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 16, inclusive, answered orally.
Questions Nos. 17 to 39, inclusive, resubmitted.
Questions Nos. 40 to 43, inclusive, answered orally.
Question No. 44 lapsed.
Questions Nos. 45 and 46 answered orally.

Light Rail Project.

John Deasy

Question:

47 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Transport the supervision role of his Department in the Luas project; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10995/04]

As the Deputy will be aware, the Railway Procurement Agency which is under the auspices of my Department is responsible for the delivery of the Luas project. The agency has confirmed that it complies with the requirements of the code of practice for the governance of State bodies, including conformity with the guidelines for the appraisal and management of capital expenditure in the public sector.

A light rail monitoring committee is in place and comprises representatives of my Department, the Department of Finance and the Railway Procurement Agency. Independent technical experts, who report to the Department on a monthly basis, assist the light rail monitoring committee. The RPA also reports on programme and budgetary issues to my Department on a monthly basis.

As regards the supervision of safety, I refer the Deputy to my reply to Question No. 58 of today. Luas passenger services will commence on the Tallaght line at the end of August 2004 and on the Sandyford line at the end of June 2004. The RPA has informed me that the project is within the €691 million budget and €84 million risk provision as notified to the Government in 2002.

National Car Test.

Dan Neville

Question:

48 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Transport the plans he has to review the pass and fail criteria of the NCT; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10984/04]

Dan Neville

Question:

83 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Transport the plans he has to review the NCT contract; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10983/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 48 and 83 together.

A contract was signed with national car testing service, NCTS, in December 1998 to provide a car testing service for the State from January 2000 until 31 December 2009. Under the terms of the contract the performance of NCTS is subject to an annual review which can cover the results of NCT inspections, the results of planned or random sample test inspections, the results of customer satisfaction surveys, the audited financial statements, the company's financial position, customer complaints, the extent of compliance with performance standards and quality accreditation matters.

The main inputs to the annual review are generated by the Department's ongoing supervision of the NCTS with the assistance of a consortium consisting of the Automobile Association and PricewaterhouseCoopers. The consortium provides the Department with the necessary engineering, financial, legal, operations research and market research inputs in order to gauge the company's performance against the specified performance standards.

In addition, the contract provides for a mid-term review to take place five years into the contract, that is, at the end of 2004. While the mid-term review will cover matters dealt with in annual reviews, its overall focus will be more strategic in nature. It is my intention prior to the mid-term review to seek comments from all interested parties for consideration as part of the review.

I have no plans to review the criteria for refusal of a NCT certificate. The national car test was introduced in order to implement the requirements of EU Directive 96/96/EC relating to the roadworthiness testing of passenger cars. The directive specifies the items to be tested as part of a vehicle test. The NCT reflects both the requirements of the directive and those laid down in national regulations relating to the standards which a vehicle must meet for use on a public road.

Road Safety.

Phil Hogan

Question:

49 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Transport when the fifth progress report on the road to safety will be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11019/04]

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

66 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Transport when he plans to publish his new three year road safety strategy; his views on whether the absence of a new road safety strategy is contributing to increased deaths on roads; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12489/04]

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

68 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Transport the measures he intends to introduce to reverse the increase in road fatalities over the past six months. [12544/04]

Dinny McGinley

Question:

111 Mr. McGinley asked the Minister for Transport when he will publish his new road safety strategy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10989/04]

Enda Kenny

Question:

125 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Transport his future plans for road safety; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10988/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 49, 66, 68, 111 and 125 together.

The programme for Government states that a three year road safety strategy will be developed and will target speeding, drink-driving, seat-belt wearing and pedestrian safety in order to reduce deaths and injuries. At my request, the high level group on road safety has prepared a draft new strategy for the period 2004-06 and I have recently received approval from Government to publish the strategy. Arrangements are being put in place to provide for printing and publishing of the document as soon as possible.

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

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

New legislation is being prepared in my Department which will provide support for the deployment of key initiatives in the area of speed limits and drink driving and will further enhance the enforcement capacity of the Garda Síochána. Government approval to the general scheme for that legislation was given last Tuesday and I intend to bring the Bill before the Oireachtas during the current session.

The number of fatalities resulting from road collisions since the start of the year is a cause of particular concern. The total for the first four months is 28 higher than for the same period last year. This situation has been exacerbated by the fact that nine lives were lost in two tragic incidents of which the House will be aware.

The difficult start to 2004 will be given particular consideration by the high level group to ensure that the measures recommended in the new strategy will be implemented as quickly as possible. In addition, the group will monitor the ongoing effects of those measures and recommend adjustment to the focus of the strategy as necessary.

I am determined to pursue a strategic approach to the improvement of road safety to achieve long term sustainable reductions in road casualties. The forthcoming road safety strategy will set out a comprehensive range of measures to ensure that we can build on the success of recent years — a reduction from 472 road fatalities in 1997 to 339 in 2003 — a fall of 28%, over a period when the number of vehicles, drivers and kilometres travelled on our roads has increased significantly.

Rail Network.

David Stanton

Question:

50 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Transport his views on the need to reopen the Cork-Midleton rail link; if further progress has been made in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12473/04]

David Stanton

Question:

221 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Transport the progress that has been made in the plans to reopen the rail link to Midleton in east Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12743/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 50 and 221 together.

I have recently received detailed proposals from Irish Rail for the reopening of the Cork to Midleton line, as part of the implementation of the Cork area strategic plan. The projected cost of the entire project is €115 million in two phases: phase 1 — €89.7 million for start-up of services in 2008 and phase 2 — €25.3 million for further enhancements after 2008. These figures are inclusive of VAT and provide for rolling stock, signalling upgrades, new stations, track laying and park and ride facilities.

On the Mallow-Cork section, part of the main Dublin-Cork line, new stations with park and ride facilities, are planned for Kilbarry and Blarney. Stations on the Midleton line are proposed at Carrigtwohill, Midleton and Dunkettle. I propose to bring to Government shortly proposals in the matter.

Penalty Points System.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

51 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Transport the plans he has to review the penalty points system. [11011/04]

Paul Kehoe

Question:

60 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Transport when he intends to roll out the other offences under the penalty points system; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11020/04]

Joe Costello

Question:

61 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Transport his views on whether the increased number of road deaths recorded in 2004 is due in part to drivers paying less heed to the threat of penalty points and therefore ignoring speed limits; his plans to extend the penalty points system to cover an increased number of offences; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12488/04]

Emmet Stagg

Question:

73 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Transport the number of drivers who have been disqualified from driving under the penalty points system up to the latest date for which figures are available; when he expects to expand the number of offences for which penalty points can be awarded; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12521/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 51, 60, 61 and 73 together.

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

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

It is now one year and five months since penalty points were first introduced. At 29 April 2004 over 144,000 drivers had received penalty points since the introduction of the system in October 2002, including one driver who had reached the 12 point threshold which leads to automatic disqualification. I intend to introduce penalty points for careless driving with effect from 1 June 2004. This measure should have a further positive influence on the driving behaviour of those who have little regard for road traffic law.

A detailed commentary on the information available regarding causes of fatal road collisions to date this year will be prepared by the National Roads Authority, NRA, based on reports from the Garda Síochána and will be set out in the NRA road accident facts 2004 publication. It would be premature for me to speculate as to the contributory causes for those collisions.

Regional Airports.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

52 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Transport if he will make a statement on the future of the regional airports with specific reference to State subvention. [12535/04]

Pádraic McCormack

Question:

64 Mr. McCormack asked the Minister for Transport his plans for the development of regional airports; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10990/04]

Willie Penrose

Question:

65 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Transport the precise amount the Government has allocated to subsidise each passenger travelling between Dublin and the Galway, Kerry, Sligo, Donegal, and Knock regional airports for the past five years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12529/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 52, 64 and 65 together.

The programme for Government provides for the continued support of our six regional airports. My Department provides a range of financial mechanisms in support of this objective, but it is important to note that the regional airports are not in receipt of state subvention.

With regard to capital funding, grant-aid of approximately €9 million has already been paid to the regional airports under first round allocations of the regional airports measure of the NDP. The primary objective of this measure is to facilitate continued safe and viable operations at the regional airports. A further round of projects will be considered for funding under the measure later this year.

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

EU Council Regulation (EEC) No. 2408/92 allows member states to establish a PSO in respect of scheduled air services to an airport serving a peripheral or development region where such air services are considered essential for the economic development of the regions concerned and where air carriers are not prepared to provide such air services on a commercial basis. In accordance with this EU regulation, the Government has established PSOs on routes linking Dublin Airport with the airports in Kerry, Galway, Knock, Sligo and Donegal.

The total cost of air service subvention to PSO carriers amounts to over €20 million per annum. Regarding subsidy per passenger, it is important to note that subvention is not allocated by reference to the number of passengers using the servicesper se. The governing regulation stipulates that subvention should be based on the losses actually incurred in operating the routes, taking account of costs and revenues generated by the services, subject to a ceiling represented by the amount put forward in the tender submitted by the successful air carrier during the tender process. In any event the subvention level per trip per passenger for the past five years is as follows:

PSO subvention per trip one way — 1999-2003.

1999

2000

2001

2002

2003

Kerry

13.71

12.17

44.27

54.59

55.17

Galway

18.55

18.86

46.57

47.19

51.67

Sligo

41.60

35.75

120.10

101.78

80.49*

Donegal

90.57

77.28

119.80

110.78

80.49*

Knock

233.17

226.58

224.87

Derry

113.89

95.10

77.56

*Subvention level for Sligo-Donegal is based on the subvention and passenger levels on the combined Sligo-Donegal contract, hence it is not possible to distinguish individual levels per route.

Following a recent review of the PSO programme, I am currently exploring ways of restructuring PSO specifications and contractual arrangements to ensure that, in the long-term, an appropriate level of air access to the regions can be facilitated on a cost-effective basis, within the annual Estimates provision, while also encouraging maximum commercial initiative on the part of the regional airports and air operators. I intend to bring proposals to Government later this year and to relaunch before the end of the year a revised specification for services on all six routes to commence in mid-July 2005.

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

Rail Network.

Michael Ring

Question:

53 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Transport the plans he has to progress the western rail corridor in view of the strategic rail review; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11010/04]

Jack Wall

Question:

106 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Transport the reason for the delay in nominating a chairperson to the working group on the western rail corridor; and when he will do so. [12534/04]

John Deasy

Question:

113 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Transport if he will approve funding for the western rail corridor; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10991/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 53, 106 and 113 together.

The western rail corridor, WRC, was not included in the recommended investment strategy in the strategic rail review published last year primarily because it was not supported by complementary land use and transportation strategies. However, the review did conclude that the proposal was in line with the aims of the national spatial strategy.

The review further concluded that the viability of such rail proposals is critically dependent on the local and regional planning authorities incorporating the proposals into regional, county and local development plans. Specifically, what is needed here is the integration of transport proposals, such as the WRC, with land use strategies that could provide the basis for sufficient rail demand that, in turn, would make the economic case for proceeding with the proposal. The viability of all rail proposals, including the western rail corridor, is crucially dependent on the creation of sufficient critical mass that would justify the development of rail as the most appropriate transport option.

At the invitation of a number of the groups advocating the WRC, I have carried out an extensive tour of the corridor and visited many of the former railway stations on the line. My purpose in visiting the west was to meet and listen to those who are putting forward this rail proposal and to see for myself what is involved in the restoration of the line.

During my visit to the former railway station in Kiltimagh I said that I could see the potential of the WRC and that I would wish to provide every possible opportunity for the viability of the case to be brought forward. I am anxious to provide the proponents of the WRC the opportunity to put forward their case and to facilitate a thorough examination of the proposal. Accordingly, I proposed to establish an expert working group to examine the potential for the WRC and I will be announcing the composition, remit and chairperson of the group very shortly.

There has been no delay in nominating the chairman of the group. What is critically important in these situations is not the speed at which one makes an announcement but rather that the appropriate person is selected for the job. I am confident that we now have an ideal chairman for this group.

All the regional authorities are currently finalising regional planning guidelines as part of the implementation of the national spatial strategy at the regional level. One of the core issues that the western rail corridor working group will have to carefully consider is the extent to which this rail proposal is facilitated by the land use strategies emerging from these guidelines. Any decisions in regard to the western rail corridor will take account of the ongoing work of the working group.

Light Rail Project.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

54 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Transport the predicted annual passenger numbers of each of the Sandyford and Tallaght Luas lines; and the predicted annual passenger numbers for the initial Luas proposal which was designed in order that the Luas trams ran from Tallaght to Sandyford on one continuous route. [12545/04]

The Railway Procurement Agency's, RPA, current estimates of patronage on the Sandyford and Tallaght lines suggest a total annual patronage of approximately 20 million passengers when the system is fully operational and established patterns of travel have emerged.

The original Luas proposal, which W. S. Atkins assessed in 1998, consisted of one line from Tallaght to Dundrum-Balally via the city centre with an estimated patronage of 29 million. The latter figure is based on a higher level of frequency for the services than that employed in respect of the current project. However, the current system has been designed to cater for higher frequencies and hence increased usage should the demand so require.

Driving Tests.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

55 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Transport his plans to address the driving test backlog; when he plans to introduce legislation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10987/04]

John Bruton

Question:

74 Mr. J. Bruton asked the Minister for Transport the plans if any he has to address the driving test backlog; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11006/04]

Róisín Shortall

Question:

88 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Transport the number of persons awaiting driving tests at the latest date for which figures are available; the current waiting time in each test centre; the efforts he and his Department are making to clear the backlog of driving test applications; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12531/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 55, 74 and 88 together.

The number of applicants awaiting a driving test at 26 April 2004 is 120,541. Of these, 17,446 have been given test appointments and a further 13,835 have indicated that they are currently not available to be tested. The current average waiting time and numbers awaiting a test at each driving test centre as at 26 April 2004 are set out in the following table.

The current waiting times are due to the unprecedented level of some 234,000 test applications received in 2003. This represents a 21% increase on 2002 applications. However, indications are that applications have now fallen to normally expected levels and I anticipate that the current waiting times will improve over the coming year.

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

Preparation of legislation to establish the driver testing and standards authority, which will take on responsibility for conducting driving tests and will have more flexibility to respond to variations in demand, is at an advanced stage and I expect to be in a position to submit the text of the Bill to Government shortly.

Centre

Numbers Awaiting a Test

Average Weeks Waiting

North Leinster

Finglas

8,683

28

Dundalk

2,827

35

Mullingar

1,661

32

Navan

4,500

43

Raheny

7,812

39

South Leinster

Churchtown /Rathgar

11,275

41

Gorey

2.022

44

Naas

6,839

46

Tullamore

1,717

32

Wicklow

2,354

46

Tallaght

8,960

47

South East

Carlow

2,623

43

Clonmel

2,032

44

Dungarvan

1,923

46

Kilkenny

2,378

45

Nenagh

760

38

Portlaoise

1,624

49

Thurles

1,254

51

Tipperary

1,139

51

Waterford

3,601

30

Wexford

2,430

27

South West

Cork

6,613

26

Killarney

2,030

32

Kilrush

528

23

Limerick

4,019

39

Mallow

2,076

32

Newcastle West

1,678

28

Shannon

994

40

Skibbereen

1,885

34

Tralee

1,956

37

West

Athlone

1,080

14

Birr

1,126

32

Castlebar

2,143

32

Clifden

358

16

Ennis

908

11

Galway

2,781

29

Loughrea

856

12

Roscommon

1,028

24

Tuam

1,143

27

North West

Ballina

1,170

33

Buncrana

591

22

Carrick-on-Shannon

1,265

35

Cavan

1,927

43

Donegal

1,051

23

Letterkenny

1,997

36

Longford

988

35

Monaghan

1,266

40

Sligo

1,393

31

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

Traffic Corps.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

56 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Transport if he has held talks recently with representatives from the Department of the Taoiseach and the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform on the introduction of the dedicated traffic corps; if his attention has been drawn to recent comments from the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform that the traffic corps was not an option due to legal difficulties, and from the Taoiseach that he was still fully committed to the introduction of the traffic corps; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12525/04]

Brian O'Shea

Question:

118 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Transport the position regarding plans for the introduction of the dedicated road traffic corps as stated in An Agreed Programme for Government; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12524/04]

Willie Penrose

Question:

119 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Transport his views on whether recent comments from the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform that the introduction of a dedicated traffic corps was no longer a viable option represents an abandonment of the pledge given in An Agreed Programme for Government for its introduction; the plans he has to find an alternative to the traffic corps; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12528/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 56, 118 and 119 together.

The programme for Government contains a commitment relating to the establishment of a dedicated traffic corps. As I have already indicated in this House, I support the implementation of this proposal through the formation of a corps that will be separately identifiable and visible. A consultation process involving my Department, the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and the Garda Síochána regarding the establishment of a dedicated traffic corps is being progressed.

I do not recall the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform indicating that the establishment of a traffic corps was not an option due to legal difficulties. However, I refer the Deputies to the Minister's reply to a Parliamentary Question on 27 April where he also referred to the ongoing discussions to which I have referred.

The question of the relationship that a dedicated traffic corps will have with the Garda and, in particular, whether it will be under the overall control of the Commissioner is central to the development of this proposal.

The establishment of a corps that is wholly independent of the Garda would face formidable hurdles. The powers available to members of such an independent force would need careful consideration and there is the overriding issue of the capacity of such individuals to engage in more general police work. The need for consideration of this issue was referred to by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform on 27 April.

Infrastructural Projects.

Richard Bruton

Question:

57 Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for Transport the financial mechanisms in place to review infrastructural projects; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10998/04]

As I stated in previous replies to this question, all major projects are subject to detailed assessment and evaluation including, at key stages, cost benefit analysis, in accordance with Department of Finance guidelines on the appraisal and management of capital projects.

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

In March 2003, at my request, a new control system for major infrastructure projects was put in place in my Department. The infrastructure projects include national road construction, the Dublin Port tunnel, CIE and Luas projects. I have received monthly reports on each of these projects since April. It is my intention to collate and publish the reports at an appropriate time.

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

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

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

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

Light Rail Project.

Gay Mitchell

Question:

58 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Transport if he has received a report from the Luas project team on the safety of the Luas lines; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11046/04]

Section 51 of the Transport (Railway Infrastructure) Act 2001 provides that the Luas system may not be opened for testing and commissioning or for passenger services until it has been demonstrated to the satisfaction of an inspector appointed by the Minister under the regulation of Railway Act 1871, that is, my Department's railway inspecting officers, that the infrastructure and rolling stock is safe and suitable and that the safety management systems will be appropriate to ensure safe operation of the railway.

The Railway Procurement Agency and Connex have both submitted draft safety cases to the railway inspecting officers. There is currently no legal requirement to submit these documents. That requirement is contained in the Railway Safety Bill, which is not yet law. However, the parties concerned agreed to adopt the safety case approach as the means by which the RPA and Connex will satisfy the requirements of railway inspecting officers under the 2001 Act.

A safety case is a document which describes how a railway undertaking manages safety in all of its activities. The safety case submitted by the Railway Procurement Agency is being used to demonstrate the safety of the infrastructure and rolling stock, while the Connex safety case relates to the safety management systems to be used to ensure safety of tram movements and passenger services.

The railway inspecting officers are in regular contact with the RPA and Connex regarding the draft safety cases and have given phased approvals to the testing and commissioning of various elements of the Luas system. Such phased approvals will continue and full revenue service can only commence once the relevant approval under section 51 of the 2001 Act has been given.

State Airports.

