Header Item Written Answers Nos 66-82
 Header Item Appointments to State Boards
 Header Item Food Wise 2025 Strategy
 Header Item Fishing Industry
 Header Item Beef Genomics Scheme
 Header Item Trade Agreements
 Header Item Milk Quota
 Header Item Fishing Industry Development
 Header Item Animal Welfare
 Header Item Agriculture Scheme Payments
 Header Item GLAS Eligibility
 Header Item Pesticide Use
 Header Item Cross-Border Co-operation
 Header Item Census of Population Data
 Header Item Taoiseach's Communications
 Header Item UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
 Header Item UK Referendum on EU Membership

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 912 No. 1

First Page Previous Page Page of 94 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos 66-82

Appointments to State Boards

 66. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed if the appointment of a person (details supplied) as executive director of Coillte Teoranta heralds a further commercialisation of the company; if this is appropriate for the company; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14504/16]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Michael Creed): Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed Coillte Teoranta was established as a private company under the Forestry Act, 1988 and day-to-day operational matters, such as the recruitment of staff, are the responsibility of the company. The recruitment process, including engagement of a recruitment agency, preparation of the job specification and the ultimate selection of the successful candidate for the position, was accordingly a matter for the company and the Board.

  However, in making their selection, the Board is likely to have had regard to the terms of recent Government Decisions in relation to Coillte and their implementation. These Decisions required inter alia that Coillte undertake a restructuring of the company and to work with Bord na Móna towards a partial merger of their businesses, focusing on the areas of overlap between the two companies by way of a joint venture between the two companies to manage their common business activities in biomass, wind energy, shared services, and recreation and tourism.

  With reference to the appointment by Coillte of Mr. Fergal Leamy as its Chief Executive with effect from 13 April, 2015, I note that Coillte considered that the breadth of Mr. Leamy’s experience in relevant sectors would be a significant asset to the future development of Coillte and that they regarded that his record of transforming and growing businesses and managing a diverse portfolio of assets as exceptional.

  It should be noted that one of the principal objects of Coillte, as stated in the Forestry Act 1988, is to carry on the business of forestry and related activities on a commercial basis and in accordance with efficient silvicultural practices. However, in addition to its commercial activities, Coillte also provides a range of recreational opportunities for the general public continuing the long tradition of open access to the State owned forests and land.

  Coillte is cognisant of its role in relation to the provision of public goods. I note, for example, that the Chairman of Coillte, in his Statement in the Coillte Annual Report 2015, referring to the company’s financial performance in 2015, advised that a strong financial foundation is vital for the company to achieve their ambitious growth plans for the business as well as continuing to deliver social dividends - notably nature conservation, recreation and carbon sequestration - that have local and global impacts.   

  I do not consider that the growth of the company in order to achieve an increased commercial return to the shareholders and State and the continued provision of public goods such as recreational access to be mutually exclusive. I was therefore pleased to note the statement in the recent Annual Report that Coillte will continue to deliver world class environmental and social benefits to the people who enjoy their forests today and for generations to come.

Food Wise 2025 Strategy

 67. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed if he will engage with the agrifood sector to stabilise income from agricultural produce, particularly to ensure a sustainable income and a constant supply to the consumer; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14487/16]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Michael Creed): Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed Food Wise 2025, the new ten year strategy for the agrifood sector published in July last year identifies the opportunities and challenges facing the sector and provides an enabling strategy that will allow the sector to grow and prosper. Food Wise includes more than 400 specific recommendations, spread across the cross-cutting themes of sustainability, innovation, human capital, market development and competitiveness; as well as specific sectoral recommendations.

  If these recommendations are implemented, the expert committee which drew up the Food Wise 2025 Strategy believes that the following growth projections are achievable by 2025: increasing the value of agrifood exports by 85% to €19 billion; increasing value added in the sector by 70% to in excess of €13 billion; and increasing the value of primary production by 65% to almost €10 billion. With regard to employment, Food Wise foresees the creation of 23,000 additional jobs in the agrifood sector all along the supply chain from primary production to high value added product development. Realising these growth projections will be challenging, but I am confident that they can be achieved.

