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Tuesday, 14 Dec 2021

Written Answers Nos. 96-110

Departmental Expenditure

Questions (96)

Catherine Murphy

Question:

96. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Taoiseach further to Parliamentary Question No. 113 of 7 December 2021, if he will provide an additional schedule that sets out all energy costs associated with ICT hardware in his Department, that is, servers and so on in tabular form. [60948/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Taoiseach)

Electricity usage in the Government Buildings complex, which includes the Department of the Taoiseach, is administered by the Houses of the Oireachtas. There is no further breakdown of electricity costs provided for the specific usage areas requested by the Deputy beyond the total electricity costs paid by the Department which was provided to the Deputy in answer to the question last week.

Covid-19 Pandemic

Questions (97)

Michael McNamara

Question:

97. Deputy Michael McNamara asked the Taoiseach the amount his Department spent on Covid-19-related advertising in the period from 1 January 2020 to 30 November 2021. [60986/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Taoiseach)

Attached is a tabular breakdown of the covid-related advertising spend from 1 January 2020 to 30 November 2021.

Since March of 2020, my Department has co-ordinated communications for the whole-of-government response to the pandemic. This necessitated expenditure on a broad range of targeted public messaging across over fifty different information campaigns.

The overall communications strategy for Covid-19 is based on a coordinated response that ensures maximum clarity for citizens, businesses and our wider community. This aligns with both World Health Organisation (WHO) and European Centre for Disease Control (ECDC) advice, both of which emphasise the importance of ensuring the general public is aware of the seriousness of the COVID-19 outbreak, and further that a high degree of population understanding, community engagement and acceptance of the measures put in place are key in preventing further spread.

It is also recommended that communication strategies should target different audiences and provide the rationale behind the measures, also outlining the necessity to put a support system in place to provide essential services and supplies (e.g. food and medication), and to monitor vulnerable individuals.

Campaigns have included Radio, newspaper and social elements.

It is essential that citizens, business owners and communities are informed of the decisions being made by Government, and campaigns are developed and implemented to make the public aware of these decisions.

All of the contracts for media buying, print ads, radio ads, tv ads, social media promotion, online banner advertising and creative services were contracted through competitive processes and the Office of Government Procurement Framework contracts to ensure best value for money.

Campaign name:

Total

Emergency Business Supports

€512,427

Use of Outdoor/Public Spaces

€408,262

14 Day Restrictions

€466,717

Community Call

€1,774,625

Business Supports - SMEs

€1,018,966

Wellbeing

€836,841

Reopening Roadmap

€850,618

Business Reopening - Return to Work Safely Protocol

€868,180

Leaving Certificate

€58,436

Phase 1 Reopening

€1,176,758

Business Reopening - RTW 2

€600,942

Phase 2 Reopening

€892,545

Phase 3 Reopening

€1,205,814

Personal Responsibility

€384,388

Travel

€323,353

Phase 4 Reopening - July Delay

€735,731

July Jobs Stimulus

€652,373

Travel Green List

€175,911

Phase 4 Reopening - August Delay

€171,364

3 Counties Restrictions (National and Regional)

€119,422

Additional National Measures (August)

€449,608

Dublin/Limerick High incidence awareness

€376,738

Living with COVID (Announcement, Framework and Household booklet)

€902,588

Dublin Level 3 (Sept)

€12,318

Donegal Level 3 (Sept)

€181,933

Reinforcing Public Health Messaging Nationwide

€123,087

Nationwide Level 3 (Oct)

€239,671

3 Counties L4 / National L3 update

€44,845

Nationwide Level 5 (Oct)

€211,717

Keep Well - Community Wellbeing

€741,343

#SafeChristmas Phase 1 (L3)

€40,160

#Antiviral

€87,120

#SafeChristmas Phase 2 (Christmas Week)

€0

#SafeChristmas Phase 3 - Live action TV ad

€157,058

#SafeChristmas Phase 3 - Animated TV ad

€36,947

3rd Party Copy/Scriptwriting/Strategy

€46,434

TOTALS 2020

€16,885,239

Reinforcing Public Health Messaging Nationwide

€726

Nationwide Level 5 (continuation in Nov 2020

€9,833

#Safe Christmas Phase 1

€843,637

#Antiviral phase 1

€76,835

#SafeChristmas P2 - (Christmas week)

