Covid-19 Pandemic

Questions (1034)

Matt Carthy

Question:

1034. Deputy Matt Carthy asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if construction in the interests of animal welfare or the essential operation of a farm are permissible under the current level 5 restrictions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7324/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

In the interests of public health, the Government decided on 26th January, that the Level 5 restrictions, introduced on 31st December 2020, will now stay in place until at least 5 March 2021.

This means that construction, apart from certain exceptions listed here on Gov.ie must remain closed. Essential repairs may be permissible where this is necessary for animal welfare reasons. Where alternative arrangements to manage animal welfare are available, the works should not proceed.

Departmental Equipment

Questions (1035)

Richard Bruton

Question:

1035. Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the current applications of alcohol-based hand sanitiser to the pesticide control division for biocidal product registration awaiting approval by date of application. [7386/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

Currently, there are a total of 445 human hygiene products registered with this Department, of which 274 are alcohol based products. Information on these products is available to the public via the Biocidal Products Register published on the Department’s Pesticide Registration and Control Divisions website.

A further 198 applications have been received for alcohol based hand sanitisers. One hundred and twenty seven of these applications are currently being processed by the Pesticide Controls Division and are various stages of processing. Eleven applications are pending processing.

A further 60 applications have an outstanding registration fee required before processing can commence.

Common Agricultural Policy

Questions (1036)

Holly Cairns

Question:

1036. Deputy Holly Cairns asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the proposals he has made to the EU regarding Common Agricultural Policy negotiations to ensure that the next round of funding will be used to promote improved animal welfare on farms as is committed to in the programme for Government; the amount of funding that will be available to address animal welfare issues on farms in Ireland in 2021; the way in which it will it be distributed; the agency that will be responsible for implementing and monitoring animal welfare improvements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7458/21]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The Council of Ministers reached agreement on the General Approach on the CAP in late October 2020. It is important to note that this overall position, which I supported, includes a number of specific objectives for the new CAP, including achieving better responses to societal demands for improved animal welfare. It should also be noted that Ireland has the highest standards of animal welfare. It should also be noted that the final agreement on the CAP is dependent on the outcome of trilogue negotiations between the Council, European Parliament and Commission, which commenced in November and are likely to run for some months.

My Department is fully committed to delivering on the Programme for Government commitments to support the development of high-welfare pig and poultry production systems, as well as mainstreaming animal welfare across Teagasc and my Department’s education and research programmes.

The newly established Animal Welfare Division is committing resources to on-farm animal welfare inspections, as well as inspections at marts - in particular where calves are sold - and in slaughter plants, where welfare indicators will be recorded in ante-mortem and post-mortem data collection

The Animal Welfare, Safety and Nutrient Storage Scheme is one of the seven capital investment measures available under the Targeted Agricultural Modernisation Scheme (TAMS II). This capital investment measure specifically provides for funding for the welfare of cattle and sheep. To date, in excess of €40.8m has been spent on investments.

In addition, in excess of €1.58m has been spent on investments under the Pig and Poultry Investment Scheme. The investment ceiling under this measure will be increased from €80,000 to €200,000 and will include some additional animal welfare conditionality. The main investments for calf welfare previously available under the Calf Investment Scheme (CIS), which has resulted in a spend of over €1.77m to date, are now also available under TAMS II.

Animal Breeding Regulations

Questions (1037)

Holly Cairns

Question:

1037. Deputy Holly Cairns asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the measures he plans to take to regulate the breeding, ownership, sale or supply of exotic species; when he plans to introduce legislation to that effect; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7459/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

In line with the commitment in the Programme for Government and the initiative identified in the recently-launched Animal Welfare Strategy 2021-2025, my Department will take the lead in establishing an independently chaired inter-departmental group to ensure a coherent national approach to policy and regulation related to exotic animals.

The focus of the group will be on regulating the keeping, breeding and trading of exotic animals. It is expected that work will begin on the initiative this spring.

Animal Welfare

Questions (1038)

Holly Cairns

Question:

1038. Deputy Holly Cairns asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the additional urban horse welfare programmes he will introduce in 2021 as per the Programme for Government; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7460/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

My Department continues to support a number of urban horse projects nationwide, supporting with infrastructure and bringing education on all aspects of equine welfare to disadvantaged areas and I intend to provide for further additional supports in urban areas.

