Dormant Accounts Fund Management

Questions (48)

Catherine Connolly


48. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the number and details of projects in Galway city and county that benefitted from the €2 million dormant accounts funding allocation in 2017 facilitating access to services and amenities in rural Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51858/18]

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Written answers (Question to Rural)

The Dormant Accounts Action Plan 2017, published in July 2017 approved funding for a measure entitled access to services and amenities in rural Ireland.

At that time, it was envisaged that this measure would support older people and people with disabilities in accessing services, amenities and activities within the community.

It was also envisaged that the measure would support community based organisations which provide outreach services and support to people with limited mobility.

This measure did not progress as planned; however, to address this need subsequently a new CLAR measure was launched in August 2018. The CLAR measure has provided €1.4 million in funding for organisations that provide:

- Wheelchair accessible transport to assist those attending medical appointments or respite services.

- Transport to and from designated cancer treatment hospitals and centres under the National Cancer Care Programme.

This CLAR measure has provided funding for 2 groups based in Galway. FORUM Connemara received almost €54,000 in funding for a 15 seater wheelchair accessible vehicle and Cancer Care West received €100,000 in funding for a 25 seater accessible bus.

Addressing this need through the CLAR measure has allowed me to use the voted Dormant Accounts moneys within the Department to address emerging needs elsewhere. In particular it has facilitated increased funding for the Senior Alerts programme so that demand can be meet right across the country.

Departmental Reviews

Questions (49, 62)

Mick Wallace


49. Deputy Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the company employed to conduct the independent review with regard to the review of the charitable status of Pobal; the estimated cost of such a review; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51841/18]

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Mick Wallace


62. Deputy Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development when the review by Pobal into its charity status will be published; if he has been in contact with Pobal since September 2018 regarding the matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51840/18]

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Written answers (Question to Rural)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 49 and 62 together.

Pobal is a not for profit company which was originally established by Government in 1992 as Area Development Management (ADM) Ltd. Charitable status was granted to the company by the Revenue Commissioners on the 20th November 1996. In 2005 ADM was re-named Pobal. In accordance with Section 40 of the Charities Act, 2009, Pobal was entered onto the Register of Charitable Organisations on 16 October 2014.

The basis for Pobal having charitable status is tied to the objects of the Company, which are specified in its Memorandum and Articles of Association. I am satisfied that Pobal is fully compliant with the relevant legislative requirements including those of the Charities Act, 2009.

Pobal is undertaking a review of its charitable status and in that regard has sought independent legal advice on the matter from Philip Lees and Associates. The review is at an advanced stage and a report will be presented to the Board of Pobal at their January meeting. The cost of the legal advice on the matter was approximately €10,500.

My Department has been kept informed by Pobal of progress on the review through our standing corporate governance and oversight arrangements. I expect that Pobal will also be sharing the outcome of the review with my Department once it has been considered by its Board.

LEADER Programmes Administration

Question No. 51 answered with Question No. 42.

Questions (50)

Bobby Aylward


50. Deputy Bobby Aylward asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development if he is satisfied that the application process for community groups applying to LEADER is efficient and that the process is not discouraging groups from making an application; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51863/18]

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Written answers (Question to Rural)

The LEADER programme has made a huge contribution to supporting rural areas and rural communities for many years. As is the case with many EU-funded programmes, certain procedures must be followed to ensure transparency and accountability. However, I am committed to making the application process for LEADER in Ireland as efficient as possible for community groups.

My Department engages regularly with the Local Action Groups (LAGs) that deliver LEADER to identify potential areas for programme improvement.

Following a Forum held with the LAGs in May of last year, I have implemented 31 improvements to streamline the LEADER programme.

The impact of these improvements is clear to be seen in the level of applications and funding being approved under the LEADER programme this year.

Overall, since the programme commenced, a total of 1,525 projects have now been approved for funding of over €50 million under LEADER. This compares with 592 projects approved at the end of 2017. A further 370 project applications, requesting an additional €23.4 million, are at various stages in the approval process.

