Budget 2015: Supporting Employment & Economic & Social recovery

My main priority as Minister is to further advance the National Broadband Plan. Delivering high speed, high quality and future proofed broadband to all parts of Ireland will provide jobs and improve social inclusion, including in rural communities. It will create infrastructure that allows businesses and communities to thrive. To this end, we are in the process of ensuring that high speed broadband becomes available to every citizen and business in the country irrespective of their location.

The introduction of a national postcode system will make 2015 a significant year for Ireland as every household will receive a unique ‘Eircode’ by the middle of the year. Eircodes will assist in logistics planning, accurate address capture, better customer service and enhanced fraud detection and data management.

For the fourth year in a row, we will roll out the Better Energy Programmes. These programmes have successfully delivered major energy savings, created jobs, tackled fuel poverty and helped reduce carbon emissions. In 2015 a further €47m will be provided to the Better Energy Homes Programmes and the Better Energy Warmer Homes programme. The total number of beneficiaries of the Better Energy Warmer Homes programme will rise to 118,000 in 2015.

Overall Expenditure on Communications, Energy and Natural Resources

Allocation to current spending €83.6m

Allocation to capital spending €89.0m

Total Budget for 2015: €172.6m


COMMUNICATIONS

National Broadband Plan

  • Further advance high quality, high speed and future proofed broadband network for Ireland
  • Q4, 2014: Map of priority interventions for broadband to be published.
  • Economic, legal and technical design and scope of plan to be finalised in mid-2015 and published for further consultation.

National Postcode system – Eircode

  • Public Information Campaign to begin Q2, 2015
  • Every household in the country to get a unique code by mid-2015

National Digital Strategy and digital entrepreneurship

  • Further funding of €3m to accelerate Trading Online Voucher Scheme – €2,500 available to small enterprises – through Local Enterprise Offices.
  • Renewed funding for the BenefIT programme, which bridges the internet divide, through a network of 700 community organisations.
  • €2.7m to conclude the Schools broadband programme giving every secondary school in Ireland 100mbs high speed broadband.
  • €5.5m 2015 spending for the National Digital Research Agency and the Digital Hub.

Broadcasting

  • The 2015 allocation is €242.47m. TV licence fee revenue funds the delivery of public service broadcasting by RTÉ and TG4.

ENERGY

Better Energy Programmes

  • €47m allocated to Better Energy Programme, which supports an estimated 2,900 jobs.
  • Better Energy Warmer Homes Scheme will continue to target low-income households for energy savings resulting in warmer homes and reduced energy costs.
  • Better Energy Homes will continue to provide retrofitting grant aid to Irish homes.
  • The €70m Energy Efficiency Fund (€35m from the Government) was launched this year. Fund managers believe that as much as €200m in leveraged funding could be achieved.
  • €10m funding allocated to Ocean Energy research in 2015.

NATURAL RESOURCES

Inland Fisheries Ireland

  • Overall expenditure of €27.6m includes funds to ensure patrol man hours and inspections to assist in the detection of illegal activities.

Geological Survey of Ireland

  • Further €3m allocated to GSI to advance Tellus project mapping Ireland’s environment and natural resources and the continuance of INFOMAR, the near shore mapping project.

Minerals exploration and mining

  • The allocation for 2015 is €3.58m, including €1.4m expenditure on the remediation of former mine sites in Avoca, county Wicklow and Silvermines, county Tipperary.

I am working to advance key Labour values in my Department which is strategic by its very nature. The development of an ambitious broadband plan, and the delivery of ‘Eircodes’, demonstrates the capacity of the state to intervene and invest where the market has failed. By doing so, we will ensure that the right infrastructure exists for families, businesses, our society and economy to thrive and reach its full potential.