Sports Capital Programme

Ceisteanna (139)

Alan Dillon

Ceist:

139. Deputy Alan Dillon asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media her plans for a sports capital scheme in 2020; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29513/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Tourism)

The Sports Capital Programme (SCP) is the primary vehicle for Government support for the development of sports and recreation facilities and the purchase of non-personal sports equipment throughout the country. The Programme for Government commits to continuing the SCP and to prioritise the investment in disadvantaged areas.

The most recent (2018) round of the SCP attracted a record 2,337 applications. Allocations were announced in January, May and November of last year with a total of over €56 million awarded to 1,648 different projects. All unsuccessful applicants were given the opportunity to appeal the Department’s decision. In relation to the capital grants announced in November, a total of 122 appeals were submitted by the December deadline. The review of these appeals was completed in April with 6 new allocations approved.

The priority to date this year has been to advance all projects previously allocated funding to ensure the facilities are available for use and that the relevant grants are drawn down. In this regard, over €21m has been paid out to over 800 different sports clubs and groups so far this year.

With regard to future rounds of the programme, a full Review of the 2018 round of the SCP has now been completed and the terms and conditions of the next round of the programme will be based on the recommendations in the Review. Work on these terms and conditions is now being finalised and a decision on a new round of the programme will be made after that is completed.

Sports Facilities

Ceisteanna (140)

Alan Dillon

Ceist:

140. Deputy Alan Dillon asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media her plans for the development of an international kayak centre at Inner Harbour, Westport, County Mayo (details supplied). [29514/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Tourism)

My Department is not currently involved in the proposed project.

Insofar as the availability of funds is concerned, the Sports Capital Programme (SCP) is the primary vehicle for Government support for the development of sports and physical recreation facilities and the purchase of non-personal sports equipment throughout the country. It is open to sports clubs, community groups, national governing bodies of sport and local authorities to apply for funding. With regard to future rounds of the programme, a full Review of the 2018 round of the SCP has now been completed and the terms and conditions of the next round of the programme will be based on the recommendations in the Review. Work on these terms and conditions is now being finalised and an announcement in relation to the timing of the next round will be made after that is completed.

In relation to larger capital projects, the National Sports Policy published in 2018 provided for the establishment of a Large Scale Sport Infrastructure Fund (LSSIF). The aim of the fund is to provide support for larger sports facilities where the Exchequer investment is greater than the maximum amount available under the SCP. Provisional Grants totalling €82.5m were announced in January of this year. While it is not proposed to open the fund for new applications at present, it is planned to review progress on existing grants in 2021 when the question of whether or not it would be appropriate to seek new applications will be considered.

Special Areas of Conservation

Ceisteanna (141)

Gerald Nash

Ceist:

141. Deputy Ged Nash asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage if his attention has been drawn to recent turf cutting and removal of same in the Carlingford Mountain special area of conservation, just south of Clermont Carn on Black Mountain (details supplied); the action he proposes to take to identify those involved; the measures he will put in place to prevent a recurrence of the matter; the restorative steps he proposes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29374/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

The Carlingford Mountain Special Area of Conservation is a site selected for the protection of a range of habitats.

The National Parks and Wildlife Service of the Department received a report of unauthorised turf cutting at Black Mountain within the site. An inspection of the site was carried out by officers from the National Parks and Wildlife Service in August 2020. During the site inspection, it was noted that a low level of turf cutting had taken place within the site, the turf cutting did not appear to be part of any ongoing activity that was occurring on the site, excavated turf was left in place and did not appear to be in a suitable condition to be saved. The National Parks and Wildlife Service is investigating the ownership of the site and the viable options for restoration measures to be implemented.

Water Quality

Ceisteanna (142)

Colm Burke

Ceist:

142. Deputy Colm Burke asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage the actions being taken to reduce sewage dumping in Dublin Bay and to improve the cleanliness of the water for swimmers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29378/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

Since 1 January 2014, Irish Water has statutory responsibility for all aspects of water services planning, delivery and operation at national, regional and local levels. Irish Water’s primary function is to provide clean safe drinking water to customers and to treat and return wastewater safely to the environment.

