Defence Forces Remuneration

Ceisteanna (437)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

437. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence the reason a pension reduction following a court case has occurred in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11978/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

The Army Pensions Acts provide for the grant of pensions and gratuities to former members of the Permanent Defence Force (PDF) in respect of permanent disablement due to a wound or injury attributable to military service (whether at home or abroad) or due to disease attributable to or aggravated by overseas service with the United Nations. Section 13(2) of the Army Pensions Act, 1923, as amended, provides that “Any compensation which may be received from or on behalf of the person alleged to be responsible for the act which caused the wounding may be taken into consideration in fixing the amount of any pension, allowance or gratuity which might be awarded under this Act to or in respect of such person and if such compensation is received after the award of any such pension or allowance the Minister may review the award and, having regard to the amount of such compensation, either terminate or reduce the amount thereof.” The underlying objective of section 13(2) is to take into consideration compensation paid ‘on the double’ for the same disablement. Compensation of the kind in question would usually result from a civil action for damages against the Minister for Defence, but compensation received from any other source is not excluded.

In April 1986 the person in question was awarded a disability pension under the Army Pensions Acts in respect of a wrist injury that he sustained while serving in the PDF. The person in question also instituted civil proceedings in respect of the same injury and was awarded compensation of €37,457 (£29,500) by the High Court in July 1986. The annuity value of the compensation was assessed at €3,648 (£2,873) a year. The disability pension payable was therefore reviewed under the provisions of section 13(2) of the 1923 Act and it was decided to reduce it by the annuity value of the total compensation which he had received.

Subsequently, the person in question applied to the High Court for a judicial review of the decision to reduce the disability pension. The High Court quashed the decision to reduce the disability pension and ordered that the matter be considered anew. A fresh review of the disability pension was accordingly undertaken. All aspects of the case (including, in particular, representations made by his solicitors) were fully considered and in March 1988 it was decided to reduce the disability pension payable by the annuity value of the total compensation received by him. This reduction took effect from 1 April 1988. The effect of this decision was to reduce the current rate of disability pension payable from €13,373.17 a year to €9,725.17 a year.

I am satisfied that the abatement of the disability pension in this case has been properly determined in accordance with the relevant statutory provisions.

Mountain Access Schemes

Ceisteanna (438, 439)

Eric J. Byrne

Ceist:

438. Deputy Eric Byrne asked the Minister for Defence if his attention has been drawn to the land erosion on traditional walking paths on the mountain ranges here; if he will confirm that it is his intention to establish proper developed pathways in order to prevent the erosion from the increased footfall in hill walkers but in particular the use of bikes, motorbikes and quads; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12097/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Eric J. Byrne

Ceist:

439. Deputy Eric Byrne asked the Minister for Defence in view of the increase in participation by walkers using for recreational purposes the magnificent mountain ranges of the Dublin-Wicklow mountains, if he is satisfied that he has sufficient funds to develop pathways to alleviate the erosion that is occurring on this mountain range; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12102/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 438 and 439 together.

There are no plans to establish developed pathways on the mountain areas under the Department’s control. The military authorities are very conscious that areas where there are firing ranges e.g.Glen of Imaal, Kilbride Camp and Kilworth Camp are very popular with recreational walkers and every step is taken to ensure the safety of those walkers. These include the continuous marking of the traditional walkways through/around Defence lands, the erection of warning signs and the placing of advertisements in the local and national press.

Appointments to State Boards

Ceisteanna (440)

Terence Flanagan

Ceist:

440. Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Defence the action he is taking to encourage more Irish executives to serve on State boards under the remit of his Department; his views on the recent Merc Partners survey; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12458/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

The only body under the aegis of my Department is the Army Pensions Board. The Army Pensions Board is an independent statutory body established under the Army Pensions Act 1927. The main functions of the Board are to investigate applications for pensions, allowances and gratuities. The Act specifies that the Board shall consist of a chairman and two ordinary members. Under the Act, the two ordinary members must be qualified medical practitioners – one a civilian doctor and the other an officer of the Army Medical Corps. The chairman and the civilian doctor are appointed by the Minister for Defence with the concurrence of the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform. The Army Medical Corps ordinary member is appointed by the Minister for Defence on the recommendation of the Chief of Staff of the Defence Forces.

There have been two appointments to the Army Pensions Board since the Government took office. A serving officer was appointed to the position of Army Medical Corps member of the Board in December 2011, and a civilian doctor was appointed as ordinary member in November 2013. The civilian doctor vacancy was advertised on my Department’s website and the Public Appointments Service website.

