Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Wednesday, 4 Nov 2020

Written Answers Nos. 159-168

Departmental Contracts

Ceisteanna (159)

Richard Boyd Barrett


159. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Health the details of the contract awarded to a company (details supplied) for recruitment during Covid-19; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34153/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

As this is a matter for the Health Service Executive, I have asked them to respond directly to the Deputy, as soon as possible.

Covid-19 Pandemic

Ceisteanna (160)

Brendan Griffin


160. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his views on a matter (details supplied) regarding riding stables; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33959/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

The Sport Horse industry is an industry that has been supported by respective Governments down through the years. I am very much aware of its importance to the economy and the desire for all involved to resume all activities as soon as possible.

It is clear that Covid 19 is having a major effect on all sports, including Equine Sports. Ireland is currently at Level 5 in the fight against the disease. Whilst endeavouring to manage risk and repair the damage it has inflicted on society, the country must be informed and guided by public health professionals, the advice of NPHET and relevant Government decisions. A Framework for Restrictive Measures has been developed to help us to go about our daily lives as much as possible, while managing the behaviour of the virus (reference: 'Recovery 2020-2021: Plan for Living with COVID-19').

It is regrettable that equestrian events are not to open at present, however, as you are aware the actions taken to protect public health are understandably paramount at this time.

Covid-19 Pandemic

Ceisteanna (161)

Joan Collins


161. Deputy Joan Collins asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if foxhunting with hounds and all related activities have been stopped during level 5 restrictions; and if a ban will be introduced due to the cruelty to foxes and the public health concerns associated with large groups of hunters gathering and traversing the countryside. [34036/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

The Government has issued a list which is available on gov.ie which sets out, among others things, guidance/direction as to purposes for essential travel (beyond 5Km), essential retail outlets, essential services, essential wholesale and retail trade and support activities which is available here: https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/c9158-essential-services/.. Fox hunting with hounds does not appear on this list.

On the general matter of hunting, the Deputy will be aware that detailed debate was held around the issue during the passage of the Animal Health and Welfare Act 2013 and the Dail voted overwhelmingly to allow the continuation of fox hunting in accordance with an appropriate Code of Conduct. The Animal Health and Welfare Act 2013 specifically prohibits the hunting of animals which have been released in an injured, mutilated or exhausted condition.

The Act also allows for the establishment of codes of practice and for the adoption of codes published by other persons for the purposes of providing practical guidance relating to any aspect of the Act, including fox hunting. Voluntary codes of practice have been established by The Hunting Association of Ireland which detail the conduct to be adhered to in respect of the hunting of foxes and the treatment of the animal during the hunt. The Code prohibits the hunting of foxes where the animal is injured and advocates the humane disposal of a fox when captured. The code also takes into account local concerns and the concerns of the landowner(s) on whose land hunting takes place.

My Department has no plans to change the existing legislation.

Forestry Sector

Ceisteanna (162)

Alan Dillon


162. Deputy Alan Dillon asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine when a decision will be made on a forestry application lodged by a person (details supplied) in County Mayo; the reason for the delay in making a decision on the application; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34063/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

The contract specified was approved under the Afforestation Grant and Premium Scheme with two grant payments and annual premiums to be paid across the lifetime of the contract, subject to compliance with scheme Terms and Conditions.

The first instalment grant application has been received by my Department, but payment could not be made so far because several shortcomings on the plantation were identified during a routine inspection by the relevant District Inspector. These shortcomings have been communicated to the person named as part of a remedial works request letter. The District Inspector as well as my Department’s Engineering staff are currently in the process of assessing the additional information received from the person named following issuing of this request and a decision will be communicated as soon as this assessment is complete.

Fisheries Protection

Ceisteanna (163)

Jennifer Whitmore


163. Deputy Jennifer Whitmore asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the steps he is taking to ensure the reintroduction and implementation of the six-mile ban on large trawlers in Irish waters; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34066/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

In December 2018, following a public consultation process in which over 900 submissions were received, the then Minister for Agriculture, Food and Marine announced that vessels over 18m will be excluded from trawling in inshore waters inside the six nautical mile zone and the baselines from 1 January 2020. A transition period of three years for vessels over 18m targeting sprat was allowed to enable adjustment for these vessels, as the sprat fishery is concentrated inside the six nautical mile zone.

A Policy Directive was issued by the Minister to the independent Licensing Authority for Sea Fishing Boats under Statute and was intended to give effect to the measures announced by the then Minister. As stated above, this Policy Directive provided that vessels over 18m LOA (Length Overall) will be excluded from trawling activity inside six nautical miles, including inside the baselines, from 1 January 2020. The Policy Directive directed the Licensing Authority to insert a condition to this effect into the licences of affected vessels.

