Departmental Funding

Questions (491)

Brendan Griffin

Question:

491. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development his views on a report (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51541/18]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Rural)

The report referenced in the Deputy's question refers to an organisation which received funding under the Dormant Accounts Fund and is also supported under the Community Services Programme.

Funding has been disallowed under the Dormant Accounts Fund and the recovery process is ongoing, as such it would be inappropriate for me to comment pending the outcome of discussions in that regard with the organisation concerned.

Regarding the Community Services Programme, a further more detailed report has been commissioned and is currently under examination within my Department.

Departmental Schemes

Questions (492)

James Browne

Question:

492. Deputy James Browne asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development if he has considered introducing a scheme in which small farmers or pensioners can avail of vouchers to subsidise the cost of spending on meals in small local restaurants; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51737/18]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Rural)

The Department of Rural and Community Development was established last year to deliver on the Government’s commitment to bring a greater degree of coordination and cohesion to all of the work of Government in so far as it impacts on rural Ireland and on communities in regions throughout the country.

My Department delivers a variety of schemes that provide supports for groups in rural and urban communities in line with commitments in the Programme for Partnership Government and the Action Plan for Rural Development. This does not, however, extend to the provision of subsidies or income support for individuals and I would see this matter as more relevant to my colleague, the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection.

Rural Regeneration and Development Fund

Questions (493)

Tony McLoughlin

Question:

493. 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. [51805/18]

View answer

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 for applications - are now 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 Trail" covering 15 locations across County Sligo and €615,752 to develop a National Centre of Excellence for surfing in Strandhill. 

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

Brexit Issues

Questions (494)

Lisa Chambers

Question:

494. Deputy Lisa Chambers asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development if he has formally met with his UK counterpart to discuss Brexit and its impact on east-west trade reciprocal arrangements and all other Brexit related matters that fall within the remit of his Department; the number of times they have formally met to discuss Brexit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51893/18]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Rural)

The negotiations on both the EU-UK Withdrawal Agreement and political declaration on the framework for the EU-UK future relationship, both of which were endorsed by the European Council on 25 November, were conducted on behalf of the EU27 by the EU's Chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, and the Commission's Article 50 Taskforce. 

I have not formally met with my UK counterpart to discuss Brexit issues, however, Brexit is a priority issue for this Government, and the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste and others in Cabinet have been engaging, and will continue to engage, with our EU partners and the UK to advance Ireland’s priorities.

Rural Development Policy

Questions (495)

Tony McLoughlin

Question:

495. Deputy Tony McLoughlin asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the progress made on the development of the Atlantic economic corridor; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51670/18]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Rural)

The Programme for a 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.

Dormant Accounts Fund

Questions (496)

Catherine Connolly

Question:

496. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the steps being taken to raise awareness of the Dormant Accounts Fund; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51922/18]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Rural)

The recent review of the Dormant Accounts Disbursement Scheme 2014-16 and 2017-2019 identifies the need for better communication and awareness building with regard to the fund, including across Government Departments, potential beneficiaries and the public. 

Specific actions taken in this regard include writing to Government Ministers at the start of the Dormant Accounts Action Plan process to raise awareness of the possibility of Dormant Accounts Funding for measures in their policy areas that address economic, social or educational disadvantage, or support persons with a disability. Furthermore, in July 2018 there was a formal launch of the Action Plan for the first time, which showcased funded measures and projects and generated significant media attention.

The issue of further increasing awareness of the fund will also be considered by the recently established interdepartmental group, and as part of that work guidance will be developed to ensure that funding recipients across all policy areas acknowledge and promote the fact that they are being funded from Dormant Account moneys, with the aim of raising wider public awareness of fund benefits and potential. 

Finally, with regard to the social enterprise measure administered by Pobal on behalf of this Department, pre-application support was provided to potential applicants, including an information day in Tullamore. This helped to ensure that potential applicants for that specific measure were fully informed on the funding call. 

Benefits of further information days and other awareness arising initiatives will continue to be explored and advanced to ensure maximum use is made of the fund to benefit citizens.

Parking Provision

Questions (497)

Seán Sherlock

Question:

497. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the number of car parking spaces provided for staff working within Dublin, Limerick and Cork city and to agencies therein. [52011/18]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Rural)

Under the terms of the lease  (overseen by OPW) governing my Department's headquarters in Trinity Point in Dublin 2, 6 car park spaces are available for use by the Ministers and staff of the Department.  Spaces in the building's car park are allocated to all tenants  (including the Department) based on floor occupancy. 

