Beef Industry

Ceisteanna (445)

Brendan Smith

Ceist:

445. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if the concerns of councillors will be addressed (details supplied) in view of the severe income pressure on farmers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39885/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

The beef sector is an important element of the Irish economy and I am conscious of the importance that this key sector plays in rural Ireland.

I am keenly aware that the past year has been very challenging for beef farmers, following a difficult year for farm incomes in 2018 due to weather conditions. There has been a prolonged and exceptional period of depressed prices since autumn 2018, with the ongoing uncertainty surrounding the outcome of Brexit, among other factors, contributing to this market disturbance.

Payments under the 2019 Areas of Natural Constraints Scheme will be delivered in two instalments, with 85% advance payments issued earlier this month. The 15% balancing payment will then commence issuing from early December. This is on foot of changes to EU regulations, and is in line with the phased payment approach in place for many other schemes at present.  As the ANC scheme is an EU co-funded scheme, my Department is obliged to ensure that it fully complies with the EU regulations governing the operation of all EU-funded schemes. 

Payments worth €168.5 million issued to almost 79,000 farmers in the first tranche of payment.  The 79,000 farmers being paid in this first tranche of 2019 payments is an increase from the 77,000 farmers paid at the same stage in 2018.  My Department will be running twice weekly payment runs to ensure that all cases that become cleared for payment will receive their payment as quickly as possible.  The total paid to-date for 2019 now stands at €172m paid to 80,466 farmers.

In addition to the above change, the total budget for the Scheme has been increased again this year to €250m.  For 2019, there are thus increased payment rates in place across the Scheme for the following categories of eligible land.

   

 

 

   Category     

   New Rates for     2019 Scheme  

   Old rates in place in 2018  

Category 1 land 1st 12 hectares

€148

Category 1 land was previously Mountain Type Land, with rates of €135 for the first 10 hectares and €112 for hectares 11 to 34

Category 1 land hectares 13 to 34

€112

Category 2 land 1st 10 hectares

€111

Category 2 land was previously More Severely Handicapped Land with one rate of €104

Category 2 land hectares 11 to 30

€104

Category 3 land 1st 8 hectares

€93

Category 3 land was previously Less Severely Handicapped Land with one rate of €88.25

Category 3 land hectares 9 to 30

€88.25

The Beef Exceptional Aid Measure (BEAM), which recently closed for applications, will provide temporary exceptional adjustment aid to farmers in the beef sector in Ireland subject to the conditions set out in EU Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2019/1132. BEAM is funded by a combination of EU aid and Exchequer support, provided in light of the difficult circumstances that Irish beef farmers have been facing as a result of the market volatility and uncertainty.  Over 34,500 farmers had applied for BEAM at its closing date of 20 September, representing potential commitments of almost €78 million.

The Beef Data and Genomics Programme (BDGP) is currently the main support specifically targeted for the suckler sector, which provides Irish beef farmers with some €300 million in funding over the current RDP period.

This year, I introduced the exchequer-funded Beef Environmental Efficiency Pilot (BEEP), a €20 million scheme which will provide suckler farmers with valuable data on the weaning efficiency of their animals.  

The Deputy will also be aware that my Department has rolled out a range of schemes as part of the €4 billion Rural Development Programme (RDP), 2014 - 2020. In addition to the BDGP, other supports which are available for beef farmers under Pillar II of the CAP include GLAS, ANCs and Knowledge Transfer Groups.

Suckler farmers also benefit from the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) and Greening payments under CAP Pillar I.

In recognising the major challenges faced by the farming sector and the important role that various schemes operated by my Department play in underpinning the viability of many farms, last month I secured agreement from the European Commission that will allow for a higher rate of advance payments under the 2019 Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) and a number of Rural Development Schemes.

The pursuit and development of new markets for Irish agri-food exports is a constant and central component of the strategic development of the industry, as evidenced by its placement at the centre of Food Wise 2025, the industry’s strategy for development. Food Wise 2025 prioritises the potential for growth in new and emerging markets, particularly in Asia, Africa, the Americas and the Gulf region.

