Home Loan Scheme

Ceisteanna (771)

Eoin Ó Broin

Ceist:

771. Deputy Eoin Ó Broin asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if he will consider amending the criteria of the Rebuilding Ireland home loan scheme to make it available to persons that previously owned a home but had it repossessed, voluntarily surrendered it or have been through an insolvency process, but that otherwise meet all the criteria for the scheme. [53226/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

The Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan Scheme enables credit-worthy first-time buyers to access sustainable mortgage lending to purchase new or second-hand properties in a suitable price range, where they cannot obtain sufficient mortgage finance from a commercial lender. 

As with the previous local authority loan offerings, the Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan is available to first-time buyers only. There is no change in this regard. This is set out in the regulations governing the Scheme to ensure the effective targeting of limited resources. There are no plans to change this criterion.

Applicants for the Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan must be of good credit standing and have a satisfactory credit record.  The Housing Agency provides a central credit assessment service to local authorities and credit checks are undertaken as part of the credit assessment process.  The final decision on loan approval is a matter for the relevant local authority and its credit committee on a case-by-case basis.  Decisions on all housing loan applications must be made in accordance with the statutory credit policy that underpins the scheme, in order to ensure prudence and consistency in approaches in the best interests of both borrowers and the lending local authorities. 

A person who has been discharged from bankruptcy or an insolvency process and is eligible in all other respects, including being a first-time buyer, for a Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan may apply for a loan and will be subject to the same credit assessment process that applies to all applicants.

Housing Provision

Ceisteanna (772)

Brendan Griffin

Ceist:

772. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if the approval for a turnkey housing project (details supplied) in County Kerry will be amended to factor in additional charges; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53228/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

My Department has not received any further submissions or proposals in relation to this turnkey housing project since the previous decision was made.

Therefore there is no change on the previous position.

Local Authority Housing Data

Ceisteanna (773)

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

773. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the number of vacant local authority houses permanently taken out of stock in each of the years 2016 to 2018 and to date in 2019, by local authority; the number that were part of a regeneration scheme by local authority in each of the years; the number that remain to be relet in the same category; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53272/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

The National Oversight & Audit Commission (NOAC) collects and publishes data on social housing related issues in local authorities, including the number of dwellings in the ownership of each authority, numbers sold, demolished or planned for demolition. This data is available in NOAC’s Annual Performance Indicator Reports for the years 2014-2018; the most recent data on a local authority basis are set out in their 2018 report, which is available on the NOAC website at the following link: http://noac.ie/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/NOAC-Performance-Indicator-Report-2018-1.pdf.  The previous annual reports are also available on the NOAC website.

Local authorities are responsible, in the first instance, for the management and maintenance of their own housing stock under the Housing Acts, including the carrying out of responsive and planned maintenance and the identification of housing in need of upgrade, regeneration or adaptation and my Department does not have data on the precise circumstances behind local authorities’ decisions in respect of each of their dwellings, beyond that set out in the NOAC data.

Local authorities will always have a level of vacancy in their housing stock, as the turnover of stock is continuous. All local authorities, however, are actively encouraged to ensure vacant properties in their stock are brought back into use as expeditiously as possible and have been supported by my Department in this regard, as well as utilising their own resources to make social homes available to new tenants as soon as possible.

Housing Data

Ceisteanna (774)

Éamon Ó Cuív

Ceist:

774. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the number of houses purchased under the tenant (incremental) purchase scheme in each of the years 2016 to 2018 and to date in 2019, by county; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53351/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

My Department publishes information on the sale of local authority houses each year. This information can be accessed on my Department's website at the following link:

www.housing.gov.ie/housing/statistics/social-and-affordble/other-local-authority-housing-scheme-statistics

Data for 2019 sales will be published when they become available, this is expected to be towards the end of quarter 1 2020.

Housing Provision

Ceisteanna (775)

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

775. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if planning permission for a development can be granted if an outstanding unenforced unauthorised development remains outstanding on the site; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53390/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

Under the Planning and Development Act 2000, as amended (the Act), all development, unless specifically exempted under the Act or the associated Regulations, requires planning permission.

