Export Credit Insurance

Ceisteanna (57)

Seán Canney

Ceist:

57. Deputy Seán Canney asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his plans to introduce an export credit insurance scheme for exporters; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29379/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Enterprise)

My Department continuously considers options for appropriate and effective assistance to businesses and this includes the possibility of supports to ensure the continued availability of export credit insurance. I will keep this issue under close review in conjunction with my colleague, the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

Company Closures

Ceisteanna (58)

Claire Kerrane

Ceist:

58. Deputy Claire Kerrane asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the actions that have been taken since a company (details supplied) announced that it is to cease production; the engagements that have been held on this; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29284/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Enterprise)

The decision by Aptar that it is to close its facility in Ballinasloe is deeply disappointing. My primary concern, as always in these situations, is for the workers and families who have been impacted by this decision. Many of these workers have been with the company for many years. The Government will make every State support available to those affected in order to help them transition and find new employment opportunities.

The IDA have worked hard to sustain and support the firm’s presence here and have had close and regular contact with management, both at a local and corporate level. The IDA also provided support to employee representatives as they put together a plan for efficiency savings that could be made at the Ballinasloe plant.

Now that the decision has been taken to close the facility, the IDA is working closely with the company to market the plant to potential investors. The IDA has introduced a number of companies who are interested in the Ballinasloe facility to Aptar management team and has also arranged visits to the site.

Both the IDA and Enterprise Ireland will use the employee skills audit that has been carried out in their efforts to attract new investment to Ballinasloe. The IDA Regional team has also connected employees of Aptar with the local Intreo office as well as the Education and Training Board, Local Enterprise Office, Regional Skills Forum West and Galway Mervue Roscommon Training Centre.

My Department and its Agencies have been working hard, over a sustained period, to support job creation in the regions. This has included setting ambitious targets to ensure that employment and investment are distributed as evenly as possible across the country. Last year, there were over 21,000 people employed in IDA-supported firms in Galway. This is almost double the number employed in 2010 (11,235). While the period ahead may prove more challenging, securing new foreign direct investment for our regions will be a key priority.

Wider enterprise efforts are also underway to generate new growth in Galway and the surrounding area. For example, regional stakeholders – including Enterprise Ireland, the LEOs and the Higher and Further Education Institutes – are working together on implementation of the Regional Enterprise Plan for the West. This is aimed at strengthening the environment for job creation in the region and Ballinasloe will also benefit from this.

Another important initiative in this context is the Regional Enterprise Development Fund, through which over €16.7m in funding for the West – over three competitive calls – has been approved for collaborative regional enterprise projects. The region has had particular recent success, with five Galway-based projects being awarded a total of €9.6m. These projects are currently being developed and their completion will enhance the attractiveness of the area for further investment and job creation.

While the announcement of job losses at Aptar is very disappointing, I want to assure you that the Government and its agencies are working to create employment opportunities in the West and across all of our regions.

Departmental Contracts

Ceisteanna (59)

Seán Sherlock

Ceist:

59. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment 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. [29350/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Enterprise)

Details of contracts that my Department currently has with public relations agencies and consultants are set out in the attached table.

Date of Contract

Public Relations Agency/Consultant

Purpose of Contract

Total Value of Contract

August 2019 (to run for two years)

Insight Strategic Consultants

Annual Employment Survey

2020-2021

€89,937

August 2019 (to run for two years)

Insight Strategic Consultants

Annual Business Survey of Economic Impact

2020-2021

€296,676

December 2019 (to conclude before end 2020)

Crowe Ireland -Consultants

An Analysis of the Collaborative Economy in Ireland from an Enterprise Perspective

€92,213

November 2019 (to conclude November 2020)

Implement Consulting

Undertake an Economic and Sustainability Impact Assessment of the EU-Mercosur Association Agreement for Ireland

€245,000

May 2020 (to conclude December 2020)

Ernst & Young - Consultants

Safeguarding of Audit Capacity

€40,000

July 2020 (to conclude November 2020)

Towards Zero Carbon Ltd

Analysis of industry emissions for Climate Action Plan

€80,000

Covid-19 Pandemic Supports

Ceisteanna (60)

Seán Sherlock

Ceist:

60. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the amount drawn down and allocated to businesses by county of the restart grant and the restart grant plus in tabular form. [29360/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Enterprise)

The Restart Grant and Restart Grant Plus Schemes are administered by the 31 Local Authorities on behalf of this Department.

I have set out in the following table the value of Restart Grant and Restart Grant Plus funding drawn down and allocated to each Local Authority as of 2 October 2020.

