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 11, inclusive, answered orally.

Search and Rescue Service.

Joan Burton

Question:

12 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Defence the search and rescue bases now maintained and operated by the Air Corps; the role he expects the Air Corps to play in search and rescue operations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9271/04]

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

28 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Defence if a date has been set for the handover of the search and rescue service in the north west from the Air Corps to a private company; if a decision to withdraw the Air Corps is being reconsidered; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9268/04]

Pádraic McCormack

Question:

43 Mr. McCormack asked the Minister for Defence the position regarding search and rescue services on the west and north west coast; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9345/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 12, 28 and 43 together.

The Irish Coast Guard has overall responsibility for the provision of maritime search and rescue services within the Irish search and rescue region. The Air Corps provides the search and rescue, SAR, service off the north west coast while CHCI, a private operator, provides the service from Dublin, Shannon and Waterford.

Late last year, I announced my decision to withdraw the Air Corps from the search and rescue service. This decision was only made following a considered assessment of the capacity of the Air Corps to return to and maintain a full 24-hour service in the north west. As Deputies will recall, the service had been restricted following an unusually high incidence of sick leave among the winch crews.

There is no plan to reconsider the decision to withdraw from the search and rescue service. The Air Corps would have been unable to return to a full 24-hour service until March 2005. Moreover, the Air Corps operation, because of its small size, would continually be at risk from the loss of small numbers of experienced personnel and this is not acceptable within an emergency life saving operational service. The Air Corps will continue to provide its current limited service, while the coast guard makes alternative arrangements for the return of a full SAR service in the north west. I have been informed by my colleague, the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources that he expects the new arrangements to be in place by May 2004.

Air Corps pilots will continue to train in search and rescue techniques and it is envisaged that they will provide support in limited non-maritime search and rescue services.

Defence Forces Recruitment.

Liz McManus

Question:

13 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Defence if he has satisfied himself with the level of female membership of the Defence Forces, if he has plans to encourage the recruitment of a greater number of women; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9289/04]

The Government is committed to a policy of equal opportunity for men and women in the Defence Forces, including the Reserve Defence Force, and to the full participation by women in all aspects of Defence Forces activities.

Women are eligible for service in the Army, Air Corps, Naval Service and Reserve Defence Force, and to compete for promotion on an equal basis and under the same general conditions as those which apply to men. Female officers are generally being promoted at the same stage in their career as male officers. All female personnel undergo the same training and receive the same military education as their male counterparts.

The military authorities advise that the trend for general service recruitment has been that 9% of all applicants have been female and that on average 9% of enlistments have been female. It is obviously not possible to predict what the relevant percentages will be in any future intakes of recruits, but there is no reason to assume that this pattern will change to any great degree.

Some 15.4% of applicants for the 2003 cadetship competition were female. Some 15.5% of successful candidates were female. Under the terms of the Employment Equality Act 1998, the Defence Forces are prohibited from operating recruitment policies that discriminate on grounds of gender. In order to encourage increased participation by women in the Defence Forces, I decided in March 1998 to reduce the height requirement for all female recruits to 5' 4" and this height requirement now also applies to male recruits.

The Defence Forces actively encourage female applicants by carrying out the following activities. Where possible, all graphical advertisements and booklets produced for the Defence Forces show both male and female personnel and emphasise the fact that all applicants are assessed on an equal basis. Stands at recruiting fairs are generally staffed by male and female personnel. When the Defence Forces are invited to give talks at all female or at mixed schools, every effort is made to have a female speaker.

Over the past six years, the strength of female personnel in the Defence Forces has grown from 244 at the end of 1997 to 484 at the end of 2003. In percentage terms, this represents an increase from 2.11% to 4.61% of total strength.

The following table indicates the strength of females in the Defence Forces:

Lt Gen

Maj Gen

Brig Gen

Col

Lt Col

Comdt

Capt

Lt

Total Offrs

SM

BQMs

Cs

CQMs

Sgts

Cpls

Total NCOs

Ptes

Cadets

Total

Army

0

0

0

0

1

11

30

33

75

0

0

3

1

10

87

101

206

15

397

Air Corps

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

2

3

0

0

1

0

0

7

8

9

1

21

Naval Service

0

0

0

0

0

0

2

14

16

0

0

0

0

0

1

1

44

5

66

Guards of Honour.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

14 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Defence if the Defence Force’s guard of honour, which will greet the US President on his arrival, will be inspected and possibly disarmed by US security personnel as allegedly occurred during former US President Ronald Reagan’s visit at Dublin Airport; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9306/04]

No request for the provision of a guard of honour for the visit of the US President has been made to date. A guard of honour, if requested, will be provided in accordance with standard military procedures and the exact format will be decided by senior military personnel on the day. Normal procedure does not allow for inspection by security personnel of guards of honours prior to rendering honours. There is no question of US security personnel disarming the guard of honour.

Defence Forces Property.

Mary Upton

Question:

15 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Defence the Defence Forces property that has been handed over or it is planned to transfer for the purposes of the new affordable housing initiative agreed in Sustaining Progress; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9286/04]

The Government decided in July 2003 that Magee Barracks, Kildare, and Gormanston Camp, County Meath, would be among the State lands released to the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government for inclusion in the Sustaining Progress affordable housing initiative.

In addition, the Government agreed in December 2003 to the release of a further series of State lands for inclusion in the initiative including Department of Defence sites at St. Bricins Hospital, Dublin, and at the Camp Field, Collins Barracks, Cork. The modalities of the transfer of these sites to the relevant local authorities are under active consideration.

Naval Service Strength.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

16 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Defence the total establishment level for the Naval Service as set out in the White Paper on Defence; the current number of personnel; the steps that are being taken to ensure that personnel numbers are brought up to the recommended level, particularly in regard to commissioned officer and NCO level; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9279/04]

As part of the modernisation process, in December 2000 I authorised a new organisation for the Naval Service which saw an increase in personnel numbers from 959 serving at that time to a new establishment of 1,144. The strength of the Naval Service, as advised by the military authorities, was 1,063 as at 29 February 2004.

Detailed figures for the establishment and strength of the Naval Service, as advised by the military authorities, as at 29 February 2004 are set out in the following table.

Officers

NCOs

Privates

Total

Establishment

189

537

418

1,144

Strength

137

465

461

1,063

It is proposed to recruit a further 12 cadets to the Naval Service from the 2004 cadetship competition. The Naval Service proposes to have an initial intake of 40 general service recruits in the near future. The requirements for any further intakes will be reviewed on an ongoing basis. The ongoing recruitment campaign for enlistment in the Defence Forces, which I have approved, is designed to address any shortfall in personnel in the Defence Forces, including the Naval Service. The Government remains fully committed to the policy of ongoing recruitment to ensure that an overall PDF strength of 10,500 is achieved and maintained.

Some 93 recruits were enlisted in the Naval Service in 2003. Fourteen cadets and eight direct entry officers were also recruited during 2003. In 2002, 100 recruits, nine engine room artificers and six electrical artificers were enlisted in the Naval Service. In addition 13 qualified personnel, comprising four watch-keeping officers, four marine engineers and five electrical engineer officers were also appointed. Some 16 cadets were also enlisted from the 2002 cadetship intake. In 2001, 62 recruits, six cadets, one marine engineer, two watch-keepers and three electrical artificers were recruited to the Naval Service.

Where the need arises, competitions are organised to recruit specialist personnel by direct entry. Competitions have been advertised in recent years for marine engineer officers, watch-keeping officers, electrical engineer officers, electrical artificers and engine room artificers in the Naval Service.

Internal State Security.

Eamon Ryan

Question:

17 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Defence if the heightened security situation following the Madrid bombing will require additional spending by his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9311/04]

Before answering, I would again like to extend my condolences to all those who died and were injured in the terrible events which occurred in Madrid on 11 March. Obviously these events bring home to all of us the extent to which those who use terror are prepared to go to achieve their objectives and the need for vigilance on everyone's part to ensure the safety and security of the whole community.

In Ireland, the Garda Síochána has the primary responsibility for law and order, including the protection of the internal security of the State. Among the roles assigned to the Defence Forces is the provision of aid to the civil power — meaning in practice to assist, when requested, the Garda Síochána. Duties include the protection and guarding of vital installations, the provision of certain security escorts, etc. When called upon, the Defence Forces act in support of theGarda.

The level and demand for Defence Forces assistance depends on ongoing security assessments undertaken by the Garda. As this threat can vary over time and depending on the circumstances pertaining, it is not possible to predict the additional costs which may arise in the future in respect of security duties undertaken by the Defence Forces. At this time, there has been no general request from the Garda for the Defence Forces to undertake any specific additional duties arising out of the Madrid bombings. However, the Defence Forces will continue to render such assistance as may be appropriate when requested by the Garda.

Decentralisation Programme.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

18 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Defence the position regarding the proposed decentralisation of the Civil Defence school from Dublin to Roscrea which, according to the review of An Agreed Programme for Government, was to have taken place in late 2003; if premises have been acquired in Roscrea; the number of staff currently employed in the defence school in Dublin, broken down by grade; and the number of such staff who have agreed to transfer to Roscrea; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9291/04]

In the context of the White Paper on Defence, the Government decided to decentralise the Civil Defence branch of my Department to Roscrea, County Tipperary.

The Office of Public Works, which has responsibility for the provision of official accommodation for Government Departments, is in discussion with the owners of suitable premises at Benamore in Roscrea for the newly established Civil Defence Board. I expect that the move will take place during the summer.

The Civil Defence Board has a staff of 22 in the following grades:

Grade

Director General

1

Assistant Principal

1

Technical Officer Grade II

1

Communications Officer

1

Higher Executive Officer (Instructor)

2

Higher Executive Officer

4

Executive Officer

2

Staff Officer

1

Clerical Officer

4

Services Officer

1

Watchman

2

Range Attendant

1

Storekeeper-Clerk

1

Some ten members of the staff have indicated a desire to relocate to Roscrea.

Defence Forces Equipment.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

19 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Defence when a decision will be made on the provision of light utility and medium lift helicopters for the Air Corps; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9278/04]

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

39 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for Defence if it is intended to publish the report of the joint military-civil board established to review the overall rotary wing requirements for the Air Corps which was submitted to his Department towards the end of 2003; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9277/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 19 and 39 together.

When I announced my decision to withdraw the Air Corps from the search and rescue service, I also announced my decision to proceed with the procurement of light utility helicopters and the disposal of the current Alouette, Dauphin and Gazelle aircraft. The procurement of modern light utility helicopters will provide a significant boost in available flying hours at reduced maintenance cost, compared to the existing aircraft in the Air Corps helicopter wing. It will also provide increased capability in the roles currently undertaken by the existing Air Corps LUH helicopters.

My decision to proceed with the tender competition was based on the recommendations contained in the report of the joint military and civil board, which examined the rotary wing requirements of the Air Corps. The report of the board also dealt with the procurement of medium lift helicopters for the search and rescue service in the longer term. However, as the Air Corps will no longer be providing this service, this part of the report will not be implemented.

The report of the board is an internal document to my Department and in the normal course would not be published. However, as is the case with all such records, the report would be releasable subject to the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act. The report contains confidential and commercially sensitive information and will inform the tender competition for the procurement of the light utility helicopters. As such, it will not be releasable until the conclusion of that process. The detailed tender documentation for the procurement of the light utility helicopters is currently being compiled within my Department and I expect to initiate that competition shortly.

Reserve Defence Force.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

20 Ms Lynch asked the Minister for Defence the progress made to date with regard to the planned reorganisation of the Reserve Defence Force; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9281/04]

On 15 January, 2003 I approved, in principle, the report of the Reserve Defence Forces review implementation board for the implementation of the recommendations of the special steering group on the reserve, which had reported to me in September 1999.

The Permanent Defence Force is now organised in a three brigade structure and a Defence Forces training centre. The Reserve Defence Force will be similarly reorganised and restructured and it is envisaged that the implementation of these changes in the Reserve Defence Force will take place over a period of approximately six years.

The White Paper on Defence recognised that a notable and important feature of the existing FCA organisation is its countrywide, geographical spread. This particular aspect will, in general terms, be retained in the future. The full organisational and establishment details of the new reserve will be determined in the course of the ongoing detailed implementation process. Plans are being prepared within each brigade for the amalgamation of FCA units in line with the proposals outlined in the steering group report. The objective of this process is to ensure that better training and other facilities will be provided to members of the Reserve Defence Force. No decisions have yet been taken on the location of proposed newly amalgamated units but the military authorities have advised me that all proposed amalgamations will provide an optimal environment for personnel in the relevant areas to partake in the new enhanced Reserve Defence Force.

Members of the FCA are already seeing the benefits of the reorganisation process in terms of better clothing and improved equipment and more and better quality training. As the process develops we will see additional benefits in terms of a clearer role for the reserve, a better overall organisation structure, and opportunities for suitably qualified reserve personnel to serve overseas. We will also see benefits from the closer integration of the reserve with the Army.

I am very mindful of the need to preserve and to retain the very many traditional and well established strengths of the current reserve system, not least the admirable spirit of individual voluntary commitment, close social links with local communities and a good depth and scope as regards nationwide geographical spread. Planning is ongoing by the military authorities but no final decision on the amalgamation of FCA units will be taken until I have had the opportunity to examine and approve the final amalgamation proposals.

EU Presidency.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

21 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Defence if he will report on the meeting of the EU defence directors in Thurles on 22 and 23 January 2004; the mandate of the defence directors; the persons who attended the meeting; the persons representing the Government at the meeting; the names and positions of other Irish delegates; the items on the agenda; and the decisions made. [9255/04]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

27 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Defence if he will report on the meeting of the EU defence directors in Thurles on 26 and 27 February 2004; the persons who attended the meeting; the persons representing the Government at the meeting; the names and positions of other Irish delegates; the items on the agenda; and the decisions made. [9256/04]

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

41 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Defence if he will report on the meetings of defence directors, which have taken place under Ireland’s EU Presidency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9307/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 21, 27 and 41 together.

Two informal meetings of EU defence directors have been held during the Irish Presidency. Both meetings took place in Dublin — the first on 22 and 23 January and the second on 25 and 26 February.

Defence directors are senior officials from the Defence Ministries of the EU member states and acceding states. It has become established practice for such officials to meet on an informal basis during the course of each Presidency. The meetings provide a useful opportunity for officials to discuss issues relating to the development of the EU's capability to carry out Petersberg Tasks operations, that is, peace support, crisis management and humanitarian operations.

As I reported to the House in reply to Parliamentary Question No. 3 on 5 February last, the first such meeting of directors, which was held on 22 and 23 January, provided an opportunity to discuss the most important policy priorities of our Presidency work programme. Discussions took place on: the development of the EU's capabilities to carry out Petersberg Tasks operations; progress on the creation, in the course of 2004, of an intergovernmental agency in the field of defence capabilities development, research, acquisition and armaments; developing and defining a 2010 headline goal; the development of an EU rapid response capability with a primary focus on supporting the United Nations in crisis management; and relations between the EU and NATO with particular regard to the capabilities development and operational planning.

The second meeting of defence directors held in Dublin on 26 February concentrated more specifically on the creation of the agency in the field of defence capabilities development, research, acquisition and armaments, as agreed by the Thessaloniki European Council of June 2003. This meeting was attended by officials of Defence Ministries with expertise in defence procurement issues.

