168. Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the estimated cost of establishing a national equine database to record microchipped equine. [37958/19]View answer
Written Answers Nos. 168-194
168. Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the estimated cost of establishing a national equine database to record microchipped equine. [37958/19]View answer
The establishment of a central equine database became a requirement across the EU with the introduction of Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2015/262 on 1st January 2016. However, my Department established a central equine database well before the required date, in May 2013.
Equine passports are issued in Ireland by a number of approved Passport Issuing Organisations (PIOs). My Department's central equine database is populated by these organisations with relevant equine registration data dating back to 1st January 1990.
The minimum information required to be recorded on the central equine database is set out at Article 38 of Regulation 262/2015.
Given that my Department established a central equine database in 2013 that operates in accordance with EU and national legislation and records the microchip numbers of all equines required to be implanted with same, the database referred to by the Deputy already exists and there are no further costs involved.
169. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his views on the organic farming scheme (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37981/19]View answer
The Organic Farming Scheme (OFS) is part of Ireland's Rural Development Plan and has met all targets for the present programming period in terms of intake and area.
A Strategic Review of the Organic Sector was carried out to assess the justification for reopening
the OFS, looking to best economic and environmental outcomes. Based on this assessment, the scheme was reopened in December 2018 for a limited period focusing on areas that are in deficit, namely organic horticulture, tillage and dairy.
I have no plans, therefore, to reopen the current Organic Farming Scheme for applications but will review this position in light of the next CAP. In this regard, I would encourage all stakeholders to engage with the current consultation process on the next CAP to make their views known on which types of schemes should be included.
170. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the number of animals processed through the fallen animal scheme which was in place from 2001 to 2009; the cost in this regard; the cost of the 48 month plus subsidy scheme; the number of animals processed since its inception; when he plans to recommence talks with the knackeries across the country; if his attention has been drawn to the impact this is having on farms due to the warm weather; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38020/19]View answer
176. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the number of animals processed under the fallen animal scheme in each of the years 2001 to 2009; the cost of the scheme; the number of animals processed through the current TSE subsidy scheme since its inception; the cost involved; if his attention has been drawn to the environmental implications of the non-collection of fallen animals during the current warm weather; his plans for engagement with an association (details supplied) to resolve the impasse; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38132/19]View answer
I propose to take Questions Nos. 170 and 176 together.
The objective of the Fallen Animal Subsidy Scheme is to facilitate the collection and TSE testing of over 48 month fallen bovine animals and ovines where required by EU Regulations.
The scheme was introduced on the 16th April 2009, and to date over 624,000 bovines have been processed through the scheme at a cost of €73.6m. Under the earlier Fallen Animal Scheme (2001 to April 2009), payment was made based on tonnage of animal collected rather than on an individual animal basis. Expenditure under this scheme amounted to €166m.
The potential environmental impact of non-collection of fallen stock is of great importance to my Department and, to that end, discussions have taken place between the Animal Collectors Association and my Department officials on the animal collection service.
Following those intensive discussions, agreement has been reached that enables the collection of fallen animals to resume from 17th September. My Department has also issued correspondence to ACA confirming the agreement reached at the meeting.
Further discussions between my Department and the ACA are planned to progress issues relating to supports for the animal collection service.
171. Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if the remediation of Haulbowline Island has been completed; if not, when it is expected to be completed; the estimated cost of the project; the amount spent to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38027/19]View answer
My Department assumed responsibility for remediation works at Haulbowline Island on behalf of the Irish Government in 2012 with a particular focus on bringing about compliance with the terms of a CJEU judgment (Case C-494/01) under the Waste Framework Directive concerning the East Tip site. Funding for the remediation project is currently provided to my Department, in accordance with the specific conditions set out by the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, on an annual basis up to the completion date of the remediation works.
Expenditure by my Department at the end of 2018 stood at €23m. This figure is comprised of expenditure on regularising the planning and licensing requirements for the East Tip remediation, engaging in preparatory works, completing necessary site investigations amongst other elements and the remediation works on the East Tip itself.
The East Tip works are the most significant element of the remediation project. In the period up to 2017, expenditure was focussed on preparing for and securing the necessary planning and waste licence consents for the East Tip remediation and upgrading the island infrastructure in anticipation of works. Following the signing of contracts in July 2017, the remediation works commenced and, in December 2018, I visited the site to see that the works had been substantially completed. Activity in 2019 to date has involved the resolution of minor finishing works and the completion of the access road to the site.