  The Government is strongly committed to the implementation of the Food Wise strategy. I will chair the fifth meeting of the High Level Implementation Committee, including senior officials from relevant Departments and State agencies, next week.

As a small open economy which exports the vast bulk of its main agricultural commodities, Ireland will always feel the effects of volatility on world markets. However, there are measures in place to help Irish farmers through these periods. I believe that moving up the value chain where possible, in terms of the type of products sold and how they are produced, is an important insulation against volatility. The Food Wise strategy for the sector contains detailed recommendations aimed at improving value added and productivity at farm and food industry level through a focus on sustainability, efficiency, knowledge transfer and innovation.   

  Direct payments estimated by Teagasc at an average of over €17,000 per farm in 2015, provide a valuable source of farm income support and act as a hedge against price volatility.

  With regard to farm borrowings, like my predecessor, I will have regular meetings with the CEOs of the main banks, who are all aware of price volatility issues, and are planning accordingly in terms of managing their farm loan books. My Department has also engaged actively with other financial institutions with regard to the development of innovative new lending products for the sector; and is preparing to procure an ex-ante evaluation for the introduction of Financial Instruments under the Rural Development Programme.

  My Department will continue to engage with the Department of Finance on key agritaxation policy objectives, including responses to income and price volatility.

  While there are no specific risk management tools included in the Rural Development Programme, risk management is one of the topics covered by Knowledge Transfer Groups . Animal disease risks are covered by the Targeted Animal Health and Welfare Advisory measure.   

  Fixed price contracts are increasingly becoming a feature of the producer/processor relationship in the dairy sector, with numerous milk purchasers offering such contracts, which provide producers with the opportunity to lock in prices over the medium term, taking costs of production into account. Such relationships are a welcome development in terms of their potential to mitigate volatility.

Fishing Industry

 68. Deputy Bríd Smith Information on Bríd Smith Zoom on Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed if he has seen the new documentary, Atlantic, and his views on the conclusions it draws for the fishing industry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14496/16]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Michael Creed): Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed I have not yet had the opportunity to see the film referred to by the Deputy and therefore cannot comment one way or another on its conclusions. My understanding is that this is a documentary about the use of different natural resources, including fish stocks, in three different Atlantic Communities in Ireland, Norway and Canada.

With regard to fish stocks and their use as a natural resource I would make the point that in Ireland, fish quotas are a public resource and are managed directly by the Minister following regular detailed consultation with industry representatives.

There has been pressure over the years to try and force a privatisation of fish quotas through the imposition of what is known as an Individual Transferable Quota or ITQ system. Ireland has successfully resisted this and I am determined that our fish resources will continue to be managed for the overall public good.

I would also like to reference the wider world in which we operate, namely the new Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). This policy provides a framework for the long term sustainability of fish stocks around our shores and the continued economic viability of our fishing fleet and fish processing industry while supporting our families and communities that depend on the sea for their livelihood.

Among the key elements of the new CFP is the setting of fishing levels on the basis of MSY (Maximum Sustainable Yield). This should lead over time to healthy fish stocks, higher quotas for both Irish and EU fishermen and result in more sustainable fishing patterns. The CFP specifically calls for the progressive restoration and maintenance of populations of fish stocks above biomass levels capable of producing MSY. I am committed to the ambitious objective of achieving MSY by 2020 at the latest. In line with the CFP, I consider that for some stocks we will need to phase in delivering MSY if its immediate application seriously jeopardises the social and economic sustainability of the fishing fleet.

My overarching goal as Minister responsible for our fishing industry is to ensure a sustainable, profitable and self reliant industry that protects and enhances the social and economic fabric of rural coastal communities dependent on the seafood sector. These objectives must however be balanced with the need to safeguard fish stocks for future generations. This will ensure that families dependent on fishing can look forward to being part of a vibrant, productive and resilient Irish fishing industry and can expect to continue to achieve a reasonable return for their efforts and investment.