Local Authority

Restart Grant Total Allocation Per County

Restart Grant Plus Total Allocation Per County

Carlow

€2,669,080

€4,108,413

Cavan

€3,251,425

€4,429,604

Clare

€5,638,513

€7,233,599

Cork City

€12,014,139

€20,467,268

Cork County

€15,885,944

€18,083,184

Donegal

€7,402,598

€11,292,125

Dublin City

€26,681,619

€50,913,664

Dun Laoghaire Rathdown

€7,679,343

€17,811,665

Fingal

€10,053,964

€18,387,045

Galway City

€6,230,038

€10,564,179

Galway County

€6,559,248

€7,412,096

Kerry

€7,483,917

€13,010,356

Kildare

€6,678,602

€14,346,135

Kilkenny

€3,757,697

€6,480,254

Laois

€2,510,378

€4,850,089

Leitrim

€1,429,630

€2,457,860

Limerick

€8,756,156

€13,818,203

Longford

€1,884,751

€3,810,511

Louth

€5,902,142

€10,864,674

Mayo

€7,095,359

€11,018,587

Meath

€6,201,184

€10,296,560

Monaghan

€3,251,425

€5,356,270

Offaly

€3,357,663

€4,538,103

Roscommon

€2,759,580

€3,777,554

Sligo

€3,007,469

€4,400,023

South Dublin

€9,095,857

€19,255,227

Tipperary

€7,114,049

€10,083,128

Waterford

€5,314,551

€8,535,667

Westmeath

€4,135,434

€5,934,604

Wexford

€7,374,280

€11,691,836

Wicklow

€4,973,539

€8,621,943

GRAND TOTALS

€206,149,574

€343,850,426

Departmental Staff

Ceisteanna (61)

Seán Sherlock

Ceist:

61. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he will provide information on a matter (details supplied). [29403/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Enterprise)

Attached is an organisation chart maintained by my Department which details names and contact details for all staff from Assistant Principal Officer and equivalents to Secretary General, broken down by Division and respective business unit.

Organisation Chart

Programme for Government

Ceisteanna (62)

Brendan Griffin

Ceist:

62. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment when the Shannon estuary task force will be established as per the programme for Government; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29423/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Enterprise)

I understand that the Deputy’s Question relates to the establishment of a task force for north Kerry following the Programme for Government statement to withdraw the Shannon LNG terminal from the EU Projects of Common Interest List in 2021.

I can advise the Deputy that the Government has committed to ensuring that local development plans are developed to stimulate economic activity for those areas that were expecting economic development arising from new fossil-fuel infrastructure. As part of this, the Government will consider the potential of the Shannon Estuary in terms of regional economic development across transport and logistics, manufacturing, renewable energy and tourism, and develop a strategy to achieve this potential, with support from the Exchequer.

I can however assure the Deputy that jobs and enterprise in the regions is a priority of Government and I want to have a situation where all regions are enabled to realise their potential as contributors to economic growth.

The Deputy will be aware that the Programme for Government provides that as Ireland moves towards carbon neutrality it does not make sense to develop LNG gas import terminals importing fracked gas.

The Deputy will be aware that my Department’s nine Regional Enterprise Plans to 2020 were launched by my Department in early 2019 with the South-West Regional Enterprise Plan which covers counties Kerry and Cork being launched in February of that year. These Plans play a central role in supporting the delivery of balanced regional enterprise development and in ensuring that employment growth is spread across all regions. The Plans are also maintained as ‘live’ agendas which aim to be agile and responsive to both new opportunities and new challenges, for example: Brexit, Climate Action, Digital Economy, and most recently, the COVID-19 pandemic economic impacts.

At the end of June this year my predecessor as Minister, Heather Humphreys TD met with the Chairpersons of the nine Regional Enterprise Plan Committees including the Chair of the South-West Committee on a conference call and invited them to work with their Committees to identify proposals that would help to address economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic in their region. These groups are meeting in virtual format over the coming weeks to focus on this and will report back to my Department, with a view to contributing to the development of the National Recovery Plan in due course.

I can advise the Deputy that the South West Regional Steering Committee met on 28th July last and considered the range of COVID-19 and wider economic challenges for the South West region and indeed issues arising in relation to vulnerable jobs and sectors. They are currently developing options for additional measures that can be taken for the region.

It is worth noting that the Government has put several funding streams in place to support regional development and the South-West has seen a number of successes under my own Department’s regional funding streams. These include over €17.5m under the Regional Enterprise Development Fund (REDF) and €987,478 under the Regional Technology Clustering Fund, with €581,138 being awarded to IT Tralee.

