Written Answers

The following are questions tabled by Members for written response and the ministerial replies received from the Departments [unrevised].
Questions Nos. 1 to 4, inclusive, answered orally.
Questions Nos. 5 to 122, inclusive, resubmitted.
Questions Nos. 123 to 126, inclusive, answered orally.
Question No. 127 answered with Question No. 123.
Questions Nos. 128 to 130, inclusive, answered orally.

State Airports.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

131 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Transport the position in regard to the Government's proposals for the division of Aer Rianta; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2148/04]

Seán Crowe

Question:

164 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Transport if he will reconsider his decision to break up Aer Rianta. [2152/04]

Bernard Allen

Question:

173 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Transport his plans for Cork Airport; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2307/04]

Michael Noonan

Question:

177 Mr. Noonan asked the Minister for Transport his plans for Shannon Airport; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2305/04]

David Stanton

Question:

178 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Transport his plans for the break-up of Aer Rianta; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2304/04]

Denis Naughten

Question:

201 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Transport his plans for Dublin Airport; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2306/04]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

272 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport his plans for the future of Aer Rianta; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2455/04]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

274 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport the discussions he has had with management and staff at the various airports likely to be affected by his development proposals for Aer Rianta; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2457/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 131, 164, 173, 177, 178, 201, 272 and 274 together.

I refer the Deputies to the answer I have given to Priority Questions Nos. 123 and 127 today.

Public Transport.

Richard Bruton

Question:

132 Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for Transport the financial mechanisms in place to review infrastructural projects; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2301/04]

As I stated in my reply to Question No. 82 of 20 November 2003, all major projects are subject to detailed assessment and evaluation including, at key stages, cost benefit analysis, in accordance with Department of Finance guidelines on the appraisal and management of capital projects.

The development of PPP projects takes account of Department of Finance interim guidelines on the assessment, appraisal and procurement of PPP projects. These guidelines focus on ensuring that the use of the PPP approach is justified on a value for money basis.

Last March, at my request, a new control system for major infrastructure projects was put in place in my Department. The infrastructure projects include national road construction, the Dublin port tunnel, CIE and Luas projects. I have received monthly reports on each of these projects since April. In November, I indicated that I would publish the reports for April to October as a single document. However, it now seems more appropriate to collate the reports up to the end of 2003 for publication as one document. It is my intention thereafter to publish the reports each month.

The State bodies under the aegis of my Department, which are responsible for the delivery of capital infrastructure, are obliged to comply with the requirements of the code of practice for the governance of State bodies, including conformity with the guidelines for the appraisal and management of capital expenditure in the public sector.

In addition to the above procedures, in terms of Luas, a light rail monitoring committee is in place comprised of representatives of my Department, the Department of Finance and the Railway Procurement Agency. It is assisted by independent technical experts who report to the Department on a monthly basis. The Railway Procurement Agency also reports monthly to my Department on programme and budgetary issues. My Department continuously reviews this and other information on the Luas project to ensure that the highest standards of project management are adhered to by the agency. Indeed, my Department reported to Government at critical stages of the Luas project. This included reporting on physical progress and budgetary considerations.

My Department also has in place an investment monitoring unit charged with overseeing the financial and physical progress of rail and bus infrastructure projects and ensuring the effective and timely financial reporting of capital expenditure by the CIE group of companies to the Department. The investment monitoring unit also engages consultants to carry out an audit of expenditure claims submitted to the Department seeking draw-down of Exchequer and EU funding under the National Development Plan 2000-2006.

The implementation of the national roads and public transport investment programmes is further monitored by my Department through the monitoring committee of the economic and social infrastructure OP which is representative of Departments, implementing agencies and social partners and which meets twice yearly to consider progress reports on the implementation of the investment programmes.

Question No. 133 answered with QuestionNo. 130.

Disabled Drivers.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

134 Mr. J. O'Keeffe asked the Minister for Transport his views on whether a person who uses a wheelchair for mobility, when not driving a car, can be considered to be a fit and proper person to whom a hackney licence can be issued; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2107/04]

The licensing and operation of small public service vehicles, including hackneys, is governed by the Road Traffic (Public Service Vehicles) Regulations 1963 to 2002. There are separate requirements for the granting of a hackney licence in respect of the vehicle and the granting of a small public service vehicle driver's licence in respect of the driver of the hackney.

A hackney licence may be granted by the local licensing authority in respect of a particular vehicle following the presentation of a vehicle test certificate and a certificate of suitability issued in respect of the vehicle by the national car testing service, NCTS, demonstration that the use of the vehicle as a hackney is covered by insurance and the payment of the appropriate licensing fee of €250. Accordingly, a person who uses a wheelchair could be granted a hackney vehicle licence, subject to compliance with these requirements.

A hackney may only be driven by a person who holds a current small public service vehicle driver's licence. Under the public service vehicles regulations, the consideration of applications for the grant of a small public service vehicle driver's licence is administered by the Garda Commissioner. Applicants are required to have a current driving licence and must satisfy the Garda Commissioner that they are a fit and proper person to hold a licence to drive a small public service vehicle, that they have an adequate knowledge of general traffic regulations, the regulations relating to small public service vehicles and the area in which they propose to make services available as a driver of a small public service vehicle. In these circumstances, it is a matter for decision by the Garda Commissioner as to the fitness of each individual applicant to be licensed to drive a small public service vehicle.

Council of Transport.

Joan Burton

Question:

135 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Transport the position of the Council of Transport Ministers regarding the Commission's proposal to update Council Regulation 3922/91/EEC; if he expects this issue to be resolved during the Irish Presidency; and his views on the matter. [2108/04]

The European Commission has stated that it will very shortly bring forward a new proposal to update Regulation 3922/91.

The Minister for Transport, Deputy Brennan, recently met with the European Parliament and assured them that as soon as the Commission presented its amended proposal, Ireland, as President of the Council, would commence work on this dossier immediately.

Until such time as the amended proposal has been seen and discussed it is difficult to predict what progress will be made during the Irish Presidency.

Public Transport.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

136 Ms Lynch asked the Minister for Transport the basis on which he approved the recent applications from Dublin Bus, Irish Rail and Bus Éireann for increases in fares; if it is Government policy that fares should be kept at the lowest level in order to encourage greater use of public transport; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2126/04]

Late last year, I refused an application from the CIE operating companies for fare increases averaging almost 10%. Instead, I agreed that increases broadly in line with inflation should be applied with effect from 5 January 2004. As a result, Bus Éireann fares increased on average by 2.75%, Dublin Bus fares, on average, by 3.4% and rail fares by, on average, 3.27%.

In the ten year period prior to 2002, fares on public transport had declined by approximately 20%, in real terms, while personal disposable income had increased significantly. The increases I recently approved are necessary to maintain the financial stability of the CIE group of companies.

Historically, the key deterrent to the greater use of public transport by private car owners has not been the fares levels but the poor quality of infrastructure, old buses and rolling stock and congestion. Major investment in rail infrastructure and rolling stock and in replacement and additional buses has taken place in recent years and will continue over the lifetime of the national development plan, thus improving capacity, reliability and frequency. The investment in an expanding network of quality bus corridors has also enhanced the role of bus services.

Road Network.

Richard Bruton

Question:

137 Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for Transport his plans to address the height of the Dublin Port tunnel; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2300/04]

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

147 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Transport the position regarding his consideration of the draft Atkins report on the height of the Dublin Port tunnel which was received by his Department on 20 October 2003; if a final report has now been received; when it will be published and a decision made; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2136/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 137 and 147 together.

My Department engaged Atkins to review the feasibility, safety implications and cost of raising the height of the Dublin Port tunnel. They were requested to review a range of options for increasing the operational height of the tunnel, their feasibility, having regard to the state of implementation of the current design and build contract and the likely additional costs and impact on the project completion date.

Given the extent of work completed to date, that is the first of the two bored tunnel tubes has been successfully completed and work is underway on the second and the potential high cost and substantial delays associated with redesign and reconstruction of work already completed, the consultants were asked to prepare their report within a short timeframe.

The final report was received from Atkins on 8 December 2003. I am currently reviewing the findings of the report and have sought further information from the NRA pertaining to its conclusions. No decision has been taken on publication of the report.

Question No. 138 answered with QuestionNo. 130.

State Airports.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

139 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Transport his plans to publish the promised discussion paper on the future of the Aer Lingus landing slots at Heathrow Airport; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2115/04]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

161 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport the current position in regard to his future plans for Aer Lingus and Aer Rianta; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2150/04]

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

203 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Transport if he will outline the Government's plans for the future ownership structure of Aer Lingus; when a final decision will be made on this question; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2114/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 139, 161 and 203 together.

As I said in my speech on 12 December last during the Second Stage debate on the Aer Lingus Bill 2003, I am currently giving careful consideration to the company's report on future options for the airline and I will be bringing the Aer Lingus views together with my own position to Cabinet shortly.

During the debate, I listened carefully to the concerns raised by Deputies about specific strategic issues in the context of a State exit from ownership of Aer Lingus. Having taken on board those concerns, I moved an amendment at Committee Stage, which was agreed, to provide that the Minister for Finance may not dispose of any shares in the company without the general principles of the disposal being laid before and approved by Dáil Éireann.

I assure the Deputy that if the Government decides to embark on a sale of all or part of Aer Lingus, I will set out for the House the basis for the Government's decision, including the arguments for and against such a sale. I will also set out how the Government proposes to deal with important strategic issues such as slots at Heathrow and I will outline the general principles of the sale being proposed.

I have already dealt with the position of Aer Rianta in my response to a previous parliamentary question.

Road Network.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

140 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Transport his plans for the Luas intersection at the Red Cow roundabout; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2297/04]

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

187 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Transport the position with regard to the various proposals submitted to him for dealing with problems at the Red Cow roundabout, both in regard to Luas and road traffic generally; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2124/04]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

277 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport the position in relation to the development of the Red Cow roundabout with particular reference to the converging road and rail traffic thereat; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2460/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 140, 187 and 277 together.

The position regarding the upgrading of the M50 is that the NRA and South Dublin County Council are currently preparing plans, including a motorway order and environmental impact statement for the upgrade including,inter alia, the N7/M50, Red Cow, junction. The upgrade works at the Red Cow interchange are intended to remove as much traffic as possible from the signal controlled environment through the provision of additional structures and free flow slips that are separated from other traffic movements. This will significantly increase the overall capacity of the interchange and reduce the Luas/car interface so that both the road and Luas network will have increased capacity to maintain a satisfactory level of service. The proposed works will reduce the volume of traffic interfacing with Luas, that is, traffic crossed by Luas, significantly. Subject to satisfactory progress in planning and design and securing An Bord Pleanála approval, it is expected that work on upgrading the Red Cow interchange will commence in spring 2005 and be completed by spring 2007.

In the meantime, the Railway Procurement Agency, RPA, and the Dublin Transportation Office, DTO, are satisfied that Luas, despite the current unsatisfactory traffic conditions at the Red Cow junction, will be able to operate satisfactorily using existing traffic signal sequences, pending the upgrade of the junction as part of the M50 upgrade project. The trams are driven in much the same way as a car or a bus in that tram drivers yield to other traffic if they are confronted with a red light.

Rail Network.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

141 Ms O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Transport the progress with regard to his consideration of the strategic rail review; if he accepts all the recommendations made in the report; if it is intended to implement the recommendations; the timeframe over which he believes this could be done; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2132/04]

The strategic rail review provides the Government with a policy framework for the future development of passenger and freight services in Ireland over a 20 year period in a manner consistent with the national spatial strategy.

The board of Iarnród Éireann has now considered the findings of the strategic rail review and their prioritised investment programme, based on the review, has been submitted to my Department and is currently under consideration, in the context of the multi-annual envelope for capital expenditure in transport.

Consistent with the review a number of major projects are already under way, including the DART upgrade project, upgrade of the Kildare line, rolling stock acquisition programme and safety investment.

Public Transport.

Mary Upton

Question:

142 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Transport the position regarding plans for the construction of a metro system in Dublin; if he will give the estimated cost; the likely time frame for construction and completion; when the route will be finalised; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2120/04]

Trevor Sargent

Question:

169 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Transport when he expects to bring the business case proposals for the first Dublin metro line to Cabinet; if he will outline the revisions to the Rail Procurement Agency plan he called for late last year; and if the proposal he will present to Cabinet will include the city centre alignment with stations close to the Mater Hospital, O'Connell Street, D'Olier Street and Stephen's Green which has been reported in the papers as the preferred route. [2161/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 142 and 169 together.

The Programme for Government contains a commitment to develop a metro with a link to Dublin Airport.

The original outline business case for phase 1 of the metro from the Railway Procurement Agency, RPA, involved a line from the airport to the city centre. This was subsequently revised to take account of the relevant experience in Madrid and contained a number of changes in comparison to the original business case. These changes reduced the capital cost of the proposal significantly and involved a shorter, more direct route and fewer stations changes in design. At my request, the RPA is doing further work on this revision. I expect to bring my proposals on the metro to the Government in the coming weeks.

I understand that the metro will take approximately four years to build. As the project will be a public private partnership, there is a strong incentive for the bidders to minimise the construction period as payment will not commence until the service is in operation.

The precise route and hence costs will depend on a number of factors including the Government decision; geo-technical surveys; negotiations with bidders; and the railway order process, including the public inquiry. In preparing a submission for the Government on this matter, the merits of all alternative solutions and routes will be considered. Again, it would not be appropriate for me to comment on any of these alternatives in advance of Government deliberations on the matter.

The Joint Oireachtas Committee on Transport has recently commissioned a report on the metro. My Department, the RPA and the Dublin Transportation Office have met with the consultants who are assisting the committee. I understand that the committee's report will be completed shortly and I look forward to receiving it.

Cycle Facilities.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

143 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Transport if his Department is considering submissions for the introduction of a special leisure and commuting cycle route along the sea-front in Dublin Bay from Sandycove to Sutton; the way in which the funding for such a project could be provided; and the agency which will be responsible for its co-ordination and completion. [2158/04]

The S2S — Sutton to Sandycove — proposal referred to by the Deputy involves the provision of a 22 km promenade and cycle way around Dublin Bay from Sutton to Sandycove, with links to the city centre. The plan entails linking the existing and planned walkways and cycle ways around the bay in a co-ordinated fashion by construction of the missing elements and upgrading some of the existing facilities.

I am supportive, in principle, of the concept and following a meeting with one of the project promoters last year, requested that the Dublin Transportation Office allocate funds from its traffic management grants towards a feasibility study of the proposal. I also wrote to the relevant local authorities — Dublin City Council, Fingal County Council and Dún Laoghaire Rathdown County Council — and to Irish Rail, to seek their support for this concept and investment in a feasibility study as soon as possible.

The DTO is on the steering committee of the project, which is chaired by the Dublin Regional Authority, along with representatives from the Dublin Docklands Development Authority, Dublin City Council, Fingal County Council, and Dún Laoghaire Rathdown County Council. I expect preliminary design to get under way shortly.

Road Safety.

John Gormley

Question:

144 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Transport the direction his Department intends to give local authorities with regard to the introduction of new 30 kph. speed zones; and whether the use of such limits will be restricted to areas close to schools or to residential areas which already have physical speed restrictions or will local authorities be able to apply the new lower speed limit on other roads or on an area wide basis which they feel is appropriate. [2162/04]

Eamon Ryan

Question:

269 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Transport the speed limit he is considering introducing for HGVs, trucks and vehicles with trailers as part of his conversion of speed limits to metric; and if he will consider, as part of such a review, the introduction of a regulation which would require HGVs to carry a prominent sign at the rear of their vehicle showing the maximum speed limit that applies to that class of vehicle. [2355/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 144 and 269 together.

A broadly based working group that was established last year to review speed limit policies, against the backdrop of the adoption of metric values for such speed limits, have presented a comprehensive report that incorporates recommendations across a range of areas.

Particular recommendations have been made in relation to the introduction of a special low speed limit of 30 kph. for residential areas where appropriate traffic calming has been provided and also for the application of special arrangements in the vicinity of schools where necessary. These special arrangements would involve the deployment of lower speed limits than normally prevail at the location during periods when children are entering and leaving the school.

The working group has also made specific proposals in relation to the maximum speed limits that should apply to heavy goods vehicles, HGVs, buses and vehicles drawing trailers when the new system of speed limits is implemented. The proposals provide that 90 kph. would be the speed limit for HGVs, single deck buses and vehicle-trailer combinations on motorways and dual carriageways and 80 kph. on all other roads not subject to a lower road speed limit. A separate speed limit of 70 kph. is proposed in respect of double deck buses.

I have given very careful consideration to the group's proposal and I intend to bring the necessary legislative proposals needed to support the new speed limit structure based on the group's report before the Oireachtas in the coming months.

I have no plans at present to require the display on HGVs of a sign showing the legal maximum speed limit applicable to such a vehicle. However, I would be prepared to explore in consultation with the various stake holders the question of the display of such a sign on HGVs.

I should point out that HGVs with a maximum mass exceeding 12 tonnes are fitted with a speed limiter which restricts their maximum speed to 90 kilometres per hour. The requirement to have a speed limiter is being extended to include all HGVs. From 1 January 2005, all new goods vehicles with a maximum mass over 3.5 tonnes but not exceeding 12 tonnes will require to have a functioning speed limiter while such vehicles registered before January 2005 will require to have a speed limiter by 1 January 2007.

Rail Network.

Michael Ring

Question:

145 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Transport the plans he has to progress the western rail corridor in view of the strategic rail review; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2313/04]

John Perry

Question:

196 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Transport if he will approve funding for the western rail corridor; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2292/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 145 and 196 together.

At a seminar organised by my Department last September, the relevant regional authorities, in the Border, west, mid-west and south west, were made aware of the context in which the western rail corridor had been considered within the overall strategic rail review. The seminar provided the opportunity to discuss the western rail proposal with the regional authorities in the context of drawing up regional planning guidelines for their regions as part of the implementation of the national spatial strategy. The seminar has been followed by direct one-to-one discussions between consultants and each of the regional authorities and the Western Development Commission. Also, just before Christmas, I met with the West-on-Track group to hear its case for the western rail corridor.

The regional authorities, in the Border, west, mid-west and south west, are currently considering the potential for rail developments, such as the western rail corridor, in the drafting of their regional planning guidelines. This is being done as part of a policy of developing robust transport strategies that will be supported by land use and settlement strategies. I have asked Irish Rail to facilitate the regional authorities in their work, as they have in the case of the rail feasibility study for Cork. Moreover, I should point out that late last year my Department facilitated the work of the regional authorities by providing them with some consultancy support. Further work on the financial cost and potential of the project will be undertaken once the regional authorities have completed their regional planning guidelines.

Road Safety.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

146 Mr. McGinley asked the Minister for Transport when he will publish his new road safety strategy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2290/04]

Enda Kenny

Question:

155 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Transport the steps he intends to take for road safety; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2289/04]

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

176 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Transport if he has received the report of the high level group on a new road safety strategy for the years 2003 to 2005; when it is intended to publish the report; if proposals arising from the report have been brought to Government; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2137/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 146, 155 and 176 together.

The programme for Government states that a three-year road safety strategy will be developed and will target speeding, drink-driving, seat-belt wearing and pedestrian safety in order to reduce deaths and injuries.

The high level group on road safety has prepared a draft new strategy for the period 2004 to 2006 and I expect to bring specific proposals for the strategy to Government shortly.

The preparation of the new strategy has taken account of the achievements in meeting the targets set out in the road to safety strategy 1998-2002, a comprehensive review of that strategy and further positive trends established in 2003, and the evolving developments in relation to the EU third road safety action plan.

The strategy will outline a range of issues that it is intended will be pursued over the period in question. In overall terms, measures will focus on the areas of education, enforcement, engineering and legislation and will target the key areas of speeding, driving while intoxicated and seat-belt wearing.

Pending the publication of a new strategy, my Department and all the agencies concerned with the implementation of road safety measures are ensuring that the successful measures brought forward under the Road to Safety initiative continue to be implemented. The number of road deaths which occurred in 2003, at 341, was the lowest number of deaths in almost 40 years.

Question No 147 answered with QuestionNo. 137.

Rail Network.

Dan Boyle

Question:

148 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Transport if he accepts that we should be making the maximum use of our current and capital expenditure on all our existing operational rail lines and that there is the potential for the introduction of new commuter rail services on the Nenagh to Limerick rail line; if he accepts that the current service on the line precludes its use by commuters (details supplied); if his attention has been drawn to the fact that 300 new houses are now being built near Castleconnell station which could benefit from such services; and the arrangements his Department have to co-ordinate with local authorities around the country to ensure that local development plans favour such development close to public transport nodes. [2156/04]

My Department maintains constant contact with Irish Rail to ensure that all capital or current funding is used to maximum effect and a number of procedures are in place to extract the best value for money from any investment.

While the detailed operation of individual rail services is an operational matter for Irish Rail, I am aware that the company is examining all regional rail routes to identify where justification for the upgrade of services. I expect that any proposals to re-open or upgrade existing railway lines would need to be supported not only by the local community but also by the use of coherent and cohesive planning strategies in the railways immediate catchment area.

The upcoming regional planning guidelines which follow on from the national spatial strategy will allow the local and regional authorities to develop land use, settlement and economic strategies, which will provide the economic, social and commercial rationale for the provision of transport services. To assist the regional authorities in their important work, officials from my Department are engaged with the all regional authorities to assist and advise them in making strong business cases for the development of public transport in their regions and to make them aware of what are the prerequisites for the development of new transport services.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

149 Ms O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Transport when he expects that repair work on the Cahir viaduct will be completed in order to allow the reopening of the Limerick Junction and Waterford line; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2133/04]

I am informed by Irish Rail that the repair work on the Cahir viaduct will be completed and train traffic will resume in July 2004.

Road Network.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

150 Mr. O'Dowd asked the Minister for Transport the progress to date on the delivery of the inter-urban motorways; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2312/04]

Joe Costello

Question:

194 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Transport the latest projected timetable for the completion of the motorways provided for in the national development plan; the way in which these dates compare with those in the plan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2113/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 150 and 194 together.

The current position in relation to the upgrading of the five major inter-urban routes to motorway-high quality dual carriageway standard is that the M1 is expected to be fully complete by end 2006. Work is under way on major projects on the N7 — Monasterevin bypass and Limerick southern ring road phase 1, on the N8 — Cashel bypass and on the N4/N6 — Kilcock-Kinnegad. Work is expected to start this year on the Dundalk western bypass and Dundalk to Newry on the M1, on the Fermoy bypass — N8, the Waterford City bypass — N9-N25 and Naas road widening — N7. Completion of these projects will eliminate many of the major bottlenecks on these routes.