I am strongly of the view that the current range of supports available to farmers, together with ensuring market access to as many markets as possible, are appropriate supports for the continued development of the sector. 

I will continue to argue for as strong a CAP budget as possible, post-2020.  In particular, I am committed to ensuring that beef and sheep farmers continue to receive strong support in the next CAP.  My view is that such payments should support and encourage farmers to make the best decisions possible to improve the economic and environmental efficiency, of their farming system.

Areas of Natural Constraint Scheme Payments

Ceisteanna (446)

Michael Healy-Rae

Ceist:

446. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the status of an ANC payment for a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39890/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

The person named submitted a 2019 Basic Payment/Areas of Natural Constraints Schemes application on the 7th May 2019. EU Regulations governing the administration of these schemes require that full and comprehensive administrative checks, including, in some cases, on-farm inspections, be completed before any payments issue.

The application of the person named was selected for an on-farm inspection. This inspection has been completed and the outcome is currently being processed. The person named will be notified of the findings of the inspection on completion of this process.

The inspection outcome notification will outline the options available to the person named, namely to accept the findings or to submit comments to my Department for further consideration. On completion of this process, the inspection outcome will be finalised and any payments due will issue to the nominated bank account of the person named as soon as possible.

In the event that the person named is dissatisfied with the final inspection outcome, they will have a further opportunity to seek a review of the decision at that stage.

Capital Expenditure Programme

Ceisteanna (447)

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

447. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the final agreed tender price, the date of the tender for the contract and the final overall amount paid and the date of the final payment in respect of each capital expenditure project completed since 1 January 2014 by his Department or an agency under the remit of his Department and which ended up costing €10 million or more in tabular form; the reason the final amount paid exceeded the final tender price; the details available in respect of projects in which construction is not complete to date or in which the final settlement account has not been agreed to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39916/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

The information requested by the Deputy is set out in the following tables.

2014

Capital Project

Tender Price

Date of Tender

Amount Paid

Date of Final Payment

Reason Final Amount exceeded Tender price

*Haulbowline Island Remediation Project

n/a

n/a

€1,805,350

n/a

n/a

2015

Capital Project

Tender Price

Date of Tender

Amount Paid

Date of Final Payment

Reason Final Amount exceeded Tender price

*Haulbowline Island Remediation Project

n/a

n/a

€3,672,276

n/a

n/a

2016

Capital Project

Tender Price

Date of Tender

Amount Paid

Date of Final Payment

Reason Final Amount exceeded Tender price

*Haulbowline Island Remediation Project

n/a

n/a

€2,262,267

n/a

n/a

2017

Capital Project

Tender Price

Date of Tender

Final Amount Paid

Date of Final Payment

Reason Final Amount exceeded Tender price

*Haulbowline Island Remediation Project

n/a

n/a

€4,099,317

n/a

n/a

2018

Capital Project

Tender Price

Date of Tender

Amount Paid

Date of Final Payment

Reason Final Amount exceeded Tender price

*Haulbowline Island Remediation Project

n/a

n/a

€9,701,046

n/a

n/a

Dinish Wharf Extension Castletownbere FHC

€23,438,323

Ex VAT

31 July 2018

€13,120,463

Ex VAT

(figure to date)

n/a

n/a

**Prepared Consumer Foods (PCF) Centre, Teagasc, Ashtown -Purchase of capital equipment

n/a

n/a

See note below ***

n/a

n/a

2019 to date

Capital Project

Tender Price

Date of Tender

Amount Paid

Date of Final Payment

Reason Final Amount exceeded Tender price

*Haulbowline Island Remediation Project

n/a

n/a

€1,072,787

(figure to date)

n/a

n/a

Smooth Point Pier Extension, Killybegs F.H.C

€12,999,703.54 excluding VAT

1 August 2019

0

n/a

n/a

**Prepared Consumer Foods (PCF) Centre, Teagasc, Ashtown -Purchase of capital equipment

n/a

n/a

See note below ***

n/a

n/a

*Haulbowline Island Remediation Project

- The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine assumed responsibility for remediation works at Haulbowline Island on behalf of the Irish Government in 2012. Annual project-related expenditure, funded through a ring-fenced budget within the Department’s Vote, is outlined above.

