State Pension (Contributory)

Ceisteanna (170)

Brendan Howlin

Ceist:

170. Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if the impact of the total contributions approach introduced in 2018 as a result of anomalies due to changes in legislation in 2012, particularly on pensioners born prior to the cut-off date introduced, will be reviewed; her plans to amend the cut-off date to include a wider group of pensioners that may have been adversely affected by this decision; if a mechanism of appeal on grounds of financial hardship will be considered; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20260/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

A policy to introduce the Total Contributions Approach (TCA) to pensions calculation was adopted by Government in the National Pensions Framework in 2010, as was the decision to base the entitlements of all new pensioners on this approach from around 2020.

In January 2018, I announced the Government Decision to introduce a new interim Total Contributions Approach (TCA) to the calculation of State Pension that will allow pensioners who reached pension age from September 2012 (i.e., those born on or after 1 September 1946), to have their pension entitlement calculated by an interim “Total Contributions Approach” (TCA) which will include up to 20 years of new HomeCaring Periods. This approach is expected to significantly benefit many people, particularly women, whose work history includes an extended period of time outside the paid workplace, while raising families or in a caring role. The TCA will ensure that the totality of a person’s social insurance contributions - as opposed to the timing of them - determines their final pension outcome. The HomeCaring Periods can be claimed for any year in which they occurred - they are not limited to years since 1994.

People whose pensions were decided under the 2000-2012 ratebands were subject to a significantly more generous regime than those who qualified before or afterwards, as a Yearly Average of only 20 contributions per year (out of a maximum of 52) could attract a 98% pension. The effect of those changes, as it impacted upon those new pensioners since 2012, will be familiar to anyone who followed the debate on this matter over the last 6 years. If pre-2012 pensioners were also allowed avail of HomeCaring Credits, their arrangements, as a group, would continue to be significantly more generous than those of post-2012 pensioners. There would also be a very significant cost which would be expected to be of the order of several hundred millions of euros each year. This in turn could significantly impact funds for future pension increases with consequential implications for pensioner poverty.

For those with insufficient contributions to meet the requirements for the full rate State pension (contributory), they may qualify for a means tested State pension (non-contributory), the maximum personal rate for which is €237 (over 95% of the maximum rate of the contributory pension). This rate of payment does not include rent allowance, household benefits or fuel allowance. Alternatively, if their spouse is a State pensioner and they have significant household means, their most beneficial payment may be an Increase for a Qualified Adult, based on their personal means, and amounting up to 90% of a full contributory pension.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Home Loan Scheme

Ceisteanna (171)

Robert Troy

Ceist:

171. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if there is discretion in the administration of the Rebuilding Ireland home loan scheme that would allow for the inclusion of a property that is slightly larger than the size guidelines highlighted in the criteria; and if other criteria are met by an applicant, if discretion can be used in relation to the size of the property. [20218/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

The Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan scheme is administered by the local authorities, in accordance with the Housing (Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan) Regulations 2018. Under the Regulations each authority must establish a credit committee to decide on applications for loans. The Regulations broadly set out the amount that can be lent under the scheme, the eligibility criteria for loans, the duties of borrowers and housing authorities and other administrative matters relating to the scheme. Under the Regulations a credit policy is issued which sets out in greater detail the requirements regarding eligibility under the scheme. Under both the Regulations and the credit policy it is clearly stipulated that a loan cannot be issued where the house being purchased has a gross internal floor area of 175 square metres or more. It is therefore not possible for a local authority to approve a loan for a property with a gross internal floor area of more than 175 square metres.

Home Loan Scheme

Ceisteanna (172)

Robert Troy

Ceist:

172. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the details of planned changes to the Rebuilding Ireland home loan scheme criteria. [20219/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

The Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan scheme was launched in February last year to replace the existing House Purchase and the Home Choice Loan schemes. The scheme has proved to be more successful than was originally envisaged and as a result I have been in discussions with my colleague the Minister for Finance and Public Expenditure and Reform regarding further funding for it. In order to protect both borrowers and local authorities the continuation of the scheme will have to be in accordance with the prudent lending criteria under which the scheme currently operates. I therefore have no plans to change the eligibility criteria governing the scheme.

Wildlife Conservation

Ceisteanna (173)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

173. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the degree to which conservation measures continue in respect of grouse, pheasant, partridge and woodcock; the degree to which their natural habitat remains protected; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20304/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Culture)

The conservation of red grouse has been approached with some success on a collaborative basis by hunters, bird conservationists and my Department over a number of years. The principal need is to ensure good habitat for the species and work has been carried out particularly by game club members and grouse enthusiasts on many bog areas, such as Boleybrack Mountain, Glenfarne and Ballydangan. Sustainable grazing regimes in commonage lands is being supported through Commonage Management Plans in the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine’s GLAS scheme, which in turn should favour red grouse.

