Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will request Eirgrid to grant an extension on the current deadline for submissions for the gridlink project for the South East to allow members of the public ample time in which to make their submissions; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Reply from Minister Pat Rabbitte: This is a matter for EirGrid and one in which I, as Minister, have no function.
Answered on June 27, 2013
Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if his attention has been drawn to the massive increases in commercial rates due to be levied on businesses in County Waterford on foot of a statutory revaluation of commercial rates in Waterford city and county; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Reply from Minister Brendan Howlin: As the Deputy will be aware, the national revaluation programme aims to provide up-to-date valuations for individual properties across all economic sectors that are subject to local authority rates. The revaluation process is the mechanism whereby economic changes that take place in the property market are reflected in the valuation lists for rates purposes and in individual ratepayers’ rates liabilities. The national revaluation programme is a priority for Government and is a feature of the Action Plan for Jobs 2012. The programme is particularly important given the significant changes that have occurred in rental values following the economic downturn of recent years. The purpose of a revaluation is to distribute commercial rates liabilities more equitably among ratepayers based on up-to-date values. Following revaluation, there will be a much closer relationship between rental value and commercial rates liability. Even though property values have fallen generally, given that the purpose is to redistribute the overall rates liability, some ratepayers will obtain a reduction while others will experience an increase from the process of redistribution but, overall, revaluation results in a fairer distribution of the rates burden.
Answered on June 18, 2013
Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the position regarding planning for the proposed extension and refurbishment of Waterford Courthouse (pictured); what the development will entail; the estimated total cost; and when he expects the project to commence construction.
Reply from Minister Alan Shatter: In July 2012 the Government announced an investment package which includes seven courthouse projects, including Waterford.
As the Deputy is aware, under the provisions of the Courts Service Act 1998, management of the courts, including the provision of accommodation for court sittings, is the responsibility of the Courts Service which is independent in exercising its functions. In order to be of assistance to the Deputy, I have had enquiries made and the Courts Service has informed me that discussions are ongoing with the Office of Public Works and the National Development Finance Agency in order to progress the projects. The projects are to be procured and delivered through a Public Private Partnership.
I am informed that the Office of Public Works is currently working on a design for the Waterford project. The development will include 6 courtrooms, replacing the current 2 courtrooms, and improved facilities for all court users, including jurors, persons in custody, and victim support. Consultation facilities will also be improved. There will be discussions with court users on the proposed design in the coming weeks.
I am informed that the delivery of a project of this scale as a traditional capital project would be likely to cost in excess of €20m. However, as the project is to be delivered on a Public Private Partnership basis, the total cost will include not only the cost of construction but also the costs of maintenance and other services to be provided by the PPP company. This will be paid by way of charges over a period of 25 years.
It is intended that this project will go through the Part 9 Planning process later this year with the PPP procurement process commencing around the end of the year. I am informed that construction could commence during 2015 with the project being completed and the courthouse being operational during 2016.
Answered on June 18, 2013
Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht his policy regarding the culling of seals to protect fish stocks; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Transferred for answer to the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Jimmy Deenihan (pictured): There are two species of seals in Irish waters - the Harbour or Common Seal and the more numerous Grey Seal. Both are included in a list of species protected under the EU Habitats Directive. Consequently, Ireland is obliged to monitor and report on their status, including in relation to their population, every six years. The next such report is due this month. The assessments of seals will be available shortly on the website of the National Parks and Wildlife Service of my Department at www.npws.ie.
My Department has carried out a number of surveys, including aerial surveys, on the population of both the common and grey seals in the past number of years. All data arising from these surveys from the previous years are now being analysed in advance of the forthcoming report to the European Commission.
The data from both the Harbour and Grey Seal monitoring programmes will be comparable with previously-collected data and will inform my Department’s view as to the current status of the respective populations.
In terms of ascertaining the likely effects of seals on the fishing industry, I will be informed not only by the population monitoring undertaken by my Department, but also by investigations into seal-fisheries interactions that have been commissioned by Inland Fisheries Ireland and Bord Iascaigh Mhara and I understand that both organisations will report later in 2013.
While seals are protected under the Wildlife Acts, licences may be obtained under section 42 of the Wildlife Act to hunt seals where damage is being caused. Licences are issued in response to specific applications and each application is considered on its merits. This redress is available to individual fishermen to control damage to fisheries by seals at particular locations.
