72. Deputy Cathal Berry asked the Minister for Transport the position regarding securing additional capacity on direct sea routes from Ireland to continental Europe; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34354/20]
Minister for Transport
As has been signalled since the publication of the report ‘The Implications of Brexit on the Use of the landbridge’ by the Irish Maritime Development Office (IMDO) in 2018, there is likely to be disruption to the UK landbridge to the EU when customs and border controls between the EU and the UK are introduced, which is now due to happen from January 2021. Since the publication of that 2018 report, my Department, in conjunction with the IMDO, has been keeping the issue of direct shipping routes to Continental Europe under close review, including in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Since early 2019 my Department together with the IMDO has consulted closely with shipping companies and other maritime stakeholders regarding the issue of direct maritime connectivity to Continental Europe. Shipping companies have assured my Department and the IMDO that they will respond to any increases in demand for direct maritime connectivity when border controls between the EU and the UK are introduced, and shipping companies have been adding capacity on routes to the Continent even during the COVID-19 pandemic in mid-2020.
The IMDO have very recently completed a review of the conclusions and recommendations in the 2018 Landbridge Study and, in particular, the issue of direct maritime connectivity to Continental Europe at the end of the transition period. The IMDO review confirmed that, at present, there is adequate capacity on existing services in the RoRo network between Ireland and mainland Europe to cater, if required, for the landbridge traffic currently estimated at around 150,000 trucks per annum. The IMDO review will be published shortly. In addition, my Department in conjunction with the IMDO has recently completed a further round of consultation with shipping companies serving Ireland regarding the issue of direct maritime connectivity at the end of the transition period.
Given the spare shipping capacity already available on routes from Ireland, including the additional capacity which commenced during the COVID-19 pandemic, I am confident that the shipping industry will respond quickly to any increase in demand for direct maritime connectivity to Continental Europe from January 2021 onwards. As a result, there is no need for State intervention to secure additional capacity. Any State intervention to provide direct shipping services in that context would be likely to undermine and disrupt a market response resulting in an insufficient, inadequate and costly intervention being put in place, legal challenges, and breaches of state aid rules with the requirement for repayment of any state aids provided with interest, with resulting adverse impacts on the viability of any shipping companies receiving such aid.
My Department, together with the IMDO, Department of Foreign Affairs and other Departments and Agencies has recently launched a renewed communications campaign, ACT, which encourages importers and exporters to focus on the direct route option now. The ACT campaign encourages stakeholders:
– To Assess their current routes to market;
– To Communicate their future needs clearly to shipping companies, and
– To Trial alternative services so that disruption to the UK Landbridge route does not preclude Irish businesses from accessing foreign markets.
More information on this campaign can be found on the IMDO website here.
We will continue to closely monitor and keep under review the situation regarding maritime connectivity to continental ports, and will remain in close consultation with shipping companies, ports, hauliers, and other relevant stakeholders on this issue.
336. Deputy Cathal Berry asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the likely allocation to Ireland of the €5 billion EU Brexit Adjustment Reserve Fund; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34353/20]
Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine
I welcome the agreement reached in July on the Multiannual Financial Framework, which included a €5 billion Brexit Adjustment Reserve for Member States and sectors most affected by Brexit. This is a new Reserve, and the particulars of how it will be distributed will be agreed after the Commission has presented its proposals for the Reserve later this month.
It is important to recognise the disproportionate impact that Brexit will have on Ireland, and especially on the Irish agri-food sector. Agri-food trade with or through Great Britain is going to be impacted by new customs and regulatory requirements and associated costs that will apply from 1 January 2021. It is important that all operators understand that these requirements will apply whether there is a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) or not. Additionally, there is a serious potential impact from the EU and UK tariff schedules which would be imposed on trade between Ireland and Great Britain if a FTA that provides for zero tariffs and zero quotas is not agreed between the EU and the UK.
My Department has put in place financial and budgetary measures to help the agri-food and fisheries sectors meet the Brexit challenges they have faced to date. The Government’s Brexit Readiness Action Plan makes it clear that further measures to support businesses and affected sectors will be considered in the coming months.