The pheasant is an introduced species and is managed mainly by gun clubs around the country.

The grey partridge was on the verge of extinction but a project continues on lands owned by my Department at Boora in County Offaly to provide good habitat, and associated predator control, in order to protect and enhance the population. This project in turn has supplied birds to projects in Fingal and Co Donegal. The GLAS scheme includes a measure for grey partridge in targeted lands in Boora, Fingal and Co. Donegal. The partridge remains at low population levels however.

Woodcock is a breeding species but numbers are greatly increased by winter migrants. The sale of woodcock was banned some years ago by my Department on foot of recommendations by the hunting associations to assist in their conservation.

Wildlife Protection

Ceisteanna (174)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

174. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the extent to which the landrail corncrake remains protected; the estimated number remaining; the degree to which their natural habitat remains protected; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20305/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Culture)

The corncrake is being protected by a number of measures operated by my Department and under the GLAS scheme operated by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

My Department publishes a report annually on the population of the corncrake and the work carried out. The 2018 Corncrake Conservation report is available at

https://www.npws.ie/sites/default/files/general/corncrake-report-2018.pdf

As the corncrake is a very secretive species, the population is best assessed by counting the male birds calling at night. 151 calling males were confirmed in Ireland during the 2018 breeding season and this is the first recorded increase since 2014. Donegal remains the national stronghold, with 90 confirmed calling males (60% of the national total). West Connacht, which comprises the western seaboards of counties Mayo and Galway, held 59 males (39% of the total). Following a series of flooding events in the 2000s, the corncrake has regrettably disappeared from the Shannon Callows.

Conservation measures in 2018, as in previous years, included habitat management and the administration of grant schemes. Over 640 ha of land were entered in one of four NPWS and DAFM schemes in 2018.

Hare Coursing

Ceisteanna (175)

Clare Daly

Ceist:

175. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht her plans to develop a strategy to phase out hare coursing here in view of the NPWS report that four hares died of injuries sustained at a fixture (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20185/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Culture)

The control of live hare coursing, including the operation of individual coursing meetings and managing the use of hares for that activity, is carried out under the Greyhound Industry Act 1958, which is the responsibility of my colleague, the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine. My responsibility relates to the conservation status of the hare.

In August last year, my Department issued licences under the Wildlife Acts to the Irish Coursing Club, covering its affiliated coursing clubs, to capture and tag hares for use at regulated hare coursing meetings for the 2018/19 season, which extends from the end of September 2018 to the end of February 2019. Officials of the National Parks and Wildlife Service of my Department monitored some 34 coursing events during the last season including the coursing meeting in question. All reports in relation to the season, including the matter raised by the Deputy, will be considered in the context of the application by the Irish Coursing Club for licences for the 2019/20 season.

Deer Hunting

Ceisteanna (176)

Michael Healy-Rae

Ceist:

176. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if she will address a matter regarding licences for shooting deer (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20187/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Culture)

Applicants can now apply to my Department for deer hunting licences for the next 2019/20 season. While the application form does ask applicants to indicate if they have a recognised certification in deer matters, it is not a mandatory requirement to have such certification in order to apply for a deer hunting licence for the 2019/20 season.

National Parks

Ceisteanna (177)

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

177. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if a definitive map will be provided showing the boundaries of the Wicklow Mountains National Park (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20277/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Culture)

Wicklow Mountains National Park boundaries are represented and available on the OSI adventure series map at 1:25000 and are also available on the Discovery Series 1:50000. In addition the boundaries are available on a number of other commercially produced maps and the information thereon has been provided to the map providers by the National Parks and Wildlife Service.

National Parks

Ceisteanna (178)

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

178. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the publication date for the last Wicklow Mountains National Park management plan; her plans to update same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20278/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Culture)

The Wicklow Mountains National Park Management Plan was published in 2005. The Department’s current focus is on conservation objectives for Natura 2000 sites and as such there are no immediate plans to produce revised management plans for Wicklow Mountains National Parks. My Department intends, however, to produce visitor and management plans for the Parks on an on-going basis subject to the availability of resources. Guided by the Tourism Interpretative Masterplan, my Department aims to further develop shared goals of conserving and restoring natural habitats and species, landscape protection and to further develop quality visitor experiences at in Wicklow.