' conservation experts) which oversees the care and maintenance of all monuments in State care.
317. Deputy Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the process and criteria to include No. 18 Moore Street, Dublin 1, as part of a national monument. [15050/14]View answer
318. Deputy Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the process for buildings to be designated as a national monument. [15051/14]View answer
I propose to take Questions Nos. 317 and 318 together.
Under section 2 of the National Monuments Act 1930 a “national monument” is defined as a monument the preservation of which is a matter of national importance by reason of its historical, architectural, traditional, artistic or archaeological interest. A national monument becomes subject to the Ministerial consent requirements under section 14 of the 1930 Act if:
- it is owned by the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht or a local authority;
- it is under the guardianship of the Minister or a local authority under sections 5, 6 or 9 of the 1930 Act; or
- it is subject to a Preservation Order under section 8 of the 1930 Act or a temporary Preservation Order under section 4 of the National Monuments (Amendment) Act 1954.
Nos. 14 to 17 Moore Street are the subject of a Preservation Order under section 8 of the 1930 Act. The Preservation Order was made on the grounds that the protection of No.16 is of national importance by reason of its historical significance as the site of the final council of war and final headquarters of the leaders of the 1916 Rising. To achieve that objective the Order also covers Nos. 14, 15 and 17 Moore Street and includes the yards to the rear of Nos. 15 and 16, extending to Nos. 8 and 9 Moore Lane. It was not considered necessary to include any further area to adequately preserve No. 16. The position regarding the area outside of the monument is set out in the planning permission granted by An Bord Pleanála.
319. Deputy Noel Coonan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his plans to introduce a scheme similar to that in the UK and Northern Ireland where home owners can have a free wallpod charger installed regardless of whether they have an electronic vehicle; if this will be considered as part of any upcoming Bill such as the smarter transport Bill; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14955/14]View answer
In April 2011, I opened the Electric Vehicle Grant Scheme to incentivise and support, through grants of up to €5,000, the early deployment of electric vehicles in Ireland. The scheme remains open this year and the grants are in addition to the VRT reliefs of up to €5,000 which apply to electric vehicles. Additionally, the ESB, through its ecars programme, is continuing to roll out both publicly accessible charging infrastructure and domestic charge points. These domestic charge points are provided free of charge, where technically feasible, to the first 2,000 people who qualify for a grant for the purchase of an electric vehicle. The rollout of this charging infrastructure is a matter for the ESB and I have no plans at this time to introduce any scheme, as suggested by the Deputy, or any legislative proposals, in this regard.
320. Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will provide details of all housing retrofitting schemes; the process of application for same; if there are fully funded schemes or if all must be matched with applicant funding; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14744/14]View answer
The Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) operates a number of schemes on behalf of my Department that promote the retrofitting of homes. 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. Applications to the scheme are made by submitting a completed application form either online or by post. The grants fund a portion of the total cost of the upgrade works. Full details on the various grant levels are available at:http://www.seai.ie/Grants/Better_energy_homes/Better_Energy_FAQ/Homeowner%20FAQ/. The Better Energy Warmer Homes scheme delivers a range of energy efficiency measures to households that are vulnerable to energy poverty and who live in privately owned dwellings. The upgrades are delivered free of charge to the customer. Applications can be made by calling a freephone number or online. SEAI periodically promotes the scheme through direct marketing to those households in receipt of the Fuel Allowance.
The Better Energy Communities and the Better Energy Areas schemes assist in upgrading the energy efficiency of existing clusters of buildings, homes and community facilities. The schemes are delivered by partnerships and community based organisations who must bid for funding from SEAI.
In total, €57 million has been provided to SEAI in 2014 to operate these retrofit schemes. I understand that a further €30 million will be made available by my colleague the Minister for Environment, Community and Local Government to support the upgrade of local authority homes.
