Areas of Natural Constraint Scheme Review

Questions (486)

Seán Fleming

Question:

486. Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the position regarding the review of the disadvantaged areas and the terms of reference of this review; when this review is expected to be completed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21649/19]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

Under the current Rural Development Regulation (and subsequent amendments under the Omnibus Regulation), Member States are required to change the approach to the designation of land under the Areas of Natural Constraints Scheme.  Previously, my Department had been identifying eligible areas using a range of socio economic indicators such as family farm income, population density, percentage of working population engaged in agriculture, stocking density etc.

 From 2019, eligible areas must instead be designated using the following list of bio-physical criteria:

- Low temperature     

- Dryness

- Excess soil moisture

- Limited soil drainage

- Unfavourable texture and stoniness

- Shallow rooting depth

- Poor chemical properties

- Steep slope

Following the completion of this process in late 2018, I put in place an independent appeals process for farmers who wished to appeal the status of a particular townland.  Farmers could fill out an Appeals Notification Form, at which point my Department issued to them, the details underlying the eligibility status of the townland in question.  This allows farmers to lodge a full appeal on the basis of all the information available. 

All the replies to Appeals Notification Forms have now been issued and the Appeals Committee has commenced examining cases, with a view to completing the process in advance of this year's scheme payments.

The terms of reference for the Appeals Committee are as follows.

1) The ANC 2019 Appeals Committee is an independent, ad hoc committee set up to adjudicate on issues raised with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) as a result of the redesignation of the ANC Scheme in 2019 on foot of EU Regulatory requirements.

2) The Committee will be independent from DAFM in the performance of its functions.

3) The remit of the Committee is to consider appeals raised by farmers as to the eligibility status of particular townlands on foot of the redesignation of the ANC Scheme for 2019.  It should be noted that matters such as the basis of the designation of lands agreed with the EU Commission, the structure of payment categories within the Scheme, or the inclusion of townlands within particular payment categories do not come within the remit of the Committee.

4) The outcome of all appeals will be with reference to the eligibility of particular townlands.  Where more than one farmer appeals separately in relation to a given townland, these appeals will be considered as one by the Committee (separate correspondence may issue to individual farmers as appropriate).

5) The land under appeal must have been declared in the 2018 BPS/ANC application process.

6) DAFM shall furnish the appropriate data underlying the designation of a particular townland to the Committee as required.

7) The members of the Committee will include an independent chair appointed by the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Mr. Padraig Gibbons) an independent technical expert (Mr. Jim O’Mahony) and a third member with an appropriate experience/understanding of the issues at hand (Mr. Paud Evans).  Secretarial/administrative support will be provided by DAFM.

8) The process for dealing with appeals is as follows:

a. A farmer wishing to consider an appeal initially submits an Appeals Notification Form to DAFM.

b. DAFM responds to this form, providing the farmer with the appropriate data underlying the status of the townland in question.  This information will allow the farmer in question to make a fully informed appeal at this stage should he/she wish to do so.

c. If a farmer follows up with a full appeal via DAFM, a full file will be prepared by DAFM in respect of each case.  This file will include copies of all documentation.

d. Appeals Committee meetings may be convened to consider a batch of cases together in a comprehensive manner.  It is expected that each batch of appeals may take a number of weeks to complete.

e. In certain circumstances, the Committee may request additional information (including a ground investigation) from DAFM.

f. Having considered all relevant information, a recommendation will be made in respect of each case/townland in a fair manner by collective decision of the Committee.

9) Following this process, the Committee will make a recommendation in writing to DAFM on each case.

10) DAFM shall be the final decision maker in all cases where the Committee has made a recommendation.

11)  Following the completion of an appeal, the right of referral to the Office of the Ombudsman remains with the appellant.

Agriculture Industry

Questions (487)

Willie Penrose

Question:

487. Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if a request for support and exceptional aid has been made to the European Commission in the context of additional funding being required to address the significant crisis for farmers; if so, the measures sought in the request; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21686/19]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

As the Deputy will be aware, I have had ongoing discussions with Commissioner Hogan regarding the potential impact of a disorderly Brexit. I have stressed the need for the Commission to be ready to deploy a range of measures to mitigate the potential impacts on the agri-food and fisheries sector. Avoiding a no-deal Brexit continues to be the Government’s overriding policy priority.

