Invalidity Pension Appeals

Questions (138)

Dara Murphy

Question:

138. Deputy Dara Murphy asked the Minister for Social Protection when a decision on an invalidity pension appeal will be made in respect of a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18490/14]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that the person concerned was assessed by a Medical Assessor of the Department of Social Protection who was of the opinion that he was capable of work. He appealed this decision and in that context the appeal was assessed by another Medical Assessor who also expressed the opinion that he was capable of work.

In the light of this second medical opinion, the person concerned was requested to set out the complete and up to date grounds of his appeal and to furnish any further medical evidence that he wished to submit in support of his appeal to the Social Welfare Appeals Office. This information has now been submitted and, in accordance with the statutory procedures, the Department has been asked to provide the documentation in the case and the Deciding Officer’s comments on the grounds of the appeal. When these are received from the Department, the appeal will be forwarded to an Appeals Officer for consideration.

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 in relation to social welfare entitlements.

Disability Allowance Appeals

Questions (139)

Tom Fleming

Question:

139. Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will examine an application for disability allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18514/14]

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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 3March 2014. It is a statutory requirement of the appeals process that the relevant papers and comments by or on behalf of the Deciding Officer on the grounds of appeal be sought from the Department of Social Protection. These papers were received in the Social Welfare Appeals Office on 18 March 2014 and the case will be referred to an Appeals Officer who will make a summary decision on the appeal based on 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 in relation to social welfare entitlements.

Arts Funding

Questions (140)

Paul Connaughton

Question:

140. Deputy Paul J. Connaughton asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the funding available for arts projects undertaken by members of active retirement groups; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18334/14]

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Written answers (Question to Arts)

My Department does not provide operating grants as described by the Deputy. In general terms, responsibility for the promotion of the arts at all levels throughout the country is primarily devolved to the Arts Council. The Arts Council is the principal agency through which State funding is channelled to the arts. Under the Arts Act 2003, the Arts Council is a statutorily independent body, funded by my Department and independent in its day-to-day operations, and I have no role to play in relation to its funding decisions in this and other matters.

Heritage Sites

Question No. 142 answered with Question No. 10.

Questions (141)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

141. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the extent to which his Department continues to works in tandem with the authorities in Northern Ireland in the promotion of heritage sites of Irish culture; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18409/14]

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Written answers (Question to Arts)

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Question No. 108 of 29 January 2014.

Question No. 142 answered with Question No. 10.

Departmental Funding

Question No. 144 answered with Question No. 10.

Questions (143, 146, 151, 152)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

143. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the extent to which his Department continues to offer support for voluntary community effort in respect of local festivals, musical and-or dramatic productions; if he will continue to generate and support interest in this area in a practical way; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18411/14]

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Bernard Durkan

Question:

146. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the extent to which his Department expects to assist financially or otherwise, directly or indirectly, various community based festivals throughout the country in the current year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18414/14]

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Bernard Durkan

Question:

151. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the extent to which philanthropic funding remains available for the promotion of the arts; the extent to which the future is secure in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18419/14]

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Bernard Durkan

Question:

152. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the extent to which he and his Department can identify, promote and support cultural events in the coming year which might be of substantial economic benefit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18420/14]

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Written answers (Question to Arts)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 143, 146, 151 and 152 together.

I refer the Deputy to my previous responses to Questions on these topics.

As the Deputy will recall, responsibility for the promotion of the arts at all levels throughout the country is primarily devolved to the Arts Council. The Arts Council is the principal agency through which State funding is channelled to the arts. Under the Arts Act 2003, the Arts Council is a statutorily independent body, funded by my Department and independent in its day-to-day operations, and I have no role to play in relation to its funding decisions. Funding decisions for local festivals, musical and dramatic productions, are a matter for the Arts Council and full information on those decisions is made available on its website www.artscouncil.ie.

The Programme for Government includes a commitment to expanding private support of the arts. To achieve this, my Department introduced a philanthropy scheme in 2012 and 2013, both of which have helped to encourage arts organisations to build partnerships with potential sponsors. In addition, the Arts Council introduced the RAISE programme, which is working to significantly enhance fund-raising skills in ten arts organisations with a view to reducing the sector’s dependency on funding from the taxpayer and moving it more towards the business sector.