Joe Higgins

Question:

59 Mr. J. Higgins asked the Minister for Transport if he will report on his recent contacts with SIPTU regarding strike action at the airports; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9090/04]

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

89 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Transport his views on whether his plan for the break up of Aer Rianta is having an adverse effect on jobs at Shannon; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12491/04]

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

91 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Transport his plans for the future of the Great Southern Hotels Group in the context of his proposals to restructure Aer Rianta; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12496/04]

Bernard Allen

Question:

96 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Transport his plans for Cork Airport; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11004/04]

Michael Noonan

Question:

107 Mr. Noonan asked the Minister for Transport his plans for Shannon Airport; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11002/04]

Olwyn Enright

Question:

123 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Transport his plans for Dublin Airport; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11003/04]

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

129 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for Transport the position with regard to his proposals for the break-up of Aer Rianta; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12494/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 59, 89, 91, 96, 107, 123 and 129 together.

I was very pleased SIPTU decided to call off its threatened industrial action at the State airports in the middle of March last and both I and senior officials in my Department will maintain the process of full engagement with the Aer Rianta unions to deal with issues of concern to workers in the company arising from the ongoing implementation of the Government decision to restructure the airports.

I have given repeated assurances to ICTU and the Aer Rianta unions that there will not be any diminution in the tenure or the terms and conditions of employment of workers in the company on transfer to the new independent authorities for Dublin, Shannon and Cork Airports. I have also undertaken, subject to agreeing suitable arrangements to deal with commercially sensitive material, to make available key financial information to the trade unions in the context of the current engagement process, which is being facilitated by the Labour Relations Commission, before the text of the amending legislation to give effect to the restructuring is approved by the Government. The information relating to the three airports was provided to the union's financial advisers last Friday and I have sought a response over the next two weeks.

With regard to Shannon, Dublin and Cork Airports, the numbers employed in future years will depend on a number of factors, including the business plans and strategies of the new independent boards and the efforts of the boards, management and staff to grow existing services and attract new services. I have made it clear that I believe that each of the three airports, including Shannon, will be a commercial success and will maximise sustainable employment both within the airport companies themselves and in their catchment areas.

The new arrangements are designed to strengthen and expand each of three airports and to give both Shannon and Cork a fresh start under strong and visionary leadership. Through more focused commercial operation, all three airports can perform better and each can play a greater role in stimulating and supporting regional and national economic activity to the benefit of their customers, both airlines and passengers, and of Irish tourism, trade and industry. Issues relating to Aer Rianta's main subsidiaries such as Aer Rianta International and the Great Southern Hotels Group will be carefully considered in the course of the restructuring process.

In the coming weeks, I will be seeking Government approval for the publication of the Bill to give effect to the restructuring and it is my intention to have the legislation enacted before the summer recess.

Questions Nos. 60 and 61 answered with Question No. 51.

Drink Driving Convictions.

Joan Burton

Question:

62 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Transport the number of legal challenges to drink driving convictions which are under way following the successful case of seven drivers who had convictions quashed due to the absence of independent analysis of their breath specimens; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12485/04]

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

127 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Transport the position in regard to the use of intoximeters by gardaí following the successful case of seven drivers who had drink driving convictions quashed after claiming there was no means of independent analysis of a breath specimen; if he has plans to allow independent analysis of breath specimens; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12484/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 62 and 127 together.

I am aware of reports of a decision taken in the District Court relating to seven drink driving cases. It would be inappropriate for me to comment on a decision taken in the courts. I understand that there are at present 80 cases before the High Court relating to the operation of the evidential breath testing programme. The issues raised in these cases include the question of the availability of the option for an independent analysis of a breath sample. I understand that these cases will be heard later this month. I will consider the need for any action, including in the areas of policy, legislation or enforcement in the light of careful consideration of the outcome of the High Court cases.

Bus Stops.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

63 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Transport if he has satisfied himself with the procedure for the location of bus stops; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11024/04]

John Perry

Question:

86 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Transport if he has satisfied himself with the procedure for the location of bus termini; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11027/04]

Paul McGrath

Question:

104 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Transport the plans he has to review the procedure for the location of bus stops; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11022/04]

Gerard Murphy

Question:

126 Mr. Murphy asked the Minister for Transport the plans he has to review the procedure for the location of bus termini; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11025/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 63, 86, 104 and 126 together.

The power to determine the locations for the provision of bus stops and termini is vested in the Garda Commissioner under section 85 of the Road Traffic Act 1961. Under that section the Commissioner may issue a direction to a bus operator identifying the specific location of bus stops and termini in respect of any bus route and in that context may determine that certain stops may only be used for passengers boarding or leaving buses. I understand that the Garda engages in a consultation process with both the local authority and the bus service provider before issuing a direction under section 85. In addition, section 86 of the 1961 Act empowers the Commissioner to make by-laws relating to the use of bus stops and termini and such by-laws have been in place since 1962.

The Road Traffic Act 2002 introduces a number of significant changes to the provisions established in the 1961 Act. In the first instance, section 16 of the 2002 Act provides that responsibility for the determination of the location of bus stops and termini will be transferred from the Garda Commissioner to road authorities. This new approach reflects the evolution of policy and the development of the role of local authorities generally in relation to traffic regulation and management since the passage of the 1961 Act.

Section 20 of the 2002 Act provides that the Minister for Transport will in future provide for the regulation of the use of bus stops and termini. This is to ensure that the controls to be applied to the use of facilities will be contained in the same statutory framework that applies to traffic regulation generally.

Arising out of the recent tragic accident on Wellington Quay, Dublin on 21 February last a Garda investigation is underway and, in addition, Dublin Bus is undertaking its own company inquiry to determine the cause and the circumstances surrounding the accident. The inquiry is investigating the circumstances of the accident to establish its causes and any contributory factors and will make recommendations to prevent a recurrence. Where such recommendations refer to the need for new statutory controls on traffic, including any recommendations on the location of bus stop, these will inform the development of the new statutory arrangements envisaged under the Road Traffic Act 2002 and appropriate legislative changes will be pursued.

Questions Nos. 64 and 65 answered with Question No. 52.
Question No. 66 answered with QuestionNo. 49.

Speed Limits.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

67 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Transport the position in regard to motorists who received endorsements, penalty points and fines for speeding in urban areas in south Dublin in which new speed limits were imposed without proper by-laws; the number of motorists who received endorsements, penalty points, and fines in these areas who may be entitled to appeal the punishment; the timeframe for clearing all endorsements, penalty points and fines; if he has ensured that the new limits have been imposed with the proper by-laws; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12483/04]

The Road Traffic Acts provide for the direct application of speed limits to all roads. Under the provisions of the Road Traffic Act 1994, separate speed limits apply to roads in built up areas, to roads outside such areas generally and a specific speed limit applies to motorways.

The 1994 Act also provides that local authorities may make by-laws through which the speed limits that apply on a default basis under that Act can be changed in respect of roads specified in such by-laws. These by-laws are made by the elected members of the local authorities following consultation with the Garda Commissioner and, in the case of national roads, with the consent of the National Roads Authority.

Where a person is detected exceeding a speed limit, he or she is offered the opportunity to pay a fixed charge. The making of such a payment will ensure that the matter will not proceed to a hearing before a court. As a consequence of the payment of a fixed charge in respect of a speeding offence, the licence record of the person is endorsed with two penalty points. If, however, the matter proceeds to court and the person is convicted, four penalty points will be endorsed.

There is no basis for a refund of a fixed payment provided for in the Road Traffic Acts. The only basis for the removal of penalty points provided for in the Act is where a court accepts a late appeal from a person convicted of a penalty point offence and following the hearing of the appeal sets aside the original conviction. To date no driver has had penalty points removed from their driving licence record.

As the payment of fixed charge is in effect an acceptance by the person that he or she has breached a speed limit, there can be no question of the making of a refund and that principle is provided for in section 11 of the Road Traffic Act 2002, which provides the legislative basis for the operation of the fixed charge system. The enforcement of speed limits, whether applied directly through the 1994 Act or by way of by-laws made under that Act, is a matter for the gardaí.

While I have no direct function in relation to the making of speed limit by-laws, my Department has, in the context of the review of speed limits which will give rise to the introduction later this year of a new speed limit system based on metric values, written to all county and city councils advising them of the need to ensure that all of the speed limits deployed in their areas are supported by the appropriate legal structure. By way of response to that advice, my Department was informed by South Dublin County Council that by-laws were in place to support speed limits in their area.

Question No. 68 answered with QuestionNo. 49.

Driving Licences.

Seymour Crawford

Question:

69 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for Transport the action he is taking to put procedures in place for lost driving licences when there is no record of a licence having been issued; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11035/04]

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

90 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for Transport the action he is taking to put procedures in place for lost driving licences; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11034/04]

Bernard Allen

Question:

131 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Transport the plans he has to put mechanisms in place for when the issuing authority has no record of a driving licence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10992/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 69, 90 and 131 together.

Under the Road Traffic Act 1961 and the Road Traffic (Licensing of Drivers) Regulations 1999 to 2001, it is a matter for the appropriate licensing authority to determine the eligibility of a person for a duplicate driving licence, and to issue licences. I have no plans to change this arrangement.

Traffic Management.

Gay Mitchell

Question:

70 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Transport if motorbikes will be allowed to use bus lanes by amending regulations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11044/04]

The use of bus lanes is provided for in the Road Traffic (Traffic and Parking) Regulations 1997, the primary purpose of which is to facilitate and promote bus based public transport. These regulations generally limit the use of bus lanes to buses and, in the case of with-flow bus lanes, to cyclists. Having regard to the role of taxis in providing on-street immediate hire service, an exemption to that limitation is allowed in respect of taxis when they are being used in the course of business. An overriding concern is the carrying capacity of bus lanes and the potential that their primary role to provide bus priority could be undermined if other vehicles are allowed access.

I have received representations seeking to extend access to bus lanes to a wide range of other road users, including hackney and limousine operators and motorcyclists. I do not have any immediate proposals to review the question of extending access to bus lanes to other road users. However, as I have already indicated on previous occasions in the House, I will review the question when the number of bus lanes has doubled.

Driving Tests.

Denis Naughten

Question:

71 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Transport the plans he has to reform the driving test; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11007/04]

The requirements of the practical driving test are set out in the relevant EU directive. A number of improvements to the practical driving test are in the course of implementation on foot of amendments agreed at EU level. These changes relate to random checks on mechanical aspects of vehicles which have a bearing on road safety such as tyres, steering, brakes, engine oil, coolant, washer fluid, lights, reflectors, indicators and horn. A study to assess the impact of these additional requirements has been completed and the results are currently being assessed by my Department. In addition, my Department, in conjunction with the Office of Public Works, is arranging for the implementation of improvements to truck tests, that is, parking safely for loading and unloading at a loading ramp and coupling and uncoupling the vehicle.

Rail Network.

Billy Timmins

Question:

72 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Transport his plans for the development of the Phoenix Park tunnel; if he has had discussions with Irish Rail on the issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11030/04]

Irish Rail recently completed a study on the feasibility of providing an interconnector tunnel from Heuston Station to the docklands. At my request, this study also examined the question of increased use of the Phoenix Park tunnel for passenger services between Connolly and Heuston stations. The completed study has been submitted to my Department and discussions have taken place with Irish Rail, in particular, in regard to the timescale for the commencement of work on the project. The company is looking at the potential for making greater use of the Phoenix Park tunnel when the second phase of the DART upgrade programme is completed in 2007 and extra rail paths into Connolly Station become available.

Question No. 73 answered with QuestionNo. 51.
Question No. 74 answered with QuestionNo. 55.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

75 Ms Lynch asked the Minister for Transport when he expects to bring forward to Cabinet proposals for the construction of an underground rail system for Dublin; the expected cost and timeframe for construction of the metro; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12512/04]

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

93 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Transport the proposed route of the new underground rail system for Dublin; the number of stations there will be along the proposed route; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12520/04]

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

100 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Transport his plans for the development of the airport metro; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10985/04]

Simon Coveney

Question:

102 Mr. Coveney asked the Minister for Transport his plans for the development of the metro; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11013/04]

Paul Connaughton

Question:

117 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Transport his plans for the development of the metro; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11029/04]

Billy Timmins

Question:

121 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Transport if he has satisfied himself that he can deliver the Dublin metro by 2007; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11031/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 75, 93, 100, 102, 117 and 121 together.

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 line 1 of the metro from the Railway Procurement Agency, RPA, which involves a line from the airport to the city centre. I am currently finalising my proposals on the metro in the context of the wider transport needs of the greater Dublin area. I expect to bring these proposals to the Government shortly.

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

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

Road Safety.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

76 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Transport the number of road deaths that have occurred here in 2004 up to the latest date for which figures are available; the way in which these contrast to each of the past five years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12530/04]

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

The following table gives the number of road deaths that have occurred here during the first four months of 2004 and a comparison with the same periods in 2000-03. The figures shown for 2003 and 2004 are provisional.

1999

2000

2001

2002

2003

2004

January

30

32

30

35

20

32

February

34

41

38

33

21

39

March

35

23

31

34

33

25

April

31

42

22

32

23

29*

Totals

130

138

121

134

97

125

*as of 30 April 2004

Pensions Provisions.

Seán Ryan

Question:

77 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for Transport the alternative legislative arrangements he will put in place to safeguard the present and future entitlements of CIE pensioners of all grades, having regard to the statutory guarantees relating to the solvency of the two company funds and annual review of pensions as contained in statutory instruments (details supplied) which currently rest with the CIE parent company as a legal entity with adequate source of funding to meet these commitments in view of his proposals for the restructuring of CIE, including the proposal to abolish the parent company CIE. [12471/04]

Future pension arrangements are being considered as part of the detailed preparatory work on the restructuring of CIE. The objective of that work is that the current position in relation to pension entitlements and pension security should continue to obtain for the future.

Integrated Ticketing.

Gerard Murphy

Question:

78 Mr. Murphy asked the Minister for Transport if he intends to bring forward integrated ticketing and smartcard technologies; if money has been allocated for this purpose in his Department’s Estimates for 2004; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11026/04]

Paul McGrath

Question:

87 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Transport if he intends to bring forward integrated ticketing and smartcard technologies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11023/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 78 and 87 together.

The Railway Procurement Agency, RPA, has statutory responsibility for the implementation of an integrated ticketing system based on smartcard technologies for initial deployment in the Dublin area. The RPA has set a target date of end 2005 for the launch of the full smartcard-based integrated ticketing system in Dublin. It continues to examine all options to expedite the delivery of integrated ticketing with a view to bringing forward the proposed launch date. A first step was the launch last month of a smartcard ticketing system by a private operator, Morton's, on its services while another important step will be the launch later this year by the RPA of smartcards on Luas services with Dublin Bus introducing its system next year.

In the meantime, integrated tickets, based on magnet strip technology, are available for travel on Dublin Bus and Irish Rail services and I understand that the Railway Procurement Agency is about to conclude a similar arrangement with both companies in respect of Luas services. The allocation for integrated ticketing in the 2004 Estimates for my Department is €9.5 million.

Property Disposal.

Joan Burton

Question:

79 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Transport if he intends requesting CIE to sell off some of its property, estimated at €500 million, to reduce its debt; if such a request is a precursor to reducing CIE’s debt in advance of his plan to break up the company; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12486/04]

I have been encouraging CIE to dispose of properties which are surplus to operating requirements with a view to generating funds for major capital investment and to develop properties which have the potential to generate additional income for the group. While CIE has the potential to generate significant funds from property, any particular decision on any disposal or development is dependent on a range of factors, including market conditions at the time of disposal or development. Several sites have by now been disposed of by the company, and in other cases joint venture development has been adopted as the preferred option. No decisions have been taken on the reduction of debt as part of the detailed preparatory work on the restructuring of CIE.

Road Safety.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

80 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Transport his views on recent comments by the chairman of the Road Safety Council that the absence of a central budget for road safety is responsible for inadequate funding of road safety schemes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12509/04]

The development of policies on road safety is carried out on a co-ordinated basis in the context of the road safety strategy by the high level group on road safety, on which the National Safety Council is represented.

Over the lifetime of the first Government strategy on road safety we have seen significant investment in Garda enforcement assets, we have provided the financial support necessary for the production and presentation of some of the most effective public awareness campaigns ever mounted in regard to road safety, many of which have received international recognition for their quality and focus. We have provided for major investment in programmes to address road collision black spots and to deploy traffic calming measures.

Exchequer funding in respect of 2004 for road safety agencies under the aegis of the Department of Transport amounts to a total of €22,488,000. In addition to Exchequer funding, the Irish Insurance Federation contributes to the National Safety Council's budget and funding is also received from sponsorship sources. The overall Exchequer provision for road improvement and maintenance works in 2004 on the national road network is €1,280 million. This compares with an expenditure outturn of €1,223 million in 2003 and €330.6 million in 1997.

Local authorities receive funding for road improvements and remedial measures on non-national roads which is not included in this figure. In addition, the funding made available for Garda operations supports the enforcement of road traffic law. That is a matter for the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform.

In overall terms, there is significant financial resources available to support the delivery of the road safety strategy under the auspices of the various bodies tasked with the delivery of each of the elements of that strategy.

Transport Service Regulation.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

81 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Transport if he has plans to permit private bus operators to pick up passengers on existing CIE routes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12506/04]

My proposals in regard to regulatory reform of the bus market in the greater Dublin area were set out in my November 2002 statement to the Public Transport Partnership Forum and are currently the subject of consultations with the trade unions. The detailed provisions in regard to the proposed new regulatory regime for bus services, both in Dublin and the rest of the country, will be set out in legislation which I plan to have enacted during 2004. However, in regard to the existing regulatory regime, the Road Transport Act 1932 provides for the licensing of private operators to operate coach and bus services within the State. The Department is required under section 11(3)(a) of the 1932 Act to apply a public interest test to applications for licences. The Minister must consider whether the service proposed is in the public interest having regard to the passenger road services and other forms of passenger transport available to the public on or in the neighbourhood of the route of the proposed service.

Generally, the "public interest" is interpreted as being best served by enhancing and facilitating an expansion of the range of public transport services available to the public as opposed to allowing unrestricted competition for market share. The Department also examines applications for added value to the public in terms of the route and locations to be served, the timing of services and the days on which services are available, in order to maximise the availability, regularity and frequency of service.

In compliance with the legislation, each case is considered on its individual merits and restrictions are placed on licences from time to time in an effort to avoid direct conflict between operators, including the CIE companies, while at the same time ensuring the availability of a good range and spread of services to the travelling public. These restrictions can, where appropriate, include conditions attached to a licence restricting an operator in relation to the setting down or picking up of passengers on a particular section of a route to avoid conflict with existing operators. However on some routes, particularly city services, some degree of shared running is unavoidable, particularly where route sharing is proposed solely as an essential, but incidental, component of the proposed service.

Question No. 82 answered with QuestionNo. 46.
Question No. 83 answered with QuestionNo. 48.

Rail Network.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

84 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Transport his views on Iarnród Éireann proposals for a new integrated greater Dublin commuter rail system, involving the construction of two new DART lines; his views on whether such proposals have the potential to ease congestion on existing rail services; if he has received such proposals from Iarnród Éireann; if Iarnród Éireann has supplied an estimated cost or timeframe for construction of the new rail system; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12497/04]

Irish Rail has developed proposals for an integrated rail network for the greater Dublin area for the period up to 2010. The proposals have a preliminary outline cost of implementation of €3 billion. The proposals are being discussed between my Department and the company at present in the context of: the overall capital envelope available for public transport over the coming years; the priorities in the DTO strategy, Platform for Change, and the regional planning guidelines for the greater Dublin area; and the need to achieve a modal shift in favour of public transport so as to tackle congestion. My Department is also discussing priorities for public transport with the other State agencies involved and I expect that this exercise will be concluded shortly.

