Flood Relief Schemes

Ceisteanna (53)

Holly Cairns

Ceist:

53. Deputy Holly Cairns asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if targeted supports will be provided for businesses in the areas affected by flooding in western areas of County Cork recently. [23162/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Enterprise)

TI announced the Emergency Humanitarian Scheme at the beginning of August to provide urgent funding to small businesses, community and voluntary organisations in the South West region and other areas which were affected by flooding due to heavy rainfall caused by Storm Ellen. With the continuation of the adverse weather conditions and the arrival of Storm Francis, following a Government Decision, I announced an immediate extension of the scheme to cover flood damage suffered up until the extended timeframe of 28th August, with the closing date for applications also extended to 16th September 2020.

The Scheme which is overseen and funded by my Department provides urgent funding to small businesses, sports clubs, community and voluntary organisations which could not secure flood insurance and have premises that have been damaged by recent exceptional weather events.

The Scheme is implemented by the Irish Red Cross Society on behalf of my Department. Financial support is targeted at small businesses (up to 20 employees), sports clubs and community and voluntary organisations and has two stages:

The first stage provides a contribution of up to €5,000, depending on the scale of damage incurred. It is anticipated that this will meet the needs for the majority of those affected. The intention is to process payments as fast as possible.

In the event, that the premises have incurred significant damages above €5,000, businesses can apply for additional financial support. The total level of support available for both stages combined is capped at €20,000.

Applications forms for support and further information is available on the Irish Red Cross Society website: https://www.redcross.ie

Employment Rights

Ceisteanna (54)

Jackie Cahill

Ceist:

54. Deputy Jackie Cahill asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if a refund will issue for an employment permit (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23077/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Enterprise)

The Employment Permits Section of my Department inform me that on 1st November 2019 a General Employment Permit application was received in respect of the named person (details supplied). On 20th February 2020, a General Employment Permit issued in respect of the person concerned.

Under the Covid-19 Employment Permits Contingency Arrangements, published by my Department on 30th March 2020, a 100% refund may be granted in cases where an application is withdrawn in advance of a decision being taken on it. However, the current employment permits legislation does not provide for a refund after an employment permit has issued, such as in this instance.

The issue of refunds is being considered in the context of the development of the new Employment Permit (Consolidation and Amendment) Bill.

Further information in relation to the contingency arrangements introduced by Employment Permits Section in response to the pandemic can be accessed on my Department through the following link: https://dbei.gov.ie/en/Publications/COVID-19-Employment-Permits-System-Contingency-Arrangements.html.

Employment Rights

Ceisteanna (55)

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

55. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he will clarify matters raised in correspondence (details supplied) in regard to workers being required by their employer to travel to work via public transport; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23083/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Enterprise)

The national Return to Work Safely Protocol, introduced in May, is designed to support employers and workers to put measures in place that will prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace. The Protocol sets out in very clear terms for employers and workers the steps that should have been taken before a workplace reopens, and as it continues to operate. It can be used in all workplaces in adapting procedures and practices to ensure compliance with the COVID-19 related public health protection measures identified as necessary by the HSE.

As with other matters relating to the health and safety of employees, the responsibility for deciding what essential work may require attendance at the workplace, and what work can be carried out at home remains with the employer, bearing in mind the public health advice that where possible employees should work remotely. In instances where employees have returned to the physical workplace the employer must ensure that the public health measures set out in the national Return to Work Safely Protocol are being adhered to.

Separately any employee can contact the Health and Safety Authority’s Workplace Contact Unit (WCU) for detailed advice relating to the national Return to Work Protocol. The WCU can be contacted by phone at Lo-call 1890289389 (landline) or (01) 6147000 or by email at wcu@hsa.ie.

The use of public transport is subject to specific public health measures to assist in the prevention of the spread of the COVID-19 virus and it is advised that any worker using public transport to attend their place of work follow these public health advices.

Covid-19 Pandemic

Ceisteanna (56)

Holly Cairns

Ceist:

56. Deputy Holly Cairns asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of HSA inspections of meat processing plants that have been carried out for compliance with Covid-19 regulations since 12 March 2020; and the number that were unannounced. [23141/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Enterprise)

The Health and Safety Authority is the lead agency in relation to overseeing compliance with the national Return to Work Safely Protocol. Between the period 18 May to 1 September the Health and Safety Authority completed 64 inspections of meat processing plant facilities (11 of these were revisits), which include those connected with COVID-19 outbreaks. In the month of August alone, the HSA carried out 26 meat plant inspections and 25 of which were unannounced. The announced inspection was to facilitate a research project by public health, DAFM and HSA in a particular plant.