The meeting included a presentation from the agency establishment team, AET, which was created on foot of a decision of the General Affairs and External Relations Council on 17 November 2003, to take work forward on the financial, legal and administrative aspects of setting up the agency. An information briefing was also given by a representative of the European defence industry group — a forum set up by the European defence industry to provide advice and policy recommendations. A presentation was also made by the Helsinki task force — an informal task force of military experts from EU member states who provide technical advice to the European Union military committee on EU capability shortfalls.

After the meeting, the Presidency reported on the outcome to representatives from Norway, Turkey, Iceland, Bulgaria and Romania. This report was in furtherance of the reciprocal arrangements in place between the EU and NATO on ESDP issues. As the meetings were informal in nature, no formal decisions were taken at either meeting.

Senior officials from the 15 member states and the ten acceding countries, as well as representatives from the Council general secretariat and the EU Commission attended both meetings, which were chaired by an assistant secretary from my Department with responsibility for European security and defence policy issues. The other Irish representatives included civil and military officials from my Department, as well as a representative from the Department of Foreign Affairs. Other invited guests who attended the meeting on 25 February included representatives of the agency establishment team, the European defence industry group, the western European armaments group and the headline goal task force.

Overseas Missions.

Joan Burton

Question:

22 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Defence the reasons a proposed Naval Service mission to service the Irish contingent in Liberia did not proceed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9270/04]

There was no cancellation of any Naval Service mission to Liberia. A Naval Service vessel provided support for the initial Defence Forces reconnaissance group, which visited Liberia to assess the situation prior to the decision to deploy the Defence Forces to UNMIL. In February, the Naval Service initiated preparations for a mission on the basis that it might be required to provide a re-supply or support mission to Liberia. However, it was decided by the military authorities that, in the normal course, re-supply missions to Liberia would be undertaken using chartered aircraft. Hence there was no requirement for a Naval Service vessel to service the Irish contingent in Liberia. If a requirement arises for a Naval vessel to undertake such a mission, this will be considered at the appropriate time.

As Deputies will be aware, I have agreed to allow members of the Irish contingent in UNMIL the opportunity to avail of a subsidised leave flight on these charter flights to Ireland during their tour of duty in UNMIL.

Internal State Security.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

23 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Defence the security and financial arrangements between the Army and the banks and other financial institutions; and if he has proposals to review these arrangements. [9218/04]

The roles of the Defence Forces as assigned by Government are set out in the White Paper on Defence, which was published in February 2000. To aid the civil power — meaning in practice to assist, when requested, the Garda Síochána which has the primary responsibility for law and order, including the protection of the — is among the assigned roles. The Defence Forces, pursuant to their role of rendering aid to the civil power, assist the Garda as required in duties, which include cash escorts. Cash escorts include deliveries to banks, post offices and other institutions.

The number of requests for cash escorts received by the military authorities from the Garda Síochána for 2002 and 2003 were 2,516 in 2002 and 2,298 in 2003. The financial arrangements involve a payment of €2.86 million by the banks in respect of Army escorts. The costs of these escorts are reviewed annually. The current contribution covers the marginal additional cost of providing escorts in terms of transport and allowances. I have recently requested my officials to review the current arrangements having regard to the arrangements which, I understand, were agreed between the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and the financial institutions, to ensure that there is no significant variance in methodology or level of cost recovery. It should be noted that there has been a significant reduction in the demand on the Defence Forces for assistance in aid to the civil power following the reduced security threat arising from the Good Friday Agreement.

European Rapid Reaction Force.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

24 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Defence the agenda for the EU Defence Ministers’ meeting in April 2004; the plans to discuss a German, French and UK proposal to create a rapid deployment force and the way in which this new force relates to the already established European rapid reaction force; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9313/04]

An informal meeting of Defence Ministers of the European Union and acceding states is scheduled to take place in Brussels on 5 and 6 April 2004. A number of such informal meetings have been held in recent years. The meetings have been a useful forum for informal discussions focused on promoting dialogue between Defence Ministers in the context of the continued development of the European Security and Defence Policy.

Discussion items currently on the draft agenda include: the ongoing development of the EU's capabilities to carry out Petersberg Tasks operations — that is, peace support, crisis management and humanitarian operations; progress on the creation in 2004 of an intergovernmental agency in the field of defence capabilities development as agreed by the European Council held at Thessaloniki in June 2003; development and definition of a 2010 headline goal; the development of an EU rapid response capability with an emphasis on supporting the United Nations in crisis management; and relations between the EU and NATO with particular regard to capabilities development and operational planning in the light of a possible EU takeover of the current UN-authorised NATO-led SFOR mission. Given the developmental nature of European Security and Defence policy, and in line with established practice, the agenda will be finalised closer to the date of the meeting.

Strengthening the United Nations is both an Irish national and European priority. Real world experience, with the successful termination of operation ARTEMIS in the Democratic Republic of Congo, has shown the potential for the EU to conduct rapid response operations in support of UN objectives.

In December 2003, the General Affairs and External Relations Council, GAERC, concluded that work on the EU military rapid response capability should be initiated, aimed at complementing the headline goal with a precise definition and subsequent identification of modalities for EU rapid response elements. In this respect, the Council welcomed the proposals to further develop the EU's military capability to support the UN in crisis management at short notice and on a short-term basis.

The Council requested the political and security committee to continue guiding the necessary EU developments in this field. It also requested the Secretary General — High Representative, Mr. Javier Solana, to report to the Council in March 2004 on the progress made on possible amendments to the Helsinki headline goal catalogue and on any necessary adjustments of strategic planning to support EU rapid response operations.

As part of this process, a proposal was put forward by the UK, France and Germany, which is seen as a useful contribution to the ongoing debate on the development of the rapid response capabilities with particular reference to EU-UN co-operation. Consideration of the proposal is currently at a preliminary stage. It is intended that Secretary General — High Representative Solana will make a presentation at the meeting on the progress made to date on rapid response.

Decentralisation Programme.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

25 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Defence if, in regard to proposals for decentralisation, a survey has been undertaken to establish the number of persons employed in his Department who are willing to move to the new locations announced by the Minister for Finance in his budget speech; the results of such a survey; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9292/04]

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

Military Police Investigations.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

26 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Defence the progress made to date on the investigation into the circumstances in which a number of civilians came into contact with an unexploded tear gas canister near firing ranges at the Curragh; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9290/04]

The investigation by the military police into this matter is nearing completion. A small number of interviews with relevant parties remain to be completed. Once these have been completed, a military police report on the incident will be compiled and will be submitted to the military authorities. As I have previously indicated to the House, I have asked that the investigation be expedited and that a report be submitted to me as soon as possible. Once the current investigation is completed, I will consider whatever recommendations may be made to me regarding the ongoing management and control of military ranges.

Question No. 27 answered with QuestionNo. 21.
Question No. 28 answered with QuestionNo. 12.

Overseas Missions.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

29 Mr. McGinley asked the Minister for Defence if he has plans to amend the Army Pensions Acts to enable compensation to be awarded to the families of military personnel serving abroad who lose their lives on missions not mandated by the United Nations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9343/04]

As I indicated in my reply to Question No. 90 on 11 March 2004, the question of extending my Department's special extra-statutory lump sum compensation scheme to members of the Permanent Defence Force serving with the Organisation for Security and Co-Operation in Europe, OSCE, and other such overseas missions is under consideration in my Department.

Ministerial Transport.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

30 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for Defence the number of official trips undertaken to date by the new Bombardier Learjet 45; the destinations in each case; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9276/04]

In July 2003 the Government decided to approve the purchase of a Bombardier Learjet 45 light business jet for the ministerial air transport service, MATS. The Learjet operates in tandem with the Gulfstream IV in providing a ministerial air transport service for members of the Government. The Learjet 45 arrived at Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnel on 19 December 2003 and the Air Corps then embarked on an intensive training programme. The Learjet entered operational service as part of the ministerial air transport service on 19 January. It has undertaken a total of 21 ministerial air transport missions to the end of February 2004.

The destinations were as follows:

Date — Destination

19 January — Brussels

20 January — Brussels

21 to 23 January — Monrovia

24 January — Zurich

25 January — Zurich

26 January — Brussels

28 January — Brussels-London

2 February — Brussels

6 February — Cork

9 February — Berlin

10 February — Paris

11 February — Belfast

12 February — Brussels

13 February — Paris

18 February — Brussels

19 February — Derry

20 February — Berlin

22 February — Brussels

23 to 24 February — Paris-Brussels-Belfast

25 February — Budapest-Brussels

26 February — Budapest

It should be noted that the Gulfstream IV aircraft remains in service and has carried out 19 missions during the same period. Also, due to the demands arising from the EU Presidency it has been necessary on nine occasions to make use of the Beech King aircraft, which is now primarily used in a training role.

Defence Forces Strength.

Joe Costello

Question:

31 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Defence the total number of personnel from the other ranks commissioned as officers in the Defence Forces in each of the past five years; if there are plans to increase the numbers commissioned from the ranks; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9275/04]

A total of 28 non-commissioned officers have been commissioned as officers in the Army, Air Corps and Naval Service in the past five years. Potential officers courses, POC, are held for non-commissioned personnel from time to time within the Defence Forces. Personnel who successfully complete such courses are commissioned as officers in the Permanent Defence Force. Participants on such courses are selected on a competitive basis. In addition, from time to time non-commissioned personnel who hold appropriate qualifications are commissioned to fill specialist appointments where vacancies arise. Eligible non-commissioned personnel may also apply for the annual cadetship competitions. The requirement for potential officer courses and commissioning from the ranks, CFR, competitions is reviewed from time to time and is being specifically addressed in the context of the integrated personnel management system, IPMS, which is one of the major policy initiatives provided for in the White Paper on Defence. The IPMS will make specific and ongoing provision for the introduction of regular schemes to commission enlisted personnel as officers in the Army, Air Corps and Naval Service.

Draft conditions governing the appointment of enlisted personnel of the Permanent Defence Force to be officers of the Naval Service are under discussion with the representative associations. As the discussions with the representative associations are ongoing, it would not be appropriate to comment on any of the specifics of the proposed draft conditions. However, it is the intention that a potential officers course will be run as soon as these discussions are completed.

National Archives.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

32 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Defence his views on the recent release from the National Archives of a confidential document prepared by the Army intelligence section for the Chief of Staff in October 1973, entitled Military Implications of Ireland’s Entry into EEC. [9312/04]

The document referred to is more than 30 years old and reflects the views of the authors on the very different security environment, which obtained at that time. The world has since been transformed by the fall of the Berlin Wall and the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact, and by developments in UN peacekeeping and European security and defence policy.

Defence Forces Strength.

Joe Sherlock

Question:

33 Mr. Sherlock asked the Minister for Defence the number of medical doctors serving as officers in the Defence Forces; the way in which this compares to the establishment level; the steps being taken to fill outstanding vacancies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9266/04]

The military authorities advise that the current establishment for medical officers in the Permanent Defence Force is 51 and the current strength is 20. In common with other public sector health service providers, the medical corps encounters difficulty in the recruitment and retention of medical personnel. The Department of Defence, in consultation with the director of the medical corps, is endeavouring to seek ways to recruit additional medical personnel, notwithstanding these difficulties.

Over the past number of years, the medical corps has had difficulty in attracting more than one or two medical officers per year into the service. Part of the difficulty in attracting applicants may be due to the unique nature of military medical officer appointments. Service in the medical corps is not a professional training employment comparable to non-consultant hospital doctor appointments or vocational training schemes in general practice.

Where no military medical or dental officer is available, suitable local arrangements are made with civilian medical and dental practitioners to ensure that the appropriate level of professional care is available to members of the Defence Forces.

Drug Testing Programmes.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

34 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Defence the number of Defence Forces personnel tested so far under the new drug testing programme; the numbers who tested positive; the action that is taken when a member tests positive; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9273/04]

Drug abuse has long been recognised as a serious and escalating problem in our society and while there have been relatively few instances of drug related problems within the Defence Forces, it is recognised that the Defence Forces, as a component of the wider community, mirror the community at large. The implications of drug abuse in an organisation where personnel have access to firearms are too obvious to require elaboration.

A compulsory substance testing programme was introduced on 1 February 2002, as part of a Defence Forces substance abuse programme, following a long consultative process involving the Office of the Attorney General, the Deputy Judge Advocate General and the Defence Forces representative associations.

Prior to the launch of the programme, an education programme and awareness briefings were conducted throughout the Defence Forces. All personnel were issued with a booklet devised to inform them of the purpose of the new compulsory random drug testing programme, the administrative procedures involved and the sanctions for those who test positive. All necessary measures, including pre-enlistment screening, education, compulsory random drug testing, monitoring and sanctions, will be taken to maintain a drug free environment within the Defence Forces.

The primary objective of compulsory random drugs testing is deterrence. In order to provide a credible level of deterrent, the testing programme has been devised to maximise the possibility of random selection for testing. A trained drugs-testing team is responsible for taking urine samples for compulsory random testing throughout the Defence Forces. Testing commenced on 14 November 2002 and the programme is now in its second year of operation. The target of testing 10% of the Permanent Defence Force has been achieved. A member of the Permanent Defence Force, randomly selected, may be required, at any time, to provide a urine sample which will be tested for evidence of use of controlled drugs, or the abuse or misuse of other substances, or for the detection of the metabolites thereof. A member of the PDF who refuses to provide a urine sample, or who provides a urine sample which tests positive, shall be liable to retirement, discharge or relinquishment of commission or withdrawal of cadetship as appropriate under the provisions of Defence Forces regulations.

A total of 1,611 all ranks have been tested to date. There have been five positive tests. Where personnel have confirmed positive test results, they are discharged or retired in accordance with the relevant regulations.

Internal State Security.

Joe Sherlock

Question:

35 Mr. Sherlock asked the Minister for Defence if the Defence Forces have been asked to provide support for the Garda during the planned visit of President George Bush to Ireland; the role he expects the Defence Forces to play; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9267/04]

John Gormley

Question:

37 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Defence if he has satisfied himself that the Defence Forces can adequately protect the US President Bush and the EU heads of State at several different locations simultaneously during the upcoming EU-US summit in June 2004; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9303/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 35 and 37 together.

The Garda Síochána has the primary responsibility for law and order, including the protection of the internal security of the State. Among the roles assigned to the Defence Forces is the provision of aid to the civil power — meaning in practice to assist, when requested, the Garda Síochána. Duties include the protection and guarding of vital installations, the provision of certain security escorts etc.

The level and demand for Defence Forces assistance depends on ongoing security assessments undertaken by the Garda. The Defence Forces and the Garda have ongoing consultations on such issues as a matter of course. There has been extensive prior planning by the Garda and the Defence Forces in the conduct of security for the visit of EU heads of State and specific roles and areas of responsibility have been identified for the Defence Forces. The planning process for the proposed visit by President Bush is in the early stages. However, in the event of a request being made by the Garda for security support, the Defence Forces will render such assistance as may be appropriate. Obviously it would not be appropriate for me to comment on the specific security arrangements for either event at this time.