My officials work with and support local authorities and NGOs in progressing urban projects and there are currently projects at every stage from the initial feasibility and planning stages to the operating stage around the country. I have asked my officials to prioritise urban horse welfare in the context of the recently-launched Animal Welfare Strategy 2021-2025.

Local Authority Funding

Questions (1039)

Imelda Munster

Question:

1039. Deputy Imelda Munster asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development her plans to fund local authorities to ensure that they have sufficient council owned dog pound facilities which can be run either by the council or by outside providers using council owned facilities to ensure satisfactory dog pound services exist in each local authority and to ensure that these services are not reliant on local private providers; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6989/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Rural)

The Control of Dogs Acts place statutory responsibility for dog control on local authorities. Under the Acts, local authorities are responsible for operating and managing dog control and licensing services in their administrative areas, including the management of dog pounds or shelters, and my Department has no involvement in this process.

Section 15(2) of the 1986 Act empowers local authorities to enter into arrangements with any person for the provision and maintenance of dog pounds or shelters and for the exercise by any such persons of the functions of the local authority under the Act in respect of the acceptance, detention, disposal and destruction of stray or unwanted dogs. Furthermore, section 15(3) of the 1986 Act empowers local authorities to enter into arrangements with any other local authority, or with the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ISPCA), or with a person connected with animal welfare, for the exercise of all or any of its functions, other than its functions under Section 17 or Section 30 of the Act.

The procurement of any service in that regard, therefore, is a matter for each local authority and the management and operation of such pounds or shelters are matters solely for the relevant local authority.

My Department does not provide funding for the provision and maintenance of shelters for dogs. Local authorities finance their dog control service from general income, including income accruing through dog licence fees, on-the-spot fines, pound fees etc.

Cuanta agus Céanna

Questions (1040)

Catherine Connolly

Question:

1040. D'fhiafraigh Deputy Catherine Connolly den Aire Forbartha Tuaithe agus Pobail cén dul chun cinn atá déanta ó thaobh plean gnó maidir le forbairt na cé ar Inis Oírr; an bhfuil an plean gnó críochnaithe; an bhfuil sé faofa ag a Roinn; an bhfuil cóip de ar fáil; agus an ndéanfaidh sí ráiteas ina thaobh. [6549/21]

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Written answers (Question to Rural)

Tá mó Roinn agus Comhairle Chontae na Gaillimhe théis a bheith ag obair go leanúnach chun baill chríoch a chur leis an chás gnó don fhorbairt ar Ché Inis Oírr. Tá leagan críochnúil don chás gnó faighte ag an Roinn anois. Tá seo á scrúdú anois ag oifigigh na Roinne agus tá súil é a bheidh faofa go luath.

Ach é seo a bheith déanta, táthar ag súil go mbeadh an Roinn agus an Comhairle Chontae ábalta gluiseach ar aghaidh agus tairiscintí a lorg do forbairt na céibhe.

CLÁR Programme

Questions (1041)

David Stanton

Question:

1041. Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development when the 2021 CLÁR programme will be launched; the new measures being considered for inclusion in the 2021 programme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6577/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Rural)

The CLÁR programme provides funding for small scale projects in designated rural areas that have experienced significant levels of de-population.

Since the programme was relaunched in 2016, it has provided funding of almost €39 million for over 1,600 projects under a range of different Measures including:

- Safety measures around schools and community facilities

- Outdoor play facilities

- Local Access Roads

- Targeted Community Infrastructure needs

- First Response support measures

- Support for Mobility and Cancer Care transport

- Community Recreation Areas

- Meals on Wheels and linked services.

The Measures to be included in the CLÁR programme are reviewed and revised, if appropriate, each year. The 2020 Measures placed a focus on supporting communities to respond to the impact of COVID-19.

I am currently considering the Measures for inclusion in the 2021 programme and details of the Measures to be supported this year will be announced when the programme is launched.

Recognising the importance of the CLÁR programme to some of our remotest rural areas, I secured a 10% increase in funding for the scheme this year, bringing the allocation up to €5.5 million for 2021.