While the priority has been remediation of the East Tip, work on assessing a suitable solution for the former steelworks factory site has also been advanced in preparation for the next phase of the remediation project. Detailed site investigations have been undertaken and the preparation of an application for planning consent has also been advanced. The Government has decided that the Minister for Defence will be the ultimate owner of Haulbowline Island, in keeping with the main occupancy of the island being the headquarters for the Irish Naval Service. Any remediation solution for these areas will need to be cognisant of their likely long term use.
The Department of Defence has advised that it has engaged specialist engineers to examine the areas in question in order to explore the potential of these areas for naval operations in the future which will inform and direct remediation works in the first instance. Information from site investigation studies and assessments to date has been made available to the Department of Defence to assist in this work.
172. Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if the national food innovation hub has been completed; if not, when it is expected to be completed; the estimated cost of the project; the amount spent to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38028/19]View answer
In line with the strategic recommendation in Food Wise 2025, Teagasc plan to construct a National Food Innovation Hub at their Food Research Centre in Moorepark, Co. Cork. The principal objective is to create a business innovation network involving dairy companies and research institutes with a focus on food, health and nutrition. Teagasc is proactively working to progress the project in compliance with the Public Spending Code and Public Procurement requirements.
I am advised by Teagasc that planning permission has been received and, following a competitive tendering exercise, a main contractor has been selected. The development is expected to be completed in the final quarter of 2020. The estimated cost is €8.8m, funded from my Department’s capital allocation on a phased basis. The amount allocated to date is €900,000.
173. Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if the prepared consumer food innovation centre has been completed; if not, when it is expected to be completed; the estimated cost of the project; the amount spent to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38029/19]View answer
The Prepared Consumer Foods (PCF) sector plays a pivotal role in the Irish agri-food sector. Prepared consumer food exports increased by 30% from €2 billion in 2012 to over €2.6 billion in 2018. In 2018, the UK accounted for 68% of PCF food and drink exports. The sector is, therefore, significantly exposed to the impact of Brexit and is challenged by the fact that most PCF companies are small and investment in research and innovation within the sector has traditionally been low.
Recognising the need to assist PCF companies to respond and adapt to these challenges, I announced in Budget 2018, the allocation of €5m for the development of a Prepared Consumer Foods Centre (PCFC) in Teagasc, Ashtown, under the National Development Plan for the purchase of capital equipment which companies could pilot, with the assistance of Teagasc Food Technologists, with a view to scaling up their production, innovating or reformulating products. The PCF Centre was officially opened on 18th October 2018, ahead of schedule.
I secured an additional €5 million in Budget 2019 to build on this investment by providing funding for incubation units, in addition to the purchase of equipment for nutritional measurement and quality and sensory analysis.
The Centre has, to date, assisted 50 companies to innovate and diversify products and their market focus, in order to help mitigate the negative impact of Brexit and to grow the indigenous PCF sector.
To date, €6.5 million of equipment has been purchased in total, and it is expected that the remaining €3.5 million, will be committed by the end of 2019.
The further development of PCF centre will continue to be assessed in light of the demands of the sector and its performance. Ultimately, the long-term vision is to develop a Centre of Excellence with world-class research and technological services, providing opportunities to develop greater value added, to integrate better into the agri-food value chain and to address the wider sustainability issues facing the sector.
174. Deputy Jackie Cahill asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his views on correspondence from an organisation (details supplied) regarding the greyhound industry and licences; and the latest data regarding the questions raised in same in tabular form. [38123/19]View answer
Coursing is regulated under the Greyhound Industry Act, 1958 chiefly by the Irish Coursing Club (ICC), subject to the general control and direction of Bord na gCon.
Hare coursing is managed and regulated by the ICC. The organisation consists of 89 affiliated clubs from Ireland and Northern Ireland, all of whom must abide by the ICC’s rules and regulations.
The granting of licenses for the netting and tagging of hares, is a matter for the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht – National Parks & Wildlife Service. One of the conditions of these licenses is that hares can only be collected for coursing by those clubs which are affiliated to the ICC and must be done in strict accordance with the terms and conditions of these licenses.
