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 15, inclusive, answered orally.
Questions Nos. 16 to 73, inclusive, resubmitted.
Questions Nos. 74 to 82, inclusive, answered orally.

Parental Leave.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

83 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the recent report from the OECD recommending that parental leave should be extended to one year after the birth of the child; if he intends to act on the recommendations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27276/04]

I understand that the Deputy is referring to the July 2004 OECD Thematic Review of Early Childhood Education and Care Policy in Ireland in which it is suggested that parental leave here be extended to one year after the birth of a child. The Government recognises the need to provide support to working parents after the birth or adoption of a child and has already made a number of significant improvements to our legislation to ensure this. The Maternity Protection (Amendment) Act 2004, which was commenced on 18 October last, makes provision for a working mother to take up to 16 weeks of her 18 week maternity leave entitlement after the birth. Added to this, she has the option of taking up to eight weeks' additional unpaid maternity leave. Similarly, adopting mothers may take 14 weeks' adoptive leave after placement and up to eight weeks' additional unpaid adoptive leave. On 22 October last, I made an order, S.I. No. 667 of 2004, increasing the adoptive leave entitlement by a further two weeks to 16 weeks with effect from 19 November 2004. In addition to maternity and adoptive leave, the Parental Leave Act 1998 provides an entitlement for both parents to 14 weeks' unpaid leave from work to take care of children up to the age of five years. The provisions of the maternity, adoptive and parental leave legislation combined offer working parents the option of taking up to 12 months' leave from work following the birth or placement of a child.

The Government is committed as part of the Sustaining Progress partnership agreement to strengthen the parental leave scheme in accordance with the recommendations agreed in the Programme for Prosperity and Fairness Report of the Working Group on the Review and Improvement of the Parental Leave Act 1998. In this regard, on 8 September last, the Government approved the general scheme of a Bill for priority drafting. The main provisions of the Bill, which will be published during the current Dáil session, will include the following: a statutory entitlement to take the 14 weeks' parental leave in separate blocks; raising the maximum age of the eligible child from five to eight years; an increase in the maximum age of the eligible child to 16 years in the case of children with disabilities; and extension of parental leave entitlements to persons acting in loco parentis in respect of an eligible child.

The Parental Leave Working Group considered a proposal to increase the duration of parental leave. However, no agreement was reached on this issue and the Government has no plans to make provision for an extension of parental leave.

Sentencing Policy.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

84 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if, as an alternative to the introduction of mandatory sentences, he will give serious consideration to the introduction of sentencing guidelines for the Judiciary; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27234/04]

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

103 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on the inconsistency in sentences being handed down by the courts, in particular by the lower courts; the measures he has taken to date with a view to addressing this; his plans for addressing this matter in the future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27232/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 84 and 103 together.

The traditional approach to sentencing is for the Oireachtas to lay down by law the maximum penalty appropriate to a particular offence and for the courts, having considered all the circumstances of the case, to impose an appropriate penalty up to that maximum. This approach reflects the doctrine of the separation of powers. The Legislature lays down the possible punishment range but it is for the courts to decide the punishment taking account of all the circumstances of the case and of the offender. I would be reluctant to depart from this approach save in those rare instances where it is considered necessary to make it abundantly clear to potential criminals that the commission of particularly serious or abhorrent offences will attract a severe penalty. Provision is made in the Criminal Justice Act 1999 for the imposition of a minimum mandatory sentence of ten years' imprisonment in respect of an offence related to the possession of drugs for the purpose of sale or supply. It is my intention to bring proposals to Government for mandatory minimum sentences for a number of existing serious firearms offences and for new offences of creation and possession of a sawn off shotgun.

The Courts and Court Officers Act 1995 enables me, as Minister, to provide funds for judicial training courses arranged by the Judiciary and, in this regard, funds are made available to the Judicial Studies Institute which was established by the Chief Justice for the purposes of judicial training. I understand that the issue of sentencing has been examined by the institute in the context of its training programme.

As regards consistency in sentencing, section 36 of the Courts (Supplemental Provisions) Act 1961 makes provision for meetings of District Court judges to discuss, inter alia, the avoidance of undue divergence in the exercise of the jurisdiction of the court and the general level of fines and penalties. While there is no similar statutory provision in the case of other courts, I understand they hold similar meetings. I should also mention that under the Criminal Justice Act 1993, the Director of Public Prosecutions may, where it appears to him that a sentence imposed on indictment is unduly lenient, apply to the Court of Criminal Appeal to review the sentence.

The complex question of sentencing policy was addressed at length by the Law Reform Commission in 1996 in a report which specifically recommended against the introduction of statutory sentencing guidelines. Its report pointed out a number of differences of opinion among members of the commission in regard to some of the recommendations in the report, which tends to underline the obvious complexities which arise in regard to sentencing policy. The issue was also addressed in the recent report of the Working Group on the Jurisdiction of the Courts. The group, while it did not make final recommendations, drew attention to possible options to promote consistency of sentencing which are being considered in my Department. The courts are in the best position to see just what is the proper sentence. They alone can take all the circumstances in a particular case into account and seek to ensure that the scales of justice are being properly balanced.

Proposed Legislation.

David Stanton

Question:

85 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if the review of the Prevention of the Incitement to Hatred Act 1989 has been completed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27240/04]

The announcement of a review of the incitement to hatred legislation was made by my predecessor as Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform at a time when few, if any, successful prosecutions had been taken under the Prohibition of Incitement to Hatred Act 1989. One of the aims of the review was to ascertain whether problems with the Act were contributing to this lack of prosecutions and, if so, whether any reasonable changes to it could remedy that situation. Since the review was announced, a number of successful prosecutions have been taken under the 1989 Act and, where appropriate, under public order legislation or Coras Iompair Éireann by-laws. These trends are being monitored as part of the ongoing review and if maintained could have a significant influence on the outcome of the review and any subsequent proposals for legislation.

Two international instruments, the Protocol to the Council of Europe Convention on Cybercrime dealing with criminalising acts of a racist or xenophobic nature committed through computer networks and a European Commission proposal for a Council framework decision on combating racism and xenophobia, which has not yet been finalised, will also be considered to fully assess their implications in the context of the review.

Juvenile Offenders.

Dan Neville

Question:

86 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of children under 18 years of age in adult prisons. [27081/04]

I can inform the Deputy that, on 1 November 2004, there were 15 persons under the age of 18 years being held in adult prisons. In addition, there were 60 persons under the age of 18 years accommodated in St. Patrick's Institution which is a place of detention specifically provided for the committal of young persons aged 16 to 21 years.

Liquor Licensing Laws.

Mary Upton

Question:

87 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reason provisions under the Intoxicating Liquor Act 2003, providing for the traceability of alcohol sold on a takeaway basis have not yet been implemented; when such measures will be introduced; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27274/04]

The position is that section 22 of the Intoxicating Liquor Act 2003 contains provision for the making of regulations specifying particulars to be affixed to containers in which intoxicating liquor is sold for consumption off the premises which are adequate to enable the licensee and the licensed premises concerned to be identified. The main reason for seeking to implement a labelling requirement by means of regulations is that this method permits notification of the European Commission in accordance with the EU technical standards (transparency) directives with a view to avoiding any later challenge to the legislation on the grounds that proper procedures had not been followed.

As regards the making of regulations, I have recognised from the outset that while the labelling of containers with a view to combating under age consumption of intoxicating liquor is an attractive idea, significant challenges would need to be overcome to render it effective in practice. These challenges arise under two headings. First, practical difficulties will be encountered where several individual containers are packaged together for sale, for example, a six-pack of bottles, a plastic-wrapped tray of cans, or a nailed wooden box containing bottles of wine. This raises the question of whether the label should be attached at the point of sale or earlier in the distribution chain. Attaching labels at an earlier stage is likely to increase distribution costs and create logistical difficulties for importers and distributors. In the case of imports from EU countries, such additional labelling requirements could be regarded as infringing internal market rules. Also at the practical level, there is the possibility of labels being removed, or being made non-legible, after sale. The possible transfer of the contents to another unmarked container cannot be ruled out either.

Second, from an enforcement perspective it is clear that possession by an under age person of a labelled intoxicating liquor container does not in itself constitute proof that the product had been illegally supplied to that person by the licensee whose particulars appear on the container. The container may have been sold to a person over the age of 18 in good faith by the licensee before being passed on to the under age person. It may have passed through several hands before finding its way into the hands of the underage person.

Issues relating to the evidential value of being found in possession of a labelled container were raised during consultations on implementation of section 22 of the 2003 Act and my Department subsequently raised them with the Office of the Attorney General. The Attorney General's office has expressed serious doubts about the evidential value of possession of a labelled container and doubt is, therefore, cast on the utility of any regulations that might be made under section 22 of the 2003 Act.

One possibility that could be considered in the context of future legislation would be a presumption that any intoxicating liquor container found in the possession of an under age person had been purchased by that person from the licensee identified on the container until the contrary was proved. However, the Attorney General's office has also advised that such a proposal would raise serious constitutional issues and would run the significant risk of being found to be inconsistent with Article 38 of the Constitution.

For these reasons, I do not intend to make regulations under section 22 of the 2003 Act at this time. I will, however, give further consideration to this matter in the context of the forthcoming Bill to codify the licensing laws.

Garda Equipment.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

88 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the fact that Boston police have decided to discontinue their use of a pepper spray gun similar to that now authorised for use by gardaí after the death of a person (details supplied); if his attention has further been drawn to the fact that CS spray similar to that now authorised for use by gardaí has been consistently misused by the PSNI in Derry, most recently on a handcuffed man; if he will review the Garda guidelines for use of such weapons in view of these incidents; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27158/04]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the tragic events that occurred in Boston will be reviewed by the Garda Síochána as part of its less lethal programme. The two pepper spray devices authorised for use by the Garda Síochána are as follows: a special aerosol projector which is designed to deliver a directional pepper spray to a distance of 25 ft. to 30 ft.; and a ferret pepper spray shot which is a shotgun cartridge device that is intended to penetrate a door/window and deliver pepper spray inside.

I wish to emphasise that the use of these less lethal devices is restricted to the emergency response unit where it is necessary to avoid the use of firearms. The Garda Síochána is not authorised to use CS spray. Guidelines on the use of authorised less lethal weapons are constantly under review to reflect the operational and technological developments in the area of less lethal alternatives.

The use of CS spray in Northern Ireland is a matter for the Police Service of Northern Ireland, PSNI. However, I am informed that all instances of CS spray in Northern Ireland, including the incident in Derry to which the Deputy refers, are referred to the Police Ombudsman whose role is to investigate the circumstances in which it was used.

Asylum Support Services.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

89 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on the proposal from a number of EU countries for the establishment of transit camps for asylum seekers in north Africa; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27258/04]

I understand that the Deputy is referring to a very general outline of proposals for the setting up of transit reception centres in north Africa which was canvassed by German Interior Minister Schily at the informal JHA Council on 30 September and 1 October 2004 in the Netherlands. As I indicated in my reply to Question No. 301 on 27 October 2004, the stated objective of the German proposals, which remain to be further elaborated, is to address the serious and ongoing problem of persons seeking to enter the EU illegally by crossing the Mediterranean by sea and the potential for serious loss of life which this involves.

There is a recognition among member states, which is shared by the UNHCR and the European Commission, that action needs to be taken to tackle movements of people by sea in the Mediterranean region to avoid serious loss of life in the future. The Commission is considering funding proposals received from the UNHCR concerning the strengthening of asylum systems in certain north African states which involve, inter alia, promoting legislation and training of officials from the states involved in refugee status determination. This will enhance the capacity of those states to deal with refugee flows.

I am of the view that the German ideas, which as I have indicated have not been elaborated on in great detail to date, raise a wide range of important issues which need to be addressed, including human rights, legal and humanitarian considerations and linkages to developing the capacity of regions of origin to deal with large-scale migration flows. Pending more detailed clarification from Germany, I am very much keeping an open mind on this issue and I have not yet brought Ireland's position on the matter to Government for a policy decision.

For the information of the Deputy, the EU Council is at present considering a follow-up multi-annual work programme to the work programme agreed by the European Council at Tampere in 1999 covering, inter alia, the areas of asylum and immigration. This new programme to be called the Hague Programme was considered recently by the JHA Council at its meeting on 25-26 October 2004 and is due to be examined by the European Council on 5 November 2004. The new multi-annual programme will, inter alia, address in a comprehensive manner the external dimension of asylum and migration and will place far greater emphasis on partnership with countries and regions of origin and transit. It will also deal with the question of EU support for capacity building in those countries to enable them to better manage migration and to provide adequate protection for refugees.

Garda Strength.

Joan Burton

Question:

90 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of recruits who have graduated from the Garda training college as full Garda members since 6 June 2002; the number of gardaí who have retired, resigned or otherwise left the force since 6 June 2002; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27235/04]

The commitment in An Agreed Programme for Government in regard to Garda numbers states, "We will complete the current expansion of the Garda Síochána and increase recruitment so that the numbers will increase by a further 2,000." When I took office as Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform in June 2002, the strength of the Garda Síochána stood at 11,748. After June 2002, and despite the cap on public service numbers announced in the 2002 budget, I proceeded with Government approval to increase the strength of the force to 12,200 by 2004 and I am pleased to say that we are on course to achieve that target on time. When an additional 190 gardaí are attested on 26 November, the force strength, already at a record high, will have reached or exceeded 12,200.

I am pleased to inform the House that the Government has approved my proposal to increase the strength of the Garda Síochána to 14,000 members on a phased basis, in line with the commitment in An Agreed Programme for Government. This is a key commitment in the programme for Government and its implementation will significantly strengthen the operational capacity of the force.

A new recruitment campaign will start shortly as an initial step in increasing the force strength to 14,000. The Garda Commissioner will place advertisements in the national newspapers within the coming weeks inviting applications to join the force and record numbers of recruits will be taken on. Each quarter, for the next three years, around 274 recruits will be taken into the college, amounting to almost 1,100 recruits each year. Taking into account projected retirements, it will lead to a combined organisational strength, of both attested gardaí and recruits in training, of 14,000 as early as 2006.

Garda trainees are attested to the force on successful completion of phase three of their training. On attestation, Garda trainees are serving members of the force. Formal graduation takes place following the completion of the fifth and final phase of training. Therefore, the serving strength of the force at any given time includes those who have been attested following completion of phase three of their training but have not yet formally graduated. I am informed by the Garda authorities that a total of 1,392 recruits have successfully completed phase three of their training and have been attested to the Garda Síochána since 6 June 2002 and that a total of 1,036 Garda members, all ranks, have resigned, retired or otherwise left the Garda Síochána since that date.

Proposed Legislation.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

91 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he intends to reform the antiquated legislation relating to land law; and if so, if he will use the opportunity to implement some of the recommendations of the all-party Joint Committee on the Constitution relating to land. [27291/04]

The position is that my Department has undertaken an ambitious joint project with the Law Reform Commission with a view to reforming and modernising our land and conveyancing law. Last week I launched a consultation paper entitled Reform and Modernisation of Land Law and Conveyancing Law which contains more than 90 draft recommendations designed to update and streamline this important area of law. Publication of the consultation paper completes the first stage of the project; it is being followed by the consultation stage which is now under way and will run until 31 December. The third stage will involve the drafting of a Bill, or Bills, to give legislative effect to recommendations for reform.

It is my intention to bring forward proposals for draft legislation to give effect to the commission's final recommendations next year. These proposals will: simplify land and conveyancing law and improve its presentation to make it more easily understood and accessible for practitioners and the public alike; update this important area of law to accommodate changing social, demographic and economic needs, for example, new forms of property ownership; and make the conveyancing of property easier and faster with a view to reducing burdensome costs and delays.

The new legislation will repeal about 150 pre-1922 statutes, the earliest of which date back to the 13th century, and replace them with a modern law of property that will meet the needs of the 21st century. The ultimate objective of this project is to facilitate the introduction of an electronic conveyancing system as soon as possible. Implementation of recommendations of the All-Party Oireachtas Committee on the Constitution in regard to private property which are relevant to the scope of the joint project will be examined in the course of the project.

Security Procedures.

Seán Crowe

Question:

92 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will report on the recent decision of the EU Justice Ministers regarding the introduction of biometric identifiers on EU passports; and his views on the introduction of fingerprints and iris scans. [27160/04]

The European Council of 25 March 2004 instructed that an EU regulation on security features in passports and travel documents should be adopted before the end of 2004 and this was completed by the Justice and Home Affairs Council on 25-26 October, with a period of 18 months being provided for practical implementation.

On 8 June 2004, Council agreed that facial image should be the first mandatory biometric identifier and at the meeting on 26 October agreement was reached on the implementation of the first biometric within 18 months and agreement, in principle, on the implementation of a secondary mandatory biometric, fingerprint, within 36 months. The introduction of iris scans, as referred to by the Deputy, was not raised at this meeting of Council.

Biometric features in passports and other travel documents will be used for verifying the authenticity of the document and the identity of the holder by means of directly available comparable features when the passport or other travel document is required to be produced by law. It is an important contribution to ensuring that passports and other travel documents are protected against fraudulent use.

As this regulation builds on an aspect of Schengen co-operation in which Ireland does not participate, Ireland is not bound by it. However, the Government believes that the incorporation of biometrics in passports, in accordance with the standards proposed by the International Civil Aviation Organisation, can make an effective contribution to increasing security of international travel. The Government, therefore, welcomes this development, even though Ireland is not bound by the regulation.

It is important to note also that the United States enacted legislation after the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001 that requires all visa waiver countries, including Ireland, to introduce passports containing biometric information by 26 October 2004, subsequently postponed to 26 October 2005, as a condition of remaining in the visa waiver programme. The Government agreed, in principle, to the introduction of passports containing biometric information subject to a further Government decision at a later stage on the practical arrangements for its implementation. My colleague, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, is currently examining these issues and it is expected that a proposal will be submitted to Government in the near future.

Garda Equipment.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

93 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to concerns expressed by members of the Garda Síochána regarding the reliability of the Garda radio system and that some gardaí on patrol have had to use their own mobile phones to keep in touch; the steps that are being taken to ensure that all gardaí are provided with a reliable radio system; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27243/04]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Priority Question No. 77 today.

Crime Levels.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

94 Ms Lynch asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the findings of the CSO survey on crime which showed that the number of persons who were victims of personal crime more than doubled between 1998 and 2003; the way in which he reconciles these figures with official Garda figures showing a lower level of crime; the steps he intends to take to address the significant decline in the level of public confidence in the Garda; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27246/04]

The findings referred to by the Deputy were published following the Central Statistics Office Quarterly National Household Surveys carried out in the fourth quarters of 1998 and 2003. These surveys include crime and victimisation modules related to crime experienced in the previous 12 months.

It is the case in all countries that police statistics do not, and cannot, record all the crimes recorded in any one year. In Ireland, as in other jurisdictions data compiled for police forces are compiled mainly for operational purposes and have to be seen in that light in interpreting the general level of crime in society.

One source of valuable information to complement police statistics is a crime survey, such as the CSO crime and victimisation modules. These are designed to measure the extent to which a representative sample of the population has been victimised. The aim is to build up a picture of how much crime there is in the community, including those crimes that may not be recorded in the Garda Commissioner's annual report. It is generally accepted that Garda statistics do not record all the crimes committed in any one year, not least because it is not possible that the gardaí would be made aware of them all. The quarterly household report from the CSO reports that, in some instances, victims do not report crimes because there has been no financial loss or because they believe the crime not to be serious enough to warrant reporting it to the authorities.

The Government has decided that a regular national crime victimisation survey, carried out biennially, would be a valuable complement to the Garda Commissioner's report and would provide a more comprehensive perspective on crime victimisation. When undertaken on a regular basis it would provide useful information on emerging trends in crime. The report of the Expert Group on Crime Statistics, which I recently published, recommended the establishment of a central crime statistics unit, inter alia, to: examine the collation of information relating to crimes reported to and recorded by the Garda; examine the collation of information relating to other crimes where the Garda Síochána is not the prosecuting authority; identify the needs of the key stakeholders within the criminal justice system and the wider research community; and to make recommendations on the necessary structures and resources to be provided to allow statistics compiled within the criminal justice system to be analysed so that emerging trends can be identified. I have accepted the recommendation to establish this unit and work is under way on establishing it in the Central Statistics Office. This unit will design and carry out the National Crime Victimisation Survey.

I am concerned that the CSO survey indicates an increase in the number of persons who were victims of personal crime. However, figures available from the Garda Commissioner in his annual report for 2003, and which was published late last week, indicate that during 2003 a decrease of 3% was recorded in headline crime and a decrease of 14% was recorded in non-headline crime. This represents a total of 51,132 fewer crimes for 2003 when compared with 2002. This downward trend in crime levels was continued through the first nine months of this year. The report from the CSO notes that the vast majority of persons, over 93% in fact, felt safe alone in their homes after dark.

A recent survey commissioned by the Garda Síochána, and carried out by an independent company with considerable experience in the area of criminal justice research, indicated that 85% of respondents were either very satisfied or satisfied with the overall Garda service. We are fortunate to have a force comprising of men and women who continue to be dedicated to providing an efficient and effective policing service to the citizens of the State. In this respect the ongoing, targeted, crime prevention operations of the Garda, such as Operation Encounter which tackles the issue of public order, and Operation Delivery which seeks to address attacks on cash delivery services, help reduce crime and its effects. Garda management will, I am sure, remain vigilant to changes in criminality and will take action to counter specific trends and threats as issues become evident.

Asylum Applications.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

95 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of applications for asylum received during 2002, 2003 and to date in 2004; the number of applications upheld by the Refugee Appeals Commission; the number of appeals submitted to the Refugee Appeals Tribunal and the number of such appeals upheld; the number of applications for leave to remain and the number of such applications granted; the number of deportation orders made and the number of such deportations carried out; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27259/04]

The information requested is set out below in a tabular statement, a copy of which is being circulated to Deputies.

Table 1: Number of asylum applications received and the number of recommendations by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner to grant refugee status (at first instance) in 2002, 2003 and 2004*.

2002

2003

2004*

No. of applications received

11,634

7,900

3,598

No. of recommendations to grant refugee status (at first instance)

893

345

324

* as at 30/09/04.
** It is assumed that the reference in the Deputy's question to "Refugee Appeals Commission" refers to the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner.
Table 2: Number of appeals submitted to the Refugee Appeals Tribunal and the number upheld (at appeal stage) in 2002, 2003 and 2004*.

2002

2003

2004*

No. of appeals received**

5,159

5,014

3,808

No. of appeals upheld (granted refugee status)**

1,099

831

553

* as at 30/09/04.
** Substantive and accelerated cases.
Table 3: Number of deportation orders signed and number effected in 2002, 2003 and 2004*.

2002

2003

2004*

No. of Deportation Orders signed

2,442

2,415

2174**

No. of Deportation Orders effected

521

590

413***

* as at 30/09/04.
** In addition to the 2174 deportation orders signed, there have also been 168 Dublin II Regulation Transfer Orders signed.
*** In addition to the 413 deportation orders effected, there have also been 30 Dublin II Regulation Transfers effected.
Table 4: Number of applications for leave to remain received from current or former asylum applicants

2002

2003

2004*

No. of applications received

6,887

1,272

208**

* as at 30/09/04.
** In the context of proposed deportation orders under the Immigration Act 1999, the issue of leave to remain on humanitarian grounds is considered, irrespective of whether an application is made or not. Thus, no statistics are kept as to the number of such applications made.
Table 5: Number of applications granted for leave to remain by category

2002

2003

2004*

Parentage of Irish Born Child

3,113

172

0

Marriage to an Irish National

86

132

95

Dependant of EEA National

138

77

79

Humanitarian Grounds

159

83

42

Total

3496

464

216

* as at 30/09/04.

Garda Deployment.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

96 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of juvenile liaison officers in the Garda Síochána at the latest date for which figures are available; if he has plans to extend the scheme in view of the proven success of it in dealing with juvenile offenders, particularly in the context of his commitment to increase Garda numbers to 14,000; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27271/04]

I have been informed by the Garda authorities who are responsible for the detailed allocation of resources, including personnel, that as of 1 November 2004 there were 86 juvenile liaison officers, JLOS, gardaí and eight JLO sergeants working in the various divisions throughout the country. In addition to this, the National Juvenile Office has a staff of one superintendent, two inspectors and two sergeants.

The Children Act 2001 came into law in May 2002 and it was at this point that the Garda diversion programme began operating on a statutory basis. This Act introduced the concept of restorative justice and family conferencing into the criminal justice system and these provisions are currently being put into effect by the Garda Síochána. The Garda diversion programme is delivered throughout the country by specially trained gardaí. Resource implications are constantly under review and applications for additional resources are made on a case by case basis when and where necessary.

In regard to Garda resources generally, I am pleased to say that the Government has approved my proposal to increase the strength of the Garda Síochána to 14,000 members on a phased basis, in line with the commitment in An Agreed Programme for Government in this regard. This is a key commitment in the programme for Government and its implementation will significantly strengthen the operational capacity of the force. The Commissioner will draw up plans on how best to distribute and manage these resources. Clearly, however, the additional resources will be targeted at the areas of greatest need, as is envisaged in the programme for Government. The programme identifies particular areas with a significant drugs problem and a large number of public order offences, but it will be possible to address other priorities as well such as the need to significantly increase the number of gardaí allocated to traffic duties and the area of juvenile justice. I have already promised that the additional gardaí will not be put on administrative duties. They will be put directly into front-line, operational, high-visibility policing. They will have a real impact.

Garda Recruitment.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

97 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will increase the maximum entry age for new Garda recruits to 35; the basis on which ethnic minorities are to be recruited; the details regarding the proposed relaxation of the Irish language requirement; if consideration has been given to extending the retirement age of gardaí, in particular of sergeants and inspectors; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27231/04]

The Government has recently approved my proposal to achieve a force strength of 14,000 for the Garda Síochána, in line with commitment contained in An Agreed Programme for Government. As part of the preparation for this recruitment campaign, I have taken the opportunity to ask the Garda Commissioner to review the eligibility criteria for entry to the Garda Síochána. This is an opportune moment to ensure that the criteria for entry meet the needs of the Garda Síochána and the society it serves.

One particular aspect which the Commissioner has already studied is the maximum age of entry to the Garda Síochána. This arises from the need to implement Directive 2000/78/EC, which, inter alia, prohibits discrimination in employment on the grounds of age. In this regard, I can inform this House that I intend bringing to Government for approval the Commissioner’s proposal to increase the maximum age of entry from 26 years of age to 35 years of age. This is a significant change which will extend the opportunity to many more people of a career in the Garda Síochána, and increase the pool of talent available to the force. It is my intention, after the necessary consultations with the Garda Representative Associations and subject to Government approval, that the new maximum age will apply to the next Garda recruitment competition to be advertised in the coming weeks.

