Renewable Energy Generation

Ceisteanna (309)

Thomas Pringle

Ceist:

309. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the rationale for limiting the RESS auction category for solar energy to a maximum of 10% (details supplied). [52481/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

In order to deliver on the ambition set out in the Climate Action Plan, my Department is developing the Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (RESS). The RESS has been designed within a competitive auction-based, cost effective framework and the scheme will provide for a renewable electricity (RES-E) ambition of 70% by 2030. The Scheme is subject to state aid approval from the EU Commission. The Climate Action Plan targets the delivery of indicative volumes of up to 1.5 GW of grid scale solar by 2030. Utility scale solar energy farms will be critical to diversifying the renewable technology mix and to deliver gains through connecting hybrid renewable technologies. The volume of connected solar in 2030 may well exceed this target if prices continue to fall and solar projects are successful in the RESS auctions.

The RESS-1 auction will include a preference category for solar energy projects in order to provide for the diversification of the renewable energy mix, subject to EU state aid approval. This preference category will ensure that a minimum quantity of solar is procured, which is expected to be approximately 10% of the overall auction amount subject to a competitive number of solar energy applications entering the RESS auction.

My Department held a public stakeholder briefing on 22 November 2019 at which officials presented on the RESS detailed design framework and the presentation from the briefing session is available on my Department's website. The detailed terms and conditions of the scheme are shortly due to be published for consultation.

Taxi Licences

A referred reply was forwarded to the Deputy under Standing Order 42A

Ceisteanna (310)

Niamh Smyth

Ceist:

310. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the status of an application by a person (details supplied); if the NTA will be contacted on the matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [52187/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

The regulation of the small public service vehicle (SPSV) industry is a matter for the National Transport Authority (NTA) under the provisions of the Taxi Regulation Act 2013.

Accordingly, I have referred your question to the NTA for direct reply to you. Please advise my private office if you do not receive a response within 10 working days.

A referred reply was forwarded to the Deputy under Standing Order 42A

Departmental Budgets

Ceisteanna (311)

Pearse Doherty

Ceist:

311. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the capital allocation of his Department in each of the years 2020 to 2025; and the areas to which funds will be allocated in each year. [52218/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

As the Deputy may be aware, the capital allocation provided to my Department in Budget 2020 is €1,943m.  This represents an increase of more than €357m over 2019 levels.

In the Press Release linked below, Minister of State Griffin and I have listed the investment priorities within my Department for 2020 and also provided information on how the Capital Allocation will be invested.

https://www.gov.ie/en/news/bf4905-ministers-ross-and-griffin-welcome-27-billion-allocation-for-transpo/

  As part of the National Development Plan my Department's expected capital allocation for 2021 is €2,526m and for 2022 it is €2,405m, as set out in Appendix 7 of the Revised Estimates for 2019. An additional €125m of capital re-profiled in the 2020 budget is expected to be allocated in 2021-2023, with the bulk of the capital being allocated in 2021. As of yet we do not have our Capital allocations finalised from 2023 onwards.

The planned increase in the capital ceiling for this Department is to support increasing investment across a range of capital projects managed by the Department mainly in the areas of Public Transport and Roads, as set out in the Project Ireland 2040 Tracker, available at the following link.

  https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/6db7c4-investment-projects-and-programmes-tracker/

Rail Network Expansion

Ceisteanna (312, 321)

Éamon Ó Cuív

Ceist:

312. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he has received the report he commissioned on the western rail corridor from a company (details supplied); if so, when the report will be published; when a final decision on the report will be made; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [52293/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Tom Neville

Ceist:

321. Deputy Tom Neville asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the status of the western rail corridor extension review. [52523/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 312 and 321 together.

As the Deputies are aware, Project Ireland 2040 committed to conducting an independent review of a possible extension to the Western Rail Corridor (WRC) and provided that, should the outcome of the review be approved by Government, the project would be prioritised during the lifetime of the National Development Plan.