Any development that is carried out without planning permission or that does not comply with the terms of a planning permission is unauthorised development and may be subject to enforcement action by a planning authority. Responsibility for enforcement action in relation to any breach of the planning code is a matter for individual planning authorities and extensive enforcement provisions are provided for in Part VIII of the Act.

It is a matter for the relevant planning authority to decide on a case-by-case basis, within the legislative and policy framework, whether permission would be granted for development on a site with an unauthorised development.  Unauthorised development does not establish use on a particular site. Where unauthorised development exists on a particular site and the site owner proposes to undertake further development on the site in question, the owner of the site or property could submit an application for retention permission to regularise the unauthorised development alongside the planning application for the proposed new development.

However, a planning authority cannot accept an application for retention permission if the development concerned, before it commenced, would have required one or more than one of the following:

- An Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA);

- A determination as to whether EIA is required; or

- An appropriate assessment under the Habitats Directive.

It is only in cases where none of the above circumstances apply that a planning authority can accept an application for retention permission.

If the planning authority approves both applications, they may require the subsequent demolition of the existing development.  Demolition of the development may also be required if the planning authority refuses permission and the unauthorised development commenced less than seven years ago.  In addition, the lodging of an application for retention permission or the granting of that permission does not prevent the planning authority from pursuing enforcement action if the unauthorised development took place within the previous seven years. 

It should be noted that the fact that a person has made an application for retention permission is not a defence to a prosecution for unauthorised development and a development carried out without planning permission, or in breach of planning conditions, remains unauthorised unless and until retention permission is granted. In this connection, section 162(3) of the Act provides that no enforcement action under the Part VIII enforcement provisions of the Act shall be stayed or withdrawn by reason of an application for retention of unauthorised development.

Planning Issues

Ceisteanna (776)

Brendan Smith

Ceist:

776. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government his plans to improve the limited criteria that pertains to planning regulations for afforestation in view of the serious concerns of many persons and communities in areas such as west County Cavan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53392/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

Initial afforestation is subject to a statutory development consent system under the Forestry Regulations 2017, administered by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine. 

The 2017 Regulations make specific provision for public consultation in the application and approval processes relating to afforestation developments. As part of the statutory public consultation process, site notices must be erected at all entrances (to the proposed site) onto the public road in respect of forestry licence applications.  Further, notice of applications are published on the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine’s website, under public consultation.  

My Department is currently reviewing the exempted development provisions under the Planning and Development Regulations 2001, as amended, including pertaining to initial afforestation. As such, my Department is engaging with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine in relation to this review and any required amendments to the legislation.

Housing Estates

Ceisteanna (777)

Tom Neville

Ceist:

777. Deputy Tom Neville asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the details of strategic planning regulations in particular the situation regarding planning for housing estates over 100 houses; if developers go directly to An Bord Pleanála rather than through the council; the status of same; and if details will be provided. [53396/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

As part of the actions under the Government's Action Plan on Housing and Homelessness – Rebuilding Ireland, the Planning and Development (Housing) and Residential Tenancies Act 2016 (the Act) introduced new streamlined arrangements to enable planning applications for strategic housing developments (SHDs) of 100 housing units or more, or student accommodation or shared accommodation developments of 200 bed spaces or more, to be made directly to An Bord Pleanála for determination.

The Act provides that the SHD arrangements apply until the end of 2019, but that I may, by order, extend that period by a further limited period of 2 years, up to the end of 2021, coinciding with the timeframe of Rebuilding Ireland. However, prior to the making of such an order, the Act requires that I review the operation and effectiveness of the SHD arrangements and lay before both Houses of the Oireachtas a report of my conclusions of the review.

In this regard, a Strategic Housing Development Review Group was established in June 2019. The Report of the Review Group was received on 24 September 2019.  The Report acknowledges that the SHD arrangements have generally been a success in meeting their objectives to contribute to addressing housing undersupply issues by providing a fast-track development consent process aimed at incentivising developers to bring forward applications for large-scale housing developments.

