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Dáil Éireann debate -
Tuesday, 11 May 2004

Vol. 585 No. 2

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 6, inclusive, answered orally.
Questions Nos. 7 to 37, inclusive, resubmitted.
Questions Nos. 38 to 43, inclusive, answered orally.

Air Corps Operations.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

44 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Defence the search and rescue bases now maintained and operated by the Air Corps; the role he expects the Air Corps to play in search and rescue operations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13395/04]

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

55 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Defence if a date has been set for the hand-over of the search and rescue service in the north west from the Air Corps to a private company; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13394/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 44 and 55 together.

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

Late last year, I announced my decision to withdraw the Air Corps from the search and rescue service. This decision was only made following a considered assessment of the capacity of the Air Corps to return to and maintain a full 24 hour service in the north west. As Deputies will recall, the service had been restricted following on from an unusually high incidence of sick leave among the winch crews. There is no plan to reconsider the decision to withdraw from the search and rescue service.

The Air Corps will continue to provide its current limited service, while the Coast Guard makes alternative arrangements for the return of a full SAR service in the north west. I have been informed by my colleague, the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, that the proposals are still under assessment and a final decision in this regard is expected shortly.

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

Emergency Planning.

John Gormley

Question:

45 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Defence if he will report on the meetings to date of the Government’s task force on emergency planning; the number of such meetings during the same time period in 2003; the initiatives this task force has taken in relation to the EU-US Summit in June 2004; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13461/04]

Joan Burton

Question:

48 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Defence the current work of the Government’s task force on emergency planning, which he chairs; when the last meeting was held; when the next meeting is planned; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13390/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 45 and 48 together.

The most recent meeting of the Government task force on emergency planning was held on Thursday, 22 April. I have scheduled a further meeting for 27 May. The task force has met on three occasions — 18 February, 25 March and 22 April — during 2004. The task force met on a total of nine occasions in 2003.

The Government task force on emergency planning has worked, since it was set up in 2001, to co-ordinate emergency planning and response arrangements across those Departments that lead and support the State's response in an emergency.

The focus for this work continues to be on making the necessary arrangements to, at best, prevent or at least minimise the risks from terrorist activities, ensuring that the protection available to the Irish people is maximised, putting mechanisms in place to support the response agencies and providing co-ordination for maximum efficiency and effectiveness.

Potential threats to the State arising from international terrorism are continuously monitored by those involved, principally the Garda Síochána and the Defence Forces. The advice available to me is that, while the Garda authorities recognise that the terrorist threat to Europe may currently be high, in regard to Ireland it is low. The awareness that the situation could change rapidly, and with little warning, has ensured that vigilance is maintained.

Should the situation with respect to Ireland change, the Government task force on emergency planning will provide the necessary co-ordination to promote the best use of the State's resources and compatibility between the varying emergency planning requirements. Arrangements regarding security issues that may arise in connection with the EU-US summit to be held in June are primarily a matter for the Garda Síochána. Emergency planning preparations are designed to ensure that as far as possible the necessary advance planning is in place to deal with the consequences of any incident that may arise.

A critical issue in an emergency is the question of issuing adequate and timely warnings and providing the necessary information to the general public on threatened or developing emergency situations. The EU civil protection mechanism and other international mechanisms provide Ireland with certain warning and alert systems and mechanisms. Television and radio broadcasting will be the key means of contact with the public in such circumstances but all other means of communication will be utilised.

International links have also been important as a means of sharing expertise and resources. The European Union continues to develop programmes to improve co-operation within the Union and prevent and limit any consequences of chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear terrorists threats. This was given new impetus by the EU Declaration on Combating Terrorism agreed under the Irish Presidency, which, among other things, emphasises the benefits of co-operation and co-ordination.

I am pleased to report to this House that there continues to be excellent co-operation between my Department and all other Departments and public authorities. I continue to report regularly to Government on emergency planning, on a confidential basis. I presented the most recent of these confidential reports to Government last October. The report noted that the year had been one of consolidation of emergency planning development. Steps continue to be taken to build on the work done since 2001, formalise the arrangements that have been put in place and lay the groundwork for the future.

The objective of the Government is to ensure that all State bodies can react quickly and efficiently to any large-scale emergency.

As chairperson of the Government task force, my approach continues to be that such responses should be characterised by effective management of all aspects of emergency planning and by a high level of public confidence in all the response arrangements. I will continue this work and I will report regularly to Government and to this House on these matters.

Defence Forces Training.

David Stanton

Question:

46 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Defence the measures he has taken or intends to take to adjust the amount of time Naval personnel have to spend at sea; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13149/04]

In December 2000 I authorised a new organisation for the Naval Service which increased personnel numbers from 959 serving at that time to a new establishment of 1,144. I am advised by the military authorities that there were 1,078 personnel serving in the Naval Service as at 31 March 2004.

The Naval Service endeavours to operate a planned approach to sea-shore rotation of personnel based on a two year period of commitment to sea-going duties followed by a two year period ashore subject to the exigencies of the service. However, where there are shortages of skilled personnel within the Naval Service, it may be necessary for personnel to carry out sea-going duties more frequently.

The reorganisation of the Naval Service was designed to ensure that when fully implemented all personnel would spend alternate periods of two years in a shore based appointment followed by two years in a ship based appointment. Two years in a ship based appointment does not imply that people spend two years at sea. On the other hand, some naval personnel are keen to spend more time at sea and, where possible, they are accommodated. Overall, the broad range of strategies adopted by the Naval Service, including continuous recruitment, direct entry officer schemes, direct entry and internal technician schemes, are all focused at achieving sufficient numbers of trained personnel so that the planned approach to sea-shore rotation, based on a two year cycle, is maintained. This helps to ensure that Naval Service personnel do not spend long periods at sea.

I am aware of the difficulties regarding the deployment of certain technical Naval Service personnel, especially engineering staff, engine room artificers and electrical artificers. The position with engine room artificers is that the number of such appointments in the Naval Service was increased from 76 to 85 following the reorganisation of the Naval Service. A total of 75 engine room artificers are serving at present. The situation will continue to improve as significant numbers of trainee engine room artificers complete their training and come on stream over the next four years. A further 30 apprentices-trainee technicians are currently at various stages in the training process. They will all come on stream over the next four years and will both meet the current shortfall and replace any further wastage that may occur.

The position with electrical artificers is that the number of such appointments in the Naval Service was increased from 42 to 48 following the reorganisation of the Naval Service. A total of 33 are serving at present. A further 25 are at various stages in the training process and will come on stream in the coming years.

Given the specialist nature of many of the additional positions, it was not possible to fill them all until such time as personnel had completed the necessary training. It was always accepted that it would take a number of years for all appointments to be filled by suitably qualified people.

While the increased number of specialist appointments could not all be filled instantly, thus creating some transitional short term difficulties, I am assured by the military authorities that the arrangements in place to provide suitably trained and qualified personnel should see an early improvement in the situation.

Defence Forces Property.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

47 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Defence the number of Defence Force properties at which civilian security firms are used; the amount spent on services provided by such private security firms in 2003 and the estimated figure for 2004; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13402/04]

The costs incurred by my Department in 2003 and 2004 in respect of the engagement of private security firms at vacated barracks are as follows:

Property

2003

2004

Murphy Barracks, Ballincollig

204,570

NIL

Clancy Barracks

266,039

69,243

As both of the properties mentioned have now been sold, no further security costs will be incurred by my Department at these premises.

Private security firms are not engaged by my Department at present to secure any other Department of Defence property.

Question No. 48 answered with QuestionNo. 45.
Question No. 49 answered with QuestionNo. 43.

Defence Forces Reserve.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

50 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Defence the progress made to date with regard to the planned reorganisation of the Reserve Defence Force; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13400/04]

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

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

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

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

I am mindful of the need to preserve and to retain the very many traditional and well established strengths of the current Reserve system, not least the admirable spirit of individual voluntary commitment, close social links with local communities and a good depth and scope as regards nation-wide geographical spread.

Planning is ongoing by the military authorities but no final decision on the amalgamation of FCA units will be taken until I have had the opportunity to examine and approve the final amalgamation proposals.

Question No. 51 answered with QuestionNo. 43.

Overseas Missions.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

52 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence the extent to which further deployment of Irish troops is being considered for overseas missions; the context in which; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13429/04]

Ireland is currently contributing approximately 735 Defence Forces personnel to 21 different missions throughout the world. The main commitments are to KFOR in Kosovo, with 203 personnel and to UNMIL in Liberia, with 427 personnel. Other personnel are serving as monitors and observers with the United Nations, the OSCE and the European Union. Staff are also deployed at the organisational headquarters of the OSCE, the UN , NATO and the EU.

In the past year, Ireland reconfigured its commitment in the Balkans replacing the existing military police platoon in SFOR in Bosnia Herzegovina and the transport company in KFOR with an APC Mounted Infantry Company Group in KFOR. The Defence Forces are serving as part of a Finnish battalion with a Swedish led multinational brigade.

A reorganisation and down-sizing of the NATO led forces in KFOR was planned and had partly commenced when civil disturbances broke out in March this year in Kosovo. That down-sizing has now been deferred to allow the situation to settle. The withdrawal of the Irish contingent was planned as part of this down-sizing and was to have been completed by October 2004. However, having regard to the fragility of the peace in Kosovo, and subject to ongoing assessments of the situation on the ground, Ireland will continue to maintain an appropriate presence in KFOR in 2004.

In making reference to the major outbreak of violence in Kosovo in March, I take this opportunity to commend the bravery and professionalism shown by the 27th Infantry Company Group of the Defence Forces who were in Kosovo at the time of the recent disturbances.

Ireland's other current major contribution to peacekeeping is in Liberia. Here, Ireland, together with an infantry company group from Sweden, provides the rapid reaction reserve to the UNMIL force commander. Despite the difficult start to this mission, with the tragic death of Sergeant Derek Mooney of the Army Ranger Wing in a road accident, the mission is proving very successful. Ireland was specifically requested by the UN to participate in a substantive manner in this mission, which is a tribute to the high regard in which the UN holds the Irish Defence Forces. I very much welcome the participation of Sweden as part of the Reserve. This type of co-operation reflects the changing dynamics in peacekeeping. The range and diversity of arrangements now in place for peacekeeping allows us to work in tandem with like-minded nations to contribute in a very effective and meaningful manner to peace support operations throughout the world. Interoperability with other forces is a key factor in our involvement in PfP and in our preparations in recent years for the EU Rapid Reaction Force and it is rewarding to see the effects of the hard work put in by the Defence Forces over several years coming to fruition in such a positive way in the peace support role. In regard to our deployment in Liberia, I have already stated that our participation would be for two to three years.

In the coming 12 months, we look forward to the take-over by the EU of the current NATO led mission in Bosnia Herzegovina. Ireland has already participated in its first EU mission, Operation Artemis, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and we currently have a number of staff deployed at SFOR headquarters. Subject to the approval of the Government and Dáil Éireann and an appropriate UN mandate, I plan that Ireland will make a substantive contribution to the EU mission in SFOR taking account of available resources and ongoing developments in other peace support missions in which we are involved.

Emergency Planning.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

53 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence if he has satisfied himself regarding the adequacy of arrangements, preparations and equipment available to or through his Department in the event of a terrorist attack; if the necessary early warning procedures have been put in place; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13428/04]

The Garda Síochána has primary responsibility for law and order, including the protection of the internal security of the State. The potential threats to the State arising from international terrorism are continuously monitored by them in co-operation with the Defence Forces. The advice available to me at this time is that, while the Garda authorities recognise that the terrorist threat to Europe may currently be high, in regard to Ireland it is low. Notwithstanding this, it is important that all prudent precautions are taken and that matters are kept under continuous review.

The objective of the Government is to ensure that all State bodies can react quickly and efficiently to any large-scale emergency. The key issue in regard to responding to any terrorist attack is to have in place appropriate and effective plans to respond to the impact of that attack and to protect the civilian population.

The Government task force on emergency planning has worked, since it was set up in 2001, to co-ordinate emergency planning and response arrangements across those Departments that lead and support the State's response in an emergency. The objective of the task force is to ensure that all State bodies can react quickly and efficiently to any large-scale emergency. As chair of this task force, my objective is to ensure that such responses continue to be characterised by effective management of all aspects of emergency planning and by a high level of public confidence in all the response arrangements. I am pleased to report to this House that there continues to be excellent co-operation between my Department and all other Departments and agencies through these mechanisms.

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

The focus for this work continues to be on making the necessary arrangements to at best prevent or, at least, minimise the risks from terrorist activities, ensuring that the protection available to the Irish people is maximised, putting mechanisms in place to support the response agencies and providing co-ordination for maximum efficiency and effectiveness.

A critical issue in an emergency is the question of issuing adequate and timely warnings and providing the necessary information to the general public on threatened or developing emergencies. While television and radio broadcasting will be the key means of contact with the public to provide warnings and information on a developing situation and on precautionary measures, all other available means of communication will also be utilised.

The Defence Forces make contingency plans for a range of scenarios where the security of the State may be at risk. In addition, the Defence Forces have contingency plans in place regarding the provision of aid to the civil power, meaning in practice to assist, when requested, the Garda Síochána, and the provision of assistance to the civil authorities for a range of emergency situations.

An urgent and detailed review of capacities and procedures to deal with a range of emergencies was undertaken by the military authorities following on from the events of 11 September. It included, inter alia, an update of the threat assessment; intensive contacts with other State agencies; a reassessment of operations orders relating to vital installations, alert systems, the Army Ranger Wing, ordnance and engineer assets in terms of explosive ordnance disposal and specialist search and a review of equipment including the need for air defence. Guidance documents pertaining to aid to the civil power and aid to the civil authorities were also re-assessed. All matters arising were addressed and all procedures updated as required.

The capacity of the Defence Forces to deal with major emergencies is kept under constant review. Plans and procedures are updated as necessary and such additional equipment as is required to address any perceived deficiencies is acquired on the basis of identified priorities. Training and preparation for such events is also provided for in the Defence Forces annual training plan.

Overseas Missions.

Joan Burton

Question:

54 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Defence the role being played by Irish troops serving with KFOR; when the current mandate expires and if it is intended to renew it; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13391/04]

KFOR was established on 10 June 1999, in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 1244, for an initial period of 12 months, to continue thereafter unless the UN Security Council decides otherwise. Ireland has participated in the KFOR since August 1999. The mission is authorised under Chapter VII of the UN Charter and was approved by Dáil Éireann on 1 July 1999, following a Government decision of 29 June 1999. Since then, the Government has reviewed and approved, on an annual basis, continued participation by the Defence Forces in KFOR. On 27 May 2003, the Government approved continued participation by a contingent of the Permanent Defence Force in KFOR for a further period of 12 months beyond June 2003.

It had been anticipated that a reorganisation and scaling-down of KFOR would take place this year. This had partly commenced when civil disturbances broke out in March in Kosovo. The scaling-down has now been deferred on foot of those events. The withdrawal of the Irish contingent was planned as part of this reduction in KFOR presence and was to have been completed by October 2004. However, having regard to the fragility of the peace in Kosovo, and subject to ongoing assessments of the situation on the ground, Ireland will continue to maintain an appropriate presence in KFOR in 2004. In the near future, I intend to bring proposals to Government with regard to the continued participation by the Defence Forces in KFOR beyond June 2004.

The Irish contingent currently comprises an infantry group of some 203 personnel together with a number of personnel in staff posts at various headquarters. The infantry group was first deployed last September. Previously, a transport group had been deployed with KFOR since August 1999. Three Defence Forces personnel are also serving with the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo, UNMIK.

The role of KFOR is to support the maintenance of civil law and order within Kosovo to develop a climate of safety and security, which will enable the transfer of increased responsibility to the civil authorities.

The Irish infantry group operates as part of a multinational grouping, within the Finnish battalion. It comprises a Mowag APC mounted company together with support and logistic elements. The main tasks of the Irish infantry group include the following: provision of general security to all ethnic groups, institutions and cultural sites; provision of support to UNMIK police and other agencies with security tasks; identification of and reporting on extremist groups and activities; vehicle and foot patrols; and vehicle checkpoints and operation of observation posts.

In referring to the major outbreak of violence in Kosovo in March, I take this opportunity to again commend the bravery and professionalism shown by the 27th Infantry Company Group of the Defence Forces who were in Kosovo at the time of the recent disturbances.

Question No. 55 answered with QuestionNo. 44.

Military Exercise.

Eamon Ryan

Question:

56 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Defence if he will report on the recent war game Black Dawn, organised by the European Union and NATO to counter potential nuclear terrorism; if Ireland participated in this exercise; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13470/04]

My Department has consulted both the Departments of Foreign Affairs and Justice, Equality and Law Reform and I understand Ireland did not participate in this exercise. Other than media reports, my Department has no knowledge of the exercise.

Defence Forces Equipment.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

57 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Defence when a decision will be made on the provision of light utility and medium lift helicopters for the Air Corps; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13398/04]

The procurement process for the acquisition of new helicopters for the Air Corps has commenced with the preparation of the tender documents in my Department. Following discussions between senior officials in my Department and the military authorities, it has been decided that up to six helicopters will be acquired, two light utility helicopters primarily for Air Corps crew training purposes and four larger utility helicopters for use in support of the Army and for other ancillary uses such as air ambulance. The new aircraft will replace the current fleet of Dauphin, Alouette and Gazelle aircraft. It is expected that the relevant notice for the tender competition will be sent by my Department to the Official Journal of the European Communities shortly.

The procurement of modern light utility helicopters will provide a significant boost to the Air Corps in available flying hours at reduced maintenance costs, compared to the existing aircraft in the Air Corps helicopter wing. It will also provide increased capability in the roles currently undertaken by the existing Air Corps light utility helicopters.

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

Defence Forces Strength.

Liz McManus

Question:

58 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Defence the number of personnel from the other ranks commissioned as officers in the Defence Forces in each of the past five years; if there are plans to increase the numbers commissioned from the ranks; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13397/04]

A total of 28 non-commissioned officers have been commissioned as officers in the Army, Air Corps and Naval Service in the past five years.

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

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

Defence Forces Recruitment.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

59 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Defence the steps being taken to address the shortage of officers and NCOs in the Naval Service which are well below the establishment levels; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13399/04]

In December 2000 I authorised a new organisation for the Naval Service which increased personnel numbers from 959 serving at that time to a new establishment of 1,144.

The strength of the Naval Service, as advised by the military authorities, was 1,078 as at 31 March 2004.

The Government remains fully committed to the policy of ongoing recruitment to ensure that an overall PDF strength of 10,500 is achieved and maintained.

It is proposed to recruit ten cadets to the Naval Service from the 2004 cadetship competition. The Naval Service recently had an initial intake of 31 general service recruits. The requirements for any further intakes will be reviewed on an ongoing basis. The ongoing recruitment campaign for enlistment in the Defence Forces, which I have approved, is designed to address any shortfall in personnel in the Defence Forces including the Naval Service.

A total of 93 recruits were enlisted in the Naval Service in 2003. Fourteen cadets and eight direct entry officers were also recruited during 2003.

In 2002, 100 recruits, nine engine room artificers and six electrical artificers were enlisted in the Naval Service. In addition, 13 other technical qualified personnel, comprising of four watchkeeping officers, four marine engineers and five electrical engineer officers were also appointed. A total of 16 cadets were also enlisted from the 2002 cadetship intake. In 2001, 62 recruits, six cadets, one marine engineer, two watchkeepers and three electrical artificers were recruited to the Naval Service.

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

Decentralisation Programme.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

60 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Defence when he expects the decentralisation of the Civil Defence school from Dublin to Roscrea to take place; if only ten of the 22 staff of the school have agreed to the transfer; the breakdown of these staff by grade; the steps being taken to recruit replacement staff; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13407/04]

As the Deputy will be aware, in the context of the White Paper on Defence, the Government decided to decentralise the Civil Defence branch of my Department to Roscrea, County Tipperary. I expect the move will take place during the summer.

Of the 23 staff currently serving with the Civil Defence Board, 11 staff, in the following grades, have indicated a willingness to relocate to Roscrea: one director general, one assistant principal, five higher executive officers, two executive officers, one staff officer and one clerical officer.

It is expected that formal applications will be sought shortly from civil servants in other Departments who wish to transfer to my Department to relocate to Roscrea, and I am confident that all staffing requirements in the relocated offices will be met.

Hearing Impairment Claims.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

61 Ms Lynch asked the Minister for Defence the number of claims for damages for deafness determined in court or settled out of court at the latest date for which figures are available; the amount paid out to date in terms of damages or legal costs; the number of such claims outstanding; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13404/04]

By 30 April 2004 a total of 16,713 claims had been received in my Department from current and former members of the Defence Forces in respect of loss of hearing allegedly caused during their military service. A total of 331 claims have been determined in court and 14,891 have been disposed of out of court, mainly through settlement, leaving a total of 1,491 claims outstanding at that date. A total of €275.5 million has been paid in respect of hearing loss claims including €92 million in plaintiffs' legal costs.

Departmental Strategy Statements.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

62 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Defence, further to parliamentary questions (details supplied), if his Department has not undertaken and has no plans to undertake cost analyses or cost projections with respect to the domestic implications of EU defence-related measures agreed by the Government, including Rapid Reaction Force deployments, the setting up of an EU armaments agency and the increased defence spending imperatives in the agreed EU security strategy, or with respect to the Article 40 (3) provisions of the draft EU constitutional treaty to which the Government has consented. [13452/04]

I refer the Deputy to my answers to the previous questions.

As I stated clearly in my replies to those questions, the Government's White Paper on Defence, published in February 2000, set out a medium term strategy for defence covering the period up to 2010. A major objective of the strategy is to ensure that Ireland has a world class military organisation capable of carrying out the roles assigned to it by the Government, both at home and abroad. This objective requires an ongoing modernisation process, including an investment programme, to ensure that the Defence Forces are properly equipped for these roles.

In seeking to modernise the Defence Forces, I have been fully conscious of the need to obtain the best possible efficiencies from existing resources. For example, the disposal of assets has been used as a method of financing our re-equipment programme, while the planning and review process of Partnership for Peace has been used as the forum for enhancing the ability of the Defence Forces to operate effectively with contingents from other countries on Petersberg Task type operations. In this way the Defence Forces have been able to make a valuable contribution to peace support operations from within existing resources.

In regard to financing of Petersberg Task type operations, Ireland favours maximising a system of financing operations on the basis of costs lie where they fall. This is the basis on which Ireland successfully participates in KFOR and SFOR, and I envisage that our participation in similar Petersberg Task type operations in the future will be similarly financed. The cost implications of the operational activities of the Defence Forces are kept under continual review in my Department.

In addition, I support measures which may emerge within the European Security and Defence Policy which could lead to future efficiencies in defence spending. For example, the creation of an agency in the field of defence capabilities development, research, acquisition and armaments as agreed by the Thessaloniki European Council in June 2003, by implementing such efficiencies, could yield economies of scale for the procurement of equipment for the Defence Forces.

Both the development of the agency and the development of an EU rapid response capability with an emphasis on supporting the United Nations in crisis management are issues which are currently under consideration at EU level. Much work remains to be done at EU level on both these issues before any meaningful cost analysis of their implications can be usefully undertaken.

In the context of the broader development of the EU's capacity to carry out both civilian and military crisis management operations, I have continuously advocated that the EU should prioritise the development of qualitative aspects of capability development. I am pleased this view is shared by many of my colleagues at EU level at a time when the majority of member states, including Ireland, has no plans to increase defence spending.

I take this opportunity yet again to remind the Deputy that national sovereignty and voluntarism are, and will continue to be, the fundamental underlying principles of participation in the European Security and Defence Policy, ESDP. Accordingly, I do not consider the issues he has raised on the European security strategy and the draft constitutional treaty will alter current Government policy in this area.

Defence Forces Personnel.

Liz McManus

Question:

63 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Defence the number of Defence Forces personnel tested to date under the new drug testing programme; the numbers who tested positive; the action taken when a member tests positive; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13396/04]

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

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

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

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

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

Defence Forces Training.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

64 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for Defence the progress made to date in the investigation into the circumstances in which a number of civilians came into contact with an unexploded tear gas canister near firing ranges at the Curragh; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13406/04]

I have been advised by the military authorities that the investigation into this matter will be completed very shortly. The investigating officer into the incident expects to have the final report completed within the coming week and submitted to the military authorities.

As I have previously indicated to the House, I have asked that a report on the investigation be submitted to me as soon as possible. Once the final report is submitted, I will consider whatever recommendations may be made to me on the ongoing management and control of military ranges.

Question No. 65 answered with QuestionNo. 43.

EU Summits.

John Gormley

Question:

66 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Defence , further to his reply of 25 March 2004 concerning security preparations for the visit of President Bush to Ireland, if the security arrangements have been finalised; if so, the nature of the input from the Defence Forces; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13462/04]

Joe Costello

Question:

72 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Defence if the Defence Forces have been asked to provide support for the Garda during the planned visit of President George Bush; the role he expects the Defence Forces to play; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13392/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 66 and 72 together.

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

The level and demand for Defence Forces assistance depends on ongoing security assessments undertaken by the Garda. The Defence Forces and the Garda have ongoing consultations on such issues as a matter of course.

The arrangements for the visit of President Bush and the EU-US summit have yet to be finalised and it would be neither productive nor appropriate to speculate on the details at this time. However, the Defence Forces will render such assistance as is deemed necessary and appropriate based on ongoing security assessments.

Army Barracks.

Mary Upton

Question:

67 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Defence if the sale of Clancy Barracks has been completed; the amount involved; if the money has been paid over; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13401/04]

The sale of Clancy Barracks was completed on 26 March 2004 and the proceeds in the sum of €25,400,555.58 were remitted to my Department. The sale price for the property was €25. 4 million and the balance represents interest on the deposit.

Defence Forces Strength.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

68 Ms Lynch asked the Minister for Defence if he has satisfied himself with the current level of female membership of the Defence Forces; if he has plans to encourage the recruitment of a greater number of women; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13405/04]

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

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

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

Some 15.4% of applicants for the 2003 cadetship competition were female. Some 15.5% of successful candidates were female.

Under the terms of the Employment Equality Act 1998, the Defence Forces are prohibited from operating recruitment policies that discriminate on grounds of gender.

To encourage increased participation by women in the Defence Forces I decided in March 1998 to reduce the height requirement for all female recruits to 5' 4", and this height requirement now also applies to male recruits.

The Defence Forces actively encourage female applicants, for example, by advertising: where possible, all graphical advertisements and booklets produced for the Defence Forces show both male and female personnel and emphasise that all applicants are assessed on an equal basis; recruitment fairs — stands at recruiting fairs are generally staffed by male and female personnel; and visits to schools — when the Defence Forces are invited to give talks at all female or at mixed schools, every effort is made to have a female speaker.

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

The strength of females in the Defence Forces is provided in the form of a tabular statement which I propose to circulate in the Official Report.

Strength of Females in the Defence Forces

31 March 2004.

Lt Gen

Maj Gen

Brig Gen

Col

Lt Col

Comdt

Capt

Lt

Total Offrs

SM

BQMS

CS

CQMS

SGTS

CPLS

Total NCOS

PTES

Cadets

Total

Army

0

0

0

0

1

13

30

31

75

0

0

3

1

10

89

103

214

14

406

Air Corps

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

2

3

0

0

1

0

0

7

8

9

1

21

Naval Service

0

0

0

0

0

0

2

14

16

0

0

0

0

0

1

1

44

5

66

Defence Forces Operations.