In line with the commitment for a review, an external company was commissioned by Iarnród Éireann to prepare a financial/economic appraisal and business case on proposals for extending the existing WRC from Athenry to Claremorris.

That work is now complete and the business case has recently been received by my Department. It will now be reviewed in line with the requirements of the Public Spending Code, following which I will bring the findings of the Report to Government.

Sports Facilities Expenditure

Ceisteanna (313)

Marc MacSharry

Ceist:

313. Deputy Marc MacSharry asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the amount paid in respect of the National Indoor Arena since 1 January 2014 by his Department or an agency under his remit; the date of the final payment; the reason the final amount paid exceeded the final tender price; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [52359/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

Sport Ireland, which is funded by my Department, is the statutory body with responsibility for the development of the Sport Ireland National Sports Campus at Abbotstown.

Capital funding was allocated to Sport Ireland through my Department's Vote for the development of a National Indoor Arena at the Sport Ireland Campus. Phase 1 of the National Indoor Arena was officially opened in January 2017 and Phase 2 was officially opened in June 2019.

I have referred the Deputy's question to Sport Ireland for direct reply in relation to payments for the project. I would ask the Deputy to inform my office if a reply is not received within 10 days.

Departmental Expenditure

A referred reply was forwarded to the Deputy under Standing Order 42A

Ceisteanna (314)

Niall Collins

Ceist:

314. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the number of credit cards issued to Ministers and officials working in his Department; the amount spent on credit cards in each year since 2016; the bank interest paid on credit cards in each year since 2016; the controls in place to monitor the issuing of and the expenditure on the cards; the controls in place in each agency to monitor expenditure on personally held credit card bills that are subsequently used to recoup work-related expenses; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [52409/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

There are currently 88 credit cards issued in my Department. These Low Value Purchasing Cards comprise of two main accounts, one for Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport officials and one for the Irish Coast Guard (IRCG), which includes both Department officials and cards for use across all IRCG volunteer units around our coast.

The total amount spent on these cards each year since 2016 is as follows:

In 2016 - €275,601.63

In 2017 - €247,903.22

In 2018 - €224,671.04

In 2019, up to 30/11 - €202,302.88

There has been no bank interest paid on these credit cards during this time. The controls to monitor the issuing of, and the expenditure on, the cards are set out in the Department’s Low Value Purchase Card Usage Policy and the Department’s Internal Financial Controls procedures (PIFCO).

Within the Department, work-related expenses are recouped through the Core Expense System and our Financial Management System on foot of fully receipted claims, which may include copies of personal credit card statements showing any relevant recoupable transactions.

With regard to agencies, this is a matter for the agencies themselves. I have forwarded your request to the agencies under the remit of the Department for direct reply to you. If you do not receive a reply within 10 working days please contact my office.

A referred reply was forwarded to the Deputy under Standing Order 42A

Road Projects Status

A referred reply was forwarded to the Deputy under Standing Order 42A

Ceisteanna (315)

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

315. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if Westmeath County Council will be supported in its plan to progress the N55 Athlone to Ballymahon realignment project (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [52433/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

As Minister for Transport, Tourism & Sport, I have responsibility for overall policy and funding in relation to the national roads programme. Under the Roads Acts 1993-2015, the planning, design and construction of individual national roads is a matter for Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII), in conjunction with the local authorities concerned.

Noting the above position, I have referred your question to TII for a direct reply. Please advise my private office if you do not receive a reply within 10 working days.

A referred reply was forwarded to the Deputy under Standing Order 42A

Road Projects Status

Ceisteanna (316)

Brendan Smith

Ceist:

316. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if specific funding will be allocated in 2020 towards a road upgrade project (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [52460/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

As the Deputy is aware, the improvement and maintenance of regional and local roads is the statutory responsibility of the relevant local authority in accordance with the provisions of Section 13 of the Roads Act 1993. Works on those roads are funded from the Council's own resources supplemented by State road grants.

