22. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the position regarding a review of pay and the other issues PDFORRA were seeking to have through the conciliation process regarding the terms and conditions for members of the Defence Forces; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 20429/18 asked on 10 May 2018 - Defence Forces Remuneration)

Minister of State at the Department of Defence (Deputy Paul Kehoe): Rates of pay and conditions of employment in the Defence Forces have traditionally been set by reference to, inter alia, relative levels of pay across the various sectors of the Irish public service. Defence Forces pay is increasing in line with recent public sector pay agreements. The focus of these increases is weighted in favour of those on lower pay.
Members of the Defence Forces received increases in pay in 2017 under the L...

46. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the number of personnel serving in the Permanent Defence Forces to date; the projected enlistment by the end of 2018; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 20428/18 asked on 10 May 2018 - Defence Forces Personnel Data)

Minister of State at the Department of Defence (Deputy Paul Kehoe): I propose to take Questions Nos. 33, 37 and 44 to 46, inclusive, together.
The Defence Forces have a higher level of turnover than other areas of the public service and this is a feature of military organisations internationally.
Rates of pay and conditions of employment in the Permanent Defence Force have traditionally been set by, amongst other things, reference to levels of pay across the various sectors of the Irish public s...

246. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if the continuation of the fodder transport scheme to mid-May will be ensured (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 20695/18 asked on 10 May 2018 - Fodder Crisis)

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Michael Creed): In response to pressures on fodder supplies caused by a long wet winter and spring I introduced a national Fodder Transport Support measure in January of this year, followed in April by a Fodder Import Support measure. These two interventions working together effectively addressed issues around fodder availability in the country. Grass growth, as confirmed by Teagasc assessments, has continued to improve significantly and live...

28. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the studies she plans to undertake in relation to the feasibility of extending Erne navigation from Belturbet to Killykeen and Killeshandra, County Cavan; and if she will make a statement on the matter. (Question 19998/18 asked on 09 May 2018 - Inland Waterways Development)

Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht (Deputy Josepha Madigan)(Deputy Josepha Madigan): Waterways Ireland manages and maintains the navigation on the River Erne in County Cavan as part of the Shannon – Erne Waterway. Waterways Ireland public jetties are provided in both Belturbet and Kilconny and the navigation channel is provided with navigation markers and signage as and where required. The upper limit of the managed navigation on the River Erne is currently just below Erne Bridge b...

42. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the funding provided in her Department’s Estimates for 2018 for restoration work on the Ulster Canal; the works which will be undertaken with such funding; and if she will make a statement on the matter. (Question 19999/18 asked on 09 May 2018 - Inland Waterways Maintenance)

Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht (Deputy Josepha Madigan): Waterways Ireland is currently working on the first phase of reopening navigation from the Erne to Castle Saunderson on the Ulster Canal. 
The works to complete the development are in the final phase of delivery and completion is expected in late July 2018.
To date over €2.8m has been spent on the entire Ulster Canal project. Expenditure of €1.133m is forecast to complete navigation to Castle Saunderson in 2018. 
In para...

101. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if specific funding will be allocated to Cavan County Council in 2018 in respect of the essential repair of roads damaged by flooding; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 20416/18 asked on 09 May 2018 - Roads Maintenance Funding)

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform (Deputy Paschal Donohoe): As recently outlined by the Minister for Transport, Tourism (PQ 17344/18) the improvement and maintenance of regional and local roads is the statutory responsibility of local authorities, in accordance with the provisions of Section 13 of the Roads Act 1993. Works on those roads are funded from the Council’s own resources supplemented by State road grants.  The initial selection and prioritisation of works to be funded is also ...

188. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Health his plans to extend the FreeStyle Libre sensor for diabetics to persons over 21 years of age; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 20357/18 asked on 09 May 2018 - Medical Aids and Appliances Provision)

Minister for Health (Deputy Simon Harris): Under the Health (Pricing and Supply of Medical Goods) Act 2013, the HSE has statutory responsibility for the administration of the community drug schemes; therefore, the matter has been referred to the HSE for attention and direct reply to the Deputy.
 ...

235. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment his plans to introduce a universal service obligation in respect of the provision of broadband throughout the country; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 20440/18 asked on 09 May 2018 - National Broadband Plan)

Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment (Deputy Denis Naughten): The current EU and national regulatory framework for telecommunications allows for the application of a Universal Service Obligation (USO) and relates solely to voice telephony and Functional Internet Access (28.8 kilobits per second) and is provided for under EU regulatory framework governing telecoms.  This Framework has ensured that householders can get an affordable fixed voice service and functional interne...

31. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government when the review of income eligibility limits for social housing will be finalised and published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 19748/18 asked on 08 May 2018 - Social and Affordable Housing Eligibility)

Deputy Brendan Smith: For a number of years I have been raising, with the Minister, his predecessor and the Minister of State, the urgent need to increase the income eligibility limits for social housing. In my constituency of Cavan-Monaghan, we are in the lowest zone in the country whereby the income limit for a single person is €25,000 and for a couple is €30,000. It is a 40% differential between that and most other counties throughout the country. We are condemning people to not being able...

54. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government when the review of the tenant purchase scheme will be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 19747/18 asked on 08 May 2018 - Tenant Purchase Scheme Review)

Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government (Deputy Eoghan Murphy): The Tenant (Incremental) Purchase Scheme came into operation on 1 January 2016. The Scheme is open to eligible tenants, including joint tenants, of local authority houses that are available for sale under the Scheme. To be eligible, tenants must meet certain criteria, including having a minimum reckonable income of €15,000 per annum and having been in receipt of social housing support for at least one year.
In line with...

473. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government his plans to reduce the 10% requirement for the new local authority house loan in view of the difficulties facing potential applicants that have been paying high rents and find it difficult to accumulate the required deposit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 19873/18 asked on 08 May 2018 - Home Loan Scheme)

Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government (Deputy Eoghan Murphy): I propose to take Questions Nos. 467, 468 and 473 together.
The new Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan Scheme is designed to enable credit worthy first-time buyers to access sustainable mortgage lending to purchase new or second-hand properties. The low rate of fixed interest associated with the Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan provides first-time buyers with access to mortgage finance that they may not otherwise have been able to...

7. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the number of participants on Tús and the rural social scheme in 2017; the number of places on both schemes for which a financial provision has been made in 2018; and if she will make a statement on the matter. (Question 19279/18 asked on 03 May 2018 - Labour Activation Programmes)

Deputy Brendan Smith: As the Minister knows, there are many positive dimensions to both Tús and the rural social scheme in that they provide worthwhile employment opportunities for many who, unfortunately, are not in a position to get a job in the labour market. Furthermore, they provide a great service to local communities by providing new facilities and enhancing and maintaining existing facilities. I sincerely hope that, in the Estimates this year, the Minister can ensure anybody eligible t...

46. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection her plans to amend legislation regarding the State pension (contributory) with particular reference to persons whose insurance contribution records were interrupted due to periods in receipt of farm assist; if the periods that persons were on farm assist can be credited for insurance purposes; and if she will make a statement on the matter. (Question 19250/18 asked on 03 May 2018 - State Pension (Contributory))

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection (Deputy Regina Doherty): The farm assist scheme was introduced in 1999 to provide income support for low income farmers. It replaced the former smallholders’ unemployment assistance payment. In line with the then existing arrangements for unemployment assistance (including smallholders) and pre-retirement allowance, the income of farm assist recipients was exempt from class S PRSI for self-employed workers.
Recipients of farm assist who had...

226. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the number of official Border crossings with Northern Ireland; the location of such crossings; the classification of the roads leading to such crossing points; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 19538/18 asked on 03 May 2018 - Border Crossings)

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Shane Ross): My Department has been working with the Department for Infrastructure in Northern Ireland to determine and agree on public road border crossings on the island of Ireland.
I understand that this work is nearing completion and I expect to receive a report in the matter in the coming days. Thereafter, it is my intention to arrange for joint publication of the document together with the Department for Infrastructure in Northern Ireland....

26. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the discussions his Department has with its counterpart in Northern Ireland on the development of cross-Border projects; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 19074/18 asked on 02 May 2018 - Cross-Border Co-operation)

Acting Chairman (Deputy Eugene Murphy): Deputy Breathnach will put the question. I am sure that is agreed by the House.
 ...

28. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the discussions he or his Department has with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and the European Commission on the funding of cross-Border projects after 2020; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 19075/18 asked on 02 May 2018 - Cross-Border Co-operation)

Acting Chairman (Deputy Eugene Murphy): Deputy Breathnach will put the question. I am sure that is agreed by the House.
 ...

79. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he has raised with the Indian authorities and/or at the European Foreign Affairs Council the recent report by an organisation (details supplied) of the persecution of Christians in India; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 19179/18 asked on 02 May 2018 - Religious Persecution)

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Simon Coveney): I have received the Church in Chains report entitled “Official India: On the side of the militants”, setting out the details of a number of violent incidents targeting Christian communities in India. The agenda for the next EU Foreign Affairs Council does not include India as a topic for discussion. A suitable opportunity to raise such concerns is in the context of the EU-India Human Rights Dialogue in which the EU and ...

80. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the progress to date in implementing legislative measures as required under the 2014 Stormont House Agreement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 19181/18 asked on 02 May 2018 - Northern Ireland)

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Simon Coveney): Dealing with long-outstanding issues relating to the legacy of the Troubles are of the utmost importance to the Government. The Programme for a Partnership Government highlights this priority, including a specific reference to implementation of the institutional framework on the past, as provided for under the Stormont House Agreement 2014. In the discussions at Stormont Castle on outstanding commitments that took pla...

104. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the progress to date in implementing legislative measures as required under the 2014 Stormont House Agreement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 19180/18 asked on 02 May 2018 - Northern Ireland)

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): In the 2014 Stormont House Agreement the Government, the British Government and the parties in the Northern Ireland Executive reached agreement on a range of matters, including certain measures to address the legacy of troubles-related violence.
While there remains an unfortunate delay in making progress with the implementation of this framework of measures due to the continued political impasse in the formation of a new Executive in N...

106. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the working groups and processes in place within his Department and within the statutory agencies under his remit in preparation for Britain’s exit from the European Union; if such planning is coordinated with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade; if personnel within his Department and within the statutory agencies at all levels and in the different regions particularly in the Border region are involved in such contingency planning; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 19271/18 asked on 02 May 2018 - Brexit Staff)

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): As the Deputy will be aware, as Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade with special responsibility for Brexit, Minister Coveney, has responsibility for coordinating the whole-of-Government response to Brexit. In this capacity, he is working closely with his colleagues across Government to address the many challenges resulting from Brexit. 
Within my own Department, a Working Group of senior officials was established to manage the Depar...

135. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Health if additional resources will be provided in order to ensure maximum utilisation of capacity at a hospital (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 19273/18 asked on 02 May 2018 - Hospitals Funding)

Minister for Health (Deputy Simon Harris): As this is a service matter, I have asked the Health Service Executive to respond to you directly, as soon as possible.
 ...

142. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the outcome of recent discussions he had with the European Agriculture and Trade Commissioners on the need to protect the agrifood sector here in negotiations on a possible Mercosur trade deal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 19254/18 asked on 02 May 2018 - Agrifood Sector)

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Michael Creed): My objective in discussions with the Commission and with EU Ministerial counterparts has been to advance the Irish position in relation to Mercosur . 
As a result of ongoing engagement, Ireland’s position, and the vulnerability of its beef sector in particular, is well understood in the EU institutions and by other member states. Indeed Ireland played a central role in building an alliance of member states expressing concern...

150. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the outcome of discussions to date he has had with his British counterpart on legislation in the British Parliament regarding the certification of hauliers’ licences and vehicles and its implications for the haulage industry here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 19256/18 asked on 02 May 2018 - Haulage Industry Regulation)

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Shane Ross): The UK Haulage Permits and Trailer Registration Bill is designed to put in place a system of UK international road transport permits for UK operators that will then provide the option of mutual recognition between EU road transport permits (Community Licences) and UK road transport permits and facilitate continued liberalised access for commercial haulage – such a provision will be vital if the final EU/UK deal requires a permit syst...

151. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his plans to launch the 2018 sports capital programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 19266/18 asked on 02 May 2018 - Sports Capital Programme Administration)

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Shane Ross): The 2017 round of the Sports Capital Programme attracted a record 2,320 applications. In November and December last, Minister Ross and I announced €60m in allocations to a record 1,800 projects under the 2017 round. A review of the 2017 round of the programme has now been finalised and published on my Department’s website (www.dttas.ie). This review highlights aspects of the 2017 round of the SCP that worked well but also suggests...

158. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the funding allocated for the Leader programme in 2017; the expenditure at the end of 2017; the funding allocated for and the expenditure to date in 2018; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 19253/18 asked on 02 May 2018 - Leader Programmes Funding)

Minister for Rural and Community Development (Deputy Michael Ring): Funding for the LEADER Programme in my Department’s Vote provides for expenditure on project payments, administration costs of the Local Action Groups (LAGs) who deliver the programme, costs associated with their engagement with communities to generate projects, and LEADER operational costs incurred directly by my Department.
The original allocation for the LEADER programme in 2017 was €40 million, as reflected in the Vote for t...