Vote 31 - Transport, Tourism and Sport (Supplementary)

As we have a quorum, we will commence the meeting. We are now in public session. Apologies have been received from Deputy Catherine Murphy. Members are reminded to turn off their mobile phones completely, as they might interfere with the recording equipment. This meeting has been convened to consider the Supplementary Estimate for Vote 31 - Transport, Tourism and Sport, which was referred by the Dáil to the committee on 19 November with an instruction to report back to the Dáil no later than 12 December. I welcome the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Ross and his officials. The format for today's meeting is that the Minister will make a brief statement, after which members may ask nice questions of him, which I am sure he will be delighted to answer. Is that agreed? Agreed. I invite the Minister to make his statement.

I thank the committee for the opportunity to present details of the Supplementary Estimate for my Department. As the committee will be aware, in 2019, as the Government advanced its original preparations for the risk of a no-deal Brexit on 31 October, supplementary funds were not available for new initiatives or programmes. However, the Department has successfully secured funds to support its ongoing work in some key areas. As a result, €10 million has been agreed with the Minister for Finance and the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Donohoe, to boost investment across the transport, tourism and sport sectors. The €10 million is being allocated as current expenditure, primarily in the two programme areas of public transport and tourism. The Estimates for 2019 already provide an overall current allocation to the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport of €755 million. This additional money will now bring the total allocation to €765 million. Our total allocation is used to provide vital tourism investment, as well as to support the ongoing delivery of the remit of the National Transport Authority, NTA.

I will briefly go through the areas receiving this additional money. As part of the land transport programme, in the public transport area, €617,000 has been allocated to the Medical Bureau of Road Safety. This is to fund an estimate of €308,000 in pensions non-pay which arose during the re-profiling of the pension estimate in 2018 from pay to non-pay. Some €309,000 is to assist in the purchase during 2019 of preliminary breath test devices used by An Garda Síochána to test drivers for alcohol consumption. A sum of €583,000 has been allocated to the NTA to purchase approximately 325,000 anonymous Leap cards to ensure that sufficient stocks are in place early next year. A further €1 million has been provided to the NTA, with €100,000 being allocated for additional general administrative expenditure, €450,000 for ICT infrastructure licensing and system updates, and €450,000 for rental costs associated with additional accommodation. Those costs are required to be paid in advance under the terms of the rental contracts.

Turning to the sports programme, some €800,000 is being allocated to Sport Ireland for high performance sport. This funding will be used to assist athletes’ preparations for major competitions, including the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo and key World and European Championship events. In the tourism programme, €1 million will be spent by Fáilte Ireland on domestic marketing, with a particular focus on the Border counties. This marketing will include social media campaign engagement with Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland consumers, data analytics on Northern Ireland consumers, a domestic print campaign and a local expert programme supporting Border counties. Some €6 million will be spent by Tourism Ireland on a programme of reassurance concerning Ireland as a tourist destination, given the uncertainties raised by Brexit. The new deadline for Brexit means that the UK can still leave with no-deal if the withdrawal agreement with the EU is not ratified by the British Parliament by 31 January 2020. As a result, it is vital that my Department continues to take steps to provide as much certainty as possible in our tourist markets.

I thank the Minister for his address. We will go through each subhead as they appear. The Medical Bureau of Road Safety appears under subhead B4.2. Is there any particular reason additional breath test equipment is being bought? Why is there a need to do that, as opposed to using normal expenditure?

The numbers are a little bit higher than anticipated and this is to ensure there are enough devices. It would be appalling if they ran out, so this is provisional.

That is fine. There is no malfunction problem or anything like that with the existing equipment?

No, we are just being prudent.

That is fine. Turning to subhead B7.1, public service provision payments, that is fine. We have dealt with subhead B9.2 regarding the NTA. There is one question regarding the-----

It relates to the 2020 rental for quarter one for the main Iveagh Court building and to No. 5 Harcourt Street. The rent is usually payable quarterly in advance. Due to the constraints on administration grant funding, occasionally we have been paying these rentals in the relevant quarter, rather than strictly in advance. Due to additional funding being available this month, the rentals for quarter one 2020 will be paid in December 2019.

That is fine, and that is the normal procedure.

The most important subhead is under B5, Sport Ireland. I welcome the money for the "high-octane" sports, for want of a better phrase, but what about minority sports and women's sports? I am thinking in particular of the hockey team. Will there be money available for it? The committee members would, I think, like to see more funding provided to minority sports and women's sports, such as hockey, rowing, karate etc.

The minority sports are fully funded this year. Regarding Hockey Ireland, its high performance programme is also fully funded to the end of the year. There is no more requirement, as far as I know, from Hockey Ireland.

This money is for Olympic training and seems to be for next year. This is just a general point for the Minister. This money is for high performance.

The €800,000 is for the Olympics. From the figures the Chairman has in front of him, he can see that the Olympic Federation of Ireland is getting €250,000 and Paralympics Ireland is getting the same amount. Turning to the costs of the high performance programme, Rowing Ireland is getting €70,000; the Irish Amateur Boxing Associations, IABA, is getting €50,000; Swim Ireland is getting €40,000; Horse Sport Ireland is getting €70,000; Cycling Ireland is getting €40,000; and Gymnastics Ireland is getting €30,000. This is all additional funding.

I have only one question for the Minister on that topic. Those are all high performance sports and I welcome the funding. Is there any additional funding for women's sports, however? In particular, is the hockey team, which has qualified for the Olympics, included in this funding? If it is not, why not?

The hockey team is already fully funded until the end of the year.

Yes, but I am talking about next year. This is not for next year.

The hockey team is not included in this Supplementary funding, but this funding is only for 2019.

That is fine.

There is full funding in place, therefore, for 2019.

Hockey Ireland has not approached the Minister to seek more funding?

No, it has no requirements, that I know of, for this year.

That is fine.

Hockey Ireland will certainly be considered for next year, as will everybody else.

That is important.

The organisation has got exactly what it required for this year.

The next subhead is tourism. I also welcome the increased funding in this area, particularly in the context of Brexit. The concentration of funding in the Border counties is one of the areas of additional expenditure. Does the Minister have any further comment on that aspect?

The next heading is tourism, subhead E. I welcome the increase in funding, in particular in light of Brexit. The concentration on the Border counties is something which will result in additional expenditure. Does the Minister have any further comment on that?

There is €1 million for Fáilte Ireland and €6 million for Tourism Ireland. The Border counties will be the main target for that €1 million. We have a provisional €40 million in case there is a no-deal Brexit, which we hope will not occur. This funding will be used for marketing to target the UK, Germany, France and the USA.

There are no further questions. Would the Minister like to make any concluding remarks?

I thank the members of the committee for their attendance.