In addition to the age of entry, there may be other criteria which would benefit from review. It is right, for example, that future intakes of recruits to the Garda Síochána should as far as possible reflect the composition of Irish society, and I am anxious to see if there are any possible changes to the existing criteria which might facilitate recruitment from the different ethnic backgrounds in our community.

One of the eligibility criteria which could benefit from review is the entry requirement for Garda recruits to have passed Irish in the leaving certificate or an equivalent examination. This has implications for potential recruits from different ethnic backgrounds. However, it would be wrong to assume that the answer is simply to do away with the need for Irish. Clearly, whatever new arrangements might be put in place, Irish will continue to have an important place in the Garda Síochána, and everyone who wishes to must be able to communicate with the force through our native language. In this regard, the Garda Síochána has a very strong commitment to delivering a service through Irish. Proficiency in Irish is strongly promoted within the force and that will continue to be the case.

It is also the case that the Garda Síochána, a largely unarmed police force, polices our community by consent, a proud tradition greatly facilitated by the force's close links with the community it serves. I want that tradition to continue and prosper, and it seems to me necessary, therefore, to examine ways in which the relationship between the Garda Síochána and the ethnic minorities in our community might be fostered. The recruitment into the force of members from these different ethnic backgrounds would clearly be a positive step in this regard, for the recruits, the force and the public generally.

Following the completion of the review of the eligibility criteria by the Commissioner, I will consider carefully whether to bring to Government any proposals for further changes to the entry requirements.

As regards the retirement ages for sergeants and inspectors, the position is that I currently have no plans to increase the retirement age for members of the Garda Síochána who were recruited to the force prior to 1 April 2004. The changes in the retirement age for members of the Garda Síochána, outlined in the Public Service Superannuation (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2004, will apply only to new entrants who are recruited to the Garda Síochána after 1 April 2004.

Human Rights Issues.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

98 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to recent calls from Amnesty International for the EU’s Justice and Home Affairs policies to provide better protection of human rights; his views on whether the EU’s Justice and Home Affairs agenda is disproportionately concentrated on security and illegal immigration issues; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25323/04]

I am aware of the views of Amnesty International as set out in its document, More Justice and Freedom to Balance Security: Amnesty International's Recommendations to the EU. The development of the European Union as an area of freedom, security and justice in which the free movement of persons is assured is a core objective set down in the treaties but one which the treaties also recognise must be accompanied by appropriate measures with respect to external border controls, asylum, immigration and the combating of crime. The treaties also provide that the Union is founded on the principles of liberty, democracy, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms and the rule of law, principles which are common to the member states. The treaties further require the Union to respect fundamental rights, as guaranteed by the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and as they result from the constitutional traditions common to the member states as general principles of Community law.

I am satisfied that the task of developing the Union as an area of freedom, security and justice has been approached with due regard to these requirements and that there has not been a disproportionate emphasis on security and illegal immigration issues. I am also satisfied that the Council's approach to those issues directly concerned with security and illegal immigration is balanced and underpinned by a concern for the protection of human rights.

Amnesty's recent submission is directed in part to the next phase of that process. The European Council decided in June that the time had come to launch the next phase of the process of creating a genuine area of freedom, security and justice and invited the Council and the Commission to prepare a programme for the coming years. The Netherlands Presidency has taken forward work on that programme and the outcome will be considered by the European Council later this week. The views of Amnesty International and others have been taken into account as part of that process.

Asylum Applications.

John Gormley

Question:

99 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reason Ireland is not participating in the Council directive laying down minimum standards on the reception of applicants for asylum in member states whose Article 13 proposes that EU member states be required to put in place rules that do not exclude the access of applicants for asylum and their accompanying family members from the labour market six months after they have lodged their application. [27280/04]

I refer the Deputy to my replies to Questions Nos. 405 and 293 on 5 October and 27 October 2004, respectively. The position remains unchanged.

The EU legal instrument referred to in the Deputy's question is Council Directive 2003/9/EC of 27 January 2003 laying down minimum standards for the reception of asylum seekers. This directive is covered by Title IV of the EU Treaties and by the Protocol on the position of the United Kingdom and Ireland under which the State has an option to participate in its provisions. Many of the key provisions of the directive, although the responsibility of a number of Departments and agencies, are already covered by national procedures and, in many areas, our national standards exceed those provided for in the directive. The modalities and implications of the exercise of this option in respect of this particular directive are under consideration at present.

By way of clarification, I point out that Article 11 rather than Article 13 of the directive addresses the issue of access to employment. That article provides, inter alia, that member states shall determine a period of time, starting from the date on which an application for asylum was lodged, during which an applicant shall not have access to the labour market. If a first instance decision has not been taken within one year of the presentation of an application for asylum and this delay cannot be attributed to the applicant, member states shall decide the conditions for granting access to the labour market for the applicant. The article further provides that for reasons of labour market policies, member states may give priority to EU citizens and nationals of states parties to the agreement on the European Economic Area and also to legally resident third country nationals.

Claims Against Gardaí.

Mary Upton

Question:

100 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in regard to the investigation of an attack allegedly committed by members of the Garda Síochána on a person (details supplied) in County Wicklow which was reported to him earlier in 2004 and in respect of which he sought a report from the Garda Commissioner; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27239/04]

The matter relates to a case where legal proceedings have been initiated against the Garda Commissioner, the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Ireland and the Attorney General. Accordingly, it would be inappropriate of me to comment further pending the determination of these proceedings.

Direct Provision Payments.

John Gormley

Question:

101 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if, for the budget for 2005, he will recommend that the weekly direct provision payments of €19.10 per adult and €9.60 per child be increased; and if not, the reason the direct provision allowance has remained the same since its introduction in 1999. [27281/04]

As the Deputy is aware, it is not the usual practice for Ministers to comment on specific budgetary measures in advance of the annual budget and I do not propose to deviate from that practice on this occasion.

Tribunals of Inquiry.

Joe Costello

Question:

102 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the initiative by Mr. Justice Morris to solicit legal assistance through the Bar Council for persons (details supplied); if he had knowledge of or involvement in the initiative; his views on whether the initiative was appropriate in view of the fact that the persons already had unpaid legal advisers for over seven years; if he will now reconsider his decision to refuse the persons paid legal representation at the Morris tribunal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27227/04]

I refer the Deputy to my comprehensive reply to Priority Question No. 74 today.

Question No. 103 answered with QuestionNo. 84.

Juvenile Offenders.

Joe Sherlock

Question:

104 Mr. Sherlock asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the membership and terms of reference of the task force on juvenile justice; when the committee is expected to report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27269/04]

The Children Act 2001 provides a comprehensive statutory basis for responding to the needs of offending children, through a diversionary and restorative justice approach, and to the needs of non-offending children, who may be in need of special care or protection. In addition to its child welfare provisions, the Act establishes a sound legal framework for a modern juvenile justice system based on the underlying principle that there should be a suitable intervention for every child who commits an offence.

It is by its nature complex legislation and several Departments and their respective agencies are involved in its implementation. The National Children's Office co-ordinates this process. Considerable progress has been made to date in implementing the Act's provisions and detailed work is ongoing across the board to achieve the phased implementation of the remaining provisions.

There is, however, room for some fresh thinking about the institutional framework by which services in the youth justice area are delivered. I have recently set up a project team in my Department to examine the scope for rationalising and restructuring the delivery of the State's services, in accordance with the Children Act 2001, in the area of youth justice, focusing on the institutional framework with a view to improving outcomes in the area.

The team is headed by an assistant secretary and comprises five people in total at present. Further personnel will be attached to the team as and when required. The team will consult the relevant governmental and non-governmental actors in the area and will also evaluate relevant international developments. The Deputy will be interested to note that as part of the consultation process an advertisement calling for submissions appeared in the national newspapers earlier this week. I expect the team to report to me before summer next year.

It is important to stress that the Government's approach continues to be the philosophy underlying the Children Act 2001, namely, that prevention through early intervention is desirable, that detention should be a last resort and diversion and community sanctions should be available and used wherever appropriate, and that when detention is required it should be in an institutional environment that is educational rather than penal.

Prisoner Claims.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

105 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of cases for compensation lodged to date by serving or former prisoners arising from the lack of in-cell sanitation; his views on the claims lodged; when he expects that all prisons will be fully equipped with in-cell sanitation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27249/04]

Approximately 400 letters have been received in my Department from solicitors representing former and serving inmates in this State alleging that their clients' human rights have been violated due to the practice of slopping out. The majority of cases relate to inmates imprisoned in Cork, Limerick and Portlaoise. I am awaiting legal advice from the Attorney General on the matter and cannot comment further other than to say that it is my intention to vigorously contest the claims.

A new accommodation block for Portlaoise Prison is currently the subject of a tender competition and it is anticipated that construction works will commence in 2005 and be completed by 2007. As the costs and operational issues of retro-fitting in-cell sanitation in Mountjoy Prison and Cork Prison is prohibitive, the Irish Prison Service is looking to develop new state-of-the-art prison facilities on greenfield sites. In the case of Mountjoy Prison, a process is under way to identify suitable sites near Dublin. In regard to Cork Prison, my officials and the Office of Public Works are examining plans for a new prison development on Spike Island.

Child Care Services.

David Stanton

Question:

106 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the amount made available each year under the equal opportunities childcare programme since the inception of the programme; the amount expended in each of the respective years; [27241/04]

As the Deputy may be aware the Equal Opportunities Childcare Programme 2000-2006, EOCP, is intended to increase the availability and quality of child care across the country. The programme is funded by the Exchequer and the European Union Structural Funds as part of the regional operational programmes of the national development plan. Initially, €317 million of Exchequer and EU Structural Funds was made available to the programme over the life of the national development plan. The Government increased this to over €436 million through an additional package of Exchequer funding and through interdepartmental transfers. In recognition of the many achievements of the Equal Opportunities Childcare Programme 2000-2006 up to December 2003, the funding for the programme was recently increased to €449.3 million following transfers of EU and Exchequer funding. These transfers were based on recommendations made in the mid-term evaluations of the national development plan and its constituent operational programmes.

The Department's Estimate and outturn in respect of child care for each year up to October of 2004 is detailed in the table below:

Estimate (€ Million)

Outturn (€ Million)

Total

Total

2000

26.030

11.704

2001

88.521*

30.338

2002

58.410

58.410

2003

68.260

66.260

2004

68.263

year to end October:55.813

*Note: Reflects transfers made from other Departments to the Equal Opportunities Childcare Programme as referred to above.

It is important to remember that the EOCP is an EU supported programme and that an underspend in the early stages does not impact on the overall funding package which will be spent by 2007 in accordance with EU regulations. The Estimates' provisions for the initial years of the programme did not fully anticipate the delays associated with the creation of major new projects and it has subsequently been found that there is a lead-in time of approximately two years for large-scale capital projects. This is in line with infrastructure projects in other sectors and contributed to the underspend in the early years. As the programme has progressed, the annual Estimate has more closely matched the expected pattern of demand and the Deputy will be aware that the child care sector now has the capacity to grow rapidly and is so doing.

The total funding committed under the equal opportunities child care programme up to the end of September 2004 is over €264 million. Over 2,600 grants have been awarded to child care providers and community groups, which will, when fully drawn down, lead to the creation of approximately 29,700 new child care places and support almost 28,000 existing places. Since the inception of the programme every locality has benefited significantly from grants to provide new and enhanced community based child care facilities and indeed to support capital developments in the private child care sector.

It is important to note that the demand for grant support under the EOCP to date has been very high. It is expected that the full amount of the funding available will be expended over the life of the national development plan and that full use will be made of the €177 million of EU funding which is available to the programme. I am currently in discussion with the Minister for Finance and my Cabinet colleagues about the ongoing resource needs for the child care sector.

Garda Investigations.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

107 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the progress made to date on whether to establish an inquiry into events surrounding the murder of persons (details supplied) in Dublin 7 in March 1997 and a subsequent Garda investigation, as sought by relatives of one of the murdered persons; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27272/04]

I sought and have received advice from the Attorney General regarding requests which were made to establish a public inquiry into this matter. Following consideration of the matter, I am not at present satisfied that a public inquiry is required and I have been in direct contact with families and solicitors involved in this matter informing them of the current situation.

Claims Against Gardaí.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

108 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he has received the report of the senior Garda officer who has been requested by the Commissioner to examine all matters featured in a television programme (details supplied) of 8 January 2004; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27238/04]

Allegations of serious wrongdoing by members of the Garda Síochána, such as those broadcast on the "Prime Time" programme, are of serious concern to me. Some of the cases featured in the television programme of 8 January were previously reported and in the public domain. A number of the cases have been dealt with in the courts or by the existing complaints and disciplinary mechanisms. One case is due to come before the courts and there may yet be other civil actions so the House will appreciate that, in the circumstances, I am limited in what I can say on the specific details of individual cases.

I can say I have just received — in fact, on 1 November 2004 — a report from the Commissioner in respect of all matters featured in the broadcast in question. In the report, the Commissioner reviews the investigation of each case highlighted in the programme, and proposes a number of specific measures with regard to the systems, practices and procedures which operate within the Garda Síochána to ensure the existence of adequate safeguard mechanisms for the mutual benefit of members of the public and the force. The Deputy will appreciate that I will need to carefully study the report and discuss it with the Commissioner before making any further detailed comments.

The House knows my view that the existing law and procedures for dealing with complaints against members of the Garda Síochána are not adequate to the task. Allegations of the type aired on "Prime Time" provoke entirely legitimate unease in the public mind, but can also cause frustration within the force at what is sometimes seen as a lack of balance and fairness. The most fundamental objective now must be to put in place a mechanism for dealing with complaints against members of the Garda Síochána which commands the full confidence of members of the public and the force alike and which will adjudicate on complaints in a manner accepted by all as authoritative. To this end, a key objective of the Garda Síochána Bill 2004, which is currently before Seanad Éireann, is the establishment of a fully independent ombudsman commission which will have wide powers to investigate complaints made against members of the Garda Síochána. I hope that these proposals will come before this House soon and that they will have the support of all Deputies.

Garda Deployment.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

109 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of gardaí allocated to desk and other administrative duties in view of the shortage of gardaí on the beat; the type of work they are engaged in; the ages of the gardaí; if the major part of this work can be performed by non-Garda personnel in order that these members be employed at the coalface; if it is more feasible to employ non-members in these positions; if he has the intention of taking up this suggestion; if so, when; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27083/04]

I have been informed by the Garda authorities who are responsible for the detailed allocation of resources, including personnel, that there are currently 373 Garda personnel employed in administrative posts. I am further informed that the information requested by the Deputy in regard to the ages of the personnel referred to is not readily available and can only be obtained by the disproportionate expenditure of Garda time and resources relative to the information sought.

In 2001, the Government approved the civilianisation of administrative posts throughout the Garda Síochána on a phased basis over a number of years. These included administrative posts in headquarters, branches and in the various offices located in divisions and districts. In addition, the civilianisation programme also provided for the transfer of finance functions from Garda district clerks to civilians and the subsequent upgrading of the new civilian role to staff officer. The filling of these particular posts is now nearing completion.

The position as regards the civilianisation of Garda posts is that it must be rolled out within the confines of the Government decision of 4 December 2002. This decision places a cap on numbers across the public service. My Department is currently reviewing the position with both the Department of Finance and Garda management as to how we will proceed further in the context of the overall constraints of public service numbers.

In relation to Garda resources generally, I am pleased to say that the Government has approved my proposal to increase the strength of the Garda Síochána to 14,000 members on a phased basis, in line with the commitment in An Agreed Programme for Government in this regard. This is a key commitment in the programme for Government, and its implementation will significantly strengthen the operational capacity of the force. The Commissioner will now be drawing up plans on how best to distribute and manage these resources. Clearly, however, the additional resources will be targeted at the areas of greatest need, as is envisaged in the programme for Government. The programme identifies in particular areas with a significant drugs problem and a large number of public order offences, but it will be possible to address other priorities as well such as the need to significantly increase the number of gardaí allocated to traffic duties. I have already promised that the additional gardaí will not be put on administrative duties. They will be put directly into front-line, operational, high-visibility policing. They will have a real impact.

Child Care Services.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

110 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will approve a grant for a centre (details supplied) in County Kerry from the child care grant provision; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27085/04]

I understand that a capital grant application for over €3.2 million was submitted by the group to my Department some time ago. This is one of the highest grant amounts ever sought for a single project under the programme.

The Equal Opportunities Childcare Programme 2000-2006 is a seven-year development programme which aims to increase the availability and quality of child care to support parents in employment, education and training. The progress of the programme was commented upon very favourably by the mid-term evaluators of both the regional operational programmes and the National Development Plan 2000-2006 and following the mid-term review additional funding of approximately €12 million was made available for the child care measures. This brings the total funding available for the programme to €449.3 million.

There has been considerable demand from community based groups for capital grant assistance under the programme and every county has benefited significantly from grants to provide new and enhanced community based child care facilities and to support capital developments in the private childcare sector. ADM, on behalf of my Department, is currently carrying out an extensive review of the programme's capital commitments to date, numbering over 1,100 and at a value of €114 million, to ensure that all the grant commitments previously entered into will be realised. Projects may be awaiting planning permission or the completion of tender processes before reasonable assurance can be taken that they will proceed and, if they do not, the funding set aside can be decommitted and made available to another project. Expenditure under the programme covers the period to the end of 2007 and must take place in a planned manner as must grant approvals to ensure that the programme can meet its financial commitments at all times.

In addition, my Department has recently reviewed the different budget lines under the EOCP, including the capital programme, to ensure that the most effective use is made of all remaining funding in accordance with the programme's objectives and this has brought to €157 million the total allocation for the capital development of child care under the present programme. At the same time, an extensive review of child care provision on the ground has taken place to identify obvious service gaps, the filling of which will be a priority using the remaining capital funding which currently exceeds €30 million, of which about €25 million is being earmarked for community based not for profit child care groups which provide services for young children to support their parents who may be in employment, education and training.

I intend to allocate the remaining capital funding under this strand of the Government's commitment to child care to address the most immediate service gaps. As a result, all the projects in the pipeline on 30 April 2004 have been reviewed again by ADM Ltd., on the basis of geographical need, the range of services being offered, value for money and the capacity of the groups to complete a project before the end of the programme in 2007. Those projects which best meet the criteria will receive priority funding from the capital funding which remains unallocated at this point.

I have made inquiries and I understand that the application for capital grant assistance in respect of this project has been reviewed as part of the review process to which I have referred. I understand that the recommendations in relation to the allocation of the remaining funding are currently in preparation. If a project is recommended for funding as part of this process, its recommendation will be conditional upon its being able to establish that it can be completed within a fixed budget and a tight timeframe. If a project is not recommended for priority funding at this time, it may be considered again should additional capital resources become available and if the project has adequately demonstrated that it would merit funding under the programme during the review process. The allocation of any additional funding which might become available to me will also be allocated on the basis of local need, levels of service being offered and value for money.

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

The Deputy may be aware that the group in question has previously been approved a total of €362,927 in staffing supports under the programme. In the interim, it would be premature of me to comment further on this capital grant application.

Road Traffic Offences.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

111 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the defects in the speed camera system as highlighted in the recent Comptroller and Auditor General’s annual report; his views on whether such deficiencies have been overcome; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27010/04]

Róisín Shortall

Question:

229 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the steps that are being taken to deal with the situation identified in the report of the Comptroller and Auditor General as a result of which almost half of those caught speeding on Garda cameras escaped prosecution, largely as a result of problems with the cameras, especially in view of the safety implications of these figures; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26958/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 111 and 229 together.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the problems identified in the report of the Comptroller and Auditor General regarding the interim speed camera system have been addressed. As the report notes, spoiled images result mainly from two causes, difficulties with number plates and technical problems with cameras and films. The chemical developing solution has been resolved by the Garda Technical Bureau, as has the issue of dirty lenses and their obstruction. It is inevitable that a camera in a fixed position by a roadway, subject to splashing or being otherwise obscured as a result of weather conditions will continue to require particular maintenance. Issues relating to member states are addressed by enforcement of the law relating to them. Enforcement difficulties involving foreign registered vehicles and drivers with foreign licences are being addressed through the EU and British Irish Council. Legislative changes in road traffic legislation will be made as considered necessary. Improvements have also been made to the Garda interim computer system currently in operation. I am confident that the action being taken will reduce the default rate significantly, in particular, through the rollout of the fixed charge processing system which is now at pilot stage.

Tribunals of Inquiry.

Joe Sherlock

Question:

112 Mr. Sherlock asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when the tribunal of inquiry arising from a report, which was promised almost a year ago, will be established; the reason for the delay; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27268/04]

In accordance with the recommendation of Mr. Justice Peter Cory, I secured Government approval in December 2003 for the establishment of a public inquiry into the murders in 1989 of RUC Chief Superintendent Harry Breen and RUC Superintendent Bob Buchanan. The public inquiry will take the form of a tribunal of inquiry pursuant to the Tribunals of Inquiry (Evidence) Acts 1921-2002.

In July 2004, I secured further Government approval for the specific terms of reference of the prospective tribunal, to be incorporated into resolutions to be laid before both Houses of the Oireachtas seeking its establishment. I am currently awaiting time in both Dáil and Seanad Éireann to have these resolutions considered, and I anticipate that this will occur in the current parliamentary session. I do not accept that there has been any undue delay in establishing the public inquiry recommended by Mr. Justice Cory.

Deportation Orders.

Joe Costello

Question:

113 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if it is his intention to change the asylum process and appeals mechanism in view of his decision not to deport a person (details supplied) despite the contrary decision of the Refugee Appeals Tribunal and the office of the applications commissioner; if he proposes to re-admit this person into the asylum process; if not, if he will grant them special leave to remain in the State; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27228/04]

Details of this case were given in my replies to previous Questions Nos. 295, 165, 427 and 437 dated 27, 13 and 5 October 2004, respectively. In my replies of 27 and 13 October 2004, I advised the House that this person has been given a temporary stay of six months on the effecting of the deportation order made against her, while her case is being reviewed further by my Department.

I should make it clear that the decision not to proceed with the effecting of the deportation order in this case arose from matters unrelated to this person's asylum application. I am satisfied that the decision of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and the Refugee Appeals Tribunal not to recommend the granting of refugee status in this case was correct and there is no threat to the safety of this person if she were to be returned to her country of origin. No issue arises in this case which warrants any amendment to the existing relevant legislation.

Crime Levels.

Liz McManus

Question:

114 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on the report of the expert group on crime statistics; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27247/04]

I received and published the report of the Expert Group on Crime Statistics in July this year. The terms of reference of the group were, inter alia, to: examine the collation of information relating to crimes reported to and recorded by the gardaí; examine the collation of information relating to other crimes where the Garda Síochána is not the prosecuting authority; identify the needs of the key stakeholders within the criminal justice system and the wider research community; and to make recommendations on the necessary structures and resources to be provided to allow statistics compiled within the criminal justice system to be analysed so that emerging trends can be identified.

The expert group was comprised of members from my Department, the Garda Síochána, the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Courts Service, the Prison Service, the Central Statistics Office, the National Crime Council and the research community and was chaired by Mr. David Kennedy. In its report, the group made recommendations in two broad areas, relating to improvements in the current system and more fundamental changes. I have accepted the recommendations of the group. In regard to the recommendation that a new central crime statistics unit be established to compile and publish enhanced crime statistics, based initially on data derived from the Garda Síochána's PULSE system, the unit will be located in the Central Statistics Office. My Department, the Garda Síochána and the Central Statistics Office are currently engaged in working on the establishment of this unit.

Witness Protection Programme.

Seán Ryan

Question:

115 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the progress made to date in the review of the witness protection programme; if he is considering additional measures to support witnesses who may be giving evidence in court cases involving serious charges, but who may not wish to enter the protection programme; the investigation that has been held into the circumstances in which a witness in a major gangland trial (details supplied) was able to evade their Garda minders and travel to London in which they are reported to have been subsequently threatened; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27261/04]

The review of the procedures of the witness security programme, which operates under the direct control and administration of the Garda Commissioner, is ongoing. The review includes: consideration of a relevant judgment of the Court of Criminal Appeal; the measures to support witnesses in court cases who may not wish to enter the programme; and current best practice from an international perspective. I can assure the Deputy that, when received, the recommendations of the review will be given full and careful consideration.

In respect of the particular case raised by the Deputy, it is not the practice, and it would be contrary to the public interest, to comment on individual cases. However, it should be noted that admittance to and continued participation on the witness security programme is entirely voluntary on the part of the witness, and no compellability can be or is involved.

Deportation Orders.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

116 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he intends to appeal the judgment of the High Court given on 13 October 2004 in the case of a person (details supplied); if he intends to suspend the deportation of the parents of Irish citizen children, pending the consideration by the Supreme Court of any such appeal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27260/04]

Joe Costello

Question:

248 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if the undertaking given on his behalf in High Court proceedings brought by a person (details supplied) applies to all other persons falling in the same category and liable to deportation on similar grounds; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27501/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 116 and 248 together.

These questions refer to a specific case where the High Court granted leave to the applicants to seek judicial review in respect of certain deportation related matters. The High Court has not yet heard the substantive arguments in the case nor has it made a judgment. An appeal to the Supreme Court does not, therefore, arise.

An undertaking not to deport was provided to the court in the light of the particular circumstances of the case. The approach to be taken in any judicial review proceedings depends on the circumstances of the case in consultation with the State's legal advisers. The circumstances in this case may not be directly replicated in others.

Garda Inspectorate.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

117 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the proposed role and functions of the Garda inspectorate announced by him on 5 August 2004; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27244/04]

Among the official amendments to the Garda Síochána Bill 2004, which I will be introducing during the Committee Stage debate in Seanad Éireann, will be an amendment to provide for the establishment of an independent Garda Síochána inspectorate. This proposal is being brought forward in the light of the recently published report of the Morris tribunal and the questions arising from it relating to the need for measures to improve democratic accountability for the actions of the Garda Síochána.

The relevant legislative provisions are currently being drafted. However I can say the new body will comprise three people, one of whom will be known as the chief inspector. The key objectives of the inspectorate will be to ensure and promote efficiency and effectiveness in the Garda Síochána. In that context, it will look at thematic policy issues with standards, practice and performance benchmarked to comparable international policing experiences. The new body will also provide advice and support to the Minister so that he or she will have independent objective information in relation to the work, operation and administration of the Garda Síochána.