- Cork County Council acts as the agent of the Minister for this project and manages the project at an operational level on behalf of the Department. Costs incurred by the Council as part of its role as agent are reimbursed on a matured liability basis.

- In the period up to 2017 expenditure was focussed on preparing for and securing the necessary planning and waste licence consents for the East Tip remediation and upgrading the island infrastructure in anticipation of works. Following the signing of contracts by the Council for the main remediation works in July 2017, activity on the site (and similarly expenditure) reached a peak in 2018 when the bulk of the works related to the remediation of the East Tip site took place. Final contract expenditure figures are not yet available.

- All key aspects of the works at the East Tip site are now completed with only minor finishing works ongoing at present.

Prepared Consumer Foods (PCF) Centre

**As part of the Brexit response, €5 million was allocated in both 2018 and 2019 for the purchase by Teagasc of specialist equipment for the PCF Centre to provide companies with the opportunity to pilot the equipment, with a view to scaling up their own production and to enable adoption of novel technologies to meet evolving consumer demands and expectations.

***Purchase of the equipment by Teagasc is subject to Government procurement rules. The tender/purchase process is ongoing.

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.

Agriculture Scheme Appeals

Ceisteanna (448)

Peter Burke

Ceist:

448. Deputy Peter Burke asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the status of an appeal by a person (details supplied); if a small discretion can be made for the minor omission; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39954/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

The person named was selected for an inspection under the 2018 Young Farmers Scheme (YFS), which was carried out on the 13/03/2019.  A  letter issued on the 09/04/2019 outlining the findings of the inspection which determined that the person named was not in financial control of the holdings, as required under the Terms and Conditions of the Young Farmer Scheme. 

The person named submitted comments and additional documentation on the findings of the inspection and this was examined prior to the inspection outcome being finalised. A Formal Notice (FN) letter issued on the 29/04/2019 which advised that the inspection outcome remained as previously notified.

The person named sought a review of this decision and this review, by the District Inspector, is nearing completion. The person named will be notified by letter of the outcome of the review shortly.

In the event that the person named is dissatisfied with the outcome of the review, they can appeal the decision to the independent Agriculture Appeals Office.

Building Energy Rating Administration

Ceisteanna (449)

David Cullinane

Ceist:

449. Deputy David Cullinane asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the number of houses nationwide in need of retrofit by retrofit scheme in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39384/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

The Government’s Climate Action Plan sets an ambitious target of 500,000 home retrofits to Building Energy Rating ‘B2’ by 2030. This was identified as the necessary contribution from the Built Environment to Ireland's overall emissions reduction targets for 2030. Achieving our 2050 ambition will require a further step up and many more houses will have to be retrofitted in the decades to come. The level of retrofit required for each home will depend on the starting point and current energy performance in that home. I recently announced the establishment of a Taskforce that will drive the achievement of this target. The Taskforce will oversee the development of a new national delivery model, which will group homes together, create easy pay back mechanisms and develop smart financing options. Development of the new model will be informed by the experience from existing schemes in Ireland as well as best practice in other jurisdictions. The first meeting of the Taskforce took place on 30 September.

