Broadcasting Service Provision

Questions (328)

Terence Flanagan

Question:

328. Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the reason it is taking so long to make a decision regarding moving RTEjr from RTE 2, as RTE originally put forward this proposal in April 2013; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15071/14]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

I refer to the reply to Question No. 106 of 5 February 2014. The position is unchanged.

Digital Television Service Provision

Questions (329)

Terence Flanagan

Question:

329. Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his views regarding the development of digital television services here over the past three years; the work that needs to be carried out to provide a range of services for viewers around the country; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15072/14]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

The Broadcasting Act 2009 requires RTÉ to provide digital coverage to the same extent as provided over the previous analogue network, i.e. 98% population coverage, and I am advised by RTÉ that this level of coverage is being provided by the SAORVIEW digital terrestrial television (DTT) network which was launched on 26 May, 2011. For the remaining 2% of the population, RTÉ launched SAORSAT in March 2012. The development and provision of SAORSAT, which is a “free to air” satellite system providing access to the RTÉ channels and TG4, was undertaken by RTÉ on its own initiative and, as in the case of the SAORVIEW DTT network, is not a matter in which I have a function. It is technically and financially impossible to provide 100% coverage using a terrestrial TV network. However, through SAORVIEW and SAORSAT, Ireland now has 100% “free to air” coverage of the RTÉ channels and TG4 for the first time in the history of the State.

I am satisfied that there is a greater breadth of services available under SAORVIEW than existed under the previous analogue service and I look forward to more services being made available on SAORVIEW in the future but this is primarily a matter for RTÉ which, in accordance with the relevant legislation, is responsible for the establishment, maintenance and operation of the DTT network.

Broadcasting Service Provision

Questions (330)

Terence Flanagan

Question:

330. Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the reason his Department did not call for public contributions regarding moving RTEjr from RTE 2, as it had previously done for the setting up of other RTE services in 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15073/14]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

Section 103(4) of the Broadcasting Act 2009 provides that where I propose to give my consent to a new broadcasting service or a variation in channels of the public service broadcasters, I am required to consult with the corporation concerned and such other persons as I consider appropriate. It is, therefore, at my discretion as to the extent of consultation in any given case. In the case to which the Deputy refers, I consulted with the following stakeholders: - Age Action Ireland;

- Broadcasting Authority of Ireland;

- Consumer Association of Ireland;

- Independent Broadcasters Ireland;

- Irish National Organisation of the Unemployed;

- National Consumer Agency;

- National Disability Authority;

- National Newspapers of Ireland;

- Office of the Minister for Children;

- Ombudsman for Children;

- RTÉ Audience Council;

- Setanta;

- TG4;

- TV3.

I am satisfied that this represented an appropriate level of consultation in this case.

Broadband Service Provision

Questions (331, 332)

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

331. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the position regarding broadband coverage in an area (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15076/14]

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Tom Fleming

Question:

332. Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will immediately investigate and examine the exceptionally poor level of broadband and land line service at Coolroe Upper, Glenbeigh, County Kerry; if he agrees that this is an appalling level of service in 2014 and that the poor quality of service is causing a huge inconvenience to all users and needs to be addressed immediately; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15110/14]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 331 and 332 together.

Since market liberalisation in 1999, the provision of telecommunications services, including broadband services are delivered in the first instance through private sector operators who operate in a fully liberalised market, regulated by the independent regulator, the Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg). The market has developed into a well-regulated market, supporting a multiplicity of commercial operators, providing services over a diverse range of technology platforms. Details of broadband services available in each County including County Kerry can be found on a number of websites, including the websites of individual commercial operators.

I am aware of at least one service provider announcing that it will be providing advanced broadband services in 33 locations in County Kerry, including Killarney before July 2016 and my Department will be happy to discuss these further with the Deputies. I would point out that the Local Authority has a strong role to play in facilitating the roll-out of the necessary infrastructure to help enable service availability throughout the Country. In the case of County Kerry, I note that the County Development Plan recommends against siting a mast within 1 km of dwellings. I understand that this is contributing to difficulties in providing good quality broadband services in the county.