It is recognised that our waste water networks require ongoing and sustained investment to bring these up to the required standard of treatment; to deal with population growth; and to adapt to the impacts of climate change. In this regard, significant investment in waste water infrastructure continues and is provided for in the Irish Water Strategic Funding Plan. It is estimated that €1.9bn will be invested in waste water projects between 2019 to 2024.

In relation to Dublin Bay, the EPA has classified the water quality as ‘good’ under the water framework directive for the period 2013 to 2018, an improvement on the ‘moderate’ status achieved during the 2007 to 2009 period.

The EPA’s most recent bathing water quality report, released earlier this year, also highlights the encouraging progress being made in improving bathing waters across the country and I was particularly pleased to see the continual increase in the number of bathing waters meeting or exceeding the minimum water quality requirements.

However, there are instances of bathing water quality issues in some specific areas of Dublin Bay, with Merrion Strand recently declassified as a bathing water. There are multifaceted sources of pollution that may be impacting on the bathing water quality in Dublin Bay. This includes sewer misconnections to surface water drains and streams, sewer storm water overflows, wildlife and dog-fouling. Through a recently created task force, my Department, Dublin City Council, Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council and Irish Water are currently working together to diagnose the root-causes and put in place programmes to solve these issues.

In addition to these pressures, the Ringsend wastewater treatment plant was originally designed and built to treat wastewater for a population equivalent of 1.64 million and is now overloaded. In response, Irish Water is currently undertaking a major upgrade of the plant. This upgrade will increase the capacity of the plant to cater for the growing population of the Greater Dublin Area and will address compliance with EU law. Planning permission was granted for the project in April 2019, and the project is currently underway.

Given a legacy of underinvestment in water services infrastructure in Ireland, the scale of remedial work necessary in our water system will take a number years and investment cycles to fully resolve. The Government has committed to ambitious funding of Irish Water’s capital investment plans for drinking water and wastewater infrastructure on a multi-annual basis. The Government plans to deliver the €8.5 billion funding package committed to in Project Ireland 2040.

Strategic Infrastructure Provision

Ceisteanna (143)

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

143. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage if proposed applicants under the strategic housing development legislation are required to contact county childcare committees to identify local childcare needs. [29279/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

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 SHD arrangements do not have specific provisions in relation to childcare needs and facilities.

However, planning authorities, including An Bord Pleanála, have statutory responsibility for determining planning applications in accordance with the statutory regulations. With regard to childcare provision, the Guidelines for Planning Authorities relating to Childcare Facilities, issued by my Department under section 28 of the Planning and Development Act 2000, as amended, provide a framework to guide both local authorities, and developers and childcare providers in formulating and considering development proposals. The Guidelines are intended to ensure a consistency of approach throughout the country to the treatment of applications in respect to the land use planning aspects of childcare provision, for relevant planning applications.

Social and Affordable Housing

Ceisteanna (144)

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

144. Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage the number of homes for affordable purchase in the known pipeline; the number of homes for cost rental in the pipeline; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29332/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

In terms of affordable housing for purchase, the statutory basis for the delivery of affordable housing for purchase in the State is Part 5 of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009, which was commenced in June 2018.

Under my Department's Serviced Sites Fund (SSF), €310 million has been allocated to provide infrastructure to support the delivery of more affordable new homes for purchase or rent in those areas where local authorities have identified an affordability challenge and the viability to deliver homes and below open market purchase prices. Funding under the SSF is available for new-build homes on local authority land. With a maximum of €50,000 funding available per home, at least 6,200 more affordable homes, to buy or rent, can be facilitated. To date, Serviced Sites funding of €127 million has been approved in principle in support of 35 projects in 14 local authority areas, which will assist in the delivery of almost 3,200 affordable homes for purchase.

In terms of Cost Rental , a pilot development of 50 homes is already under construction at Enniskerry Road, Stepaside, as part of a mixed-tenure site alongside 105 social housing homes. Another pilot development for a site at Emmet Road, Inchicore (the former St Michael’s Estate) is currently at the design stage, with plans for 375 Cost Rental homes alongside 109 social homes. A public consultation process is active at present for Emmet Road, with the intention to lodge a planning application with An Bord Pleanála in early 2021.