Air Quality

Ceisteanna (450, 462, 463, 479, 480)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

450. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if he will report on the actions to be taken (details supplied) following on from the 2019 EPA report Urban Environmental Indicators Nitrogen dioxide levels in Dublin in which indicators show NO2 levels in urban areas may be over the EU limit of 40ug; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39592/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Anne Rabbitte

Ceist:

462. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment when the clean air strategy will be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39437/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Anne Rabbitte

Ceist:

463. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the reason for the delay in the publication of the clean air strategy; the organisations he has consulted with in relation to the strategy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39438/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

John Curran

Ceist:

479. Deputy John Curran asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the steps he is taking to address the rising levels of pollution in view of the report by the Environmental Protection Agency which found air pollution is responsible for an estimated 1,180 premature deaths here each year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39865/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

John Curran

Ceist:

480. Deputy John Curran asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the steps he is taking to meet air quality targets in view of the report by the Environmental Protection Agency that warned parts of Dublin city centre are likely to breach EU and World Health Organisation guidelines for air quality in 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39866/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 450, 462, 463, 479 and 480 together.

The implementation of the Climate Action will significantly improve air quality. In particular, the Climate Action Plan sets out the necessary actions to:

- Put 180,000 electric vehicles on our roads by 2025 and almost 1m by 2030

- Ensure the EV charging network underpins public confidence

- Create an early public procurement framework for EVs

- Accelerate steps to decarbonise the public transport fleet

- Establish a Cycling Project Office, develop a 5 year cycling strategy and roll out 200km of new cycle lanes through bus connects

- A new Park and Ride Strategy to be developed, to reduce congestion and lower journey times

- Develop a regulatory framework on low emission zones and parking pricing policies, and provide local authorities with the power to restrict access to certain parts of a city or a town to zero emission vehicles only

- No new fossil fuel vehicles sold from 2030

Currently 40% of homes use coal and peat to heat their homes (many in combination with other fossil fuel heating systems). By 2030, we will upgrade a third of all homes to at least a B2 energy standard, installing approximately 400,000 heat pumps. Currently over 99% of our vehicle fleet is fuelled by fossil fuels. By 2030, nearly a million fully electric or hybrid vehicles (35%-40%) will be on our roads. These measures will significantly improve air quality by reducing emissions of harmful pollutants.

In relation to the Clean Air Strategy, it will provide an overarching policy framework within which clean air policies can be formulated and given effect across Government in a manner consistent with national priorities, EU and other international policy considerations. The Clean Air Strategy will address a range of harmful air pollutants in Ireland, including those arising from the agricultural, transport and residential heating sectors, in an integrated manner.

Given the wide range of pollutant sources, it is important that action is coordinated across various sectors. In this regard, the Department consulted widely, including with other Departments, State Agencies, and industry bodies on the formulation of the Cleaning Our Air issues paper, which was itself the subject of a public consultation. In addition, a number of plans have been under development recently, including the National Air Pollution Control Programme, the National Energy and Climate Plan, and the Climate Action Plan, which are relevant to the clean air agenda. I am keen to ensure that synergies are maximised between these plans and the National Clean Air Strategy, with a view to achieving lasting reductions in the health and environmental impacts of air pollution. I am committed to publishing the National Clean Air Strategy at the earliest opportunity.

Climate Change Policy

Ceisteanna (451)

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

451. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if he will report on the commitments made by Ireland on climate change at the UN Climate Action Summit. [39631/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

The UN Climate Action Summit, which took place on 23 September, was convened by the UN Secretary General to build momentum towards enhanced climate ambition by Parties to the Paris Agreement. This was preceded on Saturday, 21 September, by Youth Climate Summit which was attended by myself and the Minister for Children. Ireland’s national statement to the Climate Action Summit, delivered by the Taoiseach, confirmed that the Government would accept and act upon the advice from the Climate Change Advisory Council in relation to the future of oil and natural gas offshore exploration and recovery. In this regard, it was accepted that the exploration for, and the recovery of, new offshore oil reserves is not compatible with a low carbon transition, and that the exploration for, and extraction of new offshore gas reserves can be consistent with this transition. I will shortly bring proposals to Government to set out the next steps in terms of how this advice is to be implemented.