Due to the outbreak of the RHD-2 virus, the netting and tagging licences which had issued by the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht to the Irish Coursing Club for the 2019/2020 coursing season remain suspended. My Department will continue to offer laboratory services to support the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht in their monitoring of the current outbreak.
Question No. 176 answered with Question No. 170.
175. Deputy Lisa Chambers asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the number of additional staff that are trained and in place to deal with Brexit; the number expected to be in place by 31 October 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38126/19]View answer
With respect to addressing Brexit contingencies, my Department continues to participate actively in the Whole-of-Government approach to preparedness and contingency planning for Brexit. The Government sanctioned in the region of €4m for the commencement of a phased process for the recruitment of additional staff to carry out increased volumes of import controls and export certification arising from Brexit.
These requirements are significant, and arise in relation to the carrying out of documentary, identity and physical checks on imports of animals, plants, and products of animal and plant origin, as set out in EU legislation. My Department had previously carried out an extensive analysis exercise to establish the potential volumes of controls that will need to be carried out. This exercise has been used, where appropriate, to guide relevant planning in relation to putting in place the staff that will be required.
Regarding staffing requirements, at all stages, my Department has sought to use a combination of recruitment, redeployment and temporary flexible solutions, such as contracted veterinary services, where appropriate and as necessary. Given the level of uncertainty surrounding Brexit, my Department’s approach has been to adopt, where possible, options that offer a degree of flexibility, such as internal short term redeployment and contracted services, whilst ensuring, in conjunction and cooperation with our recruitment partners, the Public Appointments Service (PAS), that avenues for more permanent recruitment are available and can be drawn from as necessary. This approach is with a view to being able to address requirements in the near to medium term across various possible contingencies, from the negative end of the spectrum in terms of a no deal-Brexit to more benign contingencies of a Brexit based on a deal between the EU and the UK.
Focussing on immediate initial requirements, in the area of East-West import and export controls for UK product into Ireland, in the event of a no-deal Brexit on October 31st, my Department will have 240 staff resources available across a range of disciplines in both front line control and back up administrative spheres. This overall number will include recruits, redeployed staff and contracted Private Veterinary Practitioners (PVPs )
Overall, the key grades where the majority of deployment will occur are in veterinary and portal inspector roles on the animals and products of animal origin side, as well as agricultural and forestry inspectors and portal inspectors on the plant health and forestry side. In terms of recruitment, engagement with PAS is ongoing
It is important to note that staffing estimates are provided on the basis of a disorderly Brexit using the infrastructure that is expected to be available in Dublin and Rosslare ports in October. The development of additional infrastructure has the potential to have a knock-on effect on the numbers of staff required, and this contingency is being actively examined. Estimates may also need to be revised in light of any new political developments or on foot of any changes to the UK’s requirements, particularly regarding export certification.
In the context of an initial uncertain period in the event of a no-deal Brexit, it will be necessary to carefully observe how operational arrangements with respect to staffing are bedding down. Furthermore, it will also be necessary to observe how a no-deal Brexit might evolve, given the ongoing potential staffing effects.
I remain confident that my Department is in a position to deliver the services required in terms of both imports and exports at the appropriate time.
177. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if assistance will be provided to farmers in the Shannon Callows who have lost fodder, aftergrass and to those that have been forced to house cattle early due to flooding; the engagement that he has had with Waterways Ireland and the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht regarding works at Meelick weir; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38136/19]View answer
I am aware of the impact that recent bouts of unfavourable weather has had on farmers in certain regions including the Shannon Callows. As you will be aware, the Minister of State for the Office of Public Works and Flood Relief, Mr. Kevin Moran T.D., recently announced a range of measures to alleviate flooding in the affected area.
In recognising the major challenges faced by the farming sector and the important role that various schemes operated by my Department play in underpinning the viability of many farms, last month I secured agreement from the European Commission that will allow for a higher rate of advance payments under the 2019 Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) and a number of Rural Development Schemes.
In this regard, the rate of advance payment payable under the BPS from 16th October has been increased from 50% to 70%. In addition, the rate of advance payments under Rural Development schemes such as GLAS and the Sheep Welfare Scheme has been increased from 75% to 85%.