In addition, it is expected that compulsory purchase orders and environmental impact statements for the remaining projects in planning on these routes will either be approved by, or be before, An Bord Pleanála by the end of 2004. In regard to the national roads programme overall, it should be noted that since 2000 a total of 37 projects — over 250 kms — have been completed. Work is in progress on 17 projects — 150 kms — and another 16 projects — 150 kms — are at tender stage.

On the basis of current planning and funding the NRA estimate that the full completion of these routes, other than the M1, will extend to 2010 compared to 2006 as mandated in the NDP. In response to a request from me the NRA is considering, in the context of the multi-annual programme being prepared in response to the announcement by the Minister for Finance of a multi-annual funding framework for capital investment, the scope to bring forward the completion of the Cork-Dublin and Galway-Dublin routes to 2007.

Public Transport.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

151 Ms Lynch asked the Minister for Transport the position regarding his proposals for the restructuring of CIE; the discussions he has had with the trade unions representing CIE workers on these proposals; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2127/04]

Jack Wall

Question:

179 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Transport his plans for the future of CIE Tours in the context of his plans to abolish CIE; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2146/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 151 and 179 together.

As I have already stated, I met with general secretary of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions and the CIE trade unions on Monday, 26 January 2004 on the reform of public transport. There was a frank exchange of views in talks lasting three hours. Both I and the trade unions agreed to reflect on the views expressed at the meeting and consider if there was a basis for resumed discussions on public transport reform.

I would hope that the understanding of each others firmly held positions which characterised my recent meeting with the unions can provide a productive basis for resumed intensive dialogue on public transport reform.

While these discussions with the trade unions to date have dealt primarily with the regulatory issues, they also touched on the restructuring of CIE. The future arrangements for CIE Tours will be considered as part of the detailed restructuring work. However, I am not contemplating any change to the ownership structure of the company at the present time.

Decentralisation Programme.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

152 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Transport in respect of the sections of his Department, or boards or agencies operating under the aegis of his Department, it is proposed to decentralise the number which are housed in leased office space or premises; the annual amount paid in rent in each case; when the lease runs out in each case; if there are financial penalties involved in the breaking of the lease in each case; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2142/04]

Emmet Stagg

Question:

190 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Transport the functions or sections of his Department, or boards or agencies operating under the aegis of his Department, it is proposed to decentralise; the proposed location in each case; the criteria used for the selection of the location in each case; the number of staff to be transferred; the discussions he has had with representatives of staff involved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2141/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 152 and 190 together.

I would refer the Deputy to my previous answer to Questions Nos. 231 to 234, inclusive, answered on Wednesday, 10 December 2003 and to Question No. 497 answered on Tuesday, 16 December 2003.

While questions relating to leases and rent paid are a matter for the Office of Public Works and the semi-State bodies listed in the decentralisation programme, the information readily available in my Department is detailed in the following table.

Department of Transport

Buildings in which space will be vacated as a result of decentralisation programme.

Agency/Division to be decentralised

Details of Buildings from which staff will be decentralised

Amount of Space Vacated

Lease Arrangements

Road Haulage Division

2nd Floor, Block 4B, Parkwest Business Park Nangor Road, Dublin 12

780.6 sq metres

Lease due to expire on 31/8/2021. Break after 15 years i.e. 31/8/2016 with 12 mths notice and 12 mths rent penalty

National Safety Council

4 Northbrook Road, Ranelagh, Dublin 6

300 sq. metres (3,300 sq. ft)

35 year lease commenced in Jan 1984. 5 year rent review Current rent €69.000 p.a.

National Roads Authority

St Martin's House, Waterloo Road, Dublin 4.

2,183 sq. metres (23,500 sq ft) + 48 car parking spaces

20 year lease, 7 day term from 1 Jan 1996, without option to break

Irish Aviation Authority

Buildings currently occupied are:Aviation House — entire building — 14 Hawkins Street (part of building)

37,000 sq. ft.1,700 sq. ft.The above indicates all space currently occupied and not necessarily the amount of space that will be vacated.

14 Hawkins Street is on short term lease

Railway Safety Commission

Trident House, Blackrock, Co. Dublin

248.05 sq metres

Leased until 30/4/2014

Public Transport.

Seán Crowe

Question:

153 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Transport if he will outline the progress of his proposals to break up CIE and privatise a quarter of Dublin Bus. [2151/04]

I refer to the reply given today to Question No. 124.

Air Services.

Finian McGrath

Question:

154 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Transport if he has major public safety concerns for the civilian population and Army units in the Shannon Airport area while US forces are landing and passing through with weapons, lethal missiles, Mark 77 bombs and Patriot missiles; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29528/03]

Requests for exemptions under the Air Navigation (Carriage of Munitions of War, Weapons and Dangerous Goods) Order 1973 are received from civilian air carriers carrying military troops with their personal weapons and ammunition.

Requests for exemption are also received from cargo carriers. The cargo on these flights includes items such as helicopter parts, rockets, grenades and cartridges. The items are described using their United Nations Classification Codes, UN Identification numbers, and International Civil Aviation Organisation, ICAO, technical packing codes rather than by brand names or mark types. Military personnel are not carried on this type of flight.

As the day-to-day oversight of aviation safety falls within the remit of the Irish Aviation Authority, all applications under the above order, including details of the cargo carried, are submitted to the IAA for their observations. The IAA ensures all such requests are compliant with current safety regulations for the safe transport of dangerous goods by air as approved by ICAO.

Applications are also sent to the Departments of Justice and Law Reform and Foreign Affairs for their observations and the Department of Defence for information. Should these bodies express an objection to the operation of these flights, I would refuse to grant an exemption under the 1973 order.

Question No. 155 answered with QuestionNo. 146.

Rural Transport Initiative.

Joe Sherlock

Question:

156 Mr. Sherlock asked the Minister for Transport if he will report on the operation of the rural transport initiative; the areas where the scheme operates; the funding provided to each scheme for 2003 and 2004; and his plans for this scheme for the future. [2144/04]

Area Development Management Ltd., ADM, administers the rural transport initiative — RTI — on behalf of my Department and the specific details which the Deputy requires are outlined in the following table, which has been supplied to my Department by ADM.

My Department provided ADM with €2.95 million for 2002 and €3 million for 2003. The allocation to ADM for 2004 is €3 million. ADM is about to commission a full appraisal of the RTI in order to measure its effectiveness in terms of addressing the transport needs of rural Ireland. I will consider the results of the appraisal before making a long-term decision about rural transport.

Rural TrabsportInitiative

Operational Area

Total RTI Allocation

Free Travel Pass Allocation

RTI Allocation

2002 — 2003

2003

2004

Aughrim-Kilmore Development Association Ltd.

North Roscommon

46,349

2,560

40,000

Avondhu Area Transport Partnership

Mid Cork

146,349

12,400

81,051

Bantry Integrated Development Group

South West Cork

203,158

6,760

45,436

Bealach (Connamara Local Transport Partnership)

West Galway

134,349

11,120

79,360

Borrisokane Area Network Development Ltd.

North Tipperary

66,349

5,640

40,000

Carlow, Kilkenny, Sth Tipperary Rural Transport

Co. Carlow / Co. Kilkenny / South Tipperary

355,527

27,840

172,883

Comharchumann Chleire Teo (Cape Clear)

South Cork (Island)

101,349

2,560

53,194

Community of Lougharrow Social Project

East Sligo

86,349

7,440

49,600

County Limerick / North Cork Transport Group

Co. Limerick / North Cork

186,349

19,600

109,060

County Sligo LEADER Partnership Company Ltd.

North West Sligo

86,349

6,880

49,594

East Clare Accessible Transport

Clare

253,948

19,120

98,696

I.R.D. Duhallow

North West Cork

101,349

9,840

58,900

Kerry Community Transport

Co. Kerry

571,382

45,360

274,367

Kilnaleck Community & Cooperative Soc.(Cavan)

South Cavan

47,349

3,600

40,000

Laois Rural Regeneration Partnership

Co. Laois

156,349

13,320

93,117

Longford Community Resources Ltd.

North Longford

101,349

6,720

58,064

Meath Accessible Transport

Co. Meath

215,855

9,080

72,710

Meitheal Mhaigh Eo

Co. Mayo

166,349

15,000

99,372

MFG Teo

North Donegal

146,349

13,000

86,924

Monaghan Partnership

Mid Monaghan

50,244

3,760

40,000

North Fingal Rural transport Company

North Dublin

136,349

7,080

40,000

Oak Partnership (Offaly / Kildare)

North Offaly / North West Kildare

317,435

22,240

124,575

Rural Lift (Co. Leitrim, Nth Cavan)

North Cavan / Co. Leitrim

177,763

12,280

72,439

Seirbhis Iompair Tuaithe Teo

South West Donegal

120,000

9,600

69,126

South East Galway Integrated Rural Dev.

South Esat Galway

101,349

8,400

58,910

South Kildare Rural

South Kildare

228,553

19,880

129,215

South Westmeath (Mount Temple)

Westmeath

146,349

13,240

86,797

Tipperary LEADER Group

North Tipperary

54,349

4,120

40,000

Tumna Shannon Development Co.

North Roscommon

76,349

4,360

43,460

Waterford Rural Transport Working Group (CDB)

Co. Waterford

151,349

12,800

90,734

West Coast Wexford Rural Transport Initiative

South West Wexford

106,349

9,320

60,890

West Offaly Partnership

West Offaly

126,349

8,800

74,400

Wexford Area Partnership

West Wexford

86,349

5,880

49,600

Wicklow Rural (Aughrim Tidy Towns Ltd.)

South Wicklow

146,349

14,000

86,794

TOTAL

5,198,241

393,600

2,669,268

(See note 1)

(See note 2)

(See Note 3)

Note 1 : ADM made allocations to groups in 2002 which covered the period 2002 — 2003. These allocations included Pre-Development Grants to 25 groups of €6,349 each. The balance of some €750,000 catered for ADM administration and technical assistance costs as well as an emergency assistance fund.

Note 2: It should be noted that an allocation has not yet been made for 2004 by the Department of Social and Family Affairs relating to the Free Travel Pass Scheme.

Note 3 : In addition €330,732 is being provided for the administration of the RTI by ADM

Driving Licences.

John Bruton

Question:

157 Mr. J. Bruton asked the Minister for Transport if he intends to abolish provisional driving licences; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2308/04]

Over the years various changes have been made to the regulatory conditions under which provisional licences have effect. I am considering whether further changes are desirable in this regard. I wish, in particular, to bring in measures that will reduce long-term reliance on provisional licences. As the provisional licence is a learning permit, which provisionally allows a person to drive in a public place, I am also considering whether the term "provisional licence" should be revised to reflect this. In addition, I am reviewing the provision whereby holders of second provisional licences for cars are not required to be accompanied by a person who holds a driving licence for that category of vehicle with a view to ending this arrangement. All other provisional licence holders other than drivers of motorcycles and work vehicles must be accompanied by a qualified driver at all times when driving in a public place.

Light Rail Project.

Liz McManus

Question:

158 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Transport the progress with regard to each of the three Luas lines; the original estimated cost in respect of each and the final anticipated cost; the original planned opening date for each and the expected operational date for each; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2123/04]

Considerable progress has been made in the construction of the Luas project. I understand from the RPA that construction will be completed by May 2004 for the Tallaght-Connolly Station line, line A/C, and March 2004 for the Sandyford-St. Stephen's Green line, line B. This compares with the original contractual dates of October 2003 for line A and December 2003 for line B. Following a period of testing and commissioning, passenger services will begin at the end of August 2004 for the Tallaght-Connolly Station line and end of June 2004 for the Sandyford-St. Stephen's Green line.

Government approval for the capital cost of €466 million — comprising €235 million for line A, €201 million for line B and €30 million for line C — for the Luas project was given in 2000, based on preliminary estimates submitted by CIE in 1999 prices. The budget was revised in February 2001 to €675 million — comprising €338 million for line A, €295 million for line B and €42 million for line C — plus a risk provision of €89 million to take account of competitive tender prices received, reflecting high inflation in the construction sector, higher than anticipated property acquisition costs and changes to the scope of the project, mainly related to the provision for upgrading line B to metro status.

In December 2002 the Government noted the increase in the budget to €691 million — comprising €358 million for line A, €290 million for line B and €43 million for line C — plus a risk provision of €84 million. The reasons for the increase of €16 million are the higher than anticipated costs associated with the demolition of the Connolly Station ramp and increases in the costs of utilities and enabling works. I have been informed by the RPA that the project is within the €691 million budget and risk provision, as notified to the Government in December 2002.

Public Transport.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

159 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Transport his plans for the future decision-making structures for transport and traffic in the greater Dublin area; the status of the proposed greater Dublin land use and transport authority; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2125/04]

John Gormley

Question:

165 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Transport if he will consider the introduction of a separate public transport regulator for the greater Dublin area in conjunction with a separate national regulator to deal with other urban, inter-urban and rural services; and, in view of the difficulty in filling the position of taxi regulator, if he will also consider amalgamating the role of taxi regulator with public transport regulator within the one office. [2155/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 159 and 165 together.

It is my intention to establish an independent procurement and regulatory body for public transport. My priority for public transport regulatory reform is the establishment of this body. Such an independent body should be established on a national basis.

I am mindful of the significant work under way on the integration of land use and transport through the drawing up of regional planning guidelines by regional authorities having regard to the national spatial strategy. In light of this development, I am reviewing my proposals for a greater Dublin land use and transport authority.

The Taxi Regulation Act 2003 provides the legislative basis for the establishment of a commission for taxi regulation. Given that the legislation has been enacted so recently and the onerous tasks that it is faced with, I do not consider it appropriate, at this stage, to amalgamate this role with the regulation of the public transport market.

Light Rail Project.

Denis Naughten

Question:

160 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Transport the supervisory role of his Department in the Luas project; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2296/04]

The Railway Procurement Agency, which is responsible for the delivery of the Luas project, has confirmed to me that the agency complies with the requirements of the code of practice for the governance of State bodies, including conformity with the guidelines for the appraisal and management of capital expenditure in the public sector.

In addition, a light rail monitoring committee is in place comprised of representatives of my Department, the Department of Finance and the Railway Procurement Agency. It is assisted by independent technical experts who report to the Department on a monthly basis. The Railway Procurement Agency also report on programme and budgetary issues to my Department on a monthly basis.

I have been informed by the RPA that Luas passenger services will commence in summer 2004 and that the project is within the €691 million budget and risk provision as notified to the Government in 2002.

Question No. 161 answered with QuestionNo. 139.

Air Services.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

162 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Transport the position regarding plans to end the Shannon stopover; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2119/04]

As I have indicated to the House on a number of occasions, negotiations have begun between the EU Commission and the US authorities to establish an EU-US open aviation area agreement. The third round of those negotiations will take place in Washington next month. Officials of my Department met with the Aer Rianta unions on a number of occasions late last year to hear their views on this matter.

I have previously indicated that I consider it appropriate for any changes that occur in this area to be on a phased basis over a number of years.

In order to protect the Irish position, and with a view to securing new US routes for Aer Lingus, as well as taking account of the developing EU-US negotiations, I have authorized my officials to seek negotiations with the US so that both sides could discuss arrangements for any possible phased amendments to the Ireland-US bilateral agreement. Negotiations have not yet commenced.

Last week, I wrote to SIPTU and ICTU regarding,inter alia, the dual gateway status of Shannon and I confirmed my commitment to renew direct engagement with them to seek to work out a means of best addressing the challenges arising for Shannon Airport. I will also be consulting further with the board designate of Shannon airport about this issue.

Traffic Management.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

163 Mr. O'Shea asked the Minister for Transport his plans for the establishment of the dedicated traffic corps, promised in the programme for Government; when he expects that the corps will be established and operational; the reason for the delay, especially when the programme for Government promised that the consultation process would be completed by the end of 2002; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2130/04]

The programme for Government contains a commitment relating to the establishment of a dedicated traffic corps. As I have already indicated in this House, I support the implementation of this proposal through the formation of a corps that will be separately identifiable and visible.

A consultation process involving my Department, the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and the Garda Síochána in relation to the establishment of a dedicated traffic corps is being progressed. The question of the relationship that the corps will have with the Garda and in particular whether it will be under the overall control of the commissioner is central to the development of this proposal.

The establishment of a dedicated traffic corps which is independent of the gardaí, would require the introduction of legislation, in particular to establish powers and functions of the corps and its accountability.

A working group has been established to urgently consider the options available in terms of progressing this proposal. This group comprises representatives from the Department of Transport, the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, the Garda Síochána, the Dublin Transportation Office and the Office of the Director of Traffic.

Question No. 164 answered with QuestionNo. 131.
Question No. 165 answered with QuestionNo. 159.

Driving Tests.

Michael Ring

Question:

166 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Transport his plans to address the driving test backlog; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2288/04]

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

167 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Transport the number of applicants awaiting driving tests at the latest date for which figures are available; if he will give the current waiting time in each test centre; if he will outline the progress made to date in discussions with the Department of Finance on a package of measures to address the backlog of driving test applications; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2128/04]

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

168 Mr. J. O'Keeffe asked the Minister for Transport when he expects applicants for driving tests to be able to have their tests within a reasonable time; the current backlog and waiting time; and the estimated cost to applicants in the payment of additional insurance premia pending their obtaining full licences. [2106/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 166 to 168, inclusive, together.

The number of applicants awaiting a driving test at 26 January 2004 is 119,569. Of these, 21,631 have been given test appointments and a further 13,226 have indicated that they are currently not available to be tested. The current average waiting time nationally for a driving test is 33 weeks. The current average waiting time at each test centre as at 26 January 2004 is set out in the following table.

The current waiting times are due to the unprecedented level of approximately 230,000 test applications received in 2003. This represents a 21% increase on 2002 applications. However, indications are that applications have now fallen to normally expected levels. The annual capacity of the driver testing service, inclusive of normal overtime, is in the region of 200,000 tests. I anticipate that the current waiting times will improve over the coming year.

Sanction for a bonus scheme for driver testers was obtained from the Department of Finance in May 2003. Under the terms of the scheme set out by the Department of Finance, the bonus scheme terminated in November 2003. In addition to the bonus scheme, eight retired driver testers were re-employed with effect from 13 October 2003. Driver testers continue to deliver additional tests by working overtime on Saturdays and at lunchtime.

Preparation of legislation to establish the driver testing and standards authority, which will take on responsibility for conducting driving tests and will have more flexibility to respond to variations in demand, is at an advanced stage.

The cost and availability of insurance is a matter for the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment.

Centre

Average Weeks Waiting

Centre

Average Weeks Waiting

North Leinster

South East

Finglas

33

Carlow

33

Dundalk

38

Clonmel

46

Mullingar

28

Dungarvan

44

Navan

41

Kilkenny

35

Raheny

36

Nenagh

45

South Leinster

Portlaoise

34

Churchtown/Rathgar

35

Thurles

38

Gorey

46

Tipperary

44

Naas

33

Waterford

35

Tullamore

37

Wexford

35

Wicklow

46

South West

Tallaght

43

Cork

36

West

Killarney

40

Athlone

6

Kilrush

25

Birr

30

Limerick

33

Castlebar

39

Mallow

34

Clifden

15

Newcastle West

34

Ennis

15

Shannon

40

Galway

31

Skibbereen

33

Loughrea

18

Tralee

35

Roscommon

22

Tuam

28

North West

Ballina

35

Buncrana

17

Carrick-on-Shannon

40

Cavan

44

Donegal

29

Letterkenny

23

Longford

26

Monaghan

39

Sligo

25

Note: The average waiting time is derived having regard to waiting times experienced by individual applicants who have undergone a driving test over the previous four week period in the test centre.

Question No. 169 answered with QuestionNo. 142.
Question No. 170 answered with QuestionNo. 129.

Public Transport.

Liz McManus

Question:

171 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Transport the progress with regard to commitments under the NDP to increase the Dublin Bus fleet; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2122/04]

The national development plan target for the Dublin Bus fleet is the purchase of 275 additional and 500 replacement buses. In the first three years of the plan, 2000-2002, 93 additional and 241 replacement buses were acquired. A further 90 replacement buses were acquired in 2003. All new buses are wheelchair accessible, in line with transport policy of making public transport accessible for all users, and have improved the quality and reliability of the fleet as well as providing for increased services.

Rail Network.

Dan Boyle

Question:

172 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Transport if his Department held discussions with Iarnród Éireann on the proposed interconnector tunnel between Heuston Station and Spencer Dock; if he intends asking for a full cost benefit analysis to be carried out on such a proposal as was included in the Dublin Transportation Office platform for change plan; and his views on whether we will have to choose between investing in the interconnector proposal and investing in upgrading the Phoenix Park tunnel. [2164/04]

Consistent with the Dublin Transportation Office "Platform for Change", Irish Rail recently completed a study on the feasibility of providing an interconnector tunnel from Heuston Station to the docklands. At my request this study also examined the question of increased use of the Phoenix Park tunnel for passenger services between Connolly and Heuston stations. The completed study has been submitted to my Department and discussions have taken place with Irish Rail on the findings.

I am awaiting a business plan from Irish Rail, which will include cost benefit analysis, funding proposals and a proposed timescale. I understand, however, that the construction of the interconnector does not form part of the company's short-term plans. In the meantime, the company is looking at the potential of the Phoenix Park tunnel when the second phase of the DART upgrade programme is completed in 2007 and extra rail paths into Connolly Station become available.

Question No. 173 answered with QuestionNo. 131.

Cycle Facilities.

Eamon Ryan

Question:

174 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Transport if he intends to review the regulations governing the design and use of cycle lanes; and if he will consider amending the regulations designating the mandatory use of certain cycle lanes given the criticism by cycling campaign groups that such a restriction may in certain circumstances restrict a cyclist from taking the safest manoeuvring action on the road. [2157/04]

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

267 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Transport if he will outline the legislation in place to control the use of cycle paths and to ensure they are kept free of obstruction. [2526/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 174 and 267 together.

The statutory basis for the use of cycle tracks is set out in the Road Traffic (Traffic and Parking) Regulations 1997 and 1998. The regulations provide for two types of cycle tracks, namely, mandatory cycle tracks, which are indicated by a continuous white line, which cyclists must use and other vehicles must not enter — except for access to premises — and non-mandatory cycle tracks which are indicated by a broken white line from which cyclists may depart in certain circumstances, for example, to pass a stopped bus or change direction at a junction and which other vehicles are restricted from entering, save in very particular circumstances.