Dublin Port Tunnel.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

85 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Transport the position with regard to the building of the Dublin Port tunnel; the reasons he asked contractors building the tunnel to give him a legally binding agreement on the cost and delay involved in raising the clearance height within the tunnel; the anticipated cost arising from delays and extra work involved in the construction of the tunnel; when he expects to make a decision on this issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12507/04]

Richard Bruton

Question:

108 Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for Transport his plans to address the height of the Dublin Port tunnel; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10997/04]

John Gormley

Question:

114 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Transport when he expects the Dublin Port tunnel to be open for use; and when a final decision will be made on the maximum height for vehicles using the tunnel. [12549/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 85, 108 and 114 together.

The position in regard to the height of the tunnel is that my Department appointed consultants to review the feasibility, safety implications and cost of raising the height of the Dublin Port tunnel. They were requested to review a range of options for increasing the operational height of the tunnel, their feasibility, having regard to the state of implementation of the current design and build contract and the likely additional costs and impact on the project completion date.

Having reviewed the findings of the report further information has been sought from the NRA pertaining to the report's conclusions in particular in relation to the costs should the tunnel height be increased. As a result the contractors have been requested to provide a fixed price cost for the work involved. Following receipt of this information a decision on the height of the Dublin Port tunnel will be made. I understand from Dublin City Council that the Dublin Port tunnel is expected to be completed in July 2005.

Question No. 86 answered with QuestionNo. 63.
Question No. 87 answered with QuestionNo. 78.
Question No. 88 answered with QuestionNo. 55.
Question No. 89 answered with QuestionNo. 59.
Question No. 90 answered with QuestionNo. 69.
Question No. 91 answered with QuestionNo. 59.
Question No. 92 answered with QuestionNo. 46.
Question No. 93 answered with QuestionNo. 75.

Public Transport.

John Gormley

Question:

94 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Transport when he expects negotiations with the public sector transport unions on the opening up of the Dublin and intercity bus markets to conclude; and if he will make a statement on the progress of these negotiations to date. [12550/04]

Talks between officials from my Department and the CIE trade unions on public transport reform are to recommence on 12 May. An intensive schedule of meetings over five full days has been arranged by the independent chair appointed by the Labour Relations Commission.

Road Traffic Offences.

Liz McManus

Question:

95 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Transport if his attention has been drawn to recent comments from the President of the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors calling for a tougher policy on speeding and drink driving, including a “three-strikes-and-you’re-out” penalty points system; if he plans to consult the Garda following reported comments from the president that the effects of the penalty points system have worn off; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12522/04]

I am not aware of the recent comments from the President of the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors calling for a tougher policy on speeding and drink driving. Speeding and drink driving remain two of the most significant contributory factors in road collisions. New measures to address these issues are contained in the new road safety strategy, which is due for publication shortly.

In addition, speed limit policy was the subject of a report of a wide-ranging working group who carried out a review of the present speed limits structures last year. New legislation is being prepared in my Department, which contains provisions for the implementation of revised speed limits structures based on the recommendations made by the group. Government approval to the general scheme for that legislation was given last Tuesday and I intend to bring the Bill before the Oireachtas during the current session.

There is regular contact between the various agencies involved in road safety, including meetings of the high level group on road safety on which the Garda Síochána are represented. There has been no indication from the Garda authorities of a diminution of the effects of the penalty point system.

Question No. 96 answered with QuestionNo. 59.

Rural Transport Services.

Tom Hayes

Question:

97 Mr. Hayes asked the Minister for Transport his plans to introduce new rural transport initiatives; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11017/04]

Tom Hayes

Question:

124 Mr. Hayes asked the Minister for Transport if increased funds will be made available to sustain the pilot schemes for rural transport; his views on whether these schemes have proved very useful, especially for older rural dwellers; if the Government can justify pulling the finance at this early stage of development; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7602/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 97 and 124 together.

Under the rural transport initiative 34 rural community groups are currently being financed to operate pilot rural transport services in their areas. Area Development Management Limited administers the initiative on behalf of my Department.

Some 2,500 transport services are currently being provided on approximately 380 new rural routes established under the initiative and 20,000 people are using the RTI transport services every month. The RTI is now operational in almost all counties and the free travel scheme of the Department of Social and Family Affairs was extended to the RTI in 2003.

There has been no reduction in the funding for the RTI. While the national development plan proposed that €4.4 million be committed for the initiative in the period up to 2006, some €6 million has already been spent on it in the two year period up to end 2003 and a further €3 million is earmarked for it this year.

While there is every indication that the RTI has so far been a success, ADM has commissioned a full appraisal to comprehensively assess the effectiveness of the RTI in addressing the transport needs of rural Ireland. This appraisal is due to be completed by the summer.

When the appraisal has been completed, I will consider the findings and take whatever decisions are appropriate with regard to the rural transport initiative.

Road Safety.

Liz McManus

Question:

98 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Transport his views on the new campaign to reduce road deaths throughout Europe launched recently in Dublin; the road safety goals and measures articulated in the new Road Safety Charter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12523/04]

On 6 April 2004, I hosted a meeting of Transport Ministers from the current EU member states and the accession states to specifically discuss road safety. The EU Road Safety Action Plan proposes a 50% reduction in road deaths across the EU by 2010. At national level, the road safety strategy which I will soon be publishing contains a demanding primary target of a 25% reduction in road collision fatalities by the end of 2006 over the average annual number of fatalities in the 1998-2003 period. Achievement of the target will result in no more than 300 deaths per annum by the end of the period of the strategy. This target will contribute to the longer term EU goal.

I also facilitated the first signing ceremony for the Commission's Road Safety Charter, which is a central element of the EU Road Safety Action Plan and which gives the opportunity to both public and private organisations and members of civil society to make specific, measurable commitments to road safety.

Transport Service Regulation.

Pádraic McCormack

Question:

99 Mr. McCormack asked the Minister for Transport his plans for bus deregulation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10999/04]

Enda Kenny

Question:

122 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Transport his plans for bus deregulation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11000/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 99 and 122 together.

I refer the Deputies to my reply to Priority Question No. 40.

Question No. 100 answered with QuestionNo. 75.

Light Rail Project.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

101 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport if he will report on the Luas project, including the Red Cow interchange; the extent to which cost overruns are expected; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12536/04]

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

103 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Transport his plans for the Luas intersection at the Red Cow roundabout; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10994/04]

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

105 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Transport the reasons he has chosen to reject the proposal to put the Luas on stilts at the Red Cow roundabout in Dublin; the further reason he has chosen to redevelop the Red Cow roundabout as a three-tier junction; when he expects work on the redevelopment of the roundabout to begin; the projected cost and the projected timeframe for the redevelopment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12503/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 101, 103 and 105 together.

The position in regard to the N7-M50 junction — Red Cow roundabout — is that the National Roads Authority and South Dublin County Council are currently preparing plans, including a motorway order and environmental impact statement, for the upgrade of the junction as part of the overall upgrade of the M50. The upgrade works at the Red Cow interchange are intended to remove as much traffic as possible from the signal controlled environment through the provision of additional structures and free flow slips that are separated from other traffic movements. This will significantly increase the overall capacity of the interchange and reduce the Luas-car interface so that both the road and Luas network will have increased capacity to maintain a satisfactory level of service.

The proposed works will reduce the volume of traffic interfacing with Luas, that is, traffic crossed by Luas, by more than half. Subject to satisfactory progress in planning and design and securing An Bord Pleanála approval, it is expected that work on upgrading the Red Cow interchange will commence in spring 2005 and be completed by spring 2007. I understand from the NRA that the estimated cost of the upgrade of the M50 is €590 million, 2002 prices, including a provision of €37 million for the upgrade of the N7-M50 junction. In the circumstances, I am satisfied that such an upgrade represents the best technical solution for the Red Cow interchange.

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

Luas passenger services will commence on the Tallaght line end of August 2004 and on the Sandyford line end of June 2004. The RPA has informed me that the project is within the €691 budget and €84 million risk provision as notified to the Government in 2002.

Question No. 102 answered with QuestionNo. 75.
Question No. 103 answered with QuestionNo. 101.
Question No. 104 answered with QuestionNo. 63.
Question No. 105 answered with QuestionNo. 101.
Question No. 106 answered with QuestionNo. 53.
Question No. 107 answered with QuestionNo. 59.
Question No. 108 answered with QuestionNo. 85.

Public Transport.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

109 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for Transport when he expects to announce the full details of the capital investment programme for public transport; if projects such as the rail interconnector in Dublin, the new western rail corridor, additional Luas lines or other public transport projects, not included in the €2.3 billion capital investment package announced on the 22 March 2004, will have to wait until after 2008 to start receiving funding. [12546/04]

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

116 Ms Lynch asked the Minister for Transport if he will expand on his recent announcement that €3.5 billion is to be invested in public transport over the next five years; the projects he will be prioritising in that time; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12511/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 109 and 116 together.

My Department is currently concluding a capital investment framework agreement with the Department of Finance for the period 2004-08. The agreement will give formal effect to the announcement made in the budget by the Minister for Finance that five-year multi-annual capital envelopes would be introduced for all investment areas.

The agreement will provide for an allocation of €2.3 billion to my Department for public transport in the period 2004 to 2008. Direct Exchequer funding will account for more than €1.7 billion while the remainder will come from private investment. CIE own resources will also contribute significantly to the overall investment programme.

In anticipation of the conclusions of the agreement, my Department, in consultation with the relevant State agencies, is drawing up a priorities investment programme for public transport. The programme, as well as determining the priority of projects to be implemented in the period up to 2008, will also look at the period beyond 2008.

Rail Services.

Joe Costello

Question:

110 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Transport if his attention has been drawn to recent comments from a UK-based health and safety consultant (details supplied) that overcrowding on commuter trains here may result in passenger deaths should trains be forced to stop suddenly; if he has plans to bring forward proposals to address overcrowding on commuter trains; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12487/04]

I am aware of comments made on the "Pat Kenny Show" in March by Mr. Dave Roberts, said to be a UK-based health and safety consultant. I understand Mr. Roberts expressed the view that crowded trains posed a risk of death to passengers should a train stop suddenly. It is not clear if Mr. Roberts was referring to a collision or emergency braking. Clearly, there is some element of risk to all passengers in the event of emergency braking and a significantly greater risk in the event of a collision.

Research data on the safety implications of crowding on passenger trains is scarce. I am aware of one study published in 2000 by the UK Health and Safety Laboratory. That study concluded that there is no evidence to suggest that the net level of risk to the individual standing in a crowded train is any greater than that presented to a person standing in an uncrowded train. The study also concluded that, in the event of a higher speed collision, whether a passenger is seated or standing makes little difference to the overall severity of injuries sustained.

This conclusion appears to support the view in the railway industry worldwide that crowding is more a comfort issue than a safety issue. Indeed, crowding appears to be the norm on mass transit systems worldwide, particularly at peak times. However, I am aware of the extent of the discomfort and inconvenience crowding causes many passengers, particularly those on longer journeys.

I previously informed the House in response to Parliamentary Question No. 439 of 14 October 2003, that I intend to bring forward an amendment on Report Stage on the railway safety Bill to provide the proposed railway safety commission with the power to make regulations to address the issue of crowding on trains.

The benefits of the Exchequer investment in infrastructure can now be seen with the introduction of the 80 new diesel rail cars into revenue service over the last year. The additional carriages, together with Iarnród Éireann's revised and enhanced timetable, introduced in December 2003, have helped to alleviate the problem somewhat. A further 36 diesel rail cars, 40 DART railcars and 67 intercity carriages are on order. The DART rail cars are presently being delivered. I understand that Iarnród Éireann is also examining the possibility of ordering 68 higher specification rail cars for use on regional services.

This substantial modernisation and expansion of the fleet will go a long way towards solving the problem of crowding on the Iarnród Éireann network.

Question No. 111 answered with QuestionNo. 49.

Airport Development Projects.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

112 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Transport the analysis his Department is undertaking of the long-term strategic development of airports here; if his Department is considering the proposed development of a second main runway at Dublin Airport; and the analysis which has been undertaken on the effect of such a development on the other international airports here. [12551/04]

With regard to Aer Rianta, there are two main issues in the programme for Governmentvis-à-vis the autonomy issue for Shannon and Cork and the independent terminal concept at Dublin, both of which are strategically important issues for the long term development of our State airports and I have dealt with both of these matters in replies to questions earlier today.

The programme for Government also provides for the continued support of the six regional airports at Donegal, Sligo, Knock, Galway, Kerry and Waterford. A range of separate, but complementary, financial support mechanisms will continue to play an important role in facilitating the maintenance of continued safe and viable air services at each of the airports concerned.

With regard to a second runway at Dublin Airport, Aer Rianta currently has statutory responsibility to manage, operate and develop the three State airports, including Dublin Airport, and to provide such facilities and services as it considers necessary for aircraft and passengers. The board-designate for the new independent Dublin Airport Authority will take over this responsibility for Dublin Airport once the necessary amending legislation is enacted by the Oireachtas.

Aer Rianta forecasts that by the year 2020, passenger throughput at Dublin Airport will grow to approximately 30 million passengers per annum compared to almost 16 million last year. The company's long-term capacity plans to ensure that the airport has adequate infrastructure to cater for this growth includes the provision of a second parallel runway around the end of this decade.

The proposed new runway will of course be subject to planning permission being obtained from Fingal County Council. In due course I will also consider this runway proposal from the aviation policy and shareholder perspective.

Question No. 113 answered with QuestionNo. 53.
Question No. 114 answered with QuestionNo. 85.

Rail Services.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

115 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Transport the plans he has to introduce public service contracts into the rail service; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11021/04]

I set out my proposals for public transport reform in a statement to the Public Transport Partnership Forum in November 2002. In that statement I said that it was my intention to establish an independent authority to procure public transport services. I also proposed that all DART and suburban rail services in the greater Dublin area would be provided subject to a multi-annual public service contract negotiated by the independent authority with Iarnród Éireann.

In reply to recent questions, I have stated that it is now my intention that the independent authority will have a national remit and in this context it is my intention that all rail services provided by Iarnród Éireann will be subject to a public service contract with the new authority.

It is my intention to enact legislation to give effect to these and other public transport reforms during 2004.

Question No. 116 answered with QuestionNo. 109.
Question No. 117 answered with QuestionNo. 75.
Questions Nos. 118 and 119 answered with Question No. 56.

Railway Stations.

John Perry

Question:

120 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Transport his plans for the development of the Spencer Dock; if he has had discussions with Irish Rail on the issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11028/04]

I am aware that Irish Rail is examining proposals for the development of a new rail station at Spencer Dock. Discussions have taken place between my Department and Irish Rail in relation to the issue. However, formal proposals have yet to be presented by the company.

Question No. 121 answered with QuestionNo. 75.
Question No. 122 answered with QuestionNo. 99.
Question No. 123 answered with QuestionNo. 59.
Question No. 124 answered with QuestionNo. 97.
Question No. 125 answered with QuestionNo. 49.
Question No. 126 answered with QuestionNo. 63.
Question No. 127 answered with QuestionNo. 62.

Light Rail Project.

Eamon Ryan

Question:

128 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Transport the role his Department has in the possible extension of the Sandyford Luas line to Cherrywood; when he expects this project to be approved; the length of the planning and construction of the line will take; and the funding sources that are likely to be used to finance the project. [12540/04]

I have not received any proposals from the Railway Procurement Agency to extend the Luas to Cherrywood. I understand that discussions have taken place between the Railway Procurement Agency and a group of developers who own much of the developable land in the catchment area of the potential extension. I also understand that Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council is supportive of the proposal and has put a planning levy scheme in place to partially fund the development.

If discussions between the developers and the RPA are successful, the RPA would then be in a position to submit a business plan in respect of the project. Subject to a satisfactory plan being developed, it is anticipated that the RPA would be in a position to make an application to me for a railway order. The RPA expects the construction phase of the project to be completed approximately three years after the date of granting of the necessary railway order, in the event of it going ahead.

Question No. 129 answered with QuestionNo. 59.

Public Transport.

Eamon Ryan

Question:

130 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Transport the policy changes he intends to introduce to ensure that a change to more sedentary transport modes is reversed in view of the concerns expressed by industry groups such as IBEC that changing exercise patterns are the primary cause of the rise in the levels of obesity here and in view of the fact that the latest census statistics have shown a further dramatic reduction in the numbers of children walking and cycling to school; the number of safe routes to schools traffic management projects undertaken here in 2003; and the national budget for safe routes to schools projects in 2004. [12541/04]

One of my Department's objectives is to expand the capacity and enhance the quality of public transport in Ireland so as to increase the patronage of public transport and effect, where possible, a shift away from sedentary modes of travel such as private cars. While buses, trams and trains include a seated part of the trip, all public transport trips involve the trip maker in a walk to and from the transport corridor. In this regard, I regard my Department's public transport promotion of a modal shift to public transport as a key element in encouraging healthier forms of transport.

With regard to IBEC's concerns, I share the concerns associated with rising levels of obesity and associated health matters, and support the Department of Health and Children decision to set up a task force on obesity. The Dublin Transportation Office has confirmed that it and IBEC have agreed to set up workshops on mobility management plans for employers, including walking and cycling promotion measures; they are expected to be held in mid-2004. Incorporating cycle lanes as part of the city's quality bus network has been hugely instrumental in providing a safer environment for cyclists to get from one point to another and is at the very core of the success achieved to date in cycle promotion.

The downward trend in walking and cycling to school is certainly of concern, especially as many of those travelling to school by car are making short trips that should not require motorised transport. However, trip length is not the only factor at play, and parental choices are key.

One of the aims of the safer routes to school programme, currently being promoted by the Dublin Transportation Office, is to encourage concerted action between parents, schools and traffic agencies to walk or cycle to school and to actively manage school travel. An increase in the number of school children and accompanying adults walking and cycling to school can lead to safer journeys, healthier and fitter children, reduced congestion and a more pupil centred front-of-school environment.

I understand from the Dublin Transportation Office that eight pilot school projects are currently under way, some since 2002, and are due to finish with the end of this summer term. The pilots are as follows:

School

Area

St. Patrick Boys School

Donabate, County Dublin

Girls National School

Donabate, County Dublin

Malahide Community School

Malahide, County Dublin

St. Cronin’s National School

Bray, County Wicklow

St. Vincent de Paul Senior School

Griffith Avenue, Dublin

St. Vincent de Paul Junior School

Griffith Avenue, Dublin

Ard Scoil Rís

Griffith Avenue, Dublin

Scoil Mhuire School

Griffith Avenue, Dublin

Preliminary results in the two schools in Donabate show a reduction in car use by 22% and an increase in walking by 11%. The results from Bray show a reduction in car use by 20% and a significant shift to cycling.

A sum of €888,649 was allocated towards the pilot schemes in 2003, and €480,000 is being made available this year per the programme.

Following the end of the pilot phase, the next steps will be: the DTO will publish national guidelines and a resource kit for the safer routes to school implementation later this year, followed by workshops; a further round of school safer routes to schools projects will be funded in the period 2004-06 based on the DTO survey.

Question No. 131 answered with QuestionNo. 69.

Traffic Management.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

132 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Transport his plans to ban HGVs from Dublin city; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10996/04]

Traffic management in Dublin is the responsibility of Dublin City Council. I am informed that a heavy goods vehicle management strategy is currently being developed by the council to coincide with the opening of the Dublin Port tunnel. This plan has three objectives: to ensure the optimal use by HGVs of the port tunnel; to minimise adverse effects of remaining HGV movements in the city; and to manage the movement of vehicles not within permitted dimensions, for example, through permit systems.

