278. Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the funding opportunities or grants that are available to tidy towns committees in order to improve their local area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 20765/18 asked on 10 May 2018 - Tidy Towns Committees Funding)

Minister for Rural and Community Development (Deputy Michael Ring): 2018 is a very special year for the SuperValu TidyTowns Competition as it marks the 60th Anniversary of what has been a very successful Government initiative. The work done by the TidyTowns committees down through the years has played an important part in the improvement of the appearance of our villages, towns and cities around the country.
To mark the 60th anniversary of the competition, I allocated funding in excess of €1.3...

27. Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government further to Parliamentary Question No. 636 of 27 March 2018, if the application form for the Rebuilding Ireland home loan scheme will be corrected in order that persons in circumstances (details supplied) can qualify if they satisfy all other criteria; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 19917/18 asked on 08 May 2018 - Home Loan Scheme)

Deputy Jan O’Sullivan: I seek clarity following the written answer I received to a previous parliamentary question on eligibility for the Rebuilding Ireland home loan scheme. It states that the primary earner on the application must have at least two years’ continuous employment, which can be self-employment, and the second applicant must have continuous employment for at least one year. However, the application form states “continuous permanent employment”. I know of people whose application...

42. Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government his definition of affordable housing; the way in which he will ensure that homes built on publicly owned land will be affordable to persons who are excluded by market prices; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 19790/18 asked on 08 May 2018 - Social and Affordable Housing)

Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government (Deputy Eoghan Murphy): I propose to take Questions Nos. 42 and 78 together.
The delivery of more affordable homes, to buy or rent, particularly in areas where people are facing the greatest affordability challenge, is a major priority for Government. While there is no single universally accepted definition of housing affordability, the widely used internationally accepted benchmark is that households, particularly low- to moderate-income hous...

49. Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the specific measures he is taking to speed up the delivery of social homes; if he has analysed the data from the Rebuilding Ireland quarterly reports in relation to the number of units approved that are still in the pre-construction phases of approval; the measures in place to progress these to construction; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 19788/18 asked on 08 May 2018 - Social and Affordable Housing Provision)

Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government (Deputy Eoghan Murphy): Notwithstanding the genuine challenges that arise with construction projects of all types, I and my Department have been consistently focused on ensuring that progress is made to achieve housing delivery as quickly as possible.
My Department has worked with local authorities to review the processes and procedures for the approval of social housing construction projects and has agreed an overall target programme of 59 wee...

56. Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the purpose of a recent circular sent to local authorities in relation to the rights of councillors to comment on planning matters which referred to the Planning and Development Act 2000; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 19791/18 asked on 08 May 2018 - Planning Issues)

Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government (Deputy Eoghan Murphy): The purpose of Circular PL02/2018, which issued to planning authorities on 9 March 2018, was to remind planning authorities and elected members that they are required to consider planning applications in accordance with the open, transparent and verifiable written process, set down in planning legislation. The circular also highlights that planning authorities, when making their decisions, are restricted to considering t...

68. Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the local authorities that returned incorrect data to his Department in relation to homeless figures for January and February 2018; his views on the accuracy of the figures announced on 30 April 2018 in relation to March 2018; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 19789/18 asked on 08 May 2018 - Homeless Persons Data)

Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government (Deputy Eoghan Murphy): I propose to take Questions Nos. 43, 61, 68, 69, 70 and 86 together.
My Department currently publishes data on a monthly basis on the number of homeless persons accommodated in emergency accommodation funded and overseen by housing authorities. These reports are based on data provided by housing authorities, produced through the Pathway Accommodation & Support System (PASS). The reports are collated on a regional basi...

15. Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if her Department can intervene in cases in which a company (details supplied) has closed, suddenly leaving workers unpaid without going into liquidation, meaning that the workers cannot apply to the insolvency payments scheme; the recourse available to these workers in order to receive back payment of wages owed to them; and if she will make a statement on the matter. (Question 16248/18 asked on 03 May 2018 - Company Closures)

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection (Deputy Regina Doherty): I am mindful of the plight of the employees involved and, indeed, I have met with the Unite trade union on the matter. The Department has also engaged with the Revenue Commissioners and this engagement is continuing. More generally under the provisions of the Protection of Employees (Employers’ Insolvency) Act 1984, a company is regarded as being insolvent if: the company is placed into receivership; a winding-up or...

101. Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to address the anomaly whereby lone parents in receipt of back to education allowance are deemed ineligible to receive the SUSI maintenance grant in view of the fact that this is one of many barriers which lone parents face in accessing education; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 19267/18 asked on 02 May 2018 - Student Grant Scheme Eligibility)

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Richard Bruton): The Deputy will be aware of the Programme for Government commitment to commission an independent review to identify the supports and barriers to lone parents in accessing higher education and to examine measures to increase participation. 
The report was published in August 2017 together with details of an additional €16.5m for new initiatives to widen access to higher education. Lone parents were given particular priority in this fundin...

190. Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection when an application by a person (details supplied) for an invalidity pension will be processed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. (Question 19248/18 asked on 02 May 2018 - Invalidity Pension Applications)

Minister of State at the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection (Deputy Finian McGrath): The lady referred to has been awarded invalidity pension with effect from the 08 March 2018. Payment will issue to her nominated post office on the 17 May 2018. Any arrears due from 08 March 2018 to 16 May 2018 (less any overlapping social welfare payment) will issue in due course. The lady in question was notified of this decision on the 30 April 2018. I hope this clarifies the matter fo...

70. Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if a date has been set for a meeting of the high level forum on community employment supervisor pensions; if his attention has been drawn to the anger and frustration of community employment supervisors and assistant supervisors; his views on the fact that their contribution to improving the life chances of scheme participants and to their overall local communities is not being properly recognised at the end of their careers in spite of a Labour Court ruling in their favour; his further views on whether the Government may be undermining the Labour Court by ignoring its recommendation; the steps he will take to resolve the matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 18383/18 asked on 26 Apr 2018 - Community Employment Schemes Supervisors)

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform (Deputy Paschal Donohoe): I propose to take Questions Nos. 70 to 88, inclusive, 90, 91, 96 and 97 together.
I would refer the Deputies to my responses to PQ 54985/17 of 16 January 2018 and PQ 13684/18 of 27 March 2018.
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218. Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection her plans to address the anomaly whereby lone parents in receipt of BTEA are deemed ineligible to receive the SUSI maintenance grant in view of the fact that this serves as just one of many barriers which lone parents face in accessing education; and if she will make a statement on the matter. (Question 18387/18 asked on 26 Apr 2018 - Social Welfare Code)

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection (Deputy Regina Doherty): The Back to Education Allowance Scheme (BTEA), operated by my Department, is designed to support second-chance education. It enables eligible persons to pursue approved education courses and to continue to receive income support for the duration of a course of study, subject to meeting certain conditions. 
The BTEA is not intended to be an alternative form of funding for people entering or re-entering the third-level...

25. Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment his plans to increase the grant for businesses to set up an online sales platform in view of competition from overseas and the actual cost to set up such a platform; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 16175/18 asked on 25 Apr 2018 - Trading Online Voucher Scheme)

Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment (Deputy Denis Naughten): A key element of developing Ireland’s digital presence has been to encourage small businesses to discover the economic potential of the Internet. The Trading Online Voucher Scheme assists small businesses that are not yet trading online, to develop their ecommerce capability, pairing training with financial support of up to €2,500.  This is a demand-led scheme, for which I have secured up to €3 million to suppor...

216. Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the number of taxi SPSV licences registered with the NTA for drivers and owners in County Louth in 2017; the number of S15A forms submitted to and accepted by the regulator in each of the years 2015 to 2017 from SPSV licence holders in County Louth; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 18151/18 asked on 25 Apr 2018 - Taxi Data)

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Shane Ross): The regulation of the small public service vehicle (SPSV) industry, including the licencing of taxis, is a matter for the National Transport Authority (NTA) under the provisions of the Taxi Regulation Act 2013. 
As “Section 15 Assignment” (S15A) forms are submitted directly to the Authority, it is best placed to provide the data, which is being sought by the Deputy. 
Accordingly, I have referred your questions to the NTA for direc...

220. Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if she has had discussions with the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection regarding extending the back to school clothing and footwear allowance to children covered by the ECCE scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. (Question 18107/18 asked on 25 Apr 2018 - Early Childhood Care and Education)

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): I have committed my Department to producing Ireland’s first-ever National Early Years Strategy later this year. The National Early Years Strategy will focus on the period of early childhood, from birth to age five, and will cover various aspects of children’s lives. The strategy will take a joined-up, cross-government approach to the issue of supporting children and their families during the early years and focus on supportin...

30. Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the details of the Brexit loan scheme in view of the fact that Brexit is now a year away; her plans to ensure there is widespread information and take up of the scheme; if it is limited by an overall budget; and if she will make a statement on the matter. (Question 16176/18 asked on 18 Apr 2018 - Brexit Supports)

Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation (Deputy Heather Humphreys): The Brexit Loan Scheme was launched on 28 March 2018. The scheme leverages €23 million exchequer funding (€14 million from my Department and €9 million from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine) using a guarantee structure to provide a €300 million fund for lending to eligible businesses. Participating finance providers are Bank of Ireland and Ulster Bank, with AIB to follow in June.
The scheme is open t...

71. Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his views on the introduction of legislation to narrow the gender pay gap similar to that introduced in the UK whereby large companies are obliged to publish information on the gender pay gap in their company; if he has consulted with other Ministers on the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (Gender Pay Gap Information) Bill 2017; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 16177/18 asked on 17 Apr 2018 - Gender Equality)

Minister of State at the Department of Justice and Equality (Deputy David Stanton): I fully support legislation along the lines described. Action 1.23 of the National Strategy for Women and Girls 2017-2020 is to promote wage transparency by requiring companies of 50 or more employees to complete a wage survey periodically and report the results. This reflects a commitment in the Programme for a Partnership Government. Minister Flanagan and I held a public consultation last Autumn on measures ...

183. Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if Ireland has raised in international fora or as a member of the European Union, the killing of civilians by Israeli troops recently during clashes at the Gaza and Israeli border; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 15709/18 asked on 17 Apr 2018 - Middle East Issues)

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Simon Coveney): I propose to take Questions Nos. 179, 182, 183, 185, 190, 193 and 194 together.
I have been greatly concerned by the events in Gaza over recent weeks, and especially by the appalling number of serious injuries and deaths to people engaged in demonstrations.
Every country is entitled to defend its border, but the use of force, and particularly deadly force, must only be used as a last resort and should be proportionate to...

184. Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade his plans to intervene to highlight the arrest and continued detention of members of the Palestinian Legislative Council by the Israeli Government without a proper trial or conviction; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 15731/18 asked on 17 Apr 2018 - Human Rights Cases)

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Simon Coveney): I propose to take Questions Nos. 178, 181 and 184 together.
The 132 members of Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) were elected in 2006 for a four year mandate. The PLC has not held a regular session since 2007 and its mandate has since expired. I regret that it has not been possible to hold long overdue elections. I note that there are currently twelve members of the PLC currently held in Israeli jails with nine of...

296. Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the OPW’s plans to address coastal erosion in Laytown, Bettystown and Mornington, County Meath; if he will publish details on the impact of erosion of the coastline in east County Meath; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 15726/18 asked on 17 Apr 2018 - Office of Public Works Projects)

Minister of State at the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (Deputy Kevin Boxer Moran): While the Office of Public Works (OPW) does not have responsibility for coastal erosion policy or strategy, the OPW has undertaken a national assessment of coastal erosion (including erosion rates) under the Irish Coastal Protection Strategy Study (ICPSS) and the results of this study have been published on the OPW website. The relevant reports and associated predictive erosion hazard mapping (to 205...

455. Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if a request has been made by the LMETB for resources to develop playing pitches at a school (details supplied); when this work will commence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 16391/18 asked on 17 Apr 2018 - Physical Education Facilities)

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Richard Bruton): My Department has received an application from LMETB for funding to develop playing pitches at the school referred to by the Deputy.
The Deputy will be aware that my Department has already provided significant P.E. facilities at the education campus in question for the benefit of the primary and post-primary schools on the campus. This includes two general purpose rooms, three external ball courts and two Junior Play areas for the primar...

456. Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of the planned new school development at a school (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 16392/18 asked on 17 Apr 2018 - Schools Building Projects Status)

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Richard Bruton): The major building project for the school referred to by the deputy is at an advanced stage of architectural planning Stage 2b (Detailed Design), which includes the application for statutory approvals and the preparation of tender documents. All statutory approvals have been secured.
My Department gave approval to the school authorities to have their Design Team commence the process of Pre-Qualification of Contractors, my Department has...

457. Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of the planned new school development at a school (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 16393/18 asked on 17 Apr 2018 - Schools Building Projects Status)

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Richard Bruton): The project to which the Deputy refers has been devolved for delivery to the National Development Finance Agency.  The project is currently at stage 2 B of the architectural planning process.  Planning permission has been sought.  A request for further information by the local authority on the planning application was responded to recently and a decision on the planning permission application is now awaited.
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620. Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the number of IDA-sponsored site visits to County Louth in each of the years 2014 to 2017 and to date in 2018; and if she will make a statement on the matter. (Question 16394/18 asked on 17 Apr 2018 - IDA Ireland Site Visits)

Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation (Deputy Heather Humphreys): IDA Ireland is committed to increasing foreign direct investment (FDI) in every region of the country by 30%-40% by the end of its current strategy in 2019. Site visits do represent an important tool through which investors can be encouraged to invest in areas such as Louth and the IDA always does its utmost to ensure that overseas firms consider all potential locations when visiting Ireland. It is important to remember...

643. Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Health his plans to find interim solutions to the overcrowding in the emergency department at University Hospital, Limerick; if modular units are under consideration; the timeframe for such units; the other measures being developed to provide access to diagnostics and other services in the community that would avoid the necessity to go to the emergency department; his further plans to expand the services in ancillary hospitals in Ennis, Nenagh and St. John’s Hospital Limerick; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 14961/18 asked on 17 Apr 2018 - Hospital Overcrowding)

Minister for Health (Deputy Simon Harris): I propose to take Questions Nos. 643 and 884 together.
Against a background of growing demand for unscheduled care and high acute hospital occupancy rates, Government provided €30m in 2017 and a further €40m in 2018 for measures to increase acute hospital capacity and alleviate overcrowding in Emergency Departments.  Consequently, over 200 additional beds have been opened this winter across a range of sites, including 17 beds in University Hospital Lime...

915. Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Health the reason for excluding persons over 21 years of age with type 1 diabetes from accessing the FreeStyle Libre glucose monitor; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 16089/18 asked on 17 Apr 2018 - Long-Term Illness Scheme Eligibility)

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.
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