Prison Accommodation.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

118 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when he expects to receive the report of the expert group established to consider potential sites for the location of a new prison to replace Mountjoy Prison; if it is intended to demolish the recently constructed Dóchas facility at the women’s prison in the Mountjoy complex; the cost of the construction and equipping of the prison; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27250/04]

I have not yet received a final report of the group established to examine potential sites for a prison complex to replace that at Mountjoy. I do, however, understand that the group has identified three or four particular sites as being potentially the most suitable for consideration as a site for a new complex and these are being explored further. I expect that the exercise will be completed before the end of this year.

While no final decision has been made to demolish the women's prison facility at Mountjoy, it is true that additional facilities are required for women prisoners and one option being considered is to construct an improved facility on a new site. In such a case, it may prove more cost effective to transfer all the prisoners from the existing site at Mountjoy to the new location when construction work has been completed, making the Dóchas facility redundant and freeing up space for a more attractive redevelopment of the Mountjoy site.

Work on the construction of the Dóchas facility and a 300 space multi-storey car park started in early 1997. About three quarters of the total cost of the project were associated with the Dóchas facility, which would give a construction cost of approximately €13 million for the women's facility. For the reasons explained, the Dóchas facility will, at a very minimum, continue to remain in operation until a new facility has been completed and brought into operation, which will not happen before 2007-08 at the earliest.

Garda Recruitment.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

119 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his proposals to meet the commitment to provide 2000 extra gardaí; when he expects the net numbers in the force to increase by that number; the locations to which he expects these gardaí to be deployed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27214/04]

Joan Burton

Question:

139 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the proposed timetable for increasing Garda numbers to 14,000 in regard to his announcement of 14 October 2004; the moneys that will be allocated for this purpose in 2005; the numbers of gardaí who are expected to leave the force in the period in question; the steps it is proposed to take to ensure completion of the proposed four storey building in Templemore within the timeframe specified; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27236/04]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

231 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when he expects to be in a position to deliver the 2000 extra gardaí promised; when the first of the officers will take up duty; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27420/04]

Willie Penrose

Question:

249 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when he plans to initiate a recruitment campaign in respect of increasing the strength of the Garda Síochána; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27505/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 119, 139, 231 and 249 together.

In this regard, I refer the Deputies to my response to Question No. 75 which was put down for answer today by Deputy Costello on this matter.

Statutory Press Council.

Seán Ryan

Question:

120 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding his consideration of the recommendations of the legal advisory group on the defamation law, particularly in regard to the proposals for the establishment of a statutory press council; when he intends to bring proposals on this matter to Government; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27267/04]

The position remains as outlined in my response to Question No. 20 of 8 July 2004.

National Drugs Strategy.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

121 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on the recent suggestion made (details supplied) that consideration be given to the introduction of needle exchange programmes in prison in order to reduce health risks; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27252/04]

It is the practice of the Irish Prison Service, in common with most prison systems worldwide, not to issue needles or injecting equipment to prisoners. There are good health, safety and security reasons for not providing needle exchange programmes in prisons and to do so would be inconsistent with the commitments set out in the Government programme. Emphasis within prisons is on health education and, where appropriate, substitution treatment. Prisoner health education not only discourages injecting behaviour but also points out the health benefits of not sharing needles and injecting equipment.

The report of the group to Review the Structure and Organisation of Prison Healthcare Services considered the matter of developing a syringe exchange programme within Irish prisons and came to the conclusion that such a step could not be recommended.

Furthermore the programme for Government states:

we will publish a plan to completely end all heroin use in Irish prisons. This will include the availability of treatment and rehabilitation for all who need them and the introduction of compulsory drug testing for prisoners where necessary.

My Department in conjunction with the Irish Prison Service, has been working hard to implement the Government's response, as stated in the programme for Government, to deal with this serious issue. Early in the new year we will implement our new strategy of mandatory drug-testing, addiction counselling and treatment, increased measures to prevent drug usage, and a genuine system of rehabilitation.

Garda Deployment.

Liz McManus

Question:

122 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of serving members of the Garda employed as full-time drivers for Government Ministers, former Ministers or judicial figures; the annual cost in terms of salaries of such drivers; if it is intended to replace these personnel with civilian drivers in order to free up Garda personnel to combat crime; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27248/04]

I have been informed by the Garda authorities, who are responsible for the detailed allocation of resources, including personnel, that there are currently 77 gardaí attached to the ministerial pool of whom 58 are allocated on a full-time basis to drive Ministers, former taoisigh, former Presidents and judicial figures. The remaining 19 gardaí are on a relief panel and cover periods of absences through annual leave and illness. I am further informed that the annual salary costs of such drivers is approximately €5.2 million. There are currently no plans to replace gardaí in the ministerial pool with civilian drivers.

Garda Health and Safety Regulations.

Jack Wall

Question:

123 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the independent research, Work Safety, Health and Welfare in the Garda Síochána conducted by a person (details supplied); if his attention has further been drawn to the fact that the Garda Representative Association has described the findings as an indictment of serious neglect and under-resourcing of the Garda Síochána; the steps he proposes to take to address the neglect and to provide a healthy and safe working environment for gardaí; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27278/04]

Many of the issues raised in the research report on work safety, health and welfare in the Garda Síochána are operational matters for the Garda Síochána in the first instance. I understand that the Garda Representative Association has supplied the Commissioner with a copy of the research report and that the issues contained therein are currently being studied by the Garda authorities in consultation with the divisions named in the report.

During 2003 the Commissioner approved the establishment of a Garda National Safety Committee. The committee establishes on a formal basis, a consultation process for staff associations representing employees in the Garda Síochána on matters pertaining to health and safety. The terms of reference of the committee include, inter alia, the following: to provide a forum for discussion between Garda management, representatives from staff associations and employees on health and safety at a national level; and to make recommendations to enhance: promotion and development of health in the Garda Síochána; health and safety procedures; the reporting and reduction of occupational accidents and diseases in the workplace; safety audits; health and safety training; and the safe implementation and introduction of new equipment, new technologies and new procedures. In addition to the above there is a divisional safety committee in each Garda division, chaired by the chief superintendent.

I also advise the Deputy that health and safety issues relating to the physical Garda accommodation are dealt with in the context of the overall Garda building programme. In addition, individual issues are addressed when they are brought to the attention of the Office of Public Works.

Question No. 124 answered with QuestionNo. 80.

Garda Operations.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

125 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the nature of the trend over time and the number of wire-taps he has authorised since he assumed office. [27266/04]

The interception of telecommunications is governed by the provisions of the Interception of Postal Packets and Telecommunications Messages (Regulation) Act 1993.

It is not the practice and it would be contrary to the public interest to disclose details of authorisations to intercept, including either the number of authorisations granted in any period of time or trends over time.

Garda Deployment.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

126 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on whether a Garda traffic corps can be staffed by relocating 400 gardaí from fine collection to traffic duties; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27031/04]

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

141 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when a dedicated independent traffic corps will be established, particularly in view of the recent decision to increase Garda numbers by 2,000; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27030/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 126 and 141 together.

I am informed by the Garda authorities who are responsible for the detailed allocation of resources, including personnel, that the personnel strength of the Garda Síochána, including all ranks, as at 15 October 2004 was 12,117.

Existing and additional resources provided to the Commissioner will be used to optimum effect and in a focused way. I have asked the Garda Commissioner to examine the question of resource allocation. Among the areas being examined by the Garda Commissioner is the number of gardaí deployed in traffic units. The Commissioner is committed to increasing significantly the number of traffic units around the country as resources become available.

In addition, the commissioner is considering structural changes in this area of Garda activity with the aim of increasing the effective use of personnel and equipment resources available. I will be announcing changes in this area in the near future.

The increase in the number of gardaí will enable extra gardaí to be allocated to the traffic units which enforce road traffic legislation and contribute to reducing road fatalities and casualties throughout the State. In particular, it will make possible an increase in targeting enforcement on high risk locations and times and days of the week, in line with Garda operational policy.

The Government's Road Safety Strategy 2004-2006 which was recently launched by the Minister for Transport forms the framework within which road safety policy will be developed over the next number of years. Many of the targets and actions recommended in the strategy are already at various stages of implementation or planning, including the private operation of speed cameras and the outsourcing of the collection of fixed charges. The Road Traffic Bill 2004, which the Minister for Transport has published and which is currently before the Dáil, will facilitate the removal of members of the Garda Síochána from routine administrative duties and the redeployment of these resources for the purpose of front-line policing and enforcement.

Jury Duty.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

127 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he intends to reform the antiquated legislation relating to jury duty in view of the fact that the current fine for persons who do not appear is a mere €63; and if he will consider empowering the State to make a payment to those who serve on juries or to their employers in order to reduce the burden of their civic duties. [27262/04]

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

223 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he intends to reform the antiquated legislation relating to jury duty in view of the fact that the current fine for persons who do not appear is a mere €63; and if he will consider empowering the State to make a payment to those who serve on juries or to their employers in order to reduce the burden of their civic duties. [27311/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 127 and 223 together.

There is no provision in the Juries Act 1976 for the payment of expenses to jurors or their employers from State funds. When the Act was introduced, consideration was given to this matter but it was decided that expenses should not be paid as the performance of jury service is considered to be a basic civic duty which arises relatively infrequently as far as the individual is concerned. The Deputy will, however, be aware that section 29 of the 1976 Act does make provision for employees to be paid by their employers while on jury service.

I am aware that concern has been expressed over the level of the fine for non-attendance for jury duty. I share this view that the fine for non-attendance is inadequate and it is my intention to consider this issue and other matters relating to juries at the earliest opportunity.

National Drugs Strategy.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

128 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the progress that has been made with regard to the implementation of the commitment contained in An Agreed Programme for Government to end all heroin use in prisons here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27251/04]

Mindful of the commitments in the programme for Government, a group comprising Irish Prison Service management, prison governors, health authority representatives and clinicians have been consulted in relation to a drugs policy for the Irish Prison Service. The intention is that the drugs policy will facilitate consistent regulation and operational structure in pursuing supply and demand reduction.

The policy will have regard to the commitment in the programme for Government to end all heroin use in Irish prisons and my commitment to achieving a drug-free prison system. Working to fulfil these commitments will involve implementation of stringent measures to prevent drugs from getting into prisons while, at the same time, continuing to invest in services within prisons to reduce the demand for illicit drugs in the prisoner population and meet prisoners' treatment needs.

Central to supporting future supply and demand reduction will be the introduction of mandatory drug testing as envisaged in the programme for Government. Already prisoners accommodated in the open centres at Shelton Abbey and Loughan House, the designated drug free areas of the training unit in the Mountjoy complex, St. Patrick's Institution and Wheatfield Prison are required to undergo frequent drug tests to confirm their drug-free status. Mandatory drug testing will, however, operate across the prison system. It will enable identification and referral of drug abusers to treatment programmes, enable enhanced focusing of resources and act as a deterrent to drug misuse. The new prison rules which are currently being finalised by my Department will include specific provision for mandatory drug testing. Early in the new year we will implement our new strategy of mandatory drug-testing, addiction counselling and treatment, increased measures to prevent drug usage, and a genuine system of rehabilitation.

Immigration Policy.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

129 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on the claims made by the Immigrant Council of Ireland that Government immigration policies are anti-family and causing heartache; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27257/04]

I understand that the Immigrant Council of Ireland's comments relate primarily to migrant workers in Ireland. In this regard, Irish policy on family reunification is broadly in compliance with international standards and operates in the following manner. There is no general policy of restriction in operation in relation to family reunion where the family members in question are not visa required. The only caveat is that the worker in question must be in a position to support the family without recourse to public funds. The spouses and children of the vast majority of foreign workers in the State fall into this category. There are restrictions on family reunion for visa required family members since in general terms persons from visa required countries pose the greater immigration related risks.

In the case of visa required family members of non-EEA national workers, the general rule is that it is only after the worker has been in the State for 12 months and has been offered employment for a further 12 months that the worker may be joined by his or her family. Again, this is subject to the worker being able to support the family without recourse to public funds.

In 2000, the aforementioned 12 month waiting period was reduced to three months by my predecessor in the case of the family members of workers operating in certain specified high skill areas covered by the working visa programme.

The considerations underpinning this policy in the case of visa required family members is to ensure that the worker's presence in Ireland has a degree of stability and is likely to be for the longer term. Our practice avoids a family joining a worker whose employment relationship is not yet up and running and where that relationship may prove to be short term.

Garda Stations.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

130 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on the report of the implementation steering group on review of Garda Síochána structures; and if it is intended to implement proposals for the full closure of some stations and the closure of others during night hours. [27230/04]

Joe Costello

Question:

225 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on the report of the implementation steering group on review of Garda Síochána structures; and if it is intended to implement proposals for the full closure of some stations and the closure of others during night hours. [27380/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 130 and 225 together.

I have no plans to reduce opening hours or close any Garda station. It is the case that the use of Garda stations was considered as part of the major review of the Garda organisation structures under the strategic management initiative programme of modernisation which looked in detail at a range of areas within the organisation. The Garda SMI implementation steering group's final report, which I have laid before the House and which is available on my Department's website, does not refer to the closure of any specific Garda station, but rather makes recommendations to assist policy making in relation to the management and use of all available resources, including Garda stations.

It is also the case, however, that the position has changed significantly since the consideration of these issues under the strategic management initiative, in that the Garda Síochána Bill 2004, which proposes the most fundamental modernisation of the Garda Síochána since the foundation of the State, provides that the Commissioner will have enhanced responsibilities in preparing proposals for organisational reform. It would be premature to anticipate at this stage what proposals, if any, might be developed by the Commissioner in this context.

Crime Reporting.

Dan Boyle

Question:

131 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his plans to deal with crime reporting by e-mail or text message. [27265/04]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that criminal offences are currently reported by telephone through the 999 call system or by telephone calls to Garda stations. In addition reports may be made in person to gardaí on duty inside or outside Garda stations. I am further informed that Garda authorities are satisfied that the arrangements currently in place are adequate and there are no immediate plans to develop systems along the lines set out in the question.

Public Order Offences.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

132 Ms Lynch asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he is planning the introduction of on-the-spot fines for public order offences; the way in which the proposed system will work; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27245/04]

My proposals for the introduction of a fixed charge procedure in relation to certain public order offences are contained in the Criminal Justice Bill 2004 which I published in July this year and is awaiting Second Stage in the Dáil at present. Section 29 of that Bill amends the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act 1994 to provide for a fixed penalty procedure in relation to certain public order offences under that Act. The procedure will apply to an offence under section 4, intoxication in public place, and section 5, disorderly conduct in public place. It is intended that the fixed penalty procedure will be an alternative to criminal proceedings being taken in the first instance.

In general, the section provides that a member of the Garda Síochána who has reasonable grounds for believing that a person who is not less than 18 years old is committing, or has committed, an offence under sections 4 or 5 of the 1994 Act may serve on the person personally or by post a fixed charge notice. In default of payment the person will be prosecuted for the offence.

The fixed charge notice will be in a prescribed form and will state specified factors including, when and where the fixed charge offence was alleged to have been committed; that a prosecution for it will not be instituted if within 28 days the person pays the prescribed amount, or within a further 28 days an amount which is 50% greater than the prescribed amount; and how the payment may be made. The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform will also be empowered by section 29 to make regulations prescribing relevant matters which will include the amounts to be set for the fixed charges.

Garda Pensions.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

133 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the pension entitlement of a member of the Garda (details supplied) in regard to the Government announcement of 6 October 2004 that the person concerned was being dismissed from the force; if the pension will be awarded to this person; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27242/04]

At its meeting on Tuesday, 5 October 2004 the Government exercised its power under section 10(4) of the Police Forces Amalgamation Act 1925 to dismiss a superintendent from the Garda Síochána. It did so in the light of the findings of the Morris tribunal, and having taken fully into account the representations and submissions made by person dismissed.

At the time of dismissal, the person concerned had accrued a pension entitlement based on just over 27 years' pensionable service in the Garda Síochána. This is not a full pension, which requires 30 years pensionable service. The accrued pension would not be payable until 2012 when the person will have reached 60 years of age. I understand that the dismissed person has applied for an immediate, but actuarially reduced, pension under the recently announced retirement scheme which will become operational when detailed guidelines have been prepared by the Department of Finance. The application from the person concerned has been transmitted to the Department of Finance.

Under the Garda Síochána Pensions Order 1925, and agreements made within the Garda Conciliation Council, deductions can be made from pensions only in cases involving financial loss to the Exchequer. This is meant to cover cases involving fraud and the like.

I would also like to mention that the Morris tribunal stated at paragraph 13.20 of its report that:

. . . the Tribunal notes that early dismissal can lead to the loss of pension. In the majority of instances, this is an unnecessary and unfair consequence. A member of An Garda Síochána may work for years, legitimately building up credits on his or her pension fund, and then require to be dismissed by reason of a single, or a series, of evil actions. It is conceivable that a person who has been commended, even for bravery, might fall to the degree that requires their dismissal. It does not seem logical that the consequence of a short period of bad service should result in the removal of the benefits legitimately gained, perhaps through years of hard work and application.

In the circumstances, there are no proposals to seek to deny the person concerned his accrued pension.

Garda Security Escorts.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

134 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he has finalised the total estimated cost to his Department of security arrangements put in place as a result of the visit of President George Bush to this country; the number of Garda personnel and hours involved in the operation; his views on whether the level of security as necessary, especially having regard to the disruption and inconvenience caused to persons living in the Shannon area; the number of arrests made arising from the security operation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27229/04]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that it is not yet possible to provide a total estimated cost of the Garda policing arrangements relating to the US presidential visit in June 2004, as a small number of claims and suppliers' invoices remain outstanding.

However, I am also informed that, as at 29 October 2004, the cost of the Garda policing arrangements relating to the visit of the US President was €7.549 million. I am further informed that approximately 3,800 members of the Garda Síochána were deployed in relation to the visit, during the course of which seven arrests were made. Estimates of Garda man hours are not yet available.

The level of security provided was deemed necessary given the profile of the VIPs who attended the June summit and the worldwide terrorist threat, and the Garda authorities consider that the consequent disruption and inconvenience was minimal.

Moreover, it is worth pointing out that the visit by President Bush was important both nationally and in the context of Ireland's very successful Presidency of the European Union. Accordingly, any costs involved should be considered to be part of the normal expenditure required for Ireland to maintain its national and international obligations vis-à-vis both the United States and the European Union.

National Drugs Strategy.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

135 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to recent figures produced by the Health Research Board showing that drug use outside of Dublin almost trebled between 1998 and 2002; the steps that are being taken to prevent the supply and distribution of illegal drugs in these areas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27273/04]

As the Deputy will be aware, the Government's overall policy to tackle the drug problem is set out in the National Drugs Strategy 2001-2008: Building on Experience, and responsibility for co-ordinating the implementation of the strategy lies with my colleague, the Minister of State at the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, Deputy Noel Ahern.

The report compiled by the Health Research Board to which the Deputy refers, trends in treated problem opiate use in the seven health board areas outside the Eastern Regional Health Authority, 1998 to 2002, was launched in early September 2004. I understand the report shows that the numbers in treatment for heroin use outside the Eastern Regional Health Authority has increased in that four-year period rather than determines the extent of any increase in drug prevalence in these areas during this period, as is suggested by the Deputy. In terms of such prevalence, I am informed that the best estimates available at present on opiate use were released by the National Advisory Committee on Drugs last year. Its research found that there were approximately 2,200 heroin users outside Dublin, although a number of these would be in Wicklow and Kildare which are part of the ERHA region.

While the fact that a significant number of opiate users continues to exist among our communities remains an issue of major concern which leaves us with no room for complacency on this matter, the increasing numbers of such users who are coming forward and presenting for treatment, as it becomes more readily available and which is highlighted by the findings of the Health Research Board's report, is in line with one of the key commitments in the National Drugs Strategy 2001-2008, which is to increase the number of treatment places available for drug misusers.

Regarding the specific trends in opiate misuse in the seven health board areas, in particular, in counties Carlow, Cavan, Louth, Meath and Westmeath, the Minister of State, Deputy Noel Ahern, has already recently informed the House that he will be continuing to monitor this situation closely. The programme for Government calls for monitoring the use of heroin, in particular outside of Dublin, and in this regard, the NACD is currently in the process of setting up an early warning system to address this issue.

In addition, the regional drugs task forces, which were set up to develop appropriate policies to deal with drug misuse in the regions, are currently mapping out the patterns of drug misuse in their areas as well as the range and level of existing services with a view to better co-ordination and addressing gaps in the overall provision. Where opiate use is a problem in particular areas, it is expected that this will be reflected in their action plans coming forward in 2005.

In relation to drug supply reduction, I am informed by the Garda authorities that due to the nature of illegal drug distribution within the State, the Garda tackles the problem on a number of different levels. At local level, divisional and district drug units have been established with the remit of targeting individuals engaged in the sale and distribution of drugs to local communities and responsibility for the co-ordination of drugs policy has been assigned to an individual in each Garda district. Furthermore, as a follow up to requests from local communities, the Criminal Assets Bureau focuses on local drug dealers who profit from criminal activity. At a national level, units such as the National Drugs Unit, the Criminal Assets Bureau and the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation all have specific roles in reducing drug supply and the material benefits which accrue therefrom.

In addition, other units such as the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation, the Garda National Immigration Bureau and the national criminal intelligence unit all indirectly support drug law enforcement. All the national support units are now under the dedicated direction of an assistant commissioner.

Internationally, the Garda Síochána has liaison officers based in London, Paris, The Hague and Madrid as well as at Europol and Interpol headquarters to facilitate international co-operation, especially in the area of drug-related crime.

The Garda Síochána remains committed to the objectives of the National Drugs Strategy and the force will continue to rigorously enforce the law in relation to the supply and distribution of illegal drugs in all areas of the State.

Inquiries into Garda Activities.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

136 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the steps he took to deal with allegations of Garda corruption and brutality in Donegal upon assuming ministerial office and subsequently; the dates on which he took steps; if he now has knowledge of other alleged instances of Garda corruption and brutality either in Donegal or elsewhere in the State, and the action he has taken or intends to take on foot of such information. [27159/04]

The tribunal of inquiry into complaints concerning some gardaí of the Donegal division, chaired by Mr. Justice Frederick Morris, was established by my predecessor in April 2002. Since I have come into office, my Department has worked to assist the tribunal in every way possible. The tribunal has already demonstrated its effectiveness in its first report, and the Government has shown its determination to take action on its findings.

As regards dealing with complaints of Garda wrongdoing more generally, whether in Donegal or elsewhere, the Garda Síochána Bill 2004 provides for the establishment of an independent Garda Síochána ombudsman commission, in place of the Garda Síochána complaints board. The ombudsman commission will ensure there is openness and transparency in dealing with complaints. Its primary function will be to investigate complaints by members of the public against members of the Garda Síochána and in that respect it will have comprehensive powers of investigation and ultimate control and oversight of all complaints processed in accordance with the provisions of the Bill. It will also have the power to investigate of its own motion any case involving the Garda Síochána where death or serious harm to a person has occurred, where it is desirable in the public interest, or where any matter appears to it to indicate that a member of the Garda Síochána may have committed an offence, or behaved in a manner that would justify disciplinary proceedings.

In addition, among the official amendments to the Bill, which I intend to introduce during the Committee Stage debate in Seanad Éireann, will be an amendment to provide for the establishment of an independent Garda Síochána inspectorate. This proposal is being brought forward in the light of the recently published report of the Morris tribunal and the questions arising from it relating to the need for measures to improve democratic accountability for the actions of the Garda Síochána.

While the relevant legislative provisions are being drafted, I can say that the new body will comprise three people, one of whom will be known as the chief inspector. The key objectives of the inspectorate will be to ensure and promote efficiency and effectiveness in the Garda Síochána. In that context, it will look at thematic policy issues relating to standards, practice and performance benchmarked against comparable international policing experiences. The new body will also provide advice and support to the Minister so that he or she will have independent objective information with regard to the work, operation and administration of the Garda Síochána.

Money Laundering.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

137 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of criminal gangs believed to have invested in various properties throughout the country in the past five years; if the legislation is adequate to combat such money laundering activities; the action taken on discovery; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27213/04]

The Deputy will appreciate that it would not be possible for the Garda Síochána to quantify, at any particular time, the number of criminal gangs believed to have invested in properties or the number of properties in the hands of criminal gangs.

However, I am satisfied that the criminal law in this jurisdiction does not make it easy for criminals to launder money or invest the proceeds of crime in the legitimate property market. On the contrary, a broad range of strong legislation is available to the Garda Síochána to enable serious and organised crime to be confronted effectively. In this regard, I would refer the Deputy to my detailed reply to Questions Nos. 8 and 294 to 299, inclusive, tabled for answer on 8 July last.

The Criminal Assets Bureau continues to exercise its statutory remit to target assets, including property, derived from organised crime. The powers of the Criminal Assets Bureau will be further bolstered with additional measures in the Proceeds of Crime (Amendment) Bill, now before the Seanad. The Bill will make certain technical amendments to the Proceeds of Crime Act 1996 and, in particular, will remove any doubt there may be over when a person may be said to be in possession or control of property for the purposes of that Act.

Implementation of EU money laundering directives has severely limited the scope of criminal gangs to launder proceeds of crime and a third such directive is being negotiated. Following its agreement, my Department, in consultation with the Office of the Attorney General, will examine what, if any, national legislation is required to give it effect. Ireland's law and procedures on money laundering were the subject of a favourable review in 1998 by the financial action task force under that body's procedure for the mutual evaluation of its members. The next mutual evaluation of Ireland is due in 2005.

Question No. 138 answered with QuestionNo. 80.
Question No. 139 answered with QuestionNo. 119.

Road Safety.

Seán Crowe

Question:

140 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he has proposals for reviewing road safety measures, particularly in view of the admission that speed checks were being implemented in low risk areas rather than in more accident prone stretches of road. [27212/04]

Road traffic legislation, including road safety legislation, is a matter for my colleague, the Minister for Transport. The Garda Síochána is responsible for the enforcement of that legislation.

The Garda national traffic bureau, headed by a chief superintendent and based at Garda headquarters, was established in 1998 to give greater focus and direction to Garda road safety initiatives. There are now traffic units in every Garda division with special responsibility for traffic law enforcement and a new unit, managed by the chief superintendent in Dublin Castle, is currently operating on a pilot basis in the Dublin metropolitan region. All Garda personnel have, inter alia, a responsibility to deal with road traffic matters as they arise.