Additionally, I have secured a funding increase to the Areas of Natural Constraints (ANC) Scheme which brings the total budget this year to €250m. On foot of changes to EU Regulations, payments under the ANC Scheme will be made in two instalments this year. The initial instalment of 85% worth €168.5m is scheduled to commence this week, with the balancing payments of 15% commencing in early December. These supports provides a major injection of funds to the farming community at an important time.
The Deputy will be aware that, broadly speaking, weather conditions have been favourable this year for farming and, given the significant availability of fodder countrywide, there are no plans to introduce fodder support measures this year.
178. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine when payment will issue to a person (details supplied) under the area based payment scheme for 2018; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38138/19]View answer
The person named applied for the 2018 Areas of Natural Constraints Scheme on 15 May 2018.
Under the terms and conditions of the 2018 scheme, participants in the scheme are required to notify the Department of farm-to-farm movements of sheep. In this case, the required notification was not completed and payment has thus not issued.
Officials from my Department are in contact with the person named with a view to obtaining the outstanding information required in order to facilitate payment.
179. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the outcome of the recent discussions with stakeholders relating to the difficulties facing the beef sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38140/19]View answer
There have been a series of formal negotiations with beef stakeholders, facilitated by my Department, since early August, culminating in an agreement being reached between stakeholders on Sunday 15 September. I have also had ongoing contacts with farming organisations, representatives and individual farmers to try to seek a resolution to this dispute.
The parties to the Agreement reached on 15 September are:
- Meat Industry Ireland
- Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers Association
- Macra na Feirme
- Independent Farmers Organisation of Ireland
- Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association
- Beef Plan Movement
- Irish Farmers Association
- Irish Natura and Hill Farmers Association
The full text of the Agreement is available at:
The Agreement involves a number of interventions which will provide immediate benefit for beef producers, as well as a range of strategic measures which seek to address structural imbalances in the sector.
As part of the deal, beef producers will benefit from an immediate increase in a range of bonuses, as follows:
- an increase of 66% in the current in-spec bonus for steers and heifers from 12c/kg to 20c/kg;
- the introduction of a new bonus of 8c/kg for steers and heifers aged between 30 to 36 months, which meet all non-age related existing in-spec criteria, and which up to now have not received any bonus;
- the introduction of a new in-spec bonus of 12c/kg for steers and heifers under 30 months in the categories of grade O- and fat score 4+ , which currently do not qualify for any bonus.
- the in-spec 70 day residency requirement will be reduced to 60 days on the last farm.
These measures offer an immediate financial benefit for beef farmers. They both increase the level of bonus being paid and increase significantly the number of animals which are eligible for a bonus. The cumulative effect is that over 70% of all steer and heifers slaughtered will now be eligible for a bonus on top of the base price paid.
A Beef Market Task Force will be established to provide leadership to develop a sustainable pathway for the future of the beef sector in terms of economic, environmental and social sustainability. I will appoint an independent Chair for the Taskforce, which will include my Department, relevant State agencies and nominees from farm organisations and the meat industry. The Taskforce will provide for a robust implementation structure for commitments entered into in this Agreement, with timelines and stakeholder engagement. Furthermore, the Beef Market Taskforce will offer a suitable platform for strategic engagement with key stakeholders, including retailers and regulatory authorities.
My Department is proactively engaging with several potential beef Producer Organisations, which have the potential to strengthen the bargaining power of beef farmers in the supply chain. The first beef Producer Organisation was approved by my Department last week.
A number of actions in the area of market transparency, beef promotion and strengthening the position of the farmer in the supply chain are included in the Agreement. For example:
- an immediate scientific review of the Quality Payment Grid by Teagasc;
- an independent review of market and customer requirements, specifically in relation to the four in-spec bonus criteria currently in operation in the Irish beef sector;
The agreed measures set a course towards greater clarity for all stakeholders involved in the beef supply chain, primarily farmers. The entry into force of the Agreement is contingent on the cessation of all protests and blockades. All parties to the Agreement took responsibility for ensuring that this would happen, by recommending the Agreement to those they represent. I would appeal to all those still protesting to consider the agreement carefully and to give it a chance to take effect, in the interest of their fellow farmers and the future of the beef sector.
180. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the number of civil servants who have left and or retired from his Department in the past ten years who were bound by a cooling-off period in respect of taking up new employment in the private sector by grade, year and sector the staff moved on to; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38144/19]View answer
181. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the number of civil servants who have left and or retired from his Department in the past ten years who were not bound by a cooling-off period in respect of taking up new employment in the private sector by grade, year, and sector the staff moved on to; the reason for same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38160/19]View answer
I propose to take Questions Nos. 180 and 181 together.
As Civil Servants, staff in my Department have a responsibility to ensure that their work is carried out to the highest possible standards at all times.
The Civil Service Code of Standards and Behaviour, which was introduced in accordance with the Standards in Public Office Act 2001 sets out a framework within which all Civil Servants must carry out their duties. The Code upholds the core values of honesty, integrity, equality, fairness, respect and impartiality.
Under Section 20 of the Code, all Civil Servants must obtain approval from the Secretary General of the Department prior to taking up an offer of appointment or consultancy following retirement or resignation from the Civil Service. My Department has a strong culture of providing the best possible service to citizens and staff in my Department are aware of their obligations under the Civil Service Code of Standards and Behaviour, both during and post-employment as Civil Servants.
It has not been possible to ascertain, in the time available, the exact number of staff who have left the Department who were or were not covered by the cooling-off period. This information is being compiled and will be forwarded to the Deputy as soon as possible.
182. Deputy Pat The Cope Gallagher asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the interim measures taken to mitigate the issue of unburied animal carcasses that have been left on farms as a result of the ongoing knackery operators dispute in County Donegal; if he has considered relaxing the restrictions on farmers to carry out burials of such carcasses on a controlled basis on their own farms until normal services resume by the operators; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38179/19]View answer
183. Deputy Peter Burke asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine when he will restart negotiations with an association (details supplied). [38197/19]View answer
184. Deputy Kevin O'Keeffe asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if there are alternative actions the owners of fallen animals may take; and if so, the details of same. [38204/19]View answer
185. Deputy Kevin O'Keeffe asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his views on the protest by an association (details supplied); and if his Department will provide funding to offset the anomaly of disposable costs for different aged fallen animals. [38205/19]View answer
I propose to take Questions Nos. 182 to 185, inclusive, together.
Discussions have taken place between the Animal Collectors Association and my Department officials on the fallen animal collection service. Following those intensive discussions, agreement has been reached that enables the collection of fallen animals to resume from the 17th September. My Department has also issued correspondence to ACA confirming the agreement reached at the meeting. Further discussions between my Department and the ACA are planned to progress issues relating to supports for the animal collection service.
186. Deputy Shane Cassells asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if a project (details supplied) went before the local authority for planning. [37953/19]View answer
187. Deputy Shane Cassells asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if a project (details supplied) went before the local authority for planning. [37954/19]View answer
188. Deputy Shane Cassells asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if a project (details supplied) went before the local authority for planning. [37955/19]View answer
189. Deputy Shane Cassells asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if a project (details supplied) went before the local authority for planning. [37956/19]View answer
I propose to take Questions Nos. 186 to 189, inclusive, together.
I am advised by Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) that they are not aware of a project with the reference no. NSADF-17-003.
Project no. NSADF-17-014 provided funding for equipment for a youth angling initiative designed to facilitate access to angling activity. The project involved no physical works and therefore did not require Planning Permission. Applicants for works projects involving the disbursement of public funds are, in the first instance, required to ascertain whether any proposed works require planning permission from the relevant Planning Authority. This can be done with relative ease via a pre planning meeting with the Planning Authority or appropriate certification from a professional Engineer.
In relation to projects SCF-17-0005 and SCF-17-0006, both the professional Engineers, acting for the project applicants, certified that planning permission was not required.
I, as Minister, my Department or IFI have no function in the Planning Process and cannot set aside potential planning issues for applicants who basically refuse to meet the request of ascertaining whether their proposed works may require permission from a Planning Authority.
I again offer the Deputy a full briefing with Inland Fisheries Ireland in relation to fishery development project matters.
