Driver Test

Questions (111)

Darren O'Rourke

Question:

111. Deputy Darren O'Rourke asked the Minister for Transport the number of car driver tests cancelled due to bad weather in 2019 and 2020; the number of car driver tests cancelled with no reason given; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8726/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Transport)

The details requested are held by the Road Safety Authority. I have therefore referred this question to the Authority for direct reply. I would ask the Deputy to contact my office if a response has not been received within ten days.

Electric Vehicles

Questions (112, 113)

Darren O'Rourke

Question:

112. Deputy Darren O'Rourke asked the Minister for Transport the number of electric vehicle charging points in each county in 2021; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8727/21]

View answer

Darren O'Rourke

Question:

113. Deputy Darren O'Rourke asked the Minister for Transport the funding allocated in 2020 to fund the construction of electric vehicle charging points; the budget and target number of completions for each of the years 2021 to 2025; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8728/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Transport)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 112 and 113 together.

Government is fully committed to supporting a significant expansion and modernisation of the electric vehicle charging network over the coming years.

We have committed €10 million from the Climate Action Fund to promote the charging network and this has leveraged a further €10 million investment from ESB. This intervention alone will result in:

- 90 additional high power chargers (150kW), each capable of charging two vehicles

- 52 additional fast chargers (50kW), which may replace existing 22 kW standard chargers

- 264 replacement standard chargers (22kW) with more modern technology and with each consisting of two charge points

The project is due to be completed in 2022.

In light of the ESB eCars responsibility in the matter of the number of charge points provided by county, I have forward the Deputy's question to the ESB for direct response. Please contact my Office if no reply is received within 10 working days.

In addition to the ESB project, my Department also provides support through the SEAI Public Charge Point Scheme which has been in place since September 2019 to provide funding to local authorities for the development of on-street public chargers. The primary focus of this scheme is to provide support for the installation of infrastructure which will facilitate those EV owners who do not have access to a private parking space but rely on parking their vehicles on public streets, by enabling them to charge their EVs near their homes. A total of 75% of the capital costs is provided through a grant, up to a maximum of €5,000 per charge point.

My Department will continue to support this scheme through the grants provided by SEAI and in parallel is also developing a charging infrastructure strategy, in line with the Programme for Government, which will ensure capacity keeps ahead of demand.

Combined with an effective public charging network, Ireland's home charging policy will help sustain and service the expected growth of electric vehicles on Irish roads. Charging while at home accounts for around 80% of electric vehicle charging in Ireland and it is best practice, internationally, to promote home charging as the most common and cheapest form of charging. To support home charging, the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI), on behalf of my Department, administers an EV Home Charger Grant of up to €600 towards the purchase and installation of an EV home charger unit.

Budget 2020 saw the allocation of €6m to fund the construction of EV charge points with an extra €1m being allocated in 2021. In 2021, Government are funding the installation of home chargers, public charge points and destination chargers. The budget breakdown for 2021 is as follows;

- €3m for home charging to support the provision of 5,000 chargers including the installation of charge points in apartment blocks

- €2m to support 400 public charge points

- €2m for the provision of destination chargers

Public Transport

A referred reply was forwarded to the Deput

under Standing Order 51

Questions (114)

Darren O'Rourke

Question:

114. Deputy Darren O'Rourke asked the Minister for Transport the estimated cost of converting public transport vehicles including buses and trains from fossil fuels to greener alternatives for each of the years 2021 to 2025; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8729/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Transport)

As Minister for Transport, I have responsibility for policy and overall funding in relation to public transport. The National Transport Authority (NTA) has statutory responsibility for the planning and development of certain public transport infrastructure, including fleet procurement.

Noting the NTA's responsibility in the matter, I have referred the Deputy's question to the NTA for a direct reply. Please contact my private office if you do not receive a reply within 10 days.