The Brexit Adjustment Reserve will be an important additional support for those adjusting to the new reality of trading with the UK as a third country. Every effort will be made to ensure that the agri-food sector gets an allocation from this Reserve that is commensurate with the impact on the sector.
414. Deputy Cathal Berry asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the progress that has been made on securing additional direct shipping routes to the continent in order to circumvent the UK landbridge; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28905/20]
Answer from Minister for Foreign Affairs, Simon Coveney:
Ensuring that the UK landbridge remains an efficient and effective route to market for Irish traders is a priority of the Government’s Brexit planning. When the transition period ends on 31 December 2020, operators will still be able to move goods via the landbridge but the way they use the landbridge will change. Each movement will involve new procedures and require a financial guarantee to be in place.
The UK’s accession to the Common Transit Convention (CTC) is welcome. The CTC allows EU goods to transit through the UK without undergoing full customs import and export formalities on entry and exit from the UK. We continue to work positively with our EU partners on addressing challenges in EU ports for traffic in transit via the landbridge. However, the Government has pointed out for some time now including in our 2019 and 2020 readiness plans that there will likely be delays at ports immediately after the end of the transition period, with Dover-Calais identified as a particular likely bottleneck. This is outside of our control. By contrast, goods moving directly between Ireland and elsewhere in the EU will not be subject to any new procedures. The Government has been engaging extensively with the shipping sector to assess the capacity available on direct routes to continental ports and I am working closely with my colleague Eamonn Ryan, the Minister for Transport. There is ongoing extensive engagement with the shipping sector who have indicated that sufficient capacity shipping is available on direct routes to continental ports. This is also the view of the Department of Transport and the assessment of the Irish Maritime Development Office who carried out a study of the UK landbridge in 2018, and who are currently updating that assessment based on developments since then.
A number of new direct services have already been launched in the last year, including; Cork – Zeebrugge, Dublin – Santander, Waterford – Rotterdam, Rosslare – Bilbao and Rosslare – Roscoff. Extra sailings are also planned in 2021, including Rosslare – Cherbourg, Cork – Roscoff. Ferry operators have indicated they are capable of responding to any further increase in demand. I encourage engagement between traders, hauliers and ferry companies to align capacity with needs. I would also encourage traders, where it is feasible to do so, to avoid the risk of disruption by moving to direct services now and not wait until after 1 January 2021.
415. Deputy Cathal Berry asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his position on the situation pertaining to the refugees in Lesbos; the number Ireland plans to accept; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28906/20]
Answer from Minister for Foriegn Affairs, Simon Coveney:
I am deeply saddened by the fire at the Moria camp on Lesbos and the impact this has had on the refugees and migrants based there. The very sudden displacement of thousands of people has caused great suffering to those in the camp, as well as posing a huge logistical challenge for the Greek authorities in the midst of the pandemic.
My colleague, the Minister for European Affairs, Thomas Byrne, spoke with his Greek counterpart immediately after the fire to offer Ireland’s full solidarity and support. The Greek authorities requested assistance from EU Partners in dealing with the immediate humanitarian needs arising from the fire. My Department, through our Embassy in Athens, is in contact with the Greek Ministry of Migration Policy and has confirmed Ireland’s readiness to provide assistance from emergency stocks which we have in place at the UN Logistics Base in Brindisi, Italy. The Greek authorities have thanked us for this offer of assistance, and we stand ready to work with them regarding the deployment of the emergency supplies.
In terms of the situation within the camp, Greek authorities have started to transfer refugees and migrants to the Greek mainland in order to reduce overcrowding. In addition, the European Commission has now established a dedicated Taskforce with the aim of resolving the emergency situation on Lesbos effectively and humanely. The Taskforce will work closely with the Greek authorities to build new reception facilities in the coming months, which will be of a European standard and will provide access to healthcare and adequate sanitation.
