Dáil Debates & Questions June 2017

Dáil Debates & Questions June 2017


(1)            Social Media Regulation

(2)            Rural Recreation Promotion 2017

(3)            Rural Recreational – Greenways

(4)            Commonage Land – Usage

(5)            Greenway Funding – Tralee/Fenit

(6)            Planning Investigation – Donegal

(7)            Greenway Provision – Dublin

(8)            Greenway Development – Provision for Dual Usage

(1)            Social Media Regulation – 1st June 2017

  1. Deputy Brendan Smith     asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment     his views on recent commentary by an organisation (details supplied) in respect of the lack of regulation among some social media platforms; the measures he plans to implement to deal with such issues; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26353/17]

Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment (Deputy Denis Naughten):     As Minister for Communications, Climate Action and the Environment, I have certain responsibilities in relation to the broadcast media in Ireland as provided for in the Broadcasting Act 2009. I have no specific statutory responsibility for print media.

The Deputy will be aware that there are a number of pieces of legislation and regulations currently in place which social media platforms must comply with, such as those governing Data Protection or illegal content such as child sexual abuse material.

In relation to harmful content, which is not illegal, the policy responsibility is shared across a number of Departments but primarily the Departments of Justice & Equality, Children and Youth Affairs, Education and Skills, Health and my own Department.

The Law Reform Commission’s Harmful Communications and Digital Safety report, which was published in September 2016 recommended the reform of Criminal law to include a number of new offences including online harassment. In December 2016, the Minister for Justice and Equality received Government approval to draft the heads of a Bill, along the lines of the draft legislation contained in the LRC’s report.

Separate to the reform of Criminal Law, the Law Reform Commission also recommended that an independent office of a Digital Safety Commissioner be established to promote safety online and oversee efficient take-down procedures to ensure that harmful communications be removed as quickly as possible.

I have indicated that I will discuss this recommendation with my colleagues, the Minister for Justice & Equality and the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, and the matter has also been referred by Government to the Cabinet Committee on Social Policy and Public Sector Reform.

Finally, I should mention that it is expected that my Department will begin work next year on transposing the revised Audiovisual Media Services Directive into Irish law once that Directive has been adopted.  The draft Directive, which is now entering trilogue discussions between Council, Parliament and the Commission, will introduce a requirement for Video Sharing Platform Services to put in place appropriate measures to ensure that users, especially minors, are protected from certain types of harmful content, including hate speech and content which incites terrorism.

(2)            Rural Recreation Promotion 2017 – 20th June 2017

  1. Deputy Martin Heydon     asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs     the position regarding the 2017 rural recreation programme; her views on the potential to develop new tourism amenities such as a location (details supplied) in County Kildare through this programme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27573/17]

Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs (Deputy Heather Humphreys):     The 2017 Outdoor Recreation Infrastructure Scheme was launched on 28th April 2017 as part of the Government’s Action Plan for Rural Development. The scheme will provide funding for the development of new outdoor recreational infrastructure or the necessary maintenance, enhancement or promotion of existing outdoor recreational infrastructure in Ireland. Building on the 2016 Rural Recreation Scheme, the 2017 scheme has been enhanced and will provide funding of €11 million over a period of 15 months under the following measures:

Measure 1: Small Scale Maintenance/Promotion and Marketing

Measure 2: Medium Scale Repair/Upgrade and New Trail Development

Measure 3: Large Scale Repair/Upgrade and New Strategy Trail Development

The closing date for receipt of applications under Measures 1 and 2 was 31st May 2017 and the closing date for Measure 3 applications was 16th  June 2017.

Projects such as the amenity mentioned by the Deputy would be eligible for funding under Measure 3. However, no application has been received in respect of the amenity in question under the Outdoor Recreation Infrastructure Scheme on this occasion.

Nonetheless, I am aware that there are a number of towns and villages along the amenity that provide a range of services and facilities to visitors and I believe that continued development of the amenity will serve to support the economic development of the area as a whole.

