Meat Processing Plant Inspections

Ceisteanna (485)

James Browne

Ceist:

485. Deputy James Browne asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the position regarding the controls, inspections and sanctions for factories on carcase trim, classification and weights; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8311/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2017/1184 of 20 April 2017 governs the monitoring of carcase classification, carcase presentation and weighing.

Carcase classification and carcase presentation controls in slaughter plants are carried out by a dedicated team of specialist staff in the Beef Carcase Classification Section within my Department. Classification Officers conduct unannounced, on-the-spot inspections in 32 beef slaughtering plants to ensure that Carcase Classification is carried out in accordance with EU Regulations. The number of inspections conducted annually significantly exceeds the legal requirement for the minimum number of inspections set down in EU legislation. In 2018, my Department conducted almost 550 inspections.

Since January 1st, 2019, additional monitoring of carcase presentation by my Department’s veterinary public health inspection staff (VPHIS) in these factories is in place. This will provide further assurance to stakeholders that the appropriate dressing specification is being applied. These staff will provide a supporting role for the Beef Carcase Classification staff.

Regarding sanctions, under legislation (SI 363/2010), non-compliance with the legislation attracts a maximum on the spot fine of €200 per carcase. In addition, any person who commits an offence under these Regulations is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding €5,000 or to a term of imprisonment not exceeding 6 months or to both.

Animal Welfare

Ceisteanna (486, 487, 488)

Catherine Martin

Ceist:

486. Deputy Catherine Martin asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if there is a centralised point that records all actions taken under the Animal Health and Welfare Act 2013 in general and specifically regarding notices, charges, prosecutions, convictions and sentences; if so, the location of this centralised system; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8319/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Catherine Martin

Ceist:

487. Deputy Catherine Martin asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the number of charges, prosecutions, convictions and sentencing for each offence under the Animal Health and Welfare Act 2013 since its inception; the number of served notices under the Act; the requirements under the notices; the outcome of these notices by region; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8320/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Catherine Martin

Ceist:

488. Deputy Catherine Martin asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the number of cases initiated under the Animal Health and Welfare Act 2013 since its inception in the event that there is no centralised collection point of actions taken under the Act; the outcomes of these cases by notices, charges, prosecutions, convictions and sentences; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8321/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 486 to 488, inclusive, together.

The Animal Health and Welfare Act 2013 was enacted, after lengthy and constructive debate in both Houses of the Oireachtas and came into operation on 6 March 2014.

The Act provides for prosecution of offences in the District Court by the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, local authorities and members of An Garda Síochána. Matters tried on indictment are the remit of the Director of Public Prosecutions in the normal manner.

The provisions of the Act are enforced by Authorised Officers of my Department, An Garda Síochána, officers of Customs and Excise and authorised officers of ISPCA, DSPCA, Irish Greyhound Board and the Turf Club. These officers investigate matters relating to animal cruelty and neglect and, where the evidence supports such action, it is my policy that a file is prepared and the matter pursued through the Courts.

Since the inception of the Act, my Department has initiated 67 prosecutions that resulted in 65 convictions. Two individuals died before trial. There are currently two appeals pending before the Circuit Court. The probation Act was applied in 5 instances. Fines totalling in excess of €50,000 have been imposed and 1 person, who has appealed the sentence, was sentenced to a term of imprisonment; a further 3 individuals have received suspended sentences. Disqualification orders under section 58 of the Act have been imposed on 8 persons.

A further 11 files have been sent to the Chief State Solicitor with a view to instituting proceedings while summonses have issued in 16 cases which remain before the Courts.

The Act also provides for Animal Health and Welfare Notices to be issued by authorised officers. This means that minor situations can be addressed at an early stage and that encouragement, guidance and best practice are introduced rather than just punishment. It also provides for Fixed Penalty Notices to be issued in minor cases and allows authorised officers to seize and re-home animals where the owner is no longer able to care for his/her animals.

It has not been possible to collate the information sought regarding notices in the time allowed, however my Department will provide further detail directly to the Deputy in due course.

Actions taken by An Garda Síochána and Customs and Excise are a matter for those bodies.

Meat Processing Plants

Ceisteanna (489)

Michael Fitzmaurice

Ceist:

489. Deputy Michael Fitzmaurice asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the number of cows of UK origin slaughtered in factories here per month in 2017 and 2018, respectively, and in January 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8344/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

The following statistics have been extracted from the Department's Animal Identification Movement (AIM) database.

On the Department's Animal Identification Movement (AIM) database the origin of an animal is based on the location of the particular herd it is born into. Therefore Irish tagged animals which are re-imported are excluded from these statistics.