Guided by the Regional Enterprise Plan, and with all regional stakeholders working together, the South-West region is well positioned to realise its enterprise potential and see better quality, sustainable jobs and investment.

Company Liquidations

Ceisteanna (63)

Cormac Devlin

Ceist:

63. Deputy Cormac Devlin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if his attention has been drawn to reports that stock and other assets from a company (details supplied) have been transferred abroad; if the matter will be referred to the Office of Corporate Enforcement for investigation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29435/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Enterprise)

Debenhams is a court-supervised liquidation, subject to oversight of the High Court and accordingly is sub judice. Under the Companies Act 2014, I have no power to intervene in a court-supervised liquidation.

Similarly, the Government cannot intervene with a liquidator, who has a statutory duty to realise assets and distribute to creditors in accordance with the law and who reports to the High Court.

Notwithstanding this, I, the Taoiseach and Government Ministers have met on a number of occasions with Debenhams employees and union representatives from Mandate to hear their views and concerns, including those on the treatment of stock and other assets. While the Government cannot interfere with the High Court-overseen liquidation process, Ministers have sought at all times to ensure that the concerns of workers are heard and that the State’s employment and training services are responding to the needs of workers.

All companies, regardless of size, are required to comply with the extensive provisions of the Companies Act 2014. Alongside company law, companies must comply with other legal requirements such as the treatment of employees and creditors and disclosure to Revenue.

The Companies Act 2014 provides safeguards to ensure that a liquidation process complies with the relevant statutory requirements and provides provisions which may be utilised by liquidators or creditors of an insolvent company in appropriate cases. This includes section 608 regarding the power of the court to order the return of assets which have been improperly transferred and section 599 where a related company may be required to contribute to the debts of a company being wound up. A range of factors will be involved for liquidators or creditors in deciding whether to pursue litigation based on these provisions of the Companies Act 2014.

The liquidator of an insolvent company must report to the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE) on its demise and must also apply to the High Court for the restriction of each of the directors of the company, unless they are relieved of that obligation by the ODCE.

Section 949(3) of the Companies Act 2014 provides that the Director of Corporate Enforcement shall be independent in the performance of his statutory functions. I, as Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment have no direct function in such matters.

The ODCE will examine all complaints it receives about suspected breaches of the Companies Act by a company or one of its directors/agents. Where a breach of company law has been clearly established, the ODCE will take action as appropriate.

Company Liquidations

Ceisteanna (64)

Cormac Devlin

Ceist:

64. Deputy Cormac Devlin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he will request the LRC to consider nominating a mediator to examine if a resolution can be reached between a company (details supplied) and the liquidator of the company; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29437/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Enterprise)

The Government cannot intervene with a liquidator, who has a statutory duty to realise assets and distribute to creditors in accordance with the law. Equally the Government has no statutory power to intervene in a court-supervised liquidation that is subject to oversight of the High Court.

The State guarantees statutory employment rights to the workers of Debenhams. If a company is unable to pay statutory redundancy, then employees will be provided for under the Social Insurance Fund.

I must emphasise that Ireland’s system of industrial relations is essentially voluntary in nature and that responsibility for the resolution of industrial disputes between employers and workers rests in the first instance with the employer, the workers and their representatives. I would like to reiterate that the WRC is available to any interested parties who may require it.

While I have no direct role in these matters I stand by the professionalism of the industrial relations machinery of the State who are always available to facilitate a solution where both parties are prepared to work with those institutions.

Work Permits

Ceisteanna (65)

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

65. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of work permits granted each month to date in 2020; the countries from which the workers who were granted permits came; the number of each; the sectors for which the permits were granted; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29461/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Enterprise)

In order to work in the State all non-EEA nationals require a valid employment permit or relevant immigration permission from the Minister for Justice and Equality which allows them to reside and work in the State without the requirement for an employment permit.

Ireland operates a managed employment permits system maximising the benefits of economic migration and minimising the risk of disrupting Ireland’s labour market. The system is intended to act as a conduit for key skills which are required to develop enterprise in the State for the benefit of our economy, while simultaneously protecting the balance of the labour market. The system is, by design, vacancy led and driven by the changing needs of the labour market, expanding and contracting in tandem with its inherent fluctuations.