Ireland also announced that all new revenue raised from carbon tax will be ring-fenced to fund new climate action and the just transition. This just transition will help to protect those most exposed to higher fuel and energy costs and for whom new jobs must be found to shift from carbon-intensive industries. Specific decisions on how additional carbon tax revenue will be used are a matter for the Minister for Finance and Public Expenditure and Reform in the context of the Budget process.

As part of the preparation for the summit on Youth Engagement and Public Mobilisation, Ireland and the Marshall Irelands jointly sponsored the preparation of the 'Kwon Gesh' (or "Solemn Duty") climate pledge, which invites its signatories to give the younger generation a greater voice in creating climate policy.

Parties to the summit were invited to make new commitments under a number of different themes, include mitigation strategy; resilience and adaptation; climate finance and carbon pricing; social and political drivers; energy transition; resilience and adaptation; nature-based solutions; infrastructure, cities and local government; industry; and youth engagement and public mobilisation. Ireland has confirmed support for a number of initiatives under different themes as set out below.

1. Mitigation Strategy Coalition

Ireland was included on a list of countries and non-Party stakeholders that demonstrated genuine leadership either by having developed plans to achieve net zero CO emissions by 2050, by having identified this target as a long-term national goal or by advancing consultations on a long-term strategy for climate-neutrality in line with the Paris Agreement.

2. Resilience and Adaptation Coalition

- Call for Action: Raising Ambition for Climate Ambition;

- InsuResilience initiative;

- Global Commission on Adaptation Agriculture Food Security initiative;

- Africa Adaptation Initiative;

- LDC Initiative for Effective Adaptation and Resilience (LIFE-AR)

3. Social and Political Drivers Coalition

- Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment in Climate Action Initiative

- Health as a political driver for increased climate ambition on climate change

- Addressing the Impacts of Climate Change on Culture and Natural Heritage

- Just Transition and the creation of green jobs for all

4. Energy Transition Coalition

- Decarbonising Shipping: Getting to Zero Coalition

- Three Percent Club for Energy Efficiency

5. Nature-Based Solutions Coalition

- Nature Based Coalition

6. Industry Coalition

- Leadership Group for Industry Transition

7. Youth Engagement and Public Mobilisation Coalition

A full list of the announcements and commitments made at the Climate Summit can be found at www.un.org/climatechange

Waste Management

Ceisteanna (452)

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

452. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment his plans to review the policy on the imposition of a levy on commercial incineration; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39287/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

Government waste management policy is set out in A Resource Opportunity - Waste Management Policy in Ireland, published in 2012. European, national and regional waste management policy is predicated on the waste hierarchy as set out in Article 4 of the 2008 Waste Framework Directive (2008/98/EC), whereby the prevention, preparing for reuse, recycling and other recovery of waste are preferred options to the disposal or landfilling of waste.

Thermal recovery activities such as waste to energy, co-incineration (e.g. at cement kilns), pyrolysis and gasification, where the principal use of the waste is as a fuel to generate energy, sit on the 'other recovery' tier of the waste hierarchy and in line with European policy are preferred to the disposal or landfilling of waste.

In this regard, 26% of managed municipal waste (by weight) was sent to landfill in 2016 compared to 41% in 2012 and 92% in 1995. Furthermore, 74% of managed municipal waste was recovered in 2016 (compared to 59% in 2012). Significantly more residual waste is now used as a fuel (energy recovery) than disposed to landfill. Further information is available at http://www.epa.ie/nationalwastestatistics/municipal/

New waste management targets agreed by the European Council include a provision that Member States shall take the necessary measures to ensure that by 2035 the amount of municipal waste landfilled is reduced to 10% or less of the total amount of municipal waste generated (by weight). Furthermore, recycling rates of 55%, 60% and 65% of municipal waste (by weight) must be achieved by 2025, 2030 and 2035 respectively.

The continued implementation of European, national and regional waste management policy to manage waste in line with the waste hierarchy will help ensure that Ireland is well placed to meet these new targets.