I recently announced Government approval for an extra 2,000 gardaí and I have asked the Garda Commissioner to examine the question of resource allocation. Among the issues being examined by the Garda Commissioner is the number of gardaí deployed in traffic units. In addition, the Commissioner is considering structural changes in the area of Garda activity with the aim of increasing the effective use of personnel and equipment resources available. I will be announcing changes in this area in the near future.

I understand from the Garda authorities that collision-prone locations are identified on an ongoing basis, with the assistance of the National Roads Authority and local authorities. This data serves as input into the enforcement activities of the Garda Síochána. Gardaí have a high visibility on motorways because high ramp areas for their use have been engineered. In fact, figures show that only 2% of speeding detections are in those areas. I am informed by the Garda authorities that 1% of fatal accidents occur on motorways.

Question No. 141 answered with QuestionNo. 126.

Departmental Staff.

Billy Timmins

Question:

142 Mr. Timmins asked the Taoiseach the number of personnel who work in his private office; the rank and grades of these persons; the job descriptions of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27461/04]

The number of staff who work in my private office and their grades are set out in the following table. The primary role of the staff in my private office is to provide the necessary support services to me in respect of my Dáil and Government responsibilities as well as maintaining my diary, processing correspondence and administering the general clerical services associated with a private office.

Taoiseach's Private Office.

Grade and job description

Number

Private Secretary — Assistant Principal

1

Assistant Private Secretaries — Higher Executive Officers

2

Assistant Principal

1

Staff Officer

2

Personal Assistant

1

Clerical Officer

5

Usher

1

Total

13

In addition to the staff of my private office, I have a number of advisory staff whose role is to keep me informed on a wide range of issues including business, financial, economic, political, administrative and media matters.

Medical Aids and Appliances.

Billy Timmins

Question:

143 Mr. Timmins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will bring forward a measure requiring State buildings constructed or renovated at a cost of €500,000 or more to be equipped with automated external defibrillators; if she will have discussions with the relevant Ministers to ensure that a certain number of personnel who work in the buildings are trained in the equipment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27476/04]

The Department of Health and Children is aware of the potential to reduce the number of sudden cardiac deaths in the community. The provision of community-based cardiac defibrillators, including their placement and the ongoing training of relevant personnel and community volunteers, is to be examined by the recently established task force on sudden cardiac death. The task force will consult with stakeholders as part of its remit. The construction and renovation of State buildings is a matter for the Office of Public Works.

Departmental Properties.

Paul McGrath

Question:

144 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the plans that are in place to utilise a building (details supplied) in County Carlow; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27363/04]

The South Eastern Health Board has set up a group to look into the potential uses of the land and buildings at Myshall. My Department is awaiting a copy of that group's report.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

145 Mr. Gogarty asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the amount of money that has been raised or is projected to be raised from the sale of lands held by the South Western Area Health Board on the lands surrounding St Loman’s Hospital; the places funds are going to be spent; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27387/04]

In April of this year, the Eastern Regional Health Authority secured by way of tender €31.6 million, gross, for 22.29 acres out of a total of 30.79 acres at St. Loman's Hospital.

The funds raised by the sale of part of the land at St. Loman's Hospital will be applied to the development of health services. This includes the re-provision of mental health services currently operating from St. Loman's campus in such a manner that it will extend the delivery of mental health services into the community via new units at other strategic locations, as well as to provide purpose-built accommodation within the 8.5 acres of land to be retained at St. Loman's. A project team has been established to progress the development of the mental health facilities and a decision regarding the remainder of the proceeds will be taken when the project team has established greater cost certainty and an indicative programme for the proposed works.

Hospital Services.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

146 Mr. Gogarty asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will review the current policy as outlined by her predecessor in relation to the chest hospital and respiratory services at Peamount; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27388/04]

Services at Peamount Hospital are provided under an arrangement with the Eastern Regional Health Authority. The authority has established a working group on tuberculosis services in the eastern region and respiratory services in the South Western Area Health Board to examine the options for the future management of TB, both acute and non-acute, in the eastern region. This group will also address and identify other respiratory services that might be appropriately delivered in Peamount Hospital, taking into account best practice. The group consists of a respiratory physician, a specialist nurse and director of nursing from Peamount, a management representative from Peamount, two local GP representatives, a public health specialist and an acute hospital accident and emergency representative. The group has clear terms of reference which will address the key issues regarding future service delivery. It is envisaged that the group will report by the end of the year.

Existing day and residential services for older people and people with intellectual and physical disabilities continue to be provided. I am advised that the direction which Peamount is now taking will see it developing its overall role and its support for acute hospitals, general practitioners and the community of the surrounding area and is in line with its duty of care to patients and its commitment to the provision of the highest quality of care to existing and future patients.

Medical Cards.

Michael Ring

Question:

147 Mr. Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when she will review the guidelines for medical cards. [27389/04]

Income guidelines are drawn up each year by the health board or authority chief executive officers to assist in the determination of a person's eligibility for a medical card and these are revised annually in line with the consumer price index, CPI. The last such increase was notified in January 2004 and the next increase is due by the end of this year. Entitlement to health services is primarily based on residency and means.

Under the Health Act 1970, determination of eligibility for medical cards is the responsibility of the chief executive officer of the appropriate health board. Other than for persons aged 70 years and over who are automatically entitled to a medical card, medical cards are issued to persons who, in the opinion of the chief executive officer, are unable to provide general practitioner medical and surgical services for themselves and-or their dependants without undue hardship. The chief executive officers of the boards or authority are reviewing numerous issues with regard to the administration of the medical card scheme and I understand that their findings and recommendations will be available in the near future.

The Government is fully committed to the extension of medical card coverage as set out in the health strategy. This will focus on people on low incomes. The timing of the introduction of the extension will be decided having regard to the prevailing budgetary position.

For those who do not qualify for a medical card, there are a number of schemes that provide assistance towards the cost of medication. Under the long-term illness scheme, persons suffering from a number of conditions can obtain the drugs and medicines required for the treatment of those conditions free of charges. Under the drug payments scheme, a person and his or her dependants will not have to pay more than €78 in any calendar month for approved prescribed drugs and medicines.

Health board chief executive officers have discretion with regard to the issuing of medical cards and a range of income sources are excluded by the boards when assessing medical card eligibility. Despite a person having an income that exceeds the guidelines, a medical card may still be awarded if the chief executive officer considers that his or her medical needs or other circumstances would justify this. It is open to all persons to apply to the chief executive officer of the appropriate health board for health services if they are unable to provide these services for themselves or their dependants without hardship.

The health strategy includes an entire series of initiatives to clarify and expand the existing arrangements for eligibility for health services, including recommendations arising from the review of the medical card scheme carried out by the health board CEOs under the PPF. These include streamlining applications and improving the standardisation of the medical card applications process to ensure better fairness and transparency, providing clearer information to people about how and where to apply for medical cards, and proactively seeking out those who should have medical cards to ensure they have access to the services that are available. In addition, my Department is committed to the preparation of new legislation to update and codify the entire legal framework for eligibility and entitlements in regard to health services.

Nursing Home Subventions.

Michael Ring

Question:

148 Mr. Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the subvention that was paid by the Western Health Board in the last year, detailing the amounts paid to each nursing home in County Mayo, both public and private, the names and addresses of the nursing homes; and the number of subvention applications that are still pending. [27390/04]

I draw the Deputy's attention to the reply given to his question by my colleague, the former Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children, Deputy Callelly, on 29 September. I have been informed by the Western Health Board that the situation remains the same.

Communications Masts.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

149 Mr. Sargent asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her views on whether a first floor landing of a nursing home is a suitable place for a mobile phone base station. [27458/04]

My Department has referred the matter to the South Eastern Health Board to investigate whether the nursing home in question is operating within the Nursing Home Regulations 1993. The board has been requested to reply direct to the Deputy. I have also asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment to consider whether it may be appropriate to ask for the views of the Health and Safety Authority with regard to this matter.

Departmental Staff.

Billy Timmins

Question:

150 Mr. Timmins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of personnel who work in her private office; the rank and grades of these persons; the job descriptions of same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27462/04]

The staffing complement of my private office consists of eight staff. A higher executive officer functions as my private secretary and is responsible for the co-ordination of my parliamentary, departmental, social and constituency responsibilities. An executive officer and a clerical officer plan and organise my diary and ensure that all necessary speeches and briefing material are requested and received on time. Another executive officer allocates written representations, which are received from both members of the Oireachtas and the public, to the relevant sections of the Department for the preparation of replies. A staff officer clears and issues final replies to members of the Oireachtas and the public and co-ordinates notes for the Order of Business. There are two other full-time clerical officers employed in my private office. One co-ordinates Government papers, memoranda and decisions and ensures they are distributed to the relevant section of the Department for appropriate attention. The other deals with both internal and external telephone queries and assists in the co-ordination of all written correspondence. Two 0.5 whole time equivalent clerical officers co-ordinate requests for speech material from other Departments.

As the Deputy is aware, all staffing levels are governed by the Department of Finance guidelines.

Hospital Services.

Michael Ring

Question:

151 Mr. Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her plans to provide funding to increase capacity at the kidney dialysis unit in Mayo General Hospital; if she will sanction the necessary funds in order that staffing levels can be increased to operate this facility for longer hours. [27482/04]

The question of additional funding for renal dialysis services will be considered in the context of the Estimates process for 2005.

Michael Ring

Question:

152 Mr. Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will be called for a hip operation. [27483/04]

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 with regard to this case and to reply directly to the Deputy.

Health Board Services.

Pat Breen

Question:

153 Mr. P. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the position regarding an application by the Clare branch of the Alzheimer Society of Ireland regarding the proposed dementia day care centre at a nursing house (details supplied) in County Clare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27484/04]

As the Deputy is aware, the provision of health services in the Clare area is a matter for the Mid-Western Health Board, in the first instance. The board has submitted proposals to my Department regarding the development of dementia day care services at the location referred to by the Deputy. These proposals are being examined by my officials and a reply will be issued to the board in the near future.

Suicide Incidence.

Dan Neville

Question:

154 Mr. Neville asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of persons who died by suicide in the first, second and third quarters of 2001, 2002, 2003 and 2004. [27485/04]

The quarterly figures requested by the Deputy for recorded deaths by suicide for the years 2001, 2002, 2003 and 2004 as published by the Central Statistics Office are outlined below:

Year

Jan-Mar

Apr-June

July-Sept

2001

70

104

98

2002

67

132

114

2003

71

111

116

2004

54

not yet available

not yet available

The figures for the second and third quarter of 2004 are not yet available.

Mental Health Services.

Dan Neville

Question:

155 Mr. Neville asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the report from the Expert Group on Mental Health Policy which was established in 2003 to prepare a new national policy framework for the mental health services. [27486/04]

The Expert Group on Mental Health Policy was established in August 2003 to prepare a new national policy framework for the mental health services, updating the 1984 policy document Planning for the Future. The group, which held its first meeting on 16 October 2003, has now completed an extensive public consultation process on the mental health services and is planning to publish the findings of this process shortly. The expert group is expected to complete its work in 2005.

Health Board Services.

Seán Crowe

Question:

156 Mr. Crowe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if funding is available for dialysis treatment for persons returning from England (details supplied). [27487/04]

The Eastern Regional Health Authority, ERHA, is charged with responsibility for commissioning health and personal social services on behalf of the population of the region, and also on behalf of those outside the region who are referred for specialist treatment. My Department has, therefore, asked the regional chief executive of the authority to investigate the issue raised and to reply to the Deputy directly.

Pat Breen

Question:

157 Mr. P. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason a person (details supplied) in County Clare will not qualify for a companion pass; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27488/04]

The provision of health services for people living in County Clare is a matter for the Mid-Western Health Board. My Department has asked the chief executive officer of the board to investigate the position in relation to this matter and to reply directly to the Deputy.

Hospital Services.

Dan Neville

Question:

158 Mr. Neville asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children, further to Question No. 250 of 6 October 2004, when hip replacement surgery will be completed for a person (details supplied) in County Limerick. [27516/04]

The provision of hospital services for people living in County Limerick is a matter for the Mid-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:

159 Mr. R. Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if an assessment has been carried out of the deficiencies in neurology services here; and the progress that has been made in addressing the various requirements and recommendations for neurology services since that assessment was undertaken. [27526/04]

In April 2003, Comhairle na nOspidéal published the report of a review of neurology and neurophysiology services. The report recommended significant enhancement of such services, including increases in consultant staffing. It also recognised that there are aspects of a number of other specialities and services, such as rehabilitation medicine, geriatric medicine and old age psychiatry, which are related to and overlap with neurology services. Comhairle na nOspidéal recommended that a national multi-disciplinary review of rehabilitation services be undertaken to further inform the policy framework for the development of neurology services.

Consistent with this recommendation, and in line with commitments in the national health strategy, a national action plan for rehabilitation services is currently being prepared by my Department. The action plan will set out a programme to meet existing shortfalls in services and to integrate specialised facilities with locally based follow-up services. The rehabilitation action plan, together with the Comhairle na nOspidéal report and the work undertaken by the Neurological Alliance of Ireland through its own publications, will offer a comprehensive policy framework for the future development of neurology and neurophysiology services in this country.

My Department will continue to work closely with the alliance and with the Irish Consultant Neurologists' Association on the future development of services. The implementation of the Comhairle na nOspidéal recommendations will be progressed having regard to the evolving policy framework in this area, competing funding priorities and the report of the national task force on medical staffing.

Health Board Services.

Richard Bruton

Question:

160 Mr. R. Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her target for the ratio of home help hours per 1000 of the population aged 65 years and over; the total home help hours provided in the years 2002, 2003 and projected for 2004; the way in which this compares to the target level of provision which she has set; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27527/04]

The aim of the home help service is to enable people to remain living at home who would otherwise need to be cared for in long-stay residential care. This service is an essential support to families and informal carers. The home help service by its nature is a flexible service which is designed to respond to clients' needs. The service is targeted at high and medium dependency clients in accordance with their assessed need. As a result, therefore, the level of service required in individual cases will fluctuate from time to time and in these circumstances it would be difficult to set targets for service delivery. To ensure effective prioritisation of the service, assessments are undertaken at local sector level and are carried out by the public health nursing services.

There are a number of reasons why demand for the home help service has been increasing. Approximately 6,000 additional people come into the over 65 years bracket every year and there has been a proportionately higher percentage increase in the more dependant over 80 category. These factors may necessitate some minor adjustments in the provision of the home help service to individual clients. Basically, this means that although a small percentage of clients may have had their hours reduced in the recent past, this has been counterbalanced by others receiving the service for the first time. I have been assured by all health boards that the provision of the home help service is organised on the basis that priority is given to the most vulnerable clients.

The following table illustrates the number of home help hours delivered by the health boards for 2002, 2003 and 2004.

Health Board

2002

2003

2004 Service Plan

ERHA (NAHB)

535,720

538,600

538,600

ERHA (SWAHB)

949,680

930,000

900,000

ERHA (ECAHB)

338,953

313,793

313,793

NEHB

868,390

732,183

815,000

NWHB

678,744

676,034

676,034

MHB

604,902

516,716

516,716

MWHB

695,221

696,935

696,935

SEHB

772,937

878,694

878,694

SHB

2,608,972

2,600,000

2,652,000

WHB

670,401

945,944

975,611

TOTAL

8,723,920

8,828,899

8,963,383

Flood Relief.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

161 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Finance if funding will be forthcoming to implement flood protection work on the River Dargle in Bray. [27450/04]

Arthur Morgan

Question:

176 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Finance if he will commission a new report into flood protection in Bray to be carried out by the OPW, in view of environmental changes which have occurred in the intervening period. [27460/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 161 and 176 together.

I understand that Bray Urban District Council commissioned a report in 1986 to examine the effects of flooding on the Dargle river in Bray. I am advised that the council has implemented the first phase of the two phases recommended in the report. In view of the severe flooding that occurred in the south and east last week, all available resources are committed to advancing flood relief projects currently in the OPW work programme. There are no proposals at present regarding the River Dargle in Bray.

Tax Code.

Paul McGrath

Question:

162 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the amount of income tax paid by a double income family with a gross pay of €56,000 and a single income family with a total gross pay of €56,000, assuming two equal incomes of €28,000 and salaries of €37,000 and €19,000 respectively; and the way in which this compares to the amount of income tax paid by a single income family with gross pay of €56,000, assuming a home caring spouse is claimable and a home caring spouse is not applicable. [27350/04]

The position is that the tax rates and bands for a married couple for 2004 are as follows: married couple, one spouse with income — first €37,000 @ 20% and balance @ 42%; married couple, both spouses with income — first €37,000 with increase of €19,000 maximum @ 20% and balance @ 42%. In the case of married couples with two incomes the standard rate band available to one spouse will not be greater than that available to a one income married couple, that is, €37,000. The second spouse may avail of the balance of the €56,000 band.

A home carer tax credit of €770 can be claimed by married persons who are jointly assessed to tax and where one spouse works at home to care for a dependent person, which includes a dependent child, provided certain conditions are satisfied. A married couple cannot claim both the home carer tax credit and the increased standard rate band. They can, however, claim whichever of the two is the most beneficial. The home carer tax credit is not due where the home caring spouse's income equals or exceeds €6,620.

The following eight examples show the income tax payable by single and double income families as requested by the Deputy on a gross income of €56,000 for the current tax year. The examples refer to earners in the PAYE and self-employed sectors and are based on the assumption in each case that the married couple is jointly assessed for tax purposes.

Example 1

In this example it is assumed that the individual is in the PAYE system.

One income family with no dependent children.

Gross Income

€56,000

Band Available

€37,000

Band Utilised

€37,000

Tax

€37,000 @ 20% =

€7,400

€19,000 @ 42% =

€7,980

Gross Tax Due

€15,380

Less Tax Credits

Personal Credit

(€3,040)

Employee Credit

(€1,040)

= Total Credits

(€4,080)

Net Tax Due

€11,300

Example 2

In this example it assumes that both spouses are working in the PAYE sector.

Two income family with no dependent children and income split between spouses €28,000: €28,000.

Joint Income

€56,000

Spouses Income

€28,000

€28,000

Band Available

€28,000

€28,000

Band Utilised

€28,000

€28,000

Tax liability

€5,600 (€28,000 @ 20%)

€5,600 (€28,000 @ 20%)

Gross Tax Due

€11,200

Less Tax Credits

(€1,520)

Personal Credit

(€1,520)

(€1,040)

Employee Credit

(€1,040)

(€2,560)

(€2,560)

= total credits

(€5,120)

Net Tax Due

€6,080

Example 3

In this example it is assumed that both spouses are in the PAYE system.

Two income family with no dependent children and income split between spouses €37,000: €19,000.

Joint Income

€56,000

Spouses Income

€37,000

€19,000

Band Available

€37,000

€19,000

Band Utilised

€37,000

€19,000

Tax Liability

€7,400 (€37,000 @ 20%)

€3,800 (€19,000 @ 20%)

Gross Tax Due

€11,200

Less Tax Credits

(€1,520)

Personal Credit

(€1,520)

(€1,040)

Employee Credit

(€1,040)

= Total Credits

(€5,120)

Net Tax Due

€6,080

Example 4

In this example it is assumed that the individual is in the PAYE system.

One income family with dependent children.

Gross Income

€56,000

Band Available

€37,000

Band Utilised

€37,000

Tax

€37,000 @ 20% =

€7,400

€19,000 @ 42% =

€7,980

Gross Tax Due

€15,380

Less Tax Credits

Personal Credit

(€3,040)

Employee Credit

(€1,040)

Home carers

(€770)

= Total Credits

(€4,850)

Net Tax Due

€10,530

Example 5

In this example it is assumed that the earner is self-employed.

One income family with no dependent children.

Gross Income

€56,000

Band Available

€37,000

Band Utilised

€37,000

Tax

€37,000 @ 20% =

€7,400

€19,000 @ 42% =

€7,980

Gross Tax Due

€15,380

Less Tax Credits

Personal Credit

(€3,040)

Net Tax Due

€12,340

Example 6

In this example it is assumed that each spouse is self employed.

Two income family with no dependent children and income split between spouses €28,000: €28,000.

Joint Income

€56,000

Spouses Income

€28,000

€28,000

Band Available

€28,000

€28,000

Band Utilised

€28,000

€28,000

Tax liability

€5,600 (€28,000 @ 20%)

€5,600 (€28,000 @ 20%)

Gross Tax Due

€11,200

Less Tax Credits

(€1,520)

Personal Credit

(€1,520)

= total credits

(€3,040)

Net Tax Due

€8,160

Example 7

In this example it is assumed that both spouses are self employed.

Two income family with no dependent children and income split between spouses €37,000: €19,000.

Joint Income

€56,000

Spouses Income

€37,000

€19,000

Band Available

€37,000

€19,000

Band Utilised

€37,000

€19,000

Tax Liability

€7,400 (€37,000 @ 20%)

€3,800 (€19,000 @ 20%)

Gross Tax Due

€11,200

Less Tax Credits

(€1,520)

Personal Credit

(€1,520)

= Total Credits

(€3,040)

Net Tax Due

€8,160

Example 8

In this example it is assumed that the earner is self employed.

One income family with dependent children.

Gross Income

€56,000

Band Available

€37,000

Band Utilised

€37,000

Tax

€37,000 @ 20% = €7,400

€19,000 @ 42% = €7,980

Gross Tax Due

€15,380

Less Tax Credits

Personal Credit

(€3,040)

Home carers

(€770)

= Total Credits

€3,810

Net Tax Due

€11,570

Paul McGrath

Question:

163 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the number of taxpayers in the PAYE sector and self employed who availed, per annum, of the home-caring spouse tax allowance since this tax relief was first introduced. [27351/04]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the numbers of PAYE taxpayers availing of the home carer's tax credit, formerly an allowance but converted to a tax credit in 2001, is as shown in the table.

PAYE taxpayers availing of the home carer's tax credit.

Tax Year

2000/01

2001

2002

2003

2004

Numbers availing

92,600

87,900

92,550

92,100

88,700

Figures for 2002, 2003 and 2004 are provisional and subject to revision, the figure for 2004 being especially tentative.

The latest available information in respect of self employed taxpayers availing of the home carer's tax credit is for the income tax year 2001. The corresponding information for later years will not be available until the appropriate data from self-assessment tax returns for tax years 2002, 2003 and 2004 are received. However, the projected number of potential self employed claimants is tentatively estimated for these later years in the table below. The information requested is as follows.

Self employed taxpayers availing of the home carer's tax credit.

Tax Year

2000/01

2001

2002

2003

2004

Numbers availing

18,650

20,150

18,500

19,200

19,800

The data given in the above tables contains revisions to some figures provided in answer to previous similar questions. The figures given previously for 2000-01, 2001 and 2002 were found after further examination to have been inflated by the inclusion of claims which were subsequently found not to have been validly based or were validly based initially and ceased to be so at a later stage. The current revised figures are based on adjustments made for these factors. The numbers above have been estimated to the nearest 50 as appropriate.

Paul McGrath

Question:

164 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the number of PAYE income earners in a number of income thresholds, or nearest equivalent, in each of the past five years. [27352/04]

Paul McGrath

Question:

165 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the number of self employed workers in a number of income thresholds, or nearest equivalent in each of the past five years. [27353/04]

I propose to answer Questions Nos. 164 and 165 together.

I assume that what the Deputy requires is the number of PAYE and self employed income earners on the income tax record for each of the past five years over a range of income categories. I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the information requested by the Deputy is provided in the following tables.

For the tax years 2000-01 and 2001, the numbers of income earners at all income levels in the tables are best estimates based on data from completed end of year returns but adjusted to take account of returns which had not been received when the data were compiled. For later years, the numbers of earners in the various ranges of income are based on the adjusted data for 2001 projected forward in accordance with macroeconomic data relating to actual and expected growth in wages and employment.

Distribution of PAYE income earners on tax records, including tax exempt individuals, by ranges of income

Range of Gross Income €

2000/01

2001

2002

2003

2004

€1 —€10,000

429,680

489,670

346,900

332,390

317,430

€10,001 —€20,000

406,470

493,650

384,440

367,670

351,600

€20,001 —€30,000

293,150

280,920

323,890

331,360

332,590

€30,001 —€40,000

168,440

147,740

206,760

218,290

226,310

€40,001 —€50,000

102,870

73,870

132,080

144,490

154,000

€50,001 —€60,000

55,150

38,240

79,530

90,280

98,990

€60,001 —€70,000

32,290

21,190

47,550

55,240

62,220

€70,001 —€80,000

21,320

11,650

29,560

34,630

39,070

€80,001 —€100,000

20,330

10,820

30,990

37,100

42,670

€100,001 —€125,000

10,070

5,710

14,430

17,830

21,170

€125,001 —€150,000

5,910

2,950

6,400

7,630

8,810

€150,001 —€200,000

4,590

2,590

5,560

6,510

7,490

Over €200,000

5,740

2,890

5,710

6,470

7,260

The numbers of income earners in each income range above have been estimated to the nearest ten as appropriate.

Distribution of self employed income earners on tax records, including tax exempt individuals, by ranges of income

Range of Gross Income €

2000/01

2001

2002

2003

2004

€1 —€10,000

45,520

56,730

37,920

34,460

32,820

€10,001 —€20,000

55,110

58,880

47,340

43,760

41,850

€20,001 —€30,000

38,480

34,080

37,560

37,470

37,660

€30,001 —€40,000

22,600

19,600

24,400

25,680

26,540

€40,001 —€50,000

12,150

11,030

16,460

17,810

18,610

€50,001 —€60,000

7,880

6,780

10,880

12,110

13,040

€60,001 —€70,000

4,880

4,350

7,260

8,290

8,950

€70,001 —€80,000

3,890

2,930

5,180

5,950

6,400

€80,001 —€100,000

4,850

3,750

6,410

7,380

8,260

€100,001 —€125,000

4,540

2,740

4,490

5,170

5,720

€125,001 —€150,000

2,000

1,720

2,760

3,190

3,430

€150,001 —€200,000

2,900

1,960

3,230

3,680

3,940

Over €200,000

4,210

3,540

6,090

7,040

7,750

The numbers of income earners in each income range above have been estimated to the nearest ten as appropriate.