The system is managed through the operation of the critical skills and ineligible occupations lists which determine employments that are either in high demand or are ineligible for consideration for an employment permit. The occupations lists are subject to twice-yearly review which is predicated on a formalised and evidence-based process and involves consideration of the research undertaken by the Skills and Labour Market Research Unit (Solas), the Expert Group of Future Skills Needs (EGFSN), the National Skills Council, and input by relevant Government Departments in addition to the public consultation phase. Account is also taken of contextual factors such as Brexit and in the current context COVID 19. The views and guidance of the Interdepartmental Group on Economic Migration Policy, chaired by my Department, are also an important part of the decision-making process.

The statistics requested by the Deputy in relation to employment permits granted since 1st January 2020 to 4th October 2020 are set out in the attached document.

Statistics in relation to Employment Permits Granted from 1 January 2020 to 4th October 2020

Month

2020

January

1,348

February

1,438

March

1,222

April

1,765

May

1,702

June

1,584

July

1,406

August

1,046

September

1,141

October (to 04/10/2020)

106

Grand Total

12,758

Departmental Funding

Ceisteanna (66)

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

66. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the breakdown of funding provided to IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland in 2020; the core Exchequer allocation, additional capital allocation, other current funding and funding specifically to assist in dealing with the Covid-19 crisis restrictions and recovery; if he has discussed the disproportionately low increase in funding for Údarás na Gaeltachta vis-à-vis IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland since the financial crisis with the Minister for Media, Tourism, Arts, Culture, Sport and the Gaeltacht; and his views on the widening funding gap between IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland on the one hand and Údarás na Gaeltacht on the other. [29485/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Enterprise)

The Deputy will appreciate that Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland are both funded from my Department’s Vote whereas the funding of Udarás Na Gaeltachta is the responsibility of my colleague Minister Catherine Martin.

Insofar as the funding of Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland is concerned, the following table sets out the original allocations for both Agencies as provided for in the December Revised Estimate together with the additional funding provided in the Revised Estimate approved by the Dáil for my Department’s Vote in June. The Table also includes the additional funding agreed for both Agencies as part of the July stimulus which will be presented to the Dáil for its approval in due course.

Subhead Description

DecemberRevised Estimate

Additional funding as per the June Rev 2020

2020 July Stimulus Allocation

2020 Total

IDA Ireland - CAPITAL

136,000

0

20,000

156,000

IDA Ireland – Current

53,177

0

10,000

63,177

IDA Ireland Total

189,177

0

30,000

219,177

Enterprise Ireland - CAPITAL

187,750

394,500

349,000

931,250

Enterprise Ireland – Current

94,332

0

1,700

96,032

Enterprise Ireland Total

282,082

394,500

350,700

1,027,282

It will be seen that both Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland have received significant additional funding to assist them in their response to Covid-19. The Capital funding provided to Enterprise Ireland has enabled it to roll out a myriad of targeted enterprise supports including the Restart Grant, the Sustaining Enterprise Fund, the expansion of the Online Retail Scheme, the Regional Enterprise Centre Scheme, Business Financial Planning Grants etc. Similarly, the additional money provided to IDA in the July stimulus has enabled it to launch the Covid Life Sciences initiative and to significantly increase its marketing and promotion activities to mitigate the impact of Covid-19.

As regards the funding of Udarás na Gaeltachta, a core allocation of €23.652m was provided to an tÚdarás in 2020. It is important to note that Údarás also receives funding from the public purse from various other sources, including additional capital monies from the Rural Regeneration & Development Fund and the Regional Enterprise Development Fund. In addition, Údarás na Gaeltachta also receives current funding in respect of cultural and language planning activities.

In light of the impact of Covid-19 on our society and economy, the Government provided additional funding and supports to Údarás na Gaeltachta and its client companies, through both targeted national and sectorial measures.

The July Stimulus package included a significant additional capital allocation of €8m for Údarás na Gaeltachta in order to enable it to undertake essential upgrades to existing building stock and water treatment facilities, thereby facilitating the marketing of currently dormant factory spaces for modern job-creation projects.

It should also be borne in mind that in addition to the funding allocated directly to Údarás na Gaeltachta it also facilitates access to the schemes administered by the IDA, Enterprise Ireland and the Local Enterprise Offices in Gaeltacht areas. For example, earlier this year, my Department facilitated Údarás na Gaeltachta client companies to access an initial €5m available from the Sustaining Enterprise Fund. Additional funding was also provided to enable Údarás to administer the Trading Online Voucher Scheme in the Gaeltacht.

Covid-19 is presenting a serious challenge to very many businesses throughout the country, not least those in Gaeltacht areas. Supporting and resourcing Udarás na Gaeltachta is a specific commitment in the Programme for Government. The additional funding already provided to an tUdarás this year demonstrates that the Government is determined to honour that commitment. Undoubtedly, Udarás together with Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland have key roles to play in promoting job creation throughout the country and particularly so in the Gaeltacht areas. The Government for its part is determined to ensure that all three Agencies receive the necessary resources to enable them to do so.