In addition, this year I have introduced mandatory efficiency savings targets for energy suppliers by way of the Energy Efficiency Obligation Scheme. To meet these challenging targets, energy suppliers will have to work with their customers to deliver efficiency gains through measures such as the retrofitting of homes and businesses. To date, nearly one sixth of the homes in Ireland have received some form of Government assisted energy efficiency upgrade.
321. Deputy John O'Mahony asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the amount of funding allocated by his Department in County Mayo, and the list of the projects that benefited in 2011, 2012, 2013 and to date in 2014 in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14891/14]View answer
Under the National Rollout of 100Mbp/s High Speed Broadband to Post Primary Schools, all second level schools (26) in County Mayo were connected to the high speed network during 2012. The total cost to date of this programme is approximately €15.8m and it is not possible to definitively break down costs on a per County basis. Basic broadband services under the National Broadband Scheme (NBS) project are available in all designated Electoral Divisions, including 112 of the total of 154 Electoral Divisions in County Mayo, since October 2010. The total Exchequer contribution to the NBS project is €79.8m and it is not possible to provide a breakdown of costs on a per County basis. Digital literacy training is provided nationwide under the BenefIT Programme. The funding is not allocated on a county basis. Based on statistics of beneficiaries in each county and the total spend on the scheme, my Department estimates that approximately €123,000 of the funding accrued to beneficiaries in County Mayo during the years 2011 to 2014 under this scheme.
I have asked the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) to forward details of grants paid by it under the Better Energy programme and energy research programmes in County Mayo for the years in question directly to the Deputy.
322. Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the position regarding a TV licence (details supplied). [14925/14]View answer
In accordance with Section 142 of the Broadcasting Act 2009, any premises at which a television is located requires a TV Licence regardless of its use. Therefore, owners and controlling management companies of all holiday home accommodation premises, which include a television set, are required to purchase a separate TV Licence for each accommodation unit.
323. Deputy Ciara Conway asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources to whom EirGrid is responsible; the way this structure operates in practice; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14951/14]View answer
EirGrid plc is a state-owned commercial company which was created in July 2006, providing transmission and market services for electricity consumers. The shareholders of the company are the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources and the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform. As one of a number of corporate entities operating under the remit of the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, the company is subject to the highest standards of corporate governance, and is compliant with the Code of Practice for the Governance of State Bodies issued by the Department of Finance. EirGrid Directors are appointed by the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources. The Chairperson, Mr. John O'Connor, was appointed on 12 November 2013 for a term of five years. Corporate governance and policy oversight of EirGrid is, in the first instance, the responsibility of the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, and the company engages in ongoing dialogue with the Department to ensure alignment of its corporate strategies and plans with Government and European policy.
The company delivers services to customers, including generators, suppliers and consumers across the high voltage electricity system and via the wholesale power market.
EirGrid holds licences as independent electricity Transmission System Operator (TSO) and Market Operator (MO) in the wholesale trading system in Ireland, and is the owner of System Operator Northern Ireland (SONI Ltd), which is the licensed TSO and market operator in Northern Ireland.
SONI Ltd has the responsibility of ensuring the safe, secure and economic operation of the high voltage electricity system in Northern Ireland. It is regulated by the Northern Ireland Authority for Utility Regulation (NIAUR).
The Single Electricity Market Operator (SEMO) is part of the EirGrid Group, and operates the Single Electricity Market on the island of Ireland. In its role as TSO in Ireland, EirGrid operates and maintains the transmission system, as well as developing key infrastructural projects for the socio-economic development of the State, supporting competition in energy, ensuring security of supply, facilitating more renewable energy, and providing essential services. EirGrid owns and operates the East-West Interconnector (EWIC) linking the electricity grids in Ireland and Great Britain.
EirGrid is regulated by the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER) which decides on allowed revenues/charges for the electricity transmission and distribution systems with the aim of delivering value for money for the end customer. The CER also approves network connection policy and resolves disputes that users may have with respect to connection to and use of the networks. EirGrid's activities in respect of Northern Ireland are regulated by the Utility Regulator Northern Ireland and the UK Office of Gas and Electricity Markets (Ofgem). In addition to working collaboratively with the company's shareholding Ministers and their respective departments, EirGrid also co-operates closely with the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment in Northern Ireland.