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 Kerry, NBS services are available within 85 of its 166 Electoral Divisions. A Metropolitan Area Network (MAN) has been in use in Killarney since 2009 and is providing services to licensed telecommunications operators in the town on an open access basis.

During the preparation of the Next Generation Broadband Taskforce report, which concluded its deliberations in 2012, service providers noted the importance of planning and consent processes in facilitating the roll-out of infrastructure to support the provision of telecommunications services. The Government's National Broadband Plan which I subsequently published, commits to addressing barriers to deployment in order to maximise investment by the commercial sector and assist in enhancing the quality of services. Local Authorities have an important role to play in this regard, particularly in facilitating the provision of infrastructure that supports wireless and fixed line services.

The National Broadband Plan aims to radically change the broadband landscape in Ireland by ensuring that high speed broadband is available to all citizens and businesses. 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.

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, information has been sought from all undertakings authorised by ComReg in relation to current and planned broadband services, both basic and next generation access (NGA). Mapping data has been submitted to my Department by a total of 23 operators and the process of analysing the data and supporting information is continuing. The mapping data 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 NGA broadband coverage, along with the Government's proposals for a State-led intervention to roll out high speed broadband across the country, this map will outline exactly the type of broadband is available in County Kerry.

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.

Digital Television Service Availability

Questions (333)

Tom Fleming

Question:

333. Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will immediately investigate and examine the Saorview service at Droum, Glenbeigh, County Kerry; if he will accept the fact that this area cannot access Saorview, which is causing a huge inconvenience to potential users and needs to be addressed immediately; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15116/14]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

In accordance with the Broadcasting Act 2009, RTÉ, through its subsidiary company 2rn, is responsible for the roll-out, coverage and operation of the SAORVIEW digital terrestrial television (DTT) network and I, as Minister, have no function in this matter. Specifically, the Act requires RTÉ to provide digital coverage to the same extent as provided over the previous analogue network, i.e. 98% population coverage, and I am advised by RTÉ that this level of coverage is being provided by the SAORVIEW TV network. For the remaining 2% of the population, RTÉ launched SAORSAT in March 2012. The development and provision of SAORSAT, which is a “free to air” satellite system providing access to the RTÉ channels and TG4, was undertaken by RTÉ on its own initiative and, as in the case of the SAORVIEW DTT network, is not a matter in which I have a function. Ireland is not the only country to have introduced a national TV network on both a terrestrial and satellite platform. Many countries, including the UK, have developed their digital networks on both the traditional terrestrial platform and also over satellite. The reason for this is simple: it is technically and financially impossible to provide 100% coverage using a terrestrial TV platform. However, through SAORVIEW and SAORSAT, Ireland now has 100% “free to air” coverage of the RTÉ channels and TG4 for the first time in the history of the State. That said, I have noted the specific details of the case raised by the Deputy in this Question and have had them brought to the attention of RTÉ's network company, 2rn.

Wind Energy Generation

Question No. 335 answered with Question No. 324.

Questions (334, 338)

Dara Calleary

Question:

334. Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the number of semi-State bodies under his control that are involved in wind farm development; his plans to direct any other State agencies under his control to engage in wind farm development; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15175/14]

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Dara Calleary

Question:

338. Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the number of agencies or companies within his Department involved in wind energy development; the element of co-ordination between them; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15233/14]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 334 and 338 together.

Wind energy developments are undertaken by a number of commercial State companies including ESB (Electricity Supply Board), BGÉ (Bord Gáis Éireann), and Bord na Mona (BnM). I understand Coillte is also active in wind energy initiatives. The decision to undertake such developments are operational matters based on commercial decisions by the individual companies and are not undertaken at my direction, as Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources.

However, financing arrangements for wind farm projects do form an integral part of the standard approvals for capital expenditure sought by the companies within my area of responsibility. Such approvals are considered and provided by my Department on foot of formal applications from the individual companies, in the context of relevant delegated authority protocols.

BGÉ and ESB have significant portfolios of wind generation assets, some already operational, others in development. BGÉ's energy business, which comprises the wind assets portfolio, is part of the State Assets Disposal Programme, to be sold to Brookfield Renewable Energy Partners LP, as part of a consortium that also comprises Centrica plc and iCON Infrastructure. The transaction process is at an advanced stage and is expected to conclude in the coming months.

