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 9, inclusive, answered orally.
Questions Nos. 10 to 99, inclusive, resubmitted.
Questions Nos. 100 to 106, inclusive, answered orally.

Departmental Programmes.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

107 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the progress made to date in regard to the implementation of the RAPID programme; the number of areas in respect of which plans have been submitted to his Department; the total projected budgets for these plans; when work on the implementation of the plans is likely to get underway; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7696/04]

My Department, supported by ADM Limited, co-ordinates the implementation of the RAPID programme. It is a matter for each of the other Departments to report progress on its implementation and details of funding for the proposals that fall within their remit.

Plans have been prepared for each of the 45 RAPID areas and proposals have been forwarded by ADM Limited to relevant Departments for consideration. Proposals from 32 areas were relevant to my Department and their estimated is in the region of €65 million.

Proposals from RAPID plans relevant to my Department fall to be considered under the community development programme, funding for local drugs task forces and the young people's facilities and services fund. Details of allocations to specific proposals from RAPID plans that were relevant to my Department are as follows: €1 million was allocated under the premises initiative to a local drugs task force project in Tallaght; and six new community development projects in RAPID areas received a renewable one year contract for funding of €60,000 last year and projects in Bluebell, Dolphin House, Inchicore, Merchants Quay or Ushers Quay, Longford town and Tipperary were supported.

Funding was awarded under my Department's once-off grants scheme to 14 specific projects from RAPID plans. They were as follows: €13,500 to eight projects from the Clonmel RAPID plan; €22,000 to a project from the Ennis RAPID plan; €11,800 to four projects from the Kilkenny RAPID plan; and €2,000 to a project from the Youghal RAPID plans.

A large number of proposals from the plans fall to be considered under the YPFSF. My colleague, the Minister of State, Deputy Noel Ahern, hopes to announce the allocations in the near future. Since the establishment of the RAPID programme my Department has provided approximately €3.5 million by way of support to the local areas in the preparation and implementation of their plans and administration costs associated with the support team in ADM.

Dormant Accounts Fund.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

108 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he will provide a greater proportion of funding from dormant accounts to areas outside the RAPID and CLÁR areas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7732/04]

Seymour Crawford

Question:

109 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs when the proposed legislation dealing with the changes to the dormant funds board will be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7627/04]

Phil Hogan

Question:

112 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the reason section 36 of the Dormant Accounts Act 2001 cannot be changed to provide additional staff to the Dormant Accounts Fund Disbursements Board; his views on whether the disbursement report issued by the board was compromised by the lack of administrative staff; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7652/04]

Seán Ryan

Question:

120 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the position regarding the implementation of the Unclaimed Life Assurance Policies Act 2003; the estimated amount of money likely to be transferred to funds from unclaimed life assurance policies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7703/04]

Róisín Shortall

Question:

125 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if €10 million has been paid by the disbursement board to the rural social programme; if its consent has been given to the payment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7707/04]

Brian O'Shea

Question:

128 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the reasons behind the proposed change in rules for the allocation of money from the dormant accounts fund; the reason the Government has decided that it alone will have the final decision on allocations rather than the independent disbursement board; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7685/04]

Olwyn Enright

Question:

145 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs when the proposed legislation dealing with the changes to the board will be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7654/04]

Dan Boyle

Question:

170 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the role he will play in allocating moneys from the dormant accounts fund. [7718/04]

Phil Hogan

Question:

177 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if, in the light of the severe cutbacks to community development projects contained in the Revised Estimates for 2004, such as local development and social inclusion by 6% and the young people’s facilities and services fund by 27%, if he accepts that dormant account funds will be used to top-up these initiatives, thereby undermining the promise that the latter funds would be used as additional and not substitute funding; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7681/04]

Paul Kehoe

Question:

189 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he can guarantee the independent disbursement of moneys from dormant accounts board once its decision-making responsibilities are transferred to the Government; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7653/04]

I propose to take Question Nos. 108, 109, 112, 120, 125, 128, 145, 170, 177 and 189 together.

At present decisions on disbursement of funds from dormant accounts are a matter for the Dormant Accounts Fund Disbursement Board. It is an independent body established under the Dormant Accounts Acts.

The board is currently deciding on the disbursement of funds of up to €30 million. To date it has approved 18 projects for funding totalling approximately €1.7 million. Approximately 500 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 about these applications.

In December 2003 the Government reviewed arrangements for dormant accounts. Three practical considerations for doing so are as follows: the board's organisational arrangements involve a handful of seconded civil servants in a secretariat role and 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 millions of euro, are inadequate; to ensure value for money the fund must be co-ordinated with priorities identified by Government and debated in this House.

The Government does not consider that increasing the number of the board's administrative staff would adequately address the governance and policy issues arising. It believes that the objectives of the disbursements scheme, as set out in the board's first disbursement plan, should remain unchanged. In other words, funding to assist programmes or projects targeting the following three broad categories of persons: those affected by economic and social disadvantage; those affected by educational disadvantage; and persons with a disability.

The plan was published in November 2003 and appropriate administrative supports were provided for its preparation by the board.

The Government's decision of 18 December 2003 provides that decisions on disbursement of funds would be taken following a transparent application and evaluation process. Appropriate arrangements would be put in place so that spending from the fund would be clearly separate to the Estimates provision.

The Government proposes key roles on advising, monitoring and planning in the area of dormant accounts for the 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.

This year draft legislation will be introduced with a view to giving effect to these decisions. I expect the legislation will be published over the coming months.

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 I cannot estimate the likely yield from these sources in 2004 but the sum will become clearer at the end of April.

Last December the Minister wrote to the board's chairman about an additional €10 million for the rural social scheme and the board responded in writing. The process was undertaken in accordance with the terms of the Dormant Accounts Act 2001, as amended. Arrangements for the scheme are currently being finalised.

Under the disbursement plan a significant level of allocations from the fund are being targeted at programmes or projects within RAPID, CLÁR and drugs task force areas. No proposals are currently envisaged to change the arrangement.

I shall now answer the question about funding for initiatives such as the local development programme and the YPFSF. In 2004, under subhead L in my Department's Vote a sum of €42.144 million was provided for local development and social inclusion measures. Last year's funding under the same subhead was €44.662 million. A budget of €1.5 million to support the implementation of the RAPID programme was included in the figure. This year the funding is €5.8 million, including capital, and is reflected in a new separate subhead in the Department's Vote, subhead O2. Therefore, a comparison of both subheads is not appropriate.

Funding for drugs initiatives in 2004 will not be reduced. The difference in provision — as outlined in the 2004 Revised Estimates — arises from the mainstreaming of successfully evaluated services projects from round I of the YPFSF. As many as 85 projects were positively evaluated and have been mainstreamed with effect from 1 January 2004. As a result €6.705 million was transferred to other Votes. The Department of Education and Science received €6.594 million and the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform received €0.111 million. They are now responsible for the continued funding of the projects in question. I intend to announce round II allocations under the fund in the very near future.

Departmental Programmes.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

110 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he has brought proposals to the Cabinet on the future of the RAPID programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7695/04]

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

143 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he plans to proceed with a radical overhaul of Government programmes designed to tackle disadvantage such as RAPID and CLÁR to ensure more effective delivery; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7693/04]

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

164 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the reasons the RAPID programme has not been successful, in regard to his recently reported comments in a newspaper (details supplied); its future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7694/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 110, 143 and 164 together.

I have stated previously that I am unhappy with certain aspects of the RAPID programme. I have examined the manner it operates and in the future it will operate on a number of levels in tandem.

There are many small scale proposals from RAPID plans that have been sent unnecessarily to Departments for consideration. They could be dealt with more effectively at local level. I propose to introduce a new delivery mechanism to progress such actions. It will be supported by funding under a new dedicated fund of €4.5 million in 2004. These projects will be co-funded by the relevant local agency under a number of categories with broad levels of funding agreed at national level.

I have met my ministerial colleagues to discuss the details of the measures to be funded. I have kept my Cabinet colleagues up to date on the matter. I intend to make a formal announcement shortly regarding the precise details of the operation of the fund.

It is proposed that Departments will continue to consider larger projects from RAPID plans for allocations from funding streams within each Department. I expect that Departments will deal with a smaller number of projects and will prioritise projects and set out timescales for further actions.

Work on improving integration and co-ordination of service delivery at local level will continue. It is an important component of the programme. I am now the chairman of the programme's national monitoring committee.

CLÁR co-funds, with other Departments, State agencies and local authorities, investment in selected priority developments in disadvantaged rural areas. These measures support physical, economic and social infrastructure across a variety of measures such as electricity conversion, roads, water and sewerage, village enhancement, health, broadband and sports projects. They reflect the priorities identified by the communities in the selected areas with whom I consulted.

The measures were agreed with and are, for the most part, operated in tandem with the lead Departments, State agencies or public utilities, as appropriate. This ensures efficiency and effectiveness and meets the needs of the people in the CLÁR areas. I shall continue the practice for new measures, depending on needs identified. I shall also keep the operation of existing measures under review.

The merits of the practice are reflected in the successful delivery of the programme. Expenditure amounted to €14.14 million in 2002 and €8.613 million in 2003. It is estimated that these amounts levered out a further €21 million in related public and private expenditure to areas that would have been bottom of the list for infrastructure investment. The provision for 2004 is €13.49 million. It will enable the continuation of investment under existing measures. The sum will also provide scope for the introduction of new measures as may be identified during the year.

With the ongoing co-operation of other Departments, State agencies and public utilities, CLÁR will continue to deliver on the commitment of supporting rural communities.

The Deputy will be aware of an ongoing ministerial review of programmes aimed at tackling disadvantage. I outlined the position in my reply to Question No. 151 on 4 February. Since that date Area Development Management Limited, local and community development bodies and county and city development boards have been informed of the Government's decisions.

Grant Payments.

David Stanton

Question:

111 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the closing date for applications for equipment and refurbishment or premises grants in 2004; when he expects to announce funding under the scheme for 2004; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7633/04]

My Department provides once-off grants by way of a scheme of grants to locally-based voluntary and community groups that focus on tackling poverty and disadvantage and enhancing community development.

Arrangements for the 2004 scheme are currently being finalised by my officials and I expect to announce details in the coming weeks. The scheme will be advertised in the national and provincial newspapers.

Question No. 112 answered with QuestionNo. 108.

Ministerial Expenses.

Pat Breen

Question:

113 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the reason his travel and living expenses are expected to rise by almost 50% in 2004, according to the Revised Estimates for 2004; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7682/04]

I assume that the Deputy is referring to the 2004 provision of €0.9 million under subhead A2 for the travel and subsistence expenses of my Department. The allocation represents an increase of 33% on the expenditure under the heading in 2003. However, it is a reduction on the amount initially provided for 2003.

I am satisfied that the provision of €0.9 million represents a more accurate assessment of my Department's requirements. The relatively low level of expenditure in 2003 reflected the period of settling down of the newly established Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs. Higher costs will arise this year from the greater level of interaction with the EU, especially in the context of the Irish Presidency and significant policy deliberations on territorial cohesion and rural development.

Irish Language.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

114 D’fhiafraigh Mr. McGinley den Aire Gnóthaí Pobail, Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta ó ritheadh an rún d’aon guth sa Dáil faoi Stádas na Gaeilge san Aontas Eorpach, an bhfuil sé beartaithe ag an Aire anois téarmaí tagartha nua a thabhairt don choiste atá bunaithe ag an Rialtas chun an stádas sin a bhaint amach.[7670/04]

Trevor Sargent

Question:

178 D’fhiafraigh Mr. Sargent den Aire Gnóthaí Pobail, Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta cad a bhí i gceist aige nuair a dúirt sé ar RTÉ 1 an 29 Feabhra nach ceart don Rialtas leas na hÉireann a bhaint amach ó thaobh stádais don Ghaeilge mar theanga oifigiúil san AE le linn na hUachtaránachta agus nach n-aontaíonn sé nach bhfuil i gceist le stádas ach cothrom na Féinne d’Éireannaigh.[7639/04]

Mary Upton

Question:

183 D’fhiafraigh Dr. Upton den Aire Gnóthaí Pobail, Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta cén dul chun cinn atá déanta i leith stádas na Gaeilge mar theanga oifigiúil oibre den Aontas Eorpach; agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina leith.[7713/04]

Tógfaidh mé Ceisteanna Uimh. 114, 178 agus 183 le chéile.

Dírím aird na dTeachtaí ar an bhfreagra a thug mé ar Cheisteanna Dála Uimh. 139, 166, 188 and 133 ar 4 Feabhra maidir le stádas na Gaeilge san Aontas Eorpach.

Mar a cuireadh in iúl san fhreagra sin, agus mar a dúirt mé arís le linn na díospóireachta agus an agallaimh atá luaite, tá grúpa oibre bunaithe ag an Rialtas chun anailís a dhéanamh ar an méid gur féidir a bhaint amach agus na féidearthachtaí atá ann chun dul chun cinn a dhéanamh. Táim lán-sásta go bhfuil na téarmaí tagartha dóthain solúbtha chun freastal ar riachtanais an cháis agus nach bhfuil gá iad a athrú. Ba mhaith liom a chur in iúl do na Teachtaí go raibh dhá chruinniú ard-leibhéil ag an ngrúpa oibre seo go dtí seo. Níl ar mo chumas a thuilleadh a rá faoin ábhar seo go dtí go mbeidh tuairisc réitithe ag an ngrúpa agus scrúdú iomlán déanta uirthi.

Bhí cruinniú freisin Dé hAoine seo caite idir ionadaithe ón Roinn agus ionadaithe ó Chomhdháil Náisiúnta na Gaeilge leis an gceist a phlé.

Departmental Programmes.

Willie Penrose

Question:

115 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the progress made to date in regard to the implementation of the CLÁR programme; the number of areas for which plans have been submitted to his Department; their total projected budgets; when work on their implementation is likely to get under way; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7697/04]

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

192 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he intends to further extend the area covered by the CLÁR programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7733/04]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

436 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs about the CLÁR programme, particularly its potential to assist communities for whom it was intended; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7884/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 115, 192 and 436 together.

I introduced the CLÁR programme in October 2001 to address depopulation and the decline and lack of services in rural areas. An Agreed Programme for Government contained a commitment to annually fund the programme and consideration of additional areas for inclusion in light of the 2002 population census data. The Government agreed on additional areas and I announced them on 17 January 2003. Areas in 18 counties are now included in the programme. There is no plan for a further review or more changes to the boundary of CLÁR areas.

CLÁR co-funds, with other Departments, State agencies and local authorities, investment in selected priority developments. They support physical, economic and social infrastructure across a variety of measures such as electricity conversion, roads, water and sewerage, village enhancement, health, broadband and sports projects. They reflect the priorities identified by the communities in the selected areas with whom I consulted.

The measures were agreed with and are, for the most part, operated in tandem with the lead Departments, State agencies or public utilities, as appropriate. This ensures efficiency of delivery and meets the needs of the people living in CLÁR areas. I shall continue the practice for new measures but it will depend on needs identified. I shall also keep the operation of existing measures under review.

The merits of the practice are reflected in the successful delivery of the programme. Expenditure amounted to €14.14 million in 2002 and to €8.613 million in 2003. It is estimated that these amounts levered out a further €17 million in related public and private expenditure into areas that would not be prioritised for infrastructure investment. The provision for 2004 is €13.49 million. This sum will enable the continuation of investment under existing measures. It will also provide scope for the introduction of further measures as may be identified during the year.

With the ongoing co-operation of other Departments, State agencies and public utilities, CLÁR will continue to deliver on the commitment of supporting rural communities.

Island Access.

John Gormley

Question:

116 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the further islands that are anticipated to seek and have developed cable car access; and if he has satisfied himself with the existing provision. [7726/04]

Legal issues delayed the progress of the Inishbiggle cable car project. The matter has been resolved. My officials shall write to Mayo County Council requesting it to proceed immediately with the preparation of contract documents.

My Department has made a substantial investment in island ferry services and the development of island access piers under the National Development Plan 2000-2006. A cable car for Inishbiggle has also been provided. Therefore, it is not anticipated that there will be further demands at this time, particularly as cable cars only suit islands adjacent to the mainland.

Community Development.

Jack Wall

Question:

117 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the reason no further expansion of the community development support programme will take place after the completion of the current programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7711/04]

The Deputy will be aware of the commitment under Partnership 2000 to identify 30 priority areas for inclusion in the community development programme, thereby continuing the development of a nationwide network of community development projects. Fifteen such priority areas were funded in 2003 and it is anticipated that the remaining 15 areas not yet in receipt of core funding will be included in the community development programme before the end of 2004.

Arising from the review process initiated by my Department to improve service delivery at local level, the Government has established a requirement for Departments and public bodies to look at existing local or community development bodies and-or local authorities for delivery of any further initiatives in this area. In that context, the Government has decided that there will be no further expansion of the community development programme after the completion of the current programme.

Rural Transport Initiative.

Michael Noonan

Question:

118 Mr. Noonan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the progress to date in his Department in ensuring that every county has a comprehensive rural transport initiative in place as promised in his Department’s statement of strategy. [7677/04]

Damien English

Question:

127 Mr. English asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the progress to date in his Department in ensuring that in rural areas localised bus services are developed as promised in his Department’s statement of strategy. [7678/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 118 and 127 together.

Rural transport is referred to in appendix 3 of my Department's strategy statement in the context of my Department having a material interest in the issue. However, primary responsibility for transport is a matter for my colleague, the Minister for Transport, to whose attention I am drawing these questions.

Irish Language.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

119 D’fhiafraigh Mr. M. Higgins den Aire Gnóthaí Pobail, Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta an bhfuil aon obair idir lámha ina Roinn chun úsáid na Gaeilge sa Ghalltacht a láidriú; agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina leith.[7715/04]

Mar is eol don Teachta, tá sé mar aidhm ag mo Roinnse an Ghaeilge a chothú agus a chur chun cinn mórthimpeall na tíre. Mar a d'fhógair mé le déanaí, táim chun Coiste Comhairleach na Gaeilge a bhunú go luath agus tá súil agam baill an Choiste a ainmniú roimh an Cháisc. Ag éirí as seo, tá súil agam go mbeadh cur chuige comhtháite i measc na bpríomheagraíochtaí pobail agus Stáit atá ag plé le cur chun cinn na Gaeilge. Tá tuilleadh eolas faoin Coiste Comhairleach curtha ar fáil agam i gCeist Tosaíochta Uimh 101 inniu faoin ábhar sin.

Tá Acht na dTeangacha Oifigiúla ina dhlí ó mhí Iúil 2003. Is é an tAcht seo an chéad reachtaíocht ina leagtar síos próiseas reachtúil chun a chinntiú go gcuirfidh comhlachtaí poiblí níos mó seirbhísí ar fáil i nGaeilge agus ar chaighdeán níos airde. Tá freagracht ghinearálta orm mar Aire Gnóthaí Pobail, Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta faoin Acht chun a chinntiú go gcuirfear na seirbhísí sin ar fáil.

Níl aon amhras orm ach go gcabhróidh cur i bhfeidhm an Achta ach go háirithe le húsáid na Gaeilge lasmuigh den Ghaeltacht a láidriú.

Ar ndóigh, creidim gurb í an Ghaeilge ceann de na hacmhainní nádúrtha is luachmhaire atá againn agus gur chun ár leasa uilig é í a chaomhnú agus a fhorbairt. Tá mé cinnte, leis an gcur chuige ceart, agus le gach uile duine ag obair le chéile, gur féidir linn difríocht an-mhór a dhéanamh ar mhaithe leis an teanga. Caithfear an Ghaeilge a chothú agus a chur chun cinn agus tá mo Roinnse agus Foras na Gaeilge, ar a bhfuil freagracht ar leith maidir le cur chun cinn na Gaeilge ar bhonn uile-oiléanda, dírithe i gcónaí chun na críche sin. Mar is eol don Teachta, cuireann mo Roinnse tacaíocht ar fáil d'Fhoras na Gaeilge i dtaca lena thasc chun úsáid na Gaeilge a mhéadú i ngnáthshaol na hÉireann mar oileán iomlán trí deontas substaintiúil a sholáthair dóibh. I 2004, tá soláthair €14.021m i Vóta mo Roinne d'Fhoras na Gaeilge.

Question No. 120 answered with QuestionNo. 108.

National Drugs Strategy.

Richard Bruton

Question:

121 Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the progress made to date by the regional drugs task forces in mapping out the drug problems in their areas; when he expects the publication of their strategy plans; when their plans are expected to begin implementation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7645/04]

The national drugs strategy 2001 to 2008 provides for the establishment of the ten regional drugs task forces, RDTFs, throughout the country. The RDTFs are mapping out the patterns of drug misuse in their areas, as well as the range and level of existing services, with a view to better co-ordination and addressing gaps in the overall provision. In this context, the Deputy should note that an amount of €500,000 has been provided by my Department, in the current year, for administrative and technical assistance costs incurred by the RDTFs in the preparation of their plans.

The work under way by the RDTFs is likely to take up most of the current year and will then feed into the drafting of regional action plans, which will be assessed by the national drugs strategy team in due course. I am hopeful that all this work can be completed by early 2005 and that I will then be in a position to bring recommendations regarding the funding of the plans to the Cabinet committee on social inclusion. I expect the RDTFs to be in a position to begin the implementation of their plans by mid-2005.

Rural Social Scheme.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

122 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs when he anticipates that applications will be sought for the rural social programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7706/04]

Michael Noonan

Question:

133 Mr. Noonan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the progress that has been made in establishing the new rural social economy programme; when it is likely to begin to take applicants; the person who will operate the programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7665/04]

Eamon Ryan

Question:

171 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the progress that has been made in relation to the rural social scheme. [7727/04]

Tom Hayes

Question:

196 Mr. Hayes asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the position regarding his efforts to establish the new rural scheme as announced on budget day; if he has established an organisation that will administer the scheme; when it will be put into operation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7630/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 122, 133, 171 and 196 together.

In my reply to Questions Nos. 130 and 131 of 4 February 4 2004, I outlined the background and qualifying criteria envisaged for the rural social scheme. I am preparing detailed proposals for Government consideration in consultation with other public bodies. In considering the organisations which could effectively deliver the scheme at a local level, the following are significant considerations: experience and knowledge of rural development programme delivery; capability to manage and support the scheme at local level; and appropriate countrywide or regional coverage.

Having regard to such matters, it strikes me that Leader groups, and in Gaeltacht areas an alignment of such groups with Údaras na Gaeltachta, may be well positioned to support the delivery of the programme locally. I anticipate that the necessary arrangements in relation to the scheme can be advanced over the next six to eight weeks and that the scheme itself can commence shortly thereafter.

Community Development.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

123 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs when the review of community development structures will be completed; when it will be published; the key changes likely to result; if the organisations involved have been informed of the changes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7656/04]

I refer the Deputy to earlier questions on this matter, in particular my reply to Questions Nos. 151, 153, 156, 163, 172, 173 and 185 of 4 February 2004. Area Development Management Limited, local and community development bodies and county and city development boards have been informed of the Government's decisions arising from the review.

Planning Issues.

Simon Coveney

Question:

124 Mr. Coveney asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he will outline the input and recommendations made by his Department into the guidelines being drawn up by the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government for rural housing development; when we can expect to see these guidelines; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7666/04]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

151 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the progress he has achieved on the issue of resolving the difficulties faced by indigenous rural families attempting to obtain planning permission in their own area, having particular regard to his previous statements on the issue and his rural responsibilities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7632/04]

Seymour Crawford

Question:

179 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the input and recommendations made by his Department into the guidelines being drawn up by the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government for rural housing development; when we can expect to see these guidelines; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7626/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 124, 151, and 179 together.

As Deputies will be aware, on 4 March last, my colleague, the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Deputy Cullen, published the consultation draft of guidelines for planning authorities on sustainable rural housing. These guidelines are vitally important in order that there is clarity and consistency in the implementation by planning authorities of Government policy on rural housing. They also reflect the view I have expressed in recent years. The Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government is to be complimented on the reasoned approach he has adopted on this issue, which also builds on Government policy as reflected in the national spatial strategy.

Question No. 125 answered with QuestionNo. 108.

Community Development.

Pádraic McCormack

Question:

126 Mr. McCormack asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs his views on whether, in the light of a cutback of 17% to Gaeltacht improvement schemes in the Revised Estimates for 2004, that as he stated on the publication of the Estimates for 2004, the money allocated would enable the Department to continue the remarkable work being done on infrastructure in the Gaeltacht areas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7673/04]

A two-year programme of works for 2003-04 under the Gaeltacht capital works programme of my Department was agreed with the relevant local authorities in 2003. While a sum of €10.294 million had been provided in the 2003 Revised Estimates towards this programme, the actual expenditure in 2003 was €11.95 million, which represented a 16% increase on the allocation provided. A total of €9.975 million has been provided in the 2004 Revised Estimates, a reduction of 3.6% on the previous year's Estimate. I am satisfied that this allocation is sufficient, having regard to the fact that the local authorities managed to complete more work during 2003 than anticipated and that the agreed two-year programme is now ahead of schedule.

Question No. 127 answered with QuestionNo. 118.
Question No. 128 answered with QuestionNo. 108.

Rural Development.

Liam Twomey

Question:

129 Dr. Twomey asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the number of the 2,500 rural community employment positions announced in the recent budget which will be available to County Wexford; and if his Department has decided on projects for funding of rural development as proposed under the Fischler reforms. [7581/04]

John Perry

Question:

137 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he expects that his Department will receive a portion of CAP funds for rural development initiatives; the percentage share he expects this to be; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7629/04]

Bernard Allen

Question:

173 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he expects that his Department will receive a portion of CAP funds for rural development initiatives; the percentage share he expects this to be; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7664/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 129, 137 and 173 together.

In my reply to Questions Nos. 130 and 131 of 4 February 2004 I outlined the background and the qualifying criteria for the rural social scheme. I am currently preparing detailed proposals for Government on the scheme. It has been clear for some time that farming alone can no longer sustain rural populations. Rural dwellers, most of whom are no longer farmers, expect and demand a standard of living comparable with that of urban dwellers and will rightly settle for nothing less. Therefore, new ways must be found to address the needs of rural dwellers. I firmly believe that EU rural policy must take account of this reality.

I made it clear in an address to the European Parliament Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development earlier this year that any new policy proposals must recognise that rural areas must have multidimensional development policies and that a total dependence on agriculture will not sustain the population in rural areas; contain clear spatial strategies, ensuring the continued maintenance and growth of rural populations; and target funding for rural areas to ensurethat infrastructure deficits in roads, telecommunications, water, public transport and so on do not inhibit rural growth. These funds in particular need to be targeted at declining and peripheral areas.

The conclusion of the mid-term review of the Common Agricultural Policy in 2003 gave the clearest possible signal from the European Union that rural development policy is central to the future development of an enlarged Community. The Commission has indicated that it will bring forward new proposals later this year for a new community rural development programme to commence under the next round of EU funding. I hope the Commission agrees with my views on future rural development policy and that the proposals will reflect strong support for a multidimensional, multifunctional rural economy. My Department will engage positively in any negotiations to ensure that the necessary rural community initiatives are adopted. In the meantime the Leader+ programme and the area-based rural development initiative, implemented by my Department and involving almost €150 million of public funding, continue to perform an invaluable function in empowering rural communities and priming the rural economy in every region and county in Ireland.

Regulation of Charities.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

130 Ms Lynch asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the progress being made in drawing up new legislation to regulate charities here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7689/04]

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

131 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs when legislation is likely to follow on the completion of the current consultation process on the regulation of charities. [7721/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 130 and 131 together.

I refer the Deputies to my reply to Question No. 211 of 4 February. I am pleased to confirm that I initiated public consultation on the establishment of a modern statutory framework for charities on 16 February 2004, with a deadline for receipt of submissions of 28 May 2004. The public consultation notice was published in the newspapers and posted on the dedicated charities regulation page of my Department's website,www.pobail.ie. I invite the Deputies to access the website, which contains much useful background information concerning the reform upon which we are embarking. It features a list of the main steps to be taken as we now move forward with concrete action to give effect to the reform. At any time, the up-to-date position on progress will be found on the page under “Key Milestones: Latest”.

Departmental Legal Fees.

John Gormley

Question:

132 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the amount paid to date by his Department in legal settlements and legal fees since the start of this term of Government. [7725/04]

The only legal fees paid since my Department's establishment in June 2002 were incurred by the national advisory committee on drugs in respect of external solicitors engaged to provide assistance in the preparation of contracts for external research projects. Details are provided in the following table.

2002

October

18,529.94

November

5,379.66

Total

23,909.60

2003

January

5,520.38

June

7,190.07

August

3,090.12

Total

15,800.57

2004

February

3,472.54

Total

43,182.71

Question No. 133 answered with QuestionNo. 122.

Departmental Expenditure.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

134 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the full extent of the resources available to his Department for expenditure in 2004; the groups or categories of groups under which it is expected to disburse such funds; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7631/04]

The provision for the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs in 2004, as published in the Revised Estimates volume, is €278.334 million. The gross amount provided is €298.332 million, with receipts projected to total €19.998 million, giving a net amount of €278.334 million.

The three main areas of expenditure in my Department are An Ghaeilge agus an Ghaeltacht, Community Affairs and Rural Development. The remainder is budgeted to cover administrative costs. As regards groups likely to benefit in 2004 from funding, the application processes for many grants have yet to be initiated. However, the Deputy will be aware that substantial details on groups in receipt of funding from my Department are included in the annual appropriation accounts or are lodged directly in the Oireachtas Library for information of Members.

Drug Abuse.

Liz McManus

Question:

135 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if his attention has been drawn to a recent report from the Lisbon-based European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction which states that young Irish people have the highest rate of solvent abuse in the EU; the efforts being made to counter solvent abuse among young people here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7691/04]

Liz McManus

Question:

144 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if his attention has been drawn to the annual report from the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction which states that cannabis use among Irish 15 to 16 year olds is the third highest in the EU and that cannabis use among Irish teenagers is reaching saturation point; the efforts being made to counter cannabis use among Irish teenagers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7692/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 135 and 144 together.

The Deputy is referring to the annual report for 2003 of the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, EMCDDA, on the state of the drugs problem in the European Union and Norway, which was released in October 2003. The report found that cannabis is the most commonly used drug in EU countries. In this context, lifetime prevalence — i.e., any use during a person's life — among 15 to 16 year old schoolchildren for the use of cannabis in Ireland was reported as being 32%. Lifetime prevalence for solvents in the same age group was reported as 22% in the EMCDDA report.

However, the Deputy should note that the findings in the area of solvent and cannabis misuse in Ireland are primarily based on five year old data from the 1999 European school survey project on alcohol and other drugs, ESPAD. The ESPAD study examines the prevalence of drug use, both legal and illegal, among 15 to 16 year old schoolchildren. In this context, I draw the Deputy's attention to the results from the first drug prevalence survey in Ireland, which I launched in October of last year. The national advisory committee on drugs, for which my Department has responsibility, and the Drug and Alcohol Information and Research Unit in Northern Ireland undertook this survey jointly. The survey provides solid statistical information and more up-to-date figures on drug use in Ireland.

As part of the survey, a total of 8,442 people were interviewed on a face-to-face basis between October 2002 and April 2003 in line with EMCDDA guidelines. The relevant results are outlined in the following table:

15 to 24 year olds

Lifetime use

Last year use

Last month use

%

%

%

Cannabis

23.6

11.1

5.7

Solvents

3.6

0.2

0.1

15 to 64 year olds

Lifetime use

Last year use

Last month use

%

%

%

Cannabis

17.6

5.1

2.6

Solvents

1.8

0.1

<0.05

Although this level of usage is still of concern, it shows Ireland to be more in line with European norms. In general, the drug prevalence survey found that the vast majority of the general population have never used any illegal drugs and that a relatively small percentage is currently using illegal drugs. However, I am aware that drug use — including the use of cannabis and solvents — continues to do much harm in society and the Government is determined to continue tackling it through the ongoing implementation of the national drugs strategy 2001-2008.

The Department of Education and Science implemented substance misuse prevention in all schools in the LDTF areas during the academic year 2001-02 and the social, personal and health programme, SPHE, has been on the curriculum of all primary and secondary schools since September 2003. This work is being supported by the SPHE support service, which has recruited additional trainers and support officers. In addition, the Department of Health and Children launched the first phase of a national awareness campaign in May 2003. The campaign features television and radio advertising supported by an information brochure and website, all designed to promote greater awareness and communication about the drugs issue in Ireland. Through actions like these we can equip people, particularly young people, with the skills and knowledge necessary to make informed choices about their health and future and reject drug use.

Departmental Estimates.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

136 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the reason the annual allocation to roads in Gaeltacht areas has been cut by almost 50%, according to the Revised Estimates for 2004; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7683/04]

As the Deputy will be aware, a sum of €5.5 million was provided in the 2003 Revised Estimates of my Department for the improvement of Gaeltacht roads. However, a total of €8.078 million was actually expended on such roads in 2003, representing a 47% increase on the original estimate. The provision of this additional funding enabled my Department, through the local authorities and other agencies involved, to carry out much of the two-year 2003-04 works programme in a single year. Accordingly, a sum of €4.425 million has been allocated for Gaeltacht roads in the 2004 Revised Estimates. While this represents a reduction of 19% on the 2003 Revised Estimates, a total of €12,503 million will now be spent on Gaeltacht roads over the two-year period 2003 to 2004.

Question No. 137 answered with QuestionNo. 129.

Youth Services.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

138 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the reason the young people’s facilities and services fund has been cut by a further 27%, according to the Revised Estimates for his Department; the reason this most needy of areas was deemed fit to cut by such a substantial amount; the implications this cutback will have on the next round of funding and mainstreaming of existing projects; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7672/04]

John Bruton

Question:

154 Mr. J. Bruton asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the amount of money which has been allocated to the young people’s facilities and services fund in 2004; when the next round of funding allocations will begin; the number of groups it is anticipated will be funded; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7647/04]

Damien English

Question:

193 Mr. English asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs when mainstreaming of service positions from round 1 of young people’s facilities and services fund will be implemented; when the allocation of €2 million for each LDTF area for the second round of YPFSF, promised in 2002, will be made available to local communities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7648/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 138, 154 and 193 together.

A sum of €26.756 million has been has been provided in my Department's Vote for expenditure in the drugs area in 2004. This funding will primarily be spent on projects and initiatives funded through the local drugs task forces and the young people's facilities and services fund, YPFSF, and research projects undertaken by the National Advisory Committee on Drugs. I am not in a position to say what moneys will ultimately be spent on YPFSF in 2004 as this will be dependent on demands on the Vote throughout the year.

The Deputies should also note that funding of €32.036 million was provided in 2003 for the drugs area within my Department's Vote. However, the actual outturn of expenditure last year was €36.463 million, since an additional €4.4 million was provided from savings within the Vote and allocated to the drugs area, primarily for the YPFSF. I assure the Deputies that funding for drugs in 2004 is not being reduced.

The difference in provision, as outlined in 2004 Revised Estimates, arises from the mainstreaming of successfully evaluated services projects from round 1 of the YPFSF. Some 85 projects were positively evaluated and have been mainstreamed with effect from 1 January 2004. As a result, an amount of €6.705 million has been transferred to the Votes of the Departments of Education and Science — €6.594 million — and Justice, Equality and Law Reform — €0.111 million — which are now responsible for the continued funding of the projects in question. I will be making announcements about the second round of allocations under the fund in the very near future.

Regulation of Charities.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

139 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he will give details of the various reports into the law on charities published over the past 30 years; and when he expects to publish a new charities Bill. [7554/04]

The examination and research which have been undertaken gave rise to the Costello (1990) and Burton (1996) reports, which focused primarily on charitable fund-raising issues. More recently, there was a review of existing law in certain common law jurisdictions, for which Arthur Cox was the lead consultant (2002). Also in 2002, the Law Society report examined and made recommendations concerning the key legal issues at the core of charity law reform.

The Deputy can access both the Arthur Cox and the Law Society reports on the dedicated charities regulation page of my Department's website,www.pobail.ie. The up-to-date position at any given time on progress in preparation of the draft legislation can also be accessed on this page, under “Key Milestones: Latest”.

Rural Development.

