National Monuments

Questions (120)

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

120. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage the amount spent since 2016 in stabilising the buildings at 14-17 Moore Street, Dublin including the stabilisation work that was carried out under court order. [9015/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

Works on the conservation, protection and restoration of the national monument buildings at Nos. 14-17 Moore Street started in late 2015 with the objective of having the 1916 Commemorative Centre at least partially open to the public in time for the centenary of the Rising.

Total expenditure under the contract amounted to €4.48 million, inclusive of VAT, project management, architectural and engineering supervision, security, quantity surveying services, etc. This figure contains a significant security cost component which amounted to €1.067m.

The works carried out included:

- permanent renewal of the main roofs to Nos. 14-17, and the two-storey building to the rear of No. 14, including the construction of a special covering over the buildings to prevent water ingress and any other possible damage while the roof replacement was in progress;

- part of the proposed underpinning of the foundation walls to Nos. 14, 15, 16 & 17 which was intended to stabilise the buildings;

- installation of permanent corner ties to assist restraint between external and party walls of Nos. 14, 15, 16 & 17 and permanent repair of gaps between front facades and party walls;

- temporary propping, bracing, shoring and lateral restraint;

- installation of lighting and fire and security systems.

The Office of Public Works (OPW) has been responsible for the maintenance and protection of the buildings since the completion of the above works in 2017. Any costs incurred since then would be a matter for OPW.

Housing Issues

Questions (121)

Danny Healy-Rae

Question:

121. Deputy Danny Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage if he will address a matter (details supplied) regarding inhumane living conditions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9051/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

The Housing (Standards for Rented Houses) Regulations 2019 specify requirements in relation to a range of matters, such as structural repair, sanitary facilities, heating, ventilation, natural light and the safety of gas, oil and electrical supplies. With very limited exemptions, these apply to all private rented residential accommodation.

All landlords have a legal obligation to ensure that their rented properties, regardless of tenancy type, comply with these regulations. Responsibility for the enforcement of the Regulations rests with the relevant local authority.

Anyone – a tenant, a neighbour or another landlord - can and should report suspected cases of non-compliance to the Local Authority, which will then inspect the property and, if it is found not to meet the standards, will take action to ensure compliance with the regulations.

If an inspection identifies that a property has been found to be non-compliant with the Regulations, it is a matter for the Local Authority to determine the necessary and appropriate actions to take, including the issuing of an Improvement Letter, Improvement Notice and Prohibition Notice, and the initiation of legal action.

My Department has made significant Exchequer funding available to local authorities in recent years, with the result that the number of inspections undertaken more than doubled from 19,645 in 2017 to 40,998 in 2019. Pandemic restrictions reduced the number of inspections carried out in 2020 and in response, some local authorities have been piloting virtual inspections. This initiative entails landlords receiving a checklist for self-assessment and being required to submit photographic/video evidence by email, tenants being invited to raise any non-compliance issues they are aware of and being asked to confirm that any remedial works requested by the local authority have been completed, and the Council reserving the right to conduct a physical on-site inspection when it is safe to do so.

While virtual inspection systems present certain challenges and limitations, they do offer a way of improving the standard of rental accommodation despite the pandemic. I support these initiatives and my Department is encouraging local authorities not involved in the pilots to consider adopting them. I have committed to providing Exchequer funding for those that do.

In order to assist local authorities increase inspection rates and strengthen compliance, an increased budget of €10m has been approved for 2021.

Additionally, the Programme for Government, Our Shared Future, commits to reducing and preventing homelessness and provides detail on how the Government is approaching this work as a priority. Homelessness is complex and causal factors and family circumstances vary considerably as do the responses needed. Homelessness is also inter-related with the other areas of the housing system and with broader social and healthcare policy and service delivery. Therefore, a whole of Government approach is required in dealing with this challenge. However, important progress is being made. There were 8,200 individuals accessing homeless emergency accommodation at the end of 2020, a decrease of 1,531 individuals, or 15.7%, on the 9,731 total recorded at end of 2019. The decrease in family homelessness was more pronounced. The year-on-year position is that December 2020 showed a decrease of 578 families, or 37.3%, on the 1,548 total recorded in December 2019. This represents the lowest number of families in emergency accommodation since March 2016.