The regulations also prohibit parking in a cycle track. That offence comes within the scope of the on the spot fines system and the amount of the on the spot fine currently applicable to the offence is €19, which is the level that applies to the majority of parking offences. Where an on the spot fine notice is issued, it is open to the person to whom the notice is addressed to pay the relevant amount so as to avoid the matter proceeding to court.

Section 23 of the Road Traffic Act 2002, which was commenced on 31 October 2002, provides for major increases in certain financial penalties for road traffic offences including an increase in the general penalty that applies to the majority of offences under the Road Traffic Acts, including the offence of illegally parking in a cycle track.

If the motorist elects to go to court and is convicted of this offence he or she is liable to a fine not exceeding €800 for a first offence, a fine not exceeding €1,500 for a second or subsequent offence and if a third or subsequent such offence is committed within 12 months the person is liable to a fine not exceeding €1,500 or, at the discretion of the court, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three months or both. The determination of the fine to be imposed in each particular case is a matter for the courts.

That Act also provides for the replacement of the present on the spot fines system by a fixed charge system. The new system will bring greater certainty to the application of administrative charges for the traffic and parking offences to which it will apply. I expect that the full roll out of the fixed charge system will be completed this year.

A design manual for cycle facilities entitled Provision of Cycle Facilities — National Manual for Urban Areas was published in March 1998 by the Dublin Transportation Office, DTO, in association with the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. The manual comprises a comprehensive set of guidelines for the design and provision of cycle facilities and is intended to be of assistance to local authorities in ensuring that such facilities are implemented to a uniform and high standard. This 1998 manual is currently being reviewed by the DTO and is expected to be finalised later this year.

Haulage Industry.

Willie Penrose

Question:

175 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Transport his plans to publish the draft regulations regarding the maximum height of commercial vehicles which he told the House on 20 November 2003 would be published within the next few weeks; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2135/04]

In order to facilitate and inform the public consultation process on the question of a maximum height for vehicles, I have decided that a background paper will accompany the draft regulations. The paper will provide a context for the draft regulations by outlining the considerations of the various interests involved in this matter. Publication of the draft regulations was deferred pending the completion of the information paper. I expect to be in a position to issue the draft regulations and information paper shortly.

Question No. 176 answered with QuestionNo. 146.
Questions Nos. 177 and 178 answered with Question No. 131.
Question No. 179 answered with QuestionNo. 151.
Questions Nos. 180, 181 and 182 answered with Question No. 130.

Rural Transport Integration.

Jack Wall

Question:

183 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Transport if he will report on the allocation to Seirbhís Iompair Tuaithe Teoranta for 2003 and the proposed funding for 2004; the reasons this has been reduced so drastically in the current year, in view of the success of the scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2145/04]

At the outset, I want to clarify that there has been no reduction in the funding provided by my Department for the rural transport initiative (RTI). On the contrary, while €4.4 million was earmarked for the RTI in the national development plan, some €6 million has already been provided for the initiative in the two year period ending December 2003 and further funding of €3.0 million is being provided for the initiative in 2004.

Specific allocations for individual RTI projects are made from this funding by Area Development Management Limited (ADM) which is managing the RTI on behalf of my Department.

I understand from ADM that in 2003, €111,493 was provided to Seirbhís Iompair Tuaithe Teo. (County Donegal). In addition, the company received €9,600 from the Department of Social and Family Affairs, arising from the extension of the free travel scheme to the RTI in July 2003. ADM advise that the 2004 RTI allocation for the project is €69,126, before any allocation from the Department of Social and Family Affairs or any funding which individual projects might acquire from other sources. I have been informed by ADM that the reason for the high level of expenditure in 2003 arose as a result of the company being unable to draw down their full allocation from ADM for 2002 and this resulted in a substantial carryover to 2003.

Driving Instruction.

Seán Ryan

Question:

184 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for Transport his plans to introduce the promised legislation to licence and regulate driving instructors, especially in view of concerns that not all instructors have the required level of skill and expertise to successfully instruct new drivers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2140/04]

Proposals being developed by my Department for the regulation and quality assurance of driving instruction will involve a test of the competence of individual instructors. The design of the standards that a driving instructor must meet has been formulated by a working group comprising representatives of my Department and of instruction interests. I am considering what arrangements will be put in place to oversee implementation of the standard in the context of the establishment of the Driver Testing and Standards Authority.

Road Safety.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

185 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Transport if, in regard to his statement of 20 October, 2003, he will outline his plans to make the sale of end of use cars to minors a criminal offence in view of the number of accidents and deaths caused by these vehicles; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2129/04]

The Road Traffic Act 1968 sets out certain provisions for the control of the supply of vehicles. These provisions prohibit, inter alia, the delivery of a vehicle in such a condition that it does not comply with the requirements of regulations regarding the use of vehicles in a public place or on a public road.

I intend, in conjunction with the Attorney General, to consider the question of introducing controls on the sale of vehicles generally including to persons under the licensing age established under the Road Traffic Acts and to determine if it would be appropriate to use road traffic legislation for the imposition of such controls in the case of persons under 17 years of age.

I am mindful that section 41 of the Road Traffic Act 1994 already provides for the detention of vehicles driven by underage drivers. In addition policies and legislative measures in respect of end of use vehicles are being pursued in other areas in that the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government has been actively engaged with the Society for the Irish Motor Industry, SIMI, the Irish Motor Vehicle Recyclers Association, IMVRA, the Metal Recyclers Association of Ireland, MRAI, and other concerned parties with a view to developing a producer responsibility initiative to implement the main provisions of European Parliament and Council Directive 2000/53/EC on end-of-life vehicles, ELVs.

Taxi Regulations.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

186 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Transport his plans to introduce the promised tougher criteria for qualification for a taxi drivers licence in view of concerns that an increasing number of people with serious criminal convictions have received licences; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2118/04]

Under existing provisions in the Road Traffic (Public Service Vehicles) Regulations 1963 to 2002 all applicants for licences to drive small public service vehicles, i.e. taxis, hackneys and limousines, must satisfy the Garda Commissioner that they are a fit and proper person to hold a licence, and that they have an adequate knowledge of general traffic regulations, the regulations relating to public service vehicles and the area in which they propose to make services available as a driver of a small public service vehicle. All applicants for such licences are vetted by the Garda Síochána for the purpose of establishing if applicants are fit and proper persons to hold such licences. The Garda Commissioner may at any time revoke a licence to drive a small public service vehicle if he considers that the holder of the licence is no longer a fit and proper person to hold such a licence. It is of course open to individual licence applicants to appeal Garda decisions to refuse or revoke a licence to the courts.

Under the Taxi Regulation Act 2003, the principal function of the Commission for Taxi Regulation will be the development and maintenance of a new regulatory framework for the control and operation of small public service vehicles and their drivers. This will include the overall development and application of new standards and requirements for drivers, licence holders and for vehicles.

Pending the establishment of the commission, I have indicated to the recently established Advisory Council to the Commission that I would be interested in their advice on a range of issues including the introduction of enhanced training and knowledge requirements for existing and new small public service vehicle drivers.

Section 36 of the Taxi Regulation Act 2003 provides for a system of automatic disqualification from applying for or holding a small public service driver or vehicle licence in respect of persons who have been convicted of one of a range of very serious offences, including murder, manslaughter and various sexual, drug trafficking and other offences. A person who is affected by these provisions can request the courts to allow them to apply for a licence in certain restricted circumstances. In addition, where a person has been convicted of one of a number of other serious traffic offences, he or she will be disqualified from holding a licence to drive a small public service vehicle for a period additional to any driving disqualification that is applied. Section 37 of the Act also provides that the grant or renewal of licences will be subject to the production by the applicant of a tax clearance certificate.

Decisions regarding the timing of the commencement of the above sections have yet to be made having regard to the putting in place of appropriate administrative and other arrangements to facilitate their full implementation.

Question No. 187 answered with QuestionNo. 140

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

188 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for Transport when he expects the taxi regulator will be appointed; the reason for the delay in making the appointment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2117/04]

Trevor Sargent

Question:

193 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Transport the progress the Government is making on the commitment given at the deregulation of the Dublin taxi market that, by the end of 2003, we would begin the process of making all taxis wheelchair accessible; the talks that have taken place with interested parties in this area; the current status of the proposed Taxi Advisory Council and the taxi regulator; who will be ultimately responsible for deciding the means to be used to achieve this Government's commitment on taxi accessibility; and the projected timetable for such a decision to be taken. [2159/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 188 and 193 together.

The Taxi Regulation Act 2003 was enacted in July 2003 to provide a legislative basis for the establishment of a Commission for Taxi Regulation and an Advisory Council to the Commission for Taxi Regulation. Section 14 of the Act requires that the Commissioner for Taxi Regulation must be selected by open recruitment competition held by the Civil Service and Local Appointments Commission.

Following a competition for the post of Taxi Commissioner in 2003, the Civil Service and Local Appointments Commission was unable to recommend a candidate for appointment. Arrangements are currently being made to hold a further recruitment competition on the basis of an enhanced salary for the position. I understand that the post will be advertised in the national newspapers in the near future.

With regard to the Advisory Council to the Commission for Taxi Regulation, I have made an order under the Taxi Regulation Act 2003 to provide for the establishment of the council with effect from 4 November 2003. I understand that the council has met on two occasions to date and a further meeting is planned later this month.

On the question of accessible taxis, the position is that the Government is committed in An Agreed Programme for Government to continue the process of making taxis wheelchair accessible. However, a number of complex issues concerning implementation of this accessible taxi policy have yet to be decided. These include improvements to the existing wheelchair accessible taxi specification to accommodate the greatest possible range of people, issues surrounding urban-rural needs and the cost of suitable vehicles. These issues will be addressed by the Commission for Taxi Regulation, when established, as part of the development of new small public service vehicle standards.

The Taxi Regulation Act 2003 specifically provides that an objective of the Commission for Taxi Regulation is to promote access to small public service vehicles by persons with disabilities. In this regard, the commission will be tasked with the determination of the future policy in relation to accessible taxis. It is envisaged that this will necessitate specific discussions with both disability and taxi representative groups. The commission will also determine the manner and time frame for the implementation of the standards for accessible taxi services.

Pending the establishment of the commission, I have indicated to the advisory council that I would be interested in its advice on a range of issues relating to quality enhancement and standards for small public service vehicles and their drivers, including vehicle standards and accessibility for persons with mobility and sensory difficulties.

Penalty Points System.

Seán Ryan

Question:

189 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for Transport his views on the operation to date of the penalty points system; the number of drivers who have received penalty points to date; if there have been any disqualifications to date based on the number of points received; and the timetable for the extension of the system to other road offences [2139/04]

Penalty points are being applied to the driving licence records of those convicted of speeding, insurance and seat belt wearing offences, and to those who pay a fixed charge to the Garda (in the case of speeding and seat belt wearing offences) in order to prevent the instigation of court proceedings.

It is now more than one year since penalty points for speeding were first introduced. At the end of December, 2003 more than 93,300 drivers have received penalty points since the introduction of the system in October 2002. The number of road deaths during the first year of the operation of the penalty points system was 333 compared to 409 for the corresponding 12-month period in the previous years. This represents the saving of 76 lives (nearly 19%) since the introduction of the system. Provisional figures for 2003 show 341 road deaths compared to 376 in 2002. At the end of December 2003, no driver had accumulated the 12-point threshold which leads to automatic disqualification.

The full application of the penalty points system will be achieved when the relevant IT systems being developed by the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and the Garda are completed.

Question No. 190 answered with QuestionNo. 152.

Taxi Hardship Panel.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

191 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for Transport the number of payments made to date by the Taxi Hardship Panel and the average amount paid out; the number of outstanding claims before the Panel; when he expects that these will be disposed of; his plans to provide for a compassionate payments scheme for those who do not fit into any of the existing categories but who have clearly suffered hardship; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2116/04]

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

195 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Transport the cost of employing ADM to administer the Taxi Hardship Panel; if he will provide a breakdown of this figure relating to staff, administration or any other costs; if these costs will be met from the fund itself; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2110/04]

I propose to answer Questions Nos. 191 and 195 together.

Area Development Management Limited (ADM) has been engaged to administer and manage the implementation of the taxi hardship payments scheme in accordance with the terms of the relevant Government decision.

The cost of administering the taxi hardship payments scheme, based on a nine-month implementation period, was estimated at some €536,000 in August 2003. This cost estimate is made up of set-up costs of some €92,000, ongoing salary costs in the region of €295,000, with the balance relating to administration costs. ADM operates as a not for profit organisation and has to directly recoup all the costs it incurs in administering schemes or projects on behalf of the State. These costs will be met over and above any hardship payments made under the taxi hardship payments scheme itself.

I understand from ADM that a total of 749 applications under the taxi hardship payments scheme had been received by them as of Friday, 23 January 2004. Hardship payments totalling €1,990,000 have been made to 166 qualifying persons under the scheme to date. The taxi hardship panel recommended that a range of specific payments might be made to eligible and qualifying taxi licence holders, ranging from €3,000 to €15,000 depending on the category of hardship involved. The average payment to date is €12,042. Of the 583 outstanding applications, additional information has been requested from the applicants in 497 cases and a further 86 applications where the information is complete have yet to be processed. The time taken to process applications and to make payments depends on the completeness of the information and supporting documentation in each individual application.

The taxi hardship payments scheme is based on the recommendations and parameters set out in the Taxi Hardship Panel report, as approved by Government. However, the scheme does allow individuals who find, due to their particular circumstances, that they fall outside the requirements for a particular category of hardship, to complete the application form and submit their details, including information regarding the extenuating circumstances involved in relation to their hardship, for consideration by ADM. I have no proposals to depart from the terms of the Taxi Hardship Panel report or the Government's decision in relation to it.

Public Transport.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

192 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport the extent to which adequate research and forward planning was undertaken in regard to the modernisation of transportation in Dublin with particular reference to the roads, Luas, the port tunnel and actual traffic management; if consultants reports were called upon; if so, the extent thereof and whether actual operations to date are in accord with projections; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2149/04]

The updated DTO strategy — A Platform for Change — is providing the framework for the development of Dublin's transport network, including metro, Luas, DART/suburban rail, bus and roads, to respond to the transportation needs of the greater Dublin area in the period to 2016.

A Platform for Change; was developed to support and complement the strategic land use planning framework set out in the strategic planning guidelines for the greater Dublin area and was drawn up taking account,inter alia, of the development plans of the local authorities, the national sustainable development strategy, the Green Paper on sustainable energy, the national climate change strategy, the Dublin suburban rail strategic review, the bus network strategy appraisal for the greater Dublin area, the national road needs study and the ESRI medium term review. These and other documents provided both a general policy background and more detailed technical analysis.

As part of the development of the strategy the DTO subjected emerging strategy options to a multi-criterion evaluation process analysing the impacts of proposed measures on the economy, on accessibility, on sustainability and on policy integration. In addition, individual projects are subject to detailed examination and assessment as part of the planning and design process.

Significant elements of the strategy are now being delivered under the NDP. The NDP provides for investment of over €2 billion in public transport and traffic management in Dublin in the period to 2006, including provision of over €250 million in respect of traffic management grants. Major national road development projects, including major projects on the M1, the M50, the N11 and the Dublin port tunnel, to a total value of nearly €2.5 billion have been completed in recent years or are under way in the greater Dublin area.

In addition, a total of €1.4 billion has been invested in public transport over the past four years including the Luas, rail safety programme, rail rolling stock, bus fleet replacement and expansion and Heuston Station redevelopment.

Question No. 193 answered with QuestionNo. 188.
Question No. 194 answered with QuestionNo. 150.
Question No. 195 answered with QuestionNo. 191.
Question No. 196 answered with QuestionNo. 145.

Road Network.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

197 Mr. O'Shea asked the Minister for Transport the position with regard to his Department's discussions with the NRA regarding the request from Bus Éireann for permission to use the hard shoulder on roads between Dublin and satellite towns in order to counter severe traffic problems that are causing long delays on routes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2131/04]

I am anxious to ensure that as many practical measures as possible are taken to improve public transport flows and reduce congestion throughout the country. In that regard, my officials are engaged in discussions with Bus Éireann, the Dublin Transportation Office, the quality bus network office of Dublin City Council and the National Roads Authority regarding the use of the hard shoulder on roads, including those linking Dublin and satellite towns. A number of projects have been identified for development and their implementation is now being pursued by Dublin City Council. To give effect to these projects, some amendments to the road traffic legislation are being prepared and these will be included in the forthcoming Road Traffic Bill.

The objective of allowing buses to use hard shoulders is to assist bus operators in meeting their schedules thereby assisting in the achievement of modal shift from the private car to public transport, while at the same time maintaining safety.

State Airports.

Pádraic McCormack

Question:

198 Mr. McCormack asked the Minister for Transport his plans for the development of regional airports; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2291/04]

The programme for Government provides for the continued support of our six regional airports and for regional air access. My Department provides a range of financial mechanisms in support of this objective, namely, subvention of the PSO services which facilitate air access to the regions concerned, the allocation of assistance towards marketing, safety and security related expenditure incurred by the regional airports and capital grant assistance towards infrastructural improvements under the regional operational programmes of the NDP.

A renewed three-year PSO air services programme was launched in 2002 in accordance with the programme for Government. I am currently considering the outcome of an expenditure review of PSO air services, which points to the dramatic escalation of subvention costs in recent years and questions whether the programme is achieving its objectives in the most cost effective way. I hope to outline my decision on the future approach to PSO air services shortly.

My Department administers a grant scheme to assist the regional airports with marketing, safety and security related current expenditure. The total amount provisionally allocated in the Estimates for 2004 is €2.24 million and the individual amounts for each airport will be determined shortly.

With regard to capital funding, grant-aid of approximately €9.2 million has already been approved under first round allocations under the regional airports measure of the NDP. The primary objective of this measure is to facilitate continued safe and viable operations at the regional airports. A further round of projects will be considered for funding under the measure during this year.

The Government's commitment to regional airports will continue. However, the scale of Exchequer assistance to the regional airports will have to be carefully assessed in line with general airport and aviation policy and the availability of Exchequer funds.

Driving Tests.

David Stanton

Question:

199 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Transport the plans he has to reform the current driving test; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2310/04]

The requirements of the practical driving test are set out in the relevant EU directive. A number of improvements to the practical driving test are in the course of implementation on foot of amendments agreed at EU level. These changes relate to random checks on mechanical aspects of vehicles which have a bearing on road safety such as tyres, steering, brakes, engine oil, coolant, washer fluid, lights, reflectors, indicators and horn. A study to assess the impact of these additional requirements is currently under way in my Department.

In addition, my Department, in conjunction with the Office of Public Works, is arranging for the implementation of improvements to truck tests i.e. parking safely for loading/unloading at a loading ramp and coupling and uncoupling the vehicle.

Further changes are also due to be introduced to the driving test by October 2005 related to manoeuvres to be carried out by motorcyclists.

Rail Network.

Mary Upton

Question:

200 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Transport the position in regard to his Department's consideration of proposals submitted by Irish Rail for an integrated commuter rail plan for the greater Dublin area, including the construction of a spur to Dublin Airport from the existing DART line; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2121/04]

My Department has had discussions with Irish Rail in relation to its proposals for the integration of commuter rail in the Dublin area which was submitted in November 2003. The company proposes that the various elements of the overall plan will be introduced on an incremental basis, consistent with the availability of funds, up to 2010. Already some of the proposals such as phase 1 of the DART upgrade, preparatory work for the upgrade of the Kildare route and the new rolling stock acquisition programme are well under way.

Other elements such as phase 2 of the DART upgrade project have been sanctioned and will be implemented in due course. The suggested DART spur to Dublin Airport contained within the proposals is being considered within the overall context of providing a rail link from the city centre to the airport.

Question No. 201 answered with QuestionNo. 131.

International Terrorism.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

202 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Transport the Government's views of demands by the US authorities that armed air marshals should be deployed on aircraft flying to the United States; if a specific request has been received from the US authorities that air marshals should be deployed on flights originating in this jurisdiction; if his attention has been drawn to the concerns expressed by pilots and others that such a move may actually increase the danger to passengers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2111/04]

John Dennehy

Question:

270 Mr. Dennehy asked the Minister for Transport if he expects that air marshals will be required on transatlantic flights from Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2357/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 202 and 270 together.

I refer the Deputy to the answer I gave to Question No. 825 of 27 January 2004.

Question No. 203 answered with QuestionNo. 139.

Decentralisation Programme.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

204 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if a survey of staff to determine interest in participating in the decentralisation programme has been undertaken in her Department; when it will be completed; and if the results will be published or otherwise made available to Deputies. [2325/04]

Following the announcement of the Government's decentralisation programme, under which 250 staff of my Department will decentralise to Carlow, a survey was conducted within the Department with a view to establishing the numbers of staff interested in decentralising to locations outside Dublin. A total of 503 staff responded to the survey, 69 of whom indicated that they would be prepared to transfer to Carlow and 160 of whom indicated a willingness to decentralise to other locations outside Dublin.

Work Permits.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

205 Mr. Morgan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if her attention has been drawn to instances where migrant workers have been charged for their work permit by unscrupulous agencies; if she will give the details of each case where this has occurred; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [2386/04]

Applications for work permits require the signatures of both the employer and the employee and immediately above the employer's signature, every application form contains a statement in bold as follows: I understand and accept that I may not charge an employee a fee for (a) a work permit and/or (b) solely for agreeing to seek employment for him/her. This policy is strictly enforced by the Work Permit Section of my Department.

No recent reports of agencies charging for work permits has been received and if the Deputy has any specific information, my Department will consider the matter further.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

206 Ms Enright asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the permits necessary to enable a US citizen on the second year of a visa to take up permanent and part time teaching positions in Ireland; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [2387/04]

An employer who wishes to employ a non-EEA national must apply to my Department for a work permit. In considering such applications cognisance is taken of the status of the prospective employeevis-à-vis the immigration authorities.

Industrial Relations.

Eamon Ryan

Question:

207 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the reason there is no regulatory body monitoring trade unions in Ireland; and if there are any statutory provisions where rights are conferred to union members that are not available to non-union workers in the same industrial area. [2388/04]

A number of statutory powers regarding the regulation of trade unions have been delegated to me as Minister for Labour Affairs. In addition, the Registrar of Friendly Societies has a number of responsibilities under the Trade Union Acts 1871 to 1990.