Dan Neville

Question:

140 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he has any plans to increase the number of development workers currently working in disadvantaged rural communities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7663/04]

The community development support programme provides support to 46 locally-based community groups involved in anti-poverty and social inclusion initiatives in rural areas. The aim of the programme is to mobilise the capacity of disadvantaged communities to participate in mainstream local development, training and education and enterprise and employment opportunities. The programme provides core funding which equates to the cost of two full-time staff equivalents, usually a development worker and an administrator, together with the overheads and administration costs of running a resource centre.

I am also supporting a small number of pilot projects aimed at testing the success of development workers in regenerating particularly disadvantaged rural areas. This initiative is being funded from my Department's rural development fund. These projects, located in Donegal, Galway and Kerry, involve a variety of community-based initiatives aimed at reducing rural deprivation. These projects will be evaluated later this year.

ADM Board.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

141 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the changes he is proposing to the board of ADM; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7657/04]

Joe Sherlock

Question:

150 Mr. Sherlock asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if his attention has been drawn to a report by a consultancy firm (details supplied) expressing serious concern regarding the cost-effectiveness and accountability in the operation of Area Development Management Limited, the organisation established to disburse EU and Government funds for local development projects; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7686/04]

John Perry

Question:

172 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if the existing board of ADM have been asked to step down from their position; if this is the situation, the replacements of these board members; the person who will decide the appointment of their replacements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7628/04]

Simon Coveney

Question:

190 Mr. Coveney asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if the board of ADM have been asked to step down from their position; if so, the persons who will replace these board members; the person who will decide the appointment of their replacements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7658/04]

Brendan Howlin

Question:

191 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs his views on the report carried out by a consultancy firm (details supplied) for his Department into the operation of Area Development Management Limited; his plans for the future of Area Development Management Limited arising from the report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7687/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 150, 172, 190 and 191 together.

I refer the Deputies to my reply to Priority Questions Nos. 100 and 102 answered today.

Departmental Programmes.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

142 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the major initiative he intends to put into place to co-ordinate his Department’s service delivery approaches with those of other Departments and bodies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7701/04]

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

197 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the position regarding the important cross-Department issues which have been identified and targeted for priority action; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7702/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 142 and 197 together.

As I stated in my previous reply to similar questions, Questions Nos. 45 and 55 of 27 November 2003, in relation to the many schemes and programmes operated by my Department in the community and voluntary, rural, Gaeltacht and islands sectors, my Department continues to work with other Departments, agencies and groups involved as required.

From my previous replies the Deputy will also be aware that I have been working closely with other Ministers in particular the Ministers for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government and Justice, Equality and Law Reform, with the aim of bringing greater cohesion across local and community development programmes. I refer the Deputy to my reply to Question No. 108 and allied parliamentary questions on 26 March 2003 and Questions Nos. 45 and 55 of 27 November 2003.

As I have previously indicated, following a comprehensive consultation process, my colleagues the Ministers for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government and Justice, Equality and Law Reform and I brought forward proposals which have now been agreed by Government. I refer the Deputy to my replies to Questions Nos. 151, 153, 156, 163, 172, 173 and 185 on 4 February, 2004 and to Question No.123 of today.

I am also working closely with other Ministers on advancing a number of other cross-cutting issues over the range of my Department's functions, including matters related to the EU Presidency, Gaeltacht and rural development matters, charities regulation, drugs co-ordination and implementation of the RAPID programme.

Question No. 143 answered with QuestionNo. 110.
Question No. 144 answered with QuestionNo. 135.
Question No. 145 answered with QuestionNo. 108.

Údarás Na Gaeltachta.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

146 D’fhiafraigh Mr. O’Dowd den Aire Gnóthaí Pobail, Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas faoin tslí ar dhíol Údarás na Gaeltachta 13 theach saoire in Eanach Mheáin i gceantar na n-oileán i gConamara.[7669/04]

Ag a chruinniú ar 20 Feabhra 2004 rinne an t-údarás rogha maidir leis na tithe, atá luaite sa cheist ón Teachta, a dhíol, agus tá sé curtha in iúl dom go bhfuil an rogha sin á plé fós. Ní fíor dá bhrí sin go bhfuil an mhaoin díolta, ach is fíor go bhfuil próiseas idir lámha. Ardaíodh ceisteanna faoi dhíolachán beartaithe na maoine seo, áfach, agus tá tuairisc á lorg ag mo Roinn ina thaobh. Táthar ag súil le freagra go luath. Ní bheadh sé tráthúil agamsa ag an staid seo aon ní eile a rá faoi ghnó seo an Údaráis.

Programmes for Government.

Denis Naughten

Question:

147 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the progress to date in implementing the actions outlined in An Agreed Programme for Government in building peace and justice which apply to his Department. [7675/04]

Two actions for peace and justice outlined in the An Agreed Programme for Government apply to my Department. These actions relate to the consolidation of the success of the North/South Ministerial Council and the North/South implementation bodies, and to the development of strong bilateral relations with Scotland and Wales as well as the UK as a whole.

My Department continues to work with the relevant parties, North and South, to consolidate the successful operation of two North/South implementation bodies, An Foras Teanga (comprising Foras na Gaeilge and Tha Boord o Ulstér-Scotch/The Ulster Scots Agency) and Waterways Ireland. Continued implementation of the PEACE II and INTERREG Ireland/Northern Ireland programme also supports the peace and justice objectives contained in the An Agreed Programme for Government.

The British-Irish Council is providing a valuable forum for consultation, discussion and the exchange of information among its members. Ireland is the lead administration within the British-Irish Council on the issue of drug misuse. In this context, the Taoiseach has hosted a summit meeting on the issue and Ministers with responsibility in this area within the British-Irish Council have met on two occasions to agree work programmes, which continue. In this regard, a number of meetings, conferences and seminars have taken place with colleagues from other British-Irish Council members including Scotland and Wales.

This Department is also co-operating, within the British-Irish Council framework with Wales, which is the lead administration on the advancement of a programme to promote indigenous and lesser-used languages.

Foras na Gaeilge.

Gerard Murphy

Question:

148 D’fhiafraigh Mr. Murphy den Aire Gnóthaí Pobail, Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta cén fáth a bhfuil sé ag bunú choiste comhairleach na Gaeilge agus an gcuirfidh an coiste nua seo isteach ar an obair fhiúntach atá á déanamh ag Foras na Gaeilge.[7671/04]

Mar a d'fhógair mé le déanaí, táim chun coiste comhairleach na Gaeilge a bhunú go luath agus tá súil agam baill an choiste a ainmniú roimh an Cháisc. Caithfidh an Stát, agus na heagrais a oibríonn leis an Státchóras ar son na Gaeilge, fís agus plean praiticiúil a bheith acu a aithníonn na tosaíochtaí atá ann don Ghaeilge sa Stát. Is é an ról a bheidh ag an gcoiste comhairleach ná comhairle a thabhairt dom maidir le:

—inmholtacht plean straitéiseach 20 bliain a réiteach don Ghaeilge sa Stát le spriocanna réalaíocha;

—na tosaíochtaí straitéise gearrthéarmacha do chaomhnú agus do chur chun cinn na Gaeilge laistigh den Stát;

—na tosaíochtaí maidir le cur i bhfeidhm Acht na dTeangacha Oifigiúla; agus

—na bealaí is fearr agus is praiticiúla chun dul chun cinn a bhaint amach maidir le cur i bhfeidhm na hoibre sin.

Ag éirí as seo, tá súil agam go mbeadh cur chuige comhtháite i measc na bpríomheagraíochtaí pobail agus Stáit atá ag plé le cur chun cinn na Gaeilge.

Ba mhaith liom a shoiléiriú go bhfuil sé i gceist agam go gcuirfidh coiste comhairleach na Gaeilge le fiúntas na hoibre atá ar siúl ar son na Gaeilge, agus ní a mhalairt agus go mbeidh cuireadh a thabhairt d'Fhoras na Gaeilge a bheith ar an gcoiste.

Departmental Programmes.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

149 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the amount of funding managed by Area Management Development Limited in the past year; the number and nature of local development projects managed by Area Management Development Limited in 2003; the amount of money allocated to each project; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7688/04]

In addition to programmes managed on behalf of my Department, development management, ADM, also manages programmes for other Departments, including the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, the Department of Transport, and the Department of Education and Science. Responsibility for reporting on such programmes rests with the other Ministers involved.

As regards my own Department, ADM manages the local development social inclusion programme (LDSIP), RAPID programme and PEACE II programme. The total provided under the Revised Estimates in my Department's Vote for these programmes in 2003 was €53.43 million. Under the LDSIP, funding is allocated to partnerships, community groups and territorial employment pacts to support actions under three measures — services for the unemployed, community-based youth initiatives and community development. Under the RAPID programme, funding is provided to ADM to support local areas in the preparation and implementation of their RAPID plans.

The PEACE II programme aims to address the legacy of conflict and to take opportunities arising from peace through supporting projects on the following priorities — business competitiveness, new skills and new opportunities, promoting entrepreneurship, developing children and young people, accompanying infrastructure and equipment support and promoting joint approaches to social, education, training and human resource development. I am arranging to have details, provided to my Department by ADM, of payments in 2003 under these programmes forwarded directly to the Deputy.

Question No. 150 answered with QuestionNo. 141.
Question No. 151 answered with QuestionNo. 124.

Cross-Border Rural Development.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

152 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if progress has been made in implementing the findings of the two cross-Border studies commissioned three years ago on rural communities and rural development; and the impediments to progress in relation to these. [7555/04]

The steering committee on cross-Border rural development in support of its work commissioned two studies in 2001 in relation to co-operation between cross border rural communities and cross border education, training and research in rural development.

In relation to the co-operation study, the North/South Ministerial Council endorsed the main finding, namely that an area based approach to cross-Border rural development should be adopted. The rural initiative measure of the INTEREG 111 programme was identified as the vehicle through which this approach could be implemented. The measure was opened for application in August 2003 and closed on 31 October 2003. The total numbers of applications received was 18. These were considered by the INTERREG steering committee on 26 February 2004. Three applications have been conditionally accepted subject to economic appraisal, six deferred for further information and nine have been rejected.

The second study on cross-Border education, training and research identified the need for greater co-ordination, accessibility and practical application of information on current education, training and research provision. Its main recommendation is the setting up of a one-stop shop for collecting, holding and disseminating information on training, research and education provision in the Border region.

The steering committee agreed that the two lead Departments would write to all the universities, colleges and relevant organisations which had been included as part of the study for their views on how the main recommendation for the one-stop shop could best be implemented. A number of common suggestions for the format and functions of the one-stop-shop were identified from the comments received.

The committee is currently considering the establishment of a web based one-stop shop for factual information and are exploring with the centre for cross-Border studies the possibility of amalgamating it with the centre's proposed website,BorderIreland.info.

Community Development.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

153 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs his views on the final conclusions of the recently published report of the community workers co-operative on the endorsement process for the workplans for community and local development by city and county development boards; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the most notable aspect of all the seminars held to examine the new system was a low level of consensus, the degree of frustration and lack of trust in the process that was so evident amongst those involved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7708/04]

Jack Wall

Question:

198 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs his views on the final conclusions of the recently published report of the community workers co-operative on the endorsement process for the workplans for community and local development by city and county development boards; his views on whether it is clear that feelings of disenfranchisement and marginalisation from the decision making process are rife among community workers, communities and CDP management committees on the ground; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7710/04]

I propose to take Question Nos. 153 and 198 together.

I refer the Deputies to my reply to Question Nos. 184 and 196 of 4 February 2004.

Question No. 154 answered with QuestionNo. 138.

EU Presidency.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

155 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs his priorities for the remainder of the Irish Presidency of the European Union; the events that are arranged by his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7699/04]

My priorities for the remainder of the Irish Presidency of the EU remain the three high-level official events about which I have already informed the House on a number of occasions, both in 2003 and in January of this year, that is: conference on territorial cohesion (formerly Islands), Galway, 25 to 27 May 2004; conference on rural development, Westport, 30 and 31 May and 1 June 2004; and meeting of national drugs strategy co-ordinators, Clontarf, 15 June 2004.

Irish Language.

Enda Kenny

Question:

156 D’fhiafraigh Mr. Kenny den Aire Gnóthaí Pobail, Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta cén dul chun cinn atá déanta aige chun oideachas tríú leibhéal trí Ghaeilge a fhorbairt agus gníomhaíochtaí taighde ar champas a chur ar fáil in ionaid oideachais Ghaeltachta.[7680/04]

Mar is eol don Teachta, tá forbairt an oideachais tríú léibhéal trí Ghaeilge sna hionaid Gaeltachta luaite mar sprioc i gclár an Rialtais agus mar ghníomh tras-rannúil i ráiteas straitéise mo Roinne don tréimhse 2003-2005. Ar ndóigh, is faoi chúram an Aire Oideachais agus Eolaíochta go príomha atá an fhreagracht seo, cé go bhfuil mo Roinnse ag comhoibriú go dlúth leis an Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta faoin ábhar.

Bunaíodh grúpa oibre idirgníomhaireachta faoi chathaoirleacht na Roinne Oideachais agus Eolaíochta le hionadaithe ón Roinn sin, ó mo Roinnse, ón Údarás um Ard-Oideachais agus ó Údarás na Gaeltachta chun plean forbartha don oideachas tríú leibhéal sa Ghaeltacht, a bhí réitithe ag ollscoileanna áirithe, a mheas. Beidh mé ag tnúth go mór le moltaí an ghrúpa oibre Idirgníomhaireachta a bheith curtha faoi mo bhráid agus faoi bhráid mo chomh-Aire sa Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta go luath.

Le déanaí freisin cheadaigh mé os cionn €1 milliún chun oideachas tríú leibhéal sa Ghaeltacht a chur chun cinn. Ceadaíodh an deontas seo ar mhaithe le hAcadamh Ollscolaíochta Gaeilge a bhunú in Ollscoil na hÉireann, Gaillimh, agus chun poist a líonadh san stuchtúr nua don teagasc trí Ghaeilge ina mbeadh na hionaid Ghaeltachta mar shlánchuid de. Creidim go bhfuil sé lárnach do bhuanú na Gaeilge sa Ghaeltacht inniu go mbeidh cúrsaí tríú leibhéal trí Ghaeilge ar fáil i gceantair Ghaeltachta le freastal ar phobal na Gaeltachta ina dteanga féin agus chun freastal i dtimpeallacht Ghaeilge ar na mic léinn atá ag teacht amach as an gcóras Gaelscolaíochta ar fud na tíre.

Tá infheistíocht shuntasach déanta freisin ag mo Roinnse i gcomhar leis na hollscoileanna, agus go háirithe Ollscoil na hÉireann Gaillimh, le blianta anuas — suas le €4 milliún ar fad le deich mbliain — sna hIonaid Ollscoile Gaeltachta ar an gCeathrú Rua, i gCárna, i nGaoth Dóbhair agus i Ráth Cairn. Cuidíonn na hIonaid Ollscoile seo go mór leis an nGaeilge a chaomhnú agus a chothú mar acmhainn luachmhar don Ghaeltacht agus don tír.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

157 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the reason for his announcing the establishment of an Irish language advisory committee, prior to announcing the membership of such a committee. [7724/04]

I recently announced that I intend to establish an Irish language advisory committee — coiste comhairleach na Gaeilge soon.

The announcement outlined my policy objectives in launching this initiative and detailed the terms of reference I have in mind for the committee. I felt before I approached the organisations to be represented on the committee that it would be a good idea to have these details in the public domain. Final decisions on the membership of the committee will be taken soon. However, it is my intention to appoint the members of the committee before Easter.

I have dealt in more detail with the purpose of the Irish language advisory committee in my answer to today's Priority Question No. 101.

Telecommunications Services.

Dan Neville

Question:

158 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the progress to date in his Department in ensuring that the full range of options, including wireless technology, are utilised to expand broadband access in rural areas as stated in his Department’s statement of strategy. [7676/04]

I introduced the CLÁR programme in October 2001 to address depopulation as well as the decline and lack of services in rural areas. CLÁR funds, or co-funds, with other Departments, State agencies and local authorities, investment in selected priority developments. These measures support physical, economic and social infrastructure across a variety of measures such as electricity conversion, roads, water and sewerage, village enhancement, health, telecommunications and sports projects.

I wish to outline to the Deputy the particular advances being made under the programme to facilitate broadband and wireless technology infrastructure in CLÁR areas.

I identified a pilot trial of broadband technology in selected industrial estates, business and educational/training centres in CLÁR areas as a potential measure in support of advanced broadband services in the regions. The trial would evaluate the broadband technology used for its potentially wider deployment throughout the CLÁR regions. Some 15 locations in CLÁR were identified as those that could benefit most from this initiative. Accordingly, in 2003, a call to third parties for the provision of broadband in these 15 CLÁR areas was placed by the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources on behalf of my Department. The Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources is currently completing its evaluation of the proposals received.

CLÁR funding has also been committed to support a wireless based internet service for three projects shared across five locations in CLÁR areas in the Border, midland and regional assembly area. The projects are in Dungloe, County Donegal, Killala, County Mayo, Enniscrone, County Sligo, Lanesborough, County Longford and Ballyleague, County Roscommon.

In January 2003, the BMW regional assembly placed a call for expressions of interest for wireless Internet services in its region. Six projects were short-listed and three projects, across four locations, were finally selected. Three of these locations are in CLÁR areas — Ballinlough, County Roscommon, Ballyhaunis, County Mayo and Strokestown, County Roscommon. The fourth is in Virginia, County Cavan. Following discussions with the BMW regional assembly, my Department agreed to fund, under the CLÁR programme, the three remaining short listed projects on the same basis, that is, 80% equivalent to €254,709 of the total cost. This brings to nine the number of rural towns and villages in the BMW region benefiting from this initiative.

On the recommendation of the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, CLÁR and Údarás na Gaeltachta is co-funding town fibre optic networks to the industrial parks in Belmullet, County Mayo, and Dungloe, County Donegal. I am currently examining an Údarás na Gaeltachta proposal to co-fund the supply of fibre optic cable to all Gaeltacht industrial estates in CLÁR areas. I am also liaising with the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources on funding fibre optic cable supply to all industrial estates in CLÁR areas.

National Drugs Strategy.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

159 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the structures being put in place to carry out a midterm review of the national drugs strategy in 2004; the time-scale envisaged in carrying out this review; the way in which the community and voluntary sector will be involved in this review; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7644/04]

My Department has overall responsibility for co-ordinating the implementation of the national drugs strategy 2001-2008. The strategy provides that an independent evaluation of the effectiveness of the overall framework will be carried out by the end of 2004.

The strategy was developed following an extensive review process, overall responsibility for which rested with the interdepartmental group on drugs which I chair. The interdepartmental group on drugs established a sub-group — which comprised representatives of key departments and agencies and representatives of the community and voluntary sector — to manage the on-going work of the review. This structure proved very effective and in light of this, I propose putting similar arrangements in place to complete the mid-term evaluation.

The review group, which I intend to establish within the coming weeks — will be constituted along the same lines as the original sub-group and will include appropriate community and voluntary sector representation. The review group will be tasked with developing the terms of reference for the evaluation and I would envisage that independent consultants will be employed to assist them in their deliberations over the coming months.

It is my intention that the review group will complete its work towards the end of 2004 and the findings will be taken on board for the remaining period of the strategy up to 2008.

Foras na Gaeilge.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

160 D’fhiafraigh Mr. McGinley den Aire Gnóthaí Pobail, Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta cad é an dul chun cinn atá déanta maidir le dílárú Fhoras na Gaeilge go Gaoth Dobhair agus cén uair a mheasann sé a bheidh an próiseas curtha i gcrích.[7521/04]

Mar is eol don Teachta, d'fhógair an tAire Airgeadais sa cháinaisnéis go raibh cinneadh déanta ag an Rialtas clár leathan dílárnaithe a chur i bhfeidhm. I measc na Ranna agus na gcomhluchtaí poiblíéagsúla a bhí luaite sa chinneadh, fógraíodh go mbeadh Foras na Gaeilge ag dílarnú go Gaoth Dobhair, Contae Dhún na nGall, faoi réir aontú na Comhairle Aireachta Thuaidh-Theas.

Tá réamh-chomhráití tosaithe ag mo Roinnse leis an Roinn urraíochta sa Tuaisceart — an Roinn Cultúir, Ealaíon agus Fóillíochta — agus tá aontaithe agam le déanaí le hAire na Roinne sin go mbeadh cruinniú go gairid idir oifigigh ón dá Roinn chun sonraíocht na ceiste a phlé agus a chur chun cinn.

Mary Upton

Question:

161 D’fhiafraigh Dr. Upton den Aire Gnóthaí Pobail, Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta cad iad na cainteanna a bhí aige le Foras na Gaeilge mar gheall ar an bhfoclóir leictreonach Béarla Gaeilge; agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas in a leith.[7717/04]

Tá curtha in iúl dom ag Foras na Gaeilge gur cuireadh tús le céim na pleanála agus an dearaidh de thionscadal an Fhoclóra Béarla-Gaeilge i mí Lúnasa seo caite. Tuigtear dom ón bhForas go mbeidh an obair a bhaineann leis an gcuid seo den tionscadal curtha i gcrích faoi dheireadh mhí Dheireadh Fómhair na bliana seo.

Leanfaidh céim a dó, —.i. scríobh agus tiomsú an fhoclóra ina iomláine — ar aghaidh ina dhiaidh sin agus meastar go dtógfaidh an chéim sin thart ar thrí bliana le cur i gcrích. Luaitear go sainráite leis an tionscadal seo gur foclóir i bhfoirm chlóite agus i bhfoirm leictreonach a chuirfear ar fáil. Tá spéis mhór léirithe ag an bpobal sa tionscadal seo agus tuigtear dom go bhfuil sé ar cheann de na tionscadail foclóireachta is ceannródaíche atá idir lámha, fiú i gcomhthéacs domhanda.

Acht na dTeangacha Oifigiúla.

Enda Kenny

Question:

162 D’fhiafraigh Mr. Kenny den Aire Gnóthaí Pobail, Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas faoin dul chun cinn atá déanta ó ritheadh Acht na dTeangacha Oifigiúla 2003 agus ó ceapadh Seán Ó Cuireáin ina Choimisinéir Teanga.[7668/04]

Brian O'Shea

Question:

168 D’fhiafraigh Mr. O’Shea den Aire Gnóthaí Pobail, Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta cén dul chun cinn atá déanta i leith chur i bhfeidhm an Achta Teanga; agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina leith.[7714/04]

Tógfaidh mé Ceisteanna Uimhir 162 agus 168 le chéile.

Dírím aird na dTeachtaí ar an bhfreagra a thug mé ar Cheisteanna Uimh. 148, 216 agus 218 ar 4 Feabhra 2004 maidir leis an ábhar seo.

Mar a thug mé le fios sa bhfreagra sin, tá Acht na dTeangacha Oifigiúla ina dhlí ó mhí Iúil 2003. Is é príomh-chuspóir an Achta ná soláthar níos mó de sheirbhísí i nGaeilge a chur ar fáil ón seirbhís poiblí ar chaighdeán níos airde. Tá freagracht ghinearálta orm mar Aire Gnóthaí Pobail, Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta faoin Acht chun a chinntiú go gcuirfear na seirbhísí sin ar fáil.

Tá réamh-obair nach beag déanta nó idir lámha cheana féin ag mo Roinnse maidir le cur i bhfeidhm an Achta:

Tá scríofa go dtí na comhlachtaí poiblí atá i gceist — thart ar 650 ina iomlán faoi láthair — le cóip den Acht agus achoimre ar na príomh-fhorálacha.

Tá próiseas idir lámha faoina dtugann oifigigh de chuid mo Roinne-se cur i láthair do chomhlachtaí poiblí maidir le himpleachtaí an Achta dóibh, tráth a bhíonn deis chun tuilleadh eolais a thabhairt agus saincheisteanna a phlé.

Tá feidhm tugtha do Chuid 5 den Acht a bhaineann le logainmneacha ó 30 Deireadh Fómhair 2003 agus tá seacht nOrdú déanta agam sa chomhthéacs sin go data.

Tá leabhrán dhátheangach foilsithe — Acht na dTeangacha Oifigiúla 2003: Osradharc — a thugann léargas ar phríomh-fhorálacha an Achta mar aon le freagraí ar roinnt ceisteanna a chuirtear go rialta faoin Acht.

Tá soláthar €500,000 curtha ar fáil agam i Meastacháin mo Roinne don bhliain seo chun Oifig Choimisinéir na dTeangacha Oifigiúla a bhunú.

Tá plean gnímh maidir le cur i bhfeidhm fhorálacha an Achta ar bhonn céimiúil glanta ag an Rialtas agus fógartha.

Tá ordú tosach feidhme déanta agam ar 19 Eanáir 2004 a thugann feidhm don chuid is mó d'fhorálacha an Achta le héifeacht ón lá sin agus ó 1 Bealtaine 2004 i gcás alt 10.

Tá dhá ghrúpa oibre ar leith bunaithe le déanaí. Baineann ceann acu le Scéim mo Roinne féin faoi alt 11 don Acht a ullmhú agus bhí fógra maidir leis sin sna nuachtáin le déanaí. Is meitheal idir-rannach an ceann eile le comhairle a chur ar mo Roinnse maidir le treoirlínte a ullmhú faoi alt 12 den Acht d'fhonn cabhrú le comhlachtaí poiblí scéimeanna a ullmhú.

Tá réamh-obair ar súil i ndáil le rialacháin a dhéanamh faoi alt 9(1) maidir le húsáid na Gaeilge amháin, nó na Gaeilge agus an Bhéarla le chéile, ar stáiseanóireachta, ar chomharthaí agus ar fhógraí.

Tá an tUasal Seán Ó Cuirreáin ceaptha ag an Uachtarán mar An Coimisinéir Teanga le héifeacht ó 23 Feabhra 2004.

D'fhógair mé ar 28 Feabhra 2004 go mbeadh ceannáras an Choimisinéara lonnaithe in Eastát Bhaile an tSagairt, An Spidéal, Contae na Gaillimhe, ach na gnáthshocruithe a bheith curtha i bhfeidhm. Tá súil agam go gcríóchnófar na socruithe cuí maidir le léasanna, trealamh agus foireann go han-luath le go mbeidh An Coimisinéir Teanga in ann dul i mbun a dhualgas gan mhoill san áras nua.

Countryside Access.

Joe Sherlock

Question:

163 Mr. Sherlock asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the progress made to date by the consultation group established to consider the issue of access to waymarked ways; if he has received the consultation group’s report; when he expects that the report will be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7705/04]

Eamon Ryan

Question:

184 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the progress he has made on his proposal to establish a body to be known as Chomhairle na Tuaithe. [7728/04]

Billy Timmins

Question:

186 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the funding which has been allocated to Comhairle na tuithe; when it will begin its work in implementing the recommendations of the report of the consultation group on access to waymarked ways; the way in which he envisages that these recommendations will take effect; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7651/04]

I propose to take Question Nos. 163, 184 and 186 together.

In my reply to Questions Nos. 141, 157 and 219 on 4 February I outlined my response to the report of the consultation group on access to waymarked ways including my decision to reconvene the consultation group as Comhairle na Tuaithe. The report of the consultation group has been published on my Department's website.

The inaugural meeting of Comhairle na Tuaithe was held on 26 February. I attended that meeting and outlined my views on the issues involved and assured the members that they would have the fullest possible support frommy Department in implementing the recommendations of the report. I have provided for funding for the employment of a research-development officer to assist in the work of Comhairle na Tuaithe. Advertisements will be placed shortly for a research-development officer who will work to deliver a prioritised work plan for Comhairle na Tuaithe in accordance with the recommendations of the report.

Question No. 164 answered with QuestionNo. 110.

EU Summits.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

165 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the issues to be discussed at the meeting of European Union drug co-ordinators in June 2004. [7731/04]

The EU action plan on drugs 2000-2004 obliges each Presidency of the EU to facilitate a meeting of the national drugs co-ordinators. This meeting is usually attended by officials although individual national co-ordination structures vary and a small number of ministers may attend. The meeting under the Irish Presidency will be held in Clontarf Castle on 15 June 2004.

The aim of these meetings is to provide an up-date on the various national drug situations, on developing drugs legislation and to exchange useful comparative data. The meeting also aims to foster exchanges of information and debate. The meeting in June will be the first meeting of national drug co-ordinators with 25 member states. The agenda for the meeting has not yet been finalised. Prior to finalisation, the proposed agenda will be discussed at the Horizontal Council Working Party on Drugs and it is open to member states to propose issues for discussion at the meeting.

Choimisiún na Gaeltachta.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

166 D’fhiafraigh Mr. Gilmore den Aire Gnóthaí Pobail, Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta cén dul chun cinn atá déanta i leith chur i bhfeidhm mholtaí Choimisiún na Gaeltachta; agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina leith.[7712/04]

Tabharfaidh Acht na dTeangacha Oifigiúla 2003 aghaidh ar chur i bhfeidhm cúig chinn de na moltaí sonracha atá déanta i dTuarascáil Choimisiún na Gaeltachta. Tá céimeanna éagsúla glactha le tamall beag anuas le cur i bhfeidhm an Achta a bhrú chun cinn. I measc na gcéimeanna sin foilsíodh plean gnímh na Roinne maidir le cur i bhfeidhm an Achta i mí na Nollag 2003; ceapadh Seán Ó Cuirreáin mar Choimisinéir Teanga le héifeacht ó 23 Feabhra 2004 agus d'fhógair mé ar 28 Feabhra 2004 go mbeidh Oifig an Choimisinéara lonnaithe i mBaile an tSagairt, sa Spidéal.

Moladh i dtuarascáil an choimisiúin go mba chóir staidéar cuimsitheach teangeolaíoch ar an nGaeltacht a thionscnamh. Is cúis áthais dom go raibh ar mo chumas a fhógairt mé ar 31 Eanáir 2004 go bhfuil conradh chun staidéar ar úsáid na Gaeilge sa Ghaeltacht á bhronnadh ar Acadamh na hOllscolaíochta Gaeilge, Ollscoil na hÉireann, Gaillimh, i gcomhar leis an Institiúid Náisiúnta um Anailís Réigiúnach agus Spásúil, Ollscoil na hÉireann, Má Nuad. Bainfear úsáid as torthaí an staidéir seo mar bhunús chun forbairt theangeolaíoch na Gaeltachta mar cheantar labhartha Gaeilge a threisiú agus chun athbhreithniú a dhéanamh ar na limistéir oifigiúla Ghaeltachta faoi mar atá molta i dtuarascáil an choimisiúin. Meastar go dtógfaidh an staidéar, a thosóidh i mí Aibreáin, dhá bhliain go leith nó mar sin le cur i gcrích. Cuirfear aon mholtaí maidir le hathruithe ar na limistéir faoi bhráid an Rialtais in am tráth.

Tá feachtas feasachta teanga a bheidh dírithe ar an nGaeltacht go príomha agus gur fiú €300,000 á ullmhú ag mo Roinnse i gcomhar le Údarás na Gaeltachta faoi láthair. Beidh sé mar chuspóir ag an bhfeachtas seo cur ina luí ar thuismitheoirí le páistí san aoisghrúpa náid go cúig bliana d'aois, chomh maith le tuismitheoirí ionchasacha, faoi na buntáistí a bhaineann le húsáid na Gaeilge mar phríomh-theanga teaghlaigh. Cuireadh fógra sna nuachtáin ar 3 Márta 2004 ag tabhairt cuireadh do chomhlachtaí tairiscint a dhéanamh maidir le dearadh agus cur i bhfeidhm an fheachtais i gcomhar le mo Roinnse agus leis an údarás.

D'fhógair mé ar 27 Feabhra 2004 go raibh ciste gur fiú €1.56 milliún thar trí bliana á bhunú agam chun tionscnamh pleanála teanga a chur chun cinn sa Ghaeltacht ar bhonn trialach thar tréimhse trí bliana. Faoin tionscnamh nuálach seo, a bheidh á chur i bhfeidhm ag mo Roinnse i gcomhar le hÚdarás na Gaeltachta, tá iarratais á lorg go poiblí ó eagraíochtaí pobalbhunaithe Gaeltachta gur spéis leo tabhairt faoi phlean teanga cuimsitheach a réiteach agus a chur i bhfeidhm ina gceantair feidhme thar an tréimhse sin. Tá an tionscnamh dírithe go príomha ar na Comharchumainn Ghaeltachta, chomh maith le heagraíochtaí pobalbhunaithe eile a bhíonn ag feidhmiú trí Ghaeilge ar son phobal na Gaeltachta. Roghnófar ceathair thogra faoi leith ar a laghad chun críche aitheantais faoin tionscnamh lena mbeidh deontas bliantúil nach mó ná €130,000 thar an trí bliana iníoctha. Cuireadh fógra sna nuachtáin ar 5 Márta 2004 ag lorg iarratas i gcomhréir leis an tionscnamh agus tá tugtha go dtí deireadh mhí Márta le h-eagraíochtaí gur spéis leo cur isteach air.

Chun tuilleadh béime a chur ar thograí agus ar ghníomhaíochtaí atá tairbheach don teanga, tá soláthar breise de €890,000 curtha ar fáil agam i meastacháin mo Roinne do 2004 chun tionscnaimh dá leithéid a mhaoiniú agus chun díriú tuilleadh ar ghníomhaíochtaí teanga-lárnaithe trí chéile. Chomh maith leis sin, tá €1 milliún sa bhreis ceadaithe agam d'Údarás na Gaeltachta lena chumasú dóibh béim níos láidre a chur ar naíscolaíocht, ar sheirbhísí don óige, ar gníomhaíochtaí na gComharchumann agus ar sheirbhísí tacaíochta eile don Ghaeilge sa Ghaeltacht. Ní miste a rá chomh maith go bhfuil moladh faoi leith i dtuarascáil Choimisiún na Gaeltachta i ndáil le ról agus struchtúr an údaráis. Tá an t-ábhar seo á phlé ag mo Roinnse i gcomhar leis an údarás faoi láthair.

I measc na mbeartas eile a bhaineann le tuarascáil Choimisiún na Gaeltachta 2002 atá idir lámha nó bainte amach tá; athbhreithniú ar scéim na gcúntóirí teanga, ar scéim labhairt na Gaeilge agus ar scéim na gcampaí samhraidh; aighneacht maidir le gnéithe criticiúla a mbíonn tionchar acu ar úsáid na Gaeilge sa chóras bunoideachais agus iarbhunoideachais sa Ghaeltacht curtha faoi bhráid na Comhairle um Oideachas Gaeltachta agus Gaelscolaíochta chomh maith le cruinnithe rialta leis an Aire Oideachais agus Eolaíochta agus lena Roinn; aighneachtaí curtha chuig na húdaráis áitiúla le ceantair Ghaeltachta iontu chun a n-aird a dhíriú ar an ngá atá le polasaithe dearfacha chun freastal ar riachtanais shainiúla na Gaeltacht; tacaíocht bhreise curtha ar fáil agam don oideachas tríú leibhéal trí mheán na Gaeilge sa Ghaeltacht; moltaí déanta i ndáil le hathstruchtúrú an chórais faoina gcuireann Údarás na Gaeltachta cúnamh ar fáil don earnáil réamhscolaíochta sa Ghaeltacht; agus struchtúr nua d'eagrais óige sa Ghaeltacht á gcur chun cinn ag an Údarás. Maidir le stádas na Gaeilge san A.E., tá coiste eadarranach bunaithe le staidéar a dhéanamh ar an gceist seo agus le moltaí a dhéanamh don Rialtas faoi.

Tá mé sásta go bhfuil dul chun cinn suntasach déanta maidir le cur i bhfeidhm moltaí atá déanta i dtuarascáil an choimisiúin. Sa chomhthéacs sin, ba mhaith liom mo bhuíochas a chur in iúl don choiste comhairleach a rinne scrúdú ar mholtaí an choimisiúin agus a chuir comhairle ar fail dom maidir lena cur i bhfeidhm. Ar ndóigh, tá rath na hoibre seo trí chéile ag brath cuid mhaith ar thacaíocht agus comhoibriúó phobal na Gaeltachta ach go háirithe, chomh maith leis na páirtithe leasmhara uile a bhfuil baint acu le ceist na Gaeilge sa Ghaeltacht.

Departmental Programmes.