A referred reply was forwarded to the Deputy under Standing Order 51

Driver Test

Questions (115)

Darren O'Rourke

Question:

115. Deputy Darren O'Rourke asked the Minister for Transport if his attention has been drawn to the fact that essential worker learner drivers cannot complete their mandatory EDT lessons if they do not have a driver test date booked and cannot book a driver test without the 12 mandatory EDT lessons complete; if he will address this anomaly; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8730/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Transport)

The provision of driving instruction has been defined in legislation introduced by my colleague, the Minister for Health, as an essential service that may continue under level 5 restrictions, albeit in extremely limited circumstances.

Approved Driving Instructors (ADIs) may continue to provide lessons , but only in such circumstances where the learner in question has already completed their required modules and has been scheduled a test date.

While I fully appreciate the inconvenience this poses to learners who have not yet completed their training, I am sure the Deputy will agree with me that the limiting of the spread of the virus and the safeguarding of public health must take first priority here. It is critically important that everyone in Ireland adhere to public health advice to stay at home where possible unless it is absolutely essential to go out.

Driver Licences

Questions (116)

James Lawless

Question:

116. Deputy James Lawless asked the Minister for Transport the reason for the delay in relation to the driver licence application by a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8733/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Transport)

All enquires relating to driver licensing are handled by the National Driver Licence Service (NDLS), provided by the Road Safety Authority (RSA). My Department does not have access to individual applications.

I have forwarded the Deputy's query to the RSA for direct reply. If he has not heard from them in 10 working days I would ask that he contact my office directly.

Driver Licences

Question No. 118 answered with Question No. 90.

Questions (117)

Niall Collins

Question:

117. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Transport if he will address a matter raised in correspondence (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8737/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Transport)

A person must be resident in Ireland to apply for an Irish driving licence. Where a person is living abroad and working on a task of a definite duration or attending a college or university generally, they can be thought of as resident in Ireland provided they have personal ties here.

In such cases, an application to renew a driving licence can be made by post to the Road Safety Authority (RSA). Details of how to apply can be found on the National Driver Licence Service (NDLS) website here: https://www.ndls.ie/licensed-driver/driving-abroad.html#are-you-living-abroad-to-study-or-working-abroad-to-carry-out-a-task-of-a-definite-duration

An Irish driving licence can be renewed up to 10 years after the date of expiry. A person living abroad can renew their licence if they return to Ireland to reside here within that timeframe.

Question No. 118 answered with Question No. 90.

Departmental Contracts

Questions (119)

Seán Sherlock

Question:

119. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Transport the contracts for public relations advice and consultancy entered into by his Department over the cost of €10,000 since January 2021; the nature of the contract; and the length of the contract in tabular form. [8902/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Transport)

The information requested by the Deputy is currently being collated by my officials and a reply will issue to the Deputy within 10 days.

Cycling Policy

A referred reply was forwarded to the Deput

under Standing Order 51

Questions (120)

Seán Sherlock

Question:

120. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Transport if an application has been made for the expansion of the public bike scheme in Cork, Galway and Limerick in 2021. [8903/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Transport)

As Minister for Transport, I have responsibility for policy and overall funding in relation to cycling and public transport infrastructure. However, I am not involved in the day-to-day operations of the management of public bike schemes. Details regarding contracts, operation and expansion of existing and proposed bike schemes fall under the remit of the National Transport Authority (NTA) working in conjunction with the relevant local authorities.

Noting the NTA's responsibilites in the matter, I have referred your question to the NTA for a more detailed reply . Please advise my private office if you do not receive a reply within 10 working days

A referred reply was forwarded to the Deputy under Standing Order 51

Ministerial Communications

Questions (121)

Seán Sherlock

Question:

121. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Transport if there has been any contact with his counterpart in the United States'. [8922/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Transport)

I have not yet had the opportunity to engage with my newly-appointed counterpart, the U.S. Secretary of Transportation, Mr. Pete Buttigieg, since his appointment on 3 February 2021. However, I note that arrangements for a courtesy call with the recently-appointed Chargé d'Affaires in the U.S. Embassy, Ms. Alexandra McKnight, are currently being finalised by my private office.With regard to engagement with my counterpart in the previous U.S. administration, I confirm that no bilateral meeting has taken place since my appointment as Minister, however, both I and the former U.S. Secretary of Transportation, Ms. Elaine Chao, took part in the virtual meeting of the World Economic Forum's Stewardship Board of the Platform on Shaping the Future of Mobility on 14 September 2020.