Under section 9 of the Trade Union Act 1941, as amended, I have responsibility for issuing negotiation licences to qualifying trade unions or excepted bodies. I also have the power to revoke a trade union's negotiation licence in certain circumstances.

The Registrar of Friendly Societies' responsibilities relate to the general regulation and registration of trade unions in Ireland, including alterations to the rules of trade unions registered in Ireland and making these records available for inspection. In addition, a trade union's annual report and accounts must be submitted to the registrar.

Under the Trade Union Act 1975, the registrar has powers of investigation regarding resolutions approving instruments of amalgamation or transfer. Under the Industrial Relations Act 1990, the registrar may conduct investigations regarding possible breaches by a trade union of legislation regarding secret ballots, may issue instructions to such a trade union and may make a report to the Minister.

Regarding the statutory provisions conferring rights on union members that are not available to non-union workers in the same industrial area, the industrial relations legislation provides for immunities from prosecution for members of a trade union in respect of acts committed in contemplation or furtherance of a trade dispute.

International Agreements.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

208 Mr. Morgan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment when this State will ratify the UN Convention on the rights of migrant workers and their families; the reason it has not done so to date; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [2391/04]

Ireland has not signed and is not a party to the International Convention on the protection and of the rights of all migrant workers and members of their families.

The convention, which was adopted by the UN General Assembly in December 1990, entered into force on 1 July last, following its ratification by the requisite number of states, 20. However, although the Convention on Migrant Workers has been open for signature and ratification since December 1990, to date only 22 states have ratified or acceded to the convention. The convention has not acquired universal recognition as a standard for the protection of the rights of migrant workers. No European Union member state has as yet signed or ratified the convention, nor have any indicated an intention to do so.

Ireland's position in regard to the ratification of international instruments generally, including the convention on the rights of migrant workers, is constantly reviewed in light of prevailing circumstances and in the context of the ongoing assessment and prioritisation of Ireland's international commitments.

Where Ireland wishes to ratify or accede to an international instrument, the Government must first ensure that our domestic law is fully in conformity with the agreement in question. The Government must therefore make any necessary legislative changes, or be satisfied that none are required, before ratification takes place. As signature of an instrument is an indication of an intention to ratify it, the Government would consequently also have to have a firm intention to ratify and, be seen to be taking steps to do so, before signing an international instrument.

The convention on the rights of migrant workers has been examined by the Department of Foreign Affairs. It would appear that, in order for Ireland to ratify the convention, significant changes would have to be made across a wide range of existing legislation, including legislation addressing employment, social welfare provision, education, taxation and electoral law. These changes would also have implications for our relations with our EU partners and the acceding states to the Union, none of whom have signed or ratified the convention — or have signalled an intention to do so — and possibly for the operation of the common travel area between Ireland and the UK.

There are no plans at present to introduce the changes in the areas above which would be necessary before Ireland could ratify or consider signing the convention.

It should be noted that the rights of migrant workers and their families are already comprehensively protected under existing legislation. In addition the human rights of migrant workers and their families are protected under the Constitution and by Ireland's commitments under international human rights instruments to which the State is party.

Work Permits.

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

209 Mr. N. O'Keeffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the position regarding an application for a non-EU work permit for a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [2485/04]

I am informed that a work permit application in this case has recently been approved and has issued to the employer in question.

Garda Equipment.

John Deasy

Question:

210 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Defence if he has satisfied himself that there has been full compliance with Government contract procedures in the award of a contract for the maintenance of the Garda helicopters; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2528/04]

A tender competition for the long-term maintenance contract for the GASU EC135 was advertised in the EU Journal on 20 November 2002. Five valid tenders were received in response to the advertisement and issue of tender documentation. The basis for the award of contract, as stated in the tender documentation, was the most economically advantageous tender. The award criteria were as follows; technical competency, extent to which option meets service requirements, capacity to meet implementation schedule, cost and value for money.

A joint assessment board comprising a representative from each of the Department of Defence, the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, the Air Corps, and the Garda Síochána was established to examine each of the tenders in accordance with the agreed marking scheme. The board met on a number of occasions to review the tenders, receive presentations and consider the merits of the total package being offered by each of the tenderers. The board concluded that there were two viable tenders from among those submitted. However, it was unable to reach a consensus in relation to the winning tender. The matter was referred to the senior officials in each of the Departments, who had convened the joint assessment board. The officials reviewed each of the two tenders independently and, on the basis of the criteria, awarded the tender, subject to contract, to McAlpines Helicopters.

The contract in respect of the EC135 maintenance was signed on 23 December 2003. I am satisfied that the award of the contract is fully in accordance with the procedures set down in the EU directives on public procurement which are the relevant procedures for this type of contract.

Decentralisation Programme.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

211 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Defence if a survey of staff to determine interest in participating in the decentralisation programme has been undertaken in his Department; when it will be completed; and if the results will be published or otherwise made available to Deputies. [2326/04]

No survey of the type described by the Deputy has been conducted in my Department.

Garda Equipment.

John Deasy

Question:

212 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Defence the arrangements to maintain and service Garda helicopters by Air Corps personnel. [2544/04]

John Deasy

Question:

213 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Defence if the Air Corps has the professional expertise and necessary manpower to effectively maintain and service two Garda helicopters; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2545/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 212 and 213 together.

At present the Garda Air Support Unit comprises one twin engined AS355N Squirrel helicopter, one Defender 4000 fixed wing aircraft and one twin engined EC135 helicopter. Air Corps personnel are responsible for all matters relating to the servicing and maintenance of the Squirrel helicopter and the Defender 4000. I am satisfied that it has the necessary expertise and manpower to effectively maintain and service these aircraft. McAlpine Helicopters Limited has been awarded the contract for the maintenance of the EC135 helicopter.

Grant Payments.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

214 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the reason a headage payment has not been made to a person (details supplied) in County Galway; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2412/04]

The 2003 area aid application for the person named has been processed with an area determined for payment purposes of 16.48 hectares. Payment of his entitlement under the 2003 area based compensatory allowance scheme could not be made until a potential stocking density problem had been resolved. Payment will issue shortly.

Non-Resident Accounts.

John Deasy

Question:

215 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Finance the number of persons in each county that have been penalised for holding bogus non-resident accounts; if bank officials presented and promoted them; the reason the officials have not been investigated by the Revenue Commissioners; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2345/04]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that their work on bogus non-resident account holders continues. To date about 10,500 taxpayers who held such accounts have made payments of €486 million, on foot of previously undeclared tax liabilities, together with interest and penalties. As the inquiries involve a substantial number of individuals and are ongoing, it is not possible to give a precise breakdown as requested by the Deputy.

There has been general comment on the role of the financial institutions regarding such accounts. No evidence has become available to the Revenue Commissioners that bank officials presented or promoted the accounts to their customers.

The matter is linked to the approach the financial institutions took when dealing with deposit interest retention tax. Revenue conducted an on site DIRT retrospective audit of 37 financial institutions during 1999 and 2000. Its focus was the DIRT position of the financial institutions. However, many bogus non-resident deposit accounts that belonged to taxpayers were identified. At its conclusion financial institutions made payments totalling €220 million to Revenue. These payments represented DIRT, that should have been deducted, together with the related interest and penalties. Revenue made a report on the matter to the Committee of Public Accounts. The Committee commented on the outcomes of these audits in its final report on the DIRT Inquiry that was finalised on 3 April 2001.

Flood Relief.

Tony Gregory

Question:

216 Mr. Gregory asked the Minister for Finance the discussions between his Department and insurance companies arising from the floods in Dublin and elsewhere; the agreements reached and the assistance he can give to residents in East Wall, Dublin 3, where new home owners cannot get flood cover and banks will only offer 40% mortgages without flood cover; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2406/04]

In November 2002 I initiated a major review of the State's approach to flooding with the primary objective of developing a cohesive national flooding policy. On 6 December 2003 I met the Irish Insurance Federation. It welcomed my decision to initiate a policy review and outlined its views and concerns due to the increasing risks from flooding. I indicated that the State would play its part in risk reduction and that, in turn, the insurance industry would be expected to act in a responsible manner. I established a group to carry out the policy review and I invited the IIF to make a submission to it. A submission was received and OPW officials subsequently met the organisation to clarify aspects of it.

These discussions, along with all others involved in the consultation process carried out as part of the review, have played a major role in shaping the group's draft final report. At present it is being considered by Departments before being submitted to Government for final consideration in the near future. I am confident that the recommendations of the report can lead to a much improved flood management regime in Ireland and will, in the longterm, substantially mitigate the impact of flooding on our society.

One of the key components of future flood management strategy is the development of flood maps. They provide valuable information to assist in numerous decision-making processes such as planning and development, flood works prioritisation and risk assessment. The OPW has commenced work on a flood mapping programme and its first phase will be completed in 2005.

I cannot comment on specific cases between an insurance company and its client. I am confident that the increased availability of risk information arising from the production of maps and other recommendations of the review, together with the implementation of a more strategic approach to flood management, will reduce exposure to risk. It will also provide a more accurate basis upon which insurance companies formulate their decisions on potential flood damage in the future.

Motor Taxation.

Simon Coveney

Question:

217 Mr. Coveney asked the Minister for Finance the number of appeals made by main franchise dealers of new cars against their sole distributors and suppliers pre-declared OMSP since the introduction of VRT on 1 January 1993; the date and outcome of each appeal by make, model, original OMSP, original VRT, revised OMSP and revised VRT. [2407/04]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that it has no record of appeals made by franchise dealers about the open market selling price declared by sole distributors and suppliers from 1 January 1993 to date.

Simon Coveney

Question:

218 Mr. Coveney asked the Minister for Finance the number of times the Revenue Commissioners has either refused, reviewed, disputed or replaced the sole distributor's pre-declared OMSP since the introduction of VRT on 1 January 1993; the date and outcome of the review in each case by distributor, make, model, original OMSP, original VRT, revised OMSP and revised VRT. [2408/04]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that, as a matter of routine, all new OMSP declarations and-or amendments to existing declarations are the subject of review. The nature of the records maintained by the Revenue Commissioners is such that the considerable volume of data requested by the Deputy could not be supplied without an extensive physical examination of more than 30,000 files.

Nevertheless, I am advised that in many instances the review process has resulted in an amendment to the original OMSP. The number of cases that have progressed beyond this point and developed into more formal disputes is small. It is estimated to be less than 100 over the lifetime of the tax. So far only one case has been heard by the courts. It is not possible to go into detail about the case for reasons of confidentiality.

Tax Code.

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

219 Mr. N. O'Keeffe asked the Minister for Finance the criteria needed by a young farmer to qualify for an exemption from payment of stamp duty on the transfer of the family farm from mother to son. [2487/04]

Under section 81 of the Stamp Duties Consolidation Act 1999 there is full stamp duty relief available for young trained farmers when land is being transferred by way of gift or sale. The availability of the relief was extended in Budget 2003 for a further three years to 31 December 2005.

A number of conditions must be satisfied in order to obtain the relief. The main conditions require a young trained farmer to be under 35 years of age at the date of execution of the transfer. They must also hold one of the relevant specified qualifications such as a degree in agricultural science awarded by the NUI through University College Dublin.

Further details regarding the conditions associated with the relief may be obtained from the Revenue form SD 2 entitled stamp duty relief on transfers of land to young trained farmers. It is available from the Revenue Commissioners, Dublin Castle, Dublin 2 or by telephoning Locall 1890 482 582. Where a parent wishes to transfer agricultural land to their child who does not satisfy the young trained farmer relief conditions, he or she can qualify for a 50% relief on the stamp duty.

Foreign Conflicts.

Finian McGrath

Question:

220 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he raised the issue of the civil rights of the Palestinian minority, in particular the question of building permits and house demolitions, when he met Israeli leaders during the course of his recent visit to Israel; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2315/04]

Our position on the civil rights of the Arab citizens of Israel is well known to the Government of Israel. The specific matters referred to did not arise during my recent discussions in Israel. The wider context, including its humanitarian and human rights aspects, was discussed at some length.

Finian McGrath

Question:

221 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the matters discussed and conclusions reached at his meeting with the Palestinian Authority Minister, Nabil Shaath; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2316/04]

My discussions with Dr. Shaath focused mainly on the Middle East peace process. We also discussed the ways in which the European Union could assist in reviving the road map and encouraging renewed contacts between the parties as well as developments at the United Nations. Dr. Shaath briefed me on the situation and the difficulties facing the Palestinian Authority. I briefed him on my plans to visit Israel and Egypt and our approach to the Middle East conflict as EU Presidency. He expressed appreciation for the traditionally constructive approach that Ireland adopts to the conflict.

Ministerial Meetings.

Finian McGrath

Question:

222 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he met human rights organisations during his recent visit to Israel; and if so, if he will report on the meetings; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2317/04]

My visit to Israel and Egypt provided an opportunity to meet some of the key players in the Middle East peace process. In Israel I met President Katsav, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom and opposition leader Shimon Peres. In Egypt I had discussions with President Mubarak, Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher and the Secretary General of the Arab League Amr Moussa. During discussions with interlocutors humanitarian and human rights issues were addressed as well as political and economic matters. I also had the opportunity to meet representatives of a number of Israeli human rights organisations during my visit to the Jaffee Centre at Tel Aviv University where I delivered a speech on Europe and the Middle East. I did not engage in substantive discussions on specific issues on that occasion.

Northern Ireland Issues.

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

223 Mr. O'Connor asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will report on his recent meeting with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2318/04]

Together with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Mr. Paul Murphy MP, I co-chaired the meeting of the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference in Farmleigh House on 22 January. I was accompanied at the meeting by the Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs, Deputy Tom Kitt. The Secretary of State was accompanied by Jane Kennedy MP and John Spellar MP, Ministers of State at the Northern Ireland Office. The Garda Commissioner and the Chief Constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland also attended. This was the sixth meeting of the conference since the suspension of the devolved institutions in Northern Ireland in October 2002.

At the conference we reviewed political developments, including developments since the Assembly elections in November and the continued efforts to restore the institutions of the Good Friday Agreement, based on cross-community support. The conference reaffirmed the two Government's commitment to the full implementation of the Agreement and discussed the forthcoming review of its operation that will be convened on 3 February. There was an exchange of views on North-South and east-west matters, including the current work programme of the North-South Ministerial Council and the British-Irish Council.

We also reviewed the current security situation at the conference. We welcomed the reduction in violence in 2003 but noted with concern the rise in paramilitary violence in January and discussed ways of tackling it. We also reviewed the prospects for the further normalisation of the security profile in Northern Ireland. The British Government agreed to ask the Independent Monitoring Commission to report on the issue in conjunction with its report on paramilitarism.

The conference noted the increase in paramilitary crime and discussed ways of dealing with it, including through ongoing co-operation between the Criminal Assets Bureau and the Assets Recovery Agency. There was a discussion of the Ombudsman's report on the murder of Seán Brown and the Chief Constable outlined the action that would be taken in response to it. The conference also considered a range of criminal justice matters and recent developments in the area of human rights. In regard to the latter, both Governments agreed that the current difficulties relating to the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission must be quickly resolved. Following our discussion of the Cory, Barron and Stevens reports, the need for the four remaining Cory reports to be published as soon as possible was acknowledged.

We had a useful discussion on the continuing implementation of the two Governments' joint declaration of 1 May 2003. It emphasised the importance of the delivery of these wide-ranging commitments. Officials were directed report back on them at the next meeting of the conference that is scheduled for March.

I also availed of the opportunity to raise concerns about the nationality requirements that restrict recruitment to certain civil service posts within the Northern Ireland Civil Service. I have arranged for copies of the conference communiqué to be placed in the Dáil Library.

Decentralisation Programme.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

224 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if a survey of staff to determine interest in participating in the decentralisation programme has been undertaken in his Department; when it will be completed; and if the results will be published or otherwise made available to Deputies. [2329/04]

Under the Government's recent announcement my Department's development co-operation directorate is scheduled for the decentralisation of 130 posts to Limerick. My Department has set up a committee to liaise with the Government's decentralisation committee and to plan and implement the programme.

A number of important questions on decentralisation remain to be clarified. In particular, the timing of the move will be a central issue. We wish to give staff as much information as possible prior to asking them to indicate whether they wish to decentralise. The implementation committee for the Cabinet sub-committee on decentralisation hopes to have prepared a central implementation plan by the end of March. Its contents will be of particular relevance in this regard. I anticipate that my Department will conduct a decentralisation survey shortly after the presentation of the report. The results of the survey will be made known to the Department of Finance, the unions and staff.

Human Rights Issues.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

225 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs when a promise made in the programme for Government on the right to freedom from sectarian harassment, set out in the Good Friday Agreement, will be implemented. [2449/04]

In the Good Friday Agreement the parties and the two Governments affirmed the right to freedom from sectarian harassment. Ensuring that the promise of the Agreement becomes a reality remains a key priority for the Government.

The Government recognises that groups on both sides of the community are engaged in many practical projects that seek to address the problems of sectarianism. That is why my Department's reconciliation fund provides assistance to many groups who seek to promote tolerance and acceptance of cultural diversity. Additionally, the International Fund for Ireland and the EU Peace II Programme supports many worthwhile projects.

The scourge of sectarianism is frequently discussed at intergovernmental level, particularly through the British Irish Intergovernmental Conference. I have consistently stressed to the British Government that eradicating sectarianism from Northern Ireland society requires a coherent and co-ordinated approach between the police, the statutory agencies and community leaders to deal with sectarian harassment in an effective manner from a local community perspective.

From a wider viewpoint, my officials have requested a meeting with their British counterparts to discuss the capability of the current overarching approach to sectarianism. In addition, my Department will closely follow the progress of draft legislation currently being drawn up by the Northern Ireland Office to deal with race crime and sectarian crime. They will ensure it provides a statutory basis to deter sectarianism in all its forms.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

226 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if the Amnesty International report, United Kingdom: Justice perverted under the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001, was brought to his attention; and the Government's plans to raise these issues with the British Government. [2450/04]

My officials have noted the contents of the report. The Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act became law in the United Kingdom in December 2001. It contains a wide range of measures that the British Government considered necessary in the light of the 11 September terrorist attacks. They include the power to seize assets, additional powers to detain under the Immigration Act and to search and fingerprint terrorist suspects.

It is clear that a number of measures in the Act will affect all persons living in the United Kingdom. I am satisfied that none of them will have a greater effect on Irish persons living in the UK than on British nationals or other UK residents. I am satisfied that Irish people living in Britain will not, in practice, be affected by the provisions in respect of international terrorists because they are not considered foreign nationals under the law.

The detention provisions are subject to a number of safeguards. They will expire at the end of 15 months unless their extension, one year at a time, is approved by parliament. Their operation will be examined by a reviewer and they will cease to have effect in November 2006. The operation of the full Act will be subject to review by a committee of the Privy Council after two years.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

227 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if the Amnesty International report, The Pain Merchants: Security equipment and its use in torture and other ill-treatment, was brought to his attention; and the Government's plans to act on its recommendations. [2451/04]

Torture is among the most abhorrent violations of human rights and is strictly condemned by international law. Freedom from torture is a right that must be protected under all circumstances. Its promotion and protection is deservedly a priority of the EU's human rights policy.

I have received and considered a copy of the Amnesty International report. I welcome the contribution that the paper makes to efforts to combat torture. It plays a significant part in the efforts of the international community to put an end to incidences of torture by state and non-state agents alike.

For a long time Ireland, with our EU partners, has been strongly opposed to the application of the death penalty and the use of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. On 9 April 2001 the General Affairs Council of the EU adopted a set of guidelines for the implementation of its policy against torture. The guidelines provide the EU with an operational tool for use in its contacts with third countries and in multilateral human rights fora. They support and strengthen its ongoing efforts towards the global prevention and eradication of torture.

In continuance of this policy the Council is currently considering a proposal for the EU to impose restrictions on trade in certain equipment that could be used for capital punishment, torture or other cruel, degrading or inhuman treatment or punishment. The proposal reflects the Union's strong opposition to such practices. Moreover, the proposal responds to the resolutions on torture adopted by the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, including at this year's 59th session, that call,inter alia, for UN member states to take action, including legislative measures, to prevent and prohibit the export of equipment designed to inflict torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. The UN special rapporteur on torture, Mr. Theo van Boven, highlighted the Commission's proposal in his recent report on the subject.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

228 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if the Amnesty International report, Iraq: Memorandum on concerns related to legislation introduced by the Coalition Provisional Authority, was brought to his attention; and the Government's plan to raise these issues with the US Government. [2452/04]

I am aware of the report. From the outset the Government has called on all parties in the conflict to respect their obligations under international law. The Government's calls are in keeping with the public pronouncements of UN Secretary General Annan. Security Council Resolution 1483 of 22 May 2003 calls upon all concerned to comply with their obligations under international law including, in particular, the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and the Hague Regulations of 1907. The Iraq crisis is an issue that features in all of our discussions with the US.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

229 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if the Amnesty International report, Back in the Spotlight: Allegations of police ill-treatment and excessive use of force in Germany, was brought to his attention; and the Government's plan to act on its recommendations. [2453/04]

I am aware of the report. The Government values the contribution that Amnesty International makes to furthering the cause of promoting and protecting human rights internationally. The recommendations contained in the report are directed at the German Government and are a matter for its consideration.

Germany has extensive constitutional protection for human rights and is a party to the European Convention on Human Rights that provides for an independent European complaints mechanism to augment safeguards provided in national protection. The country is also a party to a number of other international human rights instruments.

Amnesty Report.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

230 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if the Amnesty International report on Europe outlining its concerns regarding Europe and Central Asia for January to June 2003 has been brought to his attention; and the Government's plans to act on the recommendations of this report. [2454/04]

I am aware of the Amnesty International report referred to by the Deputy. The Government values the contribution that Amnesty International makes to furthering the cause of promoting and protecting human rights internationally.

As the Deputy will be aware, the report calls for the European Union to take effective leadership in putting its human rights policies in practice at home and also outside the Union. Support for human rights is a core value which underpins the European Union and is a priority of the Irish Presidency of the Union.

On the external policies of the EU, Article 11 of the Treaty on European Union, TEU, states that efforts to "develop and consolidate democracy and the rule of law, and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms" are among the objectives of the Common Foreign and Security Policy of the EU. Article 117 of the treaty establishing the European Community requires that Community development co-operation policy also contributes to the achievement of these objectives.