Denis Naughten

Question:

167 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the way his Department is developing alternative and innovative solutions to assist in dealing with problems associated with urban living and excessive and unbalanced growth as stated in his Department’s statement of strategy. [7674/04]

I refer the Deputy to Question Nos. 432 of 3 December 2002 and Nos. 431, 432, 433 and 434 of 27 May 2003 in which I set out details of the many schemes and initatives operated by my Department to assist rural and urban communities. Together, these schemes constitute an integrated approach in addressing problems associated with urban living and excessive and unbalanced growth, together with other Government measures such as the national spatial strategy. Some of the key measures administered by my Department are outlined as follows.

The RAPID programme aims to ensure that priority attention is given to tackling the spatial concentration of poverty and social exclusion within the 45 designated areas, through targeting state resources available under the national development plan. Plans have been prepared in all areas and Departments are considering the proposals from these plans. A new dedicated fund of €4.5 million capital funding is being made available in my Department's vote in 2004, to support small scale localised actions in RAPID areas, through co-funding with the relevant Department or agency. I propose to announce full details of how this money will be spent shortly. In addition, funding of €1.5 million is available to ADM to meet administration expenses and to provide support to area implementation teams to support them in the preparation and implementation of their plans. All of the RAPID areas and many of the partnerships and community groups support urban communities. Details of the areas covered by LDSIP and RAPID are available on my Department's websitewww.pobail.ie.

Clearly, unemployment, drugs misuse and youth problems are difficulties which are manifest from urban living and unbalanced growth. In this context the bottom up approach inherent in measures funded by my Department under the local development social inclusion programmes and the community development programme, and drugs programmes are key mechanisms for bringing forward alternative and innovative solutions.

The Leader programmes are innovative EU programmes put in place to encourage the implementation of integrated, high-quality strategies in rural communities with particular emphasis on community type projects. Total public funding of some €150 million the period 2000 to 2006 about half of which is EU funding. One of the key aims of Leader is to maintain and develop local rural communities and creating opportunities for rural people to live and work in their local area.

My Department's responsibilities include the rural development aspects of the joint cross-Border programmes, PEACE and INTERREG Ireland-Northern Ireland and INTERREG Ireland-Wales as well as the farm relief services measure of the national development plan. The rural measures under these programmes aim to foster the economic and social development of rural communities. In so doing, these programmes directly contribute to balanced growth in rural areas and thereby strengthening options to live and work in rural communities. These measures provide a total of €43 million in the period 2000 to 2006.

Finally, the CLÁR programme, for which €13.49 million is being made available in the Vote of my Department in 2004, seeks to help redress depopulation and lack of services in rural areas. The measures contained in the CLÁR programme support physical, economic and social infrastructure across a range of areas including electricity conversion, roads, water and sewerage, village enhancement, health, broadband and sports projects.

Question No. 168 answered with QuestionNo. 162.

Community Development.

David Stanton

Question:

169 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs his plans to support the development of community spirit and co-operation in rural areas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7662/04]

My Department is committed to maintaining the maximum number of people in rural areas and to strengthening rural communities economically, socially and culturally. Government policy on rural development is set out in the White Paper published in 1999. As an integral part of this process my Department operates a number of programmes as set out below-designed to assist community development.

The Leader programmes are EU programmes in place to encourage the implementation of integrated, high-quality and innovative strategies in rural communities including a number of rural enterprise projects. Some 22 local action groups throughout the country deliver the EU Leader+ initiative. The allocation for Leader+ for the period 2000 to 2006 is €73.6 million which is co-funded by the EU. The Leader national rural development programme closely complements the Leader+ initiative and is operated by 13 local groups in areas of the country not covered by Leader+. It also provides nationwide coverage for rural and agricultural tourism and focuses more on mainstream activities. The allocation for 2000 to 2006 is €75.7 million which is also co funded by the EU.

My Department's responsibilities also include the rural development aspects of the joint cross-Border programmes PEACE and INTERREG. The rural measures under these programmes aim to foster the economic and social development of rural communities. Projects supported by the programmes are community based as well as focused on farm diversification. Funding is also provided under the rural development measures of the PEACE II programme during the period 2000-2004. Support is available for cross border and cross community development and the development of agri-diversification projects. Total funding of €10 million is being provided under the rural initiative measure of the joint INTERREG Ireland/Wales programme for the period 2000-2006. Under the programme support is being provided in the eligible area for joint projects promoting rural business skills, rural tourism, rural health and on and off farm diversification to complement agricultural activities. Under the joint INTERREG Ireland-Northern Ireland programme, funding of €18 million is available under the rural initiative measure during the period 2000-2006. The aim of the measure is to encourage rural business and communities to engage in developing the economic and social sustainability of the region and to promote the development and expansion of cross border rural business.

There is provision of €42.144 million in my Department's vote for the local development social inclusion programme, LDSIP, which aims to promote social inclusion. Funding is allocated to partnerships and community groups, including rural based groups, to deliver the local development social inclusion programme under three measures — services for the unemployed, community based youth initiatives and community development.

Some €21.0 million has been allocated to the community development support programmes, CDSPs, in 2004 to support locally-based community groups involved in anti-poverty and social inclusion initiatives. The total number of projects supported under the programme is currently 174, spread throughout the country. In addition to the schemes administered by my Department for the Gaeltacht and the islands the development of Gaeltacht areas, which are mainly rural, is actively supported by the activities of Údarás na Gaeltachta. An t-údarás promotes enterprise and community focused schemes and provides assistance to Gaeltacht community co-operatives including Gaeltacht islands.

I will continue to support the development of community spirit and co-operation in rural areas though the measures operating under the CLÁR programme. The priorities identified by the communities in the selected areas, with whom I consulted, are reflected in these measures which support physical, economic and social infrastructure across a variety of measures such as electricity conversion, roads, water and sewerage, village enhancement, health, broadband and sports projects.

The measures were agreed with and are, for the most part, operated in tandem with the lead Departments, State agencies or public utilities, as appropriate. This ensures efficiency and effectiveness and meets the needs of the people in the CLÁR areas. I intend to continue this practice for any new measures I may introduce, depending on needs identified. Equally, I will keep under review the operation of existing measures.

The Deputy will appreciate from the foregoing that there are a range of measures in place across my Department to support the development of community spirit and co-operation in rural areas. These will be further complemented by the implementation of the new rural social scheme.

Question No. 170 answered with QuestionNo. 108.
Question No. 171 answered with QuestionNo. 122.
Question No. 172 answered with QuestionNo. 141.
Question No. 173 answered with QuestionNo. 129.

Coláistí Gaeilge.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

174 D’fhiafraigh Mr. Sargent den Aire Gnóthaí Pobail, Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta céard é líon na bhfoghlaimeoirí Gaeilge a bhí ag freastal ar na coláistí Gaeilge sa Ghaeltacht i 1970, 1975, 1980, 1985, 1990, 1995 agus 2000 agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina thaobh.[7638/04]

Seo leanas líon na bhFoghlaimeoirí Gaeilge a d'fhreastal ar choláistí Gaeilge samhraidh faoi scéim na bhfoghlaimeoirí gaeilge sa Ghaeltacht sna blianta 1972, 1975, 1980, 1985, 1990 agus 2000.

Is i 1972 a bunaíodh an scéim agus tá figiúir don bhliain sin tugtha thíos.

Bliain

An Líon Daltaí a d’fhreastal

1972

13,266

1975

16,890

1980

18,434

1985

15,469

1990

17,174

1995

21,504

2000

21,913

Departmental Estimates.

Seán Ryan

Question:

175 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the levels of disbursement for RAPID, CLÁR and the drug task force areas that are being ring-fenced in respect of his estimates for 2004; the way in which these amounts compare with 2003; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7704/04]

The information requested by the Deputy is as follows. Funding of €5.8 million is provided for the RAPID programme in my Department's Vote in 2004. The breakdown of this amount is €4.5 million for capital expenditure and €1.3 million for current expenditure. The capital funding of €4.5 million is a new dedicated fund that has been set aside in 2004 to support small scale local actions from RAPID plans. This funding will be used as leverage money to facilitate co-funding from State agencies. As regards the €1.3 million current funding, this amount will be provided to ADM to meet administration expenses and to provide support to area implementation teams. The amount provided for this purpose in 2003 was €1.5 million.

The provision for the CLÁR Programme in 2004 is €13.49 million which is a 42% increase over the 2003 allocation of €9.517 million. This demonstrates the continuing commitment of the Government to this programme, originally initiated as a two year programme only. The 2004 provision will enable the continuation of investment under existing measures of the programme while providing the scope for the introduction of such new measures as may be identified during the year.

A sum of €26.756 million has been allocated, in the current year, to my Department's subhead which funds: local drugs task force plans, young peoples services and facilites, the operations of the national drugs strategy team and the national advisory committee on drugs. This is an increase of 5% on the allocation in 2003. The vast bulk of this money will be spent on drug task force areas. The research carried out by the NACD relates to drug misuse and therefore also has a considerable focus on drug task force areas. The Deputy should note that €6.685 million from the Vote of my Department transferred to the Votes of the Departments of Education and Science and Justice, Equality and Law Reform who are now responsible for the continued funding of 85 projects under the YPFSF which were mainstreamed with effect from 1 January 2004.

Community Development.

John Deasy

Question:

176 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs his views on an increasing role for county development boards in all areas of community development structures and initiatives; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7655/04]

I refer the Deputy to earlier replies to questions on the review of local and community development structures initiated by myself and my colleagues, the Ministers for Environment, Heritage and Local Government and Justice, Equality and Law Reform, in particular Questions Nos. 151, 153, 156, 163, 172, 173, and 185 on 4 February 2004. As is clear from that reply, the Government sees a continuing important role for CDBs in overseeing and promoting an integrated approach to service provision at local and community level.

Question No. 177 answered with QuestionNo. 108.
Question No. 178 answered with QuestionNo. 114.
Question No. 179 answered with QuestionNo. 124.

Voluntary Sector.

Seán Crowe

Question:

180 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs when the research funding scheme outlined in the Government White Paper, Supporting Voluntary Activity, will begin operation. [7730/04]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Question No. 178 of 4 February 2004.

National Drugs Strategy.

Willie Penrose

Question:

181 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he will report on the progress made to date in implementing the new National Drugs Strategy launched in May 2001. [7698/04]

As the Deputy is aware, my Department has overall responsibility for co-ordinating the implementation of the National Drugs Strategy 2001-08. The strategy contains 100 individual actions, under the four pillars of supply reduction, prevention, treatment and research, to be implemented by a range of Departments and agencies. Since it was launched in May 2001, these Departments and agencies have made considerable progress in implementing the actions set out for them in the strategy. In particular, it should be noted that: Garda operations continue to result in significant drug seizures with an estimated street value of approximately €49 million seized in 2002. Provisional indications for 2003 well exceed this figure. Both the Garda and the customs authorities remain well on track in achieving their drug seizure targets as set out in the national drugs strategy. Street level dealing is being tackled by specific Garda operations such as Clean Street and Nightcap; guidelines to assist schools in the development of a drugs policy have also been developed and were issued to all primary and post primary schools in May 2002; the Department of Education and Science implemented substance misuse prevention programmes in all schools in the LDTF areas during the academic year 2001-02 and the social personal and health programme or SPHE has been on the curricula of all primary and secondary schools since September 2003. This work is being supported by the SPHE support service, which has recruited additional trainers and support officers; considerable progress is also being made on increasing the number of methadone treatment places. The number of places at the end of December 2003, the latest date for which confirmed figures are available, was 6,883. The equivalent figure at the end of 2000 was 5,032; ten regional drugs task forces or RDTFs have been established throughout the country. They are currently mapping out the patterns of drug misuse in their areas — as well as range and level of existing services — with a view to better co-ordination and addressing gaps in the overall provision; the Department of Health and Children launched a national awareness campaign in May 2003. The campaign features television and radio advertising supported by an information brochure and website, all designed to promote greater awareness and communication about the drugs issue in Ireland. This first phase targeted the general population while the second phase, launched in October, is aimed at parents. A third set of TV advertisements were recently aired; Customs and Excise has launched a coastal watch programme and have implemented a number of measures to enhance drugs detection capability at points of entry; and over 1,120 recovering drug misusers are now on the special FÁS community employment scheme.

The strategy also provides for an independent evaluation of the effectiveness of the overall framework by the end of this year. This will examine the progress being made in achieving the overall key strategic goals set out in the strategy and will enable priorities for further action to be identified and a refocusing of the strategy, if necessary. The Deputy should note that my Department also has responsibility for the work of the 14 local drugs task forces and for the Young Peoples Facilities and Services Fund or YPFSF.

To date the Government has allocated or spent: approximately €65 million to implement in the region of 500 projects contained in the two rounds of plans of the LDTFs; more than €11.5 million under the premises initiative, which is designed to meet the accommodation needs of community based drugs projects, the majority of which are in LDTF areas; and approximately €68 million to support in the region of 350 facility and services under the YPFSF. The main aim of the fund is to attract "at risk" young people in disadvantaged areas into recreational facilities and activities and divert them away from the dangers of substance abuse.

I expect to make allocations under round II of the Fund in the very near future.

Dan Boyle

Question:

182 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the way in which the continuing high level of deaths from heroin use is influencing the implementation of the National Drugs Strategy. [7719/04]

As the Deputy is aware, my Department has overall responsibility for co-ordinating the implementation of the National Drugs Strategy 2001-08. The strategy contains 100 individual actions, under the four pillars of supply reduction, prevention, treatment and research, to be implemented by a range of Departments and agencies. The question of drug-related deaths was one of the issues considered in developing the strategy.

At present, drug-related deaths are recorded by the general mortality register of the CSO, based on the International Classification of Diseases, ICD, code system. However, the available statistics are limited and relate to years prior to the commencement of the strategy. Other countries have developed dedicated systems for recording drug-related deaths and it is important, for the purposes of comparative analysis, that the Irish system is capable of generating an equivalent level of information. It is for this reason that one of the actions contained in the national drugs strategy calls for the development of an accurate mechanism for recording the number of such deaths. Overall responsibility for this action rests with the coroner's service and the Central Statistics Office and work has commenced on developing such a mechanism.

International evidence supports the view that opiate misusers are safer in treatment, therefore every effort is being made in Ireland to encourage them into treatment. The Deputy will be aware that the treatment of drug misusers is the primary responsibility of my colleague the Minister for Health and Children. In this context it is worth noting that the number of methadone treatment places has expanded considerably in recent years, in line with the commitment under the national drugs strategy. At the end of December 2003, there were 6,883 people receiving methadone treatment. This compares with a figure of just over 5,000 at the end of 2000.

In the Eastern Regional Health Authority there are currently 59 drug treatment locations. This compares with 12 locations in 1997. Outside the ERHA, treatment clinics have been established in the South Eastern Health Board, Mid-Western Health Board, Western Health Board and Midland Health Board. General practitioners and pharmacists also provide treatment services and their involvement has also increased over the last number of years.

Furthermore, I am informed by the Department of Health and Children that all clients entering the addiction services are assessed and appropriate treatment plans are identified based on client needs. Decisions concerning the appropriate treatment for patients are made in accordance with best practice guidelines. In this regard, overdose prevention is an inherent part of the comprehensive range of services which the health boards provide, including education and prevention, treatment and rehabilitation, counselling and harm reduction.

For opiate misusers outside of treatment, outreach workers and needle exchange services actively engage drug misusers to promote safer drug using practices to address the risks involved in terms of overdose, transmission of blood-borne viruses and unsafe sex practices. Harm minimisation is at the core of the Health Boards outreach strategy in the ERHA area, where heroin misuse is most prevalent and this includes the risk of overdose.

Question No. 183 answered with Question No. 114.
Question No. 184 answered with Question No. 163.

Irish Language.

Bernard Allen

Question:

185 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs in light of the Government’s recent support for the joint opposition party motion to have the Irish language recognised as an official EU language, the steps his Department intends to take to pursue this issue to ensure that Irish becomes an official EU language; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7667/04]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

437 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the extent of the discussions he has had with his EU colleagues with the objective of the acceptance of the Irish language as a working language within the European institutions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7885/04]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

438 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the position in relation to his Department’s response to the request for the establishment of the Irish language as a working language in EU institutions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7886/04]

I propose taking Questions Nos. 185, 437 and 438 together and I refer the Deputy to the reply I gave to Questions No. 143 and 328 on 4 February 2004.

As indicated in that reply and as reiterated by me in the debate referred to, the Government has established a working group to analyse what can be achieved on this issue and the possibilities that exist to make progress. Two meetings of this working group have taken place to date and it is intended that the group will report within six weeks or so. At this point, I am not in a position to add anything further in relation to this issue until the group has reported and its report has been fully considered.

Question No. 186 answered with QuestionNo. 163.

Drug Use.

Seán Crowe

Question:

187 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs his strategy for dealing with the increasing use of cocaine in the State. [7729/04]

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

188 Ms Lynch asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if his attention has been drawn to a recent report from the National Advisory Committee on Drugs entitled An Overview of Cocaine Use in Ireland, which shows that cocaine use here has increased rapidly since 1998; the efforts being made to counter the increase in cocaine use; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7690/04]

I propose to take Question Nos. 187 and 188 together.

As the Deputies are aware, my Department has overall responsibility for co-ordinating the implementation of the National Drugs Strategy 2001-08 as well as funding the work of the local drugs task forces, LDTFs, and the young peoples facilities and services fund, or YPFSF.

As I have informed the House on many occasions, I am aware of the increase in the prevalence of cocaine use in Ireland, particularly through the work of the National Advisory Committee on Drugs, NACD, which operates under the aegis of my Department.

Figures from the recent general population drug survey conducted by the NACD show that 3.1% of the population have ever used cocaine, 1.1% used it in the last 12 months and 0.3% used in the last month. Compared with similar surveys undertaken in other European countries, these figures suggest that Ireland is roughly average in terms of use.

However, the Deputies should be aware the numbers presenting for treatment are still very low and, in total, make up approx. 1% of those in treatment. Similarly, cocaine related offences remain relatively small compared to other drugs and, according to the recently published 2002 Garda annual report, account for approximately 5.5% of all such offences.

The increase in Ireland would appear to coincide with an increase in the availability and use of cocaine in Europe generally, as a result of increased production, particularly in Colombia, and a consequential drop in the street price.

In this context, as I have outlined to this House on a number of occasions recently, through the implementation of the actions in the National Drugs Strategy and through projects and initiatives operated through the local drugs task forces, the problem of cocaine use can and will be addressed. Each of the local drugs task forces has in place an action plan to tackle drug use in their area based on their own identified priorities.

These projects deal with supply reduction, prevention, treatment and rehabilitation for a range of drugs, including cocaine. We have to be aware that most drug users engage in poly-drug use and therefore projects should be able to address this pattern of usage rather than concentrating on one drug to the exclusion of others.

I also point out to the Deputies that regional drugs task forces have been established in each of the health board areas throughout the country. As a first step in the process of developing action plans, the task forces are mapping out the patterns of drug misuse in their areas and the level and range of existing services. Where cocaine use is found to be a problem, this can be reflected in the measures proposed in their action plans.

On treatment, as the Deputies are probably aware there is no substitution treatment drug for cocaine and I am advised that existing services such as counselling and behavioural therapy are the best options available. The Deputies should note that the three area health boards of the Eastern Region Health Authority have recruited additional counsellors and outreach workers in recent years. I assure the Deputies that I am keeping the matter of cocaine use under review. Furthermore, it should be noted that the strategy provides for an independent evaluation of the effectiveness of the overall framework by the end of 2004. This will examine the progress being made in achieving the overall key strategic goals set out in the strategy and will enable priorities for further action to be identified and a re-focusing of the strategy, if necessary. The need to amend the strategy to reflect changing patterns of drug use will be considered in that context.

Question No. 189 answered with QuestionNo. 108.
Questions Nos. 190 and 191 answered with Question No. 141.
Question No. 192 answered with QuestionNo. 115.
Question No. 193 answered with QuestionNo. 138.

Code of Ethics.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

194 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the nature of the code of ethics which will be employed to support the boards of all local and community development bodies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7709/04]

Partnerships, community groups, Leader groups and community development projects all operate as companies limited by guarantee. Work is nearing completion in my Department on codes of ethics for these organisations which will have due regard to the duties and obligations of directors and companies under company law. In addition, the codes of ethics will have regard to the specific principles and objectives of the programmes through which these organisations are funded. The code will also have regard to good practice principles in regard to disbursement of public moneys.

Decentralisation Programme.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

195. D’fhiafraigh Mr. Gilmore den Aire Gnóthaí Pobail, Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta cén dul chun cinn atá déanta i leith dílárú na roinne go dtí Cnoc Mhuire; agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina leith.[7716/04]

Déanaim tagairt don bhfreagra a thug mé ar Cheisteanna Dála Uimh. 1007, 1010, 1013 agus 1017 ar 27 Eanáir 2004 maraon leis an bhfreagra a thug mé ar Cheisteanna Dála Uimh. 150, 159, 167 agus 198 ar 4 Feabhra 2004.

Tá mo Roinn i mbun comhairle leanúnach lena baill foirne maidir leis an tslí is éifeachtaí chun an dílárú atá beartaithe a chur i bhfeidhm agus, mar chuid lárnach den phróiseas sin, tá gach eolas nua á sheachadadh ar na baill chomh luath agus a mbíonn teacht air.

Tá céimeanna éagsúla glactha ag mo Roinnse sa chomhthéacs sin le tamall anuas. Mar shampla: tá aonad díláraithe faoi leith bunaithe chun déileáil leis an gceist seo. Ardoifigeach feidhmiúcháin agus oifigeach cléireachais atá mar fhoireann san aonad seo — is don oifigeach pearsanra atá siad freagrach; tá coiste roinne curtha ar bun freisin ar a bhfuil ionadaíocht ó bhainistíocht shinsearach agus ó fhoireann mo Roinne; tá oifigeach faoi leith roghnaithe chun teagmháil a dhéanamh ar bhonn leanúnach leis an Roinn Airgeadais; tionóltar cruinnithe speisialta de choiste comhpháirtíochta mo Roinne agus baintear leas as na cruinnithe sin chun an fhoireann a choimeád ar an eolas maidir le gach gné den phróiseas dhíláraithe; bíonn mo Roinn i dteagmháil leis na ceardchumainn chomh maith agus tá an t-ábhar seo pléite leo ag an gcomhairle rannúil; tá socrú curtha ar bun chun fógraí nuachta faoin dílárú a eisiúint go rialta agus cuirtear gach doiciméad atá bainteach leis an bpróiseas díláraithe ar fáil don bhfoireann uile ar na fillteáin poiblí ar an gcóras ríomhphoist.

Chomh maith leis sin, tá mioneolas á bhailiú faoi láthair maidir leis na láthair atá i gceist don dílárú ó thaobh mo Roinne de agus tá i gceist pacáistí eolais bunaithe ar sin a scaipeadh ar an bhfoireann go luath. Chomh maith leis sin, tá obair idir lámha maidir le córais a chur i bhfeidhm chun nósanna oibre sna rannáin éagsúla a chur ar thaifead agus chun múnlaí a fhorbairt d'fhonn aistriú éifeachtach fóirne a éascú amach anseo.

Question No. 196 answered with QuestionNo. 122.
Question No. 197 answered with QuestionNo. 142.
Question No. 198 answered with QuestionNo. 153.

Job Creation.

Gerard Murphy

Question:

199. D’fhiafraigh Mr. Murphy den Aire Gnóthaí Pobail, Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta cén dul chun cinn atá déanta aige chun cineálacha fostaíochta nua i gceantair Ghaeltachta a aithint agus a chur ar fáil.[7684/04]

Mar is eol don Teachta, tá athruithe suntasacha tagtha ar chúrsaí tionsclaíocha agus eacnamaíocha na tíre seo le blianta beaga anuas agus tá an scéal mar an gcéanna sa Ghaeltacht. Sna cúinsí uile seo, tá Údarás na Gaeltachta ag díriú ar earnálacha nua fostaíochta — mar shampla, réimse na teicneolaíochta faisnéise, tionscail teanga-bhunaithe, fiontair a bhaineann le hacmhainní mara agus nádúrtha, an geilleagar sóisialach agus turasóireacht chultúrtha. Tá béim á cur freisin ar dheiseanna oideachais tríú leibhéal a fhorbairt sa Ghaeltacht i gcomhar leis na hinstitiúidí cuí. Chomh maith leis seo, tá an túdarás ag tabhairt faoi mholtaí eile a cuireadh ar fáil i dtuarascáil an ghrúpa oibre ar chruthú fostaíochta sa Ghaeltacht, a foilsíodh ag deireadh 2002.

Tuigim ón údarás go raibh méadú 13% ar líon na bpost a cruthaíodh i 2003, sin é, ó 927 post nua i 2002 go 1,052 post nua i 2003. Is féidir liom a chinntiú go leanfar ar aghaidh leis an obair chun deiseanna nua fostaíochta a aimsiú don Ghaeltacht.

Water and Sewerage Schemes.

Billy Timmins

Question:

200 Mr. Timmins asked the Taoiseach the number of elderly persons living in County Wicklow who have no services, water or sewerage in their houses; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7470/04]

Billy Timmins

Question:

201 Mr. Timmins asked the Taoiseach the number of elderly persons living in County Carlow who have no services, water or sewerage in their houses; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7471/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 200 and 201 together.

According to the results of the 2002 census, there were 32 households in County Wicklow which housed persons over 65 years of age and which had no piped water supply and no sewerage facilities at the time of the census. The corresponding figure for County Carlow was 25.

Work Permits.

Pat Breen

Question:

202 Mr. P. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if a person (details supplied) in County Clare will be permitted to seek employment under the new legislation announced on 18 February 2004, whereby 10,000 work permits will be granted to spouses of foreign nationals; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7793/04]

On 18 February 2004, I announced the introduction of an initiative to facilitate easier access to the Irish labour market by spouses of certain skilled non-EEA nationals working in Ireland. These new measures will be confined to the spouses of persons working here on working visas-work authorisations, to spouses of certain intra-company transferees and spouses of certain academics and researchers. In cases where some medical professionals are still working on work permits these will be dealt with on a case by case basis.

It is not intended generally that the spouses of persons on work permits would benefit from these new arrangements.

Petrol Stations.

Paul McGrath

Question:

203 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if, arising from Statutory Instrument No. 424 of 1999, concerning kerbside petrol stations, she has made progress to ensure that many rural petrol stations are not closed down; and the situation in relation to those regulations. [7477/04]

The operation of petrol retail outlets is covered by the Dangerous Substances (Retail and Private Petroleum Stores) Regulations 1979 (S.I. No 311 of 1979), as most recently amended by the Dangerous Substances (Retail and Private Petroleum Stores) (Amendment) Regulations 2002 (S.I. No. 624 of 2002). The regulations also allow the licensing of a number of petrol stations, which had been in use before 1979, by derogation from the regulations.

Pending the introduction of necessary legislation to update the current licensing system, the deadline for the closure of ‘kerbside' stations was extended to 31 December 2004 under the Dangerous Substances (Retail and Private Petroleum Stores) (Amendment) Regulations 2002.

The updating of the relevant legislation is under consideration by my Department.

Office of Consumer Affairs.

Finian McGrath

Question:

204 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if she will give the best advice to a person (details supplied) who is completely dissatisfied with a recent job on her driveway, the construction of a wall and the role of the Office of Consumer Affairs; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7548/04]

The matters complained of appear to fall primarily within the ambit of the contractual relationship between the parties concerned. The complainant may wish to take legal advice on the options available which may, depending on the amounts involved, include the small claims procedure in the District Court. The provisions of the Sale of Goods and Supply of Services Act 1980 relating to implied terms in contracts may also be relevant.

While the Office of the Director of Consumer Affairs does provide general guidance to consumers concerning their statutory rights, it does not become involved in individual disputes between consumers and service providers.

Health and Safety Authority.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

205 Mr. Sargent asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if all necessary resources will be available in the Health and Safety Authority to ensure that the major civil engineering landfill construction site at Knockhartly, Kentstown, County Meath is complying with all relevant health and safety requirements, in particular that all perimeter fencing is in place for the entire site in order to prevent local children and school children from the nearby Kentstown National School from gaining access to this very dangerous site. [7565/04]

A complaint in respect of the site at Knockhartly, Kentstown, County Meath was received by the Health and Safety Authority on Monday, 1 March 2004. An inspector of the authority visited the site on Wednesday morning, 3 March and discussed health and safety issues with the contractor.

Perimeter fencing was already being erected at the site. Arising from his visit the inspector instructed the contractor, in writing, to prioritise the erection of the fencing in the areas of highest risk as a matter of urgency.

Work Permits.

John Perry

Question:

206 Mr. Perry asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if the work permit application of a person (details supplied) will be reassessed in view of the fact that he has been offered employment and specialises in Malaysian cuisine; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7634/04]

I am informed that applications for chefs in ethnic restaurants can be revisited depending on the circumstances of the proposed employer and employee.

My Department is quite happy to facilitate the development and expansion of the ethnic restaurant sector and I accept that it is quite reasonable to expect that this will involve the granting of work permits to an appropriate number of persons from what might be termed the source countries of the ethnic groups concerned. My Department has adopted a very liberal and generous approach in this area in recent years.

However, the Department is concerned that employers should fully explore the possibility of filling these positions from within the EU, where it is aware there are very large communities from the main ethnic groups who are active in the restaurant sector.

My Department is also concerned at the large number of applications from what are ostensibly new restaurants opening at familiar addresses, the number of chefs required by small restaurants and applications in respect of unqualified persons, all of which have to come from the ethnic source countries.

In future, these applications will be considered taking into account the following factors such as the size-seating capacity of the restaurant concerned, the overall number of staff envisaged, the ratio of chefs to ancillary staff, the proportion of EU nationals employed including those of the relevant ethnic group and the qualifications of those persons whom the employer intended to bring into the State on foot of a work permit.

Community Employment Schemes.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

207 Mr. Stagg asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment when benchmarking payments will be applied to supervisors on community employment schemes; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7720/04]

Under the terms of Sustaining Progress all pay increases including benchmarking related increases are linked to the implementation of a programme of modernisation as required by the report of the Public Service Benchmarking Body.

The payment of an increased grant to community employment sponsors to assist them meet the costs of supervisors has been approved subject to agreement being reached on the changes to be introduced and the outputs to be delivered under the modernisation programme.

Discussions between FÁS and the relevant parties are at present taking place with a view to reaching agreement on this issue.

Below Cost Selling.

Pat Carey

Question:

208 Mr. Carey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if, in view of the analysis and recommendations of the report Ghost Town Britain published by the New Economies Foundation in Britain on urban retail degeneration, she proposes to review the ban on below cost selling (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7789/04]

I am aware of this report and its recommendation regarding predatory pricing and below cost selling in Britain. In Ireland, the Restrictive Practices (Groceries) Order 1987 prohibits selling of certain groceries at below cost. I am currently reviewing the order, in particular the ban on below cost selling, and I hope to conclude my consideration of the matter in the near future.

Community Enterprise Centres.

Jack Wall

Question:

209 Mr. Wall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment when the Enterprise Ireland county enterprise scheme will be re-advertised; if unused IDA land such as the site in Castledermot, County Kildare will be considered for such a scheme; if it is the remit of the local authority, namely Kildare County Council, to indicate such an application; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7829/04]

I assume the Deputy is referring to a new programme in relation to community enterprise centres (CECs). As the Deputy will appreciate this is primarily an operational matter for Enterprise Ireland, however there are no proposals at present to launch any further programme. Any proposal would arise in the context of Enterprise Ireland examining the impact and success of previous initiatives and identifying any outstanding issues requiring State support. On foot of such an examination, Enterprise Ireland may then formulate a new proposal for submission to my Department. Such a proposal would be considered by my Department, in consultation with the Department of Finance, with due regard to policy priorities and available resources.

Previous CEC programmes were designed so that local communities would make applications to Enterprise Ireland and take the lead role in the projects. Issues such as the availability of IDA land would generally be matter between the applicants and the IDA and be dealt with on a bilateral basis.

I cannot comment on the remit of Kildare County Council, nor on whether an application from a local authority would be eligible under the criteria of any new CEC programme. Under separate cover, I will send details of the last programme's eligibility criteria for the Deputy's information. Under this scheme, 35 local communities received capital funding towards the cost of developing-extending an enterprise centre.

FÁS Training Programmes.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

210 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if her attention has been drawn to the fact that supervisors of the LTI received no increase in wages, either through cost of living, national pay agreement or benchmarking while other FÁS supervisors and participants did; if she will allocate extra funding to FÁS to address this injustice; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7919/04]

FÁS provides a grant to local training initiative (LTI) sponsors towards the cost of employing supervisors. The last increase in grants for local training initiative supervisor costs was applied from 1 October 2002. This increase was the final tranche of the pay agreement under the Programme for Prosperity and Fairness.

The level of grants payable to LTI sponsors to assist them meet the costs of supervisors is currently being reviewed by FÁS in the context of the pay agreement under Sustaining Progress.

Payments to LTI participants are not linked to Sustaining Progress but are adjusted in line with social welfare increases. The recent social welfare increases have been applied with effect from 1 January 2004.

Military Courts of Inquiry.

Bernard Allen

Question:

211 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Defence the reason he is refusing to release the findings of the courts of inquiry by the military authorities into the death of a person (details supplied) in County Cork; the reason his parent is being denied the full information on the details of the inquiry into his death carried out by the military court of inquiry; the statutory limitations that exist on releasing the findings of the court of inquiry and the reason the parent is being denied his legal rights to get the full details of his death; and the reason he is being referred to the Royal Netherlands Embassy to get details of the investigations of the Dutch police. [7747/04]

The Deputy's question refers to the death of a serving member of the Permanent Defence Force, who tragically lost his life during the course of a civilian parachute jump while on annual leave in Holland.

The military authorities advise that a liaison team, which consisted of a senior officer and a senior non-commissioned officer from the deceased's unit, was established following his tragic death. This team established and maintained contact with the officially designated next of kin, the sister of the deceased. She is the person who is recorded on all Defence Forces documentation as the officially designated next of kin of the deceased. However, as a matter of courtesy, the liaison team also contacted the father of the deceased and maintained contact with him throughout the period following the tragedy.

The military authorities have advised that this tragic death took place while the deceased was on annual leave abroad. Therefore, the deceased was not on duty as a member of the Defence Forces at the time of the tragedy. However, Defence Force regulations require that a court of inquiry should be held where any person subject to military law suffers a fatal injury, regardless of whether he or she is on or off duty at the time. A court of inquiry was therefore held in relation to the circumstances of the deceased's death in accordance with these regulations.

There are certain statutory limitations on the release of the findings of military courts of inquiry. The military authorities have informed me that the general conclusions of the inquiry were that this death was the result of a tragic accident. The military authorities advise that the circumstances of the death were investigated by the Dutch police in accordance with their own procedures under Dutch law. If they have not already done so, relatives may contact the Dutch police through the agency of the Royal Netherlands Embassy, whose contact address and other details have been provided.

Departmental Properties.

Jack Wall

Question:

212 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Defence the position in regard to the overholders on the Curragh Camp, County Kildare; the position of the sale of the Orchard Park estate to the residents of the estate at the Curragh; the position of refurbishment of the residential quarters on the Curragh; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7827/04]

Personnel on being discharged from the Permanent Defence Force are obliged to vacate married quarters within a short period of the dates of their discharge. The individuals overholding 54 married quarters were written to in August 2002, and requested to vacate the properties. To date five of the quarters have been vacated and two others have been purchased by the occupants. A further nine of the properties have been offered for sale and a number of those sales are likely to be finalised in the near future.

My Department is continuing to examine all options, including affordable housing and voluntary and co-operative housing schemes, regarding the re-housing of those overholders who would, in the normal way, be eligible for local authority housing. The Department will remain in contact with the overholders pending resolution of the issue.

With regard to the sale of the 100 married quarters at Orchard Park, the position is that 93 of the occupants have opted to purchase and, to date, 82 of the sales have been completed. In addition, contracts of sale and deeds of transfer have been executed in respect of two further cases.

Married quarters for members of the Defence Forces have for some time been considered an anachronism and it is the policy of the Department to discontinue them in a managed and orderly manner, save in exceptional circumstances. The provision of housing is primarily a matter for the local authorities and married military personnel have an equal claim on such housing as other members of the community in the same income category. Inspections of married quarters are carried out by the military authorities from time to time and it is the policy not to reallocate quarters which are considered sub-standard.