Notwithstanding the positive contribution that the SHD arrangements have made, the Review Group notes that there continues to exist a deficit in housing supply and affirms that the original rationale for the introduction of the SHD arrangements remains. In light of these findings, the Review Group considers that there are sufficient grounds for extending the SHD arrangements until the end of 2021.

I concur with the finding of the Review Group in this regard and signed an Order on 2 December 2019 to this effect. A report on my conclusions of the review, as well as the Review Group's Report, have been laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas, as required by the Act, and copies of both reports are available on my Department's website.

Development Contributions

Ceisteanna (778)

Darragh O'Brien

Ceist:

778. Deputy Darragh O'Brien asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the first and full-cost of replacing revenue from residential construction development levies with funding to local authorities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53421/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

With regard to development contributions, my role as Minister is generally to provide the necessary legislative and policy framework governing development contribution schemes operated by planning authorities. Under sections 48 and 49 of the Planning and Development Act 2000, as amended, planning authorities may levy development contributions. The basis for the determination of a development contribution is set out in a development contribution scheme adopted by the elected members as a reserved function.

Income from development contributions must be ring-fenced to pay for public infrastructure and facilities. Appendix 5 of the amalgamated Annual Financial Statements of local authorities show a total income of €237.4m for Development Contributions for the financial year ending 31/12/2018, which is the most recent year for which audited figures are available.

The Government introduced a special two-year time-limited residential development contribution rebate scheme in 2015 in respect of the functional areas of the four Dublin local authorities and the metropolitan area of Cork only. Rebate was paid in respect of 875  new homes under the scheme at a cost of €7.322m.

The full cost of applying a national waiver on residential development contribution levies is not available from local authorities AFS as the figures do not differentiate between levies collected from residential and non-residential development.

Home Loan Scheme

Ceisteanna (779)

Darragh O'Brien

Ceist:

779. Deputy Darragh O'Brien asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the potential impact of a €650 million increase in the Housing Finance Agency borrowing for the Rebuilding Ireland home loan scheme on the general Government debt, general Government balance and calculations of available financial resource fiscal space under EU and national rules; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53422/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

Initially, funding of up to €200 million for the Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan was raised by the Housing Finance Agency (HFA) from a variety of sources, on a fixed rate basis for periods out to thirty years maturity.  Based on the pricing achieved, local authorities could offer a first tranche of fixed-rate annuity finance to eligible borrowers at rates of 2.0% and 2.25% per annum, for twenty five and thirty years respectively, up to an aggregate maximum of €200 million.  Subsequently, owing to the success of the scheme, sanction was given for further RIHL lending of €363 million.  This brings total available funding for the scheme to €563 million for the period 2018-2019.  

This funding is not allocated to individual local authorities but rather will be drawn down by local authorities from the HFA to match their lending under the Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan. Local authority borrowing from the HFA that is loaned by local authorities to individuals, as long as it is provided on a commercial basis, is classified as a financial transaction, and so does not count as General Government Expenditure nor impact on the general government balance.  

The HFA is an on-balance sheet entity and therefore its debt to the non-government sector counts towards general government debt. The effect on the general government debt is determined by the extent to which borrowing by the HFA to fund the scheme requires additional borrowing by the NTMA.

Queries regarding the effect of the RIHL on available fiscal space under EU and national rules is a matter for my colleague the Minister of Finance.

Housing Finance Agency

Ceisteanna (780)

Darragh O'Brien

Ceist:

780. Deputy Darragh O'Brien asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the number of staff employed by the Housing Finance Agency; and the staffing costs per annum. [53423/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

The Housing Finance Agency (HFA) plc is a non-commercial semi-State company under the aegis of the Minister for Housing, Planning, and Local Government, limited by shares under the terms of the Housing Finance Agency Act 1981.

The principal objectives of the company are to advance funds to local authorities and approved housing bodies to be used by them for any purpose authorised under the Housing Acts 1966 to 2016, and to borrow or raise funds for these purposes.

The agency currently has a staff of 14 whole time equivalents (WTEs). Total salaries in 2018 amounted to €640,000 (for 13 WTEs).

