Covid-19 Pandemic Supports

Questions (234)

Steven Matthews

Question:

234. Deputy Steven Matthews asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media if her attention has been drawn to business owners in the tourist sector who do not own rateable premises that are facing into a second peak season under Covid-19 restrictions; and if further financial supports are being considered. [5386/21]

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Written answers (Question to Tourism)

Budget 2021 provided a significant package of tax and fiscal measures to build the resilience of the economy and to help vulnerable but viable businesses across all sectors. A key measure in  the Budget was the provision of an additional €55m in Business Continuity funding to support strategic tourism businesses, to be administered by Fáilte Ireland.

The Scheme will contribute to the fixed costs of identified strategic tourism businesses that are not eligible for CRSS to support their survival.  It will provide an equitable level of payment to the CRSS for qualifying businesses such as tourism attractions, activity providers, caravan and camping sites and others.

I have referred the Deputy's question to Fáilte Ireland for further details on the scheme.  Please advise my private office if you do not receive a reply within ten working days.

Tourism Industry

Questions (235)

Christopher O'Sullivan

Question:

235. Deputy Christopher O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media if consideration will be given to establishing a grant aid scheme similar to the operational programme for tourism 1994-1999, to assist marine tourism operators to reinvigorate their 20-year old fleets; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5520/21]

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Written answers (Question to Tourism)

The matter raised by the Deputy is an operational matter for Fáilte Ireland.  Accordingly, I have referred the Deputy's question to them for further information and direct reply.  Please advise my private office if you do not receive a reply within ten working days.

Olympic Games

Questions (236)

Neale Richmond

Question:

236. Deputy Neale Richmond asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media if she has engaged with an organisation (details supplied) in relation to the latest announcements from Japan stating its concentration and committed efforts to ensure the occurrence of the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo in 2021; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5626/21]

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Written answers (Question to Tourism)

The Minister Deputy Martin and I have had, and will continue to have, regular, ongoing engagement with the sports sector as a whole, including with the organisation referred to by the Deputy. 

In addition to direct engagement with Sport Ireland, the statutory agency for the development of sport in Ireland, I am also aware that the organisation in question is in regular contact with the Department of Foreign Affairs to exchange information concerning the status of preparations for the Olympic and Paralympic Games in both Japan and Ireland. This organisation also participates in regular meetings of the Sports Monitoring Group, which I chair, and which met most recently last Thursday, 28 January 2021. During that meeting, I received a comprehensive briefing from the OFI delegation on the current state of play in relation to preparations for the Games, which I am pleased to say indicate a positive disposition and expectation of the Japanese authorities towards the Games proceeding, albeit under different conditions to previous Games.  I am satisfied that the coordination arrangements in place comprehensively address the important task of ensuring effective preparation of Team Ireland for the upcoming Games.

I am pleased that the Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic Games, the Japanese Government and the International Olympic Committee all remain steadfast in their commitment to the hosting of successful Games this summer. The past year has been very challenging for our high performance athletes and coaches and I would like to assure them that the Government and Sport Ireland will do everything we can to support them as they strive to achieve success in Tokyo.

 

Olympic Games

Questions (237)

Neale Richmond

Question:

237. Deputy Neale Richmond asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media if her Department has engaged with the Government of Japan to ensure the safety of the Irish Olympic team if the team is to travel in summer 2021 to participate in the planned Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2021; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5627/21]

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Written answers (Question to Tourism)

My Department maintains regular contact with the Department of Foreign Affairs, including with representatives of our diplomatic representation in Japan, in relation to the upcoming Games. Direct engagement with the Japanese authorities is pursued through Ireland's diplomatic representation in Japan. The safety of the Irish Olympic and Paralympic teams is of paramount importance. The Deputy can be assured that all necessary measures will be taken, and contacts maintained, to ensure that they can participate safely and to the best of their abilities.

The Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic Games, the Japanese Government, the International Olympic Committee and the International Paralympic Committee all remain steadfast in their commitment to hosting the Games this summer. On behalf of our Government, I wish the Government of Japan every success for the Games. While there are challenges, we are confident that these can be overcome. We are firmly behind Team Ireland and my Department and Sport Ireland will do everything we can to support their preparations in the months ahead. I am looking forward to seeing our athletes proudly representing Ireland, and hopefully reaching the podium in Tokyo.