In recent years it has been the practice only to carry out emergency repairs to married quarters and this policy will continue in the future. The military authorities estimate that about €100,000 was expended over the past five years in carrying out such repairs. Rents for married quarters are considerably less than the market value rental valuation for the properties and in this regard negotiations with the representative associations on increases in charges are currently at an advanced stage. However, any revised rates that might be agreed will reflect the present condition of the quarters and those rates would have to be adjusted to reflect any future investment in married quarters.

Defence Forces Equipment.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

213 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Defence the number of military vehicles in the service of the Defence Forces; their type, age and value; the estimated cost of replacing them; and the timetable to replace the older vehicles. [7914/04]

The information sought by the Deputy is asfollows:

Type of Vehicle

Number in Service

Age Range

Current Value Euro

Estimated Cost of ReplacementEuro

Notional life Span (Years)

Truck Heavy (8 x 8 & 4 x 4)

182

1979-2003

12,981,065

20,640,968

20

Truck Medium (4 x 2)

83

1990-1998

1,360,840

2,973,261

20

Truck light (Jeep type Vehicles)

514

1995-2004

9,096,232

19,013,847

10

Ambulance

21

1992-2003

630,441

1,367,494

15

Coach

23

1990-2002

1,445,586

3,135,020

20

Minibus

252

1994-2003

2,756,970

6,012,179

10

Saloon/Runabout

134

1992-2003

1,208,012

2,422,917

10

Motorcycle

150

1990-2003

447,244

1,288,257

12

Special vehicles (to include EOD vehicles, Fuel truck, Ration trucks, Recovery and Tipper trucks, Fire trucks, Stores vehicles etc.)

156

1984-2004

8,250,216

12,455,956

10-20

Total

1,515

38,176,606

69,309,899

Older vehicles are replaced on a planned basis taking into account the notional life span associated with different types of vehicle. On reaching the end of their notional life, vehicles are inspected and assessed with a view to retention in service for a further period or disposal.

Direct Payment Schemes.

Michael Noonan

Question:

214 Mr. Noonan asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if he has received an application from a person (details supplied) in County Limerick for the reference years for decoupling to be amended as a result of medical circumstances; and if he will consider this person’s application. [7447/04]

The person submitted an application to my Department on 20 January 2004 for consideration offorce majeure and exceptional circumstances. Processing of approximately 14,000 applications received by my Department has commenced and the person named will be notified directly by my Department of the decision in his case when the application has been processed.

Farm Retirement Scheme.

John McGuinness

Question:

215 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if he will examine the case of a person (details supplied) in County Carlow; if the penalty imposed can be reviewed downward given that it is causing severe hardship to the family; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7486/04]

My Department was obliged to impose a penalty on the person named because of his failure, as a transferee, to comply with the terms and conditions of the 1994 scheme of early retirement from farming. He appealed against this decision to the agriculture appeals office but the penalty was upheld. The office is statutorily independent of my Department. As the scheme is co-funded by the European Union, my Department is obliged to recover all penalties imposed under it. However, my officials will consider sympathetically proposals the person may wish to make to pay the full amount over a period of time.

Animal Welfare.

Martin Ferris

Question:

216 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if he will make a statement on the possible implications for animal health if DARD officials at Larne proceed with their planned industrial action. [7550/04]

I am aware of the ongoing industrial relations dispute involving the Northern Ireland Civil Service. While action which could potentially affect veterinary controls at points of entry on to the island of Ireland is undesirable, EU veterinary health rules place a significant onus on the member state of dispatch in the case of intra-community trade, and on the member state at which the product first enters the territory of the EU in the case of third country imports. Cross-Border trade in live animals has, since the resumption of trade after the foot and mouth disease crisis in 2001, been subject to full intra-community veterinary health rules. These provide that animals traded between member states must be accompanied by official EU veterinary health certificates and identified in accordance with the relevant Council directives.

In so far as intra-community trade in animal-based products is concerned, imports are permitted only where the products are sourced from an approved establishment, are appropriately labelled and travel with a commercial document. The primary onus regarding compliance of goods involved in intra community trade is on the competent authority of the member state of dispatch.

Products imported into the EU from third countries may be imported only through an approved Border inspection post, BIP, at which all of the required veterinary checks are carried out. The port of Larne is not an approved BIP and such products will have already been subjected to the required EU health checks at their initial point of entry into the EU.

Artificial Insemination.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

217 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if he will outline the guidelines laid down for persons who wish to work as artificial inseminators with a livestock company; the examinations or training which have to be completed before they become qualified; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7624/04]

Persons wishing to practice bovine artificial inseminations, AI, on behalf of a company, appropriately licensed by my Department to provide a bovine artificial insemination field service, must possess a current bovine semen licence. In order to obtain a bovine semen licence, a person must be employed by, or contracted to one of the seven AI companies licensed by my Department for the purposes of providing an AI field service in this country. In addition, they must have undergone an appropriate training programme approved by my Department. The centre veterinarian of the licensed AI company must also certify that they are sufficiently trained and must undertake to fully supervise them during the performance of their duties. My Department also holds examinations for persons who hold a bovine semen licence to assess their level of proficiency.

Direct Payment Schemes.

Gerard Murphy

Question:

218 Mr. Murphy asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if an application under force majeure by a person (details supplied) in County Cork satisfies the criteria laid down by the Department to qualify for payment under the direct payment scheme. [7846/04]

The person submitted an application on 3 February 2004 for consideration offorce majeure exceptional circumstances. Processing of approximately 14,000 applications received by my Department has commenced and the person named will be notified directly by my Department of the decision in his case when the application has been processed.

Gerard Murphy

Question:

219 Mr. Murphy asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if an application made by a person (details supplied) in County Cork under force majeure will be granted. [7847/04]

The person submitted an application to my Department on 21 January 2004 for consideration offorce majeure exceptional circumstances. Processing of approximately 14,000 applications received by my Department has commenced and the person named will be notified directly by my Department of the decision in his case when the application has been processed.

Grant Payments.

Brendan Smith

Question:

220 Mr. B. Smith asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the reason for the delay in approving a 2001 ewe premium application for a person (details supplied) in County Cavan; if this application will be approved without further delay; if payment will issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7937/04]

The person named applied for the 2000 ewe premium scheme on 317 ewes. He was not paid as he failed to co-operate with the inspecting officer and did not produce satisfactory documentary evidence that he was the owner of the sheep at the time of application and at the end of the retention period, that is, 28 April 2000. His appeal to the independent appeals unit of my Department was not accepted.

The person applied for the 2001 ewe premium scheme on 317 ewes. Owing to the outbreak of foot and mouth disease in 2001, no on-farm inspection of his flock took place. Instead, additional administrative checks were introduced in 2001 to verify that the number of ewes applied for under the 2001 ewe premium scheme were in the ownership and possession of applicants at the time of application. Certain applicants, including the person named, were requested to submit certain documentation, that is, purchase-sales dockets, but the person named failed to do so.

In this case, the person named failed to satisfy my Department that he was the owner of the sheep in year 2000 and he was also unable to show that he owned the ewes when he applied for the 2001 ewe premium scheme. In the circumstances, payment cannot be made in this instance.

Departmental Staff.

Liz McManus

Question:

221 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Finance the required quota of employment places for persons with disabilities in Departments; if this quota has been achieved; if not the shortfall remaining; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7481/04]

The Government has a 3% target for the employment of people with a disability in the Civil Service. The annual survey undertaken by my Department of the position on the employment of staff with a disability in the Civil Service, shows that 931 people with a disability were employed at the end of December 2002 — equivalent to 2.8% of total numbers. This compares with 891 people, 2.78%, in 2001 and 758 people, 2.56%, in 2000. Figures for end December 2003 are being compiled. It is important in view of these figures to support and assist Departments in implementing the Government's policy.

Every effort is made to ensure an equal opportunity for success is given to all candidates applying for competitions for recruitment to the civil service. All candidates are requested to identify any special requirements they may have in order to sit the relevant examination, for example sign language. My Department commissioned independent research into the operation of the 3% target and the career progression of people with a disability in the Civil Service. In the light of the consultants' recommendations, proposals to improve the operation of the policy are also being considered by the Government. The aim is not to change the policy, but to ensure its importance is emphasised and that Departments are given assistance in meeting the aims of the policy.

Garda Stations.

Noel O'Flynn

Question:

222 Mr. O’Flynn asked the Minister for Finance the progress being made to secure a suitable site on premises to facilitate a new Garda station in Blackpool, Cork city, to accommodate gardaí from Hallow Road and Watercourse Road Garda station; and if McCurtain Street Garda station will be reopened or if a new site will be required to house gardaí from this station. [7759/04]

The Commissioners of Public Works are currently exploring the possibility of the Garda requirements being accommodated in a proposed new development in Blackpool, County Cork. The options regarding McCurtain Street Garda station are being considered by the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and the Office of Public Works.

Mayo Landslide.

Michael Ring

Question:

223 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Finance if his Department will provide additional funding for late applications for humanitarian aid for landslide victims in north Mayo; and if so, when this funding will be available. [8171/04]

Michael Ring

Question:

225 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Finance the reason, in relation to the humanitarian aid scheme for victims of the Glengad landslides, Ballina, County Mayo, that some late applications were paid out and some were not. [7476/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 223 and 225 together.

The humanitarian aid scheme for victims of the landslides in North Mayo was administered on a confidential basis by the Irish Red Cross Society on behalf of the Office of Public Works. The purpose of the scheme was to relieve hardship and not to provide compensation for losses. While the closing date for applications for aid under the scheme was 26 November 2003, a number of late applications were received by the IRCS and these were dealt with appropriately. However, the approved funding for the scheme has been exhausted and there are no plans to provide further funds for humanitarian aid in the current year. As the scheme is confidential to the individual applicants and the IRCS, I am not in a position to comment in further detail.

Tax Code.

Michael Ring

Question:

224 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Finance if a customs tax on vehicles coming in from the ten countries entering the EU will be removed once they are full members of same. [7454/04]

Customs duty does not apply to motor vehicles imported into the EU from any of the accession countries and this will continue to be the position after these countries become full members of the EU on 1 May next. With regard to vehicle registration tax, VRT, all motor vehicles, whether they are imported into the State from EU member states or non-member states, are subject to the payment of VRT on registration here. This position will not change after 1 May.

Question No. 225 answered with No. 223.

Departmental Properties.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

226 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to the poor state of repair of the boundary walls of the Beggars Bush barracks complex, with particular regard to the section on Shelbourne Road, between the junction of Haddington Road and Shelbourne Road; if the upkeep of the wall is the responsibility of the OPW; if he has satisfied himself that there is no danger to public safety as a result of the poor state of repair; the steps he proposes to take to have the essential maintenance carried out to renew the mortar and secure loose stones, particularly stones on the parapet of the boundary walls; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7496/04]

The relevant sections of the boundary walls of the Beggars Bush barracks complex are leased by the Minister for Finance to Dublin Corporation, now Dublin City Council, which is responsible for their repair and maintenance.

John Cregan

Question:

227 Mr. Cregan asked the Minister for Finance if the Office of Public Works will withhold further legal proceedings on the vacating of property to allow discussions to take place between both parties (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7497/04]

A notice to quit was served on the party involved in October 2003. Legal proceedings are now under way and will not be postponed.

State Laboratory.

Seán Crowe

Question:

228 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Finance the reason for the lengthy delays in obtaining toxicology reports from the State Laboratory; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that no toxicology report has yet been completed in the case of the death of a person (details supplied); the reason for this delay; if delays of this nature are normal; his views on whether sufficient resources are made available to the State Laboratory in order for it to deal with its workload; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7516/04]

I am informed that the toxicology test report for the case in question was forwarded to the Dublin county coroner on 23 February 2004. I am conscious of the importance of the service provided to the coroners by the State Laboratory and the impact it inevitably has on relatives of people whose deaths are the subject of inquests at a time of great distress. The management of the laboratory share that sensitivity and constantly monitor the service by reviewing available resources, the possibilities for outsourcing and the complexity of analyses.

I understand that additional resources have been allocated to the toxicology section and there has been a substantial increase in the number of analyses completed. However, there is still a backlog of cases, due to an increase of 50% in the past two years in the number of cases referred, and a general increase in the complexity of the analyses required.

A range of measures are being taken at present to reduce the turnaround time of samples sent to the laboratory and processed by its toxicology section. Additional priority is to be given to the coroners's cases over other work of the section. Laboratory management are also reviewing the procedures and processes in the toxicology area with a view to automating as much as possible.

The possibilities of reducing the complexity of testing were discussed between the State Laboratory and the coroners and their representatives, as doing so would have an immediate impact on turnaround times. However, it was not considered possible to reduce the complexity of tests performed by the laboratory in view of the constant demand from families for comprehensive analysis, the increasing complexity of the cocktail of drugs potentially taken by victims which requires sequential analyses to be carried out and coroner's requirement for quality analytical data, which will withstand scrutiny in a court.

Garda Stations.

Noel O'Flynn

Question:

229 Mr. O’Flynn asked the Minister for Finance the progress being made in the purchase and developments of a site in Riverstown, Glanmire, County Cork for a new Garda station to replace the existing dangerous building being used by gardaí in Glanmire. [7760/04]

The Commissioners of Public Works have made inquiries with Cork County Council regarding the acquisition of a site for a new Garda station at Glanmire, County Cork.

Should a suitable site become available in the Glanmire area, the commissioners will build a new Garda station in accordance with the priority assigned to it by the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and on the basis that the necessary funding is available at the appropriate time.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

230 Mr. McGinley asked the Minister for Finance if there are plans for the renovation or replacement of the Garda station and headquarters in Ballyshannon, County Donegal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7780/04]

A contract was placed for the erection of a Garda district headquarters at Ballyshannon, County Donegal, in December 2003. Construction has commenced and the project is due for completion in May 2005.

GATT Licences.

Liz McManus

Question:

231 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Finance further to Parliamentary Question No. 245 of 17 February 2004, regarding the investigations by the Revenue Commissioners of 16 companies approved to avail of GATT quota under the regulations, if companies (details supplied) are among those being investigated; if the ownership of these companies has been established; if so, the details of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7856/04]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that this investigation into the circumstances surrounding the application, issue and use of GATT licences under Commission Regulation (EC) No. 954/2002 by the 16 Irish companies is still ongoing.

It would be inappropriate to comment publicly at this time on the specific details of this investigation, for fear that the outcome of that investigation could be compromised.

Prize Bonds.

Richard Bruton

Question:

232 Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for Finance if there is a system of independent scrutiny and transparency on prize bond draws, such as that operated by the national lottery, which would assure subscribers of the fairness of prize winner selection procedures; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7933/04]

Prize bonds are Government securities which, instead of attracting interest, participate in weekly draws for cash prizes. The scheme is administered by the Prize Bond Company Limited, acting as agent for the National Treasury Management Agency. The Prize Bond Company is a joint venture owned equally by An Post and FEXCO, Killorglin, County Kerry. Draws are held every Friday at 10.30 a.m. in the GPO, O'Connell Street, Dublin, and are open to the public. The results are also presented on the website of the Prize Bond Companywww.prizebonds.ie. At present, over 1,960 prizes are awarded to bondholders each week.

The draw is fully computerised. The process involves the generation of a sequence of random bond serial numbers by means of a specially written computer programme. Prizes, commencing with the largest, are then awarded to the winning bondholders in the order in which the bond numbers were drawn. The draw software has been verified by independent statistical consultants. They also analyse the results of every draw to check for randomness and their reports are submitted to, and evaluated by, the National Treasury Management Agency on a regular basis. In addition, a representative of the National Treasury Management Agency attends every draw so as to ensure strict adherence to the operational procedures set down for the conduct of the draw.

Foreign Conflicts.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

233 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will give details of Irish policy on Kosovo and in particular on the demand by the Kosovar people for full independence. [7455/04]

The Government strongly support the work of the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General in Kosovo, Mr. Harri Holkeri, to ensure the full implementation of Security Council Resolution 1244. I discussed the situation in Kosovo with Mr. Holkeri when he visited Dublin on 19 December last for consultations in advance of Ireland's EU Presidency. As we hold the Presidency, we are remaining in close contact with the Special Representative and with the UN Mission in Kosovo, UNMIK. Considerable progress has been made in Kosovo since 1999, under UN administration. However, the situation in Kosovo remains uncertain, and it retains the potential to affect the stability of the wider region of the western Balkans. The Government believes that it is essential that the international community maintains its commitment to the creation of a secure, multi-ethnic and democratic Kosovo, on the basis of Resolution 1244. The EU has a long-term commitment to Kosovo. We recognise that a solution in Kosovo will be found in the overall context of the European perspective of the countries of the western Balkans. In the second half of 2003, UNMIK and the provisional institutions of self-government in Kosovo agreed on the strengthening of the policy of standards before status through a process of defining the reform objectives for Kosovo, with regular reviews leading to an overall review sometime in mid-2005. The standards for Kosovo document was launched in December. Special Representative Holkeri, in consultation with the authorities in Kosovo and the wider international community, is now finalising a detailed standards implementation work plan, which he hopes to present to the UN Security Council in the coming weeks.

An essential element in the standards process leading up to the mid-2005 review is the development of the direct dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina on practical issues of mutual concern. The dialogue was launched in Vienna on 14 October 2003, with the establishment of four working groups, on energy, transport and telecommunications, missing persons, and refugee returns. Following a period of political difficulty, the first meeting of the working group on energy was successfully held in Pristina on 4 March and the first meeting of the group on missing persons is scheduled for today, 9 March. This is an encouraging development. The EU looks forward to practical results from the dialogue in the months ahead, which will be in the interests of the people of Kosovo and of their neighbours. The General Affairs and External Relations Council agreed on 23 February that the UN-led policy of implementing standards and the EU's efforts to promote the European perspective of Kosovo are mutually reinforcing and represent parallel tracks of the same process. As EU Presidency, Ireland has maintained the priority attached to the situation in the western Balkans and has ensured that close attention is paid to the situation in Kosovo, in co-operation with Special Representative Holkeri and with the wider international community.

Following the February Council discussion on Kosovo, the Presidency is considering with member states ways and means of further enhancing the contribution of the EU to the implementation of Resolution 1244, building further on the lead role played by the Union in support of economic reconstruction and development in Kosovo.

Cross-Border Projects.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

234 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he has had discussions with the British Government or with the Northern Ireland Office Minister at the Department for Regional Development, Mr John Speller, on the issue of prioritising investment in what is known as the non core railway infrastructure north of Ballymena and stretching to Derry; if he has conveyed any concern to Mr. Speller that the systematic under-investment is resulting once again in a marginalisation of the north west and compromising future opportunities for the restoration of a cross-Border western rail corridor that could stretch to Derry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7783/04]

I have not had any discussions with the British Government or with the Minister at the Department for Regional Development, Mr. Spellar, in particular, regarding investment in the railway infrastructure between Ballymena and Derry. The Department of Transport has ongoing and regular contact with the Department of Regional Development and the two Departments co-operate on projects to the benefit of both jurisdictions.

The Deputy will be aware that transport is one of the 12 priority areas for North-South co-operation, identified in the work programme of the North-South Ministerial Council. Several specific opportunities for co-operation have been identified by the council, including the further development of cross-Border rail services. Indeed, the development of cross-Border rail links, including the scope for improved services between Dublin and Derry, was discussed at the first meeting of the NSMC on Transport in December 2000.

Both Governments are currently working to bring about the restoration of devolved government to Northern Ireland. In this context I look forward to the further discussion of this issue within the North-South Ministerial Council.

Student Support Schemes.

Willie Penrose

Question:

235 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason exam fees have been levied on final year apprentices, who are undertaking such apprenticeships under the auspices of FÁS; if, in this context he will take steps to ensure that such levies are not imposed, due to the financial exigencies of many of the students who are participating in these apprenticeships; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7734/04]

In 2003 I received requests from a number of 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 that it was inequitable to levy the charge on full-time students only as this gave rise to a situation whereby 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, I decided to approve the introduction of apro rata student services charge for FÁS apprentices from January 2004.

Unlike other categories of students, apprentices receive wages and either a travel or an accommodation allowance while studying in the institutes. Nevertheless, the institutes are prepared to consider reducing or waiving the charge in cases where it would cause hardship to the apprentice or their family.

Schools Building Projects.

Dan Neville

Question:

236 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Education and Science the position regarding the completion of an extension to a school (details supplied) in County Limerick. [7735/04]

The proposed large-scale building project for the school referred to by the Deputy is listed in section 8 of the 2004 school building programme which is published on my Department's website atwww.education.ie. This proposed project is at stage 1/2/3, detailed plans-costs of architectural planning. It has been assigned a band two 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 school building programme which in turn will give greater clarity regarding projects that are not progressing in this year's programme. I will make a further announcement in that regard during the year.

School Staffing.

Paudge Connolly

Question:

237 Mr. Connolly asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of appointments to administrative posts that are under appeal in the primary sector and at each strand of the post-primary level, voluntary, VEC, community and comprehensive; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7448/04]

The appointment of principals and deputy principals is a matter for the authorities of the school concerned. My Department's function is to ensure that the proposed appointee is appropriately qualified and eligible for the post in question and that agreed appointment procedures have been followed. School authorities are not obliged to notify my Department where an appeal is lodged against a proposed appointment. In the circumstances, the information requested by the Deputy is not available in my Department.

School Discipline.

Paudge Connolly

Question:

238 Mr. Connolly asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of appeals against suspension or exclusion from post-primary schools, voluntary, VEC, community and comprehensive and primary schools that have been made under the Education (Welfare) Act 2000; the reasons for such suspensions or exclusion; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7449/04]

The provision to appeal against a decision to suspend or exclude a pupil is set out under section 29 of the Education Act 1998 rather than, as the Deputy's question states, the Education (Welfare) Act 2000. Section 29 of the Education Act 1998 provides for an appeal to the Secretary General of my Department where a board of management of a school or a person acting on its behalf refuses to enrol a student, suspends a student for a cumulative total of more than 20 days in an academic year or expels a student from the school. The file which I have forwarded to the Deputy details the number of appeals against suspensions and expulsions which have been made under section 29 of the Education Act 1998 up to 31 January 2004. The reasons underlying each suspension or exclusion are unique to the particular case and each appeal is considered by the appeals committee having regard to the circumstances of the particular case. My Department does not seek to categorise the reasons given for suspensions or exclusions in appeal cases.

Appointments to State Boards.

Jim Glennon

Question:

239 Mr. Glennon asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason there is no representation from the primary sector on the special education council recently announced; if it is his intention to co-opt such a representative; and, if so when such a co-option can be expected. [7450/04]

As I have previously stated, in establishing the council I did not set out to create a body representative of any particular sectoral interest. It is important that the council should function in a cohesive, non-representative manner. The 13 council members I have appointed have a wide range of relevant knowledge and expertise.

The Deputy may be interested to know that in February I appointed Ms Sinéad McLaughlin to the council. Ms McLaughlin is the principal of Scoil Íosagáin in Buncrana, County Donegal. This is the last appointment to be made to the council.

Education Centre Network.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

240 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will reconsider the decision to stop the central funding of the school chaplains’ association in view of the unique nature of the service given by chaplains which does not fall not into the general category of services which might normally be supplied through local teacher centres; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7478/04]

My Department has reviewed the processes whereby it supports a range of in-service activities for personnel working in schools at primary and post-primary levels. This was undertaken in the context of reorienting support from a centralised system to one of local delivery based on local requirements and needs through the established national network of education centres. To rationalise matters and to make the best use of available resources, direct support to schools and other bodies and groups, including the school chaplains' association, is no longer available directly from my Department. Therefore, schools and others are advised to contact their local education centre whose role it is to provide local in-service and support, advice and assistance to schools and their personnel in these matters. This approach will help avoid duplication and make the best use of available resources.

School Accommodation.

Pat Carey

Question:

241 Mr. Carey asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress made by his Department in acquiring a site for a school (details supplied) in Dublin 9; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7488/04]

My Department is considering options for the long-term accommodation needs of the school to which the Deputy refers. This includes the possible purchase of a site. However, due to the commercial sensitivities surrounding site acquisitions, the Deputy will appreciate that I am unable to comment on specific site purchase issues. When acquisitions have been completed, the information will be placed on my Department's website atwww.education.ie.

Teaching Qualifications.

John McGuinness

Question:

242 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Education and Science the failure rate over each of the past four years in the SCG examination; if he intends to review the standard being set for this exam by his Department; if he will incorporate a classroom based assessment as past of the exam and set a focused syllabus for exam purposes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7489/04]

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 a copy has been published on my Department's website. Issues dealt with in the report include the content and format of the examination modules, the standard of the examinations and courses of study for applicants for the examinations. The report is under consideration and decisions on the recommendations contained in it, including a recommendation that teaching methodology should be assessed by means of a classroom based practical assessment, will be taken in due course. The working group earlier drafted an interim syllabus which was circulated to all schools in December 2002.

The SCG examinations held in October, 2003 were the first series of SCG examinations to be based on this syllabus. Copies of the interim syllabus, which included a reading list of prose and poetry to be studied for the examinations, are available on request from primary administration section 1, Department of Education and Science, Cornamaddy, Athlone, County Westmeath. An updated language syllabus for the SCG has also been published on the Department's website together with a handbook for the examination which was drafted by the working group. The handbook contains detailed information on the SCG and provides answers to a wide range of questions raised by candidates. It is planned to produce a textbook of relevant prose and poetry for future examinations.

The failure rates (%) for each section of the scrúdú le haghaidh cáilíochta sa Ghaeilge for the past four years are as follows:

Year

Paper 1

Paper 2

Aural

Oral

%

%

%

%

2000

51.9

57.9

53.3

44.0

2001

43.0

46.1

30.4

39.1

2002

36.4

54.4

22.6

45.6

2003

73.4

68.0

70.3

57.9

Schools Building Projects.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

243 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will report on the position regarding Aghina Primary School, Macroom, County Cork; when work on new school accommodation will be started; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7490/04]

The proposed project is being reviewed in my Department at present to decide on the best way forward for the school. I expect this review to be completed very shortly. My Department will be in contact with the board of management to progress the matter as soon as the review is completed.

School Management.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

244 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Education and Science if elected parents’ representatives on boards of management of national schools cannot be considered for the position of chairperson of a board; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7491/04]

Section 14 of the Education Act 1998 places upon the patron of a school the duty to appoint a board of management. Once a board of management is formally appointed the patron shall appoint one of its members as chairperson of the board. My Department, following consultation and agreement with the partners in education, has recently revised the handbook, Constitution of Boards and Rules and Procedures, which clearly outlines the procedures for the nomination and election of boards of management of national schools. Neither the Education Act nor the rules and procedures for boards of management prevent a patron from appointing an elected parent representative as chairperson of a board.

School Transport.

Jack Wall

Question:

245 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Education and Science if the free transport scheme is available to students on a private service (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7492/04]

The transport liaison officer of the relevant VEC has advised that the names and addresses of the pupils from the areas referred to by the Deputy in the details supplied will be required before a detailed examination of transport arrangements can be conducted. The general position is that post-primary pupils who live at least three miles or more from the post-primary centre of the catchment area in which they reside are eligible for transport under the scheme to that centre. Eligible pupils who wish to attend a post-primary centre other than their appropriate one may be allowed transport from within the catchment boundary of the centre being attended, subject to there being spare accommodation available on the service after all fully eligible pupils have been catered for and provided that no additional State cost is incurred.

School Accommodation.

Seán Crowe

Question:

246 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Education and Science the steps being taken to address the accommodation crisis and shortage of places in the primary schools in Portlaoise, including the urgent need to provide a new school building for Gaelscoil Phortlaoise. [7514/04]

The Deputy will be aware that a facilitator, Dr. Tom McCarthy, was appointed to assist in the development of a long-term plan for the provision of primary and post-primary school accommodation in the Portlaoise area. Following receipt of his recommendations, it was decided that the educational provision at post primary level required to be addressed as a matter of urgency. As this has now been finalised, officials in the school planning section of my Department are examining the educational provision at primary level with a view to establishing the best way forward. The school authorities will be kept informed of the situation.

Special Educational Needs.

David Stanton

Question:

247 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of special educational resource applications received by his Department since 31 August 2003; the number of these applications which have been resolved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7528/04]

My Department received applications in respect of 2,439 pupils for special educational resources in mainstream national schools since 31 August 2003. The arrangements for processing these applications will be considered in the context of the outcome of ongoing discussions with representative interests on a weighted system of allocation of resource teaching support. A further communication will be sent to schools in this regard.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

248 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science when resource hours will be provided for a person (details supplied) in County Offaly who has been diagnosed with dyspraxia with related learning difficulties following assessments with therapists and psychologists; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7531/04]

My Department has received applications for special educational resources, SER, from the school referred to by the Deputy, including an application for the pupil in question. SER applications received between 15 February and 31 August 2003 are under consideration. In all, more than 5,000 such applications were received.

Priority was given to cases involving children starting school last September and all of these cases were responded to before or soon after the commencement of the current school year. The balance of more than 4,000 applications has been reviewed by a dedicated team comprising members of my Department's inspectorate and the National Educational Psychological Service. These applications are being further considered in the context of the outcome of surveys of SER provision conducted over the past year or so. Account is also being taken of the data submitted by schools as part of the recent nationwide census of SER provision. The processing of the applications is a complex and time-consuming operation. However, my Department is endeavouring to have this completed as quickly as possible and my officials will then respond to all applicant schools.

Pending a response, schools are advised to refer to circular 24/03, which issued in September, 2003. The circular contains practical advice on how to achieve the most effective deployment of resources already allocated for special educational needs within the school. The arrangements for processing applications received after 31 August 2003, including the application for the pupil in question, will be considered in the context of the outcome of discussions on a weighted system of allocation of resource teaching support. A further communication will be sent to schools in this regard.

Higher Education Grants.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

249 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason a decision for a third level higher education grant has not been made in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Galway; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7545/04]

The three third level student support schemes, administered by the local authorities and the vocational education committees under the aegis of my Department, offer financial assistance to eligible students attending approved third level courses. Students entering approved courses for the first time are, generally speaking, eligible for grants where they satisfy the relevant conditions as to age, residence, means, nationality and previous academic attainment.

It is the relevant local authority or VEC to which an application for a grant must be made. Decisions on applications are taken by these bodies based on the terms of the schemes which issue from my Department. These bodies do not refer individual applications to my Department except, in exceptional cases, where, for example, advice or instruction regarding a particular clause in the relevant scheme is desired. It appears that no such advice or instruction has, to date, been sought in the case of the student, referred to by the Deputy.

The closing date for receipt of grant applications for the current academic year was 29 August 2003. However the awarding bodies, at their own absolute discretion, may accept applications after this date. These applications are considered late applications and some awarding bodies have a policy of dealing firstly with applications received before the closing date and then attending to the late applications. I understand that County Galway VEC has confirmed to officials in my Department that they received an application from this candidate last October. Further information was recently requested by County Galway VEC from the candidate and has since been received. Officials in my Department have been advised by County Galway VEC that it will shortly be in a position to contact this candidate concerning her grant application.

Schools Building Projects.

Billy Kelleher

Question:

250 Mr. Kelleher asked the Minister for Education and Science the situation regarding the school building programme for An Scoil tAthair Tadgh, Carrig na bhFear, County Cork; when he envisages this project being completed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7594/04]

The proposed large-scale building project for An Scoil tAthair Tadgh, Carrig na bhFear, County Cork is listed in section 8 of the 2004 school building programme which is published on my Department's website atwww.education.ie. This proposed project is at stage 4 and 5 — detail design and bills of quantities — of architectural planning. It has been assigned a band 3 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 multiannual capital envelopes will enable me to adopt a multiannual framework for the school building programme which in turn will give greater clarity regarding projects that are not progressing in this year’s programme. I will make a further announcement in that regard during the year.

Education Schemes.

Billy Kelleher

Question:

251 Mr. Kelleher asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason St. Patrick’s girls secondary school, Gardiners Mill, Cork, is not included in the Breaking the Cycle scheme, even though the national schools surrounding it are all included in the scheme; if he has satisfied himself that St. Patrick’s has enough teaching resources to cater for students who require additional assistance; if he will include St. Patrick’s in the Breaking the Cycle scheme due to the fact that there are areas of disadvantage in its catchment area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7595/04]

The Breaking the Cycle pilot project is a primary school initiative launched in 1996. It seeks to discriminate positively in favour of primary schools in selected urban and rural areas which have high concentrations of children who are at risk of not reaching their potential in the education system because of their socio-economic backgrounds. Any decision to expand or extend any of the initiatives dealing with tackling educational disadvantage will be considered in the context of a broad review of all such initiatives to tackle educational disadvantage which is currently under way in my Department.

Special Educational Needs.

John Bruton

Question:

252 Mr. J. Bruton asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason for the delay in approving south County Dublin CABAS in view of the fact that the parents themselves have a site, the CABAS expertise is available, a comprehensive submission was sent to him some time ago and that the required 18 pupils have had psychological reports stating that CABAS is appropriate for them; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7598/04]

My Department is actively considering an application for the establishment of a CABAS facility for children with autism in south County Dublin. A response will issue to the applicants as soon as possible. I should also point out to the Deputy that, while the initial application proposed to cater for 18 pupils, my Department has received details in respect of only six children. Details of the other children who would attend the facility have been requested. A response from the applicants is awaited. I can assure the Deputy of my Department's commitment to processing this application as quickly and thoroughly as possible.

David Stanton

Question:

253 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Education and Science further to circular letter SPEO 24/03, the education partners which have been involved in discussions that have already taken place or that he intends to hold in order to develop a weighted system of allocation of resource teachers and allocation and deployment of special needs assistants; the progress that has been made in this issue; the way in which he plans to predict incidence of special educational needs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7609/04]

My officials are consulting with the Irish National Teachers' Organisation, the Catholic Primary School Managers' Association and the National Parents' Council, primary schools section, regarding the weighted system of allocation of resource teachers. Consultations with the other primary school management representatives are also proposed. The proposed weighted system will take account of the prevalence of pupils with low achievement and pupils with special educational needs as indicated by national and international research. The matter of the allocation and deployment of special needs assistants is also being considered at present in my Department.

David Stanton

Question:

254 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Education and Science, further to circular letter SPEO 24/03, the extent and the nature of the misapplication of the terms of circulars mentioned and identified following reviews of applications and allocations by the national educational psychological service and the inspectorate in 2002 and 2003; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7610/04]

In Autumn 2002, my Department's inspectorate conducted a review 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.

The survey established that of the 6,908 pupils enrolled in the schools surveyed, 3% were enrolled in special classes, 6% were in receipt of resource teacher support and 12% were in receipt of learning support provision. Thus a total of 9% of pupils in the sample had been identified as having significant physical, sensory, intellectual or emotional disabilities. The survey report contrasted this 9% figure with the findings of the special education review committee, which estimated that pupils with such significant disabilities amounted to an estimated 2% of the school population, of which half, 1%, were being educated in mainstream schools.

In England and Wales, approximately 275,000 pupils have statements of special educational needs. This equates with approximately 3% of all pupils and would be in line with expected levels internationally. While expressing concern at the higher than expected incidence of significant disability, 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, it expressed concern that the greater availability of resource teachers in recent years may also have led to over-identification of special needs in schools.

The potential for such over-identification arises particularly in regard to children who are on the borderline of intellectual disability. While many such children have been the subject of applications for resource teacher and or special needs assistant support, it is considered that their needs could more appropriately be addressed by the learning support teacher service.

In general, there is concern that some applications for special supports reflect an approach which is based on what the child might benefit from, as opposed to what a child is actually entitled to, having regard to the professionally-assessed needs involved and the terms of departmental circulars which specify the support rates applicable to each disability category.

In winter 2002, a review was carried out by the national educational psychological service and covered a total of 788 applications from schools for resource teacher and/or special needs assistant support. The applications in question involved a total of 1,590 individual pupils in respect of whom support was sought. Of the 1,590 pupils involved, the review concluded that the applications in respect of 948, 60%, of these pupils conformed with departmental circulars and the resources sought in these cases have been sanctioned. Deficiencies were identified in the remaining 642 cases. Where possible in such cases, NEPS made a recommendation as to the nature and level of the resources which should be provided and such resources have been sanctioned. However, in some cases, for example, where the school was unable to produce the relevant assessment report, no recommendation for resources could be made.

Applications for special educational needs received between 15 February and 31 August 2003 are being considered at present. In all, more than 5,000 such applications were received. Priority was given to cases involving children starting school last September. All of these cases were responded to and resources granted where applications complied with the relevant circulars. We continue to respond to emergency applications.