Increasing the supply of housing, particularly new build social and affordable homes, is a priority for me and for this Government. The Programme for Government commits to increasing the social housing stock by more than 50,000, with an emphasis on new builds. In Budget 2021, this objective was backed with funding of €3.3 billion for the delivery of housing. Subject to the impact of the Covid related restrictions on the construction sector, the available funding will deliver 12,750 new social homes through build, acquisition and leasing. A major focus of this investment is the delivery of new build, with an overall target of 9,500 new homes. The increased targets will see increased local authority build on local authority land.

Additionally, it is open to anyone to apply for social housing support, applications for which are assessed by the relevant local authority, in accordance with the eligibility and need criteria set down in section 20 of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009 and the associated Social Housing Assessment Regulations 2011, as amended.

If a household meets the eligibility and need criteria, it qualifies for the suite of social housing supports, including HAP, and is placed on the housing list to be considered for the allocation of suitable tenancies in accordance with the authority’s allocation scheme.

Planning Issues

Questions (122)

Paul Donnelly

Question:

122. Deputy Paul Donnelly asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage the reason for the €20 fee for members of Dáil Éireann to submit planning observations given it is free for councillors. [9088/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

The Planning and Development (Amendment)(Fees) Regulations 2018 amended article 168 of the Planning and Development Regulations 2001 to provide that the fee for making a submission or observation to a planning authority in respect of a planning application shall not be payable by a member of a local authority acting in his or her capacity as a member. This waiver does not extend to other public representatives. This added local authority elected members, to the list of persons/bodies that are not required the pay the €20 fee when making submissions / observations on planning applications. This list also includes local authorities, prescribed bodies specified under article 28 of the 2001 Regulations, State authorities and trans-boundary States.

The Planning and Development (Amendment) Act 2018 gave legislative effect to a number of planning related recommendations of the Tribunal of Inquiry Into Certain Planning Matters and Payments (the Mahon Tribunal). During the progress of the 2018 Act through the Oireachtas, the consensus arrived at was that the implementation of the Tribunal planning related recommendations should be supplemented by the introduction of waived fee arrangements for the elected members of local authorities in respect of the making of observations or submissions on planning applications.

In this regard, it was considered that the abolition of the €20 observation fee for elected members would enable them to participate in the planning process in a transparent way, but without undue expense, having regard to their role as democratically elected representatives for their areas. The subsequent Planning and Development (Amendment)(Fees) Regulations 2018 brought these waived fee arrangements for elected members of local authorities into force.

Communications Masts

Questions (123)

Pádraig O'Sullivan

Question:

123. Deputy Pádraig O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage if he will review the legislation and licensing process which allows intrusive mobile phone masts to be erected without planning permission; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9098/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

Under the Planning and Development Act 2000, as amended (the Act), all development, unless specifically exempted under the Act or associated Regulations, requires planning permission.

In this regard, Class 31 of Schedule 2 of the Planning and Development Regulations 2001, as amended, provides that certain classes of development carried out by a statutory undertaker authorised to provide a telecommunications service are, subject to specified conditions, exempted development from the requirement to obtain planning permission. Where the conditions and size thresholds specified in the exemption class are not complied with or are exceeded, planning permission is required.

Exemptions from the requirement to obtain planning permission in respect of specific forms of development are provided for when they are considered to be consistent with proper planning and sustainable development.