Covid-19 Pandemic Supports

Questions (238)

Peadar Tóibín

Question:

238. Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media the supports her Department will provide to the tourist industry in view of the tighter travel restrictions. [5637/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Tourism)

The July Stimulus and Budget 2021 provided a significant package of tax and fiscal measures to build the resilience of the economy and to help vulnerable but viable businesses across all sectors. Of particular relevance to the tourism sector were the following measures: 

- There was a record level of funding for Tourism overall, an increase of €59 million over 2020 allocation, to just under €221 million.

- Based on this allocation, a €55 million business continuity scheme was launched on 1st February by Fáilte Ireland to help strategic tourism business survive the pandemic and drive recovery. The Scheme will contribute to the fixed costs of identified tourism businesses that are not eligible for CRSS to support their survival.  It will provide an equitable level of payment to the CRSS for qualifying businesses and the first phase which was launched on 1st February will cover businesses such as tourism attractions, activity providers, and caravan and camping sites.

- The VAT rate for the Sector was reduced to 9% to help improve competitiveness and viability of businesses.

- Two separate funds of €10million each were introduced for Coach Tourism Operators and Ireland Based Inbound Agents Business Continuity Scheme in the last quarter of 2020. 

- Funding of €5 million has also been provided for upskilling training and to improve digital presence.

- A €26m adaptation fund for the tourism sector to adapt their premises to meet COVID-19 safety requirements. 

In addition, the Government has introduced a number of horizontal measures that have been of assistance to the tourism sector including the Employee Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS), the Covid Restrictions Support Scheme (CRSS), tax warehousing, and the Commercial Rates waiver, which was recently extended to the end of Q1 2021.  In regard to the CRSS, as at 28 January 2021, Revenue Commissioners’ data shows that €244m was paid out under CRSS, of which approximately 64% (€155m) related to Tourism and Hospitality businesses. 

The measures introduced have been critical in assisting tourism businesses to survive the hugely challenging situation brought about by the pandemic. I, along with my colleagues in Government, will keep these supports under review in the coming months.

Tourism Funding

Questions (239)

Duncan Smith

Question:

239. Deputy Duncan Smith asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media if her Department has implemented the €92 million industry activation fund; the position regarding same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5696/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Tourism)

Last year, a Tourism Recovery Taskforce was appointed to prepare a Tourism Recovery Plan with recommendations on how best the Irish Tourism sector can adapt and recover in a changed tourism environment as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. The Taskforce presented its Tourism Recovery Plan 2020-2023 to me on 30th September last. The Plan produced by the Taskforce was a very useful and important consideration for myself and my colleagues in Government in our deliberations for Budget 2021 and this continues to be the case as we evaluate the evolving situation.

The Recovery Plan makes a number of recommendations with the priority recommendations relating to the survival of the sector. The measures I have introduced to date, along with the horizontal measures introduced by Government, have been critical in assisting tourism businesses to survive the hugely challenging situation brought about by the pandemic.

There are also a number of recommendations aimed the Stabilisation and Recovery phase in the Recovery Plan. These include implementing a €92m Industry Activation Fund over three years for extensive overseas sales and marketing activities by the industry.  Unfortunately, the evolution of the pandemic in Ireland and elsewhere has meant that our tourism sector has remained in survival mode and overseas marketing is on hold until it is safe to resume inbound tourism. I am aware that Tourism Ireland has plans in this regard and will work closely with industry to promote Ireland in overseas markets when the time is right.

The Recovery Oversight Group I appointed in December will keep me apprised of progress on the implementation of the Recovery Plan and the recovery of the sector. I, along with my colleagues in Government, will keep the recommendations in the Plan under review as we emerge from the survival phase and move towards stabilisation and recovery and welcome overseas tourists back in Ireland as soon as circumstances allow.

Tax Credits

Questions (240)

Duncan Smith

Question:

240. Deputy Duncan Smith asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media if she has discussed changing the stay and spend tourism scheme with the Minister for Finance; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5697/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Tourism)

The Stay and Spend scheme was devised at a time when there appeared to be a steady downward trend in infection rates.  However, this did not continue and the necessary public health restrictions have unfortunately impacted on the operation of the scheme as originally envisaged.

I am advised by the Minister for Finance that the Stay and Spend scheme is due to operate until 30 April. The Minister has also advised that he will be monitoring the scheme and will consider if any changes need to be made.