As Minister for Foreign Affairs, I have repeatedly urged the need for greater solidarity and burden-sharing among Member States in dealing with the wider issue of migration. The migration crisis continues to be one of the major challenges confronting the European Union and it needs to be urgently addressed. We must find more sustainable solutions involving consensus among Member States based on solidarity and responsibility. I am committed to continuing to work with our EU partners to resolve these issues and to ensure that humanitarian and legal obligations continue to be met.
On 23 September 2020, the Commission published a major new proposal on reforming the EU migration and asylum system – a “New Pact on Migration and Asylum”. I welcome this initiative by the Commission. The publication of the Migration Pact proposals represents an opportunity to renew and intensify efforts to agree a common approach and put in place more effective and humane arrangements to manage the considerable migratory pressures that Europe continues to face.
We in Ireland are endeavouring to do our part, having already received 1022 asylum seekers (including six unaccompanied minors) from Greece under the first phase of the Irish Refugee Protection Programme.
In the context of the very difficult situation now arising from the destruction of the Moria refugee camp, the Government has decided that Ireland will welcome refugee families from Greece under the Irish Refugee Protection Programme (IRPP). Up to 50 people in family groups will be resettled following displacement due to the fire. This is in addition to the four unaccompanied minors, to be taken as part of our overall commitment to take 36 unaccompanied minors from Greece.
Officials from the Department of Justice and Equality are liaising with the European Commission on the detail of this commitment, and along with An Garda Síochána will travel to Greece in the coming weeks to make the arrangements.
Deputy Cathal Berry asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the way in which €5 billion Brexit Reserve Fund will be distributed within the EU and within Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24367/20]
Answer from Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue:
I welcome the agreement reached in July on the Multiannual Financial Framework, which included a €5 billion Brexit Adjustment Reserve for those Member States and sectors most affected by Brexit. This is a new Reserve, and the particulars of how it will be distributed will be agreed after the Commission has presented its proposal for the Reserve by November 2020.
It is important to recognise the disproportionate impact Brexit will have on Ireland, and especially on the Irish agrifood sector. We exported more than €1 billion worth of beef, and more than €1 billion of dairy products, to the UK in 2019. Based on the tariff schedule currently published by the UK, the tariffs that would be imposed on that trade on 1 January 2021 if there is no FTA agreed between the EU and the UK, and the customs and regulatory costs that will apply, whether there is an FTA or not, will have a significant impact on that trade.
My Department has ensured that financial and budgetary measures have been put in place to help the agri-food and fisheries sectors to deal with the Brexit challenges they have faced to date. These measures were also aimed at enhancing competitiveness, and market and product diversification. The Government’s Brexit Readiness Action Plan makes it clear that further measures to support businesses and affected sectors will be considered in the coming months.
The Brexit Adjustment Reserve will be an important additional support for those adjusting to the new reality of trading with the UK as a third country. Every effort will be made to ensure that the agrifood sector gets an allocation from this Reserve that is commensurate with the impact on the sector.
58. Deputy Cathal Berry asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the number of staff employed by the National Cyber Security Centre in each of the years 2018, 2019 and to date in 2020; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16249/20]
Answer from Eamon Ryan, Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment:
The National Cyber Security Centre, or NCSC, which is located within my Department, is the primary cyber security authority in the State, and has a number of roles, including leading on cyber security incident response and on the resilience and security of critical infrastructure. The National Cyber Security Centre had 21 staff in 2018, 23 in 2019 and has 24 to date in 2020, with a further staff member to join in the coming weeks.
The NCSC contains the State’s Computer Security Incident Response Team, or CSIRT. This is the body that responds to the full range of cyber security incidents in the State. The CSIRT has international accreditations and operates its own, purpose built, secure incident response software environment. Since its foundation in 2011, the CSIRT has developed significant expertise in managing cyber security incidents, and now handles in excess of 2,000 incidents every year. The CSIRT has also developed and deployed the Sensor platform across Government Departments, and the deployed Malware Information Sharing Platforms (MISPs) across a range of critical infrastructure operators.
The NCSC also a set of statutory powers in terms of ensuring that critical infrastructure operators maintain and operate that infrastructure in a secure manner. To date, 67 Operators of Essential Services have been designated. The Compliance Team in the NCSC has been working with these entities to improve their security since 2018, and formal audits will start in Quarter 3 of this year.