The Land Development Agency (LDA) will also play an increasingly significant role in the delivery of affordable housing, as promised in the Programme for Government. The LDA is currently developing 9 sites that have near-term delivery potential for 3,600 new homes, the majority of which will be for Cost Rental and affordable purchase. It is also engaged in the progression of a number of other sites with potential for significant housing output. In the longer term, it will assemble strategic land-banks from a mix of public and private lands, making these available for housing in a controlled manner, which will bring essential long-term stability to the Irish housing market. The overall objective is for the LDA to be involved in the building of 150,000 new homes over the next 20 years.

The first LDA development, a joint venture with Dún Laoghaire–Rathdown County Council at Shanganagh, Shankill, received planning permission in July 2020 and is projected to deliver 597 new homes: 306 Cost Rental, 200 social housing, and 91 to be sold under the Government’s affordable purchase scheme. Construction is expected to begin in early 2021.

In terms of affordable housing more generally, I will outline my detailed plans in the near future, taking account of progress to date under the SSF, experience from these initial Cost Rental projects, and a number of other measures, as well as the input of key delivery partners.

Social and Affordable Housing

Ceisteanna (145)

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

145. Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage the proposed selection criteria for homes being allocated for cost rental; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29333/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

This Government is committed to ensuring that affordable, quality housing solutions are available to everyone in Irish society, and this is reflected in the Programme for Government "Our Shared Future". The Programme commits to putting affordability at the heart of the housing system through the progression of State-backed affordable housing, including the development of a Cost Rental model. Cost Rental is housing where the rents cover only the costs of delivering, managing, and maintaining the homes.

Work to outline the consistent and sustainable delivery of Cost Rental at scale has been undertaken through an inter-departmental multi-agency Cost Rental Working Group, and is also being assisted by an external research project sponsored by the European Investment Bank (EIB) on behalf of my Department. Cost Rental is intended for a target cohort of households with incomes above the limits for social housing provision. Cost Rental is not intended to replace traditional social housing, which remains a priority for this Government, but to complement it in building mixed, sustainable communities.

It is envisaged that Cost Rental homes supported by Government investment will be allocated to applicants who meet eligibility criteria. The precise eligibility conditions are being developed in light of the on-going policy development work outlined, and these conditions will be set in advance of the completion of the first Cost Rental projects.

Departmental Contracts

Ceisteanna (146)

Seán Sherlock

Ceist:

146. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage the contracts with public relations agencies and consultants entered into by his Department; and the remit of these contracts including the costs in tabular form. [29356/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

I understand my Department does not have any contracts with public relations agencies or consultants. Press and public relations functions are generally undertaken by my Department's Press Office and Communications Unit.

The engagement of external expertise is only considered where the issues involved require expert skills or capabilities that are not readily available within my Department.

Social and Affordable Housing

Ceisteanna (147)

Pa Daly

Ceist:

147. Deputy Pa Daly asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage the status of the review of social housing provision; and his views on required changes to legislation or policy related to allocation schemes that may arise from the review. [29366/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

As part of the broader social housing reform agenda and the ongoing work of my Department, there are various reviews underway, including a review of income eligibility for social housing and other ongoing review and analysis of various social housing policy matters. However, there is no review of “social housing provision” or a specific review of policy/legislation related to allocation schemes, nor is any change envisaged in that area at this time.

Social and Affordable Housing

Ceisteanna (148)

Pa Daly

Ceist:

148. Deputy Pa Daly asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage his plans to consider the needs of returning Irish migrants who may not satisfy conditions of habitual residency within the current review of social housing provision. [29367/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

Applications for social housing support are assessed by the relevant local authority, in accordance with the eligibility and need criteria set down in section 20 of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009 and the associated Social Housing Assessment Regulations 2011, as amended.

As social housing support is intended to address a household’s long-term housing need it is expected that any household applying for such support should have a long-term right to reside in the State. My Department is currently reviewing the approach in this area. As part of that process, my Department has considered the approach taken by the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection to habitual residence. This work has not been finalised yet.

