Departmental Data

Ceisteanna (224, 225)

Thomas Byrne

Ceist:

224. Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if her Department has information sharing agreements with Irish Rail or other public transport providers. [46809/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Thomas Byrne

Ceist:

225. Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if her Department has information sharing agreements with the National Transport Authority or the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport. [46810/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 224 and 225 together.

As no personal identifying data is shared by my Department with the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport; the National Transport Authority; Irish rail; or other public transport providers, information sharing agreements are not needed.  

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Departmental Data

Ceisteanna (226, 227)

Thomas Byrne

Ceist:

226. Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the number of times her Department has shared personal identifying information with transport providers including Irish Rail in each of the years 2016 to 2018 and to date in 2019. [46811/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Thomas Byrne

Ceist:

227. Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the number of times her Department has shared personal identifying information with the National Transport Authority in each of the years 2016 to 2018 and to date in 2019. [46812/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 226 and 227 together.

No personal identifying data is shared by my Department with the National Transport Authority, Irish Rail or other transport providers as part of the operation of the Free trade scheme.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Domiciliary Care Allowance Applications

Ceisteanna (228)

Michael Healy-Rae

Ceist:

228. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the status of a domiciliary carer's allowance for a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [46868/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

An application for Domiciliary Care Allowance (DCA) was received from the person concerned on the 5th March 2019.  The application was not allowed as it was considered that the child did not meet the eligibility for the allowance. A letter issued on the 1st May 2019 outlining the decision of the deciding officer to refuse the allowance.

In the case of an application which is refused, the applicant may submit additional information and ask to have the decision reviewed/and or they may appeal the decision directly to the Social Welfare Appeals Office. The options available were advised in the decision letter.

Currently there is no record of either a review request or appeal request having been received in this case.

There are no time restrictions when requesting a review from this department.  However,  the Social Welfare Appeals Office operate a 21 day limit for the registration of new appeals and an oral hearing can only be granted by that office.

 I trust this clarifies  the matter for the Deputy.

State Pension (Contributory)

Ceisteanna (229)

Willie O'Dea

Ceist:

229. Deputy Willie O'Dea asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the reason a person (details supplied) is receiving a lesser amount in their contributory pension; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [46903/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

The person concerned applied for state pension contributory in August 2016 and was awarded a reduced rate based on a yearly average of 17.  The persons payment was reviewed under a new Total Contributions Approach (TCA) to pension calculation which included provision for homecaring periods.

In March 2019, the person concerned submitted an application for HomeCaring periods and all periods applied for have been awarded.  

Following the award of HomeCaring periods a review took place which resulted in an increase to a rate of 76.73% of maximum pension (or €190.60).  This represented an increase on the person's previous pension payment rate of €161.80.  Arrears of payment, backdated to 30 March 2018 issued by cheque.

A re-examination has now taken place with additional contributions added for the persons 66th year. The person has 769 reckonable paid contributions which when combined with 801 HomeCaring Periods and 76 reckonable credits results in a payment rate of 79.13% of maximum pension (or €196.50).     

A review outcome letter has issued to the person concerned, detailing their new rate of payment. Arrears of payment, backdated to 30 March 2018 will be included with the next payment.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Water and Sewerage Schemes Grants

Ceisteanna (230)

Kevin O'Keeffe

Ceist:

230. Deputy Kevin O'Keeffe asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the criteria and availability of grant aid of up to €5,000 in circumstances in which a householder has to provide their own drinking water via a new well as an exceptional measure under the rural water programme as announced in October 2018. [46720/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

Work is at an advanced stage of development for two new schemes to replace existing schemes which assist householders, in certain circumstances, in the provision of on-site domestic water supplies (individual wells) and waste water treatment systems (septic tanks). 

The changes that I have approved to the individual wells grant scheme are as follows:

- a maximum grant for rehabilitation works of €3,000 (which represents an increase of 47% on the current maximum grant amount), or where the local authority agrees that the most appropriate solution is to provide a new well, a maximum grant of €5,000;

- Recognising the role of the grant in improving quality, the water quality treatment element (typically filtration and UV filtration) will qualify for 100% funding up to a maximum of €1,000;

- Up to 85% of other costs would be met, subject to the total combined maximum costs of €3,000 for well rehabilitation or €5,000 for a new well.

