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 54, inclusive, answered orally.
Questions Nos. 55 to 87, inclusive, resubmitted.
Questions Nos. 88 to 96, inclusive, answered orally.

Decentralisation Programme.

David Stanton

Question:

97 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the staff transfers that are part of the decentralisation programme; the new location of offices and services that will result and after transfers and relocation’s planned; and the numbers and costs involved in each case. [20245/04]

It is not possible at this early stage in the process to give an accurate assessment of the costs involved in each case. The information requested is set out in the following tabular statement:

Office or Service

New Location

Approximate Transfer Number

Department headquarters

Port Laoise

400

Local offices

Fermoy

100

Munster Laboratory Complex

Macroom

100

Bord Bia

Enniscorthy

69

Beef Imports.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

98 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food his views on the import of Brazilian beef after an outbreak of foot and mouth disease there in recent weeks. [20174/04]

The outbreak was reported on 17 June in the Monte Alegre District, Para, Brazil. The state is already precluded from exporting beef to the EU because it was not approved by the EU Commission. The outbreak is in an isolated area more than 700 km from the borders of the zone recognised by the World Animal Health Organisation and by the EU Commission as foot and mouth disease free with vaccination.

There are mechanisms at EU level for monitoring and controlling the risks associated with disease outbreaks in Brazil and other third countries. Commission safeguard decisions banning imports from particular countries or regions are considered by member states and the EU Commission at the standing committee for the food chain and animal health at which officials from my Department attend. Third countries or regions wishing to export products of animal origin to the EU must be approved for that purpose by the EU Commission.

The EU Commission did not propose additional measures to cope with the current outbreak. The Commission services are keeping the matter under review.

Detailed EU legislation lays down the conditions that member states must apply to the imports of products of animal origin from third countries. The harmonised legislation imposes a series of health and supervisory requirements designed to ensure that imported products meet standards at least equivalent to those required for production in, and trade between, member states and imports from third countries. Harmonised controls at the point of import to the EU ensure compliance with these rules.

Forest Strategy.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

99 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if he will publish a notice of the consultation period for the review of Irish forestry on his Department’s website, including the full terms of reference; the closing date for submissions; and the reason for the failure of the Forest Service to do so to date. [20253/04]

Peter Bacon & Associates, economic consultants, is conducting a review of the Irish forest strategy. On 22 April its terms of reference were posted on my Depar'ment's website and can be found in the forest service section. The consultants shall present their final report to me by September. Press and individual notices on the review were also issued. On 7 April the consultants held an open and widely advertised briefing session in Tullamore. They will accept submissions and no closing date has been set.

Food Safety.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

100 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if he is aware of recent comments made by the acting chief executive of the Food Safety Authority of Ireland that strong legislation is needed to ensure the high-tech packaging aimed at extending the shelf-life of food products does not pose a health risk to consumers; and if he plans to introduce such legislation. [20090/04]

I am aware of the comments of the acting chief executive of the Food Safety Authority of Ireland. The responsibility for legislation in this area falls within the remit of the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment.

Disease Prevention.

John Deasy

Question:

101 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if any terrestrial animal bone particles were discovered in samples of feed material since 1 January to 31 May; if so, the locations at which these tests were carried out; and if the relevant laboratories are EU approved. [20177/04]

John Deasy

Question:

112 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the number of samples of feed material that were tested for terrestrial animal bone particles during the period 1 January to 31 May; and the percentage and number from imports and native produce. [20176/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 101 and 112 together.

From 1 January to 31 May there were 435 samples of feed material tested for the presence of terrestrial bone particles and none were found. Of these 402 related to imported consignments and 33 related to native products.

The samples were analysed for the presence of processed animal proteins either at my Department's seed testing station or at a contracted laboratory. Both of the laboratories are on the designated list submitted to the EU as part of the annual inspection plan.

Controls on the distribution and use of feed materials and compound feedstuffs, including sampling and testing for the presence of terrestrial bones particles, that indicate the possible presence of processed animal proteins are critical to the success of the national effort to contain and eliminate diseases such as BSE from the national herd and thus reduce risks to public health. Any failures in this regard hold the potential to undermine progress made to date and to negate the time, money and effort that various interested parties, not least the taxpayer, have committed to this end over recent years.

I am satisfied the feedstuffs control plan operated by the Department ensures effective control on the safety of feed materials entering the feed chain.

Mushroom Industry.

Seán Ryan

Question:

102 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if his attention was drawn to the pressures being experienced by the mushroom industry here due to increased labour costs arising from the enlargement of the EU; and if he is aware of the threat posed to the industry, specifically regarding supply to the British market. [20096/04]

I am aware that the mushroom industry has had a high dependence on labour from countries which are now member states of the European Union. This issue was recognised by the Mushroom Task Force which recommended in its recent report that the work permit system should continue in respect of non EU countries.

A review group has been established to oversee implementations of the recommendations of the task force and progress on the work permit issue will form part of the group's work. This matter has been brought to the attention of the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise Trade and Employment.

The cost of labour is one of a number cost issues now facing the mushroom industry and a wide ranging and ambitious programme of actions has been mapped out for the industry in the report of the task force in order to make it competitive and to ensure its future viability.

Pig Industry.

Richard Bruton

Question:

103 Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food his plans to assist the pig industry. [20185/04]

While the international pigmeat market experienced weakness in 2003 increased EU market supports in the form of private storage aids and the export refund scheme earlier this year contributed to a significant increase in prices. These measures were temporary in nature and, following the increase in prices, have now been phased out. In spite of increasing feed-prices, the current market prices paid to Irish producers for pigmeat have been generally steady. In recent days prices paid to Irish producers have risen quite sharply.

As regards the industry, I, along with my Northern Ireland counterpart, commissioned a comprehensive study of the all-island pig sector. The study was conducted by Prospectus consultants in conjunction with Enterprise Ireland and the Northern Ireland enterprise board and the report was produced in 2001. The key recommendations of the report highlight the need for rationalisation of the pig processing sector, improved supply chain management and the need develop more consumer convenient pigmeat products. While these findings are largely a matter for the industry itself, my Department along with Enterprise Ireland has been progressing these recommendations with the main players in the pig industry and this process will continue.

The health status of the pig herd is also a matter of major importance. My Department is engaged with the pig industry in the ongoing monitoring and control of a wide range of diseases — such as Aujeszky's disease, salmonella, PRRS — which, as well as improving the health status of the national herd, is necessary to maximise the acceptability of Irish pigmeat in export destinations. Also, pig processing plants operate under the supervision of the Department's veterinary service.

With regard to market access, it is my policy and that of the Government to ensure that Irish producers have access to markets worldwide. Irish pigmeat processors are currently trading pigmeat in significant markets such as Japan and the United States. My Department will continue to work with other agencies and the industry to identify and develop other potential markets.

The Teagasc programme of activities includes research in the area of pig nutrition, health and welfare. The main objectives of the advisory function in regard to the pig sector are better profitability and competitiveness based on improved growth rates and this is delivered to producers through farm visits, conferences, newsletters etc.

Grant Payments.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

104 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the number of applications for installation aid being processed; and the average time between application and payment. [20171/04]

The installation aid scheme involves a two-stage application process; initial applications for entry into the scheme — IAS 1 — must be submitted within six months of the date of set-up in farming. The applicant than has a further 24 months to complete the educational and other requirements of the scheme. An application for payment — IAS 2 — together with all the required supporting documentation, must be forwarded to my Department before the end of this period.

At present, my Department has 1,319 IAS 1 applications on hands, of which 321 have been progressed to IAS 2 stage by the applicant. This stage, which is controlled by the applicant, normally takes about eight months. Under the terms of the scheme, applicants have up to 24 months to complete this stage. Once the IAS 2 has been received, it usually takes about nine weeks to carry out a full examination, which may require a farm visit. Once the application has been approved, my Department then issues payment within six weeks.

Nitrates Directive.

Joan Burton

Question:

105 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if he will publish all of the Teagasc reports on the Nitrates Directive. [20073/04]

The implementation of the Nitrates Directive is, in the first instance, a matter for the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government.

The Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government in conjunction with my Department is now in the process of making available a revised draft action programme for farmers and other interested parties to offer their views. In this context, I welcome the announcement by the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government that he has appointed Mr. Denis Brosnan, former Managing Director and Chairman of the Kerry Group, to advise on the proposed Nitrates Action Programme. As independent adviser, Mr. Brosnan will play a leading role in the forthcoming consultation exercise and I am confident he will make a major contribution to a successful outcome.

In framing proposals, along with the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, to implement the Nitrates Directive my Department has been in ongoing consultation with Teagasc. Teagasc provided relevant factual and scientific knowledge relating to the issues involved. While it is a legal imperative under the directive for Ireland's action programme to set a general limit of 170kg per hectare on organic nitrogen, we will also submit proposals to the European Commission for arrangements under which farmers can operate above that limit. Teagasc, along with other commentators, have consistently advised that Irish conditions mean that farmers can safely operate at levels of up to 250kg — subject to appropriate controls — with no environmental damage. Recently they have published articles to that effect. From the outset this has been my view also.

These proposals for derogations from the general limit are currently being prepared by the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government and my Department, in consultation with Teagasc. To be acceptable to the European Commission, the proposals will have to be supported by the best scientific and factual arguments possible, and Teagasc will play a critical role in this respect.

Food Quality.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

106 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food his plans to create a high quality standard under which Irish food can be marketed at home and abroad. [20243/04]

An Bord Bia, which has statutory responsibility for marketing and promotion Irish food produce, operates quality assurance schemes in the beef, horticulture, pigmeat, poultry and egg sectors. Product meeting the high standard requirements of these schemes can be marketed at home and abroad under the board's quality mark.

The report of the Food Quality Assurance Schemes Review Group recommended drawing up national guidelines to facilitate accreditation of individual food quality assurance schemes to the international standard EN45011. The National Standards Authority of Ireland is currently working on a linear integrated standard covering the totality of the food chain from producer to consumer including processors and retail-catering. Each specific sector will be free to tailor quality assurance schemes to suit their own requirements in conformity with the national standard. It is expected that a consultation process will issue shortly.

It must be remembered that in applying any particular national standard due regard must be had to EU law. Furthermore, care must be taken to ensure that unnecessary constraints are not placed on producers and companies in establishing markets and partnerships in the distribution chain. In today's rapidly changing marketplace both global and niche brands have a place and there are markets to be won for functional, speciality and organic foods. I welcome Bord Bia's pilot initiative this year in promoting co-branding of Irish beef where certain Irish producers will promote product jointly with retail chains in selected continental markets.

Compensation Payments.

Denis Naughten

Question:

107 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food his plans to review the compensation schemes for farmers locked up by tuberculosis or brucellosis. [19960/04]

The compensation regime for the TB and brucellosis eradication programmes was improved significantly with the introduction of the on-farm market valuation scheme in April 2002. Apart from the market-valuation element, farmers whose herds are affected by these diseases may, subject to conditions and the circumstances involved, also qualify for assistance under the income supplement, hardship or depopulation grant schemes. Overall compensation arrangements have worked well and there are no plans to change them. The compensation schemes are kept under ongoing review by my Department.

Live Exports.

Joe Callanan

Question:

108 Mr. Callanan asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the provisions to continue exports of live cattle in the autumn. [19961/04]

My Department's role in the promotion and preservation of trade is to create the conditions in which it can be carried out in a economic and sustainable manner. In the case of live exports this involves the protection of our animal health status, preserving the integrity of our veterinary certification service and ensuring that good standards are maintained and welfare considerations are observed. More than 64,000 cattle have been exported from Ireland in 2004 to the week ended 20 June. Exports in 2003 were at a level of 212,093 compared with 148,212 the previous year.

My Department also approves sea going vessels for the carriage of livestock, upon application by shipping companies and taking into account the relevant statutory provisions relating to animal health and welfare.

In this regard my Department has approved 18 dedicated livestock vessels and 3 roll on roll off vessels for the carriage of livestock from Ireland since 1995. I will continue to make my Department's services available for the evaluation and approval of livestock vessels. However, once vessels are approved, the question of whether to provide a service is a commercial matter for the operators.

Veterinary Vaccines.

Simon Coveney

Question:

109 Mr. Coveney asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if he is implementing “prescription only” by stealth. [20180/04]

Simon Coveney

Question:

140 Mr. Coveney asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the number of medicines classified as prescription only since 1 October 2003. [20181/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 109 and 140 together.

Given that the current remit of my Department as licensing authority is confined to veterinary vaccines — with the Irish Medicines Board having licensing responsibility for other veterinary medicines — this reply relates only to vaccines.

The licensing regime that had been in place for veterinary vaccines in Ireland and which was based on the Therapeutic Substances Act 1932, was significantly out of date in terms of EU legal requirements and particularly in regard to the level of expert scientific evaluation applied to individual products. As well as other deficiencies, the regime did not provide for mandatory routes of supply which has been an EU requirement for many years. Accordingly, it was necessary to commence a thorough review on an individual basis of all veterinary vaccines currently on the Irish market. My Department, as provided for in the legislation, reached agreement with the Irish Medicines Board that the Board would carry out the detailed technical examination of application dossiers submitted by sponsoring companies. On the basis of this examination, IMB recommends to my Department, as the licensing authority on the grant or otherwise of a license and the conditions — including route of supply — to attach to such licence.

Since 1 October 2003, of 23 vaccines licensed by my Department, 17 were assigned to the ‘Prescription Only' (POM) route, while, of the remainder, 3 were assigned to the ‘Licensed Merchant' (LM) route and 3 to the ‘Prescription Only Exempt' (POME) route. In overall terms, of the 117 vaccines reviewed to date, 67 have been designated ‘POM(E)', 45 ‘POM' and 5 ‘LM'.

There is no question, as suggested, of implementing ‘POM' by stealth. I have on a number of occasions in the past outlined to the House the situation in regard to veterinary vaccines. My Department has also met the various stake holders to explain its approach in this area.

I propose to make a number of amendments to national legislation in this area. As I indicated, these changes will improve the operation of the prescription regime and provide a basis for a greater degree of price competition in the supply of veterinary medicines. It is also intended to transfer licensing competence for vaccines from my Department to the Irish Medicines Board.

Beef Exports.

Joe Sherlock

Question:

110 Mr. Sherlock asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the position with regard to Ireland’s trade in beef with Saudi Arabia; and if Saudi authorities will lift their BSE-related ban on Irish beef. [20097/04]

Since the Saudi ban on EU beef was imposed late in 2000, every effort at political, diplomatic and technical level has been made to have that market reopened to Irish beef. Our persistence in these efforts resulted in a visit to Ireland by a Saudi veterinary technical delegation in March of this year to assess our public and animal health safety procedures. In May, the Saudi delegation was unable to recommend the resumption of trade. Since then, my Department has made a further submission to the Saudi veterinary authorities seeking to overturn their decision. I met His Royal Highness, Prince Turki Al Faisal, the Saudi Ambassador to the UK and Ireland who undertook to do whatever he could to have the Saudi decision reconsidered.

My Department, together with the Department of Foreign Affairs and An Bord Bia, will continue to press the Saudi authorities to have this ban lifted.

Bog Conservation.

Eamon Ryan

Question:

111 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the assessment his Department has given to the most appropriate and ecologically sustainable uses for cutaway bog following his recent launch of Ireland’s largest bog restoration project at Eskeragh, County Mayo. [20241/04]

The Eskeragh project and the utilisation of cutaway bog are two separate issues. The former relates to the restoration of what was virgin bog habitat prior to forestry work and the latter refers to industrial cutaway bog and its usage in the future. Eskeragh is part of an EU LIFE-Nature that is jointly funded by Coillte and DG-Environment of the EU Commission. It is a four year programme, the primary aim of which is to achieve restoration of blanket bog habitat on 1,212 hectares of land owned by Coillte. Fourteen blanket bog sites were selected for restoration.

The National Council for Forest Research and Development is undertaking a research project to assess the possibility of developing a forest resource on industrial cutaway peat land in the midlands. The project is due for completion in December 2005.

Applications for support under the forestry programme by land owners for tree planting on cutaway bog will be examined on their merits and on good forest planting practice.

Question No. 112 answered with QuestionNo. 101.

Forestry Certification.

Dan Boyle

Question:

113 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food his advice for private forest owners who require Forest Stewardship Council certification and who are dissuaded from acquiring certification due to the high expenditure required for private persons. [20255/04]

This is an area of concern that my Department has already identified.

The Forest Service and the National Council for Forest Research and Development (COFORD) are currently helping the development of an audit protocol which will facilitate sustainable forest management and certification of compliance with existing Forest Service guidelines and standards.

This protocol will take account of the independent and autonomous certification processes such as the Forest Stewardship Council and the PAN European Forestry Certification.

Nitrates Directives.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

114 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food his views on claims from the Irish Farmers Association that the Government has failed farming with its strategy on implementing the nitrates directive action programme; and his further views on whether Ireland’s most productive farmers will be severely hit by the plan to reduce usage of organic manure on lands to 170 kg per hectare. [20094/04]

The implementation of the Nitrates Directive is, in the first instance, a matter for the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. He and I met the farming organisations on 30 June and again outlined the approach to be taken in implementing the Directive. An action programme will be submitted to the European Commission meeting Ireland's legal obligations under the Directive, and separately from that there will also be proposals for arrangements under which farmers may operate above the general limit of 170kg of organic nitrogen which the Directive lays down.

A revised draft action programme is now being made available for farmers and other interested parties to offer their views. The action programme and arrangements for derogations will ultimately require the approval of the European Commission. However it is my objective, shared by the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, to minimise the burden of compliance on farmers generally and to ensure that the future of the commercial agriculture sector is safeguarded.

I welcome the announcement by the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government that he has appointed Mr. Denis Brosnan, former Managing Director and Chairman of the Kerry Group, to advise on the proposed Nitrates Action Programme. As independent adviser, Mr. Brosnan will play a leading role in the forthcoming consultation exercise and I am confident that he will make a major contribution to a successful outcome.

I have indicated consistency that compliance with the directive should not involve an undue burden on individual farmers and should not undermine the future of commercial farming.

Beef Grading.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

115 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food about mechanical beef grading. [20167/04]

Ireland will be among the first countries in Europe to classify beef carcases by mechanical means when this new technology is commissioned and operating in meat factories. As part of Sustaining Progress I gave a firm commitment to move in this direction and the process is now close to completion.

After appropriate trials were conducted late last year I was in a position earlier this year to approve three machines for commercial use in Ireland. In addition, in order to encourage maximum uptake of mechanical grading, I introduced a scheme of grant assistance towards the purchase and installation costs of the equipment. Following agreement with the industry, the meat processors are now engaged in the purchase and installation of machines.

Potato Industry.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

116 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food his views on the fall in potato seed production and the trend amongst potato growers to leave the market and turn to supplying washed potatoes due to the uncertainty and seven year lead time to producing saleable seed potatoes; and the plans he has to ensure that sufficient Irish seed potatoes are available in future. [20259/04]

The number of seed potato growers and the areas entered for seed certification have been in decline for some years. Currently approximately 75% of seed requirements here are produced by Irish seed growers.

A lack of market integration between seed and ware growers has contributed to the decline, together with other issues such as the small scale of operations and the lack of specialisation. The absence of contractual agreements between seed and ware growers has resulted in growers opting for a dual seed and ware crop approach. Ware potatoes often command a relatively high price and there is no significant price premium for high grade seed. In addition, the delay in marketing the seed crop can lead to cash flow problems for seed growers.

It is primarily a matter for the industry to manage these issues through better integration or contractual arrangements between seed and ware growers and I would encourage such an approach. My Department's role in seed production and in other aspects of the potato industry is under review and discussion with the various interests in the sector.

Organic Farming.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

117 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food his views on the new European Commission action plan to promote organic farming in the EU; and if will encourage more organic farms here. [20099/04]

The European Action Plan for Organic Food and Farming is the culmination of an extensive consultative process. I identified it as one of my priorities at the outset of the Irish Presidency and I take great satisfaction in the fact that it was published during that period. A comprehensive range of measures is proposed in the plan and I look forward to these being advanced by the Commission.

I note that the action plan has identified actions in three areas — market information, public policy and standards. These same issues were highlighted in the consultation process that took place in this country when the Organic Development Committee, which I established on foot of a recommendation by the AgriFood 2010 Committee, was preparing its report in 2002.

It is ultimately the market that will determine the scale of organic farming but I have taken significant actions to promote its development. A National Steering Group, established on foot of a recommendation in the Organic Development Committee Report, acts as the driving force for the development of the sector here in Ireland. It also monitors progress on the implementation of the recommendations in the report of the Organic Development Committee. Attractive financial support continues to be available to encourage farmers to consider the organic option. Organic farmers are eligible for financial support through the rural environment protection scheme (REPS). REPS includes a supplementary measure for organic farming whose objective is to encourage producers to respond to the market demand for organically produced food. With the amendments to REPS which I introduced on 1 June, organic farmers will benefit by the substantially increased basic rates along with the attractive additional payments under the organic supplementary measure itself. An organic farmer with 55 hectares, for example, will now receive an annual payment of €18,505 while a holding is in conversion and an annual payment thereafter of €13,555 when full organic status is achieved.

I have also provided grant aid towards investment in the organic sector. The scheme of grant aid for the development of the organic sector, which was approved under the National Development Plan 2000-06, provides grant assistance for both on-farm and off-farm investment in equipment and facilities for preparation, grading, packing, storage and distribution of organic produce. Grant aid is payable at 40% of the eligible cost. The maximum grant payable over the duration of the scheme for on-farm investment is €50,790 while the maximum for off-farm investment is €508,000.

Once again I would encourage farmers to consider the organic option as they review the implications of decoupling and the single payment scheme. To assist them, I have approved seven organic demonstration farms and open days, which can be attended by both existing and potential organic farmers, are currently being held on these farms. Teagasc has also identified advisers nationwide who will assist existing organic farmers as well of those who are considering it as an option.

Rural Social Scheme.

Jack Wall

Question:

118 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if he had discussions with the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs about a new scheme that offers part-time work to farmers who work loss-making or unviable land. [20100/04]

The aim of the rural social scheme is to provide certain services of benefit to rural communities by harnessing the skills and talent available to low income farmers and fishermen. It also provides incomes support to low income farmers and fishermen who are in receipt of specified, long-term social welfare payments.

On 6 April the Government approved the scheme. It compliments a range of other schemes and measures provided by my Department.

Rural Development.

John Perry

Question:

119 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if he has had discussions with the Department of the Taoiseach since July 2002 with a view to rural development being re-integrated into his Department. [20169/04]

I have not had discussions with the Taoiseach since July 2002 regarding the re-integration of rural development with my Department.

Nitrates Directive.

Mary Upton

Question:

120 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the discussions his Department had with Teagasc on the proposed nitrates directive; the Teagasc recommendations; and the independent advice sought by his Department. [20072/04]

The implementation of the Nitrates Directive is, in the first instance, a matter for the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government.

The Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government in conjunction with my Department is now in the process of making available a revised draft action programme for farmers and other interested parties to offer their views. In this context, I welcome the announcement by the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government that he has appointed Mr. Denis Brosnan, former Managing Director and Chairman of the Kerry Group, to advise on the proposed Nitrates Action Programme. As independent adviser, Mr. Brosnan will play a leading role in the forthcoming consultation exercise and I am confident that he will make a major contribution to a successful outcome.

In framing proposals, along with the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, to implement the Nitrates Directive my Department has been in ongoing consultation with Teagasc. Teagasc has provided relevant factual and scientific knowledge relating to the issues involved. While it is a legal imperative under the directive for Ireland's action programme to set a general limit of 170kg per hectare on organic nitrogen, the Government will also submit proposals to the European Commission for arrangements under which farmers can operate above that limit. Teagasc, along with other commentators, has consistently advised that Irish conditions mean that farmers can safely operate at levels of up to 250kg — subject to appropriate controls — with no environmental damage. From the outset this has been my view also.

These proposals for derogations from the general limit are currently being prepared by the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government and my Department, in consultation with Teagasc. To be acceptable to the European Commission, the proposals will have to be supported by the best scientific and factual arguments possible, and Teagasc will play a critical and central role in this respect. The scientific input from other commentators and organisations will also be welcome.

Potato Quality.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

121 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if he is satisfied with the quality of potatoes here. [20166/04]

There are a number of measures in place which ensure that Irish potatoes are of the highest quality.

Minimum quality and grading standards are laid down for potatoes sold for human consumption by regulations made under the Food Standards Act 1974. These regulations require potatoes for sale to be within a certain size range and to be clean, wholesome and free of disease. The standards are enforced by officers of my Department who carry out a significant number of inspections each year. Breaches of the regulations and other complaints about the quality of potatoes are followed up by these officers.

Consumer demand for the highest standards of quality and food safety led to the development of a quality programme for potatoes which now falls within the remit of Bord Bia. All major potato packers and a significant number of growers participate in this programme which covers all aspects of potato production from the field to the shop shelf. The standards laid down are based on legislation, best practice and market demand and participants in the scheme are subject to audit twice yearly to ensure that the highest standards are maintained.

Growers have also contributed to the quality of potatoes by making significant investment in potato storage with the assistance of grant aid from my Department. This facilitates an all year round supply of quality potatoes.

Forest Strategy Review.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

122 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food, further to Parliamentary Question No. 109 of 27 May, if he will re-advertise the consultation process with the full terms of reference to ensure that the public’s attention was drawn to the opportunity for consultation that he said was provided for under the review because the published terms of reference did not mention the Forestry Acts or any legislative framework. [20252/04]

The full terms of reference for the Review of Irish Forest Strategy which is being undertaken by Peter Bacon & Associates, Economic Consultants, are posted on the website of the Department of Agriculture and Food. The review is not a review of legislation.

The consultants are due to present the final report to me by September 2004. The consultants are currently accepting submissions and have not set a closing date for this process. I am satisfied the establishment of the review has been well publicised and that the various stakeholders are aware of its existence.

Nitrates Directive.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

123 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the recent negotiations he had with the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government on the nitrates directive. [20165/04]

The implementation of the Nitrates Directive is, in the first instance, a matter for the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. He and I met the farming organisations on 30 June and again outlined the approach to be taken in implementing the directive. An action programme will be submitted to the European Commission meeting Ireland's legal obligations under the Directive, and separately from that there will also be proposals for arrangements under which farmers may operate above the general limit of 170kg of organic nitrogen which the Directive lays down.

A revised draft action programme is now being made available for farmers and other interested parties to offer their views. The action programme and arrangements for derogations will ultimately require the approval of the European Commission. However it is my objective, shared by the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, to minimise the burden of compliance on farmers generally and to ensure that the future of the commercial agriculture sector is safeguarded.

I welcome the announcement by the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government that he has appointed Mr. Denis Brosnan, former Managing Director and Chairman of the Kerry Group, to advise on the proposed Nitrates Action Programme. As independent adviser, Mr. Brosnan will play a leading role in the forthcoming consultation exercise and I am confident that he will make a major contribution to a successful outcome.

Genetically Modified Organisms.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

124 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the way in which he plans to ensure that farmers can continue to choose to farm free from GMOs. [20257/04]

The areas where GMOs can impact on farming are in the co-existence of GM crops alongside non-GM crops and in the controls on the authorisation and labelling of GM feed. The Commission decided that co-existence should be addressed at member state level and provided a series of guidelines to assist in dealing with issues that arise. All member states, including Ireland, are in the process of drawing up strategies and best practices to provide for effective co-existence arrangements. An interdepartmental-interagency working group has been established within my Department to,inter alia, develop such strategies and best practices.

EU Regulation 1829/03 on GM food and feed which came into force last April will ensure that importers, retailers and farmers are in a better position to choose whether they want to use GM or non-GM feed from now on. Recently I signed a statutory instrument giving authorised officers of my Department the necessary powers to ensure that the new GM feed labelling legislation is complied with.

Fur Farming.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

125 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food his plans to control fur farming here. [20078/04]

Fur farming is a legitimate farming activity here. Under the Musk Rats Act 1933 (Application to Mink) Order 1965 the keeping of mink is prohibited except under licence from my Department. Licences are issued under this legislation only if the applicant, following an inspection carried out my officials, is found to be compliant with a number of key conditions.

My Department also inspects licensed fur farms to assess compliance with the Council of Europe's recommendations concerning fur animals and Council Directive 98/58/EC concerning the protection of animals kept for farming purposes. The inspections have found that the licensed fur farms operate in compliance with current legislation. Inspections have also found that the slaughter methods employed by the licensed fur farms are permitted under the Sixth Schedule of the European Communities (Protection of Animals at Time of Slaughter) Regulations 1995 that gives effect to Council Directive 93/119/EC.

My Department will continue to keep in close contact with the fur industry and will monitor the operation of the licensed fur farms.

Sugar Sector Reform.

John Gormley

Question:

126 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the Government’s position on the European Commission’s request for consultation prior to the reform of the sugar sector that is expected to take place under the Dutch presidency of the EU. [20260/04]

A communication from the EU Commission to the EU Council of Ministers and the European Parliament on reform of the sugar sector is being finalised. A request for consultation with member states has not been received at this stage. I understand that the communication may be formally presented to the EU Council of Ministers on 19 July and then examined at EU Council working party level. I will indicate my position when definitive proposals are put forward by the Commission.

Departmental Staff.

Gay Mitchell

Question:

127 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the way he intends to allocate his staff as a result of the mid-term review agreement and the single farm payment. [20170/04]

The introduction of the single payment scheme next year will impact on my Department's work programme and will free up some staff resources. The precise implications are being assessed in my Department and decisions will be taken at the appropriate time to adjust staff resources in line with the work profile.

Food Safety Standards.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

128 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food his views on the results of his Department’s residue testing programme for 2003; and the efforts to counteract the use of antibiotics and other drugs banned from human consumption under his Department’s programme. [20098/04]

The results of the national Residue Plan for 2003, which were recently released by my Department, indicate a continuation of the overall trend of recent years of very low levels of residues in Irish food production. Of 65,3230 samples covering all food producing species and a very broad range of residue groupings, embracing both legal and illegal substances, 238, or 0.36%, were found to be positive. This compares favourably with levels of 0.54% in 2002 and 0.58% in 2001.

As regards the counteraction efforts taken, a distinction should be drawn between authorised antibiotics and banned drugs. A range of antibiotic medicines, which are necessary to maintain the high animal health status of our national herd, are authorised having met the demanding requirements of the licensing regime which is implemented by the Irish Medicines Board and which now includes an assessment of the potential for the medicine concerned to contribute to the development of antibiotic resistant bacteria. Licensed antibiotics, are also required by law to include on the labelling very clear instructions on the post-treatment withholding period of the treated animal from the food chain. In addition, virtually all categories of antibiotic medicines are currently under veterinary prescription control and I have indicated my intention to bring mastitis treatments, the final outstanding category, under prescription control as soon as possible. My Department, as part of the residue plan, also carries out extensive testing for residues of antibiotics at levels which are well in excess of that required by EU obligations. The positive level of 0.4% in 2003, or 217 positives out of 55,359 samples tested, compares favourably with the low levels of 0.5% and 0.7% respectively in 2002 and 2001. In addition, my Department, in conjunction with the Food Safety Authority of Ireland, has for a number of years conducted a programme aimed at building up data on the incidence of antibiotic resistant bacteria in animals as part of the overall national strategy to address the antibiotic resistance problem.

As regards, banned drugs, including hormones, the residue plan also includes extensive testing for such substances as well as inspections on farms and in other commercial outlets. During 2003, while no residues were found of growth promoters covered by the EU hormone ban, this vigilant approach detected one case of supply of an antibiotic which has been banned in the EU since 1995. Arising from this, a number of treated animals were removed from the food chain and the subsequent investigation, while ongoing, is likely to lead to prosecution.

Extensive residue testing is continuing in 2004 which includes improvements in analytical capability in line with ongoing technological developments in this field.

Farming Sector.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

129 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food how he will encourage young people to take up farming. [20076/04]

One of my main objectives is to ensure a policy framework which will allow agriculture and the agri-food sector to develop to its full potential. In this regard, the recent reform of the CAP will lead to the development of a sustainable and competitive sector. This in turn will ensure that agriculture will remain an attractive career option for young people.

In addition, there are a number of specific measures aimed at encouraging young persons into farming.

The principal mechanism is the Installation Aid Scheme, which was established pursuant to the National Development Plan 2000-2006 and the early retirement scheme. Under the installation scheme, a grant of €9,523 is available to young farmers under the age of 35 years, who have become established in farming for the first time on or after 1 January 2000. In addition, top-up grants are also available to young farmers under both the dairy hygiene scheme and the farm waste management scheme.

Under the Early Retirement Scheme,older farmers are encouraged to retire early from farming in order to qualify for a pension which is jointly funded by the EU and by the National Exchequer, thereby encouraging their replacement by younger farmers able to improve, where necessary, the economic viability of agricultural holdings.

The changes which I introduced to the milk quota regime in Ireland in 2000 have been very successful in achieving the overall objective of putting quota definitively in the hands of active committed producers, at the lowest possible cost. The milk quota restructuring scheme is now the principal means by which additional milk quota is acquired by producers. Under the scheme, priority in the allocation of quota is given to specific categories of producers and in particular to new and recent entrants to dairying.

In 2000, I put in place a scheme for the allocation of 5 million gallons of the additional quota negotiated under Agenda 2000 to young milk producers who satisfied certain defined criteria. The 3,099 eligible applicants each received an allocation of 1,700 gallons. Furthermore, in 2001, an additional 4.5 million gallons was allocated to young farmers and 3,442 applicants each received an extra 1,300 gallons under that scheme.

I have also provided for milk production partnerships within the quota system in order to allow for flexibility in farming practice by combining two enterprises and quotas. Standard milk production partnerships were provided for in 2002. Following a review of the first year of the operation of the partnerships, I introduced new regulations to provide for the registration of new entrant/parent milk production partnerships. These arrangements allow a qualified young farmer to be part of a milk production enterprise in partnership with his/her parent without having to establish separate facilities. Such partnerships provide an opportunity for trained young farmers to get established in the industry and have access to quota, as a priority category, under a milk quota restructuring scheme.

In the light of experience, I have introduced some further flexibility into the partnership arrangements. In the new milk quota regulations which I signed in the last few weeks, I have therefore made a number of amendments designed to help prospective partners.

Partnership arrangements within the milk quota system have a very useful role to play in providing for the type of flexibility necessary to respond to the demands on today's milk producers. The uptake in the new entrant-parent partnerships has been particularly encouraging. I will continue to keep the arrangement under review to ensure it is best suited to the needs of the sector.

There are also a number of tax incentives available to encourage young persons into farming, which include: 100% stock relief for young trained farmers for four years after transfer; 100% stamp duty relief on transfers of agricultural land and buildings to young trained farmers; 90% agricultural relief on capital acquisitions tax; income tax exemptions for land leased by farmers over 40 to non-connected persons; retirement relief on capital gains tax for farmers over 55.

In relation to education and training, Teagasc devote a considerable amount of time and resources into the promotion of farming as a career. National advertising campaigns are conducted twice each year promoting the full range of their education and training courses. In this regard, a total of €140,000 was spent in 2003 on advertising campaigns. In addition, career events are held at all eight colleges twice each year.

The purpose of the open days is promote the courses at the colleges and careers in agriculture and horticulture. Invitations are issued to all second level schools and to over 900 guidance counsellors to attend these events and these events are advertised in the national newspapers. In addition, parents and Teagasc clients are invited to attend. A detailed course prospectus is produced each year outlining the full range of Teagasc courses and these are also sent to every second level school and guidance counsellor. Teagasc aims to have a presence at all career guidance seminars and events and in addition education officers and college teachers visit as many second level schools as possible to promote agricultural education and training. Details of all Teagasc careers events and the full text of the Teagasc prospectus are available for downloading from the Qualifax website. In addition, full details regarding courses and colleges are available on the Teagasc public website -www.teagasc.ie.

Milk Tests.

Pat Breen

Question:

130 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food his plans to introduce independent milk tests. [20173/04]

The development of an independent milk testing service is a matter for the industry.

My Department already conducts regular checks on the results of butter fat testing carried out by milk processors. It also checks the calibration of the instruments used in milk processing establishments for measuring the fat and protein levels in milk collected from producers. It monitors the instrument used in measuring somatic cell levels in milk delivered to processors.

In addition, my Department conducts random administrative checks to ensure that the results of butter fat and protein tests are correctly transcribed into the calculation of the milk price paid to the producer.