Tourism Industry

Questions (241)

Duncan Smith

Question:

241. Deputy Duncan Smith asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media if her Department has undertaken a comprehensive review of Ireland’s tourism product to identify strengths, gaps and opportunities as recommended by the tourism recovery task force; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5698/21]

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Written answers (Question to Tourism)

Last year, a Tourism Recovery Taskforce was appointed to prepare a Tourism Recovery Plan with recommendations on how best the Irish Tourism sector can adapt and recover in a changed tourism environment as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. The Taskforce presented its Tourism Recovery Plan 2020-2023 to me on 30th September last. The Plan produced by the Taskforce was a very useful and important consideration for myself and my colleagues in Government in our deliberations for Budget 2021 and this continues to be the case as we evaluate the evolving situation.

The Recovery Plan makes a number of recommendations with the priority recommendations relating to the survival of the sector. The measures I have introduced to date, along with the horizontal measures introduced by Government, have been critical in assisting tourism businesses to survive the hugely challenging situation brought about by the pandemic.

There are also a number of recommendations aimed at the Stabilisation and Recovery phase in the Recovery Plan. These include undertaking a comprehensive review of Ireland's tourism product to identify strengths, gaps, opportunities and impediments to inform future investment in the development of the visitor offering.  Our success prior to the pandemic demonstrates that Ireland already has a strong tourism product offering.  Furthermore, in funding the development of new and enhanced tourism product, Fáilte Ireland uses an evidence-based approach which considers existing strengths, opportunities and gaps in that product offering.

The Recovery Oversight Group I appointed in December will keep me apprised of progress on the implementation of the Recovery Plan and the recovery of the sector. I, along with my colleagues in Government, will keep the recommendations in the Plan under review as we emerge from the survival phase and move towards stabilisation and recovery. Notwithstanding this, a tourism product review of the type recommended in the Recovery Plan is something which my officials will discuss with the agency with a view to considering its merits and timing.

Tourism Industry

Questions (242, 243)

Duncan Smith

Question:

242. Deputy Duncan Smith asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media if she has met with the tourism recovery task force since October 2020; if so, the dates of these meetings; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5699/21]

View answer

Duncan Smith

Question:

243. Deputy Duncan Smith asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media the number of the recommendations of the tourism recovery taskforce that have commenced; the number due to commence; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5700/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Tourism)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 242 and 243 together.

Last year, a Tourism Recovery Taskforce was appointed to prepare a Tourism Recovery Plan with recommendations on how best the Irish Tourism sector can adapt and recover in a changed tourism environment as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. The Taskforce presented its Tourism Recovery Plan 2020-2023 to me on 30th September last. I met with the Taskforce members at their final meeting on October 7th to thank them for the huge amount of work they had put into creating the Tourism Recovery Plan. The Plan produced by the Taskforce was a very useful and important consideration for myself and my colleagues in Government in our deliberations for Budget 2021 and this continues to be the case as we evaluate the evolving situation.

One of the recommendations in the Recovery Plan was to establish an independently chaired Recovery Oversight Group, to oversee the implementation of the recommendations in the Taskforce report and monitor the sector’s recovery from the Covid-19 crisis. I appointed the Recovery Oversight Group in December 2020 and the group comprises tourism industry practitioners, a transport policy expert, along with the CEO’s of the tourism agencies and a Departmental representative. The Group will keep me apprised of progress on the implementation of the Recovery Plan and the recovery of the sector. The Recovery Oversight Group has met twice to date and I attended the Group's first meeting on the 7th December. The Recovery Plan makes a number of recommendations with the priority recommendations relating to the survival of the sector. Good progress has been made in introducing the following tourism-specific measures:

- There was a record level of funding for Tourism overall, an increase of €59 million over 2020 allocation, to just under €221 million.

- A €55 million business continuity scheme was introduced to help strategic tourism business survive the pandemic and drive recovery.

- The VAT rate for the Sector was reduced to 9% to help improve competitiveness and viability of businesses.

- A €10million Ireland Based Inbound Agents Business Continuity Scheme opened for applications in November.

- Funding of €5 million has also been provided for upskilling training and to improve digital presence.

In addition, there have also been very positive developments with regard to horizontal measures introduced or amended by Government which relate to the recommendations in the Recovery Plan:

- The EWSS will continue in some form for all of 2021 and the EWSS rates will be aligned with the rates of payment under PUP, up to €350 per week, until 31 March 2021.

- The Covid Restrictions Support Scheme (CRSS) was introduced, providing for turnover-based payments of up to €5,000 per week where businesses are significantly impacted or closed due to public health restrictions. As at 28 January 2021, Revenue Commissioners’ data shows that €244m was paid out under CRSS, of which approximately 64% (€155m) related to Tourism and Hospitality.

