December 22, 2014 § Leave a comment
Minister for Communications Alex White, TD, today (Monday) awarded €540,000 to twenty-nine projects to help 12,000 people develop basic internet skills. The funding will bring to 114,000 the number of ‘non-liners’ – people who don’t use the internet – who have been helped by the BenefIT Programme since it was established in 2008.
One in six Irish residents have never used the internet, according to new figures published by the Central Statistics Office last week. This is an improvement on the previous figure of one in five. The BenefIT programme aims to halve the number of ‘non-liners’ by the end of 2016.
Announcing the 2015 grant awards at Dublin’s Digital Hub today, Minister White said: “BenefIT is an excellent example of high quality and value-for-money Government intervention. By the end of next year it will have given over 114,000 non-liners, of all ages and backgrounds, access to the internet. Their feedback tells us that 99% of participants would recommend the training to others.
“The encouraging CSO statistics show that our combined efforts are paying off. Nevertheless, I am extending the reach and impact of this initiative to help thousands more people enrich their lives through better access to information, entertainment, social interaction, education and commercial and public services.”
The thirty projects being funded in 2015 will deliver basic internet skills training to groups including young people, unemployed people, farming communities, ethnic minority and traveller groups, older people, parents, job-seekers, people with mental health problems and small businesses. There is also funding for a children’s internet safety project, a rural unemployed group, a community micro-history project and a small sustainable woodland management scheme. The training will be delivered in approximately 100 locations across the country.
Part of the National Digital Strategy (NDS), the BenefIT programme works through community and voluntary organisations, which compete for grants to fund digital skills training in email, social media, video calling, use of online public services, eBanking, TV playback and others aspects of internet use. The community projects encourage and support communities to come up with their own plans and build local partnerships that can get more people online, learning new skills and accessing online resources. The BenefIT scheme has distributed almost €6.5 million to projects since it was established in 2008.
The BenefIT programme is currently available at over 600 locations across Ireland. The latest tranche of funding will bring that to over 700. Details of the locations can be found on the online training locations map on the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources website.
December 15, 2014 § Leave a comment
I welcome the confirmation by Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council that they have purchased Fernhill Estate for €4.25m. It is intended that Fernhill Estate will be developed as a public park.
The decision to purchase the estate was made as the Council recognised that the Fernhill Estate provides a unique opportunity to create a new regional park to meet the recreational needs of residents in the Sandyford / Stepaside area as well as the County as a whole.
Located 11km south of Dublin on the Enniskerry Road between Sandyford and Stepaside, the site contains a total of 84 acres, about 45 of which are wooded. The gardens were initially laid out in the early 19th century and were enlarged and developed by their owners over the decades.
Plans for the redevelopment will be prepared over the coming months and will be presented to County Councillors for their consideration. The plan will also consider the future use of the house and other elements of the property.
December 11, 2014 § Leave a comment
Addressing the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Lima, Peru, yesterday (Wednesday), Minister for Energy Alex White, TD, said Ireland was accelerating its actions to combat climate change. He said Ireland was playing an active part in meeting collective EU targets and global aspirations for reduced carbon emissions through energy efficiency, renewable energy, afforestation, improved agricultural practices, and financial support for developing countries.
Minister White said the Government would publish a Climate Action and Low-Carbon Development Bill this month. The Bill will “provide the statutory framework for transition to a competitive, low-carbon, climate resilient and environmentally sustainable economy by 2050,” in line with EU and international efforts to combat climate change. He said Ireland was “actively exploring all options” in relation to climate finance for developing countries “including in relation to the Green Climate Fund.”
Almost 200 countries are represented at this UN Climate Change Conference, which is working towards agreeing draft negotiating text on key elements of an international climate change agreement ahead of the summit to finalise a legally-binding global accord in Paris next year.
Minister White said: “Ireland is determined to play its part as we work together to deliver an ambitious, global response to our collective climate challenge when we meet in Paris next year. We need decisions here in Lima that pave the way for that, and that build trust in each other’s actions and commitments.
“Ireland is contributing to meeting the EU’s collective 2020 target, and to setting an ambitious EU climate energy framework for 2030. Ireland will strive for de-carbonisation of the power generation, transport and built environment sectors, whilst working towards a goal of carbon neutrality in our agriculture and land sector in a manner consistent with the global framework.”