Grant Payments.

Joe Callanan

Question:

131 Mr. Callanan asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food when the new single payment, under the decoupling measure, will be made to farmers; and the amount of payment overall to Ireland. [19962/04]

Willie Penrose

Question:

142 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if his attention was drawn to complaints from farmers representatives that they will receive the new EU single payment for 2005 at the end of that year; and if he is aware that it may come too late for farmers. [20093/04]

Pat Breen

Question:

148 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food when the new single farm payment will be made. [20172/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 131, 142 and 148 together.

The national ceiling for Ireland under the new single payment, provided for in European Council Regulation 1782/2004 is €1.322 billion and includes the dairy premium. Arrangements for the implementation of the new payment are being put in place with a view to ensuring that the new system becomes operational with effect from 1 January 2005. The EU regulations governing the scheme provide for payment to be made between 1 December of the year of application and 30 June of the following year. Some concern was expressed about payments being made towards the end of the year when farmers are accustomed to payments being made in two tranches under the existing schemes.

There are, however, advantages for farmers in getting their payment in a single instalment. It is important that the new arrangements operate effectively and smoothly in 2005.

Beef Imports.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

132 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the restrictions that are in place to prevent the risk of foot and mouth disease here from imported meat produced in Brazil. [20074/04]

Martin Ferris

Question:

163 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the precautions his Department is making in view of the confirmed outbreak of foot and mouth disease in Brazil. [20266/04]

Martin Ferris

Question:

164 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if his attention was drawn to the foot and mouth outbreak in Brazil and to the fact that the British Army in the Six Counties continues to use beef sourced from that country. [20267/04]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

203 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if beef is imported here or via third countries in a way that might cause the spread of foot and mouth disease. [20535/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 132, 163, 164 and 203 together.

I am aware of the recent outbreak of foot and mouth disease in Brazil. The outbreak referred to was reported on 17 June 2004 in the Monte Alegre district in the state of Para. This state is already precluded from exporting beef to the EU because it has not been approved by the European Commission for that purpose. I understand that in this particular instance, the outbreak is in an isolated area more than 700 km from the borders of the zone recognised by the World Animal Health Organisation and by the European Commission as FMD free with vaccination.

On a more general note, there are mechanisms established at EU level for monitoring and controlling the risks associated with disease outbreaks in Brazil and other third countries. Commission "safeguard" decisions banning imports from particular countries or regions are considered by member states and the European Commission at the standing committee for the food chain and animal health at which officials from my Department attend. Additionally, third countries or regions wishing to export products of animal origin to the EU must be approved for that purpose by the European Commission.

In relation to the current case, no additional measures have been proposed by the European Commission. However, the situation is being kept under review by the Commission services.

Apart from this, detailed EU legislation lays down the conditions that member states must apply to the imports of products of animal origin from third countries. This harmonised legislation applies to all imports into the EU, including Northern Ireland, and imposes a series of health and supervisory requirements designed to ensure that imported products meetstandards at least equivalent tothose required for production in, and trade between, member states and imports from third countries. Harmonised controls are applied at the point of import to the EU ensure compliance with these rules.

Genetically Modified Organisms.

Joe Costello

Question:

133 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food his views on the use of genetically modified feed for animals; if his attention was drawn to the fact that the European Commission adopted a proposal to authorise placing the genetically modified maize line NK603 on the market; and his views on whether this decision might impact on the use of genetically modified animal feed here. [20075/04]

Prior to the coming into force last April of EU Regulation 1829/03 on GM food and feed there was no obligation on importers, manufacturers or retailers to label animal feedingstuffs as containing GM products. This allowed the industry to use any of the eight GM events approved prior to the moratorium in 1998 in feed without the necessity to declare their presence. The approved GM events related to four maize varieties; three rape varieties and one soya variety. If as expected the new NK603 maize variety is approved for feed use by the Commission shortly will be the first GM event for use in feed to be approved since the moratorium began.

I have recently signed a statutory instrument giving authorised officers of my Department the necessary powers to ensure that the new GM feed labelling legislation is fully complied with. I am confident that the operation of the new EU Regulation will ensure that importers, retailers and farmers will be in a much better position to make choices as to whether they want to use GM or non-GM feed from now on.

Agriculture Industry.

Richard Bruton

Question:

134 Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food his views on whether lack of competitiveness in the economy will have a negative impact on agriculture. [20184/04]

Maintaining a competitive economy is vital to our future well-being. An erosion of our competitive position will have an impact on all sectors, not just the agri-food sector. Economy wide issues such as inflation, productivity and costs are being monitored, analysed and compared with the international economy and our main competitors.

The Irish agri-food sector is highly export dependent and international competitiveness is very important. My Department sponsored reports on competitiveness from Professor Gerry Boyle, NUI Maynooth and Carol Newman and Professor Alan Mathews from Trinity College. The reports have helped to enhance the understanding of competitiveness and to chart Ireland's position and compared it with our main agri-food competitors. Further work on competitiveness is being undertaken by Teagasc.

Given the importance of ensuring the competitiveness of the sector, I recently established the Agri-vision 2015 committee to revisit the Agri-food 2010 report in light of changes to agriculture since its publication. For example, the mid-term CAP review, WTO negotiations, EU enlargement and most importantly the continuing competitive position of the sector. The 2015 committee is in the process of discussing these and other items affecting agriculture and will report shortly.

Women in Agriculture.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

135 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food his plans to encourage the involvement of women in agriculture. [20183/04]

In leading the development of Irish agriculture my objectives include the retention of the maximum number of farm families and ensuring that farming is an attractive career option for young people generally. Policies pursued by my Department are geared towards achieving these objectives and are administered in a gender-neutral fashion.

In relation to the recognition of the role of women in agriculture, I established an advisory committee, which reported in September 2000. The advisory committee's report contained 36 recommendations in total, covering a broad range of policy and operational areas, relating to 19 Departments and agencies. These areas were: statistical evaluation of women farmers; employment and training; information technology; social inclusion; representation, and personal finance-legal issues.

While recognising the contribution of women to Irish agriculture, it is clear from an analysis of the recommendations that the central concerns identified by the advisory committee related to issues affecting women in rural communities generally.

Notwithstanding the change of remit of my Department in 2002, my Department pursued the Advisory Committee's recommendations and produced a comprehensive progress report on the recommendations. This indicates that the recommendations directed at my Department have been implemented as far as practicable and that the broad range of issues raised by the Advisory Committee have been taken in to account by relevant government departments and agencies. I have arranged for a copy of the progress report to be sent to the Deputy.

Issues which may arise in the future regarding the role of women in rural communities can be pursued through the National Rural Development Forum, which operates under the aegis of the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs and meets twice a year in open forum. Gender equality issues can be taken up with the gender equality unit in the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform.

One specific step which would help to encourage the involvement of women in agriculture is more female representation on the boards of state bodies under the aegis of my Department.

In this regard, all of the female appointments made since 1997 have been at my sole discretion and I am disappointed that the farming organisations have not used their nomination rights to nominate women to serve on these boards.

Food Labelling.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

136 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the details of the requirement for full labelling of beef in the restaurant and catering sectors; and if he plans to extend the requirement to other forms of meat, vegetables and other foods. [20256/04]

I recently announced my intention to proceed with a legal requirement on the restaurant and catering sector to display country of origin in respect of beef served on their premises. This measure will come into effect once the necessary control and implementation arrangements are in place.

I made arrangements for this matter to be discussed in the Council of Agriculture Ministers during the Irish Presidency, as it is my view that there is a gap in the overall beef labelling regulations that ought to be filled. This was also the view of the food labelling group and the consumer liaison panel both of which I established. In the Council discussions there was little willingness on the part either of the EU Commission or other member states to extend the scope of the EU regulations to address this issue. However, the Commission did confirm that member states may adopt national compulsory measures under the Labelling Directive.

I have now formally notified the Commission of my intention to proceed in this area and my Department is making the necessary arrangements for the early introduction of this measure.

Once I have evaluated its effect I will consider the question of extending the scope of the regulations to other products. I would point out that the general labelling requirements set out in EU and National law apply to all food products sold at retail level.

Farm Inspections.

Bernard Allen

Question:

137 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the number and type of farm and stock inspections that a farmer may have to undergo. [20188/04]

The position is that under EU regulations governing the single payment scheme each member state is obliged to carry out a minimum number of on-farm checks each year to establish eligibility of land declared and ensure compliance with various management requirements and good agricultural and environmental conditions.

A minimum of 5% of farmers will be subject to on-farm checks on declared lands. The inspection approach will be similar to the annual area aid inspections. Some of these checks will be carried out by way of remote sensing.

Farmers in receipt of the single payment scheme are also obliged to comply with the statutory management requirements on environment, identification and registration of animals, public, animal and plant health and animal welfare. Farmers are also obliged to keep their land in good agricultural and environmental condition. It will be necessary to inspect 1% of farmers to assess compliance with statutory management requirements with the exception of identification and registration of animals where 5% of applicants must be inspected.

My Department is in the process of drawing up an integrated control system for cross-compliance. My policy is to limit the number of on-farm checks. It is difficult to estimate the number of inspections overall, but there will be a significant reduction on the current number, which is approaching 20,000 on-farm checks per year.

I am conscious of the need to simplify the on-farm checks to the greatest extent possible consistent with a system that will be acceptable to the European Commission. Consultation will take place with all interested parties before 1 January next. I intend for farmers to be informed about the minimum standards that they will be expected to meet under the various directives, including the requirement to keep land in good agricultural and environmental condition.

Live Exports.

Seymour Crawford

Question:

138 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the number of live cattle exported to Egypt in each of the past ten years; the tonnage of meat exported to Egypt for the same period; and if he is satisfied with the trade. [20247/04]

Live cattle and beef exports to Egypt over the past ten years were:

Year

Live Cattle (Head)

Beef Tonnes

2003

0

1,000

2002

0

0

2001

0

0

2000

0

150,000

1999

0

154,000

1998

0

120,000

1997

5,000

70,000

1996

106,000

40,000

1995

176,000

40,000

1994

253,000

56,674

With regard to live cattle exports to Egypt the position is that a ban exists on all EU live cattle imports. Proposals for a trial shipment of live cattle from Ireland were submitted to the Egyptian authorities in 1997 but these proposals were not implemented. The lack of a market for live cattle exports to Egypt had been, however, more than offset by the volume of trade in beef exports to that country in the period up to 2001. The Egyptian market was re-opened to imports of Irish beef in late 2001 following an intensive political, technical and diplomatic campaign. Resumption of trade in commercial volumes had been hampered by conditions imposed by the Egyptian authorities on the type of cuts eligible for that market. Agreement was reached with the Egyptian authorities last September on the removal of these conditions and on new certification arrangements which now allow for a resumption in trade. An additional export refund of 30% over the normal rate was negotiated by Ireland in relation to trade with Egypt. The extent to which the Egyptian market will take volumes of beef will depend on commercial decisions by exporters, and will have regard not only to the returns available from that market but also to the commercial attractiveness of other markets, including those within the EU where there is currently a very high demand for Irish beef.

Grant Payments.

Eamon Ryan

Question:

139 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the basis on which the Government advised Coillte Teoranta that it was eligible for forestry premia. [20242/04]

On the basis of indications from the European Commission the company was advised that it would, as a private law company, be eligible for the non farmer rate of forest premium.

Following consultations with the EU Commission in 1992 and up to 1999, when premium payments were terminated by the Commission, it was considered that as a private law company Coillte was eligible for the non farmer rate of forest premium.

Question No. 140 answered with QuestionNo. 109.

Animal Carcase Disposal.

Billy Timmins

Question:

141 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food his plans to dispose of the meat and bonemeal in storage. [20186/04]

Contracts have been concluded with three companies for the incineration of meal for which my Department has responsibility at facilities in Germany and the UK. Meat and bone meal produced since is the responsibility of the industry.

Question No. 142 answered with QuestionNo. 131.

Departmental Staff.

John Gormley

Question:

143 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food his views on the feedback from graduates in agricultural science at the view expressed by an assessment board, charged with recruiting for his Department, that an applicant with a PhD in agriculture did not show a sufficiently broad range of relevant knowledge of Irish agriculture; his further views on whether there is a danger that agricultural graduates are being lost to his Department, Teagasc and other relevant agencies because of flawed assessment procedures; and his plans to address the matter. [20240/04]

Competitions for the recruitment of assistant agricultural inspectors are conducted by the independent Office of the Civil Service and Local Appointments Commission. I am satisfied that the selection methods utilised by it results in the appointment of the most suitable candidates.

Live Exports.

Paul McGrath

Question:

144 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the steps he has taken to re-establish the cattle trade with Libya. [20179/04]

An agreement signed with Libya in June 2000 provided that Ireland would be officially listed as a source country for all Libyan tenders for the supply of live cattle. Since then, however, the Libyan Foreign Minister indicated that it had not been possible to import live cattle because of what he called logistical problems and that Libya would buy beef directly. Libya subsequently issued tenders for the supply of beef and Ireland was included in the list if countries invited to tender. I understand that a number of Irish companies submitted bids at that time. Efforts at diplomatic and technical level are continuing to ensure that the agreement signed with Libya, in so far as it relates to cattle exports, is fully implemented.

Beef Imports.

Paul McGrath

Question:

145 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if he recently met the Food Safety Authority of Ireland to discuss the importation of non-EU beef. [20178/04]

My Department operates under service contracts with the Food Safety Authority of Ireland to enforce certain legislation on food. Included under the most recent three-year contract with that body, which commenced on 18 December 2002, is the operation of controls by my Department on the importation of animal products. Regular meetings are held with the FSAI in relation to the operation of import controls on animal products including meat from third countries.

The position in relation to imports of animal products, including beef from third countries is that conditions for such imports are laid down in detailed EU harmonised legislation. The main thrust of that legislation is that the meat shall meet standards at least equivalent to those required for meat produced in the EU.

All meat imports must come from third countries or areas of third countries that are approved for export to the EU. In order to be an approved third country it must appear on a list drawn up and updated on the basis of EU audits and guarantees given by the competent authority of the exporting country; have veterinary controls equivalent to those applicable in the EU, particularly in terms of legislation, hygiene conditions, animal health status, veterinary medicines controls, zoonoses controls and other food law; and residues programme approved by the European Commission must be in place.

The meat must be sourced from establishments that are approved and must bear a EU approved health mark. Exporting establishmentsmust be approved and have standards equivalent to the requirements for EU export establishments, effective control systems and supervision by the competent authorities, traceability-labelling in accordance with the systems approved by the Food and Veterinary Office of the European Commission, FVO, and accepted and notified to the EU member states.

The FVO carries out inspections to ensure that only establishments that meet hygiene and health standards equivalent to those operating within the EU are approved for trade. Where the FVO considers that public health requirements are not being met, an establishment may be removed from the EU approved list. If an outbreak of animal disease occurs in a third country approval to export to the EU is suspended for the infected regions of the country, or the whole country, as appropriate, until the disease risk has been eliminated.

Importers of animal products, including meat, must be registered with my Department. They are required to give advance notice of importation. Following import they are required to keep records of importation available for inspection by my Department for a period of three years.

Imported meat must be accompanied by the appropriate commercial documentation showing country and approval number of the establishment of production and, in the case of meat imported from third countries, a health certificate conforming to the models set down in EU legislation. The meat must also be labelled.

While there is free movement for trade within the EU all consignments from third countries must first be landed at a Border inspection post, BIP, that has been approved by the FVO and must undergo documentary, identity and physical checks. These latter are carried out at frequencies laid down in EU law. In Ireland BIPs approved for the processing imports of animal products are located at Dublin Port and Shannon Airport. The FVO carries out monitoring and inspection of each member states BIPs to ensure the conditions for import of animal products into Europe, provided under the harmonised legislation, are being correctly applied.

Once it has been established that imported meat has met all the required conditions it is released for free circulation within the community. Copies of the BIP clearance document and the health certificate must accompany the consignment to its destination. Imports failing to comply with these veterinary control checks may be detained for further examination. If non-compliance is established they are returned to the exporting country or destroyed.

Where there are concerns with regard to the effectiveness of controls being operated in an approved third country the European Commission, in consultation with the standing committee on animal health and the food chain, may introduce specific controls by means of a safeguard measure to ensure the protection of human and animal health.

Safeguard measures limiting or banning the export of animal products from EU countries or regions of countries may also be implemented where, for example, the conditions of an animal disease outbreak could seriously effect production and trade in animal products in the EU.

Modulated Funds.

Damien English

Question:

146 Mr. English asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the way modulated funds will be dealt with. [20168/04]

The European Commission has indicated that modulated funds will be available for use from 2006. Recently I commenced a consultation exercise with all interested parties on the use of modulated funds. I am confident that a decision will be taken well in advance of the 2006 deadline.

Afforestation Programme.

Dan Boyle

Question:

147 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food, further to Question No. 107 of 27 May, and in view of the fact that the State funds reforestation that comprises more than 10,000 hectares a year and that much initial afforestation was planted in acid sensitive areas before the effects were known, if reforestation is subject to the acidification protocol and to his Department’s suite of guidelines on the protection of water biodiversity. [20254/04]

The State does not now fund reforestation. The 10,000 hectares referred to by the Deputy is Coillte reforestation which has never been grant aided. All reforestation is subject to compliance with the Department's national forest standard, code of best forest practice and the forest service suite of environmental guidelines.

Question No. 148 answered with QuestionNo. 131.

Employment Statistics.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

149 Mr. Deenihan asked the Taoiseach the number of working days lost through absenteeism in the work-place in Ireland in 2001, 2002 and 2003 respectively; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20464/04]

The exact information requested by the Deputy is not available. Statistics on days lost from work due to accidents and illnesses are available for 2002 and 2003 from the quarterly national household survey, or QNHS. Data on accidents and illnesses was not collected by the QNHS in 2001. Statistics on days lost due to accidents and illnesses are set out in the following table:

Days lost due to accidents and illnesses 2002 & 2003

000s

Q1 2002

Q1 2003

Persons In Employment

1745.5

1772.0

Injury

Total persons suffering injury

51.8

43.1

Days lost

857.3

610.4

Illness

Total persons suffering illness

33.0

38.1

Days lost

583.7

675.7

Total Days Lost

1,441.0

1,286.1

Statistics on days lost from work due to industrial disputes are available from the CSO quarterly release on industrial disputes. Statistics on days lost due to industrial disputes are set out in the following table.

Table 2 Industrial disputes which began or were in progress in each quarter, 2001-2004

Disputes in Progress

Year

Quarter

Disputes Which Began

Number of disputes(1)

Number of firms involved(1)

Workers involved(1)

Total days lost

2001

Quarter 1

9

11

10

21,189

90,427

Quarter 2

10

10

44

13,099

19,706

Quarter 3

3

4

4

422

3,810

Quarter 4

2

2

2

302

670

Total 2001

24

26

58

32,168

114,613

2002

Quarter 1

8

8

22

1,081

3,623

Quarter 2

7

8

9

1,763

9,666

Quarter 3

9

11

11

1,021

4,613

Quarter 4

3

5

5

352

3,355

Total 2002

27

27

43

3,553

21,257

2003

Quarter 1

4

5

5

459

3,081

Quarter 2

9

9

17

1,298

29,196

Quarter 3

4

6

6

641

938

Quarter 4

6

8

8

1,197

4,267

Total 2003

23

24

32

3,567

37,482

2004

Quarter 1

1

3

3

1,361

2,569

(1) The quarterly totals in these columns will not always add to the annual total since an industrial dispute can be in progress in more than one quarter.

Additional statistics on absences from work due to holidays and sick leave, both paid and unpaid, for 2002 will be available from the CSO's new national employment survey. The results of this survey are due later this year.

Departmental Agencies.

Enda Kenny

Question:

150 Mr. Kenny asked the Taoiseach if he will give details of all State or semi-State agencies and boards under the aegis of his Department as of 1 January 1994; the number of State or semi-State agencies and boards under the aegis of his Department as of 1 January 2004; the date of the establishment of such agencies and boards in each case; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19991/04]

Area Development Management Ltd., or ADM, was established as a not for profit company under the aegis of the Department of the Taoiseach in 1992 by the Government in agreement with the European Commission to promote social inclusion, reconciliation and equality and to counter disadvantage through local social and economic development. Following the change of Government in 1997, responsibility for ADM moved from the Department of the Taoiseach to the Department of Tourism, Sport and Recreation. Responsibility currently resides with the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs.

The second Information Society Commission was appointed on 30 November 2001 and is due to end on 31 December 2004. The commission is established as an independent advisory body to Government. It has a key role in shaping the evolving public policy framework for the development of the information society in Ireland. It reports directly to the Department of the Taoiseach and draws on high-level representation from the business community, the social partners and the public service. The commission's terms of reference are to contribute to the formulation of Government policy by highlighting the challenges and opportunities presented by information society developments; monitoring Ireland's performance in its evolution as an information society, both nationally and internationally; identifying areas of co-operation with other jurisdictions, including establishment of links with the Northern Ireland Information Age Initiative; and establishing working groups, as required, to provide expert advice on specific areas of public policy development.

The Law Reform Commission was established in 1975 under the Law Reform Commission Act 1975 as a statutory body corporate to keep the law of the State under review. The National Economic and Social Development Office, or NESDO, comprises the National Economic and Social Council, or NESC, the National Economic and Social Forum, or NESF, and the National Centre for Partnership and Performance, or NCPP. Legislation underpinning the establishment of NESDO has completed Second Stage in the Dáil and when enacted will place the three bodies on a statutory basis as part of the office. The National Economic and Social Council is a body under the aegis of the Department of the Taoiseach and was established on 2 November, 1973. Its main tasks are to advise the Government on the development of the national economy and the achievement of social justice. The National Economic and Social Forum is a body under the aegis of the Department of the Taoiseach and was set up by the Government in 1993. There are 62 members of the National Economic and Social Forum. Nominating bodies appoint 50, five members are ex-officio and five independent members are appointed by the Government. The Government also appoints the chairman and deputy chairman.

The role of the NESF is to monitor and analyse the implementation of specific measures and programmes identified in the context of social partnership arrangements, especially those concerned with the achievement of equality and social inclusion. The forum also facilitates public consultation on policy matters referred to it by Government from time to time. The forum was reconstituted for a further period of three years, up to May 2006.

The National Centre for Partnership and Performance, or NCPP, was established on a non-statutory basis on 26 July 2000, as one of the key recommendations of the Programme for Prosperity and Fairness in order to provide a strategic focus to the deepening of partnership and the improvement of performance in the workplace, in both the private and public sectors.

The Central Statistics Office, or CSO, was set up as a specialist national statistical agency in 1949 and was established on a statutory basis, as an independent body under the aegis of the Department of the Taoiseach by the Statistics Act 1993. The office collects, compiles and analyses economic and social statistical information. The National Statistics Board, or NSB, is a body under the aegis of the Department of the Taoiseach and was set up on a non-statutory basis in 1986 and on a statutory basis in 1994 following the implementation of the Statistics Act 1993.

Census of Population Statistics.

Dan Neville

Question:

151 Mr. Neville asked the Taoiseach the number of separated and divorced persons in the State in 2003. [20362/04]

The most comprehensive details in respect of the numbers of divorced and separated persons come from the census of population. The results of the 2002 census indicate that there were 99,000 separated persons and a further 35,000 divorced persons in the State on 28 April 2002.

National Flag.

John Cregan

Question:

152 Mr. Cregan asked the Taoiseach the rules, regulations and protocols in relation to raising and flying of the Irish flag on government Buildings throughout the city of Dublin; the locations and national institutions at which it is authorised or approved; if flying of the flag is on a seven day basis, five day basis, or is occasional; if discretion is left to local managers or laid down with regard to frequency, timing of removal and; if it is in order for the flag to be taken down during summer hours at 4.30 p.m. or 5.00 p.m to save overtime; and if he will make a statement on the matter and outline procedure. [20398/04]

There are no statutory regulations with regard to flying of the national flag.

A booklet entitled "An Bhratach Náisiúnta -The National Flag", contains guidelines for the public, including state institutions, in respect of flying the national flag. It is intended to be advisory rather than prescriptive and to facilitate the according of appropriate honour and respect to the national flag. A revised copy of the booklet was sent to all schools in the country and placed in the Houses of the Oireachtas Library on publication in 2001. It is available for sale from the Government publications sales office and can also be accessed on my Department's website.

The booklet advises on display, placing and precedence. It gives advice on the raising and lowering of the national flag, the times and occasions on which the flag is to be flown as well as practices to be avoided. There is no procedure for specifying approved or recognised locations or national institutions from which the flag is to be flown. However, all government Departments are asked to fly the national flag from buildings under their control on specific dates. In practice this has tended to be the Departments' headquarters and those subsidiary offices and regional centres equipped with flagpoles, which individual Departments deem appropriate.

In February of this year, the Department advised all Departments of the following occasions during 2004 on which the National Flag should be flown.

Dublin

1. St. Patrick's Day, 17 March.

2. Easter Sunday, 11 April, and Easter Monday, 12 April.

3. The National Day of Commemoration, 11 July.

4. The Dublin Horse Show, 4-8 August.

5. Dublin Theatre Festival, 27 September-9 October.

Outside Dublin

1. St. Patrick's Day, 17 March.

2. Easter Sunday, 11 April, and Easter Monday, 12 April.

3. The National Day of Commemoration, 11 July.

4. On the occasion of any significant local festivals and events.

The protocol for flying the national flag is intended to be applied in a common-sense way, adapted as necessary to suit local and individual situations and requirements. The underlying concern is that whenever the national flag is flown, it should be accorded due respect at all times.

Work Permits.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

153 Mr. Deenihan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment when a work permit will be issued to a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19977/04]

I am informed that a work permit application in respect of the individual concerned was received on 14 May 2004 and a decision will be made shortly.

Departmental Agencies.

Enda Kenny

Question:

154 Mr. Kenny asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if she will give details of all State or semi-State agencies and boards under the aegis of her Department as of 1 January 1994; the number of State or semi-State agencies and boards under the aegis of her Department as of 1 January 2004; the date of the establishment of such agencies and boards in each case; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19992/04]

As of 1 January 1994, the agencies and Boards under the aegis of the Department were: Forfás, established on 1 January 1994; IDA Ireland, established on 1 January 1994; Forbairt, established on 1 January 1994; Crafts Council of Ireland, established by the crafts sector in 1971 and incorporated as a company limited by guarantee in 1976; An Bord Tráchtála, established in 1991; Shannon Free Airport Development Company Limited, established on 28 January 1959; FÁS, established under the Labour Services Act 1987; FÁS International Consulting Limited, the memorandum of association of which was registered on 22 September 1988; Irish Steel, established 23 June 1947; Nitrigin Eireann Teoranta, established 3 October 1961; Kilkenny design workshop Limited, established 19 April 1963; the city and county enterprise boards, established in 1993 as companies limited by guarantee and granted formal statutory recognition under the Industrial Development Act 1995; the competition authority, established on 1 October 1991; the Labour Relations Commission, established on 21 January 1991; The Labour Court, established in 1946.

As of 1 January 2004, the agencies and boards under the aegis of the Department were: Forfás, IDA Ireland, Enterprise Ireland, established in 1998 with the amalgamation of the former agencies of Forbairt, An Bord Tráchtála and elements of the services to business function of Shannon Free Airport Development Company Limited; Crafts Council of Ireland, FÁS, FÁS International Consulting Limited, Science Foundation Ireland, established on 25 July 2003; the National Standards Authority of Ireland, established on 14 April 1997; the city and county enterprise boards, the Personal Injuries Assessment Board, established on 13 April 2004; the Competition Authority, the Labour Relations Commission and the Labour Court.

Job Creation.

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

155 Mr. O’Connor asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the position regarding efforts being made to create new jobs in Tallaght; if she will investigate claims that jobs intended for Tallaght were recently located elsewhere; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20190/04]

Seán Crowe

Question:

156 Mr. Crowe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if her attention has been drawn to the fact that a store (details supplied) is to be located at Lisburn as opposed to Tallaght, at a loss of a potential one thousand jobs; if her attention has been further been drawn to the disappointment felt by the people of Tallaght; and to the reason structural or other wise, for the decision to have the store located outside the State. [20205/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 155 and 156 together.

Job creation is a day to day activity of the industrial development agencies. A number of overseas companies in the electronics, internationally traded services and software sector such as Google and Overture have established operations in the Tallaght area with support from IDA Ireland. In nearby Grangecastle, Clondalkin, there are two significant projects under way involving Wyeth biopharma which will create 1,300 jobs and Takeda chemical industries which will employ 60 people. IDA Ireland is also working with existing clients to assist them to move up to the value chain and increase employment potential. Last year, Enterprise Ireland approved 16 indigenous industry projects for the greater Tallaght area. Each of these is planning to create new jobs. Incubation space for start up companies is being provided through community enterprise centres and the South Dublin County Enterprise Board is also providing a range of supports and training. Enterprise Ireland also works closely with the Institute of Technology in Tallaght to encourage industry and third level partnerships. The remit of the development agencies does not extend to assisting retail outlets. Neither IDA Ireland nor Enterprise Ireland have had any discussions with the store in question. As far as I am aware, this particular store has neither confirmed nor denied that it was considering Tallaght as a location for one of its outlets. As with all projects, the final decision on where to locate a particular project rests with the promoter of that project. However, a number of large commercial developments are currently taking place in Tallaght which incorporate retail units. These will provide significant employment when completed and occupied.

Work Permits.

Dan Neville

Question:

157 Mr. Neville asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment when a work permit will be processed for a person (details supplied) in County Limerick. [20551/04]

I am informed that there is no record of a valid work permit application in this case. Applications which are incomplete or incorrect are returned to the employer for completion. In the aftermath of EU enlargement, it is Government policy that employers should be able to source nearly all of their workforce needs from within the EU. Accordingly, only in cases where exceptional levels of skill and qualifications are needed for the job, and the employer has made meaningful attempts to find EEA nationals first, will my Department now consider work permit applications.

Departmental Agencies.

Enda Kenny

Question:

158 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Defence if he will give details of all State or semi-State agencies and boards under the aegis of his Department as of 1 January 1994; the number of State or semi-State agencies and Boards under the aegis of his Department as of 1 January 2004; the date of the establishment of such agencies and boards in each case; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19993/04]

The agencies and boards under the aegis of my Department are as follows: the Army Pensions Board, established on 30 April 1927 pursuant to Section 5 of the Army Pensions Act 1927; the Irish Red Cross Society, established on 1 July 1939 pursuant to Section 1 of the Red Cross Act 1938; Coiste an Asgard, incorporated on 16 February 1987 as a company limited by guarantee under the Companies Acts. In addition to those listed is the Civil Defence Board, established on 5 June 2002 pursuant to the Civil Defence Act 2002.

Defence Forces Equipment.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

159 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for Defence if a request has been made by the developer of Weston Aerodrome in Lucan, to allow it to install new navigational equipment, following the refusal by the Irish Aviation Authority to do so, in view of the fact that more airspace would be required, which would have to be negotiated from Baldonnel. [20044/04]

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

160 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for Defence if his attention has been drawn to facts (details supplied) in granting or refusing permission to the developer of Weston Aerodrome for additional airspace from Baldonnel in any application; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20045/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 159 and 160 together.

No request has been received by the Department of Defence from the developer of Weston Aerodrome, Lucan, regarding the installation of new navigational equipment or to making available additional airspace from Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnel, to Weston Aerodrome. Airspace is a matter for the Irish Aviation Authority and I, as Minister for Defence, have no function in this matter. However, when issues arise involving airspace surrounding Casement Aerodrome the IAA is obliged to consult with the Minister for Defence in the matter.

FCA Training.

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

161 Mr. O’Connor asked the Minister for Defence if he will confirm plans for the development of the FCA in Tallaght, Dublin 24; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20153/04]

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

The steering group report proposed that a company be located at Casement Aerodrome Baldonnel. This company would cater for the greater Tallaght and Clondalkin areas. The process of planning is being carried forward by, the military authorities. However, no final decisions will be made until I have had the opportunity to examine and approve the military proposals as a whole.

Defence Forces Expenditure.

John Gormley

Question:

162 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Defence the amount Ireland spends as a proportion of GDP on defence; the way in which this compares to the EU average spent on defence as a proportion of GDP; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20154/04]

Based on estimated GDP figures, defence expenditure in this country will be 0.6% of GDP in 2004. The latest year for which figures are available for other EU states is 2002 when average defence expenditure was 1.8% of GDP. The level of expenditure on defence in any particular country is influenced by a variety of factors, including that country's political and security environment, its history, demography and economy.

Questions Nos. 163 and 164 answered with Question No. 132

Farm Waste Management.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

165 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the policy of the Government on regulations with set-aside land in view of evidence that undried municipal sewage sludge is being spread on land (details supplied) at Ballinastran, County Wexford. [20572/04]

Under the provisions of the EU arable aid scheme, all applicants are required to ensure that their land eligible for payment , is maintained in good agricultural and environmental condition. In particular one of the management rules relating to land which is put in set-aside provides that the application of fertiliser, organic or inorganic, is allowed between 16 April and 31 October at levels that do not present an environmental hazard. My Department carries out routine inspections of selected applicants to ensure that these requirements are adhered to by farmers. If not the relevant penalties are imposed.

The re-use of sewage sludge in agriculture is fully regulated and is subject to compliance with the Waste Management (Use of Sewage Sludge in Agriculture) Regulations 1998, as amended, which give effect to Council Directive 86/278/EC on the protection of the environment and particularly of the soil when sewage sludge is used in agriculture.

Food Labelling.

Tom Hayes

Question:

166 Mr. Hayes asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food his plans to introduce legislation compelling meat processors to include country of origin on all meat produce sold here. [20274/04]

All meat sold at retail level is subject to the general food labelling regulations. EU regulations on beef provide for compulsory labelling and include a requirement for operators involved in the marketing of beef within the EU to label their beef with an indication of the member state or third country where the animal was born, reared and slaughtered. The regulations, as they stand, do not apply to the catering and food service sector. To address this situation, I recently announced my intention to proceed with a legal requirement in the sector to display country of origin in respect of beef served on their premises and have informed the European Commission accordingly. When I have evaluated the effect of this measure, I intend to look at the possibility of extending similar labelling requirements to other meat species. I recently introduced regulations to require origin of poultry meat to be indicated in the case of loose unprocessed poultry meat imported from third countries. Previously,the requirement had only extended to pre-packaged unprocessed poultry meat from third countries.

Liam Twomey

Question:

167 Dr. Twomey asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food his views on the concerns of farmers regarding the traceability of agricultural products sold to consumers here. [20580/04]

Traceability is the key element in food safety. The purpose of traceability is to ensure that, if a problem is identified at any point in the food chain, the source of the problem can be quickly identified and that, if product has been contaminated in any way, it can be traced forward to ensure that it does not reach the consumer. Traceability systems work largely through records of product received by a food business operator and forwarded by that operator to the next point in the food chain.

We have very significant levels of resources employed and systems in place to provide robust traceability for agricultural products from its production right through to purchase or consumption by the consumer. At the production stage, excellent systems exist to trace animals to the point of slaughter. Examples of these are the cattle movement monitoring system, or CMMS, the national sheep identification system and the national pig identification and tracing system. Processors are required to keep detailed records of throughput and retail and catering outlets have to keep records of suppliers. Traceability and labelling are frequently confused. As I mentioned, traceability is the ability to track products from its production right through to purchase or consumption by the consumer. Labelling is a tool used to inform the consumer. The concerns that farmers have expressed to me generally relate to the proper labelling of meat so as to give consumers sufficient information about the meat that they buy either in retail outlets or in catering establishments so that they can make an informed choice.

The food labelling group, which I established in 2002 to examine food labelling issues of concern to the consumer, was in full agreement that consumers have a right to information on the origin of the meat they cook in their homes or eat out. While the group could not agree on how origin should be defined, there was unanimous agreement that further research was necessary to establish consumers' wishes in this area. At my request the consumer liaison panel has carried out this research, the results of which were presented to me in December 2003. The findings of that research were that consumers purchasing meat at retail or catering outlets want to know the country of origin of the meat. In order to meet the demands of consumers as identified in the research, earlier this year I introduced two regulations on the labelling of poultry meat. The first of these regulations requires poultry meat loose and pre-packaged, originating in a country outside the EU to bear an indication of the country of origin when offered for sale in a retail premises. The second regulation requires information regarding class, price per unit weight, condition and slaughterhouse details in respect of loose poultry meat that is non-prepackaged meat, to be provided to the consumer. Heretofore, while these labelling indications have been compulsory for pre-packaged poultry meat it had not been a requirement to provide this information for poultry meat sold loose.