These arrangements are considered appropriate for the purpose of supporting the roll-out of a high quality communications service while also taking account of the ongoing technological advances in this area. The legislative provisions are supplemented by planning guidelines entitled the Telecommunications Antennae and Support Structure Guidelines, which originally issued to planning authorities in 1996. In 2012, my Department issued Circular Letter PL07/12 to planning authorities, updating certain sections of these Guidelines. The Guidelines provide advice on appropriate location and siting considerations for telecommunication installations and masts to be considered in the development planning and development management process. The Guidelines, and subsequent Circular Letter, are available at the following links:

www.opr.ie/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/2012-Telecommunications-Antennae-and-Support-Structures-Circular-PL-07-12-1.pdf.

and

https://assets.gov.ie/111242/904beafb-f8f4-4585-954f-c0753072e422.doc.

I have no current plans to amend the regulations in this matter.

Departmental Funding

Questions (124)

Seán Sherlock

Question:

124. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage the contact details for the sections that deal with all ongoing and established grant funding in his Department and in each agency under the remit of his Department in tabular form. [9132/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

Details of the grant schemes for which individuals or community organisations can apply directly to the Department, are set out in the attached table. In addition to those schemes, my Department provides funding for a number of schemes that are administered by local authorities such as the Housing Adaptation Grants and Defective Concrete Block Schemes. Local authorities provide details of such schemes on their websites. Applicants must apply directly to their local authority to avail of these schemes.

My Department does not maintain the requested information in respect of the State bodies under its aegis. These State bodies may be contacted directly by e-mail by members of the Oireachtas, as set out in the table below.

State Body

Contact E-mail Address

An Bord Pleanála

oireachtasqueries@pleanala.ie

An Fóram Uisce (the Water Forum)

info@nationalwaterforum.ie

Docklands Oversight and Consultative Forum

infodocklands@dublincity.ie

Ervia

oireachtas@ervia.ie

Gas Networks Ireland

oireachtas@ervia.ie

Heritage Council

oireachtas@heritagecouncil.ie

Housing Finance Agency

oireachtas.enquiries@hfa.ie

Housing and Sustainable Communities Agency

publicreps@housingagency.ie

Irish Water

oireachtasmembers@water.ie

Land Development Agency

oireachtas@lda.ie

Local Government Management Agency

corporate@lgma.ie

National Oversight and Audit Commission

info@noac.ie

National Traveller Accommodation Consultative Committee

ntacc@housing.gov.ie

Office of the Planning Regulator

oireachtas@opr.ie

Ordnance Survey Ireland

Oireachtas@osi.ie

Property Registration Authority

reps@prai.ie

Pyrite Resolution Board

oireachtasinfo@pyriteboard.ie

Residential Tenancies Board

OireachtasMembersQueries@rtb.ie

Valuation Office

oireachtas.enquiries@VALOFF.ie

Valuation Tribunal

info@valuationtribunal.ie

Water Advisory Body

info@wab.gov.ie

Waterways Ireland

ceoffice@waterwaysireland.org

Scheme Name

Name of Business Unit

Address

Email Address

Thatching Grant

Housing Affordability, Inclusion and Homelessness Division

Government Offices, Ballina, F26 E8N6

thatch@housing.gov.ie

Natterjack Toad Scheme

NPWS Science & Biodiversity

Floor 3, 90 North King Street, Dublin 7

biodiversitypolicy@chg.gov.ie

NPWS Farm Plan Scheme

NPWS Science & Biodiversity

Floor 3, 90 North King Street, Dublin 7

Agri.Ecology@chg.gov.ie

Curlew Conservation Partnership

NPWS Science & Biodiversity

Floor 3, 90 North King Street, Dublin 7

Agri.Ecology@chg.gov.ie

Corncrake Grant Scheme

Western Division of NPWS

NPWS Regional Offices, Ballinafad, (Near Boyle), Co. Roscommon

Denis.Strong@chg.gov.ie

Peatlands Community Engagement Scheme

Peatlands Management Unit

Newtown Rd, Wexford Town

Co. Wexford

peatlandsmanagement@chg.gov.ie

Housing Issues

Questions (125)

Róisín Shortall

Question:

125. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage the details of the contract to build 180 housing units, a hospital and a car park in Coonagh, County Limerick; if the hospital will be publicly or privately owned; the reason the number of housing units has been reduced from 800 to 180; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9167/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

I understand that the site referred to is adjacent to the Regeneration area and does not form part of the Regeneration programme. The questions are therefore a matter for Limerick City and County Council. My Department has not received a submission from the Council in relation to any proposed social housing element on the site.