Departmental Staff

Ceisteanna (149, 150)

Seán Sherlock

Ceist:

149. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage if he will provide information on a matter (details supplied). [29398/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Seán Sherlock

Ceist:

150. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage if he will provide information on a matter (details supplied). [29409/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 149 and 150 together.

I wish to advise the Deputy that comprehensive details on my Department’s organisational structure, its Divisions and its senior management team (including their names and a description of all individual roles from Secretary General to Principal Officer level) are available on the ‘whodoeswhat’ website at the following link – https://whodoeswhat.gov.ie/root/housing/. The email structure to contact officials at my Department is firstname.lastname@housing.gov.ie.

Details in relation to my Department's Heritage Division senior management team can also be accessed on the 'whodoeswhat' website at https://whodoeswhat.gov.ie/branch/ahg/Heritage/niall-odonnchu/628/. The email structure to contact officials in the Heritage Division is firstname.lastname@chg.gov.ie.

The main screen will show the Secretary General and the Management Board members; to view the Principal Officer and other direct reports, click on the name of each Assistant Secretary General.

A number of additional responsibilities have been temporarily added to the senior management team at Assistant Secretary General and Principal Officer and equivalent levels arising from my Department's response to the Covid-19 Pandemic, in particular to support the corporate management of the organisation in areas such as ICT, HR and Facilities.

Social and Affordable Housing

Ceisteanna (151)

Claire Kerrane

Ceist:

151. Deputy Claire Kerrane asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage when the review on household income limits in order to apply for social housing will be completed; the stage at which this review is at; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29417/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

Applications for social housing support are assessed by the relevant local authority, in accordance with the eligibility and need criteria set down in section 20 of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009 and the associated Social Housing Assessment Regulations 2011, as amended.The 2011 Regulations prescribe maximum net income limits for each local authority, in different bands according to the area concerned, with income being defined and assessed according to a standard Household Means Policy. The 2011 Regulations do not provide local authorities with any discretion to exceed the limits that apply to their administrative areas.Under the Household Means Policy, which applies in all local authorities, net income for social housing assessment is defined as gross household income less income tax, PRSI, Universal Social Charge and Pension-Related Deductions within the meaning of Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Act 2009. The Policy provides for a range of income disregards, and local authorities also have discretion to decide to disregard income that is temporary, short-term or once-off in nature.The income bands are expressed in terms of a maximum net income threshold for a single-person household, with an allowance of 5% for each additional adult household member, subject to a maximum allowance under this category of 10%; and 2.5% for each child, subject to a maximum allowance under this category of 10%.The income bands and the authority area assigned to each band were based on an assessment of the income needed to provide for a household's basic needs, plus a comparative analysis of the local rental cost of housing accommodation across the country. It is important to note that the limits introduced at that time also reflected a blanket increase of €5,000 introduced prior to the new system coming into operation, in order to broaden the base from which social housing tenants are drawn, both promoting sustainable communities and also providing a degree of future-proofing.Given the cost to the State of providing social housing, it is considered prudent and fair to direct resources to those most in need of social housing support. The current income eligibility requirements generally achieve this, providing for a fair and equitable system of identifying those households facing the greatest challenge in meeting their accommodation needs from their own resources.However, as part of the broader social housing reform agenda, a review of income eligibility for social housing supports in each local authority area is underway. The review will also have regard to current initiatives being brought forward in terms of affordability and cost rental and will be completed when the impacts of these parallel initiatives have been considered.

Planning Guidelines

Ceisteanna (152)

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

152. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage when the new wind energy planning guidelines will become operable; the reason for the ongoing delay since the draft publication of the guidelines; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29442/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

My Department is currently undertaking a focused review of the 2006 Wind Energy Development Guidelines in line with the “preferred draft approach” which was announced in June 2017 by the then Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, in conjunction with the then Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment. The review is addressing a number of key aspects including sound or noise, visual amenity setback distances, shadow flicker, community obligation, community dividend and grid connections.