The following categories have been included: females; of which, females over two years of age on the import date; and of which, females over two years old that had calved.

Based on the above categories the total number of females greater than 2 years of age bearing UK tags imported for slaughter into the country in 2017 was 6,488, of which 5,551 had calved. The corresponding figure for 2018 was 5,429 and 5,087, respectively.

2017

2018

Female UK > 2 yrs old

Female UK > 2 yrs that had calved *

Female UK > 2 yrs old

Female UK > 2 yrs that had calved *

January

433

398

January

600

509

February

319

276

February

317

300

March

398

373

March

254

238

April

678

422

April

359

343

May

657

436

May

471

449

June

372

279

June

418

380

July

203

188

July

428

384

August

403

384

August

631

606

September

924

821

September

306

299

October

817

799

October

621

607

November

717

696

November

738

694

December

567

479

December

286

278

Total

6,488

5,551

Total

5,429

5,087

Common Agricultural Policy Reform

Ceisteanna (490)

Michael Fitzmaurice

Ceist:

490. Deputy Michael Fitzmaurice asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the way in which his Department plans to evaluate whether the CAP proposals proposed by the main farming organisations truly reflect the views of farmers; if he will allow all farmers to vote on the CAP proposals through an online system such as agfood.ie or through veterinary offices; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8345/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

The new regulations for the CAP 2021-27 were launched on Friday 1 June 2018 by Commissioner Hogan. The proposals, as drafted, involve significant changes, including in relation to governance, the distribution of direct payments among farmers and the increasing environmental conditionality attaching to such payments. These proposals are complex and we are now in the middle of intensive and challenging negotiations for the next CAP 2021-27. However, the proposals are just that and we still have some way to go before agreement on these proposals will be achieved.

I have always sought to have a broad consultation on these proposals. In February 2018, I launched my Department's public consultation process which included six meetings with stakeholders across the country. The objective of the consultation was to allow members of the public outline their views on the issue, having regard to the challenges facing the sector. In total, 164 written submissions were received, which included responses from farming organisations such as the IFA, INHFA, ICMSA, ICOS, ICMSA among others. The submissions provided a vital insight into farming and societal views.

In addition to the public consultation, I hosted a Conference in July 2018 on the new CAP legislative proposals for interested stakeholders, including farm bodies, state agencies and the environmental pillar. This was a timely opportunity to bring all interested stakeholders together for a constructive discussion on the future CAP. The range of speakers came from the political sphere, from the European Commission, and from my Department. The conference was a very useful opportunity to hear the views of the many stakeholders involved. The outcome from the consultation process and the stakeholder conference is feeding into the Department’s on-going analysis and policy response to the proposals. Since then there have been ongoing informal consultations with stakeholders, including farm bodies, state agencies and the environmental pillar.

The CAP post 2020 proposals set out a new delivery model which requires Member States to submit a CAP Strategic Plan, covering Pillar I and Pillar II expenditure, to the Commission for approval. The process of developing the CAP Strategic Plan will be complex and will require on-going and substantive stakeholder and public consultation which will include the farm organisations. Further consultation meetings will be arranged with stakeholders as the negotiations and preparation of the CAP Strategic Plan progresses.

Beef Data and Genomics Programme

Ceisteanna (491)

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

491. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the genomic traits used in the beef data and genomics programme; the relative emphasis given to each trait to provide a figure for the genomic index; the proportion of the phenotype expression of each of these genomic traits; the genetic diseases screened for in the genomic analysis; the reliability for each disease; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8405/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

This information has been requested from ICBF and will be forwarded to the Deputy's office when available.

Departmental Contracts Data

Ceisteanna (492)

Mattie McGrath

Ceist:

492. Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if his attention has been drawn to cost overruns on contracts within his Department with a value in excess of €10 million that came in more than 10% over budget in each of the years 2016 to 2018, inclusive, and to date in 2019; if so, the details of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8415/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

I wish to advise the Deputy that no contracts with a value in excess of €10 million within my Department have come in more than 10% over budget from 2016 to date.

I have been made aware of a projected cost increase on a capital project under the aegis of Horse Racing Ireland. This project is partially funded from private sector contributions and I am assured that it will not result in any additional call on capital funding from my Department.

Harbours and Piers Maintenance

Ceisteanna (493)

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

493. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine when Howth Harbour will be dredged; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8448/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

Howth Fishery Harbour Centre (FHC) is one of the six designated Fishery Harbour Centres which are owned, managed and maintained by my Department under Statute.

