Rail Network Expansion

Ceisteanna (610)

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

610. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the steps taken in line with the national development plan 2018-2027 in support of high-speed rail link between Cork and Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53120/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

As the Deputy noted, the National Development Plan as part of 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 line referred to by the Deputy) against improvements to existing and planned line speeds along the lines.

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

Railway Stations Upgrade

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

Ceisteanna (611)

Joe O'Brien

Ceist:

611. Deputy Joe O'Brien asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the planned investment in lifts at train stations nationally to ensure they are reliable and accessible to persons with disabilities or who are mobility impaired. [53123/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

As Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport I have responsibility for policy and overall funding in relation to public transport.  

The issue raised is an operational matter for Iarnród Éireann and I have forwarded the Deputy's question to the company for direct reply. Please advise my private office if you do not receive a response within ten working days.

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

Air Services Provision

Ceisteanna (612, 613)

David Cullinane

Ceist:

612. Deputy David Cullinane asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the number of domestic flights in each of the years 2015 to 2018, by airport, in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53132/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

David Cullinane

Ceist:

613. Deputy David Cullinane asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the longest, shortest and average distance and flight time of a domestic flight in 2018, in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53133/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 612 and 613 together.

All scheduled domestic flights currently operating in Ireland are supported by Public Service Obligation (PSO) schemes.  

My Department administers a PSO Air Services Scheme under the Regional Airports Programme, which provides financial support to airlines to operate services on two domestic routes, namely Kerry/Dublin and Donegal/Dublin.  The contract to operate these services, which is currently held by Stobart Air, provides for two daily return flights on both routes.   This same level of service was in place during the years 2015 to 2018.

The distances between the airports of Kerry and Dublin and Donegal and Dublin are 260km and 224km respectively.  Flight times between Kerry/Dublin and Donegal/Dublin are both in the region of one hour.

As the Deputy may be aware, a PSO air service also operates between Connemara Airport and each of the three Aran Islands.  As this service is administered by the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, any issues associated with that service is a matter for Minister Josepha Madigan.

Rail Services

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

Ceisteanna (614)

Malcolm Byrne

Ceist:

614. Deputy Malcolm Byrne asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if his attention has been drawn to the overcrowding at certain peak times on rail services on the Rosslare rail line; his plans for enhanced services on the line; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53150/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

As the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, I have responsibility for policy and overall funding in relation to public transport. However, I am not involved in the day-to-day operations of public transport.

The issue raised is an operational matter for Iarnród Éireann and I have forwarded the Deputy's question to the company for direct reply.

Please advise my private office if you do not receive a response within ten working days.

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 (615)

Malcolm Byrne

Ceist:

615. Deputy Malcolm Byrne asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the timeframe for the completion of the M11 motorway from Oylegate to Rosslare. [53151/19]

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

Ports Development

Ceisteanna (616)

Malcolm Byrne

Ceist:

616. Deputy Malcolm Byrne asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the measures he is taking or plans to undertake to develop Rosslare Europort in order to attract greater freight and passenger traffic; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53152/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

Rosslare Europort is unique among the State-owned ports, as it is not a commercial company operating under the Harbours Acts, but is instead operated on a commercial basis as a division of Iarnród Éireann. 

I am satisfied that Rosslare Europort as a division of Iarnród Éireann is effectively managing operations at the port and looking at the potential of the port to develop further.

The port is targeting growth and new business opportunities and has received the approval of the Iarnród Éireann Board for a strategic plan to grow the port’s business.  Iarnród Éireann and Rosslare Europort briefed my Department on the company's plans for strategic development of the port over the coming years.

This includes investment plans for up to €25 million in customer facilities and port infrastructure, port assets and new technology.  My Department is advised by Iarnród Éireann that this investment has commenced with the finalisation of the port masterplan phase.

Iarnród Éireann has said that it will seek to commence securing planning permission in the first half of 2020 and, subject to planning approval, will subsequently commence a phased construction of the masterplan. It has also commenced the digitalisation project for the port, which will see investment in all aspects of IT technology.

Meanwhile, the port is engaging with a number of potential new shipping customers to supplement existing operators and offer greater choice to freight and passenger business.  