Overseas Missions.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

36 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Defence the financial arrangements with the United Nations in respect of Irish troops serving overseas in UN and related missions; if all payments due are up to date; if not the amounts involved; and his proposals in this regard. [9219/04]

Ireland is entitled to reimbursement of troop and other costs by the UN in respect of Defence Forces participation in UN-mandated missions in Lebanon, Cyprus, East Timor, Ethiopia and Eritrea — UNMEE, and Liberia. The level of reimbursement in respect of troop costs is US$1,131.30 per person per month. The total amount of money due to my Department by the United Nations as at 29 February 2004 in respect of troop and other costs associated with the participation of Defence Forces personnel in UN missions is approximately €10.8 million. Since 1 January 2003, the UN has repaid arrears of €4.3 million approximately, mainly in respect of UNMEE.

Continual efforts are made to recover from the United Nations the moneys owed. These efforts are strenuously pursued on an ongoing basis by the Department of Defence and the Department of Foreign Affairs in conjunction with the permanent mission of Ireland to the United Nations in New York. Both my colleague, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and I take every opportunity to raise with the UN Ireland's concerns regarding arrears.

Question No. 37 answered with QuestionNo. 35.

Hearing Impairment Claims.

Liz McManus

Question:

38 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Defence the number of claims for damages for deafness determined in court or settled out of court at the latest date for which figures are available; the total amount paid out to date in terms of damages or legal costs; the total number of such claims outstanding; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9288/04]

By 29 February 2004, a total of 16,702 claims had been received in my Department from current and former members of the Defence Forces in respect of loss of hearing allegedly caused during their military service. Some 330 claims have been determined in court and 14,753 have been disposed of out of court, mainly through settlement, leaving a total of 1,619 claims outstanding at that date. €274 million has been paid in respect of hearing loss claims including €91.5 million in plaintiffs' legal costs.

Question No. 39 answered with QuestionNo. 19.
Question No. 40 answered with QuestionNo. 10.
Question No. 41 answered with QuestionNo. 21.

Casement Aerodrome Incident.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

42 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Defence the investigation that has been held into the circumstances in which political graffiti is reported to have been written on a visiting RAF helicopter at Baldonnel; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9269/04]

An RAF helicopter visited Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnel, on 5 March, 2004. Prior to its departure on 6 March 2004, it was noticed that the letters "SF" were visible in the soiled dust on the tail section of the aircraft. A full military police investigation into the incident is currently ongoing. Obviously, it would be inappropriate to comment further in this regard until such time as the investigation is completed.

Question No. 43 answered with QuestionNo. 12.

Decentralisation Programme.

Eamon Ryan

Question:

44 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Defence the way in which the decentralisation plans are proceeding for his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9310/04]

The Government decision on decentralisation announced by the Minister for Finance in his Budget Statement provides for the transfer of my Department's Dublin based Civil Service staff to Newbridge, County Kildare. The Government decision on decentralisation also provides for the transfer of Defence Forces headquarters staff to the Curragh, County Kildare. Civil-military working groups have been set up to consider the practical aspects of the transfer of staff to Newbridge and the Curragh. The Deputy will also be aware that, in the context of the White Paper on Defence, the Government decided to decentralise the Civil Defence branch of my Department to Roscrea, County Tipperary. I expect that the move will take place this summer.

Bullying in the Workplace.

Mary Wallace

Question:

45 Ms M. Wallace asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the manner in which the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 1989 covers bullying in the workplace; if her Department has provided funding to support this aspect of the legislation to voluntary organisations operating in the community; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9419/04]

Mary Wallace

Question:

46 Ms M. Wallace asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the steps taken by the anti-bullying unit of the Health and Safety Authority to deal with the issue of bullying in the workplace; if statistics have been provided to her by the Health and Safety Authority to demonstrate a 100% increase in 2003 in inquiries received by the authority with regard to bullying in the workplace; the funding available either through her Department or through the Health and Safety Authority to deal with this issue; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9420/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 45 and 46 together.

The Health and Safety Authority's Code of Practice for the Prevention of Workplace Bullying 2002 and section 6 of the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 1989 refer to the employer's responsibility to ensure, as far as is reasonably practicable, that the working environment is free from danger to the safety, health and welfare of the employee. Section 9 of the 1989 Act sets out duties on employees to protect their own safety, health and welfare and that of their co-workers or those who might be affected by another's actions, or omissions, while at work.

Employers must also prepare a safety statement under section 12 of the 1989 Act, based on an identification of the hazards and an assessment of the risks to safety and health at the place of work to which the statement relates. In preparing a safety statement, an identification of hazards and a risk assessment must be carried out in relation to the existence of workplace bullying.

The authority's code of practice points out that "The preparation and implementation of an effective Anti-Bullying Policy is necessary so as to ensure that, should bullying occur, there are procedures in place, supported by management, to deal with it." It further advises that:

A policy dealing with the prevention of workplace bullying should be produced following consultation with the employee representatives. It should be written, dated and signed at senior management level and updated when appropriate. It should be made available to all staff and highlighted as part of the induction process. It should also be publicised among existing staff on an ongoing basis. Reference should also be made to the Anti-Bullying Policy in the Safety Statement.

The Health and Safety Authority's anti-bullying unit was set up in 2001 in response to the recommendations of the task force on bullying and it concentrates on ensuring that organisations have an anti-bullying policy in place. It also assists those who do not have an adequate anti-bullying policy, to upgrade what they have, to bring it in line with the authority's Code of Practice for the Prevention of Workplace Bullying and the Labour Relations Commission's code of practice detailing procedures for addressing bullying in the workplace. The unit also attempts to ensure that policies are implemented by assessing records and evidence, although this is a limited function.

Statistics from the Health and Safety Authority indicate a 100% increase in inquiries to the unit in 2003. These include calls and letters from persons alleging bullying, from persons accused of bullying, from employers, human resource professionals, trade unions, solicitors and relatives of bullying victims.

Funding of the anti-bullying unit is provided through the annual grant of the Health and Safety Authority from my Department. My Department has no provision for funding to voluntary organisations in regard to the matter of bullying.

Community Employment Schemes.

Phil Hogan

Question:

47 Mr. Hogan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if changes will take place to the structure of local FÁS community schemes from July 2004; if it will be a requirement for each local group to form a limited company as well as to have two directors on the scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9480/04]

There are no specific plans in place to make structural changes to the community employment programme in July of this year. However, the future structure of the programme is under review by a group of senior officials and FÁS and this group is expected to report to Ministers on the outcome of its deliberations in the near future. The outcome of this review will inform any future adjustments in the structure and the terms and conditions of participation on community employment.

It is a requirement since 1998 that community employment sponsors must incorporate as a company or co-operative. This requirement was introduced primarily to protect the personal liability of members of the sponsoring committee. There are no plans to change this requirement.

Decentralisation Programme.

Eamon Ryan

Question:

48 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the sections of her Department that have already been relocated outside of Dublin to date; and the extent to which the workers transferred were the original workers attached to her Department. [9484/04]

The Patents Office, which is an office of my Department, was decentralised to Kilkenny in 1998. A total of 63 staff relocated to Kilkenny at that time. A total of 15 were staff from within the Department, 43 staff transferred from other Departments and five specialist staff were recruited to the Patents Office directly.

EU Funding.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

49 Mr. Broughan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if the final audit report for the Youthstart employment project at St. Benedict’s resource centre, Kilbarrack, Dublin 5, is now available; and if a copy will be forwarded to Deputy Broughan as the local public representative. [9510/04]

St. Benedict's Resource Centre Limited, operated one of 44 projects which received European Social Fund assistance through my Department under the Youthstart strand of the EMPLOYMENT community initiative. This initiative ran from 1996 to early 2000.

The project promoted by St Benedict's Resource Centre Limited, was among the 18 projects selected by the Department for audit in order to comply with European Commission audit requirements. The audits were conducted on behalf of the Department by Chapman Flood Mazars. The report on the St. Benedict's project was furnished to the Department on 16 December 2002. The main findings of the report have been discussed with the board of St. Benedict's Resource Centre Limited. My Department is continuing to examine the issues arising from the report with board. In the circumstances, it would not be appropriate to make the report publicly available at present.

Defence Forces Property.

Gay Mitchell

Question:

50 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Defence if Gormanston is to close; the plans which exist for its future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9479/04]

On 1 July 2003, the Government agreed that Gormanston Camp, County Meath, would be among the State lands released under the Sustaining Progress affordable housing initiative. The intention is that this initiative will be targeted at those who in the past would have expected to purchase a house from their own resources but find that they are unable to do so in the current market.

The modalities regarding the transfer of Gormanston Camp are under active consideration in consultation with the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, which is the lead Department for the development of the affordable housing initiative. It is understood that Meath County Council is carrying out an infrastructural feasibility study of the site, which will determine the appropriate scale of future development at Gormanston.

Decentralisation Programme.

Eamon Ryan

Question:

51 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Defence the sections of his Department that have already been relocated outside of Dublin to date; and the extent to which the workers transferred were the original workers attached to his Department. [9485/04]

The finance branch of my Department was decentralised to Galway in 1989. Of the 176 staff who relocated, 43 were already serving in my Department.

In the case of the Defence Forces, the directorate of military police and the directorate of reserve forces, comprising 13 military personnel in all, were decentralised from Dublin to Kickham Barracks, Clonmel, County Tipperary, in 2002.

Defence Forces Equipment.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

52 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence if he has satisfied himself that troops serving overseas have access to the most up to date military and life-preserving equipment, with particular reference to operations in Liberia and other similar locations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9498/04]

The safety and health of Irish personnel serving overseas is always of paramount concern to me and it is my policy and practice to ensure that Defence Forces personnel are appropriately trained and equipped to carry out their mission.

With regard to Liberia, a wide range of equipment and force protection assets were deployed with the contingent. This equipment is of the highest quality. The contingent is equipped with 22 new Mowag Piranha armoured personnel carriers. The piranha, with its high hardness steel plate armour, mobility and firepower, represents the highest level of protection deemed appropriate by the military authorities for the theatre of operations in Liberia. In addition, each soldier is equipped with personal body armour of the highest quality. Within the context of protection, deterrence is seen as a critical factor. The Irish contingent is also equipped with six armoured reconnaissance vehicles, each of which carries a 20 mm cannon or a 90 mm gun. The equipment modernisation programme, which is ongoing, ensures that the Defence Forces are fully equipped with the most modern of equipment for their day to day roles at home and overseas.

Defence Forces Accommodation.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

53 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence the extent to which Army overholders’ housing requirements have been met or are likely to be met in the near future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9499/04]

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 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.

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, in respect of 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.

European Security and Defence Policy.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

54 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence the extent to which he has discussed with his EU colleagues Ireland’s participation in European and defence security procedures; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9500/04]

I refer the Deputy to the reply I gave to Question No. 27 on 5 February 2004.

During the Italian Presidency an informal meeting of Defence Ministers was held in Rome on 3 and 4 October 2003 and an EU Defence Ministerialen marge of the General Affairs External Relations Council, GAERC, was held in Brussels on 17 November 2003.

Meetings of Defence Ministers provide a useful forum for Ministers to exchange views on the continued development of the European Security and Defence Policy, ESDP, in particular the development of EU capabilities to carry out Petersberg Task operations.

Two meetings of EU Defence Ministers will be held during Ireland's Presidency. The first informal meeting will take place in Brussels on 5 and 6 April 2004 and the second will be held in the framework of the General Affairs and External Relations Council on 17 and 18 May 2004. As part of my preparations for Ireland's Presidency of the EU I met informally with a number of my counterparts bothen marge of previous ministerial meetings and through visits to capitals. The purpose of these discussions was to exchange views on Ireland’s mandate for the Presidency.

Army Barracks.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

55 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence the position in respect of all lands, buildings or equipment arising from the closure of various military barracks in 1998; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9501/04]

The Government, on 15 July 1998, approved a programme of evacuation and sale of six barracks considered surplus to military requirements. The barracks in question are located at Ballincollig, Fermoy, Castleblayney, Naas, Kildare and Clancy Barracks, Dublin.

The sale of approximately 91 acres comprising lot 1, Murphy Barracks, Ballincollig, to O'Flynn Construction for €41 million was completed in 2003. In addition, the sale of lot 2 to the sitting tenant for €1.05 million — my Department's reversionary interest in approximately 6.2 acres of the barrack lands — was completed last year. A further area comprising more than 27 acres at Murphy Barracks will be handed over to Cork County Council for community use. Agreements have also been reached for the sale of a site, comprising circa 2.7 acres to the Southern Heath Board and a further plot of circa 1.7 acres to the Department of Education and Science. Receipts in excess of €2.8 million will accrue to my Department in respect of those disposals.

An area comprising circa 0.545 of an acre has been set aside on foot of a request from the Office of Public Works for a plot of ground to facilitate extension of the existing Garda station located on Main Street, Ballincollig. My Department is in correspondence with the OPW on arrangements for transfer of the lands concerned, including the matter of a consideration therefor.

A total of 19.218 acres at the former Fitzgerald Camp, Fermoy, were sold to Cork County Council in 2001 for €973,889 for development in conjunction with the IDA. Castleblayney Military Post, Monaghan, comprising approximately ten acres, was sold to the North Eastern Health Board for €761,843.

A total of seven acres at Devoy Barracks, Naas, County Kildare, were ceded free of charge to Naas Urban District Council, while a further 14 acres were sold to that authority for €8,888,167. The balance of the barracks lands — one acre — was sold to Kildare County Council for €380,921.

Magee Barracks, Kildare, comprises an area of 65 acres. At present, approximately 15 acres of the property are being used by the Reception and Integration Agency of the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform to accommodate asylum seekers and a further site comprising approximately one acre is being used by Kildare County Council as a temporary halting site for 20 persons. The Government, on 1 July 2003, decided to release this property to the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government for inclusion in a new affordable housing initiative agreed under the national partnership agreement, Sustaining Progress.

An offer of €25.4 million was accepted from Florence Properties Ltd., for the sale of Clancy Barracks, Dublin, comprising approximately 13.65 acres. A contract of sale was exchanged in December 2003 and completion is imminent.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

56 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence if he has plans to increase the strength of the Army, Naval Service or Air Corps with reference to enhancing defence and surveillance capabilities to meet current or anticipated requirements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9502/04]

The White Paper on Defence of February 2000 sets out a figure of 10,500 personnel for the Permanent Defence Force, comprising 930 for the Air Corps, 1,144 for the Naval Service and 8,426 for the Army. The strength of the Permanent Defence Force as at 29 February, 2004 is as shown in the following table.

Service

Officers

NCOs

Privates

Cadets

Total

Army

1,022

3,069

4,295

97

8,483

Air Corps

139

413

334

10

896

Naval Service

137

465

432

29

1,063

It is my intention to maintain the established Government policy of ongoing recruitment to the Defence Forces. Recruitment into the Permanent Defence Force will continue to maintain the strength at a level required to meet military needs and as set out in the White Paper, that is, 10,500 members of the Permanent Defence Force at all ranks.