Siltation in Howth Harbour has been recognised as an issue for some time, and the requirement for a dredging project to restore adequate depth in the entrance channel and within the harbour is accepted. The Harbour was last dredged in the early 1980s. A number of investigative and preparatory works and initiatives have been undertaken over the last few years in respect of a potential dredging project in Howth FHC. A final site investigation report was received in October 2016 and has been assessed by the Department's Engineers. This report included vital information on the nature and amount of the material to be dredged.

The Department also appointed a Consulting Engineer in 2016 to advise on a number of possible developments in Howth, including a dredging project. A final report was issued from the Consulting Engineers in late October 2017 which confirmed that the concentrations of contaminants in the sediment to be dredged are such that while the material cannot be considered inert, it can be classified as non hazardous. This means that dumping at sea will not be permitted, which in turn has a significant effect on the project cost.

Department Engineers subsequently met with Fingal County Council, to review possible operational and permitting requirements. Engagement with the Council is ongoing in regard to exploring disposal options for the dredged material. It would be the Department's view that the material should be treated and re-used to reclaim much needed additional ground for Harbour use.

This project will require Planning Permission, an Environmental Impact Study (EIS) and a Waste License. The permitting process is likely to take up to 24 months. A variety of factors will impact on the cost of a potential dredging project including the disposal options, overall scale of the project, and market factors.

The Department went to tender on the 3rd of October 2018 for a Consulting Engineering practice to bring the project through the planning, environmental permitting and design phase, and should a decision be made to progress the project, this consultant will also be responsible for the supervision of onsite works. The successful tender was commissioned for these works on the 19th of December 2018.

As part of the 2019 Fishery Harbour and Coastal Infrastructure Development Programme, I have allocated €100,000 for the continuation of the preparatory works for a dredging project in Howth as set out above. As is the case with all developments in the six Fishery Harbour Centres, any future decision with regard to initiating a full dredging works project in Howth will only be considered on the basis of available exchequer funding and competing national priorities.

Brexit Issues

Ceisteanna (494)

Kevin O'Keeffe

Ceist:

494. Deputy Kevin O'Keeffe asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the procedures in place for the export of specific material to Northern Ireland post Brexit (details supplied). [8496/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

Ireland remains firmly of the view that the best and only way to ensure an orderly withdrawal and protect the Good Friday Agreement is to ratify the Withdrawal Agreement as agreed between the EU and the British Government. However we will continue our preparations for all outcomes, including for a no deal scenario. While we do not want this to happen, we are doing all we can to be prepared both at home and in cooperation with our EU partners.

In relation to export requirements, the procedures are determined by the UK. In its Preparedness Notice on importing animals and animal products - last updated on 19 December 2019 and available at www.gov.uk/government/publications/importing-animals-and-animal-products-if-theres-no-brexit-deal/importing-animals-and-animal-products-if-theres-no-brexit-deal

The UK has stated that the existing arrangements will not change with the exception of using TRACES. Importers into the UK will have to use the UK equivalent system when it is operational. On this basis it is believed that the UK will continue to seek health certification for live animals and certain other animal products including germinal products as mentioned by the Deputy after Brexit.

Public Procurement Contracts Data

Ceisteanna (495)

Niall Collins

Ceist:

495. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the number of State contracts that were not awarded to the lowest tender or bid in each year since 2011 to date in his Department or bodies under the aegis of his Department; the reason the lowest tender or bid was not chosen; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8799/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

Procurement in my Department is governed by EU rules and regulations as well as guidance from the Departments of Finance and of Public Expenditure & Reform. The type of competitive process to be followed can vary depending on the size and characteristics of the contract to be awarded but the objective is always to achieve the best outcome for the taxpayer.

All evaluations of tenders are carried out on the basis of the Most Economically Advantageous Tender process which takes into account important factors in addition to cost. While price is a critical factor, other facets may also be essential and the selection process takes these into account. For instance, the lowest bidder may have been less able to demonstrate its capacity to fulfil the contract or its understanding of the project than some (or all) of the other bidders. In some cases, the lowest bidder chooses to withdraw their tender following discussions with the evaluation team on the details of the work required. Alternatively, the successful bidder may have been more able to demonstrate that the organisation, qualification and experience of staff to be assigned to perform the contract could have a significant impact on the performance of the contract. Frequently, it is a combination of all the required factors and the different bidders may have been strong in some areas and weak in others making it inaccurate to state that there was a particular or single reason why the lowest bidder was not awarded the contract.

As regards the twelve State Bodies under the aegis of my Department, the information requested is an operational matter for the State Bodies themselves. I have referred the Deputy’s question to the Agencies and have requested that a response should issue within 10 days.

The number of contracts that were not awarded to the lowest tender or bid in each year from 2011 to date, and the reasons, can be found in the following tables.