Joe Costello

Question:

69 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Defence the role played by the Defence Forces in the security operation surrounding the ceremonies marking the accession of new member states to the EU; the costs incurred by the Defence Forces in the operation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13393/04]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

70 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Defence if he will report on the terms of deployment of the Defence Forces in support of the Garda Síochána on 1 May 2004. [13451/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 69 and 70 together.

The roles of the Defence Forces as assigned by Government are set out in the White Paper on Defence, which was published in February 2000. To aid the civil power, meaning in practice to assist, when requested, the Garda Síochána which has the primary responsibility for law and order, including the protection of the internal security of the State, is among the assigned roles. The Defence Forces, pursuant to their role of rendering aid to the civil power, assist the Garda as required in duties, which included the security operation surrounding the ceremonies marking the accession of new member states to the EU on 1 May 2004.

In the case of the recent deployment of the Defence Forces on 1 May, a significant amount of pre-planning was undertaken by the Garda and the Defence Forces in regard to the deployment and the respective roles of the deployed personnel. Defence Forces were mainly deployed at Farmleigh and on the periphery road inside the Phoenix Park. Extensive preparations were put in place by the Defence Forces to provide additional training in riot and crowd control and more than 2,500 personnel were deployed in various roles. In addition, the Naval Service was on patrol in the Irish Sea and the Air Corps provided air traffic control capability and support to operations both at Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnel and in the park. The Garda air support unit was also very active on 1 May providing top cover support to Garda operations. A temporary restricted flight area was in place over Dublin and the Air Defence regiment provided air defence cover for Dublin Airport, Farmleigh and Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnel in this regard. The Defence Forces EOD units, its chemical biological, nuclear and radiological units and its engineering and communications specialists also provided support for the operation.

I am glad to say there was no requirement to call on the Defence Forces to provide additional support to the Garda in the maintenance of public order in this instance and that the Garda were able to fully contain the actions of a relatively small number of trouble-makers who endeavoured to breach the security cordon.

With regard to the question of the costs incurred by the Defence Forces in the provision of assistance to the Garda Síochána on 1 May, I am advised that such costs are not readily available due to the extent of the Defence Forces commitment to the operation. However, these costs are currently being compiled and I will arrange to have them forwarded to the Deputy when they are available.

EU Presidency.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

71 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Defence the progress in the development of the EU’s common defence policy under the Irish Presidency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13466/04]

The European Union does not have a common defence policy, and I assume the Deputy is referring to the European security and defence policy, ESDP, and the development of the EU's capability to carry out Petersberg Task operations, namely, crisis management operations, peace support operations and humanitarian tasks.

The year 2003 was important for the development of the European security and defence policy. At the European Council meeting of 19 and 20 June 2003 held at Thessaloniki, the Council noted that the EU has an operational capability across the full range of Petersberg Tasks, limited and constrained by certain shortfalls. The operational capability of the European Union was demonstrated through the launching of four ESDP operations in 2003. These were the EU police mission, EUPM, in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Operation CONCORDIA in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, fYROM, Operation ARTEMIS in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the police mission, Proxima, in fYROM, which followed the successful completion of Operation Concordia. These operations have made significant contributions to peace and stability in their respective areas of operations.

The Irish Presidency has taken forward a number of key issues relating to the post 2003 development of ESDP. The operational focus of this progress has been maintained. As Deputies may recall, the European Council held in Brussels in December 2003 confirmed the EU's readiness for an ESDP follow-on mission to the UN mandated NATO-led Stabilisation Force in Bosnia Herzegovina. The Irish Presidency has made significant progress on the necessary preparations for this operation. This work has also added an impetus to the development of relations between the EU and NATO.

Other key issues during the Irish Presidency have related to the development of a new headline goal for 2010, work in regard to the creation, in the course of 2004, of an agency in the field of defence capabilities development, research, acquisition and armaments as agreed by the European Council held at Thessaloniki, and the development of an EU rapid response capability with an emphasis on supporting the United Nations in crisis management.

In this regard, Ireland's commitment to collective security is pursued through the United Nations, which has the primary role in the maintenance of international peace and security. National sovereignty is a fundamental underlying principle of participation in any specific operation which is decided on a case by case basis. Participation in an overseas military operation requires UN endorsement, a specific Government decision and, where the level of participation is to exceed 12, the approval of Dáil Éireann.

Question No. 72 answered with QuestionNo. 66.

Defence Forces Property.

Mary Upton

Question:

73 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Defence the Defence Forces property that has been handed over or is planned to transfer for the purposes of the new affordable housing initiative agreed in Sustaining Progress; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13403/04]

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

In addition, the Government agreed in December 2003 to the release of a further series of State lands for inclusion in the initiative including Department of Defence sites at St. Bricin's Hospital, Dublin, and at the Camp Field, Collins Barracks, Cork.

The modalities for the transfer of these sites to the relevant local authorities are under active consideration.

The affordable housing initiative will be targeted at those who in the past would have expected to purchase a house from their own resources but who find that they are unable to do so in the current market.

Decentralisation Programme.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

74 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Defence if, in regard to proposals for decentralisation, he has plans to undertake a survey to establish the number of persons employed in his Department who are willing to move to the new locations announced by the Minister for Finance in his budget speech; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13408/04]

My Department has no plans to conduct a survey of the type described by the Deputy. However, I understand the central applications facility, which will be operated by the Civil Service Commission, will be launched tomorrow. This facility will give all staff an opportunity to apply for the decentralised locations of their choice.

Defence Forces Strength.

David Stanton

Question:

75 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Defence the numbers recruited in each of the brigade areas in the past 12 months; the numbers who have left the Defence Forces in each of the brigade areas in the same period; the number of persons he intends to recruit in respect of grades in the Defence Forces in the next 12 months in each of the brigade areas, the Naval Service and the Air Corps; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13150/04]

The number of general service recruits recruited in each brigade, along with the number of general service recruits discharged from the Permanent Defence Force in the 12 months from 1 April 2003 to 31 March 2004, are as follows:

Brigade

Number allocated

Number discharged

Eastern

209

68

Western

73

4

Southern

106

15

Defence Forces Training Centre

33

6

Naval Service

91

21

The deployment of military personnel, including recruits on completion of their recruit training, is a matter for the military authorities having regard to the operational requirements of the Permanent Defence Force generally.

It is envisaged that approximately 400 personnel will be recruited to the Permanent Defence Force over the next 12 months comprising general service recruits, cadets, Air Corps apprentices and direct entry personnel.

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

Departmental Staff.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

76 Mr. Kehoe asked the Taoiseach the number of staff who have been made permanent in his Department since 1994 to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13146/04]

A total of 93 members of staff, in the grades of service officer, clerical officer, executive officer and administrative officer, all recruited through the Civil Service and Local Appointments Commission, and FÁS in the case of service officers, have been made permanent in my Department since 1994.

Irish Sign Language.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

77 Mr. Cuffe asked the Taoiseach if he will consider recording the number of persons who use Irish sign language in the next census. [13147/04]

The Central Statistics Office began a consultation process in November 2003 to consider topics to be included in the 2006 census. Notices were placed in the national press and on the CSO website which invited public submissions on the suggested content of the 2006 census questionnaire.

A broadly-based consultative group was set up in December 2003 to assist the CSO in assessing the merits of the submissions received. The group has agreed the content of the census questionnaire to be used in a pilot survey of approximately 8,000 households which is being conducted in selected areas throughout the country during April-May 2004. In addition to retaining some of the standard census questions, the survey form will test a number of new potential census questions and a number of format changes to existing questions.

A submission requesting the inclusion of a question on Irish sign language in the census was considered by the consultative group but it was not recommended for inclusion in the 2004 census pilot survey.

Equal Opportunities Employment.

David Stanton

Question:

78 Mr. Stanton asked the Taoiseach the way in which persons with disabilities can access employment in his Department; if there are special application procedures; the criteria by which it is decided that persons qualify; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13237/04]

My Department and the bodies under its aegis are committed to a policy of equal opportunity for all staff.

Staff are recruited through the Civil Service and Local Appointments Commission on the grounds that they meet the requirements of the positions they are to fill. The issue of disability does not affect recruitment, no exception is made by my Department in this regard. Recruitment, promotion, training and other benefits or opportunities are decided on objective criteria, including the qualifications and suitability of the applicant. In line with other Departments, we follow the guidelines set out in the Department of Finance's Code of Practice for the Employment of People with Disabilities in the Civil Service.

Freedom of Information.

Joan Burton

Question:

79 Ms Burton asked the Taoiseach the percentage of requests under the Freedom of Information Act which proceed to internal appeal in his Department; the way in which that percentage compares with the percentage in previous years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13297/04]

Joan Burton

Question:

80 Ms Burton asked the Taoiseach the number of requests under the Freedom of Information Act received by his Department in the first quarter of 2004; the way in which this compares with the number of FOI requests received in a similar period in previous years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13312/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 79 and 80 together.

A total of 15 freedom of information requests have been received this year, none of which have proceeded to internal appeal. The following table sets out the percentage of requests which proceeded to internal appeal since the introduction of the Act.

Year

%

2003

4

2002

7.5

2001

10

2000

7.5

1999

7

1998

20

The number of freedom of information requests received during the first quarter of 2004 is 11. Eighty were received for the same period last year, 46 were received in 2002 and 91 were received in 2001.

All requests received in my Department are processed in accordance with both the 1997 Act and the 2003 Act, and their implementation is kept under constant review.

Ministerial Expenses.

Pádraic McCormack

Question:

81 Mr. McCormack asked the Taoiseach the expenses each Minister of State has received between 1 January 2003 and 31 December 2003. [13373/04]

The total amount of expenses paid in 2003 to the Ministers of State at my Department, Deputies Mary Hanafin and Dick Roche, amounted to €29,490.35 in total. The following table outlines the expenses received by each Minister of State:

Minister of State Mary Hanafin.

Year

Description

Amount

01-Jan-03 to 31-Dec-03

Travel & Subsistence Expenses

8,888.81

Total expenses received in 2003

8,888.81

Minister of State Dick Roche.

Year

Description

Amount

01-Jan-03 to 31-Dec-03

Mileage Expenses

17,195.83

01-Jan-03 to 31-Dec-03

Travel & Subsistence Expenses

3,405.71

Total expenses received in 2003

20,601.54

The Minister of State, Deputy Roche, provides his own car for his official duties and is therefore entitled to motor mileage expenses in respect of official travel undertaken in regard to his work in this Department. This mileage allowance covers the costs of depreciation, insurance, maintenance and petrol.

In accordance with established practice, the Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach and Government Chief Whip, Deputy Mary Hanafin, is provided with official transport.

All expenses paid are calculated in accordance with guidelines set down by the Department of Finance for Ministers of State.

Departmental Contracts.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

82 Mr. Durkan asked the Taoiseach the number of State contracts, projects or procurements in respect of which cost overruns have occurred in the past five years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13203/04]

Within the past five years, there have been no cost overruns in respect of contracts, projects or procurements funded by my Department.

Official Languages Act.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

83 Mr. O’Shea asked the Taoiseach if his Department has prepared an estimate of the cost to his Department of implementing the provisions of the Official Languages Act 2003; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13560/04]

Brian O'Shea

Question:

84 Mr. O’Shea asked the Taoiseach if estimates have been prepared by the public bodies funded by his Department in regard to the cost of implementing the provisions of the Official Languages Act 2003; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13575/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 83 and 84 together.

Even prior to the enactment of the Official Languages Act 2003, my Department was already meeting the required standards of bilingual practice in areas such as signage, stationery and in publications such as the Department's strategy statement, annual report and customer charter. Therefore, the Act in these areas involves no extra costs for this Department.

As the Deputy is aware, the Act provides for preparation in due course by my Department, and individually by each by the bodies under its aegis, of a scheme in regard to the delivery of our services to the general public in the Irish language. I am informed that the Department of Community, Gaeltacht and Rural Affairs is preparing guidelines to assist public bodies, including all Departments and bodies under their aegis, in preparing these schemes. It is anticipated that the guidelines will be finalised in the near future.

As my colleague, the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, has already informed the House, it is anticipated then that the first tranche of public bodies will be asked to prepare draft schemes for approval by him once the draft guidelines have gone through the necessary statutory consultation procedure.

When my Department and the bodies under its aegis have prepared their draft schemes, I will be in a position to say what, if any, additional costs may arise in their implementation.

Work Permits.

John Perry

Question:

85 Mr. Perry asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment when the work permit application of a person (details supplied) will be processed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13180/04]

A work permit application was received on 22 April 2004. Assuming the application is complete and is otherwise in order, work permits are currently taking about seven weeks to process.

Equal Opportunities Employment.

David Stanton

Question:

86 Mr. Stanton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the way in which persons with disabilities can access employment in her Department; if there are special application procedures; the criteria by which it is decided that persons qualify; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13238/04]

Recruitment to posts in the Department is undertaken by the Office of the Civil Service and Local Appointments Commissioners following approval from the Department of Finance. Persons with disabilities are eligible to compete in such competitions once they satisfy the qualifying criteria for the particular competition.

Competitions are advertised regularly on the Office of the Civil Service and Local Appointments Commissioners website at www.publicjobs.ie. Inquiries about employment opportunities in the Civil Service can be made in writing to the Office of the Civil Service and Local Appointments Commissioners, Chapter House, 26-30 Upper Abbey Street, Dublin 1 or by phoning 01 8584000.

On occasion, the Office of the Civil Service and Local Appointments Commissioners run specific competitions, on instruction from the Department of Finance, which are open only to persons with disabilities. Application procedures and qualifying criteria for such competitions are determined by the Department of Finance.

Freedom of Information.

Joan Burton

Question:

87 Ms Burton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the percentage of requests under the Freedom of Information Act which proceed to internal appeal in her Department; the way in which that percentage compares with the percentage in previous years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13298/04]

In the first four months of 2004, my Department received two internal appeals to decisions made under the Freedom of Information Act. The figures for the equivalent periods in the years 1999 to 2003 were as follows:

Year

Number

as % of requests

1999

22

25.9

2000

7

7.9

2001

5

5.3

2002

7

10.9

2003

12

13.9

The number of appeals for 1999 is significantly greater than any other year because of the activities of one applicant who made a very large number of requests to the Department in that year. Subsequent years provide a more representative picture of internal review activity in my Department. The level of internal review requests to end April in 2004 represents a rate of 10.5% of initial request levels for the period. The internal review level for the first four months of 2004 is therefore broadly consistent with levels for previous years when measured as a percentage of overall requests received in the period.

Joan Burton

Question:

88 Ms Burton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of requests under the Freedom of Information Act received by her Department in the first quarter of 2004; the way in which this compares with the number of FOI requests received in a similar period in previous years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13313/04]

The number of freedom of information requests received in my Department in the first quarter of 2004 was 14. The number of requests received in the equivalent periods of previous years was as follows:

Year

Requests

1999

68

2000

74

2001

76

2002

52

2003

73

My Department takes a pro-active approach to freedom of information. Much information is released outside of FOI and therefore is not reflected in the above statistics.

Ministerial Expenses.

Pádraic McCormack

Question:

89 Mr. McCormack asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the expenses each Minister of State has received between 1 January 2003 and 31 December 2003. [13374/04]

The total amount of expenses paid to each Minister of State for the period 1 January 2003 to 31 December 2003 was €43,811.45 to Deputy Frank Fahey, Minister of State with responsibility for labour affairs, and €28,152.81 to Deputy Michael Ahern, Minister of State with responsibility for trade and commerce.

Industrial Development.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

90 Mr. Morgan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the amount of grant aid which has been given by State bodies to non-indigenous companies in each of the past five years. [13499/04]

IDA Ireland is the agency with statutory responsibility for the attraction of foreign direct investment to Ireland and, as such, it provides grant funding to foreign industries choosing to locate in Ireland.

The following table sets out IDA Ireland grant payments for the years 1998 to 2002 inclusive. Data in respect of IDA Ireland grant payments for the year 2003 will not be available until IDA Ireland's annual review for 2003 is published in June of this year.

IDA Ireland Grant Payments

Year

1998

1999

2000

2001

2002

Amount €’000

175, 145

164, 213

150, 539

109, 015

118, 451

Source: Forfás Employment Survey

Community Employment Schemes.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

91 Mr. Morgan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of community employment places lost in Dublin for each of the past five years; and the number of community employment schemes shut down in Dublin for each of the past five years. [13500/04]

The allocation of community employment places and renewal of schemes on a county by county basis is a matter for FÁS and I have no function in the matter.

In accordance with the Government's decision in 1999 to restructure community employment (CE), participation levels have gradually been reduced in line with reductions in long-term unemployment and a strategic shift in policy in favour of training and other more appropriate supports.

Year-end participation levels on CE for the past five years are as follows:

Year

Year-end places

Projects

1999

36,579

2,274

2000

33,549

2,041

2001

30,809

1,967

2002

24,991

1,694

2003

19,848

1,368

FÁS estimates that there has been a reduction of approximately 3,470 places in Dublin over the five-year period. No further reduction in overall participation levels is planned in 2004.

Redundancy Payments.

John Cregan

Question:

92 Mr. Cregan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the situation regarding statutory redundancy for employees of 25 years standing; if redundancy is altered by the fact that an employee became a director for a few months before liquidation; if the employees rather than the recently appointed director are looked after first; if redundancy for the director is based on his period as an employee inclusive or exclusive of his few months of directorship; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13534/04]

The position is that employees who have at least two years service and are between the age of 16 and 66 years are entitled to receive a statutory redundancy lump sum payment from their employer on being made redundant.

To be entitled to a statutory redundancy payment, an employee must be in employment which is insurable for all benefits under the Social Welfare Acts at any time within the four year period prior to the date of termination of employment.

In a case where an employee becomes a director, his or her case is referred to the Department of Social and Family Affairs for a decision regarding insurability before the entitlement to redundancy is established: this process generally takes a few extra weeks. If the employee is found to have met the insurability requirements of the Redundancy Acts, then he or she is entitled to be paid a statutory redundancy lump sum. If the employee fails to meet the insurability requirements, he or she is not entitled to receive any payment.

An employee-director who meets the criteria laid down in the Redundancy Acts is entitled to have all service treated as reckonable in the calculation of a lump sum.

Payment of statutory redundancy should be made by the employer to qualified persons on the date of termination of employment. If the employer fails to pay the statutory redundancy to the employees, payment is made by this Department direct to the employees within four weeks of the date of receipt of the claims, with the exception of referrals to the Department of Social and Family Affairs.

Official Languages Act.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

93 Mr. O’Shea asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if her Department has prepared an estimate of the cost to her Department of implementing the provisions of the Official Languages Act 2003; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13561/04]

The implementation of the Official Languages Act, 2003 will have an impact on expenditure under a number of subheads of my Department's Vote. My Department has not prepared an estimate of the total cost of the implementation of the Act. However, the full implementation of the Act has the potential to double the 2004 provisions of expenditure for the advertising budget of €390k and the publishing budget of €580k. These figures do not include expenditure under translation costs, interpretation costs and Irish language training where estimates of expenditure have yet to be made.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

94 Mr. O’Shea asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if estimates have been prepared by the public bodies funded by her Department in regard to the cost of implementing the provisions of the Official Languages Act 2003; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13576/04]

Section 11 of the Official Languages Act 2003 provides that public bodies have a duty to prepare a statutory scheme detailing the services they will provide through the medium of Irish, English and bilingually, and the measures to be adopted to ensure that any service not currently provided by the body through the medium of the Irish language will be so provided.

Section 12 provides that guidelines will be prepared to assist public bodies in the preparation of those schemes.

Guidelines are currently being drafted by the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, and have not yet been finalised. Statutory schemes will be prepared by each public body funded by my Department only after the guidelines have been published, and the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs has been in direct communication with the heads of those public bodies in the matter.

Once the guidelines have been published and statutory schemes have been prepared, it will be possible to more accurately estimate the impact and cost implications of the Official Languages Act 2003 on the public bodies funded by my Department.

Equal Opportunities Employment.

David Stanton

Question:

95 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Defence the way in which persons with disabilities can access employment in his Department; if there are special application procedures; the criteria by which it is decided that persons qualify; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13240/04]

My Department is committed to a policy of equal opportunity for persons with disabilities and to the policies that apply across the civil service generally with regard to the code of practice for the employment of people with disabilities in the Civil Service.

The Office of the Civil Service and Local Appointments Commissioners is responsible for the recruitment of personnel into the civil service and assigns personnel to individual Departments and offices, including my Department. A limited number of appointments are filled directly by my Department, including those of services officer, services attendant, night watchman and cleaner. In addition, a number of civilians are employed with the Defence Forces at military barracks and are mainly engaged in building work and maintenance and on clerical, domestic and other duties. My Department strongly subscribes to the objective of employing persons with disabilities whenever possible. Offices which are open to the public are accessible to people with disabilities. Interpreters are provided at interviews if requested. Disability awareness training has been made available to staff throughout the Department. People with disabilities are entitled to apply for any post for which they are qualified and to have their applications considered on the basis of their abilities, qualifications and suitability for the work in question.

The Defence Forces have a derogation from the Employment Equality Act in respect of the criteria of physical ability and age. Therefore, the current age, medical and physical requirements for entry into the Defence Forces reflect the fact that only able bodied and fit recruits can satisfy the difficult and strenuous physical demands of the training and operational environment of the Defence Forces.

Freedom of Information.

Joan Burton

Question:

96 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Defence the percentage of requests under the Freedom of Information Act which proceed to internal appeal in his Department; the way in which that percentage compares with the percentage in previous years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13299/04]

The following is the percentage of requests under the Freedom of Information Act which have proceeded to internal appeal in my Department and in the Defence Forces:

Department of Defence

Defence Forces

Year

%

Year

%

1998

11

1998

17

1999

9

1999

9

2000

6

2000

10

2001

8

2001

7

2002

13

2002

5

2003

7

2003

4

2004 (to 30 April)

0

2004 (to 30 April)

Joan Burton

Question:

97 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Defence the number of requests under the Freedom of Information Act received by his Department in the first quarter of 2004; the way in which this compares with the number of FOI requests received in a similar period in previous years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13314/04]

The number of freedom of information requests received in my Department and in the Defence Forces during the first quarter of 2004 is as follows:

Department of Defence

Defence Forces

15

31

The number of freedom of information requests received in my Department and in the Defence Forces during the first quarter of previous years is as follows:

Department of Defence

Defence Forces

Year

%

Year

%

1999

35

1999

36

2000

42

2000

37

2001

30

2001

48

2002

33

2002

60

2003

51

2003

82

Military Uniforms.

John Cregan

Question:

98 Mr. Cregan asked the Minister for Defence if he has plans to issue other ranks of the PDF with some form of dress uniform; if he has plans to alter or update the current No. 1 uniform for ceremonial purposes; and, if there are changes being considered, when they are likely to be implemented. [13370/04]

Defence Force regulations prescribe for the issue of uniforms to members of the Defence Forces.

There is no provision in the relevant regulations for the provision of dress uniforms for other ranks personnel of the Permanent Defence Force. There are no plans or proposals to introduce such a uniform item.

Official Languages Act.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

99 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Defence if his Department has prepared an estimate of the cost to his Department of implementing the provisions of the Official Languages Act 2003; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13562/04]

Brian O'Shea

Question:

100 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Defence if estimates have been prepared by the public bodies funded by his Department in regard to the cost of implementing the provisions of the Official Languages Act 2003; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13577/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 99 and 100 together.

No estimates of the type described by the Deputy have been finalised to date. As the Deputy is aware, the Act provides for preparation in due course by my Department, and individually by each of the bodies under its aegis, of a scheme in regard to the delivery of service to the general public in the Irish language.

I understand the Department of Community, Gaeltacht and Rural Affairs is preparing guidelines to assist bodies in preparing these schemes. When the draft schemes have been prepared, I will be in a position to say what, if any, additional costs may arise in their implementation.

Army Escorts.

Paul McGrath

Question:

101 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Defence the payments received in 2003 by his Department from financial institutions by way of payment for providing Army escorts for cash in transit; if this money covered the actual costs of providing this service; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13592/04]

To aid the civil power, meaning in practice to assist, when requested, the Garda Síochána which has the primary responsibility for law and order, including the protection of the internal security of the State, is among the roles assigned to the Defence Forces. In this regard, the Defence Forces assist the Garda as required in duties, which include escorting cash deliveries to banks, post offices and other institutions.

The final figures for cash escorts for 2003 are now available and the number of requests for such escorts received by the military authorities from the Garda Síochána for 2002 and 2003 were as follows: 2002, 2,516 and 2003, 2,335.

An annual contribution of €2.86 million is paid by the banks in respect of Army escorts. The contribution from the banks is designed to part cover the total costs to the State of providing cash escorts. An annual contribution is also made to the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform in respect of the Garda Síochána. In the case of the Defence Forces, taking one year with another, the contribution by the banks has generally covered the non-pay costs of providing such escorts.

The question of the level of contribution is currently under review in my Department having regard to the arrangements, which, I understand, were agreed between the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and the financial institutions, to ensure that there is no significant variance in methodology or level of cost recovery. It should be noted that there has been a significant reduction in the demand on the Defence Forces for assistance in aid to the civil power following the reduced security threat arising from the Good Friday Agreement.

Defence Forces Recruitment.

Paul McGrath

Question:

102 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Defence the number of new recruits in 2003 to the permanent Defence Forces at Columb Barracks, Mullingar; and his plans for the future strengthening of the force at this barracks. [13594/04]

The day to day administration of recruitment in the Defence Forces is the responsibility of the Chief of Staff.

In 2003, the number of general service recruits enlisted in the Western Brigade was 32. There was no allocation to Columb Barracks. The allocation of recruits to Columb Barracks is a matter which is decided by the General Officer Commanding, Western Brigade, based on the operational commitments of his brigade at the time.

Army Barracks.

Paul McGrath

Question:

103 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Defence if negotiations have been completed with Westmeath County Council to facilitate the relocation of the boundary wall at Columb Barracks, Mullingar, adjacent to Leshe Road; the money which he has allocated for this project; when this work is likely to be carried out; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13602/04]

As part of a deed of dedication dated July 1997, whereby State land comprising a half acre approximately was made available for use as a public roadway, Westmeath County Council undertook, on a shared cost basis, to rebuild part of Columb Barracks boundary wall at Ashe Road, Mullingar. To date, the council has not proceeded with the work and has recently indicated that the wall in question forms part of the boundary of a protected structure. It has also been indicated that following investigation of the matter the council will be in further communication with my Department as soon as possible.

Question No. 104 answered with QuestionNo. 41.

Equal Opportunities Employment.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

105 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence the extent to which women have been promoted to the higher ranks in the Army, Naval Service and Air Corps; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13657/04]

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

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

The following table shows the strength of female personnel, by rank, as on 31 March 2004.

Strength of Females in the Defence Forces

Lt Gen

Maj Gen

Brig Gen

Col

Lt Col

Comdt

Capt

Lt

Total Offrs

SM

BQMS

CS

CQMS

SGTS

CPLS

Total NCOS

PTES

Cadets

Total

Army

0

0

0

0

1

13

30

31

75

0

0

3

1

10

89

103

214

14

406

Air Corps

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

2

3

0

0

1

0

0

7

8

9

1

21

Naval Service

0

0

0

0

0

0

2

14

16

0

0

0

0

0

1

1

44

5

66

Defence Forces Strength.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

106 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence the number of women serving in the Army, Naval Service and Air Corps; the extent to which this number has increased or decreased in the past five years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13658/04]

The strength of females in the Army, Naval Service and Air Corps, as advised by the military authorities, is set out in the following table:

Strength on 31 March 2004.