Beef Genomics Scheme

 69. Deputy Pat Casey Information on Pat Casey Zoom on Pat Casey asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed if he is satisfied with the participation rate of farmers and the programme spend to date under the beef genomics scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14473/16]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Michael Creed): Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed Firstly it is important to say that I am satisfied with the Beef Data and Genomics Programme (BDGP) participation rates. The BDGP was launched on 5 May 2015 and forms a part of Ireland’s Rural Development Programme that runs from 2014 to 2020. The programme has funding of €300 million euro over its lifespan and builds on previous investment in suckler farming through schemes such as the nationally funded Beef Data Programme and the Beef Genomics Scheme. It should be remembered that suckler farming is the only sector in the RDP with its own targeted RDP scheme.

The principal objective of this scheme is to encourage the introduction of higher genetic merit animals into the National beef herd. This will reduce the greenhouse gas intensity of beef production in Ireland by improving production efficiency on suckler farms. My Department received 29,780 applications, having extended the closing date by an additional week to 5 June 2015.

Approval letters were issued to scheme participants last August. At the same time a detailed ICBF report on all applicants’ herd profiles was sent. Approximately 4,562 herds have withdrawn from the scheme, though some of these have subsequently asked to re-enter. Withdrawals from a scheme such as this are, of course, not unusual, particularly when one considers the simple application procedure and the high volume of applicants.

The EU Regulations governing the administration of this programme require that full and comprehensive administrative checks, including in some cases on farm inspections, be completed before any payments issue . In order to be eligible for a payment in respect of the 2015 scheme year, applicants must have submitted at least 60% of the required survey data and completed 9 0% of the required genomic sampling and must also have passed the required administration checks and any on farm inspections . Payments commenced on target in December and currently over 21,500 farmers have been paid a total of €39.2 million. Payments are continuing on an ongoing basis as compliance with the 2015 programme requirements is verified. Officials in my Department are actively engaging with the remaining farmers who have not yet completed the required level of 2015 requirements in order to maximise the programme participation rates.

In order to be eligible for payment in 2016 participants must complete the required data notifications, carry out the required genotyping and also participate in the general BDGP Training and complete a carbon navigator with a trained advisor. The 2016 budget for the programme is €52 million. This will provide both for payment of the outstanding 2015 cases and also for payment to those farmers that verify compliance with the 2016 scheme requirements later this year.

Trade Agreements

 70. Deputy Eamon Ryan Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed his meetings with the Irish food industry regarding the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and the EU Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement. [14245/16]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Michael Creed): Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed My Department engages in ongoing consultation with all stakeholders and in a range of formats on issues facing the agrifood sector. This applies also to the development and representation of Ireland’s negotiating position in relation to free trade agreements between the EU and other trading blocs, including the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement with Canada. The Department has discussed these agreements with the farming organisations and with other representatives of the agrifood industry, including those engaged in dairy and beef processing in particular. It will continue to consult with these stakeholders as the negotiations on TTIP evolve over the coming months.

Milk Quota

 71. Deputy Charlie McConalogue Information on Charlie McConalogue Zoom on Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed if he considered postponing remaining milk super levy payments by up to two years, given the severe market crisis in the dairy industry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14475/16]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Michael Creed): Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed The rules governing the EU milk quota regime, including the super levy system for production above quota, were set at EU level and it is not within the gift of individual Member States to amend the rules.

However at the request of Ireland and some other member states the EU Commission introduced a provision last year permitting payment of the levy in three annual instalments, without interest, on the understanding that the full amount of the levy was paid to the Commission by the Member State in 2015. The Scheme required applicants to pay at least one third of their levy by October 2015 with the balance to be paid in 2016 and 2017. Ireland was one of the few Member States to implement this scheme and make it available to its farmers. The scheme design was agreed in advance with the co-ops and farm organisations here.

As part of the discussions in the run-up to the March Council of Agriculture Ministers, Ireland proposed a further deferral of the payment to 2017 and 2018, to ease the financial burden on liable farmers in 2016. I also raised the matter with Commissioner Phil Hogan, in our recent bilateral meeting, as well as at the recent Council of Ministers meeting and encouraged him to reflect again on whether a legal basis could be found to facilitate a further deferral in super levy repayments for farmers. However the European Commission advised that the legal basis for the Regulations under-pinning the scheme are no longer in existence and therefore further amendments were not possible. While Ireland has again raised the matter with the Commission, we understand that the view of its legal services remains that there is no legal basis for any adjustment to the timelines provided for in the relevant regulations.