A Judicial Review was taken by two applicant fishermen challenging the validity of the Policy. An unapproved judgement was issued on 31 July 2020 and the key points to come out of that Judgement is that while the applicants did not succeed on four of the five grounds of challenge, the challenge was made against the entire Policy Directive 1 of 2019 and was successful.

The findings on the grounds of challenge were:

1. The Policy Directive 1 of 2019 was not ultra vires,

2. The Directive did not impinge the applicants constitutional rights.

3. Given the impact on the applicants there was a particular duty on the Minister to provide a fuller explanation and engage in further talks with the applicants. On this ground the applicants succeeded.

4. The policy directive was not disproportionate to what was to be achieved.

5. The Policy directive did not breach EU law.

On 6 October 2020, the Judge held in summary that the Court’s final order should be, among other matters, a declaration that Policy Directive 1 of 2019 was made in breach of fair procedures and is void and/or of no legal effect.

The breach of fair procedures as referenced above related to a failure with obligations to consult with the applicants in accordance with, and to the extent required by, the consultation process and in particular by failing to consult with them once a preferred option had been identified.

I am currently considering, on an urgent basis, the implications of the judgment in consultation with my legal advisors.

I should advise the Deputy that I am committed to the sustainability of fishing in Irish waters and the commitment made in our Programme for Government that inshore waters continue to be protected for smaller fishing vessels and pair trawling be prohibited inside the six-mile limit.

Basic Payment Scheme

Ceisteanna (164)

Michael Healy-Rae


164. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he will address a matter regarding the case of persons (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34143/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

The person named submitted an application for the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) on 6 May 2020.

As part of the standard processing of the application, two issues were identified. The first of these issues was a dual claim arising with another applicant. This issue has been resolved.

The second issue relates to an overlap on claimed land with another applicant. With regard to this issue, further information has been requested from the third party involved. Officials from my Department have directly contacted this third party in order to expedite the matter. As soon as this information is received, the persons named will be contacted by my officials to finalise this matter at the earliest date possible.

LEADER Programmes

Ceisteanna (165)

Thomas Gould


165. Deputy Thomas Gould asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the allocation provided to towns, villages and organisations in Cork under the LEADER programme in 2019 and to date in 2020, in tabular form. [34120/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Rural)

LEADER is a multi-annual programme with a budget of €250 million over the period 2014-2020. €225 million of this budget is allocated to Local Action Groups (LAGs), who deliver the programme and approve projects at local level in accordance with their Local Development Strategy (LDS). County Cork is divided into three sub regional areas for the purposes of LEADER.

The total allocation for the county is €14,438,823. The allocation for each sub-regional area is provided for the duration of the programme rather than on an annual basis. This provides greater flexibility to the LAGs in managing their resources.

The funding provided supports the preparation of the Local Development Strategy fro each area, project activity, and the administration costs of the LAGs including their engagement with potential promoters to develop LEADER projects.

Table 1 below provides details of the budget allocations to each of the Cork LAGs under the LEADER 2014-2020.

Details of individual project approvals are available on my Department’s website at: https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/b849be-local-action-groups-approved-projects-2014-2020/ .

Table 1: LEADER Allocations by sub regional area for County Cork

LEADER sub-regional area


Cork North


Cork South


Cork West




Departmental Funding

Ceisteanna (166)

Thomas Gould


166. Deputy Thomas Gould asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the funding available to towns, villages and rural community groups; and the way in which community groups apply for funding. [34121/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Rural)

In the present COVID environment the supports provided by my Department to assist communities are more important than ever to assist the economic and social recovery of these areas.

Below is a list of the primary funding streams available to rural communities from my Department.

The Rural Regeneration and Development Fund was established as part of Project Ireland 2040 and will support a coherent suite of capital investment schemes so that rural towns (with populations of less than 10,000), rural villages and outlying areas can benefit from investment over the coming years. The four headings funded through the Rural Regeneration and Development allocation are (i) RRDF major projects (ii) RRDF Seed Funding (iii) Town and Village Renewal and (iv) the Outdoor Recreational Infrastructure Scheme.

RRDF Major Projects (Category 1) supports ambitious and strategic projects that can drive sustainable rural regeneration and development. Funding is awarded through a competitive assessment process. All projects must be collaborative, involving more than one body, and with clear community support and engagement. Grants awarded have been in the range of €0.5 million to €10 million, enabling large scale investment with long term benefits for rural economies and communities.

RRDF Seed Funding (Category 2) generally provides smaller grant funding to enable the development of project proposals suitable for future applications to the RRDF Major Projects strand. Funding can be provided towards the cost of project development, including for technical or expert assistance. Issues that may need to be addressed could include land ownership/title, planning and design work, value for money assessment, and procurement. This funding aims to ensure that early stage project ideas generated at local level can progress into fully developed and costed proposals.