Officers

NCOS

Privates

Cadets

Total

Army

75

103

214

14

406

Air Corps

3

8

9

1

21

Naval Service

16

1

44

5

66

Total PDF

94

112

267

20

493

In the six year period 1998-2003 inclusive, the strength of female personnel in the Permanent Defence Force grew from 244 on 31 December 1997 to 484 on 31 December 2003. This constitutes an increase of 100% in the number of females serving over this period.
Question No. 107 answered with QuestionNo. 39.

Defence Forces Equipment.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

108 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence the extent to which special breathing apparatus or other equipment required in the event of a terrorist attack is available throughout the Defence Forces; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13660/04]

The Defence Forces have available to them equipment for monitoring and protecting its members in dealing with nuclear, biological or chemical, NBC, threats identified from time to time.

The requirement for additional NBC equipment is kept under continuous review by the director of operations and the director of ordnance. A programme for the purchase of NBC equipment is ongoing and whatever equipment deemed necessary is purchased expeditiously to meet the changing requirements.

The Defence Forces hold an extensive range of modern NBC equipment that meets their current requirements. In particular, a total of 8,000 new NBC suits have been acquired. In addition, the Defence Forces has sufficient stock of respirators for each individual soldier. They also have 98 of the most technologically up to date chemical agent monitors, and Defence Forces personnel are been trained on their operation. Other equipment on hands includes biological agent detector and screening kits, group decontamination equipment and personal decontamination equipment.

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

The most important defence against any attack is of course external vigilance, detection and prevention by the security forces. All the necessary resources of the Garda Síochána and the Defence Forces are deployed to this end.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

109 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence if he has satisfied himself that the facilities and equipment available to the Army, Naval Service and Air Corps are in keeping with modern standards and requirements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13661/04]

The acquisition of new equipment and facilities for the Defence Forces has been a key focus for me since my appointment to the defence portfolio. Significant investment has taken place and I am satisfied that the Defence Forces are now well equipped for their day to day roles at home and overseas.

However, while much has been done and a great deal has been achieved with regard to both equipment and infrastructure, I am aware that more needs to be done. While expenditure programmes will now have to be more prioritised due to the changed financial situation I will ensure that a substantial re-equipment programme will still go ahead to enhance the efficiency, professionalism and safety of the Army, Air Corps and Naval Service.

This year sees the delivery of 25 additional armoured personnel carriers from Mowag of Switzerland, which will give the Defence Forces 65 Mowag APCs in total. The initial contract for 40 APCs saw deliveries completed by March 2002 and was valued at €51 million inclusive of VAT. The value of the additional contract is some €33 million inclusive of VAT with payments spread over the period 2002 to 2005, giving a total expenditure of €84 million on APCs. Eight of the 25 APCs have already been delivered to the Curragh Camp. The remaining seventeen will be delivered by October 2004.

Another significant contract relates to the acquisition of the Javelin missile system from Raytheon-Lockheed Martin in the USA at a cost of some €13 million inclusive of VAT. The purpose of this acquisition is to give Defence Forces personnel an effective, anti-armour capability while on peace support operations. The system will replace the Milan system. Some items under the contract have been delivered recently to allow for the training of personnel. The main delivery is scheduled for 2005.

There have been ongoing programmes of acquisitions of both nuclear biological chemical, NBC, equipment and night vision equipment, NVE, in recent years and these programmes will continue to meet the ongoing requirements of the Defence Forces. In addition, ten artillery ground surveillance radars have been purchased from Thales Defence in England at a cost of €3.8 million inclusive of VAT. The acquisition of light tactical vehicles, LTVs, for the Defence Forces will also be considered in the light of the ongoing budgetary situation.

The main priority for the Air Corps has been the purchase of fixed wing training aircraft. In that regard, I signed a contract on 16 January 2003 for the supply of eight turbo propeller aircraft to replace the Marchetti aircraft in the pilot training role. These aircraft will allow for the continued training of young cadets to the highest standard and are a very realistic response to the needs of the Air Corps at this time. The new aircraft is the Pilatus PC-9M, manufactured by Pilatus Aircraft Limited, Switzerland. The cost of the eight aircraft is approximately €60 million. The first three aircraft have already been delivered and the rest are expected during the summer. While these aircraft are being obtained primarily for pilot training, they will be capable of being armed and as such will have a limited defensive capability.

I have also announced the process to replace the ageing fleet of helicopters in the Air Corps. Following examination of the relevant issues, specifications have been prepared for light utility helicopters and tender competitions for the supply of up to six aircraft will be held shortly.

Partnership for Peace.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

110 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence the extent to which PFP proposals have been advanced or abandoned; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13662/04]

Ireland's participation in PfP to date is set out in our four individual partnership programmes, IPP, copies of which have been lodged in the Dáil Library. Activities consist of training courses, seminars, workshops, conferences, staff exercises and table top exercises.

Ireland's fourth IPP, covering the period 2004-05, has been completed in consultation with the Departments of Foreign Affairs, Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Health and Children and Communications, Marine and Natural Resources.

As provided for in the presentation document for PfP, Ireland also participates in the PfP planning and review process, known as PARP. In common with the other EU neutrals, Ireland is using the PARP process in connection with planning for the Petersberg Tasks. The scope of our involvement in PARP isfocused on enhancing interoperability and familiarity with operating procedures in a multi-national environment.

Participation in partnership for peace, PfP, activities is entirely voluntary and is based on the principle of self-differentiation, that is, a State selects for itself the nature and scope of its participation.

Questions Nos. 111 and 112 answered with Question No. 43.

Defence Forces Training.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

113 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence the extent to which training available to the Army, Naval Service and Air Corps is in keeping with international standards and best practice; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13665/04]

Defence Forces training plans are structured to provide the capabilities needed to execute the roles assigned to them under the White Paper on Defence of February 2000. Priority is given to meeting operational tasks in Ireland. The challenges of preparing military units for participation in international peace support operations constitute the major dimension of Defence Forces collective training. The primary focus of this training is the attainment of a capability for military inter-operability in order to conduct peace support operations to international standards. The Defence Forces keep abreast of developments at international level by regular attendance at training courses and seminars, at home and abroad.

Alternative Energy Projects.

John Gormley

Question:

114 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food further to Parliamentary Question No. 75 of 15 April 2003 concerning the Derrybrien wind farm, the reason his Department subsequently issued a felling licence to Coillte on 20 May 2003, to fell 263 hectares of conifer type trees, with an obligation to replant 119 hectares at least in part in Christmas tree plots; and the further reason his Department accepted an environmental impact statement which was prepared up to six years earlier, in two separate stages, before many changes to the project had taken place which did not deal at all with the environmental impact of felling the trees and never mentioned the need for replanting. [13441/04]

John Gormley

Question:

115 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the public process which took place for the issuing of a tree felling licence (details supplied) at Derrybrien to complete the requirements of the environmental impact assessment; his views on whether, in cases in which such felling gives rise to a large amount of replanting above the 70 hectare limit, albeit spread over several dispersed plots, this should form part of the environmental impact assessment; and if the licence has been re-assigned to the project developer who claims to be the current land owner. [13442/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 114 and 115 together.

The felling licence referred to was issued in accordance with section 37 of the Forestry Act 1946 following the lodging of a felling notice at the local Garda station. Its issue was in line with revised arrangements for the consideration of felling licence applications in respect of the proposed construction of wind farms on forestry sites, as outlined in Parliamentary Question No. 75 of 15 April 2003. Following a request for clarification as to ownership of the site, the licence was issued to Coillte Teoranta as landowners.

The environmental impact statement referred to was submitted in connection with the application for planning permission which was granted by An Bord Pleanála on the 12 October 1998. It was sent to the Forest Service for information purposes. Local authorities are the planning authorities in respect of deforestation. In line with normal consultation procedures for applications for felling licences, the felling notice was lodged at the local Garda station and the local authority was acquainted by the Forest Service as to the proposed felling.

Under section 41(7) of the Forestry Act 1946, replanting conditions attached to felling licences are binding on the licensee and on each of its successors in title to the land specified in such replanting condition. The felling licence has not been subsequently re-assigned.

Grant Payments.

Michael Ring

Question:

116 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will receive the remaining 20% of suckler cow premium. [13151/04]

The person named applied for premium on 39 animals under the 2003 suckler cow premium scheme. An 80% advance instalment amounting to €6993.48 was issued on 17 October 2003 and the 20% balancing instalment for €1748.37 was issued on 22 April 2004. These represent payment in full for the 39 animals.

Departmental Staff.

Billy Timmins

Question:

117 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the number of supervisory agricultural officers in the potato group who were upgraded to district superintendent; and the headquarters of the upgraded officers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13183/04]

Billy Timmins

Question:

118 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the number of supervisory agricultural officers in the seed production group who were upgraded to district superintendent; and the headquarters of the upgraded officers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13184/04]

Billy Timmins

Question:

119 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the number of upgraded officers in the potato group and the seed production group who subsequently transferred to other duties in his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13185/04]

Billy Timmins

Question:

120 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the number of upgraded officers in the potato group and the seed production group who were eligible to transfer to other duties in his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13186/04]

Billy Timmins

Question:

121 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the number of officers in the potato group who had less than two years’ experience at supervisory agricultural officer level before being upgraded; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13187/04]

Billy Timmins

Question:

123 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the number of supervisory agricultural officers on potato duties who retired between 1 September 1996 and 1 May 1998; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13190/04]

Billy Timmins

Question:

124 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if an audit was conducted by an independent source on the implementation of the provisions of clause 2 (iii) A of the 1/97 agreement for agricultural officer grades within his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13191/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 117 to 121, inclusive, and 123 and 124 together.

The position has been indicated in the reply to Parliamentary Question No. 94 on 11 March 2004. The number of supervisory agricultural officers in the potato group who were upgraded under the 1/97 agreement was eight. The headquarters of these officers were Donegal with five officers, Galway, Carlow and Meath, all with one officer. The number of supervisory agricultural officers in seed production group who were upgraded under the agreement was five. The headquarters of these officers were Meath, Wexford, Cork, Waterford and Dublin, all with one officer. The number of upgraded officers in both groups who subsequently transferred to other duties is three. All the upgraded officers in both groups were eligible to transfer to other duties. The number of officers in the potato group who had less than two years service at supervisory agricultural office level was three. There were no retirements at supervisory agricultural officer level in the potato group during 1 September 1996 and 1 May 1998. The agreement provided for a monitoring group comprising union and management representatives to oversee its implementation.

Billy Timmins

Question:

122 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the position in relation to the 1/97 agreement which provided for supervisory agricultural officers in potato, poultry and eggs and seed production to be upgraded to district superintendent; if there are other supervisory agricultural officers outside these groups upgraded to district superintendent level under the agreement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13188/04]

A group in ERAD, who were supervisory agricultural officers with an allowance, were upgraded to district superintendent under the 1/97 Agreement. No other supervisory agricultural officers, outside of the groups listed in the question, were upgraded to district superintendent level under the agreement.

Questions Nos. 123 and 124 answered with Question No. 117.

Milk Quota.

Michael Ring

Question:

125 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will receive extra milk quota which was applied for under the hardship scheme. [13192/04]

Allocations of milk quota from the national reserve are granted on the basis of recommendations from the milk quota appeals tribunal. The tribunal is a body established to consider and advise on applications for additional quota from individual producers who have suffered severe hardship in the context of the milk quota system.

The person named submitted an application for additional quota on the grounds of hardship in the 2003-04 milk quota year. The tribunal examined her application in November but, unfortunately, it did not recommend making an allocation on that occasion. The tribunal reviewed the application in April, on foot of an appeal by the person, but it did not change its original recommendation. While every application to the tribunal is treated in a fair and sympathetic manner it has not been possible, within the constraints of the limited amount of quota available and the sizeable number of applications received, to meet the demands for quota from all applicants.

Departmental Staff.

David Stanton

Question:

126 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the way in which persons with disabilities can access employment in his Department; if there are special application procedures; the criteria by which it is decided that persons qualify; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13242/04]

The majority of personnel employed by my Department are recruited from competitions run by the Office of the Civil Service and Local Appointments Commissioners. My Department is committed to the employment of people with a disability and achieving the 3% target for the Civil Service. The Office of the Civil Service and Local Appointments Commissioners holds special competitions for people with a disability from which candidates are also assigned to my Department. From time to time, my Department conducts interviews for the employment of temporary staff. People with a disability who satisfy the eligibility criteria, which is based on the skills necessary to do the job, are eligible to compete in these.

Grant Payments.

Gerard Murphy

Question:

127 Mr. Murphy asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food when all outstanding payments will be made for a herd number (details supplied). [13260/04]

The person involved submitted three applications under the 2003 special beef premium scheme, one on 13 January 2003, in respect of eight animals, one on 25 February 2003, in respect of three animals and one on 5 December 2003 in respect of 39 animals. The balancing payment in respect of all animals applied on was issued on 29 March 2004. During 2003, 53 animals eligible for the slaughter premium scheme were slaughtered under the herd number involved. The balancing payment in respect of all 53 animals was issued on 31 March 2004. The person involved applied to participate in 2003 extensification premium, payment of which is scheduled to commence next month. However, it is too early to confirm if he will qualify for payment.

Pat Breen

Question:

128 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food when a person (details supplied) in County Clare can expect to receive forest payment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13290/04]

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

Michael Ring

Question:

129 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if a person (details supplied) in County Cork is in receipt of payments such as headage, suckler cow, sheep subsidy or other such payment on lands. [13292/04]

The person named is in receipt of payments under some of the schemes mentioned. My Department is writing to him with the information involved.

Freedom of Information.

Joan Burton

Question:

130 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the percentage of requests under the Freedom of Information Act which proceed to internal appeal in his Department; the way in which that percentage compares with the percentage in previous years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13300/04]

The following table gives the percentage of freedom of information requests which proceeded to internal review in my Department from the commencement of the Freedom of Information Act on 21 April 1998 to the end of the first quarter of this year.

Year

% FOI requests which proceeded to internal review

%

21 April 1998 to 31 December 1998

23

1999

11

2000

12

2001

11

2002

12

2003

11

1 January 2004 to 31 March 2004

6

Joan Burton

Question:

131 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the number of requests under the Freedom of Information Act received by his Department in the first quarter of 2004; the way in which this compares with the number of freedom of information requests received in a similar period in previous years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13315/04]

Up to 79 freedom of information requests were received in my Department in the first quarter of 2004. The following table shows the figures for the number of requests received in the first quarter of previous years:

Year

Number of requests in first quarter

1999

97

2000

132

2001

102

2002

71

2003

128

Bovine Disease Controls.

Seymour Crawford

Question:

132 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the number of days it takes to obtain results of private blood tests from his Department; if he has considered the possibility of extending the blood test from a 30 day movement period to a 60 day period to allow pure bred breeders and others involved to show cattle at very valuable shows around the country, otherwise more agricultural shows will close down; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13328/04]

Private blood tests are given priority in the brucellosis laboratory over round or herd tests. Negative results are normally issued in the afternoon of the day following receipt of the samples in the laboratory. In the case of positive results, an extra one or two days can be required to facilitate extra testing of the samples. Samples received on a Friday are normally issued on the following Monday.

Special arrangements have been in place since 1999 to allow eligible females and bulls over 12 months of age to move to any number of shows within the validity period of the 30 day pre-movement brucellosis blood test. A copy of the information sheet on these arrangements was issued in late 2003 from my Department to organisers and exhibitors of livestock at shows for 2004 will be forwarded to the Deputy for his information.

Good progress has been made in recent years in reducing the incidence of brucellosis. While I am confident this improvement will continue, there is still a significant reservoir of the disease in many counties and a small number of serious breakdowns continue to occur. Accordingly, we cannot become complacent about this highly contagious disease and all elements of the programme must be retained in their present form.

Grant Payments.

Michael Ring

Question:

133 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will receive the payment due to them. [13356/04]

The late father of the person named submitted one application under the 2003 special beef premium on 14 March 2003 in respect of 11 animals and an application for 2003 suckler cow premium in respect of 23 animals on 25 April 2003. Both applications were processed for payment and an 80% advance instalment in respect of the suckler cow scheme amounting to €4,124.36 was issued to the applicant on 17 October 2003 while a special beef premium 80% advance instalment for €1,320.00 was issued on 20 October 2003.

My Department has since been informed of the death of the applicant and neither the 20% balancing suckler cow and special beef premia payments can be issued until grant of probate is available. The solicitors involved on behalf of the legal personal representatives were informed of this and requested to forward copy of probate or other appropriate legal documentation with instructions on who should receive the payments. There has been no reply to date.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

134 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the reason a rural environment protection scheme payment has not been made to a person (details supplied) in County Galway; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13372/04]

There was an area discrepancy in an amended plan recently received in my Department that necessitated an examination. This examination is near its conclusion and my Department expects to be able to complete processing of the payment application in the near future.

Ministerial Expenses.

Pádraic McCormack

Question:

135 Mr. McCormack asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the expenses each Minister of State has received between 1 January 2003 and 31 December 2003. [13375/04]

During 2003, the Minister of State with special responsibility for animal health and welfare and customer service, Deputy Aylward, received travelling and subsistence expenses amounting to €38,582.04. The Minister of State with special responsibility for food and horticulture, Deputy Treacy, received travelling and subsistence expenses amounting to €35,353.97.

Food Industry.

Martin Ferris

Question:

136 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if he will make a statement on a recent survey conducted by a newspaper (details supplied) that showed that farmers receive on average less than 50% of the retail value of a beef animal. [13537/04]

My function with cattle prices is to set policy parameters and support framework and to secure, by every political and diplomatic initiative, access to export markets for our beef. As regards retail prices, an independent group was appointed by the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment to establish why there was such a large differential between the producer price and the then prevailing consumer price.

This group reported in September 2000 that allegations about price gaps between the producer and consumer are based on simple comparisons between the level and movement of farmgate prices and retail prices. Such comparisons were inadequate because weight losses involved in converting the live animal into saleable beef were not taken into account. The comparison also ignored cost developments in the post-farmgate sectors of the food chain which account for half the value of the total chain. When these issues were properly considered, the changes in retail prices were fully explained by the combined movement in farmgate prices and post-farmgate costs.

Grant Payments.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

137 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the reason a ewe premium grant for 2003 has not been awarded to a person (details supplied) in County Galway; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13538/04]

The person named applied on 118 ewes under the 2003 ewe premium scheme, which he declared to be in his ownership and possession at the time of application on 6 January 2003 and which he undertook to keep on his holding up to 13 April 2003. At an inspection of his flock on 17 December 2003 only 84 ewes were presented. The person named was unable to account for the 34 missing ewes. He was given the opportunity to submit sales dockets to prove that he disposed of the 34 ewes after the retention period but he failed to do so. As the person named failed to satisfy my Department that he had 118 ewes when he applied in early 2003, he cannot be paid 2003 ewe premium according to the relevant EU regulations.

Official Languages Act.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

138 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if his Department has prepared an estimate of the cost to his Department of implementing the provisions of the Official Languages Act 2003; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13563/04]

The directly applicable provisions of the Official Languages Act 2003 have commenced. The remaining provisions will be given effect by means of regulations to be made by the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs and a scheme is to be prepared by my Department under sections 11 to 18, inclusive, of the Act. The scheme will set out how the Department will implement the Act over the next three years. The costs so far have been minimal and it is not possible to prepare an estimate of the full costs involved in any year until this Department's scheme has been finalised.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

139 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if estimates have been prepared by the public bodies funded by his Department in regard to the cost of implementing the provisions of the Official Languages Act 2003; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13578/04]

This is a day-to-day operational matter for the bodies concerned who are directly responsible for compliance with the legislation.

Agenda 2000.

Paul McGrath

Question:

140 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the position concerning the decoupling proposals; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13590/04]

Agreement on the mid-term review of Agenda 2000 was reached at the Council of Ministers meeting in Luxembourg on 26 June 2003. The regulation giving effect to the agreement was made on 29 September 2003. The draft Commission regulations setting out the detailed rules for implementing the direct support schemes have recently been agreed.

Following wide consultations with interested parties, I decided that the best interests of the agricultural industry lay in fully decoupling all direct support schemes from production. This will enable farmers to focus their attention on producing for real markets and meeting the high standards demanded by today's consumers.

The early decision to fully decouple payments from production has enabled my Department to begin the major task of establishing entitlements for all those farmers who received direct payments in the reference years of 2000, 2001 and 2002. Earlier this year my Department invited farmers whose production was adversely affected during the reference years because of force majeure or exceptional circumstances to make applications for special consideration. Approximately 15,000 applications were received and are being processed. It is hoped that notification of provisional entitlements can be issued to farmers later this year. Notification of definitive entitlements will be issued to all farmers early next year.

Computerisation Programme.

Richard Bruton

Question:

141 Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to the criticism of his choice of open standards software instead of open source software for e-access to Government and that due to the fact that Ireland is out of line with other European member states, it will have less control over upgrades and less security and reliability. [13332/04]

I presume the Deputy is referring to a speech made by the Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach with special responsibility for the information society, Deputy Hanafin, at the recent ISA national software conference where she underlined the importance of open standards in interconnecting the public service's computer systems and exchanging data and information across these systems.

This is in keeping with the pronounced policies of other EU member states where open standards are considered critical to the development and operation of effective and sustainable inter-operability architectures. I understand the Minister of State has been congratulated for emphasising the importance of open standards for inter-operability.

The Minister of State did not, as the question states, suggest a choice between open standards software and open source software. She simply pointed out that they were not the same thing and reiterated that, in keeping with procurement law, the Government operates a procurement policy that facilitates open competition, best value for money and best fit to requirements. Within that approach, different products, such as proprietary and open source, are evaluated on their merits, including openness in terms of future procurement and where possible, avoidance of lock-in to a particular supplier. Accordingly, an open view is taken which in practice tends to follow standards emerging from the market. Consequently, with respect to the costs of software, public bodies consider the total cost of ownership which, in addition to the licensing element, should include the issues and costs associated with development and customisation, deployment, warranties and maintenance, performance, security and reliability, management and support, upgrades, training and skills development.

Disabled Drivers.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

142 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for Finance if the disabled driver’s and disabled passenger’s (tax concessions scheme) will be reviewed to take into consideration the number of persons with severe disabilities who cannot avail of the scheme due to the stringent regulations. [13371/04]

John Deasy

Question:

164 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Finance if he has considered the report of the interdepartmental group established to review the disabled driver’s and disabled passenger’s (tax concessions) scheme, in particular the qualifying medical criteria; the recommendations made by the group; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13723/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 142 and 164 together.

As stated in replies to previous parliamentary questions, the interdepartmental report of the review group on the disabled driver's and disabled passenger's (tax concessions) scheme is under consideration in my Department. The report is substantive and needs to be studied carefully. Any recommendations contained in this report will receive full consideration. On completion of this process, I envisage that the report will be made available publicly. During the Dáil debate on the Finance Bill 2004, I stated that I intended that the report would go to Government and be published this year.

Tax Code.

Richard Bruton

Question:

143 Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for Finance if he will consider granting tax relief universally at a 42% rate to persons, even those on low incomes, in respect of orthodontic work, for which a certificate of need will have been issued by the health board, bearing in mind that this is work for which there is a statutory entitlement, and the need for private work is due to the inability of the State to deliver the service; and if he will consider allowing such a scheme to continue at least until the State has dealt with the chronic waiting list for such service. [13156/04]

Under section 469 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997, tax relief at the taxpayer's marginal rate of tax is available for expenses for non-routine dental treatment including orthodontic treatment. The relief, which is provided by way of repayment, may be claimed by an individual in respect of his or her own expenses, expenses met for a spouse, dependant and certain other relatives or a child who is not a relative but is in the custody of and is maintained by the individual.

However, de minimus limits apply. In a tax year, the first €125 of expenses incurred for a claim in respect of an individual and the first €250 of expenses incurred for a claim relating to two or more individuals are excluded from the scope of the relief. This relief is available on qualifying expenses incurred in or outside the State if the dentist is entitled under the laws of the country in which the care is provided to practise dentistry there. I have no plans to change the terms of medical expenses relief along the lines suggested by Deputy Richard Burton. The question of the provision of treatment services for those who require orthodontic work is a matter for the Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Martin.

Tax Clearance Certificates.

John Perry

Question:

144 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Finance when the necessary documentation for a community group (details supplied) will be supplied; the reason for the delay; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13178/04]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that a duplicate application for a tax clearance certificate was received by the relevant Revenue district on 22 April 2004. I understand the original application was sent to the wrong Revenue district office. On 22 April, a letter issued from the Revenue office advising the tax agent for the community group that there were a number of tax returns outstanding and that, as a consequence, a tax clearance certificate could not be issued. When the outstanding returns have been filed and any outstanding liabilities paid the matter will be reviewed again.

Departmental Staff.

David Stanton

Question:

145 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Finance the way in which persons with disabilities can access employment in his Department; if there are special application procedures; the criteria by which it is decided that persons qualify; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13243/04]

The Department of Finance uses the services of the Civil Service Commissioners to recruit people to all permanent, established Civil Service posts in the Department. Persons with disabilities are entitled to apply for all competitions held by the commissioners, subject to their meeting the eligibility requirements of the competition in question. Where applicants request special facilities the commissioners make every effort to accommodate them during the selection process. When a person is selected for appointment particular consideration is given to placement and the work environment, for example the provision of special equipment and facilities such as adaptive technology, specialised furniture, reorganisation of work and the provision of additional training which would assist the person in undertaking his or her duties.

Flood Relief.

John Bruton

Question:

146 Mr. J. Bruton asked the Minister for Finance if he has taken steps to ensure that additional funds have been allocated to Meath County Council to allow the flood alleviation works in Mornington to commence; if the Office of Public Works has plans to assist Meath County Council in carrying out works in Mornington; if reports have been compiled by his Department or by Meath County Council regarding the remedial works which are required; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13254/04]

Meath County Council commissioned an engineering report and environmental impact assessment for proposed flood relief works in the Mornington area. The engineering report is now complete and the environmental impact assessment is due for completion. These reports were funded by the Office of Public Works at a cost of €190,000. Preliminary discussions have taken place between officials from the Office of Public Works and Meath County Council to clarify the findings of the report and the implications of the works proposed therein. Further consideration of these issues must await completion of the environmental impact statement.

Funding for any scheme of flood relief works that may be proposed in Mornington would have to be considered in the context of the Office of Public Work's existing commitments and any proposals that may emerge from consideration of the flood policy review by the Government.

Tax Code.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

147 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Finance the proposals he has to introduce the Tobin tax (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13331/04]

The issue of the Tobin tax has been considered at a number of fora, including the informal ECOFIN meeting at Liège on 22 September 2001. The then Belgian Presidency of the EU indicated that it wished to pursue the matter in the context of a general study to be carried out by the Commission on the issue of globalisation. However, most Finance Ministers, myself included, continue to have reservations about the Tobin tax proposal. It was not clear that a further examination of the issue by the Commission would ensure satisfactory answers to the questions concerning the tax. These include the difficulties relating to practical implementation of the tax, its doubtful effect on short-term speculative capital movements, its conflict with the basic tenet of free capital movement in the EU, its disproportionate effect on small business and consumers, the probability that the tax would simply drive participants into non-taxable alternatives and the negative impact on liquidity in the foreign exchange market.

Nevertheless, at a formal ECOFIN meeting on 16 October 2001, it was agreed that the Commission would carry out a study on globalisation and that this study would examine the arguments for and against the Tobin tax. The study, Responses to the Challenges of Globalisation, published on 14 February 2002 concluded that "while as a source of additional revenue a currency transaction tax may look appealing, its feasibility is, however, not demonstrated". There have been no further developments at EU level with regard to the possible introduction of the Tobin tax. I do not propose to introduce such a tax as I remain unconvinced of its feasibility.

Drainage Schemes.