I would like to reassure the Deputy that I am fully aware of the pressures on dairy farmers right now and I am committed to working with all players in the sector to address these issues and ensure that we have a sustainable dairy sector going forward. As one of the proposers of the Dairy Forum my goal is to ensure that it continues to work constructively as a vehicle for addressing issues of concern to farmers and others in the sector. The Forum has come forward with some good initiatives for farmers already, including an initiative on improving cash flow planning at farm level, which will be rolled out shortly. My plan is to convene the forum to examine current market issues with all relevant stakeholders in the coming weeks.

Fishing Industry Development

 72. Deputy Thomas Pringle Information on Thomas Pringle Zoom on Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed his plans to develop lobster hatcheries to help enhance the lobster population; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14490/16]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Michael Creed): Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed Lobster fishing is an important economic activity in coastal fishing communities all around Ireland. Stock advice is available online in the Shellfish Stocks and Fisheries Review, prepared by the Marine Institute (MI) and an Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM). According to the 2012 Review, some 1,700 boats, approximately three quarters of the Irish fleet, participated in the fishery between April and October 2012 on all Irish coasts. The most recent stock advice from the Shellfish Stocks and Fisheries Review 2012 noted that the egg production level for the stock is estimated to be below generally accepted limit reference points. A number of conservation measures apply to lobster at present, including:

- The Lobster (Conservation of Stocks) Regulations 2014 (S.I. 591 of 2014) provide legal protection for lobsters v-notched under an incentivised National Lobster V-Notching Programme which provides financial support for fishermen engaged in conservation practice of v-notching live lobsters and returning them to sea to contribute to the reproductive capacity of the stock;

- A national maximum landing size for lobster of 127mm, which took effect from 1 January 2015 in the aforementioned national regulations ;

- An increase in grant aid to fishermen for the voluntary v-notching of lobsters from the existing rate of 55% to a new maximum of 75 % of the market price;

- Transitional arrangements that provide fishermen with grant aid of up to 80 % of the market price for v-notching oversize lobsters and returning them alive to sea during the first two years of the maximum landing size measure;

- EU regulations prohibiting the landing of lobsters of less than 87mm in carapace length.

Article 11 of Regulation (EU) No 508/2014 sets out ineligible operations under the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) including “direct restocking, unless explicitly provided for as a conservation measure by a Union legal act or in the case of experimental restocking”

The focus of the national management measures has been to improve the management of the fishing activity affecting the stock with the aim of achieving sustainability and taking account of scientific advice; improved management in an extensive fishery such as lobster can have a more significant economic effect compared to other measures. Preliminary feedback from the changes to the v-notching scheme in particular has been positive and I anticipate that future reviews of this fishery will recommend further options that can be explored in partnership with appropriate stakeholders.

The National Inshore Fisheries Forum (NIFF) was established specifically to give inshore fishermen a voice in policy making and decisions on inshore fisheries management and to work with the Department and the marine agencies in developing robust, scientifically sound measures to support sustainable fisheries into the future. I look forward to working with the NIFF on proposals for lobster and other sea-fishing activities that the inshore sector identifies as priorities for both policy development and, where eligible, for appropriate funding under the EMFF Operational Programme.

Animal Welfare

 73. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan Information on Maureen O'Sullivan Zoom on Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed further to Parliamentary Question No. 160 of 22 March 2016, his views on seized horses and that one horse died while in his custody while legal proceedings continued; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14519/16]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Michael Creed): Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed A total of 29 horses were seized from the Wetlands/Robertshill area of Kilkenny city on 17 February 2016 as part of an An Garda Síochána led multi-agency operation (Operation Thor). Following inspection, it was established that 27 of the horses were not identified in accordance with equine identification legislation and the lands on which the horses were kept were not registered as equine premises as required by national legislation. The equines referred to were seized pursuant to the European Communities (Identification of Equidae) Regulations 2016 (S.I. 62 of 2016), which provides that equines may be seized where an authorised officer had reasonable grounds for believing that an offence was being committed under this legislation. The horses were transported from Kilkenny city to a secure Pound in accordance with national transport legislation designed to ensure the safe transport of horses.