324. Deputy Ciara Conway asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources when those who made submissions to EirGrid will receive detailed responses to their specific queries; the level of response EirGrid is required to supply; if a timescale is associated with same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14952/14]View answer
335. Deputy Michael Moynihan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will provide an update on the work of the expert panel reviewing the Grid25 project; if the north-east connector plan will be fully reviewed by this panel; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15179/14]View answer
I propose to take Questions Nos. 324 and 335 together.
On 28 January last, I announced that I had appointed an Independent Expert Panel, chaired by Mrs Justice Catherine McGuinness, to decide terms of reference for comprehensive, route-specific studies of overhead and underground options for both Grid Link and Grid West. The outputs from those studies, which will be required to be complete, objective and comparable, will be published before proceeding to the next stage of public consultation on those two projects. The two studies will take account of environmental (including visual amenity) impacts, technical efficacy and cost factors. The independent panel will have power to commission its own work if there is any perceived deficiency in the studies presented.
The Panel has commenced its deliberations including considering what work, if any, it might usefully undertake in relation to the North South Transmission Line project. I understand that no decision has as yet been made by the Panel in that regard. It is worth noting that detailed studies have already been conducted for the North South transmission line, including consideration of a route specific underground option and, most recently, an assessment by a previous Independent International Commission of Experts appointed in July 2011 which reported in February 2012. Previously, in 2009, the then Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources commissioned an independent study on Comparative Merits of Overhead Electricity Transmission Lines versus Underground Cables. That study was conducted by international consultants Ecofys.
I understand that EirGrid has taken full account of the contents of those studies in finalising the planning application for the North South transmission line. The timing of the submission of the planning application to An Bord Pleanála is a matter for EirGrid.
EirGrid published an interim report on the emerging themes from the Grid Link project consultation on 28 January. A copy of this report is available on the EirGrid website at www.eirgrid.com. All of the submissions which EirGrid received on the project are being examined by the EirGrid project team. I understand that once a thorough and detailed examination of all the submissions has been completed, a report will be published on the project website and EirGrid will respond to all correspondence as quickly as possible.
EirGrid made an announcement on 28 March 2014 in relation to the extensive public consultation which it has carried out over the past 20 months on its Grid25 projects. Arising from feedback which was received that the consultation process could be improved, EirGrid has initiated a thorough review of its consultation process to improve future public engagement. I am advised that the review will include an external review of Eirgrid's consultation and engagement processes. To ensure the independence and objectivity of the review, EirGrid has requested the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators to provide experienced professionals to undertake the review. As part of this external review, a number of stakeholders will be asked for their views on the consultation that EirGrid has carried out and how future consultations could be improved. This will be done to ensure that the widest possible views are included in the review. The overall review is expected to be completed by June and its findings will be published, including recommendations to improve future public engagement.
325. Deputy Michael McNamara asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the position regarding the availability of broadband connectivity in County Clare in relation to the national broadband scheme, the rural broadband scheme, improvement in connection speeds and overall availability in the county resultant from the implementation of these projects; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14999/14]View answer
326. Deputy Michael McNamara asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the areas of County Clare that are as of yet unable to access broadband Internet connectivity; if a timeframe exists in which these communities will have access to broadband Internet; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15000/14]View answer
I propose to take Questions Nos. 325 and 326 together.
Since market liberalisation in 1999, broadband services are delivered in the first instance by private sector operators who operate in a fully liberalised market, regulated by the Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg). Details of broadband services available in each County, including County Clare, can be found on a number of websites, including ComReg's website at www.callcosts.ie as well as the websites of individual commercial operators.