Willie Penrose

Question:

148 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Finance if he will take steps to ensure that a culvert bridge leading into the lands of a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath is repaired; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that this person is prepared to give assistance to his Department to have such work carried out; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13353/04]

The bridge in question is on a channel of the Inny catchment drainage scheme for which the Commissioners of Public Works have a maintenance responsibility under the provisions of the Arterial Drainage Act 1945. The bridge has been inspected by an engineer from the Office of Public Works and it is in good condition. It is understood that the person in question may wish to construct a more substantial bridge but the commissioners have not received any proposal in this regard. The commissioners will contact the person in question to clarify the matter with him.

Ministerial Expenses.

Pádraic McCormack

Question:

149 Mr. McCormack asked the Minister for Finance the expenses each Minister of State has received between 1 January 2003 and 31 December 2003. [13376/04]

The Minister of State at the Department of Finance with special responsibility for the Office of Public Works, Deputy Parlon, was paid €37,528.81.

Tax Code.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

150 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Finance his proposals to exempt the old age contributory pension, the widow’s contributory pension and the invalidity pension (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13435/04]

I noted the terms of the motion passed by the Tramore and District Active Retirement Association: "that the contributory senior citizen's pension, the widow's contributory pension and the invalidity pension be granted in full, and that the moneys received from such pensions be not included when assessing income tax".

However, it is a general principle of taxation that income from all sources should be subject to taxation and this includes pension income from the Department of Social and Family Affairs. Social welfare payments, the old age contributory pension and the old age non-contributory pension are reckonable for tax purposes in line with the majority of social welfare payments such as the retirement, widow's contributory, widow's non contributory and invalidity pensions, the one parent family payment and short-term benefits such as unemployment benefit and disability benefit. The treatment of pensions as income for tax purposes is essentially a matter of equity.

In my last three budgets, I have increased the age exemption limits for those aged 65 years and over by more than 40% which now stand at €15,500 per annum single and €31,000 per annum married. Elderly persons or couples with annual incomes at or below these limits are not liable to income tax. The extent, if any, to which taxation will arise for an income earner will depend on the level of income which that person has in a tax year. Pensioners aged 65 years and over continue to be treated more favourably under the income tax code than the generality of taxpayers. In addition to the basic personal credit of €1,520 per annum single and €3,040 per annum married and, where applicable, the employee credit, formally known as the PAYE allowance, of €1,040 per annum, income earners aged 65 years and over are entitled to a special age tax credit which is €205 per annum single and €410 per annum married.

Pensioners and those aged 65 years or over who are widowed persons without dependent children are entitled to a tax-free credit of €300 in addition to the normal personal credits of a single person. Pensioners and those aged 65 years or over who are widowed parents with dependent children have an even more favourable tax treatment. In the year of bereavement, a widowed parent may receive a personal tax credit which is the equivalent to the married tax credit. In the years following this, widowed persons with dependent children receive a one parent family credit in addition to the single personal credit. This ensures that their overall credits are equivalent to that of a married couple for as long as they continue to have dependent children. In the years directly following the year of bereavement, a widowed person with dependent children is also entitled to a bereavement credit. This credit is tapered over five years and amounts to €2,600 in year one, €2,100 in year two, €1,600 in year three, €1,100 in year four, €600 in year five with a reduction to nil thereafter.

Widowed parents are also entitled to an increased standard rate band at €32,000 per annum. This compares favourably with the single person's tax band of €28,000 per annum. The concessionary treatment is afforded to those aged 65 years or over in the administration of deposit interest retention tax, DIRT. Such persons are entitled to a refund of DIRT paid if their income is at, or below, the age exemption limits mentioned above. The claim for repayment of DIRT is made after the end of the year of assessment. Partial refunds may be due to persons whose income in any tax year did not greatly exceed the exemption limits.

Departmental Staff.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

151 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Finance if the required quota of employment places for persons with disabilities in Departments has been achieved; if not, the numbers remaining; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13510/04]

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

In view of these figures, it is important to support and assist Departments in implementing the Government's policy. The policy makes a real contribution to the welfare of people with a disability by creating employment opportunities which might not otherwise be available. Every effort is made to ensure that an equal opportunity is given to all candidates applying for competitions for recruitment to the Civil Service. All candidates are requested to identify any special requirements they may have to sit the relevant examination.

My Department commissioned independent research into the operation of the 3% target and the career progression of people with a disability in the Civil Service. The report provides useful information about the position of people with a disability working in the Civil Service and makes recommendations for practical steps which can be taken to make certain that the Government's policy operates effectively for the benefit of people with a disability. In the light of the consultants' recommendations, proposals to improve the operation of the policy have been approved by the Government. Discussions will start in the near future between the equality unit in my Department and the Civil Service staff unions on the recommendations. The aim is to agree a new joint approach to the implementation of the target, to improve the existing policy for the benefit of people with disability throughout their careers in the Civil Service, to ensure that the importance of the policy is emphasised, and that Departments will be assisted in implementing the policy.

Benchmarking Awards.

John McGuinness

Question:

152 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Finance when benchmarking payments will be made to staff at Kilkenny Castle. [13540/04]

Revised pay scales incorporating the first phase of benchmarking will be implemented for craft and general operative grades in Kilkenny Castle with effect from the 27 May 2004. The payment of associated retrospection is scheduled for the 1 July 2004. Benchmarking increases have already been implemented for other grades in Kilkenny Castle. The payment of further phases of benchmarking is subject to the verification process as provided for under Sustaining Progress.

Tax Code.

John Cregan

Question:

153 Mr. Cregan asked the Minister for Finance the situation on income tax exemption limits; if there is an addition to the €31,000 couples figure for old age pensioners for persons over 80 and any other tax allowance addition; and if not, if the couples figure stays at €31,000 irrespective of extras. [13553/04]

Any person or married couple whose total income from all sources is less than or equal to the exemption limit for a tax year will not be liable to tax on that income for that year. For persons aged 65 years or over, the age exemption limits for 2004 are as follows:

Status

Exemption Limit

Single / Widowed Person

€15,500 plus €575 for each of the first two qualifying children and €830 for the third and each subsequent qualifying child.

Married couple

€31,000 plus €575 for each of the first two qualifying children and €830 for the third and each subsequent qualifying child.

A qualifying child is a child who is under 18 years at the start of the year of assessment or, if over 18 years, is in full-time education or is permanently incapacitated either mentally or physically from maintaining himself or herself. Other than the increase in respect of children, there are no further additions to the age exemption limits.

However, any individual whose total income from all sources is over the exemption limit, but does not exceed twice that limit, may qualify for marginal relief taxation which is applied at a rate of 40%. In simple terms, an individual whose total income falls within the marginal exemption limits pays the lesser of tax due having regard to the marginal exemption formula and tax due having regard to normal tax credits and rates bands.

Public Service Contracts.

John Cregan

Question:

154 Mr. Cregan asked the Minister for Finance on the criteria of Departments and State agencies to deal with newly set up private sector service companies; if companies are supposed to be in existence for a particular period of time; the terms they should meet; if they must be tax compliant; the documentation which substitutes for this when companies are only recently legally established; if the operation of these criteria is universally adopted; and if individual Departments or agencies are open to set their own more stringent rules. [13554/04]

There is no explicit requirement that companies must be in existence for a minimum period of time, or that recently established firms or firms with no previous experience of public contracts should be excluded from the tendering process. However, candidates expressing an interest in significant public contracts are generally required to satisfy the contracting authority that they possess the necessary capacity to perform the contract. For instance, to prove economic or financial capacity, a company may be requested to furnish appropriate statements from banks, evidence of professional risk indemnity insurance, balance sheets or relevant extracts from annual accounts or statements of turnover.

This list of examples is not exhaustive and the relevant proof may be provided by any other means which the contracting authority considers appropriate or acceptable. Evidence of technical capacity may be required by production of certificates of relevant technical or professional qualifications, statements of technical and human resources available or a company's past record of performance on other projects. Companies being awarded public contracts must be tax compliant. Proof of compliance must be furnished by means of a tax clearance certificate issued by the Revenue Commissioners.

Tax Code.

John Cregan

Question:

155 Mr. Cregan asked the Minister for Finance the levels of capital acquisitions tax which apply between unmarried siblings living together all their lives; when these levels were introduced or last revised; if there is a concession when an estate is passed onto a next generation, for example, nieces or nephews; if there is a backdated concession for siblings when capital acquisitions tax was paid ten years ago on the death of one, before the most recent revision, and when capital acquisitions tax must now be paid again on the death of the last of three siblings; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13555/04]

Capital acquisitions tax is charged at a flat rate of 20% on the excess of the tax free threshold, known as the group threshold, applicable to a gift or inheritance taken by a person. In arriving at the group threshold for a gift or inheritance received by a person on or after 1 December 1999 from a brother or sister, all gifts and inheritances received by that person since 5 December 1991 from persons in the same group must be taken into account. This is an aggregation of gifts and inheritances from persons in the same group. A beneficiary's brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, lineal ancestors and lineal descendants other than a child, or a minor child of a deceased child, such as grandparents and grandchildren, are all in the same group. This group has a tax-free threshold of €45,644 for gifts and inheritances taken in 2004 having been increased by an indexation factor each year since the year 2000.

Where a dwelling house is taken by way of a gift or inheritance from a brother or sister, a capital acquisitions tax exemption applies if that dwelling-house was occupied continuously by the beneficiary as his or her only or main residence for a period of three years prior to the date of the gift or inheritance. The beneficiary must not have an interest in any other residential property. It is also a condition of the exemption that the beneficiary must own and reside in the dwelling house for six years after the date of the gift or inheritance. This condition does not apply where the beneficiary is over 55 years or where the beneficiary is unable to comply with the residence requirements for reasons outside his or her control, for example, due to work obligations or hospitalisation.

A relief from capital acquisitions tax applies where a gift or inheritance of business assets is taken by a nephew or niece who worked substantially on a full-time basis in that business for his or her aunt or uncle for a period of five years prior to the date of the gift or inheritance. A nephew or niece who qualifies for this relief is entitled to the same tax-free threshold as if he or she were a son or daughter of the disponer. This threshold is €456,438 for gifts and inheritances taken in the year 2004.

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the capital acquisitions tax code does not allow a credit for tax paid in respect of an event against the capital acquisitions tax liability arising on any subsequent event. In a situation where three siblings are living together, on the death of one of them, a capital acquisitions tax liability can arise in respect of the resulting inheritance. The tax paid is not allowed as a credit against any capital acquisitions tax liability arising on a subsequent death.

Capital acquisitions tax becomes due and payable on the valuation date in respect of the inheritances taken on the death of each of the three siblings. The valuation date in the case of an inheritance is the date when the executor or administrator of an estate is entitled to distribute the property to a beneficiary. If Deputy Cregan has a particular case or set of circumstances in mind, he may wish to contact the Revenue Commissioners for further clarification.

John Cregan

Question:

156 Mr. Cregan asked the Minister for Finance the concessions, tax relief and grants which are made available throughout the taxation system to persons or companies for the provision of child care for themselves or for their employees; if, in view of the less favourable increase in child benefit over the past two years, providing tax relief on child care payments is under consideration; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13556/04]

Over the past number of years the Government has considered carefully the whole area of child care. The core objective of Government policy in the area of child support is to provide assistance which will offer real choice to parents and which will benefit all children. It has been decided that child benefit will be the main fiscal instrument through which support will be provided to parents with dependent children. Child benefit provides assistance to all parents in whatever caring choices are most appropriate for them and their children. Unlike tax relief, it provides support to parents irrespective of their income status.

In line with this policy approach, the Government commenced a major initiative to increase substantially the rates of child benefit. In 2001, the rate for the first and second child was increased by almost €32 per month and by €38 per month for the third and subsequent children. This represented an increase of more than 50% on the rates prevailing in 2000. Similar monetary increases were provided in 2002. Further increases were implemented in 2003. In the 2004 Budget Statement, I announced additional increases of €6 and €8 per month respectively which came into effect from last month. These increases are around double the projected inflation rate for this year. Since 1997, child benefit rates have increased by more than 230% compared to a projected increase of inflation of only 28% over the period 1997 to 2004.

There is an exemption to the usual benefit-in-kind provisions for employees who enjoy free or subsidised child care facilities provided by their employers. The exemption also applies if an employer provides child care facilities jointly with others. In such circumstances, the employer must be wholly or partly responsible for both financing and managing the child care facility. However, the employer may opt not to be involved in the management of the child care service. In such circumstances, the benefit-in-kind exemption will be restricted to cases where the employer provides financial support for items of capital expenditure and equipment but not other costs incurred by the employer. This provision was introduced to make the scheme more attractive to employers who did not want the job of managing the facility.

Child care services are generally exempt from VAT, so no VAT should be chargeable on fees levied by crèches. The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Deputy McDowell, has overall responsibility for the formulation of policy on child care. The supply of formal child care places is being stimulated through a programme of investment under the national development plan equal opportunities child care programme with the funding of almost €437 million provided by his Department and the EU. The purpose of this capital and staffing support funding is to provide almost 27,000 new child care places and to support existing places. This funding and the recent increases in child benefit are a significant financial commitment and clearly show the Government's continuing support for the child care sector.

I am satisfied that the Government is providing sufficient support to parents to assist them in meeting the caring costs of their children and to increase the overall supply of child care places which will also help moderate the costs of child care.

Departmental Staff.

John Cregan

Question:

157 Mr. Cregan asked the Minister for Finance the policy for recruiting persons with disabilities in the public service; if a special competition is held for persons with disabilities; if the same competition is held for all applicants; when the last competition was held and if there are plans to hold one in the near future; if a separate panel is set up for persons with disabilities; the percentage of persons with disabilities currently employed in the public service; and if any exceptions are made. [13557/04]

I do not have information on recruitment practice in the wider public service as this is a matter for relevant Ministers. As Minister for Finance, my responsibility for the Civil Service lies with the Civil Service Commissioners who are responsible for recruitment. Competitions advertised by the commissioners are open to all, including people with disabilities, subject to their meeting the eligibility requirements of the competition in question. Application forms invite applicants to indicate if they have special requirements when undergoing the selection process and the commissioners make every effort to facilitate these requests.

The Government has a 3% target for the employment of people with a disability in the Civil Service. The annual survey undertaken by my Department of the position on the employment of staff with a disability in the Civil Service shows that 931 people with a disability were employed at the end of December 2002, which is equivalent to 2.8% of total numbers. This compares with 891 people, 2.78% in 2001 and 758 people, 2.56% in 2000. Figures for end December 2003 are being compiled. From time to time general service recruitment competitions have been held specifically for those with disabilities. The last clerical officer competition advertised for people with disabilities was in 1999.

My Department commissioned independent research into the operation of the 3% target and the career progression of people with a disability in the Civil Service. The report provides useful information about the position of people with a disability working in the Civil Service and makes recommendations for practical steps which can be taken to make certain that the Government's policy operates effectively for the benefit of people with a disability. In the light of the consultants' recommendations, proposals to improve the operation of the policy have been approved by the Government. Discussions are under way between the equality unit in my Department and the Civil Service staff unions on the recommendations. The aim is to agree a new joint approach to the implementation of the target to improve the existing policy for the benefit of people with disability throughout their careers in the Civil Service, to ensure that the importance of the policy is emphasised and that Departments are given assistance in meeting the aims of the policy. Consideration will be given to holding special competitions for people with a disability in the light of these discussions.

Official Languages Act.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

158 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Finance if his Department has prepared an estimate of the cost to his Department of implementing the provisions of the Official Languages Act 2003; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13564/04]

Brian O'Shea

Question:

159 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Finance if estimates have been prepared by the public bodies funded by his Department in regard to the cost of implementing the provisions of the Official Languages Act 2003; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13579/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 158 and 159 together.

My Department, as stated in its quality customer service action plan 2001-2004, is committed to providing a high quality service to customers who wish to conduct their business in Irish. It actively supports the development of bilingualism across the Civil Service through Gaeleagras, by means of Irish classes and providing advice and assistance for developing and implementing bilingual services to the public.

The provisions of the Official Languages Act 2003 are being introduced on a phased basis. The Act provides for the preparation in due course by my Department, and by each of the bodies under its aegis, of schemes for the delivery of their services to the public in the Irish language. I am informed that the Department of Community, Gaeltacht and Rural Affairs is preparing guidelines to assist public bodies in preparing these schemes. When the guidelines are finalised, it is anticipated that the first tranche of public bodies will be asked to prepare draft schemes for approval by the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs.

When my Department has prepared its draft scheme, it will be in a position to estimate the additional cost to the Department of implementing the provisions of the Official Languages Act. A similar situation pertains to the public bodies funded by the Department.

Disabled Drivers.

Paul McGrath

Question:

160 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the number of applications for primary medical certificates received in his Department in 2003; the numbers approved; and the situation concerning the review of the disabled drivers’ and passengers’ regulations. [13591/04]

Application for a primary medical certificate for the disabled drivers' and disabled passengers' (tax concessions) scheme should be made in the first instance to the appropriate health authority. However, I am informed by the Minister for Health and Children that the total number of applicants in 2003 was 2,220, of which a total of 1,207 were approved.

As stated in a reply to a previous parliamentary question, the interdepartmental report of the review group on the disabled drivers' and disabled passengers' (tax concessions) scheme is under consideration in my Department. The report is substantive and needs to be studied carefully. On completion of this process, I envisage that the report will be made available publicly. During the Dáil debate on the Finance Act 2004, I stated that I intended that the report would go to Government and be published this year.

Decentralisation Programme.

Paul McGrath

Question:

161 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if the Office of Public Works is in negotiations to procure a property in Mullingar, County Westmeath, to facilitate the decentralisation of the Department of Education and Science headquarters; when these negotiations are likely to conclude; and the timeframe for this decentralisation process. [13601/04]

A number of property decentralisation proposals have been received by the Office of Public Works in respect of Mullingar and these proposals are being assessed. The indicative timescale, subject to no unforeseen delays, for site acquisition, planning, tendering and construction phases will be of the order of 26 to 37 months.

Tax Credits.

Pat Carey

Question:

162 Mr. Carey asked the Minister for Finance if an application has been received from a person (details supplied) in County Meath for dependent relatives allowance; if so, if the application will be processed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13603/04]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that an application for the dependent relative tax credit, formerly an allowance, has been received and processed. A revised certificate of tax credits, which included the dependent relative tax credit, was issued to the taxpayer on 29 April 2004.

Decentralisation Programme.

Joe Costello

Question:

163 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Finance when he will respond to Collooney Community Enterprise Limited, County Sligo, and its proposal to be considered under the decentralisation program under his Department’s guidelines; and if he received other proposals from Sligo. [13604/04]

A number of property decentralisation proposals have been received by the Office of Public Works in respect of County Sligo and these proposals are being assessed. The Office of Public Works will be in correspondence with all proposers in due course.

Question No. 164 answered with QuestionNo. 142.

Middle East Peace Process.

Pat Carey

Question:

165 Mr. Carey asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he intends to request the Council of the EU and the Council of Ministers to exert pressure on Israel to carry out UN Assembly Resolution A/RES-I/L.15 of 21 October 2003; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13742/04]

Finian McGrath

Question:

166 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will urge the Council of the EU and the Council of Ministers to exert strong pressure on Israel to carry out UN General Assembly Resolution A/RES-I/L.15 of 21 October 2003; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13174/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 165 and 166 together.

The resolution of 21 October 2003 with which the Deputies are concerned requested the Secretary General of the United Nations to report on Israeli compliance one month after its adoption. The Secretary General reported on 24 November 2003 that Israel had not complied with the terms of the resolution and, as a consequence, the General Assembly decided in Resolution A/RES-ES/10-14 of 8 December 2003 to seek an advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice on the question of the legal consequences of the construction in question.

The EU agreed a common submission to the International Court of Justice, which was presented by Ireland as holder of the Presidency. In addition, Ireland submitted a national statement to the court, as did many EU member states, which stressed the illegality of the construction of the separation barrier. The advisory opinion of the court is expected soon and will be considered carefully by the Department in consultation with our EU partners. The EU remains firmly opposed to the construction of the separation barrier and will continue to make this known to the Israeli Government. The matter of this construction was addressed in the statement issued by the international quartet after its meeting in New York on 4 May, of which the House has been made aware.

Departmental Staff.

David Stanton

Question:

167 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the way in which persons with disabilities can access employment in his Department; if there are special application procedures; the criteria by which it is decided that persons qualify; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13244/04]

In its human resources strategy 2002-2004, the Department of Foreign Affairs committed itself to full participation in the Government's programme of positive action aimed at enhancing employment opportunities for persons with disabilities. The Department has met the recommended target of 3% for the employment of persons with disabilities and will continue to do so. Most vacancies arising in the Department of Foreign Affairs are filled from competition panels established by the Office of the Civil Service and Local Appointments Commissioners, the central recruiting body for the whole of the Civil Service. Persons with disabilities are assigned to this Department by the Office of the Civil Service and Local Appointments Commissioners as part of the aforementioned Government programme of positive action.

The Department also occasionally recruits services officers and cleaners through FÁS. In doing so, it invites applications from persons with disabilities and has been successful in recruiting a number of officers with disabilities in this way. The Department's disability liaison officer provides support to staff with disabilities and ensures that any specific needs they may have are being met.

Freedom of Information.

Joan Burton

Question:

168 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the percentage of requests under the Freedom of Information Act which proceed to internal appeal in his Department; the way in which that percentage compares with the percentage in previous years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13301/04]

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

Year

No. of Requests

No. of Internal Reviews

%

January to March 2004

15

Nil

N/A

2003

95

8

8.42

2002

131

15

11.45

2001

128

9

7.03

2000

153

21

13.72

1999

157

24

15.28

1998

70

17

24.28

Joan Burton

Question:

169 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the number of requests under the Freedom of Information Act received by his Department in the first quarter of 2004; the way in which this compares with the number of freedom of information requests received in a similar period in previous years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13316/04]

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

First Quarter

No. of Requests Received

2004

15

2003

50

2002

23

2001

26

2000

53

1999

28

Ministerial Expenses.

Pádraic McCormack

Question:

170 Mr. McCormack asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the expenses each Minister of State has received between 1 January 2003 and 31 December 2003. [13377/04]

There are two Ministers of State in the Department of Foreign Affairs. Deputy Kitt is Minister of State with special responsibility for overseas development assistance and human rights and Deputy Roche is Minster of State with special responsibility for European affairs. He is also a Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach.

Between 1 January 2003 and 31 December 2003, the Minister of State, Deputy Kitt, received expenses of €30,461. This includes a mileage allowance of €22,132 and subsistence allowance amounting to €8,329. The Minister of State, Deputy Roche, received subsistence allowances of €11,276.76 for the same period while his mileage expenses are paid by the Department of the Taoiseach.

Common Foreign and Security Policy.

Dan Boyle

Question:

171 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the reason additional Kurdish representative organisations have been placed on the EU list of terrorist organisations. [13444/04]

The European Council took a unanimous decision to include KADEK and KONGRA-GEL on the EU list of terrorist organisations, as aliases of the Kurdistan Workers' Party, the PKK, on 2 April 2004. The PKK had previously been designated by the EU as a terrorist organisation on 2 May 2002.

Inclusion on the list is based on the criteria set out in Common Position 2001/931/CFSP on the application of specific measures to combat terrorism, which was adopted on 27 December 2001. These criteria include, inter alia, acts such as attacks on a person’s life which may cause death, attacks upon the physical integrity of a person, kidnapping or hostage taking, causing extensive damage to a government or public facility, directing a terrorist group or participating in the activities of a terrorist group or funding its activities where committed with the aim of seriously intimidating a population, or unduly compelling a government or an international organisation to perform or abstain from performing any act, or seriously destabilising or destroying the fundamental political, constitutional, economic or social structures of a country or an international organisation. The relevant bodies within the Council considered the status of KADEK and KONGRA-GEL carefully, and were satisfied that there was a sufficient basis to conclude that they meet the criteria for designation.

Official Languages Act.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

172 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if his Department has prepared an estimate of the cost to his Department of implementing the provisions of the Official Languages Act 2003; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13565/04]

Brian O'Shea

Question:

173 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if estimates have been prepared by the public bodies funded by his Department in regard to the cost of implementing the provisions of the Official Languages Act 2003; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13580/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 172 and 173 together.

My Department is assessing how the provisions of the Official Languages Act 2003 will impact on the Department's work both at home and abroad. The Department's strategy statement is published in both Irish and English. However, it is not possible to say what the cost of implementing the provisions of the Act will be for the Department or for any body under its aegis.

Pension Provisions.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

174 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science his involvement in an adjustment to the superannuation regulations in an educational institution (details supplied); the recommendation he received from the Minister for Education and Science in relation to this matter; the effect this will have on the superannuation scheme for all other staff members; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13520/04]

Olwyn Enright

Question:

210 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science his involvement in an adjustment to the superannuation regulations in an educational institution (details supplied); the reports he received for the Higher Education Authority in relation to this matter; the outcome of those reports; the effect this will have on the superannuation scheme for all other staff members; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13519/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 174 and 210 together.

The governing body of the National University of Ireland Cork, UCC, has sought approval to amend the superannuation scheme at UCC. The Universities Act 1997 provides for a mechanism for the amendment of statutes relating to superannuation schemes. That process involves a proposal for amendment from the governing body which, before it can be effective, the Higher Education Authority, HEA, must approve with my consent and the consent of the Minister

for Finance. A resolution on the proposed amendment of the scheme was passed by the HEA at its meeting of 20 April 2004 on foot of a proposal from the governing body of UCC. The HEA has now sought the consent of both Ministers to this decision. This is currently under consideration in the context of the policy issues involved.

School Transport.

Cecilia Keaveney

Question:

175 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Education and Science further to correspondence of 20 February and 18 March 2004, the outcome of this school transport matter for a person (details supplied) in County Donegal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13159/04]

Under the terms of the primary school transport scheme, only eligible children qualify for free transport. To be eligible, children must live at least two miles from and be attending their nearest national school. As the child of the family referred to by the Deputy in the details supplied has been enrolled in a school other than its nearest school, the child is basically not eligible for free transport. Concessionary fare-paying transport is all that can be offered to the family involved.

Special Educational Needs.

Phil Hogan

Question:

176 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will sanction a resource teacher for a school (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13160/04]

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

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

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

In the case of teacher resources, the 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 two main elements: 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 for processing applications for resources, including those for special needs assistants and those received after 31 August last, will be set out in a circular to be issued to schools before the end of the current school year. It is intended, also, that schools due to receive the additional posts will be notified within this timeframe.

Residential Institutions Redress Scheme.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

177 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Education and Science if he plans to amend the Residential Institutions Redress Act 2002 in order to address issues raised by a person (details supplied) who is on hunger strike; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13194/04]

The case to which the Deputy refers proceeded through all stages of the redress process. The person's High Court case has been reactivated and will proceed solely on the basis of assessment of damages. I have no plans to amend the legislation and I am satisfied that the redress process is operating satisfactorily.

Special Educational Needs.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

178 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Education and Science if schools taking on special needs assistants are obliged to give preference to persons with appropriate qualifications; if his Department has drawn up guidelines or regulations in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13195/04]

The conditions of service for special needs assistants, SNAs, state that the educational requirements are that a candidate must have been awarded at least a pass or grade D in Irish, English and mathematics in the junior certificate examination, the former day vocational certificate examination or an examination of equivalent standard.

The responsibility for the recruitment and employment of SNAs rests with the board of management of the individual school. This responsibility extends to ensuring that all recruitment conditions, including those relating to education and health, are being complied with. The Deputy may be interested to know that my Department, in consultation with the education partners, is examining the conditions of service generally of SNAs.