I also held a call with former U.S. Ambassador to Ireland, Mr. Edward F. Crawford, on 15th October last, where issues relating to Covid-19 and international travel between Ireland and the United States were discussed.

Trade Union Recognition

A referred reply was forwarded to the Deput

under Standing Order 51

Questions (122)

Brian Stanley

Question:

122. Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Transport if his attention has been drawn to the fact that companies doing contract work for Iarnród Éireann are refusing to recognise trade unions representing their workers and may be in breach of the suppliers covenants with Iarnród Éireann; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8939/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Transport)

As the Minister for Transport, I have responsibility for policy and overall funding in relation to public transport. However, I am not involved in the operations of public transport.

The issue raised is an operational matter for Iarnród Éireann and I have forwarded the Deputy's question to the company for direct reply.

Please advise my private office if you do not receive a response within ten working days.

A referred reply was forwarded to the Deputy under Standing Order 51

National Transport Authority

A referred reply was forwarded to the Deput

under Standing Order 51

Questions (123)

Thomas Gould

Question:

123. Deputy Thomas Gould asked the Minister for Transport if local authorities applied for funding for specific projects under the sustainable transport fund; if these submissions are to be published; the projects submitted by Cork City Council; and the outcome of each in tabular form. [8947/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Transport)

As Minister for Transport, I have responsibility for policy and overall funding in relation to public transport infrastructure. The National Transport Authority (NTA) is responsible for the allocation of project specific funding of the type described by the Deputy to individual local authorities.

Noting the NTA's responsibility in the matter, I have referred the Deputy's question to the NTA for amore detailed reply. Please advise my private office if you do not receive a reply within 10 working days.

A referred reply was forwarded to the Deputy under Standing Order 51

Driver Test

Questions (124)

Pearse Doherty

Question:

124. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Transport the reason a person (details supplied) in County Donegal has been informed by the RSA that they need to complete three further tests before they are issued with their CPC driver qualification card; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8954/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Transport)

All enquires relating to driver certificates of professional competence (CPC) are handled by the Road Safety Authority (RSA). My Department does not have access to individual applications.

I have forwarded the Deputy's query to the RSA for direct reply. If he has not heard from them in 10 working days I would ask that he contact my office directly.

National Transport Authority

A referred reply was forwarded to the Deput

under Standing Order 51

Questions (125)

Seán Sherlock

Question:

125. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Transport the number of applications for a sustainable transport allocation received by his Department from a local authority (details supplied). [8991/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Transport)

As Minister for Transport, I have responsibility for policy and overall funding in relation to public transport infrastructure. The National Transport Authority (NTA) is responsible for the allocation of project specific funding of the type described by the Deputy to individual local authorities.

Noting the NTA's responsibility in the matter, I have referred the Deputy's question to the NTA for amore detailed reply. Please advise my private office if you do not receive a reply within 10 working days.

A referred reply was forwarded to the Deputy under Standing Order 51

Electric Vehicles

Questions (126)

Seán Sherlock

Question:

126. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Transport the engagement he has had with insurance companies and representatives regarding the legislation on e-scooters and e-bikes. [8992/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Transport)

In line with the Programme for Government, I intend to legislate to address escooters and similar vehicles, and also ebikes. This will be done via amendments which I will introduce to the Road Traffic (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill during its passage through the Oireachtas.

It is my intention that escooters and other such vehicles - which will be classed as 'powered personal transporters' (PPTs) - will be treated more like bicycles than like mechanically propelled vehicles, and will not be required to have insurance. The same will be the case with ebikes.