In the beef sector, a recent review of the EU beef labelling regulations did not favour the extension of the labelling requirements to catering establishments on an EU wide basis. That review did not preclude individual member states from introducing rules within their own territory. I am firmly of the view that consumers, whether purchasing beef over the counter or choosing beef in restaurants and catering establishment, have a right to know the origin of the product. Therefore, I recently announced my decision to proceed immediately with a legal requirement on restaurants and catering establishments to indicate to their customer, the origin of beef sold on their premises. A regulation to implement this decision is being drafted.

On the food labelling issue in general, my primary aim is to protect consumer interest and to ensure that the consumer is properly informed. Ireland is a major exporter of food and food products and indeed there are also considerable imports, so it is imperative that the same standards are applied to the labelling of foods in every sector and that there is a level playing field for the food industry at all levels. I hope to achieve this through the implementation in as full a manner as possible of the recommendations of the food labelling group.

Departmental Bodies.

Enda Kenny

Question:

168 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if he will give details of all State or semi-State agencies and boards under the aegis of his Department as of 1 January 1994; the number of State or semi-State agencies and boards under the aegis of his Department as of 1 January 2004; the date of the establishment of such agencies and boards in each case; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19994/04]

The information requested by the Deputy is as follows:

Name of State / Semi-State Agency or Board

Under aegis of Department at1 January 1994

Under aegis of Department at1 January 2004

Date of Establishment

Bord na gCon

Yes

No

11 July 1958

The Racing Board

Yes

No

22 June 1945

Córas Beostoic agus Feola (CBF)

Yes

No

25 July 1979

An Bord Bia

No

Yes

1 December 1994

National Milk Agency

No

Yes

30 December 1994

Irish National Stud Co. Ltd.

Yes

Yes

31 August 1946

Teagasc

Yes

Yes

8 September 1988

Coillte Teoranta

Yes

Yes

1 January 1989

An Bord Glas

Yes

Yes

22 March 1990

National Council for Forest Research and Development (COFORD)

Yes

Yes

15 April 1993

On 1 January 2004, there were seven State agencies or boards operating under the aegis of my Department.

Genetically Modified Organisms.

Paudge Connolly

Question:

169 Mr. Connolly asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if it is his intention to pursue a genetically modified free island policy as an integral part of the Ireland-the food island image; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20039/04]

The rules governing the production and use of GMOs within the European Union are set down in legislation which applies across all member states. The legislation has been jointly adopted by the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament. Member states may adopt restrictions on the growing of GM crops but they must be crop specific and geographically limited.

The GM areas of direct relevance to my Department are those relating to the issue of the coexistence of GM crops alongside non-GM crops and controls on the authorisation and labelling of GM feed. The Commission has decided that co-existence should be addressed at member state level and has provided a series of guidelines to assist in dealing with the issues that arise. All member states, including Ireland, are in the process of drawing up strategies and best practices to provide for effective coexistence arrangements without contamination of non-GM crops. An interdepartmental working group has been set up by the Department of Agriculture and Food to examine this whole co-existence issue.

The growing and use of GMOs in Ireland must be managed to ensure that the green image which is associated with Ireland and its importance in the development and promotion of our food industry is protected. In this context it will be important to ensure that satisfactory arrangements are in place to provide for the growing of GM crops and the labelling and traceability of GM feed.

Grant Payments.

Michael Ring

Question:

170 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the number of persons who received forestry grants in 2003; the number of applicants eligible for grants in 2004; and the length of time on average it will take his Department officials to process applications for payment in 2004, as compared with 2003. [20041/04]

Michael Ring

Question:

171 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if the error which occurred in his Department in 2003, whereby the payment forms for forestry grants were not sent out on time to those eligible for grants will be averted in 2004; the reason payments are being held up now in view of the fact that the error was made by his Department; and if all payments will be expedited in 2004. [20042/04]

I propose to takes Question Nos. 170 and 171 together.

I am not aware of any error in application forms for forestry grant payments in 2003. A total of 1,026 afforestation grants were paid in 2003 and at least a similar amount estimated for 2004. The average length of time for processing of grants applications in 2004 will be eight weeks form date of receipt of applications complete with all supporting documentation. This is in line with average turnaround time in 2003.

Denis Naughten

Question:

172 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the reason a person (details supplied) in County Roscommon is having their premia reduced following an on-the-spot area aid inspection even though the formal decision stated that no penalty would be imposed if it did not affect premia calculations; if, in view of the fact that the forage area does not affect premia payments, all payments will be made in full; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20059/04]

The person named applied for a total forage area of 72.93 hectares on his 2003 area aid application. During the course of an inspection of the applicant's lands a reduced area of 60.46 hectares of forage land was found. This resulted in a 20.63% overclaim penalty. However, no area linked penalties will apply to suckler cow premium or special beef premium payments where the area found is sufficient to support a stocking density of 1.8 livestock units per hectare or less.

The person named applied for premium on 23 animals under the 2003 suckler cow premium scheme. The application has been processed and payment amounting to €5,155.45 issued on 14 April 2004. This represents payment in full in respect of the number of animals applied on. Payment of €765.90 issued on 29 June 2004 in respect of animals qualifying under the suckler cow national envelope. Regarding the 2003 extensification premium, the position is that eligibility has been established and the person named can expect a payable order for €920 shortly.

Dan Neville

Question:

173 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food when extensification payment will be awarded to a person (details supplied) in County Limerick. [20080/04]

On 10 June 2004, a sum of €240 was credited to the bank account of the person named, representing the extensification premium due to him on his three sucker cows.

Agenda 2000.

Dan Neville

Question:

174 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the position regarding the consideration of force majeure and exceptional circumstances in relation to establishment of entitlement under the mid-term review of the Agenda 2000 agreement single payment scheme for a person (details supplied) in County Limerick. [20081/04]

The person named submitted an application form for consideration offorce majeure or exceptional circumstances on 13 January 2004. The case has been examined and the person named has been notified that the application is successful. The reference year 2000 will not be used for the calculation of single payment entitlement, therefore the entitlements will be based on the reference years 2001 and 2002.

Commonage Division.

Pádraic McCormack

Question:

175 Mr. McCormack asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the position regarding the involvement of the Land Commission in assisting shareholders in commonages to divide their commonages; if the Land Commission is actively involved in this matter now; if not, if this responsibility will be resumed by the Land Commission; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20110/04]

For some time, my Department provided a commonage division and rearrangement service but this was discontinued in 1998 following a review of its operation and is now only engaged in the completion of cases already on hands. I have no plans to re-introduce this service.

Grant Payments.

Michael Ring

Question:

176 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the reason a person (details supplied) in County Mayo has still not received a slaughter premium payment for 2002. [20132/04]

The person named originally had four animals slaughtered and deemed eligible under the 2002 slaughter premium scheme. Payment issued in full on these animals in April 2003. My Department contacted the person named during 2002 regarding the possible eligibility of a further eight animals. As the slaughter records for these animals were incorrect, eligibility under the 2002 slaughter premium scheme could not be established. However, these records have since been amended and the animals concerned deemed eligible under the 2002 scheme. Payment will issue later this week.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

177 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food when the second instalment of the REP scheme will issue to a person (details supplied) in County Galway; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20145/04]

Payment dated 10 June 2004 has been issued to the person named.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

178 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the reason grants have not been awarded for top-up payments for suckler cows, the extensification 2003 and the beef premium 2003 to a person (details supplied) in County Galway; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20146/04]

The 2003 area aid application for the person named was processed with an area determined for payment purposes of 49.51 hectares. Subsequently, it was established that the area contained buildings. There was no change in the total area determined, however, when the buildings were removed. The persons named applied for premium on 25 animals under the 2003 suckler cow premium scheme. The application has been processed for payment and the 80% advance instalment amounting to €4,483 issued on 16 October 2003 with a balancing payment for €1,120.75 issuing on 30 June 2004. These represent payment in full in respect of the 25 animals applied on. The person named submitted one application under the 2003 special beef premium scheme in respect of 11 animals on 23 May 2003. The 80% advance payment was paid on 20 October 2003 while the remaining 20% was issued on 24 June 2004.

Two payable orders amounting to €2,880 were issued to the persons named on 24 and 30 June 2004 representing their full 2003 extensification premium entitlement on a total of 36 animals that had already qualified for payment of 2003 suckler cow premium and special beef premium on their holding.

National envelope payments in respect of heifers not calving in 2003 and in respect of suckler cows or heifers calving for the first time in 2003 have begun recently. The persons named had animals qualifying under both category and payment will issue within the next week.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

179 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the reason an area aid grant has not been awarded to a person (details supplied) in County Galway for 2003; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20147/04]

According to my Department's records the person named did not submit a 2003 area aid application. As the person named is not registered under the herd number quoted, my Department does not know of any grants that are due to him.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

180 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the reason an area aid payment has not issued to a person (details supplied) in County Galway in 2002; if an area aid payment will be made for 2003; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20148/04]

The person named applied for a total forage area of 19.84 hectares on his 2002 area aid application. Forestry was subsequently verified on one parcel of land during the course of a cross compliance check with the forestry services. The revised area found was 18.27 hectares, which represents an overclaim of 8.59%. Where an overclaim of more than 3% or more than two hectares, but not exceeding 20% of the forage area declared is established, the forage area found is reduced by twice the difference between the area declared and the area found. The reduced area found following penalty was 15.13 hectares. In 2003, the person named declared a total forage area of 15.84 hectares of forage land and was fully processed with that area determined for payment purposes.

The person named applied for premium on 16 animals under both the 2002 and 2003 suckler cow premium schemes. Payments amounting to €3,586.40 in respect of each year has issued to the herd owner representing entitlement in full on 16 animals.

The extensification premium may only be paid where the stocking density of a holding does not exceed 1.80 livestock units per hectare. For the 2002 and 2003 premium, since respective stocking densities of 2.0032 and 2.1161 livestock units per hectare were found, the person named does not qualify for payment for either year. He was advised of the position for each year by letter.

Farm Retirement Scheme.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

181 Mr. McGinley asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the position regarding an application for the early retirement pension by a person (details supplied) in County Donegal; and when payment is likely to issue. [20149/04]

The application by the person named for the early retirement pension was received in my Department on 14 May 2004 and is being processed. The person named will be notified of the outcome when processing is complete. The protocol on direct payments to farmers sets a target of twelve weeks for the processing of a valid application to the stage of scheduling for payment if the case is selected for pre-payment inspection, and ten weeks if it is not selected.

Equine Industry.

Seamus Healy

Question:

182 Mr. Healy asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if the breeding of thoroughbred horses including the standing of stallions at stud is regarded as agriculture or commercial; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20199/04]

While commercial operations are involved in the breeding of thoroughbred horses, it is mainly an agricultural activity. As Minister for Agriculture and Food I am generally responsible for equine breeding concerns and I have responsibility for the Irish national stud, which carries on the business of stud farming on the lands of the national stud in County Kildare. In the EU, the breeding of horses is regarded as an agricultural activity.

Grant Payments.

John Perry

Question:

183 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if he will make a decision on the suckler cow premium appeal by a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20269/04]

The person named applied for premium on 26 animals under the 2003 suckler cow premium scheme. Correspondence issued to him on 6 January 2004 informing him that his application was being rejected as he did not comply with requirements with regard to inspection as set out in paragraph 32(d) of the terms and conditions of the scheme. The herd owner has sought a review of this decision and his case is currently being examined. He will be notified of the outcome as soon as possible.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

184 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food when the 2003 extensification payment will issue to a person (details supplied) in County Galway; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20374/04]

Under EU regulations, the 2003 extensification premium may only be paid where the stocking density of a holding does not exceed 1.80 livestock units per hectare. Since the stocking density of the holding in this case amounted to 1.9296 livestock units per hectare, the person named does not qualify for payment. He was advised of the position by letter within the last week.

Michael Ring

Question:

185 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will receive their 20% suckler cow premium 2004 payment and their extensification payment for 2004. [20438/04]

The closing date for receipt of 2003 area aid applications was the 7 April 2003. In accordance with the relevant EU regulations late applications could still be accepted with a penalty up until 1 July 2003. The 2003 area aid application of the person named was received in the Department on 26 June 2003 and as a result a 26% penalty had to be applied to 2003 premia payments.

The father of the person named lodged an application for premium in respect of five animals under the 2003 suckler cow premium scheme on 25 June 2003. The application was processed for payment and the 80% advance instalment amounting to €896.60 issued to the applicant on 17 October 2003. At balancing payment stage a recalculation showed that following the application of the 26% late area aid penalty, no further payment was due under the suckler cow premium scheme and an amount of €67.24 was deemed to have been overpaid. It is proposed to deduct this overpayment from the €111 due in respect of the suckler cow national envelope leaving a net amount of €43.76 due.

The amount payable under the extensification scheme is reduced to €296 when the 26% late area aid penalty is applied. Payment cannot however be made to the legal personal representative of the deceased until a copy of probate or other legal documents is submitted to the Department.

The district livestock office of my Department has been informed of the death of the applicant, that is, the father of the person named. Correspondence has issued to the solicitors acting in this case and they have been requested to furnish copy of probate or legal documents indicating to whom any payments outstanding should issue. A reply is awaited.

Land Rental Prices.

Michael Ring

Question:

186 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the effect the stacking of premium entitlements on owned land will have on land rental prices. [20439/04]

Michael Ring

Question:

187 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the measures that have been put in place to ensure that there is no abuse of the stacking entitlements in relation to the single payment scheme (details supplied); and if his Department will issue guideline prices for rented land based on previous years prices to avoid abuse of the system. [20440/04]

Michael Ring

Question:

188 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if the new 50% rule for stacking entitlements to the single payment scheme will only apply if rented land was no longer available; or if it will apply where land is only rented on an annual basis or when the lease period comes to an end. [20441/04]

Michael Ring

Question:

189 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the reason stack entitlements have been set at 50% of land farmed in the reference years, for the single payment scheme, rather than 80%; and if this rate will result in land that was previously rented being left idle to grow wild. [20442/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 186 to 189, inclusive, together.

The requirement that, to draw down the single payment, farmers would have to have 100% of the average land area that they had during the reference period would have resulted in serious problems for certain categories of Irish farmers. For instance, some 56,000 hectares of land has been planted with forestry during the period 2000 to 2003 and quite an amount of land has been acquired under compulsory purchase order by local authorities. In addition, certain farmers who had land rented or leased during the reference period may no longer have access to that land. Some 45,000 farmers depend to some extent on leased or rented land involving some 832,00 hectares in 2000 according to Central Statistics Office data. The 100% requirement would therefore have undoubtedly contributed further to an increase in the cost of rented land from 2005 onwards.

The balance has to be in favour of active farmers who want to expand. It was for these reasons that I sought a derogation on the 100% land requirement and the 50% rule in the final text of the European Commission implementing rules addresses these issues. Under the single payment scheme, the farmer must declare all the hectares available to him or her in 2005 including any land leased. To avail of the stacking concession, the total area declared by the farmer must be equal to at least 50% of the average area declared during the reference period. Stacking can only take place where a lease agreement has expired. Consequently a farmer may not break a lease agreement to benefit from the provision. However, it is worth noting that there is no onus on an applicant to continue renting such land. The concessions for consolidating or stacking entitlements cannot be applied to any farmer who declares fewer hectares than entitlements because he or she disposed of land by way of sale or lease other than sale of land to a public authority for non-agricultural use.

The provisions may be applied to the following categories of farmers: farmers who have afforested some of their land since the beginning of the reference period; farmers who have disposed of land to a public authority for non-agricultural use; farmers who had land leased-rented in during the reference period but the lease-rental agreement has since expired; and farmers who declared lands situated in Northern Ireland during the reference period.

Where a farmer benefits from this concession all of his or her consolidated payment entitlements will be regarded as having come from the national reserve. The consolidated entitlements concerned cannot be sold or leased out for five years from the year of allocation and the farmer must use all entitlements himself or herself each year for a period of five years otherwise any entitlements not used, each year will revert to the national reserve. It would not be possible or appropriate for my Department to become involved in issuing guidelines prices for rented land.

Animal Feedstuffs.

Billy Timmins

Question:

190 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if his Department has a policy of a spiking feed samples prior to being submitted to laboratory for testing; if so, his views on whether this does not pose a threat of contamination; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20443/04]

A small number of spiked samples were sent to the two laboratories involved in the microscopic examination of animal feed in 2003 to assess their performance. I am satisfied that these samples do not pose a threat of contamination. Both laboratories have standard operating procedures, which are strictly adhered to, to prevent such contamination. No case of contamination has been reported from either laboratory in 2003.

Billy Timmins

Question:

191 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the procedures for sterilising meat and bonemeal; the way in which bulk MBM is exported and the location; the amount stored here and location; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20444/04]

The requirements for the handling and disposal of animal by-products, including meat and bonemeal, are set out in EU Regulation 1774/2002. The regulations, which are applicable in each member state, specify approved processing methods for sterilising meat and bone meal.

In Ireland, the approved processing method used to produce and sterilise meat and bone meal is the highest provided for by the regulations and involves the rendering of animal by-products at 133° celsius at 3 bars of pressure for 20 minutes. The processing of animal by-products, including rendering into meat and bonemeal is carried out at approved plants under the control of the veterinary inspectorate of my Department.

The production of animal by-products and, in turn, of meat and bonemeal is a necessary part of a livestock and meat processing industry. In the absence of any domestic facility for using this product either in industry or energy production, it must be exported for incineration to other EU countries. Currently, meat and bonemeal is exported for disposal by incineration or co-incineration in sealed container to approved premises in the United Kingdom or Germany. At present, approximately 191,000 tonnes of meat and bonemeal is held in approved stores throughout the country.

EU Directives.

Denis Naughten

Question:

192 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the result of discussions which took place between his officials and officials of the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government regarding a sustaining progress review meeting held on 29 June 2004; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20466/04]

The implementation of the nitrates directive is, in the first instance, a matter for the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. He and I met the farming organisations on 30 June and again outlined the approach to be taken in implementing the directive. I believe that the discussions were very constructive. An action programme will be submitted to the European Commission meeting Ireland's legal obligations under the directive, and there will also be proposals for arrangements under which farmers may operate above the general limit of 170 kg of organic nitrogen which the directive lays down.

The Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government in conjunction with my Department is now in the process of making available a revised draft action programme for farmers and other interested parties to offer their views. The action programme and arrangements for derogations will ultimately require the approval of the European Commission. However it is my objective, shared by the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, to minimise the burden of compliance on farmers generally and to ensure that the future of the commercial agriculture sector is safeguarded.

I welcome the announcement by the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government that he has appointed Mr. Denis Brosnan, former managing director and chairman of the Kerry Group, to advise on the proposed nitrates action programme. As independent adviser, Mr. Brosnan will play a leading role in the forthcoming consultation exercise and I am confident that he will make a major contribution to a successful outcome.

Food Labelling.

Beverley Flynn

Question:

193 Ms Cooper-Flynn asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food when the compulsory labelling of all meat in restaurants and catering outlets will be introduced. [20486/04]

I recently announced my intention to proceed with a legal requirement on the restaurant and catering sector to display country of origin in respect of beef served on their premises. This measure will come into effect once the necessary control and implementation arrangements are in place. I made arrangements for this matter to be discussed in the Council of Agriculture Ministers during the Irish Presidency, as it is my view that there is a gap in the overall beef labelling regulations that ought to be filled. This was also the view of the food labelling group and the consumer liaison panel, both of which I established. In the Council discussions there was little willingness on the part of the European Commission or other member states to extend the scope of the EU regulations to address this issue. However, the Commission did confirm that member states may adopt national compulsory measures under the labelling directive.

I have formally notified the Commission of my intention to proceed in this area and my Department is making the necessary arrangements for the early introduction of this measure. Once I have evaluated its effect I will consider the question of extending the scope of the regulations to other products. The general labelling requirements set out in EU and national law apply to all food products sold at retail level.

District Milk Boards.

Billy Timmins

Question:

194 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the number of temporary workers that were employed by the Dublin district milk board when it ceased to exist; the outcome of these persons; if they received redundancy payment; if payments are due to them; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20505/04]

There were seven seasonal temporary staff covered by the terms of the staff rationalisation agreement negotiated on the dissolution of the Dublin district milk board. They were offered voluntary early retirement on the same terms as the full-time temporary staff. This included a payment analogous to redundancy compensation. All seven declined this offer, choosing instead to offer their services to the new owners of the former milk board's business. There are no payments due to them from my Department.

Billy Timmins

Question:

195 Mr. Timmins: asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the number of permanent workers employed by the Dublin district milk board when it ceased to exist; if they were personnel; if they were redeployed; the number still remaining in employment; the job description of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20506/04]

There were 67 full time staff employed by the Dublin District Milk Board at the time of its dissolution. They transferred first to the employ of the Interim Board and then to that of the new owners on the sale of the former Milk Board's business. Under the terms of the Staff Rationalisation Agreement they held a guaranteed option of redeployment to public sector employment in the event of their being made redundant by the new employer.

Some 48 of these have since been made redundant by the new employer and have exercised their option to return to public sector employment.

Of the remaining 19, five reached retirement without invoking their guarantee and one person left the employ of the new owner of his own volition. There remain thirteen staff in the employ of the new owner.

Farm Retirement Scheme.

Dan Neville

Question:

196 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the reason for discontinuance of a farm retirement pension to a person (details supplied ) in County Limerick. [20510/04]

The person named is a participant in the 1994 scheme of early retirement from farming, having entered that scheme in August 1997. It was necessary to suspend the pension in April 2004 because one of the leases had not been extended or a new lease put in place for part of the pension lands. A new lease has now been submitted to my Department and payment of the pension, including arrears, will resume at the end of July.

EU Directives.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

197 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the extent to which he expects the nitrates directive to affect productivity in the agricultural sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20529/04]

The implementation of the nitrates directive is, in the first instance, a matter for the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. He and I met the farming organisations on 30 June and again outlined the approach to be taken in implementing the directive. An action programme will be submitted to the European Commission meeting Ireland's legal obligations under the directive, and separately from that there will also be proposals for arrangements under which farmers may operate above the general limit of 170 kg. of organic nitrogen which the directive lays down.

The Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government in conjunction with my Department is now in the process of making available a revised draft action programme for farmers and other interested parties to offer their views. The action programme and arrangements for derogations will ultimately require the approval of the European Commission. However it is my objective, shared by the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, to minimise the burden of compliance on farmers generally and to ensure that the future of the commercial agriculture sector is safeguarded.

I welcome the announcement by the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government that he has appointed Mr. Denis Brosnan, former managing director and chairman of the Kerry Group, to advise on the proposed nitrates action programme. As independent adviser, Mr. Brosnan will play a leading role in the forthcoming consultation exercise and I am confident that he will make a major contribution to a successful outcome.

Departmental Correspondence.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

198 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if he has received a submission from the ICSA in regard to genetically modified foods, the nitrates directive and other related matters; if he expects or intends to respond positively to this submission; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20530/04]

With regard to the issue of genetically modified foods, I can confirm that a submission has been received from the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers Association, ICSA. An interdepartmental inter-agency working group has been established within my Department to examine, among other issues, the co-existence of GM crops with conventional crops and organic farming. The working group is meeting all the relevant stakeholders on GMO issues and would plan to meet representatives of the ICSA over the coming weeks to get their views.

The implementation of the nitrates directive is in the first instance a matter for the Minister for Environment, Heritage and Local Government. The Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government in conjunction with my Department published a draft action programme which was presented in December last to representatives of the main farming organisations and other stakeholders. Written submissions on the draft action programme have been received from some 70 stakeholders, including the ICSA. All views and submissions were considered in preparing a revised draft action programme.

The Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government in conjunction with my Department has now published a revised draft action programme giving effect to the nitrates directive and all stakeholders, including the ICSA, have been invited to make comments on it by 26 July.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

199 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if he has received submissions from the IFA in the matter of the beef and dairy industry, the nitrates directive and other issues; if he expects or intends to respond positively to such submissions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20531/04]

Submissions received from the Irish Farmers Association, IFA, and other farming bodies on an ongoing basis which cover a wide range of matters. However, specific submissions relating to the beef and dairy industries have not recently been received from the IFA.

With regard to the implementation of the nitrates directive, this is in the first instance a matter for my colleague, the Minister for Environment, Heritage and Local Government. The Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, in conjunction with my Department, published a draft action programme which was presented in December last to representatives of the main farming organisations and other stakeholders. Written submissions on the draft action programme have been received from some 70 stakeholders, including the IFA. All views and submissions were considered in preparing a revised draft action programme.

The Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government in conjunction with my Department has now published a revised draft action programme giving effect to the nitrates directive and all stakeholders, including the IFA, have been invited to make comments on it by 26 July. The farm organisations convey their views on a regular basis on a range of issues. This is done quite frequently through meetings with me and my officials.

Meat Industry.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

200 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the way in which he proposes to enhance the marketing of Irish beef and lamb at home and overseas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20532/04]

The marketing of Irish beef and lamb at home and abroad is primarily a matter for the industry itself, with the support of an Bord Bia, which has statutory responsibility in this area. I am satisfied that an Bord Bia successfully meets the objectives set for it in this respect. My Department and the Department of Foreign Affairs provide appropriate support to the overall marketing and promotional campaigns conducted by an Bord Bia and the industry in various markets.

My main role is to ensure that a competitive environment and an appropriate support system exist within which the sector can grow and prosper. The most fundamental and radical reform of agriculture policy was adopted last year at EU level and, as a consequence, I decided that all direct payments for cattle and sheep would be decoupled from production on 1 January next year. That decision will enable farmers in Ireland to focus more sharply on the market and the demands of the final consumer. It will enable farmers the freedom of choice at farm level, enabling them to respond more directly than heretofore on market signals.

I am satisfied that the decision to decouple from production will lead to an aggregate increase in farm incomes. I have created the conditions for the early introduction of mechanical classification in beef plants and Ireland will shortly be amongst the first EU countries to classify beef carcases by mechanical means. This will not only enhance the producer processor supply chain but will also provide wider benefits to the industry as Ireland consolidates its position as a supplier of top quality beef to the consumer markets of the EU. Indeed the success of current policies is evident by the transformation in Ireland's export profile where the focus has been to broaden and expand market reach at EU retail level, thereby shifting orientation away from international commodity markets and into the higher priced internal EU marketplace. As a result, last year the EU market absorbed 83% of beef exports from Ireland in contrast to some 50% in the late 1990s.

Non-EU markets continue to be important outlets for Irish beef and the maintenance of an appropriate export refund policy, which I keep under close review, is a key ingredient in the promotion of beef in third countries. Ireland continues to export the bulk of its lamb production although there has been a steady recovery in domestic consumption in recent years. I believe that the best way to enhance the marketing of Irish beef and lamb is to build on our already strong presence in the market and to continue to maximise efficiency levels at all stages of production and processing and continue to offer the type and quality of product required by the market.

Food Labelling.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

201 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the extent to which he proposes to improve the labelling of quality Irish meat and meat products; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20533/04]

All meat products sold at retail level in Ireland are subject to the general labelling requirements set out in national and EU legislation. In relation to beef, EU regulations provide for a detailed labelling system to be applied at retail sale which is over and above the general labelling provisions. There is, however, a gap in these requirements in so far as they do not apply at restaurant and catering sector level and I have announced my intention to proceed with a legal requirement that country of origin must be displayed in respect of beef served on such premises. This measure will come into effect once the necessary control and implementation arrangements are in place.

When I have evaluated the impact of this measure I will consider the question of extending the scope of the regulations to other meats.

Meat Industry.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

202 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the extent to which restaurants and hotels at home and abroad have been contacted with a view to encouraging the use of Irish beef and lamb; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20534/04]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

204 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the means used to promote the use of Irish beef and lamb in hotels and restaurants throughout the country and abroad; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20536/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 202 and 204 together.

I am very aware of the value of promoting Irish food at home and abroad and I take every opportunity available to me to promote the quality, wholesomeness and safety of Irish food produced by a modern, sophisticated and customer-oriented industry.

The food service industry is an important route to market and Bord Bia, which has statutory responsibility for marketing and promoting Irish food and drink at home and abroad, has programmes in place to promote Irish beef and lamb with the aim of securing access to the widest possible range of markets and specifically targeting the segments that give the best return to industry. Bord Bia recognises the importance of the food service segment of the market and is actively engaged in encouraging hotels and restaurants to source Irish beef and lamb at home and abroad.

Bord Bia has a clear strategy in place to build greater market share for Irish beef and lamb. A European meat forum was held in May to demonstrate the capability of the Irish meat industry. The forum attracted more than 200 of Europe's leading beef buyers to Dublin. As part of an intensive drive to attract new retail customers a Chefs Irish Beef Club has been launched in the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and France. A co-branding initiative has been set up with leading retailers in Italy to increase the visibility and awareness of the Irish beef brand in Ireland's largest market for premium beef. These initiatives are underpinned by retail promotions in individual markets, inward buyer visits and participation at international trade fairs such as CIBUS in Italy and SIAL in France.

The market position of Irish beef and lamb in supermarkets, speciality stores, hotels and restaurants has improved considerably in the United Kingdom and continental Europe as a result of these initiatives. In UK supermarkets alone, more than 75 million packs of beef carrying the Irish beef logo were sold last year. On the home market, Bord Bia operates the Féile Bia programme which is aimed specifically at the restaurant and hotel industry. The programme is run in co-operation with the Restaurants' Association of Ireland and the Irish Hotels Federation with the support of the farming community. Participating caterers enter into a commitment to source products from recognised quality assurance schemes and/or high quality local products. There are 1,300 Féile Bia members in Ireland and this will exceed 1,500 by year end.

Question No. 203 answered with QuestionNo. 132.
Question No. 204 answered with QuestionNo. 202.

Animal Carcase Disposal.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

205 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the number of animals destroyed and disposed of in the beef destruction scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20537/04]

Under the purchase for destruction scheme 2001, approximately 278,000 animals were destroyed. This scheme was succeeded by the special purchase scheme which saw the purchase and disposal of some 66,500 tonnes of carcase beef. This tonnage equated approximately to 235,000 animals.

Animal Feedstuffs.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

206 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if he has satisfied himself that all bonemeal imports into this country have ceased; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20538/04]

Importation of meat and bonemeal or such products for any purpose to do with the farm animal and human food chain is prohibited. Under Community rules the importation of such products which have already been incorporated within pet foods and which are destined for meat eating animals is provided for subject to certain conditions. Data supplied by the Central Statistics Office indicates that the total quantity of pet food imported into this country during 2003 was 42,411 tonnes.

Importers of pet foods are required to register with my Department and give at least 24 hours notice of intention to import. In the case of pet food originating from an EU source it must come from an approved establishment and be accompanied to its destination with a commercial document or a health certificate signed by an official veterinarian on the competent authority of the member state of origin. In the case of importation from third countries it can only be imported under licence. In such cases it must originate in a country approved by the EU for trade in such products, have been produced in an approved establishment and be accompanied by a health certificate in accordance the provisions of Community legislation.

World Trade Organisation.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

207 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the position in regard to progress in relation to prices at the WTO; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20539/04]

: The ongoing negotiations on the new WTO agreement under the Doha development agenda deal with,inter alia, the levels of domestic support and border protection for agriculture. The negotiations are proceeding in Geneva with a view to reaching agreement on a framework for modalities or the broad general outline of a new agreement by the end of July. Negotiations on the details of a new agreement would follow any conclusions on the framework process. These further negotiations are likely to continue for several months and probably into 2005.

Farm Retirement Scheme.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

208 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the number of applicants for farm retirement pension since the new scheme was introduced; the number approved or pending; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20540/04]

A total of 2,359 applications have been received under the current early retirement scheme since it commenced in November 2000. Of these, 2,206 have been approved for payment, 65 have been refused, 70 are being processed and 18 were withdrawn. A number of the applications that were refused may yet be successful if the deficiencies identified in them are rectified.

Food Labelling.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

209 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the success or otherwise of his efforts to discourage misleading re-labelling of meat or meat products; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20541/04]

The general rules on the labelling of foodstuffs, including meat and meat products, are provided for under EU Council Directive 2000/13/EC as implemented in Ireland by the European Communities (Labelling, Presentation and Advertising of Foodstuffs) Regulations 2002, SI 483 of 2002. Specific provisions relate to the labelling of beef and poultry.

Where there is evidence that these requirements are not being met, the agency responsible for controlling the particular sector and for implementing the legislation should take the appropriate action. On the slaughtering and cutting plants under the control of my Department, my Department's veterinary inspectorate constantly monitor the procedures in place at these plants to ensure full compliance with the labelling requirements. It is a matter for the Food Safety Authority of Ireland, FSAI, in conjunction with the local authorities and health boards, to address any alleged breaches in the areas for which they have responsibility — the retail sector.

Arising out of the report of the food labelling group which I established to look at the labelling of food in general, it was decided to allocate overall responsibility for the enforcement of general and specific labelling in the food sector to the FSAI. This, in my view, will bring a more co-ordinated approach to the enforcement of food labelling rules and will ensure a greater degree of compliance. The extension of the beef labelling regulations, which I announced recently, to the restaurant and catering sector will also provide greater assurance to consumers in that sector as to the origin and integrity of the product being sold.

Dairy Industry.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

210 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food his plans for the future and success of the dairy industry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20542/04]

The future of the Irish dairy sector will be influenced by a range of factors, some of which relate to commercial aspects of international supply and demand and others to developments in CAP and WTO. The extent to which the industry equips itself in all aspects to deal with international competition will be a key element in its long term success.

The implementation of the mid term reform, MTR, of the CAP and the enlargement of the EU which took place on 1 May 2004 are key factors. The enlargement of the EU will provide increased marketing opportunities in the new member states while also bringing increased competition on the EU market. The MTR, by setting new intervention limits and reducing intervention prices, has highlighted the need to become less reliant on commodity products and to increase the added value nature of our output. This was also identified by the Prospectus report which concluded that the future success of the industry was dependent on a number of factors including its ability to increase scale and efficiency, reduce costs, and increase research and development. There is a real need to ensure that our product mix meets the demands of the marketplace and allows for reasonable return on production.

I have met with most of the major players in the dairy sector in order to discuss the implementation of strategies for the future and to identify any areas where I may be able to assist or facilitate with the changes required in the Irish dairy industry. It is clear that the Prospectus report provided the industry in general with an opportunity to examine its strengths and weaknesses and, to consider the best options for its future development, against the background of international benchmarks. While my Department and the other relevant state agencies will provide whatever assistance is possible in this process, the ultimate decisions in relation to processing structure and product mix are a matter for the management and boards of the individual undertakings.

On production at farm level, producers will also have to look at increasing the scale of their operations, reducing costs where possible, and improving the quality and composition of the milk they produce. The MTR has ensured the extension of the quota regime until 2014-15. There is a clear need now, more than ever, to assist those who wish to expand their operations within this new environment. The decision which I made to bring forward the decoupling of the dairy premium to 2005 should help those who wish to expand. Producers who have activated their entitlement will be able to cease production while retaining the direct payment, thus freeing up additional quota for those who remain in production.

In May last, my Department organised a meeting of representatives of the main bodies in the industry, to address the key issues arising in the quota regime, with particular emphasis on the restructuring of milk quota. The views put forward at that meeting will contribute to the ongoing debate on the main issues that face the sector at this juncture and in particular to decisions in relation to future quota restructuring. It will continue to be my policy that milk quota becoming available in Ireland benefits, as far as possible, those active, committed producers who need to expand and on whom the future of the industry depends. The year 2004 has seen strong demand for dairy products on the EU and international markets and while there have been reductions in export refund levels recently, this reflects the extent to which markets have strengthened and the improved level of demand for EU exports. I am hopeful that the current period of strengthening markets for dairy products will continue into the future.

I will continue to monitor market developments to ensure that all of the EU market management mechanisms available are utilised in the best interests of the industry. I am pleased to see the Irish dairy sector taking advantage of this current positive market situation and I am confident that the industry will continue to grow, develop and increase its presence on the competitive international dairy markets.

Milk Quota.