In December 2002 the EU General Affairs and External Relations Council, GAERC, adopted conclusions on human rights and democratisation in third countries and re-affirmed its commitment to: coherence and consistency between Community action and Common Foreign and Security Policy, CFSP, as well as development policy through close co-operation and co-ordination between its competent bodies and with the European Commission; mainstreaming of human rights and democratisation into EU policies and actions; openness of the EU's human rights and democratisation policy through a strengthened dialogue with the European Parliament and civil society; and regular identification and review of priority actions in the implementation of its human rights and democratisation policy.

Ireland, with its EU partners, works actively to uphold human rights and frequently makes its views known to the countries concerned bydémarches and other contacts, and through its actions at the United Nations General Assembly, the OSCE, the Council of Europe and the Commission for Human Rights.

Visa Applications.

John Deasy

Question:

231 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if embassies and consulates which facilitate persons wishing to obtain holiday visas to Ireland will be properly advised on the necessary documentation required in order to allow their application; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that a number of visa applications are refused and later granted an appeal due to a lack of information submitted in an application; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2546/04]

Our embassies and consulates abroad facilitate the issuing of holiday visas by accepting visa applications on behalf of the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform which has responsibility for all immigration matters.

All holiday visa applications submitted to our embassies and consulates are forwarded to the visa office in Dublin and subsequently forwarded to the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform. The Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform examines the application and indicates to the visa office its decision. The visa office then informs the relevant embassy or consulate of the decision and the embassy or consulate, in turn, informs the applicant.

The documentation requested by our missions is consistent with the documentation which the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform has indicated is required. In some cases, applications are submitted without all of the necessary supporting documentation. In other cases, the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform requests additional documentation before it decides on the application.

If a visa application is refused by the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, the applicant may appeal the decision to that Department. My Department has no function in the appeals process. In cases where additional documentation is required, it is up to the applicant to submit it directly to the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform.

Decentralisation Programme.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

232 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Education and Science if a survey of staff to determine interest in participating in the decentralisation programme has been undertaken in his Department; when it will be completed; and if the results will be published or otherwise made available to Deputies. [2330/04]

A survey on decentralisation is currently being conducted in my Department, the results of which will not be available until next month. I will arrange to forward details of the results to the Deputy when they are available.

Schools Building Projects.

Cecilia Keaveney

Question:

233 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Education and Science his plans for progressing site acquisition this year for schools not currently on the building programme such as those mentioned in previous parliamentary questions (details supplied). [2339/04]

Cecilia Keaveney

Question:

246 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Education and Science, further to Parliamentary Questions Nos. 167 of 25 November 2003 and 246 of 16 December 2003, the position regarding a school (details supplied) in County Donegal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2414/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 233 and 246 together.

When publishing the 2004 school building programme, I outlined that my strategy going forward will be grounded in capital investment based on multi-annual allocations. My officials are reviewing all projects which were not authorised to proceed to construction as part of the 2004 school building programme, including projects requiring the acquisition of a site, with a view to including them as part of a multi-annual school building programme from 2005 and I expect to be in a position to make further announcements on this matter in the course of the year. The schools mentioned by the Deputy, involving site acquisition, will be considered in this regard.

In regard specifically to the school referred to in Parliamentary Question No. 246, the position remains that before committing major capital funding to any project, my Department must be satisfied, having regard to all relevant factors including enrolment and demographic trends, that the school in question has a viable future thereby ensuring value for money. A number of issues remain to be explored and when these are fully investigated, a decision will be made on how best to provide for the school's long-term accommodation needs. My Department's officials are in contact with the school authorities in this regard.

Physical Education Facilities.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

234 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science his plans to provide funding for a sports hall in St. Mogue's College, Baunboy, County Cavan; if his attention has been drawn to the fact it has have no sports facilities at all; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2340/04]

Olwyn Enright

Question:

235 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason St. Mogue's College, Baunboy, County Cavan, was not included in the list of schools which will receive funding towards a sports hall; and if he will make a statement on the matter.[2341/04]

Olwyn Enright

Question:

236 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of years St. Mogue's College, Baunboy, County Cavan, has been waiting for provision of funding for its sports hall; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2342/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 234 to 236, inclusive, together.

An application for grant aid for a sports hall was received from the management authorities of St. Mogue's in May 2000.

The planning and building unit of my Department has prepared PE hall templates that will standardise the construction of PE halls at second level schools and will be used to plan the provision of PE halls nationally. The PE hall templates are being piloted in a number of locations this year.

The matter of providing a PE hall at the school to which the Deputy refers will be considered when the pilot programme has been completed and evaluated and in line with available resources and priorities arising.

Teaching Qualifications.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

237 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the permits necessary to enable a US citizen on a second year of a visa to take up permanent and part-time teaching positions here; if this person will be eligible to work in VEC schools; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2343/04]

To be eligible for appointment to a teaching position in a vocational school, an applicant must hold a suitable qualification at degree level in the subject or subjects of the post as advertised. The post-primary teachers qualifications unit of my Department in Athlone is best placed to advise the person in question on all aspects of teacher recognition at second level in this State.

In the absence of full details of the qualifications involved, it is not possible to offer an opinion in relation to this person's eligibility for teaching.

Issues relating to the permits necessary for a US citizen to work in this State fall within the jurisdiction of the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform to whom I understand the Deputy has also directed her question.

Schools Building Projects.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

238 Mr. McGinley asked the Minister for Education and Science his plans to provide a new school for Magh Ene College, Bundoran, County Donegal; the position regarding the matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2344/04]

The proposed large-scale building project for Magh Ene College, Bundoran, County Donegal is listed in section 8 of the 2004 school building programme which is published on my Department's website atwww.education.ie. This proposed project is at an advanced stage of architectural planning, i.e. pre-tender stage. It has been assigned a band 2 rating by my Department in accordance with the published criteria for prioritising large-scale projects.

Indicative timescales have been included in the school building programme for large-scale projects proceeding to tender in 2004. The budget announcement regarding multi-annual capital envelopes will enable me to adopt a multi-annual framework for the school building programme which in turn will give greater clarity regarding projects that are not progressing in this year's programme. I will make a further announcement in that regard during the year.

Decentralisation Programme.

Gay Mitchell

Question:

239 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will keep to the spirit of the legislation setting up NCEA/HETAC and the undertaking given by the Minister, that HETAC would remain located in Dublin; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that more than 70% of HETAC staff do not wish to move out of Dublin; if he will confirm that those who wish to stay in Dublin will be allowed to; and his plans to facilitate this if the move goes ahead. [2346/04]

The decentralisation policy decided by the Government and announced by the Minister for Finance on budget day 2003 provides for the transfer of some 10,300 civil servants to various locations outside of Dublin. Included in this policy is the transfer of the Higher Education and Training Awards Council, HETAC, and its 32 staff to Edenderry, County Offaly.

It is not open to me to make an exception to this stated Government policy nor do I see any reason this should be done. I would reiterate that the decentralisation is voluntary and that those members of HETAC staff who do not wish to transfer to the organisation's new location will not be compelled to do so. It has also been made clear that this policy will be implemented in an orderly fashion with full consultation with staff interests.

Question No. 240 withdrawn.

Site Acquisitions.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

241 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Education and Science if funding for the site purchase and the construction cost of the planned school in the Sandyford Parish to serve the Stepaside/Leopardstown area has been included in the 2004 budget. [2349/04]

My Department intends to purchase a significant number of sites for new primary and post-primary schools during 2004. The level of funding available for this purpose is €32 million.

Due to the commercial sensitivities of site acquisition, it is not proposed at this stage to identify the specific sites to be acquired. However, this information will be posted on my Department's website when the relevant acquisitions have been completed.

Schools Building Projects.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

242 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Education and Science the date he expects to appoint contractors to commence building the new community school in Dingle; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2397/04]

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that the new community school in Dingle is listed in section 1 of the 2004 school building programme which is published on my Department's website,www.education.ie.

Projects listed in section 1 are expected to proceed to tender and construction in 2004. The indicative timescale to tender for the project in question is the second quarter of 2004.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

243 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Education and Science the date he expects to appoint contractors to commence building Meán-Scoil an Leitriúigh in Castlegregory, County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2398/04]

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that the new school for Meán-Scoil an Leitriúigh in Castlegregory, County Kerry is listed in section 1 of the 2004 school building programme which is published on my Department's website atwww.education.ie.

Projects listed in section 1 are expected to proceed to tender and construction in 2004. The indicative timescale to tender for the project in question is the second quarter of 2004.

Site Acquisitions.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

244 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will report on the proposal by Kerry County Council to acquire a right-of-way and a site for a purpose built child care centre from his Department at the Grove, Dingle, County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2400/04]

The Department is currently considering the issue of ceding a portion of land to a local group for the purpose of building a child care centre in Dingle. As soon as a decision is made on the matter the Department will be in contact with the local authority and the child care group.

Schools Building Projects.

Cecilia Keaveney

Question:

245 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Education and Science the position in relation to a school building (details supplied) in County Donegal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2413/04]

The need for improved accommodation at the school referred to by the Deputy has been acknowledged by my Department. A number of options for the delivery of accommodation to cater for the long-term needs of the school are being examined. My officials are in contact with the school authorities in this regard.

Question No. 246 answered with QuestionNo. 233.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Finian McGrath

Question:

247 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Science if a full-time special needs assistant will be granted to a person (details supplied) in Dublin 5; and it they will be given the maximum support and assistance. [2416/04]

Special educational resource, SER, applications received between 15 February and 31 August 2003 are being considered at present. In all, more than 5,000 such applications were received. Priority was given to cases involving children starting school last September and all these cases were responded to at or before the commencement of the current school year.

The balance of more than 4,000 applications has been reviewed by a dedicated team comprising members of my Department's inspectorate and the national educational psychological service, NEPS. These applications are being further considered in the context of the outcome of surveys of SER provision conducted over the past year or so. Account is also being taken of the data submitted by schools as part of the recent nationwide census of SER provision.

The processing of the applications is a complex and time-consuming operation. However, my Department is endeavouring to have this completed as quickly as possible and my officials will then respond to all applicant schools. Pending a response, schools are advised to refer to circular 24/03, which issued in September 2003. This circular contains practical advice on how to achieve the most effective deployment of resources already allocated for special educational needs within the school.

Applications for special education needs supports received after 1 September 2003 will be considered as soon as the applications mentioned above have been processed. This includes the application for the pupil to whom the Deputy refers which was received in my Department on 22 October 2003.

Gay Mitchell

Question:

248 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will review the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 12; if a special computer and software will be supplied to that person; if a needs assistant will be granted and learning support provided to that person; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2418/04]

The fund for students with disabilities provides funding to students with disabilities attending courses in third level institutions and in post-leaving certificate centres.

The purpose of the fund is to provide students with serious physical and/or sensory disabilities with grant assistance towards the cost of special equipment, special materials and technological aids, targeted transport services, personal assistants and sign language interpreters. The fund operates on a discretionary basis.

Applications were submitted to my Department in October 2003, together with relevant supporting documentation, for consideration for funding for the current academic year. Decisions on those applications were taken by anad hoc advisory group which, in 2003, consisted of representatives of my Department, a representative from the Association for Higher Education Access and Disability, or AHEAD, and a representative from the recently established National Office for Equity of Access to Higher Education within the Higher Education Authority.

In the case of the applicant in question, it was considered that, while some assistance could be approved, insufficient documentation was supplied with the application to approve all the supports requested. The student support unit of my Department has advised the student in question that his application can be considered further in the event of more recent, relevant documentation being provided through the disability officer in the third level institution attended by the student.

Schools Building Projects.

John Gormley

Question:

249 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Education and Science when he will sanction the new secondary school building for Muckross Park College in Donnybrook, Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2486/04]

The large-scale building project for Muckross Park College, Donnybrook, Dublin is listed in section 8 of the 2004 school building programme, which is published on my Department's website atwww.education.ie. The project is at an advanced stage of architectural planning, namely, pre-tender stage. It has been assigned a band 2 rating by my Department in accordance with the published criteria for prioritising large-scale projects.

The budget announcement regarding multi-annual capital envelopes will enable me to adopt a multi-annual framework for the school building programme, which in turn will give greater clarity regarding projects that are not progressing in this year's programme. I will make a further announcement in that regard during the year.

Institiúid Teangeolaíochta Éireann.

Willie Penrose

Question:

250 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Education and Science the steps he intends to take to provide the necessary funding to allow the Linguistics Institute of Ireland to continue, which has played an important role in research and development work associated with language and education and has a reputation for excellence both in Ireland and internationally; if, in that context, he will reconsider the decision and maintain or restructure the institute so that its valuable work can continue into the future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2527/04]

At an extraordinary general meeting of ITE held on 18 July 2003, the company agreed to initiate a process of voluntary liquidation. The operation of the company is a matter for the members in accordance with their memorandum and articles of association. I understand that a meeting of the executive committee of ITE on 5 December agreed a timetable for the appointment of a liquidator, who was subsequently appointed on 9 January 2004, and agreed to issue redundancy notices to staff in advance of that. The period of notice of redundancy for the staff has been extended by four weeks from 9 January 2004 to 6 February 2004. Officials from my Department met all members of staff of ITE in December 2003.

My Department has given a commitment to provide every assistance to the company in giving effect to its future intentions, in partnership with the staff of the institute. That will include arrangements for ensuring the continuation of the research functions previously carried out by the institute and, in the interests of assisting with an orderly wind-up, facilitating appropriate redeployment or other appropriate arrangements for permanent staff in line with general public service policy in those matters and subject to agreement with the Department of Finance.

Options that may be available in this context are being explored by my Department. The entitlements of those employees for whom appropriate redeployment arrangements are not made will be determined in accordance with the terms of their contracts.

I have asked to be kept informed of progress in these matters.

Decentralisation Programme.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

251 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if a survey of staff to determine interest in participating in the decentralisation programme has been undertaken in his Department; when it will be completed; and if the results will be published or otherwise made available to Deputies. [2331/04]

A preliminary survey of staff preferences regarding decentralisation has been conducted to establish the initial levels of interest across the Department in relocating to Cavan or to any of the new locations under the decentralisationprogramme.

That was very much an initial information-gathering exercise. It was stressed to staff that it was a preliminary non-binding survey and that any preferences at this stage were non-binding.

As of 26 January 2004, 424 staff had responded as follows:

Yes

No

Don't Know

Uncompleted

Cavan

29 (6.84%)

356 (83.96%)

32 (7.55%)

7 (1.65%)

Other Location

121 (28.54%)

220 (51.9%)

70 (16.5%)

13 (3.06%)

Harbours and Piers.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

252 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the position regarding Scraggane pier, Maharees, Castlegregory, County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2399/04]

Scraggane Pier is owned by Kerry County Council, and responsibility for its repair and maintenance rests with the local authority in the first instance.

In 2001 Kerry County Council submitted a proposal to my Department for a feasibility study regarding improvement works at Scraggane pier. The cost of the study is estimated at €50,000. The question of funding the study in the 2004 to 2006 period will be considered in the context of the funding available for works at fishery harbours generally and overall national priorities.

Telecommunications Services.

John Dennehy

Question:

253 Mr. Dennehy asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources his views on the significant above-inflation increase over the past 18 months in fixed-line rental charges for consumers, particularly in light of the lack of competition in the market. [2410/04]

The regulation of tariffs charged by telecommunication companies is a matter for the independent regulator of the communications sector, the Commission for Communications Regulation, or ComReg.

ComReg's current price-cap decision allows Eircom to increase its retail prices for individual products within a defined basket of services, so long as the overall price of the basket does not exceed the inflation rate of the preceding year. If there are any significant increases in line rental prices, those will have to be accompanied by reductions in the price of other services.

I understand that, while Eircom's residential monthly line rental is one of the most expensive in Europe, overall telecommunications prices in Ireland are around the EU average and have actually decreased by 40% in real terms in recent years.

I am currently considering drafting policy directions to give to ComReg under the powers vested in me by the Communications Regulation Act 2002. In that context, consideration may be given to competition issues in the telecommunications market, including the line rental market.

Policy directions will be at a strategic level only, and I will not be setting individual product prices or instructing ComReg regarding individual product prices.

Television Licence Fee.

John Dennehy

Question:

254 Mr. Dennehy asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he will consider authorising an independent audit into whether the substantial increase in 2003 in the television licence was good value for money; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2411/04]

RTE, as the national public service broadcaster established under the Broadcasting Authority Acts 1960 to 2001, is an independent statutory corporation. It is a matter for the RTE authority to ensure that it uses the funds available to it to fulfil its statutory remit.

As part of the package of measures agreed in December 2002, in the context of the decision to grant a significant increase in the television licence fee, the Government agreed that the television licence fee would be subject to an annual adjustment following an independent evaluation of RTE's performance in the previous year.

I appointed independent consultants in October 2003 to conduct an evaluation of RTE's performance in 2003. Following my consideration of the independent consultants' report, I decided to increase the television licence fee by €2.

A copy of the consultants' report is available on my Department's website.

Harbours and Piers.

Cecilia Keaveney

Question:

255 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if funding is available for dredging at a location (details supplied) in County Donegal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2420/04]

The pier in question is owned by Donegal County Council, and responsibility for its maintenance and repair rests with the local authority in the first instance.

In November 2003, the County Council submitted a proposal to my Department for funding to dredge the pier at an estimated cost of €200,000. The question of providing funding for that project in the 2004 to 2006 period will depend on the amount of Exchequer funding available for works at fishery harbours generally and overall national priorities.

Decentralisation Programme.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

256 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if a survey of staff to determine interest in participating in the decentralisation programme has been undertaken in his Department; when it will be completed; and if the results will be published or otherwise made available to Deputies. [2332/04]

The Government has set up a central implementation committee, chaired by Mr. Phil Flynn, which will prepare and submit an overall implementation plan by the end of March to the Cabinet sub-committee charged with overseeing the decentralisation programme. Until that implementation plan has been agreed, it would be premature to carry out a survey of staff in the Department.

Until such time as a survey is carried out, no decision will be taken as to its publication.

Patient Statistics.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

257 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of unaccompanied minors who have been referred to the health boards for the year 2003. [2368/04]

The provisions of the Child Care Act 1991, to promote the welfare of children who are not receiving adequate care and attention, apply to those minors entering this State unaccompanied.

I have been informed by the health boards and the Eastern Regional Health Authority that the numbers of unaccompanied minors who were referred to them in 2003 were as follows:

Health board or authority

No. of unaccompanied minors referred

No. of unaccompanied minors reunited with family members

Eastern Regional Health Authority

789*

439

Midland Health Board

0

0

Mid-Western Health Board

4

1

North Eastern Health Board

0

0

North Western Health Board

2

0

Southern Health Board

33

11

South Eastern Health Board

2

0

Western Health Board

0

0

Totals

830

451

*Of the 789 unaccompanied minors referred to the Eastern Regional Health Authority, 76 were deemed to be inappropriate referrals, e.g. a person over 18 years of age.

Health Board Services.

Cecilia Keaveney

Question:

258 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Health and Children the procedure and waiting times for children to be assessed for orthodontic treatment in a clinic (details supplied) in County Donegal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2319/04]

The provision of orthodontic services is a matter for the health boards in the first instance.

I am pleased to advise the Deputy that I have taken several measures to improve orthodontic services in the North Western Health Board, or NWHB, area and nationally.

The grade of specialist in orthodontics has been created in the health board orthodontic service. In 2003, my Department and the health boards funded 13 dentists from various health boards — including one from the NWHB — for specialist in orthodontics qualifications at training programmes in Ireland and at three separate universities in the United Kingdom. Those 13 trainees for the public orthodontic service are additional to the six dentists who commenced their training in 2001. Thus, there is an aggregate of 19 dentists in specialist training for orthodontics. Those measures will complement the other structural changes being introduced into the orthodontic service, including the creation of an auxiliary grade of orthodontic therapist to work in the orthodontic area.

Furthermore, the commitment of the Department to training development is manifested in the funding provided to both the training of specialist clinical staff and the recruitment of a professor in orthodontics for Cork Dental School. That appointment at the school will facilitate the development of an approved training programme leading to specialist qualification in orthodontics. The chief executive officer of the Southern Health Board has reported that the professor commenced duty on 1 December 2003. In recognition of the importance of this post at Cork Dental School, my Department has given approval in principle to a proposal from the school to make further substantial improvements to the training facilities there for orthodontics. That project should see the construction of a large orthodontic unit and support facilities; it will ultimately support an enhanced teaching and treatment service for the wider region under the leadership of the professor of orthodontics.

Orthodontic initiative funding of €4.698 million was provided to the health boards and authority in 2001, and that has enabled health boards to recruit additional staff, engage the services of private specialist orthodontic practitioners to treat patients and build additional orthodontic facilities. The NWHB was allocated an additional €0.273 million in 2001 for orthodontic services, of which €0.178 million was for the orthodontic initiative.

In June 2002, my Department provided additional funding of €5 million from the treatment purchase fund to health boards specifically for the purchase of orthodontic treatment. That funding is enabling boards to provide both additional sessions for existing staff and purchase treatment from private specialist orthodontic practitioners. The NWHB was allocated an additional €0.285 million from that fund for the treatment of cases in that way.

The waiting times for orthodontic assessment by clinic are not routinely collected by my Department. Therefore, the chief executive officer of the NWHB has been requested to provide the information requested directly to the Deputy.

Finally, the chief executive officer of the NWHB has informed my Department that, at the end of the September 2003 quarter, the average waiting time for category A and category B orthodontic treatment was six months and 2.6 years, respectively. The chief executive officer of the NWHB also informed my Department that, at the end of the September 2003 quarter, 2,952 patients were receiving orthodontic treatment in the board's area. That is an increase of 853 patients in orthodontic treatment compared with the number of patients receiving treatment at the end of December 2001.

Hospital Services.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

259 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason a child (details supplied) has not completed its facial laser treatment at Crumlin children's hospital; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that some children have been on the laser treatment list since 1997; and his plans to ensure that those children get treated. [2320/04]

Responsibility for the provision of health services to persons residing in counties Dublin, Kildare and Wicklow rests with the Eastern Regional Health Authority, and services at Our Lady's Hospital for Sick Children, Crumlin, are provided under an arrangement with the authority. My Department has therefore asked the regional chief executive of the authority to investigate the matters raised by the Deputy and to reply to her directly.

Hospital Accommodation.