I have recently written to the key stakeholders with responsibilities in this area outlining the approach being taken to the regulation of PPTs so that they can assess the proposals and give informed comments and among those i have written to are Insurance Ireland and the Motor Insurance Bureau of Ireland. I understand that the insurance industry did also offer submissions to a consultation on escooters carried out by my Department under my predecessor.

Driver Test

Questions (127)

Seán Sherlock

Question:

127. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Transport if he is in receipt of plans from the Road SafteA to resolve the driver test backlog; and if so, the funding required. [8993/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Transport)

My Department is in constant contact with the Road Safety Authority since the start of the pandemic regarding all of its services, the impact of Covid-19 on those services, and how they can best be maintained in the current circumstances.

Due to suspension of driver testing services in the first 2020 lockdown, along with the health protocols since resumption of service and the further curtailing of services during subsequent level 5 restrictions, a significant backlog has developed. The need to once again return to level 5 restrictions for reasons of public health will inevitably impact further on delays to driver testing. During the level 5 period, driving tests will be available only to those who are involved in essential services, including essential retail work.

While the service is limited during level 5 restrictions, the Road Safety Authority is examining ways of increasing the number of tests within health constraints with an eye to resuming wider testing after level 5. This includes increasing the number of testing staff to help reduce and, over time, eliminate the backlog.

Following discussions with the RSA, my Department has approved the hiring of a further 40 temporary driver testers for 22 months, and the process of recruitment is now underway. However it will take some time for people to be selected and trained. These new hires will be in addition to the 36 temporary testers who I previously gave sanction to rehire during 2020.

These measures will help to increase testing capacity. However, I would like to stress, that many of the issues impacting on the delivery of service are concerned with the throughput of centres themselves in light of the restrictions, rather than on the availability of staff.

The RSA are also looking at a number of other measures, including whether the number of tests a driver tester can perform each day can be increased, subject to health assurances.

My Department will continue to monitor and review any financial and other resource implications.

Greenways Provision

Questions (128)

Seán Sherlock

Question:

128. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Transport if he is in receipt of correspondence regarding a project (details supplied). [8994/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Transport)

I acknowledged receipt of a letter from the Northern Committee of Cork County Council to the Department of Environment, Climate and Communications on 20th December 2020 regarding the Council’s intention to apply for funding for the proposed Greenway from Mallow to Dungarvan.

In my reply I pointed out that funding had already been granted to this project to facilitate a feasibility study, in conjunction with Waterford City & County Council, in July 2020 and we must wait for the results of that study before considering any future funding applications in line with the Public Spending Code.

I expect to announce a new funding round later this year and depending on progress on the feasibility study this project may then be in a position to apply for further funding.

Road Network

Questions (129)

Seán Sherlock

Question:

129. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Transport if he has engaged with a local authority on a road issue (details supplied). [8997/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Transport)

The improvement and maintenance of regional and local roads is the statutory responsibility of the relevant local authority in accordance with the provisions of Section 13 of the Roads Act 1993. Works on those roads are funded from Council's own resources supplemented by State road grants. The initial selection and prioritisation of works to be funded is also a matter for the Council.

As regards the Fota Road and access infrastructure to the Great Island of Cobh, Co. Cork, there was some initial engagement between Cork County Council and my Department in 2019, including a meeting with the Department's Strategic Research and Analysis Division regarding the project appraisal process. Subsequent to that meeting, Cork County Council decided to appoint consultants to carry out a wider transport study which will look at all options in relation to access and I understand that the Council expects to appoint those consultants shortly.

Covid-19 Pandemic

Questions (130)

Seán Sherlock

Question:

130. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Finance if the employees at the Revenue Commissioners are considered an essential service to allow parents to avail of childcare. [8199/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Finance)

Revenue carries out essential services in the areas of Public Administration and Border Control, including functions such as facilitating operations at Ports and Airports and facilitating traders involved in imports and exports. I am advised by Revenue that certain categories of its employees meet the essential worker definition set out in the Government’s ‘Resilience and Recovery 2020-2021: Plan for Living with COVID-19’. The list can be found on the gov.ie website: https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/c9158-essential-services/.