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

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

Michael Noonan

Question:

255 Mr. Noonan asked the Minister for Education and Science when a decision will be made on an application made on behalf of a person (details supplied) in a school in County Limerick who has a learning disability that requires resource teaching; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7635/04]

I can confirm that my Department has received applications for special educational resources, SER, from the school referred to by the Deputy, including an application for the pupil in question. SER applications received between 15 February and 31 August 2003 are currently being considered. In all, more than 5,000 such applications were received. Priority was given to cases involving children starting school last September and all of these cases were responded to before or soon after the commencement of the current school year.

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

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

The arrangements for processing applications received after the 31 August 2003, including the application for the pupil in question, will be considered in the context of the outcome of discussions on a weighted system of allocation of resource teaching support. A further communication will be sent to schools in this regard.

Schools Refurbishment.

David Stanton

Question:

256 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress with regard to the application under the summer works scheme from the CBS secondary school in Midleton, County Cork, to have science laboratories at the school refurbished as a matter of urgency; the estimated cost of such refurbishment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7636/04]

The school's application for grant aid under the summer works scheme was unsuccessful. Each unsuccessful applicant under this scheme will receive a letter from my Department outlining the reason works were not approved. These letters will issue to schools as quickly as possible.

When publishing the 2004 school building programme, I outlined that my strategy going forward will be grounded in capital investment based on multiannual allocations. My officials are reviewing all projects which were not authorised to proceed to construction as part of the 2004 school building programme, with a view to including them as part of a multiannual school building programme from 2005. I expect to be in a position to make further announcements on this matter in the course of the year. The uilding project for CBS secondary school in Midleton will be considered in this regard.

Sports Facilities.

Gerard Murphy

Question:

257 Mr. Murphy asked the Minister for Education and Science when funding will be made available to Cork county VEC for the repair and refurbishment of toilet and shower facilities for the racquetball club in Codrum, Macroom, County Cork. [7637/04]

My Department does not provide funding for the provision of facilities for sports clubs. The club should apply to the Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism in the matter.

Special Educational Needs.

John Deasy

Question:

258 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will grant approval for one to one teaching for a person (details supplied) in County Waterford who has been assessed by the school and approved for same. [7640/04]

I can confirm that my Department has received applications for special educational resources, SER, from the school referred to by the Deputy, including an application for the pupil in question. SER applications received between 15 February and 31 August 2003 are currently being considered. In all, more than 5,000 such applications were received. Priority was given to cases involving children starting school last September and all of these cases were responded to before or soon after the commencement of the current school year.

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

The processing of the applications is a complex and time-consuming operation. However, my Department is endeavouring to have this completed as quickly as possible and my officials will then respond to all applicant schools. Pending a response, schools are advised to refer to circular 24/03, which issued in September 2003. This circular contains practical advice on how to achieve the most effective deployment of resources already allocated for special educational needs within the school. The arrangements for processing applications received after the 31 August 2003, including the application for the pupil in question, will be considered in the context of the outcome of discussions on a weighted system of allocation of resource teaching support. A further communication will be sent to schools in this regard.

Schools Refurbishment.

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

259 Mr. O’Connor asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will make available the report of his Department’s staff who recently visited St. Kilian’s national school, Castleview, Dublin 24, and who saw the state of the roof; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7736/04]

A member of my Department's technical staff recently visited the school. The report on this visit will be made available should the school request it.

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

260 Mr. O’Connor asked the Minister for Education and Science if fencing and other effective boundary treatment will be provided at his Department’s school site in Kingswood Heights, Tallaght, Dublin 24; if his attention has been drawn to the concern of the local community, particularly in Tynan Hall Park, who are suffering from serious anti-social behaviour from the site and the need for action; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7737/04]

My Department is considering a number of proposals regarding the future use of lands at Kingswood Heights, Tallaght, Dublin 24. No final decision has been taken in the matter. In the meantime, my Department has no immediate plans to fence off the site.

Sport and Recreational Development.

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

261 Mr. O’Connor asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will initiate a process, including local consultation, to provide a multipurpose hall on his Department’s lands at Kingswood Heights, Tallaght, Dublin 24, to cater for the school going population attending St. Kilian’s national schools; if his attention has been drawn to the clear needs of the local community in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7738/04]

My Department recently received a proposal regarding the development of a sports hall on lands in its ownership at Kingswood Heights in Tallaght, Dublin 24. The proposal is under consideration and a decision will issue in the matter as soon as possible.

Schools Recognition.

Seán Crowe

Question:

262 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason Donabate-Portrane Educate Together national school has not yet been granted permanent recognition over a month since they first met with the criteria laid down as necessary for such recognition. [7748/04]

An application from Donabate-Portrane Educate Together national school for permanent recognition is under consideration in the school planning section of my Department. As soon as a decision is taken in the matter, the school authority will be notified.

Seán Crowe

Question:

263 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Education and Science if his attention has been drawn to the large sum of money owed by Donabate-Portrane Educate Together national school to Fingal County Council and that the school’s board of management has no ability to meet this charge; and if the Department will contact the school as a matter of urgency to discuss the matter. [7749/04]

The situation referred to by the Deputy has not been brought to the attention of my Department. The management authority of Donobate-Portrane Educate Together national school should contact the school planning section of my Department with the relevant detail for consideration.

Schools Building Projects.

Seán Power

Question:

264 Mr. S. Power asked the Minister for Education and Science if a school (details supplied) is included in the summer works scheme 2004; and the works that will be carried out. [7774/04]

The school to which the Deputy refers is included in the list of successful applicants under the summer works scheme which is published on my Department's website atwww.education.ie. Contact will be made with the school authority shortly with details of the works approved.

Psychological Service.

Phil Hogan

Question:

265 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Education and Science when funding will be provided for an autism centre (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7777/04]

My Department is actively considering the application referred to by the Deputy. My officials are liaising with my Department's Inspectorate, the National Educational Psychological Service and the patron bodies in this regard and a response will issue to the applicants as quickly as possible.

Schools Building Projects.

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

266 Mr. O’Connor asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will furnish a report on the unsuccessful application by a school (details supplied) in Dublin 24 under the Department’s summer works scheme 2004 in view of the great disappointment of the community that the required works have not been approved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7778/04]

Each unsuccessful applicant under the summer works scheme will receive a letter from my Department outlining the reason why works were not approved. These letters will issue to schools as quickly as possible.

Higher Education Grants.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

267 Mr. McGinley asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will recognise a beauty therapist course in the North West Institute of Technology in Derry for student support grant services; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7782/04]

Grants under my Department's higher education grant scheme and vocational education committees scholarship scheme are tenable in respect of full-time undergraduate courses of not less than two years duration pursued in a university or third-level institution which is maintained or assisted by recurrent grants from public funds in another EU member state.

In relation to colleges of further and higher education in the UK and Northern Ireland, generally speaking, an approved course means a course at higher national diploma (HND) level or higher. If the course referred to by the Deputy meets the definition of an approved course for the purposes of the schemes, students may apply to the relevant awarding body for grant assistance in respect of same. The terms and conditions of the schemes are reviewed by my Department annually and revised where necessary. Additional courses may be approved under the schemes only where they meet the prescribed definition of an approved course.

Special Educational Needs.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

268 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Education and Science if a full-time care assistant will be provided for a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7796/04]

My Department has no record of having received an application for special needs assistant support for the person referred to by the Deputy. I understand that this person is due to commence school in September, 2004.

My officials have been in contact with the school relevant authorities who have confirmed that they are in the process of making an application for special educational resources (SER) for this person. Special needs assistants may be approved to support a pupil who has a significant medical need for such assistance, a significant impairment of physical or sensory function or where their behaviour is such that they are a danger to themselves or other pupils.

Any application received will be considered in the context of the criteria set out in the relevant Department circulars and the existing level of SER provision in the school.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

269 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will provide a classroom assistant for a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7828/04]

The school referred to by the Deputy currently has the services of two learning support teacher and two resource teaching posts. I can confirm, also, that my Department has received applications for additional special educational resources (SER) from the school, including an application for the pupil in question.

SER applications received between 15 February and 31 August, 2003 are being considered at present. In all, more than 5,000 such applications were received. Priority was given to cases involving children starting school last September and all these cases were responded to at or before the commencement of the current school year. The balance of more than 4,000 applications has been reviewed by a dedicated team comprising members of my Department's Inspectorate and the National Educational Psychological Service. These applications are being further considered in the context of the outcome of surveys of SER provision conducted over the past year or so. Account is also being taken of the data submitted by schools as part of the recent nationwide census of SER provision.

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

Schools Building Projects.

Pat Breen

Question:

270 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason the applications for Scropul School and Coore School in County Clare for the summer grant scheme were not considered; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7857/04]

Each unsuccessful applicant under the summer works scheme will receive a letter from my Department outlining the reason why works were not approved. These letters will issue to schools as quickly as possible.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

271 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Education and Science when he will provide funding for a new primary school at Laytown, County Meath, in view of the rapidly growing population in the area and the inability of Laytown national school to cope with local needs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7916/04]

As I recently announced, over the remainder of this school year a new school planning model involving published area development plans will be piloted in five areas. Included in the pilot scheme is the south Louth and mid-Meath region which covers the area referred to by the Deputy.

The purpose of this new approach to school planning is to ensure that, in future, the provision of school infrastructure will be decided only after a transparent consultation process. In this regard, parents, trustees, sponsors of prospective new school and all interested parties in the locality will have the opportunity to have their voices heard in the process. Following the consultation process, individual plans will set out the blueprint for schools' development in an area covering a period of up to ten years.

In the meantime, my Department recently approved the provision of two prefabs for Laytown national school. It is open to the school authority to apply for extra temporary accommodation to cater for any further emerging needs.

State Examinations.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

272 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will provide for children for whom English or Irish are not their first language the opportunity to use a dictionary of English or of their native language in State examinations for subjects other than English; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7917/04]

The issue raised by the Deputy is being considered by the State Examinations Commission (SEC), an independent body established on foot of a Government decision of 6 March 2003. The SEC has statutory responsibility for operational matters relating to the national certificate examinations. Upon receipt of its advice I will ensure that a further reply will issue to the Deputy directly.

Child Care Services.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

273 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Education and Science if the increase in grants to VECs under headings D6 of the Revised Estimates of his Department includes increased funding to provide for adequate resources for child care for participants in vocational training opportunities schemes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7918/04]

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. These grants are paid annually by my Department to the vocational education committees. The grant is intended as a contribution to 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 initial budget for this service in 2003 was €2,984,204. This was later supplemented by a special fund of more than €1.8 million, giving a total €4,821,759. This provision has been continued in 2004. Although the non-pay provision for such further education programmes as the vocational training opportunities scheme is contained in subhead D6, the child care provision is in subhead B5.

Telecommunications Services.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

274 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the progress to date regarding the application for north-east broadband ring made on behalf of Louth County Council; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7530/04]

I have obtained approval to proceed with the implementation of metropolitan area networks in Dundalk and Drogheda. It is envisaged that construction work on these projects will commence over the coming months.

Fishing Vessel Licences.

Michael Ring

Question:

275 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if the large fishing vessels working from north Mayo shores have all relevant and valid documentation and licences to do so. [7543/04]

Michael Ring

Question:

276 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the protection in place for small fishermen in north Mayo who are having their crab pots in place near the shore damaged by the large fishing vessels in the area. [7544/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 275 and 276 together.

My Department is aware of recent complaints regarding the activities of certain fishing vessels operating off the north Mayo area. The Department is currently carrying out an investigation of these complaints in co-operation with the Irish Naval Service. As part of this investigation my Department has checked to ascertain which fishing vessels have a recent history of fishing off the north Mayo coast. The licensing authority of my Department has now confirmed that the fishing vessels involved all hold current sea-fishing boat licences and the Department is checking whether the conditions of those licences appear to have been breached.

There is an agreed code of practice, under the aegis of Bord Iascaigh Mhara and with the co-operation of the Killybegs Fishermen's Organisation, to regulate the shared use of the fishery off the north Mayo coast for both static and towed fishing gear. This code of practice specifically includes a mechanism for dealing with damage to static gear, particularly lobster pots, caused by larger fishing vessels. The code has operated successfully for some years, and great credit must go to the fishermen and their organisations, which continue to co-operate in this matter. It would be a matter of concern if it is shown that the code of conduct is no longer being adhered to.

In addition, I have instructed the appropriate officials in my Department to re-examine the enforcement of existing regulatory requirements in respect of all vessels operating in this area.

Telecommunications Services.

Simon Coveney

Question:

277 Mr. Coveney asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he has satisfied himself that it is not possible for ready to go mobile phone customers to obtain a print out with a detailed list of all calls made, their duration and the cost of each call from their mobile phone operator. [7601/04]

The provision of such statements is a commercial matter between the company and the consumer as laid out in their service contract and I have no function in these matters.

Water and Sewerage Schemes.

Pat Breen

Question:

278 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources when the foreshore licence will be submitted to Clare County Council for the Mullagh-Quilty sewerage scheme in order that the Council can forward contract documentation to the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7611/04]

My Department received an application in November 2003 for a foreshore licence for an effluent outfall pipe in connection with the proposed Quilty sewerage scheme. Following preliminary consideration by the Department's expert advisors, certain recommendations have been conveyed to the county council. Further consideration of the application will be progressed as a priority on receipt of the local authority's response.

Telecommunications Services.

Eamon Ryan

Question:

279 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he intends imposing a condition that community groups making applications for the funding of new rural broadband group schemes do so in conjunction with recognised Internet service providers or authorised operators; the purpose of such a condition should it be proposed; and his views on whether it could potentially lead to the cherry-picking of more populated and economically viable schemes over more isolated community proposals. [7612/04]

The widespread availability of high speed, affordable, always-on broadband access is central to the development of Ireland as a knowledge and information society.

The Government has approved a national group broadband scheme to address the broadband needs in under-served small, rural or more remote communities. It is envisaged that, under this scheme, local community organisations will partner with broadband service providers to make a joint application for grant aid for the capital costs associated with the provision of broadband services in their locality.

While it is anticipated that in the majority of cases community organisations will seek to partner with existing recognised and authorised broadband service providers, it is not a condition of the scheme that they must do so. There is nothing precluding not-for-profit groups applying for funding under this scheme.

In reviewing applications under this scheme, my Department will seek to ensure that grant aided projects meet the current and projected broadband needs of end users in the community; provide a sustainable service, that is, that the service is technically and financially viable on an ongoing basis after initial grant aid support; are implemented in a focused and readily achievable manner; meet the requirements specified by the Commission for Communications Regulation for the provision of broadband services; and adopt a cost-effective approach which minimises the public funding requirement.

Marine Rescue Service.

Simon Coveney

Question:

280 Mr. Coveney asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he plans to provide resources to fund a rescue boat for the Cleggan coastguard unit, to improve the rescue capacity in the area and support the RNLI station in Clifden, County Galway. [7775/04]

There are no plans at present to position a coastguard rescue boat at Cleggan. It is considered that this would amount to a duplication of resources as there is already an RNLI Lifeboat stationed at Clifden and the coastguard unit at Rossaveal also has a rescue boat. The helicopter at Shannon is a further resource available on a 24 hour basis. The coastguard continuously monitors the situation concerning resources and will reconsider the matter in the light of any changing circumstances.

Veterinary Inspection Service.

Tony Gregory

Question:

281 Mr. Gregory asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if he will make available veterinary supervisors reports for the 2003-04 coursing season and reports of meetings between his Department and the ICC. [7487/04]

As I outlined to the Deputy in my reply to Question No. 246 of 18 February 2004, Department of Agriculture and Food veterinary inspectors agreed to attend approximately 10% of coursing meetings for the 2003-04 season on behalf of my Department.

My Department is awaiting receipt of final reports from the inspectors in relation to the 2003/2004 season, which has just ended. When received, the reports will be analysed and recorded in the Department, following which I will arrange for the veterinary reports and the reports of any meetings involving my Department and the Irish Coursing Club to be made available to the Deputy.

Sports Funding.

Jack Wall

Question:

282 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the plans his Department has to re-assess the guidelines of lottery funding to permit sporting organisations to make applications for funding to ensure such organisations can employ permanent staff to assist with the development of the particular sport that they represent in view of the shortfall of volunteers and the need for such associations to provide coaches, team leaders and so on for the development of the youth of the particular sport and areas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7826/04]

As I explained to the Deputy in my reply to Question No. 351 on 24th February last, under the sports capital programme funding is provided towards the capital costs of providing new facilities, the renovation-upgrading of existing facilities and the provision of permanently based sports equipment. A total of almost €267 million has been allocated to more than 3,500 sports facilities under this programme since 1998. The payment of salaries of personnel to manage these facilities does not form part of the programme and there are no proposals to provide for such support.

The Deputy will be aware that the Irish Sports Council, ISC, provides funding to the national governing bodies of sport towards sport development programmes. While an element of this funding is to meet the costs of administrative support for national governing bodies of sport and the local sports partnerships and specialist technical personnel by national governing bodies of sport, it does not extend to the employment of the personnel referred to by the Deputy. The budget of the Irish Sports Council has been increased from €13 million in 2000 to €30.75 million this year.

Medical Cards.

Bernard Allen

Question:

283 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason the Southern Health Board is refusing a medical card to a person (details supplied) in County Cork on the grounds that their spouse has a high income. [7764/04]

The assessment of the eligibility of applicants for medical cards is, by legislation, a matter for the chief executive officer of the local health board to make. Accordingly, the case above has been referred to the chief executive officer of the Southern Health Board for investigation and direct reply.

Long-Term Illness Scheme.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

284 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Health and Children if he will include Addisons disease on the long-term illness scheme list in view of the nature of this disease which is long-term; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7456/04]

Under the 1970 Health Act, a health board may arrange for the supply without charge of drugs, medicines and medical and surgical appliances to people with any of the following conditions who do not have a medical card, for the treatment of that condition under the long-term illness scheme: mental handicap, mental illness — for people under 16 only — phenylketonuria, cystic fibrosis, spina bifida, hydrocephalus, diabetes mellitus, diabetes insipidus, haemophilia, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophies, parkinsonism, conditions arising from thalidomide and acute leukaemia. There are no plans to amend the list of eligible conditions.

There are a range of other schemes that provide assistance towards the cost of approved drugs and medicines for people with significant ongoing medical expenses. People who cannot, without undue hardship, arrange for the provision of medical services for themselves and their dependants may be entitled to a medical card. Eligibility for a medical card is solely a matter for the chief executive officer of the relevant health board. In determining eligibility, the CEO has regard to the applicant's financial circumstances. Health boards use income guidelines to assist in determining eligibility. However, where a person's income exceeds the guidelines, a medical card may be awarded if the CEO considers that the person's medical needs or other circumstances would justify this. Medical cards may also be issued to individual family members on this basis. Non-medical card holders, and people with conditions not covered under the LTI scheme, can use the drugs payment scheme. Under this scheme, no individual or family unit pays more than €78 per calendar month towards the cost of approved prescribed medicines.

Health Board Services.

Michael Ring

Question:

285 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children if a person (details supplied) in County Mayo can be assessed for orthodontic treatment. [7459/04]

As the Deputy is aware, responsibility for the provision of orthodontic treatment to eligible persons in County Mayo rests with the Western Health Board. My Department has asked the chief executive officer to investigate the matter raised by the Deputy and to reply to him directly.

Hospital Services.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

286 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Health and Children the proposals he has to include the south-east region in the first phase of the development of the radiotherapy programme now that the 2002 census shows that the population of the region has exceeded 423,000 which was the estimate for the year 2015 used in the development of radiation oncology services in Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7460/04]

As the Deputy is aware, I launched the report, The Development of Radiation Oncology Services in Ireland, in October 2003. Its recommendations have been accepted by Government which agrees that a major programme is now required to develop rapidly clinical radiation oncology treatment services to modern standards. Furthermore, the Government has agreed that the first phase of such a new programme should be the development of a clinical network of large centres in Dublin, Cork and Galway. The development of these centres as a clinical network is of paramount importance and will, in the shortest possible timeframe, begin to address the profound deficit in radiation therapy services that has been identified in the report. The implementation of the report's recommendations is the single most important priority in cancer services in the acute hospital setting.

The report on the development of radiation oncology services agrees in principle with the existing international recommendations that a population of greater than 650,000 should, where possible, be the minimum population necessary to support a radiation oncology unit. This population of itself is not sufficient without adherence to additional guidelines, including that the majority of radiation oncology treatment facilities should be located within the context of a supra-regional cancer centre.

The expert group undertook a detailed analysis of submissions from all health boards in relation to their existing and future plans for the development of clinical radiation oncology facilities in conjunction with the information available on future population and caseload projections for individual health boards provided by the Central Statistics Office and the national cancer registry. The population served by the Southern Health Board and adjacent regions and that of the collective area health boards constituting the eastern region meet the suggested 650,000 population minimum requirement for the development of a radiation therapy centre as defined in the 1996 national cancer strategy. The supra-regional centre at UCHG will deliver radiation oncology services to a considerably larger geographic catchment than the existing Western Health Board, with an estimated catchment population of 620,000.

I will require radiation oncology centres to provide services on an equitable basis which will ensure that patients of equal need will have equal access. Geography will not be a barrier to equal access. I will also require radiation oncology centres to provide outreach services to hospitals in adjoining regions. This is currently the case and, as more consultant radiation oncologists are appointed, it will be necessary to ensure that there is an equitable spread of outreach services. Last week I approved the appointment of a consultant radiation oncologist for the Southern Health Board with sessional commitments to the South Eastern Health Board. This will significantly improve access to radiotherapy services for patients in the south-east.

The Government has also decided that in the future development of services, consideration should be given to the efficacy of developing satellite centres at Waterford, Limerick and the north-west. Such consideration will take into account the international evaluation of satellite centres, the efficacy of providing this model and the need to ensure quality standards of care.

As recommended in the report, I have established the national radiation oncology co-ordinating group. The group, which recently held its first meeting, comprises clinical, technical, managerial, academic and nursing expertise from different geographic regions. The group's remit encompasses recommending measures to facilitate improved access to existing and planned services, including transport and accommodation. I expect the group to develop proposals in these important areas.

Health Board Services.

Jack Wall

Question:

287 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding an application by a person (details supplied) in County Carlow for funding to permit their child attend a special school; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that a placement is available for the child and that the school and persons are awaiting a decision in relation to the funding; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7462/04]

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

Billy Timmins

Question:

288 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Health and Children the position in relation to home helps; if there is a means test for persons wishing to avail of this service; if there is a means test for those over 80 years of age; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7473/04]

As there are no statutory regulations laid down in relation to the administration of the home help scheme, there may be some variation in same between the various health boards. As the information sought by the Deputy is not readily available in my Department, my Department has written to the chief executive officers of the Eastern Regional Health Authority and the health boards and asked them to supply me with the relevant details. The information sought will be forwarded to the Deputy as a matter of urgency, but, in any event, not later than this day fortnight.

Departmental Properties.

Dan Neville

Question:

289 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Health and Children further to Parliamentary Question No. 253 of 25 November 2003, the position regarding the promised response from the chief executive officer of the Mid-Western Health Board. [7482/04]

My Department has been in contact with the office of the chief executive officer of the Mid-Western Health Board. I understand that the issues relating to the ownership of the land at Gotoon, Kilmallock, the subject matter of the original question, are still under investigation by the board and an update on this will be provided to the Deputy shortly.

Pharmacy Regulations.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

290 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Health and Children if the pharmacy review group, set up in November 2001 and which completed its work in January 2003 has finalised all sections of the report; if he will publish the report having regard to the fact that it provides the basis to remove the discrimination that exists between EU citizens and non EU-citizens; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7498/04]

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

295 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Health and Children if it is his intention to introduce changes in the pharmacy sector following the publication of the Mortell report. [7503/04]

Paddy McHugh

Question:

305 Mr. McHugh asked the Minister for Health and Children when he will bring forward proposals to allow Irish and EU qualified pharmacists to work in pharmacies which are less than three years old; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7561/04]

Paddy McHugh

Question:

306 Mr. McHugh asked the Minister for Health and Children the action he proposes to take to bring an end to the discrimination brought about by EU directive 85/433 which prevents Irish and EU qualified pharmacists from working in a pharmacy that is less than three years old while the same restriction does not apply to non-EU qualified pharmacists; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7562/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 290, 295, 305 and 306 together.

I assume that the Deputy is referring to the pharmacy review group report. I established the pharmacy review group in November 2001 to examine the pharmacy issues raised in the OECD report on regulatory reform in Ireland, which included the use of the derogation. The group submitted its report on 31 January 2003, and the report is available on my department's website,www.doh.ie, along with reports prepared for the group by Indecon international economic consultants.

I have been examining the complex legal and other issues surrounding the group's recommendations, including those concerning Ireland's use of the derogation. Under Article 2.2 of Directive 85/433/EEC on the free movement of pharmacists, EU and EEA pharmacists who qualified in another EU or EEA state cannot own in their own right, operate or manage a pharmacy in Ireland that is less than three years old. These regulations do not preclude such pharmacists from working in a pharmacy less than three years old other than as a supervising pharmacist. The Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland is responsible for the registration of pharmacists and for recognition of non-EU pharmacy qualifications. It has reciprocal arrangements with its counterparts in Australia and New Zealand which give recognition to the pharmacy qualifications of these countries.

Deputies will appreciate that it would be inappropriate for me to comment on the report's recommendations before completion of this examination.

Health Board Services.

Seán Ryan

Question:

291 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for Health and Children if his Department can assist with the provision of speech therapy to a person (details supplied) in County Clare. [7499/04]

The provision of health related services, including speech and language therapy, for people with physical and-or sensory disabilities is a matter for the Eastern Regional Health Authority and the health boards in the first instance. Accordingly, the Deputy's question has been referred to the chief executive officer of the Mid-Western Health Board with a request that he examine the matter and reply directly to the Deputy, as a matter of urgency.

Medical Cards.

John McGuinness

Question:

292 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Health and Children if an application will be expedited for a medical card for a person (details supplied) in County Carlow. [7500/04]

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

Computerisation Programme.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

293 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Health and Children, further to Question No. 163 of 27 January 2004, if a decision has been made in respect of the aspect of the information technology and communications system that will be financed from the 2004 allocation. [7501/04]

The process for the allocation of this funding has not yet been completed. The Health Boards Executive has recently completed its evaluation of the demands for this funding. Its recommendations will shortly be presented to my Department, after which the allocation will be finalised.

Health Board Services.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

294 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Health and Children if it is his intention to bring forward a new policy in respect of liquid-based cytology in view of the best practice evidence in this area and of the practice adopted in the rest of western Europe. [7502/04]

Currently, all cervical cytology laboratories within the Eastern Regional Health Authority are using liquid-based cytology. The authority has advised that approximately 70% of all cervical smears processed in the region in 2003 involved this new technology. This amounted to more than 80,000 cervical smears. The authority has added that use of liquid-based cytology will increase further in the current year.

The feasibility and implications of extending the cervical screening programme, the first phase of which is up and running in the Mid-Western Health Board's functional area, to the rest of the country are being examined by the Health Boards Executive. The work being undertaken includes a review by an external expert of this first phase of the programme which it is intended will inform the development of a high quality cervical screening model for the country. Among the issues being examined is that of the use of liquid-based cytology. It is anticipated that the review will be completed within the next two months.

Question No. 295 answered with QuestionNo. 290.

Departmental Funding.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

296 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Health and Children the amount in absolute terms and the percentage of public spend on health collected through the health levy, charges, general taxation and through any other source. [7504/04]

The information requested by the Deputy has been extracted from the Revised Estimates for Public Services, 2004 and has been compiled in the following table to answer the questions raised by the Deputy.

2004 Estimate

€ million

%

Gross Current Expenditure all Programmes

9,890.836

Capital Expenditure

509.500

Total Gross Expenditure (Current and Capital)

10,400.336

100

Less Health Agencies Income

Charges for maintenance in private and semi-private accommodation in hospitals

188.206

1.8

Other Income

174.667

1.7

Sub-total Income

362.873

3.5

Net Gross Expenditure (Current and Capital)

10,037.463

Appropriations-in-Aid

Receipts from health contributions

897.005

8.6

Receipts from certain excise duties on tobacco products

167.605

1.6

Recovery of cost of Health Services provided under regulations of the European Community

336.200

3.2

Recovery from the UK Department of Health & Social Security of their share of the Leopardstown Park Hospital

0.170

0.0

Searches and certified copies of entries of Births, Deaths & Marriages

0.400

0.0

Recoupment of certain Ophthalmic Services Scheme costs from the Social Insurance Fund

4.500

0.0

Recoupment of certain Dental Treatment Services Scheme costs from the Social Insurance Fund

9.100

0.1

Miscellaneous

0.020

0.0

Total Appropriations in Aid

1,415.000

13.6

Net Health Expenditure (Exchequer funded)

8,622.463

82.9

In addition, hepatitis C compensation payments, totalling €100.635 million in 2004 and not shown above, are funded through the Health Vote.

Health Board Services.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

297 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the closure of a nursing home (details supplied) in County Louth; and the issues raised in the last health board inspection of this nursing home. [7519/04]

As the Deputy will be aware, the provision of health services in Louth is, in the first instance, the responsibility of the North Eastern 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.

Dan Neville

Question:

298 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Health and Children when urgent dental treatment will be made available by medical card for a person (details supplied) in County Limerick who suffers from auto immune condition and is in urgent need of dental treatment for medical reasons. [7539/04]

Responsibility for the provision of dental treatment to eligible persons in County Limerick rests with the Mid-Western Health Board. My Department has asked the chief executive officer to investigate the matter raised by the Deputy and to reply to him directly.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

299 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for Health and Children if he will introduce regulations to make all health board nursing home reports available to all residents of nursing homes and their families immediately; if he will make them available on the Internet; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7540/04]

As the Deputy may be aware, the inspection of private nursing homes is the responsibility of the health boards under the Health (Nursing Homes) Act 1990. Regulations made under this Act empower health boards to inspect private nursing homes. At present, there is no requirement on the health boards to make these reports available to residents or their families.

My Department has established a working group comprising all stakeholders to review the operation and administration nursing home subvention scheme. As part of this review, the working group will be examining all issues in relation to the regulation of private nursing homes, including the inspection process.

General Medical Services Scheme.

Finian McGrath

Question:

300 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if he will investigate a complaint that doctors in the Dublin 5 area will not make house calls for the elderly holding medical cards; and if practical assistance will be given to the elderly. [7541/04]

Under the GMS contract, participating general practitioners are obliged to provide surgery and domiciliary visits, where appropriate, for their medical card patients for 40 hours each week as agreed with their local health board. They must also make arrangements to enable contact to be made with him or a locum-deputy for emergencies outside of these hours.

It should be noted that general practitioners make a clinical decision on whether a domiciliary visit is appropriate based on the symptoms of the patient as presented at the time. If the Deputy is aware of a particular doctor who is refusing to make a domiciliary visit to a medical card patient, I would be happy to have the matter investigated with the Eastern Regional Health Authority, upon receipt of the relevant details. The chief executive officer of the Eastern Regional Health Authority is responsible for the provision of services for medical card holders in the area mentioned in the question.

Health Board Services.

Gay Mitchell

Question:

301 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Health and Children if a domiciliary allowance will be awarded in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 12; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7542/04]

The assessment of entitlement to and payment of the domiciliary care allowance in any individual case is a matter for the relevant health board. Accordingly, a copy of the Deputy's question has been forwarded to the chief executive officer, Eastern Regional Health Authority, with a request that he examine the case and reply directly to the Deputy as a matter of urgency.

Seán Ardagh

Question:

302 Mr. Ardagh asked the Minister for Health and Children if the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 12 will be re-examined in order that the South Western Area Health Board will fund their treatment in the UK as requested by their parents, and that a more substantive reply be requested from the health board on this matter. [7551/04]

Responsibility for the provision of care and treatment of the named individual rests with the Eastern Regional Health Authority. My Department has therefore asked the regional chief executive to investigate the matter raised by the Deputy and reply to him directly.

Hospital Services.

Gay Mitchell

Question:

303 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of foreign births registered from Dublin maternity hospitals; the number in the case of each hospital; the percentage of the total this represents in 2000, 2001, 2002 and 2003; the cost to the Exchequer of such births; if Irish mothers are displaced as a result of these foreign births; if many of these births which are taking place involve mothers who have no connection with the country and come here only to have their babies with the suspicion that they are really seeking to secure citizenship rights for the child; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7559/04]

Responsibility for the provision and funding of services for eligible patients at the Dublin maternity hospitals rests with the Eastern Regional Health Authority. My Department has, therefore, asked the regional chief executive of the authority to investigate the issues raised, and to reply directly to the Deputy.

Housing Aid for the Elderly.

Dan Neville

Question:

304 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of persons on a waiting list for work to be completed to their house under the special housing aid for the elderly scheme in each of the health board areas. [7560/04]

As the Deputy will be aware, the housing aid scheme for the elderly is, in the first instance, operated by the health boards on behalf of the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government. My Department has, therefore, asked the chief executive officers of the boards to investigate the matter raised by the Deputy and reply directly to him as a matter of urgency.

Questions Nos. 305 and 306 answered with Question No. 290.

Hospital Services.

Michael Ring

Question:

307 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will be called for a hip replacement operation. [7563/04]

The provision of hospital services for people living in County Mayo is a matter for the Western Health Board. My Department has, therefore, asked the chief executive officer of the board to reply directly to the Deputy in relation to the matter raised.

Seán Crowe

Question:

308 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Health and Children if his attention has been drawn to any review being carried out in the accident and emergency unit of Tallaght Hospital, in view of difficulties being experienced recently by a meningitis patient. [7592/04]

Responsibility for the funding of services at the Adelaide and Meath Hospital incorporating the National Children's Hospital at Tallaght rests with the Eastern Regional Health Authority. My Department has therefore asked the regional chief executive of the authority to investigate the matter raised by the Deputy and to reply to him directly.

Health Board Services.

Mary Upton

Question:

309 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding an application for funding (details supplied). [7593/04]

Gay Mitchell

Question:

321 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Health and Children if he will respond to an application by a group (details supplied) who should not be expected to take on an onerous commitment such as a large loan to build an extension to meet elderly demands; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7769/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 309 and 321 together.

As the Deputy will be aware, responsibility for the provision of health care services in the Dublin area, is in the first instance, a matter for the South Western Area Health Board acting under the aegis of the Eastern Regional Health Authority.

I have only in recent days received correspondence from the group concerning its proposal to develop enhanced services for older people. I have requested my officials to examine this proposal and to liaise with authority in relation to the group's proposal. I will be in contact with the group concerning its proposal in due course.

Special Educational Needs.

Pat Carey

Question:

310 Mr. Carey asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of children of primary school age and those up to four years in the Eastern Regional Health Authority area who are registered as having an autism condition; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7605/04]

The information requested by the Deputy is not readily available in the Department. My Department has, therefore, asked the chief executive officer of the Eastern Regional Health Authority to investigate the matter raised by the Deputy and reply directly to him.

Health Board Services.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

311 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Health and Children if his attention has been drawn to any health board proposals to downgrade or reduce the status of Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7606/04]

Responsibility for the provision of services at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda, rests with the North Eastern Health Board. My Department has, therefore, asked the chief executive officer of the board to examine the matter raised by the Deputy and to reply to him directly. I am not aware of any health board proposals to downgrade or reduce the status of Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda.

Foreign Adoptions.

Mary Upton

Question:

312 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Health and Children if sufficient facilities will be in place to process foreign adoption applications; if there will be no undue delay in the processing of such applications; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7607/04]

The allocation of resources within the health boards is a matter for the management of each board.

Mary Upton

Question:

313 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of applications for foreign adoptions awaiting an initial processing in each health board area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7608/04]

The most recent statistics available relate to numbers of applications on hand on 31 December 2003. At that time, the provisional figures for the number of completed applications for inter-country adoption awaiting first, second and subsequent assessments were as follows:

Health Board

1st Assessment

2nd and Subsequent Assessments

ERHA

397

62

MHB

35

5

MWHB

133

14

NEHB

63

16

NWHB

20

3

SEHB

118

19

SHB

224

52

WHB

51

4

TOTAL

1,041

175

Health Board Services.