John Cregan

Question:

260 Mr. Cregan asked the Minister for Health and Children the progress that has been made regarding the provision of an Alzheimer's unit for St. Ita's Hospital, Newcastlewest, County Limerick; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2321/04]

As the Deputy is aware, responsibility for the provision of health services in the Limerick area rests with the Mid-Western Health Board in the first instance.

As the Deputy is aware, I visited St. Ita's Hospital, and I am aware that proposals to develop a 12-bed facility for elderly patients with dementia and Alzheimer's disease have been prepared by the design team appointed to that project, under the direction of the project team, which includes representatives of the Mid-Western Health Board and the Department of Health and Children. It is intended that the unit will be a continuing-care facility, and it will also provide respite care. Planning permission for the proposed development has been obtained.

The Mid-Western Health Board has submitted to my Department a request for approval to seek tenders for construction of the proposed unit. That request is now being considered in the context of existing commitments and overall funding resources available.

Health Board Services.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

261 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of children in each health board area who have applied for orthodontic treatment in each year for the past three years; the number that have received such treatment; the number that have been refused such treatment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2322/04]

The provision of orthodontic services is the statutory responsibility of the health boards and authority in the first instance.

Under the Health Act 1970, a child is eligible for orthodontic treatment on the basis of defects noted at a school health examination carried out while the child is attending national school. There is no application processper se, as children in specific classes in national school, usually in second, fourth and sixth class, are dentally screened and referred for orthodontic review as necessary.

Entitlement to orthodontic treatment is determined by reference to orthodontic guidelines, a set of objective clinical criteria applied by health board orthodontists when assessing children's priority of need for treatment. The orthodontic guidelines were issued by my Department in 1985 and are still in use. The orthodontic guidelines are used to ensure that orthodontic resources are prioritised for and applied equitably to the most severe cases. When a health board orthodontist decides that a child is in clinical need of orthodontic treatment in accordance with the criteria, he or she is placed on a treatment waiting list. The guidelines are intended to enable health boards to identify in a consistent way those in greatest need and to commence timely treatment for them. The number of cases treated is dependent on the level of resources available, regarding qualified staff, in the area, and that is reflected in the treatment waiting list. In fact, the provision of orthodontic services is currently severely restricted owing to the limited availability of trained specialist clinical staff to assess and treat patients.

However, I am pleased to advise the Deputy that I have taken several measures to address that shortage.

The grade of specialist in orthodontics has been created in the health board orthodontic service. In 2003, my Department and the health boards funded 13 dentists from various health boards for specialist in orthodontics qualifications at training programmes in Ireland and at three separate universities in the United Kingdom. Those 13 trainees for the public orthodontic service are additional to the six dentists who commenced their training in 2001. Thus, there is an aggregate of 19 dentists in specialist training for orthodontics. Those measures will complement the other structural changes being introduced into the orthodontic service, including the creation of an auxiliary grade of orthodontic therapist to work in the orthodontic area.

Furthermore, the commitment of the Department to training development is manifested in the funding provided for both the training of specialist clinical staff and the recruitment of a professor in orthodontics for Cork Dental School. That appointment at the school will facilitate the development of an approved training programme leading to specialist qualification in orthodontics. The chief executive officer of the Southern Health Board has reported that the professor commenced duty on 1 December 2003. In recognition of the importance of that post at Cork Dental School, my Department has given approval in principle to a proposal from the school to make further substantial improvements to the training facilities there for orthodontics. That project should see the construction of a large orthodontic unit and support facilities; it will ultimately support an enhanced teaching and treatment service for the wider region under the leadership of the professor of orthodontics.

Orthodontic initiative funding of €4.698 million was provided to the health boards and authority in 2001, and that has enabled health boards to recruit additional staff, engage the services of private specialist orthodontic practitioners to treat patients and build additional orthodontic facilities.

In June 2002, my Department provided additional funding of €5 million from the treatment purchase fund to health boards specifically for the purchase of orthodontic treatment. That funding is enabling boards to provide both additional sessions for existing staff and purchase treatment from private specialist orthodontic practitioners.

Finally, the chief executive officers of the health boards and authority have informed me that, at the end of the September quarter 2003, there were 20,784 children receiving orthodontic treatment in the public orthodontic service. That means that there are over twice as many children getting orthodontic treatment as there are children waiting to be treated, and nearly 3,500 extra children have been getting treatment from health boards since the end of 2001.

Care of the Elderly.

Bernard Allen

Question:

262 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Health and Children if he will investigate the case of a person (details supplied) in County Cork who is caring for their spouse on a 24-hour basis and receiving no benefits for such care despite the fact that the person is in receipt of an old age pension; if he will investigate the situation with a view to getting the person reassessed and offer more support; and the reason despite the fact that this person was assessed for rehabilitation when their stroke first occurred five years ago, no offer of rehabilitation has been given since. [2323/04]

As the Deputy will be aware, the provision of health services in the Cork area is, in the first instance, the responsibility of the Southern Health Board. My Department has, therefore, asked the chief executive of the board to investigate the matter raised by the Deputy and reply direct to him as a matter of urgency.

Hospitals Building Programme.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

263 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Health and Children the date he expects to appoint contractors to commence building the new Dingle Hospital; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2396/04]

The appointment of contractors for the building of the proposed new Dingle Hospital is a matter for the Southern Health Board.

My Department approved stage 3, or scheme design, of the planning for the proposed development of a new hospital in Dingle in June 2003. The Southern Health Board has progressed to stages 4 and 5 of planning for the project, namely, detailed design and pre-tender cost check.

The next step of moving the Dingle project forward to construction is to arrange for the submission of tenders. That is being considered by my Department in conjunction with the Southern Health Board and in line with the board's priorities and funding resources available.

Tribunals of Inquiry.

Brendan Smith

Question:

264 Mr. B. Smith asked the Minister for Health and Children the progress to date regarding a request to establish an inquiry (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2540/04]

As the establishment of the committee of inquiry referred to by the Deputy is currently the subject of judicial review proceedings before the High Court, the matter issub judice. I am therefore not able to make a statement as requested.

EU Directives.

Phil Hogan

Question:

265 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Transport her policy position regarding the implementation of the proposed fifth motor insurance directive; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2390/04]

I refer to the reply to Question No. 476 of 16 December 2003. The position is unchanged.

Road Network.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

266 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport the position in regard to identification of final route in respect of the Kilcullen-Waterford motorway; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2477/04]

As the Deputy will be aware the planning, design and implementation of national road improvement projects is a matter for the National Roads Authority, NRA, and the relevant local authorities. However, I understand from the NRA that the N9/N10 Dublin-Waterford route, from south of the M9 motorway at Kilcullen, is being planned in two sections. The current position on the northern section — Kilcullen to Powerstown — is that the compulsory purchase order, CPO, and environmental impact statement, EIS, for the section were published in November 2003 and are before An Bord Pleanála. The CPO and EIS for the southern section are expected to be published during 2004.

Question No. 267 answered with QuestionNo. 174.

Decentralisation Programme.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

268 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Transport if a survey of staff to determine interest in participating in the decentralisation programme has been undertaken in his Department; when it will be completed; and if the results will be published or otherwise made available to Deputies. [2334/04]

I refer the Deputy to my previous answer to Dáil Questions Nos. 816 and 827 answered on Tuesday, 27 January 2004.

To date, staff members in my Department have not been surveyed to ascertain the number wishing to move to a location scheduled for decentralisation.

I have established a decentralisation implementation group in my Department to manage the decentralisation process. It is chaired by an assistant secretary and includes representatives from the areas-agencies scheduled for decentralisation. The question of conducting a survey of the nature referred to above is among the issues being considered by this group.

Question No. 269 answered with QuestionNo. 144.
Question No. 270 answered with QuestionNo. 202.

Rural Transport Initiative.

Seymour Crawford

Question:

271 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for Transport if his attention has been drawn to the fact that a group (details supplied) in County Monaghan was provided with €43,000 to cover a nine month period under the rural transport initiative in 2003, and that in 2004, although it has been asked to increase its activities, its budget for a 12 month period has been reduced to €40,000; his views on whether this type of situation is possible in view of budgetary increases in fuel and other significant cost increases such as insurance; if further funding will be provided at a later stage; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2358/04]

At the outset, I want to clarify that there has been no reduction in the funding provided by my Department for the rural transport initiative, RTI. On the contrary, while €4.4 million was earmarked for the RTI in the national development plan, some €6 million has already been provided for the initiative in the two year period ending December 2003 and further funding of €3 million is being provided for the initiative in 2004.

Specific allocations for individual RTI projects are made from this funding by Area Development Management Limited, ADM, which is managing the RTI on behalf of my Department.

I understand from ADM that in 2003, €43,895 was provided to the Bawn and Latton transport initiative, County Monaghan. In addition, the company received €3,760 arising from the extension of the free travel scheme to the RTI in July 2003. ADM advises that the 2004 RTI allocation for this project is €40,000 respectively before any allocation from the Department of Social and Family Affairs or any funding which individual projects might acquire from other sources.

I have been informed by ADM that the expenditure for 2003 includes expenditure for 2002. This arose as a result of the company being unable to draw down its full allocation from ADM for 2002.

Question No. 272 answered with QuestionNo. 131

State Airports.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

273 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport the extent to which he expects the various airports throughout the country to be profitable; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2456/04]

Aer Rianta's current statutory obligations require the company to manage and develop the State airports on a fully commercial basis. Under the Government's proposed restructuring of the airport sector as announced by me in July 2003, it is intended that the three independent State airport authorities will also operate to a commercial mandate. However, an important advantage of the new structure is that it will encourage a greater focus on enhancing operations in keeping with each airport's catchment area and potential tourism, trade and industry development in the regions they serve.

I also favour a strong commercial approach to the development of the six regional airports, which are in private ownership. The range of financial support mechanisms for the regional air services will continue to encourage maximum commercial autonomy and initiative by the boards of management of the airports concerned.

Question No. 274 answered with QuestionNo. 131.

Air Services.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

275 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport if he has given consideration to providing an improved air service throughout the country with particular reference to the business sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2458/04]

It is the policy of the Government to encourage as wide a range as possible of reliable, regular and competitive air services to and from Ireland. The central tenet of this policy is the belief that a strong, competitive and efficient network of air links are vitally important for developing our trade and tourism sectors, particularly having regard to our island status and peripheral location.

Under European air transport liberalisation measures, any air carrier licensed by a European economic area, i.e the 15 member states of the European Union plus Norway and Iceland, may introduce air services on any route within the EEA without any Government or EU controls, subject only to the availability of airport slots at either end of the route and overall safety considerations. As a result, the provision of air services on any particular route is essentially a matter for the commercial judgment of the individual airline.

On internal routes, where air carriers are not prepared to provide air services on a commercial basis, the Department is empowered under EU regulations to impose a public service obligation, PSO, and to provide subvention to air carriers to operate scheduled service to specified standards. My Department provides subvention on six PSO routes linking Dublin with Kerry, Galway, Knock, Sligo, Donegal and Derry. The total cost of subvention to the Exchequer is now running in excess of €20 million per annum.

I am currently considering the outcome of an expenditure review of PSO air services, which points to the dramatic escalation of subvention costs in recent years.

Road Network.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

276 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport if he has had success in his efforts to match the Dublin Port tunnel with the trucks having particular regard to the anticipated difficulties; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2459/04]

My Department engaged Atkins to review the feasibility, safety implications and cost of raising the height of the Dublin Port tunnel. They were requested to review a range of options for increasing the operational height of the tunnel, their feasibility, having regard to the state of implementation of the current design and build contract and the likely additional costs and impact on the project completion date.

Given the extent of work completed to date, i.e. the first of the two bored tunnel tubes has been successfully completed and work is under way on the second, and the potential high cost and substantial delays associated with redesign and reconstruction of work already completed, the consultants were asked to prepare their report within a short timeframe.

The final report was received from Atkins on 8 December 2003. I am currently reviewing the findings of the report and have sought further information from the NRA pertaining to its conclusions.

Question No. 277 answered with QuestionNo. 140.

Rail Services.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

278 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport his plans for the further improvement of the commuter rail service in north Kildare with particular reference to the towns of Kilcock, Maynooth, Leixlip and Confey; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2461/04]

I am informed by Irish Rail that, since the introduction of the new timetable in December 2003, capacity has been increased by 24% on the Maynooth line. This has been achieved by introducing to the route some of the new fleet of 80 diesel railcars. This latest capacity increase comes on top of a 100% increase achieved in 2001, when the double tracking of the route was completed.

In addition, Irish Rail has recently placed an order for another 36 diesel railcars, which will be delivered in 2005. Some of these railcars are destined for use on the Maynooth line to further increase capacity.

Proposals to further increase capacity on this line form part of the Irish Rail mid-term investment strategy that is under consideration by my Department at present.

Rail Network.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

279 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport the timescale for the upgrading of the rail line servicing Kildare, Newbridge, Sallins and Hazelhatch; the extent to which the capacity of the line will be improved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2463/04]

Irish Rail has informed me that it has increased the commuter capacity of the Kildare route by 130% since the new timetable was introduced on 14 December 2003. A number of the new diesel railcars, acquired by Irish Rail in 2003, were assigned to the route to lengthen the trains to eight-cars. New turn-back facilities at Hazelhatch and Sallins were installed to allow more efficient use of the available train paths into and out of Heuston in the peaks.

Irish Rail recently ordered a further 36 railcars identical to those recently placed into service. These new railcars will be used to boost capacity further on outer suburban routes serving Dublin.

Irish Rail is now proceeding with plans to quadruple a section of the route between Cherry Orchard and Hazelhatch, as part of the Kildare route project, which will enable the separation of inter-city and commuting traffic and increase the capacity of the line. I await the details of the project as part of the railway order process. My Department has provided over €600,000 to CIE to assist with the preparation of the railway order. The company is in the process of completing the draft order and I understand that the application will be submitted to me by the company in the middle of this year.

Traffic Management.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

280 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport the extent to which international expertise has been called upon with a view to resolving traffic problems in Dublin and throughout the country; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2464/04]

My Department encourages the local authorities and agencies involved in traffic management to draw wherever possible from relevant experience, both from at home and abroad, in tackling traffic problems.

In the case of Dublin, I should point out that, as part of development and implementation of its transportation strategy for the greater Dublin area, A Platform for Change 2000-16, the Dublin Transportation Office, DTO, has engaged Booz Allen Hamilton, international consultants, to undertake a demand management study for the greater Dublin area.

Travel demand management is one of two critical elements outlined in the Dublin Transportation Office's strategy. The study will assist in devising a package of effective and feasible travel demand management measures, designed to reduce the number of vehicles on the road, while providing a wide variety of mobility options to those who wish to travel.

In the case of Cork, Limerick, Waterford and Galway, funding is being provided for the development of bus priority schemes in these cities. My Department is in close contact with the relevant local authorities to help them identify the key issues to be addressed in developing bus prioritisation schemes. I would encourage those involved in these schemes to avail of relevant experience in enhancing the use of public transport and in tackling traffic problems.

Light Rail Project.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

281 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport the extent to which it is anticipated that the Luas, when operational, is likely to reduce the road capacity for other vehicles; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2467/04]

While Luas will reduce somewhat the road capacity for other vehicles, it must be borne in mind that the Luas rail system will move 15,000 people in the peak periods into and out of the city; in addition, the reduction in road capacity will only affect a very limited quantum of the public road space in the Dublin area. Luas will also link Heuston Station with Connolly Station and Busáras, strategic commuter locations that between them cater for 20 million passengers each year.

The Dublin Transportation Office transportation strategy 2000-16, A Platform for Change, identifies on-street rail — Luas — as a principal component of an integrated public transport network in Dublin. The strategy is designed to increase substantially the public transport network and to encourage a transfer of trips, especially at peak periods, from the private car to sustainable modes of transport.

Public Transport.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

282 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport if he has had discussion with Bus Éireann and Dublin Bus regarding future public transport throughout the country; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2468/04]

I set out my policy proposals for public transport reform in statements to the public transport partnership forum in November 2002 and the Oireachtas Committee on Transport in June 2003.

Since then, both I and my officials have had discussions with the managements of Bus Átha Cliath and Bus Éireann on my proposals for reform of the regulatory framework for public transport.

Road Traffic Offences.

John Deasy

Question:

283 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Transport if a company which employs or contracts a haulier who does not hold a haulage licence can be prosecuted for doing so; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2543/04]

In accordance with section 36 of the Road Transport Act, 1933 as amended by section 9 of the Road Transport Act 1999, no person shall engage or use the services of any undertaking for the carriage by road for reward of merchandise in a vehicle unless the undertaking is the holder of a road freight carrier's licence, or the carriage is one in respect of which a road freight carrier's licence is not required by law.

Consequently, any company that employs or contracts a haulier in contravention of the above mentioned legislation can be prosecuted for doing so.

Employment Equality.

Eamon Ryan

Question:

284 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if it is possible for a person to take a case under the Employment Equality Act 1999 with regard to the different treatment of union and non-union workers within a company; his plans to extend the allowable grounds for a case in this area; and if her attention has been drawn to suggestions by the Equality Authority in this regard. [2389/04]

The Employment Equality Act 1998 prohibits discrimination in the area of employment on nine specified grounds. Membership or non-membership of a trade union is not a discriminatory ground. The Government is committed under Sustaining Progress, the social partnership agreement 2003-05, to completing the review of the discriminatory grounds which was initiated in accordance with section 6(4) of the Employment Equality Act. Additional grounds for discrimination suggested in the review include the grounds of socio-economic status, including social origin or social origin as a separate ground, trade union membership, criminal conviction or ex-prisoner/ex-offender, and political opinion. The Equality Authority has been a participant in the review.

In view of the complexity of the additional grounds proposed, research on international experience and legislation in the area was commissioned and is expected to be published shortly. The research will inform future policy decisions on whether or not it would be appropriate to extend the discriminatory grounds for the purposes of the Employment Equality Act. Pending publication of the research and completion of the review process, it would be inappropriate for me to make further comment at this time.

Irish Sign Language.

Finian McGrath

Question:

285 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding obtaining full recognition for Irish sign language; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2415/04]

Two forms of sign languages are commonly in use in this country. The Commission on the Status of People with Disabilities received a broad range of submissions from the different disability organisations and from individuals, including proposals for the recognition of Irish sign language as the language of deaf citizens and for education to be provided to deaf children through Irish sign language. The commission pointed to the need for sign language to be recognised but did not recommend inclusion as an official language or specify a particular form of sign language. Arising from its deliberations the commission made proposals relating to the education of deaf children and access to further education options through sign language. In this regard, the Education Act 1998 has made provision for support services in respect of students learning through Irish sign language or any other sign language, including interpreting services. The Education for Persons with Disabilities Bill 2003, which is currently before the Oireachtas, addresses the provision of services for children in education, focusing on the assessment of the needs of the individual child and this may include the consideration of appropriate sign language services.

While I support appropriate measures to further social inclusiveness for people with disabilities there are no current proposals to give recognition to Irish sign language as a third official language.

Decentralisation Programme.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

286 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if a survey of staff to determine interest in participating in the decentralisation programme has been undertaken in his Department; when it will be completed; and if the results will be published or otherwise made available to Deputies. [2335/04]

I refer the Deputy to my answer to Parliamentary Questions Nos. 900 and 914 of 27 January 2004.

Citizenship Applications.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

287 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when naturalisation will be granted for persons (details supplied). [2361/04]

The applications for naturalisation from the persons referred to by the Deputy are currently being processed and I understand that both applications will be submitted to me for a decision in the near future.

I will inform the Deputy and the persons concerned as soon as I have reached a decision on the applications.

Residency Permits.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

288 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when residency will be granted to persons (details supplied). [2362/04]

The persons concerned applied for asylum in the State on 2 August 2001. They had a child on 7 March 2002 and subsequently withdrew their asylum applications on 13 May 2002, and applied for residency on the basis of their Irish born child.

Following the decision of the Supreme Court in the cases of L & O, the separate procedure which then existed to enable persons to apply to reside in the State on the sole basis of parentage of an Irish born child ended on 19 February 2003. The Government decided that the separate procedure would not apply to cases which were outstanding on that date. There are a large number of such cases outstanding at present, including the case to which the Deputy refers.

Since the persons in question do not have an alternative legal basis for remaining in this jurisdiction the issue of permission to remain will be considered — but only in the context of a ministerial proposal to deport them. In that context they will be notified of the proposal and given an opportunity to make representations in relation to it. If, in the light of those representations and the range of factors set out in section 3(6) of the Immigration Act 1999, a decision is made not to make a deportation order they will be given leave to remain on a humanitarian basis.

Because of the large number of such cases on hand I am unable to say at this stage when the file will be examined.

Illegal Immigrants.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

289 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of people refused leave to land at the country's ports of entry during 2003; the number of these at Dublin Airport; the main countries of origin; and the grounds they were refused leave to land. [2365/04]

The number of persons refused leave to land at ports throughout Ireland for 2003 was 4,827. The numbers refused at Dublin Airport for 2003 was 3,258.

The main countries of origin were Romania, Nigeria, Poland, Lithuania and Brazil. Grounds for refusal of leave to land are set out in Article 5 of the Aliens Order 1946 as amended. The main grounds for the refusal of leave to land in 2003 were: Article 5(2)(i) — That the alien is not in possession of a valid passport or other documentation which (i) establishes his or her identity to the officer's satisfaction, (ii) was issued by or on behalf of an authority recognised by the Government; and Article 5(2)(e) — That the alien, not being a member of a class of persons designated by order of the Minister as not requiring a visa, is not the holder of a valid Irish visa; Article 5(2)(m) — That there is reason to believe that the alien, with intent to deceive, seeks to enter the State for a purpose or purposes other than those expressed by the alien; Article 5(2)(a) — that the alien is not in a position to support himself or herself and any accompanying dependants; and Article 5(2)(j) — that the alien (i) intends to travel, whether immediately or not, to Great Britain or Northern Ireland and (ii) would not qualify for admission to Great Britain or Northern Ireland if he or she arrived there from a place other than the State.

Refugee Status.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

290 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of family reunification applications made by refugees or persons with leave to remain status, annually since 2000; the number who have been successful and unsuccessful; and the number of decisions pending with the ministerial decisions unit at 31 December 2003. [2366/04]

A person who has been granted refugee status may apply to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform for permission to be granted to a member of his or her family to enter and reside in the State under section 18 of the Refugee Act 1996 as amended. The numbers of such family reunification applications which have been approved and refused are set out in the table below.

