General Practitioner Services Provision

Questions (132)

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

132. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Health the position regarding a general practitioner service (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14630/19]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

As this question relates to a service matter, I have arranged for it to be referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply to the Deputy.

Hospital Facilities

Questions (133)

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

133. Deputy Jan O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Health when the proposed new additional X-ray room at the newly developed extension to Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda will be provided following the decision by HSE estates to withdraw the project in October 2018; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14633/19]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

The Government is committed to making tangible and sustainable improvements in our health services. This includes a major capital development at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda. This project is being completed in phases and in totality the Phase 2 development will consist of, three ward floors providing 81 fully compliant single patient ensuite rooms, an extension to the existing Emergency Department and a Theatre Suite comprising five fully compliant operating rooms. Phase 2 of this project has already seen 29 ward beds open in December 2017, and a further 29 bed ward opened in April 2018.

The Department of Health has been informed by HSE Estates that the provision of a second X-ray room was discussed with service user groups but could not be delivered within the capital allocation for this project and as such was not been included in the project brief. A capital submission for a second x-ray room can be considered at a later date and subject to the availability of funding could be progressed.

Future investment in Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda, will be considered within the overall acute hospital infrastructure programme, the prioritised needs of the hospital groups and within the overall capital envelope available to the health service.

Project Ireland 2040 provides €10.9 billion for Health capital developments across the country, including both national programmes and individual projects, across acute, primary and social care. Health capital projects and programmes currently underway will continue. As to be expected with such a plan, many proposals are at an early stage and will require to progress through appraisal, planning design and tender before a firm timeline or funding required can be established.

The planning and management of future health expenditure is considered as part of the annual estimates and budgetary process which seeks to balance available funding across all service areas to achieve the best possible outcomes for the greatest number of service users and prioritise areas of greatest need.

Vaccination Programme Data

Questions (134)

Clare Daly

Question:

134. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Health the steps being taken to ascertain the number of persons diagnosed with narcolepsy as a result of receiving Pandemrix in 2011; and when it was reissued for use as the winter flu vaccine. [14640/19]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

The Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA) is responsible for monitoring the safety and quality of all medicines, including vaccines, that are licensed in Ireland. The HPRA has advised that, of the reports received to date with clinical information confirming a diagnosis of narcolepsy in relation to individuals vaccinated with Pandemrix, none of the reports where information on the date of vaccination was provided indicate a date of vaccination in 2011. However, there are a small number of reports which do not include information on the date of vaccination. Likewise, no medically confirmed cases of narcolepsy have been reported in association with the winter flu trivalent vaccine that contained a H1N1 component.

For information, the HPRA operates the national adverse reaction reporting system which relies on submission of reports by members of the public, healthcare professionals and Marketing Authorisation Holders (i.e. pharmaceutical companies that hold the licenses for medicines (MAHs)), with members of the public and healthcare professionals encouraged to report when they consider a medicine may have contributed to the effects experienced.

The composition of seasonal influenza vaccines is updated annually, if appropriate, to include relevant vaccine strains to provide appropriate protection against circulating influenza viruses. The strains included in the seasonal influenza vaccines are recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO) each year and the HSE liaises with the manufacturers in relation to procurement of vaccines for use in Ireland based on this advice.

Vaccination continues to remain the most effective means of preventing infection caused by seasonal influenza viruses and can reduce severe disease that can lead to hospitalisation and even death.

Hospital Waiting Lists

Questions (135)

Kate O'Connell

Question:

135. Deputy Kate O'Connell asked the Minister for Health if he will address a matter regarding the case of a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14697/19]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

I am conscious that waiting times are often unacceptably long and of the burden that this places on patients and their families. In this regard, I am committed to improving waiting times for hospital appointments and procedures.

Budget 2019 announced that the Government has further increased investment in tackling waiting lists, with funding to the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF) increasing from €55 million in 2018 to €75 million in 2019.

The NTPF works with public hospitals, as opposed to with patients directly, to offer and provide the funding for treatment to clinically suitable long waiting patients who are on an inpatient/day case waiting list for surgery, having been referred on to such a list following clinical assessment by a consultant/specialist at an outpatient clinic.