A small capital grants scheme to encourage philanthropy has been introduced by my Department for 2014 with an overall allocation of €300,000. The maximum allocation per project will be €10,000, with up to 70% of the cost of the project to be funded by my Department and the balance of 30% to be funded from the project's own resources, or philanthropic sources, or a mixture of both. The 2014 scheme is a further indication of the ongoing work being done to support the development of a culture of philanthropy in the arts sector.

Ealaín na Gaeltachta has also put in place a seed fund aimed at developing strategic arts initiatives in the Gaeltacht. Projects that may be supported under the initiative include the development of events, exhibitions, etc, that contribute to the artistic life of the Gaeltacht. Ealaín na Gaeltachta Teo, is a joint venture between Údarás na Gaeltachta and the Arts Council, and promotes the development of the contemporary and traditional arts in the Gaeltacht. The maximum grant available under the initiative is €1,500 Details are available at www.ealain.ie/contact-us.

Question No. 144 answered with Question No. 10.

Turf Cutting Compensation Scheme

Question No. 146 answered with Question No. 143.

Questions (145)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

145. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the degree to which he has completed discussions with the various interested parties affected by SACs and NHAs affecting turf cutters in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18413/14]

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Written answers (Question to Arts)

Progress has been made with a view to the relocation of 7 qualifying turf cutters from Ballynafagh Bog special area of conservation in County Kildare to Timahoe North, County Kildare, which is in the ownership of Bord na Móna. My Department envisages that qualifying turf cutters from Ballynafagh Bog will be able to commence cutting in the relocation site during the 2014 turf cutting season, provided that an agreement is reached with them.

Lattins Bog, also known as Mouds North Bog, in County Kildare has been identified as a potential relocation site for turf cutters from Mouds Bog special area of conservation. Bord na Móna has undertaken a full suitability assessment for the site and my Department has provided a copy of the assessment report to the Secretary of the Committee of the Kildare Turf Cutters Association. This report illustrates that 19 turf cutters could be accommodated on the site. Bord na Móna, in consultation with the Department, is investigating the potential for the accommodation of additional turf cutters on the site.

Relocation is a very complex process in terms of investigating suitable sites for turf quality and quantity, the infrastructure and drainage works required, establishing the number of turf cutters who can be accommodated on the site, the cost and feasibility of land purchase or lease, and possible planning and Environmental Impact Assessment requirements.

A payment of €1,500, index-linked, or a supply of 15 tonnes of cut turf per annum is available under the cessation of turf cutting compensation scheme to applicants while awaiting relocation to non-designated bogs.

The Review of Raised Bog Natural Heritage Areas, which is available to download from my Department’s website at http://www.ahg.gov.ie/en/Publications, provides detail on future arrangements regarding turf cutting on each of the 75 raised bog natural heritage areas. My Department has written to all property holders who could be identified in relation to the natural heritage area raised bogs to inform them of the results of the review including arrangements for obtaining permits to continue cutting and or compensation. The Department has also written to all contractors that have been identified as being affected by the review explaining future arrangements for turf cutting on these sites In addition, notices outlining the outcome of the review were placed in local papers.

Carbury Bog natural heritage area in County Kildare is one of the natural heritage areas which is to be conserved. In the case of this bog, the review envisages the cessation of turf cutting on the site by 1 January 2017 to preserve its conservation value. Turf cutting may continue on the bog until that date, on plots that have been cut in the five year period prior to the Government decision of 14 January, 2014 on the review.

To ensure that cutting does not intensify over the next 3 years, owners of plots or of turbary rights who have cut over the past 5 years must obtain a permit to cut from my Department. Contractors will also be obliged to obtain permits.

The review also envisages the complete or partial de-designation of 46 existing natural heritage areas where turf cutting may continue into the future. In these de-designation cases, it will not be necessary for individuals to seek consent to cut turf. Hodgestown Bog natural heritage area in County Kildare is one of these de-designation cases.

Any turf cutter required to cease turf cutting on a natural heritage area is being offered compensatory measures similar to those available to turf cutters from raised bog special areas of conservation. Such compensation will be available to qualifying persons with effect from 2014.

Question No. 146 answered with Question No. 143.