  Following the presentation of proof of ownership and evidence of equine premises registration, the Department agreed to return the two identified horses to their owners. On 17 April one of the 2 identified equines gave birth to a foal which subsequently died. On 18 April the mare was euthanised by a veterinary practitioner on welfare grounds due to her deteriorating health.  I am satisfied that no action taken by the Department contributed to these events. Arrangements for the return of the mare to the owner had been in train for some time previously but this was delayed pending the identification of a suitable registered equine premises. The second identified horse was returned on 25 May to an equine premises registered holding which had recently been nominated by its owner. The 27 horses that were not identified in accordance with equine identification legislation remain in the care of the state and are subject to ongoing court proceedings.   

  As the Deputy is aware, the horse meat issues which were uncovered in 2013 highlighted the importance of the proper identification of equine animals to the protection of the integrity of the food chain. In this regard, it is essential that equine animals are identified in accordance with legislation in order to ensure that only those animals that are eligible to be slaughtered for human consumption are included in the food chain. In terms of protecting equine health and welfare and the integrity of the food chain information, it is important that all equine owners comply fully with equine identification and equine premises legislation.

Agriculture Scheme Payments

 74. Deputy Pat Casey Information on Pat Casey Zoom on Pat Casey asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed if he will make an allocation for 2016 and 2017 for young farmers under the national reserve fund; when he will announce its conditions for 2016; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14485/16]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Michael Creed): Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed In 2015 the National Reserve fund was based on a 3% cut to the Basic Payment Scheme financial ceiling and provided some €24 million in funding which was the maximum financing rate available under the relevant EU Regulations. When finalised shortly there will be some 6,000 successful applicants under the 2015 National Reserve. As all of the National Reserve funding has been utilised, there is no funding available to cover the operation of a 2016 National Reserve.

For 2016 the only source of funding available to the National Reserve will be from ‘clawback’ on the sale of entitlements without land and indications are that the level of funds that will arise from ‘clawback’ during the 2016 scheme year will be minimal. The Regulations also provide that Member States may apply a linear cut to the value of all farmers’ entitlements in order to provide funding for the National Reserve.

The operation of a National Reserve for 2016 would require the re-opening of the 2016 Basic Payment Scheme for applications as, under EU Regulation, applicants to the National Reserve must also submit a valid Basic Payment Scheme application for the year in which they submit the National Reserve application. As the closing date for Basic Payment Scheme applications has now passed, farmers have finalised arrangements regarding the declaration of land for the 2016 scheme year which would have implications for potential National Reserve applicants. The reopening of Basic Payment Scheme applications at this stage would likely delay the processing of such applications for 2016, with the consequent potential for delay in payments. Furthermore at this stage many young farmers may have entered arrangements to lease in entitlements in 2016 in order to avail of the Greening payment and Young Farmers’ Scheme payment.

From 2017 onwards the National Reserve will be replenished from unused entitlements, as EU Regulations governing the scheme provide that entitlements that are unused for 2 consecutive years are surrendered to the National Reserve. While I am very supportive of the provision of a National Reserve, decisions in relation to the Reserve for 2017 will be considered once the position on potential funding arising from unused entitlements and ‘clawback’ has been established.

GLAS Eligibility

 75. Deputy Thomas Pringle Information on Thomas Pringle Zoom on Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed if he will amend the green low-carbon agri-environment scheme to allow farmers with privately owned hills to be designated under tier 1 and tier 2; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14489/16]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Michael Creed): Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed GLAS is an agri-environment measure under the Rural Development Programme (RDP) 2014-2020 approved by the European Commission and aims to deliver overarching benefits in terms of the rural environment and address European Union issues of climate change mitigation, water quality and the preservation of habitats and species. GLAS is a voluntary scheme under which farmers are compensated for the income forgone and the cost incurred in complying. The scheme is designed to specifically target environmental priorities.

  Access to the scheme is therefore by means of three Tiers, which will allow the most pressing environmental priorities to be addressed in order of importance, but also provides for a broad approach to delivering environmental benefits across all farming systems. My Department has generated a profile of each farm in the country identifying the environmental attributes at farm level.   