As part of the overall review process, a strategic environmental assessment (SEA) is being undertaken on the revised Guidelines before they come into effect, in accordance with the requirements of European Union Directive 2001/24/EC on the assessment of the effects of certain plans and programmes on the environment, otherwise known as the SEA Directive. SEA is a process by which environmental considerations are required to be fully integrated into the preparation of plans and programmes which act as frameworks for development consent, prior to their final adoption, with public consultation as part of that process.

As part of the SEA process, the previous Minister launched a ten-week public consultation on the draft revised Wind Energy Development Guidelines on 12 December 2019. The documents prepared for consultation are available on my Department's website at the following link: https://www.housing.gov.ie/guidelines/wind-energy/public-consultation-revised-wind-energy-development-guidelines.

The consultation closed on 19 February 2020. Almost 500 submissions were received as part of the public consultation, many of which are extremely detailed and technical in nature. My Department, in conjunction with the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications (DECC), is currently analysing the submissions received.

Finalised Guidelines will be prepared following detailed analysis and consideration of the submissions received during the consultation phase, and the conclusion of the SEA process. The Department, in consultation with DECC, is endeavouring to finalise and publish the revised Guidelines by end Q4 2020, as per the Climate Action Plan and the new Programme for Government.

When finalised, the revised Guidelines will be issued under section 28 of the Planning and Development Act 2000, as amended. Planning authorities and, where applicable, An Bord Pleanála, must have regard to guidelines issued under section 28 in the performance of their functions generally under the Planning Acts. In the meantime, the current 2006 Wind Energy Development Guidelines remain in force.

Planning Guidelines

Ceisteanna (153)

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

153. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage his plans to publish solar energy planning guidelines; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29443/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

As is the case with the large majority of development types, there are currently no specific planning guidelines in place in respect of solar farms. Proposals for individual solar farm developments are subject to the statutory requirements of the Planning and Development Act 2000, as amended, in the same manner as other proposed developments, with planning applications made to the relevant local planning authority and with a right of appeal to An Bord Pleanála. Within the wider national and local planning context, planning authorities must make their decisions, based on the specific merits or otherwise of individual planning applications.

While I am satisfied that the planning code is sufficiently robust to facilitate the assessment of individual planning applications for solar farm developments, the matter is being kept under review, in consultation with the Minister for Environment, Climate and Communications who leads on renewable energy policy. Our two Departments are presently exploring the potential for enhancing national planning guidance on solar energy, taking account of solar energy projects being assessed by planning authorities and the scope for future development of the sector in the context of the ongoing development of renewable energy policy.

On foot of this on-going engagement between the two Departments, where the need for specific planning guidance for solar farms is identified, my Department will develop such guidance as appropriate.

Social and Affordable Housing

Ceisteanna (154)

Eoin Ó Broin

Ceist:

154. Deputy Eoin Ó Broin asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage the status of efforts by his Department to deliver affordable housing on the Glass Bottle site, Ringsend, Dublin; and if the delivery of the homes has been affected by the inability of NAMA to reach a commercial agreement with Dublin City Council and his Department prior to the competitive process commencing for the site in July 2019. [29447/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

The regeneration of Poolbeg West is the next important step in transforming the Docklands area, given its strategic location east of Grand Canal Dock, with close proximity to important bridge connections to Dublin Port and North Lotts.

The extent of vacant brownfield land available at Poolbeg West is significant, at 34 hectares. The residential potential within the available lands is for a maximum of 3,500 additional residential units at a gross residential density of up to 238 units per hectare on lands over 14.7 hectares to the south of South Bank Road. This estimated housing yield would be sufficient to support a residential population of approximately 8,000 people and, therefore, would make a significant contribution to the city’s housing needs.

It should be noted that NAMA as the responsible agency retains responsibility regarding a decision to proceed with the competitive process. NAMA has confirmed the competitive process adopted was designed to achieve best financial return in line with the requirements of the NAMA Act and facilitate delivery of much needed housing in Dublin.

In relation to the wider activation of these lands, I understand that in July last the National Asset Management Agency (NAMA) has named a consortium of Ronan Group Real Estate (RGRE) and Colony Capital (Colony) as the Preferred Bidder to acquire the 80% shareholding. NAMA will retain a 20% shareholding.