I understand that Dublin City Council has circulated a draft interim report identifying the issues involved in the management strategy and that it is undertaking widespread consultation on the report before finally implementing any HGV management strategy.

State Airports.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

133 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Transport if he has investigated the experience of the Greater Toronto Airports Authority whose executives have expressed the view that the privatised terminals in State-owned airports were a disaster from a strategic point of view; when he intends to make a decision on the proposed introduction of a new terminal at Dublin Airport; and the person who will decide on the ownership and management structures for such a new terminal. [12552/04]

The report of last year by the panel of experts chaired by Mr. Paddy Mullarkey which assessed the "expressions of interest" in relation to the independent terminal concept at Dublin Airport referred to examples, particularly in North America, of independent terminals operating at major international airports.

I am aware that a project involving private sector development of terminal facilities at Toronto Pearson Airport encountered difficulties in the 1990s and it will be important to ensure that the circumstances which gave rise to those difficulties are avoided in any similar project at Dublin Airport. The report of the expert panel concluded that an independent terminal at Dublin Airport would be operationally and technically feasible and that such a terminal is a viable strategic option for the airport.

I am continuing to give urgent attention to the independent terminal concept and I will bring proposals in the matter to the Government in due course.

Property Acquisitions.

Michael Noonan

Question:

134 Mr. Noonan asked the Taoiseach if his Department has had discussions or negotiations which might lead to the acquisition of a property (details supplied) by purchase or leasehold; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12596/04]

My Department has had no discussions or negotiations to buy this property.

Transport of Dangerous Goods.

Joe Higgins

Question:

135 Mr. J. Higgins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if Ireland will sign up as a contracting party to the ADR agreement; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12449/04]

Joe Higgins

Question:

136 Mr. J. Higgins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment her views on the opinion of the Dangerous Goods Safety Advisors Association of Ireland that its members should not have to repeat their examinations every five years but instead should be obliged to take refresher courses every two years when they would be granted an extension to practice for the following two years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12450/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 135 and 136 together.

A memorandum on the matter of acceding to the ADR is being prepared by this Department and will be submitted to Government by the Department of Foreign Affairs later this year.

The current legislative provisions relating to the appointment, examination etc. of safety advisers for the transport of dangerous goods by road are set out in the European Communities (Safety Advisers for the Transport of Dangerous Goods by Road and Rail) Regulations 2001, S.I. No. 6 of 2001. These regulations transpose Council Directive 96/35/EC of 3 June 1996 on the appointment and vocational qualification of safety advisers for the transport of dangerous goods by road, rail and inland waterway and Directive 2000/18/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 April 2000 on minimum examination requirements for safety advisers for the transport of dangerous goods by road, rail or inland waterway.

Under the regulations and directives, a safety adviser for the transport of dangerous goods must hold an EC certificate of training as a safety adviser. The regulations and directives also lay down the minimum examination requirements for the examination needed to obtain such a certificate. Article 6 of Directive 96/35/EC, relating to the validity of the certificate, provides that the certificate shall be valid for five years. The period of validity of a certificate shall be extended automatically for five years at a time where, during the final year before its expiry, its holder has followed refresher courses or passed an examination both of which must be approved by the competent authority. This is transposed in Ireland through Regulation 7(12) of the 2001 regulations, which provides that where the holder of a training certificate can show to the competent authority concerned, that within the 12 month period which precedes the expiry of the validity of the certificate referred to in paragraph (11) or of any extension of it given under this paragraph, he or she has passed an examination which has been approved by the competent authority, the period of validity of that certificate shall be extended by the competent authority for a further period of five years.

I have no proposals currently to alter the existing requirements and I do not envisage changing those requirements in the foreseeable future.

I am informed by the Health and Safety Authority, the national competent authority in Ireland for the regulations, that it is considered too onerous to require training for safety advisers every two years, particularly in the light of the decision in October 2003 by the joint meeting of the RID Safety Committee, international rail transport, and the working party on the transport of dangerous goods, which works under the auspices of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe and which takes decisions on the amendments to the international agreements ADR-RID-AND on the transport of dangerous goods by road, rail and inland waterways respectively.

That unanimous decision, to which all member states of the EU were a party, decided that revalidation of safety adviser certificates would be by examination every five years and that such examinations would be approved by the relevant competent authority in each member state. This position will be reflected in the 2005 edition of the ADR, which will become applicable from 1 January 2005, with a six-month transition period.

Health and Safety Regulations.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

137 Mr. Howlin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the actions she has taken to protect workers against the effects of radon gas; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12498/04]

Any specific action in respect of radon is a matter for the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland, which is the designated competent national authority for this purpose. The relevant Irish legislation is the Radiological Protection Act 1991 (Ionising Radiation) Order 2000, SI 125 of 2000. Under the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 1989, employers are required to identify hazards arising in the workplace, to assess the risks arising from the hazards and to put in place measures to eliminate or control the risk measures. The authority's seminars etc. have reminded employers located in areas likely to exceed the threshold limit value set out in the statutory instrument of their obligations under the 1989 Act if the limit value is exceeded.

Local Employment Service.

Pat Breen

Question:

138 Mr. P. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if FÁS has undertaken an assessment of the labour market needs of the Clare region in the context of the closure of the LES; if as part of this assessment it would bring forward recommendations on the type of employment service activity necessary to address the particular needs of marginalised client groups in the region as defined in Question No. 106 of 12 February 2004; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12569/04]

At my request, FÁS undertook an assessment of the labour market needs of the County Clare region in the context of the closure of the local employment service. It consulted relevant parties in the region, including staff representatives and SIPTU, as part of the process. The assessment has been completed and my Department is considering the report.

Redundancy Payments.

Gay Mitchell

Question:

139 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the reason a person (details supplied) received such a small amount of redundancy payment after 30 years of service; and if he has recourse to an appeal; if the rules for calculating redundancy have changed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12570/04]

The person concerned received his full statutory redundancy entitlements on being made redundant on 5 August 2002. The calculation was based on his age, length of service in employment and gross weekly wage at the time he was declared redundant — the date on which notice was given, which in this case was 19 July 2002. When the man in question was made redundant, the statutory entitlement was half a week's pay for each year of service under the age of 41 years and a full week's pay for each year of service over the age of 41 years, plus one extra week's pay. New rates of statutory redundancy came into effect on 25 May 2003 with the enactment of the new Redundancy Payments Act 2003. Under the new Act, an employee, declared redundant on or after 25 May 2003, is entitled to statutory redundancy of two weeks pay per year of service, regardless of age, plus one extra week's pay at the gross rate of pay, up to the ceiling of €507.90 per week.

Under the Redundancy Payments Act 2003, retrospection was not possible, even in limited circumstances, because the redundancy scheme places obligations on employers and confers rights on employees. The legal advice of the Office of the Attorney General is that because the payment of a statutory lump sum is a legal requirement on the employers, it could not be imposed on them with retrospective effect. Employers are entitled to due notice of intention to legally require them to pay enhanced rates. It is regretted that workers made redundant prior to 25 May 2003, have not been able to benefit from the increased redundancy payments. The legal position cannot be changed, however, and special legislative provisions cannot be made for redundant employees who missed out on the new rates.

Community Employment Schemes.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

140 Mr. Connaughton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if she will reduce the severity of the three-year rule for participation in community employment schemes; if her Department and the FÁS authorities are aware of the effect the present three-year rule has and will have on community employment schemes, particularly in rural based schemes; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that in many areas of the country the present community employment scheme will be wiped out if changes are not made; if she will allow greater access for persons with special needs into the community employment schemes; the total number of participants nationally in community employment schemes on 1 January 2004 and the projected number involved up to 31 December 2004; the number of participants in community employment schemes in the Galway-Mayo region on 1 January 2004 and the projected number by 31 December 2004; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12571/04]

As part of the Government's decision in 1999 to restructure community employment, future participation in community employment by an individual was capped at three years, effective from April 2000. The change was introduced to discourage repeated participation in community employment and to encourage unemployed persons to avail of training and education options, where possible. Such options are shown to have more successful progression outcomes for individuals.

The three-year cap was amended in August 2001 to allow particularly disadvantaged persons to remain on the programme for a further period. Participants are considered for such an extension if, on reaching the end of their normal community employment entitlements, they are likely to experience difficulty in getting employment. A number of community employment participants have difficulty in progressing to open labour market employment due to their age, literacy or numeracy problems or a lack of suitable jobs available locally.

FÁS has the discretion to give 20% of participants under 50 years of age extensions of up to a year to meet the needs of individuals who would clearly benefit from an extension in terms of their future employment prospects. Participants over the age of 50 may be given a further year on community employment, with a provision for a review at the end of that year. Further discretion may be given to extend participation on a case by case basis, subject to continued annual review. Approximately 20% of participants on community employment may benefit from an additional year on the programme under the current flexibility guidelines. An extension is considered if participants, on reaching the end of their normal community employment entitlements, are likely to experience difficulty obtaining employment due to age, literacy or numeracy problems or a lack of suitable jobs available locally.

Community employment is an elective labour market programme and, as such, the concept of progression by participants is central to it. FÁS employment services are available to assist participants who have completed their term of community employment to progress to employment on the open labour market or to advise on training and educational options available locally.

I am pleased to indicate that all health service community employment projects, including those providing services for persons with disabilities, are ring-fenced and protected from reductions. Other services that are ring-fenced from reductions include drugs task force activity and child care service provision. Projects in RAPID areas are prioritised. Sponsor organisations such as the Irish Wheelchair Association have indicated that they have difficulty in replacing participants who have completed their normal term of community employment, due to the lack of suitable applicants coming forward for the programme. In this regard, FÁS has been asked to make every effort to identify community employment participants suitable for the positions in question. If FÁS encounters difficulties in replacing departing community employment participants with suitable persons, the matter can be considered in the context of the 20% flexibility in respect of extending community employment participation.

The total funding allocation for employment schemes in 2004 has been fixed at €351 million, which will support up to 25,000 places across the three employment schemes — community employment, job initiative and social economy. FÁS is being given some flexibility in the management of the financial allocation to maximise progression to the labour market, while facilitating the support of community services. As the allocation of €351 million is similar to the budgeted amount provided in 2003, there will not be a reduction in the total level of provision for the three schemes or in the combined participation levels in 2004. On 1 January 2004, the level of participation in community employment schemes reached a target figure of 20,000.

There were 1,955 participants in community employment schemes in the Galway-Mayo region on 1 January last, comprising 1,230 participants in Galway and 725 in Mayo. It is projected that there will be 2,055 participants in community employment schemes in the Galway-Mayo region on 31 December next, comprising 1,299 participants in Galway and 756 in Mayo. The projected increase in Galway relates to places being transferred from the job initiative scheme to community employment.

The future structure of the community employment programme is being reviewed by a group of senior officials and FÁS. The group is expected to report to Ministers on the outcome of its deliberations shortly. The outcome of the review will inform future adjustments in the structure and terms and conditions of participation in community employment.

Property Acquisitions.

Michael Noonan

Question:

141 Mr. Noonan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if her Department has had discussions or negotiations which might lead to the acquisition of a property (details supplied) by purchase or leasehold; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12597/04]

My Department has not had any discussions about the acquisition of the property in question.

Work Permits.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

142 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the reason a work permit was refused in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12640/04]

I am informed that there is no record of a valid work permit application in this case. Applications which are incomplete or incorrect are returned to the employer for completion.

Property Acquisitions.

Michael Noonan

Question:

143 Mr. Noonan asked the Minister for Defence if his Department has had discussions or negotiations which might lead to the acquisition of a property (details supplied) by purchase or leasehold; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12598/04]

My Department does not have a record of discussions or negotiations having taken place in respect of the property referred to in the question.

Grant Payments.

Denis Naughten

Question:

144 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if the 50% rule agreed at EU level which entitles a farmer to retain 100% of his decoupled payment with 50% of the landholding will be implemented by the Government; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12448/04]

The requirement under the new single payment scheme that individual farmers need to have 100% of the average land area that they had during the reference period would have resulted in serious problems for those Irish farmers who, for specific reasons, declare less lands in 2005 or subsequent years, than the average area of land that they farmed during the reference period. Ireland secured a concession from the EU Commission whereby a member state may make use of its national reserve to consolidate payment entitlements for certain categories of farmers on the actual number of hectares of land farmed in 2005, provided that the farmer declares all the hectares available to him or her in 2005 and the total area declared is equal to at least 50% of the average number of hectares declared during the reference period. My Department is making arrangements to have the mechanisms in place in 2005 so that farmers may avail of the concession. The provisions can be applied to farmers who have afforested some of their land since the beginning of the reference period; farmers who have disposed of land to a public authority for non-agricultural use; farmers who had leased or rented land during the reference period but the lease or rental agreement has since expired; and farmers who declared lands situated in Northern Ireland during the reference period.

The concession can be availed of more than once if the farmer concerned continues to declare at least 50% of the land area farmed during the reference period. It would benefit those farmers who are contemplating afforestation in 2005 or subsequent years. If a farmer benefits from the concession, his consolidated payment entitlements will be regarded as having come from the national reserve. The entitlements concerned cannot be sold or leased for five years and the farmer must use all his entitlements himself each year for a period of five years. Any entitlements not used will revert to the national reserve. The provisions relating to land availability cannot be applied to any farmer who disposed of land by way of sale or lease other than the sale of land to a public authority for non-agricultural use.

Rural Environment Protection Scheme.

John Perry

Question:

145 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if he will rescind the decision made on the REP scheme appeal by a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12559/04]

The specific procedures for appeals under the rural environment protection scheme include an initial appeal to my Department's local office and the right of appeal to the agriculture appeals office. The initial appeal in this case was unsuccessful. The Department of Agriculture and Food has written to the person in question informing him of the decision and advising him of his right to make a further appeal to the agriculture appeals office, which is statutorily independent of my Department.

Property Acquisitions.

Michael Noonan

Question:

146 Mr. Noonan asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if his Department has had discussions or negotiations which might lead to the acquisition of a property (details supplied) by purchase or leasehold; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12599/04]

My Department has not had discussions or negotiations about the property referred to by the Deputy.

Grant Payments.

Denis Naughten

Question:

147 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food when a payment will be made to a person (details supplied) in County Roscommon; the reason for the delay in issuing same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12631/04]

Payment of the 2004 forestry premium will be made to the person in question shortly.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

148 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the penalties which will apply as a result of a decision by his Department to penalise a person (details supplied) in County Galway under the bovine schemes for 2003; the level of penalty which will apply to the suckler cow grant 2003 and other livestock grants applied for; if such a penalty will apply to this person for their ewe premium scheme for 2003; his views on whether the information sought should be made available to this person in order to allow them to consider if they should make an appeal based on the information they receive; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12632/04]

The person in question applied for a premium on 35 animals under the 2003 suckler cow premium scheme. An inspection carried out on 18 November 2003 found that one animal in respect of which a premium was applied for, animal tag No. 181950860076, did not comply with the identification and registration requirements set out in paragraph 38 of the terms and conditions of the scheme. The animal was rejected and a consequent reduction penalty was applied across the man's bovine schemes. Another animal, a heifer with the tag No. 181950810154, was found to be less than eight months old and has been deleted from the application without penalty. Eight unclaimed animals were also found to be CMMS non-compliant and this will result in a penalty being applied in accordance with paragraph 40 and 43 of the terms and conditions of the scheme. The overall penalty resulting for the person named will apply to his bovine schemes only when all bovine claims submitted by him have been finalised.

Correspondence about the matter was issued to the person named, who was advised that he could seek a review of the decision by contacting his district livestock office with new evidence or information that may assist his case. The applicant made contact on 3 March 2004 and his case was reviewed. My Department wrote to him on 29 March 2004 advising him that the results of the inspection remained unchanged. He was further advised that he could appeal this decision within three months by contacting the agricultural appeals office. The herd owner informed the district livestock office that he intends to lodge an appeal but, to date, the appeals unit does not have a record of correspondence from him.

An 80% advance payment in respect of 12 animals applied on under the special beef premium scheme in June 2003 has been paid. The balancing payment and any payments under an application lodged by the person named in December 2003 for four animals under the special beef premium scheme are delayed pending finalisation of the suckler cow premium case. The person in question was paid his full entitlement under the 2003 ewe premium scheme and ewe national envelope on 17 October 2003 and 10 March 2004, respectively. The person in question was paid his full entitlement of €4,443.97 under the 2003 area-based compensatory allowance scheme on 19 September 2003.

Based on the information available about the rejection of one claimed animal, the penalty applicable to the premia due on his claimed animals under the bovine — suckler cow and special beef premium — schemes and on any related extensification payments will be in the region of 1.5%, while the penalty applicable as a result of eight unclaimed animals being non-compliant with identification and registration requirements will be in the region of 8.5%.

Farm Retirement Scheme.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

149 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food when the early farm retirement application will be processed in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12633/04]

The EU regulation governing the early retirement scheme requires that a pension be paid as a supplement to any national retirement pension received by the participant, his or her spouse or a partner in a joint management arrangement. My Department has an obligation, therefore, to establish whether a person, on reaching the national retirement age, is entitled to a national retirement pension.

The person in question reached the age of 66 on 17 August 2003. In keeping with its normal procedures in such cases, the Department of Agriculture and Food wrote to him three months previously and told him that he must apply for the old age contributory and non-contributory pensions and that he must provide documentary evidence of the outcome of his applications. He had not provided the information by the time he reached the age of 66, however. Therefore, the Department was obliged to suspend the payment of his early retirement pension. When the person named provides the information requested, the position will be reviewed and if he is entitled to any arrears they will be paid promptly.

Genetically Modified Organisms.

Martin Ferris

Question:

150 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if he will make a statement on the $1.8 billion claim for compensation against the EU lodged by the US with the WTO over alleged losses incurred during the EU moratorium on genetically modified imports from the US. [12639/04]

I understand that the United States has initiated dispute settlement proceedings rather than a claim for compensation, in the World Trade Organisation in a case entitled European Communities — Measures affecting the Approval and Marketing of Bio-Tech Products. The WTO panel that has been established to examine the case has not yet reported. The question of compensation, if at all, would only arise at a much later stage in the dispute settlement procedures.

Tax Code.

Joe Higgins

Question:

151 Mr. J. Higgins asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to the fact that injured children awarded money by the courts pay DIRT on the interest on the capital sum that is invested on their behalf by the courts, even when their income is below the threshold for paying tax, and that they are not entitled to a refund; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12475/04]

Joe Higgins

Question:

152 Mr. J. Higgins asked the Minister for Finance if he intends to change the situation whereby injured children awarded money by the courts pay DIRT on the interest on the capital sum that is invested on their behalf and are not entitled to a refund; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12476/04]

John Gormley

Question:

153 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Finance if he has received a letter from a person (details supplied) with regard to a DIRT anomaly regarding minors; the actions he will take to rectify this anomaly; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12478/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 151 to 153, inclusive, together.

I confirm that I have received correspondence about the case referred to in Question No. 153. I have been informed by the Revenue Commissioners that Part 8 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 provides for the levying of deposit interest retention tax on certain interest paid or credited on deposits held with banks, building societies and certain other financial institutions. Subject to certain statutory exceptions, financial institutions are required to deduct the tax from interest paid or credited in respect of the income on deposit.