My Department's other main office is located in Government Buildings in Ballina, where the car park is shared with three other Government Departments and is also in use by the public.

In relation to bodies under the aegis of my Department which have offices in the locations identified by the Deputy, the Charities Regulator, which is based in the IFSC in Dublin 1, has access to 2 car park spaces under the terms of its lease.  At the offices of Pobal in Holles Street, Dublin 2, there are 27 car park spaces available under the terms of the lease, while there are a further 3 spaces provided at each of Pobal's offices in Adelaide Road in Dublin 2 and Ormond Quay in Dublin 7.  There are 13 car park spaces available in Pobal's offices in Mahon, Cork.  There are no dedicated car park spaces available to Pobal in its offices in Lower Mount Street, Dublin 2 or in Limerick.

Departmental Staff Data

Questions (498, 499, 500)

John Lahart

Question:

498. Deputy John Lahart asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the number of women and men, respectively, employed in his Department and the agencies under the remit of his Department in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [52061/18]

View answer

John Lahart

Question:

499. Deputy John Lahart asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the various grades in which males and females are employed in his Department and the agencies under the remit of his Department in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [52078/18]

View answer

John Lahart

Question:

500. Deputy John Lahart asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the ratio of males to females employed in his Department and the agencies under the remit of his Department in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [52095/18]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Rural)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 498 to 500, inclusive, together.

My Department, the Department of Rural and Community Development, was established on 19 July 2017.   I can confirm that, as of the Monday 3 December 2018, the staff breakdown of the Department and its agencies is as follows:

Location  

Grade

Male  

Female  

Department of Rural and Community Development

Sec Gen

1

0

 

Asec

1

2

 

PO

6

3

 

AP

14

10

 

HEO

10

19

 

AO

1

3

 

EO

10

20

 

CO

11

26

 

Service officer

1

0

 

Technical Grade

5

2

 

Minister Drivers

4

0

 

Minister Advisors

2

0

 

 

 

 

 

Total

66

85

 

Ratio

3.3 :

4.25

 

 

 

 

Charities Regulator Authority**

PO

0

1

 

AP

3

3

 

HEO

3

3

 

AO

2

2

 

EO

4

8

 

CO

3

7

 

 

 

 

 

Total

15

24

 ** there is currently a   vacancy at CEO level

Ratio

1 :

1.6

 

 

 

 

The Western Development   Commission

PO equivalent

1

0

 

AP equivalent

1

1

 

HEO equivalent

1

8

 

EO equivalent

1

4

 

CO equivalent

0

2

 

 

 

 

 

Total

4

15

 

Ratio

2 :  

7.5

 

 

 

 

Irish Water Safety

AP equivalent

1

0

 

HEO equivalent

1

1

 

EO equivalent

1

1

 

CO equivalent

0

3

 

 

 

 

 

Total

3

5

 

Ratio

1 :

1.66

Pobal ***

 

 

 

 

Total

119

325

 

Ratio

4.76 :

13

  *** All Pobal's staff are on fixed term contracts and none is either a civil or public servant, Pobal is an independent limited company responsible for its own recruitment.

Community Development Initiatives

Questions (501, 502)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

501. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development his plans for meeting the requirements of urban and rural populations by way of direct assistance or otherwise; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [52145/18]

View answer

Bernard Durkan

Question:

502. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the extent to which he plans to assist community efforts in the provision of enhancement facilities to improve the quality of life of urban and rural dwellers in order to ensure that such locations remain attractive as a place to live to persons of all age groups; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [52146/18]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Rural)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 501 and 502 together.

As Minister with responsibility for Rural and Community Development, I am leading a Department whose mission it is to help build vibrant, sustainable communities across the country, both in rural and urban areas.

To do this requires a mix of policy initiatives and actions focused on enabling economic growth and development and to address gaps in meeting the social needs in these areas, thus supporting our communities to become and remain desirable places to live, work and raise families. 

Many of these initiatives form part of the Government's published Action Plan for Rural Development and Framework Policy for Local and Community Development which include a range of measures which will contribute significantly to addressing issues in local communities, including financial assistance and other direct and indirect supports.

My Department is currently finalising an implementation plan for the Framework Policy for Local and Community Development and I am confident that the implementation plan will propose actions that will support the local and community development sectors to continue providing valuable services to both urban and rural communities.

