Ministers O’Brien & Noonan meet An Fóram Uisce to commence public consultation phase of the next River Basin Management Plan
Today, the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Darragh O’Brien TD, and the Minister of State with responsibility for Heritage and Electoral Reform, Malcolm Noonan TD, held a meeting with members of An Fóram Uisce (The Water Forum) to mark the opening of the public consultation on the draft River Basin Management Plan for Ireland 2022-2027. The public consultation begins on Tuesday 28 September 2021 and ends on Thursday 31 March 2022 at 5pm.
This vital plan will set out the environmental objectives that must be achieved to put in place the measures that will protect and restore our rivers, lakes, estuaries and coastal waters by the end of 2027, together with actions to ensure those objectives are achieved. Under the Water Framework Directive (WFD), Ireland is required to produce a River Basin Management Plan every six years to protect and improve water quality.
The Plan sets out over one hundred proposed measures, including:
Provisional data indicates that the Priority Areas for Action (a key element of the 2018-2021 River Basin Management Plan) are helping to improve water quality. Twenty-one per cent of rivers in Priority Areas for Action (those identified for targeted measures) have seen improved water quality. Thirteen per cent of rivers outside of these areas saw improvement. This indicates that targeted measures are helping to improve water quality. Nevertheless, a large number of river waterbodies are still declining.
The plan will also see an increase in the number of Areas for Action with 527 areas proposed for focused attention in the third cycle, up from 190 in the second-cycle.
Water quality analysis indicates that agriculture, hydromorphology (physical changes to habitat conditions and water flows), forestry and urban waste water are the main pressures on water quality.
Commenting on the opening of the consultation Minister O’Brien said:
“Ireland has made substantial progress in how we manage our water services and how we work together to protect and improve water quality. However, water quality is still in decline. People, nature, and our economy all rely on healthy and well protected water catchments. Working together, through a new and strengthened River Basin Management Plan, will put us on course to achieve our environmental objectives and deliver the clean waters that are vital for protecting public health, supporting economic growth and preserving our environment.”
Minister of State Noonan said:
“The River Basin Management Plan process is founded on stakeholder participation and involvement – Minister O’Brien and I are particularly keen to see an inclusive process where all voices and ideas are heard. Key to this will be engaging with stakeholders and with communities at a national and local level.
I would encourage everyone to participate and to express your views as these will help inform and improve the plans and programmes and wider policy developments that impact our waters.”
Copies of the consultation document and supporting materials are available for download on the Department’s website at www.gov.ie/draftRBMP. The final date for responses in respect of this consultation is Thursday, 31 March 2022.
Minister O’Brien announces his intention to nominate Dr Martina Moloney as Chair of the Heritage Council
The Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Darragh O’Brien, TD has announced that Dr Martina Moloney would act as Chair-designate of the Heritage Council, with effect from 6 October, pending approval of her appointment by the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Housing, Local Government and Heritage.
Dr Moloney has served on the Board of the Heritage Council since October 2020, having been appointed through the Public Appointment Service’s open and transparent process for appointments to State Boards. She is presently Chair of the Board’s Audit and Risk Committee. Dr Moloney has a distinguished career in public service having formerly served as Chief Executive of Louth County Council and Galway County Council and has experience of serving on a number of other state boards, including the Arts Council and the National Oversight and Audit Commission for Local Government. She will take over the role at a significant moment for the Heritage Council, which has recently increased its staff by 50% and is about to begin work on a new strategy.
Making the announcement at the Heritage Council’s offices in Kilkenny, Minister O’Brien said: “I am delighted to nominate Dr Martina Moloney as Chair of the Heritage Council. Martina will bring considerable skill and experience to the role at an exciting time for the Heritage Council and I look forward to working with her and the Council in the protection and promotion of our heritage. I want to wish outgoing Chair Michael Parsons the very best and thank him for his work.”
Commenting on the announcement, Minister of State for Heritage and Electoral Reform, Malcolm Noonan, TD, added “I very much welcome the nomination of Dr Martina Moloney to the role of Chair of the Heritage Council. Martina has served as a board member with great commitment and vision and will lead the Council ably in its support of CEO Virginia Teehan and her team.”
Dr Moloney’s appointment will follow the completion of Michael Parsons’ term as Chair of the Heritage Council in October. Michael has served as Chair for the past five years and was commended by Minister O Brien, who stated: “Michael Parsons has served the Council with distinction in challenging times and has demonstrated an enduring commitment to our heritage throughout his long career.”
Minister Noonan also paid tribute to the departing Chairman, stating: “Michael has committed much of his personal and professional life to the protection and promotion of our heritage. He should be very proud of all he has achieved here at the Heritage Council and I wish him well in what I hope will be a long and happy retirement.”
The Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Darragh O’Brien T.D., has today issued an update in relation to two serious incidents in drinking water plants which have occurred in recent weeks.