School Staffing.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

179 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Education and Science when a person (details supplied) in County Kildare can expect to receive an offer of a teaching post with County Kildare VEC in view of the fact that they have been on the county panel since 1997; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13196/04]

The appointment of teachers by vocational education committees is a matter for the relevant VEC, subject to agreed procedures. As my Department has no role in the appointment of individual teachers in the VEC, it would not be appropriate for me or my Department to intervene in any such case.

Teaching Qualifications.

John Perry

Question:

180 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will make a decision for a person (details supplied) in view of the circumstances outlined; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13197/04]

Specific arrangements for the granting of extensions to the five year period of provisional recognition granted to teachers who have obtained their primary teaching qualifications in other jurisdictions are currently being considered by my Department. It is hoped that these new arrangements relating to provisional recognition and other aspects of the scrúdú le haghaidh cáilíochta sa Ghaeilge will shortly be finalised and published on my Department's website.

Special Educational Needs.

John Perry

Question:

181 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will address the concerns raised by a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13198/04]

I have received a submission from the IPPN about the Education for Persons with Disabilities Bill and have considered it in the context of the preparation of amendments for Committee Stage. I note the contents of the letter submitted to the Deputy by the person in question and feel the issues raised by that letter coincide with those I have already considered.

During Committee Stage of the Bill I introduced a number of proposals intended to better reflect in the legislation the proper role of principals. The Bill now reiterates the right of principals to delegate their functions to members of their staff. Principals will also have a right to the assistance of SENOs in carrying out their duties if they feel that is required. In addition, where a principal considers that the assessment of a child believed to have special needs is not practicable or that an education plan prepared by the school will not meet a child's needs, he or she can request the council to arrange the assessment or plan. The voice of principals in the new National Council for Special Education will also be ensured as the Bill now provides for the membership of the consultative forum to include principals' representative organisations.

I am conscious that this Bill will increase the overall workload within schools and, for the needs of schools to be met, the Bill provides for a five year implementation period and plan. I draw the Deputy's attention to section 12 of the Bill which provides that the resources necessary for the preparation and implementation of education plans will be made available to schools.

The Bill has completed Committee Stage in Dáil Éireann and will go to Report Stage very shortly, at which time there will be a further opportunity to discuss the issues raised as a result of the Deputy's question.

Departmental Staff.

David Stanton

Question:

182 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Education and Science the way in which persons with disabilities can access employment in his Department; if there are special application procedures; the criteria by which it is decided that persons qualify; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13245/04]

The Civil Service Commission recruits the majority of staff for the Department of Education and Science. For certain posts, such as service support staff, temporary and contract posts, my Department conducts its own recruitment. The Civil Service is an equal opportunities employer. Recruitment to posts within my Department is on the basis of qualifications, where applicable, and the ability to carry out the responsibilities of the grade or post.

Persons with disabilities are entitled to apply for all competitions for which they are eligible and no special application procedures are required. During the selection process and in any subsequent placement in a post, any special needs requirements of an individual will be provided where possible.

Schools Refurbishment.

Gerard Murphy

Question:

183 Mr. Murphy asked the Minister for Education and Science the financial assistance that is available to a primary school that needs refurbishment; and if appropriate application forms can be sent out to make application for funding. [13262/04]

The management authority of the school in question must submit a written application for grant aid to the school planning section of my Department. In the case of large-scale works, application form FLE must be completed. This is available on my Department's website, www.education.ie. For small-scale works that could be undertaken over the summer months, it will be open to the school to apply for funding under the summer works scheme 2005. I will be announcing details of this scheme later this year.

School Accommodation.

Seán Crowe

Question:

184 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Education and Science if his attention has been drawn to the very poor conditions in Scoil Chaitríona, Artane, Dublin 5, in which the current second class is in prefab and chalet buildings which are in very poor repair and with very little heating; and if his attention has further been drawn to proposals to have funding for new classrooms allocated to the school. [13283/04]

The authorities of Scoil Chaitríona made an application to my Department for the replacement of existing prefabricated classrooms. All applications for temporary accommodation have now been considered by my Department and a list of successful applicants is published on my Department's website at www.education.ie. In the context of the available funding and the number of applications for that funding, it was not possible to approve all applications received and only those with an absolute and demonstrated need for additional accommodation were approved. Scoil Chaitríona’s application was not successful. The need for replacement accommodation at the school will be considered in the context of a review all projects that did not proceed as part of the 2004 school building programme with a view to including them as part of a multi-annual school building programme from 2005 onwards. I expect to be in a position to make a further announcement in this matter later this year.

Freedom of Information.

Joan Burton

Question:

185 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Education and Science the percentage of requests under the Freedom of Information Act which proceed to internal appeal in his Department; the way in which that percentage compares with the percentage in previous years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13302/04]

The information requested by the Deputy is not immediately available in my Department. However, the information is being compiled from the records maintained in my Department and a reply will be issued directly to the Deputy within the next week.

Joan Burton

Question:

186 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of requests under the Freedom of Information Act received by his Department in the first quarter of 2004; the way in which this compares with the number of freedom of information requests received in a similar period in previous years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13317/04]

The information requested by the Deputy is not immediately available in my Department. However, the information is being compiled from the records maintained in my Department and a reply will be issued directly to the Deputy within the next week.

School Placement.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

187 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science when a person (details supplied) in County Kildare will receive a school placement at St. Mark’s junior national school, Springfield, Tallaght, Dublin 24; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13345/04]

The compulsory school starting age in a national school is six and rule 64(1) of the rules for national schools provides that a child must be at least four years of age before he or she may be enrolled in a national school. Children of compulsory schoolgoing age must have a place in a national school and, overall, there are more than enough places available.

Enrolment in individual schools is the responsibility of the managerial authority of those schools and my Department does not seek to intervene in decisions made by schools in such matters. My Department's main responsibility is to ensure that schools in an area can, between them, cater for all pupils seeking places. This may result, however, in some pupils not obtaining a place in the school of their first choice.

It is the responsibility of the managerial authorities of schools that are not in a position to admit all pupils seeking entry to implement an enrolment policy in accordance with the Education Act. In this regard a board of management may find it necessary to restrict enrolment to children from a particular area or a particular age group or, occasionally, on the basis of some other criterion.

Where a board of management refuses to enrol a student in a school, the parent of the student or the student, if he or she has reached 18 years of age, following the conclusion of any appeal procedures at school level, has a statutory entitlement under section 29 of the Education Act 1998 to appeal that decision to the Secretary General of the Department of Education and Science. Under the appeal process, a committee is established to hear the appeal. Oral hearings are conducted with a minimum of formality. In most cases appeals must be dealt with in 30 days. Where appropriate, the Secretary General may give whatever directions to the board of management that are considered necessary to remedy the matter complained of.

John Curran

Question:

188 Mr. Curran asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of children from Traveller families who were enrolled in primary schools in Dublin city and county as at 30 September 2003; the number who were enrolled in gaelscoileanna, Educate Together schools and schools in areas designated as disadvantaged; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13346/04]

Completed data are not yet available to my Department for the current academic year because a number of outstanding queries on returns from a small number of schools must be resolved before the current primary census is finalised. The information requested is available in respect of the previous academic year, 2002-03. This information is currently being compiled within my Department. I have made arrangements for my officials to forward this information directly to the Deputy.

School Staffing.

John Cregan

Question:

189 Mr. Cregan asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny appointed to a permanent position in September 2003 is only being paid as a part-time employee; if this person will be paid for bank holidays, school holidays and so on; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13347/04]

My Department allocates special needs assistant support to vocational education committees to cater for students with special educational needs. The employment of special needs assistants is a matter for the vocational educational committee concerned.

The person referred to by the Deputy is employed by County Kilkenny Vocational Educational Committee. Queries regarding the employment and payment of the person referred to should therefore be addressed to that VEC.

Schools Building Projects.

Michael Ring

Question:

190 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Education and Science when funding will be approved for works on a school (details supplied) in County Mayo; the stage this application is at; and the works which will be sanctioned. [13348/04]

An application for grant aid towards improved accommodation has been received from the management authority of the school to which the Deputy refers.

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

Willie Penrose

Question:

191 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Education and Science when the additional extension which was approved for a school (details supplied) in County Offaly will be provided; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13349/04]

The large-scale building project for the school referred to by the Deputy is listed in section 8 of the 2004 school building programme, which is published on my Department's website at www.education.ie. This project is at stage 3, developed sketch scheme, of architectural planning. It has been assigned a band 2 rating by my Department in accordance with the published criteria for prioritising large-scale projects. It is planned to progress this project to advanced architectural planning during 2004.

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

School Transport.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

192 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will consult with the Minister for Transport with a view to improving the school transport system, taking into consideration, in particular, the need to relax the rule whereby all pupils living inside a two mile radius of a school must pay a fare; the poor condition of many buses, the need for new vehicles and better maintenance of vehicles; the need to ensure that all pupils are catered for, especially in primary schools which have classes with different finishing times; the need for better service for pupils with special needs and the requirements of rural communities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13362/04]

Under the terms of the primary school transport scheme, only eligible children qualify for free transport. To be eligible, children must live at least two miles from and be attending their nearest national school. If a child is not eligible for free transport on distance grounds, he or she may avail of concessionary fare-paying transport subject to there being room available on the service to that school.

All vehicles operating under the school transport scheme are required to meet the statutory regulations as laid down by the Department of Transport. Where vehicles have more than eight adult seats and are more than one year old, they are required to pass that Department's annual roadworthiness test.

Bus Éireann, which operates the school transport service on behalf of my Department, places special emphasis on safety and has a wide range of checking procedures in place to ensure a safe and reliable service. These are reviewed on an ongoing basis to ensure that standards are maintained. Approximately 2,900 vehicles are used in the school transport fleet. About 2,300 of these are provided by private contractors and the balance by Bus Éireann. Since January 2002, Bus Éireann has replaced more than 200 older school buses, thereby improving the quality of buses in service.

Every effort is made by my Department and Bus Éireann to provide an efficient and effective transport service for children with special needs. Approximately 30% of my Department's annual allocation for school transport is expended on transport costs for children with special needs, who represent about 6% of the total number of children carried under the school transport scheme.

The Deputy will appreciate that transport services for both primary and post-primary children must be co-ordinated and bus routes planned in such a way as to provide the most efficient and cost-effective transport service, bearing in mind that the cost of school transport has more than doubled since 1997 to a current cost of €110.471 million.

School Closures.

Gay Mitchell

Question:

193 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Education and Science the future plans for CBS, Captain’s Road, Dublin 12; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13368/04]

My Department was recently informed by the trustees of the CBS, Captain's Road, Crumlin, Dublin 12, that the school will close on a phased basis with final closure in June 2006. The trustees have arranged for pupils who would normally have attended this school to attend the Rosary College, which is also in Crumlin. The Deputy will appreciate that voluntary secondary schools are privately owned and managed institutions and a decision to close such schools is a matter for the trustees.

My main concern in a school closure is to ensure that the best interests of the pupils are looked after in the period up to the closure and that there will be sufficient pupil places in existing schools in the general area for pupils who would have normally enrolled in the closing school.

Schools Building Projects.

Pat Breen

Question:

194 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Education and Science when the refurbishment of the science facilities in Rice College, Ennis, County Clare, will be sanctioned in order that the school can introduce the new science curriculum in September 2004, as a result of the lack of adequate safe science rooms; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13369/04]

School authorities at post-primary level were invited to participate in the revised syllabus for the junior certificate examination, as detailed in circular M7/03. Resource grants were made available from my Department's school building section in 2004 to facilitate schools opting into the revised syllabus. It is noted that Rice College made no application for grant aid under this scheme. However, a large-scale building project proposed for Rice College, Ennis, County Clare, is listed in section 8 of the 2004 school building programme, which is published on my Department's website at www.education.ie. This proposed project is at stage 5 of architectural planning. It has been assigned a band 2 rating by my Department in accordance with the published criteria for prioritising large-scale projects.

When a proposed building project is being assessed in the first instance for consideration of major capital works, the typical procedure is to assess the whole school in respect of an educational, economical and architectural requirement. The assessment conducted by my Department's senior inspector and technical personnel in the matter of the school's current major building programme clearly indicated that the science facilities in the school referred to by the Deputy were in a satisfactory condition, with a requirement to examine the services in the ground floor science laboratory only.

A schedule of accommodation was subsequently drawn up in relation to the school and the school was advised of the determined overall schedule of accommodation, the schedule of suggested future use of the existing accommodation and the schedule of residual accommodation. The proposed building project did not proceed without the written agreement of the school authority of the Department's findings and acceptance of the schedules.

Ministerial Expenses.

Pádraic McCormack

Question:

195 Mr. McCormack asked the Minister for Education and Science the expenses each Minister of State received between 1 January 2003 and 31 December 2003. [13378/04]

The information sought by the Deputy is currently being compiled in my Department. I will forward the information directly to the Deputy.

School Transport.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

196 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will reconsider the provision of a bus to a school (details supplied) in a Gaeltacht area from its nearest village; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that without the provision of this bus this Gaeltacht school may no longer be viable even though there are eight children whose parents want them to attend the school but cannot send them to same due to a lack of public transport; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13385/04]

A school transport service to a primary school may be established where there are seven or more eligible pupils offering for transport from a distinct locality to their appropriate school.

In order to be eligible for free transport, children must live at least two miles from their nearest school and be attending that school. Children who live in a closed school area — where the closed school would have been their nearest school had it remained open — may be deemed eligible for transport to the school of amalgamation only. As the minimum number of eligible children required has not been met in this case, I regret that it is not open to my Department to establish a school transport service.

Schools Building Projects.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

197 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science if his attention has been drawn to the fact that building work for new science laboratories at a school (details supplied) in County Clare has not been sanctioned even though the new junior certificate science curriculum cannot be implemented in September 2004 unless this work is done; if he intends to sanction this work in view of his stated commitment to implementing this curriculum in every school; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13386/04]

School authorities at post-primary level were invited to participate in the revised syllabus for the junior certificate examination, as detailed in circular M7/03. Resource grants were made available from my Department's school building section in 2004 to facilitate schools opting into the revised syllabus. It is noted that that the school referred to by the Deputy made no application for grant aid under this scheme. However, a large-scale building project proposed for the school referred to by the Deputy is listed in section 8 of the 2004 school building programme which is published on my Department's website, www.education.ie. This proposed project is at stage 5 of architectural planning. It has been assigned a band 2 rating by my Department in accordance with the published criteria for prioritising large-scale projects.

When a proposed building project is being assessed in the first instance for consideration of major capital works, the typical procedure is to assess the whole school in respect of an educational, economical and architectural requirement. The assessment conducted by my Department's senior inspector and technical personnel in relation to the school's current major building programme clearly indicated that the science facilities in the school referred to by the Deputy were in a satisfactory condition, with a requirement to examine the services in the ground floor science laboratory only. A schedule of accommodation was subsequently drawn up for the school and the school was advised of the determined overall schedule of accommodation, the schedule of suggested future use of the existing accommodation and finally the schedule of residual accommodation. The proposed building project did not proceed without the written agreement of the school authority of the Department's findings and acceptance of the schedules.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

198 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science when he expects to see progress on the application for an extension to a school (details supplied) in County Clare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13387/04]

The proposed large-scale building project for the school referred to by the Deputy is listed in section 8 of the 2004 school building programme which is published on my Department's website, www.education.ie. This proposed project is at stage 5 of architectural planning. It has been assigned a band 2 rating by my Department in accordance with the published criteria for prioritising large-scale projects.

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

Special Educational Needs.

Paul McGrath

Question:

199 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of applications received in his Department for the school year from September 2003 for special needs assistants for children who were then commencing school; the number of these applications which had recommendations from professional assessors supporting such appointments; and the number of successful applications in this category. [13415/04]

My Department received about 910 applications for special educational needs assistance in respect of new entrants commencing school in September 2003. Of these, 656 were in respect of some level of special needs assistant support. SNAs were not approved in 100 cases and access to SNA support was sanctioned in the case of 556 applicants.

Freedom of Information.

Paul McGrath

Question:

200 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of Freedom of Information requests received in his Department in 2003; the number that were responded to positively; the number of these requests which related to children with special needs; the number of positive responses to these requests; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13416/04]

The information requested by the Deputy is not immediately available in my Department. However, the information is being compiled from the records maintained in my Department and a reply will be issued directly to the Deputy within the next week.

Higher Education Grants.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

201 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will address the anomaly in third level grant assessment for mature students whereby if they marry during the period of their course of study, their economic circumstances continue to be assessed on the basis of their parents’ income if they lived at home when their course commenced, despite the fact that the tax and social welfare codes treat them as married persons; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13484/04]

The higher education grant schemes operate under the Local Authorities (Higher Education Grants) Acts, 1968 to 1992. These Acts define a mature student to mean a person "of not less than 23 years of age, or such other age as may stand specified for the time being in regulations made by the Minister with the consent of the Minister for Finance, who have secured places in approved institutions and have reached that age on the 1st day of January, or such other date as may be prescribed from time to time by the Minister with the consent of the Minister for Finance, in the year of entry to such institutions." The Acts further provide, inter alia, for the making of grants to mature students whose means and those of their parents, where the mature students are dependent on their parents, and the means of their spouses, if any, do not exceed prescribed limits.

Under the terms of the higher education grants schemes, mature students are categorised as either independent mature students or mature students dependent on parents. An independent mature student is defined to mean a mature student who was not ordinarily resident at home with his or her parents from the October preceding their entry to an approved course. Independent mature students are assessed without reference to either their parents' income or address. When assessing the means of students other than independent mature students, the Acts specify that the students' means and those of their parents or guardians must be below a prescribed limit. This provision requires that parental income be taken into account irrespective of the individual circumstances in any case where the student is not an independent mature student.

There is, however, provision under the terms of the scheme for candidates who are re-entering as mature students, following a break in study of at least one year, to pursue or complete an approved course for the first time. Such candidates may be assessed under the terms of the scheme appropriate to the year in which they re-enter. Under this provision, candidates who were not independent mature students at the time of entry to an approved course may be re-classified as independent mature students for the purpose of completing a course or commencing a subsequent course such as a postgraduate course. Similar provisions apply under the terms of the other student maintenance grant schemes.

School Planning.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

202 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Education and Science the timescale in which he will address the totally inadequate provision of primary school places in east Meath in view of the growth of population in Laytown, Bettystown and surrounding areas; if a new school will be built in the area; if so, when; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13485/04]

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

The purpose of this new approach to school planning is to ensure that in future, the provision of school infrastructure will be decided only after a transparent consultation process. In this regard, parents, trustees, sponsors of prospective new schools and all interested parties in the locality will have the opportunity to have their voices heard in the process. Following the consultation process, individual plans will set out the blueprint for schools development in an area covering a period of up to ten years. Pending delivery of the draft area development plan, the school planning section of my Department is examining the accommodation situation in primary schools in a number of areas in east Meath with a view to alleviating any short-term needs the schools might have.

Juvenile Offenders.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

203 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Education and Science the situation with regard to the juvenile detention centre at Finglas, Dublin; if he received the final Laxton report on the operation of the centre; if he has satisfied himself that problems identified have been addressed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13486/04]

As the Deputy is aware, my Department commissioned an independent inspector, Mr. Mike Laxton, to carry out an inspection of Finglas Child and Adolescent Centre. Mr. Laxton reported in July 2002 and his report is available on my Department's website. The inspection report contains a range of detailed requirements and recommendations and Mr. Laxton was retained by my Department to monitor progress in the centre. Between November 2002 and March 2003 Mr. Laxton visited the centre and completed four progress reviews. The fifth and final review was deferred by my Department to afford the management at the centre an opportunity to progress the implementation of the various recommendations. It was expected that this final review would be completed by mid-2004.

However, in the light of further concerns raised about the operation of the centre by key stakeholders, both internal and external, my Department commissioned a review of the operation of the centre in March 2004. The review was undertaken by Mr. Michael Donnellan, director of Trinity House school, and its purpose was to identify the issues and problems affecting the efficient and effective operation of the centre and adversely affecting the task of caring for troubled children and to make recommendations to address the shortcomings identified. Mr. Donnellan has recently completed his report and it is currently being considered by my Department.

School Staffing.

Tony Gregory

Question:

204 Mr. Gregory asked the Minister for Education and Science if consideration will be given to the large amount of social, affordable and private housing being built adjacent to St. Joseph’s national school, East Wall Road, Dublin 3, in order to allow the school to retain its current staff levels and ensure that the high standard of education at same is maintained; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13488/04]

The staffing of a primary school is determined by reference to the enrolment of the school on 30 September of the previous 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 the 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 an enrolment of 172 pupils on 30 September 2003, the mainstream staffing for the school year 2004-05 will be a principal and five mainstream class teachers. The school also fulfils the criterion for appointment of an administrative principal based on staffing of a principal plus nine teachers when all posts are counted. In such instances a permanent teacher may be appointed to replace the principal. 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.

Schools Building Projects.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

205 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of primary and secondary schools in Dublin on the waiting list for the schools building programme; and the percentage that were given approval to go ahead to construction in 2004. [13489/04]

When publishing the 2004 school building programme I explained that my strategy going forward will be grounded in capital investment based on multiannual allocations. My officials are reviewing all projects which were not authorised to proceed to construction as part of the 2004 school building programme with a view to including them as part of a multiannual school building programme from 2005. I expect to be in a position to make further announcements on this matter in the course of the year. This multiannual building programme, when published, will provide a comprehensive picture detailing all planned building projects in the Dublin area.

School Planning.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

206 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Education and Science the rate at which he expects demand for places in primary schools in Dublin to increase over the next five years; and the plans he has to meet this demand. [13490/04]

When assessing the need for additional pupil places my Department examines the needs of individual areas rather than regions due to the huge disparities that occur in a large urban area such as Dublin, where individual areas such as Lucan and Dublin 15 are experiencing increased demand for additional primary school places while other areas are experiencing a sharp decline in enrolments.

The process of assessing the need for new or additional educational facilities at primary or post-primary level in any given area entails consideration by my

Department of all relevant factors, including enrolment and demographic trends, housing developments and the capacity of existing schools to meet the demand for places. My Department is at present concentrating on the areas of major development and population growth with a view to identifying where the most urgent need for new or additional facilities exists or is likely to arise in the future. As part of this process, officials of the school planning section consult regularly with local authorities regarding development proposals and their implications.

In addition, standing arrangements are in place for officials of my Department's planning and building unit to meet on a regular basis with officials of the four Dublin local authorities to discuss development proposals and consequent site requirements for new schools. Liaison with existing schools is also an important part of the process as the school authorities would usually alert my Department where in their view the need for additional accommodation is anticipated.

In the event that the level of development and population growth in an area indicates a likely long-term need for primary or post-primary educational provision, a decision is made on the means by which that need should be met. Generally, this involves the provision of permanent accommodation in the form of a new school or an extension to existing facilities. High-quality temporary or prefabricated accommodation is normally provided to alleviate short-term accommodation needs. Where appropriate, the local authority may be requested to reserve a site for educational purposes. In this way, every effort is made to ensure that there is adequate existing provision, or that timely arrangements are made to extend capacity where necessary.

Special Educational Needs.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

207 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason, despite the fact that there are two wheelchair-bound students and that it has been requested for over five years, wheelchair access to a school (details supplied) in County Kildare in the form of a lift was not included in the summer works scheme although appropriate application was made; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13491/04]

My Department received an application from Athy community college under the summer works scheme for alterations to existing access ramp and a new vertical platform lift. This school also has an application for a new school with my Department. This project is in the early stages of architectural planning, pre-planning permission. It is included in section 9 of the 2004 school building programme. The scope of the summer works scheme did not permit the inclusion of schools that already have projects on the capital programme because the works required will be carried out as part of the larger project.

School Transport.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

208 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will consider allowing the school bus to re-route to pick up a person (details supplied) in County Offaly to enable them to attend St. Cronan’s Church of Ireland national school, Roscrea, County Tipperary; if the fact that there will be two more persons on this route in September 2004 will have a bearing on the decision; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13492/04]

The family to which the Deputy refers lives within 1.3 miles of the route of service to St. Cronan's national school, its nearest school. As a rule primary school transport routes are planned so that as far as possible no eligible child will have more than 1.5 miles to travel to a pick-up point. Pupils living off the main route of a service are generally expected to make their own way or to be brought to convenient pick-up points along the main route. Home pick-ups were never envisaged as being part of the school transport scheme.

The family appealed my Department's decision to the school transport appeals board, which found that the terms of the school transport scheme have been properly and appropriately applied in this case. As the family has a level of service within guidelines, the present arrangement is the most that can be offered by my Department.

School Curriculum.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

209 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science if he intends to provide an examination syllabus for the Scrúdú le hAghaidh Cáilíochta sa Ghaeilge, proper; the details on where courses to assist in preparation for the exam are held, low-cost or free classes, a textbook or handbook containing all tests to be examined; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13518/04]

I established a working group to review all aspects of the syllabus and examination for the Scrúdú le hAghaidh Cáilíochta sa Ghaeilge in 2001. A copy of its report has been published on my Department's website. An updated language syllabus for the SCG has also been published on my Department's website, together with an examination handbook with sample questions and answers, and will shortly appear in book form. A literature textbook is in preparation and will be produced in 2004.

It has also been decided that Coláiste Mhuire, Marino, will act as a central co-ordinating and managing authority for the SCG. The college will provide a much greater range of courses and the courses are to be delivered at two levels, for those close to the required standard and those at a less advanced level. My Department is currently engaged in finalising new arrangements relating to the Scrúdú le hAghaidh Cáilíochta sa Ghaeilge and details of these new arrangements will shortly be published on my Department's website.

Question No. 210 answered with QuestionNo. 174.

Residential Institutions Redress Scheme.

Gay Mitchell

Question:

211 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Education and Science when the redress board will make a determination in the case of a person (details supplied) whose case was heard on 1 April 2004. [13521/04]

The Residential Institutions Redress Board is independent in the performance of its functions in accordance with the terms of the Residential Institutions Redress Act 2002. In the circumstances I do not have access to the details of an individual's application. However, all applicants are entitled to contact the board directly or through their legal representative to enquire about their applications.

Educational Endowments.

John Cregan

Question:

212 Mr. Cregan asked the Minister for Education and Science about education and arts trusts which have run into difficulty in the past few years due to low interest rates, and in view of the fact that the normal payment and bursaries paid by these trusts are declining and in some cases cannot be met in recent years; if he will make suggestions, ideas or funds available so that the normal bursaries paid by these trusts could be continued; and if they have a record of the number of such trusts in their overall Ministerial area, if same could be quantified in relation to their capital value and in relation to their normal annual spend. [13530/04]

My Department holds 28 educational endowments which have a capital value of €1.6 million. The endowments were set up for very specific educational purposes. Thirteen of the endowments were set up under the terms of the Education Endowments (Ireland) Act 1885 and 15 other endowments relate to bequests made to the State where the endower generally had an interest in a particular aspect of education or education in a specific area in Ireland. The payments to the beneficiaries are determined by the terms of the relevant endowment. Seventy seven other endowments are monitored or controlled by trustees and dividends are paid to them, where appropriate, by the commissioners for charitable donations and bequests. My Department has no role in the disbursement of funds from these endowments.

The funds for the endowments held by my Department are mostly invested in Government stocks which provide a reasonable rate of return. The disbursements for endowments held in my name are determined by the terms of the original bequests. Most of the endowments were made in the late 1800s and in the first half of the 20th century and the value of many of the bequests is now only nominal. As the bequests range in value the disbursements are determined by the capital sums held in trust. During 2003, €299,400 was paid out from the endowments.

School Security.

