Agrifood Sector

Questions (1012)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

1012. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the degree to which objectives and targets as set out by Food Harvest 2020 and Food Wise 2025 are being achieved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14265/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The main targets set out in the Food Harvest report published in 2010 were, by 2020, to increase the value of primary output by 33% and agrifood exports by 40% (both from a 2007-09 average baseline); and to increase value added production by 40% (from a 2008 baseline). In addition to these value increases, a target was set for a 50% increase in milk production by 2020, to be progressed following the abolition of milk quotas in April 2015.  

Progress on those targets is monitored and reviewed on an ongoing basis. The latest data available show growth of 50% for primary production and 49% for exports (based on 2018 data), and 47% for value added (latest available data 2016), versus the baseline period, demonstrating excellent progress.

Food Wise 2025, the latest ten year strategy for the agrifood sector published in July 2015, is the successor to the Food Harvest strategy. It identifies the opportunities and challenges facing the sector and provides an enabling strategy that will allow the sector to grow and prosper. Food Wise includes more than 400 specific recommendations, spread across the cross-cutting themes of sustainability, innovation, human capital, market development and competitiveness; as well as specific sectoral recommendations.

If these recommendations are implemented, the expert committee, which drew up the Food Wise 2025 Strategy, believed that the following growth projections are achievable by 2025: increasing the value of agrifood exports by 85% to €19 billion; increasing value added in the sector by 70% to in excess of €13 billion; and increasing the value of primary production by 65% to almost €10 billion. With regard to employment, Food Wise foresees the creation of 23,000 additional jobs in the agrifood sector all along the supply chain from primary production to high value added product development.

In July 2018, I launched the third annual progress report of Food Wise 2025: Steps to Success 2018. This showed that by 2017 exports had increased by 15.9% and primary production by 8.9% compared to the baseline.

As of Q4 2018, of the 375 detailed actions which were due to commence by 2018 or are on-going actions; 79% have been achieved or substantial action has been undertaken; and a further 21% have commenced and are progressing well. This represents a 6% increase in target achieved over quarter 3 2018.

Tillage Sector

Questions (1013)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

1013. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the degree to which the future for cereal growers remains attractive; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14266/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

As I outlined in response to a question from the Deputy last month, tillage is an integral component of our Agrifood industry, making a significant contribution to overall agricultural output. Crops including horticulture, contribute approximately €700m annually to agricultural output at farm gate prices.

The cereals sector is a major contributor of high quality grain to the feed industry, provides raw material for the food and drinks industry and is a key source of seed production.  Cereals are therefore a significant stakeholder in our agrifood industry from a supply/food safety and sustainability viewpoint and an efficient and viable tillage sector in Ireland is vital.

I acknowledge that cereal production has experienced difficult challenges in recent times.

However, my  Department continues to provide significant supports to the sector. In 2017, I introduced the €150m Agriculture Cashflow Support Loan Scheme including the tillage and horticulture sectors. As a further support, the Tillage Capital Investment Scheme under TAMS II covers specific areas of investment for tillage farmers with over €7.7 million distributed to over 700 tillage farmers to date. Early last year I announced that the EU Protein Aid Scheme was extended for 2018, resulting in over €2.83m being paid to growers to date. This important Scheme will be available again in 2019 providing support to farmers who opt for growing eligible protein crops.

In August 2018 I announced a €2.75 million fodder production incentive measure for tillage farmers to encourage growers to participate in the fodder market. I am pleased to say that there was very positive engagement from growers with over 19,600ha of catch crops grown. Payments are on-going to tillage farmers who applied for aid under the measure.  

My Department also provides a high quality official crop seed certification scheme to the industry, in addition to an extensive national crop variety evaluation programme, providing invaluable information to growers on the latest varieties available.

The agrifood sector continues to explore the development of novel markets for cereal products seeking to improve competitiveness and sustainability with Irish malting barley demand increasing with growth in demand for Irish whiskey.

I can assure the Deputy that I am committed to this important sector which plays a key role in the development of the wider agrifood industry.

Animal Welfare

Questions (1014)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

1014. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the degree to which he continues to monitor all aspects of animal welfare including canine and non-sporting equines; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14267/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

I am fully committed to promoting good practices that respect the welfare of all animals and my Department devotes considerable resources to protecting animal welfare and in dealing with breaches of animal welfare legislation.