- The Commercial Rates Waiver was extended to the end of Q1 2021.

The measures introduced have been critical in assisting tourism businesses to survive the hugely challenging situation brought about by the pandemic which is ongoing.

Unfortunately, the evolution of the pandemic in Ireland and elsewhere has meant that our tourism sector has remained in survival mode. Many of the remaining recommendations of the Recovery Plan are aimed at the stabilisation and recovery phase. I, along with my colleagues in Government, will keep these under review as we emerge from the survival phase and move towards recovery and look forward to the input of the Recovery Oversight Group to inform my deliberations in this regard.

Covid-19 Pandemic Supports

Questions (244)

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

244. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media the further action that will be taken to support the domestic economy and to protect the long-term viability of 260,000 tourism jobs in the hospitality and tourism sector (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5753/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Tourism)

As the Deputy is aware, a Tourism Recovery Taskforce was appointed last year to prepare a Tourism Recovery Plan with recommendations on how best the Irish Tourism sector can adapt and recover in a changed tourism environment as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. The Taskforce presented its Tourism Recovery Plan 2020-2023 to me on 30th September last. The Plan produced by the Taskforce was a very useful and important consideration for myself and my colleagues in Government in our deliberations for Budget 2021 and this continues to be the case as we evaluate the evolving situation.

One of the recommendations in the Recovery Plan was to establish an independently chaired Recovery Oversight Group, to oversee the implementation of the recommendations in the Taskforce report and monitor the sector’s recovery from the Covid-19 crisis. I appointed the Recovery Oversight Group in December 2020 and the Group will keep me apprised of progress on the implementation of the Recovery Plan and the recovery of the sector.

The Recovery Plan makes a number of recommendations with the priority recommendations relating to the survival of the sector. Good progress has been made in introducing the following tourism-specific measures: 

- There was a record level of funding for Tourism overall, an increase of €59 million over 2020 allocation, to just under €221 million.

- Based on this allocation, a €55 million business continuity scheme was launched on 1st February by Fáilte Ireland to help strategic tourism business survive the pandemic and drive recovery. The Scheme will contribute to the fixed costs of identified tourism businesses that are not eligible for CRSS to support their survival.  It will provide an equitable level of payment to the CRSS for qualifying businesses and the first phase which was launched on 1st February will cover businesses such as tourism attractions, activity providers, and caravan and camping sites.

- The VAT rate for the Sector was reduced to 9% to help improve competitiveness and viability of businesses.

- Two separate funds of €10million each were introduced for Coach Tourism Operators and Ireland Based Inbound Agents Business Continuity Scheme in the last quarter of 2020. 

- Funding of €5 million has also been provided for upskilling training and to improve digital presence.

- A €26m adaptation fund for the tourism sector to adapt their premises to meet COVID-19 safety requirements. 

In addition, the Government has introduced a number of horizontal measures that have been of assistance to the tourism sector including the Employee Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS), the Covid Restrictions Support Scheme (CRSS), tax warehousing, and the Commercial Rates waiver, which was recently extended to the end of Q1 2021.  In regard to the CRSS, as at 28 January 2021, Revenue Commissioners’ data shows that €244m was paid out under CRSS, of which approximately 64% (€155m) . 

The measures introduced have been critical in assisting tourism businesses to survive the hugely challenging situation brought about by the pandemic. Unfortunately, the evolution of the pandemic in Ireland and elsewhere has meant that our tourism sector has remained in survival mode. Many of the remaining recommendations of the Recovery Plan are aimed at the stabilisation and recovery phase. I, along with my colleagues in Government, will keep these under review as we emerge from the survival phase and move towards recovery and look forward to the input of the Recovery Oversight Group to inform my deliberations in this regard. In addition, I will continue to work closely with my colleagues in Government to ensure that appropriate horizontal business supports are maintained in order to help tourism businesses come through this very challenging period.

Covid-19 Pandemic

Questions (245)

Chris Andrews

Question:

245. Deputy Chris Andrews asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media the reason such a high number of players of an organisation (details supplied) have been given elite athlete status and granted exemption while so many Olympic hopefuls have not received the same exemption. [5757/21]

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Written answers (Question to Tourism)

The Government's approach for all levels of sport, including high performance sport, is set out in the Resilience and Recovery 2020-2021 Plan for Living with COVID-19, published in September 2020. 

