Bioenergy Strategy

Ceisteanna (55)

Brian Stanley

Ceist:

55. Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if consideration has been given to the manner in which indigenous biomass supply can be grown to maintain security of energy supply and used to replace peat in peat electricity power plants. [3356/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

The three peat-fired electricity generating stations in Ireland, one owned by Bord na Móna and two by ESB, were awarded support for biomass combustion under the REFIT3 Scheme for up to 30% of the installed capacity up to 2030. Bord na Móna commenced co-firing at its Edenderry Plant with biomass in 2008, and it is expected that ESB will commence co-firing at its 2 peat fired plants with biomass in 2020. ESB is in the process of seeking planning permission for the phased transition of its stations to biomass by the end of 2027. Bord na Móna currently has planning permission to co-fire with up to 30% biomass.

In relation to the supply of biomass, Bord na Móna’s BioEnergy division sources sustainable biomass that is used at the Edenderry power station and I am advised that up to 80% of the biomass used in the Edenderry power station is from domestic sources. However, in the event that all three peat-fired plants have planning permission to co-fire with biomass, it is unlikely that the amount of biomass required will be supplied from indigenous sources. It is likely that the supply deficit would be met by imports.

In addition to the three power stations, there is demand for biomass for use in industry and in residential heating, and the Government’s Support Scheme for Renewable Heat will also create a demand for biomass supplies in the coming years.

As pointed out by Coford in its recent reports on Wood Supply and Demand to 2025, and Mobilising Ireland’s Forest Resource, the key challenge is to ensure a balanced approach to the development of wood resource to best meet demand. Mobilising the private supply of indigenous resources is a key factor. As the supply of indigenous biomass increases, supported by the forestry programme and other measures, imported biomass will be displaced.

Broadband Service Provision

Question No. 57 answered with Question No. 45.

Ceisteanna (56)

Brendan Smith

Ceist:

56. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the progress expected in 2019 in the delivery of the national broadband plan to counties Cavan and Monaghan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3377/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

As set out in the reply of PQ 857 of 15 January, the National Broadband Plan aims to ensure that every home, school and business in Ireland has access to high speed broadband. This is being achieved through a combination of commercial investment across Ireland and a State intervention in those areas where commercial operators acting alone are unlikely to invest.

There are approximately 42,000 premises in County Cavan. Since December 2015, the number of premises with access to high speed broadband in Cavan has increased by 5,317, a 13% increase. In total, the number of premises in Cavan with access to high speed broadband is now 23,535, or 56% of the total premises in the county. Approximately another 1,570 premises will be served by eir under that company’s ongoing rural deployment.

There are approximately 33,000 premises in County Monaghan. Since December 2015, the number of premises with access to high speed broadband in Monaghan increased by 2,270, a 7% increase. In total, the number of premises in Monaghan with access to high speed broadband is now 16,325, or 49% of the total premises in the county. Approximately another 1,000 premises will be served by eir under that company's ongoing rural deployment.

The remaining 16,985 premises in Cavan and 15,675 premises in Monaghan will be connected under the Government’s National Broadband Plan State led intervention.

In April 2017 my Department published an updated High Speed Broadband Map, which is available at www.broadband.gov.ie. This map shows the areas targeted by commercial operators to provide high speed broadband services and the areas that will be included in the State Intervention Area under the National Broadband Plan. The Map is colour coded and searchable by address/Eircode. The Map is updated on a quarterly basis as more premises gain access to high speed broadband.

The procurement process to appoint a bidder for the State intervention network is now at the final stage. My priority is to bring the procurement process to a fair and impartial conclusion as quickly as possible and I will bring a recommendation to Government in this regard in the coming weeks.

Question No. 57 answered with Question No. 45.

Climate Change Policy

Question No. 59 answered with Question No. 31.

Ceisteanna (58)

Mick Wallace

Ceist:

58. Deputy Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if the findings of a study commissioned by a publication (details supplied) have been reviewed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3403/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

Ireland's greenhouse gas emissions arise from a number of different sources, with agriculture representing the largest share at 33.3% of total emissions in 2017. Agriculture emissions increased by 2.9% in 2017 following an increase in 2016 of 2.7%. The most significant drivers for the increased emissions in 2017 are higher dairy cow numbers, with an increase in milk production of 9.2%. In the last 5 years, dairy cow numbers have increased by 26.1% and corresponding milk production by 38.8%. This reflects national plans to expand milk production under Food Wise 2025 and the removal of the milk quota in 2015. I have recently received a mandate from Government to begin the preparation of a new All of Government Plan to bring about a step change in our climate ambition over the next decade, and beyond. My vision is that this new Plan will set out the actions which must be taken to make Ireland a leader in responding to climate change. In developing this Plan, all proposals which can inform and lead to significant greenhouse gas emission reductions are being considered.