Flexible Work Practices

Questions (1042)

Emer Higgins

Question:

1042. Deputy Emer Higgins asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the progress on developing remote hubs which will have an enduring benefit to the country; if access to broadband is an impediment to developing hubs; if so, if steps are being taken to remedy the matter; and if the national broadband plan is relevant to same. [6654/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Rural)

The increased shift to remote working as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic has given us the opportunity for a greater regional distribution of jobs and to support a better quality of life for many people who previously spent many hours in long commutes.

Remote working has the potential to transform rural Ireland, allowing people to build careers in good quality jobs while continuing to live closer to home, and to generate increased economy in activity in our rural towns.

Building on an initiative by the Western Development Commission in developing a network of remote working and co-working hubs along the western seaboard, a Working Group chaired by the Secretary General of my Department was established last October to oversee the development of a Hub Network on a national scale. The first phase of the Group’s work is to identify, map, survey and classify the various remote working facilities available throughout the country

This work, which is currently under way, will lead to the establishment of an integrated network of remote working facilities with shared back-office services and a common booking engine for hub users. I expect to be in a position to outline the results of this work over the course of the year.

Access to reliable high speed broadband is crucial to the development of remote working facilities. However, I understand that there are already over 450 hubs throughout the country, in both urban and rural locations, who are providing these services. Commercial suppliers have invested in improved broadband provision in recent years, while the National Broadband Plan has begun to be rolled out in State Intervention areas where commercial provision is not considered to be viable.

My Department has invested over €50 million in remote working facilities since 2016 through the Town and Village Renewal Scheme and the Rural Regeneration and Development Fund. Investment has also been made in remote working infrastructure and connectivity through the Broadband Connection Points (BCP) initiative.

A further €5 million has been allocated to the Town and Village Renewal Scheme this year to support the development of remote working infrastructure at hubs and BCPs throughout the country and I hope to be in a positon to announce details of this funding stream shortly.

Broadband Infrastructure

Questions (1043)

Emer Higgins

Question:

1043. Deputy Emer Higgins asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the progress on the development of broadband connection points in which her Department played a key role in the identification of locations; and if the number of broadband connection points is being increased. [6655/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Rural)

The Broadband Connection Points (BCPs) initiative will see approximately 300 publicly accessible sites provided with a temporary high-speed broadband connection by National Broadband Ireland (NBI), the company contracted to deliver the National Broadband Plan (NBP). These sites will be in rural and isolated areas, including many off-shore islands.

Typically, BCPs are community centres, sports clubs and libraries that will make indoor and outdoor internet access available to the public. The sites are identified by the Local Authority Broadband Officers.

After a site survey and if considered suitable, BCPs are provided with a high-speed wireless connection by National Broadband Ireland (NBI), the company contracted to deliver the NBP in the State intervention area. Vodafone Ireland then install the customer premises equipment (control boxes/switches and wifi access points) which enables broadband services to be provided.

To date, 266 sites have been identified for site surveys and installation. Installation is being progressed at 143 sites, with 123 BCPs declared 'live', meaning that both the initial connectivity and the customer facing equipment has been installed, tested and shown to be performing as required.

As new sites are connected every day, this number will rise rapidly. The locations of all planned and live BCPs can be found on the website of NBI at https://nbi.ie/broadband-connection-points/.

At this point, the majority of sites for inclusion in the BCP project have been identified and the installation programme is at an advanced stage. Notwithstanding this, there remains a small amount of capacity for additional sites.

Potential BCP locations should be discussed with the relevant Local Authority Broadband Officer who will offer advice and help coordinate an application. Contact details for the Local Authority Broadband Officers are available at: https://assets.gov.ie/3908/061218122032-88ceac03820f4db6b6807c6178f5c2b4.pdf

While the BCPs are an important element of the National Broadband Plan in their own right, the objective is that that they will become long-term community assets, providing for a multitude of local needs as they develop over the coming years, beyond the completion of the NBP rollout.

In this context, my officials are designing a suite of programmes, underpinned by the connectivity at BCPs, to develop remote working, eHealth, education and training, and arts and culture projects.

Local Improvement Scheme

Questions (1044)

Niamh Smyth

Question:

1044. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the status of the local improvement scheme; if further funding will be allocated to this scheme to clear the backlog; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6761/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Rural)

The Local Improvement Scheme, or LIS, is a programme for improvement works on small private or non-public roads in rural areas which are not under the normal maintenance of the Local Authorities. It is funded by my Department and administered through the relevant Local Authorities.

