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 10, inclusive, answered orally.

Schools of Music.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

11 Ms Lynch asked the Minister for Education and Science if he is in a position to proceed with the construction of a new Cork School of Music; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5244/04]

As the Deputy will be aware, affordability and difficulties under EU rules surrounding the treatment of public private partnerships in Government accounting had adversely effected the Cork School of Music project. The Government is committed to addressing the country's infrastructural deficiencies and PPPs are seen as a significant means of advancing the programme to tackle these deficiencies. In light of the decision announced by EUROSTAT last week to amend the guidelines on the treatment of PPPs in Government accounts, the Government has begun to look again at projects that had been delayed as a result of these difficulties.

On a recent visit to Cork, the Taoiseach re-affirmed the Government's commitment to finding a solution to the accommodation problems at the Cork School of Music, CSM. My Department, in consultation with the Department of Finance, is now reviewing the CSM project, taking into account the new EUROSTAT guidelines and I hope that a decision on the project can be made in the very near future.

Schools Building Projects.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

12 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for Education and Science the plans that are in place to increase the number of second level school places in the Lucan area over the coming 12 to 18 months, particularly in relation to the development of Adamstown, which has already seen its first planning applications. [5218/04]

There are four post primary providers operating in the Lucan area. In total, the four schools currently provide 2,420 places. In the past five years, all four post primary schools have shared in a massive and sustained capital investment programme of almost €7 million, which has significantly boosted capacity and substantially improved facilities. This €7 million has been in addition to an investment of €12 million in primary schools in the Lucan area. Accordingly, over the past five years, a sum of €19 million has been invested in providing and upgrading educational provision in Lucan. As a direct result of this investment, Coláiste Phádraig will in 2004 benefit from the completion of a major extension project which will increase capacity at the school by 300 pupil places.

In addition, a project to provide a new building for Coláiste Cois Life will also proceed to tender and construction this year. This will provide places for 600 pupils, some 400 additional places relative to existing capacity. A third school, St. Joseph's college, will have its major extension project completed this year also which will provide an overall capacity of 725 pupil places. This is deemed sufficient to meet demand from pupils in its catchment area.

On foot of this unprecedented level of investment in schools in the Lucan area, pupil places will be increased overall by 25% over a period of five to six years. I am confident that the Deputy will accept that this represents a very clear commitment on behalf of the Government to deliver educational infrastructure in areas that are recognised as rapidly developing.

I draw the Deputy's attention to the reality that enrolments in post primary schools in the immediate Lucan hinterland have shown a decline in the past five years. Almost 500 pupil places are available between these schools which can be used to alleviate any difficulties in Lucan should the need arise. I am satisfied that the massive capital investment in the Lucan area will ensure that the demand for post- primary school places will match supply well into the future. However, my Department will continue to monitor developments to ensure that any emerging additional demands are addressed as expeditiously as possible.

On the proposed development of the Adamstown strategic development zone, the Deputy will appreciate that this development is an entirely separate entity from Lucan. It has its own educational infrastructural requirements which have been carefully mapped out by the local authority in consultation with my Department. The Deputy will be aware that the phased delivery of the development, as endorsed by An Bord Pleanála, is specific in terms of targeted delivery for infrastructure including schools. My Department is working with the local authority and the developers to ensure that emerging needs in Adamstown are addressed commensurate with the development of the area.

Pension Provisions.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

13 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Education and Science if any progress has been made in relation to transferability of pension entitlements arising from years of teaching service in Northern Ireland and the Republic; and the position regarding the reports from the joint working group on teachers superannuation which was established by a decision of the North-South Ministerial Council four years ago. [5106/04]

The joint working group on teachers' superannuation is continuing to examine the feasibility and implication of establishing reciprocal arrangements to facilitate the transfer of pension entitlements between the jurisdictions. The working group is very much aware that the superannuation of teachers cannot be considered in isolation and that any proposals for the transfer of pension entitlements will have to take account of the implications for the public service generally.

In this connection, the North-South Ministerial Council, which established the group, decided at its plenary meeting on 28 June 2002, that a broad-based working group should be set up to consider the question of superannuation generally, including the mobility of pension rights not only between this jurisdiction and Northern Ireland but between this jurisdiction and the wider United Kingdom. This decision, which was taken following consideration by the council of a report on the study of obstacles to cross-Border mobility on the island of Ireland, has not yet been implemented due to the suspension of the Northern Ireland Assembly.

In light of the ongoing suspension of the Assembly the joint working group on teachers' superannuation decided to continue its work on the basis that this will assist the work of the wider pensions forum when it is established. Having considered the many complex issues involved, the working group has requested the actuaries on both sides to examine the financial implications of the possible approaches to cross-Border transfer of teaching service. In considering the question, the actuaries are taking into account such matters as the exchange rate, price inflation, earnings escalation and salary scales. It is expected that the report by the actuaries will be available to the working group in the next month or so.

Capital Projects.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

14 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for Education and Science the proposals regarding the development of a single campus for the Dublin Institute of Technology; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5193/04]

My Department is currently engaged in finalising legislation for early publication which will set up an agency with the responsibility of developing a 73 acre site at Grangegorman as a single campus for Dublin Institute of Technology comprising 65 acres and, in addition, the development of the balance of the site to address the interests of the Eastern Regional Health Authority and the Northern Area Health Board. The agency will be known as the Grangegorman development agency.

The function of the agency in the initial phase will be to draw up a strategic development plan for the site. The proposed legislation will make provision for comprehensive consultation with all interested parties, including local residents and representatives. Once a scheme of development has been approved, the agency will be responsible for the development of the site on behalf of Dublin Institute of Technology and the Northern Area Health Board.

Psychological Service.

Dan Boyle

Question:

15 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Education and Science if his Department has received correspondence in relation to the guidelines issued to NEPS psychologists for the assessment of children with special needs; if the reasoning behind such guidelines is wholly financially based; if it intentionally or unintentionally compromises the professional standing of educational psychologists; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5220/04]

My Department receives a large volume of correspondence and telephone calls in regard to the allocation of additional resources to children with special educational needs. I am glad therefore to clarify the matter. My Department has issued no guidelines to NEPS psychologists on the assessment of children with special educational needs. The nature of such individual psychological assessments, in terms of the test instruments used and the recommendations to schools, is a matter for the psychologists conducting the assessments.

Psychological assessment reports normally include recommendations as to the individual programmes to be followed by the assessed children. In many cases, the psychologists find that additional resources are needed if the recommended programmes are to be implemented. In conjunction with circular letters 7/02 and 8/02, my Department has issued guidelines for all professionals who may be involved in assessing children, including NEPS psychologists, on the levels of additional resources that may be allocated to the different categories of disability. These guidelines are based on the recommendations in the report of the special education review committee, 1993, which drew on extensive national and international research and review of practice and provision at that time. The guidelines were drafted in 1999, without reference to financial constraints, and have not been changed since.

The National Council for Special Education has, as part of its remit, a review of the levels of resources appropriate to different disabilities. Pending this development, NEPS psychologists implement the Department's current guidelines on resource allocation and usually recommend accordingly, certainly in regard to initial allocations.

It has become clear over the past year that certain professional reports from outside the Department have recommended resources above the parameters laid down in Department circulars. I, therefore, asked the NEPS psychologists to read these reports and to advise me as to whether or not the children concerned were eligible for additional resources according to the criteria in circulars 7/02 and 8/02. I wish to make it clear that they were in no way questioning the professional findings of their colleagues, but were merely stating whether the assessment data provided conformed to the criteria.

In exceptional cases, a NEPS psychologist may arrive at a professional judgment that a child would benefit from resource levels above or below those set out in the guidelines. In such cases, the psychologist will so recommend to my Department which takes the final decision. These arrangements do not compromise the professional standing of NEPS psychologists.

Research Fund.

Eamon Ryan

Question:

16 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will investigate the need to set up and fund a research and development task force from within the existing third level institutions to investigate the way in which the implementation of leading edge renewable energy solutions and energy conservation can enable Ireland to properly manage the transition to a sustainable, lower energy usage society following the inevitable peak in oil production over the next two to ten years, the huge price rises, the fuel shortages, the related economic meltdown and possible civil unrest that will follow; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5225/04]

I do not have plans to investigate the need to set up and fund a research and development task force along the lines suggested by the Deputy. The policy issues associated with renewable energy and energy conservation are matters for my colleague, the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources. A dedicated agency, Sustainable Energy Ireland, has been established under the aegis of his Department in May 2002 for the purpose of addressing these issues.

Education Act 1998.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

17 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Education and Science when he expects to publish the promised regulations under the Education Act 1998 to govern admission to primary schools, especially in view of claims made in the report of the National Forum on Primary Education that a number of primary schools were discriminating against poorer and weaker pupils in their enrolment and admission policies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5262/04]

Officials in my Department are in continuing consultation with officials in the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel to the Government with a view to drawing up regulations under the Act governing the preparation of admissions policies. This work will be concluded as speedily as possible. The purpose of these proposed regulations is to promote greater consistency, transparency and accountability in decision-making at school level and to further the objective, under the Education Act, of equality and participation in education.

It is the responsibility of the managerial authorities of schools that are not in a position to admit all pupils seeking entry to implement an enrolment policy in accordance with the Education Act. In this regard, a board of management may find it necessary to restrict enrolment to children from a particular area or a particular age group or, occasionally, on the basis of some other criterion. In formulating an admissions policy a school must, however, ensure it is lawful. In particular, it must act in accordance with section 7 of the Equal Status Act 2000 which, subject to very limited exceptions, prohibits schools from discriminating against people in regard to a number of matters, including the admission or the terms or conditions of admission of a person as a student to the school.

Where a board of management refuses to enrol a student in a school, the parent of the student or, where the student has reached 18 years of age, the student himself or herself, following the conclusion of any appeal procedures at school level, has a statutory entitlement under section 29 of the Education Act to appeal that decision to the Secretary General of the Department of Education and Science. A committee is established to hear the appeal with hearings conducted with a minimum of formality. In most cases appeals must be dealt with within 30 days. Where appropriate, the Secretary General may give whatever directions to the board of management that are considered necessary to remedy the matter complained of. In addition, in cases where parents experience difficulties in having their child admitted to the school system, my Department gives assistance in securing a suitable school placement through the involvement of the inspectorate in a consultative process with the school authorities.

Early School Leavers.

Joe Sherlock

Question:

18 Mr. Sherlock asked the Minister for Education and Science the steps being taken to counter the drop out rate, either in terms of those who do not transfer from primary to second level, or those who leave the system before completing the junior or leaving certificate; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5260/04]

Paul Connaughton

Question:

80 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of students who leave school without completing the leaving certificate; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5211/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 18 and 80 together.

The most recently published analysis by my Department of retention rates at second level was released in August 2003. The report indicates that approximately 12,500 — 18.2% — young people leave school annually without the leaving certificate.

The latest information published in the NESF report 2002 on early school leaving estimated that between 700 and 1,000 young people do not transfer from primary to second level. My Department is currently completing analysis work for the development of a primary pupil database, which will facilitate the collation of comprehensive data on transfer rates from primary to post primary level in the future. The problem of early school leaving is complex and addressing it requires action on a number of fronts, including legislative and curricular reforms and preventative interventions. This is the approach that my Department is taking.

The Education Welfare Act 2000 and the establishment of the National Educational Welfare Board provides a comprehensive framework for promoting regular school attendance and tackling the problems of absenteeism and early school leaving. The Act requires schools to draw up school attendance strategies to promote regular school attendance, tackle the problems of absenteeism and early school leaving. The board is developing a nationwide service which is accessible to schools, parents-guardians and others who are concerned with the welfare of young people. It has announced the establishment of five regional teams with bases in Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Galway and Waterford and the availability, for the first time, of an educational welfare service in the cities of Limerick, Galway and Kilkenny and in 13 towns, 12 of which are designated under the Government's RAPID programme. The total staff complement of the board is 84.

With regard to curriculum reform, my Department's strategies have included widening the educational experience available to students. These strategies aim to achieve a greater level of inclusiveness in curricular provision by expanding funding for programmes such as the junior certificate schools programme, JCSP, the leaving certificate vocational programme, LCVP, vocational preparation and training, VPT, and the leaving certificate applied, LCA. The Giving Children an Even Break programme provides additional financial and teaching supports for children in primary schools from disadvantaged backgrounds who are most at risk of educational disadvantage and early school leaving.

The school completion programme has been implemented to directly target those in danger of dropping out of the education system and is a key component of my Department's strategy to discriminate positively in favour of children and young people who are at risk of early school leaving. The focus of the school completion programme is on young people between the ages of four and 18 years and aims to develop local strategies to ensure maximum participation levels in the education process. It entails targeting individual young people of school going age, both in and out of school, and arranging supports to address inequalities in education access, participation and outcomes.

There are also five youth encounter projects, YEPs, three in Dublin and one each in Cork and Limerick, which are supported by my Department to provide educational facilities for young people aged between ten to 15 years who have become alienated from the conventional mainstream education system. The projects liaise closely with specified schools in their catchment areas.

Such concentrated and focused deployment of funds should lead to increased numbers of young people completing second level education and in that way most effectively assist in addressing the problem of early school leaving.

Schools Building Projects.

Seán Crowe

Question:

19 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason St. Killian’s junior school, Kingswood, Dublin 24, was not among the schools to benefit from the additional €30 million investment. [5300/04]

A project at St. Killian's junior national school in Tallaght is at an advanced stage of architectural planning. The project is linked to and being progressed as part of a project at St. Killian's senior school since both schools are located on the same campus. The project at the junior school consists of renovations to the school, roof repairs, fencing and associated works. Crucially, there is no deficit of classroom accommodation at either schools and, accordingly, the project has been assigned a band three priority rating.

In selecting projects to expend the additional €30 million allocated on budget day, schools were chosen on the basis of their band rating and the need to replace poor quality existing accommodation and/or the ability of the projects in question to draw down funding during 2004. Since none of these criteria applied in the case of St. Killian's junior national school, the project was not included.

The Deputy will be aware of the multi-annual allocations for capital investment in educational infrastructure covering the years 2004-08. All projects that are not going to construction as part of the 2004 capital programme will be reviewed with a view to including them as part of a multi-annual programme from 2005 onwards. St. Killian's junior school will be included in this review. The outcome of the review will be the subject of a further announcement later in the year.

Research Fund.

Jack Wall

Question:

20 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Education and Science if his attention has been drawn to the recent statement of the Tanáiste speaking in Paris that Ireland needed to double the number of researchers working in the science and technology fields; the action he intends to take to support such programmes in third level institutions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5242/04]

At its meeting in Lisbon in March 2000, the European Council agreed a strategic target for Europe to become the most competitive and dynamic knowledge based economy in the world, capable of sustainable economic growth with more and better jobs and greater social cohesion. An established priority for Ireland, as part of this wider EU objective, is to create a world class research, development and innovation capacity and infrastructure. An EU target of 3% of GDP spend on research and development by 2010 was subsequently established by the European Council at its meeting in Barcelona in 2002. I am aware of the significant implications of this commitment for the number of researchers required in Ireland, both in industry and in the higher education and state agency sectors.

In Ireland, unprecedented levels of investment are now being made in research and development across a range of research programmes. In this regard, the Government has committed €2.5 billion to research, technology, innovation and development under the National Development Plan 2000-2006. Since 1998, the commencement of the programme for research in third level institutions, PRTLI, the establishment of the two research councils and the establishment of Science Foundation Ireland have been particularly important developments. This investment has opened up major new opportunities for Irish researchers and for the attraction of researchers to Ireland from overseas.

The attraction of leading overseas post graduate, post doctoral and senior researchers into the Irish system is a key strategic issue for Ireland over the coming years as our domestic output of graduates and post graduates will not be sufficient to meet the demands for researchers made by our current investment in research and development and by the achievement of the Barcelona target. The challenges around attracting and retaining researchers have recently been considered on a joint basis by the Higher Education Authority and Forfás. The mobility of researchers within the European research area is also the subject of a current Commission communication and Ireland is supporting efforts aimed at improving researcher mobility in support of the broad goals of the Lisbon strategy. Overseas researchers are already being recruited in significant numbers under the programme for research in third level institutions, PRTLI, and Science Foundation Ireland's funding programmes. In this context, an agreement was concluded between the Government and universities in 2003 that fast tracks work permits for researchers coming to Ireland.

The Government will continue to work with research agencies and the research community in Ireland in addressing all of the issues associated with achieving the Barcelona target. In this context, a high level interdepartmental steering group is now at an advanced stage in agreeing a national action plan for this purpose.

Schools Building Projects.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

21 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Education and Science the main features of his announcement of 5 January 2004 of a major overhaul of the schools building programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5248/04]

At the outset, I would like to clarify that my announcement of 5 January 2004 referred to the manner in which key decisions are taken concerning school provision generally rather than an overhaul of the school building programme. However, the experience of publishing an annual school building programme has reinforced my very strongly held convictions that all key decisions relating to educational infrastructure should be made in an open and transparent manner. For these reasons, I am introducing a new model for planning school provision.

The main feature of the new model, which I am introducing initially on a pilot basis, is the publication of area development plans. This process will begin with the publication of a draft plan, which the school planning section of my Department will draw up. The draft plan will detail existing primary and postprimary provision in an area. Cognisant of the demographics of an area, it will assess and comment on the ability of existing provision in the area to meet the challenges of a changing educational landscape for a minimum period of ten years.

Following publication of the draft development plan, the commission on school accommodation will conduct a public engagement process in which all interested parties can make submissions. All of these submissions will be published. The process will culminate ultimately in the publication of a development plan for an area. This plan will be a public document and will be the basis against which all capital funding decisions for the area will be made.

The new model will be piloted in five areas initially during the current year. As I have already said, the principle underpinning the approach is the need for openness and transparency. All interested parties should have a say in how schools are configured and where they are located. This approach permits the public at large to engage fully in the school planning process.

Residential Institutions Redress Scheme.

Joe Costello

Question:

22 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Education and Science when he intends to introduce regulations adding to the list of institutions included under the Residential Institutions Redress Act 2002; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5236/04]

At present 128 institutions are listed on the Schedule to the Residential Institutions Redress Act. Section 4 of the Act enables additional institutions that are identified as reformatory schools, industrial schools, orphanages, children's homes and special schools, in which children were placed and resident and in respect of which a public body had a regulatory or inspection function, to be added to the Schedule.

My Department has received correspondence from both individuals and survivor groups identifying a number of additional institutions that may be eligible for inclusion in the Schedule. Discussions have taken place between my Department and other Departments that may have provided a regulatory or inspection function in the operation of these facilities in order to ascertain whether these institutions are in fact eligible for inclusion. The initial information received in some cases was limited due to the long period that had elapsed since these institutions were closed and therefore the process of verifying each of these institutions has been time consuming and is continuing. It is my intention that a list of additional institutions will be brought before both Houses of the Oireachtas as soon as the verification process is completed.

Consultation Process.

Joe Sherlock

Question:

23 Mr. Sherlock asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress made to date in the public consultation process on the future shape and direction of education; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5259/04]

Seymour Crawford

Question:

85 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will report on the local public meetings being held by his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5215/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 23 and 85 together.

The process of national consultation started on 19 January 2004 when I launched the discussion document, Your Education System. Over 43,000 copies of the document have been distributed to date. A website dedicated to the process,www.youreducation.ie, has been available since 20 January 2004. Details of the process as it unfolds throughout this year, including reports on all meetings that take place as part of the process, are being posted on the website.

The series of 17 public meetings scheduled to take place throughout the country as part of the process has begun. To date meetings have taken place in Galway, Sligo and Dublin North and a meeting is scheduled to take place in Letterkenny this evening. Individuals or groups are invited to contribute to the process by writing to The Secretariat, Your Education System, Educational Research Centre, Drumcondra, Dublin 9, by e-mail atinfo@youreducation.ie or by using the HTML version of the discussion document on the website. Contributions received may be posted on the website, however, contributors are given the option of indicating if they do wish to have their contributions published.

Special Educational Needs.

Tom Hayes

Question:

24 Mr. Hayes asked the Minister for Education and Science the findings of his Department’s audit of special needs provision, commenced in 2003; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5198/04]

As part of its evaluative role, my Department's inspectorate conducted a sample survey in late 2002 of 25 primary schools which had been allocated resource teacher and special needs assistant support. The objective of the review was to provide a detailed account of the additional allocation of resources for pupils with special educational needs with particular reference to the terms of the relevant departmental circulars.

While expressing concern at the higher than expected incidence of significant disability identified in the survey, the report emphasised the need for caution in drawing firm conclusions because of the small sample involved. It also noted that increased access to psychological assessment services in recent years had led to increased numbers of pupils in mainstream schools being identified as having special needs. Nonetheless, the report expressed concern that the greater availability of resources in recent years may also have led to significant over-identification of special needs in schools and that such over identification had serious long-term implications for the future funding and development of special education services.

Arising from the findings in the report, all applications for special educational resources are subject to individual verification. In addition, my Department is reviewing the existing arrangements for the allocation of special educational supports to primary schools. In this context, my officials have initiated discussions on the matter with representative interests. At this stage, it would be premature to anticipate the outcome. I can confirm, however, that the basic purpose of that review is to ensure that each school has the level of resources required to cater for its pupils with special educational needs.

Pending the conclusion of discussions with the representative interests, 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.

Information Communications Technology.

Martin Ferris

Question:

25 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Education and Science the action he will take to address the problems highlighted in the recent OECD report in terms of computer use in secondary schools and difficulties in hiring teachers. [5299/04]

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

30 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Education and Science if his attention has been drawn to the recent figures produced by the OECD showing this country close to the bottom of a survey on access to computers in second level education; the steps being taken to ensure that all pupils have access to computers in view of their importance in education and career opportunities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5238/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 25 and 30 together.

The OECD report to which the Deputies refer is based on an international survey of second level schools carried out in the period November 2001 to May 2002 across 17 OECD countries. Some 255 Irish school principals participated in the survey. While the survey portrays Irish second level schools as having an average pupil to computer ratio of 13:1, substantial additional funding has been provided for schools' ICT since the survey was undertaken resulting in further reductions in pupil to computer ratios in Irish schools. In late 2002-early 2003, the national centre for technology in education conducted a full census of schools' ICT infrastructure on behalf of my Department, a key finding of which was that the average pupil to computer ratio in second level schools had fallen to 9.4 :1.

While significant progress has been made in providing ICT access and support to teachers and students in schools, there is still some way to go before ICT is fully integrated in the teaching and learning process. My Department is currently preparing a new strategic plan which will address a range of issues aimed at enhancing the potential of ICT for the benefit of both teacher and learner, including: provision of networked computer facilities in schools; broadband Internet access for every school in the country; teacher training and support programmes focused on practical ICT applications in the classroom; advancement of ICT as a central teaching and learning tool across the curriculum; development of quality digital content for use in the curriculum; promoting a participative e-learning environment within the school; industry-school collaboration on ICT issues; and evaluating the impact of ICT at school level.

In regard to the OECD survey's findings on hiring teachers, it should be understood that two sets of questions were asked in this regard the first related to the principal's perception as to the difficulty of hiring qualified staff across a range of disciplines, the second to experience of how teacher vacancies were actually being filled and by whom.

While Irish principals responded to the first question by expressing that it was difficult to find fully qualified teachers in specific disciplines, in regard to the second question the overwhelming majority of schools reported that vacancies were being filled by fully qualified teachers. This means that while principals perceive a particular difficulty in finding fully qualified staff or indeed that it is becoming a more difficult task, they are still managing to do so in a huge majority of situations. In fact, the findings in the Irish situation show that we have the highest filling of vacancies by qualified staff of all countries polled in the survey.

State Examinations.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

26 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Education and Science if his Department can tally up the points allocated to students when they receive their leaving certificate results in view of the danger that stressed out students will miscalculate the results they have achieved and the fact that individual points for each subject are already listed on the results page; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5221/04]

The State Examinations Commission has operational responsibility for the certificate examinations. The allocation of points to particular grades is a matter for individual third level colleges in collaboration with the Central Applications Office in accordance with their admission strategies. While the majority of courses attract points under the common points system, this is not true in all cases. Accordingly I consider it more appropriate that the calculation of points should continue to be a matter, which falls within the remit of the Central Applications Office.

Teacher Training Programmes.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

27 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Education and Science if a study has been undertaken of the difficulties experienced by teachers from damage to their vocal chords; and if a training programme is in place to obviate or minimise such ill effects. [5105/04]

My Department has not undertaken a study of the difficulties, which may be experienced by teachers due to damage to their vocal chords. There is no information available to indicate how prevalent any such problems may be among the teaching profession in Ireland. The issue does not appear to have arisen heretofore in the context of general training needs although general principles of voice production are addressed in the teaching of music and drama.

Bullying in Schools.

Gerard Murphy

Question:

28 Mr. Murphy asked the Minister for Education and Science the measures in place to tackle homophobic bullying in schools; if there is classroom instruction informing secondary school students of the detrimental effects of such bullying; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5287/04]

I take the issue of bullying in schools, in all of its forms, including homophobic bullying very seriously and my Department and I are strongly committed to removing all barriers to full participation in education, including barriers caused by the sexual orientation of students.

Recent education legislation and equality legislation have among their key objectives the promotion of equality of access to and participation in education and the prevention of discrimination on nine specified grounds, including sexual orientation.

As part of its ongoing response to this issue, in September 2003 my Department published a pamphlet called, Schools and the Equal Status Act. This outlines the main features of equality legislation as they affect primary and second-level schools and identifies ways in which equality legislation can be used as building blocks for the creation of the inclusive school. The Department in 1993 published guidelines on countering bullying behaviour.