A review of "A Resource Opportunity - Waste Management Policy in Ireland " was initiated earlier this year. This review process will take account of a number of initiatives, such as the European Circular Economy waste and plastics legislation framework and the reports from the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission and the Price Monitoring Group. This process will inform the development of future national waste management policy, including our environmental goals, regulatory and market structures, and relevant policy instruments and tools.

Broadband Service Provision

Ceisteanna (453)

Niamh Smyth

Ceist:

453. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the reason for the delay in the roll out of broadband in the Canningstown area (details supplied) Shercock, County Cavan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39358/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

Every home, farm, school and business in Ireland will have access to high speed broadband – no matter where they are located – following the Government’s decision to approve the appointment of a preferred bidder to the National Broadband Plan. Under this plan, Ireland will become one of the first countries in the world to ensure that those in rural areas have the same digital opportunities as those in urban areas. The premises referenced by the Deputy is located 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.

The State intervention is the subject of the procurement process to engage a company to build, operate and maintain the NBP State intervention network. In May I brought a recommendation to Government to confer Preferred Bidder status on Granahan McCourt, the remaining bidder in the NBP procurement process and Government agreed to this.

The Government Decision of 7 May 2019 means that it is intended to award the State Intervention contract to the Bidder. This award is subject to contract close. The finalisation of financial closure and legal requirements are progressing towards contract award. Deployment of the NBP State Intervention network will commence shortly after that.

The Bidder has indicated that the NBP State intervention will take an estimated 7 years from the beginning of deployment.

A deployment plan will be made available by the Bidder once the contract is signed. In the first year of roll out, the Bidder will deploy approximately 300 Broadband Connection Points (BCPs) across all counties. It is anticipated that between 7 and 23 BCPs will be deployed in each county. BCPs will provide a community based high speed broadband service, enhancing online participation and allowing for the establishment of digital work hubs in these locations.

The Bidder is aiming to pass 133,000 premises at the end of the second year, with 70-100,000 passed each year thereafter until roll out is completed.

Work continues on finalising the contract and in parallel to this work, I am considering the recommendations of the Joint Oireachtas Communications Committee report which was published recently. I will bring my deliberations of the report to Government in due course.

The Deputy makes reference to the premises' proximity to a commercial deployment of 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.

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 the Commitment Agreement, it is not funded by the State and it is not planned, designed or directed by my Department in any capacity.

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.

Prospecting Licences

Ceisteanna (454, 455)

Catherine Connolly

Ceist:

454. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the status of a prospecting licence (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39359/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Catherine Connolly

Ceist:

455. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment his plans to request that a company (details supplied) surrender a prospecting licence in view of its declaration that it no longer has an interest in a project; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39360/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 454 and 455 together.

The company referred to by the Deputy currently holds a Prospecting Licence for PLA 934 which is due to expire the 30th December, 2019. If the company applies to renew this Prospecting Licence, the renewal application will be subject to the normal due diligence applied to all applicants for and holders of Prospecting Licences. Currently my Department has received no information to indicate that the company no longer has an interest in the project.

Commencement of Legislation

Ceisteanna (456)

Catherine Connolly

Ceist:

456. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment when the Minerals Development Act 2017 will be commenced; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39361/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

My Department is working on the development of Regulations in order to commence the Mineral Development Act 2017 . Regulations to commence Part 2 of the Act relating to Prospecting are at an advanced stage of drafting . This is expected to be completed by the end of 2020. Following on from that the Regulations to commence the remaining Part of the Act will be completed.

Departmental Meetings

Ceisteanna (457)

Catherine Connolly

Ceist:

457. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the number of times representatives of his Department have met mining companies in the past two years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39362/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

Officials from my Department regularly meet Prospecting Licence holders and Mining Licence / Lease holders as part of ongoing Departmental monitoring to ensure compliance with the conditions of Licences. My officials also met with companies that are interested in exploring for minerals in Ireland and provide information on the regulatory regime and requirements for prospecting in Ireland. In addition my officials attend sectoral seminars, conferences and public outreach events such as National Ploughing Event and Geoscience Ireland business cluster with Enterprise Ireland which includes a wide range of companies including exploration and mining companies.