There were major cutbacks in funding for the road network in general during the recession. Project Ireland 2040 provides for a gradual increase in grant assistance for regional and local roads and there has been a significant increase in Exchequer funding particularly in the last two years. However, the amount available is not sufficient to achieve “steady state” levels of investment. For this reason, there continues to be very limited scope for funding road improvement projects under the Specific and Strategic Grant Programmes.

Any projects proposed by local authorities for consideration under the Specific/Strategic Grant Programmes are assessed by the Department on a case-by-case basis. All projects put forward by local authorities for consideration must comply with the requirements of the Public Spending Code and the Department's Capital Appraisal Framework (CAF), including the submission of project appraisals. Given the limited funding available for RLR improvement works it is important for local authorities to prioritise projects within their overall area of responsibility with these requirements in mind.

All applications received from local authorities for grant allocations have to be assessed taking into account competing projects and the available budget. No project application has been received in relation to the R178 Shercock to Bailieborough road.

Sports Funding

Ceisteanna (317)

Brendan Smith

Ceist:

317. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his plans to provide funding directly to soccer clubs that received assistance previously through the programmes of an organisation (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [52482/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

Sport Ireland, which is funded by my Department, is the statutory body with responsibility for the development of sport, increasing participation at all levels and raising standards, including the allocation of funding across its various programmes.

While funding to the organisation mentioned by the Deputy remains suspended, Sport Ireland is considering how best to fund relevant programmes in a manner that is aligned with the duty to protect public moneys.

As the Deputy will be aware, Sport Ireland has developed an effective intermediary arrangement for the payment of grant funding for the Women’s National Team. Sport Ireland is urgently examining a similar arrangement in relation to the provision of funding for development officers and it is expected that details of that arrangement would be announced shortly.

Sports Funding

Ceisteanna (318)

Brendan Smith

Ceist:

318. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his plans to provide financial support to an association (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [52483/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

Last week, Minister Ross and I announced the payment of 2019 grant funding for the Women's National Football Team, following the development by Sport Ireland of an effective intermediary arrangement for the payment of grant funding for the team. The core objective of the funding is about raising standards and improving the quality of playing and training environments for the Women’s National Football Team.

The grant of €195,000 will be paid by Sport Ireland to BDO who will oversee the disbursement of the funding in line with strict terms and conditions.

It is important to support the players, who have inspired so many young women and girls to get involved in football, as they seek to qualify for the Women’s EURO Championships in 2021.

Sports Funding

Ceisteanna (319)

Martin Heydon

Ceist:

319. Deputy Martin Heydon asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the expenditure on high-performance sport in advance of the 2020 Olympics; the level of expenditure planned for the period through to the 2024 Olympics; and the expected performance targets for each competition. [52497/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

State support of €13.5m. is being provided by Sport Ireland to high performance sport in 2019. A provision of €15.5m. has been made for 2020.

The precise levels of expenditure to be allocated for each of the years 2021 to 2024 inclusive will be determined in the context of the totality of my Department's allocation for the years in question. However, progressively increasing allocations for high performance sport are envisaged, as part of the overall planned increased investment in sport, which was signalled in the National Sports Policy 2018-2027.

A new High Performance Strategy will shortly be published and will contain details of targets for upcoming Olympic and Paralympic cycles. I will arrange to forward a copy of the Strategy to the Deputy upon its publication.

Marine Tourism Promotion

Question No. 321 answered with Question No. 312.