Home Loan Scheme

Questions (126)

Paul Kehoe

Question:

126. Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage the location in the documentation relating to the Rebuilding Ireland home loan scheme in which there is a specific criteria for eligibility outlined (details supplied); the way applicants for this scheme can be refused on the basis of a regulation or eligibility criteria which is not outlined in documentation relating to the scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9180/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

The Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan scheme is administered by the local authorities, in accordance with the Housing (Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan) Regulations 2018.

The Regulations broadly set out the amount that can be lent under the scheme, the eligibility criteria for loans, the duties of borrowers and housing authorities and other administrative matters relating to the scheme. Under the Regulations a Credit Policy is issued which sets out in greater detail the requirements regarding eligibility under the scheme.

Under both the Regulations and the Credit Policy it is stipulated that a loan cannot be issued where the house being purchased has a gross internal floor area of 175 square metres or more. It is therefore not possible for a local authority to approve a loan for a property with a gross internal floor area of more than 175 square metres.

The final decision on loan approval is a matter for each local authority and its Credit Committee on a case-by-case basis.

Decisions on all housing loan applications must be made in accordance with the statutory credit policy that underpins the scheme, in order to ensure consistency of treatment for all applicants.

Loan applicants who are dissatisfied with a loan application decision of a local authority Credit Committee may appeal that decision to the local authority. Details of the appeals process are available from the relevant local authority.

Home Loan Scheme

Questions (127)

Seán Haughey

Question:

127. Deputy Seán Haughey asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage the details of the cost rental schemes announced on 8 February 2021; the way these schemes will operate in practice; the way persons interested in availing of these schemes can apply for them; if eligibility is dependent on the local authority of a person; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9192/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

The Cost Rental developments announced on 8 February 2021 have been given approval in principle under the new Cost Rental Equity Loan (CREL) scheme. This scheme was allocated €35m in funding in Budget 2021, and will see the Government issue loans on favourable terms to Approved Housing Bodies (AHBs) for up to 30% of the cost of new homes for Cost Rental. Following an assessment process of applications submitted for the scheme, approval was granted to the Clúid, Respond and Tuath AHBs for 390 new homes in 2021.

These new homes are located in Dublin, the Greater Dublin Area, and Cork, with cost-covering rents projected to be at least 25% below comparable open market prices. Precise details of these developments, including locations, will be released when the AHBs have completed commercial arrangements.

Cost Rental homes will be operated and allocated in line with provisions in the forthcoming Affordable Housing Bill. The provisions defines Cost Rental in Ireland for the first time and will allow the Minister to regulate tenancies in which the rent only covers clearly defined costs. The Bill also stipulates that the rent may increase on an annual basis only in line with consumer inflation, so that it will remain stable in real terms while continuing to cover rising management and maintenance costs.

Operational conditions, including specific eligibility criteria and allocations procedures, will be finalised in the Bill. However, the primary condition on eligibility being considered is the setting by the Minister of a maximum household income for new tenants, which will ensure that Cost Rental benefits the target cohort of moderate-income households. These households would be above the income limits for social housing supports and facing affordability pressures in the private rental market. There are currently no plans to restrict eligibility to households which are already resident in, or otherwise linked to, particular Local Authorities.

Water and Sewerage Schemes

Questions (128)

John Brady

Question:

128. Deputy John Brady asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage the status of the application for consent for the Arklow Wastewater Treatment Plant which was lodged with his Department by Irish Water; his plans on signing same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9201/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

I refer to the reply to Parliamentary Question No. 309 of 17 February 2021.