Job Initiatives

Questions (147, 148, 154)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

147. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the degree to which he expects his Department and-or subordinate bodies under his aegis to contribute to economic progress in the current year, directly or indirectly; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18415/14]

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Bernard Durkan

Question:

148. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the extent to which he expects jobs to be retained or created throughout the arts and heritage sectors in the current year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18416/14]

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Bernard Durkan

Question:

154. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the extent to which he and his Department continue to examine any proposals or projects within the remit of his Department which might result in alleviation of long-term unemployment, with particular reference to historic sites, buildings or locations requiring particular or specific action; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18422/14]

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Written answers (Question to Arts)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 147, 148 and 154 together.

As the Deputy will be aware, my Department operates a range of schemes across the country that contribute to Ireland's economic recovery through funding made available for the support and promotion of arts, culture, film and heritage. Details can be accessed at www.ahg.gov.ie.

A key priority for the Government in the Action Plan for Jobs 2014 is the conservation, development and presentation of the arts, heritage and Gaeltacht sectors so as to help make a significant contribution to supporting economic recovery and in sustaining enterprise and job creation across the country. This is achieved through direct support from my Department and the bodies funded from my Department's Vote Group and, in particular, through promoting cultural tourism.

In 2014, there are a number of specific initiatives underway in my Department in relation to the built heritage which will have positive employment benefits. I recently approved funding of almost €5 million from the Government’s Capital Stimulus Programme under the Built Heritage Jobs Leverage Scheme for the repair and conservation of 618 structures protected under the Planning and Development Acts 2000-2012. It is anticipated that these projects, with a combined value of €21 million, will unlock €16 million in private funds and support significant employment in the conservation and construction industries and in specialist trades. In tandem with this, my Department is also operating a pilot Traditional Skills Training Programme, in conjunction with four local authorities, to enhance skillsets in built heritage conservation, thus improving employment prospects for trainees. The creation of approximately 270 high-end construction jobs, many of which are specialist positions, will be provided for through the major renovation project of the historic wings of the National Gallery of Ireland.

With particular reference to historic sites, the protection and promotion of our national heritage assets has a significant role in generating employment through cultural and heritage tourism, through direct employment in built heritage conservation, repair and maintenance, as well as through related employment opportunities in the retail, catering, accommodation and construction sectors.

The Heritage Council, which my Department funds, has also recently awarded funding of €0.652m to 144 heritage projects across the country this year under its Heritage Management Grants Programme.

In addition, my Department is concluding the pilot of a heritage-led urban regeneration scheme, the Historic Towns Initiative, in Youghal, Westport and Listowel, in conjunction with Fáilte Ireland, the Heritage Council and the relevant local authorities. This initiative aims both to conserve heritage assets and to enhance the visitor experience.

I have also allocated over €56 million in funding for 2014 to the Arts Council, which in turn will provide funding to over 500 individual artists and 870 organisations across a range of arts venues, festivals, arts organisations and touring initiatives. This supports tens of thousands of direct and indirect jobs in Ireland and recognises the important role the arts play in innovation and expression, as well as job creation and economic recovery in 2014.

My Department is also committed in its continuing support of the Irish Film and Audiovisual Industry. This sector has contributed over €168 million to the Irish economy and has witnessed an increase of 42% since 2011. 2014 will see this support continue, with over €13 million earmarked for investment in over 40 significant projects, creating up to 800 jobs in the audiovisual production sector alone.

My Department continues to advance the 1916 Commemoration and Decade of Centenaries programmes, including a range of capital projects, which will directly and indirectly support job creation, as well as cultural tourism. The national programme marking the anniversary of Brian Ború and the Battle of Clontarf is also being supported.

In addition, as part of the Action Plan for Jobs, Údarás na Gaeltachta, which is funded from my Department's Vote Group, aims to create 520 new jobs and retain 7,000 existing jobs in the Gaeltacht area by supporting developments in the Life Sciences, Food and Business Support Services and Creative Enterprises sectors and providing ongoing support for community development initiatives. My Department also supports a range of Irish language arts, publishing, creative writing, training and other schemes, as well as festivals and drama companies through Foras na Gaeilge.

I would like to assure the Deputy that my Department is determined to support and increase employment across the arts, heritage and Gaeltacht sectors. My Department is actively working to maintain existing jobs and explore new opportunities that arise so as to contribute to the next phase of our economic development.