The comparatively higher number of players exempted under the Resilience and Recovery Plan in the organisation to which the Deputy refers mainly reflects the team-based nature of the sport concerned in contrast to the individual nature of most Olympic/Paralympic sports.  

The priority for high performance sport at all times throughout the Covid-19 pandemic has been to:

1. Protect the health and wellbeing of athletes and support personnel.

2. Ensure Irish athletes are not competitively disadvantaged in the build up to the Olympic and Paralympic Games, which are now due to take place in the summer of 2021.

Sport Ireland, which is funded by my Department and is the statutory body with responsibility for the development of sport, including high performance sport. With the full support of Government, Sport Ireland is working with the National Governing Bodies of sport to ensure that all those who are Olympic/Paralympic bound are able to continue to train and compete. If there are athletes who feel they have been excluded, they should raise this through their respective National Governing Body.

Covid-19 Pandemic

Questions (246)

Chris Andrews

Question:

246. Deputy Chris Andrews asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media the reason the players of an organisation (details supplied) are currently able to book sports facilities for individual training sessions while athletes training for the upcoming Olympics are denied access; and the scientific reason for same. [5758/21]

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Written answers (Question to Tourism)

In the current Level 5 restrictions, no sports training is permitted, except for individual exercise or exercise with members of your own household, within 5 km of your home. There are a number of exemptions to these restrictions, for professional, elite and high performance sport, as set out in the Resilience and Recovery Plan 2020-21: Plan for Living with COVID-19, published last September.

Sport Ireland, which is funded by my Department, is the statutory body with responsibility for the development of sport, including high performance sport. Athletes supported by the Sport Ireland International Carding Scheme and members of high performance teams funded by Sport Ireland are permitted to continue training during the current restrictions.

Sport Ireland have engaged with National Governing Bodies to ensure that athletes who have qualified or deemed likely to qualify for the Olympic and Paralympic Games have the necessary facilities to train in their specific sports. Many of these athletes are continuing to train at the Sport Ireland Campus in Blanchardstown, which has been available to high performance athletes and teams since last June. Independently-run facilities that provide a training base for high performance athletes are encouraged to remain open for this specific group of individuals, however it is a decision which lies solely with the facility itself. Each sport facility that is managed independently of Sport Ireland may develop their own policy on how they manage access to their facilities, subject to full compliance with the prevailing Government guidelines and public health requirements.

Should an athlete not have the appropriate facility in their area, athletes should engage with their National Governing Body for an optimum alternative solution.

Olympic Games

Questions (247)

Chris Andrews

Question:

247. Deputy Chris Andrews asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media if Olympic athletes will be allowed to use facilities relevant to their sport given the high level of importance facilities play in the preparation for athletes training for the upcoming Olympics. [5759/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Tourism)

Sport Ireland, which is the statutory body with responsibility for the development of sport, including high performance sport, have engaged with National Governing Bodies to ensure that athletes who have qualified or deemed likely to qualify for the Olympic and Paralympic Games have the necessary facilities to train in their specific sports. Should an athlete not have the appropriate facility in their area, athletes should in the first instance engage with their National Governing Body for an alternative solution.

Sport Ireland is fully aware of the importance of facilities in preparation for high performance sport and will therefore continue its close collaboration and cooperation with the National Governing Bodies concerned.

Covid-19 Pandemic

Questions (248)

Chris Andrews

Question:

248. Deputy Chris Andrews asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media if new criteria will be established for the classification of athletes on the Covid-19 restrictions list, for example, that in athletics the top ten athletes on the national rankings lists will be granted exemption from restrictions and allowed train and compete. [5760/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Tourism)

Sport Ireland, which is funded by my Department, is the statutory body with responsibility for the development of sport, including high performance sport. Athletes supported by the Sport Ireland International Carding Scheme and members of high performance teams funded by Sport Ireland are permitted to continue training during the current restrictions. The selection of members of the high performance team is a matter for the National Governing Body of sport concerned, and neither I nor my Department have any role in selection of these teams.

National Governing Bodies are required to ensure that their high performance programmes follow a strict protocol for the delivery of training and behind closed doors competition, as well as ongoing daily monitoring of athletes and staff. Extraordinary levels of control are in place within high performance training environments. The ability to implement and adhere to these high levels of control have ensured the continued safe operation of high performance programmes at specified venues throughout Ireland including the Sport Ireland Campus, National Rowing Centre, and the Irish Sailing Performance HQ.