Social and Affordable Housing Provision

Ceisteanna (781)

Darragh O'Brien

Ceist:

781. Deputy Darragh O'Brien asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the first and full-year cost above current capital plan expenditure allocations of achieving 10,000,11,000,12,000,13,000,14,000 and 15,000 intervals of new build social housing units, respectively. [53425/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

The National Development Plan 2018-2027 provides for the delivery of 112,000 new social homes over the next decade, supported by capital funding of €11.6 billion.  These 112,000 new social homes will be delivered through a range of mechanisms, including build, acquisitions and long term leasing. 

It should be noted that the delivery of the 112,000 new social housing homes over the next decade does not include housing supports that will be provided to households under the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) Scheme or the Rental Accommodation Scheme (RAS).  HAP and RAS will continue to offer additional flexible housing solutions across the period to 2021 ensuring that, over the lifetime of the Rebuilding Ireland Action Plan, over 138,000 households will have their housing need met.

The specific capital allocations underpinning the various social housing delivery programmes, including new build programmes, for each year out to 2027 will be determined in the context of the annual estimates process.  Without knowing the specific blend of additional delivery proposed, it would be not be possible to provide the estimated costs requested by the Deputy.

Departmental Expenditure

Ceisteanna (782)

Darragh O'Brien

Ceist:

782. Deputy Darragh O'Brien asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the first and full-year costs of increasing HAP, RAS and social housing current expenditure programme payments by 5%,10%, 15%, 20% and 25%, respectively. [53427/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

All three of the current expenditure funded schemes – the Rental Accommodation Scheme (RAS), the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) and the Social Housing Current Expenditure Programme (SHCEP) - are critical components of the accelerated delivery of social housing envisaged under Rebuilding Ireland: Action Plan for Housing and Homelessness.

The annual cost of the three schemes to the exchequer is made up of the continuing cost of supporting the tenancies and contracts in place at the end of the previous year, and the additional cost of the new tenancies and contracts supported over the course of the year to which the allocation relates. The cost of the schemes in future years is therefore dependent on the number of new social housing homes and tenancies falling to be funded within each of the schemes and the rental or lease payments involved.

The following table sets out the costs of increasing the 2020 HAP, RAS and SCHEP budgetary allocation by 5%,10%, 15%, 20% and 25%, respectively.

-

2020 Budget

€m

5% Increase

€m

10% Increase

€m

15% Increase

€m

20% Increase

€m

25% Increase

€m

HAP

 502,729

 527,865

 553,002

 578,138

 603,275

 628,411

RAS

 133,000

 139,650

 146,300

152,950

159,600

166,250

SHCEP

 190,886

 200,430

 209,975

 219,519

 229,063

 238,608

Total

 826,615

 867,945

 909,277

 950,607

 991,938

 1,033,269

Social and Affordable Housing Provision

Ceisteanna (783)

Darragh O'Brien

Ceist:

783. Deputy Darragh O'Brien asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the first and full-year cost above current serviced sites fund allocations of achieving 5,000, 6,000, 7,000, 8,000, 9,000 and 10,000 intervals of new build affordable housing units, respectively based on current criteria and funding per unit. [53429/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

In line with the commitments in Rebuilding Ireland, this Government has allocated €310 million under the Serviced Sites Fund (SSF) over the period 2019 to 2021 to provide infrastructure to support the delivery of more affordable homes on local authority lands.  A maximum SSF funding amount of €50,000 is available per home. This sum is comprised of €44,500 (or 89%) Exchequer contribution and a €5,500 (or 11%) local authority contribution.  On this basis, at least 6,200 more affordable homes, to buy or rent, can be facilitated by this measure alone.  This funding is being made available in areas where local authorities have demonstrated a requirement for more affordable housing and the viability to deliver such housing from their sites.

To date, I have allocated SSF funding of €127 million in support of 35 projects in 14 local authority areas.  This will provide for infrastructure works that will support the delivery of almost 3,200 affordable homes.  I anticipate that a further call for proposals under the SSF will issue to local authorities in 2020.  