Ceisteanna (320)

Tom Neville

Ceist:

320. Deputy Tom Neville asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the policy measures being deployed in support of marine and maritime tourism. [52518/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

Responsibility for marine matters is spread across several different Government Departments and agencies. Accordingly, a whole-of-Government approach is taken to managing Ireland’s vast and diverse marine resources in line with “Harnessing our Ocean Wealth – An Integrated Marine Plan for Ireland”. An Inter-Departmental Marine Coordination Group, which comprises senior representatives of Departments with an involvement in maritime or marine affairs including the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, is responsible for the supervision, implementation and cross-Government delivery of this Integrated Marine Plan. This Group meets on a regular basis, convened by the Department of the Taoiseach and chaired by my colleague Mr Michael Creed, TD, Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

With specific regard to marine and maritime tourism, Ireland’s coastal areas, marine resources and activities are significant components in our overall tourism offering. National tourism policy recognises and endorses cross-organisational collaboration on identifying and developing promising tourism segments. It also highlights the importance of maintaining and enhancing the quality of the place that visitors experience during their stay, through the protection of natural and cultural assets, while adapting to changing visitor requirements, within a context of sustainable development.

In terms of relevant tourism development activity around the country, Action 7 of our Tourism Action Plan 2019-2021 tasks Fáilte Ireland with continuing to develop and enhance tourism experiences within the framework of Project Ireland 2040 and by building on existing partnerships. The intention is to optimise key assets for the benefit of tourism and economic development through increasing regional spread, season extension and promoting sustainable growth management.

In the area of coastal and marine tourism, Fáilte Ireland’s “Wild Atlantic Way” tourism experience brand is a strong example of this approach, as it adopts both a national and regional approach to tourism development and involves multiple stakeholders – including the tourism agencies, local authorities, the tourism industry and communities. Working collaboratively, they can advance common tourism, environmental and other coastal-/marine-specific goals. The Wild Atlantic Way is designed to highlight and leverage Ireland’s unique geographical positioning along the Atlantic Ocean. By allowing tourists engage with and understand how the sea shaped our coastal communities, our lifestyle and our traditions, its key goal is to entice even more visitors to Ireland’s shores and, most importantly, to give them a reason to stay longer and spend more.

Question No. 321 answered with Question No. 312.

Rail Services Provision

Ceisteanna (322)

Tom Neville

Ceist:

322. Deputy Tom Neville asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the status of the review into high-speed rail options between Dublin, Belfast and Cork. [52524/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

Project Ireland 2040 commits toward an evaluation of the economic benefits and value for money of high-speed rail on the main inter-urban rail network (including the lines referred to by the Deputy) against improvements to existing and planned line speeds along the lines.

I can confirm to the Deputy that my Department has commenced preparatory work in relation to the evaluation with the study due to commence in 2020.

Departmental Budgets

Ceisteanna (323)

Pearse Doherty

Ceist:

323. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the capital allocation of her Department in each of the years 2020 to 2025; and the areas to which funds will be allocated in each year. [52205/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

The nature of the Department`s capital investment programme is that of multiannual discreet projects and capital expenditure generally involves the following programme areas:

- Child and Family Agency (Tusla)

- Youth Justice – Oberstown Children Detention Campus

- Early Learning Care and School Age Childcare

- Youth Organisations and Services

The National Development Plan 2018 - 2027 (NDP) published in February 2018 set out the multi annual capital allocations for all Departments out to 2022. The capital allocation for my own Department is as follows:

- 2019: €32 million

- 2020: €31 million

- 2021: €32 million

- 2022: €33 million

The Deputy should note that the capital envelope for my Department has only been allocated up until the end of 2022.

There will be a significant requirement for early learning and care capital investment over the next number of years. This is currently recognised in the National Planning Framework (NPF) and the National Development Plan (NDP) 2018 – 2027.

The NPF highlights the contribution of early childhood care and education to the important role of childcare provision in terms of underpinning future patterns of labour force participation which will be crucial to sustaining employment growth and to the realisation of the economy’s growth potential over the period of the National Development Plan.

The Government’s commitment to supporting the implementation of this strategy and its objectives is demonstrated by the commitment of €250 million of resources under the National Development Plan for investment in additional childcare provision.

It is likely that €150 million will be required in 2023 and 2024 and used to address immediate capacity issues in available childcare places through targeted, large-scale capital investment and any remaining capital actions required on foot of the Early Years Strategy that have not been addressed by the single-annual capital programmes. The remaining €100m is proposed to be expended between 2025 and 2027 to address remaining demand for capacity and any further emerging concerns.