Officials from my Department and Sport Ireland are in regular contact with the sporting bodies to ensure that athletes are afforded every opportunity to achieve their target of qualifying for the upcoming Olympic and Paralympic Games. Effective preparation for the Tokyo Games is a shared priority for all concerned and the existing arrangements will be kept under regular review.

Olympic Games

Questions (249)

Chris Andrews

Question:

249. Deputy Chris Andrews asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media if the high-performance director of a sport power will be granted the power to decide on the training partner requirements needed for preparation for the upcoming Olympics. [5761/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Tourism)

In the current Level 5 restrictions, no sports training is permitted, except for individual exercise or exercise with members of your own household, within 5 km of your home. There are a number of exemptions to these restrictions, for professional, elite and high performance sport, as set out in the Resilience and Recovery Plan 2020-21: Plan for Living with COVID-19, published last September.

Sport Ireland, which is funded by my Department, is the statutory body with responsibility for the development of sport, including high performance sport. Athletes supported by the Sport Ireland International Carding Scheme and members of high performance teams funded by Sport Ireland are permitted to continue training during the current restrictions. The selection of members of the high performance team is a matter for the National Governing Body of sport concerned, and neither I nor my Department have any role in selection of these teams.

Sport Ireland liaises on an ongoing basis with high performance directors in National Governing Bodies, which are required to ensure that all elements of their high performance programmes follow a strict protocol for the delivery of training and behind closed doors competition. Extraordinary levels of control are in place within high performance training environments. The ability to implement and adhere to high levels of control have ensured the continued safe operations of high performance programmes.

Effective preparation for the upcoming Olympic and Paralympic Games is a shared priority for all concerned and the existing arrangements will be kept under regular review.

Famine Artefacts

Questions (250)

Eoin Ó Broin

Question:

250. Deputy Eoin Ó Broin asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media her plans to create a permanent exhibition remembering An Gorta Mór. [5799/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Tourism)

As I have previously advised the house in response to Parliamentary Question Number 301 of 28 July last there are many local museums and other entities around the country that display material relating to the famine, such as the very significant Irish National Famine Museum at Strokestown Park, County Roscommon.

Decisions in relation to the curation and presentation of temporary or permanent exhibitions within State funded museums in Dublin are operational matters for the relevant cultural institutions or other entities concerned.

Covid-19 Pandemic

Questions (251, 252)

Chris Andrews

Question:

251. Deputy Chris Andrews asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media if the French rugby team will be quarantined on their arrival into Ireland before their game against Ireland on 14 February 2021. [5850/21]

View answer

Chris Andrews

Question:

252. Deputy Chris Andrews asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media the protocol in relation to quarantining for visiting sports teams and athletes. [5851/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Tourism)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 251 and 252 together.

I would refer the Deputy to the guidance material on international travel that has been prepared by the Expert Group on Return to Sport, established by my Department, which is available on the gov.ie website https://assets.gov.ie/86267/8a1a9675-9e01-4f3b-b3ac-4a3230b4891a.pdf

This guidance document contains details of the provisions applicable to sporting events involving visiting sports teams and athletes. This document is currently being updated to reflect the Government's recent decisions in regard to international travel.

In the specific case of the upcoming Six Nations Championship, it is worth highlighting the strict COVID-19 controls laid down by the tournament's organisers, including PCR testing for all players, officials and coaching staff. My Department and Sport Ireland are engaging with the IRFU to ensure the arrangements for travel by the Irish men's and women's teams, and by teams from the other Unions to Ireland to fulfill Six Nations fixtures, will adhere to the public health regulations and the guidance document referred to earlier. Given their success in hosting international test matches last Autumn, I would be confident that the IRFU can safely stage Six Nations matches at the Aviva Stadium in the coming weeks.

Irish Language

Questions (253)

Michael Creed

Question:

253. Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media the current entitlement of native Irish speakers to access State services through the medium of Irish; and the status of the publication of a new Irish language Bill. [5936/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Tourism)

The Official Languages Act 2003 was signed into law on 14 July 2003. The primary objective of the Act is to ensure the improved provision of public services through the Irish language.

The Act as it currently stands provides for the delivery of public services in Irish in three ways:

- through provisions of the Act which are applicable to all public bodies under the Act;

- through regulations made by the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media which again are applicable to all public bodies under the Act; and,

- through language schemes which are agreed with individual public bodies and which provide for an increase over time in the number and standard of services provided in Irish by these public bodies.

