Inland Waterways Maintenance

Ceisteanna (272)

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

272. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the engagement that she has had with Waterways Ireland and its contractors regarding the management of water levels in the vicinity of works at Meelick weir; the impact these works are having on the flooding experienced by farmers in the Shannon Callows; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38137/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Culture)

Waterways Ireland is operationally independent in regard to its management of the inland waterways under its remit and therefore, I have no function in regard to this matter.

The management of flooding risk on the Shannon is led by the Office of Public Works (OPW), working in partnership with other state agencies, including Waterways Ireland.

In relation to the works at Meelick Weir, Waterways Ireland has informed my Department that the ongoing works to the weir has had no effect on the management of the water levels in the Shannon.

It should be noted that rainfall throughout the Shannon catchment during the summer up to the end of July was generally less than or about average. In early August the level in Lough Ree was at the bottom of normal operating range for the time of year.  However rainfall throughout August was over one and half times the average.

In advance of the forecasted heavy rainfall, Waterways Ireland opened all sluice gates at the new cut in Marlborough Weir on the 7th of August, and all sluice gates at Meelick Weir on the 10th of August.

The ESB, which manages the level at Lough Ree, closed all gates at Athlone Weir on the 8th of August. Waterways Ireland removed 77 weir boards from Meelick weir on the 11th of August with a further 18 removed on the 14th of August. These actions where undertaken to mitigate the effects of rising levels in the Callows south of Athlone and were in accordance with the Guidelines for control of water levels on the River Shannon.

However, as a result of the prolonged and heavy rainfall in August, levels in both Lough Ree and the Callows have risen. Current levels in Lough Ree and the Callows are in a range that is exceeded about 20% of the time on average.

The water level in the Callows is approximately 0.9m above the level at which flooding of the Callows commences. The level in Lough Ree is approximately 0.7m above the minimum target level for Lough Ree at the end of August.

Brexit Issues

Ceisteanna (273)

Brendan Smith

Ceist:

273. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the outcome of discussions she has had with her counterpart in the UK Government and with departments and agencies in Northern Ireland on issues that will arise with Brexit; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38143/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Culture)

As I have previously advised the House in my response to Dáil Question No. 592 of 11 December last, negotiations on both the EU-UK Withdrawal Agreement and political declaration on the framework for the EU-UK future relationship, were conducted on behalf of the EU27 by the EU's Chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, and the Commission's Article 50 Taskforce. Ratifying the Withdrawal Agreement, including the backstop, remains the only viable solution on the table that avoids any physical infrastructure and related checks and controls, fully protects the Good Friday Agreement, safeguards North-South Cooperation, and preserves the all-island economy, as well the integrity of the EU Single Market and Ireland’s place in it. Responsibility for avoiding a no deal outcome lies with the UK.

Brexit remains a priority issue for this Government, and the Taoiseach, my cabinet colleagues and I continue to engage with EU partners and the UK to advance Ireland’s priorities. Extensive Brexit preparedness and contingency planning has been undertaken across Government. The Brexit Contingency Action Plan Update, published on 9 July, reflects the extensive work which has taken place at EU level and on a whole-of-Government basis, including the Brexit Omnibus Act, to prepare for a no-deal Brexit.  It sets out the next steps to be taken between now and 31 October.

As I have previously advised, in the course of my visit to London last year, in connection with the GB 18 Programme, I met with Matt Hancock MP, the then UK Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.  I also met with Fiona Hyslop MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs in the course of my visit to Glasgow in connection with GB18.  At all of these meetings, while noting that Brexit negotiations are conducted between the EU and the UK, Brexit related matters were discussed in addition to other matters of mutual interest.  While I again met with Fiona Hyslop MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs earlier this year in Dublin, this was related to the launch of the Words that Bind Us project and did not include a discussion on Brexit or other policy matters.

In the interests of completeness I would also like to advise that following the visit of the then Aire Stáit, Joe McHugh T.D. to Glasgow in May 2018, Údarás na Gaeltachta has at the end of 2018, in recognition of, and in preparation for Brexit, agreed a Trade Office arrangement with the Scottish Chambers of Commerce.  The arrangement, under which, reciprocal trade offices are being to provide business support services to companies and facilitate investment and trade opportunities, will act as a valuable resource for SME's looking to expand their international business to business partnerships.