Responsibility for the prevention of illegal activities rests primarily with the civil powers such as the Garda Síochána and the Customs Service. The White Paper on Defence provides for a security role for both the Naval Service and the Air Corps to assist and support the civil authorities in this important work. While the main day to day role of the Naval Service is to provide a fishery protection service in accordance with the State's obligations as a member of the European Union, Government measures to improve law enforcement in respect of drugs — including the establishment in 1993 of a joint task force involving the Garda, the Customs Service and the Naval Service — have helped to maximise the effective use of Naval Service resources in combating drug trafficking. The Air Corps provides air support and on occasion carries the customs national drugs team in an observation capacity for the purpose of monitoring vessels suspected of drug trafficking or other such illegal activities. There is close co-operation between the civil authorities and the Naval Service and the Air Corps in this important area. I am satisfied that the extent of Naval Service and Air Corps reconnaissance, in conjunction with the Garda and the Customs Service, has had a major and beneficial impact in deterring drug trafficking and other such illegal activities.

The Army also continues to provide aid to the civil power as the need arises. I am satisfied that the Defence Forces can meet these requirements within the overall numbers as provided for in the White Paper.

Question No. 57 answered with Question No. 5.

National Emergency Plan.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

58 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence if he has put in place an adequate early warning system to prevent a possible terrorist attack; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9505/04]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

59 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence if he has satisfied himself that the national emergency plan is capable of dealing adequately with all emergencies that may arise; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9506/04]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

60 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence the extent to which he has upgraded and updated plans in the event of a national emergency, particularly those precipitated by acts of terrorism; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9507/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 58 to 60, inclusive, together.

Emergency planning for major accidents and emergencies has been ongoing for many years. This has been carried out at local level and co-ordinated on a regional basis in accordance with the Government major emergency planning framework. As chairperson of the Government task force on emergency planning, I have requested all authorities to review their emergency plans and revise them as appropriate. This has led to the examination and evaluation of emergency plans to ensure that the arrangements are current and effective.

The emphasis of the work of the Government task force on emergency planning has been to ensure that emergency planning challenges continue to be addressed with a view to developing responses to possible threats and to promote co-ordination of response arrangements. The focus for this work continues to be on taking the necessary precautions to, at best, prevent or, at least, minimise the risks from terrorist activities, ensuring that the protection available to the public is maximised, putting the mechanisms in place to support the response agencies and co-ordinating for maximum efficiency and effectiveness.

A critical issue in an emergency situation is the question of issuing adequate and timely warnings to the population and providing the necessary information to the general public on threatened or developing emergency situations. Television and radio broadcasting will be the key means of contact with the public in such circumstances but all other means of communication at the disposal of the State will be utilised. I assure the Deputy that Departments continue to take the lead role in planning for emergencies in areas for which each has statutory responsibility and must ensure that they have the necessary legislation, personnel, equipment and the planning arrangements in place to respond to emergencies, including the responses of bodies under their aegis.

The European Union has played a key part in developing response measures to assist member states and third countries in the light of possible further terrorist attacks and atrocities. The Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government has the lead responsibility for representing Ireland on EU civil protection matters and forms part of a network of all the member states. The EU civil protection mechanism and other international mechanisms provide Ireland with a number of warning and alert systems and mechanisms for providing assistance in emergencies.

As President of the European Council, the Taoiseach has recently issued a statement on proposals to counter terrorism in the aftermath of 11 March attacks in Madrid. These proposals will inform the discussions and developments taking place at the European Council meeting being held today.

The Government task force on emergency planning continues to meet regularly and co-ordinates Government emergency planning and responses across the State sector. An interdepartmental working group on emergency planning supports the work of this task force and carries out studies and oversight of emergency structures and processes. These mechanisms have been very important to integrate the emergency planning efforts of Departments and other public authorities to provide for co-ordinated emergency responses.

I am satisfied that the various plans developed and reviewed since the establishment of the Government task force on emergency planning are well co-ordinated and have significantly enhanced the response potential of the State in the event of a large-scale emergency. This approach to emergency planning, which continues to be adopted by Government, is very effective. I was pleased to report on such progress in the confidential second annual report to Government on emergency planning, which I presented to Government in October 2003. As chairman of the Government task force on emergency planning, I will continue this work and report regularly to Government and to this House on these matters.

Pension Provisions.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

61 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence the position in regard to Army pensions payable to those who qualified pre-1994, with particular reference to the inclusion of service pay in the determination of pension entitlements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9508/04]

I presume the Deputy is referring to the question of having military service allowance, MSA, included in the calculation of pensions of Defence Forces' personnel who retired before 1 August 1990. Arising from a recommendation made in 1990 by the Commission on Remuneration and Conditions of Service in the Defence Forces — the Gleeson commission — MSA was made pensionable in the case of personnel retiring on or after 1 August 1990. This approach was fully consistent with settled public service pensions policy which provides that the benefit of an allowance being made pensionable for serving personnel does not extend to existing pensioners.

More recently, the Commission on Public Service Pensions specifically addressed the issue of the pensionability of allowances — including MSA — and the consequences for public service pensioners generally in its final report which was published in January 2001. However, having considered the arguments advanced by the groups affected, together with long-standing public service pensions policy in that context and the substantial cost implications involved, the Commission did not recommend any increase for the pensioners concerned. No change in existing policy on this matter has been authorised or is contemplated.

Grant Payments.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

62 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food when a forest premium grant will be paid to a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9454/04]

Payment of the 2004 forestry premium will made within the next few weeks.

Dan Neville

Question:

63 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food when a hardship grant will be awarded to a person (details supplied) in County Limerick following a herd disease outbreak. [9430/04]

The hardship grant is aimed at assisting eligible owner-keeper(s) with a restricted holding where animals are retained and fed during periods of restriction. The onus is on the owner-keeper(s) to apply for a hardship grant. An essential prerequisite for eligibility under the hardship scheme is that an owner-keeper(s) must lodge a completed application form ER97 with the local district veterinary office during the restriction period. The holding of the person concerned was restricted on 3 October 2003 and derestricted on 5 March 2004. The local district veterinary office has no record of an application form ER97 having been received. Under the scheme, there is no retrospective facility for now lodging a completed application form.

Gerard Murphy

Question:

64 Mr. Murphy asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if he will intervene in a case of a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if his Department will allow the payment. [9451/04]

A payment of €9,523 under the installation aid scheme issued to the person in question on 8 March 2004.

Departmental Staff.

Michael Ring

Question:

65 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the names of his Department officials who met farmers affected by the landslide in Pullathomas, County Mayo; and the amount of expenses claimed by each official. [9453/04]

It is not usual practice to provide the names of individual officials. The grades of the four officials from this Department who attended the meeting were: principal officer; agriculture inspector, district superintendent; and supervisory surveyor. In so far as expenses are concerned, the officials were entitled to claim the normal travelling and subsistence expenses.

Departmental Schemes.

Phil Hogan

Question:

66 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if he will take steps to ensure that young farmers will retain the farm entitlements under the Fischler reforms in circumstances in which the transferee is a participant in the farm retirement scheme. [9474/04]

My Department is involved in working groups and in continuing discussions with the European Commission on the detailed rules for implementing the mid-term review agreement. I have already raised a number of issues relating to both farmers who have retired under the early retirement schemes and the young farmers who replaced them and the implications for them of decoupling and the single payment scheme.

Under the European Council regulation introducing the single payment scheme, a farmer may have access to the scheme if he or she was an active farmer during one or more of the reference years 2000, 2001 and 2002 and received payments under the livestock premia and/or arable aid schemes. In addition, farmers for whom entitlements will be established must activate those entitlements in 2005 by continuing to farm and submitting an area aid declaration in that year. In general, farmers must also have an eligible hectare of land for each payment entitlement.

Young farmers who leased land from farmers who retired under the early retirement schemes, and were active farmers in the reference period, will have entitlements established for them. It should be noted that entitlements are attached to the farmer who was actively farming during the reference period, and not to the land. I should point out, however, that during the Council negotiations last year I secured agreement that farmers — including offspring of farmers who retired before the reference period — who take over the holding of the retired farmers at some date in the future will be able to apply to the national reserve for payment entitlements under the single payment scheme. This will not affect the entitlements of the young farmers who farmed during the reference period.

Mayo Landslide.

Michael Ring

Question:

67 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the reason funding has not been allocated for the erection of protective barriers on Dooncartan mountain in Pullathomas, County Mayo; and when this funding will be sanctioned. [9475/04]

The question of funding for protective barriers is not a matter for my Department.

Decentralisation Programme.

Eamon Ryan

Question:

68 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the sections of his Department that have already been relocated outside of Dublin to date; and the extent to which the workers transferred were the original workers attached to his Department. [9486/04]

Table 1 shows the sections of my Department that have already been relocated outside of Dublin to date. Table 2 shows the previous career history of the staff involved in the most recent decentralisation to Johnstown Castle — other than forest service staff — along the lines requested by the Deputy. My Department cannot provide total numbers of job-people changes to achieve the decentralisation as many of these changes would have occurred in other Departments. My Department has not carried out a detailed examination of the pattern in the other offices listed in table 1 because of the time elapsed and the detailed work involved.

TABLE 1

Sections currently in Decentralised HQ Offices

Castlebar 1970’s

Cavan 1980’s

Portlaoise Early 1990’s

Johnstown Castle Late 1990’s

Headage Premium Quotas

Accounts

Special Beef Premium

On Farm Investment

Land Services

Appeals Office

Beef Export Refunds

Beef Public Storage

Other Market Supports

TABLE 2

Staff involved in Decentralisation to Johnstown Castle in 1998

Grade

Relocated

Transferred in

Recruited

Grade Totals

Agricultural Inspectors

4

0

0

4

Administration Officers

0

1

0

1

Area Superintendent

1

0

0

1

Assistant Agric. Inspectors

0

0

3

3

Assistant Principal

2

12

0

14

Cleaner

1

0

0

1

Clerical Officers

12

17

106

135

Executive Officers

14

42

12

68

EO Analysts

1

1

0

2

Higher Executive Officers

4

31

0

35

HEO Systems Analysts

1

0

0

1

Principals

0

3

0

3

Senior Inspectors

2

0

0

2

Senior Superintend Vet Insp

1

0

0

1

Services Officers

1

1

1

3

Staff Officers

4

11

0

15

Supervisory Agric Officers

3

0

0

3

Vet Inspectors

0

0

1

1

Totals

51

119

123

Grand Total

293

Grant Payments.

Michael Ring

Question:

69 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if an appeals process will be put in place for those who did not have stock in the year in question, in relation to decoupling. [9527/04]

Council Regulation, (EC) No. 1782/2003 introducing the single payment scheme, provides that a farmer whose production was adversely affected during the reference period by a case offorce majeure or exceptional circumstances occurring before the reference period are entitled to request that the reference amount be calculated on the basis of the calendar year or years in the reference period not affected by the case of force majeure or exceptional circumstances. Applications to avail of this provision have been submitted by more than 14,000 farmers earlier this year. The applications are currently being processed by my Department.

Farmers not satisfied with the decision in their case have the right to appeal. In this regard, I recently established a single payment appeals committee, chaired by Mr. John Duggan, and comprising appeals officers from the agriculture appeals office. In due course, this committee will also deal with the appeals of individual farmers in respect of other aspects of the implementation of the single payment scheme including the provisional single payment entitlements and individual decisions in relation to the allocation of entitlements from the national reserve. I am confident that this appeals committee will deal with appeals from farmers in an independent, fair and comprehensive manner.

Departmental Schemes.

Willie Penrose

Question:

70 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the position regarding persons who took early retirement due to serious health problems in respect of the impact of the Fischler proposals upon such persons; the position regarding family members of a retiree who wish to continue in farming; if, under the aforesaid proposals, they will at least have first preference to entitlements from the national reserve; if they will be able to activate their parents’ quota; if the current lessees will not have to rent the lessor’s land to activate all their entitlements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9528/04]

My Department is involved in working groups and in continuing discussions with the European Commission on the detailed rules for implementing the mid-term review agreement. I have already raised a number of issues relating to farmers who have retired under the early retirement schemes, and the implications for them of decoupling and the single payment scheme. The early retirement schemes is a voluntary scheme so the discussions do not differentiate between those who may have been forced to retire on health grounds and those who simply elected to retire.

Under the European Council regulation introducing the single payment scheme, a farmer may have access to the scheme if he or she was an active farmer during one or more of the reference years 2000, 2001 and 2002, and received payments under the livestock premia and/or arable aid schemes. In addition, farmers for whom entitlements will be established must activate those entitlements in 2005 by continuing to farm and submitting an area aid declaration in that year. In general, farmers must also have an eligible hectare of land for each payment entitlement. This does not have to be the same land on which the entitlements were established.

Farmers participating in the early retirement scheme before the commencement of the reference period will not have any entitlements established for them under the single payment scheme. This is because they had already retired from farming and their obligations under the early retirement scheme preclude them from returning to farming in the future. The persons who were leasing these retired farmer's lands, and were active farmers in the reference period, will have entitlements established for them. It should be noted that entitlements are attached to the farmer who was actively farming during the reference period, and not to the land.

During the Council negotiations last year I secured agreement that farmers — including offspring of farmers who retired before the reference period — who take over the holding of the retired farmers at some date in the future will be able to apply to the national reserve for payment entitlements under the single payment scheme. In the case of inheritance, including anticipated inheritance where the farmer hands over the holding definitively to his or her successor, the entitlements established by the farmer will pass directly to the beneficiary. Special arrangements have also been made for young farmers who started in farming during the reference years that allows them to have their entitlements based on the number of years they farmed in those years rather than on the average of the three years.

Farmers who entered the early retirement scheme during or after the reference period will have entitlements established for them, provided they were actively farming during the reference period and received payment under the relevant schemes. Due to the fact that these farmers undertook to give up farming definitively when they joined the early retirement scheme, they will not be in a position to obtain payment under the single payment scheme in 2005 or thereafter. The European Council regulation provides for such entitlements to revert to the national reserve. However, the question of whether retired farmers in this category should be allowed to activate entitlements — not for their own use but with a view to leasing them out in 2005 and thereafter — is one of the items still under discussion in the context of the Commission detailed rules regulation. Agreement on the detailed rules is not expected until the end of this month or early in April and will have to be awaited.

Willie Penrose

Question:

71 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the reason a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath, who is engaged in full-time farming and has no other farming activity for either themselves or their spouse, has not been granted milk quota from the national reserve; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9529/04]

Allocations of milk quota from the national reserve are granted on the basis of recommendations from the milk quota appeals tribunal. The tribunal is a body established to consider and advise on applications for additional quota from individual producers who have suffered severe hardship in the context of the milk quota system. It also examines applications from producers whose herds have been restricted by animal disease in the current quota year.

In considering applications on the grounds of animal disease the tribunal takes account of the producer's total available quota, the quantity and pattern of milk deliveries, and the estimated requirement until the end of the quota year. Furthermore, it also makes allowance for other factors such as the length of time the herd was restricted, the increase in herd size due to the restriction, and the availability of temporary leasing in the producer's co-operative.

The person in question submitted an application for additional quota on the grounds of animal disease but, having considered the application, the tribunal did not recommend an allocation on this occasion. While every application to the tribunal is treated in a fair and sympathetic manner it has not been possible, within the constraints of the limited amount of quota available and the sizeable number of applications received, to meet the demands for quota from all applicants. However, the person concerned may submit an appeal to have the tribunal review the decision in his case.