The Office of An Coimisinéir Teanga was established under the Act in 2004. The primary functions of the Office are to monitor compliance by public bodies with the provisions of the Act and to take appropriate measures to ensure such compliance.

The Official Languages (Amendment) Bill 2019, as referenced by the Deputy, was published in December 2019. The primary purpose of the Bill is to amend the Official Languages Act 2003 with a view to increasing and improving the provision of public services through the Irish language. Central to these efforts will be a series of provisions which aim to increase the number of Irish speakers recruited to the public service.

Committee Stage for the Official Languages Bill (Amendment) 2019 commenced on Friday 22

January and has still to be completed.

The Bill allows for a statutory Irish Languages Services Advisory Committee to be established to increase and improve the provision of public services through the Irish language. It is proposed that the Advisory Committee be established no later than six months after the Bill has been enacted. The functions of the Advisory Committee are laid out in the Bill and include the publication of a National Plan with the aim of increasing the amount of public services provided through the medium of Irish. It is proposed that the National Plan be prepared and provided to the Minister no later than two years after the Committee's establishment.  

This Bill provides for an overall objective of 20% of all new recruits in the public service being competent in the Irish language. It is now proposed that this be achieved no later than 2030.

Furthermore, it is proposed that the Language Commissioner will have additional powers in order to monitor provisions in other enactments relating to the use or status of the official language and to provide commentaries in the way that he or she sees fit.

The enactment of this Bill will help to strengthen the Irish language in the public sector so that high quality Irish language services will be available to the Irish speaking and Gaeltacht communities. 

Covid-19 Pandemic

Questions (254, 256, 257, 260, 286, 287, 293)

Paul Donnelly

Question:

254. Deputy Paul Donnelly asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage if the construction of an attic conversion and extension is deemed essential in cases in which it is to help provide for the educational needs of a child with additional education needs; and if this work can take place under level 5 restriction or the next phase of restrictions. [5127/21]

View answer

Neasa Hourigan

Question:

256. Deputy Neasa Hourigan asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage if he plans to extend the exemption given to housing construction in cases in which such works were scheduled to be completed by 31 January 2021 as detailed in Statutory Instrument No. 4 of 2021. [5792/21]

View answer

Brian Stanley

Question:

257. Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage if the Covid-19 restrictions will be reviewed; and if he will consult with NPHET with regard to the possibility of restarting work on individual housing one off projects. [5013/21]

View answer

Seán Haughey

Question:

260. Deputy Seán Haughey asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage if he will allow for the refurbishment or construction of single private houses that are in progress to continue beyond 1 February 2021; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5064/21]

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Neasa Hourigan

Question:

286. Deputy Neasa Hourigan asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage if the exemptions to Covid-19 restrictions in relation to construction works on private homes that are practically complete and scheduled for habitation will be extended to 5 March 2021; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5467/21]

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Dara Calleary

Question:

287. Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage if consideration will be given to allowing private home construction to recommence under the latest Covid-19 restrictions announced on 26 January 2021; if houses currently at second fix stage will be allowed to recommence and be completed; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that such homes have already been subject to two lockdowns timeframe setting back completion dates by a minimum of three months; if his attention has been further drawn to the fact that the owners of such homes are as a result of the lockdowns and delays are paying both rent and a mortgage repayments on that part of the mortgage already drawn down; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5468/21]

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Seán Canney

Question:

293. Deputy Seán Canney asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage if he will allow the reopening of construction sites for the delivery of houses in the private sector in line with the exemption for social housing sites; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5578/21]

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Written answers (Question to Housing)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 254, 256, 257, 260, 286, 287 and 293 together.

The Government announced that additional public health restrictions would apply under Level 5 of the Plan for Living with COVID-19 on 6 January 2021.  The additional restrictions required all construction activity to cease from 6pm on Friday 8 January, with a number of exceptions. These measures are set out in Health Act 1947 (Section 31A - Temporary Restrictions) (Covid-19) (No. 10) (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 2021 (S.I. No. 29 of 2021).

With regard to private housing development, the Regulations provide that housing and construction works ongoing on 8 January can continue where the works required to render the property capable of occupation are scheduled for completion by 31 January 2021.

On 26 January, the Government announced that the current level 5 restrictions will remain until 5 March 2021. Accordingly, no extension has been provided beyond 31 January in respect of private housing development. These restrictions on construction will remain in place until 5 March.

Turf Cutting

Questions Nos. 256 and 257 answered with Question No. 254.

