Departmental Staff

Questions (984)

Catherine Murphy

Question:

984. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if his attention or that of his predecessor and officials has been drawn to the case of a person (details supplied); the steps he is taking to remedy the issue; and if he has considered making an interim payment of salary to the person while issues are resolved. [38637/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

As this Parliamentary Question relates to issues surrounding a former employee of this Department, it is not appropriate for me, as Minister, to comment on this situation.

Fishing Industry

Questions (985)

Danny Healy-Rae

Question:

985. Deputy Danny Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if the restrictions (details supplied) on local boats fishing off the south-west coast will be reconsidered; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38680/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

In December 2018, following a public consultation process in which over 900 submissions were received, the then Minister for Agriculture, Food and Marine announced that vessels over 18 m will be excluded from trawling in inshore waters inside the six nautical mile zone and the baselines from 1 January 2020. A transition period of three years for vessels over 18 m targeting sprat was allowed to enable adjustment for these vessels, as the sprat fishery is concentrated inside the six nautical mile zone.

A Policy Directive was issued by the Minister to the independent Licensing Authority to give effect to these measures. The Policy Directive directed the Licensing Authority to insert a condition to this effect into the licences of affected vessels.

A Judicial Review to the High Court was taken by two applicant fishermen challenging the validity of the Policy.

On 6th October 2020, the Judge held in summary that the High Court’s final order should be, among other matters, a declaration that Policy Directive 1 of 2019 was made in breach of fair procedures and is void and/or of no legal effect.

The breach of fair procedures as referenced above related to a failure with obligations to consult with the applicants in accordance with, and to the extent required by, the consultation process and in particular by failing to consult with them once a preferred option had been identified.

The High Court’s ruling of Judicial Review proceedings which relate to the Policy Directive has been appealed by the State to the Court of Appeal and a stay is being sought on the orders granted therein.

As this matter is sub judice, I am not in a position to comment until the matter can be resolved before the Courts.

Agriculture Schemes

Questions (986)

Mattie McGrath

Question:

986. Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he has a legal obligation to give data on the value of a single farm payment to a farmer from whose land those single farm payments were taken by a person leasing the land at the termination of the lease in view of the fact it is the lessee's personal data. [38727/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The information requested relating to the value of a Single Farm Payment made to the lessee of the land is the personal information of the lessee and therefore, cannot be disclosed to the lessor.

Agriculture Schemes

Questions (987)

Mattie McGrath

Question:

987. Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his views on whether the removal of single farm payment entitlements from 150,000 hectares was illegal according to the European Court of Auditor's report 2006. [38728/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

Payment entitlements under the Single Payment Scheme, were established by farmers that farmed during the reference years of 2000, 2001 and 2002, in accordance with the European Commission Regulation (EC) 1782/2003. These payment entitlements were not attached to land.

Ireland consolidated payment entitlements in accordance with Article 42(5) of Regulation (EC) 1782/2003 and Article 7 of Commission Regulation (EC) No 795/2004. This enabled certain categories of farmers to surrender their original payment entitlements to the National Reserve. In exchange, these farmers received a lower number of payment entitlements with an increased payment entitlement unit value. In order to consolidate payment entitlements, farmers must have farmed during the reference years outlined above.

In relation to the audit carried out by the European Court of Auditors, the consolidation process implemented by my Department was entirely in accordance with EU Regulations and has been endorsed as such.

Community Development Initiatives

Questions (988)

Pat Buckley

Question:

988. Deputy Pat Buckley asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the progress that has been made in implementing the strategy, Sustainable, Inclusive and Empowered Communities, of her Department; when the voluntary and community sector will see the measures promised to implement a multi-annual funding approach, including a full-cost recovery model; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38679/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Rural)

The Government is aware of the challenges facing the community and voluntary sector in Ireland, and is committed to working with the sector to manage these challenges.