Brexit will have implications for a number of key ports and airports and Rosslare Europort continues to work closely with my Department and a range of other relevant Government Departments and Offices in preparing for the additional border controls and other impacts that will arise from Brexit.  

In this context, my Department is in regular contact with Rosslare Port management about the infrastructural requirements and other Brexit impacts on the port. My Department is advised by Iarnród Éireann that the Border Inspection Post is now ready for operation.

I understand also that Rosslare Europort is actively seeking opportunities arising from Brexit to expand shipping services from the port to continental EU ports.

Finally, as Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, I have responsibility for overall policy and funding in relation to the national roads programme.  Once funding arrangements have been put in place, under the Roads Acts 1993-2015, the planning, design and construction, including the operation of individual roads, is a matter for the relevant road authority in relation to local and regional roads, or for Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII), in conjunction with the local authorities concerned, in relation to national roads.  TII also has responsibility for the management and distribution of the roads national capital programme budget.

My Department has been advised by TII that technical advisors have been appointed to progress planning, design and appraisal work on the Oilgate to Rosslare scheme under the National Development Plan.

In relation to the N11, the Gorey to Enniscorthy Public Private Partnership scheme opened to traffic on July 18, 2019. This scheme involved the construction of 39km of new motorway and associated roads and is expected by TII to result in significant reductions in travel times on the route.

Rural Transport Programme

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

Ceisteanna (617)

Pat Buckley

Ceist:

617. Deputy Pat Buckley asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the successful LocalLink bus route from Fermoy to Mallow, County Cork been cancelled; and if a commitment will be given to reopen the route. [53237/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

As Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport I have responsibility for policy and overall funding in relation to public transport.

The National Transport Authority (NTA) has statutory responsibility for securing the provision of public passenger transport services nationally. It also has national responsibility for integrated local and rural transport, including management of the Rural Transport Programme, which now operates under the LocalLink brand.

In light of the NTA's responsibilities in this matter, I have forwarded the Deputy's question to the NTA for direct reply. Please advise my private office if you do not receive a response within ten working days.

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

Driver Licences

Ceisteanna (618)

Ruth Coppinger

Ceist:

618. Deputy Ruth Coppinger asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if the requirement will be examined for separated persons to have a separation agreement in cases in which they wish to have their name changed to their pre-marriage name on their driver licence as in the case of a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53324/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

When an applicant has obtained a driving licence having presented some level of ID evidence of their married name, and then wishes get a licence in a different name, the National Driver Licence Service (NDLS) needs to link the licence given in the married name to the maiden name. There is an onus on the NDLS to make this  link before a renewal can be issued.

The applicant can submit evidence of divorce/separation or dissolution of civil partnership or evidence of initiation of same, i.e., a letter from the customer’s solicitor confirming that a separation has been sought or referring to a separation.  Evidence of previous name is also required by way of a birth or marriage/civil partnership certificate which serves to verify the applicant’s previous name which they are now resuming the use of. A primary ID document in their previous surname (e.g., a passport or Public Service Card) is also acceptable.

Public Transport Provision

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

Ceisteanna (619)

Aindrias Moynihan

Ceist:

619. Deputy Aindrias Moynihan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the status of the review into the 233 bus route; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53403/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

As Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, I have responsibility for policy and overall funding in relation to public transport. I am not involved in the day-to-day operations of public transport.

The issue raised is a matter for the National Transport Authority (NTA), in conjunction with Bus Éireann, and I have forwarded the Deputy's question to the NTA for direct reply.  Please advise my private office if you do not receive a reply within ten working days.

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

Driver Licences

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

Ceisteanna (620)

Aindrias Moynihan

Ceist:

620. Deputy Aindrias Moynihan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the steps taken to expedite the printing and issuing of driver licences; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53404/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

This is a matter for the Road Safety Authority. I have referred the question to the Authority for direct reply. I would ask the Deputy to contact my office if a response is not received within 10 days.

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

Tourism Promotion

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

Ceisteanna (621)

Aindrias Moynihan

Ceist:

621. Deputy Aindrias Moynihan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the steps being taken to promote the tourism potential of the Lee Valley region; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53405/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

The tourism agencies Fáilte Ireland and Tourism Ireland have operational responsibility for the development and promotion of tourism in areas such as the Lee Valley.