Since the LIS was re-launched in 2017, over €58 million has been allocated for improvement works on over 2,300 qualifying roads. It has significantly improved access in rural areas, benefitting over 10,000 people.

An allocation of €10 million was available for the scheme in 2020 and this allocation has been fully drawn down following completion of the scheduled road improvements.

I secured an increase in the budget for the LIS this year, recognizing that many counties have a list of eligible roads that still require improvement works. The budget for 2021 is €10.5 million, and increase of 5%.

I will launch this year's scheme shortly and will announce the funding distribution to each Local Authority at that stage.

Outdoor Recreation Infrastructure Scheme

Questions (1045, 1046)

Brendan Griffin

Question:

1045. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development when she expects to announce the next recipients of funding under measures 2 and 3 of the outdoor recreation and infrastructure scheme; if a project (details supplied) in County Kerry will be given particular consideration due to the relative impact and proven significant economic spin-off associated with it; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6837/21]

View answer

Brendan Griffin

Question:

1046. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development when she expects to announce the next recipients of funding under measures 2 and 3 of the outdoor recreation and infrastructure scheme; if a project (details supplied) in County Kerry will be given strong consideration due to the large numbers of persons who visit the general vicinity and an anticipated spike in visitors in summer 2021 due to strong domestic tourism; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6838/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Rural)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 1045 and 1046 together.

The Outdoor Recreation Infrastructure Scheme (ORIS) provides funding for the development and/or enhancement of outdoor recreational infrastructure such as cycleways, walking trails, blueways and mountain access routes in rural areas. Since 2016, my Department has invested almost €55.2 million in over 920 projects across Ireland under the scheme.

The 2020 scheme was launched on the 29 May last in collaboration with Fáilte Ireland, with an indicative budget of €10 million. Project applications were accepted under three Measures under the 2020 scheme, as follows:

- Measure 1 for small-scale projects requiring funding of up to €20,000,

- Measure 2 for medium-scale projects with funding of up to €200,000, and

- Measure 3 for large-scale projects seeking funding of up to €500,000.

The closing date for receipt of applications under Measure 1 was the 30 September 2020 and I recently announced details of 174 successful projects under this Measure to a value of almost €3.2 million. These included 10 projects in Co. Kerry to a value of over €191,000.

The closing date for Measure 2 and Measure 3 projects was the 30 November 2020. My Department received over 90 applications under these two Measures and my officials are currently completing the assessment process on those projects.

I can confirm that applications have been received from Kerry County Council for the projects referred to by the Deputy. These applications will be assessed in line with the scheme criteria, along with all the other applications received.

I hope to be in a position to announce the successful projects shortly, when the assessment process is complete.

National Volunteering Strategy

Questions (1047)

Cormac Devlin

Question:

1047. Deputy Cormac Devlin asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the progress made by the national advisory group on the national volunteering strategy and the implementation of same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6954/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Rural)

I am pleased to advise that the National Volunteering Strategy was launched on the 5 December last, which coincided with International Volunteering Day. The purpose of the Strategy is to recognise, support and promote the unique value and contribution of volunteers to Irish society. It provides an opportunity for Government to acknowledge how important volunteering is to the well-being of the nation and to steer the delivery of an agreed and ambitious vision for the future of volunteering in Ireland.

The Strategy comprises five high level objectives, with 56 associated actions and it outlines a whole-of-government framework to support the volunteering environment.

As provided for in the Strategy, my Department is in the process of forming the Volunteering Strategy Implementation Group, which will be drawn from various stakeholders across the sector. This group will assist my Department in implementing the actions contained in the Strategy over the next five years, and will monitor and evaluate progress on delivery.

Town and Village Renewal Scheme

Questions (1048)

Niamh Smyth

Question:

1048. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development her plans to broaden the town and village renewal scheme funding to towns with a population over 10,000 for Covid-19 measures (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7053/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Rural)

The regeneration and revitalisation of our rural towns and villages is a key priority for my Department. Since 2016, my Department has invested almost €93 million in over 1,300 projects under the Town and Village Renewal Scheme.