I am satisfied that the procedures in place for filling vacancies on the Army Pensions Board ensure that the most suitably qualified candidates are appointed.

Severe Weather Events

Ceisteanna (441)

Billy Timmins

Ceist:

441. Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his views on correspondence (details supplied) regarding funding for storm damage in County Wicklow; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11934/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

There are no plans to introduce a specific compensation scheme for those farmers who suffered damage to their buildings or equipment as a result of the recent storms. In certain cases, however, such farmers may be able to apply for grant-aid under the on-farm investment schemes which will be introduced by my Department following the receipt of EU Commission approval for the 2014-2020 Rural Development Programme. It is not possible to introduce a compensation scheme for all unforeseen events and I would urge farmers to familiarise themselves with insurance to cover all risk management issues such as injury, theft, weather related disasters and animal diseases.

Rural Environment Protection Scheme Payments

Ceisteanna (442)

John O'Mahony

Ceist:

442. Deputy John O'Mahony asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will receive their REPS 4 payment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11524/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

The person named commenced REPS 4 in August 2009 and received payments for the first four years of their contract. REPS 4 is a measure under the current Rural Development Programme, 2007-2013, and is subject to EU Regulations which require detailed administrative checks on all applications to be completed before payments can issue. The administrative checks in this case have now been completed and the Year 5 payments have been authorised for payment and will issue shortly.

Severe Weather Events Response

Ceisteanna (443)

Brendan Griffin

Ceist:

443. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he will support a call for the reduction of harbour fees for fishermen who have been unable to fish for the past three months due to the adverse weather conditions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11529/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

My Department is responsible for the six Fishery Harbour Centres located at Howth, Dunmore East, Castletownbere, Dingle, Rossaveel and Killybegs. Charges for the use of facilities and services at each of the Fishery Harbour Centres are levied by virtue of the Fishery Harbour Centres (Rates & Charges) Order 2012. My Department is not responsible for charges levied for the use of facilities and services at other harbours throughout the country.

With regard to the Fishery Harbour Centres, most of the charges levied on fishermen are as a direct result of fish landings. Fishermen who were unable to fish and whose vessels remained tied up in these harbours during the periods of inclement weather would not have incurred these charges in any event. That said, I am acutely aware that the severe weather conditions experienced in recent months had an adverse effect on the fishing opportunities available to large numbers of fishermen. I have consulted with fishermen and their representatives, and been advised by them regarding possible measures to alleviate the impacts the weather has had on their activities.

In recognition of the limited fishing opportunities and the resultant low uptake of fish quotas in January and February, my Department met with industry representatives at the monthly meeting of the quota management advisory committee. A decision was made to increase quota levels and fishing opportunities in March to re-balance the landings and bring them more in line with expected quota uptake over the first three months. The level recommended by the industry took account of concerns not to glut the market and depress prices with very high landings in a single month. The situation will be kept under review and if necessary a similar exercise may be under taken for April quotas.

On 12 February 2014, I informed the House that as part of its overall co-ordinated response to the impact of the recent unprecedented weather conditions, the Government had decided to allocate an additional €8.8 million for the repair of the public pier, harbour and slipway network linked to fisheries and aquaculture and to allocate up to €1.5 million to assist inshore fishermen in replacing lobster and shrimp pots lost or destroyed in the storms.

My Department has invited applications for funding from Local Authorities in respect of projects which relate to the repair of public Fishery and Aquaculture related harbours, piers and slipways damaged in the recent storm events. The closing date for applications was Friday, 28 February. The applications are currently being assessed. BIM has also opened, for applications, a new scheme providing aid of up to €2,400 for the replacement of pots lost in the storms.

In relation to any specific payments to compensate for lost earnings, the Minister for Social Protection has overall responsibility for funding income support to individuals and families in all sectors who have been unable to work because due to adverse weather conditions.

Agri-Environment Options Scheme Payments

Ceisteanna (444)

Paul Connaughton

Ceist:

444. Deputy Paul J. Connaughton asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine when an agri-environment options scheme payment will issue in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Galway; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11538/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

The person named was approved for participation in the Agri-Environment Options Scheme (AEOS 3) with effect from 1 May 2013. Under the EU Regulations governing the Scheme and other area-based payment schemes, a comprehensive administrative check, including cross-checks with the Land Parcel Identification System, must be completed before any payment can issue. These checks are well under way and I anticipate that payments for AEOS 3 in respect of 2013 will commence shortly.