BnM has made significant investment in wind energy projects such as the Mount Lucas project in County Offaly and Bruckana in County Tipperary. In addition, BnM, in conjunction with ESB, has formed a joint venture company to develop a wind farm at Oweninny in County Mayo.

Consideration is currently being given to the potential for a collaborative approach to wind energy development by BnM and Coillte. The outcome of detailed analysis, led by NewERA, on such a collaborative approach, is expected shortly.

Question No. 335 answered with Question No. 324.

Renewable Energy Exports

Questions (336)

Michael Moynihan

Question:

336. Deputy Michael Moynihan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will provide an update on the current status of the memorandum of understanding between the Irish and UK Governments to progress plans for the trading of renewable energy between both countries; if he will state his view on the recent publication of energy targets from the European Commission for 2030; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15180/14]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

Ireland and the UK have made good progress on both States' joint, innovative and ambitious work in the area of renewable energy trading since my signing of a Memorandum of Understanding with the UK Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Ed Davey M.P. in January 2013. However, it is recognised that the economic, policy and regulatory complexities involved, and the key decisions yet to be taken by the UK, would make 2020 delivery very difficult to achieve given project lead times. For this reason, the shared work will focus on the longer term post 2020 period, and both countries will continue to work together on that basis.

Following the recent publication by the European Commission of its proposal for a 2030 Climate and Energy Framework, my Department is undertaking analysis to establish the scale of the contribution Ireland can make to the achievement of the proposed EU renewable energy target of 27%, while ensuring that action taken will be cost effective.

Petroleum and Gas Exploration

Question No. 338 answered with Question No. 334.

Questions (337)

Michael Moynihan

Question:

337. Deputy Michael Moynihan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources when a new fiscal framework for the exploration and production of oil and gas here will be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15181/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Communications)

Following a public procurement process, my Department appointed Wood MacKenzie in March of this year to provide expert advice on the fitness for purpose of Ireland's fiscal terms for oil and gas exploration, development and production. It is expected that this work will take two to three months to finalise, will help inform decisions to be taken going forward.

Question No. 338 answered with Question No. 334.

Ministerial Responsibilities

Questions (339, 340)

Niall Collins

Question:

339. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the number of times he has authorised phone tapping since he was authorised to do so; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15412/14]

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Niall Collins

Question:

340. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he has been requested to authorise phone tapping in any Garda stations in the State; if he had any knowledge of Garda phone recordings in Garda stations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15413/14]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 339 and 340 together.

The Interception of Postal Packets and Telecommunications Messages (Regulation) Act, 1993 provides for the primary legislative basis in Ireland for the interception of postal packets and telecommunications messages. By reason of the fact that the Minister for Defence and the Minister for Justice and Equality have a role under the 1993 Act in recommending and authorising respectively interceptions applications made by the Chief of Staff of the Defence Forces, the Minister for Justice and Equality's function in this regard was transferred to the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources pursuant to the provisions of the Authorisation of Certain Interceptions (Transfer of Departmental Administration and Ministerial Functions) Order 2012. The Minister's role is confined to requests for an authorisation from the Chief of Staff of the Defence Forces only.

It has not been the practice for security reasons to provide details of authorisations sought. I should emphasise that the Act is subject to independent judicial oversight by a designated Judge of the High Court and a complaints mechanism whereby any individual who believes they have been the victim of improper use of the legislation may have their complaint investigated by a Complaints Referee. The Designated Judge must submit a report on the operation of the Act to the Taoiseach on an annual basis and this Report is laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas.

Control of Dogs

Questions (341)

Clare Daly

Question:

341. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his plans to amend the legislation regarding the breeds of dogs considered dangerous and to replace it with a system whereby animal owners are held accountable for the animals' actions; and his plans regarding the way this measure could be progressed. [14784/14]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

I do not plan to amend the legislation setting out requirements that owners of specific breeds of dogs have to follow. The overall dog control provisions of the Control of Dogs Acts 1986 and 1992 contain important and balanced requirements for all dog owners, irrespective of breed. In particular, the legislation sets out the requirement for owners to accompany and keep effectual control of their dogs. The penalty for non-conformance with these requirements is a fine of up to €2,500 or imprisonment for a term of up to three months.