The general policy of the HSA for workplace inspections is that all inspections should be unannounced, however, there can be circumstances where this is not possible. Such circumstances could include the need to speak to a specific person in a workplace or attend a workplace with an external expert and the inspector may need to give advance notice. Furthermore, some inspections might require an audit type approach to best assess the safety management system in place and arrangements to meet with the appropriate responsible persons onsite will require announced inspection.

In relation to the inspection of meat plants the Health and Safety Authority is supported by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) which has a permanent presence at 49 of the 149 DAFM approved meat premises and which carries out inspections related to the national Return to Work Safely Protocol under an MOU with the Health and Safety Authority.

Trade Fairs

Ceisteanna (57)

Niamh Smyth

Ceist:

57. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if concerns outlined by a person (details supplied) in correspondence will be reviewed; if clarity will be provided for the sector in relation to same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23197/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Enterprise)

I recognise the adverse impact that the COVID-19 pandemic is having on businesses right across the country, particularly those in the trade fairs and exhibitions industry. I know that employers, employees and the self-employed in this sector want to get back to work as quickly as possible and I support them in that ambition.

Unfortunately, in recent weeks there have been multiple outbreaks of COVID-19 across workplaces, households and in sports clubs with the result that it has not yet been possible for the Government to relax the restrictions on the number of people who may gather at indoor events. Instead, the Government, in light of public health advice, agreed to put in place a number of measures until September 13 in an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19. Such action was necessary to protect the vulnerable in our communities, enable schools to reopen and support the resumption of health services.

In the interim, the July Stimulus package was introduced to help businesses to open, to help those that are already open to stay open, to get staff back to work and for those who cannot go back to their old jobs, there are new opportunities. These new measures are in addition to those already announced since the onset of the Global Pandemic. Significantly to support viable businesses and jobs, including new hires, we have extended the wage subsidy scheme, which run until the end of March 2021 and will be open to firms that do not currently participate and open to workers like seasonal workers who were not previously included. We are also giving companies extra assistance to reopen and stay open through an enhanced Restart grant available to more firms and more generous. We are providing more and cheaper loan finance through MicroFinance Ireland, SBCI and the new €2bn Credit Guarantee Scheme. We have also announced a six month reduction in the VAT, going down from 23% to 21%, together with a range of additional measures designed to stimulate domestic demand. Businesses affected by Covid-19 will able e to delay payment of their PAYE and VAT debts in part of in full for a set period with no interest or penalties

Further information on these, along with the full list of actions within the July Stimulus and how to avail of them, can be found at www.gov.ie/jobsstimulus.

Representatives of the trade fair and events industry have submitted proposals to my colleague Minister of State Troy which outline how trade fairs and exhibitions could be conducted safely. These proposals have been shared with the Minister for Health and will be considered by the Government in the context of lifting restrictions into the future, as we seek to balance public health, economic and social aspects of living with COVID-19 in the short to medium term and try to bring some greater certainty so that society and business can plan forward.

Covid-19 Pandemic

Ceisteanna (58)

Sorca Clarke

Ceist:

58. Deputy Sorca Clarke asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of businesses which applied for the business continuity grant voucher scheme in counties Longford and Westmeath; the number of successful applications; the number of applications that remain to be processed; and the number of applications for the scheme in each county that were refused. [23211/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Enterprise)

The Business Continuity Voucher scheme was launched on 26th March. The purpose of the scheme was to provide expert guidance and advice to SMEs employing up 50 people and enable business owners make informed decisions about what immediate measures and remedial actions could be taken at the outset of this crisis, to protect staff and sales and eventually help the business recover.

The scheme was operated by the Local Enterprise Offices in 31 locations nationwide and was a resounding success in terms of uptake due to it being an appropriate response and support to recognised business needs for that point in time.

The LEOs continue to work with some existing applicants and recipients of Business Continuity Voucher vouchers and their subsequent business continuity plans.

The following are the BCV statistics for Longford and Westmeath

Longford

Westmeath

No. of businesses which applied for the business continuity grant voucher scheme

232

554

No. of successful applications

135

471

No. of applications that remain to be processed

32

25

No. of applications for the business continuity grant voucher scheme in Longford that were refused

0

29 (reasons they were refused was that they had applied to Westmeath incorrectly, had applied to Westmeath and another county, were over the limit of employees, charitable companies)

Other

65 (47 were directed for mentoring rather than voucher and 18 applicants were of the opinion it was a cash payment and had no need for consultancy support.