Single Payment Scheme Payments

Ceisteanna (445)

Éamon Ó Cuív

Ceist:

445. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine when payment under the single farm payment scheme and the disadvantaged area-based scheme for 2013 will issue in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Galway; the reason for the delay in issuing this payment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11541/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

An official from My Department has been in direct contact with the person named and further documentation has been requested, immediately on receipt of which the case will be further examined, with a view to payment at an early date thereafter, on the understanding that the required documentation is forthcoming.

Disadvantaged Areas Scheme Payments

Ceisteanna (446)

Michael Ring

Ceist:

446. Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the reason a person (details supplied) has not received the full amount of their disadvantaged area payment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11543/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

An application under the 2013 Disadvantaged Areas Scheme was received from the person named on 7 May 2013, full payment in respect of which issued on 24 September 2013, based on the area declared by the person named.

Agri-Environment Options Scheme Appeals

Ceisteanna (447)

Michael Healy-Rae

Ceist:

447. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the position regarding an appeal in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11544/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

The person in question was able to provide additional information in support of his case and his AEOS contract is now being reinstated. He has been advised of this and payments due will issue to him shortly, commencing with reimbursement of payment for 2010 and issue of payment for 2011. Payments for 2012 and 2013 will follow in sequence thereafter.

Special Areas of Conservation Designation

Ceisteanna (448)

Éamon Ó Cuív

Ceist:

448. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine when the commonage framework plan review will be completed; the reason for the delay in completing the review in view of the impact this delay has on farmers who participated on the Twelve Bens-Garraun complex and Maumturk Mountains special areas of conservation scheme in respect of amending their AEOS and REP scheme plans; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11558/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

Commonage lands form an important part of the farming enterprises of many farmers, particularly along the west coast. They also form an important part of the local environment from the point of view of bio-diversity, wildlife, amenities and economic returns e.g. tourism. There is a substantial risk of land abandonment as under-grazing become more of a problem. Under-grazing leads to an increase in ineligible land under Direct Aid and Agri-Environment Schemes and leads to risk of financial corrections being imposed by EU Commission.

The farming of commonages lands has a long tradition in Ireland. It is by its very nature a complex area – there are issues about the legal right to claim and there have always been disputes about the grazing of the commonages. In the vast majority of cases, however, commonage shareholders work well together on a co-operative basis to maintain the commonages in GAEC or where there is under-grazing to return the habitat to GAEC.

My stated intention is to achieve this by working with the farmers directly managing the lands, relevant state agencies, the farming organisations and all other interested stakeholders. It will not be an easy task but it is achievable if we all work in a co-operative basis. It is expected that this process will commence shortly.

Single Payment Scheme Payments

Ceisteanna (449)

Michael Creed

Ceist:

449. Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the reason a person (details supplied) has had a substantial reduction in their single farm payment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11588/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

A review of the land parcels declared by the person named under the 2013 Single Payment Scheme revealed that two of the land parcels declared contained ineligible features. A letter issued from my Department on 18 November 2013 advising the person named of the position regarding these two parcels. While the person named was also advised of the right of appeal, to date no such appeal has been received.

Single Payment Scheme Eligibility

Ceisteanna (450)

Patrick O'Donovan

Ceist:

450. Deputy Patrick O'Donovan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the reason a person (details supplied) in County Wexford has lost their entitlements; and the course of action open to them to get them back. [11623/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

Under the Single Payment Scheme the person named established 50.12 Standard entitlements and 5.57 Set-aside entitlements with a total value of €20,696.07. All entitlements were fully used from 2005 until 2010. In 2011 the person named submitted an application to transfer 4.02 entitlements on a 7 year lease. The application was successful and the entitlements were transferred effective from 16 May 2011 to 31 December 2017. The remaining 51.67 entitlements were claimed by the person named in 2012 and 2013 with no loss of entitlements.

Any farmer who was entitled to receive a direct payment in 2013 (Single Payment, Grassland Sheep Scheme, Burren Life Scheme, Beef Data Scheme) is automatically eligible to receive an allocation of entitlements under the Basic Payment Scheme in 2015. As the person named did receive a 2013 direct payment, he holds an ‘allocation right’ which will allow him to establish entitlements under the new Scheme.

The value of entitlements that will be allocated to a farmer in 2015 will be based on a percentage of the value of entitlements (and where relevant the payment received in 2014 under the Grassland Sheep Scheme) owned by the farmer on the closing date for applications under the 2014 scheme year. When carrying forward the value of leased entitlements to the Basic Payment Scheme in 2015, such value will be assigned to the owner of the entitlements (where the owner is eligible to participate in the Basic Payment Scheme) and not to the lessee. The value of entitlements which the person named has leased out therefore will not be lost but will be attributed to him as the owner of the entitlements.