Officials from my Department are directly involved in monitoring  animal welfare on farms as part of their inspection duties  in the areas of animal health, food safety, transportation and welfare. My Department also actively works via the regional Early Warning System to ensure that potential welfare problems in farming are identified at an early stage and wherever possible avoided.

I would encourage anyone who has evidence of a breach of animal welfare to report it to the Animal Welfare Hotline operated by my Department. The phone numbers of the hotline are as follows:

Call Save: 076 1064408

Phone: 01 6072379

Where breaches of animal welfare are suspected, these can also be emailed to animalwelfare@agriculture.gov.ie.

Control in respect of animal welfare is a matter that is also dealt with by a wider range of organisations not just my Department. In the case of  non-farmed animals, a vital role is played by An Gárda Síochána, Local Authorities and authorised officers of the ISPCA and DSPCA.  These latter are some of the many recipients of substantial ex-gratia funding which my Department provides to underpin important work done by many organisations in the area of supporting animal welfare.

In December 2018, I announced the largest ever Department allocation of funding to 108 animal welfare organisations of €2,751,000. 

Food Imports

Question No. 1016 answered with Question No. 1002.

Questions (1015)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

1015. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the degree to which the importation of food and food products continues to be checked and inspected for violations of Irish and EU law; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14268/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

Food products placed on the European marketplace are covered by a range of legislation designed to ensure that products supplied to consumers are of the highest safety standards.  My Department plays a part in the enforcement of this legislation along with Competent Authorities in other Member States, other Irish Government departments and State Agencies such as the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) and the Health Service Executive.

The import of products of animal origin from third countries is governed by a comprehensive and robust legislative framework laid down at EU level, controlled by Member States in the first instance, and audited by the European Commission’s Directorate General for Health and Food Safety to ensure compliance with all of the relevant food safety standards. The legislation imposes health and supervisory requirements designed to ensure that imported products meet standards equivalent to those required for production and trade between Member States.

Veterinary checks are carried out by staff from my Department on consignments of foods of animal origin imported from third countries at designated Border Inspection Posts.  All such consignments are documentary and identity checked and physical checks, including sampling of products, are carried out according to European regulations.  Import control procedures on products of animal and fish origin are highly prescriptive and are strictly audited by the Directorate to ensure compliance.  Inspection finding reports are published on the Directorate General for Health and Food Safety’s website.

Question No. 1016 answered with Question No. 1002.

Beef Industry

Questions (1017)

Danny Healy-Rae

Question:

1017. Deputy Danny Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he will address a matter (details supplied) regarding the fifth quarter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14270/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

I am very conscious of the role played by the beef sector in sustaining the rural economy and rural communities across Ireland.

I am aware of the current challenges facing beef farmers, with a sustained period of low prices, following on from additional costs last year arising from the unprecedented weather events. However, as Minister, I cannot intervene directly in any commodity price; cattle prices are a matter for the processing industry and the farmers who supply it. Cattle prices are influenced by a variety of factors such as the level of consumer demand, production levels and exchange rate differences. Brexit also presents enormous challenges and ongoing uncertainty for the entire beef sector.

I am deeply committed to fully supporting and developing Ireland’s beef sector. I am strongly of the view that the existing range of supports available to suckler farmers, together with ensuring access to as many markets as possible, both for live animals and beef exports, are appropriate for the continued development of the sector.

While beef farmers obviously benefit from the full range of Pillar I direct payments and Rural Development Programme schemes, the Beef Data and Genomics Programme (BDGP) is currently the main support specifically targeted for the suckler sector. This scheme provides Irish beef farmers with some €300 million in funding over the current Rural Development Programme (RDP) period. It is an agri-environmental measure to improve the environmental sustainability of the national suckler herd by increasing genetic merit within the herd.

In addition,  I recently launched the Beef Environmental Efficiency Pilot (BEEP), a targeted support of €20 million for suckler farmers specifically aimed at further improving the economic and environmental efficiency of beef production.  The pilot has been designed to be as straightforward as possible.   Beef farmers will also be significant beneficiaries of the €23m in additional funding provided to the ANC scheme this year. 

One of the unique strengths of the agrifood sector has been the shared vision for the sustainable development of the sector in Food Wise 2025.  It is crucial that we all continue to work together.  I have highlighted the need for stakeholders to recognise their inter-dependency, and to increase the strength of all links in the supply chain, including Beef Producer Organisations.