I expect that the procedures for applying under this new scheme will be completed shortly when the necessary regulations dealing with the financial assistance arrangements and related administrative matters are put in place. This will enable circular letters, terms and conditions, guidance and the application forms to issue to local authorities shortly thereafter.

Departmental Schemes

Ceisteanna (231)

Carol Nolan

Ceist:

231. Deputy Carol Nolan asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if a specific region (details supplied) could be used to pilot the relaunch of the national farm plan scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [46757/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Culture)

The area to which the Deputy refers is one of the most important nature conservation areas in Ireland. This is reflected in designation of much of the area as a Special Area of Conservation or a Special Protection Area, to protect the diversity of the habitats and species that exist there.

I acknowledge that it is important that the custodians of this area are supported through relevant schemes to manage the environment in an appropriate and targeted way. The Farm Plan Scheme administered by the National Parks & Wildlife Service of my Department offers the opportunity to work with landowners in a proactive way and to go above and beyond the statutory requirements.

While I have doubled the funding of the Scheme in 2020 to €1 million, there is naturally a limit to the resources available for the Scheme. There are numerous farms across Ireland that would benefit from a farm plan, including areas outside the area to which the Deputy refers. Therefore my Department will need to ensure that entry to the Scheme is structured and transparent and to that end specific selection criteria will need to be established. These criteria will be established in advance of the development of new plans that will proceed under budget 2020.

Departmental Funding

Ceisteanna (232)

Jack Chambers

Ceist:

232. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the supports, funding schemes and grants which are available to non-governmental environmental and conservation organisations; the updates to same made in budget 2020; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [46769/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Culture)

The total funding allocated for Heritage in Budget 2020 is €62.5m, up from €54m last year – an increase of over €8m or 15.5% on 2019 – comprising additional capital provision of €6.75m (up 44%) on 2019 and additional current funding of €1.623m.

Over the course of the last year I have listened very carefully to the extensive public debate on biodiversity loss and the threats to nature. The National Biodiversity Conference in Dublin this year, which I hosted,  the development of the Seeds for Nature initiative, the wide ranging public debate on the Heritage Ireland 2030 Plan as well as the extensive engagement across Government on Climate Action were instrumental in my securing significant additional resources for this area.

Engagement with stakeholders, community and conservation groups is an important part of my Department's overall approach to tackling biodiversity loss, and to improving the prospects for our habitats and species. My Department also engages closely with a range of environmental non-governmental organisations to identify areas where they may assist in implementing the National Biodiversity Action Plan, and in our efforts to halt biodiversity loss generally.

A wide range of national NGOs are involved in the area of biodiversity including An Taisce, Birdwatch Ireland, the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group, Bat Conservation Ireland, the Irish Peatland Conservation Council and the Irish Wildlife Trust. Many local organisations and groups also carry out important biodiversity related work.

Additionally, the Biodiversity Forum, set up to advise the Minister on the content and implementation of the National Biodiversity Action Plan (NBAP), includes representatives of landowners, farmers, industry, natural heritage, environmental NGO's and academia. The Forum will continue in its role as implementation of the current NBAP progresses next year.

Funding is available for a range of schemes and programmes to assist NGOs and conservation organisations in carrying out work that supports implementation of the Government's biodiversity strategy, laid out in the Plan. The main schemes are set out in Table 1. From time to time, my Department may also have limited funding available to consider additional projects or supports for biodiversity, with a preference for science based and monitoring projects.

Final decisions on funding for schemes and grants are made each year in the context of the overall resources available and other priorities and pressures within the sector. In some cases, decisions on 2020 allocations have not been made yet as these allocations are subject to internal reviews of the respective schemes in 2019.

Table 1: Funding provided by DCHG to NGOs and Conservation Groups

Organisation

Purpose of Grant Funding

2019 Funding Allocation €

2020 Funding Allocation €

Irish Forum on Natural Capital

Support the work of the Forum on natural capital accounting and ecosystem services 

 13,000

Decision on 2020 funding will be made in due course.

Peatlands Community Engagement Scheme

Grant funding to local community groups, organisations and individuals to support a range of initiatives with community benefit from events, education programmes, promotions, exhibitions, development of conservation management plans, monitoring or surveying work to inform peatland restoration projects, publications, invasive species and fire control measures, anti-littering initiatives to local environmental improvements in the area of the designated raised bogs.