If the person named wishes to continue the existing lease of land and entitlements to the lessee, he may do so by way of a Private Contract Clause, presuming that he proceeds to establish entitlements in 2015 in his own name. I recommend that the person named contact the 2015 Direct Payments Information Centre at 0761 064438 or CAPdirectpayments@agriculture.gov.ie to discuss his individual circumstances in more detail.

Single Payment Scheme Payments

Ceisteanna (451, 452)

Tom Fleming

Ceist:

451. Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he will expedite a single farm payment scheme application in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11646/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Tom Fleming

Ceist:

452. Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he will expedite a disadvantaged areas scheme application in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11647/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 451 and 452 together.

With regard to the 2013 Single Payment Scheme, as the person named does not hold any payments entitlements, no payment is due. Processing of the application of the person named under the 2013 Disadvantaged Area Scheme revealed over-claims in respect of three of the land parcels declared by the person named. The person named was notified accordingly, by letter, with which maps of the relevant land parcels were enclosed. The person named was also advised of their right of appeal; however, to date, no response has been received.

Suckler Welfare Scheme Payments

Ceisteanna (453)

Éamon Ó Cuív

Ceist:

453. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine when 2013 payments will issue under the suckler welfare scheme and agri-environment options scheme 3 to a person (details supplied) in County Galway; the reason for the delay in issuing these payments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11679/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

Payment under the Beef Data Programme cannot be made until all of the data required has been received. It is anticipated that complete data for all applicants will have been received from most participants by the end of April and, therefore, payments will commence in June 2014 to those farmers who have met all of the Programme’s requirements. The person named was approved for participation in the Agri-Environment Options Scheme (AEOS 3) with effect from 1 May 2013. Under the EU Regulations governing the Scheme and other area-based payment schemes, a comprehensive administrative check, including cross-checks with the Land Parcel Identification System, must be completed before any payment can issue. These checks are well under way and I anticipate that payments for AEOS 3 in respect of 2013 will commence shortly.

Departmental Offices

Ceisteanna (454)

Tom Fleming

Ceist:

454. Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he will ensure his Department's office in Tralee, County Kerry remains open, and is adequately staffed and resourced to allow for the excellent service to the county's farming community to continue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11682/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

I would like to emphasise that the Tralee office will remain open. The position is that the administrative functions are being transferred to the Portlaoise office, but the Department’s vets, inspectors and technical officers will remain in place at the existing local offices to service our clients across all of the schemes that are provided from these offices. Frontline services will be fully maintained and public access for all of the Departments stakeholders will continue to be available in the Tralee office.

The transfer of the administrative functions out of the Tralee office arises from an extensive review of the local office structure which was carried out by the Department over the last number of years. This review concluded that, arising from investment in technology and the substantial reduction in disease levels in recent years, significant efficiencies would accrue from the centralisation of administrative functions in two centres, thereby giving rise to significant scope for redeployment of administrative staff from existing local offices. The process of centralising the administrative functions commenced in 2012 and is on-going.

In line with Government policy, my Department has actively sought redeployment opportunities for administrative staff in local Offices and staff have already been transferred from the local offices in Limerick, Tipperary, Enniscorthy, Waterford and Tullamore to other Departments and agencies, such as the Revenue Commissioners and the Department of Justice, in order to enable those bodies to provide important services, including the property tax, Garda vetting etc. My Department will continue to maintain a public office in Tralee and, indeed, in all of the locations from which the administrative functions are being transferred. The centralisation of administrative support should not impact negatively upon local access and services for local customers.

Disadvantaged Areas Scheme Eligibility

Ceisteanna (455)

Seamus Kirk

Ceist:

455. Deputy Seamus Kirk asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he will re-examine the decision to refuse disadvantaged areas scheme 2012 payment to a person (details supplied) in County Monaghan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11691/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

Under the 2012 Disadvantaged Areas Scheme, in addition to maintaining a minimum stocking density on their holding of 0.15 livestock units for a minimum retention period of six consecutive months, applicants were also required to maintain an annual average of 0.15 livestock units calculated over the 12 months of the scheme year. Payment under the 2012 Scheme did not issue to the person named as their holding did not satisfied the Scheme’s minimum stocking density requirements. Following a review of all livestock held on the holding and confirmation of compliance with the Scheme minimum stocking density requirements, the application is now processed with payment due to issue directly to the nominated bank account of the person named shortly.