Officials in my Department are currently engaging extensively with stakeholders in relation to Beef Producer Organisations, which have the potential to help strengthen the position of the primary producer in the supply chain.

Semi-State Bodies Remuneration

Questions (1018, 1019, 1021)

John McGuinness

Question:

1018. Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if the issue in relation to retired workers from the ESB that claim that they have not had pension increases for the past 11 years and are now seeking redress will be addressed. [13767/19]

View answer

John McGuinness

Question:

1019. Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if the issue in relation to retired workers from the ESB that claim that they have not had pension increases for the past 11 years and are now seeking redress will be addressed. [13807/19]

View answer

Eugene Murphy

Question:

1021. Deputy Eugene Murphy asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the position in relation to the pension increase claim for retired ESB workers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13953/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Communications)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 1018, 1019 and 1021 together.

This is an operational matter for the Board and management of ESB, and not one in which I, as Minister, have a statutory function.

Electric Vehicles

Question No. 1021 answered with Question No. 1018.

Questions (1020)

Jack Chambers

Question:

1020. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if the necessary repair work will be undertaken on the e-car charge stations at the Red Cow Luas stop which are out of service; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13824/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Communications)

The majority of the existing network of publicly accessible charge points were rolled out by the ESB through its eCars programme. This network includes over 650 standard public charge points and 78 fast chargers, mainly on national routes to facilitate longer journeys. A map showing the charge points, including their status and availability, is available on the ESB's website at www.esb.ie/ecars. The operation and maintenance of these charge points is a matter for ESB eCars and therefore not in my remit However, my Department has contacted ESB eCars regarding the chargers in question and was advised that there is a site specific electrical issue at Citywest LUAS stop, which has meant that the chargers are to be removed from the location. ESB eCars has also informed my Department that they have been removed from the customer charge point map, to ensure customers do not plan their journey with these chargers in mind, and that there is a fast charger located nearby at the Circle K garage at Newlands Cross.

Question No. 1021 answered with Question No. 1018.

Television Licence Fee Collection

Questions (1022)

Alan Farrell

Question:

1022. Deputy Alan Farrell asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the amount spent on campaign and enforcement costs as they relate to the purchase and renewal of television licences in each year since 2014; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12814/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Communications)

Under the Broadcasting Act, 2009, An Post is the designated agent for the collection of the Television Licence fee. In line with the Act, An Post is charged with the issuing of these licences and also with the enforcement of the current licence fee regime. An Post makes every effort to bring evaders into the licensed pool. An Post concentrates its initial efforts on getting people to buy the licence when due and by following up with a series of reminder notices and inspector visits. Bringing people to court is a last resort and only carried out where all other means have failed.

In addition my Department works with An Post and RTÉ on an on-going basis to ensure that the TV licence collection system is working as effectively as possible. Measures such as marketing campaigns, more evening and weekend inspection and appointment of additional temporary inspectors are just some of the initiatives that have been utilised to enhance sales and improve compliance rates. An Post and RTÉ share marketing costs.

An Post pays my Department all TV licence monies collected from sales and my Department pays An Post commission on an incentivised sliding scale in respect of the TV licence activities undertaken in its role as collection agent, which amounted to €11.8m in 2017. An Post meets all operational costs including any campaign and enforcement costs from the commission monies paid to them and my Department does not hold a breakdown of same.

Climate Change Policy

Questions (1023)

Alan Farrell

Question:

1023. Deputy Alan Farrell asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the amount spent on campaigns to raise awareness of climate change and promote environmentally friendly practices in an effort to counteract climate change in each year since 2014; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12815/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Communications)

My Department's remit covers climate action, including efforts to reduce emissions in the energy sector. Given the importance of sustained action to address climate change, my Department and agencies under its aegis invest in awareness-raising campaigns to promote environmentally friendly practices. These support individual citizens, businesses, and the public and private sectors in reducing their emissions. Since 2014 almost €17m has been spent on a variety of awareness raising campaigns. The information requested is outlined in tabular format:

Year

Departmental Environment Fund

Expenditure

Department

Vote Expenditure

EPA

Expenditure

SEAI

Expenditure

Total

Expenditure

2014

€0

€0

€2,752,450

€540,197

€3,292,647

2015

€0

€0

€2,272,250

€102,693

€2,374,943

2016

€12,995

€0

€2,989,500

€120,058

€3,122,553

2017

€112,861

€0

€3,164,450

€258,585

€3,535,896

2018

€165,434

€30,414

€3,229,750

€1,045,397

€4,470,995

2019

€55,151

€0

€0

€0

€55,151

Total

2014-2019

€346,441

€30,414

€14,408,400

€2,066,930

€16,852,185

Departmental expenditure from the Vote and from the Environment Fund on climate change awareness includes:

- initiatives under the National Dialogue on Climate Action, including Regional Gatherings and the Green Schools Climate Change Action and Awareness Programme delivered by An Taisce;

- sponsorship of the Tidy Towns 'Our Community Climate Action Award;' and

- funding for the development of a Science and Technology in Action lesson plan on climate change, part of a set of resources developed for secondary schools.