An individual's entitlement to the repayment of DIRT is limited to circumstances in which he or she, or his or her spouse, is either aged 65 years or over at any time during the tax year or permanently incapacitated by reason of mental or physical infirmity from maintaining himself or herself, or became so incapacitated, at any time during the tax year; and circumstances in which his or her income, inclusive of the deposit interest, is below the appropriate income exemption limit for tax purposes. A partial refund may be due to an individual in the first of the circumstances I have mentioned if his or her income, inclusive of the deposit interest, does not greatly exceed the appropriate income exemption limit. There is no automatic entitlement to minors for a refund of DIRT, even if a minor's income is under the relevant income thresholds for tax purposes.

I would like to outline additional provisions that apply to awards made for personal injuries. Section 189 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 provides that certain income, including deposit interest, arising to individuals including minors from the investment of compensation payment awarded by the courts, or under an out-of court settlement, in respect of a personal injuries claim is exempt from tax under certain conditions: as a result of personal injuries, the individual must be permanently and totally incapacitated by reason of mental and physical injury from maintaining himself or herself and the income from the investment of the compensation awarded must be the sole or main income of the individual.

An injured minor who, as a result of personal injuries, is not permanently and totally incapacitated by reason of mental and physical injury from maintaining himself or herself does not have a statutory entitlement to the repayment of DIRT deducted from the investment of compensation awarded, even if his or her income is below the income threshold for tax purposes. DIRT is applied on a wide basis and there are few repayment situations. I have no plans to extend the present DIRT repayment rules to cover the cases referred in the questions.

Decentralisation Programme.

Finian McGrath

Question:

154 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to the great IT skills of the staff at the Department of Social and Family Affairs; his views of whether his decentralisation plan will uproot families from Dublin and cause major frustration and anguish; and if he will penalise staff who cannot move for family and personal reasons. [12499/04]

As I stated in my budget statement last December, the Government recognises that Departments' IT systems are crucial for service delivery. I have made clear on many occasions that the decentralisation programme will operate on a voluntary basis. Civil and public servants who do not wish to transfer to a decentralised location will be assigned to alternative public service posts in Dublin. The exact procedures which will apply in such cases will be dealt with as part of the implementation process and are being discussed with the public service unions.

Tax Code.

Sean Fleming

Question:

155 Mr. Fleming asked the Minister for Finance when the refund of income tax due to a person (details supplied) in County Laois will be paid. [12573/04]

I have been advised by the Revenue Commissioners that an income tax refund for 2002 was certified on 29 April 2004. A refund cheque will issue to the taxpayer on 5 May 2004.

Dormant Accounts Fund.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

156 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Finance the percentage of the dormant accounts that were opened in the names of persons living outside the State; the total amount of moneys in these accounts; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12574/04]

The dormant accounts fund receives moneys from the institutions concerned in the form of lump sums once each year. As the moneys are not differentiated by individual accounts, neither I nor the disbursement board have details of individual ownership of the accounts. There is no requirement on credit institutions, under the dormant accounts legislation, to differentiate or to report information on the relative percentages of account holders living inside and outside the State.

Property Acquisitions.

Michael Noonan

Question:

157 Mr. Noonan asked the Minister for Finance if his Department has had discussions or negotiations which might lead to the acquisition of a property (details supplied) by purchase or leasehold; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12600/04]

The Commissioners of Public Works have not had discussions or negotiations which might lead to the acquisition of the property by purchase or leasehold.

Michael Noonan

Question:

158 Mr. Noonan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if his Department has had discussions or negotiations which might lead to the acquisition of a property (details supplied) by purchase or leasehold; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12601/04]

My Department has not had any discussions or negotiations which might lead to the acquisition by purchase or leasehold of the property identified by the Deputy.

Irish Emigrants.

Tony Gregory

Question:

159 Mr. Gregory asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the proportion of the promised €18 million which will be allocated in 2004 to assist elderly Irish emigrants in Britain; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12700/04]

The amounts recommended in the task force report, including €18 million in 2004, were seen by the task force as the optimum amounts required if its recommendations are to be implemented immediately. I have made clear that the measures proposed by the task force cannot be put into effect overnight, even if the level of resources advocated could be provided, because of their range and complexity. The implementation of the recommendations will have to be phased over a period of years. The total allocation this year for emigrant services in the Department of Foreign Affairs's Vote is €4 million. This represents an increase of €1 million, or one third, over 2003. The lion's share of the increase, €3.57 million, will go to the DION fund for services to Irish emigrants in the UK, €400,000 will be allocated to Irish welfare agencies in the US and €48,000 will go to agencies in Australia. I have made provision for grants to be made to ÉAN, the umbrella body for voluntary agencies in Ireland providing services to emigrants, and to the Irish Commission for Prisoners Overseas. I hope to find additional funds through savings in my Department's Vote later in the year, which will enable me to increase the expenditure to Irish emigrants even further. As I have said in the House previously, I will continue to implement the report of the task force and to work in partnership with the Governments of the countries concerned and with voluntary agencies at home and abroad to support our emigrants overseas.

Site Acquisitions.

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

160 Mr. N. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Education and Science the position regarding the purchase of a suitable site for the development of a building for a school (details supplied) in County Cork; and the electoral areas which the catchment area of this school serves. [12462/04]

When I published the 2004 schools building programme, I stated that my strategy will be grounded in capital investment based on multi-annual allocations. My officials are reviewing all projects which were not authorised to proceed to construction as part of the 2004 programme, with a view to including them as part of a multi-annual programme from 2005. I expect to be in a position to make further announcements on the matter in the course of the year. The proposed project at the school referred to by the Deputy will be considered in this context. Information in respect of catchment areas is not stored with reference to electoral areas.

Computerisation Programme.

Michael Ring

Question:

161 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Education and Science when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will be given a personal computer for education purposes. [12477/04]

My Department operates a scheme of grants to primary and post-primary schools to facilitate the purchase of special equipment, including computers, for the use of pupils with special educational needs. An application for a home computer for the pupil referred to by the Deputy was received in my Department on 23 September 2003. The matter was referred to my Department's inspectorate, which expressed the view that adequate computer funding was available to the school to cater for the educational needs of the pupil in question. The school authorities were notified accordingly on 21 October 2003. Under the terms of the scheme pupils may, with the consent of the board of management, use computer equipment at home to assist them in their education. It is open to parents to discuss this option with the school management.

Disadvantaged Status.

Pat Carey

Question:

162 Mr. Carey asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason a school (details supplied) in Dublin 11 has not been given disadvantaged status in view of the fact that all other schools in the area are so designated, thereby depriving this small school of necessary additional resources; and the additional supports that would be available if the school has disadvantaged status. [12490/04]

Any decision to expand or extend any of the initiatives aimed at tackling educational disadvantage is being considered in the context of a broad review of all such initiatives, which is nearing completion.

School Staffing.

Pat Carey

Question:

163 Mr. Carey asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will examine the staffing allocation for a school (details supplied) in Dublin 11 in order that a concessionary post can be retained, thus ensuring the school’s provision for special needs pupils and to facilitate the introduction of co-education due to the announced wind down of an adjacent primary school; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12493/04]

My Department has no record of a concessionary post having been sanctioned at the school referred to by the Deputy.

The staffing of a primary school is determined by reference to the enrolment of the school on 30 September of the previous school year. The number of mainstream posts sanctioned is determined by reference to a staffing schedule and is finalised for a particular year following discussions with the education partners. The staffing of the school in question for the current school year is a principal and ten mainstream class teachers, based on the enrolment of 268 pupils on 30 September 2002. The school also has the services of a shared home school liaison post based in the school, two learning support teachers, two resource teachers, a special class teacher and a permanent post under the early start programme.

According to data submitted to my Department by the school's board of management, the enrolment on 30 September 2003 was 250 pupils. The enrolment on that date determines the staffing for the 2004-05 school year. The enrolment of 250 pupils warrants a staffing of principal and nine mainstream class teachers for the 2004-05 school year. The reduction in pupil enrolments means that one teacher will be redeployed to the Dublin diocesan panel for the 2004-05 school year. Panel notices have been issued to the appropriate teachers in the school during the course of this week.

The Department of Education and Science has received an application from the school for special educational needs supports. Applications for special educational resources received between 15 February and 31 August of last year are being considered at present. More than 5,000 such applications were received. Cases involving children who started school last September are being given priority. All such cases were responded to at or before the commencement of the current school year. The balance of over 4,000 applications has been reviewed by a dedicated team comprising members of the Department's inspectorate and the national educational psychological service. The applications are being considered in the context of the outcome of surveys of special educational resources provision conducted over the past year, approximately. Data submitted by schools as part of the nationwide census of special educational resources provision are also being considered.

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

The teacher resources outcome for each applicant school will be based on a new weighted system of allocation which I announced recently. This system, as part of which an additional 350 teaching posts will be allocated, will involve making a staffing allocation to schools based on a predicted incidence of pupils with special educational needs and making individual allocations in the case of children with more acute lower-prevalence special educational needs.

It is expected that the change to a weighted system will bring with it a number of benefits. The new system will reduce the need for individualised educational psychological assessment, reduce the volume of applications to my Department for additional resources for individual pupils and give greater flexibility to schools, which will facilitate the development and implementation of improved systems and procedures in schools to meet the needs of pupils with low achievement and pupils with special educational needs. The detailed arrangements will be set out in a circular to be issued to schools before the end of the current school year. Schools due to receive the additional posts will be notified within this timeframe.

Schools Refurbishment.

Pat Carey

Question:

164 Mr. Carey asked the Minister for Education and Science the action he intends to take to overcome unforeseen difficulties in the application by a school (details supplied) in Dublin 11 for the provision of security fencing around the school; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12495/04]

The schools building section of the Department of Education and Science has requested the management authority of the school to obtain a written report, including costs, from the Office of Public Works about the requirement for additional materials associated with the provision of a security fence at the school. Further consideration will be given to the application for additional funding after the report has been received and examined.

School Accommodation.

Paul McGrath

Question:

165 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Science the way in which a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath is expected to enrol for a place in second level school for September 2004 when they have been refused enrolment at a number of schools; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12526/04]

The selection and enrolment of pupils in second level schools is the responsibility of the school management authorities. My Department's main responsibility is to ensure that schools in an area can, between them, cater for all pupils in that area who seek second level places. This may result in some pupils not obtaining a place in the school of their first choice. As schools may not have a place for every applicant, a selection process may be necessary. If a school refuses to enrol a pupil, it is obliged to inform parents of their right, under section 29 of the Education Act 1998, to appeal that decision to the Secretary General of my Department. The section in question provides parents with an appeals process, if a board of management of a school or a person acting on behalf of the board refuses to enrol a student.

An appeal will not be admitted, generally, if it has not been made within 42 calendar days of the date on which the board of management's decision was notified to the parent or student concerned. A longer period for making appeals may be allowed as an exception if it is accepted that circumstances did not permit the making of an appeal within the 42-day limit. The Secretary General of my Department may direct a school to enrol a pupil if an appeal under section 29 is upheld. My Department will contact the parents of the child referred to by the Deputy to advise them on the appeals procedures. Under the Education (Welfare) Act 2000, the primary function of the education welfare board is to ensure that each child attends a recognised school or otherwise receives an appropriate education. The board provides a welfare-focused service, through its educational welfare officers, that is accessible to parents, schools and others concerned with the educational welfare of young people.

Schools Building Projects.

John Bruton

Question:

166 Mr. J. Bruton asked the Minister for Education and Science the plans within his Department to provide a new school for the Eureka secondary school in Kells (details supplied); the stage the process to provide the new school is at; if he has plans to meet with the school management board, the parents, or the teachers in this regard; when his Department will be making an application for planning permission; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12547/04]

When I published the 2004 schools building programme, I stated that my strategy will be grounded in capital investment based on multi-annual allocations. My officials are reviewing all projects which were not authorised to proceed to construction as part of the 2004 programme, with a view to including them as part of a multi-annual programme from 2005. I expect to make further announcements in the course of the year to update schools about the multi-annual programme of works, including public private partnerships. The application for a new post-primary school for the Eureka school at Kells will be considered in this regard.

School Staffing.

Seán Crowe

Question:

167 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Education and Science the plans he has to reduce the number of teaching staff at St. Joseph’s School in East Wall Road, Dublin 3. [12562/04]

The staffing of a primary school is determined by reference to the school's enrolment on 30 September of the previous school year. The number of mainstream posts sanctioned is determined by reference to a staffing schedule and is finalised for a particular year following discussions with the education partners. The mainstream staffing of the school referred to by the Deputy for the current school year is a principal and eight mainstream class teachers, based on its enrolment of 220 pupils on 30 September 2002. The school also has the services of a learning support teacher, a resource teacher, two posts to cater for educational disadvantage and a shared home school liaison teacher. Based on the school's enrolment of 172 pupils at 30 September 2003, its mainstream staffing for 2004-05 will be a principal and five mainstream class teachers. The school fulfils the criterion for appointment of an administrative principal based on its staffing of a principal and nine teachers when all posts are considered. A permanent teacher may be appointed to replace the principal in such circumstances. This will facilitate a staffing of principal and six mainstream class teachers and the net loss of posts as a consequence of applying the staffing schedule is two mainstream posts. There are no plans to adjust the additional posts allocated to the school under various support schemes.

Phil Hogan

Question:

168 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Education and Science if and when a special needs assistant will be allocated to a school (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12563/04]

My Department has no record of having received an application for special education resources from the school referred to by the Deputy. Any application received will be considered in the context of the criteria set out in the relevant Department circulars and the existing level of special education resources provision in the school.

Schools Building Projects.

Bernard Allen

Question:

169 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason the €634,869.04 allocated to Scoil Mhuire gan Smál secondary school, Blarney, County Cork, in 1997 has not been paid for the development of a school and community sports hall. [12564/04]

The school authorities of Scoil Mhuire gan Smál secondary school, Blarney, were advised that their project could progress through architectural planning. Projects in architectural design do not automatically proceed to tender stage after completion of design stages. This project was not approved to proceed to construction in the schools building programme. When I published the 2004 schools building programme, I stated that my strategy will be grounded in capital investment based on multi-annual allocations. My officials are reviewing all projects which were not authorised to proceed to construction as part of the 2004 programme with a view to including them as part of a multi-annual programme from 2005. I expect to be in a position to make further announcements on this matter in the course of the year. The proposed project at Scoil Mhuire gan Smál secondary school, Blarney, will be considered in this regard.

School Accommodation.

John Deasy

Question:

170 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will grant increased funding to a school (details supplied) in County Waterford for the provision of a larger portacabin for the next school year, in view of the lack of proper facilities in its present accommodation and the increasing numbers in the school; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12566/04]

My Department has received an application from the school authorities of the primary school in County Waterford referred to by the Deputy requesting funding to provide a larger portacabin for September. The application is being considered by the school planning section at present and a decision on the application will be conveyed to the school authorities shortly.

Psychological Service.

Michael Ring

Question:

171 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Education and Science when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will be given the resource teaching hours recommended by a NEPS educational psychologist. [12567/04]

I confirm that my Department received an application for special educational needs supports for the pupil referred to by the Deputy.

Applications for special educational resources received between 15 February and 31 August of last year are being considered at present. More than 5,000 such applications were received. Cases involving children who started school last September are being given priority. All such cases were responded to at or before the commencement of the current school year. The balance of more than 4,000 applications has been reviewed by a dedicated team comprising members of the Department's inspectorate and the national educational psychological service. The applications are being considered in the context of the outcome of surveys of special educational resources provision conducted over the past year, approximately. Data submitted by schools as part of the nationwide census of special educational resources provision are also being considered.

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

The teacher resources outcome for each applicant school will be based on a new weighted system of allocation, which I announced recently. This system, as part of which an additional 350 teaching posts will be allocated, will involve making a staffing allocation to schools based on a predicted incidence of pupils with special educational needs and making individual allocations in the case of children with more acute lower-prevalence special educational needs.

It is expected that the change to a weighted system will bring with it a number of benefits. The new system will reduce the need for individualised educational psychological assessment, reduce the volume of applications to my Department for additional resources for individual pupils and give greater flexibility to schools, which will facilitate the development and implementation of improved systems and procedures in schools to meet the needs of pupils with low achievement and pupils with special educational needs. The detailed arrangements will be set out in a circular to be issued to schools before the end of the current school year. Schools due to receive the additional posts will be notified within this timeframe.

Schools Building Projects.

Bernard Allen

Question:

172 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason Scoil Íosagáin, Farranree, Cork, which was sanctioned for a new sports hall several years ago has not received the final sanction to proceed to tender; the stage the project is at; and when it will be allowed to go to tender. [12568/04]

The building project — a GP room at Scoil Íosagáin, Farranree, Cork — referred to by the Deputy is listed in section 8 of the 2004 schools building programme, which is published on my Department's website,www.education.ie The project is at stage 4/5, pre-tender documents, of architectural planning. It has been assigned a band 4 rating by my Department in accordance with the published criteria for prioritising large-scale projects. Indicative timescales have been included for large-scale projects proceeding to tender in 2004. The budget announcement regarding multi-annual capital envelopes will enable me to adopt a multi-annual framework for the schools building programme, which in turn will give greater clarity regarding projects that are not progressing to tender in this year’s programme, including Scoil Íosagáin. I will make a further announcement in that regard during the year.

Property Acquisitions.

Michael Noonan

Question:

173 Mr. Noonan asked the Minister for Education and Science if his Department has had discussions or negotiations which might lead to the acquisition of a property (details supplied) by purchase or leasehold; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12602/04]

My Department has not had discussions or negotiations about the purchase or leasehold of the property in question.

Residential Institutions Redress Scheme.

Seán Crowe

Question:

174 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will address the concerns of a person (details supplied). [12705/04]

While I continue to be concerned about the health and well-being of the person referred to by the Deputy, I must point out that he has taken his claim through the various stages of the redress scheme. The Residential Institutions Redress Board and the Residential Institutions Review Committee are independent in the performance of their functions, in accordance with the terms of the Residential Institutions Redress Act 2002. My Department is not a party to the redress process and it is not open to me to make any comment on individual awards made by the redress board, or to attempt to intervene with the process. Officials from my Department have met the person in question on two separate occasions in the past two weeks and have outlined my Department's position on the matter. If individuals are not satisfied with offers made by the redress board or the review committee, they are entitled to proceed with their cases through the courts.

Special Educational Needs.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

175 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will take steps to ensure equality of access to education, including physical accessibility of schools, for all pupils with disabilities as shown by the case of a person (details supplied) in County Donegal. [12720/04]

The Department of Education and Science sanctions special educational needs supports for pupils with disabilities in primary schools on an assessed needs basis to facilitate access to special schools, special classes and mainstream schools on an integrated basis. Such supports take the form of special class teachers, resource teachers and special needs assistants and are processed on receipt of an application from the relevant school authorities. My Department sanctioned a full-time special needs assistant in August 2000 and five resource teaching hours in January 2001 to cater for the needs of the pupil in the school. With regard to the accessibility of accommodation in the school, the school authority should ensure that the class is appropriately situated to enable the pupil to participate fully in school activities. It is open to the school authority to use the devolved grant which is paid annually by my Department to deal with any works required to facilitate access.

School Accommodation.