Trade Agreements

Ceisteanna (67)

Richard Boyd Barrett

Ceist:

67. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his views on a recent report from a university (details supplied) with regard to the Mercosur deal and the way in which it contradicts the EU Green Deal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24048/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Enterprise)

As the Deputy will be aware, negotiations for an EU-Mercosur Agreement were concluded in June 2019, marking the EU’s largest trade deal to date. The Agreement includes a Trade and Sustainable Development (TSD) chapter, which the European Commission has highlighted builds on the highest standards found in other modern Agreements – such as those with Mexico or Japan.

The TSD chapter promotes sustainable development as part of the trade relationship between the EU and Mercosur through commitments on environmental protection, climate change and labour rights. The basis of the TSD chapter is the premise that increased trade should not come at the expense of the environment or labour conditions.

Critically, the TSD chapter of the EU-Mercosur Agreement is subject to a specific dispute settlement procedure. Therefore, should the EU or Mercosur consider that the other party is not abiding by the rules, or honouring their commitments, formal government-level consultations can be requested. If the situation is not resolved, an independent panel of experts can be asked to examine the matter and prepare a report with recommendations. This report, including the recommendations, would be made public so that stakeholders and the relevant institutions on both sides can follow up on the relevant issues.

I should also point put that the EU Green Deal makes clear that trade policy can serve “as a platform to engage with trading partners on climate and environmental action”. In this regard, the EU-Mercosur Agreement includes a specific article on climate change, in which the EU and Mercosur agreed to strong language committing both parties to fully implement the provisions of the Paris Climate Agreement. The EU-Mercosur Agreement also includes commitments on fighting deforestation and the sustainable management of forests, as well as on responsible business conduct. It is, therefore, welcome that both the EU and Mercosur agree that strong environmental standards are vital to the success of the Agreement.

The EU Green Deal also underlines the Commission’s efforts to step up their implementation and enforcement of sustainability commitments in trade agreements and, as I have previously stated, enforceable guarantees, which strengthen environmental protections, particularly with regard to the Amazon rainforest and climate action, are a priority for me and this Government in terms of our assessment of the benefits from the Agreement. Furthermore, I believe these efforts will be significantly enhanced through the recent appointment of the first EU Chief Trade Enforcement Officer, within the Trade Directorate of the Commission.

Finally, in January 2020, my Department, in conjunction with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, commissioned an independent consultancy firm, to undertake an Economic and Sustainability Impact Assessment (ESIA) of the EU-Mercosur Agreement. In line with commitments in the Programme for Government, the ESIA is designed to assist Government in formulating its position on future ratification of the Agreement. In that context, the European Commission’s Sustainability Impact Assessment and other reports, such as that recently published by Oxford University, can form part of the overall analysis work that is being conducted with a view to informing the Government's approach when the formal legal texts of the Agreement are presented to the Member States by the Commission.

Trade Agreements

Ceisteanna (68)

Richard Boyd Barrett

Ceist:

68. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the discussions his Department has had with the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine with regard to the impact of the Mercosur trade deal on climate. [25178/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Enterprise)

In January 2020, my Department, in conjunction with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, commissioned independent consultancy firm, Implement Consulting, to undertake an Economic and Sustainability Impact Assessment (ESIA) of the EU-Mercosur Agreement following a competitive tender process.

The ESIA will consist of two equally important and complementary components, namely a comprehensive analysis of the potential economic benefits as well as a robust sustainability impact assessment (including social, human rights and environmental impacts) that the trade Agreement could have in Ireland and the Mercosur countries of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay. Similarly, a wide-ranging consultation process will ensure the engagement of all relevant stakeholders in the conduct of the Impact Assessment.

In line with commitments in the Programme for Government, the ESIA is designed to assist Government in formulating our position on future ratification of the Agreement and the Impact Assessment is being overseen by my Department in conjunction with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine. Government is to have the ESIA available to us to assist our decision-making on the Agreement ahead of the European Commission presenting the Member States with the legally-proofed texts of the Agreement.

Finally, in relation to climate and this Agreement, I have indicated that enforceable guarantees, which strengthen environmental protections, particularly with regard to the Amazon rainforest and climate action, are a priority for me in assessing Ireland's position in due course.