Jackie Healy-Rae

Question:

211 Mr. Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if consideration will be given to farmers who lost out on their entitlements while supplying milk during the base years of 1,2 and 3 are not able to return to milking for various reasons; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20571/04]

Under the EU regulations on the single payment scheme, the decoupled dairy premium is based on the eligible milk quota held by dairy farmers on 31 March 2005. To be eligible a dairy farmer must have delivered milk during the 2004-05 milk quota year or prior to 15 May 2005. The premium is not based on milk production or quota held in the reference years for the single payment scheme, 2000-02, and, therefore, a former producer who has already disposed of his or her quota will not be eligible for any dairy premium payment.

However, certain categories of farmers will be eligible to apply for entitlements from the national reserve. Among these are farmers who, on or before 29 September 2003, participated in a scheme for the conversion of their production from one type of farming enterprise to another. Eligibility criteria will be established for this category as well as for the other categories. Application forms will be available in the autumn in relation to these particular cases.

In the case of a dairy farmer who holds a quota but cannot utilise it during the 2004-2005 milk quota year on the grounds offorce majeure-exceptional circumstances he-she may be eligible for the decoupled dairy premium even where he or she temporary leases the non-utilised quota. In such cases producers must make application to my Department and get prior approval. Details of the scheme for farmers who consider that their milk production during the 2004-2005 milk quota year was adversely affected by force majeure-exceptional circumstances and who wish to temporary lease the quota and secure entitlement to the dairy premium will be announced in the next week or so.

Tax Code.

Batt O'Keeffe

Question:

212 Mr. B. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Finance if it is his intention to amend the Valuation Act 2001 in view of the severe imposition it is placing on community halls, not taking into account community uses other than bar facilities; and if he will apply a rating system to bars within community facilities exempting all other community activities in same. [20007/04]

I have no plans to amend the valuation legislation as it applies to community halls-clubhouses. The Valuation Act 2001 provides that community halls such as clubhouses which are not licensed to sell alcohol and whose facilities are not used primarily for profit or gain are not rateable. However, the Act provides that where a club is licensed to sell alcohol the entire premises occupied by that club is rateable. In many clubs there can be an overlap in the use of club facilities for both the sale of alcohol and ordinary club activities. Rating the commercial only element of all clubs would cause practical difficulties in identifying the commercial licensed element.

The sale of alcohol is a commercial activity and these premises are competing with other commercial premises. The effect of removing any category of rateable property from the valuation base would be to increase the rates burden on other ratepayers. Where a community hall or a sports club ceases to be licensed for the sale of alcohol it will no longer be rateable.

Disabled Drivers.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

213 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for Finance the progress to date on the Interdepartmental Report of the Review Group on the disabled drivers and disabled passengers (tax concessions) scheme. [19966/04]

As I said in a reply to a previous parliamentary question, I received the interdepartmental report of the review group on the disabled drivers' and disabled passengers' (tax concessions) scheme in September 2002 and it has been under consideration in my Department. The report is a substantive one which needs to be carefully studied. This process has now been completed and the report was published on my Department's website on Friday 2 July. Copies of the report are also available from my Department.

Decentralisation Programme.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

214 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Finance the timescale for the decentralisation of 50 Revenue Commissioners jobs to Listowel, County Kerry; if a site has been identified for the new office; the number of civil servants who have volunteered to relocate to Listowel; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19979/04]

Progress on decentralisation of Revenue staff to Listowel is dependent on a number of factors including the availability of suitable accommodation in that location. Discussions are ongoing with the Office of Public Works and it is hoped to have a decision on the location of the site in the near future. The number of civil and public servants who have volunteered to relocate to Listowel will not be known until preliminary information from the central applications facility becomes available after 8 July 2004.

Tax Code.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

215 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the development of child care centres is being restricted and impeded by the imposition of rates on such centres; and if he has proposals in this regard. [19980/04]

I have no plans to provide for special treatment of child care centres under the Valuation Act. The Valuation Act 2001 maintained the long-standing position that commercial facilities, including child care facilities such as play schools, preschools, crèches and Montessori schools, are liable for rates. Exceptions to this key principle would quickly be followed by demands for similar treatment from the providers of other useful services and products which would be difficult in equity to resist.

The process could thus substantially reduce local authority revenues which would have to be made good by imposing corresponding increases on the remaining ratepayers. The rateable valuation of commercial property is based on net annual value, NAV, the rental value of the property. Any ratepayer dissatisfied with the rateability of a property, the valuation assessed on a particular property or the method of calculation can appeal to the commissioner of valuation in the first instance and subsequently to the independent valuation tribunal. There is a further right of appeal to the High Court and ultimately to the Supreme Court on a point of law.

In recent years, the Government has carefully considered the whole area of child care and its cost. In that context, the core objective of Government policy in the area of child support is the provision of assistance to parents which offers real choice and is beneficial to all children. As a matter of policy, the Government has decided that child benefit will be the main fiscal instrument through which support will be provided to parents with dependant children. Since 1997, child benefit rates have increased by more than 230% compared to a projected increase in inflation of only 28% during the period 1997 to 2004.

My colleague the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform has overall responsibility for the formulation of national policy on child care. In that context, the establishment of the €436.7 million Equal Opportunities Childcare Programme 2000 — 2006, EOCP, with funding provided by the European Union and the Exchequer under the national development plan and the anti-inflationary package, aims to increase the supply of centre based child care places by 50% or, approximately 28,400, by programme end. I understand that, to date, more than €250 million has been allocated in funding under the EOCP.

Departmental Agencies.

Enda Kenny

Question:

216 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Finance if he will give details of all State or semi-State agencies and boards under the aegis of his Department as of 1 January 1994; the number of State or semi-State agencies and Boards under the aegis of his Department as of 1 January 2004; the date of the establishment of such agencies and boards in each case; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19995/04]

The following table sets out the name and date of establishment of State or semi-State agencies and boards under the aegis of my Department as of 1 January 2004.

The ACC and ICC, which were established in 1927 and 1933 respectively and are now privatised, were also under the aegis of my Department on 1 January 1994. State or semi-State agencies and boards under the aegis of the Department of Finance as of 1 January 2004 are as follows:

State, Semi-State agency or Board

Year of Establishment

Office of Public Works

1831

Valuation Office

1836

Office of the Appeals Commissioners

1842

Office of the Revenue Commissioners

1923

Civil Service Commission

1923

State Laboratory

1924

Credit Union Advisory Committee

1967

Review Body on Higher Remuneration in the Public Sector

1969

Office of the Ombudsman

1984

National Lottery Company

1986

Valuation Tribunal

1988

Disabled Drivers’ Medical Board of Appeal

1989

National Treasury Management Agency

1990

National Treasury Management Agency Advisory Committee

1990

Civil Service Disciplinary Code of Appeals Board

1991

Independent Mediation Officer under the Civil Service Grievance Procedure

1991

Civil Service Arbitration Board

1994

Office of the Information Commissioner

1998

Investor Compensation Company Limited

1998

Special EU Programmes Body

1999

Public Service Benchmarking Body

2000

Office of the Standards in Public Office Commission [replaced the Public Offices Commission which was established in 1995]

2001

National Pensions Reserve Fund Commission

2001

State Claims Agency Policy Committee

2001

The Interim Board of the Civil Service Childcare Agency

2002

Ordnance Survey Ireland [replaced interim Board of the Ordnance which was appointed in 1997]

2002

Central Bank and Financial Services Authority of Ireland [replaced the Central Bank of Ireland which was established in 1943]

2003

National Development Finance Agency

2003

Irish Financial Services Regulatory Authority

2003

Tax Code.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

217 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance if income tax refund is due in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare who has been off work since October 2003; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20119/04]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that a review of the taxpayer's liability to income tax for the year 2003 has now been completed and a PAYE balancing statement, together with a refund cheque issued on 5 July 2004.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

218 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance when a P45 will issue in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20139/04]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that, following a telephone call to the former employer of the person named in the details supplied, her former employer sent a form P45 to the taxpayer at her home address on 25 June 2004.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

219 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Finance if income tax can be claimed back in cases in which part of the income arose from a social welfare overpayment and the overpayment is subsequently repaid; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20155/04]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that in cases where an overpayment of a taxable social welfare payment has arisen and the overpayment has subsequently been repaid to the Department of Social and Family Affairs, Revenue will, on application from the taxpayer, review his or her income tax liability for the relevant year(s) of assessment.

In making such application, the taxpayer should submit evidence that he or she has repaid the relevant amount to the Department of Social and Family Affairs. In carrying out a review of an individual's tax liability for a tax year, the amount of the social welfare payment previously assessed to tax will be reduced by the amount repaid by the individual to the Department of Social and Family Affairs and any tax overpaid will be refunded to the taxpayer.

However, it should be noted that there are statutory time limits in place in respect of claims for a repayment of tax. For example, for the tax year 2003 and subsequent years the claim for repayment must be made within four years after the end of the relevant tax year. If the Deputy wishes to forward details of a particular case, or cases, to the Revenue Commissioners, they are prepared to determine whether or not a refund is due.

Seán Haughey

Question:

220 Mr. Haughey asked the Minister for Finance the details of the tax allowance scheme for orthodontic and other dental treatment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20209/04]

Tax relief is available, under the heading of health expenses, on certain qualifying dental expenses. Routine dental care does not qualify for tax relief — tax relief is not available for the cost of scaling, extraction and filling of teeth and the provision and repair of artificial teeth and dentures.

The following specialised dental treatments qualify for tax relief:

Description

Bridgework

Dental treatment consisting of an enamel-retained bridge or a tooth-supported bridge.

Crowns

These are restorations fabricated outside the mouth and are permanently cemented to existing tooth tissue

Tip replacing

This is regarded as a crown where a large part of the tooth needs to be replaced and the replacement is made outside the mouth

Veneers/Rembrant Type Etched Fillings

These are a form of crown

Endodontics Root Canal Treatment

This involves the filling of the nerve canal and not the filling of teeth

Gold Inlays

These are a smaller version of a gold crown. (Only allowable if fabricated outside the mouth).

Gold Posts

These are inserts in the nerve canal of a tooth, to hold a crown

Orthodontic Treatment

This involves the provision of braces and similar treatments

Periodontal Treatment

· Root Planing — a treatment of periodontal (gum) disease.

· Currettage and Debridement — part of root planing.

· Gum flaps — a gum treatment.

· Chrome Cobalt Splint — if used in connection with periodontal treatment. (If it contains teeth, relief is not allowable).

· Dental implants following treatment of periodontal (gum) disease, which included bone grafting and bone augmentation.

Surgical Extraction of Impacted Wisdom Teeth

Relief is allowable when undertaken in a hospital, or by a dentist in a dental surgery. Certification from the hospital/dentist will be required to obtain tax relief. The removal of teeth in any other circumstances does not qualify.

To claim such relief, the individual must submit to his or her tax office a completed health expenses claim form, known as form Med 1. This is completed by the individual making the tax claim. They must also submit a completed form Med 2. This form is completed by the dentist who carried out the dental work.

As with all health expenses claims, tax relief cannot be claimed in respect of any expenditure which has been or will be reimbursed to the individual or where a compensation payment has been or will be made in respect of such expenditure; and the first €125 of any medical-dental expenses incurred in any tax year or, if the claim relates to two or more persons, the first €250. Tax relief may, under the heading of health expenses, be claimed by an individual in respect of expenditure incurred on his or her own behalf or on behalf of his or her dependants. A dependant of an individual is any relative of the individual making the claim or any other person who at any time during the year of claim is aged 65 years or over or who is permanently incapacitated by reason of mental or physical infirmity. A relative is defined as husband, wife, ancestor, lineal descendant, brother or sister, mother or father of the individual's spouse, brother or sister of the individual's spouse, spouse of the individual's son or daughter, the individual's child or any other child, who, for the year of the claim, is in his or her custody and maintained at his or her expense and under 18 years of age, or if over 18 years of age, is receiving full-time education.

Further information regarding tax relief under the heading of health expenses is available on the Revenue website atwww.revenue.ie.

Motor Fuels.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

221 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Finance the number of persons charged with the illegal use of green diesel in 2003 and to date in 2004; the number of convictions secured; the different categories of charges and convictions in both periods; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20221/04]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that their enforcement programmes include ones aimed at detecting the illegal use of marked gas oil. The following table gives the details of the proceedings initiated and of the number of convictions secured in 2003 and in 2004 to date. Additionally it provides details of the charges involved.

Proceedings instituted (persons charged)

Numbers convicted

Categories of Charges

Description of Charge

2003

year to date 2004

2003

year to date 2004

S. 102 (1) (b) (i) F.A 1999

Keeping/using in the fuel tank any mineral oil on which mineral oil tax at the appropriate standard rate has not been paid.

198

107

145

79

S. 102 (1) (b) (ii) F.A 1999

Keeping/using in the fuel tank any mineral oil containing one or more markers prescribed by regulations under section 104 Finance Act, 1999

S. 102 (1) (b) (iii) F.A 1999

Keeping/using in the fuel tank any substance where the Importation of mineral oil containing such substance is prohibited by regulation made under section 104 Finance Act, 1999.

Decentralisation Programme.

Richard Bruton

Question:

222 Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for Finance the number of persons who have applied to take up the offer of relocation under the decentralisation programme through the central admissions facility due to close on 8 July 2004; the distribution of applicants classified by the location for which they have applied; and by the grade they hold within the public service. [20333/04]

The central applications facility, CAF, is being operated by the Civil Service Commission. It was launched on 12 May 2004 and was due to close for priority applications on 8 July. However, this period has now been extended to 7 September 2004. Information and analysis of the type requested by the Deputy on applications to the CAF will be available later this week and will be provided as soon as possible to the various interested parties including the decentralisation implementation group, staff and management interests and so on. The information will be made publicly available.

Departmental Correspondence.

John Gormley

Question:

223 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the position regarding the complaint made to the Irish embassy from the White House with respect to an interview (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20234/04]

On 24 June, following the conclusion of the interview in question, a member of the White House staff contacted the embassy of Ireland in Washington to express, informally, some concern about the manner in which the interview was conducted. The embassy passed these concerns to my Department in Dublin.

No request for action was made nor was any taken by the Department in relation to this matter which, as far as the Government is concerned, is now closed.

Overseas Development Aid.

Richard Bruton

Question:

224 Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the increase in millions of euro in overseas development aid in 2003 and 2004 over the previous years and the increase in 2005, 2006 and 2007 which would be necessary if the 2007 target of 0.7% of gross national product were to be reached using Department of Finance projection for the growth in the nominal value of GNP; and if he will make a statement on the Government’s policy in relation to this target. [20470/04]

Provisional outturn figures indicate that overall expenditure on overseas development aid in 2003 amounted to €451 million, an increase of €29 million on 2002 expenditure. The allocation to Vote 29 — International Co-operation — in 2004 is €400 million while elements of ODA administered by other Departments are expected to total some €80 million. Total spending on ODA, therefore, is expected to approach €480 million in 2004, the highest ever in the history of the programme. This level of expenditure demonstrates the strong commitment of the Government to the attainment of the UN target.

The Department of Finance budget 2004 forecasts for GNP growth indicate that GNP will increase to €126 billion in 2005 and to €134.9 billion in 2006. An official Department of Finance forecast for 2007 has not yet issued. However, applying the projected percentage increase for 2006 — 7.06% in 2007 — would indicate that GNP would reach €144.4 billion in 2007. On the basis of these GNP forecasts, total ODA equivalent to 0.7% of GNP would be of the order of €1 billion.

In percentage terms, Ireland is one of the world's leading donors — we are in joint seventh place — and well ahead of the EU average. The Government hopes that increased allocations, the scale and timing of which will be considered on an ongoing basis, will be possible over the coming years with a view to the achievement of our objective.

Departmental Bodies.

Enda Kenny

Question:

225 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will give details of all State or semi-State agencies and boards under the aegis of his Department as of 1 January 1994; the number of State or semi-State agencies and boards under the aegis of his Department as of 1 January 2004; the date of the establishment of such agencies and boards in each case; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19996/04]

The following were the agencies under the aegis of the Department of Foreign Affairs as of 1 January 1994 and of 1 January 2004: 1 January 1994 — the Agency for Personnel Services Overseas, APSO, was established in 1973 as a semi-state body operating under the aegis of the Department of Foreign Affairs, with a board of directors appointed by the Minister for Foreign Affairs. APSO was integrated into the Department of Foreign Affairs on 1 January 2004; a statutory body, the Ireland-United States Commission for Educational Exchange, known as the Fulbright commission, was established in 1992 and implements the Fulbright programme in Ireland; the refugee agency was established by the Government in 1991 as a non-statutory body under the aegis of the Department. Its role is to co-ordinate the admission, reception and resettlement of programme refugees — refugees admitted to Ireland under Government decision in response to a request from UNHCR. The board of the agency was appointed by the Minister for a two year period. Funding for the agency is provided through an annual grant in aid from the Department. On, 2 April 2001, the refugee agency was incorporated into the reception and integration agency under the aegis of the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform; 1 January 2004 — the advisory board of Ireland Aid was established in August 2002 operating under the aegis of the Department of Foreign Affairs with a board of directors appointed by the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Its name was changed to the advisory board for Development Co-operation Ireland in September 2003.

EU-US Summit.

Paudge Connolly

Question:

226 Mr. Connolly asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the outcome of the recent EU-US Summit with particular reference to the treatment of Iraqi prisoners in Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad and the various nationalities held without prisoner status in Guantanamo, Cuba; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20014/04]

The successful outcome of the EU-US Summit at Dromoland Castle on 26 June was the culmination of six months of hard work for the Irish Presidency and marked important progress in the improvement of EU-US relations. The atmosphere of the meeting was very positive and forward-looking and a range of important political and economic issues were discussed. The summit adopted seven joint declarations covering an array of important international issues.

At the summit, the Taoiseach raised the issue of human rights abuses by the occupying powers. As President of the European Union, his mandate was to express the agreed position of the European Union, as reflected in the conclusions from the European Council of 17 June 2004. He expressed EU concern at the mistreatment of prisoners and urged President Bush to strongly consider the recommendations contained in the recent report issued by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. President Bush emphasised his disgust at what had happened and reiterated his determination to rectify matters.

On the issue of terrorism, the Taoiseach also noted that while we must be rigorous in combating terrorism, we cannot allow our common values to be sacrificed. He also took the opportunity of President Bush's visit to raise the issue of the treatment and status of detainees in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. I would additionally make the point that the international community, through the unanimous recent adoption by the United Nations Security Council of Resolution 1546 of 2004, is now working together in support of the political transition process leading to the establishment of a democratic Iraq. We agreed a joint declaration on Iraq at the EU-US Summit which demonstrates our shared determination to put past differences behind us and to work together in the interest of the Iraqi people.

Foreign Conflicts.

Paudge Connolly

Question:

227 Mr. Connolly asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will report on the situation in Iraq; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20015/04]

The Government remains concerned about the security situation in Iraq. Terrorists continue to be active and are carrying out suicide bombings and attacks on civilians as well as on military targets. We are pleased that fighting has died down in Najaf and Fallujah. It is very regrettable that there have been some civilian casualties resulting from coalition forces targeting houses in Fallujah, in the belief that these were being used as safehouses by al-Qaeda militants. The Government has urged the coalition forces to make every conceivable effort to avoid civilian casualties.

The capture and killing of hostages continue. We utterly condemn the recent brutal and savage execution of South Korean civilian Kim Sun-Il. I reiterate our call for the immediate and safe release of all hostages in Iraq and for an end to the practice of kidnapping. At the recent European Council, Ireland and our EU partners regretted that the campaign of terrorist violence in Iraq is prolonging the suffering of the Iraqi people by posing difficulties for political progress and economic reconstruction in Iraq. The Council welcomed the commitment under United Nations Security Council Resolution 1546 of all parties to act in accordance with international law, including obligations under international humanitarian law, and called on them to ensure observance of these obligations. Our objective is to see a secure, stable, unified, prosperous and democratic Iraq that will make a positive contribution to the stability of the region and work constructively with its neighbours and with the international community to meet shared challenges.

I welcomed the transfer of sovereignty to the Iraqi interim Government on 28 June. I wish it every success in its mission to govern Iraq to the stage where free and fair elections can take place and offer our full and sustained support.

EU Membership.

Paudge Connolly

Question:

228 Mr. Connolly asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the position regarding the EU application of the Republic of Croatia; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20016/04]

Croatia applied for membership of the European Union in February 2003. In April 2003, the General Affairs and External Relations Council requested the Commission to prepare its opinion on the application. The opinion was completed in April 2004. I am pleased that the European Council in Brussels on 18 June decided, on the basis of the Commission opinion, that Croatia is a candidate country for membership of the EU and that the accession process should be launched. The European Council decided to convene a bilateral intergovernmental conference with Croatia early in 2005 in order to begin negotiations.

In preparation for the opening of negotiations with Croatia, the Council will agree a general negotiating framework, taking full account of the experience of the current enlargement process. As requested by the European Council, the Commission is preparing an evaluation in this regard and will prepare a pre-accession strategy for Croatia, including the necessary financial instrument. The negotiations with Croatia will be based on Croatia's own merits and the pace of progress will depend solely on the fulfilment of the requirements for membership.

At the start of Ireland's Presidency of the EU, the Government set as an objective the maintenance of the priority attached to the western Balkans through the strengthened policy framework for relations between the EU and the region. This framework provides for individual progress by the countries of the western Balkans towards integration into European structures, in the context of closer regional co-operation. The June European Council reaffirmed its commitment to the agenda agreed at the EU-western Balkans Summit in Thessaloniki in June last year, which makes clear that the future of the Western Balkans rests within the European Union. The achievement of candidate status by Croatia, in addition to the progress over the past six months in implementing the Thessaloniki agenda, should be an encouragement to the other countries of the western Balkans to pursue the detailed reform process which will enable closer relations with the EU. I believe that it underlines the seriousness of the commitment made by the European Union that the stabilisation and association process is a framework for closer relations, based on the implementation of wide-ranging reforms, leading to eventual accession by the countries of the Western Balkans.

Paudge Connolly

Question:

229 Mr. Connolly asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the position regarding the EU application of Bulgaria; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20017/04]

Paudge Connolly

Question:

230 Mr. Connolly asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the position regarding the EU application of Romania; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20018/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 229 and 230 together.

The European Council in December 2003 laid down a timetable for the accession of both Bulgaria and Romania. It envisaged the conclusion of negotiations with both countries in 2004, signature of the accession treaty in early 2005 and accession in January 2007, if each country is ready.

The European Council on 17-18 June 2004 noted with great satisfaction that all of the outstanding chapters in the negotiations with Bulgaria had been provisionally closed and that Romania had also made important progress and is substantially closer to achieving the goal of concluding its negotiations by the end of this year. The Council further stated that drafting of the accession treaty for both countries should begin this month, with a view to signature as early as possible in 2005. Both countries were urged to intensify their efforts in order to be ready for membership in January 2007.

Departmental Funding.

Paudge Connolly

Question:

231 Mr. Connolly asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on Irish emigrant welfare; the extent to which the Government has been enabled to assist emigrant groups; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20019/04]

The Government has been providing assistance to Irish emigrants abroad for many years. It has also demonstrated its commitment to protecting and supporting those abroad by establishing the task force on policy regarding emigrants in December 2001. The purpose of the task force was to address the special needs of those Irish emigrants abroad who are particularly marginalised or at greatest risk of exclusion and, to develop a coherent, long-term approach to our emigrants and their needs.

The DION fund for Irish emigrants in Britain was set up by the Government in 1984 in response to concerns about their situation. In line with the recommendations of the task force report on emigrants, responsibility for the DION fund was transferred to the Department of Foreign Affairs from the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment on 5 February 2003. The DION fund is administered by the Irish Embassy in London through the DION committee.

The total amount allocated in grants by the DION committee since 1984 is now almost €18 million. The DION fund has increased from €762,000 in 1997 to €3,570,000 this year. Included in the allocation to DION this year is funding for a project by the Federation of Irish Societies for a five year capacity building project to enable it to expand and develop the range of services on offer to its member organisations, to better identity the needs of elderly and vulnerable Irish people in Britain and to improve the services provided to these people.

Since the early 1990s, the Department of Foreign Affairs has been providing grants to voluntary organisations providing welfare assistance to Irish emigrants in the United States. The purpose is to assist groups responding to the needs — particularly acute at that time — of undocumented Irish people in the US. Although that particular problem was resolved to some extent by the Donnelly and Morrison visa schemes, there are still a significant number of Irish people in this situation. There is, also, a continuing need for immigrant welfare advice, employment referral, social services entitlements, access to further education, acquisition of US citizenship and so on, mainly to recently-arrived young Irish immigrants. With the tightening of US immigration controls following 11 September 2001, the need for such services is growing.

Since 1996, small annual grants are being given to three immigrant welfare organisations in Australia. The purpose is to assist organisations providing emigrant services to elderly and young Irish emigrants. The total allocation for emigrant services in the Vote for Foreign Affairs this year is €4 million. This represents an increase of €1 million or one third over 2003. I have decided that €3.57 million will be allocated to the DION fund for services to Irish emigrants in the UK, €400,000 will be allocated to Irish welfare agencies in the US, €48,000 will go to agencies in Australia. I have also made provision for grants to ÉAN, the umbrella body for voluntary agencies in Ireland providing services to emigrants and to the Irish Commission for Prisoners Overseas.

In the near future, a dedicated unit will be set up in my Department with the objective of ensuring that the Government's response to the particular needs of our vulnerable emigrants is focused and prioritised to the greatest degree possible. It will help co-ordinate the provision of services to the Irish abroad and will work intensively with the Departments and voluntary agencies concerned to carry forward the implementation of the task force's report. I will be making a further announcement on the establishment of this dedicated unit very shortly. I hope to be in a position to allocate further funds to emigrant services later this year from savings within the Vote for the Department of Foreign Affairs.

Nuclear Programme.

Paudge Connolly

Question:

232 Mr. Connolly asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on Iran’s expressed intention to resume building equipment essential for a nuclear power programme, despite its signed agreement to the contrary with three major European Powers, France, Britain and Germany; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20020/04]

It has been almost two years since Iran's undeclared nuclear programme was first brought to the attention of the International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA, and the director general of the agency has presented five reports on the matter since June 2003.

Britain, France and Germany have been to the fore in engaging with Iran on these issues and these efforts have been welcomed by the European Union as a whole. In October 2003, the three foreign ministers concluded an agreed statement in Tehran whereby Iran agreed, as a confidence building measure, to suspend voluntarily all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities as defined by the IAEA.

The IAEA board of governors has also called upon Iran to suspend such activities and welcomed Iran's announced decision to do so. The most recent resolution, adopted by the board on 18 June 2004, reflects this but also expresses regret that these commitments have not been comprehensively implemented and calls on Iran immediately to correct all remaining shortcomings. The EU statement at the June board of governors, delivered by Ireland in its capacity as Presidency of the Union, referred to the importance of the IAEA being in a position to verify fully Iran's announced suspension.

Subsequent to these developments, Iran informed the IAEA on 23 June 2004 that it intended to resume manufacture of centrifuge components and assembly and testing of centrifuges. I regret this announcement and would urge Iran to reconsider this decision and to continue its suspension of all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities. Such suspension has been endorsed by the board of governors and is an important confidence-building measure, particularly while unresolved issues relating to Iran's nuclear programme continue to be examined by the IAEA.

I also continue to call on Iran to extend full and proactive co-operation to the IAEA in a spirit of full transparency and to take all necessary steps, on an urgent basis, to help resolve all remaining questions in relation to its nuclear programme. Ireland, together with our EU partners, will continue to monitor developments ahead of the next scheduled consideration of this issue by the IAEA board of governors in September.

Illegal Immigrants.

Paudge Connolly

Question:

233 Mr. Connolly asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the details of the initiatives indicated to him by the US President at their recent meeting, aimed at regularising the position of undocumented Irish persons in the US. [20036/04]

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

235 Mr. O’Connor asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he has raised with the Government of the United States of America the issue of Irish citizens living illegally in America; if his attention has been drawn to the huge interest in this issue among many here; the position regarding the issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20191/04]

Michael Ring

Question:

238 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if during his recent discussions he raised with President Bush the issue of the Irish illegals in America and if so, the response of President Bush; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20472/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 233, 235 and 238 together.

In our capacity as President of the European Union, Ireland hosted the EU-US Summit on 26 June. Before the summit commenced, the Taoiseach and I took advantage of the visit of President Bush and his colleagues to raise a number of issues bilaterally with them. The situation of the undocumented Irish in the United States was one of these issues. The response from President Bush was sympathetic. He indicated that he would like to see this issue resolved, and he recalled that he had proposed to Congress that the status of the undocumented should be regularised, thereby enabling them to come and go as they wished. He also indicated that he was pro-immigration. However, he also made the point that any proposals will have to be approved by Congress.

This is merely the latest in a series of bilateral contacts with US political leaders on this subject. When I visited Washington in March, I met a number of prominent politicians there and took the opportunity to flag our concerns about the position of Irish immigrants in the US. In particular, I welcomed the proposals made earlier this year by President Bush, by Senators Tom Daschle and Chuck Hagel, and more recently by Senator Edward Kennedy.

I believe that all these proposals represent genuine efforts to deal with the situation of the undocumented in the US in a constructive and sympathetic way. While there appears to be no prospect of a formal amnesty for the undocumented at the present time, the Daschle-Hagel and the Kennedy proposals in particular appear to offer undocumented Irish people an opportunity to obtain permanent legal residency. These proposals will have to be approved by the US Congress and it is too early to say what changes or amendments may be made in the course of their consideration by Congress.

I will continue to monitor the progress of both initiatives through the US Congress closely in the coming months. In the meantime, I am aware that, as a result of increased security controls following the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001, it is becoming harder for undocumented foreign nationals in the US to obtain social security cards and driving licences. While we will continue to do what we can, from a humanitarian point of view, for Irish citizens who are affected by these new controls, the best hope for the future is early progress on the legislative proposals to regularise the status of the undocumented in the US. Through the ongoing efforts of our embassy in Washington and through my own contacts and those of my Cabinet colleagues with political leaders in the US, I will continue to encourage and support measures that would benefit Irish citizens in the US.

Visa Applications.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

234 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if arrangements will be made to ensure that documents with a re-entry visa are issued immediately to a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [20126/04]

The passport of the person concerned was returned to him by registered post on 1 July with the relevant re-entry visa inserted.

Question No. 235 answered with QuestionNo. 233.

Passport Applications.

Gay Mitchell

Question:

236 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs when a refund will be issued for a replacement passport for a person (details supplied) in Dublin 12; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20337/04]

The delay in finalising this matter is regretted. I am advised that payment was issued today.

Departmental Representations.

Gay Mitchell

Question:

237 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will arrange for the staff or representatives of his Department to make contact and advise an Irish citizen (details supplied) resident in Ibiza on her entitlements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20471/04]

On my instructions, the Embassy in Madrid contacted the individual concerned, who was very appreciative. I understand that the matter relates to a legal dispute with her former employers dating back to October 2002. The individual concerned has informed the embassy that in the light of the most recent legal advice she has received, she is now confident that the matter will soon be resolved to her satisfaction. We will continue to offer her all possible consular assistance.

Question No. 238 answered with QuestionNo. 233.

State Visits.

Joe Higgins

Question:

239 Mr. J. Higgins asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the details of the arms and armaments brought into the State by any agency of the US Government in relation to the visit by President Bush. [20577/04]

Matters pertaining to the security of visiting Heads of State are the responsibility of the security authorities in this jurisdiction. It is not the practice to provide specific details of security arrangements relating to the visit of a foreign Head of State.

Special Educational Needs.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

240 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science if a grant can or will be offered to a person (details supplied) in County Kildare to convert a room in their home for educational purposes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20118/04]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

257 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science if a tuition grant can or will be offered for home teaching for a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20115/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 240 and 257 together.

My Department has no record of having received an application for home tuition for the pupil in question. Any application received will be considered. Application forms are available from my Department's special education section, Cornamaddy, Athlone, County Westmeath.

My Department does not provide grant assistance towards the cost of converting private accommodation for educational purposes. The officials in my Department's special education section will be happy to discuss the matter of special education provision for the child in question should the family wish to make contact directly.

Higher Education Grants.

Dan Neville

Question:

241 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Education and Science the courses in psychotherapy and counselling which are assisted under the higher education scheme. [19971/04]

A specific list of the courses that are assisted under the higher education scheme is not available. However, the higher education grants scheme operates under the Local Authorities (Higher Education Grants) Acts 1968 to 1992 and the annual higher education grants scheme, which I approve, sets out a definition of an approved course for the purposes of the scheme. Courses that fall within the definition of an approved course in an approved institution are, therefore, assisted under the higher education scheme.

An approved course is defined to mean, a full-time undergraduate course of not less than two year's duration or a full-time postgraduate course of not less than one years' duration pursued in an approved institution listed in the scheme. The approved institutions mainly comprise the publicly funded third level institutions; a full-time undergraduate course of not less than two years' duration pursued in a university or third level institution which is maintained or assisted by recurrent grants from public funds in another EU member state with the exception of the following: courses in colleges of further and higher education other than courses which are at higher national diploma level or higher; courses provided in a college which are offered in private commercial third level colleges and which are validated by that college; courses in colleges akin to private commercial colleges in Ireland; a full-time undergraduate course of a minimum duration of one year in one of the approved institutions listed in the scheme which represents progression from a FETAC, NCVA, level 2 award qualification and which leads to the award of a qualification of third level standard following a terminal examination; and a full-time undergraduate course of a minimum duration of one year in one of the approved institutions listed in the scheme which represents progression from a national diploma course to an add-on degree course.

Special Educational Needs.

John Perry

Question:

242 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Education and Science when a resource teacher for a school (details supplied) in County Sligo will be appointed in view of the fact that assessments have already been carried out; the reason for the delay; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19974/04]

I can confirm that my Department has received applications from the school referred to by the Deputy for special education resources, SER. It is my intention that all applications for SER received by 30 June 2004 which includes three applications from the school in question, will be responded to before the commencement of the 2004-05 school year.

The teacher allocations involved will be made in the context of a new weighted system which I announced recently. An additional 350 teacher posts are being provided to facilitate the introduction of the new system. The new system will involve a general weighted allocation for all primary schools to cater for pupils with higher incidence special educational needs, for example, those with borderline mild and mild general learning disability, specific learning disability, and also those with learning support needs. It will also allow for individual allocations in respect of pupils with lower incidence special educational needs. The weighted allocation will be made as follows: in the most disadvantaged schools as per the urban dimension of Giving Children an Even Break, a teacher of pupils with special educational needs will be allocated for every 80 pupils to cater for the subset of pupils with higher incidence special needs; in all boys schools, the ratio will be one teacher for every 140 pupils; in mixed schools, or all girls schools with an enrolment of greater than 30% boys, one for every 150 pupils; and in all girls schools including schools with mixed junior classes but with 30% or less boys overall, one for every 200 pupils.

It is intended that the details of the new model will be set out in a comprehensive circular to issue to schools for the commencement of the new school year. The weighted allocation will enable teaching support to be provided to pupils with higher incidence special educational needs and this will obviate the need for schools to submit individual applications for pupils in the higher incidence categories. Schools may continue to apply for specific teacher allocations in respect of pupils with lower incidence disabilities. My Department now proposes to devise clusters in respect of allocations to be made under the weighted model. Sanction for the filling of posts will be considered in the context of these clusters and the weighted arrangements. The Department will communicate with schools in this regard before the commencement of the coming school year.

School Transport.

Billy Timmins

Question:

243 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Education and Science the position in relation to a person (details supplied) in County Wicklow whose child will be attending school in Ballycoonnell in September 2004; if in view of the circumstances this can be arranged; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19976/04]

A report on this case has been requested from Bus Éireann. The Deputy will be advised of the position when the report has been received and assessed.

Residential Institutions Redress Scheme.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

244 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Education and Science the proposals he has to add institutions (details supplied) which cater for the deaf to the list of institutions covered by the Residential Institutions Redress Act 2002; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19987/04]

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

My Department has received correspondence from both individuals and survivor groups identifying a number of additional institutions that may be eligible for inclusion in the Schedule. Discussions have taken place between my Department and other Departments that may have provided a regulatory or inspection function in the operation of these facilities in order to ascertain whether these institutions are in fact eligible for inclusion. The initial information received in some cases was limited due to the long period that had elapsed since these institutions were closed and therefore the process of verifying each of these institutions has been time consuming and is continuing. While inquiries have not yet been completed in respect of all institutions, I am considering proposals which will enable progress to be made in relation to those institutions in respect of which the inquiries have been completed and these proposals are at an advanced stage.