Answered on June 11, 2013
Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the amount of funding Waterford Airport Company has received from his Department under the capital expenditure grant scheme in each of the past eight years, 2013 inclusive.
Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the amount of funding Waterford Airport Company has received from his Department under the regional airports operational expenditure subvention scheme in each of the past eight years, 2013 inclusive.
Reply by Minister Leo Varadkar: (I propose to take Questions Nos 1093 and 1094 together.) Exchequer funding provided to Waterford Airport under the capital expenditure grant (Capex) scheme and under the operational expenditure subvention (Opex) scheme from 2006 to date is set out in the following table:
Answered on June 11, 2013
Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the amount of funding each local authority in County Waterford has received from his Department under the transport capital investment programme’s roads sub-programme in each of the past six years.
Deputy Deasy asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the amount of funding each local authority in County Waterford has received from his Department under the non-national roads grants programme in each of the past six years.
Deputy Deasy asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the amount of funding each local authority in County Waterford has received from his Department under the national roads programme in each of the past seven years.
Replies from Minister Leo Varadkar: (I propose to answer questions 1087 ,1090 and 1091 together.) Details of funding for regional and local roads provided by my Department to local authorities in County Waterford are outlined in the regional and local road payment booklets available in the Dáil Library.
With regard to national roads, details of the allocations to each local authorities are also available in the Dail library. However, details of the actual drawdowns for these roads are a matter for the National Roads Authority.
Noting the above position, I have referred the Deputy’s question to the NRA for direct reply. Please advise my private office if you don’t receive a reply within 10 working days.
Answered on June 11, 2013
Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the total amount of grant aid his Department has historically allocated for works, including construction and land acquisition costs, specifically relating to the Waterford Airport Road, which is designated as a strategic non-national route.
Reply from by Minister Leo Varadkar: The improvement and maintenance of regional and local roads in its area, is a statutory function of each road authority in accordance with the provisions of section 13 of the Roads Act, 1993. Works on such roads are a matter, for the relevant local authority to be funded from its own resources supplemented by State road grants. The initial selection and prioritisation of works to be funded is also a matter for the local authority.
Waterford County Council was provided with a total of €11,085,091 towards the R708 Airport Road between 2003 and 2009.
Answered on May 28, 2013
Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation in relation to his Department’s monitoring of the South-East Employment Action Plan, the number of ideas have been funded in Waterford since its launch in January 2012; the amount of funding for Waterford ideas that have been awarded to-date.
Reply from Minister Richard Bruton: The South East Employment Action Plan has a number of recommendations which the relevant agencies and stakeholders are charged with implementing. The following are examples of agency funding provided to individuals or companies in Waterford and in the South East since January 2012 to develop new business ideas.
Enterprise Ireland’s New Frontiers Entrepreneur Development Programme is a rapid incubation programme designed to provide hands-on support and management development for entrepreneurs who wish to start their own business.
Twenty promoters were accepted on to the 2012 programmes run in Waterford IT and Carlow IT. All were approved a €15,000 scholarship from Enterprise Ireland to develop business ideas which can be spun out as knowledge based companies to provide jobs and export sales. Graduates are expected to go on to set up new businesses in the South East following the programme.
Enterprise Ireland launched a pilot Competitive Feasibility Fund for new start-ups in the South East in January 2012. Over 40 applications were received with 14 high quality projects being approved for funding. The total fund was approximately €200,000. To date, one of the projects has been approved High Potential Start Up funding. Enterprise Ireland continues to work with innovative start-up companies at all stages of development and growth within the region.
Since 2007, Enterprise Ireland has approved a total of 707 Innovation Vouchers to companies in the South East with 287 approved to Waterford based companies (as of March 2013). Waterford has the fourth highest number of approved vouchers since 2007.
In addition to the above, the Waterford County and the Waterford City Enterprise Boards have both continued to use the funding available under the European Globalisation Fund and from my Department to provide supports for micro-enterprises within the County. From the 1st January 2012 to date, the two CEBs have funded 51 projects in the amount of €865,270 from the funding allocated by my Department, supporting the creation of 98 jobs, and funded a further 6 other projects in the amount of €110,462 with the financial support provided by the European Globalisation Fund.