190. Deputy Shane Cassells asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the amount which will be spent in each county under the national programme to upgrade public lighting; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37964/19]View answer
The national project to upgrade our public lighting will greatly assist Local Authorities in meeting their energy efficiency objectives under the Public Sector Energy Efficiency Strategy and the carbon and higher energy efficiency objectives set under the Climate Action Plan. The Public Lighting Upgrade Project involves most of Irelands Local Authorities and is being steered by an advisory group chaired by a representative from the County & City Management Association (CCMA). Since the project has moved into the implementation phase it has been led by the RMO (Roads Management Office) a shared service for the Local Authorities. I would point out that some local authorities are not participating in the national project but are progressing and resourcing the lighting upgrade individually. My Department is involved in helping to progress the project and is represented on the Advisory Committee. The project was also successful in the competitive process for funding support under the Government's Climate Action Fund first call for proposals and was allocated €17.47million. The amount to be spent in each county will however be a matter for the RMO to determine in consultation with the relevant local authorities. Given that data on county spend is not held by my Department, I would advise the Deputy to direct questions on county spend to the RMO.
191. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment his plans to extend high-speed fibre broadband to a household (details supplied) in County Donegal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37971/19]View answer
192. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if his Department received an email from a person (details supplied) in County Donegal outlining the need for high-speed fibre broadband; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37972/19]View answer
I propose to take Questions Nos. 191 and 192 together.
Every home, farm, school and business in Ireland will have access to high speed broadband – no matter where they are located – following the Government’s decision to approve the appointment of a preferred bidder to the National Broadband Plan. Under this plan, Ireland will become one of the first countries in the world to ensure that those in rural areas have the same digital opportunities as those in urban areas.
Both questions referenced by the Deputy relate to one premises which is located in the AMBER area on the National Broadband Plan (NBP) High Speed Broadband Map, which is available on my Department's website at www.broadband.gov.ie. The AMBER areas represent the target areas for the proposed State led Intervention under the NBP.
I can confirm an email from the premises owner was received in my Department on 6th September and an acknowledgement was issued. A full reply will be issued shortly.
That email comments on the premises' proximity to a commercial deployment of high speed broadband. 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 State intervention is the subject of the procurement process to engage a company to build, operate and maintain the NBP State intervention network. In May of this year I brought a recommendation to Government to confer Preferred Bidder status on Granahan McCourt, the remaining bidder in the NBP procurement process and Government agreed to this.
The Government Decision means that it is intended to award the State Intervention contract to the Bidder. This award is subject to contract close. The finalisation of financial closure and legal requirements are progressing towards contract award. Deployment of the NBP State Intervention network will commence shortly after that.
The Bidder has indicated that the NBP State intervention will take an estimated 7 years from the beginning of deployment.
A deployment plan will be made available by the Bidder once the contract is signed. In the first year of roll out, the Bidder will deploy approximately 300 Broadband Connection Points (BCPs) across all counties. It is anticipated that between 7 and 23 BCPs will be deployed in each county. BCPs will provide a community based high speed broadband service, enhancing online participation and allowing for the establishment of digital work hubs in these locations.
The Bidder is aiming to pass 133,000 premises at the end of the second year, with 70-100,000 passed each year thereafter until roll out is completed.
Work continues on finalising the contract and in parallel to this work, I am considering the recommendations of the Joint Oireachtas Communications Committee report which was published recently. I will bring my deliberations of the report to Government in due course.
193. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the number of civil servants who have left and or retired from his Department in the past ten years who were bound by a cooling-off period in respect of taking up new employment in the private sector by grade, year and sector the staff moved on to; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38147/19]View answer
194. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the number of civil servants who have left and or retired from his Department in the past ten years who were not bound by a cooling-off period in respect of taking up new employment in the private sector by grade, year, and sector the staff moved on to; the reason for same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38163/19]View answer
I propose to take Questions Nos. 193 and 194 together.
Under Section 4 of the Official Secrets Act, 1963 each civil servant is prohibited from communicating official information unless they are authorised to do so in the course of, and in accordance with, their official duties, or where it is their duty in the interest of the State to communicate it. Every Civil Service employee signs their obligations under the Act upon commencement of employment in the Service. On leaving employment in the Civil Service an individual remains bound by the obligations on civil servants in relation to secrecy in the transaction of official business as provided for in the Act, regardless of their subsequent employment.
In addition, all Civil Servants are required to adhere to the Civil Service code Of Standards and Behaviour published by the Standards in Public Office Commission (SIPO) who oversee compliance with Standards and Ethics in Public Office.