€480,957

#SafeChristmas P3 - Gathering/Dinner

€384,820

Christmas transition to Level 5

€222,950

Dec/Jan return to full Level 5

€426,579

January Additional Level 5 measures

€607,975

#Antiviral maintenance campaign

€33,832

Stay at home - Do the Right Thing

€17,894

Calendar

€42,165

Stay the Course - Do the Right Thing

€145,540

Maintain Progress - February

€136,888

Reopening of Schools Spring 2021

€673,034

#Antiviral phase 2 - Real Stories

€98,656

How it started

€414,316

Avoid the Surge

€168,273

30th March Announcement

€839,406

Antiviral Phase 2 - Real Stories pt 2

€74,263

Stay Local for April

€152,109

Stay Local for April update

€190,115

Recovery Plan Summer - May

€1,266,481

Economic Recovery Plan

€511,792

Recovery Plan Summer - June

€927,825

Recovery Plan Summer - July

€919,917

Protect our Progress - August 2021

€9,116

Reframing the Challenge - September

€718,670

Reframing the Challenge - October

€20,796

3rd Party Copy/Scriptwriting/Strategy

€9,840

TOTAL 2021 Costs

€10,425,237

OVERALL TOTAL COST

€27,310,476

Horticulture Sector

Questions (98)

Matt Carthy

Question:

98. Deputy Matt Carthy asked the Taoiseach further to Parliamentary Question No. 133 of 30 November 2021, if peat transported from this State to Northern Ireland is included in export figures cited; and if so, the quantities of same for each of the years 2016 to 2020 and to date in 2021. [61448/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Taoiseach)

The data requested by the Deputy is set out below. Further to Parliamentary Question 133 of 30 November 2021, exports of peat to Northern Ireland are included in the data for the Rest of the World. Table A below sets out the data for Northern Ireland. The data for 2021 to date is not included in the table as some of the data relating to this product which has been received by CSO is inconsistent with previous returns received. CSO has contacted the traders involved, via the VIMA branch of the Revenue Commissioners, to ascertain the accuracy of this data. Once a reply is received from these traders, and the data is either validated or corrected, it will be available for publication.

Table A : Exports of Peat to Northern Ireland 2016 - 2020.

Exports of peat to NI

Covid-19 Pandemic

Questions (99)

Seán Canney

Question:

99. Deputy Seán Canney asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he will seek to have the TRIPS Waiver at the WTO lifted which will increase the production of generic Covid-19 vaccines and greatly improve access to Covid-19 vaccines to persons all across the developing world. [61670/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Enterprise)

Universal and equitable access to safe, effective and affordable vaccines, diagnostics and treatments is crucial in the global fight against COVID-19.

International Trade is a competence of the EU under the Treaties and in exercising that competence, the European Commission engages fully with the Member States, including Ireland, through a variety of Committees and Working Parties/Groups, including on Intellectual Property.

The EU proposed an alternative to the TRIPS waiver that relates to the use of the flexibilities in the TRIPS Agreement. The proposal is targeted and pragmatic and aims at ensuring that governments can resort to compulsory licences, including to export to countries with no or limited manufacturing capacities, in the most effective manner adapted to the circumstances of a pandemic.

The EU is of the view that there is no single solution and that a multi-pronged approach is needed and that discussions should concentrate on how the Intellectual Property system can contribute towards increasing the manufacturing capacity and the equitable access to vaccines around the world.

Despite the postponement of the WTO Ministerial Conference, WTO members will continue to engage in a solution-oriented manner to find an outcome on how the WTO can contribute to an effective response to any pandemic, not just the current one.

Ireland will engage with the European Commission and other member states on the EU position for the WTO discussions including discussions on how the flexibilities within the TRIPS Agreement can contribute towards increasing the manufacturing capacity and the equitable access to vaccines around the world.

The global production of vaccines is increasing rapidly and it is estimated that 12 billion doses of COVID vaccines will be produced by the end of 2021. The EU considers that the COVAX Facility is the mechanism that is best placed to ensure that high-income countries finance the vaccines and support the developing countries to secure their share of global supply.

Europe has committed 200 million doses to reach low and middle-income countries by the end of this year, mainly through the COVAX initiative and is investing €1 billion to ramp up mRNA production capacity in Africa.

Ireland has contributed €7 million in funding to COVAX in 2021 and will donate 1.3 million vaccines this year to low-income countries as part of the COVAX programme. The first 500,000 Irish doses donated through the facility reached Nigeria on the 29th of November with further donations of Irish vaccines taking place in the coming weeks. In addition, Ireland has delivered on its commitment to donate 335,000 COVID-19 doses to Uganda.