The key criteria of the NTPF is the prioritisation of the longest waiting patients first. While the NTPF identifies patients eligible for NTPF treatment, it is solely on the basis of their time spent on the Inpatient/Daycase Waiting List. The clinical suitability of the patient to avail of NTPF funded treatment is determined by the public hospital.

Under the Health Act 2004, the Health Service Executive (HSE) is required to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. Section 6 of the HSE Governance Act 2013 bars the Minister for Health from directing the HSE to provide a treatment or a personal service to any individual or to confer eligibility on any individual.

The National Waiting List Management Policy, a standardised approach to managing scheduled care treatment for in-patient, day case and planned procedures, since January 2014, has been developed to ensure that all administrative, managerial and clinical staff follow an agreed national minimum standard for the management and administration of waiting lists for scheduled care. This policy, which has been adopted by the HSE, sets out the processes that hospitals are to implement to manage waiting lists.

In relation to the particular query raised, as this is a service matter, I have asked the HSE to re-examine the matter and respond to the Deputy directly.

Services for People with Disabilities

Questions (136)

Catherine Murphy

Question:

136. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Health if his attention has been drawn to a petition by a person (details supplied); if the HSE will be instructed to clarify the advice it has issued to a person caring for a person who suffers from a number of conditions; the status of progress regarding the adoption of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14700/19]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

The Government is committed to providing services and supports for people with disabilities which will empower them to live independent lives, provide greater independence in accessing the services they choose, and enhance their ability to tailor the supports required to meet their needs and plan their lives. This commitment is outlined in the Programme for Partnership Government, which is guided by two principles: equality of opportunity and improving the quality of life for people with disabilities.

As the first part of the question relates to a service matter I have asked the HSE to reply directly to the Deputy.

In relation to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD), Ireland has now ratified the Convention which came in to force for Ireland on 19 April 2018. The Government’s approach to meeting the terms of the Convention is one of sustained and ongoing improvement. Work is continuing on the reforms needed for an optimum level of compliance with the convention's requirements.

The Disability (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2016, which includes a series of provisions to ensure that the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is fully implemented, completed Committee Stage on 30 January 2019. The Disability Miscellaneous Provisions Bill 2016 includes provisions to establish the monitoring framework required by Article 33 of the Convention to promote, protect and monitor implementation of the UNCRPD. It requires the involvement and participation of civil society, in particular, persons with disabilities, in the monitoring process.

The monitoring framework will include both the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC) and the National Disability Authority (NDA) and will be governed by a formal Memorandum of Understanding. The IHREC Act 2014 was designed to ensure that IHREC, as Ireland’s National Human Rights Institution, fully meets the standard of independence in accordance with the Paris Principles, and is best placed to make periodic independent reports to the UN, supported by progress assessments and statistical information supplied by the NDA. The NDA has expertise and information resources in relation to reporting on disability issues.

The Equality Division in the Department of Justice and Equality will be the designated focal point as it has policy responsibility for the equality aspects of disability matters. The Division already provides the Secretariat to the National Disability Strategy Implementation Group (NDSIG) where the UNCRPD will be discussed regularly.

The Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Act 2015 provides for the establishment of new administrative processes and support measures, including the setting up of the Decision Support Service within the Mental Health Commission. The Decision Support Service is working towards being operational and ready for the commencement of the main provisions of the Act in 2020. This lead in timeframe ensures that the necessary staff resources, processes, IT system, expert panels, codes of practice and regulations will be in place so that the Decision Support Service will have the capacity to be up and running effectively.

Dental Services Staff

Questions (137)

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

137. Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health the limitations that apply to the business of a dental technician; if dental technicians provide a service to dentist practitioners only and not directly to members of the public; the body with the responsibility of regulating same; the efforts being made to inform the public of the difference between a clinical dental technician and a dental technician; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14702/19]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

Dental technicians manufacture dental appliances and devices according to a dentist’s prescription. They may not provide such services directly to the public. The laboratories in which dental technicians work are regulated by the Health Products Regulatory Authority.

The Dental Council, established by the Dentists Act 1985, is the body responsible for regulation of the dental profession, including registered auxiliary dental workers (i.e. dental nurses, dental hygienists and clinical dental technicians). It is illegal for anyone other than a dentist or a registered clinical dental technician to fit a denture for a patient. The Dental Council recommends that members of the public obtain dentures only from a registered dentist or a registered clinical dental technician. The Dental Council publishes advice on its website, where a list of registered clinical dental technicians is available to download.