Since 1 January 2014, Irish Water has statutory responsibility for all aspects of water services planning, delivery and operation at national, regional and local levels. The prioritisation and progression of individual projects is a matter for determination by Irish Water.

Under section 16 of the Water Services Act 2013 (as amended by section 46 of the Gas Regulation Act 2013), Irish Water is required to seek the consent of the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage given with the approval of the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform to enter into capital commitments. Irish Water must seek Ministerial consent prior to entering into any individual capital commitment (or a series of individual capital commitments in respect of a project) of a value in excess of €20m. This is a financial control and not a project consent.

In the context of the updated Public Spending Code for evaluating, planning and managing the public investment in the project as it proceeds through its lifecycle consideration is also being given to the appropriate application of the Code having regard to the current lifecycle stage of the project.

The capital commitment consent request is currently under active consideration and a decision will issue in due course.

Irish Water has established a dedicated team to deal with representations and queries from public representatives. The team can be contacted via email to oireachtasmembers@water.ie or by telephone on a dedicated number, 1890 578 578.

Turf Cutting Compensation Scheme

Questions (129, 130)

Matt Carthy

Question:

129. Deputy Matt Carthy asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage if he has considered making early payments on the cessation of turf cutting compensation scheme in 2021 in order to have funds related to home heating provided to those participating in the scheme during the period it is needed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9216/21]

View answer

Matt Carthy

Question:

130. Deputy Matt Carthy asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage if he has considered making increased payments to participants of the cessation of turf cutting compensation scheme over the next two years to be offset by bringing the scheme to a close earlier, in view of the Covid-19 pandemic; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9217/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 129 and 130 together.

The cessation of turf cutting compensation scheme was established in 2011 for turf cutters affected by the cessation of turf cutting on raised bog special areas of conservation and was extended in 2014 to include those affected from raised bog natural heritage areas. It 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 once-off payment of €500 on the signing of a legal agreement under the scheme.

Relocating domestic turf cutters to non-designated bogs is a complex process. For certain raised bog designated sites, where a suitable relocation site could not be identified or where the identified relocation site could not accommodate all who had opted to relocate there, the 15 years of annual payments under the scheme (less any annual payments or the value of turf deliveries received) has been made available to qualifying applicants, who had opted for relocation, in the form of a lump sum payment.

To date, 95 turf cutters have availed of this option from 15 special area of conservation bogs and 2 natural heritage area bogs.

My Department will continue to keep this lump sum payment option under review, taking account of the budgetary resources allocated to the scheme.

Annual payments under the cessation of turf cutting compensation scheme for qualifying applicants are generally made from March in each year in order to facilitate the provision of fuel for the following winter period. For example, annual payments for the year 2020 were issued from March 2020 and continued throughout the year for the winter period 2020-2021.

Animal Welfare

Questions (131)

Joan Collins

Question:

131. Deputy Joan Collins asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage if he will provide the detailed allegations made against a pound (details supplied) and the follow-up of the allegations. [9254/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

I trust the Deputy will appreciate that given my obligations under Section 16 of the Protected Disclosures Act 2014 to protect the identity of a person who has made a disclosure, as well as the rights of individuals named in a protected disclosure, I am unable to provide details of any particular protected disclosure. Any communication by my Department regarding a protected disclosure is directed to the discloser.

Horticulture Sector

Questions (132)

Matt Carthy

Question:

132. Deputy Matt Carthy asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage when the working group to examine the findings from the review of the use of peat moss in horticulture will be established; the timeframe it will be given to produce its findings; if he will request that special arrangements be put in place to secure the use of peat for horticultural use; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9297/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

In recent days, I have appointed Dr. Munoo Prasad as chairperson to the working group to examine the issues identified during the review of the use of peat moss in the horticultural industry. Dr. Prasad is an independent consultant and researcher. He has vast experience from working in the New Zealand Ministry of Agriculture and Bord na Móna.

The role of the chairperson will be to chair meetings of the working group and to issue recommendations to me arising from its deliberations. It is envisaged that these recommendations will be issued within six months of the establishment of the working group.