SEAI expenditure includes:

- campaigns to promote home energy grant schemes from 2014 to 2018;

- an energy awareness campaign conducted in Autumn 2018;

- promotion of Accelerated Capital Allowances available to businesses for energy efficient products; and

- promotion of the annual SEAI Energy Show.

The EPA participates in significant outreach and communications activities as part of its remit to promote environmental awareness and education, including the provision of funding for the following programmes:

- Green Business programmes, including Green Hospitality, the Carbon Disclosure Project, IBEC collaboration, SMILE, and business awards;

- Green Healthcare;

- Stop Food Waste;

- Smart Farming;

- Sustainable Communities/Homes;

- The Local Authority Prevention Network (LAPN); and

- Reuse Networks and Exchanges, including The Wheel.

Waste Disposal Charges

Questions (1024, 1044, 1053)

Eoin Ó Broin

Question:

1024. Deputy Eoin Ó Broin asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the status of the provision of an annual support towards the cost of pay by weight bin charges for households disposing of incontinence wear; and when it will be introduced. [12869/19]

View answer

Anne Rabbitte

Question:

1044. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the progress made to introduce an allowance or exemption for families of children with disabilities to help reduce the cost of disposing of incontinence products; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13769/19]

View answer

John Curran

Question:

1053. Deputy John Curran asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the progress he has made with the relevant agencies and stakeholders to deliver the annual support of €75 for the disposal of medical incontinence wear for vulnerable persons to help meet the average cost of disposing of domestic waste; when the support will be implemented; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14125/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Communications)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 1024, 1044 and 1053 together.

My Department is continuing the work of developing a mechanism to provide a support for vulnerable persons with a condition such as lifelong or long-term medical incontinence to help meet the average annual cost of disposing of their domestic waste. I am informed that this process has taken longer than envisaged, due to a number of issues, including data protection issues that have arisen since the introduction of GDPR. However, I can assure the Deputy that I am committed to introducing an annual support as soon as practically possible in conjunction with relevant agencies and stakeholders.

Renewable Energy Feed-in Tariff Scheme Applications

Questions (1025)

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

1025. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the status of an application (details supplied) for an extension to REFIT 2 deadlines; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12904/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Communications)

The REFIT 2 and REFIT 3 schemes closed to new applications in 2015 in line with the relevant EU state aid notifications and any new aid granted must comply with the EU State Aid Guidelines for Environment and Energy 2014-2020. A number of extensions to both the REFIT 2 and REFIT 3 deadlines were granted in recent years. Following examination of relevant evidence including consumer electricity costs, I decided in February not to grant a request for a further extension to the REFIT 2 deadlines.

While I would not wish to comment on any individual application, officials in my Department review any submissions received from applicants under the REFIT Terms and Conditions and individual applicants are notified by the Department of the outcome.

Overall, as we work to expand the role of renewable electricity, it is important that Government does not crowd out private sector investment through extending subsidy schemes particularly at a time when corporate contracting of renewable energy is becoming an increasing feature of the global energy transformation.

The Department is working closely with ESB Networks, EirGrid and the Commission for Regulation of Utilities to ensure that scheduled renewable electricity projects are connected as soon as possible to the electricity grid and that the current deadlines are met in order to maximise their contribution to the 2020 renewable energy targets.

I am currently focused on the preparation of an all of government Climate Action Plan which will provide for a substantial step up in our climate ambition for 2030 and any shortfall in meeting Ireland's 2020 targets would likely to be more economically met through the EU cooperation mechanisms or through other routes to market than supporting projects through the REFIT.