I am also keenly aware that the past few months have been very difficult for beef farmers in particular, following a difficult year for farm incomes in 2018 due to weather conditions. There has been a prolonged and exceptional period of depressed prices since last autumn, with the ongoing uncertainty surrounding the outcome of Brexit, among other factors, contributing to this market disturbance.

The announcement last week by Commissioner Hogan of EU exceptional aid for the Irish beef sector is really welcome in this context.  I have been making the case for some time for an exceptional aid package from the EU Commission for Irish beef farmers, at EU Council of Agriculture Minister meetings, and in direct consultation with the Commission.

The announcement by the Commissioner is another example of the importance of EU solidarity when it comes to facing significant economic challenges.

Details of the proposal are being discussed with the Commission and I will make information available to farmers as soon as possible. The legal provisions used to provide the aid (Council Regulation 1308/2013) were put in place by the Irish Presidency of the EU in 2013. It is expected that this decision will be given effect through an Implementing Regulation. My officials will examine its provisions, when published, and engage with the Commission on the next steps.

Electronic Tagging

Questions (488, 489)

Willie Penrose

Question:

488. Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if plans have been put in place to have all the necessary EID readers in situ in marts and factories in time for the mandatory electronic identification process on 1 June 2019, in view of the fact that it has been mandatory for sheep farmers to purchase EID tags since October 2018; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21687/19]

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Willie Penrose

Question:

489. Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if an assurance can be provided for farmers that as and from 1 June 2019, all of the sheep that pass through marts and factories will be read electronically and digital printouts will be made available to farmers as a matter of course; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21688/19]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 488 and 489 together.

It is critical that Ireland, as a major trading country, has a robust identification and traceability system to ensure are our products have a viable future in the international marketplace. A robust traceability system will support our continued efforts to gain new export markets for Irish sheep meat.

As the Deputy will be aware, the current national sheep identification system is widely acknowledged to be very complex, with an over reliance on the manual transcription of individual sheep identification numbers, leading to errors in the recording of information that is essential in tracing an animal back to the holding of its origin.

The extension of electronic identification will simplify the sheep tagging system by significantly reducing the record keeping requirements for sheep farmers moving sheep to livestock marts and slaughter plants operating as approved Central Points of Recording (CPRs). This will provide a more accurate and robust sheep traceability system in support of animal health and public health objectives and thus support the further development and sustainability of the sheep industry.

My officials are working very closely with marts and slaughter plants to ensure that as many of these premises as possible will operate as CPRs with effect from 1st June. It is my understanding that the major sheep processing slaughter plants are making significant progress in this regard. Marts are similarly well disposed to operating as CPRs and are proactively engaging with the CPR process with a view to having facilities in place at the earliest opportunity. I accept that the upgrading of mart facilities to CPR standards will be an incremental process and, on the basis of their proactive engagement, I anticipate that a significant number of marts will be in a position to operate as CPRs in a relatively short period.

Keepers moving sheep to approved CPRs will continue to be required to fill out a dispatch document to accompany the sheep on movement but will not be required to list the individual numbers of each sheep consigned to a specific batch. All that will be required of them in that regard is to record, in the relevant part of the dispatch document, the total number of sheep associated with that document. The CPR will scan all presented sheep and will provide the keeper (and purchaser where appropriate) with a printed list of all presented tag numbers (LPT). The serial number of the corresponding dispatch document will be printed on the LPT also to facilitate the keeper in associating this list with his/her copy of the dispatch document. It is important that this LPT is checked by the keeper for accuracy. This document and the copy of the dispatch document must be kept by the keeper for record keeping purposes.

Where it is not feasible for marts or slaughter plants to upgrade their facilities to CPR requirements, farmers can continue to move sheep to these premises by either scanning and printing out the tag numbers of the sheep to be moved for attachment to the relevant dispatch document or by continuing to record the individual number of each sheep presented to a non-CPR mart or slaughter plant on the dispatch document.

The extension of EID to all sheep will further enhance traceability across the sheep sector and will assist in the Government's efforts to maintain and expand the export markets for Irish sheep meat. Indeed, I was very pleased to announce during my trade mission to China just last week that the Chinese authorities have agreed to an inspection visit on sheep meat in Ireland in August this year. I will also be travelling to Japan in June to build on the efforts made there to date in pursuing market access and increasing market opportunities in line with Food Wise 2025 and our response to Brexit.