John Curran

Question:

176 Mr. Curran asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of second level school places available in Lucan, County Dublin; the number of first year enrolments that took place in September 2003; the number of persons who failed to obtain school places for first year in 2003; and his Department’s plans and projections for second level school places in the Lucan area for the coming years. [12746/04]

The four schools which provide post-primary education in the Lucan area have a current enrolment of 2,420. Given that the extension projects at St. Joseph's College and Coláiste Phádraig have almost been completed and that a project to provide a new building for Coláiste Cois Life, a developing all-Irish college, will proceed to tender and construction later this year, there will be capacity for 3,027 pupils in the Lucan area. Four schools in areas adjoining Lucan — Palmerstown, Leixlip and Clondalkin — have experienced a significant decline in pupil numbers over the past five years. Accommodation freed up by the decline provides an option in terms of facilitating any further growth in the Lucan area. There were 435 first year enrolments in the schools in September 2003. Information on the number of persons who failed to obtain school places for first year in 2003 is not available.

Special Educational Needs.

Pat Carey

Question:

177 Mr. Carey asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason resources, which are required to assist a person (details supplied) in Dublin 11, have not been made available; if appropriate supports will be put in place to ameliorate the effects of this rare condition; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12747/04]

My Department has no record of having received an application for a computer for the pupil referred to by the Deputy. Any application received will be considered in the context of the criteria set out in the relevant Department circular.

Harbours and Piers.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

178 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he will provide the funding required for the environmental impact study of Baltimore Harbour, so that progress can be made on the Baltimore Harbour development plan. [12466/04]

Officials from my Department and the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government are considering the modalities for the transfer of Baltimore Harbour and certain other harbours operating under the Harbours Act 1946 to local authority ownership. I expect that the work will take some months to come to fruition as it involves,inter alia, the undertaking of an audit of the assets and liabilities of the harbours to be transferred. As part of the audit process, plans for the further development of the harbours and the funding of such developments will be considered.

Offshore Exploration.

Martin Ferris

Question:

179 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the number of exploration wells which have been drilled in the period 1999 to 2004; and if he will provide details on the results. [12558/04]

Six exploration wells were drilled between 1999 and 2004, all of them off the north-west, west and south-west coasts. All six wells have been plugged and abandoned. Shell E&P Ireland's Dooish well penetrated a substantial column of gas condensate, however, the results of which are being analysed. A second well, Statoil's Cong well, had both oil and gas shows. There are no remaining commitments to drill any exploration wells this year although I understand that a company has applied to drill later in the year.

Fisheries Protection.

Martin Ferris

Question:

180 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the basis on which recent cuts in quota and fishing time for salmon fishermen in Kerry have been made. [12561/04]

I rely on the advice of the National Salmon Commission and the managers of the regional fisheries boards to determine the terms of the wild salmon and sea-trout tagging scheme, which,inter alia, sets out the quotas for the commercial catch in each of the 17 fishery districts, including the Kerry district. The district quotas for 2004 have been set out in regulations which my colleague, the Minister of State, Deputy Browne, signed on 7 April last, to revise the scheme for 2004. The district quotas were firmly recommended to me by the National Salmon Commission following its comprehensive review of the effectiveness of the 2003 tagging scheme.

When presenting its advice on the scheme in 2003, the National Salmon Commission recommended that a three-year strategy should be put in place to ensure, by means of progressive reductions, that the conservation limits specified by its standing scientific committee should be reached by 2005. In implementing the scheme in 2003, and to move towards the attainment of conservation limits in all districts, the managers of the fisheries boards advised that a pragmatic approach be followed, whereby the districts requiring the greatest reduction in their current catches to meet conservation limits should be targeted with the greatest cuts in quota.

As the current catch model is largely based on mixed stock drift net fishery, it was considered that some reduction should occur in catch levels in all districts. This rationale was based on the knowledge that the districts are reporting entities rather than discrete catchments and the belief that a reduction in the mixed stock fishery in all districts will further benefit the attainment of conservation limits in districts below the required limit. The total allowable commercial catch for 2004 is consistent with the National Salmon Commission's recommendation last year that a three-year strategy be put in place aimed at reaching the scientific advice on precautionary catch limits between 2003 and 2005. The Conservation of Salmon and Sea Trout By-Law No. 794 of 2004 prescribes,inter alia, the opening and closing dates and the weekly close times for commercial salmon fishing in 2004, including drift nets, draft nets and other fishing engines. These are unchanged, in effect, from last year.

Property Acquisitions.

Michael Noonan

Question:

181 Mr. Noonan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if his Department has had discussions or negotiations which might lead to the acquisition of a property (details supplied) by purchase or leasehold; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12603/04]

My Department has no record of discussions or negotiations in connection with the purchase or lease of the former Stella Maris Mercy Convent and boarding school at Mount Trenchard, Foynes, County Limerick.

Exploration Licences.

Martin Ferris

Question:

182 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the number of applications for oil and gas exploration licences made between 1999 and 2004; the number which were successful; and the number which were so-called frontier licences. [12641/04]

During this period my Department received 40 applications for authorisations. Of these 40 applications two were for petroleum leases, two for lease undertakings, three for frontier exploration licences, 19 for licensing options and 14 for petroleum prospecting licences. Some 38 authorisations were awarded as a result. Two applications — one for a licensing option and one for a petroleum prospecting licence, were withdrawn.

My Department also received two applications for onshore exploration licences and one application for an onshore licensing option. Authorisations were awarded in these three cases. An application for an onshore petroleum prospecting licence has been received and is currently under consideration.

Salmon Lice.

Eamon Ryan

Question:

183 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if his Department’s attention has been drawn to reports that lice levels at a location (details supplied) in County Galway in February 2004 were greatly in excess of the levels permitted under the licensing agreement and under State protocol. [12642/04]

Eamon Ryan

Question:

184 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the action his Department has taken on the follow up to reported levels of lice at a location (details supplied) in County Galway; and the enforcement action which has been taken by his Department in its role as licenser for salmon farms in this particularly sensitive area. [12643/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 183 and 184 together.

A comprehensive programme of monitoring and control of sea lice levels at marine finfish farms is carried out on behalf of my Department by the Marine Institute. The inspection carried out at the fish farm in question in January of this year found that sea lice numbers were below the level specified in respect of that time of the year. However the subsequent inspection in February detected elevated levels of ovigerous and mobile lice. For this reason, a notice was served on the operators requiring them to treat the fish at the farm against lice.

The first inspection of the farm in March found that, notwithstanding the treatment undertaken, lice levels were still high. Further treatments have, therefore, been undertaken by the operators. As a result, the second inspection in March and the first inspection in April both found progressive and substantial decreases in lice levels.

My Department is monitoring the situation closely and has written to the farm operators emphasising the importance of taking all necessary and appropriate steps on an ongoing basis to control lice levels at the farm. I am advised that the operators are co-operating fully in dealing with the present position.

More generally, I can assure the Deputy that the control of sea lice levels at offshore finfish farms is a priority, and that my Department is committed to ensuring the effective operation of the extensive and rigorous programme that has been developed to deal with the matter.

Fishing Licences.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

185 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the proposals his Department will introduce to purchase the licences of draft and drift fishermen; the estimated cost of these proposals; the consequential effect of such proposals on salmon stocks; when such proposals will be implemented; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12752/04]

The overriding objective of the Government is to preserve the salmon resource in its own right and for the coastal and rural communities that it helps to support. The economic goals for a sustainable commercial salmon fishery based on quality and value rather than volume and the development of salmon angling as an important tourism product are both fully compatible with the primary objective.

The current strategy of developing a sustainable commercial and recreational salmon fishery through aligning catches on the scientific advice by next year hold out the strong prospect of a recovery of stocks and of a long term sustainable fishery for both sectors.

As a result, I have no plans to introduce proposals to purchase commercial salmon fishing licences but I intend to keep the matter under review in the context of the policy outlined above.

Property Acquisitions.

Michael Noonan

Question:

186 Mr. Noonan asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if his Department has had discussions or negotiations which might lead to the acquisition of a property (details supplied) by purchase or leasehold; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12604/04]

My Department has had no discussions or negotiations which might lead to the acquisition by purchase or leasehold of the property in question.

Sports Capital Programme.

Willie Penrose

Question:

187 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if he will take steps to ensure that an application for grants under the sports capital programme by an organisation (details supplied) in County Westmeath is dealt with; when such grants will be approved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12706/04]

The 2004 sports capital programme was advertised in the national newspapers on 30 November and 1 December 2003. The closing date for receipt of applications was 16 January 2004. A total of 1,304 applications were received before the closing date, including one from the organisation in question. All applications are currently being evaluated against the programme's assessment criteria, which are outlined in the guidelines, terms and conditions of the programme. I intend to announce the grant allocations for the programme as soon as possible after this evaluation process has been completed.

Arts Council.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

188 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if he will use his powers under the Arts Act to direct the Arts Council to meet with the promoters of the Anna Livia Opera Festival, Dublin, with a view to offering advice or financial assistance; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12707/04]

I have no powers to direct the Arts Council, as suggested by the Deputy.

Hospital Services.

Denis Naughten

Question:

189 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children when a reply will be issued to correspondence (details supplied); the reason for the delay in replying to same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12446/04]

A reply issued to the person referred to by the Deputy on 9 March 2004. As the House is aware, I asked Comhairle na nOspidéal to carry out a review of neurosurgical services and to prepare a report for my consideration. Comhairle was asked to focus, in particular, on the provision of adequate capacity and consideration of equity of access to neurosurgical services having regard to best practice in the provision of quality healthcare. Comhairle established a committee to review neurosurgical services.

To date, the committee has reviewed the international literature and visited neurosurgery units at Beaumont Hospital and Cork University Hospital where they met with consultant neurosurgeons and management representatives. The committee has also visited Galway to meet with consultant and management representatives of the Western Health Board and representatives of the Western Neurosurgery Campaign. The work of the committee on neurosurgical services is ongoing and plans are under way to visit neurosurgery units outside Ireland in the coming months. The committee is endeavouring to have a report prepared for consideration by Comhairle na nOspidéal by the end of the year. I do not intend to request an interim report.

Vaccination Programme.

Joe Higgins

Question:

190 Mr. J. Higgins asked the Minister for Health and Children if his Department will put in place immediately a compensation scheme for all persons who were brain damaged by vaccines administered in this State as recommended by the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Health and Children as a matter of urgency in its July 2001 report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12452/04]

Joe Higgins

Question:

191 Mr. J. Higgins asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason a period of two years has elapsed since the Irish Vaccine Injury Campaign was promised that a compensation scheme for all persons who were brain damaged by vaccines administered in this State would be set up without indication of such a scheme being set up in the immediate future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12453/04]

Marian Harkin

Question:

194 Ms Harkin asked the Minister for Health and Children when the compensation scheme will be put in place for all persons who were brain damaged by vaccines administered in this State, following the recommendations of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Health and Children report of July 2001 that this compensation scheme should be put in place as matter of urgency. [12480/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 190, 191 and 194 together.

The matters raised by the group concerned at the meeting in April 2002 were considered by my Department. A preliminary review of the schemes in place in a number of other countries was subsequently undertaken by my Department; this preliminary review involved a general overview of details of schemes in place in a number of other countries. This review was done in order to establish general details of schemes already in existence; however, a detailed examination of such schemes has not yet been undertaken.

My Department is keeping the position in relation to the possible establishment of an alleged vaccine damage compensation scheme under review.

Children in Care.

Mary Wallace

Question:

192 Ms M. Wallace asked the Minister for Health and Children if he will outline the guidelines which cover foster parents and legal guardians for children; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12461/04]

I understand that the Deputy is seeking information on the rights of an individual who has been granted legal guardianship of a child. I should explain that the Department of Health and Children has no responsibility in relation to this matter. As the Deputy is aware, health boards under the provisions of the Child Care Act 1991, are responsible for the provision of child welfare and protection services including foster care. However, health boards have no responsibility for family law issues such as that raised by the Deputy.

Home Help Service.

Gay Mitchell

Question:

193 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Health and Children if a person (details supplied) in Dublin 12 can have their two hours a day home help restored after a stay in hospital; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12479/04]

As the Deputy will be aware, the provision of health services in the Dublin 12 area is, in the first instance, the responsibility of the South Western Area Health Board acting under the aegis of the Eastern Regional Health Authority. My Department has, therefore, asked the chief executive of the authority to investigate the matter raised by the Deputy and reply direct to him as a matter of urgency.

Question No. 194 answered with QuestionNo. 190.

Central Mental Hospital.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

195 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for Health and Children the educational facilities and services that are available for a person (details supplied) detained in the Central Mental Hospital; and if there are proposals to provide further educational facilities and services. [12500/04]

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

Services for People with Disabilities.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

196 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Health and Children the reasons demands made by the Ballinasloe advocates concerning the availability of disability services in the Ballinasloe area have not been met; the reason a high support activation centre has not been built in Ballinasloe as a follow on from the TOPE scheme; the further reason the Western Health Board has informed this group that the project cannot be built due to lack of funding despite the fact that the Western Health Board has a budget surplus of €15 million for the years 2002 and 2003; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12501/04]

Responsibility for the provision of funding for services to persons with intellectual disability and those with autism, including the provision of a high support activation centre in the Ballinasloe area lies, in the first instance, with the Western Health board. My Department has, therefore, asked the chief executive officer of the board to investigate the matter raised by the Deputy and reply directly to him.

Hospital Services.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

197 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the regional neurosurgery unit in the west; the reason it has taken so long for a decision to be made; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12502/04]

As the Deputy is aware, I asked Comhairle na nOspidéal to carry out a review of neurosurgical services and to prepare a report for my consideration. Comhairle was asked to focus, in particular, on the provision of adequate capacity and consideration of equity of access to neurosurgical services having regard to best practice in the provision of quality healthcare. Comhairle established a committee to review neurosurgical services.

To date, the committee has reviewed the international literature and visited neurosurgery units at Beaumont Hospital and Cork University Hospital where they met with consultant neurosurgeons and management representatives. The committee has also visited Galway to meet with consultant and management representatives of the Western Health Board and representatives of the Western Neurosurgery Campaign. The work of the committee on neurosurgical services is ongoing and plans are underway to visit neurosurgery units outside Ireland in the coming months. The committee is endeavouring to have a report prepared for consideration by Comhairle na nOspidéal by the end of the year. I do not intend to request an interim report.

Hospital Funding.

Martin Ferris

Question:

198 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Health and Children if he will make a statement on the fact that Tralee General Hospital was underfunded by €2.5 million in 2003 and €1.25 million in 2004, and that this will result in the closure of one ward for three months in the summer of 2004 due to the fact that the hospital will not have the money to allow for staff stand-ins when they are on holiday. [12504/04]

It is a feature of all acute hospital systems that some beds are out of use for short periods. Bed closures fluctuate over time and may arise for a variety of reasons such as staff leave and seasonal closures. My Department understands that the seasonal closure of the ward in Tralee General Hospital will be similar to the seasonal closure of some beds that occurred in 2003. This seasonal closure will enable hospital management to co-ordinate annual leave for staff and thus reduce the level of locum cover needed while staff are on holiday.

My Department allocates funding on an annual basis to the Southern Health Board for the provision of health services. Distribution of this funding to individual hospitals in the region is a matter for the board. Therefore, my Department has asked the chief executive officer of the board to reply directly to the Deputy in relation to the level of funding provided for Tralee General Hospital.

Medical Students’ Entitlements.

Liz McManus

Question:

199 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Health and Children if he will extend entitlements to external placement allowance, travel allowance and uniform allowance, all granted to student nurses to student radiographers and physiotherapists; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12575/04]

The allowances referred to by the Deputy were made available to student nurses during their training following the introduction of the pre-registration nursing diploma programme and the removal of their salaried status. This situation does not pertain for physiotherapy and radiography students undertaking clinical training in the health service.

Rent Allowances.

John McGuinness

Question:

200 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Health and Children if an appeal for rent allowance in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny will be expedited; if the fact that they have a partner and one child will be considered. [12583/04]

Decisions in relation to the payments of rent allowance is a matter for the relevant health board. In the case of County Kilkenny, this responsibility rests with the South Eastern Health Board. My Department has been in contact with the board and has asked the chief executive officer to investigate this matter and respond directly to the Deputy.

Property Acquisitions.

Michael Noonan

Question:

201 Mr. Noonan asked the Minister for Health and Children if his Department has had discussions or negotiations which might lead to the acquisition of a property (details supplied) by purchase or leasehold; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12605/04]

Investigations have been made with the Mid-Western Health Board in relation to the property in question, since responsibility for property acquisition or disposal does not rest with the Department of Health and Children. To date, the health board has no information regarding this matter. This Department has therefore asked the Minister for Education and Science to investigate the matter raised by the Deputy and reply to him directly.

Long-Term Illness Scheme.

Liz McManus

Question:

202 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Health and Children the position with regard to the inclusion of Crohn’s disease in the long-term illness scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12701/04]

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

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

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Michael Ring

Question:

203 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will be called for hip surgery; and when this person was placed on the waiting list in Galway Regional and Cappagh hospitals. [12702/04]

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

Hospital Services.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

204 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children if, in regard to a person (details supplied) in Dublin 17, the date for a consultancy can be brought forward. [12703/04]

Responsibility for the provision of health services to persons living in counties Dublin, Kildare and Wicklow rests with the Eastern Regional Health Authority. My Department has, therefore, asked the regional chief executive of the authority to investigate the matter raised by the Deputy and to reply to him directly.

Hospital Staff.

Joe Sherlock

Question:

205 Mr. Sherlock asked the Minister for Health and Children if he will report on the permanent appointment of consultant radiologists and a geriatrician at Mallow General Hospital and approval for a CT scanner. [12704/04]

I have already agreed that the appointment of a consultant geriatrician based at Mallow General Hospital should proceed. Details in relation to the funding of the post and the structure of the post with regard to the delivery of an appropriate service to the elderly population of the area are being finalised between my Department and the Southern Health Board.

The Southern Health Board has submitted applications for approval of consultant radiologist posts that would provide consultant radiologist cover for Mallow General Hospital. Funding for these posts will be considered in the context of available revenue funding in 2004.

The provision of CT facilities at Mallow is a matter for the Southern Health Board to progress and I believe a submission is to be completed shortly and will be sympathetically considered by my Department in the context of the overall capital development plan for the hospital.

Health Board Services.

Pat Carey

Question:

206 Mr. Carey asked the Minister for Health and Children further to a previous parliamentary question, if a person (details supplied) in Dublin 11 is likely to receive orthodontic treatment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12744/04]

Responsibility for the provision of orthodontic treatment to eligible persons in Dublin 11 rests with the Eastern Regional Health Authority. My Department has asked the regional chief executive to investigate the matter raised by the Deputy and to reply to him directly.

Autism Services.

Pat Carey

Question:

207 Mr. Carey asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason resources, which are required to assist a person (details supplied) in Dublin 11, have not been made available; if appropriate supports will be put in place to ameliorate the effects of this rare condition; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13145/04]

Responsibility for the provision of services to persons with intellectual disability or autism in the Dublin region lies with the Eastern Regional Health Authority. My Department has therefore, written to the regional chief executive of the authority and asked him to investigate the matter of speech and language therapy. The other issues raised by the Deputy are a matter for the Department of Education and Science.

Services for People with Disabilities.

John McGuinness

Question:

208 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Transport if the medical criteria set out by his Department relative to the issue of parking permits for the disabled cover those with autism; if parents of autistic children come within the criteria set down; if not, if he intends to address the issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12464/04]

The Road Traffic (Traffic and Parking) Regulations 1997 empower local authorities, the Irish Wheelchair Association and the Disabled Drivers' Association to grant a disabled person's parking permit where they are satisfied that the applicant is suffering from a disability that prevents him or her from walking or causes undue hardship to the person in walking. No specific medical condition is stipulated in the regulations.

Where the permit is displayed on a vehicle, a range of parking restrictions established through the regulations do not apply is respect of that vehicle where it is parked for the convenience of the person to whom the permit was granted.