In addition, a number of programmes and guidelines address diversity and equality from different perspectives, including sexual orientation. These include the SPHE, CSPE, RSE and exploring masculinity programmes. In SPHE work has been done on combating bullying and name-calling and this will have a positive knock-on effect on sexual orientation. In RSE, modules on sexuality have always formed part of the programme. Recently a two day inservice training programme has been provided to address sexual orientation and sexual health. The exploring masculinity programme is being currently reviewed and I await recommendations regarding future directions in this area. The NCCA is currently preparing guidelines on equality proofing which should assist schools as they deal with equality issues, including sexual orientation.

The National Education Welfare Board also has codes of behaviour that include the nine grounds of equality, including sexual orientation. Recommendations for further action have also been made in reports by the Equality Authority, Implementing Equality for Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals, and the NESF, Equality Policies for Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual People: Implementation Issues. I have welcomed these recommendations. I am conscious that more needs to be done in schools and colleges to meet the specific concerns relating to the homophobic bullying of students on grounds of sexual orientation.

The central policy unit in my Department is addressing this issue and has had discussions with representatives from the gay, lesbian and bisexual community as well as the different sections in the Department involved in primary and post-primary education and with representatives from the relevant programmes and agencies. The aim of the deliberations has been to determine a best way forward in dealing with sexual orientation. The central policy unit is currently finalising a report of the deliberations, which will be provided to my Department's management advisory committee shortly.

School Curriculum.

Simon Coveney

Question:

29 Mr. Coveney asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will report on the uptake of the applied leaving certificate programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5205/04]

The leaving certificate applied, LCA, is one of the options of the senior cycle structure. The programme has been introduced on a phased basis since 1995, when it was initially offered to 1,200 students in 50 schools and centres. There are currently more than 8,000 students studying under the programme in more than 300 schools and centres.

An intensive support service to assist with the introduction of this innovative and distinct programme into the Irish second-level education system was put in place in 1995. This service, dedicated solely to the LCA programme, was continued for a significant number of years, up to the end of the last school year. The LCA programme is, at this stage, well established in the Irish education system.

Since the beginning of the present school year in-service training and support for the LCA programme has been provided by the broader second level support service. This service provides inservice and support for a number of second level programmes as well as the LCA. For well established programmes this arrangement enables best use to be made of the expertise that has been developed and built up over a number of years and can be shared and utilised in a number of different but related areas.

Officials of my Department have met recently the director of the second level support service for a further review of the new arrangements for inservice training for the programme. The matter is being kept under review on an ongoing basis.

Question No. 30 answered with QuestionNo. 25.

Adult Education.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

31 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Education and Science the position with regard to the national adult learning council; and if he will make a statement on the links between this council and the National Adult Literacy Agency. [5201/04]

The national adult learning council was established in March 2002 on anad hoc basis pending the making of an order under section 54 of the Education Act 1998 to establish it as a statutory body. The role and functions of the council were outlined in the White Paper on Adult Education — Learning for Life. Since the establishment of the ad hoc council, concerns have emerged that the functions of the council are too wide-ranging and not sufficiently focused. Additionally, a number of developments have occurred which will impact on the work of the council. Accordingly, my Department is undertaking a strategic review of the role and functions of the council to address these concerns. I expect to have the report of this review shortly. Pending the outcome of the review, meetings of the council have been deferred.

The National Adult Literacy Agency is a voluntary body, which receives funding from my Department to support initiatives in the area of adult literacy. The director of the National Adult Literacy Agency is a member of the national adult learning council.

Psychological Service.

Mary Upton

Question:

32 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress made to date with regard to the implementation of the recommendations of the planning group on educational psychologists in schools; the total number of appointments recommended by the planning group; the number of appointments made to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5264/04]

The planning group that reported in September 1998 on the need for a National Educational Psychological Service, NEPS, recommended a target number of 200 psychologists. This figure was inclusive of the psychologists already working in my Department and elsewhere in the educational system. The indications at that time were that this would necessitate the recruitment of 131 additional psychologists to NEPS. The planning group also recommended that this target should be attained over a development period of five years.

The Government accepted the recommendations of the planning group and issued a decision in February 1999 that included a plan for the phased recruitment of psychologists and administrative staff to NEPS. Recruitment by the Civil Service and Local Appointments Commission of additional psychologists for NEPS began later that year. Some 43 serving psychologists employed by my Department plus three on career breaks transferred to NEPS on 1 September 1999. This included 15 temporary contract posts.

Notwithstanding the time consuming aspects of recruiting professional staff, my Department has appointed 93 additional psychologists since 1999 for assignment to NEPS. This includes permanent appointment of those previously on temporary contract. Allowing for retirements, resignations, etc., the total number of psychologists serving in NEPS is 125, plus one on assignment to other duties in my Department. Four other psychologists are on career breaks at present. My Department is also processing offers of employment for a further five psychologists. It is hoped that they will be joining NEPS later during this school year, bringing the overall total, including those on career breaks, to 135. NEPS psychologists and administrative staff are included within the overall staffing complement of my Department. Future recruitment of psychologists must therefore be dealt with in that context.

Tribunals of Inquiry.

Damien English

Question:

33 Mr. English asked the Minister for Education and Science the legislation that may be required following the report by Judge Ryan into the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse; when such legislation will be prepared; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5194/04]

Joan Burton

Question:

89 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Education and Science his views on the recommendations contained in the report of Judge Seán Ryan into the workings of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse; if it is intended to implement the recommendations; if it is intended to provide the additional resources necessary to allow the Commission to discharge its mandate and resume full hearings without further delay; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5232/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 33 and 89 together.

Following the resignation of Ms Justice Mary Laffoy as chairperson of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse, the Government, on 26 September 2003, appointed Judge Seán Ryan as chairperson designate of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse.

At that time, and in advance of his being appointed to the chairmanship of the commission, the Government requested Judge Ryan to immediately undertake his own independent review of the working of the commission. His report was published on 15 January 2004 together with the review completed by the Office of the Attorney General. Judge Ryan has concluded that a combination of legislative amendments to the original Act and alternative procedures being adopted by the investigation committee would result in the commission being in a position to conclude its work within a reasonable timescale and without incurring exorbitant costs.

The Government has accepted Judge Ryan's report and is arranging for the legislative changes recommended by him to be included in the amending legislation. Any requests for additional resources that the commission may make will be treated as a priority and dealt with effectively and in a timely manner.

Two issues in particular need to be taken account of prior to publishing amending legislation. The ongoing litigation involving the Christian Brothers is an issue that needs to be concluded before legislation can be finalised. Judge Ryan in his report states that notice must be taken of the Christian Brothers case and the potential effect of the ultimate judgment in the case on the proceedings of the investigation committee. Judge Ryan states: "It is impractical to suggest that there could be amending legislation processed and enacted until the Murray/Gibson (Christian Brothers) litigation is determined".

I understand that the final version of Judge Abbott's judgment in this matter was issued on 27 January 2004 and that the 21 day period during which parties to that case can decide whether or not to appeal to the Supreme Court has now expired. My Department has been informed by the Chief State Solicitor's office that, while the written notification had not yet been received, the solicitors for the Christian Brothers have informed the CSSO that they are going to appeal. My Department will follow this issue up with the CSSO with a view to ensuring, in so far as is possible, that the Supreme Court would hear such an appeal as quickly as possible.

Judge Ryan intends to undertake a consultation process with all parties to the commission. It is possible that Judge Ryan will recommend further legislative changes arising from this consultation process and if so any such recommendations for legislative change would have to be considered in finalising the draft Bill.

School Staffing.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

34 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Education and Science the position regarding his consideration of the report on teaching supply and staffing in disadvantaged communities; if it is intended to publish the report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5261/04]

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

39 Ms Lynch asked the Minister for Education and Science if he has completed his study of the report, teacher supply and staffing in disadvantaged settings, submitted in March 2003; the action he plans to take arising from the report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5243/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 34 and 39 together.

The Educational Disadvantage Committee is an independent statutory body, which was established in March 2002 under the Education Act 1998. The committee, which is chaired by Professor Áine Hyland, vice-president and professor of education, University College Cork, is responsible for advising me on policies and strategies to be adopted to identify and correct educational disadvantage.

The committee has produced a report entitled, Teacher Supply and Staffing in Disadvantaged Settings, which includes a number of recommendations. The report is available free of charge from the committee and is published on my Department's website. Its recommendations are under consideration in the context of a broader review of all initiatives to tackle educational disadvantage, which is underway in my Department.

Education Welfare Service.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

35 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress made to date with regard to the operation of the National Educational Welfare Board; the number of staff recruited to date; the number of school attendance officers now functioning; his views on whether the resources and staffing levels are adequate; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5237/04]

The Education (Welfare) Act was fully commenced on 5 July 2002. Under the Act, the National Educational Welfare Board was established to ensure that every child attends school regularly or otherwise receives an education.

To discharge its responsibilities, the board is developing a nationwide service to provide welfare-focused services to children, families and schools. It has appointed a chief executive officer, directors of corporate and educational services together with a further eight head office staff. To date, 53 educational welfare staff have been appointed. This includes 29 former school attendance officers who transferred to the board from the pre-existing service. The board has recently advertised a competition to fill a further 15 vacancies which will bring the total staff complement to 84, including 68 service delivery staff.

As provided for under section 10 of the Education (Welfare) Act 2000, I have arranged for officials of my Department to work with the board to ensure that any opportunities for integrated working between educational welfare officers and staff on other educational disadvantage programmes whose work involves a school attendance element are exploited to the maximum. I consider the implementation of protocols for such integrated working on attendance matters between the NEWB and, in particular, the home school community liaison scheme, the school completion programme and the visiting teacher service for travellers to be very important. When in place, these will assist the NEWB in carrying out its remit and ensure that all available existing resources are utilised to the full. As I have stated previously, I consider it essential that the board should focus on ways in which it can deliver the service with the personnel it has at the moment and with the help of other people involved in the area. When this has been achieved, I will consider the position again taking into account the available resources.

At this stage of its development, the aim of the board is to provide a service to the most disadvantaged areas and most at-risk groups. Five regional teams have now been established with bases in Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Galway and Waterford and staff have been deployed since early December in areas of greatest disadvantage and in areas designated under the Government's RAPID programme. Thirteen towns with significant school going populations, 12 of which are designated under the Government's RAPID programme, also now have an educational welfare officer allocated to them. These towns are Dundalk, Drogheda, Navan, Athlone, Carlow, Kilkenny, Wexford, Bray, Clonmel, Tralee, Ennis, Sligo and Letterkenny. In addition, the board will follow up on urgent cases nationally where children are not receiving education.

The board has also moved to provide a service to families who decide to have their children educated in places other than in recognised schools. A small number of people with the appropriate skills have been allocated to this work and assessments will commence shortly. My Department has recently issued guidelines to assist the board in meeting its responsibilities in this area. An information leaflet and an application form are being prepared for issue to families who are educating their children at home. Work is also proceeding on the establishment of the register for 16 and 17 year olds who leave school to enter employment.

Guidelines are being prepared for schools on the reporting of student absences and a protocol outlining the interaction between schools and educational welfare staff is being developed with the assistance of the school implementation group recently established by the board.

National Drugs Strategy.

Dan Boyle

Question:

36 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Education and Science his views on the views expressed at a recent seminar in Cork that the present method of education for tackling drug abuse is proving counterproductive. [3162/04]

The current approach to tackling the problem of drug abuse in Ireland has developed around the four pillars of supply reduction, prevention, treatment and research. Central to the approach has been the bringing together of key agencies, both statutory, and community and voluntary, in a planned and co-ordinated manner to develop a range of appropriate responses to tackle drug misuse, not just on the supply of drugs but also in providing treatment and rehabilitation for those who are addicted, as well as developing appropriate preventative strategies.

On the prevention theme, my Department is committed, in the context of social, personal and health education, to the provision of substance misuse prevention programmes for all pupils in primary and post-primary schools. Social, personal and health education now forms part of the revised primary school curriculum. This area of the curriculum encompasses well-researched and established approaches to the entire area of social, personal and health education as well as to the particular area of substance misuse prevention. It also provides the context for the implementation and ongoing evaluation of the walk tall programmes, which has been researched and developed for this specific purpose and for which ongoing additional support is provided for schools within the local drugs task force areas.

Similarly, at post-primary level, the introduction of social personal and health education provides the overall context for programmes of substance misuse prevention and for the support service, incorporating the On My Own Two Feet programme, that is in place for this purpose. This support service consists of a national co-ordinator and ten regional development officers and is jointly supported by my Department and the Department of Health and Children.

Social, personal and health education, including the entire thrust of the substance misuse prevention programmes and associated school policies at primary and post-primary level, are designed to enable children and young people to develop a framework of values, attitudes, understanding and life skills that will positively inform their decisions and actions not only during their time in school but in their future lives. I am confident that all aspects of the work concerned, both at primary and post-primary level, are positive and productive for the students concerned.

Pupil-Teacher Ratio.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

37 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science the way in which he intends to improve pupil-teacher ratios at primary level with a view to achieving a better basic standard for children leaving primary and entering second level education; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5294/04]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

153 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science his plans to improve pupil-teacher ratios with a view to creating greater equality of opportunity for children leaving primary and proceeding to second level education; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5534/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 37 and 153 together.

The pupil teacher ratio at primary level has improved significantly in recent years. At primary level the ratio has fallen from 22.2:1 in the 1996-97 school year to 18:1 in the 2002-03 school year. The projected ratio for the current school year is 17.35:1.

In line with Government policy, my Department will continue to provide further reductions in the pupil-teacher ratio within available resources and subject to spending priorities within the education sector. Priority will be given to pupils with special needs and those from disadvantaged areas.

School Curriculum.

Gay Mitchell

Question:

38 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of secondary schools offering the SPHE programme to all secondary schools from 2003; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5210/04]

All post primary schools were required to implement the SPHE programme as part of the junior cycle core curriculum from September 2003. The 2003-04 return of pupil information from 743 post-primary schools indicates that all post-primary schools are complying with this requirement.

Question No. 39 answered with QuestionNo. 34.

Schools Building Projects.

Denis Naughten

Question:

40 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Education and Science the action he is taking to upgrade primary schools in County Roscommon; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5125/04]

The 2004 school building programme is a further major step in progressing this Government's consistent commitment since 1997 to deal with school accommodation needs. It details in excess of 200 significant school building projects that are being authorised to proceed to tender and construction in 2004.

The projects in Roscommon that are listed in the programme for proceeding to tender and construction include primary schools at Ballyforan, Cloonbonniff, Ballanagare and Ballyleague. A further two schools, Grange national school in Boyle and Abbey national school in Roscommon were added to this list as part of the recent allocation of the €30 million additional investment in school buildings.

The Deputy will also be aware that projects at primary schools in Clooniquin, Roxboro and Ballyfeeney proceeded to construction as part of the 2003 school building programme.

A number of other projects for schools in Roscommon are at various stages of architectural planning. The details on these projects are listed at sections 8 and 9 of the 2004 programme. As I have previously stated, a key part of my strategy in future will be grounded on the budget day announcement of multi-annual allocations for capital investment in education projects covering the years 2004 to 2008. All projects that are not going to construction as part of the 2004 school building programme are being reviewed with a view to including them as part of a multi-annual building programme from 2005 onwards. I expect to be in a position to make a further announcement on this matter during 2004.

A total of €31 million has been set aside in the 2004 programme for projects that will be included in the summer works scheme. This is a new initiative for grant-aiding small-scale improvement works that can be carried out in the summer in both primary and post-primary schools. The applications under this scheme are currently being processed and when this is completed an announcement will be made of the successful applications.

Juvenile Detention Centres.

Bernard Allen

Question:

41 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of juvenile detention centres; the total number of places available nationally for juvenile detention; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5286/04]

There are five children's detention schools under the aegis of my Department. The schools provide residential accommodation for children under 16 years who have been convicted of an offence or remanded in custody by the courts. The five schools currently have a combined operational capacity of 115 boys and 15 girls. The operational capacity may fluctuate from time to time to accommodate refurbishment and new developments, fire, health and safety or security concerns and current child care practices.

A key consideration for my Department in commencing the Children Act 2001 is the identification of the appropriate number of residential places required under the new arrangements. An independent internationally recognised expert in the field of residential care was commissioned by my Department to review the residential requirements for children's detention schools. This review does not envisage any significant change in requirements in the short term. In the medium to long-term the review suggests that with the implementation of the Children Act 2001 and the increasing availability of early intervention measures and alternatives to custody envisaged, there will be a reduction in demand for residential places for young offenders. The views of the Special Residential Services Board on the report were received by my Department and are currently being considered.

EU Presidency.

Phil Hogan

Question:

42 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Education and Science his educational priorities for Ireland’s Presidency of the European Council; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5216/04]

The priorities for the education sector during Ireland's Presidency of the European Council are as follows. There will be two formal Education Councils held in Brussels during Ireland's Presidency, on 26 February and 27-28 May 2004. The main agenda item for the February Council will be the adoption of the joint interim report of the Council and the Commission on the implementation of the detailed work programme on the follow-up of the objectives of education and training systems in Europe. There will also be an initial exchange of views by Ministers on the Europass proposal for a single framework for the transparency of qualifications and competencies.

At the May council, I anticipate that the principal agenda items in the education sector will be the adoption of a Council resolution on guidance in the context of lifelong learning. In addition, there will be conclusions on quality assurance in vocational education and training and on common European principles for the validation of non-formal and informal learning. There will also be a discussion on the new generation of EU education and youth programmes due to commence in 2007.

In addition to the two formal councils in Brussels, my Department will be holding a wide range of conferences and seminars in Ireland covering issues such as ICT and digital learning, special needs education, vocational training and higher education. I will also host an informal EU ministerial conference on guidance and counselling and a meeting of OECD Ministers for education. A brochure containing information on the education and youth Presidency programme has been lodged with the Oireachtas Library for the information of all members.

Parent-Teacher Meetings.

Bernard Allen

Question:

43 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Education and Science the position of his Department on the recent discussions regarding the holding of parent-teacher meetings outside school hours; his views on the agreement reached; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5203/04]

I welcome the new agreement on parent-teacher meetings which delivers on the commitment required under Sustaining Progress in preserving the integrity of the school year. In future, schools will not have to close either for full days of half days when parent-teacher meetings covered by this agreement are being held. This has proved a serious concern for parents and school management in the past. The other key objective was to make the arrangements more convenient for parents. From now on most parents of post-primary school children will have an opportunity to attend parent-teacher meetings on the way home from work. An essential part of the new arrangements is the agreement that parents waiting to be seen at the formal finish time of 6.45 p.m. will be accommodated within reason. This is preferable to having any defined finish time. Furthermore, arrangements must be made to facilitate parents who, for whatever reason, cannot make the formal meeting at all.

At primary level tuition time is also secured and a highly parent-friendly model has been agreed that builds on existing good practices within the sector. Parents will be offered an appointment either within the formal period set for the meeting or, where this does not suit the parents, they will be offered a suitable alternative.

Special Educational Needs.

Seán Crowe

Question:

44 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Education and Science when he expects to fill all the outstanding positions on the National Council for Special Education. [5301/04]

I have appointed 12 people to membership of the National Council for Special Education, leaving one appointment to be made to the Council. I expect to make the remaining appointment in the near future.

Higher Education Grants.

Seán Ryan

Question:

45 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for Education and Science that progress which has been made to date with regard to implementing the recommendations made in the report, Supporting Equity in Higher Education; the progress which has been made with regard to the introduction of a unified grants scheme and a more coherent administration system; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5258/04]

The report, Supporting Equity in Higher Education, was published in August 2003. It was designed to provide options for my consideration in order to promote greater equity in access to and participation in higher education, therefore, maximising the benefits of the substantial investment being made in this area. As the Deputy is aware, on 25 May 2003 I announced a €42 million support package for disadvantaged students in higher education. In constructing this package of measures, I had regard to the various policy options outlined in chapter four of the report which were developed on the basis of their potential to improve equity of access to higher education. In this regard, I am glad to note that the number of students who benefited from the special rates of maintenance or top-up grant in 2002-03 has increased substantially on previous years and I expect that the number of students benefiting from the student support schemes in 2003-04 will involve a significant increase over 2002-03.

On the issue of reviewing the means test for third level grants, the report identified the fairness of the means assessment on which student support is based as being a vitally important issue in promoting equity. It noted that the current system is widely regarded as being inequitable and, in line with earlier reports, concluded that the introduction of a capital test would remove a significant perceived inequity in the system. The report also concluded, in this context, that the administration of the student support schemes needs to be reformed.

In accordance with our commitment in An Agreed Programme for Government, it is my intention to introduce a unified scheme. I also propose to put in place a more coherent administration system which will facilitate the introduction of more sophisticated means testing arrangements and ensure consistency of application and client accessibility as suggested in the report. My Department has commenced discussions with the Department of Social and Family Affairs to establish the extent to which that Department can assist in the streamlining of the administration of the single unified scheme which I intend to establish on a statutory basis to replace existing arrangements. My Department is also in contact with the Irish Vocational Education Committee and the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, with which it will shortly be holding discussions about the future administration of the student support schemes. When these discussions are concluded, I will be in a position to make a final determination as to the most efficient and effective arrangements for the future administration of the schemes.

Special Educational Needs.

Willie Penrose

Question:

46 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Education and Science the steps being taken to meet the particular needs of non-national pupils who now comprise 5% of pupil numbers at primary level; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5252/04]

Primary schools catering for non-national pupils who have significant English language deficits are entitled to assistance to enable these pupils gain full access to the curriculum. Schools that have 14 to 27 non-English speaking non-national pupils enrolled are entitled to a full-time temporary language support teacher. Schools with 28 or more such pupils are entitled to two full-time temporary language support teachers. In the current school year more than 220 language support teacher posts have been sanctioned at primary level. Where there are between three and 13 non-national pupils enrolled in a primary school, the board of management may apply to the primary administration section of my Department for a grant to enable the school to take measures to improve the standard of English of the pupils concerned. Schools with between three and eight such pupils receive grant assistance of €6,348.69 while schools with between nine and 13 pupils receive grant assistance of €9,523.04. The total amount expended on such grants in the 2002-03 school year exceeded €2.2 million.

School Curriculum.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

47 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of primary schools offering the SPHE programme to all first year students from 2003; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5209/04]

Social, personal and health education has been part of the national curriculum in all primary schools since September 2003. It is delivered to children at all levels from infants upwards. The content of the SPHE curriculum for primary schools was developed as part of the revised primary curriculum introduced in 1999. It provides opportunities to foster the personal development, health and well-being of the individual child and to help the child to create and maintain supportive relations and to become an active responsible citizen. The implementation of the new SPHE curriculum in primary schools has been and continues to be supported by the SPHE team within the primary curriculum support service, PCSP.

Privatisation of Colleges.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

48 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Education and Science his views on the suggestion by the HEA that State-owned colleges should be privatised. [5296/04]

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

93 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Education and Science his views on the recent proposal from the Higher Education Authority to allow a number of colleges and universities to become private institutions; his further views on whether such a move would be likely to lead to higher fees in the privatised institutions, thus making access by students from disadvantaged backgrounds more difficult; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5229/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 48 and 93 together.

I understand the Deputy is referring to the contents of the Higher Education Authority's submission to the OECD review of higher education in Ireland. A total of 80 submissions have now been made to the OECD team from a range of interested organisations and individuals. All of these are being considered as part of the review. The OECD review team is also currently meeting with a range of organisations as part of its deliberations and will be bringing forward recommendations on the full range of issues relevant to its terms of reference later this year. I look forward to considering these recommendations when they become available.

Early Childhood Education.

Damien English

Question:

49 Mr. English asked the Minister for Education and Science if the early start programme will be expanded or extended in 2004; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5189/04]

Any decision to expand or extend the Early Start pre-school pilot project will be considered in the context of a broad review of all initiatives to tackle educational disadvantage which is currently underway in my Department.

Child Care Services.

Enda Kenny

Question:

50 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Education and Science the funding available to vocational educational committees to provide child care services; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5192/04]

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

101 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will restore adequate funding to VECs for child care programmes associated with VTOS, Youthreach and senior Traveller schemes for the 2004-05 school year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5239/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 50 and 101 together.

Since 1998, my Department has made grants available for child care expenses for students on the VTOS, Youthreach and senior Traveller centre further education programmes. This was to facilitate the participation on these programmes of people for whom they were designed but who were not able to enrol on them because of child care responsibilities. The grants are paid annually by my Department to the VECs. It is intended as a contribution towards costs. VECs determine the level of provision and have discretion to bridge the gap between my Department's grant and the actual costs they approve.

The administration of grants to participants is a matter for individual VECs. A working group of representatives of my Department and the Irish Vocational Education Association has been established to review the criteria for the allocation of grants for child care for 2004 and into the future. The allocation for child care for 2004 will not be determined until the revised Estimates for public services are published at the end of February.

Teaching Qualifications.

Martin Ferris

Question:

51 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Education and Science his views on the recent statement by the INTO general secretary regarding teacher training. [5298/04]

There can be no doubt that maintaining and enhancing the quality of teachers is central to the delivery of a high-quality education system suited to the needs of the 21st century. We are most fortunate in Ireland that teaching continues to attract large numbers of high-calibre candidates. If the education of these young professionals is to keep pace with the challenges facing the education system, we must seek to identify the competencies required of teachers and ensure that these are developed during pre-service, induction and continuing professional development programmes.

In order to advance the development of policies on teacher education, I am establishing new structures within my Department which will facilitate interaction with the colleges of education and other relevant interests on issues concerning teacher education. I am committed to the development of a coherent national policy on teaching as a profession, spanning pre-service, induction and continuing professional development.

Education in the Workplace.

Billy Timmins

Question:

52 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will make a statement on the approach of his Department towards fostering education in the workplace. [5202/04]

Michael Noonan

Question:

71 Mr. Noonan asked the Minister for Education and Science the provisions being made by his Department to support lifelong learning and adult literacy programmes; the role his Department has played in the development of workplace education programmes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5196/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 52 and 71 together.

In the context of adult education, my Department provides for a range of programmes to support lifelong learning, including adult literacy and community education, the back to education initiative, the education equality initiative, the vocational training opportunities scheme, Youthreach and post-leaving certificate courses. These programmes are organised and delivered through the VECs.