29 (21 were withdrawn by client and 8 referred (for other LEO Supports)

Craoltóirí Seirbhíse Poiblí

Ceisteanna (59)

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

59. D'fhiafraigh Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh den Aire Gníomhaithe ar son na hAeráide agus Líonraí Cumarsáide cad iad na céimeanna atá glactha chun na moltaí a rinne daoine (sonraí tugtha) san aighneacht a chuir siad faoi bhráid Choiste Gaeilge, Gaeltachta agus na n-Oileán de chuid an Oireachtais sa bhliain 2018, dar teideal, Taighde ar úsáid na Gaeilge ar an raidió, a chur i gcríoch chun déileáil leis an neamhaird atá tugtha don dualgas atá ar stáisiúin raidió i leith úsáid na Gaeilge. [23119/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Climate)

The Broadcasting Act 2009 sets out the regulatory framework in respect of the provision of Irish language content on sound broadcasting services. Under Part 6 of the Broadcasting Act 2009 the BAI facilitate the licensing of commercial and community radio stations. Pursuant to Part 6 of the Broadcasting Act 2009, matters in relation to content on radio are the subject of contractual negotiations between the BAI and the radio stations.  Under section 66(2)(d) of the Act, when assessing licensing applications the BAI must have regard to the provision of Irish language content. In the course of the contractual negotiations, applicants put forward commitments for a range of broadcast issues, for example, in regard to the provision of Irish language content. Where applicable, Irish language commitments form part of a broadcaster’s individual broadcasting contract and are monitored by the BAI on an on-going basis to ensure compliance.

The Act requires RTÉ and TG4 to publish Annual Statements of Performance Commitments with targets relating to a range of broadcasting services, including Irish language performance commitments. The BAI reviews performance in the context of these statements each year under Part 7 of the Act. The BAI is independent in the performance of its duties under section 24 of the Act.

Craoltóirí Seirbhíse Poiblí

Ceisteanna (60)

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

60. D'fhiafraigh Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh den Aire Gníomhaithe ar son na hAeráide agus Líonraí Cumarsáide an bhfuil sé i gceist aici na míreanna i leith na Gaeilge san Acht Craolacháin, 2009 a threisiú; agus an bhfuil sé i gceist aici cur le cumas Údarás Craolacháin na hÉireann beartas Gaeilge níos réamhghníomhaí a fhorbairt. [23120/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Climate)

Section 24 of the Broadcasting Act 2009 sets out that the BAI is independent in the performance of its duties. In line with its obligations under the Broadcasting Act 2009, the Official Languages Act 2003 and the State’s 20-Year Strategy for the Irish Language 2010-2030, the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) operates an Irish Language Action Plan. This action plan sets out objectives for the BAI in respect of the Irish Language including initiatives to build on the volume of Irish language programming.

The Broadcasting Act 2009 sets out the regulatory framework in respect of the provision of Irish language content on sound broadcasting services. Under Part 6 of the Broadcasting Act 2009 the BAI facilitate the licensing of commercial and community radio stations. Pursuant to Part 6 of the Broadcasting Act 2009, matters in relation to content on radio are the subject of contractual negotiations between the BAI and the radio stations.  Under section 66(2)(d) of the Act, when assessing licensing applications the BAI must have regard to the provision of Irish language content. In the course of the contractual negotiations, applicants put forward commitments for a range of broadcast issues, for example, in regard to the provision of Irish language content. Where applicable, Irish language commitments form part of a broadcaster’s individual broadcasting contract and are monitored by the BAI on an on-going basis to ensure compliance.

The Act requires RTÉ and TG4 to publish Annual Statements of Performance Commitments with targets relating to a range of broadcasting services, including Irish language performance commitments. The BAI reviews performance in the context of these statements each year under Part 7 of the Act.

Craoltóirí Seirbhíse Poiblí

Ceisteanna (61)

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

61. D'fhiafraigh Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh den Aire Gníomhaithe ar son na hAeráide agus Líonraí Cumarsáide cén tacaíocht a thabharfaidh sí do staisiúin raidió chun an Ghaeilge labhartha a chur chun cinn agus seirbhísí trí mheán na Gaeilge a chur ar fáil don phobal teanga, go háirithe sa Ghaeltacht. [23121/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Climate)

The Broadcasting Act 2009 sets out the regulatory framework for the provision of Irish language content on broadcasting services, in particular Sections 114 and 118.