(3)Rural Recreation Promotion 2017 – Greenways 20th June

  1. Deputy Peter Burke     asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs     her plans to expand the rural recreation programme in view of the increase in popularity of greenways and blueways; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27444/17]

Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs (Deputy Heather Humphreys):     The Action Plan for Rural Development acknowledges the increasing popularity of recreational and activity tourism and includes a series of actions to maximise Ireland’s rural tourism and recreation potential. The 2017 Outdoor Recreation Infrastructure Scheme was launched on 28th   April 2017 and will provide funding for the development of new outdoor recreational infrastructure or the necessary maintenance, enhancement or promotion of existing outdoor recreational infrastructure in Ireland. Building on the 2016 Rural Recreation Scheme, the 2017 scheme has been enhanced and will provide funding of €11 million over a period of 15 months under the following measures:

Measure 1: Small Scale Maintenance/Promotion and Marketing

Measure 2: Medium Scale Repair/Upgrade and New Trail Development

Measure 3: Large Scale Repair/Upgrade and New Strategy Trail Development

Details of the scheme are available at: www.ahrrga.gov.ie/minister-ring-launches-e11-million-outdoor-recreation-infrastructure-scheme-for-2017/

The deadline for submission of applications under the Outdoor Recreation Infrastructure Scheme has just passed. A large number of applications have been received and will be assessed by my Department. The successful applicants will be notified as soon as possible following the assessment process.

 The all-island body Waterways Ireland, which is co-funded by my Department, is responsible for the management, maintenance, development, and restoration of inland navigable waterways, primarily for recreational purposes. The body is responsible for developing and promoting Blueways on the Royal, Grand and Barrow Canals, and on the Shannon Navigation to expand their recreational and tourism offering. Waterways Ireland will make a capital investment of €6 million in Blueways over the period 2017-2019.

  My Department also supports the ongoing maintenance of established walking trails all over Ireland through the Walks Scheme. A total of 39 trails are currently covered by the scheme. The Programme for a Partnership Government and the Action Plan for Rural Ireland include a commitment to double the walks scheme during the lifetime of the Government and officials in my Department are currently examining ways in which this can be progressed.

Overall responsibility for policy and development of Greenways rests with the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport. The Minister recently launched a public consultation process on a “Strategy for the Future Development of Greenways”, details of which can be found at www.dttas.ie/publications.

(3)            Recreational Facilities – Access to Canals -20th June

 945. Deputy Maureen O’Sullivan     asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs     her views on the more efficient use of canals as tourism resources; her plans to increase accessibility to the Royal Canal from the Liffey basin, which is currently experiencing accessibility problems due to limited lifting of the Scherzer bridge; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22133/17]

Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs (Deputy Heather Humphreys):     Waterways Ireland manages over 400km of canals, the Royal and Grand Canals and Barrow Navigation. These are important publicly owned recreational corridors which support a wide range of boating and water sports. The canal towpaths represent opportunities for both local communities and tourists to enjoy off-road cycling and walking whilst enjoying the built and natural heritage of these important resources. Waterways Ireland has informed me that it has been working in partnership with a wide range of Local Authorities, Fáilte Ireland, the National Roads Authority, the National Trails Office and local communities to develop and enhance the towpaths along the canals in its care.

60 km of the proposed Dublin to Galway Greenway runs along the Royal Canal towpath, where the local authorities and the National Transport Authority have been key to supporting completion of this development.

In Dublin a programme to upgrade the towpaths into premium walking and cycleways has been on-going for a number of years. The towpaths provide invaluable opportunities for off road commuting and recreation and are unique green spaces in the city.

In 2016, a number of cycle paths and towpath upgrades were carried out along the Royal Canal in Counties Longford, and Kildare. By the end of 2017, Waterways Ireland will have completed upgrades of 80% of the Royal Canal towpath.

It is Waterways Ireland’s goal to upgrade the towpaths along the entire route of the Royal and Grand Canals making it possible to leave Dublin and travel the 140km along either canal to reach the Shannon and also to connect the towpaths to the many amenities and attractions along these routes. The aim is to create new opportunities for all the communities who live along the canals to use theses amenities on a daily basis and to attract visitors to make an extended journey.

Waterways Ireland’s through its Dublin Docklands Action Plan is seeking to develop Grand Canal Dock and Spencer Dock as the city’s Blue space and a focal point in a Dublin Water Quarter. Projects include delivery of a 40km city canal Blueway using the Docks, and the Grand and Royal Canals as a cycle route.