John Cregan

Question:

213 Mr. Cregan asked the Minister for Education and Science the position regarding a grant which was approved in 2002 for the provision of security fencing for a school (details supplied) in Dublin 11; if funding is now available; if planning permission has been sought for this work; and when work will be carried out. [13558/04]

My Department has approved a grant for the provision of a new security fence at the school in question. It is the responsibility of the school's management authorities to ensure that the works are completed in compliance with all statutory, planning and building requirements. It is my understanding that works are already under way in respect of this project.

Special Educational Needs.

John Cregan

Question:

214 Mr. Cregan asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will respond to a school (details supplied) in Dublin 11 and to its recent request for classroom assistants in order that children can be kept within the educational system; and when these children will be psychologically assessed to determine the nature and level of support required in their case. [13559/04]

My Department allocates resource teaching support and special needs assistants support to second level schools and vocational educational committees to cater for students with special educational needs. Applications for such support are made to my Department by the relevant school authority or VEC. Each application is considered on the basis of the assessed needs of the pupils involved and the nature and level of support provided is determined on the advice of the psychological service. My Department has sought additional information, including psychological reports, from the school authority in respect of the pupils to whom the Deputy refers. As soon as this information has been received and examined, my Department will be in further contact with the school authority.

Official Languages Act.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

215 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Education and Science if his Department has prepared an estimate of the cost to his Department of implementing the provisions of the Official Languages Act 2003; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13566/04]

My Department actively supports the Irish language and most publications, circulars, application forms and specialised stationery such as cheque stationery is available in both Irish and English. From 1 May last, any document setting out public policy proposals or considered to be of major public importance must be published simultaneously in both Irish and English. The cost impact is minimal as my Department is already compliant with this statutory requirement.

The Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht affairs will be writing to each public body to ask them to set out a three-year scheme identifying the services that will be provided through Irish. When my Department is given notice under the terms of the legislation, the scheme setting out the services and the estimated cost of providing these services through Irish will be drawn up.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

216 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Education and Science if estimates have been prepared by the public bodies funded by his Department in regard to the cost of implementing the provisions of the Official Languages Act 2003; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13581/04]

Implementing the provisions of the Official Languages Act 2003 will affect all public bodies under the aegis of my Department. Some agencies, such as the State Examinations Commission, provide services in both Irish and English as a matter of course and implementing the Act will not incur significant overheads. For other agencies, there will be increased cost in complying with the Act but estimates are not available as yet.

School Transport.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

217 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason 11 children from an area (details supplied) all requiring and eligible for school transport to a school were refused transport to a Gaeltacht school; if this decision will be reviewed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13595/04]

My Department has sought a report from Bus Éireann regarding the transport position of the pupils referred to in the details supplied. My Department will review the case as soon as possible.

Special Educational Needs.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

218 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science if his attention has been drawn to the urgent need to upgrade and improve the special needs facilities in Knocklong national school, Knocklong, County Limerick; when he expects this work to be approved and carried out; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13596/04]

My Department has approved temporary accommodation for Knocklong national school, Knocklong, County Limerick as part of the update of the school building programme that was published on my Department's website on Wednesday, 5 May 2004.

Richard Bruton

Question:

219 Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for Education and Science when his Department will be in a position to grant a special needs assistant to a person (details supplied) in Dublin 24 in view of the fact that this person has been assessed by his Department and is currently in need of a special needs assistant; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13597/04]

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

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

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

In the case of teacher resources, the 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 two main elements: 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 for processing applications for resources, including those for special needs assistants and those received after 31 August last, will be set out in a circular to be issued to schools before the end of the current school year. It is also intended that schools due to receive the additional posts will be notified within this timeframe.

Schools Building Projects.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

220 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Education and Science the position regarding the development of additional resources for Loreto secondary school, Wexford; when the sports complex required by the school will be provided; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13598/04]

A large-scale building project for Loreto secondary school, Wexford, is listed in section 9 of the 2004 school building programme which is published on my Department's website, www.education.ie. This project is at stage 2, sketch scheme stage, of architectural planning. The project includes the provision of a PE hall with appropriate ancillary accommodation together with a number of specialist rooms. It has been assigned a band 2 rating by my Department in accordance with the published criteria for prioritising large-scale projects.

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

School Placement.

Finian McGrath

Question:

221 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Science if persons (details supplied) will receive a place in second level education; and if he will make this case a priority issue. [13599/04]

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 seeking second level places in an area. This may result, however, 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. However, where a school refuses to enrol a pupil, the school 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.

Section 29 of the Education Act 1998 provides parents with an appeal process whereby a board of management of a school or a person acting on behalf of the board refuses enrolment of a student. An appeal will generally not be admitted unless it is made within 42 calendar days from the date the decision of the board of management was notified to the parent or student concerned. However, a longer period for making appeals may be allowed as an exception where it is accepted that circumstances did not permit the making of an appeal within the 42-day limit. Where an appeal under section 29 is upheld, the Secretary General of my Department may direct a school to enrol a pupil. My Department will contact the parents of the child referred to by the Deputy to advise them on the section 29 appeals procedures.

In addition, under the Education (Welfare) Act 2000, the primary function of the education welfare board is to ensure that each child in the State attends a recognised school or otherwise receives an appropriate education. Through its educational welfare officers the board provides a welfare-focused service that is accessible to parents, school and others concerned with the educational welfare of young people.

Schools Building Projects.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

222 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Education and Science cén méid bunscoileanna a tógadh le cúig bliana anuas, and if he will give the breakdown on the basis of denominational or other management structures along with gender or age range profiles for the pupils in each case. [13639/04]

Officials in my Department will contact the Deputy's office directly with a view to providing the information requested.

School Curriculum.

Marian Harkin

Question:

223 Ms Harkin asked the Minister for Education and Science when the primary school teachers who were taken on as trainers with the primary curriculum music programme will receive notification of their secondment for September 2004. [13645/04]

This matter is being dealt with at present. I hope to be in a position to decide on the details of the 2004-05 primary curriculum programme in the near future.

Marian Harkin

Question:

224 Ms Harkin asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will fulfil his commitment to deliver in full the revised primary curriculum by the end of 2005. [13646/04]

Following a request from teachers' representatives, I announced that the school year 2003-04 would be a consolidation and review year in the context of the ongoing implementation of the primary school curriculum 1999. As a consequence of this initiative, the schedule for in-career development support organised at national level by the primary curriculum support programme has been adjusted accordingly. In line with this, it is intended that the training programme for the curriculum will resume in September next.

Special Educational Needs.

Seymour Crawford

Question:

225 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for Education and Science if a resource teacher will be provided for a school (details supplied) in County Cavan in which five children were assessed in 2003 as needing resource teaching; if this school will have a teacher by September 2004; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13649/04]

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

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

The processing of the applications is a complex and time-consuming operation. However, my Department is endeavouring to have this completed as quickly as possible and my officials will then respond to all applicant schools. Pending a response, schools are advised to refer to circular 24/03, which issued in September 2003. This circular contains practical advice on how to achieve the most effective deployment of resources already allocated for special educational needs within the school. In the case of teacher resources, the 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 two main elements: 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 for processing applications for resources, including those for special needs assistants and those received after 31 August last, will be set out in a circular to be issued to schools before the end of the current school year. It is also intended that schools due to receive the additional posts will be notified within this timeframe.

Fostaíocht Scoileanna.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

226 D’fhiafraigh Mr. O’Shea den Aire Oideachais agus Eolaíochta an bhfuair sé iarratas ón gComhairle um Oideachas Gaeltachta agus Gaelscolaíochta go dtabharfaí an coibhneas céanna ceapachán múinteoirí atá ag Gaelscoileanna, do na Scoileanna Gaeltachta, cad é an freagra a thug an tAire ar an iarratas, an bhfuil sé sásta an coibhneas seo a thabhairt anois do na Scoileanna Gaeltachta agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina leith. [13671/04]

Ní bhfuarthais iarratas ón gComhairle um Oideachas Gaeltachta agus Gaelscoilaíochta faoin coibhneas ceapachan múinteoirí. Níl aon phlean na rialacháin a rialaíonn ceapachán agus coinneáil múinteoirí i mBunscoileanna don scoilbhliain 2004-05 a athrú.

Social Inclusion Programme.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

227 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Education and Science if the part-funding of education co-ordinators who work with area partnership boards by his Department, channelled through VECs, will continue after August 2004; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13673/04]

This matter is under consideration in my Department at present. A decision will be conveyed shortly to Area Development Management Limited, which administers the local development social inclusion programme.

School Staffing.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

228 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will allow some flexibility in the system so that the Salesians’ primary school, Fernbank, Limerick, can retain its teacher numbers in view of the fact that it lost a teacher in 2003 and is likely to lose a teacher again in 2004 despite the fact that pupil numbers are very near the cut-off point; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13674/04]

The staffing of a primary school is determined by reference to the enrolment of the school on 30 September of the previous 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, roll No. 17671S, for the current school year is a principal and nine mainstream class teachers based on the enrolment of 256 pupils on 30 September 2002. Based on enrolment on 30 September 2003 of 236 pupils the mainstream staffing for the coming school year, 2004-05, will be a principal and eight mainstream class teachers. There is no basis on which I can allow the retention of a mainstream teaching post for the next school year.

It is open to the board of management of a primary school to submit an appeal under certain criteria to an independent appeals board which was established to adjudicate on appeals on mainstream staffing allocations in primary schools. Details of the criteria and application date for appeal were issued recently to all primary schools.

Social Inclusion Programme.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

229 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Education and Science if teachers seconded to work as education co-ordinators with area partnership boards will be secured in their positions after August 2004 until the end of the NDP; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13675/04]

The continued secondment of teachers currently employed in area-based partnerships as education co-ordinators is under consideration at present. A decision in the matter will be conveyed shortly to Area Development Management Limited, which administers the local development social inclusion programme.

Insurance Costs.

John Deasy

Question:

230 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Education and Science the plans he has to assist post-primary schools with the huge increase they are experiencing with insurance costs; if he has had discussions with the Tánaiste in this regard and with insurance providers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13722/04]

Responsibility for arranging insurance cover on school property and against public liability is a matter for the managerial authorities of secondary schools, which are privately owned. It would not be reasonable to expect the state to meet the full insurance costs of privately owned buildings.

Funding is provided to secondary schools by way of per capita grants, which affords schools considerable flexibility in the use of these resources to cater for the needs of their pupils. This is in general a preferable approach to putting in place grants for specific cost items such as insurance. I also hold the view that moving to a position where the Government covers the insurance costs of secondary schools may encourage the insurance sector to keep increasing premiums on the basis that the State would meet the cost. Such an approach would also reduce the incentive for school management to reduce risks.

I am committed to improving the funding position of secondary schools in the light of available resources. At a time of increased financial constraints, the recent announcement of further significant increases in the funding of primary and secondary schools is a clear demonstration of my commitment to prioritise available resources to address the needs of schools.

In the case of primary schools the standard rate of capitation grant has been increased from €57 in 1997 to €121.58 per pupil from 1 January last, an increase of almost 113%. In the case of secondary schools, the standard per capita grant now amounts to €274 from 1 January last as against the rate of €224.74 that applied in 1997. In addition, the support grant, which was introduced under the school services support initiative, was also increased from 1 January last and now stands at €131 per pupil. This increase is in addition to the range of equalisation grants of up to €15,554 per school per annum that was approved in December 2001. A measure of the increase in overall funding for secondary schools is that by comparison with 1997, a secondary school with 500 pupils now receives extra annual funding of up to €108,000 per annum.

Officials of my Department met with representatives of Allianz, the main insurance provider in this sector, in November 2003 and explained that in the period 1998 to 2002 total premiums increased by 70%, of which 50% was attributable to indexation and the remaining 20% to rating increases. It was estimated that the increase for 2003 was 10%. It was anticipated that there would be no increase in 2004, with the possible exception of very large schools where reinsurance factors would be outside the norm.

Tackling the difficulties that are being caused by high insurance premiums is a clear priority for the Government and for my colleague, the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment. A key concern to which the Tánaiste is giving priority is the cost and availability of liability insurance. In this context, the Tánaiste has announced a comprehensive set of inter-related measures designed to improve the functioning of the Irish insurance market. Key initiatives in the reform programme include the establishment of the personal injuries assessment board, the undertaking of a joint study into insurance in conjunction with the Competition Authority and other initiatives in association with the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform.

ESB Share Schemes.

Richard Bruton

Question:

231 Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the reasons retired members of the staff of the ESB have not been allowed to participate in share schemes; and if arrangements will be made to allow former employees to participate in share schemes in order to acknowledge the contribution which these workers have made to creating the successful organisation that is now in place. [13504/04]

The matter to which the Deputy refers is a matter for the ESB management and the employees' share option trust and not one in which I have a function.

Departmental Staff.

David Stanton

Question:

232 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the way in which persons with disabilities can access employment in his Department; if there are special application procedures; the criteria by which it is decided that persons qualify; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13246/04]

My Department is committed to maintaining and enhancing the employment, retention and career progression of staff with disabilities. Departmental staff are recruited through the Office of the Civil Service and Local Appointments Commissioners. People with disabilities are entitled to apply for any post advertised by the Office of Civil Service and Local Appointments Commissioners for which they hold the basic entry requirements and to have their applications considered on the basis of their abilities, qualifications and suitability for the work in question. Special panels are established from time to time arising out of competitions from which candidates who are registered or are entitled to be registered with the National Rehabilitation Board are assigned to Departments.

It is the strict policy of the commissioners that no unnecessary obstacle is placed in the way of people with disabilities applying for positions. At present the commissioners make all reasonable efforts to provide such special facilities and equipment as are necessary to enable people with disabilities to take part in their recruitment processes. These include Braille test material and enlarged scripts for visually impaired candidates; interpreters made available for deaf candidates attending for tests or interviews; audio-taped test material coupled with HAL screen reader, where feasible; extra large desks where required; wheelchair access and toilet facilities in test and interview locations and one-to-one testing where considered necessary.

Freedom of Information.

Joan Burton

Question:

233 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the percentage of requests under the Freedom of Information Act which proceed to internal appeal in his Department; the way in which that percentage compares with the percentage in previous years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13303/04]

Joan Burton

Question:

234 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the number of requests under the Freedom of Information Act received by his Department in the first quarter of 2004; the way in which this compares with the number of FOI requests received in a similar period in previous years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13318/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 233 and 234 together. The information sought by the Deputy relating to data requested under the Freedom of Information Acts is set out in the following table.

FOI Requests

Internal Reviews

Year

1st Quarter

Year

Number

Percentage of total

%

2004

30

34 (to 30 April)

2

6

2003

83

234

18

8

2002

50

289

31

11

2001

63

212

34

16

2000

64

187

26

14

Ministerial Expenses.

Pádraic McCormack

Question:

235 Mr. McCormack asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the expenses each Minister of State has received between 1 January 2003 and 31 December 2003. [13379/04]

Deputy Browne, the Minister of State at my Department, received a total of €45,838.50 in respect of travel and subsistence for the period 1 January to 31 December 2003.

Official Languages Act.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

236 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if his Department has prepared an estimate of the cost to his Department of implementing the provisions of the Official Languages Act 2003; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13567/04]

My Department is working to progress the implementation of the Official Languages Act 2003 within existing resources. The Department is committed to providing a high quality service to customers who wish to conduct their business with us in Irish. Correspondence received in Irish is answered in Irish and every effort is made to accommodate customers who telephone or visit the Department and wish to conduct their business in Irish. My Department's internal telephone list clearly identifies staff who are proficient in Irish, and can readily be called upon to answer telephone calls and translate documents as required. If in-house staff are not available to translate documents, the Department employs the services of a translation service.

The Department has not prepared a specific estimate on the cost of implementing the requirements of the Official Languages Act 2003. The annual cost of meeting all translation requirements will be quantified in light of experience over the coming months. Line managers have devolved allocations for the budget areas affected, such as printing and advertising. Line managers are responsible for meeting statutory obligations and administrative requirements, within budget.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

237 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if estimates have been prepared by the public bodies funded by his Department in regard to the cost of implementing the provisions of the Official Languages Act 2003; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13582/04]

The preparation of estimates by the bodies funded by my Department on the cost of implementing the provisions of the Official Languages Act 2003 is a matter for the bodies themselves and is one in which I have no function. I would expect the bodies to meet the costs of implementation from within existing resources.

Coastal Erosion.

John Deasy

Question:

238 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he will grant additional funding to Waterford County Council to carry out urgently needed coastal erosion works at Knockyoolihan, Clonea, Dungarvan, County Waterford. [13721/04]

Responsibility for coast protection rests with the property owner whether it be a local authority or a private individual. In July 2002 my Department requested all coastal local authorities to submit proposals, in order of priority, for consideration in the context of the 2003-2006 national coast protection programmes. Waterford County Council submitted two proposals for coast protection works at Ballyvoile, which includes Knockyoolihan, estimated at €1.1 million for phase 1 and €930,000 for phase 2. There was no Exchequer funding for these projects in 2003. My Department has an Exchequer funding allocation of €780,000 for the entire country for 2004.

The question of funding these proposals in the post 2004 period will be considered in the context of the Exchequer funding available for coast protection works going forward and overall national priorities.

Departmental Staff.

David Stanton

Question:

239 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the way in which persons with disabilities can access employment in his Department; if there are special application procedures; the criteria by which it is decided that persons qualify; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13247/04]

Staff in my Department are, in general, recruited through the Civil Service commission. However, a number of staff in the technical, professional and attendant or services grades are recruited directly by my Department. Persons with disabilities are entitled to apply for these positions subject to their meeting the eligibility requirements in question which are determined by my Department in light of the qualifications and competencies required in each case.

While there are no special procedures for persons with disabilities, where candidates request special facilities every effort is made to accommodate them during the selection process and particular consideration is given to the needs of such candidates if they are being appointed. My Department is fully committed to the appointment of persons with disabilities and I am happy to say that it has exceeded its quota in this regard.

Freedom of Information.

Joan Burton

Question:

240 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the percentage of requests under the Freedom of Information Act which proceed to internal appeal in his Department; the way in which that percentage compares with the percentage in previous years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13304/04]

Joan Burton

Question:

241 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the number of requests under the Freedom of Information Act received by his Department in the first quarter of 2004; the way in which this compares with the number of FOI requests received in a similar period in previous years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13319/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 240 and 241 together. The information sought by the Deputy is set out in the following table:

Month

FOI Requests Received — 2002

FOI Requests Received — 2003

FOI Requests Received — 2004

January

21

2

February

20

7

March

14

4

April

8

10

May

3

June*

5

10

July

13

9

August

11

4

September

8

2

October

22

7

November

17

2

December

15

1

Total Received

91

101

23**

Internal Review

6(6.6% of total requests received)

8(7.9% of total requests received)

0**

*From 19 June 2002 (the date of formation of the Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism)

** January-April 2004

Official Languages Act.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

242 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if his Department has prepared an estimate of the cost to his Department of implementing the provisions of the Official Languages Act 2003; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13568/04]

Brian O'Shea

Question:

243 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if estimates have been prepared by the public bodies funded by his Department in regard to the cost of implementing the provisions of the Official Languages Act 2003; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13583/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 242 and 243 together.

At the outset I should make the point that, even prior to the enactment of the Official Languages Act 2003, my Department was already meeting the required standards of bilingual practice in areas, for example, such as signage, stationery and in publications such as the Department's statement of strategy, annual report and customer charter. The Act in these areas therefore involves no extra costs for the Department.

As the Deputy is aware, the Act provides for preparation in due course by my Department, and individually by each of the public bodies under its aegis listed in the first schedule to the Act, of a scheme for the delivery of our services in the Irish language to the general public. I am informed that the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs is preparing guidelines to assist public bodies in preparing these schemes. It is anticipated that the guidelines will finalised in the near future. As my colleague, the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, has already informed the House, it is anticipated then that the first tranche of public bodies will be asked to prepare draft schemes for approval by him once the draft guidelines have gone through the necessary statutory consultation procedure. When my Department has prepared its draft scheme, I will be in a position to say what, if any, additional costs may arise in its implementation.

In so far as the public bodies funded by my Department are concerned, the preparation of schemes in accordance with the Act and guidelines referred to above, including an assessment of any additional costs arising, is a day to day matter for each of the public bodies concerned.

Ambulance Service.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

244 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Health and Children the plans he has to introduce a helicopter emergency medical service. [13231/04]

Brendan Smith

Question:

271 Mr. B. Smith asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the proposal to provide an air ambulance service throughout Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13357/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 244 and 271 together.

My Department and the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety in Belfast, DHSSPS, commissioned a feasibility study and report on the costs and benefits associated with the introduction of a dedicated helicopter emergency medical service, HEMS, for the island of Ireland.

The report of the consultants appointed to undertake the study was published on 30 April 2004 and is available on my Department's website. The study identifies possible roles for a helicopter emergency medical service, HEMS. These include a primary response; travelling directly to the scene of an incident to take the patient to hospital, and an inter-hospital response; the planned rapid transfer between hospital of patients requiring specialist care, escorted by skilled professionals.

The study concludes that an inter-hospital transfer service would be the most appropriate in an all-island context. The study indicates that this would involve significant capital investment and annual operating costs. The estimated cost is €12 million capital and €4 million annual operating costs for a single helicopter. Additional helicopters could be added with an additional annual cost for each aircraft of over €3 million.

A three year programme of work would be needed to establish HEMS including procurement of aircraft, identifying and constructing landing sites, developing cross-Border communications and control systems, producing service protocols and cross-Border management agreements, including funding and payment, staff recruitment and training and arrangements for integration with existing hospital and ambulance services.

My Department is exploring options in relation to HEMS development in the light of the study. As part of this exercise, it has initiated discussions with the Department of Defence and the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, which manages the Irish Coast Guard.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Pat Carey

Question:

245 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 the rare condition of this person; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13152/04]

Responsibility for the provision of funding for services to persons with an intellectual disability and those with autism in the Dublin region lies, in the first instance, with the Eastern Regional Health Authority. My Department has, therefore, asked the regional chief executive of the ERHA to investigate the matter raised by the Deputy and reply directly to him.

Care of the Elderly.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

246 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for Health and Children if he will reply to a submission made to him on residential care for the elderly in April 2004 raising such issues as the ratio of carers to patients, qualifications and training for non-professional staff, facilities for the occupational recreation of persons, freedom of choice, respect for rights and privacy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13153/04]

In Ireland there is no established ratio of nurse to patient. This ratio varies in different healthcare settings and is related to the changing phenomenon of patient acuity. Patient dependency measures do exist and various methods have been utilised but this is decided at a local level rather than at a national level. The commission on nursing recommended the examination and development of appropriate systems to determine staffing levels and to this end a group was established in the Department of Health and Children and is currently undertaking this work.

Furthermore, the CEO of each health board has responsibility for the management of the workforce in public nursing homes, including the appropriate staffing mix, precise grades of staff employed in line with service priorities. It is a matter for each employer to ensure that staff in their employment have adequate training and skills to perform the duties expected of them.

Direct care of patients is undertaken by either professional nurses or health care assistants. It is Government policy that carers are referred to as health care assistants and that their education and training is standardised. All health care assistants should be educated to NCVA level 2 of FETAC. The national programme to implement this throughout the public health service is in its infancy. A module specifically for care of the older person has been developed and is currently undergoing validation by FETAC and should be available in the autumn. This training programme is available to private nursing homes and can be purchased through the nursing and midwifery planning and development unit in each health board area. Alternatively, nursing homes can establish their own programme. It is a matter for each employer to manage the ratio of staff to patient in the services they provide in light of their duty of care to patients.

The responsibility for the provision of occupational and recreational facilities rests with the nursing homes in the first instance. Age and Opportunity's Bealtine Festival is open to all older people regardless of their location and provides older people with the opportunity to be involved in creative activities. In public health institutions, some activity nurses have been appointed and are involved in supplying such therapies as reminiscence therapy, cognitive therapy and acupuncture.

Privacy to undertake personal activities should be facilitated wherever possible. However, leaving residents unsupervised may result in an increase in falls. Of older people living in the community, 20% fall each year sustaining serious injury. This figure is thought to be higher for hospitalised elderly and up to two thirds of older women living in nursing homes fall at least once per year. Many of these falls result in serious injury. Ultimately, the level of competency of the individual should be assessed and patients should be afforded privacy where possible, however, this must be balanced against overall concerns for the persons' safety.

Health Board Services.

Richard Bruton

Question:

247 Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for Health and Children if he will consider changing the laws on entitlement to orthodontic care in order that children who have been waiting a certain number of years and have not been assigned treatment under the State scheme, can at least qualify for a subvention towards the cost of private work; and if he will make a statement on the past efforts he has made to introduce such a scheme. [13154/04]

The Northern Area Health Board of the ERHA previously proposed a grant-in-aid scheme for orthodontic treatment similar to that referred to by the Deputy; however, the board received legal advice to the effect that such a grant-in-aid scheme would conflict with the statutory provisions of the Health Act 1970.

As part of the implementation process for the national health strategy, a review of all existing eligibility legislation is being undertaken in my Department. Arising from this review, legislation will be drafted to clarify and simplify eligibility and entitlements to health services in line with the goals and objectives set out in the strategy.

Richard Bruton

Question:

248 Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for Health and Children if he has developed a national strategy for the treatment of diabetes; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that a community service whereby a diabetes nurse was available in the community to assist in the treatment of diabetes has been withdrawn from the catchment of Beaumont Hospital; and if this is in accord with his national strategy. [13155/04]

The Minister has asked the chief medical officer to chair a working group consisting of the Department, service providers and the Diabetes Federation of Ireland. The first meeting of the group took place on 30 January.

The working group will examine the current and predicted epidemiology of diabetes; health promotion and preventive initiatives, including screening; current service provision, including the need to achieve better integration of care using current resources and facilities and the expansion of shared care programmes and future needs in terms of service provision and staffing. The group hopes to have its analysis and recommendations with the Minister later this year for consideration.

Responsibility for the provision of diabetic services in the Beaumont area is a matter for the Eastern Regional Health Authority, ERHA, and the Northern Area Health Board. In regard to your question on the withdrawal of the diabetic nurse in that area, my Department has asked the regional chief executive of the ERHA to investigate this matter and reply directly to you.

Cancer Screening Programme.

Denis Naughten

Question:

249 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason some counties are without breast screening services; the counties in question; the action he is taking to address this situation; when he intends to have this service operating in each county; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13165/04]

The national breast screening programme commenced in March 2000 with phase one of the programme covering the Eastern Regional Health Authority, the Midland Health Board and the North Eastern Health Board region. Last year I announced the extension of the BreastCheck programme to Counties Carlow, Kilkenny and Wexford and also the national roll-out to the southern and western counties. Screening commenced in Wexford in March of this year.

The BreastCheck clinical unit in the western area will be at University College Hospital, Galway, with two associated mobile units. The area of coverage is counties Galway, Sligo, Roscommon, Donegal, Mayo, Leitrim, Clare and Tipperary NR. The BreastCheck clinical unit in the southern area will be located at South Infirmary-Victoria Hospital, with three associated mobile units. Counties covered include Cork, Kerry, Limerick, Waterford and Tipperary SR. When these units are in place a BreastCheck service will be available to the target population in every county in Ireland. The national roll-out of BreastCheck requires detailed planning to include essential infrastructure.

Two project teams, one in each region, have been established to develop briefs for the capital infrastructure needed for the static units in the south and west. In relation to the southern region, the South Infirmary considered it necessary to commission a site strategy study to ensure the integration of the breast screening service into the present and future development of the hospital. My Department made available a capital grant of €230,000 for the study to be undertaken by professional architectural, engineering and quantity surveying experts. This study is now complete and was submitted to my Department at the end of March and a detailed brief is now being prepared by BreastCheck and the hospital. As regards the west, BreastCheck submitted a number of options for the construction of a static unit on the grounds of University College Hospital, Galway. Both projects are being considered by my Department in the context of the framework for capital investment 2004-8 which is being discussed with the Department of Finance at present.