In addition, Project Ireland 2040 will help breathe new life into communities across the country, providing access to recreational and leisure facilities, by increasing the attractiveness of communities to visitors and, most importantly, by supporting job creation and employment for people in both urban and rural areas. This includes the €1 billion being invested through my Department in towns and villages across Ireland through the Rural Regeneration and Development Fund.

My Department is also committed to the successful delivery of a range of other schemes and programmes which are greatly benefitting rural and urban communities. Programmes such as LEADER, CLÁR, the Town and Village Renewal Scheme, the Local Improvement Scheme, the Outdoor Recreation Scheme, the Social Inclusion and Community Activation Programme and the Community Enhancement Programme have delivered funding and supports to numerous small and large-scale projects, many of which are identified and driven by local community organisations.

Full details of these and other programmes are available on my Department's website.

Departmental Schemes

Questions (503, 510)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

503. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the schemes available by which community-based voluntary groups can avail of quality of life enhancement assistance; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [52147/18]

View answer

Bernard Durkan

Question:

510. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the main headings under which he will be in a position to offer financial assistance to voluntary groups throughout County Kildare and nationally; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [52154/18]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Rural)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 503 and 510 together.

My Department operates a number of funding programmes and schemes that are open to applications from relevant parties, including groups in the voluntary sector, who satisfy the relevant criteria during the application timeframes set for each scheme/programme.

This includes a range of direct supports to projects in Co Kildare and across the country that are developed or administered by community groups and my Department will continue this investment into 2019.

The Scheme to Support National Organisations (SSNO) provides multi-annual funding towards core costs of national organisations in the voluntary sector, with a focus on organisations that provide supports to those who are disadvantaged. The current three-year scheme runs to 30 June 2019, and all funding has been fully allocated for 2018.

Additionally, €3.5 million was allocated by my Department in 2018 to support the work of volunteering organisations.

The Community Services Programme (CSP), which has an allocation for 2018 of €44 million, supports community-based organisations to provide local social, economic and environmental services through a social enterprise model for services which are not being met through public or private funding. €429,078 was allocated to Kildare in 2018.

The Community Enhancement Programme provides small capital grants to community groups across the country, including Men's Sheds, and has been allocated a total of €13million in 2018, of which €468,671 has been allocated to groups in Kildare.

The Social Inclusion and Community Activation Programme (SICAP) is a key intervention for disadvantaged communities, offering supports to both individuals and local community groups. The current programme commenced at the start of 2018 and runs until 2022 and is delivered locally by Local Development Companies in 51 Lot Areas. The funding allocation to County Kildare for 2018 was €1,061,036.

I also approved funding of €73,000 to Tidy Towns committees in Kildare in 2018. The work done by these committees is of great value to local communities and we should all be grateful for the effort they make in our towns and villages.

Voluntary and community groups may also be able to access funding under the CLÁR Programme and the Town and Village Renewal Scheme.

Funding may also be available under the LEADER Programme to support community and voluntary groups in rural Ireland. The Kildare Local Action Group (LAG) have been allocated €5,261,600 over the 2014-2020 programming period and applications for funding can be made to the LAG.

The Seniors Alert Scheme provides personal monitored alarms to enable older people, of limited means, to continue to live securely in their homes with confidence, independence and peace of mind. The Scheme is administered on behalf of my Department by Pobal, with applicants applying via community organisations operating in their local area. Since Pobal took over the administration of the Scheme in September 2015, 16 community organisations have been approved to operate the Scheme in Co. Kildare.

Further information on all funding programmes and schemes is available on my Department's website.

Departmental Policy Functions

Questions (504)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

504. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the extent to which he continues to interact with urban and rural communities with a view to identifying ways in which positive interaction can take place with particular reference to urban and rural isolation and its effect on communities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [52148/18]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Rural)

The issue of isolation, whether in urban or rural areas, is one which requires a response containing a combination of policy initiatives and actions delivered across a number of Government Departments.

For my part, I am committed to continuing my Department's response to the issue, which includes ongoing contact with local and community groups and other stakeholders where appropriate to identify potential measures to assist communities affected.

Groups can also input into the policy-making process through the local structures established by my Department such as Public Participation Networks and Local Community Development Committees. 

The publication on 7 December 2018 of the Call for Input Paper on Volunteering is the first step in developing a national volunteering policy. Volunteering plays a critical in empowering individuals to become more involved in their communities and is proven to assist with the development of mental health well-being.

The Government’s Action Plan for Rural Development and Framework Policy for Local and Community Development include a range of measures which will contribute significantly to addressing isolation and social inclusion in both rural and urban areas and as Minister for Rural and Community Development I will continue to advocate for a cross government approach to ensuring the rural and community voice is heard in relation to matters of policy.