Notes:

It should be noted that the income ranges shown in the above tables relate to gross income. Gross income is income which: is prior to deductions for capital allowances, interest paid, losses, allowable expenses, retirement annuities, etc.; is after deduction of superannuation contributions by employees but not by the self employed; includes income of individuals whose total income falls below the exemption limits; does not include certain other income which is not income for tax purposes or is exempt from tax, such as profits or gains from stallion fees, profits from commercial forestry and certain income from patent royalties, certain investment income arising from personal injuries, child benefit, maternity benefit and unemployment assistance paid by the Department of Social, Community and Family Affairs, certain earnings of writers, composers and artists, bonus or interest paid under instalment savings schemes operated by An Post, interest on certain Government securities, certain foreign pensions which are exempt from tax in the foreign paying country, portion of certain lump sums received by employees on cessation of their employment, statutory redundancy payments and certain military pensions; and does not include or not fully include other income sources such as interest income that does not need to be declared or is not recorded but from which tax has been deducted, unemployment benefit and disability benefit — non-recording of non-taxable amounts and of amounts taxed by restriction of repayments or indirectly through employers in the PAYE system, and the incomes of certain self employed persons, including some farmers, as well as some individuals in receipt of pensions, who are not processed annually on tax records because their incomes are below the income tax thresholds.

A married couple who has elected or has deemed to have elected for joint assessment is counted as one tax unit.

The figures for the years, 2001, 2002 and 2003 have been revised from those quoted in the reply to the Deputy's question of 27 November 2003, Dáil Debates, Vol. 575, No. 5, Cols. 1153-1154, to take account of more up to date base information and revised macro-economic projections of income levels and number at work which have become available. The figures for 2002 onwards are projected estimates and may be subject to further revision.

Paul McGrath

Question:

166 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the estimated cost of reducing the top rate of income tax by one point and two points. [27354/04]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that reducing the top rate of income tax by one percentage point and two percentage points would cost the Exchequer an estimated €190 million and €380 million respectively, in a full year, based on projected 2005 incomes. These figures are provisional and are subject to revision.

Paul McGrath

Question:

167 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the estimated cost of increasing the single person tax credit of €1,520 by €100, €200, €300 and €400 respectively. [27355/04]

The increases mentioned in the question are assumed to apply in similar measure to single and widowed persons and to include the normal consequential increases in the tax credit for lone parents. Double those amounts are assumed to apply to married couples. On this basis, I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the full year costs to the Exchequer, based on projected 2005 incomes, of the increases mentioned by the Deputy are estimated as follows:

Increase in Personal Tax Credit

Estimated Full Year Cost

Single / Married

€m

€100 /€200

190

€200 /€400

375

€300 /€600

560

€400 /€800

735

These figures are provisional, subject to revision and estimated to the nearest €5 million.

Paul McGrath

Question:

168 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the estimated cost of increasing the PAYE allowance of €1,040 by €100, €200, €300 and €400 respectively. [27356/04]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the full year costs to the Exchequer, based on projected 2005 incomes, of the increases mentioned by the Deputy are estimated as follows.

Increase in employee PAYE credit

Estimated full year cost €m

€100

125

€200

250

€300

370

€400

490

These figures are provisional, subject to revision and are estimated to the nearest €5 million.

Paul McGrath

Question:

169 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the estimated cost to the Exchequer in 2003 of tax relief on medical expenses. [27357/04]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the most recent relevant information available on medical expenses relates to the short income tax "year" 2001, in respect of which some 105,600 claims for tax relief were allowed at an estimated cost to the Exchequer of approximately €36 million. The last full year for which actual data are available is the tax year 2000/01. In that year, there were some 107,800 claims for tax relief allowed at an estimated cost to the Exchequer of approximately €41 million.

Paul McGrath

Question:

170 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the number of PAYE taxpayers who availed of the PRSI holiday in each of the past five years; and the estimated numbers who will have a similar break in PRSI payments in the 2004 tax year. [27359/04]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the number of individual employees with reckonable income in excess of the PRSI contribution ceiling for each income tax year from 1999/2000 to 2004, is as follows:

Year

Numbers

1999/2000

302,600

2000/2001

332,800

2001*

148,900

2002**

313,900

2003**

334,100

2004**

343,800

* It should be noted that as taxpayers were charged PAYE on their earnings in the period from 6 April to 31 December 2001, the numbers of individual employees with reckonable income in excess of the PRSI ceiling in that period may not be directly comparable with those of earlier or later years.

** Provisional and likely to be revised.

Tax Yield.

Paul McGrath

Question:

171 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the number of PAYE workers and self-employed who have paid benefit-in-kind on company cars in each of the past five years; and the yield to the Exchequer on this tax for each of those years. [27360/04]

The information requested by the Deputy in respect of benefits-in-kind arising from the provision of cars and vans in each of the five years up to 2003, the latest year for which the relevant figures are available, is set out below. Data in respect of the tax years 2002 and 2003 are provisional and likely to be revised. This information has been provided to me by the Revenue Commissioners.

Benefits-in-Kind: Tax Yield for Cars and Vans.

Year

Numbers

Estimated Tax Yield €m

1999/2000

42,700

77.1

2000/2001

45,000

79.2

2001 (short tax “year”)

43,500

56.2

2002*

45,500

80.2

2003*

43,300

80.9

* Provisional and likely to be revised

The above figures include income earners whose main source of income is assessable to tax under Schedule D, self-employed, but who also have income from an employment subject to PAYE in respect of which a benefit-in-kind arises. It should be noted that as PAYE taxpayers were charged to tax on their earnings in the period from 6 April to 31 December 2001 and self-employed taxpayers were assessed to tax for the short "year" on 74% of the profits earned in a 12 month accounting period, the yield figures will not be directly comparable with those of earlier or later years.

Tax Collection.

Paul McGrath

Question:

172 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the ten most popular occupations or professions in respect of PAYE workers earning more than €200,000 per annum. [27361/04]

Paul McGrath

Question:

173 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the most popular occupations or professions in respect of self-employed persons earning more than €200,000 per annum. [27362/04]

It is proposed to take Questions Nos. 172 and 173 together.

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the latest relevant sector-based information available on employees taxed under the PAYE system and self-employed persons taxed under the self-assessment system is derived from income tax returns filed for the income tax "year" 2001. It is not possible at present to provide the information sought for a more recent year if the data are to be reasonably accurate.

It should be noted that as PAYE taxpayers were charged to tax on their earnings in the period from 6 April to 31 December 2001 and self-employed taxpayers were assessed to tax for the short "year" on 74% of the profits earned in a 12 month accounting period, the numbers of cases with gross income exceeding €200,000 per annum may not be directly comparable with those of earlier or later years. The sector identifier used on the tax records is based on the four digit "NACE code (Rev. 1)" which is an internationally recognised economic activity code system.

On this basis the information requested is as follows:

Gross income exceeding €200,000 by NACE Economic Activity Code, 2001.

Sector (economic activity code)

Numbers of income earners with gross income exceeding €200,000

Employees

Cases where no sector is identified (9991)

756

Letting of own property (70.20)

336

Medical practice activities (85.12)

136

Architectural and engineering activities and related technical consultancy (74.20)

50

Development and selling of real estate (70.11)

43

Farming (190)

41

Business and management consultancy activities (74.14)

40

Other business activities (74.87)

34

Accounting book-keeping and auditing activities; tax consultancy (74.12)

33

General construction of buildings and civil engineering works (45.21)

32

Self Employed

Legal activities (74.11)

794

Medical practice activities (85.12)

346

Cases where no sector identified (9991)

313

Accounting, book-keeping and auditing activities; tax consultancy (74.12)

280

Letting of own property (70.20)

170

Hospital activities (85.11)

144

Architectural and engineering activities and related technical consultancy (74.20)

118

Farming (190)

79

Dental practice activities (85.13)

70

Reproduction of computer media (22.33)

54

‘Employees' and ‘Self-Employed' are classified for this purpose according to their main source of income.

The NACE codes are not essential for the assessment and collection of taxes and duties and the correct allocation and maintenance of these codes is subject to the limit of available resources. The economic sector breakdown on Revenue records is based on details which were recorded using information supplied by income earners or their employers at some point in the past. Some of that information may have been incorrect or misinterpreted in the first instance, or may not have been subsequently updated as necessary. For these reasons some of the economic sector codes on tax records are likely to be out of date or inaccurate and the reliability of the figures for the sectors currently provided will be limited to that extent.

A married couple who has elected or who has been deemed to have elected for joint assessment is counted as one tax unit and their incomes are aggregated in the statistics.

Tax Code.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

174 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for Finance the requirements which exist in terms of stamp duty for a building being handed over to the community from a developer as part of a planning condition; if this finance is normally payable by the developer or the community management group; if the responsibility for the payment of said stamp duty is the responsibility of the developer; the measures which are in place to ensure speedy compliance; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27364/04]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that, under the stamp duty code, stamp duty arises on instruments which convey, transfer or lease property, for example, houses and land. Whether that is done on foot of a planning condition has no relevance. However, there is provision in the stamp duty code for an exemption from stamp duty where property is conveyed, transferred or leased for charitable purposes to a body of persons established solely for such purposes.

The amount of duty to be paid depends on the consideration paid for the property and on whether the property is residential or non-residential. A transfer by way of gift is chargeable as if it were a transfer for consideration, with the substitution of the market value of the property for the consideration. The person liable to pay the duty is normally the person to whom the property is conveyed, transferred, or leased.

The person or persons liable to pay stamp duty to the Revenue Commissioners must do so not later than 30 days after the date of execution of the instrument concerned. If that is not done, penalties can arise. If the Deputy requires any further clarification of the issues raised, he should contact the Revenue Commissioners in Dublin Castle.

Mary Upton

Question:

175 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Finance the reason persons (details supplied) in Dublin 12 are not considered a married couple for tax purposes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27366/04]

The Revenue Commissioners have confirmed that the persons mentioned by the Deputy are treated as a married couple for tax purposes. They are receiving tax credits under joint assessment and these credits have been reduced to collect tax due on one of the spouse's social welfare income. The taxpayers were not granted the correct tax credits due or standard-rate cut-off point for the current year. An amended certificate will issue shortly incorporating the increased credits and cut-off point. The credits have been increased from €2,660 to €3,790 and the cut-off point from €29,896 to €37,000. The certificate is effective from 1 January 2004. Tax over-deducted for the period 1 January 2004 to date will be repaid by the taxpayer's employer on receipt of the certificate.

PAYE balancing statements for the years 2001, 2002 and 2003 will issue shortly. A net overpayment of €188.62 has arisen and a cheque for this amount will also issue shortly.

Question No. 176 answered with QuestionNo. 161.

Departmental Staff.

Billy Timmins

Question:

177 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Finance the number of personnel who work in his private office; the rank and grades of these persons; the job descriptions of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27463/04]

The staffing of my private office is set out below:

Minister's Private Office.

Grade

Number

Administrative Officer

1

Executive Officer

2

Staff Officer

2

Clerical Officer

3

In addition to the above, there are four clerical officers who provide typing and administrative support services to my private office, the constituency office and to the Department of Finance press office. The job and function of the office is to provide administrative and clerical support to the Minister — respond to correspondence, arrange official engagements etc. — to service the requirements of the Oireachtas, to organise documentation for weekly Government meetings, and to respond to queries from public representatives and members of the public.

It should be noted that where officers are work-sharing, that is part-time working, the number is rounded up.

Debt Relief.

Jack Wall

Question:

178 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Finance his position in regard to correspondence (details supplied); the representations or contacts made by his Department to ensure the success of the proposal; the meetings he has had with the IMF or the World Bank in relation to the matter; the results of such meetings; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27478/04]

In July 2002 the Government issued its debt relief strategy Policy on Developing Country Debt, which was prepared jointly by my Department and Ireland Aid, now called Development Co-operation Ireland. This forms the basis of our policy on the total cancellation of the debt of the world's poorest countries. The Government has advocated this policy on debt relief in discussions, both at political and senior official level, with the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, IMF, Ministers from heavily indebted poor countries, HIPC, a number of our EU partners and in other fora.

While the Government advocates debt cancellation, it does so in the context of the availability of resources and the competing claims on the resources available to the international financial institutions. Total cancellation would have to be funded largely through additional donor contributions. To mobilise such necessary funds for total debt cancellation, a greater number of donors, particularly the larger economies, would have to increase their overseas development aid, ODA, more rapidly.

In the spring 2004 meetings of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, my predecessor acting as chairman of the EU Council of Economic and Finance Ministers, urged all creditors and donors, who had not yet done so, to provide their share of bilateral debt relief and multilateral financing to the HIPC initiative. My Department, in close co-ordination with the Department of Foreign Affairs, will continue to promote our views on debt relief in all relevant international fora.

Flood Relief.

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

179 Mr. N. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Finance the reason for the serious delay in implementing measures to prevent flooding of the lands adjoining the River Blackwater from Mallow to Fermoy in County Cork; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that a deputation met with the then Minister in November 2000 following severe flooding of the areas mentioned and that despite the passage of four years nothing has been done to date to prevent flooding in these areas; and if he will, as a matter of extreme urgency, put flood relief measures in place as promised many years ago. [27479/04]

The Office of Public Works commissioned consultants in 2002 to carry out feasibility studies to assess flood risk and to develop flood alleviation schemes in the towns of Mallow and Fermoy in County Cork. Engineering reports were completed in late 2003 for both areas. Following consideration of the completed reports, the consultants on each scheme were asked to investigate the possibility of phasing the proposed works. Phasing reports were completed on both schemes and public information days were held in spring 2004 in both towns, which outlined the proposed works and the phased methods of implementation.

The proposed scheme in Mallow includes the construction of new walls and embankments, new culverts, lowering of ground levels around Mallow Bridge, and some use of demountable structures. The scheme will have flood protection against a one in a hundred flood. Phase one of the scheme, involving the construction of new culverts, which will be funded by the Office of Public Works and executed by the local authority, is on public exhibition. Subject to a successful exhibition, it is expected to commence construction works in March 2005. The full scheme will go on formal public exhibition in spring 2005, as required under the Arterial Drainage Acts.

The proposed scheme in Fermoy involves the construction of permanent walls and embankments along with the use of extensive demountable structures. The scheme will have flood protection against a one-in-a-hundred year flood. Before the Fermoy scheme is built it is essential to have an effective flood warning system in operation and the Office of Public Works has commenced this development as part of phase one of the scheme. The formal public exhibition of the scheme, as required under the Arterial Drainage Acts, will take place early in 2005. The timetable for completing all phases of these schemes will depend on the availability of funds and prioritisation of the large number of schemes that are required in various locations.

Tax Collection.

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

180 Mr. N. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Finance the reason the income tax of a person (details supplied) in County Cork has increased recently; and if they are in receipt of the maximum tax credits. [27493/04]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the employer of the person has confirmed that an increase in the person's occupational pension in week 32 resulted in an increase in the tax payable per week. It has also emerged that the figure included by the Revenue Commissioners for the person's old age contributory pension was too high and has now been amended. An amended tax credit certificate will issue shortly to his employer and any tax over-deducted since 1 January 2004 will be refunded to him by the employer.

Flood Relief.

Billy Timmins

Question:

181 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Finance when funding will be provided to Wicklow County Council and Arklow Town Council for flood relief works in Arklow; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27504/04]

The Office of Public Works provided funding of €126,000 to Arklow Town Council for the provision of a preliminary report on flooding in Arklow. The Office of Public Works is examining the report and will be meeting officials from Wicklow County Council and Arklow Town Council in the near future to progress the matter.

Decentralisation Programme.

Dan Neville

Question:

182 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding the transfer under the decentralisation initiative of a section of the Revenue Commissioners to Newcastle West, County Limerick. [27517/04]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that under the decentralisation programme 50 posts are to be decentralised to Newcastle West, County Limerick. Discussions are ongoing with the Office of Public Works regarding office accommodation. Staff applications totalling a number of 109 applied to transfer to Newcastle West up to 7 September 2004, of whom 81 are already employed by the Revenue Commissioners.

Tax Code.

Paul McGrath

Question:

183 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the amount of income tax and PRSI payable by a single PAYE worker in each of the past five years, if gross income in each year was €30,000, €40,000, €50,000, €60,000, €70,000, €80,000 and €100,000 respectively, assuming only personal and PRSI allowances are applicable. [27520/04]

The following table sets out the income tax* and PRSI** payable by a single PAYE worker in the period 2000-04.

Year

2000

2001

2002

2003

2004

Income (€)

30,000

Income tax

6,859

5,108

4,260

4,120

3,880

PRSI

1,053

936

936

936

936

40,000

Income tax

11,259

9,308

8,460

8,320

8,080

PRSI

1,263

1,196

1,291

1,336

1,336

50,000

Income tax

15,659

13,508

12,660

12,520

12,280

PRSI

1,314

1,242

1,341

1,402

1,463

60,000

Income tax

20,059

17,708

16,860

16,720

16,480

PRSI

1,343

1,273

1,377

1,438

1,498

70,000

Income tax

24,459

21,908

21,060

20,920

20,680

PRSI

1,371

1,298

1,402

1,463

1,524

80,000

Income tax

28,859

26,108

25,260

25,120

24,880

PRSI

1,388

1,313

1,418

1,480

1,544

100,000

Income tax

37,659

34,508

33,660

33,520

33,280

PRSI

1,411

1,338

1,443

1,509

1,575

(Rounded to the nearest Euro).

* Assumes that the single person receives the personal allowance or personal credit and the PAYE allowance or employee credit, as appropriate, in the years in question.

** Assumes the person is insured under Class A (full rate) PRSI and that the individual's salary does not fluctuate from week to week over the course of the given year. The calculations do not include the health levy contribution of 2% applicable to all income once the threshold of €18,512 per annum is reached.

Richard Bruton

Question:

184 Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for Finance the upper limit on presents purchased in the United States that can be brought into Ireland without attracting the imposition of duties; and if it is the combined value of items brought in by a traveller or the value of individual items that determines the tax status. [27524/04]

In accordance with EU legislation, EU and non-EU citizens travelling from states outside the European Union to Ireland are allowed to bring with them goods bought by themselves, either duty-free/tax-free or duty-paid/tax-paid, as follows: tobacco products — 200 cigarettes or 100 cigarillos or 50 cigars or 250 grammes of smoking tobacco; alcohol and alcoholic beverages — one litre of spirits such as whiskey, gin, vodka, or two litres of intermediate products not exceeding 22% volume such as port, sherry, sparkling wine etc. and two litres of still wine; and perfumes and toilet waters — 50 grammes of perfumes and 0.25 litres of toilet water.

Apart from these, travellers also are entitled to an allowance for other goods to a value not exceeding €175 per adult or €90 per person under the age of 15 years. Presents or gifts sent by a private individual in a state outside the European Union to a private individual in Ireland for personal or family use are also subject to EU legislation. The position is that such gifts, other than tobacco products, alcohol and alcoholic beverages and perfumes or toilet waters, up to a total value not exceeding €45, may be imported without payment of customs duties including value added tax. Where the aggregate value exceeds €45, duties are payable on the excess. There is no relief from value added tax or excise duty for tobacco products, alcohol and alcoholic beverages and perfumes or toilet waters. However, subject to the overall value limit of €45, relief from customs duties only is allowed on goods up to the following limits: tobacco products — 50 cigarettes or 25 cigarillos or 10 cigars or 50 grammes of smoking tobacco; alcohol and alcoholic beverages — one litre of spirits, such as whiskey, gin, vodka etc. or one litre of intermediate products not exceeding 22% volume, for example, port, sherry, sparkling wine etc. and two litres of still wine; and perfumes and toilet waters — 50 grammes of perfumes or 0.25 litres of toilet water.

To avail of these provisions, parcels sent by post should be clearly marked as gifts on the customs declaration form. Presents sent other than by post should be declared as gifts to customs at importation.

Departmental Staff.

Richard Bruton

Question:

185 Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for Finance the policy for recruitment within the public service as a whole and within the Office of Public Works; if he will be recruiting to any categories of employment within the Office of Public Works in order to deal with the large volume of work for the office which is now in prospect; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27525/04]

The Government decided to cap public service numbers at the number authorised in December 2002 and to reduce those numbers by 5,000 over the following three years. The timing and location of 4,300 of this reduction across sectors was decided by Government in July 2003. Civil Service numbers will be reduced by an aggregate of 1,000 with the Office of Public Works making a proportionate contribution. The ongoing operational needs of the Office of Public Works are kept under constant review and appropriate categories of staff are recruited, as needed, within the parameters of Government policy on budgets and on Civil Service numbers.

Departmental Funding.

Jack Wall

Question:

186 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources his views on correspondence (details supplied) for an application for further funding; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27477/04]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Question No. 34 on Thursday 21 October 2004. Regarding the correspondence in question, I understand that Screen Producers Ireland has written to Members enclosing a copy of the report it commissioned on TG4. Screen Producers Ireland is the association that represents independent producers. The letter from Screen Producers Ireland requests that the grant-in-aid to TG4 should be increased in 2005.

TG4 commissions the majority of its Irish language programming from the independent production sector. It is not surprising, therefore, that this sector is arguing for more public funds for TG4 as most of any additional funding would in turn be channelled to the independent production companies that Screen Producers Ireland represents. The funding of TG4 will be addressed, in the normal way, as part of the Estimates process.

Harbours and Piers.

Michael Ring

Question:

187 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the position regarding the proposed marinas in County Mayo; if he will provide the breakdown of all funding that has been provided to date; the stage each application is at; the reports which have been carried out on these projects; the status of the reports; and when he expects to see the work starting and completing on all of these marinas. [27409/04]

The vehicle for funding marine access infrastructure for tourism purposes was the marine tourism grant scheme, a sub-measure of the tourism measure under the national development plan. Funding for marina developments at Westport, Blacksod and Ballina was applied for by Mayo County Council and the respective harbour authorities under the scheme. Unfortunately, this scheme was suspended in December 2002 due to lack of available Exchequer funds and it is unlikely that it will be reactivated within the term of the national development plan.

In February 2002 the Department did, however, provide funding of €25,500 to Mayo County Council acting in partnership with Westport Harbour Commissioners towards a completed feasibility study for the development of a marina at Westport Harbour. While no funding is available specifically for marina developments, a payment of €94,276 was made to Westport Harbour Commissioners in December 2002 for expenditure incurred on Westport harbours integrated development plan. This payment was made on the strict condition that there could be no expectation of further funding for the development plan under the seaports measure of the national development plan. In 2004 the Department provided the River Moy Harbour Commissioners with €75,000 and the Westport Harbour Commissioners with €180,000, for works aimed at protecting the safety of the public and the fabric of the harbours.

Fishing Vessel Licences.

Cecilia Keaveney

Question:

188 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the position of a fishing vessel (details supplied) in County Donegal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27410/04]

Under the Fisheries (Amendment) Act 2003 the functions of sea-fishing boat licensing and registration were transferred from the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources to the licensing authority for sea-fishing boats which operates on an independent basis subject to criteria set out in that Act. All applications are therefore considered by the licensing authority. The registrar general of fishing boats is the head of the authority, a senior official in my Department.

The authority has informed me that it is processing to finality the licence application for the vessel in question. It has written to the previous owners of the boat requesting that they officially remove the vessel from the fishing boat register. This is required to enable registration of the vessel by the current owner. A non-operative licence to facilitate such registration will issue as soon as this matter has been finalised. Upon registration of the vessel in the current owner's name an operative sea-fishing boat licence will be issued by the licensing authority.

Cecilia Keaveney

Question:

189 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the position in regard to a fishing vessel (details supplied) in County Donegal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27411/04]

Under the Fisheries (Amendment) Act 2003 the functions of sea-fishing boat licensing and registration were transferred from the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources to the Licensing Authority for Sea-Fishing Boats which operates on an independent basis subject to criteria set out in that Act. All applications for sea-fishing boat licences are considered by the Licensing Authority for Sea-Fishing Boats. The head of the licensing authority is the registrar general of fishing boats, a senior official in my Department.

The licensing authority informs me that it has been unable to complete the processing of this and other licence applications for the aquaculture fleet segment in the absence of an assessment by appropriate expertise of aquaculture plans submitted with the applications. Approval of an aquaculture plan is currently a prerequisite for the issuing of a letter of licence offer for the aquaculture segment. The licensing authority considers that the methodology used for assessing licence applications for this fleet segment requires to be reviewed and, to this end, is pursuing the matter with relevant divisions within my Department. It is hoped that this issue will be shortly resolved so that the licensing authority can issue substantive replies to outstanding licence applications for the aquaculture segment.

Cecilia Keaveney

Question:

190 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the position in regard to a fishing vessel (details supplied) in County Donegal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27412/04]

Under the Fisheries (Amendment) Act 2003 the functions of sea-fishing boat licensing and registration were transferred from the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources to the Licensing Authority for Sea-Fishing Boats which operates on an independent basis subject to criteria set out in that Act. All applications for sea-fishing boat licences are considered by the Licensing Authority for Sea-Fishing Boats. The head of the licensing authority is the registrar general of fishing boats, a senior official in my Department. The licensing authority has informed me that the individual concerned was originally issued with a letter of licence offer for a sea-fishing boat licence in July 2002 but that the licence offer subsequently lapsed as all the conditions of the offer had not been complied with within the stipulated period of one year. The individual concerned applied again for a licence and has now been issued with another letter of licence offer. When all of the conditions of the current licence offer have been complied with by the applicant a non-operative licence to allow registration of the vessel will be issued. Upon registration of the vessel an operative sea-fishing boat licence will be issued by the licensing authority.

Cecilia Keaveney

Question:

191 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the position in regard to a fishing vessel (details supplied) in County Donegal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27413/04]

Under the Fisheries (Amendment) Act 2003 the functions of sea-fishing boat licensing and registration were transferred from the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources to the Licensing Authority for Sea-Fishing Boats which operates on an independent basis subject to criteria set out in that Act. All applications for sea-fishing boat licences are considered by the Licensing Authority for Sea-Fishing Boats. The head of the licensing authority is the registrar general of fishing boats, a senior official in my Department. The licensing authority has informed me that the individual concerned has now been issued with a letter of offer for a sea-fishing boat licence for the vessel concerned. When all of the conditions of the licence offer have been complied with by the applicant a non-operative licence to allow registration of the vessel will be issued. Upon registration of the vessel an operative sea-fishing boat licence will be issued by the licensing authority.

Cecilia Keaveney

Question:

192 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the position in relation to a fishing vessel (details supplied) in County Donegal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27414/04]

Under the Fisheries (Amendment) Act 2003 the functions of sea-fishing boat licensing and registration were transferred from the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources to the Licensing Authority for Sea-Fishing Boats which operates on an independent basis subject to criteria set out in that Act. All applications for sea-fishing boat licences are considered by the Licensing Authority for Sea-Fishing Boats. The head of the licensing authority is the registrar general of fishing boats, a senior official in my Department. The licensing authority has informed me that it has approved an application to have the vessel concerned entered on the fishing boat register. A certificate of registry and an operative sea-fishing boat licence have now been issued by the licensing authority in respect of the vessel.