Two of the institutions referred to by the Deputy are already listed on the Schedule of the Act.

Departmental Bodies.

Enda Kenny

Question:

245 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will give details of all State or semi-State agencies and boards under the aegis of his Department as of 1 January 1994; the number of State or semi-State agencies and boards under the aegis of his Department as of 1 January 2004; the date of the establishment of such agencies and boards in each case; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19997/04]

The information requested by the Deputy is being compiled by my Department. I will forward the information directly to the Deputy as soon as it is compiled.

Schools Building Projects.

Seymour Crawford

Question:

246 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for Education and Science the situation regarding the promised restructuring and extension of a school (details supplied) in County Cavan; if the management, teachers and pupils will be a priority; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20021/04]

A large-scale building project for the school referred to by the Deputy is listed in section 9 of the 2004 school building programme which is published on my Department's website atwww.education.ie. This project is at early stages of architectural planning. It has been assigned a band 3 rating by my Department in accordance with the published criteria for prioritising large-scale projects.

My officials are reviewing all projects, which 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 proposed project for the school referred to by the Deputy will be considered in this regard.

Special Educational Needs.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

247 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason a person (details supplied) in County Mayo has been refused resource teaching. [20022/04]

Michael Ring

Question:

266 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Education and Science when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo can expect to receive resource teaching hours; and when they can receive the learning support they need in the school. [20197/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 247 and 266 together.

I can confirm that my Department recently responded to the application for special needs teaching support for the pupil in question. Based on the documentation received from the school, this child did not qualify for special needs teaching support under the terms of my Department's circular 08/02. However, I can confirm that additional correspondence has been received from the school in question in recent days in support of the application. It is envisaged that the case will be reviewed in the context of this additional correspondence.

My Department has developed a new weighted system for the allocation of teaching supports to pupils with special needs. An additional 350 teacher posts are being provided to facilitate the introduction of the new system. The new system will involve a general weighted allocation for all primary schools to cater for pupils with higher incidence special educational needs, for example, those with borderline mild and mild general learning disability, specific learning disability, and also those with learning support needs. It will also allow for individual allocations in respect of pupils with lower incidence special educational needs. The weighted allocation will be made as follows: in the most disadvantaged schools as per the urban dimension of Giving Children an Even Break, a teacher of pupils with special educational needs will be allocated for every 80 pupils to cater for the subset of pupils with higher incidence special needs; in all boys schools, the ratio will be one teacher for every 140 pupils; in mixed schools, or all girls schools with an enrolment of greater than 30% boys, one for every 150 pupils; and in all girls schools including schools with mixed junior classes but with 30% or less boys overall, one for every 200 pupils. It is intended that the details of the new model will be set out in a comprehensive circular to issue to schools for the commencement of the new school year. The weighted allocation will enable teaching support to be provided to pupils with higher incidence special educational needs and this will obviate the need for schools to submit individual applications for pupils in the higher incidence categories.

Schools may continue to apply for specific teacher allocations in respect of pupils with lower incidence disabilities. My Department now proposes to devise clusters in respect of allocations to be made under the weighted model. Sanction for the filling of posts will be considered in the context of these clusters and the weighted arrangements. The Department will communicate with schools in this regard before the commencement of the coming school year.

School Placement.

Pat Carey

Question:

248 Mr. Carey asked the Minister for Education and Science if provision exists in recently enacted education legislation which allows a parent who has primary custody of a child whose other parent they are separated from to decide on the school which should be selected for the child’s education without the other parent’s consent; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20024/04]

Article 42 of the Constitution provides an absolute right of parents to choose the form of education they provide or to have provided to their children. Primary legislation gives effect to this right and includes the Education Act 1998 and the Education (Welfare) Act 2000. The Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs Bill 2003 will further strengthen the right of parents to secure enrolment in a school best able to meet the needs of their child.

None of the foregoing legislation specifically distinguishes between parents who act in concert and those who disagree and are separated, divorced or unmarried. However each provides that "parent" shall be interpreted to include a foster parent, a guardian appointed under the Guardianship of Children Acts, 1964 to 1997, or other person acting in loco parentis who has a child in his or her care subject to any statutory power or order of a court and, in the case of a child who has been adopted under the Adoption Acts, 1952 to 1998, or, where the child has been adopted outside the State, means the adopter or adopters or the surviving adopter. Enrolment of children is, in the first instance, a matter for boards of management rather than my Department and they must address the circumstances of each case while respecting any order made by the court in relation to the custody and welfare of the child.

Special Educational Needs.

Paddy McHugh

Question:

249 Mr. McHugh asked the Minister for Education and Science further to Question No. 256 of 1 October 2003 the reason the 2.5 resource teaching hours per week sanctioned for the person in September 2003 was never provided; when the resource teaching hours sanctioned in September 2003 will be provided; if extra compensating hours will be provided due to non delivery of the services as promised in September 2003 in order that this person will not be victimised; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20025/04]

As previously indicated to the Deputy, my Department sanctioned 2.5 hours resource teaching support for the pupil in question on 25 September 2003. The responsibility for putting this resource in place rests with the school authorities.

The Deputy may be aware that my Department has recently developed a new weighted system for the allocation of teaching supports to pupils with special needs. An additional 350 teacher posts are being provided to facilitate the introduction of the new system. The new system will involve a general weighted allocation for all primary schools to cater for pupils with higher incidence special educational needs, for example, those with borderline mild and mild general learning disability, specific learning disability, and also those with learning support needs. It will also allow for individual allocations in respect of pupils with lower incidence special educational needs.

The weighted allocation will be made as follows: in the most disadvantaged schools as per the urban dimension of Giving Children an Even Break, a teacher of pupils with special educational needs will be allocated for every 80 pupils to cater for the subset of pupils with higher incidence special needs; in all boys schools, the ratio will be one teacher for every 140 pupils; in mixed schools, or all girls schools with an enrolment of greater than 30% boys, one for every 150 pupils; and, in all girls schools including schools with mixed junior classes but with 30% or less boys overall, one for every 200 pupils.

It is intended that the details of the new model will be set out in a comprehensive circular to issue to schools for the commencement of the new school year.

The weighted allocation will enable teaching support to be provided to pupils with higher incidence special educational needs and this will obviate the need for schools to submit individual applications for pupils in the higher incidence categories. Schools may continue to apply for specific teacher allocations in respect of pupils with lower incidence disabilities.

My Department now proposes to devise clusters in respect of allocations to be made under the weighted model. Sanction for the filling of posts will be considered in the context of these clusters and the weighted arrangements. The Department will communicate with schools in this regard before the commencement of the coming school year.

Youth Services.

Paddy McHugh

Question:

250 Mr. McHugh asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will allocate €6.62 million to help put outstanding elements of the Youth Work Act 2001 in place and facilitate implementation of the first two years of the national youth work development plan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20034/04]

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

264 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Education and Science his plans to expand the funds allocated to youth work in order to roll out the provisions of the Youth Work Act 2001 and ensure the implementation of the national youth development plan. [20144/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 250 and 264 together.

The funding for the youth affairs section of my Department for 2004 is €28.624 million which is an increase of 5.5% over the 2003 allocation of €27.123 million. This allocation includes an amount of €0.5 million which has been made available in 2004 towards the implementation of the national youth work development plan.

The Youth Work Act 2001 was enacted on 1 December 2001 and provides a statutory basis for the development of youth work in Ireland. It was never the intention that the Act would be implemented fully at once. Section 1 of the Act provides for sections to be commenced at different stages. To date, sections 2-7, 17, 18 and 24 have been commenced. A sub-committee of the national youth work advisory committee was established to make recommendations on the requirements necessary for the implementation of the various sections of the Act. This sub-committee comprises representatives of both statutory and voluntary sectors, as well as my Department. The work of this sub-committee is ongoing and preparatory work is also being carried out in regard to sections 19, 20 and 25 of the Act. The implementation of further sections of the Act will depend on the availability of the necessary resources. Whilst it has not been found possible to make funding available for this purpose in the 2004 Estimates, it is my intention that further discussions will take place between my Department and the IVEA-CEO association and the National Youth Council of Ireland in the context of the Estimates for 2005. These discussions will take place as appropriate and necessary.

With regard to the national youth work development plan, work is under way on the first two priorities identified, that is the implementation of a child protection training programme for the youth work sector and the appointment of an assessor of youth work. The implementation of further elements of the plan will be progressed on a priority basis, having regard to available funding resources. Work has commenced on the identification of other priority areas in the light of the increased funding available for this purpose in 2004.

Paddy McHugh

Question:

251 Mr. McHugh asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will allocate €3.38 million to allow current core funding of youth programmes and youth work with disadvantaged young persons to continue as promoted by Foróige; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20035/04]

The funding for the youth affairs section of my Department for 2004 is €28.624 million which is an increase of 5.5% over the 2003 allocation of €27.123 million. This allocation includes an amount of €500,000 which has been made available in 2004 towards the implementation of the national youth work development plan.

A significant proportion of the funding available to the youth affairs section is expended each year on the special projects for youth scheme which specifically targets young people in disadvantaged areas. There are currently 164 special projects in receipt of funding under this scheme. In 2003 a total of €12.504 million was allocated for the special projects for youth scheme.

Schools Building Projects.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

252 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Education and Science the position regarding the findings of the McCarthy report; further to Question No. 144 of 2 April 2003, when a decision will be taken on the way in which best to respond to the issues identified; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20050/04]

The school planning section of my Department recently prepared a discussion paper for the trustees of the schools concerned based on Dr. McCarthy's report and other relevant data. Submissions on the paper have been invited from the trustees. In addition, the school planning section has held discussions with the local authorities of the area in question to ascertain the extent, pace of delivery and projected housing occupancy rates of any proposed new residential developments.

Based on the content of the submissions from the trustees and an analysis of proposed housing developments and their impact on demographic trends, a final document outlining the future of educational infrastructural provision in the area will be produced. I expect this document to be available to the trustees by early autumn at which point the next steps in the process will be discussed with them.

Special Educational Needs.

Denis Naughten

Question:

253 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Education and Science if further to Question No. 118 of 24 June, 2004, when it is envisaged to inform the school; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20054/04]

It is my intention that all applications for special educational resources received by 30 June 2004 including the application for the person in question will be responded to before the commencement of the 2004-05 school year.

Denis Naughten

Question:

254 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will approve resource teacher support for a person (details supplied); the reason for the delay in approving the support; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20058/04]

I can confirm that my Department received an application for special education resources (SER) for the pupil referred to by the Deputy.

It is my intention that all applications for special education resources received by 30 June 2004 will be responded to before the commencement of the 2004-05 school year. Applications for resource teacher support that were received between 15 February and 31 August 2003 for which a response is outstanding have been considered and schools have now been notified of the outcome. This outcome indicates to schools the resources that may be put in place immediately. Applications received after 31 August 2003 and by 30 June 2004, including the one for the person in question, will be processed in the near future and the outcome will be notified to schools before the commencement of the 2004-05 school year.

The teacher allocations involved will be made in the context of a new weighted system which I announced recently. An additional 350 teacher posts are being provided to facilitate the introduction of the new system. The new system will involve a general weighted allocation for all primary schools to cater for pupils with higher incidence special educational needs, for example, those with borderline mild and mild general learning disability, specific learning disability, and also those with learning support needs. It will also allow for individual allocations in respect of pupils with lower incidence special educational needs.

The weighted allocation will be made as follows: in the most disadvantaged schools as per the urban dimension of Giving Children an Even Break, a teacher of pupils with special educational needs will be allocated for every 80 pupils to cater for the subset of pupils with higher incidence special needs; in all boys schools, the ratio will be one teacher for every 140 pupils; in mixed schools, or all girls schools with an enrolment of greater than 30% boys, one for every 150 pupils; and, in all girls schools including schools with mixed junior classes but with 30% or less boys overall, one for every 200 pupils. It is intended that the details of the new model will be set out in a comprehensive circular to issue to schools for the commencement of the new school year.

The weighted allocation will enable teaching support to be provided to pupils with higher incidence special educational needs and this will obviate the need for schools to submit individual applications for pupils in the higher incidence categories. Schools may continue to apply for specific teacher allocations in respect of pupils with lower incidence disabilities.

My Department now proposes to devise clusters in respect of allocations to be made under the weighted model. Sanction for the filling of posts will be considered in the context of these clusters and the weighted arrangements. The Department will communicate with schools in this regard before the commencement of the coming school year.

Special needs assistants may be approved to support a pupil who has a significant medical need for such assistance, a significant impairment of physical or sensory function or where their behaviour is such that they are a danger to themselves or other pupils. The criteria used for the assessment of the need for special needs assistant support is outlined in the Department's circular 07/02 which may be accessed on my Department's website,www.education.ie, under the heading Children with Special Needs.

I wish to refer the Deputy to circular SP ED 09/04 which may also be accessed on my Department's website. The circular advises schools that have applied for special needs assistant support that they will be advised of the outcome of their applications as soon as possible in advance of the next school year.

Physical Education Facilities.

John McGuinness

Question:

255 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress in providing funding to a college (details supplied) in County Kilkenny for a community leisure and recreation facility; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20084/04]

An application for a PE hall at the school to which the Deputy refers is being assessed in the context of the school's long-term projected enrolment. All projects that are not proceeding to construction as part of the 2004 school building programme will be included as part of a multi-annual programme from 2005 onwards, further details of which will be announced later.

Special Educational Needs.

David Stanton

Question:

256 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Education and Science if he has received a request for special needs or resource teacher assistance for a person (details supplied) in County Cork; if so, the action he will take to assist this person; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20106/04]

I can confirm that my Department received an application for special education resources, SER, for the pupil referred to by the Deputy.

It is my intention that all applications for special education resources received by 30 June 2004 will be responded to before the commencement of the 2004-05 school year. Applications for resource teacher support that were received between 15 February and 31 August 2003 for which a response is outstanding have been considered and schools have now been notified of the outcome. This outcome indicates to schools the resources that may be put in place immediately. Applications received after 31 August 2003 and by 30 June 2004, including the one for the person in question, will be processed in the near future and the outcome will be notified to schools before the commencement of the 2004-05 school year.

The teacher allocations involved will be made in the context of a new weighted system which I announced recently. An additional 350 teacher posts are being provided to facilitate the introduction of the new system. The new system will involve a general weighted allocation for all primary schools to cater for pupils with higher incidence special educational needs, for example, those with borderline mild and mild general learning disability, specific learning disability, and also those with learning support needs. It will also allow for individual allocations in respect of pupils with lower incidence special educational needs.

The weighted allocation will be made as follows: in the most disadvantaged schools as per the urban dimension of Giving Children an Even Break, a teacher of pupils with special educational needs will be allocated for every 80 pupils to cater for the subset of pupils with higher incidence special needs; in all boys schools, the ratio will be one teacher for every 140 pupils; in mixed schools, or all girls schools with an enrolment of greater than 30% boys, one for every 150 pupils; and, in all girls schools including schools with mixed junior classes but with 30% or less boys overall, one for every 200 pupils. It is intended that the details of the new model will be set out in a comprehensive circular to issue to schools for the commencement of the new school year.

The weighted allocation will enable teaching support to be provided to pupils with higher incidence special educational needs and this will obviate the need for schools to submit individual applications for pupils in the higher incidence categories. Schools may continue to apply for specific teacher allocations in respect of pupils with lower incidence disabilities.

My Department now proposes to devise clusters in respect of allocations to be made under the weighted model. Sanction for the filling of posts will be considered in the context of these clusters and the weighted arrangements. The Department will communicate with schools in this regard before the commencement of the coming school year.

Special needs assistants may be approved to support a pupil who has a significant medical need for such assistance, a significant impairment of physical or sensory function or where their behaviour is such that they are a danger to themselves or other pupils. The criteria used for the assessment of the need for special needs assistant support is outlined in the Department's circular 07/02 which may be accessed on my Department's website,www.education.ie, under the heading Children with Special Needs.

I refer the Deputy to circular SP ED 09/04 which may also be accessed on my Department's website. The circular advises schools that have applied for special needs assistant support that they will be advised of the outcome of their applications as soon as possible in advance of the next school year.

Question No. 257 answered with QuestionNo. 240.

School Security.

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

258 Mr. O’Connor asked the Minister for Education and Science if immediate and emergency action will be taken in respect of the worsening vandalism at a school (details supplied) in Dublin 24; if his attention has been drawn to the deep concern of the local community in the matter; and if he will respond to the demands of the school. [20116/04]

I can appreciate the concerns of the school community in question at the wanton vandalism of school property. In the first instance though, the management authorities of the school should report the matter to the local Garda. The local Garda are best placed to provide practical advice and support and to make recommendations as to how best to mitigate the potential risk to the school. I understand that most Garda stations have a crime prevention officer on the staff who will work with the management authorities in this matter. It is open to the school's management authorities to apply under the 2005 summer works scheme, details of which will be announced later this year, for funding for security measures required at the school as recommended by the Garda.

Residential Institutions Redress Scheme.

Enda Kenny

Question:

259 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Education and Science the total value of properties handed over, to date, to the State as a result of the deal between the State and the religious orders to fund compensation awards by the redress board; if these properties are classified as previously transferred properties or future properties; when he expects the religious orders to reach the agreed contribution of €128 million in total; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20117/04]

The indemnity agreement provided that the property contribution of the congregations was to be divided into two separate and distinct schedules of properties. The first schedule relates to properties to be transferred from the congregations to the State, State agencies and local authorities after the date of the signing of the indemnity agreement on 5 June 2002. The total value of these property transfers for the purposes of the indemnity agreement was to be €36.54 million. I can confirm that agreement in principle has been reached with the religious congregations on the transfer of properties to that amount.

The second schedule related to properties transferred from the congregations to the State, State agencies, local authorities or voluntary organisations between the 11 May 1999 and the date of the signing of the indemnity agreement on 5 June 2002. The total value of these property transfers for the purposes of the indemnity agreement was to be €40.32 million. I can confirm that, at this stage, transfers of properties to the value of approximately €27 million have been agreed in principle. A number of other properties have been identified which have the potential to finalise this schedule in the near future.

I do not intend to give details regarding the identity of the properties at this point. However, I would hope to be in a position to publish the full list of properties in the very near future.

Special Educational Needs.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

260 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Education and Science when a decision will be made on the application from a school (details supplied) in County Wexford to have a special unit provided to care for autistic pupils; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that there are four children in this school suffering from Asperger’s syndrome and that further autistic children intend to enrol in the school in September 2004; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20140/04]

I am aware that an application for an autistic spectrum disorder unit for the school referred to by the Deputy has been received in my Department. My officials are currently liaising with the national educational psychological services regarding this application and a response will issue to the school in question as quickly as possible.

Residential Institutions Redress Scheme.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

261 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of victim cases which have been finalised to date under the residential institutions redress scheme; the average award given; the number of applications now on hand; the number of victims who have rejected the award and gone to the review committee; the number who have presented their cases to court; the level of award given by the court; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20141/04]

The Residential Institutions Redress Board and the Residential Institutions Redress Review Committee are independent of my Department. However, on the basis of the most recent information available from the Residential Institutions Redress Board, the board has received 3,945 applications. To date, the board has made offers to 1,370 individual applicants. The average award is approximately €77,000. A total of 33 cases have been referred to the review committee, of which 23 have been heard.

The board provides regular updates as to the number of claims received on its website,www.rirb.ie. The redress board has recently finalising its first annual report which covers the period 16 December 2002 to 31 December 2003. The report has been laid before each of the Houses of the Oireachtas.

Court settlements have been reached in relation to three cases. While the details of these settlements are confidential, I can confirm that the settlement in each case was within the guidelines for the level of awards that can be made by the redress board, as provided for in the Residential Institutions Redress Act (section 17) Regulations 2002.

Youth Services.

Enda Kenny

Question:

262 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Education and Science the plans his Department has in relation to sustaining the level of services at an association (details supplied) in County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20142/04]

The YMCA organisation under its support training and enterprise programme, STEP, operates five centres at locations in Cork, County Cork, Dublin and Donegal which are aimed primarily at early school leavers. Financial assistance towards the operating costs of these particular STEP projects is provided by County Cork Vocational Educational Committee, with assistance from my Department. Support for these measures is continuing in 2004.

Separately, my officials have made enquiries in the matter and it is understood that the issue raised by the Deputy may relate to the question of the filling of the position of manager of the community employment scheme in the YMCA centre, Cobh. This issue does not fall into my area of responsibility.

Schools Building Projects.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

263 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Education and Science the status of the long promised new Sandyford parish school to serve the developing Stepaside and Leopardstown area. [20143/04]

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that the school to which she refers has been granted provisional recognition and it will commence operation on 1 September 2004. The school will be known as Holy Trinity national school. The school planning section of my Department is currently liaising with the chairperson of the board of management with regard to the procurement of temporary accommodation for the school.

Question No. 264 taken with QuestionNo. 250.

Special Educational Needs.

Pat Breen

Question:

265 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Education and Science when a special needs assistant will be appointed for a person (details supplied) in County Clare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20192/04]

My Department has received two applications for special educational resources SER, from the school referred to by the Deputy including an application for the pupil in question. All applications for special educational resources received after 31 August 2003, including the applications from the school in question are being considered by the National Educational Psychological service, NEPS. In those cases, it is intended that the applicant schools will be notified of the outcome as soon as possible in advance of the commencement of the next school year.

Question No. 266 taken with QuestionNo. 247

School Transport.

Seamus Healy

Question:

267 Mr. Healy asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will urgently approve the continuation of the Knockmeal (details supplied) school transport service which has been in operation for the past twenty years and which is threatened with withdrawal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20198/04]

Catchment boundary transport may continue to be provided from the nearest pick-up point within the catchment area in question subject to there being spare accommodation available on the bus after all fully eligible pupils to that centre have been facilitated.

Disadvantaged Status.

John Cregan

Question:

268 Mr. Cregan asked the Minister for Education and Science if a school (details supplied) in Dublin 3 is being considered for disadvantaged status; the other schools nearby which have disadvantaged status; the action the school needs to take to obtain disadvantaged status; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20222/04]

I am currently finalising a detailed review of all education disadvantage schemes, with a view to ensuring a fully integrated and cohesive strategy is adopted in this area for the future. Any decision to expand or extend any of the initiatives aimed at tackling educational disadvantage is being considered in the context of this review, the outcome of which I hope to announce shortly.

School Transport.

Michael Ring

Question:

269 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason school transport is not being provided for a person (details supplied) in County Mayo; if this person’s case will be reassessed and transport provided for them. [20238/04]

A report on this case has been requested from the relevant transport liaison officer. The Deputy will be advised of the position when the report has been received and assessed.

Special Educational Needs.

John Perry

Question:

270 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason that sanction for the unit specifically for autism at a school (details supplied) has not been received from his Department; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the NEP service is reviewing the psychology files of the children and that sanction in writing cannot be given until this process is completed; the reason the process is taking a very long time; if he will sanction it immediately; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20263/04]

I am aware that an application for an autistic spectrum disorder unit for the school referred to by the Deputy has been received in my Department. My officials are currently liaising with the national educational psychological services regarding this application and a response will issue to the school in question as quickly as possible.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

271 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science if a person (details supplied) will continue to receive funding for specialist one to one teaching; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20264/04]

The person in question currently attends a school for physically disabled children. The current recommended pupil-teacher ratio for this disability category is 10:1. I understand that the class currently operates at a ratio of 5:1. My officials are continuing to liaise with my Department's inspectorate and the school concerning the pupil's specific educational needs.

School Accommodation.

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

272 Mr. O’Connor asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will take immediate action in respect of the need to protect a school (details supplied) in Dublin 24 from ongoing vandalism; if he will investigate the matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20265/04]

My Department's school building section approved a grant of €63,860 in July 2003 for the provision of security-lighting, fire and intruder alarm systems at the school referred to by the Deputy. The school in question did not make an application for security works under the 2004 summer works scheme nor is there an application for such funding on hand. It is open to the management authorities of the school to apply for security measures under the 2005 summer works scheme, details of which will be announced later this year. In the meantime, the authorities may use funding under the grant scheme for minor works to address any immediate needs at the school.

School Transport.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

273 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Education and Science if sanction will be given for an extension to the school transport scheme for a school (details supplied) in County Cork. [20329/04]

A report on this case has been requested from Bus Éireann. The Deputy will be advised of the position when the report has been received and assessed.

School Discipline.

David Stanton

Question:

274 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Education and Science, further to Question No. 236 of 29 June 2004, the number of appeals against expulsion in the post-primary sector and in the primary sector, which were successful in 2003 and in 2004; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20358/04]

In the calendar year 2003, one appeal in relation to permanent exclusion was received at primary level. That appeal was resolved at facilitation and did not proceed to a hearing. At post-primary level there were 34 appeals received in relation to permanent exclusion. Of these four were withdrawn, one was resolved at local level, and nine were resolved at facilitation. Of the remaining 20 appeals, seven were upheld and 13 were not upheld at hearing.

In the period from 1 January to 30 June 2004, there were no appeals in relation to permanent exclusion at primary level. In the same period at post-primary level 28 appeals in relation to permanent exclusion have been received. Of these six were withdrawn, one was resolved at local level, and nine were resolved at facilitation. Of the remaining 12 appeals, three were upheld and nine were not upheld at hearing.

School Accommodation.

Seamus Healy

Question:

275 Mr. Healy asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will approve, as an urgent priority funding for the construction of a sports hall at a school (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20368/04]

An application for a sports hall at the school referred to by the Deputy is in the early stages of architectural planning. The project is included in section 9 of the 2004 school building programme.

All projects, including that for the school in question, that are not going to construction as part of the 2004 school building programme are currently being re-evaluated with a view to including them as part of a multi-annual programme from 2005 onwards. I expect to be in a position to make further announcement on this matter later this year.

Teachers’ Remuneration.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

276 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science if there are negotiations between his Department and resource teachers on the issue of salary and their place on the salary scale; if his Department has made proposals on this, particularly in terms of back payment and points on the scale; if the back payment will date back to the starting positions of the teachers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20369/04]

My Department has had ongoing discussions with the managerial representatives and teacher unions with regard to the implementation of the Part Time Workers Act. In that context a circular was recently issued by my Department to primary schools outlining interim arrangements for payment of part-time teachers. It also stated that a further circular would issue regarding the payment of arrears. Arrears shall be paid back to 20 December 2001, or date of appointment of the person, whichever is the latest. The terms will only apply to teachers who are deemed to be fully qualified.

Circular Pay 11/04 is set out as follows:

To the Management Authorities of Primary Schools
Revision of Rates of Pay for Part-Time Teachers
1. The Minister for Education and Science wishes to inform Management Authorities of Primary Schools of the new interim pay arrangements for part-time resource teachers employed in the 2003/2004 school year.
2. Fully Qualified Regular Part-Time Resource Teachers:
Fully qualified regular part-time resource teachers who are employed for a regular number of hours each week over the course of the full school year may be paid at the rate of €35.50 per hour w.e.f. 1st June 2004. This interim rate which is based on the 2nd point of the scale together with a pass degree allowance and which is inclusive of 40% holiday pay should be paid for every hour worked. This rate will be adjusted in due course to reflect previous reckonable teaching experience and qualifications of individual teachers.
Arrears for hours worked over the period 1st September 2003 to 31st May 2004 should be calculated using the following rates
€32.43 per hour for the period 1st September 2003 to 31st December 2003.
€35.50 per hour for the period 1st January 2004 to 31st May 2004.
These rates will be adjusted in due course to reflect previous reckonable teaching experience and qualifications of individual teachers.
3. Unqualified Part-Time Resource Teachers:
Unqualified part-time resource teachers should be paid at the rate of €27.12 per hour together with holiday pay of 8% in accordance with the provisions of the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997.
4. Reconciliation Process 2003/2004:
Outstanding payments to schools will include arrears (under this circular) for the 2003/2004 school year, on receipt of a fully completed reconciliation form (Appendix 1 — attached)
*N.B. Please insert the hourly rate (qualified/unqualified) the part time teacher should have been receiving during this school year
5. Other Arrears:
The issue of arrears of pay for the period 20th December 2001 to 31st August 2002 and the 2002/2003 school year will be addressed in a further Circular.
6. This Circular may also be accessed on the Department's web site atwww.education.ie. It is located in the Education Personnel/Payroll Division section of the web site.
7. Management authorities are requested to bring the details outlined in this Circular to the attention of part-time teachers employed in the schools. You are also requested to give a copy of the Circular to the parents' representatives on the Board of Management.
8. Qualification Queries:
Please refer toCircular 25/00 for clarification on the relevant qualifications of your Part-Time teacher. It is located in the Information/Department of Education & Science/Circulars section of the web site.
9. Payment during Holiday Periods (Summer Holidays etc.):
If the part time teacher has an entitlement to "sign on" during the holiday periods (this is a matter for the local Social Welfare Office to determine) the employer (School) will have to supply a letter to the Social Welfare Office outlining some/all of the following information — The number of hours the teacher worked in a particular period, the number of days worked in that period and the percentage of holiday pay included in the hourly rate paid to that teacher. — (if the teacher is on the qualified rate please emphasise that this is inclusive of 40% holiday pay). Any queries regarding this matter should be referred to your local Social Welfare Office.
10. Helpline:
Should you have any queries concerning this circular, please phone our helpline on (090) 6484188. It will be open between the hours of 10am and 11am each day up to Friday 18th June 2004.
Liam Hughes,
Principal Officer,
June 2004.
REFUND OF PAYMENT TO PART TIME TEACHERS — 2003/2004 YEAR
School: ___________________________________
Address:___________________________________
Roll No: _______________
School Tel. no. ______Fax. No.______Email _______
Name of Part-Time Teacher: __________ Resource / Learning Support / Special Subject
(Please delete as appropriate)
Is the teacher qualified or unqualified (please refer to point 8 of Circular above)
________________
Teacher's PPSN (RSI) No.__________
Number of hours sanctioned: Term 1:______Term 2:______Term 3:______

No. of weeks worked

No. of hours per week

Total hours worked (not including public holidays)

No. of public holidays claimed (if any)

*Rate of pay Per hour (€)

September 2003

October 2003

November 2003

December 2003

January 2004

February 2004

March 2004

April 2004

May 2004

June 2004

Total grant received in 1st moiety (Winter 2003)

Total grant received in 2nd moiety (Spring 2004)

*Please refer to the enclosed circular in respect of the appropriate hourly rate to insert in the column above
i.e. Qualified teacher- Hourly rate:1/9/03 — 31/12/03€32.43
1/1/04 to date€35.50
Unqualified teacher-Hourly rate:1/9/03 to date€27.12
Please note that the qualified pay rates are inclusive of holiday pay
I certify that the above return is accurate
Signed: ____________Date: ____________
Chairperson/Principal B.O.M.
*Very Important — If you have more than one part-time teacher employed in your school (i.e. If a teacher was replaced while on maternity leave etc) please complete a separate form for each one.

Special Educational Needs.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

277 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science his views on the pace of delivery of suitably qualified special needs and resource teachers from the teacher training college; the numbers graduating with a diploma in this area each year and the percentage of these as part of the overall teaching body at primary and post-primary level; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20370/04]

At the outset, it is important to state that the existing full-time pre-service primary teacher training courses in the colleges of education contain appropriate elements to assist teachers in dealing with the full range of pupils, including those with special educational needs.

At second level, there are inputs to both the higher diploma in education and the education degree programmes in the University of Limerick, as part of a general alertness orientation programme, on the variety of pupils' learning difficulties which teachers may encounter in the classroom.

In recent years my Department has adopted a strategy designed to greatly expand the provision of continuing professional development for personnel working with pupils with special educational needs. This training provision aims to provide development and support at individual teacher level, and, crucially, at whole school staff level.

In particular, it is the policy of my Department to provide for a range of additional and continuing professional development programmes to further enhance the skills of teachers working with pupils with special educational needs. The additional training provision is specifically designed to address the complex range and variety of training needs in this area.

In this regard I have authorised, in consultation with the colleges of education, a major expansion in the range of postgraduate training for teachers in this area. My Department is currently providing support for 160 places on a postgraduate diploma programme in special educational needs; 12 places on an applied behavioural analysis programme; 20 places on a postgraduate programme in autism; 16 places on a masters programme; 160 on the postgraduate programme in learning support. This major increase will further add to the number of teachers who have similarly developed their skills over past years. To cite as a percentage the current annual number of places, substantial as it is, on postgraduate programmes would not reflect the true position in relation to the level of teachers with additional skills in this area.

In September 2003, I also authorised the establishment of the special education support service which currently provides a range of training and support for teachers at local level. This service is developing training teams which will further support teachers working with children with special educational needs in primary and post-primary schools.

The number of places made available at postgraduate level and the overall in-service requirement in this area are kept under ongoing review.

Departmental Funding.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

278 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will consider increasing the grant of €350,000 to a school (details supplied) in County Tipperary in view of the fact that the estimated cost of the works involved are substantially higher than that figure, leaving a huge shortfall in funding to be raised by a small community in a school made up of 49 families; if he can look at this as a matter of urgency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20371/04]

The school referred to by the Deputy was invited to participate in a devolved initiative to enable it provide additional permanent accommodation within a maximum grant level of €350,000.

This initiative devolves control to school authorities over the planning and construction phases of small-scale additional permanent accommodation works.

If there is a shortfall in funding, the options open to the board of management are as follows: reduce the scale of the works to stay within the limit of the grant; use funds allocated by the Department under the terms of the grant scheme for minor works to supplement the grant provided such funds are not required for more urgent and immediate works; or, fund the balance of the works from their own resources.

My Department does not intend increasing the amount of the grant offered to the school. This provision is necessary because a central tenet of the devolved scheme is that a school authority, granted discretion and guaranteed funding to enable immediate progress on its accommodation needs, must equally accept responsibility for prioritisation, control of costs and ensuring value for money.

Special Educational Needs.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

279 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the Dyslexia Association of Ireland workshops are now being made subject to income tax and that as a result the financial burden being placed on parents has severely increased; when he expects the school system to be able to fully meet the needs of children with dyslexia in order that parents are not forced to seek outside assistance, if he will financially assist this added cost in the interim; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20372/04]

My Department has received representations from certain branches of the Dyslexia Association of Ireland expressing concern at the escalating costs of running their workshops, particularly in the context of current taxation laws which they say is resulting in increased costs for the association and by extension for the parents of the children availing of the service. Issues relating to tax affairs generally are a matter for the Revenue Commissioners. The question of compliance with tax regulations is a matter between the Dyslexia Association of Ireland and the individual teachers concerned.

My Department has provided annual funding of €63,500 to the Dyslexia Association of Ireland since 1999. This funding has helped the association to operate an information service for members and the public. In addition, this funding has assisted in meeting the costs associated with the attendance of some children from disadvantaged backgrounds at workshops and programmes organised by the association.

I am satisfied that there have been significant improvements in the level of school-based education services for children with dyslexia in recent years. Such children have, up to now, generally been catered for on an integrated basis in ordinary primary schools where they can be supported by the learning support teacher service or the resource teacher service. At present, there are approximately 2,600 resource teachers and 1,531 learning support teachers in the primary system.

Where the condition is of a more serious nature, provision can be made in one of the four special schools or 23 special classes attached to ordinary primary schools and dedicated to the needs of children with dyslexia. All special schools and special classes for such children operate at a reduced pupil teacher ratio of 9:1.

My Department also provides funding to schools for the purchase of specialised equipment such as computers to assist children with special needs with their education, including children with dyslexia, where recommended by relevant professionals. Schools can apply, through the special education section of my Department for this support. Supporting documentation should include reports of psychological and other relevant professional assessments.

My Department has recently developed a new weighted system of allocation of teaching supports for special needs pupils, including those with dyslexia. The allocation of an additional 350 teaching posts for special needs and a new system for the allocation of resources for special needs in primary schools have now been approved.

The new system will involve a general weighted allocation for all primary schools to cater for pupils with higher incidence special educational needs, such as borderline mild and mild general learning disability and specific learning disability, such as dyslexia, and those with learning support needs. It will also allow for individual allocations in respect of pupils with lower incidence special educational needs.

The weighted allocation will be made as follows: in the most disadvantaged schools, as per the urban dimension of Giving Children an Even Break, a teacher of pupils with special educational needs will be allocated for every 80 pupils to cater for the subset of pupils with higher incidence special needs; in all boys schools, the ratio will be one teacher for every 140 pupils; in mixed schools, or all girls schools with an enrolment of greater than 30% boys, one for every 150 pupils; and, in all girls schools including schools with mixed junior classes but with 30% or less boys overall, one for every 200 pupils.