Since the publication of a report of an international adult literacy survey in 1997, my Department has invested considerably increased funding in the development of adult literacy services. Currently, the annual number of clients of the general adult literacy services provided by the VECs is 28,000. The additional funds provided in recent years were used to expand the scale and scope of provision, improve outreach and referral links and promote flexibility and quality. In addition to expanding the general adult literacy services, specially targeted programmes have been introduced for people with special literacy requirements, in such areas as family learning, workplace learning, provision for special needs, and catering for those for whom English is not the mother tongue. To try to reach as many people with literacy needs as possible, use is made of radio and television, so that people can access help in the privacy of their own homes.

The national development plan committed €93.5 million to the service in the period 2000 to 2006, with a target of reaching 113,000 clients over that period. In the area of workplace literacy, joint initiatives have been developed at local level through co-operation between VECs, FÁS, the National Adult Literacy Agency and local employers. Specific funding has been provided for a course in workplace basic skills training for experienced group literacy tutors. This course is designed to familiarise literacy tutors with the key issues in basic skills training in the workplace and also identifies strategies for introducing and implementing programmes in this context.

Programmes under way at national level include the return to education programme, a joint initiative between FÁS, the VECs and NALA, which provides an intensive literacy programme for community employment workers on FÁS community employment schemes. A focused workplace literacy programme is available nationwide for local authority outdoor staff. There are also successful workplace literacy programmes in two hospitals and in a trade union. The commitment and support of employers is a fundamental requirement for the successful implementation of workplace literacy programmes. In seeking to support and encourage employers to participate in such programmes, the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment has approved a project proposal from NALA to design and deliver a workplace basic education programme for SMEs. A pilot programme for the development of a certificate in workplace skills has also been approved by that Department under the ESF-aided in-company training measure of the human resources development operational programme.

Children Act 2001.

Liz McManus

Question:

53 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress made with regard to the implementation of the areas of the Children Act 2001, for which his Department has responsibility; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5245/04]

The Children Act 2001 introduces a wide range of innovative measures that will provide a statutory framework for the future development of the juvenile justice system in accordance with modern thinking and best international practice. Responsibility for implementing the Act lies with three Departments: my Department, the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and the Department of Health and Children. The Minister of State with responsibility for children, Deputy Brian Lenihan, with the support of the National Children's Office, is leading the interdepartmental working group to co-ordinate the phased implementation of the Act.

My Department has sole responsibility for the provision of residential services for children up to age 16 who have been convicted or placed on remand by a court. There are five schools for young offenders under the aegis of my Department providing such services. The schools are governed by the terms of the Children Acts 1908 to 1989, which will be replaced by the Children Act 2001 when the provisions of the latter are commenced.

My Department has responsibility for Part 10 of the Act, which provides for the establishment of children's detention schools to replace the existing reformatory and industrial schools. These provisions cannot be commenced until separate detention facilities are provided for 16 and 17 year old boys and girls. Part 11 of the Children Act 2001 provides for the special residential services board, which was established on a statutory basis on 7 November 2003. Part 11 is jointly the responsibility of the Ministers for Health and Children and Education and Science and its functions are to provide policy advice to the Ministers on the remand and detention of children and ensure the efficient, effective and co-ordinated delivery of services to children in respect of whom children's detention orders or special care orders are made. To facilitate the appointment of the special residential services board, section 159(1) of the Children Act 2001 was partially commenced to allow for the membership of representatives of the children's detention schools.

A key consideration for my Department in commencing the Children Act 2001 is the identification of the appropriate number of residential places required under the new arrangements. An independent internationally recognised expert in the field of residential care was commissioned by my Department to review the residential requirements for these detention schools. This review does not envisage any significant change in requirements in the short term. In the medium to long term the review suggests that with the implementation of the Children Act 2001 and the increasing availability of early intervention measures and alternatives to custody envisaged, there will be a reduction in demand for residential places for young offenders. The views of the special residential services board on the report were received by my Department and are currently being considered.

Special Educational Needs.

Paudge Connolly

Question:

54 Mr. Connolly asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason the primary education sector is unrepresented for special education in view of the critical urgency of identifying specials needs cases at the earliest possible stage of their educational development, thus precluding the necessity for more intensive intervention at later stages; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5121/04]

In establishing the new National Council for Special Education I did not set out to create a council which was representative of any particular sectoral interests, as I feel that it is very important that it should operate in a cohesive, non-representative way. I have put in place a group of people with a wide range of knowledge and experience in this area. Bodies representing the management authorities of primary schools, along with the INTO, were among the groups I consulted with prior to making appointments to membership of the council.

Departmental Funding.

Gerard Murphy

Question:

55 Mr. Murphy asked the Minister for Education and Science the position regarding funding made available by his Department to parental representative groups in the education sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5204/04]

Jack Wall

Question:

76 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will increase resources to parents’ representative organisations to ensure that they can participate as an equal partner in the educational process; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5241/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 55 and 76 together.

My Department's commitment to fund the national parents' councils began with a proposal in the programme for economic and social progress to pay an annual grant of €31,743 to each council. My Department has provided an allocation of €165,000 for the National Parents Council — post primary — and €230,000 for the National Parents Council — primary — for 2004.

In 2003, I commissioned a review of State financial support for and recognition of parental organisations at post-primary level. My Department provided a copy of the review to all of the interested parental groups in late October 2003. Each organisation was invited to consider the report and to forward written observations or alternatively to meet officials of my Department to discuss their response to the report. My Department has received written submissions from the National Congress of Catholic Secondary School Parent Associations, CPSA, the Parents' Associations of Community and Comprehensive Schools, PACCS, and the Federation of Christian Brothers Schools Parents Council, FCBSPC. In addition, meetings have taken place between officials of my Department and representatives of the National Parents' Council — post primary — CPSA, PACCS and FCBSPC. The most recent of these, with the FCBSPC, was held on the 28 January 2004. To date, none of the other parental organisations have chosen to take up my Department's invitation to forward a submission or meet with officials.

In deciding on the issues addressed in the review, such as recognition and grant aid, I must take account of the matter of value for money and the need to avoid unnecessary duplication. The review in question emphasised the fact that many of the issues of concern to parents with children at second level are common across the different sectors. It is important, therefore, that any State funding should promote cohesion to the greatest degree possible as this will best serve to increase the voice of parents in education. In considering what action to take on foot of the review, my officials and I will take stock of the submissions received and views expressed at the meetings referred to.

Retirement Age.

Paudge Connolly

Question:

56 Mr. Connolly asked the Minister for Education and Science the rationale behind the decision to introduce, for new entrants to the teaching profession a standard retirement age of 65, and the elimination of the various early retirement programmes (details supplied); if he has given any consideration to the growing problem of teacher stress; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5107/04]

The Government decision that the age of retirement of the generality of new entrants to the public service be set at 65 was based on the recommendations of the commission on public service pensions. The commission was established by the Government in 1996 as a result of concerns about the rising cost of public service pensions. The age at which public servants, including teachers, should retire was among the matters which were considered by the commission. In considering this issue, the commission noted that most categories of public servants, including teachers, may serve until the age of 65. The commission also noted that, for operational reasons, certain categories of public servants — gardaí, members of the Defence Forces, prison officers and fire-fighters — are required to retire before reaching the age of 65.

The commission considered all aspects of the matter, including the fact that life expectancy is rising. It recommended that the retirement age for new entrants to the public service, other than those who are required to retire earlier for operational reasons, be set at 65. The Government has decided to apply this recommendation in the case of public servants recruited on and after 1 April 2004. It will not come into operation generally until after 2040, when public servants recruited since 1 April 2004 begin to reach the age of 65.

Teachers already in service may continue to avail of the existing early retirement provisions, including the scheme of early retirement introduced under the PCW agreement. The latter scheme was introduced some years ago on a pilot basis pending review following the report of the commission on public service pensions. The commission's 2001 report recommended that the pilot scheme be continued for a further five years and be reviewed after that time. The commission also recommended the introduction of cost neutral early retirement. The Minister for Finance, in his Budget Statement, indicated that he will examine the possibility of providing new entrants with some form of optional early retirement with payment of actuarially reduced benefits which would have a cost neutral effect, as recommended by the commission.

While some employees may experience stress in their jobs and may experience difficulty in coping with stress, I am not satisfied that the occupation of teacher is, in general, any more or less stressful than many other public service jobs which, similarly, do not require retirement before the age of 65. Although a quota of 400 retirements per year was agreed under the early retirement scheme for teachers, the number of retirements in any year since the scheme was introduced in 1996-97 has never reached half of the quota.

Education Welfare Officers.

Seymour Crawford

Question:

57 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of education welfare officers in place; the number to be recruited in 2004; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5284/04]

The Education (Welfare) Act, which was fully commenced on 5 July 2002, established the National Educational Welfare Board to ensure that every child attends school regularly or otherwise receives an education. To discharge its responsibilities, the board is developing a nationwide service to provide welfare focused services to children, families and schools. It has appointed a chief executive officer, directors of corporate and educational services and a further eight head office staff. Some 53 educational welfare staff have been appointed to date, including 29 former school attendance officers who transferred to the board from the pre-existing service. The board has recently advertised a competition to fill a further 15 vacancies which will bring the total staff complement to 84, including 68 service delivery staff.

As provided for under section 10 of the Education (Welfare) Act 2000, I have arranged for officials from my Department to work with the board to ensure that opportunities for integrated working between educational welfare officers and staff on other educational disadvantage programmes whose work involves a school attendance element are exploited to the maximum. The implementation of protocols for such integrated working on attendance matters between the NEWB and, in particular, the home school community liaison scheme, the school completion programme and the visiting teacher service for Travellers is very important. The protocols will assist the NEWB in carrying out its remit and will ensure that available existing resources are utilised to the full. It is essential that the board should focus on ways in which it can deliver the service with the personnel it has the moment and with the help of other people involved in the area. When this has been achieved I will reconsider the position, taking into account the available resources.

At this stage of its development, the aim of the board is to provide a service to the most disadvantaged areas and the most at-risk groups. Five regional teams have been established with bases in Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Galway and Waterford. Staff have been deployed since early December in areas of greatest disadvantage and in areas designated under the Government's RAPID programme. Thirteen towns with significant school going populations, 12 of which are designated under the Government's RAPID programme, have an educational welfare officer allocated to them. These towns are Dundalk, Drogheda, Navan, Athlone, Carlow, Kilkenny, Wexford, Bray, Clonmel, Tralee, Ennis, Sligo and Letterkenny. In addition, the board will follow up on urgent cases nationally where children are not receiving an education.

Linguistics Institute of Ireland.

John Deasy

Question:

58 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Education and Science if he has held meetings with staff or their representatives at the Linguistics Institute of Ireland; the arrangements he is making for access to the library resource held by the Institute; the redeployment options open to staff members at the institute; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5206/04]

At an extraordinary general meeting of ITE, held on 18 July 2003, the company agreed to initiate a process of voluntary liquidation. This decision was a matter for the members in accordance with their memorandum and articles of association and relevant company law. 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. It was agreed to issue redundancy notices to staff in advance of this. I understand from the liquidator that he has further extended the period of notice of redundancy for the staff to 27 February 2004. Officials from my Department met with all members of staff of ITE in December 2003. At the request of SIPTU, a further meeting was held on 28 January 2004 with that union and its staff representatives.

My Department has given a commitment to provide every assistance to the company in giving effect to its decision, in partnership with the staff of the institute. It is working closely with the liquidator in this regard by exploring possible arrangements for the continuation of certain research activities 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 staff in line with general public service policy in these matters and subject to agreement with the Department of Finance. Options that may be available in this context continue to be explored by my Department. In this regard, staff will be kept apprised as developments occur. The entitlements of those employees for whom appropriate redeployment arrangements are not made will be determined in accordance with the terms of their contracts.

My Department is committed to ensuring that arrangements for the future of the ITE library are made in a manner that recognises its wider academic and national policy importance. The director of An Chomhairle Leabharlanna has agreed to assist the liquidator in this regard and is consulting widely with interested parties in forming recommendations for the future of the library. I have asked to be kept informed of progress in these matters.

Home-School Liaison Scheme.

John Bruton

Question:

59 Mr. J. Bruton asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will be bringing forward changes to the home-school liaison service in 2004; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5190/04]

The implementation of changes to the home-school-community liaison scheme will be considered in the context of a broader review of all initiatives to tackle educational disadvantage, which is currently under way in my Department.

Special Educational Needs.

John Perry

Question:

60 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will report on the work to date of the National Council for Special Education; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5197/04]

On foot of a Government decision, I formally established the National Council for Special Education on 24 December 2003 by order; the order in question was the National Council for Special Education (Amendment) Order 2003. Under the terms of the order, the council must make an annual report to the Minister for Education and Science and may be directed by the Minister from time to time to submit information regarding the performance of its functions. The council has been in existence for approximately seven working weeks and I am aware that it is engaged in the tasks involved in setting up its operation, including the task of recruiting special education needs organisers. Therefore, I have not required it to submit information on its work to me.

Schools Building Projects.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

61 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Education and Science the position in relation to the building project for Curracloe national school, Curracloe, Enniscorthy, County Wexford; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5267/04]

The proposed large scale building project for Curracloe national school, Curracloe, Enniscorthy, County Wexford is listed in section 8 of the 2004 schools building programme, which is published on my Department's website,www.education.ie. The proposed project is at stage 3 — detailed plans, costs — of architectural planning. It has been assigned a band 2 rating by my Department in accordance with the published criteria for prioritising large scale projects. The proposed project will be authorised to progress to advanced architectural planning during 2004. Indicative timescales have been included 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 schools 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.

Pension Provisions.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

62 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Education and Science if his attention has been drawn to the concerns expressed by the INTO and other teacher unions regarding the possible implications for recruitment of teachers of the changes announced in the budget in the pension conditions for teachers and other public servants; the steps being taken to address the concerns raised by the unions; if he has met or plans to meet the teacher unions on this issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5254/04]

In announcing the Government's decision on pension age and on the intended abolition of compulsory retirement age for most new entrant public servants from 1 April 2004, the Minister for Finance stated that the public service unions would be fully informed about the implementation of the reforms in advance of their introduction with effect from 1 April 2004. I confirm that the process of informing the public service unions has commenced and that a number of meetings have already taken place between the unions, including the INTO, and officials of the Department of Finance, my Department and other Departments. As the Government has taken its decision about the retirement age of new entrants, and as a forum has been put in place, I do not see that any useful purpose would be served at this time by a meeting such as that suggested by the Deputy.

While pension benefits are a consideration in career choices, I do not consider that the changes made are likely to give rise to any particular difficulty in the recruitment of teachers. All public service jobs will have the same retirement age for new entrants, with the exception of those groups — gardaí, members of the Defence Forces, prison officers and fire-fighters — which have earlier retirement for operational reasons. I emphasise that the raising of the age of retirement will not affect serving public servants. It will not come into operation generally until public servants recruited since 1 April 2004 begin to reach the age of 65.

School Transport.

Denis Naughten

Question:

63 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Education and Science his plans to implement the recommendations of the Joint Committee on Education and Science report on school transport; the reason for the delay in considering these recommendations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5122/04]

Following a review of the school transport scheme and taking into consideration the recommendations of the joint committee's report on school transport, a number of improvements to the scheme were put in place in 2001. The qualifying distance for eligibility for school transport for primary school pupils aged ten and over was reduced from three to two miles, so that all such pupils are treated equally for eligibility purposes. The number of eligible primary pupils required to establish a new bus service was reduced from ten to seven. The threshold for maintaining a service was reduced to four eligible pupils, provided that at least six fare-paying pupils are using the service. The scope of the remote area grants, payable to pupils in certain circumstances, was extended and the rate payable increased. The travelling and waiting time for post-primary pupils was reduced from three to two and a half hours. Where feasible, students who are on the early pick-up from their homes are the first to be dropped home in the evening andvice versa. An independent appeals board was established in 2003 to increase transparency in the system, to demonstrate that appeals are treated in an equitable and objective manner and to facilitate those who wish to appeal decisions about transport services.

Bus Éireann has replaced over 200 older school buses since January 2002, thereby improving the quality of buses in service. All school transport vehicles have been provided with a communication system to enable the driver to have ready access to the depot. Other issues raised by the joint committee, including those in respect of safety, are continually under review in my Department. Bus Éireann, which operates the school transport scheme on behalf of my Department, places special emphasis on safety. To this end and to ensure a safe and reliable service, it has put in place a wide range of checking procedures which are reviewed on an ongoing basis to ensure that standards are met. Bus Éireann complies fully with all the relevant regulations laid down by the Department of Transport. Given that the cost of providing the school transport service has more than doubled since 1997, my Department is in the process of finalising a review designed to identify efficiencies and savings which can contribute to a containment of the cost of this service.

Tribunals of Inquiry.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

64 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Education and Science the aspect of Ms Justice Laffoy’s recent findings he agrees with in terms of his Department’s dealings with the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse and the steps he plans to take to ensure that the commission’s work can continue to operate efficiently and quickly under Mr. Justice Ryan. [5228/04]

The Third Interim Report of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse is very detailed. I thank Ms Justice Laffoy and the commission for its completion. It refers to the manner in which my Department dealt with the commission, as a sponsor and a respondent. I will comment on those issues and outline the steps that are being taken to ensure that the commission can continue to operate efficiently.

The resourcing delays to which the commission refers in its report primarily relate to the period from June 2002 onwards, when the commission sought a doubling of its resources. It was necessary that this request be considered by the Government, following which it was decided that a review of the operation of the investigation committee was necessary. I consider that this review has been justified and I am confident that the legislation that will emanate from the review will assist the commission in completing its remit in a timely fashion. Judge Ryan, in his report on the working of the commission that was undertaken prior to his becoming chairperson of the commission, recommended that anad hoc group of senior officials be identified who could deal with resourcing issues quickly. The Government has accepted this suggestion. I am confident that this process will ensure that all future requests for resources are dealt with effectively and in a timely manner.

Regarding my Department's role as respondent, I have already accepted that some difficulties were encountered, especially in complying with a small number of the discovery directions. However, the commission's third interim report acknowledges that "some of the difficulties were caused, or contributed to by the Committee in that for example there was not sufficient clarity in the direction as to what was sought, or insufficient time was being allowed for compliance". In an effort to resolve the difficulties that had arisen, the Department reorganised the manner in which it dealt with the commission in early 2003. The residential institutions redress unit of the Department has acted as a focal point for dealing with all commission-related matters since then. This approach ensures that a single unit is aware of all issues relating to the commission. Consequently, the Department is in a position to respond more effectively to discovery directions and any other matters.

I also appointed the former chairperson of the Bar Council of England and Wales, Mr. Matthias Kelly QC, to conduct a review of the processes and procedures for making discovery to the commission by my Department. The process of meeting and interviewing persons relevant to the review has concluded and Mr. Kelly has returned to the UK to conclude his work on his report. Mr. Kelly has recently provided me with an interim report of his review. He has stated that he originally expected that his report could be completed within a matter of weeks but, given the sheer volume of documentation, it is not possible and he will report in full as soon as possible. I add, however, that in his interim report Mr. Kelly has reached the provisional conclusion that "the difficulties over discovery were not due to obstruction or concealment but rather due to poor historic record storage systems and misunderstandings as to what was required".

In his report, Judge Ryan stated that he would commence a consultation process with parties to the commission's work. Should this consultation process result in further recommendations from Judge Ryan or steps that could be taken to assist the commission, these will be considered.

Schools Building Projects.

Eamon Ryan

Question:

65 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will report on the progress being made to fast track the start-up of Griffeen Valley Educate Together school for September 2004. [5226/04]

A new 16-classroom school for Griffeen Valley Educate Together is one of over 200 significant school building projects that are scheduled for proceeding to tender and construction as part of the 2004 schools building programme. In view of the pressures for school accommodation in the Lucan area, my Department used a design and build contract as an innovative method to fast-track the delivery of this project from a greenfield site to a new school building. The tendering process for the project took place in the third quarter of 2003. The successful contractor, who designed the school building, recently received planning permission for it. It is expected that construction will commence shortly and it is due to be completed by September 2004.

Training Budget.

Richard Bruton

Question:

66 Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for Education and Science if his Department has had discussions with the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment regarding the use of the budget for training held by that Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5208/04]

Officials from my Department and the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment are in regular contact in respect of issues associated with vocational education and training. The utilisation of the national training fund held by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment has arisen in these discussions.

Third Level Fees.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

67 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Education and Science the level of the charge for third level registration for 1997 and each successive year; the reason he has decided to increase the charge again, in view of the financial difficulties that many students and their families face; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5249/04]

Trevor Sargent

Question:

98 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Education and Science if there are early plans to increase student registration fees or reintroduce third level fees for the 2004/2005 college year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5227/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 67 and 98 together.

The student charge is levied by third level institutions to defray the costs of examinations, registration and student services, which continue to be incurred by the third level institutions. On 13 November 2003 I announced, as part of my Department's 2004 Estimates, that the student charge will increase from €670 to a proposed level of €750. It has to be remembered that students who are eligible for means tested student support have the student charge paid on their behalf by the local authorities or the vocational education committees, in addition to any grant to which they are entitled. No student, where the family income is at or less than €40,000 will pay this charge. The student charge is paid by the students on an academic year basis. The level of the charge for each year since its introduction in 1997 was 1997-98, €317; 1998-99, €330; 1999-2000 €353; 2000-01, €371; 2001-02, €396; 2002-03, €670; 2003-04, €670; and the proposed level in 2004-05 is €750. I have no plans to reintroduce third level tuition fees for the 2004-05 academic year.

CABAS Schools.

John Bruton

Question:

68 Mr. J. Bruton asked the Minister for Education and Science his Department’s position regarding the continued funding of CABAS schools in Dublin, Drogheda and Cork beyond the 2004-2005 term; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5117/04]

I assure the Deputy that a measured approach will be taken to considering the future of the three CABAS facilities in Dublin, Cork and Drogheda. In that regard, I intend to ensure continuity of provision for the pupils in question. The concerns of parents for greater certainty are appreciated and, in this connection, I confirm that my Department is prepared to continue to provide funding for the three CABAS facilities for the next school year, 2004-05. My Department will consider the reports of the inspectorate on autism specific provisions and any issues arising therefrom will be raised directly with the relevant management. The position regarding the future of the CABAS facilities beyond 2004-05 will be considered in the context of this process.

Schools Building Projects.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

69 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Education and Science the position in relation to the building project for Kilmuckridge vocational college, Gorey, County Wexford; the timeframe for the various stages of this project; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5266/04]

The proposed large scale building project for Kilmuckridge vocational college, Gorey, County Wexford is listed in section 8 of the 2004 school building programme which is published on my Department's website,www.education.ie. The proposed project is at stage 4 — detail design — of architectural planning. 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 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 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.

Youth Work.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

70 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Education and Science the areas of the Youth Work Act 2001 which have been implemented to date; the areas which have yet to be implemented; if a timetable has been set for the implementation of the outstanding sections; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5256/04]

The Youth Work Act 2001, which was enacted on 1 December 2001, provides a statutory basis for the development of youth work. The Act followed a widespread consultation process and provides a legal framework for the provision of youth work programmes and services to be organised by the Minister for Education and Science, the VECs and national and regional youth work organisations.

It was never intended that the Act would be implemented fully at once. Section 1 of the Act provides for sections to be commenced at different stages. To date, sections 2 to 17, inclusive, 18 and 24 have been commenced. A sub-committee of the National Youth Work Advisory Committee was established to make recommendations on the requirements necessary for the implementation of the various sections of the Act. The sub-committee comprises representatives of both statutory and voluntary sectors, as well as my Department. The work of the sub-committee is ongoing and representatives from the National Youth Council of Ireland are carrying out preparatory work on sections 19, 20 and 25. It will be necessary for my Department to have further discussions with the IVEA-CEOs' association and the National Youth Council of Ireland on various aspects of the Act. The implementation of further sections of the Act will depend on the availability of the necessary resources.

Question No. 71 answered with QuestionNo. 52.

Bullying in Schools.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

72 Mr. McGinley asked the Minister for Education and Science the steps he is taking to address bullying in the classroom; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5207/04]

I am aware of the issue of bullying in schools and my Department has moved to tackle the issue on a number of fronts. The education of students in both primary and post-primary schools in anti-bullying behaviour is a central part of the social, personal and health education curriculum. In primary education, the issue of bullying is addressed in the social personal and health education curriculum strand "Myself and Others" from infant classes onwards. In second level education, the issue of bullying is addressed from first year onwards in the social, personal and health education curriculum at junior cycle, in the module on "Belonging and Integrating".

Individual school management authorities are responsible for implementing effective policies to counter bullying in schools. In 1993, my Department issued guidelines on countering bullying behaviour to all primary and post-primary schools. The purpose of the guidelines was to assist schools in devising school-based measures to prevent and deal with instances of bullying behaviour and to increase awareness of the problem among school management authorities, staff, pupils and parents. A further circular in 1994 reminded school authorities of their responsibility in formulating a written code of behaviour and discipline, which should include specific measures to counter bullying behaviour.

The report on discipline, commissioned by my Department, and completed by Dr. Maeve Martin deals comprehensively with the issue of discipline in schools, and sets out models of best practice in this area. A copy of the report has been made available to all schools.

Where staff within my Department receive telephone calls regarding instances of bullying, advice and assistance is offered by staff to the callers. In addition, my Department will examine specific complaints regarding alleged instances of bullying behaviour, but only after every effort has been made at school level to resolve the matter. The National Educational Psychological Service is also available as a support service to schools for individual students who encounter difficulties.

Standardisation of School Year.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

73 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Education and Science the main points of the agreement concluded with the teacher unions on the standardisation of the school year; when the benchmarking payments will be made; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5247/04]

In line with the requirements of Sustaining Progress, agreement has been reached between the parties to the teachers conciliation council for the standardisation of the breaks at Christmas, Easter and mid-term in the first and second terms.