2011

Number of Projects

Reason the lowest tender/bid was not chosen

Nil

2012

Number of Projects

Reason the lowest tender/bid was not chosen

1

Selection was based on the Most Economically Advantageous Tender (MEAT) and the cheapest tender did not score as high as the selected contractor in award criteria other than cost. 

1

The lowest value tender received did not meet the award criteria of being the most economically advantageous tender following tender assessment.

2013

Number of Projects

Reason the lowest tender/bid was not chosen

7

Tender evaluation conducted using the MEAT (Most Economically Advantageous Tender) principle.

1

The lowest tender received was deemed to be non-compliant.

2014

Number of Projects

Reason the lowest tender/bid was not chosen

Nil

2015

Number of Projects

Reason the lowest tender/bid was not chosen

1

Tender evaluation conducted using the MEAT (Most Economically Advantageous Tender) principle.

2

The lowest value tender received did not meet the award criteria of being the most economically advantageous tender following tender assessment.

1

The lowest tender received withdrew their tender prior to award of tender; this withdrawal occurred subsequent to post tender meetings with that tenderer regarding their significantly low tender price.

2016

Number of Projects

Reason the lowest tender/bid was not chosen

1

This contract was awarded following a public procurement process. The award was based on the most economically advantageous tender submitted (specifying, in addition to price, various other criteria including, 

1. Demonstration of understanding of projects requirements,

2. Quality & technical merit of the methodological approach proposed for delivery of service,

3. Quality and technical merit of the team to deliver the service.)

2

Tender evaluation conducted using the MEAT (Most Economically Advantageous Tender) principle.

1

Lowest bidder withdrew their tender.

2017

Number of Projects

Reason the lowest tender/bid was not chosen

1

The winning team demonstrated the best balance between scientists, advisors and local experience and were chosen based on marks awarded for many criteria, including cost.

2

Tender evaluation conducted using the MEAT (Most Economically Advantageous Tender) principle where the cost contribution was 35% of total available marks.

2

The lowest value tender received did not meet the award criteria of being the most economically advantageous tender following tender assessment.

1

Contract not awarded.

1

Lowest bidder withdrew their tender.

2018

Number of Projects

Reason the lowest tender/bid was not chosen

2

The Service Contract was awarded on the basis of the most economically advantageous tender, using the following criteria:

- Understanding of the Clients Requirements

- Quality and Technical Merit of the methodological approach

- Quality of the proposed team including management structure and team members’ resources

- Cost

DAFM did not bind itself to accept the lowest or any tender submitted.

The successful tenderer scored higher overall, when assessed across all of the criteria above.

1

This was an OGP run mini competition from the OGP contract cleaning framework. The tenders were evaluated under 5 criteria, Implementation and Mobilisation Plan, Technical Resources, Staff and Equipment, Ongoing Operational Proposal, Customer Relationship Services and finally Price. The winning tender scored so highly on the first four criteria that even though theirs was not the lowest price, when the scoring matrix was completed it was the winning tender.

1

Following evaluation by the selection committee of the tenders received, the project management scientific and advisory elements of the winning group were assessed to be much superior to those of other applicant groups and they were chosen based on marks awarded for many criteria, including cost.

2

Tender evaluation conducted using the MEAT (Most Economically Advantageous Tender) principle where the cost contribution was 30% of total available marks.

1

The lowest value tender received did not meet the award criteria of being the most economically advantageous tender following tender assessment.

2019 to date

Number of Projects

Reason the lowest tender/bid was not chosen

Not applicable

Broadband Service Provision

Ceisteanna (496)

Willie O'Dea

Ceist:

496. Deputy Willie O'Dea asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment when broadband will be made available in an area (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8488/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

The premises referred to 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.

The Deputy makes reference to the premises' proximity to a commercial deployment of high speed broadband. This deployment is part of eir's commercial roll out of high speed broadband to 300,000 predominantly rural premises, in line with a Commitment Agreement signed with my Department in April 2017.

Decisions made by private telecommunication operators relating to the roll out and siting of infrastructure to provide high speed broadband services throughout Ireland are undertaken on a commercial basis. I have no statutory role or function in such commercial decisions of private operators, and therefore cannot direct operators regarding infrastructure installation or delivery of services.

The NBP procurement process is now at the final stage and my priority remains to bring it to a fair and impartial conclusion as quickly as possible. I will bring a recommendation to Government in relation to the NBP in the coming weeks.

For those premises currently awaiting access to high speed broadband, practical initiatives will continue to be addressed through the work of the Mobile Phone and Broadband Taskforce to address obstacles and improve connectivity in respect of existing and future mobile phone and broadband services.