A budget of €20 million has been allocated for an expanded Town and Village Renewal Scheme this year - an increase of €5 million, or 33%, on 2020. This increase will allow for the development of remote working facilities in town centres, which will help increase footfall and economic activity.

In the main, the Town and Village Renewal Scheme funds rural towns with a population of less than 10,000 people and the majority of projects have focused on towns of less than 5,000 people.

Under the Government's July Stimulus Package in 2020, additional funding was provided to the Town and Village Renewal Scheme which permitted my Department to fund towns with a population above 10,000 as an exceptional measure, to help them introduce initiatives in response to COVID-19.

The eligibility criteria for the 2021 Town and Village Renewal Scheme are currently under consideration by my Department, and will take in to account the learnings from 2020. A final decision on the criteria will be made shortly, in advance of the launch of the scheme.

LEADER Programmes

Questions (1049)

James Browne

Question:

1049. Deputy James Browne asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the position on the funding of LEADER; the way in which funds are allocated to LEADER; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7196/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Rural)

LEADER is a rural development programme co-funded by the EU which operates a locally-led, bottom-up, approach to meeting the needs of local communities and businesses. The programme supports private enterprises and community groups in rural areas.

The 2014-2020 LEADER programme for Ireland had an allocation of €250 million, including a contribution of approx. 63% from the EU. Funding is delivered by 29 Local Action Groups (LAGs) in 28 sub-regional areas.

Due to a delay in agreeing the post-2020 EU Budget, the next EU LEADER programme will not commence until 2023. To bridge the gap to the start of the next programme, in December 2020 I announced details of a Transitional LEADER Programme which will come into effect from 1st. April 2021, with an initial allocation of €20 million this year. I also extended the deadline for project approvals under the 2014-2020 programme to 31st. March 2021.

Of the €20 million funding under the Transitional Programme, €15 million is available for new project activity, with €5 million available for the costs of the LAGs associated with administration and project animation.

The distribution of the €20 million to each LAG is based, pro-rata, on the allocations received by each LAG at the outset of the 2014-2020 programme. The allocation of the funding to each LAG is available at: https://www.gov.ie/en/press-release/c44cc-minister-humphreys-announces-details-of-transitional-leader-programme/.

Additional Administration funding of approximately €7 million is also being provided to the LAGs in 2021 for the on-going management and delivery of the 2014-2020 LEADER projects.

Town and Village Renewal Scheme

Questions (1050)

Ruairí Ó Murchú

Question:

1050. Deputy Ruairí Ó Murchú asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the expected timeframe for the announcement of details in relation to the funding stream for the town and village renewal scheme, specifically the investment in remote working facilities at hubs and BCPs; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7238/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Rural)

Remote, or connected working has the potential to transform rural Ireland, allowing people to pursue careers in good quality jobs while continuing to live in their local communities. It also has the potential to encourage more people to move to the regions, to provide increased trade for local businesses and to revitalise our rural towns.

A number of Government Departments and agencies have provided investment for the development of remote working facilities over the last number of years. My own Department has invested over €50 million in these facilities since 2016 through the Town and Village Renewal Scheme and the Rural Regeneration and Development Fund.

My Department has also invested in remote working infrastructure and connectivity through the Broadband Connection Points (BCP) initiative.

I have secured an additional €5 million under the Town and Village Renewal Scheme this year to support the development of remote working infrastructure at hubs and BCPs throughout the country. I hope to be in a position to announce details of this funding stream shortly.

Broadband Infrastructure

Questions (1051)

Ruairí Ó Murchú

Question:

1051. Deputy Ruairí Ó Murchú asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the number of additional BCP programme applications received per local authority area to date; the average waiting time for assessment and approval; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7239/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Rural)

Broadband Connection Points (BCPs) are among the first premises to be connected in the State intervention area under the National Broadband Plan (NBP). They are publicly accessible premises, such as community centres, libraries and sports clubs in more isolated or remote rural areas, including some of our off-shore islands.

At this point, the majority of sites for inclusion in the BCP project have been identified and the installation programme is at an advanced stage. The intention is to have approximately 300 sites connected in the coming months. Notwithstanding this, there remains a small amount of capacity for additional sites. In general terms, a potential BCP will:

- be located within the NBP State intervention area;

- be a publicly accessible site with the potential for indoor and outdoor use;

- have adequate public liability insurance in place;

- show clear potential for public benefit.