Specific examples of actions being delivered by my Department which are helping those who feel isolated or vulnerable in communities include:

- Significant investment in the Seniors Alert Scheme, which facilitates valuable community-based     support for vulnerable older people living alone. To the end of October, spend on the Scheme amounted to €5.5 million, with over 16,000 applications for personal alarms approved so far this year. This is an important programme which enables older persons of limited means to continue to live in their own homes at the heart of their communities with confidence, independence and peace of mind.

- The new five-year Social Inclusion and Community Activation Programme, or SICAP, which commenced at the start of 2018, is our country’s primary social inclusion intervention. This is a national programme that will be delivered locally with funding of €190 million over a five-year period to help those in the greatest need.

- Support for approximately 350 Men’s Sheds across Ireland which provide a safe space where men can gather and participate in their communities, develop social networks and potentially gain new skills and access information. In July I provided funding of €500,000 to support the work of Men’s Sheds throughout Ireland.

In addition, other actions in the Action Plan for Rural Development being delivered by Departments across government that will help those who feel isolated or vulnerable include:

- Investment of €46 million in Garda fleet to ensure that Gardaí are mobile, visible and responsive to prevent and tackle crime.

- Maintaining the network of senior helplines in operation throughout the country, which offer a listening service for older people to help address issues such as loneliness and isolation in rural areas.

- Continued support and prioritisation of community crime prevention through schemes such as Neighbourhood Watch and Text Alert.

- Continued improvements in the Rural Transport Programme, including the provision of new routes.

Departmental Surveys

Questions (505)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

505. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the extent to which he has undertaken appropriate studies with particular reference to isolated rural areas with a view to a determination as to the best way in which the issues facing such areas now might be best met; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [52149/18]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Rural)

The remit of my Department is to help build vibrant, sustainable communities across the country. Achieving this goal requires a mix of policy initiatives and funding schemes to improve both economic development and to address gaps in meeting the social needs in rural areas, including isolated rural areas.

The Action Plan for Rural Development, published in January 2017, represents a significant whole-of-Government approach to addressing identified challenges facing rural Ireland. The Action Plan is fully aligned with the strategic objective set out in the National Planning Framework focused on strengthening our rural economies and communities, and enabling all areas of the country to reach their full potential.

My own Department delivers a range of programmes which promote and support sustainable communities throughout Ireland.  For example:

- The Town and Village Renewal Scheme supports the revitalisation of rural towns and villages, with particular focus on projects which have a clear positive economic impact on local communities. In total, almost €53 million has been approved for more than 670 projects across the country under the Town and Village Renewal Scheme since it was introduced in the second half of 2016.

- The CLÁR programme is a targeted investment programme for rural areas which provides funding for small infrastructural projects and other initiatives in areas that have experienced significant levels of population decline. More than 1,250 projects have been approved for total funding of €26.9 million since I relaunched the programme in 2016.

- The €250 million LEADER rural development programme includes a specific pillar focused on social inclusion.

- The Seniors Alert Scheme provides grant assistance towards the purchase and installation of personal monitored alarms for older people to enable them to live securely in their own homes. This is particularly valuable for older people living alone in isolated rural communities.

My Department maintains ongoing contact with stakeholders to identify issues that affect both urban and rural communities. 

My Department is also co-hosting a series of seminars on rural issues with the Royal Irish Academy, focusing on the themes of economic development, social inclusion and sustainable rural communities.  These seminars will culminate in the publication of a research report on issues impacting rural communities.  The first of these seminars took place in Galway in November and will be followed by two further events early in 2019.

Charities Regulation

Questions (506)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

506. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the extent to which all charities come within the remit of the Charities Regulator, which is protecting the integrity of the sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [52150/18]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Rural)

The Charities Regulatory Authority was established in October 2014 pursuant to the Charities Act 2009. The key functions of the Regulator are to establish and maintain a public register of charitable organisations operating in Ireland and ensure their compliance with the Charities Acts.  I understand that, as of 31 October 2018, there were 9,722 charities on the Register of Charities.

My Department has been assigned overall policy responsibility for the Charities Regulator. However, the Authority is fully independent in the performance of its statutory functions.  Neither I nor my Department have any role in the decision making process of the Authority.

My Department receives regular updates from the Charities Regulator on key performance indicators, under the terms of an oversight agreement.