The agreement reached covers the arrangements that will apply in all schools from the start of the 2004-2005 school year and covers four school years. The parties will review the operation of the arrangements not later than spring of 2007 for the purpose of agreeing the arrangements that will apply subsequently. The parties have agreed that in the event of any unforeseen difficulty arising in the operation of the arrangements now agreed, the matter can be raised at the teachers conciliation council.

The arrangements are agreed, without prejudice, to closure on specific days within the overall requirement of 167 days at post primary level and 183 days at primary level dictated by religious observance that is required in school under the patronage of different denominations or faiths.

I am confident that the new agreement can deliver for parents the certainty required for school holiday periods. The agreement enables my Department to execute the arrangements for payment of the appropriate increases to teachers. It is expected that the increases will be paid to primary teachers on 26 February 2004 and to post primary teachers on 3 March 2004.

Teaching Qualifications.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

74 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Education and Science the steps being taken to reduce the dependence on untrained teachers employed in primary schools, in view of the fact that there were more than 152,000 teaching days undertaken by such teachers in the 2002 to 2003 school year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5263/04]

Unqualified teachers should only be employed in primary schools in exceptional circumstances and when all avenues for recruiting qualified personnel have been exhausted. The primary sector has experienced a shortage of trained teachers in recent years, mainly as a result of the large number of posts created to reduce class sizes, to cater for pupils in disadvantaged areas, to provide for those with special educational needs and the reduction in teacher training places in the mid 1990s. The difficulties being experienced are aggravated by the number of teachers availing of career break and job sharing schemes.

My Department has introduced a range of measures to address the current shortage of qualified teachers and is also examining further options for addressing the teacher supply issue in consultation with relevant interests. The measures introduced include doubling the number of students admitted annually to the B. Ed. programme in the colleges of education; providing post-graduate courses each year; recognising B. Ed. graduates of St. Mary's College, Belfast, who have studied Irish to honours level as an academic subject as part of their teaching qualifications, as fully qualified; recognising Montessori trained teachers, who have successfully completed the full-time course of three years duration at St. Nicholas, Dún Laoghaire, which is recognised by HETAC, or the Montessori qualification which is awarded on completion of the three year course in the AMI College, as being fully qualified substitute teachers and to teach in certain categories of special schools, special classes and as resource teachers in primary schools; recognising fully qualified teachers who trained outside the State to teach in certain categories of school and classes without the necessity to hold the Irish language qualification and my recent decision to recognise graduates of a new primary teacher training course, accredited by HETAC and being delivered by Hibernia College, for the purposes of primary teaching.

I am committed to ensuring that the existing shortage of qualified teachers will be eliminated within the next two to three years and in this context my Department will continue to consider new initiatives and keep existing initiatives under review.

State Examinations.

Willie Penrose

Question:

75 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Education and Science his views on the suggestion made by the skills initiative unit that students from disadvantaged backgrounds should get additional points for college entry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5251/04]

The suggestion referred to by the Deputy is contained within the discussion report, The Points System: A Review Needed ?, recently produced by the skills initiative unit. This report sought to promote discussion of the points system in order to seek if possible a more effective and equitable admissions process.

The suggestion by the skills initiative unit is interesting, however increasing access through the allocation of additional points to disadvantaged school leavers needs to be balanced with a careful consideration of how best to support the subsequent participation in and completion of third level courses by students who have experienced prior socio-economic and educational disadvantage. Some thinking and development of a national strategy for this area has already occurred through the work of the action group on access and is being progressed through the work of the educational disadvantage committee and the National Office for Equity of Access to Higher Education.

Detailed consideration was given to the most effective means of increasing access and supporting participation of disadvantaged school leavers by the action group on access in 2001 who recommended a threefold strategy, based on prior leaving certificate attainment. It was recommended that disadvantaged school leavers who achieve over three hundred points in their leaving certificate should be facilitated in entering third level institutions through a system of reserved places with direct entry. It was also recommended that students who achieve only minimum matriculation requirements for entry to higher education are at high risk if they enter third level without further preparation and would need to be supported through a system of pre-entry preparatory programmes as well as reserved places with direct entry. It was recommended that those students who have not attained minimum matriculation requirements for entry would benefit most from the undertaking of bridging courses in the further education sector.

Alternative entry mechanisms to college for disadvantaged school leavers being implemented by third level institutions operate mainly through students entering directly on the basis of having being assessed under a system of alternative admissions criteria. These criteria would include a student having attended a designated disadvantaged school for the entire duration of their second level studies, having achieved a certain points threshold in their leaving certificate and in general being highly motivated and interested in studying at third level. Other socio-economic criteria taken into consideration would include a family background of long-term unemployment, low income, little or no progression to higher education. Other strategies being pursued in institutions include disadvantaged school leavers being offered a place following the successful undertaking of either an access or foundation course or a post-leaving certificate course under the higher education links scheme.

Currently six of the HEA funded institutions, University College, Dublin, NUI Maynooth, University College, Cork, Dublin City University, University of Limerick, Trinity College Dublin and the Dublin Institute of Technology are collaborating in the operation of a higher education direct applications scheme as a means of allocating direct entry places to socio-economically disadvantaged school leavers. The scheme is open to pupils attending all designated disadvantaged schools linked to the access schemes of the institutions involved and essentially operates as a 'mini-CAO' type applications system, whereby the seven institutions pool their reserved places, adopt a common application form and co-ordinate the making of offers so as to avoid duplication between institutions. This scheme has facilitated increasing numbers of disadvantaged school leavers in attending participant institutions with over 1,400 offers of third level places having being made since 2000.

The National Office for Equity of Access to Higher Education has recently been established within the Higher Education Authority. The work of the this office will include the devising of a national strategy on equity of access to higher education, including consideration as to the most effective means of increasing participation from amongst disadvantaged school leavers.

The suggestion referred to by Deputy Penrose is, therefore, under consideration within my Department in the context of the work of the educational disadvantage committee and the National Office for Equity of Access to Higher Education.

Question No. 76 answered with QuestionNo. 55.

Boards of Management.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

77 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Education and Science the steps being taken to ensure that all secondary schools comply with the requirement to have boards of management as required by the Education Act 1998; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5265/04]

Section 14 of the Education Act 1998 places upon the patron of a recognised school the duty to appoint a board of management. The Act qualifies this by requiring the patron, in the event that the appointment of a board is not practicable, to inform the parents, teachers and the Minister of the reasons for this.

The available information indicates that boards of management are in place in the vast majority of second level schools. My Department is in the process of communicating with the patrons of a small number of schools which do not currently have boards of management in order to progress this matter.

Property Transfers.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

78 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress made to date with regard to his Department’s consideration of the list of properties to be transferred by religious institutions to the State under the deed of indemnity signed on 5 June 2002; if the list of properties proposed to be transferred has been finalised; if properties have been transferred; if properties have been rejected; when it is proposed to publish the list; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5234/04]

The indemnity agreement provided that the property contribution of the congregations was to be divided into two separate and distinct parts. One part comprised of property to be transferred from June 2002 onwards, property to be transferred and the other part comprised of transferred between May 1999 and the signing of the indemnity agreement in June 2002, property already transferred.

In respect of the properties to be transferred my Department has accepted, in principle, 34 of the properties offered. These properties have been valued by the congregations at €22.6 million. Eight properties were rejected on the basis that no benefit to the State could be identified by acquiring a title while three properties are still under consideration.

The congregations submitted a list of additional properties for the State to consider in June 2003. Some six properties from this list have been accepted in principle and the remaining six are under consideration by my Department. One of the congregations was not in a position to offer an alternative property and an equivalent cash sum was received instead. The amount being paid in cash by this congregation is €4 million, €2 million of which has already been received while the further €2 million will be paid by the end of this month.

Another property listed on this schedule was the subject of a compulsory purchase order. This matter was resolved last month and realised a sum of €987,500. The receipt of these cash payments reduces the total value of the property to be transferred from €36.54 million to €31.55 million.

With regard to property already transferred, officials from my Department have sought additional information from the congregations to ensure that each of these properties qualify under the criteria laid down in the indemnity agreement regarding valuation, title and restriction on transfer for a 25 year period. To date one of the properties on this list has been accepted in principle.

As negotiations are ongoing and because the issue is commercially sensitive, I do not intend to give details regarding the identity of the properties at this stage. However, when agreement has been concluded on the property aspect of the agreement a list of the properties concerned will be made available.

Benchmarking Awards.

Richard Bruton

Question:

79 Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for Education and Science the number and value of awards withheld under benchmarking; and the recommendations of the performance verification group in each case. [4704/04]

As provided for in Sustaining Progress the Secretary General of my Department and the education sector performance verification group accepted a progress report provided by the teachers conciliation council confirming progress on the agreed commitments. This was provided in the context of the payments applicable from 1 January 2004 and was predicated on the expectation that real progress would be made in the discussions on parent-teacher meetings which, under the agreement, were scheduled to be concluded before the end of December 2003. Due to the fact that no agreement had been reached and that the issue was being referred to the arbitration board it was the view of the Secretary General that it was only reasonable to await executing arrangements for the payments due 1 January 2004 until the arbitration process had concluded. Agreement has now been reached on the arrangements for the holding of parent-teacher meetings following the arbitration process.

The Deputy will be aware that difficulties arose with issues of non-compliance by certain schools regarding the agreed arrangements for the standardised school year. In order to report comprehensively on the position and to bring the matter to the teachers conciliation council for its consideration my Department requested that each school complete a declaration regarding compliance with the agreements reached in respect of the standardised school year, parent-teacher meeting and staff meetings for the school year 2003-2004.

The outcome of that process was considered by the teachers conciliation council in the context of their finalising proposals for the arrangements for the standardised school year for the coming school years. Agreement has now been reached at the council on the arrangements for the next four school years which will enable my Department to execute the arrangements for payment of the appropriate increases to teachers without delay. The payments will be backdated to 1 January 2004.

Payment of the 3% general round increase due 1 January 2004 under Sustaining Progress is being withheld in respect of technicians in Athlone Institute of Technology pending a satisfactory resolution of a local issue relating to the grade. Discussions on this issue are ongoing.

Discussions on a modernisation agenda are continuing under the auspices of the Labour Relations Commission for the grades of special needs assistants and school secretaries. Payment of the appropriate increases cannot be made until agreement has been reached and verifiable progress on the modernisation agenda has been recorded.

Question No. 80 answered with QuestionNo. 18.

Garda Vetting Procedures.

Dan Neville

Question:

81 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress being made with regard to the introduction of vetting procedures in primary and secondary schools for teachers and all other staff; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5195/04]

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

92 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Education and Science when he expects that applicants for posts as school caretakers will be included in the Garda vetting system; his views on the non-availability of this vetting at present; the efforts he is making to ensure that appropriate vetting takes place; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5230/04]

Joan Burton

Question:

100 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Education and Science when he expects that applicants for posts as special education needs organisers to be appointed under the National Council for Special Education will be included in the Garda vetting system; his views on the non-availability of this vetting at present; the efforts he is making to ensure that appropriate vetting takes place; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5231/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 81, 92 and 100 together.

The process of appointing persons to be special educational needs organisers, SENOs, within the National Council for Special Education is at an advanced stage. The competition is being run by the Civil Service Commission and standard Civil Service procedures in respect of Garda clearance apply. I have been informed that the commission has not experienced any difficulties in respect of clearance of SENOs by the Garda Síochána.

I am aware that schools have experienced difficulties having prospective employees vetted. A cross-governmental working group has been established to consider proposals for reform of vetting by the central vetting unit run by the Garda Síochána. Its terms of reference include defining the type of organisation which should come within the ambit of the vetting process. The group is chaired by a Garda chief superintendent and includes officials from the Departments of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Health and Children and Education and Science, with the Office of the Attorney General. It has met on eight occasions and I understand that it hopes to finalise its report within the next two weeks. Without wishing to prejudice the work of that group, it is clear that the issues involved relate to a number of Departments and continuing co-operation between them will be required in bringing forward reforms.

Tribunals of Inquiry.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

82 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Education and Science the plans that are in place to deter the relatively small number of persons who try to make financial gain through deliberately false accusations of abuse against religious and other persons, notwithstanding the need to find out the full truth of the experiences of survivors and victims of child abuse in residential institutions. [5222/04]

The Residential Institutions Redress Act provided for the establishment of the Residential Institutions Redress Board and the board was formally established on 16 December 2002. To date the board has received a total of 2,849 applications and has completed the process of consideration in 680 cases.

There is a number of provisions in the Act which provide protection against false claims. The Act provides that the board must notify any person named as an alleged abuser of any application and allow them to make a response to the allegation. The principles of natural justice allows for a person to be in a position to respond to any allegation made against them and should such a person be of the view that the allegations are false there is little doubt but that they would inform the board of this.

Section 7(6) of the Act provides that a person who gives false evidence to the Residential Institutions Redress Board or the review committee shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on conviction on indictment to the penalties applying to perjury. I would add that the making of an award to an applicant does not constitute a finding of fact relating to the fault or negligence on the part of any person. Awards are made based on medical evidence. While there is always a danger in any redress scheme that false applications would be made the process by which the board determines awards based on medical evidence will lessen that danger.

John Deasy

Question:

83 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Education and Science if further institutions will be added to the list of those covered by the Residential Institutions Redress Board; if he will report on the workings of the Board; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5199/04]

There are 128 institutions listed on the Schedule to the Residential Institutions Redress Act. Section 4 of the Act enables additional institutions that are identified as reformatory schools, industrial schools, orphanages, children's homes and special schools, in which children were placed and resident and in respect of which a public body had a regulatory or inspection function, to be added to the Schedule.

My Department has received correspondence from both individuals and survivor groups identifying a number of additional institutions that may be eligible for inclusion in the Schedule. Discussions have taken place between my Department and other Departments that may have provided a regulatory or inspection function in the operation of these facilities in order to ascertain whether these institutions are in fact eligible for inclusion. The initial information received in some cases was limited due to the long period that had elapsed since these institutions were closed and therefore the process of verifying each of these institutions has been time consuming and is continuing.

It is my intention that a list of additional institutions will be brought before both Houses of the Oireachtas as soon as the verification process is completed.

School Accommodation.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

84 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science the manner in which he proposes to address the accommodation issues in various primary and second level schools throughout the country, many of which are in breach of health and safety standards and who have to date received no indication of when the necessary funding will be made available by his Department to facilitate the provision of the extra facilities required, other than by way of stereotyped advice on the Internet which is of no consolation to the various school authorities concerned; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5295/04]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

148 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science the extent to which he expects the school building programme to meet the requirements of the various school authorities at primary and second level throughout the country with a view to eliminating in the first instance all substandard buildings and overcrowding; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5529/04]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

154 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science if he has satisfied himself with the fact that health and safety standards are achievable in various primary and post-primary schools throughout the country where serious overcrowding has occurred arising from inadequate or insufficient buildings; his views on whether his Department has a responsibility toward the schools in question; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5535/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 84, 148 and 154 together.

The 2004 school building programme indicated that 2004 marks the start of a five year rolling investment programme. This significant development will allow my Department to plan projects over the five-year period and provide schools with an indicative time frame for the delivery of their project over the period. Indeed, in accordance with the published programme, I am specifically committed in the context of the multi-annual programme to updating schools in the matter. In accordance with the Health Safety and Welfare at Work Act 1989, it is the responsibility of management authorities to address health and safety issues that present within their premises.

School Placement.

Pádraic McCormack

Question:

86 Mr. McCormack asked the Minister for Education and Science his views on the need for schools to have a clear admissions policy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5214/04]

Pupils and parents enjoy several legal rights regarding their choice of school for primary education. These derive from the Constitution, legislation and my Department's rules.

Statutory rights to choice of school derive from the Education Act 1998, section 6 of which provides for a number of objects to which those concerned with the implementation of the Act must have regard, including promoting:

the right of parents to send their children to a school of the parents' choice having regard to the rights of patrons and the effective and efficient use of resources.

In addition, section 15(2)(d) of the 1998 Act provides that a board of management of a primary school shall:

publish, in such manner as the board with the agreement of the patron considers appropriate, the policy of the school concerning admission to and participation in the school ... and ensure that as regards that policy principles of equality and the right of parents to send their children to a school of the parents' choice are respected and such directions as may be made from time to time by the Minister, having regard to the characteristic spirit of the school and the constitutional rights of all persons concerned, are complied with.

Officials in my Department are in consultation with officials in the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel to the Government with a view to drawing up regulations under the Act governing the preparation of admissions policies. This work is ongoing and will be concluded as speedily as possible. The purpose of these proposed regulations is to promote greater consistency, transparency and accountability in decision-making at school level and to further the objective, under the Education Act, of equality and participation in education.

Institutes of Technology.

Michael Ring

Question:

87 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Education and Science the position on the introduction of fees for apprentices who attend institutes of technology for two phases of their apprenticeships; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5191/04]

FÁS apprentices are not charged any tuition fees in respect of their apprenticeship training in the institutes of technology. In 2003, I received requests from several governing bodies of institutes of technology for approval to apply the student service charge to defray the costs of registration, examinations and student services, to students enrolled on FÁS apprenticeship courses. The institutes argued that apro rata charge should be levied on apprentices on the basis that they avail of the full range of services provided to students in the institutes. The institutes considered it inequitable to levy the charge on full-time students only as thereby full-time students were effectively subsidising apprentices through their contributions toward the cost of providing student services.

Following consideration of the case made by the institutes of technology decided to approve the introduction of apro rata student services charge for FÁS apprentices from January 2004. I understand that the institutes have now informed all apprentices of the introduction of the student service charge and that collection of the charge is currently in train.

Irish Language.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

88 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Education and Science the position regarding his consideration of the report of the working group on the Irish language examination that teachers trained outside Ireland are required to pass to continue teaching; if it is intended to publish the report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5255/04]

I established a working group to review all aspects of the syllabus and examination for the Scrúdú le hAghaidh Cáilíochta sa Ghaeilge in 2001. The report of the working group was recently submitted to me and I intend to publish it shortly. The report deals,inter alia, with the content and format of the examination modules, the standard of the examinations and the period of provisional recognition granted to applicants within which they are expected to pass the SCG. The report is under consideration and decisions on the recommendations contained in it will be taken in due course.

Question No. 89 answered with QuestionNo. 33.

Student Numbers.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

90 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Education and Science if new figures available to his Department suggest that student numbers at third level will continue to grow at a significant rate and that they could increase by as much as 20,000 within the next decade; the steps being taken to ensure that such student numbers can be accommodated in the third level system; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5250/04]

The figure quoted by the Deputy is one of many which have been presented by various stakeholders within the higher education area. My Department is reviewing this material, with a view to reconciling projections. This work should be completed within a few weeks. The impact of student numbers on the higher education system will feature in the deliberations of the OECD review of the third level, which is under way.

Teachers’ Remuneration.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

91 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Education and Science his plans to provide more resources to school principals to enable them to meet their increasing administrative workload. [5297/04]

In recent years many improvements have been made to assist principal teachers in the performance of their duties and to relieve their administrative burden.

Until the 1999-2000 school year, principals were released from teaching duties to become an administrative principal where the school had eight or more mainstream class teachers. From the commencement of the 2000-01 school year, administrative principals were appointed to ordinary schools with seven mainstream class teachers and in schools with a principal plus 11 or more teachers including ex-quota posts. Further improvements were granted in the 2001-02 school year when schools were allowed to appoint an administrative principal where there were six mainstream class teachers. The provisions were further enhanced for the 2002-03 school year whereby administrative principals can be appointed to schools with a large number of ex-quota posts where there is a principal plus nine or more teachers in the school.

The scheme of release time was introduced for the 2000-01 school year. This enables teaching principals of primary schools to be released from their teaching duties for a specified number of days annually to undertake administrative leadership and management functions. The number of days release time allowed varies between 14 and 22 and is determined by the number of mainstream class teachers in the school. My Department provides paid substitution for the days that principals are on release time. Arising from the implementation of the PCW agreement significant improvements were introduced to the management structure of primary schools by the allocation of additional posts of responsibility. It is a matter for the boards of management of schools to delegate functions to posts of responsibility holders. The number of these posts ranges from two in a two teacher school to, for example, 20 in a 40 teacher school.

In addition, funding to primary schools for secretarial and caretaking services has increased from €50.79 per pupil in the 200-01 school year, to €127 per pupil in the current year school year. My Department is developing a computerised on-line system for the submission of claims for the payment of certain categories of teachers. The implementation of this project should help to further reduce the administrative burden on principal teachers.

Question No. 92 answered with QuestionNo. 81.
Question No. 93 answered with QuestionNo. 48.

Tribunals of Inquiry.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

94 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Education and Science if the Government has considered the implications of the judgment of the High Court of 17 October 2003, in a case taken by persons (details supplied) challenging two procedural rulings made by the Laffoy commission; his views on whether the commission, under its new chair, Sean Ryan, is now clear to resume its work; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5233/04]

Mr. Justice H. Abbott handed down his judgment in the application by the Christian Brothers to the High Court on 17 October 2003. The High Court found that the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse Act 2000 is not unconstitutional and that the investigation committee of the commission could operate in the manner outlined in the Act. Work on legislation amending the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse Act is well advanced and the office of the parliamentary counsel is working on including legislative amendments, recommended in Judge Sean Ryan's report, in the draft Bill.

However, there are two issues in particular that need to be taken account of prior to the legislation being published: the ongoing litigation involving the Christian Brothers must be concluded before legislation can be finalised. Judge Ryan in his report states that notice must be taken of the Christian Brothers case and the potential effect of the ultimate judgment in the case on the proceedings of the investigation committee. Judge Ryan states "It is impractical to suggest that there could be amending legislation processed and enacted until the Murray-Gibson (Christian Brothers) litigation is determined."

The final version of Judge Abbott's judgment in this matter was issued on 27 January 2004 and the 21 day period during which parties to that case can decide whether or not to appeal to the Supreme Court has now expired. The Chief State Solicitor's Office has informed my Department that while the written notification has not yet been received, the solicitors for the Christian Brothers have informed the CSSO that they are going to appeal. My Department will follow this issue up with the CSSO with a view to ensuring, in so far as possible, that the Supreme Court would hear such an appeal as quickly as possible.

It is possible that Judge Ryan will recommend further legislative changes arising from the consultation he intends to undertake with all parties to the Commission and any recommendations for legislative change would have to be considered in the finalisation of the draft Bill. Meanwhile, he has outlined several matters in chapter 8 of his report that it is possible for the investigation committee of the commission to progress in advance of amending legislation. These matters include,inter alia, writing to all complainants to the investigation committee and examining material already provided to the committee in preparation for future hearings.

School Curriculum.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

95 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the efforts being made to combat drug use and to highlight the dangers of drug addiction in secondary schools; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5188/04]

Drug use and the dangers of drug addiction are addressed in the substance use module of the junior cycle social, personal and health education curriculum which was introduced in September 2000. One of aims of the SPHE curriculum is to enable students to develop an informed and sensible attitude to substances, including drugs, so that they can make responsible and healthy decisions in relation to their personal lives and social development. The educational resource material On My Own Two Feet has been recommended as core resource material for the SPHE curriculum and many aspects of substance-drug use, including the consequences of drug taking, are addressed by this resource. Since September 2000, the implementation of SPHE in post primary schools has been supported by the post primary SPHE support service, in partnership with the Department of Health and Children and the health boards. Support has been offered to all schools and training in the delivery of SPHE at junior cycle has been provided to more than 4,300 teachers to date.

All post primary schools are required to have SPHE timetabled as part of their school curriculum, as set out in my Department's circular M11-03, with effect from September 2003. Under action 43 of the National Drugs Strategy, the Department of Education and Science developed guidelines for developing a school substance use policy in partnership with the Department of Health and Children and the health boards. These guidelines were issued to all schools in May 2002 to assist them in the development of substance use policies. The individual school's substance use policy is an essential prerequisite for ensuring that schools have a coherent framework for providing appropriate education and dealing with relevant issues in a planned and considered way.

Youthreach Programme.

Paul McGrath

Question:

96 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Science if the Youthreach programme will be extended in 2004; the locations at which the programme is available; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5200/04]

Youthreach is an interdepartmental initiative between the Department of Education and Science and the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment for young people who left school early without qualifications or with poor qualifications. Over 7,000 young people are provided with specialised training and work experience to help them develop their skills and employment opportunities. The programme is administered jointly by the Department of Education and Science and FÁS and is delivered in 90 Youthreach centres managed by the VECs and 45 community training centres funded by FÁS.

Having regard to the number of places available on the programme, together with the strategies in place to promote school completion and address the needs of young people at risk of early school leaving, I have no plans to extend the Youthreach programme in 2004. I will arrange for a list of Youthreach centres to be forwarded to the Deputy.

Information Communications Technology.

John Gormley

Question:

97 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Education and Science the amount of money his Department spent on Internet access for schools in 2002 and 2003; the amount that has been allocated for 2004; the percentage increase or decrease in real terms allowing for average annual inflation rates; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5224/04]

In the 2002-03 academic year my Department assisted schools in respect of Internet access on the basis of subventing the telephone line rental, Internet service provider subscription cost and up to two hours dial-up usage per day. In all these supports cost some €2.2 million.

In the 2003-04 year my Department adjusted its support provision for schools' Internet access having regard to the advent in mid-2003 of significantly cheaper flat rate Internet services in the market and in view of departmental budget constraints. An Internet support grant of €200 for a PSTN line and €300 for an ISDN line is being made available in the 2003-04 academic year, the total cost of which will be in the region of €1 million. While, in absolute terms, this represents a reduction in funding of over 50%, a more competitive market means that Internet usage charges to schools can be at least 30% lower than in the previous year as a result of the recently introduced flat rate service. The funding support provided by my Department is an interim provision pending the introduction of a broadband Internet service for all first and second level schools. I hope to be in a position to make an announcement in this regard in the near future.