Invitations to nominate representatives to the working group will issue shortly from my Department.

The issues identified during the review, in particular, are:

- Reducing and ultimately eliminating the use of peat moss in the amateur gardening sector in order to leave what remains in use for the industry sector to buy time to develop alternatives, enabling food security and to provide industry surety.

- Graduating the elimination of the use of peat moss in the horticultural industry over an agreed period of years with an agreed end date.

- Finance and support for those workers whose skills cannot be accommodated in proposed alternative industries.

- Investment in further research into the development, education and use of alternatives to peat moss, such as bark, wood fibre, coir, biosolids, bracken and green compost, perlite, vermiculite, rockwool, and horticultural clay and in new methods of farming such as paludiculture and sphagnum farming.

- Up-skilling the existing workforce to regenerate the existing bogs for use in paludiculture, eco-tourism, carbon farming, and tree farming as appropriate to optimize environmental outcomes.

- Quantifying the value of the existing viable peat lands as carbon sinks and then determine a carbon market to incentivise owners and operators of peat lands to preserve, rewet or restore their assets.

- Educating the public to the benefits of what would be proposed to include the climate and environmental benefits, the economic, social, cultural and public health benefits.

Land Development Agency

Questions (133)

Richard Bruton

Question:

133. Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage his estimate of the total area of public lands owned by public bodies listed in schedule 1 and 2 of the draft Land Development Agency; the amount that may be suitable for housing; the projected acreage which can be activated for consideration of development master planning by the agency over the next five years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9302/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

The Land Development Agency (LDA) was established on an interim basis in September 2018, by way of an Establishment Order made under the Local Government Services (Corporate Bodies) Act 1971, pending the enactment of primary legislation when it will be established as a commercial State agency.

As part of its existing remit, the LDA is currently developing a register of all relevant public lands to allow for better management of these State land assets, including their strategic planning and urban regeneration potential. An initial version of the register has been completed and is available on the LDA website.

The Land Development Agency Bill will put the Register of Relevant Public Lands on a statutory basis. When fully completed, it will contain information on all relevant public lands, including lands owned by public bodies listed in Schedule 1 and 2 of the Land Development Agency Bill.

Under the legislation, the LDA will be required to report to Government in relation to land on the Register, which could be suitable for housing or urban development and the Government may decide that certain land be transferred to it taking into account the current use of the land. As the work in relation to the Register is ongoing and the legislation has not been enacted, the LDA has not yet commenced work on identifying possible sites on the register that may be suitable for housing and the potential units that could be provided on them.

Covid-19 Pandemic

Questions (134)

Réada Cronin

Question:

134. Deputy Réada Cronin asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage if all local authority workers who can work from home are being facilitated in that matter; the checks he has put in place to verify same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9307/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

Local Authorities continue to deliver key essential services including housing, water and waste water services, essential roads maintenance and planning. The delivery of those services requires the attendance of staff in the workplace as such services cannot be delivered on a remote basis. The safety of all staff remains the key priority for the sector and this is reflected in the detailed safety guidance protocols which are in place in each local authority. The guiding principle is that delivery of services should be limited to those activities that are critical to safeguarding the continuity of essential local authority services, and that attendance in the workplace is limited to those staff who are essential for the delivery of these essential services and who cannot do so from home.

Local Authorities will continue to review their operational plans for the delivery of services so as to minimise the risk to staff. They will also continue to reinforce the key messages to staff to ensure that all staff are adhering to key health and safety advice for the prevention of spread of the virus.

