2. Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Taoiseach when market research on a citizen survey will commence; and when Opposition parties will be briefed in this regard. (Question 18941/18 asked on 08 May 2018 - Strategic Communications Unit)

The Taoiseach: I propose to take Questions Nos. 1 to 3, inclusive, together.
Following on from the review of the operation of the strategic communications unit, or SCU, my Department will revert to a reformed Government information service, or GIS, model. The GIS will have a smaller budget, fewer staff and a more limited role than the SCU. There will be a managed reversion to the more traditional GIS model with a transition period until July 2018. This transition is now under way and will con...

6. Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Taoiseach if he will report on his recent visit to the University of Leuven. (Question 20128/18 asked on 08 May 2018 - Taoiseach’s Meetings and Engagements)

The Taoiseach: I propose to take Questions Nos. 4 to 6, inclusive, together.
I delivered an address on the future of Europe at the Catholic University of Leuven as part of its Wilfried Martens series of lectures. This is an annual event, with previous speakers including Commission President, Jean-Claude Juncker, and former German Finance Minister, Wolfgang Schäuble.
The event was live-streamed and the text of my speech is available online. My speech covered the many achievements of the Europea...

10. Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Taoiseach if he has spoken to the British Prime Minister recently. (Question 20127/18 asked on 08 May 2018 - Taoiseach’s Meetings and Engagements)

The Taoiseach: I propose to take Questions Nos. 7 to 10, inclusive, together.
I had a short meeting with Prime Minister May in the margins of the European Council on 23 March during which we discussed the latest developments in relation to Brexit, Northern Ireland and Russia.
On Brexit, I welcomed her Government’s commitment to ensuring the backstop forms part of the withdrawal agreement, and looked forward to progress on this and on the other options before the European Council in June. I expe...

312. Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Minister for Health the reason for the delay in approving the retention of the mobile temporary diagnostic cath lab at Waterford University Hospital; the date when approval issued to the hospital to renew the contract for the mobile lab; if appointments for diagnosis were cancelled which could have been dealt with by the mobile lab; if contract staff operating the lab were redeployed during this period; if a full complement of staff is now available to operate the mobile lab; if the mobile lab was out of operation for periods; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 19886/18 asked on 08 May 2018 - Hospital Facilities)

Minister for Health (Deputy Simon Harris): The mobile cath lab was initially deployed in October 2017 and it was agreed on 23 April that it should stay in place for a further number of weeks while recruitment efforts continue to support extension of the existing cath lab operating hours to 12 sessions per week, or by 20%, as recommended in the Herity Report. In regard to the detail of the service issues raised, I have asked the HSE to respond directly to the Deputy. 
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4. Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Taoiseach the Cabinet committee at which communications and media mergers are discussed; and when it last met. (Question 18942/18 asked on 02 May 2018 - Media Mergers)

The Taoiseach: I propose to take Questions Nos. 1 to 4, inclusive, together.
The object of Cabinet Committee D, infrastructure, is to ensure a co-ordinated approach to the development and implementation of policy on housing infrastructure investment and delivery, climate action and the delivery of Project Ireland 2040.
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6. Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Taoiseach if he will report on his recent engagements with Mr. Donald Tusk on Article 50 negotiations with the United Kingdom since his speech on 18 April 2018 to the European Parliament on Brexit regarding the forthcoming assessment on the talks on transition in June 2018. (Question 18781/18 asked on 02 May 2018 - Brexit Negotiations)

The Taoiseach: I propose to take Questions Nos. 5 to 7, inclusive, together.
I have not spoken to the President of the European Council, Donald Tusk, since his statement to the European Parliament on 18 April. As Deputies are aware, I last met formally with President Tusk in Dublin on 8 March, when we discussed a range of issues across the EU agenda, including Brexit. I thanked President Tusk for his ongoing strong support in relation to the Irish-specific issues arising from the UK’s decision...

2. Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Taoiseach if he will report on the work of the data protection unit in his Department; and the work under way on the general data protection regulation. (Question 18780/18 asked on 01 May 2018 - General Data Protection Regulation)

The Taoiseach: I propose to take Questions Nos. 1 to 3, inclusive, together.
I am satisfied that the data protection measures in place in my Department are robust. There are secure policies and procedures in place for paper files and electronic data. All information and communication technology, ICT, systems operated within my Department are securely managed. Access to the systems is controlled through a variety of security measures, including industry-leading technologies which are regularly...

5. Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Taoiseach if he will report on the work of the international, European Union and Northern Ireland division of his Department. (Question 18782/18 asked on 01 May 2018 - Departmental Functions)

The Taoiseach: I propose to take Questions Nos. 4 to 6 together.
The international, EU and Northern Ireland division of my Department covers work on all international, EU, British-Irish and Northern Ireland affairs within the Department, including Brexit issues. The division supports me in my international role including as a member of the European Council and in my other EU and international engagements. The division also provides advice and support to me on Northern Ireland affairs, British-...

7. Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Taoiseach the number of staff in his Department working on the roll-out of Project Ireland 2040; and the number of events he has attended and plans to attend to promote the project. (Question 17880/18 asked on 01 May 2018 - Project Ireland 2040 Administration)

The Taoiseach: I propose to take Questions Nos. 7 to 10, inclusive, together.
Cabinet Committee D last met on 1 February 2018. The next meeting of the committee has been scheduled for 8 May next. The overall objective of Cabinet Committee D on infrastructure is to ensure a co-ordinated approach to the development and implementation of policy regarding housing, infrastructure investment and delivery, climate action and the delivery of Project Ireland 2040. Project Ireland 2040 is the overarchi...

184. Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the status of an application by a person (details supplied) for naturalisation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 18675/18 asked on 01 May 2018 - Naturalisation Applications)

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): I am advised by the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) of my Department that the processing of the application for a certificate of naturalisation from the person referred to by the Deputy is ongoing and will be submitted to me for decision as expeditiously as possible. A letter issued to the applicant on 26 April last seeking further information and a reply is awaited.
As the Deputy will appreciate, the granting of I...

421. Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection when a decision will issue on a disability allowance claim by a person (details supplied) in County Wexford; and if she will make a statement on the matter. (Question 18805/18 asked on 01 May 2018 - Disability Allowance Applications)

Minister of State at the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection (Deputy Finian McGrath): This gentleman’s Disability Allowance (DA) was stopped on 31 January 2016 as he commenced on Back to Work Allowance (BTWA).
The person concerned informed us that his BTWA was ceasing on 28 March 2018 and he wished to have his DA re-instated. The file was sent to a Social Welfare Inspector (SWI) for a report on the person’s means and circumstances as he is now Self Employed.
 On 23 April 2018...

1. Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Taoiseach when Cabinet committee C, European Union, including Brexit, last met; and when it will next meet. (Question 16661/18 asked on 25 Apr 2018 - Cabinet Committee Meetings)

The Taoiseach: I propose to take Questions Nos. 1 to 4, inclusive, together.
Cabinet committee C supports the Government in its consideration of European Union matters, including the ongoing Brexit negotiations and their implications for Ireland. Given their significance, these matters are also regularly discussed at full meetings of the Cabinet. In addition, I regularly meet Ministers, on an individual basis or in groups, in order to focus on particular issues, including those relating to the...

5. Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Taoiseach the role of his Department in the annual 1916 commemoration. (Question 16664/18 asked on 25 Apr 2018 - Easter Rising Commemorations)

The Taoiseach: I propose to take Questions Nos. 5 and 6 together.
My Department is responsible for the co-ordination of the annual Easter commemoration ceremony which takes place at the GPO on Easter Sunday. Since the 90th anniversary of the Easter Rising in 2006 the commemoration has taken place annually.
The Department of Defence and the Defence Forces play a central part in the ceremonies. The detailed logistical elements of the programme are worked out in conjunction with the Office of Pub...

10. Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Taoiseach the status of improvements being made on the Dublin inner city forum. (Question 17616/18 asked on 25 Apr 2018 - Departmental Projects)

The Taoiseach: I propose to take Questions Nos. 7 to 10, inclusive, together.
The actions contained in the Mulvey report for the social and economic regeneration of the north east inner city are being overseen and implemented by the programme implementation board, which meets on a monthly basis. It is chaired by Michael Stone and comprises representatives from the community and business sectors and the key Departments and agencies. My Department remains actively involved with the work of the b...

142. Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Minister for Health when a person (details supplied) will receive an appointment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 18223/18 asked on 25 Apr 2018 - Hospital Waiting Lists)

Minister for Health (Deputy Simon Harris): Under the Health Act 2004, the Health Service Executive (HSE) is required to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. Section 6 of the HSE Governance Act 2013 bars the Minister for Health from directing the HSE to provide a treatment or a personal service to any individual or to confer eligibility on any individual.
The National Waiting List Management Policy, a standardised approach to managing...

2. Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Taoiseach the progress on delivering the recommendations of the report on the review of the strategic communications unit. (Question 16463/18 asked on 24 Apr 2018 - Strategic Communications Unit)

The Taoiseach: I propose to take Questions Nos. 1 to 5, inclusive, together.
On 1 March, I requested that the Secretary General of my Department conduct a review into the operations of the strategic communications unit, SCU. The report from this review was accepted by the Government on 27 March and published on the same date. 
The report finds that there is significant benefit to be realised by implementing the communications reform programme which had been led by the SCU. Furthermore, rapid p...

8. Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Taoiseach if he will report on the appointment of members to the National Economic and Social Council and the vacancies that exist. (Question 17615/18 asked on 24 Apr 2018 - National Economic and Social Council)

The Taoiseach: I propose to take Questions Nos. 6 to 8, inclusive, together.
The National Economic and Social Council, NESC, has a membership of 28, reduced from 34 in the previous council. Members are appointed in accordance with the National Economic and Social Development Office Act 2006 and the National Economic and Social Council (Alteration of Composition) Order 2010, that is, 15 members are nominated by the five sectors - business and employer, ICTU, farming and agriculture, community an...

10. Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Taoiseach the role of his Department in the preparation of the national policy statement on the bioeconomy. (Question 17617/18 asked on 24 Apr 2018 - Economic Policy)

The Taoiseach: I propose to take Questions Nos. 9 to 11, inclusive, together.
The Government believes the bioeconomy can ensure more efficient use of renewable resources and support sustainable economic development and employment in rural Ireland. In simple terms, the bioeconomy involves the production of renewable biological resources and the conversion of these resources and waste streams into value added products such as food, biopharmaceuticals and bioenergy.
An interdepartmental group, bri...

131. Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Minister for Finance the average interest rate applying to EIB loans initiated in each of the years 2016 and 2017 and to date in 2018; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 17940/18 asked on 24 Apr 2018 - European Investment Bank Loans)

Minister for Finance (Deputy Paschal Donohoe): I am responding on the basis that the Deputy is seeking information on the average cost of lending from the European Investment Bank (EIB) to the Irish Exchequer.  
The National Development Finance Agency (NDFA), which is part of the National Treasury Management Agency, has informed me that the total amount of Exchequer borrowing from the EIB since the start of 2016 is €430 million. All of this funding was drawn down during 2016. 
The weighted aver...

414. Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Minister for Health if physiotherapy services will continue at a location (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 17857/18 asked on 24 Apr 2018 - Health Services Provision)

Minister for Health (Deputy Simon Harris): As this question relates to service matters, I have arranged for the question to be referred to the Health Service Executive (HSE) for direct reply.
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1. Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Taoiseach when Cabinet committee E (health) last met; and when it will next meet. (Question 13845/18 asked on 18 Apr 2018 - Cabinet Committee Meetings)

The Taoiseach: I propose to take Questions Nos. 1 to 5, inclusive, together.
Cabinet committee E covers issues relating to the health service, including health system reforms. Cabinet committee E last met on 11 April. The next meeting has yet to be scheduled.
In addition to meetings of the full Cabinet and of the Cabinet committees I meet with Ministers on a bilateral basis as required to focus on particular issues. In this regard I meet regularly, most recently last Monday, with the Minister...

6. Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Taoiseach when Cabinet committee F, national security, will next meet; and when it last met. (Question 13847/18 asked on 18 Apr 2018 - Cabinet Committee Meetings)

Deputy Brendan Howlin: I would prefer to hear the answer first.
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66. Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Taoiseach the role of his Department in the preparation of the National Policy Statement on the Bioeconomy. (Question 16666/18 asked on 18 Apr 2018 - Bioenergy Strategy)

The Taoiseach: The Government recognises the contribution that the bioeconomy can make in promoting the more efficient use of renewable resources and supporting sustainable economic development and employment in rural Ireland.
In order to fully realise this potential, an Interdepartmental Group, bringing together the departments involved in the bioeconomy and chaired by my Department, was established in November 2016. 
The Interdepartmental Group carried out a detailed scoping exercise to ident...

4. Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Taoiseach when Cabinet committee A - economy last met; and when it will next meet. (Question 16461/18 asked on 17 Apr 2018 - Cabinet Committee Meetings)

The Taoiseach: I propose to take Questions Nos. 1 to 5, inclusive, together.
Cabinet committee A covers issues relating to the economy, jobs, the labour market, competitiveness, productivity, trade, the Action Plan for Rural Development, the digital economy and pensions. There has been significant progress on these issues since the start of the year, including the publication of the roadmap for pensions reform, the launch of the Action Plan for Jobs 2018 and the publication of the review of Ent...

9. Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Taoiseach when Cabinet committee B - social policy and public services - last met; and when it will next meet. (Question 16462/18 asked on 17 Apr 2018 - Cabinet Committee Meetings)

The Taoiseach: I propose to take Questions Nos. 6 to 9 together.
Cabinet committee B last met on 26 March and while the date of its next meeting has not yet been scheduled, it is likely to meet next month. The committee covers the areas of social policy and public service reform, including education, children, social inclusion, Irish, arts and culture, and continued improvements to and reform of public services. 
Through the work of Cabinet committee B, the Government is keen to ensure policies...