Over the longer term, it is clear that climate change presents a long-term challenge across the whole of the economy and that all sectors are going to have to play their part if we are to achieve the deep decarbonisation to meet the objectives of the 2014 National Policy Position on Climate Action and Low Carbon Development.

Matters relating to agriculture and food policy are, in the first instance, a matter for my colleague, the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

Question No. 59 answered with Question No. 31.

Broadband Service Provision

Ceisteanna (60)

Thomas Byrne

Ceist:

60. Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if he is satisfied with the level of broadband coverage in County Meath. [3249/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

The National Broadband Plan aims to ensure that every home, school and business in Ireland has access to high speed broadband. This is being achieved through a combination of commercial investment across the country, and a State intervention in those areas where commercial operators acting alone are unlikely to invest. There are approximately 85,300 premises in County Meath. Since December 2015, the number of premises with access to high speed broadband in Meath has increased by 31,564, a 36% increase. In total, the number of premises in Meath with access to high speech broadband is 62,934, or 74% of total premises in the county. Another 2,468 will be served by eir under that company’s ongoing rural deployment.

The remaining 19,905 homes, schools and businesses in Meath will be connected under the Government’s National Broadband Plan.

In April 2017 my Department published an updated High Speed Broadband Map, which is available at www.broadband.gov.ie. This map shows the areas targeted by commercial operators to provide high speed broadband services and the areas that will be included in the State Intervention Area under the National Broadband Plan. The Map is colour coded and searchable by address or Eircode.

The procurement process to appoint a bidder for the State intervention network is now at the final stage. My priority is to bring the procurement process to a fair and impartial conclusion as quickly as possible and I will bring a recommendation to Government in the coming weeks.

National Mitigation Plan

Ceisteanna (61)

Eamon Ryan

Ceist:

61. Deputy Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if his attention has been drawn to a report (details supplied); if he is considering a similar policy approach as part of the national mitigation plan, national energy and climate plan and the all of Government plan for climate disruption; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3264/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

Greenhouse gas emissions and removals associated with land use, land use change and forestry (LULUCF), as reported in Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions inventory, include activities associated with afforestation and forestry harvesting, grassland and cropland management with agricultural use, managed and unmanaged wetlands, and other land-use categories (including settlements). While such emissions are not currently accounted for in relation to the calculation of compliance with Ireland’s emissions targets in the period to 2020, from 2021 onwards these emissions will be integrated into the EU framework for compliance with national emissions targets. It is, therefore, essential that Ireland has robust policies in place to manage emissions and enhance removals from relevant LULUCF sectoral categories.

In relation to the report referred to, the need to achieve deep reductions in greenhouse gas emissions over the coming decades will pose significant long-term challenges to our existing approach to land use. This is already anticipated in the 2014 National Policy Position which sets out a long-term vision of low carbon transition based, inter alia, on an approach to carbon neutrality in the agriculture and land-use sector, including forestry, which does not compromise capacity for sustainable food production.

Matters relating to land use policy concerning land under agricultural and forestry production are, in the first instance, a matter for my colleague, the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

Broadband Service Provision

Ceisteanna (62)

John Brady

Ceist:

62. Deputy John Brady asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the reason a school (details supplied) was not included in plans to bring broadband to an area; if the school will be facilitated to access broadband; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3400/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

The premises referenced by the Deputy is in the AMBER area on the National Broadband Plan (NBP) High Speed Broadband Map, which is available on my Department's website at www.broadband.gov.ie. The AMBER areas represent the target areas for the proposed State led Intervention under the NBP. This intervention is the subject of an ongoing procurement process. I note that there is some deployment of infrastructure by eir in the area of the school premises. This is part of that company’s ongoing rural fibre rollout.

eir’s rural investment in high speed broadband is an entirely commercial undertaking, and not part of the planned State Intervention network. Although the deployment is monitored under the terms of a Commitment Agreement signed between the company and my Department, it is not funded by the State and it is not planned, designed or directed by my Department in any capacity.