In 2019, my Department published Sustainable, Inclusive and Empowered Communities - A five year strategy to support the community and voluntary sector in Ireland 2019-2024. The strategy reaffirms the Government’s commitment to supporting the sector and addressing some of the burdens faced by service providers, whilst also recognising the reality of finite resources and the need to ensure that available resources are focused on providing effective services.

Co-produced by Government and the Community and Voluntary Sector, the Strategy sets out 11 high-level objectives and associated actions which will empower communities, their representative organisations, and the community and voluntary sector to inform and shape responses to their needs.

Specifically, the strategy commits, inter alia, to scope and develop a sustainable funding model to support the community and voluntary sector, examining a multi-annual funding approach, an appropriate cost-recovery model and the concept of core funding.

The implementation of the Sustainable, Inclusive and Empowered Communities strategy is being overseen by the Cross-Sectoral Group on Local and Community Development – a representative group consisting of local and central Government, the community and voluntary sector, community development and local development nominees, each representing the interests of their member organisations and stakeholders. A key role for this group is to support this Department in the prioritisation of objectives and actions to be progressed within the framework of annual work plans.

Regrettably, in the context of the pandemic, progress on the implementation of actions in the strategy was somewhat delayed as my Department's resources were refocused, for a time, to provide immediate and responsive supports to the sector through the Covid-19 Stability Fund. I am happy to report however, that progress is now being made on a number of actions relating to training and capacity building supports and values and principles to underline consultation and partnership working.

The question of multi-annual funding including a cost recovery model is a complex issue which will take time to resolve. I fully recognise the concerns of the sector and I am committed to addressing this challenge in collaboration with the CSG and other relevant stakeholders.

The Department looks forward to continuing to engage with stakeholders, and their representative organisations in addressing this and other challenges identified in the strategy. This is an ambitious strategy which will support partnership and joint effort at all levels and between all stakeholders. While I acknowledge that the delivery of some of the actions will take time, I am fully committed to achieving the objectives of this Strategy.

Public Procurement Contracts

Questions (989)

Carol Nolan

Question:

989. Deputy Carol Nolan asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the details of contracts of €25,000 or more that have been awarded by her Department or bodies under the aegis of her Department that were found to be non-compliant with procurement guidelines from 1 January 2019 to date; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37804/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Rural)

All procurement within my Department takes place in the context of national guidance, and national and EU requirements and regulations. My Department has not awarded any contracts over €25,000 which were found to be non-compliant with these requirements over the period 1st January 2019 to date.

I would note that during this period there have been 2 contracts over €25,000 awarded through direct award, where a competitive tender process was not conducted, but in compliance with exemptions permitted. I have set out, for the sake of completeness, details of these contracts not subject to a competitive process, but in full compliance with procurement guidelines.

With regard to the four bodies under the aegis of my Department, (Pobal, Water Safety Ireland, The Charities Regulator and the Western Development Commission), day to day operational matters, including contract award and compliance with procurement requirements are matters for the individual agencies concerned. The procedures for procurement by State Bodies are set out in the code of practice for Governance of State Bodies and, in accordance with this code of practice, it is the responsibility of each Board to satisfy itself that public procurement requirements are adhered to.

In line with these responsibilities I have asked my officials to contact the agencies to provide you with the information requested by separate cover within the next 8 working days. Please advise my private office if you do not receive a response within 10 working days.

Company/Entity

Contract > €25k

‘Version 1’

Contract to develop a bespoke Information Technology system to manage the LEADER 2007-2013 programme was initially awarded 28/4/2008, by way of a competitive process. The system requires ongoing maintenance and updates. A contract for this was signed on 23/12/2019, covering the period 1st January 2020 to 31st December 2023.

€35,154

ESRI - Research Partnership

2 year research agreement between DRCD and ESRI to facilitate research and analysis to (I) support the monitoring and development of rural and community development policy, and (ii) helping develop a framework for monitoring and evaluation of rural and community development programmes. Non-competitive award is provided for in line with Article 14 of Directive 2014/24/EU.