Pat Breen

Question:

314 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason Shannon Doc did not respond for nine hours to a person (details supplied) in County Clare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7619/04]

Responsibility for the provision of services for medical card holders is, by legislation, a matter for the chief executive officer of the local health board. Accordingly, the question raised by the Deputy has been referred to the chief executive officer of the Mid-Western Health Board for investigation and direct reply.

Garda Clearance Procedures.

Mary Wallace

Question:

315 Ms M. Wallace asked the Minister for Health and Children if he will outline the present vetting procedures for persons who through voluntary work or paid employment have substantial unsupervised assess to children; the proposals his Department has to improve the present situation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7646/04]

Garda clearance arrangements apply in respect of candidates for paid employment in the health services where they would have access to children and vulnerable individuals. This includes services in respect of children and vulnerable adults provided by external agencies but funded by the health boards.

My colleague, the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, has informed me that, following a review of Garda vetting arrangements, a central vetting unit was established in January 2002 to deal with the then known demand for vetting. It was envisaged that when the unit became fully operational and all its backlogs were cleared that a phased extension of Garda clearance arrangements to other groups would take place.

To this end, a working group was established to examine the issue, taking account of all aspects of the vetting of persons coming in contact with children and vulnerable persons, be they full-time, part-time, voluntary or community workers or students on placement. The Department of Health and Children participated in the working group with the Garda Síochána the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, the Department of Education and Science and the Office of the Attorney General. The working group has completed its work and will report to the Garda Commissioner and, in turn, to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform in the near future.

It is worth stressing that, irrespective of whatever clearance arrangements are in place, it will continue to be necessary to bear in mind that criminal record checks, while being capable in appropriate circumstances of making a significant contribution to ensuring that unsuitable persons do not secure positions of trust, are not the sole answer to ensuring applicants' suitability for jobs particularly where children or other vulnerable persons could be open to abuse. There will continue to be a particular onus of care on employers and organisations to maintain good employment practice both during the recruitment stage, for example, good interviewing practice and checking references, and also when it comes to ensuring adequate supervision arrangements post-recruitment.

Children First: National Guidelines for the Protection and Welfare of Children recognises the need to support community and voluntary groups develop best practice in their dealings with children. A document, entitled Our Duty to Care, was published in by my Department in April 2002. It is based on Children First and is available to all groups. Essentially it promotes good practice and procedures for organisations dealing with children and consists of a booklet and fact sheets covering areas such as safe recruitment practice, developing safe management practices and policies and raising awareness of child abuse among volunteers and staff. It also provides advice on how to report concerns to the health boards.

Health Board Allowances.

Seán Crowe

Question:

316 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Health and Children the discussions that have taken place in 2003 and 2004 between his Department and the Department of Social and Family Affairs regarding the takeover by the Department of Social and Family Affairs of the spending allowances awarded to persons with disabilities in residential care who are not entitled to disability allowance; if his attention has been drawn to a request from the Department of Social and Family Affairs to the health boards to provide relevant details on the spending allowances that are currently being awarded; and when that information will be supplied. [7649/04]

Following discussions between my Department and the Department of Social and Family Affairs, the Minister of Social and Family Affairs obtained approval in the budget for 2003 providing for transfer of the pocket money allowance from my Department to the Department of Social and Family Affairs. One of the first tasks regarding this transfer is to identify recipients of the pocket money allowance and the recipients of the disability allowance who are in residential care. A request to provide this information was sent to all the health boards by my Department in January 2004 and is being compiled.

Bernard Allen

Question:

317 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason a person (details supplied) in County Cork was cut off domiciliary care allowance when they reached 16 over two months ago and has yet to receive a replacement payment. [7754/04]

Domiciliary care allowance is a monthly allowance administered by health boards and may be paid in respect of eligible children from birth to the age of 16 who have a severe disability requiring continual or continuous care and attention which is substantially in excess of that normally required by a child of the same age. The condition must be likely to last for at least one year. Where medical confirmation is supplied which pre-dates the actual date of application and the health board's senior area medical officer is satisfied that the child required continual or continuous care and attention substantially in excess of that normally required by a child of the same age, then payment may be made from the date the senior area medical officer is satisfied that such additional care and attention was required.

When the child is approaching the age of 16, he or she is advised to apply for disability allowance to the Department of Social and Family Affairs. Generally, those who satisfied the medical conditions for domiciliary care allowance will satisfy the medical conditions for disability allowance. However, there is not an automatic right to disability allowance which is a means-tested payment.

Nursing Homes.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

318 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of nursing homes in each health board region on a county by county basis; if each nursing home has been inspected at least twice per annum as required by regulation; if not, the reason they have not; if there have been any adverse reports following these inspections; the action that has been taken by the health board including legal action; and if any nursing homes have been closed as a result. [7755/04]

As the Deputy will be aware, the inspection of private nursing homes is in the first instance a matter for the Eastern Regional Health Authority and the health boards. My Department has, therefore, asked the chief executive officer of the authority and the health boards to investigate the matter raised by the Deputy and reply direct to him as a matter of urgency.

Hospital Services.

Denis Naughten

Question:

319 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason the hospice beds in the county hospital, Roscommon, Portiuncula Hospital, Ballinasloe, and Mayo General Hospital, Castlebar, are closed; when these beds will be re-opened; when the investigation at the Galway Hospice will be completed; the reason the Galway Hospice beds are unavailable; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7756/04]

As the Deputy will be aware, responsibility for the provision of health services in counties Mayo, Roscommon and Galway rests with the Western Health Board in the first instance. The board has advised my Department that the hospice bed at the county hospital, Roscommon, is open and palliative care patients are accommodated throughout the hospital according to medical need. The board has further advised that Mayo General Hospital and Portiuncula Hospital, Ballinasloe, do not have hospice beds.

I am aware that there are difficulties surrounding the operation of the in-patient unit at the Galway Hospice and that no new patients are being admitted at present. However, home and day care services are continuing to be provided to approximately 100 patients by the foundation with those patients who require consultant-led specialist in-patient care being admitted to University College Hospital, Galway.

The Western Health Board has informed my Department that an independent expert group was established by the Galway Hospice Foundation to review procedures at the hospice and that the expert group has forwarded its report to legal advisers, in accordance with the indemnity arrangements of the insurers, and the report is expected very shortly.

Child Care Services.

Dan Neville

Question:

320 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Health and Children the criteria applied for admission to Coovagh House for boys aged 11 to 17 years. [7757/04]

Coovagh House is a five place special care unit operated by the Mid-Western Health Board catering for boys aged 11 to 17 years which provides residential, educational and therapeutic supports in a secure setting for a small number of non-offending children in need of special care or protection. The unit caters for children from the Mid-Western, Southern and South Eastern health boards. A court order of detention is required to place a child in the unit.

I have been informed by the Mid-Western Health Board that Coovagh House special care unit has the following admission criteria in place: the young person is aged 11 to 17 years, has a history of absconding from other care settings and is, on an objective basis, likely to harm himself or others; that the behaviour of the young person is such that it poses a real and substantial risk to his health, safety, development and welfare; the young person has failed to respond to intervention offered in open conditions and a less secure environment would not meet the young person's needs at the time of placement; and all other forms of intervention have been exhausted or are unsuitable. It should be noted that, in addition, a young person must have a statutory care plan which includes an identified discharge-aftercare plan.

Question No. 321 answered with QuestionNo. 309.

Health Board Allowances.

John McGuinness

Question:

322 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Health and Children if an appeal for mobility allowance for a person (details supplied) in Dublin 8 will be expedited in view of their medical circumstances. [7771/04]

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

Medical Training.

John McGuinness

Question:

323 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Health and Children the name of the person appointed by him to establish a pilot training course with accreditation for phlebotomy; the date when the course is expected to commence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7791/04]

Funding to support the development of a national training certificate in phlebotomy was provided by my Department to the Eastern Regional Health Authority, ERHA, in November 2002. Responsibility for the appointment of the health care training and development officer and the establishment of the phlebotomy certificate course rests with the ERHA. My Department has, therefore, asked the regional chief executive officer of the ERHA to investigate the matters raised by the Deputy and reply to him directly.

Health Board Services.

John Curran

Question:

324 Mr. Curran asked the Minister for Health and Children if a person (details supplied) in Dublin 22 is eligible for free dental treatment; and if not, the reason therefor. [7792/04]

Responsibility for the provision of dental services to eligible persons in Dublin 22 rests with the Eastern Regional Health Authority. My Department has asked the regional chief executive to investigate the matter raised by the Deputy and to reply to him directly.

Health Board Staff.

Jack Wall

Question:

325 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children further to recent advertisements for staff nurses in the national and local papers by the SWAHB, if the recruitment of such nurses ensure that Naas Hospital will be permitted to operate all of its units to 100% capacity; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7833/04]

Responsibility for the provision of services at Naas General Hospital rests with the Eastern Regional Health Authority. My Department has, therefore, asked the regional chief executive of the authority to examine the matter raised by the Deputy and to reply to him directly.

Jack Wall

Question:

326 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children further to recent advertisements in the national and local newspapers for staff nurses for the SWAHB, if the recruitment of such nurses ensure the re-opening of the respite and assessment unit at St. Vincent’s Hospital, Athy, County Kildare; the timescale involved in the recruitment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7834/04]

As the Deputy will be aware, the provision of health services in the County Kildare area is, in the first instance, the responsibility of the South Western Area Health Board acting under the aegis of the Eastern Regional Health Authority. My Department has, therefore, asked the chief executive of the authority to investigate the matter raised by the Deputy and reply directly to him as a matter of urgency.

Jack Wall

Question:

327 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of persons allocated for home help assistants in the Kildare area of the SWAHB; the number of new applications for such help; the manner in which new applications affect the total number of hours allocated; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7835/04]

As the Deputy will be aware, the provision of health services in the County Kildare area is, in the first instance, the responsibility of the South Western Area Health Board acting under the aegis of the Eastern Regional Health Authority. My Department has, therefore, asked the chief executive of the authority to investigate the matter raised by the Deputy and reply directly to him as a matter of urgency.

Jack Wall

Question:

328 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of home attendants in the Kildare area of the SWAHB; the proposals to increase this number; the period of time estimated to complete the training of such additional staff; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7836/04]

As the Deputy will be aware, the provision of health services in the County Kildare area is, in the first instance, the responsibility of the South Western Area Health Board acting under the aegis of the Eastern Regional Health Authority. My Department has, therefore, asked the chief executive of the authority to investigate the matter raised by the Deputy and reply directly to him as a matter of urgency.

Health Board Services.

Jack Wall

Question:

329 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of children seeking orthodontic treatment in the Kildare area of the SWAHB; the number of orthodontists employed by the health board; the plans to improve the service; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7845/04]

As the Deputy is aware, responsibility for the provision of orthodontic services in Kildare rests with the Eastern Regional Health Authority, ERHA. My Department has therefore asked the regional chief executive of the authority to investigate the matters raised by the Deputy and to reply to him directly.

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

Orthodontic initiative funding of €2.044 million was provided to the ERHA in 2001, and this has enabled the authority to recruit additional staff and build additional orthodontic facilities. In June 2002, my Department provided additional funding of €5 million from the treatment purchase fund to health boards specifically for the purchase of orthodontic treatment. This funding is enabling boards to provide both additional sessions for existing staff and purchase treatment from private specialist orthodontic practitioners. The ERHA received €1.815 million for the treatment of cases in this way. Finally, the chief executive officer of the ERHA has informed me that, at the end of the December quarter 2003, there were 4,656 children getting orthodontic treatment from the authority.

John Bruton

Question:

330 Mr. J. Bruton asked the Minister for Health and Children when he plans to implement the index of orthodontic treatment needs which is to be used to determine patients eligibility with the health boards; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7848/04]

The provision of orthodontic services is the statutory responsibility of the health boards-authority in the first instance. The aim of my Department is to develop the treatment capacity of orthodontics in a sustainable way over the longer term. Given the potential level of demand for orthodontic services, the provision of those services will continue to be based on prioritisation of cases based on treatment need, as happens under the existing guidelines. The guidelines were issued in 1985 and are intended to enable health boards to identify in a consistent way those in greatest need and to commence timely treatment for them. Patients in category A require immediate treatment and include those with congenital abnormalities of the jaws such as cleft lip and palate, and patients with major skeletal discrepancies between the sizes of the jaws. Patients in category B have less severe problems than category A patients and are placed on the orthodontic treatment waiting list. Patients in category C have less severe problems than in category B. The number of cases treated is dependent on the level of resources available in terms of qualified staff in the area, and this is reflected in the treatment waiting list. In fact, the provision of orthodontic services is currently severely restricted due to the limited availability of trained specialist clinical staff to assess and treat patients. Consequently, a category C waiting list may not be maintained in some health boards.

In 1996, my Department wrote to the chief executive officers of the health boards recommending that a group, representative of health board management and consultant orthodontists, review the orthodontic service. The report of this group, known as the Moran report, referred to an index of treatment need, an alternative means of assessing children's need for orthodontic treatment.

Following the 2002 Oireachtas joint committee report on orthodontics, the Health Board Executive adopted the report of the review group set up by the chief executive officers with the following terms of reference: to review and report on progress to date on the recommendations set out in the Moran report; to consider the recommendations in the February 2002 report of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Health and Children; and to make revised recommendations and prepare and cost an action plan in the context of the approach set out in the national health strategy, Quality and Fairness — a Health System for You. The report confirms that the shortage of trained orthodontists restricts the use of this index by health boards at present.

However, I am pleased to advise the Deputy that I have taken a number of measures to address this shortage of specialists and so increase the treatment capacity of the orthodontic service. The grade of specialist in orthodontics has been created in the health board orthodontic service. In 2003, my Department and the health boards funded 13 dentists from various health boards for specialist in orthodontics qualifications at training programmes in Ireland and at three separate universities in the United Kingdom. These 13 trainees for the public orthodontic service are additional to the six dentists who commenced their training in 2001. There is therefore an aggregate of 19 dentists in specialist training for orthodontics. These measures will complement the other structural changes being introduced into the orthodontic service, including the creation of an auxiliary grade of orthodontic therapist to work in the orthodontic area.

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

In June 2002, my Department provided additional funding of €5 million from the treatment purchase fund to health boards specifically for the purchase of orthodontic treatment. This funding is enabling boards to provide both additional sessions for existing staff and purchase treatment from private specialist orthodontic practitioners. Finally, the chief executive officers of the health boards and authorities have informed me that at the end of the December quarter 2003, there were 21,727 children getting orthodontic treatment from those authorities and boards. This means that there are more than twice as many children getting orthodontic treatment as there are children waiting to be treated, and 4,432 extra children are getting treatment from health boards and authorities since the end of 2001.

HIV Infection.

Seán Crowe

Question:

331 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Health and Children if his attention has been drawn to the widespread concern among the families and relatives of those infected with HIV and the hepatitis C virus at the lack of information regarding possible prosecution proceedings against persons, companies or organisations arising from the administration of blood products; the contact his Department has had with the immediate families of those who died as a result of infected blood transfusion products; if he has proposals to update these families; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7854/04]

Two people are before the courts on charges relating to the transmission of hepatitis C via blood and blood products. The issue of possible prosecutions relating to the transmission of HIV via blood products is a matter for the Director of Public Prosecutions. It would be inappropriate for me to comment on these matters.

I have met on a number of occasions with the support groups representing persons who acquired hepatitis C and HIV via blood and blood products and have listened carefully to the issues which they have brought to my attention. Officials of my Department have regular contact with persons infected with hepatitis C and HIV and their families, and are familiar with the issues which are of concern to these groups. There are a number of fora where my officials, the support groups and the service providers meet together to work in collaboration on relevant matters.

The Consultative Council on Hepatitis C was established in 1996 and has 16 members, appointed for a three-year period. The four main patient support groups, Positive Action, Transfusion Positive, Irish Kidney Association, Irish Haemophilia Society, perform a vital role as advocates for their members and nominate six of the members of the consultative council. The council operates on the basis of equality and teamwork and has proved a useful forum for pursuing issues of national concern. In collaboration with the council and the support groups within the last year alone my Department has published an information guide on primary care and hospital services for persons with hepatitis C; two information leaflets, one on the Health (Amendment) Act card and one on hospital services for persons with hepatitis C, organised an information day on hepatitis C in Dublin Castle, and organised an international conference on hepatitis C which took place on 25 to 27 June in Trinity College, Dublin.

One of the recommendations of the Lindsay tribunal was for the establishment of a National Haemophilia Council to advise on all aspects of the care and treatment of persons with haemophilia. The council has had two meetings this year on an ad hoc basis, and will be established under statutory instrument in the coming weeks. The product selection and monitoring group, which will become a committee of the council under the planned statutory instrument, has been operating successfully on an ad hoc basis for almost three years now. Both the council and the PSMAG include representatives of my Department, the Irish Haemophilia Society and the relevant service providers working in co-operation together.

In addition to the consultative bodies, regular meetings are held at national level between the support groups, service providers and my Department in order to monitor services and identify emerging needs on an ongoing basis. The support groups also meet with individual hospitals and consultants to discuss specific issues of concern to their members. All four support groups are funded by the Department to provide support services to their members, and to represent their members' interests with service providers. I can assure the Deputy that the support groups do not hesitate to ensure that the concerns of their members are made known to myself, my Department, and to the service providers.

Health Board Services.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

332 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of residential beds in the Eastern Regional Health Authority area; the location of same; and if his attention has been drawn to plans to increase the number of beds. [7904/04]

As the Deputy will be aware, the provision of health services in the eastern region is a matter for the Eastern Regional Health Authority in the first instance. My Department has, therefore, asked the chief executive of the authority to investigate the matter raised by the Deputy and reply direct to him as a matter of urgency. I am aware that the authority is in the process of recruiting staff to re-open some long-stay beds which were closed due to difficulties in retaining appropriate staff. In addition, public private partnerships are also currently being piloted in the health sector. PPPs are based on the concept that better value for money for the Exchequer may be achieved through the exploitation of private sector competencies to capture innovation and the allocation of risk to the party best able to manage it. Initially, the focus will be mainly in the area of community nursing units (CNUs) for older people. It is anticipated that 17 new CNUs will be created when the initial pilot programmes are complete, providing up to a maximum of 850 new beds, nine of which will be in the Dublin area with the remainder being located in the Southern Health Board area. The services offered in these units will include assessment/rehabilitation, respite, extended care and convalescence. If the PPP pilots demonstrate success it is the intention to use PPP as a means of providing additional community nursing units in other locations throughout the country.

Under the acute hospital bed capacity initiative, my Department has also provided an additional €8.8 million to the Eastern Regional Health Authority and €3.8 million to the Southern Health Board to facilitate the discharge of patients from the acute system to a more appropriate setting, thereby freeing up acute hospital beds. My Department has been informed by the authority that in excess of 200 patients in the acute hospital system in the eastern region have been moved to more appropriate accommodation in the private nursing home sector under this initiative.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

333 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Health and Children if he will investigate the circumstances in which a person (details supplied) in Dublin 10 was refused orthodontic treatment by the South Western Area Health Board even though their own dentist and school support their application; the reason the treatment was refused; if this decision can be reversed; and the criteria used by the health board to determine eligibility for orthodontic treatment. [7905/04]

As the Deputy is aware, responsibility for the provision of orthodontic treatment to eligible persons in Dublin 10 rests with the Eastern Regional Health Authority. My Department has therefore asked the regional chief executive to investigate the matter raised by the Deputy and to reply to him directly.

The aim of my Department is to develop the treatment capacity of orthodontics in a sustainable way over the longer term. Given the potential level of demand for orthodontic services, the provision of those services will continue to be based on prioritisation of cases based on treatment need, as happens under the existing guidelines. The guidelines were issued in 1985 and are intended to enable health boards to identify in a consistent way those in greatest need, and to commence timely treatment for them. Patients in category A require immediate treatment and include those with congenital abnormalities of the jaws such as cleft lip and palate, and patients with major skeletal discrepancies between the sizes of the jaws; patients in category B have less severe problems than category A patients and are placed on the orthodontic treatment waiting list. The number of cases treated is dependent on the level of resources available, in terms of qualified staff, in the area, and this is reflected in the treatment waiting list. In fact, the provision of orthodontic services is currently severely restricted due to the limited availability of trained specialist clinical staff to assess and treat patients. However, I am pleased to advise the Deputy that I have taken a number of measures to address this shortage of specialists and so increase the treatment capacity of the orthodontic service.

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

In June 2002, my Department provided additional funding of €5 million from the treatment purchase fund to health boards specifically for the purchase of orthodontic treatment. This funding is enabling boards to provide both additional sessions for existing staff and purchase treatment from private specialist orthodontic practitioners. The ERHA received €1.815 million for the treatment of cases in this way. Finally, the chief executive officer of the Eastern Regional Health Authority has informed me that at the end of the December quarter 2003, there were 4,656 children getting orthodontic treatment from the authority.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

334 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of residential beds and other facilities available for senior citizens in need of residential care in Cherry Orchard Hospital; if his attention has been drawn to plans to increase the number of beds or to otherwise develop the residential unit of this hospital; and if he will outline the procedure used to allocate these much needed beds. [7906/04]

As the Deputy will be aware, the provision of health services in the Cherry Orchard Hospital is, in the first instance, the responsibility of the South Western Area Health Board acting under the aegis of the Eastern Regional Health Authority. My Department has, therefore, asked the chief executive of the authority to investigate the matter raised by the Deputy and reply direct to him as a matter of urgency.

Nursing Home Subventions.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

335 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in Dublin 10 with severe Alzheimer’s disease will receive a decision on their application for the maximum subvention to enable them to be cared for in a suitable nursing home. [7907/04]

As the Deputy will be aware, the provision of health services in the Dublin area is, in the first instance, the responsibility of the South western Area Health Board acting under the aegis of the Eastern Regional Health Authority. My Department has, therefore, asked the regional chief executive of the authority to investigate the matter raised by the Deputy and reply direct to him as a matter of urgency.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

336 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Health and Children when the family of a person (details supplied) who has been held in a psychiatric ward since August 2002 will receive a decision on their application for an enhanced subvention to allow for this person to be cared for more suitably in a nursing home; and if, in the interim, there are options available other than the psychiatric ward. [7908/04]

As the Deputy will be aware, the provision of health services in the Dublin area is, in the first instance, the responsibility of the South Western Area Health Board, acting under the aegis of the Eastern Regional Health Authority. My Department has, therefore, asked the regional chief executive of the authority to investigate the matter raised by the Deputy and reply direct to him as a matter of urgency.

Health Board Services.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

337 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Health and Children the progress made to date on the relocation of Ballyfermot Mental Health Centre to a more suitable, user-friendly and employee-friendly building as promised by the health board in 2003. [7909/04]

Responsibility for the provision of the services referred to by the Deputy rests with the Eastern Regional Health Authority. My Department has therefore asked the regional chief executive to investigate the matter raised by the Deputy and reply to him directly.

Health Service Reform.

Richard Bruton

Question:

338 Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for Health and Children if a restructuring of Blindcraft is anticipated by his Department; if he will give a commitment to negotiations on a redundancy package and on a retraining programme, in order that workers who lose their jobs can be facilitated in making a move into other employment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7934/04]

As the Deputy may be aware, a decision has been made regarding the future of Blindcraft, based on the recommendation contained in the Prospectus report. My Department has recently re-constituted the board of Blindcraft with a view to its overseeing the transfer of its activities to the relevant body. This will take place within the overall context of the health service reform programme. In particular, the board will be sensitive to the needs of the people with disabilities who are currently employed in Blindcraft.

Hospital Services.

Brendan Smith

Question:

339 Mr. B. Smith asked the Minister for Health and Children if, in view of the difficulties that have emerged at the surgical department, Cavan General Hospital, he will seek the active involvement of senior personnel from the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland in addressing these issues; if, in view of the college’s role in promoting and maintaining the highest possible standards of medical education, those personnel could be involved directly in advancing and extending the work of this surgical department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7938/04]

Responsibility for the provision of services at Cavan General Hospital rests with the North Eastern Health Board. Arising from the recent report of the medical advisor to the North Eastern Health Board in relation to the treatment of a number of patients in the department of surgery at Cavan General Hospital, I will be meeting today with the chief executive officer of the board to discuss the report's findings and the board's response to the recommendations made by the medical advisor. In addition, I have recently met with the medical board of Cavan General Hospital in relation to a number of service issues relating to the hospital. The medical board has tabled a range of proposals in this regard and these are the subject of discussion with the North Eastern Health Board. The board has also sought the advice of the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland and is working closely with the college in this regard.

Health Board Services.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

340 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Health and Children the status of a person (details supplied) in St. Ita’s Psychiatric Hospital, Portrane, County Dublin; if it is intended to move this person to a private nursing home in the near future; if so, if the detrimental effect such a move could have on this person’s health has been taken into account; and if their family have been communicated with and their opinions have been canvassed or taken into account in making such a decision. [7939/04]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

341 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of older psychiatric patients of St. Ita’s Psychiatric Hospital, Portrane, County Dublin, who have been moved from that institution to private nursing homes in the past year; if his attention has been drawn to an increased mortality rate among such patients; if his attention has further been drawn to the fact that a similar policy of moving elderly long stay patients from public psychiatric hospitals to private institutions in Britain was criticised in a television programme (details supplied) in 2003; and his views on this programme and any other similar reports or studies on the effects of such a distressful event in psychiatric patients’ lives as uprooting them from an institution in which some of them have lived for more than 50 years. [7940/04]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

342 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Health and Children when the policy to move elderly long-stay psychiatric patients in St. Ita’s Psychiatric Hospital, Portrane, County Dublin, from this public institution to reside in private nursing homes, was adopted. [7941/04]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

343 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Health and Children if the wishes of the families of elderly long-stay patients are canvassed prior to moving them from St. Ita’s Psychiatric Hospital, Portrane, County Dublin, to private nursing homes. [7942/04]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

344 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of the elderly long-stay patients who were moved from St. Ita’s Psychiatric Hospital, Portrane, County Dublin, to private nursing homes and have returned to St. Ita’s in the past year; and the reasons therefor. [7943/04]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

345 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Health and Children if there has been a review of the policy of moving elderly long-stay psychiatric patients from St. Ita’s Psychiatric Hospital, Portrane, County Dublin, to private nursing homes; and if so, the findings of that review and the status of any recommendations. [7944/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 340 to 345, inclusive, together.

Responsibility for the provision of the services referred to by the Deputy rests with the Eastern Regional Health Authority. My Department has therefore asked the regional chief executive to investigate the matter raised by the Deputy and reply to him directly.

Mary Upton

Question:

346 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Health and Children if additional caring support can be given to a person (details supplied) in Dublin 12 for the care of their spouse who has Parkinson’s disease. [7948/04]

The provision of health related services, including home help services, is a matter for the South Western Health Board acting under the aegis of the Eastern Regional Authority. My Department has therefore forwarded the Deputy's question to the chief executive officer, Eastern Regional Health Authority, with a request that he examine the matter and reply direct to the Deputy as a matter of urgency.

Driving Licences.

Michael Ring

Question:

347 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Transport when the ten countries about to enter the EU in May 2004 will have their driving licences recognised and valid here. [7452/04]

As a person who holds a driving licence issued by a member state of the European Union is permitted to drive in Ireland for so long as that licence remains valid, driving licences from the accession countries will, in accordance with the existing regulatory provisions, be recognised here for driver licensing purposes from the date of accession.

Billy Timmins

Question:

348 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Transport the position in relation to persons over 60 years of age who had full driving licences in the past that are now out of date and have to apply to do the test; if they have to do the theory test; if so, if there is assistance available to persons who are nervous of using a screen; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7469/04]

A lapsed driving licence may be renewed within a period of ten years from the date of expiry of a previous driving licence. After ten years has elapsed a person must first pass the driver theory test, apply for a provisional licence and undergo the driving test in order to obtain a driving licence. The specification which the contractor operating the driver theory test is obliged to meet provides for the delivery of a user-friendly computerised theory testing system and requires that candidates with special needs be provided for. This includes the provision of reading assistance and voice over audio with an extended time slot for the test. When applying for a test, applicants may indicate that they have special requirements.

Driving Tests.

Pat Carey

Question:

349 Mr. Carey asked the Minister for Transport if the outcome of the motor cycle test for a person (details supplied) in Dublin 11 can be re-examined in view of correspondence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7483/04]

I have no legal authority to review a decision of a driver tester following a driving test. Under section 33 of the Road Traffic Act 1961, a person aggrieved by the decision of a driver tester may appeal the decision to the District Court. If the court finds that the test was not properly conducted, my Department will be directed to arrange a further test free of charge for the person concerned.

Light Rail Project.

Tony Gregory

Question:

350 Mr. Gregory asked the Minister for Transport if the issues raised in correspondence (details supplied ) regarding Luas works can be attended to urgently. [7513/04]

As the Deputy is aware, responsibility for the day to day management of the Luas project rests with the Railway Procurement Agency, RPA. However, the RPA has assured me that it and the Luas contractors are committed to ensuring the safety of traffic management measures which must be put in place to facilitate Luas works.

While the RPA regrets the inconvenience caused by the works in the Bluebell/Davitt Road area, it is working with contractors to ensure that work is completed as quickly as possible. It is assumed that the pedestrian lights referred to are those that were located at Bluebell Estate, opposite Lansdowne Park. The RPA has informed me that these lights were removed, with the agreement of Dublin City Council, for the duration of the works at that location as it was thought to be unsafe for people to cross the road at that point while construction is under way. The lights will be reinstated when these works have been completed, which is expected to be in May.

The footpath from the entrance to the estate towards Davitt Road is scheduled to be reinstated fully within three weeks. More extensive work is required to reinstate the permanent footpath from the entrance to the estate towards Bluebell. This work will be carried out in stages and is scheduled to be completed in May.

Road Safety.

Finian McGrath

Question:

351 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Transport the number of fatal accidents and injuries involving school buses; and if he will consider introducing legislation to make it compulsory for all traffic to stop while children are alighting from school buses. [7546/04]

Statistics relating to road accidents, based on information provided by the Garda Síochána, are published by the National Roads Authority, NRA, in its annual road accident facts reports. The most recent report is in respect of 2002 and that report, along with reports relating to previous years, are available in the Oireachtas Library.

Provisional figures for 2003 indicate that 341 road deaths occurred during that year. A breakdown of the number of traffic accident fatalities in 2003 is not yet fully analysed and authenticated. They will be set out in the road accident facts, 2003, which will be published by the National Roads Authority later this year.

The NRA reports do not contain details of the number of fatal accidents and injuries involving school buses. A consultation paper setting out a range of options for enhancing school bus safety, including the introduction of a requirement whereby other vehicles would have to stop when children are boarding or alighting from school buses, was published by my Department in 2002. Following an extended consultation period, a large number of responses was received. These are now under consideration in my Department.

European Council Meetings.

Denis Naughten

Question:

352 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Transport further to Parliamentary Question No. 443 of 17 February 2004, if he will outline the Irish position on same; if he has discussed the issue with IAPA; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7549/04]

Denis Naughten

Question:

355 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Transport if the Simpson proposal will be discussed at the Council of Transport Ministers meeting in March 2004; the Irish position on this proposal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7604/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 352 and 355 together.

It is expected that there will be no substantive discussion on this issue at the Council of Transport Ministers in March. I anticipate that there will be a short presentation from the European Commission under "other business". The Irish position on this proposal has not been finalised and I have held no further discussions with the Irish Airline Pilots Association on this matter.

Rail Network.

Seán Crowe

Question:

353 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Transport his plans in relation to developing the underutilised Phoenix Park tunnel; the timescale for such developments; and the cost to upgrade this line. [7590/04]

Consistent with the Dublin Transportation Office's Platform for Change document, Irish Rail recently completed a study on the feasibility of providing an interconnector tunnel from Heuston Station to the docklands. At my request, this study also examined the question of increased use of the Phoenix Park tunnel for passenger services between Connolly and Heuston stations.

The completed study has been submitted to my Department and discussions have taken place, with Irish Rail in particular, with regard to the timescale for the commencement of work on the project. The company is looking at the potential of the Phoenix Park tunnel when the second phase of the DART upgrade programme is completed in 2007 and extra rail paths into Connolly Station become available.

Taxi Regulations.

Seán Crowe

Question:

354 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Transport if he will confirm the statement made by his Minister of State to Dáil Eireann on 2 March 2004 in response to questioning from this Deputy that the NCT does not refuse to test cars displaying the word taxi as Gaeilge; if his attention has been drawn to SI 136/1995, Road Traffic (Public Service Vehicles) (Amendment) Regulations 1995; and his views on the implications of the schedule in this dealing with the description of the taxi sign. [7603/04]

The licensing and operation of small public service vehicles, including taxis, is governed by the Road Traffic (Public Service Vehicles) Regulations 1963 to 2002 and the Road Traffic (Construction, Equipment and Use of Vehicles) Regulations 1963 to 2002.

Under these regulations, a licence may only be granted following presentation of a vehicle test certificate and certificate of suitability issued by NCTS which confirms that the vehicle is suitable for the purpose of being licensed as a taxi, wheelchair-accessible taxi, hackney or limousine, as appropriate. The testing of a vehicle for taxi licensing purposes is undertaken by NCTS in accordance with the relevant regulatory requirements.

The requirements to be complied with in regard to a taxi sign are set out in a detailed specification, including dimensions, in the Eighth Schedule to the Road Traffic (Public Service Vehicles) (Amendment) Regulations 1995 (SI 136 of 1995). This includes a requirement that "the central sections on each face of the sign shall display the word "TAXI" in yellow letters on a dark blue background of low light transmittance". There is no specific regulatory provision for the use of a taxi sign as Gaeilge. I have asked my Department to examine this matter further.

Question No. 355 answered with QuestionNo. 352.

Seán Haughey

Question:

356 Mr. Haughey asked the Minister for Transport the measures he has taken since 2002 to improve and reform the taxi industry; if he will report on payments to be made to taxi drivers who suffered hardship as a result of deregulation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7625/04]

In accordance with a commitment under An Agreed Programme for Government, the Taxi Regulation Act 2003 was enacted in July 2003 to provide a legislative basis for the establishment of a Commission for Taxi Regulation and an advisory council to the Commission for Taxi Regulation. This legislation followed amending regulations made in 2002 to provide for the phased introduction of a taximeter printer requirement for taxis to issue printed fare receipts.

The Taxi Regulation Act 2003 also facilitates the replacement of the current regulatory system applying to the licensing and operation of small public service vehicles and their drivers, and the development, under the auspices of the Commission for Taxi Regulation, of new qualitative standards relating to the operation and driving of small public service vehicles.

Following a competition for the post of Commissioner for Taxi Regulation in 2003, the Civil Service and Local Appointments Commission was unable to recommend a candidate for appointment. A further recruitment competition on the basis of an enhanced salary for the position is currently being progressed by the commission.

With regard to the advisory council to the Commission for Taxi Regulation, I have made an order under the Taxi Regulation Act 2003 to provide for the establishment of the council with effect from 4 November 2003. The council consists of a chairperson and 17 ordinary members, appointed for a three year period, representing the taxi, hackney and limousine industry, local authorities, an Garda Síochána, consumer, disability, tourism and business interests and other relevant sectors, as required under the Act. The primary role of the council is to advise the commission, when established, and myself as Minister for Transport, as appropriate, in relation to issues relevant to small public service vehicles and their drivers. Pending the establishment of the commission, I have indicated that I am particularly interested in the advice of the council on issues relating to quality enhancement and standards for small public service vehicles and their drivers, including general vehicle condition and appearance, accessibility for persons with mobility and sensory difficulties, a standard vehicle colour for taxis and the introduction of enhanced training, including customer service training and disability awareness and knowledge requirements for existing and new small public service vehicle drivers.

Area Development Management Limited is proceeding with the processing and assessment of applications under the taxi hardship payments scheme which is implementing the recommendations of the taxi hardship panel report in accordance with the relevant Government decision. I understand from ADM that hardship payments totalling €3,988,000 have been made to 327 qualifying persons under the scheme to 5 March 2004. The time taken to process applications and to make payments depends on the completeness of the information and supporting documentation in each individual application. Newspaper advertisements were again placed in the national newspapers on 27 February 2004 inviting applications under the scheme and advising of a closing date of 30 April 2004 for receipt of applications.

Road Safety.