The 20-Year Strategy for the Irish Language 2010-2030 set out a number of commitments to promote broadcasting through Irish. For example, increasing the Broadcasting Fund from 5% to 7% of licence fee funding has benefited independent productions in the Irish language with TG4 one of the main beneficiaries.  To support the 20-year Irish Language Strategy, the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht published a 5-year Action Plan (2018-2022) in July 2018. RTE and TG4 have delivered a wide range of commitments over the course of the Strategy to date. Under RTÉ's 5 year Irish language action plan, RTÉ moved the language into the digital arena, launching the Irish Language Radio app. TG4 have launched a redesigned website with major new features for national and global users along with children’s channel Cúla4 and equivalent app. Through its digital-first content brands, TG4 targets two strategic demographics, namely, core Irish language audience (Molscéal) and online youth audience (BLOC). In 2020, an additional €10m exchequer funding was provided for broadcasting of which RTÉ will receive €9.3m. TG4 was allocated current expenditure of €34.233m and capital expenditure of €3m in 2020. This reflects a €1m increase in capital allocation for 2020. 

The Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht has been funding Raidó Rí-Rá since its inception in 2008. Funding of €75,000 was approved for 2020 and 2021. Capital funding of € 9,963 was provided to Raidió na Life this year. Under Part 6 of Act the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) facilitate the licensing of commercial and community radio stations,  When assessing licensing applications the BAI must have regard to the provision of Irish language content. In the course of the contractual negotiations, applicants put forward commitments for a range of broadcast issues, including the provision of Irish language content. Where applicable, Irish language commitments form part of a broadcaster’s individual broadcasting contract and are monitored by the BAI on an on-going basis to ensure compliance.

North-South Interconnector

Ceisteanna (62)

Brendan Smith

Ceist:

62. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Climate Action and Communication Networks when a review of the proposed north-south interconnector project will be undertaken as outlined in the Programme for Government; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23220/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Climate)

The Programme for Government does not include a commitment to review the North-South interconnector project. As I indicated in reply to refer to Question No  [20907/20] of 28 July 2020 I do not intend ordering a further review of the project.     The option of undergrounding the proposed North-South Interconnector has been comprehensively assessed on several occasions.   My Department most recently published an independent study in October 2018 on undergrounding the interconnector which found that an overhead line remains the most appropriate option.  This study is available on the Department’s website.   

The North-South Interconnector is vitally important to the development of our energy infrastructure and it is critical to improving the efficient operation of Single Electricity Market and increasing the security of supply across Ireland on an all island basis.  Its delivery is also consistent with commitments made in the Programme for Government to move towards 70% renewable electricity in our energy system by 2030.   

National Broadband Plan

Ceisteanna (63)

Robert Troy

Ceist:

63. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Climate Action and Communication Networks when broadband will be rolled out to an area (details supplied) in County Westmeath. [23033/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Climate)

The area referred to in the Question contains both BLUE and AMBER areas on the National Broadband Plan (NBP) High Speed Broadband Map, which is available on my Department's website at www.broadband.gov.ie . This map can be searched using eircodes to determine whether particular premises are BLUE or AMBER.· AMBER areas represent the area to be served by the network to be deployed under the NBP State led Intervention, the contract for which was signed in November last with National Broadband Ireland (NBI). · BLUE areas are not included in the State intervention area covered by the National Broadband Plan as commercial operators are already providing high speed broadband or have indicated future plans to do so. My Department defines high speed broadband as a connection with minimum speeds of 30Mbps download and 6Mbps upload.

All premises within the AMBER Area will be surveyed as part of the national fibre network rollout. These surveys are required to produce a detailed network design for the high speed fibre broadband network. This detailed design is then used to initiate the ‘make ready’ project with eir for the area, where eir ensure any poles and ducts being reused are fit for purpose, and is also used to initiate works with the subcontractors deploying the actual fibre in the area.

To date 89,000 premises have been surveyed across 20 counties, including Westmeath, and detailed designs for laying fibre are also in process for areas throughout the country. NBI provides a facility for any premises within the AMBER area to register their interest in being provided with deployment updates through its website (https://nbi.ie/map/).