The Town and Village Renewal Scheme covers a range of projects to support and rejuvenate rural towns and villages. It is administered by Local Authorities on behalf of my Department and projects are developed in consultation with town/village community and business interests.

Funding can be provided for a wide range of interventions including public-realm projects, town centre enhancements, encouraging town centre living, and economic development projects. Applications for funding are submitted to DRCD by local authorities. The scheme has an annual budget of €15m, with €25m available in 2020 due to an additional €10m from the July Stimulus Package.

LEADER Programme: Under the LEADER Programme, €250 million in grant aid is available to rural communities and businesses. This is provided to projects focused on economic and enterprise development, job creation, social inclusion and supporting the rural environment. Funding is allocated to 28 sub-regional areas based on administrative or county boundaries. Interested parties should contact their Local Action Group (LAG) through its Implementing Partner to discuss the eligibility of the project and the funding that may be available. A full list of LAGs is available on https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/c33028-list-of-local-action-groups/

The Outdoor Recreation Infrastructure Scheme (ORIS) provides funding for the development of new and existing outdoor recreational infrastructure in rural areas such as cycleways, walking trails, blueways and mountain access routes.

Other Rural Supports:

The Community Enhancement Programme provides small capital grants to community groups to enhance facilities in disadvantaged areas. The CEP is administered by Local Community Development Committees (LCDCs), with support from the local authorities.

The Local Improvement Scheme provides funding for improvements to private and non-publicly maintained roads. Such roads can lead to multiple residences, farmland or amenities like lakes, rivers or beaches.

CLÁR is an investment programme for small-scale infrastructural projects in depopulated rural areas. CLÁR supports the development of identified areas by attracting people to live and work there .

The Community Services Programme provides local social, economic and environmental services through a social enterprise model, providing a contribution towards the cost of staff in these organisations. It meets local service gaps and provides services and facilities that would not be available otherwise. The Expression of Interest (EOI) application process is currently closed but it is expected that the Programme will open targeted calls to address identified gaps in service delivery in 2021.

My Department has also provided funding for Tidy Towns groups and Agricultural Shows in recent years.

All programmes delivered by my Department are open to applications from eligible parties during the relevant application timeframes set for each programme. Public Participation Networks and Local Community Development Committees are useful first ports of call for community groups interested in accessing community development funding. It is anticipated that these funding streams and supports will continue and will be available in 2021 and full details of how to register or apply for financial assistance under these programmes can be obtained on my Department's website [www.gov.ie/drcd] together with more detailed information on all programmes delivered by my Department.

Local Development Companies

Ceisteanna (167, 168)

Brendan Smith


167. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the level of funding that will be provided for the 35 local development companies to prepare and deliver a two-year national rural development programme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34133/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Brendan Smith


168. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development if she will ensure that funding is provided for new projects under LEADER in 2021 in view of the importance of the programme for rural areas; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34134/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Rural)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 167 and 168 together.

The LEADER programme is co-funded by the European Commission under the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). The current 2014-2020 LEADER programming period concludes in December 2020.

Proposals for new regulations for the CAP 2021-2027 were launched in June 2018 by the European Commission. However, given the protracted nature of discussions on the post-2020 CAP and on the wider EU Budget at EU level, there has been a delay in adopting these proposals. This means that the next LEADER programme will not commence until January 2022 at the earliest.

The Programme for Government includes a commitment to prioritise a State-led programme to bridge the gap between the current LEADER programme and the next EU programme. The objective of this commitment is to allow local-led rural development projects to be delivered under a Transitional Programme until the new EU programme commences.

The European Commission has published proposals for transitional measures to allow for continuity between the programming periods. The Commission's proposals are still under discussion at EU level and there are a number of issues yet to be resolved, including the duration of the transitional period.

Nonetheless, I hope to be in a position shortly to announce the details of a Transitional LEADER Programme for Ireland, to come into effect in 2021. Details of the funding available to the Local Action Groups which implement LEADER locally will be made available when the Transitional Programme is announced.

An extra €4 million has been provided for LEADER in Budget 2021, to bring the total allocation for next year to €44 million. The allocation will be used to fund a combination of existing projects as they come to completion, as well as for new projects to be approved under the Transitional Programme and to support the administration costs of Local Action Groups in closing out the existing programme and delivering the Transitional Programme.

It is important to recognise that LEADER is a multi-annual programme and that payments in respect of projects which are approved in any given year are generally not drawn down until subsequent years, depending on the nature and scale of the projects concerned. In this context, costs related to projects under the Transitional Programme are also likely to be met from the provision in my Department’s Vote in 2022 and 2023.