Trade Agreements

Ceisteanna (69)

Richard Boyd Barrett

Ceist:

69. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the discussions he has had with the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine with regard to the impact of the Mercosur trade deal on farming here. [27551/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Enterprise)

In June 2019, negotiations for an EU-Mercosur Agreement were concluded, marking the EU’s largest trade deal to date.

In January 2020, my Department, in conjunction with DAFM, commissioned an independent consultancy firm to undertake an Economic and Sustainability Impact Assessment (ESIA) of the EU-Mercosur Agreement following a competitive tender process. In line with our commitments in the Programme for Government, the ESIA is designed to assist Government in formulating its position on future ratification of the Agreement and it is my intention, working in conjunction with the Minister for Agriculture Food and the Marine, that Government will have the ESIA available to us to assist our decision making on the Agreement ahead of the European Commission presenting the Member States with the legally-proofed texts of the Agreement in due course.

Redundancy Payments

Ceisteanna (70)

Richard Boyd Barrett

Ceist:

70. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he has discussed the proposals of unions (details supplied) to establish a fund to safeguard redundancy entitlements workers in the event of a liquidation. [27552/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Enterprise)

I met with Gerry Light, Mandate and Debenham workers in July, along with Minister of State Damien English, who has responsibility for Business, Employment and Retail, and Minister of State Robert Troy who has responsibility for Company Law matters. Minister English met with ICTU in August where they outlined proposals concerning the treatment of collective agreements. Minister English responded to ICTU on 10th September confirming that he would consider the matter with myself and Minister Troy with a view to exploring the proposal and any other related issues in a Forum which would ensure participation by senior stakeholders and members of the Government. Ministers of State Damien English and Robert Troy, in Private Members’ Business in the Dáil on 16th September, both affirmed the Government’s commitment to detailed and serious consideration of the proposals and committed to involving worker and employer representatives in that process.

Ministers of State Damien English and Robert Troy are both working with officials on the range of issues which are currently being considered in the context of Debenhams. They met most recently with officials on 1st October, and are committed to meeting soon with the Social Partners. The issues under consideration are complex. Nevertheless work on this has been prioritised and continues.

There is a Programme for Government commitment to review whether the current legal provisions surrounding collective redundancies and the liquidation of companies protect the rights of workers effectively. I have asked the Company Law Review Group to undertake an expedited review of this commitment as it relates to company law, to be completed before the end of the year.

The Government fully appreciates how difficult the situation is for those involved and their families. All relevant state agencies are working in a coordinated way to support those who have lost their jobs. The State will guarantee statutory employment rights to the workers of Debenhams, including statutory redundancy and will provide job-search assistance and upskilling opportunities.

Covid-19 Pandemic Supports

Ceisteanna (71)

Rose Conway-Walsh

Ceist:

71. Deputy Rose Conway-Walsh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his views on whether businesses which were denied funding as part of the restart grant due to the fact it was oversubscribed prior to the deadline date should not be able to avail of the original €2,000 in view of the fact additional funding has been made available in the form of the restart plus grant; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25958/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Enterprise)

The Restart Grant scheme was launched on 22 May and was live on all local authority websites from 29 May. It was advertised extensively both nationally and locally as well as across social media. By mid-June, almost 30,000 applications were received nationally and by the end of July, some 45,000 applications were received.

The Scheme was initially intended to provide grants in tandem with the phased re-opening of the economy as per the Government’s Roadmap. As the Roadmap was accelerated, so too was the scheme available to all eligible businesses and sectors.

In fact, the numbers of applications nationally had begun to taper off as the Government was considering introducing an expanded Restart Scheme, i.e. the Restart Grant Plus Scheme with higher grant levels. Under the expanded scheme, the minimum grant is €4,000 (up from €2,000) and the new maximum grant is €25,000 (up from €10,000). The new scheme also has different criteria to the old scheme.

As the Government decided to introduce the higher grant levels, to the benefit of a much larger group of businesses, it was decided to end the original scheme. It would not make sense to run two similar schemes, with different criteria and grant levels, as it would only cause confusion for applicants and those administering the scheme alike.

Any business that feels it would have been eligible for the original scheme, but for genuine reasons was not in a position to apply before its closure, may appeal to its Local Authority. Further information and application forms for the Restart Grant Plus Scheme are available on the websites of all Local Authorities until 31 October 2020.

Research and Development

Ceisteanna (72)

Rose Conway-Walsh

Ceist:

72. Deputy Rose Conway-Walsh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his views on whether Ireland is adequately investing in research and development; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25959/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Enterprise)

Ireland’s overall investment in research and innovation, that is public and private investment, has been increasing steadily over the past several years. It increased from €2.56 billion in 2011 to an estimated €3.7 billion in 2018 – a rise of 44%.