I understand that Fáilte Ireland are engaging in a programme to extend the concept of the Wild Atlantic Way to the wider region, as distinct from the Wild Atlantic Way route.  The Lee Valley has been designated part of the Wild Atlantic Way region and is included in all of Fáilte Ireland's development, promotional and business support activities. In 2019 Fáilte Ireland worked with tourism enterprises in the Lee Valley and hosted a number of workshops in the area.  Fáilte Ireland will continue to work with businesses in the Lee Valley during 2020.

I also understand that Tourism Ireland is working with Cork Airport and tourism industry partners to highlight Cork as a stand-alone destination and also as a gateway to both the Wild Atlantic Way and Ireland's Ancient East. In this context, Tourism Ireland recommends that tourism businesses from the Lee Valley register on the Industry Opportunities website for a range of opportunities to promote their businesses across the world. 

I have asked both tourism agencies to provide the Deputy with further information on their work developing and promoting tourism in the Lee Valley.  Please contact my private office if you do not receive a reply within ten working days.

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 (622)

Aindrias Moynihan

Ceist:

622. Deputy Aindrias Moynihan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if broadband ducting will be included on a project (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53406/19]

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

Early Childhood Care and Education

Ceisteanna (623)

Seán Haughey

Ceist:

623. Deputy Seán Haughey asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if the ECCE application by a person (details supplied) will be reviewed; if the full entitlement will be allowed in view of the fact they are to start primary school in September 2021; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [52629/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

From September 2018, all children meeting the minimum age requirement of 2 years and 8 months have been eligible for a full two programme years on the Early Childhood Care and Education programme (ECCE). This measure refined the development introduced in 2017 and increased the eligibility of each registered child on ECCE from an average of 61 weeks, to a potential 76 weeks (two programme years). On introduction in 2010, ECCE covered one year only or 38 weeks.

The two year eligibility delivers fully on a commitment in the Programme for a Partnership Government that is good for children, families and Early Years providers.

The minimum age was chosen based on national experience and a review of international practice. It also had regard to the regulatory environment for early learning and care in this country and issues such as child development readiness and adult-child ratios. The upper age limit remains the same (i.e., a child is not eligible if they will be 5 years and 6 months before the end of the programme year).

In the example cited by the Deputy, the child will be able to commence ECCE in September 2020, and continue for a further year from September 2021, commencing school in September 2022.

Some parents/guardians may prefer for their child to start school at age 4 rather than 5. These parents/guardians may therefore opt for 1 year of ECCE only. This decision is entirely at the discretion of the parent/guardian, but it is important to reiterate that two full years of ECCE provision is available to all children.

The National Childcare Scheme offers both universal subsidies for children before they become eligible for ECCE, and income based subsidies for children aged 24 weeks to 15 years. More information is available at ncs.gov.ie.

Childcare Services Data

Ceisteanna (624)

Joe O'Brien

Ceist:

624. Deputy Joe O'Brien asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the number of aftercare worker positions funded by her Department [52817/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

This question was already received by my Department on the 11/12/2019 and referred by my officials to Tusla for direct answer.

Domestic Violence Refuges Provision

Ceisteanna (625)

Bríd Smith

Ceist:

625. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if the need for a women’s refuge in County Carlow will be examined in order to provide safe accommodation for women in emergency situations (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [53181/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

I have requested that Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, responds to you directly on this matter.  

I am informed that Tusla has conducted a needs analysis project in the Carlow area, in conjunction with local stakeholders.  

The allocation of outreach workers in Carlow was prioritised in 2019, and funding was provided for this purpose. Tusla has advised my Department that one outreach worker has been recruited and is in place, while another outreach worker will be in place in early 2020. The provision of outreach services in the county will greatly increase the capacity of services to respond to service users in Carlow on a local basis.  

Future developments will be informed by Tusla’s review of emergency refuge accommodation nationwide, which will be completed in early 2020. It should be noted that the responsibility for investment in new refuges falls under the remit of a number of Government bodies, including local authorities.