Cecilia Keaveney

Question:

193 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the position in regard to a fishing vessel (details supplied) in County Donegal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27415/04]

Under the Fisheries (Amendment) Act 2003 the functions of sea-fishing boat licensing and registration were transferred from the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources to the Licensing Authority for Sea-Fishing Boats which operates on an independent basis subject to criteria set out in that Act. All applications for sea-fishing boat licences are considered by the Licensing Authority for Sea-Fishing Boats. The head of the licensing authority is the registrar general of fishing boats, a senior official in my Department. The licensing authority has informed me that it has approved an application to have the vessel concerned entered on the fishing boat register. A certificate of registry and an operative sea-fishing boat licence have now been issued by the licensing authority in respect of the vessel.

Departmental Staff.

Billy Timmins

Question:

194 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the number of personnel who work in his private office; the rank and grades of these persons; the job descriptions of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27464/04]

The Deputy will be aware that staffing of ministerial offices is governed by Department of Finance guidelines. The current staffing levels in my private office are within those guidelines.

The work in my private office is carried out by a total of eight staff consisting of a private secretary, three executive officers and four clerical officers. The overall role of the staff members is to deliver an effective and efficient level of service in support of my duties as Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources. In this regard, some of the primary functions performed by the staff are to manage my diary, log and track all correspondence to the office, manage my Dáil, Government and EU responsibilities and generally ensure that the office operates in an effective and efficient manner.

Marine Competency Qualifications.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

195 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the reason persons (details supplied) are not acceptable as boat engineers and motormen; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27503/04]

The surveying staff attached to the maritime safety directorate of the Department issues certificates of competency as engineer officers on mercantile marine vessels and fishing vessels, boat engineers. Ireland also authorises the issue of certificates as engine room watch ratings, motormen.

Ireland recognises all mercantile marine certificates of competency issued in accordance with the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers, STCW, by EU member states and by certain other Administrations with which it has reciprocal agreements. In accordance with the convention, Ireland issues certificates of equivalent competency to those seafarers, duly qualified, who wish to serve on Irish merchant ships.

In accordance with the regulations, certificates of equivalent competency are valid for service only on Irish merchant ships. The regulations relating to certificates of competency do not apply to fishing vessels.

In regard to fishing vessels, Ireland recognises fishing vessel certificates of competency issued by the Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland by virtue of a ministerial order.

Certificates of equivalent competency are not issued in respect of deck or engine room rating certificates. A company may, however, apply to the maritime safety directorate to be approved to issue such certificates to ratings serving on Irish ships.

Applications have been received in respect of the two named individuals for the issue of Irish class three fishing vessels certificates of competency. These applications are currently being considered by my Department for compliance with the exam directions for certificates of competency for fishing vessels in respect of initial training requirements.

Departmental Staff.

Billy Timmins

Question:

196 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the number of personnel who work in his private office; the rank and grades of these persons; the job descriptions of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27465/04]

The following tables set out the number of personnel in my private and constituency offices, their positions and job descriptions.

Private Office.

Grade/Position

Number

Job Description

Press Adviser (non-established)

1

Advice on media and public relations matters

Special Adviser (non-established)

1

Advice on policy issues

Personal Secretary (non-established)

1

Personal secretarial duties

First Secretary

1

Private Secretary

Higher Executive Officer

1

General private office duties

Executive Officer

1

General private office duties

Clerical Officer

4

General private office duties

Total

10

Constituency Office.

Grade/Position

Number

Job Description

Personal Assistant (non-established)

1

Administration of office in Constituency

Executive Officer

1

General constituency office duties

Clerical Officer

4

General constituency office duties

Total

6

International Agreements.

Billy Timmins

Question:

197 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if a discrepancy (details supplied) has been rectified; if so, the way in which this was done; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27480/04]

Billy Timmins

Question:

198 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the procedure which is necessary for a declaration to a European treaty to be changed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27481/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 197 and 198 together.

Declarations to EU treaties are statements of the political intent of those making the declaration. While they have political weight and can be taken into account in the interpretation of a treaty, they are not in themselves legally binding. There is, therefore, no formal procedure for their amendment, but they can be effectively replaced or altered by subsequent developments.

As regards the question of the qualified majority voting threshold in a Union of 27 members, following the accession of Bulgaria and Romania, the situation remains as set out in my predecessor's letter of September 2002 to the Deputy.

The discrepancy between the figures given in two declarations to the Treaty of Nice was effectively resolved before signature of that treaty in February 2001. The operative figure for the period between the accession of Bulgaria and Romania, which is likely to take place in 2007, and the planned entry into effect on 1 November 2009 of the new voting system provided for in the European Constitution, is to be 255 votes out of a total of 345. This will be legally provided for in the Treaty of Accession of Bulgaria and Romania, which will be prepared for signature following the successful conclusion of negotiations with them.

Grant Applications.

Enda Kenny

Question:

199 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the conditions which apply to the provision of grants towards public leisure centres; the number and location of applications being processed; the average length of time it takes to process an application; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27408/04]

The local authority swimming pool programme administered by my Department provides grant aid towards either the capital costs of new pools or the refurbishment of existing pools. The closing date for receipt of applications from local authorities under the current programme was 31 July 2000.

Overall, there are 55 projects in the programme. Of these, 14 swimming pool projects have been opened or have completed construction work. These are in Arklow, Courtown in Gorey, Dundalk, Ennis, Enniscorthy, Monaghan, Navan, Wicklow, Roscommon, the Aquadome in Tralee, Ballinasloe, Finglas in Dublin, Grove Island in Limerick and the Regional Sports and Leisure Centre in Tralee. Eight projects are at construction phase in Clonmel, Tuam, Churchfield in Cork City, Cobh, Youghal, Ballymun and Ballyfermot in Dublin, and Drogheda. In addition, 33 other applications are at various stages in the process, five are at tender stage, 13 at contract document stage and 15 at preliminary report stage. This includes those waiting on feasibility report approval. These 33 applications are for pool projects in Letterkenny, Jobstown and Clondalkin in South County Dublin, Monaghan Town, Killarney, Ballybunion, Naas, Athy, Portarlington, Portlaoise, Dunmanway, Askeaton, Thurles, Roscrea, Longford, Glenalbyn and Dundrum in Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown, Skerries in Fingal, Tullamore, Edenderry, Clara, Birr, Claremorris, Castlebar, New Ross, Bray, Greystones, Kilkenny City, Ballaghadereen, Ballybofey, Buncrana, Loughrea and Ferrybank, in Wexford.

As there are many complex technical aspects involved in refurbishing, replacing or constructing a swimming pool on a greenfield site, the process from feasibility study to the completion of the project can take some years. A great amount of technical work by the local authorities is involved together with approval by my Department, supported by the Office of Public Works, at each stage of the development process. New pool proposals are expected to include attractive additional features such as saunas, steam room and toddler pools, thus providing better long-term value for money, including increasing potential for self-financing in operating costs, and greater benefit to local communities. The average cost of a standard pool facility, exclusive of gym or fitness facilities, has increased and the finalisation of the financial passage by local authorities, which are required to meet the balance of the cost of its project over my Department's grant of €3.8 million for a new pool, can contribute to some delay. There is also a recent and marked trend towards enhanced fitness and other sports facilities attached or adjacent to pools, with consequent implications for overall project costs.

The national lottery-funded sports capital programme, which is also administered by my Department, provides grant aid for the development of a sports and recreational sport facilities and is the primary means of developing the sporting infrastructure of the country. Applications under the sports capital programme are accepted from voluntary and community organisations, national governing bodies of sport, schools, colleges and local authorities. Over 10,500 applications have been received and 4,271 grants allocated under the programme since 1998. Projects grant-aided can include such facilities as natural and artificial playing surfaces, dressing room and showers, floodlighting, sports halls and sporting equipment. Applicants may also apply for funding for the so-called "dry" facilities which complement those available at swimming pools.

A key requirement of any project funded under the sport capital programme is that it provides for sporting activity. The loose definition of leisure centre is not used within my Department to categorise sports capital projects. Under the programme grants have been awarded to municipal or multi-sport projects, which refer to centres covering several different sporting activities usually administered and-or managed by local authorities or community organisations. Under the 2004 sports capital programme, a total of 1,304 applications were submitted from which 738 projects were provisionally allocated €61 million in funding. A total of 23 applications were in the category of municipal or multi-sport, of which 16 were provisionally allocated €8,210,000 in funding. These were as follows:

Athboy Social Needs & Recreational Co. Ltd

300,000

Birr Development Company Limited

300,000

City of Dublin YMCA

250,000

Dublin City Council — Irishtown Stadium

350,000

DCC — Le Fanu Park

1,000,000

DCC — O’Devaney Gardens Sports and Community Centre

700,000

DLRCC — Dundrum Family Recreation Centre

120,000

DLRCC — Monkstown Pool & Fitness Centre

400,000

Dundalk Town Council — Muirhevnamor Park

350,000

Duneske Leisure Limited, Cahir

300,000

Ennis Town Council — Lees Road Centre

700,000

Killarney Town Council — Sports & Leisure Centre

1,500,000

Scanlon Park, Kilkenny

90,000

Thurles Community Sports Campus Project

350,000

Trim Area Recreation and Social Needs Company

1,000,000

Waterford City Council — Regional Sports Centre

500,000

The sports capital programme is advertised annually and applications submitted are assessed and then a decision is made on whether they are successful within the cycle of that year's programme. Under the 2004 programme, for example, the closing date for receipt of applications was 16 January 2004. The 1,304 applications received were assessed in accordance with detailed criteria as published in the detailed guidelines, terms and conditions of the programme which were issued with the application forms for the programme. On 7 May and 10 August last, I announced provisional grant allocations under the programme and the successful applicants were informed of the various requirements which must be met before funding can be drawn down. I will make an announcement shortly about the timetable for submission of applications for grants under the 2005 sports capital programme.

Departmental Staff.

Billy Timmins

Question:

200 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the number of personnel who work in his private office; the rank and grades of these persons; the job descriptions of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27466/04]

There are seven members of staff working in my private office. The rank, grades and job descriptions for each of the officers are: one higher executive officer, private secretary; two executive officers, diary and correspondence duties; two clerical officers, general clerical duties; one special adviser, principal officer level; one personal assistant, higher executive officer. The staffing of my private office is in compliance with the Department of Finance guidelines regarding the staffing of ministerial offices.

Billy Timmins

Question:

201 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of personnel who work in his private office; the rank and grades of these persons; the job descriptions of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27467/04]

There are nine staff working in my private office in the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment. The staffing breakdown by grade and job descriptions is outlined in Table 1.

Table 1.

Grade breakdown

Job description

1 Higher Executive Officer

Private Secretary to the Minister and manager of the Minister’s Office.

2 Executive Officers

Managing the Minister’s travel arrangements, managing draft replies for Minister’s signature, processing of bills for payment and co-ordinating the Department’s Legislative Programme. Managing the Minister’s incoming representations and Parliamentary matters.

3 Clerical Officers

Managing the Minister’s diary. Issuing of correspondence in relation to Minister’s diary, co-ordinating briefing material for diary events and the issuing of post. Co-ordinating Government papers and draft Memoranda for Government, co-ordinating PQ responses and issuing of post.

1 Special Adviser 1 Policy Adviser 1 Press Adviser

Provision of advice and assistance to the Minister on his broad range of responsibilities as Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment.

There are 2.8 clerical officer typists who provide clerical support to the Minister's private and constituency offices and Minister's advisers as the need arises.

Family Support Services.

Paul McGrath

Question:

202 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the estimated costs to the Exchequer of increasing the threshold for family income supplement by €20, €30 and €40, respectively. [27358/04]

The estimated full-year costs of increasing the family income supplement weekly earnings thresholds are as follows:

Increase

Estimated cost

€20

€7.5 million

€30

€11.6 million

€40

€16.0 million

Farm Household Incomes.

Michael Ring

Question:

203 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if he will provide a full and detailed breakdown of a person (details supplied) in County Mayo who was assessed for farm assist. [27391/04]

The person concerned made a claim for farm assist from 10 February 2004. The deciding officer disallowed the claim on the grounds that the person's means exceed the statutory limit for receipt of farm assist. Means assessed at €413.00 weekly comprised €404 capital and the remainder from land.

The person concerned has appealed this decision and it is proposed to hold the oral hearing during week commencing 15 November 2004. The person concerned will be advised shortly of the arrangements for the proposed hearing. Under social welfare legislation decisions on claims must be made by deciding officers and appeals officers. These officers are statutorily appointed and I have no role in regard to making such decisions.

Social Welfare Appeals.

Finian McGrath

Question:

204 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the number of appeals made to the chief appeals office of the Department for Social and Family Affairs over the past four years; the number of original decisions upheld; and the number overturned. [27439/04]

The figures available are set out in the table.

Appeals Registered

Favourable Decisions

Appeals Disallowed

Appeals Withdrawn

2000

17,650

7,348

7,111

2,601

2001

15,961

7,493

6,779

2,253

2002

15,017

7,096

6,902

1,836

2003

15,224

7,034

6,612

2.403

Note: “Favourable Decisions” include revised decisions by deciding officers arising from the case made in the grounds of appeal, in addition to favourable determinations by appeals officers.

Departmental Staff.

Billy Timmins

Question:

205 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the number of personnel who work in his private office; the rank and grades of these persons; the job descriptions of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27468/04]

My private office includes one special adviser appointed on a contract basis for my term of office at principal officer level and one higher executive officer as private secretary who manages the work in my office. There are also 2.5 executive officer and 5.5 clerical officer positions. These staff are engaged in the administration of my office. I have also appointed, on a contract basis for my term of office, a press adviser at principal officer level.

Public Transport.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

206 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Transport if his Department has sought any expressions of interest from the private sector to fund the development of a metro from Dublin’s city centre to the airport through a public private partnership; if so, the number of such expressions that have been made; the extent to which such private sector proposals were pursued by his Department; if he will provide details of such expressions of interest; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27443/04]

My Department has not sought any expressions of interest in the metro. Statutory responsibility in that regard rests with the Railway Procurement Agency which in May 2002 launched a pre-qualification exercise, the purpose of which was to assess the experience and capacity of potential bidders for the metro project. The qualification system is open for three years. Of the 34 candidates who submitted requests for qualification, 18 have been qualified in all disciplines in which they sought qualification. These candidates are listed in the table:

Candidate (Members)

Tunnels

Civil and building works

Railway M& E system works

Supply of railway rolling stock

Rail operations

Infrastructure maintenance

Rolling stock maintenance

ACS / Pierse

Y

Y

Aer-Line (Bilfinger & Berger, Amec; Spie, Serco, Siemens)

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Alstom Transport SA

Y

Y

Y

Y

Ansaldobreda

Y

Y

Ansaldo Trasporti Sistemi Ferroviari / CSEE Transport JV

Y

Ascon, Dragados, Wayss & Freytag Ingenieurbau, ARUP JV

Y

Y

Bombardier Transportation UK Ltd.

Y

Y

Y

Bouygues TP / Vinchy CGP Joint Venture

Y

Y

Construcciones Y Auxiliar de ferrocarriles — CAF

Y

Y

Cathro Consortium (Fluor Ltd, Mowlem, Mitsui & Co. Ltd, Nishimatsu, Atkins)

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Consortium Erin Railways (FCC, Sacyr, Somague, Typsa)

Y

Y

HTM Personenvervoer NV

Y

Keolis

Y

Y

Y

Morgan Est / Beeton und monierbau joint venture

Y

Obayashi Corporation

Y

Y

RATP International

Y

Y

Y

R O’Rourke & Son in association with Laing Civil Engineering Ltd

Y

Strabag AG

Y

Y

In addition, 4 other candidates have qualified in some of the disciplines for which they sought qualification:

Candidate (Members)

Tunnels

Civil and building works

Railway M& E system works

Supply of railway rolling stock

Rail operations

Infrastructure maintenance

Rolling stock maintenance

Connex Transport (Ireland) Ltd

N

N

N

N

Y

Y

Y

Mitsubishi Corporation (UK) PLC

N

N

N

Y

N

N

N

MTR Corporation Ltd

N

N

N

N

Y

Y

Y

Washington Group International Inc.; Jarvis; Hoctief AG; J. Murphy & Sons

Y

Y

Y

N

N

Y

N

Three other candidates are being assessed.

Departmental Staff.

Billy Timmins

Question:

207 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Transport the number of personnel who work in his private office; the rank and grades of these persons; the job descriptions of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27469/04]

Ten staff work in my private office. The grades and job descriptions of these staff are set out in the following table. However, changes in my office are imminent and these will include a special adviser taking up appointment.

Number of Staff

Grade/Job Title

Job Description

1

Press Officer

Press Officer to the Minister

1

Executive Officer on a Higher Duty Allowance to Higher Executive Officer

Private Secretary to the Minister

1

Executive Officer

Office Manager

1

Clerical Officer on a Higher Duty Allowance to Staff Officer

Diary Secretary to the Minister

6

Clerical Officers

General clerical duties

Driving Tests.

Willie Penrose

Question:

208 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Transport if he will take steps to ensure that a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath who has applied for a driving test, is permitted to undertake same as a matter of urgency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27498/04]

The person concerned has not provided my Department with any documentary evidence that he requires an urgent driving test. On receipt of such evidence a driving test will be arranged for the person concerned.

Departmental Staff.

Billy Timmins

Question:

209 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the number of personnel who work in his private office; the rank and grades of these persons; the job descriptions of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27470/04]

There are 14 full-time and three part-time personnel working in my private and constituency offices persons as follows:

Special Adviser

Principal Officer (Standard) level

Media Adviser

Principal Officer (Standard) level

Private Secretary

Higher Executive Officer

Personal Assistant

Higher Executive level

Personal Secretary

Secretarial Assistant

Executive Officer

Private Office

Executive Officer

Constituency Office

Clerical Officers (2)

Constituency Office

Clerical Officers (5.3)

Private Office

Grant Payments.

Michael Ring

Question:

210 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will receive their forestry maintenance payment, particularly as this matter has been ongoing for several months at this stage. [27385/04]

Payment of the second instalment grant will be made to the person in question within the next three weeks.

Willie Penrose

Question:

211 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if a person (details supplied) will be considered in respect of their applications for consideration of force majeure/exceptional circumstances concerning entitlements allocation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27399/04]

The person named was notified on 13 October 2004 that the circumstances outlined by him do not satisfy the criteria for force majeure/exceptional circumstances under Article 40 of Council Regulation (EC) No. 1782/2003. The person named has been advised that he can appeal my Department’s decision to the independent single payment appeals committee.

Michael Ring

Question:

212 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the entitlements of persons (details supplied) in County Mayo under new entrant/inheritance clause of the single payment scheme; if a decision has been made on this application; if not when the matter will be finalised. [27400/04]

The persons named have submitted an application for consideration in respect of the inheritance measure of the single payment scheme. Processing of applications in respect of this measure is ongoing and the persons named will be notified shortly of the decision in their case.

Michael Ring

Question:

213 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will receive the special beef premium payment. [27401/04]

The person named lodged two applications under the 2004 special beef premium scheme, one on 26 January 2004 in respect of 34 animals and one on 17 February 2004 in respect of nine animals. These applications have been fully processed and the 60% advance payments are due to issue to the person named shortly.

Martin Ferris

Question:

214 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the number of holdings which will be without entitlement to the single farm payment after January 2005; and the overall area comprised by those holdings. [27402/04]

It is not possible to provide this information at present as the processing of new entrant/ inheritance and force majeure/exceptional circumstances applications is ongoing and will be continuing for some time. The situation will also be influenced by the operation of national reserve under the single payment scheme. This measure will shortly be opened for applications.

Rural Environment Protection Scheme.

Johnny Brady

Question:

215 Mr. J. Brady asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the amount allocated under the REP 3 scheme for 2004; the uptake to date; the estimated outurn; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27403/04]

The Government allocated €260 million in 2004 to finance the rural environment protection scheme. This allocation included provision to finance commitments under REPS 1 and REPS 2 together with the expected cost of the amended REPS 3, which at that time was the subject of proposals to the European Commission.

To date my Department has received some 3,500 applications for REPS 3 from farmers who were not already in REPS. A further 3,930 farmers who were already in REPS 2 have opted to transform to REPS 3. I expect payments to farmers in REPS 3 in 2004 will be in the region of €30 million to €35 millon.

Grant Payments.

John Perry

Question:

216 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food, further to Question No. 255 of 29 September 2004, if the information requested that has been submitted will be processed immediately to ensure prompt payment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27404/04]

The person named is an applicant under the farm waste management scheme. The application is in the final stage of checking and if all the requirements of the scheme are met, payment will issue shortly.

Land Annuities.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

217 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the number of persons in County Carlow who will have the opportunity to pay off land annuities to the Land Commission in the even of the Land Bill 2004 being passed; and the number of sporting organisations which also might be affected by such a decision. [27405/04]

If the Land Bill 2004 is enacted, 85 annuity accounts of under €200 per annum in County Carlow will be written off and a further 44 annuity accounts, over €200 per annum, will be offered the 25% discount in the proposed buy out scheme. Six GAA clubs and one rugby club in County Carlow will be in a position to benefit from the proposed change to section 30 of the 1950 Land Act.

Grant Payments.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

218 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food when a decision will be given on a force majeure application in the name of a person (details supplied) in County Galway; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27406/04]

The person named has been notified that the circumstances outlined do not satisfy the criteria for force majeure/exceptional circumstances under Article 40 of Council Regulation (EC) No. 1782/2003 and has been advised to apply under the new entrant/inheritance measure of the single payment scheme. Processing of applications for consideration under the new entrant inheritance measure is ongoing and the person named will be notified shortly of the decision on her application.

Farm Retirement Scheme.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

219 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if she will make representations to the EU concerning the fact that the scheme for the early retirement pension is not index linked and that applicants under the scheme on reaching the age of 66 and having received the old age non-contributory pension will have a corresponding amount deducted from their EU retirement pension, thus leaving participants no better off than their entitlements to secondary benefits; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27407/04]

The rate of pension payable under the 1994 farming early retirement scheme is the maximum provided for by the EU Council regulation under which the scheme was introduced. The regulation does not provide for indexation of payments. My Department's proposals for the current early retirement scheme, which commenced on 27 November 2000 and is one of the measures in the CAP rural development plan for the period between 2000 and 2006, make provision for annual increases in pensions over the period of the plan. The European Commission rejected this proposal and insisted on legal grounds that a fixed rate be set instead. The EU regulations governing the schemes of early retirement from farming require that any national retirement pension, contributory or non-contributory, to which a scheme participant, and his or her spouse or partner in a joint management situation, becomes entitled must be deducted from the early retirement pension.

Departmental Staff.

Billy Timmins

Question:

220 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the number of personnel who work in her private office; the rank and grades of these persons; the job descriptions of same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27471/04]

The following table shows the number of staff in my private office and their grade:

Personal Adviser

1

Press Adviser

1

Private Secretary

1

Executive Officers

2

Clerical Officers

4.5

Total

9.5

Grant Payments.

John Ellis

Question:

221 Mr. Ellis asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if her Department will make an area based payment to a person (details supplied) in County Leitrim. [27490/04]

The 2004 area aid application of the person named has been fully processed with an area determined for payment purposes of 9.82 hectares. A payment of her full entitlement under the 2004 area based compensatory allowance scheme will issue shortly.

John Ellis

Question:

222 Mr. Ellis asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if her Department will make an area based payment to a person (details supplied) in County Leitrim. [27491/04]

The 2004 area aid application of the person named has been fully processed with an area determined for payment purposes of 51.4 hectares. A payment of his full entitlement under the 2004 area based compensatory allowance scheme will issue shortly.

Question No. 223 answered with QuestionNo. 127.

Sale of Fireworks.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

224 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on the amount of fireworks being discharged in the lead up to and during Hallowe’en; if the widespread availability of same is indicative of the problem which exists with regard to the high level of illicit drugs which pass through borders here with similar ease; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27314/04]

The Deputy's question raises two issues, the first of which relates to the use of fireworks. As he is aware, fireworks are deemed to be explosives under the provisions of the Explosives Act 1875. They may be imported into the State only under an importation licence granted by my Department. It is a long-standing policy that licences are granted only for organised displays conducted by professional and experienced operators and in accordance with agreed safety procedures. I assure the Deputy that I am aware of the dangers posed by the use of illegal fireworks and of the distress they cause to people, particularly at this time of year.

The Garda Commissioner has informed me that the Garda puts special operations in place each year to address the problem in the run-up to and during the Hallowe'en season. Information is gathered and appropriate follow-up action is taken by the Garda, aimed at the seizure of illicit fireworks and involving close liaison with local authorities. Each year, the Garda authorities seize a substantial amount of fireworks, which are subsequently destroyed. Over the past two months the Garda has had significant success in confiscating fireworks. For example, a large cache of fireworks, estimated to be valued at €100,000, was seized at Dundalk. In order to strengthen the powers of the Garda in tackling this matter I have instructed officials in my Department to prepare legislative proposals to increase significantly the penalties under the Explosives Act 1875 for illegal importation, public sale and use of fireworks.

The second issue raised by the Deputy was drug abuse. I am sure he agrees that the social consequences of drug abuse are significantly greater than those of illegal fireworks. The Garda and the Customs and Excise work in close co-operation on the prevention, detection, interception and seizure of illegal drugs being smuggled into the State. They have achieved considerable successes, such as drug seizures.

Two high level seminars on cross-Border organised crime have been organised by my Department and the Northern Ireland Office over the last 18 months, with the involvement of senior representatives of the Garda Síochána and the Police Service of Northern Ireland. During the most recent seminar in September, the first joint threat assessment of cross-Border organised crime was launched and work was commenced on developing joint operational and tactical responses to the risks identified. The threat assessment document states that investigations into a number of drugs operations have led to a number of notable arrests and seizures on both sides of the Border.

Question No. 225 answered with QuestionNo. 130.