The selling price of discounted dwellings made available for purchase under the affordable dwelling purchase arrangements will be influenced by a number of factors which will vary significantly from scheme to scheme.  This includes the overall development cost of each particular scheme (taking into account inputs such as the local authority land value and Serviced Sites Fund), the housing type/tenure mix involved and the local housing market.

Based on the maximum grant amount available per unit, the SFF the cost of delivering 5,000, 6,000, 7,000, 8,000, 9,000 and 10,000 new build affordable housing is set out in the following table.

Table  

Number of Affordable Homes

Cost of a maximum of €50,000 per affordable unit from the Serviced Sites Fund

5,000

€250m

6,000

€300m

7,000

€350m

8,000

€400m

9,000

€450m

10,000

€500m

 

My Department continues to focus on increasing overall affordable supply, and is taking a multi-stranded approach in this regard. In addition to SSF, funding of €200m has also been made available under the Local Infrastructure Housing Activation Fund (LIHAF).  LIHAF is also designed to activate housing supply by putting in place the enabling public infrastructure necessary to ensure that large-scale development could take place on key sites in urban areas of high housing demand.  30 projects received final approval, at a total cost of €195.71 million, of which €146.69 million (or 75%) will be funded by the Exchequer with local authorities funding the balance.  These projects will stimulate development of up to 20,000 housing units across 14 local authorities.  Approximately 7,800 of these homes will be offered at a discount on open market prices.  

These schemes will complement other key Government affordability initiatives, such as the Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan, and the Help to Buy Scheme, which have supported over 16,500 households nationally.

Social and Affordable Housing Data

Ceisteanna (784)

Darragh O'Brien

Ceist:

784. Deputy Darragh O'Brien asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the average Dublin and national sales price by unit type of an affordable loan under the affordable housing scheme. [53430/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

In line with the commitments in Rebuilding Ireland, this Government has allocated €310 million under the Serviced Sites Fund (SSF) over the period 2019 to 2021 to provide infrastructure to support the delivery of more affordable homes on local authority lands.  A maximum SSF funding amount of €50,000 is available per home. This sum comprises  €44,500 (or 89%) Exchequer contribution and a €5,500 (or 11%) local authority contribution.  On this basis, at least 6,200 more affordable homes, to buy or rent, can be facilitated by this measure alone.  This funding is being made available in areas where local authorities have demonstrated a requirement for more affordable housing and the viability to deliver such housing from their sites.  

To date, I have allocated SSF funding of €127 million in support of 35 projects in 14 local authority areas.  This will provide for infrastructure works that will support the delivery of almost 3,200 affordable homes.  The timing of delivery for these projects is contingent upon the completion of planning and procurement in the first instance, and local authorities are working to achieve delivery, as quickly as possible. I anticipate that a further call for proposals under the SSF will issue to local authorities in 2020.  

Part 5 of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009 was commenced in June 2018 provides a statutory basis for the delivery of affordable housing for purchase.  Regulations in respect of the making of a Scheme of Priority were signed on 12 March 2019, and these were issued to local authorities on 22 March 2019.  The purpose of a Scheme of Priority is to set out the affordable purchase arrangements at local authority level.  This includes the methodology that will be applied to determine the order of priority to be accorded to eligible households where the demand for such affordable homes exceeds the number available. Further regulations will be put in place over the coming months regarding eligibility and other matters. When the operational procedures for the programme are finalised, and before affordable homes are made available for purchase under the scheme, a programme of communication will be undertaken by my Department and local authorities.  

The selling price of homes that will be made available for purchase under the affordable dwelling purchase arrangements will be influenced by a number of factors which will vary significantly from scheme to scheme.  This includes the overall development cost of each particular scheme (taking into account inputs such as the local authority land value and Serviced Sites Fund), the housing type/tenure mix involved and the local housing market.  

Given the majority of the schemes approved for funding under the SSF are at the planning and design stage, the final sales prices have not been fully determined.  Sales prices will likely be established after public procurement competitions have been completed for each development and can provide greater certainty regarding the overall cost of provision in each case.  