Beef Industry

Questions (490)

Willie Penrose

Question:

490. Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if consideration will be given to seeking protected geographical indication status exclusively for suckler beef rather than the entire herd, enabling suckler beef to be sold as a premium product; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21689/19]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

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

A Protected Geographical Indication (PGI), as referred to by the Deputy, is a product, which must be produced, processed or prepared in a particular geographical area, and where a specific quality reputation, or other characteristics are attributable to that area. I believe that such schemes can provide a positive economic opportunity for producers and for rural areas.  An application can be submitted by, or on behalf of, a group of producers.

Earlier this year, my Department organised a workshop on Geographical Indications, with participation by the EU Commission and a range of stakeholders, at which the possibility of applying for a PGI for Irish beef was explored.

PGI status requires products to be produced in accordance with a particular technical specification and producers are required to meet that specification to ensure production meets the quality standards set.

Where there are large numbers of producers it can be a significant undertaking, requiring a disciplined and harmonised approach to production and its verification.  Nevertheless, there can be significant marketing advantages and there was very positive feedback from participants at the workshop.  My officials are currently examining the key elements required in such an application, in consultation with stakeholders.

An application can only be submitted by, or on behalf of, a group of producers.  A formal national consultation period is also required.

Basic Payment Scheme Payments

Questions (491)

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

491. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he will address a matter regarding farm payments in the case of a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21719/19]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The person named was allocated 7.61 entitlements under the Basic Payment Scheme.  All entitlements allocated under the Basic Payment Scheme and National Reserve are subject to usage. If a farmer holds entitlements that have not been used for a period of two consecutive years, a number of entitlements, equivalent to the total number of entitlements which have not been used, shall revert to the National Reserve.

The person named did not submit a 2016 Basic Payment Scheme application and, therefore, the entitlements were not used in that year.  My Department issued the person named with a Potential Unused Notification on 24 April 2017, advising that, if the entitlements were not used in 2017, they would be lost permanently to the National Reserve. 

Again in 2017, the person named did not submit a 2017 Basic Payment Scheme application and the entitlements were not used for the second consecutive year.

On 14 March 2018, my Department issued the person named with further notification that, as he had not used 100% of his entitlements over the two year usage period, 2016 and 2017, and in line with EU Regulation 1307/2013, 7.61 entitlements had been permanently lost to the National Reserve.

The person named was provided with the option to submit any observations he had on the matter to my Department. To date, my Department has not received any correspondence from the person named appealing the loss of his entitlements to the National Reserve.

In 2018, the person named submitted a 2018 Basic Payment Scheme application.  However, payment is not due on foot of this application, as the person named did not satisfy requirements of the Basic Payment Scheme.

Wild Fires

Questions (492)

Joan Burton

Question:

492. Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the number of significant wildfires that have occurred in forested areas under his aegis since 1 January 2018; his plans to undertake a damage assessment of each of these wildfires; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21808/19]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The Forestry Act 1988 provided among other things that all of the State’s forest estate, other than land designated by the Minister, stand vested in Coillte so such forested areas do not fall within my immediate remit.  I am advised by Coillte that there were 142 fires on its estate during 2018 affecting 367 hectares of forest – with this figure excluding open land.  I understand that Coillte has had a number of fires already this year and I have referred the Deputy’s question to Coillte requesting that a response issue to you within 10 days in relation to the number of significant wildfires in forested areas on its estate to date in 2019. The management of the forest estate, including damage assessment, is a matter for, and the responsibility of, Coillte as a commercial State Body.  

As regards privately-owned forested areas planted with support from my Department, forest owners are requested to notify my Department as soon as possible if the forest is damaged or destroyed.  My Department has accordingly been notified of two cases where damage has been caused, in 2018, to privately-owned grant-aided forestry plantations. Assessment of the damage and appropriate remedial action is a matter for the forest owner/scheme applicant and his or her registered forester.