John Deasy

Question:

357 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Transport if he will give details of the local authorities who grant permits for the use of off-road dumpers and the number of permits granted in each local authority are in 2002 and 2003; if there are EU regulations prohibiting the use of these vehicles on the public road; and if he intends to introduce the need for certificates of road worthiness for these vehicles in line with his Department and NCT tests, in the interests of road safety. [7641/04]

All vehicles using public roads are required to comply with the Road Traffic (Construction, Equipment and Use of Vehicles) Regulations 1963 to 2002 and the Road Traffic (Construction and Use of Vehicles) Regulations 2003 unless they are covered by a special permit under regulation 59 of the 2003 regulations. There are no EU requirements specific to the use of such vehicles.

My Department has prepared draft guidelines to revise the existing guidelines used by local authorities to process applications for special permits for off-road dumpers. The draft guidelines provide, inter alia, that the granting of a special permit for an off-road dumper would be conditional on the issuing local authority being satisfied that the vehicle in question complies with certain critical safety criteria. The draft guidelines were circulated to local authorities and other interest parties for comment on 19 February 2004. Information regarding the number of special permits granted by local authorities for vehicles is not compiled by my Department.

Departmental Correspondence.

Seán Crowe

Question:

358 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Transport the number, type and subject of communications he has received from the EU Parliament’s Committee on Petitions and Mr. Nino Gemelli in the past 12 months; the content of those communications; the number, type and subject of all responses; the content of those responses; and if he will make a statement on the discussions he has had with the committee. [7650/04]

As I have explained previously in the House, I met with the delegation from the EU Committee on Petitions on 4 April 2003 and outlined the background to taxi liberalisation and the establishment of the independent three person taxi hardship panel to them. I also explained that based on legal precedent there can be no legal duty on the State to compensate taxi licence holders in relation to open market licence values that may have existed prior to liberalisation. This position remains unchanged and I have no proposals to reopen either the terms of the taxi hardship panel report or the Government's decision in regard to it.

The information requested in relation to taxis is set out in the following table:

Type of communication

Content

Response

E-mail of 2 April 2003 (14.40) from the Secretariat to the EU Committee.

Enclosing a copy of the draft programme for the visit of the EU Committee delegation to Dublin on 3 and 4 April 2003.

No response required.

E-mail of 2 April 2003 (14.59) from the Secretariat to the EU Committee.

Regarding the possible composition of the EU delegation.

No response required.

Undated letter (received 1 April 2003) from the Secretariat to the EU Committee.

Thanking the Minister for his willingness to receive a delegation, giving details of the delegation composition and a brief outline of the issues it would wish to discuss on 4 April 2003.

No response required.

E-mail of 29 April 2003 from the EU Committee Secretariat.

Enclosing a copy of the 28 April 2003 draft Report of the Committee on the fact-finding visit to Ireland, for information.

No response required.

E-mail of 30 April 2003 from the EU Committee Secretariat.

Enclosing a corrected version of the Report of the Committee, for information.

No response required.

Letter of 21 May 2003 from Mr Nino Gemelli, Chairman, EU Committee on Petitions.

Expressing thanks to Minister and the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Transport for the April discussions with the EU delegation, enclosing a copy of the Report of the delegation visit and requesting that the Committee be informed of any decisions which might be taken by the Government on the subject of the EU Committee’s Report in due course.

Letter of 25 November 2003 from the Minister for Transport to Mr. Gemelli, Chairman of the EU Committee advising him of recent developments relevant to the taxi industry, of the fact that the position is unchanged in that the Minister has no proposals to reopen either the terms of the Taxi Hardship Report or the Government’s decision in relation to it. The letter also advised the Committee of the position regarding the Taxi Hardship Payments Scheme, the Taxi Regulation Act 2003, proposals for the Commission for Taxi Regulation, as well as the establishment of an Advisory Council to the Commission in November 2003.

Copy of letter (undated but received in November 2003) from EU Committee Secretariat to the Permanent Representation of Ireland to the EU.

Advising that the EU Committee would be returning to discuss a number of Irish Petitions in November 2003 and indicating that it is likely that the Committee will be requesting an explanation as to why the Irish authorities have failed to acknowledge the letter by Mr. Gemelli to Minister on taxi hardship issues and to follow up the recommendations of the Committee. Requesting that the Permanent Representation contact the Committee Secretariat on issues.

Letter of 25 November 2003 to Mr Gemelli was copied to the Irish Permanent Representation for information on 1 December 2003.

EU Directives.

Denis Naughten

Question:

359 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Transport further to Parliamentary Question No. 871 of 16 December 2003, the progress on the fifth EU motor insurance directive; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7773/04]

The European Council reached a political agreement at its meeting in November 2003, on a draft directive amending certain existing rules on insurance against civil liability by users of motor vehicles. This will be the fifth directive establishing the internal market in the field of motor insurance. The next step will be for the Council to formally adopt its common position and send it to the European Parliament in the framework of the co-decision procedure.

Driving Tests.

Jack Wall

Question:

360 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Transport the number of applicants seeking driving tests in Kildare; the waiting list in relation to such applications; the plans to increase the number of test centres; if any test centres will be situated in Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7843/04]

There are 6,590 applicants awaiting a driving test at the Naas driving test centre. The average waiting time at the centre is 39 weeks.

In conjunction with the Office of Public Works my Department is examining the possibility of expanding the capacity of the driving test centre in Naas to provide accommodation for an additional driver tester at the centre which would assist in reducing the waiting time. I have no proposals to locate additional test centres in County Kildare, as the centre in Naas together with test centres in Carlow, Portlaoise and Tallaght cater for the demand from driving test candidates in the county.

Road Signage.

Jack Wall

Question:

361 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Transport the plans his Department has regarding the upgrading of speed control signs [7844/04]

A broadly based working group established last year to review speed limit policies against the backdrop of the adoption of metric values for speed limits, has presented a comprehensive report that incorporates a wide range of recommendations. The report is available on my Department's website and copies have been placed in the Oireachtas Library.

The working group recommended that with the changeover to metric values that each speed limit sign should display the actual speed limit value in numerals together with the units "kmh" to clearly indicate that the value being displayed is metric. Recommendations were also made in relation to the sign face size to be deployed on the various classes of public road and in relation to speed limit repeater signage.

In addition, it was recommended that a regulatory basis be developed for the use of time-based speed limit signs, gantry mounted signs, on-road roundel signs and variable message signs to support the application of the new speed limit structure.

I have given very careful consideration to the working group's recommendations. I intend to bring forward the necessary legislative proposals needed to support new speed limit structures based on the working group's report before the Oireachtas shortly. Arrangements will then follow to put appropriate traffic signs regulatory provisions in place.

Driving Tests.

Seán Crowe

Question:

362 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Transport if his attention has been drawn to the widespread concern surrounding the lack of regulations regarding the establishment of driving schools and their suitability for drivers; and the way in which and when he proposes to introduce appropriate legislation to regulate this sector. [7852/04]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Parliamentary Question No. 567 of 10 February 2004, as follows. Proposals being developed by my Department for the regulation and quality assurance of driving instruction will involve a test of the competence of individual instructors. A working group comprising representatives of my Department and of instruction interests has formulated the design of the standards that a driving instructor must meet. I am considering what arrangements will be put in place to oversee implementation of the standard in the context of the establishment of the driver testing and standards authority.

Light Rail Project.

Seán Crowe

Question:

363 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Transport if his attention has been drawn to the fact that a growing population lives beyond the Square in Tallaght and that it makes social, economic and financial sense to extend the Luas beyond the proposed terminus; and the plans or proposals in place to allow these residents and potential commuters access this new service. [7853/04]

The RPA has informed me that it has no plans at present to extend the Luas beyond the Square in Tallaght. In considering future lines and extensions, the RPA will have regard to the overall Dublin Transportation Office's strategy, as set out in A Platform for Change.

Registration of Title.

John Ellis

Question:

364 Mr. Ellis asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his Department will rectify incorrect maps provided to a person (details supplied) in County Leitrim as part of schedules listed in County Leitrim. [7599/04]

I am informed by the Registrar of Titles that these are two Land Commission schedule applications which were lodged on 16 March, 2000 and on 11 April, 2000. Schedule Nos. 93482 and 93484 refer.

Land Commission schedule applications are deemed to be registered as of the date of vesting which is prior to the date of lodgement of the documents in the Land Registry. Accordingly, registration in the Land Registry of Land Commission cases is afforded a lower priority than the registration of other dealings. I am informed that these two applications are receiving attention in the Land Registry.

I am further informed that the issue regarding the rectification of incorrect maps in relation to Land Commission schedule applications is a matter for the Minister for Agriculture and Food.

Visa Applications.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

365 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform further to Parliamentary Question No. 444 of 24 February 2004 if an appeal dated 6 February 2004 was made on behalf of a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7463/04]

The appeal referred to by the Deputy has not been received by the immigration division of my Department. It is open to the applicant to re-submit the appeal and it will be processed as promptly as possible on receipt of same.

Garda Complaints Procedures.

Billy Timmins

Question:

366 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in relation to recruitment for the new Garda ombudsman office; the number of staff that will be employed; the positions of same; when the positions will be advertised and the locations in which; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7472/04]

It is the Government's intention that the new Garda ombudsman commission as provided for in the Garda Síochána Bill 2004 will be established as soon as possible following its enactment. The Bill will complete second stage in the Seanad on 11 March 2004.

As I have already indicated in replies to questions on this particular matter on 15 October and 25 November 2003, it would be premature at this stage of the process to indicate what the likely staffing complement or other arrangements for the new body will be.

Visa Applications.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

367 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform further to Parliamentary Question No 445 of 24 February 2004, the position in relation to the appeal (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7479/04]

I can inform the Deputy that the application in question was approved on appeal on 3 March 2004.

Garda Equipment.

Tony Gregory

Question:

368 Mr. Gregory asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will detail the allowance made for possible errors in the calibration of the equipment used to assess the speed of motor vehicles by speed cameras; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7505/04]

The Garda authorities have informed me that speed cameras which they operate are calibrated to an accuracy of +/- 2 miles per hour at speeds up to and including 60 mph and to an accuracy of +/- 2% at speeds exceeding 60 mph. These accuracy standards are taken into account in operating speed detection cameras and subsequent issue of fixed charge notices.

Citizenship Applications.

Jack Wall

Question:

369 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform further to Parliamentary Question No. 425 of 10 February 2004, if documentation can be placed on a persons file (details supplied) in County Kildare in support of their application for naturalisation; if consideration will be given to their application; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7506/04]

I can confirm that the documents submitted by the Deputy have been placed on the applicant's case file. The application will now be processed to finality and as soon as I have reached a decision on the application, I will inform both the applicant and the Deputy of the outcome.

Garda Deployment.

Gay Mitchell

Question:

370 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will make the necessary resources available to deal with anti-social behaviour in a community (details supplied) in Dublin 12 in which law abiding people are being intimidated; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7507/04]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the area in question is regularly patrolled by uniform and plain clothes gardaí from Kilmainham and Crumlin Garda stations with a view to ensuring a concentrated and visible Garda presence in the area. These patrols are backed up by gardaí from the divisional task force, special resource unit, drugs unit, Garda mountain bike unit and the community policing unit.

I understand that community gardaí assigned to the area liaise with residents and community representatives on an ongoing basis. Gardaí keep the community informed of developments through contact with neighbourhood watch co-ordinators, residents associations and direct contact with complainants. I am assured that local Garda management are satisfied that there are adequate resources to meet the policing needs of the area and will ensure that a concentrated visible presence is maintained in this area.

Garda Recruitment.

Enda Kenny

Question:

371 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the estimated number of garda recruits to be called for training in 2004 and expected to be called in 2005 respectively; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7515/04]

In April 2000, the Government agreed,inter alia, to a system of delegated authority under which recruitment is carried out to maintain the strength of the force at an agreed level. In April 2002, the Government agreed to increase the approved strength of the force by 200 to 12,200. A total of 690 Garda trainees were taken into the Garda college during 2003. The commissioner has projected, based on the anticipated rate of retirement, that the maximum authorised force strength of 12,200 will be achieved during 2004.

In addition, the commissioner has projected that a total of 368 trainees are required to meet the demand created by compulsory retirements and projected voluntary retirements and other discharges for 2004. However, he cautions that all projections are based on variables and are therefore subject to change. The matter of voluntary retirements will be closely monitored, particularly in the early months of this year when historically a higher number of applications are received. At this stage it is not possible to indicate the number of trainees that will be required to recruited in 2005 to maintain the strength of the force at the approved level of 12,200.

Garda Remuneration.

John McGuinness

Question:

372 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform further to Parliamentary Question No. 206 of 20 November 2003, if he will make a statement on the matters raised, in view of the fact that the case has been withdrawn from the courts; and if his Department will resolve this longstanding dispute. [7518/04]

I have been informed by the Garda authorities that they have not received formal notification that proceedings in this case have been withdrawn. Accordingly, it would be inappropriate to make further comment on this matter.

Language Schools.

John Deasy

Question:

373 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reason for the delay in the granting of approval for the provision of a new language school by the Garda national immigration bureau for a person (details supplied) in Dublin 4; if there will be no further unnecessary delays; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7527/04]

In order to be given permission to remain as an English language student in this jurisdiction the non-EEA national in question must be in a position to show that he or she is enrolled in a course that provides a minimum of 15 hours of tuition per week. The purpose of this rule is to ensure that study is the primary purpose of the person's presence in the State and that enrolment in the course in question is not simply a convenient device to enable the putative student to cloak his or her presence for an alternative purpose with the vestige of study.

The school proprietor in question sought initially to arrange, for a fee, the presence of students in the State on the basis of four hours attendance per week — the remainder of the tuition to be done remotely via the Internet. The school was promoted on the basis that students would not even have to live near it. When asked why the students would have to go to the trouble and expense of travelling to and living in Ireland for the purposes of the e-learning scheme envisaged, the proprietor indicated that it was a necessary adjunct to the course that the students immerse themselves in the Irish way of life and practice speaking English in normal everyday situations.

When it became clear to the proprietor that his scheme was not acceptable to the Department, he indicated instead that he would now in fact provide courses which cohered with the Department's general rule — that is physical attendance for 15 hours per week. The Department agreed to this arrangement provided that the Garda national immigration bureau was satisfied, on foot of a visit to the school, that reasonable facilities were in place which would support an objective conclusion that the stated policy of the school was in fact its true policy.

To date, the proprietor has been unable to satisfy the Garda national immigration bureau to that effect. I should point out in this regard that it is not the policy of the Department to enable a school to operate in a manner which is unacceptable in order to acquire the necessary finance to comply with Department requirements — every undertaking of this nature needs an adequate amount of capital investment at the outset.

Residency Permits.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

374 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if a person (details supplied) in Dublin can obtain a further study permit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7533/04]

The person concerned should now report to the Garda national immigration bureau at 13/14 Burgh Quay, Dublin 2, with relevant documentation concerning his proposed course of studies, to seek an extension of his current permission to remain.

Departmental Properties.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

375 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the plans he has for the future use of the houses and lands at Beladd Park, Portlaoise, County Laois; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7534/04]

No final decision has been made in respect of the future use of the estate. Some work primarily of a security nature has, however, commenced in the estate.

Citizenship Applications.

Enda Kenny

Question:

376 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the status in respect of an application for citizenship by a person (details supplied) in County Mayo; the reason for the delay; and if he will make a statement on the matter in view of the circumstances that apply. [7535/04]

An application for a certificate of naturalisation from the person referred to by the Deputy was received in the citizenship section of my Department on 30 October 2002.

The average processing time for such applications is 15 to 18 months at the present time. I understand that processing of the application of the person concerned is almost finalised and that it will be submitted to me for a decision in the near future. I will inform the Deputy and the person concerned as soon as I have reached a decision on the application.

Legislative Programme.

Michael Ring

Question:

377 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the plans the Government has to introduce the adverse possession Bill; his proposals in regard to this Bill; and if he will give details of the reports which have been carried out on it. [7536/04]

The Law Reform Commission published a report on title by adverse possession of land in December 2002.

As regards future legislation, the position is that while the Government legislation programme announced by the Government Chief Whip on 25 January last does not contain proposals to reform the law relating to adverse possession, reform of this area of law will be considered by my Department in the context of proposals in due course to codify our land law and conveyancing laws.

Garda Investigations.

Finian McGrath

Question:

378 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on correspondence (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7537/04]

I would refer the Deputy to my answer of 27 January 2004 in response to Parliamentary Question No. 844, which appears to relate to the same subject. I would urge the Deputy, and anybody who may be in correspondence with him, to report any irregularities or alleged breaches of the law to the Garda Síochána, who have primary responsibility for the investigation of such matters.

Garda Operations.

Gay Mitchell

Question:

379 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the plans he has to deal with the 17 ruthless gangs he has identified as being in operation in Dublin and which are involved in debt collection by killing, patch protection by killing and retribution by killing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7538/04]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that an operation has been established under the direction of a detective Garda superintendent who has initiated a number of different Garda operations specifically aimed at targeting organised criminal gangs in the Dublin metropolitan region. This operational unit is liaising very closely with other specialised Garda units and detectives throughout the city.

I am further informed that this operation is ongoing and has resulted in the arrest and imprisonment of persons and associates connected with these gangs. The Garda authorities have also assured me that the targeting of these criminal gangs is continuing.

Ministerial Transport.

Finian McGrath

Question:

380 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of State and ministerial cars recorded by speed cameras above the speed limit since the introduction of speed cameras; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7564/04]

I have been informed by the Garda authorities that since the introduction of speed cameras eight years ago, a total of 1,741 State vehicles have been recorded by speed cameras driving above the speed limit. This figure includes all official Garda vehicles which includes ministerial cars. There are currently 2,007 vehicles assigned to the Garda fleet.

While Garda vehicles have been recorded by speed cameras driving above the speed limit, I would remind the Deputy that vehicles used by members of the Garda Síochána in the performance of their duties as such members are specifically excepted from the speed limits prescribed. This is done pursuant to section 46 of the Road Traffic Act 1961 which provides that the Minister for Transport may prescribe by regulation speed limits and such regulations may provide for exceptions to those limits.

Asylum Applications.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

381 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding the application by a person (details supplied) in County Louth to remain here with regard to his missionary work. [7571/04]

The person concerned arrived in the State in September 2002 and made an asylum application. His wife had arrived in the State in July 2002, gave birth six days later and made an application for asylum in August 2002. Both subsequently withdrew their asylum applications and applied for residency on the basis of parentage of the Irish child born.

Following the decision of the Supreme Court in the cases of L and 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 is 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. If, in the light of representations received, which can include mention of his missionary work 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. Because of the large number of such cases on hand, I am unable to say at this stage when the file will be examined.

Road Traffic Offences.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

382 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to claims by the Irish Insurance Industry Federation that almost 100,000 fewer speeding tickets were issued in 2003 as a result of fewer Garda speed checks on the roads, reduced hours spent using speed cameras because of penalty points paperwork, and fewer visible gardaí on the country’s roads; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6783/04]

I am aware of the reports referred to by the Deputy. I understand that the figure of 96,000 referred to in the report was the number of drivers who have been notified by the Department of Transport of the entry of penalty points on their licence record. It does not refer to the numbers of speeding detections by the Garda Síochána as a person detected speeding can opt either to pay the fixed charge and accept two penalty points or to contest the charge in court and risk a fine of up to €800 and four penalty points.

As the Deputy will appreciate, the main objective of Garda activity in the area of road safety is to change road user behaviour, through enforcement and surveillance, ultimately leading to a reduction of the numbers killed and injured on our roads annually. The effectiveness of Garda activity should therefore be judged on the basis of the numbers killed and injured, not on the number of speeding detectionsper se. The Garda authorities have assured me that their experience is that driver behaviour is changing since the introduction of the penalty points system.

While the Garda figures for 2003 have not yet been validated, I am informed by the Garda authorities that provisional figures indicate that approximately 250,000 drivers were detected speeding last year. While this represents an approximately 25% drop in the number of speed detections in 2002, it is consistent with the reduction noted last year in the number of insurance claims and the substantial drop in serious injuries, spinal injuries and admissions to accident and emergency departments in hospitals.

In addition, the number of road fatalities for 2003 show that 36 fewer people died on our roads than in the previous year. This represents a decrease in road fatalities of 9.6% on the number of fatalities in 2002 and of 27.5% on the 1997 figure. While recent tragedies show that we cannot afford to be complacent, the consistent decline in the number of road fatalities and injuries for each year since 1997 indicates the result of the effective traffic policing of An Garda Síochána and, more recently, a marked change in driver behaviour since the introduction of penalty points. It has long been anticipated that an improvement in motorist behaviour would result in a decline in the number of detections in respect of speeding and other offences.

Citizenship Applications.

Phil Hogan

Question:

383 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when a decision will be made on a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny under the post-nuptial citizenship scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7596/04]

A declaration of acceptance of post-nuptial citizenship from the person referred to by the Deputy was received in my Department on the 12 December 2003. The current processing time for such declarations is approximately eight months from the date of lodgement and it is likely, therefore, that the processing of the declaration of the person concerned will be finalised within the next six months. I will let the Deputy know as soon as the matter is finalised.

Child Care Services.

Tony Gregory

Question:

384 Mr. Gregory asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reason the EOCP funding is being cut to a child care training programme (details supplied) in Dublin 1; and if this matter can be urgently reviewed to allow funding for essential running costs as was the case previously and in view of the exceptional child care needs being catered for by this project. [7615/04]

As the Deputy may be aware, I approved interim staffing funding under the equal opportunities childcare programme 2000 — 2006 of €45,000 for the period January to March 2004. The funding is to enable the project to remain open pending the outcome of a review of the project's application for funding. I understand that the future funding of this group is under active consideration at this time and it would premature of me to comment further at this stage.

Asylum Applications.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

385 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the status of an application for a person (details supplied) in County Wexford; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7761/04]

The person concerned, a Russian national, entered the State on 13 November 1996 and applied for asylum. Her application was refused and she was informed of this on 29 June 1998. She did not appeal this decision.

In accordance with section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999, she was informed on 2 September 1999 that it was proposed to make a deportation order in respect of her 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 she should be allowed to remain in the State; to voluntarily leave the State; or to consent to deportation. Representations were received by the Department on her behalf.

The person concerned was granted temporary leave to remain in the State until 10 June 2003. The case file will be submitted to me for a decision shortly as to whether further permission to remain should be granted although it should be noted that no such application has been made by the person concerned.

Closed Circuit Television Systems.

Seán Crowe

Question:

386 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the process whereby local communities can apply for closed circuit television through the Closed Circuit Television Advisory Committee. [7762/04]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that applications for Garda CCTV systems must be prepared in co-operation with the local Garda district and divisional officers and receive their support. Applications will normally have been made as a result of representations from groups forming residential, commercial and local government interests, and would be expected to contain the location and scope of the cameras required. Applications are then submitted to the CCTV advisory committee, which was established by the Garda Commissioner to advise on all matters regarding CCTV systems, for consideration and assessment.

Applications for Garda CCTV systems are assessed by the advisory committee on the basis of Garda operational needs and include the following criteria: crime and public order statistics in the area; population and level of activity in the area; the recommendation of local Garda management; any special circumstances or needs that exist in the area; and the likely impact of a Garda CCTV system in the area.

The advisory committee then makes a recommendation on each application to the Garda Commissioner, who in turn makes a recommendation on each application to myself. A final decision on whether to approve a new Garda CCTV system will depend on the availability of funds and the programme of CCTV work to be completed.

It is not, understandably, possible for the Garda Síochána to install CCTV systems in all areas that have sought them. Some applications for CCTV systems received by the CCTV advisory committee relate to relatively small schemes which, while of importance to the local community, cannot be regarded as a national Garda priority. To this end, a grant-aid scheme has been launched to facilitate community-based groups who wish to install their own local CCTV system. Grant assistance of up to €100,000 will, subject to the availability of funds, be obtainable from the Department towards the cost of such schemes. It will be up to the community groups, in conjunction with the relevant local authority to install, maintain and monitor the community-based CCTV schemes.

An application prospectus has been prepared by the Department which provides information on how to apply for grant-aid funding, outlines the application process and identifies the main issues that applicants will need to consider. Copies of this prospectus are available on request from my Department's Garda administration division. A code of practice, drawn up in co-operation with the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner and detailed technical specifications drawn up by The Garda Síochána, are almost complete. When both the code of practice and the technical specifications have been finalised the Department will issue copies of same to all communities who expressed an interest in the community-based CCTV scheme and any application subsequently received will be evaluated and processed.

Registration of Title.

John McGuinness

Question:

387 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform further to Question No. 588 of 4 November 2003, if the matter has now been finalised; if the queries issued to the lodging solicitor on 4 November 2003 have been answered in a satisfactory manner; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7770/04]

I am informed by the Registrar of Titles that this is an application comprising two transmissions of part, a voluntary transfer and releases, which was lodged on 18 July 2003. Dealing number D2003TJ012887M refers. I am further informed that no replies have been received to date by the Land Registry to queries issued on 4 November 2003 and that a reminder has been issued to the lodging solicitors on 10 February 2004.

On receipt of a satisfactory reply to these queries the matter will receive further attention in the Land Registry.

Return of Passport.

Tony Gregory

Question:

388 Mr. Gregory asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when it is intended to return the passport to a person (details supplied) in Dublin 1. [7784/04]

My Department has no record of any communication with the individual referred to by the Deputy. On receipt of further information from the person concerned the matter will be investigated.

Visa Applications.

Pat Breen

Question:

389 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if permission will be granted to a child to remain here with their parents (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7793/04]

The person in question should apply in writing to the immigration division of my Department which is located at 13/14 Burgh Quay, Dublin 2, clearly setting out the grounds on which she seeks to have her permission to remain in the State extended. On receipt of her request the application will be fully considered.

Garda Investigations.

Jack Wall

Question:

390 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to progress by the gardaí identifying the attackers in an unprovoked attack on a person (details supplied) in County Offaly that has resulted in the person being wheelchair bound and being unable to care for themselves; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7837/04]

I regret that it has not been possible in the time available to obtain the information requested by the Deputy. I will contact the Deputy again when the information is to hand.

Prison Accommodation.

Jack Wall

Question:

391 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in regard to the closure of the Curragh Prison; if all the prisoners and staff have been relocated; if the educational system that was in place in the Curragh is being repeated in Portlaoise; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7839/04]

The Curragh Place of Detention closed on 20 January 2004. The majority of the prisoners detained there were transferred to the Midlands Prison at that time. Most of the Irish Prison Service staff who were assigned to the Curragh have been temporarily redeployed to duties in the Midlands Prison and one prison officer was temporarily redeployed to Limerick Prison. Arrangements whereby a small cohort of prison staff continue to be assigned to duties at the Curragh Prison are being kept under continuing review.

I am informed that the staff of the education unit of the Curragh Place of Detention, who are employed by County Kildare VEC, have continued to report there pending the outcome of negotiations on terms and conditions of teacher secondments to the Midlands Prison. It is hoped that both these negotiations and the fitting out of additional classrooms at the Midlands Prison will be completed shortly to enable education to be provided for prisoners transferred from the Curragh.

Closed Circuit Television Systems.

Jack Wall

Question:

392 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of applications for the provision of the CCTV scheme he has received from Kildare County Council; the position of such applications received; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7840/04]

I have been informed by the Garda authorities that the CCTV advisory committee has not received any application for the installation of a CCTV system from Kildare County Council. Should an application be received, the committee will decide on this application and make a recommendation to the commissioner who in turn will make his recommendation known to myself.

Applications for Garda CCTV systems are assessed by the advisory committee on the basis of Garda operational needs and include the following criteria: crime/public order statistics in the area; population and level of activity in the area; the recommendation of local Garda management; any special circumstances or needs that exist in the area; the likely impact of a Garda CCTV system in the area.

Jack Wall

Question:

393 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in regard to the installation of CCTV schemes in local authority areas; the funding of such schemes vis-à-vis his Department, local authority contributions and private sector contributions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7841/04]

A total of 17 locations are set to receive new Garda CCTV systems subject, of course, to the availability of funds. These locations are, in alphabetical order: Athlone, Ballyfermot, Bray, Carlow, Castlebar, Clondalkin, Clonmel, Dundalk, Dún Laoghaire, Ennis, Finglas, Galway, Kilkenny, Limerick, Sligo, Tallaght and Waterford.

Applications for Garda CCTV systems are assessed by the advisory committee, which was established by the Garda Commissioner to advise on all matters regarding CCTV systems, on the basis of Garda operational needs and include the following criteria: crime/public order statistics in the area; population and level of activity there; the recommendation of local Garda management; any special circumstances or needs that exist and the likely impact of a Garda CCTV system in the area. Co-funding is also a feature of Garda CCTV systems and this is usually addressed when it has been decided to install a Garda CCTV system in an area.

All applications for Garda CCTV systems must be prepared in co-operation with the local Garda district and divisional officers and receive their support. Applications will normally have been made as a result of representations from groups forming residential, commercial and local government interests and would be expected to contain the location and scope of the cameras required.

Some applications for CCTV systems received by the CCTV advisory committee relate to relatively small schemes which, while of importance to the local community, cannot be regarded as a national Garda priority. To this end, a grant-aid scheme has been launched to facilitate community based groups who wish to install their own local CCTV system. Grant assistance of up to €100,000 will, subject to the availability of funds, be obtainable from my Department towards the cost of such schemes. It will be up to the community groups, in conjunction with the relevant local authority, to install, maintain and monitor the community based CCTV schemes. While it will be up to the local interests to install and monitor the CCTV schemes, grant assistance will be provided. To qualify for grant aid, certain minimum standards will have to be met and the gardaí will have to be allowed access to the system when and as they require it.

The Department has received a significant number of expressions of interest — in excess of 200 — in the community based CCTV scheme. An application prospectus has been prepared by the Department which provides information on how to apply for grant-aid funding, outlines the application process and identifies the main issues that applicants will need to consider. Copies of this prospectus are available on request from my Department's Garda administration division. A code of practice, drawn up in co-operation with the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner, and detailed technical specifications, drawn up by the Garda Síochána, are almost complete. When both the code of practice and the technical specifications have been finalised, my Department will issue copies of same to all communities who expressed an interest in the community based CCTV scheme and any applications subsequently received will be evaluated and processed.

Visa Applications.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

394 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if an appeal for a visa application for a person (details supplied) will be given in view of the fact that a similar visa has previously been issued by other countries, including member countries of the European Union, that all considerations have been complied with in the past, and that there are humanitarian considerations involved. [7842/04]

The visa application in question was received by my Department on 20 November 2003. The application was supported by an employment permit for employment as a childminder for a five month period from 18 September 2003 to 17 February 2004.

In assessing a visa application a visa officer will have regard to the information provided in the application and to such factors as the applicant's ties and general circumstances in their country of origin, as well as the relative attractiveness and feasibility of remaining in the State. Credibility is central to the visa determination process. The visa officer, in considering the application in question, noted that almost half of the validity period of the five month employment permit had expired. The applicant had not shown any significant ties to her country of origin, Equatorial Guinea. It was also noted that the applicant intended to bring her son with her. In the case of visa required nationals who enter the State on foot of an employment permit, it is only after the worker has been in the State for 12 months and has been offered a contract for a further 12 months that they may be joined by their family. In the circumstances, the visa officer formed the opinion that it would not be unreasonable to conclude that the applicant would not observe the conditions attached to the visa and the application was refused. In that context, account was taken of the fact that the applicant is, in fact, the sister-in-law of the employer in Ireland and that the employer had supported the mother and child in Equatorial Guinea.

An appeal against the refusal was received but the visa appeals officer, having reconsidered the application afresh, upheld the original decision. It is, of course, open to the applicant to make a fresh application with up to date supporting documentation and the matter will be considered anew.

Closed Circuit Television Systems.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

395 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will report on the progress on the delivery of closed circuit television for the Ballyfermot area of Dublin; when works will commence and when they will be completed; and the proposed closed circuit television locations in Ballyfermot. [7897/04]

Ballyfermot is one of 17 locations which are set to receive a new Garda town centre CCTV system, subject to the availability of funds. The other locations are, in alphabetical order: Athlone, Bray, Carlow, Castlebar, Clondalkin, Clonmel, Dundalk, Dún Laoghaire, Ennis, Finglas, Galway, Kilkenny, Limerick, Sligo, Tallaght and Waterford.

Phase 1 of the scheme comprises Bray, Dundalk, Dún Laoghaire, Finglas, Galway and Limerick. Work on the implementation of these systems is ongoing at present.

Phase 2 of the scheme comprises Athlone, Clondalkin, Tallaght and Waterford. The pre-tender process for these systems is at an advanced stage. Request for tender and detailed technical specification documents are currently being drafted by the telecommunications section at Garda headquarters, having regard to experience with other Garda CCTV systems and technological developments in this field. I am informed by the Garda authorities that it is intended to seek tenders for these systems within the first half of 2004.

Phase 3 of the scheme will consist of a further seven areas — Ballyfermot, Carlow, Castlebar, Clonmel, Ennis, Kilkenny and Sligo. The planning for the installation of these systems is scheduled to commence later this year. I have been informed that the planning stage includes identifying the proposed camera locations and as such it is not possible, at this point in time, to provide the Deputy with the specific number or location of these cameras.

Crime Levels.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

396 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he has had communications with the Garda Commissioner, in the wake of three murders in the past month in the Dublin south-central area, regarding the increased murder rate in the area; and if he has discussed or considered the setting up of a task force in Dublin south-central similar to that recently set up to tackle gangland killings in Limerick. [7898/04]

There have been four murders in the Dublin south-central division since 1 January 2004. There has been a detection in respect of one of these and a person is before the courts. In another case a file is being prepared for the directions of the law officers. Investigations are still ongoing in respect of the other two murders committed.

The Garda authorities have also informed me that the resources at the disposal of Garda management to investigate these murders are adequate and it is not considered necessary to set up a task force in Dublin south-central.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

397 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will report on the number of shooting related incidents in the past year in the various Garda districts of the Dublin south-central area, including the Garda stations of Ballyfermot, Kilmainham, Sundrive, Crumlin village and Kevin Street; and the dates of these incidents. [7899/04]

I have made inquiries with the Garda authorities about the number of shooting related incidents in 2003 and 2004 for the Garda stations mentioned in the Deputy's question. The information sought by the Deputy is outlined in the following tables. The Deputy should note that the figures for 2003 and 2004 are provisional and subject to a validation process.

Table 1

Murders where firearms where used

2003

2004*

Garda Station

Recorded

Detected

Recorded

Detected

Kevin St

1

1

2

0

Kilmainham

2

1

0

0

Ballyfermot

0

0

1

0

*as of 08/03/04

Table 2

Discharging of firearm

2003

2004*

Garda Station

Recorded

Detected

Recorded

Detected

Ballyfermot

2

0

1

0

Kevin Street

6

1

4

0

Kilmainham

3

2

1

0

Crumlin

2

1

1

0

Sundrive Rd

4

0

1

0

*as of 08/03/04

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the disclosure of specific information about the discharging of firearm offences is not appropriate for operational reasons as many are still under investigation.

Garda Equipment.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

398 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of vehicles attached to the various Garda stations in Dublin; their type and age; and when they are due to be replaced. [7900/04]

I have been informed by the Garda authorities, who are responsible for the detailed allocation of resources, that the table set out hereunder indicates the number, types and ages of vehicles attached to stations in the DMR. Ages of vehicles will not necessarily conform exactly with the registration number as ages are calculated from the date on which the vehicle is commissioned for operational service. Based on average mileages and taking into account accidents and malicious damage, it is expected that between approximately 120 and 140 vehicles attached to stations in the DMR. will be replaced this year.

Age Category

Average Age

Number of Vehicles

Under 2 Years Old

Cars

0.73 yrs

117

Vans

0.68 yrs

37

Motorcycles

0.67 yrs

58

4 x 4’s

0.78 yrs

6

Total

218

From 2-4 Years

Cars

2.89 yrs

100

Vans

3.07 yrs

21

Motorcycles

2.85 yrs

30

4 x 4’s

2.30 yrs

8

Minibuses/Lorries etc

2.96 yrs

4

Total

163

From 4-6 Years

Cars

4.90 yrs

52

Vans

5.07 yrs

15

Motorcycles

5.09 yrs

21

4 x 4’s

5.23 yrs

2

Minibuses/Lorries etc

4.63 yrs

5

Total

95

From 6-8 Years

Cars

7.08 yrs

16

Vans

6.85 yrs

7

Motorcycles

7.03 yrs

2

4 x 4’s

6.26 yrs

4

Minibuses/Lorries etc

7.24 yrs

4

Total

33

From 8-10 Years

Cars

8.81 yrs

2

Vans

8.81 yrs

3

Minibuses/Lorries etc

8.06 yrs

1

Total

6

Over 10 Years

Vans

11.93 yrs

6

4 x 4’s

12.98 yrs

1

Minibuses/Lorries etc

12.51 yrs

3

Total

10

Grand Total

525

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

399 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of vehicles in the service of the Garda Síochána; their type, age and value; the estimated cost of replacing them; and the timetabled plans to replace the older vehicles. [7901/04]

I have been informed by the Garda authorities, who are responsible for the detailed allocation of resources, that the details contained in the tables set out hereunder outline the types and ages of the entire fleet together with the book value for these vehicles. The book value is the written down value in accordance with Government accounting procedures. This refers to the practice of writing off 20% of the value per year.