Services for People with Disabilities

Questions (138)

Brendan Smith

Question:

138. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Health if his attention has been drawn to changes in transport arrangements for persons attending a training facility (details supplied); if the costs now imposed on families will be removed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14720/19]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

The Government is committed to providing services and supports for people with disabilities which will empower them to live independent lives, provide greater independence in accessing the services they choose, and enhance their ability to tailor the supports required to meet their needs and plan their lives. This commitment is outlined in the Programme for Partnership Government, which is guided by two principles: equality of opportunity and improving the quality of life for people with disabilities.

As the Deputy's question relates to service matters, I have arranged for the question to be referred to the Health Service Executive (HSE) for direct reply to the Deputy.

Animal Welfare

Questions (139)

Seán Haughey

Question:

139. Deputy Seán Haughey asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he will consider new legislation to provide for increased custodial sentences for those convicted of animal cruelty; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14545/19]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The level of custodial sentence provided in the Animal Health and Welfare Act is imprisonment for a maximum of 6 months in respect of each offence in the District Court with cumulative maximum period of imprisonment of 2 years in cases where there are a number offences and a maximum sentence of 5 years in respect of a conviction on indictment.

This legislation was drafted under the advice of the Office of Parliamentary Counsel in the Attorney General's Office. Therefore these penalties are in line with the approach taken under Irish legislation more generally. I am satisfied that the level of sentence is appropriate and effective. Of course, the actual level of sentence in any particular instance, is a matter for the trial judge who is independent in the exercise of this and other judicial functions.

Animal Welfare

Questions (140)

Seán Haughey

Question:

140. Deputy Seán Haughey asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he is satisfied that there are adequate measures in place to combat cruelty to animals; if he is proposing new measures to deal with this problem; the funding provided to organisations with a brief for the welfare of dogs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14544/19]

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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. The Animal Health and Welfare Act provides the framework within which the welfare of animals can be safeguarded and I am hopeful that the substantial and significantly increased levels of penalties for offences of animal cruelty provided for under the Act will act as a deterrent to animal welfare abuses.

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.

This work is further underpinned by the Animal Welfare Helpline which my Department operates, Lo-call 0761 064408 , along with a dedicated email address, AnimalWelfare@agriculture.gov.ie, which facilitates the reporting by members of the public of concerns in regard to the welfare of animals. All calls received are treated in confidence. The animal welfare hotline exists for the reporting of specific incidents relating to animal welfare which come to the attention of members of the public, which they believe are in need of attention. All complaints received are investigated and followed up on.

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 Garda Síochána, Local Authorities and authorised officers of the ISPCA and DSPCA. These latter organisations 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 animal welfare organisations of €2,751,000. A total of 108 organisations are benefitting under these arrangements. Some of these organisations are focussed on dogs but many deal with a wide range of animals.

Beef Industry

Questions (141)

Martin Kenny

Question:

141. Deputy Martin Kenny asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the number of cattle slaughtered here that qualify for the quality premium scheme; the percentage this represents of the overall number of cattle here in each of the years 2014 to 2018; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14590/19]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

A Quality Payment System (QPS) related to the beef grid was agreed between Meat Industry Ireland (MII) and the Irish Farmers Association (IFA) in 2009. The payment is based on the classification of the carcass in which a price differential is set between certain classification grades.

My understanding is that any additional bonus payments and the conditions attached to qualification for such payments are determined by processors and their retail customers. There are a number of conditions which pertain to such payments and may include age limits and restrictions on the number of movements allowed. These are commercial arrangements, and my Department has no role in their establishment, or in collection or analysis of the payments which are made.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Questions (142)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

142. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he is liaising with the Department of Finance on the role of agriculture in greenhouse gas emissions and policies on carbon taxation here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14600/19]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

Ireland has a comparative advantage in grass-based carbon efficient livestock production. The EU Commission JRC report (2010) found that Ireland is the most carbon efficient producer in the EU per unit of dairy production, and the fifth most carbon efficient producer per unit of beef. However, inherent challenges remain for the sector in terms of contributing to Ireland’s climate change and renewable energy targets.