€210,000

Legislative Process

Questions (990)

Carol Nolan

Question:

990. Deputy Carol Nolan asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the details of all applications made by her Department to the Oireachtas business committee to waive pre-legislative scrutiny of primary and secondary legislation sponsored or initiated by her Department from 1 January 2017 to date; the outcomes of such applications; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37901/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Rural)

I can confirm that my Department, which was established in July 2017, did not make application to wave pre-legislative scrutiny of primary or secondary legislation from 2017 to date.

Departmental Staff

Questions (991)

Patrick Costello

Question:

991. Deputy Patrick Costello asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the grade at which the chief data protection officer in her Department is employed. [37923/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Rural)

The Chief Data Protection officer in the Department of Rural and Community Development is employed at the grade of Assistant Principal Officer.

Vacant Properties

Questions (992)

Seán Canney

Question:

992. Deputy Seán Canney asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development her plans to introduce a scheme of supports to incentivise young persons to purchase vacant properties in towns and villages as their first homes; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37979/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Rural)

The Programme for Government includes a commitment for an expanded Town and Village Renewal Scheme to bring vacant and derelict buildings back into use and promote residential occupancy. The focus of the initiative is on renovating or repurposing properties for residential use rather than providing a specific incentive for young persons to purchase vacant properties.

In October 2018, my Department launched a Town Centre Living Initiative to explore in a holistic way how to encourage increased residential occupancy in rural towns and villages. The pilot focused on 6 towns with different characteristics in different parts of the country.

An independent report on the pilot Town Centre Living Initiative was published on 22nd June 2020. The report highlighted the value of developing a shared vision, or masterplan, for individual towns if they are to be attractive places in which to live.

In that regard, I have secured an additional €2 million in Budget 2021 as part of the expanded Town and Village Renewal Scheme, which will be used to support the development of masterplans as a basis for the strategic development of our rural towns and villages. This initiative will be progressed early in 2021 and further details will be announced at that time.

An Inter-Departmental Group has also been established which will consider all of the suggested actions in the report on the Town Centre Living initiative, as well as progressing the commitment in the Programme for Government to develop a Town Centre First approach to the regeneration of our towns and villages. The Group recently held its first meeting and is chaired jointly by my Department and the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage.

Tribunals of Inquiry

Questions (993)

John McGuinness

Question:

993. Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the number of tribunals, inquiries or investigations being undertaken currently by her Department; the number that are in the process of being set up; the number in which the terms of reference are not complete or not agreed; the cost of all to date; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38047/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Rural)

I can confirm that my Department has not undertaken any tribunals, enquiries or investigations to-date.

Town and Village Renewal Scheme

Questions (994)

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

994. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the date she plans to announce the successful projects to be funded under the standard measure of the town and village renewal scheme. [38054/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Rural)

The Town and Village Renewal Scheme was adapted this year to assist towns and villages to respond to the impact of COVID-19. The scheme, which has a budget of €25 million this year including €10 million as part of the Government’s July Stimulus Package, includes two separate funding Measures - an Accelerated Measure and a Standard Measure.

The Accelerated Measure was designed to support smaller scale projects that could be delivered immediately to assist towns and villages in adapting to the challenges presented by COVID-19, and to allow people to shop and socialise in a safe manner.

The Standard Measure is designed to help rural towns and villages to recover from the impact of COVID-19 in the medium-term.

I recently approved funding of €10.4 million for 363 projects across three funding rounds of the Accelerated Measure and this particular Measure is now closed.

Funding under the Standard Measure of the Town and Village Renewal Scheme is awarded on a competitive basis. Almost 250 applications were received under this Measure and all applications are currently being assessed.

I expect to be in a position to announce the successful projects under the Standard Measure when the assessment process is completed in December.