Project payments have also increased significantly in recent months as approved works are completed and claims are submitted. Over €10 million of project expenditure has been incurred in 2018, compared to just under €700,000 in 2017.

I expect that the progress now being made on the LEADER programme will continue as further projects are approved and payment claims are made. However, I will continue to examine ways to further improve the application and delivery process under LEADER, in consultation with stakeholders.

Question No. 51 answered with Question No. 42.

Mobile Telephony Services

Questions (52)

Dara Calleary


52. Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the timeline for the release of information on the mobile coverage blackspots pilot project to encompass all 31 local authority areas expanded in March 2018; if a map of blackspots will be made available; the actions he will take to address these blackspots; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51866/18]

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Written answers (Question to Rural)

The Mobile Phone and Broadband Taskforce was established in July 2016 to examine broadband and mobile phone coverage deficits in Ireland and identify tangible actions to improve the quality of these services.

The Taskforce Report was published in December 2016, and included 40 actions to alleviate barriers to mobile phone reception and broadband access. An Implementation Group was established in 2017 to oversee the delivery of the actions in the Taskforce’s report. Progress reports on the delivery of these actions are published on my Department's website on a quarterly basis.

With regard to the specific issue of mobile phone blackspots, my officials, in conjunction with the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment, are actively engaged with Local Authorities and mobile phone operators to identify priority blackspots and take action to address this issue.

During 2017, officials of both Departments worked with a group of Local Authorities to identify the issues associated with mapping local blackspots. Building on this exercise, a call was issued to all Local Authorities in 2018 to map local blackspots and identify infrastructure that could potentially be used to improve telecommunications services.

To date, 17 Local Authorities have provided data on more than 200 blackspots, although it should be borne in mind that the number of blackspots is constantly changing as new telecommunications infrastructure is rolled out and upgraded. The blackspot information that the Department has received so far is providing data regarding poor coverage in specific rural areas and along national and regional roads. The Department is continuing to work with the telecommunications providers to ensure that new infrastructure is targeted at the areas most in need.

It is not envisaged that the data gathered through this exercise will be published due to the constantly changing nature of the information. However, through another action in the Mobile Phone and Broadband Taskforce report, ComReg intends to publish a composite national coverage map by the end of the year. This will allow consumers to check which mobile phone operator can provide the best coverage in their area.

Dormant Accounts Fund

Questions (53)

Catherine Connolly


53. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the number and details of social enterprise projects in Galway city and county that benefitted from the €2 million dormant accounts fund allocation in 2017; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51857/18]

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Written answers (Question to Rural)

In February 2017, under the umbrella of the Dormant Accounts Fund, the then Department of Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs announced a competitive call for proposals from social enterprises that provide services to, or employment opportunities for, disadvantaged people, particularly in rural areas.

The aim of the Social Enterprise measure supported by the Dormant Accounts Fund is to increase the impact of social enterprises by enhancing their capacity to deliver services and generate traded income through the provision of small capital grants and capacity support funding.

In June 2017, following completion of the application and assessment process, an allocation of €1.648 million in funding was made available to 42 social enterprise projects across the country.

This included one social enterprise project based in County Galway, the Galway Traveller Movement Company Limited by Guarantee, which was allocated funding of €66,039.

A further allocation under the Social Enterprise measure of the Dormant Accounts Fund Action Plan will be announced shortly.

Rural Regeneration and Development Fund

Questions (54)

Tony McLoughlin


54. Deputy Tony McLoughlin asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the status of the roll-out of the rural development fund in County Sligo; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51845/18]

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Written answers (Question to Rural)

The first call for applications for the Rural Regeneration and Development Fund closed at the end of September. €1 billion is committed to the Fund over a 10 year period to support rural economic development and help build strong communities.