In this regard, my Department is currently developing an environmental sustainability roadmap for the agri-food sector to ensure that the future development of agriculture and the land-use sector, including forestry, will be built upon and contribute fairly to Ireland’s climate and energy targets. This roadmap will be published later this year and will form a key element of the 2030 strategy. In parallel, my Department is also working on the development of Ireland’s CAP Strategic Plan, which in line with the EU Commission’s proposals, will recognise that greater environmental and climate ambition is required.

Meanwhile, my Department continues to review options that will enable our farmers to transition to a low carbon economy. The recently published Teagasc report “An Analysis of Abatement Potential of Greenhouse Gas Emissions in Irish Agriculture 2021-2030” is key to informing the type of measures we need to implement to continue to reduce the carbon footprint of the sector. My Department’s approach is to focus on driving down the emissions intensity of Irish production through the deployment of innovative and efficient practices at farm level, combined with the practical application of emerging scientific knowledge.

The Minister for Finance announced in Budget 2019 that he intends to put in place a long-term trajectory for Carbon Tax increases out to 2030, in line with the recommendations of the Climate Change Advisory Council and the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Climate Action.

I continue to liaise with colleagues across Government on policy approaches to climate action, in particular on the development of a new “All of Government Climate Plan” led by my colleague Minister Bruton.

Nitrates Usage

Questions (143)

John McGuinness

Question:

143. Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if the exceptional circumstances in the case of a person (details supplied) will be considered; if the ongoing mental health issues will be considered based on the medical report submitted; if the issue will be positively disposed of; and if he will expedite the matter. [14635/19]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

There is currently an open review case in relation to this person regarding a breach of the nitrates regulations (2017). The Department has been in contact directly with the individual as material provided did not relate to the year in question.

Once all relevant information is received, the review will be processed swiftly, taking all relevant facts into consideration.

Hare Coursing Regulation

Questions (144)

Clare Daly

Question:

144. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the reason officials of the hare coursing monitoring committee departed from their remit and interceded for the hare coursers when they wrote to Coillte seeking permission to capture hares on Coillte land; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14641/19]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The Irish Coursing Club (ICC) is recognised as being, subject to the provisions of the Greyhound Industry Act 1958, and of the constitution of the ICC and subject to the general control and direction of Bord na gCon, the controlling authority for the breeding and coursing of greyhounds.

The ICC is committed to maintaining high standards in the sport of coursing and it actively promotes the protection and conservation of the Irish hare. Coursing operates in a highly-regulated environment coupled with a comprehensive set of rules directly applied by the club. Hares are sourced under licences from the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht which are issued annually and subject to a total of 26 conditions.

A Monitoring Committee on Coursing was established during the 1993/94 coursing season and is comprised of officials from my Department and representatives from both the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) and the ICC to monitor developments in coursing and, in that regard, the situation is kept under constant review to ensure that coursing is run in a well-controlled and responsible manner in the interests of hares and greyhounds alike. The Monitoring Committee meets annually and considers any issues arising from the previous season. Wildlife rangers from the NPWS and veterinary inspectors from my Department attend coursing meetings and report on their findings. The Monitoring Committee also arranges to have any complaints or reported incidents investigated.

In this case, officials from my Department contacted Coillte to ascertain on behalf of the Monitoring Committee if a mechanism existed whereby the ICC could request permission to net hares for the purposes of regulated hare coursing on Coillte-owned property.

In response, Coillte expressed the view that it would not be possible to grant the request without impacting on general access for recreation. This was my Department’s only communication with Coillte on the matter.

European Council Meetings

Questions (145, 146)

Brendan Smith

Question:

145. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the issues discussed at the recent Agriculture and Fisheries Council meeting; the outcome of such discussions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14703/19]

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Brendan Smith

Question:

146. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the proposals he put forward at the recent Council of Ministers meeting in respect of the need to provide specific assistance to the agrifood sector in the event of a no-deal Brexit; the outcome of such discussions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14704/19]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 145 and 146 together.

The Council held a public exchange of views on the CAP reform package on the basis of the Romanian Presidency’s progress report, and revised drafting suggestions to the three Regulations i.e. the CAP Strategic Plan Regulation, the Horizontal Regulation and the Common Market Organisation Regulation. Agriculture Ministers were invited to comment on these documents and provide guidance to the Presidency on the next steps.