 200,000

As above

Community Wetlands Forum

Grant funding to the Community Wetlands Forum via Irish Rural Link.  This grant funding is used by IRL for the discharge of salaries and administrative / running costs in order for IRL to continue to employ a part time Development Officer.

 25,000

Decision on 2020 funding will be made in due course

Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland 

Funding to provide for Irish Officer of BSBI

 15,000

 As above

 An Táisce

Annual funding for biodiversity component of the Green Schools programme

 40,000

 As above

Woodlands of Ireland

Annual funding to support the core work of the organisation in support of Irish woodlands

 38,000

 As above

Small Grants Scheme for Recorders

Funding made available to assist biodiversity recorders around the country

 25,000

 As above

Biodiversity Forum Funding

Funding made available to the Forum to allow it to progress its work in more detail with a view to providing objective scientifically sound advice to the Minister on the implementation of the National Biodiversity Plan 

 10,000

 As above

Irish Raptor Study Group

Grant towards IRSG annual conference

 1,000

 As above

Irish Environmental Network 

Annual funding provided to facilitate programme of events for Biodiversity Week

 25,000

 As above

The Community Foundation of Ireland 

Grant funding provided to fund biodiversity in local communities

 100,000

 As above

Bat Conservation Ireland 

Funding provided for production of Batlas 2020 

 15,975

 As above

Birdwatch Ireland

Funding provided through NPWS adverts in BWI 'Wings Magazine' (3 per year) 

 2,100

 As above

Irish Whale and Dolphin Group 

Grant towards IWDG cetacean stranding scheme

 10,000

 

 Ulster Wildlife Trust

Grant towards all-Ireland squirrel and pine marten survey

 10,000

 

 Golden Eagle Trust

Raptor reintroduction scheme allocation

 35,000

 As above

Arts Council Funding

Ceisteanna (233)

John Lahart

Ceist:

233. Deputy John Lahart asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if a budget is available to a local photographer to publish photographs of wildlife on the River Dodder; if other avenues other than the local authority can be pursued in relation to same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [46774/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Culture)

Primary support for the Arts is delivered through the Arts Council.  The Arts Council operates a number of schemes and initiatives have been established for the particular support of visual arts. The Council considers visual arts to include a range of media such as painting, drawing, sculpture, printmaking, photography, live art/performance, film, video or other digital imaging media.

The Arts Council is dedicated to supporting a vibrant community of visual artists, visual arts groups and organisations so that the public can experience the highest standard of visual arts, in urban and in rural parts of Ireland.

The Arts Council offers various funding awards under the Visual Arts for artists, organisations, groups and curators to apply for support. In addition to the grants, awards and schemes offered across all artform areas, a number of schemes and initiatives have been established for the particular support of visual arts. Information on these can be accessed on the Arts Council's website at the following link  http://www.artscouncil.ie/Arts-in-Ireland/Visual-arts/Schemes-and-initatives/.

In addition to the above, Culture Ireland operates a range of funding programmes to support and promote the presentation of Irish arts internationally.  Under its programme it offers support to Irish professional artists, arts organisations and international presenters to present work by Irish artists at significant international venues and festivals. Culture Ireland considers applications for all forms of the arts, including photography, as defined in the Arts Act 2003:  Further information on funding can be accessed at the following link https://www.cultureireland.ie/funding.

My Department’s Creative Ireland Programme is a five-year all-of-government, culture-based initiative, led by my Department, that emphasises the importance of human creativity for individual, community and societal wellbeing.  The main source of support for community-based activities under the Creative Ireland Programme is Pillar 2 - 'Enabling Creativity in Every Community'.  In 2019, a total of €3m has been allocated to all 31 local authorities (€96,000 each approximately) to enable them to support an extensive programme of activities, events and initiatives in each county.  In 2018, over 1,200 events took place across all local authorities.  Projects funded include arts projects, grant schemes, concerts, conferences, exhibitions, festivals, outreach projects, publications, research programmes, 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.