I also understand that the condition of the planning scheme, as modified by An Bord Pleanála on 9 April 2019 regarding the provision of 15% social and affordable homes on this site, which is in addition to the 10% statutory under Part V arrangements still stands and is applicable.

My Department remains committed to working with Dublin City Council, any relevant Approved Housing Bodies and the receiver and/or developers of the SDZ area to progress this site, subject to agreement on all the normal and relevant terms, including value for money aspects.

Questions regarding the NAMA are more appropriate to my colleague the Minister for Finance.

Brexit Negotiations

Ceisteanna (155)

Darren O'Rourke

Ceist:

155. Deputy Darren O'Rourke asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the status of the latest discussions that have taken place with the UK Government on the ongoing dispute over the ownership of Lough Foyle; the discussions that have taken place recently in this regard in terms of Brexit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29302/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

The UK Government assertion of jurisdiction over the whole of Lough Foyle has never been accepted by Ireland and this position remains unchanged.

Following discussions in 2011 between the then Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade and the British Foreign Secretary, the British and Irish Governments agreed to seek to resolve jurisdictional issues relating to both Lough Foyle and Carlingford Lough.

Since that time a series of meetings and contacts have taken place at official level between the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

This engagement has been ongoing and the Department is also continuing to consult with other relevant Departments on specific issues and concerns in relation to licensing of aquaculture in Lough Foyle.

The issues involved in these discussions are complex and involve a range of different actors, including the Crown Estates on the UK side, but the Government is satisfied that all sides are committed to reaching a positive resolution as soon as possible.

Human Rights

Ceisteanna (156)

Malcolm Noonan

Ceist:

156. Deputy Malcolm Noonan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if his attention has been drawn to the worsening of the humanitarian and civil rights situation in Zimbabwe; his plans to raise this at EU level; and his views on same (details supplied). [29306/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

I am deeply concerned by the prolonged and complex crisis in Zimbabwe, where growing political and economic challenges and spiralling humanitarian needs have been exacerbated by the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. I am particularly concerned by the recent and significant escalation in reported human rights abuses in Zimbabwe. The arrest and prolonged pretrial detention of journalist Hopewell Chin’ono and opposition leader Jacob Ngarivhume, as well as reports of the arrest, abduction and torture of civil society activists and opposition politicians are sources of grave concern.

Ireland’s EU and UN partners share these concerns. The UN Secretary General, the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the EU and its Member States in Zimbabwe, as well as civil society leaders in Zimbabwe and abroad, have all called on the Government there to ensure that the human rights of all Zimbabweans are protected, in accordance with Zimbabwe’s Constitution and international human rights obligations. Ireland stands behind these calls.

Ireland is closely monitoring developments in Zimbabwe from our Embassy in South Africa, which is accredited to Zimbabwe and has responsibility for overseeing the delivery of Ireland’s development and humanitarian assistance there. Ireland’s Ambassador-Designate to Zimbabwe, based in South Africa, is in regular communication with the EU Delegation and EU counterparts in Harare. EU Ambassadors last held a formal political dialogue with the Government of Zimbabwe in November 2019 and arrangements are being made for a further dialogue to take place before the end of 2020.

Ireland’s development assistance in Zimbabwe amounts to €5 million in 2020, targeted mainly towards the delivery of essential health services to women and children – now critical in light of COVID-19 – and supporting civil society to promote good governance and human rights. Ireland works directly with a number of UN agencies and also provides support for the Office of the UN Resident Coordinator. In this context, we maintain close and ongoing engagement with our UN partners. Irish NGOs, Goal and Trócaire are also working on the ground to support local civil society organisations and provide humanitarian assistance.

Ireland will continue to monitor closely developments in Zimbabwe. Together with the EU, we urge the Government of Zimbabwe to ensure that the fundamental human rights of all Zimbabweans are protected, and to undertake an inclusive national dialogue involving all political and civil society stakeholders, as the most credible path to a more peaceful and stable Zimbabwe.