Work Permits

Questions (100)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

100. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment when a work permit will issue in the case of a person (details supplied) whose approval is urgent given the timeframe for their required skills for their employment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [61120/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Enterprise)

The Employment Permits Section of my Department inform me that a General Employment Permit application in respect of the individual (details supplied) was received on 30th November 2021.

Applications for employment permits are dealt with in date order. Employment Permits Section are currently processing standard applications received on 17th August 2021.

Applicants can keep track of current processing dates for Employment Permit applications at:

enterprise.gov.ie/en/What-We-Do/Workplace-and-Skills/Employment-Permits/Current-Application-Processing-Dates/Current-Processing-Dates-for-Employment-Permits.html.

If a permit is urgently required, an applicant may request to have an application expedited. A request to have an application expedited will only be considered in exceptional cases. Such a request, which must be accompanied by a compelling business case, should be sent to dermot.kavanagh@enterprise.gov.ie.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Questions (101)

Steven Matthews

Question:

101. Deputy Steven Matthews asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the action his Department is taking to help businesses decarbonise and prepare for a greener future in particular for smaller and medium enterprises; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [61143/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Enterprise)

The Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment is actively assisting enterprises in preparing for a greener future. We are integrating climate action into all aspects of the Department and its agencies’ activities and assisting enterprises in doing so too.

The Department is facilitating a drive toward the green economy through its agencies. Earlier this year, Enterprise Ireland launched a Climate Enterprise Action Fund to assist Irish companies to build the capabilities required to deliver sustainable products, services and business models.

Enterprise Ireland’s forthcoming Strategy for the next four years will set out actions to embed sustainability and climate action as a fundamental part of its approach to company development and engagement with their clients.

The Local Enterprise offices run the “Green for Micro” programme on a national scale. The programme is designed to provide small businesses with tailored expert advice on how to drive sustainability. Qualifying businesses can access two days of intensive mentoring including a sustainability audit and action plan, designed to help "green" their operations.

The Department and the Department of Environment, Climate and Communications recently launched the Climate Toolkit 4 Business. The Climate Toolkit 4 Business allows SMEs to input some simple information and get an estimate of their carbon footprint and a personalised action plan to reduce it. Each tailored action plan will include straight-forward practical instructions and highlights the relevant help that is available from Government, through agencies such as Enterprise Ireland, the Local Enterprise Offices and the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland. The Toolkit will be particularly useful for SME and Micro enterprises at the beginning of their decarbonisation journey.

Ensuring all enterprises have the assistance they require to decarbonise is essential to maintaining resilience and competitiveness, particularly as consumer preferences change over time. My Department, in conjunction with its agencies, will ensure all enterprises have the opportunity to continue to grow while making the green transition.

Departmental Consultations

Questions (102)

Seán Canney

Question:

102. Deputy Seán Canney asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the status of the consultation with retired workers’ organisations in relation to the Industrial Relations (Provisions in Respect of Pension Entitlements of Retired Workers) Bill 2021; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that to date retired workers have been excluded from the process of engagement between sponsoring employers of occupational pension schemes and trade unions when changes to a scheme are proposed even when retired workers will be adversely affected by those changes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [61228/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Enterprise)

The Government has agreed to a timed amendment to the Industrial Relations (Provisions in Respect of Pension Entitlements of Retired Workers) Bill 2021.

This will allow time, as has been outlined on the floor of the Dáil, to examine the issues carefully and to ensure that all stakeholders are consulted.

A consultation process will commence as soon as possible and will involve engagement with organisations representing retired workers.

Job Losses

Questions (103)

Catherine Murphy

Question:

103. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if his attention or that of his officials has been drawn to formal notice of redundancies and or employment termination at a hotel (details supplied) in County Kildare; if so, the date the notice to his Department was received; the maximum time period permitted from the notice of redundancy to payment of statutory and enhanced packages to be paid; and if his attention has been further drawn to the situation in which staff surrendered State income support based on formal notice issuing to them. [61246/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Enterprise)

The Protection of Employment Act 1977 imposes a number of obligations on employers who are proposing collective redundancies, including an obligation under section 9 and 10 to engage in an information and consultation process with employees’ representatives and to provide certain information relating to the proposed redundancies. Section 11A of the Act provides that, where an employee believes the employer to be in breach of sections 9 or 10, they may pursue a complaint to the Workplace Relations Commission. It is also an offence under section 11 of the Act where an employer fails to comply with sections 9 or 10.