Bovine Disease Controls.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

72 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the status of the application by a person (details supplied) in County Wexford for a herd number; when a decision will be made; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9530/04]

The person indicated submitted an application for a herd number to the local district veterinary office in Enniscorthy on 15 March last. An official of my Department is arranging to visit the applicant within the next week to assess whether the applicant meets the requirements laid down.

Under the customer service action plan for local offices, all applications for herd numbers are processed within 28 days following the receipt of a fully completed application form and provided that all the requirements laid down for a herd number are met by the applicant.

Debt Cancellation.

Joan Burton

Question:

73 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Finance if he has seen the report entitled, Can the World Bank and IMF cancel 100% of poor country debts?, submitted to him by the Debt and Development Coalition Ireland in September 2003; and if so, his response to the report’s suggestion that the IMF and World Bank have the resources to cancel debt owed to them by poor countries. [9457/04]

Copies of the report were sent to my Department. Under the HIPC process certain countries have had debts cancelled by the Bretton Woods institutions and other agencies. While Ireland is supportive of debt cancellation, it does not follow that agencies such as the World Bank and the IMF have the resources to cancel debts owed to them by all poor countries, however this was to be defined. It should be noted, however, that substantial financial support facilities have been provided to Argentina, Brazil and Turkey by the IMF and World Bank. Indeed, the president of the World Bank confirmed this to a representative of the debt and development coalition on his visit to Ireland last year.

Local Authority Funding.

Michael Ring

Question:

74 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Finance the reason funding has not been allocated for the erection of protective barriers on Dooncartan Mountain in Pollathomas, County Mayo; and when this funding will be sanctioned. [9481/04]

Funding of protective barriers is not a matter for the Office of Public Works. The question of State funding, if any, is more appropriate to the local authority and-or the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government.

Prison Committals.

Finian McGrath

Question:

75 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the US Government has imprisoned five persons (details supplied) who were working to save Cuban and American lives from terrorist organisations which operate in Miami. [9411/04]

The case raised by the Deputy relates to five Cuban citizens convicted in the US in December 2001 on charges ranging from espionage to first degree murder, and whose appeal is now being heard. As I have previously informed the Deputy, the Government has no standing in this matter which is a bilateral consular question between the Cuban and US authorities.

Foreign Conflicts.

Finian McGrath

Question:

76 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the policy position regarding the political situation in both Venezuela and Haiti and the dangerous activities of the USA in undermining democracy in these States. [9429/04]

The Irish and EU policy positions regarding the political situations in Venezuela and Haiti are set out in the following declarations. Declaration by the Presidency, on behalf of the European Union, on the CNE announcement of 2 March 2004 regarding the process of verification of signatures in Venezuela:

Date: 4 Mar 2004

The European Union has taken good note of the publication on 2 March 2004 by the National Electoral Council (CNE) of the preliminary official results of the process of verification of signatures and of the CNE's decision to organise an appeals process in relation to those signatures which were provisionally rejected, in the framework of the petition for a Recall Referendum concerning the mandate of the President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.

The European Union recalls the contents of its previous declaration, dated 23 February, 2004, and reiterates its full support for the important statement made by the OAS and Carter Center Missions to Venezuela in their joint declaration of 2 March, 2004.

The European Union shares the concern of the OAS with regard to the application by the CNE of specific verification criteria and their possible impact on the outcome of the process. No effort should be spared, however, to enable the country to find a constitutional, democratic, peaceful and electoral solution to its crisis. The European Union encourages all parties involved to negotiate constructively towards feasible, fair and transparent formulas for an appeals process which will respect the constitutional rights, the sovereign will and the good faith of Venezuelan citizens.

The European Union deeply regrets the development of a climate of violence, which has led to human casualties, and calls on all parties to continue to strive for the implementation of the agreement of 29 May 2003 in a climate of mutual respect, tolerance and restraint, and to fully abide by the Declaration against Violence and for Peace and Democracy of 18 February 2003, within the framework of the rule of law and democratic principles.

The acceding countries Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, the Slovak Republic and Slovenia align themselves with this declaration.

Declaration by the Presidency on behalf of the European Union concerning the formation of a new government in Haiti:

Date: 19 Mar 2004

The European Union welcomes the formation of a new Government in Haiti. This now gives reason to hope for substantial progress in establishing democracy and the rule of law, so that the country can break out of the political deadlock experienced in recent years and regain the stability for which it yearns.

The European Union stands ready to support the new government and assist in establishing the rule of law in the country. Being concerned at the serious deterioration in social and economic conditions in Haiti, the European Union is prepared to help relieve the Haitian people's suffering by means of prompt humanitarian aid in keeping with the circumstances.

The European Union welcomes Prime Minister Gérard Latortue's statement concerning the importance of national reconciliation and his willingness to administer a government of national unity. The EU holds reconciliation and co-operation among all Haitians to be prerequisites for Haiti's sustainable development and for an improvement in the standard of living of all its citizens.

The European Union is pleased at the United Nations Security Council's unanimous decision to dispatch a Multinational Interim Force. It welcomes all international efforts to bring security and stability to the country.

The European Union is disturbed at the persistent deterioration in security in Haiti and calls on all Haitians, without exception, to refrain from any kind of violent behaviour.

The European Union pays tribute to the considerable efforts made by the OAS and CARICOM to help bring peace and stability to Haiti. It hopes to see those efforts continue, in close co-ordination with Haiti's new government, the United Nations and the Multinational Interim Force.

The acceding countries Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, the Slovak Republic and Slovenia, the Candidate Countries Bulgaria, Romania and Turkey, the Countries of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidates Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Serbia and Montenegro, and the EFTA countries Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway, members of the European Economic Area, align themselves with this declaration.

Human Rights Issues.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

77 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the person who will be representing the African Union at the next meeting of the EU and the African Union on 1 April 2004 at Farmleigh House; and if human rights in Zimbabwe will be on the agenda. [9476/04]

The meeting between the European Union and Africa, to be held at Farmleigh House on 1 April 2004, will take place in troika format and Africa will, therefore, be represented by the African Union troika comprising Mozambique, the current African Union Presidency, South Africa, the former African Union Presidency, and the African Union Commission. It is expected that Mozambique will be represented by its Minister for Foreign Affairs and Co-operation, Mr. Leonardo Santos Simao, while South Africa will be represented by its Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dr. N. C. Dlamini Zuma. Ambassador Said Djinit, Commissioner for Peace and Security, will head the African Union Commission delegation to the meeting.

The issue of human rights in Zimbabwe will be raised by the European Union and discussed as part of the general discussion on governance issues in Africa.

European Council Meetings.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

78 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the matters on the agenda for the meeting taking place on 2 April 2004 in Dublin between the EU and South Africa; and if the Government will encourage the South African Government to distance itself from the Harare administration. [9477/04]

The EU views South Africa as a major partner in its relations with Africa, not only in bilateral terms but also because of the role it is playing in the African Union, AU, the Southern Africa Development Community, SADC, and in general in conflict resolution in Africa. The agenda for the forthcoming EU-South Africa ministerial troika to take place in Dublin, reflects this view. Discussions during the meeting will revolve around four main areas, namely: EU-South Africa relations, review of recent developments, peace and security and, multilateralism.

Under the EU-South Africa relations heading, we will focus on the 10th anniversary of freedom in that country. The anniversary is an occasion for celebration, which offers at the same time the opportunity for a period of national reflection. We will also discuss developments in the EU, including the impending enlargement of the Union and the Inter Governmental Conference. In reviewing recent developments, it is envisaged that both sides will exchange information and discuss issues of mutual concern. These will mostly centre on the current crisis in Zimbabwe and the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Conflict areas on the African continent, such as the Great Lakes, Sudan and Ethiopia-Eritrea will also be taken up. Concerning Zimbabwe, the EU has stated in the Council conclusions on the Zimbabwe common position, adopted on 23 February 2003, that it continues to support the mediation efforts of South Africa and SADC to resolve this crisis. The Zimbabwe crisis affects the entire Southern Africa region and South Africa's active role in seeking a political solution in Zimbabwe is fully acknowledged by the EU.

On peace and security, Foreign Minister Zuma will inform the meeting of developments with regard to the peace and security council of the African Union. The EU will follow up on the request from the Maputo Summit of the AU for an EU peace facility. The peace facility will involve an initial contribution of €250 million from the European Development Fund to provide direct assistance to African peace support operations as well as to improve the institutional capacities of the AU in the areas of peace-keeping and conflict resolution. Promoting effective multilateralism is an important theme of Ireland's Presidency on the external relations front. It is a common foreign policy goal for both the EU and South Africa. Advancement of this goal will be discussed in relation to issues of global concern such as Iraq, the Middle East and international terrorism. We will also examine how co-operation in international fora can be advanced, including in the United Nations Commission on Human Rights.

Human Rights Issues.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

79 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the steps which have been taken by the Government to ameliorate the situation in Zimbabwe concerning the repression of its citizens; and if the Government has had contact with the opposition MDC party. [9478/04]

The EU is greatly concerned about repression of the citizens of Zimbabwe. In February 2004, the EU's common position on Zimbabwe noted the deterioration in the human rights situation in that country. Faced with this scenario, the Council renewed sanctions on those individuals whom the EU regards as bearing a major responsibility for serious violations of human rights and of the freedom of opinion, of association and of peaceful assembly. The sanctions are targeted against the political elite and include a travel ban and an assets freeze, as well as a general arms embargo. The Council also expressed its deep concern at legislation in Zimbabwe which seriously infringes citizens' right to freedom of association and assembly, namely, the Public Order and Security Act, POSA. Concern was similarly expressed in relation to the application and provisions of the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, AIPPA, which denies freedom of expression and restricts freedom of the press.

As regards the second part of the Deputy's question, departmental officials have had meetings with representatives of the Movement for Democratic Change, MDC, including with Morgan Tsvangirai, president of the MDC. They have also met with Mr. Gibson Sibanda, vice president of the MDC on the margins of the UN Commission of Human Rights, UNCHR, when Mr. Sibanda expressed his full support for the draft resolution on human rights in Zimbabwe which was drafted by Ireland as EU Presidency. This resolution will be considered at UNCHR on 15 April 2004. The EU is strongly committed to the welfare of the Zimbabwean people, as evidenced by its donation of €294 million of humanitarian assistance to the citizens of Zimbabwe over the 2002-03 period.

Development Co-operation Ireland, DCI, has also made available over €8 million in emergency and humanitarian assistance for the affected countries in southern Africa in 2002, of which €3 million went directly to Zimbabwe. In 2003, DCI also provided funding of over €2 million to five development projects in Zimbabwe.

State Airports.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

80 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he was notified in advance, or if permission was sought, for the US Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld to address US troops en route to the war in Iraq at Shannon Airport; if such permission was given; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9483/04]

Permission for the aircraft carrying US Secretary for Defence Rumsfeld to land at Shannon airport was granted in accordance with the normal procedures. As regards his meeting with and speaking to US military personnel in transit at the airport, this appears to have been a spontaneous act, and the question of advance knowledge did not, therefore, arise.

Decentralisation Programme.

Eamon Ryan

Question:

81 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the sections of his Department that have already been relocated outside of Dublin to date; and the extent to which the workers transferred were the original workers attached to his Department. [9487/04]

The Department of Foreign Affairs established a passport sub-office in Cork city in 1987. Two of the original three posts were filled from within the Department. The third officer came from another Department. The staffing complement of the office has increased in the intervening years, as a consequence of its up-grade to full passport issuing-status with responsibility for processing all applications from the Munster area, and in line with significant annual increases in passport demand since 1987. The office's current staff complement is 56 posts.

The Deputy will be aware of my announcement in February of last year of plans to open a new passport production facility in Balbriggan during 2004. This will involve the relocation of 80 to 90 posts initially, approximately one third of which are expected to be filled by staff recruited from other Departments and offices.

Special Educational Needs.

Richard Bruton

Question:

82 Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for Education and Science if his attention has been drawn to a new strategy developed by a person (details supplied) in Dublin 15 for the education of persons with dyslexia; if he is undertaking an assessment of this system to see whether it can be used by his Department as a key element in addressing the needs of children with dyslexia; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9421/04]

I can confirm that my Department has received correspondence relating to the education of persons with dyslexia from the person referred to by the Deputy. The matter is currently receiving attention in my Department and a response will issue to the person in question in due course.

Finian McGrath

Question:

83 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Science if a plan will be outlined for a person (details supplied) in Dublin 9 with a disability, and a special needs assistant put in place at St. Fiachra’s junior school, Beaumont, Dublin 9, in order to provide an educational service for them. [9422/04]

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 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 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 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.

School Placement.

Finian McGrath

Question:

84 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Science the position regarding a person (details supplied) in Dublin 3 who is seeking a place in the local secondary school; and the outcome of the appeals procedure. [9423/04]

An appeal has been processed on behalf of the child referred to by the Deputy, under the procedures for appeal to the Secretary General of my Department under section 29 of the Education Act 1998, in respect of the decision of Ard Scoil Rís to refuse his enrolment. The appeals committee has determined not to uphold the appeal regarding his refused enrolment to Ard Scoil Rís, Griffith Avenue, Dublin 9. The parents of the child in question have been informed of this decision.

The National Educational Welfare Board, NEWB, can assist parents who are experiencing difficulty in securing a school place for their child. The welfare board has indicated that it will treat children for whom an appeal under section 29 has been unsuccessful as priority cases in offering such assistance. The NEWB has been informed of the determination of the appeals committee in this case so that it can advise and assist his parents in securing an alternative school placement.

School Transport.

John McGuinness

Question:

85 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Education and Science, further to Parliamentary Question No. 228 of 10 February 2004, if he has obtained a report on the case; if so, the action he will take; and if the cost of transport will be granted. [9440/04]

Bus Éireann has advised that the person to whom the Deputy refers is over 18 years of age and has not attended the school referred to by him in Parliamentary Question No. 228 of 10 February 2004 since 1996. On the basis of the information available the provision of transport to the school referred by the Deputy does not arise.

Computerisation Programme.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

86 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the amount allocated to the promotion of information technology at secondary schools for each year since 1997; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9441/04]

The Deputy will be aware that significant resources have been expended by my Department under the Schools IT 2000 — 1998-2000 and Blueprint for the Future in Irish Education — 2001-03 initiatives to integrate ICT into first and second level education. Capital resources were made available directly to schools in respect of ICT infrastructure and are set out below for post-primary schools.

In addition, a range of ICT current support services were made available to teachers and schools, in particular in the areas of teacher professional development, technical advice and assistance through national and local structures, the promotion of ICT in the curriculum and the dissemination of best practice in the use of the technology in teaching and learning. This current resource was administered in the main through the national centre for technology in education, NCTE. Given the general crosscutting nature of the services, it would neither be feasible nor meaningful to desegregate between national, special national and post-primary schools. The overall expenditure is therefore set out in the following table:

Capital allocations to post-primary schools

€ million

1998

4.073

1999

4.538

2000

0.671

2001

8.208

2002

7.238

2003

2.356

Current — relevant to national, special national and post-primary schools

€ million

1998

3.809

1999

9.013

2000

8.257

2001

4.757

2002

6.791

2003

7.699

Institutes of Technology.