The Control of Dogs Regulations 1998 (as amended) require that specific breeds of dogs must be muzzled, leashed and led by a competent person over 16 years of age when in public. These requirements on specific breeds are a balanced and workable arrangement which recognise the rights of dog owners versus the needs of society to be protected from dogs with a significant capability to inflict very serious injury.

Motor Tax Collection

Questions (342, 345)

Peter Mathews

Question:

342. Deputy Peter Mathews asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the reason for an increase in the total cost of motor tax when paying it quarterly as compared with paying it annually (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14932/14]

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Marcella Corcoran Kennedy

Question:

345. Deputy Marcella Corcoran Kennedy asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the reason a percentage of the car size and capacity is calculated when purchasing motor car tax on a half-yearly and-or quarterly basis; the reason the administration charge varies in car capacity even though the administration work is the same for each transaction (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14692/14]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 345 and 342 together.

The Finance (Excise Duties) (Vehicles) Act 1952 provides that the rate of duty for a quarterly tax disc must not exceed 30% of the annual duty applicable and sets no upper limit for a half-yearly disc. The rates of duty currently applicable to the quarterly and half-yearly discs are 28.25 % and 55.5 % of the annual rate, respectively. These relativities have remained generally constant since the 1960s.

Non-annual transactions make up over two-thirds of all motor transactions processed. Tax rates for these vehicles take account of the extra workload for the National Vehicle and Driver File (NVDF) and motor tax offices, and the resultant higher administrative and printing costs. In addition, reminders are issued on each renewal. While costs may have reduced in respect of those paying on-line, they are not negligible. Moving from a system of setting the additional charge for quarterly and half-yearly payments as a percentage of tax payable to a flat fee would mean increases in overall costs for those paying lower rates of motor tax, and decreases in payments by those paying higher rates of tax, for the same quantum of tax collected. This could be regressive, for example in respect of those who can afford only to drive a smaller car compared to those who can afford to drive a larger car.

The annual income from the increased charges for three and six month discs in 2012 was over €50m. A loss in income from this source would have a negative impact on the Local Government Fund and consequently on grant allocations to local authorities from the Fund, and would have to be borne elsewhere in the motor tax system, or through the taxation system generally.

Taxi Regulations

Questions (343)

Dessie Ellis

Question:

343. Deputy Dessie Ellis asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will outline the rationale for not allowing taxi drivers to pay the motor tax relating to their taxi online. [15184/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

Licensing authorities have an obligation under Article 3 of the Road Vehicles (Registration and Licensing) (Amendment) Regulations 1992 to be satisfied that a vehicle is correctly taxed and the authority must have adequate documentation to support a claim for a particular rate of tax.  In order to avail of the small public service vehicle rate of tax, which at €95 annually is a concessionary rate, the owner is required to submit a current public service vehicle licence when applying for a motor tax disc.

The public service vehicle licence is a paper based process and consequently it is currently not possible to facilitate the taxing of small public service vehicles through the online motor tax service. It is a matter for my colleague, the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, under whose remit the National Vehicle and Driver File (NVDF) and the online motor tax infrastructure falls, to examine the feasibility of developing an electronic  interface  with the National Transport Authority to supply the necessary supporting evidence to enable these vehicles to be taxed online.

Labour Court Recommendations

Questions (344)

Willie Penrose

Question:

344. Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will confirm if his Department received correspondence (details supplied); if he will take steps to ensure that the Labour Court recommendation on an enhanced redundancy scheme set out therein is fully funded and that this matter is addressed so as to enable the resolution proposed to be implemented; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15378/14]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

While the correspondence referred to has been received, it should be noted that my Department has no role in the internal operations of any private organisations and, therefore, does not have a role in relation to staff or employment matters, which are for the Board of the company, as the employer, to manage.

However, the Government recognises that like all other sectors of our economy, the community and voluntary sector has had to deal with reduced funding in recent years. Issues have arisen around the capacity of the sector to pay enhanced redundancy payments. The Government is considering a cash limited scheme to address this issue. Discussions between my Department and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform are ongoing in that regard.