Under this Taskforce, engagement between telecommunications operators and local authorities through the Broadband Officers is continuing. These Broadband Officers are acting as single points of contact in local authorities for their communities. The appointment of these officers is already reaping rewards in terms of ensuring a much greater degree of consistency in engagements.

Fisheries Protection

Ceisteanna (497, 499)

Brian Stanley

Ceist:

497. Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the average number of adult salmon returning annually; the number that come from hatchery-ranched fish; and the origin of the fish returning annually. [7691/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Brian Stanley

Ceist:

499. Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the average number of adult wild salmon returning annually. [7710/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 497 and 499 together.

Since 2007, Ireland manages salmon stocks on an individual river basis as each of Ireland’s 147 salmon rivers (including river sections and estuaries) has its own genetically unique stock of salmon. Juvenile salmon from each river migrate to sea as juveniles and return to their natal river to spawn and create the next generation of fish unique to that river. The origin of all wild Atlantic salmon is the river in which they were born.

Management is carried out by Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI). IFI is supported in its management role by scientific advice from Ireland’s independent Standing Scientific Committee (SSC), comprising scientists from a range of organisations. IFI also has to have regard EU legislation, particularly the Habitats Directive under which salmon habitats are protected.

Scientific and management assessments of each of the distinct stocks are carried out every year with IFI engaged in extensive stock monitoring which feeds into the Scientific Group's annual reviews. An average of the 5 years data is used to estimate expected returns for the coming year to ensure that a good or bad year does not have a disproportionate impact on the assessment in any single year.

I will provide a copy of the most recent Wild Salmon and Seatrout Statistics report compiled by IFI which includes commercial and angling catch statistics from 2001 to 2017. This statistics are indicative of wild salmon abundance in this period.

It is estimated by IFI that 200,000 Atlantic salmon returned to Irish shores last year. Populations are widely distributed throughout Irish fresh waters. This level of return as part of natural migration represents a comparatively healthy condition for Irish stocks relative to international levels. However, returns to Irish and other shores has decreased significantly in recent decades. It is considered that if Ireland had not adopted its management measures, including ending indiscriminate mixed stock fishing at sea, since 2007 the decline would be considerably more pronounced.

The management of wild Atlantic salmon is a shared international issue manifesting in rivers in all countries around the North Atlantic. Scientific analysis from the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) estimates that marine survival of migrating salmon has been at or below 5% in the North Atlantic for more than a decade.

The protection and conservation of salmon internationally is managed through the North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organisation (NASCO) with which Ireland is aligned through the European Union. Concerted international co-operation has ensured that restrictions in distant waters, to where salmon migrate, are in place via NASCO agreement. The majority stock component of salmon migrating from European, including Irish, waters migrates to Faroese waters. In 2018, my officials and those of IFI joined delegates from the EU, USA, Canada, Norway, the Russian Federation, Greenland and the Faroes in negotiating a multi-annual ban on all commercial salmon fishing in Faroese waters so that stocks migrating there are protected. These international discussions were chaired by Ireland.

As regards the issue of salmon hatcheries, there are significant genetic and ecological concerns when salmon reared in a hatchery environment are released into the wild and national policy in Ireland follows the guidelines prepared by NASCO with regard to applying the precautionary approach to any proposed stocking of hatchery reared Atlantic salmon into the wild.

There are many possible causes for decline of Atlantic salmon populations including climate change and sea-lice infestation from Aquaculture which impact marine survival. Stocking is not considered an appropriate solution. IFI’s advice for enhancement of salmon stocks nationally is to continue with single stock salmon management to achieve individual river spawning targets while also supporting habitat enhancement and removal of artificial barriers to migration rather than artificial stock enhancements which have potentially detrimental genetic impacts.

2019 commences the International Year of the Salmon which aims to bring people together to share knowledge, raise awareness and take action on how we can ensure the resilience of salmon in Ireland and in the Northern Hemisphere. I am leading Ireland’s participation in this international initiative.

Waste Disposal Charges

Question No. 499 answered with Question No. 497.

Ceisteanna (498, 526)

Peadar Tóibín

Ceist:

498. Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the steps being taken to accelerate the process of developing a mechanism to provide a support for vulnerable persons with a condition such as lifelong or long-term medical incontinence to help meet the average annual cost of disposing of their domestic waste; the way in which the introduction of GDPR has hampered the implementation of the measure; if his attention has been drawn to the difficulties this has posed for persons supporting those with conditions that involve a high volume of domestic waste; the reason a pay-by-weight system was rolled out prior to the provision of a domestic waste allowance; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7692/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Tom Neville

Ceist:

526. Deputy Tom Neville asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment further to Parliamentary Question No. 504 of 6 February 2018, the status of the issue relating to the annual support of €75 for persons with lifelong or long-term medical incontinence; when the scheme will be introduced to assist persons meet the average annual cost of disposal of medical incontinence products; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8174/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 498 and 526 together.