Tax Incentives

Questions (131)

Rose Conway-Walsh

Question:

131. Deputy Rose Conway-Walsh asked the Minister for Finance the value of tax incentive measures provided to purpose built student accommodation providers since 2011, by year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8709/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Finance)

Section 50 of Finance Act 1999 provided for a student accommodation scheme whereby expenditure incurred on student rental accommodation can be set against the rental income from the property and against other Irish rental income, thus reducing the taxable income of the person incurring the expenditure. The relevant provisions in the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 are set out in Part 10,Chapter 11, sections 372AK to 372AV.

The scheme has now terminated, in so far as the termination date for incurring qualifying expenditure has now passed. The qualifying period applied up to 31 December 2006, although under certain circumstances the qualifying period could be further extended to 31 July 2008. Claims in relation to qualifying expenditure incurred before the termination date may continue to arise.

Based on the latest data available from Revenue, the number of properties availing of tax relief for student accomodation, and the estimated cost to the exchequer, are as follows:

Year

Uptake

Estimated Exchequer Cost (€m)*

2018

194

7.5

2017

247

8.8

2016

292

9

2015

361

11.8

2014

414

11.1

2013

537

11.9

2012

606

12.4

2011

640

14.5

* Maximum tax cost assumed at 40% for income tax and 12.5% for corporation tax.

2018 is the most recent year for which data are available.

https://www.revenue.ie/en/corporate/documents/statistics/tax-expenditures/property-reliefs.pdf

Tax Reliefs

Questions (132)

Mark Ward

Question:

132. Deputy Mark Ward asked the Minister for Finance if he has considered providing tax relief for counselling and psychotherapy services on the same basis as is provided for other medical expenses. [8762/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Finance)

The rationale behind income tax relief for health expenses is broadly intended to provide assistance for significant or exceptional health expenses.

Consistent with this rationale, tax relief in respect of qualifying health expenses is provided for in section 469 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997. This section defines "health expenses" as "expenses in respect of the provision of health care including the services of a practitioner".

A practitioner is defined as "any person who is:

a. registered in the register established under section 43 of the Medical Practitioners Act 2007,

b. registered in the register established under section 26 of the Dentists Act, 1985, or,

c. in relation to health care provided outside the State, entitled under the laws of the country in which the care is provided to practice medicine or dentistry there".

In the case of counselling or psychotherapy, the relief is available where the counsellor, psychologist or psychotherapist carrying out the treatment is a qualified practitioner, or where a patient is referred by a qualified practitioner for a diagnostic procedure.

This is similar to the position that applies to other medical expenses, such as physiotherapy and I am satisfied that the legislation provides sufficient flexibility for expenses that should qualify for tax relief. Accordingly, there are no plans to change these arrangements at this time.

It is noted that there may be significant differences in the level of qualifications and/or clinical training undertaken by individuals who provide counselling or psychotherapy services in Ireland. The question of whether counsellors and psychotherapists could be registered with an appropriate body, or meet an equivalent standard that might then be used in the context of this tax measure, is a matter in the first instance for the Minister for Health.

Revenue Commissioners

Questions (133, 134)

Cathal Crowe

Question:

133. Deputy Cathal Crowe asked the Minister for Finance the number of times the automated import system operated by the Revenue Commissioners has crashed since 23 November 2020; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7866/21]

View answer

Cathal Crowe

Question:

134. Deputy Cathal Crowe asked the Minister for Finance the reasons the automated import system operated by the Revenue Commissioners has crashed on several occasion since 23 November 2020; the remedial actions taken to address the crashes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7867/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Finance)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 133 and 134 together.