Departmental Expenditure

Questions (135)

Paul Murphy

Question:

135. Deputy Paul Murphy asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the details of expenditure for each of the years 2016 to 2020 and to date in 2021, showing consultancy, financial, legal, recruitment, quality assurance and training fees incurred by the election observation programme in tabular form; the amount involved for each service; the name of the suppliers; the nature of the services provided; if public procurement procedures were followed for these services; if his attention has been drawn to concerns in relation to the operation and management of the programme; his views on whether the programme would benefit from an independent investigation to assess the programme against international best practice; if he will direct that an independent investigation be carried out; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9035/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Foreign)

The Department's Evaluation and Audit Unit, which is independent and reports directly to the Secretary General and to the Department's external Audit Committee, recently completed a review of the Election Observation Roster as part of the standard, Department-wide approach of reviewing our procedures and working practices. The Evaluation and Audit Unit consulted the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, international counterpart Ministries, the EU, the OSCE, and others in the course of this review. I expect to publish this report shortly.

The draft report demonstrates that the Irish system for election monitoring to be robust and effective by international standards. It does however highlight the exceptional burden created by unreasonably voluminous correspondence, repetitive transparency requests and appeals, and via various other avenues which have significant implications for operational efficiency. The effect has been increase the cost to the State of the operation of the roster including through the deployment of an additional full-time official at Third Secretary level to the relevant unit, the reallocation of work to other units, and related opportunity costs.

In respect of the procurement items listed, verification of exact details requires checking against hard copy files which, unfortunately, is not currently possible due to Covid-19 restrictions. My officials will follow-up directly with the Deputy as soon as the requested information can be accessed.

Separately, significant costs arise which are incidental to the management of the roster itself, namely legal fees, as follows: the Department is a Notice Party in a case taken by an individual against the Office of the Information Commissioner regarding a decision on records pertaining to the roster. This required the Department to engage counsel, which the Chief State Solicitor's Office undertook on behalf of the Department in line with standard procedures. The High Court found in favour of the OIC in this matter and awarded costs to the OIC and the Department: however, the case was then taken to the Court of Appeal, which has reserved judgement following a hearing on 27 January 2021 and so final clarity on the question of costs remains to be determined.

Covid-19 Pandemic

Questions (136)

Robert Troy

Question:

136. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the steps that can be taken in relation to a person who is in Brazil and their flight may be cancelled; and if repatriation flights will be organised for Irish citizens in such circumstances. [9078/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Foreign)

As the Deputy will be aware, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a Government advisory is in place to avoid all non-essential travel overseas.

On 26 January, the Government announced the introduction of additional measures which will remain in place until 5 March and will then be subject to review. These restrictions include the suspension of visa-free travel to Ireland for nationals of South America, including Brazil.

With effect from 4 February, all passengers arriving into Ireland are required to home quarantine. All passengers from 'Category 2' countries must complete the full 14-day period of quarantine even if they receive a negative RT-PCR test result after arriving in the State. There are currently 20 'Category 2' countries, including Brazil.

Any passengers who need to travel to Ireland for essential reasons should confirm with their airline before travel that they meet the necessary requirements, otherwise they may face difficulties boarding flights. It is also important that they familiarise themselves with the restrictions in place in any country through which they may transit.

Any Irish citizen in distress in Brazil is advised to contact our Embassy in Brasilia or the Consulate General in Sao Paolo, which will provide consular advice and assistance as appropriate.

Foreign Policy

Questions (137)

Thomas Pringle

Question:

137. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the official position of the State on the military coup in Myanmar; if it has been conveyed to the coup forces; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9079/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Foreign)

Since 1 February Ireland has made its position clear through my own statements, statements issued by the EU, by the United Nations Security Council and by Ireland at the Human Rights Council.

Ireland stands in solidarity with the people of Myanmar and I reiterate my condemnation of the coup carried out by the Myanmar military on February 1st and the unlawful detention of political leaders including State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi and President Win Myint.

I made this position clear in a statement of 1 February and it was reinforced by a joint EU statement of 2 February, to which Ireland was party. On 11 February, I further called for a firm response from the international community, including sanctions that target the perpetrators of the coup. I also outlined Ireland’s commitment to ensuring continued humanitarian support to the most vulnerable communities in Myanmar, including internally displaced persons.