Mother and Baby Homes Inquiries

Ceisteanna (626)

Anne Rabbitte

Ceist:

626. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the reason for the delay in introducing legislation to allow for the forensic excavation and recovery of the remains at the site of the former Tuam mother and baby home; the timeline for its introduction; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [52616/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

The General Scheme of the "Certain Institutional Burials (Authorised Interventions) Bill" is highly technical because of the issues involved, particularly in relation to identification of the deceased children. While I and my officials have endeavoured to advance this as quickly as possible, it takes time to work through the privacy and data protection implications in particular, and I am very grateful for the patience of the family members and other key stakeholders regarding the time it has taken to develop the legislative proposals.

I hope that we can move swiftly through the pre-legislative scrutiny and drafting processes with a view to bringing the Bill before the Oireachtas during the summer session, with enactment in the autumn session.

Mother and Baby Homes Inquiries

Ceisteanna (627)

Anne Rabbitte

Ceist:

627. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the timeline envisaged for the commencement of forensic excavation works at the Tuam mother and baby home; the estimated cost of the works; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [52617/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

Once the Bill based on the General Scheme of a Certain Institutional Burials (Authorised Interventions) Bill has been enacted, it will be possible to establish the Agency to manage the intervention at the site of the former Mother and Baby Home in Tuam and the appropriate expertise can then be procured to carry out the necessary work. I hope that we can move swiftly through the pre-legislative scrutiny and drafting processes with a view to bringing the Bill before the Oireachtas during the summer session, with enactment in the autumn session.

At that point, it should be possible to establish the Agency reasonably promptly. Site works, when commenced, are expected to take a number of months, depending on site conditions.

The costs, as has been said previously, are expected to be in the range of €6 million-€13 million. Given that the project will be responsive to the demands of the site, there is potential for significant variability in the ultimate costs.  

Mother and Baby Homes Inquiries

Ceisteanna (628)

Anne Rabbitte

Ceist:

628. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if the voluntary collection of DNA data of those believed to have familial links to those buried at the Tuam mother and baby home has commenced as recommended by a report (details supplied); if a location for the storage of such DNA has been chosen; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [52618/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

My Department, in consultation with other relevant Departments and Agencies, is developing detailed proposals for the operation of the voluntary administrative scheme for the collection of biological samples to which the Deputy refers. I hope to bring these proposals to Government early in the Spring session. In tandem, my Department has been developing the legislative proposals that were approved by Government on 10th December 2019, and which will themselves help define the scope of an administrative scheme. The administrative scheme will be subsumed into that legislation once it has been passed.

DNA profiles will not be generated from biological samples collected as part of any administrative scheme, until such time as the legislation is commenced and it is established whether viable DNA profiles for the purpose of comparison can be generated from the remains at the site. In terms of storage of the biological samples that may be taken under scheme, I fully recognise the need to ensure the protection of such sensitive data and it is the provisional intention that Forensic Science Ireland (FSI), as the national authority in this area, will take on this role.

Childcare Services Funding

Ceisteanna (629)

Anne Rabbitte

Ceist:

629. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if funding continues to be provided to childcare providers once the attention of her Department has been drawn to the fact that a crèche is deemed critical by Tusla; if so, the stage at which the funding ceases; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [52619/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

As an independent statutory regulator, it is vital that Tusla exercises its regulatory powers in a proportionate manner, firstly to drive improvement and secondly to respond to continuous and serious breaches of regulations within its remit, while balancing the rights of providers to fair procedures and natural justice.

A “critical” level status implies a high and intensive level of scrutiny by Tusla. It does not imply that children attending these services are at risk or should be removed from the services. Nor does it necessarily warrant the withdrawal of funding by Government which could result in closure of the service and significant loss for children and parents.  

It is essential to note that where there is evidence of a serious risk to children, Tusla brings this to the attention of Social Work services, in which instance parents are informed. This is a requirement under the Children First Act.  

A service at a critical level is a service that has been escalated to the Early Years Inspectorate’s National Registration and Enforcement Panel either because of concerns about the level of non-compliance with regulations, or because an unregistered service has refused to close and Tusla is advancing to a prosecution of the service. 

It is usual practice that the majority of early learning and care services categorised as “critical” by Tusla’s Early Years Inspectorate make the necessary improvements and are then de-escalated from this level of concern.  The number of services at “critical” status is continually changing as some services come off the list and others come on to it. 

Tusla does not inform my Department of the identity of services on the critical list unless / until a decision has been made to de-register the service.