During the CAP debate, Ministers also discussed coupled income support on the basis of a paper presented by the Czech delegation. The Netherlands delegation also informed Council of the outcome of the Congress “CAP Strategic Plans – exploring eco-climate schemes” which was held in Leeuwarden in early February. Ministers also discussed the importance of the bioeconomy.

The Council of Agriculture Ministers meeting on 18 March was an important opportunity to highlight to the Council, the Commission and to my fellow Ministers, the impacts of a no-deal Brexit on the agri-food sector in Ireland and with potential knock-on effects across the EU market as a whole. During the discussion on the meat market, I outlined the exposure of the Irish beef sector in particular and called for the full suite of measures available under the Common Market Organisation, including targeted support for farmers, to be deployed rapidly in the event of a no-deal Brexit. I also referred to the need to protect the EU beef sector in trade discussions with Mercosur, against the background of the significant uncertainty arising from Brexit. I also highlighted the exposure of the Irish fisheries sector, and the need for careful joint EU management of fisheries resources, as well as financial supports for fishermen and their communities.

The Slovenian delegation presented a point of information under any other business to highlight the importance and uncertainty of small-scale fisheries in the context of the Commission’s proposal for a new, post 2020, European and Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF). Commissioner Vella said that Small Scale Coastal Fisheries were an important sector for coastal communities and employment and as such enjoy preferential treatment in the EMFF proposal. Discussions on the EMFF proposal will continue in the Fisheries Council Working Party.

I also held bilateral discussions with Commissioner Hogan on the impact of Brexit and the Commissioner has confirmed the EU’s readiness to respond and support Ireland. This process of engagement is continuing, and the Government will not be found wanting when it comes to supporting the Irish agri-food sector.

Brexit Supports

Questions (147, 149)

Brendan Smith

Question:

147. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he has had recent meetings with the European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development regarding the need to implement measures to support the agrifood sector in the event of a no-deal Brexit; the outcome of such discussions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14705/19]

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Brendan Smith

Question:

149. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he has had recent discussions with the European Commissioner for Trade regarding the difficulties that will arise for the agrifood sector in the event of a no-deal Brexit; if measures will be implemented to protect Irish trade with Britain; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14707/19]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 147 and 149 together.

I have held a series of meetings with Commissioner Hogan, the European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development where we discussed the potential impact a ‘no deal’ Brexit could have on the agri-food sector and the Commission’s readiness to deploy support measures to help mitigate the potential impacts on farmers, fishermen and businesses in the sector.

Such measures could include traditional market supports and exceptional aid provisions under the CAP's Single Common Market Organisation regulation, as well as increased flexibility under State Aid regulations. Commissioner Hogan did confirm that the EU was ready to respond positively and my officials are currently in regular contact with Commission officials as the situation evolves.

The Common Market Organisation regulation, which was put in place under the Irish Presidency of the EU in 2013, provides a comprehensive toolbox for dealing with market disruption and it includes measures such as Intervention, Aids to Private Storage and Exceptional Aid.

Brexit Supports

Question No. 149 answered with Question No. 147.

Questions (148)

Brendan Smith

Question:

148. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he has had recent meetings with the European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries regarding the issues arising for the fisheries sector here due to Brexit; the outcome of such discussions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14706/19]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

I met with Fisheries Commissioner Karmenu Vella in Brussels last month to discuss the potential negative impact of a disorderly Brexit on the Irish fishing industry.

We discussed a number of issues including potential loss of access for Irish and other EU vessels to the UK fishing zone, the need to ensure ongoing protection of fish stocks in the waters around Ireland from a subsequent increase in fishing activity, and potential mitigation measures at EU level.

We also discussed the recent EU Commission proposals concerning the possible use of temporary cessation measures, quota swapping with the UK and potential reciprocal access in a ‘no deal’ situation.

I emphasised the necessity for the Commission to continue its leading role in ensuring that there will be a coordination mechanism on the actual application of any temporary cessation, identifying fleets and stocks most vulnerable to a disorderly Brexit and exploring additional possible mitigation measures to safeguard these stocks.

There has been a number of meetings at official level between the EU Commission and the relevant Member States in recent weeks on these issues and my Department, with the support of our Marine Agencies, have been fully engaged in these. Further meetings are planned in the coming days and weeks.

I am also continuing to work closely with key stakeholders in the Irish fishing industry and am pleased at the level of unity on these key issues.

Question No. 149 answered with Question No. 147.