Warmer Homes Scheme Eligibility

Ceisteanna (458)

Michael Healy-Rae

Ceist:

458. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment further to Parliamentary Question No. 1497 of 6 September 2019 (details supplied), if he will address the matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39395/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

The Better Energy Warmer Homes Scheme provides energy efficiency upgrades to the homes of people living in or at risk of energy poverty. The Scheme is administered by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) on behalf of my Department. As Minister I have no function in relation to individual applications. These upgrades are provided free of charge to the homeowner. As stated in response to Parliamentary Question number 1497 of 2019, in order to be eligible to receive works under the scheme, an applicant’s property must have been built and occupied before 2006. This rule is in place on the basis that these properties should have been constructed to the 2003 Building Regulations and so should not require significant insulation or heating system upgrades. SEAI link this to the date of the electricity meter being installed, as it is unlikely that a property is completed and occupied before that date.

The SEAI have examined the details for this application and Electric Ireland have confirmed that the electricity meter was not connected until March 2006. The scheme rules must be applied consistently to all applications to ensure fairness as well as value for money for the Exchequer. Therefore the SEAI are not proceeding with this application.

SEAI operate under a Customer Charter and a complaints and appeals procedure is in place. If after following this procedure an applicant is not satisfied with the outcome, they can ask the Office of the Ombudsman for an independent review of the complaint. Further details are available here: http://www.seai.ie/customer-charter/

Broadband Service Provision

Ceisteanna (459)

Mary Butler

Ceist:

459. Deputy Mary Butler asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if thebroadband service being provided to persons (details supplied) will be investigated; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39396/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

Every home, farm, school and business in Ireland will have access to high speed broadband – no matter where they are located – following the Government’s decision to approve the appointment of a preferred bidder to the National Broadband Plan. Under this plan, Ireland will become one of the first countries in the world to ensure that those in rural areas have the same digital opportunities as those in urban areas. The premises referred to by the Deputy is in the Blue 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.

- The BLUE areas are where commercial providers are either currently delivering or have plans to deliver high speed broadband services.

- The LIGHT BLUE areas are where eir is in the process of deploying high speed broadband to 300,000 premises on a commercial basis.

Where a citizen living in a Blue area is unable to obtain a high speed broadband service, I would encourage them to email my Department at broadband@dccae.gov.ie with their Eircode and details of the service providers they have contacted and the issues encountered in respect of accessing high speed broadband.

I note the Deputy’s constituent’s concerns relating to the reliability of service they have been experiencing from their provider.

Issues relating to the provision of telecommunications services, including loss of service are, in the first instance, a matter for the relevant service provider to resolve.

If, after having exhausted the service provider's complaint handling procedures, a customer is not happy, they may contact the independent regulator, Commission for Communications Regulation, ComReg, on 1890 229 668; online at www.askcomreg.ie or by email at Consumerline@comreg.ie, for further assistance and guidance. ComReg will investigate such complaints to ensure that the companies in question are delivering services in line with its licence obligations.

Departmental Records

Ceisteanna (460)

Richard Boyd Barrett

Ceist:

460. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if, prior to the privatisation of a company (details supplied), two financial reports or audits were produced which showed significantly different financial positions; and if copies of both will be provided; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39420/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

In July 1998, with the agreement of the Minister for Finance, Merrill Lynch and AIB Capital Markets were appointed by the then Minister for Public Enterprise as integrated financial advisers, to provide advice and assistance to the Government on all aspects of the flotation of shares owned by the State in Telecom Éireann. Having checked accessible records in my Department, no financial reports or audits carried out by the companies referred to in the question prior to the Initial Public Offering have been located by officials. Given the significant volume of records held in off-site archived storage in relation to the IPO, it has not proved possible to access and examine all records within the time available to respond to this question.