Brexit Supports

Questions (493)

Lisa Chambers

Question:

493. Deputy Lisa Chambers asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the Brexit-related supports available under the remit of his Department; the uptake of each support; the expenditure to date in relation to same in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21866/19]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

Mindful of the impacts of Brexit on the agri-food sector, I have advanced a number of Brexit-related supports to mitigate these impacts.  A key initiative in this regard is the €300m Brexit Loan Scheme announced in Budget 2018.  The Scheme has been developed by my Department in cooperation with the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation, the Department of Finance and the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland, in order to provide working capital support to enable eligible Irish businesses (SMEs and small mid-caps) to implement the necessary changes to address the challenges posed by Brexit.  It opened for applications on 28 March 2018 and will remain open until 31 March 2020.

It provides for loans of €25,000 to €1,500,000 per eligible enterprise, at a maximum interest rate of 4%, over periods from 1 year to 3 years, with unsecured loans of up to €500,000. The loans can be used for future working capital requirements or to fund innovation, change or adaptation of the business to mitigate the impact of Brexit.  563 applications have been approved up to 17th May 2019.  The total number of loans progressed to sanction at bank level is 132 with a total value of €29.0m, of which 27, with a value of €7.8m, relate to food businesses.

The recently launched DBEI/DAFM “Future Growth Loan Scheme” will make up to €300 million of long-term strategic investment loans available to eligible Irish businesses, including farmers and the agri-food & seafood sectors.  The fund is leveraged by exchequer funding of €62 million, of which 40% or some €25 million has been provided by the Department of Agriculture, Food & the Marine. Businesses have been able to apply for loan eligibility through the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland since 17th April 2019. 

In addition, my Department has provided an additional €18m for Bord Bia over the last five years and has intensified its efforts to open new markets for Irish agri-food produce and live animals.

Trade Agreements

Questions (494)

Mick Wallace

Question:

494. Deputy Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the number of meat plants here that have applied for certification by the Chinese Certification and Accreditation Agency since April 2018; the name of each plant; the date of application for certification for each plant; the status of each application; the number of plants that are still awaiting certification; the representations his Department has made to Chinese officials to achieve certification for the remaining plants; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21931/19]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

My officials continue to work towards opening and enhancing access to as many markets as possible. This is a key part of our response to the challenges and uncertainty posed by Brexit, and in line with the market development theme of the Food Wise 2025 strategy.  

The opening of the Chinese market for Irish beef in 2018 was the culmination of significant work over a number of years and I am pleased that seven Irish beef plants are currently approved to export beef to China.  This is in addition to the five pigmeat slaughter plants that are approved to export pigmeat to China as well as three stand alone Coldstores.

Exports of Irish beef to China commenced during the summer of 2018.  According to CSO trade statistics, Ireland exported approximately €2.8 million (1,400 tonnes) to China in 2018.  With regard to 2019, again according to CSO trade statistics, Ireland exported approximately €1.9 million (695 tonnes) to China in the two month period January/February, which represents a very positive start to the year and I hope that this growth trend to continue throughout this year.

Last week, I led a successful trade mission to China which included three Ministerial meetings. At a meeting with Vice Minister Zhang Jiwen of the General Administration of Customs (GACC), agreement was reached on an accelerated process for inspection and registration of a further tranche of beef plants, as well as an inspection visit to progress sheepmeat access, to take place in August. 

Planning for this inspection visit has already commenced and my officials will continue to liaise with the appropriate Chinese officials on market access and plant approvals in order to increase Ireland's ability to supply the market.  However, the timeline for these approvals remains a matter for the Chinese authorities.

The details of the applicant plants cannot be provided as this is commercially sensitive information.

Beef Data and Genomics Programme

Questions (495)

Brendan Griffin

Question:

495. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if medical evidence in support of a withdrawal from the beef data scheme has been reviewed in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22057/19]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

Medical evidence supporting a request for withdrawal from the Beef Data and Genomics Programme was received from the person named on the 19th of March 2019.

A letter clarifying the implications of any potential withdrawal from the programme and seeking confirmation of the intentions of the person named issued from my Department on the 8th of May 2019.

A reply from the person named that was received on the 16th of May 2019 has now indicated their desire to remain in the programme.

GLAS Applications

Questions (496)

Brendan Griffin

Question:

496. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if a decision has been made in relation to an application for GLAS by a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22073/19]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The person named was approved into GLAS 2 with a contract commencement date of 1 January 2016 and received all payments in respect of scheme year 2016.