Question No. 98 answered with QuestionNo. 67.

Physical Education Facilities.

John Gormley

Question:

99 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Education and Science the reasoning behind the decision to remove the physical education and sports maintenance grant from schools; and his views on whether this constitutes a wise long term cost saving, in view of the huge health and educational benefits of physical education and the importance of getting children involved from an early age. [5223/04]

Physical education is a compulsory part of the curriculum for primary schools. In October 2000, my Department introduced an annual physical education grant for all primary schools. Since the introduction of the scheme, my Department provided in excess of €5.5 million in grant aid to primary schools under this scheme for schools to provide coaching or mentoring in connection with physical education or for the purchase of resource materials associated with the provision of physical education. Materials and equipment purchased by schools in previous years will generally be available to them for the current year.

In 2002, primary schools designated as disadvantaged schools received a grant of €1,270 while other recognised primary schools received a grant of €635. Approximately €2.4 million was allocated to schools in 2002 under this scheme. In the light of the current budgetary constraints, I decided to withdraw payment of the grant from 2003. However, schools may use their ordinary capitation grant which has been increased to €121.58 with effect from 1 January 2004. The position will be kept under review as part of the normal Estimates process in the coming years.

Question No. 100 answered with QuestionNo. 81.
Question No. 101 answered with QuestionNo. 50.

Decentralisation Programme.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

102 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Education and Science if, in respect of the plans for decentralisation of his Department announced in the budget, a survey has been undertaken among staff in his Department to establish the number wishing to transfer to new locations; the results of such a survey; if no survey has been taken, if one is planned; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5253/04]

Staff in the Department have been surveyed to establish the numbers wishing to decentralise to new locations. The results of the survey are being compiled at the moment and I will write to Deputy Rabbitte giving a breakdown and analysis of the survey results.

Work Permits.

David Stanton

Question:

103 Mr. Stanton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the protections available to foreign nationals employed here through the work permit mechanism; the avenues open to such persons if they feel that their rights are being abused; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5387/04]

Where employers seek work permits in order to employ non-EEA nationals, the Department requires the statement of the main functions of the job, salary or wages, deductions, other than statutory, other benefits and hours to be worked per week. Both the proposed employer and the proposed employee must sign this statement. Work permits are not granted unless there is compliance with minimum wages legislation. Applications for renewals require confirmation that the stated wages have been paid; P60 and other sources are used. Work permits are not granted for sectors such as domestic employment where it is believed that such employment can be met from the Irish-EEA labour market.

The protections available to foreign nationals employed here through the work permit system are not, in any way whatsoever, different to those available and applied in the case of an Irish employee. The avenues for seeking redress are set out in each relevant Act and, specifically, in accordance with the nature of the instance of non-compliance or abuse being alleged.

For example, where there is a claim that an employer has failed to comply with regulations governing holidays entitlements, as set out in the Organisation of Working Time Act, an employee would be advised to bring such a matter to the rights commissioner service of the Labour Relations Commission. This is the procedure and recourse that is provided for under the legislation and the facility is equally available to both Irish nationals and foreign nationals alike.

The same principle applies across the full spectrum of employment legislation, including the employment regulation orders and registered employment agreements, that are generated under the Industrial Relations Acts 1946-2001. It should be noted also, that where issues arise that fall within the remit of equality legislation, the provisions of those enactments will apply. This legislation is the responsibility of the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform.

The labour inspectorate of my Department is responsible for monitoring certain employment conditions for all categories of workers in Ireland, including immigrant workers. Inspectors pursue allegations of worker mistreatment and when evidence of non-compliance with the relevant employment rights legislation is found, the inspectorate seeks redress for the individual or individuals concerned and, if appropriate, a prosecution is initiated.

The inspectorate operates without any differentiation with regard to worker nationality since statutory employment rights and protections, as already stated, apply to emigrant workers in exactly the same manner as they do to native Irish workers.

The Deputy may be interested to know that the employment rights information unit in my Department provides a comprehensive range of explanatory leaflets and guides on different entitlements under employment rights legislation. An updated Guide to Labour Law was published last November. A revision and updating exercise was also completed on a series of information leaflets, in nine languages, about employment rights legislation in Ireland. The leaflets are available on request to the information unit orvia the Department’s website. Arrangements are also being made to have the information leaflets made available at a variety of locations such as citizen information centres, embassies and from the regional offices of the Garda National Immigration Bureau, where non-national citizens go to register within 90 days of arrival in the State.

Finally, as I have stated before, if there is evidence that particular employers are exploiting emigrant workers I would ask that this evidence be brought to the attention of the labour inspectorate for investigation and further action.

Social Economy Programme.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

104 Mr. Cuffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the action she is taking to pursue the recommendations of the report, A Review of the Social Economy, by a company (details supplied). [5452/04]

A review of the social economy programme was undertaken by WRC Social and Economic Consultants. The report presents three options with respect to the future direction of the programme: revitalisation option — abandon the SEP as it is currently designed and operated, break the established policy practice of providing funding to enterprises in the social economy through active labour market programmes; reform option — acknowledge the main limitations of the SEP and attempt to improve its continued operation based on the recommendations of stakeholder groups; and transition option — acknowledge the main limitations of the SEP and attempt to improve its continued operation based on the recommendations of stakeholder groups.

The report is currently being considered by FÁS and my Department, taking account of the views of the social economy programme monitoring committee, and a decision in relation to the future direction of the programme will be made in due course.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

105 Mr. Cuffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment when she proposes to lift the embargo on recruitment for social economy enterprises; and if her attention has been drawn to the difficulties being experienced by those in disadvantaged areas as a result of the embargo. [5453/04]

The social economy programme supports the development of social economy enterprises and provides sustainable jobs for the long-term unemployed.

A total allocation of €351 million is being provided in 2004 to support up to 25,000 places across the three employment schemes, community employment, job initiative and the social economy programme. Of this, more than €40 million is being allocated to the social economy programme.

The demands for assistance under this programme far exceed the budget available. FÁS is scheduling the support to approved projects so as to ensure as equitable a distribution of funds as possible. In the circumstances it is not possible to satisfy all demands and some enterprises will be disappointed.

Departmental Expenditure.

Seán Crowe

Question:

106 Mr. Crowe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the amount spent by her Department on legal advice and lawyers in each of past three years; and the amount paid out in settlement of legal proceedings against her Department, including cases settled prior to coming to court in each of the past three years, omitting expenses relating to tribunals of inquiry. [5473/04]

Expenditure incurred by my Department on legal advice and lawyers, including related consultancies, in each of the past three years is as follows: 2001, €477,517.45; 2002, €248,602.92; and 2003, €128,172.85. Establishing the proportion of this expenditure which relates to amounts paid out in settlement of legal proceedings against my Department will require a very significant amount of staff time and resources, and cannot be provided within the current time scale. I have instructed officials of my Department to compile the details for the Deputy, and have them forwarded to him as soon as possible.

Job Losses.

Seamus Healy

Question:

107 Mr. Healy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if her attention has been drawn to the recent job losses at a company (details supplied) in Carrick-on-Suir; and to the fact that there are almost 1,000 persons on the live register in the town; the steps she intends to put in place to reverse this situation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5478/04]

I regret the announcement by the Sram Corporation of the proposed job losses at its Carrick-on-Suir plant. IDA Ireland has advised that, at a recent meeting, the company confirmed it was re-locating some manufacturing activities to plants in China and Taiwan where labour costs are substantially less than in Ireland.

Finding alternative employment for the workers affected is a priority for FÁS and the State development agencies. FÁS is making available its full range of support services including skills analysis, training and job placement for the workers affected.

I am aware of the level of unemployment in Carrick-on-Suir. IDA Ireland, Enterprise Ireland and the South Tipperary County Enterprise Board are already actively involved in supporting enterprise development in the area and will continue their efforts to address the jobs situation. In this context, the agencies are working closely with the South Tipperary County Development Board and County Council and other interests in promoting investment and job creation in Carrick-on-Suir.

Departmental Expenditure.

Dan Boyle

Question:

108 Mr. Boyle asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the anticipated increases in phone costs to her Department after recent phone rental price rises. [5492/04]

My Department's phone rental costs for analogue lines will increase by 7.5% from 5 February 2004. This will result in an approximate increase of €327 per month.

Seán Crowe

Question:

109 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Defence the amount spent by his Department on legal advice and lawyers in each of past three years; and the amount paid out in settlement of legal proceedings against his Department, including cases settled prior to coming to court in each of the past three years, omitting expenses relating to tribunals of inquiry. [5465/04]

Details of the amount paid by my Department in settlement of legal proceedings, including hearing loss litigation, over the period in question is contained in the following tabular statement. The State's own legal costs and legal advice are charged to the Vote of the Chief State Solicitor's Office and are not specifically identifiable within the overall expenditure on legal costs borne by that office.

Hearing Loss Claims

Non Hearing Loss Claims

Judicial Review

Year

Awards/Settlements

Legal Fees

Year

Awards/Settlements

Legal Fees

Year

Legal Fees

2001

33,444,494

18,269,995

2001

4,555,277

1,724,704

2001

8,100

2002

19,865,662

10,579,157

2002

4,835,652

1,430,747

2002

62,000

2003

7,286,600

3,378,561

2003

3,522,547

1,030,490

2003

77,000

Dan Boyle

Question:

110 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Defence the anticipated increases in phone costs to his Department after recent phone rental price rises. [5493/04]

The anticipated increase in phone costs to my Department following recent line rental increases is approximately €738.

National Genotyping Programme.

Cecilia Keaveney

Question:

111 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the numbers and locations of centres for geno testing sheep; the plans to expand the number of locations involved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5423/04]

Four private laboratories have applied for approval to provide a genotyping service under the national genotyping programme. The service provided will facilitate the issuing by the Department of individual NGP certificates in respect of sheep genotyped by NGP approved laboratories.

The process of evaluating the applications received is now at an advanced stage and I expect to be in a position to announce within the coming weeks details of the laboratories which ultimately receive NGP approval. Approved status for the purposes of the NGP will be granted for a period of 12 months, at the end of which it will be open to any approved laboratory to apply for renewal of its approved status for a further 12 month period and to any other interested laboratory to make initial application for NGP approval.

Departmental Expenditure.

Seán Crowe

Question:

112 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the amount spent by his Department on legal advice and lawyers in each of past three years; and the amount paid out in legal proceedings against his Department, including cases settled prior to coming to court in each of the past three years, omitting expenses relating to tribunals of inquiry. [5462/04]

The information requested by the Deputy is outlined in the following table:

Year

Legal Advice & Lawyers

Legal Proceedings including Settlements

2001

1,022,134.75

1,577,380.25

2002

1,077,987.49

1,779,218.25

2003

324,639.95

6,423,772.50*

2004 (to date)

13,534.00

*This includes a figure of €5,045,000.00 for settlement of civil service-wide equality pay claim taken by the Civil and Public Service Union.

Dan Boyle

Question:

113 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the anticipated increases in phone costs to his Department after recent phone rental price rises. [5494/04]

The financial impact for my Department of the change in line rental will be an increase of some €24,000 in 2004.

Grant Payments.

John Perry

Question:

114 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if a decision will be made on the appeal by a person (details supplied) in County Sligo in view of the circumstances; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5569/04]

The appeal was received in the agriculture appeals office on 5 February 2004. An appeals officer will be in contact with the herd owner shortly. There will be no undue delay in dealing with this matter.

Environmental Education Programmes.

Eamon Ryan

Question:

115 Mr. Éamon Ryan asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the support mechanisms available within his Department for the establishment and operation of city farms which provide demonstration models of agricultural practices to the local city populations; the grant assistance, or training support programmes, currently provided by his Department to the Airfield Trust which operates such a city farm and an environmental educational and community facility on 33 acres close to the centre of Dundrum Village in south Dublin; and the section within his Department that the Airfield Trust should liaise with in relation to the assistance they can receive for their proposed development of the farm. [5575/04]

There are no funds available within my Department for this purpose.

Garda Stations.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

116 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Finance the plans he has to provide new more suitable premises for the Dundrum gardaí. [5401/04]

The Commissioners of Public Works are currently assessing a site owned by Dunlaoghaire-Rathdown County Council with a view to determining its suitability for a new Garda Station in Dundrum, County Dublin. Acquisition of the site is dependent on a favourable assessment, an acceptable price being reached with the local authority and the availability of sufficient funding to complete the purchase.

Property Transactions.

Cecilia Keaveney

Question:

117 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Finance the position in relation to the problem of a person (details supplied) in County Donegal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5416/04]

The person in question purchased the property as is. It is entirely a matter for himself to provide his own front entrance.

Departmental Expenditure.

Seán Crowe

Question:

118 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Finance the amount spent by his Department on legal advice and lawyers in each of past three years; and the amount paid out in settlement of legal proceedings against his Department, including cases settled prior to coming to court in each of the past three years, omitting expenses relating to tribunals of inquiry. [5468/04]

In general, my Department uses the services of the Office of the Attorney General and the Office of the Chief State Solicitor, and engages outside legal advisors in circumstances requiring legal advice of a specific and-or specialist nature. My Department has also had secondments to it from private sector legal firms. The following table shows the amount spent by my Department in each year 2001 to 2003 on legal advice and lawyers, including secondments, and on settlement of legal proceedings, including cases settled prior to going to court. My Department did not have expenditure relating to tribunals of inquiry in the years in question.

Legal Advice

Settlements

2001

2,170,762

83,920

2002

611,240

25,395

2003

240,880

322,865

Officials in my Department negotiated a settlement, arrived at in 2003, of a large number of equality claims against all Departments lodged by the Civil and Public Service Union which involved a total cost of approximately €36 million. My Department's element of that settlement is included in the figure above for settlements in 2003.

Flood Relief.

Seamus Healy

Question:

119 Mr. Healy asked the Minister for Finance when he proposes to make a decision on the Clonmel flood alleviation scheme in view of the fact that the scheme is with the Office of Public Works for nearly two years now. [5479/04]

A flood relief scheme for the River Suir, Clonmel, has been brought to outline design stage and was placed on public exhibition, as required under the Arterial Drainage Acts, in December 2001 and January 2002. The next stage in the progression of the scheme is to consider and respond to the large number of observations received following the public exhibition.

The Deputy will be aware that 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 in the future. That report is currently being considered by Government Departments before being submitted to the Government in the very near future. The recommendations of the review group will have an important influence on the whole flood management area in the future, and I am confident that the recommendations will, in the long-term, substantially mitigate the impact of flooding on Irish society.

The time scale for progression of the proposed scheme in Clonmel is dependent on resolution of all issues arising from the public exhibition and consideration of issues arising from the policy review. I can assure the Deputy that Clonmel has a high priority in the OPW flood relief programme and that every effort is being made, in conjunction with the relevant local authorities, to ensure that the scheme is progressed as quickly as possible.

Tax Code.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

120 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Finance the cost to the Exchequer of the capital allowances for construction or refurbishment of buildings used as private hospitals and private sports injuries clinics under section 268 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997; if an analysis has been done as to the supposed benefit or otherwise of these allowances to the economy and society; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5481/04]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that tax relief for private hospitals and sports injury clinics are not at present captured in such a way as to provide a dedicated basis for compiling estimates of cost to the Exchequer. Claims for these reliefs are aggregated in tax returns with other claims, such as with industrial buildings allowances generally or with other capital allowances, and do not distinguish between the reliefs claimed in respect of the different schemes. Accordingly, the specific information is not readily available and could not be obtained without conducting a protracted investigation of the Revenue Commissioners' records.

I consider it important that data be improved to facilitate assessments of such expenditures and reliefs. The Department of Finance has been working closely with the Revenue Commissioners to investigate information and data capture issues arising with a view to producing possible solutions. The challenge is twofold: the first is to identify the optimal manner of obtaining the information that is required to monitor and cost existing reliefs and the second is to obtain such information with due regard to not overburdening compliant taxpayers. Bearing this in mind the Revenue Commissioners will be introducing a number of changes to the forms relating to the annual return of income in respect of the tax year 2004. These changes will yield additional information regarding the cost of various tax reliefs, including those referred to by the Deputy.

As these schemes were introduced in the past few years, no formal review of these schemes has yet been undertaken. However, these schemes will be kept under examination, especially in the context of the annual budget and Finance Bill process, to ensure they continue to meet the purposes for which they were introduced.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

121 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Finance the cost to the Exchequer of the capital allowances for hotels, holidays camps and holiday cottages; if an analysis has been done as to the supposed benefit or otherwise of these allowances to the economy and society; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5482/04]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that tax relief for hotels, holiday camps and holiday cottages are not at present captured in such a way as to provide a dedicated basis for compiling estimates of cost to the Exchequer. Claims for these reliefs are aggregated in tax returns with other claims, such as with industrial buildings allowances generally or with other capital allowances, and do not distinguish between the reliefs claimed in respect of the different schemes. Accordingly, the specific information is not readily available and could not be obtained without conducting a protracted examination of the Revenue Commissioners' records.

I consider it important that data be improved to facilitate assessments of such expenditures and reliefs. The Department of Finance has been working closely with the Revenue Commissioners to investigate information and data capture issues arising with a view to producing possible solutions. The challenge is twofold: the first is to identify the optimal manner of obtaining the information that is required to monitor and cost existing reliefs and the second is to obtain such information with due regard to not overburdening compliant taxpayers. Bearing this in mind the Revenue Commissioners will be introducing a number of changes to the forms relating to the annual return of income in respect of the tax year 2004. These changes will yield additional information regarding the cost of various tax reliefs, including those referred to by the Deputy.

Tax expenditure schemes are kept under review in the context of the annual budget and Finance Bill process. Following an examination of tax relief schemes, in budget 2003, I announced the special regime of accelerated capital allowances in respect of hotels and holiday camps, as well as holiday cottages, was set to be terminated subject to transitional arrangements. As I announced on budget day, in cases where a planning application has been lodged by 31 May 2003, the date for incurring qualifying expenditure will be extended from 31 December 2004 to 31 July 2006.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

122 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Finance the cost to the Exchequer of the capital allowances for multi-storey car parks; if an analysis has been done as to the supposed benefit or otherwise of these allowances to the economy and society; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5483/04]

Section 344 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 provides for a scheme of capital allowances for the construction and refurbishment of certain multi-storey car parks where the relevant local authority certifies that it is satisfied that the car park has been developed in accordance with the criteria laid down by the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. Included in the criteria which must be met is a provision that the car park must support the objective of making the core area of the urban centre in which the car park is located the focus for the centre's commercial and business activity. Furthermore, the planning and design of the multi-storey car park must take account of the nature and character of the area in which it is located and the provision of the car park must be supportive of the relevant local authority's traffic and parking management policies.

This scheme was introduced in 1995 to reinforce the primary importance of the inner core of urban areas. Faced with the increasing trend of retail centres to locate in peripheral areas with better road links and readily available parking areas, the provision of extra off-street car parking in urban centres for shoppers and other short-stay users was aimed at assisting in the regeneration of the inner cores of urban areas and making them more attractive places to visit and do business. At the time of the introduction of the scheme, the Dublin transportation initiative supported the need to encourage people to use the city centre through the provision of adequate short-term parking.

It is my view that the qualifying criteria laid down for this relief are sufficiently robust and comprehensive to ensure that the provision of qualifying multi-storey car parks is undertaken primarily to respond to increased local demands for additional parking and to support the objective of developing the core urban area. In addition, in common with all special tax incentives schemes, this relief is subject to a process of ongoing review. It was in the context of this ongoing review and in response to recommendations from the Department for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government and the Dublin Transport Office that I decided in the 1999 budget to terminate this relief with effect from 1 July 1999 in respect of projects in the Cork and Dublin metropolitan areas. Additionally, in advance of 2003 budget, I reviewed the position on all reliefs and, as a result of this, I announced a termination date of 31 December 2004 for this scheme and a number of other reliefs including the urban, rural and town renewal scheme, film relief, etc. However, arising from concerns expressed from a range of parties, including local authorities, that the deadline of 31 December 2004 was placing undue pressure on building resources, I felt that there was a strong case for allowing a longer winding down period for these schemes. This will allow for a more orderly completion of projects where delays had arisen for various reasons. To this end, I have made provisions in Finance Bill 2004 to extend the 31 December 2004 deadline for this relief to 31 July 2006.

Regarding exact details of the cost of the scheme, I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that tax relief for multi-storey car parks are not at present captured in such a way as to provide a dedicated basis for compiling estimates of the total annual cost to the Exchequer. Claims for these reliefs are aggregated in tax returns with other claims, such as with industrial buildings allowances generally or with other capital allowances, and do not distinguish between the reliefs claimed in respect of the different schemes. Accordingly, the specific information is not readily available and could not be obtained without conducting a protracted examination of the Revenue Commissioners' records.

I consider it important that data be improved to facilitate assessments of such expenditures and reliefs. The Department of Finance has been working closely with the Revenue Commissioners to investigate information and data capture issues arising with a view to producing possible solutions. The challenge is twofold: the first is to identify the optimal manner of obtaining the information that is required to monitor and cost existing reliefs and the second is to obtain such information with due regard to not overburdening compliant taxpayers. Bearing this in mind the Revenue Commissioners will be introducing a number of changes to the forms relating to the annual return of income in respect of the tax year 2004. These changes will yield additional information regarding the cost of various tax reliefs, including the relief for multi-storey car parks.

Departmental Expenditure.

Dan Boyle

Question:

123 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Finance the anticipate increases in phone costs to his Department after recent phone rental price rises. [5495/04]

The recent phone line rental increases will result in an immediate additional cost for my Department of around €400 per month. However, it is not expected that these increases will have a significant long term impact on the Department's telecommunications expenditure, as officials had already been examining the greater use of alternative and more economic means for connecting to the public switch network in the context of the Government virtual private network.

Northern Ireland Issues.

Seán Crowe

Question:

124 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on the description by Ulster Unionist leader, David Trimble, of human rights organisations as a great curse (details supplied). [5371/04]

It was not possible to obtain a full transcript of Mr. Trimble's remarks at the International Congress on the Victims of Terrorism held in Madrid on 27 to 28 January. It would, therefore, be inappropriate for me to comment on the basis of media reports of remarks that were attributed to Mr. Trimble.

However, I stress that the Government remains fully committed to the implementation of the human rights agenda, which is at the heart of the Good Friday Agreement, and to the creation of a culture of equality and human rights on the island of Ireland. In this regard, we support and commend all organisations who continually strive to ensure that the rights of all are vindicated and protected.

We attach a high priority to issues relating to human rights which we continue to discuss with the British Government, including through the framework of the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference. The Governments and political parties will also have an opportunity to address this important area as part of the current review of the Good Friday Agreement.

Military Neutrality.

Richard Bruton

Question:

125 Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the criteria which the Government will apply to requests for the use of facilities in Shannon to facilitate military engagements by overseas powers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5407/04]

Permission for foreign military aircraft to overfly or land in the State is granted by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, under the Air Navigation (Foreign Military Aircraft) Order, 1952. Permission is normally granted based on a number of policy stipulations, included among which are requirements such as that the aircraft be unarmed, and that it does not carry arms, ammunition or explosives.

Departmental Expenditure.

Seán Crowe

Question:

126 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the amount spent by his Department on legal advice and lawyers in each of past three years; and the amount paid out in settlement of legal proceedings against his Department, including cases settled prior to coming to court in each of the past three years, omitting expenses relating to tribunals of inquiry. [5469/04]

The information requested by the Deputy is set out in the following table.

Year

Settlement

Legal Fees

Total

2001

18,801.14

59,883.67

78,684.81

2002

27,934.76

101,031.79

128,966.55

2003

0.00

102,309.64

102,309.64

Dan Boyle

Question:

127 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the anticipated increases in phone costs to his Department after recent phone rental price rises. [5496/04]

The telephone services for the offices of the Department of Foreign Affairs in Dublin and in Cork are provided by Éircom where the Department avails of a reduced tariff scheme provided for in the Government private network agreement with Éircom. The anticipated increase in phone costs for the Department follows the recent rental price rise and are expected to be in the region of €6,000 per annum.

The Department continually monitors the cost of telecommunications and examines, on an ongoing basis, the means to bring about savings in this regard. It should be noted that Éircom is one of the major sponsors of the Irish Presidency and, in this capacity, is providing telecommunications services to the State for the Presidency to the estimated value of some €2 million to 2.5 million.

Environmental Education.

Eamon Ryan

Question:

128 Mr. Éamon Ryan asked the Minister for Education and Science the support mechanisms that are available from his Department for the establishment and operation of environmental education facilities in association with urban city farms such as the Airfield Trust; the grant assistance or other support mechanisms currently provided by his Department to this trust (details supplied); and the section within his department that the Airfield Trust should liaise with, in seeking State assistance, for their planned introduction of new environmental technology demonstration projects on the farm. [5576/04]

Eamon Ryan

Question:

155 Mr. Éamon Ryan asked the Minister for Education and Science the support mechanisms available within his Department for the establishment and operation of environmental educational centres in association with urban city farms; the grant assistance or other support mechanisms currently provided by his Department to the Airfield Trust in Dundrum (details supplied); and the section within his Department that the Airfield Trust should liaise with in seeking State assistance for their planned introduction of new educational programmes. [5577/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 128 and 155 together.

My Department does not have funding available to support the operation of environmental education city farms. However, it facilitates the operation of Airfield Trust through the secondment of two teachers on a cost recoupment basis, and through hire and use of the venue for delivery of inservice training to teachers on environmental education, for part delivery of aspects of post-leaving certificate courses in collaboration with local colleges of further education, and a farm studies module as part of the transition year programme.

Airfield Trust is also a popular venue for school educational visits, and the cost of these are partly funded by student contributions and a small grant from Blackrock education centre.

There may be some scope for funding of part time adult education programmes at further education level for specific targeted groups under the back to education initiative community strand. The deadline for applications for 2004 courses under this Initiative is 20 February 2004. A copy of the guidelines and application form are on the Department's website atwww.education.ie under further education. My Department has contacted the trust to inform them of this.