My Department provides development cooperation funding to support the livelihood and resilience of vulnerable communities in Myanmar. In particular, funding support has been provided to strengthen food and nutrition security, and in response to humanitarian needs in Rakhine State. We will continue to review the situation with our implementing partners to ensure that Irish funds are utilised where they are needed most.

I welcome the united position taken by the UN Security Council in its statement of 4 February, and Ireland will continue to work with our partners on the Council and with countries in the region in response to this crisis.

The consensus shown on the Human Rights Council, where an EU and UK-led resolution was adopted unanimously at a special session on 12 February, was also a positive signal of accord on this issue within the international community.

These views are being expressed directly to the Myanmar military through appropriate channels. For instance, earlier this week in a discussion with the Deputy Commander-in-Chief of Myanmar, Special Envoy Christine Schraner Burgener called on the Myanmar military to refrain from violence and fully respect human rights, fundamental freedoms and the rule of law. Ireland continues to monitor the situation closely and engage with the EU Delegation and Head of Mission in Myanmar via our Embassy in Bangkok.

It is important that the authorities in Myanmar respond appropriately to these events and that people in Myanmar are free to peacefully and safely express their views. It is vitally important that the military in Myanmar exercise restraint.

Ireland continues to work with EU partners and other like-minded countries in responding to the events since 1 February and is committed to ensuring that any course of action is appropriate; works to restore the democratic path in Myanmar and does not negatively impact developmental gains or exacerbate the humanitarian situation. At a political level, Myanmar will be a point of discussion at the Foreign Affairs Council next week.

Ireland, along with our EU colleagues, has been a steadfast supporter of Myanmar’s civilian and democratic transition, its peace process and national reconciliation, and its inclusive socio-economic development. These are roles we want to continue to assume during this challenging period.

Departmental Funding

Questions (138)

Seán Sherlock

Question:

138. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the contact details for the sections that deal with all ongoing and established grant funding in his Department and in each agency under the remit of his Department in tabular form. [9129/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Foreign)

The contact details for all ongoing and established grant funding in my Department are set out in the table below.

There are no agencies under the remit of the Department.

Name of Fund

Website Address

Email Address

Further contact information

Civil Society Project Funding

https://www.irishaid.ie/what-we-do/who-we-work-with/civil-society/civil-society-funding/civil-society-fund/

Dedicated email address supplied at time of call for proposals.

https://www.irishaid.ie/contact-us/

Civil Society Programme Funding

https://www.irishaid.ie/what-we-do/who-we-work-with/civil-society/civil-society-funding/civil-society-fund/

Dedicated email address supplied at time of call for proposals.

https://www.irishaid.ie/contact-us/

Humanitarian Funding

https://www.irishaid.ie/what-we-do/responding-to-emergencies/ngofunding/

Dedicated email address supplied at time of call for proposals.

https://www.irishaid.ie/contact-us/

Development Education Funding

https://irishaid.ie/what-we-do/who-we-work-with/civil-society/development-education-funding/

Dedicated email address supplied at time of call for proposals.

https://www.irishaid.ie/contact-us/

Emigrant Support Programme

https://www.dfa.ie/global-irish/support-overseas/emigrant-support-programme/

https://www.dfa.ie/global-irish/contact-us/

01 4082000 (please ask for the Emigrant Support Programme in the Irish Abroad Unit)

Reconciliation Fund

https://www.dfa.ie/reconciliation

reconciliation@dfa.ie

01 4082000 (please ask for the Reconciliation Section in IUKA Division)

Communicating Europe Initiative(Annual scheme due to be launched Feb/Mar 2021)

www.dfa.ie

cei@dfa.ie

01 4082764

Access Europe Programme managed by The Wheel.(EU Funding service for Irish Civil Society)

www.accesseurope.ie

Please use ‘contact us’ form on website

www.accesseurope.ie

Africa Day

https://africaday.ie/

africaday@dfa.ie

01 4082000

The Simon Cumbers Media Fund

https://simoncumbersmediafund.ie/

info@simoncumbersmediafund.ie

01 4200580