Year

Applications Made

Applications approved

Applications refused

2002

907

352

40

2003

991

270

274

Statistics for 2000 and 2001 are not available. The number of applications from refugees for family reunification pending at 31 December 2003 was 1,088.

A person who has been granted leave to remain in the State has no automatic entitlement to family reunification. Information on the number of applications relating to dependent family members of persons granted leave to remain on the basis of parentage of an Irish born child is set out below.

Year

Applications received

Applications approved

Applications refused

Applications abandoned

2002

88

38

3

4

2003

75

24

4

3

Citizenship Applications.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

291 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of citizenship applications made by refugees or persons with leave to remain status, annually since 2000; the number that have been successful and unsuccessful; and the number of decisions pending as of 31 December 2003. [2367/04]

The table below sets out the numbers of naturalisation applications received, certificates issued and applications refused in respect of refugees, including UN Convention refugees and programme refugees, for the years 2000, 2001 and 2002. A total of 3,580 naturalisation applications received in 2003 have not yet been examined. Records are not maintained in such a way that would distinguish persons with leave to remain from other applicants.

Post-nuptial citizenship is predicated on marriage to an Irish citizen and residency in Ireland is not a requirement. Consequently, records are not maintained in such a way which would show the information sought by the Deputy.

Year

No. of applics. Received

Certs. issued

Refused

Decisions pending (at 26/01/04)

2000

273

238

5

30

2001

481

381

32

68

2002

1,366

507

21

838

Immigration Statistics.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

292 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of unaccompanied minors reunified with family members in Ireland; and the procedures in place for those reaching 18 years who are in post-primary education. [2368/04]

The provisions of the Child Care Act 1991, to promote the welfare of children who are not receiving adequate care and attention, apply to those minors entering this State unaccompanied.

I have been informed by the health boards and the Eastern Regional Health Authority that the numbers of unaccompanied minors who were referred to them in 2003 were as follows:

Health Board/Authority

Number of Unaccompanied Minors Referred

Number of Unaccompanied Minors Reunited with Family Members

Eastern Regional Health Authority

789 *

439

Midland Health Board

0

0

Mid-Western Health Board

4

1

North Eastern Health Board

0

0

North Western Health Board

2

0

Southern Health Board

33

11

South Eastern Health Board

2

0

Western Health Board

0

0

Totals

830

451

*Of the 789 unaccompanied minors referred to the Eastern Regional Health Authority, 76 were deemed to be inappropriate referrals e.g. person over 18 years of age.

Deportation Orders.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

293 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of people annually since 1999 who have applied for leave to remain on humanitarian or other grounds; the number who have been successful annually with a breakdown on country of origin; and the numbers awaiting decision according to the year in which the application was lodged. [2370/04]

In relation to the number of applications for leave to remain, it should be noted that this issue arises only in a circumstance where a non-national is served with a notice of intent to deport under section 3(3)(a) of the Immigration Act 1999. A person served with such a notice of intent is afforded three options, for example, to leave the State voluntarily; to consent to the making of the deportation order; or to make representations in writing within 15 working days setting out reasons the deportation order should not be made and why he or she should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State.

Under section 3(6) of the Act the Minister, in determining whether to make a deportation order, shall have regard to 11 specified considerations, one of which is any representation made by or on behalf of the person. The determination as to whether a deportation order is made or whether leave to remain is granted is not dependent on whether the person has made representations for leave to remain. Thus, statistics are not maintained to distinguish between cases where representations have been made for leave to remain fromthose where no such representations weremade.

The statistics in relation to the number of persons granted temporary leave to remain and their nationalities from November 1999 until the end of 2003 are set out in the table below:

Humanitarian Leave To Remain granted from 1999 to 2003.

Nationality

1999

2000

2001

2002

2003

Nationality Totals

Afghanistan

1

1

Albanian

1

1

Algerian

1

1

8

14

4

28

Angolan

1

3

2

2

8

Belarussian

2

1

2

2

7

Bulgarian

7

2

1

10

Burundian

1

1

Cameroon

3

3

Chinese

1

1

Congolese

1

1

Cuban

2

1

1

4

DR Congo

1

1

2

Egyptian

2

2

Gambian

1

1

2

Georgian

2

2

Ghanaian

1

1

2

Guinean

1

1

Indian

1

1

2

Iraqi

6

1

7

Kenyan

1

1

Kosovan

5

7

12

24

Latvian

5

1

1

7

Lebanese

1

1

Liberian

1

1

Libyan

1

1

Moldovan

1

8

9

Nigerian

6

16

6

28

Pakistani

1

1

2

Filipino

3

3

Polish

2

2

Romanian

1

17

61

27

106

Russian

3

4

7

3

17

Rwandan

1

1

Sierra Leone

1

1

2

1

5

Slovakian

1

1

Somalian

5

2

1

8

South African

1

2

3

Sri Lankan

1

7

8

Tajikistani

5

5

Tunisian

1

1

Turkish

1

1

2

Ugandan

1

1

Ukrainean

1

3

2

6

Uzbekistan

1

1

Vietnamese

1

1

Zairean

1

3

1

2

7

Total for Year

3

19

75

157

83

337

Refugee Statistics.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

294 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of people for 2000, 2001, 2002 and 2003 who have been detained under subsections (details supplied) of section 9 of the 1996 Refugee Act (as amended). [2371/04]

The statistical information required to respond to this question is not readily available. To acquire these figures within the timeframe allowed would require the expenditure of a disproportionate amount of resources. It should be noted that in accordance with the requirements of this section of the Refugee Act 1996 as amended any persons so detained are brought before a judge of the District Court, who considers the basis for the detention and following such consideration, directs that the person concerned should be released or detained as appropriate.

Illegal Immigrants.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

295 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of people who have been detained under section 5 of the Aliens Act 1935 for the years 2000, 2001, 2002 and 2003. [2372/04]

Section 5 of the Aliens Act 1935 empowers the Minister to make a range of orders for the purpose of immigration control. Consequently, there are no powers of detention specified in that provision.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

296 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of people who have been detained under section 5 of the Immigration Act 1999 for the years 2000, 2001, 2002 and 2003. [2374/04]

Section 5 of the Immigration Act 1999 covers the arrest, detention and removal of non-nationals from the State. The number of persons deported per annum is as follows: 2000 — 194; 2001 — 365; 2002 — 547; 2003 — 584.

Citizenship Applications.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

297 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when a decision will be made for a person (details supplied) in Dublin 18 who applied for citizenship in May 2002. [2376/04]

An application for naturalisation by the person referred to by the Deputy was received in the citizenship section of my Department on 3 May 2002.

I understand the processing of the application is almost finalised and that the case file will be passed to me for a decision in the near future. As soon as I have reached a decision on the matter I will inform both the applicant and the Deputy of the outcome.

Garda Investigations.

John Dennehy

Question:

298 Mr. Dennehy asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if, in light of the serious public concern over a number of unsolved murder cases, he will discuss with the Commissioner of the Garda Síochána the possibility of re-establishing a dedicated homicide squad. [2379/04]

As the House will appreciate, the deployment of Garda resources and the investigative methods used in murder cases are matters for the Garda Commissioner.

In this regard, I am informed by the Garda Commissioner that a number of national support units have been established, working under an assistant commissioner. These units include the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation which investigates all forms of serious crime including murder and organised crime. While the responsibility for the investigation of all crime rests with the local Garda officers, the national bureau provides assistance to serious investigations through a range of expertise and skills available within it. Bureau staff assist in all aspects of the investigation including preliminary inquiries, case management, incident room management, general investigation, file preparation and other ancillary aspects of a criminal investigation. Specialist investigation teams within the bureau carry out these tasks when requested by local Garda officers or on the direction of senior Garda management.

The system of national support units is designed to meet modern policing requirements in an efficient and professional manner, both at home and internationally, and personnel and expertise from former units have been incorporated into the new units.

All killings, regardless of the circumstances involved, are the subject of a rigorous Garda investigation.

I am glad to note the detection rate for murder remains high by international standards. The Commissioner's Annual Report for 2002 which was recently published shows the detection rate for that year was 81%.

Visa Applications.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

299 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the permits necessary to enable a US citizen on the second year of a visa to take up permanent and part-time teaching positions in Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2381/04]

It is not possible to determine the permits required by the person in question based on the information provided by the Deputy. The person concerned should submit further details of her current immigration status to the immigration division of my Department which is located at 13-14 Burgh Quay, Dublin 2, and the matter will then be fully considered.

Garda Investigations.

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

300 Mr. O'Connor asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will seek from the Garda Síochána action in relation to allegations that drug use has reached epidemic proportions on bus routes 50N and 77A; if he will ask the gardaí to liaise with Dublin Bus in the matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2383/04]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the gardaí in Tallaght, under Operation Safe Route, frequently patrol the 50N and 77A bus routes. Operation Safe Route was set up as a result of meetings of the Dublin Bus Community Forum. The forum, which meets monthly, consists of representatives of the gardaí, community representatives and Dublin Bus management.

I am further informed that, over the past 12 months, a small number of incidents have been detected where youths have been found smoking cannabis resin. These persons have been removed from the buses and prosecuted under section 3 of the Misuse of Drugs Act.

I am assured by the Garda authorities that all such matters brought to Garda attention are investigated by them.

Citizenship Applications.

Gay Mitchell

Question:

301 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his Department has responded to a petition given to his Department by Argentine descendants of Irish nationals (details supplied); the response of his Department to this petition; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2385/04]

The petition referred to by the Deputy was received in my Department on 26 June 2002. It was not possible to respond individually to the petitioners, of whom there were in the order of 2,000, but officials in the citizenship section of my Department have set out the position on a number of occasions to the named individual, who was one of the signatories to the petition.

The petition requested that I allow Argentine born great-grandchildren of Irish nationals to become Irish nationals themselves or to allow them to seek and obtain employment in Ireland as if they were Irish nationals.

The position is that the great-grandchildren of persons born in Ireland can obtain Irish citizenship by registering in the foreign births register provided either of their parents had at the time of their birth acquired Irish citizenship through registration in the foreign births register. There is one exception to that rule. If one parent had registered in the foreign births register prior to 31 December 1986 the person can register even if the parent had not registered at the time of that person's birth.

If persons are not entitled to Irish citizenship in these circumstances, they may nevertheless be entitled to Irish citizenship as a result of marriage to an Irish citizen, post-nuptial citizenship. A person is entitled to make a declaration of post-nuptial citizenship if he/she is married to an Irish citizen who is Irish other than by naturalisation, post-nuptial citizenship or honorary citizenship for at least three years. The marriage must be valid and subsisting and the couple must be living together as husband and wife at the time of declaration. The post-nuptial process has been repealed with effect from 30 November 2002. By way of a transitional provision, persons who are married to Irish citizens before that date but fail to satisfy the three year criterion at that time can make the declaration after that date upon completion of three years of marriage. The transitional provision will cease to apply on 30 November 2005.

Finally, any non-national, be they Argentinian or otherwise, can apply for Irish citizenship through naturalisation. Such applications are considered under the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Acts, 1956 to 2001, and the granting of a certificate of naturalisation is at my absolute discretion. The applicant must fulfil certain statutory requirements, including requirements in relation to residency. However, I am empowered to dispense with the statutory conditions in whole or in part in certain circumstances, for example where the applicant is of Irish descent or Irish associations. Every such application is decided upon on its individual circumstances and in accordance with the law. It should be noted also that the statutory residency requirements for persons who are married to Irish citizens have been reduced from 30 November 2002 in view of the fact that post-nuptial citizenship will no longer be available.

The Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 2001, which was enacted on 6 June 2001, made extensive changes to Irish citizenship law as enunciated in the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Acts 1956 to 1994 and it is not intended to revisit the issue of foreign births registration in the foreseeable future.

Argentine citizens do not require an Irish visa to enter the State. However, if an Argentine citizen wishes to work in the State, an employer should obtain a work permit on his or her behalf from the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment.

Pension Provisions.

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

302 Mr. N. O'Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if a person (details supplied) in County Cork is entitled to a pension, having been employed by the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform for a number of years. [2437/04]

The person to whom the Deputy refers was employed on a part-time basis as a non-established civil servant. Pensions for non-established civil servants are co-ordinated with pensions payable under the social welfare system. Under this system part-time employees do not normally qualify for a pension. This person was paid a gratuity on retirement but did not qualify for a pension.

Human Rights Issues.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

303 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if the report by Amnesty International outlining human rights violations inside the EU has been brought to his attention; and his views on the recommendations of Amnesty International's Human Rights Begin at Home campaign. [2438/04]

The recently published Amnesty International report refers to general EU human rights policy and contains proposals with regard to human rights issues both within the EU states and worldwide in the context of the Irish and Dutch presidencies of the EU Council during 2004.

In so far as the report deals with the area of justice and home affairs, e.g. judicial co-operation, the European arrest warrant, police co-operation, racism and discrimination, a common European asylum system, immigration and borders, violence against women and human trafficking, the views of Amnesty International as set out in the report have been noted. Other areas in the report are matters for the Minister for Foreign Affairs.

Immigration Act 1999.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

304 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the implications of the High Court finding that section 2.1 of the Immigration Act 1999 is unconstitutional. [2439/04]

It is not for me, as Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, to state what are the legal implications of the High Court finding referred to in the Deputy's question.

The practical consequences of the judgment go to the heart of the immigration control function as exercised in the State in respect of non-EEA nationals. From Friday next, when the High Court is due to actually grant the declarations which it signalled in its judgment on 22 January, every aspect of the operation of immigration controls addressed by the Aliens Order 1946, to which section 2 of the Immigration Act 1999 gave effect as if the order had been an Act of the Oireachtas, will either be without a statutory basis or will be so open to challenge as to render those controls ineffective. The matters covered by the Aliens Order include the appointment of immigration officers; immigration controls on non-nationals entering or seeking to enter the State; conditions attached to permissions to remain in the State; and power to charge non-nationals for breaches of permission to remain and to arrest and detain them for such offences.

It is my intention to address the matter by bringing forward appropriate legislation as a matter of urgency to ensure that the normal immigration controls that every sovereign state operates for the protection of the public interests of those who form the society of the state, including the interests of security, can continue to operate in this State. It is also expected that the judgment in question will be appealed.

Departmental Records.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

305 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of files for 1973 in his Department released to the National Archives under the 30 year rule; the number withheld; and the subject matter of the files withheld. [2440/04]

In the time available for answering parliamentary questions it has not proved possible to compile the information requested by the Deputy. The information is being compiled at present and I will correspond with the Deputy in this regard shortly.

Irish Prison Service.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

306 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will make a commitment that the redeveloped Mountjoy will not be a privately run institution; and if he will also make a commitment that the redeveloped Mountjoy will not be developed or run as a public private partnership institution. [2441/04]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

309 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the likely effect on the present Dóchas Centre and Training Centre at Mountjoy under his redevelopment plans. [2444/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 306 and 309 together.

I am in the process of submitting to Government proposals in relation to Mountjoy Prison and I expect to be in a position to make an announcement on the matter shortly.

I have made clear that my preference is for all prisons to continue to be managed by the Prison Service, but on the basis of a sustainable cost structure. As the Deputy will be aware, discussions are under way at the Labour Relations Commission between the Prison Service and the Prison Officers Association on proposals aimed at achieving this objective.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

307 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his Department has had communications with any religious orders or religious organisations with regard to the management of Shelton Abbey, Loughan House, or any helicopters Prison Service; if so, the names of the orders or organisations; if the contact was initiated by his Department; the date of contact; the services which were or are under discussion; and the current status of any such discussions. [2442/04]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

312 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his Department has had communications with voluntary or charitable organisations with regard to the management of Shelton Abbey, Loughan House, or any other aspects of the Prison Service; if so, the names of the organisations; if the contact was initiated by his Department; the dates of contact; the services which were or are under discussion; and the current status of such discussions. [2447/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 307 and 312 together.

Arrangements for the alternative management of Shelton Abbey and Loughan House, should discussions under way at the Labour Relations Commission not result in a sustainable cost structure for their management within the Prison Service, are currently being finalised in my Department.

There have been no discussions with religious orders or religious organisations or voluntary or charitable organisations on the matter.

Rights of People with Disabilities.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

308 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will list and describe the initiatives taken by his Department during the European Year of People with Disabilities; the cost of each initiative; and the way in which each initiative has concretely improved the lives of Irish people with disabilities. [2443/04]

The European Year of People with Disabilities 2003, EYPD, was established by a decision of the Council of the European Union — 2001/903/EC — on 3 December 2001. The key aim of the European Year of People with Disabilities has been to create awareness about disability issues among the general public and of the rights of people with disabilities to equal opportunities and protection against discrimination. The Council decision recognised that while different forms of disability exist, people with disabilities are a heterogeneous group. It also emphasised the following areas, with a specific disability focus: consideration of measures to facilitate equality; exchange of good practice; enhancement of co-operation between public, private, NGO and voluntary sectors; improving communications; forms of multiple discrimination; and the needs of children and young people, especially in an educational context.

The National Disability Authority, NDA, was designated as the national co-ordinating body for EYPD in Ireland. A National Co-ordinating Committee, NCC, for EYPD in Ireland was established, chaired by the NDA. It includedover 20 members representing disability interest groups, the social partners, the Equality Authority, relevant Departments and themedia.

Bearing in mind the overall objectives, and after consultation with interested parties, the NCC decided to adopt four themes for the year in Ireland. These were awareness; youth and disability; rights, responsibilities and partnership; and employment. The NDA administered funding for activities for the year which amounted to just over €1.5 million. This amount was used to finance a wide range of projects as well as promotional, advertising and administrative costs. The total fund includes a sum of €250,000 in EU contributions and a sum of €500,000, allocated by the Department of the Taoiseach, to be spent on special flagship projects. Seven projects were chosen to receive the flagship funding and the NCC approved a further €500,000 for 45 projects based on the four agreed themes.

To mark the year, my Department has funded, and co-funded, some other specific initiatives. These are listed in the table as follows:

Project

Cost

Advertising Campaign on radio/TV (3 phases)

376,448.19

A New Sensory Garden in the National Botanic Gardens, Dublin

67,421.19

Disability Supplement — RTE Guide

24,200.00

Design for All Exhibition (co-funded with the OPW) — which toured nationwide

218,764.00

Cork International Film Festival Filmmakers with Disabilities Showcase

5,945.00

PwDI/ Artists and Disability Ireland Calendar

29,000.00

PwDI Youth — Beyond Disability Seminars held in October/November, 2002

89,611.58

Development of PwDI accessible website

21,726.76

PwDI Youth — Beyond Disability International Conference held in September, 2003

52,111.11

From the Outside In (Animo Television for RTE — four programmes broadcast in December, 2003)

184,117.43

Total

1,069,345.26

I believe all of these initiatives have contributed significantly to fulfilling the objectives of awareness raising, enhancing co-operation with the NGO sector, supporting good practice and facilitating equality. An indication of the heightened awareness which has been achieved is the fact that almost 250,000 people watched the final episode of "From the Outside In" when it was broadcast on the Monday before Christmas. I expect that these projects, together with initiatives funded by the NCC, will support continued progress towards equality for people with disabilities.

Question No. 309 answered with QuestionNo. 306.

Irish Prison Service.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

310 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will make a commitment that the planned new Cork facility will not be a privately run institution; and if he will also make a commitment that the planned new Cork facility will not be developed or run as a public private partnership institution. [2445/04]

I am reviewing the accommodation requirements of the Irish Prison Service for the next five to ten years. The review will include an assessment of requirements for the southern region. When my review is complete, I will bring proposals to Government.

I have made clear that my preference is for all prisons to continue to be managed by the Prison Service, but on the basis of a sustainable cost structure. As the Deputy will be aware, discussions are under way at the Labour Relations Commission between the Prison Service and the Prison Officers' Association on proposals aimed at achieving this objective.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

311 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his Department has had communications with or retained any outside consultant or organisation to advise the Government with regard to privatising or contracting out aspects or services of the criminal justice and prison system of the Prison Service; if so, the names of the consultants/organisations; the dates of contact; if the contact was initiated by his Department; the services which were or are under discussion; and the current status of any such discussions. [2446/04]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

313 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his Department has had communications with a company (details supplied) with regard to privatising or contracting out aspects or services of the criminal justice and/or prison system of the Prison Service; if so, the dates of contact; if the contact was initiated by his Department; the services which were or are under discussion; and the current status of such discussions. [2448/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 311 and 313 together.

The Irish Prison Service, IPS, staffing and operations review process identified the stores function within prisons as an area where there was scope for considerable rationalisation, with attendant cost savings. Accordingly, consultants were appointed on a short-term basis to carry out a comprehensive review of the stores function in the Prison Service and to indicate how available resources could be used in a more cost effective manner.

In July 2002, the consultants referred to by the Deputy were engaged to conduct a review of the storage function in the Prison Service at a cost of €45,000, inclusive of VAT and expenses. Officials met with these consultants on various dates between June 2002 and May 2003. The consultants were also in contact with IPS staff in the various institutions during this time as part of the information gathering phase of the operation.

The recommendations and findings of the consultants' report are currently being considered. Elements of this project are heavily dependent on the outcome of the current change negotiations between the Irish Prison Service and the Prison Officers' Association. These issues will be the subject of detailed discussions with the staff side as the process evolves.

In addition, in relation to the possible privatisation of the provision of prisoner transport and escort services, a number of telephone inquiries have been received regarding the prior information notice placed in the EU Journal at the start of this year.

Question No. 312 answered with QuestionNo. 307.
Question No. 313 answered with QuestionNo. 311.

Liquor Licensing Laws.

John Deasy

Question:

314 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of prosecutions which have been secured under sections 4 to 9, 12 to 18 and 20 to 22 of the Intoxicating Liquor Act 2003. [2529/04]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the information sought is not readily available at this time and could only be obtained by the expenditure of a disproportionate amount of Garda time and resources which could not be justified in the circumstances.

Sexual Offences.

John Deasy

Question:

315 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he has satisfied himself with the definition of sexual exploitations as contained in the Child Trafficking and Pornography Act 1998; if he has further satisfied himself that, as drafted, it encompasses all inappropriate sexual behaviour involving children; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2530/04]

Section 3 of the Child Trafficking and Pornography Act 1998 makes it an offence to organise or knowingly facilitate the entry into, transit through or exit from Ireland of a child for the purpose of the child's sexual exploitation. It also makes it an offence to take, detain or restrict the personal liberty of a child for the purpose of his or her sexual exploitation or to organise or knowingly facilitate such taking, detaining or restricting.