Notwithstanding this, it is possible to provide indicative details of prices in locations where projects are at a more advanced stage.  For example Cork City Council have commenced construction at Boherboy Road of 116 new energy efficient, 2 and 3 bedroomed affordable homes which are expected to come up for sale at prices ranging from €198,000 to €223,000.  Another SSF project by Dublin City Council intends to deliver 165 affordable homes in O'Devaney Gardens. These homes will comprise a mix of 1,2, and 3 bedroom houses and apartments with expected prices ranging from €240,000 and not exceeding €310,000.  

Another key affordability measure the Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan, enables credit worthy first time buyers to access sustainable mortgage lending to purchase new or second-hand properties in a suitable price range. The low rate of fixed interest associated with the Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan provides first time buyers with access to mortgage finance that they may not otherwise have been able to afford at a higher interest rate. Full details of the loan's eligibility criteria and other information is available from the dedicated Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan website, http://rebuildingirelandhomeloan.ie/  In addition the Help to Buy Scheme provides financial support to first time buyers in securing their own home.  

The significant discounts, which will be provided on the affordable purchase homes and other supporting measures, will mean that homes will be available to very many individuals and families on more moderate incomes who would otherwise not be in a position to own their home.

Rights of Way

Ceisteanna (785)

Brendan Griffin

Ceist:

785. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if funding is available to property owners who allow fishermen access through their land; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [52588/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Culture)

My Department is responsible for implementing the Wildlife Acts 1976 to 2018, the primary legislation underpinning the protection of biodiversity and nature in Ireland. The legislative framework in place to protect biodiversity is further strengthened by the European Communities (Birds and Natural Habitats) Regulations 2011 SI No 477/2011, which also falls under the remit of my Department. These Regulations transpose the EU Birds Directive and the EU Habitats Directive into national law, and provide for protection of certain habitats and species across the European Union and give a framework for specific measures to be taken to target areas of concern in each Member State. The main instruments provided for are the designation of Special Protection Areas (SPA) aimed at the protection of threatened species of birds and Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) aimed at protecting other animal species and habitats.

A funding scheme for property owners who grant fishermen access through their land does not fall within the remit of my Department, nor are there any provisions for such a scheme.

Commemorative Plaques

Ceisteanna (786)

Colm Brophy

Ceist:

786. Deputy Colm Brophy asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if a granite stone can be placed at the famine commemoration site at the Custom House, Dublin 1 similar to the commemoration stones which are in place at eleven sites; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [52756/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Culture)

As I previously advised the house in Parliamentary Questions 3011, 3021 and 3031 of the 23rd July last, the practice of commissioning a commemorative plaque to mark the holding of the National Famine Commemoration was introduced in 2009 when the first Commemoration in the current format was held in Skibbereen Co. Cork.

I am advised that my officials are continuing to engage with the Office of Public Works and the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government in relation to the placing of a suitable plaque or stone at the Customs House in respect of the 2008 event.

Commemorative Events

Ceisteanna (787)

Colm Brophy

Ceist:

787. Deputy Colm Brophy asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the location and date the national famine commemoration event will take place in 2020; the reason the location is not announced further in advance; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [52778/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Culture)

As I have previously informed the House in my reply to Parliamentary Questions Number 35 of 12th December last , the Government, on 1st May 2018,  approved the designation of the third Sunday of May each year as the National Famine Commemoration day, with the arrangements for the holding of a State commemoration on this day or the preceding Saturday to be decided each year following consultation with the relevant local authority and host community. 

An announcement in relation to the designation of the location for the National Famine Commemoration 2020 will be made in the New Year.

National Archives

Ceisteanna (788)

Joan Burton

Ceist:

788. Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if her attention has been drawn to a report on behalf of an organisation (details supplied) that found only four out of 61 Departments and State agencies covered by the National Archives Act 1986 are up to date with their legal obligations to transfer records to the National Archives of Ireland; her plans to address the matter; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [53078/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Culture)

Under the National Archives Act 1986, the obligation to transfer records to the National Archives rests with Departments and Offices.  I understand that the records management across the public service has seen improvement in recent years and a number of Government Departments and Offices have themselves employed archivists to improve work on their own archives and those being transferred to the National Archives.

In the meantime, all 30-year old files worthy of permanent preservation created by the central registries in both the Department of the Taoiseach and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade have been accepted for deposit this year at the National Archives.