Batt O'Keeffe

Question:

87 Mr. B. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Education and Science the total costs of public relations spending in respect of each institute of technology; the contract details agreed; and the companies or persons involved for the year ended 2003. [9442/04]

Institutes of technology are statutory bodies established under the Regional Technical Colleges Acts 1992-1999 and the Dublin Institute of Technology Acts 1992-1999. Under these Acts, the governance and day to day activities of the institutes are matters for which the governing bodies and the management staff of the institutes are responsible.

School Staffing.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

88 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the pupil per computer ratio at secondary schools; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9445/04]

The Deputy will be aware that significant resources have been brought to bear under my Department's Schools IT 2000 — 1998-2000 and Blueprint for the Future of ICT in Irish Education — 2001-03 initiatives to integrate ICT into first and second level education. Large elements of these resources have been directed at assisting in the development of schools ICT infrastructure. Censuses of ICT infrastructure have been taken throughout this process and the most recent taken in the 2002-03 academic year shows that the pupil to computer ratio has fallen in post-primary schools from 16:1 to 9:1.

Special Educational Needs.

David Stanton

Question:

89 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of special education resource applications, received by his Department before 31 August 2003, which have been considered; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9446/04]

In all, more than 5,000 applications for special education resources were received in my Department between the 15 February and 31 August 2003. 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.

Departmental Schemes.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

90 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Education and Science if his attention has been drawn to the alarm felt in the 55 schools that have been included in the stay in school retention initiative, due to the reduction from €50,000 per annum to €12,000 per annum per school; his long-term plans for the scheme; the way in which the good works being done under the initiative can continue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9447/04]

In 2002, my Department introduced the school completion programme, SCP, which is a new and significantly expanded programme to deal with early school leaving incorporating the learning, experience and best practice derived from previous early school leaving initiatives, namely the eight to 15 early school leaver initiative, ESLI, and stay in school retention initiative at second level, SSRI.

Evidence generated from the pilot phases of the school completion programme shows that the most effective way of addressing educational disadvantage is through an integrated services approach involving primary and post-primary schools, parents, communities and relevant statutory and voluntary agencies. This is the approach, which my Department is now taking to address the problem of early school leaving, which replaces the previous process of funding individual second level schools under the stay in school retention initiative.

Some 82 projects are currently supported and the remaining 53 SSRI schools not originally selected for the project strand are supported on a phasing out basis under the School Completion Programme. The options for the future of the School Completion Programme are being considered in the context of a broad review of all of the initiatives to tackle educational disadvantage and early school leaving, which is currently underway in my Department.

Decentralisation Programme.

Eamon Ryan

Question:

91 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Education and Science the sections of his Department that have already been relocated outside of Dublin to date; and the extent to which the workers transferred were the original workers attached to his Department. [9488/04]

My Department has approximately 335 staff in Athlone and approximately 195 in Tullamore following previous decentralisation which took place between 1977 and 1995. Some of the staff would have been directly recruited, some promoted and some would have transferred to those locations. My Department does not have statistics to indicate the Department of origin of the staff in question who were already serving civil servants prior to the transfer to Athlone and Tullamore.

School Staffing.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

92 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science if and when a special needs resource teacher can be provided for a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9509/04]

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 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 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 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.

Teaching Qualifications.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

93 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Education and Science if an Irish student accepts a place on a UK-recognised GTP course, if the qualification at the end of the course will be recognised here; if so, the requirements to be met and the way in which it is validated; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9518/04]

The course of study referred to by the Deputy has not been granted general recognition for the purpose of teaching in this State.

The Registration Council is the statutory body which determines, with the approval of the Minister for Education and Science, the qualification requirements for the purpose of registration as a secondary teacher. The council prescribes that each applicant for registration as a secondary teacher must, among other requirements, hold a relevant third level qualification which in the opinion of the council, is adequate to enable the holder to teach at least one of the approved subjects or areas of study approved for the purpose of a course of instruction as set out in the rules and programme for secondary schools together with a suitable training in teaching qualification acceptable to the council which is directed towards the age range 12 to eight years.

Applications for the recognition of qualifications for the purpose of registration are considered by the council at meetings which take place on a periodic basis. In order for the council to assess the suitability of qualifications for teaching purposes, full details of the courses of study pursued must be submitted. If the person to whom the Deputy refers makes contact with the secretariat of the Registration Council at the offices of my Department in Athlone, he or she will be advised as to how to apply for recognition of the qualifications in question. The provisions applying to recognition of qualifications gained outside the State for the purpose of teaching in national schools are set out in my Department's circular No. 25/00 which is available from the primary teachers' section of my Department in Athlone or can be viewed on the Department's websitewww.education.ie.

School Staffing.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

94 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason a person (details supplied) in County Waterford was not informed by the County Waterford VEC that his Department had sanctioned a permanent whole-time position for them on 23 February 2000; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9519/04]

The decision to offer a person a permanent whole-time teaching position, following sanction from my Department, is an operational matter to be dealt with by the particular VEC.

Departmental Funding.

John McGuinness

Question:

95 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Education and Science if a course will be funded in Belfast for a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny. [9520/04]

My Department has received a request for funding towards the cost of attending the course referred to by the Deputy. A response will issue to the person in question as quickly as possible.

John McGuinness

Question:

96 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Education and Science if there is a grant to students at third level to cover the cost of a thesis; if councils reimburse the fees involved on submission of an invoice; if there is a grant, if the conditions have changed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9521/04]

Clause 5 of the 2003 higher education grants scheme and the vocational education committee's scholarship scheme provides for the payment of a grant in respect of the charge for student services, registration and examinations.

Where a candidate qualifies for a maintenance grant and is pursuing an approved course to which the free fees initiative applies or, would have qualified for a lecture fee grant but for the free fees initiative, the paying agent shall, where applicable, award the candidate a grant in respect of the charge for student services, registration and examinations up to €670. Where a candidate qualifies for a maintenance grant and is pursuing an approved course at postgraduate level, the paying agent shall award a grant in respect of the charge for student services, registration and examinations of up to €670 provided the charge and the tuition fee does not exceed the maximum fee limit. This grant shall be paid directly to the college-institution by the paying agent. There is no specific provision in the student support maintenance schemes to cover the costs of a thesis and it is not planned to introduce any such provision.

Site Acquisitions.

John McGuinness

Question:

97 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress made in purchasing a site and providing a new building for the school of the Holy Spirit, Kilkenny; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9522/04]

I am pleased to advise the Deputy that a site for the school of the Holy Spirit has been identified. The matter of the transfer of ownership is currently being addressed.

On the proposed large-scale building project for the school, it is listed in section 8 of the 2004 school building programme which is published on my Department's website atwww.education.ie. The project has been assigned a band 1 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 Transport.

Dan Boyle

Question:

98 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Education and Science if he plans in the next 12 months to reform both the school transport system and the guidelines and eligibility for parents to access the system; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9523/04]

In view of the rapidly escalating cost of providing the school transport service, which has more than doubled since 1997, my Department is in the process of finalising a review designed to identify efficiencies and savings which can contribute to a containment of the cost of this service. No decision has been taken regarding the implementation of any specific recommendation contained in the review.

Fisheries Protection.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

99 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if his attention has been drawn to the ongoing unauthorised movement of mussel seed and mature mussels from the public fishery area of Carlingford Lough; the measures he is proposing to take to end this illegal movement; when these measures will be implemented; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9473/04]

The State operates a system whereby all movements of bivalve molluscs, including mussels, for relaying purposes, must be authorised with a view to the control of animal disease and the protection of human health. My Department has been informed of allegations of unauthorised movement of mussel seed and mature mussels from the public fishery in Carlingford Lough.

As the Deputy will appreciate, allegations of this nature, and the background which gave rise to them, require full investigation. My Department is currently carrying out this investigation.

Decentralisation Programme.

Eamon Ryan

Question:

100 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the sections of his Department that have already been relocated outside of Dublin to date; and the extent to which the workers transferred were the original workers attached to his Department. [9489/04]

In 1976, approximately 50 staff in the accounts branch of the then named forest and wildlife service were decentralised to Castlebar, County Mayo. As a result of departmental reconfiguration over time and, in particular, the establishment of the State forestry agency, Coillte, the accounts branch of my Department based in Castlebar today consists of 18 staff.

Given the number of years that have elapsed and the extent of reconfiguration of departmental boundaries since this decentralisation, my Department is not in a position to source the specific information requested by the Deputy in relation to the Castlebar decentralisation.

In addition, approximately 100 of my Department's staff are situated at almost 20 regional locations outside Dublin. This number includes my Department's accounts branch, Irish coast guard staff, sea fishery officers, marine surveyors, engineering staff and administrative support staff. Typically these staff were engaged on the basis of employment at specified locations outside Dublin.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

101 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he will clarify the current position with regard to the relocation of the Central Fisheries Board from Glasnevin to Carrick-on-Shannon; if his attention has been drawn to the serious difficulties for the work of the board presented by the proposed temporary move to Swords and Abbotstown; and if he will upgrade the Glasnevin premises for the temporary period until the full move to Carrick-on-Shannon can proceed. [9496/04]

The Central Fisheries Board will be decentralised to Carrick-on-Shannon, County Leitrim, as part of the Government's decentralisation programme. The central implementation committee, under the chairmanship of Mr. Phil Flynn, is currently drawing up an overall implementation plan for decentralisation. This will, I understand, include the timeframe over which decentralisation will take place for the Departments and agencies involved.

In the meantime, I am advised that the accommodation occupied by the Central Fisheries Board in Glasnevin does not meet minimum health and safety standards. Management of the board have gone to great lengths to identify alternative suitable accommodation from which to operate until such time as decentralisation to Carrick-on-Shannon is effected. Any disruption to service is secondary to the health and well-being of the staff of the board. I understand refurbishment of the premises in Glasnevin is not feasible without relocating staff off-site for some considerable time. The safety of staff should be the paramount consideration in determining the earliest date for relocation to Swords and Abbotstown.

Legislative Programme.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

102 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources when he will bring forward the postal services Bill. [9497/04]

I am committed to progressing legislation required for an employee share ownership plan once the conditions of such an agreement are delivered.

Civil Registration System.

Cecilia Keaveney

Question:

103 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Health and Children about the civil registration modernisation programme on marriage; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9439/04]

The new procedures for marriage are set out in Part 6 of the Civil Registration Act 2004. It introduced universal procedures for notification, solemnisation and registration of marriages. The new provisions amount to a substantial modernisation of the provisions that currently apply, many date back to the 19th century.

The administration of the registration system is statutorily a matter for An tArd-Chláraitheoir or the Registrar-General of Births, Deaths and Marriages and the Superintendent Registrars and Registrars who operate under his general direction.

The Register-General is committed to ensuring that the new provisions are brought into operation as soon as possible. Over the coming months, the General Register Office will undertake the wide range of measures required to achieve this, including all necessary consultations with the churches and other bodies. It will also inform the public of the changes to the new marriage procedures.

Departmental Funding.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

104 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for Health and Children about the assistance that can be given to the north eastern branch of the Samaritans based in Drogheda in respect of the purchase of a new premises in Drogheda that will cost over €300,000. [9415/04]

In the past funding was made available to several local branches of the Samaritans. I am not aware of an application from its north eastern branch. Applications are considered on their merits in the context of available funding.

Services for the Elderly.

Conor Lenihan

Question:

105 Mr. C. Lenihan asked the Minister for Health and Children the assistance available to persons caring for an elderly relative in their home; and the plans his Department has to encourage this phenomenon to ensure that the escalating cost of nursing home accommodation does not become a burden on the Exchequer and families. [9416/04]

Conor Lenihan

Question:

107 Mr. C. Lenihan asked the Minister for Health and Children his Department’s policy to encourage children to look after their parents when they reach an advanced age; and the anticipated measures required to make this a real option for families. [9418/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 105 and 107 together.

My Department's policy is to maintain older people, in dignity and independence, in their home for as long as possible in accordance with their wishes. The policy was first enunciated in the care of the aged report published in 1968 and confirmed in the report entitled The Years Ahead — A Policy for the Elderly published in 1988. Numerous research studies show that the vast majority of older people have a preference to remain living in their own home for as long as possible rather than moving into long-term residential care. The preferred option for most families is to help care for their elderly relatives at home for as long as possible with the assistance of local health service staff.

Since my appointment as Minister of State, I have encouraged the Eastern Regional Health Authority and the health boards to introduce personal care packages for older people as an alternative to long-term residential care. Personal care packages are specifically designed for an individual and could include the provision of a home help service, home subvention payments, arrangements for attendance at a day centre or day hospital and other services such as twilight nursing. Personal care packages allow older persons the option of living in their home rather than going into long-term residential care.

This year an additional €1.25 million was made available to the authority and health boards for the introduction of personal care packages. This is in addition to the significant expenditure currently being paid for home help and other services aimed at supporting people at home.

Housing Grants.

Conor Lenihan

Question:

106 Mr. C. Lenihan asked the Minister for Health and Children if there will be greater grant aid for the refurbishment of homes to allow elderly relatives to be cared for in their children’s homes when this is desired and desirable to relatives and parents. [9417/04]

My Department does not have such a grant scheme. My colleague, the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, is responsible for housing grants and the Deputy may ask him about such a scheme.

Question No. 107 answered with QuestionNo. 105.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Michael Ring

Question:

108 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of persons on waiting lists for hip operations in all health board regions; and the number of persons nationally waiting for hip operations. [9450/04]

The total number of adults waiting more than three months for orthopaedic procedures, including hip operations, either as an inpatient or as a day case at 30 September 2003, the latest date that figures are available, is shown in the following table:

Health Agency

Number of Adults Waiting for Orthopaedic procedures

Eastern Regional Health Authority

1,531

Midland Health Board

99

Mid-Western Health Board

45

North Eastern Health Board

300

North Western Health Board

291

South Eastern Health Board

112

Southern Health Board

216

Western Health Board

429

Total

3,023

The national treatment purchase fund is continuing to target those adults and children waiting longest for treatment. In most instances adults waiting more than six months for an operation and children waiting more than three months will be facilitated by the fund.

As part of a major phase two development at Mayo General Hospital, I have provided funding to begin the development of the orthopaedic service. It consists of a new 33 bed orthopaedic unit and operating theatres. Last month a new orthopaedic consultant took up his appointment.

Pharmacy Qualifications.

Joan Burton

Question:

109 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Health and Children about a person (details supplied) born in Malaysia who wishes to practice pharmacy here and be recognised by the Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland. [9458/04]

The PSI is responsible for the registration of pharmacists and the recognition of pharmacy qualifications. The Deputy should ask the person concerned to contact it in respect of their application to practice here.

Hospital Services.

John McGuinness

Question:

110 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Health and Children, further to Parliamentary Question No. 726 of 27 January, if a response will be expedited to the issue raised; the number of scans that were referred elsewhere out of hours in the past six months; if he will investigate the circumstances of a case in which a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny was referred to Beaumont overnight for a scan; his views on whether these circumstances are acceptable; if the South Eastern Health Board will take action on the issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9469/04]

With regard to Parliamentary Question No. 726 of 27 January, the board informed my Department that a reply will issue to the Deputy shortly. The provision of CT services at St. Luke's Hospital, County Kilkenny, is a matter for the board. My Department has asked its CEO to reply directly to the Deputy.