National Broadband Plan Implementation

Questions (1026)

Niamh Smyth

Question:

1026. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the position regarding a matter in relation to broadband (details supplied). [12981/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Communications)

In April 2017 my Department published an updated version of the National Broadband Plan (NBP) High Speed Broadband Map. This is available at www.broadband.gov.ie. The map shows the areas targeted by commercial operators to provide high speed broadband services and the areas that will be included in the State Intervention Area under the National Broadband Plan. The Map is colour coded and searchable by address/Eircode:

- The AMBER area represents the parts of the country where commercial operators have no plans to build high speed broadband networks. Premises in the AMBER area will be provided with high Speed Broadband through a State Intervention.

- The BLUE area represents those areas where commercial providers are either currently delivering or have plans to deliver high speed broadband services.

- The LIGHT BLUE area represents eir's commercial rural deployment plans to rollout high speed broadband to 300,000 premises as part of a Commitment Agreement signed with my Department in April 2017.

There are 37 premises in the townland of Knockatallon, Co. Monaghan. 26 (70%) fall within the AMBER area and will be served under the State led Intervention, while 11 (30%) of premises are in a BLUE area and are or will be served by commercial providers.

The correspondence forwarded by the Deputy makes reference to the commercial deployment of high speed broadband in the Knockatallon area. This deployment is part of eir's commercial roll out of high speed broadband to 300,000 predominantly rural premises, in line with a Commitment Agreement signed with my Department in April 2017.

eir’s rural investment in high speed broadband is an entirely commercial undertaking, and not part of the planned State Intervention network. Although the deployment is monitored under the terms of the Commitment Agreement, it is not funded by the State and it is not planned, designed or directed by my Department in any capacity.

Decisions made by private telecommunication operators relating to the roll out and siting of infrastructure to provide high speed broadband services throughout Ireland are undertaken on a commercial basis. I have no statutory role or function in such commercial decisions of private operators, and therefore cannot direct operators regarding infrastructure installation or delivery of services.

The procurement process to appoint a bidder for the State intervention network is now at the final stage. I will bring a recommendation to Government in relation to the NBP in the coming weeks.

For those premises currently awaiting access to high speed broadband, practical initiatives will continue to be addressed through the work of the Mobile Phone and Broadband Taskforce to address obstacles and improve connectivity in respect of existing and future mobile phone and broadband services.

Under this Taskforce, engagement between telecommunications operators and local authorities through the Broadband Officers is continuing. These Broadband Officers are acting as single points of contact in local authorities for their communities. The appointment of these officers is already reaping rewards in terms of ensuring a much greater degree of consistency in engagements.

Mobile Telephony Services

Questions (1027)

Niall Collins

Question:

1027. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if he has been contacted by his EU colleagues with regard to the use of 5G technology by a company (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12987/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Communications)

As Minister for Communications, I meet with my EU colleagues on a variety of issues and in a variety of fora, as appropriate. While I have not been contacted by those colleagues regarding the matter to which the Deputy refers, I am cognisant of media coverage and developments in recent months in relation to security concerns and non-European suppliers of telecommunications equipment.

At a domestic level, it should be noted that there are statutory provisions to ensure that operators of networks and services in Ireland take appropriate measures to manage risks to the security of their networks and services, and to guarantee their integrity. These requirements are set out in the European Communities (Electronic Communications Networks and Services) (Framework) Regulations 2011 (S.I. No. 333 of 2011). The Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg) is responsible for ensuring compliance with these provisions, and ComReg is statutorily independent in the exercise of its functions (as provided for in Section 11 of the Communications Regulations Act 2002).

At a European level, I understand that the European Commission is preparing a recommendation on the security of 5G networks. Ireland will engage with fellow Member States and the EU institutions in discussing that recommendation once published, and in progressing any related actions. EU initiatives which impact across various sectors and areas of ministerial responsibility at national level will be assessed across Government, as appropriate.

National Broadband Plan Implementation

Questions (1028)

Gerry Adams

Question:

1028. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the estimated timeframe for an adequate broadband connection to the broadband blackspots throughout County Louth; the status of the timeframe for the completion of roll out of the national broadband plan for County Louth; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13045/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Communications)

The National Broadband Plan aims to ensure that every home, school and business in Ireland has access to high speed broadband. This is being achieved through a combination of commercial investment across the country, and a State intervention in those areas where commercial operators acting alone are unlikely to invest.

Since December 2015, the number of premises with access to high speed broadband in Co. Louth has increased by 6,885, a 10% increase. Today, the number of premises in Louth with access to high speech broadband is 51,993, or 85% of the total premises in the county. Another 381 will be served by eir under that company’s ongoing rural deployment.