It is intended that once the necessary storage accommodation is secured in 2020, the remaining 30-year old transfers will be deposited. Once archival processing has been completed, the material will then be released for public inspection.

I have allocated over €20m for the provision of an Archival Repository at the National Archives building at Bishop Street, Dublin.  Enabling works have commenced with the decant of a warehouse at the rear of the property.  I hope that the main construction tender for this project will be published shortly.  When complete, the project will provide a state-of-the-art modern archival storage facility.  I look forward to making further announcements on this very important project shortly.

National Archives

Ceisteanna (789)

Joan Burton

Ceist:

789. Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if her attention has been drawn to a report on behalf of an organisation (details supplied) that found serious staffing and skills shortages in the National Archives of Ireland has led to a substantial backlog in the processing of records and identified major shortcomings in the digitisation of records and the development of online access; her plans to address the matter; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [53079/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Culture)

Earlier this year, my Department underwent an organisational capability review which was undertaken by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform with the co-operation of my Department.  This Review identified a number of challenges and made recommendations to address those challenges, which will be addressed by an Action Plan currently being drawn up by my Department. 

The Review recognised some long-running capacity constraints under which my Department has been operating including constraints in the National Archives.  It acknowledged however additional resources had been secured since 2018, allowing the recruitment of additional staffing this year, including the recruitment of archivists.  

The Review recommended that the Department continue to expand its staff cohort in the coming years and my Department intends to continue to address emerging priorities and any staff gaps as part of an ongoing strategic human resource planning. 

The implementation of this recommendation is, in large part, being addressed as part of the annual Estimates process and my Department is committed to using every opportunity to advocate for additional resources.  In recognition of the importance of records and archives, many other Government Departments also have an opportunity to employ archivists to improve the position on their own archives and those being transferred to the National Archives.

Cultural Policy

Ceisteanna (790)

Malcolm Byrne

Ceist:

790. Deputy Malcolm Byrne asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if her attention has been drawn to the challenge facing many artistic and cultural organisations in obtaining insurance and the cost of the insurance; the measures she can put in place in circumstances in which such organisations are unable to obtain insurance; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [53153/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Culture)

I am aware  of the challenges posed by the availability of insurance products for certain arts and culture organisations.  The issue of insurance is, in the first instance, is a matter for my colleague the Minister for Finance.  In 2016, the Government established a Cost of Insurance Working Group, which is chaired by Michael D’Arcy, T.D. Minister of State at the Department of Finance with special responsibility for insurance issues.

I am informed that due to recent changes in cover provided by insurance companies, many service providers across the State, including those in the tourism, leisure, children’s play facilities and arts organisations are experiencing significant difficulties in securing insurance.  In addition, to difficulties in procuring insurance, there is a further issue where service providers are facing dramatically increasing insurance costs.  This is also evident in the performing arts sector.

There is a particular impact on arts organisations involved in performance activities that take place in excess of 1.5 metres above the ground which include some arts organisations that engage in aerial and street performance.  There are a small number of such companies spread across the State. 

The Government is aware of the issues facing cultural festivals and venues and is particularly concerned about the affordability and availability of insurance.   The pricing of insurance products is however, a commercial imperative for insurance companies.   The reality is that neither the Department nor its agencies, has any control over the costs of insurance products.  This position is reinforced by the EU framework for insurance.  Government cannot therefore direct insurance companies to cover certain types of risk, such as those in the cultural sector.

I am advised by the Department of Finance, that the Working Group is focusing on implementing the recommendations of two reports that it prepared and published.  These reports examined the factors contributing to the increasing cost of insurance in order to identify what short, medium and long term measures could be introduced to help reduce the cost of insurance for consumers and businesses.  

The Working Group, as part of its remit, is also examining the issues encountered by the arts performance organisations. Officials from my Department have attended a meeting between Minister Darcy's Office and representative organisations for arts grouping affected by rising insurance costs.  My Department will continue to co-operate with the Department of Finance with any actions which will assist in the implementation of recommendations to mitigate the insurance issues.