LEADER Programmes

Questions (995, 996, 997)

Sorca Clarke

Question:

995. Deputy Sorca Clarke asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the additional funding that will be provided for the LEADER project in 2021 in view of the €44 million announced in budget 2021 which applies to payment on allocations until the end of December 2020. [38175/20]

View answer

Sorca Clarke

Question:

996. Deputy Sorca Clarke asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the additional funding that will be provided for the delivery and administration of the LEADER programme for 2021 in order to provide clear provision for the programme providers and staff engaged in delivery. [38176/20]

View answer

Sorca Clarke

Question:

997. Deputy Sorca Clarke asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the details of the interim development plan for 2021–2023 as committed to in the Programme for Government in view of the fact that budget 2021 provides for the delivery of schemes under CAP by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine. [38177/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Rural)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 995 and 997, inclusive, together.

The 2014-2020 LEADER programme is due to finish at the end of this year as far as new project commitments are concerned. Due to delays in agreeing the post-2020 EU Budget, the next EU LEADER programme will not commence until 2022 at the earliest.

The Programme for Government includes a commitment to prioritise a State-led programme to bridge the gap between the current LEADER programme and the next EU programme. The objective of the Transitional Programme is to allow locally-led rural development projects to continue to be delivered using the LEADER model until the new EU programme commences.

The duration of the transitional period at EU level has not yet been agreed. We are therefore planning for Ireland’s Transitional Programme to run for an initial period of 12 months, but with the scope to extend this if necessary, to align with the outcome of the discussions at EU level between the Commission and the Parliament.

An extra €4 million has been provided for LEADER in Budget 2021, to bring the total allocation for next year to €44 million. I can confirm that this allocation will be used to fund a combination of existing projects as they come to completion, as well as for new projects to be approved under the Transitional Programme. The funding will also support the administration costs of Local Action Groups and their Implementing Partners who deliver the programme locally, in closing out the existing programme and delivering the Transitional Programme.

It is important to recognise that LEADER is a multi-annual programme and that payments in respect of projects which are approved in any given year are generally not drawn down until subsequent years as the projects are completed. Therefore, costs related to projects under the Transitional Programme are likely to be met from the provision in my Department’s Vote in 2022 and 2023, as well as in 2021.

The details of the Transitional Programme are currently being finalised and I hope to be in a position shortly to announce the full details of project and administration allocations under the Programme.

Covid-19 Pandemic Supports

Questions (998)

Denis Naughten

Question:

998. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the plans she has for future rounds of Covid-19 stability funding; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38258/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Rural)

The Government is aware of the challenges facing community and voluntary organisations and is committed to working closely with the sector in managing through these, recognising that it will require a whole of Government approach.

The Community and Voluntary Sector Covid-19 Stability Fund was intended to be a targeted once-off cash injection for organisations and groups currently delivering critical front-line services to the most at need in our society and in danger of imminent closure due to lost fund-raised or traded income as a direct result of restrictions to counter the spread of COVID-19. The criteria of the scheme stated that any grants awarded would be dependent on the need identified and organisations approved for funding were prioritised on that basis.

This fund is providing up to €35 million of funding through the Dormant Accounts Fund (DAF) and the criteria align with DAF objectives to support:

- The personal and social development of persons who are economically or socially disadvantaged; or

- The educational development of persons who are educationally disadvantaged; or

- Persons with a disability.

My Department received 1,060 applications during the application periods. To date, funding of €30,990,956 has been allocated to 590 organisations. This funding is now supporting the delivery of many critical front line services in every part of the country. Though the fund is now closed to new applications, additional checks are continuing on a small number of applications and remaining outcomes will be communicated on an individual basis as decisions are finalised. In addition I will shortly be making an announcement about my plans for the distribution of the additional €10 million in funding provided through Budget 2020.

Lists of successful applicants are available on my Department’s website at www.gov.ie/en/publication/3957e-covid-19-stability-fund-successful-applicants/.

LEADER Programmes

Questions (999)

Alan Kelly

Question:

999. Deputy Alan Kelly asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development when funding will be provided once again to Leader programmes across the country; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38429/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Rural)

The 2014-2020 LEADER programme is due to finish at the end of this year as far as new project commitments are concerned. Due to delays in agreeing the post-2020 EU Budget, the next EU LEADER programme will not commence until 2022 at the earliest.