The remaining 8,660 homes, schools and businesses in Louth will be connected under the government’s National Broadband Plan.

In April 2017 my Department published an updated High Speed Broadband Map, which is available at www.broadband.gov.ie. This map shows the areas targeted by commercial operators to provide high speed broadband services and the areas that will be included in the State Intervention Area under the National Broadband Plan. The Map is colour coded and searchable by address or Eircode.

The procurement process to appoint a bidder for the State intervention network is now at the final stage. I will bring a recommendation to Government in relation to the NBP in the coming weeks.

Separately, to address mobile phone blackspots, officials in my Department and in the Department of Rural and Community Development are actively engaged with local authorities and mobile phone operators to identify priority mobile blackspots and take action to resolve this issue.

To identify the areas across the country lacking adequate mobile phone coverage, both Departments have worked with a pilot group of local authorities to identify the issues associated with mapping local blackspots. This pilot exercise has been completed, with all local authorities now having been asked to map local blackspots and identify infrastructure that could potentially be used to provide additional coverage on an economic basis. This exercise is ongoing. The blackspot information received so far is providing useful and usable data regarding poor coverage in many rural areas and along national and regional roads.

Various other initiatives are under way to address mobile coverage blackspots:

- Both Departments have worked to achieve a greater consensus around site selection for telecoms infrastructure and therefore improve mobile phone coverage.

- A focus group was established to provide guidance with respect to categories of location where high quality reliable mobile coverage should be made available as a priority. The report of the focus group was published on my Department’s website on 31 August 2018. It is anticipated that the output of the focus group should influence the actions of the mobile network operators in their work to reduce mobile phone blackspots. It will also inform future policy in my Department with regards to priorities for mobile phone services.

- A working group has been established with the remit of investigating the feasibility of developing standardised policy for accessing and utilising State and publicly-owned assets for the deployment of telecommunications infrastructure.

- ComReg has now delivered a composite national outdoor coverage map, which will, in tandem with its work on handset testing and activities to raise consumer awareness, allow people across Ireland to optimise the services available to them.

- Following a consultation process ComReg has developed a licensing scheme which will enable households and businesses to use mobile phone repeaters to boost signals into their premises and bring immediate improvements in mobile coverage.

All of these initiatives should assist in enhancing the quality of mobile phone and data services, particularly in rural areas.

Further information on the Mobile Phone and Broadband Taskforce is available on my Department’s website, www.broadband.gov.ie.

National Broadband Plan Implementation

Questions (1029)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

1029. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment when broadband facilities will be extended to the Old Bog Road, Cappagh, Kilcock, County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13055/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Communications)

In April 2017 my Department published an updated version of the National Broadband Plan (NBP) High Speed Broadband Map. This is available at www.broadband.gov.ie. The Map shows the areas targeted by commercial operators to provide high speed broadband services and the areas that will be included in the State Intervention Area under the National Broadband Plan. The Map is colour coded and searchable by address/Eircode:

- The AMBER area represents the parts of the country where commercial operators have no plans to build high speed broadband networks. Premises in the AMBER area will be provided with high Speed Broadband through a State Intervention.

- The BLUE area represents those areas where commercial providers are either currently delivering or have plans to deliver high speed broadband services.

- The LIGHT BLUE area represents eir's commercial rural deployment plans to rollout high speed broadband to 300,000 premises as part of a Commitment Agreement signed with my Department in April 2017.

The Old Bog Road lies predominantly within the townland of Cappagh. There are 65 premises in the townland of Cappagh. 56 (86%) fall within the AMBER area and will be served under the State led Intervention. 7 (11%) of premises are in a BLUE area and are or will be served by commercial providers, while 2 (3%) are LIGHT BLUE and fall to be served by eir's planned rural deployment.

Information on categories of specific premises can be accessed on my Department’s website, www.broadband.gov.ie, by entering the relevant Eircode into the High Speed Broadband Map. For those premises which fall within eir's commercial deployment to 300,000 premises further detail is provided on that company’s website, www.fibrerollout.ie.

The procurement process to appoint a bidder for the State intervention network is now at the final stage. I will bring a recommendation to Government in relation to the NBP in the coming weeks.

Under a Commitment Agreement signed with my Department in April 2017, eir is in the process of passing 300,000 predominantly rural homes with high speed broadband. According to data for Q4 2018 submitted by eir to my Department the company has passed over 225,000 premises nationwide as part of its ongoing deployment.