There was an excellent response to the first call, with nearly 300 applications received. Applications for the Fund are currently being examined by the Project Advisory Board, made up of representatives from key Government Departments and external experts, which was established to oversee the assessment process. Category 1 "shovel ready" projects were prioritised in the assessment process and Category 2 projects - those which need development funding to become potential Category 1 applications in future calls - are currently being considered.

I announced the first set of successful Category 1 projects for funding on the 23rd November 2018 and I can confirm that two projects in County Sligo received funding. Sligo County Council received €500,000 to develop a "Yeats Tourist Trail" covering 15 locations across County Sligo and €615,752 to develop a National Centre of Excellence for surfing in Strandhill, County Sligo.

The announcement on the 23rd November was just the beginning of the process and I will make further announcements of successful Category 1 and Category 2 projects early in 2019 with a further call for the Fund taking place later in the year.

Agricultural Shows Funding

Questions (55)

Joe Carey


55. Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the amount of funding provided in 2018 for agricultural shows; his plans to provide funding for same in 2019 and in future years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51674/18]

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Written answers (Question to Rural)

In December 2017, I announced financial support of €812,000 for Agricultural Shows to be held during 2018, to help alleviate financial difficulties suffered by a number of these shows in recent years, primarily due to adverse weather conditions.

This allocation was made in coordination with the Irish Shows Association (ISA) and resulted in approximately 120 shows under the umbrella of the ISA in the Republic of Ireland receiving assistance of between €3,500 and €7,000, depending on the size of the show.

The ISA is the umbrella organisation for agricultural shows in Ireland, and membership of the Association is open to all recognised Agricultural Show Societies.

On 7th August this year, I announced further financial support of €600,000 for agricultural shows to be held during 2019. This funding will be distributed, once again, through the ISA. Under this year's allocation, 120 shows will each receive €5,000 towards their running costs.

I had the opportunity to visit many agricultural shows throughout the country this year and I have seen first-hand the impact these shows make to the vibrancy of local communities. I am therefore very pleased to be in a position to provide funding to support the 2019 shows which are an integral part of rural communities' calendars.

RAPID Programme

Questions (56)

John Curran


56. Deputy John Curran asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the funding and supports provided for disadvantaged communities in RAPID areas since the establishment of the community enhancement programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51729/18]

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Written answers (Question to Rural)

I launched the new Community Enhancement Programme in May of this year. I originally allocated €4.5 million to the programme. Based on positive feedback from communities around the country I recently allocated an additional €8 million to the programme.

Under the original RAPID programme (which closed in 2011), specific geographical areas - known as RAPID areas - were designated to receive funding. Under the Community Enhancement Programme which has replaced it, funding is not ring-fenced for specific areas but is allocated to each Local Authority area taking account of its population and its relative deprivation level, using the Pobal Hasse deprivation index.

The Local Community Development Committee in each area then allocates funding locally to community groups, in order to address disadvantage as identified in the Local Economic and Community Plan. This means that up-to-date data and local knowledge is used to direct funding to those most who need it most. It is a more effective, flexible and locally responsive approach to addressing disadvantage than ring-fencing geographical areas as under the original RAPID programme.

The new approach was put in place following a review of the Communities Facilities Scheme and the re-cast RAPID programme that operated in 2017, and also takes into account a value-for-money review of the original RAPID programme.

My Department also provides other funding streams to support disadvantaged communities, including the Social Inclusion and Community Activation Programme (SICAP).

Walks Scheme

Questions (57, 61)

Aindrias Moynihan


57. Deputy Aindrias Moynihan asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development when he plans to reopen the rural walks scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51860/18]

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Aindrias Moynihan


61. Deputy Aindrias Moynihan asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the progress which has been made towards reopening the rural walks scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51859/18]

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Written answers (Question to Rural)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 57 and 61 together.