However, the application was subsequently rejected from the scheme as the participant did not comply  with the requirements of the Low Emission Slurry Spreading (LESS) action selected which required him to submit an annual return for the action.  Completed forms were due to be returned to the Department by 27 October 2017.  In this case, the form was not received despite the issue of a number of reminders.

Both the applicant and his advisor were informed of the option to appeal this decision to the Agriculture Appeals Office (AAO). My Department has not received notification from the AAO that an appeal was made to that Office.

National Broadband Plan

Questions (497)

Barry Cowen

Question:

497. Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the liability of companies (details supplied) for the execution of the national broadband plan contract; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21690/19]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

Granahan McCourt Dublin (Ireland) Limited and Tetrad Corporation are the investors responsible for providing all of the equity, working capital, performance related security and project deliverables. The contract for the delivery of the National Broadband Plan will be signed with National Broadband Ireland (NBI) whose ultimate parent company will be Granahan McCourt Dublin (Ireland) Limited. NBI is a new Company set up for the purposes of delivering the NBP.

National Broadband Ireland will be responsible for delivery of the contractual obligations under the contract.

National Broadband Plan

Questions (498)

Barry Cowen

Question:

498. Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the vehicle by which the State could enforce a liability against creditors of a company (details supplied) in the case that it runs into financial difficulties; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21691/19]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

The contract for the delivery of the National Broadband Plan will be signed with National Broadband Ireland (NBI) whose ultimate parent company will be Granahan McCourt Dublin (Ireland) Limited. NBI will be responsible for delivery of the obligations to the Minister under the contract. There are provisions in the NBP Contract which provide for monitoring of financial standing of NBI, its shareholders and certain other companies.

Planning Issues

Questions (499)

John Lahart

Question:

499. Deputy John Lahart asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the reason stakeholders require planning permission to repair habitat that has been damaged by OPW arterial drainage, that is, damaged without planning permission further to flood relief; and the reason Inland Fisheries Ireland is not using its own exemptions for planning permission to carry out instream repair and enhancement. [21825/19]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

Matters relating to the planning acts are a matter for the relevant local authority. Exemptions potentially available to Inland Fisheries Ireland under the under the Planning and Development Regulations 2001 (Statutory Instrument 600 of 2001) are very narrowly constrained and are also a matter for the relevant local authority. My Department has no function in that regard or in the making of determinations under same.

Inland Fisheries

Questions (500)

John Lahart

Question:

500. Deputy John Lahart asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the point at which instream fishery work became a matter for local authorities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21826/19]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

The principal function of Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) is the protection, management and conservation of the inland fisheries resource as outlined in the Inland Fisheries Act 2010. However responsibility for instream works may also be a matter for a number of statutory authorities depending on the nature of the development proposed. I am advised that where a river forms part of a drainage district, but is not within a drainage scheme, then responsibility for maintenance of that river falls on the Local Authority(ies) in whose area the river is situate as specified in the 1945 Arterial Drainage Act.

The vast majority of Ireland’s inland fishery waters are included in or are adjacent to Special Areas of Conservation (SACs). I understand that development, in or within 15 kilometres of, an SAC requires screening for Appropriate Assessment under the EU Habitats Directive and this necessitates consultation by the project promoter with the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht and the National Parks and Wildlife Service from whom consent is likely to be required. Such Appropriate Assessments often result in a requirement for planning permission which involves the relevant Local Authority.

IFI provides grant aid for fisheries related work which is available to angling clubs, community groups and Local Authorities and is subject, like all public funding schemes, to all statutory conditions being met and relevant statutory permissions obtained.

Without specific details of the issue being raised by the Deputy it is not possible for me to advise further. If the Deputy has a particular issue in mind I would be happy to ask IFI to liaise with him directly.

Wastewater Treatment

Questions (501)

John Lahart

Question:

501. Deputy John Lahart asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the reason Inland Fisheries Ireland is doing nothing to prevent raw sewage continually running into the waterways that it is responsible for protecting during high water events (details supplied). [21827/19]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

The Environmental Protection Agency is the statutory authority which licences Irish Water waste water facilities and would be the primary agency to address and enforce non-compliance issues. IFI have prosecuted Irish Water on a number of occasions for the discharge of sewage to rivers around the country, where incidents involve issues for fisheries, most recently in the case of the river Tolka in Dublin.