Health Board Services.

Cecilia Keaveney

Question:

111 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Donegal will be called for orthodontic treatment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9470/04]

Responsibility for the provision of orthodontic treatment to eligible persons in County Donegal rests with the North Western Health Board. My Department has asked its CEO to investigate the matter and reply directly to the Deputy.

Decentralisation Programme.

Eamon Ryan

Question:

112 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Health and Children the sections of his Department that have already been relocated outside of Dublin to date; and how many workers transferred were the originally attached to his Department. [9490/04]

On foot of a Government decision in 1992, a portion of my Department, namely, the General Register's Office, decentralised to Roscommon in 1996. In order to retain an acceptable level of service to the public, and to allow for the modernisation of the service provided by the GRO, including the introduction of new legislation and information technology, it was decided to proceed with the decentralisation on a phased basis. There are now 40 staff employed in the decentralised office. Of this number, three staff transferred from my Department, six staff were directly recruited and the balance of 31 transferred from other Departments.

Hospital Services.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

113 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children if a person (details supplied) in County Kildare will be offered an earlier appointment with a consultant of the Adelaide and Meath Hospital, in view of the fact that the appointment is over eight months away and the person is in constant pain; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9513/04]

Responsibility for the provision of health services to persons residing in Counties Dublin, Kildare and Wicklow rests with the Eastern Regional Health Authority. My Department has asked its CEO to investigate the matter and reply directly to the Deputy.

Health Board Services.

Dan Boyle

Question:

114 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Health and Children if his attention has been drawn to the impending retirement of specialists in the alleviation of cleft lip and palates in the SHB region; and if he will guarantee future provision in this important area. [9524/04]

Provision of these specific services is a matter for the board. My Department has asked its CEO to reply directly to the Deputy.

Medical Aids and Appliances.

John McGuinness

Question:

115 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Health and Children the reasons for the delay in providing a new wheelchair for a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; and if the matter will be expedited. [9525/04]

The provision of aids and appliances, including wheelchairs, is a matter for the relevant health board. My Department has asked the CEO of the Southern Health Board to examine the matter and reply directly to the Deputy, as a matter of urgency.

Hospital Services.

Willie Penrose

Question:

116 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Health and Children if a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath will have a coronary angiogram carried out as quickly as possible. [9526/04]

Responsibility for the provision of hospital services to residents of County Westmeath rests with the Midland Health Board. My Department has asked its CEO to investigate the matter and reply directly to the Deputy.

Vaccination Programme.

Denis Naughten

Question:

117 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children, further to Parliamentary Question No. 334 of 2 March, when the detailed examination of the schemes will be undertaken; if he will provide the Irish Vaccine Injury Campaign with a copy of the overview of other schemes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9539/04]

The developmental work that can be undertaken by my Department in 2004 is concentrated on four major themes: advancing the health reform programme; supporting the health aspects of the EU Presidency; legislation on health reform and other pressing areas such as professional regulation; and monitoring of service plans and budget management by health boards or the ERHA.

The preliminary overview of schemes already undertaken is a working document that forms part of the deliberative process. It would not be appropriate for publication at this stage.

Driving Licences.

Finian McGrath

Question:

118 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Transport if, as a matter of urgency, he will consider using the new plastic card formatted driving licence as an opportunity to introduce an organ donation scheme, involving the person applying to be presumed an organ donor unless they sign an opt-out form. [9425/04]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Parliamentary Question No. 438 of 23 March. At present the paper format driving licence contains an optional section where the licence holder may indicate consent to be an organ donor.

I propose to introduce a plastic card licence and tenders are being considered by my Department. Consideration will be given, as part of the development of the card system, to whether optional information on organ donation might be recorded. It is more appropriate for a prospective organ donor to consent to donation as is currently provided for.

Driving Tests.

Phil Hogan

Question:

119 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Transport when a driving test will be arranged for a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9449/04]

A driving test will be arranged in due course for the person concerned.

Taxi Ranks.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

120 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Transport whether it is his Department or the local county or town council that makes decisions on the location or relocation of taxi ranks. [9456/04]

Section 15 of the Road Traffic Act 2002 provides for the making of by-laws by local authorities appointing the places in a taximeter area where taxis may stand for hire. The making of such by-laws is a reserved function of each local authority.

National Car Test.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

121 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Transport the changes made or proposed in 2004 to the test facility hours for NCT centres. [9426/04]

The opening hours of NCT test centres is a matter for the management of National Car Testing Service Limited. Regard is given to the broad range of customer service parameters for the service set down in the car testing contract. These include the company being able to test within 28 days of a request for an appointment. Test centres must be open for a minimum of 20 hours each week between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. from Monday to Friday. They are also subject to local demand with one early opening from 8 a.m. and one late closing at 8 p.m. each week and at least four hours at weekends.

Driving Tests.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

122 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Transport the proposals he has to substantially reduce the waiting period for driving tests in both Dungarvan and Waterford (details supplied). [9467/04]

At present there are 13 driver testers assigned to the south eastern region covering ten driving test centres, including Dungarvan and Waterford. The level of service at these test centres is broadly in line with the national average.

The overall number awaiting a driving test nationally has risen because of an above average increase of 21% in applications in 2003 compared to 2002. Indications are that applications have fallen to normal levels and I anticipate that waiting times will improve over the coming year.

A bonus scheme for driver testers to help address the backlog was introduced in May 2003 and terminated in November 2003. The possibility of introducing a further bonus scheme in 2004 is being considered. In addition, eight retired driver testers were re-employed with effect from 13 October 2003. Driver testers continue to deliver additional tests by working overtime on Saturdays and weekends.

Preparation of legislation to establish the driver testing and standards authority is at an advanced stage. It will be responsible for driving tests and will have more flexibility to respond to variations in demand. I expect to submit the text of the Bill to Government shortly.

Decentralisation Programme.

Eamon Ryan

Question:

123 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Transport the sections of his Department that have already been relocated outside of Dublin to date; and the extent to which the workers transferred were the original workers attached to his Department. [9491/04]

My Department's driver testing and licensing section has a staffing complement of 58 and is based in Ballina, County Mayo. In 1989 the function was decentralised from the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. Due to the passage of time it is not possible to indicate how many of the workers that transferred to Ballina were originally attached to the Department of the Environment and Local Government. My Department also has a staffing complement of 130 engaged in the provision of driving tests at centres located throughout the country.

Road Safety.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

124 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Transport if, in view of the death toll on roads and the serious slippage on the already terrible 2003 figures, he has plans to review the process of investigation into road deaths and serious injury to heighten public awareness of the dreadful consequences for families and communities. [9516/04]

The increase in the number of fatalities resulting from road collisions since the start of the year is a cause of serious concern, particularly in view of the significant reduction in the number of road accidents, fatalities and serious injuries achieved in recent years.

Under the Government road safety strategy, road accident fatalities fell from 472 in 1997 to 341 in 2003, the lowest number of road deaths in almost 40 years. This reduction was achieved in a period which also witnessed very significant increases in the number of vehicles, drivers and journeys on our roads.

Against this background, and in the light of the recent increase in road accident fatalities, I am particularly anxious to ensure that we redouble our efforts to achieve further significant reductions in road accident fatalities. To this end I will shortly be publishing a detailed three year road safety strategy.

As regards the investigation of road accidents, the position is as follows. The primary immediate investigative role in relation to road accidents is vested in the Garda Síochána. Priority in such an investigation must be given to the determination of the causes of road accidents and in particular to the determination of whether a breach of the road traffic laws contributed to the occurrence. The Garda Síochána is the body empowered to make such a determination and to launch criminal proceedings against any person who the gardaí consider should be accused of the commission of an offence.

Given the pivotal role played by the gardaí in accident investigation, they are tasked with the preparation of detailed reports in relation to each accident they attend. These reports are forwarded to the National Roads Authority and subsequently to each local authority for the purpose of the establishment of accident trends and causes generally and to facilitate the carrying out of remedial works relating to road infrastructure where such action is deemed to be necessary.

The National Safety Council is mandated with responsibility for road safety education, advertising and awareness campaigns. The council has developed hard-hitting advertising campaigns targeting the key target areas of speed, drink driving and seat belt wearing. I have no immediate proposals to establish alternative arrangements for investigating road accidents.

Metro System.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

125 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Transport when he will announce a metro system for Dublin. [9517/04]

The programme for Government contains a commitment to develop a metro with a link to Dublin Airport. I have received the revised outline business case for phase 1 from the Railway Procurement Agency. It includes line from the airport to Dublin city centre. I am finalising my proposals on a metro in the context of the wider needs of the greater Dublin area and I expect to bring them to the Government shortly.

Rail Services.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

126 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Transport the plans he has to financially support Iarnród Éireann rail freight operations because the expansion of rail freight is a core objective of the European Commission’s September 2001 White Paper on Transport (details supplied), the EU’s Marco Polo programme on intermodal freight transport and the strategic rail review; and if he has explored the EU provisions that might regulate the granting of such assistance. [9536/04]

On 16 March the EU Council of Ministers and the European Parliament reached agreement in a conciliation conference on the second railway package. Subject to formal adoption of the conciliation agreement by both institutions, this legislative package includes provision for the full liberalisation of access to the international rail freight market in the EU from 1 January 2006. It also provides for full liberalisation of national rail freight markets from 1 January 2007. From that date access to the Irish Rail network will be open to other operators. They will have a right of access to the network. Terms and conditions will be worked out with Irish Rail and will conform with the provisions of the proposed directive. I have no plans to provide additional funding to Irish Rail to specifically support its rail freight operations.

Irish Rail is restructuring its rail freight business as part of an overall plan to address its difficult financial position. It will develop its profitable traffic, such as bulk freight and trainload traffic, and will reshape the loss making container business.

The company has had some success with the plan and has attracted additional traffic, particularly from the west of Ireland. It is negotiating with prospective customers and continues to examine new sources of business. All of this will serve to reduce the impact of freight on the road network.

Rail Accidents.

Denis Naughten

Question:

127 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Transport if he received the final report on the Cahir rail accident; and its recommendations. [9537/04]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Parliamentary Question No. 818 on 27 January. I said that the chief railway inspecting officer expected to submit his final report to me by the end of March. Due to a short delay in the availability of certain technical evidence he expects to submit it by the end of April.

Driving Tests.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

128 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Transport the reason a person (details supplied) in County Wexford must retake a driving test when only their licence has been lost and the licence certificate number is available; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9540/04]

The certificate of competency referred to was issued on 2 February 1998 to the person concerned following the passing of a driving test in category B. The Road Traffic (Licensing of Drivers) Regulations 1999, S.I. 352, provide that a certificate of competency shall cease to be valid two years after the date of issue. All successful test candidates are advised of that fact on completion of the test.

To be granted a driving licence, a person must submit a certificate of competency with his or her application for a driving licence to the licensing authority within two years of the date of issue of the certificate of competency. A further certificate of competency can be obtained only on successfully completing a further driving test.

European Council Meetings.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

129 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he has discussed with his EU counterparts the possibility of a terrorist attack and the means with which to deal with it; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9504/04]

On 19 March, I chaired an extraordinary meeting of the Justice and Home Affairs Council of the European Union, at which a draft declaration on combating terrorism was agreed and forwarded for consideration at today's extraordinary meeting of the European Council. The draft declaration contains a range of measures aimed at enhancing member states' responses at Union level to the terrorist threat arising from the Madrid bombings.

Domestically, I am informed that the Garda Síochána has excellent lines of communication and co-operation with police forces and security services in the European Union, which are used on an ongoing basis and in response to particular events, including the Madrid bombings.

I am further informed that such ongoing sharing of intelligence enables the Garda Síochána to put in place a rapid operational response where circumstances so warrant.

Criminal Prosecutions.

John Deasy

Question:

130 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of times which the amendment effected by section 5 of the Criminal Justice Act 1999 has been availed of since its introduction; if he has satisfied himself with that; the plans he has to ensure greater use of the mandatory sentence; and if he has further satisfied himself that the measure has been effective in countering the activities of drug dealers. [9409/04]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that, as of 6 November 2003, the number of persons convicted under section 15(a) of the Misuse of Drugs Acts 1977 and 1984, as inserted by the Criminal Justice Act 1999, since it became law on 26 May 1999, stood at 276. Under that provision, the number of persons who had received prison sentences of ten years or more by that date stood at 12. More up to date figures on the matter have been sought from the Garda authorities and will be supplied to the Deputy as soon as they are available.

I have already indicated my concern at the low number of sentences of ten years or more imposed and am reviewing the operation of the relevant provisions. That process will be informed by the results of the study which my Department has commissioned into convictions for the new drug-trafficking offence created by the 1999 Act.

Grant Payments.

Mary Wallace

Question:

131 Ms M. Wallace asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the amount of money his Department has provided for a group (details supplied) in the past four years, in view of its excellent work with regard to harmony in the home and confronting bullying; if his Department can increase the funding available for the work carried out by that group; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9410/04]

I can inform the Deputy that the grant funding made available to the group mentioned is outlined in the tabular statement below.

Year

Course

Amount

2003

Harmony in the Home

2,000

Confronting Bullying

1,000

2002

Harmony in the Home

10,000

2001

Harmony in the Home

6,349 (£5,000)

2000

Nil

I can assure the Deputy that any future application for funding received from that group will be considered in the normal way.

European Council Meetings.

Finian McGrath

Question:

132 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will raise the case of five persons (details supplied) who were working to save Cuban and American lives from terrorist organisations which operate in Miami at future EU Justice Ministers’ meetings. [9411/04]

The case raised by the Deputy relates to five Cuban citizens who were convicted in the US in December 2001 on charges ranging from espionage to first degree murder, and whose appeal is now being heard. As I have previously informed the Deputy, the Government has no standing in the matter, which is a bilateral consular question between the Cuban and US authorities.

Road Traffic Offences.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

133 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the plans he has to exempt the emergency services, including all ambulance services, from the fixed-penalty notice directives when in the course of their important work; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9412/04]

Legislation regarding speeding is contained within the Road Traffic Acts 1961 to 2003 and regulations made thereunder. This legislation is a matter for my colleague, Deputy Brennan, the Minister for Transport.

Prison Staff.

Jack Wall

Question:

134 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding a person (details supplied) in County Kildare seeking to return property to his Department in view of the fact that no personnel of the section of his Department have contacted the person with a view to collecting the material involved; his views on security regarding such items; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9413/04]

The person referred to by the Deputy had his probationary services terminated in 1998 because of a failure to provide regular service. On 7 August of that year, my Department wrote to advise the individual that he had been removed from the payroll and that he should immediately return his prison officer uniform and identification card to Mountjoy Prison. Those items remain the property of the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform and, while satisfied that the matter has had no implications for security to date, arrangements are now being made by the Prison Service to have the property in question collected without further delay.

Grant Payments.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

135 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when a decision will be made on the application by Presentation Convent family centre, Listowel, County Kerry for a grant to build a new centre; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9459/04]

An application for capital grant assistance under the equal opportunities child care programme 2000 to 2006 was received from this community-based group in the middle of 2002.

All applications for grant assistance undergo a thorough assessment and appraisal process against the programme criteria by Area Development Management Limited, which has been engaged by my Department to undertake the work on my behalf.