Minister White said Ireland was actively exploring all options on climate finance, including in relation to the Green Climate Fund. “We fully recognise the need to support our partners in their own responses to the threat of climate change. We are supporting the work of the Climate Technology Centre and Network (CTCN) for example, and, through our overseas development aid programme, we are helping communities pursue climate-resilient sustainable development.
“Despite our recent difficult economic circumstances, Ireland has maintained flows of public climate finance at fast-start finance levels, delivering approximately €34 million in grants in 2013. We expect to match that in 2014, and we are actively exploring all options for scaling up our mobilisation of climate finance, including in relation to the Green Climate Fund.”
December 10, 2014 § Leave a comment
This week I’m representing Ireland at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Lima, Peru. Yesterday I attended the opening address by Ban Ki-Moon. Today, I will address the conference.
Almost 200 countries will be represented at the event, the aim of which will be to continue to work towards an effective international climate change agreement to be finalised in Paris next year. According to the UN, the talks will raise “immediate ambition to act on climate change in advance of the agreement coming into effect in 2020.”
Next year’s Paris conference is tasked with agreeing a legally-binding global agreement on climate change. This week’s Lima conference is tasked with agreeing a draft negotiating text, and agreeing on what information individual countries should supply about their contributions to meeting emissions targets.
Last October the European Union agreed a new target of a 40% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, and a 27% target for renewable energy use, by 2030. It also set a 27% target for improvements in energy efficiency. At the time, I said I was disappointed with the 27% target for energy efficiency, which was a reduction on the 30% target preferred by Ireland and other member states.
December 8, 2014 § Leave a comment
I warmly welcome the announcement by Minister for Education and Skills Jan O’Sullivan, that 27 primary schools in Dublin South will receive a total funding of €306,453 to improve their physical infrastructure and invest in I.T. equipment and furniture.
The successful schools in securing funding under the Minor Works Grant are St Mary’s National School, Taney National School, St. Brigid’s Boys National School, St. Brigid’s Girls National School, Kilternan Church of Ireland National School, St Brigid’s National School, Scoil Naomh Lorcan, St. Raphaela’s National School, St Patrick’s National School, Scoil San Treasa, St Michael’s Special School, Kilternan National School, Kill-O’-The-Grange National School, Our Lady’s Boys School, St Olaf’s National School, Our Lady’s Grove Primary School, Our Lady’s Girls School, Scoil Naithi, St. Attracta’s Junior National School, St. Attracta’s Senior National School, Queen of the Angels Primary School, Holy Cross National School, Our Lady’s National School, Rathfarnham Educate Together, the Islamic National School, Gaelscoil Thaobh na Coille and the Holy Trinity National School.
Pupils from across Dublin South will benefit from these improvements which will help make their schools better environments to learn in. This Government is investing in our schools and ensuring that despite economic constraints, young people can learn in safe and secure buildings.
In total €28 million is being provided by the Department of Education and Skills in 2014 under the Minor Works Grant.
Works that can be undertaken under the Minor Works Grant include improvements to school buildings and grounds, improvement or replacement of mechanical and electrical services, the purchase of standard furniture and physical education equipment, and the purchase of IT related equipment.”
December 8, 2014 § Leave a comment
Minister for Communications Alex White T.D., today published draft media merger guidelines for public consultation. These draft guidelines have been prepared under the Competition and Consumer Protection Act 2014, which came into effect last month.
Minister White said: “The new approach introduced in the recent Competition and Consumer Protection Act significantly enhances the regulation of media mergers in the State and introduces a requirement for media plurality into the regulatory framework. This strengthened process recognises the fact that a free and pluralistic media is an essential component of modern representative democracies. These draft guidelines set out how we propose to conduct these tests. I encourage all interested parties to examine the guidelines and submit their comments to my Department.”
The guidelines have been produced to help media organisations and other interested parties to understand how the new media merger process will work in practice. In particular, they set out the relevant criteria for making determinations on whether a proposed media merger is contrary to the public interest in terms of media plurality.
Interested parties are invited to make submissions on the guidelines by 22 January 2015. The guidelines have been published on the Department’s website in draft form at http://www.dcenr.gov.ie/Broadcasting/Consultation+on+Media+Mergers+Guidelines.htm