To ask the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the timeframe for the review of the public spending code; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
The Public Spending Code is reviewed on an ongoing basis to ensure that it continues to reflect best practice in project appraisal and evaluation and to ensure value for money in the use of public funds.
In particular, there has been extensive and ongoing review in relation to capital projects over recent months. I anticipate that this major phase of review of the Public Spending Code will be completed before the summer.
To ask the Minister for Rural and Community Development the towns selected and the number of units in each town for the pilot scheme to encourage persons to return to living in town centres launched in October 2018.
Early last year, I established a Steering Group to examine the introduction of a pilot scheme to encourage people to return to living in town centres.
A lot of consideration was given by the Group to the best approach to developing a model which would deliver on the objective of increasing town centre living.
The Steering Group noted that some schemes which have specifically attempted to focus on the renovation of vacant properties have had a disappointing take-up. It is clear that if we are to successfully encourage people to return to living in town centres, an integrated solution involving all aspects of town living and supporting infrastructure needs to be considered.
The Steering Group therefore agreed that a pilot scheme, which takes a holistic approach to town centre living, should be developed in a small number of towns initially, with a view to a wider roll-out over time. This approach goes beyond simply identifying specific property units, and will allow a number of Local Authorities to develop and test different models which they feel are appropriate to a number of selected towns of different sizes and in different locations.
The learnings from this approach will help to provide an indication as to what might work well for similar types of town on a wider scale.
Six rural towns were invited to participate in the initial pilot scheme which was launched in October 2018. These are:
My Department has made funding of up to €100,000 available to each participating Local Authority of which €75,000 has been paid to date. The funding will assist the Local Authorities to engage with their communities and local businesses, and arrive at practical solutions that can be delivered to achieve the objective of increasing the number of people living in our rural towns.
Representatives from each of the six Local Authorities involved in the pilot have had a number of meetings with my Department with a view to developing the detailed schemes. It is envisaged that the solutions identified through the six pilot towns could lead to the development of more substantive proposals for funding from the Rural Regeneration and Development Fund in due course.
To ask the Minister for Finance his plans to task Home Building Finance Ireland with an expanded remit to issues loans to owner management companies to cover remedial building costs; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
In the first instance I would like to acknowledge the stressful circumstances which the owners and residents of buildings face when defects occur in their homes.
HBFI was established late last year as a supply based measure to help address as shortage of new housing in the State. I have always been clear that HBFI was to be established on a commercial basis and that its activities would comply with State aid rules. Any funding provided by HBFI will be backed by appropriate security and normal banking terms and conditions will apply. Any deviation from this structure could give rise to State aid issues and may impact the expected balance sheet treatment of HBFI's activities.
While there is nothing contained in the Home Building Finance Ireland Act 2018 that excludes loans to owner management companies to cover remedial building costs, the Act requires that HBFI lend on commercial terms. The commerciality of funding such remediation is risky from two perspectives:
Based on the high level of risk that would pertain to such lending, it may not be considered commercial in many cases and could put HBFI in breach of its commercial remit.
HBFI will examine each application received on its own merits and particular circumstances. It is a matter for HBFI to assess and, if thought appropriate, issue a term sheet having regard to State aid rules and its commercial responsibilities.
I am advised by HBFI that only a very small number of calls and emails have been received in relation to this type of funding to date and that none of these enquiries have progressed to a full application at this time
To ask the Minister for Rural and Community Development the options under consideration for volunteer centres that are underfunded; the timeframe in which a decision may be reached regarding these centres, if he expects the necessary funding will be granted for these volunteer centres to continue to operate; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
My Department's Community and Voluntary Supports and programmes unit provide a cohesive framework of support for the community and voluntary sector. €3.5 million is being provided in 2019 under this programme to support 21 Volunteer Centres, eight Volunteering Information Services and a number of volunteer-supporting organisations, such as Volunteer Ireland.
Following the publication in 2017 of a report by Dermot McLaughlin entitled "Developing Funding Criteria for Volunteer Centres in Ireland", my Department secured additional funding of €300,000 which was allocated to all Volunteer Centres in 2017 on a proportionate basis. This increased funding level has been maintained in 2018 and 2019.