Departmental Staff Data

Ceisteanna (274, 275)

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

274. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the number of civil servants who have left and or retired from her Department in the past ten years who were bound by a cooling-off period in respect of taking up new employment in the private sector by grade, year and sector the staff moved on to; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38148/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

275. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the number of civil servants who have left and or retired from her Department in the past ten years who were not bound by a cooling-off period in respect of taking up new employment in the private sector by grade, year, and sector the staff moved on to; the reason for same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38164/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Culture)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 274 and 275 together.

Section 22 of the Regulation of Lobbying Act  provides that specific categories of Designated Public Officials (“DPOs”) are subject to a one-year “cooling-off” period, during which they cannot engage in lobbying activities in specific circumstances, or be employed by, or provide services to, a person carrying on lobbying activities in specific circumstances.  

A list of current DPOs is maintained on the website of my Department at the following address

https://www.chg.gov.ie/about/organisation-structure/designated-public-officials/ .

I understand that statistics on the number of applications for consent to waive this cooling off period are included in the annual Regulation of Lobbying report published by the Standards in Public Officer Commission.  My Department does not keep a separate record of such applications.

The Civil Service Code of Standards and Behaviour sets out further guidance on the acceptance of outside appointments and of consultancy engagement following resignation or retirement.  Civil Servants who hold positions which are “designated positions” for purposes of the Ethics Acts shall not, within twelve months of resigning or retiring from the service, accept an offer of appointment from an employer outside the Civil Service or accept an engagement in a particular consultancy project where the nature and terms of such appointment or engagement could lead to a conflict of interest, without first obtaining approval.  Staff are provided with the Code of Standards and Behaviour on appointment and staff in "designated positions" are asked to make the appropriate declarations under the Ethics legislation throughout their career.  I am not aware of any application to my Department by a former employee for approval to accept an appointment.

Creative Youth Plan

Ceisteanna (276)

Tom Neville

Ceist:

276. Deputy Tom Neville asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the details of the expansion of the creative schools programme; and the status of the programme in Limerick city and county. [38183/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Culture)

The Creative Schools pilot is one of the flagship projects of the Creative Youth Plan, which seeks to enable the creative potential of every child and young person. This Plan is led by my Department, with the Departments of Education and Skills, and Children and Youth Affairs and the Arts Council, all working in partnership.

Creative Schools aims to understand, develop and celebrate the arts and creativity as a core aspect of school life. It strives to foster children and young people’s creativity, potential and participation in the arts as an integral part of their education. The initiative recognises that the arts are a powerful means through which children and young people can explore communication and collaboration, stimulate their imaginations to be inventive, and harness their boundless curiosity.

Schools selected to participate in the programme do so on a two-year cycle - the first to support them in developing a feasible creative plan for the school, and the second to enable them to implement this plan.  Each participating school is provided with access to a Creative Associate, who are essential in embedding inspirational and sustainable creative practices in teaching and learning.  Creative Associates are a mixture of practising artists and teachers with an understanding of creativity and its potential to transform the lives of children and young people. In addition, each school is allocated an annual grant of €2,000 to implement their plans.

There was significant interest in the pilot when launched in 2018 - with some 400 schools applying for 150 places.  Given this level of interest, and the positive feedback from participants, total investment in the initiative for 2019 has increased to €2.36m - funded by my own Department as well as the Department of Education and Skills and the Arts Council. A second round of applications was opened in 2019 and just last week, the Minister for Education and Skills and I announced the details of a further 150 schools which have been selected to participate from this month. 