The selection of what premises are to be served under eir’s deployment is an internal and commercial decision for that company. My Department has no statutory authority or function to intervene in the company’s commercial decisions, nor in any decisions relating to the roll out and siting of infrastructure throughout Ireland by service providers operating in a liberalised market.

The procurement process to appoint a bidder for the State intervention network is now at the final stage. My priority is to bring the procurement process to a fair and impartial conclusion as quickly as possible and I will bring a recommendation to Government in this regard in the coming weeks.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Ceisteanna (63)

Catherine Connolly

Ceist:

63. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the percentage range by sector by which Ireland is likely to miss 2020 greenhouse gas emissions targets to reduce emissions to 20% below 2005 levels; the estimated annual fines Ireland is likely to face as a consequence; the steps being taken to address these shortfalls; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3397/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

Under the 2009 Effort Sharing Decision, which put in place binding annual emissions targets for each year between 2013 and 2020 for sectors outside the EU Emissions Trading System, Ireland must achieve a reduction of 20% relative to 2005 levels of emissions. The latest projections, published in May 2018 by the EPA, indicate that emissions from those sectors of the economy covered by the Effort Sharing Decision could be only between 0% and 1% below 2005 levels by 2020. The EU system does not fix separate targets for different sectors. The Effort Sharing Decision allows Member States to meet their targets using unused emissions allowances from earlier years, or through purchasing allowances from other Member States or on international markets. Ireland has certain accumulated credits already acquired. However, I am advised that Ireland will need to purchase allowances to meet projected shortfalls in 2019 and 2020. My Department currently estimates the costs of this requirement to be in the region of €6m to €13m, depending on the price and final quantity of allowances required.

I have recently secured Government approval to prepare an All-of-Government Plan which will set out the actions to be taken to make Ireland a leader in responding to climate change, including how Ireland will, at the very least, meet its targets for the period to 2030.

Post Office Closures

Question No. 65 answered with Question No. 16.

Ceisteanna (64)

Thomas Pringle

Ceist:

64. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment his views on the closure of rural post offices in the context of the need for climate abatement measures in which the provision of services close to the public would reduce the need for travel in the future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3143/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

An Post is a commercial State body with its own Board. Decisions relating to the post office network are an operational matter for An Post. In the face of serious declines in the volume of mail and post office business, An Post faced growing losses and has had to undertake a major restructuring of its business in order to continue to be able to provide its services.

Insofar as post office closures are concerned, An Post established a protocol which sets out how the company would facilitate the continued provision of Post Office services where postmasters choose to retire. Its aim is to make as many post offices as possible viable. The protocol takes account of minimum service levels which aim to ensure that all areas with over 500 people will have a Post Office. In rural areas, 95% of the population will be within 15km of at least one Post Office. In urban areas, 95% of the population will be within 3km of at least one post office. The aim is to ensure the retention of a viable post office network where individuals will have to travel the minimum distance possible to avail of the post office facilities.

The company has established a separate business unit to have full control over the post office network and is fully committed to the remaining 960 post offices, which includes an extensive rural network.

Question No. 65 answered with Question No. 16.

Renewable Energy Generation

Ceisteanna (66)

Clare Daly

Ceist:

66. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if he considered the findings and recommendations of a report (details supplied) on healthy diets and sustainable food systems in developing the plan on climate change. [3304/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

The findings of the recently published Lancet Commission report, 'Tracking Progress on Health and Climate Change', covers a range of policy areas that are currently being considered in the context of the All of Government Plan to Address Climate Disruption. Phasing out coal-fired power generation is a key recommendation, and this is currently already an action in the National Mitigation Plan and will be further advanced in the All of Government Plan. Encouraging a city-level low-carbon transition to reduce urban pollution is also being progressed in the context of measures in the transport sector, including actions to increase the numbers of electric vehicles in Ireland and further increase biofuel blends. The Lancet report calls for a rapid expansion of access to renewable energy, unlocking the substantial economic gains available from this transition. This is a critical policy area on which the Plan will focus considerable ambition and I anticipate that a significant scale-up in the penetration of renewables will feature in the Plan.