National Disability Strategy.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

226 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will make a statement on his address at the launch of the Disability Bill 2004 and disability strategy on 21 September 2004. [23241/04]

The Disability Bill is a key element of the national disability strategy, which was launched by the Taoiseach on 21 September 2004. The launch involved the seven Ministers with direct responsibility for the various elements of the strategy. There are four elements to the strategy — the Disability Bill 2004, the Comhairle (Amendment) Bill 2004, the six outline sectoral plans and a commitment to a multi-annual investment programme for disability support services which will be announced as part of the Estimates and budget process. My colleague, Deputy O'Dea, who was then responsible as Minister of State for disability and equality, addressed the launch on the content of the Disability Bill and the Comhairle (Amendment) Bill. He outlined the role of the Cabinet committee on social inclusion in overseeing the preparation of the Bill and other elements of the strategy. He acknowledged the contribution of the disability legislation consultation group to the consultation process on the Bill.

Penalty Points System.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

227 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the progress made to date with regard to computerisation of the penalty points system; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26962/04]

I have been advised by the Garda authorities that, from a Garda perspective, the Garda fixed charge processing system has successfully completed a live pilot in the operational locations of the traffic division at Dublin Castle, Blanchardstown, Santry, Terenure, Drogheda, Kells and Dunleer. I have been advised that the system continues to operate successfully in these locations. It is planned to commence the rollout of the system to the entire Dublin metropolitan area at the end of November 2004. Thereafter, nationwide rollout of the system depends on the enactment of the Road Traffic Bill 2004, which will provide, inter alia, for the collection of payments by a service provider. I assure the Deputy that the system will be rolled out nationwide as quickly as possible after the enactment of the requisite legislation.

Speed Cameras.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

228 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the claim made by the chairperson of the National Safety Council that up to 100 lives could be saved each year through the nationwide network of speed cameras; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26959/04]

A working group on safety cameras chaired by my Department and consisting of representatives of the Garda Síochána, the Department of Transport and the National Roads Authority is examining the provision, operation and processing of the output of speed cameras. Work is well advanced on preparing proposals on how the management of the speed cameras will be structured with a view to issuing a request for tenders in the near future. The private operator, or operators, will provide, operate and process the output of the cameras. The Garda Síochána will manage the project.

Question No. 229 answered with QuestionNo. 111.

Citizenship Applications.

John Curran

Question:

230 Mr. Curran asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when an application for residency on the basis of marriage to an Irish national made by a person (details supplied) will be processed. [27419/04]

An application for permission to remain in the State based on marriage to an Irish national was received from the person concerned in March 2004. Applications of this type are dealt with in strict chronological order and currently take approximately 16 months to process.

Question No. 231 answered with QuestionNo. 119.

Garda Operations.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

232 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the extent to which he or his Department has planned to combat organised crime; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27421/04]

I refer the Deputy to my detailed reply to Questions Nos. 8, 294, 295, 296, 297, 298 and 299 tabled for answer on 8 July last.

Regarding the Criminal Assets Bureau, the powers of the bureau will be further bolstered with additional measures in the Proceeds of Crime (Amendment) Bill now before the Seanad. The Bill will make certain technical amendments to the Proceeds of Crime Act 1996, and in particular will remove any doubt that there may be over when a person may be said to be in possession or control of property for the purposes of that Act.

Other relevant legislative initiatives are planned in the context of the Criminal Justice Bill. The first of those is provided for in Part 3 of the Bill. Those provisions will allow the courts to admit in certain specified circumstances previous witness statements where a witness recants or refuses to testify at trial. Given that such refusal to co-operate may arise from intimidation, the provision is designed to ensure that witness statements might still be available to the courts even though the witness subsequently refuses to co-operate. The second initiative, which I will propose by way of an amendment to the Bill, is to make it an offence to participate in or contribute to the activities of a criminal organisation.

Crime Levels.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

233 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of anti-social behaviour complaints brought to the attention of the gardaí in each Garda division; the action or actions taken following the complaints; if prosecution or penalty followed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27422/04]

I regret that it has not been possible in the time available to obtain the information requested by the Deputy. I will contact the Deputy again when the information is to hand.

Garda Operations.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

234 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the number of applications for legitimate employment made by organised criminals or their associates; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27423/04]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that they do not have details of the kind sought by the Deputy.

Deportation Orders.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

235 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of non-nationals deported from this country in the past 12 months; if all of them have found sanctuary in their homelands; if any of them have been injured, threatened or persecuted in the interim; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27424/04]

Between 1 November 2003 and 1 November 2004 a total of 580 non-nationals were deported from the State.

I refer the Deputy to my responses to Question No. 250 of 13 December 2001 and Question No. 155 of 29 January 2004, wherein I indicated that the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform is obliged to consider the issue of risk to a person before, not after, a deportation order is issued in respect of that person.

There are legislative and procedural safeguards to ensure that persons are not returned to countries where they would be at risk. The issue of refoulement, as set out in section 5 of the Refugee Act 1996, is given full consideration in every case before a deportation order is made. My Department uses extensive country of origin information drawn from different independent sources, including UNHCR, in evaluating the safety of making returns to third countries. That means that a person shall not be expelled from the State or returned in any manner whatsoever to a state where, in my opinion, the life or freedom of that person would be threatened on account of his or her race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion.

Courts Service.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

236 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he has provided sufficient resources to enable the courts to deal with their workload; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27425/04]

The Courts Service is responsible for the day-to-day management of the courts. Under the Courts Service Act 1998, the service is independent in the performance of its functions, which include the provision, management and maintenance of court buildings and the listing of cases.

I am, inter alia, responsible for ensuring that the service is adequately funded, and in that regard €97.49 million was provided in 2004. Having regard to the statutory independence of the Courts Service, the Deputy will appreciate that it is a matter for the service to decide how the funding provided is specifically allocated. The funding provided allows the service to implement its strategic plans and policies, and I am confident that the level of funding provided is adequate not only to maintain the existing levels of service but also to provide for their improvement.

Prisoner Releases.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

237 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of prisoners currently on day or other temporary release; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27426/04]

Temporary release arrangements are in effect our system of parole, which is a feature of prison systems world-wide, and parole is an important vehicle for reintegrating an offender into the community in a planned way. While due regard must be had to any risk which a particular release might pose, the generally accepted view is that the risk to the community would be even greater if, in certain cases, attempts at planned reintegration of offenders were not made, since they must return to the community anyway on the completion of their sentence.

Prisoners are considered for temporary release in certain circumstances, for example, release under the direct supervision of the probation and welfare service, to employment or training programmes, on compassionate release because of ill health or family-related circumstances, or for reintegration purposes because they are nearing the end of their sentence. Figures for 1 November 2004 indicate that there were 299 persons on temporary release, a number which represents about 8% of the total prison population. That compares with figures in the region of 550 persons on temporary release — about 20% of the prison population — in the mid 1990s.

Prison Committals.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

238 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of prisoners currently serving time; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27427/04]

On 1 November 2004 there was a total of 3,209 persons in prison custody. That compares with a corresponding figure of 3,188 for the same time last year.

Prison Accommodation.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

239 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he has satisfied himself that sufficient prison places exist to meet current and future demands; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27428/04]

I refer the Deputy to Question No. 167 which was answered on 5 May 2004. Plans are progressing towards the possible building of two major prison developments, one on a greenfield site in the greater Dublin area and the other on Spike Island, County Cork. It is intended that these new facilities will address the overcrowding difficulties that arise from time to time and they will offer significant improvements in the areas of work, training, educational and medical services for inmates as well as providing predominantly single cell accommodation with proper in-cell sanitation facilities.

Drug Treatment Programme.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

240 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he has in mind any initiatives to deal with the ever increasing drug problem; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27429/04]

As the Deputy will be aware, the Government's overall policy to tackle the drug problem is set out in the National Drugs Strategy 2001-2008, Building on Experience, and responsibility for co-ordinating the implementation of the strategy lies with my colleague, the Minister for State at the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, Deputy N. Ahern.

The current national strategy sets out a framework for action for the period 2001-08. With the launch of this strategy all the elements of drugs policy were brought together in a single framework for the first time. Drugs policy is being delivered across the four pillars of supply reduction, prevention, treatment and research.

Within this framework, my Department will continue to develop measures, in consultation with the relevant Departments, agencies and the community and voluntary sector to ensure that a co-ordinated and integrated response is in place to tackle the drugs problem. Moreover, a steering group under the aegis of the lead Department is currently undertaking a mid-term review of the national drugs strategy. This review, in addition to examining progress to date in implementing the goals and actions set out in the strategy, will focus on identifying priorities for future action and enable a refocusing of the strategy, if necessary, for the remaining period up to 2008. My Department and the relevant associated agencies are involved in this review.

Garda Deployment.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

241 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when extra gardaí might be made available in the various stations throughout north Kildare; the extent to which it is intended to augment the present strength in each case; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27430/04]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

242 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the Garda stations throughout County Kildare which require extra personnel; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27431/04]

I propose to answer Questions Nos. 241 and 242 together.

I have been informed by the Garda authorities that it is the responsibility of the divisional officer to allocate personnel within his or her division. The personnel strength of the Carlow-Kildare division as at 1 of November 2004 was 324, all ranks. This represents an increase of 32 or 11% over the personnel strength of the division as at 1 of January 1998 which stood at 292, all ranks, at that time. Garda management will continue to appraise the policing and administrative strategy employed in Carlow-Kildare with a view to ensuring that an effective Garda service is maintained. The situation will be kept under review by Garda management and when additional personnel next becomes available the needs of Kildare will be fully considered within the overall context of the needs of Garda stations throughout the country.

Regarding Garda resources generally, I am pleased to say that the Government has approved my proposal to increase the strength of the Garda Síochána to 14,000 members on a phased basis, in line with the commitment in An Agreed Programme for Government in this regard. This is a key commitment in the programme for Government, and its implementation will significantly strengthen the operational capacity of the force. The Commissioner will now be drawing up plans on how best to distribute and manage these resources. Clearly, however, the additional resources will be targeted at the areas of greatest need, as is envisaged in the programme for Government.

The programme identifies in particular areas with a significant drugs problem and a large number of public order offences, but it will be possible to address other priorities as well, such as the need to significantly increase the number of gardaí allocated to traffic duties. I have already promised that the additional gardaí will not be put on administrative duties. They will be put directly into front-line, operational, high-visibility policing and will have a real impact.

Crime Levels.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

243 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the full extent of anti-social activity brought to the attention of the Gardaí at the various stations throughout County Kildare in the past 12 months; the action taken in response; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27432/04]

I regret it has not been possible in the time available to obtain the information requested by the Deputy. I will contact the Deputy again when the information is to hand.

Departmental Staff.

Billy Timmins

Question:

244 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of personnel who work in his private office; the rank and grades of these persons; the job descriptions of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27472/04]

There are five staff members in my private office: a special adviser, a private secretary, two executive officers and one clerical officer. The special adviser advises me on policy matters while other personnel act as my administrative support, dealing with the day to day running of my office, personal diary, co-ordinating briefing material and the administration involved in running same.

Registration of Title.

Michael Ring

Question:

245 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the applications which are pending on a folio (details supplied) in County Mayo; and when the applications will be complete. [27489/04]

I am informed by the Registrar of Titles that there is only one application pending at present on the folio referred to by the Deputy. Two further applications were pending recently but an application for a conversion of title, Reference No. D2004SM001554E refers, was completed on 17 August 2004 and an application for a land certificate was rejected on 17 August 2004. I am further informed that the application pending is an application for transfer of part which was lodged on 8 May 2004. Dealing Number D2004SM003806R refers to it. I am also informed that a query issued in relation to this application on 25 May 2004, that a reminder issued on 29 October 2004 and that the application cannot proceed until this query has been satisfactorily resolved. However, I can assure the Deputy that on receipt of a satisfactory reply, the matter will receive further attention in the Land Registry.

Garda Deployment.

Tony Gregory

Question:

246 Mr. Gregory asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the response of the Garda authorities to the serious anti-social activities of gangs of youths in the church grounds in Cabra west, Dublin 7; the number of gardaí available to patrol the area at night-time; if additional gardaí can be made available to this Garda district; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27499/04]

I understand from the Garda authorities that there is a history of anti-social behaviour in the church grounds in question. I am informed that incidents of anti-social behaviour have been greatly reduced as a result of consultations between local Garda management, the divisional crime prevention officer and the local clergy on problem issues in the church grounds and on measures to counteract and reduce these issues. Regular patrolling by Garda mobile and foot patrols which cover the church grounds in question has also contributed to the reduction in the anti-social behaviour. I am further informed that the erection of a new perimeter fence, along with the redesign of the car park following consultation with the crime prevention officer has also contributed to this reduction in anti-social behaviour.

I have also been informed by the Garda authorities that the personnel strength of Cabra Garda station, as at 29 October 2004, was 64, all ranks. The personnel strength at Cabra Garda station is supplemented by gardaí from the divisional crime task force, the divisional traffic unit and the district detective units as necessary. For security and operational reasons, it is not Garda policy to disclose the number of personnel working in any particular area at any given time.

Tony Gregory

Question:

247 Mr. Gregory asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if the Garda authorities have received reports from residents and public representatives regarding vandalism to cars and homes in the Shandon area of Dublin 7 in recent months; the number of arrests that have been made arising from this; the number of Gardaí available at night time to patrol the area; if additional Gardaí will be made available; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27500/04]

I have been informed by the Garda authorities that during September 2004 a number of complaints were received from local residents regarding anti-social behaviour by groups of youths. In response, local Garda management carried out a covert operation, over a number of days, with a view to targeting the individuals involved. As a result, seven youths were stopped, searched and moved on. Eleven youths found drinking were cautioned by gardaí and brought home to their parents. One adult who is alleged to have purchased the alcohol will be subject to criminal proceedings. I understand that there has been one arrest for public order and one arrest for criminal damage in the area. Garda authorities have informed me that, since this operation, there have been no recorded incidents of anti-social behaviour and vandalism.

Two gardaí are specifically allocated to the area which receives regular patrol from both mobile and foot patrols, and this will continue. Local management also met representatives of three local residents groups on 18 October 2004, who conveyed their appreciation for the Garda action and stated that they had noted the increased Garda presence. An initiative to incorporate the area into a neighbourhood watch scheme is under way.

I have been further informed by the Garda authorities that the personnel strength, as at 29 October 2004, of Cabra Garda station was 64, all ranks, the strength of Mountjoy Garda station was 88, all ranks, and the strength at Bridewell Garda station was 164, all ranks. For security and operational reasons, it is not Garda policy to disclose the number of personnel working in any particular area at any given time.

Question No. 248 answered with QuestionNo. 116.
Question No. 249 answered with QuestionNo. 119.

Visa Applications.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

250 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the way in which he arrives at the decision regarding whether a work permit holder is in a position to fully support their spouse and family for the purpose of granting reunification visas to family members; and the weekly or monthly income a work permit holder must earn to be considered able to fully support their family. [27506/04]

As Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, I have responsibility for policy in respect of family reunion, that is, the policy in connection with granting permission to enter and remain in the State to the spouses and children of non-EEA nationals who are legally resident in the State. This includes the spouses and dependent children of non-EEA nationals who have entered the State for work purposes. I fully acknowledge that family reunion policy should recognise the needs of persons coming to Ireland to work and be in accordance with the broad needs of Irish economy, including the safeguarding of public resources.

In the case of a visa required by family members of non-EEA national workers, the general rule is that it is only after the worker has been in the State for 12 months and has been offered employment for a further 12 months that they may be joined by their families. This is subject to the worker being able to support the family without recourse to public funds. There is no general time restriction in operation in respect of family reunion where the family members in question are not visa required. Again, the only caveat is that the worker in question must be in a position to support the family without recourse to public funds.

When assessing applications for family reunification, the visa officer will consider, among other things, whether the level of salary of the worker would come within the ambit of qualifying for payments from public funds. In this regard, the criteria set by the Department of Social and Family Affairs for eligibility for family income supplement, FIS, are used. The criteria, which may change from time to time, are availableon that Department's website, www.welfare.ie/publications/sw22.html. If the level of the worker’s income, as evidenced by his or her payslips or P60, would qualify for FIS payments, the application for family reunification is generally refused as it is evident that the family can seek recourse to public funds.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

251 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he has reached a decision on the application for a spouse visa that has been made through the Irish Embassy in Delhi on 19 October 2004 by a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27507/04]

The visa application in question was to enable the wife of a non-EEA national employed under the work permit scheme to reside with him in the State. A worker employed under the work permit scheme may be joined by their spouse and minor children after the worker has been in the State for one year and has been offered a contract for a further year. The worker must also be able to fully support the family members in question without the need to have recourse to public funds. The application in question was refused as the supporting documentation did not show that the worker in question was in a position to fully support his wife. It is open to the applicant to appeal against the refusal by writing to the visa appeals officer in my Department.

Mary Upton

Question:

252 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding applications (details supplied) for holiday visas to Ireland. [27508/04]

My Department received visa applications from the three persons in question on 29 October 2004. Decisions will issue in the near future following consideration of the applications in question.

Mary Upton

Question:

253 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding applications (details supplied) for holiday visas to Ireland. [27509/04]

My Department received visa applications from the three persons in question on 23 June 2004. The applicants stated that they wished to visit another non-EEA national who is working in the State under the work permit scheme. The applicants did not specify the dates they intended to travel, nor the duration of their proposed visit on their visa application forms.

In assessing any visa application the visa officer will consider various matters. These include whether it is reasonable in all the circumstances to conclude that the applicant's stated purpose of visit is the true purpose of visit and that the applicant will fully honour the conditions of the visa — for example, is he or she unlikely to overstay the length of time applied for or to work without a work permit? The visa officer will have regard to the information provided in the application and to such factors as the applicant's ties and general circumstances in their country of origin, as well as the relative attractiveness and feasibility of remaining in the State. Credibility is central to the visa determination process. Not surprisingly, inconsistencies or omissions on the face of an application can cause the visa officer to conclude that it is not reasonable in the circumstances to grant a visa. The Department's approach in these matters is informed by past experience, including experience of abuse of the system. Common examples of previous abuse include individuals who although granted a visa to come on short visits overstayed with a view to establishing themselves permanently in the State, and groups of persons who avail of organised events for the purpose of gaining entry to the State for other purposes.

The applications in question were refused because the visa officer could not reasonably be satisfied, on the basis of the documentation supplied to my Department, that the applicants would observe the conditions of the visas applied for. In particular, it was felt that the applicants had not displayed evidence of their obligations to return home following their proposed visit. An appeal was made against the decisions. The visa appeals officer, having re-examined the applications, upheld the original decisions. It is open to the applicants to make fresh applications and the matter will be considered anew.

Garda Stations.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

254 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he has received the news of the Garda authorities on a replacement station for Mary Street Garda station, Limerick; if he has made a decision on the future of the station; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27528/04]

There are ongoing communications between my Department and the Garda authorities regarding the position with Mary Street station. One factor in this regard is the requirement to have additional works carried out at Henry Street station and the impact this may have with regard to Mary Street. Accordingly, I have made no decision yet on the future of Mary Street.

Human Rights Commission.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

255 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on whether the Human Rights Commission should have the ability to vet, or in other words human rights-proof, all Government legislation before formal publication. [27603/04]

In accordance with the provisions of section 8(b) of the Human Rights Commission Acts 2000 and 2001 it is already a function of the Human Rights Commission, if requested by a Minister of the Government, to examine any legislative proposal which might have implications for human rights and report its views on any such implications. I have referred several such proposals to the commission under this innovative provision and I have also brought the terms of the provision formally to the attention of all my ministerial colleagues in Government.

Prisons Building Programme.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

256 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if new prisons built under PPPs will be ultimately less costly to the State than prisons built by the public sector; and if not, the reason he has decided to pursue PPPs in the absence of evidence of cost-savings that he is willing to stand behind. [27604/04]

As I indicated in reply to Question No. 182 of 21 October 2004, any public private partnership project in this jurisdiction must be sanctioned by the Department of Finance and in that context all the costs of any potential public private partnership project must be evaluated. The Department of Finance established the National Development Finance Agency to advise Departments in respect of public private partnership projects and my Department consults with them as appropriate. This procedure will be adhered to for proposals involving any new prisons.

Crime Statistics.

Michael Ring

Question:

257 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of murders that have been committed in the State in the past two years; the number that occurred on a month to month basis; the number of persons that have been arrested and charged for these crimes; the number of murders which have been solved; and the number that remain unsolved. [27605/04]

I have been informed by the Garda authorities that the tables provided show the number of murders recorded and detected for 2003 and to date in 2004, along with the numbers of persons charged. I should point out that the statistics for 2004 are provisional and are, therefore, subject to change. The number of persons arrested for these offences is not readily available and could only be provided by the disproportional expenditure of Garda time and resources.

Table One

Murders Reported and Detected 2003.

Year 2003

Reported

Detected*

No. of persons charged*

January

7

4

7

February

5

5

5

March

2

1

1

April

5

4

3

May

4

3

3

June

2

2

1

July

4

2

2

August

5

2

0

September

2

2

3

October

4

1

2

November

3

3

3

December

2

2

2

Total

45

31

32

* Figures are provisional and therefore subject to change.

Table Two

Murders Reported and Detected 2004

Year 2004

Reported*

Detected*

No. of persons charged*

January

2

2

1

February

4

3

3

March

2

1

1

April

5

5

6

May

2

1

1

June

2

1

1

July

3

3

2

August

4

4

2

September

2

1

1

October

3

2

1

Total

29

23

19

* Figures are provisional and therefore subject to change.

School Accommodation.

Liz McManus

Question:

258 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Education and Science if two schools (details supplied) regarding which the authority made the decision to amalgamate will be amalgamated; if the building of a new school for the amalgamation of the two schools will be included in the multi-annual school programme due to be published before the end of 2004; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27367/04]

The managerial authorities of the schools in question have agreed to amalgamate to form a new co-educational school. The school planning section of my Department is currently examining the long-term accommodation needs of the proposed new single co-educational school. As soon as a decision is taken in this matter, my officials will be in direct contact with the school authorities. The needs of the new school will be considered in the context of the ongoing review of all projects that have not proceeded to tender and construction.

Schools Building Projects.

Gerard Murphy

Question:

259 Mr. Murphy asked the Minister for Education and Science the band rating which she has applied to a school (details supplied) in County Cork; if this school is being considered under the capital investment scheme based on multi-annual allocations; and if another school (details supplied) satisfies the conditions required to be classed a high priority case. [27368/04]

An application for grant aid towards an extension and refurbishment has been received from the management authority of the school referred to by the Deputy. My officials are nearing completion of a review of all projects that did not proceed to construction as part of the 2004 school building programme with a view to including them as part of a multi-annual programme from 2005. All projects are being assessed against the published prioritisation criteria agreed earlier this year with the education partners. Each project will be assigned a band rating and the progress of all projects will be considered in the context of the multi-annual programme. The accommodation needs of the school referred to are being considered as part of this review. Following the conclusion of the current Estimates and budgetary process, I intend to publish the 2005 building programme, which will operate in a multi-annual framework.

Pupil-Teacher Ratio.

Finian McGrath

Question:

260 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason the pupils of the first class at a school (details supplied) in Dublin 9 are in classes of 33, 32 and 31 and the teacher’s workload has increased by 18% due to these high numbers; if action will be taken to assist this school with adequate resources; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27369/04]

The staffing of a primary school is determined by reference to the enrolment of the school on 30 September of the previous school year. This is in accordance with guidelines agreed between my Department and the education partners. The enrolment in the school referred to by the Deputy at 30 September 2003 was 369 pupils, which warrants a staffing of principal plus 13 mainstream posts for the 2004-05 school year. The school also has a learning support post. Significant improvements have been made in the pupil-teacher ratio at primary level in recent years. The ratio has fallen from 22.2:1 in the 1996-97 school year to 17.44:1 in the 2003-04 school year. Arising from these improvements, class sizes have reduced in the same period. The staffing schedule for the current school year is structured to ensure all primary schools will operate to an average mainstream class size of 29 pupils.

School authorities should ensure there is an equitable distribution of pupils in mainstream classes and that the differential between the largest and smallest classes is kept to a minimum. I am committed to reducing class sizes further. This, however, can only be done on a phased basis and priority will be given to pupils with special needs and those from disadvantaged areas and junior classes. I have requested my Department's inspectorate to monitor the deployment of staff and class sizes and, where necessary, to discuss with school authorities the basis on which school policy decisions in this regard have been made and to report to my Department, where appropriate.

Schools Building Projects.

Michael Collins

Question:

261 Mr. Collins asked the Minister for Education and Science the position regarding the provision of the community college for Abbeyfeale, County Limerick; when work is likely to commence on the project; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27370/04]

The management authorities of the existing post-primary schools in Abbeyfeale have agreed to amalgamate. My officials are nearing completion of a review of all projects with a view to including them as part of a multi-annual programme from 2005. Each project will be assigned a band rating in accordance with the revised criteria for prioritising capital projects which was published earlier this year. This criteria allocates a high priority to amalgamation projects and the building project for the new school in Abbeyfeale, County Limerick, is being considered in this context. The progress of all projects will be considered in the context of the multi-annual programme. Following the conclusion of the current Estimates and budgetary process, I intend to publish the 2005 building programme, which will operate in a multi-annual framework.

Special Educational Needs.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

262 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Education and Science if a person (details supplied) in County Cork with special needs is entitled to more home tuition hours than the 15 hours per week granted to him in view of statutory entitlements under the Education Act; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27371/04]

The application in question is being considered by my Department and a decision will be conveyed to the family as soon as this process has been completed.

Capitation Grants.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

263 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Education and Science the break down of all funding provided annually to primary and second level schools on a capitation basis. [27372/04]

The main capitation-based grants at primary level are the capitation grant itself and the ancillary services (caretakers-secretaries) grant. The standard rate of capitation grant for primary schools is currently €121.58 per pupil, subject to a minimum grant for small schools with 60 or less pupils of €7,295. Enhanced capitation grants, ranging from €276 per pupil to €599.50 per pupil, are payable in respect of pupils enrolled in special classes in primary schools.

The ancillary services grant, which goes towards the provision of secretarial and caretaking facilities in primary schools, is currently €127 per pupil, subject to a minimum grant of €6,350 paid to schools with 60 pupils or less and a maximum grant of €63,500 paid to schools with 500 pupils or more. The new grants scheme for minor works to national school properties commenced in 1997. Payment under the scheme to each primary school per academic year consisted of a basic grant of £2,000 or €2,539.48 plus £9 or €11.43 per pupil. The payment rates were increased in 2000 to £3,000 or €3,809.21 in respect of the basic grant and to £10 or €12.70 per pupil.