LEADER Programmes

Questions (507)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

507. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the extent to which LEADER programme grant aid continues to be made available to local communities directly or through the aegis of the local authorities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [52151/18]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Rural)

The LEADER Programme is delivered to local communities across the country by Local Action Groups  (LAGs) across 28 sub-regional areas in Ireland.

Under the current 2014-2020 programme, 25 of the LAGs are Local Community Development Committees.  The community-based Local Development Companies interface with local communities as the Implementing Partners for the LAGs.  The Local Authorities provide financial oversight as the Lead Financial Partners. 

In the case of the remaining 3 LEADER areas, Local Development Companies act as Local Action Groups in their own right.   

The current LEADER programme has a total budget of €250 million over the period to 2020.  €220 million of the available funding has already been allocated to the 28 LEADER sub-regional areas throughout the country. The remaining €30 million is available for schemes which will be delivered at a national level

Overall, since the programme commenced delivery in 2016 following the signing of the majority of Funding Agreements, 1,525 LEADER projects have been approved to a value of €50.5 million, while a further 370 projects with a value of over €23 million are going through the approvals process.  Based on the progress made in the last twelve months in particular in the approval of projects, I expect the level of approvals to continue to grow substantially in the coming months.

Broadband Service Provision

Questions (508)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

508. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the degree to which he can address issues of local connectivity in rural areas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [52152/18]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Rural)

The availability of a high quality, high speed broadband network and of reliable mobile phone coverage are essential components underpinning the connectivity and development of rural communities in Ireland.

In this context, the Mobile Phone and Broadband Taskforce was established in July 2016 to identify solutions to broadband and mobile phone coverage deficits and to investigate how better services could be provided to consumers prior to full rollout of the National Broadband Plan. The Taskforce published its final report in December 2016, which set out 40 actions aimed at addressing the issues associated with mobile phone and broadband connectivity, particularly in rural areas.

An Implementation Group, co-ordinated by my Department was established in early 2017 to ensure that the actions identified by the Taskforce are implemented in a timely manner. That Group published its first progress review in February of this year, highlighting a number of significant achievements which have been made. The review can be found on my Department’s website, www.drcd.gov.ie.  

In terms of the actions directly under my Department's remit, the appointment of Broadband Officers in each Local Authority, which my Department co-finances, is impacting positively on increased levels of communications with the telecoms industry and in identifying and addressing barriers to the roll-out of telecommunications infrastructure.  This has seen a tangible increase in broadband connections and the resolution of a number of mobile phone blackspots in rural Ireland.

Regular meetings of the Regional Action Group are held across the country, bringing together Local Authority Broadband Officers and providing opportunities to share knowledge and experiences and to investigate issues that will impact on the provision of rural telecommunications services.  

Furthermore, my Department, in cooperation with the Department of Communications, Climate Action and the Environment, are exploring the feasibility of developing a standardised policy for accessing and utilising State assets for the deployment of telecoms infrastructure.

Outside of the work of the Implementation Group, my Department has provided funding to support the establishment of a mobile phone mast in Malin Beg, Co. Donegal. The residents of Malin Beg have never had a reliable mobile phone signal, leaving them at a distinct disadvantage. Thanks to the efforts of local community and the local authority, they will soon have coverage.

My Department also co-ordinated and supported Local Authority applications for the European Commission's WiFi4EU initiative. This programme will see EU funds made available for the provision of free, publically accessible WiFi.  In the inaugural round of funding announced last week, 21 Irish Local Authorities secured funding for 59 projects under the scheme, worth €885,000 in total.  My Department will make matching funds of up to €15,000 available for each of these projects, to support Local Authorities as they make free internet connectivity available to the public.

Tidy Towns Committees Funding

Questions (509)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

509. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the extent to which he will be in a position to offer development assistance to the various Tidy Towns committees in County Kildare which have in the past participated in their respective competitions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [52153/18]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Rural)

To celebrate the 60th anniversary of the TidyTowns Competition in 2018, 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 in 2017. 

Funding of between €1,000 and €4,000 was available to TidyTowns committees who had entered the competition in either of the years from 2015 to 2017. In County Kildare, more than 40 different TidyTowns committees 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.

Funding of between €1,000 and €4,000 will be available to TidyTowns committees who have entered the competition in any of the last three years.  The allocation to County Kildare under the 2018 scheme is €73,000 and represents 41 separate TidyTowns committees who are eligible to apply. This brings the total amount of funding which has been made available to County Kildare under the TidyTowns grant scheme in the last two years to €149,000.