The Programme for Government includes a commitment to prioritise a State-led programme to bridge the gap between the current LEADER programme and the next EU programme.? The objective of this Transitional Programme is to allow locally-led rural development projects to continue to be delivered using the LEADER model until the new EU programme commences.

An extra €4 million has been provided for LEADER in Budget 2021, to bring the total allocation for next year to €44 million. This allocation will be used to fund a combination of existing projects as they come to completion, as well as for new projects to be approved under the Transitional Programme and to support the administration costs of LAGs in closing out the existing programme and delivering the Transitional Programme.

It is important to recognise that LEADER is a multi-annual programme and that payments in respect of projects which are approved in any given year are generally not drawn down until subsequent years as the projects are completed. Therefore, costs related to projects under the Transitional Programme are likely to be met from the provision in my Department’s Vote in 2022 and 2023, as well as in 2021.

The Transitional Programme is currently being finalised and I hope to be in a position shortly to announce the full details of project and administration allocations under the Programme.

CLÁR Programme

Questions (1000)

Niamh Smyth

Question:

1000. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the status of a CLÁR application by an organisation (details supplied); when a decision is likely; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38570/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Rural)

The CLÁR programme provides funding for small scale projects in rural areas that have experienced significant levels of de-population. The Measures being funded through this year's programme are:

Measure1: Support for Schools/Community Safety Measures

Measure 2: Community Recreation Areas (new for 2020)

Measure 3: Community Well-being Support

- Meals on Wheels and linked services (new in 2020)

- Mobility and Cancer Care Transport,

I announced funding of €4.1 million for 115 projects under Measures 1 and 2 of the programme on 2nd November. A further €340,000 was announced on November 20th for 45 projects under Measure 3(a).

I can confirm that an application for funding under Measure 3(b) has been received in respect of the organisation referred to by the Deputy. The applications received under Measure 3(b) are currently being assessed by my Department and I hope to be in a position to announce successful projects under that Measure before the end of the year.

A Vision for Change

Questions (1001)

Claire Kerrane

Question:

1001. Deputy Claire Kerrane asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development when and the way in which community groups can apply for funding under the outdoor recreation scheme; if they can do so in 2021; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38785/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Rural)

The Outdoor Recreation Infrastructure Scheme provides funding for the development and/or enhancement of outdoor recreational infrastructure such as cycleways, walking trails, blueways and mountain access routes in countryside areas.

The 2020 scheme was launched on 29th May last and is funded by my Department in partnership with Fáilte Ireland. The 2020 scheme has an indicative budget of €10 million and is being delivered through three Measures as follows:

- Measure 1 : Small Scale Repair/Promotion and Marketing - Grant Amounts: up to €20,000.

- Measure 2 : Medium Scale Repair/Upgrade and New Trail/Amenity Development - Grant Amounts: up to €200,000.

- Measure 3: Large Scale Repair/Upgrade and New Strategic Trail/Amenity Development - Grant amounts: up to €500,000.

In 2020, applications under Measure 1 were invited from Local Authorities and Local Development Companies. The closing date for applications under Measure 1 was 30th September and the applications received are currently being assessed.

Applications under Measures 2 & 3 are invited through Local Authorities, while State Agencies may also apply directly under Measure 3. The closing date for applications under Measures 2 & 3 is 30th November 2020.

Local community groups who have a project that requires funding under the scheme may approach the relevant Local Development Company or Local Authority in their area, depending on the scale of the works involved.

Given the importance of the outdoors for people's health and wellbeing, particularly at this time, I secured an additional €2 million for the Outdoor Recreation Infrastructure Scheme in Budget 2021. The 2021 scheme will have an Exchequer budget of €12 million and details of the scheme will be announced next year.

More information regarding the scheme, including details of projects supported in previous years, is available at

www.gov.ie/en/policy-information/fd0c9f-outdoor-recreation-infrastructure-scheme/.