The maximum penalty on conviction on indictment for trafficking a child for the purpose of his or her sexual exploitation is life imprisonment and for the taking, detaining or restricting the personal liberty of a child or organising such taking, detaining or restricting is 14 years' imprisonment.

"Sexual exploitation" is defined primarily for the purpose of section 3 of the Child Trafficking and Pornography Act 1998 to mean inducing or coercing a child to engage in prostitution or the production of child pornography, using a child for prostitution or the production of child pornography, inducing or coercing a child to participate in any sexual activity which is an offence under any enactment, or the commission of any such offence against a child. However, the definition is applicable also for the purpose of one specific part of the definition of child pornography in section 2 of the 1998 Act, i.e. subsection (1)(d) which states that child pornography means any visual representation or description of, or information relating to, a child that indicates or implies that the child is available to be used for the purpose of sexual exploitation as defined in section 3(3). I am, therefore, satisfied that all inappropriate sexual behaviour involving children which constitutes an offence under section 3 or the relevant part of the definition of child pornography in section 2 of the Child Trafficking and Pornography Act 1998 is encompassed by the definition of sexual exploitation as defined in section 3(3).

Summary Offences.

John Deasy

Question:

316 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the plans he has to amend the six month time limit as provided for in section 10(4) of the Petty Sessions (Ireland) Act 1854, either generally or with reference to specific offences; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2532/04]

I assume the Deputy is referring to the time limit of six months for laying a complaint alleging a summary offence provided for by section 10(4) of the Petty Sessions (Ireland) Act 1851, as amended by section 9 of the Statute of Limitations Act 1957. This provision applies to all summary offences except where individual statutes have provided otherwise. Such exceptions have been made in the main in relation to regulatory type offences.

I have no plans for a general review of the six months time limit. However, the Deputy will be interested to know that I am considering providing for an extension to that time limit for certain limited purposes in the proposed Garda Síochána Bill, which I intend to publish shortly, in the context of complaints against members of the Garda Síochána giving rise to the possibility of summary criminal proceedings.

Garda Transport.

John Deasy

Question:

317 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if the procedures being followed by the Garda for the maintenance of its helicopters are the most cost effective available; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2533/04]

I have been informed by the Garda authorities who are responsible for the detailed allocation of resources that the procedures being followed for the maintenance of the Garda helicopters are as follows: the Department of Defence Vote provides for the maintenance of the GASU squirrel helicopter, up to 750 hours per annum. The operational hours of the helicopter currently fall within this threshold; the out-sourcing of the maintenance of the EC135 helicopter, on a trial basis, was provided for in the Government decisions of 20 November 2001 and 23 April 2002. Following a tender competition, in accordance with EU and national public procurement regulations and guidelines, a two year maintenance contract was awarded to McAlpine Helicopters Ltd. This contract came into effect on 1 January 2004.

John Deasy

Question:

318 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when the Government appointed interdepartmental committee on Garda aviation matters was established; the frequency with which this committee has met; and if he will give details of those meetings. [2534/04]

The Government approved a proposal from the then Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform in November 2001 to contract out the piloting and maintenance of a new Garda helicopter, the EC 135, for a trial period and it is assumed that the Deputy is referring to the interdepartmental committee that was set up to oversee this process. This committee met on three occasions in total, twice in January 2002 and once in June 2002.

In March 2002, having considered the various issues the interdepartmental committee submitted an interim report to the then Minister in which it recommended — for legal reasons — that the EC135 be introduced into service, on an interim basis, on the State military register while the longer term options were explored.

The matter was again submitted to Government who approved, in April 2002, the placement, on an interim basis, of the EC135 on the State military register with the Air Corps responsible for the piloting of the craft and directed the interdepartmental committee to continue to examine the options for the contracting out of piloting and maintenance of the new helicopter on a trial basis.

In June 2002, the interdepartmental committee met to discuss further actions required. The Department of Defence began work on the RFT for the out-sourcing of the maintenance for the EC 135. In December 2002, a tender for the long-term maintenance of the EC 135 was issued and following contract negotiations a two year maintenance contract was awarded to McAlpine Helicopters Ltd. This contract came into effect on 1 January 2004.

In addition, work began on a service level agreement between the Air Corps and the Garda Síochána on operating and reporting structures covering all aspects of joint operations. This service level agreement is almost finalised. Following the signing of this agreement, my officials, in consultation with colleagues in the Department of Defence, intend to reconvene the interdepartmental committee to consider further the out-sourcing of the piloting of the EC135 and related issues.

John Deasy

Question:

319 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the details of the circumstances surrounding the certification of an additional seat for the second Garda helicopter and the acquisition of that seat; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2535/04]

I have been informed by the Garda authorities who are responsible for the detailed allocation of resources that the tender for the EC 135 Garda helicopter included a troop seat configuration for ease of ingress and egress from the helicopter of specialist teams and equipment in addition to the standard seating configuration.

Despite orders from a large number of police air support units for this capability, the seat manufacturer was unable to obtain certification from the aircraft manufacturer.

In the interim, a Martin Baker swivel seat was chosen as the preferred alternative option in order to meet Garda operational requirements along with maximising passenger and equipment carrying capability. The cost of the swivel seat was met from within the tender price. The Garda Síochána continues to maintain an interest in acquiring the troop seats when certification is achieved.

Prisoner Transfers.

John Deasy

Question:

320 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of prison to court escorts and court to prison escort journeys that were made by remand prisoners for 2003. [2536/04]

The information sought by the Deputy is not fully available.

The number of escorted court appearances by persons already in prison custody totalled approximately 28,000 in 2003. It is not possible to state what percentage of these court appearances related to prisoners who were on remand at the time of the escort but the majority of prisoners attending court would fall into this category.

It should be noted that not all of these court appearances would have involved separate escorts. Depending on the court list, a number of prisoners are taken as part of a single escort party.

In the vast majority of the cases referred to, the prisoner would have been returned to prison after his or her court appearance. Additional persons, for instance those on bail prior to sentence, would also be brought to the prison from the court under escort following imposition of a custodial sentence.

John Deasy

Question:

321 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the type of escort that attaches to convicted persons on their journey to and from prison; and the number of such persons who accompany such a prisoner. [2537/04]

Essential daily escorts in the prison system include occasions where prisoners are brought to hospital, for court appearances or to another prison. The level of security on escorts is tailored to the profile of each individual prisoner. This is determined by prison management in consultation with the gardaí, where necessary.

In general, there are three types of escort. These are as follows: low security escorts are provided for prisoners who are considered a low risk. For example, these would include escorts for prisoners who are in an open prison and non-violent women prisoners; handcuffed escorts — most escorts are under handcuffs, and I refer the Deputy to my answer to Parliamentary Question No. 126 of 4 December 2003 for the underlying reasons for this; and armed escorts are provided for prisoners who are considered a high security risk and who may attempt to escape with or without the aid of accomplices. Such prisoners may have subversive links or may be involved in organised crime.

The number of persons accompanying any one prisoner would depend on their security profile but, for obvious security reasons, I cannot go into details on these arrangements.

Sexual Offences.

John Deasy

Question:

322 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will provide additional funding to the Garda to tackle the growth of child pornography on the Internet; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2541/04]

I have been informed by the Garda authorities who are responsible for the detailed allocation of resources, including personnel, that the domestic violence and sexual assault unit operating within the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation has an established strength of one detective inspector, three detective sergeants and 11 detective gardaí. The paedophile investigation unit is in existence since November 2002 and operates under the umbrella of the domestic violence and sexual assault unit. It consists of one detective sergeant and three detective gardaí.

Personnel from the main stream units of the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation augment these units, as the volume of work requires. Computer forensics are carried out by the domestic violence and sexual assault unit and also by the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation utilising up to date forensic software.

Substantial Garda resources are utilised in the investigation of child pornography on the Internet. Operation Amethyst was a very successful operation utilising Garda personnel on a countrywide basis under the direction and control of expert personnel from the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation.

The Garda Síochána investigates all alleged breaches of the Child Trafficking and Pornography Act 1998 brought to its attention by external police forces, the Internet advisory board hotline and by concerned citizens.

The Garda Síochána is fully committed to the investigation of all cases of child pornography coming to notice and is very much aware of the importance of investigating the child protection issues involved in such cases.

Suspected criminal cases involving the use of the Internet are complex cases. All cases coming to notice immediately become the subject of initial investigation. Cases on hand are at various stages of the investigative process and will culminate in files being sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Visa Applications.

John Deasy

Question:

323 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will consider setting up a helpline to assist Dáil Deputies in relation to queries concerning visa applications, in view of the lengthy delays being experienced using the public helplines; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2542/04]

I addressed this issue comprehensively in my response to Parliamentary Question No. 396 of 18 November 2003 and the position is as outlined in that response.

I am considering with officials in my Department ways to underpin the quality and efficiency of services provided in light of the resources available.

Architectural Heritage.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

324 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the grants available for a club based in Carlow town (details supplied). [2405/04]

My Department does not directly provide financial support for the restoration of buildings in private ownership. However, the Heritage Council may deploy some of its resources for this purpose. Although my Department funds the Heritage Council, it is an independent statutory body established under the Heritage Act 1995 and I have no function in relation to any decisions by it regarding the disbursal of grants.

The conservation grant scheme for protected structures was introduced in 1999 to assist owners or occupiers of protected structures to undertake necessary works to secure their conservation. The scheme is administered by local authorities, which are allocated a fixed amount of funding for grant purposes in each calendar year. Authorities are required to prioritise applications for assistance on the basis of a scheme of priorities drawn up by them.

Annual allocations for conservation grant schemes are determined having regard to the wider budgetary situation. My Department will continue to monitor the operation and effectiveness of these schemes.

Finally, the owner or occupier of a building which is determined by me to be a building which is intrinsically of significant scientific, historical, architectural or aesthetic interest, and which is determined by the Revenue Commissioners to be a building to which reasonable access is afforded to the public, can apply under section 482 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 for relief in respect of expenditure incurred in the repair, maintenance or restoration of the building. Ultimately, the decision to allow tax relief in respect of an approved building is a matter for the Revenue Commissioners.

Radon Gas Levels.

John Dennehy

Question:

325 Mr. Dennehy asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will undertake a publicity campaign to make the public aware of the dangers of radon gas; if he will provide assistance for the public to obtain the necessary detectors to ascertain if their homes are at risk from radon gas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2350/04]

It is not proposed to provide Exchequer funding to assist the procurement of radon detectors, which are inexpensive, for measurement of radon gas in the home.

Over the years the Government, through the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland, RPII, has committed significant resources to assessing the extent of the radon problem throughout the country and to increasing public awareness of radon.

During the years 1992 to 1999, the RPII carried out a national survey of radon in domestic dwellings aimed at assessing the extent of the radon problem in homes. The survey involved the measurement by the RPII of radon for a 12 month period in a random selection of homes in each 10 km by 10 km grid square throughout the country. The RPII's website contains a comprehensive map of the high radon areas in Ireland as well as the report of its national survey of radon in homes.

Upgraded building regulations, introduced in June 1997, require all new houses commencing construction on or after 1 July 1998 to incorporate radon protection measures. In February 2002 my Department published a booklet entitled Radon in Existing Buildings — Corrective Options advising designers, builders and home owners on remediation options for reducing radon in existing houses to, or below, the national reference level of 200 becquerels per cubic metre, Bq/m3.

In recent months the RPII has undertaken several initiatives to heighten awareness of the radon issue in Ireland. In October 2003 the RPII held the second in a series of three national radon fora in Galway to raise awareness of radon as a health risk. In November 2003 a media campaign on radon in the workplace was launched in ten high radon counties. Advertisements were placed in 13 local newspapers in Counties Carlow, Clare, Galway, Kerry, Kilkenny, Mayo, Sligo, Waterford, Wexford and Wicklow.

The RPII will shortly publish its report on the radon in schools programme covering radon results in some 3,400 schools. This is the first such comprehensive survey to have been carried out in Europe.

The RPII is also currently revising its booklet, Information on Radon in Homes, and will shortly publish a new booklet aimed at householders with high radon levels giving them advice on remediation options. Wall charts for display in libraries, medical centres, etc. providing relevant public advice will, in addition, be distributed by RPII.

Both the RPII and my Department will continue to use all appropriate opportunities to raise public awareness of radon.

Archaeological Excavations.

John Dennehy

Question:

326 Mr. Dennehy asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the amount spent on archaeological excavations undertaken during road construction programmes in recent years; if he has satisfied himself that the taxpayer is receiving value for money; if the results of such studies are being made available; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2351/04]

The vast majority of projects/schemes carried out under my Department's non-national roads programme relate to pavement improvement works and do not require archaeological excavations.

In relation to the very small number of schemes where some archaeological excavations are required, the cost of any such works carried out would generally not be separately identified by the local authority concerned for my Department.

Traveller Accommodation.

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

327 Mr. O'Connor asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he has improved funding to South Dublin County Council in respect of the proposed Traveller halting site at Belgard reservoir, Cookstown Road, Tallaght, Dublin 24; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2352/04]

Approval for the acceptance of a tender for the provision of a halting site at Belgard reservoir, Cookstown Road, Tallaght, Dublin 24 issued from my Department to South Dublin County Council on 19 November 2003.

Water and Sewerage Schemes.

Jack Wall

Question:

328 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if Kildare County Council have applied for a new sewerage scheme for Fortbarringtown, Athy, County Kildare; the position regarding the application; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2354/04]

In February 2002, Kildare County Council submitted an application to my Department under the serviced land initiative measure of the water services investment programme in respect of a proposed sewerage scheme at Fortbarrington. I understand that the council subsequently funded the scheme under the devolved small schemes measure of the rural water programme and that it was completed in September 2003.

Energy Conservation.

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

329 Mr. N. O'Keeffe asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the grant aid available to insulate cavity walls of dwelling houses. [2488/04]

There are no grants available from my Department specifically for the purpose of insulating houses. However, many effective measures to improve energy efficiency in houses can be achieved at negative or zero equivalent annual cost to the householder. The national climate change strategy provides for intensification of educational and awareness programmes being undertaken by Sustainable Energy Ireland to promote these options and to fill the existing information gap for consumers.

The standards of insulation required in new housing have been progressively improved in 1982, 1991, 1997 and, most recently, following the 2002 revision of the statutory building regulations.

Since 1976, all new local authority housing has been built with wall cavity, attic and floor insulation in accordance with the building regulations in force at the time. My Department financially assists local authorities in upgrading, renovating and redeveloping their housing stock through the remedial works scheme and funding for regeneration and redevelopment projects. Works under the remedial works scheme must comply with the building regulations. Where an extensive programme of refurbishment works is carried out, measures are taken to improve thermal insulation in accordance with the building regulations.

Community Development.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

330 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the position regarding community development programmes; if the programme is subject to review at present; if so, the nature and timescale for this review; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2402/04]

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

331 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if it is the case that community development programmes and rural development programmes under his auspices are still subject to a general review; if so, the programmes or schemes of this nature being reviewed; the nature and timescale of these reviews; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2403/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 330 and 331 together.

I refer the Deputy to earlier questions on this topic, in particular my reply to Question No. 76 on 21 October 2003 and my reply to Question No. 108 and allied questions on 26 March 2003.

Recommendations arising from the review referred to by the Deputy were recently considered by Government. Details of the Government decision in this regard are currently being finalised. I hope to be in a position to set out the Government decision in the near future.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

332 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if the CLÁR programme has been reviewed or amended in the wake of Census 2002; if so, the nature of these changes in County Kerry; if he will supply maps for County Kerry to illustrate these changes or the current CLÁR areas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2404/04]

An Agreed Programme for Government contains a commitment to annual funding for the CLÁR programme and to consideration of additional areas for inclusion in light of the 2002 population census data. Arising from the analysis of the 2002 population census, the Government decided on the additional areas for inclusion in the CLÁR programme and I announced these additions on 17 January 2003.

The critical criterion in the review was to maintain the criterion of a 50% overall population reduction and involved identifying and including any DEDs with a 50% plus population decline contiguous or near to existing CLÁR areas.

Arising from the review, no DEDs were removed. The number of DEDs in the revised programme has increased from 701 to 890 and the total population in the programme has increased from 284,000 to 362,000. Waterford is the only new county with areas included. The average decline of population in the total CLÁR area is now 49.89% or, excluding the Cooley Peninsula, 50.32%.

In the case of County Kerry, seven DEDs with a population of 3,111 were added. This brings the total population in County Kerry that is included in the programme to 30,309 in a total of 71 DEDs.

The following table details the number of additional DEDs and the population included in the revised programme.

I am sending separately to the Deputy the map and list of the previous and new DEDs in the CLÁR areas of County Kerry.

Revised CLÁR Programme

County

Pop. 1926

Pop. 1996

Pop. 2002

Avg.% Decline 1926-1996

Avg.% Decline 1926-2002

No. of DEDs

Additional DEDs

Cavan (Total)

82,452

52,944

56,414

-42.32

-28.92

91

old CLÁR

35,883

16,765

16,962

-55.81

-55.30

43

new CLÁR

56,241

28,409

29,435

-51.71

-50.08

69

26

Clare

95,061

94,006

103,333

-11.15

-0.06

153

old CLÁR

40,597

22,814

23,283

-47.42

-46.54

72

new CLÁR

61,093

35,381

35,655

-46.11

-45.95

102

30

Cork

272,226

420,510

448,181

0.62

8.45

398

old CLÁR

43,137

22,936

23,702

-47.36

-45.66

49

new CLÁR

63,517

34,457

35,137

-45.60

-44.83

83

34

Donegal

150,714

129,994

137,383

-19.94

-14.18

149

old CLÁR

46,227

24,717

24,533

-49.36

-49.49

55

new CLÁR

61,072

33,632

33,103

-47.53

-48.11

70

15

Galway

154,508

188,854

208,826

-14.46

-7.32

238

old CLÁR

42,222

22,612

22,517

-48.33

-49.34

57

new CLÁR

50,725

27,386

27,311

-47.60

-48.46

70

13

Kerry

149,081

126,130

132,424

-29.67

-27.09

166

old CLÁR

49,047

25,640

27,198

-51.85

-49.99

64

new CLÁR

55,042

29,041

30,309

-51.05

-49.91

71

7

Leitrim

59,902

25,057

25,815

-59.78

-59.12

77

old CLÁR

59,902

25,057

25,815

-59.78

-59.12

77

new CLÁR

59,902

25,057

25,815

-59.78

-59.12

77

0

Limerick

100,895

165,042

175,529

3.37

8.41

173

old CLÁR

760

402

373

-47.11

-50.92

1

new CLÁR

760

402

373

-47.11

-50.92

1

0

Longford

38,986

30,166

31,127

-33.84

-26.17

54

old CLÁR

16,917

9,350

9,147

-46.07

-46.84

25

new CLÁR

17,417

9,619

9,409

-46.08

-46.87

26

1

Monaghan

65,191

51,313

52,772

-26.83

-23.75

70

old CLÁR

8,975

4,262

4,444

-53.20

-51.12

12

new CLÁR

14,254

7,015

7,149

-51.85

-51.00

19

7

Roscommon

84,456

51,975

53,803

-39.49

-38.44

112

old CLÁR

54,304

25,277

25,436

-54.77

-55.17

66

new CLÁR

59,318

28,128

28,270

-53.23

-53.63

75

9

Sligo

71,406

55,821

58,178

-34.73

-32.48

82

old CLÁR

39,542

18,300

18,478

-55.03

-54.96

53

new CLÁR

48,190

23,148

23,649

-52.92

-52.48

64

11

TippNR

59,645

58,021

61,068

-12.96

-9.12

80

old CLÁR

6,276

3,205

3,234

-49.73

-49.95

9

new CLÁR

8,127

4,205

4,235

-49.51

-49.44

13

4

TippSR

81,370

75,514

79,213

-18.59

-7.67

96

old CLÁR

1,526

808

764

-46.29

-48.73

3

new CLÁR

1,526

808

764

-46.29

-48.73

3

0

Waterford

51,341

94,680

101,518

-5.79

-0.44

129

old CLÁR

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

new CLÁR

9,531

5,081

5,148

-47.24

-47.08

17

17

Westmeath

56,818

63,314

72,027

-0.47

13.30

106

old CLÁR

2,188

902

974

-60.06

-55.34

6

new CLÁR

6,909

3,329

3,452

-52.56

-50.73

18

12

old CLÁR

565,827

283,654

287,270

-51.61

-51.35

701

new CLÁR

695,946

357,947

361,901

-50.06

-49.89

890

189

old CLÁR (exLouth)

557,845

275,858

279,190

-52.14

-51.92

694

new CLÁR (exLouth)

687,964

350,151

353,821

-50.46

-50.32

883

189

Family Support Services.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

333 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the application procedures for a family resource centre; the criteria that have to be met in this regard; the type and level of funding available to such centres; the number of family resource centres in County Kerry and their names and addresses; the amount of funding allocated from her Department for each of the family resource centres in County Kerry each year for the past three years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [2401/04]

The family and community services resource centre programme provides financial assistance to projects to assist with the staffing and equipping of local resource centres. Responsibility for the administration of the programme was transferred from my Department to the Family Support Agency upon its establishment on 6 May 2003.

The application procedure for inclusion in the programme involves a submission of a work plan together with a copy of the memorandum and articles of association. The work plan should include details of the aims and objectives of the project and a set of actions to achieve these aims. The plan should provide for review and evaluation on an ongoing basis. An outline of the management structure and the staffing of the project are also required.

The Family Support Agency has put forward a set of standardised criteria for the inclusion of projects in the programme and I am examining these currently. I will advise the Deputy when these criteria are approved.

A family resource centre may expect to receive funding to employ up to a maximum of two full-time workers and for some administration costs. In addition, a start-up grant of up to €27,500 may also be granted to a project in its first year. The amount of core funding is reviewed annually.

There are currently six family resource centres in County Kerry in receipt of core-funding under the programme. The level of funding provided over the past three years is set out in the following table.

2003

2002

2001

Castlemaine FRC,

102,166

74,140

47,893

Duagh FRC,

134,790

88,929

52,422

Presentation Family Centre

125,272

91,650

68,078

Shanakill FRC, Tralee,

72,613

60,900

64,463

St. Brigid's FRC, Tralee,

55,958

41,800

43,434

Kerryhead Ballyheigue FRC,

20,000

Nil

Nil