The Sherza bridges are not connected to the canal navigation or access to the Royal Canal and do not impinge on the use of the canal. The Newcomen Bridge, which is a railway bridge, has to be lifted to provide navigation to the Royal Canal once through Spencer Dock. These bridge lifts are facilitated by CIE and Waterways Ireland. The number of bridge lifts is kept under review, balancing demand against the significant costs involved

(4)            Commonage Land Use – 20th June 2017

  1. Deputy Willie Penrose     asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine     the criteria being employed by his Department for land eligibility inspections on commonage and upland areas; the criteria the inspectors are employing in determining the eligibility of lands affected by the birds and habitats directive on designated Natura 2000 sites; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27671/17]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Michael Creed):     For land, including commonage and upland areas, to be eligible for the various area-based schemes it must be “agricultural area” or “agricultural land”. This is clearly stated in the booklet “A Guide to Land Eligibility” which my Department issued to all farmers in 2015. The booklet describes the type of land that is agricultural area/land and the type of land that is not agricultural area/land. There has been no change in the treatment of commonage and upland areas since the publication of this booklet in 2015.   A copy of the booklet is available on the Department website –  


  The booklet also details the provision, set out in the EU regulations governing the area-based schemes, where areas have become ineligible and this is due to compliance with the requirements of the birds and habitats directives. This provision prescribes specific criteria whereby such land may be deemed eligible for payment and can only apply to agricultural land that has not been abandoned.

(5)            Greenways Funding –Tralee/Fenit – 27th June 2017

  1. Deputy Martin Ferris     asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport     the status of the proposed Tralee to Fenit greenway; when funding will be provided to complete the project; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30057/17]

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Shane Ross):     ​Kerry County Council was awarded €345,000 by my Department under the Government Stimulus package 2014 to commence the Rock Street to Casement Station section of the Tralee to Fenit greenway, and this was paid.

The Programme for Partnership Government commits to making additional funding available for greenways into the future, and I am pursuing this in the context of the mid-term review of the Capital Plan. When the capital plan review is finalised and there is clarity on the totality of the funding that will be available for greenways in the coming years, my Department will issue further funding calls and local authorities would then be able to submit projects for funding The Deputy may be aware that I recently launched a public consultation process to inform the development of my Department’s new Strategy for the future development of greenways. A public consultation paper is available on my Department’s website at http://www.dttas.ie/public-transport/publications/english/greenways. All interested parties are invited to make submissions by 14 July, 2017 and I would welcome your views as part of this process.

(6)Planning Investigations – Donegal -27th June 2017

  1. Deputy Catherine Murphy     asked the Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government     if he has received the final report of the review into allegations of planning irregularities in County Donegal; if so, if he will publish it; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29755/17]
  2. Deputy Thomas Pringle     asked the Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government     when he expects the Mulcahy report into allegations made concerning planning matters in County Donegal to be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29992/17]

Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government (Deputy Eoghan Murphy):     I propose to take Questions Nos. 613 and 626 together.

Senior Counsel has completed his review of certain planning matters in respect of Donegal County Council and a report was submitted to my Department on 12 June, 2017.

My Department is currently reviewing and assessing the contents of the report with the aim of preparing a submission for me as soon as possible. Legal advice has been sought in relation to the matter of publication. Once the relevant submission and any legal advices have been considered, I will be in a position to make a decision on the matter.

(7)            Greenways Provision – Dublin – 28th June 2017

  1. Deputy Eamon Ryan     asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport     his views on the introduction of six proposed greenways, namely. the Liffey, Santry, Bray to Balbriggan, Clontarf to city centre, River Dodder and canal loop routes; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [30397/17]

Deputy Eamon Ryan:     Our transport emissions are rising. The most recent CSO figures show that Dublin continues, despite all our efforts, towards an unsustainable transport system. Road deaths of cyclists have doubled over the past year. In the 2018 budget, will the Minister invest in and deliver by the end of 2020 the Liffey, Santry, Bray to Balbriggan, Clontarf to city centre, River Dodder and canal greenway loops? These are all currently in design or planning stages. Given the huge benefits they would bring to the city, will the Minister afford them priority and give a commitment to deliver them?

Deputy Shane Ross:     I thank the Deputy for his question. It is an important one and I know it is of particular importance to him in the area in which he operates in Dublin.

The National Transport Authority, NTA, is responsible for the development of public transport and sustainable transport infrastructure projects in the greater Dublin area, GDA.  The six cycle schemes identified by the Deputy form part of the greenway network of the GDA cycle network plan, which was published by the NTA in 2014.