In line with the commitments set out in A Resource Opportunity - Waste Management Policy in Ireland, published in 2012, and in the interest of encouraging further waste prevention and greater recycling, the Government took the decision in June 2017 to phase out flat-rate fees for kerbside household waste collection. It is worth noting that this measure was not ‘new’ for about half of kerbside household waste customers, who were already on an incentivised usage pricing plan, i.e., a plan which contains a per lift or a weight related fee. As announced in mid-2017, mandatory per kilogramme 'pay by weight' charging was not introduced. Allowing for a range of charging options, which encourage householders to reduce and separate their waste, provides flexibility to waste collectors to develop various service-price offerings that suit different household circumstances.

A Price Monitoring Group was established to monitor the on-going cost of residential waste collection to homeowners across Ireland as the ‘flat-rate structure’ was being phased out. The Price Monitoring Group has considered data each month since September 2017. While fluctuations in prices and service offerings have been observed, the overall trend is relative price stability.

The Department is continuing the work of developing a mechanism to provide a support for vulnerable persons with a condition such as lifelong or long-term medical incontinence to help meet the average annual cost of disposing of their domestic waste. Issues which have arisen in relation to the GDPR include the principle of data minimisation, necessity and proportionality and using consent as a basis for storing and processing medically sensitive personal information. Notwithstanding this, I can assure the Deputy that I am committed to introducing an annual support as soon as practically possible in conjunction with relevant agencies and stakeholders.

Question No. 499 answered with Question No. 497.

National Broadband Plan Implementation

Ceisteanna (500, 501, 512, 513)

Timmy Dooley

Ceist:

500. Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if the provision of broadband for homes in the dark blue area of the national broadband plan map was discussed in the context of a new investment in fixed-line broadband made by a company (details supplied); if commitments were made to ensure availability to all homes in the dark blue area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7711/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Seán Sherlock

Ceist:

501. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the engagement he has had with a company (details supplied) regarding its announcement of an extra 80,000 homes and businesses to be covered with broadband; and the way in which this will impact the roll-out of the national broadband plan. [7713/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Timmy Dooley

Ceist:

512. Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the number of premises contained within the intervention area for the national broadband plan; if changes are proposed in the intervention area in view of a recent announcement by a company (details supplied); the changes that will take place; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7785/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Timmy Dooley

Ceist:

513. Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if the removal of 80,000 to 100,000 premises from the intervention area of the national broadband plan will delay the completion of the tendering process; if so, the estimated delay; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7786/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 500, 501, 512 and 513 together.

The recent announcements of further commercial investment in high speed broadband infrastructure by telecommunications companies are to be welcomed. Continued commercial investment in tandem with the proposed State led NBP intervention remains vital to ensuring that all premises in Ireland have access to a reliable and future proofed high speed broadband service. I note that in addition to the announcements of planned future investments, there has also been some additional public commentary by commercial operators as to the possible reach of the planned new infrastructure.

My Department monitors the actual deployment of broadband infrastructure by commercial operators across the country and will continue to do so. While I have not had direct engagement with eir in relation to its recent announcement, or subsequent further commentary, my Department has written to the company to arrange a meeting regarding its plans.

In order for premises to be removed from the State intervention area, a commercial operator must make a submission to my Department outlining its plans and commitments to provide these premises with a high speed broadband service. This is consistent with the State aid rules applying to State interventions to ensure the availability of high speed broadband services. Any such submission must satisfy the criteria set down by my Department in the mapping process that was set out in 2015 on my Department’s website, before the NBP procurement process commenced. Details are available at this link https://www.dccae.gov.ie/documents/Managing%20IA%20Map%20-%20Consultation%20Paper%20FINAL%2021-12-15.pdf ).

While eir has not submitted a plan to my Department in relation to its recent announcement, monitoring of commercial plans is an ongoing part of the NBP and proceeds in parallel with the procurement process. The NBP High Speed Broadband Map is dynamic. This means that either during the procurement, or following award of an NBP contract, the intervention area can be updated to reflect new commercial plans, or previous plans that have failed to materialise. This flexibility allows for an increase or decrease in the number of premises included in the State Intervention area.

The State Intervention area for the NBP procurement process contains approximately 540,000 premises. This remains as set out on my Department’s High Speed Broadband Map, available at www.broadband.gov.ie.