If specific instances of raw sewage being discharged are known these should be reported to IFI immediately through the 24 hour hotline number, 1890 347424. IFI’s Environmental Officers fully investigate any such report as regards any impact on fisheries and, if sufficient evidence is obtained, may proceed to prosecute.

Separately I can confirm that where fish kills occur as a result of pollution it is the stated policy of IFI that it takes a prosecution where the cause of the fish kill is identified.

IFI separately makes submissions on infrastructure development through both the planning and licensing systems in order to proactively protect the fishery resource.

National Broadband Plan

Questions (502)

Joan Burton

Question:

502. Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if he has been advised as to the likely rate of take-up under the national broadband plan of high-speed broadband by homes and businesses in the State intervention area; if he has assessed the consequences of a low take-up rate on the average cost per household; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22002/19]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

The deployment of the network within the NBP intervention area will commence at contract award and take up to seven years to complete. The Bidder is aiming to pass 133,000 premises by the end of the second year, with 70-100,000 premises each year thereafter until roll out is completed. The ultimate take-up of the service is estimated to be around 80%. This will be driven by linking payment of subsidy to verification of connections made by National Broadband Ireland (NBI) as well as passing premises in the Intervention Area. There are also requirements in the contract around demand stimulation and stakeholder engagement to drive take up.

The nearest comparison in relation to take up is the eir 300k rural deployment. Take up of this service is in line with the trajectory anticipated by eir when it planned the rural fibre rollout. The rate of take up along eir's 300k deployment has increased throughout 2018 and is expected to increase further as eir proceeds to pass and connect further premises every month and as awareness of the availability of high speed broadband improves and retailers offer a choice and variety of communications packages over the network. There is nothing to suggest that demand in the intervention area would differ from the demand for high speed broadband in urban areas, or in the eir 300k deployment area.

In addition, the bidder was required to develop and analyse the demand for their service. This included profiling of demographics, surveys and benchmarking exercises. The bidder carried out a market analysis of the end-users in the intervention area as well as a benchmarking analysis for the demand for a high speed broadband service by those likely end-users. This analysis supported forecasted demand for take-up which was included in the final tender submission.

The level of subsidy is capped and NBI bears all risk beyond that provided for within the subsidy allowed, for example the cost of materials, labour and any lower than expected take up.

Social Media Regulation

Questions (503)

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

503. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment his plans to introduce legislation to provide independent oversight of the social media sector to ensure that it operates its policies to remove content from social media in a fair and equitable manner and to provide a mechanism for persons to appeal its censorship decisions to a State agency that would be independent; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22082/19]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

In early March, I announced that Government would address harmful content through the development of new legislation, an Online Safety & Media Regulation Bill, which will also transpose the revised Audio Visual Media Services Directive. I launched a public consultation on these proposals which concluded last month. This Bill will establish, for the first time, a clear expectation for online platforms to take reasonable steps to ensure the safety of their users, especially children. It will provide for regulatory oversight of these measures by a robustly empowered Online Safety Commissioner. In preparing this legislation, I am conscious of the need to ensure an appropriate balance of the rights of relevant stakeholders, including freedom of expression.

I want to thank all those who contributed to the consultation, including NGOs, industry players, experts and member of the public, and to note that these contributions will be published in the coming weeks. We are currently examining the issues raised and suggestions made to inform the development of this new legislation.

Online Safety

Questions (504)

Micheál Martin

Question:

504. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment his plans to establish a digital commissioner; and his plans to meet the companies to discuss same. [21774/19]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

In early March, I announced that Government would address harmful content through the development of new legislation, an Online Safety & Media Regulation Bill, which will also transpose the revised Audio Visual Media Services Directive. I launched a public consultation on these proposals which concluded last month.

This Bill will establish, for the first time, a clear expectation for online platforms to take reasonable steps to ensure the safety of their users, especially children, and provide for regulatory oversight by a robustly empowered Online Safety Commissioner.

The consultation has been the primary mechanism through which I have sought the views of stakeholders, including relevant companies, in relation to the proposals. I want to thank all those who contributed to the consultation, including NGOs, industry players, experts and member of the public, and to note that these contributions will be published in the coming weeks. We are currently examining the issues raised and suggestions made to inform the development of this new legislation.