Potential additional BCP locations should be discussed with the relevant Local Authority Broadband Officer who will offer advice and help coordinate an application. Contact details for the Local Authority Broadband Officers are available at: https://www.gov.ie/en/collection/215136-mobile-phone-and-broadband-taskforce/#broadband-officers-contact-list

On receipt of a completed application, officials at my Department make an initial assessment based on a number of factors, including location and proximity to similar facilities, proposed use of the site, local needs, community involvement, and the long-term viability of BCP services at the site. This assessment takes place within days of receipt.

When an application passes this phase, it is forwarded to officials at the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications for cost and viability assessments. This process can take a number of weeks as a physical survey must also be carried out before a final determination can be made on a premises's suitability for use as a BCP.

Details of all installed and planned BCPs are available at https://nbi.ie/bcp-map/. It should be noted that this is a constantly evolving situation and subject to change. Sites may be removed from the list if they are passed by commercial operators or become unavailable for other reasons. New sites are also regularly identified, assessed and approved for inclusion.

For example, in the last six months, my Department has received a total of 91 additional applications, of which 68 have been provisionally approved, subject to site surveys. Sites that were not approved did not meet the requirements outlined above and/or where the survey could not identify a viable solution.

Details of the additional sites by county are provided on the table below. The total number of approved BCPs at this point in time is 266.

County

Confirmed BCPs at Aug 2020

Additional applications received since Aug. 2020

Additional applications approved

Total approved/provisionally approved

Carlow

5

4

3

8

Cavan

11

1

1

12

Clare

5

2

2

7

Cork Co

17

1

1

18

Donegal

11

1

1

12

Dublin DLR

1

1

Dublin Fingal

4

3

3

7

Dublin SDCC

1

1

Galway Co

7

13

12

19

Kerry

9

9

Kildare

4

4

Kilkenny

6

6

Laois

4

9

0

4

Leitrim

8

3

3

11

Limerick

2

22

12

14

Longford

8

8

Louth

7

7

Mayo

10

5

5

15

Meath

9

7

6

15

Monaghan

12

3

3

15

Offaly

7

3

2

9

Roscommon

8

8

Sligo

5

2

2

7

Tipperary

8

10

10

18

Waterford

4

4

Westmeath

6

1

1

7

Wexford

10

10

Wicklow

9

1

1

10

198

91

68

266

Broadband Infrastructure

Questions (1052)

Ruairí Ó Murchú

Question:

1052. Deputy Ruairí Ó Murchú asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the persons and entities that can make an application to the BCP programme. [7240/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Rural)

Broadband Connection Points (BCPs) are among the first premises to be connected in the State intervention area under the National Broadband Plan (NBP). They are publicly accessible premises, in more isolated or remote rural areas, including some of our off-shore islands.

The BCPs will make onsite broadband access available for a variety of uses, such as remote working, remote study, eHealth, education and training, arts and culture, and general community use. To date, sites that have been selected as BCPs are situated in community centres, libraries and sports clubs.

At this point, the majority of sites for inclusion in the BCP project have been identified and the installation programme is at an advanced stage. The intention is to have approximately 300 sites connected in the coming months.

Notwithstanding this, there remains a small amount of capacity for additional sites. In the first instance, potential BCP locations should be discussed with the relevant Local Authority Broadband Officer who will offer advice and help coordinate an application. Contact details for the Local Authority Broadband Officers are available at: https://assets.gov.ie/3908/061218122032-88ceac03820f4db6b6807c6178f5c2b4.pdf

In general terms, a potential BCP will:

- be located within the NBP State intervention area;

- be a publicly accessible site with the potential for indoor and outdoor use;

- have adequate public liability insurance in place;

- show clear potential for public benefit.

On receipt of a completed application, officials at my Department make an initial assessment based on a number of factors, including location and proximity to similar facilities, proposed use of the site, local needs, community involvement, and the long-term viability of BCP services at the site.

If an application passes this phase, it is forwarded to officials at the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications for cost and viability assessments. A physical survey must also be carried out before a final determination can be made on the premises’s suitability for use as a BCP.