Decentralisation Programme.

David Stanton

Question:

209 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Transport the details regarding his decentralisation proposals for Mitchelstown, County Cork, as announced in the budget; the numbers to be decentralised to Mitchelstown; the appointment of each worker position that will be decentralised; when he expects this decentralisation proposal to be complete; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8984/04]

Details of the positions to be transferred have not yet been finalised. To date, in the transport implementation group more than 80 posts that could be transferred from Bus Éireann have been identified. Discussions with Bus Éireann are continuing and the chairman has been asked to examine urgently the options for meeting the overall target of 200 for Mitchelstown. Bus Éireann, along with the other organisations involved in the decentralisation programme, have been asked to prepare an implementation plan by the end of May.

Driving Tests.

John McGuinness

Question:

210 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Transport the reason a driver’s licence was refused to a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny who passed their test; if the refusal had to do with their status in this country; the reason they were allowed to sit the test; if he will make a statement on the matter and how he intends to deal with this case. [12587/04]

On the basis of the information supplied my Department cannot locate any record of the person concerned having passed a driving test. Under the Road Traffic Act 1961 and the Road Traffic (Licensing of Drivers) Regulations 1999 to 2001, it is a matter for the appropriate licensing authority and not my Department to determine the eligibility of a person for a driving licence, and to issue licences. If the person has a certificate of competency he should furnish it to the local licensing authority with an application for a licence.

Departmental Properties.

Michael Noonan

Question:

211 Mr. Noonan asked the Minister for Transport if his Department has had discussions or negotiations which might lead to the acquisition of a property (details supplied) by purchase or leasehold; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12606/04]

My Department has had no discussions or negotiations which might lead to the acquisition of a property (details supplied) by purchase or leasehold.

Driving Tests.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

212 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport if and when an early driving test appointment can be offered to a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12708/04]

A driving test will be arranged in due course for the person concerned. My Department has received no documentary evidence from the person concerned in supporting his need for an early test appointment.

Traffic Management.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

213 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport the extent to which he proposes to organise traffic management in the greater Dublin area for various other towns and cities throughout the country; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12710/04]

Local traffic management measures in towns and cities is a matter for the relevant local authority and the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government makes funding available for that purpose. In addition, my Department makes funding available to local authorities with the objective of promoting public transport.

In the greater Dublin area, funding is made available by my Department to the Dublin Transportation Office for allocation to local authorities for the implementation of traffic management measures, with quality bus corridors as a priority. A sum of €40 million is being made available in 2004.

Since 2002 my Department has been providing funds for the development of quality bus corridors and park and ride facilities in the city. This year, the Department is providing €6 million for the funding of these projects. Almost €1 million is being provided for Galway and €400,000 for Waterford and I have invited these councils to bring forward additional measures for funding. In addition, the National Roads Authority has been asked to allocate funds to promoting improved traffic management measures on its network.

Question No. 214 answered orally with Question No. 45.

Road Network.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

215 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport his proposals for crossing the M50 at the Red Cow roundabout without the disruption of existing traffic; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12712/04]

The implementation of the national roads programme and the planning, design and construction of individual projects, including the proposed upgrade of the M50, is a matter for the National Roads Authority, NRA, in conjunction with the relevant local authorities.

I understand from the NRA that the position relating to the Red Cow roundabout is that the upgrade works proposed at the roundabout as part of the overall M50 upgrade project are intended to remove as much traffic as possible from the signal controlled environment through the provision of additional structures and free-flow slips that are separated from other traffic movements. This will significantly increase the overall capacity of the interchange. Subject to satisfactory progress in planning and design and securing An Bord Pleanála approval, it is expected that work on upgrading the Red Cow interchange will commence in spring 2005 and be completed by spring 2007. In accordance with usual practice on major road improvement projects, traffic management arrangements will be put in place to maintain traffic flow during construction.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

216 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport the progress to date in respect of his plans to upgrade the Port tunnel to cater for anticipated traffic; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12713/04]

The position in relation to the height of the tunnel is that my Department appointed consultants to review the feasibility, safety implications and cost of raising the height of the Dublin Port tunnel. They were requested to review a range of options for increasing the operational height of the tunnel, their feasibility, having regard to the state of implementation of the current design and build contract and the likely additional costs and impact on the project completion date.

Having reviewed the findings of the report, further information has been sought from the NRA pertaining to its conclusions in particular relation to the costs should the tunnel height be increased. As a result, the contractors have been requested to provide a fixed price cost for the work involved. Following receipt of this information a decision on the height of the Dublin Port tunnel will be made.

National Development Plan.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

217 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport the position in regard to his Department’s projects as identified in the national development plan with particular reference to road, rail and air proposals; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12714/04]

Significant progress in capacity enhancement in public transport has been made since the national development plan got under way in 2000. Luas passenger services will commence on the Sandyford line end of June 2004 and on the Tallaght line end of August 2004. The Railway Procurement Agency, RPA, has informed me that the project is within the €691 million budget and €84 million risk provision as notified to the Government in 2002.

In the period between 2000 and the end of 2002 Iarnród Éireann delivered a 50% capacity increase on the DART. The current DART upgrade project will finalise Iarnród Éireann's plans to increase DART capacity by just short of 100%. Phase 1 of that project is under way. This involves upgrading platforms and stations on the DART line to cater for the operation of eight-car DARTs and replacing the overhead cabling. Some 40 further DART cars have also been ordered.

In the period between 2000 and the end of 2002 Iarnród Éireann doubled the capacity of the Maynooth-Dublin line. This was achieved through double-tracking the Maynooth route and the purchase of new diesel rail cars. Some 80 new diesel rail cars are now in service providing capacity increases as follows: northern line — 43%, Arklow-Dublin — 30%, Maynooth line — 24%, and Kildare line — 130%. The first phase of the Kildare route enhancement was delivered in December 2003 — Newbridge turn-back facility and eight-car platforms at Sallins and Hazelhatch.

Some 67 new mainline rail carriages will be in use on primary inter-city routes by the end of 2005. Work on re-signalling routes continues on target and within budget. The Galway line is completed and attention is now focused on the Waterford line, which will be followed by Tralee to Mallow and then the Sligo line. Up to 30 minutes reduction in journey times has already been achieved for many routes.

Work on providing new platforms, signaling systems, track work and much improved customer facilities at Heuston Station, at a cost of €117 million, is complete and has already made a significant contribution to improving the services on both inter-city and Kildare suburban services.

The Exchequer has invested more than €20 million in fleet replacement in Bus Átha Cliath during 2002-2003. A further €18.6 million has been spent on garage facilities, mainly for the new garage in Harristown.

The Exchequer has invested more than €10 million in fleet replacement in Bus Éireann during 2002 and 2003, mostly for replacement buses for Cork city service in 2002, and for regional buses in 2003. More than €200,000 was spent on Athlone bus station.

Under the rural transport initiative, RTI, which was launched in July 2001, 34 rural community groups, covering almost all counties, are currently being funded to operate pilot rural transport services in their areas. Approximately 380 new rural routes have been established under the initiative and some 20,000 people are using the RTI transport services each month. Some €3 million has been provided annually for the scheme since 2002 and a further €3 million is being provided for this purpose in 2004.

The public transport accessibility committee was established in July 2000 to advise me on public transport accessibility issues. The committee is comprised of representatives of a number of organisations representing older people and people with mobility and sensory impairments along with representatives of the principal public transport providers.

Some €8.5 million was expended on public transport accessibility projects for the mobility and sensory impaired in the period 2001 to 2003, mainly for the construction of footbridges and the installation of lifts for the mobility and sensory impaired at railway stations, the upgrading of bus stations, and disability awareness training for CIE frontline staff. A further €5 million is being provided in 2004 for additional public transport accessibility projects.

Good progress has been made in the implementation of the national roads upgrade programme provided for in the NDP. To date, 37 projects — a total of 256 km. including 76 km. of motorway and 50km of dual carriageway standard — have been completed. In addition, work is under way on 17 projects totalling 148 km, including 120 km, to motorway — dual carriageway standard, while another 17 projects — a total of 160 km — are at tender stage. In relation to the five major inter-urban routes, the position is that, at the end of 2003, nearly 30% of these routes had been upgraded to motorway-dual carriageway standard with work under way on approximately another 12%.

Funding has been made available towards infrastructural works and upgrades in facilities to maintain continued safe and viable operation of the six regional airports in Kerry, Waterford, Galway, Sligo, Knock, and Donegal. During the period 2000 to 2004 more than 30 projects were undertaken and grant aid of approximately €9 million has been paid to the various airport companies to date.

Rail Services.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

218 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport if he has proposals to increase the daily commuter capacity at Kilcock, Maynooth, Leixlip and Confey rail stations over a specific period; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12717/04]

I am informed by Iarnród Éireann that, since the introduction of the new timetable in December 2003, capacity has been increased by 24% on the Maynooth route, which serves Kilcock, Maynooth, Leixlip and Confey. This has been achieved by introducing to the route some of the new fleet of 80 diesel rail cars that it took delivery of over the past few months. This latest capacity increase comes on top of a 100% increase achieved in 2001 when the double tracking of the route was completed.

In addition, Iarnród Éireann has recently placed an order for another 36 diesel rail cars, which will be delivered in 2005. It is proposed that some of these rail cars will operate on the Maynooth line to increase capacity further.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

219 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport the daily passenger capacity at the Hazelhatch railway station; if he expects to increase these numbers over a specific period; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12718/04]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

220 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport the daily passenger capacity of Sallins railway station; the extent to which it is expected to augment these numbers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12719/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 219 and 220 together.

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

A further 36 diesel rail cars have been ordered recently to increase further the capacity on outer suburban routes serving Dublin.

Iarnród Éireann is now proceeding with plans to quadruple a section of the route between Cherry Orchard and Hazelhatch, as part of the Kildare route project, which will enable the separation of inter-city and commuting traffic and increase the capacity of the line. I await the details of the project as part of the railway order process. I understand that the company is in the process of completing the draft order and I understand that the application will be submitted to me in the coming months.

Question No. 221 answered with QuestionNo. 50.

Railway Safety Commission.

Denis Naughten

Question:

222 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Transport when the railway safety commission will be established; if he has satisfied himself with the current arrangements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12750/04]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Priority QuestionNo. 43.

Road Safety Programmes.

Dan Neville

Question:

223 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Transport the cumulative total provided towards road safety programmes and research since 1998 inclusive. [12751/04]

The following table sets out the Exchequer funding for the road safety agencies under the aegis of the Department of Transport for the period 1998 to 2004. The funding provision for each of the organisations supports the carrying out of research into various aspects of road safety by the three bodies. The allocation of specific funding to support such research programmes is a matter for their determination. The funding of any research carried out in relation to traffic law enforcement is a matter for the Garda Síochána and the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform.

State Body

1998

1999

2000

2001

2002

2003

2004

National Safety Council

1.148

1.290

1.202

2.484

2.941

2.758

2.886

Medical Bureau of Road Safety

.794

1.380

1.565

1.771

1.728

2.067

2.337

National Roads Authority

9.430

10.506

10.819

11.906

7.953

9.708

17.265

Total

11,372

13.176

13.586

16.161

12.622

14.533

22.488

State Airports.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

224 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Transport the reason for the delay in providing the business information to union representatives in Aer Rianta; and the length of time he proposes to allow for adequate consideration of this prior to the publication of the State airports Bill. [12722/04]

As the Deputy is aware, I gave an undertaking to the Aer Rianta unions that, subject to agreeing suitable arrangements to deal with commercially sensitive material, I would make available share key financial information on the three State airports before the text of the amending legislation to give effect to the restructuring of the company is approved by the Government. This information was provided to the unions' financial advisers on Friday of last week. Both the unions and their advisers are aware of my intention to have the new legislation enacted before the summer recess. I have asked the unions to respond to the financial information over the next two weeks.

Denis Naughten

Question:

225 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Transport if his Department has resolved the legal difficulties surrounding the break-up of Aer Rianta; if he has satisfied himself that the three airports are commercially viable as stand alone entities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12754/04]

As I have stated on previous occasions in this House, the implementation of the Government's decision to restructure Aer Rianta is a strategically important but complex project. My Department and its advisers have now clarified the significant technical and legal issues which will determine the scope and content of the necessary amending legislation to give effect to the restructuring. It is my intention to have that legislation enacted before the summer recess and I do not wish to pre-empt its contents before it is approved by Government and published.

I believe that each of the airports will be a commercial success and will maximise sustainable economic activity both within the airport companies themselves and in their catchment areas. I am also satisfied that with a fresh start under strong and visionary new leadership, all three airports will be better positioned to adapt more quickly to the new challenges and opportunities of the rapidly changing aviation environment.

Prison Service Staff.

Denis Naughten

Question:

226 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, further to Question No. 157 of 11 March 2004, and the associated letter of 30 March 2004, if he will clarify the exact application of all public service pay round increases already applied to prison service staff from 1980 to date; the result of the application of same to the post of prison chaplains; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12454/04]

As stated in my letter of 30 March 2004, the Irish Prison Service has conducted a thorough search of its files and has documented all information available in relation to chaplains' salaries. To revisit these files in order to clarify the exact application of all public service pay round increases applied to prison staff from 1980 would take an inordinate amount of staff time and resources, which could not be justified given the present climate.

However, the Deputy may be interested to know that the Irish Prison Service is in discussions with the Co-ordinating Chaplaincy Group, which was appointed by the Irish Episcopal Conference to represent the Catholic chaplains, in relation to the salary and conditions of service. These discussions are at an advanced stage and it is hoped that they will be concluded in the near future to the satisfaction of all parties.

Prisoners’ Voting Rights.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

227 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on the decision of the European Court of Human Rights, which ruled that denying prisoners the right to vote was in breach of the European convention; and his proposals in this regard. [12455/04]

As I indicated previously, in reply to Question No. 175 of 7 April 2004 and Question No. 693 of 27 April 2004, the European Court of Human Rights, ECHR, in a judgment adopted on 9 March 2004, found that a breach of Article 3 of Protocol 1 to the European Convention on Human Rights had occurred in a case taken by a prisoner in the United Kingdom.

The prisoner, who is serving a sentence of life imprisonment, had complained that, as a convicted prisoner, he was subject to a blanket ban on voting in elections. This was as a result of legislation in the UK, section 3 of the Representation of the People Act 1983, which prohibits a convicted person from voting in a parliamentary or local election during the term of his or her detention in a penal institution. There is no such legislation in this country which prohibits a sentenced person from voting.

The Supreme Court, while taking cognisance of the fact that there are no statutory provisions which prohibit a convicted prisoner from voting, has held that the State is under no constitutional obligation to facilitate prisoners in the exercise of that franchise.

I have, however, brought the recent ruling of the ECHR to the attention of both the Attorney General and the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government who has primary responsibility for electoral legislation and I will consider the implications of the court's judgment in consultation with my colleagues.

Peace Commissioners.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

228 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the power, duties and responsibilities of peace commissioners; and his proposals to enhance their role. [12456/04]

The duties and powers of a peace commissioner as set out in section 88(3) of the Courts of Justice Act 1924 allows for: (a) signing summonses (except against a garda); (b) signing warrants; (c) administering oaths and taking declarations, affirmations, information, bonds and recognisances; and (d) signing certificates for the registration of clubs. Peace commissioners are also empowered to sign certificates for the destruction of food unfit for consumption under food hygiene regulations. The issuing of summonses and warrants was subject to a number of legal challenges in the late 1980s and early 1990s and decisions of the superior courts raised serious doubts about the constitutional competence of peace commissioners to exercise such powers. Peace commissioners are, therefore, no longer requested to exercise the powers to issue summonses, warrants for arrest and to remand persons in custody or on bail.

At present the powers and duties of peace commissioners consist primarily of taking statutory declarations, witnessing signatures on documents for various authorities and signing certificates and orders under various Acts. I do not propose to amend the legislation relating to peace commissioners at this time, but I will keep the matter under review.

Visa Applications.

John McGuinness

Question:

229 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform further to Parliamentary Question No. 174 of 12 February 2004 if he will give a decision in the case in view of the length of time the file has been with his Department. [12460/04]

The immigration division of my Department has written to the person concerned on three occasions requesting information to assist with the determination of the application in question. There has been no response from the person to date. Consideration of the application cannot proceed pending the receipt of the information requested.

Seán Power

Question:

230 Mr. S. Power asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reason a visa was refused for two persons (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12467/04]

The visa applications in question were to enable the wife and daughter of a non-EEA national employed in the State under the work permit scheme to join him. A worker employed under this scheme may be joined by their spouse and minor children after the worker has been in the State for one year and has been offered a contract for a further year. The worker must also be able to fully support the family members in question without the need to have recourse to public funds. The applications in question were refused as the supporting documentation did not show that the worker was in a position to fully support the family members. The applications were reconsidered by a visa appeals officer who agreed with the concerns of the visa officer and confirmed the refusal of the applications.

It is open to the applicants to make fresh applications, enclosing up to date pay slips or a P60 as evidence of the worker's income.

May Day Protests.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

231 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the efforts the Garda Síochána has made to meet with and negotiate with those planning to protest or demonstrate over the May Day bank holiday weekend 2004 in order to reduce the negative impact such protest may have. [12470/04]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the Garda Síochána engaged in ongoing liaison with various groups planning protests and-or demonstrations over the May Day bank holiday weekend.

Citizenship Applications.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

232 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his Department can expedite a decision in relation to the application for naturalisation by a person (details supplied) in County Wexford who has resided here since 1974; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12508/04]

An application for naturalisation from the person referred to by the Deputy was received in the citizenship section of my Department on 9 March 2004.

Applications for naturalisation are currently taking approximately 18 months to process. Consequently, it is likely that the application of the person concerned will be finalised in late 2005. As soon as I have reached a decision on the matter, I will inform both the applicant and the Deputy of the outcome.

Probation and Welfare Service.

Martin Ferris

Question:

233 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if the monitoring committee for the Donaghmede probation centre will be provided with in depth details of a client’s case. [12510/04]

Martin Ferris

Question:

234 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform who will appoint the chairperson of the monitoring committee for the Donaghmede probation centre. [12513/04]

Martin Ferris

Question:

235 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform to whom the monitoring committee for the Donaghmede probation centre will report. [12514/04]

Martin Ferris

Question:

236 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform who will convene meetings of the Donaghmede probation centre monitoring committee; who will draw up the agenda; and who will take the minutes of meetings and ensure that there is a follow up. [12515/04]

Martin Ferris

Question:

237 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if the monitoring committee will have the power to close the Donaghmede probation centre in the event of a significant increase in crime in the area. [12516/04]

Martin Ferris

Question:

238 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the terms of reference for the monitoring committee overseeing the Donaghmede probation centre. [12517/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 233 to 238, inclusive, together.

A monitoring committee was recently established comprising representatives of the traders of the shopping centre, the property management group, the probation and welfare service, my Department, and the Garda to review the operation of the new probation and welfare office at Donaghmede shopping centre and to report to me on the impact of the presence of the office on the area. The local residents' association was invited to nominate a representative but has not done so to date. The committee met for the first time on 22 March 2004 and elected a chairperson. A member of the staff of the probation and welfare service agreed to act as secretary to the committee. The committee met again on 29 March and 19 April 2004. The first review of the operation of the office is planned to take place after six to 12 months of operation to allow for a settling in period. I intend to take appropriate action, if it transpires that the presence of the office is linked to a significant rise in criminality in the area. The monitoring committee will not have access to in depth details of the cases of offenders attending the office.