Schools Refurbishment.

Cecilia Keaveney

Question:

129 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Education and Science the position in relation to a school grant application for a school (details supplied) in County Donegal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5367/04]

Officials in school planning section of my Department are currently in the process of registering and assessing all applications received for the summer works scheme 2004. Details of the result of this assessment and the schools which will receive funding will be published no later than 27 February 2004.

School Staffing.

Seán Crowe

Question:

130 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of years of teaching experience a person must have to become a principal; and if it is his position that a person (details supplied) has fulfilled this quota. [5368/04]

In the case to which the Deputy refers it has been confirmed to the board of management of the school in question that duly certified documents in the records of my Department show that the appointee has in excess of the five years of whole-time teaching service required of a candidate for appointment as a principal.

Seán Crowe

Question:

131 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will furnish the dates during which a person (details supplied) has taught in this State and the schools in which they taught. [5369/04]

It would not be appropriate for me to release the personal information sought by the Deputy in respect of the individual concerned.

Departmental Staff.

Seán Crowe

Question:

132 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Education and Science the meetings which took place between representatives of his Department and any other organisations and individuals and their identities, around the appointment of a person (details supplied). [5370/04]

No meetings involving my Department took place in relation to the matter referred to by the Deputy.

Schools Refurbishment.

Tom Hayes

Question:

133 Mr. Hayes asked the Minister for Education and Science if a school (details supplied) in County Tipperary will be considered for grant assistance under the 2004 summer works scheme. [5380/04]

An application for funding under the summer works scheme 2004 has been received from the schools referred to by the Deputy. Applications under this scheme are currently being processed in my Department and details of successful applicants will be published on my Department's website no later than 27 February 2004.

Schools Building Projects.

Dan Neville

Question:

134 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Education and Science the position regarding construction of Gaelscoil Uí Daoghaire, Newcastlewest. [5381/04]

I am pleased to advise the Deputy that a new nine-classroom school for Gaelscoil Ó Doghair Newcastlewest is listed for proceeding to tender and construction as part of the 2004 school building programme. The indicative time scale in the programme for this project proceeding to tender is the first quarter of 2004. The school authorities will be kept advised of developments for the delivery of this project.

Schools Refurbishment.

Dan Neville

Question:

135 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Education and Science the position regarding significant upgrading and major refurbishment to achieve six standards to a school (details supplied) in County Cork. [5382/04]

The application for upgrade and refurbishment at the school to which the Deputy refers is currently being examined in the school planning section of my Department in conjunction with the feasibility study which was carried out. This process involves the consideration of all relevant factors, including enrolment and demographic trends in the area and the overall accommodation requirements of the centre. My officials are in contact with the management authority of the school in this regard.

Asylum Seekers.

Dan Boyle

Question:

136 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Education and Science if his attention has been drawn to the difficulties being experienced by asylum seekers undertaking courses in the further education sector, who cannot avail of the work experience component of their courses due to the uncertainty of their status; and the action he will take to clarify this situation. [5391/04]

The arrangements to be applied to non-nationals who seek entry to programmes in the further education sector are set out in my Department's circular to VECs dated 27 September 2001. The circular states that asylum seekers with an entitlement to work, that is, those who entered the country before 26 July 1999, who have been waiting at least one year for a determination of their case and are in possession of a notification of their right to work from the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform must be treated on the same basis as Irish nationals in terms of access to vocational training programmes within the further education sector. Asylum seekers who do not have an entitlement to work may avail of free access to adult literacy, English language and mother culture supports only.

School Staffing.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

137 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Education and Science when it is intended to interview for a principal for the proposed new school for the Sandyford parish at Leopardstown. [5394/04]

An application for the recognition of a new school in Sandyford, to commence operation in September 2004, has been received from the Dublin archdiocese. The application has been referred to the new schools' advisory committee for its consideration. The committee will make its recommendations to me by the end of March. My decision in this matter will be conveyed to the patron shortly thereafter. In the event that the proposed new school receives approval to commence operation in September 2004, adequate notice will be given to allow a principal be appointed.

Schools Building Projects.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

138 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Education and Science when it is intended to apply for planning permission to construct the Sandyford parish national school at Leopardstown Valley in the Dublin south constituency. [5395/04]

An application for the recognition of a new school in Sandyford, to commence operation in September 2004, has been received from the Dublin archdiocese. The application has been referred to the New Schools' Advisory Committee for its consideration. The committee will make its recommendations to me by the end of March. My decision in this matter will be conveyed to the patron shortly thereafter.

The issue of applying for planning permission to construct a new school does not arise at this time.

Information Communications Technology.

Pat Carey

Question:

139 Mr. Carey asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will investigate the difficulties being experienced by a school (details supplied) in Dublin 11, in accessing funds from his Department to develop and implement its highly successful ICT programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5414/04]

Under my Department's three year programme — Blueprint for the Future of ICT in Irish Education — capital grants were provided to primary and post-primary schools in the period 2001-03 to support the development of schools' information and communications technology infrastructure. In 2001 and 2002, ICT grants of €13,846 and €9,732 were provided to the school mentioned by the Deputy, while payment for advisory and technical training was provided under the auspices of the National Centre for Technology in Education, NCTE.

Due to budget constraints in 2003, it was necessary to adopt a more targeted approach to funding schools' ICT in that year and, accordingly, capital grants were provided to those schools which had vouched for expenditure in excess of 75% of funding received from my Department. The position of schools which did not receive a 2003 ICT grant, including the school referred to by the Deputy, will be considered by my Department in the light of available resources in 2004 and expenditure returns provided by the relevant schools to my Department.

Schools Building Projects.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

140 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of after-school and pre-school places included in the planned Cherry Orchard primary school facility to be built later in 2004. [5427/04]

I am pleased to advise the Deputy that a new 16 classroom school for Cherry Orchard national school is listed for proceeding to tender and construction as part of the 2004 school building programme. The indicative time scale in the programme for this project proceeding to tender is the second quarter of 2004. The tendering process will commence shortly and the school authorities are being kept advised of developments. I have arranged for an official of my Department to contact the Deputy directly in relation to the specific issues raised by him.

School Accommodation.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

141 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for Education and Science the proposals his Department has in relation to the shortage of places in Balbriggan primary schools, in view of the massive increase in the population with new housing developments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5434/04]

My Department is currently examining the educational requirements of Balbriggan at first level, having regard to projected population growth and the capacity of existing facilities to meet demands. In this regard, Department officials have visited the area and are maintaining regular contact with Fingal County Council. When the matter has been fully examined, a decision will be made regarding the appropriate educational provision required to meet the future primary needs of the town.

Departmental Expenditure.

Seán Crowe

Question:

142 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Education and Science the amount spent by his Department on legal advice and lawyers in each of past three years; and the amount paid out in settlement of legal proceedings against his Department, including cases settled prior to coming to court in each of the past three years, omitting expenses relating to tribunals of inquiry. [5466/04]

Generally the Department of Education and Science secures legal advice and representation by and through the Office of the Attorney General and the Office of the Chief State Solicitor and incurs no fees in relation to these services.

My Department meets the legal costs of litigants where there is a settlement to that effect or an order for costs against the Minister for Education and Science. The fees associated with these and the direct cost of any settlement are charged to the relevant subheads within the Education Vote and I regret that the material required to respond to this question has not been fully collated yet. A reply will be made directly to Deputy as soon as possible.

Schools Building Projects.

Pádraic McCormack

Question:

143 Mr. McCormack asked the Minister for Education and Science the position regarding the provision of a primary school for the Knocknacarra parish, Galway; if a site has been identified; the steps that have been taken to preserve this site for a school; if the site has been purchased or has his Department made the necessary financial commitments to Galway County Council to enable them to purchase the site or serve a compulsory purchase order on the site; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5477/04]

The property management section of the OPW, which acts on behalf of my Department in relation to site acquisitions generally, is, in consultation with the local authority, exploring the possibility of acquiring a site for the provision of a primary school for the Knocknacarra parish, Galway.

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

Departmental Expenditure.

Dan Boyle

Question:

144 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Education and Science the anticipated increases in telephone costs to his Department after recent rental price increases. [5497/04]

The majority of my Department's telephone lines are linked to the Government virtual private network system. Their cost is not affected by the recent increases.

My Department also has public switched telephone network lines. They are used as a backup for VPN lines and also by the local inspectorate and regional offices. They are affected by the line rental price increase. This year it is anticipated that my Department's telephone costs will increase by between €8,000 and €10,000.

Educational Disadvantage.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

145 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science the extent to which his Department has examined primary educational requirements in high density urban settings with a view to identifying how best to provide an adequate primary education to such children with the object of achieving a standard to enable them compete subsequently; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5526/04]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

146 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science the plans he has to ensure that children in social or economically deprived areas get an adequate primary education; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5527/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 145 and 146 together.

At present a broad review of all initiatives tackling educational disadvantage is under way in my Department.

Special Educational Needs.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

147 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science the current requirement of teacher assistants; whether needs will be met in 2004; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5528/04]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

151 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science the way in which he proposes to meet the needs of all children requiring special needs teachers; whether the requirement will be met in 2004; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5532/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 147 and 151 together.

Arising from a Government decision in October 1998, children assessed as having special educational needs in primary schools have an automatic entitlement to a response to their needs. Since the measure was introduced the number of resource teachers in the primary system has increased from approximately 100 to more than 2,500. The number of special needs assistants has also grown from approximately 300 to 4,319 full-time and 1,353 part-time posts.

There are over 6,000 applications for special educational resources awaiting a decision from my Department. More than 5,000 were received between 15 February and 31 August 2003 and they are being considered. Priority was given to cases involving children that commenced school last September. These cases were responded to and we continue to respond to emergency applications.

Processing applications is complex and time consuming. My Department is endeavouring to process them as quickly as possible and will then respond to all applicant schools. A dedicated team, comprising members of my Department's inspectorate and the national educational psychological service, reviewed the balance of more than 4,000 applications. They are being further considered in the context of the outcome of surveys of special needs provision conducted over the past year. Account is also being taken of the data submitted by schools as part of the recent nationwide census of special needs provision.

An additional 2,200 applications have been received since 1 September 2003. The arrangements for processing applications received since then will be considered in the context of the outcome of discussions on a weighted system of allocation of resource teaching support. My officials have initiated discussions with representative interests. It would be premature to anticipate the outcome at this stage. The review will ensure that each school has the level of resources required to cater for its pupils with special educational needs.

Pending the conclusion of discussions with the representative interests, schools are advised to refer to circular 24/03 issued last September. It contains practical advice on how to achieve the most effective deployment of resources already allocated for special educational needs.

My Department also allocates resource teaching posts and special needs assistant posts to second level schools. A total of 465 whole-time equivalent special needs assistants and approximately 968 whole-time equivalent teaching posts are currently in place in the second level system. They support students with special needs. Additional resources are allocated on an ongoing basis in response to professionally assessed needs. Applications for resource teaching and special needs assistant support for the 2004-05 school year will continue to be considered on this basis.

Question No. 148 answered with QuestionNo. 84.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

149 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science whether he will meet all of the special needs teaching requirements in primary and second level schools in 2004; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5530/04]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

152 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science whether he expects to meet special needs teaching requirements in 2004; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5533/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 149 and 152 together.

My Department will consider applications for special educational needs and supports in the context of the criteria outlined in the relevant Department circulars and the existing level of SEN resources available in a school. My Department's commitment to supporting children with such needs in the primary school system is reflected in the significant growth in investment in recent years. This is illustrated by the following details: the number of learning support teachers in the primary school system has increased from 1,302 in 1998 to 1,531 at present with an annual salary cost of approximately €54 million; the number of resource teachers has increased from 104 in 1998 to more than 2,500 at present with an annual salary cost estimated at over €75 million; the number of special needs assistants in the primary system has grown from 300 in 1998 to 4,319 full-time and a further 1,353 part-time posts with an annual salary cost estimated at €120 million for 2004; the allocation for part-time tuition services for children with special educational needs has been increased from €12 million in 2002 to €31.7 million in 2004; funding for special equipment in the primary school system has increased from €635,000 in 1998 to €3 million in 2004.

The resources that have been and that will continue to be allocated by my Department represent real and substantial improvements in special education services. They provide concrete evidence of the Government's commitment to build on the unprecedented development of such services.

Pupil-Teacher Ratio.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

150 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science whether he will improve the pupil-teacher ratio in primary or second level schools; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5531/04]

The ratio at both levels has improved significantly in recent years.

At primary level the ratio has fallen from 22.2:1 in the 1996-97 school year to 18.0:1 in the 2002-03 school year. At second level the ratio has fallen from 16.0:1 to 13.6:1 in the same period. The projected ratio at primary level for the current school year is 17.35:1 and at post-primary level the projected ratio is 13.48:1. In line with Government policy, my Department will continue to provide further reductions in the pupil teacher ratio within available resources and subject to spending priorities within the education sector. Priority will be given to pupils with special needs and those from disadvantaged areas.

Question No. 151 answered with QuestionNo. 147.
Question No. 152 answered with QuestionNo. 149.
Question No. 153 answered with QuestionNo. 37.
Question No. 154 answered with QuestionNo. 84.
Question No. 155 answered with QuestionNo. 128.

Television Broadcast.

Liz O'Donnell

Question:

156 Ms O’Donnell asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the plans to improve access to RTE programming for Irish emigrants resident in the United Kingdom; the position since the withdrawal of a service (details supplied); if RTE broadcasts to Irish emigrants in the UK can be restored; his views on whether it is in line with the task force on emigrants that funding might be appropriate to support such extra jurisdictional broadcasting; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5389/04]

Under section 28 of the Broadcasting Act 2001, RTE has a statutory mandate to provide a television and sound broadcasting service to the whole community of Ireland. It is a matter for the State to determine how best to fulfil its statutory mandate.

The channel referred to was a commercial television service that was available on satellite and cable. The company providing the service went into liquidation due to a lack of commercial success. RTE has no plans to commence a long wave radio service that will reach listeners across the country, much of the UK and parts of Europe. My Department is considering the recommendations on broadcasting contained in the report of the task force on policy regarding emigrants.

Electricity Generation.

Richard Bruton

Question:

157 Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if, in view of the Government’s plans to construct two electricity interconnectors between Ireland and Wales, in order to import electricity from the UK, he has received a guarantee that electricity imported from such a source is not generated by nuclear means; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5408/04]

Ireland remains opposed to the use of nuclear energy on grounds that the environmental, health and safety risks and impact outweigh the benefits. Under the Electricity Regulation Act 1999 nuclear power cannot be used for the production of electricity in Ireland.

It is not possible to guarantee that electricity imported over the proposed east-west interconnector will not be generated from nuclear sources. It is not physically possible to prevent the flow of nuclear generated electricity onto the network. This is the case with the existing interconnection between Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland through the Moyle interconnector.

The EU Electricity Directive 2003/54/EC concerns common rules for the internal market in electricity and repeals Directive 96/92/EC. It avoids an imbalance in the opening of electricity markets, the supply of electricity to customers deemed eligible in other member states shall not be prohibited. The directive is scheduled to be transposed into Irish law by 1 July 2004. However, the earliest date for commencement of construction work on an east-west interconnector is the end of 2006.

The implementation of the electricity directive means that all electricity suppliers must meet certain requirements. They must specify in or with electricity bills and promotional material, made available to final customers, the contribution of each energy source to the overall fuel mix of the supplier over the preceding year. Suppliers will also be obliged to specify existing reference sources, such as web pages, where information on the environmental impact, in terms of at least emissions of CO2 and the radioactive waste resulting from the electricity produced by the overall fuel mix of the supplier over the preceding year, is publicly available.

I am confident, given the known popular opposition to nuclear energy in Ireland, that suppliers would not knowingly contract for electricity imports clearly traceable to nuclear stations or that Irish consumers would knowingly buy any. There is simply no business case for selling nuclear energy in Ireland.

Prospecting Licences.

Phil Hogan

Question:

158 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he consulted the Geological Survey of Ireland about the volume, quality and type of mineral resources adjacent to the proposed route of the N9 road at Ballyreddin, Bennettsbridge, County Kilkenny, before he lodged an objection to the original preferred route; the outcome of the consultation; if he was satisfied with the company’s expertise reports that viable deposits of mineral existed before he lodged his objection; the basis on which his Department can confirm the validity of its objection, particularly in view of the impact that the change of the N9 route will have on individuals and the community of Bennettsbridge; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5413/04]

As I explained in my reply to Parliamentary Question No. 116 on 29 January, site investigations to assess the volume and quality of mineral deposits are carried out by mining companies at their own expense. Reports on the mineral deposits in the area were supplied by the existing mine lessee's experts. The reports were assessed by the technical staff of my Department's exploration and mining division. They are satisfied that sizeable deposits of minerals exist. Consultants appointed on behalf of Kilkenny County Council concur with their view. Material supplied by the geological survey was also examined in the course of my Department's examination. However, GSI has no current information on the volume of mineral deposits in the area.

In my reply to Parliamentary Question No. 356 of 3 February I said that officials from my Department had met representatives of the local community on 29 January 2004. The community's views, including a suggestion to revisit a detailed geological report dated 1971 produced by a mining company's consultant, are being examined. A full response will be issued in due course.

Aquaculture Licences.

Cecilia Keaveney

Question:

159 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources when legislation to licence aquaculture on Lough Foyle will be brought before the Houses of the Oireachtas in view of the fact that commitments were made in 1994 and 1995 that it would be forthcoming within three months; and if he will make a statement on the reasons for the delay and the precise timescale for moving the badly needed legislation forward. [5429/04]

Under the British Irish Agreement Act 1999, responsibility for the development and licensing of aquaculture in Lough Foyle was conferred on the Foyle, Carlingford and Irish Lights Commission.

My Department is working in conjunction with the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development in Northern Ireland and respective legal advisers. We want to design the necessary legislation to enable the loughs agency of the FCILC to,inter alia, exercise its aquaculture functions as soon as practicable. The legislation is complex and needs to provide for the licensing and control of aquaculture, including a full appeals process and fish health matters. It must also address jurisdictional issues, including access to courts North and South in respect of offences committed in a cross-Border context. The aim is to ensure that aquaculture in Lough Foyle and Carlingford Lough is developed and managed in a sustainable way.

My Department is continuing its efforts to finalise the drafting of its part of the Foyle Carlingford Fisheries Bill and to facilitate publication by the earliest possible date.

Marine Tourism.

Cecilia Keaveney

Question:

160 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the status of the loughs agency marine tourism strategy for Lough Foyle; the actions that have taken place to date and are planned in the immediate future; the input that his Department’s agency made to the Donegal County Council Marine Report 2004 and the status that is conferred on either body to develop Lough Foyle; and if he will make a statement on whether Lough Foyle is liable to lose out in terms of development if two different bodies are not in contact and working in co-operation with each other or if their roles are not defined. [5432/04]

Under the British Irish Agreement Act 1999, one of the functions set out for the loughs agency of the Foyle, Carlingford and Irish Lights Commission is the development of marine tourism. The Act also provides that this function will include the preparation of a strategic plan for marine tourism in the Foyle and Carlingford areas. It also provides for the promotion and marketing of those areas, including grant aid and co-ordination of the delivery of the development strategy.

Last October my ministerial counterpart in Northern Ireland, Mr. Ian Pearson MP, and I gave our approval for the agency to engage a consultancy to carry out a study to examine the development potential of marine related tourism and recreational activities in both Carlingford Lough and Lough Foyle and the role of the loughs agency in promoting that development. I am advised by the agency that it now proposes to carry out the study in co-operation with the north west cross-Border group, on which Donegal County Council has representation, and the east Border region group.

I am assured by the agency that the study will draw on all relevant reports that have been published to date on marine tourism in Lough Foyle, including those produced by the county council. There will also be wide consultation with interested parties in the Donegal area. I urge all stakeholders, and particularly State agencies, North and South, involved in the development of the Foyle and Carlingford areas, to work closely together to ensure that their full potential for marine tourism is realised.

I am advised by the agency that it was invited to contribute to the independent expert report on the development of marinas and sea angling centres commissioned by the DCC during its preparation. There is ongoing interaction between the council and the agency through various fora and I am advised that they work closely at many levels.

Harbours and Piers.

Cecilia Keaveney

Question:

161 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the contact that his Department has had over the past eight months with Donegal County Council and Buncrana Urban Council on dredging to facilitate the RNLI lifeboat that is experiencing operational difficulties due to silting at the harbour; and if he will make a statement on the situation as it pertains now. [5433/04]

I outlined the contact made by Donegal County Council about dredging Buncrana Harbour in my reply to Question No. 255 on 28 January. Buncrana Urban Council did not contact my Department about the matter.

Radio Licences.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

162 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the terms of reference of the proposed report of a company (details supplied) on radio licensing; and if it will include a public submission stage. [5454/04]

My Department is undertaking a review of the local radio licensing regime here. It has engaged external advisers to assist in its review. Independent advisers will submit their final report to me shortly.

The terms of reference for the external review on local radio licensing are as follows: To conduct a review of the processes through which radio licences are awarded here, having regard to comparative international experience; and to make recommendations on the licensing of services in the future. The review will address the following issues: objectives — describe current objectives of radio licensing; evaluate whether there is a need to revisit objectives having regard to changes in Irish society and in broadcasting markets; consider existing power of BCI, including power to decide type of services to be provided and franchise areas; process — describe and evaluate existing licensing processes; evaluate existing roles of the executive of the BCI and of the Commission; evaluate need for independent and outside expertise in licensing process; and explore options for an appeals mechanism in relation to licensing decisions; structural — consider what and who should be licensed; consider terms of existing and future licences including duration; and consider issue of licence roll over and barriers to market entry; policy interface — evaluate existing policy interface. After I have had an opportunity to consider the report I will publish it. The report will help inform the public consultation on radio licensing that I intend to conduct later this year.

Departmental Expenditure.

Seán Crowe

Question:

163 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the amount spent by his Department on legal advice and lawyers in each of past three years; and the amount paid for legal proceedings against his Department, including cases settled prior to coming to court in each of the past three years, omitting expenses for tribunals of inquiry. [5464/04]

The information requested by the Deputy is as follows:

Year

Expenditure on Legal Advice and Lawyers

Amount paid out on Legal Proceedings

2001

1,388,149

160,837

2002

499,351

853,598

2003

834,569

190,032

Dan Boyle

Question:

164 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the anticipated increases in telephone costs to his Department after recent telephone rental price increases. [5498/04]

The anticipated increase in such costs is approximately €9,422 per annum, inclusive of VAT.

Seán Crowe

Question:

165 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the amount spent by his Department on legal advice and lawyers in each of the past three years; and the amount paid in settlement of legal proceedings against his Department, including cases settled prior to coming to court in each of the past three years, omitting expenses for tribunals of inquiry. [5463/04]

As a general rule, the legal advice obtained by my Department is given by the Offices of the Attorney General and of the Chief State Solicitor. My Department is not charged for the service and costs are borne directly by the offices.

The National Library of Ireland is a cultural institution attached to my Department. It incurred the following fees in respect of specialist legal advice obtained over the past three years: 2001, €2,892; 2002, €7,278; 2003, €1,093. Since my Department was established in June 2002 there has been only one payment following legal proceedings initiated against the Department. The case was settled prior to going to court and the settlement was €4,350.

Last December my Department paid 33 eligible officers €5,000 each after a successful equality claim by the Civil and Public Service Union for clerical assistant and paperkeeper posts. My Department has since been reimbursed by the Department of Finance.

Sports Capital Programme.

Mary Upton

Question:

166 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if he will give sympathetic consideration to a sports capital application (details supplied). [5476/04]

The national lottery funded sports capital programme is administered by my Department. It allocates funding to sporting and community organisations at local, regional and national level. The programme is advertised on an annual basis.

The 2004 programme was advertised in the national newspapers on 30 November and 1 December 2003. The closing date for receipt of applications was 16 January 2004. A total of 1,302 applications were received before the closing date, including one from the organisation in question. At present all applications are being evaluated against the programme's assessment criteria that is outlined in its guidelines, terms and conditions. I intend to announce the grant allocations as soon as possible after the assessment process has been completed.

Departmental Expenditure.

Dan Boyle

Question:

167 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the anticipated increases in telephone costs to his Department after recent telephone rental price rises. [5499/04]

Recently the company that supplies my Department and the national cultural institutions land line telecommunications services announced an increase in the cost of rented telephone lines of 7.5%. It applies to analogue telephone lines and not the PABX lines that cater for most of my Department's telephones. I estimate that my Department's additional monthly costs will be in the region of €330. My Department is monitoring telephone usage with a view to reducing the number of analogue telephone lines.

Sports Capital Programme.

John Perry

Question:

168 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if the application submitted by Easkey Community Council, Easkey, County Sligo, for the provision of the building of a sports recreational centre will be approved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5573/04]

John Perry

Question:

169 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if the national lottery sports capital grant application submitted by Geevagh Community Resource Group in County Sligo will be approved for funding; the amount of funding that will be granted; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5574/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 168 and 169 together.

My Department administers the national lottery funded sports capital programme. It allocates funding to sporting and community organisations at local, regional and national level. The programme is advertised on an annual basis.

The 2004 programme was advertised in the national newspapers on 30 November and 1 December 2003. The closing date for receipt of applications was 16 January 2004. A total of 1,302 applications were received before the closing date, including applications from both of the organisations in question. At present all applications are being evaluated against the programme's assessment criteria that is outlined in the guidelines, terms and conditions of the programme. I intend to announce the grant allocations as soon as possible after the assessment process has been completed.

Drug Classification.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

170 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Health and Children if, in view of the decision by the UK Government to reclassify cannabis from a class B to a class C drug, he has proposals to consider changes in Irish law; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2516/04]

The recent reclassification of cannabis in the United Kingdom means that the maximum criminal penalties for possession of cannabis would be reduced and that the possession of cannabis would become a non-arrestable offence. Possession would remain a criminal offence punishable by the criminal courts. It is suggested that the police would then have the option to report for summons.