Under the various disadvantage programmes administered by my Department's social inclusion unit, a number of grants are capitation-based. Under the Giving Children an Even Break programme, a special per capita grant is paid in respect of the percentage of pupils with disadvantaged characteristics. This grant is €63.49 per pupil and participating schools receive a minimum payment of €952.30. Under the disadvantaged areas scheme schools receive a capitation supplement of €38.09 per pupil. Under the urban phase of Breaking the Cycle, 32 schools receive annual grant assistance in addition to the above of €5,078.95 for out of school projects aimed at combating disadvantage and €3,809.21 in respect of materials and equipment. Under the rural phase of BTC, 120 schools receive annual grants of €1,269.74 for materials and equipment and €1,269.74 for out of school projects.

Under my Department's Early Start pre-school project, an annual capitation grant of €95.23 per pupil is paid to the school's board of management to be used as funding support for day to day running costs of the centre. This capitation payment is based on current year enrolments. The standard per capita rate amounts to €274 in secondary schools. An additional per capita rate of €38 is paid to disadvantaged schools bringing the per capita grant in such schools to €312 per pupil. In addition, secondary schools also receive the school services support grant that stands at €131 per pupil. Schools where instruction is in full or in part through the medium of Irish qualify for an extra per capita grant of up to €86.85 per pupil.

Schools are also eligible for additional recurrent grants towards classes for pupils with special needs amounting to €200.62 per pupil and €427 per Traveller child and curricular support grants viz., transition year, €63.49; leaving certificate applied, €158.7; special subjects grant, €1.90 at junior certificate level and €3.81 per senior cycle student; science initiative, €12.70, and the introductory per capita grant for the junior certificate schools programme, €63.49. Schools are also eligible for support under the following programmes: the special needs equipment grants to enable students with a disability to participate in mainstream second level education; school administration ICT funding; the ICT school initiative and the grant scheme for school books for needy pupils.

School Accommodation.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

264 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of primary schools in which there is no physical education hall. [27374/04]

It is the policy of my Department to provide for the delivery of a broad and balanced physical education curriculum at both primary and post primary levels. With regard to facilities generally, many schools have general purposes rooms or physical education halls and practically all schools have outdoor play areas that are utilised for teaching different aspects of the physical education programme. Many schools also use adjacent local facilities, including community halls, public parks, playing fields and swimming pools.

The provision of general purposes rooms and multi-purpose spaces for primary schools is considered within the design brief for new schools and-or renovation-extension school building projects. This is being done in the context of available resources and the published criteria for prioritising school building projects. Detailed information in the format requested by the Deputy is not available but, should the Deputy have a question on a particular school, I will provide a response.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

265 Ms O’Sullivan asked asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of primary schools that do not have a principal’s office. [27375/04]

It is the policy of my Department to provide for the delivery of a broad and balanced curriculum in schools and to support this with the provision of appropriate infrastructure. The provision of a principal's office for larger primary schools and general office-administration space for smaller primary schools is included in the design brief for new schools and-or renovation-extension school building projects. This is done through the annual school building programme and special initiatives within available resources.

Information has not been compiled on the number of schools that do not have a principal's office, as available funding is targeted at improving conditions in schools on the basis of the published criteria for prioritising school building projects rather than directing expenditure to the compilation of an inventory of existing accommodation.

Special Educational Needs.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

266 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Education and Science if it is her intention to provide additional special needs resource teachers given that INTO has stated there is a need for 650 additional teachers to provide a service to special needs pupils. [27376/04]

My Department's proposed automatic mechanism for allocating resource teachers to primary schools is intended to cater for pupils requiring learning support and those with higher incidence special educational needs. An additional 350 teaching posts are being allocated to facilitate the introduction of the new system. The proposed system is intended to improve and streamline the special education resource teacher allocation process. The model will obviate the need for cumbersome individual applications, while at the same time ensure pupils in receipt of service continue to receive the level of support appropriate to their needs. In that context, the additional posts being put in place represent a significant investment to ensure the success of the measure.

Nonetheless, I am conscious of difficulties that could arise in regard to the model, particularly for children in small and rural schools, if it were implemented as proposed. Accordingly, I will review the proposal to ensure it provides an automatic response for pupils with common higher incidence special educational needs. The review will involve consultation with educational interests and the National Council for Special Education before it is implemented next year. The question of further resource allocation can be considered in light of that assessment.

Cecilia Keaveney

Question:

267 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Education and Science the position on an appeal for a person (details supplied) in County Donegal; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27377/04]

My Department received an appeal regarding home tuition provision for the pupil in question. The matter is being considered and a decision will be conveyed to the family as quickly as possible.

Seán Crowe

Question:

268 Mr. Crowe asked asked the Minister for Education and Science if she will investigate the case of a school (details supplied) in Dublin 24. [27378/04]

The Deputy may be aware that my Department has established a team to review the level of special needs assistant, SNA, support in mainstream schools generally. The team has commenced its task and is assessing the levels and deployment of such support to ensure the needs of children are being met, particularly in the context of new applications for resources by the school. The school referred to by the Deputy will be assessed as part of the review. The basis on which school staff are employed and let go is a matter for each board of management, subject to such terms and conditions as my Department may prescribe.

School Staffing.

Mary Upton

Question:

269 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Education and Science, further to Question No. 115 of 13 May 2004, the up-to-date position on this matter. [27386/04]

My Department has approved a refund in full of the net overpayment of superannuation contributions applicable in relation to the secondment period. This is being processed by, the Further Education and Training Awards Council. In that context, the seconding authorities have been asked to provide details of salary paid and superannuation deductions made for the periods in question, in order to establish what refund is due. The refund will be finalised as soon as this information is to hand.

Early School Leavers.

Seán Crowe

Question:

270 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Education and Science the position regarding the Phoenix special school project (details supplied); and if the project will be monitored on an ongoing basis. [27416/04]

The Phoenix Centre of Learning is one of three projects operated by the Line Projects and assisted by my Department. The Phoenix Centre of Learning has operated under a voluntary management committee for seven years and has provided an intervention learning facility for early school leavers. My Department has provided teaching and other financial support to the centre since 1997.

Earlier this month, my Department was advised that the Phoenix centre had closed and I understand that the Line Projects board of management has no future plans to re-open the centre. I understand that there were some seven young people due to attend the centre from September. The National Educational Welfare Board is aware of and is pursuing alternative educational placements for the individuals concerned.

Schools Building Projects.

Dan Neville

Question:

271 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Education and Science when it is planned to complete the construction of a new school (details supplied) in County Limerick. [27417/04]

As part of an expansion of the devolved scheme for primary school building works a grant of €350,000 was sanctioned to enable the management authorities of the school in question to provide additional accommodation.

The initiative allows boards of management to address their accommodation and building priorities with a guaranteed amount of funding and gives boards of management control of the building project. It is my understanding that an application will be made to the local authority for planning permission and fire certificate in the coming weeks.

Special Educational Needs.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

272 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Education and Science her proposals to meet the concerns in regard to special needs teachers as outlined in correspondence (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27418/04]

As the Deputy will be aware, the proposed new system for resource teacher allocation involves a general weighted allocation for all primary schools to cater for pupils with higher incidence special educational needs, for example, borderline mild and mild general learning disability and specific learning disability, and those with learning support needs, that is functioning at or below the 10th percentile on a standardised test of reading and/or mathematics.

The proposed allocation mechanism is 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, the ratio will be one for every 150 pupils; and in all girls schools, including schools with mixed junior classes but with 30% or less boys overall, the ratio will be 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.

The rationale for a pupil teacher ratio of 150 pupils for every teacher in mixed schools to support pupils with higher incidence special educational needs and learning difficulties-delays is that the pupil teacher ratio for a learning support teacher was approximately 300 pupils; 10% of pupils would be expected to have learning difficulties in the fields of literacy and numeracy and, on that basis, approximately 15 out of a group of 150 pupils would be expected to have learning difficulties. This is considered half of a teacher's caseload. A further 3%, or four or five pupils, in this cohort would be expected to have higher-incidence special educational needs and would expect to receive 2.5 resource teaching hours per week. This would account for the other half of a teacher's caseload.

The rationale for the different pupil teacher ratios in boys'— 140:1 — and girls'— 200:1 — schools is twofold: international literature on the incidence of disability indicates that, across all disability types, there is a greater incidence in boys than in girls; and international and national surveys of literacy and numeracy have found that these difficulties are more common among boys than girls. The rationale for the level of support proposed for schools in areas of urban disadvantage is that evidence shows that there is a significantly higher incidence of literacy and numeracy difficulties in urban disadvantaged compared to other schools, including those in areas of rural disadvantage. It is important to emphasise that applications may be made for specific resource teacher allocations in respect of pupils with lower incidence special educational needs regardless of gender of pupil or status of school. I am conscious of difficulties that could arise in relation to the revised model, particularly for children in small and rural schools, if it were implemented as currently proposed. The proposed system is intended to improve and streamline the special education resource teacher allocation process. The model will obviate the need for cumbersome individual applications, while at the same time ensure that pupils currently in receipt of service continue to receive the level of support appropriate to their needs. In that context, the additional posts being put in place represent a very significant investment to ensure the success of the measure.

Nonetheless, I am conscious of difficulties that could arise in relation to the model, particularly for children in small and rural schools, if it were implemented as currently proposed. Accordingly, I will be reviewing the proposal to ensure that it provides an automatic response for pupils with common higher incidence special educational needs. The review will involve consultation with educational interests and the National Council for Special Education before it is implemented next year.

Disadvantaged Status.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

273 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Education and Science the way in which a school (details supplied) in County Galway can apply for disadvantaged status; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that while the school was provided with grant aid under Giving Children and Even Break, the school authorities are frustrated that despite its many and varied difficulties it cannot access the benefits of disadvantaged status; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27447/04]

Giving Children an Even Break subsumes the previous process of designation of schools that serve areas of educational disadvantage and my Department's approach is now refined to ensure that individual "at risk" pupils are targeted. Rather than the old method of designating additional schools, under this scheme my Department provides support that is commensurate with the levels of concentration in schools of pupils with characteristics that are associated with educational disadvantage and early school leaving. Primary schools participating in Giving Children an Even Break are in receipt of a range of additional supports including teacher posts and other non-teaching supports to be targeted at disadvantaged pupils. The additional supports provided reflect the level of concentration of pupils from educationally disadvantaged backgrounds in each school invited to participate in the programme. These levels of disadvantage were established as a result of a comprehensive survey of primary schools carried out by the Educational Research Centre, ERC, in March-April 2000 at the request of my Department.

Resources are allocated to schools on a sliding scale and schools with greater proportions of pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds are allocated proportionally more resources than those with fewer numbers of such pupils. Every participating school is entitled to a special €63.49per capita grant in respect of the percentage of pupils with disadvantaged characteristics and schools receive a minimum of €952.30 per annum.

The school referred to by the Deputy is included in the urban dimension of Giving Children an Even Break. The school is benefiting from supplementary funding to provide additional educational supports for the children concerned. The school was not considered eligible for additional teaching staff, based on the level of concentration of at risk pupils in the school as reflected in the Educational Research Centre survey outcome. My Department is currently examining an application from the school for increased resource teaching support for Traveller children and contact will be made with the school authorities when this process is complete.

Special Educational Needs.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

274 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Education and Science if more resource teaching hours will be granted to a school (details supplied) in County Galway for one of its pupils; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27448/04]

I wish to inform the Deputy that an application for resource teaching support for the pupil referred to has been considered in my Department. The school authorities were informed in a letter dated 23 September 2004 that the pupil did not meet the criteria for resource teaching support in the context of the supporting professional documentation submitted with the application. In the circumstances, additional resource teaching cannot be granted to the school.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

275 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Education and Science the status of the application for resource hours and a special needs assistant for a person (details supplied) in County Wexford; when a decision will be made available to the school; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27449/04]

I can confirm that my Department received an application for resource teaching and special needs assistant support for the pupil referred to by the Deputy. Additional information has been received in support of the application and this is currently being considered. A decision on the application will be conveyed to the school as soon as this process has been completed.

Departmental Staff.

Billy Timmins

Question:

276 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of personnel who work in her private office; the rank and grades of these persons; the job descriptions of same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27473/04]

There are 10.5 civil servants assigned to my private office. The grades of the staff are as follows: Higher Executive Officer (Private Secretary) 1; Executive Officer 2; Staff Officer 0.5; Clerical Officer 4. These staff provide general secretarial services for the office. The main functions of the office include: monitoring and co-ordination of replies to representations; telephone calls; arranging the ministerial itinerary and programme of engagements, including protocol aspects; preparation of speech material, briefing notes, etc. for official engagements, meetings, Adjournment debates, Private Members' business, etc.; co-ordination of ministerial Cabinet papers; and assisting with day-to-day parliamentary duties.

I am currently finalising arrangements in relation to my own personal staff for my office and I will be in touch with the Deputy very shortly when this process is concluded.

School Staffing.

Dan Neville

Question:

277 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Education and Science if, in view of the 50% loss of staff at a school (details supplied) in County Limerick in 2004, the reduction of same to a one teacher unit and in view of all the prevailing circumstances, the school will be restored to two teacher status in 2005. [27510/04]

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 teacher based on the enrolment of seven pupils on 30 September 2003.

According to data submitted to my Department by the board of management, the enrolment on 30 September 2004 was 12 pupils. The staffing for the 2005-06 school year will be determined on the basis of this figure in accordance with the agreed staffing schedule which is expected to be notified to boards of management early in 2005.

Special Educational Needs.

Dan Neville

Question:

278 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Education and Science if a one-to-one remedial teacher will be provided for a person (details supplied) in County Limerick. [27518/04]

I wish to advise the Deputy that the school in question received a response to the application for special educational needs, SEN, resources for the relevant pupil on 23 September 2004. This pupil's SEN are in the high incidence disability category and it would be expected that pupils within this category would have their SEN met from within the resource-learning support teaching allocation available to the school. The school in question currently has two full-time resource teacher posts and one full-time learning support post.

Richard Bruton

Question:

279 Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for Education and Science the impact of her recent decision to appoint extra special need assistants on the standard waiting system which she has announced for schools; if the application by a person (details supplied) in Dublin 9 for learning assistance will now be granted; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27521/04]

I take it that the waiting system referred to by the Deputy relates to the proposed mechanism for allocating resource teachers to primary schools. My recent decision to appoint extra special needs assistants will have no impact on the resource teacher allocations.

I can confirm that my Department received an application for resource teaching and special needs assistant support for the pupil in question. I am pleased to advise the Deputy that my Department has sanctioned five hours special needs assistant support per week for the pupil and the school authorities were informed of this decision on 27 October 2004.

The application for resource teaching support is currently being considered. A decision on the application will be conveyed to the school as soon as this process has been completed.

Departmental Staff.

Billy Timmins

Question:

280 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Defence the number of personnel who work in his private office; the rank and grades of these persons; the job descriptions of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27474/04]

The staff of my private office is as follows:

Grade

Job Description

Special Adviser to Minister

To provide relevant advice to the Minister as necessary.

Press Adviser

To provide press liaison services to the Minister.

Personal Assistant to Minister

To provide administrative assistance to the Minister.

Personal Secretary to Minister

To provide secretarial services to the Minister.

The following Civil Service staff also provide general administrative and clerical support services: one private secretary; two executive officers; two staff officers; and five clerical officers.

Grade

Name

Special Adviser to Minister

Derek Mooney

Press Adviser

Suzanne Coogan

Personal Assistant to Minister

Fergal O’Brien

Personal Secretary to Minister

Olive McNamara

The following Civil Service staff also provide general administrative and clerical support services:

Number

1 Private Secretary

Colm Henry

2 Executive Officers

Kathleen McAuliffe

Aengus Casey

2 Staff Officers

Therese Fottrell

Bernadette Mangan

5 Clerical Officers

Rebecca Stynes

Eileen McKeon

Aurelie Langan

Linda Sherwin

Celine Cuttle

Traveller Accommodation.

Jack Wall

Question:

281 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the number of halting sites completed by each local authority for each year in the past three years; the number of transient sites provided for the same period; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27451/04]

In addition to providing accommodation for Travellers in standard social housing, under their five-year Traveller accommodation programmes, local authorities provide accommodation for Travellers in Traveller specific accommodation such as group houses and halting site bays. Local authorities also refurbish existing Traveller specific accommodation to modern standards.

The following table shows the number of permanent halting site bays provided in the period 2001-03. In addition to this, a further 106 new emergency-temporary bays were provided for Travellers awaiting permanent accommodation, 130 permanent halting site bays were refurbished, as were 11 emergency-temporary bays.

Between 2001 and 2003, two local authorities provided transient facilities for Travellers. Donegal County Council provided 20 units and Westmeath County Council provided 12 units, while a number of other local authorities have indicated that some of the bays in their permanent halting sites are used as transient bays from time to time.

Local Authority

Year

No. of Permanent Halting Site Bays

Birr Town Co.

2003

6

Carlow Co. Co.

2003

1

Clare Co. Co.

2003

4

Fingal Co. Co.

2003

10

North Tipperary Co. Co.

2003

2

Tralee Town Co.

2003

4

Westmeath Co. Co.

2003

8

Dún Laoghaire — Rathdown Co. Co.

2002

4

South Dublin Co. Co.

2002

13

Dungarvan Town Co.

2002

8

North Tipp. Co. Co.

2002

2

Dublin City Council

2001

10

Total

72

Jack Wall

Question:

282 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the number of applications for funding received in his Department by local authorities seeking to provide halting or transient sites in their areas; the number of local authorities that have halting sites; if the number of sites are compatible with the needs of the local authority; the funding available from his Department in regard to the provision of such sites; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27452/04]

Under the Housing (Traveller Accommodation) Act 1998, all relevant local authorities adopted five-year Traveller accommodation programmes covering the period 2000 to 2004. The provision, under these programmes, of new Traveller specific accommodation and the refurbishment of existing Traveller specific accommodation, which includes halting sites and group houses, is funded under my Department's Traveller accommodation capital programme, for which €40 million was allocated in 2004.

In addition to funding for schemes under construction or schemes completed with outstanding balances, there are 11 applications for funding to commence permanent halting sites schemes being considered by my Department. There are currently no applications for funding for transient sites before my Department.

As required under the Housing (Traveller Accommodation) Act 1998, each county and city council, borough council and the town councils of Bray and Dundalk have prepared and adopted five-year Traveller accommodation programmes covering the period 2000 to 2004. Of the 38 local authorities that undertook a Traveller accommodation programme, 36 have permanent halting sites in their functional areas. Louth County Council and Wexford Borough Council do not have permanent halting sites in their functional areas; however, Traveller families are accommodated on permanent halting sites in Drogheda Borough Council and Dundalk Town Council, in the case of Louth County Council, and Wexford County Council in the case of Wexford Borough Council.

Local authorities provide Traveller accommodation in accordance with their five-year Traveller accommodation programmes, which are based on a prior assessment of need. This assessment takes into account both current and future need having regard to new family formations. While local authorities are not in a position, in all cases, to make precise assessments of the category of accommodation required, programmes generally allow for further consideration of new identified needs for Traveller accommodation over the course of the programmes.

Local Authority Housing.

Jack Wall

Question:

283 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the total funding provided by his Department in regard to the provision of central heating in local authority schemes; the number of applications received for such grants in each local authority area for each of the past three years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27453/04]

My Department introduced a programme in July 2004 for the installation of central heating in existing local authority rented dwellings. A sum of €12 million has been provided by my Department for the programme in 2004, and this has been allocated in response to applications from 69 local authorities.

Prior to this initiative, my Department has required, since 1994, that central heating be provided during construction in new local authority dwellings and included in the overall cost of schemes. Where capital funding is provided under regeneration and remedial programmes operated by my Department for upgrading of local authority dwellings, the provision of central heating may form part of the work undertaken.

More generally, the management, maintenance and improvement of their rented dwellings, including the installation of central heating, is, in general, the responsibility of local authorities to be financed from their own resources. The present initiative is an important enhancement of local authorities' own measures and will lead to the continued upgrading of the local authority housing stock.

Local Authority Funding.

Jack Wall

Question:

284 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the number of applications for funding for disabled persons grants and essential repairs grants received by Kildare County Council in each of the past three years; the funding granted by his Department to the council for each of these years; the percentage of the total cost that this amounted to; if the local authority made applications for further funding to offset the number of applications refused in 2004 by the local authority; if funding is available from his Department to local authorities at this stage to overcome the funding problems related to the grant scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27454/04]

The available information on the number of disabled persons and essential repairs grant applications received by each local authority is published in my Department's annual housing statistics bulletin. Copies of the bulletin are available in the Oireachtas Library.

For the years 2001 and 2002, the capital allocations made to Kildare County Council were €1,269,738 and €1 million, respectively. These represented the combined allocations for house purchase and improvement loans and the disabled persons and essential repairs grants schemes. The capital allocation for 2003 was €1,642,000 and represented the combined allocation for the disabled persons and essential repairs grants schemes only, which signified a substantial increase in funding.

My Department recoups to authorities two thirds of their expenditure on the payment of individual grants. It is the responsibility of the authorities to fund the remaining one third from their own resources from amounts provided for that purpose in their annual estimates of expenditure.

Allocations are made on the basis of demands made by each local authority and the amount of funding available to the Department. It is a matter for the local authority to manage the operation of the scheme in their areas from within these allocations, to provide for their one third contribution and to approach the Department for additional funding, if required.

With regard to 2004, Kildare County Council received a capital allocation of €934,000 in May. It subsequently sought an increase of €116,000, which was allocated to it on 9 September, to bring its total allocation for the payment of disabled persons and essential repairs grants in 2004 to €1,050,000. No further requests for increased funding have been received from the council in respect of these schemes.

Additional funding is available and if Kildare County Council applies, consideration will be given to its application in the context of overall demands. However, while it is open to a local authority to seek a higher allocation in the event of increased demand, an increased capital allocation would not, of itself, allow increased expenditure by the authority without a corresponding revision of the authority's own provision for expenditure on the scheme.

Tax Yield.

Richard Bruton

Question:

285 Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the revenue received from motor taxation in each of the years 1997 to 2004, inclusive; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27455/04]

Total receipts from motor taxation, including driver licence duties etc. are as follows:

Year

Total Receipts € million

1997

382.14

1998

413.41

1999

478.84

2000

496.09

2001

546.87

2002

581.31

2003

680.37

2004 (Jan to Oct.)

640.35

Departmental Staff.

Billy Timmins

Question:

286 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the number of personnel who work in his private office; the rank and grades of these persons; the job descriptions of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27475/04]

There are currently seven staff assigned to my private office. These are all civil servants who are delegated duties and responsibilities that are appropriate to their particular grade. Listed below is a breakdown of the number of staff and the grades concerned.

Grade

Number

Executive Officer (Private Secretary)

1

Executive Officer

3

Clerical Officer

3

In addition, there are 5.5 staff working in my constituency office. These comprise 1.5 clerical officers, one staff officer, one executive officer, a personal assistant and a personal secretary. Both these offices are currently operating below their respective authorised numbers.

Legal Costs.

Richard Bruton

Question:

287 Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he has undertaken a study of the conveyancing cost here compared to other EU countries both in respect of initial purchases and top-up mortgages or mortgages switching; and if he has satisfied himself that the legal costs imposed are justified and are unnecessarily inhibiting competition; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27522/04]

My Department has not undertaken such a study. Matters relating to conveyancing and legal costs are within the area of responsibility of the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform.

Social and Affordable Housing Programmes.

Richard Bruton

Question:

288 Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the cost of the subvention towards monthly payments made by persons on the shared ownership scheme and on the various elements of the affordable housing scheme; the number of persons receiving subvention under this scheme; the proportion which they make up of the total number of persons making payments under these schemes; the length of time it is since the present income thresholds for the payment of subvention are set, and the income thresholds that would now be if they had been increased year on year in line with the consumer price index, and in line with the growth in the average industrial wage; and his estimate of the cost of increasing the level of subsidy in line with the cost of living index over that period and the income threshold in line with the index of average wages over that period. [27523/04]

Under the affordable housing scheme, launched in March 1999, a mortgage subsidy is payable to qualifying households based on income bands. A similar subsidy applies under the shared ownership scheme towards the rent payments for that portion of the equity not yet purchased. A total of €2,038,876 was recouped by the Department to local authorities in respect of these subsidies in 2003, for claims relating to 1,630 people. There is also a mortgage allowance available to those vacating local authority dwellings but this is not based on incomes.

The number of persons who purchased houses under the shared ownership and affordable housing schemes between 2000 and June 2004 was 9,085. Of these, 5,916 transactions were completed under the shared ownership scheme and 3,169 homes were purchased under the affordable housing scheme. Figures for the proportion of those who receive a subsidy as a percentage of those benefiting under the schemes are not available as some recipients may have bought out their shared ownership house and others may have moved outside of the income brackets.

The qualifying income limits and the amounts of the rent and mortgage subsidies under the shared ownership and affordable housing schemes, respectively, were increased four years ago for all transactions completed on or after 15 June 2000. They are set as follows.

Household Income per annum

Mortgage/Rent Subsidy payable per annum

€13,000 and under

€2,550

€13,001 to €15,500

€2,300

€15,501 to €18,000

€2,050

€18,001 to €20,500

€1,800

€20,501 to €23,000

€1,550

€23,001 to €25,500

€1,300

Over €25,500

Nil

If the income limits were increased in line with the growth in the average industrial wage or the consumer price index since 2000, the maximum qualifying income would have risen from €25,500 to about €30,500 or €28,900, respectively. A rise in the subsidy levels in line with the CPI would cost about €275,000 per annum, but increasing the income limits would increase this substantially as additional people would qualify. Any consideration of improvements to the scheme would have to take account of the most effective use of resources to improve access to housing for low income families; it was against this background that the scheme was initially introduced.

Since 2000, there have been significant improvements to the shared ownership scheme and the access to affordable housing has been significantly enhanced through increased output under the 1999 scheme and this will grow in future years as additional units come through under Part V of the Planning and Development Acts 2000-2002 and the affordable housing initiative.

I also announced increases in the income limits for the shared ownership and affordable housing schemes and house purchase loans in July of this year, together with increases in the loan limits, in line with growth in average wage costs and house price inflation. These targeted measures are important mechanisms of providing access to affordable housing by low and modest income households by providing them with a house at a discounted price. With the increased availability of such housing, the funding of a loan becomes a less critical barrier to house purchase particularly with the growth in disposable incomes and historically low income rates.

Nonetheless, the terms and conditions of these schemes will continue to be kept under review and, in particular, the housing forum has been charged under Sustaining Progress to review the effectiveness of all social and affordable housing programmes.