  This structure is designed to ensure the targeted and prioritised delivery of environmental benefits drawing from the extensive preparatory analysis underlying the RDP.

  There is an internal hierarchy within GLAS of ‘Assets over Actions’. For example, in the case of Tier 1, expenditure will be targeted at the Priority Environmental Assets (PEAs) first before accepting intake from farmers adopting the Priority Environmental Actions. 

  In Tier 1, all farmers with PEAs get first priority access to the Scheme in year one and subsequent years. If any of the following PEAs are applicable to the holding, they must be chosen and the relevant actions planned :   

 - Farmland Habitat (private Natura sites)

- Farmland Birds (Twite, Breeding Waders, Chough, Geese/swans, Corncrake, Grey Partridge, Hen Harrier)   

- Commonages   

- High Status Water Area   

- Rare Breeds

  In the absence of any of the listed Priority Environmental Assets, a farmer (whether beef, sheep or dairy) with a whole farm stocking-rate exceeding 140kg Livestock Manure Nitrogen per hectare produced on the holding, or any farmer with more than 30 hectare of arable crops, will be considered under Tier 1 if at least one   of the following four mandatory actions is adopted:

Mandatory actions for farms with >140 kg Livestock Manure Nitrogen per hectare    

- Low Emission Slurry Spreading Or   

- Wild Bird Cover (grassland farms only)   

Mandatory actions for farms with >30 ha or arable crops   

- Catch Crops Or   

- Minimum Tillage   

  Registered Organic farmers will qualify for priority access to the scheme under Tier 1, by selecting actions appropriate to the farm.

  Under Tier 2 farmers, who do not have Priority Environmental Assets but whose lands include a Vulnerable Water Area, may apply for access to the scheme. In such cases, the appropriate actions relevant to Vulnerable Water Areas must be selected. In the absence of a Vulnerable Water Area, an applicant may still qualify for Tier 2 access provided that one of the following actions are chosen and planned for:   

- Low Emission Slurry Spreading

- Minimum Tillage   

- Catch Crops   

- Wild Bird Cover (grassland farms only).

  Tier 3 provides a mechanism by which farmers can apply to join the scheme by committing to a series of general environmental actions but, as indicated by my predecessor when Tranche 2 of the scheme was launched, applications under this Tier were over-subscribed and farmers had been urged to present the highest standard environmental plans under GLAS 2, and to adopt actions that would promote them from Tier 3 to a higher tier, thereby significantly increasing the chance of selection. Over 80% of applicants in this second tranche of GLAS opted to do so, and with the funding available were approved.

  The overall target for GLAS is to attract 50,000 farmers into the scheme. I am pleased to confirm that some 38,000 farmers have been approved into the first two Tranches of GLAS, 26,500 in GLAS 1 and 11,500 in GLAS 2, while ensuring adequate provisions are available for Tranche 3 of the scheme.

  The criteria for selection will be applied to all applications across all farming systems and it is not my intention to seek an amendment of the RDP to prioritise farmers with privately owned hills where no priority environmental asset has been identified.

Pesticide Use

 76. Deputy Eamon Ryan Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed his position on the EU ban on neonicotinoid pesticides and the State's monitoring of the reduction in bee numbers; the bee population in the years 2006 to 2016 to date. [14246/16]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Michael Creed): Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed My Department recognises the vital importance of protecting our natural environment, including insect biodiversity, while supporting sustainable agricultural production. Irish agriculture is characterised by low levels of insecticide use. In 2013 a partial ban on neonicotinoid insecticides was introduced in the EU due to concerns about possible impacts on pollinators. My Department has fully implemented the Commission decision in relation to these compounds.

Intensive research is ongoing worldwide to quantify impacts of field-level exposure to neonicotinoids and to determine and understand impacts on honeybees, bumblebees and solitary bee species. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) is currently undertaking a new assessment of the risks posed by neonicotinoids to take account of all relevant information that has become available since 2013. This assessment is expected to be completed by the end of January 2017 and will provide the scientific basis for a further Commission proposal expected next year.