The Dormant Accounts Action Plan 2018 included the provision of €1.2 million to upgrade the eight Volunteering Information Services to full Volunteer Centres in order to provide a consistent level of volunteering service nationwide. My Department is currently engaging with stakeholders in the roll-out of this initiative. As part of this exercise, my Department is also examining options with regard to a number of existing Volunteer Centres which are currently receiving less funding than the minimum amount recommended in the McLaughlin report.
My Department is also currently collating information received from a recent call for input exercise that was designed as a first step towards developing a draft national volunteering strategy. Among the topics under consideration in this context is the issue of volunteering support infrastructure and how best this can be structured to support volunteering.
To ask the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the steps that have been taken to fulfil the commitment given by a former Taoiseach to award the distinguished service medals and military medals for gallantry to the 32 members of A Company Infantry Battalion, including deceased servicemen that served during the siege of Jadotville in 1961; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
The siege of Jadotville was a prominent event that occurred during Ireland's peacekeeping mission in the Congo in September 1961. "A" Company, 35th Infantry Battalion took responsibility for the UN post at Jadotville on 3rd September 1961. On the 9th September, a large force of Katangese Gendarmerie surrounded them and early on the morning of the 13th September "A" Company came under attack. From the 13th to the 17th September they endured almost continuous attack. They were taken into captivity on the 17th September and remained in captivity until finally released on the 25th October 1961.
In accordance with Defence Forces regulations, the award of medals for bravery is time bound. These may not be awarded in any case unless a recommendation is made through the usual channels to the Chief of Staff, not later than two years in the case of the Military Medal for Gallantry, and not later than four years in the case of the Distinguished Service Medal, after the performance of the act in respect of which the recommendation is made. Such awards are made on the recommendation of a Military Board appointed by the Chief of Staff for the purpose of examining and reporting on every recommendation for an award.
The issue of the award of medals to the men of “A” Company, 35th Infantry Battalion was comprehensively addressed in 1965. A properly constituted Medals Board considered the recommendation for the award of medals and made a decision that no medals would be awarded.
The Chief of Staff of the day considered the decision of the Board and was satisfied with the findings. Subsequently, at that time, the question was raised again in a letter to a newly appointed Chief of Staff. He forwarded the letter to the original Medals Board and asked that they reconvene and review their decision. The Board indicated that the issues raised had received due consideration and that they were not prepared to alter their findings.
A review was conducted in 2004 by military officers for the purpose of a broader examination of the Jadotville case. This Board recommended that the events of Jadotville and the contribution of the 35th Battalion be given recognition. In this context, a number of measures have taken place to honour and to commemorate the events at Jadotville and the very significant contribution of “A” Company and of the 35th Battalion, as a whole, to the UN Peace Support Mission in the Congo.
Recognition of their contribution over the years include:
A. A presentation of scrolls to "A" Company in 2006.
B. Portraits of Lt Col McNamee (35th Battalion Commander) and Comdt Quinlan (Company Commander “A” Company) were commissioned in 2006.
C. In July of 2010 the 50th anniversary of the first deployment to the Congo was commemorated in a highly publicised and well attended event in Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnel.
D. A nominal roll of “A” Company, printed in copper, was affixed to the monument in Costume Barracks and was unveiled as part of the 50th Anniversary of the Jadotville affair in September 2011.
E. On the occasion of the 55th anniversary of the Siege of Jadotville, I decided to issue a Unit Citation to honour the collective actions and bravery of the men of “A” Company. This was the first time a Unit Citation was awarded within the Defence Forces and I was delighted to be able to formally recognize the brave actions of these men.
Furthermore, on 13th June 2017, the Government decided, as an exceptional step, to award a medal known as “An Bonn Jadotville” or “The Jadotville Medal” to each member of “A” Company, 35th Infantry Battalion and to the family representatives of deceased members to give full and due recognition in honour of their courageous actions at the Siege of Jadotville. I was delighted to present these Jadotville Medals at a ceremony that took place on 2nd December 2017 in Custume Barracks, Athlone. Custume Barracks was the location for this event as it is considered the spiritual home of “A” Company and it is from here that “A” company assembled in advance of their fateful deployment to the Congo.
Over the past number of years various representations have been received in my Department outlining the courage and bravery of "A" Company. All representations have been considered and responded to acknowledging their valiant actions while under siege in Jadotville.
I am satisfied that the events and happenings to date properly honour the collective bravery of the men of “A” Company and full and due recognition has been afforded to them in their honour
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