Ages of vehicles will not necessarily conform exactly to the registration number as ages are calculated from the date on which the vehicle is commissioned for operational service and is also the date on which warranty commences. On average, between 400 and 500 vehicles will require replacement each year. Based on current mileages and the average cost per vehicle for 2003 being €19,500, the cost of fleet replacement is estimated at between €8.5 million and €9.5 million per annum. However, this figure does not take account of special circumstances or the need for specialist vehicles that may arise from time to time.

Age Category

Average Age

No. of Vehicles

Book Value

Under 2 Yrs Old

Cars

0.76 Yrs

659

10,456,062.73

Vans

0.70 Yrs

81

1,077,923.64

Motorcycles

0.76 Yrs

79

1,115,732.55

4 X 4’s

0.82 Yrs

26

754,001.67

Minibuses, Lorries etc.

0.66 Yrs

13

242,223.18

Total

858

13,645,943.77

From 2- 4 Years

Cars

2.90 Yrs

486

3,656,512.86

Vans

3.13 Yrs

44

302,366.86

Motorcycles

2.90 Yrs

89

634,841.48

4 X 4’s

2.52 Yrs

33

612,221.48

Minibuses, Lorries etc.

2.99 Yrs

12

125,323.21

Total

664

5,331,265.89

From 4-6 Years

Cars

4.77 Yrs

198

382,259.70

Vans

5.11 Yrs

58

41,287.06

Motorcycles

5.00 Yrs

47

44,589.75

4 X 4’s

5.19 Yrs

17

22,810.24

Minibuses, Lorries etc.

4.96 Yrs

17

24,194.61

Total

337

515,141.36

From 6-8 Years

Cars

7.04 Yrs

41

00.00

Vans

6.91 Yrs

24

00.00

Motorcycles

6.71 Yrs

12

00.00

4 X 4’s

6.60 Yrs

8

00.00

Minibuses, Lorries etc.

7.14 Yrs

12

00.00

Total

97

00.00

From 8-10 Years

Cars

8.73 Yrs

7

00.00

Vans

8.78 Yrs

10

00.00

Motorcycles

9.18 Yrs

8

00.00

4 X 4’s

8.27 Yrs

1

00.00

Minibuses, Lorries etc

8.31 Yrs

3

00.00

Total

29

00.00

Over 10 Years

Vans

11.73 Yrs

12

00.00

Motorcycles

12.00 Yrs

4

00.00

4 X 4’s

13.13 Yrs

3

00.00

Minibuses, Lorries etc

12.51 Yrs

3

00.00

Total

22

00.00

Grand Total

2,007

19,492,351.01

Prison Service Vehicles.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

400 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of vehicles in the service of the Irish Prison Service; their type, age and value; the estimated cost of replacing them; and the timetabled plan to replace the older vehicles, in particular the prison escort vans. [7902/04]

There is a wide range of vehicles in use in the various prisons, places of detention and related bodies within the Irish Prison Service. These include plant and machinery used for various duties within the prison system.

The following is a breakdown of the different categories of vehicle currently in the Irish prison system: cellular vans — two; minibuses — 44; cars + MPV — 39; vans — 36; refrigerated vans — seven; forklifts — 12; hoists — 15; lawn maintenance — 12; trucks — three; pick-up trucks — five; builders' dumpers — ten; tractors — ten; total — 195 vehicles. The 195 vehicles that are in service at present are of various ages and are generally replaced after ten years of service or earlier if the mileage is considered excessive.

The cost of replacing vehicles changes from year to year depending on the type of vehicle and the number of vehicles that reach the ten year limit in each given year. New vehicles are purchased through a Government supplies agency tender process. Accordingly, it is not possible to estimate the replacement cost of the fleet of vehicles in use by the Prison Service. I have been informed by the Irish Prison Service that the information about the age of the vehicles, requested by the Deputy, can be obtained in most cases but will take further time to compile. I will write to the Deputy as soon as the information becomes available.

Forensic Tests.

John Deasy

Question:

401 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the details of the length of time it takes to have forensic tests processed; if he will examine the case of a person (details supplied) in County Carlow; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7932/04]

In the time available for answering parliamentary questions it has not been possible to obtain the information requested by the Deputy. I am having the information obtained and will communicate with the Deputy when it is to hand.

Local Authority Staff.

Liz McManus

Question:

402 Ms McManus asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the required quota of employment places for persons with disabilities in local authorities; if this quota has been achieved; if not, the shortfall remaining; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7481/04]

Under the commitment in the programme for Government, the quota for the employment of people with disabilities in local authorities is 3%. On 31 December 2002, the latest year for which statistics are available, the number of people employed with disabilities by local authorities represented 3.45% of the workforce.

Departmental Correspondence.

Denis Naughten

Question:

403 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will respond to a letter from the National Association of Regional Game Councils of 19 February 2004; if he will address the points raised in the correspondence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7623/04]

A letter dated 19 February 2004 from the National Association of Regional Game Councils, NARGC, addressed to the Taoiseach, has been referred to me for attention. A reply will issue to the NARGC at an early date.

Road Signage.

Jack Wall

Question:

404 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the plans his Department has to extend the road signage project that was commenced in a number of counties; if this plan includes an upgrading of heritage signs in each area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7844/04]

Local authorities are responsible for the provision of road traffic signs on non-national roads. However, in line with a commitment in the programme for Government to put in place a new five year plan to ensure that non-national roads are properly signposted, my Department introduced a new regional roads signposting programme for non-national roads in 2003. This year a sum of €5 million has been provided for this programme and allocations have been made available to 12 local authorities for the provision of road traffic directional signs on non-national roads.

This new programme is confined to the provision of road traffic signs and does not extend to heritage signs, which are managed and erected independently by the heritage service of the Office of Public Works.

Deer Population.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

405 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the number of deer here; if the figure is increasing or decreasing; and his policy for these animals. [7485/04]

My Department has not carried out a national survey of deer numbers in Ireland. However, the extent of woodland habitat continues to increase as a consequence of public and private afforestation. Assessments by Coillte, the country's largest owner and manager of woodland, suggest that the distribution of deer has expanded in recent years so it is likely that the population has also increased.

The National Parks and Wildlife Service of my Department carries out localised annual counts of deer populations on lands managed by the Department. Depending on the annual count and instances of damage caused by deer to habitats, especially woodland, culls are carried out to ensure that deer populations do not reach unsustainable levels that would have negative ecological consequences. Where deer are causing damage on private property, landowners may apply to my Department for licences under the Wildlife Acts to control the animals, when this is necessary outside the annual open seasons for deer shooting.

Hare Coursing.

Tony Gregory

Question:

406 Mr. Gregory asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will make available, as agreed, copies of monitoring reports by officials of the National Parks and Wildlife Service for the 2003/04 coursing season. [7493/04]

As stated in reply to Question No. 215 of 20 November 2003, the documents referred to will be placed in the Oireachtas Library. As the coursing season finished on 28 February 2004, the final reports are still being compiled by my Department and will be placed in the Oireachtas Library as soon as possible.

Local Elections.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

407 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will give advance notice of the date of the making of the polling day order for the local elections in view of the importance of this date for the recording of candidates’ election expenses. [7494/04]

It has been the practice to formalise the order under section 26 of the Local Government Act 2001 fixing the polling date for an election at a relatively late stage so as to maximise the time available for applying for entry on the supplement to the postal and special voters postal lists. I intend that this practice will be followed for the European and local elections scheduled for 11 June 2004.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

408 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if a person living in an electoral area for county council elections purposes relocates to a new address within that electoral area and the new address happens to be within a town council area, that person is entitled to register at their new address and thereby be entitled to vote in the upcoming town council and county council elections. [7495/04]

Section 15 of the Electoral Act 1992, as amended by section 6 of the Electoral (Amendment) Act 2001, provides that a person registered as an elector in a local electoral area, who takes up ordinary residence in another local electoral area within the registration area of the registration authority, may apply to the authority for entry in the supplement to the register of electors at the new address, provided the elector authorises the authority to delete his or her name from the register of electors where he or she is registered. In such circumstances, the person would be entitled to vote in both the town and county council elections.

Planning Issues.

John Bruton

Question:

409 Mr. J. Bruton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the amount each planning authority has been paid in planning or participation fees for 2003; the total figure paid to local authorities for 2003; the amount An Bord Pleanála has received in planning or participation fees in 2003; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7556/04]

The information requested is being compiled and will be forwarded to the Deputy as soon as possible.

John Bruton

Question:

410 Mr. J. Bruton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if Ireland has, under the first paragraph of Article 226 of the treaty establishing the European Community, failed to comply with its obligations under Articles 6 and 8, Directive 85/337/EEC, on the assessment of the effects of certain public and private projects on the environment as amended by Directive 97/11/EEC- Commission of the European Communities, Brussels, 21/01/2003, 2000/4078/C (2003) 352; if he is considering abolishing the requirement of paying planning or participation fees here to reconcile legislation with EU directives; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7557/04]

I refer to the reply to Question No. 14 of 4 March 2004.

Water and Sewerage Schemes.

Dan Neville

Question:

411 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government , further to Question No. 291 of 5 February 2003, when a new sewerage scheme will be provided for Adare, County Limerick. [7566/04]

Adare sewerage scheme is approved for construction under my Department's water services investment programme 2003-2005. In February 2003, I approved Limerick County Council's brief for the appointment of consultants to prepare detailed design and contract documents for this and another scheme being advanced as a grouped project. The council's fee proposal in respect of the consultants subsequently selected for appointment is under consideration in my Department and will be dealt with as quickly as possible.

Planning Issues.

John Curran

Question:

412 Mr. Curran asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government when section 261 of the Planning and Development Act 2000 will come into effect. [7617/04]

My Department is currently finalising detailed guidance for the assistance of planning authorities on the implementation of section 261, on the control of quarries, of the Planning and Development Act 2000. It is intended to commence this section of the Act following the publication of the guidance this spring.

Special Areas of Conservation.

Denis Naughten

Question:

413 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if an agreement has been finalised with the farming organisations about SAC designation in the Shannon callows; the status of the negotiations; when the next meeting will be held with farming organisations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7621/04]

Officials of my Department and of the Department of Agriculture and Food met with the farming organisations on 23 January with a view to finalising an agreement in regard to the Shannon callows but, unfortunately, agreement was not reached at that meeting. Outstanding issues will now be raised within the wider discussions under Sustaining Progress on the review of the 1997 habitats regulations. I expect to meet the farming organisations in that context in the near future.

Fire Stations.

Denis Naughten

Question:

414 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if, in view of the report of the expert group on the review of retirement age for retained fire-fighters, retired fire-fighters who are under the age of 58 and in full health will be allowed to avail of this extended optional period; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7622/04]

The new arrangements apply only to those fire-fighters who were serving in the retained fire service on 5 November 2002, the date of the agreement with the trade unions to carry out a review of the retirement age. The new arrangements do not, and were not designed to, apply to personnel who retired before that date.

Traffic Regulations.

John Deasy

Question:

415 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he has plans to introduce a licensing system in line with other heavy goods vehicles for off road dumpers that are used on the public road; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7643/04]

While goods vehicles are used primarily on public roads, this is not the case with off road dumpers which are designed and constructed for use on construction sites and may only be used on public roads subject to special permits from local authorities granted under the Road Traffic (Construction, Equipment and Use of Vehicles) Regulations 1963. Having regard to this limited access to public roads for off road dumpers, it is not proposed to change the basis on which motor tax is levied on them, at present at the rate of €673 per annum, or the relativity of this with motor tax for heavy goods vehicles.

Election Management System.

Bernard Allen

Question:

416 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the number of persons interviewed through exit polls after electronically voting in the general election of 2002; and if he will make a statement on the information provided as reported recently by civil servants of his Department. [7751/04]

The poll undertaken during the pilot use of the electronic voting system at the 2002 general election was conducted by MRBI, using fully trained and experienced interviewers and involved a representative sample of the total electorate in each constituency concerned. A total of 1,207 voters were interviewed as they exited polling stations. The response to the new system was favourable, with 94% of people polled stating that they found the system easy to use and 87% indicated that they preferred the electronic voting system to the paper ballot system.

Departmental Correspondence.

Michael Ring

Question:

417 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the reason letters sent to his Department dated 10 February 2004 and 1 March 2004 have not been answered; if the Minister or his officials could respond to them. [7752/04]

A response to the Deputy's letter of 1 March issued on 5 March in respect of the correspondence referred to and the documentation submitted to my Department concerning the presentation of a heritage award in the 2003 tidy towns competition is being returned to the individual concerned.

Local Authority Housing.

Dan Neville

Question:

418 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the position regarding refurbishment works at the houses at Glenma, Croom, County Limerick, in view of the fact that detailed costing drawings and specifications have recently been submitted to his Department for approval. [7753/04]

My Department has indicated to Limerick County Council that the works proposed to the eight local authority houses should be progressed under the remedial works scheme. Approval for this was conveyed to the council on 12 February with regard to such works as the provision of new pitched roofs to replace existing flat roofs, the re-cladding of external walls and the upgrading of windows, external doors, external finishes, re-wiring and installation of central heating.

In the case of privately owned houses included in the scheme, my Department has informed the council that external works only will be considered for funding and the council has been requested to submit revised costings.

Water and Sewerage Schemes.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

419 Mr. McGinley asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the position regarding the proposed new sewerage scheme for Ballyshannon, County Donegal; if tenders have yet been invited; when a contractor is likely to be appointed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7779/04]

Ballyshannon sewerage scheme is approved for construction under my Department's water services investment programme 2003-2005. I approved the contract documents for the collection system and the tender documents for the treatment works for this and a number of other schemes being advanced as a grouped project on 18 July 2003 and 15 September 2003, respectively. The advancement of the tender process is now a matter for Donegal County Council and my Department is awaiting the submission of the council's tender recommendations.

Planning Issues.

Pat Carey

Question:

420 Mr. Carey asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if, in view of the analysis and recommendations of the report, Ghost Town Britain, published by the New Economies Foundation in Britain on urban retail degeneration, he proposes to review the operation of the retail planning guidelines (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7790/04]

The guidelines for planning authorities on retail planning published in December 2000 took full account of international experience, both in Britain and across Europe. One of the major policy objectives of the guidelines is to support the continuing role of town and district centres.

The guidelines explicitly state that the preferred location for retail development should be within town centres, consistent with the requirement to achieve good access, especially by public transport. The economic analysis undertaken in the course of the preparation of the guidelines supported this view and indicated that the closure of small local shops has undesirable effects in terms of dereliction, urban blight, reduction in town centre activity and a general depreciation in the attractiveness of town centre environments. The guidelines note that shopping provision is a key aspect of town centres and that it makes a major contribution to their vitality and viability. Planning authorities are advised in the guidelines to adopt a proactive role in enhancing the vitality and viability of their centres.

I am satisfied that the retail planning guidelines are working well in achieving their objective of maintaining the vitality and viability of town and district centres. I have no plans to review these aspects of the guidelines. However, the floor space cap on retail warehouses contained in the guidelines is currently under review and I expect that this review will be finalised shortly.

Architectural Heritage.

Jack Wall

Question:

421 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the position in regard to an application made by a person (details supplied) in County Kildare to the Heritage Council for a grant to ensure the protection of a historical house; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7830/04]

As the Heritage Council operates independently of my Department in deciding on applicants under its various grant schemes, this information may appropriately be sought from the council.

Road Network.

Jack Wall

Question:

422 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the position of funding by his Department to ensure the completion of road improvements at Archnagh, Athy, County Kildare, in view of the fact that a major architectural survey had to be undertaken and that extra funding had to be sought from the Department for such a survey; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7831/04]

The initial selection and prioritisation of projects to be funded from non-national road grants in County Kildare is a matter for Kildare County Council. My Department has provided funding for road improvements at Ardreigh, Athy, in recent years. However, Kildare County Council has not sought funding for this project in 2004. It is, however, open to the council to prioritise this project for funding under the EU co-financed specific improvement grant scheme in 2005 when applications are sought later this year by my Department.

Local Authority Housing.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

423 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 into line with national and international housing standards and regulations. [7910/04]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

424 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government when he will approve the new scheme of lettings for Dublin City Council; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7911/04]

Dublin City Council submitted a revised scheme of letting priorities for approval in February 2004. The revised scheme is receiving consideration and a decision on the matter will be made shortly.

Election Management System.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

425 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the steps which were taken in the procurement process for the electronic voting systems to comply with the applicable guidelines regarding accessibility for the visually impaired; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7912/04]

The electronic voting machine supplied following the competitive tendering process contains a designated port to receive a unit to enable the visually impaired to vote independently. None of the companies that submitted tenders was in a position to supply such a unit in the short term.

At my Department's request, the chosen suppliers have undertaken initial work on developing a facility for future use whereby visually impaired voters, who would otherwise require assistance to vote, will be able to use the new voting system independently. My Department will consult with the National Disability Authority and the National Council for the Blind, which have already provided constructive input into improvements made to the voting machine, about the development of this voting machine feature.

Since its first use in 2002, a number of improvements have already been made to the voting machine to improve its user friendliness for the visually impaired and other users. The new features include an increase in the size and legibility of candidate details, the use of larger preference numbers and brighter displays for better visibility and the use of a redesigned "cast vote" button. As with previous elections, a large copy of the ballot paper will be displayed in the polling station and a voter with a visual impairment may also avail of assisted voting facilities.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

426 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he expects the introduction of electronic voting to have an impact on delays and queues during peak voting times. [7913/04]

The provision of good arrangements for the service of voters in polling stations is the responsibility of the relevant returning officer, having regard to the number of electors assigned to each polling station and other local factors. Electronic voting machines will represent an important, but not the only, element of this service in June 2004. It has already been arranged that over 7,000 voting machines will be available for use at the coming European and local elections compared to an estimated 6,200 ballot boxes under the paper based system. Problems with queuing did not occur at the two pilots for electronic voting in 2002 and difficulties are not anticipated in June 2004.

Community Development.

Tony Gregory

Question:

427 Mr. Gregory asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the specific objectives for the north inner city area of Dublin for 2004 under the RAPID programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7935/04]

Tony Gregory

Question:

428 Mr. Gregory asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the proposals he has for changes in the structures or personnel for the RAPID programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7936/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 427 and 428 together.

I have stated previously that I am unhappy with certain aspects of the RAPID programme. In this context, I have been examining the manner in which the programme operates and envisage that in future the programme will operate on a number of levels in tandem. In the first instance, there are many small scale proposals from RAPID plans that have been sent unnecessarily to Departments for consideration when they could be dealt with more effectively at local level. I propose to introduce a new additional delivery mechanism to progress such actions, supported by funding under a new dedicated fund of €4.5 million that has been set aside for capital expenditure in 2004. These projects will be co-funded by the relevant public body/local agency under a number of categories, with levels of funding agreed at national level. I have been meeting my ministerial colleagues to agree the details of the measures to be funded and I intend to make a formal announcement shortly regarding the precise details of the operation of this fund.

It is proposed that Departments will continue to consider larger projects from RAPID plans for allocations from funding streams within each Department. Departments will be dealing with a smaller number of projects and will, therefore, be in a better position to prioritise projects and to set out timescales for further actions. Work on improving integration and co-ordination of service delivery at local level will continue, as this is an important component of the RAPID programme. The national monitoring committee for the RAPID programme monitors the programme at national level and I have taken on the role as chair of this committee.

I am aware of the different levels of progress across RAPID areas and of issues with progress in Dublin city generally. ADM, which manages the programme on behalf of my Department, has had discussions on the matter recently with Dublin City Council city development board. It should be noted that local personnel issues are a matter for the relevant local authority.

Departmental Programmes.

Seymour Crawford

Question:

429 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the reason Clones town was not included in the RAPID programme; if he will accept that Clones has suffered more than any other town in the county as, for over 30 years, up to two thirds of its service area was cut off due to spiked and closed roads and Border taxes closed all of its petrol stations and many of its other businesses; when he will reassess its needs and bring it under the RAPID programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7746/04]

Clones was not among the 20 towns selected for inclusion under strand II of the RAPID programme. These towns were identified on the basis of objective criteria, including educational attainment and social housing. Area Development Management Limited, ADM, managed the identification process on behalf on the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government.

Denis Naughten

Question:

430 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs further to Question No. 276 of 3 March 2004, the progress he has made to date to develop the community facilities concerned; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7851/04]

When I met the groups, I explained the type of support available to such groups and projects and suggested possible avenues of progress. It is now a matter for each of the groups concerned to consider and advance matters.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

431 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the headings under which he has given financial support to community or other groups and on what basis to date in 2004; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7877/04]

I refer the Deputy to Question No. 54 of 27 November 2003 in which I provided details of the many schemes and initiatives operated by my Department. With regard to financial support provided to date in 2004, the following are the details requested by the Deputy.

My Department administers the community development programme which provides core funding to voluntary groups to empower local communities to address the issues that affect them. A sum of €20.6 million has been allocated to this programme in 2004. The total expenditure on the programme to date is €4.375 million. My Department also administers the scheme for the reintegration of ex-prisoners and €0.136 million has been allocated to this scheme in 2004. Total expenditure to date is €0.034 million.

A total of €8.59 million, €2.148 million from the Exchequer, has been allocated to the administration of the PEACE II programme in 2004. The programme is administered by the Combat Poverty Agency in Monaghan on behalf of my Department. To date a total of €2.05 million, €0.5 million from Exchequer, has been allocated to the Combat Poverty Agency. My Department administers funding under the programme for support for national anti-poverty networks. A sum of €1,430,650 has been allocated under this scheme in 2004. The total expenditure on the scheme to date is €643,792. My Department is also responsible for grants entitled "funding to support volunteering". A sum of €271,998 has been allocated under this scheme in 2004. The total expenditure on the scheme to date is €98,739.

There is provision of €42.144 million in my Department's Vote for the local development social inclusion programme, LDSIP, which aims to promote social inclusion. Funding is allocated to partnerships and community groups and territorial employment pacts to deliver the local development social inclusion programme under three measures — services for the unemployed, community based youth initiatives and community development. Area Development Management Limited manages the local development social inclusion programme on behalf of my Department and €9.438 million has been expended by my Department to end of February.

A new dedicated fund of €4.5 million capital funding is being made available in my Department's Vote in 2004 to support small scale localised actions in RAPID areas through co-funding with the relevant Department or agency. I propose to announce full details of how this money will be spent shortly.

There is an amount of €10.615 million provided for the Programme for Peace and Reconciliation. This aims to address the legacy of conflict and to take opportunities arising from peace through developing measures that focus on the following priorities: economic renewal, social integration, inclusion and reconciliation and cross-Border co-operation. The programme operates in Northern Ireland and the Border region of Ireland — Cavan, Donegal, Leitrim, Louth, Monaghan, Sligo — and is managed by ADM/CPA on behalf of the Department. A total of €2.4 million has been drawn down to date in 2004 to facilitate payments to projects.

A sum of €26.756 million has been has been provided in my Department's Vote for expenditure in the drugs area in 2004. This funding will primarily be spent on projects and initiatives funded through the local drugs task forces and the young persons facilities and services fund, YPFSF. Total expenditure to date in 2004 amounts to €1.045 million.

Funding of almost €150 million has been allocated to 38 local action groups countrywide under the Leader programmes for the period 2000-2006: Leader+, €73.6 million, and national rural development programme, €75.7 million. Funding is available to both private promoters and community groups through the local action groups for innovative rural enterprise projects, agricultural and fishery related projects, social and cultural projects and small scale environmentally friendly initiatives. The decision making process for the allocation of funding to promoters is devolved to the boards of each local action group. Funding of €21.27 million — Leader+ €11.812 million and NRDP €9.460 million — has been allocated for 2004. Expenditure to date in 2004 totals €2,666,780.

The areas targeted under the CLÁR programme will continue to benefit from assistance in 2004 under the range of measures operated. These areas are parts of Counties Cavan, Clare, Cork, Donegal, Galway, Kerry, Limerick, Longford, Louth, Mayo, Meath, Monaghan, Roscommon, Sligo, Tipperary, Waterford, Westmeath and all of County Leitrim. Measures with a particular community focus are the group water scheme and group sewerage schemes. CLÁR provides funding, through the local authority, to householders in the group schemes by way of limited top up grants. As these schemes are demand led, there is no specific allocation. To date in 2004, approximately €380,000 of CLÁR funding for six schemes has been approved. Community based projects attracting less than 50% public funding under Leader may qualify for CLÁR top up funding subject to the certain conditions. As this scheme is demand led, there is no specific allocation. To date in 2004, approximately €254,000 of CLÁR funding for five projects has been approved.

The provision for the rural development fund in the Vote in my Department this year is €950,000. The purpose of the fund is to finance research, evaluation and pilot actions to provide information and advice for policy makers on important rural development issues. I am supporting a number of pilot actions in rural areas this year. The groups being supported are Foscadh Community Development, Inishowen Rural Development Limited, Inishowen Partnership, Sneen, Castlecove, Caherdaniel Integrated Resource Development, the Western Development Tourism Programme, Galway East Tourism Marketing, South Kerry Tourism, the Countryside Council or Comhairle na Tuaithe and Laois Rural Employment Partnership. Expenditure to date in 2004 totals €16,220. Arrangements for the fund are currently under review.

Financial support has been provided to various community groups in the Gaeltacht under my Department's Gaeltacht schemes. This funding is provided to improve the economic, social and physical conditions in the Gaeltacht and to strengthen the Irish language as the principal community language in the region. Grants approved by me to date in 2004 total €415,000.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

432 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he intends to initiate new programmes to assist the social fabric in urban or rural areas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7878/04]

I wish to take this opportunity to draw the Deputy's attention to the following initiatives which are currently being advanced by my Department.

I am at present preparing detailed proposals for a rural social scheme arising from the announcement of the scheme in the context of budget 2004. Detailed guidelines for the scheme, including objectives, criteria for participation, the way it will operate and how it will be delivered at a local level are currently under consideration by my Department.

In order to strengthen the future economic viability of island communities, my Department is actively pursuing the introduction of an enterprise fund for non-Gaeltacht islands. This fund will be directed at assisting entrepreneurs to create new employment opportunities in island settings where, traditionally, communities have had to depend on tourism in addition to small scale farming and fishing to make a living. I hope to be in a position to announce details of the scheme shortly.

With regard to the Gaeltacht, my Department is continuing to study the recommendations made in the report of Coimisiún na Gaeltachta 2002 and new initiatives as necessary may be brought forward in due course. There is an amount of €10.615 million provided for the Programme for Peace and Reconciliation, which aims to address the legacy of conflict and to take opportunities arising from peace through developing measures that focus, from this Departments perspective, on the following priorities: economic renewal, social integration, inclusion and reconciliation and cross-Border co-operation. The programme operates in Northern Ireland and the Border region of Ireland — Cavan, Donegal, Leitrim, Louth, Monaghan, Sligo — and is managed by ADM/CPA on behalf of the Department.

A new dedicated fund of €4.5 million capital funding is being made available in my Department's Vote in 2004, to support small scale localised actions in RAPID areas, through co-funding with the relevant Department or agency. I propose to announce full details of arrangements.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

433 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the extent to which he intends to support urban and rural communities negatively affected by demographic trends; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7879/04]

A sum of €21 million has been allocated to the community development support programmes, CDSPs, in 2004 to support locally based community groups involved in anti-poverty and social inclusion initiatives. Projects have been initiated in areas identified as meeting the disadvantage and social exclusion criteria for the programme. In this context, due regard is had to the demographic profile of the area, including factors such as population decline, when selecting areas for inclusion. The total number of projects supported under the programme is currently 174, of which 52 projects are in the BMW region.

I introduced the CLÁR programme in October 2001 to address depopulation as well as the decline and lack of services in rural areas. Areas in 18 counties have been selected under this programme. These areas suffered the greatest population decline from 1926 to 2002 with an average population loss of 50%. The exception is the Cooley peninsula, which was included on the basis of the serious difficulties caused there by foot and mouth disease. The measures introduced under the programme reflect the priorities identified by the communities in the selected areas that I consulted at the outset. These measures support physical, community and social infrastructure through a variety of measures such as electricity conversion, roads, water and sewerage, village enhancement, health and sports projects. They are, for the most part, operated in tandem with the lead Departments or public utilities, as appropriate, thus ensuring efficiency and impact as well as meeting the needs of the people in the CLÁR areas.

The Leader programmes are innovative EU programmes put in place to encourage the implementation of integrated, high quality strategies in rural communities with particular emphasis on community type projects. The programmes do not specifically target rural communities negatively affected by demographic trends. However, through implementing its actions to support rural communities the programme has a positive affect on these areas. The offshore islands have also been adversely affected by demographic trends and show an approximate decline of 5% over the last two censuses. A provision of €13 million is included in my Department's 2004 Estimates for current and capital expenditure on islands to help tackle this trend.

The Irish speaking population has reduced from 76.3% to 72.6% of the overall Gaeltacht population, according to the last two censuses. My Department will seek to address this negative trend through the provision of €32.193 million funding to Údarás na Gaeltachta in 2004. This is in addition to the funding provided through schemes directly administered by the Department. These measures critically serve to support the physical and economic development of the Gaeltacht as well as promoting linguistic, cultural and social development.

Finally an amount of €10.615 million is being provided for the Programme for Peace and Reconciliation, which aims to address the legacy of conflict and to take opportunities arising from peace. It does this through developing measures that focus on the following priorities: economic renewal, social integration, inclusion and reconciliation and cross-Border co-operation. The programme operates in Northern Ireland and the Border region of Ireland, that is, Cavan, Donegal, Leitrim, Louth, Monaghan and Sligo. It is managed by ADM/CPA on behalf of my Department.

National Drugs Strategy.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

434 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs his plans to improve his Department’s response to the ravages caused to communities by drugs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7880/04]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

435 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he intends to make serious resources available to communities dealing with the drug problem; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7881/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 434 and 435 together.

My Department has overall responsibility for co-ordinating the implementation of the national drugs strategy 2001-2008. The strategy contains 100 individual actions, under the four pillars of supply reduction, prevention, treatment and research, to be implemented by a range of Departments and agencies. My Department also has responsibility for the work of the 14 local drugs task forces, LDTFs, as well as the young people's facilities and services fund, YPFSF.

The role of the LDTFs is to prepare local action plans which include a range of measures for treatment, rehabilitation, education, prevention and curbing local supply. In addition, the LDTFs provide a mechanism for the co-ordination of services in these areas, while at the same time allowing local communities and voluntary organisations to participate in the planning, design and delivery of those services. They are designed to complement and add value to the extensive range of interventions being delivered through the State agencies. The main aim of the YPFSF is to attract at risk young people in disadvantaged areas into recreational facilities and activities and divert them away from the dangers of substance abuse. The fund operates in the 14 LDTF areas as well as four other urban centres — Galway, Limerick, Carlow and Waterford.

To date over €65 million has been allocated or spent to implement the various projects contained in the two rounds of plans of the LDTFs. A further €11.5 million has been allocated to projects under the premises initiative which is designed to meet the accommodation needs of community based drugs projects and approximately €68 million has been allocated or spent under the first round of funding under the YPFSF. In this context, I hope to make announcements about round II allocations in the near future.

The Deputy should also note that under the national drugs strategy, regional drugs task forces, RDTFs, have been established in the ten health board regions. The RDTFs are currently mapping out the patterns of drug misuse in their areas, as well as the range and level of existing services, with a view to better co-ordination and addressing gaps in the overall provision.

Question No. 436 answered with QuestionNo. 115.
Questions Nos. 437 and 438 answered with Question No. 185.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

439 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if she will further review the case of a person (details supplied) in County Louth who was in receipt of deserted wife’s benefit, in view of the fact that she remains eligible for this payment. [7584/04]

The person concerned was awarded a deserted wife's benefit in January 1996. She continued to receive this payment until her claim was terminated in September 1998. There is no record of her making contact with my Department until a letter in September 2002 requesting that her deserted wife's benefit be reinstated.

Deserted wife's benefit ceased for new applicants and re-applications with effect from 2 January 1997, when one-parent family payment was introduced. Accordingly, her request could only be treated as an application for one-parent family payment. This application was refused on the grounds that she did not have a qualified child dependant, one of the qualifying conditions for one-parent family payment. A subsequent review of her case found that there were no grounds for a change of this position.

Under social welfare legislation decisions about claims must be made by deciding officers and appeals officers. These officers are statutorily appointed and I have no role in regard to making such decisions.

Mary Upton

Question:

440 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if a person (details supplied) in Dublin 12 is entitled to the maternity allowance which was applied for in November 2003. [7614/04]

The person concerned made a claim for maternity benefit on 12 December 2003 in respect of her maternity leave, which commenced on 23 February 2004. Based on her social insurance record and the information supplied with her application form, the person concerned could qualify for payment of maternity benefit at the weekly rate of €151.60.

However, she is already in receipt of a one parent family payment at the rate of €154.10 per week. Under existing regulations a person cannot receive both payments concurrently. Accordingly, one parent family payment remains in payment to the person concerned. Under social welfare legislation decisions about claims must be made by deciding officers and appeals officers. These officers are statutorily appointed and I have no role in regard to making such decisions.

Bernard Allen

Question:

441 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the reason a person (details supplied) in County Cork has been refused a rent allowance by the Southern Health Board on the grounds that the rent is too high. [7765/04]

I have recently introduced a number of changes to the rent supplement scheme. The principal 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 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.

The Southern Health Board was contacted on behalf of the person concerned and has advised that he failed to satisfy the board that he had been in rented accommodation for six months. In addition, his accommodation needs had not been assessed by the housing authority. He was advised to contact the housing authority to have his housing needs assessed. The board offered to arrange temporary emergency accommodation while the housing assessment was carried out but this offer was refused.

The board has further advised that it contacted the housing authority and was told that the person concerned is not willing to provide details of his current address so that an assessment of his housing needs can be made. If the information is provided and the assessment is carried out, rent supplement may be payable, subject to the normal qualifying criteria, if he is assessed as having a housing need which the housing authority cannot meet.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

442 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if her Department has plans to increase the earnings limit for persons in receipt of deserted wife’s benefit where the claim was made on or after 31 August 1992; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7795/04]

Where claims for deserted wife's benefit were made on or after 31 August 1992, the earnings limit for entitlement to benefit is €12,697.38 per year gross earnings. However, where earnings are in excess of this amount there may be entitlement to a reduced rate of payment provided earnings do not exceed €17,776.33 per year gross.

Deserted wife's benefit was closed to new applicants from 2 January 1997 when the one-parent family payment was introduced. The concept of desertion no longer exists in the social welfare code and deserted wives who have dependent children are treated in the same manner as all other lone parents with children. Under the one-parent family payment scheme, lone parents are encouraged to maximise their income from different sources and the means test for this scheme makes provision for the exemption of earnings and maintenance payments. With regard to employment, lone parents may earn up to €146.50 per week without affecting their payment. Earnings above this limit are assessed at 50%, up to a maximum of €293 per week. Lone parents are also eligible to avail of the full range of employment support schemes operated by my Department.

At present, the social welfare arrangements in place for lone parents are appropriate and support the general policy, which is to provide income support for lone parents while at the same time encouraging them to consider employment as a realistic alternative. The position is being kept under review and any changes would be a matter for consideration in a budgetary context.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

443 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the correct rent allowance payable in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7889/04]

The South Western Area Health Board was contacted on behalf of the person concerned and has advised that it paid an incorrect amount of rent supplement, €880, in respect of the month of February 2004. The correct amount of rent supplement, €796.20, is being paid in March. The board has indicated that it does not propose to seek recovery of the overpayment.