In Ireland drugs are not classified for penalty purposes in the same way as the UK. While the various controlled drugs have been placed in various Schedules, a classification in Ireland is exclusively for the purpose for the controls that are applicable to the classes concerned and have no consequences for the penalties that the courts may apply.

Possession of any controlled drug, without due authorisation, is an offence under section 3 of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1977. The legislation makes a distinction between possession for personal use and possession for sale or supply. Penalties for possession depend on the type of substance, such as cannabis or other drugs, and on penal proceedings such as whether a summary conviction or a conviction on indictment is obtained. Penalties for unlawful possession for the purpose of sale or supply range from imprisonment for up to one year and-or a fine on summary conviction or up to imprisonment for life and-or an unlimited fine if convicted on indictment.

Possession of cannabis and cannabis resin is considered in a different way to other drugs. Possession of cannabis or cannabis resin for personal use is punishable only by a fine on the first and second offences. In the case of a third and subsequent offence, possession for personal use would incur a fine and-or a term of imprisonment at the discretion of the courts. This would be for up to one year on summary conviction and if convicted on indictment imprisonment for up to three years and-or a fine. Possession in any other case would incur a penalty of imprisonment for up to one year and-or a fine on summary conviction and/or up to seven years imprisonment if convicted on indictment. Following the reclassification of cannabis in the UK the equivalent penalties continue to be much higher than here.

The recent events in the UK do not create a justification for a change in our laws or in our approach to the possession, for personal use, of cannabis or cannabis resin here.

Medical Cards.

John McGuinness

Question:

171 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Health and Children if a medical card will be issued without delay to a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny in view of their medical circumstances. [5372/04]

Responsibility for the provision of a medical card is, by legislation, a matter for the chief executive officer of the relevant health board or authority. My Department has asked the CEO of the South Eastern Health Board to investigate the matter and to reply to the Deputy directly.

John McGuinness

Question:

172 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Health and Children if a medical card will be issued without delay to a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny on medical grounds based on a report submitted by their general practitioner. [5373/04]

Responsibility for the provision of a medical card is, by legislation, a matter for the CEO of the relevant health board or authority. My Department has asked the CEO of the SEHB to investigate the matter raised and to reply to the Deputy directly.

Neurosurgical Services.

Michael Ring

Question:

173 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children the position in regard to the provision of a regional neurosurgery unit in the west; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5375/04]

My Department met representatives of the western neurosurgery campaign group and I am aware of their views on the development of neurosurgical services. I have asked Comhairle na nOspidéal to carry out a review of neurosurgical services and to prepare a report for my consideration. Comhairle has been asked to focus on the provision of adequate capacity and consideration of equity of access to neurosurgical services having regard to best practice in the provision of quality healthcare. The work of the Comhairle committee on neurosurgical services is ongoing.

Decisions on the future development of neurosurgical services will be informed by the Comhairle report.

Departmental Expenditure.

Máire Hoctor

Question:

174 Ms Hoctor asked the Minister for Health and Children the breakdown of capital investment each year in Nenagh Hospital from 1973 to date. [5376/04]

Responsibility for the detailed information sought rests with the Mid-Western Health Board. My Department has asked its CEO to investigate the matter and to reply to the Deputy directly.

Child Care Facilities.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

175 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Health and Children if his attention has been drawn to the threatened closure of access to full-time working parents at a number of crèches around the country due to the implementation of regulations on this; if his attention has further been drawn to the fact that in some places there are no alternatives and parents will have to consider giving up work, which is against Government policy; if he will intervene to facilitate parents who have no other choice; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5402/04]

The Child Care (Pre-School Services) Regulations 1996 give effect to the provisions of Part VII of the Child Care Act 1991 and provide for notification to, and inspection by, health boards of pre-school services. The regulations apply to pre-schools, playgroups, day nurseries, crèches, childminders looking after more than three children and other similar services which cater for children under six years of age.

The purpose of the 1996 regulations is to build on the existing good standards in our pre-school services and gradually improve standards throughout the sector. The aim is to secure the health, safety and welfare of pre-school children and to promote the development of children attending pre-school services.

Details of deficiencies in services identified during inspection are outlined in writing to the provider and the provider is required to outline measures that will be put in place to deal with the deficiencies. While taking cognisance of their statutory duty to ensure the health, safety and welfare of children the health board pre-school inspection teams work in a supportive way with the providers to ensure that planned improvements are made.

Where serious breaches of the regulations concerning the health, safety and welfare of children identified during an inspection are not rectified within a specified timescale, health boards can bring the matter to the attention of the District Court under Part VII of the Child Care Act 1991. The court may impose a fine or prohibit a provider from operating a pre-school service for a specified period.

The health boards have provided information that there are currently no services closing as a result of court proceedings. Health boards state that the number of services are increasing with the assistance of grant aid and other supports available under the equal opportunities child care programme of the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform. Health boards as part of their advisory service are working closely with prospective providers. They work with the county and city child care committees to ensure that services coming on stream are in compliance with legislative requirements.

I understand from the health boards that pre-school services do close voluntarily occasionally for a number of reasons ranging from personal reasons to financial viability to other legislative requirements such as fire or planning. On the introduction of the regulations providers would have cited the requirements of the Child Care (Pre-School Services) Regulations 1996 as the reason for closure sometimes in advance of having been inspected. At present it is significantly less likely to be a reason for closure.

Two of the area health boards in the eastern region could not provide information on the issues raised by the Deputy in the time available. My Department has asked the regional chief executive of the Eastern Regional Health Authority to reply directly to the Deputy about the two boards.

Medical Aids and Appliances.

John Cregan

Question:

176 Mr. Cregan asked the Minister for Health and Children if an assessment will be carried out for a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny, in order that their application for a bath lift can be processed further and whose application is with the board for the past 18 months. [5403/04]

The provision of health services in the Kilkenny area is the responsibility of the South Eastern Health Board. My Department has asked its CEO to investigate the matter raised and to reply directly to the Deputy, as a matter of urgency.

Orthodontic Service.

Pat Carey

Question:

177 Mr. Carey asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) will be provided with orthodontic treatment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5409/04]

Responsibility for the provision of orthodontic treatment to eligible persons in Dublin 11 rests with the Eastern Regional Health Authority. My Department has asked its CEO to investigate the matter and to reply to the Deputy directly.

Overcharging for Medical Services.

Pat Carey

Question:

178 Mr. Carey asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding his correspondence with the CEOs of the health boards on the practise of some chiropodists charging a €10 top-up fee to public patients; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5410/04]

My Department has been made aware of the practice by some chiropodists, particularly those in some parts of the ERHA's area, of levying their medical card patients for services. Last November, in an effort to ascertain the level of this practice nationally, the chairman of the chief executive officers group was asked to investigate the matter and revert to my Department. A reminder was issued in December. The group was contacted again this week and the report will be available later this week. Upon receipt, I will be in a better position to advise the Deputy on the level of inappropriate overcharging.

Medical Cards.

Michael Ring

Question:

179 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children if his Department issued directives to persons on social welfare benefits with a medical card, if they go over the guidelines on their social welfare payments and if they retain their medical card. [5411/04]

Entitlement to health services here is primarily based on residency and means. Under the Health Act 1970, determination of eligibility for medical cards is the responsibility of the CEO of the appropriate health board. Persons aged 70 years and over are automatically entitled to a medical card. In other cases medical cards are issued to persons who, in the opinion of the CEO, are unable to provide general practitioner medical and surgical services for themselves and their dependants without undue hardship.

Income guidelines are drawn up each year by the CEO of the health board or authority to assist in the determination of a person's eligibility for a medical card. Guidelines are revised annually in line with the consumer price index. They are not statutorily binding and even though a person's income exceeds the guidelines, a medical card may still be awarded if the CEO considers that his or her medical needs or other circumstances would justify this. It is open to all persons to apply to the CEO of the appropriate health board for health services if they are unable to provide them for themselves or their dependants without hardship.

Health board CEOs have discretion to issue medical cards. A range of income sources are excluded by the health boards when assessing medical card eligibility. Many allowances such as carers' allowance, child benefit, domiciliary care allowance, family income supplement and foster care allowance are all disregarded when determining a person's eligibility. Given these factors and the discretionary powers of CEOs, having an income that exceeds the guidelines does not mean that a person will not be eligible for a medical card. A medical card may still be awarded if a CEO considers that a person's medical needs or other circumstances would justify this.

I am conscious that increases in social welfare rates in recent years mean that rates may exceed the income guidelines for a medical card. As a result my Department has written to the chairman of the CEOs' group on a number of occasions. The most recent contact was made on 5 November 2003. He was asked to advise the CEOs of my concern that medical card holders should not be disadvantaged by virtue of increases in social welfare payments announced in the budget. They were asked to ensure that increases in social welfare payments do not lead to medical card holders losing their medical cards by reference to the income guidelines. They were also asked to make every effort to ensure that both medical card holders and applicants are made aware that increases in social welfare payments will not disadvantage them when applying to hold or retain a medical card.

Health Board Services.

Conor Lenihan

Question:

180 Mr. C. Lenihan asked the Minister for Health and Children if he will investigate the circumstances and reasons the Eastern Health Board will not allow a person (details supplied) whose parents believe he needs urgent medical treatment in the UK to travel to England; and if a meeting can be arranged between the parents and the health board as soon as possible. [5420/04]

Where an individual wishes to receive medical treatment in another EU member state at public expense, authorisation must be obtained from the health board or authority within whose functional area they reside. The health board or authority assesses each case on the basis of criteria and includes the submission of the necessary medical evidence by a hospital consultant. In this case the individual resides in the functional area of the ERHA. My Department has asked its CEO to investigate the matters raised and to reply to the Deputy directly.

Pat Breen

Question:

181 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason surgery for a person (details supplied) in County Clare was postponed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5422/04]

The provision of services to residents of County Clare is the responsibility of the Mid-Western Health Board. My Department has asked its CEO to investigate the case and to reply directly to the Deputy.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

182 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for Health and Children the position of an application for domiciliary care allowance for a person (details supplied) in County Louth; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5426/04]

The assessment of entitlement to and payment of the domiciliary care allowance is a matter for the relevant health board. A copy of the Deputy's question was forwarded to the CEO of the North Eastern Health Board. He was requested to examine the issues raised and reply directly to the Deputy, as a matter of urgency.

Special Educational Needs.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

183 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Health and Children his views on the benefits of early intervention in a pre-school play group setting for children with language delay or disability such as those with autism and Down’s syndrome; and if he intends to make available funding or grant aid to groups that provide such services. [5456/04]

In line with the findings of the task force on autism, it is my Department's belief that the earlier a child receives educational and clinical intervention the more likely the communication, language and social imagination impairments will be lessened and prognosis improved. Although many of the children who receive early intervention will not become independent in adulthood, it is hoped that their level of dependency will be significantly reduced. It is also expected that early education may increase the child's likelihood of progressing toward full inclusion during primary school.

It is a matter for the Eastern Regional Health Authority and the relevant health boards to prioritise the allocation of funding to various projects. Regard must be taken of the identified service needs and the financial resources available to the board in any given year.

Departmental Expenditure.

Seán Crowe

Question:

184 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Health and Children the amount spent by his Department on legal advice and lawyers in each of the past three years; and the amount paid in settlement of legal proceedings against his Department, including cases settled prior to coming to court in each of the past three years, omitting expenses for tribunals of inquiry. [5470/04]

The amounts spent by my Department on legal advice, lawyers and settlements of legal proceedings are as follows.

2001

2002

2003

Legal Advice

14,411

123,455

6,162

Settlements

836,497

1,819,302

3,617,252

The settlements for 2003 include a figure of €525,201 in respect of the agreement to settle an equal pay claim on behalf of former clerical assistants.

Departmental Expenditure.

Dan Boyle

Question:

185 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Health and Children the anticipated increases in phone costs to his Department after recent phone rental price rises. [5500/04]

The anticipated increase in phone costs following the recent rental price rise is approximately €2,700 per annum.

Grant Payments.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

186 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children if grant aid towards a specially adapted family car will be offered to a person (details supplied) in County Kildare whose spouse is wheelchair bound; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5567/04]

A motorised transport grant, MTG, of up to 75% of the actual cost of purchasing-adapting a car, which takes into account the trade-in value of a car being replaced, may be provided up to a limit of €4,575. Where a person qualifies for both the MTG and the disabled drivers and disabled passengers — tax concessions — scheme, the MTG grant payable should not exceed the net outlay incurred, taking into account the benefit of the disabled drivers & disabled passengers — tax concessions — scheme.

The means of the applicant and the applicant's spouse-partner, if any, are taken into account. Means are determined on the basis of gross income less statutory deductions and allowances in respect of rent and mortgage repayments, but include income from assets, investments, lettings, etc.

The following are not considered as means: an allowance received from an organisation approved by the Minister for Health and Children or the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment while undergoing a course of rehabilitative or vocational training; blind welfare allowance; carers allowance-benefit; child benefit; domiciliary care allowance; foster care allowance; higher education grants; income up to a maximum amount approved in employment of a therapeutic or rehabilitative nature; living alone allowance; moneys received from charitable organisations other than remuneration; special compensation awards that are exempted by legislation, e.g. HEP C, thalidomide; supplementary welfare allowance; travel and meal allowances paid to participants on Government approved schemes. Any net income in excess of the national average industrial wage which is currently €26,940.16 is deducted from the maximum grant payable of €4,575 on a euro by euro basis.

The assessment of and entitlement to the motorised transport grant including an appeal in an individual case is a matter for the relevant health board. Accordingly, a copy of the Deputy's question has been referred to the regional chief executive officer, Eastern Regional Health Authority with a request that he examine the matter and reply directly to the Deputy as a matter of urgency.

Hospital Services.

John Perry

Question:

187 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Health and Children if a person (details supplied) in County Sligo will be called for their operation in Sligo General in view of the deterioration in their condition; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5570/04]

Responsibility for the provision of health services to persons living in County Sligo rests with the North Western Health Board. My Department has, therefore, asked the chief executive officer of the board to investigate the matter raised by the Deputy and to reply to him directly.

Health Board Services.

John Perry

Question:

188 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Health and Children if the north west hospice will be immediately reimbursed for the unawarded grant and retained surpluses by health boards which was not awarded to it in 2003; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5571/04]

As the Deputy will be aware, the provision of health services in this case is, in the first instance, the responsibility of the North Western 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.

John Perry

Question:

189 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Health and Children if respite care will be continued for a person (details supplied) in a facility in County Leitrim; his views on whether it is unfair to remove them from this environment and friends which they are now familiar with; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5572/04]

Responsibility for the provision of services to persons with intellectual disability in the Leitrim area is a matter, in the first instance, for the North Western Health Board. My Department has, therefore, asked the chief executive officer to investigate the matter raised by the Deputy and reply directly to him.

Cycle Facilities.

Pat Breen

Question:

190 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Transport his views on cycle lanes on the N18 road from Dromoland Road to Ballycasey, Newmarket-on-Fergus, County Clare; the criteria for cycle lanes for roads with no speed limit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5386/04]

It is understood that the road referred to by the Deputy is a section of the old N18 road which is now classified as a local road following the opening to traffic of the Newmarket-on-Fergus bypass. The provision of cycle lanes on local roads is a matter for the local authority concerned.

In recognition of the role that good road design and effective traffic management can play, the Dublin Transportation Office, in conjunction with my Department and the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government has prepared and published traffic management guidelines.

The purpose of this traffic management guidelines manual is to provide guidance on a variety of issues including traffic planning, traffic calming and management, and the provision of suitably designed facilities for vulnerable road users, including cyclists. It also focuses on how these issues must be examined and implemented in the context of overall transportation and land use policies.

This manual is intended to provide assistance to a wide range of people including local authority officials, developers, voluntary organisations and the general public and also Departments and their agencies. In particular, it provides guidance for engineers, planners, architects and policy makers working on behalf of local authorities, developers, Departments and also for the Garda Síochána. A copy of this manual has been issued to all major local authorities.

Specifically in relation to facilities for cyclists, a revised cycling design manual, which will be national in application, will be published by the DTO shortly. Copies of this manual will also be issued to local authorities.

Penalty Points System.

Pat Carey

Question:

191 Mr. Carey asked the Minister for Transport if, in view of the medical circumstances of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 9, the penalty points assigned to them can be deleted, particularly in view of the fact that this was done on two previous occasions prior to the introduction of penalty points; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5440/04]

The endorsement of penalty points results as a direct consequence of a person being convicted of the commission of an offence that attracts penalty points or where a person decides to pay a fixed charge in respect of such offence.

The penalty points system has been designed and structured to ensure that any person who is accused of the commission of a penalty point offence is afforded a significant time period to choose whether or not to allow the matter to proceed to court. The option of the payment of a fixed charge is afforded to the accused person in respect of 61 of the 69 penalty point offences identified in the Road Traffic Act 2002.

I understand from the correspondence presented in association with the question that the person, to whom the Deputy refers, has on this occasion paid the fixed charge, the consequence of which is the resultant endorsement of an appropriate number of points on his licence record. In the circumstances, and as the endorsement of the penalty points was consequential to the making of that payment, there can be no question of the points being deleted from the entry for that person in the licence record.

Driving Tests.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

192 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport when a person (details supplied) in County Kildare will be offered a further driving test; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5441/04]

The person concerned sat a driving test in the Naas driving test centre on Friday 13 February 2004. There is no record of any further application having being received in my Department from the person concerned.

Legal Proceedings.

Seán Crowe

Question:

193 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Transport the amount spent by his Department on legal advice and lawyers in each of past three years; and the amount paid out in settlement of legal proceedings against his Department, including cases settled prior to coming to court in each of the past three years, omitting expenses relating to tribunals of inquiry. [5472/04]

The Department of Transport has paid out €2,111,695 approximately in settlement of legal proceedings over the last three years; €313,829 in 2001 in respect of an earlier legal action via the former Department of the Environment and Local Government in connection with a taxi matter, €239,125 in 2002 in respect of an earlier legal action via the former Department of the Environment and Local Government in connection with a taxi matter, and €1,558,741 in 2003 in connection with a long running legal action in respect of a bus company.

Costs for legal advice and counsel for legal proceedings involving the Department are generally met by the Office of the Chief State Solicitor.

Departmental Expenditure.

Dan Boyle

Question:

194 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Transport the anticipated increases in phone costs to his Department after recent phone rental price rises. [5501/04]

My Department estimates that the annual increase will be about €1,800 excluding VAT, arising directly from the phone rental increase to which the Deputy refers.

Firearms Licences.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

195 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if it is the policy of his Department to refuse to licence rifles above .270 calibre and not to licence hand guns; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the Garda authorities are refusing to issue licences for such guns; if his attention has further been drawn to the Supreme Court decision (details supplied) in this matter; if his attention has further been drawn to the continued seizure of firearms under the 1972 Temporary Custody Order, which Order expired and was not renewed after one month of the making of the Order; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5388/04]

I wish to inform the Deputy that in accordance with the Firearms Acts 1925 to 2000, the power to grant or refuse to grant a firearm certificate in this State is vested in the local superintendent of the Garda Síochána where the person resides. I have no statutory function in the matter. I am aware of the Supreme Court judgment referred to by the Deputy which dealt with this matter.

As I have previously indicated to the House, a review of Government policy in relation to firearms matters is ongoing with a view to developing legislation in this area. I hope to be in a position to bring proposals to Government in this regard shortly. The issue of the firearms that were surrendered on foot of the Firearms (Temporary Custody) Order 1972 will be considered in this context.

Citizenship Applications.

Dan Boyle

Question:

196 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the status of a citizenship application (details supplied). [5390/04]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Parliamentary Question No. 281 of 18 February 2004.

Prison Accommodation.

Denis Naughten

Question:

197 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform further to Parliamentary Question No. 840 of 27 January 2004, the type of facility and location at which inmates currently located in Loughan House will be detained following the change in status of Loughan House; the location at which future inmates who would be suitable to such a facility will be placed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5399/04]

As I have indicated many times in recent months, it is not my preferred course of action to change the status of Loughan House. The Government decision on this matter makes it clear that this step will only take place if there is no resolution to the ongoing negotiations taking place with the Prison Officers' Association. In effect, the future role of Loughan House is linked to this process. However, if a change of status for Loughan House becomes necessary, the most appropriate location for each prisoner will be considered on a case by case basis. The facility itself will continue in operation, albeit under a different management in the event of a change of status, and will continue to accept prisoners under sentence on conditional temporary release arrangements which would have the same effect as current residency.

Prison Staff.

Denis Naughten

Question:

198 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the action he is taking to resolve the ongoing dispute with prison officers; the arrangements he has in place should industrial action take place; the projected cost in overtime and allowances for both gardaí and Army personnel should they be called upon; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5400/04]

In relation to the action being taken to resolve the problem of overtime working in the prisons, I would refer the Deputy to my reply to Parliamentary Question No. 285 which I answered yesterday on this matter. I am happy to say that discussions at the Labour Relations Commission resumed on 16 February 2004 and will reconvene again on 20 February 2004. The Deputy will appreciate that it would be inappropriate for me to comment on the progress of those discussions.

A considerable amount of contingency planning has been undertaken to ensure the continued running of the prison system in the event of industrial action by prison officers. As I have previously stated, the Garda Síochána and Defence Force personnel would have a significant role to play in such an eventuality. The Deputy will appreciate that, for obvious operational and security reasons, I am not in a position to go into the specific details of the arrangements which have been put in place or the potential costs associated with these arrangements.

Crime Levels.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

199 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the recent rise in anti-social behaviour in the Dublin 10 area, in particular the rise in joy-riding and car theft; and the actions being taken to address the concerns of local residents. [5445/04]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the number of unauthorised taking of vehicle offences in the Ballyfermot area has decreased from 259 in 2002 to 239 in 2003. The figure for 2003 is provisional and subject to a validation process.

I understand the Garda authorities have put a number of measures in place to control the unauthorised taking of vehicles . A public order patrol is in operation in the area on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. These patrols operate in areas targeted by the Gardaí as susceptible to car related crime. These patrols are backed up by the divisional crime taskforce and traffic units.

In addition the Deputy may be aware there are three Garda youth diversion projects in operation in the Ballyfermot area. These projects are specifically directed at diverting young people away from crime including car theft and so called joy-riding.

Garda Equipment.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

200 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the fact that only one car is in operation from Ballyfermot Garda station; and the steps which will be taken to ensure that more vehicles will be available to the station to ensure prompt response to the calls of local residents. [5446/04]

I have been informed by the Garda authorities, who are responsible for the detailed allocation of resources, that Ballyfermot Garda station is equipped with a uniformed patrol car and a uniformed patrol van on a 24-hour basis. The community policing unit in Ballyfermot is also in possession of a uniformed patrol car, which patrols the Ballyfermot area from morning time to the early hours of the next day. There are also two unmarked detective patrol cars in use, one until evening time and the other until early the following morning. In addition, the Ballyfermot drugs unit operates two unmarked patrol cars solely for the purpose of patrolling the area for drug abusers and dealers.

The DMR west divisional crime taskforce and divisional traffic unit also patrol the Ballyfermot area on a daily basis. A bicycle unit has recently been set up which operates two shifts over a sixteen hour period. Garda management in Ballyfermot Garda station is satisfied with the current level of patrolling by both marked and unmarked patrol cars.

Child Care Programme.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

201 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when the review of funding for child care capital spending will be finalised. [5447/04]

All applications for capital grant assistance under the equal opportunities child care programme 2000-06 are appraised in accordance with the programme criteria in order to ensure that those projects which best meet the aims and objectives of the programme receive the capital grant assistance which will enable them to provide quality child care in areas where there are service deficits.

During 2003 a mid-term evaluation of each of the regional operational programmes was carried out in partnership between the EU Commission, the managing authorities and the implementing bodies as required under the EU Structural Fund regulations.

An important aim of the mid-term evaluation is to provide a suitable framework for making informed decisions about setting priorities for the second phase of the regional programmes and for making any adjustments, such as changes to the community support framework which might have become necessary. This post-evaluation review, which involves all the parties concerned with funding, managing and implementing the programmes, will look at all aspects of the programme, but in particular, the effectiveness, progress and continued relevance of the priorities and measures, including the child care measures, making up both programmes.

While both post-evalution reviews are ongoing at present, it is expected that some new proposals will be brought to the spring monitoring committee of the regions concerned. In the interim, it would be premature of me to comment on how this process might impact on the equal opportunities child care programme.

In addition, my Department is currently carrying out an extensive review of the programme's capital commitments to date to ensure that those grant commitments previously entered into will in fact be realised by the groups on the ground. At the same time it is also reviewing the different budget lines under the programme to ensure that the most effective use is made of all the remaining funding in accordance with the objectives of the programme. At this stage it is not possible to be definitive as to when the review will be finalised but I can confirm that it will be finalised as soon as it is possible to do so.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

202 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the application from persons (details supplied) for capital funding from ADM made in January 2003; the reason for the delay in coming to a decision on this application; and if his attention has further been drawn to the fact that the ongoing delay will result in higher capital costs. [5448/04]

An application for capital grant assistance from the 2000-06 equal opportunities child care programme was received from this community based group on 4 February 2003.

All applications for grant assistance undergo a thorough assessment and appraisal process by Area Development Management Limited. On completion of the assessment process, applications are considered by the programme appraisal committee, chaired by my Department, which submits a recommendation to me before I make a final decision in each case. There has been considerable demand from community based groups for capital grant assistance under the programme and every county has benefited from significant commitments to provide new and enhanced community based child care facilities.

My Department is currently carrying out an extensive review of the programme's capital commitments to date to ensure that those grant commitments previously entered into will in fact be realised by the groups on the ground. At the same time, it is also reviewing the different budget lines under the capital programme to ensure that the most effective use is made of all remaining capital funding in accordance with the objectives of the programme.