The NBP procurement process is in its final stage and I intend to make a recommendation to Government in the coming weeks.

Electricity Generation

Ceisteanna (502)

Michael Harty

Ceist:

502. Deputy Michael Harty asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if he has received and plans to publish promised proposals by the ESB on the future on Moneypoint power station; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7765/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

As I set out in my reply to Question No 233 on 24 January, the ESB, the owner and operator of the plant, has been asked for a report on the issues and options that arise in decommissioning the coal-fired plant at Moneypoint. As part of this study, the ESB will consider the best option in energy and climate policy terms. I expect to receive this report shortly. Following its consideration, including an assessment as to whether it contains any commercially sensitive information, it would be my intention to publish the report shortly thereafter.

National Broadband Plan

Ceisteanna (503)

Michael Harty

Ceist:

503. Deputy Michael Harty asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if he will provide a progress report on the national broadband plan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7766/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

The National Broadband Plan (NBP) aims to ensure high speed broadband access to all premises in Ireland, regardless of location. This is being achieved through a combination of commercial investment and a State led intervention.

The NBP has been a catalyst in encouraging investment by the telecoms sector. In 2012, less than 700,000, or 30% of all 2.3 million Irish premises had access to high speed broadband. When this Government came into office, this had risen to 52%. Today, 74% of premises can access high speed broadband.

The NBP procurement process is now at the final stage. Assessment of the Final Tender submitted by the Bidder is ongoing and my priority is to bring the procurement process to a fair and impartial conclusion as quickly as possible. I intend to bring a recommendation to Government in the coming weeks.

EU Directives

Ceisteanna (504, 509)

Eoin Ó Broin

Ceist:

504. Deputy Eoin Ó Broin asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the details of amendments tabled at the European Council relating to the directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on the reduction of the impact of certain plastic products on the environment. [7768/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Eoin Ó Broin

Ceist:

509. Deputy Eoin Ó Broin asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if there is a protocol or guidelines for his Department regarding sharing information, including amendments that are not available to the public, with lobbyists, industry officials, NGOs and others during EU interinstitutional negotiations; and his views on the sharing of such information with a company (details supplied) in relation to the directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on the reduction of the impact of certain plastic products on the environment. [7773/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 504 and 509 together.

I announced in January that government departments, public bodies, and schools will lead the way in the response to cutting down on single use plastics, with a number of measures, including no longer purchasing single-use plastic cups, cutlery and straws for use within their offices.

Since 4th January 2019, no government department will purchase single-use plastic cups, cutlery and straws for use within their offices In addition, all public bodies including state agencies and schools will not purchase single-use plastic beverage cups, cutlery and drinking straws after 31 March 2019, except where specific public health/hygiene or safety issues arise.

In relation to the directive mentioned by the Deputy, Ireland did not table any amendments to the Directive. Indeed, our negotiating position throughout the process was to support a higher level of ambition.

This reflects Ireland's position as one of the leading countries in the EU for packaging recycling and recovery. The latest statistics for packaging recycling for 2016 published by the EPA show that Ireland has met and exceeded all EU targets for packaging recycling and recovery. In relation to plastic packaging specifically, Ireland has exceeded its recycling target by 60% - Ireland recycled 36% of its plastic packaging waste in 2016 against an EU target of 22.5%. The overall packaging recycling and recovery rate in Ireland has grown from a very low base to 88% in 2016.

Repak is approved under licence by the Minister for Communications, Climate Action & Environment to operate as a compliance scheme for packaging recovery, and have extensive expertise in this area. It is normal practice to seek the views of experts when considering a national response to a draft proposal.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Ceisteanna (505, 507, 508)

Eoin Ó Broin

Ceist:

505. Deputy Eoin Ó Broin asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment his plans to revise Ireland's nationally determined contribution for 2030 in respect of the Paris Agreement; and the percentage of greenhouse gas reduction compared to 2005 levels he would endorse. [7769/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Eoin Ó Broin

Ceist:

507. Deputy Eoin Ó Broin asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment his views on the communication from the European Commission, A Clean Planet for All, a European strategic long-term vision for a prosperous, modern, competitive and climate neutral economy. [7771/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Eoin Ó Broin

Ceist:

508. Deputy Eoin Ó Broin asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the status of preparations for a long-term low greenhouse gas emission development strategy, which is due to be submitted to the UNFCCC secretariat in 2020 according to the obligations of the Paris Agreement. [7772/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 505, 507 and 508 together.

The Paris Agreement was adopted by Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in December 2015. The Agreement is designed to meet its objectives through Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) submitted by all parties to the Agreement.