In July of this year, I announced the completion of a review of the Percent for Art scheme which will  be of interest to visual artists.  The outcome of this review led to changes to the scheme’s bands and limits which will make significantly increased funding available to the creative community. Many artists have already received high profile commissions for public art works as a result of this scheme and these increases will ensure many more will also benefit. The new limits and bands will apply from 1st January 2020 and details may be seen on my Department’s website at the following link https://www.chg.gov.ie/public-art/.

I will shortly be re-establishing an inter-agency group to improve information gathering and collation and sharing of best practice on Percent for Art schemes.  This group will also link in with the Arts Council and seek to enhance the Council’s existing advisory role in relation to the Scheme.

My Department may from time to time have limited resources available to consider the provision of small amounts of funding for projects that promote the goals and actions contained in the National Biodiversity Action Plan, with a preferred emphasis on projects that have a scientific, monitoring or awareness raising element.

Deer Culls

Ceisteanna (234)

Michael Healy-Rae

Ceist:

234. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if she will address a matter (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [46831/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Culture)

I would like to thank the Deputy for again raising this issue. As the Deputy is aware, my Department is committed to the active management of this species within the National Park and, as part of its regular ongoing management operations, carries out localised annual species' counts on State lands, where appropriate. A number of surveys, censuses and reports on the species population have been conducted in recent years, including a comprehensive survey and report in the winter of 2016 on the distribution, population density and population structure in Killarney National Park. This was followed by further census in both the spring 2017 and winter 2018.  Preliminary reported results indicate that the population density of one breed is in the region of 11.31 per square kilometre (c. 896 ) and the density of the other breed  is in the region of 6.71 per square kilometre (c. 532 ).

As a result of the population increasing, certain management issues arise, such as culling. The animals have the potential to impact significantly on woodlands, including the iconic yew, oak and also wet woodlands within the Park, for example by bark stripping of mature trees and preventing regeneration. Therefore, where deer species are increasing in range and numbers, depending on the annual count and instances of damage caused by them to habitats, culls need to be carried out to ensure that populations do not reach levels that would have negative ecological consequences. More than 240 animals were culled between 2015 and 2018. The figures for the 2018-19 cull totalled 272 animals which included both breeds. The cull for the 2019-2020 season is just underway in line with the current Open Season order.  

As the Deputy can see, our management of the species in the National Park is extensive and appropriate. However, as I have repeatedly informed the Deputy, management of animals outside of the National Park and in the wider Killarney valley area is a matter for private landholders and culling and control is not the responsibility of my Department, beyond the issuing of section 42 permits.

While the National Parks and Wildlife Service of the Department licenses the hunting of the animals, the Department does not own the population, they are wild animals and they roam freely throughout the countryside. Wild animals in the State are protected under the Wildlife Acts, however, there is an annual open season during which this species can be legally shot under licence. The open season operates generally from the 1st September to the last day of February, depending on the species and gender. Landowners may also apply to the Department for a permission under section 42 of the Wildlife Acts to cull where necessary outside the annual open seasons. These permissions offer a facility whereby a person can obtain a permit, on a case-by-case basis, to prevent serious damage caused by individual animals on specific lands. Permissions are only issued where there is evidence of such damage.

With regard to the issue of fencing Killarney National Park as I have previously outlined on several occasions, there are no plans to fence the National Park. Fencing is simply not a viable solution and would not achieve the desired results for a number of reasons. Firstly, the presence of the species is not confined to the National Parks and consequently fencing of these properties would serve no practical purpose in terms of wild deer control or management. Secondly, the Park is over 10.000 ha in size, including some rugged terrain. Fencing this area would be an enormous task that is unlikely to result in the desired objective. Thirdly, some smaller animals are capable of going under fencing that is eight inches off the ground, while others are capable of knocking down fences. Finally, the erection of a fence this size could also impact on the sensitive habitats within the Park.

With regard to the issue of Road Safety, this is a matter for the Road Safety Authority and the relevant Local authority. Nevertheless, I am of the view that improving sight lines for motorists as well as improved (possibly larger) signage is likely to be the most effective measure to assist motorists to be vigilant when driving through areas where populations of the animals can be expected. Officials from my Department have previously discussed this with Kerry County Council.

To conclude, the Deputy can appreciate that species management is a complex and multi-faceted process. There is a significant challenge in attempting to balance the demands of agriculture, forestry and conservation with the need to ensure that populations occupying the same land resources are managed at sustainable levels, and in a responsible and ethical manner.