Work is currently ongoing on a number of elements of those schemes by means of funding provided from my Department’s sustainable transport measures grants programme. Sections of the Royal Canal greenway are under construction at present.  A section of the east coast trail through Clontarf, also known as the Sutton to Sandycove scheme and referred to by the Deputy in his question as the Bray to Balbriggan scheme, opened to the public last month. Design work is ongoing on the Liffey cycle route and a number of possible schemes relating to its implementation have been discussed by Dublin City Council

The NTA recently launched the BusConnects project which proposes a radical transformation of the bus system in the greater Dublin area.  The BusConnects project has, as a key component, the implementation of safe cycling facilities along the main bus corridors proposed for improvement which will form the core bus network.  As part of that project, it is intended that cyclists will be provided with safe cycling facilities along each of these core bus network corridors, largely segregated from other vehicular traffic.  Delivering those routes to completion will represent an unprecedented uplift in the quality of cycling facilities in Dublin.

A number of the listed greenways will be progressed in tandem with the larger upgrading being implemented through the BusConnects project. The individual schemes and sections of routes to be progressed each year will be determined by the NTA in line with available funding. As the Deputy is aware, a mid-term review of the capital plan is under way and I am seeking additional funding for public transport and other sustainable modes in that context.

Deputy Eamon Ryan:     The Minister for Finance, Deputy Donohoe, was at the national economic dialogue today where he said that the entire Government will have to shift its thinking to act on climate. Will the Minister go to him with these six projects? There is a whole range of different things we could do, but these six greenways would give rise to huge benefits. The Liffey route would be 6 km long between the Phoenix Park and the port. If we got the same increase in capacity that we saw with the canal network, we would have a 50% increase in the numbers cycling and that then would be the dominant mode of transport on the quays and would bring about huge transport benefits.

If we invested a relatively small amount of money in the Santry greenway, we would, using existing parkland resources, connect schools, sports facilities and workplaces. The same applies in respect of the other greenways. These are incredible connecting devices. If we built the Sutton to Sandycove route, which I would extend to Bray and Balbriggan because I think the people of those towns deserve it, that coastal route would be an incredible leisure as well as commuting facility. It would be a huge tourist draw for this city.

These are facilities that benefit those who walk and cycle. We concentrate on the greenways because, more than anything else, they would see Dublin develop as a green city, using the incredible resources that we have, namely, our coast, canals and rivers. Will the Minister prioritise this? Will he go to the Minister for Finance, Deputy Donohoe, and ask for the money for this particular project? At the moment, for all the good talk, there is no money to do it in the timeframe and with the urgency required. Will the Minister push that as a package in the revised capital plan?

Deputy Shane Ross:     Let me just say that the Deputy is not the only person in this House who has a passion for greenways.

Deputy Eamon Ryan:     I know.

Deputy Shane Ross:     This kind of monopoly which he claims on greenways, particularly in the Dublin area, does not exist.

Deputy Eamon Ryan:     The Minister could support them.

Deputy Shane Ross:     There are people with real passion for greenways in this House, all of whom have as good a case as the Deputy for their greenways, some of which cannot be done or provided for.

Deputy Eamon Ryan:     What can—–

Deputy Shane Ross:     Let me answer the Deputy’s question. I ask him not to interrupt

Acting Chairman (Deputy Declan Breathnach):     The Minister, without interruption.

Deputy Shane Ross:     I did not interrupt the Deputy and I have no intention of interrupting doing so. I never interrupt regardless of whether he is in full flow or not.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Declan Breathnach):     Minister, through the Chair please.

Deputy Shane Ross:     Let me say this to the Deputy about these greenways. On the Grand Canal cycleway from Blackhorse to Portobello, an allocation of €60,000 has been provided to Dublin City Council this year in order to complete the preliminary design necessary to progress the scheme to Part 8 planning approval. On the Dodder greenway, an allocation of €500,000 has been provided to Dublin City Council to develop and progress sections of the route. Part 8 planning approval for the Dodder flood alleviation works between Herbert Park and Anglesea Bridge, with which the Deputy will be familiar, is expected in the third quarter of this year, with detailed design, tender preparation and construction to follow.