EU Issues

Ceisteanna (64)

Darren O'Rourke

Ceist:

64. Deputy Darren O'Rourke asked the Minister for Climate Action and Communication Networks the estimated amount in fines Ireland is likely to face in 2020 and 2021 as a result of not achieving renewable energy and carbon emissions targets; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23065/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Climate)

The 2009 EU Effort Sharing Decision established binding annual greenhouse gas emission targets for Member States for the period 2013 to 2020. For the year 2020 itself, the target set for Ireland is that emissions should be 20% below their value in 2005. According to the Environmental Protection Agency’s latest projections published earlier this year, our 2020 emissions could be 2 to 4% below 2005 levels, and we will need to avail of flexibilities in order to comply with our obligations. Covid-19 will undoubtedly impact our 2020 emissions, and this is not reflected in these projections. Pre-Covid estimates of the additional costs of this compliance requirement were in the region of €6m to €13m, depending on the price and final quantity of credits required. The Department is currently in discussion with the NTMA in relation to purchasing additional carbon credits from the market to make up this expected shortfall.

The EU Renewable Energy Directive 2009/28/EC set Ireland a legally binding target of meeting 16% of our energy demand from renewable sources by 2020. This represented a 12.9% increase on Ireland's reference starting point of 3.1% in 2005, and is the third highest increase assigned to any of the 28 Member States of the European Union.

Ireland is committed to achieving this target and while good progress has been made to date it is accepted that Ireland will not meet the 16% target and the projected overall shortfall is between 1.7 and 3.7 percentage points by end 2020. It should be noted that reduced energy demand in 2020 as a result of COVID-19 may mean that this shortfall is slightly lower. Contingency planning has also commenced to explore the potential extent, mechanisms and cost of addressing our renewable energy 2020 target through statistical transfers with other Member States within the framework of the Renewable Energy Directive.

The Programme for Government sets out our commitment to further increase our ambition, and halve our national carbon emissions over the course of the coming decade. As Minister for Climate Action, I will lead on delivering our shared commitment to achieve an average 7% per annum reduction in overall greenhouse gas emissions from 2021 to 2030, and to achieving net zero emissions by 2050. The 2050 target will be set in law in the Climate Action Bill, which I will introduce in the Dáil within the first 100 days of government.

Water Services

Ceisteanna (65, 66, 67)

Martin Browne

Ceist:

65. Deputy Martin Browne asked the Minister for Climate Action and Communication Networks the status of plans for a Shannon to Dublin pipeline; the alternatives being considered; and the progress reached in considering the proposals. [23166/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Martin Browne

Ceist:

66. Deputy Martin Browne asked the Minister for Climate Action and Communication Networks if consideration is being given to the development of a desalination plant based in the Irish Sea to provide additional water supply to the greater Dublin region as an alternative to the Shannon to Dublin pipeline; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23167/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Martin Browne

Ceist:

67. Deputy Martin Browne asked the Minister for Climate Action and Communication Networks his views on the ecological impact of a Shannon to Dublin pipeline on the River Shannon and the lands and habitat surrounding it; the assessments that have been made in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23168/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Climate)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 65, 66 and 67 together. I propose to take Questions Nos 65,66 and 67 together.

These are matters for Irish Water under Section 7 of the Water Services (No2) Act 2019. Irish Water is under the remit of the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government and, as such, I have no function in relation to the matters raised. 

National Broadband Plan

Ceisteanna (68)

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

68. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Climate Action and Communication Networks his plans to fast-track the delivery of the national broadband plan in line with the commitment in the programme for Government; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23186/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Climate)

The National Broadband Plan (NBP) State led Intervention will be delivered by National Broadband Ireland (NBI) under a contract signed on 19 November last.   The NBP network will offer users a high speed broadband service with a minimum download speed of 500Mbps from the outset. This represents an increase from the 150Mbps committed to under the Contract. The current deployment plan forecasts premises passed in all counties within the first 2 years and over 90% of premises in the State having access to high speed broadband within the next four years.

Design work is complete or ongoing in target townlands across 20 counties and steady progress is being made with over 89,000 premises surveyed to date. This survey work is feeding into detailed designs for each deployment area and laying fibre should commence shortly with the first fibre to the home connections expected around December this year. While substantial progress has been made to date, the Covid 19 pandemic has had an impact on the delivery of the fibre network. The extent of this impact is currently being assessed and NBI has committed to put in place measures to mitigate the impact in as far as possible.

The Covid 19 pandemic has also highlighted the importance of good reliable broadband to ensure that citizens across Ireland can avail of remote working, education and other essential online facilities. This is reflected in the commitments in the Programme for Government where delivery of the National Broadband Plan will be a key enabler to many of the policies envisaged particularly around increased levels of remote working.