Online Safety

Questions Nos. 462 and 463 answered with Question No. 450.

Question No. 464 answered with Question No. 461.

Ceisteanna (461, 464)

Anne Rabbitte

Ceist:

461. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment his engagement at European level on child safety measures relating to online content; the proposals being considered to enhance child safety measures; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39436/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Anne Rabbitte

Ceist:

464. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment his engagement with technology and media companies in relation to child safety measures relating to online content; the proposals being considered to enhance child safety measures; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39439/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 461 and 464 together.

On 4 March 2019 I announced proposals for an Online Safety and Media Regulation Bill to tackle the spread of harmful online content and launched a public consultation to gather feedback on the proposals.

The public consultation closed on 15 April 2019. A wide a varied range of responses were received to the consultation, from members of the public, NGOs, industry and government agencies. These responses, which were published on 27 June 2019, are currently being considered to inform the development of the Online Safety and Media Regulation Bill. Furthermore, a thematic analysis of the submissions identifying key themes and issues was published on 25 July 2019.

This legislation will set a clear expectation for online platforms to take reasonable steps to ensure the safety of the users of their service and will provide for the appointment of an Online Safety Commissioner as part of the regulatory structure overseeing the new system. It will also provide for the implementation of the revised Audiovisual Media Services Directive in Ireland, which sets out new EU rules for Video Sharing Platform Services. At European level, my Department is represented on the Contact Committee that is assisting the European Commission in developing guidelines on aspects of the Directive's implementation.

It would be impossible to protect children from every danger online, but we must ensure that robust regulation is in place, that parents and students are equipped to deal with the risks, and that social media and online platforms take responsibility.

Issues relating to criminality and child safety and child development and children's rights are matters for my colleagues the Minister for Justice and Equality and the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs respectively.

Questions Nos. 462 and 463 answered with Question No. 450.
Question No. 464 answered with Question No. 461.

Broadband Service Provision

Ceisteanna (465)

Fiona O'Loughlin

Ceist:

465. Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment when broadband will be available in an area (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39509/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

Every home, farm, school and business in Ireland will have access to high speed broadband – no matter where they are located – following the Government’s decision to approve the appointment of a Preferred Bidder to the National Broadband Plan. Under this plan, Ireland will become one of the first countries in the world to ensure that those in rural areas have the same digital opportunities as those in urban areas. The premises referenced by the Deputy is located 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.

The Deputy also referred 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.

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 the Commitment Agreement, it is not funded by the State and it is not planned, designed or directed by my Department in any capacity.

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 State intervention is the subject of the procurement process to engage a company to build, operate and maintain the NBP State intervention network. In May I brought a recommendation to Government to confer Preferred Bidder status on Granahan McCourt, the remaining bidder in the NBP procurement process and Government agreed to this.

The Government Decision of 7 May 2019 means that it is intended to award the State Intervention contract to the Bidder. This award is subject to contract close. The finalisation of financial closure and legal requirements are progressing towards contract award. Deployment of the NBP State Intervention network will commence shortly after that.

The Bidder has indicated that the NBP State intervention will take an estimated 7 years from the beginning of deployment.

A deployment plan will be made available by the Bidder once the contract is signed. In the first year of roll out, the Bidder will deploy approximately 300 Broadband Connection Points (BCPs) across all counties. It is anticipated that between 7 and 23 BCPs will be deployed in each county. BCPs will provide a community based high speed broadband service, enhancing online participation and allowing for the establishment of digital work hubs in these locations.

The Bidder is aiming to pass 133,000 premises at the end of the second year, with 70-100,000 passed each year thereafter until roll out is completed.

Work continues on finalising the contract and in parallel to this work, I am considering the recommendations of the Joint Oireachtas Communications Committee report which was published recently. I will bring my deliberations of the report to Government in due course.