Defence Forces Deployment

Ceisteanna (67, 68)

Clare Daly

Ceist:

67. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence further to Parliamentary Question Nos. 20, 25 and 32 of 17 January 2019, if his attention has been drawn to the fact that UNIFIL and UNDOF operate under UN Charter Article VI which is primarily in relation to peacekeeping and that the mission to Mali, MINUSMA is under UN Charter Article VII which means it is a mission to maintain peace through force and thus qualitatively different to UNIFIL. [3481/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Clare Daly

Ceist:

68. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the reason he considers the Army Ranger Wing would be suitable to serve in the MINUSMA mission in Mali in view of the fact that it is an elite special forces unit that is not trained or organised for peacekeeping. [3482/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 67 and 68 together.

The Army Ranger Wing (ARW) are the Special Operations Forces of the Defence Forces. In this context, the ARW are trained and equipped to undertake a range of specialist roles. They are an elite military unit and their capability is a significant asset to the State both in a domestic national security role and in an overseas role.

The ARW is part and parcel of the capabilities available to the State to be deployed in support of our national security and overseas peace support operations. They are deployed overseas to UN peacekeeping missions in accordance with the provisions of the Defence Acts and their deployment is covered by the same legislative provisions as apply to the rest of the Permanent Defence Force. The statutory authority for the despatch of contingents of the Permanent Defence Force for service overseas is set out in Section 2 of the Defence (Amendment) (No.2) Act, 1960 as amended by the Defence (Amendment) Act, 2006. The ARW have previously been deployed on UN mandated peacekeeping operations including, in what was then East Timor with INTERFET, in Liberia with UNMIL and in Chad with EUFOR tChad/RCA where their particular skill set has been required.

MINUSMA, the UN mission in Mali is a authorised under Chapter VII of the UN Charter by the UN Security Council. It is a significant UN peace enforcement mission comprising both regular and special operations forces and high end capabilities. The option to deploy a small contingent of Army Ranger Wing personnel to MINUSMA as part of a larger Special Operations Forces within the mission later this year has arisen.

Ireland currently has no Defence Forces personnel deployed to the UN mandated MINUSMA mission. However, potential overseas missions are considered on an on-going basis. The Department and the Defence Forces are in the very early information gathering stage in considering this particular mission. This involves getting detailed information on the mission and its operations, consideration of the possible role which the Defence Forces may be able to undertake in the mission, how such a deployment fits with Defence Forces capabilities having regard to existing and potential commitments at home and overseas and a detailed threat analysis and assessment. This process has only just commenced and will take a period of time to reach a conclusion. On foot of the respective military and policy advice arising from this process, I will then consider the matter. I should emphasise again that no decision has been taken yet and there is some way to go in the process before we reach that point.

Army Barracks Closures

Ceisteanna (69)

Jack Chambers

Ceist:

69. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the amount paid to private security firms for the provision of security services by the Defence Forces in each of the past three years in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3504/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

When a military installation is closed and is surplus to requirements all military responsibility for the installation ceases. My Department then takes responsibility for maintenance and security.

In the case of former Columb Barracks, Mullingar, which closed in 2012, my Department put private security arrangements in place in order to prevent the premises being vandalised and becoming the focus of anti-social behaviour. In that regard the effectiveness of the security measures currently in place are being continuously monitored and I am satisfied that the arrangements are warranted for the reasons indicated above.  The security company also assists with the ongoing daily management of the Barracks.

The amount paid to the security firm for each of the past 3 years is shown in tabular form on the table.

Provision of Security Services

Year

Location

Cost

2016

Former   Columb Barracks, Mullingar

€37,918.44

2017

Former   Columb Barracks, Mullingar

€37,608.48

2018

Former   Columb Barracks, Mullingar

€37,608.48

 

TOTAL

€113,135.40

 

Departmental Meetings

Ceisteanna (70)

Jack Chambers

Ceist:

70. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the number of meetings his Department had with the representative associations regarding the working time directive 2003; the dates on which they occurred; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3533/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

The Conciliation and Arbitration (C&A) Scheme for members of the Permanent Defence Force (PDF) provides an established mechanism for the PDF representative associations to engage with the Official side.

There is ongoing regular engagement between Department officials and the Representative side on a range of items which are processed through the C&A scheme. The EU Working Time Directive has been the subject of discussions at Conciliation Council many times and has been referenced in Conciliation Council Reports. 