The Programme for Government has committed to seek to accelerate the roll out of the National Broadband Plan. In this regard, my Department continues to engage with NBI to explore the feasibility of accelerating aspects of this rollout to establish the possibility of bringing forward premises which are currently scheduled in years 6 and 7 of the current plan to an earlier date. Exploring the potential to accelerate the network rollout is being undertaken in parallel with the measures required to mitigate delays arising as a result of Covid-19. 

Covid-19 Pandemic

Ceisteanna (69, 77)

Brendan Griffin

Ceist:

69. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Transport if there are grants available for the running of an office and so on (details supplied) during Covid-19 lockdown. [23074/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Michael Healy-Rae

Ceist:

77. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Transport if he will address a matter (details supplied) regarding travel agencies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23117/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 69 and 77 together.

I am aware of the serious difficulties arising for Irish licensed travel agents and tour operators in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic and the catastrophic collapse of overseas travel and tourism.

The sector continues to benefit from a range of State supports made available for SMEs - including the wage subsidies - and the State is also providing a special financial guarantee under a Refund Credit Note scheme for the sector, which makes the credit notes that licensed travel agent and tour operators issue to their customers a very secure proposition. Credits notes to the value of €17m have already been issued to consumers under the scheme – under which their value is guaranteed by the State - and this is money that the industry would otherwise have had to pay back in cash refunds.

I know that businesses in the sector are looking for more, and the Irish Travel Agents Association has made representations on behalf of its members for additional financial supports in the form of top-ups to business support schemes announced in the July Stimulus. These are being considered.

Sports Funding

Ceisteanna (70)

Niamh Smyth

Ceist:

70. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Transport the status of a successful funding application by a local authority (details supplied); if funding has been drawn down; the next phase in the process; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23102/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

In January of this year, provisional allocations totalling €77.4m for 25 projects under Stream 2 (construction) of the Large Scale Sport Infrastructure Fund (LSSIF) were announced. On 13th January additional provisional allocations of €5m for a further 7 projects under Stream 1 (design) of the LSSIF were announced. A provisional allocation of €837,680 was announced for a Regional Sports Campus in Cavan under Stream 1 of the fund and the Department wrote to the Council confirming this on the 16th January.

The evaluation procedures and guidelines for the LSSIF provide that once provisional allocations are announced, the successful projects will undergo a further process of due diligence. This process includes a further review of projects including economic appraisals and feasibility studies as appropriate to comply with the public spending code.

I understand that this process is nearing completion and it is expected that a formal funding agreement will issue to the local authority in the near future.

Covid-19 Pandemic Supports

Ceisteanna (71)

Éamon Ó Cuív

Ceist:

71. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Transport the extra supports being proposed to support the tourism industry here; the steps being taken to provide certainty to the tourism sector that foreign tourists will be able to travel here for vacations and conferences in 2021; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23123/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

The July Stimulus Package introduced significant measures to help support businesses to recover following the devastating impacts of the COVID-19 crisis. Some of the key measures for tourism include the“Stay and Spend” initiative, the €26m adaptation grant, the €10m grant for coach tourism and the revised Restart grant which now includes B&B’s.  Tourism enterprises will also benefit from wider horizontal supports such as the new Employment Wage Support Scheme, liquidity and enterprise investment measures,  warehousing of tax liabilities and the extension for a further three months of the waiver of commercial rates.

The Tourism Recovery Taskforce is currently finalising its recommendations for the ongoing survival and stabilisation of the Tourism sector and I look forward to receiving their recommendations.

The Government is exploring options to enable international travel to recommence safely again.  While it not possible at this time to provide certainty that foreign tourists will be able to travel here in 2021, it is in the best interests of tourism and other sectors in the economy to find a way to safely resume international travel into Ireland as soon as possible.

Ministerial Meetings

Ceisteanna (72)

Darren O'Rourke

Ceist:

72. Deputy Darren O'Rourke asked the Minister for Transport the number of meetings he has had with an association (details supplied) since becoming Minister; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23229/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

I can confirm to the Deputy that while I have not personally met with representatives from the Irish Travel Agents Association since my appointment as Minister, both my officials and my Ministerial colleague in the Department, Minister Hildegarde Naughton, who holds responsibility for the aviation sector are maintaining an open engagement with the travel trade industry.

I understand that Minister Naughton met with representatives of the Irish Travel Agents Association on Wednesday, 22nd July to discuss ongoing issues, and on foot of that meeting, invited the ITAA to consider all of the current available supports for SMEs and identify whether anything additional is required.