An essential element of the roll out of the programme is investment in education and training of radiographers. BreastCheck employs qualified and experienced radiographers who have specialised postgraduate training and qualifications related to mammography. BreastCheck and the symptomatic breast cancer services combined have a significant ongoing recruitment and training requirement in this area. Last year I announced the development of a training centre for radiographers and mammography at Eccles Street which will become the National Training Centre in Breast Imaging. Resources are being made available to BreastCheck to support this initiative which will cost in excess of €750,000. Design specification work has been undertaken, the core elements of the training programme are being addressed and the recruitment process for a course leader has been initiated.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Denis Naughten

Question:

250 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Roscommon will be called for a hip replacement operation at Merlin Park Regional Hospital, Galway; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13166/04]

The provision of hospital services for people living in County Roscommon 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.

Liz McManus

Question:

251 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding a person (details supplied) in Dublin 13 who is on a waiting list for the removal of a cyst from their throat; when they can expect to be called; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13167/04]

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 her directly.

Hospital Services.

Finian McGrath

Question:

252 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason a person (details supplied) was left on a chair for 12 hours in St. James’s Hospital on 26 April 2004; and the further reason 15 other patients were waiting on trolleys and chairs. [13175/04]

Services at St. James's Hospital are provided under an arrangement 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 Funding.

Paul McGrath

Question:

253 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children the 2004 budget for Mullingar General Hospital, Tullamore General Hospital and Portlaoise General Hospital; and if he will compare these figures to the comparable allocations for each of the past five years. [13182/04]

Responsibility for the funding of services at the midland regional hospitals at Mullingar, Tullamore and Portlaoise rests with the Midland Health Board. My Department has, therefore, asked the chief executive officer of the board to investigate the position in relation to this matter and to reply to the Deputy directly.

Community Care.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

254 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children when a community nurse can visit or offer assistance to a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13213/04]

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

Services for People with Disabilities.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

255 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children when an occupational therapist can assess the application under the disabled person’s grant submitted to Kildare County Council in the name of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13214/04]

The provsion of health related services, including occupational therapy, for people with physical and-or sensory disabilities is a matter for the Eastern Regional Health Authority and the health boards in the first instance. Accordingly, the Deputy's question has been referred to the regional chief executive of the Eastern Regional Health Authority with a request to examine the matter and reply directly to the Deputy, as a matter of urgency.

Hospital Staff.

Denis Naughten

Question:

256 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children if the Western Health Board has sought or received the approval of comhairle to appoint a third physician consultant to the County Hospital, Roscommon; if the board has sought or received similar approval from the Department; if the board has or intends to advertise such a position; if he will supply the relevant dates in each case; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13215/04]

The Western Health Board has made an application for financial clearance for a third consultant physician at the County Hospital, Roscommon, and has identified a requirement for additional funding. The issue is being considered by my Department in conjuction with the Western Health Board.

Maternity Services.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

257 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Health and Children if he will urgently release funding for the relocation of the national maternity hospital and for short-term emergency interim measures to make conditions safe for mothers, babies and staff. [13216/04]

My Department is advised by the Eastern Regional Health Authority that the National Maternity Hospital is currently finalising plans for an interim development on the existing site and that proposals in this regard will shortly be submitted through the authority to the Department for consideration. The question of the relocation of the hospital to another site is the subject of ongoing consultation between the hospital, the ERHA and my Department.

Hospital Services.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

258 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Health and Children if he intends to ensure that St. Columcille’s Hospital, Loughlinstown, County Dublin continues as a 24-hour consultant-led accident and emergency hospital. [13217/04]

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

259 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Health and Children if the €50 million promised to St. Colmcille’s Hospital, Loughlinstown, County Dublin, prior to the general election of 2002 is being spent to ensure that the hospital is brought up to date within three years. [13218/04]

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

260 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Health and Children if he will take steps to ensure that the scanning facility in St. Columcille’s Hospital, Loughlinstown, County Dublin, will be fully operational seven days a week; if a full paediatric and geriatric service is provided; and if the situation whereby patients are been held on trollies will be ended shortly. [13219/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 258 to 260, inclusive, together.

Responsibility for the provision of services at St. Columcille's Hospital, Loughlinstown, rests with the Eastern Regional Health Authority. My Department has, therefore, asked the regional chief executive of the authority to investigate the detailed operational issues raised by the Deputy and to reply to him directly.

The report of the national task force on medical staffing — Hanly — envisages St. Columcille's Hospital being developed as a local hospital. The report recommends investment in local hospitals such as St. Columcille's so that they are in a position to provide most of the local population's needs for hospital care. Improvements proposed include a greatly expanded proportion of elective day surgery and elective medical procedures for the region in a range of specialties — this will involve an increasing volume of elective procedures that are often currently performed in the larger hospitals; a strong focus for locally accessible multi-specialist day and out-patient, OPD, care; pre and post-natal maternity services; a point of access for general practitioners to services and diagnostic facilities and rehabilitation and long-stay care.

Implementation of the report in the East Coast Area Health Board will ultimately involve the appointment of an additional 129 consultants to the region, many of whom will provide services in local hospitals, including St Columcille's. A group is being established to prepare a detailed action plan for the implementation of the Hanly recommendations in the east coast area, including assessing the staffing and capital requirements.

Finally, with regard to the Deputy's statement concerning €50 million promised to St. Columcille's Hospital prior to the general election in 2002, neither I nor any of my colleagues in Government made any such commitment.

Drug Treatment Services.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

261 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Health and Children if the Shankill Community Association will be granted similar representation on the proposed implementation body as it currently holds on the monitoring committee of the methadone clinic at St. Columcille’s Hospital, Loughlinstown, County Dublin. [13221/04]

The provision of drug treatment services is the statutory responsibility of the health boards in the first instance. In this case, the responsibility rests with the East Coast Area Health Board of the Eastern Regional Health Authority. My Department has requested the regional chief executive of the Eastern Regional Health Authority to look into the matter and to reply direct to the Deputy.

Hospital Sites.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

262 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for Health and Children the position on the site feasibility study at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda. [13222/04]

It is a matter for the North Eastern Health Board to clarify detailed matters arising in respect of this site feasibility study for Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda.

I can confirm, however, that my Department has recently conveyed approval to the board to appoint the design team selected to prepare this feasibility study, which is to be based on briefing documents as agreed by the hospital, the North Eastern Health Board and my Department. The study will examine, in particular, the capacity of the existing hospital site in Drogheda to accommodate new and enhanced clinical services and support facilities, and it will identify the broad implications of such future development. It is expected that this study will be complete within six months of formal design team appointment.

Genetic Testing.

Liz McManus

Question:

263 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Health and Children the action the Government has taken to ensure that Irish patients are sufficiently represented at the Genetic Testing Conference in Brussels in May 2004; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13223/04]

I am advised that representatives of two Irish organisations, the Breast Cancer Coalition and the Genetic Inherited Disorder Organisation, attended this conference on 6 and 7 May.

Departmental Staff.

David Stanton

Question:

264 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Health and Children the way in which persons with disabilities can access employment in his Department; if there are special application procedures; the criteria by which it is decided that persons qualify; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13248/04]

Recruitment of all administrative grades to the Department of Health and Children is organised by the Civil Service and Local Appointments Commission. This Department has already welcomed and will continue to welcome staff with disabilities, as assigned by the Civil Service and Local Appointments Commission.

Psychological Service.

Willie Penrose

Question:

265 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Health and Children if a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath will be given an appointment with the psychological service as a matter of urgency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13263/04]

Responsibility for the matter referred to by the Deputy rests with the Midland Health Board. My Department has, therefore, asked the chief executive officer to investigate the matter raised by the Deputy and reply to him directly.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Willie Penrose

Question:

266 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Health and Children if he will take steps to ensure that a person (details supplied) is immediately admitted to hospital for a hip replacement operation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13264/04]

Responsibility for the provision of hospital services to residents of County Westmeath rests with the Midland Health Board. My Department has, therefore, asked the chief executive officer of the board to investigate the position in relation to this case and to reply to the Deputy directly.

Health Board Services.

John McGuinness

Question:

267 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Health and Children if further orthodontic treatment will be provided for a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; if a decision will be expedited in this urgent case; the reason follow on treatment is not completed fully on this person; and the further reason for a delay in reaching a decision in the case. [13278/04]

Responsibility for the provision of orthodontic treatment to eligible persons in County Kilkenny rests with the South Eastern Health Board. My Department has asked the chief executive officer to investigate the matter raised by the Deputy and to reply to him directly.

Benchmarking Awards.

John McGuinness

Question:

268 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Health and Children if a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny is entitled to benchmarking payments from the SEHB; and if so, when the payments will be made. [13279/04]

Responsibility for the payment of benchmarking pay awards rests in this instance with the South Eastern Health Board. My Department has, therefore, asked the chief executive officer to investigate the matter raised by the Deputy and reply to him directly.

Freedom of Information.

Joan Burton

Question:

269 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Health and Children the percentage of requests under the Freedom of Information Act which proceed to internal appeal in his Department; the way in which that percentage compares with the percentage in previous years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13305/04]

Joan Burton

Question:

270 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of requests under the Freedom of Information Act received by his Department in the first quarter of 2004; the way in which this compares with the number of FOI requests received in a similar period in previous years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13320/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 269 and 270 together.

The information requested by the Deputy is set out in the following table. It will be noted that there has been a slight reduction in the percentage of applications for internal reviews made to my Department under the Freedom of Information Act in 2003 as against 2002. The number of requests received under the Act by my Department in the first quarter of 2004 is similar to the number received in the years 2000, 2001 and 2002 but is significantly lower than the figure for 2003.

Freedom of Information Requests Received

Applications for Internal Reviews

Percentage

Requests logged for 1st Quarter of each Year

%

2000

452

27

6

127

2001

575

85

14.8

137

2002

1,013

196

19.35

133

2003

834

152

18.22

340

2004

183*

6

3.28

128

*to date

Question No. 271 answered with QuestionNo. 244.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Willie Penrose

Question:

272 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Health and Children if he will take steps to ensure that an angiogram for a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath takes place as soon as possible; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13358/04]

Responsibility for the provision of hospital services to residents of County Westmeath rests with the Midland Health Board. My Department has, therefore, asked the chief executive officer of the board to investigate the position in relation to this case and to reply to the Deputy directly.

Mental Health Funding.

John Gormley

Question:

273 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Health and Children the percentage of the overall health budget that is allocated to the area of mental health; the percentage that is used for research into conditions such as bipolar depression and schizophrenia; and the reason mental health charities such as Aware do not receive State funding. [13360/04]

The Estimate for mental health expenditure in 2004 is €661.35 million or 6.69% of the total health budget as stated in the Revised Estimates for Public Services 2004.

In 2003 the health research board expended approximately €1.6 million on mental health research. This year it will spend the same amount. I have requested the board to provide the Deputy with a detailed list of research projects.

The Mental Health Commission has indicated that it intends to develop and publish a research strategy. It also intends to create a database and web links for individuals and organisations interested in mental health research. The aims of the network will be to promote and facilitate mental health research, to obtain information on current and past research and to disseminate information and research on service innovations and best practice models.

At present the department of psychiatry, Trinity College, Dublin, is researching possible genetic influences on the development of schizophrenic illness. More information regarding the study is available from the college.

Support for the work of voluntary agencies such as Aware is a key element of the mental health funding provided by my Department. This year more than €3.8 million is available to the voluntary agencies for their work in the field of mental health.

Ministerial Expenses.

Pádraic McCormack

Question:

274 Mr. McCormack asked the Minister for Health and Children the expenses each Minister of State has received between 1 January and 31 December 2003. [13380/04]

The expenses received by each Minister of State are as follows: Deputy Callely €37,279.47; Deputy Brian Lenihan €28,600.32 and Deputy Tim O'Malley €37,655.27.

Health Board Services.

Michael Ring

Question:

275 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children the outcome of a meeting of an assessment committee regarding a person (details supplied) in County Mayo. [13447/04]

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

Michael Ring

Question:

276 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children about an assessment of a person (details supplied) in County Mayo. [13448/04]

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

Health Board Funding.

Mary Upton

Question:

277 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Health and Children if he will allocate additional resources to a service (details supplied). [13460/04]

The provision of health services in the Inchicore and Ballyfermot areas is the responsibility of the South Western Area Health Board acting under the aegis of the Eastern Regional Health Authority. The organisations and the board are discussing a realistic budget for 2004.

Hospital Services.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

278 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children the extent that the general medical services scheme covers stays in hospital by qualifying patients after procedures or operations when they are unable to go home for any reason such as the need to await alterations to cater for disability; the hospital charges for such periods; if there are GMSS guidelines; and the details of same. [13493/04]

Public hospital services were introduced in June 1991. As a result everyone, regardless of income, is entitled to public hospital and public consultant services subject only to modest statutory charges, from which medical card holders are exempt. At present these charges are set at €45 per night, subject to a maximum of €450 in any 12 consecutive months, in respect of inpatient public hospital services.

Alternatively, one can opt to be the private patient of both the consultant and the hospital. Any patient, whether a medical card holder or not, who opts for treatment in a private hospital or as a private patient in a public hospital is liable for the costs relating to such treatment

In respect of people availing of public long-stay care, charges can be made under two regulations. They can be made under the Health (Charges for In-Patient Services) Regulations 1976, as amended by the Health (Charges for Inpatient Services) (Amendment) Regulations 1987. These regulations enable charges to be made towards the cost of providing hospital inpatient services for persons with income who have been in receipt of such services for more than 30 days or for periods totalling more than 30 days in the previous year. The regulations provide that a charge is made at a rate not exceeding the person's income. Medical card holders and persons with dependants are exempt from these charges.

Charges may also be made under the Institutional Assistance Regulations 1965 where a patient receives shelter and maintenance rather than treatment. These charges apply from the date of admission. They are payable by all patients who are in receipt of incomes, including medical card holders and persons with dependants.

In deciding the amount to be contributed, health boards have regard to the person's circumstances. Allowance is made for any financial commitments the person may have and a reasonable amount is left to meet the person's personal needs. Charges may be waived if, in the opinion of a CEO of the relevant health board, payment would cause undue hardship.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

279 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children if there is an estimated figure for the number of patients waiting for an appointment with a hospital consultant; if so, how the figures were compiled; and if the national treatment purchase fund will assume responsibility for the collation of the data. [13494/04]

My Department does not collect or collate information on patients waiting for such appointments. It is focused on reducing waiting times for patients requiring a procedure or treatment. Recently I announced the transfer of responsibility for the recording and publishing of waiting lists to the fund. It is envisaged that it will record waiting lists on this basis.

Health Board Allowances.

Michael Ring

Question:

280 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason a person (details supplied) in County Mayo has not received arrears of blind welfare allowance. [13495/04]

The assessment of entitlement to and payment of the allowance is a matter for the relevant health board. My Department has asked the CEO of the Western Health Board to investigate the matter and to reply directly to the Deputy, as a matter of urgency.

Foster Care.

Mary Wallace

Question:

281 Ms M. Wallace asked the Minister for Health and Children if he will clarify what happens when foster parents and guardians cannot obtain permission from natural parents to go on holiday and obtain passports. [13496/04]

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. Foster care is the main form of alternative care for children who cannot, for a number of reasons, be looked after in their home and are taken into the care of a health board.

Where consent is unobtainable from the parents of children in care, for the purposes outlined by the Deputy, a health board may consent or bring the matter to the attention of a district court.

Under the Child Care Act 1991, section 18(3)(b)(iii), where a care order is in force a health board shall have the authority to “give consent to the issue of a passport to the child or to the provision of passport facilities for him, to enable him to travel abroad for a limited period”.

The health board, in exercising these responsibilities, must do what is reasonable for the purpose of safeguarding or promoting a child's health, development or welfare. It would be normal practice for the board to seek consent from parents where appropriate and possible.

Hospital Services.

Paddy McHugh

Question:

282 Mr. McHugh asked the Minister for Health and Children if he will investigate the circumstances whereby a person with scoliosis (details supplied) must travel to Dublin for treatment; and if the Western Health Board will acquire the necessary equipment to provide treatment in Galway. [13511/04]

The provision of hospital services for people living in County Galway is a matter for the board. My Department has asked its CEO to reply directly to the Deputy.

Death Certificates.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

283 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Health and Children the steps he will take to ensure the timely issue of death certificates following post mortem examination as delays at the State laboratory are causing distress and often financial difficulties for families who, in many cases, must wait more than a year for a certificate. [13522/04]

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

I presume the Deputy is referring to deaths that were referred to a coroner. The Registrar General has informed me that he must await a coroner's decision on the cause of death before it can be registered. Following the referral of a case of sudden death a coroner may refer a sample or samples from the autopsy to the State Laboratory for detailed analysis to assist in determining the cause of death. He must wait for the results before issuing his decision.

The State Laboratory operates under the aegis of the Department of Finance. It knows how important its service is to the coroners and the impact it inevitably has on relatives of people whose deaths are the subject of inquests at a time of great distress. The laboratory constantly monitors its service by reviewing available resources, the possibilities for outsourcing and the complexity of analyses. There is a general increase in the complexity of the analyses required by coroners, resulting in approximately three analyses per sample received. Reports are made on the vast majority of samples within six months of receipt in the State Laboratory.

Additional resources were allocated to the State Laboratory's toxicology section resulting in a substantial increase in the number of analyses completed. A backlog of cases still exists due to a 50% increase in the past two years in the number of cases referred and a general increase in the complexity of the analyses required.

At present a range of measures are being taken to reduce the turnaround time of samples sent to the laboratory and processed by its toxicology section. The laboratory will give additional priority to the coroners' cases. Its management is also reviewing the procedures and processes in the toxicology area with a view to automating as much as possible.

The possibilities of reducing the complexity of testing were discussed between the State Laboratory and the coroners and their representatives. Such a measure would have an immediate impact on turnaround times. It was not considered possible to reduce the complexity of tests performed by the laboratory due to the constant demand by families for comprehensive analysis, the increasing complexity of the cocktail of drugs potentially taken by victims that requires sequential analyses and coroners' requirement for quality analytical data that will withstand scrutiny in court.

Medical Aids and Appliances.

John McGuinness

Question:

284 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Health and Children if a hearing aid will be provided for a person (details supplied) in County Tipperary. [13523/04]

Responsibility for the provision of services, including aids and appliances, for medical card holders is, by legislation, a matter for the CEO of the relevant health board or authority. My Department has asked the CEO of the Mid-Western Health Board to investigate the matter and to reply directly to him.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

John McGuinness

Question:

285 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Health and Children the reasons for the delay in arranging an appointment with a hospital consultant for a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny in view of the fact that it is an urgent case and their general practitioner is anxious that they receive treatment as soon as possible; and if they can avail of the national treatment purchase fund. [13524/04]

Responsibility for the provision of services for residents of County Kilkenny is a matter for the South Eastern Health Board. My Department has asked its CEO to investigate the matter and to reply directly to the Deputy.

The NTPF was established to arrange treatment for patients who have been waited the longest to be admitted to hospital for an elective procedure. A patient must be seen by a hospital consultant as an outpatient before being put on a waiting list. The fund does not arrange treatment for patients that have not been seen by a consultant.

Medical Aids and Appliances.

John Cregan

Question:

286 Mr. Cregan asked the Minister for Health and Children if he will examine a case where a person suffering from advanced Alzheimer’s is cared for by an 80 year old spouse; if appliances or aids are can be prescribed to assist patients with Alzheimer’s who qualify for same. [13525/04]

The provision of health services in the Dublin 9 area is the responsibility of the Northern Area Health Board, acting under the aegis of the Eastern Regional Health Authority. My Department has asked the authority's CEO to investigate the matter and to reply directly to the Deputy, as a matter of urgency.

General Medical Services Scheme.

John Cregan

Question:

287 Mr. Cregan asked the Minister for Health and Children to include patients aged below and over 70 years in the scheme whereby payments are made to general practitioners for services provided to medical card holders; if he agrees that general practitioners must visit patients in their homes when required; the number of complaints made about general practitioners not visiting homes; and the disciplinary action that can be taken against them; and if their association supports them. [13527/04]

In 2002 capitation fees totalling €263 million was paid to GPs holding contracts under the general medical services scheme. A sum of €49.23 million was paid for services provided to people aged 70 years and over who gained automatic medical card eligibility since 1 July 2001.

Under the GMSS general practitioner contract, participants are obliged to provide surgery and domiciliary visits, where appropriate, to their medical card patients for 40 hours per week, as agreed with their local health board. They must also make arrangements to enable them, a locum or deputy for emergencies to be contactable outside of these hours.

General practitioners make a clinical decision on whether a domiciliary visit is appropriate based on the symptoms described. If the Deputy give me the names of doctors refusing to make domiciliary visits to medical card patients I will investigate the matter. I have asked all health boards about complaints of general practitioners not visiting homes. I shall pass the information to the Deputy as soon as I receive the information.

The GMSS contract provides a procedure for the handling of complaints by patients. Complaints are a matter for the contract holder, the relevant health board, to initiate a complaints procedure.

It is not within my Department's remit to discuss policies adopted by GP representative organisations. The Deputy may raise the matter with them.

Health Board Services.

Paddy McHugh

Question:

288 Mr. McHugh asked the Minister for Health and Children when orthodontic treatment will be made available to a person (details supplied) in County Galway; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13528/04]

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

Official Languages Act.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

289 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Health and Children if his Department has prepared an estimate of the cost to his Department of implementing the provisions of the Official Languages Act 2003; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13569/04]

The Department of Health and Children will meet its statutory obligations in relation to the Official Languages Act 2003. In so far as the provision of services through Irish is concerned, this Department intends to prepare a scheme in accordance with the relevant provisions of the Act. The process for preparing such schemes will, I understand, be initiated by the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs.

While costings have not as yet been estimated, the Department of Health and Children will be assessing costs as part of the process of preparing its scheme for the delivery of services through Irish.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

290 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Health and Children if estimates have been prepared by the public bodies funded by his Department in regard to the cost of implementing the provisions of the Official Languages Act 2003; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13584/04]

As the Deputy is aware, the Official Languages Act 2003 provides for the preparation in due course by each of the bodies under the aegis of my Department, of a scheme for the delivery of services to the general public through the Irish language. The Act places a statutory obligation on each public body to make specific provision for the integrated delivery of services through a statutory planning framework, known as a "scheme", which will be agreed on a three year renewable basis between the head of the body concerned and the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs. Until such time as the schemes have been finalised it is not possible to prepare meaningful estimates of the costs which may arise from the implementation of the Act.

Health Board Services.

John McGuinness

Question:

291 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Health and Children if a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny will be awarded home birth grant. [13605/04]

Responsibility for the provision of home birth grants to eligible persons in County Kilkenny rests with the South Eastern Health Board. My Department has asked the chief executive officer to investigate the matter raised by the Deputy and to reply to him directly.

Nursing Home Subventions.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

292 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason the subvention for a person (details supplied) to stay in the present nursing home was reduced; if it can be increased again; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13607/04]

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

Hospital Procedures.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

293 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Health and Children when progress will be made in the cases of survivors of symphysiotomy; if an independent obstetrician has been identified to review cases; when this person will be appointed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13618/04]

At a meeting which I had with the survivors of symphysiotomy, the SOS group late last year, I agreed that a range of measures would be put in place by the Eastern Regional Health Authority, ERHA, and the health boards to support the group. The current position is as follows. The health boards and the relevant voluntary hospitals in the eastern region have appointed liaison officers, who are meeting patients who have undergone symphysiotomy to discuss their healthcare needs. The chief executive officers of the health boards and the ERHA have agreed to grant GMS eligibility, based on medical grounds, to SOS patients who do not have such eligibility. A special patient identifier card will be issued which will facilitate the health care system to fast-track patients for appointments and treatments. The CEOs' group is finalising arrangements for the establishment of care pathways and for a multi-disciplinary medical team to be made available in respect of the patients.

The ERHA and the health boards are proceeding to ascertain the number of symphysiotomies carried out in hospitals throughout the country. It may take some time to complete this process as procedures may have been carried out in maternity units or in hospitals that no longer exist. An exercise is ongoing, in conjunction with the SOS group, to profile patients in order to assist in formulating a needs assessment for each individual. Independent counselling services are available to all patients where requested. An information leaflet has been prepared in consultation with the SOS group and is expected to issue from the ERHA and health boards to general practitioners and patients shortly.

Independent clinical advice is available, on request, to patients who have undergone symphysiotomy. This has already been availed of by a number of members of the SOS group. Discussions are ongoing with the SOS group regarding the setting up of an information line which would be staffed by appropriate healthcare personnel.

The chief medical officer of my Department has contacted an international expert with a view to undertaking an external review of the practice of symphysiotomy in Ireland and discussions are continuing in this regard.

National Treatment Purchase Fund.

John McGuinness

Question:

294 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Health and Children if an appointment and treatment will be expedited for a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny at Ardkeen Hospital, Waterford; if this person qualifies for and can be treated under the national treatment purchase fund; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13643/04]

Responsibility for the provision of services for residents of County Kilkenny is, in the first instance, a matter for the South Eastern Health Board. My Department has, therefore, asked the chief executive officer of the South Eastern Health Board to investigate this case and to establish whether the patient qualifies for treatment by the national treatment purchase fund and to reply directly to the Deputy.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Michael Ring

Question:

295 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo was placed on an out-patient list; and when this person will be called for surgery. [13667/04]

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 on the matter raised.

Health Board Services.

Dan Neville

Question:

296 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Health and Children the new services to be provided by the Western Health Board in view of increased spending of €983,000 in the area of suicide prevention and research. [13666/04]

Responsibility for the matter referred to by the Deputy rests with the Western Health Board. My Department has therefore asked the chief executive officer to investigate the matter raised by the Deputy and reply to him directly.

National Treatment Purchase Fund.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

297 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children if his attention has been drawn to reports that private health care providers in Britain have surcharged the national health service for procedures carried out on public patients and that this has resulted in significant extra costs to the NHS, over and above the cost of such procedures which would have accrued under direct provision by the NHS; if this overcharging also applies to services provided through the national treatment purchase fund; if he will investigate the matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13724/04]

Where it is not possible to treat patients within a reasonable period in Ireland, either in public or private hospitals, the national treatment purchase fund may refer public patients for treatment abroad, having regard to quality, availability and cost. My Department understands that the national treatment purchase fund negotiates prices directly with four private hospitals in the United Kingdom. My Department has been assured by the fund that the prices negotiated by the national treatment purchase fund compare favourably with the comparative benchmarks available for the costs of the vast majority of procedures.

Driving Tests.

Paul McGrath

Question:

298 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Transport the total number of driver tests, in each category, carried out in 2003; and the success rate for those categories. [13172/04]

The information sought by the Deputy is set out in the following table:

Driving Test Results by Representative Vehicle Category — 2003.