My Department administers the Walks Scheme which facilitates the development and maintenance of many of Ireland’s walking trails. The scheme involves private land-holders as key participants in the provision of high quality walking trails, by contracting them to undertake maintenance work on sections of National Waymarked Ways and other priority walks that cross their lands. Participant land-holders receive modest payments for maintenance work undertaken, in line with agreed work plans.

The scheme currently covers 39 trails, with payments made to approximately 1,900 private land-holders to maintain those trails.

The Programme for a Partnership Government includes a commitment to increase the number of walks covered by the scheme. In line with this commitment, funding for the scheme was doubled in Budget 2019 - from €2 million to 4 million - to allow this expansion to proceed next year.

I will shortly be initiating a review of the operation of Walks Scheme which will inform decisions regarding the expansion of the scheme. In order to be in a position to bring new trails on to the scheme as soon as possible, I will also be inviting Local Development Companies and Local Authorities to submit expressions of interest in respect of trails that meet specific qualifying criteria, for consideration for inclusion in the scheme.

I hope that this process will enable my Department to identify, in the coming weeks, the initial trails for inclusion in the expanded scheme, with additional walks to join the Scheme on an incremental basis.

Regional Development Initiatives

Questions (58)

Martin Kenny


58. Deputy Martin Kenny asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the progress made on the key objectives of the Atlantic economic corridor task force; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51870/18]

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Written answers (Question to Rural)

The Programme for Partnership Government and the Action Plan for Rural Development both commit to progressing the Atlantic Economic Corridor initiative to support the development of the western part of the country, from Donegal to Kerry.

The objective of the AEC project is to maximise the assets along the western seaboard and connect the economic hubs, clusters and catchments of the region to attract investment, support job creation and contribute to an improved quality of life for people in the region. The National Planning Framework recognises the contribution which the AEC initiative can make to supporting the regional growth objectives of the NPF.

Minister Ring established the Atlantic Economic Corridor Taskforce in March 2017 to oversee and progress the initiative. I now chair the Taskforce which meets every quarter, with the most recent meeting taking place yesterday, 10th December.

Three subgroups have been established to support the work of the Taskforce, focusing on the issues of infrastructure, enterprise space and communications and marketing. Work programmes have been developed for each of these subgroups.

My Department also provides co-funding for a dedicated AEC Officer in each of the Local Authorities along the Corridor. This AEC Officer network provides a resource to support the work of the AEC Taskforce, and to promote the AEC concept across the region as a whole.

Over the last few weeks, projects based in the AEC area were approved for funding of €50 million from three Government funds - the Rural Regeneration and Development Fund, the Urban Regeneration and Development Fund, and the Regional Enterprise Development Fund. This investment, along with other infrastructural investments under the National Development Plan, will support the objectives of the AEC initiative to attract jobs and investment to the region.

Tidy Towns Committees Funding

Questions (59)

Martin Heydon


59. Deputy Martin Heydon asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the level of funding provided to tidy towns committees in County Kildare and nationwide in 2018; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51792/18]

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Written answers (Question to Rural)

To celebrate the 60th anniversary of the TidyTowns Competition this year, I announced a grant scheme of €1.4 million at the end of 2017 to mark, in a small way, the efforts of TidyTowns committees all over the country who have given countless hours to make their communities better places in which to live. Over 900 committees availed of the grant. More than 40 different TidyTowns committees in County Kildare received funding totalling €76,000 in 2017.

I was delighted to again be able to announce funding of €1.4 million in September this year for TidyTowns committees to assist them in preparing for the 2019 competition.

Under the scheme, funding of between €1,000 and €4,000 is available to TidyTowns committees who have entered the competition in any of the last three years and I would encourage all eligible committees to apply for the funding.

The allocation available to Tidy Towns committees in County Kildare under the 2018 scheme is €73,000 and represents 41 separate TidyTowns committees who are eligible to apply.

The following table outlines the allocation available to each county for 2018.


2018 Grant Allocation