The participating schools in Creative Schools from Limerick are:

- Ardscoil Mhuire, Corbally, Co Limerick

- Coláiste Mhuire, Askeaton, Co Limerick

- Corpus Christi National School, Moyross, Co Limerick

- Garrydoolis National School, Pallasagreen, Co Limerick

- Our Lady Queen Of Peace School, Janesboro, Co Limerick

- Scoil Cnoc Loinge B, Knocklong, Co Limerick

- Scoil na mBráithre, Doon, Co Limerick

- Scoil Náisiúnta Cathair Chinn Lis, Main Street, Caherconlish, Co Limerick

- Scoil Naomh Mhuire, Cnoc Uí Coileain, Abbeyfeale, Co Limerick

- Shanagolden Youthreach, Main Street, Shanagolden, Co Limerick

Culture Night

Ceisteanna (277)

Tom Neville

Ceist:

277. Deputy Tom Neville asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the events planned for Culture Night 2019 in Limerick city and county. [38184/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Culture)

Culture Night has grown from a relatively small scale cultural event staged only in Dublin in 2006 to the significant national cultural event it now is, with over 400,000 people visiting museums, galleries, historic houses, artists’ studios and cultural centres across the country on the night. I have been very impressed at the variety of events which I have been able to attend on Culture Night as Minister.  In 2018, 1,606 venues across the island of Ireland participated in Culture Night, with an attendance of 420,000. It is anticipated that attendance figures will increase in 2019.  Nationally, events are run in partnership with local authorities. Events were also held throughout Northern Ireland and overseas.    

Culture Night 2019 will take place on Friday September 20th from 4pm to11pm. Details of events in every area are available on www.culturenight.ie. This year my Department has allocated Limerick City and Council funding of €16,000 to assist with the cost of events.  This funding is provided on a matched funding basis through the local authority. In 2018, Limerick City and County hosted 93 events in 84 venues and welcomed 21,600 visitors.  

Limerick City and County are replete with cultural activity and offerings. Some of the innovative events in the Culture Night Programme for 2019 include 'Ocean Rhythms' Paintings and Music to Soothe the Soul in the Red Door Gallery in Newcastle West, traditional music in the Old Library in Kildimo, an exhibition and events considering the role of villages in Kilmallock Library, and a huge array of events throughout the City including events at St. John's Castle, Arthur's Quay and Limerick City School of Art and Design.

It should be noted that my Department, in partnership with the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government, has allocated a further €220,000 to projects in the Limerick area through the Creative Ireland programme in 2018 and 2019 to support over 110 projects including arts projects, grant schemes, concerts, exhibitions, festivals and workshops among other activities. They cover topics such as archaeology, architecture, biodiversity, crafts, heritage, dance, film, history, literature, music, photography, poetry, storytelling, theatre and the visual arts. Further information is available on https://www.creativeireland.gov.ie/en/creative-communities

Animal Diseases

Ceisteanna (278)

Kevin O'Keeffe

Ceist:

278. Deputy Kevin O'Keeffe asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if consideration will be given to appointing an independent assessor to determine the impact of the rabbit haemorrhagic disease. [38185/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Culture)

Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease 2 (known as RHD2) was first confirmed in the wild in Ireland in July 2019. The first two records came from rabbits – one in Wicklow, the other in Clare. The first report from an Irish hare came on the 9th August. Since these initial incidents a request for public involvement has led to further confirmation of the disease. To date the disease has been confirmed from six different counties – Cork, Clare, Leitrim, Offaly, Wicklow and Wexford.

In all cases a post mortem of the dead animal was carried out by qualified personnel in the Regional Veterinary Laboratories of the Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine. Tissue samples have then been sent to that Department’s specialist virology lab in Backweston where RHD has been confirmed.

I am grateful to the Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine’s laboratories for their professional and expert work on this issue to date.

RHD2 is known to be density dependent. The virus is also known to be highly contagious and environmental contamination presents significant difficulties in terms of any biosecurity responses.

Both Departments are continuing to monitor wild rabbit and hare deaths and a fuller understanding of the extent and impact of this disease in Ireland will emerge. At this early stage, I have no plans to appoint an independent assessor to supplement the work being undertaken by both Departments.

Hare Coursing Regulation

Ceisteanna (279)

Kevin O'Keeffe

Ceist:

279. Deputy Kevin O'Keeffe asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht when the next meeting will be scheduled between her Department and the National Parks Wildlife Service with clubs (details supplied) to discuss the issue of hare coursing licences. [38206/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Culture)

The National Parks and Wildlife Service of my Department met the Club in question on 24 June this year. More recently my Department met the Club on 14th August, 12th September and again yesterday 18th September.

My Department maintains regular contact with the Club in question and I envisage that this will engagement will continue.