Dublin City Council has commenced feasibility and preliminary design work on a section of the route located to the rear of Milltown golf club between Orwell Road and Churchtown, with which both I and the Deputy are familiar. I will deal with the Royal Canal later.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Declan Breathnach):     Deputy Eamon Ryan has a final supplementary question.

Deputy Eamon Ryan:     No one has a monopoly on the benefits of greenways. Everyone can see those benefits. They are seen in different parts of the country. We need them everywhere. There is an opportunity, urgency and requirement to transform and improve our city in order to save lives and improve emissions reductions, commuting times and leisure facilities and for us to really make a bold statement. To do that, funding allocations need to go beyond €60,000 here and €500,000 there. This needs to be packaged into one big capital project whereby we get high-quality design, certainty around speed of delivery and a real public and international win. People would see our capital start to become a model green city.

I am not saying that we have a monopoly on that. However, I am saying that the Minister has the opportunity and, I believe, the responsibility, particularly as a Deputy representing some of the areas that would benefit from it, to grasp this opportunity to put them together and to show leadership and say that we will do it. I will thank the Minister and commend him just as much as anyone else. However, I do not want to see a continuation of the current system whereby bits and bobs of work are carried out here and there but there is no real clear commitment or big-bang approach. The latter is something which I believe we need. If we did that, it would transform our city and it would transform cycling. It is time to do it. There are many other actions we need to take but this project would shift the entire debate and the sense of where the city is going, which is why I am passionate about it.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Declan Breathnach):     Níor chuala mé ceist ar bith.

Deputy Shane Ross:     I would like to thank the Deputy in advance for his thanks, which obviously will be coming. It will be a new feeling and a great feeling of warmth.

Deputy Eamon Ryan:     There will be lots of love.

Deputy Shane Ross:     I anticipate it with great glee. However, I cannot promise that any particular greenway will get preference at the expense of others. I sympathise with the Deputy and support what he says. Of course I do, and he knows I do, but he knows full well that there are massive financial constraints as well. There will not be any special pleading for my constituency, which the Deputy mentioned, or anyone else’s, including the Deputy’s, because we have preferences for that.

In recent days we have done a great deal of work in meetings we have had on cycling. We acknowledge the need for greenways and safety in cycling and we are taking action, as a matter of great urgency, on the deaths in cycling. We recognise these things. It is a good thing that Deputy Ryan makes those pleadings but he should not accuse us of not being sympathetic or supportive of what he is doing as we work within the constraints imposed upon us.

Deputy Eamon Ryan:     May I make a brief supplementary point?

Acting Chairman (Deputy Declan Breathnach):     No. If I let Deputy Ryan in, I have to let everyone else in. Everyone is concerned about greenways in every part of the country and would like to see them developed

(8)            Greenways Development – Dual Usage – 28th June

  1. Deputy Eamon Ryan     asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport     the analysis his Department has done regarding the dual use of greenways by pedestrians and cyclists; and the way to best facilitate both groups in using greenways. [30398/17]

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Shane Ross):     ​Greenways are designed to be used by and usable by as many people as possible. Transport Infrastructure Ireland have developed guidelines for Rural Cycle Scheme Design: these guidelines also reference Greenways. Projects funded by this Department must comply with these guidelines, or in the case of urban based greenways, with the Cycle Manual and the Design Manual for Urban Roads and Streets (DMURS). These designs include a requirement to have the gradient of the Greenway limited to 5% and are thus suitable for cyclists but also make for very attractive walking routes.

The experience on completed Greenways is that near towns and villages pedestrians significantly outnumber cyclists, by up to a factor of 2 to 1, whilst on the more remote sections these figures reverse and cyclists outnumber pedestrians to the same degree. The great strengths of Greenways are that they are multi-functional and provide access for all. Most Greenways are suitable for those in wheelchairs and pushing buggies and prams.

Signage on both the Waterford Greenway and the Old Rail Trail in County Westmeath has a code of conduct for all users that should be heeded. The importance of sharing the route with all users is emphasised and use of a bell by cyclists to alert pedestrians to their presence is recommended. Experience to date has been very positive for all users.

The public consultation document on Greenways is currently live and I would hope the Deputy will submit his thoughts before the closing date of July 14th.  The consultation paper is available on my Department’s website.  We are interested in receiving a wide input of views from the public and interested parties in order to inform the development of future strategy in relation to this matter.