There is also an obligation under section 12 which makes it mandatory on employers proposing a collective redundancy to notify the Tánaiste, as the Minister for Enterprise Trade and Employment, of the proposed collective redundancy. An employer is prohibited from issuing any notice of redundancy during the mandatory employee information and consultation period (required by the l977 Act) and until 30 days have elapsed from the date on which the Tánaiste has been notified. I can confirm that the notification regarding proposed collective redundancies at Celbridge Manor Hotel (Clann Hospitality) was received in the Tánaiste's office on the 11th of October.

The Redundancy Payments Act 1967 places a legal obligation on employers to give notice of redundancy and make a statutory redundancy lump sum payment to an eligible employee. However, the Social Insurance Fund provides a safety net for employees in situations where the employer cannot pay due to financial difficulties or insolvency. Negotiations on enhanced redundancy are a voluntary matter between the employer and former employees.

If an employer has failed to pay redundancy entitlements they can refer a complaint to the Workplace Relations Commission for an adjudication and redress where appropriate.

I understand that issues have arisen in relation to the employees' Pandemic Unemployment Payments (PUP). This matter is appropriate to my colleague Heather Humphreys, Minister for Social Protection.

Work Permits

Questions (104)

Martin Kenny

Question:

104. Deputy Martin Kenny asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he will grant a work permit extension to workers who are temporarily laid off due to Covid-19 restrictions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [61254/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Enterprise)

In March 2020, an Employment Permit COVID 19 Contingency Plan was implemented, with the Employment Permit Section moving seamlessly to a totally remote working environment. Conscious of the impact of COVID 19 on enterprises, my officials have endeavoured to be as flexible as possible within the legislative framework of the employment permit system. The feedback received from enterprise across the board has been universally positive, in fact Ireland was one of the few countries that has managed to keep the employment permit system fully operational throughout the crisis.

In the period of February 2021, in response to COVID 19 concerns, my colleague the Minister for Justice temporarily suspended the processing of visa applications. My officials made arrangements with the Department of Justice whereby they continued to process visa applications in respect of employment permits for critical/essential workers to allow them to travel to Ireland. An email outlining these arrangements issued to all Employment Permits Trusted Partners and a notice was placed on the Department's website.

When an employment permit has issued my officials are not in a position legislatively to amend the time-frame of the permit. In these circumstances, my Department is offering increased flexibility at renewal stage, whereby the permit application for renewal can be processed without a negative view taken if the permit holder travelled to the State after the date of the permit commenced.

Further information on the employment permit COVID 19 contingency arrangements put in place by my Department can be found at;

enterprise.gov.ie/en/Publications/Publication-files/COVID-19-Employment-Permits-System-Contingency-Arrangements.pdf

Tax Code

Questions (105)

John Lahart

Question:

105. Deputy John Lahart asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he has examined a report by an organisation (details supplied) with regard to policies acting as disincentives to work for moderate to lower paid employees; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [61270/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Enterprise)

Ensuring that work pays is a priority for Government.

The issues identified in the ISME Report fall under the policy remit of several Ministers across Government. It highlights a number of issues around the interaction between taxation, social insurance contribution and social welfare policies, a number of which are likely to be examined by the Commission for Taxation and Welfare. The Commission was established in April 2021 as committed to in Programme for Government, and has the objective of examining how the Irish tax and welfare system can be improved to assist in income redistribution, promote employment opportunities and support the most vulnerable workers in the Irish society.

The Commission is expected to submit a report to the Minister for Finance no later than 1 July 2022, after which the Government shall give consideration to any reforms that shall be required in the application of current policies.

Work Permits

Questions (106)

Mary Butler

Question:

106. Deputy Mary Butler asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the status of a work permit for a person (details supplied) given the urgency outlined in correspondence from the nursing home that is experiencing staff shortages; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [61431/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Enterprise)

On 14 June 2021, following a review of the employment permit occupation lists, changes to the employment permit system were announced, to address skills and labour shortages in the healthcare and nursing home sector. Following this review the occupation of Nursing Auxiliary or Assistant (Health Care Assistant) in hospital/nursing home settings became eligible for an employment permit from that date.