In a letter to the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage this week the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) outlined two serious incidents in recent weeks that occurred in drinking water plants serving parts of Dublin City (served by the Ballymore Eustace water treatment plant) and Gorey, Co. Wexford. This included, in the case of Gorey, illnesses detected by the HSE in the community served by that water supply.
It’s important to note that these incidents have been rectified and the water supply from the two plants is now safe to drink.
Commenting following a meeting with the Irish Water Managing Director and officials and both the Chief Executives of Dublin City Council and Wexford County Council, Minister O’Brien said, “In the immediate term Irish Water will now undertake an audit of the water treatment plants across the country. They will prioritise the largest 20 treatment plants, visiting each of them, meeting with the caretakers of each plant to ensure that proper processes are in place in terms of dealing with and escalating any incidents which may arise. Irish Water’s Managing Director and the local authority Chief Executives each assured the Minister of their full cooperation and that their organisations are working together in full cooperation to put in place the urgent and necessary corrective measures.
“Irish Water will also work with each Local Authority over the coming two weeks, conducting re-fresher training on incident reporting for all plants. Where appropriate, Irish Water will now put in place a technician on site, to ensure the continued safety of water treatment plants.
“Ultimately, as we all know, there are limitations to the current working arrangements between Irish Water and Local Authorities and it is impacting on the delivery of services. A process is underway in the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) to deliver the transformation of this service but I am also requesting that Irish Water and local authorities to take further steps to improve Irish Water control of all water service plants in the immediate term pending the implementation of the agreed longer term operational and staffing arrangements,” concluded Minister O’Brien.
The Meeting also included a representative from the County and City Managers Association on behalf of all local authorities.
The Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Darragh O’Brien TD has announced that from today [September 10th 2021] a reduced interest rate of 0.25% will apply to all new Local Authority mortgages.
Commenting Minister O’Brien said, “As part of ‘Housing for All’, I pledged to reform Local Authority mortgage lending in order to support homeownership. The first action I am implementing is a reduction of the mortgage interest rate for new borrowers by 0.25%. This interest rate reduction applies to new borrowing under the existing Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan (RIHL) from 10 September 2021. This will make repayments more affordable and assist borrowers in securing a long-term fixed rate mortgage to purchase a home of their own.
“As part of Housing for All I also announced that a reformed successor to the RIHL, the Local Authority Home Loan, will be in place later in 2021. I look forward to announcing further details in respect of the Local Authority Home Loan in the coming months.
“Affordability and the chance to own a home is at the heart of the government’s housing policy. We want to help as many people as possible to own their own home and today’s announcement, of lower interest rates on the Local Authority mortgage is a small but important step in the right direction,” he concluded.
The Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Darragh O’Brien TD has announced the appointment of Bob Jordan as Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of The Housing Agency.
Mr Jordan will take up the CEO position with The Housing Agency next week.
Commenting Minister O’Brien said: “Following on from the publication of the Housing for All Plan the next few years will continue to be a challenging period for all working in the housing sector. Having someone of Bob’s calibre and experience leading The Housing Agency during this critical time will be of great benefit. I would also like to thank John O’Connor for his excellent work as CEO. John’s expertise and knowledge have been invaluable to me and I am glad he has accepted the position of Chair of the soon to be established Commission on Housing.”
Bob Jordan has a strong leadership record in the housing sector. Since 2018 he has been the National Director of the Government's Housing First programme, which provides permanent homes and wraparound supports to people who have experienced rough sleeping and long-term homelessness. Based in Dublin City Council, Mr. Jordan has worked closely with local authorities, Approved Housing Bodies, health services and homeless charities to extend the programme nationwide. Prior to his role in Housing First, Mr. Jordan was Chief Executive of the housing charity Threshold for nearly a decade. He was Special Adviser to the Minister for Housing during 2016-2017.
Commenting on his appointment, Mr. Jordan said: "I am delighted to be taking up the role of CEO of The Housing Agency. The Agency plays a critical role in supporting the delivery of social and affordable housing. In recent years, it has taken on additional responsibilities to respond to the housing challenges we face. With the Government having recently published a new housing strategy, I look forward to working with the Board and staff of The Housing Agency to promote housing supply to meet current and future needs."
Chairperson of The Housing Agency, Michael Carey said: “We are delighted to welcome Bob to The Housing Agency to take on this crucially important leadership position. Bob is a highly regarded housing specialist with over 20 years’ experience of delivering high impact programmes that address complex housing needs.”
Commenting on the departure of outgoing Chief Executive Officer, John O’Connor, who is retiring, Mr Carey added: “John has been an outstanding CEO since The Housing Agency was established in 2012, building a great team of highly dedicated public servants and working closely with the Department of Housing, Local Government & Heritage, local authorities, Approved Housing Bodies and other organisations. The Board of the Agency would like to thank John for his outstanding commitment and service.’
Minister O’Brien recently appointed John O’Connor as Chairperson designate of the Commission on Housing, which will be established later this year.