The government has committed to bringing the Defence Forces within the scope of the Organisation of Working Time Act, 1997 having regard to the specifics of the EU Working Time Directive. The implementation of this for the Defence Forces is a matter which is being pursued by the Representative Associations through the C&A scheme. As matters dealt with under the C&A Scheme are confidential in nature it would not be appropriate for me to comment further.

Department of Defence and Defence Forces officials also met with representatives from PDFORRA and RACO on 23rd July 2018. The meeting discussed the establishment of a sub-committee of the Conciliation & Arbitration (C&A) Council to examine these matters. Terms of reference for this sub-committee are under consideration.  

Work is also underway to progress the legislative changes required with the Department of Employment Affairs & Social Protection in conjunction with the Department of Justice & Equality.  An internal Defence Forces Working Group is also further considering issues and will report on its findings shortly.

Further consultation with the Defence Forces Representative Associations will be undertaken as the current work evolves.

Commemorative Medals

Ceisteanna (71)

Eoin Ó Broin

Ceist:

71. Deputy Eoin Ó Broin asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence further to Parliamentary Question No. 1725 of 26 July 2017, if the issue of awarding 1916 commemorative medals to all retired members of the Defence Forces will be reviewed with a view to awarding the medals in 2019. [3552/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

The Programme for Government provided for the award of the 1916 Commemorative medal to all Defence Forces personnel, Permanent and Reserve, who were recorded as being in service in the course of 2016. This was a special acknowledgement from the Government to the members of Óglaigh na hÉireann who served during the centenary year.  

As the Deputy is aware from my replies to previous Parliamentary Questions, and as I have indicated in response to representations on this issue, many thousands of personnel have served in the Defence Forces since the foundation of the State.  To put in place a mechanism to establish the identity of each, contact those who are still alive, decide on eligibility and, in the case of infirm or deceased former members, resolve who should get the medal on their behalf, would place an inordinate and disproportionate administrative burden on my Department. This, in turn, would divert important resources to the detriment of other more pressing and relevant requirements of my Department and the Defence Forces.

In recognition of the contribution of veterans to the centenary commemorative events in 2016 it was agreed to present a framed medal to each of the Veterans Associations along with a plaque for each of ONE’s 41 Branches and each of IUNVA’s 21 Posts. It is not proposed to revisit this arrangement.

Service Medals

Ceisteanna (72, 73)

Gerry Adams

Ceist:

72. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence if consideration will be given to adapting the existing scheme for posthumously awarding a service medal for Cumann na mBan members in view of the difficulties experienced by many women in Northern Ireland that did not apply for pensions or medals due to the political circumstances within the country at the time; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3573/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Gerry Adams

Ceist:

73. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence if he or his officials have considered additional schemes which would seek to give an official recognition to the significant role played by Cumann na mBan members (details supplied). [3574/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 72 and 73 together.

In certain situations a service medal can be posthumously awarded if no such medal was previously awarded. This is only done in exceptional cases and only where there is incontrovertible verified evidence available from Departmental records that the criteria for the award of a medal have been met. The relevant records were maintained for the specific purpose of dealing with individual applications for medals or pensions and not to act as a record of all activities during the Easter Rising and the War of Independence. Where a person made an application for a pension or medal in respect of their service or involvement in the Easter Rising and/or War of Independence, verified evidence of service was required before the award of a pension or medal was made. Such verification was provided by surviving members of the old IRA and other related organisations who knew of the membership and activities of the applicant. However, not every individual who was involved in Easter Week and/or the War of Independence made an application for a pension or medal and in such cases there would have been no reason to seek or hold verification of membership or individual activities.

As the Deputy will appreciate, there are now no surviving members of Cumann na mBan or the old IRA alive who could verify membership. Due to the length of time that has now elapsed there is no mechanism available at this stage by which service and activities, in the absence of existing Departmental records, can be investigated or verified. In the absence of a verification process at this stage it is very difficult to satisfy the requirements and therefore the award of such posthumous medals is quite rare.

Any application for a posthumous medal made to my Department will be carefully considered; however, I have no plans to put in place wider arrangements or to amend the criteria in relation to the posthumous award of medals relating the 1916-1921 period.

I can confirm that there are no applications for posthumous medals in respect of Cumann na mBan service on hand, nor have any such applications been received in recent years. If the Deputy has a case in mind he can contact my office and I will look into the matter.