In addition, all schools will be able to apply for separate specific allocations in respect of pupils with lower incidence disabilities.

It is intended that the details of the new model will be set out in a comprehensive circular to issue to schools for the commencement of the new school year.

School Transport.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

280 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science if he has considered the school transport appeal of a school (details supplied), outlining the historical, educational and sociological reasons the service should be retained; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that this is a Gaeltacht school; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20373/04]

My Department is arranging to have the relevant documentation forwarded to the school transport appeals board.

School Accommodation.

Seymour Crawford

Question:

281 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will report on an application for a school (details supplied) in County Monaghan regarding its urgent need for additional teachers and for additional accommodation; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that classes are being held in a room where teachers cannot get anywhere near the pupils due to the fact that there is only room for tables and chairs; his views on whether this is a poor environment for children with special needs to be educated; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20376/04]

The staffing of a primary school is determined by reference to the enrolment of the school on 30 September of the previous school year. The actual 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 seven mainstream class teachers based on the enrolment of 196 pupils on 30 September 2002.

Based on the enrolment on 30 September 2003 of 203 pupils, the mainstream staffing for the school year 2004-05 will remain at principal and seven mainstream class teachers. The agreed appointment figure for the eighth mainstream class teacher is 209 pupils.

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.

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, or 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 referred to by the Deputy. I will make a further announcement in that regard during the year.

Seymour Crawford

Question:

282 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will give an update on the application from a school (details supplied) in County Cavan for funding an extension to their school; if he will agree to examine this need under the pilot scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20377/04]

When I published the 2004 school building programme, I outlined that my strategy going forward will be grounded in capital investment based on multi-annual allocations. My officials are currently reviewing all projects, which 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 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 proposed project at St. Killian's national school, Mullagh, County Cavan, and the suitability of this project for inclusion under the pilot initiative will be considered in this review.

Special Educational Needs.

Michael Noonan

Question:

283 Mr. Noonan asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will sanction the re-appointment of a special needs teacher for a pupil (details supplied) in County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20378/04]

My Department has received an application for an increase in special needs assistant support for the pupil concerned.

Special needs assistants may be approved to support a pupil who has a significant medical need for such assistance, a significant impairment of physical or sensory function or where their behaviour is such that they are a danger to themselves or other pupils. The criteria used for the assessment of the need for special needs assistant support is outlined in my Department's Circular 07/02. This circular may be accessed on my Department's website under Children with Special Needs.

My Department continues to review existing arrangements for the allocation of special educational supports to primary schools. The basic purpose of the review is to ensure that each school has the level of resources required to cater for its pupils with special educational needs.

Since 1998, the number of special needs assistants in primary schools has grown from about 300 to in excess of 5,500 full-time and part-time posts. I wish to assure the Deputy that special needs assistants posts will be retained in schools where there is a continuing care need in accordance with Circular 07/02.

Account is being taken of existing levels of special needs assistant support allocation in schools. In cases where a reduction in the level of special needs assistant support is proposed, there will be provision for schools to appeal, having regard to the care needs of the pupils concerned. Details of the appeals mechanism will be set out in a communication to schools.

I refer the Deputy to Circular SP ED 09/04 which may be accessed on my Department's websitewww.education.ie under Children with Special Needs. The circular advises schools that have applied for special needs assistant support that they will be advised of the outcome of their applications as soon as possible in advance of the next school year. This includes the application for the pupil referred to by the Deputy.

School Transport.

John McGuinness

Question:

284 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Education and Science if school transport will be arranged in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Carlow who must attend Loreto secondary school, Kilkenny, as their educational needs cannot be met in Borris in view of the fact that they need to study physics to pursue their educational goals; and if he will expedite a positive response to their application. [20379/04]

A report on this case has been requested from the relevant transport liaison officer. The Deputy will be advised of the position when the report has been received and assessed. However, for the purposes of the post-primary education scheme, the country has been divided into catchment areas, each of which has its own post-primary centre. While it is the prerogative of parents to send their children to the school of their choice, it is not the object of the school transport scheme to facilitate parents in exercising that choice. Recognised post-primary pupils who live at least three miles from the post-primary centre of the catchment area in which they reside, are eligible for transport under the scheme to that centre.

Eligible pupils who wish to attend a post-primary centre other than their appropriate one may be allowed transport from within the catchment boundary of the centre being attended, subject to there being spare accommodation available on the service after all fully eligible pupils have been facilitated and provided that no additional State cost is incurred.

Special Educational Needs.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

285 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Education and Science if a special needs assistant will be approved for a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20447/04]

My Department has received an application for special needs assistant support to cater for the needs of a number of pupils in the school, including the pupil in question.

This application is being considered at present and a response will issue to the school authorities as quickly as possible.

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

286 Mr. N. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Education and Science if his Department will ensure that a special chair and school table will be provided at a primary school for a person (details supplied) in County Cork with special needs. [20449/04]

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that my Department's school building section has approved funding for the provision of a classroom chair and desk for the pupil in question.

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

287 Mr. N. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Education and Science if learning support teaching will be in place by September 2004 for a person (details supplied) in County Cork with special needs. [20450/04]

The school currently has the services of a shared learning support teacher. In Circular 24/03, which issued to all schools in September 2003, my Department stated its intention to engage in discussions with representative interests with a view to developing a weighted system of teacher allocations for special needs teaching. Since then significant developments have taken place and, in consultation with representative interests, a new system for the allocation of teaching resources for special needs in primary schools has now been approved.

I am satisfied that the new weighted model of teacher allocation for pupils with special educational and learning support needs will significantly improve the level of service provided for such pupils. To facilitate the introduction of the new system, an additional 350 posts are being made available. This will bring the total number of such posts for pupils with low achievement and special educational needs to almost 4,500.

The new system will involve a general weighted allocation for all primary schools to cater for pupils with learning support needs and those with higher incidence special needs, such as borderline mild and mild general learning disability and dyslexia. It will also allow for individual allocations in respect of pupils with more acute needs.

The general weighted allocation system will greatly reduce the need for individual applications and supporting psychological assessments and will put resources in place on a more systematic basis, thereby giving schools more certainty over their resource levels. This will allow for better planning in schools, greater flexibility in identifying and intervening earlier with regard to pupils' special needs, as well as making the posts more attractive to qualified teachers.

The previous allocation system placed significant demands on principals, teachers and psychologists. It has also proven to be time-consuming, thereby delaying the allocation of resources for special needs. Action had to be taken to reform the system and the model now being introduced will, over time, significantly improve the capacity of the system to cater for children with special needs in a speedier, more effective way. The revised system will reduce the administrative burden on schools and allow them to concentrate on the delivery of services to pupils with special needs. It will also allow psychologists to devote more time to advising teachers on planning for individual children and for whole school provision.

My Department has communicated with schools in relation to their allocations. Permission will be given to fill all specific allocations immediately. The general weighted allocations will be filled following the determination of clustering and reallocation arrangements. To ease the transition to the new system, my Department has already agreed not to redeploy teachers from full-time posts via the panel redeployment process.

It is intended that the details of the new model will be set out in a comprehensive circular to issue to schools for the commencement of the new school year.

Site Acquisitions.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

288 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Education and Science the position regarding the provision of a new national school at Blennerville, Tralee, County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20451/04]

The Office of Public Works, which acts on behalf of my Department in the procurement of sites, has been asked to investigate and report on suitable sites for the proposed new school. While a number of sites have been identified, investigations in this regard have yet to be completed. I am sure that the Deputy will appreciate that due to commercial sensitivity I am unable to give further information in relation to the site purchase at this time.

Special Educational Needs.

Richard Bruton

Question:

289 Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for Education and Science the present status of plans to have a second level class for students with Asperger’s syndrome at a school (details supplied) in Dublin 3; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20452/04]

My Department is actively engaged in pursuing the development of a second level programme for children with Asperger's syndrome on Dublin's northside. Discussions are ongoing to address issues relating to accommodation needs and the levels of teaching and other supports required to facilitate this development.

Departmental Funding.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

290 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science his views on the statement of his predecessor in 2001 that there is a big gap to be bridged between the funding for secondary schools and other second level schools; the way in which he intends to bridge this gap; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20453/04]

I am aware of the traditional anomalies that have evolved in the funding arrangements for different school types at second level. At the core of all arrangements is a reliance upon capitation as the principle determinant of funding. There are however significant differences in the approaches to the funding of back-up services such as for secretaries and caretakers. This Government and its predecessor have removed some of the anomalies and the process continues.

The standardper capita grant for voluntary secondary schools has been significantly increased in recent years and now amounts to €274 per pupil as against the rate of €224.74 that applied in 1997. For disadvantaged schools, the increase has brought the per capita grant to €312 per pupil.

These significant increases builds on my commitment towards enhanced "equalisation" funding measures for voluntary secondary schools. In addition to theper capita grant of €25 that was introduced under the school services support initiative for second level schools in September 2000 and now stands at €99, secondary schools have benefited from further increases bringing the grant for such schools to €131 per pupil from January last. This per capita grant is in addition to a range of equalisation grants of up to some €15,500 per school per annum that were also approved for voluntary secondary schools. For a secondary school with 500 pupils, this amounts to additional “equalisation” funding of almost €30,000 per annum and overall additional support services funding of approximately €80,000 per annum. Schools are afforded considerable flexibility in the use of these resources to cater for the needs of their pupils. As the funding provided under the schools support services fund is flexible, schools are permitted discretion as to the manner in which support services are provided. In particular it allows schools with difficulties in provision for secretaries and caretakers the additional funding to make a meaningful impact.

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 over €105,000 per annum.

I am committed to improving further the funding position of voluntary secondary schools in the light of available resources and to addressing the issue of equity highlighted by the voluntary school sector.

School Accommodation.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

291 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science if his attention has been drawn to the extremely poor conditions at a school (details supplied) in County Offaly, where they have been forced to convert their only cloakrooms into resource teaching rooms, are using a dilapidated 34 year old prefab, which was only supposed to be used for two years; if his attention has further been drawn to the fact that the school has a growing enrolment; when it can expect progress to be made on the provision of new facilities at the school; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20454/04]

The need for additional accommodation at the school to which the Deputy refers will be considered in the context of a review which is being undertaken of all projects that did not proceed as part of the 2004 school building programme, with a view to including it as part of a multi-annual school building programme from 2005, details of which will be announced later in the year.

Teaching Qualifications.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

292 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science if changes are anticipated in the Irish requirement for qualification as a primary school teacher, for those who already hold a degree, and who want to teach at junior primary level; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20455/04]

As part of the minimum academic entry requirements specified by my Department for the postgraduate diploma in primary teaching, all candidates must have a minimum of a grade C at higher level in Irish in the leaving certificate or an approved equivalent. This requirement embodies both the written and oral element of a student's proficiency in Irish. My Department considers it to be the minimum standard in Irish necessary for students entering a teacher training course which will equip them to teach Irish to pupils at all levels in primary schools.

In relation to teachers who have qualified outside the State, they may be given recognition to teach in primary schools. Once their qualifications have been assessed and accepted by the Department they may be granted provisional recognition to commence teaching in mainstream primary schools or restricted recognition to teach only in special schools or classes where Irish is not a curricular requirement. Holders of provisional recognition are given five years in which they must pass the written, aural and oral parts of an examination in the Irish language, An Scrudú le hAghaidh Cailíochta sa Ghaeilge (SCG).

Until such time as a teacher passes the SCG, they are not considered fully qualified as a teacher in a mainstream national school. Candidates are expected to have knowledge of the teaching methods of Irish as a mother tongue and as a second language to primary school children. They are also expected to have knowledge of strategies to promote the use of Irish as a language of communication and as a teaching medium.

The Deputy will be aware that I established a working group to review all aspects of the syllabus and examination for the Scrúdú le hAghaidh Cailíochta sa Ghaeilge in 2001. Institúid Teangeolaíochta Éireann, the colleges of education, primary school management organisations, INTO, the National Parents Council — Primary — and the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment all were represented on this working group. Organisations were invited to submit proposals as part of the review of the SCG and all such proposals were given full consideration by the working group in preparing its report. The review group has given full consideration to the standard of Irish required in the examinations.

The report of the working group has now been finalised and published on the Department's website. I have implemented some of its recommendations already regarding the overall standard required to pass the various modules of the examination.

The report recommended that candidates who already hold a degree with Irish as a major subject to degree level and who previously have been exempted from paper II of the SCG examination, should be exempted from all modules of the SCG apart from the practical examination which will be introduced for the April 2005 sitting of the SCG examination. I will implement this recommendation to take effect from April 2005 onwards. Therefore, with effect from April 2005, SCG candidates who have a recognised degree with Irish as a major subject will be required to pass the practical examination only.

Schools Building Projects.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

293 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason an application for school accommodation for a school (details supplied) in County Offaly has not been included on the school building programme; the status of the application; and when he expects work to commence on the school; if it will be listed on the programme before work commences; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20456/04]

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

Special Educational Needs.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

294 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science if his attention has been drawn to the ending of eight special needs assistants contracts in a school (details supplied) in Dublin 24, the reason for the delay in making a decision on these applications; when a decision will be made; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20457/04]

I can confirm that my Department has received a number of applications for special needs assistant support from the school referred to by the Deputy. Special needs assistants may be approved to support a pupil who has a significant medical need for such assistance, a significant impairment of physical or sensory function or where their behaviour is such that they are a danger to themselves or other pupils. The criteria used for the assessment of the need for special needs assistant support is outlined in my Department's Circular 07/02. This circular may be accessed on my Department's website under Children with Special Needs.

My Department continues to review existing arrangements for the allocation of special educational supports to primary schools. The basic purpose of the review is to ensure that each school has the level of resources required to cater for its pupils with special educational needs.

Since 1998, the number of special needs assistants in primary schools has grown from about 300 to in excess of 5,500 full-time and part-time posts. I assure the Deputy that special needs assistants posts will be retained in schools where there is a continuing care need in accordance with Circular 07/02.

As advised under circular 09/04, which is also available on my Department's website, schools that have applied for special needs assistant support including the one referred to by the Deputy will be advised of the outcome of their applications as soon as possible in advance of the next school year.

Account is being taken of existing levels of special needs assistant support allocation in schools. In cases where a reduction in the level of special needs assistant support is proposed, there will be provision for schools to appeal, having regard to the care needs of the pupils concerned. Details of the appeals mechanism will be set out in a communication to schools.

School Accommodation.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

295 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science if his attention has been drawn to a letter from a school (details supplied) in County Clare to him dated 11 June 2004; his response to the issues raised in that letter. [20458/04]

I wish to confirm that I have received a letter from the school referred to by the Deputy. My Department's school building section is currently considering the issues raised in the letter and I will be in a position to issue a response shortly.

Special Educational Needs.

Seymour Crawford

Question:

296 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for Education and Science if arrangements will be made to provide a classroom assistant for a person (details supplied) in County Monaghan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20459/04]

My Department allocates teacher posts and special needs assistant posts to second level schools and vocational education committees to cater for pupils with special educational needs. Applications for such support are made to my Department by the relevant school authority. Each application is considered on the basis of the assessed needs of the pupil(s) involved and the nature and level of the support provided is determined on the advice of the psychological service.

An application for additional resources for the pupil referred to by the Deputy has been made by Monaghan Collegiate School for the 2004-2005 school year. The application is currently under consideration in my Department and the school will be notified of the outcome as soon as possible.

Schools Refurbishment.

Seamus Healy

Question:

297 Mr. Healy asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will include refurbishment works at the Central Technical Institute, Clonmel, in the capital works programme 2005; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20460/04]

I assume the Deputy is referring to roof refurbishment works at the school in question. I am pleased to inform the Deputy that this project is included in the summer works scheme for 2004. The school will receive grant aid in the sum of €40,000 this year to carry out the works.

Seamus Healy

Question:

298 Mr. Healy asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will approve the €1.9 million needed for the capital refurbishment of a school (details supplied) in County Tipperary; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20461/04]

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

Site Acquisitions.

Seamus Healy

Question:

299 Mr. Healy asked the Minister for Education and Science the position regarding the request by Tipperary SR VEC for approval to the purchase of land at the rear of a centre (details supplied) in County Tipperary to facilitate the amalgamation of the three second level schools in Carrick-on-Suir; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20462/04]

As the Deputy will be aware, agreement has been reached with the management authorities of the three existing post-primary schools in Carrick-on-Suir to develop a single post-primary school in the centre. The question of the purchase of a suitable site for the proposed new school is currently under consideration in my Department. The Deputy will appreciate, however, that due to the commercial sensitivities of site acquisition, I am unable to comment on the potential purchase of specific sites.

Special Educational Needs.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

300 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for Education and Science if his attention has been drawn to the unacceptable state of affairs as it currently pertains regarding the need for, and lack of, assistants for children with special needs in the primary education sector throughout the country; the steps he intends to take to ameliorate this state of affairs, which is resulting in vital years being lost to those children in dire need of such assistance. [20463/04]

Since 1998, the number of special needs assistants in primary schools has grown from about 300 to in excess of 5,500 full-time and part-time posts.

Special needs assistants may be approved to support a pupil who has a significant medical need for such assistance, a significant impairment of physical or sensory function or where their behaviour is such that they are a danger to themselves or other pupils. The criteria used for the assessment of the need for special needs assistant support is outlined in my Department's circular 07/02. This circular may be accessed on my Department's website under "Children with Special Needs". My Department continues to review the existing arrangements for the allocation of special educational supports to primary schools. The basic purpose of the review is to ensure that each school has the level of resources required to cater for its pupils with special educational needs.

I am anxious to ensure that special education support services are properly targeted at the children who require them and that the substantially increased resources which are being made available in the special educational area have the desired effect of ensuring that all children assessed as having special needs receive the support they require. Schools which have applied for special needs assistant support will be advised of the outcome of their applications as soon as possible in advance of the next school year. Account is being taken of existing levels of SNA support allocation in schools. In cases where a reduction in the level of special needs assistant support is proposed, there will be provision for schools to appeal, having regard to the care needs of the pupils concerned. Details of the appeals mechanism will be set out in a communication to schools. I wish to assure the Deputy that special needs assistants posts will be retained in schools where there is a continuing care need in accordance with circular 07/02.

Modern Language Teaching.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

301 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Education and Science if an application made by the board of management of a school (details supplied) in County Kerry will be approved for a pilot foreign language programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20487/04]

The pilot programme for modern languages was introduced to 270 primary schools in 1998. As this was a pilot project it was not possible to accommodate all of the schools applying for inclusion. Approximately 1,300 schools applied for inclusion in the project at the outset and were considered under a number of clear criteria such as gender balance, urban-rural mix and socio-economic context. Approximately 20% of the schools selected initially were designated by my Department as disadvantaged.

The application of the school referred to for inclusion in the modern languages initiative at primary level has been approved in principle by the initiative's consultative group and the school has been placed on a waiting list for inclusion on the initiative. While it is not possible to accommodate all schools who apply for inclusion in the initiative it is proposed to carry out a review of the initiative in the near future with a view to increasing the number of participating schools to the maximum extent that budgetary considerations will permit.

Higher Education Grants.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

302 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Education and Science his views on whether it is unfair that the maximum grant a student under 23 who lives adjacent to their third level college can obtain is €1,800 for the 2003-04 academic year, while a student over 23 in the same location can receive €4495; if he will address this inequality; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20488/04]

Under the student support schemes, maintenance grants are payable at either the adjacent or the non-adjacent rate. The adjacent rate of maintenance grant is payable where the grant holder's normal residence is 15 miles or less from the college which he or she is attending. The non-adjacent rate of maintenance grant is payable in all other cases, with the exception of all eligible mature students who, with effect from the 1999-2000 academic year, qualify for the higher non-adjacent rate of grant. In each case the shortest, most direct route to college is measured to establish the distance concerned.

School Transport.

Jack Wall

Question:

303 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Education and Science if his Department will consider providing funding to persons (details supplied) to permit their children to obtain transport to their school; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20489/04]

My Department's school transport section is investigating the matter and the Deputy will be informed of the position, as soon as possible.

Special Educational Needs.

Gay Mitchell

Question:

304 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Education and Science the reasons for the reduction in the learning support and resource teaching hours from 17 hours per week to six hours per week in a school (details supplied) in Dublin 12; if he expects to improve the education of the children receiving this valuable learning assistance; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20504/04]

Róisín Shortall

Question:

309 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Education and Science if his attention has been drawn to the fact that as a result of a recent circular regarding the weighting of special education teachers a school (details supplied) will lose eight of the 17 hours previously allocated to it for special needs support; if his attention has further been drawn to the fact that this number of hours is even less than the total number of hours allocated by NEPS for individual students; and if, in view of the reduction of special teaching days from five to three at the school he will immediately reinstate the eight teaching hours. [20559/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 304 and 309 together.

The school referred to by the Deputy has been recently advised of its teacher allocation under the new weighted system. The advice confirms that the school currently exceeds its entitlement under the weighted system by 11 part-time teaching hours. An additional 350 teacher posts are being provided to facilitate the introduction of the new system. The new system will involve a general weighted allocation for all primary schools to cater for pupils with higher incidence special educational needs, for example, those with borderline mild and mild general learning disability, specific learning disability, and also those with learning support needs. It will also allow for individual allocations in respect of pupils with lower incidence special educational needs.

The weighted allocation will be made as follows. In the most disadvantaged schools as per the urban dimension of Giving Children an Even Break, a teacher of pupils with special educational needs will be allocated for every 80 pupils to cater for the subset of pupils with higher incidence special needs; in all boys schools, the ratio will be one teacher for every 140 pupils; in mixed schools, or all girls schools with an enrolment of greater than 30% boys, one for every 150 pupils; and in all girls schools including schools with mixed junior classes but with 30% or less boys overall, one for every 200 pupils.

It is intended that the details of the new model will be set out in a comprehensive circular to issue to schools for the commencement of the new school year. The weighted allocation will enable teaching support to be provided to pupils with higher incidence special educational needs and this will obviate the need for schools to submit individual applications for pupils in the higher incidence categories. Schools may continue to apply for specific teacher allocations in respect of pupils with lower incidence disabilities.

My Department now proposes to devise clusters in respect of allocations to be made under the weighted model. Sanction for the filling of posts will be considered in the context of these clusters and the weighted arrangements. My officials will communicate with schools in this regard before the commencement of the coming school year. My Department has agreed not to redeploy teachers from full-time posts via the panel redeployment process during the current school year. The position in relation to surplus part-time hours currently in the school will be the subject of a further communication when clustering and reallocation arrangements have been finalised.

Educational Projects.

John McGuinness

Question:

305 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Education and Science if a project sponsored by Youthlynx, John Street, Kilkenny, namely, the individual learning programme under the school completion programme will be funded by his Department; and if he will comment on the submission made to his Department in this regard. [20509/04]

The programme to which the Deputy refers is part of the Kilkenny School Completion Programme, SCP. The local management groups of the school completion programme projects are required to assess the needs of marginalised educationally disadvantaged young people at local level and devise integrated costed, focused, targeted annual retention plans that support these young people in their school, home and community life. The retention plans for 2004-5 have been submitted to my Department for approval.

The project will be notified of my Department's decision when their retention plan is approved in July.

Schools Building Projects.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

306 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Education and Science when the application for capital funding for a school (details supplied) in County Kildare will be progressed in view of the fact that it remains at band two status even though the application was made eight years ago and the catchment area is growing rapidly in population; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20522/04]

I presume the Deputy is referring to a post-primary school development in the centre in question. A large-scale building project for that school is listed in section 8 of the 2004 school building programme which is published on my Department's website atwww.education.ie. This project is at stage 4/5 — detail design-bills of quantities — of architectural planning. It has been assigned a ’band 2’ rating by my Department in accordance with the published criteria for prioritising large-scale projects.

Indicative timescales have been included for large-scale projects proceeding to tender in 2004. The budget announcement regarding multi-annual capital envelopes will enable me to adopt a multi-annual framework for the 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 referred to by the Deputy. I will make a further announcement in that regard during the year.

School Absenteeism.

David Stanton

Question:

307 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason he did not supply the specific information requested in Parliamentary Question No. 162 of 30 June 2004, that is the number of prosecutions relating to school attendance in 2003 up to the establishment of the National Educational Welfare Board; the number of such prosecutions in 2002, 2001 and 2000; if he will now make this information available; and the number of these prosecutions in each of the respective years mentioned which resulted in convictions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20523/04]

The published data in my Department's annual statistical reports indicate that the number of children committed to care, under the Children Acts 1908 to 1957, due to non-attendance at school, were eight in 2000, 16 in 2001 and ten in 2002. Data in respect of 2003 are not yet available.

Responsibility for the enforcement of school attendance rested with four local authorities in the cities of Dublin, Cork and Waterford and with the gardai for the remainder of the country prior to the establishment of the National Educational Welfare Board in July 2002. My Department has sought data on the number of prosecutions relating to school attendance for 2000 to 2002 from these agencies and will arrange to make it available to the Deputy.

Schools Building Projects.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

308 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will provide additional funding of €50,000 for the provision of a safe parking and loading bay, upgrading of the sewerage system, repair of a leaking roof and other matters as a consequence of the building of the permanent classroom at a school (details supplied) in County Galway; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20526/04]

The scope of works required at the school referred to by the Deputy, is appropriate for consideration under the summer works scheme. While the school's application under the summer works scheme for 2004 was unsuccessful, it is open to the school's management authority to re-apply for the key priority works required at the school as part of the 2005 summer works scheme, details of which will be announced later this year.

Question No. 309 answered with QuestionNo. 304.

Special Educational Needs.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

310 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Education and Science the arrangements which are being put in place to cater for the educational needs of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 11; if support will be provided from September 2004 onwards; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20560/04]

My Department has no record of receiving an application for special education needs for the child referred to by the Deputy. All applications for SEN support received in my Department by 30 June 2004 will be responded to before the commencement of the 2004-5 school year. The arrangements for processing applications received after the closing date will be advised to schools in due course.

Finian McGrath

Question:

311 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Science the position regarding services for children with autism on the northside of Dublin; and his plans for future services. [20567/04]

Children with autism have access to a range of special support services. Those attending mainstream schools are generally catered for with the support of a special needs teacher and special needs assistant services. There are currently in the region of 2,600 resource teachers and approximately 5,500 special needs assistants allocated to primary schools nationwide. The level of support provided in any particular case is determined by the professionally assessed needs of the individual child.

To date, in the region of 130 special classes dedicated to children with autism have been established within the primary sector. Thirteen of these classes are based on the northside of Dublin, including two for pupils with Asberger's syndrome. There are also three pre-school classes for pupils with autism in the area. Each such class operates at a maximum pupil teacher ratio of 6:1 and each class also has the support of at least two special needs assistants. Further such classes are being established on an ongoing basis in response to assessed needs.

There are currently seven facilities in the State, operating on a pilot basis, that use alternative educational methods for teaching children on the autistic spectrum, one of which is CABAS in Kilbarrack, Dublin. The CABAS teaching method employs a comprehensive application of behaviour analysis to schooling approach. While children are awaiting a suitable educational placement, the Department may sanction home tuition as an interim measure, if appropriate.

In 2001, a programme to extend education services through the month of July in the case of special schools and mainstream primary schools with special classes catering for children with autism commenced. The Deputy may be interested to know that future teacher allocations for pupils with special needs will be made in the context of a new weighted system which I announced recently. An additional 350 teacher posts are being provided to facilitate the introduction of the new system. The new system will involve a general weighted allocation for all primary schools to cater for pupils with higher incidence special educational needs, for example, those with borderline mild and mild general learning disability, specific learning disability, and also those with learning support needs. It will also allow for individual allocations in respect of pupils with lower incidence special educational needs, including those with autism.

Finian McGrath

Question:

312 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Science if a special needs assistant will be granted to a person (details supplied) in Dublin 4; and if they will be given the maximum support. [20568/04]

The school to which the Deputy refers currently has an enrolment of 50 pupils and the staffing complement consists of a principal, 11 mainstream class teachers and 14 full-time special needs assistants. The application for additional resources for the pupil in question is being considered in light of the current resources at the school and the recommended level of support as outlined in the report of the Special Education Review Committee, SERC. The recommended pupil teacher ratio for schools designated for physically disabled children is 10:1 and the recommended ratio for SNA support is one SNA for every class. A decision relating to the application will be conveyed to the school authorities shortly.

Finian McGrath

Question:

313 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Science if urgent assistance will be given to a person (details supplied) in Dublin 8 by granting the €5,000 to fund their July programme at Enable Ireland, Sandymount, Dublin 4. [20569/04]

As previously confirmed, the July education programme is available to schools catering for pupils with autism and severe and profound general learning disabilities. The provision to include other categories of disability in the programme has not been developed at this time. The school to which the Deputy refers is categorised as a special school for pupils with physical disabilities and therefore does not fall within the remit of the current July programme. I regret that it is not possible to provide grant assistance in this instance.

Liam Aylward

Question:

314 Mr. Aylward asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will approve the application for change of base school for a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20570/04]

I am aware that an application to change the base for the learning support post referred to by the Deputy has been received by my Department.

My Department proposes to devise clusters in respect of allocations to be made under the weighted model of teaching allocations. The school's request will be considered in the context of these clustering arrangements.

Search and Rescue Service.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

315 Mr. McGinley asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources when it is expected that a Canadian company which is providing search and rescue services along the coast is due to take over full responsibility for such a service in the north west; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20446/04]

The Irish Coast Guard of my Department has overall responsibility for the provision of search and rescue (SAR) services in this country, including the north-west service based at Sligo Airport which is operated on the ground by the Air Corps.

In December 2003, the Minister for Defence announced his decision to withdraw the Air Corps from the north-west SAR service. This decision was made following an assessment of the capacity of the Air Corps to retain and administer a full 24 hour service. Since the announcement of this decision the Air Corps has provided a reduced service in the north-west. The Irish Coast Guard has arranged for provision of helicopter coverage from the three other SAR helicopter bases at Dublin, Waterford and Shannon airports, to supplement this reduced service.

The Irish Coast Guard has also requested Canadian Helicopter Corporation (Ireland) Limited (CHCI) to provide costed proposals for a full marine emergency helicopter service to operate out of Sligo Airport. CHCI is already supplying SAR services under contract from the bases at Dublin, Waterford and Shannon airports. These proposals are at present being assessed in consultation with the Department of Finance.

It is not possible therefore, to say at present, when, or if, CHCI may take over full responsibility for the north-west operation. However, should it be decided to avail of the services of CHCI, then that company would be in a position to commence operations for a 12 hour service within four weeks of notification and full 24 hour service within three to four months.

State Boards.

Enda Kenny

Question:

316 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he will give details of all State or semi-State agencies and boards under the aegis of his Department as of 1 January 1994; the number of State or semi-State agencies and boards under the aegis of his Department as of 1 January 2004; the date of the establishment of such agencies and boards in each case; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19998/04]

: The information sought by the Deputy is set out in the following tables. Thirty of the bodies listed were in existence on 1 January 1994. Twenty of those bodies have been established in the intervening period. I draw the Deputy's attention to table E, which details those bodies which functioned under the aegis of my Department as of 1 January 1994 but which had ceased to do so as of 1 January 2004.

Semi-State Companies, Agencies or Boards under the Aegis of the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources as at 1 January, 2004

Table A

Communications Sector

Name of semi-State Company, Agency or Board

Date of Establishment

An Post

1 January 1984

Commission for Communication Regulation

1 December 2002

Digital Hub Development Agency

21 July 2003

Radio Telefis Eireann

1 June 1960

Broadcasting Commission of Ireland

1 September 2001

Broadcasting Complaints Commission

31 March 1977

Table B

Marine Sector

Name of semi-State Company, Agency or Board

Date of Establishment

Port of Cork Company

3 March 1997

Dublin Port Company

3 March 1997

Drogheda Port Company

3 March 1997

Shannon Foynes Port Company

18 September 2000

Port of Waterford Company

1 January 2000

Dundalk Port Company

9 May 2002

Wicklow Port Company

9 May 2002

New Ross Port Company

3 March 1997

Dun Laoghaire Harbour Company

3 March 1997

Galway Harbour Company

3 March 1997

Marine Casualty Investigation Board

25 March 2003

Aquaculture Licences Appeals Board

17 June 1998

Table C

Energy Sector

Name of semi-State Company, Agency or Board

Date of Establishment

ESB

28 May 1927

Eirgrid plc

7 February 2001

Bord Gais Eireann

13 September 1976

Bord na Mona

31 December 1946

Commission for Energy Regulation

14 July 1999

National Oil Reserves Agency

22 February 1995

Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland

1 May 2002

Table D

Natural Resources Sector

Name of semi-State Company, Agency or Board

Date of Establishment

Central Fisheries Board

29 October 1980

Eastern Regional Fisheries Board

29 October 1980

Northern Regional Fisheries Board

29 October 1980

North Western Regional Fisheries Board

29 October 1980

Southern Regional Fisheries Board

29 October 1980

South Western Regional Fisheries Board

29 October 1980

Western Regional Fisheries Board

29 October 1980

National Salmon Commission

21 March 2000

Bord Iascaigh Mhara

22 April 1952

Marine Institute

30 October 1992

Commissioners of Irish Lights

1867

Mining Board

14 November 1940

A number of semi-State agencies which functioned under the aegis of my Department as of 1 January, 1994 had ceased to do so as of 1 January, 2004. Details of these are as follows:
Table E

Name of semi-State Agency-Harbour Commissioners

Date of Establishment

Annagassan Harbour Commissioners

10 October 1946

Arklow Harbour Commissioners

10 October 1946

Baltimore and Skibbereen Harbour Commissioners

10 October 1946

Bantry Bay Harbour Commissioners

16 March 1976

Dingle Harbour Commissioners

10 October 1946

Kinsale Harbour Commissioners

10 October 1946

River Moy Harbour Commissioners

10 October 1946

Sligo Harbour Commissioners

10 October 1946

Tralee & Fenit Harbour Commissioners

10 October 1946

Westport Harbour Commissioners

10 October 1946

Wexford Harbour Commissioners

10 October 1946

Bord Telecom Eireann

1 January 1984

Irish National Petroleum Corporation*

2 July 1979

* Sold to the Tosco Corporation on 16 July, 2001

Radio Broadcasting.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

317 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the timeframe to realise his intention of independence for TG4. [20009/04]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Question No. 14 on Tuesday, 29 June 2004.

Broadcasting Legislation.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

318 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the total sum of money in the broadcasting fund administered by the Broadcasting Commission of Ireland; the areas in which those moneys are invested; and the total spent to date on administering the Fund. [20012/04]

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

319 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the dates on which schemes for funding of programming under the broadcasting fund will be established; and the nature of the commissioning process by which it will be decided the programming that will be funded. [20013/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 318 and 319 together.

To date €12.2 million has been paid to the Broadcasting Commission of Ireland (BCI) in respect of the new broadcasting fund. The Broadcasting Funding Act 2003 provides that it is a matter for the BCI to draw up a scheme or schemes which will set down the manner in which the fund may be used. I understand that the BCI intend publishing a draft scheme in the near future and inviting comments from interested parties.

The 2003 Act also provides that the administration costs associated with schemes may be met from the fund. It will be a matter for the BCI, which is an independent statutory body, to report in due course on the use of the fund.

Foreshore Licences.

Noel Grealish

Question:

320 Mr. Grealish asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the reason a licence to pick oysters has not been granted to a person (details supplied) in County Galway; if he will liaise with the Western Fisheries Board with a view to granting this person a licence to pick oysters; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20040/04]

:I am advised by the chief executive officer of the Western Regional Fisheries Board that the matter at issue in this case arises because the methodology proposed by the applicant does not comply with the statutory requirements laid down in the Fisheries Acts governing the gathering of oysters. I have asked the chief executive officer to ensure that the applicant is fully apprised of the appropriate methodology required under these legislative provisions.

Natural Gas Grid.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

321 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the reason Tuam town, County Galway, has not been connected to the national gas grid; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20111/04]

: As the Deputy will understand, neither I nor my Department engages directly in the natural gas market and the regulation of that market is delegated to the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER) under the Gas (Interim) (Regulation) Act 2002. Accordingly I have no function in this matter.

Water and Sewerage Schemes.