Departmental Contracts

Ceisteanna (157)

Seán Sherlock

Ceist:

157. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the contracts with public relations agencies and consultants entered into by his Department; and the remit of these contracts including the costs in tabular form. [29353/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

My Department has not incurred expenditure on external public relations. From time to time, consultants or companies with a public relations and communications background are commissioned to provide other professional services such as project management, logistics and event management.

In 2019, following a competitive tender process, my Department signed a contract with Zero G for professional consultancy services to advise on the development of a Global Reputation and Communications Strategy for Ireland, related ancillary communications strategies and activities. Project work commenced in early 2020, to date EUR 39,237 has been spent to cover all consultancy work up to and including March 23 2020. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the contract has been temporarily paused for a six month period, with effect from March 23 2020.

In 2020, the Department of Foreign Affairs entered into a contract with the public relations and public affairs agency, DHR Communications, for the provision of professional services for the coordination and communication of Africa Day supports and events for the years 2020, 2021 and 2022. Africa Day, which falls on 25th May annually, is the official day of the African Union and marks African unity. The Department of Foreign Affairs has supported a programme of events to celebrate Africa Day since 2006, through financial support and the provision of information and coordination services. The Department has engaged the services of DHR Communications to plan, manage and execute an information campaign for local authorities and community groups; promote, support and publicise the range of Africa Day events taking place; update and maintain the Africa Day website and social media channels; and facilitate engagement with relevant stakeholders.

Since 2010, DHR Communications has administered the Simon Cumbers Media Fund on behalf of the Department. The Simon Cumbers Media Fund (SCMF) was established by Irish Aid in 2005 to improve the quantity and quality of media coverage of the developing world. Management of the Fund involves promoting two funding rounds each year, including through national and regional information workshops and targeting of key editorial staff, managing and administering the application process, organising the judging process and providing detailed feedback to all applicants, maintaining and updating the SCMF website and managing the SCMF student competition.

To date in 2020, fees incurred in relation to the above mentioned projects are as follows:

Company

Expenditure

DHR (Africa Day)

€9,840.00

DHR (Simon Cumbers Media Fund)

€26,429.36

Zero-G

€39,237

Covid-19 Pandemic

Ceisteanna (158)

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

158. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his position on the WHO Covid-19 solidarity call to action, which promotes the notion of technologies to deal with Covid-19 as global public goods and urges countries to realise equitable global access to these technologies through the pooling of knowledge, intellectual property and data; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29391/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

Launched in April 2020, the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, is a ground-breaking global collaboration to accelerate development, production, and equitable access to COVID-19 tests, treatments, and vaccines. The ACT Accelerator brings together governments, scientists, businesses, civil society, and philanthropists and global health organizations.

Ireland is broadly in support of the ACT Accelerator, and shares the objective of equitable, affordable access to technology to address COVID-19.

The ACT-Accelerator is organized into four pillars of work: diagnostics, therapeutics, vaccines and health systems. Under the vaccine pillar, Ireland has already joined the COVAX facility as part of Team Europe. This is with a view to accelerate the development and manufacture of COVID-19 vaccines, and to guarantee fair and equitable access for every country in the world.

The COVID-19 Technology Access Pool forms another element of the overall ACT Accelerator, and is a voluntary mechanism for sharing health tech related knowledge, intellectual property and data. Consultations are ongoing across the relevant Government Departments and with industry with a view to considering practical engagement. The European Commission, on behalf of Member States, is currently engaging with the WHO to obtain the additional information and clarifications required for industry to engage in the initiative.

Departmental Staff

Ceisteanna (159)

Seán Sherlock

Ceist:

159. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will provide information on a matter (details supplied). [29406/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

The establishment of the new Government and the decision to transfer the Trade Promotion function from my Department to the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation necessitates a revision of the Department's organisation structure. In addition, there are changes to the Department's organisational Senior Management team following the annual summer rotations to and from our overseas missions. The Department's senior organisational chart on the Who Does What website (www.whodoeswhat.gov.ie) is currently being updated. I will write to the Deputy with the updated information when this is published on that website (www.whodoeswhat.gov.ie).