Asylum Applications.

John McGuinness

Question:

239 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when an interview will be arranged for a person (details supplied) who is ten months in a hostel; and if he will expedite this application. [12576/04]

I wish to inform the Deputy that it is not the practice to comment on individual applications for asylum.

As the Deputy will be aware, under the Refugee Act 1996, two independent statutory offices were established to consider applications and or appeals for refugee status and to make recommendations to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform on whether such status should be granted.

These two offices are the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner, which considers applications for a declaration as a refugee at first instance and the Refugee Appeals Tribunal which considers applications for a declaration at appeal stage. I understand that the applicant in question will be scheduled for interview in the near future.

Property Acquisitions.

Michael Noonan

Question:

240 Mr. Noonan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his Department has had discussions or negotiations which might lead to the acquisition of a property (details supplied) by purchase or leasehold; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12607/04]

There are no plans to purchase the facility referred to by the Deputy. The Reception and Integration Agency, on behalf of the Department of Social and Family Affairs, has entered into a short-term service level agreement with a contractor for the provision of full board accommodation and ancillary services at the premises for short stay purposes, if required.

Sentencing Policy.

Jack Wall

Question:

241 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the length of sentence of a person (details supplied); if this persons sentence has been reduced; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12623/04]

As I indicated previously to the Deputy, in reply to Question No. 462 of 23 March 2004, the person referred to is serving a cumulative sentence of 18 months for the unauthorised taking of an MPV, criminal damage, no insurance, assault and trespass. The sentence was reduced from two years, by the court, on appeal on 27 February 2004. The prisoner is currently scheduled for release, with standard remission, on 11 March 2005.

Child Care Services.

Michael Ring

Question:

242 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when grants will be announced for child care and crèche facilities. [12624/04]

When the equal opportunities childcare programme 2000-2006 was initially launched, it was envisaged that grant applications would be announced on a quarterly basis, to tie in with the anticipated timeframe to process the project applications. However, practice revealed that some applications required extensive consultation before a recommendation could be made while others were complete in their information and could be processed more quickly.

As a result, the programme appraisal committee, chaired by my Department, agreed to hold more frequent meetings to ensure that projects would have a timely decision to enable them to proceed at the earliest possible date. Consequently, the programme appraisal committee has met almost monthly since the programme commenced. Following the deliberations of the programme appraisal committee, I make decisions and ADM Limited enters into a final stage of consultation with the project promoter with a view to concluding a formal contract.

The equal opportunities childcare programme 2000-2006 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 2000-2006. Expenditure under the programme must take place in a planned manner and covers the period to end 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.

I would advise the Deputy that 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 childcare facilities. ADM on behalf of my Department is currently carrying out an extensive review of the programme's capital commitments to date to ensure that those grant commitments previously entered into will in fact be realised by the groups on the ground. The Deputy will appreciate that over 1,100 capital grants have been allocated already totalling over €114 million. Many of these projects are either awaiting planning permission or the completion of tender processes before reasonable assurance can be taken that they will proceed. In the event that a project does not proceed, the funding can be decommitted and made available to another project.

The Department has recently reviewed the different budget lines under the EOCP in general and the capital programme in particular to ensure that the most effective use is made of all remaining funding including the capital measure in accordance with the objectives of the programme. This will involve some transfers between measures and the approval of the regional assemblies is needed. I expect that this technical process will be completed shortly and that it will bring to about €157 million the total allocation for the capital development of childcare under the present equal opportunities childcare programme. This amount includes an element for the administration by ADM Limited of the capital programme.

At the same time, an extensive review of childcare provision on the ground has taken place to identify obvious service gaps, the filling of which will be a priority using the remaining capital funding which currently amounts to about €35 million. The careful analysis of this information is essential if the best use is to be made of the significant capital funding being provided by the Government to support the childcare needs of parents who may be in employment, education or training.

The Deputy will appreciate that all counties have benefited from new projects and additional childcare places under the programme. I intend to use the remaining capital funding under this strand of child care development to address the most immediate service gaps. As a result, all the projects in the pipeline will be reviewed to ensure that those projects which best meet the programme criteria and which can be completed by the end of the present programme will receive priority. The ability to bring a project to fruition before the end of the present programme is an important criterion at this stage as I am aware that it can frequently take time to complete a project and there are constraints to ensure that we maximise our EU funding.

I do not doubt but that the success of the present strand of the EOCP and the need to continue to make child care available to support the child care needs of our still growing work force will support my case for ongoing capital and current funding from Government for this key sector. Indeed should any additional funding become available before the end of the present national development plan, I would expect that the programme would again benefit from transfers.

Registration of Title.

Michael Ring

Question:

243 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when maps will be issued to a person (details supplied) in County Mayo. [12626/04]

I am informed by the Registrar of Titles that these are two applications for a copy folio and special features map which were both lodged on 30 October 2003. Application numbers C2003SM005276U and C2003SM005275T refer.

I can inform the Deputy that application number C2003SM005276U was completed on 27 April 2004 and that application number C2003SM005275T was completed on 29 April 2004.

Citizenship Applications.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

244 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if a passport will be issued in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Mayo. [12627/04]

An application for naturalisation from the person referred to by the Deputy was received in the citizenship section of my Department on 22 May 2003.

Applications for naturalisation are currently taking approximately 18 months to process. Consequently, it is likely that the application of the person concerned will be finalised in late 2004. As soon as I have reached a decision on the application for naturalisation, I will inform both the applicant and the Deputy of the outcome.

Drug Courts.

Richard Bruton

Question:

245 Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his plans to extend the drug courts model based in Dublin city centre to other suburbs of Dublin and other parts of the country; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12628/04]

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 and 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 further test and refine 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. This 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.

Citizenship Applications.

Tony Gregory

Question:

246 Mr. Gregory asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when a response will be made to an application by a person (details supplied) for citizenship. [12629/04]

An application for naturalisation from the person referred to by the Deputy was received in the citizenship section of my Department on 4 July 2002.

The application is currently being processed and I will inform both the applicant and the Deputy once a decision has been reached.

Garda Stations.

Mary Upton

Question:

247 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his plans to relocate a Garda station (details supplied) in Dublin 12 from its current location. [12697/04]

I understand from the Garda authorities that there are no plans to relocate the station referred to by the Deputy.

Citizenship Applications.

Pat Carey

Question:

248 Mr. Carey asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if, in view of the additional information supplied by a person (details supplied) in Dublin 11, their application for naturalisation will be reconsidered; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12748/04]

An application for a certificate of naturalisation was received from the person referred to by the Deputy on 1 November 2002. I considered this application on 5 March 2004 and decided not to grant the application. That decision was based on information available to me at that time.

The applicant was informed of my decision in writing on 25 March 2004. A copy of the submission that was prepared by my officials, with my decision noted thereon, was released to the applicant. If that decision was based on incorrect information, I will certainly re-examine the matter. However, nothing in the documentation supplied with the Deputy's question suggests that my decision was based on incorrect information. Consequently, my decision still stands.

Garda Pensions.

Dan Neville

Question:

249 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding his examination of the inadequate pension of members of the Garda Síochána who retired before 1 January 2003; and his plans to address this inequality. [12749/04]

The background to this case is that a 1983 arbitration finding, recommended that certain Garda allowances should be made pensionable with effect from 1 October 1982. The finding was applied only to personnel who retired on or after that date. The pensionability of the Garda unsocial hours allowance was treated in a similar way when it was introduced. It was applied, with effect from 1 January 1994, to personnel who retired or died in service on or after 1 January 1993. The position was consistent with that in other areas of the public service where in the context of making allowances pensionable, the benefits were confined to those retiring after a specified date and did not extend to pensioners who retired before that date.

In September 2001, the Government decided to accept the thrust of the package of reforms recommended by the Commission on Public Service Pensions and to establish a working group to advise on implementation as provided for in the Programme for Prosperity and Fairness. Parallel structures with the same remit were established in the case of the Garda Síochána and the Defence Forces. The operational details of the implementation of the commission recommendations are being agreed by Government following receipt of a report from the implementation working group and a report from the Garda Síochána pensions parallel working group.

The position on the issue of parity of pensions for members of the Garda Síochána who retired prior to 1993, who do not receive the unsocial hours element in their pensions, and those who retired prior to 1982, who do not receive the rent allowance element in their pensions, is that the commission examined the specific issue of the pensionability of allowances for members of the Garda Síochána and others, as part of its deliberations, but having assessed the arguments involved, did not recommend any increase in pension for the groups involved. Having regard to the report of the commission, I have no plans to make any changes in respect of the pensionability of the Garda allowances.

It should be noted that the concession sought in relation to the Garda allowances could not be confined to the Garda and there would be considerable additional costs with regard to allowances in other areas of the public sector, notably the Defence Forces, teachers and prison officers. A concession in these areas could impose a very significant cost on the State — in excess of approximately €12 million a year and an accrued liability of about €152 million, based on 1997 costs for Garda and Defence Forces pensioners outlined in the final report of the Commission on Public Service Pensions when considering the issue of extending pensionability.

I do not agree that an annual pension in excess of €19,000 — the current annual basic pension of a retired member of Garda rank with full service, could be regarded as being inadequate.

Water and Sewerage Schemes.

Mary Wallace

Question:

250 Ms M. Wallace asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government about the proposed extension of the waste water treatment plant at Drogheda; and the proposed timeframe for proceeding to tender, the signing of a contract and the construction of works. [12451/04]

The Drogheda waste water treatment plant extension is included in my Department's water services investment programme 2003-2005 as a scheme to commence construction this year.

Louth County Council's design review report, water pricing report and contract documents for the scheme are being examined by my Department. They will be dealt with as quickly as possible. When the contract documents have been approved the council may invite tenders for the work in accordance with public procurement procedures. The appointment of a contractor and commencement of work will depend on the satisfactory completion of the tender process.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

251 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if the report of the Innishannon water scheme (details supplied) submitted by the county council in November 2002 has been considered and approved; if it can get under way; and the commencement date. [12465/04]

The scheme was approved for funding in my Department's water services investment programme 2003-2005 under the rural towns and villages initiative.

Earlier this month Cork County Council submitted a revised preliminary report and supporting documentation to my Department. It will be dealt as quickly as possible.

Road Network.

Seán Power

Question:

252 Mr. S. Power asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the moneys provided by his Department for the realignment of the Greenhills Road, Tallaght; and when the moneys issued. [12468/04]

Details of grant payments for each of the years 2000 to 2003, inclusive, and the 2004 grant allocation by my Department to South Dublin County Council, in respect of the realignment of the Greenhills Road, are as follows:

Year

Payment

2000

21,586

2001

90,968

2002

124,048

2003

2,000,000

2004

1,500,000 (allocation)

Property Acquisitions.

Michael Noonan

Question:

253 Mr. Noonan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if his Department has had discussions or negotiations that might lead to the acquisition of a property (details supplied) by purchase or leasehold. [12608/04]

My Department has had no discussions or negotiations about the acquisition of the property concerned.

Environmental Pollution.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

254 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he or his Department has guidelines for the prevention of potential pollution by applications for planning permission for landfill sites or other specific developments. [12638/04]

It is open to a planning authority or An Bord Pleanála to refuse planning permission for landfill facilities on environmental pollution grounds. When permission is granted, matters on environmental pollution fall to be dealt with in the context of the determination by the Environmental Protection Agency of the related application for a waste licence. The agency is precluded from granting such a licence unless it is satisfied that a facility will not cause environmental pollution.

My Department issues planning guidelines on a range of issues. They are as follows:

Issues on which Planning Guidelines Have Been Issued

Development Control Advice and Guidelines (currently under review)

Tree Preservation

Telecommunications Antennae and Support Structures

Wind Farms (currently under review)

Residential Density

Housing Supply (Part V of the Planning and Development Act 2000), with additional guidance on implementation issues

Retail Planning Guidelines (retail warehousing cap element of guidelines currently under review)

Child Care Facilities

Architectural Heritage Protection, with additional guidelines relating to places of public worship

Environmental Impact Assessment of sub-threshold development

Control of Quarries

Issues on which Draft Planning Guidelines Have Been Issued

Landscape and Landscape Assessment

Development Plans

Sustainable Rural Housing.

Electoral Review.

John Perry

Question:

255 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his views on whether the findings of the Constituency Review Commission on the division of Leitrim will have major socio-economic consequences for the county in coming years. [12644/04]

John Perry

Question:

256 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he proposes to reinstate or reconstitute the CRC and request it to revisit the Leitrim problem with a view to putting forward alternatives in view of the Save Leitrim Campaign; and his views on the matter as the commission has no more sittings. [12645/04]

John Perry

Question:

257 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he proposes to explore an alternative in view of the fact that the CRC did not adhere to the term of reference that dealt with the division of a county; and the reason Leitrim’s case was not taken into account when drafting the terms of reference. [12646/04]

John Perry

Question:

258 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his views on whether Leitrim is in a unique situation due to its small population and the CRC’s view of it. [12647/04]

John Perry

Question:

259 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if, in view of the limited options available to the CRC, he proposes to alter the findings before bringing them before Dáil Éireann for ratification. [12648/04]

John Perry

Question:

260 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if his attention was drawn to the fact that the proposed division of Leitrim will result in the Dromahaire electoral area being divided, one part in Sligo-Leitrim and the other in Roscommon-Leitrim; his views on whether this is unfair to the people of Leitrim and whether they have a constitutional right to remain in one constituency. [12649/04]

John Perry

Question:

261 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he can provide evidence from the division of the county pre-1981 to indicate that the consequence of the division had a demoralising effect on the people of Leitrim. [12650/04]

John Perry

Question:

262 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he proposes to set up an independent task force to explore the consequences of the proposed division of Leitrim in view of the limited time and terms of reference available to the CRC. [12651/04]

John Perry

Question:

263 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the district electoral areas in the State divided into two constituencies as a result of the CRC. [12652/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 255 to 263, inclusive, together.

It would be inappropriate for me to comment on any of the recommendations of the independent CRC on Dáil constituencies before its report is considered by the Government and the Oireachtas in the context of the necessary legislation.

Voting Rights.

Mary Upton

Question:

264 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will consider requests to allow British citizens to vote in a presidential election and a referendum, especially as many of them have resided here for years. [12695/04]

Eligibility to vote at a presidential election and a referendum is confined by the Constitution to Irish citizens only. A change would require a referendum to amend the Constitution.

Mary Upton

Question:

265 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his view on the large number of A voters on the 2004 to 2005 electoral register; and his view on whether these EU citizens will be denied a vote in the European elections 2004. [12696/04]

I assume that the Deputy is referring to e-voters or electronic voters. This refers to EU citizens who are entitled to vote in local and European elections.

All EU citizens, who are registered in accordance with electoral law, are entitled to vote at the European and local elections on 11 June. A number of measures have been undertaken to ensure that they are aware of their rights. My Department distributed a form to be used by registration authorities when compiling the 2004-2005 register of electors. It contained information for non-nationals, including EU citizens, on their eligibility to vote and to stand at the 2004 European and local elections. An information leaflet was distributed to the embassies of the 25 EU member states, the European Parliament office and other interested bodies. It is also available on my Department's website.

In addition, a newspaper advertising campaign is under way to promote the availability of the supplement to the register for persons who are not on the published register. The advertisements make specific reference to EU citizens.

Property Acquisitions.

Michael Noonan

Question:

266 Mr. Noonan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if his Department had discussions or negotiations that might lead to the acquisition of a property (details supplied) by purchase or leasehold. [12609/04]

My Department has not had any discussions or negotiations that might lead to the acquisition, either by purchase or leasehold, of the property.

Community Development.

David Stanton

Question:

267 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, further to Parliamentary Question No. 172 of 27 April, the 132 schools that will receive funding under the CLÁR primary school outdoor play facilities enhancement scheme; and the amount allocated to each school. [12745/04]

Details of the schools referred to by the Deputy were posted on my Department's website on 1 April. The information may be accessed onwww.pobail.ie/en/pressreleases

Pension Provisions.

Mary Wallace

Question:

268 Ms M. Wallace asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the way the sale of residence disregard regulation within the social welfare old age and blind pensions regulation 1991 be applied in the case of a person who sold their house before 1991 in order to move to smaller accommodation and, as a result, lost their pension. [12579/04]

Under the sale of residence provisions a person may sell his or her home and buy or rent more suitable accommodation without the sale proceeds affecting his or her weekly means for social assistance purposes, subject to specified limits. These provisions also apply in certain other instances. For example, where a person moves into a private nursing home or moves in with a person who is getting a carer's payment for looking after them.

In all cases the balance of the sale proceeds of the principal private residence is disregarded when assessing the weekly means of a claimant for certain non-contributory payments from my Department. The current maximum level of disregard is €190,460.71.

The special provision was enacted in the Social Welfare Act 1990 and in regulations made in 1991 and subsequently. Without further details of the case I cannot state how a sale of residence made before 1991 would be treated for old age pension scheme means assessment purposes. If the Deputy supplies details of cases to my Department the matter will be examined.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Bernard Allen

Question:

269 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if she proposes to amend the rules of behaviour for persons in receipt of disability allowance under the rehabilitative care work scheme that will adjust €240 as the limit in order the keep the original integrity of the scheme for the small numbers involved. [12581/04]

My Department operates a range of employment support measures for people on disability payments in order to encourage and facilitate them to take up available work and training opportunities. One of these measures is the rehabilitative earnings disregard that applies in the case of the disability allowance and blind person's pension schemes. Under the measure, people on means tested disability payments can earn up to €120 a week without it affecting their entitlement to payment and provided the work involved is rehabilitative in nature.

The rehabilitative earnings disregard was introduced to enable people with disabilities, who were engaged in sheltered work, to receive a small top-up payment without it affecting their entitlement to a disability payment.

In 1996 my Department took responsibility for the disability allowance scheme. Since then the level of disregard has been substantially increased. Many more people with disabilities can benefit from the measure such as those engaged in employment in the open labour market and participants on community employment schemes.

The question of further increases in the earnings disregard for rehabilitative employment would have financial implications and would have to be considered in a budgetary context.

John McGuinness

Question:

270 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the reason rent allowance was not granted in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; and if an appeal can be expedited. [12584/04]

The South Eastern Health Board was contacted about the case. It advised that the person concerned was refused a rent supplement in accordance with the legislation that provides that asylum seekers and persons who are not lawfully in the State are not entitled to the supplement.

The person concerned is an asylum seeker who is currently accommodated in a direct provision centre operated by the Reception and Integration Agency.

The person concerned lodged an appeal with the health board appeals officer and my Department's chief appeals officer. On both occasions the decision to refuse payment was upheld.

Property Acquisitions.

Michael Noonan

Question:

271 Mr. Noonan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if her Department had discussions or negotiations that might lead to the acquisition of a property (details supplied) by purchase or leasehold. [12610/04]

The Office of Public Works is responsible for all matters that relate to property acquisition on behalf of my Department.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

272 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the reason rent supplement was reduced in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; if account will be taken of the current rent of €650 per month of which €470.00 must be paid by the person who is finding it increasingly difficult to do so. [12621/04]

Rent supplement is subject to a means test. Therefore, any change in the level of household income may affect the amount payable.

The South Western Area Health Board was contacted about the case. It advised that the rent supplement paid up to February was based on household income that comprised of disability benefit and maintenance payments. Recently the person concerned was awarded the one-parent family payment. Accordingly, her rent supplement was reviewed to take account of the increase in household income. She now receives the one-parent family payment, half personal rate disability benefit and maintenance payments.

The person concerned is in receipt of the maximum amount of rent supplement payable having regard to her circumstances.