Ireland’s public investment in research and innovation has also been increasing over the past several years. The Government invested €765.7 million in 2018, the highest amount in 7 years.

However, given the significant growth of the value of GNP, which rose by 84% in the same period, it has not been possible to close the gap to our goal of 2.5% investment in research, development and innovation (RDI) as a percentage of GNP. In 2018, our investment in RDI as a percentage of GNP was estimated at 1.46%.

There is a compelling need to ensure that the importance of funding for research and innovation is kept to the fore across Government. Innovation 2020 , our current strategy, commits all research funding Government departments to increase their research and innovation spend, year on year to 2020.

Significant investment in research and innovation is a key characteristic of the top four Innovation Leaders in the EU. The Government will continue to prioritise investment in research and innovation in order to realise its ambition of becoming a Global Innovation Leader.

Ireland’s research and innovation system continues to be one of the best innovation output performers, making it one of the most efficient performers overall in terms of outputs relative to investment. We are ranked 9th in the EU for innovation performance, outranking 10 other Member States that invested a higher proportion of GDP in 2018.

This is an opportune time for research and innovation in Ireland. The creation of the new Department of Higher and Further Education, Research, Innovation and Science can be a real turning point. The new Department will play a key role in delivering on the Programme for Government's commitments to ensure that we have a fit for purpose research and innovation ecosystem that addresses the key economic and societal challenges thus contributing to the national recovery and building Ireland’s future.

My own Department will be a key partner in promoting innovation in Ireland’s enterprises and setting ambitious goals to ensure that we are well equipped to face the ramifications of Brexit, the COVID-19 pandemic, the climate crisis and the many other challenges in the years ahead.

I wish my colleagues Minister Harris and Minister Collins well with this important brief and look forward to working with them to continue to develop Ireland’s research and innovation system.

National Broadband Plan

Ceisteanna (73, 80)

Alan Dillon

Ceist:

73. Deputy Alan Dillon asked the Minister for Environment, Climate and Communications the status of the mobile and broadband communications projects being undertaken with Mayo County Council and the national broadband plan (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29515/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Alan Dillon

Ceist:

80. Deputy Alan Dillon asked the Minister for Environment, Climate and Communications the steps he is taking to address issues in relation to broadband (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29516/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Environment)

I propose to take Question Nos 73 and 80 together.

The National Broadband Plan (NBP) State led Intervention will be delivered by National Broadband Ireland (NBI) under a contract signed last November to roll out a high speed and future proofed broadband network within the Intervention Area which covers 1.1 million people living and working in the nearly 540,000 premises, including almost 100,000 businesses and farms along with 695 schools.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 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.As of 28 September, design work is complete or on-going in target townlands across 23 counties and steady progress is being made with over 98,000 premises surveyed to date. This activity is increasing week on week and NBI expects to have completed some 120,000 surveys by the end of the year. This activity involves physically walking the routes and documenting images, notes and measurements of the poles, cables and underground ducts in each area. This is informing design solutions for provision of the fibre network.The Question refers to a construction company in Turlough, Castlebar, Co Mayo that is experiencing communications difficulties. Without a specific eircode it is difficult to provide a definitive reply. However, I can advise that in terms of the village of Turlough, the western portion of the village is within the NBP State intervention area. This area has been surveyed and detailed designs for the network are currently being developed. In terms of The National Museum of Ireland in Turlough, this is located within an area where commercial operators are delivering 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. There may be a choice of operators offering this service in the area referred to and further information in this regard is available at www.comreg.ie/compare/#/services

Broadband Connection Points (BCPs) are a key element of the NBP providing high speed broadband in every county in advance of the roll out of the fibre to the home network. Some 155 BCP sites have been installed by NBI and the high speed broadband service will be switched on in these locations through service provider contracts managed by the Department of Rural and Community Development for publicly available sites and by the Department of Education and Skills for schools. Locations in Mayo in areas such as Taugheen, Bofeenaun, Islandeady and Killaser Community Centres were chosen by the Department of Rural and Community Development in conjunction with Mayo County Council and are all installed and due for connection shortly.Since 2016, my Department has collaborated with Mayo County Council through the Mobile Phone and Broadband Taskforce, which has been a driving force for improving access to telecommunications services nationwide. It has completed over 70 targeted actions to alleviate connectivity barriers, and continues to tackle issues impeding the rollout of essential infrastructure in rural areas, including in County Mayo. The Taskforce will continue its work in the context of its inclusion in the Programme for Government, in ensuring access to high quality telecommunications connectivity across Ireland to support social and economic development.