The Programme for Government commits to the implementation of the 2019 National Cyber Security Strategy in full. This Strategy includes a number of measures designed to ensure that our level of preparedness remains appropriate to likely future threats.
43. Deputy Cathal Berry asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the steps he is taking to support remote working within his Department, its agencies and through the funding supports provided to business; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15684/20]
Answer from Leo Varadkar, Tánaiste and Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation:
As our country enters a new normal, remote working is now more important than ever. Last December my department published the Remote Work in Ireland report. This outlined the prevalence and types of remote working in existence in Ireland. It also identified influencing factors on the part of both employers and employees.
One of the findings of the report was the need for further guidance for employers and employees. My department is now working to deliver guidance that will fill that need. An Interdepartmental Group, consisting of relevant departments and agencies, has been formed to steer the delivery of this guidance.
The ‘Guidance for Working Remotely during COVID-19′ webpage is a central access point for all of the Government guidance currently available on remote working. The allows employers and employees to navigate the existing guidance easily and helps to inform those working from home during the course of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Last week we launched a public consultation on remote working guidance. This consultation will help us to understand what remote working issues are most pressing for employers and employees. The submissions that we receive will allow us to identify areas where further guidance can be provided and will also shape future remote working policy. I encourage all interested parties to take part in this consultation, the full details of which can be found on my department’s website. It is open until August 7th.
Following the results of the consultation, we will work to further refine the current remote working guidance. This work will be completed later this year.
Remote working is also an important part of the work of the enterprise agencies. For example, Enterprise Ireland’s regional plan, ‘Powering the Regions’ emphasises the importance of smart working and commits to the creation of co-working spaces. To date, Enterprise Ireland has invested over €180 million in Enterprise Centres, Incubator Hubs and shared office space.
IDA Ireland are also aware of the potential business benefits of remote working. In collaboration with Laois Offaly Education and Training Board (ETB), SOLAS and Grow Remote, the IDA have recently launched two new online national training programmes in response to COVID-19. These courses aim to develop the capability and capacity of current remote workers, future remote workers and line managers nationally.
Through all of these initiatives, my department aims to facilitate the further development of remote working in our country.
Deputy Cathal Berry asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans for the promised redevelopment of a secondary school (details supplied) in Portarlington, County Laois; the investment committed for same to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Answer from the Minister for Justice and Equality:
he Major Building Project for the project referred to by the deputy is at Stage 1 of architectural planning, which entails preliminary design of site and location suitability and initial sketch scheme.
In 2019, a review of the demand for post primary provision in the area resulted in an increase in the schedule of accommodation to cater for up to 1300 pupils. The Department met with the school and the increase was accepted by the school.
Initially, it had been anticipated that this project would be delivered in the form of an extension and refurbishment. However, through ongoing engagement with the school, its Board of Management and Trustees (CEIST), the option of a New Build is currently being explored by school authorities and the Design Team.
The Design Team has been instructed to provide an initial sketch scheme for a 1300 pupil school, and submit to the Department for review. Professional fees have been agreed with the Design Team members for this additional task.
Following this review my Department will then be in contact with the Board of Management of the school with regard to the progression of the project.
This project is included in my Department’s Construction Programme which is being delivered under the National Development Plan.
Deputy Cathal Berry asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans for the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner in Portarlington, County Laois; the investment committed to the office to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter
Answer from the Minister for Justice and Equality:
The Data Protection Commission is independent in exercising its functions. However, in order to be of assistance to the Deputy, I have had enquiries made and the Data Protection Commission has supplied the following updates on the matter.
The Data Protection Commission operates from three offices at present, two of which are based in Dublin and the third in Portarlington. Currently, 30 staff members work at the Portarlington office across a number of teams (for example, complaint-handling, investigations) and they make a valuable contribution to the statutory functions and role of the Data Protection Commission.
The Data Protection Commission is currently in discussions with the Office of Public Works in relation to some renovation works at the Portarlington office and it hopes that this work will commence shortly.