Pat Breen

Question:

322 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources further to Parliamentary Question No 278 of 9 March 2004 when the foreshore licence will be submitted to Clare County Council for the Mullagh-Quilty sewerage scheme since the further information as requested has been responded to in order that the council can forward contract documentation to the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20230/04]

An application was made to my Department by Clare County Council for a foreshore licence for an effluent outfall pipe in connection with the proposed Quilty sewerage scheme.

Following preliminary consideration of the application, further information has been requested from the County Council. This information was provided and is being examined by the Department's expert advisors. A decision on the application will be made as soon as possible.

Fishing Industry Development.

Enda Kenny

Question:

323 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he has received representations from a company (details supplied) in respect of wild oyster resources, if he has examined the claims of the company involved; and if he would make a statement on the matter in respect of progress achieved to deal with their concerns. [20280/04]

Representations have been received from the association in question, in relation to the wild oyster resource in the area with which they are concerned.

While the issues and concerns raised by the association have been noted, I am advised that there is no evidence of any dredging activity which would be harmful to the oyster beds.

I have, however, asked my Department to arrange to meet the association, so as to afford them an opportunity to elaborate on the matters they have raised in their correspondence and to furnish any further information they wish to put forward on these issues.

Fish Exports.

Martin Ferris

Question:

324 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he can provide statistics on the value of unprocessed fish exported each year since 1995 as a proportion of the total catch by the Irish fleet. [20328/04]

Fishery export statistics are compiled and published by the Central Statistics Office. The value of unprocessed fish, which includes live, fresh-chilled and unprocessed fish and shellfish, exported each year since 1996 are in the following table (1995 is unavailable and 2002 is the most recent year for which statistics are available). It includes salmon and fresh mussels from aquaculture production.

Exports (Live fish, fresh/chilled & unprocessed fish and shellfish)

Year

1996

1997

1998

1999

2000

2001

2002

Value 000 €

123,400

97,700

102,800

108,400

123,100

149,700

156,100

Sea Fish Landings for demersal, pelagic and shellfish by the Irish fleet

Year

1995

1996

1997

1998

1999

2000

2001

2002

Value 000 €

133,462

183,599

156,939

211,208

212,552

217,825

250,139

234,295

Landings data do not include aquaculture production so the two tables are not directly comparable.

Radio Broadcasting.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

325 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he intends to review the workings of the BCI and to set up a proper appeals system with respect to the decisions of the BCI; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20367/04]

I am currently undertaking a review of the local radio licensing regime in Ireland. An appeals mechanism with regard to radio licensing decisions is one of many issues that are being considered in the review.

Sports Capital Programme.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

326 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the reason a school (details supplied) in County Kerry was refused a national lottery grant to develop a community playing pitch and dressing rooms; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19975/04]

The national lottery-funded sports capital programme, which is administered by my Department, allocates funding to sporting and community organisations at local, regional and national level throughout the country.

All applications under the 2004 sports capital programme were evaluated by my Department in accordance with the assessment criteria for the programme published in the guidelines, terms and conditions document which accompanied the application form for the programme. Following completion of the evaluation of the applications received by my Department under the programme, I announced the local provisional grant allocations on 7 May last.

The application in question was unsuccessful and a letter advising the organisation together with a copy of the assessment carried out on the application, including any specific reasons for the application being unsuccessful, was issued to the organisation on 26 May 2004. It is open to the organisation, should it wish to do so and should it have a project which satisfies the terms and conditions of the programme, to submit an application to the 2005 sports capital programme when that scheme is publicly advertised.

State Boards.

Enda Kenny

Question:

327 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if he will give details of all State or semi-State agencies and boards under the aegis of his Department as of 1 January 1994; the number of State or semi-State agencies and boards under the aegis of his Department as of 1 January 2004; the date of the establishment of such agencies and boards in each case; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19999/04]

The information requested by the Deputy is set out in the following table. This information applies to boards and agencies in place since the establishment of my Department in June, 2002:

Agency/Board

Establishment date

The National Gallery of Ireland

1854

Caretaker Board of the National Museum

July 1995

National Concert Hall

27 March 1981

Irish Museum of Modern Art

18 April 1985

The National Archives Advisory Council

January 1987

The Irish Manuscripts Commission

1928

Irish Film Board

1980

Arts Council

1951

Music Board of Ireland

2 May 2001

Horse Racing Ireland

18 December 2001

Bord na gCon

1958

Irish Sports Council

1st July 1999

Tourism Ireland Ltd

2000

Bord Fáilte Éireann

1939 — 28 May 2003

CERT Ltd

1963 — 28 May 2003

Fáilte Ireland

28 May 2003

2 Management Boards for the Tourism Product Development Scheme

April 2002

Swimming Pool Projects.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

328 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if he will increase the value of the swimming pool grant in line with inflation to ensure that the grant is the equivalent of at least 80% of a pool which was the situation when the grant was first introduced; and if his attention has been drawn to the fact that with existing grant levels many old existing pools throughout the country will close. [20038/04]

The local authority swimming pool programme is designed to make grant aid available to local authorities for the building or refurbishment of public swimming pools. In either case, the programme provides for a maximum grant level of 80% of eligible costs, 90% in the case of disadvantaged areas, subject to a maximum of €3.8 million. Specifically in the case of refurbishments, the maximum percentage grant levels, which have been approved for projects in the past, did not reach the maximum monetary value.

In the case of new or replacement pools, it is a matter for local authorities to devise funding and operational arrangements as they see fit, to complement the grant element available. Experience has shown that there is potential for the involvement of community and or private sector interests in the provision and operation of local authority swimming pool facilities and many local authorities are exploring various ways of involving such interests in their projects. From my Department's perspective, there is no objection to the involvement of partners outside of the local authority, provided the generally accepted operational considerations of a public pool form part of the project.

An expenditure review of the local authority swimming pool programme which is under way in my Department will input into the formulation of future policy in this area. This review is examining, among other things, how the existing programme has worked to date, the benefits which have accrued where pools have been built and what changes, if any, are required to ensure the effective and efficient delivery of the programme. This review is due to be completed later this year.

Special Educational Needs.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

329 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Health and Children if steps will be taken to provide facilities nearer to the homes of children from the Rosses and Fintown areas of County Donegal who have to make a round trip of 60 to 80 miles per day to attend pre-school special needs classes at a school (details supplied) in County Donegal. [20114/04]

Responsibility for the provision of services for people with an intellectual disability for people in County Donegal is a matter, in the first instance, for the North Western Health Board. My Department has, therefore, asked the chief executive officer of the North Western Health Board to investigate the matter and reply directly to him.

Child Care Services.

Finian McGrath

Question:

330 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if a person (details supplied) in Dublin 3 is entitled to the domiciliary care allowance from the day the child was born or from the day the child was diagnosed; and to give the maximum support and advice to this family. [20574/04]

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

Health Board Services.

Gay Mitchell

Question:

331 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Health and Children further to Parliamentary Question No. 318 of 10 February 2004, the proposed programme for the care and treatment of this person (details supplied) in Dublin 8. [19970/04]

Responsibility in relation to the matter referred to by the Deputy rests with the Eastern Regional Health Authority and the South Western Area Health Board.

I have been informed by the Eastern Regional Health Authority that the person referred to by the Deputy had been placed in Ballydowd special care unit for a number of months up until 22 June 2004 when he was discharged from the facility. In recognition of the concern to provide increased support in the immediate discharge phase, the area health board has put in place a complete wrap around service. His care will be overseen by the board's social work service, with Extern West providing a structured care programme on a seven-day week basis. As part of his transition to independent living, he has been facilitated by the services in securing a suitable flat with support and therapeutic resources to maximise the opportunity of independent living in the community. These arrangements have been accepted by the young person, his family and his guardianad litem and are under continuous review by all stakeholders.

The area health board has also informed my Department that this young person has been accepted for placement for further assessment with the United Kingdom facility which specialises in trauma to the brain and head injuries and this placement is dependent on his co-operation. His care plan will be reviewed on a continuous basis and-or as needs dictate.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

332 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Health and Children his Department’s policy on the provision of medical services for persons with Parkinson’s disease, in each of the health board areas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19981/04]

Responsibility for the provision of health services for persons with Parkinson's disease rests with the Eastern Regional Health Authority or the appropriate regional health board. My Department has, therefore, asked the regional chief executive of the authority and the chief executive officers of the health boards to investigate the matter raised by the Deputy and to reply to him directly.

Mental Health Services.

Denis Naughten

Question:

333 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children the procedures for the re-allocation of boarding out psychiatric patients to other similar facilities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19990/04]

I presume the Deputy is referring to the 'boarding out' scheme which currently exists in relation to psychiatric out-patients in County Roscommon. Responsibility for the provision of this service 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.

Hospital Services.

Michael Ring

Question:

334 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will be called for an MRI scan. [20048/04]

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 investigate the position in relation to this case and to reply directly to the Deputy.

Medical Cards.

John McGuinness

Question:

335 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Health and Children if a medical card will be issued without delay on medical grounds to a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny. [20049/04]

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

Denis Naughten

Question:

336 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason a person who has resided for nearly 88 years of their life in County Roscommon and has a medical card issued by the Western Health Board was told that they would no longer be catered for by the County Roscommon psychiatric services, due to the fact that they are residing in a nursing home in the Midland Health Board region, which is 110 meters from the border with the western region; his views on whether this is a satisfactory system; if this policy is a direction from his Department; the plans he has to review it; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20053/04]

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

Hospital Services.

Paddy McHugh

Question:

337 Mr. McHugh asked the Minister for Health and Children further to Parliamentary Question No. 282 of 11 May 2004, the reason no response has been received from the chief executive officer in relation to the issue raised; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20067/04]

I understand that the Western Health Board has issued a response to the Deputy dated 1 July 2004.

Seán Power

Question:

338 Mr. S. Power asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason a person (details supplied) in County Kildare is still waiting for reconstruction surgery three years after a mastectomy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20107/04]

The provision of health services for people living in County Kildare is a matter for the Eastern Regional Health Authority. My Department has asked the chief executive officer of the authority to examine the issues raised by the Deputy and to reply to him as a matter of urgency.

Cancer Treatment Services.

Seán Power

Question:

339 Mr. S. Power asked the Minister for Health and Children the average waiting time for reconstruction surgery following a mastectomy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20108/04]

Details of the waiting times for reconstructive surgery following a mastectomy is not routinely collected by my Department. My Department has asked the chief executive officer of the Eastern Regional Health Authority and the chief executive officer of each health board to respond directly to the Deputy in relation to the information requested.

Antimicrobial Resistance.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

340 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children if his attention has been drawn to a dramatic rise in the incidence of MRSA in the UK and Ireland in the past four years; the number of cases confirmed here; the location and the action taken to combat the situation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20120/04]

The National Disease Surveillance Centre (NDSC) collects data from hospitals on methicillin resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) bacteraemia, otherwise known as bloodstream infection or "blood poisoning", as part of the European antimicrobial resistance surveillance system (EARSS). EARSS is a voluntary system and as such not all hospitals participate. Nevertheless, the participating hospitals in Ireland represent at least 95% of the population, the highest level of participation of any country involved in EARSS. Thus the EARSS data for Ireland approximates the true total number of cases of MRSA bacteraemia in Ireland. In 2003 there were 477 cases of MRSA bacteraemia reported in Ireland.

MRSA is a resistant form of a common bacteria, known as staphlococcus aureus. The proportion of staphlococcus aureus bacteraemia caused by MRSA in Ireland in 2002 was 42.7%. The proportion for the last quarter of 2003 was 41.7%. Overall there does not seem to have been a significant increase in the proportion of infections caused by MRSA in recent years. However, the proportion is one of the highest among European countries participating in EARSS.

The level of antibiotic resistance in Ireland, in relation to MRSA, is one of the highest in Europe, second only to the UK and Malta. Two of the reasons for this, and the responses to date, are as follows: first, one of the common strains of MRSA in Ireland is highly contagious and it is particularly difficult to control its spread. This strain is also seen in the UK and partially explains the reason why both the UK and Ireland have such high rates. The national MRSA reference laboratory, at St. James's Hospital, can now identify individual strains of MRSA and reports this back to each hospital. Having this information helps each hospital to identify whether or not they have a problem with a particular strain of MRSA and to decide on appropriate control measures; second, overuse of antibiotics in hospitals. The SARI hospital antibiotic subcommittee has completed draft guidelines for hospitals on promoting prudent use of antibiotics. Many of the regional SARI committees have also appointed clinical pharmacists to individual hospitals to improve antibiotic prescribing habits. A pilot project on promoting more rational use of antibiotics has been funded by my Department, through the SARI national committee, and has recently commenced in the Midland Health Board region. As regards treatment, this is governed by protocols developed by those experts treating the condition and involves a range of interventions such as antibiotic treatment, proper infection control and general medical management.

In 1999, my Department asked the National Disease Surveillance Centre (NDSC) to evaluate the problem of antimicrobial resistance in Ireland and to formulate a strategy for the future. The NDSC gave detailed consideration to these issues and drew up a strategy for the control of antimicrobial resistance in Ireland (SARI), which I launched on 19 June 2001. This report contains a wide range of detailed recommendations to address the issue of antimicrobial resistance, including a strategy to control the inappropriate use of antibiotics. The SARI recommendations can be grouped into five main categories, as follows: surveillance of antimicrobial resistance; monitoring of the supply and use of antimicrobials; development of guidance in relation to the appropriate use of antimicrobials; education of health care workers, patients and the general public; and development of principles in relation to infection control in the hospital and community setting.

The strategy for the control of antimicrobial resistance in Ireland recommended that a national SARI committee be established to develop guidelines, protocols and strategies in relation to antimicrobial resistance. This committee was established in late 2002 and as part of its remit provides advice to the regional SARI committees in each health board area which were established as a result of the strategy's recommendations. The national SARI committee is comprised of a wide range of experts in the field.

Tackling the problem of antimicrobial resistance is a multi-faceted issue which will require action on a number of fronts. Implementation of the strategy is taking place on a phased basis and will take a number of years to complete. To date approximately €16 million has been allocated by my Department to health boards to enable them to put in place measures to control antimicrobial resistance. It is ultimately a matter for each health board CEO to determine the priorities in each region. These priorities should take account of the recommendations in the SARI report and also the recommendations put forward by each regional SARI committee. Much of the funding is designated for improving hospital infrastructure for control of infection and for appointing additional microbiologists, infection control nurses and other health care professionals involved in the control of infection. There is still some progress to be made in order to meet the numbers of such professionals required, as outlined in the SARI report, but significant progress has been made with additional appointments over the past two years. At national level, MRSA bacteraemia is now included in the revised list of notifiable diseases, so hospitals are now legally required to report cases of serious MRSA infection to the departments of public health in the regional health boards and to the NDSC.

The SARI infection control subcommittee has recently completed a consultation process on national guidelines for hand hygiene in health care settings. Hand hygiene is a key component in the control of MRSA and the final guidelines will be available within the next two to three months. The subcommittee is also updating national guidelines on the control of MRSA and it is hoped that these will be available later this year. Each of the health boards has a regional SARI committee and these committees have been developing regional interventions to control hospital infection, including MRSA.

Parliamentary Questions.

Mary Upton

Question:

341 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Health and Children if all parliamentary questions referred to health boards by this Deputy have been answered by the relevant health board; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20121/04]

Mary Upton

Question:

342 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Health and Children the total number of parliamentary questions by all Deputies referred to health boards for answer for 2003 and 2004; the average length of time it has taken health boards to answer the query; the shortest response time; the longest response time; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20122/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 341 and 342 together.

My practice, and that of my predecessors as Minister for Health and Children, is to provide as informative a reply as possible to Dáil questions where the subject matter is appropriate to my Department. Many of these questions asked by the Deputy are concerned with matters which are properly the responsibility of health boards, the ERHA or other statutory agencies which are directly accountable for their own decisions and actions. To facilitate Deputies asking such questions, it is the practice in my Department to forward such questions immediately to the agency in question and to request that they examine the matter raised and reply to the Deputy concerned as speedily as possible.

My Department has taken various measures to emphasise to the management of health agencies the importance of parliamentary and other forms of public accountability as an intrinsic part of the exercise of modern public management. The entire framework for responding to complaints and for addressing public accountability requirements is an integral part of the health reform programme currently being implemented.

National Treatment Purchase Fund.

Mary Upton

Question:

343 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of both adults and children who have availed of the national treatment purchase fund for 2003 and 2004; the average cost of each service; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20123/04]

The national treatment purchase fund was established as one of the key actions for dealing with public hospital waiting lists arising from the Health Strategy: Quality and Fairness — A Health System For You. Significant progress has been achieved by the NTPF in targeting those patients who have been waiting longest for treatment.

To the end May 2004, a total of 14,142 adults and children were treated under the NTPF. A total of 7,832 adults and children were treated in 2003 and a total of 4,390 adults and children were treated as at 31 May, 2004. The average case cost for 2003 was €3,381.

Hospital Services.

Dan Neville

Question:

344 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Health and Children when a sexual assault unit will be established in Mid-West Regional Hospital, Limerick. [20124/04]

The Mid-Western Health Board has made a proposal for the development of a dedicated sexual assault treatment unit at Limerick Regional Hospital. The proposal is under consideration by my Department in the context of funding available and competing priorities. Pending the development of a unit at Limerick Regional Hospital, existing arrangements for forensic medical examination by local general practitioners or the sexual assault unit in Cork will continue.

Medicinal Products.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

345 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Health and Children if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the warnings issued in the USA and Canada in relation to the use of antidepressants known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors are much stronger than those applicable here, or throughout the European Union; and if he will take steps to ensure that the documentation for the future will be more specific in relation to warnings and precautions for use of such drugs. [20125/04]

The Irish Medicines Board is the statutory body responsible for the safety of human medicinal products in Ireland. The IMB reviews all available data, from all sources, in monitoring the ongoing safety of medicinal products authorised for use in Ireland, with the specific aim of minimising the risk to patients while maximising the benefit of timely and appropriate treatment.

I am aware that the United States Food and Drug Administration issued a warning in March concerning the need for close observation of persons using antidepressant medication. The current Irish documentation for these types of product already contains such a warning, as well as a number of other special warnings and precautions for use.

The IMB will continue to review the safety of SSRIs and will take any regulatory action considered appropriate.

Hospital Services.

Michael Ring

Question:

346 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will be called for a knee operation. [20133/04]

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 investigate the position in relation to this case and to reply directly to the Deputy.

Child Care Services.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

347 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for Health and Children when a decision will be made on the appeal by a person (details supplied) in County Dublin regarding their application for domiciliary care allowance on behalf of their child. [20150/04]

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

Tribunals of Inquiry.

John Gormley

Question:

348 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Health and Children the amount which has been spent to date on the Dunne inquiry; the further length of time it is expected to sit; the reason preventing its publication; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20151/04]

The cost to end of May 2004 of the Dunne inquiry is €15.3 million. The inquiry has been asked to review postmortem policy, practice and procedure in all hospitals in the State since 1970 particularly relating to organ removal, retention and disposal.

Following consultations which I had with the chairman in late 2002, it was agreed that the inquiry would give priority to the completion of its work in respect of postmortem issues in paediatric hospitals with a view to furnishing a report by the end of 2003. This was to be followed by a second report on postmortem issues in maternity hospitals and a third report relating to other hospitals. In recent correspondence, the inquiry has informed me that it has not proved possible to complete the report on paediatric hospitals within that timeframe as matters have taken longer to conclude than previously anticipated.

I await the chairman's report on the paediatric hospitals. The chairman has informed me that, with some exceptions, the information gathering in relation to paediatric hospitals is complete and the issue of analysing the information and establishing which matters remain in dispute has been concluded. The inquiry must now deal with the resolution of matters in dispute and the conclusion of the report. This involves communication to participants of matters in dispute; written evidence in relation to matters in dispute; such oral hearings as are necessary in relation to matters in dispute; resolution of such matters; and an opportunity for participants to make submissions where the report proposes to make criticisms.

The inquiry further advises that it has at all times kept in mind the need to be in a position to proceed with its work in relation to the maternity hospitals as soon as the paediatric hospitals report has been completed. The inquiry has therefore continued to work in this regard to ensure that all documentation will be available to the inquiry when required. Preparation for reports on other hospitals continues but the primary concern of the inquiry at present is the completion of the report on paediatric hospitals. The chairman is mindful of the need to have her report completed as soon as is reasonably practicable.

Health Board Services.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

349 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Health and Children the priority which has or is being given to the provision of a community hospital to replace the old Grove Hospital in Tuam; if funding for the project will be made available through the national development plan; if not, the programme under which the project will be financed; the present cost of the project, based on documentation available to his Department; if he has plans to build the hospital in stages; if so, the part of the project that will commence first; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20152/04]

As the Deputy will be aware, the provision of health services in County Galway is a matter for the Western Health Board, in the first instance. The board has advised that a project planning brief for the Tuam health campus incorporating a community hospital, Alzheimer's unit, childcare training centre, primary care unit and an ambulance base has been submitted to my Department for consideration and my Department will continue to liaise with the Western Health Board on the matter.

Hospital Services.

Seamus Healy

Question:

350 Mr. Healy asked the Minister for Health and Children if urgent action will be taken to admit a person (details supplied) either to Our Lady’s Hospital for Sick Children, Crumlin or Temple Street Children’s Hospital; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20202/04]

Responsibility for the provision of services for residents of south Tipperary 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 the matter and reply directly to the Deputy.

Michael Ring

Question:

351 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will be called for heart bypass surgery. [20211/04]

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 investigate the position in relation to this case and to reply directly to the Deputy.

Health Board Services.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

352 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Health and Children his proposals to provide a free chiropody service for senior citizens who hold medical cards; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20212/04]

John Cregan

Question:

376 Mr. Cregan asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding problems which have been known to his office for months regarding difficulties in the ERHA region with the service by chiropodists to pensioners; if he will report on progress; the person who is negotiating with the chiropodists, in view of the fact that his Department and ERHA seem to suggest that the other party is the negotiator. [20387/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 352 and 376 together.

Health boards are not legally obliged to provide chiropody services. Arrangements for the provision of services, including chiropody, are a matter for the individual health boards, having regard to their priorities within the funding allocated. Accordingly, chiropody services provided by health boards vary somewhat throughout the country. Any contractual arrangements are between the relevant health board and the service provider.

My Department has indicated its disapproval at the practice of levying an additional charge by the chiropodists in some board areas and discussions are taking place in this regard with the Eastern Regional Health Authority. There has been no formal request for a meeting from any professional body representing chiropodists.

John McGuinness

Question:

353 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Health and Children if the chief executive officer of the South Eastern Health Board has replied to all correspondence from a person (details supplied); if all issues raised with him by way of that correspondence have been dealt with; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20213/04]

Responsibility for the provision of care and treatment of the named individual rests 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.

Paul McGrath

Question:

354 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children the numbers on the waiting list for the housing aid for the elderly scheme in each health board; and the average waiting time in each health board area. [20215/04]

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

Medical Cards.

Paul McGrath

Question:

355 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children the residency requirement for medical card applications from seamen whose home is here but who, due to the nature of their employment, are out of the country for lengthy periods. [20216/04]

Entitlement to health services in Ireland is primarily based on residency and means rather than income. Any person who is accepted by the health boards as being ordinarily resident in Ireland is entitled to either full eligibility — category 1, i.e. entitlement to a medical card — or limited eligibility — category 2 — for health services. Under the Health Act 1970, the determination of eligibility for health services is the responsibility of the chief executive officer of the appropriate health board and neither I nor my Department has a function in the matter.

However, in 1992 my Department issued guidelines to health boards to assist in deciding whether a person is ordinarily resident in the State for eligibility purposes. These guidelines state that if an Irish national is working abroad on a short-term contract but satisfies the health board that it is not his or her intention to take up residence outside of Ireland on an indefinite basis, the status of ordinarily resident and eligibility for Irish health services may be retained. The health board may take account of the nature and duration of a work contract as well as evidence of ordinary residence in arriving at its decision. Examples of the evidence which may be sought in this context include proof of property purchase or rental, bank account, pension, employer statements or visas or affidavit.

Health Board Services.

Paul McGrath

Question:

356 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children the waiting list for orthodontic treatment in each of the health board areas and if orthodontic treatment is outsourced to private practitioners in any of these areas. [20217/04]

The provision of orthodontic services is a matter for the health boards or the Eastern Regional Health Authority in the first instance.

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

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

Orthodontic initiative funding of €4.698 million was provided to the health boards and the ERHA in 2001 and this has enabled health boards to recruit additional staff, engage the services of private specialist orthodontic practitioners to treat patients and build additional orthodontic facilities. In June 2002, my Department provided additional funding of €5 million from the treatment purchase fund to the health boards specifically for the purchase of orthodontic treatment. This funding is enabling boards to provide additional sessions for existing staff and purchase treatment from private specialist orthodontic practitioners.

The chief executive officers of the boards have informed my Department of the following information about their orthodontic treatment waiting lists at the end of March 2004.

Treatment Waiting List

Health Board

Category A

Average waiting time (months)

Category B

Average waiting time (months)

SWAHB

629

< 10

473

< 12

ECAHB

37

< 6

160

< 18

NAHB

62

< 12

2,334

< 24

MHB

Nil

No waiting time

259

14

MWHB

Nil

No waiting time

601

24-36

NEHB

3

1.5-2

268

12-18

NWHB

220

20

1,041

30

SEHB

Nil

No waiting time

683

20

SHB

Nil

No waiting time

2,960

42-48

WHB

Nil

No waiting time

848

42

Patients in category A require immediate treatment and include those with congenital abnormalities of the jaws such as cleft lip and palate, and patients with major skeletal discrepancies between the sizes of the jaws. Patients in category B have less severe problems than category A patients. Finally, the chief executive officers of the health boards have informed my Department that at the end of the March quarter of 2004, there were 21,033 children receiving orthodontic treatment in the public orthodontic service. This means that there are nearly twice as many children receiving orthodontic treatment as there are children waiting to be treated and almost 4,000 extra children are getting treatment from health boards since the end of 2001.

Paul McGrath

Question:

357 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if, in view of the high number of children who are in receipt of orthodontic treatment in the private sector, he will consider relaxing the qualifying criteria for treatment in the public sector. [20218/04]

The provision of orthodontic services is the statutory responsibility of the health boards in the first instance.

I am pleased to advise the Deputy that health boards are already providing orthodontic treatment to a large number of children. The chief executive officers of the health boards have informed my Department that at the end of the March quarter of 2004, 21,033 children were receiving orthodontic treatment in the public orthodontic service. This means that there are more than twice as many children receiving orthodontic treatment as there are children waiting to be treated and almost 4,000 extra children are getting treatment from health boards since the end of 2001.

The aim of my Department is to develop the treatment capacity of orthodontics in a sustainable way over the longer term. Given the potential level of demand for orthodontic services, the provision of those services will continue to be based on prioritisation of cases based on treatment need — as happens under the existing orthodontic guidelines. The guidelines were issued in 1985 and are intended to enable health boards to identify in a consistent way those in greatest need and to commence timely treatment for them. Patients in category A require immediate treatment and include those with congenital abnormalities of the jaws such as cleft lip and palate, and patients with major skeletal discrepancies between the sizes of the jaws; patients in category B have less severe problems than category A patients and are placed on the orthodontic treatment waiting list; patients in category C have less severe problems than in category B. The number of cases treated is dependent on the level of resources available, in terms of qualified staff, in the area and this is reflected in the treatment waiting list.

Care of the Elderly.

Paul McGrath

Question:

358 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children the progress which has been made in implementing the recommendations of the Ombudsman’s report on nursing home care for the elderly having regard to the Ombudsman’s view that these were entitled to free hospital and nursing home care. [20219/04]

As the Deputy will be aware, the Ombudsman, in his report on the nursing home subvention scheme, asserted that under the Health Act 1970, any person in need of nursing home care has a statutory entitlement to the provision of this service by a health board. As my Department advised the Ombudsman in its response to the draft report of the Ombudsman, its view is that the Health Act 1970, as amended, distinguishes between eligibility for and entitlement to a service, although the two terms are often used interchangeably. This view is supported by legal advice available to my Department.

The health strategy, Quality and Fairness: A Health System for You, acknowledges the need to clarify and simplify eligibility arrangements and sets down a commitment to introduce new legislation to provide for the introduction of clear statutory provisions on entitlement and eligibility. A review of all existing legislation in this area has been carried out in my Department which will inform the approach to the drafting of new legislation in this area.

As the Deputy will be aware, my Department has established a working group including representatives of all stakeholders to review the operation and administration of the nursing home subvention scheme following on from the publication of Professor Eamon O'Shea's report, Review of the Nursing Home Subvention Scheme. The purpose of the review is to develop a scheme which will be transparent, offer a high standard of care for clients, provide equity within the system to include standardised dependency and means testing and be less discretionary; provide both a home and nursing home subvention depending on need; be consistent in implementation throughout the country; and draw on experience of the operation of the old scheme.

As part of the overall clarification of entitlements as promised in the health strategy and in tandem with the work of the working group on the nursing home subvention scheme, my Department will be attempting to resolve the current differences in approach between the consideration of individuals' ability to pay under the various regulations in this area.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

359 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Health and Children if he will make funding available for the development of St. Patrick’s Upton services at Cloughmacsimon, Bandon, County Cork. [20235/04]

Responsibility for the funding of services for people with an intellectual disability in County Cork is a matter, in the first instance, for the Southern Health Board. My Department has therefore asked the chief executive officer of the Southern Health Board to investigate the matter raised by the Deputy and reply directly to him.

Hospital Services.

Michael Ring

Question:

360 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will be called for assessment for a hip operation; when they were placed on the waiting list; and when they will be called for the operation in Merlin Park. [20236/04]

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 investigate the position in relation to this case and to reply directly to the Deputy.

Michael Ring

Question:

361 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will be called for an appointment with a dermatologist at Mayo General Hospital. [20237/04]

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 investigate the position in relation to this case and to reply directly to the Deputy.

John Perry

Question:

362 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Health and Children if a person (details supplied) in County Roscommon will be called immediately for treatment in Beaumont Hospital in view of their extenuating medical circumstances and the deterioration in their condition; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20268/04]

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 investigate the position in relation to this case and to reply directly to the Deputy.

Richard Bruton

Question:

363 Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for Health and Children the long-term development plans for the Neurological Institute which has been established in Eccles Street; and the requirements necessary to develop a centre of excellence in this sphere. [20338/04]

My Department has been advised by the Eastern Regional Health Authority that the Mater Hospital has designated three floors of No. 57 Eccles Street to the Neurological Institute. As services at the Mater Hospital are provided under an arrangement with the ERHA, my Department has asked the regional chief executive of the authority to investigate the position in relation to the matter raised by the Deputy and to reply to him directly.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

364 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Health and Children the progress he has made since meeting with consultant rheumatologist and patient advocacy groups in ensuring an equitable service for persons of Mayo; if he can give any hope to persons who wait for five years in pain in Mayo for rheumatology appointments and suffer irreparable damage to their joints with resulting reduced life expectancy due to the fact they have missed the window of opportunity for effective treatment because of the Minister’s failure to provide sufficient consultant rheumatologists and a Mayo rheumatology unit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20339/04]

The expansion of existing rheumatology services is initially a matter for the Western Health Board. The Board has prepared a strategic plan for the development of rheumatology services in the region which proposes the appointment of additional rheumatologists. This is currently under consideration by my Department.

Medical Cards.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

365 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children his plans to introduce automatic entitlement to medical card insurance and annual renewal for all children with congenital heart disease; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20340/04]

Entitlement to health services in Ireland is primarily based on residency and means. Any person, regardless of nationality, who is accepted by the health boards as being ordinarily resident in Ireland is entitled to either full eligibility — category 1, i.e. entitlement to a medical card — or limited eligibility — category 2 — for health services. Health boards normally regard a person as ordinarily resident in Ireland if he or she satisfies the health board that it is his or her intention to remain in Ireland for a minimum period of one year. Under the Health Act 1970, the determination of eligibility for health services is the responsibility of the chief executive officer of the appropriate health board and neither I nor my Department has a function in the matter.

Persons in category 1 are medical card holders and they are entitled to a full range of services including general practitioner services, prescribed drugs and medicines, all in-patient public hospital services in public wards including consultants services, all out-patient public hospital services including consultants services, dental, ophthalmic and aural services and appliances and a maternity and infant care service. Persons in category 2 — non-medical card holders — are entitled, subject to certain charges, to all in-patient public hospital services in public wards including consultants' services and outpatient public hospital services including consultants' services. The current public hospital statutory in-patient charge is €45 per night, up to a maximum of €450 in any twelve consecutive months. Attendance at accident and emergency departments is subject to a charge of €45 where the patient does not have a referral note from his or her doctor. This charge applies only to the first visit in any episode of care. There are a number of other exemptions to the statutory charges, including women receiving services in respect of motherhood, children up to the age of six weeks and children referred for treatment from child health clinics and school health examinations.

Persons suffering from specified conditions who are not already medical card holders may obtain without charge drugs and medicines for the treatment of that condition under the long-term illness scheme. This list does not include congenital heart disease. There are no plans at this time to amend the long-term illness scheme to cover persons with other forms of illness. Health boards have discretion, in cases of exceptional need, to provide assistance to individuals where undue hardship would otherwise be caused.

The health strategy includes a commitment that significant improvements will be made in the medical card income guidelines in order to increase the number of persons on low income who are eligible for a medical card and to give priority to families with children and particularly children with a disability. This should be viewed in the broader context of the strategy's emphasis on fairness and its stated objective of reducing health inequalities in our society. Due to the prevailing budgetary situation I regret that it is not possible to meet this commitment this year but the Government remains committed to the introduction of the necessary changes within the lifetime of this Government.

Hospital Services.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

366 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Health and Children if his attention has been drawn to the fact that laser treatments for naevus flammeus or port-wine stains at Crumlin Children’s Hospital are being repeatedly delayed due to the unavailability of anaesthetists; and if he has plans to resolve this problem. [20341/04]

Services at Our Lady's Hospital for Sick Children, Crumlin, are provided under an arrangement with the Eastern Regional Health Authority and my Department has, therefore, asked the regional chief executive of the authority to examine this issue and to reply to the Deputy directly.

Long-Term Illness Scheme.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

367 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Health and Children if he has plans to grant medical cards to children who suffer from asthma under the long-term illness scheme. [20342/04]

Under the Health Act 1970, a health board may arrange for the supply without charge of drugs, medicines and medical and surgical appliances to people with a specified condition for the treatment of that condition under the long-term illness scheme. The conditions are mental handicap, mental illness for people under 16 only, phenylketonuria, cystic fibrosis, spina bifida, hydrocephalus, diabetes mellitus, diabetes insipidus, haemophilia, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophies, parkinsonism, conditions arising from thalidomide and acute leukaemia. There are currently no plans to amend the list of eligible conditions.

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

Hospital Services.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

368 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason the information requested in Parliamentary Question No. 501 of 27 April 2004 has still not been provided by the Southern Health Board despite the fact that it was requested eight weeks ago; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20343/04]

My Department has been informed by the Southern Health Board that the response is being prepared at present and will be issued within the coming weeks. The delay in responding to this question is regretted.

Suicide Incidence.

Dan Neville

Question:

369 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Health and Children if he will provide the international suicide figures, displaying the position of Ireland in such a league of countries. [20346/04]

The most recent suicide rates published by the World Health Organisation, European section, and listed below indicate that Ireland is placed 17th, with a suicide rate of 10.2 per 100,000 population.

Country

1.

Lithuania

39.6

2.

Latvia

28.8

3.

Hungary

27.7

4.

Slovenia

25.7

5.

Estonia

24.5

6.

Finland

21.2

7.

Belgium

17.4

8.

Austria

16.6

9.

France

15.1

10.

Czech Republic

14.1

11.

Poland

13.8

12.

Denmark

12.5

13.

Sweden

12.3

14.

Luxembourg

12.3

15.

Slovakia

11.9

16.

Germany

11.5

17.

Ireland

10.2

18.

Netherlands

8.6

19.

UK

7.0

20.

Spain

6.8

21.

Malta

6.5

22.

Italy

5.9

23.

Portugal

3.9

24.

Greece

3.1

* Rates for Cyprus are not returned to the WHO, European section.

* Rates are reported per 100,000 of the population.

(Source: World Health Organisation, European Section. 10 May 2004.)