The State can only become involved in the provision of services in instances of clear market failure, such as in the case of the National Broadband Scheme (NBS) and the Rural Broadband Scheme (RBS). My Department entered into a contract in late 2008 with Hutchison 3G Ireland Ltd (“3”) for the delivery of the NBS. The Scheme offers a basic broadband service, in line with EU State aid clearance, to fixed residences and businesses located within certain designated Electoral Divisions. In County Clare, NBS services are available within 49 of its 155 Electoral Divisions.
The Rural Broadband Scheme (RBS) which was launched in 2011 aimed to make a basic broadband service available to individual unserved premises in rural areas, not already covered by the NBS, notwithstanding the widespread availability of broadband throughout Ireland. A total of 155 applicants from County Clare qualified under the Scheme and received offers of service from the service providers participating in the Scheme. Of these, 30 applicants accepted an offer of service. My Department was advised by the participating service providers that they had been unable to provide service to 2 applicants in County Clare. Engineering officials from my Department visited those 2 households in May 2013 and provided advice, having assessed the local topography, on possible terrestrial and satellite providers who could provide a solution. Further information was provided to them in September last and my Department has had no follow-up requests for information or advice.
The combination of private investment and State interventions means that Ireland has met the EU Commission's Digital Agenda for Europe target of having a basic broadband service available to all areas by 2013. With basic broadband services now widely available across Ireland, the challenge is to accelerate the roll out of high speed services.
The Government's National Broadband Plan, which I published in August 2012, aims to radically change the broadband landscape in Ireland by ensuring that high speed broadband is available to all citizens and businesses including those in County Clare. This will be achieved by providing a policy and regulatory framework that assists in accelerating and incentivising commercial investment; and a State-led investment for areas where it is not commercial for the market to invest.
Since the publication of the Plan, investments by the commercial sector are underway and in some instances have been accelerated in both fixed line and wireless high speed broadband services. In addition, the recent enactment of legislation to facilitate the ESB's entry into the telecommunications market, either alone or in partnership with another operator, will also facilitate the roll-out of high speed broadband as well as facilitating greater competition in the Irish market. I am aware of at least one service provider announcing that it will be providing advanced broadband services in 30 locations in County Clare before July 2016 and my Department will be happy to discuss this further with the Deputy.
Many of these developments have been facilitated through the implementation of measures in the National Broadband Plan, including the conclusion of ComReg's multiband spectrum auction, and the regulatory regime for fixed line Next Generation Access and service bundles. Both of these measures are designed to incentivise the rollout of services by operators.
In tandem with these developments, intensive work, including a comprehensive mapping exercise, continues in my Department in relation to the State-led investment to secure the countrywide introduction of next generation broadband access. In order to progress the State-led investment for areas where it is not commercial for the market to invest, a full procurement process must be designed and EU State Aids approval must be obtained.
Under the national mapping exercise, mapping data which has been submitted to my Department by a total of 23 operators is being assessed on a case-by-case basis, having regard to the EU State Aid Guidelines. When all of the information has been analysed, a clear picture should emerge of coverage throughout all of the country. I expect that this process will be completed later this year, after which it is my intention to publish a map showing existing and planned next generation broadband coverage, along with the Government's proposals for a State-led intervention to roll out high speed broadband across the country, including County Clare.
The procurement process for the approved intervention will be carried out in accordance with EU and Irish procurement rules and it is expected that it will be launched later in 2014.
Through the implementation of the National Broadband Plan, I am committed to ensuring that all parts of Ireland have access to high speed broadband, with a view to ensuring that all citizens and businesses can participate fully in, and maximise the benefits of, a digitally enabled economy and society.
327. Deputy Eoghan Murphy asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he has held or will hold any discussions with energy and communication providers in the country on the possibility of moving to more weather-durable infrastructure provision through the use of concrete posts, as is the practice in other countries and was previously the practice here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15010/14]View answer
The matters which the Deputy raises are day to day operational matters for the relevant energy and communication providers and not matters in which I, as Minister, have a role or function. The Deputy may wish to pursue the matter directly with those providers.