My Department will continue to evaluate pesticides based on robust scientific evidence, ensuring the availability of products to support sustainable agricultural production and recognising the need to find a sustainable balance between the protection of pollinators and agricultural production.

With regard to monitoring bee populations, it should be noted there are 98 different species of bees present in Ireland. These comprise of one managed species, the honeybee, and 97 wild species which include 20 species of bumblebees. The best indicator of changes in the wild bee population is Ireland’s Bumble Bee Monitoring Scheme. Indeed Ireland was the first country in the world to develop a national bumble bee monitoring scheme and a number of other countries have since followed our lead. Since Ireland’s Bumble Bee Monitoring Scheme commenced in 2012 the research has identified that there has been no significant decline in bumble bee numbers.

Ireland’s National Apiculture Programme is a research programme co-funded by my Department and the European Commission. In recent years it has been lead by researchers based in University of Limerick working in conjunction with Teagasc and NUI Maynooth. As part of the National Apiculture Programme the State has been monitoring over-winter honeybee colony losses each year since the winter of 2008-2009. Over this period annual Irish overwinter losses have ranged from 13% in some years to as high as 37% in 2012/2013. The Irish weather has a strong influence on colony strength. The exceptionally wet summer in 2012 followed by the prolonged cold weather in early 2013 which resulted in a very late Spring proved a detrimental combination for Irish bees. Indeed the impact of the weather that year is supported by the fact that for the preceding and the following year’s beekeepers only experienced 13% over-winter losses.

Cross-Border Co-operation

 77. Deputy Peadar Tóibín Information on Peadar Tóibín Zoom on Peadar Tóibín asked the Taoiseach Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny the State bodies under his remit which have developed memoranda of understanding with his counterpart in Northern Ireland with regard to the efficient delivery of services on the island of Ireland; if he has carried out a cost-benefit analysis of the development of further memoranda of understanding; the details of the cost-benefit analysis; and the new memoranda of understanding he will be creating between State bodies under their remits through the lifetime of this Government. [14289/16]

 79. Deputy Peadar Tóibín Information on Peadar Tóibín Zoom on Peadar Tóibín asked the Taoiseach Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny if he is satisfied with the level of data that is collected on the issues which come under his remit; the steps he will take to work with the administration in Northern Ireland to collect data under his aegis on a North-South basis; and the budgets he will put in place to undertake this work (details supplied). [14448/16]

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny I propose to take Questions Nos. 77 and 79 together.

  The Central Statistics Office and the National Economic and Social Development Office (NESDO) are State Bodies under the remit of my Department. The NESDO is the body corporate for the National Economic and Social Council (NESC).

  The CSO and the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA) work closely together on topics of common interest. While there are no specific MOUs between them, there are areas of close co-operation, which includes regular meetings and exchange of best practice on current methods for collection and processing of Census of Population and Business and Tourism statistics.   

  They produce a number of joint publications, for example, "Census 2011: Ireland and Northern Ireland", "Visitors to Ireland and Northern Ireland 2014: A statistical profile of tourism", and the thematic report "Ireland North and South - A Statistical Profile".

  The All-Island Tourism Statistics Liaison Group, which meets twice per year, is jointly chaired by CSO and NISRA and includes membership from the relevant agencies North and South.

  As co-chair of the North South Ministerial Council, I ensure that the focus of Ministers is on the priorities for additional North South co-operation which they have identified in their respective areas of responsibility, particularly as regards assisting economic recovery, job creation, the best use of public funds and the most effective delivery of services for citizens across the island.  As indicated in the recent Programme for a Partnership Government, I look forward to the further development of mutual North South benefit, particularly through the ongoing work of the NSMC.

  The National Economic and Social Council (NESC)has no specific MOUs in place with counterparts in Northern Ireland.

Census of Population Data

 78. Deputy Catherine Murphy Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy asked the Taoiseach Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny if an amendment is being considered to the next census due in 2021 in respect of adopted persons (details supplied); if consideration has been given to this omission in the past and if so, the reason the change was not made; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14339/16]

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny The CSO strives to ensure that the information collected and provided from the census remains current, relevant, of maximum use to the public and that it reflects the needs of users to the greatest extent possible. It has been common practice in advance of the census to conduct a public consultation on possible new questions and changes to existing questions, which are then considered by a specially convened Census Advisory Group in advance of testing in the field in the form of a pilot survey.