As a large-scale project, the application required a thorough review by an external building specialist to assess the suitability of the proposal and its value for money. I am aware that there has been significant ongoing dialogue between the group, Area Development Management Limited, and the external building specialist with regard to the application. On completion of the assessment process, applications are normally considered by the programme appraisal committee, chaired by my Department, which will make a funding recommendation to me before I make a final decision on the matter.

There has been considerable demand from community-based groups for capital grant assistance under the programme, and every county has benefited from significant grant commitments to provide new and enhanced community-based child care facilities.

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

Every effort is being made to expedite the programme review of the capital elements of the equal opportunities child care programme to ensure that all capital projects which have already received grant allocations will proceed. The Deputy will appreciate that over 1,100 capital grants have been allocated already, totalling over €114 million. Many of those projects are either awaiting planning permission or the completion of tender processes before reasonable assurance can be given that they will proceed. In the event that a project does not proceed, the funding can be decommitted and made available to another project.

At the same time, an extensive review of child care provision is taking place to identify obvious service gaps, the filling of which will be a priority using the remaining capital funding, which currently amounts to some €30 million, not including decommitted funding and possible funding transfers from other elements of the programme following the current review. The careful analysis of that information is essential if the best use is to be made of the significant capital funding being provided by the Government to support the child care needs of parents who may be in employment, education or training. I hope that the review work will be completed before Easter, following which the critical appraisal of all applications against the programme criteria will lead to the allocation of further capital funding.

I remind the Deputy that the equal opportunities child care programme 2000 to 2006 is a seven year development programme. The progress of the programme was commented upon very favourably by the mid-term evaluators of both the regional operational programmes and the national development plan for 2000 to 2006. Expenditure under the programme must take place in a planned manner and covers the period until the end of 2007. Accordingly, grant approvals must take place in a carefully planned manner to ensure that the programme can meet its financial commitments at all times. In the interim, it would not be appropriate for me to comment further on the application.

Reception and Integration Agency.

John Bruton

Question:

136 Mr. J. Bruton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will give an outline of the responsibilities of newcomers to Ireland, which it is his intention the Reception and Integration Agency will assist newcomers to Ireland to take on board as part of their participation in the economic, social and cultural aspects of Irish society, as referred to by him in his response to Question No. 16 of 26 February 2004. [9460/04]

As I indicated to the Deputy in my response to Question No. 16 of 26 February 2004, the Reception and Integration Agency, or RIA, of my Department is responsible for the co-ordination and implementation of integration policy in the case of persons with refugee status or with leave to remain in the State. As the Deputy will be aware, that cohort of immigrants constitutes a relatively small proportion of the entire immigrant population in the State.

As regards the specific responsibilities of immigrants to the State and, in particular, those immigrants who are likely to become long-term residents of the State by virtue of being recognised as refugees or by virtue of being given leave to remain, I draw the Deputy's attention to the report by the interdepartmental working group on the integration of refugees in Ireland, Integration — A Two Way Process. That 1999 report defined integration as "the ability to participate to the extent that a person needs and wishes in all of the major components of society, without having to relinquish his or her own cultural identity." Moreover, the report goes on to state that, as a two-way process, "integration places an obligation on both society and the individual refugee. From the refugee's perspective, integration requires a willingness to adapt to the lifestyle of Irish society without abandoning or being expected to abandon one's own cultural identity. From the point of view of Irish society, it requires a willingness to accept refugees on the basis of equality and to take action to facilitate access to services, resources and decision-making in parity with Irish nationals".

Grant Payments.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

137 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if a grant will be provided to St. Brigid’s Community Centre, Hawley Park, Tralee, County Kerry to develop a purpose-built child care facility; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9471/04]

An application for capital grant assistance under the equal opportunities child care programme 2000 to 2006 was received from this community-based group on 30 December 2003.

All applications for grant assistance undergo a thorough assessment and appraisal process against the programme criteria by Area Development Management Limited, which has been engaged by my Department to undertake the work on my behalf.

I have made inquiries with the child care directorate and have been informed that the application is currently under appraisal. When the appraisal process is completed, the application will be considered by the programme appraisal committee, chaired by my Department, for a funding recommendation before I make a final decision on the application.

There has been considerable demand from community-based groups for capital grant assistance under the programme, and every county has benefited from significant grant commitments to provide new and enhanced community-based child care facilities.

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

Every effort is being made to expedite the programme review of the capital elements of the equal opportunities child care programme to ensure that all capital projects which have already received grant allocations will proceed. The Deputy will appreciate that over 1,100 capital grants have been allocated already totalling over €114 million. Many of those projects are either awaiting planning permission or the completion of tender processes before reasonable assurance can be given that they will proceed. In the event that a project does not proceed, the funding can be decommitted and made available to another project.

At the same time, an extensive review of child care provision on the ground is taking place to identify obvious service gaps, the filling of which will be a priority using the remaining capital funding, which currently amounts to some €30 million, not including decommitted funding, and possible funding transfers from other elements of the programme following the current review. The careful analysis of that information is essential if the best use is to be made of the significant capital funding being provided by the Government to support the child care needs of parents who may be in employment, education or training. I hope that the review work will be completed before Easter, following which the critical appraisal of all applications against the programme criteria will lead to the allocation of further capital funding.

I remind the Deputy that the equal opportunities child care programme 2000 to 2006 is a seven-year development programme. The progress of the programme was commented upon very favourably by the mid-term evaluators of both the regional operational programmes and the national development plan for 2000 to 2006. Expenditure under the programme must take place in a planned manner and covers the period until the end of 2007. Accordingly, grant approvals must take place in a carefully planned manner to ensure that the programme can meet its financial commitments at all times.

In the interim it would not be appropriate for me to comment further on this application.

Drug Court.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

138 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will report on progress to date on the expansion of the drug court in the Dublin region. [9472/04]

The pilot drug court programme was launched in the Dublin District Court on 9 January 2001, and the first sitting took place on 16 January 2001. Dublin's north inner city was chosen as the location from which to operate the pilot drug court.

The pilot drug court programme marked a major policy initiative in the criminal justice system and was designed as an alternative measure for dealing with less serious and non-violent drug offenders. The project was evaluated by expert consultants at the end of the 18-month period in July 2002. They recommended that the pilot project be extended and the catchment area be widened to include the Dublin 7 area for the period of the extended pilot project to focus on the research and development activity necessary to roll out the drug court more widely, while continuing and expanding the current pilot to test and refine further the emerging model and to address difficulties which had been identified.

I welcomed the recommendations contained in the report and supported the extension of the drug court to the full Dublin 7 catchment area. That will allow time for further consideration, in consultation with the relevant Departments and agencies, of how the drug court concept should be further developed and resourced.

Decentralisation Programme.

Eamon Ryan

Question:

139 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the sections of his Department that have already been relocated outside of Dublin to date; and the extent to which the workers transferred were the original workers attached to his Department. [9492/04]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Questions Nos. 466 to 468, inclusive, of 24 February 2004.

Registration of Title.

Willie Penrose

Question:

140 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if steps will be taken to expedite an application for registration by a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath, as same is urgently required; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9534/04]

I am informed by the Registrar of Titles that this is an application for first registration which was lodged on 22 August 1997. Dealing No. D1997XS006276J refers.

I am further informed that the application has been the subject of ongoing queries with the lodging solicitor since 13 March 1998 and that the queries which issued on 6 February 2003 were replied to on 23 January 2004.

I understand that, owing to the complicated nature of these types of cases, which require examination of an applicant's entitlement to the property concerned, it is not possible to estimate a date of completion at present.

However, I can assure the Deputy that the application is receiving attention and will be completed as soon as possible.

Closed Circuit Television Systems.

Denis Naughten

Question:

141 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if the technical specification and codes of practice documents for community-based closed circuit television schemes have been circulated to participating towns; if he will provide a copy of those documents; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9535/04]

I am informed that, while delays have been encountered in finalising the code of practice and technical specification documents regarding my Department's community-based CCTV scheme, both documents are now almost complete.

When they are finalised, my Department will issue copies of both the technical specifications and the code of practice to all entities which have expressed an interest in the community-based CCTV scheme. Any applications subsequently received will then be evaluated and processed.

Given that the documents have not yet been finalised and are therefore subject to change, it is not possible to provide the Deputy with a copy of the technical specifications or the code of practice now.

Human Rights Issues.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

142 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he proposes to amend the Housing (Private Rented Dwellings) Act 1982 in view of the judgement of the European Court of Human Rights on 24 July 2003 in a case (details supplied), to bring the Act into compliance with the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms regarding the right of a surviving partner of a same sex couple to inherit a tenancy on the death of the official tenant; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9424/04]

The Housing (Private Rented Dwellings) Act 1982, confers a right to retain, as a tenant, possession of a formerly rent controlled dwelling for the lifetime of the person who was the tenant at the commencement of the Act on 26 July 1982 and for the lifetime of the person's spouse. My Department is currently examining the judgment referred to in the question to consider if any action is required regarding the 1982 Act.

Rights of People with Disabilities.

David Stanton

Question:

143 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the accessible system to be provided to enable blind persons to exercise their constitutional right to cast their ballots at elections in secret; the consultation that he has engaged in to ensure the suitability of any such proposed system and the user testing that has taken place or will take place; and the way in which verification of the vote will be made available to blind persons in the upcoming elections and in future elections. [9443/04]

Since its first use in 2002, several improvements have 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.

In addition, my Department is examining the development of a facility for the future whereby visually impaired voters, who would otherwise require assistance to vote, will be able to use the new voting system independently. My Department will be consulting with the National Disability Authority and the National Council for the Blind, which have already provided constructive input into the improvements made to the voting machine, regarding the development of that voting machine feature.

Existing arrangements for visually impaired voters will continue to apply in an electronic context. Those include postal voting, voting at an alternative polling station where such is requested and companion or assisted voting.

Grant Payments.

Paddy McHugh

Question:

144 Mr. McHugh asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the reason for the delay in processing an application by a person (details supplied) in County Galway for a thatching grant; when the application will be processed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9448/04]

An inspection was recently carried out, and notification of approval to a grant will be issued to the applicant shortly.

Michael Ring

Question:

145 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the reason funding has not been allocated for the erection of protective barriers on Dooncartan Mountain in Pollathomas, County Mayo; and when that funding will be sanctioned. [9482/04]

It is now a matter for Mayo County Council to determine the allocation from the significantly increased funding provided by my Department in 2004 which the council considers appropriate for works designed to prevent a recurrence of the landslide at the location.

Decentralisation Programme.

Eamon Ryan

Question:

146 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the sections of his Department that have already been relocated outside Dublin to date; and the extent to which the workers transferred were the original workers attached to his Department. [9493/04]

My Department has participated in two previous decentralisation programmes. In 1983, the vehicle registration unit decentralised to Shannon, while under a later decentralisation programme in 1989 several sections moved to Ballina.

The information sought on the status of the staff who originally took up employment in those offices is not readily available at this stage, and its compilation would involve a disproportionate amount of time and work.

Departmental Correspondence.

Denis Naughten

Question:

147 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will reply to an e-mail sent to his office on 20 January 2004 from a person (details supplied); the procedure for dealing with electronic correspondence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9538/04]

Electronic correspondence is given equal priority to other correspondence received in my Department. While there is no record in my Department of the e-mail dated 20 January 2004 referred to in the question, a reply was issued to an e-mail dated 3 March 2004.

Regarding the issue raised, the superannuation of employees of local authorities and health boards is a matter for the employers concerned. Any queries regarding the superannuation entitlements of an individual employee should be directed to the person's employing authority. I understand that the query in this case relates to a person who is an employee of a health board.

Grant Payments.

Willie Penrose

Question:

148 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if, regarding an application for funding under the capital assistance scheme for a property at Custom House, Athlone, County Westmeath, on behalf of ONE, a decision will be made as quickly as possible and funding granted; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9541/04]

Pat Breen

Question:

149 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs when CLÁR funding will be made available for recreational facilities for national schools; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9455/04]

I am currently finalising the details for the implementation and management of the scheme for the enhancement of outdoor school play facilities and expect to be able to announce the first round of projects selected shortly thereafter.

As I indicated in my reply to a similar question last month, my colleague, the Minister for Education and Science, has made funds of up to €0.5 million available to the scheme, which will supplement the €1 million allocation from my own Department this year.

Departmental Staff.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

150 D’fhiafraigh Aengus Ó Snodaigh den Aire Gnóthaí Pobail, Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta cad é an grád nua fostaíochta is cóir a bheith ag duine (sonraí curtha ar fáil) atá fostaithe ag Foras na Gaeilge in Áis, Sráid na bhFíníní, Baile Átha Cliath, mar nach ann don ghrád iompróir páipéir a thuilleadh agus an eol don Aire cathain a bheas an t-ardú cuí faoin mbinsemharcáil ag dul dó. [9468/04]

Tuigtear dom ó Fhoras na Gaeilge go bhfuil soiléiriú faighte faoi ghrád an oifigigh atá luaite ag an Teachta agus go mbeidh an t-ardú cuí ata dlite dó faoi bhínsemharcáil á íoc leis go luath.

Decentralisation Programme.

Eamon Ryan

Question:

151 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the sections of his Department that have already been relocated outside Dublin to date; and the extent to which the workers transferred were the original workers attached to his Department. [9494/04]

As the Deputy is aware, my Department was established in June 2002. The Gaeltacht division was decentralised to Na Forbacha, County Galway in 1980. The total staff now employed by the Department in that location is 46. The detailed records sought by the Deputy are not readily available given the passage of time and the various changes of Departmental functions which have occurred since.

Eamon Ryan

Question:

152 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the sections of her Department that have already been relocated outside Dublin to date; and the extent to which the workers transferred were the original workers attached to her Department. [9495/04]

My Department has decentralised offices in Sligo, Letterkenny, Longford, Waterford and Dundalk.

In 1989 my Department decentralised the delivery of pension services from Dublin to Sligo. A total of 319 staff were relocated. The number of staff serving in this office has now risen to 552 owing to scheme changes and additional workload over the period. Of the original 319 staff involved, 100 were relocated from within the Department.

In 1990-91 my Department decentralised the delivery of child benefit and treatment benefit office to Letterkenny. A total of 176 staff were relocated. Owing to increased claim loads the number of serving staff has risen to 190. Of the original 176 staff, 64 were relocated from within the Department.

In 1993-94 my Department decentralised long-term illness schemes and certain other services to Longford. A total of 178 staff were relocated. With an increased claim load there are 283 staff serving in this office. Of the original 178 staff who moved to this location, 93 were relocated from within the Department.

In 1995 my Department decentralised part of the client data services to Waterford. A total of 28 staff were relocated. Of these 19 were relocated from within the Department. In 2002 my Department decentralised the accounts branch to Dundalk. A total of 95 staff were relocated. Of these, 36 were relocated from within the Department.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

153 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if supplementary welfare assistance or exceptional needs payment will be offered in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare who has one dependent child and is on a vocational training opportunities scheme course; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9514/04]

The South Western Area Health Board was contacted on behalf of the person in question and has advised that her application was refused on the grounds that, on this occasion, the need was not considered to be of an exceptional nature. If she is not satisfied with the decision, it is open to her to appeal the decision to the health board appeals officer.