Childcare Services Regulation

Ceisteanna (324)

Éamon Ó Cuív

Ceist:

324. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the number of submissions received on the draft childminding action plan; when a final plan will be published; if the implementation of this plan will require primary or secondary legislation; if so, when such legislation will be published; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [52292/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

On 29th August, I launched the Draft Childminding Action Plan, for the purpose of public consultation. The Draft Childminding Action Plan aims to bring all childminders within the scope of public funding, supports, and regulations. Up to now most childminders have been exempt from regulation and therefore would be excluded from public funding such as the National Childcare Scheme. Central to the Draft Childminding Action Plan is a proposal to develop new Regulations that are specific to childminders and that are proportionate and appropriate to the home and family setting in which childminders work.

The Draft Action Plan is firmly based on the recommendations of the Working Group on Reforms and Supports for the Childminding Sector, which I established in 2016 and which submitted its report to me last year. The Working Group was chaired by a representative of childminders, indicating my commitment to putting childminders front and centre of decisions on their future and the future of the service they offer children and families.

The public consultation process on the Draft Childminding Action Plan began on 29th August 2019 and ran until November. The process involved several elements: a call for submissions which had 14 responses, an online survey which had 467 responses, 32 Focus Group meetings with childminders at county level (with 205 childminders participating in total) and an Open Policy Debate (with 55 participants).

The findings of the consultation process are currently being analysed. Once the analysis is complete, the Childminding Action Plan will be finalised and then published, in the early part of 2020, once approved by Government.

The final plan will require both primary and secondary legislation. Amendments to primary legislation will be required in order to allow childminders to register with Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, as early years services. Secondary legislation will be required in the form of new Regulations that are specific and appropriate to childminders.

The Draft Childminding Action Plan proposes a phased approach to reform. It proposes that amendments to primary legislation and development of new, childminder-specific Regulations will be developed during Phase 1 of the Action Plan. The Draft Action Plan suggests that it is likely to take two to three years before new Regulations come into force.

Foster Care Expenditure

Ceisteanna (325)

John McGuinness

Ceist:

325. Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the amount of funding allocated to an association (details supplied) in each of the past four years; the mechanisms in place to ensure value for money for the taxpayer; if she is satisfied with the governance of the organisation; the number of senior managers who have left the organisation; if a company covers Tusla and the association for all of their insurance requirements; if the cover extends to each foster carer; if the insurance issue relative to foster carers is resolved; if the changes in the structure at regional level involving volunteers and other management structure changes have been approved; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [52320/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

I thank the Deputy for his question. The information requested is being sought from Tusla by officials in my Department and I will revert to the Deputy in due course.

Services for People with Disabilities

Ceisteanna (326)

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

326. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the number of independent reports carried out on residential care and disability services that relate to private providers in each year since 2016; the outcome of each; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [52389/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

The Deputy is referring to an operational matter for Tusla, the Child and Family Agency. I have therefore referred the matter to Tusla, and asked that a direct response be provided to the Deputy.

Child and Family Agency Reports

Ceisteanna (327)

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

327. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the number of mandated reports or CPWRS that were carried out in 2018 and to date in 2019 by professionals for those in receipt of private or disability services for those in care; the findings in each; if they were acted on; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [52390/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

The Deputy is referring to an operational matter for Tusla, the Child and Family Agency. I have therefore referred the matter to Tusla, and asked that a direct response be provided to the Deputy.

Children in Care

Ceisteanna (328)

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

328. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the number of children in State care placed with private providers of disability services; the number that Tusla has a service level agreement for; the number of private providers that provide such services; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [52391/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

The Deputy is referring to an operational matter for Tusla, the Child and Family Agency. I have therefore referred the matter to Tusla, and asked that a direct response be provided to the Deputy.