National Broadband Plan

Ceisteanna (74)

Brendan Griffin

Ceist:

74. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Environment, Climate and Communications if the roll-out of the national broadband plan will be expedited; if an area in County Kerry (details supplied) will be prioritised; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29291/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Environment)

The Question refers to a premises which is located in the AMBER area on the National Broadband Plan (NBP) High Speed Broadband Map which is available on my Department's website at www.broadband.gov.ie. The AMBER area represents 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). 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 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. As of 28 September, design work is complete or ongoing in target townlands across 23 counties and steady progress is being made with over 98,000 premises surveyed to date. This activity is increasing week on week and NBI expects to have completed some 120,000 surveys by the end of the year. This activity involves physically walking the routes and documenting images, notes and measurements of the poles, cables and underground ducts in each area. This is informing design solutions for provision of the fibre 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. It is also used to initiate works with the subcontractors deploying the actual fibre in the area. 

In Kerry 6,500 premises have been surveyed to date in areas around Tralee such as Curraheen, Abbeydorney, Kilflynn, Firies and in areas around Killarney including Muckross, Fossa, Kilcummin, Lissivigeen, Ballycasheen, Faha, Firies and Ballyhar. 

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/).

Broadband Connection Points (BCPs) are a key element of the NBP providing high speed broadband in every county in advance of the roll out of the fibre to the home network. Some 155 BCP sites have been installed by NBI and the high speed broadband service will be switched on in these locations through 'service provider' contracts managed by the Department of Rural and Community Development for publicly available sites and by the Department of Education and Skills (DES) for schools.

In Kerry, a number of schools in the Intervention area, Coars National School, Boheeshil National School, Gap of Dunloe National School will be connected for educational access as part of this initiative. My Department will work with DES to prioritise the remaining schools to be connected over the term of the NBP. The public will be able to benefit from this service at locations across the county such as Kielduff, Valentia Island, Gneeveguilla (Tureencahill), Inch and Kells Community Centres. Further details can be found at https://nbi.ie/bcp-locations/.

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.

In April 2020, all major telecommunications providers committed to a number of measures to help people stay in touch and work from home during the Covid-19 pandemic. Since then, a number of operators have implemented further supports for consumers, such as for students in  education, who require a high data usage package, by increasing data limits on many existing packages and by the introduction of new packages with very high, or unlimited data offerings. The market for mobile packages with very high, or unlimited data offerings, is becoming increasingly competitive and this is positive for all consumers.

National Broadband Plan

Ceisteanna (75)

Seán Sherlock

Ceist:

75. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Environment, Climate and Communications the amount spent by the State since the signing of the national broadband plan in tabular form. [29345/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Environment)

The National Broadband Plan (NBP) State led Intervention will be delivered by National Broadband Ireland (NBI) under a contract signed last November to roll out a high speed and future proofed broadband network within the Intervention Area which covers 1.1 million people living and working in the nearly 540,000 premises, including almost 100,000 businesses and farms along with 695 schools. The amount spent by my Department on the National Broadband Plan (NBP) since November 2019 is €34.874m and this is broken down as follows:

Quarterly Spend

Amount (including VAT)

Q4 2019

€2.069m

Q1 2020

€2.547m

Q2 2020

€11.595m

Q3 2020

€18.597m

Q4 2020

€0.066m

TOTAL

€34.874m

Departmental Contracts

Ceisteanna (76)

Seán Sherlock

Ceist:

76. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Environment, Climate and Communications the contracts with public relations firms and public relations consultants entered into by his Department for the years 2019 and 2020 to date; and the remit of these contracts including the costs in tabular form. [29351/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Environment)

I understand that the information sought by the Deputy relates to 2019 and to date in 2020.   

The requested information is set out in the following table:-

Consultant

Purpose

Year

Cost

Individual Contractor

Communications support for National Waste Awareness & Education Campaign

2019

€1900

RPS communications

Public relations support to the Tellus surveys, including low-flying aerial survey and operation of information line

2019

€39,921

RPS communications

Public relations support to the Tellus surveys, including low-flying aerial survey and operation of information line

2020 (to date)

€44,785

Departmental Staff

Ceisteanna (77)

Seán Sherlock

Ceist:

77. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Environment, Climate and Communications if he will provide information on a matter (details supplied). [29404/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Environment)

Details of 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/comms/ . The email structure to contact officials at my Department is firstname.lastname@decc.gov.ie.