I am advised by Revenue that it carried out significant work to increase customs systems’ capacity to cater for the application of customs requirements to trade with the UK (excluding Northern Ireland) post the UK’s departure from the European Union (EU) and to handle the consequent increased declarations. Revenue has two import systems – Automated Entry Processing (AEP) and a new system, the Automated Import System (AIS). The AEP system has not had any outages since 23 November 2020. However, since its launch on 23 November 2020, AIS has been unavailable on four occasions. Three of these outages related to scheduled maintenance and on two of these occasions the resulting restart unfortunately, took longer than planned, resulting in prolonged downtime. The fourth incident arose when a technical issue required the system to be restarted.

I am further advised by Revenue that since the UKs departure from the EU, and while monitoring activity levels within their systems, it identified degradation in performance of AIS during times of peak processing resulting in delayed responses to declarations and other messages lodged by trade. One of the contributing factors to the levels of transactions being presented for processing is the growth in the business levels of large filers with high volumes of small consignments, a business model which has increased significantly with the move to online shopping since the start of the pandemic.

Revenue has acknowledged that a delay in processing creates difficulties for trade and business and that the impact of delays for some businesses can appear as if the AIS system is not actually available when it is but is operating considerably below the performance level required and expected by trade and business. In instances when the delays are substantial, Revenue has taken actions to allow businesses to continue to move their goods.

I am advised that Revenue is working with its software provider to increase capacity at peak processing times and that certain measures taken to date have improved performance and resilience and that this work is continuing. At the same time Revenue is working with large filers, to develop tailored solutions that will facilitate their business model and ensure that other goods traffic is not adversely impacted by peak load processing delays.

I am aware that Revenue continues to monitor customs systems performance and where any delays are identified that have the potential to impact businesses, Revenue will take timely actions to ensure that businesses can continue to move goods. Revenue staff are working in the ports on a 24/7 basis to assist businesses and the Customs 24/7 Helpline is contactable on 01 738 3685.

Currency Circulation

Questions (135)

Carol Nolan

Question:

135. Deputy Carol Nolan asked the Minister for Finance the measures in place to prevent the circulation of counterfeit cash; if the Central Bank has an estimated value of counterfeit cash currently in circulation and the damage this is causing for Irish businesses; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7887/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Finance)

The Deputy will be aware that the Department of Justice recently published the Counterfeiting Bill 2020. It should be noted that this Bill is being introduced in order to transpose an EU Directive, it is not a legislative response to a problem that has emerged in the Irish market.

Euro banknotes are produced using sophisticated printing technology and have a number of prominent security features, which make them easy to distinguish from counterfeits without using special equipment. These features act as a deterrent to counterfeiters.

All Member States of the Eurosystem have a responsibility to support the identification and removal of counterfeit banknotes from circulation. The Central Bank of Ireland provides training to professional cash handlers, members of An Garda Síochána, customs officials and other bodies on counterfeit detection. The Central Bank of Ireland ensures that professional cash handlers, as defined under Article 6 of Council Regulation (EC) No 1338/2001, remove suspect counterfeit banknotes from circulation and submit them to the Central Bank for analysis. The Central Bank analyses these items and reports them to the European Central Bank (ECB) and European police forces using Counterfeit Monitoring Systems.

Recently published ECB statistics found that banknote counterfeiting is at an historical low level. Some 460,000 counterfeit euro banknotes were withdrawn from circulation in 2020, a decrease of 17.7% when compared with 2019. The €20 and €50 notes continued to be the most counterfeited banknotes, jointly accounting for about two thirds of the total. 94.5% of counterfeits were found in euro area countries, while 2.8% were found in non-euro area EU Member States and 2.7% in other parts of the world.

The likelihood of receiving a counterfeit is very small, as the number of counterfeits remains very low compared to the over 25 billion euro banknotes in circulation. In 2020, 17 counterfeits were detected per 1 million genuine banknotes in circulation.

The full ECB Press Release on counterfeiting can be found here: https://www.ecb.europa.eu/press/pr/date/2021/html/ecb.pr210122~5b82ddc7b9.en.html