Information on eir's rural deployment is available on that company’s website, http://fibrerollout.ie/Eircode-lookup/. A copy of the Commitment Agreement is available on my Department’s website, www.dccae.gov.ie.

For those premises currently awaiting access to high speed broadband, practical initiatives will continue to be addressed through the work of the Mobile Phone and Broadband Taskforce to address obstacles and improve connectivity in respect of existing and future mobile phone and broadband services.

Under this Taskforce, engagement between telecommunications operators and local authorities through the Broadband Officers is continuing. These Broadband Officers are acting as single points of contact in local authorities for their communities. The appointment of these officers is already reaping rewards in terms of ensuring a much greater degree of consistency in engagements.

National Broadband Plan Implementation

Questions (1030)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

1030. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment when high speed broadband facilities will be offered to the residents of Smithstown, Kilcock, County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13056/19]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

In April 2017 my Department published an updated version of the National Broadband Plan (NBP) High Speed Broadband Map. This is available at www.broadband.gov.ie. The Map shows the areas targeted by commercial operators to provide high speed broadband services and the areas that will be included in the State Intervention Area under the National Broadband Plan. The Map is colour coded and searchable by address/Eircode:

- The AMBER area represents the parts of the country where commercial operators have no plans to build high speed broadband networks. Premises in the AMBER area will be provided with high Speed Broadband through a State Intervention.

- The BLUE area represents those areas where commercial providers are either currently delivering or have plans to deliver high speed broadband services.

- The LIGHT BLUE area represents eir's commercial rural deployment plans to rollout high speed broadband to 300,000 premises as part of a Commitment Agreement signed with my Department in April 2017.

There are 27 premises in the townland of Smithstown. 18 (67%) fall within the AMBER area and will be served under the State led Intervention while 9 (33%) of premises are in a BLUE area.

Information on categories of specific premises can be accessed on my Department’s website, www.broadband.gov.ie, by entering the relevant Eircode into the High Speed Broadband Map.

The procurement process to appoint a bidder for the State intervention network is now at the final stage. I will bring a recommendation to Government in relation to the NBP in the coming weeks.

For those premises currently awaiting access to high speed broadband, practical initiatives will continue to be addressed through the work of the Mobile Phone and Broadband Taskforce to address obstacles and improve connectivity in respect of existing and future mobile phone and broadband services.

Under this Taskforce, engagement between telecommunications operators and local authorities through the Broadband Officers is continuing. These Broadband Officers are acting as single points of contact in local authorities for their communities. The appointment of these officers is already reaping rewards in terms of ensuring a much greater degree of consistency in engagements.

Air Quality

Questions (1031, 1032)

Niall Collins

Question:

1031. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the status of air monitors in County Limerick; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that air monitors stopped working in December 2018; when the monitors will be operational again; the steps that have been taken in the interim address the issue and protect residents from air pollution; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13061/19]

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Niall Collins

Question:

1032. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the reason Limerick City and County Council has reportedly issued several reports showing acceptable levels of PM2.5 in view of the fact the directive on ambient air quality and cleaner air for Europe (2008/50/EC article 11) clearly states that there is no safe level of PM2.5 that is a particulate matter of 2.5 micrometres or less due to the carcinogenic nature; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13062/19]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 1031 and 1032 together.

Recent scientific evidence indicates that air pollution is more damaging at lower concentrations than was previously understood. With this in mind, I am advised that in January 2017 Limerick City and County Council installed three air quality monitors to measure dust levels at three sites in the city of Limerick. These were upgraded in June 2018 by the installation of additional equipment to allow for the monitoring of gaseous pollutants. I welcome this recent initiative by Limerick City and County Council which allows for the improved provision of air quality information to local residents.

In addition, the Environmental Protection Agency is working with Limerick City and County Council to provide two new ambient air quality monitoring stations in Limerick city, and a local monitoring station in Abbeyfeale as part of the National Ambient Air Quality Monitoring Programme 2017 to 2022. Funding for this five year programme is provided by my Department.

In relation to the levels of particulate matter, it must be recognised that it is not possible to eliminate this pollutant entirely. For PM2.5, the threshold established in European legislation (Directive 2008/50/EC) is 25 ug/m3 averaged over a calendar year, and there have been no recorded breaches of these thresholds in Ireland.