CSO did not receive submissions suggesting capture of information on adopted people during the public consultation phases prior to either Census 2006 or 2011. Due to budgetary constraints across the public sector and the consequent requirement to run a no change census, no equivalent public consultation process or pilot testing was carried out in advance of Census 2016 to facilitate changes to the questions.

However, the office anticipates that in advance of Census 2021 a full public consultation on the questions to be asked will be conducted. This consultation will be publicly advertised and will provide an opportunity for all users of the data to suggest amendment, removal or addition of questions to the next census.

  Question No. 79 answered with Question No. 77.

Taoiseach's Communications

 80. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Taoiseach Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny the number of representations he has received from Members of the Oireachtas and the number of these to which he had not issued a substantive reply by 31 May 2016, by month of initial receipt, from 1 January 2015 to 30 April 2016; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15044/16]

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny As in the case of my predecessors, I have no official responsibility to the Dáil in respect of the correspondence I receive. I receive a great deal of correspondence from individuals, organisations and Members of the Oireachtas on a wide variety of topics beyond my Department's area of responsibility and receipt of correspondence does not of itself render me answerable to the House on such topics.

My Department has procedures in place to ensure that all correspondence received, including representations made by Members of the Oireachtas, is dealt with appropriately.

UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

 81. Deputy Thomas Pringle Information on Thomas Pringle Zoom on Thomas Pringle asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald the progress in ratifying the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities; when it will be ratified; if it will be ratified by the deadline for 2016; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14264/16]

Minister of State at the Department of Justice and Equality (Deputy Finian McGrath): Information on Finian McGrath Zoom on Finian McGrath On 21 October 2015, the Government published a roadmap to Ireland’s ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which outlines the considerable legislative changes to be undertaken to enable Ireland to ratify the Convention, along with the estimated deadline of end-2016 for ratification. The Roadmap to Ratification, which is available on my Department’s website, sets out the substantial legislative agenda required for ratification. We are on track to ratify the Convention within 6 months.

Considerable progress has already been made to overcome barriers to Ireland’s ratification. The Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Act 2015 was signed into law on 30 December 2015, and is a comprehensive reform of the law on decision-making capacity. The Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Bill 2015 was passed by the Seanad on 26 January this year. When enacted, the Bill will reform Section 5 of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 1993 to facilitate the full participation in family life of persons with intellectual disabilities and the full expression of their human rights. Achieving the necessary balance between those rights and ensuring appropriate protection is crucial.   

  Work is also under way on drawing up an Equality/Disability (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill to progress miscellaneous legislative amendments necessary to proceed to ratification. It is intended that the Bill will address issues such as the Convention's requirements in relation to reasonable accommodation and deprivation of liberty, as well as removing archaic references in existing legislation relating to mental health. I intend to publish the General Scheme of the Equality/Disability (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill shortly.

UK Referendum on EU Membership

 82. Deputy Micheál Martin Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald his views on the implications for border security in the event of Britain and Northern Ireland voting to exit the European Union; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14460/16]

Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald Quite clearly, and as the Deputy will no doubt agree, an outcome of this nature would be seriously inimical to Ireland's interests.

At this stage, it is not clear what the implications of a withdrawal would be for the Common Travel Area and for the land border between Ireland and Northern Ireland. In such a scenario the land border will become an external border of the European Union, and the European Union or the United Kingdom could decide that they wished to restore border controls. Withdrawal from the EU also raises issues in respect of a whole range of police and judicial cooperation EU instruments including the European Arrest Warrant which are vital to cross border security.

In the event of a vote to leave the Union there will be a period of negotiations to agree the terms of the withdrawal. It is impossible to predict the outcome of these negotiations should they arise. However it is clear that any changes could potentially have a most serious impact on cross border police cooperation and for the citizens of both countries who have enjoyed free movement since the foundation of the Irish State. It would be our intention to try and maintain the existing arrangements regarding the Common Travel Area and police and judicial cooperation but this will be dependent on the positions adopted by the UK and the other 26 EU member states.

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