Since the publication of the report of the national task force on suicide in 1998, a cumulative total of more than €17.5 million has been provided towards suicide prevention programmes and for research. This year more than €4.5 million is available to the various agencies working towards reducing the level of suicide and attempted suicide in this country. This includes funding to support the work of the health boards, the National Suicide Review Group, the Irish Association of Suicidology and the National Suicide Research Foundation for its work in the development of a national parasuicide register.

Work is now well under way on the preparation of a strategic action plan for suicide reduction. This strategy, which involves HeBE in partnership with the National Suicide Review Group and is supported by the Department of Health and Children, will be action-based from the outset and will build on existing policy. All measures aimed at reducing the number of deaths by suicide will be considered in the preparation of this strategy, which will be completed in 2005.

Medical Report.

Dan Neville

Question:

370 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Health and Children further to Parliamentary Question No. 211 of 27 January 2004, when he expects to receive the report of the independent review into the circumstances of the death of a person (details supplied); and the reason a year after this person’s death, the promised report has not been published. [20347/04]

On the 23 July last I announced that I had convened a review panel to conduct an independent review of the events surrounding the tragic death of the person concerned. The members of the panel are Mr. David Hanly, management consultant, Ms Kay O'Sullivan, director of nursing at Cork University Hospital, and Dr. Shakeel A. Qureshi, paediatric cardiologist at Guy's and St. Thomas's Hospital, London. The terms of reference of the panel are to consider the report of the ERHA in concerning the events of 30 June 2003 at Our Lady's Hospital for Sick Children, Dublin, and to make such further inquiries and conduct such interviews as the panel considers necessary; to address the questions raised by the family; to examine protocols and procedures relevant to this incident having regard to prevailing standards of best practice and to examine their application in this case; to report to the Minister; and to make such recommendations as it sees fit. Following the review, both reports will be made available. The work of the review panel is ongoing and I am not in a position at this stage to say when the report will become available.

Mental Health Services.

Dan Neville

Question:

371 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Health and Children the percentage allocation to the mental health service of the total budget for the health services for 1990, 1995, 2000 and 2004. [20348/04]

The percentage allocation to the mental health services of the total non-capital budget for the health service in 1990, 1995, 2000 and 2004 is as follows:

1990 — 10.7%

1995 — 9.3%

2000 — 7.7%

2004 — 6.69% (estimated — source: Revised Estimates for Public Service 2004).

When evaluating these figures, it must be borne in mind that in-patient care has always been the costliest element of the mental health service and, with the consistent reduction in psychiatric hospital bed numbers, and the ongoing transfer of intellectually disabled and elderly patients to other settings, it is to be expected that expenditure proportional to other services would fall.

Since 1997, approximately €90 million additional revenue funding has been invested in the mental health services. In the main, this funding is being used to provide additional medical and health professional staff for expanding community mental health services, to increase child and adolescent services, to expand the later-life psychiatric services, to provide liaison psychiatric services in general hospitals and to enhance the support provided to voluntary agencies.

Health Board Services.

Dan Neville

Question:

372 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Health and Children , further to Parliamentary Question No. 308 of 18 May 2004, the new services to be provided by the North Western Health Board in view of the increased budget on suicide prevention and research of €260,000 in the area. [20349/04]

Responsibility for the provision of the services referred to by the Deputy rests with the North-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.

Dan Neville

Question:

373 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Health and Children , further to Parliamentary Question No. 164 of 26 May 2004, the new services to be provided by the Eastern Regional Health Board in view of the increased spending of suicide prevention and research of €522,000 in the area. [20350/04]

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

National Health Strategy.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

374 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason for the contradiction between the statement in the Government’s national health strategy of 2001 that the health care system must respond to people’s needs rather than have access dependent on geographic location or ability to pay and his reply to Parliamentary Question No. 6 of 22 June 2004 which began with the statement that entitlement to health services in Ireland is primarily based on means. [20351/04]

I understand the Deputy is referring to my response to his recent parliamentary question concerning the extension of medical card coverage to all persons under 18 years of age. As the Deputy is aware, the health strategy includes a commitment to the extension of medical card coverage to persons on low incomes and to give priority to families with children and particularly children with a disability. I have already stated to the House that the Government is committed to achieving this aim and that the timing of the introduction of the extension will be decided having regard to the prevailing budgetary position.

A key goal of the national health strategy, Quality and Fairness: A Health System for You, is the development of an accessible, efficient and responsive health system. The strategy has set out a significant programme of development and reform for the next decade designed to achieve this goal. To date significant progress has been achieved in the implementation of the strategy with work having commenced on over 85% of the 121 actions set out in the strategy action plan. I provided the Deputy with a detailed progress report in this regard in my response to his parliamentary question of 22 June last, No. 59, which included a report on measures to tackle inequalities, reduction in waiting times for hospital treatment, the funding of additional acute beds and the implementation of the primary care strategy. A national health strategy progress report was published for 2002 and I intend to publish the 2003 progress report in the next few weeks.

The recent in-depth reviews of the Irish health system — the Prospectus audit of structures and functions in the health system and the report of the Brennan commission on financial management and controls in the health service — identified structural reform as the most important change required to establish the organisational improvements needed to strengthen the capacity of the health system to meet the challenges of implementing the health strategy. Implementation of this programme is now well under way and will result in the establishment of a health service executive with responsibility for the delivery of a unitary health care service designed to respond efficiently and effectively to patient and client needs.

Health Board Services.

John McGuinness

Question:

375 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Health and Children if agreement in principle to work to be undertaken under the housing aid for the elderly scheme will be issued to a person (details supplied) in County Carlow in order that work can commence while waiting for the grant payment; if he will expedite an application for a wheelchair for this person; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20382/04]

As the Deputy will be aware, the provision of health services in the Carlow area is in the first instance the responsibility of the South Eastern Health Board. The housing aid scheme for the elderly in the area is operated by the board on behalf of the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. My Department has therefore asked the chief executive of the board to investigate the matters raised by the Deputy and reply directly to him as a matter of urgency.

Question No. 376 answered with QuestionNo. 352.

Adopted Children Register.

John Cregan

Question:

377 Mr. Cregan asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding a person (details supplied) in Dublin 9; the reason this certificate is still issued; the further reason the short copy will not suffice for a passport; if details on or the format of the long copy can be adjusted in order that person’s status as an adoptee is not public; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20388/04]

The administration of the registration system for births, deaths and marriages is a matter for an tÁrd-Chláraitheoir, the Registrar-General of Births, Stillbirths, Deaths and Marriages, and for local registrars who operate under his general direction. Section 22 of the Adoption Act 1952 provides for a register for adopted children to be maintained by An tArd-Chláraitheoir. The Act provides that the register be called the adopted children register. The items to be entered in that register are set out in the Second Schedule to the Act of 1952. A full certificate must be a true copy of the entry in the register. The Act of 1952 also provides that any requirement of law for the production of a certificate of birth shall be satisfied by the production of a certified copy of an entry in the adopted children register. As the format of the entry in the register is set out in legislation, An tArd-Chláraitheoir may not exclude items of the entry when responding to a request for a full certificate. The documentary requirements in the matter of an application for a passport are a matter for my colleague, the Minister for Foreign Affairs.

Health Board Allowances.

Dan Neville

Question:

378 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Health and Children the position with regard to payment of domiciliary care allowance to a person (details supplied) in County Limerick which was applied for in September of 2003. [20473/04]

The assessment of entitlement to and payment of the domiciliary care allowance is a matter for the relevant health board. A copy of the Deputy's question has been forwarded to the chief executive officer of the Mid-Western Health Board with a request that he examine the case and reply directly to the Deputy as a matter of urgency.

Hospital Accommodation.

Pat Breen

Question:

379 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Health and Children the timetable for the proposed €20 million upgrading of Ennis General Hospital; the areas of the hospital that are to be upgraded; the status of the project; when he envisages work to commence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20474/04]

Planning for the development of Ennis General Hospital is under way. This work is being directed by a project team, which includes representatives of my Department, the Mid-Western Health Board and the hospital itself. The recently appointed design team is preparing an outline development control plan and it is expected that completion of the plan will take approximately six months. This process will facilitate definition of the scope and content of the first phase of redevelopment for Ennis General Hospital. The proposed priority areas for development include the emergency department, outpatients department, radiology and in-patient ward areas. The ODCP will in turn help to confirm final decisions in this regard.

Departmental Funding.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

380 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Health and Children the level of funding spent on preventive health in 2001, 2002 and 2003 respectively; the percentage of the total expenditure on health that this represents; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20475/04]

The published Revised Estimates for Public Services contain an appendix outlining estimated current health expenditure categorised by programme and service. These categories include community protection, community health services, community welfare, mental health, disability, general hospital and general support programmes. It is the community protection section which includes figures on expenditure in the area of preventive health. The programme is broken down into five topics: prevention of infectious disease, child health examination, food hygiene and standards, health promotion and other preventative services.

The following table outlines the amount of community protection expenditure for the years 2001 to 2004 and also shows how this expenditure compares with the total gross current expenditure for those years. It should be noted that the 2001 provision for community protection includes once-off funding in respect of the introduction of the meningococcal group C vaccination programme. This funding related to the catch-up programme for the zero to 24 year old age group which ran between October 2000 and early 2002. The meningococcal group C vaccine is now incorporated into the general vaccination programme for all children.

While the expenditure is increasing, the percentage is down due to high overall level of expenditure increase year on year.

Year

Expenditure on Community Protection Programme (Provisional Outturn)

Gross Current Total Expenditure

Community Protection Programme expenditure as % of Gross Current Total

€m

€m

%

2001

314.306

7,010.050

4.5

2002

275.255

8,166.738

3.4

2003

302.234

9,117.425

3.3

2004 (estimated)

333.536

9,890.963

3.4

Source: Revised Estimates for Public Services 2002-2004

Hospital Services.

Michael Ring

Question:

381 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children the position with regard to the orthopaedic unit in Mayo General Hospital; the cost of this unit to date, giving details of capital and staffing costs; the number of persons that are currently on the waiting list for this service; and the estimated number of people to be treated at the unit when it opens, on a monthly and annual basis. [20476/04]

The provision of hospital services at Mayo General Hospital is a matter for the Western Health Board. My Department has asked the chief executive officer of the board to provide the information requested directly to the Deputy.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

382 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children if he will arrange for counselling for a medical card holder (details supplied) in County Galway who has suffered severe and documented psychological trauma and who has made repeated appeals for support. [20477/04]

Responsibility for the provision of counselling for the named individual 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.

Water Fluoridation.

Paudge Connolly

Question:

383 Mr. Connolly asked the Minister for Health and Children if his attention has been drawn to the contradiction between the fluoridation forum’s proposed fluoride dosage of 0.7mg/l to reduce the growing incidence of fluoride poisoning in the form of dental fluorosis and the forum website’s declaration that less that 0.8mg/l of fluoride in water has no significant effects on tooth decay; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20491/04]

The use of fluoride technology is known to manifest a positive oral health outcome. Local and national surveys and studies conducted since the introduction of fluoridation in this country attest to the reduced dental decay levels of children and teenagers in fluoridated areas compared to those residing in non-fluoridated areas. Furthermore, the safety and effectiveness of water fluoridation has been endorsed by a number of international and reputable bodies, such as the World Health Organisation, the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, the United States public health service and the United States Surgeon General.

As the Deputy is aware, I established the Forum on Fluoridation to review the fluoridation of public piped water supplies in Ireland. Its main conclusion was that the fluoridation of public piped water supplies should continue as a public health measure. The Forum on Fluoridation made several recommendations concerning the continued use of fluoride technology in this country. Redefining the optimal level of fluoride in drinking water was one of its recommendations. This recommendation was made against a background of exposure to multiple sources of fluoride and changes in the rates of dental decay and dental fluorosis on both a population and individual level. It is part of a long-term strategy to reduce levels of mild dental fluorosis in children.

The forum reported that the redefined optimal level of fluoride would be sufficient — along with the continued use of fluoride toothpaste — to maintain meaningful reductions in dental decay rates, while reducing the occurrence of dental fluorosis. This is consistent with the information on the forum's website that there were no significant beneficial effects to exposure to fluoride in public piped water supplies alone at a fluoride concentration below 0.8 parts per million; this point refers to the situation that prevailed in 1960 when there was no fluoride toothpaste or other fluoride products.

The forum consisted of people with expert knowledge spanning the areas of public health, biochemistry, dental health, bone health, food safety, environmental protection, ethics, water quality, health promotion and representatives from the consumer and environmental areas. This diversity of professional backgrounds and representation was reflected in the comprehensive way in which the forum conducted its work and research. Ultimately, the forum took an evidence-based approach to its examination of water fluoridation.

The report of the forum made 33 recommendations covering a broad range of topics such as research, public awareness and policy and technical aspects of fluoridation. The expert body recommended by the forum has been established. Its terms of reference are to oversee the implementation of the recommendations of the Forum on Fluoridation; to advise the Minister and evaluate ongoing research — including new emerging issues — on all aspects of fluoride and its delivery methods as an established health technology; and as required, to report to the Minister on matters of concern at his or her request or on its own initiative.

The expert body has broad representation, including from the areas of public health medicine, engineering, management, environmental protection, environmental health, dentistry, and health promotion. The body will have a strong consumer input in terms of members of the public and representatives of consumer interests in addition to the necessary scientific, managerial and public health inputs. The expert body will oversee the implementation of the wide-ranging recommendations of the forum and advise me on all aspects of fluoridation in the future.

Nursing Home Subventions.

Jack Wall

Question:

384 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of applications for enhanced nursing subvention received by the South West Area Health Board for each of the past months; the waiting list in regard to such applications; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20492/04]

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.

Hospital Staff.

Jack Wall

Question:

385 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children if his attention has been drawn to the major problems in regard to lack of nursing staff at a hospital (details supplied) in County Kildare; the plans he has to overcome the problems; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20493/04]

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.

Jack Wall

Question:

386 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of nursing vacancies within the ERHA and specifically the South West Area Health Board region; the number of nurses in training in the area; the number of positions available to trainee nurses within the board in any given year; the process of application for such positions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20494/04]

Jack Wall

Question:

387 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children if he has satisfied himself with the number of trainee nursing positions available within he ERHA; if his Department has made funding available for the training of nurses; the enlisting of trainee nurses; if he will give on overview of the way in which hospitals can overcome the major problems of nursing shortages within the health boards; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20495/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 386 and 387 together.

A number of significant measures have been introduced to increase the supply of nurses to the Irish public health system in recent years. A major development in nursing education was the commencement of the new four-year undergraduate nursing degree programme in 13 higher education institutes, HEIs, in autumn 2002, with an approved annual student intake of 1,640. The Government has approved capital investment in excess of €240 million to ensure the provision of purpose-built facilities for nursing students, with state of the art clinical skills and human science laboratories. In addition, when the programme has a full cohort of students in 2006, the total annual revenue cost will be in excess of €90 million.

The number of training places has increased by 70% across the three disciplines of general, psychiatric and mental handicap nursing since 1998 as follows:

Discipline

1998

2004

General nursing

759

1,057

Psychiatric nursing

92

343

Mental handicap nursing

117

240

Total

968

1,640

The number of training places was increased in direct response to the identified needs of the services involved and is a key element of my overall strategy for ensuring that sufficient home-trained nurses are produced for our health services into the future. Currently the number of students in training is over 4,500.

The ERHA catchment area is served by three HEIs: Dublin City University, the University of Dublin, Trinity College, and University College Dublin. There are currently 640 places available annually on the undergraduate nursing degree programme across the three disciplines as follows:

General nursing

Adelaide/Meath Hospital Tallaght

70

St James’s Hospital

78

Beaumont Hospital

75

JCMH

27

Mater Hospital

75

St Michael’s, Dun Laoire

40

St Vincent’s Hospital

65

Psychiatric nursing

St Patrick’s Hospital

15

SWAHB/ECAHB

30

NAHB Psychiatric Services

40

St Vincent’s Fairview

20

St John of God

15

Mental handicap nursing

Stewart’s Hospital, Palmerstown

20

Moore Abbey, Monasterevin

20

St Joseph’s Portrane

15

St Joseph’s Clonsilla

35

Total

640

All applications for the undergraduate nursing degree programme are made to the Central Applications Office in common with all other degree and diploma courses. As mentioned previously, there are currently 1,640 places available nationally in 13 HEIs. Demand to the CAO for these places is high. For various reasons, including demographics, the number of applicants to the CAO on 1 February 2004 was down by 4%. The number of applicants for nursing in 2004 was, however, up by 15% compared to 2003, from 7,202 to 8,299. This bodes well for the future.

The SWAHB catchment area is served by one HEI, the University of Dublin, Trinity College. There are currently 233 places available annually on the undergraduate nursing degree programme across the three disciplines as follows:

General

Adelaide/Meath Hospital Tallaght

70

St James’s Hospital

78

Psychiatric nursing

St Patrick’s Hospital

15

SWAHB/ECAHB

30

Mental handicap nursing

Stewart’s Hospital, Palmerstown

20

Moore Abbey, Monasterevin

20

Total

233

The Health Service Employers Agency, HSEA, undertakes quarterly surveys of nursing vacancies, the latest of which is for the month ending 31 March 2004. According to this survey there are 505 WTE vacancies in health board facilities and voluntary hospitals in the ERHA region. Within SWAHB there are 185.36 WTE vacancies in health board facilities and voluntary hospitals. I do not have a regional breakdown for the voluntary intellectual disability sector, but the survey states that the national nurse vacancy figure for this sector is 95 WTE.

The recruitment and retention of adequate numbers of nursing staff has been a concern of this Government for some time and a number of substantial measures have been introduced in recent years. As already mentioned, the number of nursing training places has been increased by 70% since 1998 to 1,640 from 2002 onwards. A comprehensive range of financial supports has been introduced to support nurses in pursuing part-time degrees and specialist courses, including back to practice courses. Since 1998, nurses have been paid overtime. Previously they had been given time off in lieu and the introduction of payment represents a further significant financial incentive for nurses.

I introduced a scheme of flexible working arrangements for nurses and midwives in February 2001. Under the scheme, individual nurses and midwives may apply to work between eight and 39 hours per week on a permanent part-time basis. The figure of 33,765 whole-time equivalent nurses working in the health service translates into 40,119 individual nurses. Of these, some 29,629 work full-time and 10,490 work job-sharing or other atypical patterns. Thus, over a quarter of the nursing workforce avails of family-friendly work patterns. In 1998, there were 26,612 whole-time equivalent nurses employed in the public health system. By the end of December 2003 this figure had reached 33,765. This represents an increase of more than 7,150 during the period, or 26.8%. It is clear from these figures that the recruitment and retention measures I introduced are proving very effective.

The promotional structure within nursing, including the introduction of a clinical career pathway, has been substantially improved on foot of the recommendations of the Commission on Nursing and the 1999 nurses' pay settlement. The National Council for the Professional Development of Nursing and Midwifery has been especially active in this area and to date, 1,563 clinical nurse specialist and advanced nurse practitioner posts have been created. Figures from An Bord Altranais for the same period indicate that there is a steady stream of new entrants into the profession over and above those graduating from the Irish system, thus further increasing the potential recruitment pool. Since 1998, the total number of nurses newly registered by An Bord Altranais is 19,945. Of this number, 13,658 were overseas nurses.

My Department gave approval in late 2003 to the roll-out on a national basis of the health care assistant training programme. This is in fulfilment of a key recommendation of the Commission on Nursing. The main objective of the programme is to increase the skills of health care assistants so that, working under the supervision of nurses, they are enabled to take on a wider range of duties, thereby freeing nursing resources to concentrate on exclusively nursing tasks.

At a regional level, the ERHA has taken a number of initiatives to assist nursing recruitment. There is an ongoing targeted nurse recruitment media campaign in the eastern region. There has been local and national advertising in newspapers as well as a radio campaign. Directors of nursing have received interview training and are now interviewing locally for their own services. A website with recruitment details has also been set up. This process is managed by nursing recruitment in Eastern Health Shared Services. Regular meetings take place between staff from shared services, directors of human resources from the three area boards and staff from the ERHA to monitor the nursing recruitment process.

The Dublin academic teaching hospitals, DATHs, have conducted recruitment campaigns in 2004 in India, the Middle East and Finland. Further overseas recruitment is planned, including a campaign in the Phillipines in July 2004. There are currently 385 nurses on the DATHs overseas panel. However, non-EU nurses must undertake the international English language testing system, which since July 2003 is a mandatory requirement for registration with An Bord Altranais. The measures outlined have proved very effective to date. My Department will continue to monitor the situation closely and work with the relevant stakeholders to address issues as they arise.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Jack Wall

Question:

388 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children the number on the waiting list for Naas General Hospital; the number of beds not in use at the hospital; the number of patients in the hospital over each of the past six weeks that were accommodated in the hospital other than in beds; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20496/04]

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

Gay Mitchell

Question:

389 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Health and Children if he has examined the report submitted to his office by a person (details supplied) in Dublin 8; if he will reply in detail to this person; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20503/04]

Responsibility for the provision of health services to persons residing in Counties Dublin, Kildare and Wicklow rests with the Eastern Regional Health Authority. The Deputy will be aware from previous responses to him that my Department requested the regional chief executive of the authority to investigate this matter. The authority has completed its investigation and I understand that a response has subsequently issued to the Deputy. Officials from my Department have met the individual referred to by the Deputy on a number of occasions to discuss a number of issues arising from the authority's investigation. The report referred to by the Deputy has subsequently been received by my Department and is currently being examined.

Inter-Country Adoptions.

Finian McGrath

Question:

390 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if the Government will support the ratification of the Hague Convention on the Protection of Children in inter-country adoption; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20578/04]

The Hague Convention on the Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Inter-country Adoption 1993, signed by Ireland in 1996, is the first international instrument to regulate inter-country adoption on an international basis. Legislative proposals to ratify the convention were included in a consultation process on adoption legislation which I initiated last year. The proposed legislation provides a framework within which Ireland, by establishing a system of co-operation with those countries who have ratified the 1993 Hague Convention or who operate within the spirit of the convention, may regulate the process of inter-country adoption. The findings of the consultation, including views expressed on the legislative proposals to ratify the Hague Convention, are being examined in my Department with the intention of bringing proposals for legislative change to Government in the autumn.

Departmental Bodies.

Enda Kenny

Question:

391 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Transport if he will give details of all State or semi-State agencies and boards under the aegis of his Department as of 1 January 1994; the number of State or semi-State agencies and boards under the aegis of his Department as of 1 January 2004; the date of the establishment of such agencies and boards in each case; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20000/04]

The information requested by the Deputy is set out as follows:

Position as at 1 January 1994

Body

Date of establishment

Aer Lingus

1936 (reconstituted as a plc in December 1993)

Aer Rianta

1937

Irish Aviation Authority

1 January 1994

Coras Iompar Éireann

1950 (Three operating subsidiary companies, Iarnród Éireann, Bus Átha Cliath and Bus Éireann, began operations in February 1987)

National Roads Authority

1 January 1994

Medical Bureau of Road Safety

November 1968

National Safety Council

December 1987

Position as at 1 January 2004

Body

Date of establishment

Aer Lingus

1936 (reconstituted as a plc in December 1993)

Aer Rianta

1937

Shannon Airport Authority Board — designate

October 2003

Irish Aviation Authority

1 January 1994

Commission for Aviation Regulation

February 2001

Coras Iompar Eireann

1950 (three operating subsidiary companies, Iarnród Éireann, Bus Átha Cliath and Bus Éireann, began operations in February 1987)

Railway Procurement Agency

December 2001

Dublin Transportation Office

9 November 1995

National Roads Authority

1 January 1994

Medical Bureau of Road Safety

November 1968

National Safety Council

December 1987

Transport Licences.

Denis Naughten

Question:

392 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Transport if he will approve a transport operator’s route licence (details supplied); the reason this operator has received no response from the Department since the application was submitted before Christmas 2003; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20057/04]

Consideration of the application referred to in the Deputy's question was finalised at the end of June and the Department has written to the applicant to advise him of the decision. During 2003, 196 applications were made by private operators and 153 notifications were submitted by Bus Éireann and Bus Átha Cliath, making a total of 349 individual cases. The application mentioned in the Deputy's question was among the last of a number received just before Christmas 2003. My Department, in addition to virtually eliminating a backlog of old applications during 2003, also succeeded in dealing with all the applications and notifications received during 2003, with the exception of a small residual balance of 16 cases, which are currently being processed.

Driving Tests.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

393 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport if an early repeat driving test appointment can be offered to a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20128/04]

The person's application has been placed on the cancellation list for the Naas driving test centre.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

394 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport the number of driving test instructors serving the Naas area; if this has increased or decreased in line with population and driving test applications for the area in the past three years; if provision will be made to increase this number in the near future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20129/04]

Driving test applicants for the Naas test centre are served by testers whose headquarters is the Naas driving test centre and by driver testers based in other centres in the south Leinster region who rotate through all the test centres in the region, including Naas. Details are set out in the following table. With regard to the backlog of candidates awaiting a driving test, I have asked my officials to examine options and to formulate proposals to reduce the number of driving test applicants on the waiting list.

17 July 2001

5 July 2004

Number of testers

No. of candidates waiting a driving test

Number of testers

Number of candidates awaiting a driving test

Naas

2

2,381

2

6,569

South Leinster region, including Naas

27*

14,403

26

32,618

* 1 person worked on a two-day week basis in 2001

Road Traffic Regulations.

Cecilia Keaveney

Question:

395 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Transport if he intends to bring forward regulations to ban blacked-out windows on cars for domestic use, in view of the difficulty that is presented in identifying the occupants; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20134/04]

As part of the EU whole vehicle type approval process, safety standards are prescribed for glazing materials for use in vehicles. These standards cover field of vision and transparency. Provided vehicles are glazed to the required standards, it is not open to individual member states to prohibit their sale or use.

Under the Road Traffic (Construction, Equipment and Use of Vehicles) Regulations 1963, a vehicle must be constructed so that the driver can at all times have such a view of the road and of other traffic on the road as is necessary to enable him to drive safely. The regulations also provide that where a windscreen is fitted to a vehicle, it shall be of a stable substance and fully transparent so that it does not distort the driver's view of objects.

Rail Network.

Paul McGrath

Question:

396 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Transport the projected timeframe for the upgrading of the Mullingar-Athlone railway line. [20220/04]

Iarnród Éireann has informed me that it has no immediate plans to re-open the Mullingar to Athlone railway line. All available resources are currently being concentrated on upgrading the current InterCity network and replacement of rolling stock. The Strategic Rail Review recommended the re-opening of the line as a long-term proposal. The line is still in CIE ownership and can be opened at a future date.

Paul McGrath

Question:

397 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Transport if progress has been made on proposals to reopen Killucan railway station on the Mullingar-Dublin rail line. [20226/04]

Iarnród Éireann has informed me that it has had some discussions with local bodies and the local authority with regard to reopening Killucan station. The existing station has no immediate catchment area and would be totally reliant on park and ride traffic which could be accommodated at other stations on the line. The company has raised with the local authority the possibility of housing developments which could improve the viability of the station. I am given to understand that discussions between the two are ongoing.

Departmental Funding.

Dan Neville

Question:

398 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Transport the total budget in his Department and relevant agencies for 2004. [20361/04]

The total voted moneys for my Department and relevant agencies for 2004 is €1,981,960,000. Further details can be found in the Revised Estimates for Public Services 2004, published by the Department of Finance.

Driving Licences.

John Cregan

Question:

399 Mr. Cregan asked the Minister for Transport the extra requirements for drivers over 70 to obtain driving licences; the reason rules exist regarding medical requirements and so on; the reason and when these rules came into being; and his views on whether the age limit should be increased to 75 or 80 or eliminated in view of the fact that some senior citizens regard it as discriminatory, degrading and unnecessary. [20397/04]

Persons over 70 must submit a medical report with an application for a driving licence and are restricted, depending on the certification of the doctor who completes the report, to either a one-year or three-year driving licence. This requirement has been included since 1964 in driver licensing regulations made under the Road Traffic Act 1961. It is in line with general EU requirements regarding periodic medical assessment of licence holders and is in the interests of the individuals concerned, other road users, and road safety generally.

Road Safety.

Martin Ferris

Question:

400 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Transport the measures he proposes to take to ensure maximum safety on the Luas, especially during the initial months. [20517/04]

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

The IRSC issued a letter of approval on 28 June 2004 for the commencement of passenger services on the St. Stephen's Green to Sandyford Luas line. The letter set out certain conditions for passenger service operations, including a number of standard provisions normal for such a large and complex project. Passenger services commenced on this line on 30 June 2004 and the system has operated satisfactorily since then. The primary duty of care from a safety perspective lies with the operator, Connex. The IRSC will continue to meet regularly with Connex to review the operation from a safety perspective.

There is also an onus on road users and pedestrians to take due care along the Luas route. The National Safety Council and I have called on road users and pedestrians in recent days to exercise due care, particularly in the early period of the operation of the Luas system.

Registration of Title.

Michael Ring

Question:

401 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when the applications pending on folios in County Mayo for persons (details supplied) will be completed. [19968/04]

I am informed by the Registrar of Titles that this is an application for transmission of part which was lodged on 11 June 2004 — dealing No. D2004SM004891N refers. I am further informed that this application is receiving attention in the Land Registry and will be completed as soon as possible.

Child Care Services.

John Perry

Question:

402 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if an application for funding submitted by a centre (details supplied) in County Sligo will be sanctioned to provide a school age programme for 50 children age six to 12 years and to extend the pre-school service to two morning sessions to cater for three to five age groups; when this application will be approved: the amount of moneys that will be granted; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19972/04]

Applications for capital and staffing grant assistance from the 2000-2006 Equal Opportunities Childcare Programme were received from the group in question on 4 June 2004. As the Deputy may be aware, the day to day administration of the programme 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, on my behalf. In addition, all large scale capital projects, such as the one proposed by the group, are referred by ADM Limited to an independent external building specialist to assess the suitability of the proposal and its value for money. Staffing grants are made available to community based groups which have a particular focus on disadvantaged families to support parents in accessing employment, education and training.

My Department has recently reviewed the different budget lines under the EOCP, including the capital programme to ensure the most effective use is made of all remaining funding in accordance with the programme's objectives. 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.

There has been a significant number of applications for grant assistance under the programme and the demand for grant assistance to develop child care continues to remain very buoyant. I intend to allocate remaining capital funding available for community groups under the present strand of the EOCP to address the most immediate service gaps. All applications from community groups will be considered again for funding should additional funding become available under the present strand of the EOCP or for funding under the next programme.

I have made inquiries and understand that these applications for grant assistance will shortly commence the assessment process. On completion of this assessment process, the projects will be referred to the programme appraisal committee, chaired by my Department, which makes a funding recommendation to me before I make a final decision on the matter. It would be premature of me to comment on the outcome of the capital and staffing grant applications from this group at this time.

Visa Applications.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

403 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reason a person (details supplied) was refused a visa; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19983/04]

The person in question, a 46 year old non-EEA national, made a visa application in April 2004 for the stated purpose of a visit to her boyfriend. The application was refused because it was not established, on the basis of the documentation supplied to my Department, that the applicant would observe the conditions of the visa. In particular, it was considered that the applicant had not displayed evidence of any obligations to return home following her proposed visit.

The applicant stated that she was unemployed. It was also apparent that her proposed visit would not be short term in nature. She stated on her application that she proposed to enter the State as soon as possible, but gave no indication of the duration of the visit or proposed date of departure from Ireland. A letter from her sponsor in Ireland stated that she would be staying with him for a six-month period. It should be noted that a visit visa is for a stay of a maximum period of 90 days. It is open to the applicant to appeal against the refusal by writing to the visa appeals officer in my Department. Any appeal should address the concerns of the visa officer, as conveyed above.

Prisoner Statistics.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

404 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the total number of days each of the nine prisoners identified as being detained on more than one occasion in padded cells at Castlerea Prison between 1 June 2003 and 31 May 2004 were so detained in Castlerea. [19984/04]

The information requested about the nine persons referred to by the Deputy is set out in the following table.

Prisoner

Total Days

Number of separate occasions

1

3

2

2

5

2

3

15

5

4

8

4

5

5

2

6

4

3

7

3

3

8

6

2

9

11

5

Visa Applications.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

405 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the status of the visa application of a person (details supplied); and when a holiday visa will be granted. [19988/04]

The visa application in question was approved by my Department on 30 June 2004.

Departmental Bodies.

Enda Kenny

Question:

406 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will give details of all State of semi-State agencies and boards under the aegis of his Department as of 1 January 1994; the number of State or semi-State agencies and boards under the aegis of his Department as of 1 January 2004; the date of the establishment of such agencies and boards in each case; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20001/04]

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

Details of State and semi-State agencies-boards under the aegis of Department as of 1 January 2004

Date of establishment of such agencies-boards

Registry of Deeds

1707

Land Registry

1 January 1892

Land Registry Interim Board

July 1992

Censorship of Films Appeal Board

1923

Censorship of Publications Board

16 July 1929

Censorship of Publications Appeal Board

13 February 1946

Criminal Injuries Compensation Tribunal

8 May 1974

1 October 1977

Legal Aid Board

1981

Garda Síochána Complaints Board

6 April, 1987

Garda Síochána Complaints Appeal Board

7 June 1988

Office of Data Protection Commissioner

1989

Prisons Authority Interim Board

April 1999

National Crime Council

1999

Equality Authority

18 October 1999 — replacing the Employment Equality Agency

Courts Service Board

November 1999

Internet Advisory Board

February 2000

National Disability Authority

June 2000

Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner

November 2000

Refugee Appeals Tribunal

November 2000

Interim Parole Board

April 2001

Human Rights Commission

July 2001

Office of the Inspector of Prisons and Places of Detention

April 2002

Visa Applications.

Richard Bruton

Question:

407 Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will make a statement regarding when his Department will make a decision concerning a person (details supplied) in Dublin 10; if, in view of the fact that this person is married to an Irish citizen, he will allow them to work here while a decision on their long-term status in the country is being made; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20005/04]

The person in question previously made a visa application in December 2003 for the stated purpose of coming to Ireland for a one-month visit. That particular application was refused as it had not been established, on the basis of documentation supplied to my Department, that the applicant would observe the conditions of the visit visa. In particular, it was felt that the applicant had not displayed evidence of any obligations to return home following his proposed visit. It was noted that the applicant named a reference in Ireland and that she would assist with funds and accommodation for the proposed one month visit. However, no prior existing relationship with the Irish sponsor was evident.

It appears the person in question subsequently arrived in the State on the basis of marriage to that Irish national and a written request was received in my Department on 20 May 2004 for permission to remain on those grounds. The supporting documentation submitted with this request consisted of photocopies of a Bulgarian civil marriage contract certificate and translation of same. No original documentation was submitted with application. Applications of this type are dealt with in strict chronological order and currently taking a minimum of 12 months to process and I am unable to give any commitment pending the consideration of the case.

Sign Language.

Seán Crowe

Question:

408 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his meaning when he said in a letter that there are two forms of sign language; and if he will identify them, prove the authenticity of the second language and state his sources. [20006/04]

I take it that the Deputy is referring to correspondence concerning Irish sign language in reply to which I said,inter alia, that there were two forms of sign language in use here. I said this because as well as Irish sign language, ISL, the national language of deaf people, there is also signed English. Much of the difference between the two forms is syntactical and grammatical, the latter being close to the English language in this respect. I understand also that there is a commonality of base vocabulary between the two forms.

The reply is based on a general understanding of the position. However, the Deputy may also wish to refer to McDonnell, J. 1997 —The lexicon and vocabulary of Signed English or Manually Coded English: Teanga 17. Dublin: ITE, or O’Baoill, D. P. and Matthews, P. A. 2000 — The Irish Deaf Community, Volume 2: The Structure of Irish Sign Language. Dublin: ITE, for more information.

Garda Investigations.

Joe Higgins

Question:

409 Mr. J. Higgins asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will appoint an independent person to investigate the death of a person (details supplied). [20029/04]

I have been informed by the Garda authorities that an independent detective superintendent, from an outside division, was appointed to investigate the circumstances surrounding the death of the person in question. Following this investigation, a file was sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions who directed that no proceedings should issue in relation to the death of the person. As the Deputy is already aware, the Director of Public Prosecutions is independent in the exercise of his function. I am assured that the Garda investigation carried out in this tragic situation was thorough and I have no plans at this time for a further investigation in the matter.

Prison Costs.