Work is on-going on the implementation of the South-East Employment Action Plan recommendations, with agencies and stakeholders working together to maximise benefits for the region. The South East Forum, established to oversee the implementation of the Action Plan, and which I met most recently in March this year, will continue to examine ways that would lead to job creation and investment opportunities in the South East.
Answered on May 28, 2013
Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation when he expects the EU Commission Directorate-General for Competition to publish the new Regional Aid Guidelines 2014-2020; and the extent to which he has participated in the recent public consultation process.
Reply from Minister Richard Bruton: As part of a State Aid Modernisation initiative currently being undertaken by the EU Commission a number of instruments are being reviewed in parallel, including, in particular, Guidelines on Regional Aid, Environmental Aid, Risk Capital, Research Development and Innovation, Broadband Guidelines and Aviation Guidelines.
Of major importance from an Irish perspective is the revision of the Regional Aid Guidelines. The purpose of Regional Aid is to support investment and job creation and encourage firms to set up new establishments in Europe's most disadvantaged regions.
The process of Member States agreeing the 2014-2021 Regional Aid Guidelines is underway and multilateral discussions between Member States and the Commission, which has responsibility for the Regional Aid Guidelines, have taken place.
This initiative is Commission led, and my Department is actively engaged in the process and has consulted relevant stakeholders including various Government Departments, the enterprise development agencies, Údarás na Gaeltachta, Forfás, the Central Statistics Office, the Border Midland and Western Regional Assembly, the Southern and Eastern Regional Assembly, and the eight Regional Authorities to ensure the preparation and submission of a comprehensive evidence based Irish position on the key issues.
The Commission issued a non-paper of its initial orientations in December 2011, which was followed by a multilateral meeting in March 2012. The Commission subsequently forwarded further proposals to Member States on 14 January 2013, documenting the structure and provisions that will form the basis of the revised Guidelines. These proposals were again discussed at a multilateral meeting on 11 and 12 of February 2013.
I met directly with Commissioner Almunia to discuss the issue of State Aids in December 2012. Minister Sherlock has also raised this issue with Commissioner Geoghegan-Quinn. Concerns relating to the range of coverage and support for large enterprises were raised at these meetings as being items of major concern to Ireland.
In addition, my Departments officials are in regular discussions on these issues with Commission officials across a range of dossiers, to ensure that Irish concerns are well known within the Commission. My officials are also liaising with a number of like-minded Member States on the issue. All relevant Government Departments are being kept briefed on this issue through the State Aid Interdepartmental Committee and briefs have issued to all relevant Minsters. All Irish MEPs and the Irish representatives on the Council of the Regions are also being briefed on this issue.
A revised proposal on Regional Aid will shortly be circulated through the Commission as part of the normal inter-service consultation. My Department, in conjunction with the enterprise agencies, is in the process of preparing a detailed submission to the Commission on this revised proposal.
The next meeting of the College of Commissioners is scheduled for Wednesday, 19 June 2013. Once the Regional Proposal has been agreed by the College it will be formally adopted and published by DG Competition.
Answered on May 28, 2013
Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform when the intended transfer in trust of Mount Congreve Gardens in County Waterford to the State will take place; the reason for the non completion in discussions between the Office of Public Works and the Congreve Foundation; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Reply from Minister of State Brian Hayes: The house and gardens at Mount Congreve are currently under the care of the Mount Congreve Trust. The Mount Congreve Trust consists of three Trustees including the Commissioners of Public Works. The remaining two Trustees represent the Congreve Foundation and were appointed by Mr. Congreve. The Trust period for the gardens commenced upon the death of Mr Congreve in May 2011 and will expire in May 2032. The Mansion House will remain in the hands of the Trust until 2059. Only upon the expiration of these Trust periods will the properties revert to the ownership of the State. The Commissioners of Public Works, in their role as Trustee, have been in discussions with the other Trustees as to the future management of the Trust properties. While these discussions are ongoing, it would be inappropriate to comment further.
Dáil Éireann allocates a certain amount of time on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays during which Deputies may ask questions of Members of the Government relating to Public Affairs connected with their Departments, or on matters of administration for whch they are officially responsible. The Taoiseach answers questions on his own Department on Tuesdays/Wednesdays.