Questions (255)

Darren O'Rourke

Question:

255. Deputy Darren O'Rourke asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage if his Department has estimated the number of persons who continue to cut turf on bogs here for domestic heating or the number of individual private holdings on bogs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5375/21]

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Written answers (Question to Housing)

I am advised that my Department has not estimated the number of persons who continue to cut turf on bogs for domestic heating or the number of individual private holdings on bogs. I would note however that there are many non designated bogs and these are outwith the ambit of the designations overseen by this Department.

My Department administers the cessation of turf cutting compensation scheme, which was established in 2011, applicable to those who had been cutting turf on 53 raised bog special areas of conservation. The scheme was extended in 2014 to include those who had been cutting turf on 36 raised bog natural heritage areas. This scheme is comprised of a payment of €1,500 per annum, index-linked, for 15 years, or relocation, where feasible, to a non-designated bog, together with a payment of €500 on the signing of a legal agreement under the scheme. 

 There are in the region of 2,600 qualifying applicants in the cessation of turf cutting compensation scheme.

Questions Nos. 256 and 257 answered with Question No. 254.

Homelessness Strategy

Questions (258)

Claire Kerrane

Question:

258. Deputy Claire Kerrane asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage if there are plans for Housing First to be rolled out by Roscommon County Council as part of the national roll-out; if Roscommon County Council has been engaged with regard to this homeless assistance approach; the way in which this process works; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5046/21]

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Written answers (Question to Housing)

Housing First enables homeless individuals with high levels of complex needs to obtain permanent secure accommodation with the provision of intensive housing and health supports to help the individuals concerned maintain their tenancies. 

The National Implementation Plan for Housing First, published in September 2018, which puts the programme on a national footing, is designed to provide this response, by delivering permanent housing solutions and associated supports for rough sleepers and long-term users of emergency accommodation. It extends the delivery of Housing First nationally, with the introduction of targets for each local authority. The Plan includes an overall target of 663 tenancies in the period 2018-2021. The implementation of the Plan is a joint initiative of the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage, the Department of Health, the HSE and the local authorities. 

In line with the National Implementation Plan, Housing First is being delivered on a regional basis by the local authorities and the HSE. Contracts for the delivery of services have been put in place in each of the nine regions responsible for the delivery of homeless services with tenancies now in place in every region. 

The Contract to deliver Housing First in the West region was initially limited to the Galway City area. 

Discussions are ongoing with representatives from the region on expanding the programme to the remainder of the West region including Roscommon where six tenancies are targeted under the National Implementation Plan. It is expected to have tenancies in place in every local authority in the coming months.

Residential Tenancies Board

Question No. 260 answered with Question No. 254.

Questions (259)

Cian O'Callaghan

Question:

259. Deputy Cian O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage if the report he requested from the Residential Tenancies Board on the eviction on Berkeley Road, Dublin 7 has been received; if so, if a copy will be provided; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5057/21]

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Written answers (Question to Housing)

On foot of my request for a report into the Berkeley Road incident, the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB) proposed to undertake broader research into unlawful terminations in the private rented sector, including the Berkeley Road incident, and provide a report on the matter.  This research is currently underway and it is expected the report will be complete in Q1 2021, once the dispute cases relating to Berkeley Road have concluded.

As these cases are currently ongoing, neither my Department nor the RTB can provide further comment.

Question No. 260 answered with Question No. 254.

Social and Affordable Housing

Questions (261)

Neale Richmond

Question:

261. Deputy Neale Richmond asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage if consideration will be given to affording more flexibility to single parents in order to access the affordable housing shared equity scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5110/21]

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Written answers (Question to Housing)

The Programme for Government, ‘Our Shared Future’, commits to putting affordability at the heart of the housing system, and to progress a state-backed affordable home purchase scheme to promote home ownership.  As part of these commitments,  Budget 2021 allocated €75 million for the Affordable Purchase Shared Equity Scheme.

On the 20th January last, I published the General Scheme of the Affordable Housing Bill 2020. This provides the legislative basis for a number of new affordable housing measures, one of which is the aforementioned Affordable Purchase Shared Equity Scheme. The Government approved the priority drafting of the Bill, and my Department is working closely with partners in Government to advance this legislation.

The scheme will be targeted at first time buyers of new build homes.  The more detailed design aspects of the scheme, including eligibility criteria, is currently ongoing, and will be informed by our continued engagement with all relevant stakeholders.