Ireland will contribute to the Paris Agreement via the NDC submitted by the EU on behalf of its Member States, which commits the EU to a 40% reduction in EU-wide emissions by 2030 compared to 1990. This commitment for 2030 is based on EU-wide reductions in the Emissions Trading System (ETS) sector of 43%, and the non-ETS sector of 30%.

Ireland's contribution to the overall 30% reduction in the non-ETS sector by 2030, as well as the contributions to be made by other Member States, was negotiated between the EU and its Member States in the context of the European Commission's Effort Sharing Regulation (ESR) Proposal. Ireland’s target under the ESR is for a 30% reduction in GHG emissions by 2030 on 2005 levels.

Ireland fully supports the first commitment made by the EU under the Paris Agreement to reduce emissions by at least 40% by 2030, compared with 1990 levels. With the ambitious 2030 targets agreed at EU level recently for renewable energy and for energy efficiency, coupled with strong ambition in relation to emissions standards for both light and heavy duty vehicles, the EU may reduce its overall emissions by more than the 40% committed to by 2030.

The Paris Agreement also invites Parties to communicate, by 2020, to the UNFCCC Secretariat their respective long-term low greenhouse gas emissions strategies. I welcome the publication by the Commission in November 2018, of its Communication “A Clean Planet for All”, as an essential analytical underpinning for the preparation of an EU Long-Term Strategy for submission to the UNFCCC.

The Commission’s Communication presents a strategic vision, supported by a detailed analysis, on how the EU can contribute to the delivery of the Paris Agreement objectives while enhancing the co-benefits of emission reductions and transforming its economy for the 21st century. My Department is studying the Commission’s proposals and I look forward to engaging with my counterparts in the EU on this matter at the next Environment Council on 5 March.

Each EU Member State will have different ways of achieving the long term emissions reductions set out in the various pathways to 2050, as presented in the Commission Communication. In assessing the potential contribution of EU Member States to meeting an overall EU long-term objective, it will be important to take into account national circumstances and technology constraints, while recognising that technologies are continually developing and becoming more cost-effective. It will also be important to recognise the essential underpinning role of a range of other EU policy objectives as set out in the Commission’s Communication, including the circular economy, the digital agenda and sustainable finance.

The EU has committed to communicate or update its NDC by 2020, and aims to submit its long-term strategy in 2020. The preparation of an EU long-term strategy will also inform, in due course, the development of long-term strategies by individual Member States, including Ireland.

Renewable Energy Generation

Ceisteanna (506)

Eoin Ó Broin

Ceist:

506. Deputy Eoin Ó Broin asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment his views on whether renewable natural gas has a role in the transition to a carbon-neutral economy. [7770/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

Renewable gas includes biogas, which can be combusted to generate heat or electricity, and biomethane, which is produced from biogas and can be injected into the gas grid and used for the same applications as natural gas.

In addition to contributing to decarbonisation in the energy sector, the production of biogas through anaerobic digestion also has the potential to reduce emissions in the agriculture and waste sectors. In this regard, I believe there exists a real opportunity for biogas and biomethane to contribute to the transition to a low carbon future.

The Support Scheme for Renewable Heat has been developed to financially support the adoption of renewable heating systems by commercial, industrial, agricultural, district heating and other non-domestic heat users not covered by the EU Emissions Trading System. The next phase of the scheme includes support for anaerobic digestion heating systems which produce biogas and combust it to produce heat. This phase of the scheme is expected to open for applications early this year, subject to the European Commission state aid process. Under Project Ireland 2040, the National Development Plan sets out an allocation of €300 million for the rollout of the scheme for the period up to 2027.

In addition, Gas Networks Ireland is currently delivering the Causeway Project, which is co-funded by the European Union and includes a biomethane injection facility allowing biomethane to be injected into the gas grid for the first time. This facility is expected to be operational in the coming weeks. In addition, under the first call for applications from the Climate Action Fund, a further Gas Networks Ireland project was successful, which will include the installation of a second biomethane injection facility.

The draft National Energy and Climate Plan, which was published in December 2018, sets out additional measures that are planned to be implemented over the period to 2030. These planned measures include supporting 1.6 TWh (i.e. 1.6 million MWh) of biomethane injection into the gas grid by 2030. It should be noted that there is a cost differential for energy consumers between natural gas and biomethane. How this cost differential could be bridged (e.g. support scheme, obligation, etc.) is being considered by my Department.

The public consultation on the draft National Energy and Climate Plan closes on 22 February and I would encourage any stakeholders to make submissions to this consultation. The final National Energy and Climate Plan must be approved by Government and published by the end of this year.