The grade of Nursing Auxiliary or Assistant (Health Care Assistant) in Hospital/Nursing Home Settings was removed from the ineligible occupation list within the following framework:

Attainment of a relevant QQI Level 5 qualification after 2 years employment in the State

A minimum remuneration threshold of salary of at least €27,000 for a 39 hour working week.

The framework will be reviewed after twelve months to ensure that the changes announced in June 2021 meet the needs of the sector.

The Employment Permits Section of the Department inform me that all five applications for Health Care Assistants referred to in the details supplied were received on dates between 15-20 October 2021. However on 10th December 2021 all of the applications were refused for a number of reasons.

The applicant has been notified by email of the refusal reasons and of the right to request a review of the decision within 28 days of issue of the refusal decision.

A comprehensive suite of information is available on my Department's website regarding employment permits and a FAQ document which answers the majority of the most common questions is available via the following link - dbei.gov.ie/en/What-We-Do/Workplace-and-Skills/Employment-Permits/

Regarding the recruitment of three nurses also referred to in the details supplied. If a positive decision is received from the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Ireland regarding their work status their Employment Permit applications should be submitted as soon as possible.

Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment

Questions (107)

Seán Canney

Question:

107. Deputy Seán Canney asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if the pandemic unemployment payment is being restored to €350 level then should the employment wage subsidy scheme rates increase back to 4 tier rates of €350, €300, €203 and €151.50 to encourage employers to retain staff rather than laying them off; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [61657/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Enterprise)

The Deputy may wish to direct his query to the Department of Finance, which is providing updates on the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme.

Employment Support Services

Questions (108)

Patricia Ryan

Question:

108. Deputy Patricia Ryan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he will ensure that computer equipment being used by a group (details supplied) which is due to close shortly can be repurposed within the local community; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [61692/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Enterprise)

Issues relating to the restructuring of regional employment services in the Midlands and North West are best answered by the Department of Social Protection. The Deputy may wish to direct her query to that Department.

Industrial Relations

Questions (109)

Seán Haughey

Question:

109. Deputy Seán Haughey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his views on whether retired persons who are members of occupational pension schemes should be granted access to the industrial relations machinery of the State in order that they are given a voice in industrial relations processes with regard to matters affecting occupational pensions and other issues; if he has consulted with the Departments of Social Protection and Public Expenditure and Reform together with trade unions, employers and industrial relations bodies on these issues; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that former workers of State and semi-State organisations are unhappy that they have not received increases in their pensions in recent years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [61744/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Enterprise)

The Government agreed to a timed amendment to the Industrial Relations (Provisions in Respect of Pension Entitlements of Retired Workers) Bill 2021. This was to allow time, as has been outlined in the Dáil, to examine all the issues carefully and to ensure that stakeholders - including retired workers themselves, trade unions, employers, industrial relations bodies, the Departments of Social Protection and Public Expenditure and Reform - are given the opportunity to express their views on these important matters.

Following deliberations in the Dáil, I recently held a meeting with members of the Irish Senior Citizens Parliament who shared with me, and officials from my Department, some of their views on occupational pension schemes.

I intend to shortly launch a public consultation into certain matters raised during consideration of the Industrial Relations (Provisions in Respect of Pension Entitlements of Retired Workers) Bill 2021, and this will include input from organisations representing retired workers.

Economic Policy

Questions (110)

Brendan Smith

Question:

110. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he will report on Ireland’s Competitiveness Challenge 2021. [61365/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Enterprise)

The National Competitiveness and Productivity Council (NCPC) reports to the Taoiseach and the Government, through myself as Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment on key competitiveness and productivity issues facing the Irish economy and offers recommendations on policy actions required to enhance Ireland’s competitive position.

On 21 September 2021, the NCPC published Ireland’s Competitiveness Challenge 2021, which identified four broad medium- and long-term strategic challenges aimed at enhancing Ireland’s competitiveness and productivity performance. The report made 20 targeted and actionable recommendations to Government in order to secure an improvement in the standard of living for all of society.

A formal response to the Competitiveness Challenge report was coordinated by the Department of An Taoiseach and published on 30 November 2021. Through this mechanism, the Government has officially responded to the Council on all 20 of the recommendations included in its Report, indicating the range of actions and reforms currently or soon to be in train in response to the recommendations. These actions will support Ireland’s competitive position in the coming years.

From my perspective as Minister for Enterprise, Trade & Employment, I welcome the Council’s analysis and recommendations. The Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment will play its part in delivering the reforms outlined by the Council in the seven recommendations where it is listed as the primary actor.

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