All applications for capital grant assistance are appraised in accordance with the programme criteria in order to ensure that those projects which best meet the aims and objectives of the programme receive the capital grant assistance which will enable them to provide quality child care in areas where there are service deficits. It would be premature of me to comment further on specific applications for capital grant assistance at this time.

Visa Applications.

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

203 Mr. N. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding an application by a person (details supplied) for a holiday visa; and the reason for the delay in having the application finalised. [5449/04]

The visa application in question has not yet been received by the immigration division of my Department. The application will be processed as promptly as possible on receipt of same.

Garda Vetting Procedures.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

204 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if, in view of the Soham case in England and the need to take precautions for employing people to work with juveniles, he will consider ensuring that the gardaí vet school caretakers in advance of their taking up posts. [5450/04]

I would refer the Deputy to my reply to Parliamentary Question No. 278 of 11 February 2004. Developments in respect of the inquiry within the United Kingdom as to how the post of school caretaker was secured in the case in question will be monitored by my Department.

We must, obviously, do what we can to ensure that children are not exposed to risks of this kind and one of the central tasks of the working group on Garda vetting is to advise as to how best we can ensure this. As I have already stated, this report is almost finalised and I will have it examined as a matter of urgency once it comes to hand.

Legal Costs.

Seán Crowe

Question:

205 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the amount spent by his Department on legal advice and lawyers in each of the past three years; and the amount paid in settlement of legal proceedings against his Department, including cases settled prior to coming to court in each of the past three years, omitting expenses relating to tribunals of inquiry. [5461/04]

The precise information sought in the question is not maintained centrally in my Department, except for broad accounting purposes and accordingly, it may be necessary to check a number of individual files to ensure that the response will be as accurate as possible. For this reason, it is not possible, in the relatively short length of time available to me between the putting down of a question and scheduled day for its reply, to compile all of the information sought in the question. However, I will write to the Deputy in the near future conveying to him as much of the information as is reasonably available from existing files, without having my Department engage in exhaustive research which would not be warranted, and which could be carried out only at the expense of other important work.

By way of completeness, I should inform the Deputy that in the normal course of the administration of the affairs of any Department, regular consultation with the Office of the Chief State Solicitor and with the Office of the Attorney General is a matter of routine. This is particularly true of the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform because of the quasi-legal aspects of many of its functions. Such legal advice is not charged for and, accordingly, no information as to its costs is available.

Furthermore, when a legal action is taken in the courts, against the Department, or against another Government agency and this Department is conjoined as a defendant, it is normal practice for the Chief State Solicitor to act as this Department's solicitor for the purposes of the proceedings. This is the normal procedure for all Departments. Not only does the Chief State Solicitor's Office and the Attorney General's Office act as legal agents of this Department for the purposes for the proceedings, they also select the relevant legal representation that is to be made available to the defence and decide the level of legal costs to be incurred. Such costs are not readily available from the records of the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, so I have referred that aspect of the question to the Office of the Chief State Solicitor for direct reply to the Deputy.

Residency Permits.

Dan Boyle

Question:

206 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the current residency status of a person (details supplied). [5489/04]

The person in question entered the State on 10 October 2001 and claimed asylum. The Refugee Applications Commissioner recommended that his claim be refused and he was informed of this recommendation on 7 August 2002. He appealed this recommendation on 20 August 2002. The Refugee Appeals Tribunal affirmed the recommendation and he was informed of this decision on 31 January 2003.

In accordance with section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 he was informed on 12 March 2003 that it was proposed to make a deportation order in respect of him and was given the following options: to make written representations within 15 working days to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform setting out reasons he should be allowed to remain in the State, to voluntarily leave the State or to consent to deportation. An application for leave to remain was received from the person's legal representatives on 3 April 2003. I expect the case file to be submitted to me for consideration shortly.

Dan Boyle

Question:

207 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the current residency status of a person (details supplied). [5490/04]

The person concerned made an asylum application in May 2001, but subsequently withdrew the application and applied for residency on the basis of parentage of an Irish child born in December 2001.

Following the decision of the Supreme Court in the case of Lv. 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 person in question does 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 him. In that context he will be notified of the proposal and given an opportunity to make representations in relation it. If, in the light of those representations and the range of factors set out in section 3(6) of the Immigration Act 1999, the Minister decides not to make a deportation order he will be given leave to remain on a humanitarian basis. Given the large number of such cases on hand I am unable to say at this stage when the file will be examined.

Telecommunications Charges.

Dan Boyle

Question:

208 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the anticipated increases in phone costs to his Department after recent phone rental price rises. [5502/04]

I can inform the Deputy that the information requested is not available in my Department and could be compiled only by the diversion of substantial staff resources from other important work. I can, however, inform the Deputy that the line rental element of my Department's telephone payments would not constitute a significant increase in the context of the overall expenditure on telecommunications by my Department.

Deportation Orders.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

209 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the determining factors in a decision to deport non-national parents of Irish citizens; and the determining factors in a decision to grant leave to remain to non-national parents of Irish citizens. [5506/04]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

210 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if immigration officers take into account the length of residence here, the age of the children, and the school status of the children when deciding whether to deport or grant leave to remain to the non-national parents of Irish citizens. [5507/04]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

211 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if immigration officers take into account the likelihood of persecution or discrimination against either the parents or the children when deciding whether to deport or grant leave to remain to the non-national parents of Irish citizens. [5508/04]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

212 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if immigration officers take into account the Irish child’s or children’s likely access or lack of access to education, healthcare and other social services when deciding whether to deport or grant leave to remain to the non-national parents of Irish citizens. [5509/04]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

214 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the measures which have been put in place to ensure that Irish children who have to leave the State to go to their parent’s or parents’ country of origin due to their parents having been deported can enjoy the same rights as Irish children who remain here. [5511/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 209 to 212, inclusive, and Question No. 214 together.

At the outset it should be emphasised, as was stated in the public notice of 18 July 2003 on this matter, that every application for leave to remain in the State based on the parentage of an Irish born child will be examined and decided individually.

In respect of every person, including a parent of Irish born children, who has no legal entitlement to remain in the State, a letter issues under the terms of section 3(3) of the Immigration Act 1999, as amended, informing him or her of the Minister's intention to deport. The person is allowed fifteen days in which to opt for one of the following: make representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why he or she should not be deported; leave the State before an order is made; or consent to the making of a deportation order.

If a person opts to return voluntarily, assistance will be provided. If a person opts to make representations as to why he or she should not be deported a range of factors must be taken into account in deciding the matter. The specific legislative provisions are as set out in section 3(6) of the Immigration Act 1999, as amended, and section 5 of the Refugee Act 1996 dealing withrefoulement. Further, consideration is given to the specific findings in the Supreme Court L v. O judgement of January 2003 and to subsequent judgements. Included in this consideration are the family and domestic circumstances of the person concerned which would encompass the age and length of residence in the State of the Irish born child.

The judgement in the Lv. O. case is complex but an important finding was that while an Irish child has a right to have the care and company of its parents, there is no absolute right for this to take place in Ireland; further, that the Government may determine to deport a family, notwithstanding the effective removal of the Irish born child, without violating the child’s rights. The absence of such automatic rights of residence are a feature of most immigration regimes.

In relation to exposing Irish citizen children to persecution or discrimination in the countries concerned, it should be noted that the making of a deportation order in respect of the child's parents is subject to section 5 of the Refugee Act 1996, which forbids the sending of a person in any manner whatsoever to a place where the life or freedom of the person would be threatened on account of that person's race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion. Notwithstanding thisrefoulement provision it is, of course, accepted that non-national parents of an Irish born child, and in most circumstances, the child also, will return to countries which may have education, healthcare and other social services at a lesser level than are enjoyed in this country. In this context, it should be noted that the Supreme Court in the L v. O judgement indicated that it cannot be said as a matter of law that the parents of a minor can assert a choice to reside in the State on behalf of a minor, even if that could be said to be in the interests of the minor.

Residency Permits.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

213 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will consider granting leave to remain to all non-nationals who were residing here with their Irish citizen children prior to the Supreme Court decision of 23 January 2003. [5510/04]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

215 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will consider granting leave to work, study or train to parents of Irish children affected by the 2003 Supreme Court judgement pending the determination of their applications. [5512/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 213 and 215 together.

Following the decision of the Supreme Court in the case of L v. 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.

However, for any parent of an Irish born child who had an outstanding application and who does 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 him or her. In that context the person 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, the Minister decides not to make a deportation order the person will be given leave to remain on a humanitarian basis. The nature of the permission given to such persons exempts them from the employment permit requirement.

I have no plans to introduce a specific provision whereby persons who are not permitted to be in the State nonetheless have permission to work, study or train in the State. An entitlement or a permission to be in the State is a clear prerequisite to engaging in any type of activity while in the State.

Question No. 214 answered with QuestionNo. 209.
Question No. 215 answered with QuestionNo. 213.

Prisons Building Programme.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

216 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the purpose of the works he intends to have carried out at Beladd Park housing estate in Portlaoise; and the options his Department is considering for its future use. [5513/04]

The proposed work to be carried out at Beladd Park is primarily of a security nature as these houses are located in a particularly sensitive area close to the Midlands Prison exercise yard. The houses in question are no longer regarded as habitable. No final decision has been made in respect of the future use of the estate generally.

SMI Conference.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

217 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if representatives from his Department or the Irish Prison Service will be attending the conference, Private Finance in Ireland and Northern Ireland, organised by the SMI Group in Dublin on 10 and 11 March 2004; and if so, the names and titles of those representatives, and the purpose of their participation. [5515/04]

Neither my Department nor the Irish Prison Service have any knowledge of the conference mentioned in the question.

Irish Prison Service.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

218 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will explain the apparent contradiction between his Department’s reply to the Irish Penal Reform Trust’s freedom of information request of 17 October 2003 (details supplied) in view of his answer to Parliamentary Question No. 289 of 11 February 2004; and if he will release the records of all communications between his Department and the companies. [5616/04]

There is no contradiction between the freedom of information reply by my Department referred to by the Deputy and my reply to Parliamentary Question No. 289 of 11 February 2004.

The freedom of information request sought access to records regarding communications between my Department and the Irish Prison Service with representatives of companies, including Group 4 and Securicor, regarding the contracting out of aspects of the criminal justice and/or prison system, since 1 January 2000. The parliamentary question sought details of all conferences and meetings that representatives of my Department and the Irish Prison Service attended at which privatisation of prisons and criminal justice agencies have been discussed since 1 January 2000.

No records were identified which fell within the scope of the freedom of information request and I confirmed in my reply to the parliamentary question that no Department or Irish Prison Service officials had attended any conferences about privatisation of the prisons or criminal justice agencies over the period in question. However, I did confirm that a group of officials had visited the two companies, along with the United Kingdom Prison Service in early 2000 for the purpose of gathering information regarding how prisoner transport is organised in the UK. The officials included a higher executive officer, a Garda superintendent and a registrar in the Circuit Court. The visits by the officials were not used to explore the contracting out of services in the Irish criminal justice or prison system. The purpose of the visit was to examine how the Irish Prison Service could learn from other jurisdictions in dealing with the logistical task of transporting prisoners from prisons to courts and hospitals. I understand that the types of issues examined by the officials on these visits included the co-ordination of high volumes of prisoner movements, the types of vehicles used, fleet management, ensuring prisoner care and how court deadlines for the production of prisoners are met. No discussion took place about contracting out terms.

I should add, for the sake of completeness, that it has now been brought to my attention by the Director General of the Irish Prison Service that he has, in recent days, become aware that, in March, 2002, both Group 4 and Securicor made a presentation to officials at Irish Prison Service headquarters about the range of services they provide to the criminal justice system in the UK. This was purely an information gathering exercise. There was no follow up to this presentation and it has not featured in any of the documentation generated about outsourcing prisoner escorts in recent times. A letter clarifying the FOI request response in this matter will be sent to the requester.

Motor Taxation.

Denis Naughten

Question:

219 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the reason a person cannot tax their vehicle for a month rather than the current minimum of three months; if such a facility will be provided under the new computerised system; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5383/04]

The arrangement allowing motor tax to be paid for periods of three months and six months in addition to a period of one year is a long-standing one and there are no proposals to change it. The provision of a monthly tax period would lead to additional transactions and, even in the context of the new motor tax on line service, result in extra administrative and printing-postage costs.

Water and Sewerage Schemes.

Dan Neville

Question:

220 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the position regarding the upgrading of the sewerage scheme at Kilmallock, County Limerick. [5384/04]

The Kilmallock sewerage scheme is included in my Department's Water Services Investment Programme 2003-2005 to commence construction in 2005. The preliminary report for the scheme submitted by Limerick County Council is under examination in my Department and will be dealt with as quickly as possible.

Local Authority Staff.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

221 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if his attention has been drawn to the fact that there is no heritage officer in County Wexford; if there is anything being done to rectify this; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5393/04]

Decisions in relation to staffing are a matter for the local authority in the first instance, having regard to a range of considerations; these could include, in the present instance, the availability of a limited salary subvention from the Heritage Council for heritage officer posts. My Department has no function in this matter unless and until an application is submitted for sanction to create a post or posts. No application has been submitted to my Department by Wexford County Council for sanction to create a post of heritage officer.

Local Authority Housing.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

222 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if his attention has been drawn to the fact that there are still Dublin City Council properties with only outdoor toilet facilities for tenants; and his Department’s plans to ensure that Dublin City Council and other local authorities bring these properties in line with national and international housing standards and regulations. [5437/04]

The installation of indoor toilet facilities by a local authority in its housing stock is the responsibility of the local authority concerned. I understand, however, that a small number of houses rented by Dublin City Council do not have indoor toilet facilities and that the city council is formulating proposals to be submitted to my Department relating to the provision of such facilities.

Housing Grants.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

223 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the circumstances in which the recent time extension regarding the first-time buyers grant apply; the persons who qualify for this extension of time; if there are outstanding circumstances under which a person can apply for the first-time buyers grant now; and if the Government has plans to introduce measures to help those who missed out on the first-time buyers grant when it was abolished. [5438/04]

Regulations setting out the circumstances on which new house grants would be paid after 14 November 2002 came into force on the day of the announcement of the abolition of the new house grant scheme. However, because of the difficulties that have been faced by some housing grant applicants in meeting the deadline of completing and occupying their new houses, I concluded that the fairest approach was to extend the deadline for completion, occupation and receipt of a request for payment of the grant in my Department from 13 November 2003 to Friday 2 April 2004. In returning their request for payment by the new deadline, applicants will have to produce evidence of occupation. It should be emphasised that this extension applies only to those who submitted valid applications received prior to the application deadline of 4 December 2002. Where all other conditions of the scheme are met, these applicants now have until Friday, 2 April 2004 to complete and occupy their house and return a request for payment to the Department. A new house grant will not be paid under any other circumstance.

The fact that payment of the grant was dependent upon occupation of their new homes by a deadline was one of the stipulations outlined to applicants in correspondence and in media advertisements. The deadline for occupation and return of a request for payment to the Department, now the 2 April 2004, was adopted to achieve closure of the scheme, to allow re-prioritisation of this budget provision to other social and affordable housing programmes and to prevent speculative applications on houses that might not be built for years to come. The strict application of these deadlines is necessary to preserve the integrity of the scheme. Consequently, no exemptions will be provided for applicants who do not respect this deadline.

Following the termination of the new house grant scheme, the Government, in budget 2003, has better targeted relief for first-time purchasers by increasing the first-time buyer ceilings up to which relief at the standard rate is available. The ceilings have increased from €3,175 for a single person to €4,000 and from €6,350 to €8,000 for a married couple. Furthermore, the period for which relief is available has been extended from five to seven years.

Local Authority Housing.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

224 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government further to Parliamentary Question No. 419 of 10 February 2004, if it is possible for persons (details supplied) to be allowed to purchase outright the leasehold in their houses in view of the fact that this is the normal procedure; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5439/04]

The Landlord and Tenant (Ground Rents) (No 2) Act 1978 provides,inter alia, that lessees of local authority dwellings leased under the various tenant purchased schemes have the right to acquire the fee simple interest in their dwellings subject to certain terms and conditions specified by the local authority.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

225 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if the public consultation to be carried out by the EPA, with regard to the national allocation plan for emission allowances, will include consultation in relation to the allocation of emission allowances between the trading and non-trading sectors. [5457/04]

I refer to the reply to Question No. 436 of 10 February 2004.

The Government has determined the allocation of emission allowances between the trading and non-trading sectors, for purposes of the emissions trading scheme under Directive 2003/87/EC, having regard to a consultancy report, Determining the share of National Greenhouse Gas Emissions for Emissions Trading in Ireland, by ICF Consulting, London and Byrne O'Cleirigh, Dublin, which was prepared to underpin decision-making in this regard. Public consultation with all relevant stakeholders was part of the preparatory process which preceded the Government decision.

It is now a matter for the EPA to complete the national allocation plan, NAP, including proposed individual allocations to installations eligible to participate in the trading scheme and undertake appropriate consultation prior to its submission to the European Commission by 31 March 2004.

Departmental Expenditure.

Seán Crowe

Question:

226 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the amount spent by his Department on legal advice and lawyers in each of past three years; and the amount paid out in settlement of legal proceedings against his Department, including cases settled prior to coming to court in each of the past three years, omitting expenses relating to tribunals of inquiry. [5467/04]

The information requested is set out in the following table. Certain expenditure in 2001 and 2002 relates to heritage functions exercised by the former Department of Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands. In addition, €306,879 and €1,088,659 was paid in 2002 and 2003 respectively for legal expenses arising from the State's legal action in regard to the Sellafield MOX plant.

Year

Legal Expenses/Services

Settlements Arising From Legal Proceedings

2001

0

279,722

2002

16,142

207,195

2003

81,645

255,526

Dan Boyle

Question:

227 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the anticipated increases in phone costs to his Department after recent phone rental price rises. [5503/04]

I anticipate that the recent price rise for the rental of PSTN phone lines will result in additional line rental costs of approximately €1,100, ex VAT, per month in my Department. This estimate is based on the number of PSTN lines currently rented by my Department.

Departmental Funding.

Richard Bruton

Question:

228 Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the reason for the proposed changes in the disbursement of funds from the dormant accounts; if a rating of projects will take place in a transparent and independent way; and if Ministers have no role in the selection of successful projects. [5419/04]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

229 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if funding from the proceeds of dormant accounts can or will be made available to community or school support schools such as the Tiermohan national school community support group; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5568/04]

Brian O'Shea

Question:

230 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the reason the final decision on applications to the dormant accounts fund is to be transferred from the dormant accounts disbursement board to the Government; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5396/04]

Brian O'Shea

Question:

231 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if the Government or the dormant accounts disbursement board have the final decision on the disbursement of the first €30 million from the dormant accounts fund; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5397/04]

Brian O'Shea

Question:

233 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he has received an estimate in regard to the amounts that will be lodged to the dormant accounts fund in April 2004 from dormant accounts and unclaimed insurance policies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5442/04]

Brian O'Shea

Question:

234 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the amount of money which has been paid back to claimants of dormant accounts since the money was paid over by the Department of Finance; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5443/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 228 to 231, inclusive, and 233 and 234 together.

Decisions on disbursement of funds from dormant accounts moneys are currently a matter for the dormant accounts disbursement board. This is an independent body established under the Dormant Accounts Acts. To date, a sum of €26 million has been reclaimed under the terms of the fund. A second transfer of funds from credit institutions, together with the first transfer of moneys from life assurance policies, will take place at the end of April 2004. At this stage, however, I do not have an accurate estimate as to the likely yield from these sources in 2004 and this information will only become clearer at the end of April.

The board is deciding on the disbursement of funds up to €30 million. To date, it has approved 18 projects for funding totalling approximately €1.7 million. Approximately 290 applications have been received to date and they are being assessed on an ongoing basis by ADM on behalf of the board. The Government has not and will not be involved in decisions on such applications.

In December 2003, the Government reviewed arrangements in relation to dormant accounts. This was informed by three practical considerations, namely, the organisational arrangements for the board, which involve a handful of seconded civil servants in a secretariat role, are not designed to support disbursements on the scale now emerging; governance arrangements including the legal requirement that a part time chairman should be accountable for hundreds of millions of euro, are inadequate; and to ensure value for money, spend from the fund must be co-ordinated with priorities identified by Government and debated in this House.

The Government decided that the objectives of the disbursements scheme would remain unchanged, that is, funding to assist programmes or projects targeting three broad categories of persons — those affected by economic and social disadvantage; those affected by educational disadvantage, and persons with a disability. The Government also decided that it would make decisions on disbursements and that such decisions would be taken following a transparent application and evaluation process. Also, appropriate arrangements would be put in place so that spending from the dormant accounts fund is clearly separate to Estimates provision.

It should also be noted that key roles in relation to advising, monitoring and planning in the area of dormant accounts have been given to the disbursement board, with particular regard to the following: advising on priority areas to be considered annually for funding; preparation of the disbursement plan; and reviewing, evaluating, and reporting on the effectiveness, additionality and impact of disbursements. Draft legislation is to be brought forward this year with a view to giving effect to these decisions.

In relation to Tiermohan national school community support group, I understand that no application from that organisation has been received to date. If this group wishes to apply, it should do so through ADM and its application will be assessed against the criteria as set out in the published guidelines.

Community Employment Schemes.

Denis Naughten

Question:

232 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs when he intends to introduce the new scheme announced in the budget to replace the community employment scheme; the criteria for eligibility; the organisation which will operate the scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5398/04]

I am at present preparing detailed proposals on the rural social scheme to bring before the Government. To be eligible to participate a person must be on farm assist or possess a herd number and be in receipt of unemployment assistance, unemployment benefit, if previously on community employment, or disability allowance. Detailed guidelines for the scheme, including criteria for participation, the way it will operate, how it will be delivered at a local level, and a likely commencement date, are currently being addressed by my Department.

Questions Nos. 233 and 234 answered with Question No. 228.

Departmental Expenditure.

Dan Boyle

Question:

235 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the anticipated increases in phone costs to his Department after recent phone rental price rises. [5504/04]

Following the recent increase in rental charges the anticipated increase in costs to my Department is €33.46 + VAT, at 21% per month.

Tax and Social Welfare Codes.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

236 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the documentation required from a person from the Six Counties, taking up employment in the 26 counties, in order to receive a PPS number from her Department. [5458/04]

Application for a personal public service number, PPS number, can be made at one of this Department's local or branch offices. When applying for a PPS number applicants are asked to complete an application form and supply documentation to establish their identity and are usually informed of their PPS number by post within five days. This notification facility applies both to Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland addresses. Applicants from Northern Ireland are requested to supply a birth certificate and an item of photographic ID, such as a full driving licence. Alternatively, they can furnish a current valid passport. Applicants are also requested to supply supporting documentation from, for example, a past employment or a previous social security claim. In addition, documentation showing current address must be presented such as a household bill, an official letter-document, a financial statement, a property lease or tenancy agreement or a verified employer letter.

Where difficulties arise in individual cases, advice is available from identity services in my Department to enable applications to be expedited. Client identity services has overall responsibility for strategy and management in relation to the PPS number and client identity data.

Departmental Expenditure.

Seán Crowe

Question:

237 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the amount spent by her Department on legal advice and lawyers in each of past three years; the amount paid out in settlement of legal proceedings against her Department, including cases settled prior to coming to court in each of the past three years, omitting expenses relating to tribunals of inquiry. [5471/04]

Legal advice and support services for my Department, in respect of court cases and legal challenges in which my Department is a named party, are supplied by the Office of the Attorney General and the Office of the Chief State Solicitor, as appropriate. From 2001 until August 2003, my Department employed a legal advisor, the gross salary for this post for the years 2001 to 2003 inclusive were:

Year

Gross Salary

2001

€34,931.28

2002

€52,474.85

2003

€32,003.86

In August 2003, the post was vacated when the serving officer elected to take a career break. The post has not yet been filled and my Department has incurred no other expenditure in seeking legal advice.

The costs of legal proceedings to my Department for the period in question are as follows:

Year

Settlement

Costs

Total

2001

Nil

Nil

2002

3,809.21

46,792.98

50,602.19

2003

48,637.73

3,084.00

51,721.73

Dan Boyle

Question:

238 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the anticipated increases in phone costs to her Department after recent phone rental price rises. [5505/04]

It is estimated that the increase in phone charges for my Department arising from the price increase announced in January 2004 will amount to approximately €56,000.

Rented Accommodation.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

239 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the reason persons (details supplied) in County Kildare have been informed that they cannot avail of rent allowance and have instead been offered hostel accommodation with their two children 50 miles away from their local community; if he will reserve recent punitive legislation which impacts severely on these persons; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5536/04]

The supplementary welfare allowance scheme, which is administered on behalf of my Department by the health boards, provides for the payment of a weekly or monthly supplement in respect of rent to eligible people in the State whose means are insufficient to meet their accommodation needs.

As the Deputy is aware, I have recently introduced a number of changes to the rent supplement scheme. The principle change is that, with certain important exceptions, new applicants are required, at the time of application, to have been in rented accommodation for at least six months within the preceding 12 month period in order to receive a rent supplement.

Specific provision has been made to ensure that the interests of vulnerable groups such as the homeless, the elderly and people with disabilities are fully protected in the course of implementing the new measures. In addition anyone who is assessed by a housing authority as having a housing need and who meets the existing qualifying criteria will continue to be entitled to rent supplement.

In relation to the case identified by the Deputy, the South Western Area Health Board was contacted and has advised that at the time of application the family concerned did not satisfy the six month rule. In addition, their accommodation needs had not been assessed by the local housing authority and therefore they did not have an entitlement to rent supplement. The family was advised to contact the local housing authority with a view to having their housing needs assessed. As an interim measure they were offered temporary emergency accommodation. The health board has further advised that the local housing authority subsequently assessed the family as having a housing need and as a result their application was reviewed and a rent supplement has now been awarded.