Category Description

Category

Total Number of Candidates

% Pass

Motorcycle (exceeding 125cc)

A

2,616

71.5

Motorcycle (51 — 125cc)

A1

825

46.7

Motorcycle (not exceeding 50cc and/or 45km/h)

M

49

38.8

Car

B

143,772

53.4

Truck (G.V.W. exceeding 9,500 kg)

C

5,449

66.9

Truck (G.V.W. 3,501 — 7,500 kg)

C1

158

68.4

Bus

D

1,020

67.5

Minibus (9-16 passenger Seats)

D1

758

62.5

Car & Trailer

EB

48

79.2

Truck & Trailer

EC

1,678

76.6

C1 Truck & Trailer

EC1

5

0.0

Bus & Trailer

ED

0

0.0

Minibus & Trailer

ED1

1

0.0

Work vehicle/Tractor

W

36

88.9

Total

156,415

54.5

Paul McGrath

Question:

299 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Transport the number on the waiting list for driver testing in each category. [13173/04]

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

Number Awaiting a Driving Test at 26 April 2004 by Test Representative Vehicle Category.

Category

Category Description

Number on Waiting List

A

Motorcycle (exceeding 125cc)

2,775

A1

Motorcycle (51 — 125cc)

831

B

Car

113,737

C

Truck (G.V.W. exceeding 9,500kg)

1,725

C1

Truck (G.V.W. 3,501 —7,500kg)

88

D

Bus

329

D1

Minibus (9 —16 passenger seats)

228

EB

Car & Trailer

130

EC

Truck & Trailer

552

EC1

C1 Truck & Trailer

4

ED

Bus & Trailer

0

ED1

Minibus & Trailer

0

W

Work Vehicle / Tractor

142

Total

All Categories

120,541

Public Transport.

Barry Andrews

Question:

300 Mr. Andrews asked the Minister for Transport if he will make a statement on funding for Dublin Bus in regard to the provision of wheelchair accessible buses. [13163/04]

In keeping with my policy that all bus and rail public transport operators should provide the highest possible degree of accessibility to the mobility and sensory impaired, all buses purchased by Bus Átha Cliath since the year 2000 are low floor wheelchair accessible buses. The company currently has some 450 low floor buses operating in Dublin. This represents almost 41% of the fleet and some 37 bus routes now have fully accessible services.

Future of Aer Lingus.

Denis Naughten

Question:

301 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Transport his plans to bring proposals to Cabinet concerning the sale of Aer Lingus; when he will publish his policy statement for the White Paper on the sale of the company; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13164/04]

As I previously stated in the House, I recently advised my Cabinet colleagues of the current state of my deliberations concerning the future of Aer Lingus and, in particular, my concerns relating to maintaining the status quo. I also advised that I will be reverting to Government on specific options for the company in the near future.

My deliberations, which are ongoing, involve detailed consideration of the reports from the chairman of Aer Lingus and an independent corporate finance consultant whom I commissioned to look at the sale options for the company.

During the debates on the Aer Lingus Bill which has recently been enacted, I listened carefully to the concerns raised by Deputies about specific issues in the event of the State exiting from ownership of Aer Lingus. Having taken those concerns on board, I moved an amendment which was accepted to provide that the Minister for Finance may not dispose of any shares in the company without the general principles of the disposal being laid before and approved by Dáil Éireann.

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

Light Rail Project.

Mary Upton

Question:

302 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Transport further to Parliamentary Question No. 108 of 29 April 2004, if he will make available the five designs proposed for a structure (details supplied) in Dublin 8; if he will make available all the documentation relating to safety concerns at this junction; and if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the current structure is totally unacceptable as a permanent fixture on the Luas line. [13230/04]

The design of Rialto Bridge is a matter for the Railway Procurement Agency, RPA, in association with other relevant bodies, as set out in my response to the parliamentary question referred to. However, I have asked the RPA to respond directly to the Deputy in regard to the documentation being sought.

Traffic Management.

Gay Mitchell

Question:

303 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Transport if he will introduce regulations to allow motorcyclists use bus lanes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13233/04]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Question No. 70 of 4 May 2004. The position remains unchanged.

Departmental Staff.

David Stanton

Question:

304 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Transport the way in which persons with disabilities can access employment in his Department; if there are special application procedures; the criteria by which it is decided that persons qualify; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13249/04]

Apart from the recruitment of services officers, recruitment to this Department and the Civil Service is carried out centrally by the Office of the Civil Service and Local Appointments Commissioners. With regard to the recruitment of services officers, when a competition is being held, this Department requests a list from FÁS of interested applicants, including those who have a disability. Applicants are then called for interview and if successful are placed on a panel. Prior to all appointments to the services officer grade, all candidates on the panel must pass a medical examination and be deemed fit to carry out the full duties of the grade by the chief medical officer.

Driving Tests.

Willie Penrose

Question:

305 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Transport if an application for a drivers test by a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath will be expedited in view of the urgency, details of which have been furnished to his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13271/04]

A driving test will be arranged as soon as possible for the person concerned.

Freedom of Information.

Joan Burton

Question:

306 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Transport the percentage of requests under the Freedom of Information Act which proceed to internal appeal in his Department; the way in which that percentage compares with the percentage in previous years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13306/04]

My Department received four requests for internal reviews to be conducted on decisions taken under the Freedom of Information Acts during the period 1 January 2004 to 31 March 2004. This represents 40% of requests received during this period. During the same period of 2003 there were no requests for internal reviews of decisions taken. For the calendar year 2003, requests for reviews represented 7% of requests received. It is not possible to make comparisons with years prior to 2003, as my Department was established in June 2002.

Joan Burton

Question:

307 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Transport the number of requests under the Freedom of Information Act received by his Department in the first quarter of 2004; the way in which this compares with the number of freedom of information requests received in a similar period in previous years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13321/04]

My Department received ten requests under the Freedom of Information Acts in the period 1 January 2004 to 31 March 2004. There were 70 requests received by my Department during the same period in 2003. It is not possible to make comparisons with years prior to 2003, as my Department was established in June 2002.

Ministerial Expenses.

Pádraic McCormack

Question:

308 Mr. McCormack asked the Minister for Transport the expenses each Minister of State has received between 1 January 2003 and 31 December 2003. [13381/04]

The Department of Transport paid out €24,821 in mileage expenses to the Minister of State between 1 January 2003 and 31 December 2003. Other expenses for foreign travel amounted to €2,028. Monthly fixed payments of €1,014, which are paid to every Minister of State, were also made.

Irish Aviation Authority.

Michael Ring

Question:

309 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Transport if the Aviation Authority will investigate the reason a helicopter is being permitted to take off and land in County Mayo (details supplied) without planning permission for a helipad, which has been deemed necessary by An Bord Pleanála; and the regulations that must be adhered to in situations such as this. [13425/04]

Contraventions of the planning laws are matters for An Bord Pleanála and not the Irish Aviation Authority, IAA, or the Department of Transport.

With regard to aviation safety, I am advised by the IAA that Article 5(1)(d) and (e) of the Irish Aviation Authority (Aerodrome and Visual Ground Aids) Order 2000, (SI 334 of 2000) provides that rotorcraft may take-off and land at any place where the aircraft may take-off or land without undue hazard to persons or property and in respect of which the owner or occupier shall have given permission.

Airport Runways.

Pat Breen

Question:

310 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Transport further to Parliamentary Question No. 480 of 16 December 2003, if he has been able in the interim period to ascertain the precise date that red safety areas were formally established at either end of runways 17/35 and 07/25 at Cork Airport; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13436/04]

Following further investigation, my Department has been unable to establish the precise date.

European Union Airports.

Pat Breen

Question:

311 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Transport if the introduction of public safety zones at European Union airports is one of the principal priorities of the Irish EU Presidency with regard to that part of the transport sector for which he is responsible; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13437/04]

Neither the Irish Presidency nor the European Commission has any proposals for the introduction of public safety zones at airports on a European-wide basis.

Airport Runways.

Pat Breen

Question:

312 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Transport further to Parliamentary Question No. 635 of 27 April 2004, the date that the line and location of south runway 10/28 was eventually decided by the committee in question; the length of the runway proposal so decided by the said committee; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13438/04]

As advised in response to Question No. 635 of 27 April 2004, a committee comprising representatives of Aer Rianta, Aer Lingus and the Department of Transport was tasked in 1980 with recommending a plan for runways to meet the long term needs of Dublin Airport. In April 1981, that committee recommended that the southern parallel runway be constructed first and also suggested a length of the order of 9,000 feet. Subsequently, at contract design stage, the runway length was finalised at 8,650 feet having regard to the operational needs of the airlines.

Provision of Bus Shelters.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

313 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport if adequate steps have been taken to ensure that bus shelters are provided at all city and provincial bus stops in order to assist in meeting health and safety requirements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13513/04]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

314 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport if he will direct a review of all bus stops in the greater Dublin area with a view to providing bus shelters, thereby enhancing commuter health and safety criteria; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13514/04]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

315 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport if he has satisfied himself that all bus stops and bus shelters are located in accordance with best practise with particular reference to health and safety requirements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13515/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 313, 314 and 315 together.

I wish to advise the Deputy that the provision of bus shelters is an operational matter for the companies concerned. The location of bus stops is a matter for the Garda Commissioner, under section 85 of the Road Traffic Act 1961, in consultation with both the local authority and the bus service provider. I have recently asked both Bus Átha Cliath and Bus Éireann to undertake a review of all bus stops from a safety perspective.

Rail Network.

David Stanton

Question:

316 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Transport further to Parliamentary Question No, 50 of 4 May 2004 regarding the proposed reopening of the rail link to Midleton in East Cork, the further enhancements involved to cost €25.3 million mentioned in his reply; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13535/04]

The proposals relating to the development of commuter rail services in Cork, including the reopening of the line to Midleton, involve a two-phased approach. The second phase, which it is suggested should proceed when the land use developments are well advanced, includes the construction of a new station at Monard, the expansion of some park and ride facilities and the provision of additional rolling stock. The cost of this phase has been estimated at €25.3 million.

Official Languages Act.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

317 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Transport if his Department has prepared an estimate of the cost to his Department of implementing the provisions of the Official Languages Act 2003; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13570/04]

In accordance with the commitments in our recently published customer charter, the Department of Transport already provides a good standard of service through the Irish language.

We plan to fully meet our commitments under the Official Languages Act 2003. The Department, and all other public bodies covered by the Act, will be preparing a scheme in accordance with the relevant provisions of the Act. The process for preparing such schemes will be initiated by the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs when his Department's scheme, which will serve as a model, has been finalised. The Department will be assessing costs as part of the process of preparing its scheme for the delivery of services through Irish.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

318 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Transport if estimates have been prepared by the public bodies funded by his Department in regard to the cost of implementing the provisions of the Official Languages Act 2003; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13585/04]

The Official Languages Act 2003 applies to all public bodies named in the Act. All of the public bodies funded by this Department are named in the Act and it is their responsibility to ensure that they meet the requirements of the Act.

All public bodies covered by the Act, will be preparing a scheme in accordance with the relevant provisions of the Act. The process for preparing such schemes will be initiated by the Minister for Community Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs when his Department's scheme, which will serve as a model, has been finalised. All bodies will be assessing costs as part of the process of preparing their scheme for the delivery of services through Irish.

Pensions Provisions.

Tony Gregory

Question:

319 Mr. Gregory asked the Minister for Transport the status of the guarantee of the CIE pension schemes; if he will allay the fears of workers in that regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13615/04]

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.

Legislative Programme.

John Deasy

Question:

320 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Transport the progress that has been made regarding the preparation of legislation to establish the driver testing and standards authority; and when he expects that this legislation will come before Dáil Éireann. [13725/04]

Preparation of legislation to establish the driver testing and standards authority is at an advanced stage and I expect to be in a position to submit the text of the Bill to Government shortly.

Road Network.

Denis Naughten

Question:

321 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Transport the progress to date on the delivery of the inter-urban motorways; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13794/04]

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

Completion of these projects will eliminate many of the major bottlenecks on these routes. In addition it is expected that compulsory purchase orders and environmental impact statements for the remaining projects in planning on these routes will either be approved by or be before An Bord Pleanála by end 2004.

On the national roads programme overall it should be noted that since 2000, 37 projects — over 250 kilometres — have been completed. Work is in progress on 17 projects — 150 kilometres — and another 17 projects — 160 kilometres — are at tender stage.

Asylum Support Services.

Paul McGrath

Question:

322 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the criteria used when housing asylum seekers in small towns in the west. [13508/04]

The Reception and Integration Agency, RIA, which operates under the aegis of my Department, is responsible for meeting the accommodation and related ancillary needs of asylum seekers under the system of direct provision. In this regard, the RIA is currently providing accommodation for approximately 6, 400 asylum seekers in 71 accommodation centres located across 24 of the Twenty-six counties.

The RIA continues to operate against a backdrop of a severe shortage of accommodation of all tenures throughout the State as it seeks to meet the needs of asylum seekers, of whom approximately 400 arrive each month. In effect, the RIA is to a very significant extent reliant on the accommodation and related facilities offered to it on a contractual basis by private sector operators.

Notwithstanding these difficulties, the RIA's policy in relation to accommodation procurement and placements is to ensure, in as much as possible, the maintenance of a sensitive, balanced and proportionate approach nationwide.

In procuring direct provision accommodation and ancillary facilities, specific regard is had to the following: type of accommodation being offered — hotel, guest house hostel etc.; location; local population and numbers of asylum seekers, if any, already residing in the area; local infrastructure — transport, schools, hospitals, shops etc.; facility being offered by proprietor — recreation, communal rooms, en suites etc.; facilities for other agencies — health boards, refugee legal services etc.

Finally, the RIA does not place asylum seekers in the private rented sector. Any such accommodation arrangements are made by asylum applicants themselves on foot of rent supplement payments made by the health boards. The RIA has no role in this regard nor in regard to where individual asylum seekers who are in receipt of any such payments take up accommodation.

Maternity Leave.

Pat Carey

Question:

323 Mr. Carey asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reason a person (details supplied) in Dublin 11 will be deprived of four days’ holidays if they extend their maternity leave by eight weeks, and by two days if they extend it by four weeks; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13600/04]

I assume the Deputy is referring to the optional period of eight weeks additional maternity leave provided for in section 14 of the Maternity Protection Act 1994 which may be taken immediately after maternity leave. Section 22(2) of the 1994 Act provides that during additional maternity leave the employee is still in an employment relationship with the employer and retains rights in relation to that employment. However, the period of additional maternity leave is not counted as reckonable service and, therefore, there is no entitlement to any right based on reckonable service during the additional maternity leave period. Consequently, some employees may have their annual leave entitlement reduced on a pro rata basis in respect of an absence on additional maternity leave.

As the Deputy knows, the Maternity Protection (Amendment) Bill 2003 is currently progressing through the Oireachtas. Section 14 of the Bill addresses this issue by providing that an employee's absence from work on additional maternity leave will count for all employment rights associated with the employment, except remuneration and superannuation benefits such as annual leave. I am hopeful that the Bill will be enacted during the current session.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

324 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding entitlement to maternity leave for workers on contract employment. [13650/04]

The Maternity Protection (Amendment) Act 1994 applies to all female employees regardless of the nature of their employment contract who have notified their employer of their condition and to male employees on the death of the mother following the recent birth of the child. The Act, as amended by SI. No. 29 of 2001, entitles a pregnant employee to 18 consecutive weeks maternity leave and eight weeks unpaid additional maternity leave.

Furthermore, the Protection of Employees (Fixed-Term Work) Act 2003 provides that an employee on a fixed-term contract cannot be treated less favourably in relation to conditions of employment including pay and pensions and maternity protection than a permanent comparator employed by the same or associated employer or an employer in the same industry or sector and doing the same or similar work or work of equal value as that permanent comparator.

Child Care Services.

Tony Gregory

Question:

325 Mr. Gregory asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when a decision will be made to provide funding for child care facilities at Cherry Orchard, the Ballyfermot Resource Centre and the Ballyfermot Youth Centre in view of the fact that these proposed facilities are vital to turn the tide against the very high level of early school drop-out in the Dublin 10 area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13162/04]

I understand that an application from the first group for a substantial capital grant of over €2.6 million and an associated staffing grant was submitted some time ago. An application from the second group for a substantial capital grant of almost €1.5 million and an associated staffing grant was also submitted some time ago. This was a revised application and my Department had previously made a feasibility grant available to the group to enable it to develop the project. My Department cannot trace the third group named as no reference number was supplied but I will be happy to give the Deputy an update if the full name of the third project can be given.

The day to day administration of the Equal Opportunities Childcare Programme 2000-2006, EOCP, is undertaken by Area Development Management Limited, which has been engaged by my Department to carry-out thorough assessments against the programme criteria of all applications for grant assistance under the programme, on my behalf. All large scale capital projects such as these applications from Ballyfermot, are referred by ADM Limited, to an independent external building specialist to assess the suitability of the proposal and its value for money. On completion of the assessment process, applications are considered by the programme appraisal committee, chaired by my Department, which makes a funding recommendation to me before I make a final decision on the matter.

The EOCP is a seven year development programme, the progress of which 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 covers the period to end 2007 and must take place in a planned manner as must grant approvals to ensure that the programme can meet its financial commitments at all times.

There has been considerable demand from community based groups for capital grant assistance under the programme and every county has benefited from significant grant commitments to provide new and enhanced community based child care facilities and indeed to support capital developments in the private child care sector. ADM on behalf of my Department is currently carrying out an extensive review of the programme's capital commitments to date, numbering over 1,100 and at a value of €114 million, to ensure that grant commitments previously entered into will be realised. Projects may be awaiting planning permission or the completion of tender processes before reasonable assurance can be taken that they will proceed and, if they do not, the funding set aside can be decommitted and made available to another project.

In addition, my Department has recently reviewed the different budget lines under the EOCP including the capital programme to ensure that the most effective use is made of all remaining funding in accordance with the programme's objectives. Some transfers between measures were recommended and require the approval of the regional assemblies. I expect that this technical process will be completed shortly and that it will bring to at least €157 million the total allocation for the capital development of child care under the present EOCP. This amount includes an element for the administration by ADM Limited of the capital programme. At the same time, an extensive review of child care 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.

I intend to allocate the remaining capital funding under this strand of the Government's commitments to child care to address the most immediate service gaps. As a result, all the projects in the pipeline, including these Ballyfermot projects, are being reviewed again by ADM Limited on the basis of geographical need, the range of services being offered and the capacity of the groups to complete a project before the end of the programme. Those projects which best meet the criteria will receive priority. The review process will be repeated as necessary to maximise the benefits deriving from this phase of the EOCP.

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.

I am also very much aware that participation in or preparation for employment is an important step towards social inclusion and self reliance for persons who may have ended their formal education before achieving a school certificate and therefore social disadvantage is another key element of the EOCP, which makes grant assistance available towards the staffing costs of many community based child care facilities which provide child care for disadvantaged families. The projects mentioned by the Deputy are being reviewed as part of this prioritisation process and it would be premature of me to comment further on specific applications for grant assistance at this time.

Legislative Programme.

Finian McGrath

Question:

326 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding the talks with the disability groups; and if the Government has decided on a date for the publication of the disability Bill. [13176/04]

The agreed programme for Government established the Government's commitment to complete consultations on the disability legislation and to bring an amended Bill through the Oireachtas. As the deputy will be aware, the Government has facilitated extensive consultation nationally in relation to disability legislation, giving disability groups and the disability legislation consultation group, DLCG, in particular an opportunity to present their proposals for a disability Bill.

In April 2002 the Government appointed an expert consultation team to oversee the national consultation process. This comprised experts in legal, economic and social affairs. The team met and received the views of the stakeholders, including the DLCG, the social partners, the community and voluntary sector and relevant Departments before completing its task in February 2003.

Many Deputies will know that the DLCG is a group representative of people with disabilities, their families, carers and service providers which was brought together by the National Disability Authority, NDA, to facilitate dialogue at national level, both within the sector and with the consultation team. Broad ranging consultations took place in 2002 and early 2003 following which the DLCG presented the document Equal Citizens — Proposals for Core Elements of Disability Legislation in February 2003.

Last year, the DLCG had meetings with a number of members of the Government, including the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste, the Minister of State, Deputy O'Dea, and the Minister of State, Deputy Tim O'Malley. The discussions at these meetings covered such matters as assessment of need, standards, service provision, the need to build capacity in key sectors of the public service so as to allow provision of disability accessible services in a cost effective way and workable redress mechanisms.

Earlier this year, meetings took place between officials and the DLCG at which it was given an outline of the proposals for legislation. Its views about these proposals were discussed and noted for consideration by the Cabinet Sub-Committee on Social Inclusion. At present, contact is continuing between the group and the Minister of State, Deputy O'Dea, with a view to a further possible meeting.

The disability Bill is a key part of the framework being put in place by the Government to underpin the equal participation by people with disabilities in Irish society. The framework includes the Education for Persons with Disabilities Bill 2003, which is currently on Report Stage; the Comhairle (Amendment) Bill which is being prepared in the Department of Social and Family Affairs dealing with the provision of advocacy; sectoral plans for key public services; and equality legislation, to be updated by the Equality Bill 2004, which is currently on Second Stage in the Dáil.

The Government is conscious of the complexity and cross-cutting nature of the issues involved and, to support ministerial engagement throughout the process, referred oversight of the Bill and other elements of the framework to the Cabinet Sub-Committee on Social Inclusion. The Government and the sub-committee are giving particular attention to the Bill and to the views arising through the consultation process. The Bill is at an advanced stage of preparation and will be published as soon as the Government has completed its work.

Child Care Services.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

327 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if a full child care facility will be established in the vicinity of Loughlinstown to cater for the growing young population of the area. [13220/04]

My Department is responsible for encouraging the development of child care to meet the needs of parents in employment, education or training. Funding under the national development plan of €448 million has been provided by both the Exchequer and the European Union, through the Equal Opportunities Childcare Programme 2000-2006.

As the Deputy may be aware, while the Government actively makes supports available for the development of child care and for its delivery in areas of disadvantage, it is not directly involved in the provision of child care. The equal opportunities child care programme provides capital grant assistance to community-not for profit organisations and to private child care providers to increase the supply of child care places and to enhance the quality of existing places. It offers staffing grants to community based-not for profit organisations which have a focus on disadvantaged families. It is open to community based not-for-profit groups and to private child care providers to apply for funding under the programme and all applications will be considered in the light of the available funding and in keeping with the criteria of the programme.

The Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown county child care committee is actively involved in promoting the development of child care by community groups to meet local need within its area.

Refugee Status.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

328 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding an application by a person (details supplied) in County Louth to remain here. [13224/04]

The person referred to in the question was refused refugee status in the State following consideration of her case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and on appeal by the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

A notification under section 3(3)(a) of the Immigration Act 1999 was issued to the person on 27 April 2004 in which she was advised that the Minister had decided to refuse her a declaration as a refugee and setting out the options now open to her, i.e. to leave the State voluntarily before the Minister decided whether to make a deportation order in respect of her; to consent to the making of a deportation order in respect of her; or to make written representations to the Minister setting out reasons as to why she should be allowed to remain in the State temporarily.

Any representations received in time will be considered by me when her case comes to be examined for deportation under section 3(6) of the Immigration Act 1999, as amended, and section 5 of the Refugee Act 1996, prohibition of refoulement. It is, of course, still open to the person to return voluntarily to her country of origin before her case is considered for deportation.

Departmental Staff.

David Stanton

Question:

329 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the way in which persons with disabilities can access employment in his Department; if there are special application procedures; the criteria by which it is decided that persons qualify; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13250/04]

I wish to inform the Deputy that appointment to Civil Service positions is generally by way of open competition conducted by the Office of the Civil Service and Local Appointments Commissioners. Persons with disabilities are entitled to apply for all competitions subject to their meeting the eligibility requirements of the competition in question. The same applies to any competition that my own Department might run from time to time.

There are no special application procedures as such. However, where applicants request special facilities, every effort is made to accommodate them during the selection process. Particular consideration is also given when placing successful candidates in posts, for example, work environment and provision of special equipment or facilities.

I can assure the Deputy that my Department and the various bodies under its aegis remain committed to the employment of people with disabilities wherever possible. The emphasis is on ensuring that people with disabilities are facilitated with access to employment opportunities and that every necessary accommodation is made.

Crime Levels.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

330 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he has been requested to provide, or has voluntarily provided, details of a breakdown of crime or other statistics relating to Irishtown, Donnybrook or other locations on behalf of a person (details supplied); the way in which he dealt with that request and the information or data requested was conveyed to that person; if he will release that information; if that information had been previously in the public domain; if so, the location of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13255/04]

On 12 February 2004 I attended the AGM of Nutley Residents' Association with the person referred to by the Deputy. The meeting was also attended by Deputies and other local representatives and election candidates for the area. During the course of the meeting the chairman of the association indicated to those present that the local community garda, who is usually in a position to outline the level of crime and police activity in the area, was unable to attend. The chairman, and not the person referred to by the Deputy, then asked me publicly whether I would be able to obtain the figures for the Nutley area and make arrangements to have any such information conveyed to the residents. I undertook to do so.

The day following the meeting I wrote as promised to the superintendent in Donnybrook Garda station from my constituency office in Ranelagh and told him that I had been asked by the residents' association for crime figures and general information which would have been available to the association if the community garda had been able to attend. The superintendent acknowledged my letter on 19 February and supplied the information in question in early March. I asked my party's local representative, the person referred to by the Deputy and who attended the meeting with me, to ensure that every resident in the area was given the information, and I understand that she arranged for it to be distributed to all relevant households.

The information sought related to the Nutley area only. It was sought by me solely at the request of the chairperson of Nutley Residents' Association. All information received is now in the public domain as requested at a public meeting attended by local representatives and candidates from all political parties. None of those representatives or candidates asked me subsequently to give them the information which was distributed. However, if they had asked me, I would have been glad to give them the same information as I arranged to be given to the householders.

I released the information requested by the association in exactly the same format as I received it. The person referred to by the Deputy has not asked me for any other information regarding Irishtown, Donnybrook or any other area as suggested.

I understand from media reports that the Deputy has since sought much more extensive and detailed information on behalf of a local election candidate in the same area. My request for information was made at the expressed request of the chairman of a meeting at which that local election candidate was present. That candidate heard the undertaking both to seek the information and to distribute it to residents. That candidate made no objection publicly or privately to that request or to my undertaking in response.

Garda Deployment.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

331 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of gardaí on the beat in the Dublin metropolitan district on 20 April 2004 between 2 p.m. and 10 p.m.; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13256/04]

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

332 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of gardaí on the beat in the Dublin metropolitan district on 21 April 2004 between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13257/04]

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

333 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of gardaí on duty in the Dublin metropolitan district on 20 April 2004 between 2 p.m. and 10 p.m.; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13258/04]

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

334 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of Gardaí on duty in the Dublin Metropolitan District on 21 April 2004 between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13259/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 331 to 334, inclusive, together.

I have been informed by the Garda authorities who are responsible for the detailed allocation of resources, including personnel, that the personnel strength of the Garda Síochána in the Dublin metropolitan region as at 21 April 2004 was 3,742, including all ranks.

For security and operational reasons it is not Garda policy to disclose the number of Garda personnel on duty in a particular station at any given time.

Registration of Title.

Willie Penrose

Question:

335 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will take steps to expedite an application for registration by a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath as same is urgently required; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13265/04]

I am informed by the Registrar of Titles that this is an application under section 49 — i.e. acquisition of title by virtue of long possession — of the Registration of Title Act 1964 which was lodged on 5 November 2002. Dealing No. D2002XS010659W refers.

I understand that, owing to their complicated nature, applications under section 49, which require detailed examination of claims for registration as owners, can take some time to process.

I am further informed that queries were issued to the lodging solicitors on 7 May 2004 and that the application cannot proceed until those queries have been satisfactorily resolved.

However, I can assure the Deputy that, on receipt of a satisfactory reply, the matter will receive further attention in the Land Registry.

Refugee Status.

John McGuinness

Question:

336 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the status of an application to remain in the State in the name of a person (details supplied); and if a decision will be made in the case shortly. [13280/04]